Monday, June 30, 2008

The Secret Final Crisis Invasion!

My friend Don Cook of Deranged Comics has put forth an interesting theory about why Final Crisis has been... well, somewhat confusing and nonsensical thus far.

So who would win in a drinking contest? Skrull Grant Morrison or Mark Millar?

For the WFA Readers...

SOURCE: The 10 Worst Women in Refrigerators (i.e., Cases of Violence Against Women in Superhero Comics) Scenes Ever

You can tell the writer isn't a die-hard reader and seems to have a bit of a grudge against Kevin Smith. Granting that introducing a college rape into Felicia Hardy's background was just a lot of unneeded angst, there's no reason why you should invoke the name of the Holliest of Hollies when discussing how badly Karen Page was treated and not mention the name of Frank Miller.

I'm just saying...

Still, not a bad overall list. I'd have included Ms. Marvel (turned into a sex-slave by her own son from another dimension) and put Gwen Stacy up a lot higher... but for sheer, pointless, plot-driven rape/death, it's hard for me to think of anyone who was more abused than Sue Dibny.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Five Reasons To Be Hopeful About The New Red Sonja Movie

SOURCE: Robert Rodriguez reteams with Rose McGowan in 'Red Sonja'

All I can say is THANK GOD!

The last I heard, they didn't have a director or a writer locked up for this movie and the front-runner for the part of Red Sonja was Megan Fox - i.e. the Magic Girlfriend from Transformers and a woman who apparently couldn't manage the reported directive from director Michael Bay to "just to look hot" when being told what to do during a scene.

And now... oh, now we have Robert Rodriguez set to produce and probably to direct. We have Roy Thomas writing the script, according to Internet Movie Database. And we have Rose McGowan set to play everyone's favorite amazon.

And sure - I can understand people being leery of a director casting his girlfriend in yet another project. If it were any other producer, I'd be worried too. However, there are five reasons why I'm not worried... except because this whole affair sounds too good to be true.

1. Robert Rodriguez has proven time and time again that can make a good, stylish action movie. And however you may feel about Sin City as a comic or as a film, I don't think anyone can deny that Rodriguez perfectly captured the spirit of Frank Miller's comics on camera. This same eye for detail could only benefit a new big-screen adaptation of Red Sonja.

2. Rodriguez is reportedly a big fan of Robert E. Howard's writing and had been trying - before Sin City came out - to take over a long-stuck-in-limbo King Conan movie. If I recall correctly, nothing ever came of it since Rodriguez wanted to film the movie entirely in the Texas Hill Country which inspired so much of Howard's vision of Hyboria and he didn't want to have a big-name actor play Conan. While Sonja isn't precisely a Robert Howard creation, she was born of his work and a director/producer who knew of that history and respected it could only help the production.

3. According to USA Today, Rose is a big Red Sonja fan and a regular reader of the current comic series. While I don't think an actor necessarily has to be a die-hard fan of a series in order to play them well, I do think that it can help with particularly complex characters. At the very least, it can't hurt.

4. Rose McGowan - unlike most of the other actresses who were having their name thrown around for the part - can actually do action scenes. Even before she started appearing in everything Robert Rodriguez did, she's had a reputation as a tough chick. And for what little it's worth, she's a natural redhead.

5. Roy Thomas is writing the script. As in, the man who brought Conan from the pulps to the comics. As in, the man who adapted one of Howard's historical heroines into one of the most beloved icons of post-modern fantasy. Sonja's literary father... writing a script for her. Call me crazy for thinking that's a pretty good sign that The Powers That Be know what they are doing, for once.

Thoughts On Final Crisis Thus Far

I tried to review this book in a conventional way. But Grant Morrison being an unconventional writer and large chunks of this story involving things I can't explain, I find myself unable to do so. Every time I try and write thoughts on this book, it comes out reading like the dialogue of Vic Sage.

So rather than fight this, I've decided to embrace it. So here - with page references - are my random, disjointed thoughts on the first two issues of Final Crisis.

p. 4 - Fire from the gods. Morrison's love of mythology modernized made into a visual pun.

p. 5 - Vandal Savage. The first villain vs. The first hero. Technology makes the different. Anthro as a Stone Age Iron-Man.

p. 8 - Classic transition. Man of today more powerful than the gods of yesterday. Making fire easily for a less practical purpose, i.e. smoking.

p. 12 - The New Question, Rene Montoya, appears as a New God of light, Orion, dies. Know New Gods of darkness being reborn as humans - foreshadowing of further rebirths, metaphorical and actual?

p. 13 - The Dark Side club. Doesn't take detective to see trouble there.

p. 14-15 - Green Lanterns acting like the space cops they are. More procedure and code-talking than usual.

p. 16-17 - always a treat to see Mirror Master written by Morrison. Dark humor with Dr. Light wanting to get some drugs for a date. Impotence implied. Amazed he still has the parts to lift up after Identity Crisis.

p. 18-19 - Libra. Cosmic balancer of scales. Villains to beat heroes for once? "My creed is Luthor". Classic. Twilight of the Gods mentioned - reference to lost Alan Moore's proposed "final crisis" or opera? Both? Neither?

p. 20 - Martian Manhunter burned far easier than he should have been. Hard to capture, harder to kill. Will likely survive... somehow.

p. 22-23 - Evil New Gods reborn. Children as slaves. Named Anti-Life. Equation found?

p. 24-25 - Green Alpha Lantern's sealing Earth off. Beginning of the End?

p. 26-27 - Earth 51 gone. 52-51= 0? New Earth the foundation. Foundation cracking?

p. 28-29 - Confusing. Many monitors. Crime to love. Crime to show emotion? Too much like Guardians. Too much like Watchers. And yet... metaphor? No longer nameless guardians. No longer the same, day after day. "Faceless once. We all now have names and stories. There are heroes and villains... secrets and lovers." Metaphor for how superheroes in American comics progressed from generic guardians to fully developed characters?

p. 30-31 - First hero meets last hero. Statute of Liberty... where are apes who evolved from man?

p. 32 - Who is this man? Another god reborn?

p. 1-3 - Amazed nobody before now made a Japanese hero called "Rising Son". Rising Son's criticism of Japanese heroes who just hang around in clubs and reminiscing over Japan's proud tradition of heroism, particularly giant monster fight.. metaphor for modern relationship-based Japanese Manga of today being inferior to classic action Manga of 1950s and 1960s Japan?

p. 4-7 - Japanese superheroes. Stereotypes, but not as bad as Morrison's Chinese superhero team. Sonny Sumo is likable character. Bar brawls between costumed heroes - reference to Kingdom Come? More 'beginning of the end' references...

p. 8 - Shilo Norman - the human Mister Miracle - forming a team to fight reborn Evil New Gods. Good New New Gods?

p. 9 - Mysterious man from before. Nobody trapped in lousy job. Doodling heroes. Looking for magic words. Another New God or a metaphor for comic fans?

p. 10-11 - Dan Turpin survived encounter with Anti-Life children. How? Roughing up Mad Hatter - trail leads to Bludhaven.

p. 12 - superhero funeral. pray for resurrection. Another metaphor or foreshadowing?

p. 13-14 - Luthor makes his demands. What does Libra really want? What does Human Flame owe?

p. 15-16 - Alpha Lanterns unstable. Still, nice to see Batman shot down and having authority questioned.

p. 17 - Theotoxin - a poison for a god?

p. 18-20 - Hal Jordan possessed again? Framed? Now see why main Green Lantern book devoted to six-month flashback story.

p. 21-22 - Batman gets beaten up again for second time in as many weeks. Alpha Lantern gone rogue. Name of Kraken - another sign of end times. The Kraken that is, not Batman losing a fight.

p. 23-25 - Street preacher working for Granny Goodness. Last hero in cage with slave children. Time jumping how? Dan Turpin also wonders how he got here. A fragment of Darksied within? Scattered about world? More than one avatar?

p. 26-27 - Lois Lane dead? Don't believe it.

p. 28-30 - Barry Allen not dead? And a not-dead New God who is Death in tow? Curiouser and curiouser...

Fast Thoughts - The Week of 6/18/08 and 6/25/08

Just now got my comics. Partly due to busy work stuff and partly due to my birthday festivities last weekend.

BIRDS OF PREY #119: I know a few months ago I was wishing that Tony Bedard was writing this book. Now I'm starting to think that I should have been careful what I wished for.

Oh, don't get me wrong - there's a LOT to admire in this issue. Bedard is trying to set The Birds up on their own, taking them out of the Shadow of The Bat AND The S-Shield and - at the same time - positioning them in such a way that they can easily reabsorb Black Canary into the fold and into this book, where she belongs. There's a lot of seeds being planted, from the mysterious Visionary behind Platinum Flats to Oracle's manipulation of The Calculator. And who doesn't like seeing Manhunter at work?

Still, there's a lot of things about the issue that make me uncomfortable and worried. For one thing, The Visionary isn't an inspiring crime-lord ala The Kingpin or even Blockbuster from Chuck Dixon's 'Nightwing'. I'm also worried that they're pressing forward with the cliched "two people can't stand each other, so their obviously long-lost siblings" storyline between Misfit and Black Alice. And then there's the unanswered question as to just why Oracle has Manhunter tailing Black Canary and Green Arrow in the first place and how any reason other than the obvious - Babs is checking up on the best friend she never gets to talk to anymore -

The artwork inside the book is pretty good, though the cover... with yet another Dinah's costume is coming unzipped cleavage shot - is horrible beyond words.

CONAN OF CIMMERIA #0: A nice, basic story based around Conan's slaughter of several Vanir warriors and Robert Howard's poem Cimmeria, this issue is both a look back - in flashback paintings - of the 51 comics that came before and an introduction to the character of Conan for those who have yet to be exposed to the character through books, movies, comics or video games. We see that Conan is a man of action, but also a man of principal and compassion as he spares a younger man with a lyre, forced into combat, and urges him to go home "sing of this day... and of how Conan slew your kin." Those this reboot to a new title with a new #1 may be pointless, this comic isn't and I'll be surprised if it doesn't get an Eisner nod like Conan #0 before it did.

EX MACHINA #37: Again, regarding the pink-leather clad, conservative fighting bad girl who is now making many Republicans uncomfortable and - by proxy - Mitchell Hundred's life more difficult... I think I'm in love with a fictional character. Again.

FINAL CRISIS #2: I've decided to write all my comments on Final Crisis as separate posts from now on. Look for that later today.

GREEN LANTERN #32: The plot thickens as Johns continues to build and expand on the Green Lantern mythos and Hal Jordan's background in particular. Tying some of Hal's more powerful villains closer into his own life is an inspired idea and in doing this Johns has eclipsed John Byrne who tried - and failed - to do much the same thing in Spider-Man: Chapter One.

For some reason, it just seems to makes sense for Hector Hammond to get his telepathic powers after tampering with alien technology he doesn't understand rather than from his random discovery of an intelligence-enhancing, radioactive meteor. We also get an extended version of the first meeting between Sinestro and Hal Jordan that we saw in Green Lantern: Rebirth as well as the first ever scene I know of which depicts how Tom "Pie" Kalmaku found out about Hal's secret identity. Throw in a scene that seems to show the creation of the power behind The Red Lanterns and you have one hell of a story.

HELLBLAZER #245: The production team for a "Where Are They Now?" show about punk rockers does a story on John Constantine's old band and apparently awaken something evil as they go looking for the nightclub in Newcastle where a younger John tried to fight a demon, went mad in the process, failed to save a little girl from Hell and was blamed for the girls' murder.

John's absent for most of the issue, but his presence is felt none the less. Like many classic Batman stories where the legend of Batman and the influence of the character are felt even if the character is never seen, John Constatine's legend fills this story to the point where John's first appearance on the last page is almost gilding the lily. Another good issue for newbies who have never been exposed to the world of Hellblazer to jump on with.

HUNTRESS: YEAR ONE #4: I liked the first three issues of this series for creating an origin for Helena that didn't seem like a rehash of The Godfather or make her into a supporting player in her own origin story. I love this issue for the first meeting between Helena and a younger, pre-wheelchair Barbara Gordon and a bunch of little touches, such as..

1) Barbara being a revealed as a legal librarian. It makes perfect sense given her interest in crime-fighting as a teenager and her father putting his foot down over her becoming a cop. And as a librarian myself, I appreciate someone acknowledging that most of us are specialists in some aspect of the research sciences.

2) The idea of Bruce Wayne making his home available for a Mafia social function and then bugging his own house. Of course we've seen Bruce using his position to get information from the high class criminals before... but this is such a brilliant conceit, I'm amazed that I haven't seen it used in a Batman story before.

3) The Selina Kyle cameo. Nice continuation of the use of the character in The Long Halloween.

I know Tony Bedard just got back on the book... but we need Ivory Madison writing Birds of Prey as soon as he is ready to move on to something else.

JACK OF FABLES #23: Ex Machina is probably the best written book I read every month. And Fables is the best overall package. But for my money, no book can quite get me to laugh like all the bits with Babe, The Blue Ox in this book. And the main story with bandit king Gentleman Jack Candle in the Ol' West staying one step ahead of Sheriff Bigby Wolf is a good one too.

JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA #22: Some say that Brad Meltzer is the best writer working at DC when it comes to getting inside the character's heads and giving us a story that may not have a lot of action, but perfectly captures the heart and spirit of a character.

With all due respect, these people are full of it. Because Dwayne McDuffie - in this single issue - has built upon every thing Brad Meltzer did in his one year on JLA and then blown it out of the water as...

* An incorporable Red Tornado answers more questions than we ever wanted to know about his sex life and proposes to his long-term, common-law wife.

* Vixen pours her heart out about her failing powers to ex-boyfriend Bronze Tiger.

* Superman goes Dr. Phil, and gives Roy Harper his philosophy on how conflict and arguments benefit a relationship.

* Black Canary takes charge and actually acts how a professional woman, a legacy hero and the leader of the Justice League SHOULD act when she finds out that one of her teammates has been lying to the team and been putting them in danger. She chews Vixen out, kicks her off the team and dismisses all requests for leniency.

* She then pulls Vixen aside, and because Dinah has always been a nurturer as well as a warrior, asks what she can do to help Vixen with her problems.

* Batman actually loses a fight. This happens so rarely, I thought I should mention it.

As I've said before, give McDuffie the freedom to write his own stories, and he's one of the best writers on the planet. Shame he's stuck with Ed "Cheesecake" Benes on art... but you can't have everything, I guess.

KNIGHTS OF THE DINNER TABLE #140: Just in time for Convention-Season, all the standard storylines went on hold for this tribute to traveling to the convention. From bad road-trips to surly gate guards and the magical powers a chainmail bikini can bestow upon a girl amidst gamers, this issue is something that comic geeks and game geeks can both enjoy. If you've ever been curious about KoDT, this is a good issue to jump on with.

10 Belated Thoughts on The Incredible Hulk movie

I just saw the movie a week ago on my birthday. Business at work has kept me from writing of it until now. So for what it's worth, here's some of my random musings on The Incredible Hulk.

1. Despite some voices of dissent, I agree with the general consensus of fanboys and the common man alike: This Movie is the Hulk movie we SHOULD have gotten five years ago. There are many reasons this movie is infinitely superior to Ang Lee's "film", even ignoring that this one isn't shot in Panel-Vision.

2. Bruce Banner - Ed Norton was everything that Eric Bana wasn't. And it's not just that Ed Norton is a skinny geek and that Eric Bana was a pretty boy who looked more suited toward being the quarterback on some teen drama show than a tormented scientist. It's deeper than that. It's that Norton sounds smart enough to utilize all the scientific terminology that the film requires and that he manages to convey tension in a subtler manner than Bana, who went through most of Hulk looking like he really had to go to the bathroom.

3. Betty Ross - Jennifer Connolly went through Hulk on auto-pilot, spending most of the movie looking doped up on Nyquil and speaking of and to Bruce with all the passion and intensity of a woman reading the phone book. Love him or hate him, she didn't sound the least bit like an on-again/off-again girlfriend. In wide contrast, Liv and Ed are a very convincing screen couple. You honestly believe that Liv is conflicted about whatever feelings she had for Bruce and the life she has rebuilt for herself, but she's also strong enough to make the right choice and damn the consequences when her controlling father forces his way back into her life. Which isn't exactly in keeping with Betty's portrayal in most of the early comics, but hey... I like this Betty Ross.

4. General Ross - One of my favorite comedic movie review sites noted in their review of Ang Lee's Hulk that General Ross was the most sympathetic character in the movie. In retrospect, I think they were right and I think this is one of the signs of just how far off the mark Ang Lee's Hulk was. You can chalk most of that up to a much-better-than-this-movie-deserves performance by Sam Elliot, but the minute Thunderbolt Ross becomes the most likable character in your Hulk story is the same minute that you stop writing The Hulk properly. By contrast, William Hurt played General Ross as the xenophobic, guns-a-blazing, macho military stereotype that we all love to hate.

5. Tangent #1 - All of Stan Lee's comics from the 60s - whether intentional or not - did explore certain aspects of the culture of the time. Of course we all know that X-Men explored the issues of racial strife and inequality, but did you ever stop to consider how the role of the media in politics was repeatedly analyzed in Spider-Man? Or how The Fantastic Four was a commentary upon The Space Race and the dangers of science advanced without morality? Or Iron Man being a metaphor for the conflict between Western and Eastern culture? Similarly, The Incredible Hulk was similarly just as much about the dangers of an unrestrained military in American life (and, to a lesser degree than The Fantastic Four, the importance of morality in science) as it was about the Jekyl-and-Hyde conflict within Bruce. General Ross frequently caused just as much damage as The Hulk in his efforts to capture or kill The Hulk - all with Uncle Sam's approval and Your Tax Dollars At Work.

6. Tangent #2 - Actually, this brings to mind another question. How the hell does General Ross keep avoiding being court-marshaled for gross incompetence? I know that in the comics he was eventually kicked out of the military (Even today, the comics are still uncertain as to whether or not Ross is in the Air Force or the Army) but that was due to his committing high treason when he made an alliance with The Leader, MODOK and The Abomination. Now, I'll admit to not being an expert on military procedure, but isn't it standard practice for American military courts to sentence anyone convicted of treason to death rather than dishonorably discharging them? Regardless, over the course of the movie, he sends armed troops into two separate, highly-populated civilian population centers - one a crowded barrio, the other a college campus. You'd think they could have quietly evacuated at least PART of the area or established a perimeter to keep people out of the area once they had Bruce Banner surrounded. Further, even granting that certain information must be kept on a need-to-know basis within the Chain of Command, one might think that it would be a good idea to mention to the field commander of your team of Hulk Busters that "Oh, by the way - this scientist we're sending you to catch might suddenly change into a big green monster capable of destroying buildings if you make him angry or miss your first shot with the tranquilizers". You know, just on the odd chance that your team of soldiers fail their Will Save vs. Terror roll when they see a big hulking monster unlike anything they've ever seen before. I'm just saying...

7. Emil Blonksy/The Abomination - despite a convoluted means of explaining why we have a British actor playing a character who originated as a Russian spy, who is now working for the American Military... not bad at all.

8. On that note - the most obvious reason this movie was better than Ang Lee's? Actual monster fighting. Hulk Smash, indeed. :)

9. And on that note of that note, the special effects were a LOT better. You can blame a lot of that on the effects for Ang Lee's Hulk having been 12 years in the making. But 12 years to make a bigger, badder Gumby and some evil hell hounds... too much for too little.

10. Lots of set-up for a sequel, even ignoring the obvious nods at an Avengers movie. The Super Soldier formula came into play and they set the stage for Doc Samson and The Leader to be introduced down the line. I can't wait for the DVD were there will apparently be even more footage tying into the characters and - if rumor is true - a Captain America cameo.

My Expert Opinion on Wanted and The Magic Girlfriend Stock Character

SOURCE: 'Wanted's' effect debated

I got to be the voice of dissent/angry comic book guy in an article about the new movie (very loosely) based on the comic book Wanted.

The only reason I'm mentioning here (apart from shameless self-promotion, of course) is because of one very odd line that I'd like to explain.

"Even with the loose adaptation they seem to be going with, the base concept - a bunch of amoral killers secretly rule the world and a hapless newbie is brought into the fold - would suggest that this is not going to be a chick flick."

Why the chick flick comparison? Well, that line came from a separate part of the e-mail Q&A I had with Mister Maida. He had asked for my opinion on the fact that Fox - the character Angelina Jolie plays in the movie - was originally an African American woman in the comics (and indeed based on Halle Berry) and asked if I thought this had any relevance - for good or ill - on the movie's potential success.

I said, half-jokingly, that it probably meant that Hollywood had finally realized that Halle Berry + Superhero Movie = Bad Idea, and that given how the character was a Magic Girlfriend (that's my term for any action movie heroine who fulfills all the requirements of The Mentor and The Love Interest in one convenient package), it hardly mattered if she was Black or White given that the character was an exploitative cliche regardless of the color of her skin.

He replied back and asked me to defend the idea that the character of Fox was exploitative and how could I know - given how wildly different the comics and the movie are supposed to be - that the character of Fox in the movie would be as bad? How could I say that the character in a movie I hadn't seen and had no intention of seeing would be insulting to all women everywhere?

My answer? Angelina Jolie is playing her.

Now, I won't deny that Angeline Jolie is a talented actress when it comes to playing certain types of characters. If you need someone who can play the tough but sexy girl or the bad girl, then Angelina is your woman. I've known this since Hackers.

But let's not kid ourselves - the main reason that Angelina Jolie is popular has less to do her ability to convey all of the nuances of Lady MacBeth and more to do with her willingness to be eye-candy.

There's not a lot of people watching the Tomb Raider movies for the feminist subtext. That's all I'm saying.

And as I also said, Fox is a Magic Girlfriend. Like Valeria in Conan the Barbarian. Like Trinity in The Matrix. She is the perfect woman, whose main purpose in the movie is to...

a) discover the Hero while he is a hapless newbie and guide him down the path to destiny.
b) become the hero's love interest
c) be the token woman in "the team" (if the Magic Girlfriend is not the only woman on the team, she will be one of the few and will definitely be the most attractive)
d) sacrifice herself to save the hero or further the hero's cause.

And that is where and why I made the oddly out-of-place statement above. "Even with the loose adaptation they seem to be going with, the base concept - a bunch of amoral killers secretly rule the world and a hapless newbie is brought into the fold - would suggest that this is not going to be a chick flick."

So yeah. That's why. In case you wondered.

Possible Plagarism

I would like to report possible plagiarism by one of your writers, Jerome Maida, in an article on the comic book 'Wanted' - which was released today.

'Wanted's' Effect Debated

I'm one of the experts quoted in the article and while I was reading it today, I thought that part of it sounded familiar.

A quick check of Wikipedia confirmed my suspicions, as Mr. Maida appears to have taken large portions of his article using Wikipedia's article on the comic book Wanted.

Coincidentally, someone edited the Wikipedia entry yesterday so that the borrowed portions now have completely different text.

From Maida's article:

"The premise of "Wanted," as created by writer Mark Millar and Jones, is that all the world's supervillains decided to band together one day in 1986 and use the combined might of their vast powers - including science, magic and mind control - to not only defeat all the world's superheroes but eradicate them. Once that was done, they proceeded to rewrite reality in their own dark image. Now superheroes are remembered as fiction and a secret cabal of supervillains runs everything."

From Wikipedia:

"The premise of Wanted is that all the world's super-villains decided to band together in 1986 and use their vast collective powers — including mad science, magic and mind control — to eliminate all the world's superheroes and rewrite reality in their own dark image. Prior to this the world was a brighter, more hopeful place. Superheroes are remembered as fiction (as they are in the real world), and behind the scenes a cabal of the leading super-villains runs the entire world."

From Maida's article:

Indeed, the comic appealed to those who liked edgier fare on the shelves, like "The Authority" - and like that title, many of the characters and super-villains are based on DC Comics characters. Likewise, the movie should appeal to those who like "Fight Club" and "The Matrix," since, like those films, it is about a man who finds a new lease on life but becomes increasingly violent and out of the mainstream. Of course, the difference between "Wanted" and those films is that the main character has no desire to improve the world through his increasing violence, but instead embraces it in the pursuit of selfish pleasures and satisfying his ever-growing ego.

From Wikipedia:

"The series is adult in nature, similar to more grown-up 'super-hero' titles such as The Authority or The Ultimates. Like the Authority or the Squadron Supreme, several characters are based on DC Comics characters and super-villains (See below). The series also bears resemblance to the 1999 films Fight Club and The Matrix, as it is about a despondent man in an unfulfilling white-collar job who finds a new lease on life but becomes extremely violent and marked as outside of 'normal' society. It differs from these films in that the main character has no desire to improve the world through this violence, but only embraces it in the pursuit of selfish, egocentric pleasures."

As you can see, the occasional word has been changed - egocentric becoming ego-driven, for instance - but the basic thoughts and sentence structures have been lifted whole-sale.

You can read the original page using the history function on Wikipedia at or by directly going to

I thank you for your attention.

Matt Morrison
Comic Book Historian

Monday, June 16, 2008

FedCon - The Dead Con

Here it is. Personal accounts and personal theories upon the biggest disaster to face Dallas since the Kennedy Assassination.

I got there a little bit after 3 o'clock and a sense of doom was already in the air. I could see it in the eyes of the hotel manager who greeted myself and Marc. There was a little bit too much of the forced smile, glassy-eyed look used by all people in the service industries when they are worried about something but are powerless to do anything.

We got a hold of Donna and went up to her room for a bit. Halo and Mike where there as well and Nugget showed up shortly after we got there. Everybody except Mike - who needed a nap - went back down to the main floor, where we eventually ran into the rest of the gang.

And thus began the long afternoon of alternatively sitting around waiting, walking around with our big sparkly sign trying to hand out flyers, spinning back by the Browncoats Firefly Fandom of Austin table to talk to everyone there and cursing fate that I chose today to fix my tires so that I could not get at least one piece of Doctor Who memorabilia as a memento.

This was punctuated - at 5 pm - by the opening ceremonies began. Now HERE was a disaster. The MC - Richard Anderson - was doing some manner of skit with the 501st (i.e. the guys who make their own Storm Trooper uniforms and appear in parades and such for charity). Now, this confused us as we had apparently been told NOT to make any references to Star Wars in any of our jokes, advertising or anything for the convention. (In retrospect, I think they feared George Lucas and the watchful eyes of his lawyers demanding a check for using his creations)

So when they open the show up with a video talking about the convention done in clear parody of the Star Wars movie opening style (yellow scrolling text against a starry sky) and the MC having a lightsaber fight with Darth Vader... yeah. Little confusing. Even more confusing was the next 15 minutes in which...

* the MC was left running for a hand-mike after the one pinned to his tie for the skit apparently didn't work.
* some woman from New Jersey sang something she called "The Stalker Melody". Apparently she is famous for following professionals around... which doesn't seem to be something to joke about by singing a mixture of "Every Breath You Take" and "I Put A Spell On You" along with a host of other creepy "love" songs, much less opening a convention with.
* some actress from some web-based sci-fi show called IQ-145 sang a song she wrote for her band called "Heavy". Unlike the woman before, she could sing. But since the song was your typical emo "nobody understands because I'm deeper than you" song, it was still hard to sit through.

And then came what I am assured by several people on cast was the best part of the opening ceremonies ... The History of Rocky Horror (not a Ken Burns documentary). And the response of people not on our cast was fairly good. I heard a lot of laughter at the bits where there was meant to be laughter, despite my many in-jokes.

In-jokes like using Mitt Romney as the Manger of the Waverly Theater where Rocky Horror was first shadowcast or a photo of Fish (a somewhat feminine looking boy on our cast) while the narrator is talking about "women of a whorish aspect".

In retrospect, I wish I had asked for an age-appropriateness level on the video because I was under the impression this was to be shown AT our show. Not during the all ages opening ceremony where small children might see it.

Still, there were no complaints so... good on me.

Daniel and I left at that point because it was getting too hard NOT to start playing "MST3K: The Live Action Role-Playing Game". Reportedly, I missed John Billingsley (Dr. Phlox on Enterprise) coming out with a bottle of whiskey, hijacking the opening ceremonies, pouring all the other actors a shot and toasting the show.

Everyone else seems to have found him amusing and says that he wound up saving the opening ceremonies - I take it as a warning sign that the biggest "name" actor to arrive at the Con has started drinking that early in the day. :)

I spent most of the rest of the time before and after set-up, wandering around with Jason. We managed to get inside the VIP Only Early-Bird party and walk around for a bit encouraging people to attend. I think this - based on faces I remember in the audience later - did more to attract people to our show than any other bit of promotion we had.

Still, I wish we had a means of contacting all our fans once we were there. Because it turned out that after all or our worries about doing a convention with a $100 a day ticket price-tag were all for nothing as the need for Convention Badges was thrown out the door early on.

It seems that - somehow - they failed to print up enough convention badges and were forced to depend upon the hotel's printer to make more. When that failed, they began openly announcing that you didn't need a badge to go into any events - something I'm sure that pleased the people who paid extra for a Gold-Level, No Waiting pass.

Why did they decide to do this? Well, even if they had the badges, it's a bit hard to enforce the "no badge/no admission" rule when you don't have a security team.

Yes, that's right. Whether they just couldn't afford one (likely) or they didn't have the volunteers (also likely), there was nobody at the Dealer's Room to stop people from going in who were not with the Con. Or - perhaps - they decided NOT to have security in the dealer room entrance because they realized at this point how bad an idea it was to make it harder to get into the dealer's room.

The Dealers, incidentally, shut down the room early. Like 7 pm early. I've heard conflicting reports about how this was either in protest to the VERY low turn out or in protest to the fact that there was no security personnel on the floor. Which is very much a concern when you're a vendor with a big, open table and you have five people standing there at a time. Either way - it kinda stunk.

As for our show itself... well, the performance was good. It was the nicest theater space I think we've ever performed in. What a shame we didn't have much of an audience. We just barely had more bums on seats than we did bums on stage.

Let the photo tell the story.

Our first four center rows, folks.

The only thing worth noting is that I THINK Gigi Edgley (Farscape) may have briefly come in to watch the show, but left shortly before The Floorshow started. Whoever she was, I heard her say after the "OJ Simpson, Carving The White Meat" joke - in what I think was an amused fashion - "Oh, that's just wrong."

And now... the stuff I wasn't there to personally witness and thoughts on the sad aftermath.

They shut the show down at about 10 in the morning on Saturday. Literally interrupted a Q&A session to do so. Reportedly John Billingsley came to the rescue again and demanded the Con Organizers answer questions right then and there about why this happened and how refunds would be handled.

Confusion has reigned as to who caused what to happen. Did the hotel pull the plug because of a lack of guests vs. staff they wished to devote to the event? Did Tim Brazeal - the Con owner and organizer - call it quits? Did a merciful God speak to Richard Anderson and command him from on high to let His people go?

Enough has been said about this that I don't need to repeat it. My friend Donna explained this whole mess beautifully on her LiveJournal.

After reading through a TON of forum messages my thoughts are that Tim is a fraud and was out to bilk people of their hard earned money. They actually discussed closing it down on FRIDAY night but kept it going hoping that walk in sales would pick up.

FedCon Germany should be taking some of the blame for allowing him to continue using their name. Most of the people I read today did not know that FedCon Germany pulled out of this endeavor back in January when it became apparent to them that this thing was not going to go over well. It was not a highly advertised pull out and there is nowhere on the website stating that FCUSA was not affiliated with FCG. In fact, it looks like they are very much linked together. There are links to FedCon Germany's website and it is made to look like they are indeed connected. A LOT of people bought their tickets based on the reputation of the German con. A lot of the stars agreed based on this as well.

In Tim's 'apology' message he states that this con was in the red months ago and has never been out of the red. How do you get people to sign contracts with you if you can't provide proof of funding? He also blames some of it on his inability to rebook flights at the last minute...Which might work if there had been flights booked to begin with. I mean how do you rebook things that were never booked in the first place? It sounds a lot like he is trying his best to shift blame to anything but his own incompetence. The fans are not buying it.

If he was in the red months ago, where was he planning on getting the plane fares for the guests he had lined up? Turns out he was never planning on getting the plane fares for what should have been their MOST important guests, since this was to be celebrating the 30th anniversary of Battle Star Galactica.

The guest list seemed to change on a whim. People were dropped and people were added and this added to the confusion. No one was really sure who would really end up being at this thing... why would you expect people to buy a ticket to an event where even the people running it couldn't figure out the guest list for? Then there were the CONFIRMED guests.

The thing is, when you post people as CONFIRMED guests, you should already have a contract in hand and all the arrangements should be complete for their appearance. This was NOT the case for Aaron Douglas, James Callis, Richard Hatch AND Dirk Benedict. Dirk caught on early and he backed out because no one would return his calls and he never received a thing from this organization. He basically said on HIS website that he did not make the decision to back out. FedConUSA stood him up. His name and picture were off the confirmed list a few days prior to the con.

Aaron and James were also stood up but they didn't recognize it as such. They were not told they would not be getting plane reservations or itineraries. They were still waiting on Thursday night, after clearing both their personal and their shooting schedules, for this con. Aaron left numerous messages on the forums in attempts to get in touch with ANYONE that would return his agent's call. This organization was still selling tickets to people who were led to believe that he and James would be there. Their pictures and names were NOT removed from the website until after 1AM our time on Friday morning. That would be about 12 hours before the con started. Too late for people who had already left their homes.

In one of Aaron's posts he mentioned that Richard Hatch had also not received anything in the way of plane reservations. Richard was also NOT at the con but he WAS still on the schedule that I picked up when I got there.. when it was time for his Q&A the fans were LIED to and told his plane was delayed... which would have been acceptable had he ever actually gotten on a plane.

Most of the stars were not made aware that FedCon Germany had pulled their support either. They were calling the people over there trying to find out what was going on. They agreed based on FedCon Germany's reputation and then at the last minute they find out that FCG has nothing to do with this con.

Fans on the forum boards were finding out a lot of this information but the people who just checked the main pages would know nothing of all this until after it was too late. People had already boarded planes and started their multi-hour car drives.

There was no advertising for this event... at least none that I ever saw or heard. I think LosBastardos did more advertising for this that they did. You would think that a con would advertise heavily in their location to get even more people to show up as walk ins.

Armed with this information from the forums and such, I think a lot of people who already charged their tickets started reversing charges on their credit cards and even more (mainly locals)who were just going to show up and buy tickets at the door decided that they would not bother.

This con died because of lack of planning, huge amount of NO organization and a guy, Tim, who talked a good game but couldn't carry the ball. Fraud charges should be made. A class action lawsuit should be filed on behalf of all the people who traveled here for an event that was not what they were promised. I met a couple who came from Canada. There were people from Europe... They bought tickets based on the FedCon reputation. They bought tickets based on the confirmed guest list. They bought tickets because of the 30th anniversary hoopla for BSG. They got here and the only thing they will get back from FCUSA is a refund of their tickets if they are lucky. That would be maybe an 6th of what they spent getting here... They won't get anything back for that any other way. WTF. Promises were broken. Someone should be held responsible.

But in the end, it doesn't matter. The one certainty in all of this is the Fandom Community's ability to turn on itself in a time of crisis.

A damning statement? Perhaps. But accurate given that...

1. Michael Nelson of Fen-Con (a Dallas-based, sci-fi/fantasy writer's convention) has been running-around the Internet, going every place that is discussing the Fed-Con disaster and reminding and emphasizing that Fed-Con is not Fen-Con, that they had nothing to do with this and they hope to see everyone there in October.

Naturally, Fen-Con is STILL getting angry letters from people who vow never to attend again, unaware that they haven't attend it once AND complaints from people on the board that there's no real danger of the two being confused and how this is just Fen-Con trying to drum up publicity.

(EDIT: Let me emphasize that I don't believe that for a second. Ignoring that Fed-Con and Fen-Con cater to totally different demographics, there is nothing wrong with trying to do damage control when you're getting angry letters you don't deserve.)

2. Mark Walters - one of the people behind Dallas ComicCon/SciFiExpo - is claiming credit for convincing the hotel to keep the autograph room open into the afternoon on Saturday.

Now, this doesn't make a lick of sense. Because apparently the hotel demanded all their money up-front and that is why there was no money to fly in the big name guests. So at that point - if the hotel was already paid and they couldn't do anything else with the rooms - then there was no real reason for the hotel to be rushing people out, was there?

(EDIT: Of course - as Donna pointed out to me - the only word we have that the hotel was all paid for is that of Tim Brazeal. So suddenly the whole scenario seems a lot more plausible...)

And naturally Mark was quick to mention that the Dallas ComicCon/SciFiExpo has never had these problems and that they could be depended on in the most shameless bit of hucksterism since Stan Lee did... well, anything.

Still, he did also speak a bit about the other great conventions that meet in the Dallas/Fort Worth area. So give him a point for that. But it still seemed somewhat self-promotional.

3. The FedCon Germany people are now running around on the forums and the Internet demanding people alter their posts and news reports to emphasize that FedCon Germany was not responsible or affiliated with FedCon USA.

Sorry, but when you rent your name out - even as a one time thing - that's basically a stamp of approval. At least, in my world it is. You don't put your name on something you aren't willing to call your own. And you certainly don't sell your name internationally to a man who is best known for being, at best, a hapless dreamer who doesn't plan well.

Personally, I'm leaning more toward the thought that Tim Brazeal tried - and failed - to pull what Max Bialyistock and Leo Bloom did in The Producers because he lacked the ability to sing his way out of a jail sentence and the stamina to sleep with dozens of little old ladies in order to raise his 2 million dollars in the first place.

Still, some good has come of this. Tim Brazeal's officially done with conventions according to his own son.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Three Week Catch-Up - Comic Reviews for 5/29, 6/04 and 6/11

To all my fans: Sorry this took so long. I am alive. Just ludicrously busy with work, acting gigs, computer problems, car problems and the end of the world as we know it.

To all of my detractors: Sorry. I haven't quit or decided to hang it up just yet.

Three weeks of what we will charitably call "Fast Thoughts" behind the cuts.