Sunday, April 29, 2007

This Week in Geek (23-29/04/07)


What am I? Made of money?


So the Northrop Frye Literary Festival here in Moncton wanted to change its image a little and make it more "fun". And they decided the best way to do that was to trot out the "graphic novel" as the wave of the future. Had this been the late 80s, maybe I would have thought this a fresh idea. The keynote speaker, again to keep things "young" and "fun" was, of all people, Harvey Pekar (American Splendor). He attended three events this Friday, so I had my choice. Round table discussion between him, a local comic strip guy, and two names I'd never heard of? Not at 10$ a pop during work hours, thanks. Book signing at the LEAST adult-oriented comic store in town? I don't like meeting the artists behind the art, it makes me feel like a creepy groupie, so again, pass. So that left "Harvey Pekar Live" in the evening, and since my friend Carolynn was going "to laugh at the nerds", I decided to go. Harvey was exactly as I've always seen him in interviews or in the American Splendor film. He spoke about how he got into comics and what the medium meant to him, all the while keeping his hands on his forehead to block out the audience, showing extreme anxiety. It seemed painful to him. But during the question-answer portion, he was very much engaged and the hands fell down. His usual crabby and ascerbic self, he called the typical comics fan (i.e. who was into superhero comics) poorly educated, and as if to blow that preconception out of the water, there was this enormously pompous "typical comics fan" behind us who went on and on (was there a question in there? I don't know) about Scott McCloud's Understanding Comics and Will Eisner, blablabla... So I have to side with Harvey given the evidence. At least he didn't compare Seinfeld to Shakespeare like some other dude did, sheesh! Overall, I found Harvey to be a very intelligent and humble guy. If I didn't ask a question, it's because I would almost certainly have sounded exactly like that McCloud/Eisner guy. Glad I went, but glad to get out of there.

Catching up on stuff before I get to the (surprisingly large) selection of stuff I read or watched this week, I finished 9 more cards for my WhoCCG (all from The Sontaran Experiment; The Invasion will be next). As for Warcraft, Lynda went from level 36 to 39½. Tried for 40, but there are only so many hours in the day I can devote to my carpal tunnel syndrome, y'know?

Among the books I finished was JLA: Terror Incognita, probably the last JLA trade I'll ever get. The return of the White Martians was, I think, a better tale than Mark Waid's previous efforts, but I think I may have read too many high-concept comics like this of late. I'm due for something else. The Santa Claus vs. Neron issue was fun though.

I followed that up with I Can't Believe It's Not the Justice League, a trade collecting JLA Confidential #4-9 and starring the "sitcom Justice League" that may not be "Earth's greatest heroes", but you know what? They were pretty damn entertaining. And still are, though it almost seems like Giffen and DeMatteis are putting too many one-liners in this one, it's so crazy. Following the events of Formerly Known as the Justice League, this is pretty much the last time you could enjoy many of these characters before they were ruined or killed in the last couple years' slew of crossovers. Last chance for Blue Beetle, Elongated Man and Sue Dibney, Maxwell Lord and soon, no doubt, Mary Marvel.

But while these were fairly entertaining, the real gem is James Kochalka's The Cute Manifesto. I'd bought it when it came out, but it was mislaid. I found it again and read it. I don't mind telling you it brought tears to my eyes. Now, I love Kochalka, and he certainly doesn't have to justify his cute or naive style to me. (You know the comic book store I sorta trashed above? Well, the clerk there once told me the expensive trade I was buying could have been drawn by his little cousin. Needless to say, I don't feel the need to order stuff from them anymore.) His ideas about craft, story and artistic process are thought-provoking and told incredibly lyrically, but there's some good autobiographical stuff in there too. The juxtaposition of 9/11 and his decision to have a baby sandbagged me, and how he tied it all into the rest of the manifesto, well... You just have to read this thing. It'll inspire you to new things.

I'm not gonna have a baby, mind you (a big congrats to my brother-in-arms Paul Ward who now his his second on the way, however!), but I might give birth to some new projects soon. Yeah, as if I needed any more.

Flipping DVDs isn't just a hobby, it's a vocation. Some are easy to get through because they don't have very many extras. Such is the case with Teen Titans Season 3, probably the weakest season I've seen to date, if only because Brother Blood doesn't pack the punch Slade does. But fun nonetheless. As was Teen Titans: Trouble in Tokyo, a direct-to-video "original movie", which was kinda like Lost in Translation meets every manga style you've ever seen (well, cat-girls and Astroboy, at any rate). It at least had the decency to further the Robin-Starfire subplot more than in the show, cuz I really hate it when they make you shell out an extra 20 bucks for an irrelevant, longer episode.

I've grown to become a big fan of Sam Peckinpah's films over the past year. I own six and the fifth one I've watched, The Ballad of Cable Hogue, may just be my very favorite. I've been trying to come up with a satisfying summary, but it defies description. It's a western, it's a religious allegory, it's slapstick, sexy romantic comedy, tragedy, tone poem, morality play, almost-musical... Jason Robards is excellent in it, and David Warner's lascivious preacher has got to be seen to be believed. The main song will stick in my head for a looooong time yet, and I had to rewatch the editing on the final sequence 4 or 5 times, just because of how masterful it was. I'll again admit to bawling like a baby, but that's just what powerful aesthetic experiences do to me. That's twice this week... eeech. Commentary on these Peckinpah releases are all by a trio of gushing authors/experts who tend to go a bit far sometimes, inferring themes where they aren't, so I'm surprised they didn't mention that the movie takes place on the road between Gila and Deaddog, and visually starts on a shot of a Gila Monster and ends on a Coyote. Would have though this was their kind of thing. As a counterpoint to their limitless raving, there's an interview with Stella Stevens where she soundly trashes Peckinpah for being a mean drunk. So there.

Last but not least, and it surprises even me that I hadn't seen it before, I flipped the tape on The Day the Earth Stood Still. It wasn't what I was expecting as far as the story goes (cuz they always advertize the robot coming out of the spaceship and little else), but it was excellent. Very, very convincing, especially for 1951. I think I may have a thing for Pamela Neal now. The DVD comes with a newsreel that could have been run just before the movies, so try it, it's pretty cool (and relevant to the film). The commentary track has Nick Meyer interviewing director Robert Wise (Trekkies, you know why this is interesting) and is always relevant and interesting. I especially like how Meyer trashes Hugh Marlowe (the boyfriend) for being so phoney. Another extra that made me laugh was on the documentary: Billy Gray's (the kid) suspicions that something was going on between his real life stage mom and Michael Rennie (Klaatu). A lovely surprise all around.

Website finds

What, I gotta surf the net for you too?!?


mwb said...

Teen Titans Trouble in Tokyo was not (despite it's other failings) direct to DVD.

It aired on Cartoon Network back on September 15, 2006 then was released on DVD February 6, 2007.

But as you say, other than finally advancing Robin & Starfire there's not much to recommend it.

And I even like the show.

Siskoid said...

I stand corrected.