Saturday, May 31, 2008

Ghost Rider

I set my DVR last week to record a couple films, and one of them was Ghost Rider, the 2007 comic book adaptation of the Marvel hero. This film stars Nicholas Cage as Johnny Blaze, a motorcycle stunt rider who makes a deal with the devil only to later learn that there is hell to pay. Eva Mendes, Donal Logue, Sam Elliot and Peter Fonda also star.

I have to say that I had heard last year that this was a pretty good adaptation, but we never got around to seeing it in the theatres. I am glad I finally got around to it though, as I thought it was pretty well done. The special effects were awesome. The unique look of the hero - the flaming skull head and the flaming cycle - came across well in a live action film. The storyline too was pretty faithful to the comics, pulling in all the key elements of the character, and at the same time told a solid story for film-goers.

Now, I wasn't a huge Ghost Rider fan in the 70's when the comic debuted. I knew the character from occasional team-ups with Spider-Man and the Thing in their respective team-up books. But his solo adventures were not something I readily sought out at the time. In recent years, via Marvel's Essentials line and then, when the movie came out, via the GIT Corp release of "the Complete Ghost Rider" on DVD-ROM, I have grown to know more about the character and his early adventures.

Looking back at the film, I'd have to rate it easily in my top 10 of comic book films - both on faithfulness to the original material and as a film experience. I'd say Ghost Rider would be rather close to hitting the top 5 in fact (I'd put it in at 6 or 7). If you haven't seen it, check your cable listings or your local video store and give it a view. If you like the genre, I think you'll be glad you did.

Friday, May 30, 2008

A Little Less Laughter

I was saddened to hear that comedy legend Harvey Korman passed away this week at age 81.

As someone born in the mid-60's, my first exposure to Mr. Korman's talents was when he did voice over work for the Flintstones cartoon during the last season or so of that show's run. He voiced the Great Gazoo, the alien visitor to the stone-age with amazing magic abilities that was sent there to help Fred and Barney stay out of trouble. One of the local television affiliates out of Buffalo showed the Flintstones every afternoon, and as a diligent watcher I knew each cartoon cold. Still, it was the great characters and great voices that kept me coming back for repeat viewing. Mr. Korman was a great voice.

As I got older in the 70's, I spent many a Saturday evening over at my grandparents' house. The Carol Burnett Show was always a staple of the evening viewing, and Mr. Korman was a key component to that outstanding ensemble cast. Even if I was too young to get some of the subtle nuances to the sketches, it was delivery, the facial gestures, the physical presence and the vocal skills that made me laugh out loud. The humor was enjoyable by both young and old. And it was done without being profrane or vulgar or crass. Classic humor.

Even still, Harvey Korman went on to do other things - guest roles on other programs and films like Mel Brook's Blazing Saddles. No matter the size of the role, he delivered and was memorable.

I read an article regarding the passing of Mr. Korman that said "the world has now become a little more serious". That is very true

Comics of the Week (5/29/08)

Final Crisis #1 (of 7) - well, I have to say I was not impressed with this first issue. This is supposed to be a huge event and I expected it to kick off with a bang. It didn't. Don't know if it is Morrison's writing style or Jones' art. The first seven pages and the second to last two - while nicely illustrated - seemed to be totally out of left field. I hope they are relevant later, because they weren't in this issue. Another big chunk sort of ties into Death of the New Gods but a lot in a very big head scratching sort of way. The pages with the super-villains was mostly a lot of posturing - that is until the deaths start rolling. There are also a few pages that sort of tie-in to the events of Countdown but not very neatly either. This better improve. How could it not?

Teen Titans #59 - another solid issue. I'm liking this storyline with Clock King and his Terror Titans. Yes, it has a "Dark Side Club" banner tie-in which a few books last issue had also. This sort of ties it loosely to Final Crisis but not enough that you have to seek out the mini to enjoy what is going on here. The artwork by Barrows and Jose continues to improve as well.

Teen Titans Go! #55 - a fun final issue that leaves things open for the future, if DC ever revisits. Nauck's art is enjoyable as always. I'm sorry to see this book go but, as the letter column said, it was hard to keep a book going about a cartoon that has basically been off the air for awhile now. That's probably the same rationale they used for cancelling Justice League Unlimited. I hope this allows Todd Nauck more time to do his Wildguard stuff for Image.

Green Lantern #31 - the "Secret Origin" continues. I like how Geoff Johns is merging the best elements from the original GL stuff of the 60's with the positive parts of Emerald Dawn in the 90's. And I for one do not miss the drunkard Hal Jordan at all (that was a huge mistake). The artwork by Reis and Albert continues to pop nicely and the scenes on Oa are perfect.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Comics of the Week (5/21/08) - part 2

Justice Society of America #15 - "Thy Kingdom Come" rolls along with an issue long battle of the JSA vs. Gog. I was a bit disappointed. Last issue ended with the appearance of someone else from the Kingdom Come Earth but then no explaination this time. Just fighting. Sure, very well coregraphed fighting, but fighting just the same. You get the sense it is a huge battle, but that made for reading the issue very quick. Oh, and we get another teaser page for next year in the book - that intrigued me some. Especially the second panel which is for the upcoming Justice Society of America Annual.

Tangent: Superman's Reign #3 (of 12) - this mini continues to fold out the story slowly (perhaps too slow?). I like that it is building but I was hoping for a bit more than what we got this time. Still, I'm enjoying this one.

Justice League of America #21 - a "sightings" book, meaning it ties into major arcs/concepts going on in the whole line. This one ties into Final Crisis which begins next month. We get the return of a one-shot classic villain as well as some interesting dialogue between the big three JLA founders. A good issue but definitely a prologue to Final Crisis.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Long Weekend Camping

We loaded up the van Friday afternoon with plastic tubs full of food, camping gear, the tent, sleeping bags and the coolers, and drove an hour and a half up into the North Carolina mountains to go camping. My in-laws got us a site with water and electricity up at Racoon Holler, just of the Blue Ridge Parkway near Glendale Springs. The tent took a little bit to set up (those instructions are sometimes confusing) but then I hooked up the electric pump and had the mattresses inflated in no time.

Each night we did dinner with the family (my wife's parents, her brother and his family) but afterwards we'd retire back to our own campsite for our evening fire. It was nice sitting out and just enjoying the smell of nature by the glow of some burning wood in the fire-ring.

We cooked out our own breakfasts (my son using his scouting skills for doing bacon and eggs) and brought sandwich fixings for lunch. One night he even did the dinner for everyone - a stew with beef, potatoes, onion, carrots and tomato. It went well with the sour dough bread my wife and I picked up at the nearby Trading Post after our hike to one of the waterfalls on Saturday afternoon.

Sunday we did a family hike (all eleven of us) - two hours and about five miles. The campgrounds also had some fun family activities for the weekend - kids crafts on Saturday morning, a fishing tournament on Sunday afternoon, and bingo on Sunday night.

Not even a bit of rain on Friday night/Saturday morning could ruin the good mood of the weekend. The tent kept the rain pretty much out (we had one or two seam leaks but nothing major) while we got to enjoy hearing the pitter-patter of it on the roof.

I'm looking forward to our next outing.

Thin Air

Thin Air is the 22nd book in the Spenser series by Robert B. Parker; it was written in 1995. In this one, Spenser's good friend Lt. Frank Belson comes to him with a situation. Belson's wife Lisa has gone missing and he wants Spenser to help him locate her. Even before they can get too far in the investigation, Belson is shot and hospitalized - forcing Spenser to continue the case alone.

In typical Spenser fashion, things are not always what they seem. In investigating Lisa's past, the detective learns a lot about her and the former life she kept hidden. He also finds himself involved with deadly factions, so much so that he has to work with some people on the other side of the law to find the missing woman.

This book, like Crimson Joy, departed from the entirely first-person narrative from Spenser's view point. There are a number of interludes written from Lisa's viewpoint - to give the reader an idea of what is truly happening with Lisa even though Spenser has yet to figure it out. At first I found it a bit annoying but it did fit in nicely as the book went.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Comics of the Week (5/21/08) - part 1

Countdown to Mystery #8 (of 8) - well, this final issue has a nice cover but that's as far as it went for me. The end of the Eclipso tale was anti-climactic, and the untimely death of Steve Gerber left the Dr. Fate story without an ending (so DC had four teams do four endings - all of them seemed lacking).

Batman and the Outsiders #7 - another decent issue. Chuck Dixon has the team dynamic down well with a lot of adventure, characterization and a steady pacing. While not a top tier DC book, it is solid month after month.

the Brave and the Bold #13 - after the mega-epic opener, we get a single issue tale featuring Batman and the golden age Flash. The story actually works very well with a good mix of personalities and action. Jerry Ordway does a great job on the art chores - harkening back, for me, his early days as the artist on Infinity Inc. in the early 80's.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

American Idol 2008 - Winner Announced!

Having decided to spend most of the two hour finale doing something useful - like catching up on recorded Monday night's season finales dramas of Bones and House, I set the DVR to record Idol's 2 hour finale. Still, I knew they'd run long and the DVR would cut out, so I turned the show on at about 9:45pm - just in time to see the top 12 doing a medley of George Michael tunes before the man himself came out to sing (side note: man, the years and drugs have not been kind on George - he looked very sick and he could barely hold his notes).

So, commercial and then time to announce the winner. I'm ready to be disappointed again - as I was in the years I was backing Clay Aiken, Diana DeGarmo, Bo Bice and Melinda Doolittle (okay, the last one went out at number three - but she deserved to be in the finale!). And the winner is David.... (I so called Ryan doing this!)


Wow! I was as shocked as he was. By a margin of 12 million votes, the rocker blew away the teen ballad singer. America got it right! Simon couldn't have been more proud! Finally Idol got itself a rocker for the title. They can stop trying to pass Chris Daughtry off as the winner of season 5 (since they've pretty much disowned Taylor Hicks).

My wife and I have been a David Cook fan since the beginning of the season. He was consistent, current, and cordial through and through. His honest emotion upon winning, and his willingness to share his final spotlight with the rest of the top 12 contestants during his coronation sing out just shows how gracious he is.

We can't wait to get his CD when it is released. I know we'll love it.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

American Idol 2008 - Top 2 Performances

Three songs. Three phone numbers per contestant. Three judges. Two Davids. One winner.

Just three comments from about tonight's show:

1) The boxing analogy got really old really fast.

2) David Archuletta is fine doing ballads, but that box gets really boring really fast.

3) David Cook knows how to make a song his own and is going to be better off if he doesn't win the title tomorrow night (he'll clearly be the better selling artist in the long run though).

Monday, May 19, 2008

Walking Shadow

From 1994 comes Robert B. Parker's 21st Spenser novel called Walking Shadow. This one opens with Spenser being asked by his girlfriend Susan to come down to Port City and speak with the manager of a theatre of which she is on the board of directors. The manager feels he is being shadowed by someone and knows not who or why. He would like Spenser to find out.

Of course, taking in the play, things go awry quickly. An actor is killed in cold blood in front of an audience, Spenser gets threatened to leave town or else, and one of the actresses also approaches him about being stalked. Spenser finds himself quickly in a deep sea of illegal operations, organized crime and lustful individuals.

I found it to be another enjoyable read from Parker.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

VH-1 RockDocs

VH-1 has had a couple of this Rock Documentaries (or RockDocs) for short. This week they began showing their latest one - the four-part Sex: the Revolution. I just finished watching the complete series off the DVR this afternoon and found it to be a very fascinating examination of the journey of the sexual revoution in the United States from the 1950's to the late 1980's and today. If you get a chance to check it out, I would highly recommend it.

Other one I have seen was called the Drug Years which was, of course, about the drug culture in the United States, covering a similar period of time (60's through today). The format was similar with some of the same commentators, so I believe it was produced by the same production company.

What I find fascinating about these programs is, having been born in 1965 smack dab in the middle of a lot of these cultural changes, is that I got a chance to learn a lot more about things we certainly weren't taught in school. Okay, maybe some college electives might have touched on these topics but not much. It is a good way to educate not only my generation but also the younger generation on things - and they do so in such an interesting way. It is a good mix of imagery, music and familiar commentators that present the facts and details in a way to tell a good, unbiased story. They present the various sides without judgement.

If you get a chance, check them out.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Comics of the Week (5/14/08)

Legion of Super-Heroes in the 31st Century #14 - not sure what was going on (maybe just an off week for me) but I wasn't as thrilled with this book as usual. It was just sort of average at best. I'm hoping the title picks up again. We'll see.

Final Crisis Sketchbook - I hadn't ordered this originally, but after putting Titans #2 back on the shelf (I flipped through that one - it looked horrid - and I said last month when I reviewed #1 that I was going to drop it, and I did) I decided to divert the money to this one-shot. Well, it's a sketchbook by J.G. Jones with some notes by Grant Morrison. This is the team bringing us Final Crisis. I have to say it was a mixed bag. A lot of it was redesigns of Jack Kirby's classic New Gods characters. IMHO, those are great designs and didn't need updating. If Final Crisis is the vehicle to do this, I'll be disappointed.

Book of the week again goes to Booster Gold. #9 continues the attempts of Booster and Blue Beetle to correct the timeline that Booster screwed up by saving BB's life. This issue is called "Putting the Band Back Together" and it's all about the JLI mounting an attack on Max Lord and the OMACs. Another fun issue.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

You Can't Always Get What You Want

So, yesterday afternoon I get home from work and plan to do a little music downloading. My monthly subscription of 75 tunes on just renewed Tuesday afternoon, so I figured I'd get my notepad out and start to get some items on the list.

First up was to polish off a bit more of the Rolling Stones catalog from the 60's. I type in the artist but nothing comes up. Huh. It says they currently do not have them available at this time. I go and try a few more artists I had written down from last month but didn't get to due to running out of my allotment. Huh. Marianne Faithful, Bobby Rydell, Herman's Hermits, ? and the Mysterians, and a few other folks from the 60's - none of them coming up. What do they and the Stones have in common? All were on the ABKCO label.

Back on April 3rd, touted proudly getting the ABKCO catalog on their site. I was very excited. I had listened to a lot of the Rolling Stones by osmosis (ie. my older brother was/is a huge fan and had their entire catalog on vinyl). I liked a lot of the older stuff just fine. So when I saw that they had hit my download service, I was eager to download stuff. I got most of the big hits before my April numbers ran out - so I had kept the later part (mostly covers from their earlier albums, etc.) until my May 14th date.

Turns out I was too late. On May 3rd, pulled down all the ABKCO stuff.

At first, I felt hugely bummed. This was high quality recordings from a big label, and I hoped that it would signal good things to come. Maybe they'll still come back. I'm hoping.

Next, I felt good for at least getting what I had gotten. I know I managed to get five or six complete Stones albums from that period, and they were the ones I knew the most. It also put me into a new mindset where if I find something on emusic I'd like to download that I need to get it (if I have downloads left) while the getting is still good. You just never know how long something will be there.

I do have to keep in mind too that, with my subscription rate, I am only paying 27 cents per download. So, if I find three solid albums per month for my $20 and then can get a bunch of handfuls of miscellaneous songs here and there too, I'm still coming out way ahead of buying physical CD's.

So, I'm not mad at - they can't control which labels give and then take away stuff. I just have to plan a bit better myself is all.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

American Idol 2008 - Top 3 Results

Okay, now that was an hour of filler.

First, Fantasia comes back with what was clearly a WTF performance. Don't believe me? The looks on Simon's and Paula's faces told me they were just as confused. And she was the Season 3 winner. Go figure.

Next, we get the full length home visits of the final three. Clearly the fans love the Davids. Syesha's turn out was a bit less though. Telling? Should have been.

Finally, we get the results. Archuleta is announced in the final and he takes it was some shock and then celebration. Next, Cook is announced as the other final two member, and he takes it with a quiet maturity and consoles Syesha a bit on her loss. That's the difference between the two Davids.

So, next week we get the first guy vs. guy finale since season 2 with Reuben and Clay. How will it end up? If my track record of picking is any indication, David Cook will take second place due to a close call between the fan bases. Personally, I don't know if David Archuletta has the maturity and experience to handle the title. He can't even articulate his thoughts in simple interview questions. If he wins, the 19E folks will have to work with him a lot to make him public presentable.

Paper Doll

In Paper Doll, the 20th Spenser novel written by Robert B. Parker (from 1993), the Boston detective is hired by a rich aristocrat to find out who murdered his wife Olivia. Spenser first investigates the family, only to find a facade of ideal life. Gaining no ground there, he heads to the deep South to investigate the woman's past. And what he finds is that things are not as they appeared at all and that many are trying to stop him from uncovering the truth.

Again, Parker does a wonderful job building up the supporting cast and the people Spenser meets along the way. He does it in such an effortless way that you get invested in these new characters.

And, again, Parker got me. I had part of the mystery figured out but not all of it. That surprise and suspense kept me reading page after page. A good read in the series - highly recommended.

American Idol 2008 - Top 3 Performances

And then there were three - two expected and one rather unlikely (if I look back at the beginning with the top 12, I never would have said then that Syesha would make it beyond the top 6 - how wrong I was). Each sang three songs - a judge pick, a self pick and a producers' pick.

David Archuleta - Paula screwed up with her Billy Joel pick. It was safe and not a challenge for him at all. And it was dull. David's own pick of a Chris Brown tune was poor - I am certain his father chose it for him to show he could be "current". It didn't work. The producers' went with Dan Fogelberg - again, yawn. David may have a spot on voice but his personality is non-existent. Boring. I hope he goes home but I have doubts his fans will let him down.

Syesha - not the female I would have put here, but damn the girl is fighting for this! Randy's pick was okay for her. I think she did well with her choice of "Fever" as it helped show some personality. The producers' pick also worked for me - bouncy and current. I could hear her songs on the radio in the coming years and she'll do okay. Good but not out of the park. She should make the final two over David A. but I doubt she will.

David Cook - best of the breed this season. He knocked out Simon's pick beautifully; Simon craftily chose a song to show a softer, sensitive side of David. His own pick, a Switchfoot rocker, needed a bit more time to gel but it was good. The producers' pick of Aerosmith closed the show nicely. Clearly the winner of the night and should be a shoe-in for final two. (Then again, I would have thought that last year with Melinda Doolittle - and she went out at Top 3 - go figure!)

Tonight will give us the final two for next week's showdown.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Double Deuce

In the 19th book of the series, author Robert B. Parker sends his hero Spenser into the inner-city. The title of the book, Double Deuce gets its name from one of the housing developments where a fourteen year old mother and her infant child are gunned down by what appears to be a drive-by shooting. Spenser's friend Hawk enlists the detective's aid on this case.

While one of the shorter Spenser novels, it is still fast-paced. Though written in 1992, the subject matter of gang violence and inner-city struggles is still very relevant sixteen years later.

We also learn a little bit about Hawk's mysterious past as there is some reflection between his life and that of the gang members who fight against the heroes attempts to move them off of the turf. Some new supporting characters are also introduced to the novels' universe, some whom I am sure will show up again in the future.

A good read which I recommend to others.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Comics of the Week (5/7/08) - part 2

DC Universe 0 - this one-shot preview of various upcoming storylines and titles was well worth the fifty cents cover price. First, that cover - awesome! I love covers with lots and lots of characters. The rest of the book was six three-page previews, loosely tied together by a single narration, of upcoming mini-series and events tying into Final Crisis. Since I already had planned to buy four of the six anyway, I was pretty much sold.

The War That Time Forgot #1 (of 12) - what a way to start a maxi-series event then with a Neal Adams cover! Again, score. This title is the story of various time-lost characters from DC's rich history, all together and fighting for their lives on an island with dinosaurs and other advesaries. Nothing like seeing Firehair, Enemy Ace, Tomahawk, and more in an all-out-action adventure. Who knows who will show up in future issues? That's half the fun!

Rann-Thanagar Holy War #1 (of 8) - DC's super-stars of space are coming together for a big adventure. We've got Adam Strange, Starfire, Animal Man, Captain Comet, Hawkman, the Omega-Men, Starman, Bizarro(?!?) and who knows who else coming together in a cosmic epic. With Jim Starlin on the writing chores and Ron Lim doing the art, I know it'll be a wild ride. Two thumbs up!

Friday, May 9, 2008

Comics of the Week (5/7/08) - part 1

All-New Atom #23 - ugh. Not enjoyable at all. I'm not sure if it is the new writer, the new art team, this story line or a combination of all three. Clearly I'm not the only one getting it. Sales are dropping and the final issue is scheduled to be #25 - at the end of this story arc. I'm only sticking with the title to have the complete run. Sad. The book had such wonderful potential when it first started out - with Gail Simone's quirky writing and John Byrne's art. It kept solid even when Byrne left due to Gail's style. But with Gail gone, the book is floundering.

Justice League Unlimited #45 - this book is being cancelled too, with #46 being it's final one. I think since the JLU toon is no longer shown on television that it was just a matter of time. A shame. I'll miss this one. This issue was sort of hit-and-miss. I think getting close to the end they are just pulling together whatever they can to finish the run. It sort of shows. Ah well.

Countdown to Mystery #7 - this issue was supposed to come out last month. The untimely death of Steve Gerber probably made the Dr. Fate portion run past deadline. While all right, that part of the book hasn't impressed me much of late. It is just sort of floundering in the realm of the weird. On the flip side, the Eclipso portion which has taken over the lead has been rock solid. It has a lot of guest stars (Creeper, Plastic Man, Hawk & Dove, the Spectre) and this issue sets up for the big finale in the final issue. Can't wait! The covers of this book have been pretty good too - especially when they combine the Fate and Eclipso concepts together as this one's did.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

American Idol 2008 - Top 4 Results

No surprise that Jason went home last night. While he says he was still trying to win it, he admits in interviews that the competition was getting too much for him.

It was good to see Bo Bice perform live last night though. Bo was my pick for season 4. He came in runner-up to Carrie Underwood. I got Bo's first album on CD to support him, but it really wasn't his kind of music. He got saddled with a lot of songs that weren't his style.

His latest album was up on and I downloaded all the tracks a month ago. It is much more in his southern rock sound category. Fans should check it out.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

American Idol 2008 - Top 4 Performances

Well, that was simply a mixed bag mess! The singers got to chose from the music catalog of the Rock 'N' Roll Hall of Fame, meaning pretty much a wide open book of top selling and performing artists from the 50's through the early 80's. What they end up with was interesting indeed.

I'm putting Syesha and David Archuleta in a tie for top position this week. I thought one of each's songs were the top of a round with the other in second. Vocally, they gave pleasant performances.

David Cook, sadly, dropped to position three this week for me. First was choice on song one. "Hungry Like the Wolf"? Seriously? Oh boy. Next, "Baba O'Reilly" - good choice but hard to cut down nicely into a minute forty five performance. It was just uneven. I am sure the full-length version rocked nicely. But judging what I saw on the show, not so much.

Bottom of the list - Jason Castro. Honestly, I think he was seriously trying to get out this week. His Bob Marley "I Shot the Sheriff" was all over the place - like he and Bob had been sharing some smoke pre-show. Round two - his Bob Dylan "Mr. Tambourine Man" would have been okay - but he forgot the lyrics! You don't do that at this stage in the game. You just don't.

Based on all this, Jason should be out this week. Judging on the voting public, I honestly wouldn't put money on it being a good bet. This season has been so unpredictable. Tonight will tell the tale.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008


I just finished the 18th book in Robert B. Parker's Spenser series. Written in 1991, Pastime is a bit different paced than the other books so far. Here, Spenser isn't hired for a case per se. Paul Giacomin, the young man whom Spenser saved from his parents back in Early Autumn enlists Spenser's aid to help him locate his mother who seems to have disappeared. Together they find her and learn about the trouble she is in with her new boyfriend.

This book focuses a bit on relationships between parents and children, both that of Patty and Paul Giacomin as well as local mob figures. We also learn a lot more about Spenser's past through his discussions with Susan. The book just has a different sort of pace to it.

For me, it was just an okay book. Not one of the best in the series by any stretch of the imagination. It just seemed to be one of those middle of the series books an author does - to try to tie up some loose plot threads and such. It just seemed like passing time to me.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Iron Man Scores!

Just got back from the Sunday afternoon showing at the local cineplex of Iron Man, I have to say that it rocked! I'd definitely put it in the upper part of my top 10 all-time super-hero flicks and, for me, certainly the best Marvel super-hero film to come down the pike in years.

First, the casting was 1000% perfect. Robert Downey Jr. is Tony Stark. He played the conflicted man trying to rectify his life superbly, and he should - he's been down that road in his own life. His charm and skills at doing both the drama and the humor were right on. Gwyneth Paltrow played Pepper Potts with the right balance of confidence and sensuality. Jeff Bridges as Obidah Stane had the right mix of swarm and wickedness. Terrence Howard was a good fit for James Rhodes, who I am certain will play even a bigger role in the eventual sequel. Jon Favreau not only did an awesome job as director, but in a Hitchcock-like nod does double-duty as Happy Hogan.

Next, the story - a perfect origin tale tweaked nicely for the Hollywood adaption. It had a nice balance of intrigue, action, realism, humor and morality lesson too. Everything critical was there, plus it set up some nice foundations for the franchise to come. The introduction of a certain government organization was nicely done too.

Finally, the special effects complimented the film and did not overpower it as they often have done in Marvel's film efforts. This was a story about the characters, not the ooooh-aaaaaah of the effects' wizards.

My whole family loved it. I knew my son would - he's into the whole Marvel Ultimate Alliance game so he gets the characters. And, of course, I loved it - even if most of my exposure to Iron Man growing up as a kid was as his role on the Avengers line-up. I'm pleased to have all those Iron Man books on DVD-ROM though so I can dig deeper into the character's history. Finally, my wife even liked it - and super-hero flicks are not always her favorites (she goes to see them to indulge me). Still, she and I are both huge Robert Downey Jr. fans - always have been - so we hope he can keep his life turned down the positive road so that the franchise can grow and prosper.

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Free Comic Book Day 2008

I took my 12 year old son over to the local comic book shop this morning for Free Comic Book Day. This is an event held nationally, for a few years now, on the first Saturday in May to help promote public awareness of comic books. The publishers provide to the shops free books to hand out, a sampling of titles in their line. Folks can come in and get some free books and, hopefully, become more regular customers or buy more stuff at the shop on that visit.

That's how it's supposed to work.

That's not how it always works, at least from what I saw today.

We got to the shop at 10:50am. The shop doesn't open until 11. Already there were a half dozen folks lined up waiting. A shop person came about 11am, opened up and was disgruntled to find nothing was set up (he hates to have to do things, it appears). So, he had to get help clearing a spot in the store so they could unpack the free books. When all were out, he told folks to go ahead.

That's when the feeding frenzy happened. It was like vultures at a fresh road kill, or women at a half price shoe sale. A dozen folks, mostly adults mind you and many way older than me, were in there taking one copy of everything. Everything! Thirty plus items at least. In some instances, it was a father and son, or a husband and wife - didn't matter. Each one grabbed one of everything. It was free, they wanted it - end of story!


I had told my son before we even got to the shop that the polite thing to do would be to get a couple items apiece and that's all. That allows others to get things too. He got some kid friendly comics with Sonic and the Transformers, plus an Iron Man HeroClix figure. I picked up a copy of Love and Capes, X-Men and Tiny Titans, and also the HeroClix figure.

I wouldn't be surprised at all if the shop was completely stripped of Free Comic Book Day books by 11:30am - given how things went in those first fifteen minutes. And, very likely, half of that stuff will likely end up on eBay where someone will try to make some money off of free stuff. It all reminded me of the negative side of the big comic-cons, where folks are there just to get whatever free items they can get their hands on. It really gives comic book fans a bad image.


Last night I finished up the seventeenth book in Robert B. Parker's Spenser series. Written in 1990, Stardust has the Boston private detective hired by a Hollywood studio that shoots a show in Boston. It seems their star Jill Joyce has been receiving harrassing phone calls and threats from an unknown source. Spenser is hired to protect her. This turns out to be much more difficult than it sounds, especially when the stakes jump up with a murder on the set.

What I enjoyed about this book is that Parker spends a lot of energy to flesh out even the most minor of characters. From a small town police chief and some folks who are down-trodden to a local rich man and a California drug lord, he does a great job creating some new characters for whom Spenser interacts.

And then there is Jill Joyce herself. An awesome job by Parker to create a character readers will love to hate. She is so tightly-wound and frustrating that the reader wants to strangle her sometimes. In the end, though, you do care about her and what happens to her. I have a feeling she'll pop up again - as often characters from previous Spenser books do.

Friday, May 2, 2008

Comics of the Week (4/30/08)

First, a disclaimer: my comic shop gets shorted one book in order almost every week. This week it was DC Universe Zero, one of the big talked about titles of the week. I'm avoiding the spoilers so I can read it fresh next week. Just an FYI.

Teen Titans Go! #54 - another fun, done-in-one. This is the second to last issue of the book and it brings in the new Wonder Girl (Cassie) to the animated Titans universe. Todd Nauck's art is perfect, as always. I'll miss this book when it ends.

Teen Titans #58 - back in the main DCU, we get a spotlight issue on Miss Martian. Now, I had been kind of put off by the new creative team when they first started, but this issue kicked into gear nicely. I enjoyed it a lot and appreciate the focus on the characters who aren't seen elsewhere. Getting better each issue.

Green Lantern #30 - we get part 2 of the "Secret Origin" storyline. While this is a basic retelling of Hal's early days, we get some nice editions by Geoff Johns too. Stuff like what Abin Sur was doing when he came to Earth, why he was in a space ship, etc. The last page was sort of interesting too - tying a later foe into the mix early on. Need to check my Showcase Presents for the classic GL tales to see if this is a continuity adjustment or not. Solid book with some really nice art.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

American Idol 2008 - Top 5 Results

Well, the buzz on the Internet after Tuesday's show and Paula's blunder midway through (she blabbering on about Jason's two performances when the group each had only performed their first song) was that Idol was clearly scripted and that Jason was being thrown under the bus by the producers. Outraged fans did heavy voting for Jason in response. The next morning, Paula was on Ryan's radio show in hopes to damage control. On last night's show, again more damage control to explain the apparent confusion and to insure all that Paula was loved by the show.

Uh huh. Right.

Anyway, as a result, Jason is the first one safe. Nice way to avoid the controversy, Idol. The two Davids, clearly the vote frontrunners, are also safe. And given that many, myself included, thought Archuleta's performances weren't up to par, clearly these two have a wide enough lead on the others that one so-so night does not matter.

That puts the ladies in the bottom 2. Syesha remains strong. Brooke looks like she's going to vomit. The results come in after Brooke's tears have begun, and she is going home. She knew it. I think she's been ready now for a few weeks. The pressure has just been too much for her.

I hope she is able to put out an album ala Carole King or Carly Simon, something piano supported and melodic. I think she'll do best in that market - an adult contemporary market.