Want a Mutant Venti? Soon, you’ll be able to get your caffeine and your comics fix in one handy location, thanks to a deal signed by Starbucks and Marvel Digital Comics. Marvel currently offers more than 9,000 comics online, all of which will be available for free on the Starbucks Digital Network, a portal available at 6,800 U.S. Starbucks locations. Comics at Starbucks will be available to view, not download.
“Today we’re broadening the offering and will continue to develop the network’s channels with a spectrum of new content,” said Stephen Gillett, Starbucks chief information officer and executive vice president of Digital Ventures, in a statement.
According to a contemptuously written article from the Associated Press, Jonathan Gruber, an economic adviser to President Obama, will be scripting a comic book that explains and advocates for health care reform.
The article goes on to say that Health Care Reform: What It Is, Why It’s Necessary, How it Works was pitched to Gruber by Macmillan imprint Hill & Wang, which plans to publish the book this fall.
The AP reporter, one Steve LeBlanc, makes haste to reassure people that despite the “pulpy panache” of comic books and their usual association with “superheroes in tights,” the use of the format for a serious subject isn’t “as unusual as it sounds.” And then there’s the usual allusion to Maus. Yes, it’s very nice that Maus won the Pulitzer in 1992, but surely we can bring up more recent examples. Hello, Persepolis? Epileptic? The oeuvre of Joe Sacco? Spiegelman’s later work, In the Shadow of No Towers? World War 3 Illustrated?
To his credit, Le Blanc does mention that that the 9/11 Commission report was also adapted graphically, but he somehow misses that it
was also published by Hill & Wang, which one would think would be an important point.
Breaking down this complex subject in this way sounds like a good idea to me, although how riveting it will be remains to be seen. I just wish that news like this could be reported straight, instead of through a fog of incredulity. It reminds me of that flood of trendy fiber arts articles from 10 years ago that all began “Knitting…it’s not just for grandmothers anymore!”
According to Anime News Network, Takeshi Shudo, chief writer of the original Pokémon TV series and writer of the first three Pokémon movies, has died at the age of 61, a day after experiencing a subarachnoid hemorrhage at the Nara train station. Developer of the anime series Fairy Princess Minky Momo, Shudo also worked on Martian Successor Nadesico and Legends of the Galactic Heroes.
by Steve Hockensmith
Illustrated by Patrick Arrasmith
Quirk Books; March 2010; $12.95
A year ago, Seth Grahame-Smith and Quirk Books initiated the
Quirk Classics series with the bestselling Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, which
blended the text of Jane Austen’s classic [[[Pride and Prejudice]]]with new scenes.
The result was part romantic comedy of manners, part over-the-top action
thriller in which the bloodthirsty Bennet sisters used their highly trained
martial skills to confront zombies and ninjas, in between searching for
husbands. Other authors in the series moved on with[[[Sense and Sensibility]]] and [[[Sea Monsters]]] and the soon-to-be published [[[Android Karenina]]]. Mr. Grahame-Smith has since moved on to other undead pursuits, but here is author Steve Hockensmith to take up the slack with this prequel to P & P & Z, set four years before those fateful events.
After a lull of many years, zombies (or, as they’re known by
the more genteel, the “dreadfuls,” “unmentionables,” or the “sorry stricken”) have
once again infested England. When Mr. Ford, Meryton’s apothecary, sits up at
his own funeral and begins a frantic search for brains, Mr. Oscar Bennet renews
his once forsworn vow to be a zombie-slaying warrior, and attempts to fulfill
his broken promise to raise his daughters in that tradition.
The five Bennet daughters, previously brought up to be
ladies, not warriors, show some initial resistance to their father’s decision.
Almost immediately, they confront social ostracism; however, they also gain
self-confidence under the harsh tutelage of the handsome, mysterious Master Geoffrey
Hawksworth, who rapidly (somewhat too rapidly, if truth be told), turns these
untried girls into katana-wielding fighters. Putting aside her previous distaste for violence, Elizabeth begins to discover the true spirit of the
warrior within herself and her sisters. She must also sort out her feelings for
Hawksworth as well as the extremely odd Dr. Keckilpenny, who believes that
zombies can be “cured” through behavioral modification. (The reader, of course,
knows from the outset that both of these men must be wanting in at least some
respect; how else will Elizabeth have a free heart for Mr. Darcy?) Meanwhile, Jane
finds herself in the unwelcome role of bodyguard to the lecherous, lazy, and
cowardly Lord Lumpley, the owner of Netherfeld (the future residence of Mr.
Bingley). Lumpley has decidedly unsavory plans for Jane, and is concealing an
unpleasant secret of his own.
The original P & P & Z was an amusing satire, and
for the most part, the violence was played for laughs. In contrast, Hockensmith
chooses to explore in greater depth and with a certain amount of seriousness an
issue I brought up in my review of the original book: how does one maintain an
appropriate balance between the strictures of social propriety and the development
of killer instincts, required if the zombie invasion is to be defeated? Although
there are substantial touches of farce, the book is surprisingly poignant in
many places, and truly seems to mourn Elizabeth’s and Jane’s loss of innocence as
these two girls leave their sheltered life and face danger and heartbreak for
the first time, becoming strong women in the process. He even manages to make
Lydia somewhat more sympathetic by the end, which I didn’t think was possible.
Hockensmith has clearly read both the source material and P
& P & Z carefully, and it shows; actually, his attempt to provide a
background for a throwaway joke in P & P & Z (the Bennet daughters’
pastime of catching a deer and kissing it) drags on for far too long. He does introduce a glaring (but intriguing) inconsistency: he makes it
possible to prevent someone from becoming a zombie by chopping off the bitten
extremity, which leads to some freshly absurd scenarios. However, if that were true in P
& P & Z , than why doesn’t Charlotte Lucas consider amputation when a zombie
bites her on the leg, rather than succumbing to the twin scourges of becoming
undead and wife to the tedious Mr. Collins?
He also suggests that zombies are only a problem in England.
That being so, why is it that the best methods of combating them are sourced in
Japan and China? And given the zombie plague is so pervasive that it outweighs
any danger posed by Napoleon, how is it that the Bennet daughters can be spared
to travel to China for training, as they clearly do between the two books?
But such quibbles are only for the most avid of nitpickers,
who might also question the need for this volume at all, given that it has
strayed substantially away from the initial conceit of mashing up a classic
text with new scenes. Why not put aside such foolish qualms, sit back, and
enjoy the gory ride?
[[[Ponyo]]] (“[[[Gake no ue no Ponyo]]]”), an animated feature film directed by Hayao Miyazaki.
Dubbed English voices by Cate Blanchett, Matt Damon, Tina
Fey, Liam Neeson, Cloris Leachman, Betty White, Lily Tomlin, Frankie Jonas, and others.
In advance of its August 14 limited release, Hayao
Miyazaki’s latest film [[[Ponyo]]] made its East Coast debut at Symphony Space in Manhattan on Sunday, August 9, to the great delight
of those of us who have been waiting too long for a Miyazaki film, thanks to
the legal issues surrounding [[[Tales From Earthsea]]]. Free posters were given out
to several people waiting on line. and plush Ponyos were tossed into the
audience, one of which was claimed by one of my companions in an impressive
The title character, Ponyo, is apparently the oldest and
most powerful of the many girl-faced goldfish daughters of the sea goddess Gran
Mamare and Fujimoto, a human-hating, hollow-cheeked wizard who lives
underwater. Curiosity brings Ponyo to the surface and gets her stuck inside a
jar; a 5-year-old boy named Sosuke rescues her, dumps her in a pail, and feeds
her a ham slice. These deeds are apparently enough to win Ponyo’s heart; she uses
some of her father’s magical elixirs to turn herself adorably human and show up
on Sosuke’s doorstep. Unfortunately, her act upsets a natural balance, putting
most of Sosuke’s town underwater and threatening further damage unless Ponyo
declares his love for her. Yes, you got that right. He’s five, and he’s got to
promise to love her always—whether as a sister or as a future bride, it’s not entirely
clear. How many of us have declared their eternal devotion to someone we met at
the age of five? How many of us are even still friends with someone we met at
age five? (I’m still friends with one woman I met at age seven, and that’s
really pretty impressive, I think.)
As other reviewers have mentioned, Ponyo is essentially a
riff on [[[The Little Mermaid]]], but without the singing of the Disney movie or
the walking-on-knives and rigidly Lutheran moralizing of the original story. Frankly,
some appropriately directed moralizing might have been what this story needs (over and above
the usual love nature, hate pollution message that’s present in all Miyazaki
Disney produced the English-language version of Ponyo;
these are the same people who were so disturbed that the 13-year-old witch
protagonist of [[[Kiki’s Delivery Service]]] was drinking coffee, they awkwardly wrote the
English dub to indicate that she was drinking hot chocolate instead. I wouldn’t be
surprised to hear that execs had considerably more ethical qualms about this
film, but given the international box office and prestige that Miyazaki gained
in previous efforts, decided to stifle them.
Jim Cavalziel (The Passion of the Christ) suffers a whole
new kind of persecution when he stars as Number Six in the six-episode remake
of Patrick McGoohan’s classic 1960s show The Prisoner, which is set to air on
AMC in November.
Today’s SDCC panel on The Prisoner reboot featured Jim
Cavalziel as well as Prisoner co-star Lennie James (Jericho), AMC VP Vlad
Wolynetz, and miniseries writer Bill Gallagher. Alas, Sir Ian McKellan, who
takes on the role of Six’s nemesis, Number Two, was not present.
Gallagher characterized the remake as a “response,” and not
a duplication of McGoohan’s concept. (We don’t have to worry about Cavalziel
being overly influenced by McGoohan’s take on the role of Number Six; according
to a Wired interview, he’s never even seen the show. Maybe that’s worrying in a
whole different way.)
The panel premiered nine minutes of footage from the new Prisoner, embedded below for your viewing pleasure, and of course, your judging. According
to official AMC tweeter, ThePrisoner_AMC, “The crowd … [went] wild after rover is
revealed in #ThePrisoner panel at Comic-Con.” Presumably, that was out of appreciative
nostalgia, not fear, because the Village’s security device is still a decidedly
unintimidating, giant white balloon. Watching the footage, it’s clear that the
premise has shifted quite a bit, although several scenes and bits of dialogue have
carried over and sound a bit odd voiced in American accents. The setting has
also moved thousands of miles from the cool, green precincts of Wales to a
considerably hotter, more arid enclave in Namibia.
Marvel Comics and AMC have also
collaborated on a Prisoner comic, which is being given away at San Diego.
The room was packed for Viz Media’s Shonen Jump panel, which
took place at 10:30 am in Room 10. The company announced two new series: Mitsutoshi
Shimabukuro’s Toriko, about a “gourmet hunter” of the same name who apparently
tracks down the most dangerous and tasty beasts, which he sells to exclusive
restaurants; meanwhile, the metafictional Bakuman from Death Note creators Tsugumi Ohba
and Takeshi Obata promises to shed light on that most mysterious of arts,
producing manga. Both began running in the Japanese magazine Shonen Jump Weekly
in 2008 and are still ongoing.
However, the star attractions of the panel were Hiroyuki
Takei (Shaman King) and Stan Lee– yes, THAT Stan Lee, not some Japanese guy with the same name– co-creators of Shonen Jump’s new manga, Ultimo, which is making its English debut in the July issue. The story concerns
two robot boys, one who champions ultimate good (Ultimo) and one representing
ultimate evil (Vice) battle it out in contemporary Tokyo to determine which
force is supreme.
According to Takei, he’s already “vaguely” decided which
robot will win. He based the character design of the robot boys’ creator,
Dunstan, on Stan Lee himself. Apparently, he was quite nervous about showing
sketches of Dunstan to Lee, but Lee claims that he didn’t even see the
resemblance at first.
Lee noted that he’s really having fun working on a project that’s
such a departure from American comics, while Takei spoke about the challenge of
creating a manga that pleases both Japanese and American audiences. The
difference in approach is perhaps exemplified by the two creators’ answers
about what readers should “take away” from the manga. Takei said that Ultimo was
about “good and evil,” while Lee said that it was “all about selling a lot of
Those of us who would Do Anything for Dethklok will now have
many more opportunities to share the love. (Why, yes, I do have a cartoon crush
on Nathan Explosion. He can “teach me who rock” anytime.) The creators of the
Adult Swim show Metalocalypse are preparing an assault on several platforms.
If you’ve actually bothered to read the Adult Swim bumps
instead of fast-forwarding past them on your DVR, you already know that in
Season 3, episodes of Metalocalypse will double in length to 30 minutes, and
the second Dethklok album is scheduled for this fall.
On Wednesday, Konami announced that they’ll be putting out the downloadable videogame Metalocalypse: Dethgame, which will be available for Xbox and PlayStation. The soundtrack
will feature tracks from both the old and the new Dethklok albums. Game creators are promising a
thrilling and an exceptionally gory time as the player takes on the role of a
Klokateer, one of the band’s many masked minions. Here’s hoping that they will
be able to fulfill that promise: a very early version of the game is currently
being showcased at San Diego, and one IGN reviewer is already profoundly
unimpressed. Apparently, gameplay now mainly consists of urinating on, brutally beating, and slicing up Dethklok fans. Hey, that may be enough for some people.
Also on Wednesday, the one-shot The Goonvs. Dethklok hit
comic book store shelves. That was quickly followed by Thursday’s
announcement from Dark Horse that a Metalocalypse comic book series is in the
works. The Dark Horse San Diego Comic-Con panel takes place later today, and no doubt more
details will be released at that time.
Anime and manga distributor Central Park Mediafiled for Chapter 7 bankruptcy last Friday, which means that the company does not plan to restructure and its assets will be liquidated. CPM put out such classic anime as “Revolutionary Girl Utena,” “Project A-Ko,” “Demon City Shinjuku” and “Grave of the Fireflies.” They also published yaoi manga under the Be Beautiful imprint as well as assorted shojo and shonen titles. However, they hadn’t issued any new releases in a year.
This news comes less than two years after the collapse of Geneon USA. Apparently, CPM won’t comment on how they got to this unfortunate pass, although they’ve obviously been struggling for some time. Of course, times are tough in publishing, and the bottom’s dropping out of the manga market in Japan. Geneon also cited illegal downloading as a factor in their troubles, and I’m wondering what role that played in CPM’s demise.
It’s sort of ironic, really. Fan subs and scanlations helped build the manga and anime industry in the U.S., and now they’re probably helping to tear it down.
What is there left to be said about the Undead Sensation That’s Sweeping the Nation? The buzz for this book was so loud that they rushed it into publication a few months early (which no doubt accounts for the inconsistently applied British spellings in the text). Everyone and their newly risen mother has reviewed it, or at least written about it, and it’s now spending a second week on the New York Times bestseller list.
As broad farce, the book succeeds. It does a fine job of interleaving the original text with brutal confrontations with the undead, katana swordplay and ninja ambushes. There’s even a note of pathos in the fresh explanation for why Charlotte chooses to marry the dreadful Mr. Collins: she’s been stricken with the zombie plague, and wants to eke out her final days as a married woman before someone must behead and burn her. I also particularly enjoyed the revised faceoff between Lady Catherine and Elizabeth. In the original, Lady Catherine sneers at Elizabeth for not being personally educated by a governess; here, Lady Catherine mocks Elizabeth’s inferior martial arts tutelage in China—apparently true gentlewomen go to Japan to learn how to kick butt.