Friday, March 30, 2012

Good News/Bad News On Arrow Pilot


The Good News -We have our first behind-the-scenes look at Dinah and.she's a brunette.  More, the press for the show is now referring to her as Dinah/Black Canary, though that could just be wishful thinking.  Still, it's a hopeful sign.

The Bad NewsConstantine Drakon has been confirmed as one of the bad guys in the pilot.  For those of you who managed to block it from your memory, let me sum up - Drakon was an "original" creation of Judd Winick, who was basically Bullseye without the charm and such a tremendous badass that Deathstroke needed his help to take on Green Arrow.  No.  Really.  Out of all the villains from Green Arrow's admittedly small rogues' gallery they could have brought to the screen... well, Drakon is one of them.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Advertising Fail: Avengers Role-Play Accessories

SOURCE: Avengers, Assem-- Wait, Why Are You Rapping?

*sighs* Just roll it.

My Thoughts....

1. Rap music to promote a line of toys based on an all-white superhero team, modeled by a group of all-white boys?  1991 called.  They want their ad-man back.

2. Those "kids" look a little old to be playing superheroes.  Just saying.

3. No Black Widow props?  Of course not!  Because girls don't want to pretend to be superheroes!  They want to play dress up and look pretty!  (Don't worry ladies - there will be a faux-leather catsuit for you all in time for Halloween!)

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Amelia Rules!, Vol 7: The Meaning Of Life... and Other Stuff - A No Flying No Tights Review

SOURCE: Amelia Rules!, Vol. 7: The Meaning of Life… and Other Stuff

Amelia McBride has come to a conclusion – nothing good ever lasts. She was finally finding some happiness in the wake of her parents’ divorce, having found a new circle of friends, one teacher who didn’t think she was a trouble-maker and her first love. And even when things got bad, she always had her cool Aunt Tanner (a former rock-star, how cool is that?!) to go vent her worries to. But now, everything is changing again and naturally they are all changes for the worst.

For one thing, Amelia’s new position as a cheerleader has driven a wedge between her and some of her friends. But Amelia only joined the cheerleaders, at first, so her friend Rhonda wouldn’t be all alone with the mean girls who rule the squad. And now the principal, who totally has it out for Amelia, is trying to get her kicked off the squad! Worst of all, Tanner is on tour trying to stage a comeback and she isn’t checking her e-mail. So the one person Amelia can talk to about anything is completely out of touch! But with a little help from her friends, Amelia will learn that there’s very little she can’t overcome.

Jimmy Gownley has been compared to Charles Schulz as an artist and a writer before and rightly so. I don’t think any cartoonist since Schulz had done such a masterful job of projecting the problems of adult life through the spectrum of childhood as Gownley has. The central theme of the book – coping with the changes that come with growing older – is just as meaningful for the adults reading this book as it is for the children this series is aimed at. Even read straight, the book is a fun read and Amelia is a likeable and relatable heroine, even at her most self-absorbed and unreasonable.

The only weakness The Meaning of Life… and Other Stuff has is that its story is a little more dependent on a familiarity with previous Amelia Rules! books than the earlier volumes, which could be picked up and read by a new reader a bit more easily. You can still do that with this volume – there’s a score-card at the front that reintroduces us to all the major characters! But you’ll get a lot more out of it if you read the whole series in order – preferably over the course of a single afternoon, with a bag full of cookies.

I find myself wondering what can I say about Amelia Rules! that hasn’t been said by now? I could say that it is terrible, awful, poorly drawn and just plain rotten. Nobody’s ever said that before! And with good reason – that statement is patently untrue. The simple truth is that Amelia Rules! is one of the best graphic novels series ever created. It is a masterful portrait of the harsh realities of childhood and the difficulties in growing-up. It is a must-read for children of all-ages and a must-have for any library’s graphic novel collection.

Amelia Rules!, Vol. 7: The Meaning of Life… and Other Stuff
by Jimmy Gownley
ISBN: 978-141698612
Atheneum , 2011
Publisher Age Rating: 7

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

A Study In Scarlet: A Sherlock Holmes Graphic Novel - A No Flying No Tights Review

SOURCE: A Study in Scarlet: a Sherlock Holmes graphic novel

Dr. John Watson is a veteran, newly returned home to Britain from the war in Afghanistan. Watson is a good man, though far too free in spending his money and living well – a fault that leaves him in need of a roommate when he can no longer afford to live alone. A chance encounter with an old classmate leads Watson to a man – a scientist of sorts – who had been lamenting his own empty purse and need of a roommate to split the cost on a set of rooms he wished to move into. Watson agrees to meet the scientist – one Sherlock Holmes – and see if they might be compatible as flatmates.

At first Watson sees little of his new roommate, who keeps odd hours and odder company. Eventually Holmes reveals to Watson the source of his income and his position as the world’s only consulting detective. As two of Scotland Yard’s finest come to their doorstep to bring Holmes in to investigate a mysterious murder, Watson finds himself being drawn into Holmes’ work as both a medical expert and a chronicler. And so begins what will become one of literature’s greatest partnerships.

Writer Ian Edginton and illustrator I.N.J. Culbard are not new to adapting classic literature into graphic novels or even to adapting Sherlock Holmes. The two have worked together on previous Illustrated Classics adaptations such as The Picture of Dorian Gray and The Hound of The Baskervilles. When reading this book, one can sense that partnership as the text and illustrations are – like Holmes and Watson – well suited toward one another.

Culbard’s art-style is cartoonish but not overly so. Like the majority of manga artists, Culbard exaggerates the physical features of his characters to make it easier to display their emotions. This enlargement of facial features such as noses, eyes and chins also serves to make each character more distinctive. The characters’ appearances remain consistent throughout, though with his jutting-chin there are some panels where Holmes looks not unlike Bruce Campbell of Army of Darkness fame.

Judging Edginton’s adaptive writing is a trickier task. I am not unfamiliar with the original stories by Arthur Conan Doyle but I had never read the original text of A Study in Scarlet. As near as I can tell, Edginton has changed very little of the dialogue – a touch which I’m sure will please Holmes purists but one which also makes a good deal of this volume a difficult read for the teenage audience it is supposedly aimed at.

I suppose I must also acknowledge the elephant in the corner – yes, this is the infamous Sherlock Holmes story that says a lot of factually inaccurate things about The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. To say more would give away the mystery of the book. Suffice it to say Arthur Conan Doyle freely admitted to basing the information in this story off a newspaper story that later proved false and his portrayals of the Mormon faith in later works was far more respectful. I just find it curious that Edginton would leave this text intact, including a reference to Brigham Young himself, yet saw fit to exclude some equally offensive remarks regarding Native Americans that were in the original text.

Ultimately the greatest problem this volume has – though this fault lies not with the adaptors – is that A Study In Scarlet has little to recommend it for adaptation into a graphic novel format in the first place. Apart from the fact that it is the very first Sherlock Holmes story, there’s little of interest here. There’s no mystery that the reader can solve along with the detective, as Holmes withholds all his evidence until he is explaining how he solved the crime. A full third of the book is devoted toward the killer explaining why he did what he did after the fact. And there’s not much in the way of action, with the better portion of the story consisting of men standing around the parlor having conversations.

A Study in Scarlet: a Sherlock Holmes graphic novel
by Arthur Conan Doyle, Ian Edginton (Adaptor)
Art by I.N.J. Culbard
ISBN: 9781402770821
Sterling Publishing, 2010
Publisher Age Rating: (13 )

Friday, March 23, 2012

All-Con: Day Two, Part Two. A Pictoral Report

Upon returning from dinner, our eyes were greeted by a glorious sight. The time-traveling Delorean from the Back To The Future movies (or a reasonable replica) was out in the parking lot, courtesy of Bob's Prop Shop.

You want to talk attention to detail? They even had the Mr. Fusion unit glued to the back AND a pink hoverboard in the front seat. Sadly, the hoverboard did not work and none of my pictures of it came out. But it was there!

I had to part ways with Chrispy to go grab my equipment and set up for my class on American Comic history. Of course - as frequently happens at All-Con - I ran into somebody I knew and got delayed. In this case, the line for the costume contest was already forming and I ran into one of my castmates from Amber Does Dallas. From there, I wound up snapping pictures of several other eye-catching convention goers.

This is my friend Karla, cosplaying the part of Merida from the upcoming Pixar movie Brave.

Raven from Teen Titans Go!

A heavily tattooed Slave Leia. She had a lightsaber on one side and the Millennium Falcon on the other. I oped for a picture of the lightsaber side.

I caught up with this couple after my class on Comics History, which they attended along with another good size crowd - a minor miracle given I was competing with the costume contest. Though I unfortunately blanked on their names, I did remember seeing them at some of my shadowcast shows in the past and they were quite surprised to know that I was a blogger. Hopefully they'll see this and I can start doing a better job of remembering their names. :)

My other friend Carla as Idris from the sixth series Doctor Who episode, The Doctor's Wife.

Mace Windu from Star Wars Episodes 1-3

What time is it? Adventure Time!

Starbuck from Battlestar Galactica. The cigar isn't real but the costume is otherwise flawless. I ran into this lady a few times over the course of the day, as she was working the Half Price Books booth in the dealer's room. I took this photo as I was flyering my show.

And what show would that be? Why Repo, The Genetic Opera! of course. But it wasn't enough for Amber Does Dallas to once again present the hottest cult film in a generation to the teaming masses! No! Because even at a Con that was devoted to the end of all things, we were still looking to the future. Specifically, the spiritual sequel to REPO! created by director Darren Lynn Bousman and writer/actor Terrance Zdunich - The Devil's Carnival. The trailer for this fine little film premiered the same weekend as All-Con and we were fortunate enough to be granted permission to premiere it at our show. And I can show it to you all here now...

Should you be interested in seeing more, know that TPTB are hitting the road and going on tour to preview the film in several selected venues over the coming months. Visit for more details and ticket sales!

Thursday, March 22, 2012

All-Con: Day Two, Part One. A Pictoral Report

Showered, shaved and highly entertained by a viewing of the latest episode of Green Lantern: The Animated Series and the Super Best Friends Forever short on DC Nation, I headed down to the floor for the 10 AM screening of Dr. Horrible's Sing-A-Long Blog.

I was the only member of Amber Does Dallas who showed up for this show - unsurprising as I figured everyone else would be sleeping in, all the better to gear up for our show late that night. The crowd, too, was smaller for this Saturday morning show. I was surprised to see a lot of parents with children in the audience, having never really thought of Dr. Horrible as being a family show.

Still, Rick (of United States of Geekdom fame) and I soldiered on, held an "evil laugh" contest for all the children present (most of them were too shy to say anything, let alone laugh) and set about trying to do a clean riffing of Dr. Horrible. We were, thankfully, successful in this regard and Rick said he thought the jokes were better when people weren't trying to be as dirty as possible. I'm inclined to agree.

After grabbing lunch, I ran back to my room and changed into my Doctor uniform. I regularly cosplay The Fourth Doctor from Doctor Who at local events and I had a photo-shoot planned with DFW Cosplay Gallifrey - a group of like-minded Whovians here in Dallas who enjoy dressing up like The Doctor and his companions and enemies.

Once I was out of the sweat suit (a wool scarf is rarely a good idea in Texas, even in March!), I hit the floor and snapped a few more pictures of the other cosplayers.

Classic Captain America

Cosplay Queen and special Con-Guest Amaya De'Morte, as Rogue from X-Men.

The White and Black Queen of the Hellfire Club from X-Men.

Poison Ivy


This quite comely Red Sonja is a member of Assassination City Roller Derby, who were offering several seminars upon the awesomeness of roller derby throughout the weekend. Some may question the effectiveness of her armor but I'll let them be the ones to put on the skates and test her metal.

Shortly after catching the tail end of the Roller Derby panel, I went out with my friend Chrispy, her husband Joe and their friend Liz for a quick dinner (and by dinner I mean cheese fries) at the pub down the street from the hotel before I had to go teach my last class of the panel - another history course on the eras of American Comics.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Cult Film Fanatics - The Who's Tommy & Barbarella

SOURCE: Cult Film Fanatics: The Who’s Tommy and Barbarella

I was part of a panel for the most recent episode of the podcast Cult Film Fanatics, now hosted by United States of Geekdom. So if you ever wanted to listen to me muse on the irony that a musical based on the author's experiences getting off of drugs requires you to be high to appreciate it or wax philsophical on the importance of PG rated movies with nudity to teenage boys of a certain generation... here you go!

Doctor Who News: New Doctor Who Companion Unveiled

SOURCE: New Doctor Who Companion Unveiled

Jenna-Louise Coleman has beaten hundreds of hopefuls to become the new companion to Doctor Who, it was announced today by Steven Moffat.
Twenty-five year old Jenna from Blackpool will star alongside the 11th Time Lord, Matt Smith, to mark the biggest year in the show’s history.
Best known for her roles in Emmerdale (Jasmine Thomas) and Waterloo Road (Lindsay James), Jenna will replace Karen Gillan when she and Arthur Darvill bow out of the show in a heartbreaking departure after one final series of rollercoaster voyages later this year on BBC One.
Jenna says: "I'm beyond excited, I can't wait to get cracking; working alongside Matt I know is going to be enormous fun and a huge adventure."

All-Con: Day One, Part Two. A Pictoral Report

The history of Anime & Manga class proved to be not nearly as popular as I'd hoped. Granting that All-Con isn't as heavily devoted to Anime as many other local cons (Dallas has three regular Anime conventions of note), I had hoped to fill the larger room they'd given me for my second class. Still, it was a fun time.

After grabbing some dinner, I hit the Dealer's Room to browse around and check out some more cosplay costumes. Thankfully, everyone was polite even though I had to explain that I was practically broke. And by practically I meant completely. Though what I lack in riches, I can more than make up for in press. So here's some websites you should all consider checking out.

Steampunk Stitchery - though their website is still under construction, their wears looked quite well made to my admittedly untrained eye. If you're into Steampunk but can't sew yourself, give them a look see.

Henry Melton -A local science fiction writer and a heck of a nice guy, I'll be checking his work out sometime soon. - They were kind enough to try and help me find the right floppy brown hat for my Fourth Doctor costume.

Ties That Bind
- an interesting web-comic I have yet to get into that far.

Neither Noir - the best professional cosplay photographers in the business, bar none.

Supergirl, of course.

Scott Pilgrim and Ramona Flowers from Scott Pilgrim vs. The World

Not sure what character she is, but it's a nice looking costume.
Apparently she works for a local events site called

"This book is crap. They make me look like Hitler and sound like an idiot.

Find out who created this, hire them, then fire them!"

Yes, J. Jonah Jameson, in all his glory.

I don't think she's any particular character. But there's something about a blood-soaked school girl that just demands that you take pictures. Perhaps it is the bloody bat?

I closed the night out with an MCing gig. My acting troupe, Amber Does Dallas, was co-sponsoring a screening of Dr. Horrible's Sing-A-Long Blog along with The United States of Geekdom. While we weren't able to shadowcast the show legally (something we've been wanting to do for a long time) we did prepare a special pre-show based on a song by Felicia Day from The Guild.

The show itself went well, save for one jackass who kept standing up in front of the projector. It's rare that I riff on a show I actually like but if Mike Nelson can take on Casablanca I can take on Doctor Horrible. The show was over at 11 but I decided to head to bed early and skip the room parties. I had a long day ahead of me tomorrow.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

All-Con: Day One, Part One. A Pictoral Report

My day began early on Friday. The Con officially started at 10 am and I had a class on the history of American comics to teach at 11 am. After doing a quick circle around the second floor, where most of the convention rooms were, I found my room and began to set-up.

The first class went better than I expected. The first morning of a Con is usually slow but I had a good size crowd. More importantly, they were very receptive and asked some good questions at the end. I got a lot of complements on my PowerPoint and one woman was particularly thankful that I discussed how the portrayal of women improved during The Bronze Age. Thankfully, there was nothing else scheduled in the room until 1 pm, so I was able to spend a good bit of time talking to people afterwards.

After checking into my room and unloading a few things, I went and caught the first show by The Damsels of Dorkington.

An improvisational theater troupe who specialize in comic book Cons and other geeky gatherings, The Damsels are comparable to The Reduced Shakespeare Company in that they do a lot of shows based on classical works. The key differences are that, apart from one bloke in drag, they are an all female troupe and they are about ten times filthier than the RSC. Well, at least the last show I saw them do was. This was the first time I saw one of their "clean" shows and... well, you could tell they were struggling a little to keep things on a child-friendly level. Despite this, there was still a lot of things that would likely make your grandmother uncomfortable, like the scene in which my buddy Rick from United States of Geekdom was called upon to play the part of Igraine, mother of King Arthur, giving birth to her son.

Once the show was over, I had an hour to kill before my next event - a class I was teaching on the history of Anime and Manga. With not much else to do, I decided to wander the floor and check out some of the costumes.

Todd Ingram and Envy Adams from Scott Pilgrim vs. The World

Twilight Sparkle & Discord from My Little Pony

Doctor Horrible from Doctor Horrible's Sing-A-Long Blog

I wasn't aware they they had Slave Leia outfits in the dark future of Fallout. Perhaps the players controlling these Vault Dwellers are running some sort of mod?

Either way, the costumes are all amazingly detailed. Apparently, they had to sew the jumpsuits special. The soda bottles in the holster have custom-printed Nuka-Cola labels and their Pip Boys have working, light-up screens!

Barbarella? Psychedelia!

There was quite a lot of Steampunk at All-Con, but this was the best outfit I saw the first hour.

Luke Skywalker & Mara Jade from Star Wars

Sin City: Vol. 7 - Hell And Back - A No Flying No Tights Review

SOURCE: Sin City, Vol. 7: Hell And Back
Insert The Standard Words Of Warning. This volume is all full of gratuitous nudity, gratuitous sensuality, gratuitous violence, and gratuitous references to other works by the same author. It is not intended for anyone under the age of 16 or people of a sensitive disposition.

 A former soldier turned artist, Wallace is that rarest of all creatures in Sin City – an honest, virtuous man. Small wonder then that he stops everything he’s doing to play hero when he sees a woman about to jump off a cliff as he’s driving home one night. Her name is Esther. She’s gorgeous. She’s nice. She’s everything Wallace ever hoped for in a woman. She even likes his paintings.

But as Shakespeare said, “The course of true love never did run smooth” and nowhere is that truer than in a Sin City love story. For Esther was on the run from some very bad people – bad people who run a criminal syndicate that kidnaps beautiful women and reshapes them into the perfect playmates for the rich and powerful. And with the police unwilling to help him, Wallace will be forced to call in every favor he can and descend like Orpheus into the underworld of Sin City in order to save the woman who may be his one shot at true love.

Hell and Back is the longest of the Sin City graphic novels. It is also, in many ways, the weakest of the series but I cannot say precisely why. Perhaps it is because – apart from reusing a few of the villainous characters from the short-stories collected in Booze, Broads, and Bullets – this particular story stands apart from the regular Sin City canon? Unlike the previous yarns, which were full of references to one another, Hell and Back doesn’t feature any of the various characters we’ve come to know as the series progressed.

Another issue may lay with our hero himself. Wallace lacks the uniqueness of the other Sin City protagonists, coming off as a generic invincible action hero. Despite the paradox inherent to the idea of a long-haired artist who was once a Navy Seal, Wallace fails to be as interesting or as well-developed as the sociopathic Marv or the conflicted Dwight McCarthy.

Esther too, fails to be developed as anything more than a prize to be won. While many of the Sin City stories have featured the female characters being taken captive by the villains, those stories gave us scenes that showed them to be anything but helpless victims. Gail fought back against her assailants. Nancy refused to be scared of The Yellow Bastard. But Esther gets no such scenes to show the steel under her silken skin. All she gets is a few scenes to show her – naked and terrified – in a dark cell where she is told there is no hope of escape or rescue. She is then forgotten for most of the story and isn’t seen again until near the end.

Even Miller’s artwork seems sloppy and rushed in this outing, with the visual centerpiece of the book being a full-color sequence in which Wallace – freshly injected with some kind of hallucinogen – starts to trip out in the middle of a battle. In this sequence, Miller throws out references to virtually every other comic book character or film project he’s ever worked on, with shout-outs to Dr. Seuss and Hellboy tossed in along with the kitchen sink for good measure. What could have been an interesting contrast – the unique style Miller used to create Sin City paired off against the gritty, detailed characters he draws in his more traditional work – comes off as a self-indulgent, dirty mish-mash. Amusing as it is to see Wallace momentarily fighting alongside Hagar The Horrible for one panel, it is not enough to save what is easily the weakest entry in the Sin City Saga.

Sin City, vol. 7: Hell And Back
by Frank Miller
ISBN: 1-59307-299-6
Dark Horse, 2005
Publisher Age Rating: 16

Monday, March 19, 2012

Super Best Friends Forever Premieres, Already In Trouble & How We're Going To Save It

First, if you haven't seen what is easily the best of the DC Nation shorts yet, behold!

Good, wasn't it? Cute. Funny. Childish without being idiotic. But, at the same time, something that adults can enjoy watching as well. And, from a feminist perspective, it is nice to see three young women with different, distinct personalities going off on an adventure that is not boy-related.

In short, this is great. I dare say this could be used to reach out to young viewers and turn them into young readers. Naturally, the very same weekend this premiered, DC Comics seemed to be determined to burst our balloon...

SOURCE: Super Best Friends Forever’s Days Are Numbered

Lauren Faust, acclaimed animator and director whose work has included Foster’s Home for Imaginary Friends, The Powerpuff Girls, and a relaunch of some show with horses that’s all the rage, is finishing up her run on Super Best Friends Forever.

There will be a total of only five 75-second long shorts featuring Supergirl, Batgirl and Wonder Girl, each of them aired as interstitials during episodes of Green Lantern or Young Justice.

Serious folks, just five for now. Straight from the pony’s mouth.

Slightly on the upside, there was hope given for ‘possible maybe perhaps we’re not going to commit to it but lets tease the fanbase anyways possibly’ more given at the DC Nation panel.

*sighs* Why, WB & DC? Why do you hate joy so much?

Now, I know what you're thinking. Isn't there a chance that they're just teasing us and that they are certainly going to do everything they can to get a full-length series of this up-and-running ASAP? After all, the buzz for this short among comic fans has been big. And Faust's My Little Pony is probably the most popular cartoon to come out in years. Creating a product using the same art style with the goal of bringing in more young women and girls into the comic reading fold? Should be a no-brainer.

Well, considering these are the same blokes who have ignored basic math for years regarding the percentage of women to men in their potential readership and the number of people who watched Teen Titans Go! vs. the number of neckbeards who would like to replace all the real women wiith FemBots, I don't think we can take any chances.

So here is what we're going to do...

1. If you're on Facebook, go to and

2. If you're on Twitter, go to!/warnerbrosent and!/dccomics and!/DC_Nation

3. Write a simple, polite message saying how much you love Super Best Friends Forever and how much you'd like to see it made into a full series. If you have kids, talk about how much they loved the short. Use a #SBFF tag or something similar so it can stack up with the other comments.

4. Encourage your friends and followers to do the same.

First Look At Green Arrow from "Arrow"

Generally, I rather like it. Not sure what that material is but the hunter-green shade is perfect and it looks to be weather-treated. That, coupled with the hood, makes it ideal, climate-wise, for a hero based in Seattle. The design looks to be fairly similar to what Ollie has now, though with sleeves rather than bare arms.

Just one question - he's going to have a different bow, right? Because while I am pleased to see he's using a recurve rather than a compound, that bow looks WAY too small for him.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Gone To All-Con - Be Back Monday.

I'll be leading a few seminars and sitting in on a few panels this weekend at All-Con. So if you live in the DFW area, have $40 bucks and the weekend to spare, you can come listen to me explain comics history, talk about Doctor Who and snark at some cheesy movies. Here's my schedule.


Secret Origins: The History of American Comics - 11 AM in the Maple Room
The History of Anime & Manga (Abridged) - 4 PM in the Palm Room
Doctor Horrible's Sing-A-Long Blog - 10 PM in the Addison Room


Doctor Horrible's Sing-A-Long Blog - 10 AM in the Addison Room
Whoinverse 101 - 5 PM in the Elm Room
Secret Origins: The History of American Comics - 7 PM in the Maple Room
REPO! The Genetic Opera - 1 AM in the Whispering Oaks Room


No events scheduled, though I may be wandering around as Jack Knight minus the cosmic rod.

Sin City: Vol. 6 - Booze, Broads and Bullets - A No Flying No Tights Review

SOURCE: Sin City, Vol. 6: Booze, Broads, & Bullets
The sixth of the Sin City graphic novels — Booze, Broads, & Bullets — is the only anthology in the series. It collects a number of short stories set in the Sin City universe, which Frank Miller wrote and drew for a number of Dark Horse special-edition comics. These are comics with titles such as “A Decade of Dark Horse,” “Lost,” “Lonely & Lethal,” and the aptly named “Sex And Violence.” That last title alone should serve as a content warning, on the off chance that you’ve never read a Sin City book before.

The stories within this volume are a mixed-bag in terms of length and content, with some so short that summarizing them is impossible as just telling what the story is about IS the story. There are also a number of stories that require some previous exposure to earlier Sin City yarns. By way of a for instance, the opening story – “Just Another Saturday Night” – details just what Marv (the protagonist of Volume 1: The Hard Goodbye) was up to during the events of Volume 4: That Yellow Bastard. A later tale, “Blue Eyes,” takes place concurrently with some of the events of Volume 2: A Dame To Kill For. This is par for the course for the series, which has always had a tightly-woven and heavily interlocked continuity.

Despite this attention to detail and my general fondness for nods like this, my favorite stories in this volume are the ones that stand on their own merits. “Silent Night,” a story centering upon Marv’s efforts to save a kidnapped girl at Christmas, stands out for several reasons. First, it is one of the few Sin City stories to have an unambiguously happy ending. Second, apart from one word balloon in the middle, the story is completely without text. This showcases not only Miller’s talent as an artist (every page of this story is poster-worthy!) but it also proves his talent as a visual storyteller.

This artistic talent is also showcased in stories like “Blue Eyes,” “Daddy’s Little Girl,” and “The Dame Wore Red,” where Miller further experiments with his neo-noir style by contrasting it against one dominant color, just as he did with the yellow-skinned Junior in That Yellow Bastard. It’s a stunning effect, which only serves to make the beautiful blue-eyed and blue-dress wearing Delia or the red-dress wearing dame Dwight McCarthy finds himself struggling to save stand out all the more in the stark world of Sin City.

Say what you will about Frank Miller as a creator but the man knows what he likes and he’s nothing if not honest. Only an honest man could come up with a title like Booze, Broads, & Bullets. As far as titles go it is alliterative, a brief summary of the book’s contents, and it’s a fair reflection of Frank Miller’s oeuvre – high action Film Noir, leggy dames, and strong men who don’t use words like oeuvre. Well, except for the erudite and loquacious goons Mr. Klump and Mr. Shlubb, of course.

Sin City, vol. 6: Booze, Broads, & Bullets
by Frank Miller
ISBN: 9781593072988
Dark Horse, 2005
Publisher Age Rating: 16

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Sin City: Vol. 5 - Family Values - A No Flying No Tights Review

SOURCE: Sin City, Vol. 5: Family Values
Dwight McCarthy is the sort of man who always pays back what he owes, be it money, favors or pain. But there are some debts that can never be paid off completely and that’s the sort of debt that Dwight owes his ex-girlfriend Gail and her fellow Old Town Girls. So when they need someone to check out a recent murder, Dwight doesn’t need to be told the details – just when and where to jump.

 With “Deadly Little Miho” (the Old Town Girls’ professional assassin) in tow, Dwight starts scouting the crime scene looking for clues and witnesses. What he finds could lead to an all out gang war between the syndicate of a powerful crime boss who likes playing politics and Sin City’s local Mafia. As always, Dwight will be in the middle of it but his stake in the coming conflict will remain a mystery to everyone (including the reader!) until the very end.

The only one of the Sin City “yarns” originally written and published as a graphic novel (the previous trade paperbacks collected mini-series originally published as comic books) Family Values is also unique in that – while presented as a fairly straight-forward murder mystery– the real mystery lies not in the murder being investigated but in precisely why Dwight is investigating the murder in the first place! At first glance there’s no reason why The Old Town Girls would be interested in the murder of one conservative politician. But as the story unfolds and layers upon layers of seemingly unrelated secrets are revealed, we slowly reach a conclusion that explains everything. I shan’t spoil anything, save to say that the title of this volume is a hint to the ultimate secret.

Those who have read previous Sin City volumes will know what to expect from Frank Miller’s artwork… with one exception. For some reason, Miho is drawn in a completely different style than the other characters in this story. Whereas every other character is rendered using the unique mixture of heavy blacks and light whites that have defined the Sin City look, Miho is drawn in pure white with think black lines defining her features, looking something like a scribble compared to the other, more defined and more heavily inked characters. Whether Miller meant to make Miho seem more ethereal – a ghost who cannot be touched yet delivers death with her touch – or whether this was meant to make her look faster and leaner in comparison to the bigger, blocker figures I cannot say. The difference is effective, whatever the reason.

As always, I will note that this volume – and the Sin City series in general – is not intended for younger audiences and should be firmly placed in the adult fiction collection of any library. This particular volume features a goodly bit of ultra-violence, including one man having his head kicked off. There’s also quite a lot of racist and misogynistic language and some brief, gratuitous nudity at one point when we see that Miho doesn’t wear a sports bra under her kimono.

Sin City, vol. 5: Family Values
by Frank Miller
ISBN: 59307297X
Dark Horse, 2005
Publisher Age Rating: 16

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Help Fund A New Web Series - Damsels & Dragons

Are you a gamer or a fantasy fan?

Do you watch The Guild, Awkward Embraces and other web-series that showcase geek-life?

Do you enjoy series about strong, smart women sticking it to the society that tries to tell them what they can or can't do?

Have you ever, like Leopold Bloom, harbored a secret desire to be a Producer?

If the answer to any of these questions is yes and you have at least five bucks to spare, then I have got a deal for you!

Originally produced in 2008, Damsels and Dragons was the brain child of actors America Young and April Wade. The series reached the attention of Awkward Embraces' Jessica Mills, who approached Young about helping produce a second season. The ball began rolling and now a second season is in pre-production, with a dream-team of talent behind it. In addition to Young and Mills, the show will feature scripts by original Damsels and Dragons author Eric Collin Campbell and be directed by Greg Aronowitz, who has worked on both The Guild and the Dragon Age: Redemption as a director and executive producer respectively.

Sound exciting? It gets even better!

For the next two months, they'll be taking donations to fund the series. And what do you get for your money apart from the knowledge that you're helping to bring what promises to be an amazing bit of entertainment to fruition? Like most things in life, it depends on how much you're willing to invest in it.

For five American Dollars, you will get a personal thank you on Facebook or Twitter, talking about how awesome you are. For ten American Dollars, you get the personal shout-out on Facebook and Twitter AND a personal e-mail letter of thanks with a photo of the creative team thus far holding swords. This goes all the way up to the grand $1000 donation which gets you (among other things) a producer credit on the show and a role as an extra in the show!

So please - give generously. Give often. And help support geek culture. Thank you.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

John Carter - A Film Review

It is the dawn of the Reconstruction Era following the American Civil War and John Carter is a warrior without a war. Returning home to find his family dead, he headed west and took up gold prospecting. Trapped in a cave after he got caught in the middle of a fight between hostile Apaches and the the US Army soldiers out to forcibly conscript him, Carter suddenly finds himself in a desert wasteland unlike any he has seen before. It is then that Carter discovers that wherever he is, he is faster, more powerful and would be able to leap tall buildings if there were any buildings. Discovered and then adopted by the Tharks - a race of green-skinned, four-armed creatures - it is then that Carter comes to the realization that wherever he is, it isn't Earth.

There is little I can say about the plot of John Carter beyond that set-up. Those already familiar with the character, second only to Tarzan in popularity among the creations of Edgar Rice Burroughs, will know what to expect going into this movie. And I would not spoil things for the rest of you, for this movie is a real treat. But even those familiar with the original novels will be surprised, as the script adds in elements from the future Barasoom novels in order to better develop the world. While based upon A Princess of Mars, this film builds upon its' own mythos to become something greater. This is no surprise given the talent involved includes WALL-E writer/director Andrew Stanton, Samurai Jack writer/art-designer Mark Andrews and Pulitzer-Prize winning author Michael Chabon.

This is a gorgeous film and the creative team did an excellent job of visualizing Barsoom, making it a place not unlike the deserts of Earth... at least until you see the two moons in the sky or the multi-legged creatures that pass for dogs. It then becomes more conspicuous for what is the same rather than than is different. The acting is also top-notch, with Taylor Kitsch ably playing Carter as a world-weary warrior who seeks something to believe in fighting for. Willem Dafoe gives one of the best performances of his career, lending his voice to the Thrak chieftain Tars Tarkas. But the best performance of all belongs to Lynn Collins, who portrays Dejah Thoris.

Collins totally nails the character of the Martian scientist and princess, who goes into battle against her father's wishes rather than submit to a forced marriage for the sake of a peace treaty. While some may crack-wise about how this is hardly the most original conceit for a movie made by Disney, we should be so lucky as to have Dejah Thoris counted among the Disney Princesses. A princess who can translate ancient languages, develop complex energy weapons AND sword fight in a wedding dress? What's not to love? I predict we'll see more than a few cosplayers in the coming year who will attempt to portray the character. And not to typecast Collins as the smart, beautiful woman warrior, but if there's any justice in the world this movie will inspire someone at Warner Brothers to think twice about a Wonder Woman movie. Just saying.

If you fancy yourself a fan of fantasy or science-fiction of any flavor, you owe it to yourself to see John Carter if only for its' historical importance. Many of your favorite series and characters owe a lot to John Carter. Are you a Firefly fan? John Carter was pulling the "warrior without a war, looking for something to believe in" act long before Nathan Fillion ever slipped on a Browncoat. Do you like superheroes? The whole idea of gaining super-powers merely by living on another planet that inspired Superman came from the Barsoom novels. Like Steampunk? Check out the the first science-fiction story (or at least the first I'm aware of) that featured airships. And if you don't care anything about the history of your fandom, it's a damn fine movie on its' own. Highly recommended.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

52 Catch-Up: Green Lantern Corps #1-6

Green Lantern Corps was probably the slowest-starter out of all of the Green Lantern titles DC Comics released as part of The New 52. But for what my money is worth, it is easily the best of the bunch. Why? Because it has done the best job of establishing its' characters, it has the best artwork and it is the most friendly to new readers.

The first issue
focused upon Guy Gardner and John Stewart - two Green Lanterns of Earth and the only two Green Lanterns from that planet who never bothered to maintain a secret identity. Their personalities, well-known to Green Lantern fans at this point, are smoothly established as the pair of them are seen applying for work outside of their usual jobs as space-cops. The issue closes as Guy and John are summoned to Oa and sent to the scene of a mass genocide, along with a hand-picked team of alien Lanterns.

The team quickly tracks down the beings responsible for the deaths but find themselves out-classed. Somehow, the black-armored assassins are able to resist the effects of a Green Lantern's energy blasts and constructs. Thankfully, Guy Gardner is able to get a distress call off in time for back-up to arrive. The bad news is the back-up, which includes a Green Lantern with natural-born teleportation powers, proves unable to retrieve the whole team when they try and make a fast escape. This leads Guy to form a new team to go back and rescue the lost Lanterns, including John Stewart. At the same time, John Stewart learns more about this mysterious enemy, their grudge against The Guardians and just how they became immune to the energies of the Green Lantern.

Tomasi's writing is top-notch as always. He's been writing Green Lantern team books for a while now and he's an old-hand at handling most of these characters. Despite the sizable cast and the focus upon Guy and John, he still finds time to add little character moments for all of the other alien Lanterns, rounding them out as real characters. He manages this with amazing subtly, with the details of the world being slowly exposed in the narrative as we uncover aspects of the Green Lantern mythos that have never been explored before. Such as where do the Green Lantern batteries go when they aren't being used? Or how a group of the most grizzled Green Lantern veterans created their own secret bar underneath the theme restaurant Guy Gardner opened up on Oa.

Another thing I like about this book is that it has something that has long been missing from too many comic books - boxes with notes from the editor. I'm a deep believer in the old Stan Lee dictum that every comic is someone's first comic and it should be written as such, with a recap of the events thus far somewhere in the text. Tomasi even manages to bring in The Martian Manhunter (on loan from Stormwatch) to act as Mister Exposition without it seeming like an info-dump. I also like the sly dig that J'onn gets in here regarding The Guardians who - in some versions of his background and presumably in the New 52 - were indirectly responsible for the death of the Martian people through negligence. Nice little bonus for the long-time MM fans.

Penciller Fernando Pasarin is a veteran at drawing Green Lantern books and it shows. His alien designs are foreign-looking but still capable of complex and unique expressions - a welcome change from the comics where the alien beings seem to have the same look on their face throughout, despite their current emotional state. Guest penciller Geraldo Borges, who filled in on Issue #3, also does a fine job - indeed, I didn't know there was a guest artist until I looked at the credits while writing this review to make sure the art team stayed the same throughout. But inker Scott Hanna deserves special praise for how well he separates the physical and ethereal elements of the artwork, making the ring projections and energy blasts stand-apart from the living beings. And the palette used by artist Gabe Eltaeb looks like liquid light poured onto each page.

This is easily the best Green Lantern book on the market right now and one of the best books DC Comics is publishing at present. If you've ever been curious about the Green Lanterns but never picked up one of the books before, this is the one to grab!