Thursday, July 30, 2009

Ultimatum #5 - they killed HIM????

I haven't done a comic book review in a long time, but I had to mention this last issue of the "Ultimatum" miniseries that I've covered pretty much since issue #1. The storyline finished up this week and I have to say I never saw the ending coming. In the ever-predictable world of Marvel stories, this one was a gem.

First of all, they continued the trend of killing off heroes and villains in this story. The shocker for me is which heroes they chose to take out! Look at the cover of the comic to the left there...only 3 of those heroes make it out of this miniseries alive--and two of them are female! The one man who lives to see another day? Well, it's not who you're probably thinking of.

The thing that I loved about this miniseries was the fact that every death made sense. There were some deaths that I think were just for shock value, but for the most part it added to the story. I still think Hank Pym's death in issue 3 was uncalled for, and Jamie Madrox's death last issue was harsh (simply because I think the character is cool), but the two major hero deaths and two major villain deaths in this issue really showed how serious Marvel is about changing up the Ultimate universe from this point forward. Give them credit: they said they wanted to really shake things up, and they have.

The question now becomes where do they go from here? They have killed off the vast majority of their character roster (the final page lists 20 characters now dead from the storyline) and they're going to have to rebuild a lot. I'm afraid they may have gone a little overboard. The beauty of the Ultimate Universe is the fact that it was familiar characters with a twist to them. Unfortunately now there will be very few familiar characters left to work with. It gives them a lot of room to create completely new folks, but we saw from the "New Universe" fiasco of the 80's that sometimes that doesn't work so well.

Overall, this has been a great story (though a little too gory at times) and if you haven't been following it you can do so all at once in a couple of months when it comes out as a hardcover collected edition.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

SDCC - The Rundown

Ok, so things have slowed down enough to gather my thoughts about the SDCC. Truthfully, it was a lot of awesome, a lot of aggravation, and a lot of amazement. If I ever went back again (doubtful, but you never know) I would have such a better game plan than this time around.

First off, I got to meet my favorite artist of all time: Neal Adams. I brought around about a dozen comics over the course of the weekend for him to sign, and will keep them all as treasures. My kids couldn't understand who he was, so I told them, "Think of him as my Alex Ross." Then they understood.

Last year at the Dragon-Con in Atlanta, Joel, Trace, and Frank from Cinematic Titanic were there and I got to see some of the MST3K cast live. Unfortunately, they didn't riff a movie live, which would have been a major highlight. However, at the SDCC I got to see Mike, Bill, and Kevin do a live riffing of a hilarious short called "Shake Hands with Danger", featuring some of the most gruesome construction accidents you could imagine in a training video. I had to keep reminding myself to watch the guys rather than the screen because this was a chance to see poetry in action. The next day my wonderful wife waited in line for me for almost 2 hours so I could slip in to take her place right before the guys started signing autographs (thanks, honey!). I got to meet-and-greet my favorite MST3K team and watch them riff live...major highlight!

To top it all off as far as the lectures go, I got to see my all-time favorite author in person: Ray Bradbury. I had no idea he was coming or I would have brought a book for him to sign as it ended, which would have been the pride of my library. Still, it was amazing getting to see him in person. His body is obviously giving out, but his mind is as sharp as ever when he speaks.

I got to meet my favorite Doctor Who: Colin Baker. That was a pretty nice treat. He signed the SDCC exclusive Doctor Who figure I had purchased. At the same time, there was some guy there with him that had something to do with Lord of the Rings, but I didn't recognize the name. The people around me were freaking out though with "Lord of the Rings meets Doctor Who! How cool!". I get the feeling I missed something important there. He's in the picture with Colin so if you recognize him, please tell me who I missed.

I also got to meet Adam West, who was just as cool in person as he seems on TV. I literally ran into Wesley Snipes and Joe Morton on the exhibition floor (fortunately, Wesley didn't go all "Blade" on me, but was really a nice guy). Lou Ferrigno was there looking just as big (if not bigger) as he was in his Hulk days. Gil Gerrard and Erin Gray from my old 80's "Buck Rogers" TV days were there (Erin looked the same as always, but I could have eaten lunch with Gil and never recognized him).

As far as shopping goes, I managed to find the Holy Grail of comic books that I have been searching for as a gift for my wife: Peanuts comics! Those things are harder to find than you'd think, but we managed to grab 3 issues from out of all the sellers there. It was like an Easter egg hunt for me.

I found out something equally important though: sellers will drastically reduce prices as time goes by. Day 1 everything is expensive. Day 2, it gets a little cheaper. Day 3 they're trying to cut each other's throats to get you buying stuff from them rather than the booths around them.

Finally, I ran into the CGC people and gave them 4 comics to be graded. It's my first time doing something like that (I've bought a lot of graded comics, but never turned any in from my own collection for grading). The pearl of the group I turned in is an old Deadman comic that I had just had Neal Adams sign. It'll be a month or so before they come back home, but that'll just give me something else to look forward to.

And finally...Things I Don't Understand About Comic-Con:

1. $20 for an autograph???? Your studio flew you there, put you in a hotel, paid your expenses, and you're charging people $20 to sign a book, comic book, or toy???? Guess what...the fans are the only reason people give a care who you are and they're the only thing separating you from the rest of the mob just milling about on the exhibition floor. Without the fans you're just that lonely guy sitting behind the booth trying desperately to get someone to read his "independent comic" or buy his "independent film". Treat people with respect and just sign your stinking name for free!

2. $6 for a hot dog???? If I were in a starving country trying desperately to conserve food, I could see this. But that's just wrong.

3. A line for everything???? You want a shirt? Get in line. You want a toy? Get in line. You want a $20 autograph? Get in line. You need to use the toilet? You get the idea. The only booth that gets real props from me for their "exclusive" toys sales was Entertainment Earth. The booth was always open and the line never got above 20 people because they kept it moving and had plenty of stock. I managed to get the Minimates, the Flash "Giants of Justice" figure, the Halo figure, and a couple of Twilight Zone bobble heads with no hassle. Thank you, EE!

4. How much for that artwork???? I understand you are an artist. I understand that a page from a comic book is considered art. What I do not understand is how anyone can say "Yes, that page is $12,000" with a straight face and expect anyone to buy it. I know Alex Ross is awesome, but please! And he wasn't the only one trying for those prices. It seemed like every artist there felt a baseball-card-sized drawing of Batman was worth at least $500. I definitely went into the wrong line of work.

Looking forward to Dragon-Con in September. It's a lot closer to home and to be honest it just seems more laid back. At SDCC you could feel the tension in the air as the crowds got so bad you couldn't even stop to look at anything, and there were surprisingly few people dressed up this year (at least where I was). Last year we walked into our hotel lobby for Dragon Con and saw the entire Justice Society standing there for pictures. Stormtroopers everywhere, major and minor superheroes galore, and a few rather imaginative costumes in there too. While I'm still not ready to dress up or anything, it's fun to see the time and effort others put into it. Great stuff!

So the SDCC was a wonderful experience all around. We really enjoyed it and are glad to say we had the experience, but I doubt we ever do it again.

Tune in Monday as we take a very special look at our "Blackest Night" Wish List!

Monday, July 27, 2009

San Diego Comic Con!

We're back! I know I said I'd have updates on a daily basis, but I was what is affectionately know as "a noob" when it came to this Con. I had no idea it was literally a dawn-to-dusk event that required hours of waiting in lines for literally everything and paying drug-money prices for hot dogs and pizzas! I have to say, however, that this was probably the highlight of the comic-collecting portion of my life!

I will have a full rundown on everything later this week after I've had a chance to unpack and upload some of the pictures I took. Let me just give you some teaser info: I got to meet and talk to my favorite comic book artist of all time, my favorite television heroes of all time, and my favorite author of all time! More on that later this week!

There was a lot of buzz going around that they were thinking of moving the Con to Los Angeles because the San Diego Convention Center was just too small to hold it all. I have to say that would be a good idea. This was my first time there, but the crowds were just horrible. The aisles were constantly packed and it was a continual upstream battle to get anywhere on the exhibition floor.

And if you wanted some "Convention Exclusive" toys you could forget it. Hey Hasbro and Mattel: if you know the Con is sold out and you know your "exclusive" toys are going to be selling like fire, why not make lots of them so we can all have them instead of just making a handful and letting people battle to the death for a ticket that lets them stand in a line that might get them a toy after a few hours of waiting, but then again it might not.

The exclusive Green Lantern figures were the worst of all. You had to wait in line for hours so you could reach into a bag with pink tickets or green tickets. If you pulled out a green ticket, you could buy a Lantern. A pink ticket got you the knowledge that you had wasted three hours of your life you'd never get again. People were selling them for $100 a piece on the floor after paying $12 for them. What a crock!

Before I go let me close this out by saying that if you haven't already pre-ordered the new Green Lantern: First Flight cartoon going on sale tomorrow, you need to do so. We saw it there and I have to say it's the best thing DC has put out in years! I've been collecting Green Lantern comics since I was a child and know his origin backwards and forward, but they managed to keep me wondering what would happen next. Get this movie!

More updates later this week!

Monday, July 20, 2009

Attack of the Cartoon Heroes series! The Conclusion

Well, we've looked at some great cartoons over the years, but to close things out I wanted to give a few honorable mentions to some series that weren't as popular as the others we've talked about. These were all over the place as far as time goes, but they were heroes.

The Fantastic Four (1980's)

During the Spider-Man craze of the 80's, the Fantastic Four briefly made an appearance in their first animated series. Unfortunately, due to some licensing problems, Marvel actually lost the right to use the Human Torch in the series (he was optioned by another studio for a solo cartoon that never got made)! Instead of bringing in a new hero, the powers that be brought in an incredibly annoying robot named Herbie to take his place. Technically, this made the series "The Fantastic 3 1/2", but nobody noticed.

Fortunately, the Torch made it back when the series was brought back in the 90's on Fox, and just a few years ago when it reappeared in a new form on MTV. But, for your viewing pleasure, here's Herbie!

Iron Man (1996)

When Fox brought back the Fantastic Four, they also brought in Iron Man. While he'd done a couple of guest shots in some Spider-Man cartoons, this was his first turn to actually helm a series. To be honest, the stories weren't half bad. It didn't last long and is only available on DVD in various single episodes on other show's discs, but you can still find shots of it here and there. His theme song definitely wasn't as catchy as the X-Men's.

The Silver Surfer (1990's)

To prove they weren't turning away any hero for a series possibility, Fox brought the Silver Surfer to his own series for a short while. This series used a strange fusion of computer animation and cell animation, which made it unique among other hero shows of the time. Sometimes it worked, and sometimes it didn't.

The Surfer was surprisingly able to hold his own for a bit since he was able to go from planet to planet to find new adventures. Of course, his greatest battles were those he fought against the coolest bad guy of all time: Galactus!

The Teen Titans (2000's)

Before we close it all out, I'd like to mention the Teen Titans. For some weird reason, they decided to go all anime with this series. To me, that really limited its audience. This is obviously meant for kids which is a shame, since some of the stories they covered (Terra's betrayal, Trigon's appearance) were very adult stories in the comics and could have made for some awesome moments rather than the way they were handled.

And that's it! Oh, I know I missed several shows out there like Superman, Brave & The Bold, Spider-Woman, and the Hulk, but maybe I'll grab them in a follow-up someday. Did I miss any that you liked as a kid?

Monday, July 13, 2009

Attack of the Cartoon Heroes series! Part 2

Last week we took at look at some of the humble beginnings of our comic book heroes. This week we'll finish it up with a look at how things have progressed to our modern shows. We've come a long way!

Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends (1980's)

Spidey got a lot of different treatments over the years. In the 80's, he even got his own team of heroes! Iceman and new heroine Firestar joined up to fight villains left and right. This was the old light-hearted feel of the '67 version, while bringing him into the 80's. This series also featured the second animated appearance of the X-Men, and the first animated appearance of Wolverine! Unfortunately, they gave him a weird Australian accent for some reason (what Canadian speaks with an Australian accent?), but other than that they managed to keep him true to the character. Unlike most other cartoons I'm mentioning, this series is not available on DVD for licensing reasons so we may never get to see these again outside of the internet.

Batman: The Animated Series (1990's)

I can still remember that first still shot I saw of this upcoming series. I didn't like the animation, and thought it made Batman look too much like a cartoon character. Over the years, however, it's sort of grown on me. This was the first cartoon series to try and make the Batman a tough and quite character. There was no strange voice coming from the character (like the old Super Friends cartoons) and the classic blue-and-gray scheme was killed for the black-and-gray look. The creators were going for more of a "Dark Knight Returns" feel on the character, and it worked.

A few seasons into the story, Robin was brought in and Batgirl soon followed. We can't complain though, because Mark Hamill managed to nail the Joker's voice and character. This is the same guy who was the Trickster in the old "The Flash" series, and he took that maniacal feel into this character.

The clip I am including below isn't really from this series. It's from the old "Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker" movie, but the "death" of the Joker here was such a great example of how these stories had grown from the old "Super Friends" feel I had to add it here. Turn off the annotations and enjoy.

X-Men (1990's)

When they finally unleashed this series, you knew it was going to be huge. Remaining fairly faithful to the comic book adaptations of the characters, this series also managed to bring storylines like "The Dark Phoenix Saga" and "Days of Future Past" to life in slightly varied versions. At least Wolverine didn't have a weird accent this time around!

Spider Man Unlimited (2000's)

Spidey has had so many animated versions over the years it would take up two posts just to mention them all, but I wanted to mention this one. It was a strange series that took him to another version of Earth to face new villains and new takes on some of his old foes. I have no idea why they went this way, but it took Spidey's animated look more toward the Batman series look. Perhaps Marvel was trying to find a way to cash in on the popularity of that cartoon's feel? Who knows. Cool Spider-Man costume here though!

Justice League (2000's)

A natural evolution for the "Super Friends" was to update them to the JLU. This series kept Bruce Timm's drawing style of the heroes, and even managed to keep Kevin Conroy's Batman voice from the animated series! There was a lot to love about this series--especially when it expanded to the "Unlimited" format and included some great guest stars (most of whom had never seen animation before) and even an updated version of the Legion of Doom. Unfortunately, this series was cancelled after far too short of a second season.

This clip is an example of how cool this series was. Actually, every episode in JLU was an absolute winner, so any clip you can find (or buy the whole series on DVD) is a great one.

Batman Beyond (2000s)

Ok, so how do you take the Batman story to the next level? You put him in the future! Giving Terry Gillis a slightly varied costume with cool new powers (like flight, wouldn't that have come in handy decades earlier?) and keeping the old Bruce Wayne as his mentor, the series managed to keep the feel of the Batman mythos while still breaking new ground. Good stuff!

Spider-Man (1990's-2000's)

Fox gave us a new Spider-Man series in the mid-90's that blended the feel of the 90's with the look of the 80's. Spidey fought all his old villains here and a lot of great storylines from the comics found a variation here. Unfortunately, this one didn't solve the "he's married to Mary Jane so how do we undo that?" problem any better than the comics did. In this series, she ends up being a water-based clone.

Next week, we'll look at a few one-offs I skipped over that deserve a little attention, including the Teen Titans, Iron Man, the Silver Surfer and the Hulk.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Attack of the Cartoon Heroes series! Part 1

Last year ago, we took a long look at the live-action representations of some of our favorite heroes over the years. They weren't all flattering, but it was nice to see them moving. Now I thought we'd look at the flip side of the coin: cartoons.

Believe it or not, some superheroes have given us great cartoons over the years. While I can't possibly cover them all, I wanted to hit several that I think deserve mentioning.

Superman (1930's)

Superman was the first superhero to see animation, and what a great job they did. Using a process called "rotoscoping", the cartoons were drawn over live actors in places, giving it a realism that makes each of the cartoons fun to watch even today. In all honesty, these cartoons look better than most of the "anime" style we're seeing in stuff like Teen Titans and such.

The Filmation DC Heroes (mid-1960's)

Long before they were on Cartoon Network, heroes like Hawkman, The Flash, The Atom, and the Teen Titans were on television in short cartoons. These weren't ground-breaking in animation (but much better than their Marvel counterparts, as you'll see in a minute), but the stories were fun. Kid Flash had a really weird look that combined the comic book version and something else. See what you think:

The Marvel Heroes (mid-1960's)

The animation here is incredibly weak (mainly just animated panels of comic books at times), but the chance to see the heroes in action was a huge draw.

Here's something you might not know: the first animated appearance of the X-Men was in one of these old cartoons. Sub-Mariner needed help in one of his episodes, and the X-Men answered the call. It was the classic version with the yellow-and-blue suits, but it happened.

And let's not forget Thor!

Spider-Man (1967)

This one is particularly special to me. I watched this in reruns in the early 70's as a kid, and it was the absolute highlight of my Saturday morning. When my mom took me to someone else's house for them to babysit me, they were told that Spider-Man came on at 10 (no, I'm not Rain Man or anything...I just loved that show!). I can still dramatically remember the morning I sat in front of the television at the appointed time with my cereal and orange juice only to see "The Addams Family" come on. My world was shattered! This was a decade before something called a VCR, so you watched what came on and when it was taken off the air, it was GONE, baby! Of course, thanks to the wonders of DVDs I now have the complete series in my collection, but there for a while it was painful.

The animation was pretty good here, the villains were fairly close to the comic book versions of themselves, and they even got Spider-Man's quirkly little comments during the fights right. Sit back and enjoy the ZZZZZZEEERRRPPPPP as Spidey goes swinging by!

The Super Friends (several incarnations over the 70's - 80's)

There were so many versions of these guys over the years it's hard to concentrate on any one era. Basically, this was the first real super-team I saw on television as a kid and every time I went swimming during the Summer I was Aquaman!

Casey Kasem (the voice of Shaggy) did the voice of Robin, and I always wondered how much fun it must have been to see him doing the voice recordings for that Scooby Doo episode where he met Batman! "Zoinks, Scoob! It's Batman and Robin!" "Holy Talking Dog, Batman! It's Scooby Doo and Shaggy!" "Like, wow, man!" "Holy Zoinks!, wait, I'm sorry, I got that wrong. Cut!"

Plastic Man (1979-1981)

We close out today with a look at one of the more obscure heroes to actually get a series. Don't get me wrong, I loved Plastic Man! But how he was chosen for a series I'll never know. It worked though (well, until Plastic Baby came along and killed it for everyone). I just wish Woozy Winks would have made an appearance.

That brings us to the 80's, but there are still a lot of folks who need mentioning! Next week, we'll talk about more modern heroes including: Justice League, Batman the Animated Series, Superman, Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends (second appearance of the X-Men), The X-Men and more!

Before we go, here's a little something that proves anyone can get on the internet if you have a video camera, imagination, and a lot of time on your hands:

Blog Widget by LinkWithin