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.