Friday, December 28, 2012

I Saw "Batman Live" Some Weeks Ago And Will Share My Thoughts On It Now

About more than a couple of weeks (but less than a month) ago I saw, "Batman Live," in St. Louis with my girlfriend--who was more than kind enough to buy us tickets as an early Hanukkah/Christmas present. It was quite an enjoyable time even if the "play" had a slow start. I put the word "play" in quotation marks as this wasn't so much a piece of theater as it was a hybrid of acting, acrobatics, magic tricks, and general craziness, but the good kind.
A picture I took of the Gotham city set-piece before the show started.
We open with a young Bruce Wayne cruelly losing his parents, afterward jumping to some crazy circus acrobatics--before Dick Grayson loses his parents too. From this point on we have Batman investigating who was behind the murders as Dick Grayson attempts to help. The first act of the play before intermission had to of course set the stage for Bruce Wayne and Dick Grayson to have the motivation to become heroes, and then all of the villains had to be introduced, but still, things just seemed to lag at times in the first act (of two) before right at the end when the Joker appeared. Between the origin stories and a weirdly choreographed roof-top chase and fight between Batman and Catwoman things were sometimes a bit on the duller side. One exception to this is the Penguin's first appearance at his Iceberg lounge. The dancing and aerial-tricks with that were so weird and trippy that scene stood out.
The "Snow Boys" and "Snow Girls" in the best scene of Act 1
Speaking of trippy, this show had a weird mixture of the high-tech Batman of some comics and movies, mixed with the more out-there stuff of Grant Morrison's Batman's comics and some of the zanier silver-age stories. There was also a fair helping of humor, so this was definitely not the grim-and-gritty Batman of some comics or the Nolan films. In the second act with the Joker doing magic-tricks to show how he'll kill Batman, to an attempted hot-air balloon escape, things are quite weird. However, everything stays entertaining enough that it is never too much absurdity.
Batman has some interesting villains.
The show is good family-fun and can be enjoyed by all ages, which makes one extremely-dark scene kind of stand out. Towards the end of the story when Batman goes into Arkham Asylum to fight his rogues gallery he has an encounter with The Scarecrow. The Scarecrow in the show is a huge man on stilts and makes Batman hallucinate (or is it real?) a ton of dead people in weird burlap-sack-type coccons hanging by chains. I'm not making this up, observe:
Yeah, this will give you nightmares.
 Other than that, things never get too violent besides delightfully-choreographed fight scenes where things keep getting switched up to keep the show fresh. From the kung-fu poles people both dance and charge at Batman with, to the great side-by-side fighting Batman and Robin do (once Grayson dons the costume) it is always a hoot to watch the battles that occur.

"Batman Live," was a great time, and if it happens to come to a city near you I would recommend going and seeing it. You will be entertained, laugh, and marvel at the intriguing set design and costumes. It may take the play a bit to kick into gear, but once it does the rest is a rip-roaring time. My girlfriend who doesn't really read comic books enjoyed this too, so even friends and family who just know the bare minimum about Batman should have fun. Check it out if you happen to get the chance, you'll be glad you did.

4 out of 5 stars.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Merry Chirstmas

I enjoyed Hanukkah already with my family, and now am celebrating Christmas with my girlfriend and her folks. I hope you all are able to enjoy whatever holiday you celebrate, and for the large number of people around the world celebrating Christmas today I wish you a merry one.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

So...what is up with the Vertigo comic's imprint, and DC in general?

Will Vertigo Become Vertigone (He asked, realizing it was a terrible pun everyone else has already been using)?

Vertigo comics, the DC imprint that could...until it started to seem like it couldn't.

Headed by Karen Berger since inception until recent announcements I'll discuss more shortly, as DC's editorial-crew kept changing so did the way DC did things (and therefore the way Vertigo did things). Characters that had been folded into Vertigo after starting out sort-of in the DC Universe re-entered DC's main world ("Swamp Thing," "Hellblazer," and "Animal Man," to a lesser degree). Comics that were going to be for Vertigo ended up in the main DC Universe too ("Dial H For Hero"). It just seemed over time Vertigo was losing anything good to read. This is the line that has had, "Sandman", "Preacher", "100 Bullets", "The Invisibles", and, "Transmetropolitan" to name some of the big-time comics. It also had some quality series of less success such as, "American Virgin," and, "The Exterminators." The line produced what is my favorite comic or graphic novel of all time, "The Filth." What is there now, though?
Karen Berger, basically any Vertigo book ever made has involved her in some capacity.

"Fables," is still coming out, that is indeed going strong...but, "American Vampire," is going on break, "Unwritten," is wrapping up, and other than the occasional one-shot or mini-series (such as the enjoyable,  "Spaceman") what does Vertigo have? Adaptations? The line is putting out a comic-version of, "The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo," but what else? Perhaps it really didn't help that the company used to let their creators keep a lot of the intellectual property rights, but various folk at DC decided it would be better to keep those rights and make more money. Problem is, the paradox occurred of such a plan making them less money because people would rather go to Image and own the rights to their comic than, you know, not own the rights at all.

Change is afoot

Now Karen Berger is all but a memory as of March 2013, and that's after her 20 years heading Vertigo and nearly 30 with DC overall--no small amount of time! DC isn't killing Vertigo, they are hiring Shelly Bond to take Berger's place. DC is shuffling so much however, and you occasionally hear about writers being told specifically what they can and can't do because DC has various plans (Zero month, the rumored Villain month) and due to displeasure with DC's methods people are quitting or getting fired. One exception to all this is Gail Simone. She was fired off, "Batgirl," for some reason or another (via email, no less!), but after immense fan outcry the new writer of, "Batgirl," was announced to be Gail Simone. You did not misread that, Gail Simone was re-hired on to the comic after less than two weeks of the internet basically vomiting with rage as if one of those gross red-lanterns.
Gail Simone, the woman the internet was prepared to up and slap DC across the face for.
Many other folk don't fare well if they incur DC's wrath, however (hello, Chris Roberson), but I imagine because Simone was calm, cool, and collected she was able to just let the internet howl for the blood of DC until she got writing duties back on, "Batgirl." It helps she has an immensely passionate fan-base because lord knows people actually celebrated when Rob Liefeld quit/was kicked off his DC books--and then proceeded to utterly lose his mind as he started  insulting anyone he could, but I digress. Also, the fact that Gail Simone is one of the few writers DC has who happens to be female made it look bad they were firing one of their few employees who didn't have a Y chromosome, that didn't help their case for briefly getting rid of her.

What is the "Game-Plan"? Is There Even Any?

DC seems to be randomly changing plans for comics every few months or even weeks. People are getting mad who work there, a line of comics at the company which has produced some of the best comics-work ever is a pale shadow of itself, how long can all of this keep up before DC realizes something's gotta give? Whether that something is getting rid of Vertigo, being kinder to their writers and artists, or realizing that having 52 ongoing books a month is way too many and they should cut it down to 30 or so (which would make coordinating those events they want easier)--whether it is any of that I can't say.

DC has been doing extremely well since their massive re-launch, arguably because they went about it expertly, to give credit where credit is due. However, at this point it seems the company is running without much of a plan if what we occasionally hear from the comic-book press is true about internal-struggles and everything else troublesome. I want DC to be successful, and I also want them to be kind to their employees and former employees ("Before Watchmen," still pisses me off to no end). At this point I'd settle for hearing there is at least some kind of plan in place though. Until then we can only wonder at what the crazy inner-workings of DC Comics would be like. I like to imagine there is cake everyday, because I like cake and would gladly work at an office that supplied it.

Friday, December 21, 2012

My Hobbit Review With Spoilers But The Book Came Out Decades Ago So Suck It Up

I saw, "The Hobbit," although because of course there are going to be multiple hobbit movies this was actually titled, "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey," with the next film being called, "The Hobbit 2: Die Harder," or something. I'm just going to say, "The Hobbit," to keep things easy though.

As opposed to the, "Lord Of The Rings," movies which seem to be near-universally loved, "The Hobbit," has been dividing critics. It seems the biggest complaint has been that, "The Hobbit," movie is pretty tonally different from the LOTR flicks. Well, people have been saying the same thing about Tolkien's books for a long time too! Perhaps the big issue is that when he made, "The Hobbit," that was meant more as a book for children and youth, infused with humor and whimsy. Then, Tolkien made LOTR, which while drawing from characters and plots from, "The Hobbit," is much darker, full of complexity, and a lot more dramatic than Tolkien's first book, which arguably is just a stage-setter for his LOTR saga. "The Hobbit," is tonally different then, okay, fine. Is it any good in my opinion however? Yes, it is.

This may ruin some of my nerd-credibility but I never read any of the LOTR books. I did read about half of, "The Hobbit," but the only bits I remembered from the book are when Bilbo tricks the trolls (because that scene is funny) and of course the first encounter with Gollum where they play a game of wits and Bilbo gets the famous ring. I was pleased to see both of these moments occur in the film--one earlier on and the other close to the end of this first-flick. Besides these moments I enjoyed the film is good fun all-around. Bilbo, the dwarves, and Gandalf go off adventuring and encounter various obstacles in the form of orcs, rock-giants, and I assume needing to often take breaks so that everyone can brush out their beard (seriously, pretty much everyone has immense facial hair that must take forever to groom). The variety makes things fun but it never gets overly-complicated.

It's a straightforward enough plot. The dwarves want to reclaim their old kingdom and need to fight a dragon, meeting old enemies and making new ones along the way. It's not overly-deep or philosophical as the LOTR films sometimes aspired to be, but it is great for kicking back and munching some popcorn while Orcs get beat-up. I was entertained even if the movie was a bit slow to get going at the start and feel I got my money's worth. Do note that I saw this in 2D as I generally can't stand 3D films. Therefore, if you paid the extra money for 3D I don't know if you should feel pleased or robbed by this movie.

This isn't a perfect film. People went in expecting another, "Lord Of the Rings," and instead got, "The Hobbit." People who read LOTR before, "The Hobbit," probably have been disappointed throughout history too. It's still a good film though, and worth seeing. Just don't go in expecting to be amazed so much as to have a good time. Keep your expectations reasonable and you should be happy.

3.5 out of 5 stars.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

I'm Honestly Going to Start Posting Again Now, I Promise.

Finals, travel, and life in general have made posting difficult. I now have time and will be posting a good chunk of stuff to make up for my absence. I saw Batman Live a bit over a week ago and want to tell you all about that, discuss some movies, and do general rants on everything from Vertigo Comics, to Tony Harris, to gun control (my heart goes out to those impacted by the tragedy in Connecticut).

Yes, I've been thinking and have plenty to say. Be prepared, and be afraid.