Thursday, December 25, 2008

RIP Eartha Kitt

I just read that Eartha Kitt, the actress and singer I knew best for playing Catwoman in the '60s Batman show, died today from cancer. She was 81.

I'm really sorry to hear that. She was a good person.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Christmas Carol Question

I've a quick Q' for all you good people.

What's your favorite traditional Christmas song?

Mine's "Good King Wenceslas".



Therefore, Christian men, be sure
Wealth or rank possessing
Ye who now will bless the poor
Shall yourselves find blessing.


Good advice for all of us, be you Christian or (like myself) atheist. That's what's important to me on Christmas: making other people happy. It's something we should try to remember all year long.

Merry Christmas, folks.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Reading Regrets

From my excellent friends Ami Angelwings and David Wynne:

On the assumption that in ten years, a lot of twenty-somethings will be re-reading Twilight and wincing in embarrassment:

Name three series or writers that you devoured as a teen but are now somewhat sheepish about having liked as much as you did. For each series, list off what you dug about them, what you're wincing at in retrospect, and whether you'd read 'em again.


This was kinda tough, because there's not a whole lot I'm embarrassed about having enjoyed. (What can I say? I am a gentleman of exquisite taste.) Heck, I'm not even ashamed that I liked The Sword of Shannara! I had to really wrack my brain to come up with answers to this.

1: The Chronicles of Narnia by C. S. Lewis
What I dug about them: They're epic fantasy. That alone was enough to get me hooked at first. C. S. Lewis was an imaginative writer who was equally good at writing action and humor, so it was easy to get into his books.
What I'm wincing at in retrospect: There's no easy way to put this: The entire series was a recruitment tool for conservative Christianity. I loved the books without question until the very last page of the last book, where Lewis wrote something to the effect of "...and Aslan no longer looked as a lion to them." Yes, Aslan didn't just represent Jesus, he was Jesus. The realization that the books served no purpose but to preach at me made me angry. I've hated allegory ever since. This is why I feel The Lord of the Rings was a far superior fantasy: there are Christian themes in the book and things Christians can find applicable to their beliefs, but nothing that actually represents anything from Christianity. And that's not even touching Lewis's implicit bigotry toward women (who screw everything up if they're not perfect little Christians) and racism (because good Calormenes actually worship Aslan, they just don't know it yet).
Would I read them again?: Probably not. Not least because I rarely re-read prose novels that I've already read (making an exception for Tolkien), but also because I just can't reconcile Lewis's worldview with my own. I'd be too busy gnashing my teeth in frustration to enjoy them.

2. Love Hina by Ken Akamatsu
What I dug about it: Akamatsu's art, while standard-issue "cute manga" style, was still very expressive and dynamic, and the man has an incredible gift for sight gags. If nothing else, the comic was consistently fast-paced and funny.
What I'm wincing at in retrospect: It's just a typical sexist harem manga. Actually, no, scratch that. It's the archetypal sexist harem manga. You've got one nerdy loser of a male surrounded by a bunch of gorgeous young women with improbable figures who by the end of the series are all head-over-heels in love with him. Plus some of the running gags, like Naru's hair-trigger acts of violence against Keitaro whenever she (inevitably wrongly) assumes he's perving on her or the other girls got incredibly tiresome after the first volume. And as for Ken Akamatsu himself, once I learned that he drew pornographic comics about pre-pubescent girls and wrote an essay that defended rape, well, that was the straw that broke the camel's back.
Would I read them again?: I might, if only to look at the art again.

3. Lots and lots of Star Wars tie-in novels
What I dug about them: Um, well. They were novels about Star Wars. That's pretty much all I needed.
What I'm wincing at in retrospect: I can't really get as in-depth about these as the others. The problem with them is simple: they're cash-grabbing crap written by talentless hacks. That's all.
Would I read them again?: If someone put a gun to my head and ordered me to, I might consider it.

Monday, December 08, 2008

'Tis the Season

Here, watch some Nat King Cole.



The classics never die.

Monday, December 01, 2008

MOVE FASTER, POKEY!



I swear, this brightens my day every time I watch it. That poor dude!!!

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Bowl on the Run

This is just cute.

This film was made for the Antarctic 48 Hour film competition at McMurdo Station.

Film requirements were it had to be made in Antarctica within 2 days, had to contain a bowl, an ice cream cone, a sleeping person, the sound of a phone, and the line "We've lost another one".

This won best film.


...because there's not a whole lot else to do in Antarctica.

Phil Foglio is a God among Men

This is just a brief post to affirm my undying love and admiration for all the works of the great and powerful Phil Foglio and to inform all of you that if you're not reading any of his webcomics, which are updated daily, then you should be ashamed of yourselves and should start reading right now as penance.

That is all.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Magic Set Editor

Speaking of MTG, Magic Set Editor is a fun program that lets you design your own card sets. I was fooling around and made a few cards, including two for a couple of friends of mine (ya know who ya are).

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(I don't know what to say about this other than that I was just fooling around with the multicolor settings.)

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Sunday, November 23, 2008

It's Not Easy Being Green

Okay, time to show my nerdiness.

I found this cool music video tribute to Magic: The Gathering on YouTube. It's just plain awesome. You'll wanna play this with your volume on high because the music is just that good.



Beautiful art + EPIC music = WIN

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

13 Posts: Finale

And here we are at the end of the road. Let's finish this off with some good, clean fun, shall we? Here's Bobby "Boris" Pickens hamming it up with his novelty smash hit, "The Monster Mash", to some charmingly bad '70s animation:



This isn't something I'll do again, I don't think. It got to the point where coming up with something to post, often only a few minutes to midnight, felt like a chore, and I want to keep my blogging fun. In spite of that, though, it was a good exercise in stretching my writing muscles, and I found a few gems along the way that I previously hadn't known about. All in all, it was definitely not a loss.

I don't know if anyone has been following along, but if you have, thanks. :) I hope I wasn't too boring. ;)

Cheers!
Filb

13 Posts: Frankennerd

Well, here it is nearly two weeks after Halloween, and my 13 Posts project is at its end. And wouldn'tcha know it, I missed an update in my first week at this? Guess I'll have to double up.

First... well, it's gotten to be a running gag at this point. Here's James Rolfe one last time, in his signature role as the one and only Angry Video Game Nerd, reviewing several really bad video games based very (very) loosely on Mary Shelley's classic novel, Frankenstein, and meddling in That in Which Man Was Meant Not to Meddle along the way. Fair warning: Lots and lots of profanity ahead.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

13 Posts: Repercussions of Evil

Only one more post to go! I'm running out of steam, honestly, so I'll keep this one short.

There's not much to say about this video. It's a surreal recitation of the hilariously bad Doom fanfiction, "DOOM: Repercussions of Evil" (which has since vanished from the Internet), typos and all, set to music. If that isn't horror, I don't know what is.



Truly the work of a fevered mind.

Monday, November 10, 2008

13 Posts: Ravenloft

I'd be remiss if I finished this countdown without mentioning one of my favorite horror-themed publications: the Ravenloft campaign setting for Dungeons & Dragons.

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There isn't a single D&D setting that I honestly dislike (though Dragonlance grates on me at times), but if I had to play favorites, Ravenloft would be near the top of my list. The setting was never hugely popular - it was a product of the bad old days when TSR, Inc. would throw out a new campaign setting whenever their sales were slumping and hope to Pelor that it would stick. Rather than being a generic fantasy setting, though, Ravenloft mixed heroic fantasy with gothic horror. Elves and dwarves, wizards and warriors did battle with vampires, restless spirits, and evil geniuses, and a happy ending wasn't always assured.

The setting had its origin in the classic 1980s adventure Ravenloft and its sequel, The House on Gryphon Hill, written by Tracy Hickman, one of the creators of Dragonlance. These adventures gave us the tortured vampire Count Strahd von Zarovich, Lord of Castle Ravenloft, who went on to become the campaign setting's central villain and one of the most popular recurring villains in D&D's history. The original adventure Ravenloft has been reprinted no less than three times for three different editions of the game, and I've no doubt that a version of the adventure for the new 4th Edition will pop up down somewhere the line.


Strahd by *nJoo on deviantART


Ravenloft had something that most other RPG settings lack: atmosphere. An impending sense of doom hung over the very land, and the sinister mists constantly threatened to whisk you away to some new unspeakable horror.

If I had the ambition to do so, I'd love to run or otherwise participate in a Ravenloft campaign. If you're into D&D or tabletop RPGs in general, I can't recommend Ravenloft enough.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

13 Posts: The Enigma of Amigara Fault

Alrighty. You want creepy comics, I got 'em.

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Unlike "Hansel and Gretel", which merely poked fun at a scary old story, "The Enigma of Amigara Fault" is downright nightmarish. Published as a backup story to Junji Itō's Gyo, "The Enigma" concerns an unnatural geologic formation that manifests a bizarre pull on the local populace. Itō, an award-winning author of horror comics best known for his series Uzumaki, is known for creating detailed drawings of the macabre, and "The Enigma" is no exception.

The comic can be read here; read the pages from right to left.

Saturday, November 08, 2008

13 Posts: Anatomy of a Scream

Time for another quickie! James Rolfe (*dreamy sigh*) examines the classic 1942 noir chiller Cat People, with a brief history of RKO Radio's horror library and an in-depth look at what makes one of the movie's scenes work. This is from his 2007 "Monster Madness" Halloween countdown.

13 Posts: That Lovecraft Feeling

Oh, dear - I missed an update. Ahh well, guess I'll just have to double up tonight.

One of my favorite short stories is "The Whisperer in Darkness", by Howard Phillips Lovecraft. Lovecraft was an odd duck - fervently racist, sexist, homophobic, and nationalist, yet possessed of one of the most vivid imaginations in early 20th-century writing. His stories were often chock full with bigotry, but Lovecraft was a master at crafting atmospheric, nightmare-inspiring scenes.

"Whisperer" concerns one Professor Albert Wilmarth from the famed Miskatonic University at witch-haunted Arkham, Massachusetts and his inquiry into reports of extraterrestrial activity in the hills of Vermont. Published in 1930, it's one of the first works of fiction to deal with alien abductions, though they take a much different form than in modern media. It also invokes the dire god Nyarlathotep, who plays a central role in many other stories by Lovecraft.

There is (or was) apparently a film version of "The Whisperer in Darkness" being produced by an independent studio in the style of classic black-and-white 1930s chillers, but I haven't heard any news of it in over a year. Here's the trailer, which does a commendable job recreating the feel of the story.



And here is a gorgeously macabre picture of one of the alien creatures from the story.


Buzzer by ~psychohazard on deviantART


Stay tuned - more is on the way!

Thursday, November 06, 2008

13 Posts: Hansel and Gretel

When you think creepy comics, you probably think Tales from the Crypt, the classic flagship title of the now-defunct EC Comics. EC published many other horror and suspence comics, including Shock SuspenStories and Crypt's two sister titles, The Haunt of Fear and The Vault of Horror. These comics were wildly popular in the late '40s and early '50s, and known for gruesome depictions of violence and gore; they were the main target of the anti-comics movement spearheaded by Dr. Frederic Wertham.

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"Hansel and Gretel", from Haunt of Fear #23, is a classic example of the "twisted fairy tale" convention, which would become popular in later years with a slew of dark-'n'-edgy (and often tasteless) remakes like Snow White: A Tale of Terror and Grimm Fairy Tales. This story stands out from the others, though, with its subversive, sarcastic sense of humor, going to show that it doesn't take itself too seriously. Hosted by the Old Witch (the better-known Crypt Keeper's distaff counterpart), it retells the classic tale by the Brothers Grimm from a decidedly different perspective.

You can read it here.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

13 Posts: Death Seen

I said I'd revisit James Rolfe, and I'm as good as my word.

Death Seen is a very short film Rolfe directed in 2005 as part of the 48 Hour Film Project, in which directors are given 48 hours to create a movie using a few elements given to them at the start. Death Seen was assigned a genre (mystery), a prop (an umbrella), a character (a political activist), and a line ("I've never seen one of those."). What follows is the end result.

The film won the award for Best Cinematography.

A Brief Political Interlude

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YES!

WE!

DID!

We now return you to your regularly scheduled programming.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

13 Posts: The Max Headroom Incident

I'm working on another long post, but Election Day has had me occupied (GOBAMA!). For now, here's another creepy quickie.

On November 22nd, 1987, an episode of Doctor Who on Chicago network WTTW 11 was interrupted at 11:15 p.m. with a broadcast signal intrusion by an individual wearing a mask of cult character Max Headroom. The man had hijacked another local station, WGN-TV 9, earlier that evening, but was booted off the air before he could say anything. During the 11:15 attack, the man made a variety of cryptic remarks (including some in reference to a commercial for New Coke starring the "real" Max Headroom) accompanied with some truly bizarre images before the network regained control of their broadcast.

Here is a video of the incident with subtitles.



The man's identity was never discovered.

Public Service Announcement

We interrupt your regularly scheduled program with this important PSA for our fellow Americans.

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Get out there and vote!

Monday, November 03, 2008

13 Posts: The Doctor is In

What's Halloween without Frankenstein's monster? And what's Frankenstein's monster without Doc Frankenstein himself? The mad scientist, cackling over beakers of bubbling substances best left unidentified, seeking out forbidden knowledge, daring That Which Man Ought Not to Dare, is a classic stock character that works in almost every genre. From horror to sci-fi, superhero adventure to medieval fantasy (mad alchemists count!), and even mundane fiction, popular culture just wouldn't be the same without the mad scientist. It's safe to say that the character type originates from the (sadly still very prevalent) phobia of scientific advancement that permeates our culture, though personally I think all the Victor Frankensteins and Lex Luthors are balanced out by scientists like Emmet "Doc" Brown and Agatha Heterodyne who use their prodigious brainpower to help the forces of good, not hinder them.


Dr Sivana pinup by ~simonpimpernel on deviantART

Without a doubt, my favorite mad scientist is the one and only Doctor Thaddeus Bodog Sivana, archnemesis of your hero and mine, Captain Marvel, and RIGHTFUL RULER OF THE UNIVERSE!!! HEH HEH HEH! He's just so willfully, deliberately, unequivocably, and joyfully eeeeeeeeeeevil! How can you not love a villain whose stated goals are as follows:

1) Become RIGHTFUL RULER OF THE UNIVERSE!!! in fact as well as in name;
2) Further the spread of evil, cruelty, and nastiness throughout the cosmos; and
3) Humiliate, discredit, and ultimately KILL CAPTAIN MARVEL!!!!! HEH HEH HEH HEH HEH!!!!!

That's in no particular order, of course.

Doctor Sivana (RROTU!!!) is like the perfect mad scientist. Disgusting little troll? Check. Lab coat? Check. Giant glasses that take up a full third of his face? Check. Bald of Evil? Check. In a comic book cosmos of increasingly gray morality, it's oddly comforting to read about a card-carrying villain who just wants to take over the world and make everyone miserable, no ifs, ands, or buts.

(Re: The hours upon hours of your life you're now going to waste surfing TV Tropes Wiki? You're welcome. HEH HEH HEH!!!)

Admittedly, the good bad doctor isn't the most complex villain out there, but when you're a snarky super-genius prone to fits of histrionics in a comic written for children and your archnemesis is a 12-year-old magic-powered Superman ripoff who hangs out with a tiger in a tux, you don't need to be. Captain Marvel has a mess of cool villains, from Mister Mind to Black Adam (hey, DJ!), but Sivana is the exact opposite of the Big Red Cheese (brainy old man who couldn't break a wet noodle with his bare hands? check), and no one can take his place as Cap's number-one nemesis.

Incidentally, I mentioned before that I thought Armin Shimmerman - Quark from Star Trek: Deep Space Nine - would make a good Sivana, and that's him in the picture above, buried under 20 pounds of Photoshop magic. That's my choice for a live-action movie; in a cartoon, no one but no one should play Sivana but Wallace "Inconceivable!" Shaun.

Can we get another shot of Sivana? Preferably by Mike Wieringo?


DR. SIVANA by *Wieringo on deviantART

Check.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

13 Posts: Always 2

I had a longer post planned, but today pretty much kicked my ass. So in lieu of that, let me present something considerably shorter but hopefully still very awesome: a dream sequence from the beginning of the Japanese comedy/drama Always 2: Sunset on Third Street that's sure to wash the bad taste of a certain shitty Matthew Broderick movie right out of your mouth, and I'm not talking about Inspector Gadget.



Kick! Ass!

(Don't ask about the guy with the hair... I have no idea.)

Saturday, November 01, 2008

13 Posts: The Deader the Better

I don't mind admitting that I have a bit of a man-crush on James Rolfe, known to the wider Internet as the Angry Video Game Nerd. I was first exposed to his work through his video game reviews, which are so chock full of profanity and scatalogical references that it made my head spin, but downright hilarious because of just how over-the-top he takes it. If you're a fan of NES games or just enjoy a blast from the past, you've gotta check him out.

Recently, though, I've been enjoying some of Rolfe's non-AVGN material. The man is seriously into horror and suspense cinema, and his devotion to the art of filmmaking is inspiring. He's created over 200 short films since his childhood through his production company, the Cinemassacre, and shows no signs of stopping. One of these films - and expect me to go back to this well more than once - is a zombie flick titled The Deader the Better.



Let me warn you - this is an extremely gory movie, though the blood 'n' guts are obviously (and deliberately) fake. The Exorcist it ain't, but as a send-up of the zombie genre it's good fun.

Friday, October 31, 2008

BOO! The 13 Posts of Halloween

I'm back, baby! Happy Halloween!

Well, it's been a month, and I'm feeling about ready to get back into the habit of posting again. I'm doing a lot better now; not up to 100%, but getting there.

Anyway, while I was on my break, I had a great idea: Why not do a series of 13 posts, one per day, sharing creepy, Halloween-related, or just plain weird things related to comics, movies, and other pop cultural things I like talking about on my blog? Great way to motivate myself to write a bit more often, right?

Unfortunately, I only thought of it three days ago.

So instead of counting down to All Hallow's Eve, I've decided to start on the 31st and keep going from there. Stretch the season out by two weeks or so. It'll be like the Twelve Days of Christmas, only spookier!

Index
Oct. 31 - Changeling: The Dreaming
Nov. 1 - The Deader the Better
Nov. 2 - Always 2
Nov. 4 - The Max Headroom Incident
Nov. 5 - Death Seen
Nov. 6 - Hansel and Gretel
Nov. 8 - That Lovecraft Feeling
Nov. 8 - Anatomy of a Scream
Nov. 9 - The Enigma of Amigara Fault
Nov. 10 - Ravenloft
Nov. 11 - Repercussions of Evil
Nov. 12 - Frankennerd
Nov. 12 - Finale

Since it's going to take me a little while to plan this whole thing out, all I have to share today is a sketch I drew a few years ago when I still had a working scanner. I promise that most of the posts I write from here on out won't be this self-indulgent.


Beastie by ~Filby on deviantART

For a short while in my adolescence, I was a fan of Changeling: The Dreaming, a role-playing game published by White Wolf Game Studio as part of their World of Darkness line (which also included Vampire: The Masquerade, Werewolf: The Apocalypse, and a half dozen other games titled Noun: The Noun). Unlike the other games, though, Changeling had a much more pronounced sense of idealism, even whimsy, though it still had its fair share of things that go bump in the night.

The idea of the game was that the players were fairies* disguised as humans, trying to fight off the banality of the modern world lest they fade away. Players were given a variety of different types of fairies to play as, from the beautiful Sidhe and mighty Trolls to the inventive Nockers and vicious Redcaps; fairies of all types were aligned with one of two Courts: the haughty yet benevolent Seelie or the cold and amoral Unseelie. One of the fairy types, or "kith" as they were called, associated with the Unseelie were the Beasties, who thrived on the fear of little children. The bogeymen, the monster in the closet, whatever you want to call them.

Beasties come in all shapes and sizes - anything that anyone would find scary, really. The one I drew was supposed to look sort of like a corrupted stuffed animal, a teddy bear gone bad. You can probably tell I saw Gremlins (which I may or may not also end up posting about) before drawing it.

Since I drew this, Changeling: The Dreaming has been discontinued and I've drifted away from RPGs, but I still like this piece. I'm not a terrific artist by any stretch, but I think I did a fair job at making it look good 'n' creepy.

That's it for now. Watch this space!

*I refuse to say "faeries". It's trendy, yeah, but it misses the point that fairies were supposed to be downright dangerous, and that calling them "fair" was supposed to be a way to get on their good side and keep them from spoiling your crop, poisoning your livestock... or abducting your children.

Sunday, October 05, 2008

Oh, and while I'm here.

Sorry for the lack of updates. I've been kinda depressed lately and my devotion to a lot of my hobbies and interests has waned. I wish I could guarantee more frequent posts, but, well, I've always done this blogging thing for myself alone and I don't believe in posting just so I can I say I posted something. Luckily my "audience" such as it is is small enough (like, four?) to get away with it.

So yeah. I'm still around, I'm doing okay, kinda busy with school and job hunting. Just checking in.

You find some great stuff on DeviantART.


Gurren-Lantern by ~Panhandler on deviantART

Oh Fuck Yes.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Madame Xanadu

I'm really enjoying this series from DC/Vertigo. I heartily recommend you check it out if you get the chance.

It's really bothered me that there's this wall separating the mainstream DC Universe from the Vertigo characters who originated there. Madame Xanadu has gotten around that by telling a story suited for Vertigo using some mainstream DC characters and concepts, and that's made it great fun. In the first four issues, Morgaine le Fey and the Demon Etrigan have appeared, and the Green Lantern that would eventually make its way to Alan Scott has popped up as well. All that and Death of the Endless is slated to appear in an issue or two as well.

But it's not the shout-outs and in-jokes that make a story; it's the strength of the writer, and Matt Wagner (the author of Grendel and Mage) is doing a wonderful job showing us the evolution of the woman who will one day become Madame Xanadu. He's also turned the Phantom Stranger, in what is likely his first starring role since the '70s, into a compelling character as well.

All in all, it feels very much like The Sandman did ten years ago thanks to the narrative's slightly dreamlike quality. It's not quite as profound or clever, but it's compelling, and the art, by Amy Reeder Hadley, is simply beautiful. It feels like a return to old-school Vertigo and the early days of Swamp Thing and Hellblazer, and that's a very nice feeling indeed.

So again, I really recommend this comic. It's a quality read - don't miss out on it!

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Sewiously!

HREMAIL SBEMAIL 200!!!!!!!!!

Featuring John Linnell of They Might Be Giants as the voice of that guy with the big white face and gray body!

The Magic is Gone

I hate to say it, but I think it's time for me to stop collecting Magic: The Gathering cards and move on to more productive hobbies.

One problem is that I'm just not playing with anybody. I'll play with my sister maybe once every other week, but she's playing with my cards and I always beat her so there's really no reason to bother. There are no gaming shops within my area, and even if there were I'm too shy to walk into one and start a game with people I don't even know.

But more importantly, this hobby is expensive. I've probably spent close to four-hundred dollars on Magic cards over the last year. That was fine when I was making $200 a week, but now that I've left my job to go back to school, I need to be a lot more frugal with my money. I've been buying cards not to play with but just to own them, and that's an incredible waste of money.

So, yeah. No more cards for me.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

"Soda Pop" my eye!

I love this cover:

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Clark: Man... you ever notice how weird your hand looks? It's like... *wiggles fingers*

Pa: ......dude, what?

Charles Schulz knows what women want.

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Tuesday, September 02, 2008

The Doctor is In

I have somehow in the last week turned into a Doctor Who fan. I don't know how it happened, but I've watched the entire first series of the current revival and am halfway through the second.

A few things I have discovered:

1) David Troughton, the Second Doctor, is now my favorite.

2) However, Chris Eccleston will forever be my Doctor.

3) I rather fancy Billie Piper.

4) Daleks are scary as hell.

I might say a bit more as I get more into the series. David Tennant is shaping up nicely as the Tenth Doctor, I must say. I also would like to write a bit about Final Crisis if I can find the energy.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

I have just made a startling discovery...

The First Doctor is pretty cool.

So is the Tenth.

Now I'm kinda curious about the ones in between.

Monday, August 18, 2008

The Simpsons Movie

I have a confession to make.

I have never watched a single episode of The Simpsons.

(this is where you gasp and recoil in shock)

Yet due to the extent to which the series has permeated American pop culture (and particularly the Internet nerd/geek subculture), I still know pretty much all there is to know about the show. I know who everyone is. I know the relationships between the characters. I know that Smithers can't get enough of Mister Burns and why Sideshow Bob is public enemy number one. Yet I've never actually sat through a whole episode of the show itself.

So The Simpsons Movie was an odd experience for me in that going in I knew everything on paper but not in practice.

I liked it, honestly, but I get the feeling that I would have liked it more if I'd been tuning in every week for the last twenty years. I've heard it criticized as being like just another episode of the show only extra long, but I wouldn't know. It was sad watching Bart's growing rift with his dad and Homer coming to grips with how much of a jerk he was, but I think I would have gotten more out of it if I'd invested more into the franchise before now.

Still, the movie worked on a more basic level as far as jokes and gags went. ("Of course I'm going mad with power! Have you ever tried going mad without power? It's boring, nobody listens to you.") I had a smile on my face from beginning to end, and that's what matters.

It was also nice to see a successful 2D animated feature film afloat in the sea of lucrative yet mediocre CGI films about wisecracking talking animals that keep getting thrown at us. I like CGI, but not as much as I like traditional animation. They're really separate art forms that should judged by separate standards, so it saddens me that there's this feeling of competition between them.

Anyway, I recommend the movie to pretty much everyone, Simpsons fans and otherwise. Give it a watch if you have the chance - it's worth it.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

The Queen

I saw The Queen last night, and it was fantastic.

Helen Mirren disappears into the role of HRM and totally deserved her Oscar. Michael Sheen was slightly less smashing as Tony Blair, but then the movie wasn't titled The Prime Minister, and it was still a good performance.

It was something else to see the events of Princess Diana's death from this perspective, since when she died I was only 13 and only knew that she was this pretty lady who helped a lot of people. I had no idea of her relationship with the royal family or the press, only that her death deeply affected many people, including my parents.

I also come away hating Prince Phillip even more than I did before, never mind that it was a fictional depiction and probably exaggerated.

Monday, August 11, 2008

It's a Rumic World

This one goes out to all the Urusei Yatsura, Ranma 1/2, and Inu-Yasha fans out there:



Apparently this is a preview for an art exhibit titled "It's a Rumic World" that opened today celebrating the anime and manga of Rumiko Takahashi. I'm not as much of a fan as I used to be, but I still hold a soft spot in my heart for Ranma, Akane, Ryōga, and the rest, and it's a joy to see Ranma back in animation - and with his/her original voices to boot, not to mention crossing over with the other Takahashi all-stars.

Mama mia, my thumbs...

Mario Kart DS is a funny thing. Ultimately shallow and meaningless, yet brutally addictive. Once you start, it is almost impossible to stop, no matter how bored and tired you become.

Just one more lap... one more race... one more tournament... I promise, I'm almost done...

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

More Batman Movie Thoughts (SPOILERS)

There's already talk that Christopher Nolan is considering one more movie in his Batman franchise, and that's got me thinking. We all know that Batman (or at least Batman movies) are defined by his villains. But the first two movies have pretty much used up the Bat's two biggest foes - Ra's al-Ghul and the Joker - and it's safe to say that neither of them are coming back for another. So who else looms large enough in the Caped Crusader's rogues gallery to carry a whole feature-length film?

My first thought was Bane, the villain from the early-'90s comic storyline Knightfall who appears mysteriously in Gotham, wears Batman down by staging a massive jailbreak at Arkham Asylum, confronts Batman, and breaks his back just to prove he can. I think that could make a decent movie, but I'd rather they not just adapt a storyline straight from the comics - The Dark Knight may draw heavily from Alan Moore's The Killing Joke and Grant Morrison's Arkham Asylum, but it's still its own story. On top of that, Bane just never appealed to me as a character. He's an important part of Batman's world and rightly so, but he's just not one of the "classic" rogues, and I just like them better.

Catwoman's rights are tied up from the horrible Halle Berry movie and she's not really a villain anyway, so that leaves Two-Face, who survived The Dark Knight and has a personal grudge against the Batman that would give him a reason to set the events of a third film in motion. Plus Aaron Eckhart has said he'd love to return to the role, which is another plus. But Harvey Dent was a supporting character in TDK, Could he handle a whole movie on his own?

What I would like to see is this: Two-Face leading a collection of madmen in a headlong rush against Batman. It would be a great opportunity to mine the Arkham crowd for villains who couldn't hold a film on their own but who would make great supporting characters. Obiously a lot of the more fantastic characters (Mister Freeze, Clayface, Poison Ivy, Man-Bat) would be right out, but it would still give the more human rogues a chance to shine, and it would follow up on the idea in the first two movies that crime in Gotham is getting increasingly stranger due to Batman's influence.

What I'm thinking is this.

Two-Face: Harvey Dent's role in the sequel is a mockery of his role as Gotham's "white knight" in the previous one. His desire for justice has been subverted into a desire for control: If he can't take down the mob, he'll run them, and now that Falcone and Maroni are gone he's in a prime position to grab the reins himself, using both mobsters and his more flamboyant allies to run the city's crime while striking back at Batman.

The Riddler: Eddie Nigma is Dent's idea man and second in command. He's the only one of Two-Face's circle that isn't seriously mentally ill. His riddles aren't a compulsion - they're a performance. It's his way of showing how much smarter he is than anyone he goes up against. The Riddler is a smug little bastard you love to hate. He never gets his own hands dirty. My choice for the actor? Johnny Depp.

The Scarecrow: Cillian Murphy returns one more time, but this time the character will play up the scarecrow theme more than in the first two movies. Instead of the black business suit, he's now wearing something like a ragged Western preacher-man's outfit like in the '90s cartoon. Scarecrow is Two-Face's enforcer, intimidating their enemies not with brute force but with fear gas. To make him scarier, this time around we don't see Jonathan Crane out of the costume at all: He's completely vanished into the Scarecrow persona.

The Mad Hatter: Jervis Tetch is insane to the point of having little to no self-control. I'm not sure if his mind-control gimmick could work in the more serious world of the Nolan movies, but he could still be an expert of some sort - electronics, chemicals, whathaveyou. Aside from Two-Face, the Hatter comes closest to being sympathetic, since he's so far removed from reality that he doesn't understand that what he's doing is wrong, but he's still frightening because of just how nuts he is. As for the actor, I'm thinking Robin Williams, or maybe Martin Short if he could pull off a dramatic role.

That's what I'm thinking, and now that I've thought it up there's no chance of ever seeing it on screen.

Sunday, August 03, 2008

Filby at the Movies

I just saw The Dark Knight.

Without giving out any spoilers, I will say:

  • The movie was FUCKING AMAZING
  • Heath Ledger is the most amazing Joker ever (except for Mark Hamill).
  • When I saw what happened to Harvey Dent, I literally jumped.
  • The nachos grande from the concession stand were great.
  • The Scarecrow wasn't as scary this time around.
  • Did I mention the movie was FUCKING AMAZING


(Gawd, I love the unordered list HTML tag...)

In the end, it was even better than Batman Begins. Blows everything else out of the water. GO SEE IT NOW

Going off on a tangent, I saw a lot of posters for animated movies at the theater, and it got me thinking about super-heroes. I'm not very fond of CGI animation, but you know what would look great in the medium? A Shazam! movie in CGI.

I'm thinking....

  • Patrick Warburton as Captain Marvel.
  • Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson as Black Adam. (Can you smell what Black Adam is cooking?!! I think it's couscous...)
  • Wallace Shawn (or maybe Armin Shimmerman) as Doctor Sivana.
  • Sir Ian McKellan as the Old Wizard (though I'm not sure if I'd want to typecast him like that).
  • The actress who played Darla Dimple in Cats Don't Dance as Mary Marvel.
  • Charles Durning as Uncle Dudley.


I'm drawing a blank on Cap Junior and Talky Tawny, but something might come to me eventually.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

A Fine Feathered Fiend

I'm not a Batman fan. I think he's okay, I enjoy a Bat-story once in a while, and I like him when he's in an ensemble like the Justice League, but I never go out of my way to read Batman comics (cartoons and movies are another matter, but you get the gist).

That said, I think he has a fantastic array of villains, quite possibly the greatest rogues' gallery in comics. (I like the Flash's rogues better as characters, but in terms of overall quality they can't compete.) The one big-name Batman villain I've never taken a shine to, though, is the Penguin. He's just a funny little man who likes birds and umbrellas, you know? He's not part of the Arkham crowd: Tim Burton's version aside, he's perfectly sane, which makes him stand out uncomfortably among the likes of the Joker or Two-Face. Depending on the interpretation he's either a gentleman thief or a crooked businessman, which again puts him at odds with the more blatantly murderous Bat-rogues. There's just nothing scary about him whatsoever.

That's what I thought.

And I was wrong.

Click here.

Friday, July 11, 2008

The Old Walking Song

It's been on my mind.

The Road goes ever on and on
Down from the door where it began.
Now far ahead the Road has gone,
And I must follow, if I can,
Pursuing it with eager feet,
Until it joins some larger way,
Where many paths and errands meet.
And whither then? I cannot say.

The Road goes ever on and on,
Over rock and under tree,
By caves where never sun has shone,
By streams that never find the sea;
Over snow by winter sown,
And through the merry flowers of June,
Over grass and over stone,
And under mountains of the moon.

The Road goes ever on and on,
Under cloud and under star,
Yet feet that wandering have gone
Turn at last to home afar.
Eyes that fire and sword have seen
And horror in the halls of stone
Look at last on meadows green
And trees and hills they long have known.

The Road goes ever on and on
Out from the door where it began.
Now far ahead the Road has gone,
Let others follow it who can!
Let them a journey new begin,
But I at last with weary feet
Will turn towards the lighted inn,
My evening-rest and sleep to meet.

Still round the corner there may wait
A new road or a secret gate,
And though I oft have passed them by,
A day will come at last when I
Shall take the hidden paths that run
West of the Moon, East of the Sun.


-- With slight changes from the original by J. R. R. Tolkien

Yeah, so, I almost died.

The Road goes ever on and on
Out from the door where it began.
Now far ahead the Road has gone,
Let others follow it who can!

Let them a journey new begin,
But I at last with weary feet
Will turn towards the lighted inn,
My evening-rest and sleep to meet.


The following is a completely true story. Any resemblance to Stephen King's Stand by Me is purely coincidental and probably pretty tenuous at best seeing as I only saw the last half of the movie and never read the book. I'm posting this here because I find it a remarkable story that may serve as a cautionary tale of sorts, and because I am an attention whore.

I arrived home from work today around 6:30 (I'd left at 4:20) and wrote the following on my LiveJournal:

fucking jesus christ i need a hug.

i thought I could walk home from work. Oh god, the traffic. no sidewalks. cars. 45 mph. I think I almost died.

Covered in mud. scratched up. torn my pantsd. need a shower. Need food. fuck dinner, i'm ordering out.

i am so fucking stupid

Around 8:00, I amended my post, adding the following:

After work, I went out to wait for the bus for the first time - for my first two weeks I'd been relying on rides from family or coworkers. I waited for perhaps 40 minutes before realizing I wasn't 100% sure where the bus I was waiting for went, and set off to find a more certain bus stop. I wandered around, basically lost in relation to the bus route (though I knew where home was relative to my position), without finding any bus stops. At that point I said "screw it" and decided to walk home, as I thought it would actually take less time than waiting for the bus and getting a transfer back up. I knew two routes home; I was aware that one of them had a reputation for being a very dangerous route for pedestrians, and knew little to nothing about the walking conditions on the other. So I took the latter.

Little did I know that I had sailed away from Scylla directly into the maw of Charybdis.

After taking a very scenic, lovely side road from Page Boulevard to Worcester Street, I set out down the latter to find that there was no sidewalk. So I'd walk on the shoulder, I thought, and set out. Unfortunately, there was no shoulder - in most places, a wall of impenetrable vegetation came right up to the road. This is where I started to get nervous. Well, fine, I told myself, there was enough distance for oncoming cars to see me coming and get into the left lane.

Except there wasn't.

In at least three places that I can remember, there were curves in the road that made it impossible for drivers to see me, and I had to listen very carefully for oncoming traffic before inching my way forward. This is where I started to be genuinely frightened for my well-being. After coming within six inches of being hit by speeding SUVs and getting splattered all over the road one too many times, I started to panic, waited for a break in the traffic, ran across, and got off the road into the woods. And this is where I went from "stupid asshole walking on the highway" to "panicked fool fearing for his life."

Around this point I tore a small hole in my slacks walking next to the guard rail and sustained a long but harmless scratch on my leg. I saw a stream running parallel to the road and thought I could follow its shore safely for some distance, but it turned out that what looked like solid dirt was actually very viscous mud, and both my feet sunk in several inches, covering both my feet and one pants leg in grime - and here I thank goodness that it was casual Friday and I'd worn my sneakers. I think I started to limp at this point. I reached a point where the stream flowed out of a man-made culvert beneath a slope covered with loose stones, and was still lucid enough to realize that if I tried to walk across them I'd most likely fall and break a leg at the least, so I threw my bookbag across, climbed up the slope and around the rocks, and back down before climbing further up the slope to a railway that crossed Worcester Street on a bridge and sat down on the rocky ground to let my heart rate come back down to a reasonable pace.

Physically, it was easier going after that point, but mentally, I'd started to lose it. I found a fence and followed it parallel to Worcester Street, pushing my way past sumacs and almost tripping on bittersweet vines, getting blackberry thorns stuck in my clothes (I am so fucking glad I wasn't wearing shorts) before finally coming to a relatively open stretch next to the road and wading through crab grass and thistle, hoping I didn't pick up any ticks or mites (I didn't) before finally, thank goodness, catching sight of a large abandoned business complex at an intersection with a sidestreet, whereupon I finally knew exactly where I was and started the long trudge home.

This is where I lost any pretense at sanity. By this point I was talking to myself, shouting at crows, and limping miserably step by step to my ultimate destination. At one point I started singing "The Road Goes Ever On and On" audibly to myself. Traversing a network of very scenic, very safe side roads with attractive little middle-class houses and passing mercifully few other people (and retaining just enough of myself to sneer derisively at a bumper sticker reading "Keep working! Millions on welfare depend on you!"), I found my house at last, limped up the steps, dropped my bag like a hot potato, hugged my dog like I hadn't seen him in a decade, stripped out of my muddy pants and socks, washed my hands, stuffed my face with some cake, got on the computer, and posted the above. After about a half hour had passed, thanks in part to some very soothing instrumentals by Joe Hisaishi, I regained enough presence of mind to go take a shower, and ordered a very fattening but very comforting calzone.

And here I am.

All I can say is that I returned home a very humbled man. I somehow survived thanks to my rudimentary survival skills learned at ECOS and a great deal of blind luck. I feel very stupid and very relieved, and very VERY glad that it's over, and from now on I am either bumming a ride off my coworkers or WAITING FOR THE GODDAMN FUCKING BUS.

And that's all.

Friday, July 04, 2008

Watch This Space

Hey folks. Sorry I haven't been updating lately. I've been busy with a new job (insurance customer service rep) and I just haven't had much time to put my thoughts together to talk about pop culture like I usually do. I can't guarantee that I'll be back posting more regularly, but I'll try not to go more than a week at a time without checking in.

Stuff I'm into right now: H. P. Lovecraft's Dream Cycle, the upcoming Magic: The Gathering set (Eventide), Billy Batson and the Magic of Shazam!, Kurt Busiek's Trinity.

While I'm here, check out this awesome version of that Mario symphony I posted some time ago with added vocals!

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

At the Mountains of Madness. Wish You Were Here.

I've started reading "At the Mountains of Madness" by H. P. Lovecraft, which has sparked in me a mild interest in the great southern continent. So I've just now watched this video, presumably by a scientist, showing through time-lapse photography the course of one year. It's utterly breathtaking. The scenes of natural splendor and life in a bustling scientific base make Antarctica seem downright welcoming.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

How to Draw Like a Commercial Hack

Say, is it just me, or are 90% of the "How to Draw Comics/Manga/Whatever" books on the shelves written by artists who have never published successful comics?

Mind you, about 89% of "How to Draw Comics/Manga/Whatever" books are written by Christopher Hart...

Those who cannot do...

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

For the Record

I don't really believe Doctor Who is a ripoff of Superman and Star Trek. I was just being glib.

But more importantly, bear witness to the Angry Video Game Nerd's top 10 list of giant movie monsters:



Stick around for Number One. It's a doozy.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Doctor Why?

You know, I have to admit, I've never seen the appeal of Doctor Who. Maybe it's just the culture barrier at work, but whenever I've seen clips from it, the program just struck me as "like Star Trek, but even sillier."

And really. Dude comes to Earth, last survivor of a powerful alien race (except for a few others who keep popping up), gets involved with human woman, has adventures around the universe... I can get all that from Superman.

And then there's those robot salt-shakers with plungers on their heads. 'Nuff said.

Friday, June 06, 2008

Sailor Krypton

So is it just me, or is Superman basically every optimistic, idealistic anime girl heroine who Never Gives Up and Believes in the Power of Friendship rolled into one big muscley guy in a cape?

Photobucket

I think so.

Monday, June 02, 2008

Loving the Legion

I do believe I have become a Legion of Super-Heroes fanboy.

I started watching the WB animated series on a whim recently as I've been looking for something to replace Justice League Unlimited and Teen Titans, and it more than fit the bill. Since then my interest in the comics has piqued, and I've checked out bits and pieces from several eras, including Mark Waid's recent Supergirl and the Legion and Geoff Johns's storyline in Action Comics. The best I've read so far, though, has been the "Legion of the Damned" and "Legion Lost" storylines from the post-Zero Hour/pre-Infinite Crisis Legion, which honestly got me a little misty-eyed at the end.

At this point I'm looking forward to Final Crisis: Legion of Three Worlds more than Final Crisis itself! I just hope Johns doesn't mess up the post-ZH Legion, 'cause I've gotten rather attached to them.

That's all I've got to say for now. Just felt like sharing my enthusiasm.

Friday, May 30, 2008

Final Crisis #1 (SPOILERS)

I got it yesterday... and I have a few questions.

Why is everyone talking about the New Gods like they're these mythical beings that no one's ever seen before? Most of the Justice League are personal friends with Orion, Scott, and Barda.

Why is "the First Boy" a pasty white kid? Shouldn't the first Homo sapiens be African? Continuity, I know, but Anthro is a product of a less enlightened time...

Is that black-haired caveman supposed to be Vandar Adg, aka Vandal Savage?

Why is John Stewart acting like he has a secret identity? His ID is public knowledge.

Why are the Guardians shutting off Earth to investigate the deicide only now? Lightray died on Earth over a year ago. Did they just not get the memo?

Why is Empress white?

Empress, Sparx, and Mas y Menos are only beat up, right? Not killed? There's nothing to indicate they're dead so I'll assume not.

Why did J'onn have to die like such a chump? I don't mind characters getting killed off, but it does upset me when they go out so easily. Of course, this could easily be a feint and he's not really dead.

And most importantly... why does Darkseid look like Al Roker?

All in all, it doesn't look like it's going to be a bad story, but the characterization and continuity is way off. I'm afraid the whole thing is just going to be one big cerebral wank on Morrison's part, but I'll give him the benefit of the doubt for now. Unfortunately, it just hasn't grabbed me with the first issue like Infinite Crisis #1 did.

I will say that the art by J. G. Jones is beautiful, though.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

More Caramelldansen

Okay, I know this fad has run its course, but I stumbled upon it late and haven't yet gotten tired of it, and dammit it's my blog my rules so whatever.

:)

Three different versions of the "Caramelldansen" video, all pretty well-done and elaborate:

The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya:



The animation is kinda clunky, but I like how it follows the plot of the series.

Lupin the Third:



I have to give this one the highest mark on craftsmanship, not least because it's better-drawn than the cartoon it's based on!

And my favorite... Mobile Police Patlabor:



Dammit, I wish I had a scanner and the right software 'cause I really wanna create a DC Universe Caramelldansen video now...

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Vicious Cycles

Superman is a dick. This is an established fact.

It's also a fact that Superman -- or Superboy, I should say -- was a member of the Legion of Super-Heroes, that group of superpowered teenagers from the 30th century who were inspired by his legacy.

They were even bigger dicks than he was.

Photobucket
"Whozawhat?!"


But what we have here is a paradox. The Legion were such dicks because of Superman's influence... but Superman was a dick because he hung out with the Legion!

It's a temporal loop of dickery!

From the brilliant mind of Jack T. Chick...

Photobucket


Hm, lemme see. We've got a filthy Muslim, a vile Satanist punk, a dirty Chinese commie, a disgusting pagan witch, a depraved... atheist schoolteacher? And a murderous... is that a paleontologist?

'Cause we all know those dirty evil-lutionist bone-diggers exist for nothing but to hate Lord Jesus!

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Regarding "The Shadow over Innsmouth"

When you really get down to it, H. P. Lovecraft's entire body of work can be traced back to three things:

1) His fear of foreigners.

2) His fear of sex.

3) His fear of seafood.

Monday, May 19, 2008

You Know...

I just now realized, two weeks after it went out of business, the irony of shopping at a comic book store with an obese owner... in Springfield.

*facepalm*

Worst. Joke. Ever.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Yikes!

Wow, my last post got linked to by a couple of blogs with larger readerships than mine (read: greater than 4) and attracted a heck of a lot of responses. I'm not used to that! I mean, I get that I have to expect that when I publish my own writing on a public blog, but man, it's overwhelming! I don't know how Ami or the DJ deal with it. Especially when the attention I attract is negative (correct, but negative), that's just not something I'm prepared for. Well, at least no one's called me names or threatened violence... yet.

Phew.

Well, I just wanted to get that out there.

Watch this video.



"Maybe I'm just imagining things, but you look like you're enjoying yourself."

*nod*

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Japanese Heroes with Grant Morrison

Right. I've just finished looking at some pages from the Final Crisis Sketchbook by Grant Morrison and J. G. Jones that had been posted at scans_daily concerning a number of Japanese superheroes Morrison dreamed up for his upcoming crossover. I'm a sucker for intersections between Japanese and American pop culture due to my abiding interest in both, so I thought I'd share my thoughts on the subject.

You'll want to look at the pages yourself right here before going on first for sake of reference. I've quoted the text of the pages below, interspersed with my own commentary.

Let's begin, shall we?

JAPANESE SUPERHEROES
Japan has embraced every aspect of the superhero culture, chewed it up, spliced it together and incorporated the result into its own hyper-accelerated pop media landscape.

A hero is a role to play, a franchise, a pop star whose cult status might last for a week on the streets of Shibuya before a drastic change of fashion. Anyone can fill the role of hero as long as they're cute enough. Real heroes go unnoticed in favor of gorgeous wannabes. Teams come and go in the blink of an eye, like in Image comics stores. Western motifs are chopped up, collided and spliced with manga fetish wear, Sailor Moon meets Batman, Mecha-Wonder-Woman, Lolita Undertaker Zatanna girls.


I have to say this is setting off warning bells. While that kind of superficiality is pervasive in modern Japanese culture, I have qualms about using it as Japan's defining trait in this story. Of course, it may play out differently, but I'm still concerned.

Before we meet some of these characters who will play a part in our story, let's see the milieu out of which they grew and take a look at the original Japanese superhero team...

BIG SCIENCE ACTION
These guys were Japan's JLA back in the day, with a ring or halo-shaped base hovering above Mount Fuji -- and let's be vague about when that day was -- and these heroes reflect many different Japanese "super-hero" types with an appropriately "retro" design. The aim with design is to make us feel that we've known these characters all our lives, somehow.

Ultimon
Ultraman type Giant Monster killer/young Japanese man indoctrinated into the Ultimon -- a secret society of Ultimate Monster Killers -- the last survivors of the Monster Wars which devastated old Japan. The Ultimon are super-samurai with technology and weapons we can barely imagine.

Okay, so Japan's greatest superhero is a pastiche of Ultraman. I can go for that.

Together in the ruins of Tokyo, young Dai Yokohama and his master fought the three COLONIZERS (all the monsters we see him fight look like "real" versions of POKEMON creatures, as if nature had actually created Pokemon horrors to run around causing real devastation):

SCARRBA the PROTECTOR leads the charge -- a multi-headed Hydra thing spitting a different death ray from each head. Eyes of one head fire lasers. Mouth of another shoots fire. Horns on the third launch electrical bolts, etc.


Right out the gate we have a King Ghidorah homage. I've gotta give him points for that.

KRY-TORR the BURROWER digs up the streets, and the rubble of fallen buildings flies from his hellish, centipedal multi-legs.

I'm getting a Baragon-meets-Onix vibe here: Equal parts Pokemon and kaiju.

LORLOXX the LAYER squats and releases fuming glass eggs from rows of pipes in its sides, all filled with squirming monstrosities.

The most clearly Pokemon-themed monster from what I can tell, though it still has Morrison's name writ large all over.

Then his master died. The last of the Ultimon fell before teaching his young apprentice his final secrets. But at that moment all his master's power flowed into the boy. Yokohama killed Scarrba.

Then the others rose against him and, in an incredible baptism of fire, he defeated them too. Then, through the apocalyptic smoke and ruin, came an army of monsters -- seizing their moment, seeking revenge for their defeat in the Monster Wars.

As the new Ultimon prepared to die in performance of his duty, in defense of Tokyo, the sun rose... and out of the sun came Japan's defenders to his aid. Never before had they teamed together, but that day demanded a miracle.

Cosmo Racer, Hammersuit Zero-X, Goraiko, Sunfire and Rising Sun.

Together, they hurled the Monster Army back into the Outer Darkness, together they built a new Tokyo and set their incredible watch station in place, like a halo above the haze where Mount Fuji rises.

BIG SCIENCE ACTION was born, and the classic lineup soon emerged...


I have to say, of all the characters previewed here, Ultimon is my favorite, simply because he has the best-detailed backstory. He feels the most genuine. I think that he alone would be capable of sustaining his own solo series, and I would buy it.

The name "Big Science Action" is a little too weird for my tastes, though. It gets worse for the other team, but we'll cross that bridge when we come to it.

Cosmo Racer
This living robot kid from space is a cross between Silver Surfer and Pinocchio -- partly amnesiac, he is trying to get home to his beloved maker somewhere far in space but has wound up on Earth unable to find the crystals he needs to power up his roller boots for interstellar trave. He can still race along on his blades at speeds up to that of sound.

What only we know is that his "Maker" is a monstrous space tyrant who has sent his little herald out to identify and pacify target planets.

Cosmo Racer's a gritty little "grrrr" guy who never lets you down and ALWAYS finds a way...


Another interesting character, even though his backstory and appearance are explicitly Silver Surfer-meets-Astro Boy, with a touch of Megaman.

I wonder why he has the same insignia on his chest as Kimiyo Hoshi AKA Doctor Light from Crisis on Infinite Earths and Justice League International.

Boss Bosozuko
Boss Bosozuko is a young, hotheaded, nuclear Human Torch. He has a cool-as-hel nuclear-powered future motorcycle with radioactive galactic spiral wheels. He's passionate, angry, tender, emotional, always yelling and acting out, always emoting, like the boys in AKIRA.

Again, his origin is made explicit: Akira. He seems less "serious" than Tetsuo or Kaneda, though, and reminds me of Kamina from Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann and a host of other older shounen heroes.

Hammersuit Zero-X
Gundam meets Gigantor with huge steam-hammer hands -- spunky young girl scientist schoolgirl has created this giant robot suit to run around and right wrongs in.

The design looks closer to something from Neon Genesis Evangelion to me: Gundam machines look more like blocky military hardware. Again, I think it's a tad too Morrisonistic.

Junior Waveman
Junior Waveman is just that, the youngest member of the Wavemen -- a group of rough, tough men and women who live a self-sufficient life in international waters -- 4 guys, 4 women and the teenaged super-genuis daughter of the Wavemen's leader, Senior Waveman Otomo.

Spoiled young Riki Kimura was swept from the deck of his incredibly rich parents' yacht when a terrifying sea creature (one of the Monster Army repelled by Big Science Action on their maiden mission) descended upon them.

The Wavemen arrived to fight off the beast, but Riki's parents were dead. To make things worse, Senior Waveman Otomo also died in the battle against the monster but not before saving the boy's life. The Wavemen took the sickly, ungrateful boy into their care where he learned to grow strong an appreciate life.


Very strong sentai vibe here. I'm admittedly not that familiar with the genre beyond a couple episodes of Power Rangers, but Morrison seems to have hit most of its common tropes: Team of brave men and women, probably multinational (but with a Japanese leader, naturally), standardized costumes/powers, fighting monsters, etc.

He also reminds me superficially of Sosuke Sagara from Full Metal Panic!, but only a little.

And now for the other guys.

SUPER YOUNG TEAM
This group of flamboyant new teenaged heroes derives from Japan's willingness to co-opt and mash together Western music and fashions to create bizarre pop hybrids. Here they've used the same cultural mix-and-match approach to generate a team of colorful youngsters in day-glo outfits.

Warning bells again.

For those of you without the frankly rather pathetic ability to remember such tiny details (*hangs head in shame*), the Super Young Team were first mentioned off-hand two years ago in 52 #6, where a couple members of the Great Ten (that Chinese superteam that Morrison also created) refer to them as "flamboyant fools" or some such, though no details were given.

Most Excellent Superbat
Self-styled leader of the team -- a vivid and garish combination of Superman and Batman motifs. He's the superhero as dandy, as fashion cult, as psychedelic Couture icon. Everything about superhero costuming refined into pure style as worn for the catwalk. Polished, sleek and shiny, super-colorful. Cheekbones like Johnny Depp.

He has his own TV show and legions of fans who swoon over his every inane utterance.


I hate this guy already.

From what I understand, according to an interview at Newsarama, Most Excellent Superbat was created when the writing team from 52 got drunk and started calling out random ideas or something. I don't remember if it was Morrison or Geoff Johns who blurted out the fateful name "Most Excellent Superbat" (probably Morrison), but the fact that he's the result of a drunken stupor shows.

I'm immediately reminded of that scene from the Bill Murray film Lost in Translation where Murray's character winds up on a show with a totally inane guy (who really exists) who pretty much summed up every stereotype about how disgustingly superficial Japanese television is, and the Superbat seems to be that man in a superhero costume.

The thing that bothers me most about him is that he's just a wacky Japanese Superman/Batman wannabe without the others' pedigree in an existing genre.

And if you think his name is bad, just you wait...

Big Atomic Lantern Boy
A big guy wearing a steel vest with a round porthole in the chest -- behind the porthole we see an eerie X-ray image of his ribs and lungs. He fires destructive blue beams from the plate window in his chest. The whole contraption is bright green.

He's a big, shrug and "so what?" kind of guy. Fatalistic. He's the guy who drops deadpan, acid one-liners at perfectly inappropriate moments. He's Superbat's faithful right-hand man.


Another character that screams "Grant Morrison made this!" just a little too loudly. At least he has a personality, though.

Bad names? The worst is yet to come...

Shy Crazy Lolita Canary
A tiny winged girl in a manga schoolgirl outfit. She's the size of a canary and has a shatteringly loud voice, which sounds like many, many voices all mashed together. It's the sound of the shopgirls in every Tokyo store screaming SUMMMIMMMMMASSENNNNN!!! as loud as they can, at the highest pitch possible and en masse. A totally air-headed teenaged girl with a good heart.

What. The. Fuck?

Okay, first of all, she seems to be the token magical girl, though she comes across as more of a shounen/seinen fetish character like Lum or Belldandy than a shoujo audience surrogate like Sailor Moon.

Secondly, the "sumimasen" ("sorry!" or "excuse me!") seems to be a dig at the dojikko/clumsy girl moe archetype that a lot of anime fans seem to dig, but which does not appeal to me whatsoever.

The loose socks are a nice touch, though.

Shiny Happy Aquazon
Giggly, shy, annnoyingly cute but fiercely brave denizen of the deep. She's the amphibious, defiant offspring of Junior Waveman Kimura and uses special underwater machines to fight alongside her teammates. She's not very good at what she does, but everyone likes her and nobody wants to say anything.

She seems to be the embodiment of the sexy and physically powerful but emotionally juvenile character type -- I'm reminded of a more infantile version of Youko Ritona from Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann or Shana from Shakugan no Shana. I think that this was another subtle dig on Morrison's part but she doesn't come off as an appealing character.

Well-Spoken Sonic Lightning Flash
Basically, Sonic the Hedgehog meets Impulse. A precocious speedster kid with a huge round helmet and giant running shoes who can reach speeds up to 500 mph. He knows he'll wind up a salaryman in a few years, so he intends to have the time of his life while he still can.

Another character whose origins are clear: He's a video game character come to life, with a bit of the young shounen protagonist thrown in for measure. He's probably the Super Young Team member who least offends my sensibilities, though his name is the pits.

~~~

And that's it. I have to say that I seriously hate the Super Young team, mainly because they're blatant knockoffs of the Justice League. I get that that's the reaction Morrison is trying to evoke, but I think he could have done so with more original characters.

And what are up with their names? The Superbat and Lantern Boy are bad enough, but "Shy Crazy Lolita Canary?" "Shiny Happy Aquazon?" "Well-Spoken Sonic Lightning Flash?" I'm reminded of that other Asian team Morrison created, with names like "Accomplished Perfect Physician" and "Socialist Red Guardsman." Grant Morrison seems to think that the best way to make a character seem "Asian" is to give them a stupid idiosyncratic name.

On the other hand, I rather like Big Science Action, name notwithstanding. These guys come off as actual heroes, not media diva poseurs. They appropriate Japanese culture in weird and stereotypical ways, yet they still manage to feel strangely genuine. I'd like to see more of them.

All told, I think the thing that bothers me most is the casual racism involved in, as I mentioned, defining the whole culture by one trait: Superficiality. I'm one of the people who's still offended by Mother of Champions, and while these guys aren't half as offensive as some of the Great Ten or Egg Fu, I still feel like Morrison hasn't learned his lesson. He's from an overwhelmingly Caucasian country, I realize, so he probably has a rather one-sided view of race and ethnicity (see also anything Mark Millar has written at Marvel), but you'd hope somewhere along the line an editor would look at it and say "Chotto matte, kudasai..." I appreciate that Morrison is willing to go to great lengths for "The Concept," but when he sacrifices taste to do so, I have to shake my head and groan...

Of course, this all comes with an important proviso: Wait and see. There's a big possibility that these characters will only appear in a handful of shots and/or get killed shortly after they appear (a sad reality of modern comics), so all this hand-wringing on my part may be unnecessary.

And that's all I have to say for now. Ja, mata ne!

Monday, May 12, 2008

Caramelldansen feat. Super Smash Bros.

I seriously can't get enough of this video, just 'cause I'm a huge Super Smash Bros. dork. It's so joyous!

For those curious, the song is "Caramelldansen," by the Swedish band Caramell. The original non-remixed version is here. It's just a fun, nonconsequential dance anthem in the style of "The Locomotion."





I love how Ganon's all, "Screw you guys, I got my own beat!"

And Mister Game & Watch is just kinda freakin' out there.

Oh, and nice hips, Luigi. ;P

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Back to the Drawing Board

This is something that's been bothering me for some time.

It just bugs me when time-travel stories feature alternate timelines where things are present that just shouldn't be given the scope of changes that have been made. Specifically, people who were born after a history-altering event occurs should not be born. The larger the scale of the event, the less likely people born after it are to come into existence.

Say you go back in time and save Archduke Franz Ferdinand from assassination, trying to stop WWI from happening, and by extension Hitler and WWII. Now, events to which history was already rolling may still happen: Ferdinand's death was the spark that lit the European powder keg, but without the event, there'd still be a lot of very tense Europeans waiting for an excuse to go to war. It wouldn't go down exactly as it did in our timeline, and it may have different results, but it would probably happen in some form. (Plus our hypothetical time traveler should just know better that you can change anything in history except Hitler, but I digress :P)

However (and I'm quoting myself from a TV Tropes Wiki article), such an event (or lack of event) would disrupt the actions of pretty much everyone in the world as they reacted to it (or failed to react to it); after that point, practically no couple would have intercourse at the exact same moment they did in "our" timeline, so different eggs would be fertilized with different spermatozoa, leading to a completely different global population after the then-current generation is gone. There'd still be a Hitler, a Churchill, a Roosevelt, a Stalin, and so on, who would live very different lives... but there'd be no Bush, no Blair, no Kim Jong-Il (hmm, I'm liking this new timeline already...), and no hypothetical time traveler.

The most famous example I can think of is Back to the Future. The change to history is relatively small, but it still had a huge impact on George and Lorraine McFly's lives. There's no way they'd have sex at the exact same moment they did in the unchanged timeline, so neither Marty nor his siblings would be born. Instead, the McFlys would have a completely different set of offspring. They might name one Marty, but he'd have different genes from "our" Marty and a different upbringing.

So really, what should have happened for Marty is this: Marty goes back to the future, where there's a different Marty McFly (played by Eric Stoltz) and no one recognizes him, unless they happen to remember "Calvin Klein" from that one week 30 years ago. Doc Brown will have known of the alternate Marty and realized that he's not the same Marty he met in 1955, so he'll just keep waiting for "our" Marty to arrive in 1985. (He'd also probably also avoid stealing plutonium from those Libyan terrorists altogether, and the design for his time machine may be dramatically different.)

At this point, the only thing Marty can do while hoping for anything close to the original timeline he wants is to go back to 1955 again, catch himself before he interacts with anyone or anything (hopefully not causing the universe to implode in the process), and with his doppelganger go back ahead to 1985 to save Doc before he's gunned down. Unfortunately for him, stopping his past self from going back in time will erase both him and the Marty he intercepted from existence (oh, and his dad's still a loser and the happy and successful Stoltz-Marty from the new timeline is wiped, too), but at least Doc ain't dead.

All this hassle could be avoided if the DeLorean had some means of "jumping tracks" between different timelines so he gets back to "his" 1985 without a hitch (and the flux capacitor can't do that... yet), but that means Doc dies all the same.

There are probably a whole slew of paradoxes that I'm not even considering here, but that's why you shouldn't ponder time travel so early in the morning.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Biff Bam Bust

Well, my friendly local comics shop, Biff Bam Boom, went out of business.

That's very disheartening.

I was really happy today 'cause I was done with finals and I just finished my last day of school, but when I got to the store all the shelves were empty. The owner, Tony, was at the register, presumably to break the bad news to his customers. He told me what was up. We quietly exchanged words and expressed regret over the turn of events. I thanked him for providing such an awesome service for so long, and he thanked me for my patronage. I wished him a good life. We went our separate ways.

I'm feeling pretty emotional about this for some reason.

Tony also told me that the only other comics shop in town had gone out of business three months ago. The nearest place now is in another state.

So now I have three options if I want to keep up my comics habit. I can get someone to drive me to Enfield, Connecticut week after week, which I really don't want to bother with because of the distance and travel time, not to mention the high price o' petrol. I can buy individual issues online, which will be more expensive because of shipping and handling. Or I can wait until the series I follow come out in trade paperback collections, which is less expensive but entails a delay of up to six months after the last issue comes out.

So, yeah. I'm kinda screwed.

Well.

So long, Tony. So long, Biff Bam Boom. Thanks for all the comics. Thanks for all the memories.

Symphony in the Key of M

I have to warn you. This may potentially be the most awesome thing you see today. So if you have plans to do or see anything particularly awesome in the next 24 hours, I humbly recommend you put off watching this until after you're done with that just so it doesn't make your planned activities seem less awesome by comparison. I wouldn't want to ruin your day.



Incidentally, my favorite part is the bit with the theme from Air.