Author: Van Jensen

A ‘Buffy the Vampire Slayer’ Movie? Stars Say They’re Game

I guess it has to do with comic book culture becoming ever more enmeshed in celebrity culture, but it seems like MTV has become the place to go for interesting material in the world of comics and comics-related movies and TV shows.

The latest: At a reunion of Buffy the Vampire Slayer cast members, several spoke favorably of the potential for an all-new Buffy movie. And, of course, they also brought up the recent lesbian tryst in the Buffy comics series.

"I don’t know if Sarah [Michelle Gellar] wants to be kissing girls, so for Sarah’s sake, we’d say, start from the TV show," said Nicholas Brendon, who played Xander. "But I think for everyone else, start from the comic book. I want to see Sarah kissing girls."

Beyond the question of whether or not to include girl-on-girl action, a few other pitfalls stand in the way of a movie. No script or studio is in place, and Joss Whedon is busily crafting a superhero musical.

Speaking of Whedon, he certainly didn’t sound opposed to the project, although he seemed far to dismissive of the comics:

As Whedon said on the panel, "many stars" would have to align — not the least of which would be a certain lead actress wanting to participate. "But if I had to shoot down everything that we’re doing in the comics because we’re doing a film," Whedon said, "I wouldn’t lose a lot of sleep over it."

Review: ‘Life Sucks’ by Abel, Soria and Pleece

It doesn’t seem a stretch to assume every possible vampire story has been done, from the classics to Anne Rice’s romanticizations to the modern Blade to the self-obsessed Shadow of the Vampire to the Dracula: Dead and Loving It spoof.

I won’t claim that Life Sucks (First Second, $19.95) is jaw-droppingly revolutionary, no. But it does deliver a riff on vampires that hasn’t been seen before.

To put it bluntly, Dave is a loser. He’s a wimpy young guy stuck working a dead-end job at an LA convenience store, and he’s in love with a goth girl who doesn’t know he exists. On top of all that, he’s a vampire, which just makes the life of the former-vegetarian all the more miserable.

The story of Life Sucks began several years ago when co-writers Jessica Abel and Gabe Soria were talking about vampires and wondered what it would be like for a young vampire stuck in the real world. After all, vampires don’t just start out with a big castle and tons of wealth, Soria told me.

Like a typical young adult, Dave is just starting out and trying to establish a life for himself. The vampire angle adds to his difficulties (despite a few cool powers), with the need to hide from sunlight, forage for blood and obey his master, Count Radu, the old vampire who infected him and owns the convenience store where Dave works.

Instead of obsessing with drudgery, the authors craft a simple but effective story of Dave’s pursuit of love, one that becomes expectedly complicated given the indie comics background of Abel. Life Sucks works because it’s a good little yarn about young adulthood, with the vampire angle serving more than anything as extra flavoring.

The art, by Warren Pleece, is appropriately grounded and manages to stay lively even during lulls in action. I interviewed him about his work on the book a little back, which you can read right here.

Review: ‘Tonoharu: Part One’

In works of fiction, I always appreciate stories that know exactly what they want to be and strive toward that identity. In other words, some books are best served by not aspiring to great pretensions.

In the case of Tonoharu: Part One (Pliant Press, $19.95) I have to eat my words, as it’s a book that perfectly accomplishes what it wants to do and still falls flat.

Creator Lars Martinson gives a fictional account of serving as an English teacher in a small Japanese town, something Martinson actually did. A prologue establishes the central character, Dan Wells, as the man who held Martinson’s post right before him (it never mentions if Dan is a real person).

As the two meet at the book’s start, Martinson describes Dan as having an "ever-present look of defeat on his face." He’s something of a Biff Loman in an international setting.

Dan’s problem is that by coming to Japan, he has cut himself off from the people, culture and language he knows. His job offers no challenges, his social life offers no prospects, so every day becomes a matter of waiting out the clock.

Martinson does a thorough job of creating this cesspool of mundanity through the painfully droll dialogue, the lazing pace of the plot and the two-toned artwork. Martinson inks in an impressive layer of detail, and even that serves to entrench the book more firmly in the boring paraphernalia of everyday life.

There is conflict, but not of man against man or man against himself. It is Dan against the sheer, painful nothingness of his existence. And that leads to a second conflict: this reviewer against Tonoharu‘s gentle urge toward sleep.

2008 Glyph Award Nominees Announced

2008 Glyph Award Nominees Announced

The finalists for the Glyph Comics Awards have just been named, with a not overly surprising lot of contenders. There are, however, quite a few great comics and creators who make the list.

For a complete rundown of nominees, a full slate is available at Pop Culture Shock. Here are the "story of the year" contenders:

Hunter’s Moon, James L. White, writer, Dalibor Talajic and Sebastian Cardoso, artists
Nat Turner: Revolution, Kyle Baker, writer and artist
Satchel Paige: Striking Out Jim Crow, James Sturm, writer, Rich Tommaso, artist
Sentences: The Life of MF Grimm, Percy Carey, writer, Ronald Wimberly, artist
Welcome to Tranquility, Gail Simone, writer, Neil Googe, artist

I haven’t read Satchel Paige yet, but my pick without much trepidation would be Sentences. It’s the best, most honest book about the dark side of hip-hop that’s ever been written. I interviewed Carey when the book first came out, and that’s available right here.

The only big surprise to me was that Agent 355 from Y: The Last Man didn’t make the cut for best female character.

‘Tintin’ Publisher Raymond Leblanc Dies at 92

Raymond Leblanc, who helped create a worldwide phenomenon from the comic book series Tintin, died on Friday, according to an article in the Economic Times. He was 92.

The Belgian publisher helped create the Tintin Journal, which ended up bringing the characters of cartoonist Herge to audiences in several continents. From the article:

A resistance fighter during the Second World War, Leblanc convinced Tintin’s artistic creator Georges Remi to launch a periodical for the young. Herge had encountered difficulty publishing his work during the war.

The iconic boy reporter character had first appeared in 1929, with 12 books already under Herge’s name, but the association with Leblanc saw Tintin become the hero of a fortnightly magazine born in 1946 to immediate success.

Leblanc’s simultaneous creation of the Lombard publishing house, aimed at readers "from seven to 77," met rapid growth as Tintin’s success expanded.

A translated interview with Leblanc given not long ago is available at Forbidden Planet, and gives an incredible insight into Leblanc and his career in comics. Here’s a small sample, detailing the beginnings of the Tintin legacy:

“Why not publish an illustrated magazine for young people?”, one of my partners asked at a certain point. We thought this was an interesting idea, and started looking for a name. We ended up eventually with Tintin, after Hergé’s comic book hero. Literally everyone knew that character at that moment. The question however was, where was Hergé? Nobody knew where he was. During the war he had worked for Le Soir, a paper that was controlled by the Germans, and so he had been branded a collaborator. My associate André Sinave went to look for him, and was able to find him.

Now we only had to find enough money to start up the magazine. Our plan was a bold one, especially since Hergé was being prosecuted at that point. His first reaction was “This is impossible”. Nevertheless, we presented him a five year contract. “And we as resistance men will do everything within our powers to return your civil rights to you.” You have to remember that Hergé wasn’t even allowed to ride a bicycle at that time. Hergé hesitated for a long time and consulted with his good friend Edgar Pierre Jacobs. In the end he agreed. I think because he had liked us from the moment we met. I had thought before that Hergé was quite an old man, since I had read the adventures of Tintin since 1929. He turned out to be only a few years older than myself.

The Weekly Haul: Reviews for March 20, 2008

After skipping town last week, I’m back with an all-new spate of reviews for this week’s comics issues. Lots of super hero fare this week, with a few studs and a whole lot of "meh."

Book of the Week: Captain America #36 — I know, I know. Not a very out-there choice. But, c’mon, this is simply the best superhero book coming out right now. Ed Brubaker sets it up perfectly to test Bucky, the new Cap, by pitting him against some serious supervillains. And we get to see how Bucky is different from Steve Rogers, for good and bad.

And while Bucky brawls his way through that challenge, the defining moment of the issue comes when Bucky can’t summon the Captain America aura to calm a riotous crowd. And, if that’s not enough, Butch Guice’s fill-in art is so good that I didn’t realize he’d replaced Steve Epting until I looked back at the credits.

Oh, and then – SPOILER – there’s that little cliffhanger that a certain dead person might not be so certainly dead.

Runners Up:

The Brave and the Bold #11 — Here’s another "can’t go wrong" series (at least until Mark Waid jumps ship). The Challengers see just how tough Megistus is (and just how crazy), then Superman and Ultraman have a zany little team-up only after Ultraman impersonates Clark and runs roughshod through the Daily Planet newsroom. The too-big, too-fun antics culminate in one of those straight-from-the-silver-age moments, when Megistus throws a Green Lantern (the actual lantern, not a hero) into the sun and turns it green. Bad news for Ultraman and Superman.

The Immortal Iron Fist #13 — I’d be calling this book the best of the week if it weren’t for a weaker than usual outing from artist David Aja. His work isn’t as polished as usual, which means it’s still decent but not great. That aside, this Seven Cities of Heaven storyline is finally coming together in a big way. What’s really remarkable about this issue is how Brubaker and Matt Fraction keep up the excitement with only a couple punches thrown. It’s a perfect setup to the big brouhaha coming down the pike next issue, and offers the line of the week when Danny finally reveals his plan to the villainous Xao: "So we can get out, you dumb son of a bitch."


Full Cast Revealed for ‘Batman: Gotham Knight’

Warner Brothers just sent out a press release announcing that the rest of the cast has been finalized for this summer’s Batman: Gotham Knight direct-to-DVD animated film.

Earlier, fans collectively breathed a great sigh of relief upon hearing that Batman: The Animated Series alum Kevin Conroy had signed on to voice the Dark Knight. Instead of filling the ranks with big-name stars (see Justice League: The New Frontier and Superman/Doomsday), WB picked up some lesser knowns to round out the voice talent.

Read the release carefully and you can pick up a few hints about the plot:

Gary Dourdan (CSI: Crime Scene Investigation) and Ana Ortiz (Ugly Betty) are heard in multiple segments of the six-story film as police detectives Crispus Allen and Anna Ramirez, key members of a special unit who learn to trust the Dark Knight’s motives. Parminder Nagra (ER, Bend It Like Beckham) supplies the voice of Cassandra, a mystical Indian woman who teaches Bruce Wayne to endure and manage his pain. David McCallum (Navy NCIS, The Man From U.N.C.L.E., The Great Escape) takes on the role of loyal servant Alfred. George Newbern (Father of the Bride) and Alanna Ubach (Legally Blonde) also join the cast.

The cast also features popular voice over artists Corey Burton, Rob Paulsen, Kevin Michael Richardson, Will Friedle, Jason Marsden, Jim Meskimen, Pat Musick, Scott Menville, Hynden Walch, Corey Padnos and Crystal Scales.

The bonus features on the double-disc release include a documentary on Bob Kane, a documentary about Batman’s villains, some of Bruce Timm’s favorite episodes from Batman: TAS and a sneak peak at the upcoming Wonder Woman animated film.

Batman: Gotham Knight hits shelves on July 8.

DC Bringing ‘Chuck’ to Comics

The long delay ’til the next season of NBC’s Chuck gets a bit of a reprieve this summer when DC Comics — via the Wildstorm imprint — releases a six-issue Chuck comic book miniseries.

From DC’s solicit, it sounds like the series will be trying to expand the scope of the TV series, which has a little thing called "budget" hemming it in.

From the solicit:

The hit NBC television series comes to comics as Chuck Bartowski and his friends are about to take the world by storm—literally! From series co-executive producer Peter Johnson (Supernatural: Rising Son) and series writer Zev Borow joined with artists Jeremy Haun (The Leading Man) and Phil Noto (Jonah Hex) comes an adventure too big for television!

In this globe-trotting, action-packed adventure, Chuck will see many exotic locales, dodge numerous bullets, and be tortured by the world’s greatest…tickler?

This sounds fairly similar to the globally expansive central storyline to last year’s Heroes graphic novel, another NBC-to-DC synergistic development. (Check out the haiku review of Heroes, another ComicMix greatest hit.)

Call me cautiously optimistic about this one. I really like the premise of Chuck, and I enjoyed the first few episodes. But things became very repetitive very quickly, and the gaps in logic became too unfathomable even for a "fun" show. Still, it has the chance to be this generation’s Get Smart, and that’s nothing to sleep on.

Jaime King Writing Graphic Novel

After appearing in Sin City and bringing some glamour to the upcoming big-screen adaptation of The Spirit (as Lorelei Rox), actress Jaime King has a new and a bit unexpected collaboration upcoming with Frank Miller.

She recently served as cover girl for Maxim, and inside the issue she casually dropped the news that she’s writing a graphic novel, and Miller will be helping her through the process. That piece of info was gleaned in full by Star Pulse.

From the magazine:

"I’m actually writing a graphic novel that Frank Miller is helping me take to some big publishing companies. I love that medium."

Graphic novels, they’re so hot right now. Jokes aside, I think it’s great that more and more people are becoming interested in the medium and its potential to tell stories. Some just have the fortune of being beautiful, rich, famous and Frank Miller’s acquaintance.

British Ad Agency Creates New Comic

Though the history of comics largely began through free newspaper inserts, that practice has gone unused for decades.

Fitting, then, that such an unexpected distribution model would accompany the release of a new comic book series created by an advertising agency. Mother, the London-based agency best known for promoting Coca-Cola, recently announced it will be shipping Four Feet from a Rat – a collection of comics stories – in the weekly Time Out listings magazine.

Read the full Guardian article right here. Strangely enough, the comic doesn’t even include advertisements. The company explained that it serves simply as a creative outlet for employees.

The story behind the creation is pretty interesting: Mother has a history of offering its services for favors instead of money. The company did some work for Time Out in exchange for pages in the publication. Once they accrued enough pages, they set about making the comic.

Mother partnered with comics publisher Mam Tor for the art on the stories. Guardian comics critic Will Hodkinson said the stories carried on in the tradition of Hellraiser and Sandman.

"This isn’t as good as those comics – it is a little derivative," said Hodgkinson. "One might almost call it a pastiche. But it’s well drawn and well written and it’ll be interesting to see how it develops as they find their voice."

If the book has some success, keep an eye on other publishers who might try something similar.