Archive for February, 2011

28
Feb
11

Successful Advertising

Earlier today, I saw a Manwich commercial.

I don’t remember anything about this commercial, except that the product advertised was a Manwich.

Consequently, I now very much want a Manwich.

Compare this to the flashy commercial full of CGI and flying robots and a thousand quotes from various reviewers trumpeting the virtues of this particular smartphone.

I recall this commercial clearly, but I have no idea which smartphone it was intended to advertise.

Which, then, is the more successful ad?

27
Feb
11

2 in 1 Showcase Episode 211: Reboots That Didn’t Suck

The Amazing Spider-Man, Wonder Woman, X-Men: First Class… We’re entering yet another era of reboots. And as the fear of any reboot is that it’ll ruin the franchise, today the boys look back at some successful reboots to give us a little hope for the ones ahead. In this week’s picks, Blake digs Twilight Guardian #2 and Kenny goes with Power Girl #20. Contact us with comments, suggestions, or anything else at Showcase@CXPulp.com!

Music provided by Music Alley from Mevio.

Episode 211: Reboots That Didn’t Suck


26
Feb
11

My Saturday Morning Shuffle

A little while ago, chatting with Erin and Mark on Facebook, we call came to the conclusion that there just aren’t any good shows on Saturday mornings anymore. Certainly no decent cartoons. And I decided that the only way to remedy this, at least until I take over television programming, is to get an enormous DVD player capable of holding dozens of discs and placing the episodes on random shuffle. So I looked at my DVD collection to decide what I would put on that shuffle if I could do so right now…

  • Animaniacs Volume 1 (I so gotta find the rest of these)
  • Challenge of the Super-Friends Vol. 1, 2
  • Chip and Dale Rescue Rangers Vol. 1
  • Count Duckula Season 1
  • DC Super-Heroes: The Filmation Adventures
  • Danger Mouse Seasons 1 and 2
  • Darkwing Duck Vol. 1
  • Ducktales Vol. 1-3
  • Dungeons and Dragons: The Beginning
  • Exosquad Season 1
  • Flintstones: The Complete Series
  • Galaxy High Vol. 1
  • Garfield and Friends Vol. 1-5
  • Legion of Super-Heroes Vol. 1-3
  • Looney Tunes: The Golden Collection Vol. 1-2 (I desperately need the rest of these)
  • Max Fleischer’s Superman
  • The Muppet Show Seasons 1-3 (Not a cartoon, but I dare you to tell me these don’t deserve to be here)
  • Peanuts 1960s Collection, 1970s Collection Vol. 1-2
  • Pinky and the Brain Vol. 2 (Still need more!)
  • The Pixar Short Films Collection (Because they’re cool)
  • The Real Ghostbusters Vol. 1
  • Rocky and Bullwinkle Season 1
  • Star Trek: The Animated Series
  • Star Wars Animated: Droids & Ewoks
  • Superman: The Animated Series Vol. 2
  • Tiny Toon Adventures Season 1 Vol. 2
  • TransFormers: The Complete First Season Vol. 1
  • Walt Disney Treasures: Mickey Mouse in Black and White; Silly Symphonies Vol. 1; Oswald the Lucky Rabbit; The Chronological Donald Vol. 2; The Complete Goofy

Looking at this list, my collection seems woefully inadequate. Why have I never finished the Looney Tunes collections? Or Animaniacs, Tiny Toons, or Pinky and the Brain? Why don’t I have the Batman cartoons, Batman Beyond, or the Justice League? (Why has Warner Brothers not yet released a complete set of Static Shock?)

:sigh:

Someday, my friends. Some. Day.

25
Feb
11

Comic Cover Roulette: Superboy #162

For the long version of what Comic Cover Roulette is, read the first post. (Actually, read it anyway. It’s cool.) But here’s the short version: back in the Silver Age, comic book writers would often be given cover art and assigned the job of writing a story to fit. Now, I’m picking out some classic covers and doing the same thing. This time I’m tackling Superboy (Volume One) #162, with a cover by the classic team of  Curt Swan and Murphy Anderson. I’ve never read this issue.

“The Super-Phantom of Smallville!”

(Special Note: In the Silver Age, Superboy’s dog Krypto not only had all of Superboy’s powers, but also a human-level intelligence. Although he could not talk, he frequently communicated his feelings to the reader via thought balloons. Contemporary Krypto does not have this ability – he’s a good, loyal dog with Superman’s powers, but not higher-level intelligence. For my little story, I will be using the more contemporary incarnation, because apparently while I have no problem accepting a dog that can fly, survive in the vacuum of space, and shoot laser beams from his eyes, when you add in the fact that he can think, Snoopy-style, that is where it gets too silly for me.)

Having Krypto to pal around with has certainly gone a long way towards helping Superboy feel like less of an outcast on his adopted world. While the dog isn’t quite the same as having human interaction with another Kryptonian, being able to roughhouse with someone that he doesn’t have to worry about hurting is very therapeutic. On the other hand, it can also be pretty destructive, so when Superboy feels like spending some quality time with his pet, they head out to the woods north of Smallville where they won’t accidentally injure anybody or damage property.

Superboy and Krypto are participating in an old-fashioned game of fetch, although it’s a little different than most kids play with their pets. You may throw your tennis a few dozen yards away for the dog to fetch. Superboy throws his into orbit. Krypto makes a run into space, retrieving his ball, and Superboy throws it back for him again and again. Superboy also has to bring a rather large bucket of tennis balls with him as well – Krypto doesn’t quite know his own strength, and about every third ball winds up ripped apart in his jaws because he isn’t always careful when he gets excited.

After one such game, Krypto returns not with his ball, but with a small device. As Superboy throws a real ball back into space for Krypto to fetch, he examines the device. It’s the same size as the tennis ball, painted the same color green, and even covered in a spongy material that feels like the surface of a tennis ball. It’s heavier, though, denser, and there’s a metallic sheen to the stitching. Superboy uses his X-Ray vision to investigate the inside of the ball, but his power triggers a charge inside the device. It explodes, and Superboy finds himself spinning head over heels. When he regains his senses, he cannot see his own limbs, and when he tries to touch anything – the trees, the ground – he simply passes right through it.

As he watches, helpless, a strange being that looks exactly like Superboy arrives and picks up the remains of the device. He flies off and Superboy pursues him. Moments later, Krypto returns with his ball, only to find his master gone. Surprised, he flies for home.

Back at the farm of Jonathan and Martha Kent, the doppelganger is accepted without question. Superboy watches, helpless in his phantom state, as the duplicate sits down for dinner with his parents. Clark tries to talk to them, to tell them the truth, but whatever trap his duplicate used on him prevents anybody from seeing or hearing him at all. As he pleads to deaf ears, Krypto bursts into the room, shocked. He sees his master, but his super-sensitive nose betrays the truth… the boy at the table may look like Superboy, but he doesn’t smell like Superboy, and the nose never lies. He begins to growl at the fake, barking madly. Jonathan puts the dog out, and Krypto obeys (because, even though he’s powerful enough to tear Jonathan to shreds a thousand times over, he’s still a Good Dog). As he sits on the porch, brooding. The Phantom Superboy drifts outside and “sits” in midair next to his dog. He talks to the dog, not expecting it to do any good but hoping it will at least make him feel better. To his surprise, Krypto’s ears perk up. The dog’s super-sensitive hearing can detect his voice. It seems faint, like he’s not sure where it’s coming from, but it’s definitely working.

Shouting as loudly as he can, Superboy leads Krypto to his bedroom window, where the duplicate has retired for the night. Before their eyes, he transforms, melting out of Superboy’s shape and into the form of a hooded creature with tentacles protruding from his cloak. He takes out a device that looks like a large calculator with a bigger screen. When he touches the face of the device, it turns on and a hidden camera begins to record him. He isn’t speaking English, but on his journey to Earth from Krypton, the onboard computer of Superboy’s rocket subliminally tutored him in many galactic cultures. He recognizes the language as Interlac, and can easily understand what the alien is saying.

“Mission status report. Phase one is complete. Superboy found the device we constructed based on the remnants of Krypton’s Phantom Zone technology and fell into the trap. He will be invisible and undetectable for as long as the device remains functional. I have successfully masqueraded as Superboy, fooling the human family we observed him residing with on our earlier scouting mission. Tomorrow, I will begin the task of seeking out the rest of this world’s metahumans and eliminating their threat.”

Superboy’s heart nearly stops – an alien invader is planning to hunt “metahumans” (whatever those are) and murder them in his name! He can’t let that happen. He finds the Phantom Zone device stashed underneath his bed and stares at it, trying to figure out how to deactivate something he can’t touch.

Then it hits him.

Flying back outside, where Krypto is waiting outside the open bedroom window, Superboy leans over directly into Krypto’s ear and shouts a command as loudly as his super-lungs can scream: “FETCH!”

Hearing the signal, Krypto leaps through the window and begins searching the room with his own X-Ray vision. The alien tries to stop him, but Krypto is much faster – the fake has duplicated Superboy’s form, but not all of his powers. Krypto finds the Phantom Zone device under the bed and champs his jaws shut on it. The timing is perfect – Krypto bites too hard and the device is destroyed. Instantly, Superboy pops back into view and becomes solid again. The shapeshifter transforms into a giant monster, leaping at Superboy through the window, but despite his size he is unable to change his mass. The result is a monster that weighs far less than it should, and something Superboy and his faithful dog easily defeat.

The alien retreats to his ship, planning to leave Earth, but not without issuing an ominous warning: “You aren’t the only super-powered being on this planet, Kryptonian! We will be watching! And if the day comes when Earth becomes a galactic threat, you shall face a power beyond imagining!”

The alien blasts off, and Superboy shrugs. “Maybe you will come back some day,” he says. “But if you do, Krypto and I will be ready.”

If you’d like to suggest a cover, go right ahead. Find it online (I suggest using the marvelous database at www.comics.org) and post the link — any cover that has Superman on it is fair game. These characters are, of course, ™ and © DC Comics. I don’t own ‘em, I don’t claim to own ‘em, and I have no intention to use any of these stories for any monetary gain. This is just for funsies. Please don’t sue me.

24
Feb
11

The Beginner breaks free!

I’m happy to inform you, friends, that I have reacquired all publication rights to my second novel, The Beginner. Like Other People’s Heroes, the removal of this book from the catalog of my former publisher is at my request. There were various reasons I was unhappy with the publishing arrangement, none of which are worth discussing here, although a simple Google search for the name of the company will show you exactly why I no longer wish to be associated with them. (Sadly, these Google searches had not get gained prominence when I signed my initial contract, lo those many years ago.)

I’ve told you before my intention to rerelease Other People’s Heroes as an eBook, on all available formats, as soon as possible. Now that The Beginner is officially mine again, I intend to do the same, after taking the time to review the manuscript and maybe punch it up just a little, the same as I did for OPH. I know it would be remarkably difficult to interest a new publisher in these two books, considering they have an existing publication history, but frankly I’m too proud of them to let them languish in the depths of my hard drive, never to be seen again. Expect OPH soon, hopefully within the next month. Not sure when I’ll get to The Beginner (Im still hard at work on revising Opening Night of the Dead, and that takes writing time priority at the moment), but I do think you’ll be able to get it for your Kindle or iPad before the end of the year.

This is, I sincerely believe, the best thing both for these books and for my future as a writer. Thanks for sticking with me, my friends. I hope you’ll come along to see where all this takes me.

(By the way, if you happen to be a publisher that actually would be interested in any of these projects, ignore everything I said and e-mail me at BlakeMPetit@gmail.com.)

23
Feb
11

Classic EBI #78: Canceled Comic Cavalcade (and a tribute to Dwayne McDuffie)

Yesterday the news broke that Dwayne McDuffie, one of the smartest, most original writers working in mainstream comics, unexpectedly passed away. This weeks’ Everything But Imaginary column is my little tribute to him, and my feelings on just what made him so great.

Everything But Imaginary #388: McDuffie Proved Diversity About More Than Race

Traveling back in time, though, we go to September 1, 2004. In this week’s Classic EBI, I talked about a few comics I loved that were all getting canceled at about the same time… It happens, sadly, far too often.

Canceled Comic Cavalcade

They’re doing it to me again.

It happens to all of us every so often — we start reading a comic book, we get to love it, get invested in it… but since it’s only us and about three other people who feel that way, the book gets cut off before its prime. So Sentinel fans, I feel your pain. Supergirl lovers, your loss is my own. X-Treme X-Men readers… well, you’ve still got like six X-Men books to choose from, so it’s not exactly comparable.

But the reason I’m out of sorts is because DC Comics is pulling the plug on Will Pfiefer’s excellent series H-E-R-O. Pfiefer resurrected the classic Dial “H” for “Hero” concept with this book, about a mysterious dial that granted a person a different superheroic identity each time it was used. While the old versions of this story always kept the dial with one or two bearers who used it over again, in H-E-R-O, the dial traveled from person to person (some deserving, some not), while Robby Reed, the original holder of the dial, tried to track it down again.

A bit more than a year and a half into the run, this book has really hit its stride and Pifefer is telling fantastic stories… just in time to see it die. Why? The same reason most comic books die, sadly — just not enough people buying it.

There are other reasons comics are canceled other than low sales, of course. Sandman ended at issue #75 because Neil Gaiman had finished the stories he wanted to tell. The original Marvel Team-Up title was canceled back in the 80s because it simply became too implausible for Spider-Man to meet up with a new guest star every month. (Of course, this did not stop them from trying it again years later with Spider-Man Team-Up, Marvel Team-Up Vol. 2, Ultimate Marvel Team-Up and, later this year, Marvel Team-Up Vol. 3.) The Legion is being canceled only to be relaunched again under its original title, Legion of Super-Heroes, which should be a great book with Mark Waid and Barry Kitson at the helm.

But no matter what the reason, when a well-written, thought provoking comic book meets its end, it’s a reason to feel down.

Just last week the final issue of Peter Milligan and Mike Allred’s X-Statix hit the stores. Resurrected from the ashes of the old X-Force comic, this series depicted a team of mutants that were celebrities instead of outcasts, but carried with them all too human faults and frailties. I’ve always thought that the outcast storyline is the basic flaw in the X-Men concept — yes, granted, it made for a good allegory for the civil rights movement in the 60s, but in this day and age people with wings or claws or blue fuzz and a tail wouldn’t be shunned from society. They’d be superstars. They’d have endorsements for sneakers and breakfast cereals. They’d appear on every talk show in America talking about how much they had to struggle then go home to their million-dollar mansions and wait for the supermodels to arrive and join them in the hot tub.

Milligan took that reality and showed that you could still tell great stories with characters like that. He made them much more interesting than most other X-books out there, but some people didn’t like it because it was too different, because of Allred’s art style (which ironically, I always thought resembled that of X-Men co-creator Jack Kirby) because it wasn’t what they were used to. I heard a story once — possibly apocryphal but who knows — that when Milligan and Allred started their run, X-Force co-creator Rob Liefeld sent Milligan a copy of X-Force #1, on which he wrote, “Dear Peter, thanks for ****ing up my book.”

Which I also thought was ironic, because those were my exact feelings when Liefeld turned the once-excellent New Mutants series into the “Cable and His X-Stormtroopers” book they called X-Force. New Mutants, then, was another book canceled for a bad reason – to be turned into a different title entirely.

The point is, no matter why X-Statix is ending, I’m sorry to see it go, and I can only hope that this means Allred will soon be returning to his baby, Madman, which has been a favorite of mine for years.

Sometimes fan response can save a book that’s been slated for cancellation. If I were to count all the times Spider-Girl was supposed to get the axe, only to be rescued by outraged reader response, I’d use up both hands and have to take off at least one shoe. Other times, no amount of reader response can save a title, as we learned earlier this year when the last issue of Captain Marvel faded from sight.

We all know it will happen again. Every one of us has a book in our pull folder that we dearly love but that we know may not last another 12 issues. And there’s only one way to prevent it. Talk the book up. Tell people about it. Tell people why you love it and try to convince them to give it a try. Ronée makes jokes all the time about me reading She-Hulk, teasing me about having a thing for green women. Well, I’m not gonna deny that fantasy has cropped up from time to time, but that’s not why I read this comic. I read it because Dan Slott has crafted a smart, funny superhero series that celebrates continuity at a time where everybody else seems to be ignoring it. In just six months it has become a favorite title of mine… but it’s not clocking in at Batman numbers, so people get nervous about it being cancelled. So I tell people — if you’re not reading She-Hulk… start.

Other fans go to even greater lengths — I’ve heard of an effort by some Fallen Angel fans to cut a deal with She-Hulk fans: you buy our book and we’ll buy yours, and both titles will get a sales boost. It’s an unusual pairing — in everything from theme, tone, writing style and genre, I really can’t think of two titles less similar than She-Hulk and Fallen Angel. But supposedly the movement has the blessing of the writers of both titles, and hey, if it helps stop someone’s favorite comic book from getting canceled, who can complain about that?

But no matter what, chances are a book you love will get the axe sooner or later. When it happens, don’t despair. All of the great stories you’ve read are still there, sitting in your long box. And don’t give up on the title either. Sometimes love for a book can bring it back even after the most ignoble death. If you don’t believe me, come back in November when the first issue of New Thunderbolts hits the stands. (For a non-comic situation where this happened, see the Fox cartoon Family Guy.)

Heck even X-Men was canceled for a few years once upon a time. Now you can’t escape the mutants.

It may be too late to make a difference, but everybody out there, go out and buy a copy of H-E-R-O while you still can. Love it. Enjoy it. Maybe even cajole DC to resurrect it. And next time a book you love is on the brink — don’t just sit there. Spread the love.

FAVORITE OF THE WEEK: August 25, 2004

For the second week in a row Bill Willingham managed to nap the top spot on my reading list, and for the second week in a row, it wasn’t for Fables. Batman #631 closed off the first act of the “War Games” storyline in fantastic fashion. With Tim Drake’s high school under siege, Batman, Nightwing and Batgirl break in to save the students before any more blood is shed. This book really gets into the heart of the Batman mythos, particularly what makes Robin tick, and the finale will have major repercussions for the future of the entire line. “War Games” is already becoming one of the best Bat-family crossovers of all time.

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.

 

22
Feb
11

Check in behind the Curtain!

For those of you who have been reading Tales of the Curtain as we progress, today’s installment is an important one, the climactic scene of our first prolonged story arc. There are several stories running through the Curtain at any given time, although when any one of them approaches its climax, I’ll spend more time on that one. It’s part of the natural ebb and flow of a story, in my opinion — whenever I’ve worked on a story, I’ve found those last segments come to me most quickly. At any rate, it’s not like I’m throwing anything out right here. Today’s installment ends the story of the Golem attack on New York City, but several threads from that story are ongoing. Just who is the mysterious “God of Games” that’s watching over the battle? Who is the Boss that Annabell keeps communicating with? And what will become of Alex now that his mistake has caused so much destruction? Those things will all be answered in time. And now is the perfect time to get into the story if you’re not there already.




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