Today’s Zen question: Can a movie be called a sequel even if it has a cast that hadn’t been in the earlier three movies but it stars the same lead character and the worldview remains consistent with those movies and all four movies have the same director, but the last one was released 30 years ago?
Today’s Zen answer: Who the hell cares? Mad Max: Fury Road is an absolutely terrific movie.
I saw this epic with my ComicMix comrade Martha Thomases and our mutual pal, Michigan’s own Penelope Ruchman. It was the beginning of an amazingly astonishing pop entertainment day; I’d give you those details but you know how I absolutely hate to name-drop. I won’t speak for Martha or Penny except to say that Martha enjoyed the movie at least as much as I did and I believe Penny liked it even more. Yes, it really is the Gone With The Wind of action movies, except instead of torching Atlanta they trashed several megatons of George Metzger-esque decrepit vehicles traveling across the desert to… well, to nowhere. Action ensues.
And that’s about it for the plot. Usually, that is not a good sign. Here, somehow, it works. If somebody pitched this to me as a graphic novel I’d have rejected it – but on the screen, in George Miller’s more-than-capable hands, it soars. I did not notice one person in the crowded Manhattan theater leaving for food or a bathroom break. That’s better than “two thumbs up,” particularly when damn near the entire movie was set in the desert. You’d think people would need some water or soda or a Slurpee or something.
Tom Hardy is fine as Max. The role isn’t overwhelmingly dependent upon acting chops, but when needed Tom delivers. The true star of this movie, in every conceivable way, is Charlize Theron. She plays the other title character, Imperator Furiosa. She is the heart and the soul of the movie but, to the regret of a few morons, she and her women companions also carry the brunt of the action. They carry it right to your lap.
There’s a bit of a controversy contrived by these aforementioned morons about how Mad Max: Fury Road emasculates men. There is a phrase for this attitude: neurotic bullshit. If this movie made their balls shrivel up and fall to the ground, trust me: society is better off.
There’s a long-standing meme in Hollywood about how women can’t carry an action movie. Executives point to truly shitty movies such as Catwoman, Elektra, and Supergirl. It doesn’t occur to the cigar-chompers that if you rewrote these movies for a male lead, they would be just as shitty and only marginally more income-active. I have three things to say to these people:
Mad Max: Fury Road
Greenlight the fucking Black Widow movie already.
Mad Max: Fury Road was co-written by comics great Brendan McCarthy, of 2000 AD fame. Particularly of Judge Dredd fame. The parallels between the Mad Max series and Dredd are, well, overwhelming. Jus’ sayin’. I thought Mick McMahon should have received royalties for The Road Warrior, but it is a great movie. Just like Road Fury.
This movie was so relentless and so compelling that even George Eastman’s parents should be proud.
Go see it. But first, stop by the ridiculously overpriced candy counter and buy vast quantities of consumable liquid. This time, it’s actually worth the money.
This past weekend was a big, major one with Avengers: Age of Ultron premiering, and, on Saturday, Free Comic Book Day. And geeks, in general, had a good, busy weekend. Events were popping up all around the country, celebrating geekdom.
It was also a huge money maker for geek companies. Marvel/Disney (as expected) scored big at movie box offices all over the US. Comic book stores opened their doors to new and old comic readers with free gifts as well as deals on their current stock. People were out and about spending money, which is good for the local community as well as big business.
All this spending of the almighty dollar.
Which made it all the more better when I opened up the FCBD 2000 AD issue and read the Judge Dredd story. This UK weekly had a futuristic story about certain people being banned from using certain building entrances set aside for the elite. Which is the exact same issue happening in NYC right now.
Science-fiction always has been used to highlight inequality and social issues throughout time, which is part of the reason I love it so much. Using entertaining media to educate people and share ideas is one of the best ideas humans ever had.
Still, I didn’t expect it to show up on FCBD. This is a day normally reserved to bring in new readers and give them a taste to whet their appetite. So taking a moral or ethical stance that could offend could be a risk. However, 2000 AD took a chance and I’m loving it. They show their platform through Judge Dredd, as well as other stories, and it’s an open-minded one. They are showing any and all readers who they are and what they stand for. This is what Sci-Fi is meant to be.
High-five to 2000 AD for using issues and dilemmas from “over the pond” to educate as well as entertain.
This is Wednesday, so perhaps you have finished reading all those free comic books you copped last Saturday – in time for today’s new releases, of course. I hope you tried some new stuff; that, after all, is the purpose of the exercise.
I hope you got your free comics at all. Fans are limited by their proximity to a comic book store; despite the (slow) growth in outlets, finding a store remains a trauma exacerbated in less urban environs. Of course, if you are within distance of a comics shop, your friendly neighborhood retailer has to participate in Diamond Comic Distributors’ Free Comic Book Day program – and that’s a fairly expensive proposition.
No criticism is intended here: it’s a good program, and all Diamond is asking is that retailers pay their share of the expenses. Nonetheless, some retailers find the cost is prohibitive. Running a comic book store is a scary proposition: every month, the owner stares at the order form and literally bets the rent on his non-returnable choices. If you’ve made some bad calls, you might not have the coin for this promotion. And if you’re doing okay, you might know from previous experience that there is an insufficient return on investment. That’s called “business.”
One of the benefits of the convention circuit is that I get to see friends from all over the country. In the two weeks prior to Free Comic Book Day, I was at AwesomeCon in Washington DC and C2E2 in Chicago. Several retailer friends told me in Washington that they weren’t participating in FCBD, usually for the reasons I noted above. Hmmmm, I said.
The following week I was in Chicago and I asked several other retailer friends if they were playing in. Their general response was “What? Of course I am! Do you think I’m nuts?”
Well, I just might, but not over FCBD. It’s each retailer’s decision, and he or she makes that decision based upon the balance sheet and prior experience. If, ultimately, it expands their sales it’s a good idea and if it does not expand their sales, it’s a bad idea. It’s just that simple.
I like FCBD because it gives me, as a reader, the opportunity to sample stuff that I have overlooked. There are roughly 500 new comic books published each month, not counting direct-to-digital, and even if I have the Sultan of Brunei’s bank account I don’t have time to read even a small fraction of the total output. Plus, I’m an old newspaper strip fan and, as Mark Wheatley says, this is the golden age of newspaper reprints. Let’s face it, I’ve got a life. And that life has a television set.
The coolest part for me is coming across something unexpected. For example, the 2014 FCBD edition of 2000 AD contained a Judge Dredd story by my pal Chris Burnham, who neglected to tell me he did this job when I saw him the previous week. I forgive him, and respect the fact that he’s capably following in the footsteps of Carlos Ezquerra, Brian Bolland, Mick McMahon, Ian Gibson and other top-rank Dredd artists. As I moved into the guts of the book I was pleased to see Jan Duursema’s art on the Durham Red story. Pretty damn cool.
I guess for me, the whole Free Comic Book Day thing addresses that inner-fanboy that all too often is pushed aside by “professional considerations.” So, as a consumer, FCBD is a very good thing.
Besides. I like Rocket Raccoon. Hey, we’ve all got something to promote!
While I was in NYC a couple of weekends ago, I ended up at a Gowanus Studios party out in Brooklyn (as you do), chatting with my friend Reilly Brown and some other excellent comics folks. In the middle of all this (all this being pizza and wine, la-di-la, because I’m too fancy for beer), I learned about Act-i-vate, which some of you may have heard of, but I sure hadn’t.
That’s one of the things I love about comics – even if you’ve been a fan for years, or know quite a bit about it, there’s always so much going on that you’re never going to reach the end of learning new stuff about comics – the art and the industry. (And also, if you’re me at least, the genre being so large means you don’t have to feel like a bad fan for not knowing everything about it; it’s hard!) So despite having interviewedDean Haspiel, who was one of the founding members of Act-i-vate, since he’s moved to other projects now we had not discussed it, and I’d never heard of it.
Simon Fraser remedied that for me at the party (it’s not a real party unless you stop someone in mid-sentence, drag them into an empty studio, and do an impromptu interview, dontchya know) . You might recognize Simon as the co-creator of Nikolai Dante, “a swashbuckling adventure story set amid dynastic intrigue in a future Russia,” or as an artist who’s drawn a number of Judge Dredd stories. He’s also the current “gatekeeper,” so-to-speak, for Act-i-vate, which just celebrated its seventh anniversary, and his enthusiasm for the webcomics collective is contagious. Read on to hear more about this cool group, what they do, and what they have to offer.
Tell me what Act-i-vate is about.
Act-i-vate is a webcomics collective of comic artists producing comics primarily for themselves and for each other. Most of the comic artists who are in Act-i-vate are professionals or semi-professional. We spend much of our time trying to make a living in the industry and working hard to keep ourselves professionally employed, but a lot of the time that means making compromises to publishers, to get the job done; to get work through the doors; to get the paycheck. Which is great. If you can do that, you’re doing well. And it implies you’ve got a great deal of professional ability.
However, Act-i-vate is all about doing your signature work – it’s about the thing you really want to do, that you’ve been suppressing for a long time [so that you can make a living]. As a working professional, you may be doing four pages a week if you’re lucky, or maybe five. If you work in the evening one night a week, you can maybe get an extra page in; and that’s basically the base of Act-i-vate, is that each week – or sometimes people do a couple pages a month – you do a page, and put it up on Act-i-vate, which is a community of artists, and we look at the work and comment on each others’ work.
So you critique it?
We critique it to a certain extent. It’s a social environment, so it’s also an encouraging environment. And it’s also a big deal that even if you’re not getting a paycheck for the work, you know somebody’s waiting for it, someone’s expecting it – that means it actually gets done. Because I know for my own sake, a paycheck is tremendously motivating, but knowing that people I respect are waiting to see my next page is a big deal. So that’s the primary purpose of Act-i-vate, knowing that you’re a part of the community – because a lot of times comic artists, we work in a vacuum, we work in one room somewhere isolated.
And in the seven years since it’s started, Act-i-vate has expanded like crazy. There are over fifty members now. We’ve got members in Britain, we’ve got members in Australia, we’ve got members all over America. It’s getting to enormous size.
How did Act-i-vate start?
It started with Dean Haspiel and Dan Goldman. Dean has moved on to other projects now; he’s not directly involved with Act-i-vate anymore. He wants to do other things, like Trip City, now, which was his next thing after Act-i-vate. But Act-i-vate still exists, and is still growing. We’ve put on about ten members in the last year and a half, and there’s more and more new material going on all the time. Because there’s just such an amazing amount of talent out there, and creators who have something to say, and something they want to do. And they want to do it on their own terms, so they don’t really want to go to a publisher initially. What they can do with Act-i-vate is do the work, and make the work they want it to be, and then, afterwards when it’s completed they take it to the publisher and say, “This is it. Fait accompli!”
So when you say signature work, are you talking about a signature style of art, or more like a creator-owned signature story or piece of work, or both?
It can be anything. That’s the other thing as well, is that a lot of the time you don’t get the chance to experiment with your style. For me, Act-i-vate was all about me writing, because I haven’t really had a chance to write that much. It’s not something I get paid to do. So it was all about me writing a story, which I drew, and I was very happy with it, and by the time it came out (it took me two years to do a hundred page graphic novel), I thought it was a very good calling card for me. I thought, “That’s the kind of thing which is mine, separate.” Because I spent the last fifteen years working on something I created, but it’s owned by a company. It’s corporate. And that basically becomes my calling card, but it’s not owned by me.
So did your comic then come out to the public? Once you got your graphic novel done, did you publish it commercially?
Yes. What happened is that I have a publisher in Britain, 2000 AD, who published Judge Dredd in the 2000 AD anthology; and I’d been working for them for fifteen, twenty years. So they basically said, “We really like what you’ve done on Act-i-vate. We could publish this as well.” So they published it in one of their magazines.
Did it have some commercial success?
It did very well. The fanbase really liked it, and I got paid for it, which is excellent. And the letterer and the colorist got paid, so that’s really nice for me, because I want everybody to get something out of this, apart from just doing the work. And from there, they [2000 AD] said, “Okay, do you want to do more?” And I said, “Yes!” So right now I’m trying to find, in between my other jobs, time to get back on to the sequel of that story; because I’m doing a trilogy of stories based on these characters. The first is called Lilly MacKenzie and the Mines of Charybdis. And the one I’m working on now is called Lilly MacKenzie and the Treasure of Paros.
Sounds good! Now, when you say the letterist and the colorist got paid, are those people you picked up after you had developed it on your own?
Well, I have a very close working relationship with my colorist, Gary Caldwell, who’s wonderful. He’s tremendous; he does all my work in 2000 AD. We have a very close relationship; we fire stuff back and forth all the time. We kind of don’t have to speak to each other that much to know what we want. So Gary very generously agreed to color the thing for free, right from the start, when it was being done on Act-i-vate, and when money eventually came along, I said, “He’s got 25% of it, that’s what he owns.” Any money I get from this, he gets 25%, and that’s worked out very well for all of us.
The letterer came on when it was printed, because I lettered it originally and my lettering is kind of crap. A guy called Simon Bowland, who does lettering for 2000 AD, did a beautiful job re-lettering it. He then graciously let me use his lettering for my edition of it – I’ve done a little self-published edition of it and I’m looking for an American publisher for the collected trilogy when that eventually comes out. But I’m not going to rush that. I’m going to do my second part as I feel comfortable doing it, and then I’ll approach somebody and see if they’re interested in a third part.
As a professional versus a newer artist, are you welcomed if you’re not as known, or is it mostly when you have some professional credentials already? How does that work?
It’s all based on the quality of the work. If you come to me and I’ve never heard of your name and I see something that’s brilliant, that really knocks my socks off; then yes, absolutely [you are welcomed].
So is it a moderated community?
It’s entirely moderated. I mean, basically, you’ve got to get past me. I’m the gatekeeper. We used to have a more democratic process; we used to vote on things. But that became so conflicted and so complicated.
It is a professional community. We keep the standard very high, which means that we don’t accept very many people, but the standard of things that people have submitted is incredibly high, frankly. This is New York, and there’s so much talent around. And it’s people who really want to do something of their own, and they want to do it among people they respect. That’s a big deal, I mean, I feel tremendously enthused by the fact that the people who are working on Act-i-vate are so good, and they’re doing such different things. Some of it, if you go on the site, you can’t easily see as commercial; but it’s got its own thing going on there. They’re really trying something different and new and exciting.
I think the market will catch up with this. Right now the American comic market is in this tremendous period of expansion. It’s very low-level and there’s kind of not much money in it, but there’s tremendous amounts of material being generated the last couple of years. It’s very, very exciting. And I think the material on Act-i-vate is finding its audience online, and it will find its audience in print; it will find its audience in different media and other ways, and that’s great.
As someone who’s been around Act-i-vate for some time, have you seen others get something commercial through their work on Act-i-vate? Can you give examples?
Oh yes. Kevin Colden – his book Fishtown was done on Act-i-vate. He actually applied for a Xeric Grant to do the book as a small press thing, and he got offered it; but he said, “I would rather put it on Act-i-vate.” Which is a big measure of faith to us. And he put it on Act-i-vate and he got a lot of attention for it – it’s about a real event which happened in Philadelphia. And he then took it to IDW and IDW made a beautiful book of it. And he got nominated for an Eisner Award for that.
Roger Langridge has a comic on Act-i-vate, and that went to one of the publishers. There’s also Warren Pleece. He’s one of the Pleece brothers, who, when I was starting out in comics in Britain, were basically our Hernandez brothers; Warren and Gary Pleece. They just put out a compilation of their old work, The Great Unwashed, through Escape Books in America. It’s a fantastic book. It’s so…it’s like listening to that Kinks song. It’s got that kind of weird downbeat aesthetic, like The Smiths or something, and that’s very characteristic of them. And they do this beautiful story on Act-i-vate called Montague Terrace, which is also like that – and that’s coming out through Jonathan Cape in London this year.
We have Darryl Cunningham, who has become something of a celebrity recently. He’s done Psychiatric Tales, Books 1 & 2; he actually works in a psychiatric hospital, and Psychiatric Tales is really good, fascinating stuff. Darryl’s thing is basically that people don’t really understand what a lot of these mental illnesses are, and how they function or manifest themselves. He spends a lot of time with these people, so he basically took it upon himself to explain a lot of these common mental illnesses. And he did it in such an elegant way; because Darryl’s a beautiful cartoonist. It came out through Blank Slate in the UK and Bloomsbury in the US.
He’s done a new book called Science Tales, through Abrams, which is all about debunking science myths. So like the fake moon landing and all of that. There was a really horrible story a while back about a guy called Andrew Wakefield, who basically said that the measles, mumps, and rubella vaccine caused autism, which was quite shocking; and he was promoting this theory and scared a lot of parents from vaccinating their children. A lot of celebrities got involved, like Jenny McCarthy, and she started promoting this, and she’s still promoting it, even though Wakefield has been discredited entirely, and medical journals have basically come out and said, “this is absolute nonsense, it’s complete charlatanry.” But he was basically using it to promote himself. As a result now, some kids are not getting vaccinated for these things, which is very, very serious. If kids get these diseases when they’re children, it can affect the rest of their lives. Darryl did a story about that, which is brilliant. And he’s basically dealing with all the big mythologies.
He’s doing a story about Ayn Rand right now, on his website; he’s a great debunker. Ayn Rand is fascinating; I think he came down on the side that he felt sorry for her, because she had such a horrible life, and it was just depressing. She was obviously an uncompromising character; for the era, it’s remarkable that such a person as that existed.
What would your advice be for an artist who wants to be involved in Act-i-vate, and do you have some advice you’d like to share with the people who are still looking to become professionals, or more recognized as such?
At Act-i-vate we’re interested in seeing anything that’s unique and individual. We tend not to go for the more established genres like fantasy and science fiction; and not superheroes, because that’s well-represented. The other thing about Act-i-vate is that this is our thing, and we’re very happy with it, and we sometimes get new members, and that’s fine; but [running a webcomics collective is] relatively easy to do. I mean, we’ve survived for seven years. It doesn’t cost much to make a webcomics collective. All it really requires is a bit of effort, and a bit of going out there and finding people. And if you have an idea and you have something you want to do – we encourage people not just to apply to Act-i-vate, but set up their own collectives.
I think we all have our own points of view, and Act-i-vate has a very specific point of view of its own, and I think we’d like to see more people coming out with their own things, and different things. The more we have the better; the stronger the community of independent webcomics is. We haven’t really concentrated on making money out of Act-i-vate; because that’s not really what we do. We’re not a publisher; but we encourage; we’re trying to help our authors to get their work done. Because a lot of these things don’t make that much money. There’s money in digital comics to a certain degree, but it’s microscopic in comparison to what a good print book can get. I think what we’re trying to do is encourage good-quality work. When that happens, hopefully the audiences will come find it. Which I think is happening.
For example, we have a really good comic recently called Pregnant Butch, which is about a lesbian couple having a baby, which is hysterical; it’s so good. It’s by A.K. Summers, out in Rhode Island, and this is her first comic. She’s fabulous; she has such a great sense of humor, and such an innovative way of storytelling. And she’s not afraid of the darkness and the fear; because it can be terrifying, what’s happening. The fun thing, what I love, is the fact that she found an entirely new audience for her work and she had people commenting on her story who had never come to Act-i-vate before. She had established people who are interested in the subject, and also people who came in from outside who had never considered reading a comic about pregnant lesbians. And the fact is, it’s such a wonderful comic, it didn’t matter.
So to sum up, Act-i-vate is for people who want to, not just “get into the market and make money,” but who want to do their own thing, get encouragement on their work and comments, and have a community.
Yes. It’s about doing good comics. We’re all about good comics. I mean, there are lots of other aspects of comics and making a living and so forth, which we can help with, and we’re always available as colleagues to help with that.
Most of that tends to orbit around this studio complex here; there are a lot of Act-i-vate people in here. Act-i-vate is based in New York, and it tends to be Brooklyn-centric. But we reach out; we’re trying to get as wide a reach as possible. I’d like to get people from the West Coast, as well. We’ve got some people in D.C. Sam & Lilah is one of our strips on Act-i-vate, and the writer of that is in D.C. That’s Jim Dougan, who’s a big DC United fan and I think has had some press with them. So we’ve got people from all over, and we want to continue with that.
• • • • •
Thanks very much to Simon for this great interview! I have to confess that since learning about the site, I’ve spent more than a few minutes (eep!) reading some of the comics, and they really are excellent. So check out Act-i-vate for some new reading material, and if you’re a creator looking to get some support, encouragement, and comments from other pros as you work on your own project, consider getting in touch with Simon and submitting some work!
Back in the 1960s and 1970s there was this publisher called Harvey Comics. They were in business to sell comic books to children: Casper the Friendly Ghost, Wendy the Good Little Witch, Hot Stuff, Sad Sack, Little Dot, Richie Rich… well, mostly Richie Rich. As in “I counted 47 different Richie Rich titles from Harvey Comics, not including the daily and Sunday newspaper strip.” Most were bi-monthlies and quarterlies, so to be fair I doubt Harvey released more than a four or five Richie Rich titles every week.
The modern-day equivalent to Richie Rich is Wolverine, who appears in dozens of Marvel titles each month. The sundry Avengers titles, the sundry X-Men titles, Wolverine, Savage Wolverine, Wolverine Max, Wolverine’s Bank Vaults, Wolverine Dollars and Cents… When it comes to that mad little bugger, well, no unemployment lines for him.
Batman is almost as heavily exposed: his various titles, his “family” titles including Batgirl, Batwoman, Nightwing, Robin, blah blah blah. He’s got Batmen stashed all over the world; perhaps the universe. Multiverse. Whatever.
Spider-Man, Iron Man, certainly Captain America… there’s no shortage of work for these guys, either. So why am I bitching? What, am I opposed to the free market?
Aside from the fact that the “free market” is a bigger fantasy than the multiverse, I do not begrudge a publisher its opportunity for success. However, there is the element of uniqueness that makes comics fun. That element is lost, rather rapidly, with overexposure. There are something in the neighborhood of 7200 members of the Green Lantern corps, and if I’m not mistaken all but the Moslem dude has his own comic book. Sarah Palin just found a power ring in her Rice Krispies.
When was the last time there was a truly original, a truly unique, successful superhero launch? Spawn and Savage Dragon? That was 20 years ago. DC Comics rebooted its universe 14 times since then. Before that? What, maybe Judge Dredd (depending upon your definition of “superhero”)? That was back in 1977, when Jimmy Carter was sworn in as President.
Have we lost our originality? No, we simply don’t have publishers with either the backbone or the resources to pull it off. So instead we clone ourselves. The major superheroes are little more than a fourth generation photocopy of what made them unique.
If the marketplace supports mega-multiple titles for its half-dozen most popular characters, why shouldn’t publishers meet that demand?
Because, today, Richie Rich is not being published at all.
Despite Karl Urban uttering, “I am the law” his overall demeanor was just one of the many disappointments in the new film take on the classic 2000 AD hero, Judge Dredd. Dredd is out on home video this week from Lionsgate and it is amazing how bored I was watching it. The majority of the 96 film takes place in the Peach Trees Block and is effectively Dredd playing John McLane, trying to survive a sealed off building under siege.
It’s hard to watch this without comparing it with the Sylvester Stallone misfire of the 1990s. While the story sucked and the star violated the character by taking his helmet off a lot, it looked like the weekly comic come to life. The high tech, futuristic clutter of Mega City One was expertly captured, reminding us of how much the visual of Blade Runner derived from the British comic which has been around since 1977. Also, the costuming was perfect. Here, everything is scaled down and the Judge’s uniform does not look anywhere near as imposing.
Urban, no stranger to the genre, gets credit for playing the character accurately, keeping the helmet on and the upper lip and jaw prominent. On the other hand, he is not physically imposing as Stallone was or as Spanish artist Carlos Ezquerra envisioned him.
We open with a voiceover setting the stage telling rather than showing and this vision is less imposing than the one in the comics. Somehow, the corridor from Boston to Washington has become this singular city with these 200+ story blocks that have become isolated communities. In this one, Ma-Ma (Lena Headey), a drug-dealer/gang leader has become the distributor for a new drug and a routine case pits Dredd and the rookie Judge Anderson (Olivia Thirlby) against an entire community out for blood.
This is more Anderson’s story than Dredd’s and we learn about her mutant ability is that of the most powerful psychic the Justice Department has ever seen. She is deemed ready for evaluation and goes out with Dredd and becomes embroiled in the case. Thirlby, a rising independent film star, is the best part of the film, but then again, she has the most to work with. Her interactions with the prisoner Kay (Wood Harris) give the film any sense of character.
Everyone else plays a type, from the stoic Dredd to the stereotypical Ma-Ma. Headey, a genre veteran, snarls nicely but has little else to do and seems not to care. Dredd is the most feared Judge of all but here, he lacks that reputation which diminishes the character.
The movie is a hard R with exceptionally graphic violence and gore courtesy of director Peter Travis. He’s done this sort of thing before and he handles it well, but doesn’t seem to know what else to do with the characters so has them run, hide, shoot, bleed, repeat.
The best of the extras is “Mega-City Masters: 35 Years of Judge Dredd” (14:27) where creators Ezquerra and John Wagner, accompanied by Brian Bolland, Mark Millar, Jock, Chris Ryall and others, discuss the uniqueness of the character and the opportunity the series has given the writers and artists for topical social and political satire. Everything that is just over the top enough to remain entertaining and amusing in the comics is absent from the film. Screenwriter Alex Garland is exceptionally talented but appears to have read a Wikipedia entry about the series before writing the script. This is perhaps the biggest disappointment of the film, which died at the box office, as much for inept marketing as a poor adaptation of the source material.
The other special features include “Day of Chaos: The Visual Effects of Dredd 3D” (15:21), although this is wasted on those of us who don’t care about 3-D; “Dredd” (1:53), “Dredd’s Gear” (2:31), “The 3rd Dimension” (2:00), about the film’s stereo, and “Welcome to Peach Trees” (2:33).There’s a little more Ma-Ma character substance in the motion comic prequel (2:57).
The combo set includes the 2-D, 3-Dand ultraviolet digital copy. This is the first combo set I have seen without a standard DVD version offered, a portent of the future.
Also included in this set is a digital copy of the film and an Ultraviolet stream or download.
I don’t know why they call today Black Friday. It sounds like a superhero version of Gulliver’s Travels, as published by DC or Marvel in the 1970s. And that might be the quickest digression we’ve had on ComicMix to date.
A bunch of the ComicMix columnists contributed a list of gift suggestions, all with snappy convenient links to Amazon for your shopping pleasure. Well, Mindy ran her list in her column last Monday; you’ve probably already read that but if not, click through in awe and wonder. Please note: I asked each contributor to include one item that they were directly involved in, so don’t think they’re pandering. That’s not necessarily the case.
And the whole group picks Samurai Jack – Season 1 “We owe so much of what Samurnauts are to this amazing series by Gendy Tartakovsky. And the performance by Phil Lamarr is nuanced and brilliant.”
On behalf of our friend Dennis O’Neil, I would like to recommend each and every item he’s recommended in the Recommended Reading portion of his weekly ComicMix column… and I also suggest when you’re at Amazon you check out his own billion or so books – you can’t go wrong with any of them. But, of course, particularly the ones I recommend at the end of this column.
Martha Thomases: So much better! Karl Urban looked the part. The set, while not looking like the comics, had the gritty spirit of the comics. And the violence was terrifically cartoony.
And no Rob Schneider, although I did think he was the best thing about the first one.
Mike: Back in 1995I went in to the theater with really low expectations, given the Sylvester Stallone / Rob Schneider leads. They managed to live up to those expectations. This new one had enough blood to make Sam Peckinpah gag, but I dug it. It was meaningful blood.
I admire Urban playing true to the character and never taking the helmet off. Sly put his money right there on the screen. Sadly.
Martha: Urban kept his face still and his voice growled. I can remember the other characters. The kid who worked the computer for the bad guys has stayed in my mind. Those eyes. Dredd 3-D reminded me of Escape From New Yorkmore than Peckinpah.
Mike: Good point. Although Escape From New York reminded me of Grand Central Terminal at evening rush.
Lots of solid special effects with the eyes. It was a signature thing with this movie. I liked how both women leads looked like they had been drawn by Ian Gibson, which was exactly the right thing. The growling was right on target, although I’m afraid some people will think he was imitating Batman.
Martha: I also liked the way the women weren’t played as sexy femme fatales nor damsels in distress. None were there to be love interests, not even Judge Anderson. Although in a society where everything is filthy and no one can get a close shave, I am impressed that they take the time to pluck their eyebrows.
Mike: This one was very faithful to the comics, both in tone and in detail. You’re right about the cityscape, and the blocks looked more realistic (and less ironic) than in the comics.
They really understood their source material… maybe because the 2000AD publisher co-produced it. The dog wagging the tail, as opposed to the Warner Bros. approach.
Martha: I couldn’t tell when it went from real to matte/CGI. The city looked quite believable.
Mike: Like the Tales from the Crypt teevee show, they added nasty language to the dialog. Unlike Tales from the Crypt, no nudity. Which was fine: I, for one, would have to pluck my eyes out after seeing Judge Dredd naked.
Martha: But a naked Dr. McCoy would be a delight!
Mike: Yeah, that’ll be in Star Trek 2.2 for sure! Just to feel Spock’s indifference.
I did flash on how cool it would have been to have Joan Jett as the villain, but Lena Headey was absolutely great.
Martha: I don’t know who should get the credit for Urban’s performance. It was very flat, which is exactly right. Kind of show-offy in a non-show-offy way. I assume the director told him to do that.
Mike: JudgeDredd dominates. Unlike the comics, he can’t be unrealistically one head taller than everybody else so his performance had to make it seem that way. Given how everything was covered up except for his jaw and mouth, all he had to work with was his voice. Which came off great.
Martha: If I have a problem, it’s the McGuffin made no sense. It’s a drug called SloMo, which slows one’s perception of time. If you’ll living a wretched slum, why is that something you would want to do?
Although taking a bath on SloMo sure was pretty.
Mike: I agree with that, although heroin is much the same way – except you also get to distance yourself from your lousy reality. But it worked well for the big finish.
Martha: It worked for the torture threats, too. Made the bad guys seem really, really bad.
Mike: I think the middle of the movie was too drawn out. When Steven Moffatt wrote the Rowin Atkinson Doctor Who, he said the show was about chase scenes through endless corridors. In Dredd 3-D, they seem to think this was a good idea.
Martha: I kept thinking video games. I thought we going to have to go through all 200 levels.
Mike: The outrageousness of the early Dredd stores has since become commonplace in our culture. It lost all its shock value. And as much fun as that was, I think they were smart to avoid that today. It would have turned the movie into a comedy. But without Rob Schneider.
Martha: I eagerly await the Judge Death storyline.
Mike: Yeah, I hope it does well enough for a sequel. Not too sure about that, although the reviews weren’t universally horrible. Two-thirds were at least fairly positive.
What did you think of the Real 3-D?
Martha: It made the SloMo parts really pretty.
Mike: This is the new second move – ever – where I liked the 3-D effects, the first being The Avengers. This was actually better. But those middle scenes lacked ‘em, making them even slower for me.
Martha: Otherwise, it was subtle enough that I focused on the movie.
Mike: Good point. The gimmicks should never outweigh the story or the performances. Just try telling that to George Lucas.
Martha: The sparkle in the SloMo 3D is the only reason I could imagine the drug was any fun.
Mike: So, kids, just say no to drugs unless you’re in a 3-D theater. ComicMix cares.
Martha: 3-D Pixar movies are great in 3-D.
Mike: Yeah, well, personally I’m not a big fan of that animation style. This makes me very lonely. And they’re a waste of Randy Newman’s considerable gifts.
Martha: We will have to agree to disagree about that.
Mike: So I infer you liked Dredd 3-D… a lot?
Martha: A bunch. I would recommend it. I hope it does well so Box Office Democracy covers it. I should warn you that I did not hate the TotalRecall remake, so my opinion might not matter.
Mike: Of course your opinion matters. Consensual reality doesn’t apply to movies. And nice job plugging Box Office Democracy!
I would certainly recommend it to action movie fans and absolutely to comics fan. I think my response is about 90% of yours.
Martha: I would be interested to know how this movie is received by those who don’t know the comic.
Mike: I will be interested to see how it does in the UK as opposed to North America.
What are you looking forward to next?
Martha: I want to see Looker. I still haven’t seen The Master. And Bond. James Bond. The Man with the Iron Fists. Django Unchained.Cloud Atlas – the new Wachowski film. I am a social butterfly!
Mike: The trailer for Iron Fists was great, although you already warned me. It’s made by Michael Davis’s buddy Rza. And, yeah, as always I’m looking forward to the next Bond. Us baby boomers and our James Bond fetish.
That Ben Afflick movie Argo looks interesting. Then again, I’m hoping he’s in Avengers 2 as well. Or Captain America 2. Just to piss the hardcore off.
Martha: I love Ben. I even loved Jersey Girl.
I find that, if there is a theme in my movie preferences of late, it’s that I like to see cute guys in peril.
Mike: Damn. So Daniel Craig is cute? He doesn’t do that much for me. But M…
Martha: Is she in peril in the new one? I think the new Q is adorable.
So, yes, I think all ComicMix readers should go see this… if only to participate in this discussion in the comments.
Mike: Ever vigilant about the page hits! I agree, on both subjects. Thanks, Martha! We’ll see you here next week!
We begin our two part interview with the creator & cast of the blockbuster cable TV hit, BREAKING BAD. With less than two seasons remaining, the big questions are – where is it going – and where will it end? Plus both the comics and film industries react to the Colorado Tragedy, Judge Dredd gets a new home and Anne Hathaway says “maybe” to a Catwoman spin-off.
Michael Chiklis loves the super hero life on ABC’s NO ORDINARY FAMILY, but could he ever slip back into the dark days of Vic Mackey and THE SHIELD? Michael tells us about the possibility of a SHIELD movie as well as remembering the first comic he ever read! Meanwhile they are talking about a JUDGE DREDD movie again? Really?
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