Sunday, October 31, 2010

This Week in Geek (25-31/10/10)


Wednesday night, watching Iron Man 2's commentary track, when suddenly... PFFFFT! TV dies a quiet death. RIP, you were a loyal companion for the last 9 years, but I shan't grieve for you long. The next day, I went and got myself a 46-incher, finally joining the flat screen revolution. I've always been a little slow with stuff like that (anyone want to be my friend on ICQ? just kidding).


DVDs: Finally saw Iron Man 2 and I must admit to being impressed. Everything I liked about the first one - the banter, the flawed hero, the world stage, the cool set pieces - are all here again, but where it could have just been an "installment", IM2 actually progresses the character's arc. One thing I like about Favreau's direction, the actors' delivery, and Genndy "Samurai Jack" Tartakovsky's storyboarding is the sense of PAUSE. In the middle of quick-fire action or banter, they take the time to pause, creating delicious comic effects. I dare say the final battle is better than in the original, and while I didn't think Whiplash/Blacklash was anywhere near the top of Iron Man's rogues' gallery, linking him to the Stark legacy really made him work. Sam Rockwell's hilarious. Even the Black Widow has some awesome action scenes (Scarlett's acting I could take or leave). All in all, great fun. As for extras, I only have the one-disc edition, so Favreau's competent commentary keeps referring to deleted scenes and featurettes I don't have. Question: Why sell DVDs in different formats at all? I mean, really. Either blockbuster it up or don't. I don't need every possible option as a consumer. It's a DVD, not a car. /rant

Our Asian selection this week was Jackie Chan's Crime Story, a much darker vision of his Police Story persona, what with the central kidnapping being based on a true story and all (though the more hopeful - and thus disjointed - ending was dictated by the victim's wife). As such, it's a lot more violent and sexual than your usual Jackie Chan film, though I do believe it to be worthy. I'm not sure everything really pays off appropriately (the psychologist, for example, is in all the deleted scenes), but one the other hand, there's a battle shovel moment!My battle shovel player was kicking himself that he never tried to throw that puppy. Effective! As for extras, we've got a commentary with Bey Logan and the director Kirk Wong, as well as a good-sized interview with the latter, another with one of the writers, and the aforementioned deleted scenes. All persons interviewed are in competent English.

Before the classic Doctor Who keeps adding up, I also flipped a couple of 3rd Doctor stories, linked through a boxed set called Dalek War. Not that they appear much in Frontier in Space, the original Master's last story before Roger Delgado was sadly killed in a car accident. He and the other regulars (the Doctor and Jo Grant) are uniformally excellent, and the art design in also very good, giving separate identities to the empire of Earth, Draconia and the Ogrons. Where the story suffers is in its outrageous padding. The characters spend a lot of time in a surprising number of different cells in each episode, sometimes being captured seconds after their last escape. Still, I liked it. The extras include a strange fiction in which a writer from the future asks advice about getting inspiration from the story, and seeing "archival" interviews about how the 70s impacted this vision of the future. It continues in Planet of the Daleks and doesn't quite work as a frame for the featurette, taking too much time away from actual info on the program. There's also a straighter making of, a touching retrospective of Delgado's career (not just in Who), the continuing documentary on Doctor Who comics, and as an Easter Egg in the 2nd disc's subtitles screen, a strange (and terrible) version of the Doctor Who music commissioned, but never used (except by mistake in Australia).

Planet of the Daleks follows straight on from Frontier, and happens to be my first contact with the 3rd Doctor back during my formative years - oh how Jo's fungus arm fascinated me! Of course, the truth is this is one is a most boring serial. Slow and padded, not to mention unoriginal - Terry Nation basically ripped off his own script for The Daleks - it makes for a loooong 2½ hours. The extras include the usual commentaries, plus the aforementioned fiction/documentary, that's even more boring and pointless than the serial. The real making of is a collection of fun remembrances from cast and crew, a featurette on how episode 3 was recolored (black magic), another on the Dalek comic strips, and a couple of Blue Peter items on stolen and recovered Daleks (parts of which are in other features across the line). The Easter Egg this time is a 2-minute alternate take from the commentary track reacting to the black and white episode (thenafter recolored, so rerecorded).

Books: Speaking of Doctor Who, I just finishes reading Mad Norwegian's Time Unincomporated - The Doctor Who Fanzine Archives Vol.2: Writings on the Classic Series. If volume 1, all written by Lance Parkin, was a love letter to the program, volume 2 has a lot more variety of opinion. There are inspirational pieces again, but a lot more criticism, both literary and otherwise, as well as humor, re-evaluations, theories and personal testimonies from across many decades and fanzines, and even new essays commissioned for this book. Pretty awesome on the whole, and sure to inspire Whovian articles on this very blog in the coming weeks. The next volume should be about the new series, and I can't wait.

Halloween: As followers of Twitter may have noted, our theme this year was SPACE!!! (you must say it with the correct punctuation). Parts of the apartment were converted into starscapes and strange anomalies, but the living room is the true masterpiece - a TARDIS. Walk in with me now...
All book cases covered by retro chic computers.
And of course, there's the console and the viewscreen:
The cat spent so much time under the skirt of that thing, we decided he was disguised as the heart of the TARDIS. And of course, we had a deadly mission.
Can't let the Racnoss take the Earth, after all! Tomorrow: The costumes!

Hyperion to a Satyr posts this week:
II.i. Ophelia Affrighted - BBC '80
II.i. Ophelia Affrighted - Zeffirelli '90
II.i. Ophelia Affrighted - Kline '90

Reign of the Supermen #11: Superman Monster

Source: Superman Monster GN (1999)
Type: ElseworldsThe Superman story/myth doesn't immediately inspire gothic horror, but it does include a mad scientist and so writers Abnett and Lanning re-casts Mary Shelley's Dr. Frankenstein as Viktor Luthor, who comes across a downed Kryptonian birth matrix containing the remains of baby Kal-El.
Even as he woos Morgan Edge's daughter Eloise (Lois?) to get her father's money, he works obsessively on the matrix hoping to create life from death. A few black market cadavers, a strange "S" plate and a lightning storm later, he's created something superhuman that soon gets away from him.
Just like in Shelley's novel, the monster finds its way to a farm where he is - not like the novel - adopted by the farm folk. And so Klaus Kant learns how to read and so on. Of course, Luthor wants to kill his flawed creation and attacks the farmhouse, hurting the monster with a green crystal that was part of the ship, and killing the kindly old Kants. The monster is not dead, however, and comes to seek revenge on the day of Frankenluthor's wedding. Ricochet off the monster's chest wounds Edge and kills Eloise. Luthor captures the monster, smothers Edge, mortally wounds his friend James Olafson, and attempts to resurrect Eloise with the Kryptonian matrix.
All in a day's work for an evil mad scientist. If you're old school about your Lois Lane, you want her to end up with Superman. You get your wish as the monster gets his bride and they leave Luthor to his madness. That's in fact how Peregrine White came by the story, trapped on the ice flows on a ship with mad Viktor when the monster came for his creator and freed the ship from the ice. And in the cold wastes of the Baltics, sailors say they sometimes see a strange figure and its bride, but of the man of science, no one has seen hide nor hair of him...

Happy Halloween!

Star Trek 1414: Captain's Log: Jellico

1414. Captain's Log: Jellico

PUBLICATION: Star Trek - Captain's Log: Jellico, IDW Comics, October 2010

CREATORS: Keith R.A. DeCandido (writer), J.K. Woodward (artist)

STARDATE: 45982.6 (some time before Chain of Command, between TNG Seasons 5 and 6)

PLOT: First officer Leslie Wong has just come aboard the USS Cairo from a space station in the Solarion system. She's a tough officer, as an over-eager ensign discovers, but doesn't enjoy being dressed down by Captain Jellico. The ship detects a Cardassian science vessel just outside the system, but actually inside it thanks to a loophole in the border treaty. Jellico warns off the Cardassian ship, which makes a run for the station, hidden guns blazing. Thanks to a tactic devised by Wong, the Cairo manages to stop the Cardassian ship. Wong is commended and decides to stay, while the ensign who gave her trouble is transferred off.

CONTINUITY: Edward Jellico and the Cairo first appeared in Chain of Command. Leslie Wong would eventually become captain of the USS Cairo and be reported killed in action during the Dominion War (In the Pale Moonlight). The Solarion system plays a part in a number of novels (A Weary Life, Mere Mortals, A Singular Destiny). The Cairo is on a four-shift rotation (Chain of Command).


PANEL OF THE DAY - Caught by the teacher!
REVIEW: Another excellent Captain's Log with beautiful watercolor artwork (even if it makes heavy use of photo reference - Gulk Zarkat is obviously Warner's Gul Madred from Chain of Command). The focus isn't so much on Jellico, who remains as distant and unknowable as he did in Chain of Command, but on Leslie Wong, a character who only existed as a name on the roll call of the dead in In the Pale Moonlight. From that mention, and the necessary link to the USS Cairo, a whole character is created, one that is as no-nonsense as Jellico, even if they seem in conflict. Sometimes, it's the people who are the same you have to watch out for. Despite Jellico being a hardass, there is still a lot of indiscipline on the ship, and the sense that you can still have a personality even in such a stifling military setting. We've also got deceiving Cardassians and a techie solution that doesn't descend into babble. Strong enough that I'd like to see further adventures of the Cairo starring Jellico and Wong.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

What If... Daredevil Killed the Kingpin?

Halloween... devils... get it? Ok, yes, What If #2 was the next one on the list, so any link to Halloweek is grasping at straws. But in this case, the straws are fairly strong. As are the story and art, actually! Danny Fingeroth takes his cue from Frank Miller's Born Again storyline, so it's just as adult, and Greg Capullo is propelled along by my favorite inkers of all time, Akin & Garvey (who were so excellent on Rom Spaceknight). It's an ironic story in which the Kingpin actually succeeds in pushing Daredevil over the edge. All I can say is: Be careful what you wish for.

What If vol.2 #2 (August 1989)
Based on: Daredevil #228
The true history: When Karen Page sold Daredevil out to Wilson Fisk, the Kingpin proceeded to destroy Matt Murdock's life. Matt confronted Fisk and lost a fight against the bigger man, but survived to put the pieces of his life back together again.
Turning point: What if Daredevil killed the Kingpin? (For the first time, the title is accurate.)
Story type: Slayer
Watcher's mood: Waiting tables
Altered history: In this reality, Matt Murdock made a pivotal decision in the elevator going up to the Kingpin's floor. As he was guided to the office, he stumbled against a bodyguard and lifted his gun. A few minutes later, the fat man was dead.
While a gang war is immediately sparked on the streets, it's Murdock who's in real trouble. Acting as judge, jury and executioner - in effect, acting against everything he ever fought for - has driven him mad. He tries to confess, but alas, never to someone in authority.
One person hit hard by the Kingpin's death is rival gang leader the Rose, in reality, the Kingpin's own son Richard Fisk. He'd spent his life trying to take down his father from the same side of the tracks, and now finds himself an aimless orphan. A person hit even harder by the gang war, I suppose, is Karen Page. She gets shot. Oh well.
As a crazed Matt Murdock runs from such folks as the Punisher and Spider-Man, he eventually makes his way to the Rose, whom he hopes will punish him for the murder of his father.
Would he have done it? As crime bosses go, he wasn't all that bloodthirsty. We don't find out because the Hobgoblin flies in wanting to take down the Rose. Hobby and Matt both die in the battle. And so ends the legend of Daredevil.
Or does it? Suddenly, there's another Daredevil in town! It's Richard Fisk, taking down crime from the side of the angels thanks to a special hyper-sensory mask.
I've seen worse replacements.
Books canceled as a result: Looks like Daredevil continues, only with a different guy under the mask. Well, we all know how THAT storyline ends - with the return of Matt Murdock within two years!
These things happen: The Kingpin is still eating, but his son Richard has since become a vigilante hero called Blood Rose. I guess he was always heading for that destiny. Karen Page was later killed as well.

Next week: What if Steve Rogers Had Refused to Give Up Being Captain America?
My guess: Sorry, Bucky!

Reign of the Supermen #10: Superman 2999

Source: Superman vol.2 #136-138 (1998)
Type: Alternate realityIt's my 3000th post! Damn, another year and this Superman would have slotted right in! Ah well. This is from the Kismet-Dominus storyline from the late 90s in which each of the Superman titles featured a different "reality" pulled from past versions of the Man of Steel. There was the Golden Age, the Silver Age, the 70s Bronze Age and... 2999. In effect, this is the post-Crisis version of the Future Superman of 2965. At the time, I had no idea he'd had antecedents in the 60s. Ah, the wonders of research.
So Siskoid, you might ask, didn't you just do this character yesterday? Well, there are some important differences wrought by the Crisis/Dominus aside from the updated year. We're at the start of Superman XXIX's career (seems I was off my a generation), placing this story before the original 2965 one, and he's still the latest in a long line of Supermen. His secret identity is as Klar Ken 5477 (note the missing T this time), but he still has the same supporting cast, including the computer Perry (now more of a robot), Lyra/Lois and Jay/Jimmy. There wasn't a Luthor in the previous version, but here it's mentioned that the line of Luthors have always been thorns in the Supermen's sides. Superman XVIII in fact lost his life bringing a Luthor to justice. For #19, that Luthor's daughter Lena proves to be something of an ally... as well as hot competition for Lyra's affections.
Hot in an 2980s kind of way. Because that's a notable difference: Lyra likes Superman more than Klar. Another hint that this isn't your father's future is that its Batman isn't the same at all. He's just called the Bat and along with other legacy heroes, some new guys, what appears to be a long-lived Wonder Woman, and Klar's kid sister Kara, he helps form the Justice Alliance.
So if Luthor is a good girl, who's the villain? Turns out it's the first chronological appearance of Muto!
Yes, he's back, though his origin story has changed somewhat. Instead of being bombarded by cosmic radiation as a baby flying through a space anomaly, the anomaly led him to a dimension of robots who experiments on him. Now he controls them and wants revenge on the Superman line who chased his parents into the anomaly. The more things change...

Friday, October 29, 2010

Reign of the Supermen #9: The Future Superman of 2965

Source: Superman #181, Action Comics #338-339, and World's Finest Comics #166 (1965-67)
Type: Alternate future...and of 2966 and 2967.

Yes, soooooo different. He doesn't have a spit curl. And his name is Klar Ken T-5477 and he works for the Daily InterPlanetary News. Nothing at all like the Superman of 1965.

All facetiousness aside, it's an intriguing concept. Not an imaginary story, though Silver Age Superman stories were filled with them, Klar was meant to be the honest to goodness descendant of Superman. He may be the 20th in the line (according to his last story, if he and Batman are of the same generation). Surprisingly, there is no decrease in Kryptonian powers despite what must be generations of breeding with weaker stock (unless... no, I have it on good authority marrying your cousin is illegal on Krypton).
But back to 2965. Like i was saying, the Superman 1000 years hence is no weaker than our own Superman. He may actually be tougher:
They now have a different Achilles' heel: The polluted oceans of Earth paralyzes them. No meeting the Future Aquaman of 2965, I guess. Klar uses the same indestructible costume the original Superman did. Let's hope it's also stink-proof. His Fortress of Solitude is an invisible orbital satellite. Because he's a reporter, no one questions the "telescopic spectacles he wears to hide his dual identity, certainly not his editor-in-chief.
Klar has his own version of Lois, Lyra 3916, who's no doubt been tapped to bear Superman XXI, though she doesn't know it yet. The twist: She likes Klar, but not Supes! As for his Lex Luthor, it's the equally bald criminal Muto. His story isn't told until the Action issues, by which time it's 2966. Muto has amazing mental powers and wishes to end the Superman line once and for good. His latest ploy was to steal a banned super-weapon called the expander.
Ok, so NOT what all those emails are trying to sell me. Obviously, Superman defeats him. In World's Finest, Muto teams up with the Joker of 2967, forcing Superman to team up with the Batman of that era. Yes, Bron Wayne E7705!
Now, here's my question. The narrator swears up and down that this isn't an imaginary story and that it's Superman's actual future. If so... what about the Legion of Super-Heroes? Wouldn't they have been active (along with Superboy) during these very years? (Yes, I've found a way of making Legion continuity even more complicated.)

To be continued tomorrow...

Movie Marquee Friday: Halloweek's Picks

If outer space means the space above your grave...
When it comes down to it, we're all zombies, really...

What is that strange light?

As soon as you see it, it is gone...

Italia mod, and already I'm out of my comfort zone...

It breaks through our world, a window into terror...

Dark branches and getting farther, not nearer...

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Reign of the Supermen #8: The Mullet!

Source: Superman books from late 1993 to late 1996
Type: The real deal (sadly)Top 7 things you should know about Superman's mullet
7. Grown while he was recuperating from being dead (and yet, Captain America came out of it without so much as hat hair).
6. That invulnerable stuff was a bitch to cut anyway.
5. Inspired a superhero mullet craze, victims of which include Aquaman and Nightwing.
4. The result of Pantene Pro-V's "grow your hair strong and long" marketing blitz.
3. Tapped into the too often ignored redneck market.
2. Knew enough to get a haircut before his wedding.
And the #1 thing you should know about Superman's mullet...
1. Really rubs Luthor's nose in it!

Dial H for Halloweek

No, Robby doesn't turn into monsters, but he does try on three different costumes! And that's what Halloween kind of is really about. With this issue, Dial H returns to the three heroes format and Robby goes up against the frankly ridiculous-looking Dr. Cyclops - either a) the villain with the doomsday stare or b) the Master of Lenses! Either way, he wouldn't make it to a second appearance. How about those three dialed heroes though? Any potential?

Case 9: House of Mystery #164
Dial Holder: Robby Reed
Dial Type: The Big Dial
Dialing: The rules for the dial keep varying from dial-up to dial-up. Now, though Robby knows his superhero name, there's no guarantee he knows what powers he has instinctively. This is the case for Super Nova, an identity that forces Robby to think about what a supernova is and what powers might fit a superhero with that name.
Name: Zip Tide (fun in a reserve Teen Titans kind of way)
Costume: A bare-shouldered, gleaming wet hero for the slash fic age, Zip Tide has foamy hair and a bold, wave-like cut to his jib. I make fun, but it works in a 70s LSH kind of way.
Powers: Zip Tide can turn his body into water (of a greater volume than his flesh and blood self). He can move quickly across water currents by turning into a wave, is cool enough to smother flames without turning into steam, and can throw annoying water pellets besides.
Sighted: In Zenith City. Zip Tide stops Dr. Cyclops' attempt at that old classic, the armored car robbery.
Possibilities: Zip Tide has a youthful feel and powers we haven't seen a lot of, which I think would make him a good fit for either the Legion or the Titans. The name fits the latter better - and he could have helped Aqualad a great deal - or perhaps some elements-related B-heroes team.
Integration Quotient: 90% (real potential for a teen hero here)
Name: Super Nova (we do have a Supernova in the DCU now, so the name works)
Costume: Adam Strange with extra fins and some fiery extras. Not great, especially that ridiculous "butterfly" mask that looks more like fancy dress than superhero wear.
Powers: Super Nova can fly at superspeed and manages to use that speed to create tornadoes to save people falling from a great height (à la Flash). He can also radiate atomic energy that melts him out of an ice trap. His powers seem to wane in darkness (though the fault may be in his radiation power).
Sighted: In Zenith City. Super Nova attempts to stop Dr. Cyclops from robbing the diamond exchange, but fails.
Possibilities: There's already a hero by that name (Booster Gold's ancestor), and this one's rubbish in comparison. He reminds me of Gold Key's Dr. Solar, and not in a good way. Maybe just as a Silver Age hero Booster might have stolen the Supernova name from?
Integration Quotient: 5% (aside from the name, no reason to keep this guy around)
Name: Robby the Super-Robot (is the "Super" enough to keep the lawyers away?)
Costume: The look is definitely as primitive as it is monochrome. The sinewy arms and legs are interesting, but the simian face less so, especially with the nose of the Scarecrow from the Wizard of Oz on there.
Powers: Robby Robot can do literally anything, if only he can reach his control panel in time. Aside from his obvious robotic strength and toughness, he must activate each power manually from that panel on his chest. Among the powers used, we have rocket-propelled flight, a sonar/radar sense, the ability to change his molecular structure (as a wooden robot, he can shoot "splinter spears"), a tracking scent, and the ability to extend his limbs telescopically.
Sighted: In Zenith City. Robby finally captured Dr. Cyclops in his cavern hide-out after failing to stop him from robbing an art museum.
Possibilities: Lacking the sophistication of the Metal Men and other robot heroes, it's doubtful that Robby the Super-Robot would fit in the current DC Universe. He's barely a step up from the All-Star Squadron's robot butler! What really kills him though is that he walking, flying deus ex machina with no logical limit to his powers. Lazy, even for this strip.
Integration Quotient: 5% (he goes berserk exactly once and is put down by the Silver Age Justice League)

Mmm... I don't think I've found my Halloween costume yet.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Reign of the Supermen #7: Superduperman

Source: Mad Comics #4 (1954)
Type: PasticheLong before Superman II, Wally Wood and Mad Comics did it first - have Superman tell Lois his secret identity, that is! Guess what, she still thinks he's a creep.

While the early days of Mad are generally well regarded - in a way that reminds me of how SNL apparently lost its edge after the Belushi years - I'm not sure this story is as subversive as it wants us to believe. Superduperman exaggerates the actual Superman's tropes (Clark Bent is more pathetic, Lois hotter and more aloof, etc.), but the all-mighty dollar is represented by Captain Marbles who is determined to cash in. That the pathetic and creepy Superduperman beats the Big Red Cheese analog makes me wonder on which side Mad is on.
On the one hand, it's the leftist message Business and Money are Bad. On the other, the lefty champion is an ineffectual pervert who only wins because Marbles punches himself out. The message then, if there is one beyond just taking the piss out of superhero comics, seems to be that Big Business will eat itself, while liberal values are ineffectual grand-standing against it. Yeah, I suppose that could work. As a corollary, the chicks only like real (conservative) men. There's so little in the way of subtle satire in media these days, I guess I've lost the ear for it.

Am I making sense or am I Mad?

Cat of the Halloweek #85: Basement Cat

Name: Basement Cat
Stomping Grounds: LOLcat universe
Side: Ultimate Evil
Breed: Bombay (1000 more years, o Kali!)
Cat Powers: Raising the dead. Watches our every movement from everyone's basements simultaneously. Leaves sexy things around the house to tempt you. Access to nukes.
Skills: Eat 0, Sleep 0, Mischief 10, Wit 5, Usher in Catnarok 3
Cat Weaknesses: That damn Ceiling Cat.