Thursday, May 08, 2008

Link-blogging (and bonus babbling)

—I really enjoyed this article from Slate about Tony Stark/Iron Man, particularly the way it cuts to what is so peculiar about the character in relation to other, better-known heroes, and the cognizant way in which writer Grady Hendrix finds a parallel between Marvel’s usage of the character to drive its first foray into self-produced film making and the character’s own cutthroat capitalism.

And then there’s this passage:

Over the past few years in the pages of Iron Man, the shielded hero has been appointed the secretary of defense and become the director of the comic-book-world version of the U.N. Captain America, on the other hand, has been arrested, shot, and, in a truly humiliating moment, forced to admit not only that he didn't know what MySpace was but that he didn't watch American Idol.

If I didn’t read Marvel Comics at all, I would totally assume that the writer had just made that last sentence up. But yeah, in the last issue of Civil War: Frontline, Sally Floyd did dress Captain America down, telling him he was an out-of-touch jerk because he didn’t watch reality TV or have a MySpace page.

—Okay, so they’ve already confirmed a sequel to Iron Man. The director and star both seem really into doing more of these, and the audience really seems to be ready to embrace a franchise—Iron Man is one of those too-rare summer movies that both critics and audiences alike love. (As one local film critic told me the other night, “Just imagine. You get good writing, a good director and good actors, and the film turns out really good. Who knew?”)

Me, I’m a little worried. I imagine all the drinking they had Stark doing in this movie, and James Rhodes, “Damn, next time” upon seeing a spare Iron Man costume laying around will set up a “Demon In a Bottle” story quite nicely at some point, but what are they going to do about villains?

Iron Man has, like, no villains. I mean, I like Red Ghost and his Super-Apes and the Living Laser and those guys just fine, but it’s hard to see any of them working out in a feature film. One of the things that worked best about Iron Man was how down-to-earth it was. Aside from Iron Man’s armor, there’s not a whole lot to differentiate it from a non-superhero movie, you know? When you start throwing super-villains into the mix, especially of the sort that Iron Man is known to mix it up with, and you lose it.

I’m kind of hoping we get a Black Widow spy thriller thing for Iron Man II and then do “Demon in a Bottle” for III and call it quits, but we’ll see.

Its ironic that so many other superhero franchises have such a long list of villains to use that they could easily fuel 15 films, but either the creators involved with those films or the audiences reject doing more than a movie or four (it would be nice to see a Superman villain other than Lex Luthor appear in a movie some day, you know?), and here you have a star wanting to do them forever, and the villain pool is already almost empty.

—Last tidbit about Iron Man, I swear: Project: Rooftop posted the runners-up in their “Invincible Upgrade” contest. Check ‘em out!

Christian Pearce’s four-eyed design scares the holy hell out of me:

Jorge Daniel Romero Castillo went the liquid metal route I was thinking of in one of my designs, but he’s a good enough artist that he coated the goatee with the stuff too, and it doesn’t look bad at all:

My favorite of these by far is Meghan Murphy’s though:

Her drawing of it is very stylized, obviously, but it’s easy to imagine Adi Granov or Salvador Lorroca or Francis Leinil Yu or whoever doing their own, more representational versions of this design and making it work on the page just fine. I really like the “iron” color thrown in there, and the skull-like shape of the face plate.

If you’ve got some time to kill online—and the fact that you’re here, reading this tells me you do—check out Murphy’s home page for a ton of cool art. Her “comics about monsters” are particularly awesome.

—This week’s big movie release based on a multi-media star who has been featured in both comics and animation is Speed Racer and it is awesome. You will definitely see things you’ve never seen before. Or suffer a seizure, headache and/or dizziness. It will likely vary from person to person. Here’s my review at

—The new Incredible Hulk trailer looks a great deal better than the first trailer they released, doesn’t it? The Hulk himself/itself, however, looks like the least appealing member of the cast. Well, him or Bad Hulk (Is that The Abomination?).

I like how Edward Norton’s snug-fitting jeans seem to grow with the Hulk in the scene where they show him transforming. Shouldn’t Norton be wearing some huge clown pants, or the Hulk cut-offs?

—Hey, there’s a new Dark Knight trailer up too, and man, it is Two-Faceariffic. Looks like they go with burning by fire rather than jar full of acid for his traumatic disfigurement, and that he becomes Two-Face in this very movie (Rich Johnston has a screen capture of the, like, second in which it looks like you can see Dent as Two-Face, from his good side).

I know I’m in the minority here, but I didn’t much care for Batman Begins. It was a step up from the Schumacher films to be sure, but that in itself isn’t much an achievement or accomplishment. So far, this looks like it has the potential to be much better (This film trailer is far better than that film’s trailer, at any rate).

The weakest link again seems to be the Batman himself. I just can’t get used to anything tighter than a long shot of that sculpted rubber suit, which looks particularly armor-like in a lot of these images.

And I die a little inside each time I hear the word “bat-pod”…

This looks totally, unreservedly awesome, however:

It’s less than two minutes of pretty random looking images, but outside maybe the opening sequence for Batman: The Animated Series, it features the most compelling film visuals of Batman I’ve ever seen.

The two previous DC direct-to-DVD films have both left something to be desired (to varying degrees), but they sure seem to have put the necessary time and attention into this one to come up with something special.

So they’re all going to dress like The Baroness, then?

—I’ve seen more than a few people linking to the news that Dave Sim has sent out a form letter requesting that friends, fans and—especially—those who wish to correspond with him in the future go on the record as stating that he is not a misogynist. Or that they don’t think he’s a misogynist. Or something? It’s exactly this type of thing that makes me wonder if Sim’s whole crotchety, reclusive, contrarian persona is just some kind of elaborate performance art.

—Looking for a decent picture book to add a little variety to your comics and graphic novel diet? Might I suggest Catherine Brighton’s Keep Your Eye on the Kid: The Early Years of Buster Keaton? It’s a 26-page biography of Keaton, from his birth to the beginning of his Hollywood career. Guest-starring Houdini and Fatty Arbuckle. It’s a pretty fun book, well worth a library check-out if you like nice art interacting with writing.

—My fellow Ohioans, you may be particularly interested in this new Zuda Comics entry, Action, Ohio, as it is set in our great state.

I know I am. In fact, it was the first Zuda Comics entry I’ve attempted to read. Unfortunately, I only managed to read the first of the eight pages, before quitting in frustration. I was afraid if kept trying to read that second page, I’d end up punching my laptop in the screen and breaking it.

Is it just me, or did DC find the least intuitive, least reader-friendly format imaginable, and go with that or what?

I’ll probably try again at some point in the future. For now, here’s writer Neil Kleid’s description:

Action, Ohio is the story a detective that discovers a secret town of superheroes, riddled with the fallout of the post-WW II atomic age, hidden by the men responsible for the Silver Age comic books by creating fictional characters based on its residents to divert the world from their existence. If America thought super heroes were fictional beings, it wouldn't go looking for them. Supported by an aging group of heroes, our detective digs into the underbelly of a town that's imprisoned itself to save the world and wonders: if Action, Ohio is a town of comic book heroes, then where are the villains? An outsider with no use for heroes, she must choose between solving her case and opening a Pandora's Box of evil closed forty years ago, or putting aside her vendetta to ensure that a sleepy little town hiding from the citizens of the world doesn't reach out, ignite and destroy them.

—My fellow Columbusites, please consider voting for Jeff Stang.

—Well, at least it’s only a one-shot. How much damage could he possibly do?

—Reminder: May is Bunch-of-Cool-Comic-Book-Stuff-At-The-Wexner-Center month. This Saturday kicks off the Jeff Smith: Bone and Beyond exhibit, and 2 p.m. there will be a Jeff Smith/Scott McCloud conversation. The Smith exhibit runs through August. Here’s a Vaneta Rogers article about it. On May 15th is Terry Moore will give a talk, and on May 20th dreamy Paul Pope will do likewise.


malpractice said...

i really don't get the whole Iron Man love-fest that is going on. The first half hour of the movie was pretty awesome when it was just downey jr quipping ev but it just went downhill from there. I found it fairly predictable the whole through and not all that intresting otherwise. The end fight was laughably bad.

The Dark Knight on the other hand i am really looking foward to. I can also say that i believe harvey will be scarred by acid, and those flames you see in the trailer are actually pertaining to something else.

Sean R said...

Is it just me, or did DC find the least intuitive, least reader-friendly format imaginable, and go with that or what?

I think it is just you.

Here is from article:

I think there’s some slight refinements to be made–it would be neat if I could get an RSS feed to update me when the comics have new content, for example–but I was frankly stunned at how simple, elegant, intuitive, and versatile the comics reading interface is.

First off, it abandons the vertical orientation of print comics for a 4:3 aspect ratio that completely fills my monitor in full-screen mode. The controls are damned easy, and they fade quickly into the ether when in full-screen mode, so you can see the entire strip. Pages load very quickly as well.

On my nice flat-screen work monitor, it’s a seamless and satisfying reading experience–far better than any of the CBR files I “acquired” during the rapidly-receding halcyon days of illegal comics downloading. Not to slam the CBR format, as I think it’s the best at what it does, even if what it does ain’t pretty.

But this–now THIS is a way to read comics online. In that sense, it seems as though DC has stumbled upon a bit of an innovation. Which pleases me, and yet SHOCKS ME TO MY CORE.

There are other articles:

Abhay Wrote a Boring Piece about Webcomics, Zuda, etc.
The best interface for reading comics online is plainly CBZ files, but I guess because of the pejorative connotations that CBZ files have (i.e. it’s the format of choice for your better comic pirates), it’s still underutilized by webcomic creators. Zuda Comics’s interface is a pretty appealing alternative for a simple reason: it resembles Youtube. Everyone on the internet’s been on Youtube; a viewer that works under similar principles makes sense.

Lines and Colors Blog
On the reading side, after more than 12 years(!) of crabbing about how monumentally clueless Marvel and DC have been about how comics can work on the web, I have to admit that Zuda, at least, is getting many things right.

First of all they seem to finally be aware that computer monitors are horizontal, not vertical like a comic book page, and have created a standard size horizontal format within which all of the comics are presented.

The way the comics are presented is also well beyond the usual clueless interface disasters the the big companies think are appropriate for presenting online comics (which are usually focused on preventing you from “stealing” the pages, and shoving ads in your face in the process).

The presentation of the Zuda webcomics is within a very nicely implemented Flash interface. (This is not a contradiction in terms as my previous rant may suggest, such things are actually possible!) I’m not sure who designed the interface, but someone who worked on it had a good grasp of interactive information design and it works very well.

You can advance through the pages of an individual comic with slide-show style arrow controls, supplemented with a pop-up bar of thumbnail images. The interface tells you what page you are on and indicates the total number of pages currently available for that comic. The entire navigation can be tucked away at will. The Flash module even remembers where you are in a story if you click away and return.

In the long run, though, Zuda's interface may hold the most promise. It is still labeled as a beta version-- if they fix the navigational glitches, and push full-screen as the primary viewing mode, they may just produce the best comics reader application yet, one that pairs usable functionality with superior image display and readability.

Tony said...

I can see Meltzer being able to pull off a book of moments "before the story." The Lightning Saga was all that, and no story.

Tony said...


Anonymous said...

"How much damage could he do?"

Combined with the likely massivesales and the subsequent DiDio edtiorial directive "HURFDURF BE LIK DAT", quite a lot, actually.

Anonymous said...

An Iron Man sequel could be like armor wars, with a cadre of villains getting ahold of various suits of armor.

Anonymous said...

I thought I was the only one who was sick of Lex Luthor! . . . and not just movie Lex (though he's the worst one); there's all too much of him in every Superman related anything nowadays. And damn it, if I must be subjected to him, say his freakin' name right! It's LuthOr, LuthEr is the Protestant reformer.

Anonymous said...

In the trailer you linked it looked like they even showed the scene where harvey is being scarred by the acid, not sure where you got the fames scarring from.

Wild Goose said...

The Mandarin is definitely going to be the villain in Iron Man 2. Didn't you catch all those references to the shadowy "Ten Rings" terrorist organization?

I don't think they'll bother doing an Iron Man 3. They'll just fold the whole franchise into the Avengers movie.