Sunday, September 28, 2008

A Night At the Museum (2006)

For about six weeks now we've had Ben Stiller's 2006 comedy A Night At the Museum sitting on our DVR. My son had seen it twice through school but my wife and I had not seen it at all. So, last night she and I finally had time to sit down and watch it. We thought it was cute.

Stiller plays a divorced father who is trying to find a steady job. He lands one at the NY Museum of Natural Science as a night watchman. Thing is, the other guards (played by Dick Van Dyke and Mickey Rooney) fail to tell him about the strange things that happen in the museum at night. As they say, "the history comes alive at night" - literally!

The film was enjoyable. The special effects worked very well. It was a nice family film that could be enjoyed by young and old alike (hard to say that these days). It was also nice to see veteran Hollywood legends like Van Dyke, Rooney and Stiller's mother Anne Meara (in a small cameo role) getting work. I also enjoyed Robin Williams' and Owen Wilson's roles in the film. It's a nice film to catch if you hadn't seen it in the theatre.

Friday, September 26, 2008

RIT's Student Orientation Service (SOS)

From the fall of 1983 through the fall of 1987, I attended Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) in Rochester, NY. It was a good college experience - I got a great education, made a lot of friends and had a lot of great memories.

One of the big foundations of my time there was my involvement with the Student Orientation Service (SOS). This was a volunteer organization - about forty to fifty students - with two faculty advisors to coordinate the program. The reason SOS is back in my head today because I got an email from one of the faculty folks - Dawn - who was sort of the motherly figure for our group (Joe, then by default, served as the fatherly role for us students).

SOS worked through out the year to plan for three orientation weekends in the summer (two for freshmen, one for transfers) and one big orientation week in the fall at the start of the year. We'd have weekly meetings with our committees, Sunday night training sessions monthly as a whole group, various social events through out the year to keep us motivated (like the huge Poster Painting Party in the spring to paint all those posters we'd need for the programs and the Cabin Party in the winter where we'd go chill for the day, play games, and dance). At the end of the year, we'd have our semi-formal Fall Banquet to celebrate the work we had done for the year.

I first got bit by the SOS "bug" when I arrived in the summer of 1983 for my own freshmen orientation. Here they were - all these students in matching t-shirts and cool buttons pinned - ready to help answer questions, show us around and make the transition to a new college life easier. I knew immediately this is what I wanted to do!

Freshmen year (SOS 84) I was on the Operations and Scheduling Committee (chaired that year by Beth Charney). We coordinated the plans for things, and made sure reservations for places on campus for programs were set.

Sophomore year (SOS 85) I decided to try out for the Executive Board and be a committee chairmen myself. I made it in the group of 10 chosen and headed the Deaf Awareness Committee (RIT has an affiliation on campus with NTID - the National Technical Institute for the Deaf - so I took a crash course in sign language). My committee was responsible for programming on the diversity of the hearing/deaf culture on campus as well as for scheduling interpreters.

Junior year (SOS 86) it was back to the general committe (I don't recall at the moment whose committee I was on that year) and for my Senior year (SOS 87) I was in the general committee for most of the year but stepped up to the plate for the Fall program to help run our committee when our chairperson went off on a co-op assignment. During these years, I was also the editor of the SOS-BS, our monthly newsletter that covered what each committee was up to during the year in preparation for the programs as well as a little bit of insider social messages between members.

Some of my favorite things included: chaperoning the dances we had for the incoming students (I loved to dance then), hanging out with the parents in the Ritzskeller (to help ease their minds about sending their kids off to college), performing in the skits we did for the parents and kids (to show them what college life was and was not like), and, of course, move-in day when we helped folks unload their cars and get their stuff from parking lots to the buildings ("we gotta move these refrigerators...we gotta move these color TV's...").

On my wall, the SOS group pictures hang proudly. Beneath them are the souvenier mugs from each year on display. In 1987, I was awarded the Most Outstanding Committee Member for Summer Programs (the plaque hangs proudly on the wall too). My photo albums from my college years have a lot of pictures from SOS events and after-hours parties (when we'd unwind after a long day of orientating folks).

Some of my closest friends from college came were in SOS - folks I still keep touch with to this day.

Crazy About Gas part 2

Well, things have gone from bad to worse here in western North Carolina in regards to gasoline. When Hurricanes Gustav and Ike hit the continental US, they took out some of the oil refineries that feed the pipeline that gets gasoline to our part of the country. Those storms were two weeks ago.

As of yesterday, many gas stations in our area are still without fuel.

Actually, that's not completely true. While many have the little plastic bags on the nozzles or signs out front saying "No Gas", not every station is completely out - at least not at the same times.

Wednesday night I witnessed about thirty cars lined up on the main drag of downtown Hickory (US-127) in front of an Exxon. A tanker truck was in back depositing fuel, and as soon as he finished filling the station up - the customers drained the place. When I drove past this morning, it was plastic bag city there.

Just up the same road I saw traffic in the right lane backed up for nearly a mile. I got in the left and continud by the BP where cars were lined up to fuel up. Had to be at least fifty cars. I swear, it was as if I had suddenly been transported back in time to the mid-1970's. Crazy!

Now, I was lucky enough on Monday to top off my tank so I've still got about 2/3rds of a tank in my van. Also, with doing a third shift project for work (which I can do remotely from home), I am saving on gas a bit for this week and the next couple. Still, eventually the little trips to pick my son up from school and to the grocery store and such will eat away at the gas I have.

Hopefully things will get better soon. The news every morning is always so depressing. The story from Charlotte is the same - no gas here or there, lines where there are some, everyone is in a panic. The word is saying things will get better by the weekend - we shall see.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Comics of the Week (9/24/08)

Ambush Bug: Year None #3 (of 6) - okay, this was a weird issue. Yes, Ambush Bug as done by Giffen and Fleming tends to be weird, but this one was beyond the usual for them. I probably would have gotten it more if I wasn't tired when I read it. Ah well.

Reign In Hell #3 (of 8) - Giffen seems to be crafting a great war epic here, with lots of focus on the squirmishes and such in the battle for the underworld. It works okay, but I'm starting to lose my interest in this one. Not sure if I'll make it to the end before dropping it. Next issue will decide that.

Teen Titans #63 - mostly the issue focuses on Bombshell, but we do get to see some of the fallout (pun intended) from last issue's slaughter. One of the two victims is still alive, luckily. Would have liked to have seen some of the funeral rather than hear about it second hand as we did. Points off for that.

Trinity #17 - we're a third of the way through, and it all hits the fan. You know its bad when the stars of the book aren't in but a half dozen panels total. Didn't like the back up focusing on Konvict, though it makes sense he will have a bigger role in the end of this story (otherwise why start with him at all?).

Secret Six #1 - okay, this came out at the beginning of the month, but I picked it up last week and just read it this week. Man, this is good! Love what Gail Simone is doing with this title. Great scene at the convenience store with Blake and Lawton. Interesting way for them to try and perk Scandal up. Very curious who will be their new sixth. And next issue - Batman! Can't wait for October.

Birds of Prey: Dead of Winter

This trade paperback volume collects issues 104 to 108 of the Birds of Prey comic. It is the last story arc from Gail Simone's run on the title as writer, and it features the Secret Six - the group whom Gail is currently doing the monthly writing chores on.

After the loaded last volume of the BOP trades line, I felt this one was a little skimpy with only five issues collected in it (and DC charges the same price as the previous volume with had seven issues in it). Still, I wanted to read this arc as it sets up some elements for the monthly Secret Six title (like the interaction between Catman and Huntress, for instance).

The story overall read pretty well. I like the return of a certain favorite heroine in this arc. Also, seeing Hawkgirl and Big Barda in action with the team was fun. And, of course, seeing Harley Quinn hook up briefly with the Six made for a fun element as well.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Secret Six: Six Degrees of Devastation

In late 2006/early 2007, Gail Simone with the help of artists Brad Walker and Jimmy Palmiotti continued her take on DC's rag-tag team of super-villains - the Secret Six - in an all-new mini series. This collection puts those six issues into a single trade paperback, and is a perfect prelulde to the new Secret Six ongoing series that just started last month.

Following up from Villains United, the regulars (Catman, Deadshot, Ragdoll, Savage and Knockout) are down one member. Who do they get to join them? Would you believe the Mad Hatter? In Gail's capable hands, she turns this goofy Batman foe into someone formidable and dangerous. Of course, the book is about villains, so there is some really twisted and violent scenes in this book. Her writing makes it work.

Being a fan of villains myself (heck, I wrote a "Secret Society of Super-Villains" fanfiction series for three years on the 5 Earths Project group), I really enjoy her spin on this cast. Having got the first issue of the ongoing title last week (which I enjoyed as well), I can see she's got some more wild ideas in mind. Hopefully she'll stay with this title for a good long run.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Heroes season premiere

NBC kicked off season 3 of Heroes last night with a bang - in fact they went all out. First, there was the countdown special at 8 which did a full recap of characters and such to catch viewers back up. Then at 9, we got not one but two (count 'em - two!) episodes back to back. Wow! I didn't realize that was the case until the first one ended with "Heroes continues...NOW".

I was very impressed with the first hour. It had the feel of the first season opener. Lots of interesting interactions, lots of mysteries, lots of surprises. Okay, I'm a little done with time travellers but oh well...

The second hour seemed to settle things in a bit, to start to expand on some of the new storylines. I love the whole Level 5 stuff as well as the introduction of other new villains (like the speedster to vex Hiro). Given that this season is subtitled "Heroes and Villains", it looks like we are getting a good mix of that. About time too.

Another neat thing - the cameo by William Katt, former start of Greatest American Hero. I hoped he would last a bit longer but ah well. Nice nod to a super-hero show from back in 1981.

It definitely looks like Kring and company are ramping this season up to get viewers back. I hope the stories can match the introductions so far.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Birds of Prey: Blood and Circuits

I used to be a regular reader of the Birds of Prey comic - up until issue #47 in fact. That was the time that series creator Chuck Dixon left the writing chores. I decided then to drop the title.

However, recent interest in the new Secret Six comic had me thinking I should pick up back appearances of the villain team. I already had Villain's United and wanted to get their Six's trade and their previous appearance in BOP.

That lead me to getting the BOP volume prior to that one - Blood and Circuits. This trade covers issues #96 to 103 (from 2006 and early 2007). I enjoy Gail Simone's writing on other books and found it equally enjoyable here. The first arc in this volume - when the team goes to try to protect Black Alice from being recruited by the Secret Society of Super-Villains was a good one. This then leads into a change in the status quo for the team as one long standing member departs and others are brought in. This bringing in of others leads to some bigger headaches for Oracle.

If you love adventures featuring smart and competent super-heroines, this is a book to try. The writing is witty and fun. I'm planning on back filling on the other BOP trades prior to this one as well - which could get me almost all the way back to when I stopped picking up the floppies. Those cover Gail's run as writer on the book.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Remembering Pete Newmann

A friend sent me an email last night that really caught me by surprise.

Back in the late 90's I was involved in a collectible card game called OverPower. It pitted a team of four characters versus four other characters to see who could knock out whom. The characters were based on comic book heroes and villains from the various comic book universes (DC, Marvel, Image). Besides buying the cards, I often made my own homemade versions with PhotoDeluxe and shared them on the web. It was online I met other players, often playing games via chat dialogues and even got to meet a number of players in person.

One such person was Pete Newmann, who went by the AOL screen name of Eboladude. See, Pete was a research scientist in Maryland who studied the ebola virus for a living. He was also a devoted husband and father.

Pete and I chatted often online - not only about OverPower but about other things too. I actually got to meet him in person once when a bunch of us planned a road trip to Niagra Falls, Canada, for a card tournament weekend. I drove up to his house early that Friday morning, hung with him and his son until the other guys arrived, and then we took his van on the trip.

Now, neither Pete nor I were hard-core players. We played for fun. We liked to make homemades. In fact, on that weekend, he even presented me with a couple of gifts. First, a CD that included all his and my homemade images. Second, a huge box full of color print-outs of all my homemades to date (I am sure he printed a ream of paper at work for them all, and killed some toner doing it).

Not being the best of players, that left us some free time to talk and such. I remember us having dinner one of the nights at the restaurant near the hotel, eating wings, drinking beers and just chatting about life and such. He was more than just someone I knew online. He was someone I considered a good friend. On the drive home Sunday night, while the others slept in the back of the van, he drove and I kept him company as we talked through the night.

But, as often happens, people change interests, move on to other things and start to loose touch. That happened with Pete and I. OverPower, the game, sort of folded. We'd chat now and again but in the last decade we sort of lost touch.

That brings us back to the email I got last night. Another OverPower buddy was searching for folks online and came across a link for a local Maryland comic shop that had posted about an event in late December of 2006. It was a memorial HeroClix tournament in Pete's honor. Pete had moved on to playing HeroClix after OverPower it would seem.

I searched the web this morning but so far have not found out exactly when Pete died or of what causes. I think I want to know just so I can have some closure for myself.

Anyone who knew him would say Pete was a friendly, approachable person. He could make you laugh but at the same time be someone with whom could have serious talks. My prayers go out to his family and friends.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Heroes: Saving Charlie

A couple weekends back, when we were up in the mountains, we stopped into the local Wal-Mart for a few things we needed. I saw the paperback of Heroes: Saving Charlie, a book that came out in hardcover back in 2007 and recently hit paperback printing. Back when it first came out, I knew I wouldn't spend the money for the hardcover - even though during season 1 I was a huge Heroes fan. So, I waited until recently to pick it up.

For those who don't know, this book basically attempts to fill in the gaps from one of the season 1 storylines - where time/space teleporting Hiro Nakamura falls in love with Texas waitress Charlie Andrews and tries to save her from a grisley death when Sylar goes after her for her power. Season 1 touched upon the details briefly but this book was written to expand upon it.

Well, it spends 279 pages attempting to do that, but the effort comes off as some pretty weak fan-fiction. Having written fan-fiction online for three years (for DC Comics characters), I have a sense for fan-fiction, both good and bad. This novel definitely falls into that later category.

The book is very uncomfortable to read at times. Do I really when to hear about Hiro's urges or attempts to hide his "obvious" interests? No, I don't. The book nearly bordered on ruining a great character for me. As for Charlie, it didn't do her any justice either. Worst of all, the book doesn't keep things consistent with what the television show did show (especially with the ending and such). In short, it violates one rule of fan-fiction that I always adhered to - do not violate established continuity just to tell your story.

If you haven't read the book and are a fan of the show, I strongly recommend you pass on this book.

Library reads - Blue Beetle trade paperbacks

Wednesday night, my son went back to Faith Formation classes for another year at the church. That means it was time for library night again for me (I park the car at the church lot, walk the half mile to the library, browse, then walk back - getting some exercise for my body as well as my mind). This week, I picked up a couple of trade paperback graphic novels to read.

The first was Blue Beetle: Shellshocked, which collected issues 1 to 6 of the comic series from 2006. The new Blue Beetle, the third to have that name, debuted back in Infinite Crisis and I have read about him some since in team-ups and over in Teen Titans. This was my first exposure to his solo stories though.

I found the beginning of the series an okay read. It builds nicely his supporting cast of family of friends as well as some reluctant allies and an arch nemesis. This is what you'd expect the beginning of a series to do. There is also the mystery of just where the scarab is from and why it gave Jaime Reyes, high school student, these amazing abilities.

The story then continues in Blue Beetle: Road Trip, which collected issues 7 to 12. These issues continue to expand on the opening concepts as well as include some guest appearances of other DCU characters. I didn't find this volume keeping my attention as much as the first one. However, it was enjoyable enough in that if I see other volumes in the library in the future that I will check them out. They both were good enough for reading - especially when the price was right (free).

If you like comics in the similar vein of early Spider-Man or Firestorm or Nova - ie. the high schooler adjusting to getting awesome powers and trying to cope with them - then you might want to give this series a look. This Blue Beetle shares a lot of elements with his predecessors in the genre while still adding its own twist to things.

Comics of the Week (9/17/08) part 2

Tangent: Superman's Reign #7 (of 12) - while Batman leads the heroes of the Tangent Earth to rescue the JLA, the Tangent Superman comes to their Earth. I really like the way this book is pacing out now. We have everything set for an epic battle to begin next issue between the two Supermen and Power Girls.

Rann-Thanagar Holy War #5 (of 8) - Starlin and Lim continue to move this cosmic epic with lots of locale hopping and lots of action (and a little humor too). With this issue, act 2 ends with the curtain about to rise on the final act of the series.

Trinity #16 - again, the issue is a full focus on the battle at Castle Branek, and having a lengthy mini like this on a weekly basis, you can do that without losing momentum. The Jim Lee cover with Wonder Woman is also very nice (I love how every three issues the covers tie together in a single image by a single artist).

Action Comics #869 - as I said last week, this book is on my pull-list now (yeah!!!). This part 4 of the Braniac saga, and things go bad to worse for our heroes. Will Superman and Supergirl be able to stop Brainiac, save Metropolis and save the other bottled cities as well? Come know they will, the question really remains is what twists and turns and fun will Geoff Johns put in the script to get to that point. I'm looking forward to the next issue.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Comics of the Week (9/17/08) part 1

Brave and the Bold #17 - the first time since this book relaunched I found an issue I was not thrilled with. This issue was part one of a two part story teaming up Supergirl and Raven. It is written by Marv Wolfman and has art by Phil Winslade. The art didn't thrill me much and that didn't help Wolfman's script either. Marv used to be a writer I loved. His work on Tomb of Dracula in the 70's and New Teen Titans in the 80's was awesome. I think though of late he just has kind of lost that spark I enjoyed in his earlier work. Ah well.

Batman and the Outsiders #11 - Chuck Dixon has left the writing chores, and Frank Tieri has picked them up (for now at least). I liked Tieri's work on Gotham Underground as he showed an affection for Batman's villains there. He brings that to this issue as well. The problem with this issue for me was it is part of the "Batman R.I.P." storyline running through all the Bat-titles and I don't read any other ones. So, it is kind of like being an outsider (no pun intended) here. The issue is okay, just not great. The art didn't thrill me much either. Depending on who gets the permanent creative chores, I might be dropping this title soon.

DC Universe: Decisions #1 (of 4) - this is a mini series timed to coincide with the current US Presidential election. In this book, someone tries to assassinate a presidential candidate and the heroes of the JLA decide to do some protective measures. What happens though is Green Arrow ends up getting into a position where he openly, publicly endorses a candidate he would back anyway. The concept of the series is an interesting one - that is which heroes have what kind of political beliefs.

It is a tricky topic to handle. You have to make their views consistent with past portrayals - and so far the writers are doing okay with that. Green Arrow has always been portrayed as a liberal, as far back as the 70's. So, positive points there. How the rest of the series plays out will be interesting to watch. The other thing that is tricky is for the writers to avoid getting preachy or pushing their own political agendas. With Judd Winick being one of the writers on this book, I tend to worry a little about that. We'll see what happens with the next three parts.

It almost makes you wonder though - how would these characters back the true candidates (as in the book you have fictional ones). Who would back a McCain-Palin ticket? Who would back an Obama-Biden ticket? This would make for some interesting debate indeed.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Saturday Night Blahs

Yesterday afternoon and last night I had the blahs. My wife is still out of town (gets back this afternoon) and my son was off at a friend's house playing. It was just me, the dogs, and my laptop for backing up my iTunes library. Boring Saturday and I was feeling out of it. Even a dinner out at IHOP (had the T-bone steak and eggs combo) didn't shake the funk.

This called for deseperate measures.

So, I pulled out a couple DVDs from the library and watched two that I felt could cheer me up. The titles? Xanadu and Grease 2.

Yes, you read that right. By most critics, these are two of the cheesiest films ever to come out of the early 1980's. Know what? I don't care about that.

First up was Xanadu. I got the recent DVD set in part because it had the soundtrack remastered included. I had this album on vinyl and I played it often. Loved it. Loved the ELO tracks. Loved the Olivia Newton-John tracks. I know the songs inside and out. The film is the story of album painter Sonny Malone (Michael Beck) who is looking for something better and of Danny Malone (Gene Kelly) who is a retired big band musician looking for one more big dream. Enter Greek muse Kira (Olivia Newton-John) to apply the magic. The film is an ode to roller-disco with lots of wild costumes and colors. Very 1980. And the choreography was done by a very young Kenny Ortega (known by today's generation as the man behind Disney's High School Musical franchise). It is a sappy, over the top, ode to musicals of old - and it a perfect rainy day, feeling blah kind of thing. It started to make me feel better.

Next up was the 1982 sequel to Olivia's big film with John Travolta. Grease 2 has neither of the big stars from the first film. Only folks like Didi Cohn, Sid Caeaser, Eve Arden and Dody Goodman reprise their roles from the earlier film. The rest of the cast is an all-new set of T-Birds (lead by Adrian Zmed's Johnny) and the Pink Ladies (lead by Michelle Pfeiffer's Stephanie and featuring Lorna Luft (Paulette) and Maureen Teefy(Sharon)). The story is a reversal of the first film in that outsider Michael (played by Maxwell Caulfield) falls for cool girl Stephanie and must find a way to impress her.

As with Xanadu, I owned this soundtrack on vinyl - and again on CD. I know these songs inside and out too. In fact, I've watched this film so many times over the decades since its release that I can do most of the lines in most of the scenes. I love this film that much. Pfeiffer is at her sexiest in this film - young, vulnerable and searching for that real love. Both her spotlight numbers in the film - "Cool Rider" and "(Love Will) Turn Back the Hands of Time" are my favorites (and I will admit for some reason that latter song always makes me tear up a bit every time I watch the film - it must resonate with something from my life in 1982). The other songs like "Score Tonight" and "Reproduction" are double-entendre laid numbers that give this film a more sexy edge than the first, more famous and loved of the series. The Grease 2 fans seem to recognize the unique characteristics of this film and embrace them on their own merit.

Needless to say, the film put me back squarely into 1982 and that nostalgia trip further helped to break the night of blahs for me.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Crazy About Gas

Yesterday morning after dropping my son off at school (I've been on the Mr. Mom duty this week with my wife out of town for a family emergency - and my son hasn't been able to ride the bus to and from school for three weeks now due to a leg brace he's wearing for a knee-cartiledge issue (gotta be in it for another four weeks or so)), I decided to top off my tank at the store where our lab is. The price for gas was $3.59 a gallon. There were a lot of cars so I circled once, parked and pumped what I needed.

By lunch time, the store had bumped their price up to $3.89 per gallon, following suit to all the other stations nearby. And still the cars were lined up.

I picked my son up from school at 3pm and, on the way home, all the high school drivers were pulling into a station near the school selling at $3.99 a gallon. I laughed and told my son they should go up the road about a mile or so as I had passed those stations and they were still selling at $3.69 a gallon. As we passed those two stations, one was overflowing with cars trying to fill up. I checked the place across the street - it was empty, and their pump handles were covered up. Out of gas.

Wow. Just wow.

I know that Ike has hit Texas hard and that includes the off-shore pumps, but it seems like everyone in the southeast has freaked out over possible gas shortages. Tie to that all the retailers willing to bump up the prices to get what they can - and still people are paying it. Crazy.

I figure it'll be a temporary bump, but I'm not planning on burning through my tank quickly just the same. Might run one errand tonight, but tomorrow I'm home for the day. Gotta sleep in some during the day as I have to pull a third-shift for a software install tomorrow night for six stores (10pm to 6am). Then I'll sleep a bit Monday morning and adjust back to the normal schedule for the rest of the week.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Comics of the Week (9/10/08)

Legion of Super-Heroes in the 31st Century #18 - okay, I'm getting bored. Glad the title ends in a month or so. The book does a good job for telling done-in-one tales for readers not familar with the cast and such, but with the cartoon off the air the book has no extra support. Ah well. Maybe if Geoff Johns could get on to the writing of the regular LSH title, I'd have something to substitute for this one.

Trinity #15 - I love how it all came together in this issue, and the two features did as well. Only thing is, this is issue 15 of 52 so there has got to be a lot more hitting the fan than this. That has me very interested as this is clearly a mega-epic in the making.

Final Crisis: Revelations #2 (of 5) - this tie-in is showing more guts to Final Crisis with a cast that readers can connect to. And, the whole scene with the Anti-Life Equation - that was like something out of a creepy, zombie horror film. Loved it.

Booster Gold #12 - Dan Jurgens draws the Bat-cast well. His Batgirl is spot on perfect. And the story line by Chuck Dixon - a perfect trippy time-travel/paradox laugh-fest. It was great! And that last page - YES! (I won't spoil who shows up but I am sure the creative team will do something great with this person.)

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Back into Action Comics

Months ago I remarked in my weekly comic reviews how much I was digging the "Superman and the Legion of Super-Heroes" arc in Action Comics (issues 858 to 863). Now, I had dropped Action regularly years ago but that arc brought me back.

Well, Geoff Johns writing on the title has caused me to come back and stay. I've gotten the next five issues in recent weeks (864 to 868) and I am loving all the elements coming back to the series. Some highlights:

864 - an epilogue to the LSH issue if you will, with Lightning Lad escorting Superman back to the 21st Century and Batman being none to happy. A nice intro to the Final Crisis: Legion of Three Worlds as well.

865 - a great issue featuring Toyman. Lots of resolution to some plot lines from the 90's where writers darkened the character too much by implying he was a child molester. I never liked that. This issue sorts all that out nicely and sets the villain up for the future.

866 - the beginning of another large arc, this one focusing on Brainiac. We also see the return of supporting characters Cat Grant and Steve Lombard. Nice! This sets up a classic Daily Planet line-up. Nice nods to the Superman films of the 70's too.

867 and 868 - parts two and three of the Brainiac arc. Oh, and if you thought you knew everything there was to know about Brainiac, you're wrong! I love how Johns respects the past and builds upon it, much like he is doing over in Green Lantern.

This book is definitely going back on my pull-list full time. Check it out if you like Johns' writing on other titles.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Bones season premiere

My wife and I watched the Bones season premiere which aired earlier this week on FOX last night (taped on the DVR). It was a two-hour episode which, thankfully, we were able to run past the commericials and get done in just shy of an hour and forty minutes. As long time fans of the show, what did I think?

I liked: the British versions of Booth and Bones. They made a nice contrasting team to the main characters. In fact, into the first half hour I thought they'd make for a nice spin-off show (so much for that!).

I liked: the reappearance of Angela's husband, just to add tension. Throwing Cam into the mix made it more fun, and of course we got more of Sweets too. That worked.

I liked: all those gorgeous remote shots of England. Looked awesome on HD.

I liked: Booth's battles with the car. Classic!

I didn't like: what the writers did to the Angela/Hodgins relationship. It is like they have to mix everything up for a new season.

I didn't like: the replacement squint. Clearly we're going to have a rotating person in the lab now that Zack is seeking mental help. What a shame. Maybe this will open it up for the character's return later in the season. I'm hoping.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Ranking Super-Hero Films

In a summer of big blockbuster super-hero films, inevitably one starts thinking of ranking those they've seen in some kind of order. I'm a fan and am no different than others. So, here's my list from worst to best - my top 25 (or so) super-hero films. Remember: these are only the films I have seen personally (either on the big screen, on cable or on DVD). If you have some to recommend that I do see, please let me know and I'll keep an eye out for them.

Note 1: If I had included animated films Batman: Mask of the Phantasm and Justice League: the New Frontier would have been there as well. I don't know if either of these ever came out in theatres or if they went direct to video. They are good, but unfair to rank with the others because you can pretty much do a lot with animation that you can't do otherwise with live action. One animated film does make my list below, but I'll explain why when I get there.

Note 2: Of this summer's releases, I did not see Hancock or the Dark Knight. I'll likely catch both on cable in the future. I haven't seen either of the Hulk films (I hear I should skip the first entirely) - again, might catch the new one on cable someday. I've never read Hellboy comics so I've skipped those films. Ditto with the Crow, V For Vendetta and the 300 - though all technically aren't super-heroes per se.

27. X-Men: the Final Stand
26. Superman Returns
25. My Super Ex-Girlfriend
I've blogged about the above three within the past year. See individual entries.
24. Superman III
This felt more like a Richard Pryor comedy than a Superman film. Just a mess. Not near as bad as Superman IV though (never saw that one, heard it stunk).
23. Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer
I blogged about this one within the past year too. Just didn't work for me.
22. X-Men II (X2)
This film suffered, like the third in the series, of too many characters to cram into one film. Made it too hard to enjoy. Plus, it did a weak job at handling the whole "Dark Phoenix Saga", a comic masterpiece.
21. Supergirl
The lead had the right look but the story really was just a bit too hokey.
20. Fantastic Four
I enjoyed how the pulled off the team origin, but they botched up Dr. Doom big time. That lost points big time with me.
19. Batman Forever
Three heroes plus three villains equals too many new characters for a film to do justice to.
18. Daredevil
I never read much of this character's comic. The film was good but not great.
17. Batman and Robin
I liked the introduction of Robin to the franchise. I disliked Val Kilmer in the Batman role. Too much Jim Carey lunacy and not enough Tommy Lee Jones.
16. Spider-Man III
Hated Venom in this film but the effects on Sandman worked really well. Would have been just as happy with a single villain and none of the symbiote junk.
15. X-Men
A nice attempt at a team film, but too many characters got the short end of the stick so that Wolverine could shine.
14. Howard the Duck
Technically not a super-hero film, but I felt the first 2/3rds of the film did the Steve Gerber creation justice. I really want to get this on a DVD release, but I doubt it will happen. Waaaauuuuugh!
13. Spider-Man
A near perfect origin adaption. The only thing that ruins this film for me is the unmoving mask that Willem DeFoe must wear as the Green Goblin (it truly put a damper on his performance and it ruins the entire final act for me).
12. Batman Returns
Love Michelle Pffiefer as Catwoman (but not the costume). Penguin was a little too much (and too gross).
11. Batman Begins
Wasn't excited to see this in the theatres so I waited on the DVD. I liked the portrayal of the Scarecrow, and the reboot of the franchise worked well enough too.
10. Mystery Men
This film is more comedy than adventure, but I first saw it with my good buddies in San Diego during Comic-Con. That goes a long way. It did adapt the comic pretty well all in all.
9. Ghost Rider
I blogged about this film within the past year as well. The effects and the story worked well on this one, as did the rocking soundtrack.
8. Batman (1966)
I grew up on the campy 60's television show, so this one gets high marks just for nostalgia alone.
7. the Rocketeer
I never read the comic per se, but the film does a great job setting the tone and the believability of the concept.
6. Batman (1989)
What can I say - Keaton did a better job than expected, I liked Nicholson as the Joker, and then there is the Prince soundtrack. It all works for me.
5. Spider-Man II
Best of the trilogy. Spidey versus just a single villain makes it all work. The effects to make Doc Ock worked well too.
4. Superman: the Movie
Given the times, this was a well crafted film. Despite a few plot flaws, it very much captured the silver age Superman from origin to debut in Metropolis. Great cast.
3. Iron Man
I blogged about this one earlier in the summer. This film worked for me on many levels. It was a good adaptation of the origin, modified for modern times. Robert Downey Jr. worked out splendidly in the lead role. Can't wait for the sequel.
2. The Incredibles
Technically a computer animated film from the folks at Pixa, but it definitely is a gem. This original story with original characters. I have the DVD but if I catch it on TV I'll stop and watch it to the end (like I did last night).
1. Superman II
Building upon the first film, this one is near perfect with the Phantom Zone criminals and all. Only minor complaints are some of those odd powers Superman uses near the end. Beyond that, great film. And the opening with Lois in Paris - perfect portrayal of the character at the time.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Comics of the Week (9/4/08)

Adam Strange Special #1 - this tie-in to the Rann-Thanagar Holy War didn't thrill me as much as the Hawkman Special last month. I think part of it was because Jim Starlin did not do the art for this one. Also, the story seemed to mirror a lot of what Hawkman went through (past/future/mystery). The future stuff did reveal some big stuff will be happening with Adam Strange - either in the mini series or beyond.

Green Lantern #34 - I thought this issue ended the "Secret Origin" arc, but it appears we have one more issue to go. This one was okay but mostly just a big fight, nicely drawn by Reis. I'm ready for us to get out of the past on this title.

Trinity #14 - once again, the back-up feature was a bit more interesting than the lead. This whole side-trip to the Antimatter Universe was a bit too much of a diversion all the way around. Let's get back to the bigger story arc. I do like this last trio of covers with the Trinity battling their Antimatter counterparts. Changes things up a bit.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Ordinary People Change The World

What's this all about again?
Today is the official launch of The Siegel & Shuster Society, with a celebrity charity auction that'll raise money to preserve the home of Jerry Siegel, creator of Superman. When you go to Brad Meltzer's charitable website, you can:
- bid online for original Superman and comic book art and items by top writers and artists
- buy a Siegel & Shuster Society t-shirt (designed by the legendary graphic designer Chip Kidd)
- or just donate to the good cause.
The best way to show it is here:
All proceeds of the auction go to the restoration of the Siegel house.

Who's involved in the auction?
This is a coming together of an entire community. The full list includes: Stephen Colbert, Jim Lee, Brian Michael Bendis, Brad Meltzer, Geoff Johns, Richard Donner, Joe Quesada, Neil Gaiman, Alex Ross, Dave Gibbons, Jeph Loeb, Murphy Anderson, Ed Brubaker, John Cassaday, Gene Ha, Greg Rucka, George Perez, Michael Turner, Adam Kubert, Andy Kubert, Judd Winick, Frank Cho, Eric Powell, Tim Sale, Walt Simonson, Joe Staton, Eric Wight, Dave Mandel, Mike Mignola, Rags Morales, Bill Morrison, Ivan Reis, John Romita Jr., Jason Palmer, Amanda Conner, Geoff Darrow, Ron Garney, Renato Guedes, Heroes, Dave Johnson, Chris Bachalo, Mike Bair, Allen Bellman, Dan Brereton, Ernie Chan, Travis Charest, and Ian Churchill, YOU, and even Jerry Siegel (see below).

How did this come about?
While researching his new novel, The Book of Lies, Brad Meltzer visited the boyhood home of Jerry Siegel in Cleveland, Ohio, where Superman was created. As Meltzer says, "The house where Google was founded is preserved. The garage where Hewlett Packard was founded is protected. But the house where Superman was born? I was in shock." After contacting dozens of comic book creators -- and thanks to the hard work of many in the city of Cleveland -- The Siegel & Shuster Society was created and is dedicated to commemorating and celebrating the creation of Superman in Cleveland by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster. "I think sometimes people take things like this for granted because it started in cartoon form, but this is a house were modern mythology was created," Brain Michael Bendis adds. "Mythology that will never die away or disappear. There is no difference, to me, between this house and Mark Twain's house. We have to honor and exalt such creation."

What are the items in the auction?
You can win a walk-on part on Heroes, VIP seats to the Colbert Report, original Superman art (go see the art!), have your name in Bendis or Brubaker or Rucka's comic, or Meltzer's next novel. There's a rare original pre-Superman movie script from Geoff Johns, signed by Richard Donner. And Joanne Siegel told Meltzer that before Jerry Siegel died, he signed six Superman t-shirts that no one ever knew existed -- and then told her that if their family ever needed money, she should sell the shirts. Instead, she donated one of them to be auctioned off here. The signature is on a Superman: Quest For Peace(!) t-shirt. C'mon, baby, it's Jerry Siegel on a Quest for Peace shirt!

What can you do?
Forward and digg the video ( ). Go buy a Siegel & Shuster Society t-shirt. They're cool. They're designed by Chip Kidd. They can't be bought anywhere else. Bid on some of the auctions and spread the word by sharing the video, sigs, and auction with your facebook, myspace, and live-breathing friends.

How much is the Siegel And Shuster Foundation trying to raise?
Depends on how successful we are. Phase 1 involves working on the exterior of the house: securing the roof, making sure the paint isn't rotting, doing the concrete work. That will hopefully protect the place from the outside. Joe Shuster's house (a few blocks away) was in such disrepair, it was torn down. The first goal is to collect $50,000 to deal with the outside. If we do that, then we'll go and tackle the much-needed-repairs on the inside.

Who lives there now?
The house is located in one of the tougher neighborhoods of Cleveland and is currently occupied by an African-American couple who have lived there for approximately 20 years, who have put up with all of us who have come visiting, but who don't have the money to do these repairs. Rather than kick anyone out on the street, the goal is to repair this place for them. Why? It's the right thing to do. In return, The Siegel & Shuster Society has the right to buy the house when it eventually goes up for sale.

Is there a long-term goal to make a museum?
The long-term goal is still being decided, and that's why you're invited to join The Siegel & Shuster Society and help us with those plans. Meetings are held monthly in Cleveland -- when you buy a shirt, they'll have your name. But one of the dreams is that one day, buses full of students will drive from all over Ohio, from Michigan, from any nearby state, and come to the fully-restored house -- covered and decorated with children's artwork inside -- and see where one of the world's greatest dreams was born. Go to to make it happen.

Comics of the Week (8/27/08) part 3

Justice Society of America #18 - part 3 of "One World, Under Gog" arc and the story continues to crawl. We see more of Gog's unique sense of justice and balance while the JSA members begin to quarrel among themselves. And, one of them gets an even more startling gift. The cast of this book is so large that it takes Geoff Johns so long to get this story towards its conclusion. And what I really wanted to see more of - Power Girl on Earth-2 - only got a page or two max. I hope things pick up soon as I do enjoy this cast a lot.

Final Crisis: Rogues' Revenge #2 (of 3) - here Geoff Johns is moving the story nicely. I really liked how he tied this into characters that debuted in Gotham Underground earlier in the year. He has the best handle on the Flash's villains, and he truly shows why they deserve their place in the pantheon of DC's deadliest. A perfect issue. I can't wait for Johns to pick up the reigns on the main Flash title again - just so we can continue to see his well-fleshed out villains. Scott Kolins artwork is wonderful as well.