Posts Tagged ‘comic books’

I made a joke in the comments on THIS POST, at the Toast, about how I would like to watch a movie that was just Heather Lagenkamp and Jamie Lee Curtis going around and solving mysteries, but then I started to think about it and actually this is basically a completely amazing idea that I will now elaborate.

The premise of Final Girls, Inc., is that our heroines have formed what is essentially a private-detective agency, except instead of going around from town to town and fighting and killing monsters, they go around in search of other “final girls” — people who have survived horrific encounters with the supernatural — and help them cope with the trauma and put their lives back together.

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I am going to write about Ghost Rider, now, because you know, whatever man. I grew up reading comics in the nineties, when Ghost Rider enjoyed a renewed popularity, and he (along with Wolverine) was a part of that sort of angsty-violent-anti-hero era of superheroes that teenaged boys are always digging on because when you turn fourteen it’s kind of not cool to be enthusiastic about things that are Nice.

Anyway, perhaps it’s a coincidence of when I was introduced, a peculiar kink in my own psychological history, but I love the hell out of Ghost Rider.  (Hahaha, pun.)

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It’s taken for granted that the artifacts of our culture are barometers for the zeitgeist, but just how true is it?  Are Superman’s portrayals in the comics indicative of changing national attitudes towards power, criminality, and patriotism?  Is Superman’s popularity as a character directly correspondent with social conservatism, or a liberal foreign policy?

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I have to write this, I guess, because Holland called his article “Holland’s take”, and that automatically implies that I’m going to have some different kind of a take.  And I guess I kind of do.  Not completely different, but I do think the position of “Just Don’t Buy It” skirts perilously close with “Everyone Shut Up and Let BUYING Decide,” which I’ve argued is a bullshit position.  And that makes me interested in the entire nature of this Before Watchmen conversation.

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So, Chris Sims –of ComicsAlliance and Invincible Super-Blog fame — is working on a new comic called Dracula the Unconquered along with Steve Downer and Josh Krach.  The comic comes out at the end of October and, as a prelude to that, I — BRAAK! — was privileged to interview Mr. Sims and discuss some important issues.  Mainly about the comic, though, we didn’t talk about the merits of ontological determinism or anything.  Some good stuff, though.  Here is the interview!

(And some art, mostly pilfered from Steve Downer’s twitter feed — @downersteve)

Returned to life ten years after being chained in the Tower of London, the former Lord of the Vampires and his new assistant, Thalia, battle to stop their enemies from unleashing an undead army on the world. Action Age Comics proudly presents an adventure into the heart of horror: Dracula the Unconquered!

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DCU Online

Posted: January 31, 2011 in Braak, comic books
Tags: , , ,

I have started playing DCU Online, which is a massively-multiplayer online role-playing game that takes place in the DC comics universe. So, you make a superhero or a supervillain, and you fly around and start punching people. It’s pretty cool, but there are some caveats.

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Hand of danger page 5 previewHand of Danger is here, and ready to…uh…you know.  Dangerize.  Things.

DANGER!

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punisher-4I have two birthday traditions. 1) I do not work on my birthday. I am neither a surgeon nor a farmer, so I’m pretty sure they don’t need me. With my day off, 2) I go to the movies.

Now, this year I was spoilt for choice, right? I could’ve seen Philip Seymour Hoffman aim for another Oscar nod in like three different movies. Or I could’ve seen Keanu Reeves finally, FINALLY play a stonefaced alien. Or…hey, who doesn’t love Jason Statham? So I decided to split the difference.

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godInteresting article from Slate discussing a study showing how religion affects morality. Maybe not so shockingly, based on the study’s findings, religious people tend to behave more morally responsibly than atheists. Religious people also feel better about themselves than atheists. On account of the doing so much good for each other, apparently, coupled with the crippling cynicism that supposedly accompanies atheism.

In the United States.

Outside, in say, Sweden, where religion isn’t so intrinsically bound with positive ethical codes, atheists are plentiful, help their fellow man, and feel pretty darn good about themselves. Which pretty much throws a wrench into the whole study, doesn’t it?

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posted by Chris Braak

I wanted to say some things about comics, and about Alan Moore. I was in the bookstore the other day (in between hanging out with some socialist revolutionaries and waiting for my friend’s wedding party at the Drake Hotel to start), and I found myself with some time to kill. I did what any sensible person with a few hours to spend in a bookstore would do–I sat down, and I read some things.

In particular, I read Paul de Fillipo’s Top Ten: Beyond the Farthest Precinct, a sequel, of sorts, to Alan Moore’s original Top Ten series, about the police force in a city made up entirely of ex-superheroes (called, for mysterious- though- probably- copyright- related reasons “science-heroes”).

Now, it’s been a while since I read the original Top Ten, but I remember enjoying it quite a lot. It sort of struck that double chord of empathy and intellectual interest, I think. But like I said, it’s been a couple years (six, I think), so my memory was hazy, and I’ve been conscious, lately, of a tendency to lionize Alan Moore in my memory. That, you know, maybe he’s not all he’s cracked up to be.

I read this Paul De Fillipo comic book, and I thought to myself, “meh, this isn’t really that great, but maybe the original wasn’t that great, either.”

Then, I picked up Alan Moore’s Top Ten: The Forty-Niners, which is his own new Top Ten book. It’s kind of a prequel, set sixty or so years before the original Top Ten, during the founding of the city of “science-heroes.”

Compared to Alan Moore’s book, Paul de Fillipo’s is embarrassingly poor.

In literally every respect, Beyond the Farthest Precinct is an inferior piece of writing. Character, pacing, plot, dialogue–I would be personally ashamed to have written something like this, and to have it necessarily compared to Alan Moore’s own work on the subject.

Reading both of them reminded me what Top Ten was like in the first place.

See, the original series had characters with complex lives–Dust Devil had a mother who needed him to take care of her. This was a minor plot point and a relative bit of color. Jack Phantom was a lesbian–again, character color, a little plot, not much more to it than that. Shock-headed Peter was–I guess “racist” is the right word–racist against robots.

In de Fillipo’s version of the comic, though, these relatively minor characteristics become the defining elements of the characters. Jack Phantom mostly just talks about how she likes women. Dust Devil is constantly receiving calls about his mother. GET IT? SEE? Shock-headed Peter keeps finding extremely irrelevant times to bring up his hatred of robots. GET IT? IT’S BECAUSE HE HATES ROBOTS!

Of course, you get back to Top Ten: The Forty-Niners, and it’s all different. Jetlad is just realizing he’s a homosexual, and this is a big part of the story. It is, in fact, fully a third of the story. It is a characteristic explored through motivated action and language, developed by the plot, instead of inexpertly shoehorned into it. And it’s also not his only defining characteristic–or, rather, being a homosexual isn’t something defined simply by him saying that he likes men a lot. He struggles with his own homophobia, with being attracted to another man, at the same time trying to cope in a new city that he barely understands.

The original Top Ten, and Top Ten: The Forty-Niners are both devoid of the traditional comic-book tropes, taking their plotting and structure from mystery and police procedural novels. There were no secret destinies, not even any “this could be the end of the universe” shit. They were ordinary people who had super-powers, and who were doing their ordinary jobs. Really, many of them didn’t even have very good superpowers, and Alan Moore made no attempt to have them unlock new, “better” powers. Everyone just got what they got, and if your power was that you had a box full of tiny robots, you just made the best of it.

IN FACT! One of the most poignant moments in the original Top Ten is when the Medical Examiner has to tell a tertiary character (Andy “Airbag” Soames) that he has a deadly sexually-transmitted disease. This has no essential relation to the plot; it is a simple side-story about an ordinary person suffering from his poor choices. He is a casualty–in some ways responsible, in some ways blameless–in the constant struggle between life and death that characterizes every world. We never find out what happens to him, though we assume that he dies.

But no! It turns out (in Beyond the Farthest Precinct), the sexually-transmitted disease mutates Andy into a superhuman psychic interdimensional skull monster! And he is going to DESTROY THE UNIVERSE unless one of the other characters EMBRACES HER SECRET DESTINY and discovers POWERS SHE NEVER KNEW SHE HAD!

The Forty-Niners, again by contrast, is a novel about a gang war. Sure, some people in the gang war are vampires, the police have superpowers, there are guys with awesome jet planes, but it’s still just about a gang war. It’s the same dirty, gritty, regular old living world that we’ve always had. Nothing is different just because there are Nazis and vampires and jets everywhere, and that’s what makes it good.

So, to sum up:

Top Ten–excellent. Read it.

Top Ten: The Forty-Niners–excellent, read it.

Top Ten: Beyond the Farthest Precinct–we’d all be better off pretending this never happened.

Alan Moore–knows his fucking business.

Paul de Fillipo–I understand is a widely-respected scifi writer.