Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Meeting 'Abby'

A week and a half ago I was in a small village in the south of Saskatchewan called Val Marie. I was there to serve as a chauffeur for one of the participants in a workshop that was going on there since he needed to catch a plane on the Saturday which was departing from the Regina airport four hours away. Jen volunteered me and I agreed. I figured, three days of kicking back in the middle of nowhere, reading and listening to podcasts on my iPhone might be a nice change of pace.

While there, we stayed in this converted convent. It was run by this couple who pretty much did everything from room service to cooking and serving all of the meals. Both nights we ate supper there they had a girl helping them with the service. A different one for each night. I don't know where they came from or who they were, but both were pleasant company and provided good service during the meal.

I found out later that the second girl was a Masters student working as a writer-in-residence there. She was writing poetry, or something, and chillin' at the convent in their sitting room upstairs, I think.

On the Saturday after I got back from Regina, we had supper and the group all went upstairs to continue their workshop while I prepared to go for a walk and the poet girl (I think her name was Natalie), was going to a movie. Stunned as I was by the fact that Val Marie even had a theatre (or a reasonable hand-drawn facsimile), I was more surprised that the more I spoke with Natalie outside the convent the more she started to remind me of one of my characters from Smitten, my romantic dramady magnum opus. Everything from the way she dressed, to the way she spoke rung true. The fact that she was a writer helped, too, seeing as Abby, while not a poet, is something of a wordsmith. The only thing that was different from how I had always envisioned Abby was Natalie had shorter hair. Suffice to say, I may chop off Abby's locks by story's end, now, as I liked the look. There would also be some relevance to the plot to do such a thing, which is always nice.

As we parted ways, it was all I could do to keep from chasing after her and chatting her up some more. Maybe snapping a few pictures, like that wouldn't be creepy. Instead we said our goodbyes, she went to her movie, I went on my walk, hoping that she would return to hang with the group later that evening. She did come back as most of her stuff was taken from the reading room upstairs by morning, but she did so quietly and retired to wherever she called home in Val Marie.

I never saw her again after that but I'll never forget the weirdness and strange thrill of meeting someone who is, ostensibly, someone I created in my head but a real flesh and blood person I can interact with. It was trippy.

And, as my high school graphic arts teacher would say, "that's my story".



Friday, May 06, 2011

Red Hulk, Green Hulk, Go!

I was going to do this on Twitter but figured I would need more than 140 characters to express my feelings on what's been going on over in the Hulk title, so without further ado...

Now, I should start by qualifying that I haven't actively purchased or read a Hulk comic since Bruce Jones and John Romita, Jr. were doing the book a few years ago. I'm not even sure how the whole Mr. Green/Mr. Blue thing panned out, unless you count what they used in the second Hulk movie. I was not overly familiar with the "World War Hulk" storyline that ran for a while, and I pretty much ignored the Red Hulk material that Loeb and McGuiness were on about, so it had been a while since I knew what was going on with the guy. To say the least, I was surprised to find that the, along with the new Red Hulk (who was, in actuality, General 'Thunderbolt' Ross - Oh, the irony!), pretty much every other character in the Hulk universe got Hulkified by The Leader and...M.O.D.O.K., I think.

All kinds of crazy stuff has been going on since I've been gone, and the Hulk's single Incredible book has branched out into a family of books: Hulk, Incredible Hulk, & Incredible Hulks. Let me know if I've missed any.

Normally, this is not the kind of storytelling that entices me into picking up any book, especially when it's one that I've already taken off my pull list years ago. So, you ask, why am I fretting so about it?

That would be because of Jeff Parker.

I've always enjoyed Jeff's writing and still tell anyone who will listen that he is responsible for one of the single most enjoyable super-hero books I have read in my almost 30 years of reading comic books. So, you tell me he's going to be writing the book after Loeb departs and you have most certainly grabbed my attention. This is a guy who can handle the super-science, the monsters, the action, and the drama. You pair him with a talent like Gabriel Hardman who has a keen eye for visual storytelling and can draw the most outrageous action sequence or people eating soup with perfect aplomb and you have me adding it to my pile and I'm out the door with my LCS owner a few bucks richer.

Sounds like I'm loving this book like a fresh pair of socks on a cool September morning, doesn't it? Unfortunately, this is where I get conflicted about the whole shebang.

I want to like Hulk more than I do, but I'm finding it hard to fully embrace the darn thing. Oddly enough, I'm finding the character of the Red Hulk fascinating when I was certain that I wouldn't. I couldn't be bothered to even look at Loeb's issues on the shelf but I'm intrigued in these stories by how Ross is handling being the Hulk. It is so different from Banner, yet strangely similar, too. There's the alienation because he's a monster and the thrill that comes with so much power, all the things we are used to seeing with the Banner Hulk over the years. The main difference, though, is that Ross doesn't feel sorry for himself and whine about it constantly. He's a soldier and he deals with his new situation whether he likes it or not. A good example of this is in one of the early scenes of #25 where Steve Rogers is giving Ross his assignment. Steve is honestly trying to help Ross make good and have him be an asset. The tone of the dialogue, the staging of the scene, it's originally what sucked me in.

In that same issue, however, we are given an example of why I'm conflicted about this series, for as much as I am loving the character of the Red Hulk, this issue spends a great deal of it's 'running time' on a tired old super-hero team-up cliché; the fight-brought-on-by-misunderstanding-before-realizing-we-are-supposed-to-be working-together schtick. In fact, this is a cliché that gets played out for the following 2 issues, if I remember correctly, with Iron Man being followed by Thor and then Namor. Everyone wants a piece of Red Hulk, apparently, but I feel like every time they go down this road they kill all the momentum they've built up. I like my share of smashing in a Hulk comic, don't get me wrong, I just think there's more to mine here and these sequences are not adding anything useful to the overall narrative.

I remember in the '90s when Garth Ennis was writing Helblazer. I hated his run for a number of reasons I won't go into here but, without fail, every time I was going to drop the title once-and-for-all Ennis would drop an amazing single issue that had everything I needed in a Hellblazer story to make me happy. Every. Single. Time.

There's kind of a similar phenomena happening here minus the hating part. After reading #27 I was going to stop buying Hulk and move on but then #28 came out and I loved that issue. Then I read #30 and figured, okay, #30.1 would be the last one if I didn't like it but I did (although I don't think Tom Palmer should do finishes over Hardman anymore - it seems like a no-brainer but it really isn't a good thing). And in some of the cases where the main story was not grabbing me, I kinda dug the back-up featuring A-Bomb (Rick Jones) or the Watcher back-ups that are now starting to pay off in the main story.

I guess the fact that I'm bothering to take the time to write this does prove that these guys are doing something positive with this series because I'm interested enough to care. To want to see more interactions between Ross and the LMDs, to see the Fortean/Ross/Red Hulk triangle develop, and to see where sleep deprivation will eventually take the character. That, and the fact I obsess over books and movies I can't fully embrace/endorse. Really, I'll probably spend more time rereading and staring at Hulk pages than I ever will Atlas ones.

So, now I'm waiting to see what #32 will bring (I hear it's a corker) and I continue to live with this series issue to issue.

Fingers crossed!


Sunday, May 01, 2011

Vive le musique!

And, just so it's not all reflective first person narration here today, I give you a video I had meant to post about 2 years ago but, for some reason, never did. It's a video of some length where the band members of Phoenix go on to talk (in French with subtitles, I warn you) about all the music that influenced them in the creation of their own unique brand of pop. I loved it. I hope you will, too.

MUSICVISION PHOENIX from Guillaume Delaperriere on Vimeo.



New Post

I spent a couple of hours yesterday adding and tweaking books on my GoodReads account. At first, when that sort of sank in, I thought, two hours?? Essentially databasing my books, and many of them comics/trades that I've read? But then I thought of how I went about it, drawing purchase locations and dates from memory until that was no longer an option, then skimming through my blog archives to find posts where I started with, "I just finished this great book today!" In a weird way, logging times and places, knowing that I bought George Lucas' Blockbusting at McNally Robinson Booksellers on boxing day, somehow that's important to me. Somehow, it's more than being pathological in the organization of 'my stuff' because by doing that, I'm ascribing a narrative to that book's place and time in my life. And when I'm done with it, I'll log the date completed and how many times I've read that particular book.

In a weird (and possibly sad) way, tracking my stuff is very much a part of the story of my life, just as I've found going back and skimming through blog posts here is. I used to poo-poo my efforts here, never quite knowing what I was trying to do with the blog, never quite achieving what I wanted to see with the blog, but looking back on it I've discovered that, since the beginning, I've logged a lot of moments in time, jotted down things that I had completely forgotten about until I started looking back, and left a digital trail of breadcrumbs, as it were, that I can always track back with. At least back to the inception of the blog.

I set out in the beginning to make this blog a personal journal but have spent the subsequent years trying to make it something else. Something popular, a place to express my views on pop culture, an outlet for my interviews, a production diary, you name it I've run the scenario, at least in my head if not in actual execution. What I didn't know until last night is that I succeeded. It is what I set out to make it. It is a journal, a chronology, an imprint of a certain part of the last few years of my life. It was interesting to look back on, and seeing how I've neglected it in the present, I'm hoping to step up the output a bit more and continue the process.