Did You Know…?

I’m doing a little reading on Washington Irving for my novel. Did you know that he was buddies with Sir Walter Scott and had an affair with Mary Shelly? I didn’t either, but that’s so cool.

The Headless Horseman guy and the Frankenstein lady. I gotta know more about that.

Wonder Woman: Confidence and Truth

I’m catching up on three weeks’ worth of comics and just read a couple of good Wonder Woman stories. In Justice League of America #20, the Flash narrates this encounter with Wonder Woman. His reaction to her feels real. It’s the kind of reaction Wonder Woman ought to inspire in her fellow heroes. (I also like how it implies that she’s been active as a superhero for a good, long time. My biggest disappointment about the Perez relaunch in the ’80s was how it made her a newbie in DC’s superhero community.)

But as nice as it is to see Wonder Woman getting some well-deserved respect, that’s not especially unique in DC comics these days. What is rare is seeing someone get Wonder Woman as well as Gail Simone does in Wonder Woman #19.

I’ve written before about how I thought that Wonder Woman’s confidence was at the core of her character. Simone’s not only latched onto that same idea, she’s refined it and rephrased it in vocabulary that’s connected to the character. Wonder Woman’s Lasso of Truth makes a lot more sense when you start talking about Wonder Woman herself as being an icon of Truth.

Confidence and Truth are so connected. The more honest I am with myself and others, the more confident I am too. What is confidence but an ability to embrace the truth about yourself and live unashamed of it? It doesn’t mean you never make a mistake, but it does mean that when you do it doesn’t destroy your self-image. Because your self-image is based on who you really are; not on who you pretend to be or want the world to believe you are.

That’s Wonder Woman all over. As an icon of Truth, of course she understands and acknowledges the truth about herself. She isn’t afraid of it. She doesn’t question it. She owns it. And that’s what makes her such an attractive character to both men and women. I love that Simone not only gets that, but she’s expressing it in the comic in terms that inextricably tie it to Wonder Woman’s character. She’s defining Wonder Woman in a way that any future writer who’s paying attention will be able to latch onto and use as a template.

“Everything about her from the inside out is about finding and uncovering the larger truth.” It’s only one sentence, but it absolutely nails the character. I’d hug Gail if she was here.

Awesome List Catch-Up: Part Four

Who is The Nobody?

Jeff Lemire is making a graphic novel based on H.G. Wells’ The Invisible Man.

Black Panther cartoon sounds good

Yesterday I said, “If the cartoon is anything like the early issues, I’ll be all over it.” Looks like I will.

Wonder Woman movies update

Doesn’t look like we’ll be seeing Wonder Woman on the big screen any time soon. The Justice League movie has been tabled.

And while producer Joel Silver still wants to do a Wonder Woman solo film, he’s still trying to figure out the best direction to approach it from. Take your time, Joel. I’d rather see it done right than done soon.

Femme Noir

I reviewed the first couple of issues of Christopher Mills and Joe Staton’s Femme Noir.

Sarah Conner Chronicles Season Two

There’ll be one. I’m just now getting around to watching Season One on TiVo, so I don’t know how to feel about this yet. I have reservations about the pilot (the only episode I’ve seen so far), but I hear from pretty much everyone that it gets better.

Josh Medors Benefit Auction

It’s not awesome that Josh Medors — who illustrated the short prose story I wrote in Tales from the Inner Sanctum #1 (in addition to many other, more high profile things like G.I. Joe and Fused!) — has cancer. It is awesome that there will be an auction at Emerald City Comic Con to help pay for Josh’s medical expenses.

Get well, buddy.

Why Gail Simone’s Wonder Woman will just keep getting better and better until the world cannot contain its Awesomeness and explodes

We’re all doomed, but at least we’ll go out with great Wonder Woman stories.

Del Toro does The Hobbit

The man likes his fantasy. I think this is good news, but I feel like I know exactly what to expect. Hopefully he’ll do some surprising things with it.

New Dark Knight poster

I don’t know why I’m not more excited about this one. I want to see it, naturally, but I’m not anxious about it. I probably will be once we get past Iron Man.

Still. Very cool poster.

Awesome anthology

I reviewed Indie Spinner Rack’s Awesome anthology. Among other things it includes: a robot with a fishbowl for a head, a Mexican necrophiliac robot, a couple of talking bears, ice-cream eating aliens (one of whom has a pet flying ball named Greg; the other of whom has a gun that shoot dragons out of it), some enchanted deer, Scuba Archeologist, Frankenstein vs. Popeye, an alien visitation, and one of the scariest comics I’ve ever read (the scariest I’ve ever read involving talking geese).

Still more Crystal Skull pictures

This crop is more exciting than the last batch. Even more at the link.

Possible SPOILERS BELOW in some of them, I guess. This is the last item in this post, so you can stop reading now if you don’t want to see.

The Spiderwick Chronicles (2008) and The Forbidden Kingdom (2008)

A couple of quick reviews.

The Spiderwick Chronicles

I’d almost forgotten about this one, but as my dad and I were trying to kill time our last couple of days in Florida we found a theater with an Imax screen that was showing it. I hadn’t seen it on my usual movie night with my brother-in-law because Dave had pretty much dismissed it as a kids’ movie. I was less sure.

After all, Harry Potter started out as a kids’ series, but even from the first book/movie there was something about Harry that appealed to adults too. I hoped that Spiderwick would be the same, but it turns out Dave was right.

I didn’t hate Spiderwick and I wasn’t bored by it, but for whatever reason it sketches its characters in only the barest of ways, relying on archetypal clichés to help us fill in the blanks. Jared Grace is the typical angry-kid, giving his mom a hard time about his parents’ divorce and proclaiming loudly how much he wants to live with his dad. Of course he’s going to learn who the truly heroic parent is by the end. He’ll also learn to channel his anger in a positive direction by becoming the aggressive, decisive leader of a little, goblin-fighting army made up of his siblings. His brother Simon is the smart, but clumsy nerd. Sister Mallory is the sword-wielding fighter of the family. It’s nice to see a girl in that role, but she’s no more fleshed out than any combat-oriented Dungeons & Dragons character.

I complained when I heard that the movie was squeezing all five Spiderwick books into one film, but people who’d read the books assured me that there wasn’t enough story in one book to fill a whole movie, so it pretty much had to be done this way. Having seen the movie now, I still think they should have made more than one film and used the extra time to develop the characters more.

Mom is a stereotypical female divorcee, trying her best to start life over in a new town in order to make a good life for her kids. Dad is a stereotypical male divorcee who’s left his family to shack up with a younger woman. Mr. Spiderwick, whose collection of notes about the habits and secrets of faeries is what starts the story going, is a cliché absent-minded professor who gets so wrapped up in his work that he doesn’t realize its potential for evil. And even when it’s pointed out to him, he can’t bear to destroy it because it’s his life. His daughter, a young girl at the time of his disappearance; an old woman by the time the Grace kids meet her, is the cliché eccentric old lady who’s not really as crazy as everyone says.

Even the main faerie characters, a brownie named Thimbletack and a hobgoblin named Hogsqueal are unlikable and boring. Thimbletack starts off sort of pink, cute and mousy, but gets large, ugly, and shouty when angry. Everyone in the movie treats him like a favorite pet, but he’s more Cujo than Benji. Hogsqueal is just there to be gross and play the unconvincing deus ex machina at the end of the movie.

Everything seemed rushed and by-the-numbers, like they were trying to just get us through the story as quickly as possible. There’s no supsense; no set up. They really should’ve made it at least a couple of movies, if not five.

Two out of five evil ravens.

The Forbidden Kingdom

About halfway through The Forbidden Kingdom I figured out what kind of movie it was and was able to enjoy it more.

It’s not an awesome kung fu movie. The fighting – even the very long scene where Jackie Chan fights Jet Li – is boring and full of wire fu. My main expectation from any martial arts film is for it to show me something I’ve never seen before and make me go, “Wow!” The Forbidden Kingdom never did that. Neither in the fighting nor in terms of special effects or the fantasy element.

There’s some nice, pretty scenery, but certainly nothing to compare to Lord of the Rings. The mythology is inconsistent and the depiction of the Chinese immortals makes them look quaint and funny, not cool. The first time I saw the Monkey King I thought he was Neelix from Star Trek: Voyager.

And then there’s the framing sequence about a modern-day kid named Jason who finds an ancient staff in a Chinese curio shop and gets sent back in time to return it to its rightful owner. It’s right out of The Karate Kid and Neverending Story. Jason loves Chinese movies and culture and hanging out in Old Hop’s store, but his uniqueness gets him picked on. When a gang of toughs right out of West Side Story find him with a bag of kung fu movies from Old Hop’s place, they natually assume Jason’s been “hanging out” with the old man. It’s a correct assumption, but you have to wonder how they arrived at it by looking at the logo on a plastic shopping bag. If some muggers caught me walking home with a Best Buy bag, would they automatically figure I was in tight with the store manager and could get them in after hours so they could rob the place? Apparently so.

Jason stupidly decides not to take his beating, but leads the gang back to Hop’s place where he gets Hop to open the door so they can break in. Then, counter to the ridiculousness with which the gang’s been portrayed up to that point, the West Side Story Jets suddenly become the Bloods and pop a cap into Old Hop. Not believing that Jason won’t tell on them, they start to chase him too, but he’s got the ancient staff from the shop (I forget why) and it sends him into the past for most of the rest of the movie.

There he discovers a world ruled by the evil Jade Warlord who can only be overthrown if Jason returns the staff to the Monkey King, who was tricked and imprisoned by the Jade Warlord centuries ago. Helping him in his quest are a drunken immortal (Jackie Chan), a remarkably talkative Silent Monk (Jet Li), and a vengeful girl (Yifei Liu) whose parents were killed by the Jade Warlord.

It was partway through the quest that I realized that I wasn’t supposed to be watching a cool, kung fu-fantasy movie. What I was watching was a throwback to ’80s teen-wish-fulfillment adventure. If I was thirteen years old I think I might have really identified with poor Jason and been able to imprint myself on him in order to better enjoy his adventures. Jason gets to do a lot of cool stuff. He hangs out with Jackie Chan, Jet Li, and a murderously beautiful girl. He gets to learn kung fu and save the world from an evil tyrant. And of course he gets to return home at the end and use what he’s learned on the JetsBloods.

In that respect, The Forbidden Kingdom is a harmless, fun movie. But it’s not a good movie and it’s not a movie with a lot of appeal for anyone outside of that teenaged boy demographic. Jackie Chan is fun to watch in it – certainly more fun than he is in the Rush Hour movies – but that’s not enough to make me love it.

Three out of five vengeful and beautiful orphan girls.

MicroCon 2008

My photos from MicroCon 2008 are up at Flickr. Click the image above to see the whole set.

It was a really fun, really busy show. We handed out lots of Jesse James vs. Machine Gun Kelly preorder coupons and a lot of folks had already heard about the book.

There were a lot of girls and women at the show. Not just people who’d been dragged there by their husbands or boyfriends, but exploring and enjoying the show either in groups or alone with no male accompaniment. The Minnesota conventions have always been family shows with lots of kids, but it was really, really cool to see so many solo girls and women.

I picked up a few sketches I’ll have to scan later. Paul Taylor (Wapsi Square) drew a Black Canary for me, Grant Gould did a great color sketch of the Lizard for my son David, and – also for David – The Batman Strikes! artist Christopher Jones sketched Killer Croc.

It was also interesting to learn that Darth Vader is a Grant Gould fan. I’m not surprised, but it was cool to see.

Lots more on Flickr, so go check ’em out!

Awesome List Catch-Up: Part Three

Okay. More catching up with Awesome news from Blogarama.

Another Blue Beetle interview

I followed up my interview with the writer of Blue Beetle‘s all-Spanish issue by breaking the news about the series’ new, regular writer: Jack of Fables‘ Matt Sturges. Hopefully you can’t tell it from the interviews, but I’ve never read an issue of Blue Beetle before now. These conversations have made me want to change that though, so I’ll be picking up the Spanish issue this week as well as checking out Matt’s run. And I just bought the collection of the first six issues in the series.

There’s a new poster for the Incredible Hulk movie

And again, it’s got a great Bill Bixby vibe that’s making me hungry to see it.

Atlantis Rising

I don’t read Platinum Comics because the vibe I get is that they’re all movie pitches first and comics second. I’d rather read comics by people who just really want to make comics.

That’s not to say that there aren’t some nifty movie ideas in their concepts though, so I’m actually curious to see more about the Atlantis Rising movie. I loves me some Atlantis stories.

Black Panther: The Animated Series

I got tired of the Black Panther comic once it got caught up in Civil War and became a second Fantastic Four title, but if the cartoon is anything like the early issues, I’ll be all over it.

Three Days in Europe movie

Back when I was actively trying to expand my tastes with some genres I don’t typically read, I thought I’d give Three Days in Europe a try thinking it was a Romance comic. It was, but it was also a crime/spy/adventure comic and it was really good. So I’m happy that it’s getting made into a movie starring Hugh Jackman and Jennifer Garner.

New Crystal Skull pics

Can be found here. None of them really grabbed me, but there they are.

Another Spirit poster

I like this one. It looks more like a Will Eisner splash page and less like Sin City 2. I’d prefer it not be in black-and-white though.

New X-Files comics

I never used to read X-Files comics when the show was still on even though one of my favorite writers, John Rozum, was writing them. Comics based on currently-being-produced TV shows are always creatively tied by the need to not contradict the show they’re based on. That might not be as big a problem now that X-Files is an infrequent movie series though, so I’m likely to give this a shot.

Women of DC poster by Adam Hughes

This was a giveaway at the New York Comic Con. Man, I love Adam Hughes.

From left to right: Catwoman, Oracle, Zatanna, Black Canary, Power Girl, Wonder Woman, Supergirl, Batwoman, Vixen, Poison Ivy, and Harley Quinn.

Supergirl for kids

Fans have been clamoring for a more kid-friendly (or, more specifically, young-girl-friendly) Supergirl comic for a while now. Looks like they’re finally getting it.

Marvel Apes

Coming soon to a superhero universe near you. I sort of wish they were all gorillas, but how can you not make the webslinger a spider monkey? Well done, Marvel.

MicroCon 2008

Just a reminder that I’ll be at MicroCon this Sunday, so please come see me if you’re in the area. And it won’t just be me, but the whole Jesse James vs. Machine Gun Kelly team. Alex Ness and Joel Vollmer will be hanging out and we’ll be passing out pre-order coupons and showing off pages from the book. It’s always a blast, but I’m especially looking forward to this year.

And Norm Breyfogle’s going to be there! He’s probably the first Batman artist I could ever identify by name, so that’ll be very cool to see him.

And of course my perpetual con buddies Grant Gould, Jess Hickman, Darla Ecklund, and Paul Taylor will also be there. Hopefully sitting close by me.

Also Pat Gleason, Sam Hiti, Doug Mahnke, Tyler Page and Cori Doerrfeld, and Brent Schoonover. Really you should just check out the whole guest list. It’s going to be a great, fun show.