Sunday, December 19, 2010

Buffy the Vampire Slayer Reboot

When the Buffy reboot was announced without Joss Whedon involved, I was still excited. I’m a huge Buffy fan and a huge fan of all Joss Whedon shows. But Joss turned down the opportunity to participate in the movie.

To Joss, it probably seemed like a bad move to create a different version of something he already created twice before (the original movie and the TV series). I imagine that he’s really enjoying creating Buffy Season 8 and Angel Season 6 stories that are cannon and that allow him to continue stories he’s already invested in with characters he loves and hand-picked writers and artists he respects. The thought of having a ton of angry fans screaming at him for reinventing something they consider ‘holy’ probably gave him a migraine. I don’t blame him for passing on the project.

When they revealed the rebooted Buffy’s writer, Whit Anderson (no writing credits and two minor acting credits: Yes Man and Saw: Rebirth), I was still excited. Nothing can damper the excitement I feel about the reboot.

As a comic book fan, I’ve suffered through dozens of ‘reboots’ of storylines, characters coming back to life, characters acting completely different from year to year, even new, alternate universes. As a television/movie fan, I’ve seen:

• Movies I loved turned into crappy television shows (like My Big Fat Greek Wedding)

• Television shows I loved turned into crappy movies (like Dukes of Hazzard)

• Movies I hated turned into fantastic television shows (like Buffy the Vampire Slayer)

• Television shows I hated turned into fantastic films (like Charlie’s Angels)

• Movies I loved turned into fantastic television shows (like Stargate Atlantis)

• Television shows I loved turned into fantastic films (like Serenity)

As a fan, I’ve seen a lot of second or third tries on properties. So what’s the worst that could happen? If the Buffy reboot sucks, you don’t have to pick it up on Blu Ray and they probably won’t make a sequel and you won’t have to worry about another Buffy project for another decade. On the other hand, if it rocks, you’ll have 2 or 3 different versions of Buffy to be a fan of. While all of fandom seems to want to slam it, I’m anxious for more Buffy.

Joss won’t do it and Sarah Michelle Gellar has said on several occasions that she’s not interested in participating in any future Buffy projects. The truth is: Buffy is still popular. Buffy merchandise is still coming out, selling out, and being collected by the fans. Why wouldn’t the studio that owns the property want to take another stab at Buffy the Vampire Slayer, bring new fans in, create more merchandise, and generate interest in past Buffy projects?

Let’s face it, Buffy has been off the air for years and while new fans are still finding it, they’re trickling in. Now imagine you make a killer new Buffy film and while fans are waiting for the blu ray release or waiting for the next film to come out, they’re sating their interest by renting and giving the television series a try.

Joss Whedon sitting this project out is a good idea. That way fans can compare the projects against each other without resenting Joss for ‘selling out’ or ‘ruining it’ if the new film stinks. As far as an untested writer tackling the project, she’s a Buffy fan and a film company believes in it enough to pay to make it. We might not think much of her resume, but none of us have seen her screenplay. Will the new Buffy be similar in tone? Will the new Buffy be similar in spirit? Will the new Buffy have fantastic supporting characters? What will the new Buffy’s origin be? No one knows any of these questions. I love the television show and the comics (the season 8 comics, not the ones that came out during the show’s run) and if the new movie is fantastic, none of the fans will turn their back on the original.

I think that most fans feel like making a new Buffy movie means the chance of ever doing anything with the original property is gone. It is, but it was over when Sarah Michelle-Gellar said she wouldn’t do any Buffy projects, it was over when Ripper failed to get off the ground, it failed when Eliza Dushku turned down a Faith spin-off, it failed when the proposed television movies never got off the ground, and it was over when Joss said he didn’t want to participate in the reboot.

I like Uncanny X-Men but I also like Ultimate X-Men – just because there is a new way to enjoy something you’re already a fan of doesn’t mean you have to hate one to enjoy the other. This reboot is going to happen with or without the support of fans so why not wait and see what happens? Maybe, like the Star Trek reboot, our love of the new movie will reinforce our love of the original. If I’ve learned anything being a geek, it’s that there is plenty of room in fandom for more than one fantastic interpretation of the same property.

In a perfect world, this is what the new Buffy movie would look like.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

“How one photo cost $160 and was it worth it?” or “Speedball at Creation Entertainment’s Salute to Firefly, Buffy/Angel & Dollhouse”

Eliza Dushku during her Q&A

This is the fourth year of Creation’s Salute to Firefly and they opened it up to all of Joss Whedon’s creations this year and from now on. Which is okay with me – I’m a fan of everything this convention salutes. It’s my third year attending (I missed it last year). It’s also the first year I didn’t submit a tribute video (you can see my Firefly and Serenity Tributes (both winning videos) on youtube if you search for ‘speedball32’). I wanted to include clips from Dollhouse Season 2 which didn’t come out for sale until after the video’s deadline. Still, there’s next year.

So who was there? Eliza Dushku (Buffy/Angel, Dollhouse), Nicholas Brendon (Buffy), Miracle Laurie (Dollhouse), Camden Toy and Doug Jones (two of the Gentlemen from Buffy episode Hush), Ron Glass (Firefly/Serenity), Sean Maher (Firefly/Serenity), Morena Baccarin (Firefly/Serenity), Jane Espenson (Firefly, Buffy), Drew Greenberg (Buffy, Firefly), and Andrew Chambless (Dollhouse).

Buffy the Vampire Slayer is still my favorite TV series and Eliza Dushku’s “Faith” is still one of my favorite characters (the episode of Angel “Five by Five” is my favorite Faith appearance). Nicholas Brendon’s “Xander” was in every episode but one. The show had four core characters and Xander was one of them. Miracle Laurie was a nice last minute surprise, her character “Mellie’s” story was a great ride with a tragic ending. Ron Glass, Sean Maher, and Morena Baccarin were a third of Serenity’s crew in the Firefly series and Serenity film. There was even an appearance by Eliza Dushku’s boyfriend, Rick Fox (who only a week before had been eliminated from Dancing With The Stars) who sat in the audience and was close by during her photo sessions.

“Browncoats: Redemption” was shown on the big screen at the convention and got a nice reaction from those who watched it. The movie literally kicked off the convention as it was the first thing people were able to see. It was followed by a Q&A by a few of the cast and crew who told amazing stories about the production of the film and how much love went into it (it was obvious to me in the review I wrote of the film back in September that a lot of love went into it). It was easily one of the best moments of the convention and a lot more fun to see with an audience.

The guests were great on their Q&A’s. They were all really entertaining. Creation boasts non-rushed autograph sessions and each autograph session moved nicely and I had time to have a little small talk with each guest which is always fun. Photo sessions are non-rushed also. The events (Q&A’s, photo and autograph sessions) are always well scheduled so you can do everything you want to do.

I attend Comic Con in San Diego every year and, in comparison, I look more forward to going to the Creation convention. At Comic Con, everything you want to do is a fight – huge lines, ultra-small windows of opportunity to get a line ticket or even get in line, nothing is guaranteed (just because you’re in an autograph line doesn’t mean it can’t be disbanded for some reason and just because you have an autograph ticket doesn’t mean the line hasn’t been capped already and you can’t get in anymore). But a lot of the cool stuff at Comic Con is free if you don’t mind the amount of work involved. Creation conventions are ‘pay-to-play’ conventions where everything costs money but everything is guaranteed. You buy a ticket for an autograph or a photo, the celebrity will not leave until everyone’s items are signed or their pictures are taken.

This year I went Preferred instead of Gold (I’ve only done Gold once). The difference is the cool dessert parties and things that the gold members get to do where the celebrities go from table to table for a meet and greet with the fans. Next year, I’m going Gold because I had a great time (as usual) and after a year off I forgot about all the fun I had with my Gold ticket that second year. And I’m going to buy a VIP badge so I can get backstage and have even more contact with the celebrities I’m there to see.

So what’s the story with the photo? It’s a cautionary tale about a guy (me) who bought a bunch of autograph tickets and one $70 ticket for an Eliza Dushku & Nicholas Brendon photo op. I got the ticket because I counted them at the counter and put them in the plastic badge holder around my neck. I went outside for a few minutes and took the tickets back out and looked at them, excited about getting my autographs and photo ops. But my photo op ticket was gone. I checked my pockets, the folder I was carrying, and the badge holder a bunch of times but the ticket was gone. I checked back a few times with the ticket and registration desks but no one had turned the ticket in. I didn’t want to miss the opportunity to get my picture taken with two of the stars from my favorite TV show so I plunked down another $70 for another ticket.

While I was in line for the photo op, they announced that Miracle Laurie from Dollhouse would be a surprise third member for the photo op. I was thrilled because there was one star from Buffy, one from Dollhouse, and one from both shows. When it was my turn they greeted me warmly, we all shook hands, and Nicholas and I had a little banter going back and forth. The photo was taken, they told me to take care, and I left with a big goofy grin. It was a great time.

The next day I went to collect the photo (it was the last photo op of the day so the photos weren’t printed before the convention closed that day) and I paid an extra $10 to have them give me a jpeg of the photo on a CD. If you’re counting, so far I paid $140 for two tickets and $10 for a grand total of $150. A few days after the convention, I loaded the CD and discovered it was the wrong photo. So I had to shell out another $10 to order the jpeg online.

It was an expensive but valuable lesson. DON’T LOSE YOUR TICKETS. Oh yeah, and make sure your picture is on the CD before you walk away. Otherwise you can end up paying twice. I hope whoever found that ticket had as good a time as I did. It was completely worth every penny.

Nicholas, Miracle, Speedball, and Eliza - woohoo!!

Monday, October 11, 2010

Quick Reviews

Here are a bunch of quick reviews on some titles I’ve picked up over the last few months. None of the following issues are books I normally pick up (though I’ll be collecting Scarlet, X-23, and Asset from here on).

Scarlet #1 by Brian Michael Bendis and Alex Maleev

Brian Michael Bendis is one of my favorite writers and while I don’t like every title he’s done, this book is especially well done. I hadn’t heard anything about the title and by the time I spotted the second printing, the first two issues had already sold out.

Scarlet breaks the fourth wall by talking directly to the reader, telling her story. Most first issues struggle to keep my interest while they introduce a character (or a few) and try to give me the origin, an adventure, and a mission for the main character (or characters). This issue gave me a person who I got to know quickly, an origin, and a mission.

I sum Scarlet up this way – she is the female Punisher. Losing someone close to you and looking for revenge isn’t a new idea but Bendis’ breaking of the fourth wall and his ability to tell character-driven stories sets this title apart. I can’t wait to read the second issue (if I can find it).

Batgirl #14 by Bryan Q. Miller, Lee Garbett, and Trevor Scott

Batgirl and Supergirl team up to take on 24 Draculas set free from a 3-D film by a science experiment gone wrong. I like the fact that Stephanie and Kara (Batgirl and Supergirl) know each other away from their super-hero alter-egos and hang out.

This is a fun one-issue team-up story. It’s nice see Stephanie interacting with characters outside the Bat-family. Hopefully the writers will mix her in with other characters outside Gotham in the future.

Wolverine: Weapon X #16 by Jason Aaron, Davide Gianfelice, and Dave McCaig

This issue deals with the aftermath of Nightcrawler’s death during the events of ‘Second Coming.’ Kurt requests Logan do one last thing for him in his will. While Logan is busy fulfilling Kurt’s request, the readers are treated to conversations the two have had before and throughout their friendship.

I bought the issue because I’m a big fan of the Logan/Kurt friendship. I go back to the Chris Claremont & John Byrne days so I have a great affection for that configuration of X-Men. But I admit that I haven’t been a big X-Men fan in years. I did get and read ‘Second Coming’ because I’m a huge New Mutants fan. When Nightcrawler died, I thought what all X-Men fans thought, “I wonder how long he’ll stay dead?”

Despite all that, it was a great story and a terrific way to end the series.

Batman #703 by Fabian Nicieza and Cliff Richards

I picked this one up because it’s the first issue after Grant Morrison’s run so I wanted to see if a new writer could bring this title back to life for me. During the course of this issue, Damian learns something unexpected about his father while Dick sees the similarities between his time as Robin and Damian’s.

If I knew that Bruce wasn’t coming back in the next month or two I might have been more involved or moved by the story (I think bringing Bruce back so soon takes away from the impact of his ‘death’). It was an okay read but I won’t be back until Bruce is back and things are back to normal.

Iron Man: Kiss and Kill – Iron Widow by Joe Ahearne and Brian Ching / Glitch by Karl Kesel and Eric Nguyen

Judging by the cover, this was a story featuring Iron Man, Wolverine, and Black Widow teaming up. Instead, it was two stories – one with Black Widow and one with Wolverine. Both were boring. It’s been months since this first came out so I’m sorry I couldn’t warn you sooner.

Amazing Spider-Man #640-641 by Joe Quesada, Paolo Rivera, Danny Miki, and Richard Isanove

These two issues occur during the ‘One More Day’ story arc when Aunt May is in the hospital but the world is looking to find and arrest Peter.

I bought these two because I thought I’d heard that the Peter/Mary Jane split that happened in ‘One More Day’ would be undone and I wanted to read about that. What I got instead was a retcon of the original ending where Peter and Mary Jane originally made a deal with Mephisto. In this, Peter goes to Dr. Strange and Dr. Strange is able to convince Reed Richards and Tony Stark to try and erase everyone’s memories like they did with The Sentry.

In this version, Peter and MJ are the only two who now remember that he’s Spider-Man. So for those of you who were actually enjoying the last year’s worth of stuff will be unhappy to know that none of that stuff ever happened now. Also, the way to take the sting out of a crappy storyline (Clone War?) is to ignore it ever happened and put out good stories not retcon old ones. Still, this does solve the ‘how will they get back together’ thing.

Ultimate Spider-Man is still the only Spidey title worth reading (it’s one of my favorite titles).

Marvel Adventures: Spider-Man #1 by Paul Tobin, Matteo Lolli, and Christian Dalla Vecchia

I’m not sure if this title is a continuation of the old title or a true #1 because the story starts with our hero aggressively going after a crime boss and Gwen Stacy and Peter Parker have already dated and broken up. Every so often I picked up issues of the old title because they were quick, one-issue stories that were fun. This title isn’t fun. Gwen is narrating about wanting to interview Spider-Man for an unnecessary amount of pages (plural). I didn’t get a good introduction to Sophia, Peter’s girlfriend, so no opinion there. I won’t be picking up issue 2.

Pilot Season: Asset by Filip Sablik, David Marquez, and William Farmer

Asset is the story of “Madeline” (probably not her real name) who is an assassin who manipulates other people into killing her target. In this issue she convinces a guy she’s dating that she’s being abused by her ex-boyfriend so he kills the ex. “Madeline” uses dating sites to find the perfect asset to manipulate.

The story is good and the idea of using dating sites to find people to use as assassins is unique. I’m definitely voting for this title as I’d like to see where it’s going.

X-23 #1 by Marjorie Liu and Will Conrad

X-23 is an interesting character when she’s starred in her own mini-series’. This is the first issue of what may be another interesting series starring X-23. There’s a lot of great stuff with her and Storm discussing Nightcrawler, Emma and Cyclops discussing the impact of putting X-23 on the X-Force squad, and the New X-Men’s reaction to seeing her again. But by the end of the issue, X-23 has relocated from Utopia to a mutant halfway house. What’s her job? We’ll probably find out in issue #2 but the series is off to a great start.

But is this a great jumping-on point for readers? After the main story, Logan narrates X-23’s story from her first appearance to that first issue so that readers are all caught up.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Review of "Browncoats Redemption"

I have a confession: I never watched Firefly when it was on TV the first time (except for Jaynestown which is a horrible first episode to introduce someone to the series). I saw them at Comic Con the first time they came out to promote the movie (it was postponed so they were there two years in a row to promote the film – 2004 & 2005 I think). That first year they were there, I had only just discovered Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel. As you already know, quite a few Firefly actors appeared on those shows. I didn’t get in line for the autograph session because it was jam-packed and I wasn’t a fan of the show.

But, destined to be the huge fan I now am, my friend (who I would introduce to the show and convert into a fan before the movie came out) was approached by one of the security guys in the autograph area. The Serenity signing was over and there was one more promo card (8.5 x 11) that was signed by the entire cast and Joss Whedon. The security guy couldn’t keep it so he gave it to the first person he saw: my friend. He knew I was interested in the signatures because many were on Buffy & Angel (or created both shows (if you’re reading this Joss, thanks for that)). He decided that he’d let me have the signed promo in exchange for making a photocopy of it for him. Right after the con I put Firefly in my Netflix queue and as soon as I was done watching I was hooked and that signed promo went to the top of the list of things I would run out of the house with if it were on fire.

Of course the show was awesome and the movie was just as awesome so I won’t go into those. I bought “Done the Impossible” at the Comic Con a few years ago and thoroughly enjoyed that but it’s been out for a while so I won’t go into that either.

I saw the “Browncoats: Redemption” postcard on the freebie table at Comic Con and checked it out. It looked great and I was excited that some fans were still so passionate and excited by the show and movie to make a fan film – especially a fan film that was 90 minutes long – so I pre-ordered it. And the other day my mailbox rewarded me for all the times I opened it to junk mail and bills by giving me, “Browncoats: Redemption.”

The movie picks up 3 months after the signal went out in Serenity and the universe got hip to what the Alliance did on Miranda. Civil unrest is starting to brew so the Alliance is looking to squash any Independents who might be looking to rally the people. Their mission includes the arrest of one Captain Laura Matthews who is hiding a secret so large that uncovering it threatens to divide and break her crew apart.

I have to be completely honest, I wasn’t expecting much. I was expecting a vaguely familiar universe with a passable script and characters trying to be the original crew. As a fan, I just wanted to see the film so I could have an opinion one way or the other. But what I got was a great story with crew members who had unique personalities and even a twist (Captain Laura Matthew’s big secret) that I never saw coming.

The crew is a likeable bunch who are easy to root for and who I want to see more of. There’s definitely a treasure trove of back-story in these characters, like the reason Lux gave up a successful boxing career or Cam’s history with Laura. There is one scene where some of the crew are sitting around sharing stories and laughs and it felt like a real moment of bonding between old friends and new shipmate, “Pete.” If this movie was the pilot episode, it would have been good enough to bring me back. I would even enjoy fan-made sequels just so I could spend more time with these characters.

Unlike Serenity which is a Firefly class vessel, Redemption is a Scarab class vessel so the good folks at NEO f/x volunteered their time to animate this new ship and scores of skilled volunteers worked tirelessly to build a set that rivaled Serenity’s full-sized set (in Firefly and Serenity, the ship was built so that a camera could follow a crew member throughout the entire ship, giving the viewer a sense of how large the ship is) and pulled it off. The film is shot in the same way the series was (you’ll know what I’m talking about when you see it) so it’s familiar and comforting. The story is sprinkled with inside references from the episodes of the show and the movie. There are even a few outside film references that you might pick up. The film even features cameos from actors who were on the show and in the movie (I won’t ruin the “Who?” or “In what context?” for you).

I only have two complaints. The first is the varying sound quality. The second is a scene in which a rocket sort of explodes next to Redemption and there’s no explanation as to where it came from and the crew sort of ‘under-reacts’ to it. But those two complaints are pretty minor taking the film as a whole. I’ve walked out on movies that took millions to make (“In the Name of the King” and “Crank” come to mind) and have stopped movies before the end, put them in the Netflix envelope and sent them back (“Domino” and “Ninja Assassin” come to mind), but I watched this film straight through and watched all the behind the scenes material.

And the DVD is packed with “making of,” “behind the scenes,” stuff that was amazing. This film was a real labor of love with an all-volunteer force of Browncoats who came from everywhere to pitch in and help and donated funds to the cause. There was a nice feature called, “I am a Browncoat” that features fans filming themselves saying “I am a Browncoat” in varying ways (in varying video qualities) that I thought was really cool. In a film made by a ton of fans, it was one more way to include the fans. There was also a bunch of great interviews between cast and crew of the original by cast and crew of “Browncoats: Redemption.”

For those of you who wondered like I did, “How can they do this without getting sued,” the makers of the film reached out to Fox, Universal, and Joss Whedon to get permission to make film and sell it with the proceeds going to charity.

If you live in LA, the upcoming “Creation Entertainment Salutes Firefly, Buffy/Angel & Dollhouse” in November is playing the film on Saturday of the convention and selling copies of the film (hopefully some of the cast will be there signing). The film’s crew are hoping to sell 32,396 copies of the movie which is the number of copies that the Serenity Collector’s Edition sold on its release weekend (the Collector’s Edition came out a few months after the initial DVD was released) and would give each charity about $80,000 each. And who are the charities? The charities are, Equality Now, Kids Need to Read, The Dyslexia Foundation (TDF), The Al Wooten Jr. Heritage Center, and The Marine Corps Law Enforcement Foundation. These are all charities that are supported by the cast Firefly cast and Joss Whedon.

The film was completely worth ordering, fun to watch, and I’m looking forward to seeing it again and again.

Browncoats: Redeption official site
The Facebook page

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Batman: Under the Red Hood review

As someone who read the comics that this movie is based on, I expected a great film and was not disappointed. Judd Winick is great at getting into the character’s heads and writing character-driven stories. Of course we all know the basic premise – Joker kills the second Robin, Jason Todd, and when he’s resurrected, he goes after Batman and The Joker. The execution of the original story was well done.

I’m not a big fan of the DC Universe animated films. Having been a huge Batman: The Animated Series, Superman, Justice League, and Justice League Unlimited fan, I am used to the voice of Batman, Superman, etc, so when you hire a bunch of different actors every film to voice familiar characters it’s distracting. The story was good enough to get past the need to hear Kevin Conroy’s voice coming out of Batman’s mouth. Even though they aren’t the original voices, Bruce Greenwood, Jensen Ackles, John Di Maggio, Neil Patrick Harris, and Jason Isaacs fill in just nicely.
I liked the flashbacks with Batman and Jason Todd’s Robin in happier times fighting crime, showing how they met, and showing Jason’s developing temper. This was probably the most intense DCU animated project I’ve seen and it didn’t pull punches when it came to things like Joker almost beating Jason to death with a crowbar.

Watch this film – but not with little kids. Yeah – it’s that intense.

This disk also has great features.

It has a Jonah Hex animated short based on a story from the comic series. It features the voices of Thomas Jane (as Jonah Hex), Linda Hamilton, Michael Rooker, and Michelle Trachtenberg. It’s a fun, fast story with great action (but features a scene with a prostitute about to have sex so watch it before you show it to the kids).

There’s a preview of Superman/Batman: Apocalypse. This is the animated project based on the introduction of Supergirl in the Superman/Batman comic book series. It reunites original voices, Kevin Conroy (Batman), Tim Daly (Superman), and Susan Eisenberg (Wonder Woman) with Summer Glau voicing Supergirl. It looks fantastic and as close as I’ll get to a Justice League voice cast reunion.

There are also 4 Batman: The Animated Series episodes as a bonus. In watching these episodes, was really struck me is that, even though the show is 15+ years old, each episode had a great story that was character driven and looked like a movie. It was a ground-breaking show and became the style that DC used on a lot of the cartoons that followed: Superman, Justice League, Justice League Unlimited, Teen Titans, and Legion of Super-Heroes.

So my verdict is this is a film worth having on your DVD/Blu Ray shelf.

Essential books to go with this movie:

Batman #408 – the introduction of Jason Todd.
Batman: A Death in the Family (reprints Batman #426-429) – Jason Todd goes to Ethiopia in search of his long-lost mother. The Joker lures him into a trap and is beaten half to death by the ker. Batman rushes to save him but Jason and his mother are killed in the exploding warehouse. Batman carrying Jason’s body from the warehouse is one of the most iconic moments in DC’s history.
Batman: Under the Red Hood Volume 1 (reprints Batman #635 - #641) - Batman vs Jason Todd with flashbacks galore.
Batman: Under the Red Hood Volume 2 (reprints Batman #645-650 and Batman Annual #25) – Jason’s resurrection at the hands of Ras’ al Ghul revealed and Jason's desire for revenge drives him to kidnap the Joker and force Batman to decide: kill Joker, or let Jason kill Joker.

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman's anniversary issues

With the exception of anything written by Paul Dini and reading Final Crisis, I’m not a consistent Batman reader. As far as Superman and Wonder Woman, I only know what I’ve read in either Wizard or Previews. I decided to get the anniversary issues and the following issues to see if they were good stories and good jumping on points for me. Here’s what I found.

Batman #700 & #701

Batman #700 had one story, “Time and The Batman” by Grant Morrison, Tony Daniel, Frank Quitely, Scott Kolins, Andy Kubert, and David Finch. This offbeat story features the Maybe Machine, which is a device that allows someone to time travel. We get to see a cameo from the Terry McGuiness Batman as well as other alternate realities. It was fun seeing the Dick Grayson and Damian Wayne version of Batman & Robin having fun beating up bad guys.

I knew that ‘killing’ Bruce Wayne was temporary and that it was inevitable that he’d come back but, seeing the new Batman & Robin in action makes me wish that return was a few years away. It would be nice to see this new team really make a mark so that Bruce’s return is more of a transition for Dick (maybe not Damian because Tim will probably stay Red Robin for a while).

Batman #701 goes back to the RIP story arc where Bruce has just escaped from Doctor Hurt and gets called in by Superman to take a look at the spot where Orion was killed at the start of Final Crisis.

Batman #700 was kind of confusing. I wasn’t always sure of what was real and what was part of the time travel (or alternate reality). With the exception of a few moments, the rest was either confusing or boring.

Batman #701 should have been an opportunity to capitalize on the increased demand for Batman #700 by introducing a new story arc instead of closing out a story arc that gives us details on events that happened recently. With Bruce Wayne returning I think readers could use more Dick Grayson Batman stories. When Bruce returns, that’s when you drop the final RIP chapter. In any case, I won’t be getting Batman #702.

Superman #700 & #701

Superman #700 has 3 stories:

The Comeback by James Robinson & Bernard Chang

Parasite is chasing after Lois Lane when Superman saves her. Apparently he was gone for a long time and this is the first time they’re seeing each other. Nice interaction between the two of them after a long absence.

Geometry by Dan Jurgens & Norm Rapmund

This is a tale from Superman’s past, back when Dick Grayson was still Robin. While Bruce Wayne is at a Wayne Industries function, Robin decides to take on gunrunners and gets an assist from Superman. Robin is disobeying Bruce’s order to stay in the mansion and Superman helps him slip back in. This story had me laughing at the end. It’s great to see Dan Jurgens & Norm Rapmund telling great stories with the character they contributed so much to.

Grounded by J. Michael Straczynski & Eddy Barrows

Superman returns to Metropolis where he’s inundated by politicians and reporters who question his allegiances. Unable to come up with anything he felt was sufficient to answer their questions, Superman decides to literally walk among the people he abandoned. It is Superman’s way of rededicating himself to Earth and reconnecting with its people again.

In Superman #701, “Grounded Part 1” by J. Michael Straczynski & Eddy Barrows continues where #700 left off. Superman continues walking around and connecting with everyday people. The most interesting part of the issue is when Superman talks a jumper out of committing suicide. Throughout the issue, when someone asks him a question, Superman answers each one thoughtfully. I don’t know if it’s my imagination but did Peter Parker make a cameo in this issue?

Every story in Superman #700 was worth getting the issue for. I like this ‘ground-zero’ approach to Superman and will add this to my pull list to see how it develops.

Wonder Woman #600 & #601

Wonder Woman #600 has five stories:

Valedictorian by Gail Simone & George Perez

When Ivo’s Cyber-Sirens attack The White House, Wonder Woman and a few dozen of DC’s female heroes show up to stop them. Their combined might makes short work of the villains which is good news because Diana rushes off to watch Vanessa graduate high school. It’s a good story that lets the readers see Vanessa again and reminds us of who she is to Diana. The Diana/Vanessa conversation is meat of this story but the opening action between the DC ladies and villains makes me wish George Perez was doing something monthly. It’s a good story and the only story worth buying the issue for.

Fuzzy Logic by Amanda Connor

After Power Girl and Batgirl help Wonder Woman take down Egg Fu, Power Girl needs Wonder Woman’s advice. Unfortunately Power Girl wants advice on her cat. Moving on…

Firepower by Louise Simonson & Eduardo Pansica

Nikos Aegeus vs Wonder Woman & Superman in a by-the-numbers team-up against a foe clearly out of his league.

The Sensational Wonder Woman by Geoff Johns and Scott Kolins

This is a sort of origin story with 2 unknown narrators talking about Wonder Woman before she goes through a doorway to “Let the odyssey begin.”

Odyssey Prologue: Culture Shock by J. Michael Straczynski & Don Kramer

Wonder Woman’s new costume (and it is cool) debuts as she takes on a few thugs who self-destruct. She goes to see the Oracle for information and she shows Wonder Woman what Paradise Island looks like. The Oracle is funny and I enjoyed their interaction. The only thing that bothered me (and this is nit picky) is when one of the robed people (I don’t know who they were – but she had to talk to them to get access to the Oracle) talked to her and Wonder Woman responded, “Don’t EVEN go there with me.” Wonder Woman is someone of few words unless she’s talking to a friend in warm, cultured language. Wonder Woman doesn’t use slang.

In Wonder Woman #601 (by J. Michael Straczynski & Don Kramer) “Past Imperfect, Present Tense,” we’re given an alternate version of what happened on Paradise Island. She has visions of herself in the old costume then we find out that she can’t fly anymore. What’s most disturbing is that she’s told she can’t fly YET, not that she can’t fly anymore. It looks like Straczynski is retconning the character as though she’s brand new. If so then she doesn’t know the other heroes of the DCU or Vanessa and it erases all past history which would be unfortunate.

I like the new costume but the new direction is annoying – I don’t need yet another alternate history for the character. Wonder Woman #600 was worth getting but I won’t be buying #602.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Paula Garces presents Aluna

While at the Comic Con this year I got a few autographs from Paula Garces. She starred alongside Jesse Bradford in Clockstoppers and more recently appeared alongside Michael Chiklis. She was selling a package with her new comic book and an autographed photo. I read the comic book, Aluna, and here are my thoughts.

The book starts in 1520 with our protagonist, Aluna, running for her life from Spaniards. From the moment she gets off the boat to confront the Spaniards, she feels strange. While being chased she discovers she has power over nature (creating lightning and wind). At one point she is injured and flowers sprout up in the blood trail.

There’s a familiar feel to the character (think the X-Men’s Storm in 1520) but that gives me something to identify with. Also, in the midst of running for her life, a native saves her life, tells her that he knows she has power, then tries to kill her so he can take her power (the cliché is someone running in to tell her about her destiny and helping her escape then bonding with her).

The writing is a little clunky. The story begins with her on the run then backs up to show how she got there but there’s no reference to what country Aluna and the people on her boat are from – am I supposed to look it up on Wikipedia – or what their beef with the Spaniards are and who they’re killing. And besides Aluna, there aren’t any other developed characters. I don’t even know what Aluna is fighting for and having her leave the boat while everyone’s sleeping and run into a group of Spaniards on purpose without any weapons (she doesn’t know she’s powerful at that point) seems a ridiculous way to isolate her to stage a chase scene.

The art is pretty good. With the exception of a few panels, I understood what was happening (there are two panels where she trips the native to the ground where I had no idea what was happening until he hit the ground). But I do love the action scenes where, on one panel, there are several pictures of the same person tumbling through the air. I miss artists doing that – now you only see that kind of thing in a Flash panel.

Aluna isn’t a bad independent book and it may be worth getting #2 to see how the story develops. Hey, it’s a two issue mini-series so why not?

Paula Garces
Aluna #1
She's also promoting something called themun2 look which premieres August 21, 2010
Paula from Clockstoppers

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Comic Con International 2010

As I do every year, I went to Comic Con. A lot of you were there (or have already read tons about the experience).

For me, the coolest thing at Comic Con wasn’t inside the convention center – it was a few blocks away. Disney built the ‘Tron Experience’ in a warehouse in the heart of the Gaslamp Quarter. Above the doorway said “Flynn’s” which looked like the neon sign about Flynn’s arcade in the original movie.

When you walk in, the first room is a small arcade with the original Tron game and games like Ms. Pac-Man. On one wall were flat panel TVs where the upcoming Tron Legacy game was being played on an X-Box 360, PS3, and Wii. I don’t have a Wii but that’s what I ended up on, playing a friend on the light-cycle level. It was a blast – the new game is going to rock. There was a vending machine in a corner with nothing but Coke Zero. The best part of this room was that the Coke Zero and the video games were all free.

The second room had props from the original movie including the digitizer. It didn’t have much to see so people moved on pretty quickly to the third room.

In the third room was a perfect recreation of a bar from the movie Tron Legacy (the picture I have on this blog is from an on-set visit, the one in the Tron Experience is the same minus the camera). Behind the bar in the included picture, covering the entire wall, is a screen playing a preview every few minutes. Around the sides of the room is a place where a mannequin with the new uniform is displayed. On the other side is a small bar where Coke Zero is handed out and there are Tron-related products on display (including AWESOME 3.75” figures that light up and lightcycles). I must have spent about 45 minutes lounging in that room watching the previews and the woman in the white Tron outfit who would slowly walk back and forth while the preview played.
The third room was this set - without the cameras and crew. And all the deep blue behind the bar was a screen.
Tron girl walked around slowly and at the end of the trailer, took photos with anyone who asked. Very cool.

On the way back I spent a few minutes watching the protest outside the convention center. Protest…at Comic Con? About a dozen members of the Westboro Baptist Church led, as always, by their minister Fred Phelps. If you aren’t familiar with that group, they’re the wack jobs who go to soldier funerals with signs that say the soldier is going to hell for fighting. They came out to Point Loma a few months ago to protest something at the Rock Church. Phelps’ group is extreme (check out what the kid’s t-shirt says).

Phelps' itty-bitty group
Including this poor kid (can't be more than 8)
Our nerd force!
Cool signs

Comic Con is that one magical time of the year when nerds and geeks with all different interests and beliefs come out and there was a hefty contingent of them (by hefty I mean about 60) who counter protested with signs that were irreverent and hilarious. It was a peaceful demonstration but what do you expect from a bunch of people who continually bump into one another in the crowded isles of the convention center and immediately (and usually at the same time) say, “sorry” to one another?

James Marsters was signing (that was a strange transition - let's push on) at the Lightspeed Fine Arts booth – his was one of one 4 autographs I got this year (I was really selective – actually I’d seen most of these folks at Wizard World Anaheim or last year). He’d only been at the booth a few minutes and I’d gotten my autograph ticket the day before so we got to talk for a few minutes. I don’t remember what we talked about – I’m sure I asked about what panels he’d be on and if he’d be at the Creation Con in November (he said he wouldn’t) and told him to have a good con.

I also scored my very first autograph from Alaina Huffman at the Official Pix booth. I haven't seen her work on Stargate Universe but I'm a big fan of Smallville (from season 7 on) and got a signed picture of her as Black Canary. I'm a sucker for autographs from people who have played super-heroes. It was fun talking Smallville with her. She wants to do season 10 if the stories call for Black Canary and she encouraged me to go to the Smallville panel. Alaina's really cool and I hope one day there will be Creation Smallville conventions. I have a feeling she'd be very interesting on stage as well.

Alaina Huffman

I was there at the Joss Whedon Experience (the annual Joss Whedon panel where he updates everyone on what he’s doing and takes questions. The last question was from a disguised Nathan Fillion who asked him who his favorite actor to work with was. That was a lot of fun and really exciting for the crowd. Count on Nathan Fillion to inject more fun into everything.
Joss taking a question; preparing to be brilliant

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Spudtrooper Adventure

For my birthday this year, a co-worker gave me a Spudtrooper. That's a Mr. Potatohead in a Stormtrooper uniform. I started thinking of ways to display him - should I pair him with 3 3/4" figures? Then I went to Wizard World Anaheim 2010 and they had a lot of cheap figures and I imagined them in funny situations with the Spudtrooper so I picked a few up. Then I got a few more cheap figures at Southern California Comics (my homebase for comics) - I was starting to assemble a cast.

I wanted it to look like a strip in Toyfare but I don't have the space or skill to pull that off so I did the best I could. I gave my co-worker this strip for her birthday.