Friday, November 28, 2008

Attention: All Comic Book Fans

This man's name was Christopher Reeve. He played Superman from 1978-1986.

This man's name was George Reeves. He played Superman on television from 1951-1959. Note that his last name is spelled with an "s" on the end of it and that Christopher Reeve's name does not.

If you want to have any credibility at all with your long-winded diatribes about the movie Superman of the 70s and 80s, you should at least know how to spell his name.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Poor Atheists!

I saw a church sign today that made me smile. It said:

"Poor atheists! They have so much to be thankful for and no one to thank!"

I don't have to believe in a god to appreciate my life. I don't have to go to church to love my family and be a decent citizen. I don't have to read a bible to know what's right and wrong. I don't have to fear hell to do the right thing. And I sure as heck don't give a second thought about celebrating Thanksgiving despite my lack of religious belief. One thing my atheism has taught me is to respect others' beliefs (or lack thereof). Apparently that's a lesson lost on the pastor of at least one church in our area.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Batman BRB

With all the hubub being created due to the release of Batman #681 and the conclusion of Grant Morrison's Batman RIP storyline, I'm reminded of an actual good storyline. In the summer of 1977 I was 12 and Star Wars had just come out, and there was a real pageturner burning through Detective comics. Steve Englehart and Marshall Rogers created what I consider to be a definitive Batman story. Did anyone believe, looking at this cover, that Batman was actually going to be dead? No. Not even my 12-year old self. So when DC publishes a storyline called Batman RIP, why does it get attention from national publications, as if there is going to be a permanent change in who puts on a mask with pointy ears and goes out to fight crime? People, it's been done before, over and over again, sometimes well done at that. This isn't going to be one of those times.

My real question is why does there have to be another Batman when Bruce Wayne goes out of commission? Why is there a mantle to fight for? Last time this happened, when Batman had his back broken, some nutcase who called himself Azrael stepped in and became a more vicious, murderous Batman and sullied the name. When he was taken down, Nightwing stepped in for Batman for a short time. Now, apparently, Nightwing, Robin, and Batman's son (don't ask) Damien, a resurrected Jason Todd, and even an archvillain named Hush are going to battle it out for the cape and cowl. I get the metastory that someone has to occupy the identity to keep DC's trademark fresh and all that, but why in a world of costumed crimefighters does someone have to be Batman? For that matter, why can't they all be Batman? Who's going to stop someone from doing something that's illegal in the first place, like dressing up and being a vigilante when there's real crime to be prevented? Does Bruce Wayne have a trademark on the Batman name that needs to be protected?

The same thing has happened over in Captain America lately. The guy who's been Captain America was supposedly shot and killed a while back, and now there's a new one. The Flash isn't the original Flash. Green Lantern has been replaced by a namesake and then returned, as has Green Arrow, Superman, the Spectre, Spider-Man, Ghost Rider, and I'm sure numerous others. When is anyone going to be convinced that the original character isn't coming back eventually? Never.

That's why they should have called the storyline Batman BRB. Because in internet parliance, don't worry. Batman will Be Right Back.*

* I did not come up with this phrase on my own. I saw it in the comments on a comic book website covering the "event" and then expanded upon the little joke, which actually made me LOL.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Worst Villain Base Ever!

Just got back from seeing "Quantum of Solace" with my friends Eric and Rob, and we really enjoyed the movie. I'd seen some bad reviews that read along the lines of, "Leave the action to the Bourne movies," but I have to say, this was a natural continuation of Casino Royale, which I still think is clearly the best Bond movie in the series.

Bond is still boiling over the death of Vesper, whom he claims not to have cared about, but obviously did. He is accused of being overly aggressive, killing indisriminately, and is reined in by M. But when he encounters another operative as bent on revenge as he is, he teams up with her to achieve both of their goals.


At one point in the film, at the villain's Bolivian desert headquarters, each room in the place is apparently powered by its own hydrogen fuel cell. As Bond causes an explosion in the garage, the ensuing fire ignites and explodes each room in turn like a huge, glass and concrete Hindenburg. I laughed out loud for no apparent reason, as the title of tonight's blog came to mind. Architects designing green buildings in the future may want to consider that a major design flaw.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Spectacular Spider-Man

As a fan of Sean "Cheeks" Galloway's artwork, I really looked forward to more Hellboy animated movies. However, it looks like there won't be any more for the forseeable future, so I'll have to settle for The Spectacular Spider-Man!

I watched the first few episodes of this series with the help of my able two-year old assistant, but she took a little more of my attention than this show required. Saturday mornings quickly became more about making breakfast than watching cartoons. But recently, I needed some folders for school to organize my papers and I saw these cool Spectacular Spider-Man ones so my interest was rekindled. Sera helped too, since she has been wanting to watch "Spidey-Man" every night before bed for the past few weeks, but I was getting tired of chapter-skipping to where he's in costume, so I checked online to see if the Spectacular Spider-Man had been released on DVD yet. It took some searching, but I finally found a copy of "Attack of the Lizard," comprised of the first three episodes, which have been edited into a "full-length" movie.

I really like the design of Spider-Man. In this cartoon, Peter Parker is still a 16-year old high school junior, and he's not all musclebound as superheroes tend to be. What I really like, though, is the way they shaped his mask's eyes, so that the black outline has actual substance and adds to the shape of his head left). I don't think I've ever seen it done quite like that before. Usually, artists make the eyelets look like lenses that bend outward when viewed from the side. The heavy black outline of the eyes of the mask allow the character to be very expressive as only a cartoon character can, when wearing a full face mask. The producers of the live-action movies could never duplicate that, which is why Spider-Man so often suffers from "superhero unmasking syndrome."

Storywise, the producers take a few elements from the movies, but have really stuck to the early comics so far as introducing villains. I've only watched those first three episodes, but in those three episodes they gave us the Vulture, the Enforcers, Electro, and the Lizard, pretty faithfully taken from the comics, which I have started to re-read from my Marvel Masterworks books. I really like that they made it so that not every villain is green, as was the case in the early comics. Here are the Vulture, Electro, and the Lizard. Electro's old suit really made him look dated, so this one's actually an improvement. And the Vulture certainly looks scarier in black and red!
Another big selling point for me is that the show runner is Greg Weisman, creator and former supervising producer of Disney's "Gargoyles," a show that I really loved. This is a guy who knows how to produce an engaging show for kids with complex plotlines that adults can enjoy following too. And as any fan of Spider-Man knows, Spider-Man's story is one long soap opera. Looks like my VCR and DVR are going to be busy for the next few Saturdays. I have ten episodes of the first season that I haven't seen!

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Dagwood's Sandwich Shoppes

A few years ago, the local grocery chain, Martin's, started selling what they called Dagwood sandwiches. They have turkey Dagwoods, ham Dagwoods, roast beef, and even Italian Dagwoods, which are my favorites. Basically, they consist of the meat on French bread, and then provolone cheese, cheddar cheese, lettuce, tomato, green pepper rings, and garlic-pepper mayonnaise. I wondered, while I ate my first one, if the creators of the Blondie comic strip had any plans to use the name, and sure enough, discovered that there was a budding chain of Dagwood's Sandwich Shoppes.

We ate at the local Dagwood's in South Bend yesterday, and I remembered that I had never written about it. It's a nice little place near Madison Center in the downtown area, at 420 N. Niles Avenue. The decor inside, as you might imagine, is largely based around the comic strip, with huge murals of Dagwood and Blondie all around. There is an HDTV showing various Blondie strips in a continuous slide show.

The food there is great, if a little overpriced. I've had a couple of their sandwiches, and the clear favorite is the actual Dagwood itself. For $8.99, you get Genoa salami, ham, pepperoni, turkey, cheddar and provolone cheese, lettuce, tomato, roasted red bell pepper, banana peppers, red onion , deli mustard, and mayonnaise, on three slices of white bread, held together with an olive skewer. It really is a great sandwich.

A big plus for Magi is that they sell Zapp's potato chips, a Louisiana company she knows well from when she lived in New Orleans. The chips really are good, but the best thing about them is that Dagwood's has its own special flavor, Zesty Pepper.
I just finished up the half I had left over from yesterday for dinner tonight. Rummaging through the fridge for it made me feel a little like Mr. Bumstead himself! And now I think I need a nap.

If My Grandmother Had Wheels...

"Aye. And if my grandmother had wheels, she'd be a wagon"--Montgomery Scott, reacting to seeing the USS Excelsior in Star Trek III

Yes, folks, this is J.J. Abrams' version of the starship Enterprise, courtesy of Entertainment Weekly.

I respect Mr. Abrams' work. I think "Lost" is one of the best shows ever. But I have a feeling this thing is going to be the biggest bomb since the Genesis Device took out the Mutara Nebula.

What is not being understood here is that you don't mess with your base. This is too radical a change for Star Trek fans, and just as John McCain had to reverse many of his positions to get the religious right to support his candidacy, Abrams should have asked for a more faithul recreation for his movie. He is going to enrage half the Star Trek fans in the world with an unfaithful design. The vast majority of people seeing this movie aren't going to care about what the Enterprise looks like and that's okay for the short term, but potential hardcore repeat viewers are not going to go back to the theaters to see it. And that's where $300 million grosses come from.

I hope I'm wrong. I hope this movie grosses a zillion dollars and they make a ton of sequels. But after seeing this design, I have no faith that it's going to happen. They should have gone with this one, designed by a fan:

Friday, November 14, 2008

Batman: The Brave and the Bold

The new Batman cartoon premiered tonight on Cartoon Network, and well...yeah...uh...

It's pretty bad.

Batman pulled a flexible batarang off of his chest insignia, wielded a lightsaber contained in his utility belt, and apparently his costume is also a space suit complete with jets (made from the tubes on his belt) powerful enough that they allow him to reach escape velocity. And that was all in the first ten minutes.

Batman teaming up with Green Arrow for the opening teaser was pretty cool as they defeated the Clock King, and then we are introduced to Jaime Hernandez, aka the Blue Beetle. This version of the Blue Beetle actually works really well in animation and could definitely hold his own in a spinoff. It's just too bad that it was announced yesterday that his comic book series is being cancelled.
I didn't have a problem with the animation and design styles at all. In fact, it's really cool seeing a Dick Sprang Batman animated on the screen. But Diedrich Bader (Oswald from the Drew Carey Show) is his voice, and it's just kind of weird because his voice is so familiar to me. I'm sure it's okay to kids who don't know him from Adam (West, that is!).
I only got a glimpse of the Batmobile in the credits, but it looks uber-cool.
I'll keep watching, but wow, I hope they pull the imagination back a little.

Update: You can see a few clips, including the credits with the Batmobile, here.

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Zack and Miri

For only the third time since bringing Sera home from China a year and half ago, Magi and I went out without her. We went to see Kevin Smith's new movie, "Zack and Miri Make a Porno."

If you are a Kevin Smith or Judd Apatow fan, you will love this movie. If you're not, then I feel sorry for you because I laughed so hard at one scene, I thought I was going to pass out. I was still laughing about it when I left the theater.

Kevin's movies aren't for everyone. There's a certain raunch factor that you have to be able to get past to enjoy them. I don't have that problem because I teach 8th graders who pass gas in class. I think his movies are hilariously funny, aimed directly at comic book, movie, and pop culture fans who are well-versed in those topics for the past 30 or so years. There are always Star Wars references in his movies, and in Clerks II he even began to show his age by comparing Randal Graves' obsession with the original Star Wars trilogy to the new geek triad: The Lord of the Rings. Jeff Anderson, who plays Randal in the View Askewniverse, gets a shot at a supporting character in this new movie, and let's just say that there's some poetic justice for one of his Rings-bashing lines in Clerks II.

If you like Kevin Smith, see this movie!

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Blue State?

I can't believe I'm in a blue state today. Indiana hasn't voted Democratic for president since before I was born. I've lived here for 19 years and have always looked around and seen red, and yet today it's clearly not.

I always feel somewhat alone, being a Michigan transplant. I'm usually the only guy I see walking around wearing a Detroit Tigers cap. If I see someone else wearing Tigers gear, I always make a point of stopping to talk to them. They're usually either from Michigan, or a transplant like me. When I go to Michigan for a visit, I always feel more comfortable because I see other people with the same interests. I feel that same loneliness sometimes as someone who leans liberal in a state that always goes conservative, at least in presidential politics. I don't feel that way today, at least for the moment.

This might be the first step in feeling at home in the state where I've lived for so long.