Monthly ArchiveFebruary 2009
Comic books 11 Feb 2009 10:33 pm
The scary-looking gentleman above is Randall Flagg, a.k.a. the Walkin’ Dude, whom we finally get to meet in the fifth and final issue of Marvel Comics’ The Stand: Captain Trips, the first mini-series in what looks to be a lengthy adaptation of Stephen King’s The Stand. You can classify Flagg as Satan, the Devil, or Old Scratch, and he occupies a central place in King’s cosmic Dark Tower series. In The Stand, he’s the badass who shows up to manipulate the less than 1 percent of the world that has survived a super-flu virus called Captain Trips.
The novel introduces him much earlier, but in an interview in the back of the comic, Captain Trips writer Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa explains why he and illustrator Mike Perkins held off until issue #5 to bring him front and center. Their choice pays off nicely in this issue, which is one creepy read.
This adaptation has taken a while to get up to speed, but now that it has, it’s one of my favorites. Captain Trips is scheduled to be collected in book format in March, the same time when the second mini-series, The Stand: American Nightmares goes on sale. I’ve read the original novel several times, and I’m really looking forward to how Aguirre-Sacasa and Perkins pull off some of the scenes still to come.
Comic books 10 Feb 2009 06:36 am
You’ve got to give DC Comics credit: They do a yeoman’s job of publishing titles for younger readers. Batman: The Brave and the Bold #1 is the latest example. Based on the Cartoon Network series of the same name, it’s a kinder, friendlier Dark Knight Detective than the one who growled through last year’s hit Warner Bros. movie. The animated Batman teams with a different guest-star each week, and the comic series — the debut issue is written by Matt Wayne and drawn by Andy Suriano and Dan Davis, under a nifty James Tucker cover (above, sans logo) — follows in its footsteps.
The first issue features a brief appearance by Aquaman, also following the show’s lead by beginning in the final action-packed moments of an adventure. The scene then shifts to London, where Batman pairs with Power Girl to bring down the latest scheme by Superman’s arch-enemy,Lex Luthor. It’s fun stuff that goes down easy, and I immediately sent my copy off to a comic-book loving nephew who is a fan of the animated show.
Comic books 09 Feb 2009 06:54 am
In anticipation of Neil Gaiman’s “Whatever Happened to the Caped Crusader?” (a two-part story running through Batman and Detective Comics this month, the first part of which hits comics shops this week), I reread Alan Moore’s “Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow?” from 1986 or thereabouts. I remember being totally geeked on the story when I originally read it; my copies even have the autographs of longtime Superman artist Curt Swan and editor Julie Schwartz (who ended their long associations with the character with this story), signed at a comics convention sometime in the early ’90s.
I was considerably less enthused 23 years later, when the story mostly just made me sad. Since the two-parter was meant as the swan song (no pun intended) for the then-current version of Superman (who was still more or less the Silver Age updating of the hero), DC allowed Brit writer Alan Moore to blow up established continuity and kill off
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Movies 07 Feb 2009 05:28 pm
I’m running my Film Studies class a little differently this semester. Instead of watching representative movies from each decade (1920s and up), we are watching representative movies from major genres. We’ve already handled comedy — Duck Soup and Monty Python and the Holy Grail — and now we’re watching westerns. Our first foray into the Old West was the quintessential Shane, starring Alan Ladd as a gunfighter trying to put down his weapons and live in peace. Things don’t quite work out that way, which is bad for him but good for us, as it would make for a boring movie otherwise.
Usually, I show High Noon, which may be even more representative of the genre than Shane, but frankly, after five years of hearing
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Commentary 05 Feb 2009 06:41 pm
Below is my print column from Feb. 5, 2009, as published in The Alliance Review:
You have four more days to vote for the winner of the first-ever TOADY Award.
TOADY is frog-speak for Toys Oppressive And Destructive to Young Children, and the candidates are sponsored by the serious-sounding Campaign for a Commercial Free Childhood coalition. This august group of “health care professionals, educators, advocacy groups, parents, and individuals who care about children” (I’m quoting from the group’s Web site) hopes “to reclaim childhood from corporate marketers.”
According to the CCFC, “A marketing-driven media culture sells children on behaviors and values driven by the need to promote profit rather than the public good.” It has set its sights on five toys that collectively will drive a stake through the heart of childhood and American values as we know them: Baby Alive Learns to Potty, Lego Batman Video Game, Power Wheels Cadillac Escalade, Smart Cycle by Fisher Price, and the Barbie Dallas Cowboy Cheerleader Doll.
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A fool and his money are soon parted, which probably explains why I own a copy of Stephen King Goes to the Movies.
That isn’t to say it’s a bad collection; actually, it’s quite good. The contents are a little arbitrary: three short stories (”1408,” “The Mangler,” and “Children of the Corn”), one novella (The Shawshank Redemption), and a more-or-less self-contained selection from a novel (”Hearts in Atlantis” from the book of the same name). The common theme is that all have been made into movies. But then again, what Stephen King novel or story hasn’t? (The answer is: Many of them, but his percentage of print to film is much greater than almost any other author.)
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Comic books 02 Feb 2009 07:50 pm
I finally had a chance to read the Spider-Man/Obama inauguration story from Amazing Spider-Man #583. When I first heard about the story, I wondered how Marvel was able to produce it so quickly. Now I know: It’s not a full-length story, but only a six-pager where Spider-Man helps the president (technically the president elect at the time of the tale) sort out a situation with an Obama imposter. Marvel fans will fairly quickly guess the identity of the lookalike, and the story itself is so slight, it’s no wonder Marvel was able to crank it out with a relatively brief lead time between Election Day and inauguration.
I still don’t own a copy of the book, and now I’m not so sure I want one. When comic-book heroes intersect with real-world events, the results are unpredictable. The issue of Spider-Man that dealt with the aftermath of 9/11 worked well (and like most such stories, it’s technically out of continuity, meaning that what the characters say and do in the story have no repercussions — and aren’t even referenced — in later stories). The Spider-Man/Obama team-up made for good headlines and helped Marvel sell a bunch of copies, but the story itself is boring.
Here I am wearing my Intru3D glasses during Super Bowl XLIII halftime. The glasses were for 3-D commercials for Dreamworks’ Monsters Vs. Aliens, SoBe Lifewater and an episode of NBC’s Chuck. To be honest, the 3-D effects weren’t great. A cartoon guy with a paddle ball looked cool at the opening of the Monsters preview, but otherwise I couldn’t see all that much depth. The paddle ball bit put me in mind of a similar bit from the original House of Wax movie, also in 3-D, where a character plays with a paddle ball for no other reason than to show off the effect. Oh well.
Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band put on a good halftime show. While I appreciate the Boss’s influence over the last 30-plus years,
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