Archive for June, 2007

Skynet Always Wins (or, “John Connor should have sent a eunuch”)

Friday, June 29th, 2007

Once there was a young woman named Sarah Connor. In the mid-1980s, she gave birth to a son, whom she named John. At some point in his childhood, a supercomputer named Skynet became sentient and launched a nuclear Armageddon. Sarah protected her son and they survived. John became a leader of the remaining humans and led the resistance against Skynet’s robotic forces.

Skynet designed infiltration units named Terminators which would pose as human. The first ones had rubber skin and were easily detected, but soon the Terminators used organic material and could not be detected except by dogs.

Despite this new threat, the human resistance finally smashed the robotic forces and penetrated Skynet. As its last chance effort at protecting itself, Skynet used a time travel device to send a Terminator back to 1984, in hopes of eliminating Sarah Connor before John could be born. John Connor sent back a lieutenant, Kyle Reese, to protect his mother.

And thus Skynet won.

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Seriously, I love my web site

Friday, June 29th, 2007

Yes, I was gone for a week. No vacation, no neglecting the blog, just Internet problems, pure and simple.

I have a major post that I’ve been mulling over. Coming right up! Stay tuned.

Belatedly Jumping on the Wishlist Bandwagon; or, happy birthday to me

Friday, June 29th, 2007

I turned twenty-five today. And as is the wont of others around these parts, I’ve decided to share with you my Amazon Wish List.

Not that I’m expecting anything, of course. 🙂

http://www.amazon.com/gp/registry/wishlist/3E23EETG1QP6I/

Now, you’ll note that the list belongs to one Mary Russell– who is, of course, my beautiful wife. Generally, I don’t think one will have a problem differentiating which things are mine, and which things are my wife’s.

As a general rule of thumb, I’m not anxiously hoping for a cookbook. 🙂

A Love Letter to Big Ethel

Wednesday, June 27th, 2007

I remember the exact moment that I fell in love with “Big” Ethel Muggs, Jughead’s unwanted suitor from the Archie books. It was when I came across this:

This is the secret of Big Ethel: she was always exactly and stubbornly herself. She never tried to fit in, but rather asserted her own unique personality at every opportunity. No compromise.

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The Arthur Effect

Monday, June 25th, 2007

The Arthur Effect is the process in which the things that make an intellectual property unique are smoothed out in order to gain a wider audience. For example, the original Lee-Ditko Spider-Man was a very angry and moody young man. He lived in a moody, atmospheric world and fought bizarre villains, like the Vulture and Doctor Octopus. He resided with his Aunt May and was very lonely.

After Ditko left, Peter Parker moved out of his aunt’s place and became damn near gregarious. Bland, “normal” villains like the Rhino or the Kingpin were more likely to crop up than the more colourful ones. The mood of the title under Romita was more romantic, both in terms of interpersonal relationships– Peter now had a real honest-to-God girlfriend– and in terms of storytelling: big, Kirby-esque superhero battles.

In short, everything that made Spider-Man Spider-Man was gone, and as a result, he became more popular. The Spider-Man of the hit Sam Raimi films is Romita’s– not Ditko’s.

I call this the Arthur Effect because of the Marc Brown character, Arthur Read the Aardvark. In the first book, Arthur’s Nose, he looked like this:

Arthur, unhappy with his long aardvark’s nose, goes to Dr. Louise, the rhinologist (who is, naturally, a rhino). In the end, he decides that he likes his own nose the best: “I’m just not me without my nose!”

But now let’s take a look at a more recent book in the Arthur series.

What happened to his nose? The whole point of the first book– that we should accept, and celebrate, the things that make us different– is completely invalidated by the rest of the series. And it’s this noseless Arthur– more bear than aardvark– that makes up the bulk of the series, stars in chapter books, has his own television program, toys, oversized plush dolls, backpacks, lunchboxes, stationary, music cds, and posters. Nothing differentiates him from all the other cute, cuddly children’s book characters– and so he’s more palatable to a wider audience.

I’m not saying this is always a bad thing, nor is it always a direct result of trying to capture a wider market. Because of the Comics Code, the friendly Silver Age incarnations of Batman and Superman are vastly different from the brutal Golden Age originals. And in the case of Superman, I think that’s an assest: no one wants to see him hurtling war criminals like javelins.

With these rough edges and quirks gone, they became more acceptable to the mainstream audience, and more-or-less codified the concept of the superhero. Really, the Arthur Effect is one of refinement.

But what a character or story might gain in beauty, clarity, and thematic unity– all very attractive to the widest possible audience– they often lose that most mysterious and precious of things: vitality.

I suppose you’ve all seen Dramatic Chipmunk?

Friday, June 22nd, 2007

This is, as advertised, the funniest five seconds on the Internet:

Hat tip to James Lileks.

In Defense of Lois Lane

Friday, June 22nd, 2007

The best Superman comics ever made are also the most fondly remembered and the most widely derided. The Silver Age Superman, stewarded by Mort Weisenger, basically defined the Superman universe as we know it: the Fortress of Solitude, the Bottle City of Kandor, Bizarro and Braniac, Supergirl, the Legion of Super-Heroes, Legion of Super-Pets (and the Space Canine Patrol Agents with their immortal rallying cry: “Big Dog, Big Dog, Bow-Wow-Wow!”), Titano the Super-Ape, Metallo and the Kryptonite Man, the mermaid Lori Lemaris and Superman’s Kryptonian sweetheart, “emotion-movie” star Lyla Lerrol.

During this period, Clark Kent fought Al Capone (Superman # 142: “Superman Meets Al Capone!”), Jimmy Olsen became convinced that he was the reincarnation of the greatest traitors in history (Superman’s Pal, Jimmy Olsen # 110: “Jimmy Olsen’s Blackest Deeds!”), and Superman wore a number of amusing hats in order to cleverly conceal the presence of a third eye brought on by Red Kryptonite (Action Comics # 275: “The Menace of Red-Green Kryptonite!”). This is the era that saw Superman transformed into a lion (Action Comics # 243: “The Lady and the Lion!”), an “old duffer” (Action Comics # 251: “The Oldest Man In Metropolis”), the Superman of the Future (Action Comics # 256: “The Superman of the Future!”), and even Alfred E. Neuman (Superman # 126: “The Two Faces of Superman!”).

There are a number of reasons why people don’t like these stories. They think they’re silly. They think they lack polish. They’re the products of censorship, the neutered concept of the superhero that emerged in the wake of the Comics Code Authority. And to all that I say, hogwash!

These stories are great! The hallmarks of fantasy literature! And, over time, I hope to revisit some of these great stories and tell you why I love them, and what makes them tick. But if I may take this moment to address another common complaint about The Greatest Superhero Comics Ever Made…

People say that the Silver Age Lois Lane is a misogynistic mish-mash of a character. That she’s a projection of the hatred and anxieties of the male editor and his male writers towards women. And to that I say: hogwash!

Lois Lane is the crowning achievement of the Weisenger Era.

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Thunder! Thunder! Thunder! ThunderCats, No!!!

Thursday, June 21st, 2007

Sorry about the title– I couldn’t resist. 🙂

It was announced earlier this month that Warner Bros. has optioned a script for a theatrical feature-length CGI-animated ThunderCats film.

http://www.variety.com/article/VR1117966320.html?categoryid=13&cs=1

ThunderCats was one of the best animated action/sci-fi series of the eighties, marked by strong animation, comparatively rich characterization, and a cohesive universe. A film would be a good thing. But… CGI?

CGI-animated films have come a long way in the last ten or fifteen years, but other than, perhaps, The Incredibles, I’ve yet to see a good action or sci-fi film. The only other one I can think of– the Final Fantasy film from a few years back– had that really creepy doll-look.

I’m just afraid that a ThunderCats film is going to look clunky– like Beast Wars of something. I personally think it’d be a much better idea to do it live-action with some sophisticated make-up effects. It would put the focus squarely on the characterization, and would give the whole thing a more realistic feel; and the animation in ThunderCats was more realistic than that in, say, the Transformers or Masters of the Universe.

Ah, well.

Digital Imaging and “Spider-Man 2”

Thursday, June 21st, 2007

For those who don’t know much about me, I am a film student at Brigham Young University, set to graduate in August. I just finished my last film class (I have three classes left to take during the next two months, but they are not related to my major), and I thought some of the Monitor Duty readers might be interested in the 10 page essay I wrote about how “Spider-Man 2” is a good example of how digital technology subverts Siegfried Kracauer’s theory of photographic realism in film. Some of the formatting might appear funky, and my references are not there, though if someone really wants to know where I came up with some of this, you can contact me.

Also… The paper hasn’t been graded yet, so for all I know it’s no good! But I am curious to know if the topics discussed are understandable to a non-film major.

Here we go!

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Robot Chicken Star Wars is TOMORROW!

Saturday, June 16th, 2007

If not for a banner ad on PvP I wouldn’t even know about the Robot Chicken Star Wars Special! It’s Sunday, June 17th. That’s tomorrow!!! Criminy, I almost missed this!

Just a sample of Star Wars goodness previously done by Robot Chicken:

New Tivo ads up

Friday, June 15th, 2007

Okay, you’ve all see the grilling ad. I thought about rotating the ads, but if you thought that one was slightly risque with the “antennae as phallus symbols” motif, you didn’t want to see the one I passed up. However, I didn’t realize Tivo had added three more, better ads to the campaign. So I’m putting a new one up tonight and I will try to refresh them at proper intervals. Sorry, readers! Sorry, Tivo. I’ll try to stay more on the ball.

Become part of the TiVo® Community. Find others who share your interests without ever leaving the couch. Join the TiVo community today. It’s fun. It’s easy. And it’s free. Click here for details!

First glimpse of next movie Batman costume

Friday, June 15th, 2007

Entertainment Weekly has the scoop and first photo of Batman’s New Suit for the 2008 feature “Dark Knight”. The biggest change: Batman can finally move his neck!

I Can Write Almost As Much as Alan Kistler!

Friday, June 15th, 2007

Check out my new blog I just started for an in-depth look at why comic books have lost my general readership and how I long for the good ol’ days of JLA with Grant Morrison and Mark Waid!

It’s a long one that I should go back and edit sometime, given that I finished it at 3:30 AM!

Babylon 5: The Lost Tales on DVD

Thursday, June 14th, 2007

Surprise! Babylon 5: The Lost Tales will debut in only a month! It features Bruce Boxleitner, Tracey Scoggins and Peter Woodward (playing Galen, his character from “The Crusade”).

To see the trailer, go to the BABYLON 5 site, click Main Menu and then on the button for the Lost Tales movie. There are also two behind-the-scenes segments.

The movie takes place 10 years after John Sheridan became President and departed Babylon 5.

Libertas’ Ghost Rider review

Thursday, June 14th, 2007

“Dirty Harry” reviews Ghost Rider

Invincible endorsed by Spider-Man

Thursday, June 14th, 2007

IGN: Comic-Con 2005: Invincible Joins Marvel

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Invincible endorsed by Spider-Man

Thursday, June 14th, 2007

IGN: Comic-Con 2005: Invincible Joins Marvel

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Adam West’s failed detective comedy pilot

Wednesday, June 13th, 2007

Produced by Robert Smigel and Conan O’Brien in 1991, “Lookwell” was the story of a down on his luck actor (Adam West seems to play those a lot) who once played a detective on TV. Now wielding an honorary badge still in its display case, he attempts to find work as a detective.

Sadly, the show was not picked up. Baffling.

I’ve been wanting to see this for ages, and I found it on YouTube. Enjoy!

Chuck Norris apparently has one weakness

Wednesday, June 13th, 2007

In the same vein as all of those Chuck Norris lists, I present the man’s Kryptonite:

Paddles

Please help out the family of Tom Artis

Tuesday, June 12th, 2007

From The Pulse at Comicon.com:

R.I.P. Artist Tom Artis;
Please donate to The Tom Artis and Family Memorial Fund

Veteran comic book artist Tom Artis passed away on May 1, 2007 after a long illness. Artis was best known for his work on various DC and Marvel titles throughout the 1980s and 1990s, including The Spectre, Green Arrow, She-Hulk and his own creation, Tailgunner Jo (with frequent collaborator Peter B. Gillis).

The State Journal-Register of Illinois provides details about the final year of Artis’s life, and the effect that his passing has had on his family:

Artis suffered a massive stroke in June, 2006 that left him comatose, relying on a ventilator to breathe and a feeding tube to eat.

Earlier that year, ceiling problems at the family’s home in the 1700 block of Clay Street displaced them. The house was further damaged during the March 12, 2006, tornadoes, and they stayed at the Quest Inn while they tried to get it repaired.

Artis’ final stroke put a halt to those plans, and the situation quickly spiraled downhill, Kim said. While Artis was hospitalized in intensive care from June to August, someone broke into the house and stole most of their belongings, including many of Artis’ original prints.

The theft was a difficult blow to Kim. Not only was the stolen artwork irreplaceable, she realized her husband likely would never draw again. Despite an article in The State Journal-Register about the crime, the pieces were never recovered.

Artis was unable to work following his stroke, and his medical expenses have left his family in rough financial shape and facing a very uncertain future.

Friends of the family have set up an account for the family at a local bank.

Please make checks payable to:

The Tom TC Artis and Family Memorial Fund

Donations may be sent to this address:

Marine Bank
Attn: Gale Krueger
1401 North Dirksen Parkway
Springfield, IL 62702

Please consider making a donation to the Artis family, no matter how small. Pick up one less comic book on Wednesday, and you can send $3 their way. Pass up on your fifth viewing of Spider-Man 3, and that’s $10 you can spare. Hold off another week on your next trade paperback purchase, and you can donate $20. Each and every donation helps.”