Thursday, September 30, 2010

Let Superman Be Superman: Five Ways to Fix Mainstream Comics

I don't know if it's just that I've been reading comic books for far too long, or that I simply need a nice cup of tea and an episode of Doctor Who to relax, but a number of things about the current state of mainstream comics are becoming considerably annoying and irritating.  At a time when the comics industry needs to step its game up more than ever, it feels like there are glaring problems that the publishers seem to be unable or even unwilling to address.  Some of these are fairly obvious, I know, so if for no other reason than my own cartharsis, here are some thoughts on what needs to change...

1.  Let Superman be Superman -- In a desperate attempt to make classic superhero characters fresh and interesting once again, too many creators are falling back on storylines where the hero or heroine is taken off the playing field and replaced by another character or they merely go elsewhere for some particular reason that keeps them from their standard modus operandi.  After spending a year on a temporary replacement for Krypton, Superman goes for a walkabout across the United States; Batman is "killed" but actually sent back in time by Darkseid and is replaced by Nightwing; Wonder Woman suddenly wakes up with a completely different life and a disappointing costume from the 1990s; Captain America is "killed" but is actually sent back in time because of the Red Skull, is replaced by the Winter Soldier, comes back but doesn't reclaim the mantle (yet); Daredevil is expected to either be "killed" or disappear somehow for a while and will be replaced the Black Panther...and so on and so on.  Sure, things need to be shaken up from time to time, but are creators that unable to be creative and tell fresh stories in the traditional format?  One of the reasons that Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely's All-Star Superman was so successful is simply because Morrison let Superman be Superman in a back-to-basics approach.  It seems a bit sad to realize this, but the traditional approach has now become the fresh alternative.

2.  Stop making mainstream comics look like independents -- More and more, I'm seeing mainstream comics adopting abstract styles originally reserved for DC's Vertigo line or little-known independent comics.  Now, I realize art is subjective and that different artists appeal to different readers, but it feels a bit wrong for a gateway title like Amazing Spider-Man to use artists with loose, chaotic styles like Eric Canete and Chris Bachalo.  I have no problem whatsoever if you want to use them on a Spider-Man story, but that story should be presented in a separate limited or ongoing series.  Amazing Spider-Man, however, is supposed to be the core title that tries to appeal to all Spider-Man fans and brings in new ones, not just the fans that want something that looks cool regardless of basic anatomy.

3.  Keep the cost of the core titles down as low as possible -- Some of the longest-running titles in mainstream comics are Action Comics, Superman, Detective Comics, Batman, Wonder Woman, Justice League of America, Amazing Spider-Man, The Avengers, Captain America, Daredevil, Fantastic Four, Incredible Hulk, Thor and Uncanny X-Men, and yet, many of these are now $3.99 per issue while other titles continue to sell at $2.99 per issue.  In this current economy, it doesn't help your customer base if you gouge the prices of your most essential books.  From a business standpoint, sure, it make sense to charge more for the titles that fans feel encouraged to buy the most because it increases your bottom line.  But what happens to those readers who drop titles that start charging $3.99?  Presumably, they move on to other books or they instead follow the book by reading a trade paperback inside a Barnes & Noble (often without paying for it) or even worse, they just give up following the character(s) altogether.  Digital comics will help, of course, as long as the price looks attractive to potential purchasers, but Marvel charges $1.99 per digital comic, which is only a buck cheaper than most of DC's comics printed on actual paper. 

4.  Stop glutting the marketplace -- The Solicitations for December 2010 show nineteen Batman-related titles and seventeen X-Men related titles, about half of which are completely pointless and cost $3.99 per issue.  I realize that DC and Marvel are merely hedging their respective business plans on hardcore Batman and X-Men fans buying everything that appeals to them, but these excessive titles take up comic store shelf space that could be used for something -- wait for it -- different.  I don't expect DC or Marvel to be willing to give that precious shelf space up to a competitor, but they should at least give us a taste of other concepts and characters from within their own house.  If each of the Big Two dropped at least six superfluous titles and replaced them with something else, that's twelve new types of books on the stands every month right there.

5.  Treat your fans and your fellow creators as you want to be treated -- Thanks to blogs, comics news sites with forums and various social network platforms, I'm seeing too many so-called professional creators getting into arguments with their so-called fans and more often than not, with other creators.  Some of these arguments are unavoidable, especially when one particularly disturbed fan or creator calls someone out, but it feels like almost everyone is ready to pounce on every stupid little thing that gets posted.  Back in the day, most fans interacted with creators at conventions or through snail-mail correspondence.  Not nearly as effective as posting comments on a message board, perhaps, but the price of technology is apparently being able to argue with someone more efficiently and directly.  Fans have the occasionally well-deserved reputation of failing in the social graces, so it's particularly unsettling to see creators stooping to their level with the only difference between them being paychecks and published products.  I know they're creative artsy-fartsy types with passion and strong opinions, but when they criticize the behavior of rude fans, it often comes off as incredibly hypocritical.  You can be better...all of you.

So this is some of what I'm feeling at the moment.  How about you?

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

HUMAN TARGET Season 2 Premiere Now Wednesday, November 17th

With the abrupt cancellation of FOX's new Lone Star  series after only two low-rated episodes, FOX is already blowing up some of their fall schedule and the second season premiere of Human Target is one of the casualties.

Originally scheduled to premiere this Friday at 8 p.m., Human Target will now start up again on Wednesday, November 17th at 8 p.m. EST.  On one hand, this is a good move because it gets the series out of the Friday Death Slot and away from Smallville's promising final season, but it now goes up against CBS' Survivor.  This will replace Lie to Me, which now gets Lone Star's timeslot on Mondays at 9.m. EST.  FOX will air House reruns on Friday nights at 8 p.m. EST.

And for those who are curious about Human Target's season premiere episode, here's the official FOX synopsis:

Picking up from the heart-pounding first season cliffhanger, the new season of HUMAN TARGET kicks off with a bang as CHANCE (Mark Valley) and GUERRERO (Jackie Earle Haley) race to rescue their kidnapped associate, WINSTON (Chi McBride). Vowing to retire from the security business, Chance is lured back to work by billionaire philanthropist ILSA PUCCI (new series regular Indira Varma), who needs his protection after the mysterious murder of her husband. While on assignment, the team encounters AMES (new cast member Janet Montgomery), a beautiful, chameleon-like thief who has a past connection to Winston.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Real-Life Iron Man Suit Gets Upgraded

Yes, it sure looks cool...but how well can it handle itself in a dogfight with F-22 Raptor fighter jets and fighting Russians armed with whip-like energy weapons?

Samantha Murphy at TechNewsDaily provides details about a new second-generation robotic suit developed for the military called Exoskeleton (XOS 2)
that is lighter, faster and stronger than the XOS 1, but uses fifty percent less power.

The suit was unveiled yesterday during a demonstration with Paramount Home Entertainment, presumably as part of the promotion for today's release of Iron Man 2 on Blu-Ray and DVD.  I don't suppose there's any chance of Best Buy offering one of these bad boys as an incentive for picking up the 2-Disc Blu-Ray...?

Great Scott! BACK TO THE FUTURE is Back in AMC Theaters!

According to AMC Theaters, the classic 1985 film Back to the Future will be returning to their theaters for two digitally remastered 25th anniversary screenings on Saturday, October 23rd at 12:30 p.m. and Monday, October 25th at 7:00 p.m.  October 25th is, quite appropriately, the day depicted early on in the movie before Marty McFly meets Doctor Emmett Brown at Twin Pines Mall later that evening and goes back in time to 1955.

The screenings will take place on 158 screens in over 40 cities and all who attend will receive a full-sized poster commemorating the 25th anniversary with their ticket purchase, while supplies last.  Also, each theater will have special movie-related giveaways prior to the movie. 

Apparently, you can check to see if an AMC theater near you is screening the film by checking HERE and entering your zip code in the search field.  If nothing comes up, chances are the film will not be playing in your area.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Daft Punk's TRON: LEGACY Score Announced and Easter Egg Goodness

The Walt Disney Company announced today that Daft Punk's score for the film Tron: Legacy will be available for purchase on November 22.  And surprise, there's even a handy-dandy press release...

The highly anticipated original motion picture score for TRON: Legacy, composed and produced by the iconic and critically acclaimed Grammy® Award–winning French duo Daft Punk, will be released by Walt Disney Records on Monday, November 22, 2010. Presented in Disney Digital 3D™, Walt Disney Pictures' "TRON: Legacy" hits U.S. theaters on December 17, 2010, in Disney Digital 3D™ and IMAX® 3D.

Having grown up with admiration of Disney's groundbreaking original 1982 film "TRON," Daft Punk took on the scoring of the next chapter of the story with extraordinary thought and precision. The duo assembled a symphony of one hundred world class musicians in London and recorded the orchestra at AIR Lyndhurst Studios, Britain's premier scoring facility.

From Daft Punk's first single release in 1993, Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo and Thomas Bangalter were hailed as a new breed of electronic music innovators. Following their seminal debut in 1997 (Homework), the band went on to release two more studio albums (Discovery-2001, Human After All-2005) and two live albums (Alive 1997, Alive 2007), winning them both critical and popular acclaim throughout the world. Daft Punk are known as much for their music and technical innovation as their groundbreaking and elaborate visual universe, which centers around their irrepressible and mysterious Robot personas. In 2006, their directorial art house film debut, "Daft Punk's Electroma," premiered at the Cannes Film Festival and in 2007 they toured internationally with a jaw-dropping live show that was an awe-inspiring combination of their musical and visual prowess. Their collaboration with Kanye West on his #1 hit single "Stronger" was hailed as "The Song of the Year" by SPIN Magazine (January 2008 issue), which also saw Daft sharing the cover with Kanye, having been awarded "Tour of the Year" by the magazine. Daft Punk performed with West on the Grammy Awards in 2008, marking the mercurial duo's first and only television appearance anywhere in the world. "TRON: Legacy" will mark Daft Punk's first film score.

"TRON: Legacy" is a 3D high-tech adventure set in a digital world that's unlike anything ever captured on the big screen. Sam Flynn (Garrett Hedlund), a rebellious 27-year-old, is haunted by the mysterious disappearance of his father Kevin Flynn (Oscar®- and Golden Globe®-winner Jeff Bridges), a man once known as the world's leading video-game developer. When Sam investigates a strange signal sent from the old Flynn's Arcade—a signal that could only come from his father—he finds himself pulled into a digital world where Kevin has been trapped for 20 years. With the help of the fearless warrior Quorra (Olivia Wilde), father and son embark on a life-and-death journey across a visually-stunning cyber universe—a universe created by Kevin himself that has become far more advanced with never-before-imagined vehicles, weapons, landscapes and a ruthless villain who will stop at nothing to prevent their escape. Visit the
official site for more info and become a fan at Facebook.

Also, the Tron: Legacy soundtrack site has a page where you can pre-order the soundtrack, get signed up for e-mail updates, and it appears as though an exclusive film poster and some bonus track or tracks may be available at some point closer to the release.  You can check out the potential goodness here.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Katy Perry's Boobs Are Back to Destroy Your Children!

From the season premiere of Saturday Night Live...

And in an Elmo t-shirt no less!  Is nothing sacred?  Something must be done to...errrrr, about Katy's breasts before civilization as we know it is completely lost forever!  Think of the childrens!  THE CHILDRENS!!!

Friday, September 24, 2010

DAMN Good Comic of the Week -- FANTASTIC FOUR #583

Well, it took quite some time setting up the chessboard and getting his pieces into position, but writer Jonathan Hickman is finally making some serious moves on Fantastic Four.

In Part One of "Three" (not part one of three), Hickman starts to weave the seemingly unconnected plot threads -- a Council of various Reed Richardses from multiple universes, a brain-damaged Doctor Doom, the time meddling from future versions of Franklin and Valeria Richards -- together into an intricate tapestry of storytelling that could end up becoming a disaster or absolutely mindblowing.  Thankfully, he's now joined by none other than Steve Epting as the new series artist and as someone who has followed Epting since his run way back on The Avengers, I couldn't be more thrilled to see him back on a major title.

Once again, young Valeria steals the spotlight away from the FF as we see her fire up her father's interdimensional Bridge machine and learning about the Council of Reeds and their plan to Solve Everything.  Some of the dialogue is deliberately omitted, presumably for a later plot payoff down the road, but at least there seems to be a plan.  Hopefully.  Apparently, though, Val has more on her "To Do" list because she soon teleports herself to Latervia for a chat with her Uncle Doom.  (Not too shabby of a day for a three-year old.)  There, she quickly observes that Doctor Doom has suffered brain damage as a result of his imprisonment by the Intelligencia and makes a deal with him with potential repercussions.  But hey, it's only Doctor Doom, so why worry about repercussions, right?

It's this plotline that intrigues me the most, because Hickman is actually developing Doctor Doom as a character by having this self-important egomaniac cope with his reality that he's not as intelligent as he used to be.  So many writers tend to write Doom as a one-note, prototype Darth Vader villain that they overlook his potential and I'm glad that Hickman isn't one of them.  He's also managed to make Mr. Fantastic more fantastic than he's been in years and if he can keep from using Valeria as his go-to character, I'd love to see him make that kind of an effort with Sue, Ben and Johnny.  Epting, meanwhile, gives this series the punch it needed under previous pencillers Dale Eaglesham and Neil Edwards, with sharp, striking visuals that refine the overall storytelling instead of convoluting it even further.

We have another four issues to go of "Three," so here's hoping the rest are as engaging and effective as this issue...

Thursday, September 23, 2010

ALL-STAR SUPERMAN Trailer Goodness!

Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely's 12-issue series All-Star Superman is considered to be among the best Superman tales of the modern era and at the beginning of 2011, it's coming to DVD and Blu-Ray in an animated feature. 

All-Star Superman stars James Denton as Superman, Christina Hendricks as Lois Lane, Ed Asner as Perry White and Anthony LaPaglia as Lex Luthor, and the trailer will be included with the Superman/Batman: Apocalypse animated feature being released on September 28th.

I'm pretty evenly divided on the previous DC Comics Direct-to-DVD animated projects, but this one could be...well...superb.


If there's a choir, you know things have gone full-blown epic.  Enjoy...

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Solo BLACK WIDOW Film Being Discussed

In a press conference for the Iron Man 2 DVD/Blu-Ray release today, Marvel Studios head Kevin Feige confirmed that a solo Black Widow film with Scarlett Johannson reprising the role as Natasha Romanoff is currently being discussed.

"We've already started discussions with Scarlett about the idea of a solo movie and have begun putting together concepts," said Feige, "but The Avengers comes first."

The full transcript of the press conference can be found here at SuperheroHype.  No other information about the film so far, but this seems like enough of a reason to post a Scarlett Johansson pic.

Any Short or Tall People Want to Be in THE HOBBIT?

Seems like the production issues with The Hobbit are finally getting resolved.  A site called The Noldor Blog claims that today's Wellington Dominion Post newspaper in New Zealand featured an advertisement for tall and short scale doubles.  It's not an official greenlight for the film, obviously, but certainly a step in the right direction.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010


On last night's episode of The Colbert Report, host Stephen Colbert added another page to his considerable Geek Cred resume by giving some face time to none other than The Beast from the Doctor Who episode "The Satan Pit." 

In his piece "Christine O'Donnell Witch Test," Colbert played an old clip of Delaware Senate Republican Party nominee Christine O'Donnell discussing her past practice of witchcraft on an episode of Bill Maher's series Politically Incorrect.  O'Donnell mentioned that "There was a little blood there" during a midnight picnic on a satanic altar and Colbert immediately followed with The Beast's picture, interjecting, "Of course there was, because Satan is a messy eater."

The Beast, unfortunately, could not be reached for comment on his appearance on The Colbert Report or his past association with Christine O'Donnell.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Mid-Ohio-Con Hits the Big 3-0 on November 6th!

The 30th anniversary of Mid-Ohio-Con in Columbus, Ohio is just over a month away now, so I thought I'd pass along their most recent guest list.  I've been going to Mid-Ohio-Con since the John Byrne relaunch of the Superman books was announced way back in November of 1985, so needless to say, this convention has meant a lot to me over the years.

As you can see, the list of creators is looking pretty impressive so far, so if you're interested in going, check out the link above for more information and tickets. 

Guests of Honor

David Finch                  Adam Hughes

Featured Guests

Andy Bennett               Josef Rubinstein
Art Baltazar                  Joshua Warner
Arvell Jones                  Kevin Cannon
Barry Kitson                 Khoi Pham
Beau Smith                  Kurt Busiek
Billy Tan                       Lora Innes
Billy Tucci                    Marc Sumerak
Bob Ingersoll                Mark Evanier
Brett Pinson                 Mark Texiera
Brian Pulido                 Matt Wagner
Bryan J.L. Glass          Michael Golden
Chris Giarrusso            Renee Witterstaetter
Chris Sprouse              Scott Simmons
Chris Yambar              Sean Forney
Craig Rousseau           Sean McKeever
David Aikins                Sergio Aragon├ęs
David Mack                 Steve Scott
David Petersen            Thom Zahler
Ethan Van Sciver         Todd Dezago
Gary Kwapisz              Todd Nauck
George Broderick, Jr.   Tony Isabella
Herb Trimpe                 Tony Moore
Jamie Snell                  Uko Smith

Recent Updates
Michael Berryman, Lou Ferrigno, Joe Benitez

Hi, My Name is Charles (Hi, Charles) and I Have an Addiction to Television

Okay, the new fall TV season officially began when Survivor started up again this past Wednesday and I'm already realizing how screwed I'm going to be.  Check this TV schedule (Yes, I made a schedule) out and you'll see that I have a serious problem...

9/19 -- Boardwalk Empire
9/20 -- House, The Event, Hawaii Five-O
9/22 -- Hell's Kitchen
9/23 -- Fringe
9/24 -- Smallville
9/26 -- The Simpsons, The Cleveland Show, Family Guy, American Dad
9/28 -- No Ordinary Family
10/1 -- Human Target
10/5 -- Caprica
10/6 -- South Park
10/24 -- Sherlock
10/31 -- The Walking Dead
11/8 -- Conan

I know, right?  And this is on top of Survivor, The Venture Bros., The Daily Show and The Colbert Report, which are already airing.  Not to mention Cleveland Browns and Ohio State Buckeyes football games.  Oh, and my wife Lori and I also burning through episodes of The Sopranos as fast as Time Warner Cable can post them onto their HBO On Demand channel.

I think I need to go read a book or something, just to embrace my denial a bit longer...

Friday, September 17, 2010

THE SARAH JANE ADVENTURES: "Death of the Doctor" Clip

It's great seeing Jo Grant again after all these years, but do the monsters have to resemble the Skeksis from The Dark Crystal?

DAMN Good Comic Book of the Week -- BRIGHTEST DAY #10

Eleven issues in (counting issue #0), writer Geoff Johns has set up some interesting situations for the heroes and villains resurrected at the end of the Blackest Night event series.  Two of my favorite storylines, involving Aquaman and Firestorm, are featured in this issue and both manage to step their games up nicely.

Ronnie Raymond and Jason Rusch, the two young men who comprise Firestorm, learn some significant things about the new Firestorm matrix, including how their powers currently work and how potentially destructive they can be.  Providing the necessary plot exposition is Ronnie's original partner as Firestorm, Professor Martin Stein, and Stein's presence continues to make me pine for the original Firestorm pairing over the current arrangement.  More importantly, though, the hidden enemy lurking within Firestorm finally reveals himself in the cliffhanger, surprising practically no one but still looking kinda badass regardless.

Meanwhile on the Aquaman front, upcoming Aqualad replacement Jackson Hyde also learns things about himself thanks to a mysterious chest that, of course, only Jackson can open.  Just when Jackson and his father have their "Clark, you're not really our son and we found you in this rocket" Superman moment, out pops Black Manta, looking more formidable than...well...ever.  Wacky chaos naturally ensues, leading right to the inevitable staredown between Black Manta and Aquaman.  Artist Ivan Reis does a nice job here, especially with the splash pages, and really makes you hope that a Johns/Reis Aquaman monthly series is in the cards after Brightest Day ends in 2011.

The Beginning/Return of DAMN Good Coffee...and HOT!

Hello, I'm Charles Skaggs.  Basically...run.

By popular demand (of at least three people), I've decided to finally give this blog thing a go without having any idea whatsoever of how it's going to turn out.  Former members of the amateur press association known as TitanTalk may recall that I used to do this sort of thing back in the day, only we antiquated geezers called it a "zine" and used strange things like "paper" and "copy machines at work" to get our various ramblings out to our friends and occasional enemies.  But now we live in the glorious future, where everyone and their second cousin twice removed by way of adoption sends messages to one another over their phones or posts the most trivial and useless nonsense you could ever think on Facebook and Twitter.  Which reminds me...

Charles on Facebook

Charles on Twitter

So with all that in mind, I thought it was somewhat fitting to bring my old TitanTalk zine title back from the dead and launch DAMN Good Coffee...and HOT! 2.0.  Or DAMN Good Coffee...and HOT!: The Next Generation.  Or whatever you think it is.  My plan is to use this as a forum for everything that's not convenient for me to do currently on Facebook or Twitter, such as my long-winded movie reviews, things I've written in the past, or thoughts about comic books, actual book books, music and television that could use a little love and word-of-mouth.

I'm hoping that you'll find most of what I post to be interesting or at the very least, not all that annoying.  And please feel free to comment wherever you like, however you like, because the more people that get involved, the more entertaining this is going to be for people to read.  All I ask is that you keep your death threats to an absolute minimum and bear with me until I become more fluent with all things blogified.

And so, it begins...