Friday, July 30, 2010

Linko! LIII


* I'm sure we'll have one or two more Comic-Con related posts coming up across the weekend before we get back to our regularly scheduled stupidity, so I don't want to dwell too much on the big show here except to point out that the news I'm most excited about (and actually most nervous about) is the word that IDW will be publishing an anthology of new Rocketeer material. I held out hope for years that Dave Stevens would eventually come back and continue the adventures of Cliff Secord to absolutely no avail, but I'll take what I can get now, especially considering the talent the publisher seems to have lined up on the thing. Nice cover from Alex Ross, too.

* Wikipedia Hole Link! - This week, I ended up spending more time than any human should reading about Cap'n Crunch online after buying a throwback box of Crunch Berries which used the original Jay Ward version of the cereal mascot (I'm a sucker for throwback packaging and Jay Ward in general, so combining the two is a no brainer for earning my dollars). Still, along the way I got reminded of the legend of the "real life Captain Crunch" John Draper. Click through and read his page, for reals.

* Speaking of Wikipedia, is there anyone on the planet who knows one single Goddamned fact about Dan Buckley worth putting on his page?!?!?! I'm assuming there is.


* Cupcake POW! is an adorably funny webcomic. (Via)

* OK, I kind of lied about no Comic-Con links, but I felt compelled to share my thoughts on this post by actor and general nerdlebrity Wil Wheaton on Techland. I mean, I've spoken with Wheaton on the phone before, and he seems like a very nice person who honestly cares a lot about the various things he's passionate about, and good for him on that. But I've read a few of his screeds on this concept of some kind of shared nerd culture which we must all support or stand up for in the face of Hollywood publicists/jocks/morons/whoever doesn't belong to be an aggravatingly stupid and pretty offensive one. And when it comes to whether or not a week-long event dedicated to generally nerdy things attended by over 125,000 people is "destroying" that supposed culture, I'd almost laugh if the whole enterprise wasn't taken so seriously by those engaged in the discussion. I don't know. Maybe I'm just missing some key point, but as a person who loves things like comics and sci-fi and could take or leave most movies and video games, I find the idea that someone who gets paid an honest wage to come and promote a movie or whatever is a threat to me enjoying the things I enjoy to be kind of childish behavior. Am I way off base here?


* Lots of news from home this week for some reason. First off, if I've at all cornered you to talk about life in my beloved hometown of Flint, Michigan before, I implore you to read Gordon Young's story on Dan Kildee's attempts to make Flint a model city for the shrinking of depressed urban areas. I like the Kildee family an awful lot for personal reasons, and I grow more and more into a proponent of Dan's plans for the shuttered houses of Flint the more I read about it. Worth a glance.

* Meanwhile, Flint's "favorite son" Michael Moore has announced a plan to make Flint a pilot city for refurbishing old theaters and new, community run movie houses. I put the favored son thing in quotes because despite the fact that almost anyone I meet asks me about Big Mike whenever they learn where I'm from, I myself and most other Flint natives tend to think that his positive contributions to our city fall somewhere between bull and shit. This sounds like a nice plan, though. Good for Moore.

* Finally, I crack up every time I read about antiquated laws still on the books, and this particular article reminded me again of the hilarious Michigan law which prohibits swearing in front of women and children. I've heard tell of people being written up for that but as of yet have avoided such a fate for myself. Fingers crossed!

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

A Marvel-ous San Diego

Well great a job as he did, I can't just let Kiel take all the spotlight for San Diego Comic-Con International coverage, now can I?

One of my favorite things about conventions is getting to really feel a part of the larger family/team/insert-term-here that is Marvel Comics/Entertainment. Admittedly working away in my corner office with the rest of the Digital Media Group's content division (wow, that sounded delightfully corporate) I sometimes lose sight of being a member of this larger whole that also includes the boys and girls from editorial, marketing, etc. as well as all our great creators. When you're forced to pull together for a mammoth happening like SDCC though, that sense of camaraderie with the peeps you're in the foxhole with really comes back to the fore, and the best part is when you remember how much you like a lot of those folks.

I think more than any show since I started at Marvel, this one was the one where I really bonded with many good people outside my department, and a major goal of mine is not to let those relationships die on the vine going forward. I'm so fortunate not only to have the job I do, but also to work with some incredibly fun, dedicated and talented individuals, so I'm glad I get the wake-up calls to appreciate all that now and again.

Whenever a show goes well for Marvel, it's mainly due to two dudes: Mike Pasciullo and Tim Dillon. They organize the crap out of everything and also coordinate things like massive golden thrones from big deal movies being the centerpiece of our booth and attracting mucho traffic. Once again, them boys outdid themselves this year.

Closer to home, my digital posse annihilated the con this year in the most positive of ways. We put out over 60 pieces of content between news articles, videos, liveblogs, interviews and much more--for real, you can check it all out here at our hub page. For a team of ten on-site staffers plus less than half a dozen freelancers, that's pretty dang impressive to my mind.

Shout-outs to my writing crew of Jim Beard, TJ Dietsch, Tim Stevens and the CKT's own Kevin "MIA" Mahadeo as well as newly-minted Marvel.com west coast assistant editor Marc Strom. Kudos above and beyond as well to our tireless video team of Alex Kropinak and "Fast" Eddie Bursch who did insane hours at the show and produced some beautiful stuff. Applause to our photographers Judy Stephens and Ryan Russell who were snapping away all weekend; Judy's pic of the Avengers cast even landed in New York Magazine! And high fives to my editorial compatriots John Cerilli, Ryan Penagos and Harry Go, plus our lovable adopted PR queen Margarita Vaisman and comics' toughest on-site reporter, the incomparable "Fallen Angel" Christopher Daniels. Oh, and of course big thanks to that dreamy Tom Brennan, just because.

And what was I up to at the show? Well, here's the short version...

-My primary responsibility was to liveblog a solid half of the panels Marvel held. I was generally paired with Strommy, but once in awhile Harry subbed in, and for the Marvel Digital panel it was all three of us. In all cases, I took the role of color commentator (ala Jerry "The King" Lawler, whom I met at the show) while my counterpart did play-by-play.

-The sole exception to that set-up was one of my very favorites panels of the show, Marvel Writers United, featuring Brian Bendis, Mark Waid, Matt Fraction and Chris Claremont, for which I flew solo. It was a similar "let it all hang out and talk about writing, influences and comics" panel with Geoff Johns, Brad Meltzer and Judd Winick back at SDCC 2004 that firmly cemented my decision to do this for a living to begin with, so revisiting that experience after a fashion was an awesome trip.

-Another huge treat for me was getting to watch and liveblog two episodes of the upcoming Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes animated series. For real, guys, this show is going to be amazing. I don't say this lightly, but I really do believe this will be Marvel's Justice League Unlimited, and you won't find many bigger JLU fans than me. It just had the humor, the action, the larger sense of continuity and so many cameos, which is a lot of what I loved about JLU. As a bonus, I got to sit next to Chris Yost, who wrote both eps and gave me little easter eggs as we watched. On my other side, screaming like a 13-year-old girl at a Miley Cyrus concert, was Jim McCann, and seated behind us was Chris Cox, the voice of Hawkeye--so cool!

-Also really enjoyed in particular the Women of Marvel panel, where Kathryn Immonen, Marjorie Liu, Laura Martin, Christina Strain and the aforementioned Judy Stephens spoke eloquently and entertainingly on gender roles for both characters and creators in comics. It was a little strange to see Arune Singh moderating such a lineup, but my man was another SDCC MVP for sure and really came into his own on this show; I'm proud of him.

-I can't forget the Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions showcase if only because seeing Stan Lee and Dan Slott share a stage was a joy to witness (Slott was still geeking out during our flight back to Jersey).

-Aside from panels (and there are many great ones I didn't list above), I also got to do some video hosting, which is always enjoyable for me. Fun fact: I acted all the way through college and would have double-majored in theater and English had a favorite professor of mine not smartened me up to the idea it was better to focus on one over the other, so I really like being able to get back in front of the camera on occasion. Reuniting my tag team with Mr. Daniels was a highlight, as was myself and Penagos attempting to push through the delirium of close-of-show Sunday insanity.

-I also helped facilitate for the second year in a row Todd Nauck sketching WWE Superstars, in this case the Bella Twins; there's already a video up on WWE.com and we should be posting one of our own shortly. Todd is probably the legit nicest guy in comics and one of the people who really made my weekend along with his beautiful wife Dawn, and the Bellas turned out to be incredibly kind, gracious and enthusiastic, so it was great to link them up and I hope we get to do more with both parties in the future.

-Oh, another unique bit of fun for me was getting to interview the editor-in-chief of the Guinness Book of World Records, who was on hand to present Chris Claremont with a plaque commemorating X-Men #1 from 1991 as the best-selling comic of all-time. That one's not online yet either, but I'll link as soon as it is and you can witness me trying to scam my way into history by setting a world handshake record and learn the current record for most Mars bars eaten in one sitting.

So much more went down over the week, but I've already got an essay here, and some stuff is best left to me and the eyes and ears of San Diego. Thanks so much to everybody who made this probably my favorite con ever!

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

San Diego: What Kiel Wrote!


San Diego, man. Woof. What a long, strange, tiring, exciting, stabbing thing. As normal, I thought I'd take the massive gap in posting the collective Cool Kids underwent because of the show as a cue to fill up our corner with some ego stroking in the form of posting all that I wrote over the past week for CBR. But before I got to patting myself on the back, I wanted to note the following:

1 - For all my coming congratulatory bullshit, there is absolutely nothing that I did this weekend or ever will do at any show that will hold a candle to the unstoppable reporting prowess of Team CBR. At the end of the weekend, our on site panel coordinator – and all around chipper dude – Seth Jones sent out a text to the 30+ staffers we had on site thanking them for their hard work, and in it he said simply, "Best crew ever...I want you ALL back next year!" I couldn't agree more. At the risk of sounding like a total dickcheese, I take an extreme amount of pride in the fact that CBR probably covers this show with more depth and passion than any other media outlet – not just comics press or nerd press but ALL press. If you doubt me, check out our Comic-Con coverage index where the team delivered more reporting on panels than you can even imagine with more pouring in every day for this week and likely into next. Having so many people who were professional, timely, thoughtful and smart made what little I had to do administratively a breeze, and I swear to God I've never seen Jonah Weiland so laid back around late July ever. Thanks so much to everyone who kicked in.

2 - Holy fucking shit, Robot 6 and Spinoff Online! I would honestly be a hot mess if it weren't for the ladies and gentlemen behind those blogs, you guys. Every time I had some con-related news come across my desk last minute where we were all freaking out, I'd e-mail the Robot 6 crew and they'd not only respond immediately with a "YES!" but in some cases would actually say, "We were already chasing that." Can you fucking imagine how awesome those guys are?!?! They broke a lot of news on the show itself all by their lonesome and gave more better round ups of the breaking news of the show than any blog on the internet. Amazing, amazing, amazing, A-MAZE-ING, you guys.

And Spinoff? I can honestly say that when Jonah and I dreamt up the idea of a bigger media blog for the CBR network while doing drunken girly phone chats one night, there's no way we imagined it'd be as strong as its been in its brief life under Graeme, Kevin, Josh, Erik Jeffrey and the rest of the crew. We wanted to make a place on CBR that could expand out our coverage of other media that our readership seems to dig without sacrificing one iota of our comics coverage or comics focus, and I think we've done exactly that...and when I say "we've done" what I mean is "they've done, but it's so nice they put my name on that site too." Super aces, bros.

3 - Finally before I link to something that more than three of you want to read, I just wanted to say that I got back from this San Diego more excited about my working future and my future in general than I've felt in a long time. So everyone who hung out and said nice things and kept my positivity up all weekend...basically to all my friends at the show: THANK YOU. I went into this year's show not knowing what experience I wanted from it but walking away with the best one possible, and that was hella keen.

OK, so...content!


* I don't want to foist every piece of pre-con news that I worked on upon y'all, but in the ramp up to the show, there were a few legitimately newsworthy stories and/or just plain fun interviews I got to do that were tangentially tied to the con. For one, I was happy (and a little surprised) to be the only person to reach out and get comment from Jimmy Palmiotti and Larry Young as two of the principals in this coming Kickstart Comics company that's going to be hitting comic shops and Wal-Marts later this year. I know a lot of people throw automatic sneers at any company run by Hollywood folks, but my view is always that if someone is paying creators to get comics done, printed and sold, they deserve a shot to talk about that process in a forum where their potential readership can come and get facts on the product.

On the flip side of that particular story, it was nice to speak to Mark Waid and Matt Gagnon about their changing roles at BOOM! Studios. For being a place whose name carries "the S word," BOOM! has pretty much proven its commitment to comics first, and I'm always glad to see more healthy players of that stripe in the market.

Finally, there were a shit ton of product announcements and product announcement interviews from me in the ramp up to the show, but if I had only one to steer you towards, it'd be this one with Scott Snyder on his upcoming Detective Comics run. I don't know how well it reads through in the final copy, but I haven't spoken to any creator who was as flat out enthused over his new gig that Snyder in I don't know how long. It's nice to see new guys who are fucking hungry in comics, you know?


* Once I landed in San Diego on Tuesday morning, things pretty much started to fall on me left and right. For one, Jonah hatched some hairbrained scheme to get me onto the floor of the show before it opened (my brief photo set is here), and I'll admit it was kind of fun in its fake clandestined-ness. I think aside from all the other awesome perks, fans who want to become professionals should chase that brass ring with the knowledge that when they get that coveted exhibitor badge, there are few things more creepy awesome than walking the floor of Comic-Con when it's totally fucking empty of people.

The other major bit of Tuesday insanity for me was the fact that despite traveling to the show on little to no sleep, I'd committed to doing the latest of our new "Marvel T&A" column for the Friday of the show. We didn't want to miss a week so early in our new weekly column for any reason, so I called up Tom Brevoort from the Taxi stand of the San Diego airport for what I thought would be a ten minute "what do you do when everyone else is at San Diego?" chat and ended up with over 40 minutes of Q&A. If you're at all interested about the inner workings of Marvel Editorial over the product discussion these things usually gravitate towards, you may want to check that out. Also: Brevoort owes me a dollar for including that "T&T" gag in there.

* Once CCI gets underway, the majority of my time doing "live reporting" – that is to say I cover some of the bigger publisher panels as they happen while trying to lose neither my mind or my tenuous wireless signal. I can't complain about it really as doing a panel live means one hour of stressful typing followed by zero work on my part. It's honestly a sweet gig, and I hope that in the rush to catch as much of the news and quote people as accurately as I can, what I produce somewhat resembles readable prose rather that some kind of strange fanboy bulletpoints that need to be decoded by the message board kids. Anyway, the lion's share of these reports included: The first DC Nation panel, the Geoff Johns spotlight, the Marvel Avengers comics panel and the famed Cup O' Joe panel.


* And as part and parcel of that panel coverage, I also spoke to writer Jeff Parker about his plans in taking over Marvel's Red Hulk character with his "Atlas" artist Gabriel Hardman. To be honest, I wrote that story from a couch in the lobby of my hotel at four in the morning during a night of restless, stressful insomnia, so if it makes no sense please don't blame Parker.

* In between that, I found a moment to interview DC co-publisher Dan Didio about the whole "Alan Moore doesn't want Watchmen back or to write a sequel" thing. I mean, I got as much out of DDD as he was willing to give on the subject at least. I honestly don't know what to make of that whole story or even if it's that big of a story, but I'm always interested in hearing the big whigs talk about their big plans – even in vague terms – so it was an interesting thing in that respect at least.


* The other big chunk of my week was spent diving head first into Scott Pilgrim madness. It's kind of insane to me that one of the first things I did as a web reporter on comics was to interview Bryan Lee O'Malley about the release of the series' third volume, and since then the bond I've made with those books and that particular piece of my work life has been an incredibly satisfying and...I don't know? Humbling? experience. I'm going to miss waiting for new books in that world terribly, and I can't think of a better way to have ended my run following them than by live reporting on the star-studded movie panel and then on O'Malley's own comic-themed spotlight.

* I should also mention even though they're not up that for the first time this year, Jonah tapped me to do some of CBR's "Boat Show" video interviews. I hadn't done anything of the sort since the very end of my Wizard tenure where the process of talking to people at the New York Comic Con was as humiliating and degrading work experience as I've ever been through and made me want to stab an ice pick into my inner ear so I wouldn't be able to stand up straight in front of the camera anymore. Anyway, doing it for CBR was a much more pleasant experience, and in the weeks ahead you can all be on the lookout for video of me embarrassing myself in conversation with the aforementioned O'Malley, writer Kieron Gillen and the tag team supreme of Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning.


* If I could point you towards just one thing I wrote at the show you should check out (or the one thing you probably already have), it'd be my writeup of Grant Morrison's spotlight panel. Jonah very smartly didn't make this one a live affair as trying to encapsulate Morrison's thoughts on the fly would do the writer and his fans a real disservice. I hope I was able to cram as many of the interesting ideas, news and quotes I heard in that hour into my final report. and if nothing else it seems to be getting linked around a lot, for which I'm very grateful.

* Saturday evening at the show, some poor kid in Hall H got stabbed in the eye – a fact I learned while sitting in another panel taking notes, which I then had to leave to rush across the con to cover. Incidents like that are never the most pleasant things to write about, but I hope the report I filed with quotes from the police and Comic-Con's David Glanzer helped keep discussion of the event grounded in fact rather than wild speculation, despite the highly surreal factor that came in when I was asking questions of said police alongside local news stations, Entertainment Weekly and the Washington Post. Of course, that wasn't nearly as surreal as typing up said police quotes about the stabbing while sitting next to Todd MacFarlane on the couch on the CBR Yacht a half hour later. Saturday was fucking weird, man.

* I wrapped my on site reporting of the show with a brief chat with Glanzer about some of the events and issues that had sprung up during the week, and you can read that here. I hope to get David back on the phone for one more Con wrap-up talk this week, and I'll have two more panel reports hitting in the days ahead: A Mike Mignola spotlight and one about Paul Dini and Phil Hester's respective new Cartoon Network projects. Please be on the lookout for all of that in the days ahead, and see you next year!

Monday, July 26, 2010

San Diego 2010 Sketch-o-rama Pt. 1

Oh man, I am wiped the heck out from San Diego Comic-Con! I've been to three of these suckers now, and no question this was my favorite so far. Besides the show itself, getting to interact with fans and see what they think of what we're doing, I had the perfect balance this year of seeing my bros, spending time with creators who I love to chat with, fostering some camaraderie with my Marvel colleagues and going on trippy pro wrestling adventures that land me on the top of PetCo Park shaking hands with Paul Heyman.

But right now, as much as I'm still tingling from great stories and better friends, I'm pretty wasted from taking a red eye back and then heading into the office on three hours of sleep (I'm hardcore).

So while if the past is any indication all four of us will be checking in throughout the next little bit with anecdotes, pics, etc., for now I want to show off some of the sketches I was fortunate enough to pick up this year.

I did snag some new Nova pieces, but my sketchbook is actually still in the physical possession of the great Josh Adams right now. However, I did get a very special surprise Human Rocket rendering from none other than pro wrestling superstar and my Marvel.com broadcast partner "The Fallen Angel" Christopher Daniels!

Not bad, eh? Chris may "fall down for a living" as he puts it, but I think he's got some skills! I see a bit of early Jamal Igle in that piece; very nice shading on the musculature. You may have a second career awaiting you Mr. Daniels!

However, Nova aside, I also had Megan's very special Miss Martian collection along for the ride and got two new portrayals of my favorite Martian, first up from Andy Lanning...

Many may know Andy as one half of the supreme cosmic writing duo of DnA along with Dan Abnett or even as a prolific inker, but he's also a hell of an artist in his own right when not working over somebody else's pencils, as this more than demonstrates. I had some very fun times with Andy over the past week as he's one of the funniest dudes in comics or anywhere really; ditto for Dan. Very glad to see DnA get their well-earned props on the Mondo Marvel panel from an appreciative crowd.

I also got Megan a sketch she's wanted for some time as she's always been jealous of my own Chris Giarusso Nova...

What can I say about Chris G's work? The guy is awesome and I don't think he's capable of bad art. His Miss Martian is absolutely adorable, but I'm not surprised. Megan is totally in love with this sketch already, so I owe Chris, also a heckuva nice guy.

So that's it for the first wave, but when I wake up in three days or so hopefully I should have more for you. In the mean time...Kevin, where are you, kid?!

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Off to San Diego 2010!

Rickey and Kiel are already in sunny San Diego for Comic-Con International while Kevin and myself are headed out tomorrow, so it's time to shut the blinds, lock the doors and shut down the Table for the next week or so.

Please do make sure to enjoy our coverage of the big show at Marvel.com and Comic Book Resources...and we'll see you in seven!

(Oh...and I guess pretend Sean McKeever is Kevin in that pic)

Monday, July 19, 2010

My Five Favorite John Buscema Comics

I always knew I was a John Buscema fan, but I don’t think I realized how much until I started writing this blog.

It seems like nary a subject goes by where I’m not singing the praises of “Big John,” whether it’s thanking him for designing Nova or saying what an honor it was to work with his granddaughter Stephanie. There’s no question some of my favorite comic books and those that drew me in as a fan to begin with bore the handiwork of John Buscema; in a lot of ways, I owe the man greatly for drawing me into my chosen profession.

When I was a kid, guys like Jim Lee and Darick Robertson grabbed my attention; as I grew up, George Perez and Mike McKone became more my speed. But if you group all those guys, you notice a common element of solid fundamentals and appreciation of how to infuse larger-than-life super heroes with a sense of reasonably grounded anatomy that was a benchmark of what Buscema did his entire career.

With all that in mind, I wanted to pay some much-deserved tribute to Mr. John Buscema by listing off the five works of his that resonated most profoundly with me personally.

(And I should not before I even begin that I know Buscema is forever linked to his Conan work and while I’ve admired it from afar and it’s impressive as heck, I’ve never actually read it, so I’m disqualifying it in this instance)

5. The Punisher Meets Archie
As with Buscema’s Conan, his Punisher work is a gaping hole in my reading history I hope to someday fill, but I did get a tease in this quirky little memento of my childhood. Buscema handled the strictly Punisher portions of the most bizarre team-up in comic book history and brought a professionalism as well as a grit that did not seem out of place to a story that benefitted from both. And it was pretty cool to see the Marvel Universe version of an evil Archie Andrews that Buscema dreamed up.

4. Nova
Obviously I will be forever indebted to John Buscema if for no other reason than he visually created my favorite comic book character of all-time and garbed him in one of the coolest costumes ever. Buscema only drew the first two issues of Nova’s first ongoing series, but he made an indelible mark on Richard Rider and his world. Besides establishing the pace for the Human Rocket as far as his action sequences and how he propelled through the air with the greatest of ease, Buscema also eased the John Romita Sr. template of portraying young people in their civilian lives admirably into a new decade.

3. Avengers: Under Siege
Due to a lot of his oeuvre being so centered around action-based characters like Conan or Thor, Buscema has a well-deserved reputation for a guy who can deliver great battles and brawls, but there’s a lot more to his talents than that, and he demonstrates this in one of the best Avengers stories of all-time, Roger Stern’s “Under Siege.” That’s not to say there’s not plenty of slam bang in a tale where Earth’s Mightiest Heroes take on the biggest assemblage ever of the Masters of Evil, and Buscema delivers more than ably on that front, but it’s the quiet moments that set this story apart and where he really makes his mark. Whether it’s the anguished reactions of his charges when Jarvis is tortured or Captain America’s somber resignation following the destruction of Avengers Mansion and his prized heirlooms, Buscema knows exactly what buttons to push emotionally and does so with tremendous skill. And yeah, the fight scenes are awesome too.

2. Silver Surfer
After many years of wanting to, I finally started reading the first Marvel Masterworks collection of Silver Surfer recently, and besides the fact that I’d highly recommend it, I also have to say it’s not tough to see why Stan Lee selected John Buscema to be the artist on the first regular series for his self-admitted favorite character. The Surfer’s not necessarily an easy character to nail, given that he is essentially a naked dude draped in silver (on a surfboard, of course), but like Jack Kirby before him and a select few since, Buscema knew how to navigate the challenges and bring Norrin Radd to life. While Buscema’s nuts and bolts anatomy works perfectly on the Surfer, it’s the care and heightened sense of urgency the artist used in rendering the character’s facial expressions that served to really illuminate the torment, melancholy and bursts of rage Lee made the Sky Rider of the Spaceways’ benchmark. When the Surfer opens up in battle, you can see Buscema come alive, rendering the Power Cosmic with relish and care, not just settling for ill-defined energy blasts, and letting it all hang out when Thor or other come to play. This work really is Buscema—already pretty darn great—at his best, running the gamut from making the Badoon the ugliest mofos in the universe to showing why Norrin Radd is so hung up on Shalla Bal, as she really does seem like the most gorgeous woman ever. Buscema’s splash pages are downright inspirational as well, from the sinister introduction of Mephisto to the iconic shot of the Surfer emerging from Galactus’ hand imbued with his power for the very first time.

1. How to Draw Comics the Marvel Way
The way John Buscema first came into my life—at least in a way I significantly remember beyond odd issues of Avengers from the late 80’s—was via Marvel’s pivotal instructional book on the essentials of cartooning. Released in 1978, “How to Draw Comics the Marvel Way” has gone through at least 33 printings at last count and served as a launch pad not only for fans-turned-doodlers like myself, but scores of actually legitimate future comic book artists. Buscema’s style was the one we all aspired to emulate, and he was more than willing to hold our hands through a series of easy-to-follow chapters and in-depth lessons that laid the treasure trove of trade secrets comic artists employed at our fingertips. I not only enjoyed the book for its instructional value though, I confess I also just loved looking at the great art contained within and dreaming of someday being close to that, if not as an artist than in some other way. Indeed, John Buscema’s art was the gateway that welcomed me into this wonderful world of comics. My mother was recently looking for a gift for my young cousin who has shown some proclivity towards drawing comics and I suggested this book; I only hope he can get even half out of it that I did and perhaps want to borrow some John Buscema comics from me.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Paragraph Movie Reviews: Inception

If you don't have plans to see this movie, you can check the spoilers here and then come back.

To me, Inception was, at its heart, a really good heist movie; the science fiction and higher concepts trappings built around that central caper for the most part helped though in a few cases hindered the guts of the film. The idea of using dreams as the backdrop for a story like this is definitely unique and Christopher Nolan does a great job coming to the table with a complex and smart idea of how it all works. The world in which the story takes place does require a bit more exposition than I generally like to see in a movie, but for the most part the actors did a good job not making it too clunky and I think it was a good choice to have the idea of traveling through dreams be one the general populace was already familiar with rather than having one character be discovering it entirely out of nowhere. Nolan and Leonardo DiCaprio collaborated nicely to concoct a strong protagonist in Cobb, and I felt his personal stake was well-realized and helped give weight to the plot; I did find DiCaprio's performance a bit too brooding and maudlin at times, but for the most part it was strong. I could harp on the fact that I figured out the bulk of the mysteries revolving around Cobb well before they were revealed (and seriously, I'm not that clever), but upon reflection I think I prefer that to when a filmmaker tries too hard to make their twists come out of nowhere and succeeds by having them make no sense. I also thought Marion Cotillard was particularly haunting as Cobb's lost love, playing equal parts alluring and terrifying, plus riding the wave between flirtation and insanity perfectly. I almost felt bad for Ellen Page in the sense that this was another instance in which she was excellent but I can't deny that her youthful looks take me out of the scene for at least a moment, particularly when she's interacting with Cobb, which almost seems unfair; she can more than hold her own against any other member of this cast when it comes to acting, but unfortunately she can't help her genetics. Ditto to a lesser extent for Ken Watanabe, whom I love as an actor, and his difficulties at times with English. Obviously neither factor was a huge problem, but it frustrated me because I like them both. Joseph Gordon-Levitt got a nice suave sidekick role and also the best action sequence of the whole movie (and there were some real good ones) plus he handles the exposition stuff better than anybody. Tom Hardy was welcome comic relief and quite quick-witted about it. Frankly, Cillian Murphy was window dressing, which is a shame. The movie clocked in at over two and a half hours, but I was enveloped enough in both the plot and action that I could have definitely hung in for another thirty minutes easy. I do think something that will work against Inception is that the advance bill sells it as a bit more revolutionary than it might be, particularly as the much-ballyhooed special effects for creating the dream world are sprinkled in extremely sparingly, but if you don't go in with those expectations, you'll be rewarded with a fun, engrossing film.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Linko! LII


* Man, you guys, there is a LOT to like about Chris Cummins' list of the 30 Greatest Star Trek villains on Topless Robot. I mean, like any nerd list there are things I can quibble with here or there (the inclusion of Moriarty from one episode is ridiculous) and things I can really get behind (DS9 FTW!), but the reason I can really get behind Cummins' list is because on the whole it does a lot to show what really worked and didn't about each iteration of Trek purely on sci-fi terms. From the original series' reliance on bugfuck crazy imagery and twists culled from the short story chops of its many writers to the movie adventures of Kirk succeeding only on the merits of its epically melodramatic villains. From Next Generation's early fumbles at trying to replicate TOS' success eventually overturned by a handful of indescribable homerun arcs to DS9's reinvention of the wheel with layers of depth and shades of grey (well, for Star Trek) across its seven-season super story. And from Voyager's utter failure to either capitalize on the few underdeveloped merits it carried from its predecessors or create new compelling ideas of its own to Enterprise's surprising late-series resurgence once it shifted to continuity porn anchored by a nice xenophobia story thread. It's all well represented there and worth a look to anyone who vaguely likes Star Trek.

And you know, I really think the thing that makes any iteration of that franchise work is the chemistry between the cast and the range of character types they represent (something the new Abrams relaunch proved by a country mile), but without weird mean fake sci-fi, no one would've tuned into that show (whatever version) to begin with, you know?

* I'm pretty sure I'd gone over to the Comics Detective blog once or twice before the past two weeks, but after Ken Quattro started posting all the paperwork and transcripts from the legendary Will Eisner / Victor Fox / Wonderman / DC Comics lawsuit it became a 1,000% positive recommendation for permanent bookmarking. I simply can not stop reading this stuff.

* Everybody thank Tom Spurgeon for always being there to scratch my comics history itch as I'm too lazy to update/look at my Google Reader account! This week it's plenty of CC Beck, more Funnyman and an absolute not to be missed Harvey Pekar obit. Thanks, Tom!

* OK, everybody already saw this first one, but I have to say that nothing could have been more entertaining to me after all that Lebron waiting game bullshit than Dan Gilbert's letter to Cleveland. Oh wait, nothing except THIS. I really do hope they beat Miami for the championship next year.


* In other hilarious basketball news, this gallery of Jack Nicholson at Lakers games is pretty fantastic.

* Historians locate King Arthur's Round Table! AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!

* The book business is a weird and labyrinthine place whose odd corners I'm conversely intrigued by and repulsed by. This week, I read up on the industry's "Value Channel" sales of kids books. Mostly interesting, this one.

* Finally, I know I've been blogging a lot less lately, and seeing as San Diego is next week I won't be able to make a dramatic return to my already meager level of output until after then, but in the meantime it's never a bad idea to check out Sean T. Collins' excellent daily link-blogging as he's way better than me on my best days. See you soon!

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

The Essentials: Supertboy by Kesel & Grummett

In talks with my comic book-reading chums, they’ve pointed out—mostly Kiel pointed out—that whereas many young fans tend to gravitate towards characters whom they could relate to or empathize with such as Spider-Man or the Tim Drake incarnation of Robin, I seemed to go the opposite way as a kid and adopt alpha male types who were definitely cooler than me and whom through I liked to somewhat live vicariously through like New Warriors era Nova or Guy Gardner.

In no case do I think this was truer than with the Superboy of the 90’s in his original iteration.

From the minute “The Kid” showed up courtesy of writer Karl Kesel and artist Tom Grummett in the closing pages of Adventures of Superman #500, I was hooked on the character. The leather jacket, the shades, the fade cut, the earring and every one of his two dozen unnecessary belts—loved it all. But more than that, I dug his brash attitude, his insistence that nobody call him Superboy his uncontrollable flirting with every woman he saw and underneath it all the naiveté of a young man literally bred to be a hero but who had no idea of sacrifice. That was the dude I wanted to be.

Following Reign of the Supermen, Kesel and Grummett took The Kid out of Adventures and into his own series, titled Superboy as he finally consented to that name. Over the next two or so years, they would create some of the more enjoyable comics of my youth and stories I still remember fondly and hold dear to this day.

Kesel has always been pretty open about his devoted fandom to Jack Kirby, and I believe it shines through in very positive ways through those first 30 issues of Superboy. With the rich Superman mythos to mine and cherry pick villains and supporting cast from, Kesel and Grummett instead elected to relocate Superboy to the uncharted-in-the-DC Universe waters of Hawaii, giving them the chance to create from scratch their own world in which their character could play, much as “The King” had done so many times during his decades forging his legend.

And make no mistake, the surrogate family Kesel and Grummett would build around Superboy was a major component in what made the series stand out from the pack. The Kid’s primary love interest Tana Moon seemed to start out as merely a multicultural Lois Lane for a new generation, but her Hawaiian roots and moreover her complex feelings towards dating somebody a few years younger than her physically but who was quite honestly a newborn in terms of emotional experiences provided her significant depth. Hawaiian police chief Sam Makoa was a young Jim Gordon with far more orientation towards action, but his duality of annoyance that Superboy brought so many super-powered threats to an area that had gone years without any balanced with a subtle enjoyment over his now-interesting job was gold. Slimeball manager with a heart of gold Rex Leech and his bombshell daughter Roxy—the third point of the Superboy-Tana love triangle who was always lagging way behind—were tremendous fun. And the DNAlien Dubbilex, a telepathic demon-looking fellow with a demeanor more befitting Mr. Miyagi and a Kirby creation himself, provided both guidance and additional comic relief, particularly when he started wearing Hawaiian shirts and board shorts on the regular.

The villains Kesel and Grummett created for Superboy were a mixed bag, but the point again is the effort they put forth in dreaming up new threats for their hero to face, only peppering in familiar foes like Parasite, Killer Frost or Black Manta and making those appearances seem all the more like events as a result.

Of the new baddies, King Shark has probably gone onto the most longevity—though not much—as a general DC Universe villain, appearing regularly in Aquaman: Sword of Atlantis and more recently Secret Six. However, whereas he’s become chattier and a bit of a Killer Croc knock-off of late, King Shark originated as a silent savage who only Makoa had taken down in the past and who presented a genuinely creepy threat in his original appearances guest-illustrated by Humberto Ramos; he also had a pretty cool and grisly origin as the son of a shark god and regular woman who allowed him to feed off her own freaking arm!

Scavenger was an intriguing recurring foe if only because a cranky old man seemed a natural opponent for Superboy and his crazy paranoia and never-revealed motivations provided a bit of mystery. Silversword had some promise as the native Hawaiian who resented Superboy becoming the hero of the islands and ended up a villain despite his best intentions, but his design was cooler than any of his actual appearances. And good ol’ Sidearm, Superboy’s first villain from back when he was still going by Superman, was fun for the occasional comic relief appearance before his untimely demise during the too-serious-for-him “Watery Grave” arc.

None of them, however, had anything on Knockout.

While fans of a more recent vintage probably best remember Knockout as Scandal of the Secret Six’s recently-deceased lover, she got her start as the super-strong serial sexpot who drove Superboy nuts during his early years. A stripper named Kay with a mysterious past teased out over the better part of two years, Knockout was the only woman who truly flustered The Kid, alternating between ultra-aggressive sexual advances that put his boyish flirting to shame and brutal physical attacks in which she proved more than his equal.

Knockout would prove to be a huge part of Superboy’s development in the larger arc Kesel and Grummett were building over the course of her tenure. She’d show up often and baffle our hero with both her skewed morality as well as her not-at-all overtures towards the libidinous Boy of Steel. Whereas Tana represented Superboy’s innocent first love, he thought Knockout stood for the wild and unrestrained type of romance he saw as being truly “grown up” and had to learn that sometimes a bad girl is just that in the hardest lesson of his young life.

Because the heart of what Kesel and Grummett were doing with their first run on Superboy was telling a story of growing up and how it can be both the most you’ve ever had the most terrifying thing you have to do. The colorfully carefree standalone stories of Superboy’s early issues would give way and give weight to more serious sagas like the aforementioned “Watery Grave” and the creative team’s swan song, “Losin’ It,” in which The Kid finally succumbs to Knockout’s charms and ends up alienating the people he cares about in the process, destroying the life he’s built for himself, and then having to earn it all back.

When Superboy first came to prominence during Reign of the Supermen, he was the idealized teenager living all his dreams with incredible powers and no parental guidance to speak of. Shipping off to a tropical paradise only served to amplify this as suddenly The Kid lived in a world where hot girls in bikinis were lining up to meet him and the only threats he ever faced were easy enough to dispatch because no real bad guys ever come to Hawaii. He had friends, he had a great girl and he had awesome adventures with nary a consequence to fear—being Superboy was the coolest gig in the world.

But that was only the first part of the story Kesel and Grummett were telling.

It was masterful the way things slowly got tougher for Superboy bit-by-bit as opposed to all at once. A kid wearing his costume for a personal appearance he couldn’t make ends up getting killed by a villain aiming for him. He goes on a mission with the Suicide Squad as a favor to Makoa and learns about shades of gray. He’s unable to save Valor’s life and has to ship him off to the future. The pressure continues to build because he was really only built to handle success and is expected to shoulder the responsibility of a seasoned hero despite only having lived for a couple of years. And all the while Knockout is in his ear telling him to ditch the shackles of a life filled with duty and go off with her to just have a good time.

People scan the covers of those early Superboy issues and they see the earring and the shades and a lot of goofy fun—and the book had all that, but it was also telling a pretty damn powerful story about growing into adulthood whether you’re ready or not.

Up to this point, I’ve mentioned Grummett’s story contributions, as while Kesel was certainly the driving force behind the narrative from all I’ve heard it was a true collaboration, but I’d be remiss in not emphasizing how much his skill as an artist brought to the series. I’ve always loved Tom Grummett’s work as he is very much the ideal for a super hero artist, able to draw ladies who run the gamut from cute to gorgeous as well as dudes who look ready to do damage, but it’s his design sense and knack for having fun that really shined in the Superboy series. No villain’s costume ever looked bland, no supporting cast member ever faded visually into the background, and no battle lacked a tangible energy with Tom Grummett guiding the art chores on Superboy.

And speaking of energy, I think that’s the best topic to close this little essay on.

A buddy of mine and I were speaking just today about how the 90’s get derided a lot—and often with good reason—but it was also a period of incredible creative energy. So much of that period was throwing wild new ideas at the wall and seeing what stuck; not everything or even a lot did, but the stuff that succeeded was really something special. Nowadays that energy is still present in a lot of comic book work, but there’s also an increased emphasis on mining what worked in the past with reverence and trying to find a way to retool it for a modern time; I’m not saying that’s a bad approach or trying to praise one over the other, but there’s certainly something about that unbridled race to break away from what came before that I miss.

Karl Kesel and Tom Grummett’s Superboy was all about that wild energy and forging forward with new ideas, tossing them out rapid-fire in the spirit of Kirby and seeing what worked. From the main character to the unique setting to the quirky supporting cast to the bizarre array of villains, Superboy was all about taking a name that was familiar and building something completely new around it. The love those two guys and their collaborators put into the book really showed through the page and gave me a sense of consistent enjoyment I still cherish.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Developing a Brocabulary: Praiseology

Folks, you ever want to give your bro a proper attaboy and just don't have the words? Well that's where Brocabulary: The New Man-i-festo of Dude Talk comes in handy; in particular, the section on Praiseology (n.) Phraseology that can be used to praise all that is good in this world

This is dedicated to all my bros working hard this week to prepare for San Diego Comic-Con International, beginning in seven days; it ain't easy, and y'all deserve some serious praiseology.

atrawesome - Atrociously awesome.

blechtacular - Spectacular in a disgusting or vomit-inducing way.

ferawesome - Ferociously awesome.

Flyatollah - The king of being fly

guydol - A guy that you idolize, perhaps excessively.

nadmirable - Admirable because it took some serious nads: "Dude you told your boss to suck it? Nadmirable!"

nadvantageous - Something that's advantageous to your balls: "It would be nadvantageous for you to shut the f--k up."

perb, perior, preme - Expressions used to indicate that something is superb, superior, or supreme.

threediculous - Three times as ridiculous as something that's ridiculous.

totally awessible - Something that's totally possible and would be totally awesome if it happened.

It's gonna be a totally awessible next couple of weeks, bros! Let's do it!

Monday, July 12, 2010

AIM Adventures: Million Dollar Idea

Ben just had a great idea and needs some feedback. Fortunately, Alex is on AIM...

Ben: Let me run this by you
Ben: Idea for a video game: fighting game where you can play as anybody from any Real World or Road Rules ala Marvel vs Capcom or Mortal Kombat vs DC
Alex: ooh
Alex: I'd play that if you throw in the Jersey Shore people as unlockable characters.
Ben: Yes! I was also thinking about incorporating The Hills, but possibly as a second game
Alex: Hm. I'd play that.
Ben: Right?
Ben: Eric Nies vs The Miz? Who wouldn't want to see that
Ben: A Judd Winick/Puck grudge match?
Alex: Judd Winick vs. RACHEL
Ben: Judd Winick vs the world
Ben: He gets the first solo game, like how Sub-Zero got his own game
Alex: I support this
Ben: Glad to have you onboard
Alex: You have my full support with this project.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Cruel Summer: Ultron

Most killer robots that populate the ranks of villainy in comics and just about every other form of action fiction come across their creepiness by being cold and emotionless; terrifying because there’s no way you can hope to reason with them.

Ultron goes the other way.

While he may come across visually with the best of science fiction’s malevolent automatons thanks in large part to his simple but sinister design by the great John Buscema, Ultron is brimming over with emotion. This is a case where the book not even remotely matching its cover defies your expectations and makes for a great villain.

Ultron is Oedipus in the Greek tragedy that is the life of Hank Pym (aka Ant-Man, aka Giant-Man, aka Goliath, aka Yellowjacket, aka The Wasp). Created as a stab at artificial life by Pym using his own brain patterns, Ultron would rebel beyond the control of his “father” and spend the rest of his “life” hating him in a slightly more extreme fashion than most angsty teenagers do their parents. Ultron would go on to try and create progeny of his own in The Vision as well as two would-be brides in the forms of Jocasta (whose brain patterns he based on Pym’s wife, the original Wasp, thus going back to the whole Oedipal thing) and Alkhema; all three would turn against him, with Vision and Jocasta both becoming part of daddy’s team, the Avengers.

Every time Ultron shows up, he’s seething with rage; anger towards Pym, toward the Avengers, towards his “children” and against humanity and general. He really is the classic adolescent dressing in all black and listening to Nine Inch Nails except he’s got adamantium skin and several death rays in place of Hot Topic accessories.

The artists who best portray Ultron—Buscema, George Perez, etc.—have gotten a lot of mileage out of the fact that his expression never changes and holds the same Jack o’ Lantern shape as he screeches “Die Avengers!” or cries out in agony because The Scarlet Witch is hexing him to “death”; it’s quite haunting.

As I’ve mentioned more than a couple hundred times on this very blog, I grew up reading comics in the early 90’s, and for me, that meant not too much Ultron to be seen. The Avengers comics I read had them battling Proctor and only Proctor pretty much every issue with occasional respites to team with the X-Men against Fabian Cortez or battle pissed off Kree and Shi’Ar expatriates. Ultron may have appeared in Avengers West Coast, but I didn’t buy that book until the last issue; I also know he played some role in a Vision series that came out at around this time, but again, I didn’t read it.

So I more or less had no idea who Ultron was outside of the passing mention in a Wizard article or Official Index to the Avengers. Sure, I fought him in the Captain America & The Avengers video game, but I didn’t know him as Ultron, just a weird-looking robot who had a strange laugh. I was also out of the comics game by the time Avengers: United We Stand—currently airing on Marvel.com—where he was the main villain took the airwaves, so no dice there either.

My first genuine exposure to Ultron was Kurt Busiek and George Perez’s “Ultron Unlimited” which was one of the bigger epics from their golden period on Avengers in the late 90’s. The story unfolded in 1999, though I wouldn’t read it until a few years later, picking up the trade as I was trying to assemble the whole run.

The entire first issue of the arc is the Avengers and special guests Black Panther and The Wasp running around chasing leads after Hank Pym gets kidnapped by a robot army. One of the cooler things about the first chapter is how hesitant the Avengers—a group that is at full power and includes Thor, Iron Man and Captain America at this point in time—are to even mention Ultron by name, because they’re that scared of him and you can really feel these fictional characters clinging to some hope against hope that he’s not the guy they’re up against; the anxiety crosses the line and even makes you pretty tense with anticipation.

The Avengers actually end up finding Alkhema first and for a second almost breathe a sigh of relief because maybe she’s behind it all (and she’s not so tough)—then they turn on the TV and see Ultron massacring the entire nation of Slorenia, lighting fires across the country in the shape of his face. The whole story is full of powerful imagery like that, and of course nobody does it any better than Mr. Perez.

As we learn, Ultron has kidnapped Pym, as well as The Vision (his “son”), The Scarlet Witch (Vizh’s ex-wife), Wonder Man and The Grim Reaper (Vision’s “brothers” and thus family in some weird way to Ultron). He also grabs The Wasp for good measure and we’ve got a family reunion. The endgame for the bad guy is that he’s going to swipe the brain patterns of his “relatives” to program a new species of self-aware robots that he’ll use to replace humanity. It actually sounds like a standard super villain plan except that fitting with our theme it’s more akin to a kid who feels neglected wanting to run away from home and finding refuge with replacement family figures be they rock stars, movie idols or just like-minded teens.

Also, Ultron committed genocide just to provide a distraction, so there’s that.

As you’d expect, the Avengers end up spoiling Ultron’s fun, battling through a literal army made up of his previous models in a great action scene then busting down the wall so Thor can get the great line, “Ultron, we would have words with thee…” off. In the end, Pym himself gets to score the much-needed kill shot with an assist from Justice, who figures out Ultron has a weakness to vibranium and tosses the good doctor a pair of knucks made from the stuff so he can pound the crap out of his “son” and vent about how he’s not a failure in a most cathartic manner.

“Ultron Unlimited” is certainly Ultron at his best: Shell of a killer robot, insides of a disenfranchised youth and power of a small army, not to mention a well of resentfulness and ruthlessness that can never run dry.

But while Ultron has traditionally been an Avengers heavy through the years given his close ties, he has branched out elsewhere in the Marvel Universe as well pretty successfully. I loved his run as a cosmic big bad during Annihilation Conquest where he took over the Phalanx and led them on a campaign to assimilate the cosmos; the motivation from “Unlimited” remains the same, as he’s still searching for that surrogate family, he’s just widened his scope on a massive level.

It’s fitting that Ultron has expanded beyond the Avengers in terms of who he’s willing to fight, as he’s a unique take on a common theme whose look has become fairly iconic and whose anger towards his “dad” can pretty easily be redirected at whoever is standing in his way as easily as the kids I’ve been referring to this whole entry seem to be fairly pissed at the entire world.

Of course in most cases, disgruntled young adults grow out of that phase and move on into either grown up happiness or dissatisfaction depending on the situation, but Ultron being a robot—and a comic book character—will never get over it, which is just another way he’s one of a kind.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Paragraph Movie Reviews: Zombieland

If you don't have plans to see this movie, you can check the spoilers here and then come back.

This movie had a tiny cast, which was perfect because it was composed entirely of actors I really dig. The actual zombie/comedy structure of the story was really incidental for me, as it was the characters, the performance and the chemistry that upped the quality and the post-apocalyptic setting just provided a nice backdrop for them to bond against. I'm so high on Jesse Eisenberg, who is just so endearing in the nerdiest of roles and makes the little hero moments much sweeter and does the little under-his-breath lines so well. I'll admit I didn't enjoy him quite as much here as I did in some other stuff he's done, but at 80% he's still real good and he has this intangible quality of being able to make me want to see him get the girl like no other actor I can think of. Really the biggest strength of Emma Stone's performance was her chemistry with Eisenberg, and I'm not sure how much of that was him, but she's convincingly slick and totally desirable, so I'm pretty sure she could hold her own; honestly, I wish they'd given her more to do. Abigail Breslin was probably my least favorite here, but that's because she's at a weird stage between cute child actor and capable adult performer, and it kind of seemed like the writers or whoever didn't know how to handle that. But hoo boy, Woody Harrelson, man; dude's got so much manic energy and charisma that he brought to bear in full here. His every action screams bad ass, but he's fully capable of making a line or a look funny or even sad as well. No question Woody was the MVP here and his Tallahassee was just an awesome character. Overall, the story is serviceable and the dialogue swings from clever to clunky, but this cast is totally good enough to carry the bad bits. I was a little let down by the big Bill Murray cameo, but probably because I had it so crazy hyped. Oh, the other good thing the zombies brought along was a fantastic action sequence at the end. Didn't blow me away as a classic and could have tanked in other hands, but with this group of actors I sure laughed and cheered a lot and would totally sit through a sequel.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Pimping Our Stuff: Shadowland What The--?!

The special new Marvel Super Heros: What The--?! promoting Shadowland premiered today in all its glory. As per usual, Alex "Das Wunderkind" Kropinak was responsible for 95% of said glory, but me and the Woodward to my Bernstein, Sean T. Collins, kicked in again this time as well. Here's a bit of behind the scenes...

As a follow-up to our Siege promotional video from back late last year, I pitched Marvel PR guru Arune Singh on doing something similar for Shadowland. After getting approval from Daredevil honcho Steve Wacker, I started kicking around ideas with Mr. Kropinak on our semi-daily train rides between Jersey and NYC.

My basic concept hinged on the idea that we always see various urban heroes hanging out on rooftops, gargoyles, etc. doing monologues, but they never seem to run into each other. I figured it would be funny to start with Daredevil waxing melancholy about his perpetually sucky life and then keep pulling the camera out to reveal other guys like Moon Knight, Iron Fist and the like doing their own bits with DD getting perpetually more annoyed as they talked over one another. Alex liked the basic concept, but wanted to tinker with the execution (specifically the talking over each other bit).

With Alex's big brain going, I recruited Sean to write the monologues themselves since they were supposed to be funny in a way that intelligently poked a bit of fun at the character's cliches, and he knows how to pull that off.

Sean kicked ass on the script, I tightened it up ever so slightly, and off to Alex it went. He worked his magic for several weeks, we spent the last couple days moving and shifting some pieces around, and voila: there you have it.

Enjoy!

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Random Thoughts on the 2010 Emmy Nominations

The 2010 Emmy nominations hit today and I’ve got some random thoughts on them—hence the title of this post.

-Lost fans, I’d advise not holding your breath expecting your dearly departed show to be honored just because it was the last season or for its overall accomplishments. Fact of the matter is shows with such a heavy sci-fi/mysticism slant don’t tend to clean up at the Emmys in the Outstanding Drama category unless it’s a weak field, and it’s not a weak field. Breaking Bad, Dexter and Mad Men are still at the top of their game and while I dug a lot of what Lost has to offer in its final run, I don’t think this was their best season, so they’ll have to make do with the statue they got way back in 2005. I hope they get a nice highlight package, though!

-To continue on that line of thinking for a moment, sorry Sean T. Collins, but I don’t see Matthew Fox winning Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama; I think he acted his heart out and I certainly wouldn’t be upset if he did pull it out, but much like I said above, that’s some stiff competition with Jon Hamm, Bryan Cranston, Hugh Laurie and Michael C. Hall.

-And to finish the thought, I do hope and believe Terry O’Quinn will be honored for his phenomenal Lost work this season as Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama. O’Quinn’s 180 turn from the traditional Locke to uber villain Smokey was just remarkable and displayed a range few actors could pull off so masterfully. I would say O’Quinn not being considered a Lead Actor is a bit of a crock, but at the same time, he’s got a way better shot against the likes of Martin Short and company, so I hope Lost’s “ride off into the sunset” moment comes in this category and a Locke-esque acceptance speech ties that final bow on the series.

-As an unabashed Glee fan, I still think it’s ridiculous that Glee got so many acting nominations. It’s a fun, well-produced and undeniably unique show of high quality, and there’s no doubt the cast is immensely talented, but I just don’t see how their performances, impressive though they are, can be held up against the likes of Alec Baldwin, Tina Fey and other people not on 30 Rock. It’s hard to articulate exactly why I feel this way without coming off like I’m slighting Lea Michelle or Matthew Morrison, but I just feel like playing so far over-the-top is entertaining and cool, but not award-worthy. Jane Lynch surely deserves her kudos as she has created a character, but the others are really just playing archetypes and singing incredibly well from my standpoint. In a perfect world there would be another category to recognize the merits of a show like Glee.

-I thought Steve Carrell’s Michael Scott was easily the most irritating and loathsome character on television this past year, and not in an impressive way, but in a “I want to turn off the TV” kind of way. His nomination for Outstanding Lead Actor to me is just the Academy sleepwalking and not having the guts to scratch him off the list after a bad year. At least they didn’t give Jeremy Piven another nomination. Carrell leaving The Office is going to be the best thing for both him and that show.

-Tina Fey was as great as ever on 30 Rock this year, but I think it would be really cool to see Amy Poehler grab that Lead Actress in a Comedy torch from her pal. Parks and Recreation just took such a quantum leap this year and I’m bummed it’s not up for Outstanding Comedy, but seeing Poehler get the win would be a nice consolation prize.

-I feel like I’m definitely at a handicap as far as picking winners by having never seen an episode of Modern Family.

-Finally: It’s long past time for Neil Patrick Harris to take this one home; America, let’s make it happen.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

The Definitives: Daredevil

So the first issue of Shadowland is in stores this week, and I am excited.

I mean, I’m excited because I work at Marvel and also have already read the issue plus know a bit of what’s ahead, so I know it’s going to be a fun ride, but that aside, as a fan, this kind of “street level heroes event” is an idea I know I’ve kicked around with my buddies for years and wager similar discussions have taken place in other comics-reading circles, so it’s neat that it’s happening. It’s also under the capable guidance of three stellar in editors in Steve Wacker, Tom Brennan and Alejandro Arbona, so the pedigree on this baby is solid.

With the story making Daredevil a central figure in a world he’s typically on the fringe of, I thought this might be a good time to give DD some love with my favorite tales of The Man Without Fear. Truth be told, I’ve come close to pulling the trigger on this particular Definitives a few times but backed down since I kinda figure everybody has the same handful of classics in mind when it comes to Daredevil; but giving it some thought, maybe that’s not the case as I’ve come to discover there’s far more great material on the character than I once believed—much of which I likely won’t even cover here—and even if there’s some overlap, so what, good comics is good comics.

And these are good comics.

“Badlands”
My favorite standalone stand alone story—and quite possibly my favorite story period—in Daredevil’s history doesn’t have Matt Murdock putting on the costume at all or even speaking a single word. The premise is pretty short, sweet and simple: the first part of the story sets up a corrupt hellhole of a town in New Jersey, the rest is a blind man riding in and cleaning things up. It’s not unlike a vintage Western flick, except it really taps into the essence of Daredevil and is a nice primer if you don’t know the character and just want the bare bone essentials that run beneath even the red suit and bill clubs. No surprise it’s written by Frank Miller, the guy who essentially made Daredevil relevant (and his own career in the process). The art comes from one of my all-time favorites, John Buscema, and captures the feel of despair as well as hard-won triumph as only he could.

“Born Again”
While I by no means didn’t enjoy the aforementioned Mr. Miller’s first run on Daredevil, I’m certainly not as into it as many other folks; I’m more impressed by the elements he lays out that have since become so coded into the character’s DNA and the rapid evolution of his work, but to me it does read like work by a guy just hitting his stride as opposed to a more seasoned pro. Probably for those reasons, I’m a much bigger fan of Miller’s return engagement on the book a few years later with “Born Again.” Nowadays, the whole systematic deconstruction of a hero’s life in order to build him back up later stronger and more resolved is far more commonplace in general and also seems to happen to Daredevil pretty much yearly, but Miller did it first and in my opinion still did it best. For me it’s not the ninja stuff or Catholic overtones that finally separated Daredevil once and for all from being the second rate Spider-Man he started out as, but that ability to walk the line of utter despair partly into insanity then emerge from the other end as an even bigger bad ass the likes of which Spidey could never hope to be. This story absolutely made The Kingpin as it’s pretty scary how handily he dismantles Matt’s existence, plus we get that amazing sequence with the Avengers and Nuke that clearly demonstrates why Daredevil can hang with the A-list of Marvel. Also, it should probably go without saying, but David Mazzucchelli’s art is tremendous.

Daredevil: The Man Without Fear
The third and final Frank Miller entry on my little list and what I think most people consider to be the definitive telling of Daredevil’s origin. In many cases when creators go back and try to flesh out a Silver Age origin told in 15 pages to a five-issue saga, it falls flat because often time the original telling was elegant in its simplicity and there’s really nothing more that needs to be said. However, in this case Miller had already basically taken the Matt Murdock that Stan Lee had built and reinvented him from the ground up in stories set years after his genesis; this was just grounding all those cosmetic changes a bit more solidly and making the transfer of ownership more or less official. The early stuff with Matt and his dad is pivotal, but the series really hits its stride when Elektra is introduced. This was the story that finally after many years helped me get the appeal of the Elektra-Daredevil romance, in that it was not the stuff of fairytales as comic book relationships often are, but instead a case of two people stuck on horribly violent paths able to find solace in one another for a fleeting moment that they’re going to spend the rest of their lives attempting to regain. This was also the work that converted me to being a John Romita Jr. fan after not getting him at all on Uncanny X-Men; his cartoonishly imperfect figures and tremendous depth of linework suited the tone of the story so perfectly and made me both re-evaluate all his stuff I’d written off before as well as eat up everything he’s done since.

“Guardian Devil”
This is a “greatest hits” story done right by Kevin Smith and Joe Quesada. It’s got pretty much every character and element—except for Elektra and I guess Typhoid Mary—who has played an important role in Daredevil’s life up to the point it was written (Kingpin, Bullseye, Karen Page, Black Widow, Mephisto and Foggy Nelson all put in appearances), but they are all used to advance a completely new and dynamic story, not just to show up, get beat up/made out with and then not mentioned again. I just re-read this very recently and despite knowing how it all ends was just really impressed with Smith’s capabilities as a mystery-weaver in addition to his skills writing comedy and action, not to mention those heady religious and personal issues DD and his cast must contend with. Quesada totally found his sweet spot drawing Daredevil as the shadows and acrobatics alone really allowed him to open up and play the way he likes to as well as turn in some of his best stuff. I don’t want to dwell too much on many more details as this is a story I think deserves a look from those who may have skipped straight from Miller to Bendis and so much of the good stuff is in the slow unraveling of the plot, but it’s really high quality stuff with incredible human drama.

Daredevil: Yellow
In the interest of full disclosure, I’ve never actually read the original Silver Age run of Daredevil, but it’s not something I’m in any great rush to dive into as obviously there was a need for pretty drastic reinvention by the 80’s and also because the character’s earliest appearance in old Spider-Man comics I did check out recently didn’t exactly blow my mind. However, I did think Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale’s brief visit to Matt Murdock’s early days as part of their “color” series was a neat perspective on a different kind of Marvel character. As with Spider-Man: Blue and Hulk: Grey, Daredevil: Yellow focuses on the hero of the piece and a lost love from more innocent days, which in this case is Karen Page. But while the romance element is fine and dandy, I think Loeb’s greatest accomplishment in this series is providing a bridge of sorts between the Lee and Miller takes on Daredevil, showing Matt’s attempts to be a more lighthearted swashbuckler but how in private he’s such a different and worn out kind of hero from the start and the pronounced strain that façade puts on him. Sale is at his finest here and it’s cool that they went with the barely-used original yellow costume both because it gives him more avenues to explore and also he really makes it his own.

Daredevil by Brian Michael Bendis & Alex Maleev
There’s no one story from Brian Bendis and Alex Maleev’s five-year run on Daredevil that stands out as being the most important of the bunch for me, and I think that’s a testament to their work, as they really did create an epic that spanned nearly 60 issues and pretty much avoided the valleys in favor of if not constant peaks that at the very least consistent high quality. Bendis redefined the character of Matt Murdock almost as powerfully as Miller did, but in far more subtle ways from his language to his more primal way of dealing with adversity. In a medium where the bulk of the protagonists fly or swing above humanity, Bendis really grounded Daredevil as a hero of the people, one as capable of terrible violence as he is of great empathy. For his part, Maleev has absolutely created the modern template for how Daredevil is supposed to look with his grainer, darker more realistic and painterly style; a DD who looked too far askew from the way Alex Maleev drew him in this day and age just would not feel right. Bendis and Maleev were very bold with Daredevil, recognizing the great potential that the character has always had to be a proving ground for creators on the rise and not resting on the laurels of the work Miller and his contemporaries did, instead forging their own way; the reverberations of their work is still being felt today and likely will continue to be for some time to come.

“Daredevil” The Movie
It was awesome.