Archive for December, 2008

31
Dec
08

Everything But Imaginary #291: One Last Look at 2008

It’s the last day of the year, friends, so let’s end it with one look back at some of the high and low points in the world of comics, as chosen by me. And then, stick around for the nominees for the 2008 Everything But Imaginary Awards! Your votes have to be e-mailed to Blake@comixtreme.com by Monday, Jan. 5, to be counted!

Everything But Imaginary #291: One Last Look at 2008
Inside This Column:

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30
Dec
08

DC Universe Infinite Heroes-Lotsa Toys

As happened during the Halloween Party, I drifted away from doing my “Toy Stories” photoblogs during the Christmas Party. And this time, I’ve got a lot of new figures to cover. This is, I must say, something I love doing, and as it seems to be a feature that gets a lot of attention, I assume you like it too. Let’s look at some of the DC Universe Infinite Heroes I’ve picked up since I last talked toys with you guys.

Batman and Two-Face

Batman and Two-Face

This first pair, like earlier ones, isn’t technically an Infinite Heroes set, it’s part of the DC Hero Zone: The Dark Knight. When I heard that they were releasing the Dark Knight toys in two waves, I assumed that the reason for this was so that they could hold back on Two-Face figures until after the film was already out and not spoil the reveal. As usual, I was correct. The Harvey Dent figure in this two-pack looks great — and considering the 3.75-inch scale, it’s not a bad likeness of Aaron Echardt. As all of these figures were released in two-packs, this makes the third Batman figure I’ve gotten to get the three different villains (the others being the Joker and Scarecrow), which is exactly two more Batmen than I actually need, but hey, how else are you gonna get a Two-Face?

For the Infinite Heroes, let’s look at a Toys R Us exclusive six-pack, Defense of Oa:

Guy Gardner, Energized Hal Jordan & John Stewart

Guy Gardner, “Energized” Hal Jordan & John Stewart

This Green Lantern themed six-pack comes with three heroes and three villains. Guy Gardner, unfortunately, is a duplicate of one of the single figures I already had. (What, we couldn’t get a Kyle Rayner? Or a Kilowog? Or even a Tomar-Re?) The “energy” version of Hal Jordan is a neat-looking figure, and that at least means it won’t be a duplicate of the inevitable single Hal figure that’s sure to come out sooner or later. Finally, there’s a really sharp looking John Stewart. I’m well on my way to constructing my own 3.75-inch Green Lantern Corps.

A Qwardian Weaponer with two Manhunters

The villains in the pack are kinda generic: no Sinestro, no Sinestro Corps members, but instead one Qwardian Weaponer — one of the millions of footsoldiers from the Anti-Matter Universe — and two “battle damaged” Manhunters, the robots created to protect the universe before they went bad, prompting the Guardians to create the Green Lantern Corps in the first place. The Qwardian is also available in a single pack, which I intend to pass on now, and there’s also a single Manhunter, but one that’s not “damaged.”

Let’s move on to the single figures:

Batwoman

Batwoman is a nice-looking figure, although (like all the female Infinite Heroes toys) her legs are totally incapable of standing the figure up on their own, so she comes with a clear plastic base. You can kinda see it at the bottom of the picture if you look hard enough. I’m glad they came out with this toy, though — she’s becoming a more significant member of the Batman family.

Hush

Hush

Speaking of Batman, I found one of his nastiest enemies — Hush — when I was in Pittsburgh with Erin. For some reason, this was a hard photo — the camera wouldn’t focus on the figure. Maybe it’s the bandages or something, it could have confused the camera. I dunno. Still, cool figure for a cool villain. Although I do think the trench coat is borrowed from the Commissioner Gordon figure.

The Question

The Question

The Question is next, and I find it interesting that they went with the original incarnation of the character, Vic Sage, instead of the current Renee Montoya. As far as I know, this is the only Infinite Hero figure of a character currently dead. I wonder if they’ve got plans for Renee later down the line.

Black Hand

Black Hand

Getting ready to cause a little chaos next summer in Blackest Night, here’s one of Green Lantern’s old enemies, Black Hand. Not much else to say about him — most of the Infinite Heroes toys come from the same basic body sculpts, with accessories (capes, gloves, masks, etc.) added as necessary. Without the cape, this is as good an example of that as you can get.

Black Adam

Black Adam

Speaking of villains with “Black” in their name, here’s the anti-Captain Marvel, Black Adam. He’s really one of the most interesting characters in DC Comics these days (thank you, Geoff Johns), so I’m glad to see him showing up in this set.

Wildcat

Wildcat

Ted Grant, a.k.a. Wildcat, is one of the grand old men of the DC Universe. He’s a classic World War II hero whose powers have kept him viable to this day. I love the character, and I hope his inclusion means we’ll see more of the classic heroes — specifically Alan Scott and Jay Garrick, the original Green Lantern and Flash, respectively.

The Atom

The Atom

From one of the oldest DCU heroes to one of the youngest, this is Ryan Choi, the third Atom. Ryan is a character who I think many fans rejected without giving him a chance just because he wasn’t Ray Palmer (the previous Atom), which to me just ain’t fair. He starred in a really good series that ended before its time. I hope we see him find a home, and soon.

Well, that was going to be it, until I was out shopping earlier and found something I had to grab. To the aunts and grandmother who gave me money for Christmas, here’s what your dollars bought:

Battle For Metropolis

DC Universe Infinite Heroes: Battle For Metropolis

The Infinite Heroes Battle For Metropolis eight-pack. This set is another Toys R Us exclusive, and it’s another set that uses duplicate villain henchman to fill up the case, but that’s not really why I got it anyway.

Lex Luthor and his Rockettes... um... that is, Luthor Troopers.

Lex Luthor and his Rockettes… um… that is, “Luthor Troopers.”

Lex Luthor, the big mama-jama in the middle there, comes with four of his “Luthor Troopers.” He’s given them all armor, which is nice of him, but you’ll notice he saved the big toys for himself. You see those two big shoulder-mounted rockets? Yep, they actually shoot. The set also has three different heroes with it:

Captain Marvel, Superman and Captain Atom

Captain Marvel, Superman and Captain Atom

Captain Marvel, Superman, and Captain Atom all have a home here. Captain Marvel (labelled as “Shazam!” for trademark reasons) is sadly identical to the single-pack figure I already have, not unlike the Guy Gardner. Captain Atom is a nice new figure, but I wonder… why him? Neither he nor Marvel have ever lived in Metropolis. Why not have some natives fighting for their city? Booster Gold? Gangbuster? Guardian? Rose and Thorn? So many figures they could have chosen from.

Like I said, Captain Marvel is a duplicate, but Superman…

Kingdom Come Superman & Classic Superman

Kingdom Come Superman & Classic Superman

The Superman battling for Metropolis is actually the version of the character from the awesome Kingdom Come series and currently appearing in Justice Society of America. And since he’s from an alternate Earth, I can officially count these figures as two different characters, rather than just different versions of the same character (as Hal Jordan and “Energized” Hal Jordan would be). Sweet. This is the kind of duplicate character I like.

So looking over the packages of the figures that have been released so far, here’s what I still appear to be missing:

  • The Gotham City Patrol six-pack, which includes Batman, Killer Croc, Catwoman, Hush (at least this one has an alternate head, unlike the duplicate Guy Gardner and Qwardian Weaponer), and two Gotham City SWAT team members. I already have the two that came with Commissioner Gordon, but I guess you can never have too many of those.
  • Single-packed, undamaged Manhunter figure
  • Power Girl
  • Star Sapphire

There are also single figures of Batman and the Qwardian Weaponer, but as those appear to be identical to the ones in the multi-figure packs, I can pass on ’em.

Hope you enjoyed this little look at the figures I’ve been accumulating, gang!

29
Dec
08

Back to work

A lot of folks who had off for Christmas are back to work today. Although I’ve still got another week of freedom before school starts again, I’ve been busy today. This is the most intensive day I’ve put in on Project Rebirth in quite a long time. It’s been an editing day, mostly. Like I said at the conclusion of National Novel Writing Month, I really believe that you need some distance after finishing a project before doing the revisions. Well, I’ve certainly got distance behind me here. I’m working on something that I thought was finished quite some time ago, but I may have the chance to breathe new life into it in the coming year. So I’m going back to the source, cleaning up dialogue, fixing errors, changing dated references (to something that hopefully won’t be dated any time soon) and basically trying to make an old favorite into a project that will last.

Perhaps most importantly, I’m working on something that really matters to me, and that’s always where a person does his best work, don’t you think?

I’m not finished — didn’t even get as far as I wanted today — but I did enough to believe I can finish this revision by the end of the week, which is my goal.

So those of you who spent a first day back at work today, how’d it go?

28
Dec
08

2 in 1 Showcase Episode 99: 2008-The Year in Review

2008 ends in just days, folks, so let’s go out with a Showcase blowout! Joined by back-up geeks Mike and Kenny, the boys announce the winners of the Best of 2008 awards, as voted on by you! Then, it’s a long talk about everything that happened in comics in 2008! The Dark Knight, the rise of Marvel Studios, Diamond refuses to distribute Hack/Slash, Archie goes back to ninth grade, and a heck of a lot more. This double-sized episode is the longest Showcase ever (we promise we won’t make a habit of it)! And instead of our usual picks of the week, stay tuned as our four guys pick their favorite comic books of the entire year! Next week will be the 100th Episode Spectacular! If you’ll be in the New Orleans area on Friday, Jan. 2 at about 4:30 p.m., stop in at BSI Comics to join the guys as they record their centennial episode! You can also send your anniversary greetings, “Ask Chase Anything” questions, or anything else at Showcase@comixtreme.com!

Episode 99: 2008-The Year in Review
Inside This Episode:


PLUS: In Week in Geek #5, DC Comics has released a teaser image for the upcoming Batman: Battle For the Cowl event. This week, Blake dissects the image to try to figure out the clues and hints hidden within!

Week in Geek #5: Battle For the Cowl Teaser Analyzed

27
Dec
08

What I’m Playing: LEGO Batman

Here’s something I haven’t had many chances to post here — today I’m going to talk a little bit about a video game I’m playing.

I know. It surprised me too.

I don’t play a lot of video games, folks. I’m usually doing something else and, to be frank, I’m not that good at them. So it’s got to be something I really want to play to take my time. If DC Universe Online finally comes out next year, I’m gonna be all over that bad boy.

But last year I got a chance to play the LEGO Star Wars game for a few minutes and I thought it was fun. When I heard LEGO Batman was going to be available for PC (I have no X-Box, no Playstation, no Wii… I’m a heathen) I thought it’d be fun to give it a spin. And when I found it on sale yesterday, I picked it up. I’ve spent most of the afternoon spinning through the LEGO-ized version of Gotham City.

As far as sheer gameplay goes, this is a lot of fun. The designs are great and the animated “story’ sequences that provide the plot of the game are really funny. Robin comes across a little buffoonish, which bothers me as a fan of Tim Drake, but it works with the tone of the game. The plot, basically, is that a mass breakout occurs at Arkham Asylum, releasing nearly all of Batman’s foes at once, so he and his allies have to cut loose to capture them.

The game contains 30 levels — 15 you play as the heroes and 15 as the villains, and you tag-team with another character in every level. So far, I’ve only played the first “story” of five hero levels, featuring Batman and Robin tracking down the Riddler and Two-Face (who have also recruited Clayface, Poison Ivy, and Mr. Freeze in their scheme). The controls took a little getting used to, but once I got the hang of it, I did fine. There’s a lot of action — a lot of times where you just go around and beat up villains — and that’s fine. You also find yourself building things out of LEGOs to create weapons, vehicles, and other things. Plus, almost everything is breakable, since it’s all made of LEGO. The game totally simulates the LEGO experience — sometimes you’re the kid getting to put together crazy things, sometimes you’re the jerk who shows up and just starts breaking everything. The level where you pilot the Batmobile and try to capture Two-Face in his armored car features more destruction than the last three Michael Bay movies.

It’s not all punching and breaking, though. There’s some strategy involved here too. All of the characters can find alternate suits with different abilities — Batman has a”Glider” suit, for instance, Robin has an “electromagnetic” suit, and so on. You need certain suits to open certain doors or activate certain devices. What’s more, once you’ve beaten a level, you can go back in “free play” mode, which allows you to trade off between any of the suits or characters you’ve unlocked and find different items or locations that you couldn’t get to the first time you played the level.

Like I said, I don’t play a lot of video games, but I really had fun with this one… and I’ve really only gone through a sixth of the game. I expect to have a lot of fun playing through the rest.

On a totally unrelated note, I caught Frank Miller’s version of The Spirit last night. In a nutshell… there were some things to like about the movie, but not nearly enough to counter terrible performances by usually-good actors, horrendous dialogue, and a painful disrespect for the history of one of the greatest comic book characters ever created. You can read more details (although mostly spoiler-free ones) at my review at Comixtreme.com.

Hmm. The poster says “My city screams.” Not as much as the fans, Mr. Miller.

26
Dec
08

What I’m Watching: Animaniacs Volume 1

Merry Day After Christmas, everyone! I hope you all had a wonderful time yesterday and you got everything you wanted. Since most of us are spending the day relaxing (and/or recovering) I’ve spent most of the day enjoying one of my Christmas presents. Sure, you could be watching a House marathon on USA or doing post-Christmas shopping on any of a dozen networks, but I have instead spent today hosting my own marathon thanks to what I got from my sister and brother-in-law: Animaniacs Vol. 1.

If you never saw Animaniacs when it was on the air… well, you’re insane. The show starred the Warner Brothersand their sister, Dot, three cartoon characters from the 40s who were deemed too zany for public consumption and locked away in the studio water tower until present day. Alongside the Warners, the show gave the world the would-be world conquerors Pinky and the Brain, the pre-Sopranos mob parody Goodfeathers, the magnificent Bernadette Peters in Rita and Runt and a half-dozen other cartoon superstars. This was Steven Spielberg’s second cartoon with Warner Brothers (the studio, not the characters), having cut his teeth on Tiny Toon Adventures. As good as Tiny Toons was this blew it away.

Yakko, Wakko and Dot Warner were the spiritual successors to Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, and all the other great Looney Tunes. Sure, the Tiny Toons had a more direct link to the classic characters, but the cartoons you saw on Animaniacs had the same tone, the same feel, the same sense of barely restrained insanity. The cartoon had levels upon levels of comedy, sneaking in political humor right next to a potty joke, or doing an entire episode (King Yakko, one of my favorites) to parody the classic Marx Brothers comedy Duck Soup, a joke that went right over the heads of 90 percent of the audience, adults included. This wasn’t just funny, this wasn’t just wonderfully animated, this was a smart show, probably the smartest cartoon ever made for kids’ television.

Remember a few days ago when I complained that none of the cartoons of my childhood hold up today? Well, this is a cartoon of my teen years, not of my childhood… and this bad boy holds up. Even with a few dated references to then-popular actors or TV characters (an Urkel cameo, or a joke about Ted Danson and Whoopi Goldberg), the majority of the humor is timeless and as entertaining today as it was when it first came out 15 years ago. I love this cartoon as much today as I did back then.

25
Dec
08

What I’m Watching: A Charlie Brown Christmas

And so it comes again, Christmas Day, the most wonderful time of the year. As I sit here, waiting patiently for the new external hard drive I got to finish backing up my laptop, I decided I had the time to give you guys the review I promised a few days ago, of the greatest Christmas special ever made, A Charlie Brown Christmas, released on a Deluxe Edition DVD this year.

Originally produced back in 1965, in A Charlie Brown Christmas we find everyone’s favorite round-headed kid getting disillusioned with the holidays. Everywhere around him, from his dog to his baby sister, commercialism seems to be strangling the meaning out of the season. Lucy tries to help out (to her credit) by making him director of the Christmas play, but even then, nothing seems to go right. In the end, it’ll be up to wise little Linus to set things right.

There’s little point in actually reviewing the cartoon itself. Everyone has seen it, everyone knows  how brilliant it is. It’d be like trying to review Hamlet or… I dunno… celery. Suffice it to say, it’s as magnificent in its simplicity now as it was 43 years ago, and the message may be more important than ever. Let’s talk about the DVD itself — the video has been cleaned up and “remastered,” which is a process that still eludes me. For all I know they’ve got a machine where they feed videotape in a frame at a time and miniature elves clean it off with little squeegees. Whatever they did, the video looks really good — the colors pop and the sound is wonderful.

But what I’m really about, as you well know, are the special features. There are two bonuses on this disc, beginning with the 1992 cartoon It’s Christmastime Again, Charlie Brown. This is the same back-up feature we got on the first Charlie Brown Christmas DVD, but it’s not a bad one. Out of the three other Christmas specials (the others being 2002’s Charlie Brown’s Christmas Tales and 2003’s I Want a Dog For Christmas, Charlie Brown), this is hands-down the best. The cartoon, like most of the later ones, is culled from several Christmas stories that ran in the comic strip, including Sally’s attempt to memorize her lines for the Christmas play, Charlie Brown’s attempt to buy a Christmas present for Peggy Jean, the girl he likes (who is not, as some would have you believe, the never-named “Little Red-Haired Girl”), and Peppermint Patty’s dealings with Handel’s Messiah.

The other featurette is a new “making-of” documentary, which was clearly produced alongside the similar features included on the DVDs for It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown; You’re Not Elected, Charlie Brown; and A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving. It’s not a bad feature, but a lot of the information is repeated from the older making-of feature (which, oddly, was not a special on the DVD of A Charlie Brown Christmas, but rather, with I Want a Dog For Christmas, Charlie Brown). The older version also includes some stuff that we don’t get here, specifically interviews with the now-adult voice actors who brought Charlie Brown, Linus, and Lucy to life.

I’m going with the same recommendation with this as I did for the Thanksgiving DVD. If you don’t have the old DVD, you have to get this. If you do have it, then you need to make the call — is the remastering worth it to get the DVD again? For most people, I think the answer will probably be “yes.”

Enough to Go Around

Before Thanksgiving, when Erin and I saw Twilight together, there was a commercial co-produced by Wal-Mart and Coca-Cola, in which a guy wanders around his Christmas party handing out Cokes (from a Wal-Mart bag, of course) to everyone he knows, singing about them along the way. The song was incredibly catchy, and I was disappointed that I didn’t see the commercial make its way to television. To date, the only times I’ve seen it are at the movies or on the display TVs at Wal-Mart itself. Fortunately, some industrious person has put it up on YouTube. If you haven’t seen it, it’s only a minute. Give it a view. I hope you enjoy it — and more than that, I hope you and yours have a very Merry Christmas!




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