July 31, 2012

Judging the New 52 #10: Aquaman

I have always loved Aquaman - indeed, I have always loved him unironically. He was a childhood favourite, alongside Batman and the Incredible Hulk. I thought his costume looked cool, I loved that he had underwater adventures. I even loved that he could talk to fish. He's not the easiest character in DC Comics to write for, but I think he's pretty damn cool. As a character he's always struggled, however. He went okay at first: a solid run from 1962 (that's right, he's 50 this year - pity DC forgot to celebrate it) to 1978, but then had to endure an eight-year hiatus before getting two miniseries in 1986 and 1989. An attempt at a second regular book got cancelled in 1992 after 13 issues, then a soft reboot by Peter David in 1994 (including cutting off Aquaman's hand) gave him his longest run ever: 77 issues up to 2001. Then the character was killed off, brought back, given a new hand made of water in 2003, vanished in 2006 and was replaced by a pseudo-fantasy replacement before getting the axe again in 2007. After another hiatus (four years this time), Aquaman came back with a splash (ha!) as one of the flagship titles of the New 52: written by Geoff Johns with art by Ivan Reis, the new run restored Aquaman's original look and powers while making him a much meaner, less openly friendly type of character.

There's a lot to recommend about the Johns/Reis run on Aquaman. The art is vivid and clean, and a lot of the scripts have been engaging and enjoyable. But - and this should really be a bold-type, underlined, italicised BUT - Johns seems to have this bee in his bonnet that need to be swatted dead.

Babble On #15: "Signs and Portents"

Each season of Babylon 5 has its own title, sort of like The Lord of the Rings is divided into The Fellowship of the Ring, The Two Towers and The Return of the King. I didn't know this when the series originally aired, but they wound up using the season titles on the DVD sets. Season 1 is officially titled Signs and Portents, which is by no coincidence also the title of the season's 13th episode.

The raiders subplot that has been troubled the station since the season began reaches a crisis point. Sinclair confides in Garibaldi about his experience during the Battle of the Line. A mysterious smiling stranger arrives on the station, with only one question for each of the ambassadors: 'What do you want?'

July 30, 2012

Free Enterprise #8: "Civilization"

"Civilization" is a refreshing and well-produced episode. One of the key tenets of the Star Trek universe has always been the Prime Directive, which essentially bars high technology space-faring civilizations from contacting or interfering with civilizations with lower levels of cultural sophistication and technology. Enterprise is set before this important (occassionaly tedious) rule was established, which means Archer and the gang get to find a pre-industrial world, put on some rudimentary disguises, and head down for a quick look around. What they find is that they aren't the first space-faring civilization to visit the planet, and the rest of the episode goes to show - in a typically action-adventure fashion - why the Prime Directive is probably a very good idea.

July 28, 2012

Comic Shop Book Club #2: National Comics: Eternity #1

For week two of the Comic Shop Book Club I selected DC's first one-shot from their new National Comics label: Eternity #1. It's written by Jeff Lemire, has art by Cully Hamner, and re-envisages old DC character Kid Eternity - most famously reworked by Grant Morrison and Duncan Fegredo back in the day.

If you've read it, leave a comment: what worked? What didn't? Would you read a monthly Kid Eternity comic based on this premise? Let me know your thoughts!

Babble On #14: "By Any Means Necessary"

A deadly accident in one of Babylon 5's docking bays leads the station's overworked maintenance and docking crews to go on strike, putting pressure onto an already overloaded station. Meanwhile G'Kar is on the hunt for an Eth plant, and the only person on the station who has one is his arch-enemy Londo Mollari.

You read that correctly: a major plot thread of this episode is G'Kar and Mollari arguing over a flower. Actually they kept referring to needing an "Eth plant", which I spent the first 15 minutes mishearing as "eggplant", which was even more ridiculous.

Blog Space Nine #7: "Second Sight"

On the fourth anniversary of his wife's death, Commander Sisko unexpectedly meets an enchanting and beautiful woman. Meanwhile, a famous scientist comes to the station in preparation to re-ignite a nearby dying star.

The awesome run of Deep Space Nine episodes had to end sooner or later, and it ends with a clunk. I'm straining to think of a decent romantic episode produced in any of the Star Treks, and I can only come up with "Lessons", the Next Generation episode where Picard bonds with a visiting astronomer over a mutual love of music. "Second Sight" doesn't join it. It's an all-round weak episode, eminently missable and regularly just that little bit irritating.

July 27, 2012

Babble On #13: "Survivors"

Earth's President Luis Santiago is about to make a major policy address on Babylon 5. His security team arrives on the station to make preparations as a sudden explosion rocks one of the station's fighter bays. Garibaldi finds himself falsely accused of sabotage, and goes on the run from Presidential security - and his own past.

"Survivors" is a nice episode: it advances the overall narrative of the series, it showcases Michael Garibaldi and fills in quite a bit of his backstory. He's revealed as a recovering alcoholic for one thing. It's not the greatest portrayal of alcoholism committed to screen (that would be John Spencer's Leo McGarry in The West Wing), but it's not embarrassingly bad either. Part of what lets Garibaldi's arc down a little is Jerry Doyle's performance. He brings a lot of charisma to the role, but not a huge amount of talent. As far as I'm aware he doesn't act at all these days, and instead works as a talk radio host.

July 26, 2012

Free Enterprise #7: "Breaking the Ice"

The Enterprise encounters a comet in deep space containing a rare mineral that may be worth mining. While the crew investigates, the Enterprise continues to be trailed by a Vulcan starship whose captain seems more than a little interested in the humans' activities.

I've written before about how the Vulcans of Enterprise seem a rather unlikeable bunch, and "Breaking the Ice" continues to explore this trend. In "Broken Bow" we discovered that the Vulcans had limited human space travel as much as they could for several decades. Here we discover that, even after allowing the Enterprise to roam freely through the galaxy, the Vulcans are still keeping a slightly paranoid eye on the humans. It works here, because they use the growing tension as an opportunity to develop T'Pol's character arc, and lead her to make a significant choice in whether her primary loyalty lies as a Vulcan or as the first officer of the Enterprise.

Whither Batman?: the Future of the Dark Knight on Film

The Dark Knight Rises is in cinemas, rounding off Christopher Nolan's Batman trilogy as one of the best Hollywood's ever produced. It's up there with Star Wars and Toy Story as a massive achievement in narrative filmmaking, each film working on its own as a satisfying action thriller and all three working together as an epic story of Bruce Wayne and Gotham City. It's likely make an awful lot of money, and between the three Nolan films - Batman Begins, The Dark Knight and The Dark Knight Rises - Warner Bros' earnings are likely to number in the low billions.

So where to now? Should Warner Bros leave Nolan's trilogy well alone and leave Batman on the shelf for a few years? Should it dive in and start developing a reboot straight away? Or should it attempt the tricky proposition of a fourth "Nolanverse" movie?

Warning: absolutely do not click through to the rest of this article if you haven't seen The Dark Knight Rises. This article will spoil it for you, and it really is a film you don't want to have spoiled.

July 25, 2012

Judging the New 52 #9: Mister Terrific

Oh Mister Terrific: it seemed like I was the only person who liked your comic. A former member of the Justice Society of America, spun out into his own solo title for the first time, given a chance to blossom into a solid second-tier superhero but instead consigned to oblivion. Sort of. I think they've thrown him over into Earth 2 so he can hang out with his JSA buddies again. No matter: he's gone, and I for one lament his comic's passing.

Truth be told there was nothing particularly exceptional about Mister Terrific, but it was solid and well written and had competent if not outstanding artwork. In the early months of the New 52, however, with Wonder Woman falling from superheroics into Greek mythology, the Joker having his face carved off in Detective Comics, the Justice League acting like assholes and Aquaman constantly having to demonstrate "no really, guys, I'm awesome!" to his already on-side readers, Mister Terrific felt like a breezy wind of fresh air. It was a superhero comic, with a reasonably well-adjusted guy with cool powers fighting colourful supervillains. Sometimes that's exactly what I want from a superhero comic.

Free Enterprise #6: "The Andorian Incident"

The Andorians are a blue-skinned humanoid species, with a thatch of white hair and two vaguely prehensile antennae. They are, in my opinion somewhat bizarrely, one of the most famous of the original Star Trek aliens. This is in despite of appearing properly once, in the fan favourite episode "Journey to Babel", and then making occasional cameos (and I really mean cameos) in a couple of episodes of Star Trek and Star Trek: The Next Generation, and filling out a few crowd scenes in the Star Trek films. I suppose they do also make two noted appearances in Star Trek: The Animated Series, but does anybody actually watch that show?

"The Andorian Incident" is, then, quite a fascinating episode to watch. The Enterprise visits an isolated Vulcan monastery, only to find it has been hijacked by four angry Andorian commandos who insist the monastery is a front for a secret Vulcan surveillance operation. In essence, it's a hostage drama coated liberally in Star Trek fan service. Andorians versus Vulcans? All they needed was a ship full of Klingons to turn up and half of fandom's heads might have exploded.

July 24, 2012

Comic Shop Book Club, Week 2

Last week the Comic Shop Book Club got off to a promising start, with over 100 readers and several people providing comments and reviews. That post is still open, if you've read Captain Marvel #1 and want to add your two cents' worth. Current consensus is that the script is outstanding while the art is a bit difficult to engage with.

This Friday I'm going to open comments on National Comics: Eternity #1, the first in a series of DC Comics one-shots re-invigorating old characters for the New 52. The first issue focuses on Kid Eternity, famously adapted in the 1990s by Grant Morrison. This new original version is written by New 52 superstar Jeff Lemire (Animal Man) with art by Cully Hamner (Red, The Question).

It's US$3.99, it goes on sale Wednesday, and it's a self-contained story. Pick up a copy, physically or digitally, and I'll see you back at this blog on Friday to discuss it.

Blog Space Nine #6: "Necessary Evil"

When Quark is badly wounded in his own bar, Odo's investigation leads him back to his very first murder case - conducted during the Cardassian occupation of Bajor and his very first meeting with Kira Nerys.

"Necessary Evil" is an outstanding hour of American television, combining the standard tropes of the Star Trek franchise with elements of film noir, extensive flashbacks and genuinely well-written and performed drama. It showcases two of the best elements Deep Space Nine has at its disposal: firstly, the most consistently talented regular cast that Star Trek ever had, and secondly, the ability to extend stories outside of Starfleet and into the lives of those outside their utopian world view.

July 23, 2012

Free Enterprise #5: "Terra Nova"

The Enteprise travels to the former Earth colony of Terra Nova, contact with which collapsed 70 years ago. They discovered an isolated, radioactive ruin and a vanished colony - but they may not be as alone on the planet as they think.

"Terra Nova" isn't a very good episode. For starters it seems based on a ridiculous premise: a human colony lost without contact for 70 years, and no one ever bothered to investigate? It seems ridiculous that, even if they stayed on Earth themselves, the human government did not even persuade the Vulcans to send a starship past for a quick look. I usually avoid complaining about entire texts based on illogical plot points, but this one seems a little too big to avoid. As a result, Archer and his posse travel to surface in a shuttle completely blind to what's happened. The situation beggars belief.

Judging the New 52 #8: Green Lantern

Some of DC's superhero lines were completely rebooted when the New 52 hit (such as Wonder Woman and Superman), while others managed to emerge through the reboot relatively unscathed. It all came down to sales: if you were selling like hotcakes already, why change things? Under the leadership of writer/chief creative officer Geoff Johns, Green Lantern was a comic that was already consistently selling more than 70,000 copies a month, so DC by-and-large left this corner of the universe alone.

This one I can't actually judge based on its contents, as I haven't read a single issue of Green Lantern since their big line-wide crossover "Blackest Night" a year or two back. By that point it felt like Johns had dragged the franchise so far up its own arse it simply wasn't quite making sense to me any more. The Sinestro Corps? Pretty cool. Separate armies of space people colour-coded like the United Colors of Oa? Not very cool at all. Since DC made it very clear during the lead-up to the New 52 that Green Lantern was going to be mostly unchanged, I made the choice not to bother reading it.

So how has an "ain't broke/don't fix" strategy helped Green Lantern through the New 52?

July 20, 2012

Comic Shop Book Club #1: Captain Marvel #1

It's Friday, and that means it's time for the inaugural Comic Shop Book Club. This week we're discussing Kelly Sue DeConnick and Dexter Soy's Captain Marvel #1. The print version's already sold out and is going for a second printing, but what did we think of the writing, the art, the character, and so on?

I have to admit I've come to this comic cold, without any real prior knowledge of the character, so I'm very keen to know what people think. Opinions (including my own) in the comments below, please!

July 19, 2012

Blog Space Nine #5: "Rules of Acquisition"

The Grand Negus of the Ferengi arrives on Deep Space Nine with a special trade mission into the Gamma Quadrant for Quark and his new employee Pel - but there's something about Pel that seems out of place.

Ah Ferengi. If there's one thing Deep Space Nine achieved that doesn't get enough recognition, it's how the series (mainly through writer/producer Ira Stephen Behr) took a one-note, irritating set of characters and actually transformed them into a three-dimensional, intriguing civilization with a culture and distinctive characters. The centrepiece of this transformation was of course Quark who, as a series regular, was given the time required to really flesh out his background and personality. Most importantly he became a quite sympathetic character without sacrificing any of the money-hungry, provit-motivated values that made him who he was. Quark is still one of my favourite characters in the whole of Star Trek.

July 18, 2012

The Comic Shop Book Club

Wouldn't it be cool to have a weekly comic shop book club? It'd be easy - we all purchase/borrow a single issue of a new comic book each week, and then all come back to the blog and have a rolling discussion about its merits in the comments thread.

The basic rules would be:
- I announce the selected book club comics in advance, probably each Monday. It will be a single issue priced no more than USD$3.99, available via Diamond Distribution and/or Comixology. I will be open to suggestions.
- You read the comic book.
- You come back to the blog each Friday to chat about what worked, and what didn't.

I know it's late notice, but I reckon we should start this week with Kelly Sue DeConnick and Dexter Soy's Captain Marvel (Marvel Comics, USD$3,99). If you're with me, come back on Friday and chat! I promise to be spoiler free in the blog entry, but will allow open and full spoilers in the comments.

July 17, 2012

Free Enterprise #4: "Unexpected"

Trip spends a day on an alien starship, helping its crew to repair its warp drive. Shortly after he returns to the Enterprise, he discovers that he is unexpectedly - and inexplicably - pregnant. The race is on to relocate the alien vessel before Trip (somehow) gives birth to the galaxy's first human-alien hybrid.

The first half of "Unexpected" is outstanding. The Enterprise's crew locate a cloaked alien starship coasting in their wake, and after making first contact agree to aid them in repairing their vessel. Trip volunteers to be the one to go across, a process that includes three hours in a decompression chamber each way. (That was a detail I adored - try as I might I can't think of any other science fiction text that's considered air pressure as a factor in alien species meeting one another.) Once there, he treats us to a gentle, nicely-paced story of first contact and experiencing new cultures. By the time he returned back to the Enteprise, the alien drive repaired, I couldn't help but feel disappointed that the whole episode couldn't have been so refreshingly action-free and relaxed.

Judging the New 52 #7: Demon Knights

One of the things I did really appreciate about the New 52 was DC's concerted effort to expand the scope of its titles. Demon Knights is a solid case in point: it's set in the DC Universe, features well-known immortals such as Etrigan the Demon and Vandal Savage, but is set in the Dark Ages. This effectively allows writer Paul Cornell to have his cake and eat it too. It fits snugly into a superhero universe, but is for all intents and purposes a pulp fantasy. Diogenes Neves' artwork is great too. This isn't my favourite New 52 book (that would be Scott Snyder's Batman) but it is one of the more enjoyable ones.

I like team books, and I like fantasy as well, so combining the two is an easy way to get me to like a comic. Demon Knights has been scratching an itch I've felt ever since DC cancelled Bill Willingham's excellent Shadowpact series. I'm also a fan of Etrigan. Cornell has by-and-large dropped Etrigan's rhyming dialogue, which certainly makes him easier for Cornell to write, but I appreciate he's done so by tweaking the character a little. The rhyming is still there from time to time, but only when the character's talking in a formal context (such as meeting with superior demons in hell).

In short: this is one of the 'good ones'. The first trade paperback is out, so if you like the idea of a Dark Ages superhero fantasy comic and haven't tried it yet, go to your nearest comic shop and check it out.

July 16, 2012

Judging the New 52 #6: Fury of Firestorm: The Nuclear Men

Firestorm is just one of those characters that DC won't allow to die. I'm not sure he's anybody's favourite character. I don't think I've met any keen Firestorm fans. He's never had a cartoon of his own, he's not really known outside of the DC fan community, and no matter how many times DC release a solo Firestorm comic it seems guaranteed to bottom out and get cancelled. Yet, like clockwork, DC simply waits a few years and relaunches the title again.

The first volume of Firestorm was published in 1978 was cancelled after five issues. The second volume, published from 1983, actually managed to scratch out a 102 issue run until it was cancelled in 1988. This is actually the volume I've read quite a bit of, and it's quite good. In 2005 the third volume was published, lasting 36 issues before once again being cancelled for low sales. Finally, in the New 52 we receive the fourth volume of the title, now called Fury of Firestorm: The Nuclear Men.

Free Enterprise #3: "Strange New World"

Did it really take five iterations of Star Trek to reach an episode titled "Strange New World"? It seems such an obvious title for the franchise to use. In this third episode of Enterprise the crew discover an all-new M-class planet and, slowly going stir-crazy with their ongoing lack of action, they decide to take a shuttle down and explore it for themselves. Archer gets to walk his dog, while a small team stays overnight to make a further study of the planet's extensive flora and fauna. Things happen. They are not alone. A storm brews. Tensions rise. Shenanigans occur.

July 13, 2012

Judging the New 52 #5: Frankenstein and the Agents of S.H.A.D.E.

Not every New 52 title is a reboot or relaunch of a recent title. One of the more intriguing titles of the New 52 has been Frankenstein: Agent of S.H.A.D.E., a re-imagining of a very old DC character (itself a reimagining of Mary Shelley's fictional monster) transformed into DC's unofficial riff on Hellboy. Is that uncharitable? I have no idea. It feels like a Hellboy clone to me - just a very, very good one. I suppose there's also an argument that much of Mike Mignola's BRPD stuff owes a debt to DC's Doom Patrol, so maybe this is just one of those cases of creativity and homage coming full circle.

Despite feeling a little derivative in its overall concept, Frankenstein is a really fun book. It's smart, weird, funny yet remains strongly in the superhero team genre. The scripts are by Jeff Lemeire, acclaimed writer/artist of Sweet Tooth and a bunch of other titles, and he's made it a really enjoyable ride - although as of #10 he's off the title, with Matt Kindt taking over.

New titles are always the hardest to find audiences for, and I'm not sure there was a huge in-built audience clamouring for DC to revisit Frank and give him his own ongoing title. So how are the sales going?

July 12, 2012

Three links.

  • Award-winning horror author and podcaster Kirstyn McDermott writes a lengthy but exceptional review of Drew Goddard and Joss Whedon's Cabin in the Woods. This is the sort of blog post Australian SF fans should remember come Ditmar time next year. (Note: it completely spoils the movie.)
  • Similarly award-winning author and podcaster Tansy Rayner Roberts is writing about her favourite female superheroes. Black Canary and Rogue are already up, with (I presume) many more to come.

Judging the New 52 #4: Nightwing

I've always been a fan of Nightwing, pretty much from its launch as a solo title all the way back in 1995. There's something very appealing about Dick Grayson as a character. I think he brings with him a lot of the appeal of Batman - dark city streets, urban vigilantism, and so on - but he's also allowed to be fallible. Dick is a regularly troubled guy. Unlike his adoptive father Bruce, Dick manages to find time for a romantic life - which he regularly screws up. He works the same dark territory as Bruce, but manages to keep a brighter disposition. It's a wonderful character, and I wish Warner Bros would bite the bullet and give him his own film franchise. Or his own cartoon. Or a TV show. Whatever. I want more Dick. (Another selling point of the character: there's nothing more fun to an adolescent mind than to vocally brag about one's deep abiding love for Dick.)

Since the New 52 relaunch Nightwing has been coasting along pretty much on a par with its pre-reboot incarnation. I think, all in all, there's been a marvellous consistency to this title for the past 17 years. Some writers have been better than others, but Nightwing has always been a worthwhile, enjoyable read. I'm particularly impressed that this new volume of the series hasn't missed a beat, tonally speaking, despite the first volume actually ending in February 2009 in the aftermath of the Batman RIP saga.

Keep that in mind when we're looking at the stats: there's a 30-odd month gap between the blue issues and the red.

July 11, 2012

Free Enterprise #2: "Fight or Flight"

There's something nice about the first few scenes of Enterprise's second episode. A few weeks after their maiden voyage to the Klingon homeworld I will not attempt to spell, we find them bored half to death as the Enterprise fails to explore any strange new worlds or seek out new civilizations. The most interesting thing they've found is an alien slug. I like the contrast.

Obviously things don't stay quiet for long, and they soon find themselves exploring a drifting alien spacecraft where the crew have been killed and set up into a macabre medical rig designed to draw out various fluids. It's all quite horrible really, and the question rises of whether the Enterprise should leave the ship well alone or make some attempt to contact the civilization that sent it. All of this is basically a background with which to explore Enterprise linguist Hoshi Sato (Linda Park), who is coming to the realisation that space is not a place she wants to be.

July 10, 2012

Free Enterprise #1: "Broken Bow"

When it premiered in 2001 I really hated Enterprise. The characters irritated me, the scripts were annoying and more than anything else it was a prequel - the most unnecessary thing in the history of storytelling. I struggled through the pilot, watched a handful of episodes and then abandoned it. I watched all of Star Trek and The Next Generation. I adored (and continue to adore) Deep Space Nine and enjoyed a lot of Voyager. I've even been known to watch the animated series. But Enterprise? One bridge too far. Just too badly made. Too irritating to bother with. It may be the show that killed Star Trek on television after almost 20 years of continuing broadcasts, but for me it was dead on arrival.

I wouldn't be able to tell you why I tried it again this month. I think mainly it was the fact that the first season was on sale, coupled with the simple fact that I'm a Star Trek tragic since childhood. It's Star Trek I haven't seen, even if it was completely awful. I just had this overriding compulsion to try Enterprise one more time.

Judging the New 52 #3: Legion of Super-Heroes

If you want to experience the frighteningly obsessive end of comics fandom, start reading Legion of Super-Heroes. I have never encountered a comic book with such a dedicated, aggressively enthused set of readers. I think you have to be obsessive to be a regular Legion reader. The title has as two of its core features an extended cast of similarly-named superheroes and a mixture of space opera super-heroics and soap opera. I've been curious about the Legion for years, but it was only with the New 52 relaunch that I took the plunge and started reading it each month.

It's very good, but it's also almost impenetrable. I've read 10 issues and I can recognise three of the regular cast: Brainiac 5, Chameleon Boy and Mon-El. Others I may recognise them on the page, or know the name, but I'm unlikely to know both at the same time. It's also a very serialised title, which is an oddity in an industry geared towards broadly self-contained multi-part stories (what we call "writing for the trade"). I think it's a very enjoyable comic book, and if you've ever had an interest in the Legion you should check it out, but it's a comic you need to be reading for the long haul to give yourself time to get immersed in its characters and storylines. The first trade paperback is out rather cheaply ($19.95 in Australia), and is the best way to start.

So how does such a 'hard-core' comic fare in terms of sales? Pretty much as you might expect.

July 9, 2012

Judging the New 52 #2: Wonder Woman

Wonder Woman has always been a character I've enjoyed, despite DC Comics regularly failing to provide a decent comic for her over the years. She is also a character I was particularly keen to examine the sales figures of, as her relaunched New 52 title was one of the more unusual of the set. Writer Brian Azarrello and artist Cliff Chiang have produced a Wonder Woman steeped less in superheroes and more in Greek mythology, and one tonally distinct from the New 52 and more in line with DC's mature readers Vertigo imprint.

I was ambivalent about the relaunched Wonder Woman at first, as Azarrello stripped away a very cool origin (Diana being created by Amazons out of clay - a woman born by other women and not by a man) and replaced it with a much more stereotypical one (Diana is one of the many illegitimate children of the god Zeus). The fact this change was made by an all-male creative team made it seem even less palatable. Over the past 10 issues, however, I've been sold: this is a bold, interesting take on Wonder Woman and I'm finding myself increasingly keen to read each issue as it is released.

While it's a good comic, it is still an unusual one: how has this affected sales?

July 6, 2012

Two links

  • One of the stranger blogs I've seen recently: Black Out Korea, which details in photographic form loads and loads of Koreans sleeping on benches, pavements, and so on. My eyebrow is officially raised.
  • Some interesting weekend reading: the producers of the upcoming animated film Escape from Planet Earth are suing their distributor the Weinstein Company for $50 million and change. Here's a link to their actual submitted lawsuit. It's an eye-opener, and - as you might expect if you're suing someone - ridiculously aggressive and packed to the gills with character attacks, accusations of incompetence and Hollywood producers scrambling around theatres on all fours eating M&Ms.

Judging the New 52 #1: Batman

We're ten full months into DC Comics' much-hyped New 52 initiative, in which the entire superhero line of comic books was rebooted with new first issues, new creative teams and sometimes new continuities. I figured this might be enough time to start having a look at how this reboot has revived DC's fortunes - or not.

First up is one of my favourites, Batman: relaunched with Scott Snyder writing and Greg Capullo pencilling the art, this has been one of the most consistently well-reviewed and popular titles DC have. Snyder's been on fire writing this comic, introducing new elements to Batman's mythology and history and bringing a genuinely fresh, iconic perspective to the Caped Crusader. The first collected edition is out in hardcover, and if you haven't caught up with it yet I strongly recommend that you do. It's awesome stuff, and Capullo's artwork has been stunning.

So it's a great comic, and it deserves every success, but how have the sales actually been doing?

July 2, 2012

Newsies (1992)

I have had a few conversations over the weekend about whether or not Newsies qualifies as an obscure movie any more. Two years ago such a claim wouldn't be in question: a live-action musical produced by Walt Disney Pictures, released into cinemas in April 1992, which subsequently crashed spectularly at the box office, earned only two million and sank without a trace. It didn't even receive a DVD release until last month. Now, of course, a lot more people know of the film because it's the basis of a Tony Award-winning musical on Broadway. I'm betting most of the people who have seen the stage musical haven't seen the film, though - I'd even bet a lot of them aren't aware that a film came first.

Newsies is loosely adapted on a true story, in which late 19th century newsboys in New York organise a strike when Pulitzer and Hearst raise the wholesale price of their newspapers. It was written as a non-musical family drama, but director Kenny Ortega - choreographer of Dirty Dancing and later director of the significantly more successful High School Musical franchise - had Alan Menken compose a bunch of songs and transformed the film into a fully-fledged musical. From watching the 'making of' featurettes on Disney's new 20th anniversary blu-ray, I get the impression the film was cast before it was turned into a musical, which must have made for some interesting conversations with the actors.