Casting Internets

Writing, writing, writing, I did lots of writing. For CBR I covered Planetoid and Enormous.

Meanwhile, for Marvel I wrote about Ryan Stegman taking over on Fantastic Four, Jamie McKelvie taking over Defenders, Fred Van Lente’s issue of Hulk Smash Avengers, a Harley Davidson Avengers comic and Stegman’s Five Favorite Avengers.

In writing-my-friends-have-done news, Sean T. Collins not only reviewed Shia LaBeouf’s minicomics for The Comics Journal, but also interview the writer and artist for Rolling Stone. I think I might download one or two of these for my Fire. Expendables MiniMates are now a thing! Think of all the customizing options now!

Beer makes men smarter. Yes. Good. (via Esquire)

THR says that Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson are going to be in a new comedy shooting soon called Internship. Love those guys together.

I don’t have HBO, so I won’t be seeing Girls for a while, but I’m excited to. This THR interview with Judd Apatow from last week helped.

Finally got around to reading this Rolling Stone article from 1986 about the Monkees resurgence and reunion that they posted after Davy Jones passed away. I actually saw them on that tour with my parents and remember being personally insulted that Mike Nesmith didn’t do the tour.

Rolling Stone also talked to former Hole guitarist Eric Erlandson about his upcoming poem book Letters To Kurt about Nirvana frontman Cobain. Sounds like an interesting project.

Erlandson also spoke to FuseTV and revealed that Cobain was working on a White Album-esque solo record when he died. Someone needs to get that into existence so I can hear it.

Less interesting to me than the fact that Stephen King is writing a amusement park serial killer novel called Joyland is that Neil Gaiman wrote about hanging out with him and and Joe Hill.

I really like Glen Brogan’s Where’s Waldo-inspired Jason wallpaper that you can download for free on Strange Kids Club.

Hey, remember the Hives? They have a new record coming out soon! (via RS)

I’m not the biggest fan of the name Thrillbent, but I am very excited to see what Mark Waid and John Rogers have planned for digital comics. This could be the future, folks.

In other digital comics news, DC is doing an out-of-continuity Batman comic that will be purely digital. Better yet? Jeff Parker is writing! (via Robot 6)

I’ve been enjoying the Only The Young Die Young Tumblr for a while now. So many great pictures and tracks posted on a daily basis. The guy who runs the site is in a band called The Agenda and recently posted all or most of their songs which I’ve really been digging these past few days. I don’t really care about Banshee, but I do like the idea of how crazy his family is. Therefore, I’m a fan of Luca Pizzari’s Project: Rooftop redesign of the characters.

The description for the upcoming James Bond game 007 Legends is fairly vague, even with a very long press release, but I’m still excited. (via SHH)

Friday Fisticuffs: Exit Wounds (2001)

Exit Wounds has everything! And by that I don’t mean,”It has everything you want in an action movie,” but more so in a “You’ve seen literally everything in this movie in other movies” sense. Even so, consider yourself SPOILER WARNED for the rest of the post. The idea here is that bad-for-business cop Steven Seagal is transferred to an urban precinct as a punishment for throwing the Vice President off a bridge (to save his life, mind you). While there he befriends a cop played by Isaiah Washington (the homophobe from Grey’s Anatomy) and finds himself going up against reputed gangster DMX and his business partner Anthony Anderson. BUT, are they really the bad guys? No, of course not, that would be a small army of dirty cops who have a drug laundering business where they soak T-shirts in liquid heroine before shrink wrapping them and shipping them all over the world. Get it? LAUNDERING. Anyway, as it turns out, DMX is actually a genius website guy who uses his fortune to fund his own police force to keep the streets safe.

That’s actually the most interesting part of the movie, he’s kind of a black Tony Stark or Batman with a whole group of people working undercover for him. Unfortunately this makes up for only a very small portion of the film. Had it focused mostly on these guys with an early second act reveal or something, that would have been awesome.

Instead, the film hits all the cliches. Ridiculous opening scene that gets Seagal in trouble, angry cop boss, overly rowdy inner city precinct, an actual scene of him as a crossing guard (something that’s usually just a threat), a run in with the established cops in the locker room, one guy standing up for him, way too many dirty cops to go unnoticed. Oh, one of the two — I forgot to mention there were two — cop bosses actually gives the good ol’ “I don’t risk my ass protecting these people for a measly $40K a year” speech. Luckily there’s still a good cop boss to come in and save the day (huge bonus points for the casting of Predator‘s Bill Duke, who’s always awesome). You, of course, also get the final bad guy match ups with the heroes. Seagal takes on Michael Jai White while Washington goes after the main dirty cop guy. There was another dirty cop who was big and blond and looked like he could kick some ass, but that doesn’t fit into the equation, so they simply shoot him.

So, no, the plot is in no way new or different. And, in fact, neither are the fight scenes, really, they’re just taken from a different kind of movie. The final Seagal and White fight is really strange in that they both find these giant swords to fight with which directly leads to White doing some insane wire-fu flips where he hangs in the air for far too long. An odd choice for a surprisingly real world-based action flick. Another odd choice is the fact that the fights between good guys and bad guys mirror each other so specifically. While Seagal and White fight with swords, DMX fights a guy using shotgun as a blunt weapon. The deaths of the main bad guys are also very similar as one falls from a helicopter onto a pipe and the other gets kicked into a while with a neck-level spike.

Even so, this was kind of a fun movie to watch. DMX is actually really good in it as is pretty much everyone but the wooden-as-always Seagal. If you were so inclined, you could play a pretty fun renegade cop drinking game to this movie with a bunch of friends and have a good time. I laughed more times that I was intended to and didn’t have to pay a lot of attention, so it served it’s purpose well.

Ad It Up: Wizard #27

Regular readers will remember that I read and didn’t really get 1993’s Archer & Armstrong #17 from Valiant a few weeks back. Before tossing it in the get rid of pile, I went through and snapped a few pictures like this one for the 27th issue of Wizard. I was still a few years away from discovering the magazine at that point, but I do remember seeing this Jim Lee Wildcats cover in books and around the office. Interviews with Alan Moore and Travis Charest? Sounds like a pretty solid issue, actually. Plus I wouldn’t mind getting my hands on a Mortal Kombat arcade cabinet.

80s Odyssey: Weird Science (1985)

I’ve been doing some writing the past two nights which has been very creatively gratifying, especially because I’ve been slacking a bit in that department of late. When I write, I like to have something on in the background that I can not necessarily ignore, but not really pay full attention to. Now that I think about it, that’s a pretty crummy way of explaining why I watched Weird Science the other night, but it’s the truth. I realized a few minutes in that this was probably the first time I’d actually watched this movie from beginning to end unedited. I actually have this relationship with most of Johns Hughes’ teen-centric movies because they were on TV so much when I was a kid that I’d just catch bits and pieces here and there.

Anyway, I was actually surprised with how silly this flick is. Don’t get me wrong, that’s not a bad thing, it’s just something I wasn’t expecting. I mean, I knew that these guys created a girl using a computer that could probably have barely handled solitaire, let alone the incredible feat of scanning images, figuring out what they meant and then incorporating that information into the techno-organic genie they wound up creating out of a Barbie doll. I think the reason the silliness isn’t offensive or boring is because most of it comes from an honest place. Of course it’s silly that Wyatt and Gary shower with their new creation wearing their clothes (and shoes in Gary’s case), but that hints at the sexual confusion and fear many guys that age feel as things change internally and externally.

That’s really the key to Hughes’ films, the honesty found therein. But, while some of his other films might get a little too inside their own teenage angst, this one really has fun with itself. I definitely need to give this film, as well as the rest of Hughes’ flicks, a more concentrated look, but this one served it’s purpose well.

Marvel Trade Post: Escape From The Negative Zone & Rick Remender’s Venom Volume 1

Uncanny X-Men/Steve Rogers Super-Soldier: Escape From The Negative Zone
Written by James Asmus, drawn by Nick Bradshaw, Ibraim Roberson & Max Fiumara
Collects Uncanny X-Men Annual #3, Steve Rogers: Super-Soldier Annual #1 & Namor: The First Mutant Annual #1

Escape From The Negative Zone is one of those books I wasn’t super interested in, but I had set up a Swap with someone when it turned out they forgot about trading one of the books I wanted. I scanned the list, saw that this starred a post-Reborn Captain America and thought it might be a fun read. And, luckily, that’s exactly what it is.

I don’t believe I’ve ever read one of Asmus’ comics before, but I thought he did a great job combining superheroes I’m (mostly) familiar with, a situation that’s fun (them trapped in an alternate dimension) and even some prison-escape elements. Basically, Cyclops, Hope, Dr. Nemesis and Namor get accidentally teleported to the Negative Zone where they run afoul of Blastaar. Blastaar wants to kill Reed Richards and asks for him to come to the NZ, but Steve Rogers goes instead. The five of them then need to work together (well, four because Namor’s going crazy without water) to get home as their previous mode of exit changes.

I also like that this is the kind of story you can enjoy without knowing much about the characters. It’s not the kind of story where you get a lot of background — I still know next to nothing about Nemesis or Hope — but you get a good feel for the characters. You might not know what Steve Rogers’ deal is, but you know from the way he’s written what kind of guy he is, same for the other characters. Dynamics and attitudes are shown instead of told in a way that doesn’t feel shoehorned. All that combined with a fun story that never slows down until the end and you’ve got a really fun comic.

Oh and the art is bonkers-good. I don’t believe I’ve read comics by Bradshaw, Roberson or Fiumara before, but I definitely want to moving forward. Bradshaw looks kind of like Art Adams in the amount of detail he puts in but a little cartoonier.  I definitely want to see more of his stuff. Roberson is a different matter all together, his figures are big and bold and everything looks painted, sort of like a far less digital Ariel Olivetti. Then you’ve got Fiumara who’s something else altogether, kind of a cross between Jae Lee and Skottie Young with style in spades. I’m not always a fan of a collection with so many different artists, but I loved this one, specifically because these guys are so good.

My only complaint about the collection is that it’s pretty pricey. Mind you, I didn’t actually purchase this book, I traded for it, but somebody out there is. I appreciate that it’s a hardcover and in the deluxe format, but $20 for a book whose comics would have cost you $12 total is a bit rough. Still, the larger size really shows off that rad art and story, plus they went with a white color for the cover which really stuck out to me for some reason.

Venom By Rick Remender Volume 1
Written by Rick Remender, drawn by Tony Moore & Tom Fowler
Collects Venom #1-5

The complete opposite of EFTNZ, I was actually really looking forward to checking out Rick Remender’s run on Venom. He’s a guy whose work I’m slowly catching up on, but has a real talent for coming up with rad concepts that are sometimes a little too awesome for Big Two comic readers (I’m thinking specifically of Frankencastle). However, I was left a little flat after reading this collection.

If you’re unfamiliar with the concept behind this book, it’s that the government has captured the (a?) symbiote suit and, by using drugs and whatnot, have essentially turned it into living armor for a soldier. In this case the soldier is familiar to Spider-Man fans as Flash Thompson, a vet who lost his legs in service for his country and now uses the suit to take on bad guys while trying to keep control of the suit and not get addicted to it.

My biggest problem with this book is that it seems to have been printed funny. I kept having trouble focusing on Tony Moore’s art in the first issue which was bothersome because I think he’s great. I’m not sure if the lines didn’t come out right or if something was just the slightest bit off, but the whole book had a kind of fuzzy quality to it that I had trouble pinning down. Making matters worse, it’s not a consistent problem throughout the book. I’d be squinting and trying to focus, turn the page and then get treated to some crisp art, but it would be something less than dynamic like two characters talking.

I had a few story problems as well, but I think that’s because I don’t read Amazing Spider-Man or have a deep knowledge of Flash Thompson. For instance, I assumed the Betty that Flash is dating was Betty Brant, but her last name wasn’t actually said until something like the third issue. There’s also a point later on in the book where Thompson says something about his boss being blind, which there was something that came out of nowhere for me. I even went back and looked at his other appearances and saw no indication of him being blind, though it could have been mentioned in the dialog and I missed it.

Aside from those problems, though, this is a really fun idea. One of my favorite What If?! stories has Punisher getting his quite-gloved hands on the Venom symbiote. There’s a lot of that idea here, but instead of Thompson mentally defeating the symbiote, Flash is constantly in fear or losing control, something that I’m not very interested in. That’s your basic werewolf premise and something that’s all over the place in comics. I also could not help but wonder if this idea would have been better serviced as a creator-owned comic. I know it wouldn’t have had the fan wow factor, the pedigree or — I assume — the financial benefits, but I wonder if Remender’s the kind of creator who might wind up working much better outside the set constraints of a shared universe like Robert Kirkman does. But, like I said, it was a fun story that I’m sure Spidey fans dug, it just wasn’t the kind of thing that really got me excited.

The Kindle Fire Is Awesome

Right off the bat, I want to make it clear that this isn’t a “the Kindle Fire is better than the iPad post” because it’s not. I’ve had limited access to iPads and think they’re pretty rad, but I don’t own one because of the expense involved. I do however owned a refurbished Kindle Fire that Amazon sold at a discount price a few weeks back. My wonderful wife and darling daughter got it for me as a combined birthday and Father’s Day present.

I must say, I love this thing. I was a little worried that either the Fire or my iPhone would start feeling redundant because the only real difference is size, but I’ve found that I like checking and responding to email and looking at Twitter better on my phone which also benefits from being more carryable when I’m out and about. The main thing I’ve been using the Fire for is reading, specifically comics.

As a writer about comics, I have access to PDFs of books from various companies. I’ve been downloading these things for a while, but really dislike sitting on the couch with my laptop and reading a comic PDF. After being with this thing all day, I just need some time away in the evenings when I’m relaxing. The resolution on the files isn’t always the best, but I can still enjoy flipping through a comic either horizontally or vertically. This is really the way I want to consume my graphic fiction in the future. Who needs all the clutter and the ridiculously high price of printed comics anymore? I just want to read them and move on to the next thing. If I really like something, I’ll probably get it in trade, though I have read some collections on the Fire as well and might just be able to convert my thinking to that format as opposed to the hard copy one.

I’ve also been downloading some of the classic free books from the Amazon store. I’m currently reading G.K. Chesterton’s The Man Who Knew Too Much. I’m roughly 13% through it, which is an interesting way to think about books. Sometimes a book with a large page count can be overly intimidating, but I wonder if seeing a mere percentage will change how I think in that regard. So far I’ve found that the black on white text doesn’t hurt my eyes too much, but extended exposure can be a little rattling. I’m also experimenting with the white on black which seems to work better for me in the day time than in the dark. If nothing else, I’ll be on my way to reading more classic literature, just like my college days.

I’m also a big fan of using the Read It Later app which cost about $3. Read It Later is an add-on you can download for your web browser that allows you to save a web site or page by clicking a yellow arrow that appears in your browser window. I have the app on my phone, laptop and now the Fire, all three of which access the same account. Like with the comic PDFs, I much prefer to sit with the Fire and read through the stories I saved throughout the week than with the laptop, especially as the days and nights start heating up as we go into summer.

Getting the Fire also turned me on to a service that I think I will grow to like very much as well which is Amazon’s Cloud service. My wife and I have decided to get an Amazon Prime membership again this year which gives you unlimited access to the cloud and I’ve been uploading my music ever since. I’m not quite sure why you can’t just prove you own something and have Amazon just copy the digital files they already have over, but what are you gonna do? I’ve got about half of my laptop’s music library up there and it’s been great because, as long as you’ve got internet access, you can get into those files on the cloud without taking up any space on the device itself. I’m hoping they come out with an iPhone app eventually, but we’ll see.

Games aren’t really my thing, but I have downloaded a few free ones like Fling and Quell which both look nice. I also haven’t really explored the video capabilities, but do have the Netflix and Hulu Plus apps downloaded for when I do. I literally just hit the Video tab for the first time and discovered that Amazon Prime members also get access to lots of streaming content for free (as well as discounts on books and other downloads). I also downloaded the Wired app to supplement my subscription and can’t wait to dig into that a bit more.

I’m also really impressed with how well integrated the systems are. Obviously, they’re all hooked up to the Amazon store, but if you’re looking for a book to read, movie to watch or record to listen to, they’re only a few taps away. Speaking of which, I’m still getting used to typing on the thing. I’ve taken a few notes and written a few emails, but I don’t think the system is fast enough for my thumbs (or I’m possibly too clumsy for it). I felt the same way about the iPhone when I got that, too, though, so I’m sure it’s just a matter of time. I love the idea of being able to carry a device with me, though, that has so much functionality and gives me the opportunity to get the heck away from my laptop, but still catch up on the media and material I enjoy reading, listening to and watching.

The Box: Lobo Annual #1, Snake Eyes Declassified #2 & Crux #6

My continued adventures with the longbox of comics my pal Jesse sent me for my birthday from Cardsone took me back into the world of Bloodlines, the history of one of the coolest G.I. Joes around and into the first of many CrossGen comics I’ll be reading.

My first pick up was Lobo Annual #1 from 1993 written by Alan Grant and drawn by Christian Alamy. It was actually a pretty interesting one as it’s an early chapter in the saga that would become Bloodlines, an effort to bring some new, edgy blood into the DC Universe by way of some aliens based on the seven deadly sins who eat people with the metagene. Back when Bloodlines was actually coming out, I didn’t have enough cash to purchase annuals at their whopping $3.50 cover price. Add the fact that they had no real real importance on what happened in the ongoing series’ and I skipped out.

The interesting thing about this issue, in addition to teaming Lobo up with a female character named Layla who took no guff from him, this issue explains how the invading parasite aliens wound up getting their human looks: by mimicking the looks of some L.E.G.I.O.N. agents they took out.

Lobo’s the kind of character you either dig or you don’t, I do so this was a fun issue. I’m also a bit of a fan of L.E.G.I.O.N. and R.E.B.E.L.S., though it’s more of a curiosity since I didn’t read the books when they came out. On it’s own, the issue actually works pretty well and it also holds some sort of importance on the oncoming Bloodlines story, but it was worth the read, though maybe a little long as these things tend to be.

Up next came Snake Eyes: Declassified #2 from 2005 which I did not have nearly as much fun with. The Devil’s Due book was written by Brandon Jerwa with art by Emiliano Santalucia and Robert Atkins. I had a pair of problems with this comics not including the fact that I’m not a die hard G.I. Joe or Snake Eyes fan. First off, the story is very obvious. The man who would become Snake Eyes winds up hooking up with a guy who is clearly using him. As a reader you get this nearly immediately, so the following pages wind up being kind of pointless. My other problem is one that I’ve had with several comics and that is that the art just doesn’t feel up to snuff. It’s not bad by any means, but it’s not as good as you would expect from a professional comic book you theoretically would have paid three bucks for. The backgrounds are boring, the figures vary between strong and weak and the coloring feels very faint which makes the characters feel less bold and imposing.

At it’s heart, though, this is basically just a comic about two dudes running around committing crimes. That’s all well and good, but when you know one of them is going to become the greatest ninja warrior around, you kind of don’t care and just want to get to the good stuff. One of the problems with prequels is that we all know the foregone conclusion, so we know when risks are involved. This felt like it could have been told in a simple flashback instead of taking up an entire issue.

Lastly I came out of the box with CrossGen’s Crux #6 by Mark Waid and Paul Pelletier. This was a bit of a difficult issue to pick up on out of nowhere because it directly deals with an important event that happened at the end of #5. It’s well recapped–as are the characters and their abilities thanks to a recap page on the inside cover–but you do miss a bit of the emotional impact of something when you’re reading about it in text or in recap.

Of course, this is an ongoing comic book and that’s the trick to them. I was filled in enough to understand the story and follow along. This book is about a bunch of super type beings waking up on an Earth that’s empty and they’re trying to figure out why. There’s a few revelations that pop up, but again, since I’m not as invested in the characters or the story, they don’t hit as well for me.

Probably the most confusing element of this book and most of the other CrossGen comics I read, though, comes from the fact that a very disparate number of books on all kinds of different worlds are supposed to be connected by the sigil symbol some of them sport that looks unsurprisingly like the CrossGen logo. I still feel like CrossGen could have been a success had they not flooded the market too quickly and labored so intensely to connect all these comics that didn’t need to be connected.

By the way, Paul Pelletier is an awesome artist.