Archive for May, 2009

31
May
09

2 in 1 Showcase Episode 121: The Infinity Gauntlet

We’re getting into another classic comic discussion, friends, this week looking at perhaps the greatest Marvel crossover of all time: The Infinity Gauntlet. The boys look at the roots of Thanos’s story, through the epic series and its crossovers, and at the books that spun out after the series was over. Was this a crossover so good that it ruined crossovers for us since then? In the picks this week, Chase picks Planet Skaar Prologue, Blake loved Wonder Woman #32, and Mike was into Brave and the Bold #23. This week’s graphic novel: Silver Surfer: The Rebirth of Thanos. Write us with comments, suggestions, picks of the week, “Ask Chase Anything” questions, or anything else at Showcase@Comixtreme.com!

2 in 1 Showcase Episode 121: The Infinity Gauntlet
Inside This Episode:


PLUS:With Blake having technical issues, Chase goes it alone for the first post-season Week in Geek! Listen up for talk about the rumored Buffy the Vampire Slayer remake, the fan-made Green Lantern trailer starring Nathan Fillion, and more!

Week in Geek #22: Chase Flies Solo

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30
May
09

What I’m Reading: The Lightning Thief

LightningThieftI’ve mentioned it here before but it bears repeating: I really love Greek Mythology. As you guys have already seen in detail here on the site. But a couple of months ago, one of my fellow teachers recommended this book to me, The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan. The premise sounded intriguing and I always like new series fiction — especially if the series in question is finished and I don’t have to worry (not to sound crass) about the author dying and never finishing. So upon my friend’s recommendation, I picked the book up and cracked it open, finishing just earlier today.

The Lightning Thief is the first volume in a five-book series, Percy Jackson and the Olympians. Percy is a sixth-grade student who has spent his life bouncing from one boarding school to another, none of them able to handle a genuinely good kid who nonetheless constantly seems to find himself in trouble. This year, that trouble starts getting worse — as in the “monsters and mayhem” kind of trouble instead of just flunking an English test. One of the nastiest encounters leads him to a strange summer camp full of other kids just as extraordinary as he himself is, and Percy finds the truth: the gods of Greek myth are real, are alive, and one of them is his long-lost father.

I didn’t really pay attention to this book when it was released, shelving it mentally with the dozens of Harry Potter clones that were being put on shelves at the time. Having read it, I still think I was partially correct in that assessment. Structurally, this first book is very similar to Harry Potter — Percy has two friends who accompany him, the mentor characters are suitably mysterious, and the school setting is swapped for a summer camp. However, the more I think of it, none of those elements Percy and Harry have in common were really originated by Harry anyway. There are a lot of elements that Percy has unique to himself, and that’s what makes this book easy to recommend. Riordan has a really interesting social structure in place here, with the gods capable of playing both ally and antagonist as the situation demands. He uses the classic Greek deities, monsters, and symbology to great effect here, crafting a story that is singularly exciting. Percy is quite different from Harry in personality, carrying a bit of a god’s temper in him. As for his friends — well, Annabeth does seem to have a dash of Hermione, but considering who her sire is, that’s only natural.

On a personal note, I have to admit reading this book startled me, because Riordan actually overlaps once or twice with things I have done (or was planning to do) with my own work-in-progress Summer Love, but as both stories employ Greek myths, that’s really unavoidable. My story is drastically different from Riordan‘s, as is my interpretation of the Olympians. It was a little hard, still, to divorce my own ideas from what I read here.

Once I was able to do that, though, I really did enjoy this book. It’s a very strong beginning to the series, and I intend to hunt down book two, The Sea of Monsters, ASAP.

BONUS REVIEW:

As I’ve mentioned here before, I’m a member of the Amazon.com Vine Program, which gives me a chance to read and review books before they are released. I just finished a really great mystery novel by Lyndsay Faye entitled Dust and Shadow, about Sherlock Holmes and his effort to capture Jack the Ripper. If you’re interested in my review, you can read it here: Dust and Shadow review.

29
May
09

More things of intense concern

A couple of weeks ago, I asked the question: why do high school seniors get out two weeks earlier than the rest of the students? Today I found out the answer. Apparently, in the pre-computer age, records had to be sent to the state department of education and processed before diplomas could be issues, a process that took about two weeks. So in order to synch graduation with the end of school, grades had to be sent in two weeks before the end of the school year. And once there are no more grades to be given, there isn’t much point in keeping the kids here.

In this day and age, with most grades computerized and with the diplomas issues by the local district, letting the kids out early is an anachronism. But technically, so is summer vacation, and I’m not about to argue with that one.

Speaking of summer vacation…

Today was the last day of school for the rest of my students, the ones who are gonna be back next year, as they haven’t graduated yet. The teachers still have one day — we’ll be back Monday — but for all intents and purposes, the school year is over. And not a moment too soon, really. I’ve got some great kids. I love what I do. But there’s only so long you can be around a person in as intense a situation as school is before you start to grate on each other’s nerves. There are a lot of kids in my classes that I’m going to miss next year, but I know i’ll have another batch of great kids coming in. I’m glad, though, that I’ll have two months before I have to start that.

What will I be going in the meantime? Well, Erin is coming to town for a visit next week, and I can’t wait. Other than that, the biggest thing I’ll be working on is the initiative I’ve been talking about, clandestinely, as “Project Rebirth.” I’m still not quite ready to say exactly what that is, although I think I’ve said enough in various places that someone has probably figured it out by now, but it’s been moving along at quite a pace lately. I’ve got a major push that is going to need a lot of work out of me to make happen, and that’s what summer is going to be for.

Random Question

Has there ever been a decent zombie movie made that didn’t use the “I got bit but I don’t want to turn into a zombie, please kill me” scene?

Agent Orange

MINE.

28
May
09

Toy Stories: New Star Trek is Old-School Cool

Hey, guys. First of all, thanks to everyone who’s been reading and replying to the little impromptu Kanye West rant I posted yesterday. Less than 24 hours later, it’s already the fourth-highest viewed blog post on the whole site. It’s nice to know there are so many of you out there you actually… y’know… read things.

For this week’s Toy Stories post, I’m going back to the new Star Trek movie, which I’m still rather dazzled by. I looked before at some of the stars of the film. This time, I’m looking at some of the more classic creations that made this movie so awesome.

Dont forget, Shatner, this was my ship first!

Don't forget, Shatner, this was my ship first!

First up, let’s look at Captain Christopher Pike, as portrayed by the awesome Bruce Greenwood. Pike, for those of you not familiar with the original Star Trek series, was the character originally conceived as the captain of the Enterprise by creator Gene Roddenberry. He was featured in the original Star Trek pilot, “The Cage,” and played by Jeffrey Hunter before the network asked for changes to the show. Roddenberry’s second try eliminated the entire cast except for Leonard Nimoy‘s Spock, but Pike was brought back in an episode that used the scenes from the original pilot in a flashback sequence, and thus his place in true Trek canon was assured.

Bruce Greenwood‘s Pike took on a much larger role than I would have expected for this film, becoming part mentor and part inspiration for Chris Pine‘s James T. Kirk. In terms of his importance to Trek lore, I thought the character would be little more than a cameo, but he was a significant supporting player.

As an action figure, he got pretty good treatment. Although he came with the same accessories as every other Trek figure, the head sculpt is okay and at least bears a passing resemblance to Greenwood. I don’t know if there was ever a Pike figure before (it seems like there would have been, with all the years they’ve been making Star Trek figures), but Greenwood should be pleased with this.

I am, and have always been, made of plastic.

I am, and have always been, made of plastic.

Next up, I hope it’s not a spoiler at this point to mention the fact that Leonard Nimoy makes an appearance in the film. Although the movie credits list the character as “Spock Prime” (which, depending on your preferred fandom, either brings to mind an image of a transforming 18-wheeler or a petulant teenager trying to destroy the universe), the toy packaging calls him “Original Spock.” So we’re going with the O.S. I am so freaking white.

Original Spock here is one of the better-looking figures in the line. The sculpt of Nimoy is pretty impressive. The problem is one of articulation. With the long, stiff robe he wears, this Spock has even less motion than the rest of the Trek figures — really, only his neck, shoulders, and elbows have any movement at all, and not much there. These figures really are for display more than play, which is kind of a shame considering that this is a movie that’s bound to have a new generation of kids wanting to get their hands on these toys.

As for accessories, Spock here gets a bit less than the Starfleet officers (remember, he’s a Federation ambassador now): a different base, an alternate set of hands in the classic “Live long and prosper” salute, and a piece of the transporter room, as opposed to the bridge playset pieces most of the figures include.

The figures are okay, and I think I’m still more in love with the idea of this line than the toys themselves. Still, there’s some good here.

27
May
09

Kanye West hates reading

I got home late tonight. I didn’t think I was going to have time for a blog post. You see, I spent the evening at a high school graduation — not for my kids, not for my relatives, certainly not for myself. For students. A few of them were mine, but as I teach ninth grade and most of these kids were in tenth grade when I started at this school, there were very few I ever had in my own classroom. Still, I managed to talk to a couple of them that I did know, and I was pretty proud to see them pick up their diplomas. Thinking that I had even the smallest part to play in that is one of the proudest moments of my entire life.

So I get home and I check my e-mail and Twitter messages, planning to go to bed, only to come across this little news article that is bound to make my job a little harder soon.

“Proud non-reader Kanye West pens a (short) book”

I don’t like Kanye West. I never have. It’s not just because his kind of music isn’t what I like — although that is the case — but more because every time he opens his mouth in the public area he says something so outrageously stupid and ignorant that it baffles me how many people waste money supporting him. Now this guy, this musician that I promise you a large percentage of the kids I try desperately every day of my life to get to pick up a book listen to on a regular basis, comes out trashing books in general.

“I am a proud non-reader of books,” Kanye says. “I like to get information from doing stuff like actually talking to people and living real life.”

Nothing wrong with a little life experience, Kanye. But let’s say your “real life” involves someone having a critical disease and there’s a desperate race to find a cure. Where do you think the doctors find their information they need to save someone’s life?

From books.

Your country, Kanye, the one you’ve felt free to trash on multiple occasions, is currently embroiled in two military actions. How do you think the generals and strategists and policy makers got the knowledge they need to have any hope of victory?

Books.

Hey, Kanye? As a musician, I’m going to assume that you actually use — y’know — music. Sheet music, to be precice. Guess where people learn how to read and write music?

C’mon. Guess.

Of course, these people all need practical experience, but all the practical experience in the world doesn’t mean a damn if they don’t have the knowledge base necessary to use that experience. This is the fight I have (and I use “fight” in the context of “struggle,” Kanye, not in the context of throwing punches or whipping out guns. “Context” is also something I learned from books.) with kids who don’t understand why we’re reading The Odyssey or Romeo and Juliet or the poetry of Emily Dickinson. Do I really think it will matter in their life, ten years from now, if they understand what William Wordsworth meant when he wrote “I wandered lonely as a cloud”?

Of course not.

But if a kid can read that poem and understand it, that sir is a skill. And skills can be transferred and applied to other things. If you can understand Shakespeare, it will help you if you try to understand a medical journal. It will be there when your car breaks down and you need a manual to fix it because you can’t afford a mechanic. It will protect you if some sleazy record executive tries to get you to sign your life away on a shoddy contract that he’s hoping you won’t be smart enough to understand.

But I’ll say this, and the kids in my class will hear this, shrug their shoulders, and say, “Kanye doesn’t need to read.”

Kanye goes on to say, “I am not a fan of books. I would never want a book’s autograph.”

I really hope this is an accurate quote. I can only imagine that, if Kanye had ever bothered to pick up a book, he would understand that they can’t actually write.

Two more points that really burn me about this. First of all, this news comes out as Kanye decides to promote — wait for it — his own new book. Well… I suppose it’s a book in the publishing sense. I don’t know that I’d count a 52-page volume that includes blank and sparsely-written pages a “book,” but Kanye does. Not only does Kanye consider this a book, in fact, but he needed help to write it. It’s a collection of his “thoughts and theories.”

I’m going to avoid the obvious joke and just point out the sheer audacity of this man, tearing apart the medium that helped pull mankind out of the stone age while simultaneously shilling his slender little tome that joins the ranks of such literary giants as Pamela Anderson, Paris Hilton, and David Hasselhoff on the shelves that should be labelled “Books that wouldn’t have a snowball’s chance in Hell of being published if the author wasn’t a celebrity and we know stupid people will buy them.”

The last thing? The thing that wounds most of all? Kanye has dedicated the book to his late mother — which, in and of itself, is a sweet enough thing to do and I don’t begrudge him that. The thing is, Ma West was… yep. A University English Professor. That is, before she taught him (and again I quote) “to believe in my flyness and conquer my shyness.”

Yep. Wow, Kanye. Mom must be proud. Go ahead and roll in the cash you’ll get from this “book” you conjured up. I’m sure it keeps you warm at night. When I go to bed, I’ll remember the kids I saw walk across the stage tonight — the one who struggled until he broke a “B” in my class and then smiled as wide as the sky itself. The one who came to me — even though she’d never been in my class — asking me to proofread her final term paper and asking my advice. The one who got in trouble her first year, the girl we were afraid would get expelled, who managed to turn her life around and graduate on time, and with true pride.

I guarantee you, Kanye, I may never have your cash, but you’ll never know the feeling I got from watching these kids and glimpsing the bright futures I helped — at least a little bit — to create. And I promise you, every one of them got there with the help of a book or two.

26
May
09

The Mouse Returning to Comics?

The Life and Times of Scrooge McDuckWith this being the last week of school for the year, friends, I’m afraid I don’t have time for a full Everything But Imaginary column this week. However, some really interesting news just broke earlier today. Columnist Rick Johnston, in his (apparently final) Lying in the Gutters column, is reporting that Boom! Studios has gained the license to the classic Disney Comics including Uncle Scrooge, Walt Disney’s Comics and Stories, Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck and the rest of the family.

As I wrote in EBI back in March when Gemstone Publishing lost the license, I was really upset to see these books going away. I suggested several alternatives to the method of publication Gemstone used in that column, including suggesting that the excellent work Boom! was doing with the Pixar and Muppet comics for Disney would be a great model, and that perhaps it would even be great if they could get the license for the core Disney properties. I suggested it, but I didn’t really think it would happen.

Now, I always take Johnston‘s news with a grain of salt. His work is referred to as a “rumor” column for a reason. Sometimes he’s right on the money, sometimes he’s not even in the same galaxy. But this is one time I absolutely want him to be right. Boom! has done awesome work with the two Disney properties they already have, and if they can make that happen for the classic comics too, it’ll be great for fans of the characters and of comics in general. Let’s keep our fingers crossed.

A pair of Terminator reviews

As you know if you listen to the 2 in 1 Showcase podcast, this weekend we caught the new film Terminator: Salvation. If you’ve been waiting for the review… well, there’s two of ’em. You can read my thoughts on the film at my Comixtreme.com review, or you can listen to Chase and I chat about it on 2 in 1 Showcase At the Movies Episode 5. How’s that for convenient?

25
May
09

Universal Rule of the Universe #57

57. Everybody is annoying once in a while. Some people just make it a lifestyle choice.

Read all of the rules right here!




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