Comments Off | Posted: October 31st, 2006 | Filed under: Uncategorized
Comics are a medium, not a genre. To wit: there are science fiction comics, just like there are science fiction films and prose. There are superhero comic books and there are superhero movies.
The use of “comic book movie” to describe films as diverse as Superman Returns, X3, American Splendor, and Ghost World is silly and insulting to both media. Nobody ever says “novel movie,” and for good reason. They’ll say it’s a romance movie based on a novel, or a literary adaptation.
Thank you. Next week, we’ll be covering that whole “Biff! Bam! Pow!” headline you people insist on using.
Comments Off | Posted: October 30th, 2006 | Filed under: Uncategorized
I’m going with the “Expected List” because
Diamond’s internet monkeys seem to be taking
the day off. Here’s the Prereviews for
November 1, 2006.
Holy shit, this year
is just flying past!
AUG060178 GOTHAM CENTRAL VOL 4 THE QUICK AND THE DEAD TP $14.99
The series that got cancelled so a lead character could become the Spectre gets another trade. Personally, I think they should have kept Crispus Allen, as the Spectre, on the police force. I guarantee the close rate in the GCPD homicide division would have lept upward quickly. Plus: he could swing double and triple shifts, no problem.
SEP060279 MIDNIGHTER #1 $2.99
Garth Ennis writes, Chris Sprouse draws, Kevin leans back and cackles loudly at his luck at having two of his favorite.
SEP060206 SUPERMAN CONFIDENTIAL #1 $2.99
This looks quite engaging, but after Cooke and Sale leave, DC better have a heck of a followup ready to keep me around. Part of me is also wondering how much I’ll enjoy a Cooke written-but-not-drawn comic, as his art is such a huge draw for me.
SEP062092 AGENTS OF ATLAS #4 (OF 6) $2.99
Marvel, please make this an ongoing, or at least a series of miniseries. I would very much appreciate that and would probably apologize for accusing Joe Quesada of huffing drugs off a dead hooker’s ass at SDCC . Thank you very much.
SEP062178 FANTASTIC FOUR FIRST FAMILY TP $15.99
Enjoyed it as a mini, buying it as a trade because I likes my Joe Casey in doses like that. Also: lovely artwork by the never-properly-appreciated Chris Weston. I’d pay good money to read a Silver Age Superman story after seeing this piece on his blog. (Also, does this indicate what I think it indicates? If yes, prepare my wallet, Jeeves.)
Other Companies (May not be complete, as it’s always the last part to get filled in.)
SEP063017 EMO BOY VOL 1 NOBODY CARES TP (JUN068284) $13.95
Find out why I think Emo Boy is one of the funniest, sweetest, most agonizingly emo comics of all time. I seriously love this comic and if it weren’t for Rex Libris, I’d say it’s the single best regularly-published book that SLG is putting out. As it is, I’ll have to say it’s one of the two best regularly-published books that SLG is putting out.
Comments Off | Posted: October 28th, 2006 | Filed under: Uncategorized
Originally, I was going to write up a huge response to this bit of OMGWTF from Robert Kirkman, where he favorably compares Liefeld to Kirby. However, after a few moments of thought, I decided it would be like yelling at a monkey who was throwing his own feces: the monkey doesn’t speak English, that shit still smells, and it would be a bad idea to stick around any longer than absolutely necessary.
Instead, here’s Ben Grimm holding up a building, from Fantastic Four #95 with inks by Joltin’ Joe Sinnott.
Comments Off | Posted: October 26th, 2006 | Filed under: Uncategorized
Aaron Sorkin’s a writers’ writer. He’s the sort of guy that comes up when I’m talking about craft with other people who do things involving scripts. The series and movies he’s written – A Few Good Men
, The American President
and most famously, The West Wing
– have his stamp written on them. You can identify a Sorkin teleplay from the fact it’s got about half-again as many pages as it’s supposed to. Unlike David Mamet, who’s also known for stuffing scenes with dialogue until they’re on the verge of explosion, Sorkin’s characters actually seem to be talking with
each other as well as informing the audience of their point of view, possible actions, etc. For years, I’ve been able to point to Sorkin as a textbook example of a Robert McKee screenwriter
– his people had character
, not characteristics
and he would consistently let that show on screen. While Sorkin’s characters spoke an awful lot, they never told
very much to the audience.
That was until Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip came along. I didn’t notice it at first. Perhaps it was the exuberant rush of the pilot episode: Sorkin was writing television again for the first time since he got the psychedlic mushroom-fueld bum’s rush from the last series he created and my fannish inclinations were probably kicking in, but by the middle of the second episode, I noticed something. These people really do talk about themselves constantly.
From Matt Albie’s ongoing, loopy descriptions of his writing struggles and feelings for his former paramour Harriet Hayes to her own monologues about her relationship with Christ, Studio 60 never fails to let a character be as blunt as possible. Matthew Perry’s great on this show as Albie – when he gets a chance to shut up. There are moments when his eyes flash a certain way and you can see there’s a real thought process going on. In the fourth episode of the series, it’s revealed that two of his writing staff may have plagiarized and he doesn’t say anything – he stands, his legs apart, his head down for a moment and then he bursts from the room. Without getting a clear shot of his face, the viewer knows that someone is going to get a thorough bit of abuse. Sadly, this is fairly rare. At least once an episode, Perry is forced to spew out an embarassing monologue about how he’s really not in love with Hariett even though she’s his muse and he’s terribly fond of her, even after they’ve broken up. Then the camera pauses and makes sure we know that the rest of the room doesn’t believe this, just before he announces that he doesn’t really believe it himself.
Harriett’s faith, as refreshing as it is to see a Christian on television who’s not a right-wing nutjob or Cylon, is similarly clumsy. In a recent episode, she was asked by a reporter (played by Christine Lahti) to talk about her religious convictions and Sarah Paulson spends more than 5 minutes of a 40-minute running time doing just that, in mind-numbing detail. Her faith was spelled out to the journalist as the show crawled to a standstill and settled into place like a frigate. This is especially galling because Sorkin found other ways to introduce matters like this in his earlier programs. The Passover seder from SportsNight‘s “April Is The Cruelest Month” not only established Jeremy and Dan’s faith, but it served as a dramatic lynchpin for that episode. It doesn’t help that Paulson seems outclassed on the show – her character’s Juliette Lewis impression didn’t appear to be a huge stretch.
Speaking of religion, Sorkin’s doing a lot of sermonizing in this series. He wants us to know that writing and making television is important business and that it’s hard to write. I have no doubt that it is difficult to produce a television series and I imagine Sorkin’s own experience is playing heavily into his scripts, but I say this as someone whose career is just now at the point where he occasionally jots stuff down and gets handed a check for it – the process of creation and production is not interesting for at least 90% of the people outside of the entertainment business. If I can figure this out, surely someone with an infinitely greater amount of experience can, too.
The audience doesn’t need to be told more than once every few episodes that we’re in the middle of a downward cultural slide because of reality TV and cheap gags – they know that, that’s why they’re watching an Aaron Sorkin program. Judd Hirsch’s Network-inspired monologue from the opening episode should have served as a call to arms instead of a mantra repeated by Amanda Peet in each episode.
In The West Wing, it was never the events the White House staff and President were involved in that served as the story’s point. It was how those events – military strikes, assassination attempts, political manuevers, whatever – affected the characters that the audience tuned in to see. That is the very definition of “story” – how the plot’s events change the characters. Sorkin’s latest show seems to have missed making that connection, instead having characters spout rhetoric instead of dialogue while a plot seems to happen without anyone noticing. Much of the series “drama” so far has revolved around things that would make no impact in real life – NBS’s chief Jordan McDeer’e DUI 8 years previous, combined with a bad marriage is said to be an earth-shaking event in the media world presented in the show, becoming joke fodder for Saturday Night Live and media pundits and representing a real threat to the fictional network’s success. This brute-force attempt at story failed because it’s hard to imagine anyone in the real world caring if NBC President Kevin Reilly had a blot on his driving record and a crazy ex that wrote a self-published tell-all.
It also doesn’t help at all that a show about writing comedy features very little in the way of laughs coming from its much-heralded character who was brought back to the program for the specific purpose of saving the titular program. Some sketches have had potential – Nancy Grace tracking a white girl’s cellphone that was lost in Jamaica – and others have fallen flat on their face and then proceeded to eat dirt for long minutes of screen time – the Gilbert and Sullivan routine at the end of “The Cold Open.”
Is Studio 60 a complete disaster? Not at all – much of what is on the screen in any given episode makes the show well worth salvaging. D.L. Hughley is great at Simon Stiles, a character obviously based on his own experiences with gangs and a rise through comedy. It’s refreshing to see a black actor playing a role where race is tied to the character but is not the entire reason for his existence. The most recent episode featured Stiles confronting Albie over the writing staff (read: Albie) and their inability to write truly edgy racial humor because of their white liberal guilt. The rest of their plotline in the episode allowed race and comedy to be discussed without being talked about bluntly – Stiles invites Albie to see a hyped black standup comic from New York who rolls out every cliche in the book and it’s after the initial disappointment in him that they find what they were really looking for in a rough-hewn amateur from South Central whose cerebral routine goes down poorly with an audience that loves jokes about big-booty girls.
Bradley Whitford, as expected, is about as comfortable as any actor can be delivering Sorkin’s dialogue. What’s remarkable is how similar his character of Danny Tripp is to Josh Lyman, his West Wing alter ego while actually being an entirely different person. Both roles played by Whitford are driven men who push themselves and their staff, but where Lyman had a near-manic energy about him most of the time, Danny Tripp is resigned to being the serene yin to Albie’s yang. He knows the job will get done and a live television program will make it to air, even if the rest of the world conspires against him.
Of note is the fact that the latest episode finally figured out how to use the bosses of the fictional network that the show calls home. Amanda Peet, since the first episode, has been a gamine presence that didn’t seem to match the personality and competence that NBS president Jordan McDeere should exude. Peet finally made that work to her advantage when she announces to the female cast that she needs friends, at least for the night of the cocktail party and she comes across as both slightly weird and truly warm. Maybe this was the effect she was trying to reach in the first several episodes of this series – a strange executive who may be touched in the head but is very good at her job – but never quite reached until the moment when she breaks a tiny bit. Steven Weber’s mustache-twirling NBS chairman Jack Rudolph finally worked on-screen, too, in a sarcastic confrontation with Danny Tripp that entertained while letting everyone know where he stood on just about every issue the two had between them.
Thomas Schlamme’s direction is, as always, about as perfect a match for Sorkin as you can get. This series has seen him doing fewer of the long “walk fast, talk fast” shots that have been a Sorkin trademark and I’ve noticed that the cinematography has gotten a lot more intimate. As the series has progressed, there have been more close-ups and two with a shallow depth of field, causing the view to focus on the speakers instead of the surroundings. Whether done intentionally or not, this serves to counter the overly expository dialogue that has riddled the show.
Rumor has it that NBC is actively looking to retool the show and a few things could certainly help it get bring in an audience besides its affluent core and make it a success closer to its lead-in program, Heroes. Four simple changes could bring the show closer to this goal.
- Limit the size of the cast. Right now, there are far too many speaking parts, especially featuring extraneous cast members for the fictional program.
- Make the aforementioned fictional program funny. Mark McKinney’s apparently been hired to do just that, but we’ve not seen any results yet.
- Expand the writing staff, fast. Sorkin’s reusing too many of his tropes at this point and even casual viewers are sure to pick up on a few bits that have appeared before. New blood may reenergize him and allow him to spend more time crafting material instead of recycling what he’s done in the past.
- Make us care about these characters by having them do something besides beg for our attention. Let them be people instead of jukeboxes.
I want Studio 60 to be good, and it has more than enough potential to be excellent, but as it stands right now, I’m giving it just a few more episodes before I leave it behind.
Comments Off | Posted: October 25th, 2006 | Filed under: Uncategorized
As is a hallowed Wednesday tradition, there is a fine and
tasty new Nitroglycerin
strip up on the internet. You can view it in two locations, both of which offer their own advantages:
We’re also turning in the next print strip today, and I’ll let you people know when it hits the streets.
What Were They Thinking: Monster Mash-Up Reviews
Silver Bullet Comic Books says:
Monster Mash-Up puts new, “funny” dialogue in old monster and sci-fi comics. And like the previous What Were They Thinking issues, most of the jokes fall flat. [...] A jungle story where men argue about hats goes on for too long. I don’t think the writer went far enough with the ridiculous premise of a jealous man trying to define himself through bad clothes. The alien Bigfoot story goes off the rails when the narrator starts commenting on the “real” story. They should have stuck with a straight-up comedy story. [...] Monster Mash-Up has a few good chuckles, but not enough to justify the $4 price tag. I said it in my last review of What Were They Thinking?!, and I’ll say it again: be sillier.
Silver Bullet Comics says:
Here, in the hands of creative geniuses, the strips are radically and mercilessly “butchered”, mocked and “armed” with new, insanely hilarious dialogues that would knock a cat off the wall, creating entirely new stories for a new generation to enjoy. Fans of the classic versions may however feel repulsed by this outrageous take at b-comics. [...] Simply put, the What Were They Thinking: Monster Mash-Up Edition is probably one of Boom! Studios’s most solid releases to be released this year. As Ron Weasley would have said, it’s so “bloody wicked,” it’ll make you laugh so hard you can’t even try to figure out what this issue fails to accomplish. The writers have done a great job in preserving these artistic archives while giving them a makeover to reach new heights and most importantly, allow them to see the light of day once again.
Comments Off | Posted: October 25th, 2006 | Filed under: Uncategorized
After a few moments flipping through the new Collins Design tome Mangaka America, I found myself wondering exactly who the target audience for this book is. I mean, besides the people at Tokyopop that wanted a nice book that people would pay for, something along the lines of the Spiegel catalog. Tokyopop inked a deal in Harper Collins in March of this year, and the company’s creators are given front-and-center attention in this scattershot collection of stock profiles, pinups, and tutorials.
The profiles seem to be compiled from the same email questionnaire sent to Tokyopop creators and their ilk and offer very little in the way of insight into the creators’ development process, instead choosing to have generic questions such as “What are your influences” without followup. There are exceptions, mostly because the creators had more to say than was asked; Corey Lewis acquits himself well, and I was impressed with Sabrina manga-fier Tania Del Rio, who manages to come across as professional and passionate about what she does. The pinups (of varying artistic merit) scattered throughout the book are occasionally frustratingly undersized, but the reproduction quality is sublime – probably not a surprise in the digital age. I can’t really say much about the tutorials – some, such as “Lindsay + Jared’s” step-by-step for screentoning in Photoshop seemed quite helpful and others seemed to be too brief for someone to find them useful in any real way.
If Collins Design wants to put out a tutorial book featuring American manga creators, they should do just that. If Collins Design wants to put out a book profiling American manga creators and featuring their work, they should do just that. This schizophrenic, badly-designed book serves too many masters, and does it poorly. Adam Warren’s introduction, however, is quite interesting and zippiply written. It could probably be expanded to an interesting longform essay or book that I’d pay cash money to read on its own.
Comments Off | Posted: October 24th, 2006 | Filed under: Uncategorized
Gawker was so kind as to link to this completely awesome Advocate story about two cops busting a hate-crimer in NYC:
Two undercover New York City police officers arrested a man on hate-crime charges Monday who, they say, assumed the cops were gay and proceeded to threaten and harass them. [...] Though the officers purposefully exaggerated their relationship by snuggling, they were in the park primarily to curb local violence from gangs and students from nearby Washington Irving High School as well as the Union Square subway station.
This, of course made pal Alice and I think of Law and Order slash fiction possibilities and we whipped up a top ten list. She says this is actually fairly close to the stuff presented on the internet, but I wouldn’t know. Honest. I only watch the show when Kristin’s got it on, and then it’s very halfheartedly.
Top Ten Lines From Badly-Written Law And Order Slash Fiction
- “Shh, Mike”, said Gorman. “We’ve got to make this convincing. Lean closer.”
- Stabler growled and pushed Benson away, hissing “Tutuola’s my partner on this one.”
- “Olivia, sometimes I think you find the goriest cases just so you can hang in the morgue with me.”
- “I can’t take it anymore, dammit!” Jack McCoy slammed his fist down on the desk. He looked at the phone, wondering if he should call Green for one last time in “The Box” before confessing everything to his wife.
- “Lennie, oh Lennie!” whispered Jack savagely. “Why did you leave me so soon? Before we could let the world know about us?”
- Finn was surprised when his tall, lean partner burst through his door half an hour early. Surprised that Munch was early for a change, and humiliated to be caught in the black slip he enjoyed sleeping in. Munch raised one eyebrow. “My third wife had something like that. Always got me….”
- “Dr. Skoda, I can’t hear your confession, nor can I get you a conjugal visit” said Dr. Huang, shaking his head. Ever since the head injury, Emil had been prone to thinking he was someone else.
- Lennie’s hand rested on Ed’s thigh for just a moment longer than was considered proper, even for detectives that had been partners for years. “Did he just…shift?” Briscoe wondered to himself. He looked at Green’s mocha-colored skin and sighed wistfully, remembering his nights working the beat at the meatpacking distract.
- Olivia licked the small bits of chocolate off her fingers and arched an eyebrow at Abbie suggestively. Carmichael found herself wondering if the heat in the room had suddenly turned on, even though they were in an air-conditioned office building in the middle of July. Benson noticed that the door locked and smiled to herself quietly.
- Featuring Bonus Crossing Jordan crossover action!
Alex Cabot smirked as Jordan Cavanaugh pushed the corpse onto the floor and sat on the table, her legs spread slightly. “That’s going to make forensics hard tomorrow.”
“Let me worry about that,” Jordan sighed as she unbuttoned her blouse. “Speaking of hard…”
We are bad, bad people.