Thursday, March 12, 2009


Today was not a banner day at work. Not awful, but... just a day, I guess. I shall summarize by saying I have a printer in my office that is not dissimilar to the fax/ printer of "Office Space" fame.

So tomorrow is Friday the 13th. It's rainy and cold out. And walking out of work today, late, between Jester and the PCL, a frikkin' Black Cat shot out of nowhere and walked across my path. A black cat. On the UT campus. It was just weird.

I am so doomed.

Tomorrow I go to Waco for a while. Which means I need to leave the house by 6:30ish. Which means this post is short, as: I'm going to bed.

No, I still have not seen Watchmen. maybe on Saturday, if you want to go really, really badly.

But at this point, I'm not sure why. I'm beginning to get over my curiosity now that I accidentally learned how the movie ends (differently than the book), and my only interest is seeing how the heck the plot ties together. And why they made THAT change.

Oh, well. Here's Lynda Carter w/ Muppets.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Some Comic Book Stuff

John Hamm as Luthor!

It helps to have seen Superman I, Superman Returns and Superman IV...

I think I heard Jamie say "I want to go to there..."

So What Comics Should I read after Watchmen?

The answer is: I have no idea. Watchmen is sort of an island unto itself. But DC is here to help.

If you're DC Comics and you have an idea of what you think you could sell people, you launch a site on the topic.

Its a nifty site, and it mentions many of my personal favorites, from We3 to Preacher to All Star Superman.

What strikes me is that Marvel, while a terrific publisher, has not really operated in the same marketplace. "Alias" (no relation to the Jennifer Garner show) was the most DC/ Vertigo-esque of the Marvel titles. They have no Preacher, Swamp Thing or even All Star Superman. And really have no wing to publish something like We3.


But they used to. In the 80's, Marvel used a wing called "Epic" to publish mature reader and creator owned work, including the superlative "Elektra: Assassin", and "Alien Legion" (which never, ever should have died). And, I think, maybe, the Shadowline of books, which was just tragically ahead of its time. Doctor Zero was a little bit of brilliance.

Creators now tend to take those books to Oni or Image these days, I'd guess.

Bam! Pow! Watchmen not for Kids!

Moore and Gibbons' Doomsday clock may be ticking down in a way WB wasn't expecting.

After the weekend crush of fanboys had bought up all the tickets, the usual superhero audience has trickled into the theaters, typically unaware of the ratings or reviews on the movie they've paid $10 a head to see.

This Chicago Tribune article decribes one theater where 1/4 of the audience walked out.

Let me run that by you again: One quarter of the audience WALKED OUT.

The truth is, I am not surprised. At some point, translating a massive tome, that plays with narrative structure as much as Watchmen does, with as many characters, scattered all over the timeline from the 1930's to the 1950's, is bound to create some problems for Joe Audience who wants to see that Blue Dude kicking a bad guy in his junk. He does not want to see the Blue Dude waxing rhapsodic about the nature of time while butt-naked on the moon.

Further: no matter what WB was going to do, people were going to show up with their kids, as most people see a cape and a mask and nifty Owlship, and assume a movie is for the kiddos. Perhaps not wrongly.

Yes, you kind of have to wonder how someone missed all the press on the movie and still showed up, or that theater employees aren't being warned not to sell tickets to children... but its also not an NC-17 movie. (which also raises the question: Still haven't seen Watchmen, but what's with all this I hear about gore and exploding bodies? Snyder just couldn't help himself, apparently.)

PREDICTION: The same thing comics went through in the 80's and 90's is about to happen to superhero movies. Studios will learn all kinds of wrong lessons from Watchmen and its adult content. Brace yourselves. It gets pretty stupid before it gets better.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

No post today

For some reason I thought of Jim D in this get-up walking around town, going to work with a briefcase, and I laughed and laughed and laughed.

Watched episode 1 of "The Wire" tonight. ate dinner at Jason's with Jason, Jamie and Nicole.

Work is busy.

I tried to think up questions to challenge you guys, but nothing is coming to mind.

May I suggest "Look Around You" from the BBC, currently on Adult Swim?

Going to bed.

EDIT: You ask me questions, and I shall strive to answer them.

ALSO EDIT: Extraordinarily good news for Comic Nerds.

One panel, and its already my favorite depiction of Robin since the 80's.

Monday, March 09, 2009

President Dwayne Elizondo Mountain Dew Herbert Camacho

Sunday I watched about twenty minutes of the 2006 movie "Idiocracy". The movie wasn't terribly popular, but:

(a) the more times I stumble across it, the funnier I find it
(b) it's kind of stunning how swiftly we're all moving towards the world Mike Judge predicted. Gleefully so. Which is most likely why we didn't find it funny.

The problem, I think, with the poor showing "Idiocracy" had at the box office is only partially that its not a bad-ass dystpoian future of motorcycle gangs and gun fights or robots to fight against. It wasn't one single-source who doomed us who is looking for a savior. It was us who defeated us by acting pretty much how us acts. There's nobody to blame in Judge's future but ourselves, and his predictions aren't wild speculation, but the logical extension (although satirical) of how we deal with politics, shopping, entertainment, healthcare, mega-corporations, etc...

Welcome to CostCo. I love you.

The twenty minutes I watched included the part of the movie where President Camacho has appointed Luke Wilson's literal everyman Joe as Secretary of Agriculture or something so he can figure out why the crops aren't growing. Joe learns that its because they're spraying fields with a Power-Ade-like energy drink rather than water.

The people give Joe's solution of using water instead of Power-Ade on their plants about two days (at which point, the Power-Ade company goes bankrupt, because farmers were spraying large quantities of it on their plants, assuring the profitability of the energy drink company), and begin to riot outside the White House, which leads to Joe's trial and attempted execution by Monster Truck.

And as I watch CNN's headlines tick by, I can't help but note... We are Idiocracy.

Obama has been in office for about 6 weeks. We've had about 9 years or more of absolutely horrendous lending and financial practices which Obama is now being asked, both explicitly and implicitly, to fix. And watching the headlines, it all seems inevitable that he will be blamed if things don't begin a turn-around by 2011.

I sort of predicted that when Obama took office, people were going to be shocked that he couldn't magically fix everything by smiling at it and giving us a confident nod.

What's eye-rollingly irritating is that the press seems to kind of assume there's some obvious, single solution to our current dire financial straits, and that while THEY might not know what the solution is, and despite what every financial analyst they stick a micropphone in front of says its going to be years, there's an implicit suggestion in the headlines that its the job of the president to flip a switch and make it okay again. We're not to learn lessons, look within ourselves as a nation to see how we got here. We're to start buying houses we can't afford again and to make everything just how it was if you rolled the clock back to 2007 (when signs were beginning to show trouble, anyway).

We're seeing stories about how gray Obama has already become, how he's been working late, and that his budget isn't some miracle cure-all.

I guess my question is, sure, the former Pro-Wrestler, machine gun toting Camacho is a satirical stereotype... But you can't help but think "hey, the press and certain parties would be touting how Camacho was taking action and making decisions that were popular in the polls", so how far are we from "Ow, My Balls" and a push-button healthcare system where self-examination has been bred out of us all together?

Sunday, March 08, 2009

The League Watches: Wonder Woman

This evening Jamie and I watched the latest release from DC Comics' animated films, "Wonder Woman". It's the fourth movie from the DC Universe studios, following Superman/ Doomsday, Justice League: New Frontier and Batman: Gotham Knight. And, in my opinion, its possibly the best of four. That's my way of saying I thought the movie was pretty darn good.

Some of this is tempered by the fact that Superman/ Doomsday was a first attempt and, unfortunately, seemed to climax in the first act with the animated battle between Superman and Doomsday. Justice League: New Frontier took too many shortcuts with the phenomenal comic and Gotham Knight was a beautifully rendered but ill-executed experiment.

Wonder Woman is only adapting the origin story of Wonder Woman, which isn't terribly well known by the general public, and which has only really been refreshed once or twice even in the comics (I would gladly see an all-new origin story mini-series sometime). They've used bits of the George Perez post-Crisis on Infinite Earths reboot, the classic origin, a hint of Amazons Attack! (but don't hold that against them), and it's a nice, lean origin story. The truth is, I think us fanboys are pretty forgiving of changes in our stories if its reasonably well done, and I think this movie qualifies.

As with the other movies, this one could have stood to be about 20 minutes longer, filling in a lot of details. It would have been phenomenal to have had more exploration of Wonder Woman seeing more of New York and maybe DC, establish more about Etta Candy (I'm a fan of the Perez-era Candy), more on Steve Trevor, and some explanation of the Invisible Jet.

On that last note, I'm also a fan of how the comics portray the Amazons, which the movie does phenomenally well in spirit. I've always liked (well, since I was in college or so) the idea of an island full of heavily armed, ageless female warriors, philosophers and poets who can produce someone like Wonder Woman, and who all are her peers in spirit if not in strength. Unlike the movie, the comics have always suggested that the Amazons were not still stuck in the ancient Greek era as per technology. While they might dress in robes and wear Spartan helmets, left alone on Themyscira, they've come up with all sorts of crazy gear which suits their needs.

They don't directly address this here, but... Invisible Jet.

So having had got my geek-cred stuff covered, how's the movie itself?

Firstly, let me salute long-time WB animation star Lauren Montgomery for her directorial effort on the movie. There's a lot of love here, and Montgomery and her creative team obviously had a pretty strong idea of what was possible with the character in terms of both character and action. To cut to the chase, this movie has some of the best animated action sequences I've seen in a long while. Where Superman is a flying Sherman tank, and Batman (animated) is either a boxer or ninja, Montgomery's Wonder Woman is a sword wielding Achilles who can kick over a Cadillac. Mix that with a PG-13 level of post-300 and Lord of the Rings monsters and mayhem on the battlefield, it's some crazy stuff from the first 20 seconds of the movie.

While I did wish they'd been able to fill in some of those aforementioned spots, the movie is still well written, giving Diana a chance to struggle both with her disappointment that "Man's World" hasn't improved over the stories she's heard growing up on Themyscira, and accepting the world for what it is, in part thanks to a slightly wackier-than-normal take on Steve Trevor. I was never concerned that the movie would land on some side of the coin that would over-do the possible "Girl Power" message. What could have come off as twee or hollow (see: Spice Girls + Girl Power), instead comes off as a viable way of life in the context of Themyscira and the ensuing cultural exchange. Montgomery had worked on Justice League and JLU, and is seasoned enough to know how to make the message work through character and story development rather than speechifying or dumbed-down chauvinism.

Wonder Woman, like Superman, is a very public superhero in the comics. She's not Batman skulking in the night, or Green Lantern doing his thing off in deep space. I admit I would have liked to have seen some crowd reaction to her public debut, and some hint that she was on her way to being the important public figure she becomes in the comics and in the Wonder Woman TV show. But the final sequence does suggest a future for the character (I won't spoil it), so who knows? Maybe in Wonder Woman 2?

The animation is mostly very good, with a few trouble spots (there's one walk sequence for Ares that just doesn't look good at all), and the production design is mostly very good. I'm not someone who sweats the Wonder Woman togs as being unfit for a lady unless they cut the star-spangled shorts into a g-string in the comics. That's not done here, and the minor design change, in my eyes, made total sense.

I'd heard some grumbling about Keri Russell (TV's "Felicity") as Wonder Woman, but I think we can suppose Diana is a young, young woman here. Virginia Madsen plays Hippolyta perfectly, and were this a movie about modern-day, more mature Wonder Woman, she'd have been perfect for that role, but botha ctors do their parts justice. Stand out performance from geek-girl heart-throb Nathan Fillion of Firefly fame as Col. Steve Trevor. Fillion is just plain funny, even as a voice actor. And the always great Alfred Molina plays super-nasty God of War, Ares.

The movie is about 80 minutes, and I don't think you'll be disappointed. If youa re, it'll be over quickly. For Hollywood producers looking to translate the Amazing amazon to the big screen, here's how you do it. Use the elements of the comics, check your memories of Super Friends at the door (but never, ever dismiss Lynda Carter), and aim the movie at people who'd pay to see something like Troy. Just know you're setting it in the modern world.

I picked up the 2-disc set, and haven't made it through all the extras, but it looks like good stuff. The docs on the other DCU movies I've picked up have been as interesting as the features. And with William Moulton Marston to talk about... should be fun.

If nothing else, it reminds a non-comic reading public who and what Wonder Woman is. Not some frail model or pop-singer diva or helpless princess in a tower. She's as smart as she is strong, an ambassador of peace who isn't afraid to lift a sword to protect others, and, like Superman and Batman, a character with a vast and rich story that gives the character surprising depth.

Much of my excitement with the movie comes from seeing the comics I've liked for years brought to the screen, I'm sure. But it's also in seeing it brought to the screen with such care and, honestly, being better than I expected. It's what I've liked about the character that I've tried to express to others, for years. This has been fellow comic geeks who believe reading Wonder Woman will somehow make them seem less macho, people who refuse to get past the Lynda Carter show and Super Friends, and many a non-comic reading friend who has complained that there are no (good) female superheroes.

Sure, the character has waxed and waned over the years in some cyclical fashion, but at its core, but since 1941, she's been out there. It's nice to see Diana get her due.

Grey Lady calls League "finicky fan type"


My old man screed on Watchmen merchandising posted at Comic Fodder a few weeks back was linked to by a NY Times blogger.

Of course, its now stated in the The Paper of Record that I am a fanboy. Hooray?


Back to Austin

I'm home. Not in some metaphorical or romantic sense. I am quite literally back in Austin, decamped to the sofa.

For those of you who are wondering: No, I have not seen Watchmen. No, I don't know when I'm going to see it. I've been a little busy, and I don't know when its going to happen. Maybe next weekend, but that's just a guess.

Lubbock was... interesting.

Look, I didn't see much of the town at all. What I will say: Texas Tech is a lovely campus. I was actually glad to see that the campus defied my expectations of being several squat, lowest contract bidder government issue buildings against a bleak landscape. Instead, its actually a very pretty campus of large brick buildings in the style of its Eastern counterparts.

Off campus, Lubbock is a low-slung town of about 200,000 people cutting out their part of the American Dream, I guess. Last night I hung out with longtime pal Heather, starting at Orlando's Italian, a family restaurant, where the portions were generous and the folks eating seemed as if perhaps they were a bit more immune to the passage of time than the folk of the big city.

Lubbock, being a dry county, serves liquor and beer in the restaurants, but you can't buy your own stuff at liquor stores or the grocery. So, of course, just across the county line, a five minute drive from Orlando's, sits a street filled with huge, flashing neon signs and warehouse-style liquor stores and drive-through liquor marts.

There's a culture and economy that's sprung out of the tradition of pretending that people don't drink or that Carrie Nation was a raging success. It basically boils down to the outskirts of many a town marking up liquor and encouraging people to drink and drive. And for there to be a scale model of a 70's-era Vegas in the Great Plains. But oddly free of "gentlemen's clubs". The only one I saw was about ten to fifteen minutes outside of Lubbock. You know, far enough out that your wife or church elder wasn't likely to spot you unless they're at "Playmates" themselves.

We also hit two fabulous Lubbock night spots, which I won't pretend are indicative of the actual Lubbock night scene. But "The Silver Bullet" and "Adolph's" share the same burnt-out building, the vision of whose creator is lost to time. But I suspect someone thought this was going to be an office park at some point in the distant past.

Lubbock has also not instituted the smoking ban in their bars, which I realized I've come to take for granted. So, yes, I had an awesome voice as if I'd been smoking half-a-pack myself. Which might have served me well had I gotten on the list at Adolph's to sing karaoke, tucked between locals warbling country songs with which I was utterly unfamiliar, and an awesomely bad cover of "Hotel California".

Woke up this morning and drove the 6 hours back.

I might add, I haven't checked e-mail since about 8:00 AM Friday, so I apologize if you really missed me. I detoured before dinner on Friday and picked up a Garmin Nuvi 255 at Target, which was selling the model I chose for quite a bit off MSRP.

After my near-disastrous drives on Tuesday and Thursday, I decided I need to relax a bit more when I'm driving, so the soothing voice of the Garmin Lady assisted me in the drive home, taking me on a great route I never would have picked myself by looking at the Rand McNally map I picked up near Ft. Worth (and which kept me from driving East by Northeast into Oklahoma by accident).

Anyhow, I'm home. I'm tired as heck. I'm going to bed.