Saturday, June 03, 2006

To me, my X-Men!

I realized this about X-Men: The Last Stand:

It marks the first screen appearance of all of Stan and Jack's X-Men:
Although I had a pretty good idea of where the movie was going even before I stepped in the theatre and bought my popcorn, inside my little stuffed heart, I kind of hoped that meant we might end the film with Professor X sitting alone in his study in his wheelchair, lifting his head and thought-broadcasting: "To me, my X-Men!

And running in through the door, flying in through the window, bounding in from the corridor, riding an iceslide into the study would be the five original X-Men, gathered around their mentor and leader.

I'm pleased with the movie and where it went. And I realize the movie isn't made solely to please little fanbulls with a love of the comic. You can't just cater to the fan market; you're not gonna get a $100 million plus opening weekend by slavish copying of the original.

But in the Hypertime movieplex of my mind, there exists a "What If" X-Men: The Last Stand, where that scene exists on film, before it dramatically swoops out, the words Based on the characters created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby appear in big big letters, and then end credits roll over bombastic music...

Friday, June 02, 2006

Who's in your League?

Much better than the movie League I'm pleased as punch, chuffed as a chicken, and just all-around tickled pink that Wildstorm is bringing out a new League of Extraordinary Gentlemen graphic novel from Misters Alan Moore and Kevin O'Neill this November (yes, Alan, I know you're not happy with DC, but I'll buy this and I'll buy 'em when they come out from Top Shelf, 'kay? Deal? Please don't put that wizard hex on me!)

I'm 'specially intrigued that the new story's gonna take place in a different time period than the rip-roaring Victorian era of the originals:
England in the mid 1950s is not the same as it was....Now, after many years, the still youthful Mina Murray and a rejuvenated Allan Quaterman return and are in search of some answers...

Which got me to thinkin': Which famous literary and pop culture characters from the 1950s will make special guest appearances in this one? I'd like to see James Bond, Holden Caulfield, Wilbur and Charlotte, Jim Dixon, Ralph and Piggy, Fowler and Pyle. It's not really a League of Extraordinary Gentlemen without a new Invisible Man, so why not Ralph Ellison's? Criminal masterminds? None more dastardly than Hercules Grytpype-Thynne and Count Jim Moriarty! (And hey, do you think Moore can resist sneakin' in a cameo by Micky Moran?)

Whoever he puts in the mix, Alan Moore knows the score. But that got me scratchin' my little stuffed head and thinking...if I were putting together a modern-day League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, who would I include?

A few ground rules first, because it's easy to overpopulate a twenty-first century league with superhumans and adventure characters. As Moore himself points out, the adventure character wasn't invented in the Victorian Age, but it was certainly the Renaissance of fantastic literature and led to the explosion of the Golden Age of Superheroes. In this day and age following the rise of the adventure and comic heroes of the 1930s, it would be child's play to put together a kickass League of, oh, let's say, Batman, Captain America, Doc Savage, Zorro, Electra Woman and Nacho Libre.

But I'm gonna play fair. I'm gonna pick most of my modern-day league draft choices (and alternates) from non-superhero literature, and I'm going to place them within the heroic archetypes that together make up a interesting, caustic, effective and controversial League.

Sid HalleyFirst up: The Leader. There are all sortsa leaders, but in my league I want a solid but quiet man of adventure and action whose glory days are behind him due to age or infirmity, but who still finds himself battling bad guys single-handed—literally. In my book—and in the books of mystery master Dick Francis—that's got to be Sid Halley, moody but driven jockey turned private investigator after his hand is crippled in a gruesome steeple chasing accident. He's only one of two characters Francis has ever written multiple novels about (the other is young, more cheerful jockey Kit Fielding), and we're rewarded for it with the growth and evolution of Sid throughout the novels from Odds Against to Whip Hand to Coming to Grief and the new Dick Francis mystery coming out in the Fall of 2006, Under Orders. Sid's a grey man in a grey world who has accepted but never completely adjusted to the loss not only of his hand but of the joy and thrill of racing, and while the adrenaline he finds in chasing crime is no replacement, it's a start. Sid did some of his best work with cheerful and cocky sidekick Chico Barnes, so despite being a loner, he's an excellent if reluctant choice to lead the team and hold our League together. (A few alternate draft choices for the role: Spenser, Elvis Cole, Thomas Magnum.)

LovejoyThe Rogue: Every team needs a resident con-man, a wise-cracking connection to the underground, a lecher whose head is turned by a beautiful woman, a shady but chipper can-do character with the ability to get anything in a few hours (legal or illegal) and an encyclopedic knowledge of his various specialties. Put Jonathan Gash's art forger Lovejoy in this position: no friendship or alliance comes before his quest for the beauties of art and antiques, not for monetary gain, but for the sheer appreciation of craftsmanship and skill (and the desire to keep true art out of the hands of charlatans who don't appreciate it). He's got an ultra-keen mind and a sharp attention to detail, as well as being an expert forger and plotter—ideal for his role as the League's loose cannon. I've illustrated this section with a photo of TV Lovejoy Ian McShane, but don't mistake the roguish but loveable TV version of Lovejoy for the real thing: while McShane's portrayal of Lovejoy was fun and faceted, that ain't quite the real Lovejoy, who would swindle his best friends and pilfer the Louvre of its greatest treasure (leaving behind a perfect forged replica, of course), bed a friend's wife, and leave his partners and teammates behind in the pub while he motors away with his prizes. The literary Lovejoy even has a minor superpower the TV one didn't: the instinctive ability to tell if an antique or art object is real or forged by the chimes it rings in his body. Lovejoy's a solid addition to the League, but he's only got one man's goals in mind: his own. (Alternate draft choices: Danny Ocean, Sergeant Ernie Bilko)

HawkThe Muscle: You know every team needs one: the guy who's not afraid to get his hands dirty, who can make your problems go away if you turn your head and plug your ears, who knows where the bodies are buried and who buried 'em (him). He's not evil—he's a force of nature. If he's disciplined and on the side of the angels (although you'll never really know what side he's on), there's no one you'd rather have by your side. That's Hawk from Robert Parker's Spenser novels: a deadly master of armed and unarmed combat, a broad tower of strength and power, above the law but not above his own code of honor and duty: you are either with him or against him. Hawk's strong and quiet but not silent; if you know him he can disarm you as easily with a sharp grin and a wise word as he can by breaking your gun hand. If he misses his target, that's not what he was aiming at. At no time, ever, will he not look dangerous. There're few other people in his life that Hawk will swear his allegiance, skills, and life to: Spenser and Susan Silverman. To get him to join the League would be tough...but well worth having this man on your side; you don't want him against you. (Alternate draft choices: Tony Soprano, Joe Pike, O-Ren Ishii)

Hermione GrangerThe Woman of Mystery: She's smart. She's savvy. She's every bit the equal of a man, but because she's a woman, she's gotta work hard to prove it every day. She's Hermione Granger of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, and even though she's just a teenager, she can turn you into a newt if you blink the wrong way at her. There's no more faithful and fierce teammate you want by your side, and she falls easily into a team dynamic; happy to not be the leader but scornful of foolish choices made by the men trying to order her about. In your darkest moment she'll figure out a way to get out of a predicament, and it's because she's got good old-fashioned book learnin' on her side. When you're fighting in a world of literary characters, what better power to have? (Alternate draft choices: Modesty Blaise, Beatrix Kiddo, Jessica Fletcher)

Steve ZissouThe Guy with a Boat: Every team needs one. Okay, okay, just because you're sitting there counting off on your fingers the number of teams that didn't have a guy with a boat...look, The Avengers didn't have a guy with a boat, and look what happened to them. Know why the Justice League broke up? They had a swimming guy, but no guy with a boat (nb: for purposes of argument, please ignore the Bat-Boat). The X-Men had a guy with a boat: remember Peter Corbeau? Sure you do. That's how the X-Men got to be the #1 name in team-action entertainment, baby! If you need to get from one place to another—and every international crimefighting team does—you need a guy with a boat. That boat's name is the Belafonte, and that guy's name is Captain Steve Zissou. He's an internationally famous oceanographer who is at home only on the sea. He battles sharks, rescues stranded snow mongooses, tackles ocean pirates, and faithfully subscribes to the "no man left behind" policy, even if that man left behind is his bond company stooge. He may not be the brains of Team Zissou, but no one can deny that he's the Steve. (Alternate choices: Skipper Jonas Grumby, Lt. Cdr. Quinton McHale, Captain Merrill Stubing, Captain Marko Ramius).

Whew! That's one mighty League, and I didn't even get a chance to fit in Easy Rawlins, Encyclopedia Brown, Denny Crane, Michael Corleone, Bridget Jones, Detective Lennie Briscoe, Norville Rogers, Arkady Renko, Johnny "Drama" Chase, Artemis Fowl, John Rebus, Dewey Finn, Veronica Sawyer, Alfie Elkins, Saffron Monsoon, Major Boothroyd, Arthur Dent, Clarice Starling, Samantha Jones, Sheriff Andy Taylor, Patrick Bateman, Marshall Flinkman, Ron Burgundy, Daisy Duke, Ennis Del Mar, Wilberforce Clayborne Humphries, Nick Naylor, Jim Phelps, Nelson Muntz, Owen Meany, or Stephanie Plum!

Oh well, maybe in the sequel.

Who's in your League?

Addition on 8/16/06: The follow-up, with many more Leagues suggested in the comments

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Ten glimpses at 52 Week 4

52 Week 4 Cover

Let's look at 52 Week 4, shall we?

52 Week 4 panel
Cover: Hey, who knew Lara Croft was a DC Universe character?

52 Week 4 panel
Cover: I really like the chapter teasers at the bottom of each cover. It puts me in mind of old books that used to have a different descriptive header at the top of each page (see, for example, early Moomin books by Tove Jansson) or (a more comics-oriented antecedent) the chain of chapter headers in each issue of "Brief Lives" in Sandman.

52 Week 4 panel
Page 2: Hooray! Halo's back! I may be the only person who actually is a Halo fan (especially for the early, Aparo-drawn Batman and the Outsiders issues...loved that black-and-multicolored costume). Hey, speaking of "Brief Lives," why's she talking like Delirium? (And it might be just me, but doesn't she look like she's drawn by Mike Allred? Maybe a little around the eyes?)

52 Week 4 panel
Page 4: A little something for the gentlemen...

52 Week 4 panel
...and for the ladies. Never let it be said that DC's not an equal-opportunity fan-service provider.

52 Week 4 panel
Page 6: The Best Line of the Week!

52 Week 4 panel
Page 18: I know nothing about medicine, but despite this series taking place in "real time," how much you wanna bet that Montoya's broken arm heals much faster than it should in real life?

52 Week 4 panel
Page 18: Doncha love how we as fans can look at an illustration of a piece of technology and instantly define it as "Kirby Tech?" That's an amazing tribute to the influence of the man: his inanimate objects have inspired an entire style of illustration.

52 Week 4 panel
Page 20: Is the perspective just really screwed up on this panel or is Hawkgirl thirty feet tall? Yikes.

52 Week 4 panel
Page 20: A nice bookend to the chapter teaser words on the cover is the silent "next issue" panels of 52. It reminds me of another very effective silent teaser: the first season "Next week" teasers on The Sopranos, which relied on imagery and visual elements to compel you to check in again next week. One of my favorite parts of 52.

Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Adventures in Bullhattan: Papa? Is that you, Papa?

King of Beef!l

(14th Street and 9th Avenue)

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

"Leaves of three, let them be. Leaves of four, eat some more."

From an article in today's Yahoo News:

Study: Global Warming Boosts Poison Ivy

WASHINGTON—Another reason to worry about global warming: more and itchier poison ivy. The noxious vine grows faster and bigger as carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere rise, researchers report Monday.

And a CO2-driven vine also produces more of its rash-causing chemical, urushiol, conclude experiments conducted in a forest at Duke University where scientists increased carbon-dioxide levels to those expected in 2050.

Carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas — a chemical that traps heat similar to the way a greenhouse does — that's considered a major contributor to global warming. Greenhouse gases have been steadily increasing in the atmosphere since the Industrial Revolution...

"The fertilization effect of rising CO2 on poison ivy...and the shift toward a more allergenic form of urushiol have important implications for the future health of both humans and forests," the study concludes.

That's funny. All along I thought it was Harley who boosted Poison Ivy:
Harley & Ivy #1 panel

Still, if global warming makes Ivy stronger, you know that that means:

Ra's Al Ghul versus Poison Ivy smackdown 12-issue crossover series!
Ra's ALWAYS fights with his shirt off.

Monday, May 29, 2006

Ben Grimm Totally Rocks! Reason #12

Why does Ben Grimm totally rock?

12. He's a veteran, and respects and salutes America's fighting men and women every day, but especially on Memorial Day...
It's Nazi-Clobberin' Time!

What's more, he also enjoys a relaxing, fun-filled, Memorial Day off at the beach with his friends and family:
Throw me the frisbee, flamehead!

Today, take a moment to remember those who have fought for America through the years (it's not just Steve Rogers, pal), but also take the time to have a get-together and cookout with your family and loved ones to remind yourself what America is all about. And don't forget that now you know...another reason why Ben Grimm totally rocks.

(Reason #1-34567891011 )

Sunday, May 28, 2006

Ten of a Kind: I read the news today, oh boy

(More Ten of a Kind here.)