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Tuesday, November 30, 2010

'Walking Dead' Ratings and Season 1 DVD News

The Walking Dead saw it’s best ratings this past weekend with 5.5 million viewers tuning in to watch the Rick Grimes and a shrinking group of survivors gain a modicum of hope at the end of the season’s penultimate episode.

My guess is that a cover story on Entertainment Weekly with the proclamation “Best New Show of the Year” must have piqued enough interest to cause a spike. Regardless, this show has turned out phenomenal ratings and plenty of buzz.

More good news came today with the announcement of the Spring 2011 release of The Walking Dead Season 1 DVD/BluRay.

One more episode reamins before the series ends it first season this Sunday (sneak peek below). A 13-episode second season is not expected until October 2011.

Reflecting on a 'Buffy' Remake

Last week Warner Bros. announced their Buffy the Vampire Slayer remake had been greenlit and the fans of the original series have expressed feelings of vitriole to ambivalence. Buffy creator and guiding spirit Joss Whedon seemed to take the news in as much stride as he could.

“I always hoped that Buffy would live on even after my death. But, you know, AFTER. I don't love the idea of my creation in other hands, but I'm also well aware that many more hands than mine went into making that show what it was. And there is no legal grounds for doing anything other than sighing audibly.”

Whedon is respected like nobody’s business by the comic book/sci-fi communities, but I question whether or not Warner Bros. is going after Whedon or Buffy’s rabid fan base. I’m guessing that the characters and setting will be there, but suspect that the new Buffy will be repackaged as something else.

Spoiler alert: vampires are big business right now. The Twilight series has been a literary (insert your own air quotes) and cinematic (repeat air quotes) phenomenon. So what can be expected from a Buffy reboot? A romantic gothic adventure with Buffy and her demonic love Angel gazing sadly into the camera. Perhaps Angel is looking down. Either way, the new Buffy is going to play up their love to the nth degree. Dark horse plot point: Spike acting as a spoiler to their relationship, causing a triangle of the damned.

The Harry Potter series’s end is near and Warners is looking for new franchises with a fantasy bent. We’ve got Green Lantern coming out next summer, with Batman and Superman films following in 2012. I would guess that the studio doesn’t want all of their eggs in one basket and rely solely on comic book films to bring home some bacon. Plus, these films are expensive to produce. A vampire-related romance film can rely more on its name recognition and genre than splashy special effects and high flying action.

It will be interesting to see what writer Whit Stillman’s take on the Buffy lore was that got Warner Bros. excited to bring the character back in a new form.

'Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark': Disaster or Too Early to Dismiss?

So let’s imagine this Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark thing just can’t turn itself around and become a successful big splashy show. It opened last night to many a technical glitch that ballooned the running time to well over three hours.

Spider-Man may join other musical adaptations that were initially thought to be bad ideas, such as It’s a Bird… It’s a Plane… It’s Superman or Carrie. Those turned out to be abhorred by audiences and critics but remembered nostalgically for their kitschiness. From early reports, this would probably not be the case for a show that appears to have two big problems.

First, and most importantly, as a technical piece it seems to be overambitious. Sets that turn around the stage did not do so completely, actors were stuck over the audience in their harnesses, and wires reportedly fell during the performance. I’m not poopooing ambition, but if it can’t be done it shouldn’t be forced to be done. So much money has been spent on the show that it would be disappointing to see most of it flushed away because the show's creators insisted that the show out-spectacle anything that has come before it.

Second, and something I can’t speak to because I haven’s seen it, there are claims that the story is difficult to follow. That’s unfortunate because it would seem there should be a strong point of reference for the audience. This could be chalked up to the continued stops and starts that plagued Sunday’s first preview performance. I hope that this is not a case of the creators paying more attention to amaze and awe their audiences with “circus” (as director Julie Taymor affectionately referred to the show) than to tell a story.

Should Spider-Man fail, I doubt it will be remembered with the same affinity as it’s turkey predecessors. I think it will be remembered as that show with a gargantuan budget in which investors lost their shirts.

Now let’s imagine the creators and magicians are able get the show’s glitchiness and problematic stunts under control. Perhaps the script and pacing are tweaked to create a more cohesive story.

From everything I’ve heard and seen—and there’s definitely some fantastic stuff—this behemoth deserves a home in Vegas where it could really thrive. There are seven Cirque du Soleil shows on the strip and Spider-Man seems like it would feed the same voracious hunger the gambling crowd has for “circus.” I’d say a long stay in Los Angeles would be the next best bet.

The creative minds are currently at work, during previews, to make sure that the show is running seamlessly come the official opening on January 11, 2011. I’m eager to read what the theatre journalists have to say after viewing a more complete production.

For a taste of the creative minds behind the show, watch the following piece on Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark from this week’s 60 Minutes.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Wednesday's Finest: 'Batwoman' #0 (DC)

By Don M. Ventura

Two pages into Batwoman #0 and I knew I was enjoying something special.

One expects no less when J.H. Williams III is drawing the book and his work is as memorable as ever here. Williams has also co-written the script with W. Haden Blackman. The book can be considered an introduction to the character of Batwoman and her alter ego, Kate Kane; you will not have needed to read another Batwoman book before jumping onto this issue.

Batwoman is back in action in Gotham and she has a secret (very secret) admirer in Bruce Wayne, who spends the issue chronicling her abilities and attempting to uncover her true identity. While Batwoman is the star of the book, Williams and Blackman never have her utter a word. Bruce enlightens the reader through the end of the book.

Williams’s pages are incredibly dynamic and breathtaking. From the opening sequence when Batman is spying on Batwoman from an adjacent rooftop. Then Batwoman jumps down to thwart the heist of a sarcophagus. Dave Stewart’s colors are phenomenal. His Batwoman become even more haunting under his reserved palette.

Williams Stewart do so many wonderful things with the artwork to make Batwoman #0 a treat. Each time Batwoman lands a final blow to the bad guys, the entire panel is colored an alarming red. Who needs Pow, Zock of Boom? Then there are these wonderful Art Deco panels which harken Flash Gordon and Buck Rogers magazine covers. The page in which the villain Shard seems to have the upper hand as the mummy’s tomb glares down at the opponents is nothing less than brilliant.

Williams and Blackman have use this kickoff issue to entertain us with a strong action piece interspersed with a character work as Batman stalks Kate, attempting to breakdown what is her persona and what is a fa├žade. Amy Reeder is responsible for drawing the sequences involving Kate and it works out to be an effective storytelling device. There are many pages where Williams and Reeder’s work shares the same page; the book becomes as much a dichotomy as its protagonist.

So what does Batman learn about his prey? Kane comes from money, she’s boning up on her adversaries, acting out as a socialite is probably a front, and she has astounding reflexes.

Batwoman #0 is a brief introductory tale, at about 16 pages, but there a good deal of exposition told in its lovely pages. Williams, Blackman, Reeder, and Stewart have produced a wonderful opener that entertains and does what a good 0 issue should.

It makes you want more.

Millar Launches Kapow! Comic-Con in London Next Year

Mark Millar wasn’t joking when he said he had a big announcement to make.

Next year Millar is bringing Kapow! Comic-Con to the other side of the pond. Kapow! Comic-Con will be held from April 9th through the 10th at the Business Design Centre in London.

“The idea of Kapow! is to bring the San Diego experience to London,” said Millar in the promotional video (below). “It’s comics based, and the movies, and t.v. shows, and video games that have been inspired by them. That’s the plan of the thing, to bring them all under one umbrella.”

Guests include some big names already: John Romita, Jr., Dave Gibbons, Leinil Yu, Frank Quitely, Bryan Hitch, Olivier Coipel, Paul Cornell, Andy Diggle, Jock and many more. Kapow! will also feature the first annual Stan Lee Awards for achievements in comic books and comic-book/sci-fi related films.

Movie-related panels and guests will be announced on February 14th, 2011. Millar is excited to get a jump on San Diego in terms of movie previews and news since Kapow! precedes that other obscure little Comic-Con by three months.

For more information about Kapow! visit the official website.

Follow Kapow! on Twitter and Facebook.

Kapow! Comic Con Trailer from kapowcomiccon on Vimeo.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

'Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark' Commercial

Oh boy. The more I see from this, the more that I actually like. Hat, get ready to be eaten.

The first official Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark commercial hit the web and it features mostly behind the scenes work mixed with sequences from the show. The rotating and flipping sets look as cool as the rotating and flipping people.

Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark makes it’s Broadway debut tomorrow night with an official opening on January 11, 2011.

Kurt Busiek's 'Superman: Secret Identity' Sequel: 'Batman: Creature of the Night'

Kurt Busiek informed
Newsarama on Friday that he is writing a follow-up of sorts to Superman: Secret Identity, his 2004 mini-series with artist Stuart Immonen. This was one of those surprising gems that was an incredibly passionate tale with some of the most striking art I’ve ever seen in a comic book. Immonen has since become a favorite of mine, but I’ve never seen him match what he did on this lovely book.

While the original dealt with a man named Clark Kent who lives in the real world and begins to develop super powers, the sequel will deal with a character name Bruce Wainwright who gets into adventures of his own. Being Batman-centric Busiek admits that the book, Batman: Creature of the Night, will be darker in tone because, naturally, it’s Batman.

Busiek told the following to Newsarama:

“In Superman: Secret Identity, Clark Kent is somebody who is heartily sick of Superman. He discovers that he has the powers, and it brings up questions about his place in the world and who he is in secret inside. So he's somebody who didn't like Superman, but in becoming Superman, he learns about himself. Bruce Wainwright, however, loves Batman. But becoming Batman is not a happy process. So where Clark goes from dislike to a sort of acceptance and wonder, Bruce goes from love to horror.”

Sadly Immonen will not be drawing the title. However, John Paul Leon (above, not series art) is currently penciling the four-issue mini and his work has a similarly realistic look to Immonen’s. Superman: Secret Identity is easily one of my all time favorite Superman stories. The bar is going to be pretty high for Batman: Creature of the Night.

Batman: Creature of the Night does not yet have a release date. The Superman: Secret Identity trade is currently out of print.

What Will Go Down in Hall H in 2011?

Twice in the last month prospective ticket holders to the 2011 San Diego Comic-Con have been left out in the cold after being thwarted by server issues after online registration forced sales to a halt.

The biggest draw for me is going to be anything that occurs in Hall H, which features presentations from the film and television studios which are designed to get the hype in gear for movies and programming that might be a year or so away. Typically news starts surfacing immediately about clips from movies that won’t see the light of day for another year. Genre television pilots are often featured months before airing in primetime, again with the hope of channeling early online buzz.

Last summer’s Hall H panels included, as always, big name stars, directors and writers from movies that would not be hitting theaters until 2011 (Thor, Captain America: The First Avenger, Green Lantern, and Cowboys & Indians to name a few). The Thor and Captain America panel ended with a well publicized gathering of the Avengers cast (above, a whopping two years before the movie is scheduled to hit theaters).

While nothing has been announced yet in terms of what Hall H panels are scheduled for 2011, looking at the slate of films set for release in 2012 should spark some anticipation:

The Wolverine: Darren Aronofsky’s directs the follow-up to 2009’s first solo Wolverine feature. With a script by Christopher McQuarrie (The Usual Suspects), this film is almost certain to be a greater critical success than it’s predecessor (TBA 2012).

Frankenweenie: Based on Tim Burton’s original short subject about a dog that is brought back to life by its owner, the director returns with a full-length stop animation feature (his third such film as producer). The film will be voiced by Winona Ryder, Martin Landau, Martin Short and Catherine O‘Hara (March 9, 2012).

The Avengers: Undisputedly the most ambitious comic book movie project ever. Writer/director Joss Whedon is taking Marvel’s recent film franchises and putting them all together in this hotly anticipated feature. Captain America, Iron Man, Thor, Hulk, Hawkeye, Nick Fury and Black Widow will all be on hand to face off against what will have to be a pretty major threat (May 4, 2012).

Men in Black III: Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones are back with series director Barry Sonnenfield and writer Etan Cohen (Tropic Thunder). This film will receive the 3-D treatment (as it seems perfectly suited) and will also feature Josh Brolin, Gemma Arterton, Emma Thompson, Alec Baldwin, Sharlto Copley, and Rip Torn (May 25, 2012).

John Carter of Mars: Based on the Edgar Rice Burroughs serialized stories from the early 1900’s, Andrew Stanton (WALL-E and Finding Nemo) directs his first live-action film with a script by Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist Michael Chabon (The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay) . The film stars Taylor Kitsch (Friday Night Lights) as John Carter , a Civil War veteran who travels to Mars where there is life and adventure to be had (concept art above). The film also stars Mark Strong, Willem Dafoe, Thomas Hayden Church and Samantha Morton (June 8, 2012).

Star Trek 2: Now that J.J. Abrahms has retconned the Trek universe, there are endless possibilities for this second follow-up. Screenwriters Robert Orci, Alex Kurtzman and Damon Lindelof are returning and there is some speculation that the returning crew of the Enterprise will be facing off against the Klingons. This is purely speculation though (June 29, 2012).

The Dark Knight Rises: The final film in Christopher Nolan’s critically and financially successful trilogy is so far a mystery. We know Tom Hardy (Inception) has been cast (presumably as a villain) and a search is being conducted for two female leads (again, presumably one as a villain and the other a love interest). Hardy as Bane? Are the League of Assassins heading to Gotham led by Talia al Gul? Nothing has been revealed yet. (July 20, 2012).

Untitled Spider-Man Reboot: Director Marc Webb is rebooting a beloved franchise that ended on a critically sour note. Based on some of the casting announcements (Martin Sheen is in talks to play Uncle Ben), this is going to be another take on the origin, but I trust Webb and screenwriter James Vanderbilt (Zodiac) to present their own fresh spin on the web-slinger (July 23, 2012).

The Hobbit: The on again off again production has remained so for the past few years, but it appears to finally be on again and moving ahead. Lord of the Rings helmer Peter Jackson is guiding the film again with some recognizable faces from the original trilogy and Martin Freeman (The Office) as Bilbo Baggins. The Hobbit will be filmed in two parts for release in 2012 and 2013 (December 19, 2012).

Untitled Superman Reboot: Christmas bring a fresh take on the Man of Steel. After Superman Returns failed to capture the steam required to relaunch a franchise, Warner Bros. has tapped Zack Snyder to bring his creative eye to the character. Not much is known about the story (other than some unlikely rumors that came out last week involving warring African tribes); Zack Snyder has said that much of what has been published on the web has been incorrect (TBA December 2012). created the following video featuring the coolness that went down at the 2010 Hall H panels.

Millar and Quitely Together Again on Forthcoming Project?

Mark Millar and Frank Quitely are thisclose to what is sure to be exciting news according to Millar and Bleeding Cool. The two were planning a Thanksgiving announcement, but according to a Twitter post we should only have to wait until Monday morning sometime.

The two worked famously together on their brilliant run on The Authority beginning in 2000 (after the equally but differently brilliant run by Warren Ellis and Bryan Hitch). While we get a lot from Millar these days (Kick-Ass 2, Superior, and Nemesis), we do not get enough of Quitely due to the quality of his work.

This pairing excites me to no end. It’s a safe bet that we will be hearing about a creator-owned book on Monday because Millar has had home run after home run with his own creations.

More to come!

Review: 'Young Justice'

Young Justice is another in a long line of successful DC Comics animated series from Warner Bros. and DC Universe. This premiere, which aired on the Cartoon Network on Friday night, is guided by the folks who have produced such DC Universe films as Superman: Doomsday, Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths, and Batman: Under the Red Hood.

The Young Justice comic book series was a precursor to the current run of Teen Titans, but this new series is taking its inspiration and characters from the last forty years of DC history to put together this series. The team includes the original Robin and Kid Flash with Aqualad, Superboy, and Miss Martian.

While the manga-inspired Teen Titans from a few years back had a rabid fan base, it did not embody the spirit of the source material that viewers have come to expect from Warner Bros. animation since Batman: The Animated Series premiered in 1992. Young Justice is accessible to preteen kids and on up to us geezers in our thirties and forties who grew up on comic books.

The story begins with four sidekicks (Robin, Kid Flash, Aqualad, and Speedy) who believe they are taking a step closer to their ascension into the Justice League. They soon learn that they are not quite as close as they would like. With the League on a mission, the boys learn about an explosion at Cadmus and decide to investigate; Cadmus is a scientific operation of which Robin advises the group that Batman is suspicious. Their fears are realized once they run into a teenage clone of Superman.

The young heroes are captured and eventually befriended by Superboy who yearns for freedom and an opportunity to meet the Man of Steel. We are treated to a series of excellent action sequences; excellent fight choreography has always been important to the producers as story and characterization. Not to dismiss the story and characterization, because it is all there.

In the Justice League series the characters were never presented as infallible (even Superman) and there is already some of that in this series. Robin doesn’t hesitate to hack into the Justice League’s computer, Speedy gets his way or the highway, and the fledgling team confronts the League in a show of defiance to announce they are joining forces whether or not their mentors approve.

Of course there is room for humor when the script calls for it. After Robin is freed late into the episode he says dryly to Kid Flash’s chagrin: “Lucky Batman isn’t here. He’d have my head for taking so long.” Kid Flash proves he is Wally West in the making when he grabs a part of their opponents decaying face and exclaims “Got your nose!”

I also enjoyed that the team was still obviously learning a thing or two about being heroes. Kid Flash does not appear to be an adept fighter and early on needs rescuing from Robin. Superboy assumes he has all of Superman’s powers but learns at inconvenient times that he indeed does not.

This is easily the best animation that Warner Bros. has ever had on one of its shows. The character designs and animation most resemble the animated shorts that have accompanied the most recent DC Universe movies (The Spectre, Green Arrow, and Jonah Hex).

The voice acting is strong by all the leads who sound for the most part like teens: Jesse McCartney as Robin, Jason Spisak as Kid Flash, Khary Payton as Aqualad, and Nolan North as Superboy. Renee Auberjonois was as distinguishable as ever as the evil Dr. Desmond, the man responsible for the Superboy clone.

For fan boys there is much to enjoy. There’s a big formidable League featured in the episode and, while they are mainly in the background, there are no throwaway character designs. The producers have promised the inclusion of the Justice League in the series and I’m excited to see some more of them (especially an armored up Hawkman).

Like the Justice League and Justice League: Unlimited after it, there appears to be an underlying arc that may be a thread through the rest of the season; that is, Project Cadmus and the unnamed villains who are running the show. One thing is for sure, the torch has been successfully handed from Justice League: Unlimited to Young Justice.
Young Justice will premiere with regular weekly episodes on the Cartoon Network beginning in January.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Leinil Yu's Completed 'Nemesis'/'Superior'/Kick-Ass' Crossover Artwork

Leinil Yu’s pencils featuring a crossover between Nemesis, Superior and Kick-Ass have been circulating for just over a month now and it looks as though it not as audacious a plan as first expected. According to Mark Millar, the creator of all three properties, there will be no crossing over of these books. This is a good thing as the writer himself admits “It wouldn't make sense as a story as they all exist in their own distinct universes.”

Marvel released the completed artwork and announced it is actually for the variant covers for each of the three individual books:

Release Date: 12/29/10

SUPERIOR #4 (of 6)
Release Date: 1/5/11

NEMESIS #4 (of 6)
Release Date: 12/29/10

EW Calls 'Walking Dead' the Best New Show on TV

Did anybody expect The Walking Dead to become the sensation that it has so quickly become?

True, the first trailer for the new AMC series seemed promising for sure, but the series has seemed to defy anybody’s expectations, however high they might have been. Today Entertainment Weekly announced a cover story on the show with perhaps the best praise the it has received to date: “The Best New Show on TV”.

While the first few episodes demonstrated quickly that the series is like nothing that has come before it—a long form drama about a group of the living survivors of a zombie apocalypse—it’s the past two episodes that evoked what is at the heart of the comic book: human drama.

I’ve only read the first four arcs of Robert Kirkman’s long-running title, but what has struck me is the amount of focus, however uncomfortable, on how this dark new world affects the people who inhabit it. It’s fascinating and gut wrenching.

In “Tell it to the Frogs” there is a charmingly authentic scene where the ladies of the camp list what they miss about their former lives. Things changes dramatically as Shane, whose boiling point has been reached, finds a vessel for his rage. Then there’s the wonderful scene in which Rick and Lori lie together for the first time in weeks and share a quiet discussion that is touching and romantic. Lori, who is keeping a dark secret, reveals that she has been wearing his wedding band and quietly asks “Do you want it back?” It is the scenes like this that are as surprising as those where the zombies come seemingly out of nowhere.

The cast, led by Andrew Lincoln as Rick, is well suited for the material. My personal favorites are Laurie Holden (The Mist and The Shield) as Andrea and Jeffrey DeMunn (The Shawshank Redemption and The Green Mile) as Dale. Holden brings a genuine presence to her role, especially in a scene with her sister as they discuss fishing with their father in last week’s “Vatos” episode (penned by Kirkman). There’s a reason why writer/producer Frank Darabont continues to work with DeMunn; he’s a character actor who can say as much with an expression as he can with his lines. As DeMunn gets more to do on the series, I’m sure he’ll grow to be a favorite of audiences as well.

The Walking Dead and its success is an indication that the television landscape is ready to welcome more alternative programming. Now cross your fingers that we won’t have to wait eleven months for a second season!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

New Panoramic 'Green Lantern' Poster

A cool new panoramic Green Lantern poster has been released and I continue to be more and more amazed at the type of comic book movie is being readied for release. This film seems to be embracing its fantasy roots in ways that most of its predecessors have in some way or another shied away from.

Good or bad, Superman Returns did not present a reality in which Doomsday might hurtle towards Metropolis at any moment. In X-Men there was no expectation that Apocalypse could show up to end reality. And Batman is in no way, shape, or form going to do battle with Mr. Freeze or Poison Ivy in the Christopher Nolan films.

This is not at all an indictment of those movies, but Green Lantern seems to be the first film that makes no qualms about its science-fiction origins. In the wrong hands, the film could have chosen to keep the Green Lantern Corps in the background (or only spoken of them). While fanboys continue to decry the choice of Ryan Reynolds as Hal Jordan, I am excited at the direction comic book films like this are heading.

True of False? More Superman Movie Rumors Hit the Web

The last time I didn’t believe a movie rumor, it was the trailer review for Green Lantern that turned out to be real. I question my strength at immediately sniffing out B.S. Well, here we are again with something that does not sound entirely genuine.

What’s Playing has offered up some tidbits on the plot for the 2012 Superman reboot, but I believe these are claims that have been previously mentioned; specifically that Clark Kent will be an up and coming journalist who gets caught between two warring West African tribes. This is in line with early rumors that Mark Waid’s Superman: Birthright is serving as inspiration for the Zack Snyder’s reboot.

However, I can’t imagine that this would be the main story of the film. I would imagine that Warner Bros. would prefer something glossier (and easier to sell) than Superman mediating tribal battles. What I found particularly odd about the story was a throwaway line at the end which indicated Anne Hathaway is in the running for Lois Lane. Because I didn’t buy the first part of the article, I am doubtful about the Hathaway casting. That said, I think she would make an excellent Lois. Hathaway is a strong presence, has a sense of humor, and she's likable.

If Matthew Goode is really being considered for the role of Superman, then Hathaway would seem a good fit as the intrepid reporter for a major metropolitan newspaper.

First Live Video from 'Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark'

We got our first glimpse at some of the aerial work and sets from Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark today in the form of a new behind-the-scenes video. While I've yet to be sold on Julie Taymor's ideas for this production, I'll admit it looks like it will, at the very least, be a feast for the senses.

There was something confounding and thrilling about Taymor's saying, “We can’t really tell you what this is. But it has rock ‘n roll, it has drama, and it has circus.” So vague but exciting at the same time. Perhaps the woman who brought The Lion King to Broadway might be onto something.

Audiences will be the first to know when Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark opens officially on January 11, 2011 at the Foxwoods Theatre.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Tangled Web: 2011 San Diego Comic-Con Registration Bumped Again

A chronicle of my Monday morning:
6:00 a.m.: Awaken to the promise of a new day.
6:02 a.m.: Coffee’s brewing.
6:09 a.m.: Coffee poured. Enhanced with Nestle’s French Vanilla creamer.
6:10 a.m.: First attempt to register for 2011 San Diego Comic-Con.
6:11 a.m.: Three failures in sixty seconds. A lesser person would sigh and point out it’s a Monday.
6:34 a.m.: Have lost count of failed attempts. Read blog entry from Google news feed that swarms of people have faced similar server errors.
6:51 a.m.: Shower time. Feeling frustrated by choice to purchase a hotel room prior to acquiring four-day passes.
7:28 a.m.: Surprise dear mother with call from angelic son. Would she be willing to carry on my quest for tickets in my absence? My employer beckons.
7:42 a.m.: Finally able to enter my name into first registration page. Internal error. Go back. Refresh.
7:54 a.m.: Teased endlessly by registration pages that inched slowly to payment screen before finally fizzling out.
8:06 a.m.: Drive to work deflated.
9:12 a.m.: Learn that registration was canceled for a second time due to server problems (see below). Hope springs anew.

Superman Casting Rumor: Matthew Goode

Movienewz broke the rumor today that Matthew Goode is up for the role of Superman in Zack Snyder’s 2012 reboot of the Man of Steel. While nobody is specifically quoted, the website indicates that their sources claim that Goode (who played Ozymandias in Snyder’s Watchmen feature) is leading the pack of would be Supermen.

The report goes onto to explain that Snyder is looking to use CGI to enhance Superman’s character in a way similar to what we have seen accomplished with Ryan Reynolds’s costume in Green Lantern. That sounds like an interesting approach but I question how necessary that would be. After all there is a reason the Green Lantern costume looks the way it does—it’s supposed to be a form of alien energy.

Nonetheless, if Goode is the direction they are going with the casting of Superman, Snyder and producer Christopher Nolan are heading in the right direction. Goode has acting chops and natural charisma. Take a peek at the New York Times clip below.

A User's Guide to Getting Back into Comics

I had lunch with an old friend this weekend and we discussed comic book reading, what’s good and what’s not so good, price speculation, and jumping on points.  “I’d like to pick up Thor but his book is in the 600’s" my friend said.

“That doesn’t matter,” I replied. “There's little chance that Thor will reference something that occurred in issue #2 as a shout out to the most loyal of readers.” Though I think it would be awesome to have Clark Kent thank Perry White for giving him a job at the Daily Planet when nobody else would believe in him, then include a small editorial caption that reads “As seen in Action Comics #1.”

If you have thought about getting back into comic book reading but are unsure where to begin, consider the following steps that helped me after a couple of absences from regular reading:

Go to a comic book shop and ask the opinion of the guy behind the counter. While this can be hit or miss, more often than not you’ll be speaking to a guy who knows a lot about comics and will guide you to picking up something you’ll enjoy. I was led to read Ultimate Spider-Man, Green Arrow and Kingdom Come by the guy behind the counter and the advice I got was invaluable.

Make sure he asks you what you like reading before he begins listing recommendations. Some comic shop guys might suggest books that might not be your cup of tea. If you want to read Superman make sure the guy knows it and he’ll probably be able to propose some quality material.

Listen to comic book podcasts. There are some really good ones out there. There are also some really bad ones. Personally, I listen to iFanboy and I’ve learned a lot about ongoing titles and they’ve introduced me to some great books that I might have otherwise ignored.  This is how I’ve been put onto the writing of Ed Brubaker and Jason Aaron as well as titles like Chew, Thor: The Mighty Avenger, and Morning Glories.

There are a lot of comic book podcasts out there. Go to iTunes and look around for what is available. This is a fantastic way to be exposed to great talent and quality books that you might not have considered buying.

Pick a few books at a time. Don’t go nuts during your first visit to the comic book shop. Spend some time looking around and soaking in the different titles. If you haven’t been to a comic shop in a few years it can be overwhelming to see more than a dozen X-Men or Batman related books.

Two good questions for your comic shop owner: 1) Which (favorite hero/genre) book should I be reading, and 2) what’s a good jump on point?

The internet is your personal sidekick. So you like the X-Men huh? There are few ways to approach picking up an X-Men book, or any title that is steeped in long and complicated history. First, just jump in. Second, the information on comic book characters—even the most minor—can be found on the web. Don’t be overwhelmed because you don’t know the identity of every character on the X-Men’s current roster.

I just started reading X-Men and Uncanny X-Men a few months back and I don’t feel completely lost. Sure there were a few characters that I didn’t recognize, but I am well aware of who Wolverine, Cyclops, Kitty Pryde, Emma Frost, and Colossus are. Any other characters can be researched to the point of feeling like your stalking them.

Pick up a good trade: If there is something you’re sure you’ll be interested in reading (and make sure the book is highly recommended) pick up the books in trade paperback form. This is an excellent way to catch up on recent storylines without having to hunt for back issues that might take some time to track down.

When I got back into comics, I wanted nothing to do with trades because I was more interested in having the original comic book to read. These days I prefer trades as a means of bringing myself up to speed on different titles. I have been catching up on Irredeemable, Invincible and The Walking Dead in trade and will eventually move onto reading them on a monthly basis.

DON’T walk into a comic book store and pick up a book based on your affinity for a certain character. This was my first and most egregious misstep when getting back into comics at the beginning of the decade. I picked up a little monstrosity called Spider-Man: Chapter One by the legendary John Byrne. I was rusty and remember thinking “does… this… suck…?” after finishing a few issues.

And it did suck. I bought all 13 issues (including issue #0) and wondered how I was able to find them all so quickly as they were sure to all be collector's items! After getting burned I remember reading one blogger’s scathing summary of each issue; the writer suggested the final cover include the caption “Because you demanded it!” Genius. That post was the best thing to come out of that transaction.

Look, if you want to get back into comic books do a little homework and you’ll be surprised at how easy it is to pick up where you left off.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

The Second 'Green Hornet' Trailer Premieres

Last week was an enormous one for comic book movie trailers.  Tuesday saw our first peek at the entire Green Lantern teaser, followed Wednesday by the Cowboys & Aliens teaser. The second Green Hornet trailer premiered on Friday with more glimpses of the Green Hornet and Kato in action.

The Green Hornet is directed by Michael Gondry (Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind) and written by Evan Goldberg (Superbad). The film is scheduled for release on January 14, 2011, and stars Seth Rogan, Cameron Diaz, Jay Chou, Tom Wilkinson and Christoph Waltz.

First Picture of Karl Urban from 'Dredd'

The first image of Karl Urban as Judge Dredd from the upcoming Dredd movie was released on Friday and the response has so far been positive. Thankfully there was the original Sylvester Stallone film version from the early 90’s to keep the bar low. The early word is that the film will maintain a darker tone in line with the original source material which is also keeping fanboys appeased.

Dredd stars Urban and Olivia Thirlby and is directed by Pete Travis (Vantage Point) and written by Alex Garland (28 Days Later). The film is scheduled for release in 2012.

Comic-Con 2011 Tickets on Sale Tomorrow

On Monday morning (at 6 a.m. PST) registration for 2011 San Diego Comic-Con go on sale.  Registration rates are as follows:

Cape Town Capsule Reviews, 11/17/10 Releases

By Don M. Ventura

The Flash #6

Logic has been asked to take a backseat in the final issue of the “Dastardly Death of the Rogues” storyline, the first arc of Geoff Johns’s re-introduction of the Silver Age Flash back into the DCU. This flaw is simply too large a leap to accept.

In this arc the Renegades, a team of Rogue doppelganger police from the future, have traveled through time to arrest the Flash for the future murder of the Mirror Monarch. The B-story involved Barry Allen re-opening of a cold case in which a young man is falsely imprisoned of murder. It turns out the Renegade Top is framing the Flash of Mirror Monarch’s murder so that he can prevent Barry from solving the cold case because the Top’s ancestor was the actual murderer. The Top knows that he will never be able to serve as a police office if an ancestor has a criminal record.

Wait. At no point in the story has Barry altered the past. This means the Top’s ancestor would have always had a criminal record and the Top would have never been able to be a cop in the first place. This took me out of a story that I had been enjoying up until this point.

Plotting aside, Francis Manapul has delivered another issue full of exquisite artwork. The chase scene between the Flash and the top is phenomenal. Manapul never wastes a panel on this book, and the coloring by Brian Buccellato is stunning. The chase scene in particular is phenomenal with all of the lights of the building illuminated in yellows and oranges.

I love Johns, but this ending threw me.

X-Men #5

I’m still not sure how Victor Gischler has kept me interested in a storyline about vampires (something to which I admittedly have an aversion) but this book’s inaugural arc has been a fun ride while never becoming silly. Another feat considering the subject matter.

The newly vampired Wolverine and Xarus’s minions have begun their assault on Utopia and Cyclops has the troops ready. This is the action-packed story that this arc has been building up to and it is well paced and offers plenty of good scenes for the main characters.

With the vampires descending on Utopia, Cyclops has the impenetrable charactesr on the frontline and refers to them as “tough skins.”  In typical Emma Frost fashion, we are treated to “How can you possibly look at this glittering form of mine and lump something so glamorous into the category of tough skin?”  I appreciate Gishler’s infusion of humor where it is appropriate and fitting for the character and scene. X-Men is perhaps my favorite of the current long line of X-books.

Superior #2

While perhaps not “the most important comic book since 1938” as the cover promises, Superior is a fun and sometimes thoughtful book by Mark Millar and Leinil Yu. In the last issue, Simon Pooni was granted the powers of Superior (a movie super hero) and in this issue he seeks the help of his friend Chris to help him figure his powers out.

Millar is has mastered foul language to communicate awe and disbelief. This issue serves as an opportunity to establish Superior’s powers and allow Simon to begin mastering them. Some are easier than others. Superior sight and strength come fairly easy. Heat vision and flight will take some work.

As with the last issue, Millar proves that he can produce incredibly touching work that doesn’t become maudlin in the least. Scenes of Simon in physical therapy are featured between the panels of Simon as Superior trying to pull multiple train cars.

Yu’s work is equally important to this book. His work has continued to grow stronger with each project. The scene with Simon grappling with flight is wonderful as he awkwardly attempt to control his new powers. I have been enjoying Sunny Gho’s colors on Power Girl and her work on Superior is equally as strong.  

Batman: The Return (One-Shot)

Deciding between this book and Batman Incorporated as the best book of the week was difficult. Batman: The Return is another fine piece of work by Grant Morrison who has firmly established an ability to find the distinct voices of the peripheral characters in the Batman universe.

The book opens with beautiful prose by Morrison involving the voyage of the frightening and bloodied bat that inspires Bruce Wayne to don a cape and mask as Gotham City’s protector. If you love Batman, try to avoid goose bumps while reading this opening passage.

The story serves as Batman’s assertion as the general of the Bat-family of characters (specifically Dick Grayson Batman, Robin, Red Robin, Batgirl and Oracle) as he doles out their specific tasks going forward. This book presents an exciting new status quo for these characters as Batman declares “From today on, Batman will be everywhere it’s dark, no place to hide.

While I have not always been an enormous fan of David Finch’s art (I’ve found that the eyes of his characters have been particularly soulless) but this book’s script plays to the artist’s strengths. The guy draws a hell of a batcave.

Supergirl #58

Sterling Gates is closing up shop on Supergirl with this final two-part arc before Nick Spencer takes over the title in January.  The story focuses on Cat Grant who Gates introduced into the book as a foil for Girl of Steel, criticizing her and trying to break her down at every turn.

Three children in Metropolis have gone missing and the modus operandi appears to be that of Winslow Schott, the original Toyman and murderer of Cat’s son. Gates takes his time on this issue presenting some strong character work between Cat and Kara. The writer seems to want to bring some closure to Cat’s arc on this series by the end of his run.

Jamal Igle’s artwork is as strong as always.  His Toyman is creepy and unbalanced and all the toys have a properly haunting quality. The story concludes with the appearance of a character that hasn’t been in the book for sometime, an indication of more resolution to Gates’s run.

Osborn #1 (of 5)

I wonder if it might still be a little too soon to return to Norman Osborn stories? Gone since being taken down in Siege about six months ago I opened this book and realized enough time has not passed for me to become nostalgic.

The story involves Frontline Norah Winters who has been assigned to write an expose on Norman Osborn. Norah admits that she feels partially responsible for him getting away (literally) with murder by not exposing him when she had the opportunity. We then get into some business about the legality of Norman’s incarceration and ultimately his move to a special containment center for super villains.

While I never felt invested in the story, Kelly Sue Deconnick moved the story along fine and absolutely has an ear for dialogue—a scene between Norah and Peter Parker was a good example of this as a brash Norah reveals touches of humanity. Also, while I didn’t dislike Emma Rios’s artwork on the book, I did not like her rendition of Peter who seemed a tad too young for the character.

Osborn ends interestingly enough to warrant picking up the second issue of this mini, but I’m not yet committed to the entire run.

Spider-Girl #1

I walked away from this book much in the way I did Superboy a few weeks ago. While it wasn’t bad, it doesn’t seem to have enough heart to it.

Writing strong teenage characters can be difficult, and while Paul Tobin is in the right direction, there is something that rings a bit strained in his attempts here. Spider-Girl is part of the “Big Time” relaunching of Spider-Man related titles and it is a pretty average opening. I thought the use of Twitter for Spider-Girl to communicate to her fans was an interesting concept, but it wasn’t well executed.

Spider-Girl is off preventing small crimes from occurring while the Fantastic Four deal with a major baddie off screen (who appears in the final panel). The book’s light approach to Spider-Girl’s crime fighting efforts works tonally, but it doesn’t succeed in a way that Batgirl (by Bryan Q. Miller) does—a title with a similar protagonist.

Clayton Henry’s artwork is quite nice however. Henry’s characters are expressive and he draws strong action sequences.

Wednesday's Finest: 'Batman Incorporated' #1 (DC)

By Don M. Ventura

Grant Morrison had no interest in returning Bruce Wayne to the status quo. After reintroducing Bruce in Batman and Robin #16, Morrison writes a prologue in Batman: The Return and revs right into Batman’s quest to franchise himself in Batman Incorporated.

We open with the gruesome (and I mean gruesome) death of Mr. Unknown, a Japanese masked vigilante that Batman has traveled to Japan to recruit as the Japanese Batman. Unfortunately by that point he no longer has a face, hands, or a life.  Now Batman and Catwoman are on the search to locate Jiro Osamu, a young man who appeared to be Mr. Unknown’s ward.

Batman Incorporated is another highlight in a resume filled with highlights for Morrison, and a treat for readers who are open to newness in the Batman mythology. This is not a departure for the character, just an exploration of an idea that feels like a natural transition for the character. While his heroic counterparts are able to save the world time and again, it makes sense that Batman would attempt the same with a conglomerate of caped crusaders since he is unable to be at all places at once.

While Bat-books will always have a dark edge to them and the crimes within, Morrison has brought some pleasing lightness to his story. I enjoyed reading Selina make a “reeooowr” sound a few times during the issue without it being silly. And why not throw in some giant mouse robots as well? The conclusion even pays homage to the 60’s Batman series without being wince-worthy.

Morrison is also adept at creating terrifying villains who don’t recognize the boundaries of humanity in which they effortlessly cross. Professor Pyg was an eerie example of this, and in Batman Incorporated we have the reintroduction of Lord Death Man. It only makes sense that if you are going to create new Batmen you’ll have a gaggle of murderous enemies in tow.

Yanick Paquette has drawn a fantastic piece with this first issue. His thick lines and expressions are somewhat reminiscent of J.G. Jones. I liked his square-jawed Batman, but even more so enjoyed his work on Selina. Her expressions were priceless, whether she was calmly cracking a safe while Batman took out one of Dr. Sivana’s robots or coveting the enormous diamond she was enlisted to steal.

Nathan Fairbairn has colored the pages nicely hear. He had plenty of opportunities to bring an insane palette to some of the exterior scenes featuring Japan’s colorful electric skylines. The cover by J.H. Williams III is easily the most striking cover of the week and conveys precisely the tone of the series.

This next chapter of Morrison’s Bat-saga has started off strong and I’m eager to follow Batman across the globe.

Friday, November 19, 2010

'What If?' Hits #200 This December

There are some pretty large gaps on the print runs of this title, but What If? hits its milestone issue #200 this December with stories penned by Marc Guggenheim and Stan Lee. 

What if? began its run in 1977 and ran through 1984 as a bimonthly title that featured alternate and often eerie takes on popular storylines (e.g. “What if Phoenix has lived?”, “What if Wolverine had killed the Hulk?” and so on). The stories are narrated by the Watcher and typically would end on a pretty dark note—the idea being that things probably played out for the best in the original tales. For example, in the Phoenix story Jean Grey goes completes nuts, kills all of the X-Men (in a truly gruesome fashion), and then destroys Earth.

This new What If? asks “What if Norman Osborn had won the siege of Asgard?” (by Guggenheim and artist Dave Wilkins) which clearly will start off dark and probably grow more so. Lee and Dale Eaglesham will explore an alternate version of the Fantastic Four classic “The Coming of Galactus” which was originally written by Lee and drawn by Jack Kirby.

I would love to see top tier writers and artists continue to take on popular storylines, even if only on a bimonthly schedule. Personally, I’d love to see “What if Steve Rogers reclaimed the mantle of Captain America?” or “What if Peter Parker and Mary Jane hadn’t made a pact with Mephisto?” The best What If? stories were the ones that contemplated seemingly positive alternate realities.

What If? #200 goes on sale on December 29th.