Reactionary!

Some brief reactions to things I’ve seen, read, or experienced lately:

Doctor WhoDoctor Who, back on weekly television – it’s a beautiful thing. And the amazing part of it all is that Erin has been watching it with me, and actually enjoying it to boot! I think she started out of guilt, figuring she’d just watch the first one with me since I’ve sat through more episodes of stuff like Real World/Road Rules Challenge with her than I’d ever want to think about, but in a very short time she’s gone from “That kind of held my interest” to “Yeah, I actually enjoy this.” It all feels so, I don’t know… validating, maybe?

And hey, look, Television Without Pity is watching, too… how cool is that?

Anyway, people of Earth, please watch Doctor Who on Sci-Fi Channel and make it a hit. I really want it to be popular enough for them to pick up the upcoming David Tennant episodes.

Detective Comics 817 & Batman 651 – My initial plan was to wait for the trade on this story, but the return of James Robinson had my curious enough to check out the first part, and I liked the first enough to check out the second. And wow, not a whole hell of a lot happens, but for one thing, Robinson’s Write-Fu is strong enough that he can make so little action still seem compelling; also, after years of the “crazed, bitchy loner on a suicide mission to end all crime” stories that we’ve had to endure for so long, it’s very refreshing to find a Batman and Robin story that actually reads like a Batman and Robin story. You used to have to go to the animated series tie-in books for that.

Shazam! 8, 12, & 13 – Three of the always excellent “100 Super Spectacular” issues that DC put out in the 70s, picked up surprisingly cheap on eBay. So much excellent golden age Marvel Family stuff here… it’s like a “Best Of” Archives volume at a fraction of the price, and without the introduction by someone like Michael Uslan that you weren’t gonna read anyway. Even the then-modern stories contained in 12 & 13 (8 is all reprints) are pretty decent… as I’ve said before, I think the people writing the characters then still understood that Marvels work better in fanciful stories than in straight-out superhero action. A question, though… anyone know if Bob Oksner based his “updated” look for Mary Marvel on Susan Dey? Because the Mary story in #13 wouldn’t look out of place in an issue of “Laurie Partridge’s Comics & Stories.”

See what I mean?

"...And it really came together when Uncle Marvel sang along."

Ultimate Avengers: The Movie – Netflix left this in the mailbox for me, so I figured the least I could do was watch it. And you know, it wasn’t particularly good – the animation seemed a little stiff, and some of the voice work was almost 80s anime translation bad – but it wasn’t so bad as to make me turn it off. It’s not great, it’s not terrible, it’s just sort of there. In the end, all I can really say about it is that this was a movie that I watched.

True Hollywood Story: Saved by the Bell – Erin and I caught the first few minutes of this, and before we knew it, we reached the simultaneous conclusion that yes, indeed, we would be watching the whole damn hour of this without any guilt or reservations whatsoever. Not as much of a train wreck as other TV show-based episodes of THS – no shocking revelations about Screech snorting coke off of Kelly’s ass or Slater giving hepatitis to one of the girls from California Dreams or anything – but still surprisingly compelling. It also served as a chilling reminder to me that for all I've claimed to dislike Saved by the Bell over the years, I've seen a frighteningly large number of episodes.

Tacos – I loves me some tacos, but I like the kind I make at home a lot better than those I get anywhere else, be it a sit-down restaurant or fast food joint. I made some the other day, and I think they kind of ruled. My style is pretty simple – brown up some ground meat (this time, ground turkey), mix in some Old El Paso taco seasoning, cut up some lettuce and tomatoes, and throw it all into a warmed-up tortilla. I skip the cheese, sour cream, hot sauce, and so on… I like ‘em nice and simple. And frankly, my Taco-Fu is pretty damn strong, if I do say so myself. Sure, you could “run for the border” when a taco craving strikes, but if you’re anything like me, you usually find yourself running for the john before too long. Save yourself the gastrointestinal discomfort and make your own. And try making them with ground turkey instead of beef; I find it takes the seasoning better.

The 40 Year Old Virgin – Okay, if everyone in the entire free world saw this movie in the theaters last year, why did it take us about 4 months to get this from Netflix? Seriously, this was listed as “Very Long Wait” from the day it came out until about 2 weeks ago. What’s up with that, America? I know there’re no late fees with Netflix, but how about returning the popular new releases in a slightly more timely manner so we all get to see them, hmm? Anyway, yeah, this was decent. A bit overrated, probably, and the extended material (having not seen this last year, I don’t know exactly what was added, but I think I have some good ideas) was extraneous at best and more likely not needed at all, but it was a nice mix of laughs, raunchiness, and some surprisingly nice bits. And it was loads better than Wedding Crashers, which remains one of the worst movies I’ve seen in quite some time (annoying, overly long, and painfully unfunny). So it has that going for it, which is nice.

Why DC's Who's Who rocks your lame ass (part 1 of probably a bunch)

Since the mid-80s, Marvel and DC fans have often argued over which series is the better collection of arcane comics lore - The Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe (or OHOTMU for the acronymically inclined) or Who's Who: The definitive Directory of the DC Universe.* To be honest, OHOTMU has the clear advantage in a number of categories: 3 to 4 page spreads for the more important characters, extremely comprehensive character histories, in-depth power descriptions, and of course, those insanely detailed technical drawings of any and every piece of equipment a character owns. If you know the individual functions of each of the Mandarin's 10 rings, you most likely own a complete run of OHOTMU. You do not, however, have a girlfriend.**

But does OHOTMU have the likes of indie comics legend Jaime Hernandez drawing members of the Legion of Super-Heroes?


Nope.

(Hey, they kinda look like Maggie and Hopey dressed up for Halloween, don't they? I just noticed that. Cute.)

Awesomely eclectic art selections. This is why, despite some odd layouts and a somewhat bewildering abbreviation of character details, DC's Who's Who series rocks your lame ass.

And, admittedly, this is probably the only reason. But it's enough for me, dammit!


*Well, I've never actually heard or read any arguments about this, but seeing as comic book folks argue about everything, I figure it's a pretty safe assumption. And if you would please kindly refrain from poking holes in my thesis statement, I'd greatly appreciate it.

**This joke was required by law. You don't believe me? Look it up, fanboy.

Today's Soundtrack

New iPod play list, with the breathtakingly original title of "3/20/06." Me am creative.
  1. Kid Astro - Ralph's World
  2. Lucas with the Lid Off - Lucas
  3. Anti-Matter - The Aquabats
  4. Peace & Quiet - TheLibrarians
  5. Radio Free Europe (Original Hib-Tone Single Version) - R.E.M.
  6. Some Jingle Jangle Morning - Mary Lou Lord
  7. Scooter Boy - Tales from the Birdbath
  8. Radio Radio - Elvis Costello & the Attractions
  9. Instant Karma! - John Lennon
  10. The Bleeding Heart Show - The New Pornographers
  11. If I Can't Change Your Mind - Sugar
  12. Looking at the World From the Bottom of a Well - Mike Doughty
  13. Rock Your Socks - Tenacious D
  14. El Scorcho - Weezer
  15. The Ballad of Barry Allen - Jim's Big Ego
  16. Daydream Believer - Shonen Knife
  17. God Only Knows - The Beach Boys
  18. Four-Color Love Story - The Metasciences
  19. Take Your Carriage Clock and Shove It - Belle & Sebastian
  20. Reconstruction Site - The Weakerthans
  21. The Highwayman - Johnny Cash, Willie Nelso, Kris Kristofferson, & Waylon Jennings
  22. Alison's Starting to Happen - The Lemonheads
  23. Your Attitude Towards Cuttlefish - Paper Moon
  24. A Praise Chorus - Jimmy Eat World

You know what? I'm glib. I'm being very glib.

You know, it's funny... about 9 or 10 years ago, when the folks in the Heaven's Gate cult all snuffed it so they could all go join up with the aliens that were hanging out behind that comet (Hale-Bopp?), the news media was all "Yeah, they were pretty much insane." But this morning, when I was watching the Today show, Katie Couric is talking about this whole South Park/Scientology thing. She busts out her "serious" voice, the one dripping with her usual blend of false sincerity and utter BS, and asks "have the South Park creators gone too far this time?"

Now, I'm never one to promote religious intolerance of any kind, but come on people! This is not a serious story about belief-based persecution. This is a story about some folks using their cartoon show to make fun of a bunch of famous UFO cultists with more money than they reasonably know what to do with. The only difference I can see between Heaven's Gate and Scientology is that Scientologists get to keep their wieners. Allegedly.

Anyway, Comedy Central - owned by Viacom, which also owns Paramount, the studio releasing Tom Cruise's next movie, Mission Impossible 3 - pulled the episode from rerunning for the time being. And so, of course, it's already available on YouTube. Enjoy.

A shill, a girl, and a bunch of links.

The Great eBay Purge of '06 continues! I'm currently selling off:

There may be more to add in the next few days, but I'm not 100% sure yet. I try to do things in bunches of 4 or 5 in order to keep myself from constantly running to the Post Office (bleh). So as always, bid early, often, and honestly!



I've seen a lot of people online complaining about Frank Miller's cover for the upcoming All-Star Batman and Robin, The Boy Wonder, and Wow, Is This Title Ridiculously Long or What? #6:


...but I like it myself. For one thing, it ties into my admitted appreciation for cute depictions of Batgirl, and that's always a good thing. (Frank Miller can do cute? Who knew?) But beyond that, jangly earrings aside, this is actually a really good look for the character. Way better than that gimp outfit the Cassandra Cain version wore. And so - here's a phrase you don't see in the bloggyverse (or anywhere else online) much anymore - kudos to Frank the Tank on this one.



Linkblogginess!

Brian Cronin over at Snark Free Waters presents "The I'ds of March," 15 posts about things he would've done differently if he were the one making the funny books.

Mike Sterling unearths (ouch!) the cutest horror host in comic book history. Comic book depictions of ghosts have no right to be that foxy. (Also, thanks to Mike for helping me finally get my hands on a copy Bone Vol. 9: Crown of Horns. Yay!)

Alex at Listen to Us, We're Right proposes a new offshoot of Team Comics.

BeaucoupKevin proves that DC Silver Age comics may be the best form of entertainment ever invented. And a few days ago, he rediscovered what is quite probably Dr. Doom's finest moment in the comic book medium.

Tonight must be my night for fanboy ranting.

So I finally read Identity Crisis. And if you think you know where this is going, well, you're most likely correct. But I'll try to keep it short.

It's all about the power.

I've read numerous places that DC Comics gave Brad Meltzer a list of characters that it would've been okay to kill off in this story in order to give it more impact. The Martian Manhunter was on this list, as was the Atom. So was Sue Dibny, wife of stretchy sleuth, The Elongated Man. Meltzer figured that anything he did to the former two characters could later be reversed by editorial edict or a writer with an interesting new idea for either of them. He wanted his story to last. He wanted it to make an impact. He wanted it to have power.

So he kills off Sue Dibny. But he isn't content to just kill her off. First she's killed. Then her corpse is immolated. And then she's retroactively raped by one of the lamer supervillains in the DC pantheon (and considering that's a group that includes the likes of Kite Man, that's saying something, boys and girls). But even that's not enough, as this last event is then trivialized by never being mentioned again throughout the course of the story.

So it wasn't enough for him to kill the character or desecrate her corpse; he has to have her violated, humiliated, and then treated as if none of that actually matters. Meltzer had to show his power as a writer over her fate. He wanted to write one for the ages.

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not one of those people who’s going to run around calling Meltzer a rapist or a sicko or anything; my grip on reality is actually pretty strong, believe it or not, and I’m aware of the difference between writing a story involving these acts and actually going out and committing them. And also, I’m not one of those people who suddenly decided after reading this that Sue Dibny was my most favoritest character ever and that what happened to her in this story is evil and horrible and an abomination before the Lord or whatever internet people say. I will say, though, that she was a character with a long, rich history who deserved a more dignified, respectful exit than she received. Brutalized and then dismissed as a plot point (an intentionally misleading plot point at that) is no way go for such a creation.

I am merely saying this: rape, torture, degradation, murder… these are ugly, brutal acts designed to flaunt the power of the perpetrator over the victim. And Identity Crisis, to an obviously far lesser but still undeniable degree, was designed by Brad Meltzer to flaunt his power as a writer and shaper of children’s comic book heroes.

(And yes, I know, POW! ZAP! Comics aren't just for kids anymore! But guess what? These particular characters have always been and will always be primarily children's characters. Tart 'em up all you want, that's always going to be the truth at the end of the day. You don't see anyone trying to make Peter Rabbit into a fanatical cult leader, or Paddington Bear into a political prisoner, so why should anyone want to make Dr. Friggin' Light into a sex offender? But I digress.)

In the end, I’m not sure what I find more distasteful: that Meltzer thought this story was a good idea, or that DC editorial did.

But my opinion ultimately doesn’t matter to either party.

It’s all about the power.

Remember the ending to Superman 2? I'm not sure Bryan Singer does.

This is from the June solicitations list for DC Comics, which is up in all the usual places. I got the info here.

SUPERMAN RETURNS: KRYPTON TO EARTH
Story by Bryan Singer, Michael Dougherty and Dan Harris
Script by Jimmy Palmiotti & Justin Gray
Art by John Byrne
Cover by Adam Hughes
Produced in conjunction with Superman Returns director Bryan Singer and screenwriters Michael Dougherty and Dan Harris, four astonishing one-shots bridge the gap between Superman II and Superman Returns!
In the first, revisit the Man of Steel's origins and see the first glimmers of what has transpired since he left the Earth at the end of Superman II!
On sale June 7 o 40 pg, FC, $3.99 US

Okay, so as I recall, Superman 2 ended with Superman bringing back the piece of the White House roof and then rather shame-facedly saying "Um, yeah, sorry I just kinda took off like that. Booty call. Even I've got needs, ya know. Anyway, I'll try not to let that happen again." I never got any inkling that he then up and left the planet for good. Don't get me wrong, I agree with Bryan Singer that if you're going to make another chapter in the exisiting movie series, ignoring 3 and 4 is pretty much the way to go (sort of how everyone prentends Highlander 2 never happened). But this - and I wholeheartedly admit that this is a totally fanboy thing to complain about - this worries me a bit, because now it sounds like either A.) we have to pretend that Superman 2 ended differently; or B.) Singer took the "Superman flies off into the upper atmospheric sunset" shot that ends this and every other Reeve/Superman film a little too literally.

Strange, but true (though not really).

Swiped from several people:

Ten Top Trivia Tips about Bill!

  1. Ideally, Bill should be stored on his side at a temperature of 55 degrees.
  2. Julius Caesar wore a laurel wreath to cover up Bill.
  3. Antarctica is the only continent without Bill.
  4. In Vermont, the ratio of cows to Bill is 10:1!
  5. Bill was named after Bill the taxi driver in Frank Capra's 'It's a Wonderful Life'!
  6. The Asteroid Belt between Mars and Jupiter is made entirely of Bill.
  7. It's bad luck for a flag to touch Bill.
  8. The international dialling code for Bill is 672!
  9. When provoked, Bill will swivel the tip of his abdomen and shoot a jet of boiling chemicals at his attacker!
  10. The water in oceans is four times less salty than the water in Bill.
I am interested in - do tell me about
Yeah, I'd best watch out for #9 if I were you.

So when does Terry Cashman write a team-specific version of "Talkin' Baseball" for me?

Some folks over on the message board for the Comic Geek Speak podcast decided to get one of those free Yahoo fantasy baseball leagues going. I like baseball and have no working knowledge at all how fantasy baseball works, so I figured it’d be fun to join up and probably lose horribly. (Hey, I’m a Red Sox fan… 2004 aside, I’m used to losing horribly)

I was initially disappointed by the fact that even though we’re a bunch of comic geeks, we had to use real baseball players – no choosing Bugs Bunny at all, much less to play all 9 positions at once, nor the X-Men, even though they played baseball all the damn time – but I got over that pretty quickly and was able to adapt a real world strategy for draft night (which was tonight). That strategy was to pre-select a bunch of players I liked in order to draft them for my team once my turn came up, watch helplessly as most of them got picked off one by one, and then pick some folks at random when I ran out people I actually knew. (I’m neither an avid sports journalism follower nor a stats guy, so my knowledge of folks beyond the confines of Fenway Park is kind of limited)

But in the end, I think I cobbled together a team that just might not lose it all, though I wouldn’t put any heavy money on me. Here is my roster:

C – Jason Veritek
1B – Kevin Millar
2B – Marcus Giles
3B – Eric Chavez
SS – Julio Lugo
OF – Hideki Matsui, Coco Crisp, Milton Bradley
Utility – Shea Hillenbrand
Bench – Preston Wilson, Mike Sweeney, Pedro Feliz, Dave Roberts

Starting Pitchers – Tim Wakefield, Randy Johnson
Relievers – Brian Fuentes, Tom Gordon
Other Pitchers – Matt Clement, Mike Timlin, Bronson Arroyo
Bench – Esteban Loaiza, Bruce Chen

Ladies and gentlemen, unless they get traded or I lose ‘em all to injury, these are your 2006… AMBUSH BUGS!

Look, I told you, it’s a league of comic book people. I’m surprised no one called their team The Last Picked.

The Top 10 Films and then some.

Tom the Dog listed off his Top 10 (+20!) Films over on his blog and asked for reactions and other people’s lists. Seeing as I still have movies on the brain from watching the Oscars, I thought it’d be fun to play along. But I’m putting my list here instead of Tom’s comments section because, well, I could use the content. So here’s my list as it stands at the moment, off the top of my head and in no real order. I love ‘em all, and having to put them in some sort of ranking would be a real Sophie’s Choice for me.

Which is funny, because Sophie’s Choice isn’t on my list. But anyway, here they are:

  • Casablanca
  • Citizen Kane
  • Zero Effect
  • Amelie
  • Run Lola Run
  • North By Northwest
  • High Fidelity
  • Kiki’s Delivery Service
  • The Princess Bride
  • Monty Python and the Holy Grail

I’m the first to admit my tastes are pretty eclectic. There may some occasional wavering, but this is more or less my standard, can always count on ’em, official top 10. A few clich├ęd choices, perhaps, and a few out of left field, but I stand by each and every one.

Here are 10 more:

  • Lost in Translation
  • The Incredibles
  • The Goonies
  • To Sir With Love
  • Angus
  • Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid
  • The Empire Strikes Back
  • Singin’ in the Rain
  • Superman: the Movie
  • Lilo & Stitch

The problem with any sort of Top 10 list is that you only have 10 slots to work with. I enjoy each and every one of these movies a whole lot, and given a specific day or mood any or all of 'em could very easily wrestle their way into the top 10.

And 10 more:

  • About a Boy
  • Finding Nemo
  • The Creature from the Black Lagoon
  • Raiders of the Lost Ark
  • Batman: the Movie
  • The Heroic Trio
  • Annie Hall
  • UHF
  • Blazing Saddles
  • 2001: A Space Odyssey
And sadly, there are plenty of other movies I can name that for this list - Pulp Fiction, Head, Charade, Army of Darkness... hell, I could probably do this all night! I think what it all comes down to is that I’m entirely the wrong guy to come to for a Top 10 list. I need at least a Top 50 to really be fair. And even then I’d probably complain about having to leave stuff out.

I’m terrible at these sorts of decisions. Or, really, decision making of any kind. Just ask Erin sometime.

Some random Oscar reactions, in no real order and probably little or no actual logic or thought involved.

If nothing else, I’m honest.

  • I hear some people online are already proclaiming John Stewart “Worst. Host. Ever!,” but that’s the inter-ma-net for you. I thought he did a pretty good job, myself. He may have been a little nervous at first, and not every joke worked, but even Hope and Carson bombed once in a while, folks. Not as energetic as Chris Rock, or as clever as Steve Martin, but Stewart’s always been a pretty low-key comedian, so I pretty much expected that. Just so long as Whoopi never comes back, I’ll be happy.

  • I’ve always found Rachel Weisz to be pretty sigh inducing (those eyes, that accent, that cute little nose – sigh…) but she looked even more absolutely amazing than ever. That thing about pregnant women being especially radiant? It ain’t no lie, bucko. And, if I may travel into “stereotypical male” mode for a minute here, great googly moogly, looks like someone’s already got their “mommy boobs!” My sweet lord, how does she carry those things around… was that some sort of load-bearing dress? Oh yeah, I was glad she won, too.

  • Heh. In his fake acceptance speech, Tom Hanks thanked Hooch. That’s so amazingly awesome.

  • George Clooney – pretty much the Total Package – Hollywood Edition, huh? Charm, looks, talent, sense of humor, humility… this is why just about every woman on the planet (and, if truth be told, probably most of the men) would have sex with this man in a heartbeat. Plus, it makes me happy that there’s someone on this planet who can put “Oscar winner – Syriana” and “Zany Best Friend role – Return of the Killer Tomatoes” on the same resume.

  • I have yet to see the Wallace and Gromit movie, but I’m glad Nick Park picked up the win for this since I’ve enjoyed all of the other W&G shorts and Creature Comforts. It’s funny, though… seeing Helena Bonham Carter quickly jump up to congratulate Park and then turn and say something to Tim Burton, I can only imagine that she whispered something along the lines of “That’s it, Tim, we’re through. I’m gonna go break up his marriage now!” See, it’s funny, because Helena Bonham Carter is a homewrecking tramp!

  • I have no interest in Chicken Little, but the Joan Cusack-voiced character’s political speech about pants inequality at Disney? That was pretty damn funny.

  • Anyone else out there who would like to see – even just once – Ben Stiller come out on stage and just drop the shtick? You’re a funny guy Ben, but the constant pandering, it’s cheap. Even Jerry Lewis reins it in sometimes.

  • Speaking of which, next year, how about a lifetime achievement award for Jer? Considering his achievements on both sides of the camera, he’s more than earned it. And I’d like to see him get one while he’s still alive to receive it. Good choice on Robert Altman this year, though. I haven’t seen nearly enough of his films. (And, for the record, I actually kind of liked Popeye)

  • I can’t say I cared much for the Three 6 Mafia song (I was kind of pulling for Dolly, myself, but honestly, these were the three best songs from movies all year? I doubt that the pickings were that slim.), but I won’t begrudge them their enthusiasm for winning. It’s refreshing to see people at the Oscars completely ignore the whole “Hollywood cool” thing and actually be all “Holy shit!” about winning. Now if only I could’ve understood a single word that any of them said in their acceptance speech ; I think one of ‘em thanked Jesus, but everything else was pretty mumbly. Randy Newman has truly broken down the Oscar barrier for musicians who enunciate poorly.

  • I have no real problems with Crash beating out Brokeback Mountain for Best Picture. I think Brokeback was the better film, but Crash had the all-important Big Powerful Lesson that the Academy seems to love so much. Plus, Oprah loved it, and she pretty much runs the world now, right? Isn’t that why that asshat Dr. Phil has a show? But anyway, yeah, Crash was probably a little too self-important for its own good, but I liked it well enough. Of course, of the nominated films, those were the only two I’ve seen, so I can’t judge fairly. Really looking forward to Good Night, And Good Luck, though.

There was comic books on the tee-vee!

So during my dinner break at work I'm watching X-Play on G4 (don't laugh - it's the one watchable show on the whole network; plus, Morgan Webb is totally on my list), and a commercial comes on for a new horror manga title from Viz, something called "Monster." I couldn't believe it! Sure, the commercial seemed like it was made on the cheap, and it didn't make want to run out and buy the book, but still... a comic book commercial on actual television! I haven't seen such a thing in about 20 years. So while I may not exactly be the target audience, it's nice to think that someone out there might be as excited by this commercial as I was by those old G.I. Joe comic ads back in the day.