Archive for June, 2011

Stupid TV Tropes.org!

Wednesday, June 29th, 2011

I got two and a half hours of sleep last night because I followed a link to TV Tropes.org.

No, I’m not even linking it. Go there at your own risk. That site is like a pop culture form of heroin.

Tomorrow, I will be painting my lawn furniture, and then working on some bills, and then hopefully finishing my Elongated Man piece. For now…I need sleep.

What if Pixar designed other movie cars?

Wednesday, June 29th, 2011

Worth it just to see the Batmobile!

No time for part two of Elongated Man tonight.  And yes, I’m trying to redesign the site to look more comic booky.

Elongated Man Is All Wrong

Tuesday, June 28th, 2011

You all know I like Elongated Man.  “Like” being an understatement along the lines of “Chicago’s elections aren’t exactly spotless” or “Marilyn Monroe had some appeal.”  I’ve written Elongated Man fan-fiction, ran “Dibny Dirt” until Identity Crisis came out, and still hope that someday Ralph and Sue Dibny will be restored somehow.  Were I ever to write a superhero for DC, he’s the one I’d want to write.  As in, I would turn down Batman to write Elongated Man.

I’ve liked him ever since I was a kid and I saw a page from Justice League of America #100, where the Flash calls him “Ralph” while they’re fighting bad guys and it merited an editor’s note: “Ralph ‘Elongated Man’ Dibny is the only superhero to make his identity known to the public.”   I thought that was awesome because it made him different.  I suppose it says something about me that the key to my liking him was an intriguing editor’s note.

There’s an element of rooting for the underdog, certainly.  I’m sure it may be simply a contrarian nature, where I have to like the guy that no one likes so that it makes me different.  But the plain fact is, I like him.  I could read his adventures all day, and I truly enjoy them.

I think it’s because he’s all wrong.

I mean, look at him.  He’s not muscular like any cover-space grabbing superhero should be.  He’s handsome, I suppose, to the same extent that Keanu Reeves, David Schwimmer or Dick van Dyke are handsome but not hunky, smoldering, “make the ladies throw their panties handsome” a la Brad Pitt.  He isn’t even marketable.  He has a terribly goofy name that lends itself to double entendre, a secret identity that gets misspelled as “Digby” even by writers at DC Comics, and no logo.  You know that JLA meeting table where everyone has a space-age chair with their logo or distinctive icon on the back?  I don’t even know what Ralph’s chair has on it.  I would bet you it’s an E that looks like it was written with spaghetti, and that’s disgraceful.  (Granted, J’onn J’onzz has the planet Mars on his, so Ralph gets the Silver Medal for “worst chair”.)  Why would they even create a superhero this bad?

They didn’t.  He was supposed to be a supervillain.

The Flash #112

Flash #112, the first appearance of Elongated Man

Elongated Man was created as the enemy of The Flash in issue #112 of “The Flash.”  That’s why he doesn’t have a nice logo, handsome looks or a marketable name that could be the title of its own comic someday.  It’s why he has red hair, not blonde (Flash, Green Arrow, Aquaman), brown (The Atom, Dr. Magnus, John Jones) or brunette/dark blue (Superman) like every other superhero on the market.  It’s why he has a purple costume, as all of the Flash’s enemies have costumes with secondary colors to contrast with the Flash’s striking red and gold.

Once you realize this, then The Elongated Man makes a little sense.  Mr. Element (green), Mirror Master (orange and green), Weather Wizard (green), Captain Cold (white and blue), Heat Wave (white), Golden Glider (looks orange), Captain Boomerang (blue), Trickster (orange and blech) …none of them have The Flash’s color scheme, and the few that have the primary color of blue have a pale blue.   None have an iconic logo, and few have names that really sing; they were created to be catchy and distinctive, sure, but not to sell books in the same way that a protagonist is designed.  Ralph Dibny is right up there with Len Snart, Digger Harkness, Sam Scudder, Hartley Rathaway, Mark Mardon and Roscoe Dillon as a name that’s distinctive but not awesome.  (It’s not alliterative, nor is it two first names, nor is it macho.)

In this story, Elongated Man appears on the scene in Central City, having already made a name for himself in other cities.  He rescues cats and stops crooks before The Flash can, and this makes the Flash jealous.  Really, Barry Allen gets his nose out of joint like you wouldn’t believe just because another hero steals his thunder, and this makes the Flash suspicious of this new Elongated Man.  When some vases are stolen from an inaccessible museum room, he realizes Elongated Man could have done it, and later ends up pursuing EM who tries to trap the Flash as seen on the cover.

It’s at this point in the story that creators John Broome and Carmine Infantino realized they liked Elongated Man as a superhero, and changed their minds about making him an enemy.  Although Carmine never said this to me (I met him at FallCon long ago), I am also willing to bet they realized that he had zero potential as a recurring enemy of a guy who grabs bullets out of the air.  I mean, really?  He’s going to win against the Flash because his upper torso stretched around a tree to grab The Flash from behind?  Doesn’t that mean that The Flash can be defeated by two normal people, so long as he doesn’t see the second guy?

So: Elongated Man would have been a member of the Flash’s Rogues Gallery, except that the creators like him as a superhero, but they left all the trappings of the supervillain that they created.

Tomorrow, I’ll further explore more of how Elongated Man is the triple fried egg sandwich with chili sauce and chutney of the superhero set.

Butch Guice = 50!

Monday, June 27th, 2011

Artist Butch Guice’s birthday is today. Happy half-century, dude!

“Infestation” is great popcorn fun

Monday, June 27th, 2011

Last year, as Hollywood Video was closing its doors here in Rochester, MN, I was running around the place grabbing any movie that looked halfway decent… and a bunch that weren’t even that. If you think “Hump Day” sounds hilarious, you’re right: it sounds hilarious. The back of the DVD talks about two guys who dare each other to be in an amateur porn movie. (It doesn’t say that it’s just them in it, without women. “Zack and Miri” it ain’t!)

I thought the premise of Marines in Afghanistan taking on giant sand monsters sounded great, but “Sand Serpents” proved me wrong.

And while I’ve thought all of my life that there is a truly great movie to be made from the story of Theseus and the Minotaur, the Tony Todd version of “Minotaur” was not it. Oh, it’s good, but not great. That one’s at least worth a watch.

So, did I find any real gems? Yes, I found one. “Infestation” is a great popcorn flick. It has good acting and a decent plot. In fact, I’d say it’s a very decent plot, inasmuch as it rarely has moments where you’re chiding the characters for doing something stupid. The dialogue has wit, and there’s a running gag that I won’t spoil but it’s excellent. The ending is rather unique, too.

Megatron versus the Windsor police?

Sunday, June 26th, 2011

Despite this being an event in Canada it is indicative about our own country’s legal policies regarding toys realistically resembling firearms.

WINDSOR, Ont. — A 25-year-old Windsor man who allegedly pointed a handgun at his neighbours was arrested on Wednesday after police officers surrounded his west end residence.

The three-hour standoff forced the lockdown of a nearby elementary school, and drew a police response that included tactical officers, body armour, submachine guns, sniper rifles, a police dog and the mobile command centre.

“We treat everything as real,” said Insp. Kirk Mason at the scene after the man had been taken into custody.

“There will be a search of the premises and hopefully we’ll come up with whatever it is that he was waving out the window at his neighbours.”

But the man’s friends accused police of overreacting, and said his supposed handgun was a toy.

“It’s a Transformer,” said William Findley, 24. “It turns into a Luger. It’s an 80s-style Transformer… He’s had a really bad day. People are treating him like crap.”

Findley said his friend had a pellet gun in the house at one point, but it was elsewhere at the time of the incident, and the only thing left resembling a weapon was his “Megatron” toy gun… Mason said the original call to police was that the man had become irate over his apparent eviction, and that he’d begun “screaming and yelling” and pointing what looked like a handgun out the window of his upstairs unit… Emily, who lives next door and didn’t want her last name published, said she also saw the man point a silver-coloured pistol… Mason said charges are pending. “We’re going to be looking at some weapon offences at the very least, but we’ll have to give it some time to get to the bottom of it.”

Mason said the response level was reasonable, and in accordance with procedure. “Everything went very smoothly, as usual,” he said.

Regarding the complaints of some in the neighbourhood, Mason said: “Well, I’ll let the neighbours be the judge. If somebody’s wagging a gun in your face… I would hope that would get police attention.”

Megatron, the toy robot in question, transforms into a Walther P38, actually.

That is beside the point, of course, that the toy in question transforms from a robot to an artifact that resembles a genuine firearm.  It is my understanding that under current American law it is illegal to manufacture and sell toys that realistically resemble real guns.  Necessarily these items could be used to alarm police.  Some would say that this is for safety reasons but the real purpose is to compensate for an overly litigious age that desperately needs tort reform.

It does mean that no replicas of particular toys from my childhood will be reproduced.
I never did understand why a Decepticon Commander converted into a weapon for another individual to hold.

Best Captain America Trailer Yet!

Friday, June 24th, 2011

First official look at The Hobbit!

Friday, June 24th, 2011

It’s only two photos. I don’t care.  I’m excited it’s happening.

Back when comics were crazy

Friday, June 24th, 2011

Bob Haney gets saluted…and remembered.

 

Ty Templeton explains Green Lantern

Thursday, June 23rd, 2011

Green Lantern in Four Panels

Rats!

Tuesday, June 21st, 2011

Posting missed yesterday. Wedding plans have turned our household upside down. Busy busy!

“New” Star Trek series blasts off in September

Monday, June 20th, 2011

IDW is going to head up the continuing adventures of the “alternate universe” crew of the Enterprise, spinning off from the 2009 movie.

The best part is that they will be filling in the gaps left unexplored by future movies as they retell some of the classic Star Trek stories in a more modern fashion, starting with “Where No Man Has Gone Before.”

TV’s Top 10 Best & Worst Dads

Sunday, June 19th, 2011

In honor of my wonderful dad, and in honor of fathers everywhere, I present the top ten best and worst dads from television.  This isn’t a criticism of their ability to entertain, but their ability as a parent.  Even some of the “worst” fathers on television are great characters from extremely good television shows. But fathers on the worst list are fathers you would not want to emulate while raising your own kids, while the best fathers are ones that real dads everywhere could learn a thing or two from watching.

WORST

10. Bill Miller from Still Standing (Mark Addy)

The premise of the show was of a family in which the parents are kids who never grew up, and Bill certainly is that.  He is frequently shown to be more immature than his own children.  He loves his family, but he constantly goes about things the wrong way and is a horrible example for his children.  He is fairly lazy and tends to promote irresponsible behavior to his kids.  When it comes to discipline, he usually tries to get out of making his kids do anything unpleasant or punish them, or he tries to push the job of disciplining them onto his wife (who is as bad at it as he is.)  He’s also very inconsistent and hypocritical in his parenting style: the very essence of the “do as I say, not as I do” philosophy.

9. Fred Sanford from Sanford & Son (Redd Foxx)

Fred is irritable and a bit selfish.  He lives with his adult son, Lamont, and constantly belittles him throughout the show, referring to him as a “big dummy.”  He is always on the lookout for get-rich-quick schemes.  When he doesn’t get his way, he fakes a heart attack to play on Lamont’s sympathies.

8. Arthur Spooner from King of Queens (Jerry Stiller)

It’s possible the man is partially insane.  He is annoyingly eccentric, frequently loses his temper, and generally makes life difficult for his daughter Carrie and her husband Doug, who allow him to live rent-free with them.  Despite this, he is never grateful to them, rather, he is constantly demanding things from them.  When Doug & Carrie don’t do what he wants, he lays a guilt trip on them or makes himself annoying until they give in.  Arthur is extremely selfish to the point of being infantile.  On top of his own behavior, his daughter Carrie is also very self-centered, and prone to lying, being deceptive, and generally doing despicable things for the littlest reason.  She’s an all-around terrible human being, and it wouldn’t surprise me a bit if a lot of this comes from being raised by Arthur.

7. Ray & Frank Barone from Everybody Loves Raymond (Ray Romano & Peter Boyle)

Like father, like son.  Ray is the epitome of an incompetent father.  While he loves his children, Ray doesn’t seem to like them that much.  He tries to get out of anything involving them at all times, whether it is discipline, having heart-to-heart talks with them, or simply playing with them.  You get the idea he would rather be golfing, watching TV, or just about anything than have to hang out with his kids (or his wife.)  And when he actually does have to deal with his kids?  He has no idea how to relate to them or discipline them, so he does so in the most awkward and ineffective way possible.  He’s a wuss who is tied to his mother’s apron, has no clue how to cook, clean house, perform household maintenance, or do pretty much anything required of a father.

Ray obviously got much of his parenting skill from his father Frank.  Though you get the idea Frank actually might dislike his children.  He didn’t just try to avoid dealing with his kids, he actually didn’t deal with them at all.  He was the classic distant father who works, comes home, eats, watches TV, and goes to bed, wholly ignoring his kids.  And it shows, because he and his wife raised two of the most screwed up adult sons.  The Barone family is three generations of dysfunction.

6. Ross Geller from Friends (David Schwimmer)

In a lot of ways, Ross is very similar to Ray Barone with the added bonus of being whiny, chronically-depressed, annoying, and an absentee father.  He had three failed marriages, and fathered two children.  His eldest, Ben, was born in the first season yet Ross rarely ever spent any time with him.  I guess Ross preferred hanging out with his fiends and unsuccessfully dating women than raising his own son.  He apparently thought the boy could be better raised by his lesbian ex-wife and her lover.  Looking at Ross…well, that might not be a totally bad thing.

5. Michael “Meathead” Stivic from All in the Family/Archie Bunker’s Place/Gloria (Rob Reiner)

Sure, Michael was a liberal and a leftist, he sponged off his parents-in-law for nearly ten years while he was a career student.  But none of this makes him a particularly bad father.  No, it’s actually a behind-the-scenes reason.  In the last couple years of the show’s run, actor Rob Reiner was getting tired of playing Michael.  In order to write him out, he and Gloria began  having marital problems. When the short-lived spin-off show Gloria started, the couple had split up for good, and Gloria was left to fend for herself as a single mother.  The reason he left her?  Because the Meathead had run off with some young hippie girl and was living on a commune!

4. Lionel Luthor from Smallville (John Glover)

Machiavelli and Sun Tzu are not generally considered good parenting books, but that’s how Lionel raised his son Lex.  He always saw Lex as a weakling and was constantly testing him and refining him, in an attempt to make him as much of a ruthless businessman as he himself.  He succeeded, and Lex became just like his father, perhaps even worse.  Their relationship was always strained, Lex seeing his father as more of an opponent than a family member.  Lionel also fathered an illegitimate daughter, Tess Mercer, who he never did acknowledge as his.

3. Alan Harper from 2 ½ Men (Jon Cryer)

At times you almost think Alan is trying to be a good dad to his son Jake.  But he portrays the few good things he tries to teach his kid (doing homework, being kind to others, and trying new things) as being incredibly boring, stupid, or useless.  He’s a horrible wimp with no spine and emotional problems of his own. He is unassertive, so ends up letting even worse people than he is influence Jake: such as his alcoholic, womanizing brother and their narcissistic sociopath of a mother.  They ridicule Alan in front of his son and contradict his few words of good advice.  Alan also lets his ex-wife push him around in front of Jake. On top of that, he has allowed many of his brother’s bad habits rub off on him, namely girlfriend-hopping.  He has had a string of women (mostly one-night stands) sleeping with him…with Jake in the next room.  The result is a lazy kid with no good role models who has no respect for his own father.  I would hate to see what Jake will look like as an adult.

2. Al Bundy from Married: With Children (Ed O’Neill)

Al was loser who hated his life, and was pretty well indifferent about his children.  He worked in a dead-end job as a shoe salesman, but didn’t seem to have any ambition to do anything else, despite being deep in debt.  His hobbies include drinking beer while vegging in front of the TV, looking at dirty magazines, and taking the occasional trip to the “nudie bar” with his equally-loser friends.  He constantly criticized his family, but not in a good way.  His wife and kids didn’t respect him and the entire family exchanged insults constantly. Al really didn’t seem to have any interest in raising his kids to be productive adults, and of course they didn’t.

1. Tony Soprano from The Sopranos (James Gandolfini)

Who didn’t see this coming?  There’s not much to say about a father who is a mob boss.  Sure, being a professional criminal allowed him to provide for his family, but when your job involves murder and vice, you run your business out of a strip club, and you frequent prostitutes…well, you’re not going to win any father of the year awards!  Tony tended to use the same methods for keeping his henchmen in line on his children.  He bullied and intimidated them, and even murders his daughter’s boyfriend.

BEST

10. Tim Taylor from Home Improvement (Tim Allen)

He’s not perfect, and you certainly wouldn’t want to take shop class from the guy, but Tim Taylor did try his best with his kids.  Quite often he went about things the wrong way at first, but he talked to and listened to his kids, and communicated with and respected his wife.  The Taylors didn’t shy away from discipline or praise when necessary.  Tim wasn’t the smartest man in the world and realized his limitations, often going to his wise next door neighbor Wilson for advice.  One of the best things about Tim is he wasn’t one of those feminized fathers who doesn’t teach their kids what it means to be a man.  He might go a bit over the top on the testosterone, but at least there is some testosterone.

9. James Evans, Sr. from Good Times (John Amos)

James wasn’t a rich man and could only afford to live in the projects, but he did his utmost to provide for his kids.  He worked long, hard hours at sometimes two jobs just to pay the rent and feed his family.    He insisted on doing things on his own, and didn’t take handouts.

When things were particularly tough, he would even hustle pool for money. The downside was that with all the hours he worked, he was rarely home to help raise the kids.  Though, he was a smart enough man to marry a woman who could handle most of that herself.  When he was around, he didn’t put up with much nonsense from the kids.  He didn’t have time for it.  When they needed discipline, he got after them.  When he put his foot down, that was the end of the discussion.

8. Jonathan Kent from Smallville (John Schneider)

In direct parallel to Lionel Luthor, Jonathan Kent was the man who raised Superman.  He instilled in his son all the best qualities of a hero.  He was a hard worker, an honest, self-sufficient farmer who wouldn’t take charity, and certainly wouldn’t be bribed.  He stood up for others and refused to back down from his ideals.  He expected his son to do his best, and exhibit all these qualities.  He often gave Clark fatherly advice or stern lectures, whichever the boy needed.

7. John Walton, Sr. from The Waltons (Ralph Waite)

Probably the best thing you can say about the man is that he brought up seven children during the Great Depression and they never went hungry and barely knew they were poor. He was a hard-working man who ran his own lumber mill.  He wasn’t a church-going man, preferring to commune with God on his own time and in his own place.  Still, he respected his wife’s decision to take the family to church on Sundays.  He was good-natured and quiet, slow to anger, but ready to take a stand when necessary. And he never turned away a stranger in need. Despite having seven children, he always made sure to spend time with each of them and make them feel special.  He also encouraged his kids to nurture their interests, whether it was reading, writing, sports, music, or something else altogether.

6. Ben Cartwright from Bonanza (Lorne Greene)

By the time we saw him, most of Ben Cartwright’s major days as a father were behind him since his three boys were grown men at the beginning of the series.  But judging by how his sons turned out, the three-time widower who raised them almost entirely by himself did a good job.  Adam, Hoss, and Little Joe Cartwright were some of the best, most honest, and heroic men in television history.   The elder Cartwright must have done something right.   Despite this collection of manly men, you always knew who was the big dog on the Ponderosa.  His grown sons still respected their father and looked up to him.

5. Ward Cleaver from Leave It to Beaver (Hugh Beaumont)

Ward was the idealized, stereotypical 1950s dad.  He was a serious businessman, but that didn’t keep him from spending time with his family.  He rarely raised his voice when disciplining his sons, but they always listened to what he had to say, and he was smart enough to use almost any situation to teach the boys a life lesson.  Wally and Beaver obviously respected their father and came to him for advice.  Occasionally he would make mistakes, and he was not above admitting so. He expected the boys to do their best and always act ethically.  Based on conversations in the show, Ward spanked his kids when they were younger, but apparently the boys were well-enough behaved by the time they were 6 or 7 that spankings were no longer necessary.

4. Lucas McCain from The Rifleman (Chuck Connors)

Since McCain was a single frontier father who many times had to leave his son on his own, he made sure Mark was a responsible young man who could take care of himself.  He raised his son with a kind word and set an amazing example.  He didn’t balk at spanking his son when necessary (all off-screen) but knew the difference between discipline and abuse. Throughout the show, Mark showed a definite understanding of right and wrong, even more than many of the adults in the show.

3. Cliff Huxtable from The Cosby Show (Bill Cosby)

Cliff was a successful doctor and good husband, but his real success was in raising his five demanding kids.  Whether it was the nightmares of a small child, dramatic boy problems of a teenage girl, or the rambunctiousness of a teenage boy, Cliff always knew how to handle it.  His method of discipline was a mix of comedic psychology, common sense advice, and stern but fair punishment.  Dr. Huxtable taught his children personal responsibility while making them (and us) laugh.  The greatest thing was that when dealing with the children, he and his wife Claire always backed each other up.  After successfully raising his own kids, he went on to be one of the most fun grandfathers that several grandchildren could ever have, as well as letting a troubled teenage niece move in.

2. Andy Taylor from the Andy Griffith Show (Andy Griffith)

As a single dad, Andy Taylor had a tough job raising his son Opie alone while being Sheriff of Mayberry (and dealing with the antics of his deputy Barney.)  Andy taught his son to always do the right thing in every situation and tried to impart life lessons to the boy whenever possible.  Whether it was a matter of honesty, cowardice, friendship, fighting, or learning about life and death, Andy always knew what it was his son needed to hear.  Sheriff Taylor also spent plenty of time teaching his son to enjoy life in the great outdoors with a little fishing and hunting, and finished off many a night with a guitar and a song on the front porch.

1. Charles Ingalls from Little House on the Prairie (Michael Landon)

In a lot of ways, Pa Ingalls is a combination of all the best qualities of the other fathers on the list.  He was extremely patient with his children like Andy Taylor and Ward Cleaver.  He was a manly man with a lot of frontier skills like Lucas McCain and Ben Cartwright. He would do anything, work any job, in order to support his family like James Evans.  He was a farmer, hunted for food, worked in a lumber mill, and did odd jobs around town, but when times were tough he even traveled to work on the railroad and in a rock quarry.  The man was a firm but loving father who always gave his daughter words of wisdom with a knowing smile.  He was one of the few dads in all of television who was a regular church-goer.  He was a faithful man, but didn’t tolerate religious hypocrisy or people who use religion for show or gain. He was friendly and fair in his dealings with others, though he could be stern when crossed.    He was unafraid of showing his emotions, whether justified anger, loud laughter, teary grief, or misty-eyed happiness.  In addition to his own four daughters and one son who died in infancy, he and his wife adopted three more children. And if any of his family were in trouble, he would go as far as he had to help them.

Skyping comic creators

Sunday, June 19th, 2011

Newsarama.com : The Flash | DCNu | Manapul & Buccellato Barry, Barry Happy to Be on DCnu FLASH.

I wonder how much comic book creation gets done over the Internet?  Actually, what I really wonder is how this was ever done without the Internet!

Green Lantern Review: More thoughts

Saturday, June 18th, 2011

I didn’t really say anything about Hector Hammond.  Frankly, I feel he was totally wasted.  The film’s attempt to make him some sort of avatar…nothing less than the Silver Surfer to Parallax’s big-ugly-planet-sized-cloud-that-we’ll-call-Galactus…really doesn’t work.  Hector could have been a villain for the entire movie; as it is, we have this whole Daddy didn’t love me subplot that doesn’t work.

This is a weakness.  Hector Hammond is a good villain in the comic books, but his immobility is a hindrance in the more action-packed medium of movies, so we’re never treated to is fully immobile form.

I completely forgot to mention something that really bugged me about the film: Hal’s baffling entrance as Green Lantern.  He suddenly bursts through the wall while Hector is attacking security guards.  WHY? Near as I can figure, his ring simply detected the trouble and told him to go there.  Now, that’s a new ability for the power ring.  Actually, two new abilities:  the power ring can detect trouble, and it can cover vast holes in the plot!

So, Hal’s will-sense was tingling, and he bursts through the wall… wait, why would he bust open a wall?  Without knowing what he’s smashing into, he could hurt someone or make the trouble worse.  It’s a bizarre scene.

 

“Green Lantern” movie review

Friday, June 17th, 2011

I am, perhaps, not the person to write this review.  I may be the world’s biggest Elongated Man fan, but of the big guys at DC Comics I was a Green Lantern fan going all the way back to his first appearances on Super Friends.  Hal Jordan was my hero.  He had determination and strong character and he wasn’t afraid of anything. He was also manly, macho and handsome, without peer in his chosen dangerous profession.  Oh, and he’s smart and inventive, because the ring is only as good as the brain of the person wielding it.

Of course, they didn’t make a movie about that guy.

No, we can’t have someone who is professional and capable.  We all hate guys like that, apparently, which is why the last several decades has seen the degradation of all of our heroes into screw-ups and man-children.  In the comics, suddenly Hal became a drunk driver and  a wash-out always on the cusp of losing his job.  Then Geoff Johns took over on Green Lantern, and Hal becomes a womanizer to boot.

Thus we meet the movie version of Hal Jordan waking up from a one-night stand with some blonde, realizing he overslept on the day of a very important test, and endangering the lives of other people as he speeds down the highway trying to wrap a birthday present with newspaper.  I should mention: the gift isn’t even needed until later that evening, so the wrapping on the fly is only for the purpose of showing us how much of a screw-up he is.  Aside from his flying skills, he is regarded by even his friends as a loser.  He participates in the flying mission, which is intended to show off the abilities of two new fighter jets, and instead he makes the new products look like failures because he thinks a demo for the buyer is the right time to show off…and in the end, he costs the company millions of dollars in destroyed inventory and lost jobs.  (That Carol later salvages the situation is beside the point.)

This is all to show the guy growing into a better person in his origin story, a la Iron Man.  That it is such a well-trod tale that the whole thing becomes a paint-by-numbers plotline isn’t even my main complaint.  As it stands, I actually found the movie’s plot to be better than average.  There are twists and surprises that defy expectations, and that’s good.

No, my problem is that I hate Hal Jordan because I expect better from a 25-year-old Air Force veteran.  When your company has a major contract that is depending on you, you get to bed early, sober and alone.

I just can’t believe the power ring would choose this guy out of 5 billion people, millions of whom have the self-discipline and courage to make for great Green Lanterns right out of the gate.  I don’t believe the ring is going to go looking for the diamond in the rough who could be fantastic with a lot of training and personal growth.  What’s more, this whole “first I’m a jerk and then I grow” story is just so tired!  Why couldn’t we have a story where the character growth is about something else?

This really is my only major complaint about the movie. Thus, if you like watching undisciplined screw-ups learning life lessons that are arriving far later in life than they should, your mileage may vary.

Is the CGI a bit of a strain, being so unnecessarily glitzy and at times muddy and video-gamey?  Yeah, but it’s offset by enough cool and some moments of sheer brilliance.  Geoffrey Rush’s voice (as Tomer-Re) makes the buttload of exposition easy on the ears.

The actress playing Carol Ferris is especially good, bringing some depth and strength to a role that could have been flat and two-dimensional.  I’m not sure I buy her as a pilot, as she doesn’t look like she has the muscle to be jockeying a plane.  But from an acting POV, she stands out.  Let me put it this way:  I can entirely buy her as a young executive who can pull off a military contract way more than I can believe Maggie Gyllenhall and Katie Holmes as district attorneys, or Kate Bosworth as Lois Lane.

The Green Lantern Corps…well, it’s… not only is it “video-gamey”, but the shots of the various Corps members go by so quickly. It feels like an episode of the Simpsons, where signs flash by rapidly and you need to freeze-frame them later.  In other words, all there is is the promise that at some later date I may get a kick out of seeing some of my favorites who went by in a half-second, but for right now…I spotted Stel, Olapet, Xax of Xaos (or Bzzd) and I think the F-Sharp Bell.

I could complain about little stuff, like how each sector of space is said to contain several galaxies, whereas I think one galaxy divided up would still be an overwhelming amount of space to be patrolled by only 3600 Green Lanterns… but I’m honestly trying to not be a nitpicky fanboy.  My complaints about GL are from a point of film criticism.  My fanboy side was sated when I not only saw a non-Green Lantern character from the DC Universe but we even got to see her origin tale right out of the comic books!  That was awesome.

You know…I like Geoff Johns, but I’m a little aggravated at how much of the Green Lantern in this movie is his Green Lantern.  The “Highball” call sign, Hal’s one-night stands, Parallax as a fear entity, the yellow ring of fear with the meaningless logo, Hal and Carol being friends from childhood… and worst of all, that “will” thing.

I’m getting off on a rant, one that’s long overdue on Geoff Johns’ version of GL, but… will is NOT AN EMOTION!  You can have a strong will about spreading fear, for example.  I always interpreted that whole “willpower” thing with Green Lantern as the explanation of how the green energy is employed.  In other words, you use your willpower to make the energy take shape, and your willpower/determination dictates how strong the construct is.  That’s all.  It’s not that the green energy IS will in liquid form. All the other colored lanterns also employ their energy to do things via their mental effort, a/k/a their will.

It’s like saying that a cowboy fights the bad guys with the power of forefinger.

Final verdict: The Green Lantern movie is a solid B.

Hard to hear him over the Hallelujah Chorus in the background

Thursday, June 16th, 2011

Darwyn Cooke on what’s wrong with the industry:

Best/worst Scooby Doo Monster?

Thursday, June 16th, 2011

I think the most memorable monster on Scooby Doo was the Spooky Space Kook… a horrible name for a spacesuit that has a skull floating in it.

I must not be the only person who is fond of that meanie, since he’s appeared in crowd scenes as an employee of Sebben & Sebben.

Hey, do you think this episode of Scooby Doo was the inspiration for the scene in Dr. Who?

More bad planning in the DC reboot universe

Wednesday, June 15th, 2011

I really don’t like this new change to Superman’s origin.  Not one bit.

 

For want of a five-year-old child, the industry was lost…

Tuesday, June 14th, 2011

It’s one thing to think that the “new #1 issues” plan that DC Comics is launching is a bad idea.  Reasonable people can disagree about the wisdom of redesigning classic costumes, or of purging some continuity.  There may be regrets about casting aside original titles that were reaching extremely high numbers all for the sake of slapping a “new #1” on the cover.  Maybe the guys at DC are geniuses and innovators, men of daring who have made a huge grab for the brass ring, and it’s gutsy and worth a salute.  Hey, it’s their company and their characters, and I’m just a fanboy and wanna-be.

But when it comes to the economic side of things… I can’t help but think that they didn’t think this through much at all.  I just don’t see how retailers can make this work. How do you order enough copies of these books when the spin on the content is new, the writer is new, and the artist is new?  How do you preorder so much product for one budget-killing month when most comic shops lack the ready cash?

That can’t be, right?  I mean, they’re publishers!  I’m not.  (Well, technically I have published comic books, but you know what I mean.)  This is their business.  They had to have thought these things through, right?

Brian Hibbs writes in his “Tilting at Windmills” column that this is an unmitigated disaster for the retailers.  A single highly-demanded comic that needs to be ordered in the quantity of dozens or even hundreds is a huge financial commitment for a comic shop in the best of times, let alone during an economic downturn.

A new Batman #1?  Big commitment.  A new Superman #1 in the same month as a Batman #1?  How does one afford to stock the shelves with both?  And that’s just two comics, with fifty titles more all coming out in the same month.

What about shelf space?  We’ve all seen those popular books ordered in such mass quantities that they take up 2, 3, 6 slots on the shelves.  If a single book came out with a new #1 and it had to take up  shelfspace, that’s okay… but what about 52 comic books taking up five rows each?  How does one make that work?

There’s another problem:  Issue #2.  Oh, it won’t get the numbers that #1 did, so  the retailers can apply their time-worn rules for what the drop-off is like for an issue #2, and then for 3, 4 and so on.  So that helps, right?  Actually, I see that as another problem.  52 titles all hitting that “dropped book” slump at the same time?  That could make for a lean Christmas.

Did these guys think long-term?  If fifty-two books all hang in there for 50 months, then they will ALL have their double-sized, extra-costly #50 issue in the same month.  That means retailers are trying to stock extra-expensive comic books on their shelves all at the same time.  That portends to be even worse than the new #1s month!

In fact, from a production point of view, every 50 months there’s going to be a run on the bank in terms of creator talent.  Every comic book writer and artist will be hired to fill out the larger issues… and then that’s followed by 49 months of lull.

This production calendar seems unwieldy.  Can it really be possible that no one at DC has thought of these things?  My friends and I are all talking this to death, and we’d never presume to know more than the people running the industry.

Perhaps DC Comics needs to borrow a rule from the Evil Overlord list.  Specifically, #12:

“One of my advisors will be an average five-year-old child. Any flaws in my plan that he is able to spot will be corrected before implementation.”

UPDATE: I’m reminded by Dave Anderson that, as devastating as this is for retailers, it makes total sense as a strategy for getting people to switch to digital comics.  Of course, that assumes that every person whose comic shop can’t cope has a tablet or at least a smart phone.   It’s also, well, evil.