Posts Tagged ‘comics’

I Kill Giants

There are a lot of stigmas surrounding comics.   More often than not, people have pre-concieved notions about what and how a comics is.  They get this idea of superhero comics and bebcome dismissive.  They don’t understand that when you take away the “Super” dressing, and get to the heart of the “Hero”, what you have is a story about people.   In reading Joe Kelly’s I Kill Giants, I am reminded not only of what comics truly are, but what they can be.

IKGWallpaper01

I Kill Giants is the story of a precocious little girl named Barbara who spends her life preparing to hunt and kill Giants.  Her obsession is so singular that she blocks out everyone around her, from the mundanes that surround her in school to the family that loves her, despite their broken home.  But Barbara doesn’t care about people; Barabara just wants to kill Giants. Together with her legendary war hammer Covaleski, she plans to end the lives of Giants no matter how powerful.   And yet no one else seems concerned that the monster may come.  To them, she’s just a strange girl with a bizarre fascination with mythology.   Maybe she is.   And it seems that no one can get through the wall of calloused cynicism she’s built around her heart, until one day a new school psychologist and a new neighbor named Sophia walk into her life.  Combined with the arrival of a new school bully named Taylor, Barbara’s life is sent spiraling through a course of events that she may not survive, or even want to.

I won’t pretend I’m entirely certain what happended in the strictest sense of this story.   There is a stark contrast painted between the “real” world that Barbara is forced to tolerate and the magic world in which she lives.   In the end, it doesn’t matter.  The answer to that question is not nearly as important to Barbara’s story as you may first imagine.   On one level it appears to be the story of a child escaping into her imagination to avoid the harshness of her reality.  And yet at times it seems to be about her stuggle to slay the monsters which only she can see and defeat.   But it’s both… and it’s neither.

I won’t ruin the book by defining it.   But Barbara’s journey will enthrall you.  Her tortured, brilliant young mind will empathize with you.  Her fights with Giants will astound you.  And her plight will reduce you to tears.  And you will fear for Barbara, but don’t worry… she’s stronger than she thinks she is.

I Kill Giants is exemplary of the kind of complex writing that comics are capable of, and achieve more often than society believes.    It’s a story about life.  And a story about people.

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The Kindness of Strangers

In August of 2005 I sat in a farm house owned by the aunt of a friend and his family.   The news as ablaze with images of my hometown drowned like a modern Atlantis.   Not long after, the violence started.  You might have thought you were watching images of insurgents in Iraq or Afghanistan, as people shot at American troops.  New Orleans had unofficially devolved into a third world nation within a week.

I wasn’t surprised.  I’m cynical, and I grew up in this city.  There are good people in the world.  Honest, hard working people.  But there are bad people as well.  And while I search for the former in everyone, I am well prepared for the latter. It was difficult to remain positive in those days.  It was 3 days of hell before I found out if my Mother and Brother had made it out okay.  I nearly burst into tears when I heard my brother’s static-clouded voice on the other side of a cell phone.  My father had remained in my childhood home.  Eventually I got in touch with him as well.  He’d stayed guarded in my room, surrounded by my hunting knife and my prized Samurai blade in case the violence spread in his direction.   He had no power and no one to turn to, but he was okay.

The worst part was the uncertainty. Most were like me; little in the way of savings and with no way of knoing when ewe could get back to work.  Would be able to return?  Would we even want to return to what was left?  I hadn’t even brought my car with me when I left. We seemed to be the last stragglers in Noah’s newest flood.   So it was at that time that I turned to the one thing that had carried me through all the toughest times in my life: comics.

Comic books had always been my greatest teacher.  Through the power of reading I’d learned all about literature, art, history and American values.   More importantly, I learned how to be a man.

Lafayette isn’t the sort of city you would know about unless you’re from here, but it’s one of the few big cities in Louisiana.    So fortunately I was able to find a local comic shop on Johnston Street.  I stepped into Acadiana Comics looking for a distraction. What I found was hope.

The owner, Ms Teresa, greeted me as I entered.  I recognized the place, though I’d never been there.  It smelled of books.  It felt like home.   Still, I suppose I stuck out.  She asked if I was one of the wretched displaced.  I nodded, and told her of my story.  I didn’t complain, but even someone a cynical as I can appreciate the dispair of moments like that.   When I was done with the search for sweet purchases, I presented her with my credit card.  I knew it was irresponisble, but it’s an indispensible part of my world and sanity.   Seeing the devil’s plastic in front of her, she pushed my hand away.   She said it was the least she could do.

I was genuinely stunned by her graciousness.  I was just another stranger on the street.  I could have been anyone.  Comic shops are modest businesses.  They are self-sustaining, but far from sustainably profitable.  

It may not seem like much to the casual observer.  Just a few comics. Just a little thing.   But that’s the point.  It wouldn’t have hurt her to charge me.  But it did hurt her financially, even in some small way.  But to me, it meant the world.  This is a person that wanted to help.  She did so in the only way she could.  And while I thanked her profusely on the two occasions this happened, I don’t know that I ever got a chance to repay her.

Today, as my job took my into the long haul to Lafayette, I passed her store in the waining hours of the day.   Surprisingly, she was there.  I asked if she remembered me, and she said that I looked vaguely familiar.  And I recounted her kindness.   And I told her how much her kindness had meant to me.   And we talked for a while.   I even bought a Trade from her.  It wasn’t much, but I wanted to pay her back in as much as I could, at least with money.   The truth is I’m not sure I could ever repay her.

She gave me a gift, and it wasn’t a book.   It was a renewed faith in humanity.  An understanding that there are still people who will reach out in kindness to others without reward or even sufficient thanks.

If you’re ever in Lafayette, Louisiana stop by Acadiana Comics and put down a few dollars for a good book.   You never know when some stranger might repay your generosity.

Why You’ll Love-Hate Watchmen

I don’t envy Zach Snyder.  No matter what he did, he was going to get it wrong in the eyes of one majority or another.

The problem is that there are three parties interested in a Watchmen film.  The comics fans want to see the beauty of Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons comic brought to life frame for frame, syllable for syllable, a frakking giant squid and black freighter; because anything less would be sacrilege in the face of perhaps the most important comic in history.  The consumer audience wants to see another mindless, pretty, action-packed Superhero flick; the next Dark Knight if at all possible.  And the movie studio wants another Dark Knight cash cow as well, only cheaper, shorter and more efficient; and they don’t give a damn if Watchmen is anything like the book.

At least one of these groups will be disappointed, and as usual, it’s the fans.  Projects do not transfer from medium to medium organically.  Some comics just do not work in film form. Changes have to be made.  For the majority of these projects I judge them by their story-telling ability and their handling of the characters.  However with some books, such as Watchmen, that just isn’t enough.

The studio wants an action movie that will bring in millions of ticket sales.  And so does the public.  But Watchmen is not an action film.  Nor is it really about Superheroes.   It is for precisely that reason it is so beloved by it’s fans.  The essence of the story is about what makes us human, and what is the nature of good versus evil, and ultimately about whether power gives one the right to decide the fate of others.  And really, it’s about much more than that. It’s a very dense read with an incredible amount of subtext.  But honestly no one wants to see a movie about that. Movies are often a lazy medium, one where the audience doesn’t want to think.

Which leads us to writer Alan Moore’s opinion that Watchmen is unfilmable.  But honestly?  He’s wrong.  I went into the theatre having read and appreciated (though not loved) the book.  And what I saw met most of my expectations, and exceeded a few.

It isn’t the book.  But it is a decent adaptation that meets the majority of needs for all three groups, as long as you don’t go in with any expectations.   I think the majority of consumers will be disappointed in it without ever giving it a chance.  The film has been mis-marketed from the start.  Watchmen is much closer to The Usual Suspects than X-Men in content and subject matter.  There is sex and violence in it, but not nearly as much as the trailers imply.  And yes, for you purists, the ending was changed slightly.  No giant squid.  But honestly, it works.  In fact, it makes more sense than the giant squid does.  Yeah, I know I just lost loads of nerd-cred, but it’s true.  A film-maker’s job is to simplify and fully realize (emphasis on the first two syllables of the last word) any adaptation.  Snyder did just that.  And what’s more, he did a damn good job of it.

The only complaints I have are minimal.  Some of the music is atrocious.  As much as I love Jeff Buckley’s Hallelujah, the use of Leonard Cohen’s cover of it in the sex scene is so ridiculous that I went from sexual arousal to gut-busting laughter in the span of a second.   Likewise, the use of 99 Left Balloons at a key scene took me out of the film and made me feel like I was watching a romantic comedy.   Beyond that, the only problem areas occur because of the cinematography.  Watchmen’s style is meant to bring the comic to life.  It worked tremendously in 300, but here, there are a few scenes which feel cartoonish, particularly scenes with the Golden Age super-team, The Minutemen.  Not a huge problem, but it is a little distracting.

The bottom line is that Watchmen gets more right than it does wrong.  And like the book, it will merit multiple viewings to fully digest the menagerie of beauty and philosophy thrown at you, however precisely, like cogs in clockwork.  The bar previously set by The Dark Knight will probably not be exceeded here, in terms of revenue, style or fan response.  But honestly, I’m happier that way.  Watchmen couldn’t have been made any better by anyone else.  It is a tight, lean movie that moves at a decent pace despite it’s long run time and heavy psychological thoroughbred.  It works.

It’s not only filmable, it’s watchable.

Books by Their Cover 10-8

 

Final Crisis

Final Crisis

Darkseid invites Batman to a party at his house.  Unfortunately when Batman gets hammered, Darkseid’s dickish friends decide to write ‘Brucie is a Douche!’ on his forehead while filming it.

I’m gonna give this one a thumbs down.  Reminds me of too many bad college memories.

 

Final Crisis Revelations

Final Crisis Revelations

Batwoman visits her OBGYN when she begins to experience a strange burning sensation in her crotch.  “Doctor, my vagina smells like egg salad.”

Well, I’ll never eat egg-salad again, but I love the lead up with the Girls Gone Wild where Batwoman shows us her Bat boobies.

 

 

Cartoon Network Presents

Cartoon Network Presents

Uhhh… I got nothing.

 

 

DC Goes Ape

DC Goes Ape

If you’ve ever wondered what Wally West (aka THE FLASH!) thinks about when he’s on the toilet… you should probably stop that. It’s disturbing.

Apparently Wally daydreams about giant monkeys eating tiny monkey versions of his friends.  And more monkeys.  The entire issue was bananas.  (come on! you know you smiled.)

 

 

 

Outsiders TPB

Outsiders TPB

The Dc Universe explores what happens when George Bush gets a third term.

RUN AWWWAAAAAAAYYYYYYYYY!!!!!!!!  AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!

Action Comics

Action Comics

 Clark Kent pursues his lifelong dream of joining the New Kids on the Block.  Meanwhile Lois tries to figure out how she ended up married to such a pussy.

Superman and New Kids on the Block.  It’s like the first time someone put their chocolate inside your peanut butter.  But even gayer.

 

 

Wonder Woman

Wonder Woman

 

 

Lil Shaniquanza points out that indeed Diana ain’t got a motor in the back of her Honda.  And neither does lil’ Suzie.

Sadly my anaconda don’t want none unless it’s got buns, hun.  HATED IT!  (two snaps up)

 

 

Amazing Spider Girl 25

Amazing Spider Girl 25

Mayday Parker finds out exactly why her Dad didn’t want her going out with Flash “Boner” Thompson, Jr, while learning a valuable lesson about the value of using protection.

This was kind of a kiddie issue if you ask me.  Skip it.

 

 

Avengers Invader 5

Avengers Invader 5

The Marvel Universe discovers what happens when Lost and Family Guy come on at the same time!  The Avengers and the Invaders battle it out to see who gets control of the remote!!

I hate Family Guy, so I kinda dug that the Avengers won.  Besides, Kate is so hot!!

 

 

Marvel Zombies 3  #1

Marvel Zombies 3 #1

Jocasta discovers that Aaron Stack is indeed not carrying a nightstick in his pocket.  And he is very much happy to see her.

Well, no Fleshy Ones.  Plus, ROBOTS DOIN IT!  Totally worth it.

 

 

Moon Knight Christmas Special

Moon Knight Christmas Special

“Jingle bells, The Dark Knight smells, batman is totally gaaaaaayyyyyyyy!!!!”

 

See ya next week everybody!  Bye now!

Books By Their Cover 10-1

Welcome to the inaugural edition of Books by their Cover, where I review some of this week’s comics merely by looking at their cover.   Seriously.

 

Batman #680

Batman #680

The Dark Knight faces off against the deadly Club of Villains.  Backed into a corner, Batman does the unthinkable!  He takes a massive dump on the floor, forcing his arch-foes to run from the stench.  Even Robin is completely grossed out at the sight of a forty year old man in a Bat costume shitting himself in a sanitarium.  “Look dude… I think it’s time I got my own place.”   This is exactly the kind of mindblowing, swing for the fences comic that makes Grant Morrison a genius.

 

Nightwing

Nightwing

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

With Batman absent, Dick Grayson seeks to take up the slack, resulting in a deadly game of Twister! I’m not sure about the premise.  I mean, everybody loves Twister, but there’s only one chick and she’s watching.   Its a sausage fest. Pass.

 

Manhunter

Manhunter

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

During a sleepover, Kate’s best friend gets her period. In a house without tampons, Manhunter will show us all why she kills men.

I’m sold.

 

Jonah Hex

Jonah Hex

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In a very special issue, Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray explore the ramifications of Jonah’s camel toe.  You had me at “camel toe”.  I was a little disappointed at the end when Jonah spends ten pages crying into his beer, whining to the bartender about having a man-gyna.

 

The Third Kryptonian

SUPERMAN: The Third Kryptonian

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

198 pages of the Man of Steel walking like an egyptian. A revealing look at how the Man of Tomorrow was put here on Earth, not to save us from ourselves, but to shake what his Mama gave him.

Surprising satisfying.   Right on.

 

Marvel Apes #3

Marvel Apes #3

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Even as a monkey, Kirsten Dunst is a whiny bitch.

Bah.  Rehash of Spider-man 2.  But with the benefit of monkey Peter Parker not coming off really really gay.

 

Punisher War Journal #24

Punisher War Journal #24

Alone, behind bars.  Frank Castle… uhh… “takes matters into his own hands.”

I saw a movie like this once.  Dad grounded me for a month when he caught me watching it.

 

the Depths #2

Sub Mariner: the Depths #2

Namor finally comes to terms with the side of himself he’s denied all these years.  And the readers discover a new context for the name “the depths”.

What is this, Oz week at Marvel?  (OH COME ON! THIS IS CLEARLY MAN RAPE ON THE COVER.)

Well folks, thats all for this week’s addition.  Tune in next time for more inappropriate gay and doody jokes.  Bye yall.

~Adam

The Geek Strain

There’s all kinds of us in the world today. We’re everywhere, having infiltrated every facet of society from High Schools to Congress to Hollywood. We live among you. One of us may share your bed each night, whether you know it or not.

We’re geeks. And sometimes we have to hide who we are because the rest of the world fears and hates us. Okay… I was being a little melodramatic there for the sake of congruence. But it’s more or less true. You know we exist yet you deny us fervently.

There’s a whole Baskin Robbins worth of geek flavors and mixes. Film geeks, music geeks, art geeks, Star Wars and Star Trek geeks (and never the twain shall meet), D&D and WoW (which is the most fun to say) geeks… and of course my lot… Comic Book Geeks. We’re a special breed, unfathomable and unmatched in knowledge of our love (save for the Klingon-speaking Trekkies.. those people just have issues).

We live in bizarre times, as the mainstream has taken to embracing comics (or graphic novels, as the elitist PC world prefers to call them).  It seems these days everyone is a comic book fan… of a sort.   Strange then that we who love them so are still rejected.  I have a friend who loves comic book based films and sees them as soon as they come out, but considers anyone who touches actual comics to be “nerds”.   He isn’t alone.  Go through random myspace pages.  You’ll see an enormous amount of people with Spider-Man, The Dark Knight, Sin City, 300, Iron Man and X-Men under their FAVORITES; however, they’re all put under film favorites.   On average, most fans of movies such as Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, The Crow, From Hell, Road to Perdition and History of Violence aren’t even aware that they were based on comics.

Yet Hollywood and the world at large proclaim themselves to be unabashed fans.  Another close friend once told me “I’m a Batman fan.  I’ve seen all the movies!  No, I’ve never read any of the comics, but that doesn’t make you a bigger fan than me.”  Yes, it does.  And for the record, he’s never seen Mask of the Phantasm. And suddenly it’s cool to say you’re a Brian K Vaughn fan, because once he got a job on Lost, Entertainment Weekly picked up on his Y the Last Man series.  It’s cool to love Y now, because unlike Spider-man, knowing about the Vertigo series makes you hip and “indie”.  Yes, we have sunk that low.

We, the fans… the ones who made these films viable properties because of their built-in audience… are not respected in the least.   Both Yancy Butler (star of the television version of Witchblade) and Jennifer Connelly (female lead of the first Hulk film) have gone on record as saying that their projects weren’t going to be “comic book-y”.   I find it somewhat satisfying that both projects faired poorly, with Marvel going so far as to ignore the first Hulk film completely in the far superior Incredible Hulk.

On the one hand, it’s a fun time to be a comics fan.   Our favorite properties are finally receiving the attention they deserve.  On the other hand, as Hollywood and the mainstream slowly consume all we hold dear, what is shat out isn’t always what we might expect.  For every Batman Begins, there is a Catwoman.  For every Sin City, there is a V for Vendetta.

So we’re still outcasts.   Branded with the geek strain, that special bit of DNA that causes to get pissed because Jean killed Scott and Xavier in the last X-Men film.  And makes us jump for joy when we find out that David Goyer or our beloved Joss is writing a new script, because they “get it”.   They have the geek strain too.   Yeah, we’re still mutants.   And most of the time I wouldn’t have it any other way.

My Ten Favorite Fictional Characters

Yeah, just call me List Guy. That’s me.

There is nothing more influential or important in my life than fiction. Fiction is a powerful concept. Done properly, it has the power to give a person hope, and even belief. It’s given me a lot throughout my life. And in many ways, some of the fictional worlds I’ve visited are as real to me as this one. And the men and women who inhabit those worlds are as real to me as you are. (Which is somewhat ironic considering you’re reading this in cyberspace.)

Here are my top ten favorite male characters. The girls deserve their own category.

10. The Rock

Dwayne Johnson was a third generation Professional Wrestler, but his first love was football. Sadly he was cut from his team. But that worked out well for wrestling fans across the world. If Hulk Hogan made wrestling famous, and Stone Cold made it bad ass, then the Rock made it cool to watch. He may not be the best technical wrestler in the WWE locker room, but over four years after his retirement, The Rock is still the most entertaining. Whether as a Face (Babyface- good guy) or as a Heel (Villain) the audience loved him, and tuned in just as mush to watch him make fun of people as they did to watch him whip their candy asses! And if you think I’m a dork, “Get ready… your candy ass is next!”

9. Mal Reynolds

Joss Whedon’s epic story of a band of thieves on the edge of the frontier of space was part Western and part Buddhist philosophy. Each character was brilliant, beautiful and worthy of their own praise, but really, who doesn’t love Mal? Captain Mal Reynolds predates Jack Sparrow by a year as the greatest pirate who ever lived. Not the most successful, mind you. But like Sparrow, Mal was the last of a dying breed. His sense of honor and loyalty was constantly in conflict with his acceptance of his narrowing reality. Despite himself, Mal was determined to be a hero even when there was no room for heroes left in the ‘Verse.

8. Jack Knight

There was never a more curious hero in comics history than James Robinson’s Starman. Jack Knight was the son of the original Starman, Ted Knight. When his Brother David takes up the mantle and is murdered on his first night, Ted asks Jack to take over as Starman. And he says no. Jack is a pop culture antiquities dealer, more in love with the past than the world around him. He has no interest in costumes and silly superheroics. But reluctantly, he takes up his father’s legacy to protect the few things he does love in this world. What follows is more than just another superhero monthly. It’s an exploration and appreciation of history. And a story of the love between a father and his estranged son. Starman may just be the moment that mainstream comics truly entered the world of literature.

7. Indiana Jones

What I love about Indiana Jones is that he isn’t simply another action hero. He’s a brilliant man whose interests is more about exploring the rich depths of history than finding adventure. Indy is an example for the boys of my generation, a man of brains and brawn. The man with the fedora is still my idol.

6. Jesse Custer

I’ve never ridden a horse. Never liked guns or cigarettes. Hate beer. Yet there is special part of me that is pure cowboy, even if the rest of me clearly isn’t. Jesse Custer, raised to be a Preacher, is in a similar predicament. His garb and profession may say spiritual, but the truth is he is wild and wicked. In Garth Ennis’ Preacher, Custer goes off in search of God. He cuts a bloody swath across America in the process, righting wrongs and schoolin’ assholes. He’s a modern day cowboy.

5. Lucas Scott

One Tree Hill’s main character appears on the surface to be just another pretty face on The WB/ CW. But if you pause long enough, you’ll find that Lucas Scott is the exception that proves the rule. The show is often narrated by Lucas, who quotes some of history’s finest pieces of literature. Unlike many of the other archetypes that inhabit the teen shows OTH is compared to, Lucas’ brooding nature is due less to the fact that he looks cool doing it, than to the fact that he’s a writer at heart.

4. Michael Garibaldi

Babaylon 5’s former chief of security was the show’s most relateable character. Garibaldi brought a sense of nostalgia to the futuristic show. He was a Bruce Willis character with more depth and the detective skills of Sherlock Holmes. His role in the show shifted from grunt, to soldier, to villain, to confidant, to alcoholic and in the end all were truly human. What makes him truly compelling is the way Garibaldi constantly gains ground only to lose everything. His demons were never more than a hairsbreadth away from killing him.

3. John Wayne

Yes, I know John Wayne was a real person. But in many ways he is archetype, arguably one which inspired the creation of half the characters on this list. Hell, one of Custer’s companions in the book is the ghost of John Wayne. John Wayne is the spirit of all that was once good about America. Smart, hard-working, loyal, honest and tough. He’s what men like me aspire to be. Somewhere along the way, we lost that part of us. And when I watch his movies, I am reminded of that noble absence.

2. Cyclops

Everyone’s favorite X-Man is Wolverine. But not mine. Scott Summers is often over-looked but argued by many creators as the greatest X-Man, and possibly even more important to Charles Xavier’s dream of equality than Xavier himself. He spent most of his life at a distance from those around him because his powers had grown out of control and posed a danger. Cyclops eyes emit an energy blast which can only be contained by his eyelids or special ruby quartz glasses. Xavier pulled him from an orphanage and trained him to lead the X-Men, and out of those ashes grew a leader who has guided mutant history. Oh, and he also found love in a beautiful red-haired telepath named Jean Grey. He’s Captain America with a hot girlfriend and a handicap.

1. Peter Parker

Peter Parker is popular for one reason. He’s the character identified with most by every geek in the world. Spider-man is who I would be if I gained powers. Smart, thoughtful and well meaning, with a biting sense of wit that keeps the World from crushing him. I am Peter Parker.