Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Christmas is a Time For Trailers

Dark Knight Rises. here it is. Have no idea what it's about.. Except football. And awesome.

The Hobbit don't care it's coming out six months a later. It's putting out a trailer today and making you love it.

There you go. Two trailers at Christmas that make you hate the fact that it's Christmas. And not next summer. Or next Christmas.

Thursday, December 08, 2011

2012 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame

Good lineup this year, including:

Guns n' Roses
Red Hot Chili Peppers
Beastie Boys

Somehow I care less than years past. Maybe it's Eddie Trunks' tirades against the place. Maybe it's the fact that my second trip there was so underwhelming. Or maybe it's the fact that the bands I grew up with are now being entered proves that I am so very old.

Full article.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

The Muppets

The Muppets is seeing the person you loved with all your heart doing the exact thing that made you fall in love with them in the first place.

Jason Segal managed to tap into the core insight of his generation. One that said, "I love the Muppets and I wish they would do something good." As the film rolls out that generation smiles in the realization that their dreams have come true precisely the way they dreamed.

It doesn't matter that the Muppets weren't actually forgotten. Their viral videos have hits in the millions and NBC aired a new Christmas special in 2009. Because the message of this film isn't, "the Muppets haven't done anything in a long time". It's "the Muppets haven't been BIG in a long time". And this movie corrects that injustice.

It also doesn't matter that the plot basically recycles the one in 2002's A Very Muppet Christmas. Or that Walter, the new Muppet is slightly bland. This movie is about the small moments, the characters and the tone. And the tone is spot on. It's hilarious, touching, poignant, manic, everything that made "The Muppet Show" one of the greatest series ever.

It's not the same as "The Muppet Show". It never will be now that the main creators, not just Henson but Frank Oz, Richard Hunt and to a lesser extent Jerry Nelson, have all moved on. But it can still be every good. Take a look at Cartoon Network's new "Looney Tunes" series. They'll never capture the magic of that era again, but they can do something modern, sharp and true to the characters. In short, something worth watching.

The movie's already done very well, coming in only behind the new Twilight. This puts the franchise back in Disney's focus, one distracted by PIXAR and Marvel. But I don't know what they'll do with it. This movie is all about bringing the Muppets back but doesn't give us any clue what to do with them next. At the very least Disney should finally release the long delayed season 4 and 5 dvds and the original Muppet films on Blu-Ray.

Whatever they do, I want more 80's Robot.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Beavis and Butthead

I spent approximately 38% of my college years staying up all night drinking warm 40s of Budweiser and watching Beavis and Butthead with Howie Weingarten. And I didn't realize how much I missed it.

Mike Judge brought the show back last night after a 14 haitus. In that time he created King of The Hill and made three great cult films. Now he brings everything he learned from his other projects.

I watched some of the old episodes in preparation. They're still as funny as they were in the 90's but crude, choppy and with jokes that only work on one level. Judge has made this run even better. The two short episodes last night were painful, hilarious and true. The animation is clean and slick, the satire working more subtly but still filled with the two biggest idiots in the world slowly killing themselves (which explains why MTV picked up Jackass right after B&B ended).

And thankfully, the commentary segments are back, long discarded from Netflix and dvds. The best jokes are once again saved for videos no one has ever seen and, because that's the network MTV is now, reality shows get a central focus. They couldn't be more deserving.

When I first saw this show, I had no job, lived in my parents basement, and had one friend near my house. Now I have my own house, my own family, no job and all my friends on Facebook. I am no less into this show. And yes, after all these years I like Butthead but I love Beavis.

One complaint for the record; putting it on against It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia (and a great one at that)? Way to fight over the same demographic, MTV.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Zombies Vs. Vampires

Halloween is right around the corner (Monday but if you doing anything about it, it's Saturday) and that means lots of monster movies on AMC, centered around new episodes of The Walking Dead. It's as good as season one and considering the shape of our economy, just as well timed.

Zombie movies always do well in terrible economies. The backdrop of the collapse of society resonates with people at their core. The modern zombie era began with George Romero's Night of the Living Dead in 1968, a year of complete unrest. Even the Beatles didn't get along. But in 1978 was his sequel, Dawn of the Dead. That film, still considered the high watermark of the genre came out amongst gas lines, inflation and a weakening Jimmy Carter.

Conversely, vampire movies do well in good economies. When people don't have to worry about the world turning against them, they worry about the outcast; a sinister creature who will lure you alone to your death. Despite Bela Lugosi's turn during the Depression, Christopher Lee enjoyed a run as Dracula in the post war bliss of the 1950's, Fright Night and the Lost Boys found success in the Reagan era, and Buffy the Vampire Slayer ran under Clinton.

What's happening right now is we're seeing a resurgence of both at once. Yes, things are that fucked up. The zombies are easy to explain; this country has been in a sorry state since the tech bubble burst in 2000 and has been slowly sinking ever since. Everyone I know has at least a plan in their head of what to do when they'll lose their jobs, an inevitability these days. The end of their world is only a "come into my office" away.

Yet vampires have survived thanks solely to demographics; they're all aimed at teenagers. The Lost Boys pioneered the idea of sexy teenage vampires. Buffy carried it over into a post 911 world and Twilight since has owned the entire genre, getting skinnier and more topless with each installment. Teenagers don't care about the economy; they care only about themselves as turbulent hormones and emotional states cloud everything else (which also explains my terrible high school grades).

People have said zombies are about gore, vampires are about sex. But I believe it goes deeper than that. Zombies are about the world, vampires are about the self. Which are you afraid of? of all places corroborates with most of these theories, albeit for different reasons. So I can still be original.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Thoughts on the Star Wars Blu-Ray

The worst thing that could have happened to The Phantom Menace was The Matrix coming out one month earlier.

The worst thing that could have happened to Attack of the Clones was Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring coming out six months earlier.

The worst thing that could have happened to Revenge of the Sith was George Lucas coming out with more movies.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Batman: Year One Blu-Ray

In my sophomore year of high school I rediscovered Batman. I spent December of 1987 in bed with pneumonia and a copy of The Dark Knight Returns. When I got out I found the final issue of Year One in a comic store. Batman, ten years after Adam West reruns after kindergarten, became my favorite character again. It's a story I haven't gone a year without reading.

And now Bruce Timm has made a movie of it. Not simply using inspiration the way Nolan made Batman Begins but a full-on shot for shot, line for line adaptation. And it works exceptionally well. Where many adaptations have simply captured the moments of the book (Watchmen, the early Harry Potter films) Timm captures the spirit of the book.

In many ways, Year One is the peak of Frank Miller's work. It's a crime noir, a genre Miller would rarely leave. But where Daredevil showed broad sketches and archetypes and Sin City would devolve into outlandish characatures, Year One is balanced, down to earth yet exciting. The movie captures that balance eloquently.

Using the comic as storyboards, it's initially disconcerting in motion. David Mazzuchelli is a genius in finding the right moment for each panel, usually the result of action rather than action itself. Seeing this much violence felt wrong but looking back at the book, every single moment in the movie is a a direct adaptation. It's both faithful and heightens the excitement.

Part of what made Year One so revolutionary is that it spends as much time on Jim Gordon as batman. The film spends even more, removing most of Batman's interior monologue while keeping Gordon's intact. And performing him is the perfectly cast Bryan Cranston.

I'm a huge fan of Cranston and Breaking Bad because I am human. According to Comic Book Resources, Cranston initially passed on Year One, claiming he didn't want to do animation. It was only after recognizing the quality of the writing that he signed on. And he brings every bit of commitment and intensity from his series onto the movie. You can't believe this is the performance of of an actor not used to voice work. In every way, this is Cranston's show.

I've seen criticism online of Ben McKenzie's performance of Batman but I like it. This is not Batman at the peak of powers with a full utility belt, Batcave and teen sidekick. This is a young man trying to find out who he is without the confidence or gravitas Kevin Conroy brings to the part. It;s just right.

With each direct to video movie Bruce Timm releases (usually 3 a year) it's getting harder and harder to rank them. But no matter how many films the DC team will produce, Batman: Year One will always stand out.

And the Catwoman short is pretty awesome.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Tele Project

Anyone who knew me in the 90's remembers this guitar:

It was the only electric guitar I owned until 2002. It was beautiful, it sounded amazing and it weighed 11 pounds. Every guitarist that picked up exhaled quickly. In retrospect I was so hyper in my youth I needed a heavy guitar to keep me on the stage. But over the years it was way too much. Once I got a Les Paul (a freaking Les Paul) I put it down for the lighter guitar (the lighter guitar being a freaking Les Paul!).

I did love the Tele though and with this being such a strong guitar I couldn't justify another. On 2007 I added a Strat (first shown here):

But it wasn't quite the same. I kept dreaming about a blond, banged up, snarly sounding Tele, like Keith Richards or Bruce Springsteen. Then early this summer, I saw a listing for a Tele on Blonde, light, with an American body and Mexican neck for $500. I pulled the trigger and after a frustrating two weeks where the guitar went to Astoria and reshipped to Chicago, I received it. And it wasn't right. The neck was chunky and sat high, the strings buzzed and the neck pickup was thuddy. A pro setup and new strings helped a little but gigging with it didn't get me to love it. So I went to work.

After a fret polish at the shop, the old neck went on. It felt great; a new body with a vintage neck that was broken in by my own hand. But it still sat too high. I measured the neck pocket. It was 1/2 an inch when it should have been 5/8". I don't know why I was feeling so adventurous but I went to Home Depot and bought a router. After a morning practicing on spare wood, I slowly and methodically erased 1/8" of wood from the neck pocket. The neck went back in and felt more natural. I put the non locking tuners from my Strat on the headstock (light and simple is the key to this guitar) and the whole thing felt great. But didn't sound so great.

Many players hate the lipstick tube neck pickup. Now I know why. While I always loved the look, the sound is dead and thuddy. It had to go. I researched a ton aftermarket lipstick tubes but a couple of recommendations put me straight. I needed a humbucker in there.

The PAF clones were an early idea but I eventually settled on a used TV Jones. And it was the right call. The neck setting just glistened and in the middle position; magic.

I ordered a humbucker pickguard but it didn't fit the smaller TV Jones. So I went back to the single coil guard and routed. And routed. And routed. It's not the prettiest cut but this guitar wasn't designed to be pretty. It was designed to be badass. I don't know what the bridge pickup is but it sounds great so it stays.

I'm slowly relicing the body by keeping it out of its case and near the cement foundation of the house. I'd like to minimize that 20 year gap between the neck and body.

After all that work, I now own this:

Ii sounds amazing. Strong, alive, bold and comfortable. Everything I want a guitar to be. I always wanted to build my own Tele. And this is as close as I could without carving the wood myself. I couldn't sell it if I wanted to. But I'll never want to.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

iPad pedalboard

Last year I bought a Line 6 Pod HD500. I was playing in a band 30 miles away and sick of hauling a Marshall stack every week. It worked well but I couldn't get past the fact that I was playing a digital simulator. I also felt trapped in the presets as I had to sync it to a desktop to make any real changes.

That Christmas Renee got me Amplitube for IPad. It was a good practice tool but again limiting. I also lost the adapter somewhere in NY and never used the app again.

Digitech has taken this idea a step further and integrated the iPad right into a pedalboard.

This concept, while cool, doesn't seem to have a huge benefit. The board is still huge and needs an adapter to run but now it contains an expensive iPad. At a gig I'd rather have the iPad on a music stand to look up lyrics or, better yet, at home where it can't get damaged or swiped. If the it was much smaller and lighter and could be powered by the iPad's internal battery you'd really have something. As it is, it looks like Digitech made this board not because of any need for guitarists, but because they could.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Monday, October 10, 2011

Netflix is Netflix Again

Kudos to Reed Hastings for not following through on a stupid plan.

Dear Jonathan,

It is clear that for many of our members two websites would make things more difficult, so we are going to keep Netflix as one place to go for streaming and DVDs.

This means no change: one website, one account, one password…in other words, no Qwikster.

While the July price change was necessary, we are now done with price changes.

We're constantly improving our streaming selection. We've recently added hundreds of movies from Paramount, Sony, Universal, Fox, Warner Bros., Lionsgate, MGM and Miramax. Plus, in the last couple of weeks alone, we've added over 3,500 TV episodes from ABC, NBC, FOX, CBS, USA, E!, Nickelodeon, Disney Channel, ABC Family, Discovery Channel, TLC, SyFy, A&E, History, and PBS.

We value you as a member, and we are committed to making Netflix the best place to get your movies & TV shows.


The Netflix Team

Thursday, October 06, 2011

Steve Jobs

Every morning I get up and walk twenty feet to work at an office 800 miles away.

I walk my son to day care while checking my work email.

I carry a phone with the complete Beatles, Black Sabbath and Star Wars trilogy inside it.

I make a living creating games, websites, jokes and sci fi ideas for a category invented four years ago.

I buy action figures on ebay in the middle of the street.

I show my son cg animated movies based on story and character, not technology.

I talk to my friends all day while not seeing any for a year.

I keep trying when I'm down in the belief that the future will be better than right now.

I owe it all to Steve Jobs.

I owe my life to Steve Jobs.

I will miss Steve Jobs.

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

New 52: Final Thoughts

It's the first Wednesday in October and I've got my first batch of DC #2 issues. What were bold experiments last month are now the new status quo.

It was a unique experience; at least 17 years since I knew everything that was going on the the DC books. Never have I read them all. It's a unique look into the publishing philosophy of a a company. What kind of range do they put out? Like anything it's a wide range of quality. Some books were the best they've been in years, some soldiered on with the same level of mediocrity and some were just bad. I'm sure the batting average across the board was the same last year.

The "soft reboot" approach was confusing. basically, they rebooted anything that needed it. the Batman and Green Lantern franchises were left alone. The #1 issues could easily have been the next following. Because these titles were doing well. Some like Swamp Thing and Aquaman followed the new direction set in last year's Brightest Day. Others like Wonder Woman just got new creative teams starting new stories. Still others like Fury of Firestorm, Blue Beetle and Flash were so new they ignore everything that's happened before. All of this is immaterial if you're planning on reading one book. But when these titles cross over, be prepared for some major headaches.

More confusing were the Wildstorm titles now in the DC Universe. Not one established themeselves in the preexisting universe (other than shoving Martian Manhunter into Stormwatch) of DC Comics. And that's the problem. I don't know what the DC Universe is. This is 52 books with almost nothing in common between them. When I first started reading DC Comics after Crisis I knew how they all fit together and seeing characters meet one another was exciting. Now with some rebooting and others staying teh same I don't know if these charcaters will recognize one another.

More disturbing was the IMAGE style creeping into the DCnU. Whether it's 90's nostalgia or creators playing to their old strengths, books like Supergirl, Teen Titans were pretty splash pages with no story. And let's not get started on the sexism of Catwoman and Red Hood. Beware the bad girl comeback.

And Justice League is late. Nothing says IMAGE more than Jim Lee blowing a deadline.

Was it a success? Definitely more than the "One Year Later" reboot of 2006 which lasted as long as its initial stories. And it got me hooked again. This morning when I picked up my books, I thought, "that can't be all there is". I went back and grabbed two more DC titles I thought were okay. If the new DC can get me to buy casual titles a decade after I've trimmed down to my favorites, how many more readers are doing the same? Then again, who knows how long it will last?

Tuesday, October 04, 2011

Occupy Wall Street

When they said the revolution will not be televised, what they meant to say was the revolution will be marginalized on mass media and sneak out online.

I thought Occupying Wall Street was a great idea. This economy is falling apart as the government does its best to protect the richest. The media is attacking the protesters for not having clear goals. I don't think this is about goals. This is about unrest. This country has become very comfortable with a silent majority. While nothing may change after this protest, the top 1% need to know the other 99% are as deserving of respect as their checking accounts. I wish I could be there.

Here's Tim Warner and Jon Savoy in the center of the action:

Ed Murray covers it better than I can and he is farther away.

And I love this guy. The FOX News correspondent tells him this is moment to give whatever message he wants, and then doesn't air it.

Don't quit, guys.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

New 52: Week 4

The final 13 books; the final week of DC's relaunch. It's here and I'm tired. It's been an interesting experiment but I've actually never read this many new books in one month. Even back in 1994, when DC tried its "Zero Month", a very similar tactic with less change of creative teams, I read maybe half the books. And I was working in a comic store then.

The highs have been high (Batman, batman and Robin, Action Comics) but the lows have been even lower (Catwoman, Red Hood and the Outlaws, Legion LOST). DC is saying is going back to press on several of these issues, with some of them going close to 200,000 copies, a rarity in today's market. And I'll be adding six or so more titles to my subscription. So DC considers the experiment incredibly successful. But how successful are this week's titles?

Voodoo #1: She's a stripper. And the whole thing takes place inside the strip club After last week, that's a huge red flag. Voodoo poles dances and gives a lap dance. The only other action is a federal agent fighting off a gang rape. What is it with DC's push into soft core porn? One book maybe, but three in a week?

Buy #2?: Absolutely not. And I used to like Ron Marz.

Superman #1:Where Grant Morrison took a bold, radical step with Action Comics, George Perez goes for a more traditional take with a story right out of 12 years ago.The Daily Planet selling out to a major communications company is one thing but no one would build a new skyscraper to a print newspaper in this day and age. The DC Universe is clearly not our own. I wish George Perez was drawing this. at times the art and copy were battling each other, like the news report of the battle running over the battle itself.

There's a lot of reboot here as well with a total erasure of the Clark/ Lois romance (much less marriage). Like Peter and Mary jane this is bound to cause problems down the road asa n accepted continuity for the entire line is established. There's also the new costume. Now that it's clearly shown in action, it doesn't work. It's too armored and inflexible, taking away from the streamlined man in flight that the audience identifies with Superman. The high collar and cape also don't work together. I expect to see this streamlined pretty quickly.

Buy #2?: DC is lucky they got me reading one Superman title again. Two is asking too much.

Dark Knight #1: David Finch's first five issues of dark Knight was by his own admission, kind of a disaster. It personified the worst of the IMAGE era; a pretty book that was constantly late and told us nothing. Now it relaunches with Paul Jenkins hand,ing the writing, placing Finch back on art.The result is a book that raises my expectations and dashes them. Gone are the wall to wall action scenes replaced by a very long exposition and a cliche Bruce Wayne fundraiser. Once Batman gets to an Arkham Asylum breakout, it's handled seriously until the dumbest twist I've seen in a Batman comic in a long time.

Buy #2?: Luckily there are two great Batman books running. I don't need this one.

Teen Titans #1:Comic writers usually get about ten good years. After that they used to become editors. Now they move on to other media or stay and get stale. Scott Lobdell is proving to be the latter as both Titans books feel like leftovers from the 90s. We get a forgettable story with IMAGE style artwork. I know it's been twenty years but do readers really want a classic IMAGE comeback? DC seems to think so. I'd like to think we've evolved.

Buy #2?: I like Red Robin's new costume. And hadn't they cancelled that book, I would have finally picked it up. But not this.

Savage Hawkman #1: Hawkman may look like a guy with wings but his real superpower is rebooting. Seriously, the guy gets a new origin every three years. I've long since given up on ever understanding the character since he's been so many. This doesn't help. DC has enough faith in Tony Daniel as a writer they've given him a second title. I don't have that same faith as this effort is as flawed as his Detective Comics three weeks ago. When you have a convoluted character as Hawkman, it's a bad idea to do the whole "who am I" plot. Which is exactly what I got. Carter Hall, I don't know who you are. And I don't care.

Buy #2?: I amy never buy another Hawkman comic again.

Aquaman #1: This book, written by Geoff Johns, has been getting the biggest push of all 13 titles. And it lives up to the push. You can see a real effort on the part of Johns here, more so than his other 2 launches this month. It's got a fantastic fight scene and the horror type villain Johns has amde a signature of his work. There is also a lot of work put into wiping out all the Aquaman jokes that have been built up over the last thirty years. Arthur comes across and strong, confident and not embarrassed to be Aquaman. Which is saying a lot.

Buy #2?: Sure. Maybe the first arc as well.

Justice League Dark #1: DC has learned that Justice League is more than a collective of their most powerful brands. It's a brand all its own. So they're leveraging it to cover a combination of many of their magical characters. But will this succeed where Shadowpact failed? Well, it's a solid first start. peter Milligan has been missed and he brings a lot of strength here. When the book opened with a female character I got nervous we'd see more misogynistic crap the likes of Catwoman. But the female characters are handled as string, smart individuals, no lesser than say john Constantine. However, I still wonder if this was the right book for the DCU. It feels like Vertigo with the brakes on. I wonder how far this could have gone under that imprint and without the Justice League name.

Buy #2?: Like it. Will flip through the next one for sure.

Blackhawks #1:: I give DC credit. Even in this desperate sales grab of a reboot, they're not afraid to try new genres. I doubt Marvel would ever throw out a western, vampires, modern military and this, a sci-fi black ops book in the same month. And most of worked including this. It's a world away from the Sgt. Rock reboot with a G.I. Joe type team, hardware and base. There's a makeout scene and some sexual content but guess what? This time it's within a relationship and actually adds to the story! Finally.

Buy #2?: Just to see where this arc goes.

I, Vampire #1:Oh, Twilight. The bigger you get, the more you make me miss Buffy. This book is the most blatant cash-in since Chris Claremont created the Brood after a midnight showing of Alien. It's moody, goth and utterly cryptic. I can't tell which is the the flashback and which is the present day. Why is there two characters called Mary? One is four hundred years old and one just got turned into a vampire. And trying to set this in the DC Universe with a couple of superhero references just makes it more confusing. Vampires have eaten a city. Not only would the Justice League notice, they would have prevented it.

Buy #2?: I don't know who this book is for but it ain't me.

Green Lantern: New Guardians #1: The cancellation of the third Green Lantern title has led to a fourth. And it's in lockstep with the other three. Kyle Rayner's the star of this book and looks to move in close contact with the other Corps. It does everything I've come to expect from the franchise with just enough surprises to keep the story moving. No rebooting here, aside from a slight tweak of Ky;e's origin which suits his character better. And the cliffhanger is enough to bring me back.

Buy #2?: Looks like I'll be buying all four Green Lantern titles for a while.

Flash #1:While fans pleaded for the return of Hal Jordan for more than a decade, no one seemed to mind Barry Allen was dead. No one but Geoff Johns who tried to make lightning strike twice with Flash: Rebirth. Fans came and didn't notice they had already left. the relaunch didn't work, leaving the artist Francis Manapul, to write it himself. And he mostly writes things he likes to draw. The action is shot from dizzying angles with the kind of kinetic energy that he brought to last year's reboot. But the story's nothing. There's a new love interest with Iris still in the wings, an "old college buddy" that's thinly drawn and a sci-fi twist that comes out of nowhere.

Buy #2?: Last year's reboot didn't work. This one works even less.

The Fury of Firestorm #1: Now this is a reboot. Taking character cues from Brightest Day, Gail Simone restarts the whole thing, putting Ronnie Raymond and Jason Rusch in the same high school. I'm into it but it ends too soon with half a fight scene. We also get one twist on top of another with no way to figure out the status quo yet. Ethan Van Sciver is listed as co-plotter but other than the cover, his art is nowhere to be seen, proving that DC is onto two ideas this relaunch; giving artists writer credit and t&a.

Buy #2?:Yes, but only until i figure out what's going on.

All Star Western #1:Now this is how you kick off a series. A great story that introduces a strong character to new readers and gives long time fans something they haven't seen before. Now that the movie has bombed and forgotten, Jonah Hex feels revitalized with a trip to Gotham alongside the founder of Arkham Asylum. My only complaint is the story moves a little too slowly with repetitive interrogation scenes and Arkham's profile of Hex. I would have loved a done-in-one but that would leave me free to skip the next issue.

Buy #2?: I'll flip through it. If they can wrap up this story in one more issue, I'll bite.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

New 52: Week 3

And here we go. Only 12 this week which by now feels like a breeze. I might even get to Iron Man before the weekend.

Batman #1: Wow. After week one's disappointing Detective Comics I assumed last week's Batman and Robin would be the bat book I add to my pull list. It still is but it is joined by this, the best Batman book I've read since Grant Morrison's opening salvo six years ago.

It's interesting that the artists on both main Batman books were once Spawn artists. It shows but like Jim Lee's work on the character, both Tony Daniel and Greg Capullo have reined themselves in, stepped up and matured for the Dark Knight. I've been a fan of Capullo since 1992's X Force and this is his best work yet. Strong, clear storytelling with the cartoony horror he brought to Spawn. Scott Snyder's procedural serial killer tale didn't grab me on Detective but he shines on the more superhero tone of Batman. Once again Bruce Wayne is front and center as the man in the costume, a character far too many Bat writers neglect.

My only complaint is Capullo draws faces way too young. Bruce Wayne looks 25, Dick Grayson 18, Tim Drake 12 and Damien 8. Age them up about five years and they'll fit with the other books.

Buy #2?: And #3. And #4. And repeat.

Deadman #1: Deadman is a great character with a finite story. Even Neal Adams closed his story initially and struggled to reopen it for further adventures. Paul Jenkins sidesteps this with a slight reboot. Now every person Boston Brand possesses possesses him a bit. The move makes him more human and gives friction between him and the godlike Rama. The art, while overcolored, is clean and direct, even when it goes into the murky afterlife. I'm with it.

Buy #2?: Yes, at least.

Green Lantern Corps #1: The Green Lantern franchise was in the best shape of the DC Universe so there hasn't been much of a change in these books. Guy Gardner's Emerald Warriors barely lasted a year so the character and its writer have moved back to the old series. As usual, we've got horror tinged sci-fi and two Earth Green Lanterns (John Stewart taking the place of Kyle Rayner). We also get more character work and Earth setting than usual.

Buy #2?:Have been. Will continue to.

Blue Beetle #1: I read this entire book without knowing it was a reboot. The text page in the back clued me in. It felt like we were checking in with the characters after the cancellation of Jaime Reyes last run. There was no way to tell if any of these people were new or why Jaime was so upset when he put on the costume. If I had no knowledge of the character before, this would have been a good first issue. As it was, it left me confused.

Buy #2?: This issue made me like the character more, but not the book.

Nightwing #1: Chuck Dixon and Scott McDaniel's initial run on Nightwing was one of my favorite 90's Bat books (and the 90's was a very good time for Batman comics). This run gets back to that feel with a first person narrative, lots of leaping across rooftops and a nondescript assassin villain. Haly's circus comes back in what is sure to be a running subplot. But what happened to Dick's costume? After some garish 80's outfits he settled into a classic look in the late 90's. It only needed a tweak. So why red? Didn't Dick wear a black and red costume when he was pretending to be evil?

Buy #2?: Yes but necessarily #3. Like the story, hate the costume. And that counts.

Red Hood and the Outlaws #1: I hate Jason Todd. Didn't like him as Robin (and I'm old enough to remember when he was), glad he died and felt his resurrection invalidated a great story. Since then he's been crazy, nasty and shallow. Scott Lobdell does nothing to redeem this and actually takes the complexity out of Red Arrow and Starfire to fit them together in a team that has absolutely no reason to be a team.

Buy #2?: It's going to take a lot to make my buy Jason Todd again. And this is not a lot.

Legion of Super Heroes #1: After last week's terrible Legion LOST I was hoping the main book would be the salvation for the franchise. Reading Paul Levitz' return I instantly got his respect and love for the characters. By the end of the issue, I still didn't share it. I still found it a befuddling mess of unrelatable, thinly drawn alternate reality future super heroes. The continuity, always a problem with Legion, was only an issue if you wanted to understand why any of these twenty people mattered. Fans should be pleased. Non fans should remain non fans.

Buy #2?: Oh, Legion. I keep trying but you won't let me in.

Wonder Woman #1: The most recognizable female super hero has never had an easy time selling books. Over the years she's gone from S&M to feminism to military to covert ops to fantasy in an attempt to capture an audience. Brian Azzerello goes for mythology with a touch of suspense. It works and it works really well for readers looking for something different out of the 52. I don't think it will work for casual fans but what ever has?

Buy #2?: I'm a casual fan. So probably not.

Catwoman #1: Judd Winick to me will always be the guy who got into comics through MTV. And his work has done nothing to dissuade me. Catwoman can be played for cheesecake or for intrigue and capers. Guess which this is? Besides the gratuitous boob shots, the voyeuristic and unconvincing looks into the seedy underbelly of Gotham and the hatred towards women, it's twenty two pages of hacky dialogue that ends with Batman and Catwoman having sex with their costumes on. I don't consider that a spoiler because I don't consider it actually have happened. Garbage.

Buy #2?: Catwoman deserves a monthly title. But I don't have to read it.

Captain Atom #1: Captain Atom's powers have changed. He's gone from looking like the Silver Surfer to looking like the Human Torch. But more importantly, he can transmute matter. Exactly like Firestorm can do. Why they've given one character another of their character's powers is beyond me. And it's two fight scenes and a laboratory exposition. I get no sense of how this may have affected Atom's personality, a character I really liked and read in the 80's. I get the impression this isn't him.

Buy #2?:No, but I wonder what Firestorm is supposed to do next week with Captain Atom stealing his identity.

Birds of Prey #1: The book on the fringes of the Bat universe now breaks away completely. Gone are Oracle, Huntress and Batgirl. Black Canary remains with a new character, Starling, and two women on the cover that don't even appear in the book. I'm guessing they're Poison Ivy and Katana in new costumes but they could very well be new characters. The story is fast paced, fun and action packed if not terribly original. Now that I've read Green Arrow and this, there's no mention of connection between GA and Black Canary, two characters who got married a few years ago. Have they been separated or rebooted to the point where they don't know each other? More questions I'd rather not pay $3 to answer.

Buy #2?: Nothing wrong with it but not much that compels me to return either.

Supergirl #1: I've read almost 40 of these relaunches and I'm already tired of a trend; one where the character doesn't know who they are, why they're here or what happened. As a long time reader, I know these characters. I want to know what's changed and if it's made that character stronger or weaker. These "who am I" plots give me none of that. Supergirl is the worst culprit. It's one scene. One damn fight scene. At last Superboy wandered around trying to decide who he was. Kara, a character that has seen many reboots over the years, doesn't even get that luxury, fighting some exo suits until the obligatory Superman cameo.

Buy #2?:No, but only because it stinks.

Next week: the last time I buy this many DC Comics at once.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Qwikster Isn't Qwikster

Further leaning into my theory that this new company was formed last minute to bizarrely combat customer reaction, Netflix forgot to even clear its Twitter handle. And it's owned by this guy.

This situation is a cross between the old lady who won't move out of her house for the developers and the episodes of Beavis and Butthead where nothing ever happened. If this guy had 5 more IQ points this would be a great episode of It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia. I almost want to follow this guy to see what happens next.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Netflix Isn't Netflix

Like the rest of America, I got this in my in-box today:

Dear Jonathan,

I messed up. I owe you an explanation.

It is clear from the feedback over the past two months that many members felt we lacked respect and humility in the way we announced the separation of DVD and streaming and the price changes. That was certainly not our intent, and I offer my sincere apology. Let me explain what we are doing.

For the past five years, my greatest fear at Netflix has been that we wouldn't make the leap from success in DVDs to success in streaming. Most companies that are great at something – like AOL dialup or Borders bookstores – do not become great at new things people want (streaming for us). So we moved quickly into streaming, but I should have personally given you a full explanation of why we are splitting the services and thereby increasing prices. It wouldn’t have changed the price increase, but it would have been the right thing to do.

So here is what we are doing and why.

Many members love our DVD service, as I do, because nearly every movie ever made is published on DVD. DVD is a great option for those who want the huge and comprehensive selection of movies.

I also love our streaming service because it is integrated into my TV, and I can watch anytime I want. The benefits of our streaming service are really quite different from the benefits of DVD by mail. We need to focus on rapid improvement as streaming technology and the market evolves, without maintaining compatibility with our DVD by mail service.

So we realized that streaming and DVD by mail are really becoming two different businesses, with very different cost structures, that need to be marketed differently, and we need to let each grow and operate independently.

It’s hard to write this after over 10 years of mailing DVDs with pride, but we think it is necessary: In a few weeks, we will rename our DVD by mail service to “Qwikster”. We chose the name Qwikster because it refers to quick delivery. We will keep the name “Netflix” for streaming.

Qwikster will be the same website and DVD service that everyone is used to. It is just a new name, and DVD members will go to to access their DVD queues and choose movies. One improvement we will make at launch is to add a video games upgrade option, similar to our upgrade option for Blu-ray, for those who want to rent Wii, PS3 and Xbox 360 games. Members have been asking for video games for many years, but now that DVD by mail has its own team, we are finally getting it done. Other improvements will follow. A negative of the renaming and separation is that the and websites will not be integrated.

There are no pricing changes (we’re done with that!). If you subscribe to both services you will have two entries on your credit card statement, one for Qwikster and one for Netflix. The total will be the same as your current charges. We will let you know in a few weeks when the website is up and ready.

For me the Netflix red envelope has always been a source of joy. The new envelope is still that lovely red, but now it will have a Qwikster logo. I know that logo will grow on me over time, but still, it is hard. I imagine it will be similar for many of you.

I want to acknowledge and thank you for sticking with us, and to apologize again to those members, both current and former, who felt we treated them thoughtlessly.

Both the Qwikster and Netflix teams will work hard to regain your trust. We know it will not be overnight. Actions speak louder than words. But words help people to understand actions.

Respectfully yours,

-Reed Hastings, Co-Founder and CEO, Netflix

So Netflix is now two companies, Netflix and Qwikster. It's an improvement over the dwindling dvd resources of Netflix; higher prices and less availability for blu-ray, impossible mobile interface for dvds and rising prices that forced me to limit my plan. Hopefully this means Netflix will step up their streaming, filling the glaring holes in their selection and keeping less titles from disappearing. And maybe Qwikster will be a return to the simplicity of classic Netflix.

But from a marketing perspective, this makes every mistake you could make. The rebrand is a bad move. Sure, you want a dedicated staff to handle the discs but why do we have to go to a separate URL? Do it in house, away from the customer and seamless. If you need a separate site for the server load, why ditch the Netflix name? Why not Qwikster says nothing about movies. I honestly thought it was a spreadsheet program.

And then there's the customer ill will. I've been a member for eight years and never had one complaint about the service until recently. If this was the plan all along (and I doubt it was) why not separate the companies first? Then a month or two later raise the price? So then I'm thinking, "Well it is two companies now and I see the extra value. Okay, I'll pay more." Instead it was "we don't have these titles on blu-ray anymore. Now we're raising prices. Now we're cutting functionality. Now we're two companies". You wouldn't keep a personal relationship with someone who jerked you around this much. And the corporate apology isn't helping.

Netflix is one of the only success stories of the past ten years. And they are still successful. This is not a growing pain, this is a teenage meltdown. It reminds me of how AMC is becoming a big network and is using that power to torture its talent. It's distressing that these days there are only two types of companies; ones that can't handle their success and ones that are dying.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

New 52: Week 2

Another week, another 13 titles. My Marvels are getting sorely neglected.

Green Lantern #1: The creative team hasn't changed on this title so I wasn't expecting a huge change. And I didn't get one. Sure, Sinestro is now Green Lantern but that was teased in the last issue. And there's enough catch-up and Hal Jordan page time to settle new readers. Those who were introduced to Green Lantern through the movie (and there are none) and want to see Hal in action might be disappointed but it's a shot in the arm for a title that's flatlined since Blackest Night.

Buy #2?: I've been reading this title every month for six years. I won't stop now.

Red Lanterns #1: The Red Lanterns were my favorite group to come out out of the Green Lantern relaunch. They were the beserkers of the galaxy; angry, righteous and murderous. I don't know how they can be sympathetic enough to sustain a monthly book but Peter Milligan is really putting in the effort. He works to soften Atrocitus just enough to make a compelling revenge story, rather than the maniac Geoff Johns showed in his book. I'm with it.

Buy #2?: Yes, for the first story arc at least.

Batman and Robin #1: Wow. I'm really loving this. Peter Tomasi and Pat Gleason had been doing a great job on Green Lantern Corps under the Geoff Johns shadow. Now they get a chance to shine on DC's most shadowy character. I hadn't noticed we've never seen Bruce Wayne with Damien, the new Robin. It really works. It's positive and fun while still being Batman. And not Batman: the Brave and the Bold. Real Batman.

Buy #2?: Yes. This might be my new favorite Batman book.

Death Stroke #1: The biggest badass of the DC Universe that's not Lobo gets another crack at a title 20 years after his last. This feels like the 80's throwback action movies we've seen lately.; The A Team, the Expendables. I hated all the supporting characters but by the end of the issue they were all dead. Gives the book a real sense of what this book is going to do.

Buy #2?: Liked it, but not enough to spend the $3 every month. Don't know why I don't get into the character as heavy as everyone else seems to.

Grifter #1: Jim Lee's most popular IMAGE creation comes to the DC Universe. And it's a lot cleaner than Stormwatch. Grifter in WILDCATS always just seemed like the Wolverine cypher. Here he's Sawyer on LOST with some Bourne Identity thrown in. I could have used more action and less intrigue but I am intrigued.

Buy #2?:Probably not but I really want to see the character show up in a Batman title.

Demon Knights: Not a Batman title. But it is a Demon title, one of my favorite Kirby characters that never really took off. Apparently there will be seven on the team but aside from the Demon I only recognized Vandal Savage and Shining Knight. And I always miss it when Etrigan doesn't rhyme.

Buy #2?: It's more of a fantasy title than a superhero title. It's still a hard sell.

Legion Lost #1: Every time DC does a reboot, Legion of Super Heroes gets screwed. Mostly because no one was reading it anyway. I never was into the book but I liked Mark Waid's take for the year or two it ran before it was erased. Fabian Ncieza accomplishes a whole new direction while failing to introduce the characters. A bunch of Legionairres are stranded in our time. They stand in bunches like 90's X-Men books looking ready for battle and being confused for 20 pages. One goes crazy and smashes up a town. Other than that I have no idea where this story is going. Despite some nice storytelling from Pete Woods, it's all premise and no plot.

Buy #2?: Not at all but I'd love to see Pete Woods on Spider-Man someday.

Batwoman#1: Five years ago, DC unveiled a new Batwoman. She had a cool costume and was a lesbian. DC loved her, no one else really cared. She had her own series which failed, then became a backup in Detective Comics. Now she's back. She's still a lesbian, she still has a giant tree in her apartment but now she hates the father who served as a mentor in the last series. The procedural works, but the character is still flat. And since this book is positioned to exist alone, the Batman cameo is a bit of a tease.

Buy #2?: Mildly interested but no more than the last few times the character was launched. And the last few times I didn't buy it.

Superboy #1: This is one of the few complete reboots. This is not Connor Kent who seemed a viable character last year. This take seems more based on the Young Justice animated series, where the Superman clone is more of a blank slate. It's deeply sci-fi and Scott Lobdell's writing has improved since his X-Men heyday (whicih I can't say about Fabian's Legion Lost). But it sets up the character without truly beginning the story.

Buy #2? I'm not lost, but I'm not moving forward.

Frankenstein: Agent of S.H.A.D.E. : Let's just linger on the title for a moment. "Frankenstein: Agent of S.H.A.D.E." There's no way any story could live up to the awesomeness of that title. I'm digging the scratchiness of the artwork, which really suits the tone. But it's not just Frankenstein. Vampires, werewolves, the mummy are all here with guns and axes attacking things in a very Hellboy way.

Buy #2?: I like it but I'm already reading Hellboy.

Mister Terrific #1: Fans were saddened by the lack of a JSA title in the new 52 but the most popular member has gotten his own solo title. There's a Doctor Who shout-out right in the opening and the rest the comic works as an homage. It's science-y, quirky with a likeable lead character but with a dark procedural thrown in. It's working.

Buy #2?: I'll at least flip through it. If the story stays strong, I'll buy it.

Suicide Squad #1: Fans were more than saddened when Secret Six didn't make the reboot. They were pissed. This book takes its place, crushing the concept back down to the Ostrander model and ditching most of the characters that made that 80's run work. Deadshot is still here and Harley Quinn has been pulled over from the cancelled Gotham City Sirens. The whole thing plays out in an ugly, remorseless way that made Wanted a success and made me hate that book and movie.

Buy #2?: I never read Secret Six, and this makes me miss Secret Six.

Resurrection Man #1: According to the backup material in this book, Resurrection Man was created in the 90's. I worked in a comic store half of that decade and I don't remember him. From the first issue I gather the character is Magneto with the power in his tongue. Then he's Zan from the Wonder Twins. He's the Doctor Who regeneration of super powers. So there's even less to identify him. Great. Abnett and Lanning write a lot of mediocre books in the 90's and they're still writing them the same way.

Buy #2?: I almost quit this book six pages in. Why torture yourself?

Next week: another two days of DC launches.

Thursday, September 08, 2011

The New 52: Coming Right at You!

Last week DC began the relaunch of every one of its titles. Dan Didio claimed falling sales for the move, a decision I find specious in the light of their massive 2010 hit, Blackest Night. The relaunch definitely will create a short term spike but how well the entire line will do depends on the actual quality of the books. So what is the quality of the books?

I'm doing short reviews of all 52 #1 titles this month. Partly because it gives this blog a larger purpose than the quick bites I can post on Twitter and Facebook. In this day of social networking, blogs really have to justify their existence.

The other reason is that my local comic store, Chimera's Comics had a deal where if you sign up for all 52 books, you get a free Absolute Batman: the Long Halloween, a $75 book I had my eye on for awhile. I've also been curious about sampling many of the titles so why not all?

The launch started last week with the final issue of the crossover Flashpoint, an elseworlds style mini series that could have been a Flash annual. It did little to reshape the universe and almost nothing to justify the relaunch.

It also began with :

Justice League #1: The flagship title by Geoff Johns and Jim Lee. Lee's artwork took a great leap forward when he came to DC with Batman: Hush. Always a superb stylist, he tightened his storytelling skills when he approached the legendary character. Geoff Johns on the other hand is a great writer clearly showing the strain of being spread too thin. His scripts over the last year have lacked the depth and nuance of his long runs on Flash and Green Lantern. So what we have here are some really gorgeous fight scenes.

Buy # 2?: It's all the heavy hitters by two of my favorite creators. I'll stick around to see if the story deepens over the next few issues.

This week saw the release of :

Stormwatch #1: The integration of outside titles into the DCU has been problematic at best. This is a prime example, adding the Martian Manhunter into a Wildstorm title. As a new reader, I'm lost. There seems to be a lot of new characters and a lot of continuity and no clear jump on point. For a #1, this is death.

Buy # 2?: I love J'Onn J'Onzz but no.

Action Comics #1: Grant Morrison has left Batman and returned to Superman with an entirely different take than he did on All-Star Superman. And I'm loving it. The t-shirt, jeans and work boot costume channels the Golden Age stories in the way his Batman run channeled the weird 50's tales. Mark Morales has taken a leap of energy since Identity Crisis, fusing Jerry Ordway with Mark Bagley.

Buy # 2?:I rarely read Superman but this is one run I will.

OMAC #1: Keith Giffen doing Kirby. That's all that recommends it.

Buy # 2?: Sorry I bought #1.

Batgirl #1: When I heard Barbra Gordon would be leaving her wheelchair and donning the batgirl costume again, I was skeptical. Gail Simone knew that and made the change the mystery of the piece. She hasn't ignored continuity, she's using it to keep the story moving forward. And some well paced flashbacks keep a new reader in the game. Well paced action keeps them coming back.

Buy # 2?: Oh, yes. And as a lifelong Batman fan, I've never picked up a Batgirl monthly.

Swamp Thing #1:

Alec Holland is Swamp Thing. And he's not. That's the mystery posed in the first issue. Swamp Thing is a character that has had several different takes. Wein and Wrightson went for pure classic horror. Moore sought to challenge the limitations of the genre. Scott Snyder seems straight forward creepy superhero. I'm fine with it but I don't know if the journey will be worth $3 a month.

Buy # 2?: If it's a slow week.

Detective Comics #1: I usually steer clear of artists turned writers. For every John Byrne or Walt Simonson, you get an IMAGE comic. I read Tony Daniel's first try Battle for the Cowl. It was terrible and I've avoided him for the past three years. He's gotten better but still not great. This is fairly standard Joker fare with a little less characterization and a lot more gore.

Buy # 2?: No, but my expectations for Snyder and Capullo's Batman #1 have raised.

Green Arrow #1: I've always liked the world weary character of Green Arrow. He always seemed a little harder and older than the other DC heroes. So old that in the 90's his grown son take over. That's all erased with this take, along with the bald spot, the goatee and Black Canary. In its place we have a Smallville look, an Oracle stand-in and a pedestrian action scene.

Buy # 2?: It's always hard to keep a Green arrow title going. This one won't be any easier.

Static Shock #1: Despite some great art by Scott McDaniel, I had the same problem here as I did with Stormwatch. I never read the Milestone series or watched the animated show so I don't get the significance of most of these characters or how they may have changed. I'm still on the outside looking in. I wonder if Grifter will fall into the same problems.

Buy # 2?:Wish I could. Can't so I won't.

Animal Man #1: I always root for Animal Man. He seems more grounded than other heroes and Grant Morrison did some really terrific work with him in the 80's and in 52. This issue has a lot going for it and really creepy twist ending but it takes too long to start moving. I also hate the new costume.

Buy # 2?: I won't even browse it. Not unless something amazing happens on the cover.

Hawk and Dove #1: Remember when I said Jim Lee upped his game when he came to DC? Rob Liefeld didn't. This feels like a book from 1991 with hard pinched faces, glamour shots and shading that makes it feel like Hawk is two different characters. Reading this book is like seeing a hair metal band tour again. It's fun as long as you ignore the fact that you've grown out of it.

Buy # 2?: N.O.

Batwing #1: A Judd Winick series about an African Batman in the congo fighting genocide with photo realistic style artwork? It's just as leaden as you'll think it will be.

Buy # 2?: Why bother? It will be cancelled within the year.

Justice League International #1: Dark Knight Returns brought me to DC in the 80's but JLI kept me there. There have been a few relaunches of this idea, mostly mini-series with the original creative team. This has none of them with a slightly more serious take on the line-up, minus Martian Manhunter, Blue Beetle, Dr. Fate and most of the characters I wanted to see here. Still it has some of the that series trademark humor and I like both Dan Jurgens and Aaron Lopresti (although why Jurgens is writing one series and drawing a different one is beyond me. He could easily be carrying this book solo) and teases us with Batman and Guy Gardner so it's a pleasant if pedestrian read.

Buy # 2?: The next few anyway.

Men of War #1: Why is this a DCU title? This Sgt. Rock re-imagining is a straight up military title with a hint of supernatural, the kind of thing Vertigo can do very well. Did they need one more series to make up the 52? Did DC want a bigger spotlight for a non superhero book? Plus it's the only title that costs a dollar more. So this odd duck also bites you on the wrist. It's good, it just doesn't belong here.

Buy # 2?: I don't know why I bought #1.

Next week: 12 more.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Doctor Who

Doctor Who returns to BBC America tomorrow night. Andfor the first time ever, I will be there.

Doctor Who was the one major sci-fi franchise I never got into. Star Wars hit me at 5 and made me a life long sci-fi fan. By 7 I was looking for more than (at that time) a single movie. And there on channel 11 was Star Trek, which I never gave up. Aliens, Predators and Terminators came in high school., the X Files, Blade Runner and the Matrix after college. Joss Whedon, Battlestar Galactica and LOST after the wedding. I even gave Babylon 5 a shot for a couple of seasons. But there was never room for the Doctor.

It was too British, too cheap, too sixties. I would stumble upon it on PBS now and then and simply wait for Monty Python's Flying Circus to come on. Every now and then I'd meet another geek and after gleefully trading Trek stories they would steer the conversation towards Doctor Who. I'd tell them I'd never seen it and watch them shrink back, disappointed.

Then in 2005 the BBC relaunched it and everyone loved it. They changed the lead and everyone loved it more. They changed the lead again and people fell blindly, madly in love with it. And they started streaming it on Netflix. I gave in.

I started with the 2005 relaunch. I watched five years of episodes in two weeks. So I was into it.

The franchise always seemed a step behind the genre zeitgeist, especially in 1996 with an aborted backdoor pilot that tried way too hard to be X Files and Deep Space Nine. Not anymore. The BBC learned how to reignite from Star Trek and how to balance fantasy, horror, character work and long arcs from Whedon and Abrams. The inherent goofiness was accepted but turned way down each season until the time Steven Moffat took over it evaporated completely. The rules were established quickly enough for me to get it and were flexible enough to allow for a wide range of stories. I liked it. A lot.

It's the ultimate nerd show. Foppy, tweedy, full of complicated pseudo science most people will never get and surprisingly non violent. Despite the fact that every episode has a monster out to eat you, even when it revolves around Shakespeare or Van Gogh, there's rarely any fighting. Lots of thinking, lots of running, very little shooting. This is a show where the hero is not the toughest, the coolest or the bravest. It's the one where he's the smartest. No wonder nerds love it so.

The show also changes tremendously based on its lead actor. It's like when a new exciting British writer takes on an established superhero comic. Christopher Eccleston felt like Grant Morrison, sci fi concepts thrown at you so fast you can't unravel them led by a frenetic soccer hooligan. David Tennant was like Paul Jenkins, still British, still far out but with the heart of a romantic and a softie at that. Matt Smith is Neil Gaiman, melancholy, desaturated, poetic, grim and written by Neil Gaiman. It's all alluring and bringing me back tomorrow night for more.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

New Chili Peppers!

And it's undeniably awesome. The new guitar player completely fills the void left by John Frusciuante's departure and even with a new member, the band is moving in the direction set by 2003's "By the Way" and enhanced on 2006's "Stadium Arcadium".

Final note. I've said it before and I'll say it again: the mustache is back.

Direct link.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

The End of Indiana Jones Figures

I got my SDCC set. They are all pretty awesome but more importantly, they effectively end the most anticipated figure line of my life.

When I saw "Raiders of the Lost Ark", Walker and I went straight to the typewriter, drafting a petition to Kenner to produce figures. We even sent them a product line with character selections and playsets. We also asked for prototypes.

A year later, when Kenner launched the line with a tv commercial, I felt a sense of victory. I didn't know at the time the deals between Lucasfilm and Kenner piggybacked this license on top of Star Wars so I felt personally responsible.

A year later it was gone. 12 figures, one playset, some mini-sets and vehicles and it disappeared from shelves. When I lost marion and Indy in the sands of Rockaway Beach, there was no hope of replacing them. Three years later, LJN bashed out an out of scale half hearted three figure line for Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. I still would have bought them, if I ever saw them in a single store.

In the summer of 1989, batman figures based on the Tim Burton movie had me haunting the Kay Bee in Queens Center daily. But no one picked up the Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade license.

And then as reported many times on this blog, in 2007 Hasbro tried again with a comprehensive line to commemorate "Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. It was dead by the time the blu-ray dropped.

Yes, the factory that produced the first waves was horrible. Yes, it is clear Hasbro had no idea what would be important in Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (didn't we all think the jungle cutter would be an action set piece?). When I saw the hatless, jacketless Indy with a bazooka I was told he was "screen accurate". He wasn't.

At Toy Fair 2008 I asked Daryl dePriest how they would sustain the line this time. He said he had learned from Kenner's mistakes in the 1980's. I asked what mistake. he said "there are adult collectors now". So instead of launching with four figures as they did in 1982, they launched with 20. The end result? I got 40 Indiana Jones figures instead of 12.

And now the final wave that was tooled at the time of cancellation has snuck out. It lasted through the show but sold out online in four hours.

I'd love to see it continue as a DTC line but we all know Hasbro has no infrastructure or interest for a Matty Collector type situation. I'm just glad I got everyone and they will be stored next to my Toy Biz LOTR, my Palisades Muppets and other lines I know I will never see again.

Tuesday, August 02, 2011

Harrison Ford on Conan

It took him a long time but he learned how to kill in interviews.

He's angry at Smurfs. And who isn't?

Monday, August 01, 2011

Dark Knight Rises Pic

Usually I avoid spoilers and set pics during the production of a movie but this shot is just too awesome.

Batman fighting Bane out in the street. Looks like Batman is keeping the Dark Knight costume as well. That'll save me $200 with Hot Toys.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

My Favorite Mean Joke Ever

Actual conversation outside Rififi's, 2008.

Me: There's two kinds of jokes that never get a laugh; suicide and Michael J. Fox
Alex Grubard: What about Michael J. Fox committing suicide?
Me: He'd never get the gun to his head.

Monday, July 18, 2011

10 Reasons I'm a Bad Geek.

This week is Comicon, the center of all things geek. And I'm mildly curious. Not salivating and counting the days like most on the message boards. What's wrong with me? Lots of things actually. I:

1. Went to San Diego in 2008. Don't need to go back.
2. Think "Batman Begins" is a better movie than "Dark Knight"
3. had Laser eye surgery
4. Find Grant Morrison cryptic.
5. was 39 before I ever saw a full episode of "Doctor Who"
6. don't care who shot first
7. prefer hardcover reprints to actual silver age comics
8. am outright terrible at video games
9. can wait for Harry Potter on blu-ray
10. now that everyone in the world is a geek, still feel left out.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Conan Finds Grady

Conan O' Brien is at his peak right now. He owns his show and is doing exactly what he wants every night. Plus the documentary "Conan O' Brien Can't Stop" recording his tour hits today.

But Conan was always great. If you want proof here's a series of clips form 1996 where he tracks down the legendary "Grady" Whitman Mayo. In college we became obsessed with Grady so this hit us right where we lived.




Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Green Lantern Animated Series

And we're back.

With Bruce Timm on this, it will redeem the franchise, at least in the eyes of fans and kids.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Green Lantern

I didn't think it was so bad. I also saw it in a theater that serves alcohol.

I've mentioned my love for Green Lantern before. I've also mentioned how grateful I am that Geoff Johns turned the franchise from a rudderless obligation for DC to its third most popular franchise. That success lead the WB to spend $200 million on a feature film. Shame they didn't treat that investment with more care.

It's been rumored that Johns had input into the film. It must have been early and disregarded. There are his signature touches; the discussion of willpower as a force, the ability to overcome fear, the Sinestro Corps symbol and Parallax as a living entity. There's also Krona and Hector Hammond and Hal's brothers and the death of his father. But it's all jumbled and thrown into the film haphazardly.

Several characters fight for screen time and no one seems to win. Sinestro, Kilowog and Tomar Re all get extended cameos. They throw a few lines of exposition out, look cool in cg and leave. They're also nowhere to be found until the final battle is over when they couldn't be any less help.

I like Ryan Reynolds. I used to dislike his smarmy, entitled persona but like Ben Affleck it's been tamed over the years and it works for Hal. Mark Strong is a solid Sinestro and well prepared for becoming a central villain in a sequel. Several good actors (Peter Sarrsgard, Tim Robbins, Angela Basset) are good and wasted. But Blake Lively is terrible, coming off as a waify girl rather than the career-minded, angry woman that makes up half the dysfunctional relationship in the comics. Like Kirsten Dunst, Malin Ackerman and Katie Holmes, the studio was more concerned with pretty girls than fully-rounded characters.

The cg is passable. It never really bothers you but when you think of other cg fests like the terrible "Tron: Legacy" you realize how much better most blockbusters look. Restraint could have helped. Did the Guardians need to be outside on a mountaintop. Couldn't they have been in a room and save some detail to make Oa look more believable.

There's no focus. This is not a Green Lantern story. It's Green Lantern in live action for two hours. Part of me is grateful we got anything. Part of me hopes they'll fix it in the sequel. Part of me knows there won't be one.

Monday, June 13, 2011

SDCC Indiana Jones Figures

Pics are out!

I'm very happy. They look incredible and as sorry as I am there won't be any more, I'm grateful Hasbro found a way to release these. Whatever the price is, they're worth double.

Thanks to rebelscum

Friday, June 10, 2011

X-Men: First Class

Anyone who has seen this needs to tell people who haven't seen it. Because it doesn't look good, the last two were not good and yet it is very, very good.

This movie is an apology for X-Men Origins: Wolverine, a film nearly everyone involved considers bad. The fact that First Class contradicts that one is more a testament to how far afield Wolverine went.

Matthew Vaughan manages to capture the world of the early 60's through the prism of "Mad Men" and James Bond. Lots of sharp suits, brushed metal and nightclubs with secret passages. He also manages to keep you involved with a handful of characters that would never sell a comic series on their own. Charles Xavier is more interesting, complex and fun than he's ever been. James McAvoy channels Patrick Stewart the way Ewan Macgregor did Alec Guinness. Just enough reference to tie it in and just enough room to make it his own. And Kevin Bacon makes a surprisingly effective villain.

It doesn't line up with the comic series much. The "First Class" combines only one of the original five (Beast), a later Neal Adams era character (Havok), a Giant-Size one (Banshee) and even a Grant Morrison New X-Men version (Angel). But it lines up seamlessly with the trilogy adding weight that pushes Singer's films up to greatness level and almost makes The Last Stand decent.

Yes, there are some holes and some obvious missteps (I'm now considering every non-comic accurate mutant to be a red shirt) but the movie actually turns the whole franchise around. It should be doing much better than it is. The fact that there are some amazing cameos that were never spoiled (and I won't) shows how little people are talking about it.

Marvel doesn't seem to have a lot of faith in this film. When I saw the trailer I said that FOX had turned the X-Men franchise into "Smallville". It's a pleasure to eat those words.

Thursday, June 09, 2011

Vote for PJ Brady's BBQ sauce!

I've known PJ over twenty years now. We're lucky if we get together every couple of years or so. So I had no idea that he could create an awesome BBQ sauce. One you can vote for on

Vote here!

Wednesday, June 08, 2011

Mos Eisley Cantina - Google Voice Theatre

Paul F. Tompkins has problems with Google Voice. So much so he transcribed a section of "Star Wars" into it and read the transcription at Largo. Someone cut it to the film itself and here it is.

Tuesday, June 07, 2011

Ron Zabrocki in Guitar World!

Ron's started a weekly online column on, a magazine I've been subscribing to since before I met him. If his column is as helpful as sitting in a room with him for twenty minutes, you will learn lessons that will affect your playing for the rest of your life. He gets it off to a great start here:

First lesson

Monday, June 06, 2011

Master Cleanse

I'm 39 years old and I eat badly. Left to my own devices, I will eat cheeseburgers, tacos and pizza for every meal, with ice cream after. I don't but I could do it without looking back. I'm disinterested in fruits, vegetables and fish. I don't dislike them but they are never my first choice. Jamba Juice was a huge breakthrough, teaching me I could have twenty fruits for a meal.

Two months ago my dentist made me quit soda. I'd been drinking diet but it wasn't the sugar hurting my teeth. It was the acid. Apparantly, the phosphoric acid in cola is only one step above battery acid.

It came as a blow but a month or two later I forgot all about soda. I started leaning heavily on lemonade, which between the sugar and citric acid, may be no better. But my lemonade addiction, coupled with the diminishing summer appetite, led me to ponder the Master Cleanse again.

The program lasts you ten days, eat nothing and drink a mix of fresh lemon juice, grade B maple syrup and cayenne pepper. Supposedly it gives you enough nutrition to fast and flush the crap that's stuck in your system. I've fasted before, up to 4 days, so the not eating doesn't scare me. What does scare me is the program of it. 10 days. It's like getting on a roller coaster. Once they pull that bar down, you can't get out. That's why I'm giving myself a caveat; I can bail at any time. As soon as it pisses me off, I'm out. No honor, baby.

Here's a lot of detailed information about the Master Cleanse Diet. It's day 2 and all the information I can give you is that it tastes pretty good.

Wednesday, June 01, 2011


Our first show is June 11. And our demo is just about done.

Making a demo was such a big deal in the analog world. When I worked on the first Q South demo it was like we'd been signed to a record label. Psychasm spent more time making our demo than actually gigging. And they each cost thousands of dollars.

This demo was literally done in the off hours around practice. If anyone showed up early, they would start recording. We took one Saturday afternoon to learn how to mike drums. We still have one song to finish.

I used the BOSS BR-8 I bought in 2000. It still runs on zip discs. It's digital yet antiquated. But I know it well enough that I can get tracks faster than with Pro Tools. Sound Forge did the mixing and mastering.

And posting it has never been easier. Thanks to Reverbnation, uploading mp3s is finally like getting videos on youtube. The player is also easy to drop on Facebook and here.

The widget will remain on the right hand column but here's a big version to listen right now. Four songs. One original. One live cover. Two studio covers. And one coming. Not bad for a couple of weeks.

June 11 9 p.m.
8601 W Grand Ave, River Grove, IL