Sunday, May 28, 2006
The news of the death of Alex Toth weighs heavily, he was an inspiration to myself and countless other artists. If any sorrow can be lifted, it will be by the vast legacy he has left in an ocean of work-- an immortality of sorts that will continue to fire the creative sparks of those who look to it.
Long live Toth!
Saturday, May 27, 2006
North Hollywood runs from posh and artsy to scummy and dodgy. In between are residential and industrial areas, in one of the latter you can find block after block of wonderfully hand-painted murals.
I took a bunch of pics of the murals on Chandler Blvd, check out a gallery HERE.
Wednesday, May 24, 2006
Less and less DC, hmmmm.....
Stangers in Paradise
Yes, I snagged me one of those "Crayon Butchery Variant" copies of Nextwave. I may or may not butcher it myself, but I am glad to have any instance of black and white art on the level of Stuart Immonen. Nextwave continues to be a ridiculously fun book, an anomaly not just among its Marvel Brethren but on the shelves as a whole.
Rocketo continues to w-o-w with sheer creative vision, and no doubt Strangers in Paradise will deliver as it always has. SiP wraps up its monumental run in a mere 8 issues, I suspect I will be talking about it more as the end draws near. But seeing as those 8 issues bring us well into 2007, blissfully, like Terry Moore himself, I'm not in any rush.
Friday, May 19, 2006
I took this pic the other day while out for a walk at Izay Park in Burbank. It's the home to the Burbank parks and rec center along with a historic vehicle museum, playgrounds, tennis courts, and baseball fields. But obviously the most striking feature is the full-sized jet anchored out on the front lawn. Standing near it I was overcome with a sense of pride and manliness, wonder why?
Thursday, May 18, 2006
With an upcoming League of Extraordinary Gentlemen graphic novel not withstanding, this here book is actually the last ABC offering and it is one hell of a swan song. After the big wrap ups in Promethea and, more recently, Tom Strong, the second Tomorrow Stories Special closes out the amazing and overlooked anthology.
The crown of the issue is the first story featuring a "reprint" of America's Best, and it nails the style and feel of what that comic would have actually been like. Rick Veitch is a artisan storyteller and coupled with an Alan Moore script it's almost too good to be true. The aged style put on the colors is a wonder to behold, I've had this book at my desk for weeks, just flipping through it again and again to decipher his methods. Stalwart letterer Todd Klein pulls it all together with a flawless integration of balloons and type that may or may not have been lettered on boards-- thankfully whoever was in control didn't cheese out since purely digital lettering would have been an eyesore. I don't discount lettering on boards in this case, although it's certainly possible the digital lettering was composited with the bitmap art scan and then sent off to coloring (which is how it should be done!!).
The second treat was a Promethea story illustrated by Eric Shanower, whom I've lauded before for his work on Age of Bronze. Coupled with Moore, he mimics the single page adventures of Winsor McKay's Little Nemo in Slumberland. The story is a delight in typical Promethean meta-story fashion, following the end of innocence for both a young girl, and what I think it was like coping with the end of the Promethea series-- but it's probably best read as a commentary on ending the ABC line as a whole!
I could never get enough of Art adams and Jonni Future, sadly here's the last we'll see of the sci-fi heroine as far as I know. The art is actually by Joyce Chin with finishes by Adams, but that's not bad at all. It's another great story and commentary on ABC as Jonni's reunion with her father in a timeless haven acts a metaphor for being able to re-read their adventures whenever we like.
Rounding out the issue is a First American tale, taking its usual jabs at pop culture and American politics. I don't know about most readers, but I'd always thought the First American scripts, while odd, were pretty damn funny.
If you're a fan of the ABC line, and especially Tomorrow Stories, you'd be a fool to have passed up this issue (it shipped a few weeks ago). Even if you've never read an ABC book, this issue and the first are two great comics. Overall it's a wonderful way to end the ABC era at WildStorm and I thank them for going out with class by delivering such a high quality book.
CORRECTION! Looking at WildStorm's schedule, it appears this is not the last ABC floppy comic, as "ABC A to Z" finds itself to shelves later this month.
Wednesday, May 17, 2006
It's been a busy day but I always seem to make time for comics! I just wish there was more to buy.
Light on books but two visual treats for sure. It's hard to deny the crisp, bold work of Ed McGuiness on Supes/Bats, especially when finished by Dexter Vines and Dave McCaig. And double especially when the story is a showcase for a bevy of alternate Supergirls and burly Batmen!
The trump is the debut of Shadopact, which not only has Bill Willingham on story but a glorious return to art! Man, I love Willingham's art, it's chock full of character. First glance at the pages shows he's still up to form, though a bit overcolored for his style. I don't mean that as a slant to Chris Chuckry, he's a swell guy and a great colorist. Willingham's art has alot of black and it competes too much with saturated and primary palette being used here. It's so hard to get that mix just right, I think it's an editor's #1 priority. However, I cannot easily place blame because while I know most people in that position aren't qualified to make those choices (or even care), the ones that do so often have bureaucratic obstacles in their way it's a lost cause. It's a rare book in the mass market that gets the attention it deserves.
Readers getting their first look at Willingham's art would do well by checking out the excellent-as-it-is-pornographic Ironwood, and the scarce but beautiful (and all-too-short-lived) Coventry. His art has appeared numerous other places, left to be admired by collectors like myself.
Tuesday, May 16, 2006
Secret Files and Origins: Infinite Crisis
After all my lambasting about Infinite Crisis, why am I singling out this particular book? Because this one is good! Why? Oh, I don't know, maybe it's because it was written by Marv Wolfman and laid out by Dan Jurgens. Back at Wizard World LA, I ran into Marv Wolfman at the DC booth and had to tell him that his issue was the only one that made any damn sense, to which he humbly thanked me and said he was just glad they asked him to be a part of it. The book focuses on Alex Luthor and accomplishes what the Infinite Crisis books could not-- explain his motivations in a way that actually make you care. It's like some missing chapter of the whole IC debacle. While it has the luxury of an entire oversized issue to explore both Alex Luthor and Superboy Prime and how they came to be in the business of shaping universes, it no less shines a spotlight on how poorly crafted the actual IC books were. If, like me, you were looking for that one spin-off book that would shed some light on any kind of origin for Infinite Crisis, this is it.
As for a full review of the actual Infinite Crisis series, no one can express it better than Dial B for Blog's Infinite Crisis Review. It is a must read and I share the sentiments wholeheartedly.
This was more enjoyable than I'd thought, altho my expectations were pretty low. I'm hoping Morrison has more of an influence than Johns, and some of that does peek through in the debut issue. And it's all about Booster Gold, whom I've always liked, so for the first few issues at least I'll keep checking in.
I really don't give a crap about the new Supergirl. For the record, I was quite a fan of Peter David's run and I do like the character, but the latest offering I wanted nothing to do with. I never found the new introduction interesting enough to follow Batman/Superman, and the sight of her rendered by Michael Turner or Ian Churchill turns my stomach. So why pick up this ish? Ed Benes.
I looooove Ed Benes. Always have. Hell, I worked with the guy way back when I was on Gen13 and couldn't figure out why he never reached that "superstar" tier of comics artists. That seems to have changed in the last year or so, as he's been seen more and more on high profile books. Superman, even! I mean Ed Benes on Superman? Way to go!
But we all know where he shines--- laying out the ladies. You can look at his pages and see he packs in as much as he can, knows when and when not to use backgrounds for effect, draws great action sequences, and is clearly an accomplished draftsman. Through all that he still draws some of the sexiest women in comics, and that's not a bad label to have. For all kinds of Benes Cheesecake, check out his blog, Edbenes. The Red Sonja and Madelyne Pryor pieces are exceptional!
I know Walt Simonson can craft a good story, though I don't really know where this one is heading One Year Later or not. For this book, it's the art, and Howard Chaykin kicks ass. When he's on it, he is on it.
American Virgin #3
The story is solid for being three issues in, but I got to say the draw so far is Becky Cloonan's art. It's a great match for the material and embodies one of the most important aspects of any new comic: accessibility. I don't know that it has the hook of Y the Last Man, but I'll stick with it for a while. In reality I'd much rather have seen this as a graphic novel. They're going to do that anyway, so I really don't know why Vertigo doesn't just cut to the chase. It is a risk, but if the product is good enough to be a Vertigo monthly, it's good enough to be a self contained book.
Monday, May 15, 2006
Saturday eve I partook of a unique LA tradition of recent years, Cemetery Screenings. Down in Hollywood, at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery, folks can come set up on one of the lawns for a picnic and enjoy a classic film projected on a mausoleum wall. It might seem a little creepy, but it was a cool crowd and a neat way to spend the night outdoors.
The screening we saw was for Alfred Hitchcock's The Birds, which is a classic for a reason, it's just a plain great film no matter what you want to read (or not read) into it. Being with a big crowd, there were alot of moments that got everyone laughing, albeit for reasons that date the film-- but everyone couldn't help but acknowledge the skill of one of our master filmmakers as tension grew and an eerie fate befell the sleepy town of Bodega Bay.
The projection was surprisingly sharp and it wasn't hard to be mesmerized by the stunning Tippi Hedren, whether seductively coy or being pecked to death by thousands of birds. No one ever said Hitchcock didn't know what he was doing.
Lots of great movie caps, photos, and tidbits: Cinema Astoria, The Birds.
Friday, May 12, 2006
I didn't know If I was going to write about all the different games I got excited about, some were obvious and some were a surprise. My biggest surprise was that I was excited at all, I felt games have been in kind of a lull with very few "shining" titles coming around on the home consoles. For every Dragon Quest 8, Shadow of the Colossus, and God of War there seemed to be dozens of care-less titles. Now I think with the Wii, DS, and PS3 (and even 360) there is some really neat stuff headed our way for the new HDTV.
But the one company at this years expo that left the biggest impression was definitely Square. They've done something we've all wished for years-- taken the "Final" out of the Final Fantasy series of games and expanded the game worlds of our favorite titles. By Leveraging the incredible casts and stories of previous games, Square somehow rises above "sequelitis" and instead has created compelling gaiden experiences-- side stories that expand on original fiction. Along with Enix and its own Dragon Quest universe, Square pretty much has a lock on the Action RPG genre as far as games I really want to play.
Final Fantasy XII
Of course I'm waiting for this to satisfy my RPG appetite. I loved getting to play Dragon Quest 8 earlier this year, but it's been a really long time between FF games and I want my fix! Actually, DQ8 shipped with a demo of FF12, and I wasn't really that thrilled. They've really changed the combat system and I didn't get into it as much as I thought. There was new areas of the game to play at the show, and it looks like its coming along. I don't know how much more tweaking is involved but I've learned to trust Square in this matter. What can be certain is an epic storyline and beautiful art. The FF12 environment is fully 3D with a free camera, which kinda hit on the poly counts. This was very noticeable when seen playing next to Dirge of Cerebus, which was crazy good looking. Still I'm eagerly waiting for FF12's release.
Dirge of Cerebus
This is an offshoot of FF7, and the main character is that vampiric badass, Vincent Valentine. It's not an RPG, it's more of an action adventure like Devil May Cry. What you notice right away is how sharp it looks-- and it's running on that trusty PS2. The game looks amazing!! It's right up there with God of War as far as graphic quality, but it has the unmistakable flair of Squaresoft art and design. The gameplay was fast-paced, and I'm sure it's alot deeper than the demo was showing but running around as Vincent Valentine and tearing shit up sure was a blast.
Valkyrie Profile 2
The original Valkyrie Profile for the Playstation 1 was known for it's incredible character design and game art. The sequel delivers equally so and offers an update of the unique active combat system. Nothing takes turns, once combat starts you are in it to win it. The FX were awesome and the combat moves were really cool. It's all in a 3D world (the original was 2D) and I gotta say, like Dirge of Cerebus, the game looks awesome for a PS2. I shudder at the thought of what Square has in development for the PS3...
Final Fantasy III
Here was a treat, it's the original FF3, the one they never localized for the US those many years back. Except this time its for the DS and it's been completely remade. It has all new art for the overworld and the character battles are in 3D, not unlike the style the original FF7 spawned. It looks great, sometimes I don't think the DS pushed 3D like the PSP, but it was a perfect match for the style of FF.
Final Fantasy V + VI Advance
Basically continuing the outroll of the original FF games for the Gameboy Advance. With an install base of 800 bajillion, the GBA market is hard to ignore. Throw in updates of the classic FF games in all thier 16-bit glory and it's a nice pair to add to the collection. No doubt the future may see the true FF anthology for the PS3, or maybe 3D upgrades like FF3.
Man this is just wild. There was a super elaborate animated introduction played on the big screens that then cut to DS gameplay-- I can hardly describe it. The game is set around the infamous slimes of the Dragon Quest world, and head-to-head combat with huge anthropomorphized tanks. Very cutesy, but it did look fun. I think I can take a pass, but it was just one of those inherently Japanese offerings I had to mention it.
Thursday, May 11, 2006
What I came away with from this year's E3 was that America has nothing on Japan. All the cool games were from the people you'd expect, Capcom, Square, Namco... none of the US companies had anything that exciting. All the US games were licenses for sports and movies. Not all of them, but all the big ones. Walking around the Square booth was just one screen after another of "When does that come out?" The most amazing thing was how awesome the PS2 games were looking with the PS3 just around the corner...
The PS3 was impressive, it was way more interesting and had more to offer than the 360. I'd like a 360, I don't really need one, but I sure as hell want a PS3. The biggest drawback to that statement is that it'll be a hell of an investment, because you'll need a new TV to get all it has to offer. The shit is sharp and it likes the HD.
Sony had the overall largest presence, but it was cumulative because they had whole areas dedicates to the PS3, the PS2, and PSP. The PSP section was really cool because it had all these sitting areas designed like "PSP Opportunities." Subway, airplane seating, dorm room, and each seat had a PSP for someone to play. They were really pushing it.
As a single presence, Nintendo had the largest area, most of which was a theater that was invite only (boo). They were also really pushing their portable, the DS, and I got to say I'd rather have a DS than a PSP. Nintendo pretty much bitch slapped me with it's offering of titles and of course the Revolu-- I mean, "Wii." Damn you Nintendo! However, most of Japan's heavy hitters were fronting for PS2 and 3. By the way, Konami and it's footage of Metal Gear 4 was awesome.
There was a rumor that E3 Management cracked down on the "booth babe," an E3 tradition as old as exploiting women. There was noticeably less of that going around, but they were there in a fine example of quality vs. quantity.
Of course there was tons more to the show, I'm still processing it all. Blizzard showed the new races and footage from the World of Warcraft expansion, a deluge of other online games were shown, next-gen PC videocards were hocked, mobile/phone games were featured alongside consoles... Okay, okay I know you want the pics!
All pictures posted HERE!
Wednesday, May 10, 2006
Videogames and comics in the same day? Good thing I'm so god-damned handsome.
Alex Ross Green Lantern figure
Yeah, yeah, 52. I dunno, I'll give it a try, it might be good and I like the concept of a weekly book. But I'll know within a few issues how it shapes up and if I'll stick with it. It may be a thing where certain weeks will be more interesting than others as it focuses on one character or another.
Yesterday morning when I was down at the convention center to pick up my E3 badge, there was this guy doing an elaborate chalk painting on the lobby floor.
I tried to take a decent picture of it today, because it was pretty cool. One of those forced perspective drawings that looks all trippy and dimensional when viewed from the right angle. Unfortunately the correct vantage point was completly obscured by a giant flat screen tv-- which showed the painting from the correct vantage point. Sheesh.
Full E3 report to come!
Tuesday, May 09, 2006
E3 is this week, and thousands gather to eyeball the state of the videogame market and all the insanity that ensues at this tentpole event. At best I'll be able to provide photos of booth babes and some of the more spectacular displays. At worst I'll fall into devastating self-reflection as I ponder the revulsive excess of my whorish industry.
Wednesday, May 03, 2006
Okay, okay, I'm a geek.
That's because I was there. Do you understand me, people?
I was there.
Star Wars orgininal theatrical release on DVD this September.
Labels: Star Wars
OMG! Finite Crisis!!
Y the Last Man
Well I went and read Crisis #7, so, spoilers:
It wasn't as bad as I'd expected, but it was still a tad on the ridiculous side. It also clears up once and for all what I have suspected all along: Geoff Jones has bamboozled us all and taken the reigns of an entire fictional universe. It's right there in the book! Witness these lines from Superboy Prime and draw your own conclusions.
"You have to understand why I'm doing this!"
"Understand, Superboy? You're willing to destroy everything and everyone to feel what? Special? Needed?"
"I am special! I'm the only one who can rescue this messed up universe! I'm the only one who knows how to make it right!"
Maybe I'm reading too much into it. Maybe. Anyways, Superboy (Conner Kent) is dead and alot of others are injured. Black Adam rips off Amazo's head, Bane breaks the back of some dude I don't recognize, some Green Lanterns bite it. Batman almost shoots Alex Luthor in the head but Wonder Woman convinces him not to. Bart Allen returns as the Flash but has used up all the speed force, and then declares that the only Flash left is-- Jay Garrick, the Golden Age Flash! Meanwhile, Superman and Earth 1 Superman fly Superboy Prime through the red sun of Krypton and subsequently beat the shit out of him. But not before Earth 1 Superman dies and Superman loses his powers from all the latent Kryptonite. Superboy Prime's fate is left a bit in the air, as he's only shown locked up by Green Lanterns. Oh, and the Joker shoots Alex Luthor several times, but off panel so we don't really know his fate. The book ends with Batman, Wonder Woman, and Superman going on sabattical, and a teaser image of sorts of all the heroes that will be filling in. I have to admit the new Batwoman looks pretty sweet.
So that's Crisis. It's over and we can all get on with our lives. Crisis was obviously meant to bring in new readers and invigorate existing books as well as new titles. What I think has happened, for me, is that I've got a great excuse to buy less DC because I'm not nearly as vested in the characters as I once was. Crisis was an all-too-drawn-out event that was botched in more places than one, trying to recapture past excitement instead of creating something new. And in any number of years time, they're going to do it all over again.