Friday, September 30, 2011

The Next Six Marvel Movies After THE AVENGERS

I guess Doctor Strange and Iron Fist movies were too obvious, hunh?

The great news site io9 has the rundown of the next five Marvel Comics Universe movie adaptations coming down the pike after Joss Whedon's The Avengers arrives in theaters on May 4, 2012.  Relaying information found in the Avengers feature in this week's edition of Entertainment Weekly magazine, io9 lists the following five movies...
  • Iron Man 3 -- IMDb has the film's release date of May 3, 2013, almost a year to the day of The Avengers.  Shane Black is slated to direct but will Robert Downey, Jr. jump right into filming for IM3 after finishing up The Avengers or film some other movie between them?
  • Thor 2 -- IMDb has this film's date as July 26, 2013, setting up another big Marvel superhero movie summer.  Patty Jenkins is reportedly in talks to direct.
  • Ant-Man -- This long-gestating project is currently slated for 2014 and still has Edgar Wright of Shaun of the Dead and Scott Pilgrim Vs The World fame attached as director.   According to Kevin Feige, Marvel's President of Production, Wright has "developed an excellent draft recently" that he's been working on for months.
  • Guardians of the Galaxy -- IMDb lists this movie as arriving in 2015, which would actually put it after the 2014 sequel to Captain America: The First Avenger that wasn't included on io9's list.  The original Guardians of the Galaxy were a 31st Century team of Farscape-like aliens who are each the last of their kinds that band together to fight against an invading alien race known as the Badoon.  According to Feige, "There's an opportunity to do a big space epic, which Thor sort of hints at, in the cosmic side of the [Marvel] universe."
  • The Inhumans -- Already reported earlier this year, The Inhumans features a secluded society of superhumans who were experimented upon by the alien race known as the Kree, enemies of the Skrulls (who are rumored to be villains in The Avengers movie), and given abilities by the mutagenic Terrigen Mists.  This movie, like Guardians of the Galaxy, would feature a large X-Men style ensemble cast.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

DAMN Good Comics -- AQUAMAN #1

I know, I can't believe it, either.

For years, Aquaman has been a favorite pop-culture punching bag whenever superheroes are brought up, as evidenced on comedy shows such as MTV's late, lamented The State, FOX's Family Guy, CBS' The Big Bang Theory, and Cartoon Network's Robot Chicken on the Adult Swim block.  He's been around since the Golden Age of comics but gets less respect than the late Rodney Dangerfield.

And now...Now he's a badass.

Seemingly on a mission, writer Geoff Johns goes right at all the misconceptions and jokes about Aquaman.  He takes out some bank robbers by upending their getaway truck in the middle of the street with no ocean and no fish anywhere in sight.  He walks right into a seafood restaurant and orders fish and chips, telling an obnoxious know-it-all that he doesn't talk to fish.  And best of all, he shuts down said know-it-all riding him about being nobody's favorite superhero with nothing more than a hardened glare and a large, pointy trident.  This could get a bit annoying if Johns oversells the "Aquaman isn't a joke" campaign issue after issue, but for now it's more than appreciated.

This first issue may be a bit lightweight in terms of story, but Johns sets the tone for the series in a very straightforward, uncluttered way that hasn't really been felt since his run on the Wally West Flash series.  The reader isn't bogged down in a rainbow spectrum of ring-wielding characters or hampered by setup for an upcoming Big Event mini-series.  And unlike Johns' recent Green Lantern #1, anyone picking up this comic isn't thrown into the next phase of an existing long-running storyline and expected to catch up.  Nope, you're introduced to Aquaman, getting a feel for his character and background, and introduced to his wife Mera just long enough to get a feel for her as well.  The whole thing is bookended with the looming threat of menacing undersea creatures called The Trench and that's it, that's all you need to tell a successful introductory issue.

Well, it does help that Johns has such an incredibly talented artist like Ivan Reis working on the title.  Reis first got everyone's attention with the "Sinestro Corps War" storyline in the previous Green Lantern volume and then his impressive work on the Blackest Night mini-series.  He shows no sign of taking his foot off the gas here, making the Trench look like something out of a Hellboy movie or a creepy episode of Doctor Who.  But as Reis demonstrated in his issues of Brightest Day, he draws an absolutely stellar Aquaman, arguably the best ever.  And thankfully, he does some solid work with facial expressions, giving Aquaman's reactions to various comments throughout the issue far more weight and substance.  Some top-notch stuff here.

If you've ever wondered what some comics fans find so appealing about Aquaman, despite all the smacktalk the character has received over the years, do yourself a favor and pick up this issue.  You may just find yourself laughing at all the Aquaman smacktalkers instead of with them.

Marvel Comics: The New 52


Now that the first month of DC Comics' "New 52" relaunch is complete and with reported sellouts of all 52 titles, I'm guessing Marvel is probably thinking about how they could steal this idea do something similar.  So with that in mind, I came up with my own list about how they could go about their own "New 52," including some potential creative teams.  Yeah, I know, everyone else and their brother has already done the same thing, so why should I be any different, right?

The Marvel 52

1.  The Amazing Spider-Man -- Dan Slott and Marcos Martin
2.  Spider-Woman -- Nick Spencer and Daniel Acuna
3.  Venom -- Greg Pak and Humberto Ramos
4.  Captain America -- Ed Brubaker and Gary Frank
5.  Captain America and Bucky -- Marc Andreyko and Chris Samnee
6.  Iron Man -- Matt Fraction and Salvador Larroca
7.  Rescue -- Fred Van Lente and Patrick Zircher
8.  Thor -- Brian K. Vaughan and Olivier Coipel
9.  Warriors Three -- Walt Simonson
10.  The Avengers -- Joss Whedon and Phil Jimenez
11.  Avengers West -- Jeff Parker and Terry Dodson
12.  Fantastic Four -- Warren Ellis and Stuart Immonen
13.  The Future Foundation -- Jonathan Hickman and Stefano Caselli
14.  The Incredible Hulk -- Peter David and Mike McKone
15.  The Sensational She-Hulk -- Marjorie Liu and Amanda Conner
16.  The Uncanny X-Men -- Brian K. Vaughan and Mike Choi
17.  X-Men: The New Mutants -- Nick Spencer and Leonard Kirk
18.  Wolverine -- Christos Gage and Mike Deodato
19.  Daredevil -- Jason Aaron and Jock
20.  Doctor Strange -- Mark Waid and Paolo Rivera
21.  The Immortal Iron Fist -- Matt Fraction and David Aja
22.  Cage: Hero For Hire -- Brian Bendis and Michael Gaydos
23.  Black Widow -- Greg Rucka and Pia Guerra
24.  Nick Fury, Agent of S.W.O.R.D. -- Kieron Gillen and Jim Cheung
25.  Silver Surfer -- Jonathan Hickman and Steve Epting
26.  The Punisher -- Ed Brubaker and Michael Lark
27.  Deadpool -- Fred Van Lente and Chris Bachalo
28.  Cloak and Dagger -- Brian Bendis and Alex Maleev
29.  Excalibur -- Paul Cornell and Mike Perkins
30.  Moon Knight
31.  Hawkeye
32.  Captain Marvel
33.  Ms. Marvel
34.  Valkyrie
35.  Thunderbolts
36.  Ghost Rider
37.  The New Warriors
38.  Hellstorm
39.  Machine Man
40.  Longshot
41.  Jack of Hearts
42.  Morbius: The Living Vampire
43.  The Starjammers
44.  Nighthawk
45.  The Inhumans
46.  The Hellfire Club
47.  Mystique
48.  The Man Called Nova
** Merging with the new Marvel Universe
49.  Justice
50.  Project Spitfire 
51.  D.P. 7
52.  Star Brand

Monday, September 26, 2011

Dream Team Cast for JUSTICE LEAGUE: DOOM


Fans of Cartoon Network's 2001-2006 Justice League animated series should be looking forward to the upcoming Justice League: Doom DVD/Blu-Ray movie from Warner Home Video in early 2012.  According to TV Guide, many of the actors from Justice League/Justice League Unlimited will be reprising their roles, including Kevin Conroy as Batman, Susan Eisenberg as Wonder Woman, Michael Rosenbaum as The Flash, and Carl Lumbly as The Martian Manhunter.  In addition, Superman: The Animated Series star Tim Daly returns as Superman and Nathan Fillion reprises the role of Green Lantern Hal Jordan that he last played in the Green Lantern: Emerald Knights DVD.  Instead of Hawkgirl, though, actor Bumper Robinson will be voicing Cyborg, making his first appearance in a Justice League animated project since the 1985-1986 series The Super Powers Team: Galactic Guardians.

Justice League: Doom is based on the "Tower of Babel" storyline by Mark Waid and Howard Porter featured in JLA #43-46 in 2000.  In the comics, this story deals with Batman's apparent betrayal to the League with the revelation that he kept records concerning the strengths and weaknesses of the team, including plans to on how to incapacitate them in a fight.  The files are stolen by his longtime enemy Ra's al Ghul, who uses them to defeat the Justice League through an orchestrated assault in order to prevent them from interfering with one of his operations.

Longtime DC Universe animated Executive Producer Bruce Timm is helming the project once again and Lauren Montgomery returns as director.  Justice League: Doom will also feature the final DCU animated script from writer Dwayne McDuffie, who passed away earlier this year.

Friday, September 23, 2011

COMMUNITY Parodies DOCTOR WHO in "Biology 101"


And now NBC's sitcom Community is jumping on the Doctor Who bandwagon...sort of.

In a short parody sequence featured during last night's episode "Biology 101," Britta Perry, played by Gillian Jacobs, introduces the pop-culture junkie character Abed Nadir, played by Danny Pudi, to what could be his new favorite show, "a British sci-fi series that's been on the air since 1962."  (*Cough* 1963 *Cough*)  Abed starts playing the show, called "Inspector Spacetime," on a laptop computer and we see a British red telephone box (not a blue police box?) materializing on a strange alien world.

An eccentric-looking man with David Tennant sideburns in a trenchcoat and a derby hat called "Inspector" emerges along with a male sidekick dressed as a police constable.  "Blimey, Inspector," says the Constable, "where've we wound up this time?"  As some eerie Doctor Who-esque music plays in the background, the Inspector replies, "The question isn't where, Constable...but when."  The Constable then realizes they are under attack.  "Inspector, look out!  Blogons!" he cries as two salt shaker-looking metal creatures with bulging eyes start firing laser blasts at them, chanting the words "Eradicate! Eradicate!" in a tone very similar to the Daleks.

Pausing for a moment to take in what he's just seen, Abed announces, "This is the best show I have ever seen in my entire life."

Yeah, I know exactly how you feel, Abed...

For those interested in checking out the segment, you can view it below thanks to the YouTubey kindness of someone called Limors...

DAMN Good Comics -- BATMAN #1


After writer Scott Snyder's recent stellar run on Detective Comics, expectations were understandably high for him taking on the "New 52" relaunch of Batman.  Thankfully, he doesn't disappoint.

Once you get past the ugly, clunky new cover logo, this first issue positively sings.  Snyder opens with Batman facing off against a horde of Arkham Asylum inmates, then throws you a curve ball with the Joker seemingly teaming up with Batman and using acrobatic martial arts to fight the other inmates.

Wait...That can't be right, can it?

From there, we learn that Post-Flashpoint Batman has some seriously upgraded tech that includes a contact lens with wi-fi access to the Batcave computer and something called an "E.M.P. (electromagnetic pulse?) Mask" that allows the wearer to holographically mimic anyone's face.  The contact lens also has the ability to perform facial recognition and lip reading from far away.  While I'm glad to see Batman has gotten himself some new wonderful toys, I have to wonder if the contact lens as a plot device takes away somewhat from the character's legendary Sherlock Holmes-level detective skills.


As for the art, Greg Capullo provews that DC's faith in giving him such a major title was justified.  His work looks like an interesting blend of classic Howard Chaykin and Matt Wagner, relying heavily on shadows but always making sure that Batman is the most interesting thing on the page.  I have some minor issues with his depiction of the Riddler having a ridiculous question-mark styled mohawk with unnecessary question-mark tattoos on the side of his head, but his take on Two-Face is delightfully horrific and the double-page spread establishing the new Batcave is breathtaking.

I was also glad to see that Batman follows up from a character subplot from last week's Batman and Robin #1 by having Bruce Wayne reaching out to local Gotham City bigwigs to fund a massive project to rebuild several of the city's most derelict neighborhoods.  This apparently means Bruce is finally going to wipe Crime Alley, the place where his parents were murdered, off the map.  And to longtime Batman fans, this means we won't be seeing the iconic, albeit overdone scene of Bruce laying flowers in the spot where his parents died anymore...at least until some other writer comes along at some point in the future and brings it back.

The issue ends with a solid cliffhanger hinting at the possible betrayal of someone very, very close to Bruce, giving us exactly what Batman always needs -- another mystery to solve.  While I'm sure there will be some reasonable explanation, it sets Batman off on the right track for the first time since Grant Morrison left the title.  If both Snyder and Capullo remain on the series for the forseeable future, we could be looking at one of the Best Batman Runs Ever here...


Wednesday, September 21, 2011

It's the End of R.E.M. as We Know It and I Feel Fine


Well, another part of my past finally called it quits today.

After 31 years, the band R.E.M. has announced they've broken up.  "As lifelong friends and co-conspirators, we have decided to call it a day as a band," the band remarked in a statement posted on their official website.  "We walk away with a great sense of gratitude, of finality, and of astonishment at all we have accomplished.  To anyone who ever felt touched by our music, our deepest thanks for listening."

As someone who collected the band's albums, good and not-so-good, all the way through to their last studio album Collapse Into Now, I'm certainly not surprised but I do have to wonder what took so long.  Their last really big album was Monster way back in 1994 and the band's quality dropped significantly after drummer Bill Berry suffered a brain aneurysm in 1995 and later left the band two years later.  They only seemed to get their groove back with Accelerate in 2008 and this year's Collapse Into Now seems like a solid enough effort to go out on.

However, like many R.E.M. fans, I tend to focus on their earlier albums, the ones more full of life and classic alternative/college rock energy.  My major introduction to R.E.M. was with their Green album, their first with Warner Bros. Records, although I'd obviously heard their earlier songs here and there on the radio.  But Green was one of the earliest albums I'd bought on CD after over a decade of listening to tape cassettes, so it got a lot of play.  Songs like "Orange Crush," "You Are the Everything" and "World Leader Pretend" really grabbed me so I went back and started getting their collecting their previous stuff, blown away by how consistently good those albums were.

It wasn't until their Monster tour in 1995 that I finally got to see them live at the Polaris Amphitheatre in Columbus.  I remember them giving songs like "What's the Frequency, Kenneth?," "Crush With Eyeliner" and "Bang and Blame" a lot of punch, but even then it seemed like R.E.M.'s best days were starting to be behind them.  Lead singer Michael Stipe looked and acted as though he was turning into actor John Malkovich and guitarist Peter Buck lost quite a bit of his edge as he grew older, which seemed to show on their later albums.

So now it's the end of R.E.M....and I feel fine with it.  I'm glad they were able to redeem themselves somewhat with their last two albums before breaking up, but those stellar first nine albums are the ones I'll probably keep going back to as the years wear on.  Something tells me I won't be the only one.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Christopher Nolan Building Mazes for DARK KNIGHT RISES Ending


If I didn't know any better, I'd swear that The Dark Knight Rises director Christopher Nolan is using his Inception character Ariadne to design a new labyrinth of secrets.

Contact Music certainly feels something is going on.  In an article posted yesterday, they claim that Nolan is trying so hard to keep the ending to the 2012 film The Dark Knight Rises a secret, he's not letting even the actors know how it actually ends.  Nolan is apparently using several methods to trick the cast, including sending out scripts with pages missing.

Co-star Gary Oldman, who returns in his role of Commissioner James Gordon in the film, believes he's the only one who's been told the specifics of the final scenes.  "Christopher doesn't want anyone to ruin it and I completely understand that," Oldman said.  "The newer people on the film go to his office to read the script.  They sent mine out, but it had to be hand-delivered directly to me and nobody else.  And the final few pages were missing.  I went along and talked to Christopher in person about the ending.  Then I locked it away in my head."

As anyone who saw Inception or The Prestige probably knows, Nolan certainly has quite the fondness for mysteries, secrets and sleight-of-hand.  Even The Dark Knight Rises' central storyline involving Bane, Catwoman and most likely Marion Cotillard as Talia al Ghul seems uncertain.  Earlier reports hinted at Batman: The Long Halloween as the film's framework, but with Bane's involvement, it seems elements of Batman: Knightfall and Batman: Venom may be included as well.  And based on the film's teaser and DC Comics suddenly reprinting the five-volume Batman: No Man's Land again after all these years, it's possible the Gotham City earthquake featured in that storyline may be woven in as well.

Mazes within secrets within puzzles within chess moves within magic.  Nolan's real name wouldn't be Edward Nigma, would it?

Saturday, September 17, 2011

DAMN Good Comics -- BATWOMAN #1

It's been a lonnnnnnng wait for Batwoman #1 since the DC Comics character's ongoing series was announced back in April of 2010, but I'm glad to report it was definitely worth it.

Ever since writer Greg Rucka left the character after the "Cutter" arc ended in Detective Comics #863, fans have been wondering if the Batwoman ongoing series would have the same depth of Rucka's stories.  Sure, the book would look fantastic -- and it does, believe me -- but Rucka gave Kate Kane considerable substance beyond being a "lipstick lesbian" version of Batman.

Although artist J.H. Williams III is listed as "co-writer" along with being artist, I'm guessing fellow "co-writer" W. Haden Blackman does the heavy lifting in Part One of the opening "Hydrology" story arc.  Picking right up from the ending to "Cutter," Kate begins the process of training her cousin Bette, better known to Titans fans as Flamebird.  Blackman maintains the hardened military edge Rucka gave so well to Kate, as she naturally puts Bette through Batwoman Boot Camp.  Kate tells Bette burn she's burned Bette's Flamebird costume, then gaves her a drab pair of grey coveralls as a training uniform and informs Bette she's only to be called Plebe until Kate tells her otherwise.  This is standard military training procedure of tearing new recruits down completely in order to build them back up again as soldiers and extremely consistent with Kate's character.

And yes, J.H. Williams III's artwork is just as gorgeous as you remember.  Williams is probably one of the Top Five artists working on mainstream titles right now and he certainly doesn't disappoint here.  From ethereal opening sequences to brutal fighting scenes, Williams elevates Batman-style storytelling to an entirely new level, making every page interesting and enhancing the story as he should.  In a clever two-page spread, Batwoman's use of her grappling hook takes the reader right across the page to the next and then a hissing skeletal spectre brings us right back to the previous page once again.  Incredible.

Newer readers may find some of recapping surrounding the scene with Kate's father a bit confusing, but Williams fills the pages with bold images that make you want to check out the Batwoman: Elegy collection to find out what happened.  Otherwise, new villain The Weeping Woman seems very intriguing so far and a new subplot involving Cameron Chase and the Department of Extranormal Operations is very welcome to fans who remember Williams' previous work on the short-lived series Chase.  And if that's not enough for this first issue, it ends with the cliffhanger of Batman telling Batwoman they need to talk about a proposition he has for her.

So Plebes...have you added Batwoman to your monthly pull yet?

One Year of DAMN Good Coffee...and HOT!


As of today, DAMN Good Coffee...and HOT! is officially a year old.  Just like that.

When I launched this blog 365 days ago, I had no clear idea of what I wanted to do with it.  I know I wanted a forum to ramble about a number of things that interest me (and hopefully others as well) and I wanted something that would keep me writing on a regular basis.

And now, after almost 200 posts, over 40,000 pageviews averaging over 4,000 views per month, and people occasionally searching for a picture of Katy Perry's boobs, I'm about to head into Year Two.  I'm looking forward to posting about my upcoming Generator Rex stories for DC Comics' Cartoon Network Action Pack and my first-ever appearance at Mid-Ohio Con in Columbus as an actual guest.  And yes, I might have one or two thoughts about Doctor Who in there somewhere.

So my deepest thanks to everyone who's supported The Little Blog That Could over the past year and shared links on Twitter, Facebook or elsewhere.  I hope you keep enjoying my ramblings about comics, movies, television and whatnot and I'll keep trying my best to make all this worth your valuable time.

We now return you to your regularly scheduled DAMN Good Coffee...and HOT! already in progress...

Thursday, September 15, 2011

THE MUPPETS Parody THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO



In an absolutely genius piece of marketing, the upcoming film The Muppets does a stellar job of parodying the equally stellar quick-cut edited trailer for David Fincher's upcoming film adaptation of Stieg Larsson's novel The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo.

"The Pig With the Froggy Tattoo" features several of the actors making cameos in The Muppets, including Sarah Silverman, Neil Patrick Harris, Alan Arkin, Rico Rodriguez and Rashida Jones.  It also has a catchy Muppets version of Trent Reznor and Karen O's rendition of "Immigrant Song" from The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo trailer that includes the best-ever use of sound effects from the classic Atari 2600 version of the Pac-Man videogame.

The Muppets is scheduled to arrive in theaters on November 23, 2011.  In the meantime, you can check out the trailer goodness below...

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

FOX Developing DC Comics' THE SPECTRE for TV


According to a report from Deadline, the network FOX has picked up the rights for a television drama series based on DC Comics' character The Spectre.  The Golden Age character first appeared in More Fun Comics #52 in 1940 and was created by Superman co-creator Jerry Siegel along with Bernard Baily.

The series has received a script commitment and will center on a former cop spending his afterlife hunting down criminals on behalf of the dead and those about to become dead if justice isn't served.  There was no mention if The Spectre will be his traditional identity of Jim Corrigan or his recent replacement Crispus Allen.

Brandon Camp (John Doe) will write the adaptation and executive produce with feature producer Bill Gerber (Gran Torino).  DC Entertainment’s sister TV studio Warner Bros. TV will produce with Gerber Pictures.  Camp was introduced to The Spectre property by DC Entertainment’s Chief Creative Officer (and former Spectre writer) Geoff Johns.  The Spectre will be the second DC Comics property adapted for FOX following the recent two-season series Human Target.

The character received his own animated short DC Showcase: The Spectre in 2010, which was included as an extra on the Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths DVD and Blu-Ray.  In this short, The Spectre/Jim Corrigan was voiced by actor Gary Cole.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

CBS Developing Another Modern SHERLOCK HOLMES

Well, I guess something has to replace one of those neverending CSI shows eventually...

According to Deadline, CBS has bought Sherlock Holmes, a drama project from CBS TV Studios and Timberman/Beverly Productions.  Apparently, this Sherlock is a modern take on Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's legendary fictional creation.

What's that?  There's already an exceedingly brilliant modern take on Sherlock Holmes called Sherlock that stars Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman. and is written by co-creators Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss?  The one that airs on the BBC in the U.K. and on PBS' Masterpiece series in the U.S.?  Why, yes...Yes, there is.

Oh, and there's also a Sherlock Holmes movie franchise with a modern edge to the original Victorian Era setting that returns on December 16, 2011 with Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows starring Robert Downey, Jr. and Jude Law?  Why, yes...Yes, there is.

Deadline also claims that Rob Doherty is writing and will executive produce with Sarah Timberman and Carl Beverly.  Timberman/Beverly has two new series on CBS this fall, Unforgettable and A Gifted Man.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Ten Years of a September 11th America

With everyone with a blog or a column writing about the tenth anniversary of the September 11, 2001 attacks on America today, I was trying to think about what I could write that wouldn't be overly sentimental or filled with political nonsense.  I'm sure there'll be plenty of that elsewhere, written by much better writers than myself, but it's hard to talk about September 11th without dwelling on certain things so I hope you'll bear with me a bit.

Like many people, I was at work when I first learned of the September 11th attacks.  The weather was absolutely lovely outside, a beautiful morning, and as I struggled to focus on actual work instead of daydreaming, my mom called me up to tell me what she just saw on the news.  I quickly checked out MSN for more news and had to tell my co-workers what had happened.  Information became paramount and then someone down the hall managed to pull one of the TVs out of a conference room for most of our floor to gather around.

We watched the World Trade Center towers fall, horrified by the sight, and it remained understandably impossible to concentrate for the remainder of the day.  After a few hours of high emotions and complete unproductivity, our oh-so-caring Office Manager at the time kindly passed word along through department managers that people could go home to be with their loved ones if they wished...as long as they used up their vacation time to do so.  I finally left work around 3 p.m., only to come home to find my wife Lori huddled on the couch in front of CNN, where she remained for the better part of an entire week whenever she wasn't at work.

Apart from the incredible and inspiring tales of heroism of police officers, firefighters, paramedics and other responders, the one thing I truly remember about that time was the amazing unity we shared as a country.  For around six months, there wasn't the political partisan rhetoric nonsense that permeates our society today.  We were One Nation, flags waving proudly, focused solely on getting the terrorist bastards responsible for the attacks and making sure we rebuilt our country better and stronger than ever.

And then, predictably enough, we started turning on one another once again.  The emphasis on improving national security so that these kinds of attacks would be prevented in the future gave politicians from both parties the forum they needed to chip away at the freedom that makes America such a wonderful country.  All in the name of safety, you had to stop carrying certain items onto airplanes and allow yourselves to be examined to the point where we now have a Transportation Security Administration that performs detailed body scans or physically frisks you if you fail to comply.

Patriotism and fear were used as political and ideological weapons, transforming any attempts at honest criticism into anti-American hate speech and pushing through agendas specifically designed to monitor and detain citizens found to be suspicious for whatever given reason.  And when our focus shifted away from getting revenge on Osama bin Laden and al-Qaeda to go after Saddam Hussein and Iraq for the second time, half the country rose up and resisted, fully dividing us as a nation once more.  We began fighting two major wars at once, giving the operations an unlimited budget at the expense of other programs because the cause, apparently, was just. 

The promise of change from a highly-criticized Bush Administration ultimately brought fear of what the Obama Adminstration would do once they took office.  For some, President Obama was Not Like Us and he had that middle name Hussein which obviously meant something.  However, most were remained hopeful that change would come and that we could restore America to what it once was before the dark, tragic day of September 11, 2001.

Change, as it turns out, never came.  We continued fighting two wars, maintaning a presence in Iraq long after the objective (whatever that was) was achieved.  Our economy has steadily eroded since 2001, making some wonder if this economic impact, not an initial act of terror, was ultimately bin Laden's goal all along.  And even with finally taking out Osama bin Laden this past May after almost ten years, we still found ourselves involved with getting Moammar Gadhaffi out of Libya.

Fear and war are unfortunately now part of everyday life in this September 11th America, but even though it seems like daily life is a constant struggle, our country still remains as hopeful as ever.  We want something better for ourselves, for our children, and that is why America continues to endure.  So on this tenth anniversary, remember the important things from September 11th.  Remember the heroism, remember the determination and resiliency, and most of all, remember the sense of unity we once shared.  That's the America I believe in.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

DAMN Good Comics -- ACTION COMICS #1

DC Comics' "New 52" relaunch kicked into full gear this week with thirteen #1 issues after last week's Justice League #1.  Having sampled nine of them, there was no question which title stood out from the rest...Action Comics (Vol.2) #1 by writer Grant Morrison and artist Rags Morales.

The early images for this title were greeted with a fair amount of skepticism.  The idea of Superman racing around Metropolis in a t-shirt and jeans with a tiny red cape tucked into the back of his shirt seemed a bit ridiculous, even after learning that Action Comics was going to focus on Superman's earliest adventures before donning the detailed, more traditional costume he wears in Justice League and his solo Superman series.

Most fans who read Morrison's brilliant 12-issues maxi-series All-Star Superman, arguably some of the best Superman stories ever told, were willing to give him the benefit of the doubt.  As it turns out, if All-Star Superman was Morrison's love letter to the weirdness of Silver Age Superman stories, then his Action Comics relaunch has to be his love letter to the original Golden Age Superman tales by creators Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster.

Seeing Superman restored to his original 1938 form as a brash crusader for social justice once again is a bit polarizing, especially in today's contentious Us vs. Them political climate.  This isn't the traditional "Big Blue Boy Scout" nice guy defined so well on film by the late Christopher Reeve, but more like the Superman depicted in movie serials by Kirk Alyn.  This young Superman comes off more like Batman, bringing an edge the character hasn't had in decades and is once again a true hero of the people that he was originally created to be.

Interestingly, even while scraping decades of sanitizing off of Superman, Morrison makes a specific point of paying tribute to What Came Before.  A corrupt local bigwig nicknamed "Mr. Metropolis" is actually named Mr. Glenmorgan, presumably after previously established local Metropolis landmark Glenmorgan Square.  On Page Five, Superman hoists Glenmorgan into the air in a threatening fashion, causing Glenmorgan to cry out "Somebody! SAVE ME!" in what has to be a sly nod to the opening theme song to the Superman TV series Smallville.  Superman later encounters a "Detective Blake," a probable reference to Detective Sargeant Blake that appeared in a short Superman prose story in Superman (vol.1) #1 in 1939.  Clark's landlady is named "Mrs. Nyxly," a very strange name until you do a quick Google search and learn there was an obscure Superman villain named Ferlin Nyxly in Superman (vol.1) #235 who became a character called Pan the Demigod.  There are other nods to early Superman cover art and iconography that have to have hardcore Superman fans wiping drool from their chins.

Rags Morales' art gives Morrison's script the right amount of punch and certainly lives up to the title of Action Comics.  There are times when his Superman looks a bit too much in the face like DC Comics' Captain Marvel, but that can be overlooked when you consider everything Morrison asks him to draw in this first issue.  There are few quiet moments here, everything is as big and brash as the lead character and thankfully, Morales steps up and makes each page as visually interesting as it needs to be.

But all in all, I can see why some might be put off by this take on Superman.  This isn't what they traditionally expect of the character, but considering how many comics fans prefer Batman over Superman, maybe the Man of Steel needs more of an edge right now.  In 1938, the United States of America was facing such hard economic times and social injustice that two teenagers from Cleveland created the world's greatest superhero to face them.  And now in 2011, America seems to find itself in similar circumstances once again.  Maybe this is what we all need Superman to become.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

45 Years of STAR TREK's Final Frontier


Forty-five years ago today, the vision of one Eugene Wesley "Gene" Roddenberry debuted on NBC and the world of science fiction was never the same again.

I was introduced to the world of Star Trek at some point in 1973 when Star Trek: The Animated Series was launched shortly after the final episode of the original series aired on June 3, 1969, just 13 days before I was born.  Despite the poor Filmation animation, the cartoon grabbed my attention like you wouldn't believe, encouraging my parents to buy me Mego action figures, board games, books, whatever Star Trek stuff I managed to find.  The animated series naturally guided me to watch reruns of the original live-action series, often with my Dad, and the two of us formed this mutual love of science fiction from that point on.  There wasn't much he and I had in common during my childhood years, but Star Trek was one of those rare things we shared together and I'll always be grateful for that.

When Star Trek arrived in movie form in December of 1979 with Star Trek: The Motion Picture, it started to breathe new life into my fondness for all things Trek, but it wasn't until Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan in 1982 that fondness kicked into overdrive.  DC Comics launched their first Star Trek series in 1984 with a stellar cover by George PĂ©rez.  This comic kept my interest going month after month, working in the feature films Star Trek III: The Search for Spock and Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home  into its comics continuity as they were released.  These comics also introduced me to a writer named Peter David, who quickly became one of my favorites and has written some of the best Star Trek novels (and regular novel novels) ever.

In 1987, the game changed completely with the now-classic Star Trek: The Next Generation TV series.  Like many fans, I was a bit guarded about there being an entirely new cast of characters instead of Captain Kirk, Spock, Bones and Scotty, but glad that Star Trek was airing in a new weekly syndicated series.  Thankfully, it didn't take long for Captain Picard, Riker, Data and Worf to win me over and one of my highlights of my freshman year at Kent State University was driving home to visit my parents just about every weekend and watching Next Gen.

The next several years were a great time for Star Trek fans.  Next Gen ran for seven seasons with mostly decent episodes with Star Trek V: The Final Frontier and Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country giving two last big screen adventures with the original cast.  By this time, my family and I had moved down to Florida, where I graduated college, and then moved back to Ohio after realizing the mistake we'd made.  I started work at a restaurant equipment parts and service company and settled into my new life in Columbus.  Things were changing and Star Trek kept changing right along with them.

In 1993, the third Star Trek series Star Trek: Deep Space Nine debuted as the premature repalcement for Next Gen as a TV series.  My future wife (and fellow Trek afficionado) Lori and I were introduced to this third cast of characters, but unlike Next Gen's first two uneven seasons, DS9 seemed to clicking from the start and steadily crafted the most consistently entertaining Star Trek series to date.  As Next Gen graduated to feature films with Star Trek: Generations, Deep Space Nine kept things rolling wonderfully week after week.

And then, Star Trek (or more specifically, Paramount Studios) got greedy.  In 1995, they launched a fourth TV series, Star Trek: Voyager, as the main draw for their new would-be television network, UPN.  This series was helmed by Roddenberry's successor Rick Berman and former Next Gen writer Brannon Braga and quickly became the first nail in Star Trek's coffin.  With only a few characters of any real substance, Voyager  floundered for a few seasons while the Next Gen cast thankfully had Star Trek: First Contact, easily the best film of their series.

After Lori and I moved in together and married in 1997, we continued watching both DS9 and Voyager every week.  Mercifully, Voyager picked up somewhat with the addition of Seven of Nine later that year, but we were soon let down by another nail in Star Trek's coffin, the bland TV episode-like film Star Trek: InsurrectionThe only salvation for Trek fans at this point was DS9, which ramped up its Dominion War storyline and rocketed a solid finale for the series in 1999.

The year was also personally significant because it was also when my first professional short story, "Doctors Three," was published in Pocket Books' Star Trek: Strange New Worlds II anthology.  At long last, I was able to contribute my own tiny piece to Star Trek mythos, chronicling the events of what happened when 144-year-old Dr. Leonard McCoy, my all-time favorite Trek character, learned about Dr. Lewis Zimmerman's creation of the Emergency Medical Hologram and the plan to let said EMH treat human beings aboard Federation starships.  Needless to say, it was a pretty nice feeling seeing my story sitting alongside all those Star Trek books I'd enjoyed over the years and I can only hope to someday have another Star Trek tale published somewhere down the line.

In 2001, Paramount tried one more time to keep the franchise going.  Star Trek: Voyager ended its seven-year odyssey with an anticlimactic finale and was replaced in the fall on UPN with the fifth Star Trek TV series Enterprise, an attempt to recapture the "Where no man has gone before" spirit of the original series.  This prequel (also created by Berman and Braga) was intended to explain the foundation of the Federation of Planets, but failed to live up to the potential shown in its pilot episode.

The temporarily fatal blow to the film franchise was delivered the following year with Star Trek: Nemesis, the final film to feature the Next Gen cast.  Once again, Berman produced another lifeless Star Trek movie that was intended to be similar to The Wrath of Khan in tone, right down to killing off the popular character Data, but it was doomed by a poor John Logan screenplay.  Meanwhile, Enterprise limped along on television, rebranding itself as Star Trek: Enterprise at the start of its third season in some weak attempt to reclaim its fanbase.  Despite the overall improvement of the episodes in terms of quality, many Trek fans felt they had enough and Enterprise was unceremoniously cancelled on May 13, 2005 after four seasons.

Star Trek was dead, Jim.  Or so it seemed.

Berman and Braga were rightfully kicked to the curb and in 2007, filming began on a brand-new film, simply titled Star Trek, that would reboot the entire franchise by featuring the original Trek characters once again in their prime, played by a younger, all-new cast.  Older, close-minded fans quickly and predictably unloaded their hate onto the internets, decrying the move while their open-minded opponents realized that this brash move was Star Trek's last, best hope for survival. 

The film was given to Alias, Lost and Fringe creator J.J. Abrams to direct and even with the excessive amount of lens flares, he and his cast of upstarts manged to craft something that appealed to an entirely new generation of Star Trek fans and hauled in over $385 million in box office during 2009, the best ever for a Star Trek filmLori and I absolutely loved the movie by the way, as did my parents, and I found it very reassuring and comforting that I was still able to share Star Trek with my father after all this time.

And now, we wait and wait for a second film with the new cast, hopefully for 2013, while another television series set after Voyager is supposedly being prepared to be pitched to Paramount by David Foster of 1947 Entertainment.  Things could fall apart at some point, of course, but with the huge success of the 2009 relaunch, they're not going to stay apart for very long.  Star Trek is here to stay and it seems the human adventure, the one that's taken forty-five years, really is just beginning.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Imagining a Greater SyFy Channel

I know, it's no universe-shattering revelation that the SyFy cable channel pretty much sucks these days.  What was once a prime source of fun science fiction-based television has devolved into a basic cable dumping ground for "reality" shows about fake ghost hunters and cheesy Something vs. Something Else TV movies destined to be featured on a remake of Mystery Science Theater 3000 in about 15 or 20 years down the road.

Yes, the mistakes SyFy has made as a network are obvious to everyone except them.  But in the spirit of science fiction that asks the classic question "What If," what if Syfy didn't have to suck all kinds of suckness in suckitude?  What if the channel actually lived up to its tagline and...yes, imagined greater?

The thing is, SyFy does have a nice little foundation to build upon.  There's one more season of Eureka to air, and other current series such as Warehouse 13, Sanctuary and the U.S. remake of the brilliant U.K. series Being Human are perfectly decent, albeit not especially groundbreaking, programs.  However, the best science fiction series currently on television aren't found on SyFy these days. 

HBO now has two great shows with Game of Thrones and True Blood that are far superior to SyFy's offerings of the U.K. series Merlin and the Being Human remake.  AMC recently found zombie gold in their adaptation of Robert Kirkman's comic series The Walking Dead, while FOX has Fringe, arguably the most hardcore science fiction series on the air right now, and is serving up the big-budget Terra Nova at the end of the month.  And of course, BBC America gladly took over from SyFy's bungled attempt at airing the relaunched Doctor Who and has steadily grown the show's audience into becoming their top-rated series.  Oh, and BBC America also currently airs reruns of classic sci-fi series such as The X-Files and the Battlestar Galactica remake that yes, used to air on SyFy.

I realize SyFy is pretty set in their cozy low-budget programming mentality and that's not likely to change anytime soon, so it's frustrating to see the channel remain a mere shadow of its former self.  There are plenty of old shows that could use some love on the channel -- the aforementioned MST3K, classic episodes of Doctor Who from the original 1963-89 run, Babylon 5, Farscape, Quantum Leap, Alien Nation, Smallville and Star Trek: Deep Space Nine to name just a few.  And when you think about the number of terrific comics properties that could (and should) be developed into television shows, it boggles the mind that SyFy can only offer up something like Alphas.  Oh, and remember when SyFy/Sci Fi's Battlestar Galactica remake was mandatory viewing on Friday nights?  Imagine if Buck Rogers or yes, Star Trek received the same creative and budgetary effort?

Imagine something...greater.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Sylvester McCoy Reads the Pandorica Speech at Dragon*Con 2011


At this year's Dragon*Con fantasy, comics and science-fiction convention held in Atlanta, Georgia, former Doctor Who star Sylvester McCoy was the featured guest at a Doctor Who panel on Friday hosted by Ken Plume.

As the panel ended, Plume rather awkwardly brought up the topic that one of the chief criticisms of the Seventh Doctor's era was the writing compared to the scripts of today.  McCoy was given a copy of the script for last year's episode "The Pandorica Opens" in order to give a Seventh Doctor spin on the now-famous scene where Matt Smith's Eleventh Doctor boldly calls out the alliance of aliens swarming above Stonehenge in their spaceships.

The results are pure McCoy, especially around the 2:45 mark.  Here's the video found on YouTube, thanks to geeksofdoom...



Special thanks to Liam Kemp for the heads up.

Friday, September 2, 2011

DAMN Good Comics -- SECRET AVENGERS #16


You know, for a guy who supposedly thinks superheroes are silly, Warren Ellis seems to be really good at writing them.

In a week dominated by the ending of the Post-Crisis DC Universe and the launch of the new Post-Flashpoint DC Universe, it's interesting that Marvel managed to sneak in and release such an attention-grabbing issue of Secret Avengers by Ellis and artist Jamie McKelvie.  This thankfully self-contained story, "Subland Empire," comes off like the illegitimate offspring of The Avengers and Ellis and John Cassaday's Planetary and we're all better off for it.

With a scaled-down team consisting of Steve Rogers, the Black Widow, the Beast and Moon Knight, Ellis throws out an insane amount of big ideas like he just reached into a bag of Lay's potato chips and casually flung them all over the floor.  This issue features nothing less than a secret city over a mile under Cincinnati, Ohio, time-travel emissions named Von Doom radiation after Doctor Doom's time platform, atomic-powered Cadillacs, guns that fire flechettes that dissolve within a few minutes to become untraceable, using a city-sized time platform to turn Cincinnati into a bomb that can be dropped onto other cities, and turning said atomic-powered Cadillac into a neutron bomb to destroy said city-sized time platform.  As ridiculous and impossible as such concepts may be, they're exactly what makes for great superhero comics.

One of my favorite things about this issue had to be the Beast's explanation that a time machine also has to be a space machine.  Ellis, through the Beast, very astutely points out that as we move forward through time, we also move forward in space as Earth revolves and orbits around the sun.  Therefore, in order to go back in time, you also have to calculate where your target will be positioned at that time in the past or the future.  Otherwise, as the Beast remarks, "you would materialize in deep space and be dead in thirty seconds."  A lot of time-travel writers, especially in comics, never seem to think about this rather obvious necessity and after reading this, you're probably going to be very annoyed whenever some other writer drops the ball in this regard.  Welcome to my wibbly-wobbly, timey-wimey world.

As for the art, Jamie McKelvie produces some clean, distinct artwork that complements Ellis' script nicely in a way very similar to John Cassaday.  The two-page spread of Moon Knight soaring above the underground cityscape is particularly stunning and McKelvie's action sequences are very stylish and cinematic.  I was a bit disappointed to learn that McKelvie is only one of a rotating series of artists, but if the talented scheduled roster can keep up the high standard set here then Ellis' Secret Avengers run, however long it turns out to be, should be a genuine highlight every month.