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there was a reason all these years that I could never find the story referenced anywhere: "Dial Double-Zero" remains an unpublished story by Ray Bradbury.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...