Graphic Novelties

AUTHOR'S NOTE: This blog has been superseded by my Culture Shock blog.

Saturday, March 11, 2006

With great power comes great responsibility

University of Charleston basketball player Rachel Pike explains why Spider-Man is her hero:
"In the second movie, he is struggling with taking on the responsibility of protecting the city from villains," Pike explained. "I felt the same way because a bunch of my friends were coming to me for help for a lot of their problems. It was stressful for me. I was questioning whether it was worth it.

"He did the same thing. Then, he talked to his uncle (who died in the first movie) during a dream. His uncle told him it was his gift and his curse, then told him he is lucky to have it and needs to use it.

"That kind of refreshed me. I felt like I was Spider-Man because I was taking on all of these other people's problems and I had my own problems and it was interfering with my life, but it was worth it because those people are important to me and I wouldn't be me if I weren't helping them."

Yaoi zowie picks up on the growing popularity in America of yaoi manga:
Original English-language manga might not be taking firm root just yet, but there's little doubt that another bold idea is: yaoi. That word, pronounced "yow-ee," is a Japanese acronym for a series of words that can be translated as "no peak, no climax, no meaning." What it refers to is a burgeoning subgenre of guy-guy romance comics, written by women for a female audience. The New York Comic-Con even held a yaoi panel called Brokeback Manga, hosted by Kai-Ming Cha of PW Comics Week, who wore an "I (Heart)Boys" T-shirt for the occasion.

MTV on "V" reports on the politics of V for Vendetta.

It's not easy being green

Former TV Hulk Lou Ferrigno is suing his brother over using the family name for a fitness equipment store in Stewartsville, N.J.:
It is in part the store's liberal use of green --— the color of the Incredible Hulk's skin -- that has the former world champion bodybuilder and television star seeing red.

The lawsuit, filed in January in U.S. District Court in New Jersey, points out the color of the store's awning, the color of much of the store's interior and the color of the store's business cards are green. Further, the lawsuit says the store -- named Ferrigno Fitness Equipment --— has a green wall of photos featuring Lou Ferrigno in various bodybuilding poses and appearing as the Incredible Hulk.

In addition to monetary compensation, Lou Ferrigno asks the court to bar his brother from using the name ''Ferrigno Fitness'' or from using the ''confusingly similar'' splashes of green inside and outside the store.

V on "dangerous ground"?

The Scotsman ponders how V for Vendetta could change the debate (there's a debate?) about terrorism:
At the heart of the film is the problem of V's status. Is he a freedom fighter or a terrorist? And to what extent do these definitions depend on context, and who is doing the defining? Like the planners of 9/11, V knows that history can turn on the destruction of a symbolically significant building; unlike them, he is not interested in taking innocent life. Just mentioning al-Qaeda and V in the same sentence makes (director James) McTeigue wince. "That's dangerous ground," he says.

Blinded by science

The Guardian reviews (very briefly) the new book The Physics of Superheroes by James Kakalios.

Alan Moore, Alan Moore, dum dum dum dum dum

The more news outlets like The New York Times report on Alan Moore and his various fights with DC Comics, Hollywood, and his barber, the harder it is for me to sympathize with Moore. The Times quotes Moore's V for Vendetta collaborator David Lloyd:
Mr. Lloyd, the illustrator of "V for Vendetta," also found it difficult to sympathize with Mr. Moore's protests. When he and Mr. Moore sold their film rights to the graphic novel, Mr. Lloyd said: "We didn't do it innocently. Neither myself nor Alan thought we were signing it over to a board of trustees who would look after it like it was the Dead Sea Scrolls."

And then there is Paul Levitz's response to Moore's recent demand that DC remove his name from all future editions of his DC Comics works:
DC ... said it would be inappropriate to take Mr. Moore's name off of any of his works. "This isn't an adaptation of the work, it's not a derivative work, it's not a work that's been changed in any fashion from how he was happy with it a minute ago," said Mr. Levitz.

The infamous and immortal Bettie Page

The Los Angeles Times interviews pin-up queen and inspiration for countless Dave Stevens comic-book covers Bettie Page, now 82 years old, living in seclusion in Southern California, and finally making a good living from all of those photos of her in various states of bondage and/or undress. Others, meanwhile, continue to ponder her seemingly timeless appeal:
During her brief career, she became the obsession of thousands of men -- a fact that mystifies her to this day: "I have no idea why I'm the only model who has had so much fame so long after quitting work."

Writer Harlan Ellison suggested an answer: "There are certain women, even certain men, in whose look there is a certain aesthetic that hits a golden mean. Bettie is that. Marilyn is that."

Richard Foster, one of her two biographers, called her "the trendsetter in American sexuality."

Playboy magazine founder Hugh Hefner put it another way.

"Exactly what captures the imagination of people in terms of pop culture is something hard to define," Hefner said.

"But in Bettie's case, I'd say it's a combination of wholesome innocence and fetish-oriented poses that is at once retro and very modern."

Friday, March 10, 2006

Aquaman surfaces in Florida

Miami Today reports that filming on The CW's Aquaman TV pilot has begun.

The final frontier

Jen Chaney reviews the new special-edition DVD of Free Enterprise for The Washington Post and doesn't like it quite as much as I do. The film stars William Shatner as himself (more or less) and Will & Grace's Eric McCormack.

My Freakazoid stream-of-consciousness moment

ICv2 checks in on Narwain Publishing's attempts to crack the tough U.S. comic-book market:
Narwain's line started by concentrating on science fiction and horror, but has also published all ages and crime books, and is increasingly focused on horror and noir titles. Most of the books are company owned; the soon-to-be released Zombie-Sama (created by Billy Tucci) is an exception.

Narwain, huh? Is anyone else reminded of the time Freakazoid tried to teach his audience "conversational Norwegian"? "Happy little Narwhal."

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Go! Comi announces August titles

New manga publisher Go! Comi (no, that's not a typo) has announced two new titles set to debut in August:
LOS ANGELES, CA, March 8, 2006 -- Upstart manga publisher Go! Comi announced the acquisition of two new licenses this week: NIGHT OF THE BEASTS by Chika Shiomi and AFTER SCHOOL NIGHTMARE by Setona Mizushiro -- the manga-ka of the hit manga X-DAY!

NIGHT OF THE BEASTS A tale of romance and supernatural action, NIGHT OF THE BEASTS is the story of high school tough girl Aria, notorious for taking on her school's worst bullies. But that's nothing compared to what happens when she finds herself inexplicably drawn to the demonically possessed Sakura, a guy who would as readily rip apart his own parents as seek her healing embrace. NIGHT OF THE BEASTS is the work of Chika Shiomi, whose series CANON and KEY JACK have been major hits in Japan. The series runs six volumes. (Rated Older Teen for scenes of intense violence; MSRP $10.99)

AFTER SCHOOL NIGHTMARE Ichijo Mashiro must struggle to keep his life-long secret -- that he is not truly a "he" nor entirely a "she" -- when he's enlisted by a mysterious nurse at his elite prep school to enter into a nightmare world where his body and soul are put at the mercy of his worst enemies: his classmates! AFTER SCHOOL NIGHTMARE is the latest manga from Setona Mizushiro, creator of the controversial X-DAY. The series is currently running in Japan, and has four volumes thus far. (Rated Older Teen for violence, mature themes and disturbing images.)

Go! Comi Creative Director Audry Taylor comments: "We are thrilled to present these two manga to the American public. The artwork in NIGHT OF THE BEASTS is some of the most gorgeous I'’ve ever seen, and the action sequences are breathtaking. AFTER SCHOOL NIGHTMARE is Mizushiro-sensei's most beautiful, profound, and disturbing series yet."”

Adds Go! Editorial Director Jake Forbes: "“When we launched our first series last October, Go! Comi immediately gained a reputation among fans for having some of the finest production values in the industry, and we're continuing that tradition with these two new series. Rest assured that NIGHT OF THE BEASTS and AFTER SCHOOL NIGHTMARE will have the same impeccable image-reproduction, literate and accurate translations, and exciting extras that we'’re known for."

Both titles will be released in late August. In the meantime, fans can expect further information on the series, as well as previews, to be posted soon on Go! Comi's web site.

Stan Lee still creating superheroes

Stan Lee shows no sign of retiring. His new company, Pow! Entertainment, is developing a slate of characters for film, television, DVD and video games. Notice anything missing from that list?
"Comic books would probably be the last thing on the list of what we'll do at this point," Lee said. "But wherever a comic book is warranted, we're more than capable of doing them."

Among Lee's projects is a direct-to-DVD animated feature starring ex-Beatle Ringo Starr. "Ringo becomes a superhero," Lee said. "The story will contain humor, music and wild adventure. Ringo will do the voiceover on it. He might even do a bit of singing now that we've auditioned him and found out he can actually sing."

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

That stupid "Superman" curse

The death of Dana Reeve, widow of Christopher Reeve, has the New York Post speculating about the infamous "Curse of Superman."

Gaiman falls into "Black Hole"

Neil Gaiman (Sandman) and Roger Avery are writing the screenplay for Black Hole, the film adaptation of Charles Burns' graphic novel of the same name. Alexandre Aja (High Tension) will direct the Paramount Pictures/MTV Films project.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

... And he has a plan

Greg Pak discusses writing Dynamite Entertainment's new Battlestar Galactica comic-book series.

Reading is fundamental

MangaBlog responds to what I thought were Al Kahn's self-evidently uninformed comments about manga being "a problem." Here's a sample:
[G]rowth in children'’s books was close to 20 percent in 2005. Also notable is the fact that the best selling title of the year was Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. I suggest Mr. Kahn attend one of the midnight release parties for the Potter books; he'’d learn a thing or two about kids and reading.

More crime and comics

The Boston Herald reports that "The Big Apple bouncer who has surfaced as a suspect in the despicable killing of Imette St. Guillen answers to several aliases, at least three of which have ties to the fantasy world of comic books." The story continues:
The comic book link is bizarre to say the least, and, in the words of one comic-book industry insider, 'truly disturbing."

Littlejohn, 41, a 5-foot-7-inch, 210-pound career convict from Queens, provided muscle for the Soho saloon The Falls, where St. Guillen, 24, a 1999 Boston Latin School honors graduate, was last seen alive on Feb. 25. According to New York City police sources, he was asked to escort her from the bar around the 4 a.m. closing time.

His alter ego "Jonathan Blaze" -- the name Littlejohn was imprisoned under until two years ago for helping knock over a Long Island bank at gunpoint -- is the true name of the Marvel Comics character "Ghost Rider," soon to be a film starring Nicholas Cage.

Dr. Wertham, please call your office....

Comic book villains, part 2

Here is today's follow-up story on the Athens, Ala., comic-book shop that was burglarized over the weekend. Among the books stolen were a copy of Amazing Fantasy No. 15 and a copy of Spider-Man No. 1.

Monday, March 06, 2006

Manga is a "problem"?

ICv2 has posted a report on its Graphic Novel Conference, which was held in New York just prior to New York Comic-Con. And according to Al Kahn, chief executive officer of 4Kids Entertainment, "manga is a problem":
I think manga is a problem because we're in a culture that is not a reading culture. Kid's today don't read, they read less today. In every survey, we find that they're watching more television, they're on the Internet more, and that content, although being king, is very disposable. Because the way content gets put out now, it gets put out free. We're streaming most of our shows. The reason why we're streaming them is we want kids to watch them as much as they can, and get vested in the concept and go out and buy products. The products ain't free. The content is going to be free. And manga in my mind is trying to put a square peg in a round hole in the U.S. It will never be a big deal here, for the kids that are in the computer or the Internet generation, because they're not going to read. They haven't read, and they're not going to start now.

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Manga, manga, manga

The Birmingham (Ala.) News runs its obligatory manga story, about three years late.

T for Time

V for Vendetta gets the glossy treatment from corporate sister Time magazine, which asks if a popcorn movie can be political and then looks at the "heroic terrorist" behind the mask.

Comic book villains

The comic-book store I frequent in Athens, Ala., was burglarized late Friday or early Saturday, with the thief (or thieves) taking several Golden and Silver Age comic books, including two early issues of The Amazing Spider-Man, as well as both boxes and single cards of Magic: The Gathering:
ATHENS --— A sweater that helped someone break into a comic-book store could help Athens police catch criminals.

Sgt. Trevor Harris said someone broke into All Star Comics on Jefferson Street in downtown Athens between 11 p.m. Friday and 9 a.m. Saturday.

Harris said the thief wrapped the sweater around his hand to break a window and unlock the back door.

Investigators believe more than one person was involved, he said.

The thieves took thousands of dollars worth of merchandise but left the sweater at the back door.

The medium-size black sweater has a white stripe, and the brand name is Sonoma.

"Because of the size, we think it's someone younger," Harris said. "It's someone that's been in the store before. They went for something specific and knew the interior of the store."

Harris said they took comic books and collectors' magazines that cost hundreds of dollars each.

They stole about 100 Magic trading cards worth $4 to $12 each. Harris said Magic is a card game, "similar to Pokemon but for older kids."

The owner still was compiling a list of missing items Saturday evening, so Harris said he did not have an estimated value of the stolen merchandise.

"We figure they want to sell the items since they went to this much trouble," Harris said.

Anyone who recognizes the sweater, saw anyone around the store after hours, or has other information can call (256) 233-8700 and ask for an investigator.

Obviously, comics dealers in Alabama and surrounding states should be on the lookout for anyone trying to unload Golden and Silver Age comics on the cheap. I'll post a list of the missing books when and if I get one.

I for Irony

Matt Drudge, who, let's face it, is nothing but the world's most glorified (and vilified) link-blogger, can't stay away from the pre-release hype for V for Vendetta, linking to a Variety story on how Warner Bros., the studio behind the DC/Vertigo Comics flick, is "playing it cool" during the countdown to the film's release March 17:
In these edgy, post-9/11 times, how does a studio handle a movie featuring a terrorist-like hero who blows up the British Parliament building?

They call him a freedom fighter.

As an aside, the Variety story goes on to mention a proposed law in the U.K. that maybe, possibly could have been a spot of bother for Warner Bros.:
In the U.K., "Vendetta" has come into the spotlight in recent days thanks to a new measure passed by the House of Commons that would outlaw the "glorification" of terrorism.

There's no indication so far that the law could impact the release of "Vendetta," but studio execs must have been relieved when the House of Lords rejected the proposal late last week.

Alan Moore may have disowned the film based on the graphic novel he authored, but even he probably appreciates, however darkly, the fact that his native country's knee-jerk reaction to V for Vendetta is to become more like the government the book and film criticize. He may even appreciate the irony that it was the stodgy old House of Lords that stayed New Labour's hand.

I'm making a list and checking it twice

Because I am the world's most obsessive compulsive comic book/superhero/cartoon geek, I'm compiling a list of every cartoon ever produced involving Marvel characters. Let me know if I missed one:

The Marvel Superheroes (1966)
Spider-Man (1967)
The Fantastic Four (1967)
The New Fantastic Four (1978)
Spider-Woman (1979, ABC)
Fred and Barney Meet the Thing (1979)
Spider-Man (1981)
Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends (1981-86, NBC)
The Incredible Hulk (1982, NBC)
Pryde of the X-Men (1989, 30 min. special)
X-Men (1992-97, Fox)
Spider-Man (1994, Fox)
The Fantastic Four (1994-96, Marvel Action Hour)
Iron Man (1994-96, Marvel Action Hour)
The Incredible Hulk (1996-97, UPN)
The Silver Surfer (1998, Fox)
Spider-Man Unlimited (1999, Fox)
Avengers (1999, Fox)
X-Men: Evolution (2000-03, The WB)
Spider-Man (2003, MTV)
Ultimate Avengers (2006, DVD)
Ultimate Avengers 2 (2006, DVD)
Iron Man (2006, DVD)
Fantastic Four (2006, Cartoon Network)
Doctor Strange (2007, DVD)