Category Archives: comics

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Julie Taymor Probably Hates Pink Even More Now

Panel from The Amazing Spider-Man #21, by Stan Lee 7 Steve Ditko.“Julie hated pink. It also seemed as if she could discern gradations of red on the electromagnetic spectrum that no one else could. Humans are ‘trichromats,’ meaning we have three different types of cone cells in our eyes. However, it has been surmised that because of the XX chromosome, some women may possess a fourth variant cone cell, situated between the standard red and green cones. This would make them — like birds — ‘tetrachromats.’ These hypothetical tetrachromats would have the ability to distinguish between two colors a trichchromat would call identical. Continue reading

Nostalgia Trip: G.I. JOE: A REAL AMERICAN HERO! #49

It's the Rosetta Stone of my wordview, really. 1986.

It’s the Rosetta Stone of my wordview, really. 1986.

This is the first comic book I ever bought, from one of those HEY KIDS! COMICS! spinner racks in a 7-Eleven somewhere on the south side of Chicago. I think I had stepped out from some kind of an event for a distant relative. I was very young.

Anyway, I found it again in a Midtown Manhattan comics shop this weekend. When I pointed it out to my girlfriend, she said she wanted to buy it for me. A sweet gesture, especially considering the price tag of $6 — 800 percent what I paid for my long-lost copy in what the indicia at the bottom of page one tells me was 1986. Some of the best comics ever published came out that year: Watchmen, MAUS, The Dark Knight Returns, Love & Rockets, etc., etc. I wouldn’t find out about those until later. They didn’t sell those comics in 7-Elevens. Continue reading

Art Spiegelman: Deleted Scenes

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What a thrill it was for me to talk last week with comics master Art Spiegelman, who’ll give his Comix 101 lecture tonight at the Corcoran. If you’re still curious after reading my preview (it’s a PDF) in today’s Examiner (aimed, like Spiegelman’s talk, at comic book civilians, after all), here’s a little more Spiegelmania, in the from of excerpts from our conversation last Thursday.
Continue reading

So, was Watchmen awesome?

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Word. As an experience, meeting some friends at the Uptown last night to see Watchmen at midnight-plus-one (though it was more like midnight-thirty-five by the time all those sweetass trailers for Public Enemies and Star Trek and Wolverine and Terminator: Salvation, plus some trailers for other, seemingly less sweetass movies, were done) was, as you say, awesome.

But the movie? Also largely awesome. I think. Certainly I’m looking forward to seeing it again and reveling in all the minute, Blade Runner-level visual detail in which Zack Snyder and his people have rendered this world. And I’ll watch the aleady announced DVD cut of the picture, which reportedly expands the theatrical release’s two-forty run time by another half-hour or so. I do have the feeling this thing might play awfully slowly when I see it again, even though the film’s biggest problem is that its final third just hurtles along too damn fast. Maybe Watchmen would have been better brought to the screen as an HBO miniseries.

Alexandria DuPont diagnosed the movie’s pacing issues with her typical rapier wit and lacerating insight. (She also says that Matthew Goode — who plays Ozymandias as Ziggy Starust-era David Bowie — “dropped a charima bomb” in another movie. Wow.) The other reviews I’ve found insightful today are Roger Ebert‘s and Andrew O’Heir‘s (both strongly favorable), and Philip Kennicott’s (thumbs-down).

io9, Gawker’s sci-fi and comics blog, has a ton of revelatory Watchmen-related posts. In this one, screenwriter David Hayter reveals some of the inane studio-suggested changes he managed, heroically, to prevent.

This one discusses one change Hayter was inclined to make, without even being asked: Going with a much more restrained, less bloody climax than the comic’s. I don’t mean that the specifics, though not the tone, of the ending have been changed — we all know that by now. I mean that the film spares us the book’s long, lingering shots of the apocalypse that befalls New York City. Wanna guess why? 9/11 sapped the will of anybody, even those fully invested in being faithful to Moore and Gibbons’ vision, to put that onscreen. This is one of Ms. DuPont’s big problems with the movie — that “the part where we see and feel the consequences of Veidt’s actions” has been neutered — and you can see her point. But Hayter’s wins, at least for me. If you really want to see these Dave Gibbons drawings rendered in the same kind of photographic fidelity with which Snyder has reproduced so many other panels from the comic, well, you’ve got a stronger stomach than I do.

io9 also gives us a roundup of what elements from the comic have been eighty-sixed entirely. The dumbest one? Laurie’s smoking, one of the behaviors that humanized her in the book. She never lights up in the movie because — says Snyder — Warner Bros. muckety-muck Alan Horn dislikes smoking. Hey, so do I, but that doesn’t mean I’m gonna sit still if somebody tries digitally to pull the butt out of Bogey’s mouth in The Maltese Falcon. After all the battles Hayter and Snyder won — the length, the complexity, the R-rating — smoking is the thing he can’t get through? Alan Horn deserves lung cancer. What an asshole.

Watch-day!

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I’m going to see Watchmen at midnight , and I can’t wait. Actually, that statement is demonstrably false, because I’ve been waiting for this movie ever since I read (retired?) DC Comics Publisher Jeanette Kahn’s “Direct Currents” column about a potential film adaptation of Watchmen back in the late 80s.

I was excited when I read in the long-defunct Fantagraphics-published fanzine Amazing Heroes that Sam Haam had written a screenplay that actually improved upon the one (arguable) flaw of Moore and Gibbons’ 12-issue maxi-series: it’s 1950′s The Day the Earth Stood Still-style denouement. (I hear that an alteration to the ending has survived all the subsequent drafts and years of development hell, though only the Writers’ Guild knows whether the finished film’s ending was Haam’s.)

I was excited when Terry Gilliam was going to direct it, even though his own revision of the screenplay purportedly sucked worse than the film version of Moore’s The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. If anybody could get this thing onscreen intact, I figured, the guy who made Brazil could do it.

I was excited again, ten-plus years later, when Paul Greengrass was going to do it. (Though Cloverfield is probably a fair indication of what a Greengrass-shot Watchmen would have looked like.)

I was skeptical when I heard Zack Snyder, he of the-shot-by-shot adaptation of Frank Miller’s 300, had won the gig. I haven’t seen 300, but I gather it was mostly about a bunch of CGI-hardbodies wrestling in Matrix-like slow-motion. But when I read about the faithfulness and commitment with which Snyder was translating Moore and Gibbons’ sprawling masterpiece for the movies — keeping it set in alternate 1985, casting non-stars, allowing for a near-three-hour theatrical-cut run time (three-plus for DVD) and, crucially, an R-rating — I began to get excited again.

In about seven hours, I’ll be watching the movie. Sometime after that, though possibly not right away, I’ll know whether Snyder and screenwriter David Hayter succeeded. I’ve tried to avoid reading the mainstream critics’ notices, though I did weaken and read David Edelstein’s review in New York, which articulated nicely my reservations about Snyder.

I believe this much, though: Snyder tried — really tried — to make something great. Or at least to be faithful to something great.

Orson Welles, who made three brilliant films and many more failures, said it takes as much hard work to make a bad movie as it does to make a good one. But William Goldman, who’s had more commercial success than Welles but never improved upon The Princess Bride, said that most movies aren’t even meant to be any good.

Watchmen, I have faith, was meant to be good. And now, we’ll see.

A Failure Pile in a Sadness Bowl: My Interview with Patton Oswalt

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Hey, I interviewed Patton Oswalt, the greatest comic champion of our end-times!

Not my finest hour as an interloctuor, but a valuable lesson for me. I was glad to talk to him for DCist. Can’t wait to see him play Lisner this weekend.

THE VERY NEXT DAY: It seems I’m not the only person ever to have a less-than-satsifactory Oswalterview Experience. A consoling friend referred me today to audio of Patton’s appearance on the Seattle radio show Too Beautiful to Live last fall, as well as of host Luke Burbank’s after-action report the next day about why the segment was (in his perhaps too-harsh view) a bust.

Burbank is the radio reporter and essayist who contributed the great piece about the guy who mourned his wife by wearing a Superman costume in public to the “How to Win Friends and Influence People” episode of This American Life back in 2001. I had no idea he hosted his own show, but I’ll be listening now.

That a cat as smart as Burbank wasn’t able to get much out of Oswalt makes me feel better about my own performance, which I’ve been kind of bummed out about this week. But if you check out the audio from his Sept. 6 show, you’ll hear Burbank second-guessing his own interviewing chops over the air the same way I’ve been fretting about mine for half a week now.

Web(ber) of Spider-Man

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I’ve got a preview in the Weekender of the apparently quite popular Music of Andrew Lloyd Webber. Turns out the show’s Phantom (among other roles), Ron Bohmer, is an unreformed comic book geek, just like me.

I keep forgetting that Bono and Edge wrote the music for the budget-busting Julie Taymor Spider-Man, or rather, Spiderman, a distinction of great significance. Because I don’t want to believe it. I mean, I like U2, Taymor, and Spidey separately, but all together? Sounds like bacon and ice cream.