Thursday, August 24, 2006

Looking To The Stars - The Week In Review

Quite a lot of news this week. And yet, I read more than a few comics this week. And it has been ever so long since Unca Stars has treated everyone with a batch full of reviews.

Lucky you. I’m Super-Sizing your column this week, free of charge!

Okay, it’s always free. But you’re getting more bang for the buck you aren’t giving me. Should anyone feel that I am worth a buck, please e-mail me for Paypal instructions. ;)

And now that I am done with my joking and likely pointless shilling, LET THE NEWS REVIEWING BEGIN!

Marvel reverses labeling policy for gay characters

I’d be more impressed with this most progressive news if…

a) Marvel had bothered to put out more than ONE title with a gay/lesbian/bi-sexual main character in all the time the MAX line has existed.
b) Marvel’s two main teen-books (Runaways and Young Avengers) didn’t have three openly gay members between them.
c) Joe weren’t quite so proud about declaring gay hero Freedom Ring the star of Marvel Team-Up… which is due for cancellation, so who cares if people complain about it before then?
d) Marvel weren’t desperate for any kind of good publicity in the wake of the massive delays on Civil War announced last week.


Retailers drop free copies in Quarter-Bins to save time, make money faster.


Matt Morrison enters state of bliss: Tony Harris Fanboy now giving Highlander a shot.


I’m going to have to start sending my paycheck to Dynamite Entertainment at this rate. Between this, Highlander and the Red Sonja and Xena comics my girlfriend collects, seems like half the books I actively collect are by DE.

Well, it may SEEM like it. But it’s not quite true, as this week’s batch of reviews will clearly show…

52 Week #16
Company Name: DC Comics
Writers: Geoff Johns, Grant Morrison, Greg Rucka and Mark Waid
Art: Various

This issue wasn’t bad but it didn’t thrill me as much as past issues of 52. After the bang-up ending last time (sorry…sorry), this issue just felt a little flat. The Question/Montoya doesn’t seem to be going anywhere and Black Adam’s whirlwind romance is coming off as being a bit rushed. Still, who am I to question the wisdom of gods? The sight of Mary Marvel being alive and well was an uplifting note, at least.

Grade: C

Birds of Prey #97
Writer: Gail Simone
Artists: Paulo Siqueira and Robin Riggs

Glad as I am to see that at least one writer has not abandoned the idea of The Society (being played for chumps by Luthor aside, it DID work really well for the villains) this issue came off a little forced. Emo-brat Black Alice was always shown as being a little more canny that she comes off here. And I am looking forward to seeing this new Batgirl storyline resolved even though I know we are being massively played on what we are supposed to expect.

Grade: B

Daredevil #88
Writer: Ed Brubaker
Artists:Michael Lark and Lee Bermejo

A one-off issue centering upon the now-in-hiding and thought dead by the world (and Matt Murdock) Foggy Nelson this one is a Brubaker bread-and-butter special. We get some nice factual information on what life is like for someone in the witness protection program. And ninjas fighting the Mafia. Everything goes better with ninjas!

Grade: B

Jack of Fables #2
Writers: Bill Willingham and Matthew Sturges
Artists: Tony Akins and Andrey Pepoy

Jack was my favorite character from the original Fables series, so no surprise me loving this one given that I’m also a sucker for any story with a trickster hero. Throw in the fact that the villain of this piece, who we meet in this issue, is a librarian dedicated to a most literal form of censorship (pretty much the epitome of evil for a librarian like myself, who believes that information is meant to be free) and you have one rollicking good read for a mythology librarian geek like myself. But I think that the rest of you will enjoy it too.

Grade: A

Justice League of America #1
Writers: Brad Meltzer
Art: Ed Benes and Sandra Hope

I’ve had a love/hate relationship with Brad Meltzer since Green Arrow: Archer’s Quest. I love most of his characterization and dialogue but I hate his plots and 11th Hour plot twists. Still, I will say two things about this book.

1. He made me care about Red Tornado.

Not an easy feat given I’ve never liked the Pinocchio Syndrome cliché and I think the old Avengers comics with Vision pretty much handled the subject definitively. But damn me if the parts featuring him in this issue didn’t make me start to give a damn about “John Smith”.

2. This is, by far, the most ethnically diverse Justice League ever.

Indeed, it is a Justice League made up entirely of minorities.

I know this is a minor point but given all the talk of racism and religious-bias in comics I’ve seen on this site and others of late, I thought this worth noting. And I expect this to be highly debated but consider the following.

Superman – Granting that he was raised WASP, the man is still the poster-boy Alien Immigrant. And with two female Kryptonian cousins, he is now a minority in a minority.

Batman – Okay. He’s a rich White guy. But given that most of his writers agreed that Batman is Catholic, Anglican or Episcopalian – all relatively small denominations in the USA – he’s a rich, religiously repressed White guy.

Wonder Woman – Greek Mythology pagan.

Green Lantern (Harold ‘Hal’ Jordan) – Hal’s never been portrayed as a spiritual character with a stated religion, but there is a belief by some fans that Hal is Jewish. Indeed, his appearance in 1959 was based on Jewish actor Paul Newman and he once wished Barry Allen a Happy Hanukkah.

Black Canary – Never stated any religious belief as far as I know. But she’s a woman so she still counts as a repressed minority regardless.

Arsenal – Roy was raised Navajo and has been shown to subscribe to their beliefs and to be considered one of the tribe. I think that’s enough to qualify him as Native American for tax purposes. :)

Black Lightning – do I really have to explain this one?

Vixen – African. Not African-American. African Tribal.

Hawkgirl – Half-Latina who may worship ancient Egyptian gods.

Red Tornado – If sentient robots with souls aren’t a minority group in the DCU, then Dr. Morrow and Dr. Magnus have been putting in some overtime.

All arguing of semantics aside, this book was enjoyable enough. I’ll be anxious to see how the first arc ends (Meltzer is weak on endings, IMHO) but so far, so good.

Grade: A

Red Sonja #13
Writer: Michael Oeming
Art: Mel Rubi

The artwork is gorgeous as ever and I do like this clearer retelling of Sonja’s origin that makes it clear, once and for all, if she was honestly blessed by a goddess or just hallucinating in the pain and confusion of what happened to herself and her family. I’m still a bit confused as to what the “mystery villain” who was brought back from the classic Sonja Marvel Comics has to do with the action right now but I am content to sit and find out.

Grade: B

Supergirl #9
Writer: Joe Kelly
Artists: Ian Churchill and Norm Rapmund

Blind optimism has kept me glancing at this book in the store hoping that it would finally achieve the potential it had when Jeph Loeb first brought back the classic Supergirl. Blind optimism finally paid off. Freed from trying to finish off whatever Greg Rucka abandoned during his brief tenure on the title, Kelly is starting to turn this book into his own creature, by setting Kara up on her own and having her talk about her displacement issues with the new Captain Boomerang – who also has some issues with his parents and his place in a world he is just now learning to be a part of. It’s quirky but it works. And the set-up on the last two pages seems a natural progression for two characters who should honestly have been put together as natural friends by now.

Grade: B

Ultimate Spider-Man #99

Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Art: Mark Bagley

Well, this is better than the original Clone Saga. But if that’s not damning with faint praise, I don’t know what is. Honestly, this issue is crammed full of so many shocking twists that it isn’t the least bit shocking. Nearly everyone who was dead isn’t dead anymore and the only thing that’s for sure is that Peter is somehow going to get blamed for all of this. 10 to 1 Norman Osborne shows up in Issue #100 as the mastermind behind all of this. At least Bagley’s art is still ‘a might pretty.

Grade: D

Wonder Woman #2
Writer: Allan Heinberg
Art: Terry Dodson and Rachel Dodson

You know, I really would like to be able to care about this book. But I don’t. Much as I am glad to see Nemesis alive and well (and the in-joke about his Catwoman appearance where he ‘died” is priceless), I just can’t get all worked-up about this book. I can’t get excited about Wonder Woman as Lara Croft in her secret identity. I can’t get excited about Donna Troy’s appearance here given that we know Diana is alive and well and active. And I really can’t get excited about her doing the spin and change into costume thing at the end of the book. The Dodsons do their usual job where all the female characters looking buxom and all the male characters looking just plain weird. Seriously. Look at Robin. Weird.

Grade: D

Xena: Warrior Princess #2

Writer: John Layman
Art: Fabiano Neves

Dynamite seems intent on reviving a lot of forgotten movie and TV properties with comic-book tie-ins of late. The only thing saving them so far (apart from some cunning marketing) is the fact that as cheesy as some of the properties they’ve invested in are, they are fun. And whatever else may be said of Xena – it is a fun book that truly reads like one of the better episodes of the TV show.

The plot, such as it is, is that the Egyptian Gods and Greek Gods decide to settle their personal war by having two champions fight to the death. Through a bit of a fluke, Gabrielle winds up being chosen to be the representative for the Greeks. Thankfully, the rogue Autoylcus (played by the great Bruce Campbell) is able to convince the gods that having just one pair of mortals fight for their glory is a bit of an understatement. Unfortunately, they just open up the playfield drafting the incompetent Joxer and the psychotic Callisto for the Greek team along with Xena and the sneaky, but not a fighting-man Autoylcus.

The artwork captures the likenesses of all the characters from the show well and odds are that if you’re a fan of the show or comedic fantasy in general, you’ll enjoy this book as much as I did.

Grade: A

Tune in next week. Same Matt time. Same Matt website.

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Sunday, August 20, 2006

Looking To The Stars: Looking To The Stars – Monkeying Around with Mary Votava

Earlier in the week, we made history by performing the first comic-fandom magazine interview of a “real” superhero. Today, we further push the envelope of what a little mom-and-pop website by the fans, for the fans can do by providing you with another interview – this time with an actress who played a superhero!

Cut from competition in one of the most controversial rounds of Who Wants To Be A Superhero?, she is even now a fan favorite whose elimination prompted a exodus of fanboys who refused to watch a show without a Monkey Woman. It gives me great pleasure to present the woman behind the fur bikini – Mary Votava!

Starman: Where are you from originally?

Mary: Seattle, WA

Starman: Tell us, as much as you are comfortable, about your early life.

Mary: I was the youngest of four and had a very creative childhood. My mom limited my TV watching, so I spent most of my play time making mazes from cardboard boxes, throwing rabbit food from tree forts (to protect from an enemy invasion), building sprawling pinecone metropolises in my sandbox, and things of that nature. I was quite a tomboy; my family called me their “little monkey” because I was so good at climbing trees.

My biggest frustration was not being able to keep up with my sisters and brothers, because they were so much older than me (the next closest in age is my sister Michelle, who is eight years older than me). But it had its’ benefits too – lots of love, lots of support! They all came to my swim meets and school events, and later when I started singing, my recitals and theater productions. I remember my childhood very fondly, and am sometimes irked that I ever turned into a “grown up.” I will always be a kid at heart.

Starman: What are your favorite colors?

Mary: Red, blue, shiny silver

Starman: How did you decide to break into show business?

Mary: It’s been my dream since I was about 5 years old and my sisters pushed me onstage before the performance of “Gypsy” that they were in at our local church. They gave me a cane and a hat and told me to go out, twirl around, tip the hat, and come back. I was shy and didn’t want to do it, but they badgered me into it.

There were quite a few people in the audience at the time, and I’ll never forget that feeling of losing all my inhibitions as I walked out and did my little monkey dance, and heard (to my surprise) the laughter and applause from the people watching. I made so many people smile that day. The rest was history.

Starman: How did your first try-out session for the show go?

Mary: The people doing casting for the show were EXTREMELY supportive and helpful. I was still developing my character as Monkey Woman and hadn’t quite perfected my “shtick” yet. But they saw my potential and helped me work through the snags and put together a great audition tape for the producers.

Starman: Just how padded were those costumes used for the challenge with the guard dogs? It looked like they bit through at some points during the second episode.

Mary: The suits were quite thick. It was hard to move just with them on, let alone with two attack dogs attached. The dogs never bit through the fabric itself to break skin, but the pressure and pinching of their bites left funny “nip marks” all over my body for a couple weeks. Small price to pay for such a unique and exhilarating experience…

Starman: How did you go about creating your character?

Mary: It was pretty much a natural evolution. I’ve had the nickname “Monkey Woman” since I was 17, and thought it would be a fun name for a comedic superheroine a couple years after that.

The idea for a banana-flinging crime-fighter lived on in the back of my mind for several years, until I saw the casting notice for “Who Wants to be a Superhero?” and jumped out of my chair at the opportunity to finally develop Monkey Woman into something tangible. I didn’t think it stood much of a chance, since she’s really such a silly character, and not terribly original…I mean, she’s basically a female Batman with a much fuzzier costume and bananas.

Starman: On that note, are you a big fan of the old jungle-girl comics and movies? (Sheena the Jungle Queen, Shanna The She-Devil, etc?)

Mary: I’m afraid I never saw them, but Sheena and Shanna sound simply smashing!

Starman: Did you make your own costume? If so, do you do a lot of costume design?

Mary: I did make my own costume. My mom helped me procure all the materials, pin the top together to get it to fit correctly, and wrap floral tape around the rope to make the vine…. I’ve been sewing my own clothes and costumes since I was a kid, but really only devote time to it when I have something coming up, such as Halloween or a reality TV show.

Starman: What is the oddest experience you’ve ever had as an actress? Playing Monkey Woman or not.

Mary: One of my first experiences that I’ll never forget was playing a giant singing mosquito at the Seattle Opera’s production of “The Cunning Little Vixen.” I got to stage-stab the lead baritone with my 2-foot long proboscis. Banana-utility-belt notwithstanding, it doesn’t get much odder than that.

Starman: You do a wonderful monkey noise. Do you make any other animal voices?

Mary: Seagull, piglet, dolphin, sheep, goat, cow, whale, Schnauzer, squirrel, tree frog, large dog, cat, angry cat, hissing reptile, dove, peacock, various birdcalls, and Wookiee. The seagull is probably my biggest hit. You can hear them at the sound page of my website.

Starman: What’s on your schedule? Anyplace on stage or screen we might see you in the near future?

Mary: I am currently in shooting for “Daughters of Darkness,” a fun indie horror film about vampires, and working on a other few short films. I also do short-form comedy improv with a group called “The Omelettes” every Saturday night.

Starman: What do you use to inspire yourself? Do you have any kind of pre-show rituals?

Mary:I am a big follower of Eckhart Tolle’s “Power of Now” and try to practice being present. Getting truly *present* is one of the most instantaneous and effective ways for me to find inspiration, peace, and connect to my creative center for whatever character or show I’m working on.

Starman: What do you think are your biggest strengths as a person?

Mary:Determination, openness, sincerity, gratitude. As long as there is breath left in me, I will never give up hoping, trying, trusting, believing, seeing the beauty in everyone and everything, and thanking God/Love for the chance to experience it all. I am also very light-hearted…I laugh a lot, and forgive easily.

Starman: What do you think are your biggest weaknesses as a person?

Mary:Self-doubt and fear are the things that rear their ugly heads with me the most. A lot of my fears and doubts are just old “programming” or struggles common to the human condition, but when they take hold it can feel a lot like wrestling with attack dogs….

Starman: Have you gotten any odd or creepy request from your fans?

Mary:One guy had me sign his banana at ComicCon (the Chiquita kind, of course). I thought it was absolutely hilarious!

Starman: What superheroes did you like growing up? Do you have a favorite?

Mary:As a kid I loved the Justice League of America, and later X-men. But Batman is my hands-down favorite.

Starman: Are you now, or have you ever been, a comic book collector?

Mary:I am not a comic collector, but I have read some X-men in the past and enjoy the whole genre tremendously. I’ve made myself several costumes over the years just for playing dress-up and running around like a freak.

Starman: If you were going to play any superheroine in a movie (apart from Monkey Woman of course), who would you like to play?

Mary: Wonder Woman. I know I’m no 6-foot Amazon, but Wonder Woman was one of the first costumes I ever made and I used to dress up as her all the time. (And hey, I took pretty towering next to my nieces and nephews…) Anyone know Joss Whedon’s number?

Starman: If I did, he’d be my next interview. What are some of your favorite things?

Mary: Raindrops on roses, whiskers on kittens, bright copper kettles, warm woolen mittens, and being a smart-ass…ok, seriously, I have my “favorites” on my MySpace page.

Starman: Hey, I ask a smart-ass question… What are your pet peeves?

Mary: Hair on the floor *shudder*…I keep my vacuum cleaner plugged in next to my bathroom at all times so I can suck it up as soon as I’ve brushed my hair. I’m completely OCD about that and am a bit of a neat freak in general. But other than hairy floors and keeping my home clean, I’m pretty easy going and not bothered or offended by much.

Starman: Where have you trained as an actress?

Mary: I am currently studying with Alan Feinstein and Paul Tuerpe. I have taken classes at Oberlin College, San Diego Actors Workshop, and numerous workshops with casting directors and other industry rofessionals.

Starman: What special talents do you have (that we can discuss in print)?

Mary: I sing a mean opera aria, swim, do trampoline tricks….but I would have to say my best talent is an ability to learn. I’ve always been able to pick up new skills or assimilate information rather quickly.

Starman: Who are your biggest idols as an actress?

Johnny Depp
Christopher Guest
Val Kilmer
Kevin Spacey
Patrick Stewart
Meryl Streep
Jodie Foster
Uma Thurman
Audrey Hepburn

Starman: What advice would you have for anyone who wants to go into acting?

Mary: I’m not sure I’m qualified to give advice, as someone who has not yet realized her own goals, but I can share the approach I am taking: find a good teacher and go to regular classes. Your number one focus should be on doing great work and perfecting your craft, no matter what it’s for or what kind of paycheck (or lack thereof) you’re getting. Don’t be put off by the professional aspect – remember that being an artist means you’re essentially in business for yourself…consider getting a business coach or at least taking a seminar so you have some idea how to handle this side of the equation.

And I know this may sound odd coming from a woman who wears a fur bikini – but never compromise your principles. That is not the same thing as getting outside your comfort zone (which IS important to do). Just know who you are. And no matter what your dreams or occupational ambitions are, never give up….you just don’t know the unexpected ways in which the universe may manifest your desires when you keep on believing!

Starman: Finally, is there anything you would like to say to our readers?

Mary: Thank you all for taking the time to read this and get to know me a little better – I truly appreciate your interest and support! Many blessings on you, all the best, and I hope someday we have a chance to meet face to face!

Starman: I hope so too. Thank you again for the interview with yourself and your alter ego!

Anyone who wants to read more about Mary and her work is advised to surf the web over to her personal website:

Tune in next week. Same Matt time. Same Matt website.

Visit our blog at:

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Caught In The Nexus: Hanging Around With Monkey Woman

Thank you for joining me for what is, I think, a first not only for myself and Comics Nexus but a first for Internet-based Fandom Magazines anywhere. My colleagues and I have interviewed dozens of artists, writers and other creative people who create stories about superheroes. But nobody, to my knowledge, has ever interviewed a real-life superhero before…

… until now!

Recently, I have came into contact with a heroine who was most recently seen on the popular “Who Wants To Be A Superhero show, fighting off a team of wild dogs. She became a favorite of the Nexus staff because of her pluck, her tenacity and (let’s be honest – most of us Nexus writers are very lonely men) her costume. It was tricky getting a hold of her – I had to use all my cunning to find a means of getting her attention that would not result in my being beaten senseless.

After several weeks of walking through parks wearing banana-scented cologne, screaming for help while standing under large trees and eventually holding various monkey-shaped emblems before industrial spotlights to get her attention… success. I did it! I got in touch with her…after finding her on MySpace after a Google search.

But in the end my hard work paid off! And I was able to sit down for a banana shake and a cup of talk with a woman who is all things to all people; everything men dream of and everything women strive to be! Ladies and Gentlmen! Damen und Herren! Comics Nexus is proud to bring you Twenty Questions With Monkey Woman!

Starman: Where are you from originally?

Monkey Woman: I became who I am now a long time ago in the Amazon jungle. The howler monkeys taught me survival skills at a time in my life that I didn’t expect to live through.

Starman: Tell us, as much as you are comfortable, about your early life.

Monkey Woman: My early memories are very painful…I cannot reveal much as it would compromise my true identity, but suffice it to say I was orphaned as a child and lived through the terror of being lost and alone, miles from human civilization.

Starman: What prompted you to answer the call to action and become a superhero?

Monkey Woman: After I discovered evidence that my mother might still be alive (though held hostage by the villainous Zookeeper) after all these years, my repressed childhood memories flared to life again with a passion. I never lost the skills I learned in the wild (agility, climbing, fighting) and recruited the help of trusted friends to help build me weapons and tools to aid in my campaign against all evildoers.

Starman: On that note, we’ve seen you in action with your super-friends. Do you have any super-enemies?

Monkey Woman:The Zookeeper is my arch nemesis. You can read all about him at Also, I’ve had pretty ugly scuffles with some of his minions.

Starman: Who would you say you got along with the best out of all the other heroes you met on the show?

Monkey Woman: I love them all dearly and got along with everyone. We still all hang out now – I just played volleyball with Major Victory last night (okay, it was more like “dodge ball” for me because I haven’t played in a long time and he is frighteningly good) and email or talk to everyone regularly.

Starman: Who would you say you got along with the least out of all the other heroes on the show?

Monkey Woman: Rotiart…but only because I didn’t have much of a chance to get to know him and he turned out to be a traitor and all…but I’m sure he’s really a nice guy.

Starman: Is your costume real fur? If so, what creature did you use to make it and did it die humanely?

Monkey Woman: I would not harm an innocent creature for material purposes and used all synthetic materials in making my outfit.

Starman: What are your opinions on PETA? Are you affiliated with them or any similar animal rights groups?

Monkey Woman: I do not support the harm of animals but am not affiliated with any organization to that effect. I prefer superhero justice over political activism.

Starman: Don’t we all? Little less serious question – what are your favorite colors?

Monkey Woman:Yellow, green and shiny silver.

Starman: One of my fellow writers was very impressed by your handling of the dogs on the show, saying it was one of the most inspiring things he had ever seen. By that token, he wonders what inspires the great Monkey Woman?

Monkey Woman:When I know the difference between success or failure at any given task is only a matter of time and persistence, I’ll NEVER quit!!!

Starman: The same writer was also wondering if there is a Mister Monkey Woman or if you are married to the cause of justice?

Monkey Woman:The latter….but I do have a huge crush on Batman.

Starman: What do you think are your biggest strengths as a person and a hero?

Monkey Woman:Determination. What I lack in other areas I make up for with sheer tenacity and heart.

Starman: What do you think your biggest weaknesses are as a person and as a hero?

Monkey Woman:The music of organ grinders is my greatest weakness as a hero. It strikes a nerve somehow and I just lose myself in a downward spiral of terror. I’ve never understood why… just…happens…Also, I’m easily distracted by shiny objects.

Starman: What are some of your favorite things?

Monkey Woman:Shiny objects, bananas, banana weapons, banana bread, banana boats, The Banana Splits, Banana Republic, 99 Bananas, and Curious George.

Starman: What things bother you? What are your pet peeves?

Monkey Woman:Organ grinder music people who are mean to other people or animals, people who try to take over the world and enslave the human race. Also I’m very peeved by litter. I just don’t
understand what’s so hard about using a trash can…

Starman: Do you have a hard time working in urban areas as opposed to the jungle? Not so many vines to swing around on in Los Angeles…

Monkey Woman: I ordered a special vine on the Internet that allows me to swing around the city almost as easily as the jungle.

Starman: What do you consider your biggest personal triumph in your time on the show?

Monkey Woman: My goal was to enjoy the experience, learn as much from it as I could, and look for the best in all my fellow superheroes. I believe I accomplished that goal.

Starman: What do you consider to be your greatest failure in all your time on the show?

Monkey Woman: I was perhaps not savvy enough to navigate the twists in the game.

Starman: What’s in your immediate future? Can we expect to see more of Monkey Woman after “Who Wants To Be A Superhero?”

Monkey Woman: As long as there are trees to climb, bananas to peel, and people in need, this simian superhero will not be far…

Starman: Finally, is there anything in particular you would like to say to all our readers?

Monkey Woman:We are all superheroes! Whether you’ve created an alter ego for yourself or not, whether you wear spandex or fur or jeans or a suit….inside all of us is a superhero waiting to change the world and bring peace to the planet. And together we WILL bring peace as each of us becomes that hero!

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Looking To The Stars - Gazing On The Internet

A short column this week, as I have been heavily occupied with, in no particular order, job interviews, projects at work and the prep work for two interviews that I think you will all enjoy very soon.

So since I have little time to prepare something for you all to enjoy reading this week, let me talk, in brief, about some things that I have enjoyed reading recently and I think you will too.

First of all, The Dabel Brothers are already taking pre-orders on the first trade-paperback collection of their adaptation of Raymond Feist’s Magician. This was one of my favorite books as a teenager and the comic, supervised by Feist himself with a script by Red Sonja scribe Mike Oeming is a real winner. I understand the first two issues have sold out in many areas, so I encourage you all to order now.

One thing you WON’T have to order, seeing as how it is freely available upon the web is a nice little web-comic I discovered called Sorcery 101. Now, they don’t need my help promoting themselves as they just made the leap to Keenspot after being self-hosted since May of last year. But for what it is worth as an ex-Vampire: The Masquerade player, I’ve never seen anything that quite captures the feel of that world in quite so real a fashion as this comic. Which may say a bit about who I played with as this comic is very much a fantastic comedy.

That’s fantastic as in fantasy, not fantastic as in good, though it is good so both meanings do apply.

The plot, such as it is, centers upon Danny, a schoolteacher and aspiring sorcerer. His life is complicated by, in no particular order, his werewolf best friend Brad, Brad’s demon-hunting wife Ally, his vampire magic teacher Pat and Seth; a very powerful and very alcoholic vampire who Danny has been blood-bonded (or ghouled, to use the World of Darkness terminology) to.

If you have a fondness for films such as Fright Night or Once Bitten… well, I think that’s very sad. But if you like seeing the supernatural dealt with in a stunning hilarious way, then I think you’ll like Sorcery 101.

This is Seth. NOT Neil Gaiman. Really.

Finally, let me point you toward The Absorbascon. A rather neat little blog that has a number of interesting essays on topics as wide and varied as…

* Why The Dibnys Are a symbol of the Seven Deadly Sins

* Reasons to read Manhunter (if you don’t get enough from the staff here)

* *Several essays on the differences between DC and Marvel Comics; re: Greek vs. Norse Myths

My favorite feature though, so far, is a number of custom “non-legal” HeroClix bystander pogs. For those of you who don’t play HeroClix (the best superhero miniatures game of all time!), bystander pogs are little cardboard pieces that represent minor characters in a battle, compared to the sculpted plastic pieces used to represent superheroes and supervillains. Usually they represent characters that aren’t “big” enough to rate a plastic figure, such as Harvey Bullock or L-Ron or civilians who need to be rescued (Aunt May and Silver Sable).

Some of them are funny if useless, such as a pog for Hal Jordan’s pet alien starfish Itty. Some are just twisted, such as a pog for Lois Lane’s slimness-challenged roommate Marsha Mallow. But my favorites so far have to be the series of writer pogs that allow you to put your favorite (or least favorite) writers on the battlefield to direct their heroes or be slaughtered mercilessly.

And just to show off how wonderful this idea is; here are the stats and pictures for my favorite and least favorite writer (of the ones done so far, at least) respectively.

Rules for using Gail Simone

1. All villains (on any team) adjacent to Gail Simone add +1 to their Attacks.

2. Villains (on any team )cannot attack Gail Simone.

3. When next to Gail Simone, Dr. Psycho gets +2 on uses of his Mind Control power.

Rules For Using Judd Winick

1. Judd Winick has the “Poison” power, but only toward figures with the Outsiders Team Ability as well as Green Arrow (Oliver Queen) and Kyle Rayner.

2. Normally, a flying hero can carry most other characters. Judd Winick may be only be carried by another writer.

3. Judd Winick has no ranged attacks, but does have a damage of 1. That means Judd can do damage to characters, but only when allowed anywhere near them.

Most of the articles are more the speed of your average comic fan though, but there’s enough variety to keep things interesting for everyone, even if the site does tend to lean toward DC Comics in what is discussed. Still, I like it. And I think you all will too.

Tune in next week. Same Matt time. Same Matt website.

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Friday, August 4, 2006

Looking To The Stars - Unreal Reality TV - Who Wants To Be A Superhero?

With my current occupation keeping me working most evenings, I don’t get a chance to watch a lot of prime-time TV. And I’m honestly not a big TV person anyway. And I am definitely not a fan of Reality TV shows.

To my mind, there are few things more pointless than watching a bunch of petty, back-stabbing, shallow buffoons debase themselves for a chance at glory and money. If I wanted to see that, I could get back into professional theater and at least get paid for the privilege.

So I wasn’t planning on watching Who Wants To Be A Superhero? until my girlfriend told me I should check it out. Sierra, who IS a Reality TV show person, surprised me by saying that she watched it and thought that if the do a second one, I should try out because “Matt could have so won this, hands down.” I’m not too sure about that but I am sure that people who are comic fans but aren’t fans of reality TV will like this show.

I hear some of you out there are scoffing a bit. You find it hard to believe that anyone would make a show about superheroes for popular entertainment that isn’t going to be a mockery of the whole concept. Crowds of passersby shouting “Oy, look at the geeks running around in their spandex!” and what not. And how on earth can something as devoted to promoting sneaky, two-faced behavior as your average Reality TV show possibly be based around something which promotes positive virtues, like classic superhero comic books?

The same way all good superheroes stand out; by simple virtue of being above that.

If you don’t believe me or don’t want to be spoiled, don’t worry. You can catch the first episode for free at The Sci-Fi Channel Website. It won’t cost you anything except 45 minutes of your time and there’s episode summaries there if you want an even briefer description of the episodes.

For those of you who want to know a little bit more with some minor spoilers (first 20 minutes of the first show), read on!

Any worries that this will be a typical reality show are cut short early on. After an introductory segment where we see some of the rejects, we are introduced to the dozen heroes who are competing for the big prize; a comic book series written by Stan Lee and their own movie on the Sci-Fi channel.

And for those of you playing at home, here’s the quick rundown on “The Terrific 12″.

Major Victory – ex-stripper trying to redeem his checkered past
Reality TV Show Stereotype Role: The Overzealous Shlub

Monkey Woman – Shanna the She Devil meets Batman.
Reality TV Show Stereotype Role: The Crazy Chick

Ty’Veculus’s – firefighter turned gladiator
Reality TV Show Stereotype Role: Unintentional Comic Relief

Creature – punk fairy princess from another planet
Reality TV Show Stereotype Role: The Team Slut. Magic bullwhip and a mini-skirt. Nuff said!

Nitro G – Kyle Rayner wannabe, right down to the costume
Reality TV Show Stereotype Role: The Clueless Rookie

Fat Momma – potential lawsuit fodder should Martin Lawrence watch this.
Reality TV Show Stereotype Role: The Fat Black Woman.

Rotiart – techie supreme
Reality TV Show Stereotype Role: Fat Guy Comic Relief.

Lemuria – light-controller with a name that sounds like a disease.
Reality TV Show Stereotype Role: The Glamour Girl

Levity – action-figure modeler and gay rights activist
Reality TV Show Stereotype Role: The Sassy Gay Guy.

Cell Phone Girl – She’s a girl… with a cell phone!
Reality TV Show Stereotype Role: The Team Bimbo

Iron Enforcer – Vin Disel wannabe bouncer. Draws power from steroids and macho talk.
Reality TV Show Stereotype Role: The Psycho Who Shouldn’t Be Here.

Feedback – electronics-manipulating geek
Reality TV Show Stereotype Role: The Serious Fanboy

After getting a dressing down from Stan Lee over a video monitor (The Man himself, playing Charlie to these dysfunctional superheroic Angels) for partying in a mansion when they should be thinking seriously about the challenges to come, they get bussed off to “the real lair”. But before they can go inside, Stan reveals that one of the 12 is a spy who was recording them all so he could examine their character. The spy is Rotiart, which (it is quickly explained to those of us who never read a Stan Lee comic and know to check for these things) is Traitor spelled backwards.

Three of the heroes are called to task for behavior ranging the Seven Deadly Sins. Levity is a greedy sort, more concerned with what money can be made off the custom action figures he makes than on being a hero. Creature, the lusty punk girl, flirted with every man in the room. And Iron Enforcer, a Vin Disel wannabe with a big-ass fake gun learned that talking about how good you are at killing people is a bad way to impress anyone, especially Stan Lee. Eventually one is eliminated – being forced to put as much of their costume as they can and stay decent into a trash can, ala Amazing Spider-Man #50 – and the rest are free to enter a loft apartment, complete with personalized beds for each hero.

The rest of the tests are done in a similar fashion. As Stan points out, there’s no way to safely test moving faster than speeding bullets or jumping tall buildings in a single bound. Instead, the heroes are next tested by being taken to a public park, given a pager and being instructed to find a place to change into costume without being seen when they are called into duty before racing toward an archway dubbed as the finish line.

Of course this is a great test of stealth, speed and creativity. But is it a test of something more as well? You’ll have to watch the webisode to see the rest. Suffice it to say, this show isn’t about physical challenges. It tests the would-be heroes on all the things that matter – what make a hero on the inside. Courage. Creativity. Compassion. Honor. Honesty. Humility.

(Not in those words, but that alliteration sure does look cool, doesn’t it?)

And while no doubt there are some people who will watch this show and laugh at Fat Momma trying to run in her spandex outfit or groan in disbelief as Monkey Woman hoots her warcry in excitement as she charges into action, they are missing the point.

It’s not about the gimmicks. It’s not about the costumes. It’s all about the heart. And this show has that in spades. ‘Nuff said.

Trust me, True Believers, if you like old-school comic-book cool, then you’ll love Who Wants To Be A Superhero.

Tune in next week. Same Matt time. Same Matt website.