Archive for December, 2010

31
Dec
10

Why not end the year behind THE CURTAIN?

Hey, friends — Happy New Year’s Eve! Have a great time wherever you are tonight, drink responsibly, drive safely, and try not to make your hands blow up.

Okay, obligatory public service announcement out of the way. I’m going to get in one last shameless plug for 2010. As (hopefully) you know, back in October I started a new experiment in storytelling, an ongoing saga that I’ve been presenting twice a week over at Tales Of the Curtain.com. I’m telling several interconnected stories there, with new installments appearing every Tuesday and Friday, sagas about a world where monsters are very real, even if not everybody wants to admit it. I’ve been having fun writing it, and I hope you’ve been having fun reading it.

If you haven’t checked it out yet, though, why not do it today? Even if you’re at work, you and I both know you’re not going to get anything done. There are several ways you can read these stories — you can either break them down by character thread, you can jump in at today’s installment and try to catch up, or you can go through and read all of the tales in chronological order. There’s no wrong way to do it, friends. Here, for your reading ease, are all of the stories in the world of the curtain that I’ve presented so far, in the order in which they take place…

YEAR OF THE CURTAIN

October 15

October 22

Easter-Christmas

YEAR OF THE CURTAIN+5

October 15

October 16

October 17

October 18

October 19

October 20

October 21

October 22

30
Dec
10

What Movies Did I Miss in 2010?

So here I am, trying to come up with some sort of “end of the year” blog, and I decided it may be good to comment on what I thought were the best motion pictures of the year. I’m a geek, right? I watch a lot of movies, I comment on a hell of a lot of movies. I know movies.

But as I sat down to compile my list, I realized something startling: I haven’t really seen all that many 2010 movies. Even counting direct-to-DVD films like the DC and Marvel animated projects, I’ve seen a total of 22 feature length films released in 2010.

Oh, I’ve seen a lot compared to some people, I suppose. Some people wait a long time before seeing movies, some people place no particular importance on seeing them opening day. And I’m fine with that — I think opening day releases are kind of overrated anyway, unless the film in question is one that I’m absolutely dying to see. Looking at my list (I’m a nerd who keeps lists of such things) I’ve seen well over 100 movies this year, but only 22 of them were from this year.

But it seems like in previous years I saw a lot more. Back in the old days, when we were fresh out of college and single, I would get together with my friends (primarily my buddy Jason Champagne — what’s up, Jason?) and catch one or two movies almost every weekend. This year? On my list of 22 films from 2010, I saw 17 in the theaters. Not even twice a month, friends.

What’s even more horrifying, though, is the fact that as I look back at 2010 in the theaters, I don’t even feel like I missed much. I would like to see Despicable Me. I’ve got interest in Red and True Grit, and there are several others I wouldn’t mind seeing, should the opportunity present itself. But is there any 2010 release that actually upsets me because I haven’t seen it?

No.

I think that says as much about Hollywood’s output as it says about me.

Not surprisingly, out of my 22 films there’s a very high geek quotient. Eight of them are based on comic books. Five are fully animated. Three are based on fantasy novels, nine of them are remakes or sequels to older films that appealed to the geek in me as a youngster. Only two of them are totally original concepts, by which I mean they aren’t sequels, remakes, or based on a story from another medium, and those two are Inception and Due Date.

Frankly, I’m a bit embarrassed by myself.

So here’s what I’m going to do, friends. Between Netflix and borrowing DVDs from friends and family, I’m going to spend January playing catch-up. You name a 2010 release (and direct-to-DVD films do count for this) that I haven’t seen and I’ll throw to the front of the queue, steam it if it’s available, or borrow it from somebody else and I’ll try to watch as many as I can in the hopes of giving you a more rounded view of what I think of 2010 in cinema. Any film, any genre, so long as it’s feature length and available on DVD. (And if I can, I’ll try to sneak in a few trips to the theater for the remaining December releases that are worthwhile.) Help me, my friends. You’re my only hope.

So you know where I’m coming from, though, here are the 22 films released in 2010 that I have seen, in alphabetical order:

  • Alice in Wonderland
  • Batman: Under the Red Hood
  • Clash of the Titans
  • Due Date
  • Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1
  • Inception
  • Iron Man 2
  • Jonah Hex
  • Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths
  • Kick-Ass
  • The Losers
  • A Nightmare on Elm Street
  • Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief
  • Planet Hulk
  • Predators
  • Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time
  • Scott Pilgrim Vs. the World
  • Survival of the Dead
  • Tangled
  • Toy Story 3
  • Tron: Legacy
  • The Wolfman
29
Dec
10

Classic EBI #70: Where Credit is Due

It’s the end of the year, friends, and in this week’s new Everything But Imaginary, I’m casting my eyes back to the best of 2010. The best comic books, movies, TV shows, and prose novels of the year are all in my head, and I’m giving you my picks!

Everything But Imaginary #380: The Best of 2010

But let’s travel back in time now, friends, to July 7, 2004, a couple of weeks after I ticked everybody off by talking about characters that I thought were overrated. To balance the scales, this week I discussed characters that don’t get the respect they deserve…

Everything But Imaginary #70: Where Credit is Due

Where credit is due

Blake’s Universal Rules of the Universe #42: If you want to get people screaming at each other on a comic book site, say something bad about Magneto.

For those of you who came in late, a couple of weeks ago I did a column about comic book characters that, in my own humble opinion, which of course is right, get way more credit than they deserve. The hackneyed, the overused, the unjustly worshiped. I expected people to get fired up about this. I did not expect a 19-page diatribe on morality spurred by a few people trying to justify genocide by saying a killer is really a sweet, cuddly teddy bear.

This week, friends, we’re going to take the opposite approach. I’m going to talk about characters who have been around for a long time, but who aren’t as respected or looked up to as they deserve to be. Now before anyone starts talking about who can beat these guys in a fight, my argument has nothing to do with that. Power levels are irrelevant. I’m talking about good, enjoyable characters that can be milked for great stories, but just aren’t held in the same regard as some of their lesser peers. I’m talking about giving some credit where credit is due.

And we’re starting with one of my personal favorites that everyone else turns up their noses at — Captain Marvel. And no, I don’t mean Genis — frankly, I found that Captain Marvel to be a fairly bland character, raised up only by some clever writing by Peter David. I’m talking about the real Cap, the big red cheese, wielder of the power of Shazam. Created in 1940 and defined by the likes of C.C. Beck and Otto Binder, this character was a young orphaned boy who was led down an abandoned subway tunnel to meet an ancient, dying wizard. The wizard gave the boy six gifts — Solomon’s wisdom, Hercules’ strength, Atlas’ stamina, Zeus’ power, Achilles’ courage and Mercury’s speed, and told him he could call upon these powers by saying the wizard’s name… Shazam! Doing so transformed young Billy Batson into the world’s Mightiest Mortal and, for a time, the world’s most popular comic book character, even outselling Superman.

In this day and age — yeah, it’s a goofy concept. It’s almost silly. But there’s something beautifully pure and innocent about the character. Even during the Underworld Unleashed miniseries, when the demon Neron wanted to possess the purest soul in existence, most heroes assumed he meant Superman, but in the end, it was Captain Marvel all along.

Besides just the purity of the character, the dichotomy of a child posing as an adult superhero is a fertile ground for great storytelling, and I love the fact that Geoff Johns is finally doing something with it in JSA, putting Billy in a teenage romance with Stargirl. It’s perfectly innocent, but it raises eyebrows among those who don’t know he’s really a teenager himself.

He’s just a great character, but a lot of readers seem to feel the need to down everyone created before 1962, and that’s just not right. Hopefully Jeff Smith’s upcoming miniseries will finally put him in the spotlight he deserves.

Since there was a member of the X-Men on the “overrated” list, it’s only fair that one makes the “underrated” list as well… I’ve always loved The Beast. Basically what you have in this character is a brilliant biologist with big ol’ arms and legs and incredible agility who accidentally turned himself blue and furry. Unlike some characters, though, he’s usually shown as being quite comfortable with his change, remaining just as smart and witty as ever.

In New X-Men (or was it X-Treme where it started? Oh, it doesn’t matter) he underwent an even further mutation, becoming more catlike, and in the current Astonishing X-Men storyline it’s starting to look like he’s not as comfortable with that change. Personally, I like it, I think it makes him more unique.

What made the Beast fun for for me is that he didn’t sulk and mope about his transformation, he enjoyed it. So he’s blue and furry, so what? You know there are women out there who like that sort of thing. Just have fun with it!

Just on sheer enjoyment, Beast is my favorite X-character, but he’s often overshadowed by the likes of Wolverine or Rogue or (ugh) Gambit. I say put him on the new Avengers team again and let him get done up right.

My next pick isn’t a single character at all, but rather an entire team that doesn’t get the notice from fandom it deserves. No… not a team, a Legion. the Legion of Super-Heroes, to be precise. In the 31st century, a band of superpowered teenagers from across the galaxy have been brought together to serve as protectors of the universe. It’s such a simple concept, but such a great one. The Legion has a vast array of characters with different powers, homeworlds, cultures and belief systems. With so many different factors to play with, the storytelling potential is virtually unlimited.

Plus, it was a groundbreaking concept when it was created in the 50s. Characters died, characters quit, emotions ran high and feelings conflicted. The Legion was doing the teen angst thing before the first X-Men got their yellow spandex back from the tailor. With so many different characters, in history, personality and power types, no matter how good a writing team is, there is always more room to mine for great stories.

Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning just wrapped up a fantastic five-year run with these characters, but unfortunately, they didn’t set fire to the sales charts. Fortunately, though, there’s still plenty of excitement to go around. Gail Simone is taking her crack next, followed by a crossover with the Teen Titans before the title is handed off to the highly capable hands of Mark Waid and Barry Kitson. The future looks bright for the Legion, but there are so many things I’d like to see done with them… people often ask me what comic book I’d most like to write if given the chance. It’s not Superman or Batman or even Fantastic Four. This is it, baby, right here.

Moving on… Superman is definitely my all-time favorite comic book character. There’s no question about that. Does anyone want to guess who number two is? Anyone? No, not Spider-Man… not Captain America… who was that who just said NFL Superpro? Somebody hit him for me, please.

No, my second-favorite comic book character, a character who never seems to make the greatest lists, the powerhouse lists, who actually had to die last year before people started to appreciate him, is Benjamin J. Grimm, the ever-lovin’, blue-eyed Thing. If ever a character drew the short straw in the superpower lottery, it was Ben Grimm. His best buddy convinces him to steal a rocket and what happens? They get doused with cosmic rays. One can burst into flame, one can turn invisible, one can stretch… but Ben? He gets turned into a monster made out of orange rock. Unable to feel a warm touch, unable to hold the woman he loves for fear of crushing her, trapped in this monstrous state that even his best friend, the smartest man in the world, cannot cure him of.

This is the sort of thing that turns some people into villains.

Not Ben Grimm.

Oh, he blamed Reed Richards for a long time. Even hated him sometimes, for turning him into a freak. But through it all, he stayed on the side of the angels. He fought the good fight. He eventually learned to forgive and to become part of a family, and in doing so, became one of the greatest comic book characters there ever was. In the Fantastic Four Versus the X-Men miniseries, there was a scene where Rogue swiped Ben’s power and memory to take him out of the fight. The effect stunned her. According to Chris Claremont’s captions, she had expected to find herself kissing a toad, but instead touched the soul of a prince.

Ben keeps kicking. Keeps fighting. He’s the bravest character in comics.

But Wolverine gets the dozen spin-offs and the Punisher gets the miniseries and action figures. And neither one of them are fit to rub turtle wax on his big, orange hide.

Yeah, Ben anchored the old Marvel Two-in-One series for a long time, and even had his own series for a while, but these days it seems like people don’t get what makes him so great. He may be made of stone, but he is the truest diamond in the rough.

Anyway, those are the folks I think don’t get the credit they deserve. What about you guys? Who do you think gets unjustly ignored? Who should be getting more exposure? Who do you think should get the spotlight once in a while?

First person to say Magneto gets hit with a tube sock full of quarters.

FAVORITE OF THE WEEK: June 30-July 3, 2004

Good luck finding this week’s favorite, since it was one of the Free Comic Book Day selections and one in much shorter supply than most of the others I saw, but nothing I read last week made me smile more than Astonish Comics #1. I got the book because of the Herobear and the Kid story by Mike Kunkel. As it turned out, it was an excerpt from the comic that I’d already read, but it was still pleasant. I kept reading, though, and to my amazement, I loved everything in this issue. The Lab was wonderfully silly, Awesome Man seemed to be the sort of thing that taps into the imagination, Spooners was another hysterical strip comic transferred to comic book format, and The Dreamland Chronicles looks like the sort of thing that will appeal to the Shreck demographic. All of them were clever and the artwork was great. Astonish Comics charges each of us to “Remember your childhood… and pass it on.” It is clear that the people who made this comic book believe in that with all their hearts.

Blake M. Petit is the author of the superhero comedy novel, Other People’s Heroes, the suspense novel The Beginner and the Christmas-themed eBook A Long November. He’s also the co-host, with whoever the hell is available that week, of the 2 in 1 Showcase Podcast and the weekly audio fiction podcast Blake M. Petit’s Evercast. E-mail him at BlakeMPetit@gmail.com and visit him on the web at Evertime Realms. Read past columns at the Everything But Imaginary Archive Page, and check out his new experiment in serial fiction at Tales of the Curtain.

 

28
Dec
10

Confessions of the Sunglass Killer

It’s time I came clean with you guys. I am, in fact, a multiple murderer. Oh, to be fair, I never intended any harm to most of my victims, but they wound up horribly broken, bent, and mutilated regardless, and I take full responsibility. I cannot tell you exactly how many have met their fate while in my tender care — I’ve long since lost count — but the number is most certainly in the dozens, if not the hundreds.

My victims, friends, are my sunglasses.

I don’t know what causes this tragedy, but virtually every pair of sunglasses that comes into my possession can be certain of suffering a horrible, tortured death, usually in a matter of weeks. Lenses pop out, frames bend, arms snap in half, and I’m left with something that’s virtually useless to protect my eyes from the glaring rays of the sun. I don’t mistreat them in any way that I can think of. Granted, some of them have met their end while in a pants pocket that may have left them crushed against a chair or something of that fashion, but far more of them have died while in no danger at all — in the pocket of a coat that’s been hanging from a peg, sitting on a table, or even placed gently on the console between the seats of my car. Just a few weeks ago, Erin bore witness to one such occasion, when I picked up a pair of glasses that had been sitting between the seats, only to see one of the arms simply fall apart. I picked up the glasses and only half of the arm came with it. I’m on my second pair of glasses since then.

Needless to say, I buy cheap sunglasses. Some of you may cry, “But Blake, that’s your problem! Of course the cheap ones break easily!” Ah, but friends, that’s not to say I’ve never owned a pair of nice sunglasses. I’ve been given some in the past for Christmas or birthdays, and those too have met the same fate as the cheapos that have littered the area beneath my car seat with chunks of plastic, cracked lenses, and tiny little screws that seemingly just fell the hell out for no apparent reason.

I imagine myself as something of a sunglass boogeyman, like Robert Neville is to the vampires in I Am Legend. (The book, not the movie. There’s your lesson for today, friends — read a book, understand an allusion.) I imagine sunglasses going home at night and telling their little sunglass children to be good and eat all their vegetables. “If you don’t,” they say, “then Blake will take you home, and you know what happened to your cousin Roger.” (I also imagine that many of the pairs of sunglasses I’ve destroyed are named “Roger.” I don’t know why.)

This is one reason I’m concerned for my eyesight. In recent weeks, I’ve noticed eyestrain sometimes, making me think perhaps I should be checked out by an eye doctor, which I don’t think I’ve actually done since I was a student. But what happens, friends, if I need prescription lenses? If my sunglasses meet such a horrible fate, usually in a manner of weeks, what will happen if I find myself needing far more expensive corrective lenses? I foresee a future where I’m stumbling around like Burgess Meredith, shuffling through the broken remains of my own destroyed eyewear.

Pray for me.

27
Dec
10

2 in 1 Showcase Episode 202: A Christmas Coda

It’s time for a last dose of Christmas cheer as Blake, flying solo, gives his thoughts on this year’s Doctor Who: A Christmas Carol and Green Lantern: Larfleeze Christmas Special, discusses his own Christmas haul, and then announces the winners of the voting in this year’s best of 2010! Plus, listener e-mails! Contact us with comments, suggestions, or anything else at Showcase@CXPulp.com!

Music provided by the Music Alley from Mevio.

Episode 202: A Christmas Coda

26
Dec
10

Merry Day After Christmas…

I know some of you guys are anxiously awaiting this week’s 2 in 1 Showcase podcast. I can’t blame you, the podcast is AWESOME. But, this being the day after Christmas, I’ve got a family thing I’ll be going to in a little while, and don’t have time to sit in front of the microphone. You’ll still get your Showcase, peeps, but it’ll have to wait until tomorrow.

The good news is, that means we can push back the voting int he 2010 Showcase Awards one more day. If you haven’t done so already, hit me up with an e-mail at Showcase@cxpulp.com with your votes for the best comics of the year, as selected from the nominations made by Chase, Kenny, and myself. Your nominees are…

Best Ongoing Series:
Action Comics
Booster Gold
Fantastic Four
Green Lantern: Emerald Warriors
The Walking Dead

Best Miniseries or One-Shot:
Avengers: The Children’s Crusade
Justice League: Generation Lost
The Last Unicorn
Shadowland: Ghost Rider:
Superman: Earth One
Untold Tales From Blackest Night

Best Storyline
Adventure Comics, “Legion Origins”
Batman, Inc.
Booster Gold: Deja Blue and Gold

Deadman’s Quest from Brightest Day
Superman: Grounded

Best New Series
Birds of Prey
Darkwing Duck
Green Lantern: Emerald Warriors
I, Zombie
Morning Glories

Best Writer or Writing Team
Gail Simone (Birds of Prey/Secret Six)
Ian Brill (Darkwing Duck/Chip ‘n’ Dale Rescue Rangers)
J. Michael Straczynski (Brave and the Bold, Superman, Superman: Earth One, Wonder Woman)
Keith Giffen & J.M. DeMatteis (Booster Gold)
Paul Cornell (Action Comics, Knight and Squire, Soldier Zero)
Tom DeFalco (Archie, Spider-Girl, Thunderstrike)

Best Artist or Art Team
Mike Norton (Billy Batson and the Magic of Shazam)
Nicola Scott (Secret Six, Teen Titans)
Pascal Ferry (Thor)
Pete Woods (Action Comics)
Rob Liefeld (Deadpool Corps)

Title Deserving of Wider Recognition
Batgirl
Life With Archie: The Married Life
The Lone Ranger
Savage Dragon

Best TV Series
Community
Fringe
Lost
No Ordinary Family
The Walking Dead
Smallville

Best Movie
How to Train Your Dragon
Inception
Iron Man 2
Predators
Red
Toy Story 3

The Next big Thing
Anti-Social Networks
Larfleeze
Nick Spencer
Turning Fairy Tales into Teen Dramas
Waffle-Based Faith

Merry Christmas, friends!

25
Dec
10

Merry Christmas to all…

I hope all of you, wherever you are, are having a wonderful Christmas with the people you love.

As one last little jolt of Christmas cheer, last night I got struck with one of those bolts of inspiration that comes to me every so often, and when I got home I darted off a few paragraphs, a prologue if you will. Consider this a super sneak preview, because I feel the need to share…

In the fourth century, in a land called Myra, there was a very good man named Nicholas. Nicholas was born into wealth, but chose a life of service, giving coins and gifts to those less fortunate. After his death, the legend of his gift-giving inspired stories throughout the world. He became revered as a saint, and was believed by many to be the central figure in a holiday that originally had no special connection to him. Through his acts of kindness, Nicholas changed the world.

In the twenty-first century another good man, also coincidentally named Nicholas, believed the holiday to which his namesake was connected had lost its meaning. He was not alone in this belief, but had no inclinations to change the holiday, until he was singled out by forces beyond his imagining to take a personal role in the day called Christmas.

Like the first Nicholas, the second Nicholas changed the world.

Like the first Nicholas, the second Nicholas did not live to see the changes his legacy wrought.

Not bad, if I say so myself. Merry Christmas!




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