Monday, November 26, 2007

But I Prattle On

Like most good geeks—and readers of Wil Wheaton’s blog—know, the young, ex-Starfleet-ensign-turned-stepdad-and-author guest-starred on the CBS series “Numb3ers” last Friday as an arrogant comic dealer whose “unique” copy of a rare comic is stolen, resulting in the murder of a security guard on a convention floor.

Although Mr. Wheaton was not in the episode for very long, this past weekend a friend who also saw the show commented: “You know who Wil was playing, right?”

“Um, who?” I said.

“Todd McFarlane,” my friend answered. “Look at the character – a former comic artist who turned to buying rare comics only to turn them out for a profit.”

“Maybe,” I shrugged (at the time).

But now that I think about it, I’ll bet my friend was right. Bloggers on Wil’s site have seconded the motion more than once.

Is this alleged criticism of McFarlane fair, though? Well, sure. It’s not as if the man is above a knock, and despite my feelings that McFarlane is a poor writer and his art-style has declined from “relatively clean” to “more chaotic than Jackson Pollock” in a few short years, making money from comics is hardly illegal.

That’s why they are often called “investments.”

And there’s no doubt that McFarlane is an investor, and has diversified his interests into a decent-sized fortune. So bully for him, even if McFarlane is an arrogant jerk.

Finally, not that any of you were chomping at the bit to find out, but I’ve opted not to make a third consecutive trip to San Diego in 2008 to the big Con. While I enjoyed my two previous visits to the show, last year’s event felt like a carbon copy of ’06. In fact, I spent far more time exploring San Diego itself (and time well spent that was) than hanging at the massive Con Center where this unfortunate incident occurred....

Wally West is such a prick.

No warning at all, the bastard just sucker-punches me as I was browsing the Bud Plant booth and runs off like a little girl. But don't worry, I'll settle his hash but good.

Anyhow I’ll take a break from SoCal in 2008, and perhaps shoot for a few days in Las Vegas (to which I have never gone) instead. Ten bucks says on my first night in town my hands will quiver from the constant overstimulation of blinky lights.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Speaking of Shiny Objects

With the long holiday weekend (thank you very much) comes a share of time to kill, and what better way to put that time into its grave by exploring early holiday sales. So far, here’s what I’ve got (and mind you, all this stuff is for me; my X-Mas shopping list is very short, and thus, obtainable later):
  • Books of Blood: Vols 1-3 by Clive Barker
  • The Best of Rob Zombie (CD)
  • The Stephen King Collection – Stories From Night Shift (Audiobook)
  • Hell Girl – Volume One – Butterfly

So CHV, you say, planning a martial arts spree of destruction anytime soon? Not exactly.

For starters, while I’m not a huge fan of Clive Barker’s work, I think his prose is beautifully direct – with nary a hint of the passive voice that tends to plague my own writing. So why not get a huge source in one shot, and hope it rubs off? Secondly, for years I’ve heard a particular Rob Zombie track played on radio with no idea of what the title was. But I always liked it. Now, with the purchase of Rob's Greatest Hits CD I finally know what that title is ("Living Dead Girl") and can listen to the song at my leisure.

Thirdly, having enjoyed Frank Darabont’s adaptation of “The Mist” so this past week, I decided to revisit Stephen King’s short stories on audio - which on this version are read by John Glover (“Smallville”), an actor whose narrative voice I could listen to all day.

And at last, the “Hell Girl” DVD is something I picked up on a lark while browsing movies at Best Buy. It’s sharp anime, and packs a plot which truly personifies James Kirk's dreaded "no-win scenario," as described on the back of the packaging:

Beyond the veil of midnight lies a website: Type in the name of one upon you which you desire retribution – And it will be served.

If you truly desire to take revenge upon those who have wronged you, just untie the scarlet thread from the totem’s neck. Pulling this thread will bind you into a covenant with Ai Emma, who will ferry the soul of your tormentor straight into the depths of Hell.

However, once vengeance has been served, you will have to deliver on our end of the bargain. There always has to be a price to pay. When you die, your soul will also belong to Hell. You will never know the joys of Heaven.

The decision rests with you.


Gee, I wonder if Disney won't be adapting “Hell Girl” into its next Broadway family musical extravaganza anytime soon? And at $24.99 on DVD? Who wouldn’t snap that one up in a twitter?

Semi-seriously, I’m noticing a trend concerning the Japanese culture’s take on the supernatural: there are no such things as friendly ghosts, or in this case, schoolgirl emissaries from Hell. Both are constantly pissed off, and lacking a shred of mercy (sounds like Clive Barker, doesn’t it?).

But at any rate, I think “Hell Girl” was worth a sampling.

Uh, oh....

For further updates on my buying history, provided I haven’t scared the hell out of all of you (I also snagged the DVD box set of “Doctor Who – The Complete Third Season” this weekend, just so you don’t think I’m completely deranged, and wake up every morning saying “I don’t believe in fairies!” to enjoy the cheap pleasure of knowing I’ve begun my day by striking one of the spritely little bastards dead. Well, that’s not true – I do enjoy killing fairies each morning) I may add another item of two on a few shopping trips here in the near-future.

So stay tuned.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Review: "The Mist"

Seeing as how the day outside is bleak and rainy, what better conditions to use as an excuse to see a proper flick about a mysterious fog engulfing a small Maine town, and the hungry things that lurk within it?

In “The Mist,” we have writer-director Frank Darabont’s third screen adaptation of a Stephen King story – albeit unlike his two previous efforts (“The Shawshank Redemption,” “The Green Mile”) the source material is the type that is traditional of King: a tale that is part-Saturday afternoon thriller, part-social commentary, and part-post 60s acid trip.

Herein, Thomas Jane stars as David Drayton, a married artist and father who--after a violent storm that damages his house—heads into town for supplies with his young son and neighbor, a wound-up attorney (Andre Braugher) who once filed suit against Drayton and lost. While at the town supermarket, which is running on generators due to a power loss, both the store and everything around it is laid siege by a thick white fog.

At first, the persons inside the store believe they are caught in a natural phenomena – this is, until a man makes a break for his truck and dies screaming. And trust me, he won’t be the first to do so.

As nerves in the supermarket fray, and the tension is ratcheted up, a woman described as the town nutter, Mrs. Carmady (wonderfully played by Marcia Gay Harden) begins to spout Old Testament dogma that the mist is a sign of God’s wrath on a nation that has turned against Him. And although she is as frightened as anyone in the store, unfortunately no one follows up on an early threat (made by Toby Jones, as a surprisingly heroic store manager) to tape Mrs. Carmady’s mouth shut, as her religious rhetoric grows dangerously wild.

Later, after a series of incidents that nearly burn the store down--and despite his son’s tearful pleas that he not go--Drayton finally leads a small group to a next-door pharmacy to find medicines for the injured, and encounters some eight-legged samples of what the mist has brought. The fight for survival that ensues is not terrifying—more fun, actually—but it’s a neat twist on what becomes an impeccable dark ride.

As a Stephen King movie adaptation, “The Mist” is easily the best picture since 1990’s “Misery.”

And though that film is decidedly un-supernatural, Frank Darabont’s “Mist” is perhaps best described as “H.P Lovecraft Comes To Mayberry.” It’s a great idea, too, as is the claustrophobic setting of the store used to cage King’s characters (some of whom initially don’t believe the mist is a threat) is used as an incubator, growing their fears like a virus. At one point, in fact, it is suggested that throwing a group of otherwise rational people into a small space and scaring the hell out of them is a perfect way to strip humanity into its most primitive form (e.g. the Salem Witch Trials).

In this respect, and despite its over-the-top sci-fi invasion theme, “The Mist” is the best, most genuinely tragic horror film to arrive in 2007, and far, far superior to the trendy torture porn crap (i.e. anything with the word “Saw” in the title) which Hollywood has taken to pumping out in recent months and years.

Stick that in your Thanksgiving pipe and smoke it.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Talent vs. Not

This past weekend, was cruising the Saturday night TV after the Hawks game and ran across The Graham Norton Show on BBC America.

On it, KT Tunstall was the musical guest and played a track from her new album. I had never seen KT perform live before, but suffice to say, she kicked monster ass on the following grounds: a) she’s Scottish; b) she was very sweet and down-to-earth, and; c) she is brimming over with awesome musical talent.

Exhibit A:

Recently, I saw a Disney-endorsed sister duo try to cover the above song, and they failed horribly – both girls badly lacking the vocal range and soulful tone the song demands – which just goes to show what genuine musical talent really sounds like. I swear, man. Listen to the original KT Tunstall version, and then the Disney chicks' - which after fifteen seconds I defy you not to reach for an icepick to shove into your cranium and kill the noise.

That’s it. Rant over.

Did I mention KT kicks monster ass? I did? Well, just wanted to be sure.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

"Imagine, If You Will, a Load of Horseshit"

Wish as I might, I cannot take credit for this title line.

It was, in fact, written as the first sentence by John Scalzi regarding his impressions of The Creation Museum on a recent visit. And believe you me, "horseshit" is a metaphor Mr. Scalzi uses early and often to describe his feelings on the museum’s content which uses a literal reading of Genesis to explain the dawn of humanity, and revise modern science.

How the hell can some people believe this stuff, you ask (e.g. the human race fashioned by God from mud, magic, and the jawbone of an ass) – well, how the hell can some 21st century Italians still cling to Medieval superstitions of black cats being bad luck, and kill them in an effort to purge the “evil” mojo?

Creation Museum docents Fred and Barney explain to visitors how prior to
Adam and Eve's fall from grace, T-Rex was a vegetarian! Wheeee!

(Truthfully, there is an informational placard at the museum
which says just this - which begs the question that if all God's
critters were once exclusively vegetarian, does that include sharks?
If so, where did they get their roughage before the Fall? Salads
and the occasional honeydew melon? If so, why the serrated teeth,
as herbivores have only flat teeth for grinding plant matter? Did God
give sharks a mouth full of steak knives in advance because He
knew Adam would screw up eventually? Or did those choppers only show
up after said screw up, and over time? Say, isn't there a term for that process?
Wait, don't tell me...e...e..evo-something. Oh well, it'll come to me later.
Thanks to Ed Brayton for the J. Scalzi tip.)

Saturday, November 17, 2007

The Worst Liars In The World

Not to get all environmentalist on you all, but over on Yahoo News has word that a whaling fleet from Japan intends to take 50 humpbacks alongside its usual quota of fin and minke whales which (under its agreement with the International Whaling Commission) Japan is allowed to take for purposes of “scientific research.”

However, there are three gaping holes in the Japanese whaling consortium’s logic: a) in their minds, whales must be killed to be “researched”; b) the meat harvested is later sold to consumers for a profit, and; c) the vast majority of Japanese citizens don’t eat whale meat anyhow.

Further, there is longtime evidence that Japan is buying votes among smaller IWC member nations (mainly Caribbean) by offering them financial aid in exchange for a council nod allowing Japan to keep whaling. And of course, if those other nations want out of the agreement, the cash from Japan is cut off.

Nice racket, huh? Sort of reminds you of the Akuza.

So in short, those advocating whaling in Japan (a small, but extremely vocal group) are using these loopholes to openly harvest whales.

But why such a passion over whaling in this part of the world? From what little I know, the renewed drive to whale in Japan is cultural – as during WWII many Japanese lived off eating whale meat, a diet some still see doing so as a form of nationalist pride despite the vast majority of modern-day Japanese wanting nothing to do with whaling.

So outside of Greenpeace continuing to harass Japan’s whaling ships, there seems little that can be done to stop their operations.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Tragedies (Real and Imagined)

I’ll be the first to admit I know little about Amy Winehouse, other than her smoky, jazz-hued singing voice has won her big record sales, critical attention, and a loyal fan base. Well, that and a reputation—confirmed by Winehouse’s own family—for rampant drug and alcohol use that would make the late Hunter Thompson take notice while en route to his next line of coke.

But this morning, Yahoo posted a story on a recent Birmingham (UK) show by Winehouse which local music critic Andy Coleman called “the saddest night of my life.”

Click here for the gory details, but the short version says Winehouse arrived on-stage both late and hammered, then stumbled through a brief set list as her paid audience of 13,000 began leaving in droves. Then left over then began booing Winehouse’s altered-state performance, prompting her to threaten to sic her husband (currently in jail on battery charges) on the offenders.

Although everyone likes a bit of Schauenfreude now and then, for one who wrote a hit song (“Rehab”) about her refusal to get herself cleaned up, it seems Amy Winehouse is determined to catch a chemical express train to the Great Beyond a la Jim Morrison and Janis Joplin.

Personally, I hope not.

For one as musically gifted as Winehouse allegedly is, it would seem idiotic to trade one’s life for a drug habit – not that this rationalization ever stopped other genuine talents from flaming out so early in life.


Also, as some of you may have heard, Marvel Comics recently stated its intention to post online versions of its product to draw new readers into the market.

Is it worth it, much less sound business sense? I’m not sure.

For one thing, I don’t buy Marvel’s anxieties that online media is pushing their business into extinction, especially when kids have series like Harry Potter turning them into page-devouring machines. Yes, Potter novels are not comics, but they are derived from the same basic animal (print fantasy fiction). Secondly, manga books are extremely popular with young readers today – as evidenced by a visit I made to a local Borders last weekend where I found its manga aisle jammed with teens.

As such, comic-style storytelling as a medium seems stronger than ever.

However, I do agree with some that a big change in patronage is due between Generation X and Y comic buyers and the current one, as evidenced by the fact that the only young kids I see at my FNCS are those tagging along with their comic-buying parents. Yet I don’t believe this possible drop-off in readership will be fatal to the comic publishing world—meaning all publishers, not just Marvel—which is too busy flogging their latest dead horse (i.e. zombies, Hollywood movie deals) to make long-term business plans anyhow.

If anything, the comics market (near-unrecognizable versus 30 years ago) will continue to morph into whatever readership demands.

And even if Marvel continues to fret over its inability to follow these adjustments—and pushing weak story arcs meant to evoke pathos over Aunt May languishing in ICU just ain’t cutting it; I’m looking in your direction, Joe Quesada—I think we’ll all still find new stuff to read most Wednesdays anyhow.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Hawks Fans Growing Cocky; Film At 11

This past Sunday night marked my third Hawks-Red Wings game at United Center, and man, are the once lowly hockey fans of Chicago getting a swelled head.

Versus last year, when the Hawks only managed to beat Detroit once all season, the team’s record against the Wings in 2007-08 is already 3-0 (as of Nov 11). It’s a good start, but there’s a lot of season left to go – advice seemingly lost this Sunday on Hawks fans enjoying a post-game victory strut around the Wings fans in attendance.

Most of the ribbing was in good fun.

And I even found myself on the receiving end of some for wearing a Grateful Dead-themed tee designed to mimic a Red Wings shirt. As such, I was the recipient of more than one “De-troit Sucks!” catcall both inside and outside the UC from morons apparently too drunk to read.

Even the Hawks’ politically-correct mascot (see below) gave me a hard time about my shirt in the stadium’s walkways until recognizing what I was wearing was, in fact, a rock & roll tee.

Well done, Tommy. At least you’re not illiterate.

Hey, Osgood! Yeah, you! The guy in goal! You’re a big idiot!
Yeah, that’s right! I just called you a big idiot! And you know what?
That defenseman beside you? He’s a big idiot too! How d’ya like that? Ha!

Saturday, November 10, 2007

The Problem With Jack (And It's My Problem, I Assure You)

Among comic fans, most revere the late Jack Kirby as a creative demigod who never got his proper due while alive. And these fans would be correct, at least on one account. Too many guys from Kirby’s era, whose contributions to American comics are unmistakable, never got proper recognition (much less proper royalties) for their work after the Golden and Silver Ages.

Yet while I am among those who value Kirby’s landmark fingerprint on the comics medium, I have never been a fan of his actual work. Call me a stickler, but as long as I can recall I’ve found Kirby’s drawn figures to be stiff, his faces uniformly broad, and inking so heavy that I wonder if it wasn’t applied with a small broom.

Plus, what’s up with those damned Kirby dots? What are they supposed to be? Cosmic ozone? Those little fuckers are everywhere in Kirby’s work.

I can’t stand it (he said in a whiny, self-righteous tone)!

Of course, my larger opinion on Kirby’s art style isn’t worth a proverbial plug nickel. I can understand that. Yet I also cannot see this opinion changing anytime – which I’m certain rattles many of you to the core. But as long as I have this forum, I want to ensure that my myriad little opinions are properly clarified.

That is all.

No, sir! I didn't like it!

Friday, November 9, 2007

Justice Delayed

Thanks to JMS for the following article related to a documentary film we saw 11 years ago titled “Paradise Lost: The Child Murders at Robin Hood Hills.”

Co-directed by Joe Berlinger and Bruce Sinofsky, the film—which began as pro-prosecution, and became pro-defense—follows the brutal killings of three Arkansas boys in 1993, and three teens convicted of the crime despite zero physical evidence placing them at the scene, and a questionable confession.

Nevertheless, the article in question describes new efforts (namely DNA evidence) to finally clear the defendants of the original crime. But as the Duke rape case showed, most prosecutors and law enforcement loathe certain details (like facts) when ethical conduct and bad police work are involved.

Note: Click here for further details on the WM3 case.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Lest We Forget

Over on Yahoo News today, an article described an uproar by a small but vocal (aren’t they all?) group of West Virginia parents over their local high school’s use of two novels by Pat Conroy (“Prince of Tides,” “Beach Music”) for their violent and sexual content:

Parents Ken and Leona Tyree found certain scenes in [“Prince”] “obscene and offensive.” [Mrs Tyree] said she was unable to finish the book. [Her] son has since left [his] Advanced Placement literature class [which was using the novel].

Another parent, Karen Frazier, complained about violence in “Beach Music,” and told school board members last month she wants guidelines for books used in public schools.

“If a teacher was on a computer and sending this filth to underage students, they’d probably be arrested,” Frazier [told the school board].


Ho-kay…skewering this kind of “reasoning” is like fishing with dynamite so I’ll be brief.

Got to your local library (I’m talking to you, Tyree and Frazier clans) and find a text called “Ken’s Guide To The Bible” by Ken Smith. Read it. Then tell me how Smith’s biblical citations on rape, child murder, incest, genocide, misogyny, and a zombie plague (I kid you not; Matthew 27: 52-53) compare with the tone of Conroy’s work.

Afterwards, I’ll expect to read another story of you all at your next school board meeting calling for God’s inspired word to be banned for its unsavory content as well.

Why do these ultra-conservative types make my job so damned easy? Give me a challenge, for Chrissakes!

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

One Of Six

Following this past summer’s WizardWorld Con in Chicago (well, actually Rosemont), I picked up several small pieces of art for framing – the first of which (a lovely watercolor by Josh Johnson) can be seen below.

And yes, I have accepted Bruce as my personal framer.

Sharks and Guppies

Although I don’t have a dog in the fight, Paul Dini has an interesting comment about the recent WGA strike over on his blog.

Say what you want about Dini’s stance, but it truly sheds some (disturbing) light on the cutthroat Hollywood food chain.

Thanks to Colleen Doran’s ADS blog for the tip.

Monday, November 5, 2007

Ink & Altruism

My personal history of comic collecting is an erratic tale.

But the short version goes something like this: began in 1982 with a surge of Marvels (“X-Men,” “Daredevil,” “Power Man and Iron Fist”) accompanied by a sprinkle of indies (“TMNT”); the next 15 years led to a gradual drawdown of purchases (of both Marvels and DC) before eventually a sudden falloff of regular visits to my FNCS struck, dramatically reducing my comic buying from a bi-weekly event to something that occurred once a year, if I was lucky.

Today in 2007, I’m back to “weekly” purchases – and though my comic buying still isn’t too heavy, the results of this return to form are quickly cluttering my bedroom (slash) reading chamber.

In the recent past, I solved this problem by weeding out issues I had no further interest in, and recycling them with other scrap paper.

Yet now I’ve come up with a far better solution for culling my swelling hordes of comics, and taken a page from pal Mike (who hands out unwanted comics to trick-or-treaters each Halloween) by donating my orphans to a local homeless shelter which specializes in housing families and children.

Will these donated comics mean a dramatic upswing in the quality of these kids’ lives? Probably not . But anything that encourages them to read—and even better, drive them to continue doing so—cannot be a bad thing.

Thus, if my old copies of “Green Lantern Corps” and “Amazing Spider-Man” can fill that prescription, I’m happy to pass them along.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Y'Know What?

I actually remember this commercial (wherein Batgirl takes a political stand against the superhero patriarchy) airing while watching cartoons on Channel 32 one afternoon in the late 70s...

I guess my only question, however, is as Batgirl lollygags around that bomb isn't it as likely to blow her away as it is the DD?

And I'm surprised at her insistence for more pay from Batman. Isn't fighting crime supposed to be its own reward?