This year is the first time in my life that the Winter Olympics and the Academy Awards have fallen in the same month. Because I grew up with a great love for watching both figure skating and movies, it seems like 2014 should be a banner year for me to tune into the events that represent the highest level of competition in these two pastimes. Instead, 2014 is the first year that I watched neither. (more…)
It’s time for the Winter Olympics! That special time every four years where the world tunes in to watch athletes from all over compete for medals. I myself am reminded that perhaps I should take up running or some form of exercise other than getting up to grab myself a new book to read. Until that fateful day however, I bring to you this list of six comic book characters that were involved in the Olympics in one form or another.
First on the list is Jon Sable. A now freelance mercenary who previously was an athlete in the 1972 Munich Olympic Games. After having witnessed the terrorist outrages in the Munich games, he married a fellow athlete and moved to Rhodesia. Becoming a game warden and a tourist guide for safari tours. Unfortunately however, life did not go so simply and he returned to the USA to go freelance.
Not the happiest of Olympic tales to start out on, I know. But it is interesting to say the very least. You can also catch up on the latest Jon Sable right here, with Jon Sable: Ashes of Eden.
This is a column for all you “I want to be a writer” writers out there.
The XXII Olympics officially opened on Friday, February 8th, 2014 in Sochi, Russia.
Thirty years ago the XIV Olympics took place in Sarajevo in what was Yugoslavia and is now Bosnia-Herzegovina, although the region is usually just called Bosnia. Thirty years later the Olympic village, the ice rink, the bobsled and luge tracks, the ski jump, the other sports facilities and hotels are gone, destroyed during the Bosnian war and the 44-months-long Siege of Sarajevo which killed nearly twelve thousand of the city’s residents.
Closing them on my browser so you can open them on yours, a list of various things that I haven’t had time to write full posts about. Here we go again…
- Big comics to TV news with AMC announcing “Preacher” from Seth Rogen, Evan Goldberg & Sony TV and Syfy developing DC Comics-based future civil war series DMZ. Congrats to Garth Ennis, Steve Dillon, Brian Wood, and Riccardo Burchielli.
- We also understand that Jesse Eisenberg has been cast as Lex Luthor in the sequel to [[[Man Of Steel]]]. Furthermore, we understand this is the retcon origin of his hatred of Superman:
- Joe Illidge has started writing THE COLOR BARRIER: A Message of Comics, Diversity & Hope over at CBR.
- A slightly different way comics have invaded our minds: Batman On Steroids: How The NFL On Fox Theme Song Was Born.
- With ticket sales for San Diego starting yesterday, here’s one person’s Good-Bye To All That: It’s Not You, It’s Me – The Comic-Con Break Up.
- I am a bit amazed that looking back at this article from Publisher’s Weekly on The Best Comics You’ll (Probably) Never Read, a few of them have actually come out. Does this mean that eventually we’ll even see D’arc Tangent #2? (Not a chance.)
- A blacksmith recreated Thor’s hammer. And you know what? It’s %$#@! heavy. Twenty pounds hollow– think of a bowling ball on a stick. Fill this mock Mjolnir up with metal and it would weigh two hundred pounds. The Mighty Thor, indeed.
- And in a moment of international good will from the Olympics, here’s Nina Paley’s Euro Heroes.
What else is out there? Consider this an open thread.
Director Danny Boyle gets credit for never repeating himself. In a short retrospective contained on the newly released Trance Blu-ray, he talks about the appeal of each film and how making them has continually surprised him. He had read the Joe Ahearne script for Trance years earlier and it stayed with him and he finally shot it. Then let it marinate in Post Production while he mounted the incredible opening for the most recent Olympics.
Ahearne wrote the script back in the 1990s and first showed it to Boyle after he shot Shallow Grave and the concept lingered. It is also partially based on the eponymous British television series. Boyle’s frequently collaborating John Hodge stepped in to rework parts of the script and then it was finally made last year.
The movie is many things but never dull and demands your attention. What appears to be a basic art heist caper film rapidly shifts into a psychological, film noir, femme fatale thriller. As the story revolves around Simon (James McAvoy), criminal Franck (Vincent Cassel), and hypnotherapist Elizabeth (Rosario Dawson). You watch the film never quite sure who the focal point character is or who to root for. What becomes clear by the midpoint is that everything revolves around Elizabeth and Dawson’s cool, riveting performance.
Unfortunately, unlike his earlier works, none of the characters really feel like real people. They are closer to archetypes performing for an indecisive puppetmaster. Boyle gleefully is playing with reality here and you’re left reeling, trying to follow the chaotic timeline especially as new revelations make you question what you already understood.
Simon turns out to be complicit in the art theft but cannot remember where he stashed the $27 million painting so it falls to Elizabeth to coax the secret out of him as Franck paces, seething at being deceived. As Simon fixates on Elizabeth and not the painting, you think you have a romantic relationship but there are secrets within secrets and few things turn out to be what you expect.
Elizabeth appears to be brought in specifically to unlock Simon’s psyche but it becomes far more than that as she delves deeper than she intended and becomes the object of his desire. She needs to control him to find the painting but it also means she has to expose herself in ways that could spiral out of control. Watch her demeanor, her outfits and notably her hairstyle to help keep track of where in the story you are and what her goals are. In the most talked about sequence, she comes to Simon completely naked, fully nude and exposed, having shaved herself for him, placing herself at his mercy all to get what she needs. But wait, when did she know he wanted her this way?
It’s heady stuff and Dawson’s bold, brave, bare performance is fascinating to watch but really, there’s no character to root for, no one to sympathize with as your expectations are regularly overturned. As a result, you’re left feeling wrung out, much like a Christopher Nolan or Darren Aronofsky film, but somewhat lacking in passion.
The movie benefits from mesmerizing scenes and art direction, top-notch cinematography, and nothing but uniformly excellent performances. All that was really missing was the same heart and soul that Boyle’s other protagonists have displayed. It transfers wonderfully to Blu-ray with both the audio and video playing well at home.
There are Deleted Scenes (16:33) that are incredibly short and two lengthier ones that don’t change the sense of unreality; the aforementioned Retrospective (14:56), and a multiple part Making Of (33:59) that unlocks some of the thinking behind the movie. Additionally and inexplicably, we also get Eugene (13:07), a short film from Spencer Susser. Apparently, his script was entered into a contest sponsored by Westin Hotels, Intel and Roman Coppola. It was one of four winners and was shot. Why it’s here goes without explanation but it is highly entertaining and worth a look.
One reviewer at Goodreads commented on ReDeus: Divine Tales, “The tales focus on different gods, many I had never heard of before. What I enjoyed most was how the authors dealt with the culture shock experienced by the characters, not just the mortals, who are now lorded over by these mythological figures, but also the gods who must come to grips with a world that has moved on without them. Hope to see future volumes. ”
That wish is being granted in May when Beyond Borders, the second volume in the ReDeus universe is released by Crazy 8 Press to coincide with Balticon. The new book continues a universe that was conceived by co-editors Aaron Rosenberg, Robert Greenberger, and Paul Kupperberg. Initially, the trio of established authors intended to be the only ones to write stories about an Earth that has had every pantheon of gods simultaneously return. Instead, they decided to invite their peers to join them in exploring this fertile territory and the eleven stories in the first volume spanned the first twenty years since the gods and goddesses appeared in the skies during the 2012 Olympics.
“Zeus, speaking for the gods, tells everyone they’re back for good and they want every man, woman, and child to return to their native land in order to properly worship them,” Greenberger explained. Some of the gods were horrified at the technological advances, not understanding them and therefore had them banned. Suddenly, some countries were without internet and television while some only allowed radio. Populations shifted and the global economy shuddered, causing untold chaos.
Most of the stories showed what was happening in America. For the second volume, the stories focus on other countries and their people. Several characters introduced in the first book will reappear while most of the stories focus on new characters interacting with ancient deities.
“Many of our Divine Tales authors found themselves growing attached to their characters,” Rosenberg explained, “so we were happy to see what happens to them next. But there are plenty of new characters as well, and the series in general continues to show a wide variety of people in different places and varying circumstances.”
Returning authors for Beyond Borders include the recently Nebula-nominated Lawrence M. Schoen, Scott Pearson, Steve Wilson, Dave Galanter, Phil Giunta, William Leisner, and Allyn Gibson. Kelly Meding, Janna Silverstein, David McDonald, Steve Lyons, and Lorraine Anderson will be making their ReDeus debut in this volume. Rosenberg, Greenberger, and Kupperberg will also have stories in the book.
Artist Lorraine Schleter provided the cover.
A third volume, Native Lands, was announced recently and will be out in August, in time for Crazy 8 Press’ second anniversary.
Using the new Doctor Who Limited Edition Gift Set, your noble author will make his way through as much of the modern series as he can before the Christmas episode, The Snowmen.
Children are disappearing on a suburban street, and a certain being seems intent on making us…
by Matthew Graham
Directed by Euros Lyn
“I can’t stress this enough – ball bearings you can eat…masterpiece!”
Three children have vanished in the course of a week, cars are cutting out in the middle of the street, and everyone has been reduced to paranoid panic. Not a good state of affairs for the day of the opening ceremonies of the London Olympiad. The Doctor and Rose arrive just in time to help, luckily. There’s an odd residual energy in the spots where the kids have vanished, which suggests it’s not some common human crapsack. One girl named Chloe stays indoors and draws. She draws the other children in the street. Just before they vanish. …yeah, The Doctor and Rose made the same assumptions…
An alien creature, the Isolus, has latched onto Chloe and used her raw emotions from a lifetime of abuse from her father (now dead a year) to try and get back to its family. The alien is too weak to do so, and Chloe doesn’t know how to help, so she draws the kids in the street, who get teleported to a nondescript somewhere else, to attempt to assuage the alien’s loneliness. She has the power to create things in her drawings as well – she angrily crosses out over one drawing, and the scribble comes to life, and a huge and choked thing with the emotion of her abusive father is gaining power in the back of her closet. The Doctor has several goals – save the trapped kids, separate the alien from little Chloe, help it get back to space… and crash the Olympics?
This episode is…bad. It’s a weak shadow of the classic Twilight Zone episode It’s a Good Life, with no real sense of direction. The alien is innocent and unaware of its effects, and we end up being more afraid of Chloe’s father, who’s been dead a year. The scene with them collecting up al the pencils and crayons in the house as if they’re knives is ridiculous, is immediately surpassed by the scene where Chloe reveals she’s got pencils hoarded inside her dolls like Ray Milland hid whiskey bottles. The acting’s good, the music is great, but the premise is just so blah, and the look of the crayon monsters so silly that there’s no surprise that this is universally considered the worst episode of the new series by a long length: Doctor Who Magazine did a poll of the 200 most popular stories of the show’s run, and this one came in 192nd, only barely beating out Paradise Towers. By contrast, Daleks in Manhattan, the story that resulted in the Daleks getting put in the cupboard for two years, came in at 152. Of course, that just beat out the sublime Love and Monsters, so I imagine no poll is perfect. Even the idea of a living scribble was even done before, and better, on an early episode of Foster’s Home for Imaginary Friends. In the episode The Trouble with Scribbles, it’s learned that scribbles are the almost universal form of babies’ first imaginary friends, and they mount up quickly.
There’s a bit of fun in the beginning of the episode – the idea of 2012 being the “Near future” gave them a moment to to skewer new X-Factor winner Shayne Ward with a poster for a Greatest Hits collection.
But it was this episode that fueled Doctor Who fandom’s hope… nay, belief that David Tennant would be carrying the Olympic torch at the 2012 ceremonies. Even after Matt Smith started it off in the relay, the desire for Ten to close out this little time loop was unassailable. Indeed, in Danny Boyle’s spectacular opening ceremonies, there was originally to be a sequence featuring Doctor Who; each of the living actors had to authorize the use of their photos, but it was dropped. The whooshing sound of the TARDIS, barely audible over the din of the mix, is the only mention.
- A Doctor A Day – “Love and Monsters” (comicmix.com)
Well! They are certainly biting the dust, aren’t they, these “heroes”? A few weeks ago, I lamented the steroid-fueled fall from grace of that bicycling phenom, Lance Armstrong. And for quite a while we’ve been learning about perverse clergymen who can’t keep their cassocks buttoned and their hands to themselves. Now, we have the sorry spectacle of two of our nation’s high-profile warriors behaving like eighth graders enthralled by their female classmates’ sudden bumpiness. Could they be taking their cues from a rather impressive list of horny congressmen? Don’t know. Is this a matter of national security? Shrug. Are they dumb asses? Well, I have no rocks to throw when it comes to asinine concupiscence, so let us hurry past this and ask the big question: Are they heroes, these horn dogs?
Okay, what’s a “hero,” anyway? The answer, if you don’t mind regressing past a lot of centuries, is that a hero is something pretty close to a god. Heroes first presented themselves in mythology, and often, maybe most of the time, they were half-deity themselves: Gilgamesh and Hercules and that crowd. We worship gods; we venerate heroes. And the need to perform these acts of worship and veneration seems to be pretty deep within us. Our genes seem to like them; every culture seems to have its pantheon of über-beings. Might have some survival value – uniting folks unrelated by blood into a social unit, the better to grow crops and defend against enemies and invent video games.
And here’s where it gets vexing for those of us in the hero business: maybe the time for heroes is almost past. Not just any one hero, or group of heroes, or class of heroes – the very concept of hero. Going, going, gone. Because it’s hard to venerate something you know, in your synapses, does not exist – not just on Olympus, or heaven, but nowhere at all. Which is what contemporary experience is telling us: no Santa Claus, no Easter bunny, no heroes. Now move along…
Oh, there are still plenty of extraordinary feats to admire. Physicists and mathematicians and delving into realities that their forebears didn’t know existed and if you doubt that athletes are amazing, just check out any random season of a major sport or watch the next Olympics. But the “hero” idea has accumulated a lot of baggage over the millennia: our heroes should be noble and honest and honorable and self-sacrificing and, as the Greeks had it, should “serve and protect.” They aren’t any of that – not the ones that exist outside make-believe.
Still, we go to the movies and watch the television and get entertained by heroic figures, so, bottom line, whatever prompts us to hero worship is still with us. And if our heroes are a bit more smudged than those our fathers and grandfathers favored…hey, our air isn’t as clean as theirs, either, and we’re still breathing, at least for a while.
Before I go…did I tell you that I’ve finally seen the new Arrow TV series and…
RECOMMENDED READING: Cat’s Cradle, by Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.
FRIDAY: Martha Thomases
First, check out John Ostrander’s column, found somewhere near the stuff you’re reading, and then imagine me shouting Amen into the Grand Canyon and listen to the seemingly endless echoes and finally consider this a small gloss on John’s work.
John cites the old how-to-write chestnut: Write what you know. Okay, first a slightly snarky hypothesis that’s not intended to insult, or even question, my pedagogical colleagues, just raise the tiniest bump in the dialogue: Maybe those who teach the aforementioned chestnut write what they know because that’s all they, themselves, can write. That’s not a knock: we’re all wired a bit differently and who’s to say that a talent for writing, if talent it be, doesn’t manifest in as many different ways as, say, a talent for music? No good or bad, just different. (Who’s your fave, Mozart or Bob Dylan? Oh – lucky you! – can you dig ‘em both?)
It seemed to me, back when I was giving this kind of matter some thought, that until recently there’s been a cultural bias against imaginative storytelling. “Realistic” (note punctuation) equals good: fantastic equals bad. So Hemingway is a good writer because he wrote about going down to the café in the afternoon to drink the good wine, and Bradbury is bad because he wrote about… Martians and stuff.
Second, a confession that, with any luck at all, will segue into an observation: Despite my having written 200 or so Batman stories, I have never waited on a shadowy rooftop for a heavily armed psychopath to arrive so I can give him such! a smack. I’ve never bent steel in my bare hands or changed the course of mighty rivers either, but I’ve written Superman stories. The Batman stories were easier and more fun.
Here we circle back to the chestnut. I think the reason I was more comfortable with Batman than with the undoubtedly estimable Superman has to do with writing… not what I know, but what I fantasize. Batman lives near my dreams: Superman, not so much. I’ve never daydreamed about having godlike powers – and let’s face it, Superman is a demigod, at least – but I could imagine, oh…running a marathon in 2:10? Punching out that bosun’s mate who clocked me solid at that bus stop in Cuba? We’re talking about feats that are difficult and even extraordinary – he was one tough bosun’s mate – but that are within human capabilities. Did you watch the Olympics this year?
Let’s revisit the chestnut one last time…No – let’s toss it out altogether and substitute a few words from Henry David Thoreau: Go confidently in the direction of your dreams.
Maybe Hemingway dreamed of those cafés. And Bradbury? All those wonderful Martians…
FRIDAY: Martha Thomases Flies Back
There was something I wanted to discuss…what the devil was it? Something about a theater in Oklahoma, Colorado, Wyoming – one of those cowboy states. But have you heard about that movie star from the vampire flicks and how she admitted to cheating on her boyfriend? Boy! Wasn’t that something? Wonder if they’ll get back together. I kind of hope so because it’s always sad when young love goes blooey, though that seems to be mostly what young love does. These days, anyhow. Now when we were young… Oh wait. I did get dumped at tender age 21, didn’t I? Well, good luck to the youngsters, anyway.
Back to that cowboy state – was it a movie theater or some other kind of theater? A music hall, maybe?
And speaking of music… Elton John’s kid is just turning one year old. Bet Elton throws him a heck of a party.
And while we’re on the subject of music…Did you hear that JLo is quitting American Idol? You’ve got to wonder what that’s really about. She says she wants to devote herself to performing, but Idol’s ratings are sinking and has it been the same since Simon Cowell split? Some might say yes, some might say no. Me – I’m just asking.
Seen any of the Olympics? Monday Michael Phelps got his Speedo kicked. Came in fourth in a swim race. Fourth! Michael Phelps! Last Olympics, he medaled eight times and now…a fourth. You know, he was caught in a photo smoking weed, or at least holding the kind of pipe used to smoke weed – I forget the details – and you gotta wonder… I mean, they say that weed doesn’t hurt athletics – “they” being weed smokers – but still…
Did that business in the cowboy state –was it Texas? – have anything to do with smoking in a theater? Or maybe smoking out on the prairie, where the deer and the antelope play? Maybe smoking is allowed in theaters west of, say, Kansas. I can’t remember when I was in a western theater, but I’m sure I must have been in one some time – probably during one of my visits to California. Don’t recall what the smoking situation was.
One more item before we abandon the Olympics… did you see that some of the athletes got in trouble for pictures they posted online, or Tweeted, or something like that? One of those cyber things that seem to consume people my children’s age, or maybe younger. Yes, let’s say younger! I don’t know what the pictures showed, but how bad could they be? A shot of somebody smoking weed? Would that be considered bad? I mean, didn’t the president admit to trying the stuff at a party?
Wait! The president and his chief opponent and that western state… Something about what those guys are saying? Or not saying?
Well, end of the day, who cares? I mean, whatever happened happened last week – ancient history, no? And there are so many other things to think about.
FRIDAY: Martha Thomases and her Green Lantern Problem