Comics and Me

Comics

Yesterday was Free Comic Book Day. It got me thinking about my relationship to comics.

The comic above,  The Amazing Spider-Man # 119, is the first comic I remember buying. I know I had others before it, but perhaps I didn’t actually choose them myself, but had them given to me. Whatever the case, I remember going into the 7-11 and choosing this comic and reading it. The result was an obsession that lasted for years, and a strong love of the medium that I still retain today.

That said, I can’t recall the last single issue of a comic I bought. I still read bound collections here and there, like the recent “Court of Owls” storyline in the Batman comics. There are some things I buy for my library as soon as they appear, like the incredible cloth-bound library editions of Mike Mignola’s Hellboy, or the “Absolute” edition of Warren Ellis’s Planetary. But mostly, I just don’t bother with comics these days.

I still love them. But they’re like old friends who’ve drifted away. I keep up with them via gossip. “Oh, Superman is seeing Wonder Woman? Good for him.” “Oh no, Damian Wayne died? That’s terrible, Bruce must be in agony.” “Peter Parker’s dead? Oh my god, that’s…actually really fucking humdrum at this point, unfortunately. Tell me when he’s back.”

It’s not that I’m not interested in reading them, because I am. But the reasons not to are so compelling. They’re too damned expensive, for one thing; for ten bucks, I can get two or three comic books I’ll read in under fifteen minutes. But that same ten bucks will get me two hours of entertainment at the cinema, buy me a book or ten that will give me many hours of enjoyment, get me ten songs I’ll be able to listen to forever, or even pay for a month of Netflix. Comics just don’t offer much bang for the buck when they cost so much.

It’s also a chore to keep up with them. The big companies love crossovers, and to be honest, so do I. But I’m too busy and distracted to have to follow all related series, and read the issues every month in proper order, in order to keep up with a storyline. The latest Batman mega-arc may be incredible, but if I have to hop spastically from title to title, and research the fucking reading order online, to keep up, it’s too much work for too little joy. You can’t just buy a single title, in individual issues or trade collections, and get a coherent storyline.

So, these days, though I miss them, I’m fine following the lives of my favorite comic book characters through hearsay. And, of course, through other media. I’m re-watching The Spectacular Spider-Man cartoon at present, and it’s exceptional. Of course, it lasted just two seasons, and now we have Ultimate Spider-Man, which isn’t. DC’s animated efforts tend to be incredible; we watched the animated adaptation of Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns a few weeks ago, and it was great. And, of course, there are the movies. That’s where most people get their comics fix these days, and there, for the most part, the companies are getting it right.

Speaking of which, today we’re going to see the new Iron Man flick. Can. Not. Wait.

Shadowy News For Pulp Movie Fans…

The Shadow

Some news on the Doc Wilde blog for fans of pulp action movies in general and 1994’s film version of The Shadow in particular:

Shadowy News

Which reminds me of one of my better Twitter statuses last year:

CHASE ME (A Charming Animated Short)

Chase Me

This is for Nydia…

A lovely animated short from the creators of the classic Batman animated series, silent movie style, all elegant art and sleek action, with a great musical score.

Enjoy.

The Mother Fucking Space Marines

SPACE MARINES

So corporate bully boys Games Workshop are now insisting they own a trademark on the term “space marine,” which first appeared back in 1932 in the story “Captain Brink of the Space Marines” by Bob Olsen. They had a book by writer M.C.A Hogarth kicked off of Amazon for her use of this common, stock, standard, downright cliché science fiction trope.

From her blog:

Today I got an email from Amazon telling me they have stopped selling Spots the Space Marine because Games Workshop has accused me of infringement on their trademark of the word ‘space marine’.

If you go to the Trademarks Database and look up the word “space marine” you’ll find the Games Workshop owns a trademark on the term “space marine,” but it only covers the follow goods and services: IC 028. US 022. G & S: board games, parlor games, war games, hobby games, toy models and miniatures of buildings, scenery, figures, automobiles, vehicles, planes, trains and card games and paint, sold therewith.

Fiction isn’t included in that list, which means Games Workshop has no grounds on which to accuse me of trademark infringement.

I didn’t get my use of that term from Games Workshop. I got it from Robert Heinlein. Apparently the first use of the term was in 1932. E.E. Smith used it, among others. Also there are other novels on Amazon being sold that have “space marine” in the title. I don’t know why Games Workshop decided to complain about Spots in particular, but my guess is because the Kickstarter made it a little higher-profile than the average indie offering.

This is as bad as Marvel and DC Comics conspiring to share a trademark on the term “superhero,” barring all others from using it. It’s pointless and ridiculous and downright unfriendly to the creative community at large.

As for Games Workshop? Fuck those guys.

(Note: Like that cool pulpy cover I posted up there? You can make your own with the Pulp-O-Mizer at Bradley Schenck’s Thrilling Tales of the Downright Unusual website, which is a very cool place to visit…)

Doc Savage Vs. King Kong!

Doc Savage vs King Kong

I have returned from the jungled mountains of Brazil, renewed, a silly smile on my face, and ready to get back to work on the Doc Wilde adventures. I have a lot to write about, and will get to it as I can, but I wanted to share this cool news from friend of the Wildes and fellow pulpster Will Murray:

Eighty years ago in February, 1933 the Street & Smith company released the first issue of Doc Savage Magazine, introducing one of the most popular and influential pulp superheroes ever to hit the American scene. Doc Savage was the greatest adventure and scientist of his era, and while his magazine ended in 1949, he influenced the creators of Superman, Batman, Star Trek, The Man from UNCLE and the Marvel Universe—to name only a few.

While that first issue of Doc Savage was fresh on Depression newsstands,  Universal Studios released one of the most important fantasy films of all time. Everyone  knows the story of how King Kong was discovered on Skull Island and hauled back to New York in chains, only to perish tragically atop the world’s tallest  skyscraper, the Empire State Building.

As it happened, that was where Doc Savage had his world headquarters. For decades, fans have wondered: Where was Doc the day Kong fell? Continue reading

Hush, Hush, Hush, Here Comes the Bogeyman… (Song of the Week, Halloween 2012)

I love Halloween.

Reflecting that, our song of the week is  “Hush, Hush, Hush, Here Comes the Bogeyman” from 1932, by Henry Hall’s Orchestra with vocals by Val Rosing. Enjoy.

License To Thrill (Song of the Week, 9/19/2012)

In the past few weeks, I renewed my long dead passport. Today, I visited the Brazilian Consulate, where I was granted a visa allowing me entry to the country for the next decade.

My status as International Man of Mystery has been restored. I have a license to thrill. If you notice the processing label the consulate used on my passport, you can see that even the Brazilians seem to recognize my status. Look out Most Interesting Man in the World…

Considering my last vacation wound up reminding me entirely too much of Stephen King’s Misery, I am really looking forward to a few weeks in a tropical paradise with a gorgeous hostess and no fear of potential sledge hammers. It’s going to be a few months before I go, but I AM READY. Except that I really need a hair cut.

Boa noite. My name is Byrd. Tim Byrd.

Cookie Monster Presents The Song Of The Week, 8/30/2012

It’s all about the cookies this week…

First, this isn’t a song, but it is the funniest damn thing I’ve seen in a couple or three weeks on the internet. I’ve probably watched it twenty or more times and I always laugh:

Our actual song this week I offer in honor of the Republican National Convention currently infesting Tampa, “God’s Away On Business” by Tom Waits, karaoked by Cookie Monster…

I’d sell your heart to the junkman baby
For a buck, for a buck…
If you’re looking for someone to pull you out of that ditch
You’re out of luck, you’re out of luck…

Thoughts on THE DARK KNIGHT RISES (No Spoilers)

Walking out of Reign of Fire in 2002, two years before casting for Batman Begins took place, I announced that Christian Bale should be Batman. When he was actually cast, I was naturally pleased, and have loved his performance as Bruce Wayne from the first frame.

Bale captures the surface of the character, the handsome, athletic leading man who can wear the costume well (and has a square enough jaw that he doesn’t need a prosthetic chin to look right in the mask, as Michael Keaton did). But he also masterfully portrays the complexity, and torment, of Bruce Wayne, and over the course of the films we see him struggle in very human ways with the life he has chosen. It’s not as simple as being tragic or sad or brooding, or dynamic and intense and implacable. Bale’s Batman is real.

In The Dark Knight Rises, Bale shows us something truly surprising for a big screen superhero movie: he shows us not only Bruce Wayne’s tragedy and pain, but his frailty. His Batman is a force of nature, but he is also a man who is scarred and beaten by his experiences and by his age. And that makes his battles, and his triumphs and defeats, resonate all the more. Continue reading

And Finally… CATWOMAN!

We finally get a really good look at Anne Hathaway as Catwoman in Christopher Nolan’s next Batman flick.

Gotta tell you, I like.

Of course, I always thought Hathaway was an awesome choice, and I tend to trust Nolan’s choices when it comes to these films. Aside from the ridiculous growly voice Batman used last time, the movies have been damn near perfect.

My one quibble with Catwoman when I saw her in earlier pics was the choice to have her in high heels. Not smart footwear for anyone engaging in active athletic activities, much less catburgling.

But looking closely at this image, I see that the heels are visually set off from the rest of the boots, which makes me think that they may well be detachable, allowing her to go flat-footed when functionality is called for. If that’s the case, that’s pretty damn cool. Nolan will have found a way to keep the over-the-top sexy of traditional Catwoman depictions while also embracing her more practical and realistic current incarnation.

I’m really looking forward to seeing her in action. In the meantime, I’ll be in my bunk…

Buffy vs. The Black Widow, Who Wins? (Joss Whedon Lets Us Know)

In a short Q&A with USA Today, Joss Whedon was asked who he thought would win in a fight between Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Natasha Romanov, the Avengers‘ Black Widow. His response is a very entertaining action sequence all by itself:

Buffy would go easy at first, but as soon as Natasha popped her with a Widow Sting, she’d start bringing some slayer brawn to the fray. Natasha’s fast, but a couple of good connects and she’s wobbling, possibly something broken — she whips out her glock and now Buffy’s dodging — right where Natasha wants her. Natasha shoots the cable holding the steel barrels and they tumble onto Buffy, nearly burying her — Buffy just arcs out of the way, grabbing the splintered cable and swinging directly onto Natasha, a bullet grazing her cheek as her feet land hard on the Russian’s shoulders, sending her back flat — crack! — on the floor, Buffy wrenching the gun away and tossing it, fist ready for the final strike. Natasha, struggling to stay conscious, says the fight’s over. Buffy agrees, but Natasha explains: She poisoned Buffy hours ago. That waitress that brought her salad …? Natasha smiles. The poison is dormant — ’til it’s activated by adrenaline. Buffy’s eyes narrow. “Too bad I didn’t use any.” Wham! Natasha’s out for the count, and Buffy’s heading — slowly — to Willow for a mystical cleanse.

That’d be my first guess.


Lethal Wimpin

In Empire Magazine, Lethal Weapon director Richard Donner (who, as I know all too well, once made the wrong choice about Lethal Weapon 3) recently showed that whatever understanding of Riggs and Murtaugh he may have initially had is now completely gone:

There was a fifth one that I would have loved to have made. Shane Black wrote another treatment, which I never saw… But we had a totally different story. The two crazies decide to cool their lives, but it’s impossible for them to stay out of situations. It starts with Riggs and Murtaugh out in the country in a motorhome. They’re on a trip and they stop to get gas, but Roger forgets to put the brake on. So the motorhome rolls through a village, annihilating everything, and they get in serious trouble…

Sure, Dick, you definitely showed in the latter films you know better than Shane. Heck, just cast Rob Schneider and Martin Lawrence instead of Gibson and Glover and go for it. Or better yet, just make Little Weapons  for Nickelodeon…

"I'm still too young for this poop!"

Lil Avengers (A Must See!)

Aside from my own upcoming Doc Wilde releases, there’s no media event this year I’m looking forward to more than Joss Whedon’s Avengers. And I usually wouldn’t share a Target commercial, but this one is just cute as hell and friggin’ cool, so you need to see it.

For Your Batmanny Weekend Enjoyment…

I failed to post this week’s “Free Fiction Friday” post yesterday because I was so swamped with everything I needed to do for the Astonishing Adventures of Doc Wilde Kickstarter launch. For the untold millions who only bought a computer so they could get their weekly fix, I’m sorry.

The Doc Wilde relaunch is off to a great start; just over twenty hours in, we’re at 26% of our funding target (which is the minimum we need for the Kickstarter to succeed, not a maximum amount for the relaunch). If you haven’t already, I hope you’ll visit the link above to see what’s up.

As a special treat to make up for my Free Fiction lapse (which I shall endeavor to remedy later today), I offer you this incredibly endearing and goofy piece of Batmania that someone put a helluva lot of time and money and work into…and which kinda makes me think Bat-Mite is around somewhere… Continue reading

Kara (A Brilliant, Touching Science Fiction Short Film)

This amazing short film was made by the video game developer Quantic Dream (Heavy Rain) to showcase their latest game technology. In the process they created a short piece of science fiction that’s both gorgeous to the eye and very moving…