Archive for the ‘Comics’ Category

batfleck

The internet exploded on the evening of Thursday, August 22, 2013 with the official press release that Warner Bros had picked Academy Award-winning director/screenwriter/actor Ben Affleck to portray Bruce Wayne/Batman in the 2015 sequel to this year’s Man of Steel.  I was in a screening of the home invasion flick You’re Next (it’s really good, go see it) when the news broke but upon seeing mention of the casting on my Twitter feed I immediately started scrolling through my history to gauge the reaction of those I follow.  I’d love to say I was surprised by the unfettered negativity to which I was exposed but as this was the internet (let’s be honest about this) it seemed par for the course.

Speculation had run rampant as to who would portray the Dark Knight since Comic-Con in San Diego where Warner’s announced plans to introduce the Caped Crusader into the Superman universe in the follow-up to the worldwide smash.  I love Man of Steel and felt it was a great reintroduction to the character.  However, there was much fanboy outcry as to certain decisions the filmmakers made.  A sequel was certain but there was most likely some behind-the-scenes concern about the overall reaction to the film.  Execs were speculating prior to its release that it might end up being the biggest money-maker in the studio’s history surpassing even the huge performances of Christopher Nolan’s  Dark Knight films.  It failed to reach those lofty heights domestically, grossing just under $300 million dollars which combined with worldwide grosses made for a hefty total of $650 mill.  That’s a lot of skrilla but when compared to the $1 billion worldwide Marvel’s Iron Man 3 made earlier in the summer it was almost certainly disappointing.

Marvel, owned by Disney, has set up their own studio and made a series of interconnected movies starring characters that were probably unfamiliar to anyone who didn’t have at least a casual history of reading comics.  Beginning with the inspired casting of Robert Downey Jr as Iron Man and ending with the dream team-up of all their heroes in the fun (but overrated) Avengers, the first phase of their movie universe was an unqualified success.  Some of the flicks were better than others but overall it was a job very well done.  Marvel has begun the second phase of their film saga which will ultimately lead to a second Avengers film.  These films include the already released third Downey flick, sequels to Captain America & Thor flicks, and the untested Guardians of the Galaxy, a little known property of the Marvel Universe which is easy pickings for reinterpretation.  It’s the only crap shoot in the lot and the only one I’m looking forward to.  They are already planning a third phase of films rumored to feature a whole bunch of B-list characters.  The majority of the world’s population has never heard of Ant-Man, Doctor Strange and Black Panther.  I’ll be very curious to see the box office numbers on THOSE characters.

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And that brings us back to Warner’s and the biggest problem facing a studio desperate to bite off some of that box office pie that’s being hogged by the house that Walt built.  Because let us never forget that studios are in the business of making money and making as much money as they can.   To compete with Marvel/Disney on this battlefield, DC/Warner’s needs to jump-start their universe filling it with the likes of a Flash, a Wonder Woman and (another?) Green Lantern.  But no one’s going to watch a Justice League movie for those characters alone.  You need a Superman and you most definitely need a Batman because THEY are the icons.  If you show their symbol to some kid in Baghdad, there’s  good chance that kid’s going to know what it means.  So, of course, there will be insane scrutiny where matters of casting these characters are concerned.

The studio went the Christopher Reeve route when casting the latest Kal-El by choosing a relative unknown to anyone who hadn’t seen Showtime’s The Tudors.  I felt Henry Cavill did a very good job (with some obvious room for improvement) and I look forward to his future work as the character.  If the film had done even better, they MIGHT have let him have another movie all to his own to further his story.  But that didn’t happen.  So how do you generate excitement for a sequel?  You give the fans what they want.  You give them something they’ve been promised for many, many years.  You give them Superman AND Batman.

Supposedly, Christian Bale was offered fat stacks of cash to once more reprise his role as the world’s angriest orphan.  He turned them down.  So what next?  Do you go for another unknown a la Supes?  Do you go old or young?  What the hell do you do?  Because, as has become all too apparent, whatever you do someone (most likely a lot of someones) is going to be pissed.  And why do we get pissed?  Why do we care so much?  Because, as I said earlier, they are ICONS.  We’ve all done our dream casting.  We all have our ideal.  Those who care have been casting this movie for decades.  Sure I would’ve loved to see Clint Eastwood portraying a grizzled Bruce Wayne once more donning the cowl to fight an insane Joker and a fascist Superman.  Twenty years ago.  Never happened.  Never will.  Time to move on.  And so the studio does some testing, has actors read, God knows what.  And they make a decision.  And the wailing and gnashing of teeth begins…with a fury.  Because, this is Batman and we all have our own Batman.  And, I guess for many of you, Affleck ain’t him.

And that’s okay.  You’re entitled to your opinion.  I bet you go see it though if for no other reason than to hate watch it and talk about it on whatever social media service is popular in 2 years. It’s what we do.  We’re geeks.

I’m old enough to remember the negative reaction to Michael Keaton’s casting in the titular Tim Burton film.  No one, it seemed, was thrilled at the notion.  The movie came out and, as it turns out, Keaton did a good job.  He might be my favorite modern Batman.  So, if Mr. Mom can do it why not Chris Knight (yes, that’s a Real Genius reference and I’m damn proud of it)?  How about that one guy who was in The Facts of LIfe?  Ooh, I know…let’s get that kid from Empire of the Sun!  You mean the one who grew up to be Patrick Bateman?  Yeah, that guy!

Seriously, take a look at these dweebs.  Do any of them scream Bruce Wayne?  Can you see any of them under the cowl?

You gave them a chance.  To the tune of $1,895,000,000. And some loose change.  So if you’re willing to support them, why not this guy?

Settle down Nerds and give O’Bannion a chance!

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The urban dictionary defines NERD RAGE as a term used to describe extreme anger, offence, indignation, and other similar emotions by a nerd, geek or similar which can be triggered upon seeing a favorite film/show/comic book/etc degraded or insulted in some way

As long as there have been books and comics with fantastical elements that have been adapted into television programs or motion pictures, there have been nerds complaining that said films or programs based on these fantastical comics or books do not closely enough adapt the material contained within said comics or books.

In other words,  nerds like them books, illustrated or otherwise, and take great umbrage when them thar movies aren’t exactly like their beloved tomes.

To this I must say

The most recent perpetrator of this terrible crime, it would seem, is HBO’s Game of Thrones.  I love the show.  Think it may be one of the best things on the ole’ boob tube these days but I have to be honest and admit that I have not read one single word of George R.R. Martin’s magnum opus.  Many of my friends have and attest to it’s greatness.  I’ll take their word for it.  I’m sure it’s alright.  I’ve just never had an interest in ‘high fantasy’ as I understand it is called. 

Over the last few weeks of the series’ second season, I have seen more and more complaints on Twitter and Facebook that it’s starting to stray from the source material.  People are dying or not dying when they’re not supposed to.  Events are not taking place in the proper order or perhaps not happening at all.   And the greatest crime a television/film adaptation can make is to create entirely new events out of thin air.  Man, that shit ain’t right.

Sorry I can’t be more specific.  Like I said, I haven’t read the books.  And I don’t tend to read the complaints.  I’m not too terribly worried about spoilers but I don’t go search them out.  As long as Tyrion doesn’t die, I don’t care.

Pimp

One of the biggest television hits of recent years has been AMC’s The Walking Dead based on the Robert Kirkman comic book of the same name.  Mr. Kirkman sold the series as a depiction of what happens after the typical zombie movie is over.  The survivors make it out of the city but their ordeal is far from over.  It’s just beginning.  The series is quickly approaching its 100th issue which is something most new series from Marvel or DC never even get close so it’s safe to say it’s an unqualified success.  The TV show is no different in that regard.  The ratings steadily improved over the course of the second season.  I’m a big fan.

The TV series quickly established after the pilot episode that it would not tell the exact same story in the exact same manner that Mr. Kirkman did.  The first season ended with an episode set at the abandoned CDC in Atlanta that never happened in the comic.  A character survived much longer than the did in the series and another died years before he did in print.  New characters were created and familiar characters acted different.  There were different romantic pairings.  Most of the same storybeats were there but they were approached in a new manner.  They did eventually get to Hershel’s farm and eventually wise fans of the show came to see Hershel as the badass he truly is.  I’m glad he’s going to be around for Season 3.  He dies in the comic.  Here’s hoping that doesn’t happen on film.

 

Busting caps in zombies like a mothereffin’ boss

The Harry Potter books and The Lord of the Rings novels are geek catnip and both were translated into ridiculously successful film franchises.  And both took great liberties with how the stories were translated to film.  Perhaps, there are budgetary reasons why changes are made.  Maybe cuts were made to make the story manageable and to fit within a reasonable running time.  There are innumerable reasons why things in print don’t get to the big screen.  These decisions are made by people who know a lot more about what works than I do. They are stupid rich because their movies make money.  That’s not a bad thing, mind you.  That’s the reason the movies get made.

Would I consistently make the same choices that producers, writers, and directors make in how to adapt the stories?  Obviously not and it doesn’t matter because those choices are not available to me.  But you know what is available to me?  The books.  The comics.  No one can change those.  They’ll always be there for us.  No series or movie can change that.

Bottom line:  If the story being told to me in the moving images on a big screen in a building or the little one in my living room is enjoyable, well told and well acted, it wouldn’t matter to me if it were adapted from a piece of toilet paper.  Good is good.  That’s all that matters.

I like these things. You should too.

The Dudley & Bob Morning Show (93.7 KLBJ FM Mon-Fri 6A-10A)

For 20 years, the premier duo of Austin radio have been bringing a healthy dose of morning reality to the FM dial. A buddy of mine listens to their cross the hall rivals claiming that he doesn’t like the bickering and bitching that comes with the guys but hell that’s half the damn reason I love them. But, there’s so many other reasons to listen.

Dale is borderline neurotic and moody, Bob can be petulant, and funnyman Matt Bearden consistently stirs the pot into a frothy state of excitement. Add in the perpetually defensive Daniel Gallo and the ever unpredictable Carissa Jaded, the freshest presence on radio in many a year, and you have a killer combo that Dale calls the best team he’s had in over a quarter century in Austin. And he’s right. Despite their frequent differences, you can tell the crew genuinely care for each other and would if not take a bullet for the other at least let it graze them.

Through numerous producers, associate producers, interns, and wacky sidekicks I’ve been hanging with the show since I moved to Austin in 2000. I was listening to them the day the towers fell and have shared every major world occurrence with them since. I see no reason to change that now.

Frozen Planet (Discovery Channel, Sundays 7PM)

The newest BBC documentary series from the team that brought us Planet Earth is absolutely beautiful in hi-def. It’s just getting started but I can already tell I’m gonna love it as much as I did its predecessor. This stuff is a joy to behold. It’s a rare treat to see, in the best possible format, things that you’ll almost certainly never get to see first hand. Check it out now on Discovery or wait for the Blu-Ray, but don’t miss it.

Y: The Last Man (DC Comics/Vertigo)

Back when I was working at the funny book store, this was my go to suggestion for anybody who was ‘looking for something good to read.’ It was my go to because it was the BEST thing to read.

In the summer of 2002, a plague of unknown origin wipes out everything with a Y chromosome save one clueless twentysomething and his pet monkey. The setup is remarkably easy but what follows is a fascinatingly complex study of the sociopolitical consequences of a world entirely run and populated by women. Beyond the global scale of the story is the personal tale of Yorick Brown and Ampersand, our heroes, as young Yorick tries everything he can to reach Australia and his lost girlfriend in the wake of the destruction of the worldwide infrastructure.

In turns funny, thrilling and tragic it has everything one would hope to find in the epic and personal story of the last man on Earth.

The first issue in September 2002 was the single best introduction to a comic series I’d ever read and I haven’t read a better first issue since. The series concluded in 2008 after 60 issues in bittersweet and perfect fashion. The entire series has since been collected in various formats and is available at finer comic stores everywhere. I can’t recommend it highly enough.

The Urban Dictionary defines NERD RAGE as a term used to describe extreme anger, offence, indignation, and other similar emotions by a nerd, geek or similar which can be triggered upon seeing a favorite film/show/comic book/etc degraded or insulted in some way.

The intrawebz are on fire today with ‘nerd rage’ as innumerable people spew vitriol and share their passionate thoughts on the multiple Watchmen prequel projects officially announced this morning by DC Comics.

Are there NO sacred cows? How can they spit in the faces of Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons like this? How dare they?

The answers in order: There ARE none. Gibbons gave his blessing and Moore literally forfeited his right to care. And money, lots and lots of money.

For the uninformed, Watchmen was a 12 issue mini-series written by Alan Moore with art by Dave Gibbons. It was released in the mid-late 80’s and is considered by comic book historians and fans alike to be one of the seminal projects in the history of the industry and, quite possibly, the greatest ‘comic’ story ever told. To say it is held in high regard is an understatement.

After its initial release, it became one of the first collected editions DC ever put out and went on to become the best-selling ‘graphic novel’ of all time (graphic novel being a bit of a misnomer here because I’ve always considered a GN to be original material seeing print for the first time whereas this collection would be more appropriately considered a trade paperback or TPB.) It’s been in print ever since and even landed on TIME’s list of the 100 Greatest Novels. It’s a veritable golden goose for DC and a gateway drug for many looking to get a taste of what the medium can offer.

I’m not going to get into the question of the ownership of the property or the business ethics behind the issue. I do invite you to go online and review the history of the project. Wikipedia or any of a number of comic sites will fill in the fine details. Ultimately, wherever one’s opinion might fall regarding DC Comics’ contractual practices, the facts reflect that they have every legal right to publish these comics. They own the property because they have kept it in print for the past quarter century. Period. This is not in question.

Mr. Moore and the publisher, whose parent company is Time Warner, have at best a contentious relationship. In fact, Moore has for all intents and purposes retired from comics writing and pretty much seems to hold the majority of the industry to scorn. He forfeited all rights to the film adaptations of Constantine, V for Vendetta and Watchmen. Furthermore, he indicated in an interview that DC approached him and offered back to him the full rights to Watchmen if he would bless and work on (in some unstated capacity) prequel and sequel projects. He refused. He said he didn’t want them back.

Mr. Moore is a crazy, old coot. He’s a grumpy, old man. He’s become bitter and spiteful. If you’re a comics fan, don’t feel sorry for Alan Moore. He couldn’t care less about you.

C’mon, Alan! Just one smile? Please!? No? Meh.

He’s also a bit of a hypocrite. In the wake of this announcement, he’s grumbling quite a bit. He’s upset that someone would touch his creation. But here’s the rub. Watchmen famously began as an unsolicited pitch using the Charlton Comics characters DC had recently acquired. When it became obvious that Moore’s plans would require the death, crippling or spiritual destruction of a large number of these characters (characters HE did not create and that the publisher had just payed for,) the editors requested that the writer resubmit using his own creations. Characters like Nite Owl, Dr. Manhattan and Rorschach became clever analogs of the Blue Beetle, Captain Atom and The Question.

History reflects that Moore has made a career of taking over other people’s creations and altering them to suit his vision. Len Wein created Alec Holland & Swamp Thing. Moore made Holland an imprint of a personality on a plant elemental and wrote a brilliant run of The Saga of the Swamp Thing. Mick Anglo created Marvelman in the ‘50s. Moore picked up the character in the ‘80s, made the entirety of the 50’s run a virtual reality dream, and went on to tell one of the most ‘adult’ runs of a comic I’ve ever read (released in the U.S. by Eclipse Comics as Miracleman.)

And let us not look past the fact that his greatest success of the past 10-15 years is The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, a superstar team-up of public domain characters created by long dead authors who could have no input on their use.

Don’t get me wrong. I pretty much love all that stuff. I bought Watchmen and Swamp Thing as they were coming out. I collected V for Vendetta. I bought The Killing Joke and the Whatever Happened to The Man of Tomorrow? issues of Superman and Action Comics. I was a big fan. I still have all those original issues, too. Again, big fan.

You know who else I’m a fan of? Darwyn Cooke. Brian Azzarello. JM Straczynski. Adam Hughes. Joe & Andy Kubert. Amanda Conner. I think it’s wonderful that Len Wein is involved. In addition to the previously mentioned Swamp Thing connection, he served as an editor on the original series. These are not struggling writers or artists taking a project cause they need the money and every single one of them is probably realizing, today more than ever, that the whole of the industry will be looking to see what they do.

Make no mistake. DC is doing this to make money. Of course they are. That’s their business. And they will. Hand over fist. That’s irrelevant. They could have done this 5, 10, 15, 20 years ago. But the impression I get from the various interviews I’ve read today was that they finally landed on a group of creators who had the right ideas who they could trust with the responsibility of expanding on the SINGLE GREATEST COMIC BOOK STORY EVERY WRITTEN IN THE HISTORY OF THE ENTIRE WORLD AND CREATION AND STUFF. I’m willing to give those brave guys and gals a chance to make that money.

My opinion may not be popular but then again neither am I, nor do I want to be. Me? I’m gonna buy the first issues. And if I like those, I’ll buy the second. And if at any point I stop liking them, I’ll stop buying them. You’re welcome to do the same. Or not. I don’t care.

As a cranky, old editor once said to a mouth-breathing, fat ginger, “I leave it entirely in your hands.”

Oh yeah, if you’re one of those people who have no idea what the hell I’ve been talking about, might I suggest you check out the original series? It’s available at a reasonable price at any reputable comic book store and you can get it on Amazon as well. It is quite good. In fact, it’s excellent.