Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Prof's 100 HOTTEST WOMEN OF ALL TIME! (Part 2)

Entertainment

My wife was offended yesterday when I shared the FIRST 50 of my own personal "100 HOTTEST WOMEN OF ALL TIME" and I got past the "H's" without mentioning her.  As I fumbled around trying my best to explain...this is a list of CELEBRITIES!!!!  I don't think she bought it, but that's the best I can do on short notice. :)

So, moving forward....today, I present the SECOND 50 and after that, I will reveal the true choice of who is actually "the" hottest "Celebrity" woman of all time.

You see, the thing about "hot" versus "beauty" is that "beauty" is an "objective" standard and "hot" is a "subjective" standard that transcends beauty.  I can recognize someone as objectively "beautiful" but she may do absolutely nothing for me beyond that intellectual recognition.  But every now and then, and I believe it is a combination of their natural beauty combined with a charisma, air of intelligence, confidence, and something indefinable in their eyes, I find myself drawn to that person as a performer, artist, musician, or whatever in a way that I can only classify her as "hot."  She has something that makes her stand out from those who are otherwise her equal.

That's what I'm having a bit of fun with here in listing those throughout my lifetime that have stirred that feeling in me, and quite a few of them are women who never show up in polls like these.


"THE TRUE 100  HOTTEST WOMEN OF ALL TIME!"
(PART 2: THE SECOND 50)



And there you go.  I think these are the TOP 100 HOTTEST WOMEN OF ALL TIME and after some careful deliberation in which Naomi Watts and Charlize Theron battled it out with Raquel Welch and Ava Gardner for the top spot.  Jennifer Aniston is "hot", but she's not even in the ballpark with these four.  When it came down to it, I couldn't just choose one so I chose AVA GARDNER and RAQUEL WELCH as the HOTTEST WOMAN OF ALL TIME because they both are so different but so evenly matched in their timeless appeal.  Since I don't have to make a "Sophie's Choice" here because there aren't any Nazis holding a gun to my head, I'm just going to recognize them both as undisputably "Hotter" than any other women in my lifetime (so far).

AVA GARDNER



ava gardner








RAQUEL WELCH
raquel welch

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Prof's 100 HOTTEST WOMEN OF ALL TIME! (Part 1)

Entertainment
Am I going to let MEN'S HEALTH Magazine tell me who the "100 Hottest Women of All Time" are?  No way in Hell.  I'm not saying Jennifer Aniston doesn't rank, but is she truly the "Hottest Woman of All Time"?

Personally, I disagreed with quite a few of the rankings from the magazine.  I suspect that my view of who is and isn't "hot" is slightly off the regular path for those short-sighted lemmings that compiled that list.  Here is my own personal list of the "100 HOTTEST WOMEN OF ALL TIME"...and I simply rank them alphabetically because to rank them by degrees of hotness would just be offensive and sexist!

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Capt. Carrot & the Zoo Crew (redesigned)

Entertainment





Just for fun! CAPTAIN CARROT & HIS AMAZING ZOO CREW!
with some slight costume tweaks (except for Pig Iron who is just...already visually perfect).

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Ray Bradbury: Story of a Writer

Entertainment


RAY BRADBURY: STORY OF A WRITER

This 1/2 hour film is from 1963 and was originally aired on television.  It is a biographical sketch of the author, Ray Bradbury and I was shown this back in 7th grade at Travis Middle School in Temple, Texas.  I still remember it vividly.  The 16mm film click-clacking and the projection light flickering as the teacher (perhaps somewhat unwittingly) completely captured my attention and imagination.  At that point, I had never heard of Bradbury and was not much in the way of a reader of science-fiction.

Within this film, Bradbury creates a brand-new short-story called "Dial Double-Zero" and it is dramatized as Bradbury reads it.  The story completely creeped me out and I became fascinated by the imagination of Ray Bradbury.  The next Saturday, I took my first trip to the Temple Public Library and wound my way to the card catalog to look up "Ray Bradbury."  I tracked down the rather small "Science-Fiction" section of the library (a small room set apart from the "real" books) and found "The Martian Chronicles" and checked it out.

This began a life-long devotion to reading and enjoying science-fiction.  This little film that easily bored most everyone else in my class but reached inside my head and heart and took hold of me.

For decades, I have tried to track down the story "Dial Double-Zero" and been frustrated.  No matter where I went, I could find no record of the story ever existing.  I even came to sometimes doubt my own memory about every seeing the film or hearing the story.  I've often looked on the Internet for clues over the last 15-20 years and always come up short...until today.

I decided to give it another try as more and more information wings its way onto the web...and voila.  I have found it!  I did not have a false memory after all.  Not only was the film and the story real, there was a reason all these years that I could never find the story referenced anywhere: "Dial Double-Zero" remains an unpublished story by Ray Bradbury.

So, if you want to read the story (and I highly recommend it), then you have to watch this video.  I am embedding it here where you can just stream it, but you can also visit this website to freely download a digital copy (legally) for your own use or to burn your own personal DVD of this historical piece of television and literary history.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

FLASH GORDON and CAPT. VICTORY Reviews!

Entertainment

FLASH GORDON: INVASION OF THE RED SWORD #6
Writer: Brendan Deneen
Artist: Eduardo Garcia
Publisher: Ardden Entertainment

So....Hans...when we met at that boring dinner after the Olympics, did you ever think we'd end up like this?!-- Flash Gordon

A rousing conclusion to a great story. I've raved about Ardden's FLASH GORDON series every chance I get and the conclusion to this mini-series is perfect. I don't want to give anything away but all the pieces come together in a very satisfying wrap-up (and like all good serials...a tease about an obvious future development). If I understand correctly, the next FLASH GORDON series from Ardden is not going to be a monthly pamphlet-style but a complete story in one larger graphic novel format.

I understand the market needs that make that the more viable way to get the story out there, but I will miss the serialized aspect of the monthly series. One of the hallmarks of this and the previous mini-series have been the masterful pacing and cliffhanger-style storytelling.

I can't really dig into it much deeper other than to say that I love the way writer Brendan Deneen writes the characters. They are recognizable as Flash and his supporting cast but they feel modern and relevant. The story is fun but also nuanced with moments given to characterization. Artist Eduardo Garcia stepped in with this story and has grown with each issue. He gets better and better. A fine artist with a good sense of how to tell the story in pictures.

Recommended for all ages.

STAR TREK/LEGION OF SUPER-HEROES - A Recipe for Fun

Entertainment

STAR TREK/LEGION OF SUPER-HEROES #2
Writer: Chris Roberson
Artists: Jeffrey Moy (pencils) & Philip Moy (inks)
Publisher: IDW Publishing

===========================================
Ingredients:


1 Cup – Original Starship Enterprise crew (circa the end of the second season)
1 Cup – Legion of Super-Heroes (circa post-Great Darkness Saga)
1/2 Cup – Tommy Tomorrow and the Space Rangers
1/3 Cup – Borg
1/4 Cup – Khunds
2 Teaspoons – Klingons




Pour all ingredients (except the Original Enterprise crew and Legion of Super-Heroes) into a large mixing bowl.  Amalgamize cross-dimensionally and mix in basic time-travel tropes. 


Let sit until firm.  Once you have built enough anticipation, add in the Enterprise crew and the Legion of Super-Heroes and a dash of cliffhanger and you have one of the most fun comic-book reading experiences an aging fanboy can have.  

===========================================================================

I'm not sure at all how younger readers might respond to this, but I can't imagine anyone who grew up with the old STAR TREK and was reading comics during “The Great Darkness Saga” could have any complaints here.  This is just plain balls-to-the-wall fun and adventure.

Even the art is not horrible, although I won't say it's as great as the material itself deserves, but it is most definitely the best interior TREK art I have come across at IDW.  For the most part, the IDW TREK comics that I have encountered usually have a snazzy and excellent cover and then interior art that ranges from amateurish to just boring.  The Moys do a good job telling the story here visually so that I could believe this was coming from DC and not IDW.

It's a step down from the Phil Jimenez cover art, but it is consistent, clear, and fun with a real sense that they are enjoying telling this story in pictures.  When I get a sense of that from the art, it is infectious and makes me enjoy it all the more.

I don't want to spoil too many details, but the scenario for drawing these two properties together totally makes sense and offers us a glimpse of an amalgamized universe where the continuities of the old DCU and the old TREK universe existed together and splintered off into a very different 23rd Century.  The first 2 issues of this 4-issue mini-series served to establish the mystery of how and why these 2 crews showed up in this alternate universe at the same time.  And we get our pay-off for our patience at the end...but then we have to wait for the next issue to see what happens!

I will offer my guess that the unidentified “Emperor” of the Imperial Planets is not Spock (as I suspect they are trying to give that hint) but actually...Vandal Savage.

We will see very soon.  Great stuff.


BIONIC MAN #4 Review

Entertainment
BIONIC MAN #4
Writer: Kevin Smith w/Phil Hester
Artist: Jonathan Lau (pencils) & Ivan Nunes (colors)
Publisher: Dynamite

“Colonel Steve Austin, a man barely alive.  Gentlemen, we can rebuild him. We have the technology.  We're going to recreate the world's first, fully functional Bionic Man.  Stever Austin will be that man.  We'll make him better than he was before.  Better, stronger, faster.” -- Oscar Goldman

I've met Col. Steve Austin...and you, sir, are no Col. Steve Austin.

After three ridiculously awful snails-pace issues that made me want to set my hair on fire, we finally get to the surgery.  Most everyone knows at least the basics of the story, astronaut (well, test-pilot in this comic) Steve Austin crashes an experimental plane and loses an eye, one arm, and 2 legs.  A top-secret government organization invests $6 million (a day, in this comic) to have his limbs and eye fitted with bionic replacements and a commitment by him to be their own, secret super-spy.

If you were a kid with a television in the 1970s, you watched it.  If you're younger than 30, you probably only know it by reputation because the character and the basics of the premise (along with slo-mo running and neh-neh-neh-neh sound f/x) are a pop-culture touchstone now.

And now, at 45, I sit here trying to read a horrible attempt at updating the character for the modern day.  However, this issue is at least a bit more readable than the previous 3 issues, mainly because it's essentially just the surgery, recovery, and training to control his bionics.  It ends with Steve agreeing to join the OSS and take down villains like Bin Laden and Qadafi.  So, I guess I'd have to say that if you haven't picked up the previous 3 issues, this is the place to jump on because they were all such inconsequential nonsense and gloriously bad that I can't in good conscience recommend them.  But, even saying that, I don't mean to give the impression that this issue was good.  Far from it.  It's also pretty stupid.  I can see where some of the elements in play were hashed out in terms of plot, it's just that the way the storytelling progresses, plus the stilted dialogue, is about as bad as some of those 50s' B-monster movies...but with pointless cursing added.

Beyond the fact that it just kind of stinks overall, I'm amused by the things that distracted me (always a bad sign in terms of quality of writing or art).  For example, I am just assuming that part of the license Dynamite has here requires them to avoid the likenesses of the actors from the TV series.  And that's fine.  However, was it really necessary for them to “cast” Wilford Brimley in the role of Dr. Rudy Wells?  And to add to the confusion in terms of comic book casting, the covers (especially issue #2) realllllly make Steve look a whole damn lot like Lee Majors, whereas in the comic he's a generic steroided out mushed-nose tough guy.  More confusing is the appearance inside the comic of the actor, Richard Anderson (Oscar Goldman in the TV series) in a couple of scenes as one of the surgeons.  This was especially confusing at one point where, in another example of bad storytelling, it appeared that he might actually be “Oscar Goldman." I had to flip back a couple of pages to figure out what I was looking at.

It's just inconsistent and odd decisions to make when doing the comic.

During the surgery, there's a lot of scientific jargonage tossed around by Oscar in an attempt to lend some degree of believability to the plot.  So, if you want to read 4 pages of exposition, this is the book for you.  Thankfully there's no follow up in this issue to the plot that kicked off the first issue (the one with the bionic bad guy slicing people's heads in half with a samurai sword....yeh...that's what I said).  It's basically a stand-alone comic that's a glorified training montage.

They completely skipped over the emotional struggle of Steve coming to terms with what happened to him.  This was a strong part of the original TV-pilot movie and the novel the show was based on, CYBORG by Martin Caidin.  And that's the worst thing about this series so far.  There's no passion or emotional connection to the characters.

At least Max, the bionic dog, makes a short appearance at the beginning to somehow convince this man who woke up to find himself with 1 eye, 1 arm, and no legs to submit to experimental surgery that will wind up also removing his good arm and his 1 good eye as well.  Yes, they did that to him.  But don't worry.  He frets about it for 3 or 4 panels and then....it's all good.

Monday, November 7, 2011

when the world screamed: Cutting Through the Nonsense with Common Sense

Entertainment
I've started a second blog for writings that are less sarcastic and fixated on super-heroes and the silly stuff in life.  I call this one..."when the world screamed: Cutting Through the Nonsense with Common Sense."  Here's a sneak-peak at my first entry dealing with the Texas Education Fund and the nonsense surrounding that.  Check it out, if it interests you, follow the link over to the full entry and see what you think.  If you would connect and follow that blog too, that would be cool.  I got the name from the last of the "Prof. Challenger" stories by A.C. Doyle.  It's a title I've always wanted to steal for something.

When the World Screamed
Hijacking Texas Education Funds Through the Guise of "Privatization"

News reports have been hammering our brains for the last year or so about how Texas must cut 3-to-5 Billion (with a capital “B”) dollars from “Education.” Of course, there's rarely any specifics about where these cuts are made.  The cuts are just made and then left to the agencies and school districts to figure out how to deal with it.

At the same time that this budgeting fiasco has been going on, Texas has gone through some highly public battles with the school board over textbook rewrites and the state embarked on a major overhaul of their standardized testing system. So, out with the TAKS and in with the “more rigorous” STAAR and EOC (End-Of-Course) Examination system.  As well, add in the massive spending involved in an attempt to set up a state-wide online curriculum and testing system. Through it all, one name keeps popping up: Pearson Education. 

The Texas ObserverYou may wonder who that is?  According to Abby Rapoport in The Texas Observer, “Pearson is a London-based mega-corporation that owns everything from the Financial Times to Penguin Books, and also dominates the business of educating American children.”

In fact, The Texas Observer did an outstanding job of laying out some of the details and reasons why Texas taxpayers (and basically anyone in other states where Pearson is found) should be alarmed at their lobbying efforts. I recommend everybody read the article in full. My conclusion is that the people's call for “privatizing” the school system seems to have been misconstrued intentionally into a massive intertwining of government funds (meaning: TAXPAYER DOLLARS) with a massive FOR-PROFIT CORPORATION in a way that could only make Halliburton smile with understanding.

Calls for privatizing the education system are rarely demands to funnel tax money into the coffers of private corporations. Calls for privatization are calls to remove government from the system, thus returning all tax monies to the individual citizens, and allowing the free market to function. The individual citizens decide to whom and where to funnel the money...or not.

That is privatization. 

What the Texas Education Agency, Texas legislators, and the hundreds of for-profit corporations, like Pearson, are doing is a bastardization of the concept mostly done on the down-low while everyone in the media is distracted by the ridiculous nit-picky backbiting at the State Board of Education over what goes in and out of Texas textbooks.

You might ask why would I pick on Pearson so strongly. Is it just because The Texas Observer says I should?

Well, I did some digging just to see where our tax money was actually going in terms of “Education” and specifically in regards to Pearson. This was accomplished by visiting texastransparency.org which bills itself with this sub-line: “Open government is accountable government: a clear look at your tax dollars at work in Texas.” Unfortunately, it may be “clear,” but it most definitely is not easy to maneuver. They have the site rigged up in such a way that the information is there but in terms of ease of access – frustrating. The drop-down stair-step approach to the searches and the slow searching script and the unavailability of multiple searching within one session make it very difficult to get a straight and “clear” set of numbers. The numbers don't necessarily always quite add up either. Let me explain...

Click here to read the rest...

Monday, October 31, 2011

Prof. Challenger Official Portrait

Entertainment

I finally got my official portrait for the 'Hole's Clubhouse over @ AICN Comics.  Who knew it takes over 5 years just for the frame?

Friday, October 14, 2011

POLL! Best TV Villain Ever!

Entertainment


Make Your "Otaku-Sophie's Choice" today!

The BEST TV Villain ever is one of these four...

Michael Dunn as DR. MIGUELITO LOVELESS (Wild Wild West

Larry Hagman as J.R. EWING (Dallas)

Joseph Mascolo as STEFANO DIMERA (Days of Our Lives) or...

Frank Gorshin as THE RIDDLER (Batman)

POLL! Worst TV Villain Ever

Entertainment
Make Your "Otaku-Sophie's Choice" today!

The worst TV Villain ever is either...

Art Carney as THE ARCHER (Batman) or...

Michael Pataki as COUNT MALACHE (Happy Days)

Thursday, October 13, 2011

C-O-E-X-I-S-T Comic Book Style!

Entertainment

to Order Your Very Own from my CafePress store for $3.99 or 10 for $29.99
A great treat for you to give to your most special Trick-Or-Treaters this year!

Tired of the usual stuff. Sick of the pomposity of the various "COEXIST" Bumper Stickers.

Show the world where the harshest conflicts are fought -- the world of Comic Book Geek-dom. Are you a Marvel zombie? A DC guy? How about a Charlton nut?

Tell the world that it's time for everyone to just get along. 

My COEXIST bumper stickers are perfect for expressing yourself while cruising down the highway or just for posting on the wall, your neighbor's dog, or even you toilet.

  • Measures 10" x 3" 
  • Printed on 4mil vinyl using water and UV resistant inks - means no fading in the sun or bleeding in the rain. So take THAT faded "Darwin Fish" people!!!

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Dark Shadows Cast Photo w/Johnny Depp as Barnabas

Entertainment


Entertainment Weekly has published the first official cast photograph from the new Dark Shadows feature film, which is seen above. From left to right: Helena Bonham Carter (Dr. Julia Hoffman), Chloe Moretz (Carolyn Stoddard), Eva Green (Angelique Bouchard), Gulliver McGrath (David Collins), Bella Heathcote (Victoria Winters), Johnny Depp (Barnabas Collins), Ray Shirley (Mrs Johnson), Jackie Earle Haley (Willie Loomis), Jonny Lee Miller (Roger Collins) and Michelle Pfeiffer (Elizabeth Collins Stoddard).

More info here on the Dark Shadows News blog.


Tuesday, October 11, 2011

HAPPY HALLOWEEN with THE GENERAL MILLS MASSACRE

Entertainment
GENERAL MILLS MASSACRE!
Count Chocula, Frankenberry, and Boo Berry
Like You've Never Wanted to See Them!

Yes, it is true.  In the April 1, 2005 edition of WIZARD Magazine the following feature appeared from reporter Chris Ward:
Horror maestro Steve Niles takes on an unlikely band of 'cereal killers' from his youth.  And it's not what you think...
Steve Niles' next project may curdle your blood and your milk...
Whether he cooks up ghastly zombie tales (Wake the Dead) or vicious vampire titles (such as the chilling 30 Days of Night, currently in production as a feature film from Sam Raimi), Niles has proven himself as comics' foremost expert when it comes to scaring the hell out of readers.  But his next project will prove he's a creator who thinks outside the cereal box.
Niles and new publisher AFD Press have obtained the license to General Mills' most popular ghouls -- Count Chocula, Frankenberry and Boo Berry -- and will feature them in an edgy title, a four-issue mini-series titled General Mills Massacre that premiers in October with art by Shiver in the Dark's Stuart Sayger.  Niles hopes to redefine undead icons packed with eight essential vitamins.
"Just because they got their birth on a cereal box doesn't mean they aren't great characters," says Niles.  "Especially Frankenberry.  He has a sad quality that reminds me of [Robert] DeNiro as the creature.  There will have to be certain changes made.  I imagine Stuart will go for a sickly pink skin tone, but General Mills has made it clear that each character, even brought to life, should reflect their flavor.  I may never get to work with the Universal Monsters, so for me, this is very exciting."
It's not surprising AFD Press was able to pick up the license, as General Mills has been more open to lending out their creations of late -- handing over Count Chocula, most recently, to MasterCard for a Super Bowl commercial.
Still, where humor may be easy to pull off, how will Niles provide these loveable characters with two scoops of terror?
"Actually, the easy part was making these cheery characters gruesome and unsettling for the reader," Niles says.  "I'm tapping into childhood fear at its most basic level.  Think about circus clowns--they're meant to be funny, but most people get unintentionally sick with fear just looking at them.  It's that mentality I'm going for.  We've come up with a great gag switching out blood for milk in issue #2, and you'll see what I mean.  It's like that scene in 'Lost Boys,' when Jason Patric thinks he's eating rice, and, well...it will put you off breakfast for a while."
Niles has license to re-work the character origins and will introduce an old favorite in the second issue.
"Oh yes, Fruit Brute will make an appearance," he says, referring to General Mills' little-known werewolf character of the early 1970s.  "There's a petition going around to include Yummy Mummy [Editor's note: another cereal-based character], but I think he might be too obscure to work into this story arc.  We'll see."
One thing seems certain:  Once fans are exposed to the darker side of Boo Berry, prize-seekers will think twice before sticking their hand into the open maw of a cereal box.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

FURY OF FIRESTORM: THE NUCLEAR MEN #1 (2011) & FIRESTORM: THE NUCLEAR MAN #1 (1978) Reviewed

Entertainment

THE FURY OF FIRESTORM: THE NUCLEAR MEN #1
Writers: Gail Simone & Ethan Van Sciver (co-plotter)
Artist: Yildiray Cinar
Publisher: DC Comics

You jerk! You want to say this crap to me? Say it to my face, you geek loser! Come on, right now!” — Ronnie Raymond

So far, all but 2 of “The New 52” that I've read (admittedly a small number) have not started from scratch with a standard first issue “Origin” story, but picked up on the character already in existence. THE FURY OF FIRESTORM: THE NUCLEAR MEN is one of them (OMAC is the other one, if you're curious). Annnnnnd, since I happen to own a copy of the original FIRESTORM: THE NUCLEAR MAN #1 from 1978 (and it was easy to grab), I will be following up this review with a short “Bonus” review of that comic as a comparison. Since both are the “first” appearances of the character in their respective continuities, why the hell not take a look at both of them?

I didn't care for this comic very much. It is functional but not very enjoyable, and in parts, really irked me. It started with the opening sequence with a group of white, racist terrorists trying to get their hands on a macguffin and proceeding to assassinate a Middle Eastern family (parents and kids) in Istanbul. [“MacGuffin” - noun - \mǝ-'gǝ-fǝn\ : an object that serves to set and keep the plot in motion...”]

The terrorist in charge is a vicious little shit named “Clifford Carmichael.” Move to Walton Mills High School to meet white All-American, slightly dense, football star, Ronnie Raymond. While we're here, let's also hook him up with school journalist, black kid with a chip on his shoulder, Jason Rusch.

They, of course, hate each other. Primarily because Jason is one of those kids who hates the sports kids and promptly starts intimating that Ronnie's a racist. Ronnie is one of those kids who tires of people making presumptions about him because he's a football star...and now...thinks he's a racist. Reminds me of when I got drug to a PromiseKeepers Rally many years ago and the guy on stage spent most of the time informing me and the thousands of other guys there that we were all racists...even if we didn't know it. Wha-huh? Anyway, while we get glimpses at these two boys' personal lives, the visual parallels between the two of them are highlighted with side-by-side panels and internal monologues (Ronnie's in red bubbles and Jason's in yellow). Both just met each other and both think they know what the other kid is all about. The truth is that they're a lot more like each other than they realize (a couple of arrogant pricks, actually) and circumstances are about to bring them a lot closer to each other than they're going to want.

The terrorist group tortures then kills a scientist at a Swedish supercollider and we start getting some indication of what the macguffin is – some kind of powerful something or other having to do with “The Firestorm Protocol” and toss in some tantalizing references to a missing scientist named Martin Stein. Visual indications are that there are various countries with their own top-secret “Firestorm” individuals (I noted China, Japan, and Russia. Not sure of the other countries).

Naturally, even though nothing in the story leads the reader to understand why, the terrorists “know” that the missing piece of the puzzle is at....Walton Mills High School! The timing couldn't be more perfect for them to break in to get it while both Ronnie and Jason are there. And, like any good high school student with a top-secret “magnetic bottle” containing highly radioactive material that “inhibit[s] the decay of gauge bosons...[changing] quarks of one flavor to another,” HE HIDES IT INSIDE HIS HIGH SCHOOL LOCKER!!!! By the way, that stuff about quarks and bosons means it has the ability to transmute elements. Now we get it. “The Firestorm Protocol” is some kind of global top-secret experiment involving transmutation of matter predicated upon the Higgs Boson, or “God Particle” and is functional only with a genetic match. Makes total sense. Trekkies probably understood that techno-babble, but I doubt anyone else did.

But, really, isn't the whole thing just an excuse to get Ronnie and Jason to fuse together into Firestorm? Well, of course....and that happens....sort of. As the cover that makes my eyes bleed reveals, the two of these guys actually co-exist as separate mirror-versions of each other as Firestorm but they can also fuse together into one massive giant Firestorm who calls himself “Fury” and talks like a tough-guy asshole saying things like “The 'guys' are gone forever, Sweetcheeks. Say hello to Fury.” *facepalm*

I really didn't care for it. I didn't like the pointless brutality of the villains. I didn't like the simplistic implication that Ronnie is a racist because he hasn't had a black kid over to his house. I didn't like the self-righteous attitude of Jason. I really hated the techno-babble. I didn't like the completely and inconceivably stupid idea that Jason would just keep this all-important macguffin in his freaking high school locker. That was really just too much for me.

I think the broader concepts are sound. The idea that “The Firestorm Protocol” is a global project with multiple competing countries experimenting with this powerful weapon is a strong premise. The pettiness of the two unlikeable lead characters and the “Fury” aspect really turned me off. I am usually a fan of the work of Gail Simone and Ethan Van Sciver and I appreciated Yildiray Cinar's work on LEGION this past year, but I didn't enjoy this comic.

It has potential in the concept, but this went off the rails a number of times and never really righted itself.


FIRESTORM: THE NUCLEAR MAN #1 (1978)
Writer: Gerry Conway
Artists: Al Milgrom (pencils) and Klaus Jansen/Josef Rubenstein (inks)
Publisher: DC Comics

Wowee! If the kids at school could only see me now! I haven't felt this good since I made the winning touchdown in the championship game with Central High!” – Ronnie Raymond (Firestorm)

The cover, by artist Al Milgrom is simple but it is much more dynamic than the static, posed, over-colored and over-f/x'd cover of the 2011 cover. The 2011 series involves a global terrorist group led by Cliff Carmichael who slaughter their way to a high school in pursuit of some important canister that ignites and joins 2 teenagers together both separately and joined as Firestorm super-heroes.

The original version of the character premiered in 1978 and was smack dab in the middle of the oil crisis and widespread fears of nuclear power (the Three-Mile Island meltdown was right around the corner). This comic also featured terrorists. Not the kind of terrorists who put a gun to the head of a little boy and shoot his head off after making him watch them first kill his family. No, these are 70s-style terrorists with curly perms, muttonchop sideburns and sticks of dynamite. In fact, the comic begins with Firestorm already in action taking on a group of thugs trying to blow up a nuclear power plant in New Jersey with a stash of dynamite. Then it does a quick flashback to the circumstances surrounding how Firestorm came to be here in the first place.

So, the flashback machine takes us to the high school where new transfer student, and football player, Ronnie Raymond is experiencing his first day in a new school. Instead of Jason Rusch, the antagonist in this comic is “Cliff Carmichael,” who is NOT a terrorist here but, rather, an annoying little shit who relentlessly picks on Ronnie. In this scenario, Ronnie is a jock but Cliff is the smart nerd who lords his brains and cutting wit over the “big dumb jock.” It is an amusing twist on the usual scenario of the jock picking on the smart kid.

Ronnie is much more likeable in this story than in the new version, and the reader is more empathetic to his situation as the new kid in school. Cliff is the guy we all want to just punch in the nose. Which is exactly how he should be. He's not the hero, he's the foil.

The Coalition to Resist Atomic Power is protesting the opening of the Hudson Nuclear Power Plant, where Prof. Martin Stein hangs out as the physicist who designed the installation. In the "New 52" version, Martin Stein is so far just a mysterious name. Here, he is an angry and irritable man who presents a very unlikely and intriguing pairing with the youthful, non-intellectual, Ronnie. The Coalition is really just a front for an anti-nuclear power terrorist group who breaks in to the power plant with some dynamite to blow it up and make everyone see the danger. Inexplicably, that explosion fuses Ronnie (who shows up at the plant at just the wrong time) with Prof. Stein and gives them the power to transmute elements.

With Ronnie's football player physique and Prof. Stein's brilliant mind plus fire hair and a puffy-sleeved shirt, they embark on a new career as the powerful nuclear-powered “Firestorm.” The terrorists at the Jersey power plant are, of course, the same group that tried to blow up the power plant.

The story follows some basic Silver Age tropes such as name alliteration (i.e., Ronnie Raymond, Cliff Carmichael, Doreen Day), villain set-up, and stylized soap-opera relationships and dialogue. However, there is real dramatic tension without imposing any social or political agenda. The anti-nuclear group are the villains of the piece, but it never feels like any judgment is being pushed on either side of the issue by writer Gerry Conway. The look of the Firestorm character is really bizarre by any standard and, yet, I've always liked it. Even when I was 12 years old.

Milgrom's work on this comic displays elements of both Ditko and Kirby in it. It doesn't always work, but for his pencil work (Milgrom is more known for his inking and editing work), it's pretty strong in terms of selling the narrative while limited in terms of actual drawing ability. The inks by Klaus Jansen and Josef Rubinstein are solid and help out a lot, although Jansen and Rubenstein are not similar in style at all.

Of the two, I definitely enjoy the original FIRESTORM #1 over “The New 52” version, but even with that I will admit it's pretty lightweight. But at least it is fun. The new version is not very fun at all.


Look for this and other reviews tomorrow @AICN Comics!

FLASH #1 Reviewed! (New 52)

Entertainment

THE FLASH #1
Writer/Artist: Francis Manapul
Color Artist: Brian Buccellato
Publisher: DC Comics


“But the thing is...no matter how fast or now far you run...you can't outrun...yourself?!”
-- The Flash (Barry Allen)

A funny thing happened on the way back to Central City. I read the first of “The New 52” that I fully enjoyed with no reservations. The reboot on Flash is simple and it works. Writer and artist, Francis Manapul takes a broom and a dustpan to over 50 years of ever-more complicated continuity and sweeps it clean. Back in place is a younger Barry Allen, experienced as Flash, but not experienced enough to have died repeatedly and been replaced and resurrected repeatedly. Gone is the Batman-esque tortured soul of the recent REBIRTHed Flash. Barry is a young professional crime scene investigator on the laboratory side. He's a big O.C.D. And self-deprecating but highly intelligent and confident.

And he is a hero simply because it would be wrong to have his powers of super-speed and not be a hero. He cares about people and he cares about what's right.

This was a refreshing comic and a refreshing take on the relaunch without regressing our lead character to the point of mental infancy nor did it incorporate the darkness and bloody gore that permeates so much of the recent & new DC (so far as I've seen). So, hold on to your hats as I recommend this one for old-school and new-school readers out there.

What I discovered, to my surprise, is that Manapul is able to visually tell a story and make it flow smoothly and still incorporate some “Wow” moments with the action. In fact, the 2-page spread that makes up the title page and origin recap is one of my favorite images from all “The New 52” that I've actually had the fortune (or misfortune) to read recently. I enjoyed the dialogue and the way Manapul often integrates the panels and word balloons to move the narrative along. It gives a real sense of movement, which is always a trick for a comic book about someone with super-speed: How do you take static panel-to-panel storytelling and get a sense of movement and speed? I thought Manapul paced everything just right to give us ebb and flow, action and mystery, characterization and depth, and a strong cliffhanger.

Glory be, the plot does not revolve around Prof. Zoom or any of the familiar Rogues Gallery of The Flash, but rather a genuine mystery surrounding an old college classmate of Barry's. I love the Rogues and I love the Prof, but it felt nice to be re-introduced to Barry and Iris without the plot albatross of Zoom's (or other Rogues') evil machinations. It allowed me to just focus on Barry and, to a lesser extent, Iris. For most of the last 10 years or so, the focus of FLASH comics have for ill or good been a place where Flash himself is secondary (or even periphery) to the story itself. This is fine, occasionally, to mix things up in a long-running title, but when it becomes the norm to have the title character essentially a guest-star or supporting character to his own book...well, that's losing focus and the writer needs to get reined in.

Ivan Reis's FLASH-tastic Variant Cover
Visually, I found the art impeccable and often stunning. Manapul's art is both finished out and enhanced by Brian Buccellato's expressive coloring work. I recently came across a quote from the late, but not forgotten, comic coloring legend, Adrienne Roy. Roy said ‎"Color leads the eye and helps tell the story subconsciously...it should never distract from the even flow of the total creation." Buccellato's work on this comic exemplified her statement. I especially liked his repeated use of a muted violet offsetting the strong red and yellow of The Flash. You can see an example even on the cover. It helped set a different tone for this comic from any other I had read from DC.

One of the things that's so easily overdone for the last few years of FLASH comics has been the coloring effects that have laid in the electrical charge bolts flying off his body. I understand that the intention has been to give a visual sense of movement and excitement to the character even when he's standing still. However, surely everyone else has caught on to how overdone it had gotten by the end. Well, here, Buccellato works off of Manapul's pencils to create slight variation on that visual that works very well for me.

In the Silver Age, The Flash had his Flash ring that when Barry pressed a button on the side, it would open up and his cloth uniform would fly out in grand Infantino-esque fashion to expand until large enough for Barry to change his clothes at super-speed. In 2011 and forward, the ring utilized some sort of higher tech to electrically fire the top of the ring outward where it expands and attaches to his chest to form his Flash insignia and the costume itself flies out of the chest piece in parts that form-fit around his body. The seams where those parts connect are the areas that we see electricity charge up when Barry takes off into super-speed action.

I was very surprised by THE FLASH #1. I did not like his characterization in the last, truncated FLASH comic, nor did I care much for him in the FLASHPOINT mini-series. I am also a bit saddened by the disappearance of Wally West/Kid Flash from continuity because he was a character I always enjoyed from his Kid Flash days through his 20 years or so as The Flash himself, but if DC continues to take care of Barry like they did in this comic, then the future looks quite decent for THE FLASH.


Look for this and other reviews tomorrow @AICN Comics!

Monday, October 3, 2011

Thomas Paine's AFRICAN SLAVERY IN AMERICA (1774)

Entertainment

Thomas Paine (1736-1809)
Written in 1774, two years before the Declaration of Independence was drafted and signed, Thomas Paine's passionate appeal for the abolishment of slavery in America resonates even today.  Published in 1775, it is recognized as one of the first and, I would argue, incredible insights into human nature, inhumanity, and the spiritual destruction inherent in such an abhorrent practice. One wonders how different, our history might have been if those in positions of power had taken heed of his wise and prophetic words.

Worth reading back then and it is worth reading today.


Tuesday, September 20, 2011

GREEN LANTERN (New 52) #1 Reviewed!

Entertainment
GREEN LANTERN #1
Writer: Geoff Johns
Artists: Doug Mahnke (pencils) & Christian Alamy (inks)
Publisher: DC Comics


“This ring chose you to once again become a member of the Green Lantern Corps.  After your betrayal, most would call that act heresy.  But we do not.  We see this for what it truly is.  A chance at redemption.” – Guardian to Sinestro

I really wanted to like this one.  For years, Geoff Johns was the guy I could depend on to resonate with me as a reader.  He really “got” Hal and Green Lantern as far as I was concerned. I was not only on board with his introduction of the other colored lanterns, I thought (and still do) it was simplistically brilliant and opened up avenues for stories in the longterm. However...somewhere between the “Blackest Night” event and now, he lost me. By the time of the “War of the Lanterns” storyline, I realized I had no idea what was even going on anymore with the Lanterns, or Hal, and worst of all...I didn't care anymore.

And I stopped buying GREEN LANTERN.

Yes...I stopped buying GREEN LANTERN.


I've been pretty vocal in my cynical distaste over the reboot-that's-not-really-a-reboot of the DC line, but I've really tried to keep my criticism focused on the editorial and corporate side and give the creative talent their due.  I never want to just crap wholesale on talent who are working, earning a living, and giving their best to try and produce quality stories within the confines of the editorial constraints.  Lots of people are really enjoying the new DC books overall.  At this point, I've only read 2 of them, the JUSTICE LEAGUE and GREEN LANTERN.  Both of them written by Geoff Johns. 
GREEN LANTERN is a better single issue comic book than Johns' JUSTICE LEAGUE.

I can at least say that much.  It doesn't feel like the first issue of a comic, it just feels like the first part of a story in an already ongoing series.  So, I would expect that any newbies who come along will feel mildly out of the loop, but I expect that most longtime comics readers understand how the game is played and will feel like they get all they need to know to follow the story.
Sinestro has become the most interesting character in the entire library of GREEN LANTERN characters...including Hal Jordan himself, so the idea of having Sinestro forced against his will to become the Green Lantern for our Space Sector again and stripping Hal of the ring is actually a welcome change.  Most especially welcome given the fact that some sort of brain aneurysm has apparently occurred in Hal somewhere between GL: REBIRTH, the previous GL #1 and this GL #1 (and we might as well throw JL #1 in there too) and given him brain damage.  The Hal in this comic book is a total idiot. 

No.  I take that back. 

What is stupider than an idiot, but not quite to the level of actually being mentally challenged?  Sub-moronic perhaps? 

I won't even go into it in this review, but the “action” sequence that Johns puts Hal through is just unbearably stupid.  I think it's intended to be funny, but it's really just stupid and paints our “hero” in an especially....stupid (God, I wish I could come up with a better word) light.  Then the exchange between Hal and Carol where he is so incredibly dense and uncouth that even an uncouth lout would be embarrassed?  I really cannot believe what I'm reading.  But, thankfully, we don't get a full-on Trademarked Johns “decapitation”...but we do get a NEAR decapitation of a Sinestro Corps member by Sinestro himself.  I guess that satisfies our decapitation quota for this GL comic. 

The art is competent, but not dynamic.  There's a stiffness to Mahnke's work on GL that has just never rung my bell like, say, the exciting work of Ivan Reis or Carlos Pacheco.  Because of that, the art unfortunately doesn't step in and win me over when the writing is lacking.  I'm starting to think that top-tier artistic storytellers collaborate with Johns to create great works, but when Johns is paired with a merely good, but lackluster, artist that the flaws in his writing start to weigh it down.

On its own, this is not necessarily a bad comic.  When Sinestro is on the scene, I'd give it a B+.  Every time Hal shows up, however, it stinks down into the C- and D range.  If you are a Sinestro fan and you hate Hal Jordan, this is the book for you.  I hope they keep Sinestro as Green Lantern and forget about Hal at this rate.


Look for this and other reviews tomorrow @AICN Comics!