Sunday, March 15, 2009

The League (Finally) Watches: Watchmen

Editor's Note: This is a shared post with Comic Fodder. Its too long for me to try to do this @#$% twice. This is generally the format in which I write my longer pieces at Comic Fodder, so the "broken down in chunks" format is replicated here.

This is really, really long, Leaguers. I apologize.


In high school, as my extra-curricular activity, I partook in drama. This meant attending and reading a pretty good number of plays, including work by ol' Bill Shakespeare. Like anyone who has read and seen Shakespeare performed, I quickly noted that not all performances I attended of the exact same material were equal. The translation from the page doesn't always go according to plan, even when the material is exceedingly familiar. I've seen both hilariously bad Romeo & Juliets, and I've seen performances where Lady Capulet was utterly heartbreaking in her calls for revenge. But either way, its Shakespeare, and so you wind up invested in the play, even if its as you tick off the bad acting and directorial decisions you observe throughout the performance. Or you wind up so engrossed in the performance that you forget this is the fourth time you've seen it and that you've read it twice.


There's a notion that I've seen repeatedly rehearsed, including from Patton Oswalt on his MySpace page, that comic fans dissatisfied with the adaptation should buck up. They've still got their precious comic book, and it still exists outside the movie, etc...

Upon reflection, I say: horse hockey.

It's no surprise or secret that the vast, vast portion of the population will much sooner sit through a three hour movie than pick up and read a 12-issue comic. As far as "mass-media" goes, comics are a tiny subset, whose audience numbers in the 10's of 1000's, not the millions who will eventually see the movie in the theater, on home video, etc... Even as Watchmen races to outpace all other comic sales (and is hitting #1 rankings at Amazon again), its still a tiny fraction of even the least successful of studio films. For that difference in audience between those who saw the movie but did not read the book, "Watchmen" will always be the movie. And those folks will most likely will never give the comic a chance.

For those who've seen both, you can't unsee the movie. And short of some head injury, its unlikely you'll ever be able to read the book again without the movie bouncing around in your brain in a parallel "compare and contrast" cycle. I don't turn off comparisons, and I highly suspect most people don't either. So I'm not really sure where that comes from. You can only be glad you read or saw one before the other.

Not too long ago, Time Magazine published a list of greatest novels since 1923, and among these novels they included "Watchmen". As the movie is increasingly poorly received, how is it not likely that Watchmen the Comic will not be taken down with Watchmen the Movie, for at least a generation? Simple guilt by association.

And here our troubles began

Anyhow, yes. I saw the movie. And my wife, being wiser than I, when we walked out and I was still sorting through the thing said it right:

It's not that bad. But then again, they stuck to the story, and the story is very good, so it was kind of hard to screw it up completely.

Much has been made of the fidelity the movie showed the comic, pulling exact frames from the comic for the movie. But one of the earliest scenes is telling of how director Zack Snyder was almost unable to help himself. At the beginning of the movie, masked vigilante Rorschach investigates a murder of a person thrown from a high rise window. To reach the window, Rorschach fires his grappling gun and follows the zip line up to the window.

The movie follows the sequence, with Rorschach performing the action of the comic, frame-by-frame, popping out the grappling gun and alighting on the window sill like a bird of prey before leaping to the floor like a Chinese acrobat. And it all looks pretty "awesome".

In the comic, Rorschach is pulled up, but he does not land like a bird of prey. Instead, he slides through the window frame as a man would. Any person. There's heft and effort. Despite his gadget and mask, Rorschach is not Spider-Man, he may be many things, but he's not superhuman.

And that's where Snyder's reading of the comic and my reading diverge. And why I never thought a general audience would be particularly into the subject matter.

Two Roads

I won't belabor what is a lengthy post here with a plot synopsis, but in re-reading Watchmen and seeing the movie, its fascinating to note that we should be starting our second generation at this point who has no concept of the Cold War as a fact of life, and how and why it influenced so much of culture. I, for one, fully believed I would be nuked at some point in my life, probably before I was old enough to drink. The very specific fear of a terrorist driving a plane into my office building seemed rather small in comparison. I do not know if the Cold War means anything to those in their twenties or younger.

It should be noted that a lot of my divergence came from the tone Snyder took versus how I'd long read the novel. And I am willing to accept that my reading, which has been largely unfiltered by any interaction except between myself and the printed page, may not be what Moore or Gibbons had in mind. But I always read Watchmen as a much more quiet book than what Snyder put on the screen. Despite the context of a world on the brink, I'd always read it as silent as if the world of Watchmen were holding its breath, listening for the ticking of the clock. Snyder's world is... not that one.

Snyder's characters are superhumans rather than humans. His fights are superhuman fights in which the characters feel amazing afterward, not the mix of sick and still full of adrenaline that Moore and Gibbons had suggested. His Drieberg isn't out of shape and messy, he's still toned and looks good in the owl suit. His characters are simply not the very human people behind the mask I came to know circa 1992, and every time they appeared in a costume, I was reminded of that fact.

Some other movie will determine whether or not Zack Snyder is a good director rather than a great plagiarist/ mimic. I've seen his by-the-numbers remake of a zombie movie. I saw him translate Frank Miller's "300" to the big screen (and was disappointed) even as the movie lovingly recreated Miller's artwork, speeches and characters. His reverence for the material is never a question, but whether or not he actually understands the nuance of what he's directing is another question.

For as many moments as Snyder recreates from the comic that works, every decision he was forced to make himself seems... off. Where Moore has made a career out of implicit story after the ellipsis, Snyder is intent on explicit insistence that the viewer not miss a beat, like your weird Uncle Harold who has to repeat the punchline to the joke you just told, or feeling the need to follow up with an explanation of the punchline. It's not enough that we get what's a brilliant summary of the history of the world our characters inhabit, but he's got to drive it home with "Times, They Are a Changing"? We can't just see that Dr. Manhattan was using lethal means to stop underworld characters, we've got to see their guts splayed from the ceiling? And, yeah, I got that they were going to have sex, thanks... Welcome to the world of inappropriate laughter at the movie theater.

And even scenes like the first time Rorschach and Drieberg meet again in Drieberg's house, that's lifted exactly from the comic page, seem curiously misread, with none of the cold stillness that Moore and Gibbons originally injected in the work. Where Drieberg's slump into the chair in the comic makes complete sense after the transaction, it feels like just a bit of blocking in the film.

Perfunctory movie review stuff

This viewer was mostly not impressed with the performances, but isn't sure that a lot of it didn't have to do with either Snyder's direction or lack thereof. I don't think anyone will argue that Snyder has a Lucas-esque attention to detail in his movie fascimile, or that he can't direct a fight sequence (of which he added at least two sequences which weren't in the book). But in many of the standard, face-to-face, we-have-to-talk-about-this discussions, it just didn't click. Particularly in scenes with cookie-cutter Hollywood starlet Malin Akerman as Laurie Jupiter (note that Snyder also excised the Jupiter/ Juspeczyk character point), Akerman seemed to prove herself ready for Smallville or a stint on One Tree Hill, but I'm not sure she was exactly big-screen ready.

And there are character moments that were changed that let me know that perhaps Snyder wasn't quite there. For example (spoiler, I guess): When Rorschach describes the case where he felt Walter Kovacs died and Rorschach began, the ending of the story is changed. He does not split the murderer's head in two. In the book, Rorschach leaves the murderer chained to the oven with a saw, giving him a chance to escape the house which he's set on fire. It's a subtle but telling distinction, and I was left wondering if Snyder understood the difference. And, if so, why he made the change.

Like so many in Hollywood these days, the craft of moviemaking for Snyder is a technical issue rather than one that stems from the footlights and greasepaint. And while Watchmen may not be Shakespeare, its also a comic where people sit around and talk for 12 issues, with a few scenes of action when absolutely necessary to the plot. The skills Snyder demonstrated with his zombie movie and 300 just weren't applicable.

Most of the effects were as cutting edge as anything else in Hollywood, and I can't fault the production design team. Nite-Owl's HQ and townhouse were lifted exactly from the comic, and Archie (Nite-Owl's airship) was beautifully convincing. As was the decision NOT to follow the comics and have Archie rise from a converted warehouse, which seemed a little conspicuous in the comic. The costume design is actually pretty nifty, even if I did miss the huge cowl apparatus on Nite-Owl. Obviously Rorschach and Manhattan were true to their original appearances, as were the Minutemen and Sally Jupiter.

The snake eats its own tail

It's difficult, too, to know what blanks I was filling in as someone not just familiar with the book, but who just read it. Its impossible to know if I was making connections that the average viewer might not. Moore's original series is an intricate piece of clockwork (pun unintended) with all the cogs fitting one way or another to tell the complete story. As a movie go-er, you receive the broad strokes, but you're going to know what time it is, and maybe be aware of the gears, but not see how they pull together in quite the same manner as the book.

Further, the movie does lose a bit in translation. Moore and Gibbons' use of the medium isn't really possible on the big screen, lest you tempt the wrath of movie go-ers the way Ang Lee did with his interpretation of "The Hulk" and his panels. Watchmen's largely 9 -nale per page structure told the story as mucha s words and pictures, with interchanges of color in some sections, or even the breakdown of the panels such as in "Fearful Symmetry" (the chapter of the movie that told Rorschach's past). It's not a loss you'll notice in the film, but its impossible to say that there's no loss moving from one medium to the other.

This may surprise some readers at this point, but as per the huge change at the end of the script, I wasn't sure, once I'd accidentally stumbled upon the change online, how that would work. But in the end, it changed very little and tightened up plot elements that might have become too cumbersome in even a 3 hour movie. It was far less of a change than, say, turning Galactus into a cloud and never actually interacting with the Fantastic Four (although these movies were on two completely different levels).

The movie isn't terrible. It's just that its a single volume story, so given the choice, every time I would suggest picking up the comic rather than watching the movie. The three hour run time means that they had to greatly reduce the content of the comic, dropping several elements that aren't going to make the cut in a WB picture concerned with budget and narrative economy. Snyder claims he'll reinsert some of the stuff, like the Black Freighter, in the DVD, and I'll probably actually give it another shot at that time, just to see how it works. After all, we do get a few shots of the news vendor and the comic-reading kid, so perhaps that whole subplot will be restored?

We did have at least one couple walk out. Maybe more, but with waiters coming and going at the Alamo, its hard to tell. We do know the couple next to us had enough, and left during Jon's background story. Some small part of me wanted to dash out after them and ask a series of questions. What did you think you were going to see? What was the first inkling that you were going to leave? What broke the camel's back?

I have a new fear.

When Watchmen was released as a comic, paired with other comics in the 1980's that parlayed the kid's medium into a a market with an adult readership such as Dark Knight Returns, Elektra: Assassin, American Flagg!, etc... it was seen as giving license to a lot of bad ideas that were welcomed under the idea that comics were no longer just for kids.

Sadly, I think Snyder may have ridden dangerously close to the direction those comics decided to go with his adaptation of Watchmen. From the insert shots of gore, to the lingering shots of superhero lovemaking, this comic fan who survived the 90's isn't looking forward to a repeat of the excesses of the post-Watchmen era played out on the big screen. It took a wide-proliferation of Kingdom Come for that scene to finally die down at the comic shop. And the comic racks are still full of ideas that are "awesome" and totally extreme.

For every Rolling Stones you get, you're going to wind up with thousands of lousy bar bands cranking on twelve-bar-blues and identifying with Keith Richards.

I also have a new hope.

It's that Watchmen can become the Frankenstein of comics. Not as in "sewn together creature of used parts". We'll leave that to the Sci-Fi channel originals and Nicholas Cage flicks. Rather, where Superman, Batman, etc... are a fixed origin and then open-ended serial stories open to anything, Watchmen is actually self-contained. And just as Frankenstein has seen all kinds of adaptations (or Dracula, Moby Dick, I don't care...), maybe Watchmen will survive the dent it takes from its first foray into cinematic adaptation? Maybe in fifteen years, if we haven't toally forgotten about the 1980's by then, we can give it another shot, maybe even as that HBO mini-series every single fanboy thought would work better than a movie (except Zack Snyder)?

As I said, I saw a lot of adaptations of plays. I've seen some really terrible productions of "Midsummer Night's Dream", and I've seen the weirdest "What is It Girl, there's a fire down by the well?" version of "Children of a Lesser God" that a man can stand. It's my hope, that if Watchmen the comic is what I think it is, then maybe we'll get around to a better version one day. In the meantime, enjoy Snyder's popcorn-flick take on Watchmen. Or, better yet, just get on Amazon and buy a copy of the comic. But do not, under any circumstances, buy that frikkin', shameful animated comic version.

Whether this means we'll be free of the adaptations when returning to the source material, its up to someone younger and smarter than me whose going to come to all this fresh.

As an after thought to all that, I should mention... well before I ever read Watchmen, the first I knew anything about Watchmen was an article in "Comics Scene" magazine when I was in middle school. At the time they were talking to Arnie about painting him blue. In the context of the late 80's, this sort of makes sense, and is why, no matter my grief or gripes, why I am still grateful in some small way that its post Raimi's Spidey, Singer's X-Men and Superman and Nolan's Batman that we get Watchmen.

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.

Thursday, March 05, 2009

Lubbock and Dallas

So. Okay. I'm buying a @#$%ing GPS.

Driving and trying to read directions off a printout from Google Maps in the middle of Texas, twenty miles from anything resembling a landmark just sucks. Especially once it gets dark.

Today I drove from Dallas to Lubbock, using the directions provided me by my faithful admin. I knew I was kind of screwed when the directions took me in this weird partial loop around part of Dallas, and I drove back past my hotel fifteen minutes later.

I'll be doing a lot of driving for this job, so from now on, I will have a polite lady's voice telling me where to go.

I didn't see much of the Llano Estacado or whatever driving in as the sun dipped around 7:00ish, and I arrived about 9:10. So, Wow, Lubbock. Nice, terrifying dark roads you got going on out here.

SMU's campus is very nice, btw.

Tomorrow is Tech.

I had a dinner at the bar where I made the bartender tell me her life story. The BBQ was okay, but very salty. Still, for getting a BBQ plate at 9"30 at night, it was okay.

Dallas Radio

So Driving around Dallas I was having trouble finding rock or classic rock on the radio, but I did find a number of religious stations and a metric-ton of Tejano. It was kind of an interesting juxtaposition of listening to Sarah Vowell's discussion of our forefathers, Puritanism, etc... and then listening to the confluence of religion and politics on the radio, and how political issues aren't actually up for debate. The debate has been settled by an interpretation of the Word of God as channeled from the chosen radio DJ.

It's not exactly news that the endgame here isn't entirely different from how law was decreed and interpreted by the separatists and Puritans who fled England to set up shop far from the Papists and not-as-pure-as-themselves Englanders. Its still a fairly crude set-up of abject paranoia and ego manifested as decrying anyone not onboard with your viewpoint as sent from the devil (let alone finding a flock that will buy into your line). And seeking to rule based upon God's authority (ie: your authority, because only you have the "correct" interpretation of scripture, current events, etc...).

It's just kind of kooky to listen for a while and hear the repeated insistence that there's a conspiracy to silence Christians, how many people aren't really Christians (ie: do not listen to this radio show), and how Obama's spending versus Bush's equally reckless spending (if we want to talk deficit numbers) is somehow a sign of the end times. Oh, yes. The end times. Everything is a sign that the end times are drawing nigh.

Bear in mind, I only listened to this for under an hour and heard these messages repeated over and over. This is on every single day, all day.

Anyhow, having had my earful of people calling in to talk about how nobody else is as Christian as the caller and DJ are, I tuned around until I found some classic rock.

On my way out of Dallas, I was listening to ACDC's "Back in Black". I don't particularly care for ACDC, but they'll do in a pinch. And the DJ came back on the air to announce, "You know what's black but won't be back? Terrell Owens."

Well, yes, technically, TO is African American/ black, and he was just released from the Cowboys' roster (setting them back $9 million). But, still... wow. I don't even know what's specifically wrong with that, but I think there's plenty there to work with.

Something else

Here's something new: My pals in Seattle, The My and Bryan have put together yet another musical act. Here's a link to a sampling. Behold, its the dawning of Jupe Jupe.

So where the hell is your latest, T-Jeff?

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

In Dallas, rockin' your face off

I'm in Dallas. Today's workday was okay but weird.

Not much to report other than that I finally went to a Starbucks to use their free wi-fi, and it wasn't free. I wound up paying $4 to use the internet. And while I felt I needed to use the internet, I was somehow maybe a little offended that it cost me money. This hotel isn't charging me for internet. I was always under the impression Starbuck's wi-fi was free... and yet... maybe I was wrong? That seems impossible.

Anyway, no big worries, but it messes with how I think of my access to technology and what I will and will not pay for.

It sounds like Jamie had her hands full with Cassidy last night. I'm usually the one who is up and down with Cassidy at night her first night at the house. I don't mind. She's so spunky when she wakes me up, its sort of jolly.

I'm off to work some and read. Have a good night.

I leave you with the ROLCats

Late Edit: This from "The Onion". Lovecraftian School Board Member Wants Madness Added To Curriculum

And, apropos of nothing... a DITMTLOD Microburst:

Juliet on ABC's Lost is just a good idea all the way around.

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

In Denton, KareBear Birthday

As the title says, I'm in Denton, Texas this evening at a lovely Holiday Inn.

I really don't get the deal behind paying a lot for staying in a 5 star hotel. If the place has fresh towels and a bed, I'm good. If there's a restaurant in the actual hotel, usually that's very good.

I get it if the hotel is, say, on the beach, such as Las Brisas del Pacifico where we stayed in Costa Rica. or the place at Arenal where we could lay in bed and listen to the rumblings of the volcano and watch it from our balcony. But when you're just moving from place to place? Meh.

That said, I had an absolutely terrible cheeseburger for dinner. Awful. I don't even feel well now.

Driving up I listened to about half of the unabridged "The Wordy Shipmates" by Sarah Vowell. I've only read one of her other books, and I think I listened to the audio book of "Assassination Vacation". I need to see if we still have that anywhere.

Vowell is an interesting writer in our blogging age. She's certainly not writing in the David McCullough or Stephen Ambrose style (my "way back from Lubbock" book will be "Flags of Our Fathers", btw). She kind of jumps all over the place, tells personal anecdotes to cement home points about how we carry a spirit or history with us, and often relates history through the eyes of the typical white-bread American suburbanite (we know our history through sit-coms more than school). And it works. It sticks with you far more than a prattling off of names, dates or even reconstructing complex paths to historical events.

She's not going to win over any Reaganites with her deconstruction of The Gipper's use of Winthrop's "City on a Hill" sermon, aka: A Model of Christian Charity. But she does bring to life (thus far, I'm only half-way thru) the spirit of the Puritans, their perspective, etc... And just as we accept that we may not always comprehend cultures separated from a distance for their different ideals, Vowell is excellent at delineating the differences between what a modern reader might see and our founding culture, separated by time.

Anyhow, if I'm going to be on the road, I prefer I find a good way to spend the time, and audio books always seem to fit the bill.

Man, the air conditioner blower in my room is enormous and hangs half-way over the bed. When it comes on, it totally mutes the television. Unreal.

I am going to sleep like a log tonight.

Tomorrow is my mother's birthday. I hope she has the happiest of birthdays, and I hope I can manage to get her on the phone, which is always hard on her birthday. She's usually off and running as friends or my dad take her out and about.

Spoke with her tonight, and she related a story that sort of sums up my mother.

They now own a house in Austin as well as their other place in Spring. Upon returning home Sunday, Karebear realized she might have left the oven on in Austin. Rather than ask Jamie, Jason, Susan or I to go check, she got up at 5:00 or so on Monday morning and drove all the way to Austin. The stove wasn't on, so she turned around and went home.

My mother, ladies and gentlemen. This is, I might add, the second 1 day trip like this she's made in recent memory. The last was when we needed someone to be in austin in October to be here when we moved the furniture out of the downstairs. Maybe a 30 minute job.

The Karebear would make an excellent long-haul trucker, I think. Especially if she had Peggy riding shotgun.

Anyhow, Happy Birthday, Mum. See you this weekend. Jamie and I love you.

Monday, March 02, 2009

A Post Before Driving

I need to start reviewing more old movies

If I started reviewing more old movies I watch on cable, would that be fun for you guys? I kind of got a kick out of the "Breakfast Club" review, partially because at least Steanso seemed to get a charge out of defending the flick from my grouchy, old man's ways. And just as "Pump up the Volume" seemed to spur a conversation, perhaps we could find more 80's or 90's teen-flicks?

What else should I watch and review? I'm up for any movie we once held dear. Just not Ferris Bueller. For all I can about that movie is that its awesome. It always has been. It always will be. And it cemented Jeffrey Jones in my mind as an actor who I'm still pumped to see when he appears in anything.

One movie I've really been meaning to watch again is "3 O'Clock High". It's basically "High Noon" in a high school setting, for those who haven't seen it.

What else? Dare I take another look at "Heathers" in a post-Columbine world? Are we ready for me to review "Teen Witch"? Help me out.

Heading out to the northern lands

I'm out of Austin as of tomorrow afternoon. If any of you can take Jamie and Jason under your wing while I'm gone, please do so.

I'll be in Denton, Dallas and then Lubbock. Lots of driving. I picked up a couple of audio books on iTunes. We'll see how it goes.

Don't worry about me being bored. If push comes to shove, I'll call for Emergency Homeboys.

If I don't post or get back to you, all you Leaguers take care.

Start of a Wacky Week

Either very light blogging or very heavy blogging this week. Depending on how bored I get and what's available in my hotel room as per an interweb connection in my room.

Pinnochio is coming to Blu-Ray

I can't stress how much that movie freaked me out as a very young kid. I want to see it again, but I'm kind of nervous to do so.

Comic Store Geeks

RHPT has suggested I link to this article in Wired. It's interviews and pictures of comic shop employees.

I guess my only beef with the article is that its, of course, done in successful comic shops, and only on the coasts. I would very much liked to have seen a wider array of shops, as the very successful shops with lines around the store on Wednesday are far the exception to the rule in my experience (although Austin Books on Wednesdays and weekends is pretty hoppin').

I'm also sort fo amused that the guys all identify as "non-nerdy" because they have girlfriends. Dude... I'll be the first to tell you, having a girlfriend or wife isn't non-nerdy. It just means you've found someone willing to put up with your nerdiness.


Very slow, but Matt and Nicole joined us over the grill this evening. I sort of screwed up the chicken.

We bought the food at the new Newflower Market, which Jamie discussed elsewhere. I think my initial impression was far more favorable. It's a nice mid-point between typical HEB grocery and Central Market product, but with HEB prices. And, its, like, two blocks away.

Yesterday was all too lazy, but it was good to spend time flopping around reading comics if this week is going to be away from home, Lucy, Jeff and Jamie.

Comic Fodder

I posted a Signal Watch column

Saturday, February 28, 2009

DCU Online Preview with Doomsday

DC is working with Sony Online entertainment to create a massive multi-player game, similar to World of Warcraft.

I'm very excited about the game despite the fact that playing means I will need either a new computer or a PS3. It looks like everything I was hoping City of Heroes would be, but because it didn't employ DC (or Marvel) characters or storylines, I just never got all that into CoH in the 6 months or so I played.

The latest out of the DCU Online dispatches is a trailer for a scenario in the game in which Luthor's team tries to liberate Doomsday from STAR Labs. I'm no gamer, so don't go buying the thing on my say-so, but it's neat to look at.

New Krypton

In case you haven't been following the Superman books, here's the nickel catch-up.

Brainiac came to Earth, Superman beat him and disabled his ship. In the proces, he freed Kandor, the lost city of Krypton.

What Superman didn't know was just about anything about Krypton or Kryptonians, and its been a rocky ride since. Kandor took to the other side of the solar system with a new world (using that nifty crystal technology you remember from Superman: The Movie and Superman Returns). They've dubbed the world New Krypton.

DC has put together a snazzy video trailer for the upcoming story arc. Here.

New Leaguer: samax

hey all. I've been chatting a bit in an old comments section with a guy from here in Texas who goes by the handle of "samax". Apparently, we're both fans of Amanda Waller.

I was looking at samax's user profile on blogger, and I encourage you to check out the sites with which he's associated. samax is a writer, an artist, a movie fan/ critic, a gentleman, a scholar, and into comics, and we salute him.

Anyhoo, wanted to extend a welcome and give samax's blog(s) a plug.

Friday, February 27, 2009

The League Re-Watches: The Breakfast Club

Another sign I am getting old:
I watched about 80% of the seminal 1980's teen movie "The Breakfast Club" on cable last night. And I found myself identifying far more with Dick Vernon than those crazy kids.

My first thought when tuning in was whether, in this day and age, anyone would cast a movie about teen-agers in an American high school with such a lily white cast. Or keep issues such as sexual identity completely off the table.

It's almost pointless to critique a movie more than 20 years and when its aimed at a much younger, more cloistered audience who more closely resemble the five characters. I recall liking the movie quite a bit myself, watching it repeatedly into high school, but its been years since I watched more than a snippet on TV. The film isn't aimed at 30+ state employees, but at kids who do believe in the trials and hardships of being upper-middle class and showing up for school (b-o-o, h-o-o).

And I also came to the startling revelation that I have no idea what the title "The Breakfast Club" means. Is it a little used term? Does it have historical connotations? Did it just sound good? I have no clue. Someone throw me a bone.

I will give Hughes credit. When one sees the endless parade of assembly line teen comedies and tween-aimed movies starring teen-agers, which were just as common in the 80's, its a miracle anyone ever bothered to take a look at high schoolers as people. But one also finds the ending of the movie to be more than a little pat.

The jock and basket case find romance? Based on what? The prom queen sneaks into the closet with the thug and possibly has sex with him? And the principal accepts one, single-page paper which would seem stunningly out of context for ol' Dick Vernon?

There's a huge amount of fantasy that creeps in around the edges of The Breakfast Club, and that's okay. The intended audience is more likely to buy it, and it helps to cement the notion of the film that we've all got something in common once you move outside of your tribal identity. And believing it can end in smooching isn't so bad, I guess (unless you're "The Brain", in which case, no smooch for you).

Its easy to be cynical with so much water under the bridge, and looking back at your own high school career with what feels like a permanently etched wince.

I guess what struck me on this viewing was how much the script stacked the deck for John Bender. Nobody ever really challenges Bender, aside from Vernon, who more or less seems to freak him out completely. In most ways, he's a bully who dominates the conversation through shouts, an actual threat of serious physical violence, and often random humiliation. But as he's a bit charming, the audience is meant to root for him. Right up to the point when Molly Ringwald, who he's badgered, berated and made unwanted sexual advances upon for the duration, for some reason slips into the supply closet to make special time with Judd Nelson.

It speaks poorly for "Claire" as written that, apparently, any attention at all seems to be enough, and she seems to be heading into what will surely be an emotionally one-sided and possibly emotionally abusive relationship by film's end.

Brian, who admits to suicidal feelings, is more or less dismissed because he didn't do it this time. But what happens when he can't light the next elephant lamp?

Perhaps 2 hours is too little time to fit in any exploration of the more-or-less real-life issues (although I still have no idea what was supposed to be up with Ally Sheedy. She's never really given any story), but its surprising how well the movie has succeeded despite the fact it doesn't really try to close the loop on the situations thrown out to move the characters beyond their stereotypes.

Perhaps the staying power stems from the fact its a movie that acknowledges its intended audience as having an inner-emotional life that isn't the usual, cheesy fair one sees in after achool specials, or that goes beyond the "will the cheerleaders win the cheer-off?" plots that most teen-oriented films contain, the film has held up for over two decades.

The movie acknowledges sex, overbearing/ suffocating parents, finding out someone gets hit at home... a lot of the messy stuff that pops up in high school but for which the audience doesn't have a serious tool-kit yet for managing. And so, in many ways, its appropriate that we don't know what happens on Monday morning, or even Saturday night with these characters. There's no American Graffitti style conclusion.

I wish today's kids the best with the movie. They'll never believe the soundtrack sold like crazy, or that the Molly Ringwald dance became sort of a thing, but there you go. But I would honestly like to see the movie re-made. Or something along those lines, if for no other reason than so that maybe teen-agers can see some reflection of high school on the screen that doesn't come from "The Hills", "Gossip Girl", or the latest teen-sex romp. It'd be nice to acknowledge at that age that you're a human, and not just so you can be marketed to, pitched a lifestyle, or given some small thrills with your cheap laughs.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Action #1 on the Auction Block

Time to start shopping for my birthday

NTT pointed it out, so I should mention that Action Comics #1 is going on the auction block.

In case you don't know (and I find it hard to believe you've been reading this site for any length of time and somehow missed it, but whatever...) Action Comics #1 is the first appearance of Superman from 1938. Its not the first appearance of a super-hero, in my opinion, but it DID manage to launch 70 years of superheroes as a part of American pop culture, and, I'd argue, culture in general (remember how Spidey is hitting Broadway?)

Here's an article that manages to incorporate a screen-grab of Superman Homepage, which we mention here from time to time. It gets a little into the restored/ unrestored issue in collectible comics.

So, if I had the $400,000, would I buy this comic?

Well, no. I like my Superman comics, but, come on... give me a little credit. If I had a few extra million lying around, probably not even then. It's just a very different thing than, say, my Jimmy Olsens, which I pick up anywhere from $4 - $15 and I doubt are ever going to turn me a huge profit. That's my personal enjoyment from both a story and collector's perspective, not an investment.

And you may not have my Jimmy Olsens anyway.

My co-workers accidentally opened up a whole can of worms yesterday when they asked me a few leading questions about Superman. Anyway, it ended poorly (for them). But, at least they now know better than to ask about that one again.

But, hey, now they know all about the publishing history of Superman, and perhaps that will serve them well in the future.

What is funny is how people have such strong opinions of Superman as a character, even if they really haven't ever touched the character in anything but the most tangential ways. And nobody is ever shy about telling you what's wrong with Superman. I don't know if its years and years of articles, pre-Superman Returns, that seemed intent on instructing why Superman was irrelevant. And with the Watchmen movie hitting the screen and the press trying to explain the relevance of the original Watchmen comic, its easy enough to imagine that Watchmen was a cosmic shift from the hands-on-hips goofiness of the 1950's and that Superman comics hadn't really changed in that whole time, which is both true and not true (Superman was very firmly a kid's book until the mid-80's. I'd still hand a kid a modern Superman comic, but I'd want them to be fourth grade or so.).

Anyhow, as a dime comic it somehow seems fitting as a reminder of the value of inexpensive fantasy can have in troubled times, 70 years on.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

We're ready to believe you!

I think the reason I've failed to get my ghost-hunting career off the ground is that I haven't been treating it like a business. Or, in fact, actually turned it into a business.

I've never owned my own business, so I'm not sure all what I'd have to do.


A) what kind of insurance do I buy for a ghost hunting enterprise?
B) can I incorporate my ghost hunting business?
C) do I list it as an entertainment business so as to avoid suits in the rare occurrence when I'm unable to locate a ghost?
D) how much is a TV ad? I sort of think I'm more likely to get business through a TV blitz driving people to my easy-to-use web site.

What else should I be thinking of? Franchise opportunities? Merchandising? Telvision rights?

I'm thinking of it a bit like the professional palm reader. How do they get set up in a business of which many are skeptical?

And how much should I think of charging so I can make a tidy profit?
Spider-Man: The Musical

I thought I'd talked about this before, but given Jamie and Jason's reaction to my mention of the show at Freebird's this evening (mmmm.... Freebirds...), I may have neglected to talk about the upcoming big-budget Broadway musical.

So... yeah. It sounds like Spidey is coming to the Great White Way. And the music is being written by U2.

I'm going to point you to The Beat, as Heidi's got a nice bit on the musical today.

So, if I wanted more hits, I'd write some column complaining about a Spidey musical
and how it kind of figured that U2 was finally making their way to Broadway... But I'm sort of oddly, cautiously optimistic about this thing. I have no idea what the musical will be about, but I'm imagining a scenery-chewing solo performance by the Green Goblin as he sings his plans for ol' Web-Head. I love that kind of stuff.

What I may be less excited about is someone trying to sing through a mask. But, hey, we'll see.

As per special FX: I don't think they'd be doing this unless they were going to make it pretty cool. And I'm sure they've figured out how to make Mary Poppins fly on Broadway, so Spidey should be possible.

Travelin' Man

I am hitting the road next week. Don't look for me in Austin from Tuesday to Saturday. I am headed for the Texas Tri-fecta of Denton, Dallas and Lubbock. That's a lot of miles on old Babar, and I am going to be pondering audio books to help me kill the time between towns.

Wonder Woman on DVD next week

Turn down your audio before clicking here...

Just a reminder that the Wonder Woman DVD arrives (or as the kids, say, DROPS) next week. Don't worry, I'll do some sort of review once I've watched it. I love the way they drew Diana already, though.

My Friends are Falling Apart

First Nicole had some sort of canoe-related injury that I wasn't clear on, but landed her some nifty pain killers. Randy has had complaints of late. Thanks to his karate, Matt is almost always injured. And now Juan G. has a herniated disc that could keep him from going to France next week.

Jesus, we're getting old. When Lauren begins complaining about the vapors or some such, I'll know we're all really cooked.

I, myself, am fine. Which has just doomed me. My only complaint is that my hands are so baby-soft from my job at a computer that the little bit of work I did left two, stigmata-esque marks/ blister on my palms.

New B Baby

Cousin John and his wife, Julie, have had a kid. Little Ben will be joining John, Julie and Brandy. Very happy for them, but I don't think most of you know them, so this is just a little "huzzah" for me.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Some stuff

I did post. It's just over at Comic Fodder.

Its, honestly, the post I'm least happy with to date. But I just haven't felt the comic-blogging vibe that much of late. So no link to it.

Preview for this week's Batman: brave & the Bold

This is the cartoon for kiddies. I need to do a post on it.

I love the retro-Batman stuff, and this episode seems to be making the most of the Dick Sprang inspired look of the show.



Watched the State of the Union. Did not watch the post-speech spin-doctoring. I'll catch the highlights tomorrow on The Daily Show.

I more or less am in the bag for the guy right now, so the speech worked for me and hit the points I wanted to hear.

The real question is: what will they be saying about Michelle's dress...?

Monday, February 23, 2009


No post. Spent the time I usually give over to the hypergraphia to re-reading Watchmen.

The edition I'm reading is the Absolute Edition, a slip-cased hard-cover printed on oversized, very high quality paper. I own it, and I still treat it like its someone else's artifact. It's heavy, and cumbersome, but the the details in Gibbons' art are just phenomenal.

Its been a few years since I read this thing, and like all good books, movies, etc... I can't believe how much is there that you let slip away between reads. Sure, once you know how it ends, it reads totally differently. Glad I'm taking the time before I inevitably end up seeing the movie.

I've said it before and I'll say it again... It is so of its medium, I cannot see how Snyder will translate this thing to film. Plus, man... how do you translate Rorschach for a mainstream audience looking for a superhero romp? Or The #$%^ing Comedian?

Fun Moore reading tip of the day: I recommend his run on "Supreme".

It's the Silver Age Superman story DC probably never would have let him tell.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

2 things before bed

(1) A Confession:

My dream job? Game show host.

(2) From Mel's Birthday party last year.

Quote of the week:

"Kim Kardashian is soooooo pretty!"
-irony-free anonymous co-ed in library (at TAMU)

Every celebrity is somebody's hero. Which means somebody out there is really into Steve Guttenberg. And that is amazing.

Leaguers, what can I say but that this week was really... a week.

To TAMU and back. Work was jam-packed from Monday through Friday. Friday night we headed out to Guero's to assist Steven in celebrating his freedom from grad scool applications, and we toasted Steven with a few cocktails.

Saturday we headed to Auditorium Shores park with Jason and Cassidy, attempted to go to the new Mighty Fine location down off Brodie Lane, only to learn it had been co-opted as a "suburban family friendly cool" location. Which means that, for what's really a pretty standard burger and fries operation, the place was crammed with our local nuclear families, far past the point of reason.

Good for Mighty Fine's business, bad for me ever trying the place again on a Saturday.

I might mention, and I know this is heresy, but I'm not a fan of In'n'Out. We had them scattered across Arizona, and I was actually very excited to try my first In'n'Out, but wound up severely disappointed. It is, no matter the ingredients, legacy, what-have-you, a fairly standard burger. And I didn't care at all for their fries. But, holy smokes, does that place have a reputation, so beware being the one guy in the crowd who is "meh" on In'n'Out, for it has developed its own brand of acolytes and followers.

Seriously, I thought it tasted a bit like "Short Stop" here in Austin, and which I don't care for, either.

We then headed to San Marcos to visit Jamie's folks and watch the UT/ OU basketball game. Which, huzzah, UT won. But, of course, Jamie's folks are die-hard Sooners fans. So... we were as polite and gracious as possible about UT's upset of the #2 ranked Sooners.

Today we ate breakfast, gathered ousrselves and went to Lowe's. It being so nice out, I wanted to plant a tree in the back and flowers in the front. I am now the owner of a Chinese Elm I have named "Chairman Mao", who I hope survives his first Texas summer. We also have several petunias and whatnot dotting our front flower beds.

Chariman Mao, while deeply respectable, will need counter-parts, so next week I will head back to pick up a couple of Live Oaks, a true Central Texas tree if there ever were one. Our neighborhood is actually named "Grand Oaks" thanks to the large Oaks they left when they developed the area.

Planting a tree is a bit daunting. The tree may live or not. It may be a poor choice for your yard. And if it is healthy, it will grow at an incredibly slow rate, reaching maturation just about the time I begin pondering retirement. I like that idea. Being in this house to watch the trees grow to their full height and then spread wide as shade trees. Forgetting exactly which year I planted Chairman Mao, Zapata and Khan, but knowing it was in the first years I lived in the house, as I'm on my third or forth fence. But we'll look at pictures and say "when we moved in, everyone had just one tree in their yard that the builder put there," and it will look bare. And then we will get in our aero-cars and fly to the moon for space-burgers.

But RHPT has gazed into the crystal ball and found my future. Not for those who dislike naughty words, etc...


Sorry if we did not call you back this weekend, Nicole. We would like to see you this week, though. Or at least before Matt disappears to the Far East.

I hope everyone's weekend was lovely and relaxing. I am happy springtime is here. we're ready for the winter to pass.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Lovely Out

It is freakishly beautiful in Austin today. 70 degrees, clear sky, low humidity, a stiff wind. Went to Auditorium Shores with the dogs. Lucy was like a little black comet, flying all over the place in large elliptical orbits.

It is a Maxfield Parrish kind of day.

Despite what I understood to be a general snobbery concerning Parrish's work, I used to keep this poster on my wall in college. It was nice to have a bit of Parrish sunlight to remind you of days like today.

Blogging will recommence when it is not sunny and/ or very, very nice outside.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

A whole mess of stuff

Sorry about the lack of blogging. I was back at College Station again on Tuesday. Its been a busy week already.

Steven applies himself

After several months of working on his grad school applications, he's now hit "submit" on the form. He's applied to a serious Research 1 university or two, and these days, that's a lot more than merely filling out a bubble sheet with your GPA.


The League is actually very interested in seeking graduate education himself in the next few years, and so we're watching Steven with marked interest. We've both been rejected by good graduate schools and accepted by less-good graduate programs. And actually walked away from a graduate degree a few years back when we had a moment of clarity and realized we did not want the degree nor career path we were headed towards.

We hope to once again actually feel its okay to not tempt Steven and Lauren with distraction. But it occurs to us that its now all the more pressing that we get as much Steven and Lauren time as possible fit in as we may be losing them come the fall.

Hmmm. That seems like a poor option.


I @#$%ing love Nannerpuss.

That is all.

Keeping Exotic Animals

I was going to write something kind of mean about the events in Stamford where a woman was attacked by her friend's chimp.

Maybe because I was raised with extremely mild-mannered dogs, as well as animals that were just as happy to bite me as take a meal (see: Perry the Python), and gerbils, fish, turtles and whatever... I've always appreciated dogs in particular for their easy ability to fit into a human lifestyle thanks to their deeply embedded pack mentality.

If my cat, who I know loves me (if sleeping by your head and purring loudly isn't love, I don't want to be right), but occasionally goes nuts and does something dumb, like attack my foot or whatever... what on earth makes people think that keeping a 200lb chimp around the house isn't going to eventually end in disaster? Or the story or two that comes up every year of someone with more money and machismo than brains whose tiger escapes its backyard enclosure and mauls either the owner or some unsuspecting neighbor.

Human fear and ideas about justice almost invariably lead to the animals being put down for doing what animals do. Which is always marked down as "suddenly unpredictable", when that's pretty much what most animals are. If they weren't, we'd all have pumas and pandas in our houses.

I'll never know what possesses people to feel they can or should put others at risk for what seems to be vanity or misplaced belief that they're The Beastmaster. I strongly suspect it has something to do with how far we're removed from a world in which we have a legitimate fear of being eaten by wolves and bears.

Thanks to my Dudes

I have to give a shout out to both JMD and RHPT, who always send me good stuff via e-mail. I don't often post those items, but I am publicly saluting you.

Don't ever change.


Countdown to "media critics" freaking out about Watchmen.

As long as we're going to exploit good comics that KIDS SHOULD NOT READ, it kind of makes me wish they'd do:

Frank Miller and Sienkiewicz's Elektra
Miller's Ronin
Morrison's Invisibles
We3 (perhaps one of my favorite comics of all time, for reasons that would be obvious once you'd read it)
Preacher (which is brilliant stuff, but I would be really upset if my mother accidentally read an issue)

What did I miss?

Monday, February 16, 2009

Secret Identity Revealed

Anyone who spends more than 2 or 3 days at my house will see I watch an alarming amount of Austin's 24-hour news channel, News8Austin. Its all local news, weather, sports, events, etc... And its run the way I think a news channel should be run. It's mostly commentary free, unless they have "commentator" below someone's name, and the anchors and reporters don't freely editorialize.

But its also a small, shoe-string-budget operation where reporters build their portfolio or settle into News8's somewhat odd culture of "Pet of the Week" installments and showing up every time someone puts more than three folding chairs outside and rents a microphone.

This weekend they were taping the Austin Marathon (which may or may not have featured JAL), when photographer Eddie Garcia caught something entering the atmosphere and seemingly burning up. You can watch the video here.

Some speculated that it was part of the satellites which recently collided in orbit. NASA has dismissed all that. They say it was maybe a meteor.

Well, Leaguers. That was me. Its a little difficult to explain what I was doing in the ionosphere in the first place, but let us just say that wrongs needed righting, and I could not let the schemes of my nemesis, Dr. Nefario (aka: RHPT) come to fruition. Indeed, the fate of the world was at stake.

So, yeah, that's me and Lucy heading back to planetside. I didn't know I lit up like that on re-entry. Neat!

Li'l Leaguers

Due to an excellent suggestion by the League's own JMD, we now have a new category! "Li'l Leaguers" will mostly be about superhero and sci-fi stuff such as books, videos, etc... your kids may enjoy. It will probably also occasionally dole out advice on what you may want to avoid as a cautious parent looking to delve into superherodom.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Li'l Leaguers: Superman and Batman in Kid's Books!

Hey, I know there are a lot of Leaguers out there who've got young super-heroes of their own.

It seems Stone Arch Books is publishing a line of children's superhero books featuring The Man of Steel and the Caped Crusader. Art is in the style of the JLU/ Bruce Timm animated format.

Check them out here.

If you buy them and need help pronouncing villain names like Mr. Mxyzptlk, just lemme know. I would have freaking LOVED these as a kid.

I want to salute the guys at They're building a new site and are picking up RSS feeds from comic-related websites and blogs. Rather than merely grabbing my RSS feed, they actually wrote me and asked if it was okay.

It is more than okay. I am pleased to see some people with some basic manners working on a comic-related site. So, unless they suddenly do something awful, the guys at are officially blogrolled here in the Comic Links section, and they have my salute.

Go click on their site and see what's what.

Should be interesting to see how it goes for these guys.

Valentine's Day

Valentine's Day was nice. Jamie and I don't do much for the day, partially because I'm a little cynical about the industry that seems to double in size every year around the holiday, and partially because (after 13 years of together-ness) I don't think Jamie wants any of the stuff you get at Walgreens. And neither of us want to go to some restaurant and stand around waiting for a table in unpredictable weather for two hours.

We stayed home and Jamie made a wonderful meal. And we got to spend the holiday with Lucy Goose, who was kind of up in our grill because she'd been smelling the spaghetti-preparations all afternoon.

Jamie got a card and a few candy-related items from me. Some of which Lucy Goose got into and ate last night. So... there's that.

Rockin' Sunday

Today was pretty darn lazy. Took Lucy to the park to run her for a while. She Almost immediately lost her ball when she became distracted.

It was sunny, 72 and breezy today, so the park was packed. The past two times we've been I became a little misty eyed as I know how much Mel loved it there, and both times, Lucy has run up to dogs who share Mel's silhouette from afar, only to stop short a few feet from the other dog when she realizes its not him.

I, myself, was a little sad when I said hello to a Golden who wasn't quite as big as Mel, but shared his same, broad shoulders and thick, mid-winter coat. Hit a little close to home, which was odd, because it was triggered completely by touch.

When we got home, I grilled up burgers and Jamie and I watched the end of Star Wars Episodes I and II, and as its been years since I'd watched either one, it was mind-boggling how bad those movies really are.

I did some chores and then headed over to Jason's for a while where Reed, Jason and I played some music. Its been months since I picked up my bass. Honestly, I'd sort of decided it was going to find a home in the back of a closet somewhere or under the bed, but I had a great time this evening. So look for future tours of the band I was informed would be named "Reed, Jason and Platypus".

Friday, February 13, 2009

Cooking with The League

This one is pretty close to how things go down at League HQ on a crazy weekend night. And also fits neatly with how I think about food.

In Brightest Day....

in case you hadn't heard, there's all kinds of colors of Lanterns these days, not just Green ( I also HIGHLY recommend the Green Lantern titles right now). Which color are you?

Go to Quizilla and then report out. Simon and I are Indigo, FYI. Or at least how we see our heroic selves.

I did try it again, and I got "Green", which is awesome, but... anyway, its fun, and its a quick primer on the corps as they stand today

Harry Potter

I am not a "book design" geek, but found this interesting. Stolen from Marshall's blog.

It's just someone goofing around, but its neat.

Hot Velantine's Day Tip

If its getting late and you forgot to get something for that special someone, who doesn't love a good e-Card and a few sticks of Spearmint gum?

Happy Friday the 13th

to my brother!

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Still in Aggieland: Day 2

Today's symposium was really, really good.

I have to go to Minnesota to present, and I had no idea how I was going to frame my presentation, but now I think I know. I'll make KP write it, but whatever.

I remembered today that it can be both a great pleasure and incredibly frustrating to sit in a room full of academics/ scholars and discuss technological applications. However, the climate has changed inexplicably since 1997, when I first started working with faculty to implement technology into their teaching. At the time, e-mail addresses were just becoming common among instructors (they didn't want them, because then students would, you know, TALK AT THEM).

The purpose of the symposium was to discuss the transitional period we're in where traditional print forms of scholarly communication (ex: journals) are coming to an end, and the era of open access (ie: free and Google-able) scholarly communication will be the norm for faculty/ academics/ scholars. Printed journals have always been the mode of communication for presenting research, but higher ed institutions have been shy about what it will mean to have that material exist outside of expensive journal subscriptions that usually only wind up in libraries or professional collections. In short, it means people might actually find and read their work who are not researchers. It means its a lot more likely that in five years that when you Google, say, "Thermopylae", you might get legitimate, peer-reviewed research just past the Wikipedia entry.

Good stuff.

And that's sort of what my organization does, as well as preserving other tools for scholars to use for communicating with other scholars. And, of course, we're a library, so hosted repositories for all this stuff.

Faculty tend to be a bit uneasy about giving up on traditional communication. And they're in a unique position to be as slow to adopt as they like, because they're really their own self-policing organization. But when a top-tier school like Harvard throws down the gauntlet, and they have, it means everyone else will soon fall into line.

What I learned today, which had left me very confused about how all this works, is how the financial picture works. And the reality is, there's a lot less money changing hands in all this journal printing than I'd assumed, so the opportunities for going digital are a lot better than I'd hoped. Which also raises some questions about a possible adoption of an open conference and open manuscript system.

So, anyway, that's what I'm doing for a living these days. Beats digging ditches.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Behind Enemy Lines

I'm at TAMU. That's Texas A&M University for those of us in the university collaboration business.

It's very... open here. The buildings are very far apart. Neither UT nor ASU were designed with so much... openness in mind.

The dinner tonight was very nice, and the folks we met were friendly (we being me and Kristi from my office), including a special guest who was sort of accidentally seated with us.

I guess Kristi worked at the TAMU press in undergrad, and so she ran into old work colleagues and family friends. It pays to bring KP with you on trips. I will remember that.

I am tired.

Have a good one.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Things that College Students Do

1) Try to just walk into my office. It's weird. The light is on, there are no study lounges on my floor, but every once in a while, they start just pulling on my door and trying to get in. The door is always locked because I use the main door to the office suite, not the door in my office that empties to the hallway. My door isn't really marked except for a number, but... I guess I mostly get creeped out at what they might be doing in there if they found the door open.

2) Talk loudly on their cell phones about @#$% that doesn't matter. Which, yeah, no kidding... But, Leaguers, I work in a library. You understood how a library worked when you were in school, no? Apparently, that particular people skill went away with the invention of the iPhone with its goofy cable microphone dealy-o. Which they all hold to their faces and shout at the mouthpiece. Also, that makes you look stupid. Which is just slightly better than wearing the blue-ttoth earpiece and looking like a maniac walking down the street yammering to yourself.

3) Make liberal use of the public bathrooms. I was a little confused when informed we had an employees bathroom tucked away around the corner. But more than once, I've entered the public bathroom to find people bathing in the sink/ using the bathroom as if it were in their apartment.

4) Not press the button at the crosswalk so that when the light changes, the indicator says "walk" and you get the right of way. I don't think this should be a part of primary education, along with "how do you exit a bus", but how does one reach college age and make it into the top 10% of their class and not understand how buttons or cross walks work?

5) For some reason, Asian female students always travel in pairs. Always. Just an observation. But somehow these pairs don't hit the button at the crosswalk between the two of them, either.

6) Not seem to know how to order a cup of coffee. The menu is up there, where its been the ten minutes we've been standing in line, sir.

7) Dress up the first week of school in all their new clothes they got for Christmas, and then its back to sweats.

8) Get the hell out of your way when you step off the elevator with any conviction.

9) Either they don't check the weather before they leave, or they take seasonally inappropriate dress as some sign of machismo. Even if its 32 degrees outside, there's always some dudes running around in nothing but shorts and t-shirts. It kind of makes it seem that given ample evidence, these young minds still cannot make an appropriate decision and makes you believe they really DO need their mother to dress them.

10) Stand around talking, loitering in odd places, having lengthy, important conversations, using $0.25 words they just learned in class having the sorts of discussions that, once they're actually working for a living, that they will never have again. That's actually fine. Someone's gotta do it.

special bonus item for Valentine's Day: I see a LOT of dudes walking a half-step behind some young lady, talking entirely too much, sort of following around a co-ed (often who are out of their league) who seems like she's only half-listening. These poor dudes seem to believe that as long as their mouths keep running, the girl may not like them, but she can't get away. And maybe, just maybe, they'll wear her down. And they will find love... *sigh...*

Monday, February 09, 2009

Off to TAMU

On Wednesday I am off to Texas A&M University for a few glorious days of symposiuming (I made that word up. If you use it, you owe me a dime.). As you may guess, the symposium is work related, so I will need to be on my best behavior.

I hope to catch up with some College Station-bound work buddies while I'm there, and I guess I'm going to a couple of dinners sponsored by the event. Which should be... rocking?

I haven't been to a conference in a while, especially not one so laser-focused on my current work. Should be fun, says I.

When I disappear mid-week from blogging, you'll know why.

Jon & Kate Plus 8

There's this show on basic cable about this couple who had twins already, then went on fertility treatments to have another kid and wound up with six more, for a total of eight.

My fascination with the show is somewhat morbid, as I sort of wonder not if, but when the show is going to fall apart because the titular Jon will finally decide he has had it with his wife and runs off to Tahiti with a dancer named "Tanqueray".

Initially, I think Jamie believed I was being a jerk about the whole thing, but upon further inspection, she too learned that "Kate" has decided the show is her public platform for slowly eating away at the poor dude's soul. One certainly gets the feeling Jon is used to his wife's humiliating treatment, but... seriously, Leaguers. It's pretty frikkin' rough. And while they've saddled themselves with 8 kids, were Jon to seek a legal conclusion to their marriage, he'd have hundreds of hours of video to turn to as Exhibit A as to why a divorce is a pretty good idea. No court in the land would be on her side.

On a cute TLC show about the trials of an oversized family, one shouldn't wonder if you're crossing a line from "sassy" to "emotionally abusive". Because, seriously, if that were Jon talking that way to Kate, people would be up in arms.

I look forward to the day when we all find out Jon fled on a very special episode of "Kate Plus 8 (minus Jon and his Income)".

But I will watch the spin-off series "Jon and Tanqueray Minus a Vas Deferens Flee to a Non-Extradition Nation".

Comic Fodder Column up.

Miss Melbotis

As good a company as I find Lucy and Jeff, its tough to replace Mel's editorializing and personality. While generally in an excellent mood, he also wasn't afraid to let you know what he was thinking. I think I need that to keep me in line.

Anyway, its been well over a month now, but you find you still miss him in small ways all the time.

Sunday, February 08, 2009

laaaaaazy weekend

I've been sort of tired since, oh... New Years. So this weekend I vowed to take it terribly easy. And let me tell you, Leaguers... when you set your sites on not doing anything, its not always as easy to achieve as you'd think. Somehow doing something always seems to crop up.

But after my pre-planned busy Saturday morning, I think I more or less achieved my goal of not doing a whole lot. Including an accidental nap when I saw down with Lucy to read some comics. Sure, I tidied some and worked on my taxes (my portion is usually just entering my W2 info), but today was sort of a day of epic puttering.

We did watch two different movies this weekend. "Harold and Kumar Escape From Guantanamo Bay" and "Dark Knight". "Harold and Kumar" was pretty much what you'd expect if you saw the first movie, and "Dark Knight" holds up stunningly well on a third viewing. In fact, some of the dialog regarding the final conclusions drawn by Batman and Gordon made significantly more sense this time around (even though I basically caught the gist of it the first two times). I think the difference is that I didn't feel like I'd just walked off a horrendously turbulent jet ride when they reach that point in the film this time around.

I think I'm still a little bitter that Dark Knight didn't wind up with more awards-show attention, but whatever.

Anyway, I'm off to putter even more.