Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Mister Miracle

I talk a lot about Superman here at LoM, but as Jamie will roll her eyes and tell you, my interests go far beyond just The Man of Steel.

For some reason I've never been able to put a finger on, I dig Mister Miracle.

Mr. Miracle's story goes a little something like this:

Across a dimensional barrier and/ or in deep space, there are two planets constantly at war with one another: Apokolips, ruled by Darkseid, a despot who defies even the darkest definitions of cruelty and evil*, and New Genesis (capital, floating city: Supertown), a peaceful, green world which is inhabited by the New Gods and ruled by the benevolent hand of Highfather.

It doesn't take a master reader to decipher that Apokolips is where all the bad cosmic guys hang out and New Genesis is home to the celestial beings in white hats. It probably also won't come as a suprise that the stories surrounding the characters of what is called "Kirby's Fourth World" are usually broad in scope, but the currents always seem to run deeper than the slug fests you found in other comics.

One of the many characters which spun off from Kirby's Fourth World is Scott Free, aka: Mister Miracle. The son of Highfather, raised in the Armaghetto's of Apokolips, Scott Free dreamed of only one thing: escape.

The antithesis of the vision Darkseid has of crushing and subjugating the universe, Scott Free was the only being ever to escape from Darkseid's twisted planet. He came to Earth where he now uses his tremendous talent to entertain as showman, Mister Miracle, but also as a proud member of the JLA.

Mister Miracle is (and, again, I suggest you read his back story to find out why) THE WORLD'S GREATEST ESCAPE ARTIST!!!

You can read about Mister Miracle here (and I suggest you do. He has one of the coolest back stories in comicdom). And here (this one is better than Wikipedia's entry).

Today I feel like Mr. Miracle. Almost, but not quite. I feel like Mr. Miracle in this picture, anyway. I've voluntarily strapped myself onto a roaring rocket, bound for certain destruction, and even if I do get free of the rocket I'll be entering the stratosphere, bound for a free fall.

Today I am Mr. Miracle.

I hope.

See him strapped to that rocket, looking maybe a little stressed, but not overly concerned?

You know why?

He's Mister Miracle. He's survived the Orphanage of Granny Goodness, he's survived the firepits of Apokolips and he broke free of the world which stands outside space and time, existing to do nothing more than break the will of its denizens. In five seconds Scott will produce his multi-cube from his glove-pocket, shoot a laser into the tumbler of his manacles, do the same for his leg locks, leap clear of the rocket's flame and then float to freedom on his cape, which will have billowed out to become a parachute.

I never had any firepits or Granny Goodness breathing down my neck. The Admiral never swapped me off to his nemesis to resolve some ancient dispute. But today I want to be Mr. Miracle. I want to know that I'm going to jump free and clear in this whole contraption I've set for myself, touching down on solid earth with a wink and a nod to my faithful wife.

Today it's all about the complexity of the escape, but if Mister Miracle can make it fun, so can I. Right? Maybe?

As much as Orion, the Forever People and the New Gods always seemed so straight forward (well, maybe not The Forever People), Mister Miracle wasn't out to fight anybody outright. Instead, he was out to escape the unescapable, defy the undefiable.

Years later, Michael Chabon would refine the idea and produce the greatest superhero the world had never seen in The Escapist, the fictional comic character of his novel The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay.

And maybe I read too much of Chabon onto Mister Miracle. I'm not sure. It's possible Kirby never meant for Mister Miracle to be a walking allegory, but with Kirby, who the heck knows...?
All I know is that as surely as Scott Free dreamed and dreamed of breaking loose of the chains of Apokolips, I mean to shake off the dust of this one horse desert town. And if he can do it, then maybe I can do it. Just like Steven can do it. And maybe you can, too.

So for the next few months, if you see me donning a lot of red, yellow and green and occasionally trying to get put in a lock-box so some burly men can toss me over the rail of a ship, don't you worry about me. I'm just seeing exactly how you do this escaping thing.

*Readers of LoM may be interested to know Darkseid and Apokolips appeared in comics just a few years prior to Lucas coming up with Darth Vader and the Death Star. Lucas famously perused comics while coming up with his story. I've heard Kirby considered suing, but Lucas had tweaked the concepts enough that Kirby knew the passing similarities wouldn't hold up in court.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Sunday night we headed over to some friends' house for a sort-of "Well, we're leaving" chat and dinner. It's always been nice hanging with Ryan and Trisha, but two years ago they had a kid, and, up to this point, I had no idea that the reason people have kids is for the free entertainment.

Isaac is almost two. He's a wee man who likes to use his head as the base of a tripod before performing some awesome somersaults. He's mostly into Elmo and the Wiggles these days, but he's also into loose change and whatever chips he can get his mits on. He seems smarter than the average bear, which should surprise nobody whose ever met his folks. He's got somethign going on with his legs, and he needs braces right now, but he's two and he's like a combustible ball of energy, so what does he care about the braces? Isaac's still in motion.

As proof positive that Ryan N. is a quality dad, he's found a ceiling fan for Isaac's room that is the propellor of an F-4U Corsair, with the iamge of the Corsair on the ceiling. I am now jealous of a two year-old. Jamie will never let me put up that sort of fan in the bedroom.

We spoke with our first realtor on Sunday, and I liked her a lot. Having never sold a house before, it's hard to tell if someone is ripping you off or telling you things that you want to hear before they put the screws to you. We're taking a pass on a realtor we found online and we're talkign with a recommended realtor on Thursday.

Must get house on market. Must sell house.

I have 330 hours of vacation built up. Apparently, after speaking with higher powers this morning, most of that vacay will disappear into a howling void, just like my late 20's. I'll get something like a month paid out, but that's 160 of my 330 hours. I would have preferred a big old bag of gold coin, but what are you gonna do? My boss is trying to be cool about it and help me out.

As mentioned, I have no job lined up awaiting me in Austin. It would be nice were things otherwise, but they aren't. Fortunately. friends and Leaguers have already volunteered to come to my aid.

Not having a job lined up is not unknown to me. When I graduated I went months without full-time work. When I arrived in Phoenix, I had nothing in particular lined up. So finding out who will take me on becomes a waiting game. I don't mind interviewing. I guess I feel like I'm interviewing my potential empoyer to see if this would be, in fact, a good fit for me as well. If they feel I should be coming in grovelling, well, maybe me and that work place aren't going to get along too well.

My co-worker Juli asks me about once every six months: If money were no object, what would you do for a living?

The idea of the thought exercise is that you're supposed to come to some realization of your true calling, give up your work-a-day job and go chase that dream, whether it's driving a shrimp boat or auditioning for community theater. I have never, not once, come up with an answer to that question. It's too huge. And I think I'm painfully aware that aside from being Grand Sultan, every job is going to have it's drawbacks. And even Sultan's need a food taster to keep them from being poisoned by scheming underlings.

Two years after college, my parents and I were having a similar conversation, and at the time I responded that "I would like to do nothing. I would like to sleep late and stay up late and read. And watch TV. Probably a lot of Discovery Channel. And maybe, I dunno, go to Barton Springs when the weather was nice." Because at the time, that's what I wanted to do. My parents went into some sort of tizzy, my mother cursing my inherent sloth, my father lecturing me about the value of a good work ethic. But I think even I missed my point. It's not that I literally would be happy not working, or being a bum who lives somewhere near Zilker. I jist want to be able to do those things once in a while. And back then, I wasn't getting to do them.

I graduated with an RTF degree and it's not that I didn't want to work on films, it was that I didn't want to work on bad films. And dumb commercials. And corporate in-house birthday videos celebrating some poor schleb who would probably be fired when the stock took a downturn next quarter, anyway.

So I went to work for the state, figured I get a little money in my pocket and health insurance. And I really, really dug my office. My job was sort of goofy and it was okay. But I liked my co-workers and I liked what we did.

Since then, even with a new job in a different city, the work has been good to me, and I think I've been good to it. I think I'm actually effective at my job, and I think I make things run fairly smoothly.

So what do I want to do with my life? My options are open, Leaguers. I'm an open minded guy. I wish I could say "I am a CPA with five years' experience and am worth six-figures." But I'm not.

So what do I want to do with my life? I still want to sleep late on Saturdays and stay up late reading comics. I still want to watch Discovery Channel and hit the pool when it gets hot out.

I want to make things that I don't find embarassing. I want to be a part of a team of people who actually care about one another and the health of the office. I want to be a part of a team where people like what they're doing and who they're doing it for. I'm flexible. I'm happy as long as I'm busy.

I want to be able to laugh at the water cooler and wear jeans to work when I feel like it. And for nobody to worry about my Superman mouse-pad or my Batman clock.

I dunno. It's going to be fun. I'm looking forward to seeing what's out there. I feel like there's a world of opportunity. Hopefully nobody with better qualifications is going to beat me to the punch.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Nothing will make you believe in the relativity of time like a little bit of a travel. Was it only Thursday afternoon that I left the desert? Was it yesterday afternoon that I wound up at my old office, last night for the service? Then finally eating something? (and why doesn't it occur to me to eat when I'm left to my own devices?)

I was in Austin by Thursday night. Peabo and I dropped my bags, said goodnight to Adriana and hopped over to Kerbey Lane on S. Lamar. The people are all so young inside. You forget out here amongst the families and a-dults that there's this other thing going on. The service is no better at Kerbey Lane now than in 1996 or whenever it was I first hit that location. Peabo, though, has landed himself a beautiful home in my neighborhood of neighborhoods. I'm afraid to ask how he swung that.

He's got a little schnauzer, Homer, and I'd like to say that Homer and I really took to each other, but I sort of get the feeling Homer is a dog who is going to love anybody willing to play with him (not that he's want for attention).

Friday morning was the graveside service. The Memorial Park is lovely in that all-encompassing-green way that the older neighborhoods in Austin tend to be. It's oaks and spanish moss.

Afterward I stopped by Jason's house and then the Wilson's for a few minutes. Then off to my old office on campus at UT where time seems to simultaneously never progress and lurch forward in hops and leaps. They've painted the walls. People have left, people have joined. New furniture. New hardware. New technology. No small amount of jealousy, there, given what they're playing with.

Ran back to Jason's, met up with my parents, Sue and Jason. In separate cars we headed over to the Umlauf Sculpture Garden. And people showed up. Lots of people. Reedo, Larry Lee, a sea of attorneys. I'm still hesitating to guess how many folks.

Afterward, off to Threadgill's with the folks and Sue. Then back to Peabo's where we stayed up until 1:30 AM or so. I miss that with Peabo. If ever a man got my mental wheels spinning, it was that guy. We've been staying up too late since 6th grade, I think.

This morning I was up and out the door before Peabo & Family were up. Wagner picked me up, we hit Maudie's for breakfast, floated around the WestGate area for a while not wishing to wake the guys at Jason's house whom Greg informed us had made a night of it last night, and stayed up entirely too late.

Said my adios to Wagner, met up with the family, had some lunch at Casa G's (I know, I know...) hit the airport. My flight was delayed, which was problematic. You see, last night at 10:00 or so, for some reason The Admiral mentioned that this evening was the 15th. For which I had Lyle Lovett tickets and had completely forgotten.

Long story short, mother nature and ineptitude of both Southwest Airlines and the Las Vegas airport (which had sent my craft) conspired to prevent me from making it home in time. I missed the darn show. Sorry, Lyle.

Now, here was an odd bit about the weekend...

All these folks who have been nothing but a name or some folks I had only heard about in passing... two things.

There's nothing like meeting someone you've never met before and them taking a look at you and saying "I saw you eating Cap'n Crunch!" Or, "We saw you and your brother drinking Jones Soda!" I finally met some folks I'd corresponded with only through this oddity we call the internet. Hello, Diva.

But, but, but... it's not just the League, thank you, Steanso... Over at Adventures of Steanso, my brother dearest occasionally refers to me as "Roundball". The name has no meaning, and was used briefly in reference to a book I read in 3rd grade called, I believe, "Anastasia Krupnick." Anyway, apparently Steanso's Austin based-pals believe my name to be "Roundball". Just as they believe my parents' names to be "The Admiral and KareBear".

Now I mention this as I am now not sure what the future holds.

Jamie and I have decided that in very short order we are placing our house on the market and we're moving back to Austin. If any of you have a job you would like to give me (I require a 6-figure salary, four weeks of vacation, an expense account and a company car), I'm game.

We plan to be back in town before ACL Fest and just as the summer heat is scheduled to break. I want to be back in Austin for a lovely Austin fall, all football games and bright sun and those wonderful Northers blowing through once in a while to remind you that winter will be along shortly.

This has been a surprisingly easy decision, but it's turning into the monumental task that I said it would. But remember what I said back then? No limits. This is the right thing to do, and if I was ever unsure of my choice, the past forty-eight hours has been frought with a thousand whisperings telling me that it's time to get on with it.

So I'm a'coming, Austin, Texas. Me and the whole, darn League of Melbotis. No limits.

So when I get back, and I'm back in my home town, do I have to worry about attorneys on the street leaning out their car windows and shouting "Roundball's back in town!"?

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Headed for Austin

I'm taking a flight to Austin this evening and will be staying with Peabo and his lovely wife, Adriana. Peabo is finally paying me back for the 1993/94 era loaned car experiment wherein I let him drive my totally rad Mitsubishi Eclipse on a semi-regular basis. While he's out defending the law on Friday, I'll be free to roam Austin.

What can you say about the circumstances of the trip that hasn't already been said?

It sounds like Mandy has picked a beautiful location for the memorial. My memories of the Umlauf Sculpture Garden consist largely of hauling video equipment around and being asked to chase birds away while we recorded. This, of course, meant I ran up and down a creek bed trying to intimidate grackels into leaving. Five years of college, Leaguers. Five years of college.

Anyhow, please consider the fund Mandy has set up in Jeff's honor.

Jason says:

In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to a memorial fund in Jeff's honor. Make donations to the Jeff Wilson Memorial Account, care of Amanda Wilson, at 1504 West Avenue, Austin, TX, 78701. Donations will contribute to some form of charity, but Mandy is still working on deciding exactly how they will be used.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

An update on Jeff Wilson's Memorial Service

and a few other details can be found at Jason's blog.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

I'd like to thank the folks who sent e-mails over the past few days and then yesterday following Jeff's passing.

If you get an opportunity, I'd like for you to do the same for Jason.

If you've been following Jason's blog, like me, you might have been truly amazed by the outpouring of admiration and adoration for Jeff and Mandy.

I'm going to try to be brief this evening, but I want to point out how clearly loved Jeff was by so many people. This list includes folks from high school, college, family friends, co-workers, and even folks who didn't know Jeff outside of the internet, all of whom have taken a moment to remember him.

At Jason's site, more than 30 people have logged in to leave a message.

On the Statesman's site, I lost count of how many folks had left a message, but it goes on for four pages.

Some Leaguers have posted, too.

Sugar and Splice


Maxwell of Cowgirl Funk


Distorted Veracity

The broadcast news in Austin has also covered Jeff's story.



Thanks to Jim for pulling some links for me on this one.

I didn't meet Jeff until shortly before leaving Austin for Phoenix, and thus I'd only see him when I'd pop into town for a few days. He and Jason literally live across the street from one another, and I sort of thought they really needed to build a bridge across the street or some sort of point-to-point pneumatic tube as it occasionally felt like one shared space.

Like a lot of you, I know Jeff largely through e-mail and blogs, and his contributions to Nanostalgia.

and, like a lot of you, I'm going to miss him, too.

We should all be so lucky as to have so many people ready to speak as kindly on our behalf.

Monday, July 10, 2006

As many of you know, Jeff Wilson has been hospitalized since the evening of July 3rd. It is my understanding that as of today, Jeff has passed.

Jamie and I wish to express our heartfelt sympathies to Jeff's family and his many friends who will all be so profoundly touched by this tremendous loss.

God bless you and keep you, Jeff. We will all miss you so very, very much.

The Austin American Statesman has posted a short article.


Sunday, July 09, 2006

God bless my brother for being the guy he is. I don't know how many of you have been following his blog over the past few days, but he's been up at the hospital in Austin standing vigil with Jeff Wilson's family as Jeff continues to fight for his life.

I've done my fair stints in a hospital, but nothing, absolutely nothing, is like what he and the Wilsons have been going through. I love that guy, and I wish I knew what I could do to help him out.

Sorry, ya'll, but right now Jeff, Mandy and Jason are on my mind quite a bit.

What else...?

Did anyone else watch the two final World Cup games? Nerve wracking. Absolutely nerve-wracking. Both games. Well, Germany won pretty decisively, but if you watched the game... Heck of a game. Germany deserved their win, especially at home. I was rooting for Italy in the Italy/ France final, mostly because France had the 1998 Cup and I've come to really like Italy's goalie over the course of the tournament.

I have no explanation for Zidane's headbutt. I confess, it was kind of awesome, but I was left with a huge questionmark floating over my head. No matter how angry I've ever become, it has never occured to me to hit someone with my head. Who does that?

Went and saw "The Devil Wears Prada" today rather than brave the maddening crowds in attendance to see Pirates. "The Devil Wears Prada" is not a movie for fashion-impaired dudes, like myself. Honestly, my RTF Narrative Strategies training was going into the red zone for a huge chunk of the movie, and I went into "dissect the movie" mode for the first hour, eventually wearing myself out and just giving up.

The movie is the sort of morality play that's possibly worth seeing for folks ages 18-24, but once you've actually gotten that first job and realized "my boss is an autocrat, and what I think is largely irrelevant", a lot of the movie just doesn't have much of a lesson to share (and it most certainly exists to share exactly that lesson). I had a laundry list of issues with the film, but I won't go into that here.

I will say I never thought the movie did a good job of ever explaining why anybody should care about fashion, and I think that was a major failure of the film. Yes, they explain how fashion eventually trickles down to stores like "Fashion Bug", but it mostly told me what I already know about why the stuff on the rack is there. They never made it sound any less silly than I always suspected the process to be. The rest is largely like most 80's "it's not all about professional success" movies where Michael J. Fox realized financial wealth isn't worth it when you hurt the ones who care about you.

That said, both Streep and Anne Hathaway were okay, although I think Anne Hathaway was getting away with just being pretty an awful lot, but, hey... that's what the movie celebrates even when it's decrying all that.

Anyway, enough.

Ya'll keep Jeff in your thoughts and prayers. And Jason, too.
Catching up with Comics

Land's sake, Leaguers... It has been a while since I went all straight up comic review on you.

Here's some stuff I've been reading.

The All-New Atom #1: Here's an idea. How about a superhero who doesn't start his career as a dorky teenager? Well, our hero in question IS a bookworm, but in this case, it's all too appropriate for the hero to be of the pocket protector set. After all, you can't be The Atom without being one of the world's top physicists.

Dr. Ryan Choi takes on Ray (The Atom) Palmer's job in Ivy Town following his disappearance at the end of Identity Crisis. A world class genius among world class geniuses, Ryan is quick to discover the source of The Atom's power as well as some of the perils of shrinking at will.

Gail Simone is on writing chores, following an outline by Grant Morrison, working her usual magic with popping dialogue and natural characterization. She sets up a supporting cast in an organic fashion, introducing the characters as Ryan arrives on campus.

The Atom is now officially a legacy character, from Al Pratt, to Ray Palmer and now to Ryan Choi (you can fit Atom Smasher/ Nuklon in there however you please), and Gail creates an interesting dynamic between Ray Palmer and Ryan. Ray is played up as the distant mentor (Ryan is from Hong Kong and corresponded via letter and e-mail), and, at some point, I'm sure Ray's fate will play out in the title.

John Byrne has managed to utilize the internet to create a not-too-popular image of himself as a cranky curmudgeon. It would be unfortunate to skip this title simply because of Byrne's personal views and inability to step away from the keyboard. His pencils are in great form, and the inking on the book (Trevor Scott) is better than what I recall seeing in either JLA or Action Comics.

I've never really understood why The Atom's costume just appears whenever he shrinks.

The threat established in this comic is especially suited for The Atom, and I'd be fibbing if I wasn't a little concerned how The Atom can continue to find a list of villains which meet his unique talents. I always liked Ray as a utility player in the JLA comics, as both the scientific genius and sub-atomic hero. DC has done it's usual magic of coming up with some crazy ways Ray could utilize his powers, which, no doubt, will also appear in the new comics.

Anyhoo, of the new DC titles, this was probably the strongest first issue.

Blue Beetle #4: This one came out last week, but I'm playing catch-up.

A lot of ball's are in motion already with issue #4. I'm not necessarily on the fence with this book. I'm enjoying it and plan to continue to pick it up. BUT... the book constantly rides the line between yet another book about a teenager figuring out how to be a hero with powers thrust upon him (ie Spider-Man) and something truly unique.

Giffen seems to take one step back into familiar territory with every two steps forward in crafting a title which should be a "must read". Giffen's take on the Blue Beetle's powers, the environment of OYL, Jaime's family all are a new thing, and those moments are when the book shines. However, the villains are too mysterious for their own good, falling right down the slippery slope thanks to their ill-defined "magical" ties. To keep Jaime from sitting around talking to himself, Giffen has given him two best-pals, the over achiever and the goof, creating holy trinity of comics since the 80's. Unfortunately, there's nothing there other than the place-holder status we've seen in dozens of comics prior to Blue Beetle.

I guess my frustration comes from having followed Firestorm for the past two years as writer after writer has tried to make the premise work, the doofus best friend, the straight-from-central-casting "angry father", etc... all work. But it feels like for two years, I've been holding my breath, waiting to see the title cut loose. Instead, we've seen iteration after iteration not really work.

There's a lot to like in Blue Beetle, but Giffen needs to take a sharp left turn when he starts heading into the territory of the familiar and see what it takes to define the new Blue Beetle as the true next generation of superheroes.

Action Comics #840: Wow. Johns and Busiek wrap up the OYL run with a bang.

Very much looking forward to Superman titles as Busiek and Johns continue on with the Superman series.

Crisis Aftermath: The Spectre #2: I'd read a review in which this issue was described as "more whining" before I had a chance to read the issue. That reviewer is looking for ass-kicking action, I guess, and missed the point of this mini-series.

For almost as long as Superman has been zipping around in 4-color comics, Jerry Siegel has has another creation, The Spectre, dispensing horrific justice upon the wicked. This series is asking good questions, attempting to tackle the inherent illogic of The Spectre's mission.

I'm not sure how long the Cris Allen version of The Spectre will continue, and I can't say I'm nuts about the "goatee'd" Spectre, but occasionally DC needs to take a few steps back and examine some of their time-honored ideas just to make sure they still work. In two issues this series has done more in a far more satisfying manner than the Hal Jordan-Spectre series for the 8 issues or so I followed it.

Detective Comics #821: Paul Dini and JH Williams take over the title in the post-OYL era. Paul Dini's name may ring a few bells as a writer/ producer on "Batman: The Animated Series" and as a writer on ABC's "Lost". JH Williams was responsible for the genre-defying art work on Alan Moore's "Promethea".

Dini is doing what he did best on the animated series. He's telling single story issues using a timeless version of Bruce Wayne/ Batman, including Robin where necessary. This first issue is good, solid work, and a great point for new readers to start picking up Batman comics again.

Supergirl #7: My GOD, this title would be a nightmare for anyone without a bachelor's degree in DC History. You know, I'm giving this comic about three more months, and then... well, they've got three more months to get this title in line. I have no idea where they're going, which is part of why I'm sticking with the comic. If it were not for the solicits for September, I'd have given up already.

So far, DC has managed to turn out one serious mess of a character launch. My advice to DC: scrap this Kara Zor-El. I don't care how you do it. The original pollyanna in a mini-skirt worked. Somehow in 7 issues you've managed to give us a character ten times as messy as the old Mae/ Matrix/ Linda Danvers/ Earth Angel car-wreck.

While Ian Churchill's art on this title is gorgeous, that's about all I can say that's positive about the comic to this point.

Saturday, July 08, 2006

Did you send in a Nomination to the Mellies? You did? Super.

Well, if you did, chances are you'll be getting a token of The League's appreciation in the mail.

Nothing much, mind you. You try to split a pie 16-ways, and suddenly all you've got is a sticky mess.

Luckily, Loyal Leaguer Nathan Pericles Cone was good enough to put together a truly kick-ass musical sampler. You all should be getting that and whatever else I had laying around that I could afford to send without the cost of the mailing costing more than the contents of the envelope . You dig?

Anyway, thus concludes the 2006 Mellies. Next time we're going to figure out a way to have a grand-prize winner so it's less work for me.
Onward through the weekend

Not much to report. We've been keeping a low profile since returning from Houston. It's always good just to spend time with the dogs and the cat. I got up yesterday with the pups, and no sooner did I rise than I had it in my head that I needed to re-read the end of DC's story "New Frontier". Also, I didn't feel like running.

If I was going to push the hard-sell on any of you Leaguers, one book would be this late 1950's/ early 1960's-set story of the dawn of a new age of superheroes. There are overtones of the optimism and paranoia which led to the space program, but there's also a lot of the wild imagination which led to the explosion of Marvel and DC Silver Age craziness.

Anyhoo, I tried very hard to read a lot of comics yesterday, also playing catch-up with the stuff I didn't get to read last week and the stuff from this week that I just picked up.

Did I mention what a brilliant guy my brother is? No?

Well, every holiday I hear from everyone in ear-shot how impossible it is to shop for me. What does one buy The League? Apparently folks think I would buy each and every comic right off the shelf, but that's not true. I have to be careful in what series I can pick up on a regular basis. Recently I've become very interested in Green Arrow, but haven't had it listed as an in-store subscription quite yet.

Anyway, Jason got me a subscription to Green Arrow and one to Hellblazer.

How does one find a way to earn The League's gratitude? Free comics. Yes, yes... my birthday was in April and it's now July, but whatever. I just gave him his birthday present last weekend and his birthday was in March. I hope he liked that "JLA: Rock of Ages" book.

I'll be honest, Jason's got a lot going on these days. Jeff is fairly stable, all things considered, but there's a long, long way to go and nothing is certain. Anyway, my brother is on my mind these days as much as Jeff, Mandy, Kim and Sigmund. If I were in town, at least I could go and hang out with him at the hospital and keep him entertained and distracted. Well, he's got a cell phone, so I just keep calling. That's probably getting annoying at this point.

Today I ran for the first time in a week. It was odd. I finished, still running, but I was just running so darn slow. I wasn't really uncomfortable. There was no cramping or anything, I just... couldn't... get... going... fast... enough...

I've missed the last few games of the World Cup. In fact, I missed the games that put France and Italy over the top. I'm picking Italy. Germany looked great today and wrapped up the tournament like the champions they should have been. (Darn you Brazil for not advancing!) If you didn't see the game, you need to check out the highlights to see the strikes and self-goal.

Hope all of you are having a good weekend. I'm off to go clean and organize.
Overheard at Uno's - Tales from RTF School

Huh. Somehow this didn't post. Well, I wrote it the night before we left for Houston.

So Octavio and I hit Uno's today for lunch as they have the greatest number of TV's showing World Cup. I was rooting for italy v. Ukraine, mostly because I'm hoping my folks brought me an Italian Football t-shirt or pin or banner or something.

The guys sitting at the next table over were deeply immersed in their very loud conversation, and not watching the game at all.

And then I heard one of them say "(blah blah blah) Lynda Carter!" so of course that piqued my ears. Then I heard "Marilu Henner. Carol Kane." I turned to look over to see what was going on, and I saw that the very loud guys all had 3-ring binders and cell phones out. "(blah blah blah) at CAA. (blah blah) at William Morris. Check their availability."

One of them picked up his phone and started barking into it. "Is Jason there? No? Is this Brian? Dave. Who? We're with (blah blah blah)."

I was having a hard time keeping up with the game thanks to these chowderheads.

"We're thinking Jonathan Silverman and David Schwimmer."

"Martin Short. Rick Moranis. Or John Stamos."
"What about Arsenio Hall? @#$%ing everybody knows Arsenio Hall."

"Aren't they twins?"
"No, they're just brothers."
"There's the one line that says (blah blah blah). That's why people think they're twins."
"They should fight a lot more. Twins fighting? I think of the twins in Harry Potter. Twins fighting is just funny."

When I was in film school we'd sort of play this little game. It was the 'mediocre movie game', but we didn't call it that at the time. The unspoken goal was to come up with the blandest movie with the dullest casting you could muster.
"He wears a leather jacket, never takes off his shades, chews on a toothpick. He doesn't take crap from anyone."
"We'll call it 'Stingray.' It'll star Timothy Hutton."

Stingray, for some reason, sticks out the best in my mind, aside from when I played the game at my old office with Beta-Juan (the lesser of our two Juans).
"It's a penal colony. In space. Bruce Willis is there for a crime he sort of committed, but he was justified. Self-defense."
"He finds a mentor in Robert Duval, a guy whose been on the asteroid prison for 30 years."
"Chris Rock is the smart alecky prisoner nice guy."
"The prisoners riot and take over the space prison. Led by Ving Rhames."
"He's turned on the boosters and he's flying it towards Earth for a ransom."
"Robert Duval is secretly evil. After the ransom is paid, they can't shut off the boosters. He's so bitter, he wants to crash into New New York."
"The movie is called 'SC 666'. Space colony 666. It's where the worst space prisoners wind up."

As I listened to these guys (who were getting louder as they were on their third or fourth round at 12:15), it completely reminded me of why I decided not to pursue my Hollywood dreams. They didn't seem nearly as interested in making a half-way decent movie as they were interested in hiring actors they used to like. They didn't even seem to understand their own script, and had plans to make it "edgy" by hiring non-SAG actors.

I was guessing their budget was somewhere between $250K and $500K based on the figures they were tossing around. And you just knew, these guys are going to spend all that money on a film that nobody... I mean NOBODY... is going to want to see. If it gets picked up, that'll be no small coup for these guys and their little indie film. But most likely, at best it will run after 10:00 on one of HBO's channels, sort of filling time so HBO doesn't have to put up color bars and 1K tone.

God bless 'em. Somebody has to make those movies. I'm probably just going to refuse to pay to see them.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

We are back.

As far as family visits go, despite the unfortunate events in Austin, Jamie and I managed to spend some good quality time with the Steans side of the family.

Jason was in until Tuesday morning when he and Susan departed. Cousin Susan was in on Sunday morning, coming through the gate while Jason, Jamie and I floated in the pool. Obviously being out in the desert means I don't see much of Susan, so I'm always glad when our schedules align and we can see one another. Sue is headed for China for a few weeks in the fall in some sort of Occupational Therapy exchange program.

Saw Shannon Lowry. Josh was a no show thanks to the rigors of the "telecommuting" world. Sucker! Shannon's still working long and hard for a life insurance company. Her job sounds pretty interesting, and I'm a little jealous. The Lowry's are headed for Arkansas to join up with Josh's kin for some post-Holiday fun.

Apparently my old high school buddy Nick has returned to the bountiful land that is Spring, Texas. He has a billboard on the side of the road announcing that he's gone into business as a realtor. So, you know, if you're buying houses in Spring, let Nick know. He will broker you one heck of a deal.

I was so taken with the idea that Nick's mug was now adorning billboards that I called him. I think he was a little surprised, but it made me realize I hadn't talked to the guy in years and years. Anyhoo, I'll bug him next time I'm headed back to Spring.

Hit Bedrock City comics and picked up some Superman back-issues. I was pretty excited as, while doing my wandering around the store, I noticed they were selling all Superman merchandise at 20%, so I was able to grab a few DC Presents issues I wasn't sure I could afford. Well, I got them. And an issue of Promethea whose cover I didn't previously have.

On the 3rd, Jason and I went and blew a collective $36 on fireworks, putting on a minor extravanganza in the driveway (Jason was already scheduled to leave town on the afternoon of the 4th). I shot off my first missle of my life, and I'll be honest. It was fun. I did feel a little bad about seeing all that plastic disappear into the sky. I guess I thought the little plastic fins would be left behind. Not so. Ah, well. All in all, I think the fountains were my favorite. Lots of bang for your buck and no plastic hurling into your neighbor's yard.

Steve Magsig joined Rick, Jamie and myself for a stellar Cubs v. Astros game on the 4th. We had a great time, although I missed a great bottom of the 8th when I ran out to the hat shop to grab an 80's-style Astros cap. Oh, well. I've now seen the D-Backs play both the Astros and Cubs and the Astros and Cubs play one another. That's got to be some sort of sign of baseball synchronicity or something... By the way, if you haven't been, Minute Maid Park is really cool.

Yesterday we didn't get up to much of anything, but the day sailed by. We went down to some far-off portion of Houston to my Dad's office. The Admiral took us on le grande tour of his offices' facilities. They just moved in, so I spent the whole time geeking out over their AV systems in their training and conference rooms. While I'm surprised they skipped the AMX control systems, they managed to come up with some good analog solutions (that saved them a LOT of money).

Mom seems determined to get me fatter. She feeds us continually while we're home. We have fun, we do. We played some Uno, swam around the pool and spent some time tooling around Spring. Lots of hanging out with the folks, but she did ride to Austin with Jason on Tuesday and fly back that same night, so you know what kind of super trooper she can be.

I'm a little tired, and although it's 10:15 AZ time, it's now 12:15 Houston time. I'm headed for bed.

Hope all of you are doing well. Thanks for the well-wishes for Jeff.
We're flying out of Houston in a few hours and leaving for the airport in an hour, I think.

No doubt I'm going to be feeling even more useless in Phoenix than I've felt in Houston over the past couple of days.

Jason has been up at the hospital quite a bit with Jeff, but as he's in ICU, he can't stay in the room for any length of time. He's made two posts on Jeff, Kim and Sigmund's status, and I suggest sticking with Jason's blog to get updates.

Meanwhile the Austin media has picked up on Jeff's story. They've done their due diligence and located Jeff's blog. And they're quoting from it.


I'd feel worse about what I feel is a bit of an invasion of Jeff's privacy, but they are getting across Jeff's incredible energy and his determination to make the most of his life. Sort of. And Joe Turner (who I don't know) had some spot on things to say.

Oddly, the Steanso/ CrackBass band "Crack" also gets its first public mention in the article.

We're back to Phoenix as of tonight. I'll be pointing back to Jason's blog on a regular basis as events warrant.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006


If you've been keeping up with "League of Melbotis" or "Adventures of Steanso", you are probably familiar with Jeff Wilson. You may know him as CrackBass.

Last evening, while leaving a concert outside of Austin, Jeff and several others (including, I believe, Sigmund and Kim Bloom) were struck by a motorist. Jeff is in critical condition in the intensive care unit at one of Austin's finest hospitals. Sigmund received several injuries, and I believe Kim has a broken leg and is under observation for possible internal injuries.

At this time, I don't have many details. Jeff is not conscious. My brother, Jason, left Houston at 8:00 this morning to get back to Austin.

Jeff has many, many friends, including folks on this website. As I understand it, there has been a stream of visitors from all over Austin to see Jeff and lend his wife, Mandy, a hand.

I'm asking that you guys keep Jeff and the others in this accident in your thoughts and prayers over the next few days.

And for the love of God, please remember Jeff, Sigmund and Kim when you decide to get behind the wheel after you've had a drink.


Steanso has updated his blog.

More after the jump.


Monday, July 03, 2006

Random Comments: June 03 - July 03

Friday, June 30, 2006


Bush plays tour guide at Graceland? Koizumi the karaoke champ?

Hail to the King, baby.

read more here.

I like pirates!

On Saturday the good ship HMS Melbotis lifts anchor and heads for the glittering shores of Spring, Texas.

The League and Jamie will be spending Saturday through Wednesday at the Admiral and KareBear's country manor, tucked amidst the pines and live oaks of their sprawling estate. I believe Steanso and Cousin Sue will be joining us for what is sure to be a delightful few days. Just what a gentleman needs to rejuvenate himself.

Blogging may be light, Leaguers. If you are in Houston, feel free to pop by. We don't really have any plans to actually leave the house. Well, that's not true. On Tuesday we have a baseball game to attend (go Astros! Wait, who is pitching that day..?), and I am sure there will be a cook-out led by the courageous Admiral.

In lieu of fireworks, I plan to buy several bottles of Diet Coke and a few packs of Mentos. I've seen evidence that combining these two items causes an amazing display.

Monday and Wednesday night are now, unfortunately, no longer up for negotiation. Jamie has dialysis scheduled for both evenings.

I am looking forward to the endless and meandering storytelling which will occur as Mum and Dad relate the tales of their trip to Milan and Rome. I've heard they bought a picture book of Rome, so hopefully they can tell me a little bit about what's in there.

Mostly I plan to just float in the pool, hit Bedrock City Comics, eat some Tex-Mex and BarBQ, and convince Susan that Pierre could be the ultimate dog fighter. If, you know, Steanso wants to see Superman Returns during a late showing, I'm up for that.

Don't hesitate to get in touch with me via comments or e-mail. Or phone, you know, if you know how to find us.

Happy Days, Leaguers. Now get out there and celebrate your independence.

Thursday, June 29, 2006


Let me just start by saying that I may never go to an opening weekend show ever again.

I bought my tickets several days ago online. When I ran my card through the machine, it coughed up a receipt that said "We're sorry! This theater has been cancelled!" Panic set in immediately. I walked back to the box office and showed them the stubs, and asked what I could do. The guy behind the glass with the dumb light bulb hair that all the teen-age boys are now sporting proceeded to treat me like an idiot as he got me tickets for a different showing (at the same time, natch) and I tried to pay for them.

"You've already paid, sir..." he groaned as I pushed my debit card through the little coin tray window. I don't honestly think I DID pay. I think the machine had refunded my money, but, you know, whatever...

The theater was pretty full already half an hour before the show. Lots of families. Lots of families with small children, as it should be, I guess. The lesson I learned is that Disney isn't screwing around by limiting their features to 80 minutes. The constant squirming, whining and general noisiness in the theater was constant for every moment that something on screen wasn't exploding or shattering, or, in general, assaulting the senses.

The family of five behind us started out the film by chatting away until I shushed the mom, but I was glad I did it then rather than let the frustration grow. The mind-boggler was the three-year old they'd brought who seemed interested in the movie as he kept his own ongoing narration, parroting lines and telling us what we were seeing. I gave him the "adult stink-eye" three or four times, and each time he'd quiet down for a few minutes. Luckily his older sisters kept shushing him. Dad just ignored junior. It was kind of fascinating.

The kid next to me spent half the movie playing with a handful of coins, until I finally asked him to stop.

Look, I HATE having to ask others to exercise common courtesy, but I also want to enjoy a movie without constant interruption. I'm amazed how few people feel the same way. In some ways, I absolutely knew this was going to happen if we went to a 7:00 show on opening day, but I also didn't want to wait two weeks to see the movie. There's got to be a happy medium in there somewhere.

Also, people, for the love of God... Why are you checking to see who called you on your cell? Yes, yes... you've put it on vibrate, but when you check to see who called and your dinky 1" x 1" screen lights up, we can all see the bright blue light in the otherwise very dark theater. And, teenagers, same goes for texting.

I'm fully in support of theaters using cell-phone blocking technology. The many, many stupid people have officially overcome the needs of the few who might actually need to take a call in the middle of a movie.

okay... the movie

The movie was very enjoyable. It had a few logic problems and should have been longer in the beginning and shorter at the end, but overall, yeah..! I liked it.

Brandon Routh, despite the seemingly endless desire to compare him to Christopher Reeve, handles the dual roles with a lot of charm and does own the role. I would have liked to have gotten to see a bit more in the way of Superman being Super about town, but the moments you do get are amazing. Just beautifully executed. Singer and Co. have done a remarkable job of thinking through scenarios and the use of technology, and Routh manages to more than fill the Man of Steel's red boots. That plane scene from the trailers? It's stunning.

The bottom line is this: I really enjoyed the movie. You always feel a little odd telling people you really believed something was that good, even when you saw the flaws. One man's Matisse is another man's messy canvas. I've heard varying reports on different actor's performances, and I am sure there will be some serious debate among comic geeks as to certain elements in the film... but as a separate entity from the comics, from the TV shows... Yeah. Yeah, I enjoyed every minute of it.

And, yes, if it's been twenty years since you watched Superman I and II, I highly recommend watching them again on DVD before hitting the theater. This movie is a sequel in every conceivable way.

I'm very much looking forward to the next installments. Singer did such a good job of building upon what he'd established in X-Men with X2, that the scope of Superman Returns sequel seems almost limitless.

In the meantime, just prepare to sit back and enjoy the spectacle.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

SUMMER OF SUPERMAN: All that's left is the waiting.

By the time you read this, some of you will have already seen Superman Returns. I haven't gotten to see the movie yet, but I've been waiting a long time. A few more hours won't hurt. It seems like yesterday I was looking at a countdown ticker telling me I had a year left before the movie was released.

At this point, I guess the honest question to ask ourselves is this: Can Superman Returns possibly live up to the hype and expectations?

I don't think so.

I don't really expect to be disappointed in the movie, but I'm also aware it's a movie. Possibly a film made by folks with the best of aspirations, but there are going to be flaws. There are going to be portions and performancess that don't quite hit the mark. There are going to be things that don't stick with Superman canon.


After all the opportunity for a movie which was not, in any way, representative of the 70 years of Superman comics, I'll take a flawed movie which at least respects the ideas and ideals behind the character.

Superman, unlike any other superhero and unlike many other fictional characters, is an icon. Trying to capture the wonder and grandeur of any superhero is tough, but some ideas are more easy to translate than others. Capturing an icon, putting them to film, is like lightning in a bottle. When it doesn't work, somehow the disappointment is all the greater. Everyone knows who Superman is supposed to be, and we're unforgiving when he somehow doesn't meet out expectations.

From the trailers I know the screen writers and director have taken the challenge head on. They're well aware that journalists have spent a lot of ink pondering Superman's irrelevance in a world that, they believe, has outgrown the need for Supermen. We need, these journalists insist, our heroes tarnished and barely functional. Who can believe in a Superman who deflects bullets?

I eagerly await Singer and Co.'s answer to that question, especially as the reviews, both good and bad, never raise the question.

I'm looking forward to my time with Jamie tonight, standing in line for popcorn and a Diet Coke. I'm looking forward to the titles and the music. I'm also looking forward to the quiet ride home where we don't say too much to each other.

I have no idea how to make the perfect Superman movie, and even if I did, someone else would find problems with whatever I wanted to do. So all I can do now is end the anticipation and hope for the best.

Up, up and away...!

Tuesday, June 27, 2006


and it is frikkin' AWESOME

go here.

You poor Leaguers are probably sick to death of The League rooting on the release of Superman Returns. Well, all that will end before the end of the week when I've seen the movie and begin getting excited about Pirates of the Caribbean. Oh, yes. Pirates!

In the meantime, here are some quick bits.

1) Jim D. is scheduled for the 10:00 on Tuesday screening of Superman Returns in the BMT. Due to Jim's terrorist threat to inundate me with spoilers, Jamie has forbidden me any contact with Jim from 12:30AM Wednesday until Thursday morning.

2) For those of you who planned to re-watch Superman: The Movie prior to seeing Superman Returns and are just now realizing that ain't going to happen, Nathan points us to Angry Alien. They've got a featured flash movie retelling Superman in 30 seconds. With bunnies!

Hop over to that site here.

3) I know it's almost $400, but this is what I want for Christmas, Steanso...

4) Here's some marketing madness. WB's marketing arm is projecting the Superman logo onto landmarks around the country. After the jump, there are some photos of the logo on Niagra Falls. Made famous, of course, in Superman II. Because nobody had ever thought to visit before that.

5) If you've got kids, take 'em to see the King. Burger King has Super Toys in their kid's meals. Including a Super Pedometer. Which is great, because if your kid is eating at Burger King often enough to collect all the toys, they're probably going to need that pedometer. And bypass surgery.

The movie, last I checked, is PG-13. If your kid is five, s/he is under half the recommended age for seeing this flick. I know parents pretty much ignore ratings, but it's a bit of interest, I suppose.

Of course, what do I know? Eventually both Rambo and Robocop got their own cartoon series and toy lines.

More Super News as events warrant.

Monday, June 26, 2006


On the eve of the release of Superman Returns, I've decided to try out a little Super Snack. Better living through League of Melbotis.

It's Cap'n Crunch! Now, with real Superman Shield Shapes! Jeff approves.

You can see for yourself the shiny, pretty Cap'n Crunch Box. You can almost begin to imagine my anticipation. Note: It promises to turn my milk blue.

Superman wouldn't steer you wrong! See, free entertainment. Jeff and I have a game scheduled for Thursday evening.

Superman, ahoy! Lookie there. Those are some Super Shields mixed in with the usual Crunch barrels. I confess, I love me some Cap'n Crunch. I'm kind of excited.

For scale, here is an example of a Crunch Shield. Note the color. It is red. Sort of.

Wha..? As advertised, the cereal turns the milk blue. Some of the shields get a little blue or purple, but... but... there's some serious mad science going on here. I'm a litle scared.

Skeptical. Simply skeptical of blue milk.

It smells like The Cap'n. Sweet. Crunchy. Delicious.

I am reluctant to take my first bite.

Sweet. Crunchy...

Not dissimilar to my usual bowl of The Cap'n.

Not dissimilar at ALL. I believe I WILL have another bite.

Yowzah! Now that is some cereal. SWEEEEEEEET!!!!

You'll have to pardon this photo. I'm on a sort of diet. Not much sugar lately.

ARGHHH!!! Crunch scrape. Must slow Crunch eating to a crawl.

Yes, this is a truly Super addition to my Super diet. The League fully endorses this product.

Next up, some Super 4-Cheese pasta.

I was sitting in my cushy swivel chair at work on Friday, just sort of zoning out prior to a video conference I was to man, sort of just flipping my issues around, sort of like when I'm making Jamie's coaster-sized pancakes on a Sunday morning on the griddle. You look at each pancake individually, but there's a common theme there as they cook at about the same rate, some better than others, some needing a little nurturing, some needing the spatula lest they bleed into one another and create an unweildy pancake infinitely more difficult to deal with now that they've merged.

You flip them over, these ideas, to see how the other side is doing, and then at some semi-arbitrary moment you declare those pancakes done. You could wait a little longer, you could have pulled them off a little sooner. It doesn't really matter too much, I guess. Especially when you plan to then smother those ideas in Log Cabin.

I have come to a conclusion. A Super conclusion. A conclusion so colossal and stupefying that I am afraid to say it out loud.

It will take heavy lifting, this idea. It's a matter, now, of lining up the principles and designing a plan for execution. However, that's what they pay me for at my current job. Find the impossible task, figure out what has to happen, what's the timeline, gird your loins and lift. Hold the weight until you're used to it.

No limits.

I am convinced there's nothing we can't do, we two, we just need to put our backs into it and take ourselves a chance. Trying to stay within certain boundaries has not worked up until this point, so it's time, now, to start looking at doing it the hard way. What is it they say about anything worth having?

So I want to do this thing. No one else is going to do it for me.

But one thing I've learned is that The League is not just our little squad sitting out here amongst the tumbling tumbleweeds. We've got connections, and we've got reserves. We've got caped and masked allies everywhere, and this could be the big cross-over event of the summer.

The story will have romance and intrigue, adventure and pathos, I am sure. And unlike so much else, in these monthly comics, I have no idea how it's going to end. This is the sort of "fly through the kryptonite field and on through the red sun" sort of risk-taking that I'm not usually too good at. If only Mogo is there to catch me when I fall.

When we are lucky, we have only the limits we set upon ourselves.

I feel ready to break the chains and leap into the sky.

No limits!

Sunday, June 25, 2006

Comics in Review - Week June 21ish

I was going comic reviews over at, but as mentioned last week, I'm moving some of that back here.

Mostly I read and review DC books, but I'm trying to branch out a bit.

Here we go.

Civil War #1 and Civil War: Frontline #1 - Marvel Comics:

Decent story. Overkill on the books I'm expected to pick up. Event fatigue creeping in around the edges.

I think I honestly enjoyed Civil War #1 more than Frontline #1. Frontline seemed to be forcing the square pegs of Marvel's make-believe issues into the round slots of real-world political issues in a way which sort of strained logic. The worst offender was the nebulous story at the end of Frontline #1 which I'm still not sure wasn't suggesting that Japanese-Americans were doing their patriotic duty by being herded into internment camps during World War II. I don't honestly think that's what the writer intended to say, but there were a few lines about patriotic duty, blah blah blah and then the folks entering the camps.

The League doesn't want to get political, but we're also not really sure this was a well executed story.

Also, Spider-Man's "Iron Spider" outfit is lame.

Uncle Scrooge #355 - Gemstone Publishing:

This is so dorky, but I've started picking up Uncle Scrooge comics. They're just genuinely fun and goofy comics. These comics by Gemstone include work by Carl Barks as well as new work, pretty much continuing the Uncle Scrooge comics that have been in print for fifty years.

There's certainly a pastiche for the past, but also a certain "all-ages" quality to the comics that Disney used to hold up as their gold-standard of story-telling.

Due to the amount of content in each issue of Uncle Scrooge, the price is that of two comics, but I'm okay with that.

I'd highly recommend these comics as a springboard for kids. There's plenty going on in each comic, and the characters are very likeable.

All-Star Superman #4 - DC Comics
Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely

After having just read my way through 500+ pages of Jimmy Olsen stories in Showcase Presents: Superman Family Vol. 1, this issue was a welcome treat. As he's done in the three previous issues of All-Star Superman, Morrison has taken the Silver-Age concept and brought it into the mid 21st Century. Quitely's art is just as astonishing in this issue as the previous three, but his "re-design" of Jimmy suggests a hipster idiot-savant.

For those of you who may not know, Jimmy Olsen carried his own title for decades at DC Comics, routinely falling into as much or more trouble than Lois Lane, and counting on Superman to pull his fat out of the fire. No matter the circumstances, Jimmy would get the story and learn a little lesson about, say, not walking into a hail of bullets just because you've previously signaled Superman with your secret signal watch.

In this issue, Superman discovers the super-dense black Kryptonite, which seems to make him act the opposite of his nature, in this case, evil, and Jimmy is unable to call in Superman to combat the threat as the very threat is Superman himself.

Anyway, highly recommended.

Shadowpact #2 - DC Comics:
Art and Story by Bill Willingham

I have no idea why, but this comic keeps getting good reviews.

During Infinite Crisis, Willingham stated that he planned to re-imagine magic in the DCU, an act which raised The League's eyebrows as magic in the DCU had always been pretty cool. I like Dr. Fate. I like The Spectre and Phantom Stranger. I love Zatanna.

Willingham has pretty much turned magic into a superheroic power battery, like radiation, etc... etc... without really adding anything. In short, Shadowpact is nothing more than a C-List team of superheroes fighting C-list "magical" villains. I could forgive all of that, but the writing just doesn't feel terribly imaginative and none of the characters have been explained or developed from a "power" standpoint, or from who the heck they are.

The villains are unimaginative "magic" characters whose names I can't be bothered to remember who, like in Ghostbusters 1 & 2, seem to be trying to summon an evil power from beyond. Whatever.

I think I realized I gave this comic a shot because I liked the idea of Detective Chimp. There's absolutely nothing else of interest going on in this comic. At that, Willingham put Detective Chimp in combat tights for some reason.

This is a bad comic. I give it 8-12 issues. Issue #2 is my final issue.

Give me Dr. Fate.

Superman/ Batman #27:
Mark Verheiden and Kevin MacGuire

A filler issue if there ever was one. Readers have been patient. DC should have just waited until July for the next storyline. This story was deeply embedded in Earth-2 DC history and ultimately adds nothing.

I'm a pretty big fan of Power Girl and will pick up pretty much anything with her on the cover, but this isn't a good way to treat a flagship title, even if the creators are A or B+.

DC, you've got a lot of people watching you in a post-IC market. This is exactly how to drop the ball.

The Flash: Fastest Man Alive #1
Written by Paul DeMeo and Danny Bilson; Art and cover by Ken Lashley

Ultimately, this wasn't a great comic. There's a lot of promise here, but from a structural standpoint, the comic was a mess. If DC was planning to pull in all new readers with their all-new Flash, this was not the way to do it.

The art is good, but not great.

I'll stick with the comic, partly because these things have a tendency to settle themselves, and partly because I think we'll see 6 issues with the current creative team and then an established comic writer will take over.

For whatever reason, DC decided to hand writing chores over to some of the guys responsible for the 1990's era Flash TV show. In my mind, you've just finished one Flash series with some of the top guns of the comic industry writing (Mark Waid, Geoff Johns), and you put on two writers unknown to the industry? That's a misstep.

And I have to vent a little bit here: What is up with every roommate to every super hero being a clueless party-dude? Yes, it does set up a stark contrast between our troubled hero and the care-free youth he'd like to be, but there's got to be another stock character.

Also, I'm not buying the "concerned intern" bit of the pretty, bespectacled girl who is interested in the fate of Bart Allen. To complicate matters, Bart is, if you do the math, somewhere around 10 years-old. There's just something icky about forcing the romance thing where it doesn't belong.

I've enjoyed The Flash on and off since middle-school. I have fond memories of sitting in my bunk at camp and re-reading an issue of The Flash (and sharing it with my bunkmates) over and over until it more resembled confetti than a comic. It was so destroyed, in fact, that it never made it home. I just didn't think a comic with a footprint on the cover was going to look good in my collection.

I was hoping for a re-launch worthy of The Flash franchise, and this one doesn't quite hit the mark. Still, it's The Flash, so I'm hopeful he can outrun some sub-par writing and land squarely on his feet, no matter who is behind the mask.

Eternals #1 - Marvel Comics:
by Neil Gaiman and JRjr
based on some old Marvel Kirby stuff

If anyone at Marvel will understand that Kirby's Eternals are not just another bunch of superheroes, it will be Neil Gaiman. That said, I've never read any of Kirby's Eternals work, and until it's released in a TPB I can afford, I probably won't. So, in a way, I'm walking into this comic completely unsure of what to expect, and for a comic from Marvel or DC, that's a rare and good thing.

The odd thing, the thing I can't shake the feeling of with this comic, is that I've seen this idea somewhere before. Highlander? Highlander 2? Bendis' "Powers"? Gaiman's own work in Books of Magic? Cosmic sleeper agents? There's got to be a precedent somewhere. Maybe in scientology.

There's something utterly recognizable about what I read in Eternals #1 that I just can't shake. Maybe I read a Marvel handbook entry on the Eternals when I was a kid and it's just been sort of buried there in the back of my head. I have no idea.

Still, the comic is good. It's worth a read. The bits and parts about ancient times pop out of the book like fireworks, JRjr handling the switch between mundane NYC and cosmic doings without breaking a sweat.

I'm in for a while. I'm curious about the whole thing.

52 #7 - DC Comics

Man, are other reviewers looking for reasons not to like this book. They've picked on the art even when it was as good or better than the average issue of pretty much any second-tier "Nightwing"-type comic. They've picked on bits of weak dialogue as if comics are known for their believeable parlance.

52 is a mystery, wrapped in an engima and smothered in secret sauce (thank you, News Radio). More has happened in this comic in 7 weeks than happens in the average Bendis book in three years. Of course, this is just the set-up. We've got 45 more weeks to go.

I was surprised that so few reviewers picked up on the "Island of the Lotus Eaters" bit in this issue, and I saw one reviewer actually misidentify the allusion as an Aesop Fable about lazy animals.

It's impossible to tackle all the threads in this comic in what I am planning to be a brief review, but so far I'm interested in all of them to one extent or another. I'm definitely more interested in the Question/ Montoya storyline than other readers. Really enjoying the Booster Gold stuff.

And, of course, the Kathy Kane entrance had that detective novel entrance you like to see.

I'm still recommending this comic, you bunch of unappreciative thugs.

Friday, June 23, 2006

Comic stuff to come back to League of Melbotis

Several months ago I pitched the idea of a collaborative comics review site to several folks, all of whom more or less shrugged, said something about "I don't actually read comics," and then more or less started wandering off.

Undeterred, Jim and I teamed up for a new pitch, and many of the players were roped back in by the promise of a media review site where you could talk TV, movies, comics, whatever...

I think we gave it a good shot. I really do. I have weeks and months worth of comic reviews, several movie reviews, and some TV commentary. But, to be honest, outside of the contributors, I'm not sure if anyone else was reading the site.

Meanwhile, I've been neglecting the actual comics side of things which actually spawned League of Melbotis. So, long story short, I'm going to be bringing comic reviews, commentary, etc... back to the League. It seems sort of hollow to write a 300,000 word treastise on the importance of continuity in comics when all of your other posts are about how you and Jamie spent the weekend cleaning out your toe-jam.

Bringing reviews back to LoM is intended to keep the reviews from feeling like work, which is exactly what it became over at I felt I couldn't go to a movie or read a comic without mentally outlining how I was going to be snarky in the review.

In the end, nobody was reading the gawl-durn reviews, anyway.

The League's gameplan is this: We will not waste time talking too much about comics that are average or bad, unless the comic is so bad, I feel I must vent. We will try to sell you, the Loyal Leaguer, on comics we felt were worth the dough. Meanwhile, expect all the rest of the usual mundanity you've come to expect.

We also will attempt to return to a use of the Royal "We", which was employed for so long at LoM, but which seems to have drained away with the need for expediency in blogging.

We will also, hopefully, be profiling cool comic characters, and generally improving upon the old "Suggestions for Further Reading" bit, which we hope you once enjoyed.

Movie commentary will show up here again as well.

The bottom line is this: We don't really want to spend time managing two blogs. It's a lot of work. The League will not become completely about comics. It never was. I just hope you'll keep coming back (or reading your RSS feed or whatever) and read some of the comic-related material, as well as whatever else is the reason you keep popping back in here.

I'm feeling good about this choice. Hopefully you will be, too. My thanks to all nano contributors. We gave it a shot.

In the meantime, for the love of Weisinger, go pick up All-Star Superman #4.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Summer of Superman: Not a hoax, not a dream....

No matter how bad Superman Returns may be as a film upon it's release June 28thish, The League will still be happy to know that they tried. It's been a long time in the works, this movie, and there have been innumerable directors, casts, budgets and plotlines associated with the film. 95% of those rumors and ideas had The League totally freaked out.

Imagine, if you will, an all new Superman movie directed by Mr. Slow-Mo McG, starring Justin Timberlake as Superman and Cameron Diaz as Lois Lane, in which Krypton never exploded and Superman spends the duration of the movie learning that he is the prophesized "chosen one", destined to save Krypton. Leaguers, this movie almost happened.

Or a Superman who has no powers, but derives them from kick ass body armor, and who weilds knives...

Or a middle-aged Nick Cage in a hair piece in the supersuit, exploring the "darker" aspects of Superman with Tim Burton?

Ashton Kutscher "dude-ing" his way through the movie as a cross-eyes Clark Kent (am I the only one who ever noticed Kutscher is cross-eyed)?

Beyonce Knowles as Lois Lane?

Brett "I Have No Idea How to Structure a Movie" Ratner trying to re-tell the origin?

Lex Luthor as a Kryptonian FBI agent?

And this is going to irritate some people, but Kevin Smith's script is pretty bad. I don't care how many copies of "An Evening with Kevin Smith" he's sold, his feel for the material is clunky at best, and sort of comes off like an episode of SuperFriends with violence.

I'm not sure what relationship producer Jon Peters now has with the project, but it was interesting to see the guy who had held the purse strings for so long appear in the recent documentary "Look! Up in the Sky!" admitting he had no idea what Superman was about for years and years of development.

It could have been a very goofy/bad movie indeed that never even tried to live up to the legacy. It could have been a hack job by a bunch of people who thought the movie just wasn't a good idea in the first place.

Thank goodness, then, for Avi Arad understanding the potential for a serious comic movie franchise, Bryan Singer and his X-Men movies, Sam Raimi and Spider-Man, and the Salkinds and Richard Donner for showing us nearly thirty years ago the way it can and should be done.

For the whole, ugly history, go here.
World Cup Update: US loses to Ghana. Yankees go home.

That's right, we lost to a country where the GDP is less than some American individual's personal income. No, seriously, it was $5.9 billion in 2002. That's what Americans spend on onion rings in a year.

Unfortunately, Mexico was one of my picks for WC finals contention, and they're playing like they've been hitting the biergartens and eating too much schnitzel. All I've got left is Argentina. Come on, you Nazi-harboring bastards!
Getting to Know the Man of Steel

So I know what you're thinking. You're thinking, "League, i've already pre-purchased my tickets online. I'm camping out front of the theater. What else can a Superman fan such as myself do to get prepared?"

In this installment, I shall suggest some fun Superman media you can consider enjoying to enhance your Super Summer.


Superman: The Movie

Perhaps the definitive comic-to-film adaptation, Richard Donner's 1978 film Superman: The Movie busted open the post-1960's camp Batman idea of what comic characters were about. The original 500 page script handed in by Mario Puzo (that's about 350-375 pages longer than most scripts, Leaguers) served as the template for the epic films that Donner and Co. would produce between Superman I and Superman II.

The film remains visually stunning with practical effects that today's film-makers wouldn't have the cajones to consider, let alone pull off. A terrific love story, a diabolical villain, space opera, romantic middle America... there's a little something in this flick for everybody.

And it redefined what Superman would be in comics and television for the next 30 years.

Superman II

"The problem with Superman" we are repeatedly told, "is that you can't come up with a reasonable threat." Try three Kryptonian supervillains hell-bent on subjugating the Earth.

The film lacks the epic resonance of the first film and interrupts it's spectacular action sequences with some hammy comedy, but there's a lot to like in this sequel. Questions abound whether the replacement of Donner and subsequent reshoots by Richard Lester made for a lesser film, but we'll have some of the mystery solved this December with a restored "Donner Cut" of Superman II coming to DVD.

I personally like Lois in this film, even if her feminine whiles convince Superman to give up his mojo and have some seriously weak blow-dried hair. It's all worth it, int he end, to see Superman pop open his can of whoop-ass.

Superman: Man of Steel by John Byrne

Post Crisis on Infinite Earths, John Byrne re-told the origin of Superman and re-established the Superman mythos in a model which both reflected the movies and openly rejected other concepts. Krypton took on a new design, but mirrored the cold society of the films. Meanwhile, Clark Kent was no longer portrayed as a goof, instead he was an accomplished journalist and author, and a believable foil for Lois. Luthor was no longer just a scientist, but a corporate mogul using others to do his dirty work (perhaps a combination of Robert Vaughn's villain from Superman III and Hackman's Luthor).

Wonderfully drawn and briskly paced, really the first Superman comics to turn me on to the character.

Superman: Peace on Earth by Paul Dini and Alex Ross

A beautifully told story of Superman's attempt to assist the Earth in overcoming hunger and need. Expertly written by Paul Dini and perfectly rendered by Alex Ross, this heart-breaking tale may be one of the most human stories ever told of The Man of Steel.

The Superman Chronicles #1

DC Comics and Marvel Comics are no dopes when it comes to milking the fan base for more coin. DC has a prestige collection of books, printed in hardcover on archive paper, and dubbed them "Archive Editions". I love these books. But I cannot afford them.

In 2005 DC launched the "Chronicles" editions of their reprints, which are paperback collections, in color, on half-way decent paper. (The lowest tier are the "Showcase Presents", printed on newsprint in black and white. But also $16 for 550+ pages of comics.)

Superman Chronicles has only seen one release, but it's the origin of Superman told in order, reprinting classic Siegel and Shuster work. This is the "circus strongman" Superman, clearly designed to look like an aerialist with a cape, and who spends a lot of time making jokes at crooks' expense while dangling them from atop telephone wires.

Also, Lois is one brassy dame in these comics.


The Adventures of Superman with George Reeves, Noel Neill, etc...

The thrilling 1950's-era TV series which brought a new kind of adventure to a medium in it's infancy. The half-hour program featured the adventures of the crew at the Daily Planet as they uncovered gangs of mobsters, out of control robots and shady mining operations. Fortunately, no matter the danger, Superman is always near-by to save our team of erstwhile heroes.

Superman: A Superman for All Seasons by Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale

A story set in Superman's earliest career and including scenes from his youth in Smallville. A fantastic take on Superman coming to terms with genuine evil in the world. Sale's art is a wonderful compliment to nostalgic story.

Superman: Birthright by Mark Waid and Leinil Yu

A recent re-telling of Superman's earliest days in Metropolis, meant to bring Superman back into line with Smallville and certain Silver-Age elements. A bit confusing how it fits into continuity, but beautifully rendered and well told.

Superman: The Greatest Stories Ever Told by various

A collection of some of the best Superman stories of the past 70 years, pulling from all eras in DC's extensive publishing history. A terrific snapshot of Superman through the years.

Superman/Batman: Public Enemies by Jeph Loeb and Ed McGuinness

Probably a good place to check out an all-out action story with Superman and Batman against the world. If you aren't sure how Superman and Batman would work together, here's a good place to check out the World's Finest at their best.

Leaguers, there's 70 years of material out there. I'm sure you can find something to enjoy.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

I don't talk about work all that often, but occasionally, sometimes, you know...

So in a meeting yesterday for my organization's new website someone decided we needed to begin PodCasting. In higher ed, PodCasting is considered the second coming. I don't necessarily have anything against PodCasting, but I don't really see what it brings that a .wav file provides. And nobody ever said a .wav file was going to save higher ed.

As these things tend to do, the idea mushroomed, and then we were discussing video clips of faculty, which, honestly, I think does a better job of what we were discussing in the first place.

So today we sat down and were discussing THAT as a separate project, and it suddenly grew to be 1.5 minute produced videos. Which I am also fine with, and would honestly prefer. But I'm an RTF geek, and so I believe it's all about the pre-production. I started talking about storyboarding, and outlines of scripts, blah blah blah and was met with blank stares and some derision.

My co-worker at the end of the table paused for a moment, repeated pretty much exactly what I'd just said we needed to do, and suddenly everyone was in agreement.

I have no idea why my pitch was so unattractive and his was met with all but cheers, but it took all I could muster not to stand up and shout "HE'S SAYING EXACTLY WHAT I JUST SAID!!! I JUST SAID THAT AND YOU ALL THOUGHT I WAS CRAZY!!!!"

As I've learned, you just let it slide, because nobody remembers who came up with what, anyway. And since the guy is on my team, heck... I can take pride in our team scoring points for taking the project under control. Also, the important thing is that we're all in agreement moving forward.

I think I must occasionally make absolutely no sense in meetings.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006


Reviews are trickling in of press screenings of the upcoming Superman Returns film.

There's a bit of weirdness in that the official release date of Superman Returns is Wednesday the 28th, but we've got listed screenings starting AZ time at 10:00pm on Tuesday. I did my best puppy-dog eyes last night to try to convince Jamie we NEEDED to go to the 10:00 Tuesday show, but
1) Lucy and Mel both do better puppy-dog eyes
2) Jamie has stupid dialysis at 5:00 Wednesday morning. Apparently she needs it to survive and that trumps her ability to stay up until 1:00 or 1:30 on Wednesday morning.

So, we're now going on Wednesday.

I will probably be writing a summary of my experience. I will not be writing a review. To write a review, one must be objective. I find it unlikely that I will be objective.

We are then slated to head to Houston the week of July 4th, and if I know my folks, we'll be seeing the movie there as well. Possibly on the IMAX. Cousin Susan will be joingin us in Houston and will be fitted with an appropriate muzzle as she likes to let you know when a movie is not meeting her criteria. Susan does not like the superheroes.

Mom and Dad will ALSO be fitted with muzzles. Apparently around 1999, they decided casual conversation was okay in the theater, officially getting that one step closer to becoming crazy old people. KareBear is all about refusing to follow a movie. The Admiral likes to point out things in the movie and try to tell you then and there how "that type of radio was decommissioned from submarines in 1967. There's no way any self-respecting vessel would have a junky old radio like that" in the middle of Crimson Tide.

Steanso is quiet. Sort of. He just tends to knock over Cokes.

Jamie is the perfect movie partner. She's tiny, so I can share an armrest with her, and she is usually willing to do a candy swap in the middle of the movie.

Will Steanso like Superman? The answer is almost certainly a "yes". I know this, because the movie will contain loud, large explosions.

Anyhoo, what are you guys doing? Anyone else have plans to see the movie?
Summer of Superman: Pimping the Man of Steel

You know, in the comics, practically everybody in Metropolis has at least one Superman t-shirt. To be without is like living in NYC and not having a Mets or Yankees shirt. Of course Superman doesn't make any money off of the shirts, mugs, etc... and asks only that proceeds go to charity.

We've also seen the dark side of all of this in an issue where DCU huckster Funky Flashman set up a Superman shop in Metropolis, and as he wasn't sharing the wealth with charity, Lois more or less tricked him into bringing the wrath of the supervillain underground down on his head. The moral: share the profits with Captain Cold.

This summer has seen Superman's face or emblem pastered onto cereal boxes, toothpaste tubes, ice cream pops, and all manner of product in between. Part of me is wildly amused. Part of me is a little overwhelmed. And, in fact, I'd say Jamie is beginning to reach Supersaturation. I'm now making a conscious effort not to pick up Superman-hyping products into the house, turning down items like Superman electric toothbrushes, partly because the vibration from electric toothbrushes makes me want to vomit and partly because I want to stay married to the very sweet lady who has been oh, so patient thus far.

With every product, I sort of stop and think: Gee, would Superman REALLY want his face on that?

For example, would Superman want to contribute to childhood obesity by having his symbol on fatty cheeseburgers at a fast-food chain? I think we can assume he would not.

Would he want kids to drink Pepsi? How about adults? Apparently WB studios thinks so, because Superman and the Daily Planet are adorning bottles of Pepsi at Target.

Bottled water? I guess so.

This summer the AMF Bowling Leagues are putting together "Superman Bowling Leagues". I don't know what that's about, but I think you get a Superman bowling ball when you join. And while a Superman bowling ball is tempting, it's just an odd thought to imagine the most powerful man on Earth hanging out and trying to break 200. But maybe, just maybe, it's at least an activity to get kids away from the Playstation for twenty minutes.

I don't mind a fad of Superman stuff. After all, the Superman emblem has been a bit of a fad with college kids for the past few years, appearing on all kinds of stuff.

I guess I'm just concerned about two things: 1) the cheap and shoddy product that WB will agree to in order to make money now on Superman which may not really support the franchise identity, and 2) the oversaturation of Superman, a la Star Wars Episode 1. Remember not being able to hit a fast food joint without Jar-Jar being printed on your napkins?

Simultaneously, Superman should be out there for the kids. I'd love nothing more than for a dozen Supermans to hit my house this Halloween, to see kids runnign around the park in $4.00 capes and blasting one another with imaginary heat-vision. The cost of keeping those kids in capes can be a bit pricey, so, yeah, sometimes I don't mind the cheaper products.

In two months, Superman Returns will have come and gone from theaters (barring any surprising Titanic like success, which I am not anticipating) . The Superman product will stick around for a while, see a resurgence at Christmas, and then disappear until the inevitable sequel.

We'll be the house still sporting the Superman toys scattered about, the comics littered across every flat surface, and the mvoies and DVD's filling the shelves. So I guess I'm trying to enjoy it while I can. Without driving Jamie insane.

Sunday, June 18, 2006


Hey, Leaguers. If you go to the League of Melbotis store at, you will see a few items have been changed to include the official LoM artwork.

We suggest you get an item for every single person you know.

Go to the store now.
Go Maroons!

I was going to post on this and forgot. See, I took the GRE on Friday, so most everything else sort of dripped out my ears from Thursday until Friday night.

Austin High Teacher in trouble for topless internet photos.

Front page of CNN, man. It's hard to keep that kind of stuff on the QT when CNN is splashing it across the front page out of prurient interest. The Statesman ran an article on this last week and included pictures of the teacher. I think it's worth noting that Ms. Hoover appeared qualified to pose topless.

Art and high school are an odd combination. Despite all evidence to the contrary, high school administrators are in a never-ending battle insisting that they are in charge of children, not young adults with working brains. Parents would like for art classes to be all clay ash-trays and pictures of posies in a vase. The students, meanwhile, are in a crucial stage of self-discovery and expression. We had a photo of a skinny male torso taken down out of our display case at KOHS because a caoch deemed it "gay".

Now, you sort of have to have a background in art in order to teach art in high school. And that may mean that the teacher may have had an educational background not steeped in the education department while receiving their degree. It may also mean that the teacher has a life outside of the classroom.

I'm not exactly certain what's contained in the photos of Ms. Hoover, but the description was "topless". At no point was "simulated sex acts" or anything of that nature brought up. Further, according to the Statesman's article, Hoover had no idea the artist would post the photos online.

I know I know I know... we must protect the children. Whatever. Those kids are going to be adults someday. In fact, the day they turn 18 and/ or graduate from high school, expectations sure do change, don't they?

I think it's absolutely worth noting that Ms. Hoover was not the one who showed the photos to her students, nor did she participate in them in order for her students to see them. She was a model. It was, in fact, a different teacher who viewed the photos in the classroom with other students present.

In viewing art, even in public school, students are exposed to nudity. Whether viewing slides of The David or Venus de Milo. And, no, the argument that those are "classic" works doesn't hold up. You either accept all of it as art or you accept none of it.

Now, with national attention, the district is going to find itself at the center of a lot of controversy regarding the private lives of underpaid school teachers. No doubt, the district's decision to quickly slap Ms. Hoover with her scarlet letter and get her out the door will be applauded by the PTA. I think it's kind of sad that they're quick to fire someone so quickly when they did nothing wrong in the classroom or on school grounds, and which, in all fairness, probably had no adverse effect on any student.

AISD has been a problem school district for well over a decade, and has much bigger fish to fry than a couple of photos. I'm sure they know this. What I find interesting is that you really didn't hear much about people in the district getting fired for manipulating TAKS scores, but this firing wasn't even in question.

Still, you gotta protect those innocent, innocent kiddies from the preeeverts.