G4: Has Hollywood ruined comic con??

July 29, 2008

I agree with this guy. The girl has no idea what she’s talking about, it’s funny to see this video was shot last year but how much more true it is today. Sad really.

Reflections on SDCC 2008

July 25, 2008

Happy Friday! So Wendy went out of town this weekend for a convention with her church group. As for me, it’s funny what a difference a year makes. This time last year I was a boarder at some lady’s house in San Diego while attending the Comic con.  While I enjoyed the trip, meeting some new people and going to some of the more interesting panels, I decided a while back I wasn’t going to attend this year’s con because Hollywood has ruined it for me.

OK I was actually going to write a column about this topic for the comicsbulletin website, but I realized it might just be a lot of rambling and might come accross as sour grapes. However, when I turn on the TV and see KTLA entertainment reporter Sam Rubin interviewing studio heads about the con and talking about Twilight and how it’s a perfect place to creat buzz for such projects, I know I made the right decision. Not even a press pass guarantees admittance into some of SDCC’s panels and I just don’t have the energy or willingness to spend time in long lines when I can go to a local con and walk right into a panel with the likes of Marc Silvestri and Jim Lee or practically sit next to Marv Wolfman and hear him expand on the mysteries of character creation. Also, podcasts and bloggers have the con covered like a blanket, so I get to keep up with major announcements from the comforst of my very own PC.

I mean really, what do Lost, Dexter and Twilight have to do with comic books? Absolutely zilch unless you consider the fact a lot of comic book writers also write scripts for Lost and there’s a lot of crossover in the mediums. Yet, again and again I have heard fans complain that some comics don’t translate into film very well and into other mediums and I have to agree. Some people are even balking at the upcoming Watchmen movie because Alan Moore’s work doesn’t necessarily lend itself to an adaptation. I can see their point of view. I can also see the studio’s logic in seeing the comic con as a huge marketing ploy.

When all is said and done, I go to comic book conventions expecting to interact with fans and creators of comic books and comic book characters. I enjoy watching Dan Didio, President of DC Comics ramble on like a loony about which members of the Legion of Superheroes should be killed off or resurrected. There is a lot of that in San Diego of course, but Hollywood crashing the party and exploiting what many consider a hub of “geek culture” hasn’t been all good and I am sure there are a number of fans who feel the same way as I do.

BDK: Final thoughts

July 21, 2008

So The Dark Knight made over $155 million at the box office over the weekend. I was glad to read I wasn’t the only one who had a problem or questions about the setting.

Dark Knight Review: Give Jeph Loeb some credit

July 20, 2008

So Wendy and I went to see The Dark Knight this weekend. The verdict is: This movie isn’t bad and a lot better than the last one. Even though I was surprised by a much better film than what the trailers hinted at, I still think that Gotham City doesn’t look gothic enough for my taste and Christian Bale makes a better James Bond than Batman, right down to the scene where his African American Q, (played by Morgan Freeman in a reprisal of the Luscious Fox role) instructs him on his latest gadgets and he predictably isn’t paying attention.

The Batman’s hideout still lacks the familiar elements of the Batcave with the many mementos Batman collects from his various cases and adventures, opting for a more sterile environment full of high tech gadgetry and no giant pennies or dinosaurs in sight.

Heath Ledger steals the film with his unique and mesmerizing take on the Joker, vastly different from Jack Nicholson’s manic performance almost 20 years ago, as does a smart and quick moving screenplay which cribs some of the best elements of the Batman the Long Halloween graphic novel by Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale, right down to the genesis of Harvey Dent’s “Two Face” persona and the corrupt nature of Gotham’s warring mob families.

The Long Halloween was heavily influenced by film noir and films such as The Godfather. It examines an entire year of Batman’s career as a crime fighter during his early years in Gotham and introduces Lieutenant Jim Gordon before his promotion to Police Commissioner (just like in the movie) and explains the events which led to the transformation of Harvey Dent into the psychotic Two-Face.  It also boasts of a delicious mystery which unfolds over the course of the year (from one Halloween to the next.)
This would almost be another classic case of the book being better than the movie, except for what the movie lacks in familiarity and continuity it makes up in special effect wizardry and a stylish visual feel to it. The film does get a little preachy at the end, discussing as it does the moral codes which drive the heroes and the absolute abandon to chaos which fuels the Joker’s psychosis, but it comes after a climax which involves an original third act full of action and intrigue.

But the best part of The Dark Knight movie experience? It came even before the movie started as the trailer for next year’s Watchmen revealed a beautiful and extravagantly complex rendition of the 1986 masterpiece. Unless Hollywood makes a drastic departure from the source material or even wholesale revisions as it did in V for Vendetta and Wanted, this looks at first glance as the fanboy’s movie of choice in early 2009.

Dark Knight overload

July 18, 2008

This weekend’s big opening of the Batman sequel “The Dark Knight” delivers a lot of hoopla and the requisite anticipation of a summer blockbuster, no doubt fueled all the more by people’s morbid desire to watch Heath Ledger’s final performance, but I can honestly say that I can’t recall when I have been less excited about a comic book themed movie.

Perhaps it’s because even though I thought Batman Begins was a serviceable film, I didn’t think it was the be all-end-all in the Batman film pantheon most fans found it to be.

Though I thought that Christian Bale’s performance was good, In hindsight, I have to admit that I thought his take on the titular character was mostly derivative of the template set forth buy previous film Batmen, most notably Michael Keaton’s performance on the 1989 Tim Burton flick and his reprisal of the role in the 1992 sequel Batman Returns, and even of Kevin Conroy  in some respects.

There’s also something positively unsettling about director Christopher Nolan’s Gotham city, though it’s not the usual unsettling elements associated with it in the comics. Nolan’s Gotham almost has a futuristic, dystoptic feel to it, which makes me feel it’s not quite the place where the Batman of Crime alley grew up in.

The setting aside, it’s almost easy to see why fans embraced the first film with such fervor. The franchise had reached a dead end with the horrific Batman and Robin in 1997, considered by many comic film historians as the worst comic book movie of all time. I can’t say I would disagree, although Elektra was also pretty bad, but when you feed people bread and butter for so long and then give them a hamburger meal, it’s only natural that some would see it as Filet Mignon.

Batman Begins got a lot of things right, The Scarecrow was a lot of fun, but I don’t think it was the best Batman movie that could have been made. Elements like the tank like Batmobile were cribbed from superior material like the excellent 1986 The Dark Knight Returns graphic novel by Frank Miller, cosidered by many to be the best graphic novel of all time and the pacing and dialogue, at times left me wishing for some of the whimsy and fun which Burton infused in some of his best films. These things are supposed to be enjoyable aren’t they? I realize Batman is a dark hero, but he can also be quite human if those qualities are played to with proper care.

So I will see this new Batman movie with a critical eye (though maybe not this weekend) hoping to enjoy it, but I can’t help but feel that I have already invested in the best Batman narratives ever devised and if you haven’t read “The Long Halloween,” “The Dark Knight Returns” or the 1988 masterpiece “The Killing Joke” then you haven’t really experienced the best Joker-Batman dynamics in the rich mythos of the character. Recently Hollywood has messed with at least two great comic based stories: Wanted and I am Legend. Will they also ruin Batman for good or is this series the panacea all the fans proclaim it to be??

Packers: Let Favre go!!

July 15, 2008

I’m getting excited because here we are, on July 14 and the NFL pre-season is a mere month away. The big story this pre season has been Brett Favre’s un retirement. Normally this wouldn’t be such a big deal as Favre has made it a habit the past few seasons of retiring at the end of the season and then changing his mind when he decides he misses the game too much to stay away.

If you have been following this year’s melodrama, Favre is coming off a spectacular season in which he led the Pack to a 13-3 record and to the brink of another Super Bowl berth. I am not a Brett Favre fan, mind you, but you can’t deminish his stats, his accomplishments and the fact he’s a future hall of famer.

Well, now management in Green Bay doesn’t want Brett to come back because he’s old and they are grooming Aaron Rodgers to be his replacement. That makes sense, especailly since they could not wait around for Favre to make up his mind during the off season. However, the Packers are being incredibly selfish and incredibly unrealistic by refusing Favre’s request to release him out of his contract. They certainly could use the money in the salary cap, but management is afraid that Favre could go to a rival team and it would be devastating for them to see Favre take the Bears or the Vikings into the playoffs because they are in the same division.

I say give me a break. On the one hand the Pack say they have moved on and that Brett should do the same, but we’re not talkign about some two bit quarterback, this is Brett Favre we’re talking about, one of the best to play the game, it is unrealistic for them to expect him to come back to the Pack and play backup to Aaron Rodgers. If they really care about the organization and the game they should grant Favre his wish and release him and let him go play wherever he wants. My only caveat is that the stay in the NFC, as a Chargers fan, the last thing I want to see is Favre going to Kansas City or to an AFC West team and having to face him twice a year during the regular season.

The Walking Dead #50

July 11, 2008

I love collaborative reviews. I have only done a few, but I want to do more. They are tons of fun. This week on the comicsbulletin website, co-contributor Martijn Form and I review the 50th anniversary issue of the best zombie comic book on the planet: “The Walking Dead.” Check it out!

Martijn Form (MF): I have been following this great story since its first issue, and am overjoyed by the fact that Walking Dead made it to issue #50. That’s pretty rare in this day and age. Ariel, when did you jump on the bandwagon?

Ariel Carmona (AC): I pretty much jumped on at around issue #30. I was reading a lot of Image then: Savage Dragon, Spawn, Shadowhawk. I read the first 30 or so in trade format, and I was pretty much hooked.

MF: Did you know that I totally and utterly dislike zombie stories?

AC: [laughs] No, I did not know that, but as you know, you don’t have to be a mad zombie enthusiast to enjoy this series as I am sure you have found out over the course of its long run. What makes this comic so much fun is the characterization of the humans who are stuck in this zombie infested world and how they react to different situations. That, and Kirkman is one crazy bastard. [laughs]

MF: You’re absolutely right. But Walking Dead isn’t really about zombies. It’s all about human behaviour, when society crumbles down.

AC: My point exactly!

MF: How do you adapt to dire circumstances? No electricity. No food supplies. No government. Well, that last part can be a good thing, right? But people you love go missing or drop dead and walk around with gapping wounds. Sure, this book has zombies, but it’s much deeper than that? Do you feel the same way, Ariel?

AC: Yeah, pretty much. Walking Dead would be very boring without the wonderful and realistic dialogue Kirkman gives us every issue. Take this latest issue, for instance. I have to give him a lot of credit for creating such an engrossing psychological character piece. I mean, the whole thing is about Karl running around, trying to survive on his own and pretty freaked out about what’s happened to his mom and dad, but in the end he starts to realize that he can probably take care of himself and that’s a great glimpse on the character. That’s pretty much how it would be if this kid really grew up with so much pain, loss and horror all around him.

MF: From the moment I started to read this book, I saw some similarities with Vertigo’s Y: The Last Man. Not so much story wise, although both societies have an apocalyptic event that makes day to day life hard as hell. Survival of the fittest and all that. The similarities lay in the fact that both stories are so strong with the characterisation. These aren’t comic book characters. They are as real as you and me, with their strong points and their weaknesses. That’s what makes Walking Dead so special to me.

AC: I couldn’t agree with you more, Martijn, and I can see how you can draw parallels between Y: The Last Man and this book. Yorick’s situation isn’t that much different than Karl’s. I honestly think Brian K. Vaughan and Robert Kirkman are two of the most creative and prolific guys we have writing in the industry today. We are lucky to be witnesses to their development, and I utterly loved both comics.

MF: So there it is, issue #50. I think a SPOILER WARNING should be in order here. Ariel, can you believe that Kirkman isn’t fooling around when he warned nobody is safe! Damn, he killed most of the cast that I loved.

AC: Yeah, I think even Rick isn’t a sacred cow anymore, so to speak. I read the letters hacks pretty regularly and people kept saying that Kirkman wasn’t really living up to his “no one is safe” mantra and starting to accuse him of favoring some characters, and he probably got sick of it. I didn’t expect it to go down the way it did though.

MF: And he killed a baby!? Have you ever read a comic book that showed you a baby covered in blood?

AC: I honestly can’t remember the last time, if ever.

MF: This whole issue, I had sweaty hands. I didn’t know if Rick was going to die or not. Man, what a thriller this issue was!

AC: You’re not kidding. The question is where does he go from here? I read somewhere that new characters were going to be introduced, and let’s not forget that Michonne may still be alive somewhere. I’m not sure the old adage that no one ever dies permanently in comics, applies to The Walking Dead. Pretty much once you’re zombie food, that’s all she wrote. It was one heck of an anniversary issue!

MF: If Robert Kirkman decides that you’re dead, you are dead as a doornail. [laughs] Good thing he don’t write the book of our real lives.

Buffy S8 #16: Fray Returns!

July 6, 2008

I have to admit that I never read Joss Whedon’s Fray, a limited series about a futuristic Slayer set in the Buffy universe. May seem odd for such a huge fan, I always meant to add the 8 issue limited series to my already growing collection of Buffy comics, but honestly there were too many books I was already reading and keeping up with. I really want to get the collected TPB soon. I do know the basic mythology though.

This week, with the release of Buffy #16 the internet will be buzzing with the first historical meeting between Buffy and Melaka Fray, the Slayer from another century. I like the way this comic bookmarks their crossing paths in between a heavy dose of action and plot lines from the current series. A whole hell of a lot happens this issue which makes it feel as though it is twice as long as it regularly is, even though it isn’t.

Dawn has gone a staggering new magical transformation. Willow explains that a mystical occurence in New  York is the result of a temporal anomaly. This necessitates Buffy and Willow to travel to New York where they meet up with Willow’s former flame (sorry Tara fans, it’s not a resucitated Tara and it isn’t a certain werewolf either) 

In their absence, Xander is left to defend home base in Scotland but the castle comes under attack and oh yea, a certain skinless former adversary and Willow’s former pet rat are plotting evil with a more current big bad. See what I mean? A lot happens. Usually hallmark episodes written by Whedon in the series, and now in the comic, were very light on exposition and heavy on watershed events. In between all the action, we get the requisite  quiet moments which were a trademark of the TV show and which have been ever present in season 8. For example, Xander puts up a brave front after the events of the past issue which saw him suffering another great loss.

There’s a mildly disturbing scene where Willow’s flame gets jealous over one of Buffy’s remarks of affection towards the former and her recent sexual daliances are referenced as an “experimental phase.” This is balanced by very funny scenes of Buffy enjoying riding a limo for the first time in which she acts in exactly the way you would expect a young person in that situation to act.

Overall this comic is terrific, Whedon again exhibits great skill and respect for the characters he has created and has been directing since he was a college student, and the artwork by Karl Moline, who was the original artist on the Fray mini series and has returned for this story arc, while not as accurate as Georges Jeanty’s when it comes to rendering the cast, is still pretty solid and expressive. Go get it!