Thursday, July 30, 2009

Super-Powered Web: Have your Own Spidey!

You too can have your own inflatable Spider-Man to protect your home and ride with you wherever you go!

That will be the last web digression for a few days... next week, we will be back with more (and more regular) reviews! Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Timeline 18 Story Notes

This one was a lot of fun just because of the characters and events involved.

The Tunguska Event actually occurred in the Tunguska portion of Siberia just over one hundred years ago. No one quite knows what lit up the night sky but seemed to cause absolutely no damage whatsoever. This story serves as something of my solution to that dilemma.

Citrine is a name of my own choosing, but the Yellow Kid is a very real character. One of the first figures in comics, he debuted in the mid-nineties. That’s eighteen-nineties in case you were confused. He fell in to the public domain decades ago, and I really wanted to stake my claim on him as a precursor to the adventure heroes of the twenties and the mystery men of the thirties and forties. He is terribly under-utilized today with my only knowledge of his recent use was as a comedy bit in Joss Whedon’s six issues of Runaways.

The Doctor is not the same character as can be seen in the twenty-plus seasons of Doctor Who. I just wanted to say that, as the way he is presented in this story might make people think that. He is an immortal and he will play a very important part of the growing Timeline story and the origins of the Quadrant Universe, but he is not a time traveler. His full name will be revealed some time in the future.

So who will our young man grow to be? That is a question that I am not quite ready to answer. But I will get there eventually. And that story will not only tie in to yet another public domain character, but also in to an upcoming chapter of The Monastery. It all comes together eventually....

Read the story here.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Super-Powered Web: Lady Fairplay Reimagined

Lady Fairplay (and her alter ego Lady Foulplay) have been recurring characters in Living Legends since the beginning. But I thought I would share with you these reimagined, redesigned versions of Lady Fairplay by the artists at Warren Ellis’ Whitechapel board.

Be sure to check them out and let us know what you think.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Super-Powered Web: They're Baaaaack!

A grand theme of this year’s San Diego Comicon seems to be the return of several great old school characters to the comics fold. Who am I talking about?

Well the biggest news of the con so far is probably the acquisition of this fella by Marvel Comics. That’s right. Marvel Comics has bought Marvelman (better known to American fans as Miracleman) outright from creator Mick Anglo. No one is quite willing to say what plans they have for the character, but considering modern Marvel’s working relationship with Neil Gaiman, methinks they will give us a conclusion to the classic series. Hopefully they will give us reprints of both the Gaiman/Buckingham and the Alan Moore issues as well.

DC has made its own deal with the new owners of the THUNDER Agents license. The classic Tower heroes will join the Milestone and Archie/Red Circle heroes as part of the ever expanding DC Universe. I am not sure I am in love with the costume redesigns, and I sure as hell want to know where Noman is, but I cannot help but feel excited that one of the best teams in comics is finally back. And sans the terrible remake attempt that was canned by DC a few years ago after problems with the previous rights owners. I have no clue how The Higher United Nations Defense Enforcement Reserves will interact with the current UN peacekeeping body Checkmate, but I suppose we will all have to wait and see on that one.

Finally, Dark Horse has acquired the rights to publish new books based on the classic Gold Key characters, such as Dr. Solar, Magnus Robot Fighter, Turok, and Mighty Samson. You might recognize those first three names from the Valiant comics of the nineties. So did Dark Horse, as they have hired Valiant creator Jim Shooter as the man to bring the new line of titles to life. This one doesn’t even come with a fancy image (hence the old Gold Key cover), so we will have to see when they get published the changes Shooter and co. will make.

The real question is whether the market can support these books. I hope the answer is yes, because a hardcore fan of the THUNDER Agents like myself has been waiting since childhood to see these characters return. Good luck on all of these, guys, and once again I think the statement has been proven: Everything old is new again.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Living Legends 17 Notes

So this is the big finish to our battle between several of our characters and the mighty Claw. This fight is really only the first step in upping the action elements of this serial quite a bit.

American Crusader is a lot less friendly in his old age, isn’t he? More on the hostage situation next month!

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Super-Powered Movie (well, at least it should be): Street Fighter Legend of Chun-Li

After weeks of debating whether or not I should watch Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun Li, I finally picked up a copy and watched this movie. It had terrible reviews (a whopping 4% at Rotten Tomatoes), but being an unrepentant Street Fighter fan, especially one without a PS3 or 360 to play the latest game in the franchise, takes what one can get.

And what one gets is pretty shabby.

Don’t get me wrong. I really think screenwriter Justin Marks (who has a list of geek movies in development including Super Max (Green Arrow), Hack/Slash (based on the Devil’s Due comic), Voltron, Grayskull (He-Man), Suicide Squad (based on the DC comic), and Shadow of the Colossus) tried to make a really good movie here. The screenplay was a passable attempt at trying to make a “real world” version of the Street Fighter storyline. It still takes huge liberties, often for absolutely no reason: from Charlie Nash as a member of Interpol to Rose as a teenage girl. But he honestly tries to get things right, a major change from the writers of the the previous film. But it all seems to have went terribly wrong in production.

I highly doubt director Andrzej Bartkowiak has ever played a video game, let alone Street Fighter. Considering his previous cinema achievement was the screen adaptation of Doom, I think its pretty much 100% guaranteed. He can direct passable action, although in a rather old school fashion, which probably dates back to his days working as director of photography on films like Lethal Weapon IV and Speed. But he does not seem to know how to make his actors become the characters, or for that matter act.

That becomes an even bigger problem when you look at a cast made up of the world’s worst actor Chris Klein as Charlie Nash, “I play every B-movie villian I can find” Neal McDonough, and worst-of-all the Black Eyed Peas’ Taboo as Vega. Kristn Kreuk still acts like a teenaged soap star, and her other lack of Asian features (despite apparently being 50% Chinese) makes her hard to swallow as Chun-Li. Even the slumming Michael Clarke Duncan (who did better work in The Scorpion King) and up-and-coming actress Moon Bloodgood could not make the director actually force anyone to act. The only shining light in this mess is Robin Shou (most famous as Liu Kang in the two Mortal Kombat films). Shou brings Gen to life with perfection, despite his young(-ish) age. Perhaps that shouldn’t be particularly hard; all he has to do is play the same ancient master seen in hundreds of wu shu pictures for the past several decades. But his work does shine past that of the rest of the cast.

Even with the lack of acting, the movie might have been passingly forgivable if any effort was made in costuming. Chun-Li wears a bland black jumpsuit 90% of the time, while Balrog and Bison basically just wear business casual for the entire film (even in their climactic battles). Gen keeps a more traditional look, although without the gray hair. Vega seems to be the most token effort of all the characters. While Taboo certainly bares a resemblance to the original character, his utter lack of fighting talent and the formless black lump that covers his body under his neck do not seem to fit a character as vain as Vega is supposed to be. And do not get me started on Nash, who looks like.... an unwashed Chris Klein.

Which brings us to the fight choreography. Dion Lam has a history of working on great kung fu films with credentials including The Matrix and Black Mask. But instead of using his skills to actually adapt Street Fighter moves for the cinema, he usually resorts to very standard modern wu shu techniques. Yes, we do work in the Lightning Kick, the stomp kick, the rising bird kick, and the axe kick in to her repertoire... a grand total of once each. As for the other characters... nope, no special moves here. Gen even teachs Chun-Li how to summon her fireball... despite the fact he doesn’t possess the move in the games. Nash shoots with guns. Balrog swings a pipe. Bison mostly just parries other people’s moves. Hell, in the final battle, Chun-Li spends most of the fight using a staff she just picked up. Honestly, I don’t think it would be too much to ask for Balrog to box or Bison to throw out a Psycho Crusher. Even if you are trying to avoid the more superhero-y aspects of the franchise (which you really aren’t trying to do when you do feature healing and Gen’s mystic healing powers), those moves could have been worked in to the movie quite easily. It smacks of laziness (and again, lack of knowledge of the source product) by the production team.

Even in its badness, the movie doesn’t give you anything fun to work with. This isn’t a Seagal or Uwe Boll film, the badness is not fun, not amusing. It just makes one want to cry a little inside that no one can seem to figure out how to make something as seemingly simple as a Street Fighter film.

So instead of being the possible start of a new film franchise, The Legend of Chun-Li succeeds only in falling flat on its face. Even if you’re a Street Fighter fan, avoid this one like the plague. Go watch Street Fighter II: The Animated Movie instead. Not Recommended.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Mean Streets 8 Notes

I am going to remain mostly mum on this one, other than a brief shout-out to explain the battle between Mr. Mayor and the government agents. One thing I left out of earlier chapters and should have made more clear was that the US intelligence community doesn't have quite the hands off policy the US government claims to enforce. Mr. Mayor is a usual target of strikes like these, but none have came close to success.

Oh, and this bit was a backdoor pilot for another series I am developing, Suicide Blonde. You can expect it some time in the next year or so.

Obscure Heroes: Wildstar

Wildstar: Sky Zero was one of the initial “second wave” of Image Comics. Created by Al Gordon and Jerry Ordway, it stood next to Dale Keown’s Pitt, Sam Keith’s The Maxx, Larry Stroman’s Tribe, Keith Giffen’s Trencher, Mike Grell’s Shaman’s Tears. Like most of those stories, Wildstar lasted for only a four issue run. Unlike the others, that was all that was planned.

Al Gordon’s previous writing credits included fill-ins on Legion of Super-Heroes and Timber Wolf, so a story about time-traveling metahumans seems right up his alley. He comes in alongside legendary Superman artist Jerry Ordway to produce a new book about an aging hero from the future known as Wildstar. It seems he is stuck in a time-loop, but for most of the series, we are not sure why. But once again he travels in to the past in an attempt to stop the post-apocalyptic badlands of his current existence.

In the past, he comes across a government agency responsible for alien tech as well as Mickey, the son of the agency’s head. But Wildstar didn’t time-jump alone and he has a half-dozen other metas to make his way past. Wildstar and Mickey become inexplicably linked as he tries to escape attack from the other time travelers and their duped government allies.

By the end of issue three, our hero is dead, but as in so many comics, it is a death that won’t last.

Wildstar would later return for a ongoing series that would last only three issues and a guest shot in Rob Liefeld’s best Image title, New Men, before returning again fairly recently in the pages of Savage Dragon under the new name of Soulstar. It seems a copyright dispute left the character without a name... and those old issues unsaleable. It’s a damn shame too. Whatever his name, he was a damn fine comic character.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Not Quite Super-Powered Comics: Iron West

Doug TenNapel is one of the most fascinating creative minds of the last few years. He is almost certainly most famous as the creator of the oddball character Earthworm Jim, star of three video games of variable quality. But for the last few years, he has regularly been producing graphic novels at Image. Of these Iron West is by far the best.

Iron West doesn’t do costumed superheroes, but it does do pretty much everything else! A small town grifter named Preston Struck stumbles upon an invasion force made up of ancient alien robots that take on the likenesses of the population around them. Struck becomes a reluctant hero as he does the boy who cried wolf routine back in his hometown. Things heat up as he finds himself forced to look out for someone other than himself as the life of his beloved Miss Sharon falls in to danger.

I don’t want to ruin too much of the story for you, but I will say things get crazier after that. Expect to see robot Indians, Sasquatch, the Loch Ness monster... suffice it to say, the story is heavy on the weird.

So if you want to see something super-powered but still crazy and far different than the usual fare, be sure to go searching for Mr. TenNapel and give Iron West a try. Recommended.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Super-Powered Comics: Shazam! The Monster Society of Evil

One of my goals when I originally started this blog was to not only focus on the superhero in every form of fiction, but also to focus on the superhero as portrayed by independent creators. The usual Marvel and DC talents are often great, true talents, but they get enough focus in my humble opinion.

So my first stop on my look at independent talent is... Shazam! The Monster Society of Evil.

Yes, it’s a DC book, but its creator is far from a mainstream name. Or, perhaps he is a mainstream name, considering the sales of the Scholastic re-releases of his seminal indy comic, Bone.

Inspired by the forties-era serial of the same name, The Monster Society of Evil shortens the original tale and combines it with Captain Marvel’s origin. But Dr. Sivana, the talking gators, giant robots, and Mister Mind remain.

While somewhat short on traditional Captain Marvel action, Shazam! still gives us solid story that looks at Billy and Mary Batson in a new light. Recurring allies Mary Marvel (in a fascinating new form) and Mr. Tawky Tawny (also revised for realism) make appearances, and both serve as stalwart allies as Billy searches for a way to save the city from Mister Mind’s malicious plot.

As anyone who has seen Bone would know, the art is absolutely gorgeous. Smith is a master of his craft, able to combine realism and animation styles in to a style absolutely perfect for Captain Marvel and company.

This series was overlooked for any number of reasons when it was originally released. But now that an affordable trade paperback edition is now available, no one has an excuse to pass up one of the finest super-powered limited series of the last few years.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Super-Powered Comics: Wednesday Comics #1

I picked up DC’s inaugural issue of their fourth weekly title Wednesday Comics (fifth if you count the old school excellence of Action Comics Weekly) and I found the results somewhat lackluster. Yes, we have some big name creators on great DC properties, but most of the stories fall flat on their face, almost if the creators have no idea what format they are working in.

Batman and Teen Titans seem to be produced by people unaware that they have only one page an issue as next to nothing happens in their stories.

Supergirl, Sgt. Rock, The Demon/Catwoman, Deadman, Green Lantern, and Superman all have one thing in common: lackluster starts that do not inspire much in the way of story (although all are pretty to look at). The prettiest is Kyle Baker’s Hawkman, which takes on a new style for the enigmatic creator. But though great art-wise, the story offers little to no actual plot to where the storyline will go.

Wonder Woman’s art and writing were interesting, but left me confused as to where the book might be going.

The comics that worked out best are the ones that grasp that they are channeling the old school comic strip format made famous by Flash Gordon and Prince Valiant. Neil Gaiman and Mike Allred’s Metamorpho (two creators and one character I love and the reason I bought this issue in the first place) have it, as do Deadman, Kamandi, and the always great Paul Pope’s Strange Adventures (starring Adam Strange, of course). DC bigwig Dan Didio teamed with classic artist Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez for a fine start to a comedy serial.

But the true story that seems ready to break out is Karl Kerschl & Brendan Fletcher on Flash. They hit on the intriguing idea to split their page in half. The top half is a classic adventure strip starring the Fastest Man Alive, while the lower half of the page is giving us a Apartment 3G style scenario starring Iris West. The two half pages offer more intrigue for the next week than pretty much the entire rest of the package.

Wednesday Comics holds potential, but for near $4 a week they will need more than potential to succeed. Here’s hoping that in the next few weeks, the other creators can grasp the serialized format for what it is. Mildly Recommended for fans of the creators.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Super-Powered Prose: It's Superman by Tom DeHaven

It’s Superman can best be described as a strange duck. Written by acclaimed novelist Tom DeHaven, it explores the days leading up to Superman’s first appearance in Action Comics #1. It becomes quite odd as we meet a slightly befuddled hick in Clark Kent, who isn’t the sharpest tool in the shed. We meet Lois Lane, a modern woman with quite the liberal view of sexuality (at least for the thirties). We have Lex Luthor, a New York City (Metropolis) alderman from a shady past with equally shady plans for the future.

We also meet Willi Berg, a new character that ties everyone together. A former beau of Lois and a freelance photographer, he stumbles upon the alderman’s criminal activities. Framed for the murder he witnessed, he flees the city to Smallville, meets a young boy with amazing powers and starts the ball rolling towards the first appearance of Superman.

DeHaven throws out a lot of the established back story of Superman to instead focus on his vision of Depression-era America. We travel from Smallville to Hollywood to Metropolis before the story comes to its end only moments before the first panel of Superman’s first comic appearance. In the process we meet a slew of original characters like Skinny Simon, Dick Sandglass, Ben Jaeger, and Ceil Stickowski add depth to the reality of the early-era Superman’s world.

Unlike the previous reviewed Enemies & Allies, DeHaven devotes an intense amount of effort to get the feel of his chosen time period right. His characters move through their surroundings and develop in to vastly different figures as our story progresses. The plot is weak in places, but when it fails, it always fails to focus more on the strange bunch of figures DeHaven gives us. Luthor’s plot involves his creation of killer robots, but the denouement is anti-climatic at best. It really doesn’t hurt the book though, as by the time you reach the finish you realize the book has much less to do with the potential conflict between Superman and Luthor as it does their similarities. It creates an interesting framework that really accentuates the themes that run through the tale.

If you are looking for a modern tale of Superman, you could do far worse than It’s Superman. The book holds its own even as Kevin J. Anderson’s Super-books fall flat on their face. DeHaven’s tale gets a solid Recommendation.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Out For Vengeance 3 Notes

With our latest chapter, we know who our hero is; now it is time to move in to the future. Chapter three is all about the relaunch of the character for the new millenium.

In case I have not made it obvious, Vengeance actually takes his origins from two golden age characters melded with a character I designed while still in my teens. Black Fury and the far better known Black Terror were ridiculously similar characters from 1941 and 1942 respectively. Terror was by far the better success and lasted years past the disappearance of Black Fury. But both characters were similar enough for me to combine in to one character... a character we will learn much more about the history of soon.

And, yes, I am aware of the Black Terror’s many powers. We will learn the history of them soon as well.

Kimiko and the Dragon’s Skull and Vengeance’s history from both is the major subplot of the first volume of Out For Vengeance, so forgive me if this flashback ends abruptly. The rest of the flashback will play a far more important role in an upcoming chapter.

An important modern day subplot finishes out our story. Who stole Gila? You should know by now I am not going to ruin it quite that easily. More soon.