Monthly Archives: June 2007

Silence Is Golden

The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (2005) – The original 1920 German silent film is one of my favorites, and as much as I dreaded seeing writer/director David Lee Fisher’s new version I have to say I was mightily impressed.

While filmed in black and white on green screen sets which were projected onto the original sets to delightful effect, the disappointment comes with the addition of sound. I suppose it’s a necessary evil now that we’ve left the silent era decades behind us, but in my opinion the story loses a bit of atmosphere with voices.

The lovely Lauren Birkell is worth the price of rental if only to gawk at. I just can’t get my head around veteran voice actor Daamen J. Krall as Caligari however. The acting is fair, and there’s enough screaming to give this one honorary Hammer status, but it doesn’t make it uninteresting or involving.

Still, see it for the amazing backgrounds of the original transposed with new actors and dialogue. Better yet, just rent the original, it’s a masterpiece.

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Catfight, I Mean, Chat Night


Live Chat with Brian Reed tonight – Saturday, June 30, 2007

WHO:
Brian Reed, Writer for the Ms. Marvel and New Avengers: Illuminati titles

WHERE:
Avengers Forever Chat Room
http://www.avengersforever.org/chat/

WHEN:
Saturday, June 30, 2007

US Eastern Standard Time: 8:00 PM
US Central Standard Time: 7:00 PM
US Mountain Standard Time: 6:00 PM
US Pacific Standard Time: 5:00 PM

HOW:
The chat session will be in an organized format where in the first 30 minutes or so Brian will be interviewed/asked questions by the chat room host which will then be followed by questions from the chat room so that you folks can ask him questions directly, one on one.

If you plan on attending the chat or even don’t plan on attending but will be reading the transcript aftewards and would like to ask Brian a question please feel free to to send them on in to Avengers Forever!

WHY:
Because Brian Reed and the Avengers Forever Website kick ass!

1408

Stephen King hasn’t had a very good record having his work translated to the silver screen. Somehow folks in Hollywood just aren’t creative enough to get his words from the page to images on the screen.

Even when adaptations are good, they’re not what he wrote. Stanley Kubrick made a movie of “The Shining” that was about alcoholism and domestic violence while King wrote a book about a haunted hotel. Not that other media have been that kind to Stephen either, cases in point: the USA Network’s “The Dead Zone” and Marvel Comics’ “Gunslinger.” Like a literary Rodney Dangerfield, the man just can’t get any respect.

Now we have 1408, based on one of King’s more recent short stories. Writer Mike Enslin writes books about haunted places, staying there and then writing debunking tales of them. Now, Mike stays in a hotel room that is actually evil. Hilarity ensues, as they say.

The basic idea of the story is here but with some extra frills as well. John Cusack is wonderful in the lead, and really, when in his almost three decade career, hasn’t he been? The brilliant Samuel L. Jackson serves up a chilling performance, and while he doesn’t shout he does deliver his patented F word.

It’s a writer movie so I appreciated the book signing scene. But more than a writer movie, it’s a ‘horror’ flick. There are some predictable scares as well as some elaborate and unexpected ones. Happily, unlike a lot of ‘horror’ flicks there is little gore or violence. And while the ending isn’t King’s, the essence is, and it’s a great watch. Check it out, King fan or not.

Live Chat with Writer Dwayne McDuffie

Avengers Forever Live Chat

WHO:
Dwayne McDuffie, Writer for the Avengers Classic and BEYOND! titles

WHERE:
Avengers Forever Chat Room
http://www.avengersforever.org/chat/

WHEN:
Tuesday, June 26, 2007

US Eastern Standard Time: 2:00 PM
US Central Standard Time: 1:00 PM
US Mountain Standard Time: 12:00 AM
US Pacific Standard Time: 11:00 AM

HOW:
The chat session will be in an organized format where in the first 30 minutes or so Dwayne will be interviewed/asked questions by the chat room host which will then be followed by questions from the chat room so that you folks can ask him questions directly, one on one.

If you plan on attending the chat or even don’t plan on attending but will be reading the transcript afterwards and would like to ask Dwayne a question please feel free to to send them on in to Avengers Forever!

Summer Three-Quels III

Fact – filming began before the script was finished. You know where under the rating they list things like ‘cartoon violence, some rough language, sexual content’? Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End should have had these words in there as well: “Filming began before script was finished.” Maybe add the word “Beware” just in case.

I love the first PotC flick, great adventure, great romance and great characters. Initially when I saw the second one I also loved it … until after I went back and watched the original afterwards. Number two was still a pretty good movie but lacked most of what its predecessor had. Mostly it lacked the romance, and that was sorely missed. There was also a good deal of unnecessary gross-out working against it with Davy Jones and his crew, and the overall dental hygiene of most of the pirates. Not that it wasn’t a great flick, it just paled in comparison to the original. It’s what I call the ID4 Effect, you don’t realize it’s a shitty movie until you’re leaving the theatre, cuz while you’re on the rollercoaster, it’s a lot of fun.

Number three, Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End, doesn’t even have the advantage of the ID4 Effect. You are well aware you are watching a shitty flick throughout most of the movie-watching experience. There are meaningless plot twists, plot twists that are obvious to even the most green movie-goer, special effects for no apparent reason, and most insulting of all – special effects that should be great, but you can’t even see!!!

The saddest part of all is that all three movies were written by the same folks. To me that only means one thing… that the good movie in the trilogy must have been a fluke. Avoid Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End at all costs. If you must know what happens, trust me they all live happily ever after, except the bad guys, they get what they deserve. Hmmm, at least they got that part right.

Free Role-Playing Game Day 2007

Taking their cue from Free Comic Book Day, Impressions Advertising & Marketing will be working with hobby game retailers and RPG publishers to bring NEW RPG Quickstart Rules and Adventure Modules into the hands of gamers. Consumers will get their hands on brand new material for a variety of RPGs — no overstock, retail-priced or dead product here. The goal is to get gamers inspired to play a new RPG, which will in turn, create sales through local game stores. For more info: http://www.freerpgday.com/

Wizard World Philly – Sunday

Got a late start today and friend and fellow Comic Widows writer Anthony came along for the ride this time. The main thrust of the trip today was to attend the Avengers panel, so after showing the press room to Ant, trying to do some writing and helping myself to one of their kindly offered Cokes, I was off to Avengers-land.

In attendance: king of the Annihilation pimps Bill Rosemann, the gracious Molly Lazer, Jim McCann, CB Cebulski of Loners (applause) fame and of course, Bendis (who was late).

The panel began with (what else?) a slide show. We got to see House of M: Avengers again. They said that libraries and bookstores had requested more House of M because it were so popular(!). They pushed Avengers/Transformers really hard. It made me wonder if they were worried about this one, or just really proud of it. It’s got the pre-Civil War Captain America in it, now there’s a selling point.

Then we dived into Skrull territory. With the dead Electra being revealed as a Skrull in the most recent issue of New Avengers, the vibe has been – who can we trust? Who is a Skrull and who isn’t? Bendis pointed out that this has been going on for almost three years at least, referencing the “shadowy figure on page two of New Avengers #1.” Hmmm, I had always thought that was Nick Fury, but maybe it was the Skrull double of Nick Fury?? Nevertheless, Bendis said the Skrull story will come to a head early next year.

Next slide was about appearances of Tigra, Machine Man and Sleepwalker in upcoming issues of Ms. Marvel. The cover shown looked like a ‘catfight’ between Carol and Tigra. I’m glad my buddy Ray wasn’t there today. 😉

The talk returned to Skrulls. Bendis put forth the idea that this was a great opportunity to get more for your money with your comics. You could re-read all the books from the last few years, play detective and look for clues as to who is and who isn’t a Skrull. What is out of character behavior because of a change of attitude, and what is a change because of Skrulliness? The Skrulls have always attacked with rayguns and spaceships, why should they when they are shapechangers and could just infiltrate us? This is especially viable with the state of the world today with terrorism and all that. Who can you trust?

Next up for me was the Marv Wolfman panel, which wasn’t really a panel at all, but just himself with a slideshow. He talked his career from fanzines to Warren to Marvel to DC and today. He of course spotlighted Tomb of Dracula, New Teen Titans and Crisis on Infinite Earths. When the slides were done he went to the room for questions.

Regarding Crisis Marv said he hated continuity. Continuity ties the hands of good writers with the stories of bad writers. Interesting. This was merely the first of many astonishing statements from Mr. Wolfman. He doesn’t read any series he’s written after he’s left that book. He never saw Deathstroke as a villain. He didn’t want to kill the Barry Allen Flash, that was forced on him. He thinks we are in the ‘real Golden Age’ now because we have so many truly talented people in the industry today. What about your generation and before, Marv? Told ya, astonishing.

Wolfman discussed his creation of the current version of Lex Luthor. He grew up in the 1950s where Luthor in his prison grays would escape every other issue, and thought the super-suit was a mistake, as Luthor would never be Superman’s equal physically. He surmised Luthor’s greatest weapon was his brain, so he should use it to conceive crimes he could never be convicted of. Also, jealousy not vanity would be why Lex hates Superman. Better idea, better motivation. He also praised Michael Rosenbaum for his portrayal of Luthor on “Smallville.”

Marv talked of Dick Grayson and how he preferred Robin as the responsible leader of the Teen Titans rather than the jerky pun-spouting brat who was Batman’s partner. He said when the Bat-editors wanted Robin back he suggested they create a new one. They loved it, and came up with Jason Todd and Marv made Dick Grayson Nightwing. He didn’t care, as long as he got to keep Grayson.

He briefly discussed new projects like a new Superman series, and he just finished the script for the new animated Teen Titans movie. All in all, a pretty enjoyable if surprising panel of one. By that time, Anthony and I were hungry and beat. After a stop at Philly’s Hard Rock we were done.

I had a lot of fun and really wore myself out. I was stunned by the amount of folks who knew me, both from Comic Widows and especially Avengers Forever. I have to say that comparatively this was a smaller con than most Wizards I’ve been to. Perhaps New York and the Heroes Con in Charlotte are taking a bite out of Wizard’s reign?

Wizard World Philly – More Saturday


Next up was the Cup o’ Joe panel featuring Marvel Comics editor-in-chief Joe Quesada. Also in attendance were CB Cebulski, Tom Brevoort, Jim Rosemann and Jim McCann. As with all such panels, it began with a slide show. Images accompanied the announcement of the thrice-monthly Amazing Spider-Man, House of M: Avengers and the next big crossover, “X-Men: Messiah Complex.” There was also mention that Peter David would be writing She-Hulk which generated much applause. Other highlights were that Joe Q said Bendis had a man-crush on Luke Cage and Brevoort said the ‘lost’ Lee/Kirby Fantastic Four would -finally- be published in November.

The highlight of the panel was spurred by Comic Widows columnist Ray Cornwall when he asked a serious question about Marvel’s position on women in comics, with regards to the recent Mary Jane statue and “Heroes for Hentai” debacles. Somehow this prompted Joe Q to do an insulting yet entertaining imitation of Stan Lee saying, “I love hentai! They don’t call me ‘the Man’ for nothing!”

That Ray, buddy o’ mine, turned the discussion with that question. The next question came from a delightful woman concerned with the exaggerated anatomy (lips and breasts and hips) of late. Another woman questioned Marvel’s intent for making comics for female readers and why they don’t have more women on staff. Ray will be remembered, and loved by women comics fans everywhere.

Next I followed Quesada over to the Bendis interview. This was a live version of Brian Michael Bendis’ column at wizarduniverse.com, his questions for Joe Q culled reader questions online. The questioning began with talk of Joe’s weight loss. Emphatically, he’s okay, healthier than he’s been in some time.

Regarding change Quesada stated that the incest in the industry is stagnating it. Comics fans who read comics and grow up to make comics make the same comics they read as a kid. He said the industry has to evolve and find a new way of doing things because, “look around, we’re going out of business,” it’s a matter of survival. It made sense at the time he said it, but in hindsight it felt like a slam at comics traditionalists and old schoolers.

When asked about the worst pitch he had ever seen, Quesada related a story of a proposal with many characters, featuring the Silver Surfer versus Jesus Christ and had a last page revelation of the villain – who was Freddie Mercury. Seriously. Hmmm, I don’t know, I’d buy that book, how about you?

Joe Q talked about his return to comics after he had discovered girls and baseball. After over a decade he was shown copies of Dark Knight and Watchmen, giving him something to aspire to. From there he told of his first job at DC doing the Dungeons & Dragons spin-off Spelljammer, and how editor James Owsley (now Christopher Priest) hired him on a million-to-one shot, making him the luckiest s.o.b. in the industry.

When asked if there was anything he wouldn’t do, in light of Spider-Man going public and Bucky returning from the dead – Bendis chimed in with “Spider-Man will never kill anyone just to get an erection.”

On that note I should get out of here, but after the panel I got a chance to meet Bendis. He knew exactly who I was and offered props for my honesty, and he said he’d thought I was warming up to him lately. Well, that depends on the issue, doesn’t it? All in all, he seemed like a genuinely nice guy.

More tomorrow.

Wizard World Philly – Saturday


Lines around the block, so nice to walk right in avoiding both the crowd and the Stormtroopers, both in costume and out. The Bride and my friend and colleague Ray are with me today.

The costumes are here in force today. Lots of pirates and ninjas and Star Wars characters as opposed to superheroes though. Yesterday we had a Spider-Man and a hot sexy female Boba Fett, and the Suicide Girls of course, but that was a bout it. Today we have many variations of Spider-Man, of both the black and the red and blue persuasions (mysteriously no red and gold ones). There were quite a number of women with cleavage straight out of the Renaissance Faire (the PhilCon girls spring immediately to, um, mind) and also folks who seem to wear a costume every day of their lives anyway. Let’s face it, these cons attract all types.

The last time I was at Wizard World I attended the Steranko panel and it was my favorite part so I thought I’d check out the Jim Steranko and Carmine Infantino panel this time. The status quo was made at the start, that no stories that had been told before would be told today – all new stuff. And while there seemed to be a bit of disdain for the current state and works of the industry, they still talked some great stuff.

They continued a discussion the two men had started last night at dinner – the origin of the new look Batman. The books were losing money and were about to be canceled. Carmine came in, redesigned the costume, the Batmobile, simplified the whole look of the strip and the feel of the stories – that’s when Lamont Dozier saw the book on the stands and the rest is history.

From there other incidents were discussed where the two of them crossed paths.

Steranko talked of how he was the inspiration behind Mister Miracle. While visiting jack Kirby, the King wanted to know why there were so many magician super-heroes – what was the draw? – asking Jim because he was a magician. Although Steranko had no idea he did note that escape artists were more exciting with more sense of suspense, and got Jack a copy of his book about his own escapes. A few months later Mister Miracle appears. When visiting Carmine later, Jim was shown the book and told, “That’s you.” They also both talked about a project called “Rumbles” inspired by West Side Story. It would have been done by DC but they couldn’t meet Steranko’s price.

After the “Batman” TV show, Stan Lee tried to hire Infantino away for $3000 more than he was getting at DC. He was all ready to leave when Leibewitz took Infantino to dinner. They talked about everything but comics, and at the end of the meal he said to Carmine, “I always thought you weren’t afraid of a challenge, but you disappoint me.” Carmine said to him, “I’ll be in tomorrow morning.”

Steranko at the end of his run at Marvel wanted to do something different and experiment in style. “My Love Story” was a romance comic written by Stan Lee and Steranko illustrated it in an arty ad-style with very simple stark colors. Carmine was so impressed over at DC he bought a dozen copies, brought them into a writers meeting and said, “Top this or you’re fired.”

Carmine then talked about and confirmed something I’ve wondered about for many years. The Silver Age Flash is based more on Captain Marvel than the Golden Age Flash. He had tried to peddle a comic strip called Captain Whiz (based on Billy and named after his comic) and the Colors of Evil in the 1950s but no one would buy it. But when Julie Schwartz said they were going to try a new Flash, Carmine took all his designs for Captain Whiz and the Colors of Evil and they became the Barry Allen Flash and the Rogues Gallery. Cool stuff.

Carmine also mentioned ‘Marston’s book’ and at first didn’t want to talk about it but then relented. After his death the widow of William Marston, the creator of Wonder Woman, gave Carmine a book of his notes for the character. Regarding Marston’s apparent obsession with bondage, female superiority, fetishes, etc. – it’s all true. Everything in Wonder Woman comics meant something twisted. Wertham was right when it came to Marston and Wonder Woman, and don’t even ask about the little girl with the lollipops.

In the press room, Ray and I got to see Hayden Panettiere of “Heroes” fame. She is so tiny and thin that the picture of her on the cover of the Wizard World guidebook should say “actual size.” As a matter of fact when they say on TV, “Save the cheerleader, save the world,” there is a very real chance they really mean, “Give this girl a sandwich.” Seriously, I’m worried she’s not eating enough.

Wizard World Philly – Friday

I arrived late, for reasons I’d rather not get into, and was at first surprised at how empty it was considering the massive lines waiting to get in three hours after they opened. Same security folks it looks like. I guess the Wizard folks like these blackshirts. Early on I ran into my friend Rob of the Aquaman Shrine who was hunting down sketches. He was having a ball.

After walking the floor a bit I went to the Counting Down panel. While waiting for it to start I over heard a guy in his twenties talk about how he hated Flash and Justice League because of all the history involved. Man, was I in the wrong room.

The panel consisted of a few rather silent folks like editors Jim Califore, Eddie Bergenza, Mike Carlin and others and was moderated by Director of Sales Bob Wayne. And Countdown pins were offered as a bribe to sit through the whole panel. Talk about desperate, man.

There was a phone call made to Dan DiDio in Charlotte at the Heroes Con. That struck me as interesting. Heroes was more important that WW Philly? Wizard has taken a few steps down since the NY Con, eh? DiDio joked about Flash being cancelled with issue 13 and there being an All-Flash #1 coming shortly thereafter. There was much kidding about this, and it wasn’t until I got home and read them intranets that I found this was actually true, with Mark Waid returning as writer for the new series. You know it would be nice if these guys took their jobs seriously.

They discussed a few new things like Countdown to Mystery featuring Doctor Fate by Steve Gerber with Eclipso back-ups, a new Suicide Squad by John Ostrander, and a new Infinity Inc. with Steel and his niece. They also promoted the heck out of Countdown Presents, a six-issue series concentrating on the search for Ray Palmer. In the mini, Donna Troy, Kyle Raynor and Jason Todd explore the multiverse, including the Wildstorm universe, the Crime Syndicate’s Earth-Three and the vampire world from “Blood Rain.”

From there I snuck over to the Bendis panel just in time to hear him explain his theories on the return of thought balloons and to watch Mike Oeming and David Mack arm wrestle. No, I’m not kidding. Bendis really explained his use of thought balloons. And my first impression of Bendis in the flesh? A short Curly Howard, but a lot smarter, and almost as entertaining.

More tomorrow.