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Thursday, February 6, 2014

She's a Marvel

Posted by on Thu, Feb 6, 2014 at 2:39 PM

Ms. Marvel #1 cover art.
  • Marvel.com
  • Ms. Marvel #1 cover art.
The first issue of Seattle author G. Willow Wilson's new comic book Ms. Marvel hit the stands yesterday. This is the book that made news with its announcement back in November, when Marvel Comics revealed that the new Ms. Marvel would be a teenage Muslim girl. (Wilson did a great interview earlier this year about the blowback that she's dealt with even before the publication of the book.) So now the pre-hype is finally over and the book is available for sale. And so how is it?

I really liked it. This feels like a callback to classic American superhero comics to me. Wilson's script for the first issue of Ms. Marvel is a fairly dense introduction to Kamala Khan, a nerdy young woman who shares a lot in common with Peter Parker as he first appeared in 1962: She's smart but fairly unpopular in her high school peer group, she's from a fairly conservative working-class family, and she's got an active fantasy life*. The first issue mostly establishes her daily routine; like any kid from any religious background, Khan struggles with her family's faith and her ability to explore life without suffering from crippling guilt all the time. The first time we see her, she's drooling over bacon—"Delicious, delicious infidel meat"—and she struggles against her strict father's rules later in the issue, too.

Wilson's fast-paced plotting and informative, naturalistic dialogue is nicely paired with Adrian Alphona's sketchy and somewhat cartoony art. This certainly doesn't look like your classic superhero book; Alphona's expressive characters look like they could have wandered in from an alternative comic, and I mean that as the best kind of compliment. (Steve Ditko's fussy art looked bizarre when compared to the standard superhero art of his day.) The people in this book are all unique, with different body types, their own vocabulary of body language, and their own fashion sense. Wilson and Alphona work well together, making the dialogue pages a pleasure to read—you won't find the cut-and-paste talking head conversation scenes you'll find in a lot of modern superhero comics here. Wilson also knows when to cut back on the words and let Alphona draw, say, a creepy mist crawling through downtown Jersey City without the clutter of too many word balloons or captions getting in the way.

First issues are tough to review. We only just meet Ms. Marvel officially on the last page of the book, and so the superhero part of the story really has yet to begin. But the world that Wilson and Alphona define in the first issue of Ms. Marvel features a cast and a setting that feels real and likable. If the quality holds up, this is going to be one of the very few superhero comics that I buy every month.

* There's one major difference, though: Whereas Parker was obsessed with science, Khan is always fantasizing, and even writing fan-fic, about superheroes. I understand that this choice makes it easy to explain Khan's motivation to become a superhero, but it does make her feel a little less singular and a little more derivative. That's probably got something to do with the fact that Ms. Marvel is a legacy hero, taking the name from a hero she loves. It's hard to tell from just the first issue, but presumably Wilson is going to expand on this idea of hero worship as the series unfolds. I have faith that Khan will eventually show aptitude for, and interest in, some non-superhero pursuits in future issues.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Benedict Cumberbatch Counts

Posted by on Tue, Feb 4, 2014 at 12:53 PM

Benedict Cumberbatch solved a puzzle on Sesame Street and the internet swooned.

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Monday, January 27, 2014

Chatterbox: This Afternoon, the Internet Is Talking About Gabby Giffords, Apple, and Terry Gilliam

Posted by on Mon, Jan 27, 2014 at 5:04 PM

"What Is Congress Afraid Of?" Here's a pro-gun-control ad starring Gabby Giffords that will air tomorrow during State of the Union programming:

That's Nice of Them: The government, in their infinite wisdom, has decided to allow tech companies to reveal more about their surveillance requests.

Raise Your Hand If You're Surprised: A Bitcoin "pioneer" was arrested and charged with money laundering today.

Great Expectations: Even though Apple sold more iPhones and iPads than ever last quarter, their stock took a beating.

Banks Shot: Elizabeth Banks is making her feature-length directorial debut with Pitch Perfect 2.

We Is Scared: Here's the trailer for Terry Gilliam's next movie, Zero Theorem, a sci-fi film starring a hairless Christoph Waltz. I have high hopes for this one, but Gilliam's been awful spotty lately:

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Sci-Fi Convention Canceled After Hotel Manager Reportedly Calls Sci-Fi Fans "Freaks"

Posted by on Tue, Jan 14, 2014 at 5:02 PM

Lizzie Schiffman at DNAChicago says that a huge Chicago sci-fi convention has been postponed for a year:

A major science fiction and fantasy convention scheduled to hit the city in March has been canceled and moved from the River North Westin Hotel after hotel staff referred to attendees as "freaks," according to an announcement posted on the event's website.

Sci-fi conventions are big money for hotels. I find it hard to believe, in America in the 21st century, that a hotel manager would refer to sci-fi convention-goers as 'costumed freaks [who] are not in keeping with the reputation' of the River North Westin Hotel. In any case, I'm pretty sure, given the online maelstrom that's forming over this story, that the hotel manager in question probably won't be working at that hotel for much longer. You can read the letter from Chi-Fi Chairman James Dobbs here.

Friday, January 10, 2014

Seattle to Get H.R. Giger Themed Bar?

Posted by on Fri, Jan 10, 2014 at 3:46 PM

The A.V. Club's Sean O'Neal writes:

Alien designer H.R. Giger is in talks to bring the “biomechanical” décor of his famous Giger Bars in Chur and Gruyeres, Switzerland, to the U.S., opening a new American hotspot that evokes the welcoming coldness of an extraterrestrial womb. The plan hails from Andy Davies, who’s currently developing his own Sci-Fi Hotel, “an architectural and stylistic celebration of science-fiction” that will feature sci-fi-inspired design and amenities—among them the Giger Bar, which he’s developing in cooperation with Giger himself.

While Davies doesn’t yet know where the Sci-Fi Hotel will end up—early contenders are Seattle, New York, San Francisco, New Orleans, and Chicago, with New Mexico’s Spaceport USA close behind...

On Twitter, Emerald City Comicon is trying to convince Paul Allen to flex his nerdy muscle to pull the sci-fi hotel to Seattle. Other nerdy local institutions, like the EMP, are pushing for the Giger Bar, too. Here's a video of what an existing Giger Bar looks like on the inside:

I ask you: Who wouldn't want to have a drink inside a cave lined with alien genitalia and monster babies?

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Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Spider-Man: Threat or Menace?

Posted by on Tue, Dec 31, 2013 at 3:09 PM

That wall-crawling criminal is at it again! In the video below, you can clearly see the web-spinning freak toss an innocent TV newscaster to the ground. How much more evidence does the public need before we launch an all-out manhunt to bring this arrogant arach-nerd to justice?

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

You're Getting Comics for Christmas

Posted by on Tue, Dec 24, 2013 at 4:09 PM

Kate Beaton, author of Hark! A Vagrant, has gone home for Christmas and she's tweeting out very brief autobiographical sketchy comic strips about the experience:


You should follow Beaton on Twitter for more. Or, if you prefer your holiday cartoons inked and in color, you should read the Christmas comic zine that Cards Against Humanity commissioned from some top webcomics artists. This one is absolutely my favorite.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Breaking News: Tea Party Doesn't Understand Satire

Posted by on Wed, Dec 18, 2013 at 11:07 AM

  • Bioshock Infinite/Irrational/2k

Bioshock is possibly my favorite video game franchise precisely because of the political satire in each of its iterations. The latest release, Bioshock Infinite, takes place in the city of Columbia where people worship the Founding Fathers as gods, vilify Lincoln for freeing the slaves and ooze racism from every pore. So of course a Tea Party group posted the above image from a mural in Columbia on its Facebook page:

Right-wing group The National Liberty Foundation, a Florida-based political collective associated with the conservative Tea Party, is posting anti-immigration propaganda from Bioshock Infinite, originally designed to satirize real-world conservative politics.

Well done. (more here.)

(h/t Slog-tipper Vic!)

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Tuesday, December 17, 2013

What Do You Think of the Sandman Movie Adaptation?

Posted by on Tue, Dec 17, 2013 at 3:23 PM


Devin Faraci broke the news that Joseph Gordon-Levitt has been circling a movie based on Neil Gaiman's Sandman comics last month. Now, it's official. Or at least partially official.

The report hedges some of its bets, suggesting Joseph Gordon-Levitt may both star in and direct an adaptation, but on Twitter the actor said he’s signed only as a producer and “the rest remains to be seen.” David S. Goyer (Blade, Man Of Steel) is the screenwriter. Gordon-Levitt also tweeted that Gaiman is involved with the project in some capacity.

David Goyer makes me nervous. The best superhero movies he's ever done have all had exceptional directors. When he's left to his own devices, he tends to make generic movie product. Gordon-Levitt could probably pull the acting part off, but while I liked his directing debut in Don Jon a great deal, he's not done anything to convince me he could control what will inevitably be a monster of a CGI-heavy movie. Gaiman's inclusion in the project is obviously welcome, but it isn't a guarantee that the thing will get made; Gaiman's been involved with lots of Hollywood projects that get buried by their own spinning wheels.

But this isn't even a question of "can." It's more a question of "should." Is adapting Sandman a good idea? Faraci believes Sandman would be better-suited as a TV series, admitting that "I just don't get the property as a movie, as the best Sandman stories are rarely the ones that feature Morpheus in the lead." And there's also the problem of the time that's passed since Sandman came out. I haven't re-read Sandman for quite a long time. I'm kind of afraid of re-approaching the book and finding out that it's not as good as I remembered it back in my teens and early twenties. The goth aesthetic that ruled over the book's early days is now entirely played-out. And Gaiman books seem to be difficult to adapt. Stardust didn't get it quite right, the Neverwhere TV series was awful, and people have been trying and failing to adapt American Gods for years now, although the stop-motion adaptation of Coraline was magnificent. I just have a hard time seeing how a two-hour Sandman movie could be anything but disappointing. But what about you?

Stumptown No More?

Posted by on Tue, Dec 17, 2013 at 1:14 PM

Alison Hallett down at the Merc broke the news this morning that the popular Portland small-press comics celebration Stumptown Comics Fest will no longer exist as a standalone convention:

It's not particularly surprising, then, to learn that Stumptown Comics, Inc—the festival's organizing body, which attained nonprofit status last year—has cancelled the Stumptown Comics Festival, and is folding its activities under the umbrella of Rose City Comic Con, a big new pop culture show with ties to Seattle's Emerald City Comic Con. (Got that? After only two years, Rose City has both successfully partnered with Seattle's beloved show, and gobbled up a local rival. Impressive.) According to a press release, Stumptown will be "moving its panel programming and the annual Stumptown Comic Arts awards to Rose City Comic Con in September while the group's board of directors works on a new schedule of Stumptown community events to debut in 2015."

So Stumptown will continue to exist as a series of "community events" that will begin the year after next, but there's no more big show. This seems like a shame to me; just about every Seattle-area cartoonist I know considered Stumptown to be an important holiday in the comic book calendar. They'd head down there, sell some books, and network with their Portland counterparts. I've got no problem with big pop culture comic conventions, but the small-press conventions are important, too.

Giant conventions like Emerald City Comicon provide a platform for minicomics and small press cartoonists to expand their audience, but Stumptown was a place where they could strengthen their ties to the community. Even with the requisite panels and afterparties, you can't really get that kind of togetherness out of a mammoth convention. I'm glad that Seattle still has the Short Run small press festival and Emerald City Comicon. It's possible that Short Run could experience a bump in size next year as people look for a dedicated small press fest to call their own.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Did Shia LaBeouf Plagiarize His New Film from Dan Clowes?

Posted by on Mon, Dec 16, 2013 at 3:32 PM

Here is a short film directed and allegedly written by Shia LaBeouf:

[UPDATE 3:33 PM: Just as I posted this to Slog, the video became password-protected, presumably for reasons which will become evident as you read this post.]

The problem is, the short film seems to be taken almost word for word from a comic strip created by Dan Clowes five years ago. BadAss Digest's Devin Faraci links to a scanned version of the story someone uploaded to Tumblr. There's no credit to Clowes in the film, though a great deal of the movie seems to use the comic as a shooting template, with identical dialogue and visual framing throughout. BuzzFeed's Jordan Zakarin asked Clowes about the film, and here's what he said:

“The first I ever heard of the film was this morning when someone sent me a link. I’ve never spoken to or met Mr. LaBeouf,” Clowes told BuzzFeed. “I’ve never even seen one of his films that I can recall — and I was shocked, to say the least, when I saw that he took the script and even many of the visuals from a very personal story I did 6 or 7 years ago and passed it off as his own work. I actually can’t imagine what was going through his mind.”

LaBeouf has not yet responded to these charges.

UPDATE 3:49 PM: Here's an interview with Shortoftheweek.com in which LaBeouf appears to claim ownership of the script:

Tackling the subject of film criticism is always going to be an interesting choice for someone in LaBeouf’s line of work, eager to discover how the concept originated and why he decided to create a narrative around a film critic, Short of the Week spoke to the director about the inception of Howard Cantour—”I know something about the gulf between critical acclaim and blockbuster business. I have been crushed by critics (especially during my Transformers run), and in trying to come to terms with my feelings about critics, I needed to understand them. As I tried to empathize with the sort of man who might earn a living taking potshots at me and the people I’ve worked with, a small script developed.”

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Thursday, December 5, 2013

What Do You Think of the Amazing Spider-Man 2 Trailer?

Posted by on Thu, Dec 5, 2013 at 12:51 PM

Look! It's a trailer for the sequel to the Spider-Man reboot series! I found the first one to be underwhelming and inept, but a lot of people seemed to like it—or at least it made a ton of money. So, quick! Back to the spider-trough!

One positive thing I do have to say about this trailer is that they finally got the costume exactly right. Spider-Man looks just like Spider-Man in the comics, which is great.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

A Very Star Trek Christmas: Part II

Posted by on Wed, Dec 4, 2013 at 11:05 AM

In light of Paul's earlier post, please enjoy this. (There's a promo for the guy's video game at the end. Bonus?)

Thanks, Slog-Tipper Mark!

A Very Star Trek Christmas

Posted by on Wed, Dec 4, 2013 at 7:45 AM

Star_Trek_Topps.jpg
I'm not exactly sure why the publishing industry picked this year to set off an explosion of Star Trek-related books—it can't solely be due to last summer's Star Trek: Into Darkness, because all these books have to do with the original TV run of the show—but my inbox has been heavy with Trekkie material since earlier this year, when Juan Ortiz's beautiful Star Trek: The Original Series poster book was published. It's some kind of golden age for book-loving Star Trek fans.

For the nostalgia freaks, there's Star Trek: The Original Topps Trading Card Series. This one is the exact same format as a book that collected Garbage Pail Kids cards from earlier this year, and it's pretty much a straight shot of nerdy collector mania. In addition to larger-than-scale reproductions of the photographs from the 1976 trading card set, the book contains trivia about the production of the card series. (For some reason, every series regular character in Star Trek is represented except for Sulu, whose absence feels weirdly pointed.) There's not much more than a rehash of every episode of the original series; a few new cards are glued into the back of the book, but it's basically a book-form reproduction of the trading card series. If that appeals to you, here you go.

KlingonKhristmas.jpg
A Very Klingon Khristmas is a parody of a kid's book, written by Paul Ruditis and illustrated with paintings by Patrick Faricy. I suppose this book is intended to appeal to people who draw Trek fans for the office secret Santa program. It's packed with cheesy Klingon riffs on all the usual Christmas dressing ("On, Ch'Tang! On, Ki'Tang! On, M'Char! And Silvin!") and it's the kind of disposable book that gets passed around once or twice and then forgotten, although the art is at least interesting; Faricy's art is pleasantly dark and grubby, which elevates it above a lot of licensed dreck.

Federation.jpg
Finally, Federation: The First 150 Years is a history of the foundation of Star Trek disguised as a commemorative edition looking back on the origins of the Federation. (Apparently, e-books haven't caught on in the time of Starfleet, for some reason.) It's a handsome textbook-looking volume, filled with illustrations and photographs and lots of Trek background material explained in a rather bland expository style. I enjoyed the book for its dense Easter-egginess; there are plenty of callbacks to Scott Bakula's late, unlamented Trek prequel TV show, Enterprise, and the stilted textbook delivery makes some of the Original Series episodes sound downright academic. I can't see fans of the rebooted Trek movie series enjoying this book—it's too packed with obscure details and it doesn't follow movie continuity—but longtime Trek fans will probably get a kick out of it. If you're looking for a gift, you could do worse than Federation, but for my money Juan Ortiz's eye-popping poster book is still the dreamiest Trek-nerd gift of the year.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Credit Where It's Due

Posted by on Tue, Dec 3, 2013 at 8:05 AM

Rachel Dukes posts her cartoons on the internet for free. She loves it when her cartoons are shared. But even an artist who gives her work away for free wants her name attached to her work. Dukes posted a cat cartoon in January that circulated around the internet at a pretty healthy clip. However, the cartoon didn't really take off until some 9Gag user clipped the URL and credit information from the bottom of the cartoon and published it as their own work. Dukes provides a tally of how far the cartoon made it around the net, in both credited and uncredited versions:

Posts using the credited image:
2,912 votes
2,721 Tumblr notes
50,535 views
727 Tweets
0 Pintrest shares
14,000 Facebook likes
10,700 Facebook shares

Posts using the uncredited image:
29,629 votes
62,393 Tumblr notes
140,219 views
0 Tweets
6,000 Pintrest shares
2,085 Facebook likes
347,984 Facebook shares

This is, obviously, crazy. Dukes is asking for no payment other than her own name attached to her own work; most of the internet can't even be bothered to allow her that one simple request. Why has the uncredited version traveled so much further than the credited version? Is it that people just like to claim others' work as their own? Or is it somehow subconsciously easier for people to "share" work online when there's no obvious authorship attached? Now that Google makes it ridiculously easy to do a reverse image search, there's no reason for sites like BuzzFeed and Cheezburger to get away with these kinds of shenanigans. But they still do it. Boy, do they ever do it.

(The Lost in Font blog on Tumblr deserves credit for getting this post in front of my eyes.)

Friday, November 29, 2013

Buy Gifts for Every Nerd In Your Life Tomorrow, with Celebrity Guest Booksellers

Posted by on Fri, Nov 29, 2013 at 11:15 AM

Black Friday never ceases to fill me with despair. But Small Business Saturday fills me back up with hope again. And I'd especially like to remind you that books are always perfect gifts. I encourage you to go check out Ada's Technical Books in their beautiful new location on 15th Ave E. They've got tons of science-minded books, kits, and puzzles. In that same area, a couple of nerdy Capitol Hill stores are having sales this weekend. Gamma Ray Games is having a buy-one-get-one-for-half-price special, plus free gifts. And Phoenix Comics & Games is giving a 25% discount on a single item to anyone who mentions "Shop the Hill" at checkout. Also worth your while: Tomorrow is Short Run, the annual small press festival, which is happening at Washington Hall. It's always a great place to pick up mini-comics, small press books, and art prints.

AND IN ADDITION TO ALL THAT: A number of local independent booksellers are welcoming authors into their stores as guest booksellers tomorrow. You'll be able to get book recommendations from a number of local writers, as well as autographed and personalized copies of their own books. This is a program that's going on in just about every bookstore in town. Sherman Alexie will be making a series of Santa-like appearances in bookstores everywhere—this whole thing was his idea in the first place—and other authors who are participating in the event include Maria Semple, Garth Stein, Nancy Pearl, Ethan Stowell, Stephanie Kallos, Maged Zaher, Kathleen Flenniken, Jonathan Evison, Jennie Shortridge, Ryan Boudinot, and Ken Jennings. All of these authors are voracious readers, and they're militant about getting the right book in the right hands. If you're looking to give a gift with a story behind it, you can't do much better than "The greatest Jeopardy! champion in history told me that this book would change your life."

A complete list of the local stores with celebrity guest booksellers is after the jump.

Continue reading »

Friday, November 8, 2013

Meet the Sikh Captain America

Posted by on Fri, Nov 8, 2013 at 11:12 AM

Paul has been writing about the new Marvel superhero, a teenage Muslim girl named Kamala Khan who will reportedly be from New Jersey. Maybe she can join the Totally Biased Avengers, including Hari Kondabolu and this real-life Sikh Captain America, on their bold adventure to the Garden State...

Battle of the Cartoons

Posted by on Fri, Nov 8, 2013 at 10:33 AM

The Taiwanese news-animators get passive-aggressive about Tuesday's news that local author G. Willow Wilson is bringing a Muslim teenaged girl superhero to Marvel Comics:

Thor: The Dark World: Weirdly Paced, Awkwardly Plotted Big Dumb Movie Fun

Posted by on Fri, Nov 8, 2013 at 8:09 AM

Thor: Bad news for you Hemsworth-objectifiers out there: He takes his shirt off once and then spends most of the movie wearing this frumpy Asgardian poncho. If you want Hemsworth-flesh, go see Rush again, instead.
  • Thor: Bad news for you Hemsworth-objectifiers out there: He takes his shirt off once and then spends most of the movie wearing this frumpy Asgardian poncho. If you want Hemsworth-flesh, go see Rush again, instead.

You can’t explain the plot of Thor: The Dark World without getting trapped in a Tolkien-ish morass of ridiculous-sounding words. See, thousands of years ago, there was a dark elf named Malekith who used an unstoppable zombie warrior named Kurse and an evil, drippy CGI space-substance called Aether to battle Odin’s father Bor on the day when the nine realms of the world tree Yggdrasill aligned in something called the Convergence. Now,as the Convergence is beginning again, the Aether has infected Jane Foster, the earthly love interest of Odin’s son Thor, and Malekith has returned to destroy the nine worlds. See? It basically sounds like a garbage stew of words plucked from Norse mythology, a bad Dungeons & Dragons campaign, and the liner notes of a Led Zeppelin album.

But the good news is that there’s a lot of fun here, too. Besides the obvious joys of watching medieval battles between gleaming golden Asgardian soldiers and a bunch of goblins armed with rocket launchers, The Dark World is booby-trapped with funny gags, entertaining fights, and a pair of charming actors who add a human element to the fantasy trappings. Tom Hiddleston as Loki, imprisoned on Asgard after trying to take over the world in The Avengers, and Chris Hemsworth as the arrogant-but-caring Thor, have to team up to stop Malekith, and their half-brotherly rivalry is pointed enough to make us forget about the tremendous cast that’s otherwise wasted. (Tip to Hollywood: don’t cast Idris Elba and give him nothing to do, and also don’t cast Christopher Eccleston as the main bad guy if the Dark Elf in question doesn’t have a personality besides KILL EVERYTHING.)

This time around, Thor and company are led by frequent Game of Thrones director Alan Taylor, and for a first-time blockbuster film director, Taylor acquits himself admirably. He keeps his actors from looking goofy in their enormous, Kirbyesque headdresses; he's confident enough to pile joke on top of joke in expository scenes to help the bitter fantasy terminology go down smoothly; and he can keep track of a huge cast of characters spread across several different dimensions. But The Dark World has a serious pacing problem whenever it’s called upon to push the plot forward. The movie feels at times like it’s set to 1.5 speed, with dialogue and events happening way too fast to resemble anything resembling realistic pacing, but those sped-up scenes somehow feel like they’re slowing the movie down and getting in the way of the fun. There's too much stuff, and it's all happening all at once; a simpler, less universe-threatening plot would have given the characters some more room to breathe.

To indulge in a bit of score-keeping: The post-Avengers, so-called "Phase Two" of Marvel Comics' film adaptations have both improved on their previous outings. Iron Man 3 was immeasurably better than the staid Iron Man 2 in almost every way, mostly by keeping a sense of humor about itself and following one protagonist, rather than a huge cast of superheroes. Thor: The Dark World is a much better film than Thor: The effects are bigger, the humor is looser, and the general sense of can-you-believe-this-shit-I'm-telling-you-right-now is much more appealing than the stodgy world-building of the first outing. As long as you don't get too swept up in the dumb names and the convoluted plot, you'll probably have a good time.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Release Date Set for Corporate Media Product

Posted by on Thu, Nov 7, 2013 at 1:37 PM

Apparently, J.J. Abrams' new Star Wars movie will be released on December 18th 2015. Start lining up outside the Cinerama now, nerds, if you want to be guaranteed a seat at the first screening.

Get Ready for Superheroes All Up in Your Netflix

Posted by on Thu, Nov 7, 2013 at 10:43 AM

The news broke this morning. Deadline's David Lieberman and Nellie Andreeva explain it this way:

Disney will provide Netflix with live action series and a miniseries featuring Marvel characters Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Iron Fist, and Luke Cage set in the gritty world of heroes and villains of Hell’s Kitchen, New York. Netflix has committed to at least four, 13-episode series over “multiple years,” beginning in 2015, culminating with a miniseries, The Defenders, that “reimagines a dream team of self-sacrificing, heroic characters.”

On the whole, I'm pretty excited for this. I always figured Daredevil was a character better-suited for a TV series than a movie—he's a character who does best when he's suffering slow punishment, and you just can't get that kind of stretched out agony right in a movie—and the Jessica Jones character is from Brian Michael Bendis's Alias, which is some of his best work for Marvel. Beyond that, I've always thought Luke Cage and Iron Fist were two of Marvel's best characters. I hope that if this works out, after The Defenders, they'll do a series of just Cage and Iron Fist. And purists might complain about the Defenders name being used for these characters, but let's face it: As much as I'd love to see a faithful TV adaptation of Steve Gerber's run on the title, there's no way the comic book version of The Defenders would work on-screen.

Which is not to say that this news doesn't give me a little pause. I like that Marvel is finally adapting properties with a black headlining character and a female headlining character, but it'd be a shame if these characters became the sole examples that Marvel could point to when they were asked about their diversity. The movies are obviously the highest-profile product that Marvel does, and more diversity on movie screens should remain an important goal. Also, I hope these series aren't as cheesy and poorly written as Marvel's disappointing Agents of SHIELD series, which continues to be a total piece of shit TV show. If they manage to retain the spirit and the adventure of the movie adaptations on Netflix, these shows will be huge hits.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Fantagraphics Wants to Pre-Sell You Some Books

Posted by on Tue, Nov 5, 2013 at 3:27 PM

Today, local publisher Fantagraphics Books put their entire spring publishing lineup—39 books—on Kickstarter, with an eye on a $150,000 goal. This isn't an attempt to shift the publishing paradigm over to a crowdfunding model. It's because 2013 has been a really shitty year for Fantagraphics:

Earlier in the year, one of our founding partners, Kim Thompson, was diagnosed with lung cancer and died four and a half months later, on June 19. Because Kim was such an active part of our company, his death has had repercussions — emotionally, of course, but financially as well. Kim edited our European graphic novel line and as a result of his illness, 13 of his books scheduled for the Spring-Summer season had to be cancelled or postponed, representing the loss of nearly a third of that season. Our fixed costs stayed the same —because they’re fixed— but the income 13 books would’ve generated was lost, disrupting our cash flow, and leaving us in a tight spot.

There are a dizzying number of rewards, including finished copies of the books you'll be helping to fund, original art and signed copies from cartoonists including Stranger-certified literature Genius Jim Woodring, and various other weird and wonderful objects and services. I generally don't promote Kickstarter projects on Slog*, but Fantagraphics is the best damn comics publisher in the United States, period. They contribute immeasurably to Seattle's literary importance. And they've also got a proven track record of publishing books, which means that, unlike other Kickstarters, you're probably going to get to enjoy your rewards in a timely manner. Go see what you can give—and get.


* I don't link to Kickstarters on Slog for many reasons, but one huge reason is that every time I mention Kickstarter on Slog, I get deluged with people trying to get me to promote their Kickstarter or Indiegogo or Gofundme or Gimmemoney campaigns on Slog. So let me be clear about this: I'm not going to promote your Kickstarter on Slog. You are not the exception to this rule. Once you publish amazing comic books for decades and foster the careers of some of the greatest cartoonists the world has ever known, then you can come back to me and ask me to promote your Kickstarter. Otherwise, I'm just going to ignore you.

Seattle Author to Write Comic Book About Teenage Muslim Girl Superhero

Posted by on Tue, Nov 5, 2013 at 12:18 PM

Slog tipper Stesha points out that Seattle author G. Willow Wilson won the World Fantasy Award for her debut novel Alif the Unseen over the weekend. I can't believe that I missed this news; the World Fantasy Award is a pretty huge nerd award and a big honor for fantasy authors. I read and very much enjoyed Alif when it was published last year; you should read my review and then pick up a copy, now that you know professional nerds enjoyed the book enough to give it a big-time award.

Today brings some new G. Willow Wilson news, too. the New York Times just posted the exciting information that Wilson is writing a new superhero series for Marvel Comics. It's about a superhero named Ms. Marvel, and here's the pitch:

With most superheroes, when you take away the colorful costume, mask and cape, what you find underneath is a white man. But not always. In February, as part of a continuing effort to diversify its offerings, Marvel Comics will begin a series whose lead character, Kamala Khan, is a teenage Muslim girl living in Jersey City.

I expect conservatives to be overjoyed by this news. (Just kidding! They'll lose their shit over the fact that there's going to be a superhero who isn't a white guy. Expect lots of "what's next, a one-legged Samoan midget superhero?" sneers and other, less polite comments all over the internet.) This sounds really promising to me. Ms. Marvel was the name of one of Marvel's first female superheroes to headline her own series in the 1970s. (The original character has since graduated to the title of Captain Marvel.) So there's a history of this name being used for progressive causes in the comics industry. Congratulations to Wilson for winning the World Fantasy Award and for the Ms. Marvel news. I can't wait to read this comic book.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Re-Enter Sandman

Posted by on Thu, Oct 31, 2013 at 1:04 PM

The first new Sandman comic in well over a decade was published yesterday. If you've never before read the comic that introduced Neil Gaiman to the world, you shouldn't start with Sandman: Overture. But if you've already read the other books, you'll find a lot to enjoy here. Because Gaiman is writing the book, it doesn't have the cash-grabby smarm of, say, DC's awful Before Watchmen series. There's an unmistakeable reunion feel, a kind of clubby getting-the-band-back-together vibe, but it's not crass or overly sentimental. We get to see a lot of the characters from the old Sandman books, specifically Dream and the Corinthian, although there are a other cameos, too.

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This is the first issue of a six-issue limited series, so I can't really judge where the story's going yet. The one thing I can tell you is that J.H. Williams III's art is unbelievably good. Williams has always been a talented artist, but he's one of the rare comics artists who keeps getting better as he ages. The page layouts are somehow ornate without being cloying, his detail is precise without feeling lifeless, and while every page looks different—at one point, we're reading the comic over someone's shoulder, at another point the panels are panes in a slender window—the whole thing works as a single narrative. My biggest complaint is that it does feel weird picking up a Sandman comic that doesn't have a cover produced by Dave McKean, but you can't have everything.

New issues of Sandman: Overture will be published every two months for a year, and I think this is a series you might enjoy serially, picking up in comics shops on a regular basis. I saw firsthand last night that Phoenix Comics has plenty of copies, but I'm sure that every other comics store in Seattle will have them, too, from Zanadu downtown to the Comic Stop, The Dreaming, and Comics Dungeon around the U District, on out to Arcane Comics and Dreamstrands Comics up north. (There are probably others that I forgot, too. You can check out the Comic Shop Locator for comprehensive information about all the shops near you.) This comic is worth the trip.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Battling Boy: Pure, Unadulterated Superhero Fun

Posted by on Wed, Oct 30, 2013 at 8:00 AM

The most fun superhero comic to be published this year didn't come from Marvel or DC Comics. Instead, it was a book published earlier this month by First Second called Battling Boy. I've been a fan of comics artist Paul Pope for almost twenty years, but he's always been an artist whose potential far outweighed his output. He's never made a book that fully lived up to his considerable skill as a cartoonist, until now.

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Battling Boy is, on its face, an homage to Jack Kirby. The comics industry is lousy with Kirby homages—and it's lousy with lousy Kirby homages—but this is a book that manages to pull off the spirit of Kirby without getting too caught up in blind worship. The title character of Battling Boy is the son of a god-king from another dimension. His father wears an impractically huge helmet and travels space and time in search of adventure. He sends his son, a lanky, ordinary looking teenaged boy, to Earth ("a place built for heroes") on what he calls "a-rambling."

The inventiveness of Battling Boy is its real charm. The monsters are silly doodles springing to life on the page, belching fire and waggling their crooked teeth around menacingly. Pope's messy style evokes Kirby, but it doesn't slavishly imitate him; all the characters have Pope's signature beestung lips, and the linework is brash and subliminally sexual in a way that most American comics artists can't seem to manage. Battling Boy's powers come from his collection of magic t-shirts. Each shirt has a different animal on it—a bull, a lion, a t-rex—and he gains the power of whichever animal he decides to wear. ("The pictures [on the shirts]—they appear to shimmer and shift, as if they were alive! These were painted," Battling Boy explains, "with inks made of pulverized moonblood!") It's a great gimmick, one that you can imagine Jack Kirby laughing over. Battling Boy quickly develops its own mythology, creating a world where the sole apparent superhero, a cross between Batman and the Rocketeer, dies, leaving his daughter with a bunch of beautiful toys and a mission that will surely set her onto a collision course with Battling Boy.

The only problem I have with Battling Boy is that it ends abruptly, and there's no indication in the book that the story will continue anywhere. (I checked with First Second, and Pope is thankfully at work on a second volume of the book now.) This is a great book to give to kids who are interested in comics but who maybe need exposure to something a little more artistic than the standard superhero stuff. For someone who was raised on superhero comics, it's a great little jolt to the brain-stem.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

"Smooth as an Android's Bottom"

Posted by on Tue, Oct 29, 2013 at 1:26 PM

If I don't turn in my pieces on time for this week's paper, I'm just going to blame Scroll Down to Riker.

(Via Reddit.)

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Geek Girl Con 2013: Costumes!

Posted by on Sat, Oct 19, 2013 at 4:39 PM

Are you aware that Geek Girl Con is happening this weekend? I was down there today with an entourage of 8- and 9-year-olds so I didn't make it to any panels, but we did see plenty of costumes, explored the DIY Science Zone where the kids made slime and learned about genetics and DNA extraction, and checked out the vendors and artists.

The con continues 9 am-7 pm tomorrow, and there are still a limited number of passes at the door as well as select comic and gaming stores. Check out the Geek Girl Con web site for more details!

And here are a few of the fabulous costumes from today (I apologize for the occasionally crappy quality of my sad little point-n-shoot):

Fionna from Adventure Time
  • Fionna from Adventure Time

Continue reading »

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

"I Am Willing to Make Other People Uncomfortable so My Daughter Won't Have To"

Posted by on Tue, Oct 15, 2013 at 3:29 PM

Things in mainstream superhero comics can get better for women and minorities, as this Atlantic profile of Marvel Comics writer Kelly Sue DeConnick attests. Marvel is trying, slowly, to bring more female characters to the forefront.

"I think that the message is that no one is 'other,' that white males are not the 'default human being,'" DeConnick said on Comic Con's final day, crystallizing her credo.

I think the glaring overabundance of white dudes on their movie slate is causing Marvel some embarrassment as they move more and more into the public eye. (It probably helps that strong female character advocate Joss Whedon is spearheading their movie universe, too.) Whatever the behind-the-scenes reasons, I'm glad they're pushing for a broader, more inclusive array of superheroes.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

How Dare You Create a Stylish Homage to Our Intellectual Property?

Posted by on Wed, Oct 9, 2013 at 3:27 PM

Marvel Comics has shut down a Punisher fan film that the current Punisher comics team has publicly gushed over. It'd be smarter for Marvel to leave the not-for-profit fan films alone; that kind of generosity has helped Star Trek remain a relevant nerd franchise for a very long time now. Maybe they're just embarrassed that the actual, licensed Punisher films were total garbage?

Thursday, October 3, 2013

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Frederik Pohl

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