Monday, March 30, 2009

Pimping "My" Stuff: Marvel Super Heroes What The--?!

Weeks (months?) of hard work and tireless effort finally paid off this week on with the long-awaited debut of Marvel Super Heroes: What The--?!, our new stop animation comedy jam. I try not to pimp out my day job too too much here on the CKT, but I'm real proud of all the hard work that went into this one--virtually none of it mine!

It's all really the brainchild of one Alex Kropinak, one of the most brilliant and talented dudes I know. I've known Alex for a couple years now, since he was an intern back at Wizard. He's incredibly creative and infinitely patient, as watching about ten seconds of that first video should demonstrate. He's done some really impressive video stuff over the past few years, and he deserves tons of recognition for it. We made a real steal hiring him a few months back and I'm glad folks can finally bear witness to the fruits of his hard work. He did the bulk of the writing, filming and editing on this sheband.

But Alex wasn't the only buddy of mine onboard here. Two more Wizard alums helped out on the writing end in Jon Gutierrez and Sir Sean T. Collins. On the video end, Jason Harvey and Ramon Olivo, the other two dedicated members of Studios, put in the late hours with Alex to get this done.

Oh, and Ryan Penagos and I did voices--can you guess who?

Anyhow, enough of my yakkin'! Go check out the goods on and/or YouTube!

AIM Adventures: Drunken gorilla

Ben is telling Rickey stories about how his high school friends would sometimes take him out drinking and push him way beyond his limits, likening them to gorillas who didn't know any better. Rickey compares Ben to a kitten being tossed in the air and then has this thought...

Rickey: i feel like we could go to the bar with a drunk gorilla driving
Rickey: could=should
Ben: The world just isn't ready
Rickey: and then, WHEN we get pulled over, we can be like, "Ploice Sofficer. It's the gorilla"
Ben: Someday
Rickey: "he can't drive"
Rickey: and the cop will be like, "well, I don't think that's any reason to..."
Rickey: and then he'll see the gorilla
Rickey: and be like, "That's...that's glorious."
Rickey: "carry on"
Rickey: and then the gorilla will crash into a tree about 15 feet ahead of where we were pulled over
Ben: It's a beautiful fantasy
Rickey: and our headstones will say "It was like they were kittens"
Rickey: and nothing else

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Paragraph Movie Reviews: I Love You, Man

This movie has a little more meat to it than some of the other comedies much of its cast has done lately, and that works both for and against it. Me personally, I enjoyed seeing the actors stretch and appreciated a lot of the heavier stuff behind the laughs. On the flipside, I can see where the slightly more realistic tone and reined-in characters could be jarring for somebody expecting another "Forgetting Sarah Marshall" or "Knocked Up." Paul Rudd steps way outside his usual comfort zone of cool guy/disinterested guy to play an insecure kinda dorky type and I was impressed by how well he pulled it off. The guy is more than just a collection of one-liners and goofy faces, he's a very talented actor, and he showed it here. Jason Segal is just hilarious; he doesn't have as much of a challenge here as Rudd does because he gets most of the outright funny bits and doesn't need to work as much, but what he does with what he's given is just great, and what he adds is even better. I was pretty hooked by the basic premise of the flick, because it's not too far off from reality; guys like Rudd's characters DO exist and I'm pretty sure I was one at some point in my life, so watching his story delivered more resonance even if I wasn't always laughing. The "awkward behavior as comedy" stuff worked really well about 70% of the time, but that other 30% was rough. I'd say the biggest disappointment was how amazing the supporting cast looks on paper versus how well they deliver; Rudd and Segal are knockouts, Rashida Jones is great as the love interest and Jon Favreau steals some scenes, but talented folks like Andy Samberg, J.K. Simmons, et al just feel wasted. I'm definitely going to see this movie again because I feel there's a lot to take from it both in terms of entertainment value and "makes you think" stuff. I wouldn't say it's the best laugh out loud comedy I've seen recently, but it's got heart and two relationship stories for the price of one that are both pretty sweet. And hey, I'm a sucker for bromance.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Nostalgia Trip: The Muppet Show

I picked up the first issue of the new Muppet Show comic by Roger Langridge that BOOM! Studios put out this week kinda on a whim. A few of my friends have been talking up Langridge for months now, but that wasn't the reason I bought the book, since if I bought every book by a lesser known creator who my friends have a boner for, I'd be selling Megan's engagement ring to afford my apartment. No, for some reason as I was walking the aisles of Hanley's the cover to The Muppet Show #1 caught my eye and, in large part because I wasn't getting much else this week anyways, I picked it up.

And I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed it.

Part of my enjoyment came it from it simply being a good comic, and that certainly wasn't the surprise. As noted, I've heard nothing but good things from trusted friends about Langridge's talent and BOOM! is a fine publisher with a fairly discerning taste for this type of product in particular, so I knew that in the most basic sense I'd probably get a good comic.

No, I was more surprised with how this comic hit my nostalgia button in a warm, fuzzy way, because it was a nostalgia I was not entirely aware I possessed.

Whenever the subject of the Muppets has come up (and that's really not terribly often, despite the company I keep), I give a kinda half-assed "Oh yeah, the Muppets, love the Muppets" in the same way you say how you like pizza or roller coasters (neither of which I like, but I digress). Everybody likes the Muppets, so of course I like the Muppets. Why not.

But why?

I truthfully don't remember my first exposure to the Muppets. I think it was one of the movies, most likely Muppets Take Manhattan, because reading over the wikipedia summaries, I remember that one the most distinctly. At the very least, I must have caught it on HBO or local TV or something a buncha times because I can picture the scenes (though I can do the same with The Great Muppet Caper; it's all a mishmash). I remember playing the "Pigs in Space" video game at my friend Brendan's house. I don't even remember the timeslot of the original Muppet Show, because I can only recall watching it during the day in syndication when I was home from school sick. Oh hey, looking it up, it turns out I can't remember the timeslot because the show ended two years before I was born.

It's all part of that shapeless, warm quilt of memories that makes up childhood. It makes me feel comfort but I don't really know why.

I do remember when Muppets Tonight premiered. I was 14 and I was super excited because it felt like I got cheated out of something by not being old enough but now my generation was gonna get a shot. The 90's were like that. I think that's where Woodstock '94 came from.

Anyhow, that rambling didn't really help me figure out why I had an affinity for the Muppets, so I'll try some more.

Even though I didn't quite understand it, I did on some level even then appreciate the spirit of Kermit searching for meaning in his life through the theater and finding this bizarre surrogate family. Though I had a great home life as a kid, I think I always felt like the community I grew up in wasn't entirely where I belonged and dreamed of belonging to a more eclectic group of people, which of course happened in college and certainly in my professional life. So there's definitely a parallel there I doubt I was ever fully aware of.

I also just appreciated how weird and out there the Muppets were and that there was clearly some higher intellectual and creative ideas Jim Henson was expressing in his work, but I never felt dumb for not knowing what they were. There's too much good art that alienates people because the artists don't know how to be bold without also being condescending, and with Henson, that was definitely never the case.

And of course, bottom line, the Muppets were entertaining. They were funny. The songs were catchy. The production value was the textbook for how to make a whole lot out of not so much.

So flash forward a decade or two and after writing this entry I think I can definitely see why I felt good after taking a gander at the work of Roger Langridge and friends this past week. I hope this venture works out well and in 10-20 years, there will be guys and girls creeping up on 30 writing holographic super blogs (or whatever they have in the year 2030) figuring out why they like the Muppets. I think it's off to an excellent start and I personally can't wait for the next issue.

(Also, I learned while reading the comic that Megan is apparently terrified of Muppets, which is both sad and wonderful and will likely warrant another blog entry someday)

Tuesday, March 24, 2009


Because nobody asked, I feel compelled to expand on a point from my last entry where I talked about "iconic characters" and who I consider to be in that rarified tier perhaps even higher than the A-list. The characters who possess some intangible that allows them to transcend the status of most and be indispensable to the medium.

Through a formula I can't fully explain but know involves continued print viability, some degree of mainstream notoriety and good ol' fashioned quality among other factors, these are the super hero characters I consider to be truly iconic (note there are plenty of non-super hero comic characters I'd consider iconic but am glossing over right now for the sake of simplicity)...

Aquaman, Batgirl (Barbara Gordon), Batman, Captain America, Catwoman, Daredevil, Deadpool, Dr. Doom, The Fantastic Four, The Flash, Green Arrow, Green Lantern (Hal Jordan), Hellboy, The Hulk, Iron Man, The Joker, Lex Luthor, Magneto, The Punisher, Robin, The Silver Surfer, Spider-Man, Storm, Supergirl, Superman, Swamp Thing, Thor, Wolverine, Wonder Woman

Agree? Disagree? Who am I missing? Who doesn't belong? Discuss!

Sunday, March 22, 2009

The Essentials: Deadpool by Joe Kelly

Not too long ago, some friends and I were talking about the truly iconic characters in comic books. The characters that transcend the genre and become ingrained in the public consciousness, that people who are both fans and laymen are inherently drawn to because there's something that makes them stand out among the pack. Superman, Spider-Man, Batman, the Hulk, Wonder Woman, Iron Man, Aquaman, Captain America, the Flash, Daredevil, etc. etc. These are characters who have gone through changes over time, but who have always maintained or reverted to a certain default state because they have too important a place in the hierarchy of comics not.

The talk turned to who was the last character to join this pantheon. Who was the most recently-created charcter who could reasonably be called iconic? Convention holds that a character like that hasn't come along since the 70's. The usual suspects include Wolverine, the Punisher and Swamp Thing, all characters who have broken away from the pack at some point and transcended the A-list. However, I threw a bit of a wild card out there:

And the funny thing was, nobody really disagreed with me.

Ok, unlike the bulk of the characters we place in that rarified air, Deadpool has not starred in his own movie or been on "Superfriends" (although the former will be somewhat remedied in a couple months with "Wolverine: Origins" and I'm now struck by how amazing a "Superfriends" mash-up featuring Deadpool would be), and he has certainly not permeated mainstream consciousness to the degree of even a Green Lantern or Punisher, but he's on that cusp. He's a character that a lot of people who aren't hardcore comic geeks at least know of to some degree and gets placement in a lot of cartoons and video games and toylines because there's just something about the character that hits that casual fan sweetspot.

And as far as folks who actually read monthly comics go, there are a huge amount of Deadpool fans who are vocal and excited about the character. As a veteran of more than a few Marvel convention panels, I can say that when we make a Deadpool-related announcement, it gets more of a pop than when we announce stuff about even Spider-Man and the like. Moreover, since the late 90's, Deadpool has always had an ongoing series because I think if he didn't there would be a riot. Creators from Brian Michael Bendis to guys who come in from outside the industry are chomping at the bit to find a way to write him because he has that kind of following amongst their community as well.

It's tough to explain the zeitgeist around Deadpool, but I'll attempt to do so anyways, because I think a good deal of it can attributed to one really good writer.

Probably what stands out to me most about Deadpool is the way the character has "risen above his station," so to say. I think Rob Liefeld and Fabian Nicieza would probably have no trouble acknowledging that when they created the character in 1991 they weren't looking for much more than a cool-looking adversary for Cable who had some neat add-ons as far as the yperactive pop-culture quoting and the scarred up face. Nicieza and Mark Waid--two writer whom I hold in extremely high regard--added a bit of meat to the bones as far as giving Deadpool some dimension in his two 90's limited series, fleshing out his past and adding some supporting cast, but again, I doubt either had designs on making the character particularly enduring.

Then along came Joe Kelly and an incredible 33-issue run on a Deadpool ongoing series that I'm guessing most people wouldn't have given past 12 issues in their offices pools (in the event that anybody was having office pools centered around how long a Deadpool series would last).

You can't get 6 issues, let alone 33 (or the 69 issues that Deadpool's first ongoing ran), just out of "kewl assassin with swords and guns." What Kelly did was take a harder look at what would be going on inside the psyche of a dude like Deadpool, combined it with a great sense of humor, a unique supporting cast and more, and created a very different kind of super hero book. He set a template that successive writers such as Deadpool's original co-creator Fabian Nicieza and current DP steward Daniel Way have been able to continue tapping into over a decade later, that of the most unlikely hero in the world trying to do his best against his nature.

In his first few issues, Kelly makes sure to establish that in the mercenary world, there's nobody better than Deadpool, and that his peers either revere him for how bad ass he is or hate and are jealous of him for the very same reasons. As long as he's got the mask on and a target to stab or shoot, Wade Wilson is the coolest cat around, quipping and flipping his way to whatever he wants.

However, when the mask comes off, we see that Wade is an extremely flawed and messed up dude, both physically and otherwise. Via Weasel, DP's geeky tech bud introduced back in his first mini, we get to see 'Pool at his best, doing the merc thing. But one of Kelly's early triumphs is the introduction of Blind Al, one of the most unique supporting characters in comics, and perfect for an offbeat character and book like Deadpool. Al is a cantakerous old blind lady who Deadpool has "taken hostage," having lived in her house for years with her waiting on him when he needs it. Al is the warped Aunt May or Ma Kent of Deadpool's world, as she sees the true, beneath the mask Wade and challenges him yet is terrified of what he's capable of. She gives Wade shit and pushes him to be better than he is, making the fact that he refers to her as a hostage seem ludicrous, but whenever he gets a bit too dark, unlike Weasel or the other characters, Al backs off because she has also seen him at his worst and knows he is far from a joke.

So you've got the "public" Deadpool we'd gotten to know via his X-Force appearances and minis as represented by how he is amongst his fellow mercs and with Weasel, but the "private" Deadpool that Kelly delved into and expanded via his interactions with Al and his inner monologue (and sometimes dialogue, because, y'know, he's nuts) was where the magic happened. This guy who's great at his job and has the respect/annoyance of his peers puts up a front of bravado and humor to mask the fact that at the end of the day, he's got nothing. He's an ugly motherfucker who lives with a blind granny who he needs to keep a prisoner in order to have anybody to talk to. His life, which he portrays to the world around him as being the shit, is in fact just shit. He's miserable. And deep down, he knows he can do better.

And that's a guy you can root for.

Joe Kelly transformed Deadpool into an iconic character for a different era in that he was not a millionaire with a square jaw or even a nerdy high school kid with a heart of gold; he was a deeply deeply flawed individual who indulged in violence, heard voices in his head, had a face that looked like hamburger and killed people for profit--but he wanted to be better.

He was not the Punisher or even Batman. He did not feel content or justified in his actions. He was just kinda resigned to them. That was his routine.

Then he got offered something better.

Early in the Deadpool series, Wade is approached by representatives from the "interdimensional law firm" of Landau, Luckman and Lake, who inform he has a destiny to become a great hero and save the world. Wade rejects this as nonsense and continues along his semi-merry way, but over the next 25 issues, amidst much chaos and many good, entertaining stories, the super-structure is Deadpool struggling with the idea that he does have the capability to be more than what he has always been, and dealing with how much that terrifies him.

As Deadpool embarks down the journey to his ultimate destiny, Kelly deftly weaves in brilliant stories fleshing out Wade's complex past, explaining how he came to be who and what he is, while also tossing out fun one-two-issue romps and crazy fights with an eclectic mix of guest stars from Sasquatch to the Hulk to Bullseye to Taskmaster. He balances the heavy stuff like Deadpool's dealings with Typhoid Mary or doomed attempts at romance with Siryn with absurd comedy with the Great Lakes Avengers or the funniest issue of any comic I've ever read in which Wade becomes Silver Age Peter Parker (more on that in the next post). The first 25 issues of Deadpool are just a great potpurri of entertainment, from easy reading fun to deeper psychological contemplation, and Kelly juggles it masterfully.

A brief aside: I'm not saying much about the art because there's really no need to. Joe Kelly's run on Deadpool had some fantastic artists, including Ed McGuinness and Pete Woods, but I mean no disrespect to their work when I say they were just icing. Rob Liefeld did a great job when he designed Deadpool because it's a look that's hard to mess up; it's inherently cool-looking. The artists who handled the first 33-plus issues of Deadpool did some great action work, etc., but the character and the writing was really the main event.

Anyways, as per usual with these Essentials, I could go on, but I'll try to wrap up. The first 25 issues of Deadpool read wonderfully as an offbeat epic that keeps twisting and turning every which way. You get everything you want and stuff you'd never expect. Joe Kelly seriously connected with the character and his world and just got it in a very special and unique way. He drops seemingly inconsequential bits in the first five issues that won't pay off until the tail end of his run. He works in what has become vintage Deadpool bits like breaking the fourth wall in a way that does not seem contrived. It's an incredible run.

In many, ways, Kelly's final eight issues of Deadpool feel like a horrible tease. He's just finished a story that seems impossible to top, and indeed almost make you wish there were no more Deadpool stories after (just kidding, that's crazier than Deadpool; it really does have a great ending though), then just as he gets his wind back and seems like he's cranking into opus number two, he's gone. We get an awesome Deadpool/Wolverine fight that include 'Pool knocking Kitty Pryde around with Street Fighter moves and a few other gems, but it's really just those last few scraps on the plate after an amazing meal.

What Joe Kelly did with Deadpool is a feat. He took a character who by all rights should have gone out of style with the likes of Crule and Gunfire and made him an icon. If you have ever even been mildly entertained by Deadpool or would like to be, you owe it to yourself to check out this run. The first two issues just got collected in the volume one of Deadpool Classic (which also had his debut and the minis), so hopefully more will be coming later this year.

You can also do what my pal Jordan did and spend like $200 books getting every Deadpool appearance ever in handbound hardcovers on eBay, but you could also continue to feed yourself.

Coming soon, I'll go more in-depth on some of my favorite stories from those 33 radtastic issues.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Wizard Features That Never Were: My very first pitch

The time: December, 2004.

The place: somewhere on one of the various highways between Highland Falls, New York and Boston, Massachusetts.

I had been working at Wizard for a scant month and a half or so and was headed home for Christmas. It was a three-hour-plus drive from my former apartment in Orange County, New York to my parents' house in Newton, Massachusetts. Megan was with me and it was pretty late, so she wanted to nap during the trip, meaning no radio or cell phone for me. It was also snowing out, so I needed to make sure I was alert.

So what do you do to keep your mind sharp during a lengthy, wintry car ride if you're a fledgling Wizard research assistant? You try and come up with your first feature pitch.

Wizard editor Brian Cunningham had been encouraging me and my fellow research assistant Dylan Brucie to come up with ideas for features we'd like to write as he wanted us to progress in that regard so he'd have more guys he could count on for assignments. We had thrown a couple rough ideas for Wizard's old back page humor gag, Bullpen, at him, but not much else. I decided to use this trip to change that.

I have no earthly idea why (I believe it had something to do with spending several years as an accredited archery instructor who was terrible at archery), but I decided that the perfect feature for me to make my first impression on Wizard and the world would be...The Ultimate Guide ot Green Arrow.

I dig Ollie Queen plenty, but he's certainly not even in my list of top five all-time faves. Snow and silence do strange things to a man.

Now I wasn't just talking about a quickie article on the Emerald Archer, I meant the *Ultimate* Guide to Green Arrow. Here's the stuff I can remember coming up with for my initial pitch:

-A lengthy Q&A with then-Green Arrow writer Judd Winick.

-An "Essential Green Arrow" list of the best and most influential Green Arrow stories of all time.

-The archery equivalent of the "Power Chart" features Wizard had done in the past, placing Green Arrow where he belonged in terms of skill on a list of comics archers like Hawkeye, Shaft, Merlyn, Trickshot and Golden Archer.

-A guide to Green Arrow's rogues gallery, from Shado to Rainbow Archer (I can't recall why, but I was really set on working Rainbow Archer into this article somehow...that should have been a sign).

-And finally, my coup de grace, a consultation with various "real world" experts who would teach us how to make Green Arrow's arsenal (boxing glove arrow, handcuff arrow, etc.), and then determine whether or not there was actually a way to make them work in a practical sense. Yes, I wanted to figure how to construct and fire a boxing glove arrow.

I was so amped about my ideas that I woke Megan up (always a risky proposition) and excitedly outlined them for her. Being half-awake and freezing, she told me she loved them and then went back to sleep. The minute we walked in the door of my parents' house, I said hello, gave my mom a hug, then ran to the computer to frantically jot down my ideas and shot them off to Brian.

Then I waited.

Then I had a nice Christmas.

Then I came back in to work.

In the days in between, I had realized a few things about my pitch:

-There wasn't much question that Green Arrow and Hawkeye would top any list where I had to strain for inclusions and came up with Golden Archer.

-Green Arrow had a terrible rogues gallery.

-I was never going to find somebody to help me make a boxing glove arrow.

All this aside, the initial enthusiasm of that drive was still fueling me, so when Brian told me E-i-C Pat McCallum wanted to see me, I was still optimistic.

Pat sat me down, asked how my holidays were, and then very politely explained to me why my pitch was insane.

To be fair, the main reason my pitch didn't work--aside from the ones I listed above--was that it was January 2005 and the biggest thing going on with Green Arrow was Speedy joining the Teen Titans. There was a lot of exciting stuff happening in comics that Wizard had to cover, and taking eight-plus pages to talk about Green Arrow and Rainbow Archer just was not a winning proposition.

However, Pat did not simply show me the door and ask Brian to hit delete every time I pitched an idea. He took the time to explain to me what worked about my pitch and what did not. He noted the boxing glove arrow thing could actually be cool for our recurring "Superhero Science" column. And he encouraged me to keep on pitching ideas, because even though this one wasn't going to work, he appreciated my initiative.

And then he let me mess around with his Marvel Legends figures for 20 minutes.

"Meetings" like that were one of the reasons I loved working with Pat. Another was that he took the time to cut out and glue a Flash insignia to a Marvel Legends Dracula figure and leave it on my desk as a "rare variant figure."

Good times.

Friday, March 20, 2009

I'll Buy That For A Dollar?: New Warriors #22

Comics are my life blood, and current superhero comics make up a giant part of my daily interaction with the medium, but at the same time, even a guy like me can get pretty burnt out with the current crop of DC and Marvel books. There are plenty of good monthlies you can buy at the store brand new every Wednesday, but when you spend your days calling guys on the phone and asking about upcoming plot points in said books, some of the shine comes off that casual fan excitement you get from flipping through the weekly offerings (a real sympathetic complaint, I know, but stick with me here). With single issues of indie comics coming less and less thanks to shifts in the market like the new Diamond order threshold and prices rising on a lot of the big two titles I might be buying monthly, I've spent the past few months investing my meager pocket change on one of the remaining cheap thrills a grizzled comic shop veteran (har har) can find...dollar bins!

That's right. For anyone who's tight on cash and/or looking for a jump start in their reading habits, your average Direct Market retailer has a musty box in the back of the shop full of affordable potential gold. Now, some of these cheapo comics might cost as low as a quarter or as much as (gasp!) three whole bucks, but whatever the exact price, the point is that no matter how much random continuity you've pressed into your head, how many short-run mini comics you've hunted down or how many trade paperbacks you've lined your shelf with over the years, there are still tons of wild comics you haven't experienced that won't cost you more than a Jr. Bacon Cheesburger...or something else cheap. To help dig into this unique comics experience, I'm starting a new semi-regular review feature here called "I'll Buy That For A Dollar?" where I'll highlight some of the dollar bin picks I've dug up this year and whether or not they were actually worth the 100 pennies I threw down. So let's get the ball rolling with...

The New Warriors #22 (Marvel)
April, 1992
Fabian Nicieza (W)
Mark Bagley (P)

My brother bought the first issue of The New Warriors when Marvel's ubiquitous '90s teen team made their debut, and I remember liking it all right, but beyond randomly buying the issue where Rage's grandma gets horrifically murdered before him (which caused me to go, "That was intense...who is Rage?") I never got too deep into the series and its characters. When I told our fearless leader Ben I'd pick this up, his response was "That issue is the kickoff to the final arc of the Nicieza/Bagley collaboration, that paid off everything Fabian had been building for the first two years of the book, so if you dig that, you'll likely dig all that came before as well (and the villain of said arc still gives me nightmares)." After reading through the issue once or twice, I'm kind of wishing I would've started somewhere else.

Here's my best understanding of what happened: the Warriors' bad ass, street wise leader Night Thrasher has fallen in with an uber-90s team of villains led by the insanely-named, trench coat-wearing Left Hand of Darkness. LHD and the rest of the team (whose names range from the absurd Bloodstrike to the so nonsensical its kinda cool Smiling Tiger) want "Trash" to come to Cambodia to discover some stuff about his past and his parents and junk, but there's little more explanation than vague promises in between getting slapped around. Meanwhile, the rest of team is dealing with dueling crises as one of their own is on trial for murdering someone unspecified while another of their team got beat up in an alternate dimension after learning their benefactor is also her dad. Oh, and said benefactor is also nearly brain dead thanks to the actions of their old Chinese housekeeper lady who is apparently also super evil (or something). For some reason, this all ties in with whatever's happening to Night Thrasher, so the team recruits two new members – Rage (recruited by visiting his grandma's house) and Darkhawk (recruited by juggling cars in queens) – to help the gang steal a jet from the Avengers and fly to Cambodia. Once that's done, we shift back to Night Trasher and Co, who have reached The Temple of the Dragon's Breadth (not "Breath") where the so-called Pact that holds the secrets they want is guarded by dudes in armor really similar to Thrash's, even though his armor looks like a motorcross outfit with a skateboard glued on back.

So yeah...a little ridiculous and totally confusing for the uninitiated. Although, that's not necessarily a bad thing. It's really fun to read a comic where a LOT of shit happens in 22 pages. And while most of what was going on was either confusing or unintentionally funny, there were still parts I enjoyed. Left Hand's crew reminded me of the Immortal Weapons from Matt Fraction's Iron Fist run but instead of taking their cues from creepy kung fu lore, they took them from Youngblood, which is more fun than it sounds. Plus, the over-the-top nature of the plot and especially the violence in the issue is entertaining in that "Holy shit...seriously?!?" kind of way. At one point when the team is stealing a jet from the Goddamn Avengers, Namorita takes the time to make a joke regarding Nova and premature ejaculation. THAT was unexpected. But overall, Nicieza's script was trying a little too hard to be cool for my tastes, and one thing that really struck me as off was the idea that these were supposed to be teenage superheroes. The Warriors never felt like they were out of their depth or juggling crazy hormonal situations amongst the action adventure or any of the other situations I dig about comics featuring young heroes. Mostly, the team just made comments like, "The Avengers would never help us because they think we're just a bunch of kids!" or "We can't do anything to help support Marvel Boy's battle for acquittal because the public thinks we're just a bunch of kids!" I don't know. This might be too harsh a criticism to drop after reading one issue, but there's a lot more to being a teenager than thinking all adults are dicks.

But as far as Bagley's art goes? Zero complaints, man. I've always loved his cartooning in general, and here his work fires on all cylinders. The layouts are fun, panel compositions are unique and dynamic, and there's no shortage of off-kilter dramatic close-ups along the way. Even his weirdo villain designs really pop despite their period trappings. Plus, I know that in recent years, Bagley's work has gotten a bit sketchier and more personal on books like Ultimate Spider-Man and now Trinity, and maybe those series have a bit more of his own passion in them, but damn it if I don't love the really slick, bold lines he and finisher Larry Mahlstedt drop here. That really finished look gets highlighted by Joe Rosas colors too, and not in the "thematically serves the story" way but in the "damn, that shit is loud!" way. I remember that issue of Mighty Avengers Bagley did where they colored the flashback with the once cool but now over-used four-color dot printing pastiche, and I thought it just didn't work because that's not what comics from 10 or 20 years ago looked like. Comics from the '80s on used a lot of the same basic separation techniques as they do today but with less computers and attempts at "realism" so the final product rode that fine line between Crayola and neon. I'm sure a lot of people hate the final product, but I like my superhero comics a little more hyper.

So, in the end...was New Warriors #22 worth a dollar? I'm going to go ahead and say "Yeah. Yeah it was." Bagley's art alone won me over, and while the story wasn't super hot, it was a fun dip back into nostalgia territory for me that's almost more entertaining for not having aged well. I'm not sure I'll be going back and picking up a lot more of the series, though.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

AIM Adventures: TJ is gonna deal meth

TJ is always looking for ways to make money...

Ben: Did Rickey mention to you the moneymaking idea we discussed for you on the train
TJ: not at all, please explain
Ben: He's been watching Breaking Bad, the show about an old chemistry professor making the world's most awesome crystal meth
Ben: Your wife is essentially a chemist
Ben: Do I need to connect the remaining dots?
TJ: she's actually taking chemistry right now
TJ: sounds perfect
TJ: we would get caught in about 20 seconds though
Ben: Don't worry, Rickey and I will sell it for you
Ben: You just make it
TJ: yeah, that's why we'll get caught in 20 seconds
TJ: rickey will draw a sketch of the lab with the address on it and then post it on his blog
TJ: and you'll be copying and pasting our AIM Adventures that are like "shit, we need more meth!!!"
Ben: Uh, of course not...

The real reason why "Watchmen" hasn't lived up to box office expectations

Believe it.


Tuesday, March 17, 2009

TV's Top Ten Shows (in Ben's World), April 2009 Edition

So over the weekend I was pretty much locked and loaded to write this entry, but in a rare moment of self-awareness thought "nobody cares what TV shows I watch" and opted out. Then TJ went ahead and did it, so I'm totally going to.

Though it's right there in the title, I feel I should reiterate that these are the top ten shows in my world, i.e. shows that I watch, so before you go off on me about Battlestar Galactica or Mad Men, remember that (and if you have the DVDs, please lend them to me)...

10. Grey's Anatomy/Private Practice
Yes, I am still watching both these shows, but they are dangerously close to falling off my radar. Grey's is the bigger offender of not living up to its potential right now simply because of how good it used to be and how far it has fallen. I'm mostly still keyed in because there are some really excellent actors on the show (chiefly Eric Dane, Chyler Leigh, Patrick Dempsey and Chandra Wilson), but it is suffering from a severely bloated cast and needs to drop some dead weight ASAP. After nearly five seasons, I'm also getting way too attuned to the distinct way the show is dialogued and they either need to find people capable of making this junk sound believable or grow up. I'm actually pretty into Private Practice right now on the strength of quirkier plots, a more compact cast with some really great players (Taye Diggs and Amy Brenneman are my favorites), and a healthy dose of Grant Show guest spots, but until Grey's gets back on track, I feel obligated to group them together.

9. Scrubs
I was finally ready to throw in the towel most people heaved a long time ago in regards to Scrubs after last season's abysmal run, but I thought the first few episodes after the ABC were really strong and renewed my hope. I'm still thinking the show's death sentence was premature, but after the latest hiatus, I'm concerned again momentum could be lost. I really dig the new interns and they may be my favorite part of the show right now, particularly because the bulk of the cast is really showing their age. I don't agree with some of my friends that Zach Braff is completely unwatchable, but I do see where his act is getting a bit stale and the solution of mixing in new blood is a good one. Let's get some quality guest stars too--Scrubs needs to take back its throne as the champ of stunt casting.

8. The Office
I'm just not as big an Office mark as most people I know. Don't get me wrong; I still enjoy the show and am nowhere near losing interest, but held up against stuff like 30 Rock and How I Met Your Mother, it just seems like a weak cousin that's starting to lag behind. That said, there's still a lot to like. The ensemble is still top notch and nobody is slacking, although I'm getting a bit sick of all Michael all the time and would like to see them share the wealth a bit. Kevin and Andy in particular crack me up, but never get enough play. If they'd share the wealth of storylines a bit, it would do wonders. It also feels like overall not a lot of importance is happening; I know it's a comedy, so there's less onus for development, but the structure of this show is still grounded enough that I feel like it needs some forward momentum. I'm hard on The Office because I know it could be better.

7. Family Guy
I thought this cartoon had more or less faded into a non-factor with a lack of new episodes and seemingly decreased bite and social relevance, but it's come roaring back the past few weeks, and I'm a bit ashamed to say that's mostly because they're pushing the boundaries perhaps further than they should be pushed. Jokes about shaken baby syndrome, Michael J. Fox's Parkinson's, OJ stabbing people and a "gay gene" should probably all be stuff I wag my finger at, but fuck it, I lose my shit. I alternate between gasping and laughing when I'm watching Family Guy, but I never stop watching and listening intently. It's both daming and hilarious, but this show is really funny again.

6. Big Love
I read in Entertainment Weekly recently where they described this series using something to the effect of it being a show that was founded on a gimmick and drew a lot of attention initially just on that, but then along the way developed into just quality television and held its viewership that way; I'm inclined to agree. The most impressive thing Bill Paxton and company do in my eyes is take a way of life that is very real and make it seem both undeniably alien and yet completely plausible. The writing and acting is of a caliber that you indeed look past the gimmick and feel the emotion of the ties binding these characters together both for bad and for good. It's also a very creepy show in many ways. The way of life on the polygamist compound and the combination of antiquated lifestyle with religious zealotry and slackjawed delusions of grandeur in the "villains" is just downright unsettling. The shift between the modern, shiny suburban world where the main characters live and the dark places just on the outskirts where they go is very powerful.

5. Gossip Girl
GG's loooooong absence of new episodes over the last month or so was painful and made it drop a bit from my favor, but it came back strong tonight and reminded me why it's my favorite guilty pleasure that I don't feel guilty about. If the show has a problem, it's that the plots and relationships move at such a breakneck pace (not unlike The O.C.) that the peaks and valleys can be too abrupt, but most of the cast is so good and everything is so wonderfully tongue in cheek that the rough patches don't last long. I'm really impressed by just all the young actors making their name on GG, but there's not question Leighton Meester is a good pace ahead of the rest with Ed Westwick following not far behind. Bottom line: the show is fun and I'm always intrigued to see what they'll do next.

4. How I Met Your Mother
Megan and I had the enjoyable experience of starting to watch this show from episode one on DVD in January and then by February we were all caught up and into season four live. On the bright side, we got a rad new show to watch, but on the other, we had to adjust to only being able to watch the show periodically and we've also got all the very best episodes fresh in our minds to hold the new ones up to each week. I don't think HIMYM is the best it's ever been right now (season two is hard to top), but it's still really good. I'm not so much into the Barney-Robin thing, but Neil Patrick Harris makes it work on the sheer strength of his awesomeness (that's not to say Cobie Smulders isn't damn funny too, but NPH is a whole other level). Jason Segel has also really come into his own and Alyson Hannigan is a seasoned pro (if the show has a weak link, it's Josh Radnor, but he's leagues better than he used to be). It feels like a bit of an awkward patch right now with dueling pregnancies in the female leads and some stagnation in the main plot, but this shit rocks (and I was shocked to learn it was on CBS!).

Some weeks, I am blown away by how incredibly awesome LOST is. Other weeks, I'm so frustrated by how let down I feel by LOST. The common denominator in both cases is that the hour flies by way faster than I'd like and my eyes bug out upon realization I've got to wait seven days (or in some cases seven months) for the next episode. When LOST is good, it's as good as TV gets, and when it's bad, it's really only bad because my expectations are ridiculously high. Without question, it's the most engaging and thought-provoking show I watch. I spend more time talking about LOST with other folks and speculating about what this and that meant than I do with any other three shows. LOST should also be the textbook for any other show trying to juggle a cast of more than five people as they do it expertly, moving the focus around so everybody gets some spotlight and nobody gets overkilled. And yes, I love typing LOST in all CAPS.

2. 30 Rock
No question, the funniest show on TV. Honestly, this could easily be number one, but I'm more of an hour-long guy right now, so this drops a spot (perhaps unjustly) for only being thirty minutes. But it's still the thirty funniest minutes of my week. I feel like Alec Baldwin and Tina Fey could sleepwalk through their parts of the show and still be money (that's a pretty funny idea, actually) and Tracy Morgan cracks me up, but the real hook this season has been the development of the second tier, particularly Jack McBrayer and Jane Krakowski, but also Judah Friedlander and even the bit players like Grizz and Dot Com. I also dig that they've more or less completely abandoned any pretense of the world the show takes place in being anything but surreal, as the less grounded in reality it is, the better. And while not all of the guest stars have been home runs, Salma Hayek and Oprah alone make it a path worth further exploring. Not a week goes by where there's not a new joke or line making its way from 30 Rock into my office's water cooler lexicon.

1. Brothers & Sisters
Yep, this non-genre, non-comedy one-hour drama that may have less in common on the surface than the stuff we generally post here than just about anything else on TV also happens to be my favorite show currently on the air (although B&S founding father Marc Guggenheim writes Amazing Spider-Man and the show's mastermind Greg Berlanti is writing the new Green Lantern movie, so maybe there's more common ground than I realized). Yeah, I'm a comic book fan, a sci fi fan, a goofy jokes fan, but I'm also a fan of flat out good television, and this show is good television. There's not a weak link in the cast and the writing is just top notch. It's a pleasure to watch these professionals work their craft, because the chemistry between actors as they fire off powerful, witty dialogue rapid fire is just a pleasure. It's a show that's funny, powerful, and covers all the bases from politics to parenthood, but at the end of the day it's about family, and that's something we can call relate to on some level. I think what impresses me most is that Brothers & Sisters is actually quite formulaic in how most episodes work (two acts of build, huge third act fight usually at a dinner, fourth act reconciliation or steps toward), but the people doing the writing and the acting are good enough to make you look forward to the predictable rather than disdain it. It's like American Gladiators where you always know the Eliminator is coming, but you don't mind, because the Eliminator is awesome.

And now, having compared Brothers & Sisters to American Gladiators, I'll call it a day.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Cool Kids Roundtable: Watchmen Plus

It's always been the forbidden question: "What would you want to see in Watchmen 2?"

Forbidden in that Watchmen is held in such nearly universal high regard that the idea of a follow-up of any sort in any medium has long been looked upon as blasphemy by many. Getting folks to accept the comic being turned into a movie was a tough pill for many to swallow, but even mentioning the idea of the story picking up past that definitivie end point causes headspinning at both the mindblowing possibilities and moreover the many many many ways it could suck.

Nonetheless, as a late coda to our (well, more Rickey's) unofficial "Watchmen Week" festivities, e posed this very question to some of the Cool Kids...

Ben Morse: Untold Tales of the Comedian. I thought of this after thinking over the shot from the movie where Comedian assassinates JFK, but there are totally a wealth of stories to be told about all the shady shit Eddie Blake was tangled up in over the years. I'd want to see all his dirty government missions and find out who was giving him his orders, as well as him teaming up with various other characters. It would be a bit like an expanded version of the funeral issue (one of my favorites) with solo stuff as well.

David Paggi: Tales of the Black Freighter. I remember wanting to read a good pirate comic SO FUCKING BAD after the first time I read Watchmen. I think I went into a comic shop asking for something of the like and walked out with an Essential Tomb of Dracula or something. Sorry, the details are fuzzy and I have no recollection of exactly how that happened. At least I developed a healthy affection for Tomb of Dracula, right? So I guess I've still never seen a pirate comic series that looks as cool as Black Freighter seemed. I honestly think DC or Vertigo would do well to produce one, perhaps in the vein of Vertigo's Weird War Tales or Weird Western Tales.

Matt Powell: We're Watching the Watchmen: A Villain's Tale. I'd like to see a super-villain team-up book with all the arch enemies of the hero gang. Gritty like the Flash's rogues mixed with stories in the scope of League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. We never really got to learn much about the villains, and I wanna know what they'd have to say.

T.J. Dietsch: I'd love to see the Watchmen/Minutemen/whatever you want to call them cartoon that would exist in the Watchmen universe. I'm assuming Ozy had this in the works along with an action figure line.

Hollis' book put to pictures!

Minutemen Classics - Tales of the Golden Age!

Fuck it, I'd like to see a follow-up (well, not really, but I wouldn't shun it). What happened afterwards? Did Rorschach's journal get published, did anyone believe it? Is there a new generation of heroes?

And finally, Watchmen recast as the Charlton characters! Pete Cannon in the mutha fuckin house y'all.

Rickey Purdin: You can label me as the guy who doesn't want to see anything new as I'm still stumbling through all the different ways to read the trade. I genuinely don't want to see anything else.

Kiel Phegley: Like Rickey, I have no interest in seeing more comics set within the Watchmen world. BUT....what I think would be interesting is the idea of more one off superhero tales built on the concepts of some of the old and abandoned superhero universes the way that Watchmen was built on the Charlton Action Heroes. These days, there are so many comics that sell themselves by riffing off the big two's characters, passing off the whole "It's a caped wonder with a reporter secret identity...but this time he's a hemophiliac!" I don't know. Sometimes fun stuff is built on those concepts (Invincible comes to mind) but mostly it's all played out. I'd prefer some original superhero concepts first, but I also really like the idea of taking a Watchmen approach to some comics characters. Imagine a story setting up old public domain characters like Daredevil and Black Terror in a straight noir story, or a post-apocalyptic comic centering on some Mighty Crusader stand ins. I'm not talking about a strict, licensed revival like Superpowers or the JMS' Brave & The Bold, but a killer one-off story that recasts some bigger archetypes in an interesting way like Moore & Gibbons did on Watchmen. That'd be rad.

Friday, March 13, 2009

AIM Adventures: Allergy Tests Suck!

Ben is bitching to TJ about the test he's taking for a possible nickel allergy (WARNING: nasty pictures at that link)...

Ben: Did I tell you about this allergy test I'm doing?
TJ: is it the prick test?
TJ: (not an insult, it's actually called that)
TJ: i read that and it sounded mean
Ben: Haha
Ben: No
Ben: I'm sure I would pass that
Ben: It's a "patch test"
Ben: I've had 82 square patches with small traces of nickel (which I may be allergic to) taped to my back with surgical tape since yesterday morning
Ben: I'm pretty sure I'm allergic to it because my whole back itches like crazy and it doesn't help that there's like a day's worth of sweat and grossness festering under there
TJ: yeesh
TJ: that does not sound good
TJ: i had the prick test and it was excrusciating
TJ: they put like 50 things people might be allergic to and pierce your skin so it can get in there and then they see what makes you swell up and itch and shit
TJ: it felt like fire
Ben: It sounds terrible
Ben: I hate that in fucking 2009 the best way medicine can test us for allergies is to just throw whatever is supposed to make us sick at us and see what happens
TJ: haha, i was just thinking that
Ben: It's like Batman throwing Kryptonite at Superman to see if it still hurts him dude
Ben: No difference
TJ: my cell phone is half transformer and yet THIS is how they figure out if i have allergies
Ben: Right?
Ben: i'm not asking for a cure for cancer (though it would be nice), I just want to not have to walk around with 4.50 in change tapedto my back for two days to see if it fucks me up

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Wizard Features That Never Were: Infinite Crisis Director's Commentary

Started re-reading Infinite Crisis for the first time in awhile earlier this week, and I was reminded of a question I haven't been asked in quite some time, but got all the time from message boards and elsewhere back around 2006-2007: When is that Infinite Crisis Director's Commentary coming?

It was a fair question.

For one thing, an Infinite Crisis Director's Commentary was actually advertised in the next issue box for an issue of Wizard during the summer of 2006 as well as in Previews and elsewhere. For another, as the guy who had done the previous two Director's Commentaries for big DC events--those being Green Lantern: Rebirth and the original Crisis On Infinite Earths, two of my very favorite features I did for Wizard for entirely different reasons--it made sense that I would be the guy to ask.

It wasn't a question I could really answer back then, other than to say, "Stay tuned," but I figure enough time has passed now that the story can be told.

See, an Infinite Crisis Director's Commentary does exist--and I'm not talking about the one DC did for the trade, I'm talking about a bonafide Wizard version that was conducted by yours truly with writer Geoff Johns and artist Phil Jimenez (I believe I may have even gotten a quote or two from George Perez, who ended up drawing portions of the book, but I'm not entirely certain). Unfortunately, it doesn't exist as a written document anywhere, just on a bunch of audio tapes that I'm pretty sure I don't even have in my possession anymore.

Here's the skinny...

A month or two after I had completed the Crisis On Infinite Earths Director's Commentary, then-Wizard editor supreme Brian Cunningham assigned me the Infinite Crisis gig. I was grateful to BC for putting a bit of time between the two articles, because those fuckers were exhausting (they generally involved at least five-six hours of phone interviews, then going through upwards of 80 pages of transcript highlighting the stuff you wanted to cut/keep, then massaging the "keep" text, then usually up to a dozen rounds of revisions and more cuts because there was never enough room, not to mention tagging art, writing an intro, working on sidebars, etc.). At the time, working on the Director's Commentaries was a bit of a badge of honor for me, as I believe only myself and my predecessor as a staff writer, Rich Ho, had ever actually done them. Eventually, the wealth got spread around a bit, particularly once I started doing the equally time-consuming Wizard Retrospective (which I invented, so toot toot)...but I'm digressing.

I was excited to work on the IC Director's Commentary in particular because Geoff and Phil were (and are) two of my closest friends in the comics industry, so I was looking forward to the three of us getting on the phone and goofing off. I also saw it as a kind of neat bookend to my career at Wizard up to that point, since my very first writing assignment the week I was hired as a research assistant was speaking with Dan DiDio, Judd Winick, Greg Rucka and Geoff about what would eventually become the Countdown to Infinite Crisis one-shot, and then I had done a large chunk of the IC coverage that followed, including the rad Secret History of Infinite Crisis, which was kind of a warm-up for the Director's Commentary. I was jazzed.

So of course Murphy's Law kicked in and everything that could go wrong, did go wrong.

To begin with, Geoff was entering one of the busiest phases of his career (it's still going), getting 52 up and running while also working on three ongoing books and doing that Hollywood stuff he does. Phil was in transition mode, picking out his next project and also teaching art classes as well as dong Hollywood stuff of his own. So suffice to say, getting either of them pinned down for a long enough period of time was difficult enough--getting both of them on the phone for more than a half hour was next to impossible.

We scheduled and rescheduled the call a number of times. It was nobody's fault really that we had so much trouble getting things going, that's just the nature of working in an industry like comics, where nobody works 9-5 days and priorities have to be in constant flux.

While we were playing phone tag, the feature was scheduled and advertisements were placed in Previews despite me not actually having anything on tape or paper.

The deadline for getting something done was fast approaching, so we ended up scheduling two separate two-three hour calls for a Saturday and Sunday (which was not typical protocol at Wizard, as we didn't like to bug creators on weekends--also, I liked to sleep--but this shit had to get done). However, to further complicate matters, Megan and I were still in a long distance relationship at the time and I was driving to Connecticut to stay with her in her dorm that weekend. Something that actually simplified things was that Geoff was visiting his parents in Michigan that weekend, so at the very least we didn't have to negotiate east coast/west coast time, but it also meant we would all bit the bullet and do the interview as early as possible.

So that's how I ended up spending a Saturday morning on the Connecticut College campus before any of the hung over students in the surrounding rooms were mobile sitting up in bed with an earpiece in using the Wizard company cellphone telling Phil Jimenez to stop laughing so loudly because he was going to wake up my girlfriend.

Against all odds, we got the first interview done, but something went wrong and we had to cancel the Sunday session. I got back to work and the issue we had been working on was already off to the printer with an Infinite Crisis Director's Commentary I only had half-done being touted in the next issue box. I was getting a bit nervous and so was Brian.

Later that week (I think), we finally finished up the interview and I sent it off to be transcribed. That took another week.

Then Brian told me we weren't doing the article anymore.

More accurately, he told me we couldn't do the article anymore in that issue. During the time I had been wrangling the interview, provisions had to be made in case it didn't come together (and for awhile there it wasn't looking good). At this stage in the game, those back-up plans were ready to go, and neither Brian nor I were confident enough in our ability to turn the IC story around quickly enough to shut those down. So we decided to take a mulligan on the advertisements and push the story back a month.

Except we forgot the next issue was the year ender.

And then the issue after that was the year preview.

We tried to justify fitting the feature into both of those issues ("The best of 2006!" "Before you get your first look at 2007, say goodbye to 2006 in style!"), but in both cases, we were already way over page count. Eventually we resigned ourselves to the fact that we had missed our window and the Infinite Crisis Director's Commentary was not going to see the light of day--at least not in Wizard proper.

See, we had just done a collected edition of all the other Director's Commentaries to that point (including the two I had worked on), and figured when we did a second volume, we'd include the Infinite Crisis one as a never-before-seen feature that would really sell the book.

Then we never did a second volume.

After the crunch of getting the back-to-back year ender/year preview died down, it hit me how much time not only I, but Geoff and Phil, had devoted to this feature that now seemed to be DOA. It was frustrating. Geoff and I actually got into a bit of a shouting match over the phone--something that had never happened before that and never has since--about the feature not getting printed, but it took all of about ten minutes for us to settle down and apologize to one another.

And that was that.

It sucks too, because that would have been a great Director's Commentary. There was some cool stuff about everything from the original fate of Nightwing to what real-life cathedrls Phil used as design templates for the scene where all the heroes go to church before the big fight.

C'iest la vie. Maybe someday I'll find those tapes and do something with them. Until then, I hope everybody who asked me this question now knows the answer.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Paragraph Movie Reviews Double Take: Watchmen

So I'll give my very brief, not terribly interesting review of Watchmen first, but I was far more interested in getting my fiancee Megan's view as she has never read the comic and could thus evaluate it simply as a movie with no bias, and I figured y'all would probably find that more compelling as well. So let's get me out of the way...

Ben: Even though most of the lines and scenes are verbatim from the comic, it's simply not Watchmen brought to life ala how most reverent fans would probably like. The sooner you put that aside (I did it around the scene where Dan and Laurie fight the thugs in the alley and it became clear that it was just going to be all the super hero scenes and that's all), the better off you are. That said, I thought it was a pretty fun movie with some good acting, some bad acting and amazing visuals that was very intellgient at times, not so much at others. I was entertained for nearly three hours, so that's all I can really ask for.

Megan: Overall I thought the movie was entertaining and I wasn't watching the time to see when it was over, so that's good, but I was also very confused and had questions pretty much throughout, most of which I felt weren't answered to my satisfaction. Let me start by saying it was a good-looking movie and the visual effects as well as the action sequences were both top notch; excellent stuff. Also, Jackie Earle Haley was fantastic as Rorshach and I enjoyed his scenes the most. As for nitpick stuff I didn't like, Malin Akerman looked hot, but I didn't think her acting was good in this at all. I also could have used more Jeffrey Dean Morgan, but that's a personal preference since I'm a fan of him. A bigger problem from a storytelling sense for me was it felt like the movie lacked a proper focus or through line; I didn't get where it was going or what I was supposed to be looking forward too. It's also interesting for me to hear that so much was taken out from the comic, because I felt like they raced over important information because they assumed the audience already knew the score. Key stuff wasn't explained well and I was left just guessing at a lot of stuff. It ranged from big stuff to little stuff. I definitely did not fully understand Ozymandias' master plan because the exposition went so quickly, which was as good an example as any of where I felt like the movie was being made for the fans who had already read the plan plenty of times. But there was other just basic stuff I wanted to know. Why was Rorshach's mask moving all the time? Why did Dr. Manhattan have a little speedo on in some flashbacks but in the present he was naked all the time? Why did they make such a point of showing him put that symbol on his head? What was that thing he made on Mars? Why did the Comedian break down in Moloch's apartment? It also took me about an hour to get straight who was who since nobody used their super hero names in conversations, but they tossed them around when talking about people. I didn't know who Nite Owl was until Ben told me after the movie. And they made the scene where Laurie's stepdad and her mom are fighting way too similar visually to the one where little Rorshach's mom yells at him; I assumed the whole time that the big revelation would be that Laurie and Rorshach were siblings. I'm glad I saw it and wouldn't tell people not see it, but I would warn those who haven't read the comic that you're going to spend a lot of time confused and asking questions that won't get answered unless you go with somebody who has read it.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

My Watchmen Sketchbook

This one's gonna take a sec...

Following in the monumental footsteps of several of my closest friends, I decided to start a themed sketchbook in Spring 2008. My girlfriend has a monster book, my buddy Matt has a Saturday morning cartoon book, my boy Sean has a David Bowie book and my future ex-husband Dave has a Lockjaw book as well as a Calvin and Hobbes book! It took me about a year to decide on a theme and then it hit me. Watchmen.

It's my favorite comic, and you don't get much new art featuring the characters, so I figured it was perfect. The problem, though, is that I'm a huge wiener when it comes to asking people for sketches, so my girlfriend and Dave have had to push me to ask. I'm also reluctant because I have this fear that the artists will assume I'm just some kid who wants a Watchmen sketch so I can sell it online or because, "Hey, there's a sweet-ass movie coming soon, dude!" But I said screw all that noise and at MoCCA in 2008, I began the book by collecting the following sketches:

Rorschach by Jason

I couldn't believe Jason (writer/artist of many amazing, brilliant comics you should read) was going to be at the show in the first place, but when I thought about who I'd like to have start my book, he seemed like the perfect guy. I LOVE his work and he's the kind of artist other artists would see and know that they could take my book seriously. And not only did he happily sketch away for me, he chatted with me for a second about the film and how excited he was to see it. He's just a genuinely sweet dude.

Rorschach by Adrian Tomine

I walked right from Jason's table directly over to Tomine's and there was only one girl in front of me. He's another guy I absolutely love and who I thought other creators would respect if they saw in the book. But when I got to the front, he politely asked if I could come back because he only had a short while for the rest of his signing and wanted to make sure he could sign for anybody who had his book, Optic Nerve. It totally made sense, so I walked back over to Jason as my girlfriend got a sketch from him. Ten minutes later, I walked back to Tomine because his signing time was almost up and he apologized to me (!) "for making me walk away." He said not many more people came up after I left, and he could have knocked it out for me before. When I told him the theme, he seemed happy to oblige and we chatted about the then-upcoming edition of Good-Bye, the new Yoshihiro Tatsumi volume from Drawn & Quarterly. Watching him draw, even upside down, seemed very delicate and was a great pleasure. He even took the time to letter my name in and smiled when he was done.

Rorschach by Josh Cotter

Cotter first came to my attention when he won the Isotope Comics award for best mini-comic in the award's first year. My best friend Josh Peichoto had also entered that year with a mini-comic collection of his college newspaper strips so when we checked into the guy who "beat" him, I was stunned by how his work oozed gorgeousness. Cotter won for Skyscrapers of the Midwest, which was eventually published as a miniseries by AdHouse, which I eventually bought, which I instantly loved. Plus, Cotter's a great guy in person and very warm and was happy to draw Rorschach's fedora for me.

Nite Owl II by Bryan Lee O'Malley

O'Malley (of the Scott Pilgrim series) was the last guy I got at MoCCA. He'd been signing and hand-shaking and selling things all weekend, but even still, he was happy to knock out this baby. It's cute and simple and I love it.

The next show was SPX in Fall 2008 where I got:

Dr. Manhattan by Jim Rugg

When I left Wizard, as a going-away present, the guys commissioned Rugg (Street Angel, The Plain Janes) to do this AMAZING original piece for me (It's Kamandi and Impulse (my two favorite characters) saving me from falling debris in an homage to this cover and kinda this one, too). I knew he'd be at SPX, so I made sure I introduced myself and thanked him personally. When I told Rugg what the book was, he seemed happy to provide me with a sketch! Then he asked if there was a character I'd like him to do that no one else had done and I told him Dr. Manhattan. He laughed about how he "got" to be the first one to draw a penis in my book. After a full-page try-out penis in pencil (which he didn't erase and I still have), he did this wonderful picture that does the God-like being right. Reminds me of Mobius.

Alan Moore by Brian Ralph

My second and final Watchmen sketch of SPX 2008, this Alan Moore was actually the second image Brian Ralph (of Day Break and many other books) did for me. I left my book with Ralph and walked the floor a bit before coming back and collecting my book from him. Later, at home, I found that he's done ANOTHER image, but pulled it out of the spiral book, folded it in half and stuffed it into the middle of the book. The discarded image was of Dr. Manhattan on the toilet reading a newspaper. But I don't wanna post it cause Ralph clearly didn't want anyone to see it. And besides, this hilarious image of Moore is completely rad. I like the socks.

And my one and only sketch at New York Comic Con 2009 was this beauty:

The Comedian by Cliff Chiang

Cliff is one of my favorite superhero comic artists, so it was a treat to break in my book with the superhero scene by starting with him. The only problem was, I had to work the DC booth at NYCC, and Chiang was signing at the time. In comes Dave with the save! Dave agreed to stand in line for a sketch from the Dr. Thirteen artist for me. And what do you know? Cliff goes all out for the Comedian in his earlier leather fetish wear. Cliff told Dave the fetish costume doesn't get enough love. I'd say Cliff doesn't. Check out his work here.

And that's it! I should note that I did get up the nerve to also start a ninja themed sketchbook and started it at the same time as the Watchmen one as a happy alternative for artists who don't even want to attempt a Watchmen sketch. Which I can dig.

And I gotta say, if you're looking to start a themed book, please, please PLEASE do it. It'll make you 87% more happy than you are RIGHT this second and you'll be all the rage at the local rave parties and gas stations. Just choose something you'd like to see an endless supply of and be polite when asking for submissions. Good luck!

Watchmen, almost starring Blue Beetle

I assume most readers of this blog being pretty familiar with comic book lore know that Watchmen was originally pitched by Alan Moore to star DC's stable of characters recently acquired (as of the mid 80's) from Charlton (although apparently even before that, he sketched out the plot using the Mighty Crusaders, a fact I'm sure Kiel is aware of and either endlessly laments or celebrates). But in the end, DC elected not to use Blue Beetle and company as, according to Moore, they "realized their expensive characters would end up either dead or dysfunctional."

Now I had always known about the whole Charlton thing, but kinda assumed it would still have been some sort of "Elseworlds before Elseworlds" story ala Dark Knight Returns (I guess the DC term then would have been "Imaginary Story," as opposed to if it had been at Marvel, where "What If?" was already coined), but Moore's quote would imply it was going to not only star known characters, but take place in the DC Universe! How wild would that have been?

Well, for one thing, we'd all be going to see a movie this weekend centering around the Question investigating the death of Peacemaker, Blue Beetle and Nightshade getting frisky, Captain Atom being the most powerful dude on earth, and f'n Peter Cannon pulling the strings!

But that aside, and even pushing past the fact that had the Charlton idea made it past the conceptual stage then Moore likely would have needed to work Superman and Batman in somehow as nobody is gonna be trying to pull this shit on their watch (ha!) without them noticing, there are so many ways that Watchmen would have affected the DCU in a continuity sense that may seem small, but would have actually been pretty huge:

-If Blue Beetle had gone through Nite Owl's arc in Watchmen and still ended up on Keith Giffen and J.M. DeMatteis' Justice League International somehow, he would have been a very very different character and that series would have taken a totally different direction. More than likely, Blue Beetle wouldn't have been in JLI, Giffen and DeMatteis would have used somebody like the Red Bee instead and we would have gotten Red & Gold instead of Blue & Gold.

-Captain Atom would have been insanely powerful and more than likely unusable as a character who regularly interacts with the rest of the DCU. He would have been like an energy-based version of the Spectre. Actually, I wouldn't have been surprised if he ended up starring in a long-running, critically acclaimed Vertigo series by Moore or Neil Gaiman or somebody and people would be asking questions at conventions about why he couldn't cameo in Justice League anymore. Also, Monarch would have ended up being Hawk in Armageddon 2001.

-We would likely never have gotten the classic Question series by Denny O'Neil and the character wouldn't have been awesome on "Justice League Unlimited." Renee Montoya would have ended up becoming a female version of Alias the Spider at the end of 52.

-Nightshade might not have been in the Suicide Squad. Peacemaker would definitely not have been in Checkmate. Life would have gone on.

-People would actually care about Peter Cannon, Thunderbolt.

-Somebody would have tried to revamp poor Judomaster and Sarge Steel, the sole Charlton characters without Watchmen avatars (unless I'm missing something and they were Mothman and Hooded Justice).

Anyways, even if DC had approved use of the Charlton characters, I've pretty sure somewhere in the course of development, either they or Moore would have pulled it out of the DCU proper to avoid the kinds of "Why isn't the Justice League stepping in here?" questions I posed earlier and because Moore would have wanted freedom to create his own world. It all likely ended up for the best of course.

However, before I leave you, let me pose you this little alternate reality scenario: What If (heh heh) the Watchmen Cast Replaced the Charlton Characters in the DCU? We would have...

-Nite Owl getting shot in the head by Maxwell Lord.

-Rorshach dying of cancer and getting replaced by a chick.

-Dr. Manhattan taking a vacation to the WildStorm Universe, becoming Monarch, then maybe(?) dying.

-The Comedian getting killed by Eclipso.

-Silk Spectre hanging around with Detective Chimp.

-Nobody caring about Ozymandias.

Yeah, I'm betting those characters definitely think it ended up working out for the best!

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Pablo Marcos drew Watchmen art

Yeah yeah yeah, Pablo Marcos may not be as impressive a revelation as Todd McFarlane, but dammit, I know I get excited when I see anyone other than Dave Gibbons draw Watchmen characters.

Same deal as before. Watchmen characters found their way into the Who's Who 1987 update miniseries. This time, though, it was the "current" roster and it was Who's Who #5. Front cover seen below:

Artist Pablo Marcos did the wraparound cover this time, and it was the final issue in the set. Below is the art that accompanies the write-up inside:

You may recognize it as the cover of the newest trade paperback printing. Also, beware dudes who kneel in group photos. Below is the text for the group that appears inside the issue:

Click to enlarge

And now the cover. Below is the back of the wraparound, which features the Watchmen character mingling with some DCU regulars such as Rip Hunter. And I think that extra lady on the right is Laurie, though she's also there as Silk Spectre II, so I dunno...
I've labeled them all off for easy identification:

Click to enlarge

And there you have it. But speaking of artists covering Watchmen, below are a few of the recent images of note that I was able to find by artists whose names are not Dave Gibbons. Not included are the images from the likes of John Cassaday and David Finch, which appear in this book as concept art for the film. You ain't lived 'til you've seen Cassaday draw a crouching Nite Owl. Respeck. Anyways...

The group by Gabriele Dell'Otto of Marvel's Secret War:

Rorschach by Mike Mayhew for a Wizard Magazine feature a WHILE back:

The group by Chris Giarrusso of Mini Marvels:

The cover of the CURRENT Mad Magazine (on sale now!):

The group in a Peanuts homage by Eric Shaner:

And soon, my own Watchmen sketchbook will make it's first full online debut...