Friday, November 24, 2006

Entertainment News #1


The Internet was rocked today by yet another series of articles appearing at a variety of 'Doctor Who' fansites attempting to debunk the "spurious rumours" of a new television series of 'Doctor Who'. The series, which originally ran from 1963 to 1989, generated hundreds of hoaxes, imitations, fan productions, and ill-fated attempts to revive the series during its fifteen years off the air, a saga which has apparently left some fans so jumpy they continue to write off the existence of the new series as "wishful thinking".

Bryce Harlington, President of the "Campaign For House Calls", says he is "saddened" by the rumours. "As a savvy fan, I've learned to disbelieve the more outrageous claims I've heard about Doctor Who's return to our screen. Claims of big movie stars like John Cleese or Christopher Eccleston attaching their names to the project are clear signs of either a 'whoax' or a delusional fan who just misses the series too much to give it up. And of course, the companion rumours are always about the latest piece of eye candy. Every single one of the Spice Girls, for example, had their turn at the rumour mill, just because they were good-looking young pop stars. I hardly think that a producer would leap at that chance."

When confronted with numerous pieces of evidence of the existence of the new series, Harlington became defensive. "A 'Radio Times' cover for the final episode of series two? Oh, yes, and I see they're claiming it's just as exciting as the World Cup match. And the description of the plot? Purest fan-fiction of the lowest grade."

And yet, Harlington remains optimistic. "I do think that the BBC will someday see the deep and abiding affection that fans retain for the series, even now. They have to, because it won't go away. Why, just the other day, I found some bootleg fan productions online. They look just as good as some professional TV science-fiction series out there, and they're all done by Doctor Who fans with credits in the industry--Russell T Davies, Mark Gatiss, even Steven Moffat took some time out from his professional TV work to do a couple of episodes, and they're every bit as good as anything Big Finish ever made."

When it was pointed out that Moffat won a Hugo Award for his work on the new series, Harlington responded, "Oh, sure. And I suppose it swept the National Television Awards two years running."

Friday, November 17, 2006

All You Need To Know About Civil War

Marvel's latest crossover, 'Civil War', is supposed to be a big fight between Marvel's super-heroes over the idea of deputizing themselves as government agents; a fight where there is no "right" or "wrong", but where both sides have legitimate points to make. It's kind of failing miserably at that, because so many different writers are handling the same characters that it's hard to maintain a consistent tone--one second, Iron Man's a cheerful fascist who's setting up a police state, and the next, he's agonizing over his fights against his friends in the name of justice.

The schizophrenic nature of the crossover can be summed up in a single scene: At the end of an issue of Amazing Spider-Man, Spidey, who's been pro-reg, changes his mind and prepares to leave. Tony Stark, as Iron Man, comes crashing through the wall, body-tackling Spidey and saying, "I thought you knew what side you were on."

The scene is continued in Civil War #5, where Iron Man faces off against Spider-Man and says, "Peter, why are you acting like such a lunatic? All I want to do is talk!"

I really wanted Peter's response to be, "Door's over there, Tony."

Sunday, November 12, 2006

ConBestiary #3

Gibbering Mouther: These pathetic, yet savagely dangerous creatures stalk conventions looking for unsuspecting victims they can attach themselves to. Anyone who pays them attention rapidly becomes their prey, as they latch onto the poor soul and begin an endless, one-sided conversation about the Mouther's personal geek-related obsession (which can be anything from his brilliant Magic deck to his theories on what the writers of Lost are really thinking to the super-cool character he made for Dungeons and Dragons that only bends the rules a little but is sooo bad-ass.) Once a Gibbering Mouther attaches itself to a fan, it can take hours to successfully extricate oneself--if indeed you can. Convention staff find upwards of twenty dead bodies every year after every con, gruesome victims of Gibbering Mouthers with gaping holes in the back of their heads where the poor fool's brain force-evolved teeth and chewed its way out through its own skull to escape the conversation.

But the worst thing about Gibbering Mouthers isn't the horrible, debilitating effect they have on their prey. The worst thing is that due to the symptoms--total obliviousness to one's own dullness, a tendency to assume everyone is interested in everything you have to say, and a blanket assumption that failure to shout, "SHUT UP!" at you and run away means that you should continue talking--you may already be a Gibbering Mouther and not even know it.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Potential Essential Confidential

(Been waiting two weeks to use that title...)

For those of you who don't know, the "Essentials" series from Marvel are trade paperbacks that reprint their classic comics; they print them in black-and-white, on cheap paper, in order to reduce costs, which means that you get about twenty-five issues of story for the price that an eight-issue collection would cost in color on glossy paper. They're great ways to get big, hefty chunks of reading material for a relatively low cost (in fact, some of the Wolverine and X-Men collections might actually be less than cover price, on a per issue basis.)

Marvel's been putting the Essentials out for a while now, and they've got a very nice library of titles built up (the DC counterpart, "Showcase Presents", is much newer and has only a relative few), but there's still room for more. So, without further ado, I present...the Top Fifteen Comic Book Series That Should Get "Essentials" Trade Paperbacks*!

Honorable Mentions: Captain Marvel (a character that will probably get an Essential someday, but one who's more famous dead than alive); Solo Avengers/Avengers Spotlight (a title I enjoyed as a kid, but I still have enough of the issues that I'm in no hurry to see it collected); Cloak and Dagger (interesting, but did they ever live up to their potential?); Nick Fury, Agent of SHIELD (I'm sure this is much higher on somebody's list); Web of Spider-Man (will probably get one no matter what I say); Shogun Warriors (it sounds like fun in the "Godzilla" mode, but I'm not sure what the licensing status is. See the footnote at the bottom of the list.)

Dazzler. Sure, it was a silly series. Sure, she started out as "The Disco Dazzler." Sure, Marvel worked overtime to make her seem like a major player by bringing in guest stars from Doctor Doom to Galactus. But let's face it...all that just makes you want to read it more, doesn't it?

Champions. Another series that is sort of "famous for being famous", this was the LA super-hero team that featured Hercules, Ghost Rider, Angel, and a few other super-heroes...basically, whoever was in LA and not doing much at the time. They always had a rep as "bargain-basement heroes", but I'd be interested in seeing exactly what got them that rep.

Shang-Chi, Master of Kung-Fu. This probably deserves to be much higher on the list, to be honest, because he's a bad-ass martial artist who fights his father, Fu Manchu, using kung-fu. And that sentence alone makes him crazy-cool. But I'm an 80s kid, so I don't have the kind of personal nostalgia for the title that would push him higher. (In fact, I remember reading an ad for his comic when I was four, and not realizing that "Kung-Fu" wasn't a person. I just figured "Kung-Fu" was a guy, and "Shang-Chi" was another guy who could beat him up.)

Ms. Marvel. She's really more well-known to me from her time in Kurt Busiek's Avengers and her role as Binary in Claremont's X-Men, but I would like to read her classic stories to see what all the fuss was about.

11. Micronauts. This might fall victim to licensing issues, but I suspect not, and this is a series that I know has a huge cult following. They could also use it as an opportunity to collect the "X-Men Vs. the Micronauts" limited series, which would just plain rock. But again, I never got much of a chance to read it myself.

10. Adam Warlock. I never got the chance to read the classic Adam Warlock stories from the 70s, either, but I remember reading recaps of them in "Marvel Age" and the Marvel Universe Handbook, and thinking that they sounded like the coolest, trippiest thing ever. Adam Warlock fights Thanos, the man in love with Death, and the evil empire established by the Magus, his own future self? Whoa. A lot of the mythos established here would come back to the forefront years later, and it'd be nice to make it all available.

9. New Warriors. Ah, now that we're into the top ten, you can start to see where my love really lies, can't you? The New Warriors practically defined late 80s/early 90s comics, and it'd be great to see it all put down in big thick chunks of black-and-white goodness. It had some great artwork, Fabian Nicieza doing fun soap-opera writing as a labor of love, and it brought back Nova, Speedball, and Firestar. Where's the bad?

8. Power Pack. To be honest, I wish this could be much higher. From a strictly commercial stand-point, it probably should be; this was a series that had great kid appeal. Four pre-teens with super-powers, guest stars galore, the X-Men, the FF, sleep-overs with Franklin Richards, and power swaps every twenty-five issues. Power Pack just plain rocked.

7. West Coast Avengers. Hawkeye led the team. Nuff said.

6. Alpha Flight. Another one of those titles like New Warriors that had a big, crazy soap-opera epic feel to it that would work much better in large chunks than single-issue stories, this would be excellent for collection. And John Byrne's art looks beautiful in black and white.

5. ROM. Every comics fan above the age of thirty is nodding right now. Not as they read this, as I type this--just my thought of "The Essential ROM" is causing their brains to vibrate with sympathetic resonance as they remember how freaking cool ROM was. A lone alien warrior, fighting a war against the evil shapeshifting body-stealing Dire Wraiths (a war that spilled out into the whole Marvel Universe towards the end--almost a crossover without the hype)...oh, it was the best. Actually the fifth best, but still very cool.

4. Quasar. I remember that I absolutely was not collecting Quasar as a teenager. Really, I wasn't. Oh, sure, I'd pick up an issue or two...or four...or seven...but really, I wasn't collecting it. I didn't have the time to add another title to my list. I just was buying it. A lot. And with a new Quasar series on the horizon, it'd be nice to not collect it again, in trade paperback format this time.

3. New Mutants. Actually, how is it that this hasn't already been collected as an Essentials series? They've got two X-Men Essentials (one for the Lee/Kirby era, one for the Claremont fans who weren't willing to wait three volumes to get to the good stuff), X-Factor, Wolverine...where's the New Mutants in all this? MIA, that's where, and it has to stop!

2. Excalibur. Everything from #2 applies here, but with added exclamation points at the end of every sentence, because Excalibur was just that much better.

1. Guardians of the Galaxy. At this point, mad props must go out to Jim Valentino, who took these characters that I'd just heard about and that I thought sounded cool, and made them into the best thing ever. In the 30th century, the alien Badoon have enslaved humanity, and a band of rebels from across the solar system must band together to stop them! And then, once they stop them, they become wandering adventurers, traveling through time and space to learn about what became of Earth's legendary super-heroes! And then...well, then they got cancelled, and have been in comics limbo ever since, which was a shame. But there's plenty of great material for several Essentials in there, and it might just lead to a revival. (Plus, we'd get to see more of Nikki, team hottie. Damn. Girl was so hot, her head was on fire!)

So there you go, Marvel. Get cracking. Oh, and keep putting out more of the ones you're doing already, too. And get Karl Kesel to write Fantastic Four. Seriously, he'd be great at it!

*This excludes comics that Marvel is precluded from collecting due to the lapse in licensing agreements with the companies who owned the properties in question; so, for example, the Essential Transformers, Star Wars, and GI Joe are all off the list because Marvel can't do them. The Essential Conan already got scuttled--if you see a copy, snap it up because it's out of print.