Friday, May 28, 2010

Gargoyles: Bad Guys- A Review!

Gargoyles: Bad Guys (not to be confused with Meet the Bad Guys) collects the 6 issue spin-off miniseries; issues #5 & #6 were never released individually.

As you can probably guess, Bad Guys focuses on some of the antagonists that were featured in the main series. Notice I said "antagonists" and not "villains". One of the great things about Gargoyles was how well-rounded their characters were, protagonists and antagonists alike. The "heroes" didn't always make the right decisions, and the "villains" often had many admirable qualities. Sure, there were straight-out villains in the show, but more often, the "bad guys" didn't always seem like such "bad" guys. This series follows that.

The premise is not terribly new; a bunch of people of less than reputable status are recruited to fight crime. It's been used many times in films, tv, and comics, probably because it usually works.

Bad Guys was one of the seven proposed spin-offs to Gargoyles, and was the closest one to actually being made. They had the cast together, and a Leica reel made up which, if it ever comes to pass, needs to be included as an extra on Gargoyles Season 2 Volume 2 (note to Disney: GET ON THAT).

Anyway, for those who don't follow the show, here's the cast roster... (I'm including links to the characters entries on the Gargoyle Wiki, but spoilers on some of those, if you want to check them out).
Hunter: Member of a Scottish family of gargoyle-slayers
Dingo: Australian mercenary and charter member of the deadly Pack
Matrix: A nanotech hive-mind artificial intelligence that came very close to destroying the Earth
Yama: A Japanese gargoyle who betrayed his clan.
Fang: The mutate who would be king.

The overall story, "Redemption", is broken up into smaller pieces. The first four issues show the Hunter recruiting the various members of the team. The last two show the team going up against some new bad guys. Also, for those who've bemoaned the lack of serious Shakespearean references in the Garg-comics thus far (and if you're a true Gargoyles fan, you SHOULD be bemoaning), this series has you covered. Without two many spoilers, Dingo's real name is Harry Monmouth, and the last two issues were inspired by Henry IV.

Most of the issues were done by the same artist, Karine Charlebois, and she's just AWESOME. Her style is cartoony, but not too cartoony. There's one fill-in issue that's just as good artwise. The main drawback is that the series (and subsequently this trade paperback) was released in black and white. My main hope is that SLG reaches a new deal with Disney and goes on to rerelease this in sweet, sweet color.

Greg Weisman's writing is, as always, sharp as a tack, with humor, drama, and plot twists. The characters are nailed down almost as soon as they appear, allowing a reader to easily infer what they're all about. Indeed, this book, moreso than Clan-Building 1 or 2, is very reader friendly, in my opinion. You don't really need to have seen the show at all to get what's going on here, though it doesn't hurt if you have.

All in all, Bad Guys is a fun, action-packed romp that doesn't skimp on plot or character development. Despite focusing on "bad guys", it's ALL good.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Gargoyles: Clan Building Volume 2- A Review

Volume 2 is a continuation of the Clan Building Story, separated into two 3-issue arcs. The first half is doozy of a story focusing on the Stone of Destiny; I'll be honest, this story can seem daunting to someone unfamiliar with the show. While there's nothing in here that isn't explained in either this volume or the preceding one, the non-linear nature of the story and tons of exposition and new backstory might intimidate ANY reader, fan or no. It's a great story once you pick up the rhythm though. There's MacBeth, the ColdTrio, the Illuminati, King Arthur, the London Clan, robots; as one character quips, "Did anyone order up the kitchen sink"?

The second half works as sort of a pilot for one of the proposed spin-offs, TimeDancer, which would have featured Brooklyn quantum leaping about for forty years. This story shows how that started, with Brooklyn finding the Phoenix Gate and getting transported back to 997 A.D. This story helps to chronologically link the events of Awakening, Avalon part 1, and City of Stone; it's also a ripping good yarn in it's own right, plus it allows writer Greg Weisman to smooth over historical innacurracies that pooped up in the show.

The art is great, though like Volume 1, inconsistent, and by that I mean there are no less than 4 artists working on 6 issues. Yikes. The first 3 are all done by the same guy, and it's good. The first part of the Brooklyn story (which would be issue #10 of the series, overall), is done by the show's lead character designer and the comic's cover artist Greg Guler, which is just... *drool*. It's good, is what I'm saying.The last 2 parts are also good, though not as good as Guler's. The colors again excite the eyes; if it wasn't for the fact that the drawings don't move, I'd swear I was watching the cartoon again.

Again, like Volume 1, the writing continues to be top notch. Like it's predecessor, Weisman introduces new characters and elements and trots out old characters and elements; one thing I like about both volumes is that upon rereading, I find more and more nods to the show- "Oh, that's such and such character from that one episode! Awesome!" Also, there're more than a few last issue surprises, cliffhangers, and plot twists, though everything is mostly tied up at the endas issues 9-12 were never released individually, do to the license stuff with Disney. I swear, Disney is such a tease! "Oh, here's the first half of the second season, but we won't give you the second half! Ha! To make it up to you, here's a Gargoyles comic series! We'll end it soon, though, because we love the taste of your despair!" Again, SLG is in talks to get things rolling again, so here's hoping!

If your a fan of the show, buy this. If not, well, it's good, but as I mentioned before, it's rather convoluted, what with time-travel, non-linear storytelling, and more flashbacks than you can shake a stick at. If you can make it through all that, there's a wonderfully written and drawn narrative here.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Gargoyles: Clan Building Volume 1

Clan Building Volume 1 collects the first six issues of SLG's Gargoyles comic. Issue #1 picks up right where Season 2 left off. Since Disney refuses to allow me to give them my money (arrrgggh...), here's a recap of what happened between the last episode of Season 2 Volume 1 and the Season Two finale.


After traveling the world and finding that over gargoyle clans still exist, Goliath, Angela, Eliza, and Bronx finally return to Manhattan in time to help the rest of the clan save Xanatos's newborn son from his step-grandfather, Oberon, King of the Third Race and one of the most powerful entities in the Gagoyle universe (it's a long story). The clan reaclimates itself, only to run afoul of the Hunters, and band of Gargoyle killers with a centuries long feud against Demona. The Hunters blow up the Gargs home and reveal their existence to the world at large. That doesn't prevent Goliath and company from stopping Demona's mad scheme to wipe out humanity. As the cops are closing in to take the Gargoyles into custody, Xanatos shows up to take them back to his skyscraper and live their. Goliath and Eliza finally kiss (aww!).

Whew. That's that in a nutshell.

Anyway, the first two issues are a retelling of "The Journey", the Season 3 premiere and the last episode fans consider canon. Not coincidentally, it's the last episode Greg Weisman worked on for the series. Also not coincidentally, it's also one of the vey few Season 3 episodes that's actually GOOD. It's not just a redo of the episode, though; this is very much a "director's cut" featuring new dialogue and what basically amounts to deleted scenes. All in all, considering the ten-year gap between stories, "The Journey" is as good a place as any to start new stories.

The next three issues comprise the first new, canon story in 10 years, and it hits everything a Garg-fan could want. There's drama, action, old mysteries are slowly revealed while new mysteries are introduced; it's so very, very right.

The last issue is a lost chapter of the Avalon World Tour and sets up a seque for Volume 2 of Clan Building (More on that later).

The art is good, though there was a problem with having artists stay on a schedule. The last three issues feature THREE SEPARATE ARTISTS. Still, overall, conistency issues aside, the art is excellent, especially the color; the color just pops out at you.

As for Greg Weisman's writing, it's top notch. One thing that really shows is that, this being a comic, Weisman is allowed to go even more mature than what the writing staff was allowed on the cartoon, which was pretty mature for a kid's show to begin with. To be fair, no one's going to mistake this for a Vertigo title, but there's a good deal more language (bastard, damn, no s-words or f-words) and a bit of blood.

If you're a fan of the show, pick this up. If you're not, it's good, but the 65 episodes of previous continuity and backstory might be daunting. It doesn't prevent you from understanding what's going on, as unfamiliar elements are usually explained fairly well, though it does make one miss the "Previously, on Gargoyles" intros from the cartoon.

Anyway, it took nearly a decade for new Gargoyle stories to come to light, and it was well worth it. A must-have if you're a fan of the show.

Gargoyles Season 2 Volume 1 DVD Review!

As I mentioned previously, Season 2 of Gargoyles is when the series went from "pretty cool" to "so friggin' awesome I can't wait for the next episode when is it on already?!?". This volume collects the first 26 of the total 52 episodes for Season 2. As for the rest of the season, Disney hates their fans and consumers. I kid, of course, but seriously Disney, GET ON THAT.

Anyway, this season is awesome for several reasons. First, the cosmology and history of the series is expanded upon, creating a rich tapestry, so much so that they had SEVEN spin-off pitches. More importantly, this season is where they broke the rules. Traditionally in cartoons, the good guys win and the bad guys lose. In Season 2, however, there are episodes where that's reversed. The bad guys win sometimes, and the heroes have to face their failures. It's deep stuff. Similarly, the series' antagonists pretty much own this season. They're fleshed out, given origins and, more importantly, goals and even redeeming qualities. They may be bad guys, but they're not "bad guys". There are points in the show where I was more anxious to learn what happened to the villains than the heroes ("Xanatos and Fox are gonna have a baby? Whoa!").

The regular cast from the first season continues to deliver this season, and they're aided by a new cast member, Brigitte Bako as Angela, Goliath's long lost daughter, and a host of impressive guest stars, including Tim Curry, the late and great Mssrs. Darren McGavin, Robert Culp, and Paul Winfield, Sheena Easton (rrooawr!), James Belushi, a whole host of Star Trek cast members, and more.

As for special features, all episodes feature optional introductions from co-creator Greg Weisman, in which he gives a little background about the production of the episode. There's also a feature that... uh... features the voice actors, which is entertaining. Finally, there's commentary on the four-part "City of Stone" storyline, which is cool, as that's one of the series' better arcs. First, it's action packed and features the origins of not one but TWO of the series' main baddies. Second, it's educational. While in high school, way back in '96, we were reading MacBeth in my English class. "City of Stone" is ACTUALLY about MacBeth, and they were rerunning the arc on tv at the same time. I mentioned this to my teacher, and she had seen it and commended the show on the historical accuracy regarding the real MacBeth. So, parents, Gargoyles is not just an action-adventure series, but an educational action-adventure series.

All in all, Season 2 Volume 1 is FAN-FRIGGIN-TASTIC. If there are any holdouts who haven't picked this up yet because they're also waiting for Volume 2, well, it's been five years; if Disney will ever release (please God!), they need to think there's profit in doing so.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Gargoyles Season 1 DVD Review

As I mentioned in a previous blog entry, Gargoyles was one of the best damn shows ever. And this is were it all began. This DVD contains all 13 episodes from the first season. The first five episodes comprise a five-part story, "Awakening", which pretty much sets up the entire premise of the show. The next eight are one shots, usually focusing on one specific character. These are a bit more episodic than what we'd get in Season 2, so you can watch them out of order, if absolutely necessary. Of course, this is the DVD, so there's no reason not to watch them out of order, so I don't know why I even mentioned it.

The main thrust of the story is that gargoyles are real. One thousand years ago in Scotland, a clan of these gargoyles was wiped out. Six survived only to be turned to stone for a millenia. They awaken in New York City, befriend a policewoman, and begin to fight crime. Much kicking of butt ensues.

One of the selling points on the back of the DVD is that the show features cast members from Star Trek, which is kinda true. As far as recurring characters go, there are only two cast members from The Next Generation, Jonathan Frakes as David Xanatos, and Marina Sirtis as Demona. They're both villains, and they're awesome in the roles. Two other Star Trek alums have guest appearances. Of course, in Season 2, there a LOT more   Star Trek cast members showing up, but that's for a later review.

As far as special features go, there's a documentary focusing on one of the Gathering conventions, where Gargoyles fans get together with the stars and creators of the show. Neat stuff. There's also a video of the original show pitch, which is cool. Finally, There's commentary on the first five episodes from a few of the folks who worked on the show, including co-creator Greg Weisman and Keith David, who voiced the show's main protagonist Goliath. It's AWESOME.

Overal, if you want an action-packed cartoon that doesn't skimp on story, drama or characterization, buy this DVD. If you own it already, remember, it makes a great gift for birthdays, graduations, and Father's Day. It's one of my favorite shows of all time, definitely in the top five, so trust me when I say it's worth owning.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

New TV show previews!

So, Heroes got canned. Depressing, yes, but it would be a lot more depressing 3 years ago when it was, y'know, GOOD. True, I've heard good things about this past season, but they fooled me with Season 3, too, promising awesome things the first few episodes, then turning into suck. Still, the loss of a genre show is disheartening, no matter how terrible the writing got. (To think, Jeph Loeb's tenure as writer marked a high point for the series!) Still, when one door closes another opens; likewise, when one show gets canned, two new ones fill in the gap. Let's take a look at the respective trailers....

No Ordinary Family (ABC): Ooh, Michael Chiklis. Promising start. However, though some are calling it The Incredibles sans costumes, to me, it looks like your generic family drama, just with superpowers instead of cancer, teen runways, or whatever you need to generate interfamily conflict. It's typical of many post-modern super stories- take the powers but put them in a "realistic" context and setting. It'll probably mention certain tropes to set up a gag, then get back to the family stuff. Now, in fairness, who knows where it'll end up. They might add in other superpowered people down the line. And, ABC has proved me wrong in the past; when the trailers for Lost aired so many years ago, I was all, "So it's like Gilligan's Island, only serious? Yeah, that'll tank."

I'll probably give it a shot, mostly because Julie Benz is adorable, but if its timeslot conflicts with another show, I'll skip it.

The Cape (NBC): Whoa. That trailer's almost a bait and switch. It starts out looking like a crime drama, with a little mystery and a mask thrown in. Maybe they'll do a costumed version of The Fugitive. Despite the scene with the comic at the beginning, it looks like it'll be gritty, with no powers or flamboyance to speak of...

And then the circus folk show up.

"Carnies!!! WTF!!!"

That's when Realism apparently said, "I'm running out for a bit; see ya in an hour or so." In fact, this show seems to revel in absurdity. Whereas Batman Begins had to resort to lots of technobabble to explain the cape, this show's magic cape explains it with spider silk. Either you've got a lot of spiders, or one of those mutant spider-goats. And yet, I DON'T CARE.

It goes further. It seems as if the writers threw in every imaginable genre trope they could think of for his origin. He's a good, law abiding man in a town where corruption reigns, he's framed for a crime he didn't commit, he's presumed dead, and he's upset (presumably) over the loss of his family. I bet it turns out he's an orphan too.

They even loaded up the cast to make sure I give a damn about this show. Summer Glau, Vinnie Jones, the midget guy from the Pirates of the Caribbean movies, and... Keith David?!? *SWOON* I don't think Mr. David has been in anything that I haven't liked. Well, the Spawn animated series, but that was more the fault of Todd McFarlane.

Bottom line: The Cape has filled me with an unhealthy amount of nerdish enthusiasm. If NBC were a woman, I'd be wolf-whistling right now.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Defenders of the Night!

In 1994, Disney Animation came out with a television series called Gargoyles. This show quickly became one of the best damn things ever. Instead of trying to come up with a recap of the show’s premise, I’ll just paste the second season opening credit voice over (for best effect, imagine Keith David’s rich, deep voice reading it):

“One thousand years ago, superstition and the sword ruled.
It was a time of darkness. It was a world of fear.
It was the age of gargoyles.
Stone by day, warriors by night, we were betrayed by the humans we had sworn to protect, frozen in stone by a magic spell for a thousand years.
Now, here in Manhattan, the spell is broken, and we live again!
We are defenders of the night!

When it first started, it had a TMNT vibe that I, a young, nerdy teenage comic aficionado, could easily get into. As it progressed, however, it became more and more awesome. By the time Season 2 was underway, the show had it’s hooks in me DEEP.

Why? Well, for a kids show, it didn't pull any punches. There was a good deal of violence. While most of the worst happened off-camera, people still died on this show. Most of it was the standard Disney "fall to the death", but still, this show let you know right up front that they played for keeps.

Second, there was a good deal of moral ambiguity. The good guys weren't always good, and the bad guys weren't always bad. Indeed, characters shifted allegiances all the time on this show. Which leads me to the biggest thing- the story. This show had a tight continuity which was rare for Western animation at the time and virtually unheard of in Disney Animated series. Each show naturally built off of what was established in previous episodes, and things would change. There was little in the way of status quo. It was essentially a comic book brought to television. Over the top sci fi and fantasy elements, subplots, melodrama, all of this came together to make a stew that held me in its thrall.

Still, it didn't last. After a third season (which, aside from a few standout episodes, WE DO NOT TALK ABOUT), it was cancelled. Disney seemingly wants to forget this show existed. Despite critical praise, they do nothing to exploit the property. The reruns aren't shown on Disney XD (formerly Toon Disney) until 4 in the goddamn morning, and they've released on DVD Season 1 and ONE HALF of Season 2 with no intention on releasing the second half. ARRRGH!

Then, a few years ago, something wondeful happened. Disney licensed out several properties to SLG for comic purposes. One of these was Gargoyles, written by co-creator Greg Weisman. An odd combination- Disney is known for family friendly, whereas SLG is the company that brought us Johnny the Homicidal Maniac. Still, gift horse, mouth. They put out new Gargoyles stories, plus they made one of the planned seven (!) spin-offs into a miniseries. Of course, Disney being Disney, they couldn't let it last. They recently raised their licensing fees, putting a halt on Gargoyles stories again. That sound you hear is me banging my head against the wall. Still, SLG is trying to renegotiate, and there is still a sizeable fan presence (you wouldn't believe how many Garg pics are on Deviant Art), so there's always hope. I do my part by bringing attention. So, check it out. If your a fan of the show, let Disney know to utilize the property. If you haven't, check it out. There are two dvds and three trade paperbacks available, so there you go. According to the show's backstory, the Gargoyles were trapped in stone for a millenia; a delay of a few years between new stories doesn't seem so bad by comparison.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Natural 20 on Nostalgia Checks!

As I mentioned in a previous blog entry, Mutants and Masterminds is soon to debut a new edition!
That's... That's not QUITE what I had in mind....

So, I've decided to take this time to look back on some of the best sourcebooks that they put out for 2nd Edition. Here we go!

Freedom City
Freedom City was one of the first campaign settings for the line, and as such, there is a fondness for it in the hearts of many. It's a homage to comics and their characters, with references to characters, creators, and more. While most of the characters are cleary pastiches of others, some are BRILLIANT pastiches of those characters. Furthermore, it really gives you an idea of what day-to-day life would be like when supervillain attacks and alien invasions are an everyday occurence. Overall, a solid campaign setting.

Golden Age
I've discussed this at length in another post, but this book is awesome sauce. With lots of detail information, you can base Golden Age games of how the comics were back then, how modern comics portray the age, or how the age was in real life.

Agents of Freedom
This is the perfect companion piece to the Golden Age book, as it builds of off a lot of the themes found in that book. This is the book to have if you want to play a cop, a federal agent, or Nick Fury or any of his assorted Howling Commandoes. Like most of the sourcebooks, there's a lot of Freedom City information, perhaps more so than any other genre or age book. Still, this book has style, and gives options to make low-powered characters feasible.

Hero High
This might be my favorite. It's very reminiscent in tone to the Buffy/ Angel books put out by Eden Studios, and that's not a bad thing. It covers every conceivable topic that could come up with running games focused on teen heroes and does it with humor and style.

Like Freedom City, Paragons is a campaign setting. Unlike FC, Paragons takes its cues from books like The Authority and shows like Heroes. Also, Paragons is billed as more of a toolkit than a full-fledged setting; as such, it gives numerous options on how to run a more realistic game, or as realistic as a game where players have characters with heat vision can be.

Book of Magic
This is a fun book, as it shows how magic based characters differ in style from other superheroes. Aside from Captain Marvel (the DC one), most magic characters don't follow the tropes that other supers do. This book covers everything from guys like Constantine all the way up to Dr. Strange.

Warriors and Warlocks
Of all the genre books, this might be the best. After the superhero genre, the fantasy genre might be the one that comics is most willing to try. It has a comprehensive history of the genre, and rules that reflect the sword and sorcery. This is the book that sees M&M become not just a great superhero system, but a great COMIC system, and possibly a universal system.

Farewell, Second Edition Mutants and Masterminds. You gave me much enjoyment and inspired my Whirligig Junior character and thus all my Teen Templars stories. Here's hoping that Third Edition is just as engaging.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

The Most Influential Writers Part 2

So, here we go, part 2 of who I think are the 10 most ifluential writers in comics. This part might be a bit more controversial than part 1; after all, I don't think anyone can argue with the guys featured in part 1. This part, though, smacks of my own personal opinion. I will guarantee there's at least one on here that someone will disagree with. Well, here we go!

Marv Wolfman: So many, many contributions here. First, he created Blade who, as you know, was Marvel's first successful movie franchise. All of Marvel's success in films now can be traced to Blade back in the late 90's. Second, along with George Perez, he brought us Crisis on Infinite Earths; while not the first crossover, it set the standard by which all other crossovers are measured by. Third, he changed Robin into Nightwing. The significance of that is that it shows that characters, even those with decades of history, don't have to be static; they can change personas while still remaining true to the character's history. Fourth, he helped with the mid-80's retool of the Superman books. While John Byrne gets most of the credit, Marv's contributions should not be discounted. Most importantly, he was the one who helped change Lex Luthor from mad scientist into the evil genius businessman, which is how every successful media adaptation of Superman has portrayed ol' Baldy (Superman Returns didn't, and it was long and boring. Coincidence? I think not!).

Denny O'Neil: As grating as he can apparently be in person (my friend Nicole has a few horror stories about meeting him), Denny is pretty much responsible for dragging comics kicking and screaming into adulthood. As one of the then "new generation" of writers, Denny introduced the social consciousness of the Bronze Age to the medium. While writers certainly tackled social issues before, they did it in the ham-fisted manner that was the modus operandi of middle-aged white guys. Denny offered a more frank and honest look at the problems of the day. Granted, his social philosophy sometimes led to boneheaded decisions ("Hey! Let's take Wonder Woman and get rid of her powers, her lasso, her costume... Basically everthing that makes her cool! It's brilliant AND feminist!!!"), but more often than not, his works showcase a more nuanced approach to how comics interact with society.
     Also, his work on Batman helped turn the Caped Crusader into the Dark Knight. Without O'Neil, I doubt the creators who came after him would've had the chance to popularize the more serious Batman and help further the character away from the Adam West image. Now some of you may say, "Oh, but that's how Batman was supposed to be! In his earliest appearances blah blah blah!" Save it. There is no doubt in my mind that any darkness in Batman's earliest appearances was either an accident on the part of Bob Kane or a deliberate effort on the part of Bill Finger. Fun fact- Bob Kane originally wanted Batman to be ORANGE. And much like Eastman and Laird with Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles years later, Kane dumbed it down to make a buck at the earliest opportunity. Denny O'Neil helped to erase that (mostly) ridiculous nonsense.

Grant Morrison: Ah, that crazy Scotsman. Like other writers, Grant was one of the many in the mid-90's to reinvigorate comics with the nostalgia trip, primarily Silver Age sensibilities in Grant's case. What separates him from contemporaries such as Mark Waid, Kurt Busiek, Alex Ross, and others, is that Grant brings an almost anarchic quality to his stories. Moreso than probably any other comics writer, Morrison possesses a great understanding of the subversive potential of writing. In that regard, he's not unlike John Milton, William Blake, or Philip K. Dick (in his later years).

Neil Gaiman: Gaiman is one of the few comic writers who's sequed into mainstream appeal and is regarded as "literary author", whatever that means. Like Moore, Gaiman helped elevate the status of comics. Moreover, Gaiman is partly responsible for rediversifying comics. DC's Vertigo imprint was more or less created to showcase Gaiman's The Sandman, but the imprint allowed for other non-superhero comics to reach a mass audience, with Garth Ennis's Preacher being the most successful example. The success of Vertigo allowed other publishers to experiment with other genres like westerns, fantasy, horror, crime noir, etc. Without Neil Gaiman, I don't believe we'd have such a wide array of quality stories of various genres to choose from today.

Gail Simone: Now, THIS is the choice that I think most will take issue with, as she's the most recent, but I have my reasons. First, Gail represents the current comic fan narrative- she blogged, posted on message boards, wrote fan fiction, and eventually came to the notice of various industry figures, which spiraled into a very successful career thus far. Second, she is arguably the most successful female writer in comics. She has a knack for writing that both speaks to female fans without alienating male fans. I think the future will prove her to have that same something that the other writers on this list have.

So, there you have it. Agree? Disagree? Feel free to let me know!

Friday, May 14, 2010

Project Superpowers: Meet The Bad Guys- A Review!

So, I picked this up the other day. Basically, Meet The Bad Guys is a 4-issue mini series (now in trade paperback) in which four of the heroes (Green Lama, the Fightin' Yank, Samson, and the Scarab) face off against new villains.

It's well written, and the art is gorgeous, but is it worth it? Well, as a stand-alone piece, no. It's more to set up future stories in the Project Superpowers line than an actual story in and of itself. Hero meets bad guy, bad guy gets dealt with without being actually beaten. That's pretty much the formula for all 4 stories included in this collection. It does flesh out some of the characters who aren't likely to get there own ongoing or mini-series anytime soon (plus, the book ends with some retellings of the origins of each of the 4 heroes), but it's really only good if read as part of the ongoing PS story. If that's the case, then by all means, pick it up. If you haven't read any of Project Superpowers yet, then this isn't the place to start.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

The Most Influential Writers in Comics (Part 1)

A few months ago, I saw this online article about who the editors thought were the most influential comic artists (I'd post a link, but I don't remember what the address is and I'm too damn lazy to look it up). That got me to thinking as to who the most influential writers were. Writers don't get as much attention; as comics are a visual medium, naturally, the artist is the first thing that grabs the attention. In the past 20 years or so, however, writers have gotten more notice, so hopefully this will be interesting. If not, well, here's a goofy Lois Lane cover to tide you over.

Question: Is Lois asleep, or are her eyes closed as she enjoys the bondage? Your answer will tell you alot about yourself.

So, here we go, in no particular order. I will, say, though, that the first two I'll talk about I regard as THE most influential. So, let's get to it!

Stan Lee: While there are certainly many valid criticisms of Stan's work, the fact is that Stan gave a kick in the pants to the industry as a whole. By focusing on continuity and melodrama, Stan helped transform comics into a form we recognize today.

Alan Moore: This almost a no-brainer. When you write a comic that's almost always on Time's Greatest Novels list, you're gonna be on this list. Certainly, Moore helped elevate the status of writing in comics. Moore's credited with ushering in the "deconstruction" trend of comics and superheroes, I don't think that's entirely accurate. Reading his works, I think that Moore just gave serious thought as to what the world would look like if superheroes really existed and applied that to his writing.

Plus, the man has a beard of epic proportions.

That's either comics most acclaimed writer or a deranged prospector circa 1849.

Otto Binder: With his work on Captain Marvel, Binder helped define what made the Golden Age of Comics in particular and the medium as a whole in general. The fact that his Golden Age work was so prolific, including stints for not only Fawcett, but companies like Marvel and MLJ, would help solidify his place on his list. Then, he went on to the Superman books. There, he helped introduce the Legion of Superheroes, Krypto, Supergirl, and a host of other contributions, thereby furthering the Superman mythos and the tropes we associate with the Silver Age.

Jack "The King" Kirby: While his legacy as an artist is without question, I think his contributions as a writer often go overlooked. He created Darkseid, arguably one of the coolest villains in comics. Not only that, but his creation of the rest of the Fourth World, not to mention concepts like Cadmus, Etrigan, Kamandi, and others helped to give the DC Universe a more coherent and rich cosmology. Plus, his work has influenced many of the producers of DC's current animated series. Kirbyesque elements have been found in Superman, Justice League, Justice League Unlimited, and Batman: The Brave and the Bold. Any one of these programs have probably reached a larger audience than 10 or more current titles, thus ensuring that Kirby will have a reach of influence far outside the comic medium.

Frank Miller: While I'm not a fan, you have to admit that the man sells comics. His violent, noir influenced stories pretty much ushered in the "grim 'n gritty" phase of comics. Plus, with the success of the Batman films, influenced by Miller's writing, not to mention films like 300, Miller is leaving a mark on Hollywood, so much so that he's managed to fool people into thinking he's a director.

Much to our chagrin....

Coming soon, Part 2!

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Well, if that don't beat all....

Given last week's news that Green Ronin recieved a license from DC Comics to produces supplements for their Mutants & Masterminds line, I thought I'd do a review of the Mutants and Masterminds 2nd Editon Core Rulebook. Wouldn't you know it, then, that THIS WEEK, Green Ronin announced a 3rd Edition coming out this fall. Well played, Green Ronin, well played. After I'd spent a good chunk of last week writing it, too. Oh, well, here's an image of one of the upcoming items.

On the plus side, a good chunk of 2nd Edition material will probably drop in price, and I can't imagine that the upcoming 3rd Edition will be TOO radical. Anyway, as you can tell by my previous review, I'm keen on M&M. It's good stuff.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Wonder Woman DVD- A review!

     As you can probably surmise, Wonder Woman is all about the Doom Patrol Wonder Woman. The film updates her origin for a modern age- we see how the Amazons settle Themyscira, Wonder Woman gets born, hot shot pilot crashes on island, WW goes to Man's World and kicks ass. It's a fairly straightforward story, and it really works. The action keeps flowing, and the narrative never really drags.

The art style is really good too. It's like a mix of what Bruce Timm and company have done so far with just a hint of Aeon Flux, and it works.

The best element, though, is the voice acting. They pulled together a great cast for this one. When I first heard that Keri Russell was playing Wonder Woman, I was, "Seriously? Felicity?!?" but she actually does a great job. Alfred Molina plays the film's villain, Ares, and he's just fantastic as everything. Rosario Dawson, Oliver Platt, and others also deliver top-notch performances. Of course, the main attraction here is Nathan Fillion as Steve Trevor, and he's just inexpressibly wonderful in the role.

The other main draw for this is it's PG-13 rating. True, all the other DC DVD's released thus far have had the same rating, but none of them seem to revel in it like WW does. There're beheadings and mature-themed dialogue (sexual in nature, but not explicit). Also, there's a scene where WW and Steve do MANY shots of tequila. Outside of Iron Man, how many superheroes do you see pounding back booze? None, that's who. And that's terrible.

Not forty cakes terrible, granted....

The 2-disc version also has a couple of interesting documentaries covering the history of Wonder Woman, and they're pretty interesting. The high point is you get to see Denny O'Neill squirm when confronted with his bulls***.

Overall, this DVD is, in my humble opinion, THE strongest of all the animated features Timm & Co. have released to date. So, of COURSE it's not getting a sequel. Grrr!!! Man, and the ending so totally sets up a sequel, featuring an awesome cameo from one of the only WW villains that's actually worth a damn.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Exciting business opportunity?

As you may recall, my last blog entry was about me discussing characters from Project Superpowers. Well, that apparently turned out to be so influential, I got contacted by other PS characters! Amazing, right? Anyway, here's what I found when I opened my inbox....

"Hello! My name is David, Boy King and Monarch of Swisslakia, and I have an interesting proposal. When my homeland was overrun by Nazis, I was forced to abdicate my throne and relocate my people to America. In our exodus, we left behind large amounts of money and national treasures. While searching for a way to reinstate my government, I became a mystery man and superheroe with the help of my stone giant named Giant and my magic sword. Unfortunately, I was trapped inside a magic urn along with several other young heroes for sixty years thanks to naughty action taken by a man called the Fighting Yank."

Seriously, don't leave the Fighting Yank alone with your kids.

"Now, I have escaped my entrapment and find myself in this new era. Not only have I found new technologies and social mores, but also good news regarding Swisslakia's assets! Recent legislation passed by the European Union allows my people to reclaim our monetary heritage. Unfortunately, as an official of Swisslakia and a superhero, I am legally barred from filing the necessary paperwork. However, my magic sword, which is totally magic and not made up, provided me with the e-mail address of a gullible civic-minded individual with a desire for both monetary gain and help for a foreign nation.
"By mailing a check for $3,ooo for the necessary notarization, you can aid Swisslakia in retaining her birthright. In return, I have authorized my parliament to deposit $1.5 million in your account once the process has been completed. I look forward to your assistance in this endeavor and eagerly await your reply!"

As I was writing out the check, I realized this was probably a scam. Swisslakia doesn't even show up on Google maps! Other aspects of his story probably don't make sense either. I quickly moved the e-mail to my junk mail and was prepared to make a sandwich when I recieved another email from another Project Superpowers character....

"Hey, remember me? It's Katie! We used to talk on AIM, remember?"

Her handle was TeenTabby69.

"Anyway, I don't use AIM much anymore; I've got a new website! You should stop bi if you wanna chat. I have a webcam and sometimes I get a little naughty. MEOW! lol. You should totally come visit and I'll give you a private show. THe site will ask for your credit card number, but that's just for age verification purposes. Hope 2 C U soon! TTYL!"

I've got a good feeling about this one.