Archive for July, 2011

31
Jul
11

2 in 1 Showcase Episode 231: Cowboys and Aliens and Movies (Oh My!)

The guys reunite this week to give their thoughts on the new Harrison Ford/Daniel Craig picture, Cowboys and Aliens! After, the take the time to chat about some of the movie and TV news from San Diego that was left out last week, such as a new Jurassic Park film and a Voltron reboot. Kenny reviews the new Thundercats TV show, and Blake takes the time to chat with Rebecca Marshall Ferris about her new documentary film Miller’s Tale, about the life of actor/writer Jason Miller. In the picks, Kenny goes with 50 Girls 50 #2 and Blake selects the new nonfiction tome from Grant Morrison, Supergods. Contact us with comments, suggestions, or anything else at Showcase@CXPulp.com!

Music provided by Music Alley from Mevio.

Episode 231: Cowboys and Aliens and Movies (Oh My!)

29
Jul
11

Approaching summer’s end…

It’s been a lovely summer, friends, but it’s sadly almost over. For me, at least — school in Louisiana starts terribly early in August, and my vacation is rapidly drawing to a close.

So let me just give a little pre-school year advice to all the students out there who will be returning to the hallowed halls of learning, be it next week or next month or whenever. Remember: the teacher is not your enemy. The teacher is there to help you, to guide you, to aid you in accumulating knowledge.

We, the teachers, are not out to get you. We honestly are never happier than when we realize a student truly understands what we’re trying to teach you. It doesn’t benefit us at all if you fail — in fact, it makes our lives more difficult in numerous ways — from accounting for our grade distribution to the simple mathematical fact that it’s easier to average a bunch of 100s than it is a bunch of 26s in our gradebook.

We would like to be your friend, if possible, but you have to remember that’s not our job. We’re here — first and foremost — to teach you and the other people in the classroom with you. And while we’ll bend over backward to help any student that honestly wants to learn, likewise, we quickly lose respect for those students whose only goal seems to be disrupting the learning of others.

And yes, teachers are human beings. Sometimes, human beings have personality clashes. Sometimes they just don’t get along. But a good teacher is going to be professional enough to not let that interfere in the classroom. Remember: we’re not your enemy. We’re not there to destroy you or crush your dreams.

Do us a favor. Treat us the same way.

28
Jul
11

Help support MILLER’S TALE on DVD

Later today, I’ll be recording an interview for the podcast with Rebecca Marshall Ferris about her documentary Miller’s Tale, about the life of actor/writer Jason Miller (The Exorcist).You may have seen the film — it’s currently airing on PBS stations all over the country — but Rebecca and her colleagues are trying to raise the funds to help make it available on DVD.

It’s a fine project, and you can help support it by checking out their IndieGogo project:

http://www.indiegogo.com/Millers-Tale-DVDs

27
Jul
11

Classic EBI #101: Costume Party

To my surprise, part of our Maine trip last weekend included a quick trip to a small-town comic shop, prompting me to write today’s EBI about one of the greatest things in the world of a geek: the comic book Bargain Bin.

Everything But Imaginary #408: The Beauty of a Bargain Bin

Heading back to 2005, though, in the days after New Orleans’ annual Bacchanalia known as Mardi Gras, I wrote about something that I liked about Mardi Gras as a child — costumes… and about what makes a great superhero costume.

Everything But Imaginary #101: Costume Party

Yesterday, friends, was Mardi Gras, Fat Tuesday, in the city of New Orleans, a day made up of revelry, frivolity, debauchery and lots and lots of alcohol. Not really my kind of day to be honest. Any interest I ever had in Mardi Gras died off when I was in my high school marching band, playing the trombone in parades, listening to people on the parade route shout outrageously clever things like “Only 50 more miles!”

I hated those people.

One thing I did like about Mardi Gras, once upon a time, were the costumes. People don’t dress up as much as they used to, but when I was a kid Mardi Gras was a mini-Halloween, an excuse to put on masks, wigs, capes or makeup. The best costume I ever had, in fact, was a Captain America costume my mother made, complete with a cardboard shield that I painted myself.

Thinking about this made me realize that Captain America really does, in fact, have one of the most effective superhero costumes there is. A superhero costume shouldn’t be about giant shoulder pads, whips, chains or trenchcoats. It should, instead, convey who the character is and what he does. The test of a superhero costume would be taking someone who has never seen him before and asking them to pick him out of a lineup based just on the name.

This is what makes Cap’s costume so great – it’s simple. It’s red, white and blue. It’s got your stars and your stripes, eagle’s wings, a distinct soldierly look to the design and, just in case you still haven’t picked up on it, a great big letter “A.” Anyone could be given a pin-up of the Avengers and a list of their names and immediately be able to match which one is Captain America.

Let’s compare this to one of my favorite whipping boys, Gambit. What does he wear? A purple and blue jumpsuit under a trenchcoat. It says nothing about his name, which in turn, says nothing about his powers (the ability to make stuff blow up, in case you forgot). Nobody looking at the X-Men could figure out which one was Gambit without a nametag.

Not many of the X-Men have very distinctive costumes, by that account. Iceman is covered in ice, so that’s a plus, and Archangel’s wings are a giveaway. Cyclops’ visor gives him that one-eye look. Hank McCoy definitely looks like the Beast he is, but then again, that name could also be suggested for Nightcrawler or even the Juggernaut. And what about Storm, Shadowcat, Marvel Girl, Havok or Rogue?

Wolverine does have something of a feral, animalistic look to him. His best costume ever, by this definition, was probably the brown-and-orange he wore for some time in the 80s and 90s. The other uniforms, although similar in cut, are blue and yellow, which only suggests a wolverine to a Michigan State fan.

You have these problems whenever your character has names and powers that don’t quite mesh. What does Justice do? He’s a telekinetic. Which has nothing to do with justice. So he wears a fairly generic blue and white outfit. Spawn? He has some sort of ill-defined magical powers, and a look that has absolutely nothing to do with his name. He’s a poster child for a character with a costume that the creator would just think looked cool, without any thought to functionality, practicality or recognizability.

Some characters are halfway there. The Atom has a tiny little atom symbol on his forehead, but you can’t see that from a distance, and his costume is a standard red and blue. Unless the picture of him has him standing next to something else gigantic by contrast, letting you know he’s someone who can shrink to a tiny size, you may not be able to pick it out. The Punisher wears black with a big white skull on his chest. Yeah, that could potentially signify punishment. Or it would make someone think of Deathstroke, Deathlok or Deadman. Cyborg is covered with cybernetic parts – half-man, half machine. A cyborg. Or maybe Machine Man. Or Robotman.

You see the problem here?

Most of the really iconic superheroes have really iconic costume designs. Look at the Flash – although several characters have used that name, they’ve all worn red and sported a good old-fashioned lightning bolt motif. Lightning, of course, denotes speed, and red is a very fast color. Green Lantern works too – any Green Lantern costume. They all feature the only two things you need for that costume design to work: green is a main color and there’s an image of a lantern. Bam. That simple. Even the golden age Green Lantern, whose costume has a lot of red and purple in it, has a drawing of a green lantern on his chest – a much more lifelife drawing, by the way, than the later GLs had.

Color is a bonus for a lot of characters. Green Arrow? Well, if the Robin Hood motif wasn’t enough to tip you off, the color green would do it. Blue Beetle wears a blue costume with patterns and big golden eyes that suggest an insect. Simple. Red Tornado wears all red, plus he’s got a great big “T” on his chest.

Initials, of course, are another time-honored method of identification, particularly for characters with less distinctive powers. Superman and Wonder Woman are two of the most recognized comic book characters in the world, but their powers don’t really have anything to do with their names – strength, speed, flight, durability, etc. Basically, they can both do it all, which is what makes them super and wonderful, respectively. But since it’s hard to design a costume that says “this dude can do anything,” they wear costumes that look bold, proud and majestic. Bright colors, inspiring, classic designs… and on their chests, an “S” and a “W.” So if you’re looking at the lineup of the Justice League, you’ll guess Superman is the guy wearing the “S” and Wonder Woman is the one with the “W” – although she should be easier to pick out since she’s frequently the only active female member of the team.

The initials also help out Daredevil, but he doesn’t need them as badly as Clark and Diana. Aside from the “DD” symbol, he wears all red, just like a devil, and even has two little horns. He’s had other costumes – a yellow one and one that was mostly black – but neither of them worked nearly as well as the classic red.

Then of course, you’ve got the best costumes of all, the ones for heroes with a definite gimmick and a definite look to go along with it. Batman, for instance. He doesn’t have any powers, but he dresses up like a giant bat to scare crooks. So he has a dark costume with pointed ears and a giant, sweeping cape that comes to points like the wings of a bat – plus a picture of a bat on his chest. He looks like a bat-man. It’s an incredibly simple design, and it works perfectly.

And this finally brings us to what many people say is the best costume in comics, and I wouldn’t be inclined to argue – Spider-Man. How did he get his powers? Bitten by a radioactive spider. What does he do? Well, according to the song, “whatever a spider can.” So he wears a big spider on his chest, a bigger one on his back and covers the rest of the ensemble in spiderwebs. Magnifico.

All of the major characters – at least the ones known to the general public – have those kinds of simple designs, the ones that grab you, the ones that let you know at a glance what the character does. So comic creators and fans take note – if you want your superheroes to hit the big time some day, keep these rules in mind. Play it smart.

Leave the chains at home.

FAVORITE OF THE WEEK: February 2, 2005

This isn’t the first time I’ve given a “Favorite of the Week” nod to DC Comics’ The Monolith, but I’m sad to say it looks like it’ll be the last. Issue #12, which came out last week, was the final issue of this fantastic comic book about a young girl who inherits a house with a secret in the basement – a giant stone golem. This last issue doesn’t end the story of Alice, her best friend Tilt and the mystical protector they found, but it does bring it to a great resting point. The last line of the issue is one of the most profoundly heartfelt of the series. If you never read this title, go out and find the back issues, then write to DC and make your voice heard. Runaways got a new lease on life due to fan response – there’s no reason it couldn’t happen for this incredibly worthy series as well.

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. 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.

26
Jul
11

Home in one piece

This weekend, as you may have heard, I darted off to Maine for the wedding of some friends. Erin and I had a wonderful time with old and new friends alike, and except for the gargantuan hassle that I went through trying to get home (by the way, US Airways is horrible), I couldn’t have been happier.

Erin has posted all of the pictures we took to her Facebook page, but for the sake of you who’d like to see them and aren’t among her Facebook friends, I’ve added them to my own Flickr album. Go ahead and take a look.

AJ and Jen’s Wedding

25
Jul
11

So let’s review…

My current situation.

  • Lovely weekend in Maine for a friend’s wedding.
  • Nice flight in to Boston, where I was supposed to catch a connecting flight to Charlotte, which in turn would get me home.
  • Flight cancelled. Apparently there’s weather cancelling flight aaaaaaaall over the Eastern Seaboard.
  • I spend a half-hour in line at “Special Services.” This is an incredibly inaccurate name for this particular counter.
  • With just one couple left before me, the woman at the counter announced she’s leaving and everybody left will have to go out, past the security gate, and go to the main ticket counter to get helped.
  • Stand in another incredibly long line.
  • I find out I can’t get a flight that will get me home until 6:30 tomorrow morning. (It is, at this point, about 7 p.m.) But it’s okay, because the information booth downstairs is “really good” about helping “distressed passengers” find hotel rooms.
  • (No, they’re not going to pay for the hotel room. Or give me a flight voucher. They don’t have to, this is “weather related.”)
  • I go to the information booth and find out there’s no hotel rooms available! Yaaaaay!
  • I break down and resign myself to spending the night in the airport.
  • I’m told I can’t go back through security, where the decent places to eat and at least relatively comfortable accommodations are, because my boarding pass isn’t until tomorrow.
  • I find a place to sit down.
  • I start waiting.
  • Go to hell, US Airways.
25
Jul
11

2 in 1 Showcase Episode 230: San Diego and Captain America

Another San Diego Comic-Con has come and gone, and this week Blake and Erin get together and talk about the big anouncements from this year’s show: crossovers between Star Trek and the Legion of Super-Heroes, Archie and KISS, the new Fables spin-off, the upcoming relaunch of the Defenders, and much more! They also give their review of Captain America: The First Avenger, do a Rampant Speculation on the upcoming Suicide Squad, and give a few picks. Erin has discovered Tim O’Brien‘s The Things They Carried, and Blake doubles up with Sergio Aragones Funnies #1 and Locke and Key Vol. 1: Welcome to Lovecraft. Contact us with comments, suggestions, or anything else at Showcase@CXPulp.com!

Music provided by Music Alley from Mevio.

Episode 230: San Diego and Captain America

21
Jul
11

San Diego Comic-Con Day One: I’m still not there

So as I mentioned yesterday, the San Diego Comic-Con is raging like a wildfire out there in California right now. I’m not there, but that doesn’t mean I’m not going to watch the news with a sharp eye and a wistful heart. This is the first day, but there are a few interesting tidbits already jumping out at me…

  • IDW Publishing and DC Comics are producing a six-issue crossover miniseries, Star Trek/Legion of Super-Heroes, written by Chris Roberson with art by Philip Moy. I’m psyched, and I have a feeling my Uncle Todd will find this interesting as well.
  • Speaking of crossovers, Archie Comics has announced an upcoming storyline where Archie and the gang from Riverdale will have to battle monsters from another dimension alongside legendary rock band KISS. Yes, you heard me. Archie. Meets. KISS. Mike Bellamy may finally have to buy an Archie Comic. (Or rather, four of them, it’s a four-part story beginning in Archie #627.)
  • One of the books that was apparently getting wiped out during the New 52 DC Comics Relaunch is coming back. Nick Spencer’s T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents will return in November with a new #1, despite the fact that the writer is under an exclusive contract with Marvel Comics. Looks like he kept a loophole in there.
  • IDW is also going to be doing a sequel to this year’s Infestation crossover. G.I. Joe and the TransFormers will be back for round two, but Star Trek and Ghostbusters are being replaced with Danger Girl and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.
  • The Man of Steel, director Zach Snyder’s relaunch of the Superman movie franchise, has been pushed back from a release date of December 2012 to June 2013.

There have been other things announced, of course, but these are the things that have caught my attention so far. I’m hoping that I’ll get a chance to sit down with Erin this weekend while we’re in Maine and record a Showcase episode about the announcements.

20
Jul
11

Classic EBI #99: The Makings of a Universe

For years now, I’ve maintained a steadfast and unbroken tradition of not being at San Diego Comic-Con. This is not for lack of desire. So today, I take a look at the stuff happening in San Diego this year I wish I could be a part of…

Everything But Imaginary #407: What I’ll Miss in San Diego

But moving back in time, it’s January 25, 2005 and I’m taking a look at just how tight the continuity of the DC Universe has become in the last year or two. I’ll leave you guys to decide in this counts as irony or not.

Everything But Imaginary #99: The Makings of a Universe

I believe in credit where credit is due, so you’ve really got to give Stan Lee props for really creating our current concept of a superhero “universe.” Oh, superheroes had met before. All of the top National (later DC) Comics heroes had come together as the Justice Society of America in the 40s. Superman and Batman frequently appeared together in World’s Finest Comics. Even Atlas (later Marvel) had their collections of World War II-era characters like the Invaders and the All-Winner’s Squad.

But it was Stan the Man, writing approximately umpteen billion Marvel comics every month (this record would be held until Brian Michael Bendis broke into the business) that really started to forge a world with his creations. The adventures of the JSA didn’t impact the characters in their own titles, nor did the various team-ups that had happened. What Stan did, and did so well, was begin to mix events from various comics. If the Thing lost his powers in Fantastic Four, then he’d be powerless if the team happened to appear in Avengers that month. If Spider-Man was on the run from the law (in other words, if it was a day of the week ending in “y”), Foggy Nelson may have mentioned it in Daredevil. This was nowhere more evident than when Hawkeye, the Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver — villainous foes of Iron Man and the X-Men, reformed and joined the Avengers.

These days, though, Marvel has sort of lost its cohesion as a universe. Each of Spider-Man’s three titles seem to exist in their own pocket world and barely connect. Nearly two years have passed in Daredevil during Bendis’s run, while other Marvel titles have only progressed a few months. Why, Magneto took over the entire city of New York at the end of Grant Morrison’s New X-Men, and not a single other title even made reference to it. Except for comments in various titles about the events of Avengers Disassembled and the gloriously continuity-heavy She-Hulk title, it’s hard to feel like there’s a Marvel “universe” anymore.

But man, DC is trying to make up for it.

As Marvel’s titles have grown looser and looser, DC’s are getting tighter. And I’m going to warn you right now, this column is about to get spoiler-heavy for half of the books in the DC line, so if you see a title bolded you don’t want to know about, you may wanna skip ahead.

It’s easy to point to Identity Crisis as the genesis of this transformation. Like the ending or hate it, it was a huge storyline that has had an astronomical impact on the DC Universe. Just a month after the story’s conclusion, we’ve already seen fallout everywhere: the death of Robin’s father has impacted his own series, which in turn has impacted the other Batman-family books. It’s also being dealt with in Teen Titans, and dealt with extremely well. The Titans are also dealing with Lex Luthor’s battle armor, lost during that miniseries.

The apparent death of Ronnie Raymond is the very catalyst for the new Firestorm series. As if that weren’t enough, it’s sparked a storyline in Manhunter, as DC’s newest vigilante is trying to hunt the murderous Shadow Thief.

In Flash, Wally West has to cope with the fact that his uncle, the paragon of virtue Barry Allen, was one of a subset of the Justice League that agreed to tamper with the minds of their enemies — and what’s worse, has to deal with restoring an enemy who, in turn, is threatening to turn many of his reformed colleagues like Trickster, Heat Wave and the Pied Piper back to their old dark ways. In Adventures of Superman, Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman are struggling with the same revelation.

And that’s just the stuff directly from Identity Crisis.What other links are appearing among the many titles of the DC Universe lately?

• After the events of “War Games,” the Birds of Prey have recruited a new member and left Gotham City, impacting every Batman title, particularly Nightwing — because he’s still in love with Oracle. Plus, the cops of Gotham Central are even more hostile towards the caped crusader than ever.

• Speaking of Nightwing, Starfire has quit the Teen Titans to join his team, the Outsiders, to try to help him cope with all the trauma in his life as of late.

• Speaking of the Titans, they’ve linked up with two other titles. Green Arrow’s sidekick, the new Speedy, has joined the team. A few months ago, the young heroes got caught up in a time-travel adventure that wound up restarting the entire universe for the Legion of Super-Heroes, and writer Mark Waid has promised that he and Barry Kitson are doing the new Legion as the official future of the DCU — it’s up to the other writers to get them there.

• In Jeph Loeb’s Superman/Batman title, we met the all-new (yet all-classic) Supergirl, who’s about to get her own title. There’s also a rumor that she may check in with the Teen Titans herself. Plus, Loeb is currently milking DC properties as diverse as Kamandi, Cinnamon, Jonah Hex and the Freedom Fighters for the current arc in that title. He’s brought back characters that haven’t been seen in years.

• In Wonder Woman’s title, she’s gone blind after a battle with Medusa. When she guest-appeared in Adventures of Superman, not only was she still blind, but she was wearing the same blindfold. Not too hard a trick, of course, since the two books share a writer, but it’ll be more impressive in a couple of months during a promised crossover with Flash.

• Speaking of crossovers and books with the same writer, Bloodhound wound up merged with Firestorm (both books by Dan Jolley) and the Monolith lent a hand against Solomon Grundy to Hawkman and Hawkgirl (two books by Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray).

“Okay, Blake,” you’re saying, “We get your point. There are a lot of crossovers. So what?” My, you can be rude sometimes, did you know that?

Here’s the point of all this.

A few months ago a group of five writers, Brad Meltzer, Judd Winick, Greg Rucka, Geoff Johns and Jeph Loeb, conducted an interview where they promsied that they were building the future of the DC Universe. And if you look at the books I’ve mentioned, you see their names all over the place, along with other talented writers like Devin Grayson, Gail Simone, Marc Andreyko, Bill Willingham and others I will feel bad later for leaving out.

Clearly, this is going to be a monumental task, even looking ahead to promised events such as DC Countdown and the enigmatic Crisis 2.

Those stories are going to be the framework of the DC Universe of the future.

What we’re seeing now, across the entire line, is the foundation. We’re seeing the hints, the clues, the groundwork. And knowing that this is what we’re seeing, we get to have all the fun of watching as everything is put together.

Some people, I understand, don’t like continuity that tight. I know that. But for those of us who do, watching as it is created before our eyes is something really really incredible. Something amazing.

Something I once may have even called Marvelous.

FAVORITE OF THE WEEK: January 19, 2005

While we’re on the subject of those truly remarkable books, I have to give credit again to Geoff Johns for turning out the best comic book of the week, Teen Titans #20. Since the murder of his father and the death of his girlfriend in agonizingly short succession, Robin has tried to repress his emotions in an effort to prevent from becoming more like Batman (which was nice and ironic, since repressing his emotions only made him more like Batman). This issue dances around some action, but at its core is a heartfelt examination of a son’s grief and his desperate attempt to continue forging his own future, and not let it be determined for him.

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. 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.

 

 

19
Jul
11

Outlining

Writers argue frequently over whether or not you should craft an outline to work from when you’re telling a story. Some say they would never attempt a piece without an outline, others think it’s a sin to plan ahead at all, preferring instead to go wherever the muse takes them.

I suppose I fall somewhere in between. I’ve never really drawn up any detailed outline for anything that I’ve written, but I have found that I need to at least have the ending and some key plot points in mind before I sit down to write. That said, there needs to be room for flexibility in there. If your characters are any good, they may reveal elements of themselves and their world that you hadn’t thought about ahead of time, things that are worth following to their logical conclusion, and giving you a better story in the process. Two of my favorite characters from Other People’s Heroes fall into this category — Sheila and Animan. Sheila was originally just supposed to be a red herring to distract the reader from Miss Sinistah as a potential love interest. She wasn’t going to be Josh’s best friend, wasn’t going to turn up at the Battle of Simon Tower at the end. Animan was going to be the catch-all gag for all of the animal-based superheroes out there, but he turned out to be such a true and honest character (and so damn much fun to write) that he took on a much larger role. Both of them have since enjoyed greatly elevated importance in future stories of Siegel City as a result. (Without Sheila, I dare say, there would be no 14 Days of Asphalt.)

Now I’m doing something different. Lost in Silver, my young reader’s fantasy, is very deliberately the first story in a series. (Other People’s Heroes wasn’t at first, but it has become so.) The Evernauts, led by Linda Watson, have a very specific and unique character arc that will take several volumes to tell. But after spending several days immersed in the world of a far more popular author than myself, I decided it was time to step up my game.

I already knew much of the backstory of the Evernauts’ series, and again, I know their general ending and several sign posts along the way. But in a story so much bigger than what I’ve attempted before, I realize I need to plan better.

So I’ve spent the last few days not writing The Light Man (Evernauts Book 2) as I intended, but instead just outlining. Making detailed notes about everything that happened in Linda’s story before the beginning of Lost in Silver, making detailed notes about everything that’s going to happen in The Light Man, making less-detailed but still important notes about those things that will happen still further on in the game. And amazingly, I’m finding it far more difficult than usual writing, but at the same time, very rewarding.

Also, for the first time, I find myself wishing I had a tablet — an iPod, a Verizon, anything along those lines. I’m going to be going to Maine this weekend, and I’m looking at the plane ride as a perfect opportunity to get a lot of plotting done, but I hate opening up my laptop on planes. (There’s never enough damn legroom in the first place for someone of my height, and I’ve never been able to get comfortable that way.) A tablet would truly be the perfect solution here. But while I do fly a couple of times a year, that’s not nearly often enough to justify that kind of expense when that’s the only unique thing I want it for. So back to good old fashioned pen and paper.

Wish me luck!




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