My first completed Canadian music comic strip!
Click on image to see full size.
It’s two days after the advance screening of The Amazing Spider-Man, and I’m still angry.
I went in actually expecting it to be good, or at least decent. What I got was over two hours of flaccid storytelling, cynical casting, and video-game action scenes.
I know, I know, it’s my own fault for thinking it would be anything other than a sticky-fingered ploy to dip into our wallets. The odds were against it from the beginning – Sony Pictures decided to tell the same old boring story about how Peter Parker becomes Spider-Man, so already your brain is halfway out the door before the movie even begins.
But there is just something so stupid about casting Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone as teenagers – why not make the story interesting, and have them play characters closer to their own ages (29 and 24, respectively) who have to deal with all the spider-nonsense?
The Amazing Spider-Man doesn’t even really begin as a movie until an hour into it, but director Marc Webb and whatever lawyers made all the decisions fumble the ball in the last half, too.
In the comics, The Lizard is a well-meaning scientist who injects himself with a serum and, well, turns into a lizard-man. He’s human-sized, though, and in a nice if ridiculous touch wears a lab coat.
Now, I can understand how modern movie audiences might snicker at a lizard-man wearing a lab coat, which is fine. But instead of a human-size bad guy, The Amazing Spider-Man‘s lizard is this huge CGI monster, as big as the Hulk but without the personality (and that’s saying something). This gives the action sequences about as much heft as a video game fight. (I would post an image of the movie Lizard but can’t find a good one.)
It all wraps up in an epic battle atop a very tall building; it’s the same phallic denouement as The Avengers, actually, down to the rippling-sky effects. But one thing The Avengers accomplished that The Amazing Spider-Man doesn’t; at the end of the screening I saw of that movie, people actually applauded. At the end of The Amazing Spider-Man, we breathed a collective sigh of relief that it was over.
Well, there’s one more epic superhero blockbuster to come this summer (and many, many more in summers to come, if The Avengers‘ box-office take has any influence on Hollywood decision-making): The Dark Knight Rises. I’m one of the few who actually doesn’t think that much of Christopher Nolan‘s Batman movies (as with Tim Burton, the vision is much better than the story), but The Amazing Spider-Man lowers the bar considerably. Dark Knight Rises can’t be worse, even if it ends in an epic fight atop a big building.
(I wrote about the movie some more on The Snipe News, in a post that envisions a perhaps-fictional meeting of studio executives planning The Amazing Spider-Man reboot)
Got sent a package of graphic novels for review last week. Vancouver’s own Raincoast Books distributes a number of publishers, so once in awhile I’ll get lucky with a shipment of nice new books.
Among the latest batch was this curiosity – a thin, wonderfully coloured (by Hilary Sycamore) and drawn (by Humayoun Ibrahim) graphic adaptation of a short story by Golden Age science fiction author Jack Vance. I was unfamiliar with Vance’s work but after reading this little beauty I’ll be seeking out more, for sure.
I thought this adaptation, along with a reprinted (from the New York Times Magazine) profile of Jack Vance by Carlo Rotella, was an ideal intro to the work of this almost-forgotten (though not by Michael Chabon, to name one well-known fan) author. Highly recommended; you can read more of my thoughts on this book in my The Moon Moth graphic novel review on The Snipe News.
Have you read any Jack Vance? Which novels or short stories would you recommend?
Guy Delisle’s Jerusalem, recently published by Drawn & Quarterly, was one of those books (well, graphic novels) that I enjoyed while reading but had to force myself to pick up. I think this might have been due to the almost unvarying tone of deadpan humour and observation. There is no real story here, just vignettes of Delisle encountering the oddities and absurdities of life as an outsider in this conflicted city. I do feel I know more about Jerusalem than I did before I read the over 300 pages of Delisle’s book, and the art is terrific – considerably better than in Delisle’s previous books like Pyongyang – but I didn’t feel much of anything upon reading the last page.
However, one page I really liked, and that came as a complete surprise, is where Delisle sits down to watch the French-Canadian horror flick Martyrs. It’s the only movie mentioned in the whole book – and there’s a great little panel with a word balloon in red denoting a scream (otherwise there’s very little colour in the book) coming from the speaker as Delisle watches on his computer. Anyway, love that (somewhat obscure) film.
Full review is here.
I hadn’t heard of Mark Haney before Tyee music editor Adrian Mack asked if I wanted to do a story on the Vancouver musician and sent me a link to his own (much better) piece on Haney from a couple of years back. Then, the double-bass player had completed a composition (or compositions) based on the life of Canadian daredevil Ken Carter.
Mack’s piece plus the promise of a whopping $50 for five hours of work convinced me. (Baristas, take heart; you make a better hourly wage than this professional freelance writer.) Also the fact that Haney will be working on a project with cartoonist Seth, which I can follow up on over at The Snipe.
Haney’s latest work is based around the life of Terry Fox.
For Mark Haney, it’s all about the numbers.
But don’t let that scare the math-challenged out there. Knowledge of trigonometry, algebra or even the ability to calculate HST is not necessary to access the Vancouver musician’s work.
A double-bass player who’s played with the VSO as well as local indie-rock outfits like The Beige, Haney, in fact, makes it easy. His 2010 project Aim for the Roses had a quirky point-of-entry — it told the story of Canadian daredevil Ken Carter. In Haney’s upcoming project 3339, which he performs as part of the Redshift Music Society Concert at the Vancouver East Cultural Centre next Friday (May 11), his subject is Terry Fox.
(Read the rest of Mark Haney’s Hidden Structures)
A few weeks ago I was fortunate to receive, in a box from Dark Horse Comics, a copy of Volume Two of their Manara Library editions. The publisher is collecting most if not all of the Italian comics artist’s works in nine books; the second (above) came out earlier this year, and the first in the fall of 2011. Volume Three, featuring Milo Manara‘s collaborations with filmmaker Federico Fellini, will be published in August.
Manara is best known for drawing naked girls, to put it bluntly. (He’s also crossed over into the North American mainstream with a Sandman story that appeared in an anthology and an X-Men comic (featuring the women of the X-Men) for Marvel.) But, while Volume Two‘s first story “El Gaucho” certainly features some typically gorgeous Manara females in lewd dishabille, it’s also a ripping good historical tale (written by cartoonist Hugo Pratt) about the early 1800s British invasion of Argentina. And the second half of the book isn’t dirty at all; it’s a series of eight brief stories that attempts to look at both sides of cases against historical figures such as Helen of Troy, Attila the Hun and Robert Oppenheimer. Though a little on the didactic side, these “Trial by Jury” stories are surprisingly readable and informative. And, of course, impeccably drawn by the master, even though they’re from early in his career.
My full review is on The Snipe News: http://www.thesnipenews.com/books-comics/manara-library-volume-two-review/
My article on the upcoming Fan Expo Vancouver is in this week’s Georgia Straight: http://www.straight.com/article-662866/vancouver/fan-expo-builds-strong-scene
The feature is an overview of the Expo, which is the first of its kind in the city. The basic premise is that, considering the strong comics, video game, and movie and TV industry connections here, the Expo is long overdue.
What’s strange to me a little is that, despite being a lifelong comics fan, I didn’t make it to the mother of all cons, San Diego’s, until last year, and I still haven’t made it to Emerald City Comic-Con, though I know I would love that.
So I’m looking forward to seeing if the organizers can pull off a decent con in Vancouver, and I’m hoping people come out for it. This could be a positive thing for the city, and for bringing people from all these disparate scenes together.
Also, we ran a cool feature by Rachel Sanders on The Snipe News (my online arts/entertainment magazine) about a local cosplayer, Jaimmie Que (pictured, above) and tips on what to wear at a comics convention: http://www.thesnipenews.com/books-comics/fan-expo-vancouver-cosplay/
When The Wedding Present came through here over a week ago, I was lucky enough to snag a copy of Tales from the Wedding Present. (When I interviewed singer David Gedge at the beginning of the band’s tour in Austin, I asked if he could set one aside for me. And he only charged me $5, half-price. Rock Journalism does have its perks.)
It’s a comic book featuring stories by former bassist Terry de Castro about life on the road with the band. The black-and-white art is by Lee Thacker, who’s got a nice, clear line that complements the direct, Harvey Pekar-esque slices-of-life. Thacker also did the art for Snapshots, a 2011 anthology of stories based on Wedding Present song titles. The book features a number of (British) writers while Thacker tries out an impressive array of styles, paying homage to Chris Ware and Charles Burns, among others.
The collection is surprisingly strong; you don’t need to be a Wedding Present fan to enjoy the Twilight Zone-ish “I’m Not Always So Stupid” (text with photos) and the romantic doubledealing of “This Isn’t What it Looks Like”. Recommended (you can order it here).
I really love this book, although I think boomers who grew up on EC Comics might appreciate it a little more… plus they might be able to afford it, not to mention have the shelf space! It’s huge, 15″ x 22″, and packs a punch to your wallet (I paid $160, including shipping and handling, to have it sent from Winnipeg to Vancouver when I couldn’t find a copy locally). The first run is sold out, but publisher IDW says they’re going to do a second print run later this spring.
Anyway, you can read my full review here.
I must’ve been 12 when I saw Logan’s Run for the first time, in a theatre in Winnipeg; it may even have been my birthday. Besides being a glorious slice-of-’70s sci-fi cheese (though I didn’t know it at the time), the 1976 movie jump-started my adolescence.
Movie trailer – Logan’s Run (1976)
Logan’s Run (1976 version; a remake is rumoured to be in the works, although that’s been said for the last 10 years) starred Michael York as Logan, a Sandman suddenly forced to decide if he’s going to carry out his state-directed orders to kill “runners” (anyone who reaches the age of 30 and decides not to opt-in to a very suspect system of rebirth that includes either being exploded from within or zapped by some lethal death-ray, it’s never clear which) or run himself. Veteran British actor Peter Ustinov gives the only remotely naturalistic peformance within a parsec of the film; Farrah Fawcett makes a brief and green-spangly appearance as Holly, a cosmetic surgeon’s assistant. And Jenny Agutter plays Logan’s love interest and fellow runner, Jessica 6.
It’s the film’s mild nudity, and the icy English rose beauty of Agutter (also in American Werewolf in London and Walkabout) that was responsible for my quantum leap. But the movie also casts a spell, even today. Even though what, to a 12-year-old boy in the ’70s, was an action-packed futuristic and really cool-looking movie is, by today’s standards, low-rent, retro and sometimes silly, Logan’s Run does have a certain look and production design that gives the film an atmosphere unlike just about any other.
There are plotholes (like, why does Logan call the rest of his fellow Sandmen when he’s already decided to run?) and cheesy special effects galore, but the movie is also daring in letting its hero be an anti-hero – a coldblooded killer – for a good chunk of the story.
And 36 years later, the idea of a society so brainwashed as to accept their fate – death at 30 – is still thought-provoking. How different is that from the mass hysteria that greeted the death of Kim Jong-Il? How different from Mormonism, or any belief system we’ve inculcated? How different from our acceptance of Stephen Harper as prime minister (okay, the last might be a bit of a reach… might).
Logan’s Run, which was based on a novel by William F. Nolan and George Clayton Johnson, had an even more radical premise – death at 21 – and a far different ending. The novel spawned a couple of sequels; Logan’s Run the movie led to a TV series (the DVD of which is about to be released) and a comic book series (from Marvel, 7 issues), as well as inspiring lots of bad electronica (or maybe that’s redundancy). A remake would be interesting, but the 1976 Logan’s Run stands alone as a kind of perfect storm (pardon the cliche) of set and costume design, British acting talent, and music (Jerry Goldsmith‘s score is something else) and ideas. The following year, Star Wars would usher in the era of so-called “space operas”, or Westerns in space, and the age of idea-based science fiction movies would die.
As the fans say, “Run, runner!”