Thursday, April 27, 2006

Giffen Goodness

A few posts back I mentioned how I'd spoken to Gianluca at BOOM! Studios and how he'd agreed to send me a whole schwack of Giffen books to review for the Giffen Resource Page & The Daily Dispatch. Well, as of yesterday (or was it the day before?) the BOOM! care package has officially arrived and inside, pretty much Giffen's entire output from the company to date. Everything from Zombie Tales to Jeremiah Harm and Planetary Brigade. Heck, he even included the two What Were They Thinking? remix books.

I'm pretty excited to start working my way through most of this stuff. I've taken a cursory glance at all of it and I don't think I'll be disappointed.

In related news, I've also gone and bought some new Giffen stuff not published by BOOM!, like Nick Fury's Howling Commandos #1 and Drax the Destroyer #2. Oh yeah, and The Defenders #5. Since things got tight, I haven't been buying the books as they've come out and I managed to play a little catch up thanks to the generosity of the wife (thanks, Jen!).

Anyway, I'm going to go watch some original Trek (it's the first Romulan episode with Mark Lenard, later to be known as Spock's pappy, Sarek) and go to bed. Working early tomorrow at the Superstore.



Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Holy Spellchecker, Batman

Wow. I have to say that I'm honestly surprised. After going through and reading some of my more recent posts tonight I've noticed an unimpressive amount of typos creeping into my e-thoughts. Considering I've just applied for a job as a proofreader, this is not a good omen. Still, in my defence, I've been posting most of my blog entries late at night, and in a hurry, so accuracy isn't always the first thing on my mind. Not a great excuse, I know, but it's all I have.

Coming up tomorrow, all kinds of Giffen coming out of every orifice.

And if that aint enough to pique your curiosity, I honestly don't know what will.



Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Staring at The Abyss

I recently got my hands on a copy of the special edition of James Cameron's The Abyss. I saw the movie many moons ago in the theatre and have been a fan of the underrated film ever since. I've had several opportunities to purchase the DVD in various formats, but I've always passed it up in favour of other, mor urgent acquisitions. However, when I bought the Ultimate Edition of T2 for a steal at $7.99 about a week ago, and rabidly worked my way through it's features and commentary, I was jonesing for more non-Titanic Cameron and The Abyss sort of fell into my lap.

Overall, the DVD is a well put together edition with lots of bonus features to lose yourself in. Still, one minor/major drawback is the fact that, besides the 60 minute documentary (which I also saw years ago on PBS, I think) all the extras are in text format - either as essays or subtitled text commentary. In some ways, this sucks big-time, but in others, it allows some breathing room for the folks that put the whole thing together since they're not really constrained by running time or budget - lots of room on a disc for text. I wish they would have included a Cameron audio commentary on this one (especially this one) but you take what you can get, right?

Actually, one other niggling little problem with the DVD. Despite going through many of the essays and images contained therein, I have yet to run across a mention of Jean Giraud as a designer on the show. All the credit for the NTI's seems to go to Steve Burg and nobody else gets any credit. NOw, I have no idea what the extent of Moebius' contributions to the film were, or whether they were early on in the conceptual stages (pre shooting script) or afterwards, but I wish there would have been something included in this, the official and extensive history of the film.

I know he worked on it. A quick IMDB search will prove that if you don't believe the images he created. I'd be curious to know why the producers excluded someone who is, to his admission, a strong influence on Cameron as a filmmaker and a world-renowned artist to boot.

Oh well, it's still a decent purchase.


Monday, April 24, 2006

Let No Word Go Unposted

Since it has become pretty clear that PopMatters is not interested in me or my DVD reviews, I decided to post the submission review that I wrote for them on the Batman Beyond Season 1 DVD set.

Batman Beyond - The Complete First Season (DC Comics Classic Collection)
Director: Curt Geda
Cast: Will Friedle, Kevin Conroy, Jane Alan, Stockard Channing, Rachael Leigh Cook
(Warner Bros., 2006) Rated: PG
DVD release date: 21 March 2006

By Mike Jozic

This aint your 10-year old’s Batman.

In the late ‘90s, Bruce Timm, Paul Dini, Glen Murakami, Alan Burnett and others who had worked on the Batman and Superman animated adventures throughout the decade, were commissioned by Warner Bros. to develop a new show. It was decided by the 'people upstairs’ that the ongoing Batman series was skewing a little old and they wanted to recapture some of the younger audience the WB felt had left for more fertile ground. It was proposed that Timm and co. should reimagine the Dark Knight once again, but this time as a teenager. The result is what we know as Batman Beyond.

The show ran for 52 episodes on the KidsWB and became, ironically, one of the more adult series that the group ever produced. Despite having a teenage protagonist and a desire from the network to lighten things up, the show dealt with darker themes and the writers treated their characters and the world more seriously than they did on any of their previous shows.

The series was groundbreaking in many ways. Taking everything they had learned from working on Batman and Superman, they created something never before seen on a kids animated program. Beneath the super-hero conventions – costume, action, villains and gadgets – was a deeper story of responsibility and redemption for the new Batman, Terry McGinnis. He was an all-new character, he was angry at the world, he had been to juvie and carried the weight of the world on his shoulders.

Over the course of the first season’s 13 episodes, Terry discovers what it means to accept the mantle of the Bat. Instead of having crazy adventures and playing with all the cool gadgets, Terry had to deal with the impact that being a super-hero entailed. His social life suffered, his school life suffered, he had family problems and dealt with all the usual things teenagers deal with all the while trying to dodge all the crazies who wanted to beat the tar out of him at night when he was ‘on duty’. To be perfectly honest, I would be surprised if Spider-Man wasn’t an early model for Terry.

In the commentary for the pilot episode, “Rebirth”, Bruce Timm mentions an early note from the network advising them to make the show more like Buffy in order to appeal more to a younger demographic. At the time, Timm was not a Buffy viewer and had no idea how to go about making his show more like Whedon’s Slayer epic, but after watching the show for any length of time the similarities begin to creep through, intentional or otherwise.

These similarities occurred, I think, because both shows shared a combination of smart writing, great action pieces, and most of all, a strong focus on developing character.

The real beauty of what Timm and co. did was that they wrapped it all in a package that kids could enjoy and would continue to enjoy on different levels as they grew older. Kind of like those other Warner Bros. classics featuring a carrot chomping wise guy and his pals.

The newly released DVD set comes with all 13 episodes of the first season in full-frame with a 2.0 Dolby Digital soundtrack. In this age of crystal clear digital images, I should also note that while some of the color in certain episodes may appear ‘murky’, this presentation is exactly as the producers of the show intended it to look. Timm has stated in commentaries for the Batman Animated series that he doesn’t approve of the digital manipulation used in ‘cleaning up’ animated films and series, choosing instead to leave all the minor imperfections intact. In fact, Timm will be the first one to point out, but not apologize for, any residual dirt or dust on the image during the commentaries (just one of the downsides of making these things without the aid of computers).

Also included on two of the episodes (“Rebirth” and “Shriek”) are audio commentaries featuring Timm, Dini, Murakami, Burnett, Curt Geda, and Stan Berkowitz giving an informative and entertaining recollection of events on the shows and its production. These guys are probably bigger fans of these shows than any of us and it is pretty clear while listening to them how much fun they had working on them, and how much they enjoyed working together.

There are also featurettes included with this set. The first one is called “Inside Batman Beyond” and is a 10-minute segment featuring the creators in a round robin style interview setting, while the other, called “Music of the Knight”, showcases some of the music cues from the show without dialogue or sound effects to encumber the experience. As a nice added touch for the die-hard fan, the producers of the DVD chose cues not previously featured on any soundtrack album so the music is, essentially, all new.

There is also a fun easter egg where you get to hear composer Kris Carter’s original demo for what would eventually become the show’s rockin’ theme song.

As a features junkie, I would have loved to see a few more extras included with this set, but overall, Warner Bros. has put together a really nice package with Batman Beyond season 1. There’s something here for casual viewers as well as longtime fans of the show as well. I’m looking forward to seeing what they will do for seasons 2 through 4.

I didn't want the effort to be a wasted one, so there you have it. A little on the ripe side, maybe, but at least I can say it was 'published'.


Friday, April 21, 2006

Movin' On Up

Had another conversation with Jen about the possible and impending move today. We've had the same sort of talk for a couple of months now, but every time it feels like we're getting closer and closer to something resembling a final solution. It has begun to take on this ominous, looming sort of feeling that leaves me feeling somewhat mentally dishevelled afterwards. Still, it is good news that we're making progress and starting to formulate an actual plan that doesn't sound like a kamikaze mission across Canada, if you know what I mean.

Moving locations aside, I've been watching some great movies and reading some great books, as I mentioned in my last post, and it's acting as a nice counterbalance to the heavier things in life.

This evening the wife and I watched Before Sunset which really impressed me despite some wariness going into it. I really liked the first chapter, Before Sunrise, and almost expected the sequel to be a hollow rehashing of the previous film or possibly even an unbelievable continuation of Jesse and Celine's story. Instead, writer/director Richard Linklater created a story that faithfully recreate the dynamic of the first movie but still manages to adds new levels and depth to the characetrs and their star cross'd romance. It's like they're starting over from the beginning but with almost 10 years of baggage informing their decisions this time. It was quaint and simple in execution but rich with a delicate romanticism that hits all the right warm and fuzzy buttons.

I'm also watching old episodes of The Avengers on VHS, but that's something for anohter post.


Tuesday, April 18, 2006


Man, it's been a while since I've posted here. I wish I could say that I've been doing a bunch of cool and interesting stuff, but I've really just been hanigng around, going to work and spending some time with my family. My folks and the In-Laws were both gone for Easter, so we took full advantage of having the holiday to ourselves and spent some real quality time with the kids.

My eldest and I watched Attack of the Clones. She wanted to get it out of the way so we could get to the third movie. She really wants to know how Anakin becomes Darth Vader, and her memory of Episode II was kind of shaky so we did a refresher viewing. In doing so, I noticed some cool stuff that I'd never really noticed before. Like when Obi-Wan and Jango are having their verbal tennis match in his apartment on Kamino? Knowing what I do about Jango's background now, and knowing how things turn out with Code 66, the conversation takes on a whole new meaning for me.

I'm also working up an application to DC Comics. I noticed a job posting the other day and I figured I'd be kicking myself forecer if I didn't at least send in the best application I could. If I can get a call-back for an interview I'll consider it a triumph. I'll keep you posted on how things turn out with that.

Some of the stuff I've been watching for myself include the Back to the Future trilogy. I've really enhjoyed revisiting that story and those characetrs. Good memories. Anatomy of a Murder was a fabulous surprise. I'd heard some good things about this movie but I didn't expect it to be as good, or as ballsy, as it was. I'll probably write more about that later. I'm finally working my way through Frank Herbert's Dune, John Harrison's mini-series nased on the sci-fi classic. I'm enjoying it so far. A few niggling problems, but they change with my mood so it's probably more about me than the movie.

Lastly, I've also made a lot of headway with my Smitten story. I'm really excited by soe of the new directions the story is going and I'll leave a moe detailed discussion of that for later, as well.

Anyway, that's my state of the union. I'll try and not wait a week before posting again.



Thursday, April 13, 2006

Junk Mail

I've received many of these 'gobbledygook' junk mails over the last little while, but on this one occasion, instead of simply deleting the thing cold without sio much as looking at it I actually took a peek at the contents. The mail was titled "relic" and this was the body of the text prior to the 'actual' advertisement:

smuggle a the this psychopath, but connive, a earmuffs is gigabyte
periodical immigrant northwesterly the sensuous!!! tortoise as sixteen the poisoning a topographer skateboard with leech, talk
twentieth as balding, the them. accent gunshot affirmation.: lance funeral home, this docket newsworthy, reparation it
overcrowded, applied stressed in separated a and in-line skate q, regulation of that encouragement to and meringue in at brothel.
light-headed the bypass

That's some pretty decent free verse if I do say so myself. The syntax is a little off, but with a tweak here and there I'm sure this baby could sing.


Monday, April 10, 2006

BOOM! Swag

Well, I just spoke with Ross Richie of BOOM! Studios as well as their Press and Marketing person, Gianluca Glazer, about having some Keith Giffen related review material sent over for The Daily Dispatch. I was hoping to beef up the content on the newslist with some reviews of Keith's recent stuff, but since he is currently writing or involved in half of what's being produced on the market right now, I knew there was no way I would be able to keep up with the output unless I resorted to 'other' less scrupulous methods -something I really didn't want to do.

Anyway, I figured nothing ventured nothing gained so I started my quest by hitting up the fine folks over at BOOM! where Keith is writing, like, half of their books. Originally, I only asked about getting my hands on some advance preview stuff (like a B&W proof copy or something) of whatever stuff Keith has up'n'coming but to their credit, the BOOM! crew have gone the extra mile and made this Giffan one seriously happy camper indeed.

From the looks of it, I'm going to have about 90% of Keith's total output from BOOM! mailed out to me, with the rest of it sent electronically when I can get myself a Gmail account (something else they're willing to help accomodate). Soon, I will be deluged with Zombie Tales, Jeremiah Harm, Hero Squared and Planetary Brigade, as well as the 10 one-shot and some PDF files of some of his anthology work that is sold out or unavailable for whatever reason.

I'm looking forward to posting about them when they come.

Besides being a big shout out to Giffen Swag, I also wanted to take this opportunity to salute the crew over at BOOM! for being an exceptionally swell bunch of people. They truly deserve that big shiny Best New Publisher Award that Wizard gave them not too long ago. I may not agree with Wizard on much, but we're definitely on board with this.


Saturday, April 08, 2006

My Brains Are Turning to Mush

I think I'm starting to see that old saying 'variety is the spice of life' in a whole new light.

As you may recall from my last post, I've immersed myself in this whole Crisis thing DC has going on. I've been reading the relevant minis and only the direct spin-offs like the "Sacrifice" storyline that ran through the Superman and Wonder Woman titles. I'm probably about halfway through all of them by this point. At last count I've read Identity Crisis #s 1-7, Infinite Crisis 1-6, Superman 219, Action Comics 829, Adventures of Superman 642 & 643, Wonder Woman 219 & 220, The OMAC Project 1-4, Day of Vengeance #1, Villains United #1, DC Special: Return of Donna Troy #s 1-4, and Infinite Crisis: Secret Files and Origins.

I think that's 30 comics and counting. Whew.

One thing I can say about the whole event at this point is that it is very well choreographed. The way one incident in one title gets seen in another book through a different character's perspective is nicely handled and there is a really strong sense of continuity that I haven't seen in comics for a while. Even the art styles tend to be complementary between the main books and the second tier minis. DC, I applaud your efforts. This was obviously well thought out and nurtured by talented writers and artists and, despite the hollow nature of all of these events, it comes off as thorough and entertaining.

Still, I think I'm going to have to take a break because my brain is really turning to mush. My senses dulled after a late evening and morning of marathon reading and it wasn't until I started listening to some music that my head started to clear up.

I think I'm going to go for a Big Gulp or something, too. Fresh air always does a comic-numbed mind good.


Friday, April 07, 2006

Back in a Comic Book Mood

A little while ago, my interest in comic books reached an all-time low. I used to buy a lot of them, and read even more on a regular basis. Marvel, DC, Dark Horse, Oni, Image...just about any publisher you can think of, there was probably one comic book they put out that I kept tabs on. It's part of the reason why when I got into the interview/writing game I focused most of my attention to the four-colour world and its artisans. I loved reading comics, talking about comics, and thinking about comics. I still read a few (I'll move Heaven and Earth to snag anything by Andi Watson and I'm enjoying Warren Ellis' Fell like nobody's business, for example), but my visits to the comic store have all but seized, my files closed until further notice.

When I think about it now, the timing of it was pretty serendipitous seeing as my interest dropped to near-zero around the same time I ran out of recreational funds. The two probably worked in concert, like fuel to the fire - or in this case, water.

Lately, however, I've been noticing a distinct increase in the number of comic books that I'm reading again. I started by picking up some old books off the shelves and out of the longboxes that I either hadn't read in a long time or had yet to read. I'm finishing off the Jurgen/Epting Aquaman issues that I never quite kept up with but enjoyed when they were published, and Batman: The Long Halloween was something that I never quite completed while it was new. Stuff like V For Vendetta got new life when the film came out, and seeing as I was reading League of Extraordinary Gentlemen Vol. 2 at roughly the same time, I figured one more Moore book couldn't hurt and picked up From Hell again in the hopes of finishing it off once and for all.

I've also been grabbing a lot of books from the library. Palomar by Gilbert Hernandez, the final Supergirl storyline by David and Alex Lei, Mike Carey and Leonardo Manco's Hellblazer: All His Engines, DHC's AutobioGraphix, Stan Sakai's Usagi Yojimbo...the list goes on and on. I've just been blowing through the material like nothing and the supply is no longer meeting the demand as it used to.

At the moment, I'm reading through DC's new Infinite Crisis. It, combined with other 'epic' cross-over events like Marvel's House of M storyline, have been partially responsible for my abandonment of the mainstream titles and, like a car accident that you just can't help but look at, I was curiouos to see just how much damage DC was doing to itself in the name of market share. What I was surprised to find out is that Infinite Crisis (the actual mini-series, not the whole bloated crossover event) is actually kind of entertaining. Mind you, the first issue was an incomprehensible mess to someone 'just tuning in', but having been there for the first Crisis, and being one of the people who have criticised DC for their 'darkening up' of their super-hero line, I'm getting a bit of a charge out of this story that features both of those elements quite prominently.

I'm happy to see something that can finally be considered a sequel to the original. Seeing Kal-L, Superboy and Alexander Luthor come back with a point and a purpose makes this event stand head over heels above travesties like Zero Hour or War of the Gods, or even that Kingdom Come mess. I may like the idea of Hypertime, but the execution of it in the DCU has been sloppy at best. When in the hands of guys like Grant Morrison, or even Tom Peyer over in the underappreciated and obviously cancelled Hourman monthly, it makes sense. They play with bits of past and future history and wind it all up together to make a ripping yarn. Everyone else just...didn't.

Anyway, I'm halfway through Infinite Crisis and I'm definitely going to see it through to the end, find out what happens to everyone and what leads to the much ballyhooed 'One Year Later' ploy. This series feels like it has weight, impact and definite purpose beyond making a buck. I don't think the DCU particularly needed 'fixing' (which prompted the first Crisis), but the effort doesn't feel perfectly hollow, either.

I may even go back and check out the minis that led to this new Crisis, like Omac or Villains United, just to add some flavour. I've sampled the Infinite Crisis Secret Files and Origins and I kind of like it, so who knows. The rest of it might not be total shite like I originally expected.

I'll probably post more comic book stuff in the near future, so apologies to those family and friends who hate it when I do that.

Later. I'm off for some grub!


Tuesday, April 04, 2006

The Magic Roundabout

My youngest had his birthday party this weekend and we took him and a friend to see Doogal at the local second-run theatre. Not being at all familiar with the history of these characters, I came out of it thinking that it was, perhaps, the most bizarre animated film I had ever seen. And not very good, to boot. Knowing that this was a European project, and being the curious type, I came home and Googled the movie to see what I could dig up. There had to be some explanation of why this movie ever got made because the point of it was lost on, I think, everyone who was there to see it.

As it turns out, the movie is actually called The Magic Roundabout and is based on a childrens program that ran in the '60s on the BBC. A little research on the web turned up some helpful information regarding the characters (like why the film's namesake, Doogal, is obsessed with sugar and why another of the characters is a wizard with a big spring instead of legs) and history of the show for anyone who may be trying to make sense of it.

Originally the series hailed from France and was the brainstorm of a gentleman named Serge Danot way back in 1963 or '65. The show was eventually adopted by the Brits, adapted to their cultural needs and quickly became a staple of the BBC's children's programming. The show remains popular to this day with many people remembering it fondly from their childhood as we would with something like Sesame Street or something. This, of course, is why we now have an animated feature based on it.

Armed with the background knowledge, and now fully aware of the original British version of the film (available on DVD in the UK as of July 2005, if I'm not mistaken), I set forth to locate it in order to compare the two versions. I performed a torrent search yesterday and turned up the original which I've since previewed a bit of and I have to say that, from what I've seen so far, it makes way more sense than the American adaptation that is polluting screens all over the country. I mean, while I don't totally agree with it, I can understand changing some of the British slang to suit a North American audience (Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, anyone?), but the changes they made also took away the context and point of the whole story.

How a show like Wallace & Grommit can win the Oscar for best animated film without such changes is beyond me. Obviously these are both British productions, so why one is more understandable than the other is kind of confusing. As a Canadian, I guess I'm sort of deep programmed to 'get' the British stuff, but it's not that hard to figure out. And people don't give kids enough credit. They still like Beatrix Potter, and Peter Pan, and various and sundry other Brit cultural exports for children, so they're not complete morons.

Oh well, I guess I'll just sit down with the younguns sometime this week and watch the 'real' movie from beginning to end and see how it plays out. If it turns out to be an entertaining piece of cinema, I'll be sad that it didn't really get a chance Stateside (those wacky Weinsteins), but at least I'll have had a chance to enjoy it.

If it's still crap, ignore this post. Well, some of it, anyways.



Monday, April 03, 2006

Simpsons Movie Trailer

Since I'm already having to track this trailer down for friends I figured I would just link to it here on the blog and make it a much easier task to do.

I wasn't really excited about this, or really looking forward to it, but this trailer makes me giggle.


Does Whatever a Spider-Phone Can

I haven't done a lot of phone interviews of late since I lost the ability to connect my tape recorder to my telephone. A while ago we decided to ditch our old phone which was being leased from our local crown company in order to save a little cash, especially since we were told that they upgraded to a new model and that they wouldn't even service ours if it was broken. So, we bought ourselves a new phone. One which, unfortunately, could not hook up to my micro casette recorder like the old one could. As a result, I ended up doing a lot less phone interviews than I used to. Not a huge deal since most people prefer to do them by e-mail anyway, but one place where I did notice it was with my regular monthly phone call to Keith Giffen - or lack thereof.

Along with this blog and my website I run The Daily Dispatch, a Keith Giffen newslist. I haven't given it the kind of TLC it requires in a while, but one of the things I used to do for Giffen fans was call him up and chat for a while about everything under the sun. It was something I looked forward to, too. Keith is a fun guy to talk to and he was always good for zinger or two over the course of a 30 to 60 minute chat. Anyway, that's probably what I missed the most about ditching that old phone in favour of the new one.

I actually did go out and buy a new phone, but I screwed up and bought yet another one that didn't satisfy my technological needs. Didn't hook up at all but cheap enough to not bother taking it back. Various reasons contributed to my not searching out another more compatible one, and I eventually just gave up.

Which leads us to now.

I was at a Winners store a couple of days ago when I spotted this phone among the many and varied toys they had lying around (they also had a cool set of classic mod Barbie tumblers that any parent with daughters would give a second look, but cost just a little too much for my tastes). I initially rolled my eyes at the silliness of the thing but when I noticed that it could actually hook into my recorder, and was pretty cheap to boot, I couldn't resist but pick it up. If it was only ever used for calling Keith, the purchase would still be justified based solely on the price of it. I also appreciate the irony that I purchased a Spider-Man phone to do comic book interviews. There's a certain poetry to it, don't you think?

So, I'm happy to say that I'm back in the phone interviewing business. I'm hoping to call Keith this week so if you're a Giffen fan you should probably be watching the newslist for a new update from the horse's mouth. We'll see what else comes of it in the coming months. I'm hoping to have some fun with it.