Monday, March 31, 2008

Opening Day jitters!

Man, can it actually be opening day for the 2008 MLB season?

Caught a bit of the festivities yesterday on ESPN at National Stadium and had the television on today before I went to work. Great watching BASEBALL TONIGHT and yesterday's highlights over and over! As Donna says, at least there will be something to watch from now through October. :-)

Between ESPN and the various other stations we get we should be able to catch a game most nights and on weekends. While it won't always be either the New York Mets (her team) or the Boston Red Sox (my team) we're happy watching just about any two teams out on the field. Usually we can also depend on being able to root against the Damned Yankees or the Annoying Braves a couple times a week, which is always fun.

I see some folks predicting already and a few thinking this might be the Detroit Tigers' year. Worse things have happened and I don't have anything against the team. It's not hard to guess who Donna and I will be cheering for and it will only get ugly (as folks know) if both teams end up in the Series in October.

Had to laugh at the NYY getting rained out on their last opening day in Yankee Stadium. Just about every broadcaster made some comment about it being an omen or something like that. I think Steinbrenner blamed Joe Torre for the delay and is considering asking him back to New York so he can fire him directly. Me, I'm curious to see how both Torre and the Damned Yankees do their first season apart.

I've got to get my Boston cap out of the drawer, dust it off and keep it handy.

So, who you folks cheering on this year?

Friday, March 28, 2008

Four Color Fiend: Lots of Super-heroes & villains

While it is usually the superhero that gets her or his name in the title of the book, it really is the villain that tends to drive the action. Generally the ‘bad guy/gal’ are also more interesting, at least on the surface. A couple of titles feature some interesting super types of the later group.


SALVATION RUN #5 begins with an attempt by the group led by The Joker to break into Luthor’s settlement and capture supplies. Luthor isn’t very happy, but is more concerned with the device he hopes will return the villains to Earth. Meanwhile, Vandal Savage reveals his plans for a ‘paradise’ on the planet while he waits for a chance to leave. When he tells Lady Flash about his plan she doesn’t seem especially happy, and the scene ends with what may be an off-camera rape. We will have to wait and see where this picks up next issue. The scene goes back to the seeming standoff at the settlement, where we find a not very selfless Cat Woman (who was found lurking by some villainous I don’t know) revealing the disguised Martian Manhunter. The issue ends with Desade (wasn’t he just killed over in another title?) about to release a hoard of Darkseid’s para-demons onto the planet, which appears to have been his intent from the beginning.

Writer by Matthew Sturges does his best with a huge cast, but I had to go to Wikipedia still to figure out who some of the background characters were. It would be interesting to know what original writer Bill Willingham had in store for the book. Artists Sean Chen and Walden Wong do a nice job making all the villains instantly recognizable, even if I don’t know exactly whom they are. I especially appreciate their not doing a lot of T&A posing with many of the female villains, something I have had a problem with in some of the COUNTDOWN issues.

As I’ve mentioned before unlike the Lord Havok mini that reminds us each issue that the story took place at the midway point of COUNTDOWN, it is unclear when exactly SR takes place. I’m going to guess that SR also happens prior to events in the regular DCU books as Luthor and others appear to be taking part in several titles, even as they battle each other here. My biggest disappointment with the series, as I’ve mentioned before, is that both Lex and The Joker will apparently survive.

PROJECT SUPERPOWERS #1 from Dynamite Entertainment (DE) is actually the second issue of a new series, created by Alex Ross. As with most other titles with which the award winning artist/writer has been involved with you can count on the art (even when not done by Ross himself) to be fantastic. We get covers in this series by Alex Ross, with interior art by Doug Klauba and Stephen Sadowski. As art director, Ross picked artists who do their very best to live up to his expectations.

Dynamite has acquired the copyright for dozens of Golden Age heroes that have all but disappeared. In some cases (such as the Black Terror, The Owl and a couple others), they have been used since by various publishers during the Silver Age and later, but never achieved enough success to stick around. The Black Terror (called simply The Terror in some cases) has shown up in such places as Eclipse, AC Comics and Alan Moore’s ABC Comics among others. On the other hand, The Owl was last seen in two campy issues from Gold Key (drawn by longtime LONE RANGER and western title artist, Tom Gill) along with his side-kick Owl Girl in 1966, obviously inspired by the then current BATMAN television show.

In PS, an aging hero, Bruce Carter III (aka The Fighting Yank) is urged by the ghost of one of his ancestors and the flag-draped American Spirit to seek an urn containing the spirits of some of his old comrades. Apparently, having betrayed his one time friends FY must seek to bring them back to battle a menace, and to finally meet his own lethal fate. Along the way he must find another former teammate the Green Lama, who now resides in a hidden city in the mountains of Asia. Despite a short ‘what has gone before’ note on the inside cover, I really think I need to pick up the ‘zero’ issue of the series to understand some of the back-story. I think in this case it might have been a good idea to actually start over with the first issue, since that is where many fans will be picking up book.

While we see most of the action from the viewpoint of Carter & Co. it is the apparently former hero Dynamic Man and his ‘family’ who have a number of secrets (one seemingly revealed in this issue) causing Carter to release those he betrayed. DM appears to see him/itself in a messianic manner that could explain events. I’ll obviously have to wait and see.

Sketches in the issue show about a dozen different Golden Age characters, only a few of which have made their appearance in this issue. Another reason to look for #0 to see who may have shown up there. It will be fun to see what Ross & Company have in store in this first seven-issue arc and where the characters may go once they have been revived. That is if they survive their first mission.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

So, what else is on?

Just a few quick comments about what Donna and I have been watching or looking forward to.

JERICHO had it's final episode broadcast this past Tuesday and I'm sorry to see it go. Robert & Jake have made it to the independent republic of Texas, with the last nuclear device. We won't know the final outcome, but certainly would love to see one of the cable channels (SCI-FI, FX, etc.) pick up the show.

LOST is on tonight and we are hoping to find out what happened to Walt. I seem to recall him appearing to one of the primary characters last season, but can't recall to whom. I was sorry to see a couple more cast members killed, and it appears that a few more will not be finding their way off the island. Of course, the show is contracted to last at least two more short-seasons after this, so we should get ready for more flash-forwards & flashbacks as things move along. Anybody else hoping that nobody from the 'rescue team' make if off? Except, maybe Faraday who seems like a nice guy despite some of his actions.

Still trying to figure out who to really dislike in the fourth season of TOP CHEF. I'm not a fan of Dale, Spike or Andrew, with Andrew's attitude last night really making me want to see him tossed. Why antagonize the judges? I also don't think I can take more of Zoi whining! This show is so much better than FOOD NETWORKS similar "Who Wants to be the Next Food Network Star?"

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Four Color Fiend: Have we lost Count(down)?

Things appear to be getting worse rather than better in the DCU, at least in the main COUNTDOWN book. I’m guessing we’ll see a few things get even worse in the final five issues leading up to FINAL CRISIS this summer.


The group we’ve been calling the “Challengers” have arrived on Earth from Apokolyps. They split up, but soon discover that either they are on the wrong Earth or that memory of their existence has been removed. I’m going to assume that this may be an alternate world, as J’onn J’onzz (Martian Manhunter) appears in his previous non-Skrull look, and minus the leather outfit he now wears. Of course, I have noticed other inconsistencies in COUNTDOWN (even between issues) so I don’t really know if the editorial staff lets the artists in on everything. Needless to say, when part of the group shows up at JLA headquarters (which resembles the Hall of Justice from SUPER-FRIENDS, so I know I’m out of touch) looking for aid they are not greeted warmly by the heroes present. SUPERMAN, of all people, seems the biggest butthead by not really giving the visitors much of a chance to explain before attacking them.

Seeking a cure for the possibly fatal wounds of Karate Kid, and for the deadly virus he also carries the entire group (now including Jimmy Olsen, Harley & Holly, Forager and others) decide to contact the Project Cadmus scientists. They arrive there only to be greeted just as warmly as by the Justice League, but are able to explain the situation to Dubbilex. Unfortunately, by this point Karate Kid has died from his wounds, leaving the former Triplicate Girl (now called Una) devastated. When an autopsy is attempted, the virus he contains (called Morticoccus) escapes the enclosure and begins effecting both humans and animals alike. Having been in the body of a 31st century individual the virus has mutated to become immune to anything available in 21st century medicine. Hoping to find a cure somewhere off-planet Green Lantern takes off, but unknowingly carries the virus with him to infect alien worlds.

Most of the action sequences in issues #7 & 6, involve battles between the Challengers and the ‘heroes’ of this world, plus attempts to contain the virus that takes monstrous form when initially released from KK’s body. We get a lot of discussion of the disease and learn a bit more about some of the characters, much of that from via the journal of this world’s Buddy Blank, who appears to be a minor Cadmus functionary and not the former OMAC. He and the grieving Una escape from the Project to seek Buddy’s family, in the hope they have so far survived the plague.
Lots of things are coming together and I expect that we’ll soon witness the introduction of Libra, who is the announced main villain in the upcoming FINAL CRISIS. What, if anything, he has to do with the plague, Darkseid’s plans and the Monitor/Monarch confrontations remain to be seen. In fact, none of those main nasties from this series show up at all in these two issues. There is a lot to be wrapped up in the next five weeks. Then again this Libra may not appear at all, until the first issue of FC, or he has already shown up in a DCU book I'm not reading. It all makes my head hurt, much like time travel!

More comics stuff over the next week as I go over my latest haul. :-)

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

RIP: Arthur C. Clarke

I was saddened to learn of the passing of SF great, Arthur C. Clarke. Probably best known, by non-fans, for the short story The Sentinel," written in 1948, that formed the basis of Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey. The director worked with Clarke on the movie treatment and the author went on to expand the original work into a novel. The success of that film moved Clarke to write several sequels, with 2010, also being made into a movie.

When I began reading novels as a teenager, Clarke's work and that of his contemporary Robert Heinlein became my introduction to science fiction. For a decade I read just about every book I could get my hands on written by either.

I expect that there will be a lot of obits appearing over the next few days, by fans such as myself and by Clarke's friends & fellow writers. I can't hope to match what they will have to say about the man. (The link in the headline will take you to the Associated Press obit.)
My condolences to his family, friends and millions of fans touched by his works.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Watching The Durango Kid

I was doing the usual channel surfing this past weekend and happened on a couple of westerns that I haven’t seen in a long time. One of the nice things about being a fan of such things is that I can tune into just about any western at any given point and enjoy it almost as if I had been watching it from the beginning. I think part of that is that is sometimes seems as if I have seen about three quarters of whatever happens to be showing and the other is the predictability of so many of the old westerns.

It really is as if there were only about a half dozen plots available, and you just made small changes and then inserted the ‘hero’ to right things. I’m sure somebody has already done this, but I’m often tempted to create a ‘western’ worksheet or guideline that would enable any director to turn out a successful ‘B’ western. (For example: 1) Hero – masked or unmasked? 2) Sidekick – cranky old-timer or chubby comic relief; 3) Villain – obvious outlaw or double-crossing ‘good citizen’)

The movie I caught on Saturday really did fit into this pattern, and of course I loved every minute. AMC presented a few ‘Durango Kid’ films, starring Charles Starrett as the masked hero. Not as well known to modern western fans as the Lone Ranger, DK did have a following in films and naturally in western comics. Starrett had appeared in dozens of other westerns before first donning the black scarf and outfit that would make him a favorite of moviegoers for over a decade. Like Clayton Moore and William Boyd, Starrett became so identified with his character that it was difficult for him to appear in other roles. He retired from acting at the age of 48, shortly after the DK series ended, having invested wisely and becoming wealthy enough to move on.

The first film, which I caught at the mid-point, was the very first film; simply called “The Durango Kid” starred Starrett as the hero, and wasn’t actually intended to become a series at all. This was made in 1940, but it wasn’t until four years later that Columbia decided to bring the character back in “The Return of the Durango Kid” (the second film shown by AMC this weekend) with the idea of a continuing series featuring their most popular western star. Oddly, while the DK outfit remained the same and Starrett was essentially the same character his unmasked identity changed in every movie. After the first few his first name became “Steve” no matter what his surname. While Starrett himself never sang, most of the DK movies featured the Sons of the Pioneers or other western groups as DK’s assistants, along with his designated sidekick.

You may find it interesting to discover that after the first eight DK movies, that featured Dub Taylor as his companion, Gene Autry’s old buddy (rumored to be tempted by higher salary) Smiley Burnette signed on to ride with Starrett. There’s just no loyalty in the Old West it seems.

When I have time I’ll talk about the much darker, “A Time For Killing” with Glenn Ford, George Hamilton (yes, THAT George Hamilton!) and a few surprises.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Four Color Fiend: Marvel's Secret Invasion Saga

(If you don’t care at all about this, you are welcome to skip this entire post. I promise not to be offended.)

SECRET INVASION SAGA (SIS) does little but set up the up coming eight-issue ‘event’ in various Marvel titles, so I’m not going to toss in the usual Spoiler warnings. If you’ve read any of the promotional stuff Marvel has put out or been reading comics related websites & blogs you already know anything I’m going to reveal. The one-shot covers the history of the Skull race interaction with Marvel heroes since their introduction in FANTASTIC FOUR #2 through recent events.

As I have said before I stopped reading most Marvel comics probably about four years ago. There was a two-year gap where I didn’t read any comics at all; except for the occasional TPB from the library, and when I began buying & reading comics again, I started with DC’s COUNTDOWN titles. Right now I have probably have forgotten more about the DCU than I ever knew about the Marvel Universe when I was reading those books. What I do recall is mostly from the 60s & 70s, so my knowledge of the last couple of decades is sketchy and second to third hand.

I don’t think I started picking up FANTASTIC FOUR until the third or fourth issue, AMAZING SPIDER-MAN was my initial introduction to the Marvel titles, and so my first look at the Skrulls was probably in an annual that reprinted that initial story. The idea of a shape-shifting race had been used for years in comics, and even Marvel/Atlas had used that concept in their old fantasy/suspense titles before returning to super-hero books as their bread & butter. Considering that Stan Lee & Jack Kirby ended the threat of a Skrull invasion by having the aliens turn themselves into contented cows I doubt they thought they would be going back to the concept very soon. It was the introduction of the Super-Skrull a few years later that brought that race back and set them up as an on-going threat.

Over the past four + decades the Skrulls, individually and as a race, have shown up as a menace to just about every Marvel hero or group. Whether traveling to Earth to seek out the heroes, or happening upon them in deep space the Skrull/Earth history has been a troubling one. When writer Roy Thomas used them in the Skrull/Kree war he expanded on the history of the race, making them a true cosmic threat, known for their brutal ways. Given their natural ability to turn into a duplicate of anyone or anything it was no surprise that the Skrull race was viewed with justified suspicion.

The premise of SIS is that Skrulls have been impersonating a number of heroes and villains for an uncertain period. When one of these impersonators is killed, reverting to true form at the end, Tony Stark and others begin to wonder if there are more Skrulls in hiding. As CIVIL WAR showed everyone, Stark doesn’t trust anybody (rightly or wrongly, he’s the Bruce Wayne of the Marvel Universe) so he begins secretly gathering information on what is known of the Skrulls in hopes that he can figure out what they may be up to now.

The book is written by John Rhett Thomas with apparently a half-dozen editors listed looking over his shoulder. Maybe one of them should have pointed out how ham-fisted his dialogue was and had him come up with a different concept for the book. Since I can’t write dialogue to save myself (the reason I haven’t attempted to write fiction in close to thirty years) I’m probably the last one who should say anything, but I’d like to think that after reading comics for almost fifty years I can tell the difference between good and bad exposition. This sucks major!

As bad as the dialogue is on the first page, between Stark and S.H.I.E.L.D. agent Maria Hill, the rest of the book is supposed to be Stark’s internal monologue.

“Even Wolverine’s acute senses couldn’t sniff this out, nor Doctor Strange’s magicks”

This from a caption only a couple of pages in, but I think you get the idea. If I caught myself thinking about anything in this fashion I hope I’d have sense enough to ask Donna to help me in getting therapy immediately. Imagine thirty pages of this, sometimes with half a page of illustration covered by Thomas going on and on like this?

Personally, and of course I’m not a highly-paid comics “professional”, I think it would have been better to have Stark take somebody into his confidence so he wouldn’t be ‘thinking’ all this. Then again, considering how bad the first page was with a second character, maybe dialogue isn’t Thomas’ strong suit in any fashion. Another writer perhaps could have made this interesting, considering the artwork used which includes panels and some full-pages by some of the best artists that ever worked at Marvel. Beginning with Kirby from those early FF books to stuff from recent ANNIHILATION series we see how the Skrulls have appeared over the years.

Maybe if the book had been presented as just a ‘fact file’ created by Agent Hill for Stark it would have given us all the information but Thomas’ attempts at humor and pathos wouldn’t have distracted the reader from learning what she or he needs to know. It’s probably fortunate that SIS was a freebie, since I think even fans waiting for this series would have been unhappy paying a few bucks for this.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Four-Color Fiend: Zombies, The Doctor & The Twelve

Just a few comments on some of the non-DC books I picked up last Friday. I’m recommending all these books, so you might want to check them out if they interest you. Not many but there will be a few….


Marvel Zombies 2 #5 ends the second mini-series about these former heroes turned undead. The ‘evil’ Zombies, led by Giantman discovers that they have been cured of the hunger, which drove them. At this point, they realize what they have done and decide to try to make amends as best they can. Unfortunately, Hulk already enraged doesn’t grasp the change and begins fighting the others in the belief that they are keeping him from feeding. The Hulk puts a final end to several of the zombies, before reverting back to Bruce Banner, and immediately realizes what he has done and may do again. Teaming with the zombified Black Panther and his allies, the remaining heroes begin rebuilding the homes of the last remaining humans. Meanwhile, Malcolm, son of Magneto, still harbors resentment and feels that he should be the rightful ruler of the town’s inhabitants. He double-crosses the heroes, sending them via Reed Richard’s transporter off into some other universe. Not really, a ‘successful conclusion’ but these are zombies after all. Besides, this sets up any possible third mini or one-shots the team of writer Robert Kirkman and artist Sean Phillips may wish to produce at some future date. Considering how well these books and the characters have been received, I don’t think it will be very long at all.

J. Michael Straczynski’s The Twelve #3 (of 12) shows us how some of the revived team members cope or try to in the new age. The tale is primarily being told from the viewpoint of Richard Jones, the former Phantom Reporter, who having left no family behind wonders what he can offer. He is approached by the Daily Bugle, which offers him a chance to return to journalism, although as strictly a columnist. Others, like Captain Wonder and Mister E. discover that life went on without them for their families, but with very different results. Dynamic Man seems to be fitting in quite well and the Black Widow finds that some things cannot be left in the past, while the hero known only as Rockman seems doomed no matter where he may be. A flash-forward in the first issue indicated that even more of these heroes might find an unhappy ending. I’m really enjoying this book, although it is a bit darker than I had thought it would be. The art by Chris Weston (inked by Garry Leach) reminds me more of the art in the Silver Age ‘suspense’ comics from Charlton and ACG than your typical super-hero book. Very moody, but perfect for the story.

Quickly, I want to recommend both DOCTOR WHO titles from IDW. DOCTOR WHO has new stories featuring the Tenth Doctor (actor David Tennant) and his companion, Martha Jones (played by Freema Agyeman). The first issue features a done-in-one tale of the search for the perfect chocolate milkshake and the last survivors of various alien races. Writer Gary Russel does a good job capturing the humor of the character and the sense of justice all the Doctors have shown. The art by Nick Roche may be a bit too cartoony for some folks, but I think it fits the nature of the Russel script. If you know the show, you’ll instantly see that he captures both actors’ likenesses. It was enough to make me want to pick up the next issue, especially with the usual DW teaser in the last couple of pages.

I’ve already picked up three of the first four issues of DOCTOR WHO CLASSICS, since Nuclear was out of the first issue when I began shopping there. (Something to pick up at San Diego, if not before!). This series reprints the stories originally done for the DW Weekly, published in England by Marvel Comics from 1979-1980. Some of the writers and artists involved, like Pat Mills, John Wagner, Dez Skinn, Dave Gibbons and Paul Neary have become very well-known here in the U.S. since then. Even twenty plus years ago you could tell they were doing good work, and it still holds up. The stories of course feature the Fourth Doctor (played brilliantly by Tom Baker), although in #4 an alien creature in one story causes him to revert briefly into his three earlier incarnations (all the actors are recognizable). If my memory serves, some of these were also reprinted in the U.S. DW series from Marvel. This book reminds you how much fun that series is/was and especially how wonderful Baker was back then.

Saturday, March 08, 2008


While I have a chance, I want talk about some comics I picked up the other day at Nuclear Comics & Skateshop. By the way, NC was voted the “Best Comic Shop” in Orange County in the OC Weekly annual reader’s poll. Congrats to owner Kenny and the great bunch of folks he has working the shop.

I am not going to do regular reviews, so I’ll skip the usual spoilers.

The COUNTDOWN TO FINAL CRISIS series is moving quickly to the end, with only seven issues left to go. Meanwhile, the tie-ins like LORD HAVOK, C. to Adventure & Mystery are also wrapping up their plots, which may or may not have an effect on FINAL CRISIS when that starts this summer. The Lord Havok book takes place in a period when the main story was only about halfway complete, but it is still the best of the spin-off books. As much of a b*stard as Havok may be I’d be curious to read more about the character and his team of villains. In CtA, Adam Strange, Starfire & Animal Man look to be about to return to Earth-One to fight both the Lady Styx plague and the alien ‘healers’ who are engaged in genocide. They appear to be starting with San Diego, so at least the parking for the convention might improve. (Sorry!) We’re still hoping to see Forerunner not survive her storyline, but DC editorial seems to like sociopath killers as ‘heroes’ so I would not be surprised to see her with her own title.

JUSTICE SOCIETY OF AMERICA is my personal favorite current DCU title, as I may have said before. We finally get to see GOG this issue and the “Thy Kingdom Come” storyline continues gaining momentum. The Old Superman is a wonderful character, as was the Superman of Earth-2, another tragic hero who has witnessed the loss of all he loved. Sadly, I’m predicting an unhappy but heroic ending for this Last Son of Krypton as well.

I just read that my second favorite DCU title, SHADOWPACT, will be discontinued in a few issues. I’m going to hazard a guess that knowledge of that may have led to one of the characters actually having what could be called a ‘happy ending’ to his appearances in the book. I can only hope that the rest of this group go off to equally well deserved ends when all things wrap up.

More when I get the chance about my non-DC purchases.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

FYI!! I'm sorry

Just wanted to jump in quickly here with some news.

Apparently the City of Orange, at least their computer filter, has labeled Blogger a ‘social networking’ site. Therefore I am unable to access it while on at my workstation. Since I rarely go online at home (as I like to be spending time with my wife) I can’t say how often I’ll be posting at either of my blogs.

I’m considering trying to find someplace else to post a webpage that I can get to on my breaks and at lunch. I’ll keep you informed.