Tagged: small

REVIEW: White Collar the Complete Fourth Season

WhiteCollar_S4

USA’s shows make up for small budgets with winning high concepts and appealing casts. Many of their series work entirely because of their superb eye for casting, using familiar faces and strong ensembles. These shows have also worked thanks to adding season-long meta-stories while solving case-of-the-week stories. As a result, the leads are generally put through the wringer, each taking a turn.

In the case of White Collar, the third season ended with Neal Caffrey (Matthew Bomer) on the run with an international manhunt launched to find the felon turned FBI advisor. The fourth season opened over the late summer of 2011, finishing up in the winter of 2012 and is now collected in White Collar the Complete Fourth Season, released this week by 20th Century Home Entertainment. Bookending the sixteen episodes, it’s his FBI handler and now best friend Peter Burke (Tim DeKay) in hot water.
In between, the long-simmering matter of Neal’s past is finally brought to light as he learns more than he wanted to know about his father James (Treat Williams). In fact, those revelations set Peter against Senator Terrance Pratt (Titus Welliver) which plays out over the final eight episodes. Further complicating Peter’s career is the arrival of Assistant Special Agent (in charge) Amanda Callaway (Emily Procter). When James commits murder and leaves Peter framed for the crime, Neal has learned a harsh lesson and we have to wait until October to find out what happens next.

Along the way, the series continued to rearrange the deck chairs so friendships are tested and reforged time and again but at the core, there’s Neal and Mozzie (Willie Garson), Neal and Peter, and Peter and Elizabeth (Tiffani Thiessen). Of the core cast, Thiessen is left with the least to do with one exception, “Shoot the Moon”, when she and Peter both get kidnapped by would-be criminals. At the FBI, stalwart supporting cast members Marsha Thomason and Sharif Atkins do a fine job carrying the spears but have little of substance to do, which is a shame since Thomason’s Diana is intriguing.

The series does a nice job with guest casting, kicking off with the much missed Mia Maestro seen in the first two episodes as is Mekhi Phifer. And of course there’s Hilarie Burton, back as Neal’s lover Sara Ellis, who really should just settle with him but that would make boring television.

White-Collar-Identity-Crisis-Season-4-Episode-6-5-550x366Some of the cases get hokey such as when Neal and Peter have to box in an underground boxing club or the last few episodes as they search for a valuable McGuffin within the Empire State Building. But given the beguiling performances and eternal twinkle in Bomer’s eye, you forgive a lot. The show may be starting to slow down as season five had its sixteen episode order trimmed to thirteen so enjoy these while you can.

The bonus features on the four disc set are largely made up of deleted scenes, found on each disc, along with the perfunctory gag reel. Tim DeKay—In the Director’s Chair looks at the star taking charge of an episode and the final episode, “In the Wind”, gets commentary from Bomer, DeKay, Garson, and series creator Jeff Eastin.

REVIEW: Leverage The Final Season

leverage spine packshotLeverage takes a curtain call this month as 20th Century Home Entertainment releases the fifth and final season on DVD. The four-disc set contains the complete fifteen episode season, which was aired in two batches across summer and winter 2012. Since then, the series has remained in the public eye thanks to three incredibly fun novels along with its well-deserved honor as Favorite Cable TV Drama at the 39th People’s Choice Awards.

Much as we here at ComicMix have adored the show, the audience has been dwindling; opening the final year with 3.39 million viewers and the final drew a smaller 3.04 million, far too small these days to be sustained. However, co-creators Dean Devlin and John Rogers suspected this was the make-it or break-it season and prepared accordingly. From the outset of the season, Nate Ford (Tim Hutton) was up to something and we saw him pushing the other members of the team to either take leadership roles or step out of their comfort zones. The why remained unclear until the very end.

Along the way, though, the series saw the criminals turned good Samaritans relocate from Boston to Portland, setting up shop in a microbrewery/pub now owned by Alec Hardison (Aldus Hodge). At its heart the show has always been about justice and redemption with every character in need of both. For the producers, it was also about shining a spotlight on the sorts of white collar crime and corruption that doesn’t make the headlines with any regularity. As noted in the extensive show by show notes at Rogers’ Kung Fu Monkey blog, the writing staff did their homework and then some, socking away tidbits for later use.

Each week there’s someone who has been cheated and they turn to Leverage, Inc. for help, with one or the other member of the squad taking their case to heart and convincing the others to pitch in. By now they have become a tight team and more than a bit of a family so they remain there for one another despite their idiosyncrasies. Alec remains a control freak and uber-nerd; Sophie (Gina Bellman) has become a drama coach despite her lack of talent on the stage; Elliot Spencer (Christian Kane) is a tough guy/gourmand; and poor Parker (Beth Riesgraf) is still trying to connect with society.

The cases by now have become almost secondary to the actual mechanics of the con and the personal touches along the way. In the steady hands of the strong writing staff and a stable of repeat directors, the show hit a nice rhythm that made for a weekly hour of pure fun. One of the most entertaining this time around was “The First Contact Job”, where director Jonathan Frakes even let them add in a little TNG humor. One of the most interesting from a plot standpoint was “The French Connection Job”, spotlighting Elliot’s softer side. From writing and performing standpoint the second best one of the bunch may be “The D.B. Cooper Job” where the cast doubles for 1971 counterparts as they try to unravel the story of the famed skyjacker. There were others that also tweaked the formula such as “The Broken Wing Job” when an injured Parker recruits the pub’s waitress (Aarti Mann) to help while the others were in Japan.

But it was all leading up to “The Long Goodbye Job”, which aired on Christmas Day but was actually a valentine from the crew to the fans. Suspecting this was their swan song, Devlin, Rogers, and Chris Downey actually conned the audience in a brilliantly executed story. Listening to the commentary track, we discover how much of episode 77 echoed episode 1. It also reset the status quo just in case there was a chance of more stories in the future. And of course, the episode wouldn’t be complete had their nemesis Sterling (Mark A. Sheppard) not made a final appearance.

There’s audio commentary for all fifteen episodes, a handful of deleted scenes, giving you that much more to enjoy, and then a brief gag reel.

The show’s gone, the cast gone their separate ways, but the spirit remains and with luck there will be chances to follow their adventures in some other way. For now, we have the five seasons on home video to enjoy.

REVIEW – Scribblenauts Unmasked – a DC Comics Adventure

REVIEW – Scribblenauts Unmasked – a DC Comics Adventure

After months of anticipation the latest Scribblenauts adventure is out, taking the popular series in a new direction, namely into the DC Universe. Series hero Maxwell and his twin sister Lily have a debate over who’s the better hero, batman or Superman, and decide the best way to find out is to go there and find out.  So with the help of Maxwell’s magic notepad that can create anything he writes in it, and Lily’s magic globe that can transport them anywhere they like, they head for Gotham City, where things…so not go smoothly.

To answer the most important question first, the library of DC Characters the game can create is outrageously exhaustive. No Watchmen and no Milestone characters, but The Legion and the Substitute Legion, the Doom Patrol, the Challengers of the Unknown, the All-Star Squadron, and damn near member of the Justice League you can think of is in there – and yes, that means Ted Kord – all three Blue Beetles, in fact.  It’s not perfectly complete: Eyeful Ethel, a failed Legion of Super Heroes candidate didn’t make the cut. And while Ralph Dibny, The Elongated Man, is in there, his wife didn’t make the cut. Which is odd because Jean Loring, in Eclipso form, did. While I found a few characters who weren’t in there, I was far more impressed with the ones who were.

The Big Bad in the game is Maxwell’s long-time enemy, Doppleganger, an evil version of Maxwell who sides with the DC Villains. In a happy change from past adventures, Maxwell’s sister Lily plays an active, albeit support role, providing Maxwell with news and assistance from the Batcave.

While the game is adorable to see, the characters chosen are not all cutesy-tootsie.  One of your first missions in Gotham is to transport serial killer Mr. Zsasz to a prison helicopter. Oh, the fun as I had to explain to The Kid who he was and how he came to be…

The mechanics of the game are largely the same as usual for the series – presented with a number of puzzles to solve, you must surmount obstacles by creating items with your magic notepad.  So, if standing before a cliff to have to scale, you could write “ladder” and a ladder would appear. Similarly, you could write “Grappling Hook,” “Jet pack” (at which point it would ask if you wanted Adam Strange‘s jetpack, Space Ranger’s, or a choice of several others), all of which would get you up the cliff equally successfully.  Special bonus missions with special limitations offer extra bonuses.  More than anything else, the game rewards creativity, both in the point values, and the sheer joy of success when you need to call for a doctor, and Dr. Mid-Nite appears.

In this game, a lot of the challenges are more combat based. Random villains will be causing mischief, and you are required to either arm yourself, or crate a hero to combat the spandex-clad menaces. The game has hundred of mini-missions to beat, and the missions change every time you enter a new location.

And WHAT locations – Starting in Gotham City, you slowly earn the chance to travel to Metropolis, Central city, Atlantis, and even Oa.  More and more characters and props become available as you pregress, allowing you to wear gear and costumes of dozens of heroes.

The story is the same in both the Wii U and 3DS versions of the game, with small gameplay differences on each platform. The Wii U version allows other players to interact with the game by using a Wii Remote while the main player uses the Gamepad. The 3Ds version uses streetpass, allowing players to unlock special uniforms and gear by exchanging data with other players automatically, just while walking around.

An already fun game series will get an introduction to a whole new audience who will not be disappointed with the story, or the selection of characters. Easy to pick up, and just as easy to stop and save when the real world beckons.Well worth your time.

 

Mike Gold: Where Have All The Comics Gone?

Gold Art 130925About a thousand years ago, I was on Steve King’s WGN radio show (now sorely missed) and somebody called in and asked about the name “Comic Book.” I was taken aback momentarily, trying to decide if I should go into my “we’ve kicked the kids out of the donut shop” auto-rant. Out of respect for Steve and his 33 state / five province reach, I did a short history instead.

I talked about how the original comics were simply reprints of newspaper strips, some funny (hence the term “funny books”), some were adventurous, and the best were surreal. Within a few years all the licenses were tied up – not just the good ones – and new publishers like Major Malcolm Wheeler-Nicholson had to hire young (read: inexpensive) writers and artists to create new stuff.

Funny comic books continued to dominate newsstand and subscription sales for the better part of two decades. Indeed, Dell Comics’ Walt Disney’s Comics and Stories sold over three million copies each month, the majority as subscriptions. Other movie cartoon stars did quite well, and before long we had a plethora of original funny animal and funny human comics, including Bob Montana’s Archie, Walt Kelly’s Pogo (yeah, the li’l possum and his alligator buddy got their start as a comic book feature), and Shelly Mayer’s Sugar and Spike.

In those hallowed days, comic books were only available on newsstands (stand-alones, in drug stores, transportation stations, etc.) and by subscription. There were no comic book stores. The concept was ridiculous: how could you make money only selling ten-cent product?

This is a question that haunted publishers in the late 1950s when the traditional outlets started to die off. Shopping malls replaced drug and candy stores and five-and-dimes (Woolworths, Kresges) were rendered redundant by convenience stores. Public transportation was severely reduced as people moved out of the inner-cities and into suburbs and outlying neighborhoods, necessitating the purchase of a car. You can’t read a comic book – or text, for that matter – while operating an automobile.

The medium survived, if you call this survival, by the creation of the direct sales marketing system wherein cockroach capitalist comic book stores could order new comics on a non-returnable basis. They received them about three weeks early, so those few remaining newsstands faced severe competition if they were located near a comics shop. Then again, those few remaining newsstands couldn’t care less: the amount of profit in a comic book wasn’t worth the effort of maintaining the racks.

Several comics retailers and at least one severely shortsighted comics distributor discouraged marketing towards children because “they didn’t have enough money and weren’t worth the bother.” Oh, yeah? Well, then, where are your new customers going to come from ten or twenty years down the road?

Well, twenty years down the road, comic book sales were a small fraction of what they had been and, as DC’s co-publisher recently quipped, “our average reader is about 50 years old.” (I paraphrase.) So, in effect, by cutting off the kids we’ve voluntarily placed ourselves in the position the mom’n’pops were in a generation ago. Worse, actually. Most kids know from comics characters not because of the comics, but because of the movies and television shows. They find comics confusing, boring and expensive – if they can find them at all.

As my fellow ComicMixer Marc Alan Fishman said last week, a few publishers are trying to correct this by establishing lines of kid-friendly titles. If they succeed, we’ll have a next generation of comic book readers.

If they fail, the American comic book will become part of our cultural history.

So here’s what you can do. Halloween is coming up. Many publishers have produced special digest-sized comics to give to trick-or-treaters, and that’s great. But if you can’t find them, there’s plenty of new kid’s comics out there. Buy a couple dozen and give them out instead of all that sugary candy stuff.

If you already bought all that sugary candy stuff, ship it to me. I’ve got plenty of comic books.

THURSDAY MORNING: Dennis O’Neil

THURSDAY AFTERNOON: The Debut of Tweeks!

 

REVIEW: Homeland The Complete Second Season

Homeland Season TwoiWhen last we checked in, former CIA Agent Carrie Mathison (Claire Danes) had figured out the truth regarding an attack in Washington, D.C. but no one took her seriously as events caused her bipolar self to meltdown, requiring hospitalization. Therefore, she is the only one to realize that something is serious amiss with Nicholas Brody (Damien Lewis), the recently returned POW who has actually been turned by Al Qaeda  bigwig Abu Nazir (Navid Negahban). Brody is poised to run for office, his wife unsuspecting, Vice President Walden (Jamey Sheridan) (the real target of all this) backing his run. Left to pick up the pieces is Saul (Mandy Patinkin), who is distracted by his wife’s departure for India, possibly taking their marriage with her.

Homeland’s inaugural season arrived with good buzz which grew in volume as audience’s glommed on to the show and Danes’ brave performance of a woman undergoing a total breakdown. It earned numerous nominations and awards at this past weekend’s Emmy awards and season three is ready to kick off. Thankfully, Season Two is now out in a handsome box set from 20th Century Home Entertainment. All dozen episodes are contained on three discs along with some bonus story material and a small number of extras.

Adapted from an Israeli series, Howard Gordon and Alex Gansa took full advantage of the adless premium cable opportunities and created taut hours of storytelling with rich characters and inter-relationships, anchored with an excellent cast. They moved things along at a nice clip and positioned all the pieces so the second season would move even faster. Carrie knows Brody more intimately than even his wife Jessica (Morena Baccarin), although his daughter Dana (Morgan Saylor) is rapidly coming to realize something is seriously off about dad.

We open months later with Carrie seemingly “normal” after ending last season with electroshock therapy, which gives Saul enough confidence to send her to Beirut when her former mentee has information she will only disclose to the former agent. Brody is in Congress, now receiving orders via Washington reporter Roya Hammid (Zuleikha Robinson), and still morally tortured over helping Nazir exact vengeance or be the perfect dad and all-American boy.

Things are nicely stirred although the trajectory of Brody from POW to hero to replacement Congressman to potential Veep candidate is way too fast and lacking the suitable background checks that any politician would do before committing (especially this early in a campaign). There’s also not really enough with Brody and Jessica compared with last season. All minor quibbles though compared with enormously entertaining episodes, well-written and strongly performed. Of course, the explosive concluding moments made us wait way too long for the next installment.

As one would expect, the video transfer to disc is fine both visually and aurally.  Scattered throughout the disc are episode specific Deleted Scenes and several bonus features starting with

Returning to the Homeland: Filming in Israel (7:52) showing how it doubled for Beirut and honoring its roots. On disc three there’s The Border: A Prologue to Season Three (1:40) which becomes moot in a matter of days. Of more interest is A Super 8 Film Diary by Damian Lewis (11:05) with a lighthearted look behind the camera. Wrapping things up is The Choice: The Making of the Season Finale (15:41) which is fascinating for those of us who love to understand the creation process.

REVIEW: The Wonderful 101 – One-credible

The Wonderful 101 has been a year coming – it’s been part of Nintendo’s many show reels for the Wii U system since its release, and it was one of the most popular demos at last year’s New York Comic Con.  And it has been worth every minute.

Conquering alien horde Geathjerk has set its sights on Earth, and the secret army of the Centinels, code named “The Wonderful 100” is out last hope against with you leading them, the “101st”.  The team saves citizens, and then quickly deputizes them into duty, using them like building blocks to form weapons and tools to fight the rampaging monsters.

Another work from  Hideki Kamiya, produced by Atsushi Inaba, it’s got a lot in common with their Viewtiful Joe series for the Game Cube.  If Viewtiful Joe was a love letter to the Kamen Rider series, Wonderful 101 is a love letter to the Super Sentai series, the shows they use to bring us Power Rangers.  Like Joe before it, the game is rife with fourth-wall breaking comedy, over the top action and magnificent character design.

Also like its predecessor, the game is VERY complex.  With dozens, potentially hundreds of heroes and villains on screen at once, things can get very small very quickly, combine that with a control system that at various times uses all the buttons of the Wii U Game Pad, including drawing on the screen, the playing is required to do quite a lot, quite often.  Reasonable progress can be made with button mashing (and a very welcome “very easy” mode) but there’s enough opportunity for impressive combos and innovative gameplay to keep a dedicated gamer engrossed.  With a hundred hidden characters to find and many times that in hidden items, the replay value of the game is vast.  It takes advantage of the Wii U Game Pad to deliver a new playing mechanic.

The work pays off, as the story is filled with many twists and turns, skewering the tropes of tokusatsu while it tributes them.  The character design alone will keep you laughing for days. (Wonder Beer? Wonder Toilet?).  The theme song, “Heroes’ March” that plays under the action, is a wacky ditty that sounds like what would happen of John Philip Sousa did the theme for a Power Rangers show, orchestrated by Jim Steinman.

The complexity may make it the kind of game that might turn a casual player off, but for the hardcore gamer (not to mention fans of Japanese science-fiction) it’s a treat.

Marc Alan Fishman: Life Is A Pitch

Marc Alan Fishman: Life Is A Pitch

This past weekend, the Unshaven Comics crew split our duties (heh heh). Kyle traveled to Cincinnati, where he single handedly crushed records, and declared himself Lord of the Sale. Matt and I (along with our pretty, and amazing, and totally-not-looking-over-my-shoulder-as-I-write-this wives) returned to Charm City for the Baltimore Comic Con. Again we took in the sites, the fine food, and the amazing fans. But of all the new memories made on this sojourn across Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, West Virginia, Pennsylvania, and Maryland… it was the impromptu brainstorming session that will stick out as the best part of the trip.

As our wives listened to their iPods, or slept, Matt and I did what we always do. We talked extensively about the Bears, about toys, about movies we loved… and then we started brainstorming about The Samurnauts. I know, I know. I talk about them a lot. But you know what? I love my creations with Unshaven Comics. One of the honest-to-Rao best moments of my weekend was hearing Mike Gold say to another publisher “I really love what those guys (Unshaven) are doing.” And the best part? I didn’t even have to bribe Mike to say it. I know as we’re all “co-workers” or whatever here on ComicMix, but facts are facts. Mike Gold’s résumé in comics,= and his discerning tastes are that of legend. And to be given a nod of approval from an editor like that? Well, it made my beard tingle. But I digress.

So, somewhere between Ohio and Pennsylvania, Matt and I turned the radio down, and started spit-balling. “You know we should do?” “What?” “Take that joke commission of Lucador Samuranuts and actually, you know, do it.” What proceeded after that, was several hundred miles worth of ideation. From a single jokey-dare to a fully fleshed out idea complete with Aztec gods, nomadic kung-fu monkey masters, and a five-on-five tag team tornado match to save the world. The best part? We weren’t done.

“Well, that’s cool. But you know what we could never do… Disconauts. Like… The Samurnauts of the 70’s.” “Yeah, I know. But like… if we did…. maybe they’d each have their own vehicle.” “Yeah, and those vehicles would be like M.A.S.K., right?” And so on, and so forth. Suffice to say, by the time we reached Baltimore, we’d created two completely new mini-series ready to be outlined, sketched, and built.

I related this all to Mike at our goodbye dinner where Mike and I dominated the conversation of our four top, letting Marc Hempel and my wife smile and eat their crab. No sooner did I finish telling him about our Luchadornauts did a smile creep across his face. And as he’s prone to do, he launched into a story of his own. He related to me the time he and John Ostrander took a walk around a lake close to his house, and came up with the pitch for Wasteland. And it was there, in a beautiful restaurant in the suburbs of Baltimore, with a crab cake the size of my face plated before me… did I find that first true connection with Mike Gold that did not relate specifically to good BBQ or amazing conversation. Here was a guy who with his good friend, found a camaraderie not just in opinions and shared experiences… but in an idea and creativity.

Since we were kids, Matt and I founded our friendship on just that. The spark of creation more than anything else… binds us as brothers-from-other-mothers. And just like icing on a cake, cream filling in an Oreo, or crab cakes bound with bits of smaller crab (bless you, Baltimore), Kyle joined our menagerie and completed our circle. We creators of sequential fiction are a curious sort. And my generation – the one bred by toy commercials and Nintendo – was onslaught by our elders to never have to be creative again. Why create when TV, comics, toys, movies, and then the truly evil Internet, is right there awaiting your procrastination. But there, on the road surrounded by small mountains, rest stops, and snoring wives… I was reminded of who I am, and why I do what I do.

SUNDAY: John Ostrander

MONDAY: Mindy Newell

 

Martin Pasko: You’ve Got Mail! We Just Don’t Know Where It Is…

Martin Pasko: You’ve Got Mail! We Just Don’t Know Where It Is…

Pasko Art 130912Please believe me, as I conclude last week’s well-reasoned and temperate dissertation on why comics fans should care – maybe – about the future of the US Postal Service, when I say I’m trying hard to wrap up this little opus before the USPS goes out of business.

But I’m not working as fast nor concentrating as well as I’d like because I’ve just been distracted by another “gotcha” courtesy of my BMK – Bad Mail Karma. It illustrates one of the more interesting by-products of the USPS’s ongoing effort to modernize, simplify and streamline its products and services even as Congress calls for a postal austerity program:

When a customer confused by the ever-changing policies (that would be moi) makes a minor mistake, the USPS’s systems will helpfully turn it into an exhausting, nerve-wracking Major Hassle by preventing it from being corrected.

In my recent move back to Southern California, I managed to outsmart myself by sending ahead of me a USPS Priority Mail box of important items that I’d need before the moving van arrived with my everyday stuff. It has yet to arrive, some eight weeks later. It seems I used Priority Mail packaging that was not a flat rate box, but to which I incorrectly affixed flat rate postage generated online. OK, my bad.

That does not explain, however, why it took the P.O. four weeks to determine that that was the problem; why its online tracking system kept giving me information that contradicted the tracking data in the main USPS computer; nor why the package has now crossed the country four times, having been shipped back and forth between my old address and the new, each time being flagged in the system as undeliverable” or sent to “no such address.”

The helpful people I’ve dealt with at my local P.O. – six of them now, because the same people don’t seem to work there for more than five days in a row – can’t seem to figure it out, either. One “Letter Carrier Supervisor” told me, “I’ve been working here 30 years and I’ve never seen anything like this.” Of course, that may be because she apparently takes 147 coffee breaks a day.

This might also explain why she can’t get her direct reports to do what the three other supervisors have told me they will: When the package ricochets back here to Pasadena, they’ll call me so I can come pay the extra postage and pick it up. When last heard from, the package was at some “claims resolution” facility in Atlanta, but was supposed to be on its way back here. That was two weeks ago.

Now, imagine that this box had been, say, a shipment of comics from a private eBay seller for which you were waiting breathlessly. (Yes, small, private sellers often make honest mistakes. I hasten to add, though, that as someone who sells on eBay, I’ve been lucky – so far – not to make this kind of mistake with a customer’s package. And you can be sure I’m doubly careful now.)

This is a microcosmic example of the kind of thing comics fans will probably be saying good-bye to soon, mournfully or otherwise, having been left to the tender mercies of those even bigger screw-ups, UPS and DHL. The macrocosmic version is what I described last week: A stamp-related custom comic project that was extraordinarily successful for DC Comics (the aggregate print run for the nine CTC books I discussed added up to over 10 million) turned out to be a dismal failure for the USPS. This, only because the agency couldn’t secure the content approval from its licensors – the owners of several of the stamp subjects’ IT – in time to get the books out, to serve as collectors’ albums for the CTC series, at the same time as the stamps themselves.

And it’s too bad, really, this suicidal ineptitude, since comics fans once had a friend in the postal service. It was tangentially responsible for the creation of letters columns which, in the earliest days of comics fanzines and well before web sites and comment forums, became the principal means by which comics fans exchanged opinions about talent and continuity developments and, from the addresses printed, gained the means to interact and organize. These “LOC” pages came about because postal regulations required comics to have at least a page of text to qualify for their mailing rate. When the previous practice of hiring writers to create original prose fillers became prohibitively expensive, the “lettercols” were born.

Soon, those who self-identified as serious fans and collectors became the only readers who were so hell-bent on getting their monthly “fix” that they’d be willing to subscribe. But they were dissuaded from doing so because they didn’t want their mint-condition comics given a permanent vertical crease by being folded lengthwise to fit into a narrow wrapper, which was the only cost-effective way to send comics through the mail. So you can thank USPS, then, for killing this in favor of what took another decade to develop, with the growth of specialty retail shops: the pull-and-hold service.

Today, the Postal Service searches for new services it can provide http://www.informationweek.com/government/security/postal-service-pilots-next-gen-authentic/240145559, to replace the ones it has screwed up so badly that they’ve become obsolete. One of its ideas is to get itself into the “identity management business.” The fact that the average citizen can’t figure out what, in fact, “identity management” is should in no way deter the USPS from this worthy goal. It might keep them occupied so that other companies will have to deliver all the packages, and our paychecks will all be issued by Direct Deposit and have no trouble finding their way into our bank accounts.

Of course, thereafter we’ll be unable to access our funds, because our identity will have “managed” to change – to that of someone we’ve never heard of in a zip code that hasn’t been invented yet. (Remind me not to tell you about how my previous address in Pennsylvania, a rural route which was given a normal house-number in “The Monroe County Readdressing Project”  … with the result that my online change-of-address form couldn’t be processed properly because the old address wasn’t in the USPS database.)

Meanwhile, I’ve decided to stop oiling my old spinner-rack and instead donate it to a nursing home. I’m going to shop for comics via ComiXology exclusively, and work on figuring out how to get my new tech for promoting pacifism and conservation of labor, to make plastic staples. Once everyone on eBay is shipping via UPS, and we have the technology to totally recreate “floppies” in our own homes, the world’s Geeks – comic book division – won’t have anything to fear from the P.O. anymore, whatsoever.

FRIDAY MORNING: Martha Thomases

FRIDAY AFTERNOON: Michael Davis (honest)

 

Marc Alan Fishman: Age – It’s Not Just A Number

FIshman Art 130907I know that amongst many writings for ComicMix, I am essentially still in diapers in their eyes (and I’m guessing, so too, perhaps is Emily). And as much as I don’t want to make that a jab at their graying hair, and preference for dinner around 4 PM, I can only assume that when they see the whipper-snapper trying to make a point about time and wisdom they might bruise a hip from chortling at the thought. But I welcome their guffaws… Because they know as well as I, that what I speak is the truth. It’s a simple truth, of course, but a necessary one to restate every now-and-again.

As folks my age rage against the MTVs and their kin, I choose to take a step back. Miley Cyrus gyrating on teddy-bears is exactly what a 20 year old with all the money and none of the responsibilities of life should be doing for attention. She’s an artist the same way any of us may have been at 20. She has the chops, but for now, none of the wisdom needed to produce something of value. John Mayer, now 35 is really coming into his own on his albums. No longer fluffy songs about “making love,” and growing up… now he turns inward, and deftly pushes outward his wry humor, and seamless guitar playing.

So too, do artists in our field of comics perform much the same. Mark Waid, as amazing as he’s been for years, seems to only gild his bibliographic lily with each passing issue of Daredevil. And where young buck artists for Marvel and DC are chugging away at their boards in an effort to ape the house-styles of the day, soon they will see that taking a risk on what they actually want to do will end up paying their rent just as well if not better. And screw you, I’m am optimist.

I dawned on this fact over this past weekend. Matt (my Unshaven Cohort) and I were invited to do a workshop on how to create comics for a batch of wonderful kids at a local art gallery. Their ages ranged from 6 to 14 (I believe), and we had a ball. One of the first things I did was ask each kid in the class to come up with an idea to draw out. Ideas ranged from showing Sonic the Hedgehog becoming “Dark Sonic” to a chicken facing an existential crisis. I was floored, if only because the young man who pitched it to me was so crystal clear on the concept. Why did the chicken cross the road? To die, of course. Later this spiraled out into the zombie chicken apocalypse, but I’m getting ahead of myself.

The longer I thought about those kids, and their concepts, I was brought back to my own childhood. I can clearly recall in elementary school I created a trio of crime-fighting, mystery-solving kids (“The Cool Kids”), who I would draw over and over and over. I never actually got them into any unwieldy adventures, nor intricate mysteries. I’d spent all my time perfecting their look. Eventually (as in, a year later), I’d met Matt in class, and soon thereafter, moved into creating a complex continuity of comic characters. Matt and I bathed over entire teams of ‘original’ heroes. I’m nearly certain it took mere days for us to combine our cadres into a single cavalcade of crime-fighters. And amongst all of those long-lost creations, I can still pitch “The Human Blade” to you as the metal-made-man of true justice.

In my head (as I’m sure within those fine minds we melded with at the gallery), there were complex stories at the waiting. Emotional journeys, epic battles, and small character moments to be had. It is only now, with years of toiling at the art table (and blank script pages), do I finally feel like I have the tools to produce something of value. It’s not that I haven’t made product prior, mind you. But as with all artists, it’s time that has taught me that everything before right now is only as good as it could have been. In lesser heady terms… with age comes wisdom, and with wisdom comes a superior piece of art. Every comic Unshaven Comics has put out has clearly shown a progression of our styles, our scripting, and our abilities as story-tellers.

In more than one of the reviews we received back from fans of The Samurnauts: Curse of the Dreadnuts #2, we heard that there was “real progress” from issue 1. Not that they didn’t like issue 1 (and our sales to date are a testament to that…), but there was a clear and present evolution of our art within the 36 pages. I know for myself, I really pushed myself to get feedback throughout my creative process – something a younger me was too prideful to do. It was as if the passage of time (and the experience of doing it several times before) made me more able to produce something with nuance and an attention to craft. Preposterous, perhaps, but true none-the-less.

Rodney Dangerfield didn’t find his voice, truly, until he was well into his forties. Jack Kirby helped define an entire era of comics, at about the same time in his life. The older my personal heroes such as Kevin Smith and Quentin Tarantino get, I’ve found their works to mature with them. It’s a fact of life, perhaps, no? With age comes wisdom and foresight. And for we, the creatives, so too does our work evolve. Age is not just a number, kiddos, it’s a state of our well-being when we put our pens to the paper.

SUNDAY: John Ostrander

MONDAY: Mindy Newell

 

REVIEW: Marine Boy Season One

MarineBoyS1_1shtThe first wave of anime to arrive in America was usually found in syndication, filler in the mornings and afternoons for the off-network stations in the New York area. It all started with Astro Boy but was quickly followed by Eighth Man and Gigantor, Kimba the White Lion to the Amazing Three. And then there was Marine Boy, the first of the color animated series to be broadcast in America. In his native Japan, the name translated to Undersea Boy Marine and was therefore Americanized.

Produced by Minoru Adachi and Japan Tele-Cartoons, there were 78 episodes in total and the first season or 26 episodes, have now been collected by Warner Archive, which is fitting since Warner was the company to distribute the series back in the 1960s.

Sometime in the future, there lived a boy, maybe 15, remarkable enough to serve as a full-fledged agent of the Ocean Patrol. Their mission was to troll the seven seas and ensuring that the undersea ranching, mineral and oil exploitation, research, and undersea habitats were safe. With all this prosperity above and below the surface, there seemed to be an unending supply of single-minded villains out to seize control of some portion of this prosperity for themselves.

Thankfully, Dr. Mariner and Professor Fumble were on hand to grow and equip the OP with the gear they needed to keep fish and man safe. Various-sized craft were dispatched but the series focused on the P-1, manned by the comedic duo of Bolton and Piper along with the title character. Marine Boy is an all-around all-star, the perfect athlete, swimmer, tactician, etc. He was beloved by all, including sea life in the form of the friendly dolphin Splasher. Since he insists on heading into action, he’s been equipped with a special wetsuit that allows him to withstand the varying pressure changes underwater along with a ring that can whistle for dolphins and the frequently-used oxy-gum. Odd for the water, but he uses a boomerang with deadly accuracy.

He’s also accompanied by Neptina, a slightly younger girl who just happens to be a mermaid. Little was revealed about her race but she wears a pearl around her neck with a wide array of convenient magical powers.

The vocal work is weak, largely because Corinne Orr, best recognized as Speed Racer’s Trixie, performs the roles of Marine Boy, Neptina and Cli Cli, a small boy who idolized Marine Boy. Sharp-eared fans will recognize the tones of Jack Grimes, Peter Fernandez, and Jack Curtis.

The stories are all long before ecological issues were common so were far more typical adventures such as investigating what happened at drilling Satellite Station 23 or the self-proclaimed Emperor of the Pacific Empire. There’s a certain simple charm to them even if the criminal mastermind of the week grew a little tiring.

Growing up, I never warmed to the show although my siblings liked it well enough. It was certainly engaging enough back in the day and was clearly a stepping stone to the American market and other projects.