Saturday, March 25, 2006

NEWSARAMA - DAN SLOTT WANT YOU TO PULL HIS "THING": "Dan Slott loves writing Marvel's The Thing, he just doesn't know how long he'll be able to keep on writing it. Early sales on the ongoing series leave something to be desired, and if things don't change ... well, you know the rest."

You see? I decide to stop buying a comic book, and they totally freak out!
Truth, Justin and the American Way - HOSTED BY SPEAKEASY.NET

Did I mention how much fun this comic was? A love letter to TV shows of the 80s, particularly Greatest American Hero, but the characters and story have a life of their own beyond the homage.
Home Page for Gary Reed, writer of Saint Germaine, Baker Street,
Renfield, and many other books.
A brand new Raven Chronicles series will be coming in 2006
Atlantis Publishing. Atlantis will handle the production but it is
yet to be determined what company will handle the distribution of
it. note: The artist on the book will be TREVOR VON EEDEN. I'm
jacked about that! ALSO- the original series is currently being run on as an online comic."

A sentimental favorite from the 90s, and I'm a huge Trevor Von Eeden fan.
Is it possible to eat so much sushi that you have an out-of-body experience?

Okay, so here’s this week’s Magic Moments from Doctor Who: The Unquiet Dead:

To tell the truth, before seeing this episode again last night, I was having trouble remembering specific moments that stood out. I mean, come on! The Doctor! Rose! Charles Dickens! Victorian zombies! Any individual moments would just be drowned out by all that wonderfulness, in theory.

But, great as the whole thing was, here are the bits that really stood out on viewing it again, plus one other...

The conversation between Rose and the Doctor, about how moments pass and then they’re gone, except for him. About how it’s no wonder he never stands still if he can relive any moment in history. Once again, too many other shows--including classic Doctor Who just take it for granted, the idea of traveling through time. This show takes the time to talk about the wonder and magic. (Compare that to either Stargate, where stepping through the gate and onto another planet is treated with all the excitement of taking the bus across town.)

Sadly, another great moment was lost in this broadcast, to make room for more commercials. (The show was originally 45 minutes, including an extended “next week” trailer because they were running short. Just how much more does SciFi need?) It’s the moment when Rose first steps out of the TARDIS into the past. Yes, we did get to see her taking her first tentative step out into the snow of history. But in the full version, we get to her her tell the Doctor that he has to wait for her to go out first. “This one’s mine,” she tells him, and again, there’s the magic and wonder.

And as much as I love the Doctor’s coach ride with Dickens--and love it I do--it hardly holds a candle to their farewell scene. I feel a lump in my heart every time I see it, when Dickens asks how long his work survives, and the Doctor tells him, “Forever!” There’s nothing I can say, really, except again, fantastic.

(And, again, compare this with the Doctor meeting HG Wells in the 1985 episode, Timelash. Or, you know, don’t, because it’s not any good compared to The Unquiet Dead.)

Thankfully, Mark Gatiss has another episode in Series Two. And in the meantime, while completely different in tone, I recommend his novel, The Vesuvius Club. More Victorian madness, but much more tongue-in-cheek. But not quite as mad as League of Gentlemen. So there you go.

And I have a new favorite CD and musical crush: Under a Shady Tree by Laurie Berkner. Yes, it’s a kid’s album, but it’s like a kid’s album by Suzanne Vega. Totally in love.

So pretty I had to document it before eating it.

Bob Newhart, Button-Down Comic, Is Still Standing Up at 76 - New York Times: "But a comedian craves the sound of laughter, and Mr. Newhart, though happily deep into his golf-playing years, cannot stay away from the stand-up circuit. He does about 30 dates a year, mostly on short weekend trips. "

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Final 'Blood Fever' U.S. Cover Art Revealed - James Bond 007 - - James Bond At Its Best: "The Blood Fever hardcover will be released in June 2006. Unlike the U.S. SilverFin, it will not be edited for content."

Ironically, I bought the British edition of Blood Fever just because SilverFin had been edited in the US edition. And the US hardcover looks nicer, and is in hardcover (so it would be a matching set) and isn't edited after all. Figures...

This is nice. (I'm the one on the left.)

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Having talked about my deep dissatisfaction with DC’s Infinite Crisis, I thought I ought to talk a little about comics that I am enjoying.

I should also point out that, following my stay in the hospital last month, I found that I just wasn’t enjoying a lot of the things I had been enjoying. And it isn’t as simple as just cutting out all the frivolous things, although a lot of the comics I couldn’t muster any enthusiasm for happened to be company-owned superhero ones, like Marvel’s Thing and Hulk. No, I stopped watching a number of TV shows I had previously been enjoying, like The Shield, Ghost Whisperer, One Tree Hill, Close to Home, and NUMB3RS.

So, when I say I’m not interested in a lot of the stuff Marvel and DC are putting out, it’s as much my own changing tastes, if not more, than it is a lack of quality on their part. Unless it’s a comic being written by Geoff Johns these days, in which case it probably is his fault.

Having said that, my favorite of DC’s “One Year Later” comics is probably the new issue of Birds of Prey. Writer Gail Simone, since taking over the title, has really made it feel like a comic about a group of female friends who fight crime. Not to say that series creator Chuck Dixon didn’t do a fine job on his long run, but it was always more of a straight adventure book that happened to feature female protagonists. Under Gail Simone, the character interaction has been about friendship and emotion and support and bonding, and not about romance, the traditional default character development mode when dealing with female characters.

And it’s still a great action series, and good at dealing with the whole superhero/supervillain conflict thing. Mainly because it doesn’t rely on the crutch of bringing back characters and conflicts from 20 years ago, instead creating its own drama and suspense from within its own stories. Cliffhangers aren’t dependent on the shock value of making the reader go, “Oh my God, it’s Doctor Doom!” (Or whoever.) It’s genuinely exciting in its own right, and thanks to the changes that occurred in the unseen past year of story-time, it’s got me even more curious than before.

And I’m really glad to hear that Gail has a creator-owned series, Tranquility, coming from Wildstorm later this year.

Over the weekend, I read the first Rocketo trade paperback, Journey to the Hidden Sea by Frank Espinosa. I had heard about this series when it was published by now-defunct publisher Speakeasy, but--indicative of Speakeasy’s shortcomings as a publisher--didn’t get a real sense of it until several issues were out, and then I couldn’t find any of them at the store. But it’s great. The art is fantastic, in a sort of mix between Alex Raymond and Darwyn Cooke, showing a huge European influence (no coincidence that a major character is named Spirou). And the story lives up to the art. It’s very much in the spirit of old pulp science fiction, all sorts of weird stuff going on, but without trying to ape the style of those old stories or comics. Definitely looking forward to future issues.

In a similar “Pulp Science Fiction” vein, I also bought and read the three existing issues of Hip Flask by Richard Starkings (with dialogue help in the first two by Joe Casey) and Ladronn. I had heard of the series, knew it was somehow about a talking hippo in a trench coat, and that the art seemed really nice in a Heavy Metal sort of way, but that was about it. Then I read an article about a new monthly series, Elephantmen, tying in with the series, and I was intrigued. So I ordered the Hip Flask issues to see if I liked them enough to want to read the monthly series.

And I did. Again, there’s a pulp influence (very noir, investigators in trench coats, talking animals living side by side with humans) but filtered through a contemporary storytelling lens. The setting is much more Blade Runner than Isaac Asimov or CM Kornbluth or whoever (like I know). And it is gorgeous, but the story is pretty gripping and involving, too. Definitely planning on checking out the monthly series.

I recently stumbled across the web site of Ron Fortier, a friend of a friend, and someone whose work I used to really enjoy in comics. On it, he claims:

“A devoted grandfather of six, at 59, I am thrilled to be part of the new web-comic evolution. Part of this joy is in the realization of a life long dream, that of becoming a pulp writer...”

And I can’t help wondering, who wants to become a pulp writer, in this day and age? I mean, I used to read reprints of The Shadow and Doc Savage (Google ‘em) and if I want to read more stories like that, I can track down more reprints. But, just like I don’t want to read new comics by young creators that are just like the ones I read 20 years ago, I don’t want to read a new book that reads just like some pulp adventure that someone churned out in a week back in 1932 at a penny a word. I’d much rather read something like Rocketo or Hip Flask or Fear Agent, something that takes those old stories as a starting point, but uses those influences to create something that feels very contemporary.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

So, sometime in the last ten years, the Doctor Who Magazine ran an article about “Magic Moments” in the history of the series, moments when you know you’re watching the greatest TV show ever made.

With the arrival of the show on SciFi, I’ve decided to make a list of my own magic moments from the new series.


The moment when the Doctor introduces himself to Rose, then tells her to run for her life, always brings a smile to my face. That’s the point at which I knew that Christopher Eccleston was playing the Doctor that I had grown up with and loved. Just about every other telefantasy series--or everything else, for that matter--features characters who do what they do because it’s their job. The Doctor has such a passion for doing the right thing, fighting the monsters of the universe, and Eccleston’s grin captures that so perfectly.

Then there’s the Rose/Doctor walk-&-talk, after they’ve fought the Auton arm in her flat. The bit where he talks about how he can feel the earth spinning beneath their feet is mesmerizing, but the part that really sticks with me is much more subtle. It’s when he’s telling her about the Auton invasion, then stops and asks if she’s all right. That moment, so brief, so natural, so human, shows the emotional depth that this show has, that so many others don’t.

It comes up again when Rose enters the TARDIS again, which is part of why that’s another favorite scene. But really, that whole sequence is handled so well. Maybe it was the overfamiliarity you get when a show has been on for decades, but the original series didn’t treat the reveal of the TARDIS interior to newcomers as anything special. Certainly in the last ten years of its history, the whole “It’s bigger inside than outside” became something so quickly brush past. This new series understands just what a big deal it is for Rose to go inside the ship, and her dialogue with the Doctor shows that he understands it, too.

End of the World

One of my favorite episodes overall, but three bits really stick out for me:

I love the whole precredits sequence, starting with Rose’s first trip through time all the way through the Doctor’s short speech about humanity surviving. The time-travelling bit is fantastic, capturing all the excitement and energy that Rose is doubtless feeling. The previous series had made TARDIS travel seem about as exciting as an elevator ride. And then, the Doctor’s speech... Too often, the most reflection anyone does on traveling into the future on TV is, “Ooh, look! Air cars!” In an increasingly uncertain world, the true wonders of the future are probably less the bright and shiny things, and more the notion that there is a future at all. The Doctor captures that, oh so poetically, and I always feel a lump in my chest when I hear it.

Then there’s the cell phone scene, when Rose calls back in time, five billion years, to speak to her mother. Not only has Doctor Who rarely had such emotional content in the past, neither have many shows. Here, we get a gentle, quiet reminder that despite the alien wonders of the future, what’s really important are family and loved ones. The show should be applauded for taking the time for this character moment.

And then there’s the final scene, with the Doctor and Rose on a crowded street, where he tells her about his past. Again, if this were Buffy or Angel or Stargate, this would be treated with tremendous portent, because any sort of big character revelation could only be setup for some big mythology-based story in the future. Here, it’s treated just as the Doctor sharing something of himself. It’s a big moment, yeah, but a big character moment, not a plot one. And, again, Chris Eccleston and Billie Piper totally sell it.