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May. 4th, 2011


Well, that took longer than I thought...

 Back again - hope to be posting a little more frequently now.  I've realized some personal value to doing this, so I'll continue with the reviews and commentary as often as possible.  

For today, my post would be to check out Mark Evanier's KING OF COMICS.  A truly masterful look at the life of one of the best comic book artists to ever grace this world, namely one Jack Kirby.  You may know Kirby as the artist of FANTASTIC FOUR, NEW GODS, ETERNALS, DEMON, CAPTAIN AMERICA and many others, but if you don't know of him, Evanier's book will set you straight.  Kirby, quite literally, was the "king" of comic book artists, especially when you consider that his work continues to evoke expressions of great enthusiasm from artists, today, even though he passed away almost 20 years ago.  

The man was a true artistic dynamo throughout the history of comics, and arguably, created the Marvel Comics that we know of today.  Most of the major characters at Marvel were created by Kirby, even though Stan Lee gets all of the credit.  Kirby was well known to be an idea man, and Stan often turned the initial idea over to Jack to flesh it out.  In the years that followed, Kirby developed artistically to a degree where he was bringing ideas to Stan, who basically okayed them and added some dialogue.  This period included the creation of characters such as Silver Surfer, Galactus, Black Panther, the Inhumans, etc.  Most of the major comics characters that Marvel has in their stable to this day were derived from Kirby ideas, or fleshed out by Kirby during his work with Stan.

Even Spider-man, long credited to Stan Lee and Steve Ditko, was most likely developed by Jack to start, and then altered by Ditko to suit his strengths, which were very different from Jacks.  Where Ditko was known for sweaty close-ups and skinny figures, Kirby countered with blocky, power-packed characters that quite simply exploded off the comics page.  

Give the book a look. Evanier's text is wonderful on its own, but next to the amazing artwork, it barely has a chance of attracting your attention.  
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Jan. 14th, 2010



As any of you who know me understand, I love me some books.  Therefore, many of the postings on this blog will be reviews of books, comics, magazines, etc.  All sorts of interesting stuff (okay, maybe that's pushing it, but I digress...).

Today's post is about METATROPOLIS, which is editor John Scalzi's attempt to form a universe with a group of SF and fantasy writers, with the intent of creating the fictional world, and then allowing other writers to play within that universe.    The stories were originally developed for an audio anthology featuring each of the writers, but Subterranean Press, an excellent publisher of exclusive and signed limited run books, decided to put out a print edition of the stories.  The result is terrifically entertaining.  Scalzi recruited fellow SF and fantasy writers Jay Lake, Tobias Buckell, Karl Schroeder, Elizabeth Bear and Scalzi himself to each write a tale about characters within this post-apocalyptic world, and the results are not a disappointment.  

I was a big fan of Scalzi's writing before reading this (I read his WHATEVER blog ever day - http://whatever.scalzi.com/), so I knew that it would probably be good.  Buckell is a new find of mine, having heard of his work through Scalzi, and Bear is an excellent writer and an author of some pretty terrific books herself.  Lake and Schroeder were the newcomers to me, and after reading this, I'll probably seek out more of their work.  I was especially impressed with Lake's "In the Forests of the Night," and the great characters that he established in the first story of the book.  I just wanted to read more about all of them. 

METATROPOLIS is currently sold out at Subterranean, but a trade edition is planned for the future, so there is hope.  Give this a try if you like a shared universe approach to fiction, as this one is worth the effort. 

Jan. 1st, 2010


Let's start this over again...

Hi - I'm still not sure that keeping a blog is worth the trouble, or that anyone even gives a #@#$! what I might have to say, but I will probably give this a try again in 2010.  Geez, it gives me the creeps to think that the Arthur C. Clarke's SEQUEL to 2001 has actually been reached in terms of our actual date.  Trying not to feel old, trying not to feel old...

We had the standard New Years eve, which means that we just hung around the house, ate food that wasn't particularly good for us and waited for the inevitable call of midnight.  The neighbors seemed particularly active this year, shooting off some fireworks in the street.  I even noticed some major air fireworks in the distance, originating from somewhere in the east.  Our incredibly quiet neighborhood actually had some energy for all of five minutes at 12:00am. 

Anyway - I'm off to figure out my year.  Hope that all of you had a good one as well.

Nov. 30th, 2007


Long time no see...

Hi again - It's been a long time.  This is one of the reasons why I never started a blog.  I just don't have the ability to provide consistent entries.  Anyway, I'll try to be better in the future, in the possible case that someone is actually reading this thing...  

I'll have some new additional postings soon.  I have some material to review and some other things to discuss.  In the meantime, welcome back. 

Aug. 3rd, 2007


Even with a new finish, it's still crap.

Over at Marvel.com, the esteemed web home of Marvel Comics, they've been running a series of articles about Marvel's history entitled MAKE MINE MARVEL.  The series tracks things in Marvel's history that remind one of their "greatness," such as the Mego dolls of the 70's and Marvel Universe cards, neither of which was all that "great" in my opinion.  One of the things that I find so hilarious about these tributes is that the articles have now moved into tracking Marvel's movie efforts of the past, especially the ill-fated CAPTAIN AMERICA movie of 1990.  

If you've never seen this thing, do yourself a favor and give it a look sometime.  It's an absolute train wreck.  Every single detail about the movie displays flaws, but some are so classic that they just deserve specific mention:

- Matt Salinger, who was cast as Steve Rogers, wears fake ears on the outside of his Captain America mask.  As you will remember, Cap's ears poke out of the side of his mask.  For some completely inexplicable reason, the director felt that fake ears looked better than the real thing and had the special effects group make up a few pairs.  All I can say is that I defy you to watch Salinger in the Cap suit and not stare at those goofy ears.  
- On top of that, the movie waits until the last act to even put Steve Rogers in the suit.  Oh, yeah, that worked out well.   Must have been the issue with the ears that delayed the use of the suit. 
- Albert Pyun was the director of the movie and he shot the film with lighting that is so dark that many scenes are completely lost in terms of detail.  If you watch the movie on a small television screen, you'll probably have trouble even figuring out what is going on at times.  I guess I shouldn't look a gift horse in the mouth.   
- The best action sequence of the movie is Steve Rogers riding on his motorcycle. 
- Scott Paulin, a pretty decent actor in the 80's, buries his career in the role of the Red Skull.  The mask that he wears could not possibly look any more fake than it does on film.  Paulin is actually more menacing using his own face than he is when he has the mask on.  

The problems associated with this thing go on and on.  This was made during the period when Marvel sent Stan Lee to Los Angeles to sell the Marvel characters for use in Hollywood productions, and he managed to sell them to some of the worst producers in the business.  This movie is actually one of the better examples, and it's flat out terrible.

Check out the new shine that Marvel puts on this turkey at: http://www.marvel.com/news/1.1197

Check out the movie if you've got a spare hour and a half and a need to watch some real crap.   

Jul. 26th, 2007


There is still hope for good comics reading

Despite my protests over the news about Darwyn Cooke leaving THE SPIRIT title at DC Comics, I have also discovered a new treasure during this past week.  I may very well be the last person to figure this one out, but I think it's worth noting anyway, in case there is anyone else out there who hasn't given this comic a try.  

This past weekend, I took a trip to San Diego, California with the family.  The trip was designed to be a 50th Wedding Anniversary present for my wife's parents, and not a trip to the San Diego Comic-Con, which is probably what I would have been doing on any other year at this period of time.  More about that in another post.  

I usually try and find something interesting to read before any trip, so that I can use some of the free time that comes with vacationing to get some reading done.  Along with copies of WRITER'S DIGEST, LOCUS, ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY and the current book that I am reading, Kate Wilhelm's history of the Clarion Writer's workshop, STORYTELLER, I decided that some comics were in order as well.  I always like to grab something that I can immerse myself in and spend a little more time with, so I grabbed a book that I've been interested in for years, but have just never picked up for any reason, EX MACHINA.  EM is the brainchild of the excellent Brian Vaugh, a comics writer so good that comics will undoubtedly lose him now to higher paying assignments, such as novel writing or screenplay writing, which he is currently doing as a writer for the television show, LOST.  I picked up the first volume of the EX MACHINA series, and I must confess, it was much better than I had even hoped.  Combining political intrigue and science fiction, with a relevant take on the superhero concept, EM is unlike any comic currently on the market.  I work for a City government, and I must tell you that Vaughn's take on Mitchell Hundred, the mayor of New York (and ex-superhero) is surprisingly accurate in the issues presented to Hundred in his job as Mayor.  The book is just layered with good characterization and plotting, and the subplots feel authentic and sharp as a tack.  

Not to be slighted by this review, the artwork by Tony Harris is astounding as well.  Harris uses photos to achieve real-life positioning in his figures, but in his work, the art doesn't feel stiff.  It just adds to the accurate feeling that is presented in the title.  I highly recommended that you give the trades a look when you next visit a bookstore. 

The Spirit is no longer Cooke-ing...

Call me the human death-knell or whatever you choose, but my earlier mention of Darwyn Cooke's incredible work on THE SPIRIT for DC comics seems to have resulted in terrible news.  I found out today that Cooke is leaving the title with issue #12.

From what I gather, Cooke has been reliant upon the inking of his friend, artist J. Bone to complete the artwork for each issue.  Bone has another commitment now and is no longer able to continue in that role.  Cooke, concerned about the quality of the artwork being produced for the book, has decided to leave the title himself.  

In a field full of re-hashed characters and poorly conceived plotlines, this book stood out like a jewel in the desert sun.  I hear that a new creative team will be selected for the book, but none will equal Cooke's amazing run on the title.  

Damn.  This is my favorite comic book being published today. 

Jul. 14th, 2007


The Pixies

When I get the chance, I tune in to AUSTIN CITY LIMITS and SOUNDSTAGE on the local PBS station, as they often have some interesting concert performances.  Last night, they re-ran the 2004 appearance of The Pixies, the seminal alt-rock band from the late 80's and early 90's.  The Pixies reformed in 2004, and I hear they are still going in 2007, but what this show proved to me that they still had all of the chops of their earlier incarnation.  

Lead by singer Frank Black, this band never delivered the expected.  They made a point of always staying in the land of the unpredictable.   

The Pixies were arguably one of the most interesting bands in alt-rock history.  Lead by Black, who is was known as Black Francis, they had their early beginnings at the University of Mass. when Black met guitarist Joey Santiago and began to jam together.  In the years to follow, they would meet the amazing Kim Deal, a woman who claimed to play the bass, but had actually never done so.  She actually learned on the job, so to speak.  Deal is known for also playing with her sister Kelley in the Breeders, a band that the sisters have struggled to keep together because of Kelley's consistent drug problems.  The Pixies were completed by adding Dave Lovering on drums when Kim's sister Kelley didn't work out.  The quartet combined their punk roots with 60's Beach Boy surf music, and lyrically developed some of the most challenging material recorded in the early 90's.  Even Kurt Cobain of Nirvana noted that their band "owed everything to the Pixies."

This recent concert just reminded me how incredible this band was, and frankly, continues to be.  Santiago is an amazing guitarist, combining great licks with atmospheric feedback storms that just take your breath away.  Deal has this terrific pop voice, which is used amazingly well in backup vocals (as well as some lead work) over her pounding bass.  You'd never know that she came into this band with little experience.  Lovering is a terrific drummer as well, and always keeps the songs drilling forward through the existential details.  Black, whose edgy vocals work amazingly well with Deal's, is just the epitome of a punk.  Lyrically, this band is astounding.  Songs like "Gigantic," "Wave of Mutilation," "Gouge Away," etc. just drive a stake into your brain while your ears swim to the melodies.  "Monkey gone to heaven" is arguably one of the greatest alternative songs in the history of music. 

At the heart of it, that's just what was so cool about viewing this concert.  Even though these former punks now are overweight, bald, have children at home and look like average middle-age people, they've still got it.   If you close your eyes and follow your ears, you can still hear those post-punks of the late 80's blasting out their tunes, fighting on stage about which song to sing one minute, and grinning like banshees through the sonic wail the next.  

Rock on, little Pixies. 

Jul. 3rd, 2007


(no subject)

What is it about Americans that causes everyone to plan their activities on exactly the same day?  Tomorrow is the 4th of July, which is a National Holiday for America, but jeez, it's only a single day off.  In addition, it's in the middle of the freakin' work week.  I guess I just don't really understand why EVERYONE has to do something on the same day, just because they have a day off.  

In two days after tomorrow, most people have two days off.  Why not do something then?

What am I doing tomorrow?  Holding a huge cookout with my wife's family.  In other words, we're joining that pack and doing something as well.   

We're all sheep. 

Jul. 2nd, 2007


The Spirit

I don't know if you're a comics fan, or for that matter, aware of a man by the name of Will Eisner, but if not, allow me to explain.  Will is considered today to be the father of many things in the comics industry, not the least of which is the graphic novel format (created for his CONTRACT WITH GOD graphic novel) and his incredibly cinematic approach to comics storytelling, which is utlized so effectively today by creators like Frank Miller, Darwyn Cooke and Bryan Hitch.  Eisner died two years or so ago, but his legend lives on in many forms.  

For one, DC Comics is now publishing new adventures of Eisner's most famous creation, THE SPIRIT.  One of the few creators alive today who can hold a candle to Eisner (although he wouldn't admit that) is creator Darwyn Cooke, best known for his work at WB animation (BATMAN BEYOND, etc.) and for his amazing work on CATWOMAN and his own graphic novel for DC, NEW FRONTIER.  Cooke is an amazing storyteller, and he's currently channeling the spirit (get it?) of Eisner in his work on this book.  Each issue is better than the last one, so please, if a comic book sounds interesting to you at any time in the near future, give this one a try.  

Second on the Eisner hit parade is the Odd Lot production of THE SPIRIT, a new movie in development by Frank Miller (remember him?).  Miller is best known for perhaps the most famous comic book ever created, BATMAN: THE DARK KNIGHT, as well as an intense run on Marvel's DAREDEVIL and his own creations, SIN CITY, 300 and RONIN.  With 300 doing bang-up business at the box office, and SIN CITY surprising everyone with its inventive look, Miller is the talk of Hollywood these days.  That situation has now provided him with the opportunity to develop THE SPIRIT for Warner Brothers, and only time will tell what the results with be.  Samuel Jackson is signed on as the Spirit's main villain, The Octopus, but casting the Spirit will be tough.  I'm expecting Miller to go with his SIN CITY star, Josh Hartnett, but I'm kind of hoping that I'm wrong.  

Eisner's graphic novels are all still in print from DC as well, as are the reprints of his original SPIRIT stories, so give 'em a look if you have the time someday.  You won't be disappointed. 

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