Casting Internets

dan hipp superman YOU ARE MY SONI really enjoyed Man of Steel, as I wrote here, but this Dan Hipp Superman image really hits me in the heart. Well done Mr. Hipp.

I’m pretty far away from the point where I’ll snatch up an Xbox One right after it comes out — never really been that kind of gamer — but I will say that the presence of a new Star Wars: Battlefront game makes me want to eventually jump into that pool. (via Hero Complex)

Variety says a Muppets musical is in the works. That might get me back down to Broadway.

Have I talked about Homefront before? Not the show, but the film based on a book with a screenplay by Sylvester Stallone and starring Jason Statham and James Franco. Winona Ryder and Kate Bosworth are in it too. Sounds pretty interesting. (via Deadline)

mad max game

I can’t remember if we ever moved forward with it, but at one time I was dreaming up a ToyFare feature where we basically pitched various cartoon and movie properties for video game adaptation, possibly with potential genres and studios included. Mad Max wasn’t on the list, but if the game announced at E3 can combine ridiculously awesome cars with face smashing effects and imbue it all with a sense of craziness that came from the Not Quite Hollywood era of Australian film, this will be another reason for me to eventually move into the next generation of video game systems. (via Hero Complex)

Speaking of lists Brian Cronin crafted a really solid list of the 75 best Superman stories for CSBG. I have close to no experience with the Golden and Silver Age stuff, but from there on I agree with all the things.

I dug Michael May’s Robot 6 post about claiming “your” version of a fictional character that you don’t have any real ownership of. Of course it’s okay to want your version of a character and to not like when those things don’t line up. BUT, it only matters to you and not anyone else unless it gets to the point where the company is losing tons of money for severely screwing things up. In the case of Man of Steel, that ain’t the case because that movie’s making bank.

Riley rossmo jessica rabbit

RILEY ROSSMO DREW JESSICA RABBIT ON ASHCAN ALLSTARS!

Deadline says David Cross is working on a new comedy for Showtime. Great! They also say he might not star. Boo!

And finally, I leave you with the first trailer for the latest Sylvester Stallone/Arnold Schwarzenegger joint Escape Plan. I think I’d be into this movie if it was any two actors, but the fact that it’s these two old warhorses makes it all the better.

Friday Fisticuffs: Haywire (2011)

haywire poster There really aren’t enough action films starring female ass-kickers. And while I freely admit that seeing a woman get hit on screen still makes me uncomfortable, I’m still interested in any action movie that casts a lady in the lead. Haywire was even more appealing because I knew that star Gina Carano used to be a mixed martial arts fighter and it was directed by Steven Soderbergh who always makes interesting films (I love the Oceans movies hard).

The story, which focuses on Carano’s Mallory Kane, a freelance assassin or mercenary, is told in a non-linear format. The main thrust of the story finds Mallory betrayed by her former bosses, replaying recent events and trying to figure out who burned her. The cast is a fantastic one that includes Channing Tatum, Michael Fassbender, Ewan McGregor, Michael Douglas, Antonio Banderas, Michael Angarano and Bill Paxton, so there’s all kinds of quality in that regard.

As you might expect from a Soderbergh action movie, this one’s pretty far from traditional. He handles the fights incredibly realistically, pitting two people against each other in fights lacking the cartoonish sound effects we’re used to hearing and even dropping the music out of most scenes. The first brawl you see not only comes as a surprise because you’re not expecting it, but also because the violence is brutal, real and  shocking. The following clip is of that scene, but if you don’t want anything spoiled, skip it.

And that’s how all of the fights go. It’s an interesting breath of fresh air and shows how well-rounded this genre can really be if more people like Soderbergh are able to stretch out and do their thing within the framework. I looked up fight choreographer J.J. Perry and he’s done everything from more realistic action films like this to Ultraviolet, Machete Kills and Safe. It’s cool to see that choreographers like Perry can be as versatile as a director and writer like Soderbergh.

Overall, I really enjoyed Haywire, but I would recommend going in with a realistic mindset. If you want something packed to the gills with explosions and intricately choreographed fight scenes, you might want to steer clear. But, if you’re looking for the thinking person’s action flick told in kind of a Pulp Fiction way, watch Haywire.

Quick Movie Review: Lost In Translation (2003)

lost in translation As a big fan of Bill Murray’s run on Saturday Night Live and classic 70s/80s comedies like Stripes, Caddyshack, Meatballs, Scrooged and, of course, the Ghostbusters movies, it was hard to accept him in what a younger version of me described as his “sad bastard” phase. In the late 90s I wasn’t paying nearly as much attention to the world of film as I do now, so the switch from things like Space Jam to Rushmore, The Royal Tenenbaums and Lost In Translation was a pretty big shock. It makes all the sense in the world to me now he felt the need to change his image a bit and wanted to show a different side of himself.

For what it’s worth, I’m not a big fan of the Wes Anderson movies I’ve seen, so I’m not into Murray’s performances in those movies because they’re just not my thing. But, I did enjoy him in Fantastic Mr. Fox and Zombieland, so I’m not entirely unfamiliar with the movies he’s made in the last decade. I’ve also seen at least one other Sofia Coppola movie, the moving The Virgin Suicides, so I was curious to see these two creators joining sources. Plus, who isn’t captivated by Scarlett Johansson?

And it really is a great film. I’m a huge fan of stories that take two characters who probably shouldn’t be together and create a believable atmosphere for them to interact within. That’s the case for married movie star Bob Harris (Murray) and photographer’s wife Charlotte (Johansson) who both happen to be staying in the same Tokyo hotel at the same time, wind up meeting, becoming friends and possibly more.

I like to call this a “staring out the window” movie because, well, there’s a lot of that going on. I don’t think that’s a bad thing at all because it means that the characters are contemplative. I mean, it’s a pretty obvious way of conveying that idea, but when you’re cooped up in a hotel room and surrounded by the fairly alien landscape of Tokyo, it works. The film also takes a somewhat leisurely pace, not rushing too fast, often getting into scenes that show how these characters act on their own, together just the two of them and also in larger groups. You notice little differences as you go which comes from getting so many creative people together to work on a story. Essentially, you get to see them grow as a couple, though a couple that probably shouldn’t be together.

While the “inappropriate” relationship is a big part of the story (they’re both married), another driving force of this movie is the idea of two people coming together in this environment that’s so separated from their normal lives. It’s only because they’re in this strange place that they come together. Because they’re so isolated, these people cling to one another and develop a relationship that wouldn’t happen otherwise. It’s a really interesting story and situation that asks a lot from its actors and delivers as far as I’m concerned.

Superman Trade Post: Action Comics Volume 1 (New 52) & Man Of Steel Volume 7

action comics new 52 volume 1 Action Comics Volume 1: Superman And The Men Of Steel (DC)
Written by Grant Morrison, drawn by Rags Morales, Andy Kubert, Gene Ha, Brent Anderson & Brad Walker
Collects Action Comics (New 52) #1-8

After enjoying Man of Steel so much, I figured it made sense to read a few Superman comics. As it turned out, I had an interesting sampling in my to-read box including the first volume of Grant Morrison’s New 52 Action Comics as well as the latest collection of post-Crisis Superman comics, Man of Steel Vol. 7.

I actually tried reading the first volume of the New 52 version of Superman and could not get through the book. I actually counted the number of panels that Superman appeared in in the first issue compared to ones he didn’t and the ratio was ridiculous. It’s supposed to introduce the character to the world in a whole new universe and you barely use him? Seemed silly to me. From there things went downhill and I didn’t bother finishing. Still, I had high hopes for Grant Morrison’s Action Comics because I consider him to be a really smart writer who loves this character and, even though he’s written Supes in JLA, All-Star Superman and Final Crisis, he still seems to have a lot to say about one of the world’s most famous fictional characters.

The volume finds a T-shirt and cape wearing Superman who hasn’t been around too long doing his best to mess with the kinds of people who tend to get away with all kinds of crimes thanks to their piles of cash and influence. Meanwhile, Clark Kent works for The Daily Star doing similar work but with his words instead of his fists. Since he’s still pretty new on the scene, the government doesn’t trust Superman and has General Lane working with Lex Luthor to try and figure out a way to stop him. While all this is going on new versions of Brainiac and Metallo get involved. Superman learns about himself, his home planet and even gets the suit he wears in the modern day New 52 U. There’s also a pretty fun story featuring the Legion of Super-Heroes and current Superman traveling to the Action Comics time period to fight the Anti-Superman Army.

Like I said, I like Morrison’s work and have come to expect a kind of slow-burn when it comes to his stories. There’s another 10 issues of this run, so I’m definitely curious to see how he wrapped the story up. But, there were a few things about this volume that got under my skin. First of all, Rags Morales’ art is not so great in the earlier issues. His pencils look too loose and many of his figures look generally un-dynamic, but the weakest part is his eyes. They look googley half the time with one pupil pointing one direction and the other elsewhere. It’s incredibly distracting and really draws you out of the story. Oh, plus, there’s no possible way that Clark Kent and Superman could be the same person the way they’re drawn in this book which is unfortunate.

The other aspect of the book — actually the first story, specifically — is the fact that it feels like many of the plot points feel more akin to another character: the Hulk. You not only have the dynamic of Lois’ dad trying to get rid of our hero (no, they’re not together, but it’s Lois and Superman, we know the potential is there), but also her rebuked lover becoming a villain in his own right. I know these are fairly general plot points, but they came off as a little tired to me. Luckily the story doesn’t dwell on those elements too much, so that’s more of a minor complaint.

As a longtime Superman fan, it was interesting to see how Morrison reshaped concepts and characters like Steel, Brainiac and Metallo. I hate Jimmy Olsen’s haircut, but the portrayal of him and Lois seemed right on. I like seeing a younger, more brash Superman and the same qualities in Clark. Overall, this seemed like a solid Superman comic. I almost wrote that it’s probably not the best comic to give someone who wants to learn about Superman, but then again, this book shares a lot of themes with Zack Snyder’s movie, so maybe it would be a good idea. Someone test the theory!

superman man of steel vol 7 Superman The Man Of Steel Volume 7 (DC)
Written by John Byrne and Jerry Ordway, drawn by Byrne & Ordway
Collects Action Comics #596-597, Adventures Of Superman #436-438 and Superman #13-15

DC’s Jack Kirby and Man Of Steel books are probably my favorite collection projects around. The former introduced me to The King’s wild DC projects while the latter brings together all of the post-Crisis Superman comics into one place. That’s important to me because these books are filling in all kinds of gaps I had in my Superman reading which started in 1992. My hope is they get up to the Death of Superman story and then I’ve got it from there with the books from my collection.

This particular volume of Man Of Steel is an interesting one. I flipped through it and was surprised to see several issues tied into the mega crossover Millennium. While I don’t remember the details of that story too well aside from the basics — the Manhunters have replaced key people in the lives of superheroes — but I don’t remember Superman playing a huge role which fits with these issues in which Supes deals with the fact that a small army of Smallvillians were actually Manhunters, including Lana Lang. There’s an explanation for everything that works within the story, but it’s a pretty crazy revelation when you think about it. While they were explaining how they kept an eye on the Kryptonian infant, the Manhunters also revealed that they created the huge blizzard that allowed the Kents to tell the townspeople that Martha gave birth to Clark but wasn’t able to get to the hospital. This seemed like a strange piece of information to tack on to an origin story — storms can just happen, they don’t need a reason to happen — but at the time John Byrne was steering the Superman ship and that’s that. By the way co-wrote and drew every issue in this collection!

The weirdest part of this whole thing, though, is a lie that Pa and Ma Kent decide to tell Lois: that they raised Superman alongside Clark. Not only did this lie seem completely unnecessary — sure, Lois asks Superman point blank if he’s really Superman after all the craziness that went down in Smallville, but he’s Superman, he could have come up with a better answer — but I also don’t remember hearing this repeated in any other comic down the line. He doesn’t reveal that he’s Superman to Lois until Action Comics #662, so did she believe Clark and Supes grew up  like brothers that whole time? Does she forget? Do they tell her another lie? I’m very curious about this because the whole thing understandably makes Lois furious. She’s mad that they lied to her, but more so, she feels like she was fed stories and pitied by the two of them anytime she got a story. It’ll be interesting to see how that storyline plays out.

The book ends with a pair of standalone issues. The first gives a little bit more background about Maggie Sawyer and introduces us to her daughter who has fallen under the spell of Skyhook, a bat-like creature who can somehow turn others into winged beings like himself. Byrne really gets to have fun in this issue stretching into some horror elements that weren’t overly common in these books at the time. The final issues introduces us to a circus mentalist who calls himself Brainiac and seems to have L.E.G.I.O.N. creator Vril Dox banging around in his head. I think this might be the first mention of Dox in post-Crisis continuity, but he seems different than the one seen in Invasion and then L.E.G.I.O.N. This is a more villainous incarnation along the lines of his pre-Crisis counterpart. For what it’s worth, the character’s Wiki page makes no mention of this appearance, noting that Dox’s first appearance is in Invasion #1. Interesting stuff.

While this collection series if firmly aimed at Superman fans of my ilk, I’m very thankful that they exist. This is the Superman that lead into the version of the character I’m most familiar with. Yes he’s powerful and inspiring, but he’s neither all-powerful nor perfect. Sure, I get a kick out of him moving planets and whatnot, but this is the version of the character I’m most familiar with and have the most affection for. Please keep these books coming DC!

Drive In Double Feature: Monsters University (2013) & Iron Man 3 (2013)

monsters university We’re pretty lucky to live in an area with not one, but three drive-in movie theaters that are less than an hour away. We usually go to the Warwick, but they’ve had some pretty strange pairings this year. I’m still not sure why they didn’t go with an Iron Man 3/Star Trek Into Darkness combo, but that’s neither here not there. As the parents of a 2-year-old without a regular babysitter, we’re pretty limited in our movie-going options, so we like to have at least one film that Lu will kinda-sorta like. So, when we saw that Hyde Park had Monsters University paired up with Iron Man 3, we figured it’d make for a pretty good outing.

Lu and I actually have never seen Monsters Inc., but we did both see the show at Disney World based on the film. Even so, I’d say we both enjoyed the experience. Lu loves pretty much anything that’s big and bright and I thought the movie was a fun, kid friendly version of the kinds of college flicks I’ve loved since I was a kid myself.

The film follows Mike (Billy Crystal), a young monster who wants to be a scarer who winds up getting in to the number one school for such things, Monsters University. There, the overachieving bookworm meets Sulley (the glorious John Goodman), another scaring student who’s the latest in a long line of scarers. The problem? Mike isn’t actually scary and Sulley relies too much on his family name. The two wind up in the same geeky fraternity which allows them to compete in the Scare Games. Thanks to a deal made with the dean (Helen Mirren!), if they win the Games, she will let them  back into the scare program. From there they have to join forces, become friends and learn to work together.

I like everything from Animal House and Revenge of the Nerds to PCU and Pitch Perfect, all of which either influenced or are somewhat similar to this movie, so it’s right there in my wheelhouse. Even though I haven’t seen the original, I didn’t feel lost when it came to this movie which was nice. I didn’t realize that one of the villains from the original was also in this one, but my wife told me about it on the way home, so I was in on the joke after the fact. I’d say this works extremely well as a stand alone film and a prequel because it does actually make me want to see how these characters act as adults. Time to move that flick to the top of the ol’ Netflix Queue!

iron man 3 Much as I wound up liking Monsters University, Iron Man 3 was the movie I was more excited about. Movies like this which are big on the geek radar can get a little tiresome to folks like myself who cover them on the interwebs. Even though I probably wrote a dozen or two stories about this film for Spinoff, I still enjoyed it and — more surprisingly — was still in the dark on a lot of the major plot points. It helped that I avoided every tweet and conversation about the film after it came out.

So, the story this time around is that Tony Stark’s going down a fairly dark path. He’s pretty disturbed after the events of The Avengers which saw him possibly destroy an entire world/army/dimension. He’s building all kinds of armors, but there’s a more physical threat gunning for him: The Mandarin. An international terrorist played by Ben Kingsley, the Mandarin has plenty of shady people working for him like Guy Pearce, but more importantly, his people have been imbued with Extremis, a techno-organic program that can rewrite a person’s DNA, making them a fire-breathing, superpowered menaces. They blow up Tony’s house which sends him out on his own without a suit to figure out what’s up with the Mandarin and spoilerific things ensue.

I’m not going to get into specific spoilers just yet, but I do want to talk about the ending of the film. Like I said, I went in relatively spoiler free, but I did figure that the extra armors Tony built would come into play during the film and boy do they. It’s so rad seeing Tony running around a giant structure, hopping in and out of different suits and fighting off bad guys. It’s the kind of thing that Joss Whedon did really well with the final battle scene in Avengers and something director Shane Black followed up on pretty well in this film.

Okay now it’s time to get into SPOILERS. Consider yourself WARNED. Man, I really liked what they did with the Mandarin in this movie even though the reveal feels a bit like the one used in Batman Begins with Ra’s al Ghul. In this case it helped that they got such a weighty actor and had him turn in first, a scary performance and second, a hilarious one. Going for the complete personality switch is what sets this apart and makes for a great moment. This was the element of the film I was most surprised hadn’t been spoiled for me yet. Then you’ve got the ending which certainly leaves Tony Stark in an interesting place in the Marvel Studios Universe. He’s still got that big brain of his, but he doesn’t have the ARC reactor which powers his suit. It’s the kind of move that would last for maybe a few years in the comics before something else would pop up and he’d have to, I don’t know, have his heart get blown up again or something. But, since we’re dealing with a film universe — even a shared  one — they get to play with the elements and the players a bit more. The real world side of things is that RDJ might not want to play Iron Man much longer — Tony Stark seems less taxing — and it might make sense within this new world to go a different route and have someone else fill in inside the suit. Of course, since the Extremis now exists in the movie-verse, it’s within reason that Tony will find himself in a situation where he needs to inject himself, this becoming Iron Man Version 2.0. There’s a lot of possibilities and it will be interesting to see where things go with the character from here.

As you can probably tell, I enjoyed the movie. It wasn’t perfect, but it was definitely a fun viewing experience. I also really liked the kid who played Harley and think he needs to be in a kids-dealing-with-craziness movie like The Goonies. At this point, I’m a general fan of the Marvel Studios films. Avengers is rad, I dig the Iron Man flicks and Captain America, Thor was okay and I haven’t seen Incredible Hulk in a long time, but didn’t like it at the time. I’m curious about the Thor and Cap sequels, but am far more interested in Guardians of the Galaxy, Ant-Man and the other flicks starring new characters. Let’s see what they can do with some new old characters.

Toy Commercial Tuesday: Muppet Babies Double Whammy

I’ve been thinking a lot about the Muppet Babies lately. Part of that is because I recently re-listened to The Muppets soundtrack and then watched the movie again, but also because I heard Dave Coulier on a recent episode of Talkin’ Toons With Rob Paulsen and he apparently did a lot of those voices. I mentioned in a post how I realized most of my Muppets knowledge comes from the animated adventures of their younger selves. I wish the series was available on DVD so I could show my kid. I remember it being pretty fun with plenty of movie, TV and book parodies to help introduce her to a different generation of entertainment.

The last piece of the recent Muppet Babies puzzle was the fact that my in-laws gave my daughter a little toy Fozzy toy that I remember coming with McDonald’s Happy Meals way back in the day. So, I figured that would make for an interesting TCT. The commercial’s definitely an interesting animal. It’s from Canada, so I’m not sure if it’s different than the one that ran in the States (I have no memories of this particular one). However, I do remember these toys. I had quite a few and even realized that the Fozzy my inlaws actually gave Lu came with Kermit’s skateboard instead of his horse. Funny how the two pieces were in close proximity to each other all these years.

As an added bonus, check out the above McD’s commercial for the Christmas-themed stuffed Kermit, Miss Piggy and Fozzy. I want to say all three of these are living in a box somewhere in my parents’ house. I don’t have much to say about this one aside from the fact that the tiny box in the beginning of the commercial could have probably been placed a little better. Did Ronald McDonald beat the Lonely Island and Justin Timberlake to a joke by a few decades? “Step one, cut a hole in the box…”

Friday Fisticuffs: Equilibrium (2002)

equilibrium I first discovered Equilibrium while perusing my beloved Family Video. Since it came out in 2002, I must have checked it out while home for the summer from college and was drawn in by Taye Diggs and whoever that Christian Bale guy was wearing Matrix-like gear holding guns. It’s not like I had heard anything about it and dug around for it, it just appeared one day, looked interesting enough and I remember enjoying it, but never really got back to it.

When I saw it on Netflix Instant I was pretty excited, remembering that there was a fairly interesting sci-fi future as well as some interesting marital arts action that cleverly used firearms (called “gun katta” apparently). Said future was an incredibly structured one that keeps humanity emotionally muzzled by forcing them to take a suppressant drug. The governing body has a group of warriors called Clerics who make sure that no one’s feeling. Part of that job involves tracking down works of art and destroying them along with vagrants who live on the outskirts of society, struggling to survive, but feeling every minute of it.

Bale plays a Cleric who winds up skipping a dose and becoming that which he’s sworn to persecute: a sense offender. As he regains emotion and feelings, Bale’s character uses his position in the organization to try and make up for some of the things he’s done.

Much as I remember liking this movie and did enjoy it this time around, I’ve got to say, there are some pretty silly elements. If you’re a government organization whose sole focus is to keep the populace under a metaphorical emotional blindfold, why would you put that in their hands? Why wouldn’t the drugs be administered by way of water supply or provided food? That seemed like the kind of plot point that only exists to move the story along. The movie also gets a little slow at times, but I think that’s only because I went into this movie with an action flick mindset and it’s a lot more of an emotional journey than you might expect. If you’re looking for more and more fights and gun katta, then a slower talking scene can feel like it’s going on way too long.

But, the point of this post is to talk about fight scenes in movies. Sometimes I’ll watch an action movie, thinking it’d make for a great FF entry only to discover that most of the violence in the film involves gun play. That’s the case with Equilibrium, but it just so happens that the film combines those two elements in a lot of fun ways. The idea behind gun katta is that the guys can not only shoot really well, but also knows all the best physical positions to get their bodies in to do the most damage as quickly as possible. He can also use his guns as blunt weapons and do all kinds of cool flips, picking up weapons and using them in several different ways.

The problem with some of these fight scenes is that, sometimes, they look a little too set-design-y. There’s a good deal of Power Ranger-like posing and whatnot as well as sets that seem only developed to look as cool as possible. I’m not sure whether my definition of cool has changed over the years or director Kurt Wimmer and I just don’t jive on that subject, but it seemed a little too overwrought at times.

But, I still thought it was an enjoyable movie. If you saw the poster or cover and avoided it because it looked like a Matrix rip, it actually has nothing to do with that film aside from the fact that they share the same taste in jackets. Plus the cast includes a lot of great actors like Bale, Sean Bean, Taye Diggs (he’s great in this, you guys), Sean Pertwee, Emily Watson and Prison Break vets Dominic Purcell and William Fichtner. So, if you’ve got some time, give it a shot and see how it makes you feel. PUNS!

Trade Post: American Born Chinese & Ghost World

american born chinese American Born Chinese (First Second)
Written & drawn by Gene Luen Yang

Several years ago I was talking to a friend of mine from high school who is now an English teacher. She asked me if I had any suggestions for comics, trades or graphic novels that might be useful examples of the form for her AP students to read. I want to say she’d already read Watchmen at this point, so I went with several suggestions of books that I had either read myself or heard were good and passed whatever hard copies I had along to her for her perusal.

Well, today I got a box from her in the mail with all those books. I remembered passing her Dan Clowes’ Ghost World, Mo Willems’ travelog You Can Never Find a Rickshaw When It Monsoons and a pair of Marjane Satrapi books — Embroideries and Chicken With Plums — but had no recollection of giving her Gene Luen Yang’s American Born Chinese. This surprised me because it’s a book that I’ve been hearing about since it came out in 2006, especially from my pals at Wizard who were for more tapped in to the indie comic and graphic novel scene like Sean T. Collins and Kiel Phegley.

Anyway, getting this box today was kind of like comic Christmas. I felt like reading something I was excited about and ABC fit the bill. I’m going to say right now that I only knew that people liked this book and understood that it had something to do with trying to fit in as a kid of Chinese lineage in America. That’s it. So I was pleasantly surprised by everything in this book. If you’ve heard good things and want to check it out, I recommend stopping here and getting your hands on a copy because it was a delight having this tale unfold before me.

If you’re still here, I’ll explain a bit more. The book features three different stories. One is of a monkey king who flirts with the idea of becoming a man, another stars a wildly racist version of a Chinese person visiting and embarrassing a high school student and the third follows Jin Wang as he does his best to navigate a school that’s not overly friendly to him while dealing with all the feelings and emotions any kid that age finds themselves surrounded by. All three stories are really enjoyable, but it’s tough to talk about how good they get without getting into spoilers.

So, this paragraph is SPOILER TERRITORY. The beauty of this book is that it kept these three stories going along and each one was super entertaining. I wondered why I was reading all three in the same book, but it didn’t bother me much. Then — BAM — you find out how they’re related and it’s this great Usual Suspects like moment where the good thing you were reading just revealed to you that it’s great. What started out as three different stories turned into this much more impressive non-linear fable that left me a little slack jawed, I must say. That was a great experience and I hope repeated readings will only add to the experience.

I can easily say that all the hype around ABC is dead-on accurate. There are bits in this book that made me laugh, cringe, feel sad, remember the awkwardness of growing up and even thrill to some pretty spectacular action. For all that, it gets a gigantic thumbs up.

Ghost World Ghost World (Fantagraphics)
Written & drawn by Dan Clowes
Collects Eightball #11-18

I don’t remember when I first read Ghost World, but I feel like my reaction to this book has probably changed since then. I want to say we first crossed paths in college. That’s when I was really building up my trade collection by buying cheap lots of on ebay. I wound up with a wide variety of books to explore. I’m not sure if I saw the movie before reading its sequential inspiration or not, but kind of think that was the case.

Ghost World first appeared in Dan Clowes’ self-published comic Eightball which also birthed The Death Ray and Art School Confidential. The comic follows lifelong friends Enid and Rebecca as they wander around town, talk and create complicated backstories for the people they encounter. It’s nearly impossible for me to separate this comic from some of the indie movies I rented from Family Video back in the late 90s/early 00s because it has that kind of slice of life, slightly meandering tone that shines the spotlight on young people trying to figure out the world. 

The problem? These young people are assholes. Man, I feel ancient writing that sentence. But, reading this book kind of made me feel ancient anyway and not just because I wanted to shake Enid and tell her to get out of her own ass and actually do something, but also because Teenage Me probably did and said many of these same things. Let me amend that, I probably said the same things, I would have never called a personal ad guy and set him up for a fake date. That level of meanness has always bothered me and it makes me dislike Enid pretty strongly.

But I think that’s the point. I’m not very familiar with Clowes’ work, but from what I gather he enjoys presenting unlikable or hard-to-like characters and giving the reader an idea of what their lives are like. You definitely get that with Enid and Rebecca. This book doesn’t go deep into the hows and whys of their relationship or psyches, but you do get to form your own opinions of such things as they talk. And, as things progress throughout the story, you do come to realize that things are going to change for these women. Enid’s dad wants her to go to college, the mere idea of which winds up creating a rift between Enid and Rebecca, one that gets them both to reevaluate their relationship and what they’re doing with their lives.

At the end of the day, I don’t think I need to read Ghost World again. It’s not a bad book by any means. Clowes knows how to tell a story, expertly combining dialog, pacing and cartooning skills to get you into the story, but also keep you involved even when you might not like the people you’re reading about. After returning to this book, though, I’m left feeling like I did about some of those indie movies I mentioned: regardless of how I felt about the people, I respect the artistry involved, but I don’t think I need to revisit any time soon. Then again, Clowes is one of the most well respected cartoonists around so it might be worth keeping around for a while…

Toy Commercial Tuesday: Radio Controlled Hulk

The main reason I started doing Toy Commercial Tuesday posts was to take a little walk down memory lane, presenting many of the ads I remember drooling over as a kid and offering a few memories related to them. One of the unexpected bonuses of searching YouTube for toy commercials has been stumbling upon toys I never knew existed. This Radio Controlled Inflatable Hulk certainly fits into that latter category (mostly because it came out three years before I was born).

Watching this commercial I kept thinking, “Holy crap, this is such a great idea, why don’t they still do radio controlled punching bags?” Maybe it had something to do with needing to come up with two 9 volt batteries and four Cs. Heck, that right there probably doubled the cost of this thing. Plus, I’d imagine the inflatable part got popped pretty often by kids trying to prove they were the strongest one there is.

Book Review: The She-Hulk Diaries By Marta Acosta

she-hulk-diaries When I was a kid and had fallen hard for comics, I went all in. I was reading all the comics I could afford, watching every cartoon and comic-based show I could and reading books based on comic characters. At the time, Marvel ruled the roost when it came to most of these comic book subcategories. I might have been a hardcore DC comic book fan, but I could enjoyed all things comic related outside that specific format. I remember reading books about Spider-Man, the X-Men and even one by longtime Incredible Hulk scribe Peter David.

When I got an email asking if I’d be interested in reading a pair of new Marvel books from Hyperion aimed at female readers, I was certainly intrigued. I responded and the very nice woman I talked to asked if I could get both books read and reviewed by June 18th. I did really well with Marta Acosta’s The She-Hulk Diaries, but wound up hitting a series of roadblocks with Christine Woodward’s Rogue Touch, all of which revolved around work and family obligations, but I hope to get that review up on the site early next week.

I chose She-Hulk to read first not because I’m more familiar with the charcter, but because it was longer and I figured I’d knock out the biggest challenge first. Before reading much about the story or diving into the book I assumed it was going to be a Sex And The City type thing following Shulky’s wild adventures as a superheroine, city girl and big time lawyer. That’s not the case, though, which came as a relief to this review who has cringed every single time Carrie Bradshaw has appeared on his screen.

Instead the book is a first person autobiographical account of She-Hulk’s alter ego Jennifer Walters, the other side of the Jade Giantess who also happens to be a lawyer, but one with a lot more inhibitions. The concept behind this book is that Jennifer has decided to make Valentine’s Day resolutions as opposed to New Year’s ones in an effort to actually get them done. She’s writing about them in a diary because her PR woman at the Avengers gave it to her. So there you have it. Part of her list involves finding a job, finding a boyfriend, meeting new people and being more outgoing. As someone who deals with many of the insecurities revolving around those things, I could relate even though I am not a single woman in the city.

As Jennifer winds up getting a job she finds herself face to face with the lead singer of a band she had a wild weekend of passion with when she was in college. Now he’s a scientist engaged to a fellow attorney who happens to be awful. Her firm is representing a handsome guy scientist who claims that a company creating artificial organs did so knowing the organs would only last for a short time. Meanwhile, a few other masked and super powered people are hanging around though not ones anyone’s familiar with. That’s all part of the story which impressively features everything from superhero and lawyer elements to medical ones and even LARPing.

I really enjoyed all those elements, but being a longtime comic fan, I figure it makes sense that I comment on that part of the story. First and foremost, I have very little experience with She-Hulk. I have a vague understanding of what happened in the run of her book by Dan Slott that everyone loves and think there are some elements of that in here. I think it might be easier to jump into this book if you know almost nothing about Shulky or the Marvel Universe. As it is, I kept trying to figure out how everything fit together, which is not easy because the newest Marvel comic I’ve read is about a year old. However, I thought they did some really interesting things with the Avengers as an organization. Again, I’m not sure if these elements are in the comics right now, but the version of the group in this book is a massive organization where the superheroes are the main team, but there’s a gigantic bureaucracy working underneath dealing with everything from PR to vehicle rental. In addition, the group pays for the damage that its members do and also has all kinds of tunnels and hideouts throughout the city that its members — even ones like She-Hulk who aren’t officially part of the A-team anymore thanks to her hard partying ways — can use. I dug all that. I did not dig the big reveal at the end which seemed broadcast very early on, but it’s not like figuring the gist out in advance derails the rest of the ride.

greg-horn-she-hulk-2So, the question is whether a new person with little to no experience with She-Hulk as a character woud enjoy this book. As I mentioned above, I do think you could hand this book to a fresh reader and they can enjoy it (assuming you know the kinds of books they enjoy and this sounds somewhat in that vein). Acosta does a wonderful job explaining the more unusual elements while also keeping things fun and light for most of the story, dipping into melodrama and legit drama when it makes sense. Sure, some elements of Jennifer’s speech/writing patterns can get annoying, like her constant listing of items in a 1, 2, 3 or A, B, C format or using the word “ooky” or relaying the advice she gives to clients the exact same way every time, but I’m sure if you looked back at my diaries, they’d be similarly repetitive  People tend to fall back on routine when explaining and talking, so it fits for the format.

While I think that anyone CAN read this book, I’m not quite sure who will read it. I would assume some population of the superhero comic book audience will seek it out, but who else? This and Rogue Touch seem aimed at women, but is your average lady reader going to see these books on display and want to commit to reading them? I mean, people loved Hulk in Avengers, but She-Hulk’s main exposure to a wide audience came during a 90s animated series on UPN. My wife wondered the same thing, even suggesting that they could have more slyly introduced the superhero or comic elements instead of putting them right on front street. Not sure if that would work, but it could have been interesting. If these books do well, it could even point to more interesting ways of presenting these characters in television and film. An action packed romantic comedy featuring She-Hulk could be pretty awesome and bring in a whole new kind of audience (you know, for the 10 or 12 people who didn’t see Avengers).