Sunday, July 20, 2014

Iron Man/Hulk drawing and commentary

One of the things I found most surprising about the first issue of the Avengers when I read it as part of the “Son of Origins” collection was the role of the Hulk.  In the preview, Stan Lee speaks of using Loki as a villain that could face a group of heroes.  But, in the story itself, Thor takes on Loki by himself while the rest of the team (Iron Man, Ant-Man, and the Wasp) fight…the Hulk!  Due to Loki’s trickery, everyone was, in fact, summoned to face the Hulk.  In the end, everyone is friends and the big green guy joins the group.  But just to show how little Bruce Banner’s alter ego fit in the team concept, he left at the end of issue two.  In issue four, he was replaced by Captain America, who tried to convince the Jade Giant to rejoin later in the teens or thereabouts. Therefore, despite being a founding member, the hulk has never hung around with the Avengers for long.

Which is why I drew this picture.  I think it shows the relationship between heroes such as Iron Man and the purple-pants wearing behemoth. You can’t be sure if Hulk will help you or smash you.  I guess you take the chance, because you definitely don’t want him fighting for the other side.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Art and Comment: Captain America & Bucky

I realize I haven’t posted anything on my blog here lately, so to make up for it today I thought I’d post some recent art I’ve been working on and comment on the characters or something. Maybe one new pic every day or two.

First up we have Captain America and his first sidekick, Bucky.  Bucky is a strange character to me.  Cap was created in a time when most adult heroes had teen sidekicks, and Joe Simon and Jack Kirby followed suit with Captain America, giving him a young protégé called Bucky.  Bucky was really Bucky Barnes, the company (Cap was in the army) mascot, who had inadvertently discovered Steve Rogers was really Captain America, and that led to him being trained to be Cap’s junior partner.  The funny thing is, while Cap had the Super Soldier Serum and an indestructible shield, Bucky just had a cool costume and a domino mask.  He really didn’t do much more than get captured, as shown on most of the early covers of Captain America Comics.  When Stan Lee brought Cap into the ’60 via suspended animation to join with the newly created Avengers, he revealed that Bucky had died during he and Cap’s last mission.

I think removing Bucky from the team was a good move, as him being alive didn’t add anything to Cap, but his death haunted Steve Rogers for years.  Bucky was mostly unknown when people like me started reading Avengers and Captain America comics in the ‘70s and ‘80s, and Captain America was one of Marvel’s greatest.  Still, I loved the rendition of Bucky and the old heroes in Roy Thomas’ Invaders comics in the’70s. Later, Bucky would return in a storyline that fans seemed to enjoy, but I still haven’t read.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

1989 and Batman

1989 was a very interesting year for me.  I spent most of the year in Long Beach, California working for the United States Navy.  I was discharged in August and then started my first year of college.  But the amazing thing about that year was the way Batmania has swept the nation.  It was amazing.  There were Batman things everywhere.  Shirts, hats, shoes, posters, toys, games, you name it.  In fact, my Navy buddies (Hi Carl, Tony, Rick and Mike!) and I made a game out of it.  We noticed so many people wearing batman paraphernalia when we were at amusement parks in California that we decided to count how many people there were showing their Bat-fandom.  I forget our exact count now, but let’s just say it was more than I’ve ever seen of a group of unrelated people wearing the same theme clothing outside of military uniforms!

The Batmania was in anticipation of the upcoming Batman movie, and continued well after the movie premiered.  It brought a lot of nice attention to comics about Batman and other characters, and I think had a lot to do with the increase in comic sales later in the 1990s.  It was nice to finally get some media attention for comic writers and artists as real writers and artists, not silly creators of kids’ stuff. In fact, I remember having a conversation outside of the movie theater with a guy who worked for the Entertainment Tonight TV show about the changing demographics of comic book readers.

By the way: the actual Batman movie?  Yuck!  I was so terribly disappointed. It’s hard to give a full review, since I’ve tried very hard to forget about it in the intervening years, but I can give some lowlights:  They wrecked the Batman costume, which started a trend of movies ignoring what comic book costumes look like originally.  Michael Keaton was a horrible pick as Batman, and looked like a total fool as Bruce Wayne.  The actions scenes were weak, and Batman never showed any ability to actually fight.  Finally, the movie can’t decide if it’s a period piece, taking place in the 40’s era as half the costumes/vehicles appear, or a modern story.  There are several sequels to this movie that are all worse than the original.  It would be soon after seeing Batman that I figured out I don’t like any movies director Tim Burton ever does.

(These images have nothing to do with the movie, but I can't bear looking at the movie images!)

Eventually, Batman would return to cinema in the excellent Batman Begins and its two sequels (I like the third installment best). Those are good movies to see.  I highly recommend those!

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Reviews: "Vanessa's Pain" and "Vanessa Runs"

“Vanessa’s Pain” continues the story of the spin-off series main character as she tries to figure out what to do now that she has left home. It seems obvious that she neither wants to go home nor go back to Kyle’s house, but she wanders about Toronto trying to find something else.  Like “Vanessa Alone” this episode begins with a dialogue-free segment highlighting Vanessa’s wanderings.  The creepiest event in this beginning is when Vanessa eyes some discarded food on top of a trash can, and she looks at it longingly.  This scene is excellently acted and filmed, as it told the story perfectly without the use of dialogue.  Vanessa is seriously considering taking the food, when a passerby throws a broken umbrella on top of it, and the temptation is gone.  We know now that Vanessa does not have any food, and apparently brought no money, so is hungry, alone, and desperate. Then she happens to spy Rose on her double-date with Claire, Nathan, and Angela.

This is why she goes back to Kyle’s house, though she’s obviously weary.  Unfortunately, the only conscious person at the house is Kyle himself. Kayla is there, unconscious and in a state of undress.  This leads to the second creepy scene in the episode, as Kyle tries to sweet-talk his way into Vanessa’s pants.  He tries to convince her that she has no family or friends, but he can help her.  His help includes some drugs.  When she refuses, Kyle resorts to force, but Vanessa manages to fight her way out of the house, and on to…

“Vanessa Runs”, the next episode in which a distraught Vanessa runs away from Kyle’s house and spends the night on a park bench.  She is then bothered by a really creepy looking older guy.  Boy is he creepy!  Anyway, this results in her deciding she needs to find someone she can trust to help her out.  She then ends up in the place I, and probably many others, was hoping she would go after leaving home: her brother’s place.  If you remember, back in season 2, it was mentioned that Vanessa’s older brother married a Muslim woman and was excommunicated from the family for doing so.  It’s one of the reasons Vanessa has had such a problem accepting her sexual orientation.  She had predicted how her parents would react to news that she wasn’t straight (way back in episode 2) and she was absolutely correct.  It’s a sad reality that many parents can’t accept their own children as they really are, but have a specific idea of what their children should be and that idea cannot be violated.

Which is why it is so important that the first thing Vanessa says to her brother is “I’m bisexual”. (Well, after “Big Ginge”.) She has come to her brother to get some kind of family support that she is okay despite not being what her parents want her to be. She fears that he’ll report her whereabouts to their parents, which is probably why she didn’t come here first.  However, I think he’ll keep quiet as long as Vanessa says to, for support and fear that she’ll take off again. The family dynamic also plays out in the news that Vanessa is going to be an aunt, but her parents haven’t been told yet. We leave Vanessa in some comfort, though the future is still very unsure.

Vanessa’s story will continue on the 3rd section of season 3, and it is bound to be less dark than it has been so far.  It has been a sad tale, full of darkness and fear, but a story that I think needed to be told.  As I said before, I never really thought about the demographics of runaways, and I’m very glad Jason chose to tell this story.  It reminds me, and hopefully other viewers, of hoe bad things can really get and why it’s so important for us to be supportive in our lives and active in promoting supportive behaviors from others.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Reviews" Vanessa Alone" and "Vanessa Lost"

I am going to start discussing Vanessa’s Story, the web-series spin-off of Out With Dad.  First, I’d like to make some general comments about the series. First, I think it was a great idea to shoot the series in black-and-white.  It isn’t something I was expecting, and it really sets the tone for the series.  The anguish is evident in Vanessa as her world is empty and cold, and our perception of that world matches her feelings.  Also, the entire idea of doing Vanessa’s story-line as a spin-off series took me by surprise. Like the musical episode, this shows that Jason is being bold and taking chances with his creation.  I really like the willingness he has to mess with things.  It keeps the series from becoming formulaic in any sense, and these chances have been very successful in my view.  Finally, I must note how much this series shows the ability of Lindsey Middleton to bring the role of Vanessa to life. This series is a testament to her acting abilities. And her producing as well.  Though I don’t really know what a producer does.  I’ll have to research that someday.

The first episode of Vanesa’s Story is called “Vanessa Alone” and tells the tale of her first day as a runaway.  The episode begins with an extended montage of Vanessa wandering around Toronto and her parents at home trying to contact her and arguing.  During this the only sound is some creepy music.  It is over 3 minutes into the episode before we have dialogue. Together, these elements really set the tone for the series.  The dialogue begins with the introduction of a new character, Kayla, another runaway that apparently attempts to help and befriend Vanessa. Vanessa gives Kayla half a sandwich, and Kayla gives Vanessa some information about places to stay the night.  Kayla also picks up on Vanessa’s sexuality quickly.  Jason noted in the written introduction to the series that a disproportionate amount of runaways are LGBT youth, something I’ve never thought about.  Vanessa soon finds herself at Kyle’s place, and has an interesting conversation about sexual identity, that includes some common views about bi-sexuality. Specifically, that bi-sexual people are gay people that are afraid to commit, but will get there eventually. The episode ends with Vanessa’s parents trying to decide if they should call the police or go visit Rose and Nathan to see if they know where Vanessa could be.

“Vanessa Lost” begins with Vanessa at Kyle’s house trying to sleep but scared out of her wits by some heated argument that Kayla tells us is between Kyle and Erica.  Kayla comforts Vanessa and the two kiss.  I’d say this is an important moment for Vanessa, as she is accepting her attraction towards other girls.  However, Kayla proves to be less of a friend than she seems as she disappears the next morning with Vanessa’s phone. However, Vanessa does have a nice conversation with Tracy about being Bi, and how it is a real thing.  I’d think the common misconceptions are covered in their conversation: the idea from last episode that bi is just a transition stage to being gay, and the idea that Bi is just a straight person experimenting. Tracy (and Jason and company by extension) shatter these misconceptions but if this would make Vanessa feel better she is then torn apart as Tracy describes a story that sounds very much like what Rose has been experiencing due to Vanessa’s reactions to Rose’s feelings for her. This is my favorite part in Vanessa’s story so far.  It really makes Vanessa see things from a different perspective, which is something we should all do now and then.  This episode also ends with a scene involving Vanessa’s parents, this time as they are talking to the police.  The conversation makes them understand a bit about how they pushed Vanessa away instead of helping her.  I noticed upon re-viewing this episode that the police officer’s face is never shown during this scene, which is a very effective decision as it keeps the camera on Vanessa’s parents and their reactions.  Robert Nolan and Wendy Glazier, who play the parents, do a great job in this series, and deserve mentioning. I've heard that it’s fun to play the villain, but in this case they are now villains that the viewer starts to feel sorry for. Great job!

Okay, I've gone on long enough for now.  I’ll write more at a later time.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Review: Lois and Clark- The New Adventures of Superman

Another program I recently decided to revisit is the classic TV series “Lois and Clark: the New Adventures of Superman” which ran on ABC for four seasons from 1993-1997.  I watched most of the episodes when they first aired and must say I also have enjoyed them the second time around!  For those of you who do not know, Lois and Clark told the story of Superman in a weekly format that concentrated on the characters and their interactions while they stopped some nefarious plot by some villain.  The special effects are rather primitive by today’s standards, which is one of the reason the plots are more character rather than action-driven.  However, this is done to a great success which I mostly contribute to the chemistry of the main characters, especially Teri Hatcher and Dean Cain as the title characters.

So let me discuss the characters first.  Lois is a strong and independent minded reporter, who tends to get in a lot of trouble.  A bit too much often, which gives Superman a chance to save her.  However, she does save herself from time to time, and never seems like Superman’s sidekick.  Teri Hatcher must be the best looking Lois ever, and I think she really nailed the part.  Truth is, I have a character in my Mutant Elf comic named after her!  Dean Cain does a good job as Clark and Superman.  He’s goofy when he’s trying to protect his secret identity, and strong and serious as Superman.  It can’t be easy to act in those tights, and to not make fun of the character, but Dean plays his dual roles very well.  My wife seems to especially like scenes when he’s shirtless.  I don’t understand that, since he’s out of costume, but whatever… The show took carries on the idea John Byrne started with his 1980’s Superman revamp in the comics and kept Clark’s parents alive, which works great as they give Clark people to talk to about his secret.  At the Daily Planet, Perry White and Jimmy Olsen are the mainstays, and make some nice, though limited contributions.

Now, about the stories:  The show used Lex Luthor as the steady bad guy in the first season, then started a villain-of-the-week format from season 2 on, though Lex does come back for a few episodes.  According to the DVD commentary, the show was revamped to be more kid-friendly after season 1, and I do think some aspects got more campy as time went on, though nowhere close to the 60’s Batman series.  The main story arc is the will-they-or-won’t-they relationship between Lois and Clark, which is handled very well.  There are a lot of big name guest stars, which also reminds me of the old Batman series, and I think some of the actors ham it up a bit much.  Also, I think you can get distracted if you think too much about the special effects.  As I noted above, they are not super-cgi effects, and sometimes you can tell that Dean is being lifted on a platform or the green-screen is goofy, but I think you have to suspend your disbelief and go with it.  Nothing in the show is as ridiculous as the glasses disguise for Clark.  If you can accept the dual identity, you should be able to accept the rest.

In conclusion, I’d encourage anyone who has never seen this series to check it out, and those of us who watched it long ago to revisit it.  It’s good, clean fun!

Friday, May 30, 2014

Reviews: "Double date with Dad" and "Pushed Out"

I now continue my analysis of the second part of season 3 of the award-winning webseries “Out With Dad”.  “Double Date with Dad” picks up where we left off, as Claire drags Rose to talk to Rose’s dad while he is on his date with Angela.  This inevitable first meeting between the daughter and Dad’s girlfriend is light and entertaining and every bit as good as I hoped it would be!

To start with, we have Angela and Claire encouraging the group to sit all together, while Dad and Daughter are reluctant to do so.  It fits the personalities perfectly, as we know Claire isn’t afraid of much, or going to consider the consequences of something until after she has committed to the idea.  Angela, as we saw in the first part of season 3, is anxious to meet Rose and a bit miffed that Nathan didn’t tell Rose about his dating.  We don’t get to find out if Nathan mentioned that Rose knew about Angela before now, but I think it’s likely. So, the group gets together for desert, and…awkward silence…finally broken by a conversation about Nathan’s shirt design.  Then the conversation gets to interesting things, such as the pairings telling of how they met, and Rose admitting she didn’t even know Claire’s name. (And, of course, neither did us fans!) The incident with the tea is funny and another of those Miller-ism character moments.  One of the many little touches that make the characters seem so real.  I would be certain to follow the Miller tea rules, if I liked tea.
Rose gets a glimpse of something (Vanessa, which I’ll talk about later) and Angela gets a call, which leaves Nathan to express his feelings about Rose dating Claire.  Is there a little bit “I’m glad it’s you, and not that other girl who makes Rose upset all the time” in Nathan’s appreciation?  As a parent, I would probably see Claire as the best match for Rose.  Parents want happy children, not upset, crying children.  Finally, we have Claire being a total potty-mouth, and father and daughter discussing how much they both like Angela.  Which is good, because I like her a lot, too!

And speaking of crying children, we come to “Pushed Out”, the finale of the 3rd season’s second block.  That sounds confusing, so maybe I should just refer to it as the mid-season finale, as Jason does. Anyway, I need to get more serious, because this episode is quite serious.

First, you have the issue with the school dance and buying a “couple’s ticket” for a same-gender couple.  I never went to dances, and I never heard of “couple’s tickets” before watching this show, but it does stand to reason that a couple is a couple, no matter what the sexual orientation.  However, as Kenny notes, it isn’t entirely surprising.  They are in a catholic school, and it just happens that bigotry in the name of god is something a lot of people support.  I’m not an expert on religions, but I understand the bible calls for the extermination of homosexuals, though many Christians don’t agree with this policy.  I know laws are changing rapidly in the United States, and they are even more LGBT friendly in Canada, but changing a religion is something I think will take longer.

Anyway, Claire accidently starts something, Rose gets upset (probably heightened by her despair over Vanessa’s disappearance), Kenny awkwardly tries to comfort Claire, and then Rose gets assaulted by a homophobe.  While people stand and watch. Which is something we should think about. Because if you are supporting an organization that practices bigotry as an official policy, and I mean any type of bigotry against anyone or any group, you are standing there watching too.  You may not be watching someone get physically beaten, but you are aiding in the trampling of their rights as a human being. The human race has come a long way, and we are only going to get better if we refuse to put up with the bigots and their excuses.
And bravo Jason and all the actors and crew.  You got me thinking about some serious stuff