Reviews: Comics

These were actually done last week when I wasn’t able to post in the blog, but this week I wasn’t able to get around to writing a review column, so it all works out!

Adventure Comics
Power of 6: The Twisted Apples #1
Athena Voltaire: Flight of the Falcon #1
G.I. Joe #13
Casanova #3-4
Heroes for Hire #1

Horror Comics
Death Comes to Dillinger #2

To Read: Fast Ships, Black Sails

My friend Shara, knowing what a pirate geek I am, often sends me links to anthologies or magazines that are putting together collections of pirate stories. This one, edited by author Jeff VanderMeer, looks like it’s already got its eye on the contributors it wants, but I’ll definitely be picking it up once it’s done.

The Jack Sparrow voodoo doll has nothing to do with the anthology, by the way. I just liked it.

To Read: Armageddon’s Children

Finally saw this in the bookstore the other day. I’ve been wanting to dig back into Terry Brooks’ Shannara stuff that I enjoyed in high school and thought that this prequel series would be a good place to start without having to immediately re-visit the books I’ve already read.

Brooks isn’t a brilliant writer and his first book The Sword of Shannara is a blatant Tolkien rip-off, but as he went along he got more imaginative and the world of Shannara is a fun and engrossing place to visit. One of the cool aspects of it is that even though it’s a fantasy world, it’s actually set in the far future of Earth. Armageddon’s Children starts the series that bridges our reality with the Shannara world.


Spoilers below:

I don’t think I like this very much, but I’m reserving final judgment. According to TV Guide, big secrets about Lost (namely, the meaning behind the numbers and the purpose of the Dharma Initiative) were revealed in an online game that ultimately led players to this video.

According to the video (which I haven’t watched yet because my work doesn’t like YouTube and I still live in the Dial-Up Age at home), the numbers are a mathematical formula that reveal the timetable for humanity’s extinction. Without seeing the video, I’m dissatisfied with that explanation and still confused about the Dharma Initiative’s relationship with the formula. Maybe it’ll make more sense once I’ve seen it.

Even if it does though, I think it’s kind of cheesy to reveal such a big secret outside of the show. Surely the show will eventually cover it too, but it still feels like a gyp.

News: CGI Seuss

First of all, I apologize for not posting last week. I started training in a new employee at work and it was very time-consuming. Not quite done yet, but I can see the finish line from here.

I’m not quite caught up on news, but this is an item that I’d wanted to post last week. I’m a big fan of Dr. Seuss and have been disappointed with the recent couple of feature movies they’ve made out of How the Grinch Stole Christmas and The Cat in the Hat. I saw the Grinch and thought it was okay, but the trailers for The Cat in the Hat looked horrible. As much as I usually enjoy Mike Myers, he didn’t capture any of the charm of the Cat and came off creepy. I skipped that one.

Didn’t follow how well either did in the box office, but something must’ve warranted a change because the next big-screen Seuss will skip the live-action comedians and be completely computer-animated. Not that the comedians are going away altogether. Their voices will still be there. Jim Carrey will voice the title role in Horton Hears a Who, with Steve Carell playing the mayor of Whoville. The movie’s being produced by Fox Animation, the folks who brought us Ice Age.

I can get behind this. The other two movies did a pretty good job of capturing the look of Seuss’ drawings, but there were some compromises that had to be made. Seuss’ stuff was made to be animated.

Project Update: The Series Formerly Known as FoN

It’s official. Jason Copland and I have decided that Forces of Nature is now going to be called Robots vs. Monsters. It’s a more memorable title, even if there are a lot of other comics with “vs.” in the name. And as Steve Niles (who has an upcoming book called Earth vs. Monsters) says, the crossover possibilities are awesome this way. Earth vs. Robots vs. Monsters? I smell a blockbuster.

Got some great notes from Jason Rodriguez (our editor) on the script for the first issue. “Twenty-two pages is so 2003,” he says. I’m going to open up a scene or two and not worry so much about the traditional page count for comics. It’s not like this is going to be a Marvel or DC book.

Still looking for an artist on “The Clearing.” I’m going to have to find someone quickly or risk not making the submission deadline for the particular anthology I wrote it for. But even if I miss that, I think the story’s strong enough that it could find a place somewhere else.

Starting to think about a pirate story for a prose anthology that’s taking submissions. The trick is that they want magic to play a major part in it. I don’t want to just stick a gratuitious mermaid or sea monster in, so I need to come up with a story that requires a magical element; that wouldn’t be the same story without it. I’ve got an idea, but it needs work.

Writing is Hard: Colons, writers’ groups, and scam artists

Science Fiction author Mary Doria Russell (The Sparrow) has a page on her site with advice for writers. Most of it’s not terribly profound: the importance of discipline, perseverance, taking criticism well, etc. But she does say a couple of things that I think are worth repeating.

She quotes a very useful poem by Gary C. Wilkens called “When to Use Colons.” I won’t quote it without permission, but you can find it in Russell’s “advice for writers” link above.

She also supports Neil Gaiman’s thoughts on writers’ groups. When you first decide to Become A Writer, an early temptation is always to join a writer’s group in order to help yourself “feel” like a writer. Gaiman says, “On the whole, anything that gets you writing and keeps you writing is a good thing. Anything that stops you writing is a bad thing. If you find your writers group stopping you from writing, then drop it.”

I’d add to that by saying that anything that channels your creative energy away from writing is also a bad thing. Talking about writing can do that. If you want to feel like a writer, then write. I resisted the temptation to join a writers’ group because I knew that I’d be doing it for the wrong reason. If a writers’ group will truly help you to stay disciplined and keep churning out the words; by all means join one. Personally, I’m with Russell when she says, “It’s bad enough reading my own crappy drafts… I don’t subject myself to anybody else’s. Spend the time making your own stuff better.”

Another piece of useful advice is regarding scam artists who masquerade as literary agents. Russell (and every other legitimate agent and publisher I’ve ever heard from about it) says:

“Legitimate agents make their living by getting 15% when they sell your work to publishers who pay YOU. Be very wary of an agent who charges a fee to read your manuscript. Good agents make money selling properties, not reading manuscripts.”

She goes on to talk about a twist on this scam:

“The red flag goes up when any ‘agent’ suggests that your book is ‘almost there’ but could benefit from being ‘professionally edited.’ The agent will give you the names of several book doctors, so it looks like the ‘agent’ is an honest broker. No matter which book doctor you select, you will be charged thousands of dollars, and you may be sure that part of the fee is kicked back to the agent.”

There’s more in the link.

And just in case you’re curious, here’s a message board that talks about where you can find some of these jokers.

Thanks to my friend Shara for the Mary Doria Russell link.

Review: Life on Mars Redux

I know I just talked about Life on Mars last week, but I’m revisiting it for two reasons. One: the season finale was just on the other night. Two: my pal West (who has an excellent, thought-provoking blog) commented on my last LoM post and sparked some thoughts I’d like to share.

I’d said something about not caring if the main character, Sam, ever got home and West wondered “if not caring if ol’ boy ever gets home ever impedes the audience’s emotional connection to the main character.”

It’s a good question and it clued me in that in talking up what the show’s about, I hadn’t said enough about its characters. My reply, reposted here for your convenience, was this:

“You know how in those old cop shows they always had the maverick detective bend the rules because it was the only way to catch the bad guy? And it always pissed off the Captain or whoever, right? Well, in Life on Mars it’s the Captain (Gene) who’s learned that you have to bend or break rules in order to be effective. He’s a good man, but he teeters on the edge of being corrupt because it’s the only way he can see how to do his job.

“Enter Sam, who’s used to doing things by the book (as most modern cop-procedural show characters are). Not only does he have new investigative techniques, but he’s he’s also got an uncompromising sense of morality about how to do the job (you don’t plant evidence, you don’t make deals with one bad guy in order to catch a ‘worse’ bad guy, etc.). It’s a reversal on the classic detective/Captain dynamic.

“Sam doesn’t come across as sanctimonious though. Gene is enough of a bastard (though a likeable one) that you’re right there with Sam whenever his jaw drops and his dander gets up over whatever Gene’s doing now.

“Sam genuinely cares about other people and his wanting to do things correctly is born from that. You care about him; you’re just glad that he’s making the most out of his situation and not just obsessing every week on trying to get home.

“At any rate, it’s the relationship between Sam and Gene — and watching them come to respect each other’s points of view — that makes the show. (And just so you don’t think it’s all testosterone: there’s also a possible love interest for Sam too.)”

The season finale — which was more focused on Sam’s trying to get home than your average episode — also drove home something that’s useful in answering West’s question. When Sam is concerned about getting home, the audience becomes concerned with it too. Fortunately, that’s not all the time or the show would get tired. When Sam seems to be acclimating to his surroundings and is just focused on solving a case or his relationships with his peers, we’re focused on that too instead of wondering how the series will eventually wrap up. In other words, Sam engages us so much that we’re happy following him around; doing whatever it is he’s doing.

Can’t wait for next season.

To See: Casino Royale

This is probably rare for people of my generation, but it was Ian Fleming’s novels that led me to the Bond movies; not the other way around. Because of that, my fondness for the literary Bond has always colored my opinions about the various movie versions. Like everyone else, Connery will always be my favorite, but I’m one of the few who actually prefers Timothy Dalton to either Pierce Brosnan or Roger Moore. Especially to Roger Moore, who dislikes For Your Eyes Only; the only one of his Bond movies to come anywhere close to capturing the tone of Fleming’s books.

My favorite Bond novel is the first one, Casino Royale. The reason I love it is its last sentence, so I won’t blow that for anyone who hasn’t read it, but I’m thrilled that we’re finally getting a real adaptation of it (make sure you watch the new trailer in the link) after two crappy ones. And I’m thrilled that the film-makers are giving Bond his edge back with Daniel Craig. It’s going to be a long wait until November 17th.