Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Television Tuesday: Castlevania

I have played some, "Castlevania," games but am by no means a huge fan of the games. I also read very little about the Netflix television show and only knew a writer who makes lots of great stuff--Warren Ellis--wrote the story. Once this came out I heard a lot of good things so I thought I would give this short 4-episode season a viewing. You can almost tell this was originally going to be a movie  and was kind of split into television episodes, plus once it seems to really get going this bite-sized season ends, but when I'm complaining something was too short or offered too little that usually is a good sign I liked what I got--and I did!

"Castlevania," is cleverly written by the aforementioned Warren Ellis and produced by a number of folk including Adi Shankar. It has gorgeous anime-ish visuals, and otherwise is a fantastic time! I was impressed by how the first episode doesn't even introduce our main protagonist (Simon Belmont) until right towards the episode's end, instead setting-up Dracula as the big-bad and actually making him look quite sympathetic and almost understandable. Yes, he's trying to destroy the world, but humans have really done some terrible stuff to him. The rest of the series shows as Belmont helps a town deal with invading monsters (summoned by an angry Dracula to destroy the countryside) and meets some other folk who then all agree to go and fight Dracula...right as the season then immediately ends. It makes all four episodes almost feel like one big prologue, which is a little perturbing, but what we got was stellar so now we just have to patiently wait for the already-announced 2nd season which will feature eight episodes.
This short first season of, "Castlevania," is almost more of a teasing taste of what I imagine is more goodness to come, but of what is supplied by, "Castlevania," I found to be smart, fun, and all-around great entertainment. I went from having minimal interest in this show to now being a big fan--I am already eager for the next season!
5 out of 5 stars.

Monday, July 24, 2017

A Small Number of SDCC/CCI 2017 Observations

San Diego Comic-Con/Comic-Con International has concluded, and frankly not a ton of note occurred. I can really just in a short number of paragraphs say what I thought was at least slightly worth discussing...so I'll do that now!
In regards to Marvel and DC, it frankly seemed like Marvel was just desperately trying to convince people, "Legacy," isn't terrible and when that failed simply went, "Fuck it, just enjoy this awesome trailer for, 'Thor: Ragnarok,' okay?" Meanwhile, DC had a decent-looking big trailer for their upcoming, "Justice League," and talked about a variety of stuff but the only thing that really caught my attention was seeing that, "Doomsday Clock," is going to be 12 issues and has a slightly confusing time-concept (which makes sense to mix time with a, "Clock," concept, but still). I'm less excited than when it was a short mini but still cautiously intrigued. Oh, and Noah Hawley of, "Legion," making a movie featuring Doctor Doom is something I'm 100% on board with.

Other stuff that caught my attention was reading that Michael Davis as well as some other friends are launching a comic-thing called, "Level Next," to assist creators of color with the creation and marketing of their stories, which sounds great! Also, after 24 years of being published by Archie Comics it was made public that, "Sonic," would no longer be a property there, before two days later it was announced as being a new property at IDW, so that has got to have some interesting drama behind it. It also sounds like there were some good panels that discussed gender and race in the field of comics.
Besides all that plenty of other things happened, but nothing else struck me enough to feel it was worth even expressing an opinion on (that or something interesting could have happened and I just missed it). It sounds like it was your usual SDCC/CCI--assorted movie and television news, lots of random exclusive comics or Funko Pops, and a bunch of cool cosplay. I imagine it was fun, crowded, and a bit overwhelming for those who attended and maybe someday I'll be able to get out there and report on the show for my blog, even if I honestly NYCC or TCAF are higher on my list of cons I, "Dream," about getting to report on. Anyways, another San Diego Comic-Con/Comic-Con International is in the books, I bet everyone who was there shall enjoy a long nap!

Friday, July 21, 2017

Film Friday: Officer Downe (Spoiler: It Sucked)

Well, that was terrible. I had read, "Officer Downe," was a bad movie but I didn't think it would be this atrocious. I watched it on Netflix as I love many comics by Joe Casey and he was heavily involved in the production of this film based on his and Chris Burham's book of the same name. I had to force myself to finish the movie after leaving it with 30-ish minutes left a few days ago because I was looking for any excuse to not watch it and instead watch things I actually enjoy. I managed to complete my viewing however by looking for the diamonds in the rough/shit (I'll touch on the couple of bearable-factors in a bit) and there are worse things to have on and struggle to pay attention too when I'm feeding Clarkson his bottle, like an endlessly-looping clip of howler monkeys, or techno-remixes of Kenny G, I guess?

The plot of, "Officer Downe," if you want to call it much of a plot is that a rookie cop known as, "Officer Gable," and played by Tyler Ross is brought into an experimental program within the LAPD that involves reviving a once-deceased officer named Terrance Downe (played by Kim Coates) who goes to kills criminals, dies, and then gets sent out again. In the process he fights against an assassin who speaks English as a weird dub-over for some reason as well as a group known as, "The Fortune 500," which consists of three people who dress-up like animals for no apparent reason and run crime. Already we have a number of questions such as, "Why do they revive Terrance Downe in their program other than he was a great cop back in the day? Is he special somehow?" as well as, "Why is this rookie cop picked for the program?" plus, "Why do the Fortune 500 wear weird animal suits," and of course, "Why am I asking all these questions that will never be answered about a movie that makes almost no sense?"
The movie also features evil and, "sexy," nuns. So there ya go.
Multiple times in the movie certain plot elements are brought-up or hinted at and promptly dropped.  Such as if the LAPD is using Downe to eliminate criminals without having to take them to trial, if there are plans to expand this program, if this program has much oversight or is an abuse of power by the LAPD, and a weird after-credits teaser hints that the Fortune 500 might somehow have come out of a different program for...reasons. As I've made clear, the plot is a joke. "It's an action movie though, David, why are you so upset about the lack of plot? Tell me about the action," you may be saying. Well, the action is a weird jumble of quick-cuts, over-the-top and fake-looking gore, and basically gave me a headache with its terrible editing and weird stylistic flourishes (random text imagery or other, "Funny," things) that are more annoying and distracting than clever. This looks like a school project that was given some extra money and they decided to blow the surplus budget on weird lighting and buckets of fake blood.

I've made it clear this movie was painful, but what keeps me from utterly despising it? I said it was a couple things and that is true--it is two people. Kim Coates as Officer Downe and Tyler Ross as Officer Gable actually do a really good job acting and help take F-grade dialogue and make it actually seem a little engaging. Ross gives us the impression of a man who truly is committed to the law, cares about his fellow officers, and wants to make the world a better place. Coates takes a character who is supposed to arguably be a blank slate and gives him enough hints of humanity in some of the rare quiet moments that the dull character of Downe for almost a second seems a little engaging and interesting...before everything starts sucking again. If it weren't for Ross and Coates taking this shit and working so hard to wipesome stink off of it the movie would be a total loss. Without them I truly would have just given-up on, "Officer Downe," and quit watching as there would be absolutely nothing else to recommend this other than that it amused me to see Glenn  Howerton (Dennis from, "It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia) pop-up in a small role with a weird accent. I was so bored I imagined he was actually Dennis playing one of his characters and had somehow stumbled into the movie--I had to use my imagination to stay sane and get through this, as you can see.
Just read this instead.
When it comes to seeing this movie, all I can say is, "Don't do it." Just go and read the comic the movie is based on because at least that looks good thanks to Burnham's awesome artwork. Some good acting aside, "Officer Downe," is a steaming pile of cinematic garbage and I'm not exactly the pickiest when it comes to movies (I think, "Joe Dirt," is really entertaining). Thanks to two good actors this is barely worth...
1 out of 5 stars.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

San Diego Comic-Con/Comic-Con International Has Commenced

Yesterday was  the, "Preview night," at San Diego Comic-Con/Comic-Con International which is when I think just industry professionals, accredited press, and the like can attend. As of today however anyone and everyone (who has a ticket, of course) can go enjoy the con. If you're at SDCC/CCI I hope you have fun. I'll probably have a variety of opinions to share next week after it wraps, the dust has settled, and everyone is still arguing about if, "Dooomsday Clock," looks like a fun and clever event from DC or is just a shameless insult to Alan Moore and the, "Watchmen," comics (maybe both).

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Mid-To-Later July 2017 News and Links For You to Enjoy and Treasure

Yet Even More Interesting Stuff
I do so love sharing the assorted fascinating news and links I've found on the internet with you all, and I hope you enjoy checking them out (or at least can withstand my encouragement of you doing so). Shall we commence the links? Yes, yes we shall.

Let's Get to Linking!
Let's start with something weird, namely that there is a middle silo full of Mario-related artwork. Okay?

Publishers Weekly has an article discussing something I discovered a bit ago myself. Namely, that libraries are a great resource for comic-lovers.

I was fascinated by this write-up from The Cut about how, "Wellness," and the quest for us to achieve our best health possible has become its own kind of epidemic.

This may be obvious to many, but Trump has basically mortally wounded the Republican party and it is falling into shambles whilst throwing-away any semblance of values it held before our very eyes.

Check out Polygon's oral history of Crash Bandicoot as it is a good read, even for someone who isn't a big fan of the series such as myself

While we're doing oral histories, here is one about how, "The Simpsons," created its stellar, "Planet of the Apes as a musical," gag.

What if instead of being murderous HAL just ranted about, "SJWs," and immigration?
Could our artificial intelligence of the future be racist and sexist as this piece by Lifehacker discusses? That would suck.

People are making a big deal out of how Floyd Mayweather and Conor McGregor are going to fight, with many looking to figure-out who the, "Good guy," or, "Bad guy," is in this situation. Frankly, they both are just terrible people and for a variety of reasons and you don't actually have to cheer for either.

Speaking of sports, this is the funniest correction to a story I have seen in some time thanks to a hilarious Reddit screen-name.

Paste talks about how, "The Fifth Element," has an interesting alternate take on male masculinity.

I also read on Paste a good piece about Steve Orlando. I like Orlando's writing a lot and was a big fan of his run on, "Midnighter," as readers may recall.

Tim Kreider used to be a political cartoonist and points-out that while artists can do whatever they want, we don't have to approve of it, but also our getting upset is kinda the point
Conventions can be a stellar time, but if you have a disability there are times assorted cons seem to let fans with special needs down. For example, cons that don't take into account how to make sure deaf fans have the most fun possible.

Wait, why do so many black superheroes have electricity-based powers?

Can we just come to terms with the fact that investing in stuff like Tumblr or 4chan isn't going to give you the big return on your cash you're hoping for? These things just ain't profitable.

I was saddened to hear about the passing of amazing director George Romero. I watched many of his films from the amazing stuff to the less-legendary movies. Even his so-so stuff always was done well, however, and his best works are seminal and have a lasting impact to this day.

I'd express an opinion about the upcoming, "Ataribox," console, but nobody seems sure exactly what it is.

In closing, I just wanted to remind you that the Direct Market is broken. You don't have to try and explain and defend it to people though, okay?

Stay Cool Out There!
It has been absurdly hot here for some weeks and doesn't look to be cooling off anytime soon. I hope you're someplace comfortable and enjoyed all the links.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Space Goat Publishing's Retailer Advisory Board is How Retailers Should be Treated but Often Aren't

A smattering of publishers
If it weren't for the retailers who sell comic books--e.g. comic shops--the vast majority of comic publishers would be out of business or making a ton less scratch. Publishers depend on retailers to help promote their books with posters, good word-of-mouth, and they need retailers to order the books (obviously). It isn't always just as simple as putting out a good comic, you gotta have retailers to actually stock the books! Considering how important retailers are it is striking just how poorly some of the bigger publishers seem to at times treat them.

Now, I've been rough on Marvel lately (at least in regards to their comics) but it isn't out of some kind of vendetta, I truly have loved many of their past books and enjoy some current ones.  That said, "Legacy," is a mess and a big middle finger to retailers and readers with re-numberings that don't make sense, stories that seem like terrible jumping-on points and moreso a great time to quit a book, and etc. Marvel's response to concerned retailers seems to have been basically, "Shut-up, you're still going to order this shit so grin and bear it." DC has at times been poor to publishers and at other moments been actually pretty good with nice deals on making comics returnable if they don't sell (the, "Direct Market," comic shops use does not usually allow unsold merchandise to be refunded). Other publishers seem to be a lot better with retailers, with Image seeming to carry on a good relationship with many folk. That said, what Space Goat Publishing just announced they are going to do is an example of how retailers should be treated thanks to their ingenious idea: A Retailer Advisory Board.
Space Goat Publishing is a comic company that will admit it isn't the biggest or best-known, but has been around for a bit and is, "Scrappy, nimble and sometimes a little stubborn," as the press release about the Retailer Advisory Board discusses. Just what is a Retailer Advisory Board? It is what it sounds like, an assortment of comic retailers (at the moment 15 in North America but I imagine it can grow) who speak with Space Goat Publishing about trends they notice in their shop, what kind of promotions might be wise to do, etc. Basically, it is a publisher treating the very entity (retailers) that keeps comic-books going like the important resource it is.

For their time and knowledge, Space Goat Publishing will reward these retailers with, "Access to works in progress across the entire SGP publishing portfolio, deep discounts and free shipping for all direct orders that meet a modest minimum, participation in group exclusive variant programs, in-book ad pages promoting member stores, customized digital marketing materials, and free mini comic previews of every new #1 shipped at no charge." Those are some cool benefits for sure.
One of the latest releases from Space Goat Publishing
As someone who personally feels that retailers deserve a lot more love from publishers than they often seem to get, this Retailer Advisory Board from Space Goat Publishing seems like a refreshing breath of fresh air. Retailers of course shouldn't tell people what to make or interfere in the creative process by any means, but they can be an invaluable resources for studying market trends, figuring out what people might want more (or less) of, and otherwise are useful and awesome. This is an example of how retailers should be treated, but often aren't. Hopefully it helps inspire other publishers to do something similar.

Friday, July 14, 2017

Film Friday: Wonder Woman

What's that? You would expect if I do a, "Film Friday" segment today, July 14th, 2017, that I would talk about the new, "Spider-Man: Homecoming," flick that came out last week as I'm already delayed with that now? Well, I haven't seen the new Spidey-movie yet but want to, and I did just recently have the opportunity to see, "Wonder Woman," so I thought I would write about it!

Basically, it is good to see that DC finally has a really good film in their Cinematic Universe because dear God did they need one after all these movies that weren't especially great, but were good enough. Also, now that, "Wonder Woman," has made so much money perhaps people will realize girls like super-hero movies too and men are more than willing to see a movie with an ass-kicking woman as the lead. Essentially, director Patty Jenkins just showed us that maybe DC should just put her in charge of their cinematic films because damn did she make a solid movie (and DC rushed to sign her for the sequel after realizing they hadn't already done so). Perhaps the success Jenkins has had with, "Wonder Woman," will show DC they should give their directors space and creative freedom, because Jenkins apparently had to argue for one of the best scenes in the movie--e.g. the bit in, "No Man's Land."
"Wonder Woman," is an expertly plotted and paced film, with it moving from a brief present-day prologue to showing us the origin of Diana in a manner that actually feels fresh after countless origin-stories in other hero-films. We witness her growing from a little girl to a young woman as she trains on her secluded island with the Amazons before World War I comes to their island. This results in Diana going with Steve Trevor (who crash-lands on the island and tells the Amazons of the war) to fight for freedom. It takes a little longer for things to get moving than I would have liked, but once Diana leaves home its great scene after great scene throughout the rest of the running-time. By now most people have seen the film so I won't bother re-hashing all the story-details for you, but I will say I loved the reveal of just who, "Ares," was after it at first seemed Diana's mission to kill the God of War (whom she was convinced had to be behind WWI) was a fruitless endeavor only to have some twists come at us fast and hard. Also, Chris Pine was fantastic as Steve Trevor and I would hope he can return in some manner for a sequel despite, you know, what happens to him at the end. I've said all this and I realize I haven't even discussed how fantastic Gal Gadot is as the titular, "Wonder Woman!"

Gal Gadot was arguably one of the best parts of the so-so, "Batman VS Superman," despite barely being in it and continues to shine in, "Wonder Woman." She plays Diana perfectly and turns a character that at times has struggled to be portrayed well in other forms of media into a fantastic heroine. I personally appreciated how Diana was presented as a perfectly capable and mature woman who just didn't understand certain social-norms, as sometimes adaptation of the story of Wonder Woman for some reason make her seem more like a confused woman-child as she acclimates to the world instead of a smart and skilled warrior who knows how to adapt.
Gal Gadot is stellar.
One thing that is notable about, "Wonder Woman," is something a friend pointed-out to me. Namely, we have had plenty of super-hero movies where male heroes are busting through walls or throwing tanks around, but we've never yet seen a female super-hero do so. Yes, we've had films with lady-heroes involved, but not in the manner of them doing everything guys can do, and sometimes doing it even better. It's good stuff.

"Wonder Woman," is a movie that was needed. DC needed it to show their Cinematic Universe wasn't doomed, Wonder Woman needed it to show she was a character deserving just as much admiration as Batman, Superman, etc. and we as a world needed it to show that films with female super-heroes will draw a crowd. Thanks to a solid cast, fantastic director, and a stellar plot (even if at first things drag a bit as I mentioned) and imagery this movie is wonderful, no pun intended.
4.5 out of 5 stars.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

An Engaging Fantasy AKA Tyrants #1 & #2 Review

I mentioned how when I was at the Saint Louis Comic-Con I met the guys from Hollow Harbor who were there to promote their, "Tyrants," comic. Written by Josh Barbeau with art from Esau Figueroa, "Tyrants," centers on a teenager named Atum in a fantasy world that involves a chain of islands called, "The Spiral." Atum's Father used to hold a great deal of ruling-power in the region but for some reason lost it and now has a tiny sliver of the chain he controls. There is clearly a lot of political intrigue and power-plays going on around Atum during the two issues I read, but he frankly doesn't care. Unlike some stories featuring teenagers that seem to be all the rage (all that dystopic-future young adult stuff that have countless books coming out) Atum isn't acting like some wise-beyond-his-years savoir of the world. He's just a young man who wants to be free to roam and do what he wants.

It's refreshing change of pace from all the stories where teenagers for some reason are eager to take-on the world and cause epic things to occur. Sometimes teens just want to be able to hang-out and enjoy life. Atum of course can't just relax however, as his Father has big plans and the fact that Atum possesses mystical powers like some other residents of the island chain (he can turn into smoke). This is a tool that his Father for sure will want to use, as the comic makes clear.  This isn't to say Atum's Dad is a bad person, he just clearly is a bit overbearing and obsessed with reclaiming lost power. Throughout the first and second issue of, "Tyrants," Atum and his Father interact with a variety of folk and hatch plans, but I actually liked the comic most when it was just focusing on quieter moments--Atum and his Father training, Atum chatting with the daughter of another ruler about the history of the spiral of islands, etc.
All this talk of my liking the quiet moments isn't to say I had issues with the bits of action, however. In the second issue when Atum goes-up against a very large and very angry bear, illustrator Esau Figueroa gives us a brutally efficient scene of running and fighting. Figueroa also draws the smoke from Atum's power in a way that looks natural and truly weightless, which impressed me greatly. Figueroa without a doubt turns in some good-looking imagery that has an appropriately fantasy-esque feel without appearing too, "Magical," in this world that has magic, but is by no means a joyful world of pixies and rainbows.

A good deal of, "Tyrants," centers on Atum being a part of grand plans for, "The Spiral," but I actually was most engaged when we had the great smaller moments of character development. Writer Josh Barbeau balances these quiet bits with other action-filled elements of the story and it results in what I would feel is a very solid read. I encourage you to visit Hollow Harbor at their website and I personally am excited for what the 3rd issue will bring us!
4 out of 5 stars (for both issues).

Monday, July 10, 2017

This, "Comics Twitter Bingo Card," Is Uncomfortably Apt In a Lot of Ways

The website Loser City writes about all kinds of popular culture including comics and has recently produced a bingo card for us all to enjoy which is uncomfortably apt about the field of comics today. Observe:

As someone who writes a lot about comics I have both been critical of some of the things listed on this bingo sheet (just stop, Frank Cho) and engaged in some of the activities myself (I once made a post where the whole point was taking-on, "Sacred Cows," of comics). This card is meant more for publishers, but it applies to those of us who do journalism too, as in a sense those who write about comics are a part of the comic-book industry and influence it (or piss it off, as in the case of Marvel probably being none-too-pleased about all terrible reviews for, "Secret Empire," I bet). As the post says though, "It seems like a week can’t go by without the entire comics industry losing their shit on Twitter about something or another," which stings in how true it is. The, "twitter rage cycle," we see in the field of comics is exhausting, with it too often feeling like we are moving from one moment of outrage to the next.

Plenty have argued that with the rise of social media and a 24-7 news cycle that the never-ending outrage we see in applies to plenty more than comics, with the world itself seeming to be in a constant state of crisis due to either terrible Presidents like Trump saying stupid shit, celebrities putting their private business and private-parts out in public, or whatever else it takes to get people's attention and make them perturbed. This comics twitter bingo card could easily be retooled into a bingo card for any huge mess of people getting pissed at one another. It's uncomfortable because it is so true, basically. I tip my metaphorical hat to Loser City for creating something this effective.

Friday, July 7, 2017

Beautifully Disgusting AKA "The Thing Artbook," Review

Masterpiece of a Movie
I previously talked about the masterpiece of a movie, "The Thing," all the way back in early 2011 and had the nerve to only give it 4 out of 5 stars because apparently the me from 2011 is a dumbass who doesn't recognize one of the greatest sci-fi and horror films of all time deserves top marks. "The Thing," truly is a marvelous movie, with its mixture of tight plotting, minimalist score, and amazing imagery. The titular alien with the ability to mimic/become anyone is as clever as it is terrifying, and  the gross ways the practical effects gave us bloody and sinewy messes has stuck with viewers to this day. Much of the reason we all remember, "The Thing" is because of how beautifully disgusting it was. Therefore, an artbook titled--what else?--"The Thing Artbook," full of pieces inspired by the movie as we celebrate its 35th anniversary sounds like a smashing idea!

The Most Twisted Yet Beautiful Images
"The Thing Artbook," is published by, "Printed in Blood," who are a company dedicated to creating artwork inspired by an assortment of horror movies. They truly have some amazing poster-prints so a big book full of artwork inspired by, "The Thing," would most likely impress any reader who holds a fondness for the movie, right? The answer to that question is, "Yes!" with this being a book full of stupendous visuals. Whether it is my favorite earlier section of faux movie-posters, pieces sporting humorous comic-book-esque drawings, violent images of the alien itself, or showing fantastic interpretations of assorted scenes from the movie, "The Thing Artbook," has some of the most twisted yet wondrous images related to this flick that I've ever seen.

Fresh and New Again

Whatever it is about, "The Thing," that grabs us and makes us love it is expertly captured within this tome. These images draw back out of us those same feelings of foreboding, abject terror, excitement, and even the bits of humor we had watching the movie for the first time. Looking-through this book and being reminded of all those amazing moments from, "The Thing," through a different metaphorical, "Lens," via the unique artwork makes it all just seem fresh and new again. It really is magical stuff.

The Perfect Tribute
Considering how we all remember the visceral imagery of, "The Thing," a book dedicated to visuals is the perfect tribute. The foreward by filmmaker Eli Roth discusses just how influential, "The Thing," has been and the afterword by none other than Director John Carpenter himself where he expresses delight at what has been created simply help to drive home the point that, "The Thing," is a seminal movie, and clearly something that has inspired many of our imaginations. "Pritned in Blood," have produced a majestic publication in the form of, "The Thing Artbook," and I thank them for it. "The Thing Artbook," will be for sale later this July and you can pre-order it now here.
5 out of 5 stars.