Tagged: novel

Jen Krueger: The Digital Divide – Reading Comics on My iPad

Jen Krueger: The Digital Divide – Reading Comics on My iPad

As someone who has more books than room on my bookshelves to accommodate them, an obsessive collector of cool artifacts of things I love, and a completionist in almost all regards, I don’t think I surprise anyone by saying I love comics. But I have definitely noticed confused head quirks when I admit that when it comes to the question of physical copies versus digital versions, I prefer to read comics on my iPad.

I should preface my preference for comics on a screen by saying this: I hate reading books digitally. On a purely aesthetic level, the size, weight, and smell of a book have always been an integral part of the reading process for me, so an e-book has just never been able to command my focus the same way a physical book does. A progress bar at the bottom of my screen somehow doesn’t give me the same sense of how much is behind and ahead of me that a bookmark in real pages does, and the pagination in general in e-books has always seemed off to me. Hand me an 800 page hardcover novel and I have, with a very small margin for error, a clear idea of the scale of what I’m diving into. In an e-book, the same text seems like it could take up anywhere from 800 to 2000 pages depending on the way it’s formatted.

But the biggest reason I’ve never been able to embrace e-books with gusto is that reducing a book to a file that looks like almost all other e-books takes away an individual book’s character. Hand me an iPad or Kindle and give me a quick glance at a few pages from any two e-books, and I probably won’t be able to easily distinguish them by their author or what work they’re from. Hand me two physical books and give me a quick glance at a few pages from each, and I’m exponentially more likely to be able to not only identify them, but also get a sense of what each book is like. Handing me a physical book is handing me a whole and unique package, and while there’s something tempting about being able to carry around hundreds of texts in one relatively small device, I’d rather sacrifice the space in my bag for fewer works that retain the character of their physical forms.

So if I’m so gung-ho about preserving the character of a book by only reading the physical version of it, why am I okay with filling my iPad with comics? Because the character of a comic is so bold and evident on every page that I don’t feel like I’m losing things in the digital translation. Look at a single digital page from any comic and you’re likely to be able to tell a lot about the work, and the sense of the comic’s character you get by doing that is much more in line with what you’d get from doing the same thing with a physical copy. That makes the big con of e-books moot for me, but this isn’t the only reason I lean toward my iPad when it comes to reading comics. In fact, this con made moot takes a significant backseat to a pro of e-books being made even better when applied to digital comics: I can take hundreds of them with me in one relatively small device.

While I can get by only having a couple books on me at a time, my habit of binge reading means I’d be carrying around an awful lot of trades if I only read physical comics. And since my preference for digital comics doesn’t mean I dislike physical ones, I’ve definitely carried around trades with me before. It takes so much less time for me to burn through a whole trade than it does a whole novel that the benefit of having 5 trades’ worth of comics on my iPad is evident in and of itself, but the volume of comics I’d need to have on me when reading a series isn’t the only problem I found with trying to read the physical versions.

The durability of physical comics, or more accurately the lack of it, is the last big factor in my preference for digital ones. Most trades are an awkward size to fit into the kind of bag I carry with me everyday, and though their size is more amenable to the backpack I take when traveling, they’re often not sturdy enough to stand up to being jostled around amongst the devices and travel paraphernalia I cram into my backpack in preparation for a trip. Where a hardback novel has the heft to take sharing space with a hard-sided headphone case while getting shoved under an airplane seat, and a paperback novel is compact enough to perch in the smaller space on top of the other things in my backpack, I’ve found my trade comic books just large yet just malleable enough to take a beating every time I pack them no matter how careful I am with the bag. But an iPad full of Locke & Key means an entire flight’s worth of reading without giving up the space the physical versions would take up, or the inevitable bummer of seeing them worse for the wear when I get to my destination. So while I’d certainly never turn my nose up if offered a physical trade of a comic, I’ll opt for the digital version if given the choice. Unless the trade is signed or some kind of special, limited edition, of course. That would make it a cool artifact, and I’m still an obsessive collector, after all.

John Ostrander: Why Did I Do That #3 – Suicide Squad

I don’t know about you guys but I’m having fun going back through some of the characters I’ve written in the past and explaining why I chose to do what I did. I’m not particularly critiquing modern versions (well, maybe a little) but I’m explaining why I took the approach I did. Today, let‘s look at some of the Suicide Squad members other than Amanda Waller.

Captain Boomerang. Initial Squad editor Bob Greenberger suggested Digger Harkness, aka Captain Boomerang, as a member. Flash at that time wasn’t using the Rogue and Boomerang was available. I wasn’t into the character at first and I considered him sort of lame, but I started thinking of what I could do with him.

One of the series I was reading at the time was the Flashman series by George MacDonald Fraser. Fraser took the secondary character from the classic Tom Brown’s Schooldays (an 1857 novel by Thomas Hughes). The character of Flashman, as created by Hughes, was a bully and a coward and got expelled early on from the school. Fraser picked him up in a series of historical novels, let him remain a rogue, a womanizer, a bully and a coward who becomes acclaimed (wrongly) as a hero in his day. At one point when I was reading the first novel I became so pissed with him, I threw the novel across the room. I grew to love him and the series, however; they’re very worth reading today. Historically accurate and funny as hell.

So – a rogue, Flashman, Flash – brain synapses fired. Why not do something like that with Captain Boomerang? He doesn’t change. He always looks for an angle. He knows who he is and he’s perfectly happy with it. He keeps finding new depths to which to sink. He’s a jerk, he’s an asshole, he’s a villain – but he’s fun to read.

According to his backstory, Harkness is from Australia but he never sounded like it. I decided to get some books on Australian slang and pepper his dialogue with them. It was a fun way to sneak some naughty words past the censors but the joke, ultimately, was on me. My buddy, the writer Dave de Vries, is from Down Under and he told me that he and his mates would get together to read issues of the Squad and just laugh at Boomerbutt’s lines. It seems my grasp of the slang was, shall we say, a tad antiquated.

“But I got them from books, “ I protested.

“I know, mate,” responded Dave, “but nobody actually talks like that anymore.”

I toned it down a bit. Still Digger remained one of my absolute faves on the Squad. Totally fun to write.

Deadshot. Also know as Floyd Lawton. Lawton was a little used Batman villain. In his first appearance, he wore a tuxedo with a top hat, a domino mask, and twin Western gunbelts strapped across his waist. Not a very cool look. His story was that he ran in the same set as Bruce Wayne so he was wealthy. He pretended to be a hero in Gotham and a challenge to Batman but actually was a thief and masterminded other robberies until Bats uncovered him and sent him to jail.

Steve Englehart and Marshall Rogers brought Deadshot back and gave him a really cool new look. I drafted him into the Squad.

Lawton was somewhat of a blank slate. I have a technique where I use induction and deduction to figure out a character based on what we knew. Deadshot’s rep is that he never misses and yet he can never kill Batman. Is Batman just that good or is there another reason? Does Deadshot pull his shots around Batman and, if so, why? I liked that last concept. Yes, Batman is that good but he’s also aware that Deadshot unconsciously pulls his shots. We later developed that Lawton had this complex relationship with his older brother. He really loved the guy but accidentally wound up killing him – Lawton’s first kill.

Lawton killed without emotion. I had to wrap my head around that if I was going to write it. How do you reach that point?

I had seen a special on TV talking with a mob hit man. Coldest dead eyes I’ve ever seen. Killing was nothing to him; he talked about shooting and killing a man in a car at a stop sign just to test a new gun. How could I write something so foreign to me?

I had also heard someone once say “If my own life doesn’t matter to me, why should yours?” On some level, I could understand that. Life has no meaning to someone like that. Yes, there was a moment – just a moment – when I felt like that at one time.

It’s been said Lawton had a death wish; I saw it – and see it – more that he didn’t care. He didn’t care if he died; he didn’t care if you died. The job mattered; was it interesting? Was there a challenge?

The two were tied together – having killed the person who mattered most to him, no other life mattered, including his own. That was a character I found compelling and so did quite a few others.

Different writers have different takes on both Captain Boomerang and Deadshot and that’s fine. They should have the freedom to develop the characters according to their own understanding as I did. Harkness and Lawton were among the most popular and central characters back when I was writing Suicide Squad; they were among my faves as well.

 

Marc Alan Fishman: Babyface, Heel, or Tweener?

In the pro-wrestling world, you are either a babyface, a heel, or a tweener. If you’re not down with the lingo and you’re suck at contextual clues: babyfaces are the heroes, heels are the villains, and tweeners straddle the line between the two. It’s always clearcut amongst the older generations that the lines between good and evil should be black and white.

In the golden era of comic books (and wrestling, while we’re at it), good guys were lantern-jawed and stood for the righteous. Villains sported crooked smiles, and completed acts of tyranny for no more purpose than the love of chaos. But with the modern era came the shades of grey. Personally, I live for those shades.

My favorite wrestler is CM Punk, a tumultuous canvas of ashen tones, made into a grappler. In his infamous pipe bomb promo (feel free to watch the entire brilliant tirade if you have an hour to kill here) Punk crossed the line between his then heel persona by breaking the fourth wall harder then it’d ever been broken before in the WWE. Through a scathing set of brutally honest speeches, the WWE Universe (the fans) soon learned that the straight edge superstar was more than a set of catchphrases and lack-of-merchandise. Amidst a hot crowd of vicious booing, Punk made his point: he wasn’t an out-and-out heel, he was a human being capable of good and bad. Eventually Punk got everything he wanted, including becoming a bonafide tweener where even if he completed acts of depravity, it was accepted as being a part of a bigger whole. It’s a theme that occurs elsewhere outside the squared circle.

The Punisher, Wolverine, Venom, dare I even say GrimJack, et al… the venerable anti-heroes. Good guys that do bad things, and we love them for it. They cross the line where Batman, Superman, or Professor X grit their teeth and shake their heads. As an audience, we respect, and even love that those heroes are forced to make the hard choices. But the devils that sit on our shoulders whisper sweet nothings to us – we want to see the villains pay the ultimate price. We want to see that the means justify the ends. We need to see that villains can’t always get away with murder, rape, and the like. And yes, we love it when those good men do bad things, because wish fulfillment is a vice we can all enjoy. Ask every Tarantino character immortalized in celluloid.

Most recently I’ve found a love for NBC’s Hannibal, which seeks heavily to relish in the subtle pathways between the light and dark sides of man. Dr. Lecter is a monster – a veritable Satan if ever there was one – but in his defense, he tends to only eat the rude. Humorous perhaps, but we as the audience are made to feel a wisp of compassion every now and again for the man-monster that Hannibal is. Much like Bret Easton Ellis makes us root for sociopathic serial killer in American Psycho. Never before had I read a novel where I’m rooting for a man to feed an ATM a kitten before. But there, Ellis shaped the world as such to make me see that beyond the pure chaos that Patrick Bateman represented, was a man living as a metaphor for the facade that existed in the go-go eighties. Can’t get that reservation at Dorsia? Well, that’d drive you to murder too, when you know that missing that squid-ink carpaccio is akin to you just being a failure in everything at life! Get my meaning?

And let’s get a little spoilery, if we can, eh? Seen Days of Future Past yet? If not, skip down a paragraph. For the rest of you, what did you think? I thought “Wow! They really played up the notion that these were actual human beings capable of an array of emotions!” Now I know that’s a bit of a complicated thought coming from a movie that was mostly made as an apology for The Last Stand, but I digress. Of all the things that made the movie enjoyable to me, was the fact that characters like Professor Xavier, Raven, and Eric Lehnsherr were allowed to respond from a place of emotion and thought, rather than because of a plot dictating them to do what’s right or wrong. In one of the best set pieces of the film (barring the whole Quicksilver sequence which was just fun as all get-out) came when Magneto decided that he was done being a pawn in a greater plan. With Bolivar Trask not murdered, the future was in flux, and Magneto, freed of his concrete and plastic prison stole a baseball stadium, rewired the Sentinels, and attempted to stage a bit of a coup. And when he lost? His best friend didn’t do the right thing; he let him go because he still cared for his troubled friend.

Therein lay the heart of my love for the tweening of fiction. When authors (me included) allow characters to be more than the sum of the plot and story beats, the audience is better for it. While there is a time and a place for white and black, I implore you to look beyond the simple. Complexity breeds intelligence. Intelligence allows for a deeper enjoyment of a piece of art. It’s sure fun when Al, Kung Fu Monkey Master of the Samurnauts clocks the evil pirate Blackstar with his bo-staff because it’s clear he’s the good guy… it’s a nice beat. But the true fans will enjoy the moment further because they know that when Al makes the critical strike, it’s make because of the torturous acts Blackstar used on former Samurnauts in the name of chaos. The blow is beyond justified – it is struck with anger, hatred, and desire for pain. Those shades of grey elevate what would be good defeating evil, into a personal vendetta.

At the end of the day, aren’t we all better people when the world is depicted in three dimensions?

 

Mike Gold, Stripper – An Occasional Series

Wow, that sounds disgusting, doesn’t it? But as you might surmise from the accompanying artwork, those of us who are into newspaper comics strips are often called “strippers.” This is either self-deprecating or sophomoric. But there must be a lot of us, because there seems to be about a half-dozen high-quality reprint books being issued every month. Which means I am: a) happy, and b) broke.

In order to protect my ever-shrinking finances, I was going to pass over Titan Books’ Tarzan In The City of Gold, reprinting Burne Hogarth’s work from 1937 to 1940. This is because NBM reprinted all of Hogarth’s Sunday Tarzans (and the Hal Foster stuff that preceded it) back in 1994. I have those books, although I don’t fault Titan for putting the material back in print twenty years later. Besides, the NBM books were limited to 300 copies. But Titan fooled me and sent me a review copy, bless them. They truly understand the fanboy’s middle initials are “O.C.D.”

I’m glad they did. The book starts with Hogarth’s first effort, sort of mid-story although a thorough recap is provided. The reproduction is sharper, the volume is bigger, the cost is much lower, and the design is more attractive. The indicia says this is part of “The Complete Burne Hogarth Library,” which implies eventually they’ll be reprinting his short-lived, hard-to-find but even more amazing adventure series, Drago, as well as his even harder-to-find humor series Miracle Jones.

Tarzan has attracted the efforts of a great many of comics’ finest artists, including (in politically convenient alphabetical order) Neal Adams, John Buscema, Frank Frazetta, José Louis Garcia-Lopez, Mike Grell, Jeffrey Catherine Jones, Joe Jusko, Gil Kane, Joe Kubert, Roy G. Krenkel, Russ Manning, Grey Morrow, Boris Vallejo and Julie Bell, and Tom Yeates. That is breathtaking. That is amazing. That is adjective-defying. And, in many circles, Hogarth’s work is regarded as the best of the lot. Personally, I couldn’t make a choice if my life depended upon it.

Hogarth is properly regarded as a true master of the medium, and even though it reprints his earlier work, Tarzan In The City of Gold shows us how he earned that reputation. He revisited the property in 1972 with an original hardcover graphic novel (thereby stirring up the “who did the first graphic novel” debate decades later) adaptation of Edgar Rice Burroughs’ seminal Tarzan of the Apes. Four years later, Hogarth did a sequel adapting four of Burroughs’ prequel short stories published as Jungle Tales of Tarzan. Perhaps these titles will be part of this series as well.

Be warned. I’d kill for Drago.

Tarzan In The City of Gold by Burne Hogarth with Don Garden, Titan Books, 208 pages, $39.95 hardcover.

 

REVIEW: How to Train Your Dragon

How to Train Your DragonWhen your children grow up and leave home, one of the regrets is that until they give you grandchildren, you have little excuse to go see the fun family films that keep rolling out. As a result, I missed How to Train Your Dragon when it arrived in 2010. I was told by those still with kids that it was a charming, funny film. Thanks to Paramount Home Entertainment, I finally caught up with it now that it has been rereleased today as a Blu-ray + DVD + Digital combo pack.

The unfortunately named Hiccup (Jay Baruchel) is a young Viking growing up on the island of Berk. His father, the better named Stoick the Vast (Gerard Butler), is the tribe’s chief who insists that the youngsters are taught how to fight the fearsome dragons that share the island. Hiccup is destined for greatness – at least that’s the hope; he’s actually skinny and weak and prone to accidents — when fate shakes things up as he saves an injured young beast named Toothless. They bond and Hiccup is handed a new destiny: he has to convince the tribe that their ways are wrong and that the dragons are really allies not dinner.

It’s an uphill battle complicating with the distracting affection he has Astrid (America Ferrara). She, of course, sees him as annoying, clumsy boy. Their friend Gobbler (Craig Ferguson), a blacksmith. supplies support, crazy mechanical inventions, and even more comic relief.

Directors Chris Sanders and Dean DuBlois do a fine job adapting Cressida Cowell’s young adult novel. They make it heartwarming and funny, charming and goofy without tripping over the line and getting excessive on any account.

The current high definition disc is a visual treat for young and old alike. The 1080p transfer is pristine, keeping all the color bright and vibrant. Coupled with the wonderful 7.1 Dolby TrueHD lossless soundtrack, the viewing experience at home is superb, matching the film’s entertainment value.

This edition comes with a sticker on the slipcover offering $7.50 off a movie ticket for June’s obviously named How to Train Your Dragon 2. There are a bunch of extras carried over from earlier editions of the film such as the filmmaker’s commentary, a trivia track, the PiP feature “The Animators’ Corner”, and the featurettes “The Story Behind the Story” (7:40), “The Technical Artistry of Dragon” (10:13), “Viking-Sized Cast” (11:44), and “How to Draw a Dragon” (10:52).

New additions, and welcome ones, include “Frozen” (22:41), billed as an “exclusive episode” of the TV show Dragons: Defenders of Berk; “Book of Dragons” (17:38), a short that provides additional details about the fire-breathing dragons; Ultimate Book of Dragons, an interactive feature; and, Gobber’s Training Secrets” (2:10), a series of short vignettes about dragons.

Two more extras — the short film “Legend of the BoneKnapper Dragon” (16:33), and deleted scenes (7:33) – can only be found on the DVD.

Wiley Miller Wins Reuben Award

Wiley Miller won the Reuben Award this year, the major honor also known as the National Cartoonists Society award for Outstanding Cartoonist of the Year. One of the most esteemed awards in the world of comics, past winners include Charles Schulz, Hal Foster and Al Capp. The other nominees were Hilary Price, Stephan Pastis and Mark Tatuli.

Comics winners of potential specific interest to readers of this site given our coverage areas included animator/comics-maker Hayao Miyazaki for The Wind Rises in feature animation; Jeff Smith for Tuki as the long-form on-line strip; Andrew C. Robinson for The Fifth Beatle as the graphic novel of the year; Sergio Aragones for Sergio Aragones Funnies as the honored comic book. I think this may have been the first year with two categories for on-line work; the short-form version went to Ryan Pagelow for Buni.

via The Comics Reporter.

Martha Thomases: Book… Fair?

When I went to my friendly neighborhood comic book store last Wednesday, they offered me a free copy of DC Entertainment Graphic Novel Essential and Chronology 2014.

“No,” I said. “It will just piss me off.”

They put in my bag anyway. And it did.

If you click on the link above you get a review of last year’s edition of this book. I was not aware that this was an on-going series. Thus, I have been spared years of rage.

The volume suffers from the kind of schizophrenia common to the comics industry: it doesn’t know its audience. Is it readers of comic books? That might explain the jumbled cover, which is otherwise incoherent to someone unfamiliar with members of the Bat crew other than Batman. Is it new readers that, somehow, get past the cover and look inside? Perhaps, but once these new readers page further in than the first chapter (which is “25 Essential Graphic Novels”), the book is a confusing listing of collections from the New 52.

By the time you get to the recommendations for “All Ages,” it’s collections of stories from series that have been cancelled. I’m sure the books hold up, which is more than one can say for the New 52.

If I had to guess, I would say that the book is aimed at booksellers, particularly those who plan to attend next week’s Book Expo America . The order information in the back is for booksellers. Graphic novels remain a growth area in the book business, and DC Entertainment would be foolish to ignore a growing revenue source.

However …

Back when I worked at DC, there weren’t many people who saw bookstores as a market for our wares. Comic book stores were our primary outlets, and some thought we shouldn’t do anything that competed with our best customers. I understood this perspective, but disagreed. Comic book stores are wonderful places, but comics, especially those with good, satisfying stories, are things that bring people joy. I thought we needed to expose our books to people who didn’t know about them, and the bookstore market was the most obvious place to do so.

The graphic novel was not a new product in the 1990s. Maus, The Dark Knight Returns and Watchmen were all available and selling well. The challenge was to publish other books that would sell as well and yet still fit into the business patterns DC relied upon in terms of paying for work in advance. It was easier to publish the work serially first (as all three of the aforementioned books had been) than to spring for a fully-formed single volume.

Hence, the trade collection.

Here’s the thing: A trade collection is easy for the publisher. Just take four, or six, or eight sequential issues of a comic, put them together and bind them with a spine and – voila – it looks just like a graphic novel.

However, it doesn’t read like a novel, graphic or otherwise. There is not necessarily a beginning, a middle and an end. There is sometimes not even a clear protagonist, a person who has a character arc that leads him (or her) to a more developed character or personality. Quite often, there is so much backstory that the new reader is too confused to read past the first few pages.

Let’s compare a book like, say, The Flash volume 3: Gorilla Warfare, a book I like a great deal by a creative team I admire, and compare it to the third book in the Harry Potter series, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. Both books provide the reader with certain expected tropes (speed, quidditch, scary enemies) but one is much more inviting to a newbie. J. K. Rowling always alludes to the previous books in such a way that the reader can follow the characters without reading the other books in the series (although having read them makes the experience much richer). DC Entertainment? Not so much.

I can cite lots of other examples: James Bond, the 87th Precinct, even The Hardy Boys.

The point is not that books are better than comics. The point isn’t that the examples I cited are great literature. They may be (I doubt it, YMMV), but that’s not my point. My point (and I do have one) is that when a reader is looking for something to read for pleasure, to pass the time on a plane ride or on the beach or by the fire on a rainy day, that reader doesn’t necessarily want to do homework first. He or she wants to sit down and get swept away by a story.

I used to argue that, while great literature is a wonderful thing, and I was proud to be working for the company that published Sandman and Stuck Rubber Baby, we should be user-friendly. A person who walks into a bookstore, interested in this graphic novel phenomenon s/he’s heard so much about, is most likely to pick up a book that looks a little familiar. When I thought I might like mysteries, for example, I started with Chandler and Hammett, whose work I knew a bit about from the movies. Someone looking for graphic novels is likely to pick up Superman or Batman.

We should make the best damn Superman and Batman graphic novels we know how.

Most of the graphic novels in this DC Entertainment catalog fail this requirement. The Year One books are pretty good, but they are in the minority.

I’ll be curious to see how the DC reps work at Book Expo this year. Last year, I didn’t see any, subsumed as they were as part of Random House distribution. There was no signage I could see, except at the Diamond booth.

Which is all they’re going to get if they keep up this kind of marketing.

 

Longmire Season 1-2 Come to Blu-ray This Month

Longmire Blu-rayThe Walt Longmire book series from award-winning author Craig Johnson has spawned a fine adaptation on A&E and in the coming weeks, fans are in for a treat. First, the first two seasons are making their Blu-ray debut on a combo set from Warner Archive followed by season three premiering on June 2 and then two days later the eleventh novel in the series arrives.

Here are the formal details with some thoughts from Johnson.

BURBANK, CA (May 5, 2014) – Few television dramas have captured the intense cinematic nature of the Southwest like A&E’s hit mystery series, Longmire. Warner Archive Collection is proud to bring those stunning visuals – and equally enthralling stories – to full 1080p HD presentation with the Blu-ray™ release of Longmire, Seasons 1 & 2, on May 27, 2014 via WBShop.com and many online retailers.

Longmire2Warner Archive Collection’s presentation of Longmire, Seasons 1 & 2 on Blu-ray™ includes all 23 episodes in a six-disc set, as well an interesting array of bonus content, highlighted by three fascinating featurettes and two “director’s cut” extended episodes with introductions from the executive producers.

Longmire1Long shadows of secrets and murder hang over Absaroka County, Wyoming, jurisdiction of the tough and brooding Sheriff Walt Longmire (Robert Taylor), in the spell-binding series, Longmire. Struggling since his wife’s death a year ago, and at the urging of his attorney daughter, Cady (Cassidy Freeman), Walt knows he must turn his life around. Aided by a new female deputy, Vic (Katee Sackhoff) and his oldest friend, Henry Standing Bear (Lou Diamond Phillips), Walt becomes re-energized about his job and running for re-election – even though his ambitious younger deputy Branch (Bailey Chase) is a rival candidate. The unraveling truth about Walt’s wife death will astonish the stoic lawman and his daughter. While shattering storms darken the skies, Longmire doggedly solves the big crimes of “Big Sky” country.

Longmire3In addition to the cast regulars, Longmire has featured guest performances from such notable actors as Peter Weller (Robocop), Gerald McRaney (House of Cards, Simon & Simon), Xander Berkeley (24, Salem), Shawn Hatosy (Southland), Tom Wopat (The Dukes of Hazzard), Jim Beaver (Supernatural), A Martinez (L.A. Law, One Life To Live, Santa Barbara), Charles Dutton (Roc, Alien3), C. Thomas Howell (Southland, E.T.) and Stephen Culp (Revolution).

Longmire, the TV series, has its roots firmly embedded in the best-selling Walt Longmire book series from award-winning author Craig Johnson. The latest and 11th in the series of novels, A Serpent’s Tooth, arrives June 4. A current resident of Ucross, Wyoming (his bio proudly states “population: twenty-five”), Johnson is an avid fan of the A&E television series, which returns for its third season on June 2. Johnson particularly enjoys the dedication everyone involved with the show has taken in bringing his characters and stories from page to screen.

Craig Johnson“I think the thing that’s been the most amazing to me is the way the producers, directors, actors, designers, and crew have been able to capture the feel of the novels” Johnson says. “It’s not easy to translate perception from one artistic venue to another, but I think Longmire has amplified the integrity, the humor, and the edginess that have made the books a success. There are elements that you can rely on in doing a true western, like the epic romantic quality, but the show goes one step further in portraying the west as it is today; the characters are complex, and the plots not only credible, but compelling – it ain’t your daddy’s western.”

Johnson also notes that Warner Archive’s presentation of Longmire Seasons 1 & 2 on Blu-ray™ will further enhance the cinematic beauty of the series.

“The thing about Longmire is that at its core, it’s a western, and filming a western indoors doesn’t make much sense,” Johnson explains. “Most crime procedurals are shot on a couple of sets – offices, apartments, and such – but Longmire embraces the challenge of being outdoors and does an amazing job of allowing the scenery to speak for itself; you can almost hear the landscape breathe as it becomes a major character in the series. The landscape creates a mood in this show – it’s not perfectly lit and coerced like a lot of television. Visuals are something that Hollywood can do better than a book, and the images that Longmire invokes match up magically with those I have in the novels.”

Longmire, Seasons 1 & 2, on Blu-ray™ extra content features include:

Featurette – The Camera’s Eye: Realizing the World of LongmireLongmire is against a backdrop where every turn of the camera is a perfectly composed frame, mixing nature against the world of Cowboys, Indians, Lawmen, and Villains.  The world Walt Longmire calls home and where the story takes place would not be possible without the skilled artisans behind the camera. This documentary film proves that story may start on the page, but what lands on the frame is what ultimately counts.

Featurette – Longmire Justice: Exploring the Cowboy Detective – Longmire is a bit cowboy, a bit detective, a bit American Indian, and even a bit of the human drama. But the one consistent element that serves the broadest audience, and central to the core of Longmire’s popularity – is the passion we share for carefully crafted stories.

Featurette – Testing Courage: The Storm Defines the Man – Longmire adeptly captures, from episode-to-episode, the subtlety of what it means when a man is challenged to be consistent in his ideal.  It’s a unique piece of entertainment that calls to attention one of the over arcing themes of Season 2.  Can Walt Longmire survive his test of courage?

“Director’s Cut”: Sound and Fury Extended Episode with Introduction by Executive Producers Greer Shepard and Hunt Baldwin.

“Director’s Cut”: The Election Extended Episode with Introduction by Executive Producers Greer Shepard and Hunt Baldwin.

Pre-orders are now available for the Warner Archive Collection presentation of Longmire, Seasons 1 & 2 on Blu-ray™ at shop.warnerarchive.com and wbshop.com, as well as a host of online retailers. Warner Bros. Home Entertainment is also releasing Longmire, Season 2 on DVD on May 13, 2014.

 

REVIEW: Son of Batman

Son of BatmanWay back in the 1970s, there was a fun little one-off story by Denny O’Neil where Batman was pitted once more against Ra’s al Ghul, but the unique element was that he was drugged and by the time he woke up, he had been married to Ra’s’ daughter Talia according to their customs. The Detective, as Ra’s called his son-in-law wanted to make his daughter happy but also entice the man to father an heir. By story’s end, it was clear Batman wasn’t interested and ignored the betrothal, which never really came up again.

In 1989, DC published its first original graphic novel featuring its heroes and here, Son of the Demon, saw the romance between Batman and Talia result in a night of passion which resulted, unknown to him, in a son, who were last saw left for others to care for. The comic books never acknowledged this turn of events and O’Neil, then editing the Batman line, let his writers pick up on this juicy thread.

TaliaIt wasn’t until Grant Morrison came along and was given carte blanche to incorporate every Batman story ever told into his crazed mythos that positioned the Dark Knight for a new century. Talia was there at the outset of his stories so Morrison was planting seeds that resulted in the stunning arrival of ten year old Damian, his son. The story arc was interesting to read since this was a kid trained in everything and was apparently a genius at it all along with his self-entitled, obnoxious attitude, making him a far cry from the well-behaved parents (Talia by training, Bruce Wayne through love).

That initial story arc has been adapted by Warner Animation in the just-released Son of Batman animated feature that veers wildly and not entirely successfully from the source material. Despite the preceding film, Justice League: War being the first in a new internal continuity series of films, using the New 52 model, this one already is set beyond that world. We open with an extended look at Ra’s (Giancarlo Esposito) League of Assassins under attack from overwhelming forces resulting in his death just inches from the Lazarus Pit that revived him so many times before. Talia (Morena Baccarin) is left to spirit Damian way and bring him to Gotham City for a long overdue meeting with his father (Jason O’Mara).

Batman_Damian_07Comic veteran James Robinson provided the story which was turned into a script by Joe R. Lansdale, solid choices that raised expectations only to be handed disappointment. They chose to graft Deathstroke into the story, making him the force behind the attack. As luck would have it, the next phase of the plan involved kidnapping scientist Kirk Langstrom with his unproven Man-Bat formula and then turning Deathstroke’s minions into the army of Man-Bats as cleverly introduced by Morrison in the comics.

While that’s going on, Bruce is struggling with the existence of his son. The movie’s best lines go to Alfred (David McCallum) who is delighted to have the acerbic, annoying Master Damian now underfoot. Of course, after mocking the Robin outfit, he accompanies Batman on the case leading to an all-too-brief encounter with Commissioner Gordon (Bruce Thomas). And just when he’s needed, Nightwing (Sean Maher), Damian’s predecessor (the film skips any mention of Jason Todd or Tim Drake) turns up. Here is where more should have been done between rival “sons” and how Bruce interacts with them, but the film hurries thigns along to get back to the action. At least they pause to have one poignant conversation between Damian’s parents which helps emotionally center the story.

Langstrom calculationsOne of the film’s faults is shared with the inspirational comics in that a ten year old’s skills cannot rival adults’ simply through size and the fact that Damian is still growing and learning. He should not be a rival to Batman, or even Nightwing, but still learning. His impetuousness and smart mouth are the only things that feel right with him.

The final fight with the Man-Bat army is over-long and the number of recruits impossibly large so is unconvincing.

Phil Bourassa’s character designs are good although he veers toward too-many people with pointy chins including Damian’s parents so Damian’s round-faced look makes little sense. His figures, notably Deathstroke, are too bulky and appear to have elongated torsos that look wrong. And I wish he captured Talia’s Middle Eastern exotic look that Neal Adams established and was reinforced by other artists including Jerry Bingham. Instead, she’s a generic-looking busty brunette. The budget-conscious animation also felt more limited than usual.

Overall, it’s entertaining if you buy Morrison’s take on Batman at all (I never did).

The 75-minute film is accompanied with some excellent bonus features.  We start with “The Fan and the Demon Head: The League of Assassins” (10:00) with Morrison, historian Alan Kistler and others providing some context. “Strange Blood Ties: Damian Wayne” (15:00) looks at Ra’s, Talia, and Batman in the comics leading to Damian’s introduction. “Designing the Characters with Phil Bourassa” (10:00) is an interesting look at how the comic sources were adapted for the film’s specific look. Finally, there are episodes from the various television series including Batman Beyond’s “Out of the Past”;  “The Knights of Tomorrow!” and “Sidekicks Assemble!” from Batman: The Brave and The Bold; and, finally “Showdown”  from Batman The Animated Series. There is a sneak peek of the next offering, Batman: Assault on Arkham, featuring the Suicide Squad and based on the video game series not the New 52 animated universe.

The affordable combo pack comes with Blu-ray, DVD, and Ultraviolet copies.

Mindy Newell: Mother’s Day

“I have called on the Goddess and found her within myself”

Marion Zimmer Bradley, The Mists of Avalon

Feeling very Hemingway-esque because I am sitting here in front of the computer sipping a glass of merlot and smoking a cigarette while I write – although the truth, according to the website Food Republic, is that while the Master was “notoriously fond of drinking…he refrained from indulging while writing [and] when asked in an interview if rumors of him taking a pitcher of martinis to work every morning were true, he answered, “Jeezus Christ! Have you ever heard of anyone who drank while he worked? You’re thinking of Faulkner. He does sometimes – and I can tell right in the middle of a page when he’s had his first one. Besides, who in hell would mix more than one martini at a time?”

Not to mention that Hemingway’s favorite instrument for writing was the (lowly?) pencil. Writing it first in pencil gives you one-third more chance to improve it… It also keeps it fluid longer so that you can better it easier” he wrote in his book On Writing. Although he would then transcribe it to his typewriter – over his writing career he used the Corona No. 3 & No.4, an Underwood Noiseless Portable, various Royal portables – aha! My first typewriter was a Royal portable – and a Halda portable (which, according to www.myTypewriter.com, was recently sold in an online auction, although the article doesn’t state the final bid).

Well, be that as it may – and also because I never could get into Faulkner, maybe because he is just waaaay too morosely Southern for this New York Jewish chick – Ernest still lurks beside me while I work today on my Mac desktop. And the merlot is very fine, fruity and yet exquisitely dry, from a Chilean vineyard I never heard of, but I loved the name on the bottle…

Sweet Bitch. 

Oh, yeah.

Anyway, since Sunday is Mother’s Day, I wanted to write about mothers, but in a different way …

I’m currently rereading, for the thousandth time, The Mists of Avalon by the late, and very great, Marion Zimmer Bradley. Simply put, it is Le’Morte d’Arthur by Sir Thomas Malory, perhaps better known to you as The Once and Future King by T.H. White or The Idylls of the King by Tennyson, or the movie Excalibur, produced, directed, and co-written by John Boorman, or Camelot 3000 by Mike W. Barr and Brian Bolland, published by DC Comics over three years (1982 – 1985), which makes it DC’s first maxi-series. It is the great medieval romance of King Arthur, Queen Gwenhywfar, Morgaine of the Fairies, Lancelet, and the court of Camelot and the Round Table.

Except that Bradley tells it from the point of the women.

But more than that, Bradley uses the tale to spin a story of the ancient, and original, Celtic women-as-life-bearers, Mother Goddess-centric religion of the British Isles and its battle, with a patriarchal Christianity in which women were looked on, through Eve, as the source of original sin.

It is a story of women struggling to maintain their dignity, their wisdom, their power, and their equality in a world in which masculinity is uprooting their place in it.

At the end of Mists, Morgaine, sister to King Arthur, High Priestess of the Goddess, and the Lady of the Lake, goes through the mists that hide and separate the world of the Mother (the enchanted isle of Avalon) to visit the tomb of her mentor and aunt, Viviane, the greatest of the Ladies of the Lake, which now rests on what it is called the Isle of Priests or the Isle of Glass (Glastonbury) in “man’s world.” (Avalon and Glastonbury are also symbols of the duality of nature and humankind that Bradley discusses throughout the novel, as both are the same island, separated only by the mystical planes of existence). At first distraught and bitter that Viviane’s final resting place is in the world of the patriarchal Christians that call the Mother Goddess “demon,” Morgaine comes to a statue of Mary, the mother of Jesus…

And there she realizes that the Mother she worships has not left the world of men, but only taken on a new form; forever and ever, she realizes, the Mother Goddess will live in the hearts of humankind.

I searched Google to see if anyone had adapted The Mists of Avalon into comics form, and found none, though there were many, besides Camelot 3000, that adapted the Arthurian legends in one way or another. I think it would make an amazing adaptation; two artists that come immediately to mind for it are Jill Thompson and Charles Vess. And yes, of course I would love to write it, because it is a story, I think, which is particularly relevant today in our comics world.

Martha Thomases and I have written here about the negativity, bigotry, and the outward hatred being displayed towards women in comics and its related fields (such as gaming and cosplay) and it would take little more than a quick Google search to find other articles and blogs written by Heidi MacDonald, Corinna Lawson, Janelle Asselin, Alice Mercier, and, unfortunately, too many more. But as I reread Mists, I think some of the power of the Goddess comes down into my soul, and I feel uplifted; not angry or bitter or even snide about the abuses or the abusers, but actually sorry for them; that they are so consumed with fear and jealousy, and, oh, just so much negative emotions that they are unable to allow their feminine side to come out into the light.

Because, oh yes, these men do have the Goddess within them, just as we women have the God within us. As is said so many times by so many of the players in Mists, in different words and in different ways, but all still meaning the one truth: “All the Gods are one God, and all the Goddesses are one Goddess, and the one God and the One Goddess together are the Initiator, and the Initiator dwells within us all.”

May She bless you all on Mother’s Day.