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REVIEW: Sir Gawain and the Green Knight

REVIEW: Sir Gawain and the Green Knight

For about a thousand years

, people have been writing, in effect, King Arthur fanfic, merging characters, rewriting events, introducing characters, reimagining them in different times and places. As far as historians can tell, there really was an Arthur and as his story was told, it got embellished. And embellished.

As a result, it’s hard to say if writer/director David Lowery did a better or worse job with his vision of the classic tales than anyone else. What I do know is that after teaching Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, his version comes up way short in my expectations.

The film, out on disc and streaming now from Lionsgate Home Entertainment, takes the 14th century epic poem, written by anonymous, and undercuts its themes and message in favor of new themes and messages, none of which I found interesting. The visually compelling film really isn’t very good on storytelling or characterization, other than the title character, which is a shame.

Gawain was Arthur’s nephew, youngest of the knights at the Round Table, his mother is, to most storytellers, Arthur’s half-sister Morgause. To serve as a knight suggests he was already proven a brave, noble knight, a faithful upholder of the code of Chivalry. Therefore, his willingness to take up the Green Knight’s challenge makes perfect sense.

Instead, here, Lowery depicts Gawain (Dev Patel) as a callow youth, a wastrel who drinks and beds his beloved Essel (Alicia Vikander), and shows no aspect of heroism. This, therefore, is a coming of age story, a hero’s journey in the making of man.

The Green Knight (Ralph Ineson), likely an aspect of the pagan Green Man, representing nature (think Swamp Thing), arrives to challenge Arthur (Sean Harris) to the beheading game, a popular trope in the fiction of the day. After Gawain lops off his head, the Knight scoops up the piece, and invites him to his Green Chapel in a year and a day so he may return the favor.

The poem is vague as to what occurs on the ride from Camelot to the Chapel, but it’s certainly more than the six days’ ride Lowery suggests. He uses this interlude to heap misery on Gawain, effectively stripping everything away from him so he can be remade and ready for the confrontation. Along the way he sees giants and is accompanied by a fox, new to the tale.

The bulk of the poem is devoted to the three days he spends with Lord (Joel Edgerton) and Lady Bertilak (Vikander) at a castle in the days before his appointment. Here, Bertilak offers him a deal that he will hunt each day and given to Gawain whatever he finds. In exchange. Gawain must give the same to his host.

And over the course of the three days, Lady Bertilak tries to seduce Gawain in more provocative ways, involving less clothing, and each time his chivalry holds out, so he accepts kisses, which he chastely bestows on Bertilak.

The film version warps the timing and growing size of the stakes as there are more kisses and larger game each day. On the final day

, in addition to the kisses is the gift of the green girdle for protection, which he does not give to his host.

And despite the gift, he flinches the first time the Green Knight swings his axe. The second blow merely cuts his neck and then the game is revealed. Bertilak is the Knight. He and his lady were working for Morgan Le Fay (Sarita Choudhury), who wanted to undermine the Round Table by showing how even the noblest knight can falter. He returns home in shame, but is forgiven by all, and they adopt green wraps of their own as a reminder of their faith.

Not so in the film where Le Fay is his mother and she gives him the girdle only for him to lose it before the lady returns it to him. Then there’s a weird fever dream that suggests he will gain the throne but everything will fall.

The message here is muddied, the making of a man a flawed process.

Lowery clearly loves his subject matter and gives us a plausible looking England with a heady mix of magic. If only the writing and characterization so interesting.

Thankfully, the film, in a 4D Ultra HD, Blu-ray, and Digital HD combo pack lets the visuals shine. The 2160p transfer in 1.85:1 is stunning, nicely capturing the colors and shadows. In some cases, the 2160 is only marginally better than the 1080p but here it is markedly improved. Not that the Blu-ray is bad, just the 4K is better.

In both cases, the Dolby Atmos audio track is a lovely complement to the discs.

The film’s special features are so-so which is a shame considering the rich source material that could have been mined. Among the features are Boldest of Blood & Wildest of Heart: Making The Green Knight (35:23); Practitioners of Magic: Visual Effects (14:39); Illuminating Technique: Title Design (17:53), which is interesting given the chapter breaks we get; and the Theatrical Trailer (2:28).

The Adventures of Tintin, Vol. 7 by Herge

This is the end. Well, sort of: there’s an unfinished last book called Tintin and Alph-Art, which is available in what I think is the form Herge left it (rather than completed by other hands). But this is definitely the last Tintin stories actually completed and published.

The Adventures of Tintin, Vol. 7  collects books that cover almost two decades: The Castafiore Emerald (serialized 1961-62), Flight 714 to Sydney (66-67) and Tintin and the Picaros (75-76). Herge was clearly not devoting as much time to writing and drawing new albums in his fifties and sixties as he was as a younger man, but I suspect he was doing just as much “Tintin stuff,” only related to running a business empire: approving toy designs

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, meeting with movie people, arranging sublicenses, and all of the other things that are definitely work but don’t deliver any new material from a creative person.

Anyway, the three books are quite separate here, as you might guess from that sixteen-year span. So I guess I should treat them separately.

The Castafiore Emerald stands out as different from the rest of the series: it’s entirely set at Marlinspike, Captain Haddock’s ancestral pile, and it’s a mystery/farce rather than the series’ more usual adventure plot. I found the humor was not quite as juvenile as Herge sometimes gets – it’s still most based on how horrible Bianca Castafiore is and how much Haddock can’t stand her (and, secondarily, on how much of a blustery klutz he is), but that’s the story here, rather than random interjections. The story sees Haddock injure his foot, so he’s stuck in a wheelchair, right as Castafiore invites herself (and the inevitable accompanying media frenzy) to Marlinspike, leading first to worries about theft and then what seems to be an actual theft. It’s also got some good don’t-judge-people material, suitable for its young audience, though that thread is mostly background.

Flight 714 to Sydney is a more typical adventure story: Tintin and Haddock and Calculus are off to some international aviation symposium in Australia, get sidetracked by an eccentric rich guy, and then a villain strikes. There’s a lot of running around with guns after that, mostly serious, and a weird fantastic element that struck me as outside the usual style of the series and that largely serves to set up a deus ex machina ending in a book that didn’t need one. That one element aside, though, the adventure stuff is strong, and the comic relief mostly well-integrated into the actual story.

And then the last finished Tintin book, the one I could have read as a child of the appropriate age if Tintin was a thing in the USA in the mid-70s (it wasn’t), is Tintin and the Picaros, something of a greatest-hits compilation of the series. The fictional Latin American country of San Theodoros from The Broken Ear provides a venue and a big chunk of cast, one secondary villain returns from The Calculus Affair, and of course there’s the usual suspects of Tintin, Haddock, Castafiore, and the Thom(p)son twins. It has an odd anti-violence message from Tintin as part of his revolutionary plot, and that plot is fairly thin and mostly on rails.

I still think these omnibuses are a rotten way to present the Tintin books: they’re too physically small to read easily and the books are long and dense enough that they’d work better as individual albums. I expect the next big repackaging of Tintin will be back to the album format; every series gets packaged into omnibuses for a while and then broken back out again. If you have the inclination to read this series, I’d either wait for that switch or look for actual albums. (If you’re reading in a language other than English, the latter should be easier.)

As for me, I’m happy I read the series: it was a big hole in my comics cultural literacy. I didn’t love the Tintin books, but I didn’t expect to: they were made for European boys starting several decades before I was born, and I didn’t read them until I was middle-aged. But I can appreciate what they do well – I don’t think I’ve even mentioned Herge’s lovely line in any of these posts (maybe because of the horrible small size of these omnibuses

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, which does not display his art well at all) – and indulge the things they do to keep that young audience happy and engaged. I still don’t think I’d agree with the Tintin maximalists, but this is pretty good stuff. (See my posts on the earlier books for more.)

Reposted from The Antick Musings of G.B.H. Hornswoggler, Gent.

The Law Is A Ass #456: It Was No DEFENDER Bender, It Was A Total Wreck

The Law Is A Ass #456: It Was No DEFENDER Bender, It Was A Total Wreck

Well, I can’t exactly say that it was wrong. But I can’t say that it was right, either.

The “it” in this case is The Defenders Vol. 5 #6, a story which, despite it’s cover billing as “Kingpins of New York” Part 1, was actually a continuation of events that started in The Defenders Vol 5 #1. In order that we can discuss “Kingpins of New York” part 1

, I need to catch you up on what happened before part 1. (Sigh, nowadays comic book stories are about as linear as an EKG.)

Starting in issue #1 of The Defenders Vol 5, the Defenders – Daredevil

, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, and Iron Fist – had been waging good guy-bad guy war against Willis Stryker. (I guess when Marvel was deciding who should appear in a 2017 Defenders comic, they sat around pondering, “TV or not TV, that is the question.”). Finally, in issue #4, the Defenders apprehended Stryker.

I said “apprehended” as if it were easy. It wasn’t. Stryker was distributing a new drug called Diamond, a derivative of Inhuman Growth Hormone which bestowed temporary super powers on whoever took it. And Stryker wasn’t just the president of the Diamond Club for Men, he was also a client. Still, Daredevil, Iron Fist, Luke Cage, and Jessica Jones did catch Stryker. Caught him while he was trying to beat Black Cat to death.

The authorities decided to transfer Stryker from the local jail to a prison, because he was too “high risk” to be locked up in county jail (also The Defenders Vol 5, #4.) One issue later, Stryker was transported to said prison along with another prisoner, one Frank Castle. In case that name isn’t familiar to you, Frank’s the Punisher. Stryker taunted Castle in the transport van, because that’s what you want to do, taunt a machine gun-toting vigilante who serial kills criminals. Getting your taunt on that way is likely to get you gutted and used as an emergency shelter.

The taunting didn’t go well, shock of shocks. Castle attacked Stryker. In the ensuing melee, the transport van tipped over and Stryker made good his escape. Made good, that is, until the next issue, when the Defenders apprehended Stryker, again, this time while he was trying to kill the Black Cat. In case you lost count, our recap has brought us back to The Defenders #6, which means now the legal analysis can get started.

Stryker appeared for a probable cause hearing in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York in the case United States v. Willis Stryker. It’s a good thing it wasn’t called United States v. Allswell, because it does not end well.

First of all, if the case is a federal case, it was in federal court, remember, why did the judge say “I do believe the commonwealth has met a prime facie burden?” Our country may be called the United States of America, but four of those states aren’t states at all. Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and Kentucky call themselves commonwealths. In a federal criminal case in a federal court the plaintiff is the United States, no commonwealth would prove anything. No state, either. Commonwealths and states don’t bring charges in federal courts, the US government does.

Compounding that jurisdictional error, New York is a state not a commonwealth. So if New York could prosecute cases in a New York federal court, which it can’t, it would be the state of New York that had made a prima facie case, not a commonwealth.

Finally, why was Matt Murdock even appearing for the prosecution? Matt’s an assistant district attorney for Manhattan. Remember how I said states don’t bring cases in federal courts? (Hey, it was only a paragraph ago. Don’t make your memory even worse than mine.) Matt shouldn’t have been arguing on behalf of the prosecution, it should have been a federal prosecutor.

Okay, all the above was, I admit, a bit of nitpicking, and I was just the nitwit to pick it. I did have a more major problem with the scene. Like everything that happened in it and something that didn’t happen in it.

After a few pages of counsel for the defense and Matt Murdock for the prosecution haranguing and gesticulating about how either poor Mr. Stryker was a victim of vigilante harassment (the defense) or that he was a hardened criminal who escaped police custody (the prosecution), the judge found a prima facie case existed and ordered that the bail would “remain as set.”

Excuse me, bail? For someone who escaped custody? Someone who escaped after he was deemed too dangerous for county jail so had to be sent to a prison while waiting trial? Someone who tried to beat the Black Cat to death after he escaped?

Defense counsel claimed there was no evidence or witnesses to this attempted murder, but Iron Fist, Daredevil, Luke Cage, and Jessica Jones all saw Stryker assault Black Cat. If there was no evidence about the assault, that can only mean the prosecution didn’t call any of those witnesses to show the court how dangerous Stryker was and why he shouldn’t be granted bail.

This story took place after Matt Murdock successfully argued to the Supreme Court of the United States that masked super heroes could testify in court without unmasking, so Matt could have called Iron Fist but maybe not Daredevil, given that Matt is Daredevil so he would have had to keep swinging from counsel table to the witness stand. If Matt forgot the legal precedent he, himself, successfully argued to the Supreme Court only a few months earlier, Matt’s an even worse attorney than I thought. And my opinion of him wasn’t all that high to begin with. Moreover, even if Daredevil and Iron Fist couldn’t testify, Luke Cage and Jessica Jones aren’t masked. Their identities are publicly known. They definitely could have testified.

Matt should have had at least one of those four eyewitnesses testify in the hearing to establish that Stryker tried to kill Black Cat. He didn’t. So I guess Matt is an even worse attorney than I thought he was. I mean, I haven’t practiced law in over ten years now and have probably forgotten more than Matt Murdock allegedly ever knew, but I know I would have had one of those four testify to prove Stryker tried to kill Black Cat.

Had Matt established that Stryker was a criminal who was too dangerous to wait in the county jail, escaped during transport, and tried to kill Black Cat after escaping, I believe the judge would have denied Stryker bail. And then Stryker would have rotted in federal prison while waiting for his trial.

Of course, if Stryker had rotted in prison while waiting for his trial, that would have meant the other four parts of “Kingpins of Crime” wouldn’t have happened. But you know what they say, sometimes you just have to take the good with the good.

Oh, The Place We Boldly Stop.

Oh, The Place We Boldly Stop.

The Dr. Seuss Enterprises lawsuit against us is finally over.

In August 2016, we put up a Kickstarter for Oh, The Places You’ll Boldly Go!, a mash-up of Star Trek and Dr. Seuss to be written by David Gerrold, drawn by Ty Templeton, edited by Glenn Hauman, and published by ComicMix LLC later that year. DSE sent us a cease and desist letter on September 27, 2016. (Yes, the legal wrangling lasted longer than the Enterprise’s original five-year mission.) DSE filed a DMCA motion to take down the Kickstarter campaign on October 7, and filed suit against us on November 10, 2016, alleging copyright infringement, trademark infringement, and unfair competition.

We put up a good fight. We defeated the trademark infringement and unfair competition claims, and that win was affirmed on appeal. We also won summary judgment on the claim of copyright infringement, though that was reversed on appeal. The court set a pretrial schedule in September 2021 and we were well positioned to have a jury resolve whether or not you could see this book.

And yet, today we’re announcing that we and DSE submitted a proposed consent judgment for the suit, and that the Honorable Judge Janis L. Sammartino granted it on Friday, October 8, 2021 and closed the case.

Why? The simple truth is— we ran out of time.

This past year, Ty was diagnosed with Stage 3 colorectal cancer. This has required him to undergo months of chemotherapy and radiation treatment, just to prepare him for the needed surgery—which will then require weeks of recuperation until he recovers enough to go through six MORE months of chemo and radiation, and then MORE surgery after that. This has affected his ability to work, to draw, and to do any of the things an immunocompromised person shouldn’t do, especially in the middle of a global pandemic.

And the trial schedule would have been smack in the middle of all of that. After five years of sometimes ridiculous litigation and with the pre-trial deadlines looming, as Ty’s collaborators and friends, we refused to put him through any additional stress that could in any way impinge on his health and recovery. To the credit of the people at DSE, they didn’t want to put Ty through that either. So we joined in a motion to end the suit the day before Ty’s surgery, in order to alleviate the less serious pain in his ass so he can deal with the far more lethal and literal pain in his ass.

In the consent judgment, DSE concedes some of our defenses and we concede some of their claims. Unfortunately, the terms stipulate that even though the book is complete, we won’t be able to present Oh, The Places You’ll Boldly Go! to you for another forty years, when the Dr. Seuss copyrights are set to expire and his books enter the public domain. (We can start taking preorders in January 2062, so set your calendar reminders now.)

We still passionately believe in and stand for creators’ rights, including fair use, and we still maintain that Boldly is a fair use that could not have harmed DSE in any way, now, five years ago, or in forty years. Unfortunately, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals’s view of fair use makes it very difficult to overcome a well-heeled copyright holding corporation if it wants to stand in the way (anyone who thinks “corporations are people” has never seen a corporation in a cancer ward) and they decided that the book was over the line. We’re looking forward to the day when you can finally see the full book for yourself and make your own determination about it—until then, it’s like writing a book report by just looking at the cover, never seeing what’s inside.

It has been a long five-year mission filled with many absurdities. At one point, Universal Pictures asked us to help promote “The Grinch” DVD release, so DSE could make more money to bash over our heads. At another point, DSE paid an “expert witness” who got an artist to redraw our book in the most dreadful way imaginable, and then did a trademark survey asking shopping mall customers to compare Ty’s artful mix of Seuss and Trek with that hack job. We’re still wondering how our book referencing a single illustration from How The Grinch Stole Christmas could have taken “the heart of the work,” as the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals thought, when the illustration in question shows neither the Grinch, Christmas, or anything being stolen. And less than thirty-six hours after the Ninth Circuit reversed the fair use ruling, we got to watch Saturday Night Live air a sketch about the Grinch in a Whoville three-way, with nary a peep from DSE.

We’re also grimly amused about how we had to fight a fair use case while DSE’s own publisher, Penguin Random House, put out their own unauthorized parody, Oh

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, The Meetings You’ll Go To! (Although there is some question as to whether or not Meetings is officially sanctioned by Dr. Seuss Enterprises, as the copyright page of Meetings makes no mention of a DSE license, yet this since deleted tweet from Eric Nelson on August 4th, 2020 says otherwise…)

But when we were sued two days after Election Day 2016, we knew that letting anyone with lots of money, name recognition, and power have the ability to shut down even the gentlest of parodies and mildest of commentaries about them unchallenged was an extremely bad precedent to set for the future—if for no other reason that we make up for one another’s biases by being able to criticize each other, whether we are children’s book authors or circuit court judges.

We can take satisfaction in many of the victories and precedents this case has set, including:

  • The Ninth Circuit made it explicit that mash-ups can be fair use. (Just not, apparently, ours.)
  • The District Court’s summary judgment ruling held that there are no exclusive trademark rights in an artistic style, or a distinctive font or typeface.
  • In fact, the trademark infringement and unfair competition claims wound up a total rout. They were dismissed based on nominative fair use in 2017. DSE renewed them, and we won judgment on the pleadings over its claims about the book’s title based on the Rogers/First Amendment test in 2018. We won the “that’s not even a thing” issue over the Seussian art style and typeface in 2019. And in 2020 the Ninth Circuit affirmed everything under Rogers and the First Amendment.

While we’re not entirely pleased with the case’s outcome, we remember the words of historian Richard Hofstadter, who observed that sometimes people must “endure error in the interest of social peace.” If we were ultimately unable to persuade the Ninth Circuit to reduce the amount of error involved in determining fair use for creators, we’ve done what we can to forge a path for future fair use activists.

There are many people we’d like to thank for helping us go boldly, as we believe that, as our book says, no one goes forward alone. First and foremost: our lead attorney Dan Booth of Dan Booth Law, who fought the good fight with the strength of a hundred lawyers against a firm with four thousand lawyers. We also give thanks to Michael Licari, now in-house counsel at Veteran Benefits Guide, Dan Halimi, now at Halimi Law Firm, T.C. Johnston at Internet Law, Joanna Ardalan of OneLLP, who appealed our case to the Supreme Court, and Ken White of Brown White & Osborn LLP, who sent up the Popehat signal that brought us much needed assistance in the first place. And we thank Dr. Joshua Gans, our expert witness, who generously donated his time and testimony and worked under ridiculous constraints.

We’d also like to thank the people who filed amici briefs taking our side:

Francesca Coppa, Stacey L. Dogan, Deborah R. Gerhardt, Leah Chan Grinvald, Michael Grynberg, Mark A. Lemley, Jessica Litman, Lydia Loren, David Mack, William McGeveran, Mark P. McKenna, Lisa P. Ramsey, Pamela Samuelson, Jessica Silbey, Rebecca Tushnet, Magdalene Visaggio, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, the Organization For Transformative Works, Public Knowledge, and their counsel Chris Bavitz, Mason Kortz, Phillip R. Malone, Meredith Rose, Eric Stallman, and Kit Walsh.

And we’d like to also thank Mike Gold, Martha Thomases, Brandy Hauman, Keiren Smith, Pam Hauman, Shann Dornhecker, Mark Treitel, Joshua Masur, Katherine Trendacosta, Heidi Tandy, Meredith Rose, Brian Jay Jones, Mike Godwin, Margot Atwell, Camilla Zhang, Oriana Leckert, Allison Adler, Michael C. Donaldson, Film Independent, the International Documentary Association, and Steve Saffel.

We’d very much like to thank United States District Judge Janis L. Sammartino, who presided over our case with patience, fairness, wisdom, and thoughtfulness, and all of the staff that supported her.

And finally, we’d like to thank all of the Kickstarter backers who wanted to make this book a reality, all the supporters who helped cover (the start of) our legal expenses, and all of the journalists and scholars who followed and reported on our case. We are grateful for your generosity and faith, and are very disappointed that we can’t show you what you’ve been waiting years to see. At least not yet.

For those interested, the case is Dr. Seuss Enterprises LP v. ComicMix LLC et al.,; case number 3:16-cv-02779 in the United States District Court for the Southern District of California, and case number 19-55348, in the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.


P.S.: There’s two more last minute “thank yous.” The proposed consent judgment was submitted this past Tuesday, October 5. On Wednesday, October 6, Ty had his surgery, which went well. And on Thursday, October 7, two guys joined David and Glenn in sending get-well notes to Ty—a Mr. Shatner and a Mr. Takei.

Thanks, captains.


Glass Town by Isabel Greenberg

We all live in the worlds we build for ourselves. For most of us, that’s deeply metaphorical. For people who tell stories for a living, well, it can be more complicated.

Take the Bronte family: the three sisters who lived into adulthood (Charlotte, Emily, Anne) all wrote novels, important books that are still read and studied today. Their brother, Branwell, was supposed to be the great genius of the family but never produced anything substantial – I’ve never studied the matter but I always got the sense that the expectations for Branwell were entirely because of his gender, and not due to any specific ability. But all four of them wrote, and they wrote together, or maybe just in and around each other’s stories, when they were children. They invented worlds, and peopled them, and squabbled over the people in those worlds, causing schisms and an inevitable split, with two of the four packing up their stories and heading off to a separate continent.

All this while they actually lived in that famous remote parsonage in Haworth: the four children, their parson father, a housekeeper. Probably seeing people from the village all the time, but the story of isolation avoids mentioning that. Definitely remote, definitely separated, definitely just with each other almost all the time.

So they lived in their invented world as much as the real one: it was as important – more important.

Isabel Greenberg’s third graphic novel Glass Town  – her first to be set in the real world, not her invented Early Earth – tells that story, in a fictionalized form. Charlotte is at the center, and she usually is in tellings like this: she was the one who survived the longest, after all. (She died at the age of 38: in most contexts, that wouldn’t count as very long at all.)

It opens with Charlotte in a field in 1849: she’s the last of the four left alive. And she’s met by one of her own characters, to tell her what has become of Glass Town, the city the four of them made, and of Angria, the country Glass Town sits in. (And to say nothing is known of Gondal, the land Emily and Anne created without the other two.) This is our frame story: he asks her to tell him the story they both know. And of course she does.

Greenberg says up front that this is a fictionalization – well, we know that as soon as a fictional character appears on the moors to talk to Charlotte – but that also means that any specific detail may be invented

, or altered, or just never recorded in real history. So much of this could be true, or false, or somewhere in between. That’s not important

, though: the story is important.

The story is mostly about the Glass Town characters, and their complicated grand-opera affairs: the dashing rogue Zamorna, his colorless wife and her scheming evil father, Zamorna’s real brother the gossip-merchant and foster brother the Black true king of this colonized land, and a few others. They’re all tied up in a knot, and their story is bound to end with violent conflict and death.

I don’t know if any of the Brontes ever wrote that ending. I don’t know if they wrote competing endings, but I suspect they at least talked about it. I don’t know if any of those potential endings exist. All I know is what Greenberg tells me here, in this version of their lives – how they battled over how the stories should go, with Charlotte and Branwell more warlike and Emily and Anne more domestic. That led to the split, as Greenberg tells it. But we now know basically nothing of Gondal, because none of those writings, except a few scraps of poetry, survived. So all we have is Glass Town, and the men maneuvering to kill each other over it.

It’s difficult to tell a completely happy story about someone who died young a hundred and fifty years ago – not when you’re covering a lot of her life, anyway. Glass Town is a book about creation and destruction, about living in the real world vs. living in invented ones…but it tends to come down on the side of destruction and invented worlds, as one should probably expect from a creator of fiction.

As in her previous books, Greenberg has an almost faux-naif art style, full of stiff figures with simple features, just expressive enough for her purpose. (If they look a bit like cutout dolls, or perhaps more specifically lead soldiers, that’s not an accident.) It’s a style that may be off-putting to people who read a lot of traditional comics – superhero, manga or YA – since it comes from a more deliberate artistic tradition, one that is not aiming to render things the way they look to the viewer.

Glass Town, because of that hundred and fifty years, because of Greenberg’s art style and other choices, and because of the nature of Glass Town itself, is a bit chilly and detached – it’s not a warm, welcoming story, and never would have been. Any reader will need to be aware of that, before they make the trip: the people of Glass Town have their own concerns, and will have little time for you.

Reposted from The Antick Musings of G.B.H. Hornswoggler, Gent.

Save It For Later by Nate Powell

The personal is political. It always was, and always will be. When someone’s identity is a reason to suppress or attack them, from “will not replace us” to bathroom bills, it’s never just personal. 

There’s a meme I’ve seen a number of times, about what is political – that arguments about taxes and land development and budgets are, but arguments about whether someone should be allowed to live are not. I want to agree with that, but, in the real world, arguments about people’s lives and existence are aligned with partisan politics. The people trying to de-humanize huge swaths of humanity know what they’re doing, and aren’t going to stop because the other side makes clever memes.

Nate Powell understands all of that. (Better than I do, I expect.) His 2021 book Save It For Later  is explicitly about confronting the rising tide of fascism, authoritarianism, leader-principle, and white nationalism in the USA, placing those concerns in a parenting context: how do you talk to your children about fascists? How do you think about fascists to focus on what you can do, especially as one family in a deep-red state? And how do you survive when you’re surrounded by horrible, mean, vindictive people? (Who may not actually be fascists themselves, but are perfectly happy in their smug self-satisfaction to sign up for every last fascist ideal.)

My children were much older at the 2016 election: eighteen and fifteen. I was lucky: I didn’t need to explain that this was bad, that, as Powell put it, “the bad guy won.” Powell seems to have two kids like I do, but they were much younger – I think the older one was five on that horrible night. So the parenting piece was much larger for him.

He’d also just come off a big non-fiction graphic novel series with Congressman John Lewis, explicitly about protest and fighting against white supremacy. It’s called March: you may have heard of it. So this was important to Powell, and central to how he saw his life and work, in a way that it isn’t for most Americans.

Save It For Later collects seven essays in comics form, all on that same cluster of topics, created during 2019 and 2020. I’ve seen at least one of them before – I think on The Nib – so it’s possible they all appeared elsewhere first. But they clearly were designed to work together; they circle the same concerns and thoughts in a consistent way.

I’ve always loved Powell’s work, since I first saw his magisterial fiction graphic novel Swallow Me Whole. He particularly has a knack for black-background pages, with hand-lettered white type and splashes of light color for vignettes of activity. His comics pages often seem to be on the verge of apocalypse, personal or societal – that darkness sweeping in and inundating the pages, his energetic lettering, especially on sound effects, the tone of concern and fear and distress.

This is a book for an immediate moment. I hope it will seem strident or ridiculous in five years. (I bet Powell would, too.) It probably won’t, though: fascism doesn’t go away that quickly or that easily, and the “will not replace us” crowd is loud and central and has captured most of one of America’s major parties. What any one person can do during that moment is small and feels inadequate: vote, speak up, model good behavior, deflect as much anger from more vulnerable people as you can. And, most of all, think about those vulnerable people first: who are the fascists trying to hurt? How can you help to foil or counter or even just slow down those efforts?

Because the fascists are always out there. And they’re always focused on hurting people.

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Reposted from The Antick Musings of G.B.H. Hornswoggler, Gent.

Thirsty Mermaids by Kat Leyh

Sometimes you get into something it’s hard to get out of – now that sounds ominous

, doesn’t it?

But all of life is a sequence of things you get into and can’t easily get out of: relationships, jobs, places to live, family. And fiction, especially fantasy fiction, can be metaphorical about those things, and not need to be tied down to dull reality.

So when I say that Kat Leyh’s graphic novel Thirsty Mermaids  is about three young people who do something fairly dumb on short notice and without thinking it through, and end up deeply stuck in a place they don’t understand at all, you can see how that could go in a million different ways. In this case, it is fantasy. The title is not a metaphor: they are mermaids.

Or, actually, they were. That was the fairly dumb thing: transforming to human so they could get more booze in some unnamed tourist-y seaside town. (It’s hard to find alcoholic beverages underwater!) They know nothing about human society, as is traditional, so they’re in for some shocks both immediate (humans need to wear clothes!) and longer-term (capitalism! money! rent! jobs!).

So, anyway, Tooth, Pearl, and Eez had that awesome idea — they could get a lot more booze if they went on land, where the humans are, and then they could come back afterward to their regular awesome lives under the sea. And the night of drinking went well: they did find some clothing, which came with a card they used to buy drinks the whole night at a bar amusingly named the Thirsty Mermaid.

Sure, they ended up passed out in an alleyway, but that’s a thing that could easily happen to humans, too.

But then Eez, their witch, realized she had no magic as a human – which means she can’t turn them back.

Oops.

Luckily, the bartender they drank with the previous night, Vivi de la Vega, is a soft touch. They end up crashing with her – the narrative wisely stays silent on whether she actually believes their drunken story about being mermaids – as Pearl and Tooth learn about human life and jobs, and Eez spends her days investigating human magic and figuring out how to get things back to normal.

Leyh isn’t emphasizing the drama here: their situation is serious, but only desperate for Eez, for reasons that the characters, and Leyh, will explicate as we get deeper into the book. Tooth and Pearl could fit in reasonably well on land: they’re loud and goofy and still deeply ignorant of human ways, but they have skills and their human bodies, if weird, work and are comfortable. Eez, on the other hand, finds human skin and the open air strange and disconcerting all the time, and it’s not going to get better.

So Leyh’s plot first throws them into possibly the most fish-out-of-water moment ever, then ambles around having them do fun clueless-about-human-life activities in this town that I keep wanting to say is Santa Barbara cosplaying as Key West, and then makes it clear that return is important.

Do they make it back? I wouldn’t dream of spoiling the ending.

Thirsty Mermaids was published by S&S’s Gallery 13 imprint, meaning that it was basically aimed at adults, unlike Leyh’s previous book Snapdragon . What that means is that there’s some incidental nudity – mermaids don’t wear clothes, remember! – that focus on alcohol as the source of and solution to all of life’s problems, and perhaps a quieter, more naturalistic story structure and a cast that have complicated depths like real adults. But it’s clearly another book by the same creator, with a lot of the same concerns and the same energy. So if you are a young reader who loved Snapdragon, or if you are in the business of getting reading materials to a young person who loved Snapdragon, I hope you are not shocked by a few cartoon boobs and, well, three very thirsty mermaids. This is a lovely, bright book full of fun moments, wonderful characters, and a deep concern for friendship and belonging.

Reposted from The Antick Musings of G.B.H. Hornswoggler, Gent.

Win a Digital Code to  M. Night Shyamalan’s Old

Win a Digital Code to M. Night Shyamalan’s Old

Old is now available on Digital (on digital retailers like iTunes, Vudu, Amazon, etc.) as of today, and our friends at Universal Home Entertainment have given us three Digital copies of the film, redeemable on Movies Anywhere or UniversalRedeem.com.

The digital copy features Deleted Scenes, behind-the-scene featurettes and more.

In order to win, tell us which is your favorite age and why. The more in-depth and creative, the better. Post your response by 11:59 p.m. Monday, October 11. The decision of the ComicMix judges will be final.

Take a seat behind-the-camera with never-before-seen deleted scenes and bonus features that offer a deep dive into this mystery of a family vacation that quickly turns sinister.

Starring an impressive international cast including Golden Globe winner Gael García Bernal (Mozart in the Jungle)

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, Vicky Krieps (Phantom Thread), Rufus Sewell (The Illusionist, A Knight’s Tale)

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, Alex Wolff (Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle), Thomasin McKenzie (JoJo Rabbit), Abbey Lee (Mad Max: Fury Road), Nikki Amuka-Bird (Jupiter Ascending), Ken Leung (‘The Sopranos’, ‘Lost’), Eliza Scanlen (Little Women), Aaron Pierre (‘Britannia’), Embeth Davidtz (Schindler’s List, Matilda) and Emun Elliott (Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens). OLDis directed and produced by critically acclaimed filmmaker M. Night Shyamalan. 

This chilling, mysterious new thriller follows a family on a tropical holiday who discover that the secluded beach where they are relaxing for a few hours is somehow causing them to age rapidly … reducing their entire lives into a single day.

BONUS FEATURES

  • DELETED SCENES 
  • SHYAMALAN FAMILY BUSINESS – We look at what Night’s two daughters, Ishana and Saleka, contributed to the film and how collaborating with family made filming outside Philadelphia still feel like home.
  • ALL THE BEACH IS A STAGE – Shooting a film in a wide-open space is challenging because angles have to be created, much like theatre. Night explains the significance of his camera movements and the cast discuss the unique experience of filming without coverage.
  • NIGHTMARES IN PARADISE – When making a film like OLD, finding the right shooting location is everything. Hear the story of why Night took the production to the Dominican Republic and how Mother Nature both challenged and helped the production.
  • A FAMILY IN THE MOMENT – Gael Garcia Bernal, Vicky Krieps, Thomasin McKenzie and Alex Wolff recount one very special, emotional night of filming that brought them closer than they ever imagined. 
Shang-Chi and The Legend of The Ten Rings hits Digital Nov. 12, 4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray and DVD on Nov. 30

Shang-Chi and The Legend of The Ten Rings hits Digital Nov. 12, 4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray and DVD on Nov. 30

LOS ANGELES, CA (October 1, 2021) – Marvel Studios’ Shang-Chi and The Legend of The Ten Rings debuts on all major digital platforms November 12 and on 4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray and DVD on November 30. Marvel fans can enjoy never-before-seen bonus material including 11 deleted scenes and a gag reel.

Film Synopsis
Marvel Studios’ Shang-Chi and The Legend of The Ten Rings stars Simu Liu as Shang-Chi, who must face the past he thought he left behind and confront his father, leader of the dangerous Ten Rings organization. The film also stars Awkwafina as Shang-Chi’s friend Katy, Meng’er Zhang, Fala Chen, and Florian Munteanu, with Michelle Yeoh as Ying Nan and Tony Leung as Xu Wenwu.

Beginning November 12, “one of Marvel’s best origin stories” (Sean Mulvihill, Fanboy Nation), Shang-Chi and The Legend of The Ten Rings will be available to all Disney+ subscribers. The film also arrives on all digital stores such as Apple TV, Prime Video and Vudu with exclusive bonus features.

Marvel Studios’ Shang-Chi and The Legend of The Ten Rings Bonus Features*

  • Gag Reel – Take a look at some of the fun mishaps on set with the cast and crew of Shang-Chi and The Legend of The Ten Rings.
  • Deleted Scenes
    • They’re Waiting – Shang-Chi and Katy connect with Xialing over a call.
    • Take a Shot – Katy has a moment of resolve during a battle.
    • Apology – Years after his sudden absence, Shang-Chi tries to apologize to Xialing.
    • I’m Here – Shang-Chi and Katy have a conversation in the alley. Katy reassures Shang-Chi that she will always be his support system.
    • Pep Talk – In order to turn the tide, Razor Fist encourages Katy during the middle of a battle.
    • Greatness – Trevor and Katy bond over passions in their getaway car.
    • Escape Tunnel – The gang slips out through Trevor’s escape tunnel in order to secure a getaway vehicle.
    • Two Sons – Xu Wenwu compares Shang-Chi and Razor Fist during a tense dinner.
    • Postcard – Shang-Chi and Xu Wenwu reunite as father and son. Shang-Chi makes it clear he disagrees with Xu Wenwu’s philosophy.
    • Just Friends – Katy and Xialing get to know each other. Xialing asks Katy some personal questions.
    • Do It Yourself – Xu Wenwu returns to his empire after the Iron Gang boss is captured.
  • Building a Legacy – Go behind the scenes and explore Shang-Chi’s explosive debut in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
  • Family Ties – A deep dive into the rich but complicated legacy of Shang-Chi and Xu Wenwu.
  • Audio Commentary – View the film with Audio Commentary by Destin Daniel Cretton and Dave Callaham.

*bonus features vary by product and retailer

Cast:                                       Simu Liu as Shaun/Shang-Chi
                                                Tony Leung as Xu Wenwu
                                                Awkwafina as Katy
                                                Meng’er Zhang as Xialing
                                                Fala Chen as Ying Li
                                                Michelle Yeoh as Ying Nan
                                                Yuen Wah as Master Guang Bo

Directed by Destin Daniel Cretton

Produced by Kevin Feige

, p.g.a.                         

Jonathan Schwartz, p.g.a.

Executive Producers:           Louis D’Esposito
                                                Victoria Alonso
                                                Charles Newirth

Screenplay by:                      Dave Callaham & Destin Daniel Cretton &Andrew Lanham

Screen Story by Dave Callaham & Destin Daniel Cretton

Music by:                               Joel P West

Marvel Studios’ Shang-Chi and The Legend of The Ten Rings Product Specifications
Street Date:                           Digital: November 12
                                               Physical: November 30
Product SKUs:                      Digital: 4K UHD, HD, SD
                                               Physical: 4K Ultra HD Combo Pack (4K UHD + Blu-ray + Digital Code), Blu-ray Combo Pack (Blu-ray + Digital Code) & DVD
Feature Run Time:                Approx. 132 minutes
Rating:                                   U.S. Rated PG-13
                                               Bonus material not rated       
Aspect Ratio:                        Digital: 2.39 Physical: 2.39:1
U.S. Audio:                            4K Ultra HD:  English 7.1.4 Dolby Atmos, English DVS 2.0 Dolby Digital, Spanish 7.1 Dolby                                                             Digital Plus, French 5.1 Dolby Digital Language Tracks
                                               Blu-ray: English 7.1 DTS-HDMA, English DVS 2.0 Dolby Digital, Spanish and French 5.1 Dolby Digital Language Tracks
                                               DVD: English, Spanish and French 5.1 Dolby Digital, English 2.0 Descriptive Audio Language Tracks
                                               Digital: English Dolby Atmos (UHD only, some platforms), English 5.1 & 2.0 Dolby Digital,                                                           Spanish 5.1 & 2.0 Dolby Digital, French 5.1 & 2.0 Dolby Digital, English Descriptive Audio 2.0 Dolby Digital (some platforms)
U.S. Subtitles:                       4K Ultra HD: English SDH, Spanish, French
                                               Blu-ray: English SDH, Spanish, French
                                               DVD: English SDH, Spanish, French
                                               Digital: English SDH, French, Spanish (some                                                       platforms)

The Adventures of Tintin, Vol. 6 by Herge

I forget, between volumes, just how much work it is to read the small-format Tintin omnibuses. Herge worked for a much larger page-size

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, and took advantage of that: his pages typically have at least a dozen panels, and are packed with dialogue that these editions set in a slightly fussy italic pseudo-handwritten font. So I find myself peering much more closely than I expect, and sometimes needing to take off my glasses to focus on on panel in isolation.

They’re also fairly involved, intricate stories: each one is 64 pages long, and, again, those are big pages full of talking and action. Sure, the talking is often vaudeville-level humor and the action is early-blockbuster spy thriller, but there’s still a lot of it. And a little bit of the supposedly humorous secondary characters – Jolyon Wagg, who first appears in these stories, I am looking straight at you – goes very far, but we never get just a little bit of them.

So perhaps I’m happy to be getting close to the end with The Adventures of Tintin, Vol. 6 . There’s something melancholic about reading old adventures stories from other people’s childhoods to begin with, and I’ve read fifteen previous adventures even before I got to this point. (Obligatory links to volumes one , two , three , four , and five , each of which reprinted three books. The first two in the series, Tintin in the Land of the Soviets and Tintin in the Congo, are mildly suppressed these days for reasons of tendentiousness and/or racism.)

Tintin, who was set up to be a boy reporter early in the series but never even feints in the direction of filing a story or having any kind of stable job by this point in the series, first appeared in 1929 at the age of twelve and, in the manner of adventure-story protagonists, was still twelve when The Calculus Affair first appeared in serialized form from 1954-56. (The other two books collected here are The Red Sea Sharks from 1956-58 and Tintin in Tibet from 1958-1959; this appears to be the point where Herge stopped working on Tintin stories basically continuously, at the age of about fifty-three, and did just three more discrete tales over the next decade-and-a-half.)

The three stories here are all entirely separate, though they have the standard Tintin furniture: Captain Haddock, Professor Calculus, those supposedly funny detectives, and so on and so on. Calculus and Red Sea are more-or-less spy thrillers: the first details a Cold War-ish battle between the standard two Herge fictional countries (Syldavia and Borduria) over a potential superweapon developed by guess-who, and the second is another one of Herge’s long-chain-of-coincidences plots that leads to Tintin foiling an operation to take African hajjis and sell them into slavery. (The book never uses the term “hajjis,” but they’re going to Mecca. Also, Herge’s drawing is a bit caricatured for the African characters, but he’s generally not racist in his depiction of them.)

Tibet is an odder book: Tintin has a prophetic dream about Chang, a boy of about the same age he met way back in the book The Blue Lotus, who has not been mentioned since, and who has supposedly just died in a plane crash in the Himalayas. Tintin is sure Chang is not dead, and has various omens that he is correct; the story is driven entirely by the boy’s pigheadedness and insistence on finding Chang. Oh, and there’s a Yeti in it

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, but mostly as a background character. It gets cited as a book about the power of friendship, but no real-world friendship I’m aware of includes ESP powers to infallibly rescue one another from far-away continents, so I’m a bit dubious.

Herge is still really good at adventure-story hugger-mugger; he throws additional complications in as well as anyone in the world. And his comic relief, though very hokey, is generally at least moderately amusing. (And that’s good, because these books are roughly forty percent comic relief by volume.) As I’ve said before, this is not exactly my thing, because I am an adult and because I grew up a generation or two later, but this is still really solid work and would probably be nearly as appealing to young people these days.

Reposted from The Antick Musings of G.B.H. Hornswoggler, Gent.