Tag Archives: comics

Vibranium v Unobtanium: A Slate Investigation

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Most of Black Panther is set in the imaginary African nation of Wakanda, a technological utopia whose monarchs have for centuries observed a strict policy of isolationism, keeping would-be colonizers at bay by hiding their nation’s wealth and scientific advancement from the outside world. We’re told in the movie’s very first minute that Wakanda’s prosperity derives from its abundance of Vibranium, and that this bounty was delivered via meteorite long before humans walked the Earth.

And for a resource they’re trying to keep secret, the Wakandans sure talk about it a lot.

Even more than the characters in Avatar (Remember Avatar? Nominated for nine Oscars including Best Picture and Best Director for my boy James Cameron? Still the highest-grossing movie in the history of movies?) speak the much-derided name of that movie’s extraterrestrial miracle metal, Unobtanium.

A lot more.

For this Slate piece, I did the transcription. And the math.

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Double-Oh Snap! Kingsman: The Golden Circle, reviewed.

KINGSMAN: THE GOLDEN CIRCLE

Would you believe that John Denver’s 1971 encomium to backwoods livin’ “Take Me Home, Country Roads” is been featured in two 2017 films starring Katherine Waterston and two starring Channing Tatum, and not the same two?

That’s the kind of piercing observation I had no room for in my review of the new sequel Kingsman: The Golden Circle, which reprises “Country Roads” from Alien: Covenant and Logan Lucky. I had the privilege of discussing both of those on Pop Culture Happy Hour in addition to writing about them. Anyway, I like British superspies. And I liked The Golden Circle. With reservations.

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

Faux REALS: On the Longevity of the Longjohn-Wearing Hero

“…but brother, there are days when I wish I was Plastic Man or the Flash or one of those happy-go-lucky bozos.”

I wrote about Gwydion Suilebhan‘s new superhero play REALS this week, taking his provocation that “Superhero films are bad for you” as a jumping off point for talking about, well, superhero films.

Not quite 10 years ago, I spent the better part of a year trying to write one. It was called Hero Complex, and it was about a guy who becomes convinced he’s the illegitimate son of The Gryphon, the mightiest hero around. I was aiming for a bittersweet comedy with touches of doomed romance and magical realism. I pitched it to my professor and fellow students in my screenwriting program as “a Wes Anderson superhero movie.”

I wrote two full drafts and many more first acts. I had a version where my hero was in his early 20s and unattached, and a version where he was 40 and married with kids. Neither was very good, but there was a scene here, a line there, that I thought might be worth saving.

Then The Incredibles came out. That’s not a film that bears much resemblance to my description of the one I was trying to sweat into existence, but at the time it felt close enough to make me throw up my hands. I loved The Incredibles. I felt certain my screenplay would never get to be that good, no matter how many night and weekends I sacrificed to it on the altar of my crumb-covered, coffee-stained keyboard. Continue reading

What the Facts Are

AIDS Crisis on Infinite Earths: On The History of Invulnerability and The Normal Heart

SUPERFAMILIAS: David Deblinger and Tim Getman (Stan Barouh/Theater J)

Any honest critic will occasionally find himself out on a lonely limb, and this week it’s my turn. To me and apparently no one else, Arena Stage’s The Normal Heart — a historically vital play about the early years of the AIDS epidemic in New York City — is morally worthy but artistically wanting.

I am girding myself for hate mail.

People sometimes make fun of Ford’s Theatre’s presidential history plays for being dowdy and pedantic; for being more interested in teaching us A Very Important Lesson than in taking us somewhere. That’s how The Normal Heart felt to me, albeit with a lot more crying. (Also, I tend to like the musty presidential histories.) I happen to agree with the play’s politics, as I understand them — though that really shouldn’t matter at all — and I acknowledge in my review that activist/playwright Larry Kramer was writing in a time and place when subtlety would not have been an appropriate or effective response to the nightmare he and his peers were living through.

I just don’t think the preachy, shouty play he wrote holds up, removed from that urgent context. Your mileage may, and probably will, vary. Continue reading

Studio Notes: The Avengers (Joss Whedon, 2012)

Jack Kirby’s cover for THE AVENGERS No. 1, 1963.

Last Tuesday night I saw The Avengers, which Hulk-smashed box office records IN THE FABULOUS MARVEL MANNER over the weekend. It wasn’t the summer tent pole movie I’m most anticipating this year; Ridley Scott‘s Prometheus and Christopher Nolan‘s The Dark Knight Rises both have it beat by some distance on that score. But I’ve enjoyed most of the prior Marvel Studios movies (except for the dreary Thor, and The Incredible Hulk, which I haven’t seen), and while I’m no scholar of the oeuvre of Joss Whedon, the television auteur who is now The Avengers‘s writer and director, I liked Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog and his run as writer of The Astonishing X-Men comic book.

I have no particular affection for the source comics, the way I do with the various Batman and X-Men films, but I found the movie to be a very affable, funny, well-made early summer blockbuster.

Emphasis early. To my mind, the natural sequence in which summer action films should be consumed is salad in May, the slightly more substantial next course in June and the red meat in July. It’s been this way at least since 1991, when Hudson Hawk and The Rocketeer (both underrated) came out in May, Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves followed in June, and the never-to-be-surpassed greatest summer blockbuster of them all, Terminator 2: Judgment Day, came out July 3. Please do not make fun of the way I experience the world.

Sorry, what were we talking about? Oh, right: Here in no particular order are a few of the specific things about The Avengers that really worked for me, along with a few that didn’t. Continue reading

Days of Futures Past: Astro Boy and the God of Comics, reviewed

The God of Comics and Astro Boy -- Clark Young and Karen O'Connell -- in ASTRO BOY AND THE GOD OF COMICS

In today’s City Paper, I review Studio Theatre‘s world premiere sci-fi spectacle-cum-artist biography Astro Boy and the God of Comics, along with Banished? Productions‘ dance piece/memory play Into the Dollhouse.

Image of Zen: I Am Curious (Yellow)

Courtesy of the Criterion Collection’s Twitter feed, which says this is from a 1971 issue of The Amazing Spider-Man. No. 101, cover date March ’71, it turns out.

I so enjoy referencing the title of this 1967 arthouse film, which was banned for a while in the U.S., that perhaps one day I’ll actually watch it.

The Battle It Hadn’t Occurred to You That You Wanted to See!

Great Scott! Book critic, comics blogger, and friend-for-life Glen Weldon — the Green Lantern to my Green Arrow — invited me to participate in an exegesis of SUPERMAN VS. MUHAMMAD ALI, an essential cultural artifact of the 1970s. I’ve had a framed copy of the cover hanging in my apartment for years, in my bathroom in point of fact. But as with so many of the classics, I never actually read it until assigned to do so.

Anyway: Read all about it on your National Public Radio!

Unlisted.

I’m not much of a list guy. Because it’s universally agreed we’ve just closed out a year, and somewhat more controversially posited that we have in fact, cut the lights and bolted the door on an an entire decade, critics both pro and semi- have been gunking up the interwebs with their lists of the year and decade’s best movies, albums, songs, whatever.

I get it. People read these. Moreover, unless one takes the list-making enterprise to an absurd extreme, lists are the easiest things in the world to write. The biggest problem of writing — structure — is already solved for you.

I tend to react more strongly, to movies, plays, albums, and concerts than most people I know. (Yes, I read, but I seldom get around to books in the year they’re published). But to the list-making, I am resistant. Maybe if I’d made a few more lists I’d have got myself somewhere in life by now. But that’s all spilled milk under the bridge. Continue reading

Had myself a Noir-y little Christmas

Wherein what is intended as a brief endorsement is buried ‘neath seven longish paragaphs of rambling reminiscence.

Less than six hours until the blessed day arrives, the Christmas Spirit is upon me.

I wish I could say the Christmas Spirit is an impulse towards charity and forgiveness. As an unmarried, childless, over-30 boy, however, I am forced to admit that I have more often thought of the Christmas Spirit the way I’m thinking of it now: as the odd pairing of tranquility and giddy excitement Christmas engendered within me as a child. The reason I’m feeling an echo of that sense of wonder is at least partially because of a cynical, violent, profane comic book, one with a heart as black as the finish on a Glock pistol.

I started reading comics in 1987, and my personal celebration of Christmas -– my holiday gift to myself, delivered faithfully each December regardless of whether my year’s conduct could be classified as “naughty” or “nice” –- has incorporated a comics binge ever since. Continue reading

“Denmark,” Undead on Arrival

Amy Quiggins as Ofelia.

Amy Quiggins as Ofelia.

Years ago, when he started making movies in the United States, the great director of Hong Kong action films John Woo enumerated in an interview the many similarities between the brand of hyperkinetic shoot-‘em-ups in which he specialized, and musicals.

There’s nothing that revealing in director/fight choreographer Casey Kaleba’s production of playwright/fight choreographer — you begin to see the problem — Qui Nguyen’s Living Dead in Denmark, which picks up the story of Hamlet 1,828 days later. Elsinore has been overrun by zombies, and the self-slaughtering Ofelia (a limber Amy Quiggins) finds herself, like Jean Grey, mysteriously resurrected. Continue reading

Shazam, Man!

south-park-captain-marvel-papercraft

No surprise, surely, that there’s a certain benign, solar-powered alien to whom the management of this fine publication is partial. Maybe more on account of his iconography, and for the way he was was so generously embodied by the late Christopher Reeve in the movie-and-a-half directed by Richard Donner in the late 70s — and for the uber-salient fact that his newspapering alter-ego shares my initials — than for the actual comics.
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