Thursday, December 29, 2011

DAMN Good Comics -- SECRET AVENGERS #20

I can't believe we only have one more of these.

Over the past five issues of Marvel's Secret Avengers, writer Warren Ellis has produced some of the best single-issue stories in recent memory and this latest, "Encircle," certainly exemplies this.  Black Widow, described at the start as "the world's greatest secret agent," gets the spotlight here in a masterful time-travel tale that rates as one of the best ever for the character.

In a timey-wimey structure feeling quite a bit like a Steven Moffat Doctor Who script, Ellis starts the issue off with the deaths of team members Steve Rogers, War Machine and Sharon Carter, and then sends Black Widow back in time five years to figure out a way to prevent it.  Of course, Natasha Romanoff's background is in espionage, not temporal physics, but with the help of her "Escape Hatch" wrist device, some hints from teammate The Beast, and forty years of scientific research by a man named "Count" Oscar Khronus, she figures out a game plan.

This issue has several wonderful touches -- Black Widow's hatred of time travel, her hatred of the "Escape Hatch" device, Khronus' dimwitted henchman Kongo, weaponeer Harry Grindell "Death-Ray" Evans, the very Ellis line "My time gun will send your heart to be eaten by dinosaurs," a brief chat with Doctor Druid thirty-six hours before his death, among others.  Over the course of "eighteen weeks, two days, nine hours and three minutes," or over four months of Black Widow's actual time, she implements a mission that spans decades in order to achieve her objective.  Each temporal encounter has a specific purpose, it seems, and you, you lucky reader, get to see everything fall neatly into place over just twenty pages.

The artist paired with Ellis for this issue is Alex Maleev, who somehow escaped from his usual creative partner Brian Michael Bendis long enough to turn in some terrific work for Secret Avengers.  Maleev proved long ago he could depict a formidable Black Widow during his time with Bendis on Daredevil, but here he makes us wish Marvel would put him on a monthly Black Widow series, preferably one written by Ellis.  A sequence set forty-four years in the past is made particularly memorable, drawn as a serial comic strip similar to Milton Caniff's Steve Canyon.

But yes, there's only one more issue of Warren Ellis' Secret Avengers to go and no, I'm not happy about it.  Six issues is far too short for something this wonderful and I'm sorry, but not even the promise of "the end of the world" next issue is going to make up for it...

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Is Batman His Own Worst Enemy?


Received something interesting in my e-mail this morning, an infographic concerning four of Batman's biggest villains and why Batman is responsible (or partially responsible) for their creation.

At first glance, the timing seems to coincide with DC Comics' current "Batman 201" $0.99 digital comics sale on ComiXology, but with all the Warner Bros. marketing for the upcoming Christopher Nolan Batman film The Dark Knight Rises steadily working their way through the Internets recently, you have to wonder if something else is at play here.  Of the four villains listed in the infographic, Bane is obviously front and center in Dark Knight Rises, but rumors of Two-Face's possible involvement persist.  The Joker's appearance in The Dark Knight could certainly be referenced, while Hush could potentially be featured in the film albeit in some minor fashion.

Here's the infographic in question.  See what you can make of this...


 

Saturday, December 24, 2011

New Cast, Locale for AMERICAN HORROR STORY Season 2


One of the great surprises of the 2011 fall TV season was FX's American Horror Story, a serial horror drama that paid tribute to many movie horror classics while telling its own seriously messed-up 12-episode storyline in the process.  Week after week, the show revealed dark events surrounding the Harmon family, their neighbor Constance Langdon, and the numerous ghosts populating their haunted Los Angeles home.

According to Entertainment Weekly, the second season of the series will feature an entirely new location and a mostly new cast.  "Some of them will be coming back," said creator Ryan Murphy.  "I’m talking to several of them and we’re in negotiations.  There will be familiar faces, but there will also be new faces on the show."  Murphy plans to announce the show's new storyline and cast sometime in February.

Interestingly, Murphy mentioned the actors that return will be "playing completely different characters, creatures, and monsters.  It’s a really fun idea to do an anthology show.  That’s the way it was designed from the beginning.  Every season, there will be a new haunting and we’ll have a new overriding theme."

This might mean we've seen the last of Jessica Lange's Emmy-worthy performance as Constance, even though the character was only one of two regulars to actually survive to the end of season one.

It's definitely the end of "The Murder House," though.  According to Murphy, the set has already been struck to move "onward and upward."  Maybe the series could shift to Westfield High School, where Tate Langdon massacred fifteen people with a shotgun?

Thursday, December 22, 2011

PROMETHEUS Teaser Trailer Debuts

Y'know, for a movie that's supposedly not a prequel to the 1979 science-fiction/horror classic Alien, Ridley Scott's Prometheus sure seems a hell of a lot like a prequel to the 1979 science-fiction/horror classic Alien.

In the just-released teaser trailer shown below, we see the film's title gradually emerging in a way similar to the Alien trailer, a chamber full of pods similar to Facehugger eggs, an astronaut being attacked in a manner very similar to a Facehugger attack that got John Hurt's character G.W. Kane in Alien, and the giant alien "space jockey" found sitting in a chair in Alien.  If Prometheus isn't a direct prequel to Alien, it certainly seems to share the same fictional universe.

Prometheus is scheduled to arrive in theaters on June 8, 2012 and stars Michael Fassbender, Charlize Theron, Idris Elba and Noomi Rapace.  Let's see how many of their characters, if any, actually make it to the end.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Did George Lucas Swipe Tusken Raiders from DOCTOR WHO?


So there I was, kicking back at home watching a classic Doctor Who tale, "Colony In Space," from the Jon Pertwee era that originally aired in the U.K. in 1971.  And about twenty minutes into episode five of the six-part story, I noticed something a bit...familiar.  When the Third Doctor and the First Master are driving across the quarry surface of the planet Uxarieus in a funky little dune buggy, they're set upon by a group of primitives perched on rocky cliffs high above that raise their weapons above their hands in a way that reminds me of...something.  A presence I've not felt since...


Oh, yeah...That's it, the Tusken Raiders (a.k.a. Sand People) from the Star Wars films.  Now, I know others have noticed that Star Wars creator George Lucas has "borrowed" certain elements from Doctor Who before, but this two-armed weapon-raising celebration seems a bit intriguing considering "Colony In Space" debuted in 1971 and Star Wars premiered in 1977.  Of course, it's entirely possible the basic image became embedded somewhere in Lucas' subconscious and he simply pictured his primitive Tusken Raiders making similar gestures as the Uxarieus primitives. 

It's just purely coincidental, that's all.  You know, like Darth Vader and Doctor Doom.

May the Artron Energy be with you...always.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

DAMN Good Comics -- BATWOMAN #4

If there were any remaining doubts that the current Batwoman creative team would be able to maintain the level of quality shown in issue one, I think we can officially put them to rest now.

In "Estuary," Part Four of the opening story arc "Hydrology," writer W. Haden Blackman and artist J.H. Williams III produce another stunning twenty pages that make you wish every comic was this good.  This issue grabs you right from the start, interspersing some tastefully graphic panels of Kate Kane and Maggie Sawyer making love to one another with the bold, colorful contrast of Kate's cousin Bette brashly taking on the Weeping Woman's Frankenstein-like minion Pajarito. 

Without going into too many specifics, Batwoman's fears about Bette's readiness to fight crime as Flamebird come to pass, putting the character's future in extreme jeopardy.  As a Flamebird fan, it's a little hard to reconcile this inexperienced "New 52" Bette with her Post-Crisis depiction as a former fangirl of the Dick Grayson Robin that eventually got her act together and became a serious superheroine capable of holding her own in dangerous fights.  However, Flamebird's fight with Pajarito does serve another purpose of bringing Department of Extranormal Operations Agent Cameron Chase considerably closer to her goal of capturing Batwoman.

As always though, the big draw for Batwoman readers is J.H. Williams' incredible art.  In addition to the opening sequence mentioned above, Williams treats us to another stylish depiction of the story arc titles, framing them in a blood-themed font around a phoenix-shaped image of snow-covered ground surrounding Bette.  Another memorable double-page spread uses the folds of Batwoman's cape as panel dividers, while the last page uses smoke from DEO Director Bones' cigar to create a middle panel image of Bones and Chase's target, Kate Kane.  No nice and tidy nine-panel Watchmen grids here, that's for sure.

The Weeping Woman remains a vague, ghostly menace but we get more of her background this issue as Batwoman engages in actual detective work rarely seen in recent Batman titles.  However, we now have her connection to the apparent flesh-and-blood Pajarito to explore, and with the number of questions surrounding Bette and the DEO, this book shouldn't be short of material to cover.  Let's see how "Hydrology" wraps up next month...

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

THE COLBERT REPORT Compares Newt Gingrich to Bond Villain


In his latest "Tip of the Hat/Wag of the Finger" segment featured on last night's episode of The Colbert Report, host Stephen Colbert tipped said hat to current Republican Presidential frontrunner Newt Gingrich for "repeatedly alerting the nation to an underreported threat, the electromagnetic pulse."

"Now, Newt is not the only one who is concerned with the coming EMPmageddon," Colbert explained.  "So is Her Majesty's Secret Service."  Colbert then played a clip from the 1995 James Bond film GoldenEye, starring Pierce Brosnan, which showed Bond and his superior M discussing the GoldenEye weapon's ability to create an electromagnetic pulse.

"Yes.  Bond, James Bond...agrees with Gingrich, Newt Gingrich," continued Colbert.  "And just like Bond, Gingrich is calm under pressure, a little cocky, and is frequently seen with different leading ladies.  Plus, his half-million dollar line of credit at Tiffany's proves he knows Diamonds Are Forever."

The Bond comparisons didn't stop there.  "And as David Brooks (of The New York Times) pointed out, Newt has called for '...a permanent lunar colony to exploit the Moon's resources.'  Hmmm...Sounds to me like Newt...is a Moonraker.

"And Newt has also pointed out that '...a mirror system in space could provide the light equivalent of many full moons so that there would be no need for nighttime lighting of the highways.'  Hmmm...Hmmm...Giant solar mirrors also seem familiar..."  At that moment, a scene from another Bond film was shown, with Gustav Graves unveiling his new orbital mirror satellite Icarus that later turns out to be a deadly weapon.  "It's the plot of Die Another Day!"

It then occured to Colbert that all of these schemes were from the villains.  "That means Gingrich isn't Bond...He's Blofeld!" 

Supervillain Ernst Stavro Blofeld could not be reached for comment from within his secret lair inside an active volcano.  If you'd like to see the full Colbert Report segment, you can view it here.

Monday, December 12, 2011

GENERATOR REX: Fezzes Are Cool Again in March

It is happening again...It is happening again...

Those of you who perused the DC Comics March 2012 solicitations today may have noticed this little item...

CARTOON NETWORK ACTION PACK #67Written by CHARLES SKAGGS and JASON BISCHOFF
Art and cover by MIKE CAVALLARO
On sale MARCH 14 • 32 pg, FC, $2.99 US • RATED E
Bobo’s favorite fez is destroyed during a battle with a rampaging EVO and he insists on taking Rex to get a replacement. One problem, though...The only hat shop he trusts is all the way in Morocco and it’s under siege by a vicious local gang of EVOs. Are fezzes cool enough to be worth all this trouble?


Oh yeah, you read that right...Fezzes.  And anyone who gives me more than five seconds of their attention should know exactly what that means.

This is my third Generator Rex story for Cartoon Network Action Pack, saving what I personally feel is my best for last in this buddy adventure featuring Rex Salazar and Bobo Haha in Morocco.  I've only seen pencils by artist Mike Cavallaro so far, but I couldn't be more pleased with how this story is turning out.  And just to show how special this story is to me, I think I'm going to run a little contest the week of March 14th with some sort of Damn Good Prize to the winner.  However, if you want to participate in the contest, you're going to need a copy of Cartoon Network Action Pack #67 so be sure to put one copy or twelve on your next Previews order form, steal a copy from your little brother when he's not looking, stage some elaborate first Mission: Impossible movie style infiltration of Diamond's delivery warehouses, whatever works best for you.

Oh, and I hope you have fun reading my story.  I certainly had fun writing it.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Two DOCTOR WHO Episodes Lost in Time Found!


Fans of old-school Doctor Who just received an early Christmas present.

According to the official Doctor Who website, two missing episodes previously thought to be lost forever in time have been returned to the BBC Archive.  Episode 3 of the William Hartnell adventure "Galaxy 4" and Episode 2 of Patrick Troughton's "The Underwater Menace" were purchased by film collector Terry Burnett at a village fete near Southampton in the early 1980s.  He wasn't aware that the canisters contained material missing from the BBC.

These are the first complete episodes to have been located since 2004.  None of the four episodes of the 1965 adventure "Galaxy 4" were rescued from the BBC's Archive purge in the 1960s and 1970s for economic and space-saving reasons, although a short extract had been retained. Previously, only Episode 3 of the four-part "The Underwater Menace" from 1967 had been recovered, making Episode 2 now the earliest surviving complete episode featuring Patrick Troughton as the Second Doctor.

Doctor Who writer and actor Mark Gatiss hosted a screening of the footage today at the British Film Institute's "Missing Believed Wiped" event at the National Film Theatre in London.  "Christmas has come early for Doctor Who fans everywhere," said Gatiss.  "It's always wonderful when a missing episode turns up but it's been years since the last one so to have two is just brilliant.  Add to that a proper bit of action from the legendary Chumblies (and the horrifying Rills!) plus the utterly mesmeric Patrick Troughton on great form.  Well, what more could we all ask for?"

The website also mentions that details of a commercial release will be announced by home video production company 2 entertain in 2012.  Perhaps a separate DVD release for "The Underwater Menace" with some animation used to show the events of the still-missing Episodes 1 and 4?

Friday, December 9, 2011

COMMUNITY's Inspector Spacetime Gets Christmas Special

The question isn't whether Inspector Spacetime should get his own spinoff series...but when.

The NBC sitcom Community's show-within-a-show Doctor Who parody made a third appearance last night in the Christmas episode "Regional Holiday Music."  Early on, Inspector Spacetime fan Abed Nadir suggests to his group of friends that they could watch the lost 1981 Inspector Spacetime Holiday Special, which has a running time of two and a half hours and was "so critically reviled after it aired the creator had his knighthood revoked."

Apart from giving a shout-out to the various Doctor Who Christmas specials that have aired regular since the show's return in 2005, this also makes fun of the infamously horrible 1978 Star Wars Holiday Special  that was so bad Star Wars creator George Lucas has refused to allow it to be officially released on home video.

Towards the end of the episode, Abed is sitting at home in his pajamas watching the Inspector Spacetime Holiday Special.  "Happy Time Day, Reggie," says the Inspector as he hands Constable Reginald Wigglesworth a Time Day gift.  "It is tradition to give one's Constable a gift at the end of each orbital cycle."

"Blimey! A hologram!" exclaims Constable Reggie.  "Let's activate it and view the performance."  Sure enough, a Star Wars-like hologram of a rock band appears and starts playing bad music.

Abed stares at the screen, finally declaring "This is terrible."  Later, after Abed's friends arrive at his door singing a Christmas carol, they all sit down to watch the Inspector Spacetime Holiday Special.  We hear the Inspector's arch-enemies the Blogons chanting "Eradicate! Eradicate!" followed by Santa Claus who wishes everyone a "Merry Time Day."

And a Merry Time Day to all of you at home.  If you'd like to see the scenes mentioned, you can view them below thanks to the kindness of YouTube user TVGirl17...

Thursday, December 8, 2011

DAMN Good Comics -- ANIMAL MAN #4

Once upon a time in 1988, a then little-known writer named Grant Morrison took an obscure, D-list, DC Comics character named Animal Man and turned him into something wonderful over the span of 26 classic issues.  Other writers such as Peter Milligan, Tom Veitch and Jamie Delano followed, but none of them seemed to give the character that creative spark than Morrison did.

Until now, of course.

Four issues into the second volume of Animal Man, writer Jeff Lemire has taken elements from Morrison and Delano's runs and fused them with his own style to create one of the best titles of DC's "The New 52."  Back in May, before the relaunched DC Universe was even announced, I wrote about how great it would be if DC formed a new "Vertigo 2.0" imprint that brought back the edgy superhero titles that DC's Vertigo line made so well back in the '90s.  Well, they didn't create a separate imprint, but they did form a group of Vertigoesque titles called "The Dark" that are essentially the same thing apart from nudity and the occasional F-bomb.

Lemire's Animal Man is definitely dark compared to most DC superhero titles and reads as though you can easily see it being adapted as a weekly television series on AMC or FX.  In this issue, Buddy Baker, the animal-powered superhero known rather appropriately as Animal Man, has entered a surreal realm known as The Red (created by Delano) with his young daughter Maxine.  Maxine, it turns out, is definitely a daddy's girl with emerging animal abilities of her own, making her a very important Avatar of The Red that must be protected at all costs.  It seems an evil force of darkness called The Rot wants to take control of Maxine in order to spread its influence throughout the web of all life.

Hmmm...A dark side to a powerful Force that surrounds us, penetrates us, and binds the galaxy together.  Sounds a little familiar.

Working with Lemire is artist Travel Foreman, whose dark, stylish style gives the book a somewhat Bill Sienkiewicz appearance.  Foreman seems to revel in drawing ugly, grotesque monsters, adding to the Vertigo feel and complementing Lemire's script beautifully.  His depiction of Maxine often makes her look ten years old instead of four, but Buddy's wife Ellen has been updated nicely for 2011 while son Cliff looks very...Cliff. 

With the addition of a Red protector/instructor for Maxine in the form of a talking cat named Socks, it seems Lemire intends on developing her as much as he does Buddy, if not more so.  This first story arc ends next issue, but "The Hunt" is just the introduction to what appears to be a long-running supernatural/dark fantasy saga.  Animal Man, once again, is the superhero comic for those poor souls who hate superhero comics and I for one, couldn't be happier about that.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

The STAR TREK Sequel: Who Khan It Be Now?

With Benicio Del Toro turning down the role of Khan Noonien Singh a presently unknown villain in J.J. Abrams' sequel to the 2009 Star Trek film, speculation is already turning to actor Edgar Ramirez from The Bourne Ultimatum as a potential replacement.  Variety reports that Ramirez, along with Jordi Molla, are contenders for the leading role.

Last week, Abrams stated that reports that Del Toro was playing Khan in the sequel were "not true."  However, this comment may simply refer to Del Toro's involvement in the production and not that Khan is indeed the film's villain.  The current casting speculation seems curious, though, knowing that Khan was originally portrayed in the original Star Trek television series episode "Space Seed" and later in the feature film Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan by the late Ricardo Montalban, a Latin actor born in Mexico.  According to IMDb, Del Toro was born in Santurce, Puerto Rico, while Ramirez was born in Caracas, Venezuela, and Molla was born in Barcelona, Spain, so whatever the role actually turns out to be, it does seem to be tailored to a Latin actor.

This also creates some speculation that recently-cast actress Alice Eve could be playing the role of Lt. Marla McGivers, the U.S.S. Enterprise's historian in "Space Seed" wooed by Khan into helping him seize control of the starship and ultimately banished with Khan to the planet Ceti Alpha V.

The Star Trek sequel will have a script by Alex Kurtzman, Roberto Orci and Damon Lindelof and will begin shooting in early 2012, for the scheduled release date of May 17, 2013.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

DOCTOR WHO: "The Doctor, The Widow and The Wardrobe" Prequel Debuts


Nineteen days and counting until the 2011 Doctor Who Christmas special, "The Doctor, The Widow and The Wardrobe."

The BBC have just released a 1.5-minute prequel for the episode, blocking it to regions outside the U.K. because they haven't quite grasped that Doctor Who now has an international following these days.  However, thanks to the wonders of the YouTubez, even we despised Yanks can now enjoy the prequel goodness.

Three flaws in the Doctor's plan to call Amy Pond so she can save him from being blown to smithereens:
  1. He doesn't have the coordinates for Amy to pilot the TARDIS to rescue him.
  2. Amy can't fly the TARDIS.
  3. She's not even there.
Christmas is coming.  Enjoy...

Friday, December 2, 2011

Steven Moffat Exterminates DOCTOR WHO Movie Rumors


Okay, this is all getting a bit schizo.

Just one day after director David Yates spoke to MTV about his upcoming plans for a feature film based on the Doctor Who television series, along comes current Doctor Who showrunner Steven Moffat to essentially say that David Yates is full of it.

In an article posted this morning by the Radio Times, Moffat apparently went on Twitter this morning to calm fan concerns over Yates' talk of rebooting Doctor Who in the film.  "To clarify: any Doctor Who movie would be made by the BBC team, star the current TV Doctor and certainly NOT be a Hollywood reboot.  David Yates, great director, was speaking off the cuff, on a red carpet."

So no reboot starring Johnny Depp or whomever, then.  Glad to hear it, so what's really going on with the film?

The Radio Times article mentions that Moffat made a statement to a British newspaper that  "there simply are no developed plans for a Doctor Who movie at the moment” but “if and when the movie happens it will need to star television's Doctor Who - and there's only ever one of those at a time.  Whatever happens, the BBC and BBC Worldwide will work together to ensure that we don't just get a movie, we get the movie that everyone wants."

Hunh.  So either there's a Doctor Who reboot movie in the works directed by David Yates or...there isn't.  However, Moffat did say "no developed plans," didn't he...?

To be continued.  Cue the Doctor Who cliffhanger music...

Thursday, December 1, 2011

David Yates Shrugs Off DOCTOR WHO Film Pressure


David Yates is ready to direct a Doctor Who feature film, whether you like it...or not.

Speaking to MTV News at the BAFTA Los Angeles 2011 Britannia Awards, the Harry Potter director confirmed that a writer for the film adaptation of the world's longest-running science-fiction series is currently being sought.  "I can't really talk about that because its such a long way away," Yates said.  "We're principally looking for a writer, and we'll start with that.  Everything has to start with a great script, so that's more important than [casting]."

Since Yates' attempt to finally bring Doctor Who to the big screen was announced last month, there has been a considerable amount of criticism from some Whovians unimpressed by his previous work.  Asked if he feels pressure from fans, Yates responded, "I've lived with pressure for so long.  What's pressure?  I don't know anymore!  It's fine, it's good.  It's such a wonderful character and such a wonderful world.  It's exciting."

After directing the last four Harry Potter films, Yates certainly knows a thing or two about fan pressure.  At the moment though, he's enjoying his break between film projects and figuring out his game plan for Doctor Who.  "It's a long journey and we're going to take our time with it," said Yates.  "Right now I'm looking forward to a vacation, frankly."

If you're interested in seeing the full interview with David Yates, you can view it here...

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Charles Skaggs, Mild-Mannered Reporter for the Daily Planet

Okay, maybe not "mild-mannered" but you get the idea.

If you happen to swing by your local Best Buy or Target today, you may notice a certain complete series gift set for the television series Smallville, based on the legendary DC Comics character Superman.  And if you check out the set's special features, you might notice that it includes a Daily Planet newspaper from DC Comics that highlights important storylines from the show's ten seasons.  This edition of the Planet has somehow managed to time-travel back from the year 2017, where it was last seen in "Homecoming," Smallville's 200th episode, when Clark passes a newsstand full of papers with the headline "Superman Saves the Day!"

Pretty cool, right?  Well, guess which huge Superman fan got to disguise himself as Clark Kent, mild-mannered reporter for a great metropolitan newspaper?

Thanks to project editor Ben Abernathy and my Generator Rex editor Michael McCalister, I was able to contribute four newspaper-style stories for this special edition of the Daily Planet.  As someone adopted as a baby by two kind and loving parents and growing up in the midwest, Superman has always been one of my favorite comics characters and the opportunity to add something, however small, to that legendary creation by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster means more to me than I can properly express.

Sadly, my name doesn't appear in any of the bylines (Some hacks named "Clark Kent" and "Cat Grant" take all the credit), so here's a list of which stories I wrote...
  • "Metropolis is Alive with Signs of Urban Growth" (Front Page) -- An exploration of the city of Metropolis and its various districts and boroughs.  Superman trivia geeks should love this one.
  • "Kent Addresses VRA Stance at Fundraiser" (Page A3) -- An update on Martha Kent's political career as a Senator of Kansas and a rundown of the Vigilante Registration Act storyline from Season 10.
  • "LexCorp Stock Climbs Despite Turbulent History" (Page B1) -- The history of LuthorCorp and LexCorp, especially LuthorCorp's impact on Metropolis and the role it played in various episodes.
  • "Q&A: Scott Communications CEO Outlines Future Plans" (Page B1) -- A Q&A style interview with Alan Scott, a.k.a. Green Lantern from the Justice Society of America, that recaps events from the "Absolute Justice" TV movie and explores the character's background.
I had such a great time writing these stories and even if I never get the chance to write anything involving Superman again, at least I was able to contribute something to the character that has meant so much to me since I was five years old.  So thanks again to Ben and Michael for letting me live part of my Superman dream.

Looking up in the sky...

Friday, November 25, 2011

DAMN Good Comics -- FANTASTIC FOUR #600


After reading the extra-fantastic Fantastic Four #600, I'm now convinced that if you put writer Jonathan Hickman in a room with fellow comics writer Grant Morrison, Doctor Who showrunner Steven Moffat and a word processor, the universe as we know it would completely shatter.  So, just for the record, NEVER DO THAT.

With this five-part, 100-page opus "Forever," Hickman once again shows he's crafting a Fantastic Four saga spanning years with no discernible end in sight.  Numerous plot points he's been laying ever since taking over the title with #570 come into play, the major one being the return of the presumably-deceased Johnny Storm, the Human Torch.  Hmmm...The Human Torch returning in Fantastic Four #600...Gee, who saw that one coming?

Regular artist Steve Epting picks things up from the end of FF #12, with the alien Kree invading New York City while the Anti-Priest makes his move to open the gateway to the Negative Zone to unleash the forces of Annihilus.  Carmine Di Giandomenico reveals exactly what happened to Johnny Storm after the events of Fantastic Four #587 and how he managed to survive trapped in the Negative Zone with Annihilus.  Ming Doyle gets the story of Medusa's reaction to her Inhuman husband Black Bolt taking four more brides and plans for going to Earth.  Leinil Francis Yu tells the brief tale of Galactus informing Mr. Fantastic and the Invisible Woman that a Galactus Seed on Earth must be destroyed before it can replace him.  Lastly, Farel Dalrymple ends things on an upbeat and somewhat theological note with young Franklin Richards and the ramifications of his creation of a baby universe in Fantastic Four #574.

Oh, is that all you can give us, Hickman?  Slacker.

Yes, Hickman is demanding a lot from his readers these days.  One hell of a lot.  However, if you're willing to make that 30+ issue investment, even going to back to reread things you thought were inconsequential the first time, Hickman seems to be willing to give you the payoffs you expect.  Fantastic Four has become an incredibly ambitious series over these past two and a half years, but as long as those payoffs keep coming on a regular basis, this run could be something fans will talk about for decades.

Something...fantastic.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

DOCTOR WHO: The Road to the 50th Anniversary Special


Exactly two years from today, or about two minutes depending on how you travel, Doctor Who turns fifty.  Quite a long way from First Doctor companion Ian Chesterton encountering the TARDIS for the first time in 1963 and exclaiming "Let me get this straight...A thing that looks like a police box, standing in a junkyard, it can move anywhere in time and space?"

But that's ridiculous.

Whovians all over the world are understandably looking forward to November 23, 2013, especially now that Eleventh Doctor Matt Smith has confirmed that there will indeed be a special 50th anniversary episode.  And with the classic 20th Anniversary special "The Five Doctors" setting the precedent, speculation for the 50th has naturally focused on another multi-Doctor event. 

So, if a new "Five Doctors" or "Eleven Doctors" is indeed in the works, what would the story involve?  Only showrunner Steven Moffat knows for certain, but looking back on the past couple of years, I've come up with some ideas for the 50th Anniversary story.  Yes, they're a bit fanficcy and most likely won't come close to what actually appears on screen in 2013, but one cool thing about writing a blog is that people almost expect you to write these kind of rubbish thoughts once in a while. 

The featured Doctors besides Eleven?  Unless there's some recasting of the first three Doctors, I'm going with Five, Seven, Eight and Ten.  Maybe with vocals or cameos as different characters by Four and Six.  Here's why.

The story plot?  The Eighth Doctor has become stranded, possibly abducted, somewhere in time and space and it's up to Eleven and the other Doctors to rescue him.  I mean, it's not like I don't have some basis for this particular idea...

If you are receiving this message, please help me...Send a signal to the High Council of Time Lords on Gallifrey. I am still alive!  I don't know where I am!  I'm on some rock-like planet!
The villain(s)?  Provided Steven Moffat doesn't already use him for the Series Seven finale, the central villain just has to be Omega, doesn't it?  Here's why.  I imagine some quick cameos of Daleks and Cybermen are probably a must as well, or perhaps the Alliance from "The Pandorica Opens" would like to take another ultimately pointless shot at taking out the Doctor once and for all?

Companions?  The story would probably flow better without them and give more screen time to the Doctors, but a few key ones would be nice.  River Song, most likely, considering Moffat's love of the character and River's past comment about needing a "spotter's guide" when it comes to the various Doctors.  Captain Jack Harkness, given his past experience with the Ninth and Tenth Doctors, and just to see his reaction to all those Doctors.  Maybe K-9 as well, as a way to give nods to past Doctors now that the Brigadier and Sarah Jane are sadly no longer with us.

Yeah, two years is still quite a way off and we still have a couple of Christmas specials and all of Series Seven between now and the 50th Anniversary.  Plenty of time for Moffat to work a few more puzzle pieces into his grand Eleventh Doctor Era Masterplan.  But for now, go ahead and indulge in all the fun fan speculation over what might be in store for us in 2013.  It'll be here before you know it...

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Syfy Orders BOOSTER GOLD Pilot Script


DC Comics' Booster Gold may have lost his solo ongoing series a few months ago, but may have a shot at something even better.

The Hollywood Reporter states that the SyFy ghost science-fiction channel has ordered a pilot script for a one-hour drama based on The Greatest Hero You Never Heard Of. 

The project from Berlanti Productions in association with Warner Horizon Television, will feature Greg Berlanti (Brothers & Sisters, No Ordinary Family, Green Lantern) as an executive producer.  Fringe writer Andrew Kreisberg, who worked with Berlanti on ABC's Eli Stone, will handle the script and executive produce.  DC Comics is also listed as executive producer.

According to the article, the story focuses on Booster Gold, "a washed-up athlete from the future who travels back to the present in hopes of becoming the greatest super hero of all time.  Instead of chasing criminals, however, his main priority is chasing fame and money.  But Booster Gold discovers that being a hero takes more than just a megawatt smile, and that the future doesn’t happen without first protecting the present."

Booster Gold recently appeared in live-action in "Booster," an episode from the tenth and final season of the CW's Smallville.  He was played by actor Eric Martsolf.

Monday, November 21, 2011

THE DARK KNIGHT RISES Set 8 Years After THE DARK KNIGHT

Eight years?  Hopefully, Bruce Wayne and Alfred Pennyworth have finally finished those long-promised improvements to the foundation on the southeast corner of Stately Wayne Manor. 

In an article posted earlier today by Empire magazine in the U.K., The Dark Knight Rises director Christopher Nolan skillfully teases a tiny bit more of the 2012 film, the last in his definitive Batman trilogy.  "It's really all about finishing Batman and Bruce Wayne's story," states Nolan.  "We left him in a very precarious place.  Perhaps surprisingly for some people, our story picks up quite a bit later, eight years after The Dark Knight.  So he's an older Bruce Wayne; he's not in a great state."

This eight-year jump means all manner of things could've happened since Batman decided to take the fall for Harvey Dent's death and become a wanted fugitive from the police.  Eight years of constantly fighting the police while trying to stop Gotham's criminals seems a bit excessive, so perhaps Bruce simply quits at some point and goes into a form of retirement until this new major threat emerges.

Nolan also offered some tidbits about Bane, the villain played by beefed-up actor Tom Hardy as shown in the Empire cover here.  "With Bane, we're looking to give Batman a challenge he hasn't had before.  With our choice of villain and with our choice of story we're testing Batman both physically as well as mentally."

Hardy's take on his character?  "He's brutal.  Brutal.  He's a big dude who's incredibly clinical, in the fact that he has a result-based and oriented fighting style.  It's not about fighting.  It's about carnage.  The style is heavy-handed, heavy-footed, it's nasty.  Anything from small-joint manipulation to crushing skulls, crushing rib cages, stamping on shins and knees and necks and collarbones and snapping heads off and tearing his fists through chests, ripping out spinal columns.  He is a terrorist in mentality as well as brutal action."

So...A little more intimidating than Robert Swenson's version in the 1997 movie Batman and Robin, then.  Got it.

Interestingly, Dark Knight Rises costume designer Lindy Hemming was also quoted in the article, passing along some information about Bane's mask.  "He was injured early in his story.  He's suffering from pain and needs gas to survive.  He can't survive the pain without the mask.  The pipes from the mask go back along his jawline and feed into the thing at his back, where there are two cannisters." 

Oh, one more thing about this eight-year time jump...Since this is indeed both Christopher Nolan and Christian Bale's final Batman film, and this is now an older Batman, it's possible that Nolan may do the unthinkable and actually have Batman die in the film's finale.  More Batman films with a different Batman and a different director are inevitable considering how much box office they pull in, but if The Dark Knight Rises is intended as the final film in Nolan's trilogy, maybe he'll be allowed to give his Batman an actual ending...?

The Dark Knight Rises arrives in theaters in the U.S. on July 20, 2012

Friday, November 18, 2011

DOCTOR WHO Reveals Everything for Children In Need 2011


What is it with Matt Smith's Eleventh Doctor taking his clothes off and getting naked?  I mean, honestly...  First, there was his disrobing right in front of new companion Amy Pond in "The Eleventh Hour" and then there was that naughty business at the beginning of "The Impossible Astronaut" in the 17th Century when Charles II catches him naked underneath Charles' daughter's skirt near a painting titled "My Mysterious Doctor."

Well, he's at it again in two-minute skit written by Doctor Who showrunner (and Nude Doctor fetishist) Steven Moffat for this year's Children In Need charity telethon.  The Doctor arrives, intending to give the clothes off his back in a special auction, and proceeds to disrobe behind a nearby screen.  As each article is removed, we learn a little bit about the Eleventh Doctor's preferred clothing:

  • Jacket -- Unique in the universe, made of Infinity Tweed.  If the jacket is hit by any kind of bullet or laser beam, or even a triple-enfolded, quantum-strength ninja star, it would be completely ruined.
  • Bow Tie -- Bow ties are, and always will be, cool.
  • Shirt -- Looks like an ordinary shirt, feels like an ordinary shirt.  It is, in fact, an ordinary shirt.
  • Trousers -- Not just any old trousers, but Hypertrousers.  Very similar to normal trousers, but with the word "hyper" in front.
  • Boots -- Not one, not two, but three,  Oh, Time Lords...always full of surprises.
If you're interested in viewing more of the Eleventh Doctor, so to speak, you can view the full scene below...


Also, the title for the 2011 Doctor Who Christmas Special was finally revealed as "The Doctor, The Widow and The Wardrobe," which will also be written by Steven Moffat.  And as you might expect, here's the trailer for that as well...



Looks like we're in for the Best Christmas Ever...

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

STAR TREK Sequel Filming Begins in January


Looks like the Enterprise is finally about to leave Spacedock.  TrekMovie has posted an update on the long-awaited sequel to 2009's Star Trek, claiming that filming will officially begin on January 15, 2012.

Pre-production has been in the works for the past few months, with the writing team of Roberto Orci, Alexc Kurtzman and Damon Lindelof currently working on the third draft of the script to fit the budget that studio Paramount has allowed.  There are no details on the sequel's plot yet, although it supposedly is bigger in scope than the previous film.

Special effects company ILM has already started on some of the effects shots, while construction has begun on some of the new sets.  Some sets from the 2009 film, such as the Enterprise bridge, have been in storage and will be re-used for the sequel.

A team is currently out scouting locations, with director J.J. Abrams reportedly traveling to Hawaii for one location under consideration as "a jungle planet."  In addition, a Los Angeles museum will stand in for "a famous Star Trek location."  Based on what happened in the previous film, I'm guessing it's not going to be Mount Seleya.

All of the main cast are returning for the sequel, although it is not yet known if Bruce Greenwood will be returning as Admiral Christopher Pike.  Actor Benicio Del Toro was reported by Variety to be under consideration for the film's unrevealed villain.  If this happens, I'm personally hoping he'll be the new Kang.

Monday, November 14, 2011

DOCTOR WHO: THE MOTION PICTURE At Last?


Is a Doctor Who movie finally going to happen?

According to Variety, Harry Potter director David Yates and the BBC are working on turning Doctor Who into a feature film franchise.  Now that the Harry Potter films have ended, Yates is reportedly about to begin starting work on the project with Jane Tranter, head of L.A.-based BBC Worldwide Productions.

"We're looking at writers now," said Yates.  "We're going to spend two to three years to get it right.  It needs quite a radical transformation to take it into the bigger arena."

Apparently, the film will not be a continuation of the 48-year-old television series and will feature a completely new take on the material.  "Russell T. Davies and then Steven Moffat have done their own transformations," said Yates, "which were fantastic, but we have to put that aside and start from scratch."

The article claims that writers are being looked at on both side of the Atlantic.  "We want a British sensibility, but having said that, Steve Kloves wrote the Potter films and captured that British sensibility perfectly, so we are looking at American writers, too."

Despite several attempts to get a Doctor Who film produced over the decades, only two Peter Cushing films were made, Dr. Who and the Daleks in 1965 and Daleks -- Invasion Earth: 2150 A.D. in 1966.  Both films were loose adaptations of television stories "The Daleks" and "The Dalek Invasion of Earth" that starred William Hartnell as the First Doctor.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Need Some Music? Sting Has an App for That

Okay, this may not be the next Angry Birds, but starting this Monday, the legendary singer, musician and songwriter Sting is releasing a free app on iTunes.  A message in an iPad, if you will.

According to The Wall Street Journal, the former lead singer of The Police and solo artist for the past twenty-five years in making use of iPad tech to promote his back catalog and reach a wider audience.  The app, called "Sting 25," will reportedly combine music, concert footage, photographs and videos.  The featured highlight will be footage from Sting's performance last month at New York's Beacon Theatre, which includes duets with guests such as Lady Gaga and Stevie Wonder.

Other features in the app will be a sliding timeline that shows photos and video from career milestones such as Live Aid in 1985.  Another navigation bar moves through about twenty "influences," ranging from author Quentin Crisp to the Cold War, with images and audio commentary from Sting. If any songs from eleven of Sting's solo albums reside on the user's iPad, the app automatically recognizes them.  Songs the user doesn't have can be sampled in the app and then purchased through iTunes.

Essentially, the app works as a retrospective of his long career.  "This is a very convenient way of archiving yourself," said Sting in an interview from his apartment overlooking New York's Central Park.  "There is a story, so whatever helps me to tell it, I will use.  This is the future, in my opinion.  I'm putting my money on the app."

Thursday, November 10, 2011

DAMN Good Comics -- BATMAN AND ROBIN #3

For such an arrogant little punk, Damian Wayne certainly knows how to keep things interesting.

Since the "New 52" relaunch of Batman and Robin, writer Peter J. Tomasi and artist Patrick Gleason have been steadily developing the title into one of the top three Batman books in this new era.  Damian, the current Robin, continues to walk that razor-thin line between good and evil and a result, it makes this ten-year-old terror one of DC Comics' freshest characters in years.

This particular issue, appropriately titled "Knightmoves," focuses on distractions and misdirections, first by Alfred Pennyworth as he and Damian face off in a game of chess, then by Batman himself as he seemingly manipulates his son into going out on patrol as Robin against direct orders.  Essentially, Robin becomes bait to lure Nobody, the villain of this storyline, out into the open so that Batman can capture him.

Some writers have had difficulty with Damian's strong personality, but Tomasi definitely isn't one of them.  His Damian remains fearless (or tactless, take your pick) about comparing Alfred's age to a 200-year-old chess set, smacking his defeated king piece from the board in a childish snit, or brutally beating on a mugger until he ends up with brain death.  The character's dark nature, fueled by his mother Talia al Ghul, is deliberately encouraged by the black-armored Nobody, who stops just short of saying "Come with me to the Dark Side of the Force."  Tomasi obviously sees the story potential in exploring Damian's darkness and thankfully, fully realizes that potential here.

And with this type of subject matter, you can't go wrong with having Gleason as artist.  His work is rich with shadows, as every good Batman book should have, with crisp and distinctive figures that grab your attention.  Tomasi gives Gleason a considerable amount of violence in this issue, but the artist handles it effortlessly, giving the scenes impact without making them overly excessive or gratuitous.

All in all, Batman and Robin is a solid gem that may tend to get lost in the current ten (Ten!) Batman-related titles of The New 52.  If you don't already get this title and find yourself losing interest in something else, do yourself a favor and make the switch...

...or you might end up getting your ass kicked by a ten-year-old.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

It's Time to Make Wolverine Cool Again

As hard as it may be to believe, Wolverine used to be a cool character that comics fans actually cared about.  No, seriously.

Debuting in the last panel of The Incredible Hulk (vol.1) #180 in 1974, the Canadian mutant superhero became the breakout character in the all-new, all-different group of X-Men that debuted in the Bronze Age classic Giant-Size X-Men #1 a year later.  Wolverine's gruff, anti-authority personality, mysterious background and willingness to kill -- something practically unheard of in a superhero back in those days -- made him a quick favorite with X-Men readers, especially after Canadian-American artist John Byrne came on board after the first departure of Dave Cockrum.  Byrne and writer Chris Claremont steadily crafted the character into the definitive anti-superhero apparently named Logan, showing him regularly drinking beer, smoking cigars and constantly rebelling against the oh-so-serious team leader Cyclops.

And when Wolverine was one of the first Marvel characters to ever receive his own mini-series in 1982, the legendary Wolverine (vol.1) by Claremont and artist Frank Miller, he became even cooler as a warrior in Japan with a samurai code who fought against a Yakuza crimelord and a ton of expendable ninjas.  An ongoing series followed in 1988 that lasted 189 issues before being relaunched in 2003 and again in 2010.

As time wore on though, many Wolverine and X-Men comics creators felt the need to fill in Wolverine's unrevealed background.  Characters and concepts such as Team X, Weapon X, and Department H were incorporated into the character's history, adding pieces to the Wolverine puzzle year after year.  The biggest of these, a six-issue limited series in 2001 called Origin, finally revealed that Wolverine's real name wasn't Logan after all, but James Howlett, a sickly boy from 1890's Alberta whose mutant bone claws manifest for the first time after witnessing his father's death.

With the character's mystery effectively obliterated and a company ban on showing Marvel Comics characters smoking put in place, Wolverine quickly devolved into a mainstream Marvel superhero.  In the 2005 event mini-series House of M, Wolverine had his memories restored and he became a member of The Avengers and X-Force in addition to being an X-Man.  He was given a second solo series, Wolverine: Origins, where he leared he had a son, Daken, with similar claws and rapid-healing abilities (and soon given his own ongoing series).  Oh, and to make the new Wolverine Family complete, a young female clone called X-23 was added into the mythos and given her own ongoing series.

If it seems like Wolverine has become just a tad overdeveloped, that's only because he has.  Anything that was fascinating about the character has been overexplained and/or eliminated, making Wolverine the comic book equivalent of The Fonz from the '70s and '80s TV comedy series Happy Days.  Over the course of the show, Fonzie started off as the cool rebel James Dean character that literally jumped the shark and ended up becoming a square teacher at the local high school.  And just like the Fonz, Wolverine the once-cool rebel character has now -- wait for it -- become headmaster at the new Jean Grey School for Higher Learning.  Whoa.

So it's way past time to make Wolverine cool again.  Get rid of the Wolverine Family, let him smoke and drink again, make him more nonconformist again, and keep him on only one team, the X-Men.  And most of all, give the character some sense of mystery again.  He doesn't need something as cheesy as selective amnesia, just the introduction of something important and unrevealed about his past and then -- and I can't stress this enough -- DON'T REVEAL IT. 

Sure, it's possible too much damage has been done so that the character can't completely be salvaged, but even if it takes a Flashpoint-type reboot, Marvel needs to do something.  Even after all these years, I firmly believe that Wolverine can still be the best there is at what he does, but only if his editorial masters let him.

Friday, November 4, 2011

COMMUNITY's DOCTOR WHO Parody INSPECTOR SPACETIME Returns


The question isn't how old we are, but when old we are!

On last night's episode, "Advanced Gay," the NBC sitcom Community brought back their Doctor Who parody Inspector Spacetime that debuted on the show back in September.  The good Inspector and his companion Constable Reginald Wigglesworth, this time played by Community stars Danny Pudi and Donald Glover, once again faced their arch-enemies the Blogons in another short adventure that aired during the show's closing credits.

"I thought those Blogons had us dead to rights," begins the Inspector as he exits his British red telephone box onto another alien landscape.

Following close behind, Constable Reggie asks, "What on Beta-Earth do they want from us, Inspector?"

"The question isn't what they want from us, Constable...but when?"

"Inspector, look out!  Blogons!"

Once again, the Inspector and Constable Reggie fall under laser assault from the Blogons chanting "Eradicate!  Eradicate!," but this time they return fire with laser weapons of their own.  Not sure the Doctor would approve of that...

Earlier in the episode, the characters Abed Nadir and Troy Barnes refer to another Inspector Spacetime villain called the Anti-Inspector, who was apparently created when the Inspector's positrons were negatized.  According to Troy, the Anti-Inspector "had a funny moustache and was kinda rapey."

If you're interested in checking out the footage from last night's episode, you can view it below thanks to the kindness of YouTube user Raxacoricoo...

Thursday, November 3, 2011

DAMN Good Comics -- FEAR ITSELF #7.1

With Marvel's 2011 Big Event series Fear Itself ending last month as little more than preview advertisements for upcoming spinoff and non-spinoff titles, it falls upon three one-shot epilogues to provide some semblance of closure for readers.  The Marvel marketing gurus decided to tack them onto the main Fear Itself mini-series, hoping that no one would mind that their 7-issue investment was now 10 issues and cost them another 12 bucks.

The first of these epilogues, spotlighting the characters found in Captain America, actually turns out to be a prologue for another upcoming series, but one Cap fans like myself are definitely going to want.  Ed Brubaker, longtime Captain America writer and writer of the upcoming series, reveals what happened after James Buchanan Barnes, a.k.a. Bucky, a.k.a. The Winter Soldier, a.k.a. Captain America, was apparently killed by the Red Skull's daughter Sin during the events of Fear Itself.

Without going into too spoilery specifics here, Brubaker shows the emotional toll Bucky's death has on his lover Black Widow, and stages a long-overdue brawl between Steve Rogers and Nick Fury.  Ultimately, a new secret pact emerges, one that sets up the upcoming ongoing series and also the potential for confrontations with Steve's fellow Avengers at some point down the road.  If Fear Itself #7.1 is essentially the comic book equivalent of a TV pilot episode, at least Brubaker makes it a pilot worth watching...errrrr, reading.

Working with Brubaker is artist Butch Guice, who not-so-coincidentally is also the artist on the upcoming ongoing series.  Guice typically has that typical Brubaker-era style similar to Steve Epting and Mike Perkins, but here he uses a variety of styles, most notably nods to former Captain America and Nick Fury, Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. artist Jack Kirby.  You would think the effect might be jarring to look at, but it feels more like Guice was trying to capture certain moods for certain scenes and for the most part, it works.

Bottom line, if you enjoy Brubaker and Guice's work on Captain America, you definitely want to pick this one up.  It feels like this story should've been released as the first issue of the upcoming ongoing series instead of just teasing it, but by releasing it as Fear Itself #7.1, it actually provides more of an ending than #7 gave us.  Here's hoping #7.2 and #7.3 do the same.