Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Answer to Trivia Question

Remember last week I said a character in the WildStorms game had a power they never displayed in the books? Boy, turns out I was wrong... and I was sharper back then than I thought I was! Yay, me!

I'd thought that Rainmaker from Gen13 had not been able to fly, for some reason, but turns out she could. Good thing we gave her that power in the card game, huh?

Anyway, the joke's on me.

This Week in Comics: August 27, 2008

First, a big HAPPY BIRTHDAY to my sister Beth, whose birthday is August 27. She's the best.

As for this week's comics, I'm looking at buying...

  • KICK ASS #4
  • REIGN IN HELL #2 (OF 8)
  • RUNAWAYS 3 #1 (Kat is a huge fan of the series)
  • SUPERMAN #679
  • TRINITY #13

Like always, the titles in italics are maybes; if I don't get them, it won't break my heart.

Come back Thursday for my exciting and all new GRADING THE COMICS!

Monday, August 25, 2008

Vicky Cristina Barcelona

Kat and I saw Woody Allen's new movie yesterday and enjoyed it, despite a few "whuh?" moments. In brief, no spoilers, it's about two close friends (Vicky [Rebecca Hall] and Cristina [Scarlett Johansson]) who spend the summer in Barcelona and go on very different journeys of self-discovery (mostly of a romantic nature). Part of the story revolves around Juan Antonio (Javier Bardem) and his emotionally volatile ex-wife Maria Elena (Penelope Cruz, who is in less of the film than you might think).

The movie provoked some serious conversation between us at Starbucks afterward, and then later in our condo's jacuzzi. We thought the stars did an excellent job navigating Allen's complex storylines and penchant for ambiguity; I empathized with Johansson's character, having been a bit of a searcher myself earlier in life, while Kat understood Hall's character (even though she made different choices for herself than Vicky ultimately did).

Interesting film--not necessarily on Allen's short list of all-time greats, but still entertaining, thought provoking and insightful all at once.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

DC Universe Online Game

How many of you are going to jump on this the minute it's out?

I plan on being one of that number. Thing is, I have ideas for two characters and am morbidly certain that the names will be 'jacked, even if the premises aren't. We'll see. Maybe I'll get lucky.

Haven't seen too much so far, but it looks like Sony Entertainment is making a real all-star game here. I'll put some links into this post later... for now, I'm just thinking out loud.


WildStorm Odds and Ends

Dredging up memories of WildStorm, I came across a few random thoughts I'll toss onto the blog here. I remember...

--Jim Lee calling me at 11:30 at night in 1995, to go in and discuss the card game. (I was already in bed but got to the studio in about 20 minutes, since I lived maybe a half-mile away.) Probably one of three times I was in Jim's office talking one-on-one. Gotta say, he really is one of the nicest guys in the biz. I still have the notes from that meeting, where he sketched a Grifter profile while we were talking. (Yes! Jim Lee original art! :) Even better, Jim's a smart guy, asked a lot of great questions about games, and was eager to see the game come out. There's days I wish I was still working for the dude.

--watching the OJ Simpson verdict in Jim's office, along with the rest of the day shift, and wondering if we'd have riots in La Jolla too.

--hanging out in the offices of various artists, chatting with folks like Whilce Portacio, Scott Williams and his assistant JD, Joe Chiodo and his assistant Martin, Trevor Scott, Sandra Hope, Wendy Fouts, Mat Broome, Jeff Rebner and Tom McWeeney, John Tighe (who played the WildStorms game to win!), and a bunch more...

--talking Gen13 backstory with Adam Hughes while he worked in the studio (great guy, btw)

--going to lunch with Tom Harrington (my office mate) and Barb Kesel to talk WildStorm history in preparation for her series (a lunch that got my higher-ups furious with me, 'cause the book wasn't my project)

--the 1994 WildStorm/Homage Studios Christmas party, where we went bowling, eating and riding around on a huge bus, very possibly the most fun office Christmas party I've been to save Activision's

--doing endless comic book runs to Diamond Distribution and picking up the books for the whole studio (being an assistant editor does have its unglamorous side, kids)

--getting to write hundreds and hundreds of card backs for Ted Adams (founder of IDW, btw)

--and going to San Diego Comic-Con twice on the company dime... the second time after I'd been fired, through the courtesy of a friend.

Wow, memories. Funny thing-- I saw Warren Ellis in NYC back in '01 and we talked WildStorm for all of three minutes. He asked, "Do you miss it?" And I told him, "Sometimes, yeah."

Still do.

Star Wars: The Decline and Fall

Hey folks-

Once in awhile, you read something that really touches a nerve. In this case, I read Drew McWeeny's post on Ain't It Cool News about his fanboy love of Star Wars and the break-up a decade in the making. It's really sad but honest as all hell.

McWeeny writes on AICN under the pen name Moriarty. He reviews movies and scripts, while building up his own resume as a screenwriter (he's had a few things produced and seems to be coming along well in the industry, if a remote observer like me can be any kind of judge). Well, it seems he ticked off Lucasfilm and the Bearded One himself with his review of Phantom Menace, way back in 1999 or so, and thus incurred their wrath in ways great and small.

Ultimately, he said (in the above post), he's had enough. Lucas won-- he won't write about Star Wars again.

I think articles like this highlight something I came to believe awhile ago: George Lucas went from being Luke Skywalker to being the Emperor.

Star Wars (the original--I've never called it "the fourth movie" or "A New Hope" and never intend to) was something I saw 23 times in the theaters. Think about that. From the age of 12 on, I used a tiny fortune (or so it seemed to me then) to watch the same movie 23 times.

I can't say the same about Empire Strikes Back-- I didn't like it as much at the time and didn't feel like spending that much money. In retrospect, I think Empire was a better film--better written and much better directed, for all that it built upon Lucas's original.

I hated Return of the Jedi. Did you know Obi-Wan, the Merlin to Luke's prospective Arthur, is a liar? ("from a certain point of view" my ass.) I didn't... and I hated that that was the path Lucas took, snapping up the intriguing bait offered (but not substantiated) by Kasdan and Brackett. Luke and Leia are brother and sister, a tribe of furry teddy bears can overcome the military forces of an interstellar atrocity machine, and Darth Vader is completely redeemed for two decades of evil by tossing his boss down a shaft. What a crapfest. I wanted Luke to find out Vader wasn't his dad--it was Vader who was lying. I wanted Luke to end up with Leia; Han Solo could snuggle up with Chewbacca for all I cared, he wasn't the hero of the story. (Turns out Luke wasn't either.)

Then a whole bunch of years go by and I see Phantom Menace and think... WTF? To see a really bad movie and then be told that the whole series was meant for kids? Please. Pretend all you want but don't talk down to me. (Side note: does anyone else notice Lucas has a penchant for creating tough-looking bada$$ characters and then totally punking them with lame death scenes? Boba Fett, Darth Maul, General Grievous--okay, maybe that last guy wasn't THAT tough-looking but still, he died like a punk. So what gives? Maybe he just has a thing for disposable villains who look good but can't deliver. Personally, I think Vader would have gone the same way--knocked off by Luke in the second movie, maybe--if he hadn't become a fan favorite.)

I saw Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith almost incidentally. Sith came out the day before I got married, back in '05, and I saw it more as a goodbye to my vastly prolonged childhood than anything else. Turns out it wasn't that bad, despite Hayden Christensen. (On the other hand, I guess we know for certain that strength in the Force and being a crybaby are both genetic traits of the Skywalkers...)

The upshot? The movies don't have any real heart and haven't for a long time--they're just the product of an industrial process more concerned with technical wizardry than storytelling. Lucas can construct a dazzling movie but he can't tell a story. It's as simple as that. And his efforts are aimed more at merchandising his properties than doing anything worthwhile with them.

(I should point out, in the interest of fairness, that I have read and enjoyed many of the Star Wars novels put out by Ballantine and Lucas Books. Those authors have turned a sow's ear into a silk purse more than once. Might be nice if the movie folks took a cue from the talented writing group they've assembled...)

Ah well. I enjoyed Star Wars an awful lot as a kid. Maybe it's better to let those memories lie undisturbed and not try to recapture that particular lightning in a bottle. I have better things to do with my time.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Comic Book Memories: FIRE FROM HEAVEN

The other day at Ye Olde Local Comics Shop (aka the LCS), someone asked me about FIRE FROM HEAVEN, the WildStorm mega-crossover event of 1996. Their fundamental point was: "I have no idea what happened in that story."

Well, I was there...

We had an offsite editorial meeting in early 1996, led by Jonathan Peterson. JP was our editor-in-chief about then and had it in mind to do a really big story to tie up some loose ends. Such as:

  • whatever happened to the Kherubim and Daemonite spaceships that brought these two races (and their millennia-long war) to Earth?
  • what was the source of the Gen-Factor, the biochemical that turned Team 7 (and their kids) Gen-Active?
  • who were the parents of the Gen13 kids?

And we had a few other things we wanted to "reveal" or accomplish as well...

  • Spartan's origin
  • Backlash's origin
  • a traitor in the StormWatch ranks (which was a story I got to write, btw, with one of the bloodiest on-panel deaths the company had had to date)
  • who's stronger: Dane or Battalion? (another story I got to write)
  • killing off Cyberjack from BACKLASH and Miles Craven from WETWORKS
  • who is Kaizen Gamorra really? And what connection did he have to Spartan (as alluded to by Emp in an early issue of WildCATS)?
  • launching DV8, Warren Ellis' "dark Gen13"
  • and probably some other stuff I'm forgetting. If you care to know the answers to the above, you can follow the first link to the Wikipedia entry and find out all the dirt.

Anyway, we covered two or three white boards in a hotel conference room with character names, notes and arrows linking them together. It seemed exciting at the time, this feeling of "okay, that guy is REALLY this other guy and he's doing this because..." and so on.

Needless to say, it was a struggle from the beginning. We were supposed to release the books on a set schedule, but WildStorm had never been a particularly punctual outfit--so delays meant that a) momentum and b) coherence were sacrificed as chapters were told out of order. Don't get me wrong, it had the elements and did have a lasting impact on WildStorm's titles--there were concepts introduced and back story laid out--but it did suffer from shipping and scheduling problems. For example, we didn't even tell the end of the story in the second bookend; it was in Deathblow #28.

As I said above, I got to write the StormWatch issue wherein Flashpoint is revealed as a traitor. Why Flashpoint? He was a jerk, he had a history of clashing with Battalion, and nobody in our office had any trouble imagining he was secretly working with Kaizen Gamorra. We hadn't laid any real groundwork for it--heck, he blows a hand off the four-armed Brutus in the same issue wherein he's outed, which is kind of weird if he's working for Brutus's sponsor (Gamorra)--but we liked the idea of having an "enemy within" as StormWatch gets into the fray. There are a lot of things I would have done differently in retrospect but that final Battalion/Flashpoint fight was a good one and helped establish Battalion as a ruthless enemy.

Apart from that, and the Battalion-Dane throwdown in #36 (which was fun, since I was editing StormWatch and WetWorks both, so I knew the characters pretty well AND got to use the joke "Your name is Jackson? Mine too!" for the first time [Steven Grant used it later, when he was writing WetWorks]), those two issues of StormWatch weren't all that good.

If I had it to do over again, I would have framed my two issues as a history lesson taught to a group of posthuman kids by the last surviving member of that era's StormWatch. We see the highlights of what goes on, the back-and-forth in flashback, a couple more heroic deaths (we could've sacrificed a couple more characters at that point)... and end with the reveal that Fuji was the one teaching the lesson and he's the only one left of that group, some 200+ years later. But that's what I would have done, or maybe should have done, not what I did. Oh well.

We did do a real nice job on the FFH trade paperback-- it was pretty much the last thing at WildStorm I ever touched, and my name was removed from the credits (kind of a vindictive little stroke from Mike Heisler, I'm guessing, the two-bit rat bastard), but I did get the book through production and up to print before I got canned. If you ever have an interest in reading the story in one shot, give the collection a glance.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Drew's Blues

I dislike the way that my blog is trending, with the political content. This should be a more upbeat space and my outrage is anything but.

So I'm creating a new blog that will be called Drew's Blues. There's where you'll find my political content. I'll move my current political posts there and vent about all sorts of political stuff, while this blog will go back to dwelling on... okay, everything else besides politics. (And I guess you can figure out my political orientation from the color choice...)

Visit Drew's Blues and we'll talk!

Friday, August 15, 2008

Why I'm Happy Today: A Question Figure for the JLU Line!

Happiness is an Action Figure
Okay, you've seen the blog (else you wouldn't be here reading this) so you know I'm a fan of The Question. (That's the faceless guy in my blog's header, lovingly designed by Kat.)
Created by legendary Spider-Man co-creator Steve Ditko for Charlton Comics, The Question was Vic Sage, two-fisted radio journalist and investigative reporter. In his original incarnation, as written by Ditko, Sage was a relentless, rigidly moral crusader who believed that "A is always A" and that evil must be punished ruthlessly. He was an embodiment of Objectivism, a philosophy created by novelist Ayn Rand. (I won't go into the details here but the Wikipedia entry makes for interesting reading.)
This version was the inspiration for Rorschach from Watchmen by Alan Moore.
Other versions followed. Denny O'Neil reconstructed Sage from the ground up in the 1980s in his "The Question" series for DC Comics (DC had acquired the Charlton characters and this was part of an effort to make use of them). This version of Sage was more philosophically complex, casting him as a seeker of truth, including his own murky origins as an orphan prone to trouble and having boundless curiosity. This series achieved considerable success but eventually trailed off into guest appearances in other books.
(Are you sick of reading this yet?)
Anyway, the Justice League Unlimited animated series reinvented The Question once again. Voiced by the peerless Jeffrey Combs (Re-Animator, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine), this Question was a conspiracy theorist and borderline nutcase (or at least, that's what his fellow heroes thought) who was willing to take the fall when he exposed a horrific plot. He also had the Huntress as a girlfriend, giving him a couple of the best JLU episodes ever.
Mattel had not made a figure of The Question--apparently there were some rights issues around him and Captain Atom, another Charlton hero who had appeared in the show. But it appears those issues are resolved.
Glory be!
The Question and Captain Atom (the latter of which is now available) are Target exclusives, now that Mattel has forged a retail pact with the bullseye retail giant, along with many more to come.
I could not be happier. I have no idea if I will ever be able to find this figure on the shelves--seems like the toys are ALWAYS gone by the time I get there--but I can always hold out hope for eBay. But if anyone from Mattel is reading this post... hey, I'll plug the toys from here till Doomsday if you send one my way!
Of interest: Wikipedia on JLU toys and The Question

Thursday, August 14, 2008

On a Happier Note

Today's my birthday. Yay for me!
Turned 44 and spent it enjoying my day immensely, with visits to a handful of stores, a bit of writing, and ending with a great dinner with Kat.
I've been wondering at the passion and outrage I've brought to these posts lately. The issue for me is making the world better for my child-to-be.
Think about it.
What else is there to be passionate about?

Friday, August 8, 2008

Grading the Comics: August 8, 2008

You're probably watching the Olympics, my friendly readers, but just in case...

  • AUTHORITY #1 - Okay, the WildStorm Earth is WAY messed up. Gotta see how this plays out but it's a different kind of place to set superhero stories. The heroes are facing serious problems on several fronts, not the least of which is that half the team is... well, let's just say they've seen better days as a group and leave it at that. And things are not looking up, either. B
  • BOYS #21 - Part three of a four-part digging into the back story of why things are so jacked up in NYC especially, it has a lot to say about how superheroes don't work the way we think--even in the most cliche of situations. A-
  • FINAL CRISIS #3 (OF 7) - Gotta admit, I'm not sure where this is going or what I think of it. Some interesting images but I don't know if it jells for me. Still, Barry's back! B-
  • FX #6 (OF 6) - A neat six-issue mini, tightly plotted and very well drawn, with a cool Silver Age vibe to it. Here's hoping there's more on the way. A
  • HULK #5 - Is it me or is the Red Hulk way too powerful to believe? C'mon, a monster that shrugs off She-Hulk or Abomination (old and new) I can buy... shrugs off original green Hulk, maybe... shrugs off Thor slamming Mjolnir into his face? Um, no. Well drawn but the enemy is amped beyond my suspension of disbelief load limit. C-
  • STAR TREK ASSIGNMENT EARTH #4 - A nice done-in-one from John Byrne, who has a real affinity for Classic Trek. Hopefully he'll be on this title for a long while to come, 'cause I'm enjoying it a lot. A
  • TRINITY #10 - Some interesting ideas but I'm not any closer to knowing if I like this story or not. Great art but... I'm not locking into the story. C+
  • ULTIMATE ORIGINS #3 (OF 5) - Another story that seems a little too unfocused. We get to see Young Magneto and Young Professor X doing their bonding thing in the Savage Land, amid the original Brotherhood (guess the Evil Mutants part came later), while the modern FF try to figure out what this HAL 9000-meets-Stone Age probe is supposed to be doing. Um... halfway through and I have no idea what's really going on. Not good. C

Okay, that's it for this week. Overall not bad but not stellar either. Comments?

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Funniest Thing I've Seen Today

Y'know, I'm convinced Paris Hilton is much smarter than anyone thinks. Her persona is a front--a way for her to make money and be famous without having too great a burden placed on her.

After all, if everyone "knows" she's a ditz, then she doesn't have to bother with the responsibility of using that fame to do anything hard or not-fun.

But look at this-


Oddly enough, her energy plan makes sense.

News of Significance!

We're having a baby.

Okay, here's the news.
Check the images.

Kat is approximately 11-12 weeks now (at the cusp of the second trimester) and overall doing fairly well. No morning sickness, at least!

No idea whether it's a boy or girl (and yes, we want to know). The next sonogram is October 13.

Coming March 1. A Kat-and-Drew Production.

Monday, August 4, 2008

This Week's Comics

Hey folks,
What am I buying this week? Let's see...

  • BOYS #21
  • FINAL CRISIS #3 (OF 7)
  • FX #6 (OF 6)
  • HULK #5
  • TRINITY #10

Not much on the list is really blowing me away as "must read" material, I'll be honest. FINAL CRISIS probably comes closest, though TRINITY has been more fun than I expected and BOYS is enjoyable in a darkly perverse way.

Is DETECTIVE still "Heart of Hush"? If so... I'll pass. I don't care enough about Batman's twisted childhood friend to follow the story with my $2.99.

Looks like this is the (temporary?) end of FX-- it's been fun and has a very retro/Silver Age feel to it, so I hope it'll be back.