Monthly ArchiveFebruary 2009



Comic books & Movies 28 Feb 2009 12:35 pm

We’re all watching ‘The Watchmen’

Only seven more days until Watchmen the movie hits theaters. There is already talk that this may be the film to end Hollywood’s love affair with comic books, especially super-hero comic books. I’m on the fence about it. Of course I will see the movie, but my expectations are impossibly high. Watchmen is one of the greatest graphic novels of all time, I bought each issue as it was released in the 1980s (and still kick myself for selling those originals when money was tight a few years ago), and reflexively hand off copies of the collected series to non-comics reading friends and students when they wonder how good a comic book can be. It’s that good. Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons created a completely self-contained world in the pages of that book, and even though they spawned a legion of imitators, nobody has come close to repeating the trick again.

That said, I believe the new movie looks … silly. I have this theory about the number of costumed super guys or gals who can show up in a movie. The audience will accept one costumed hero and one costumed villain per film. When a film exceeds that number, things start to look campy, no matter how well-intentioned the script and the handling of the subject matter. Batman and the Joker in The Dark Knight — OK. But if director Christopher Nolan had added Robin to the mix — instant loss of credibility and descent into camp.

With so many costumed characters running around in The Watchmen movie, and with some of the costumes looking a little cheesy (see trailer above), I’m not optimistic. Then there is the report that Warner Bros. will release several different DVD versions in the future to incorporate all the footage it couldn’t shoehorn into the theatrical release because of time constraints, which lends fuel to the argument that this is a graphic novel that can’t be boiled down into a two-hour film. Why not just wait for the “complete” version in the next few months on home video?

So we shall see.

That

Commentary 26 Feb 2009 07:36 am

Why ‘Cats’ and no ‘Dogs’?

 

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The cat on the left, Bombalurina, is my daughter, Malori. Below is my print column from today, Feb. 26. I hope it’s not too self-serving.

I’m writing about “Cats” because Alliance High School is staging Andrew Lloyd Webber’s famed musical for a second weekend.

That’s not really the reason. I’m writing about “Cats” because many of my students are involved in the production, and I’m proud of them all.

But that’s still not quite accurate. I’m writing about “Cats” because my daughter, a senior, is part of the production.

That isn’t completely it, either, because actually I’m not writing about “Cats.” I’m writing about dogs.

See, I’m thinking about petitioning Webber to write a musical about man’s best friend, so sorely underrepresented on the Great White Way. I mean, if animals that people joke about drowning can be part of one of the longest-running productions on Broadway, then canines would have to be the closest this flat-lining economy could come to a sure thing.
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Comic books & Commentary 24 Feb 2009 09:17 am

Scholastic Four

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A few years back, I took an educational psychology class where the instructor asked each student to create a metaphor for education. Most students went the food route: “Education is like a box of chocolate chip cookies. The students are the individual ingredients, the classroom is the bowl and the oven, and the finished product is a successful blend of each student’s individual contributions for the betterment of the group.” Then, we would eat the finished product, which my classmates brought as examples.

My metaphor was different. The classroom is like a super-hero group, where each member has his or her own agenda, but somehow joins the others to defeat a common threat or accomplish a goal. I used the classic Fantastic Four #1 as my product. In those dark ages before I became somewhat proficient with Photoshop, I drew my parody on poster board. It took all day. That’s one reason I was miffed that the guy who brought in a box of store-bought cookies received the same grade I did.

I got to thinking about my metaphor recently and decided to re-do it using Comic Life. The results are above. For better or worse, it’s still the way I think about education.

Comic books 22 Feb 2009 02:03 pm

Fantastic Four: World’s Finest

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Used to be, every issue of Fantastic Four was emblazoned with the slogan “The World’s Greatest Comic Magazine.” It was more than just hyperbole in the years when Stan Lee and Jack Kirby were writing and illustrating the book, introducing villains and concepts like Doctor Doom, Galactus, the Inhumans, the Negative Zone and dozens of others, a run considered by many to be among the very best comics — ever.

After the duo departed the book, things went south for the World’s Greatest Comic Magazine, even though each issue still proclaimed it as such. A few creators told good stories or produced solid runs (John Byrne’s stint in the ’80s was — for my money — almost as good as Stan and Jack’s, and Mark Waid wrote some compelling tales a few years back, including one where the FF went looking for God and found Jack Kirby), but a lot of them simply maintained the status quo. Doctor Doom came back for the umpteenth time to threaten Reed, Sue, Johnny and Ben; Galactus tried to devour Earth — again; the team broke up and got back together — again.

The famed team of writer Mark Millar and artist Bryan Hitch (the two gents who brought us The Ultimates and Ultimates 2) are the latest to try their creative hands on Stan and Jack’s progeny, and the title of their first collection of issues
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Commentary 20 Feb 2009 07:53 am

Inner P vs. the Army of Darkness

Below is my Feb. 19 column from The Alliance Review:

When the power went out early last Thursday morning, I summoned my Inner Pioneer. 

Like some grizzled hermit stuck too long in a cave, Inner P emerged blinking and squinting into the modern world. Fellow hermits almost had to carry him to the surface in a pinewood box. Survival instinct isn’t really his thing.

The electricity fizzle woke me up, not because anything dramatic happened like a transformer shooting sparks outside, but because the big blue beacon on top of the TV in the bedroom went dark. Some people call this beacon an alarm clock, but that’s only because they’ve never tried to sleep in the same room with
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Television 18 Feb 2009 08:02 am

Replacing ‘The Fugitive’

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Good news for fans of The Fugitive TV show. CBS recently announced a replacement plan for its Season 2, volume 1 gaffe. The network had replaced some of the original music on the episodes, citing concerns over copyright and ownership. As it turns out, those fears are groundless, and fans were upset that episodes had been tampered with.

The network’s replacement plan allows purchasers of Season 2, Volume 1 to send proof of purchase via mail and to receive four replacement DVDs. The original, altered disks are theirs to keep. My copy of Season 2, Volume 1 has remained unopened on my video shelf since I learned of the controversy shortly after buying it; now I have an incentive to open it. I plan to send in my rebate promptly. The Fugitive is one of my favorite shows, and I’m happy that CBS is rectifying an error that threatened to curtail my enjoyment of the series.

For more information on the replacement plan, including the .pdf replacement form, click here. I’m hopeful this paves the way for the remainder of the series to be released on DVD.

Television 16 Feb 2009 02:38 pm

Playing in the ‘Dollhouse’

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The promotional material for Joss Whedon’s new series, Dollhouse (Friday nights, 9 p.m., on Fox), doesn’t do it any favors. From the commercials, it looks like a sci-fi, sexed-up version of Charlie’s Angels, and I wasn’t very interested. But because it’s from Whedon, creator of one of my favorite television programs, Firefly (which was canceled much to quickly by Fox), I decided to give it a try.

What I found was a flawed but intriguing pilot episode. Dollhouse operatives have their memories scrubbed clean after each liaison, and they appear to be nothing more than slaves (albeit very content slaves) who are hired out to the highest bidder. In the opener, main character Echo (Eliza Dushku of Wrong Turn fame), an operative of the Dollhouse, is “imprinted” with the memories of a hostage negotiator and sold to a rich client
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Comic books 15 Feb 2009 05:11 pm

Incognito #1 and #2

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 The names Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips on a cover are becoming reason enough to make the book a must-buy. The lauded Criminal creators at at it again, this time with Incognito, a hard-boiled story set in the world of costumed super-heroes.

The concept behind this new series is simple: A super-villain placed in a witness protection program grows tired of his monotonous new life and begins moonlighting as a masked hero. Brubaker works the same magic with Zack Andersen that he did with the morally ambiguous Leo, protagonist of the first Criminal story arc: He gets the reader invested in the character in a few short pages. We don’t necessarily like Andersen, but we relate to and care about what happens to him.
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Commentary 13 Feb 2009 06:44 am

Papers must stop giving away the farm

Below is my print column from Feb. 12, 2009, as seen in The Alliance Review. Given the topic, maybe I shouldn’t post it on this freely available site:

The Georgia Satellites knew something a lot of so-called experts forgot when they sang:

That’s when she told me a story ’bout free milk and a cow,

And she said no huggin’ no kissin’ until I get a wedding vow.

Those lines could be the mantra for the meltdown of print journalism, where the prevailing wisdom has been to give away milk (the stories) online and hope that a) readers will like it enough to buy the cow (the print product) and b) advertisers will pay to be part of the process.

Because after all, consistently giving things away as if they have no value is a surefire way to make people realize they are worth paying for.
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Commentary 12 Feb 2009 09:53 pm

Take a picture, it’ll last longer

I find it really creepy when photo technicians at Walgreens or Rite-Aid comment on the pictures they’ve developed. Although the remarks are innocent, it reminds me that these strangers are looking at my photos. Last night, a photo tech commented on one of my cats — complimentary, of course. It still felt like a violation. I don’t know what I expect, that these workers close their eyes while developing my pictures or something. I’m always reminded of the serial killer in Red Dragon who selected his victims based on the family photos he processed. Guess I’m weird that way…

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