Friday, January 28, 2011

I am pretty sure that Charlie Sheen is living the life I was meant to lead

The evidence for this is overwhelming. First of all, he was born into a famous Hollywood acting family. Second of all, he has been in a bunch of films and television shows. Third of all, he appears on a popular television show. Fourth of all, he makes gobs and gobs of money for appearing on said show.

Fifth of all, he parties. A lot. With lots of women. Sometimes five at a time. Sixth, the drugs. Sometimes, briefcases full. Seventh, when he's rushed to the hospital, it's over something relatively trivial, like a hiatal hernia. Also, he got name-checked in a Warren Zevon song.

And now I learn that the man who has it all, who lives the life that I just know that I was meant to live*, has even the very same aspirations that I myself harbor.

He wants to create a "Porn Family."

Charlie Sheen wants to be the patriarch of a HUGE "porn family" -- composed of his favorite adult stars -- and he wants them all to live in a mansion down the street from his own house ... TMZ has learned.  
Sources connected to Charlie tell us ... during the infancy stages of Sheen's most recent bender Tuesday night, the actor brought his realtor and some of his XXX lady friends to dinner with his neighbor George Santo Pietro -- Vanna White's ex-husband.

We're told the meal was served in the wine cellar at George's home -- located just two miles from Sheen's place -- and Charlie drank ... A LOT.

During the boozefest, Charlie agreed to rent out George's giant estate for four months -- at the rate of $250k per month -- while George goes away on an upcoming trip to Thailand.

And why does Sheen need an extra mansion? Charlie explained that he wants to start a "porn family" -- and he wants the "actresses" to all live in the same house. One big, smutty family.
A brilliant plan. A visionary plan. Unfortunately, Mr. Sheen has surrounded himself with people who don't appreciate his vision.
The next morning, Sheen's people found out about the deal and were "furious" -- and immediately put a stop to the plans.
If Charlie Sheen's "people" had been Thomas Edison's "people," we'd all be blogging by candlelight.


*Except for the 9/11 Truther stuff. That's just nuts.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Special 3D post! The cynical genesis of Captain America and why the title of the new film "Captain America: The First Avenger" should be changed in all territories

Here is what you call a "non-story:" The upcoming film "Captain America: The First Avenger," will be dropping the "Captain America" part of the title when it is released in South Korea, Russia, and Ukraine.
The choice was made by Marvel, Paramount Pictures’ international team and distributors in those three countries based on market research results. Those involved in the decision are being careful to frame the move as a matter of brand management and consumer awareness and not as a decision tilted by cultural or political winds.

In private, Marvel insiders said that early on in the project’s planning there was talk that the title might need to be changed in numerous international markets but that there was a ”pleasant surprise” — the brand recognition of the comic-book superhero was so strong that it overrode those considerations in many places. That was not the case in Russia, South Korea and the Ukraine.
Most Americans don't care what happens in any of those three countries, anyway. I'm not entirely sure that "Ukraine" is even a real place. Show it to me on a map. I'm waiting.

As the article points out, it's not all that uncommon for American films to change their titles for overseas release. Here is a list of 50 amusing ones. Among my favorites:

In Japan, "Being John Malkovich" became "The Hole Of Malkovich."

In Mexico, "Thelma and Louise" became "An Unexpected End." (Shouldn't they have called it "Spoiler Alert"?)

In France they really cut to the heart of things when they changed the title of "The Matrix" to "The Young People Who Traverse Dimensions While Wearing Sunglasses." (A case of the title being better than the actual film.)

In China, "Leon" (which was actually called "The Professional" when I saw it here in the United States) became "This Hit Man Is Not as Cold as He Thought."

But my favorite might be another from China, when they changed the title of "Risky Business" to "Just Send Him To University Unqualified." Doesn't that just sound like something a "Tiger Mother" would say, throwing her arms up in exasperation?

"He doesn't want to study the violin? Well then why not just send him to university unqualified???"

I have gone a bit off-topic, but my point is that this isn't exactly a big deal. In three territories overseas they are changing the name of a film. A measly three territories. When I first read this story I yawned. Someone who did not yawn when he read this story, someone who was in fact filled with righteous indignation when he read this story, was a fellow called Warner Todd Huston over at the Big Hollywood site. He sees the dropping of the words "Captain America" from the title as nothing less than a neutering of the very spirit of Americanism that infuses that which is most noble about all our most noblest impulses, or something. I am paraphrasing, but only slightly.
Apparently, Hollywood thinks a character called “Captain America” is too gauche for foreigners to handle. And so he’s to go nameless in such places as Russia, Ukraine, and South Korea. Once again, Hollywood shows that it’s ashamed of America, its traditions, and culture.
"Gauche" sounds like a French word to me. Like foie gras. I love foie gras. It is my favorite food, next to the McRib. I live in two worlds -- the gauche and the elegant. Anyway, the use of the word "gauche" is a deliberate choice meant to inflame anti-anti-American sentiments. It almost worked on my loves-McRib side. But then the part of me that loves foie gras rose up and said, "Don't take the bait, he's baiting you!" (But he said that in French.) Also, he's trying to get my goat. I like goat meat, too. By which I mean lamb. I'm not sure I've ever eaten goat meat. I've had goat's milk. Anyway, I'm getting off-topic again.

The giant monolith that is "Hollywood" might be ashamed of America, it's traditions, and culture, but in this case, "Hollywood" is displaying its interest in that most delightful and American of traits, making lots of scratch by tailoring its product to fit the desires of the consumers.

Again, don't forget that we're talking about three measly territories. (I don't mean to in any way denigrate the territories themselves by calling them "measly." I'm denigrating the number "three." I have always hated the number three. Specifically, I hate it when people say things like, "That always happens in threes," when referring to deaths or bad news or whatever. It's just not true!)

But back to Big Hollywood:
This film already raised eyebrows for patriots when the director said that his Captain America wouldn’t be that into America. Last July, director Joe Johnston claimed that the Captain America in his film would not be a “jingoistic American flag-waver.” Johnston’s anti-American sentiment foreshadows the dropping of the character’s name from the title for overseas distribution.
"Patriots" act in as monolithic a way as "Hollywood." Raising their eyebrows over the treatment of a comic book character in a motion picture. Apparently because Captain America won't be a "jingoistic American flag-waver," the film is somehow "anti-American."

It's one or the other, dammit. "If you don't love it, leave it," to borrow a phrase that originated with Merle Haggard.
I’d dare say that the new costume they designed for the captain of that unmentionable nation was created in an effort to mute the essential American-ness of its traditional comic book design, too. Not that the uniform looks ridiculous by any means. In fact, it edges toward the practical instead of the generally outlandish nature of most comic book costumes (including the original Cappy’s costume).

But the thing is the original Captain America costume is unmistakably a replication of the U.S. flag.
Okay, I shall stop cutting and pasting from the article. You get the idea. But I might as well address the "issue" of the movie costume's "muting of the essential American-ness of the traditional costume design." I shall do this with indisputable historical facts and a careful examination of the costumes in both the comic books and images released from the film.

First, Captain America, the comic book superhero:

And now, here is an image of Mr. America from the upcoming film:

First of all, I have to confess that I am a very straight man, but my line of vision goes right to Mr. America's crotch every time I look at that picture. Second of all, I guess that Mr. Huston has a point about them changing the uniform. That thing just looks cheesy. But, again, who is looking at the stars and stripes above the belt, when there's so much going on below it?

Oh wait hold on a second. That is a shot from the 1979 Captain America TV movie. Here's an image from the upcoming Captain America film:

I think we can all agree it's a vast improvement over the 1979 TV movie version. It also matches pretty closely with the comic version. As closely as a live-action film that's going for a "serious" treatment of the character can be expected to get.

Still, there is a strap that crosses over the star on Captain America's chest. What is he trying to hide? That he's a beacon of light, a northstar-like guide for other countries? Also, why isn't Captain America looking directly at the camera in that shot?

A real American faces forward at all times. Showing the (comic book superhero) symbol of liberty looking off to the side is just another example of "Hollywood" elevating irresolution above grit, determination and forward-thinking. It's a wonder Captain America isn't looking at his navel in this shot, am I right? Did our founding fathers ever allow their gaze to stray to the side while they were writing all those great documents on which our country is founded? Nope.

Anyway, let's travel now back in time, to early 1941, and the creation of the character. In his book The Comic Book Makers, Joe Simon, the creator of Captain America writes,
"Our government's propaganda was preparing us for the day when the U.S. would enter the war. It was time of intense patriotism. Children played soldiers, shooting war toys at imaginary Hitlers. Wouldn't they love to see him lambasted in a comic book. By a soldier. A meek, bumbling private with muscles of steel and a colorful, star spangled costume under his khaki uniform. Wouldn't we all!

...[M]y mind burned with the idea. This was an opportunity for big money if I could make the right deal, not to mention the chance to make a mockery of the Nazis and their mad leader." (p. 50)
Emphasis added because Captain America, that glorious beacon of liberty and essential American-ness, was created as a cynical attempt to cash in on a rising tide of pro-war sentiment by becoming part of the government's propaganda machine.

Cashing in on war. There's your "essential American-ness," Mr. Huston.

Not only that, but advertisements within the comic book encouraged young readers to "become a sentinel of liberty" by joining a "noble crusade against spies, fifth columnists, and traitors to the United States of America!!!" Informing on neighbors who might be acting in a suspicious way -- if you see something, say something.

Captain America was created as an attempt to help push official government policy. Something he's still doing. Check out these pages from Captain America issue number 602, which was published back in February 2010:

Captain America takes on the Tea Party. The Tea Party, which is diametrically opposed to the current official government policy. Captain America was created for the specific purpose of pushing government policy. Captain America is still being used for that purpose. I wonder how Mr. Huston feels about that?

Actually, I don't have to wonder, since Mr. Huston covered the Captain-America-takes-on-the-Tea-Party issue on his website, Publius' Forum (which is where I got the above scan).
Isn’t it wonderful that a decades old American comic book hero is now being used to turn readers against our very political system, being used to slander folks that are standing up for real American principles in real life — and one called “Captain America” at that?
Actually, Captain America is doing what he was created to do -- push the agenda of the government.

The president at the time of Captain America's creation was Franklin Roosevelt. The guy who gave us "The New Deal." The guy who was at the head of a government that was, according to Joe Simon, "preparing us for the day when the U.S. would enter the war." A guy who is often compared to the current president:

Captain America is agitprop. Not American agitprop -- government agitprop. His highly questionable genesis is mirrored in his incredibly suspect origin story. Here are some scans from a 1983 comic strip that was included with the Hardee's equivalent of Happy Meals. If you've got 3-D glasses at home, you can view these images in eye-popping and nauseating 3-D (cashing in on a fad is also part of our essential American-ness):

Okay, Steve Rogers volunteers for an experiment in which he's given an injection of a performance-enhancing drug that will make him stronger than most human beings and give him an unfair advantage in a competitive environment. If a baseball player does this he's vilified. But if a fictional character meant to embody our essential American-ness does it, then he's an aspirational figure?

Would the people have still considered him heroic, if they'd known how he cheated to get that amazing physique? Think of the cynicism behind this -- that greatest superhero of all, Popeye, had a message that was always mind your mother, work hard, exercise, and eat your vegetables, specifically your spinach. Captain America says, "Screw that, there's a shortcut." Hard work doesn't mean anything. Take a drug, cut to the front of the line.

Then go to sleep for about ten years -- because superheroes have gone out of fashion, and your comic's not selling anymore. In other words, when you're losing, just give up.

Sure, he finds a way to come out on top -- by cheating. Remember, he took that supersoldier serum. His "victories" are always tainted. Like that baseball player who took those steroids, and everyone said that his big home run record didn't count. I don't know his name because I don't follow sports, but you probably know who I'm talking about. Why should anyone look up to Captain America? All he did was take a drug --

--And it's not like it was in the case of Spider-Man, who was bitten by a radioactive spider, or when Bruce Banner was caught in that nuclear blast and became the Hulk. In this case, Steve Rogers volunteered to cheat. He knew what he was doing when he took that drug. He was willing to risk death, if it meant he wouldn't have to exercise to get a great body.

A powerful message of American-ness.

And by the way, what kind of message is "take your drugs like the guy from the government tells you to?" How does Mr.  Huston feel about ObamaCare?

This is the greatest panel of the entire strip. First of all, Steve Rogers was a freelance artist at the time this strip came out? Are you serious? Superheroes are supposed to be wish-fulfillment fantasies but for crying out loud that is too much. If he were going to be a symbol of American-ness, shouldn't he be an entrepreneur or something?

Oh, and his motorcycle was especially designed for him! First he gets a designer body, then he gets a designer bike -- with a star on the side of it! Do you think, as a freelance artist, Steve Rogers painted that star himself?

Yes, if the American dream is to cheat.

This cynical character, created as government agitprop, in somehow a symbol of American-ness. Dropping the words "Captain America" from the film's title in three overseas markets is somehow indicative of the idea that the creators of the film are ashamed of "America, its traditions, and culture."

Let me tell you something, if Captain America represents America, its traditions, and culture, then I am ashamed myself, and I don't want this guy's name to be in any way associated with me.

And just in case you are still on the fence after reading my powerfully moving arguments, I will leave you with the following, taken from the first volume of Marvel's Essential Captain America collection.

Ever wonder what superheroes do on their time off? Tales of Suspense number 82, cover dated October 1966, gives us the answer, at least for Captain America. He hangs out in the Avengers mansion, looking over old photographs of himself from World War II. Then he has some tea, provided by the Avengers' butler, Jarvis.

You'll note that Captain America is hanging out in full costume. Why must he be wearing his super suit when all he's doing is looking through old scrapbooks and drinking tea?

Answer: He is a superhero. He is always "on duty."

Anyway, it's the third panel that gives us our most revealing glimpse into the mind of the super hero. Captain America is so bold, so powerful, so downright goshdarnit honest that he tells Jarvis exactly what are his plans.

I'm going to go masturbate in the shower.

He's a little more subtle than that, but not much. I'll just take a shower-- single-handed. The emphasis on the word "shower" is telling. It's the verbal equivalent of a wink at Jarvis. You know what I mean by shower, Jarvis. And just in case you don't, I'll throw in the totally superfluous line about doing it "single-handed."

I'm not judging Captain America; he's a superhero and he probably has a hard time building romantic relationships. There is a limited pool of super women from which to draw, and if a superhero mates with a "normal" woman, well, as Larry Niven famously postulated in "Man of Steel, Woman of Kleenex," the results could be disastrous for the woman. And of course, we all masturbate in the shower. But do we announce it to the butler before we trudge off wearily to do it?

That's just part of what makes Captain America one of our greatest heroes -- one that represents our unique American-ness. He gets bored, he goes to masturbate. And he's secure enough to tell whoever happens to be around.

I'm going to masturbate in the shower.

Excelsior, Captain America!

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

The Human Torch: R.I.P. (Re-Boot in Perpetuity)

Deaths of superhero characters make big news stories. Remember when Superman "died"? That was huge (it was the "Best-Selling Graphic Novel of All Time!"). Not too long ago, Captain America died. He got an "obituary" in the New York Times.

That says a lot about the Times. All that you need to know if you're considering their paywall.

And today, via a link on Yahoo's main page, we learn that the Human Torch, a member of the Fantastic Four is going to be "extinguished."
Fifty years after cosmic rays transformed him into a man ablaze, the Human Torch will burn no more as the pop culture purveyor of super heroes and villains embarks on an ambitious story line that ends the Fantastic Four.
Superman came back. Captain America came back. After awhile, you would expect that these news outlets that cover these comic book "deaths" would realize that they're being played for suckers. I suppose that's why this "death" has been tied in with the "final issue" of a long-running series, in which readers have been treated to "an ambitious" story line. It's not just a death, it's the end of an entire series!

That's how the Associated Press handles news, by the way. "An ambitious story line." That will result in a re-boot. Yet another in the interminable list of re-boots, re-imaginings, and re-launches.

That's "ambitious."

 Was the Human Torch's death assured when Chris Evans, the actor who played him in two "Fantastic Four" films, was cast as Captain America in the upcoming film "Captain America: The First Avenger"? I'm no conspiracy theorist, but, probably, yes.

The Fantastic Four will be back. The Human Torch will be back. Don't believe me? Just ask the people making the comic books.
[Tom] Brevoort, senior vice president for publishing at Marvel told The Associated Press that "588 is the final issue of the Fantastic Four. Beyond that, we're not ready to say exactly what we're doing. There won't be an issue 589."

All he would say about the future was that the various subplots and threads that [writer Jonathan] Hickman has written "will converge in a new thing that will be exciting and different and yet, very familiar and very much the same."
In other words, another re-boot. Or re-imagining. Or re-launch. Just another Wednesday at the comic book shop.

But for those of you who are still worried about their favorite flaming character and want more reassurance:
Joe Quesada, Marvel's chief creative officer, recognized that death, while potent, is not necessarily lasting and that the death of a character in comics has turned out "to be very cliche" in plot developments.

"Whether the human torch comes back or not is really a question that will be answered in time," he said.

"While I will never discount that a character can come back from the dead because it is one of the staples of comic book story telling . I'm not going to tell you if he will, or when he will and if he does, how he will, but I can assure you that it's going to be very, very interesting and not what anyone expects."
Just because it's "cliche" doesn't mean they're not going to do it-- they'll just do it in a "very interesting" and "unexpected" way!

Comics are about the "illusion of change."

When The Fantastic Four appeared in a television cartoon series in the late 1970s, the Human Torch "died" and was replaced by an annoying, cute robot called HERBIE.

Herbie game pic source.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Creative suicide: The interminable age of reboots. And relaunches. And reimaginings.

Marvel published the top comic book of 2010. Do you know what it was? Do you even care? It was The Avengers #1.
“The Avengers” No. 1, Marvel Comics' relaunch of its superhero property featuring Captain America, Iron Man, Thor, Spider-Man and Wolverine, was the best-selling comic-book title for 2010.
A relaunch, of a comic book that was first published in 1963, then relaunched in 1996, then relaunched in 1997, then relaunched in 1998, then relaunched in 2004 (actually a resumption of the original series launched in 1963), then relaunched in 2010. You can try to follow it all here, if you like.

In 1998, the great cartoonist Frank Miller told The Comics Journal,
When I was in my 20s, putting together Ronin and feeling the handcuffs come off creatively, I thought that we just had to win a certain number of business victories and there would be an absolute explosion of all this fine talent producing work that they were dying to do. And there's no politic way to put it-- it's been a crashing disappointment to see what's actually happened. And as time has gone by, my expectations have lowered. Talent is being squandered by people just becoming the next person to do whatever old Marvel comic. That's not just squandering an opportunity, it's suicide. Creative suicide. In one of my nastier moments, I started comparing the industry to a bunch of Elvis impersonators, trying to sell records. Understand, I grew up on the old Stan Lee/Jack Kirby/Steve Ditko stuff and loved it and will always have affection for it. But repeating it would be like staying in first grade the rest of my life.
Today, comic books are mostly advertising pamphlets, and testing grounds for properties to be sold to movies. One of the most anticipated movies of 2012 (can you stand this anticipation??) is the Avengers movie. Marvel Comics is doing its part to help push Marvel Productions' upcoming film. By rebooting a comic book that has been rebooted at least four times already. Perhaps in 2012 there will be yet another "first" issue of The Avengers (at the very least one presumes there will be a comic book adaptation of the film).

The people who are creating comic books today are marketers and advertisers. Taking material created by other people, 40, 50, 60 years before, and making it relevant for today's audience. And creating platforms from which to launch movie franchises.

Warner Bros announced long ago that it would be following Marvel's formula and begin releasing huge tentpole films based on its DC comics properties. Their first release since that announcement, Jonah Hex, was a spectacular failure at the box office. Their next release is getting a much bigger push, and a lot more "buzz": Green Lantern.

And already, people are lowering expectations. First, there are some unnamed "industry insiders," speaking about the career of Blake Lively, the actress who portrays Carol Ferris, the love interest in the film.
And both are also quick to say that should the forthcoming Green Lantern flop (and it's been a troubled production), it won't hurt Lively much. Says the manager, "Whatever the mistakes were with Green Lantern, she needs to not react to them and do an indie movie just because a big superhero movie didn't work. It's always about the role and the director. The hotter the person, the easier it is, and she's very hot right now." The agent adds, "Even though Green Lantern is supposed to be terrible, it doesn’t mean it’s not going to do extremely well and enhance her foreign value. Clash of the Titans was horrendous, but it didn’t slow down Sam Worthington any."
"Green Lantern" is supposed to be terrible. But that's just some unnamed agent. What about the fans? Well, some of them are already coming up with excuses to downplay expectations.
However, the filmmakers’ decision to ditch the standard latex/leather/spandex combination for Green Lantern’s superhero costume in favor of a more modern, completely CG costume remains the most questionable choice they’ve made to date.

WB and other involved parties have supported this decision from the get go – at least publicly – telling fans to expect a truly masterful sight on screen. However, every trailer or picture released up to this point doesn’t seem to support their claims. After taking a good hard look at more stills from the Green Lantern trailer, I’m very worried the SFX of this movie may be headed into realm of SyFy channel original movie.
Yeah, the cheesy CGI costume might ruin the film. Not the silly character himself. (Sorry, I am biased. I have never liked the Green Lantern character. He is a creepy sell-out of the planet earth to a group of sinister alien imperialist occupiers with inscrutable motives. But anyway.)

Also, there is the fact that the trailer, with its cheesy CGI costume, looks like every other superhero film we've already seen before, and fans are starting to pick up on that.
The trailer for next summer's Green Lantern movie hit the Internet in the face earlier this week, like a giant green fist. In addition to being yet another movie to feature gratuitous shots of Ryan Reynolds' abs, like [Every Movie Ryan Reynolds Has Ever Done], the Green Lantern movie distinguishes itself in another way. For the first time ever, I can't tell if I'm watching a trailer or a combination of clips from every other superhero movie ever shot. Either this is the work of a very clever editor, or there isn't a single original moment in the entire trailer.

Has it happened? Have we exhausted the genre? Is it time to stop making superhero movies?
Remember what Frank Miller said back in 1998.
Talent is being squandered by people just becoming the next person to do whatever old Marvel comic. That's not just squandering an opportunity, it's suicide. Creative suicide.
Comic books have become an insular, forbidding place, and as the readership has declined, the "big two," Marvel and DC, have done little to try to expand the audience for comics. Instead, they've fought for a larger percentage of that ever-diminishing audience. Rather than expand with new concepts and new ideas -- new non-superhero ideas -- they've doubled down on their existing properties.

The results have been unintentionally hilarious. For instance, in October, DC Comics published a book entitled Superman: Earth One. Here is what DC Comics' own website has to say about it:
Forget everything you know about The Man of Steel and brace yourself for a staggering new take on the world's most popular Super Hero.

Best-selling, Hugo Award-winning writer J. Michael Straczynski (BRAVE AND THE BOLD, Thor, Babylon 5) and red-hot rising star artist Shane Davis (GREEN LANTERN, SUPERMAN/BATMAN) team up for this exciting launch of the EARTH ONE graphic novel series. Set in an all-new continuity re-imagining DC's top heroes, EARTH ONE is a new wave of original, stand-alone graphic novels produced by the top writers and artists in the industry. The groundbreaking new line rockets into effect right here with the Super Hero who started it all – Superman!

What would happen if the origin of The Man of Tomorrow were introduced today for the very first time? Return to Smallville and experience the journey of Earth's favorite adopted son as he grows from boy to Superman like you've never seen before!
That copy is intended to entice you to purchase the book, and read it. Are you at all interested in reading a "staggering new take" (better sit down when you read it) on "the world's most popular Super Hero"?

If this one doesn't stagger you...

How many "new takes" on "the world's most popular Super Hero" have there been? I don't know, but it's been a lot.

Actually, there was another "new take" on "the world's most popular Super Hero," published in the very same year as Superman: Earth One. It was called Superman: Secret Origin. It was published in six issues beginning in 2009, finished up in 2010, and the collected hardcover was published in December 2010. Here's how DC Comics' own website attempts to entice you to purchase and read this work:
Writer Geoff Johns and artist Gary Frank bring you a startling new look at the beginnings of Lex Luthor, The Legion of Super-Heroes, Lois Lane, Metallo, Jimmy Olsen, The Parasite and more of your favorite characters from the Superman family in this new, deluxe hardcover. Collecting the acclaimed six-issue miniseries!
I suppose we should be grateful that this hardcover book is merely "startling." You shouldn't try to "stagger" too many comics fans all at once; all 200,000 of them might bump into each other. But the important thing is that DC Comics released two major re-imaginings/re-tellings of the origin of Superman within two months of each other.

This is the best that DC Comics can do?

 ...Perhaps this will startle you?

And go back up and read the stuff about Superman: Earth One again.

Set in an all-new continuity re-imagining DC's top heroes, EARTH ONE is a new wave of original, stand-alone graphic novels produced by the top writers and artists in the industry.

This is somewhat similar to what Marvel did with their "Ultimate" series. "Re-imagining" the same properties they've always published, and continued to publish. But it wasn't new when Marvel did it, either. There's not much point in going back through the complete history of comics, but I will note that Frank Miller himself "re-booted" Batman with the book Batman: Year One. That was back in 1987, just after the completion of "Crisis on Infinite Earths," which was supposed to streamline and simplify the entire jumbled history of the DC Universe (to what purpose? to try to get new readers?). DC ended up re-booting a lot of their characters around that time. There was a whole new slate of "#1" issues for the collectors to buy.

The point is: "Original, stand-alone graphic novels... re-imagining DC's top heroes." The comic book equivalent of Newspeak.

Or, as Frank Miller said, "Creative suicide."

And it's no coincidence that Warner Bros is preparing another reboot of the Superman film franchise (they had to race to get the movie into production before they lost the copyright on certain elements of Superman's story). The marketing tool that was Superman: Secret Origin apparently served as a direct inspiration for that new film.
Details about Zack Snyder's reboot of the 'Superman' franchise have been somewhat hard to come by, but comic book fans may have just gotten a huge hint as to what direction the newest Man of Steel adventure might take, courtesy of screenwriter David Goyer.
Goyer, who has the somewhat unenviable task of updating the character for a new generation, had this to say about Johns' take on the character in his preface. "There is a heart breaking moment halfway through the first chapter in which young Clark is told the truth about his heritage. He races out into the night, sobbing, stumbling through the cornfields. Eventually, his foster father, Jonathan, finds him.

'I don't want to be someone else,' says Clark. 'I don't want to be different. I want to be Clark Kent. I want to be your son.'

Right there in that moment, Geoff contextualized Superman in a way that I'm not sure has ever really been done before. I had an 'aha' experience when I read that. For the first time I was able to grasp how lonely Clark must have been when he was growing up. And what a sacrifice Clark must continually make by being Superman."
Emphasis added because that is the whole point of Superman's origin. The writer, Geoff Johns, was not "contextualizing" Superman, he was having Clark Kent state explicitly what is the theme of the Superman origin story. He was stating the obvious.

Why on earth do you think that Superman continues to be Clark Kent? Because he wants to be Clark Kent. He doesn't have to be. He's Superman -- he could be anything or anyone he wants. He wants to be Clark Kent. Is this really a revelation?

You're a massively successful screenwriter and this is a revelation to you?

This is made even more embarrassing by the recently leaked photos of what would have been Tim Burton's take on the Superman character.

That is a new take on the character. Already I'm interested, and I haven't even heard anything about the story. But that costume shows more thought and effort and uniqueness than "I don't want to be different."

Imagine that as your rallying cry. For crafting a film about a superhero. "I don't want to be different." But then, that's what the fans are saying, in regards to these pictures. For instance:
If this wasn’t a Superman movie, I’d say these costumes look great. But being as it is Superman, well, let’s just say I’m glad Bryan Singer and Zack Snyder got there first.

"I don't want to be different."

The images show that Burton's Superman would have used Lite Brite tech and a metal "S" logo for the chest piece. (Also, you can see an early version of the suit modeled on a mold of Nic Cage.)

Burton's Superman movie was a big deal in the mid to late 1990s; as most of you already know, Kevin Smith was hired to write a draft of the screenplay at one point. Burton's project went bye-bye, and Warner Bros. turned their attention to what would become Bryan Singer's Superman Returns instead.

There's a reason why these images were never seen before. See if you can find it.

"I don't want to be different."

Not too long ago, we posted costume test photos from Tim Burton’s aborted Superman Lives. I tried to avoid these posts, not because I don’t like engaging in speculation or deeply pondering “what-if” scenarios, but because the glimpses I saw made Superman look pretty atrocious.

Endless reboots, restating the obvious points of a character's origin story, removing all subtlety and nuance so that fans can have their "aha!" moment, reliving what they've already read... but this time, it's explained just a little bit differently!

Last year, sales of comic books declined by 3.5%. Comics sales have been declining for awhile.

The response? Reboot The Avengers. Reboot Superman. Reimagine Superman. Turn Batman into a postmodern commentary on Iron Man. Give Wonder Woman a new costume that looks like something that would get a contestant "aufed" from "Project Runway."

Oh, and movies. Movies, movies, movies. They're already working on a "Green Lantern" sequel. But what else has Warner Bros got? DC has  been so busy rebooting and reimagining its characters, over and over again, that they haven't come up with any new, bit concepts for the motion picture side. Even as marketing pamphlets, the comic books are failing.

Creative suicide.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Jennifer Aniston just insulted your sister, your cousin, your aunt, your wife

Remember Jennifer Aniston? For awhile, she was extremely popular. She was on an annoying television situation comedy called "Friends," with an irritating theme song and facile, shallow characters who inhabited a make-believe cutesy-poo "New York" in which everyone lived in nice apartments regardless of their income and everyone looked the same.

They were the six most annoying people on television, but at least they were all in one place. By not watching the show, you could avoid them all at once.

But their reach was long. The show had "influence." For instance, a lot of women emulated the hairstyle of Ms. Aniston's annoying character, Rachel. It was called "The Rachel."

I'm no Mr. Blackwell, but I never particularly cared for the haircut. It's not bad, but, eh.

I was in the minority on that opinion. There was a period in the '90s during which it seemed every other woman had that cut. They liked it. They liked it enough to get their hair done like that. To present themselves in public with that particular style on their head. Every day. They did this, even though a lot of other people were doing it.

That says a lot. People must have really liked the look.

To those people, Jennifer Aniston, the very paragon of class and dignity, says, "Eff you."
One hairstyle Aniston never wants to replicate? The Rachel. She told writer Danielle Pergament, "I love Chris, and he's the bane of my existence at the same time because he started that damn Rachel, which was not my best look. How do I say this? I think it was the ugliest haircut I've ever seen."
Your sister, your aunt, your cousin, your girlfriend at the time, your wife -- anyone you care about who had that hairstyle, who chose to get that look because they liked it, and they were fans of Ms. Aniston and her character to such a degree that they wanted to, in some small way, actually look like her -- has just been insulted by a mystifyingly popular, privileged jerk.

Ms. Aniston's snotty quote is taken from Allure, which features some photos of Ms. Aniston now. Here is one:

Does Ms. Aniston actually like this look? She approved it -- Allure can't have tricked her; she's a big movie star. Again, I'm no Mr. Blackwell, but -- does she really think that this look is better than what she was sporting back in the '90s?

Think about what she said. "How do I say this? I think it was the ugliest haircut I've ever seen."

That pause at the beginning: "How do I say this?" She is carefully choosing her words. She's a thoughtful woman. She wants to make sure that she gets her point across clearly and exactly. The next statement to follow that question will be unequivocally what she intends to say. These words shall have weight. They will be meaningful. She wants to ensure she says what she means, let there be absolutely no misunderstanding. And then:

"I think it was the ugliest haircut I've ever seen."

This woman lived in Los Angeles for a long time. She has met literally thousands of people, all over the world. She's met balding men with combovers. She's met people with fauxhawks. Mullets. People who've had lines shaved into their heads.

But it's "The Rachel," the haircut that your sister, your cousin, your aunt, your girlfriend, your wife loved so much that they themselves just had to have it, that Jennifer Aniston says is "the ugliest haircut [she's] ever seen."

On behalf of all of those women you just insulted, Ms. Aniston: Eff you. And your new haircut.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

The Dilemma: To cast live actors in films, or go completely CGI?

When it was revealed that director Robert Rodriguez had used CGI to simulate a nude scene with Jessica Alba in the film "Machete," I joked that Ms. Alba needed to watch out -- that with the advances made with CGI, pretty soon live actors would be completely obsolete.

Our favorite leading actors will be replaced with animated figures in films. The actors themselves will no longer appear in any films; they'll exist merely as fodder for gossip blogs and "entertainment news" programs. After they've done their time appearing on red carpets and at nightclub openings, they can appear on reality shows such as "Celebrity Fit Club," and "Celebrity Rehab." Or, perhaps they can get home remodeling shows, a la "The Vanilla Ice Project."

That day has actually arrived, as can be seen from the poster for the new (and apparently under-performing) film "The Dilemma":

Look at that poster. Clearly the actors Vince Vaughn and Kevin James provided the inspiration for the two animated figures that appear in the film under their names. They look almost as charming and life-like as the animated figures from last-year's "Toy Story 3."

Of course, the standard for humanlike computer animated figures must remain those blue things from "Avatar."

Mr. Vaughn and Mr. James look almost as -- oh, wait. Hold on a second. I just read "The Dilemma's" imdb link, and, apparently, the film isn't CGI.

That's just a massively bitched-up photoshop job on the poster.  So I guess actors haven't yet been completely replaced by computer images.

Never mind then.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Poodle Bitch is not impressed with Sonny "the wonder dog"

Yahoo!'s main page today featured a story in which was asked the age-old question, "Do you think a dog can read?"

To which Poodle Bitch would reply, "Of course a dog can read. How do you think dogs find the material about which to blog?"

However, after viewing the video linked from the yahoo! main page, Poodle Bitch feels confident in saying that, while she believes that dogs can read, she does not believe that this particular dog, Sonny, can read. Poodle Bitch encourages the reader to view the video for him/her-self:

Poodle Bitch will happily concede that Sonny "the wonder dog" could not be more cute, even if he were a poodle. She will also concede that Sonny has been well-trained, or is at least very eager to please. But she is unwilling to concede that Sonny can actually read.

Poodle Bitch wonders if Sonny's human companion asks her inane questions in the same order every time? She also wonders if she uses the same cards every time? Perhaps the answer is even more obvious than that -- Poodle Bitch notes that the human subtly lifts the card with the "correct" answer inscribed upon it, just as Sonny reaches out an innocent paw.

Poodle Bitch speculates that poor Sonny is likely responding to cues in his human companion's voice, and reaching out a paw as he's been trained; then he merely touches the hand that has raised slightly to meet it.

Of particular interest to Poodle Bitch is the sequence around the :35 mark, when the human companion asks Sonny, "What do you chew on?" When Sonny attempts to answer, wrongly, the card on which is inscribed that wrong answer (Poodle Bitch admits she could not read what was on that card) is pulled back as Sonny reaches toward it. Sonny then looks at something or someone off camera and then manages to select the other card, on which has been inscribed the word "Bones."

This is of particular interest because it would seem to confirm the hypothesis that the human companion is "feeding" cues to Sonny (as opposed to bones); it is also of particular interest because sophisticated humans provide their canine companions with tomato slices or chicken on which to chew.

Poodle Bitch has a message to the humans who exploit their canine companions for fleeting internet fame: If you're going to debase them in such ways, at least give them tomato slices.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Daisy California, issue 1 first 8 pages

The first issue of the comic book I'm making with my cute little niece, Daisy California, is almost done and should be available soon. Here is a look at the first 8 pages.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Waitasecond -- you mean I'm not a Sagittarius?

I've often wondered why astrology is total bullshit. It turns out, we've been using the wrong signs and dates!
Astronomer Parke Kunkle told NBC News this week that the Earth's changing alignment in the last 3,000 years has prompted new consideration of the sign into standard zodiacs.

In fact, the sign you are born into now are different than what you've been led to believe your entire life.

Kunkle  said: "This is not something that happened today. This has gone on for thousands of years," says Kunkle. "Because of this change of tilt, the Earth is really over here in effect and Sun is in a different constellation than it was 3,000 years ago."

Under the revised zodiac, the following dates would apply:

Capricorn: Jan. 20 - Feb. 16
Aquarius: Feb. 16 - March 11
Pisces: March 11- April 18
Aries: April 18- May 13
Taurus: May 13- June 21
Gemini: June 21- July 20
Cancer: July 20- Aug. 10
Leo: Aug. 10- Sept. 16
Virgo: Sept. 16- Oct. 30
Libra: Oct. 30- Nov. 23
Scorpio: Nov. 23- Nov. 29
Ophiuchus: Nov. 29- Dec. 17
Sagittarius: Dec. 17- Jan. 20
So much wonder in the piece quoted above. First of all, that sentence I emphasized contains a lovely double "Kunkle said," and "says Kunkle." So you know that Kunkle said it. And he says it.

Second, astronomer Kunkle. If you really are an astronomer, must you attempt to give an air of legitimacy to the nonsense that is astrology? Don't you have something serious to look into?

Like, scanning the sky for killer asteroids?
And "Ophiuchus" sounds like the medical term for the expulsion of certain fluids from the body. It doesn't sound classy, the way the other signs do.

Oh how angry this makes me. This fills me with such fine indignation that I don't know what I will do,  beyond gnashing my teeth. 
I would like to say "Ophiuchus You!" to the astrologers.
Anyway, for a nice overview of everything that's wrong with astrology (including the fact that it should have thirteen signs instead of twelve, and that the signs would all be different now based on the movements of the earth!), please read here.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

France loves "The Mentalist," for some reason

Yes, the French are so much more sophisticated than us Americans, aren't they? They enjoy fine wine and cheese, and they've got their great culture and all those amazing buildings with their rich history and etc.

Well, I was actually in France for a few days last summer. They have McDonald's there. They actually have several McDonald's there. Don't believe me? You think it's all foie gras and coq au vin? Take a look at this:

That's a photo of a McDonald's in France, near Provence. Actually, it looks so much like a McDonald's in America that you might not believe this photo was taken in France. So, here is another photo:

French McChicken sandwich.

I'm not knocking McDonald's. McDonald's is one of my favorite restaurants. I have written about it quite a bit. But I'm saying, don't believe that stuff about the French being ohsosophisticated and hoity toity.

I went to a lot of different restaurants in France. I tried a lot of different foods. The McDonald's was the most crowded restaurant I went to. Second most crowded?


Yes, they have KFCs in France.

They also  have "The Mentalist." That's a television cozy-mystery type show about a former "psychic" who consults with the California Bureau of Investigation. He helps them solve the crimes that they can't solve on their own. Which is to say, he helps them solve absolutely every case that they work on.

Anyway, every week there's a new crime and every week said crime gets solved and wrapped up in a neat little bow (except the "Red John" case -- "Red John" is the serial killer who killed The Mentalist's family) and then it's on to next week's case. The Mentalist uses unconventional means to solve his crime. He's rebellious. He plays by his own rules.

What I'm saying is, it is like almost every other crime show on television. The guy who plays The Mentalist,  Simon Baker, is a charming and likable actor. The other actors are total nonentities who could be replaced with furniture and I wouldn't be able to tell the difference.

This show is the number one show in France. Yes, the McDonald's-eating people of France love them some "Mentalist."
He might not have caught Red John, but "The Mentalist's" Patrick Jane certainly hypnotized France.
Some 38 episodes, which broadcaster TF1 airs on Wednesdays in primetime, appeared in Gaul's top 100 list of most-watched TV shows for 2010.
Produced by Bruno Heller for Warner Bros. TV, "Mentalist" ranked as France's top TV series in a year with few TV ratings hits.

As in recent years, U.S. imports held sway. "House" registered 11 top 100 rankings, "CSI" six, "Criminal Minds" five and "CSI: Miami" three.
Only six French series made the cut, led by three episodes of TF1's Monday primetime comedy "Une famille formidable," which first aired 1992 and wrapped its eighth season last year.
Much as I was not knocking McDonald's earlier, I'm also not knocking "The Mentalist." Gosh help me I watch the show myself. But France? Really? France?

Number one in France?

I shouldn't be surprised. Here's another photo from my trip to France:

That was taken in one of the hotels in which I stayed. It's a photo of a television screen, on which you can see a scene from the television show "Dr Quinn, Medicine Woman." What you can't see, because this is a still photo, is that the image depicted on the television did not move.  It didn't move for several hours (I rechecked it).

Yes, in France, they have a channel that is devoted to showing one still image from a mostly forgotten American television program about frontier life. Or, maybe there was something wrong with the television in my hotel room. That's not really my point.

My point is: Really, France?