Friday, July 13, 2007

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

The Flash Has a Britney Spears Moment

In this issue, the Flash is arrested for public indecency, and we discover that Wally West shaves his legs.

It must be a hassle to be hounded by the paparazzi while you're out trying to save the world. Like fighting the forces of darkness isn't difficult enough without worrying about an unflattering photograph of your nether regions making the rounds on the internet.

Seriously, if the Flash wants to streak around at super speed, how is that anyone else's business? That's the downside of being a superhero... always getting hassled by the Man.

Anyway, this is what happens when someone (like Kevin, in this case) makes an idle remark about a comic book cover while we're putting out the new books... my lunch break is shot while I photoshop the joke into (virtual) reality.

Click on the picture for a larger view of Flash's junk (censored, mercifully).

Friday, November 24, 2006

A Boss Called Kev #4

"Black Friday"

The action figure situation at Paper Heroes has spiralled out of control. With a big sale scheduled for the day after Thanksgiving, Corey decides to give Kev one last chance, but even at 15% off they are unable to significantly reduce the inventory, and still more cases are on the way. As the overstock reaches critical mass, Corey realizes that his boss must be stopped... by any means necessary. Hoping to make Kev's death a happy one, Corey hires Jennifer Connelly -- a skilled ninja assassin -- and instructs her to kill his boss before he completes the monthly Diamond Previews order.

Will Kev survive? Once he sees Jennifer Connelly in person, will he even attempt to defend himself?

For a little background on why I repeatedly photoshop my boss onto comic book covers, click here. Or, to see the rest of the Kev covers on Flickr, click here.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Dog the Bounty Hunter Broke My Nunchuks

Halloween Party
Originally uploaded by roadkillbuddha.
Halloween 2006 Recap: After not doing much in the past few years to celebrate the only holiday that I can really get behind, I was happy when my boss Kevin announced a Halloween Party for Saturday night, giving me a reason to get a costume together.

Of course, chronic procrastinator that I am, Saturday afternoon rolled around and I was still trying to think of something to dress up as. Knowing I had the makings for about half a ninja costume, I'd been trying to think of something funny and incongruous to combine it with. Themes I considered were Pirate Ninja, Clown Ninja, Office Ninja (like an Office Linebacker, but more lethal), Homeless Ninja ("Will Kill For Food"), or even NASCAR Ninja (but all of the NASCAR jerseys we sell at the store are WAY too expensive, especially considering that I'd never wear any of them ever again under any circumstance).

Finally, while walking through Wal-Mart, I spotted the rack of orange safety vests, and Safety Ninja was born. Nothing says "stealth" like a glow-in-the-dark orange vest. And while Safety Ninja easily bested Zorro in a sword fight, he was no match for Dog the Bounty Hunter, hence the title of this blog entry.

While the Halloween party on Saturday night was a lot of fun, Halloween Night was a bit of a let down. I wore my costume to work, but needn't have bothered, as I think we averaged about one customer per hour for the duration of my shift. And an accident involving an 18-wheeler and power lines that afternoon had left the store without cable TV. So I'm sure I was a pathetic sight yesterday... a 37-year-old comics geek in a ninja costume, sitting alone in a comics shop for hours on end, bored out of my mind. And the situation when I got home was eerily similar, as I went from having no customers to no trick-or-treaters. (Oh well, I guess I'll just have to haul all the leftover candy down to the store... what a shame).

But I did celebrate the holiday by finally watching my SLiTHER DVD last night. A truly funny and twisted horror movie with a number of great performances, it will definitely be one that I watch again and again.

So remember kids, be safe on Halloween. Don't die by accident... wait for a ninja to kill you.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Guy Gardner Meme

As previously mentioned, it's Guy Gardner Week over at Dave's Long Box. Dave's vacation started today, but fear not... he decided to keep everyone busy in his absence by starting a Guy Gardner meme: "What is Guy saying? You make the call!" On the left is my own humble contribution.

While Dave clearly provided us with the classic, psychotic version of Guy to work with, I have to admit that my fondest memories of Gardner are from his Justice League International days, after he suffered a severe blow to the head that resulted in a major personality shift, and the emergence of the nauseatingly kinder, gentler Guy Gardner.

This of course led to the classic sequence of JLI covers (from issues 18 and 19), wherein Guy reverts to type just in time to face the intergalactic mercenary Lobo. Of course, this was back when Lobo was still an obscure and enjoyable character, before the fanboys completely missed the point that he was intended as a parody of such "ultraviolent" Marvel characters as Wolverine and the Punisher, after which his massive overexposure as DC's resident badboy antihero began in force.

Apparently, Lobo's appeal was as lost on Keith Giffen as Rorschach's popularity with fans was on Alan Moore. Which reminds me of a funny Lobo anecdote I posted on my Simpsons blog a few months back.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

More Justice League Paraphernalia

Justice League T-Shirt
Originally uploaded by roadkillbuddha.
I hardly ever wear comic book-related t-shirts anymore, but since I seem to have the Justice League on the brain this week, I decided to dig this one out of the closet and wear it to work today. Seemed like the proper apparel for When Superheroes Were Allowed to be Funny week.

I'd never really considered it before, but there seems to be a fairly arbitrary collection of Leaguers depicted here, pulled from the ranks of Justice League Europe, Justice League International, and Justice League America. While I'm positive this was never the line-up for any specific team, I suppose they could have all been active at the same time back in the days when the JLA, JLE, Justice League Task Force, and Extreme Justice teams were all running around and swapping members at random.

Also, for a more classic, old-school Justice League roster, check out this Super Powers Birthday Card that I had stored along with the JLI Postcard set.

Postcards from the Justice League

So after Ambush Bug appeared on the cover of last week's issue of 52 (Week 24), I began reminiscing about the 1980s-era DC Universe... you know, back When Superheroes Were Allowed to be Funny.

Back in those days, the ground zero for mirth in the DCU was of course Justice League International (brought to us by the incredible creative team of Keith Giffen, J.M. DeMatteis, and Kevin Maguire).

I still remember discovering JLI in the summer of 1988. It was already on issue 14 at that point -- the premiere of intergalactic supervillain Manga Khan -- and its witty dialogue and irreverent take on superheroes really struck a chord with me (and sent me on a quest to find all of the back issues, of course).

Back then my friends and I played a number of roleplaying games, including the superhero-themed RPG Villains & Vigilantes. JLI was the first comic I'd ever read in which the superheroes behaved the same way we did during our V&V games (which is to say, immaturely). As a group there weren't many things we took seriously, and pretending to save the world definitely wasn't one of them.

Thinking back on the good old days inspired me to dig deep in my closet, past the stack of comic boxes, where I found, tucked away in an envelope inside a cardboard box full of family photographs, my Justice League International postcard set (which I duly scanned and posted on Flickr for everyone to enjoy). Released in the late '80s, each postcard was drawn by Kevin Maguire, inked by Joe Rubinstein, and colored by Steve Oliff. (Not surprisingly, no one took credit for the questionable text on the back of the postcards, which is chock-full of awkward sentences and exclamation points).

And although none of the postcards from my JLI set ever actually fell into the evil clutches of the U.S. Post Office, I like to think of them as missives from an earlier time; souvenirs from before DC Comics' search-and-destroy mission to murder, debase, or retcon every "fun" character from an earlier epoch that didn't demand that everyone wearing brightly-colored spandex costumes have such a grave demeanor. If you think I'm exaggerating, you can check out Wikipedia's extensive list of offenses against the heroes and supporting cast members of Justice League International. Suffice it to say that the Brave New Continuity of Identity Crisis, Infinite Crisis, and 52 has not been kind to them.

I have to wonder about the motivations behind these editorial decisions. Are there people at DC who feel that the DC Universe must be humorless in order for their comics to be taken seriously... as if you can't be serious about comedy? Are there professionals in the comics industry who are still defensive about the comics medium, and who feel that the only way to silence the critics is to show them just how deadly serious comics can be? (I think Steve Gerber may have put it best in his "Ooh! Dark!" blog post).

Anyway, I hope these postcards manage to bring back some fond memories for fans of the JLI's better days, before the tone of the DC Universe, and these characters' lives, switched from comedy to tragedy.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Guy Gardner Week

Guy Gardner
Originally uploaded by roadkillbuddha.
It's Guy Gardner Week at Dave's Long Box! So far we've got Guy Gardner vs. Batman ("One Punch!"), Guy Gardner vs. Jim Shooter, and Guy Gardner vs. Airline Passenger.

So go read about Guy's glory days from the '80s, "When Superheroes Were Allowed to be Funny" (my theme for the week).

And to commemorate Guy Gardner Week, here's a postcard from the 1988 Justice League International set.

Helmet of Fate: 52

In 2007, DC will be publishing a number of Helmet of Fate one-shots which will lead up to a new Dr. Fate series by one of my favorite writers, Steve Gerber (best known as the creator of Howard the Duck). In the one-shots, Fate's helmet will take a tour around the DC Universe, passing through the hands of a number of the DCU's magic-oriented inhabitants. (More details at Newsarama).

The helmet seems to have taken an unexpected detour on the cover of this week's issue of 52 (Week 25), proving that, as magic artifacts go, this one's pretty versatile.

Monday, October 23, 2006

When Superheroes Were Allowed to be Funny

Ambush Bug in Who's Who
Originally uploaded by roadkillbuddha.
I think most comics fans experience a pole shift every few years. Something happens... either in their personal tastes or in the comics industry... and their DC/Marvel preference polarity is reversed. This phenomenon doesn't include the hardcore fans who stick with their favorite publisher for life, of course, declaring no matter what that the opposition sucks ass and always will. Those guys are a breed apart. For the rest of us, DC and Marvel seem to go through phases, or eras, that determine which company's output we read more of.

These days I read more Marvel than I do DC. I think it was back in 2000 when Cap'n John turned me back onto comics after I'd spent a few years away, and the tool he used was the Daredevil: Visionaries trade paperback, collecting the first eight issues of Kevin Smith's run on the series. Shortly after that I began to follow all of Marvel's then-new Ultimate Universe, and it wasn't long until I was embarrassed to realize that I'd returned to the Marvel Zombie tendencies of my youth.

And although I'm following fewer Marvel titles now than I was then, I find myself gravitating back toward independents rather than back to DC. Because while there are a few outstanding DC books, like Grant Morrison's All-Star Superman series (which, tellingly, exists in its own continuity), these days I find the DC Universe to be a bit tedious.

Based on the events of Identity & Infinite Crisis, I can only assume that there was an editorial mandate somewhere along the line to eradicate humor from everything they publish. And I consider that extremely unfortunate, because for me the heyday of DC Comics (post-Silver Age, at least) was the '80s.

That's right: The era of the Giffen/Dematteis/Maguire Justice League and, of course, Giffen's Ambush Bug... the halcyon days when laughter could still be heard in the DC Universe. Which is why I was extremely surprised last week when, in the humorless aftermath of the various Crises mini-series, Ambush Bug turned up on the cover of DC's 52: Week 24. Maybe there's hope for the DCU yet.

For the story behind the picture of Ambush Bug above, click on it and read the caption for it on my Flickr page.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Robert Kirkman's Walking Dead

Although I'm not a fan of Marvel Zombies (I realize I'm in the minority here, but while I love superheroes and I love zombies, for the most part I find that those are two great tastes that don't taste great together), I was happy to see Robert Kirkman receive the award for Best Comic Book for Marvel Zombies at Spike TV's 2006 Scream Awards this week... especially since he was the writer of two of the series nominated: Marvel Zombies and The Walking Dead (the other three nominees were All-Star Superman, Ex Machina, and Civil War).

While the Marvel Zombies series doesn't do anything for me (except for the covers... those are hilarious), Walking Dead is one of my all-time favorite comics. It also has the distinction of being the only series that I've only read in trade paperback format; knowing how much more I enjoy sitting down with an entire story-arc, I've avoided buying or reading any single issues, no matter how great the temptation.

Described by Kirkman as "the zombie movie that never ends," I think Walking Dead would make an awesome television series. Forget Jericho... post-apocalyptic scenarios are missing a crucial element if there aren't any undead stumbling around the landscape. interviewed Kirkman after the Scream Awards, claiming (and I assume they're correct) that this was the first time a comic book award was ever televised. You can check out the video on GooTube. Pictured above are the Walking Dead Torso Statuettes (click to enlarge) from The CS Moore Studio, due out in 2007. They're also planning a statue of the series' protagonist, Rick Grimes, based on the sketch to the left.

The long-awaited fifth Walking Dead trade, The Best Defense, was released at the end of last month (as I noted on Z Week), despite reports that it had been pushed back to December.

Monday, October 09, 2006

GooTube: It's Official

After Google and YouTube both declined to comment on last week's Wall Street Journal rumors, Google announced today that it is purchasing YouTube for 1.65 billion dollars in stock.

I'm guessing they probably won't combine YouTube and Google Video into a single service called GooTube... but they should.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

2nd Annual Contraband Film Festival

The pictures from the 2nd Annual Contraband Film Festival are up on my Flickr page. The turnout for the event was good, the response was positive, and the evening was a blast.

Saturday, September 30, 2006

Slumming with Spider-Man

What we have here is a picture of my son Matthew posing with Spider-Man at the Grand Opening of the new Best Buy here in Lake Charles, Louisiana ("Superhero Visits Hick Town, Film at 11:00").

I learned of Spidey's scheduled appearance from an ad in yesterday's newspaper, which I purchased for the article on the Lake Area Film Group's 2nd Annual Contraband Film Festival, which is being held tonight.

As I mentioned previously, the Festival marks the premiere of the Director's Cut of Eternal, our entry into the 48-Hour Film Project that we shot last May in Houston, Texas.

Anyway, between our pilgrimage to Best Buy to get Spider-Man's autograph (and where I finally got around to picking up 28 Days Later on DVD for $9.99) and preparations for the film fest, this is all the time I have for blogging today.

I'm sure I'll be back tomorrow with pictures and stories from the festival. In the meantime, we should all contemplate how low our friendly neighborhood Spider-Man's career has plummeted since he sided with Iron Man in that whole Superhuman Registration Act debacle.

Seriously, Spidey, the Grand Opening of a Best Buy? I know times are tough, but it seems at the very least you could get back together with Iceman and Firestar for an Amazing Friends Reunion Tour. You know, something dignified.

Friday, September 29, 2006

Irredeemable Ant-Man #1

The first issue of Robert Kirkman's new Marvel series, The Irredeemable Ant-Man, hits comic shops next week. Ant-Man's alter ego, Dr. Hank Pym, has long been the Rodney Dangerfield of the Marvel Universe, so it stands to reason that the cover of #1 would describe Ant-Man as "The World's Most Unlikable Super Hero." Pym don't get no respect... from anyone. Not from his one-time teammates in the Avengers or the Ultimates, not from comics fans, and certainly not from Marvel's scribes.

Over the years Pym has been portrayed with a variety of mental problems, including amnesia, acute paranoia, and some sort of multiple personality disorder (besides Ant-Man, he's also fought crime as Yellowjacket, Giant Man, and Goliath). He's a wife-beater, known in the regular Marvel Universe for verbally abusing and eventually striking his wife, Janet (The Wasp), whereas his counterpart in the Ultimate Universe once attacked Jan while she was shrunk-down to her Wasp form, spraying her with insecticide and sending an army of ants after her during a final round of domestic violence. Oh, and he also invented the supervillain Ultron, a psychotic, genocidal android. Not surprisingly, Pym was eventually expelled from both the Avengers and the Ultimates in disgrace. I'm guessing the reason for termination listed in his personnel file was "all-around douchebaggery."

So clearly the writers at Marvel have not been kind to Hank, but Robert Kirkman (The Walking Dead, Marvel Zombies, Invincible) takes Pym-dissing to a new level by relegating him to the status of a supporting cast member in the Irredeemable Ant-Man series. That's right -- Marvel launches a new Ant-Man book and Pym only gets a bit part. Like I said, no respect, no respect at all.

The new Ant-Man is a low-level SHIELD agent who stumbles across the newest ant-themed super-suit in Pym's lab on the SHIELD Helicarrier after bashing Pym's skull in with the butt of a rifle (adding injury to insult, you might say). Indeed, the majority of the supporting cast is comprised of low-level SHIELD agents, operatives so out-of-the-loop that they spend a poker game debating whether or not Nick Fury might be nothing more than an urban legend created to give the agency a cooler image.

Irredeemable Ant-Man #1 is enjoyable and amusing, though honestly I thought the best gag of the issue was the cover (see above; click to enlarge). Of course, while I initially expected this series about a self-centered protagonist who uses his powers irresponsibly and for personal gain to be played strictly for humor, Kirkman promises that the series will get "very dark." As a major fan of his Walking Dead series, I find that prospect intriguing and will follow the book to see where he takes it.

The art is by Phil Hester and Ande Parks, a penciller/inker combo I last remember seeing on Kevin Smith's run of Green Arrow. I find it a little bit on the cartoonish side, but so far it seems to be a good match for the characters and subject matter.

Ant-Man: The Movie

It doesn't look like Hank Pym will be garnering any more respect when he makes the jump to the big screen. Just as the new Irredeemable Ant-Man comic is about what happens after a SHIELD agent steals Pym's Ant-Man suit, Ant-Man director Edgar Wright (writer/director of the awesome Shaun of the Dead) announced at this summer's Comic-Con that the movie will be about what happens after Scott Lang steals Pym's Ant-Man suit. It would seem the denizens of the Marvel Universe have no more respect for property rights than they do for Hank Pym.

Update: Ant-Man is also scheduled to make an appearance on Cartoon Network's Fantastic Four cartoon in October. From Comics Continuum:
"WORLD'S TINIEST HEROES," airing Saturday, Oct. 7 at 8 p.m. and Saturday, Oct. 14 at 11 a.m.

One of Reed's experiments goes awry, causing the Fantastic Four to begin shrinking. Within hours, the Fantastic Four will shrink out of existence, unless Reed can reverse the effect. But at miniature size, even a trip to the lab becomes a challenge, even more so when the security systems recognize the action figure sized Fantastic Four as an infestation of rodents and begins to hunt them down. Even with a helping hand from the Astonishing Ant-Man, the Fantastic Four are in for a giant-sized challenge.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Truly Inspired Iron Man Casting

AICN broke the news today that Robert Downey, Jr. has been cast as Tony Stark in Jon Favreau's Iron Man movie. (Iron Man will, of course, be played by CGI).

I am astounded at what a perfect bit of casting this is. Anyone that has a passing familiarity with the respective backgrounds of the actor and the comic book character he would be portraying will see the obvious parallels in their personal battles (Downey, Jr. with drugs, Stark with alcohol). If the movie poster doesn't say "Robert Downey, Jr. IS... Iron Man," then someone in marketing is drinking on the job.

What's really encouraging about the news is that it represents such a brave choice on the parts of both Favreau and Marvel. I doubt that Downey, Jr. is on anyone's shortlist of ideal action heroes, meaning there's going to be a lot of bitching and moaning from ignorant fanboys. And of course, Downey, Jr.'s drug problems have complicated productions in the past (he had to be written out of the Ally McBeal series, for example), so I'm sure there are people who consider it risky to place him at the center of a superhero movie franchise.

I see this as a strong indication of Marvel Studios' commitment to adapting their own properties into quality films. Not only is Robert Downey, Jr. a name actor, but he is also an extremely talented one, as evidenced by his Golden Globe award and his Oscar and Emmy nominations. Having him as the star would lend a lot of credibility to a rather obscure comic book adaptation.

Here's hoping that on Friday someone attached to the Iron Movie confirms rather than denies Downey, Jr.'s casting.

Update: Sweet! Jon Favreau has already confirmed the announcement on the MySpace Iron Man Movie Group...
It is true. Robert Downey Jr. is Tony Stark. I am about as excited as I can be. I saw what he can do and he is extremely enthusiastic about playing Stark. I can say with absolute certainty that there is no better choice. The humor and emotional dimension he brings truly raises the bar on this project. Get ready.

Z Week

I'm beginning to suspect that the comics industry is conspiring to bankrupt me by publishing zombie epics at an ever-increasing frequency.

Pictured here are 4 items that were all shipped this week: Marvel's Essential Tales of the Zombie Vol. 1, IGN's The Walking Dead Vol. 5, IDW's Zombies! #4, and the first issue of Zombie from Marvel's MAX imprint.

Combine those with such books as the new Bart Simpson's Treehouse of Horror, Ultimates 2 #12, Ultimate Spider-Man #100, a handful of "Civil War" tie-ins, Grant Morrison's Batman and a few other DC comics that I'm reading, and it's an expensive week.

Anyone else find themselves having to make an excessive outlay of cash yesterday? Because personally, I'm starting to feel like I'm working for the company store.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Justice Rats

You know, I'm beginning to think that almost anything dubbed over Superfriends clips would be funny. (In this case, it's Kevin Smith's Mallrats). Special thanks to whomever emailed me this gem.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Superman: The Wrath of Zod?

Important Announcement:

Starting immediately, I'm calling for a moratorium on the Wrath of Khan analogy. You can blame Bryan Singer -- he ruined it for everyone.

At this summer's San Diego Comic Con, Singer used the analogy to indicate that the follow-up to Superman Returns would have more action. "I plan to get all Wrath of Khan on it," he announced, then later explained himself to TODAYonline:
"What I was referring to was the fact that, when you do a first film like X-Men, for example, you're introducing a world and a set of characters. Once those characters are introduced, once we've lived with them for awhile and we know them, when you get into a second film like an Empire Strikes Back or a Wrath of Khan, you can make an action-adventure film and you don't have to bank all that time getting to know the characters. Now you can raise the stakes, raise the jeopardy and make a leaner, meaner movie."
I call bullshit.

This is Superman that Singer is talking about, an icon who needs no introduction. Superman and his supporting cast have been around for almost 70 years now, and in that time they've been adapted from the comics into numerous movies and television series, both animated and live action -- not to mention other media, such as radio shows, novels, and newspaper strips. The television season immediately preceding Superman Returns' summer box office premiere included on its schedule both the WB's Smallville and Cartoon Network's Justice League Unlimited. I don't think the intervening weeks were enough to allow Superman to drop out of the public consciousness.

And it's not like Singer had a bold new vision of the Superman mythos that the audience would need time to adjust to. Superman Returns was basically a revival of the Christopher Reeve movie series with a new cast and state-of-the-art special effects. Honestly, I think the movie could have started off with an aerial slugfest over Metropolis between Superman and Bizarro, and the audience would have managed to keep up.

Describing the TODAY interview, Mark Beall over at Cinematical writes that Singer "simply pointed to traditional comic book movie wisdom, and said he meant the first movie had to be consumed with character introductions and relationships, the second movie -- like the old Wrath of Khan -- could jump right into the action." Beall went on to conclude, "He's right, of course, with the conventional wisdom he suggested..."

And that's what I'm talking about. I'm not really attacking Bryan Singer, who still has a lot of street cred with me for what he accomplished on the X-Men movies, but the conventional wisdom that his comments stem from. His usage of the now-common Wrath of Khan analogy was simply the spine-snapping straw responsible for the quadriplegic camel.

Because it's an analogy I hear constantly, every time a new comic book movie franchise kicks off and the fans feel the need to defend the lackluster results. They repeat this assertion that the point of the first movie is to get the characters' origins out of the way, and then the real fun can begin in the second one. My problem with this conventional wisdom is that it is essentially describing a television pilot, not a movie.

The first episode of a TV series is supposed to establish the characters and their world for the audience. A movie is supposed to be a complete package that can stand alone on its own merits.

After all, not every successful movie launches a franchise, which means that the characters, world, and action all have to be crammed into one story. It can be done. Blade Runner, Titanic, The Thing, Fight Club, Pulp Fiction, Saving Private Ryan, The Treasure of the Sierra Madre, Braveheart... all one-offs.

And what about action heroes who do return in sequel after sequel? Should Indiana Jones, Martin Riggs, or John McClane have had slow, plodding introductory movies before their action-packed debuts in Raiders of the Lost Ark, Lethal Weapon, or Diehard? Should Dr. No have presented the audience with more biographical data on 007 before launching the James Bond franchise?

What I find truly ironic is that it's the comic book superheroes -- characters who have been around for decades and therefore have an actual chance of being familiar to the audience -- that people feel are in need of introductory "pilot" movies, as opposed to original characters who owe their existence entirely to the movies in which they appear.

That's even more true with Star Trek, the origin of this Wrath of Khan analogy. Star Trek: The Motion Picture wasn't slow and plodding because it was introducing the movie audience to the Star Trek Universe... Gene Roddenberry's vision of the 23rd century had been on television non-stop since the series debuted in the 60s. It wasn't created to set up the "leaner, meaner" Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. No, ST:TMP began it's life as a pilot for the Star Trek: Phase II television series, which was scrapped when it was decided that bringing Trek to the big screen was more important than getting new episodes on the small one.

And when The Motion Picture's box office debut was met with criticism from critics and fans alike, lessons were learned and applied to the sequel. The Wrath of Khan simply represents a different, and more successful, take on the Star Trek mythos. The two movies were not created as part of some grand design to introduce the characters and the world in the first one, and then launch straight into the action in the second.

Mistakes were made and lessons were learned. That's why the second movie in a series is sometimes superior to the initial one, not because of what the initial one supposedly needs to accomplish.

Granted, a movie like X-Men does have a complex world to set up; Marvel's mutant universe can be impenetrable to outsiders if not presented correctly. But X-Men isn't lacking for action because it had to introduce the mutants and the world that hates them. It's lack of action stems from the small budget Singer was given to work with, due to the studio's lack of faith in the comic book franchise. When X-Men proved itself, Singer was given more money for X2, which itself was so successful that the studio ponied up even more dough for X3, which if nothing else provided us with some epic fight scenes.

Similarly, if the Fantastic Four sequel proves to be better than the original, it will be because someone learned from the mistakes that were made. The sequel needs to embrace the source material, rather than try to minimize the fantasy elements in a misguided attempt at realism. (And if the inclusion of Silver Surfer and Galactus is any indication, they certainly seem to be on the right track). And the same goes for Marvel's Incredible Hulk do-over. On a certain level, comic book superheroes will always be ridiculous. If you want to win over the audience and get them to suspend their disbelief, you need to make a rollicking good movie, not one that is apologetic and embarrassed by its source material, or that tries to bury its absurd elements under an increasingly unstable pile of pseudoscientific justifications. (I'm looking at you, Ang Lee. Throwing in starfish and genetic tampering from birth and God knows what else doesn't make the Hulk's origin any less ridiculous than Bruce Banner getting caught in a gamma bomb blast. It just makes your overwrought movie that much more tedious).

In discussing his proposed sequel for Superman Returns, Singer also invokes The Empire Strikes Back, which I think makes my point for me. The Star Wars Universe, I would argue, is even more complicated than the X-Men's world (which at least is set on Earth), yet Lucas had no trouble establishing it in Star Wars: A New Hope without skimping on the action. The reason that Empire is considered to be superior is not because it ramps up the action; if that were so, then Return of the Jedi would have to be considered the pinnacle of the original trilogy. Empire succeeds on its artistic merits.

Despite my disappointment with Superman Returns, I do hope that Singer is given the opportunity to make a sequel. He's shown what he's capable of with the first 2 X-Men movies (and if you want to see what he brought to them, you need only look at what's missing from X3), and he remains one of my favorite directors. I can only assume that his trotting out of the "traditional comic book movie wisdom" was due to his understandable defensiveness regarding the less-than-stellar reviews he had to suffer through all summer. Because when Singer insists that Superman Returns is exactly what the first movie in a new franchise needs to be, I can't help but hear Pee-Wee Herman, having just fallen off his bike, saying "I meant to do that!"

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Lost on Mars

IGN has posted pics of their picks for the Top 50 DC and Marvel Comics Covers of 2006. I couldn't help but notice that No. 49 on the DC list is the Magnificent Kevin cover that I defaced last week.

Also, No. 29 is the Adam Hughes' cover of Catwoman #51, which hit comic shops on January 25, 2006 -- the same day that the "Donut Run" episode of Veronica Mars premiered. What do these 2 things have in common? Why, Hurley's cursed numbers from Lost, of course (now known as the Valenzetti Equation). The numbers appear in Catwoman's mug shot and on the fortune cookie message that Veronica receives from Duncan.

(Can you tell that I'm ready for the new season of Lost to start already? We watched the special features from the Lost Season 2 DVD set at Cap'n John's last week, and now I'm more anxious than ever).

Considering that the "lucky numbers" printed on fortune cookie fortunes are intended to be used in lotteries, it's fun to imagine what might have happened if Veronica had actually played those. Would her luck have gone all to hell, like Hurley's did? (And how would she distinguish that from her everyday life?)

Would she now be investigating the Hanso Foundation's presence in her hometown of Neptune? And how many fanfic writers have already beaten me to the punch on this? (I'd Google it to find out, but I don't really want to know the answer). What I do know is, if anyone on television is resourceful enough to get the Lostaways off that island and back home, it's Veronica Mars. And seriously, we can't have that.