Monthly Archives: July 2012
My comic book buying is spotty and inconsistent at best. I cannot always go to Bankstons (the local comic book shop) or Hastings. Nor can I buy all the books I would like. So, I buy only those books I want to buy when I can buy them. Which makes for a very interesting run much of the time. So, how was my last run?
Pretty good, I must say. I finally picked up Dial H #3 and Wonder Woman #11. And I finally picked up my first Marvel comic in years with Captain Marvel #1.
As far as Dial H #3 is concerned, I want to do another joint review with Earth 2. So expect a quadruple review when I get Earth 2 #4 and Dial H #4 this Friday (I hope).
But, let’s take a look at Wonder Woman #11. I will admit that I haven’t been following Azzarello and Chiang’s run on the series. And seriously? I’m kicking myself for it.
Writing a good Wonder Woman series has been troublesome for years now. In the past decade, how many different takes on Wonder Woman have there been? Personally, Azzarello’s take on Wonder Woman is what I’ve been craving. I love it that Wonder Woman is firmly entrenched within her mythological context. I agree with Sara Lima of Comic Vine when she calls Wonder Woman the Greek mythological version of Fables.
This new take works far better than anything I’ve read in Wonder Woman from the past decade, at least.
Moving on to Captain Marvel #1, this book is freaking awesome. Kelly Sue Deconnick does an amazing job with this first issue. As someone who is unfamiliar with Ms. Marvel, I feel that I did not need to know all of her back story. The essentials are given in a way that seamlessly fits into the story. And the characterization, amazing.
Dexter Soy’s art work is amazing. I rather like the “painted” style of coloring that some Marvel series have been utilizing for a few years now. And the art work here is very good.
So, if you haven’t picked up Earth 2, Dial H, Wonder Woman, and Captain Marvel, why not? Don’t kick yourself later!
Looking forward, I am certain to continue collecting Earth 2 and Dial H. Other DC titles I’ll probably pick up first issues or random jumping on points. I would like to pick up Wonder Woman, Batman, and Justice League Dark, though.
As for drops? Well, I hate to do this, but I’m going to have to walk away from a few titles for now. Stormwatch during Milligan’s run has been very lackluster. So until the direction changes or a new team is placed on the book, I’m done with the title.
The same is true for Teen Titans. I haven’t really kept up with Titans, but what I’ve read and heard does not give me much hope. So, again, I’m done till a new creative team comes on board.
In a previous post, I mentioned that Marvel had nothing that interested me. Well, I was wrong. Captain Marvel looks to be a keeper. And I’m planning on checking out Gambit when it hits later this month.
Looking out to the future, I’m excited by Uncanny Avengers, All New X-Men, and whatever new Young Avengers/Kid Loki/ Teen Heroes book has been teased (as long as it isn’t written by Allan Heinberg).
I realize now that I’ve given Marvel a short shrift over the past few months. I’m positively kicking myself for not having gone after Remender’s Uncanny X-Force and especially Gillen’s Journey into Mystery. But, there are always the collected editions. . .
Anyway, that is it for this post. The months to come look to be very interesting in the world of comics.
I recently reread Dr. No for the first time in several years. Rereading always brings new insights to a work, thereby deepening appreciation and understanding. As some questions are answered, new questions are asked. This leads, of course, to the topic of this post- the problem of Dr. No.
What is the problem of Dr. No? Simple, the shaky foundation upon which Dr. Julius No’s fearsome reputation is built. Despite my love of the character, Dr. No is an idiot.
Until he is buried in guano, No is saved only by the stupidity of others. Seriously, M? Now, I think we can all show the points where Bond mucks things up, but M? Oh my, what is wrong with the Secret Service?
Where does No screw up? Clearly, his failed multiple attempts to assassinate Bond is a starting place. Had No played it cool, like he did with the initial investigation, he would have had no problems. While Bond’s gut tells him Strangways and his secretary would not have run off together, there is no evidence connecting No and Crab Key to the deaths. Instead, No leaves a trail that leads directly to him!
Why? His actions are not ones that lead to people leaving him alone. Especially when there is no evidence.
I think I have an answer. A recurrent problem for many of Bond’s opponents is a need to use Bond as an audience to their greatness. Mr. Big, Drax, and Dr. No expound their excellence, their history, and their philosophy to a captive Bond. It is an ultimately self destructive need for recognition.
And it is a fair point to remember that Dr. No has far larger ambitions beyond just his fiefdom on Crab Key. He is obsessed with the ideas of power and sovereignty. As seen with many real life dictators, there is an obsession with self aggrandizement. Although, I think, No is a little more subdued (perhaps reflecting his weaker circumstances).
In pursuit of power, Dr. No, in a surprise twist, has contracted with the Soviets to derail American missile testing in the area (and to eventually start stealing salvaged missiles that fall near Crab Key). This, of course, leads to his desire to remove the bird sanctuary on the other end of the island. Although he would have likely attacked the sanctuary anyway given that the proposed hotel would have threatened his power regardless.
Speaking of the bird sanctuary, could he have not convinced the Audobon Society to drop their plans if he pointed out the environmental damage that a hotel could potentially inflict upon their precious birds? How long before the tourists scare off the birds?
These flaws in Dr. No’s plans, I think, make him a far more human and interesting character. He is not the mad scientist or the weird god king of Crab Key. Despite my issues with Dr. No and the titular Dr. Julius No, this is still one of my favorite Bond novels.
It has only been a few hours since I walked out of the local Hollywood Theater. The experiences may not have settled yet. This is the first movie I’ve seen in a theater since Rent in 2005. Was The Dark Knight Rises worth it? Hell yes.
The movie is awesome. Simply put. There are flaws, yes, but they are minor compared to what was achieved. And who wants a perfect movie anyway?
I’ll try to keep this spoiler free. Don’t know if I can though.
It has been eight years since Harvey Dent’s death (which climaxed The Dark Knight). Since then, Batman has disappeared and Bruce Wayne has become a recluse. All seems well in Gotham, save for a strong authoritarian streak that hardly seems plausible. Dent Act, really?
This peace is not to last as Bane comes to town. Bane’s assault on the city forces Bruce to break out of his seclusion and don the cape and cowl again. This leads to the film’s version of “the Breaking of the Bat” and the takeover of Gotham by Bane and his men.
The visuals are stunning. I mean damn, Gotham looks good. The action sequences are enthralling. Th emotions elicited by the destruction of Gotham are just powerful.
The cast is also excellent. Anne Hathaway owns the role of Selina Kyle. Tom Hardy is excellent as Bane. And Jason Gordon-Levitt is amazing. Christian Bale and Gary Oldman also do excellent jobs. My only issue is with Michael Caine’s Alfred. There was just something wrong with his scenes. I don’t quite know what it is, though.
The plot itself is great and well realized. Yes, it is too long, but I personally forgot the time while watching it. My only complaints about the plot are: the Dent Act, Bruce’s divorce from the world, the romance with Tate, and some aspects of the prison. Who was the old guy helping Bruce, anyway?
Now, some, myself included, wondered about the focus on the character of John Blake. Why is he getting so much attention? Well, spoiler alert, he is effectively Robin (obviously as that is his actual first name). Blake is, essentially, an amalgam of the first three Robins. He is a cop like Dick Grayson was (while living in Bludhaven), his family come from the wrong side of the law like Jason Todd, and he figures out who Batman is at a young age like Tim Drake.
In many ways, the character of John Blake opens up a (possible) avenue for further films set in this universe. Only Batman is now John Blake rather than the retired Bruce. Of course, in five years or less, the Batman film franchise is going to be rebooted. Why can’t they just Bond the damn comic book movie genre?
I also want to talk a bit about Elektra and Renard, oh, wait, wrong movie. Talia and Bane then. They have a good plan. Though why the obsession with destroying Gotham, I don’t know. It seems just keeping the city as an isolated city state works quite well. But then, the League of Shadows has a hard on for destroying decadent cities.
Now, why do I reference The World is Not Enough? Because, again spoiler alert, Talia and Bane are expies of Elektra and Renard. Bane is the main antagonist, but the false big bad. Meanwhile, Talia is the true mastermind of the scheme, seduces the hero, betrays him, and has issues with her father that fuel her schemes. Now, Talia is a far stronger villain than Elektra is. And Renard is nowhere near the awesomeness that Bane exudes. Talk about chaos. Oh yeah, and the attempted use of a nuclear weapon in their plans is a commonality as well.
Regardless of my quibbles, and they are quibbles, The Dark Knight Rises is one of the best movies I’ve ever seen. If you haven’t seen it, you should.
I don’t know if what follows is really a rant or not. I’m not in the ranting mood, to be honest. But bear with me, because I do want to touch on these two issues that have been bugging me for a while now. First, I’ll start with my main annoyance with the plethora of writing advice on the net. In the second, I’ll shift gears and explore some of my issues with television and web based art instruction.
Advice and Time
It seems the internet, or at least the parts of it I occupy, is awash with various advice sites, blogs, posts, etc. intending to give the writer’s advice on how to write. Now, I do admit some of the advice is useful. But a lot of it is just trash. And the really frustrating thing is that it takes valuable time to sift through the crap to find the gems.
I, and I suspect most writers, don’t have the time to waste going through every blog, site, post, book, video, etc. that imparts someone’s wisdom and advice on the art of writing. Like too much research, seeking advice can prevent a writer from doing the one thing that is guaranteed to help improve their writing- actually writing.
But, advice can be highly useful, too. So what should be done? Find a balance that allows for artistic growth without becoming so bogged down that no progress is made.
The Ghost of Bob Ross
Here’s a secret: I love watching art and sewing instructional programming. Every Sunday afternoon, I plop down to watch Knitting Daily and Fons & Porter’s Love of Quilting among others. I also catch the repeats of Bob Ross’s seminal The Joy of Painting on Create.
My issue, and maybe this is one that should be taken up with my local PBS station, is that there is remarkably few art instructional programs. Rather, the majority of hobby and crafting shows aired on my local PBS (KNCT) are devoted to the needle arts and woodworking. And Create only airs Joy, Schewee Art Workshop, and The Donna Dewberry Show. KNCT itself only airs one art instructional program (which I don’t like). That’s it.
I want more. I want series like The Yarnell School of Fine Art which paints a single painting over the course of several episodes. One of the tragedies of losing KWBU (the now defunct Waco PBS station).
This is where the internet is such a useful thing. On Youtube, I’ve discovered the Artist’s Network channel, which has several interesting previews (if only they also showed the full videos). And I’m a long time subscriber of Mark Crilley’s excellent channel. Plus, Yarnell has a website that includes videos.
But, to be honest, I want more. I want to find more sites and sources for how to draw comics, how to paint with pastels, and more painting shows.
This is, obviously, where the internet can become a pain. Oftentimes, it is a trial to track some of this stuff down. I don’t know if Youtube has finally added a how to or crafting designation. And looking for other sites that feature how to videos is rather annoying. And of course there is always the question of quality.. .
Persistence is, I guess, all one can hope for in this search. Like most of the things I’m interested, the internet is a great resource. But, it can take so much valuable time to sift through the crap to find the gems.
Look for the review of The Dark Knight Rises either tomorrow or Sunday. I may also touch on my thoughts about the Nolan Batman films (as well as the earlier films).
And I’m still aiming at doing a comic book post. Maybe next week. I don’t know if I’ll focus on what I’m reading, DC vs. Marvel, or my general thoughts on comics, comics writing, and corporate vs. creator owned. Then again, next week could just be Comic Book Week One.
Comic Store Heroes
Comic Store Heroes (National Geographic) follows the daily operation of Midtown Comics in New York. The show seems to be an answer to AMC’s Comic Book Men starring Kevin Smith.
The primary difference between the shows is the emphasis on actual store operations rather than the “wacky” stunts featured on CBM. Mind you, I haven’t seen much of CBM as I typically watched Shameless on TIVO (damn scheduling).
What I can say about CSH is that it is highly enjoyable and interesting. I like watching what goes into operating the largest comic shop in the country.
The one flaw in the show, I think, is that there is too much going on. Apart from the two primary narratives (the hunt for Hot Stuff #1 and getting Frank Miller for the booth at NYCC) there are a few segments focused on regular customers (Jill Pantozzi, Chris Notarile, and others).
This style of narrative is often confusing and inhibits getting a better handle on the individual people involved. As it is, what the audience is given are just snippets. I want more depth.
Hopefully, Comic Store Heroes is picked up for series.
I love this new show from the producers of Antiques Roadshow! Market Warriors is rather similar in concept to the British television series called Bargain Hunt. The main difference is that instead of two teams of “players” guided by an expert, the competitors are four experts.
I found the competitors interesting and funny. The way each one approaches the various challenges is unique and interesting.
And the vendors featured at the flea market are equally as interesting. Of especial note is the lady with the hat stall (that hat is a trip!) and the man with the glass stall.
I don’t know if I have anything negative to say, honestly. Maybe the auction section?
Regardless, my Mondays at 8 are now occupied with this wonderful show.
One Last Thing Before I Go:
Here are some of the other blog posts I have a mind to work on this week:
A review of The Dark Knight Rises– after almost seven years, I’m finally going back to the movie theater!
Some blathering about writing and fantasy. More a rant on “advice” and how to deal with it.
I also have a rant on art on television that wants to get out.
And, some more thoughts on comic books.
I’m a lapsed comic book fan who has recently gotten back into comic book reading. In an earlier post, I described myself as a DC fanboy who wants to branch out into smaller publishers and creator owned titles. And I don’t know why I’m not enthusiastic about Marvel. I’ll aim to follow those two threads in another post or two on comics in the near future. What I want to discuss here is how I choose what comics I want to read.
Generally, fans of the Big Two (Marvel and DC) come in (roughly) permutations of two broad categories. Readers in the first category (and likely the most prevalent) are those who follow specific titles and characters. Readers of the second category are those who follow specific creators and creative teams. Now, the key to this formulation lies in permutations. Some readers start out being more character or title centric, but become fans of a specific creator or team and decide to follow their concurrent and subsequent work. And there are many other possible permutations (which can be left alone for now).
I describe myself as a mixture of the two. During my first period of heavy comic book reading, I was strongly character and title driven. Batman, Spider-Man, X-Men, Catwoman, Robin (Tim Drake), Green Lantern (Kyle Rayner), etc. are some of the titles I followed as a kid, creative team unimportant. Flash forward a few years. I’m now increasingly more a creator centric reader rather than a character/ title centric reader. Although the character/ title does still influence what I want to read.
Of the titles I’m following, the two that most align to focusing on character and title are Teen Titans and Stormwatch. The rest of what I follow are mostly geared towards creative teams. In fact, increasingly whether I like the creative team trumps whether or not I am “devoted” to the title or characters.
Being a gay comic book fan (I won’t describe myself as a geek) adds an interesting complication to things. Yes, part of the reason why I picked up Teen Titans and Stormwatch is because of the inclusion of gay heroes. While I am generally interested in the Teen Titans (and Tim Drake), Bunker did play a role in my picking it up. And of course, Stormwatch is notable for having two of the premier gay superheroes in Apollo and the Midnighter. Now, some could consider my picking up Earth 2 as being similarly influenced by Alan Scott’s sexuality. But at the time I picked up Earth 2 #1, I was under the impression that the new gay hero would appear in Geoff Johns’s Justice League! I picked up Earth 2 because I’m a fan of James Robinson.
There is, to a degree, a sort of politics that goes along with following the adventures of gay heroes. It is important to let the major publishers know that diversity is a good thing and encourage further inclusion. I want to read about the adventures of gay heroes. And hell, what about some gay villains, too?
But, this does not mean that I’m going to follow a series with gay characters if I don’t think it is any good. A good example is Stormwatch. Paul Cornell’s initial run is a great read and introduction to the characters. I hate to admit that I missed issues 7 and 8, and I’ve read issues 9 and 10. Right now, I’m not loving Peter Milligan’s run on the series. It seems to be a series of scattered oneshots and character pieces that don’t really go anywhere. Of all the titles I’m following, it is likely that Stormwatch will be the first I drop. Unless something changes.
Now, a few years ago, I was really into Young Avengers. Personally, I think it is a shame how badly mishandled the series was. Once Heinberg left Marvel after the first 12 issues, another creative team should have taken over the book. The occasional miniseries that come out in regards to various Events did the property no favors, in my opinion. Marvel should not have waited for Heinberg to finish out the concept with Children’s Crusade. It should have been a monthly ongoing. Now, fans of the team and its members will have to hope that other writes will release them from the Limbo of Forgotten Characters.
How fans choose to approach reading and collecting comics is an important one. And it is important to understand the reasons behind making conscious selections. Making the right choices can alleviate the frustrations that go along with being comic book fans.
As a gay comic book fan, I think it is important to include glbt characters in a number of roles. As I said earlier, I want to read about gay heroes and villains. But comic book shopping decisions must not be based solely on limited criteria.
To preface this post, I should never read works by the same author one after another. I’m currently stalled with my Ian Fleming reading goal. The sad thing is: I’ve stalled out on Live and Let Die. That goes to show what evil things omnibuses are. . .
This post is largely going to be me blathering about changes I want to do to the blog (and trying to cajole some responses). So, what do I want to change?
I certainly want to change the layout and general design. I don’t know if I’ll change the header design or not. To be honest, I rather like it.
Since the blog’s inception, it has been exclusively text only. I’ve been wanting to change that for a while now. The question, though, is should I make it retroactive and revisit some of my past posts to include images where needed?
Another argument for revisiting old posts is to take a second look at things. There have been a few comments arguing I should revisit my Bas Lag RP and (certainly) my review of Trigun. So, I could do a sort of blast from the past where I revisit posts and compare my thoughts then and now (and include images and other media).
The topics that I’ve covered over the past year and a half have been rather random and dependent on what ever strikes my fancy at any given moment. That general randomness will continue, but I want to more tightly organize things into categories.
I’m certainly going to continue to write about the things that interest me. But I am rather reticent about making the blog more personal and devoting some of my posts to discussing my other writings. Then again, writing about problems I’m having helps me to solve and soldier past them. I’m still undecided. Maybe I can do a trial run composed of several posts and see how I feel about it.
Clearly, despite my not wanting to, I’ve continued to inflict analysis and theorizing on here. What can I say? I’m probably obsessed with the nature and theory of fantasy fiction. And I want to, perhaps, merge some of the ideas I’ve developed with what I learned in my lit. theory classes.
Finally, I’ll make my final decision on how I want Nerd Redefined to look in the coming weeks. If you have any thoughts, ideas, comments, etc. please post in the comments section. So far, I have requests to redo Bas-Lag and Trigun, are there any other requests for taking second looks at some of my previous posts?
Also, look for me to try and be more active elsewhere on other blogs and sites. And that includes links and references as needed here.
To end this post at the beginning, maybe an unsaid reason why I’m no fan of A Song of Ice and Fire is because I simply get bored three hundred pages in. Anyway. I’ll try and track down those damn Fleming Bond novels at my local used book shop when I get the chance.
Oh, Le Chiffre, who was playing “Red Indians?” You or Bond?
In Casino Royale, Bond is undoubtedly an idiot in several respects, to the degree that he should have been fired for gross incompetence. That said, isn’t Le Chiffre an even bigger idiot? Or is he an amateur who makes the fatal mistake of playing with the big boys?
I guess it depends on how the reader interprets his character. He is, purposefully, a cypher, an unknown. Besides a few guesses based on his appearance, not much is known about him before his first documented appearance at the Dachau displaced persons camp.
Was he a Soviet plant even then? Or was he a victim of displacement, forced labor, or the death camp? No one knows for sure, but it sure is fun to speculate.
I’m leaning against the idea that he was a Soviet plant. Rather, I think he gradually became a Soviet agent due to his union affiliation. He made too many mistakes to be a professional. Then again, if Bond is a sterling example of what it means to be an agent. . .
I could be wrong and the man was just making the foolish mistakes that desperate men are wont to make. He did loose an awful lot of his union’s money.
My bet is that he intended to steal it and flee from SMERSH’s vengeance.
The interesting thing about so many of Bond’s villains is that they represent some form of threat to the conservative order that Bond represents. The threat, or Other, is then dehumanized through some form of gross abnormality.
In Le Chiffre’s case, he is clearly meant to represent not only the fifth column but also continual fears held towards members of the lower classes. It is clear that Le Chiffre does not belong in such a relatively elite establishment as the Casino Royale. He is pantomiming being a banker, a gentleman. Rather he is a thug, though espousing communist sympathies, he is more criminal than ideologue.
Beyond his physical description (which is often used to beastify Bond’s enemies) many of Le Chiffre’s personality traits and addictions paint him as Other. He is rumored to have invested in the bordello business so that he could freely enjoy his employees, and he is brutal in his methods of eliminating his competition.
Le Chiffre, as the first Bond Villain, has the elements that will make his successors all the more memorable. In this first villain, there are flaws. But those flaws become ironed out as the novels become better and better.
Next time: The Zombie Gangster!
I finally rewatched David Lynch’s adaptation of Frank Herbert’s Dune yesterday. It has been years since I first watched it, and I am glad I got a chance to give it a second look. On the whole, I like the movie despite its many flaws. Personally, I prefer the SciFi miniseries of Dune, but that is a post for another day.
To be honest, any third remake of Dune should either be in two parts (if a film) or a television miniseries. Dune is a sprawling, epic story. It needs room to breath. The biggest flaw of Lynch’s movie, to me, is that the second and third acts are terribly condensed in favor of a long first act. This leads to a loss of dramatic action in the later parts of the film.
Another flaw is, I think, the depiction of House Harkonnen as a bunch of raving lunatics. Years ago, I did a practice research paper questioning whether the Harkonnen are as terrible as they are depicted. Certainly, the Harkonnen are tyrants. Where the Atreides coerce action through loyalty, friendship, and a willingness for self sacrifice, the Harkonnen coerce loyalty through violence, intimidation, and bribery. The Harkonnen court is one of decadence, death, and destruction.
But Vladimir Harkonnen is not insane, he is not a raving lunatic. He is a calm, manipulative figure who wants the control of the empire. He is sinister, not a cartoon.
Now, my favorite parts of the movie are the story telling technique and the over all visual style.
I enjoy the way Lynch tells the story. The asides and interior monologues give the impression not so much of a straight of movie, but a filmed play. There is an operatic element to the work that may put most movie goes off, but which I find extremely fascinating.
Visually, the film is gorgeous (save for those ridiculous costumes the Harkonnens wear). The uniforms and various costumes are lovely. The landscapes are visually arresting. And the ship designs zre great. Not to mention the general look of the Navigators and the Bene Gesserit.
Seriously, the folding space sequence is amazing!
Overall, is Dune directed by David Lynch an ideal adaptation of Herbert’s masterpiece? Honestly, no. But it works regardless. It is a movie I enjoy watching whenever I get the chance.
Why do I like the James Bond novels written by Ian Fleming? After giving it considerable thought, I’ve hit on three elements of the series that I especially find appealing. They are: the villains, the descriptions, and the general flavor of the period.
Bond, though not a superhero, depends on his villains. Bond is intentionally a “boring” character, though he does become a stronger personality as the stories progress. But he is nothing compared to the colorful assortment of enemies he has to put down.
Each one is, in my opinion, far more interesting than Bond himself. Mind you, I am pro villain. I played Cobra not G.I. Joe. So, my interests lie with the villain, not the hero.
Personally, I find Bond to be insufferable sometimes. He is the paragon of fifties conservatism (if not somewhat more reactionary). He is misogynistic, racist, homophobic, jinogistic, etc. Sometimes, I wonder if I only read Bond because I’m rooting for his villains.
Damn stupid luck that the bastard always wins.
Fleming’s strength as a writer lies not only in his pacing and plot structure but in his descriptions as well. They’re not flowery or long winded. Rather, a very workman like, no nonsense approach is taken that imparts a concrete poetry.
When I read his descriptive passages, I’m swept up in seeing what ever it is that he is describing at that moment. Those passages don’t weigh down the pace, but rather enhance it.
Flavor of the Period
If I were a historian (or literary scholar), my area of expertise would undoubtedly lie in the twentieth century. And Fleming’s Bond is intimately tied to the events going on in the mid twentieth century. Bond is about loss of power and finding new avenues of expressing power. And Bond is about the nostalgia for empire and about the fantasies of relevance.
Fleming was a reporter as well as spy. His power to draw upon those experiences enhances the novel’s world building. While Bond represents a particular flavor of worldview, it is one that is especially interesting for writers in similar genres.
To conclude, I have a fraught relationship with the Bond novels. Though it has often been said that men want to be Bond and women want to sleep with him, I neither want to be him or sleep with him (for that matter). What I am interested in are his villains and the window the novels open on a bygone era.
Look forward to the next installment of Reading Bond. Le Chiffre stars in “The Amateur Cypher!”