Madman’s one of those characters that achieved legendary status in my mind long before I read a single issue featuring the character. Not long after getting into comics I soon discovered Wizard which turned into my main source of news. While the mag mostly featured mainstream superhero comics, they’d also occasionally talk about indie books being done at the time. I remember reading about everything from Hepcats and Box Office Poison to Hellboy and Madman in the issues. Between that and Madman’s appearances in Kevin Smith films and the action figure aisle thanks to his Graphitti Designs figure, he seemed like a big deal.
As it turned out, my first real foray into the wild world of Mike Allred’s Madman wouldn’t come until I started working at Wizard. I believe I picked up a few of the Superman/Madman Hullabaloo issues when they came out, but don’t remember much of the experience. During my tenure at Wizard, though, Allred moved the book from its longtime home at Dark Horse over to Image where he not only started reprinting the original stories, but also kicked off a pretty mind blowing new one. I quickly fell for the new series and was on the hunt for the reprints.
I even got lucky and scored a copy of the first of three trades featuring the original stories. I read it at some point and dug it like crazy. Later someone passed me the third volume. Great! Only one more to go…cut to five or six years later and I finally have the second volume in my clutches. There’s no great story to the acquisition, I had some extra scratch thanks to my recent birthday, decided to buy myself some trades and figured it was a good time to close that gap. With all three books together, it seemed like the proper time for a read through.
Technically, the first volume consists of two three-issue miniseries’, but really, each issue is its own tale. The first three introduce us to a mysterious figure dressed in a white superhero costume who can read some minds when he touches them. He seems like a pretty good guy, but also goes off the handle every now and then. At least he feels bad about it. That first series introduces us to a lot of mainstays from the book who show back up in the second series, Madman Adventures. This feels more like the traditional Madman I’m familiar with from my later readings. Instead of dealing with clone monsters or murderous wannabe mayors, Madman goes on dates, travels through time, fights robots and helps save a 2,000 year old alien all while working with his mentor Dr. Flem and the increasingly brainy Dr. Boifford. The two books also kick off one of my favorite romantic relationships in comics: Madman and Joe.
When I first started hearing about Madman and maybe saw a few pieces of art here and there I got the idea that the book was filled with fun, retro imagery and light stories. While I was dead-on with the former, I was pretty far off on the later. In fact, the character of Madman is all about dichotomies. Even his name is a misnomer for the most part. This is a person with no sense of his self in the beginning of this book who can read other peoples’ minds with a touch…sometimes. In the first mini he rips a guy’s eye out of his face and chomps on it, in the same trilogy of issues he wonders why he can’t drop F-bombs. And while the art might make you think you’re looking at a cartoony book that’s all bright colors and fun, that’s only half the case. The other half finds our hero contemplating huge questions like “Why am I here?” and “Why can’t we fly?”
The beauty of Madman is simply how beautiful Allred decided it should be. It’s gorgeous to look at. Few cartoonists on the planet hold a candle to Allred in most fields. His wife Laura is perfectly suited to color this big, bold book. And yet the beauty isn’t just in the look of the book, it’s also in the words and the themes and all the wild, emotional places Allred decides to explore.
This commercial for Air Raiders toys has everything I would have loved as a kid: killer animated opening, perfectly 80s theme song, tiny figures in vehicles and playsets! It’s a wonder, really, that I never discovered these toys as a kid. Much like Dino Riders, which I wrote about a few weeks ago, these are basically in the same family as M.A.S.K., a line I loved as a kid. Tiny toys with vehicles was my jam, gang. You add air-powered projectiles and avalanches and this really would have been a home run, but I just never knew about it. In fact, I don’t think I even knew it existed until I did a feature for ToyFare a while back.
Every week or so I spend too much time scrolling through the new movies that show up on Netflix Instant. There’s usually a new release or two of interest and then any number of weird other selections I find myself wondering about. Run, or Street Run as it was apparently called overseas, had me with one work: parkour.
I’ve been fascinated by parkour or free-running since grade school when my pal Jimmy said he saw something on MTV about this thing called freestyle walking. We never tried anything too crazy like the flips and tricks you see in YouTube clips or movies like District B-13, but we had some goofy fun with it now and again. Years later I found out more about how crazy and intense parkour could be. It fits right in with my love of watching over-the-top dance movies or even the Olympics where I enjoy seeing people taking control of their bodies and doing things I’d wind up in a hospital for just thinking about too long.
So, as you can imagine, when I read about this movie about a parkour criminal kid starring Adrian Pasdar from Heroes and Eric Roberts from The Expendables, I was pretty easily sold. To elaborate a bit on the plot, Pasdar plays the father of William Moseley’s character, a high schooler who uses his free running abilities to steal for them because dear old dad keeps them nomadic. After screwing up a job, Pasdar decides to move them back to New York City so he can settle an old score with Roberts who plays a mob boss. While there, Moseley makes friends with a crew of kids who also happen to know parkour and he winds up falling for the main kid’s sister. There’s even talk of a parkour competition which really made me think this was going to turn into the free running version of Step Up or whathaveyou, but that was not to be.
I actually really enjoyed this film. During the day, the shots look pretty fantastic. At night the obvious digital photography gets a little grainy which is too bad, but I’m guessing director Simone Bartesaghi didn’t have mountains of money to play with. Still, I thought they did a lot with what they did have which includes a cast that did a pretty solid job of being both highly athletic and believable. Sure, some of them are a bit wooden, but I’ll trade that for actually seeing an actor’s face when he or she is doing crazy flippies. I also enjoyed the story which had classic crime and sins-of-the-father motifs along with some solid high school romance/friendship stuff. All of this lead to one of my favorite moments in the movie when the high school parkour kids explain Bruce Lee’s “Be like water” philosophy which probably isn’t in a ton of high school movies these days.
But Run isn’t all sunshine and rainbows. There’s a huge pacing problem during most of the chase scenes which make up most of the action (hence the We Want Action header as opposed to Friday Fisticuffs). It seems like from watching the opening scene that initially shows off Moseley’s character’s skills that he should have easily ditched the cops who were chasing him and yet they were constantly on his tail. There’s also the matter of style over substance. I get that parkour’s about expressing yourself through physicality which is awesome, but when you’re using it to go save a kidnapped family member or two, maybe don’t spent so much time hopping over barrels and whatnot. As a whole, shoehorning free running into activities like dates and whatnot might come off as corny, but I guess I’m just a hopeless romantic because I was cool with it.
And then there’s the soundtrack. A year ago I didn’t understand what dub step was (it’s basically electronica/techno, but more annoying). Now I do and I’m old-man-sick-of-it. It’s not super-overwhelming in Run, but it is there and it will date this movie like crazy which is too bad because overall it’s fairly timeless.
I love being surprised by a movie I find on Netflix. Like I said when I wrote about Drinking Buddies, this is like heading to the video store, grabbing a tape I’d never heard of and being pleasantly surprised. I mean, this isn’t like when I randomly discovered The Warriors, but it was still a fun way to spend 90 minutes.
In a lot of ways, flipping through Netflix’s Instant offerings reminds me of my days wandering through my local Family Video and checking out all kinds of movies based on very little information. I usually went by cover or familiar cast, maybe reading the description on the back and just giving all kinds of movies a shot. It’s basically the same thing with Netflix with a lot more landmines thrown in the mix.
When I saw the poster for Drinking Buddies, though, I was pretty sure it was something I’d like. Just look at that cast! Office Space‘s Ron Livingston! New Girl and Safety Not Guaranteed star Jake Johnson! Pitch Perfect‘s Anna Kendrick! And Olivia Wilde whose work I’m not really familiar with. I also didn’t know much about writer/director Joe Swanberg who took a very improvisational approach to this film, often just letting his actors go with a few story details and seeing what happened. Swanberg’s a big deal in the small budget subgenre called mumblecore which usually focus on super personal stories for the characters.
In the case of drinking buddies, Wilde and Johnson play co-workers at a brewery who are also good friends. They’re each in a relationship, Wilde with Livingston and Johnson with Kendrick, but a trip to a cabin soon breaks up the norm for them. I won’t get into spoilers — by the way, skip the IMDb trivia page for the film before viewing because it’s super spoilery in the main section — but the film essentially finds these two characters examining their relationships with one another and their partners.
As I mentioned above, I wasn’t very familiar with Wilde going into this movie, but I found myself really enjoying her character and performance. Of the group, I think she’s got one of the more complicated characters to play and she pulls it off. She’s really great at her job (which seems to be in PR or something along those lines), but doesn’t really have much of her life aside from that in order. Her relationship with Livingston feels like a placeholder even if she doesn’t want to admit it. And when you see her in her apartment, it opens up a whole house full of windows into who she is (the birthday cake thing made me cringe).
Overall I liked this film. The chemistry between the characters is spot on. You get why each person is friends with/connected to/in a relationship with the others and it all feels fresh. I don’t know how big a fan I am of the super realistic way the characters talk though. It might feel more real — people stutter, repeat words and get lost in thought all the time in real life — but that can be distracting in a piece of fiction. But if this improvisation format allowed the actors to better tap into the emotion of their characters, I can handle lots of “likes” and “ums.” The movie also doesn’t have a traditional arc when you think about it. At the end of it, you’re not really sure what’s up with any of the characters. Truths are told, but we have no real idea what ramifications the events of the film have. This also didn’t bother me too much, but I can see it being a sticking point for some. I think if you’re a fan of the actors — Jason Sudeikis is also in a few scenes — and are even remotely familiar with this style of indie filmmaking, I think you’ll dig it too.
I don’t know how often I watched Knight Rider as a kid, but I sure loved the concept. It’s not the kind of show that I have distinct memories of, but how could a kid in the 80s not find something super cool about a guy driving around in a car that talked to him and could occasionally do awesome tricks?
Had I known about this LJN Knight Rider Impossible set, I probably would have been all over it. While I had a small bucket of Matchbox and Hot Wheels cars and one of those orange tracks, they weren’t my main source of toy entertainment. Still, a track with a chargeable KITT that could do crazy loops would have been close to irresistible.
I tried unsuccessfully to start this review with an extended metaphor comparing DC’s New 52 initiative to dealing a deck of cards. It didn’t work out so well, but there is one aspect that I will stick with: Demon Knights is a nice shuffling of characters from different eras dealt together in a new context that play well together. In a lot of ways, this Paul Cornell book is what I was hoping for from more of these New 52 books, fresh takes on old characters that remain true to the characters while not relying on old continuity to tell tales.
And that’s basically what you get with Demon Knights, a book that finds known characters like Vandal Savage, Madame Xanadu, Jason Blood/Etrigan The Demon and Shining Knight along with newbies The Horsewoman, Al Jabr and Exoristos all hanging out in a town under attack from The Questing Queen (who I assumed was Morgaine La Fey) and Mordru in the middle ages. For various reasons, all seven stick around and decide to fight against the overwhelming odds set against them.
Cornell did some wonderful things with this book. Not only does it meet the rubric I mentioned above, but it also does such a good job of introducing all of these characters, balancing their various stories and also telling a tale in seven issues that feels complete while also leading into something else. So many of the New 52 books I read feel like stepping stones or incomplete stories which isn’t bad in and of itself when you’re dealing with monthly comics, but you can’t ignore the fact that so many of these books had creative shake-ups and what not. It’s nice to feel satisfied with a story that also works as a larger chapter.
On a similar level, the book works kind of like something along the lines of JLU or one of the other animated adaptations of these larger comic book universes in that it takes elements I’m familiar with and does different things with them that work because they’re in a completely different setting. I’ve read Jack Kirby’s Demon and then Matt Wagner’s mini, a number of various Savage appearances, Grant Morrison’s Seven Soldiers and also knew enough to figure out who Exoristos was pretty easily. That familiarity didn’t hinder my reading of this, but also wasn’t necessary to enjoy the comic.
Also, while the Seven Samurai-ish set-up of this story isn’t the most unique thing in the world, this comic does something that a movie like 13 Assassins doesn’t in that you learn about the characters as the threat looms, not ahead of time. When you’re watching a “let’s hire assassins” movie in that case or “let’s band together to fight dragons” comics, you kind of want to get right into the action. Cornell does that while also taking a few tangents to get more into characters like Shining Knight and Horsewoman before swerving back around to the big time action.
Artists Neves and Choi also came together to tell a really dramatic, big cool story packed with swords, fire, demons, dragons, robot dragons and priests getting their faces burned off. So much goes on and their kinetic, but clear styles really work well with the material.
All in all, I’m happy to keep this book in my collection. I’d like to get the other books before the series got cancelled and will at some point, but unlike so many other trades I read, I’m not worried about whether the rest of the series will “ruin” how I feel about this one because it stands so well on its own.
After writing about Dino-Riders in last week’s Toy Commercial Tuesday, I found myself looking through even more of their commercials. I actually remember this one from my youth, specifically that triceratops with the flap thingies. Watching these again, I’m kind of amazed that I wasn’t all over this line when it was coming ou tin the late 80s. I wasn’t a big dinosaur fan at the time, but this line still feels right in my wheelhouse. Oh, to think of all the epic Dino-Riders/MASK team-ups and battles I could have deamt up!