Friday, May 8, 2015

A Fistful of a League of Extraordinary Avengers


Conceived and used with the permission of Matthew Constantine and Brad Gullickson, the original dorks.

Everyone has a “Top 5.”  But Brad and Matt, choosing to walk a different path, amended that to “A Fistful…” over at their blog, In the Mouth of Dorkness.  A film-centric blog where they also discuss comics and books and TV, these two regularly share their top 5, ranging from “Heroic Kids” to “Spies” to “Summer Movies” to “Punches” to all things in between.  Always fun, often insightful, and something I hope to regularly pilfer for Warrior27.  As they say:  If you’re going to steal, steal from those you know relatively well, who will not sue you.

            This latest “Fistful” is in response to the ITMOD guys’ latest podcast, where they came up with their fistful of Avengers (or Revengers) from across the film spectrum that they would bring together to combat Thanos, in a world where the Avengers did not exist.  The guys on the ‘cast came up with a great collection of “toughs.”  Here’s my meager addition to that:


·         “Harmonica”  (Charles Bronson) from Once Upon a Time in the West



He’s all about the long game, and he’s not stopping ‘til you are done with this Earth.


·         Ethan Edwards (John Wayne) in The Searchers



Driven doesn’t properly describe Edwards in this film.  You know he’s going to find and kill whoever wronged him, or die in the attempt.


·         The Bride from Kill Bill



She’s the Bride.  ‘Nuff said.


·         Snake Plissken



Again, what more need be said about Snake Plissken.  Throw him into an impossible situation, it don’t matter, he’s coming out of it.  Though probably a bit worse for wear.


·         “The Wolf” (Harvey Keitel) in Pulp Fiction



The Wolf is the Captain America of this group.  He knows what needs doing, has a plan, and will make damn sure you get it done, and done right.  Because you do not cross the Wolf.

Sunday, May 3, 2015

What It Is – week ending 3 May [2015]


With apologies to Dave the Thune (as well as Mike Baron & Steve Rude).


WRITING:
Every day.  1000 words.  That’s the goal.

But sometimes, the goal needs to be set aside.  One of the things that has pushed me with my writing is that feeling of irritability I get when I go a few days without writing.  And this isn’t something I notice, consciously—at least, not for quite a few years.  It would take me those few days to notice that I was snapping in frustration at things that did not merit such a response.  I’d then roll through reasons for this, eventually falling on the fact that I hadn’t written anything for a number of days, realizing that was the crux of my frustrations.  Greg Rucka expressed a similar sentiment at a convention panel I attended a number of years back, and that was the lightbulb that clued me into this aspect of myself, but it’s still taken me years to lock onto that lack of writing as the basis of my crappy mood, at the top of my internal Google search.  So, it was odd that I was feeling that same sense of frustration a few weeks back, since this year has been my most productive, as far as hitting my daily goal.  I’d only taken three days off from writing all of 2015, at the mid-point of April. 


I’m not one who balks at pressure—I tend to relish it.  But I was feeling the pressure of needing to keep on my writing streak.  So, I took a break to recharge, to read some, to watch some TV, to just take it easy.  And it felt good.  Ultimately, it only ended up being two days off from writing, but that’s what it took, because by the third day the voices were sliding around in my brain again, begging to be let out.  And that’s what I did.  I jumped back on the horse and started writing. 

Best piece of advice I’ve ever heard on being a writer—which I’ve read in numerous places and mentioned multiple times here—is that one needs to write.  But you also need balance. 


READING:
Finished up Tom Sawyer this week.  What more can I say?  It’s a classic, and there’s a reason for that.  The characters, the dialogue, Twain’s way with words, it all works fantastically.  Glad I finally took the plunge. 


As for comics, I’ve been wading in nostalgia over the past couple years, and it’s been great.  Not that there aren’t comics being made today that don’t interest me, but there aren’t many that necessitate my seeking them out upon publication—most of them I’m fine reading in collected form, long after they’ve hit the stands (the prime exceptions are Ed Brubaker’s book, Velvet & The Fade Out, and the upcoming Providence from Alan Moore & Jacen Burrows).  But the pile next to the bed has included early issues of G.I. Joe, Suicide Squad (Ostrander et al.), and, lately, The Badger.  I started reading Baron & Butler’s Badger a few years back, when I put together a full run of the book, across all its publishers, but I stopped at some point around the mid-30s.  But with my hankering for 80s comics, to really excite my inner child, I picked it up again from the start, and it’s been a great ride.  This book is crazy, in that it doesn’t follow anything resembling a “traditional” take on superheroes.  It’s not just the Badger, who suffers from multiple-personality disorder, or his supporting cast, which includes a 500-year-old wizard, but it’s the plots that Mike Baron and his artistic collaborators conceive—an adventure seeking out a truffle hunting pig, an issue where the Badger rides a buffalo in search of a rampaging rhino, and other “out of left field” concepts.  It basks in the glory of being a comic book, which makes it such a fun book to read.  If you like your superheroes a bit off-center, you should definitely dig into the back issue bins for these books. 



WATCHING:
So, everyone was going on about Daredevil on Netflix (did anyone find any fault with the show?), which led me to head back to Central City and catch up with Barry Allen, The Flash!  I watched the big time travel story—comprised of “Out of Time” and “Rogue Time”—which had people going crazy on the internet about a month and a half ago.  And they were great.  I go into more detail at this post here, but these two episodes really leveled up this series for me, and I’m back on board until the season finale.  The creators are infusing so many concepts from the comic books into this series, while tweaking others, and it all works so well for me.  And the brightness of the show and the positive outlook of the character of Barry Allen just adds to much to it, and is the right comic book TV series for me, right now.  It’s the difference between the real take on these over-the-top characters so often taken in both film and comics today, and this aspirational take, which is what I want from my superheroes and leads right back to why I’ve been reading so many comics from my childhood.  Not that you can’t have brooding, serious characterizations (especially for heroes like Batman or Daredevil), but you need to have variety (hear that, DC comics?) in order to not just appeal to a broader audience, but also to better define these characters—because if they are all “grim ‘n gritty” how can you tell them apart?  (other than their four-color costumes)



MISCELLANY:
Put down a stone walkway at the house this weekend.  (homeowner win)  I need to make them flush with the ground.  But that’s for another weekend.  (let’s not get ahead of ourselves here)


SIGN OFF:
As always, check out my friends – Brad& Matt and Darren Smith (with Bryan Young on accompaniment, when he’s available)  and Don McMillan, as well as Dan’s foray into podcastdom, the Potato League Podcast, for their own weekly recaps on things comic-y and geeky, and we'll see what's what in seven.  

-chris


Wednesday, April 29, 2015

FLASH LEVELS UP [Why The Flash part 6 of 5]



  

S
P
O
I
L
E
R
S


A
H
E
A
D


B
E


W
A
R
N
E
D

 

I’m not one to watch things in a timely fashion.  Family (being a father and a husband) and writing come first.  And reading, that’s ahead of watching TV and movies.  This means I am rarely “in the loop” with what’s happening.  But the launch of Daredevil on Netflix spurred me to go back and catch up on some recent Flash episodes. 

Okay, let’s backtrack.  [apologies: wordy bitch ahead]

The rush of adulation for Daredevil on Netflix, at least in my little corner of the internet, has been overwhelming.  Marvel does it again!  That hallway fight scene is the best in a decade!  I can’t wait for more!  Got the character right!  And, according to some (okay, one person), Daredevil is the best show since “The Wire.”  Yes, I heard that on a podcast I enjoy listening to.  I watched the first episode.  It took me four nights.  And I was not engaged to watch anymore after that.  Nothing against the creators—I think they did a fine job translating the grim ‘n gritty Daredevil to television, though there were some campy-feeling moments, particularly with the brooooaaaaadddd villains.  These are not nuanced characters, ala The Wire.  But it’s a comic book adaptation, we don’t need nuance.  Anyway.  I’m not here to hate on the thing.  It is well done, and it is “real.”  But it’s not what I want in my superheroes right now.  Grim ‘n gritty is fine, but remember, there are other tones and palettes available to you as a creator. 


Which brings me to the CW’s Flash. 

I watched the first four episodes and enjoyed them, but as I state above, my time is limited and I fell off that train.  [full disclosure time, if you didn’t know this, the Flash is my favorite all-time  superhero].  But I read about the Flash’s recent travails and travels through time, and that piqued my interest.  Then all of this gushing over DD, and my lack of interest in it, got me to casting my eye back across the spectrum to the Flash.  So, I dove back in with those time travel episodes:  “Out of Time” and “Rogue Time.” 

Wow!  They leveled up with these two episodes.  I’m impressed with how much of the comic book mythology the creators and the network have been willing to include in this series.  We have the rogues, with their crazy costumes and powers, a villain from the future secretly hiding in their midst, the promise (possibly) of other lesser-known superheroes like Firestorm and Vibe, and now we finally see the Flash manage to go back in time.  This is some fun stuff ß emphasis on “FUN.” 


“Out of Time”
I loved this episode.  The way things played out did not feel forced at all.  The threat of Mark Mardon [the Weather Wizard “been waitin’ to use that since week one”], the investigation into Harrison Wells at Iris’s newspaper, the devastation wreaked by Mardon, the death of Cisco at Wells’s hand, it all held my interest, and the pain suffered by Joe West and Captain Singh felt real.  Then, when we got to the end and Barry had to stop the tidal wave by running back and forth so fast that he would create a wind that would dissipate the wave’s energy and he ended up rushing through a wormhole to twenty-four hours in the past—that was pretty great.  But the best moment of the entire episode, for me, was when he revealed his heroic identity to Iris. That moment hit me right in the gut.  His line [paraphrased] “I didn’t mean for you to find out like this,” and the reaction shot as Barry quick-changed and rushed to save the city…beautiful. 


“Rogue Time”
So, now that Barry has rushed back, a day into the past, he feels he must try to head off all the destruction he knows is coming.  He throws Mark Mardon into the “prison” they’ve set up at S.T.A.R. Labs and figures all is good.  Dr. Wells warns him that time will find a way to set things right.  And he is correct.  Heat Wave and Captain Cold return, bringing along Leonard Snart’s little sister, who becomes the Golden Glider—or a replica thereof as she’s not properly named in this episode and does not come with ice skates as her counterpart did in the comics.  And things do not go well.  Barry manages to save many from the physical harm they encountered the last time he ran through this day, but he is not safe from the emotional fallout of restating his affection for Iris—who admitted her own love for him when her father’s life and the lives of all of Central City were at stake the “previous day” but did not feel similarly in this renewed day.  It’s an interesting look at the consequences of mucking with the timeline, in this reality, as well as a fix for the death of Cisco and other bits of collateral damage from the previous episode that works perfectly in this context.  Oh, and we get Captain Cold and Heat Wave with new guns, thanks to their kidnapping of Cisco, along with the Golden Glider’s gun as well.  And the Rogues Gallery gets named.  Yeah, I’m geeking out.  But this show is so damn fun. 



The difference between Flash and Daredevil comes down to the tone of the show, really.  And right now, I’m looking for something other than what has become the default for many, many superhero comics of the past couple decades.  I love how bright this show is, how ebullient a character Barry Allen is.  There are still serious things happening, but it’s all coated with the wonder and excitement of a superhero comic book.  And that, to me, makes all the difference in the world.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

What It Is – week ending 26 April [2015]


With apologies to Dave the Thune (as well as Mike Baron & Steve Rude).


WRITING:
Every day.  1000 words.  That’s the goal.

Been working on my pitch for Oni, which shared the guidelines  for their upcoming open submission period.  They can be found here.  An interview with the editorial staff can be found here , full of good information for others looking to send in a comic proposal.  And they have been answering questions through their tumblr account, in order to clarify exactly what they are looking for. 


For me, this is pretty exciting.  It’s been years since Oni has allowed unsolicited submissions, and they have published a lot of amazing titles I’ve enjoyed, through the years, including Queen & Country, Oni Double Feature, Volcanic Revolver, and The Bunker.  So having the opportunity to share my work with them and know that it will get a proper assessment is stellar. 


This is also the point where I can try and “make my own luck.”  I admit, I didn’t fully understand this phrase when I first started writing and submitting stories to publications and editors.  To my mind, it made me think of those stories where people use a bit of subterfuge or “hutzpah” to get an in with a publisher, and having gotten their foot in that door are able to prove themselves worthy of the opportunity.  But now, having been working at my writing for a few years, I realize it’s far more than that.  I have a backlog of stories on my hard drive, in various stages of completion, as well as published stories to my name, which means when an opportunity of this nature comes about, I probably already have something that will fit – which I do.  At this point, I’m already ahead of the game because I’ve been working on this story for a while.  I just need to hammer it into a pitch that will engage the editors while making sure it fits with their guidelines.  If I were starting from scratch, I would be hard pressed to get anything in by the deadline.  Making my own luck, as best I’m able.



READING:
So, I’m reading The Adventures of Tom Sawyer for the first time, and I’m really enjoying it.  I love Mark Twain’s use of language – in the dialogue, in the descriptions, in the quiet moments – it’s all beautiful, almost elevated in its poetic nature, while still feeling authentic.  Not sure now why I have not read this book before. 


Xenozoic by Mark Schulz.  This was a favorite comic of mine, back in the day, that sadly did not come out often enough, for my taste.  Schulz may be one of the best illustrators ever to work in the medium, but it came at the price of anything resembling swiftness.  His pages, and the panels on those pages, are beautiful and he doesn’t short change readers at all, with a wealth of details all painstakingly delineated with a precision that is jaw-dropping.  This guy can draw.   And what he drew—dinosaurs in a future, five hundred years after the cataclysm that threatened to bring about the extinction of the human race.  But now we live alongside these giant beasts from the past, as one man, Jack Tenrec, works to keep the balance with nature that can ensure humankind’s survival, while a beautiful ambassador from a neighboring tribe comes to lay the groundwork for a peaceful coexistence that might also be mutually beneficial to both tribes.  Of course, the two become enamored of one another, but Schulz keeps that simmering within the subtext, for the most part, crafting a mature relationship between these two strong characters that is engaging and distinct, for these aspects of it.  I forgot how much I enjoyed this book.  It was great to re-read these stories again.  Well worth seeking out, if you’ve never read them before. 



WATCHING:
District 9 from director Neil Blomkamp, co-written by Blomkamp & Terri Tatchell.  This continues my foray into “recent” science fiction films I missed.  I enjoyed this.  I found the story engaging, even if the metaphor (though a worthy one) was a bit heavy-handed.  The effects were well done.  I appreciated the design of the aliens.  The villains were a bit one-dimensional, but what are you going to do?  Not great, but definitely worth watching.  Next up, some Val Lewton classics. 



MISCELLANY:
Something I managed to forget to include in the last “What It Is,” was the latest offering here at Warrio27:  A Fistful of Single Issues – Superhero Comics.  These are 6 (had to have an honorable mention) of my favorite single issue cape comics, the ones I go to when I have to read something exciting that will get my inner child all giddy.  Including work by Alan Moore, Grant Morrison, Todd McFarlane, Larry Hama, and a host of others, these are the comics I would bring with me to that theoretical desert isle.  And they would keep me pumped about comics for a long, long time. 
[interestingly, though unsurprisingly, three of these books were published in 1984, when I first began collecting comics, while the other three were published between 1988-89, which goes to prove the adage that a comic collector’s “Golden Age” is usually that period when they first began reading]



SIGN OFF:
As always, check out my friends – Brad& Matt, Darren Smith (with Bryan Young on accompaniment, when he’s available)  and Don McMillan, as well as Dan’s foray into podcastdom, the Potato League Podcast, for their own weekly recaps on things comic-y and geeky, and we'll see what's what in seven.  

-chris


Sunday, April 19, 2015

What It Is – week ending 19 April [2015]




With apologies to Dave the Thune (as well as Mike Baron & Steve Rude).


WRITING:
Every day.  1000 words.  That’s the goal.

At last check-in, two weeks ago, I’d completed the first draft of the novel.  Now I’m onto the pitch for my time travel “epic,” refining and rewriting it in anticipation of Oni’s open submission call next month.  I’ve got a solid premise, I believe, with an engaging four-issue arc that can work as a standalone story, but is also intended as the opening narrative of a much longer story, in the vein of Sandman and Queen & Country, two primary influences on this project. 

I don’t know exactly what Oni will be looking for, so I’m working up various items for inclusion, a synopsis of the opening story, a detailed issue-by-issue breakdown, character profiles, a final script for issue one (which I workshopped at Comics Experience, where I got some invaluable critiques that improved it immensely).  Some of these aspects, I already had written in a rough form and only need to revise, while others I am writing up for the first time.  The great thing about this is that I’ve discovered a lot about the story and been able to flesh it out more fully, so that when I do submit to Oni, I will have a far better understanding of where I am going with it, which, I hope, will improve the chances of getting picked up.  If I don’t, though, I may turn this into a novel at some point down the line. 



READING:
Finished up Jhumpa Lahiri’s The Namesake this week, and I had two thoughts: 1) what an amazing and beautifully written book, 2) why am I even trying to write? 

That second thought is one that occurs a lot, especially when I finish a book as stellar as this.  The connections Lahiri makes, her use of language and the perfect balance of detail and metaphor, and the facility with which she opens and closes a scene—all spectacular.  If you’re looking for a moving, engaging read, pick this up. 

I also re-read Elektra: Assassin this week.  I didn’t connect with this work the first time I read it and subsequently sold my trade collection of it.  But I recently picked up the individual issues on ebay and am I glad I did.  Miller’s writing, specifically his dialogue and captions with their halting cadence revealing the truth over the course of dozens of bits of text, is superb.  And the art by Bill Sienkiewicz is just damn beautiful.  I love his art, and he is just on the top of his game in this book.  Amazing stuff.  If you like over-violent, satirical stories and are a fan of comics, and you haven’t read this yet, do yourself a favor and seek it out.  Now. 



WATCHING:
Watched Live. Die. Repeat./Edge of Tomorrow/I Don’t Know What Title I am? this past week, and I really enjoyed it.  (Sure, there’s a theme running through most of these “updates” about how much I enjoyed reading/watching/hearing something, but that’s because I tend to be picky, and I also don’t want to spend much time on anything that I found less than enjoyable)  The conceit of time travel, as a story engine, is difficult to “get right,” or at least to utilize in a manner that doesn’t pull the audience right out of the story (fingers crossed with my comic pitch above).  But with this film, they did a great job of engaging viewers with the visuals and the drama of the situation, while offering a plausible explanation for the time travel (though, to be fair, it wasn’t so much time travel as a temporal loop, wherein Tom Cruise’s character repeated the same day, over and over, until that chain is broken).  I really enjoyed how we got to see Cruise’s character learn from each jump back to the same day, as he died again and again but retained his memories of those previous days, and the manner that the filmmakers revealed this worked well.  It kept me interested, provided the right amount of drama and intrigue, and offered questions that demanded answers.  And, as the guys at Travis Bickle on the Riviera stated, we got to see Tom Cruise become Tom Cruise.  His character arc was really interesting, something you don’t necessarily get in most action films.  Fun stuff. 



MISCELLANY:
Sox are in first place!  I’ll take that.  I’m not expecting much from the team this year, their pitching could use a shot in the arm (pun intended), but the offense should/could be exciting.  We’ll see  At least I’m not a Cubs fan (sorry, Dan)

The new Star Wars 7 trailer dropped.  And it is magnificent.  The initial teaser did nothing for me.  It didn’t feel like Star Wars, and after the prequels I felt too burned to give in to the dark side.  But this one kicked me right in my nostalgic, five-year-old self’s heart, and I am all in now.  That opening shot is what did it for me—seeing such familiar imagery, the desert, the X-Wing, and the Star Destroyer shown in such a wholly new context, that was exciting.  Add to that, the fact that the “soccer ball droid,” BB-8, is a practical effect, a puppet, and not a CGI effect, that cements it.  Abrams knows how to rummage through my memories and pluck just the right strings to make my heart sing, and he’s doing it again.  Can’t wait for this now.



SIGN OFF:
As always, check out my friends – Brad& Matt and Darren Smith (with Bryan Young on accompaniment, when he’s available)  and Don McMillan, as well as Dan’s foray into podcastdom, the Potato League Podcast, for their own weekly recaps on things comic-y and geeky, and we'll see what's what in seven.  

-chris