mike sterling's progressive ruin

Saturday, July 03, 2004

I'm on my way to work, and I have this waiting for me:

...so wish me luck.

In the meantime...take me away, Pat Boone!

Superman's Girlfriend Lois Lane #9 (May 1959) - cover by Curt Swan & Stan Kaye

Friday, July 02, 2004

Well, it's my girlfriend's birthday today (and, by some odd coincidence, her twin sister's birthday as well), so that means no post for you!

In the meantime, however, why not try pal Tom's new comics/movies/tv/assorted media weblog
You Know What I Like - recommended by four out of five doctors.

And also please visit the weblogs of other close, personal friends of mine: pal Ian's Brill Building, now with extra flouride protection; Captain Corey, only half the calories of regular beer; and pal Dorian's Postmodernbarney, now with 50% more Red Dye #3.

Oh, and don't forget:

Thursday, July 01, 2004

Okay, so that Spider-Man 2 movie...I'm warnin' you now, I will be making mention of elements of the movie that you may not want to know beforehand. So, if you don't want to know that Venom (John Goodman) and Will O' The Wisp (Eddie Murphy) team up to defeat Spidey (Kirk Cameron, replacing Tobey Maguire), then for God's sake, skip this entry.

Look, I'll even put SPOILER WARNING in bold letters right here:


There, now you have only yourselves to blame.

Now, this isn't a real
Roger Ebert-style review or anything...that would require "effort" and would be too much like "work," and I'm too "lazy" to put together anything like that right now. So, here are a bunch of observations about the film slapped together in no particular order:

  • First off, this film is quite a bit better than the first one...the CGI effects are much less dodgy, the film flows a lot better, and there are no real draggy parts. It's also a funnier film, which is nice...sometimes superhero movies are so determined to be taken seriously that they forget it's okay to be funny once in a while.
  • What I particularly liked was the emphasis on just how screwed up Peter Parker's life is, with his double-life as Spider-Man being primarily to blame. One of the main components of the comics is that being Spider-Man is simultaneously a burden and a release for Peter, which the movie does a good job of expressing.
  • Another nice feature of this movie is that there is some forward motion in the relationships of the characters...while "status quo -- SUCCESSFULLY MAINTAINED!" (as pal Dorian likes to say) is the name of the game in the Marvel comics themselves, it's nice to see the films not do the same -- even if all they're doing is following (kinda sorta) the plotlines in the comics.
  • Tobey Maguire is up to two emotions for this film, rather than the one that he had in the first. He can now do "weepy sadness" and "angry determination." Well, maybe he can do three emotions, but I'm not committing until I figure out just what the heck he's supposed to be feeling here:

  • Okay, so Harry is pushing Octavius's work in the fusion field as a way to make a huge fortune (and Noble Prizes) for the company. Um...Doc Ock has four mechanical arms with sophisticated artificial intelligence that network directly with a human nervous system. Screw the fusion nonsense...market that!
  • If you have a problem with the idea that the arms' artificial intelligence was controlling Doc Ock, I think you can make an argument that it was just a delusion of D.O.'s, transferring blame for his actions onto this...um...extremities, and not literally what was happening.
  • It came as a bit of a surprise that, in movie time as in real world time, two years have passed. Not much to say about that...just thought I'd note it.
  • Remember that part near the end of the first film, right as Green Goblin is about to be stuck right through the breadbasket by his own rocket sled? There's that split-second close-up of Willem Dafoe saying "oh!" just before his perforation. At that point I thought to myself, "okay, I'm watching a Sam Raimi film." Something similar happens in this movie, in a short and peculiar sequence near the middle, where I again suddenly think to myself, "okay, Sam Raimi is in charge of this film." You'll know which sequence it is...it's the one with the last song you ever expected to hear in a superhero film.
  • By all rights, every single person in New York City should know that Spider-Man is Peter Parker by now. Why does he even have a mask? On the other hand, I did like the sequence with a maskless Peter facing a crowd of New Yorkers...yes, yes, in the real world every single one of those people would hightail it to the nearest tabloid with a story, but their reaction to Spidey did give the character (and the film) a slight mythic quality.
  • I did mention that I might have some spoilers in this little list of notes, didn't I?
  • What did I want more of in the first film, and what did I get in the second? That's right...J. Jonah Jameson. He's a real scene stealer, and lots of fun. Alfred Molina is darn good as Doc Ock as well.
  • For just a brief moment, it almost looked as if Robbie Robertson (when he was holding the Spider-Man mask) was going to be a plot point instead of just window dressing for Jameson's office antics. Alas, 'twas not to be.
  • I'm not sure I buy the whole reasoning behind Spidey's intermittent powers. Because he's insecure, he can no longer spurt stuff out of his body? And I'm not supposed to read anything into that?
  • By the way, this is yet another Big Hollywood Blockbuster Film in which the Good Guy wins by blowing something up that the Bad Guy owns (which I've discussed before). Okay, maybe Spidey doesn't literally blow it up, but it is big, and it does get destroyed, and thus the Good Guy wins. I'm willing to let it go this time, though, since there's a little more emotional depth to it than is usual for blockbuster action movies. And by "a little," I mean, "very very little." But some, at least.
  • Okay, show of hands...who thought "hey, Aunt May knows darn good and well that Peter is Spidey" during her little pep talk to him outside her house?
  • I know it looks like they blatantly set up the villain for the sequel here, but really, if it's not Venom in the next movie, they're really going to be pushing the patience of the kids in the audience. (And my girlfriend's patience, for that matter.) Of course, if they do both Venom and the aforementioned set-up villain, then they'll be getting into Batman movie sequel too-many-villains territory, and I don't think they're gonna want to kill the golden goose like that.


Well, if you read any of that and you haven't seen the movie, and do plan on seeing the movie...hey, I warned you. At least don't tell any of your friends about the surprise cameo by Madame Web (Bea Arthur).

Wednesday, June 30, 2004

Just a quick rundown of a couple of today's new comics, since I've got to run like the bunny to the theatre tonight for that Spider-Man movie.

  • Star Wars Tale #20 was probably the single best-selling issue of this series ever at the store...we only had a couple left by the end of the day. The reason? This is the all-indie creators issue! If a James Kochalka Boba Fett story, Jar Jar Binks stories by Peter Bagge and Tony Millionaire, and "Young Lando Calrissian" by Gilbert Hernandez don't convince you to buy this comic, then truly there is no love in your heart. (Bagge drawing Jar Jar...never has there been a greater match of a cartoonist to a character.)
  • Batman: Harley and Ivy #3 is probably the strongest issue of the three-issue series...a big Hollywood movie is being made of our favorite felonious damsels, and H & I decide that there's big money to be made by taking over production of the film and skimming off its overblown budget. You'll see the ending coming a mile away, but it's still a lot of fun.
  • Doom Patrol #1 is really sort of all over the place...I am a fan of John Byrne's art, so I think it at least looks nice. The story...well, it would have been nice if it didn't feel like "Part 7" of the JLA story this series spun out of, and the new Doom Patrol members don't really do anything for me. Hopefully once we're done with the whole vampire thing, we can get on to more interesting storylines. I really do like the new visual interpretation of Negative Man, however.

Also of note is the arrival of three more
Free Comic Book Day comics...Slave Labor Stories #2 (with all new Milk 'n' Cheese, Street Ninja, and Dr. Radium strips, among others, plus an excerpt from the forthcoming Bill 'n' Ted collections that will make more sense in context, I promise), that Avatar Press thing I didn't even get a chance to look at, and, a special surprise comic, Dungeons & Dragons: Crisis in Raimiton which is...um, fairly dire. It's supposed to give you the flavor of what a Dungeons and Dragons game is like, with kids gathering around a table, rolling up characters, and going on an "adventure," which is of course dramatized with drawings of stock fantasy characters running around in stone corridors fighting zombies and whatnot. Also, all the lettering (captions and dialogue) are just printed in white letters against colored backgrounds...not a caption box or word balloon to be found. Hoo boy.

Ack! Look at the time...I gotta run. Tomorrow I'll let you know how Spider-Man 2 is...assuming I'm not in jail for beating the daylights out of some idiot talking on his cell phone during the movie. (Not that any jury would convict me.)

Tuesday, June 29, 2004

1. Hey, I beat
Rich Johnston to the punch on the whole "Vanlentino" thing with my post last Friday. We both even used variations on the same "mistreating the former boss"-type jokey reference. (Yeah, I know, big deal.)

2. Over in Tony Isabella's most recent column, Tony writes a nice tribute to this son that includes images of classic Superboy comics. (Two words: "iron booties.")

3. I'm going to blatantly steal from Laura and post one of these things right here:

to remind those five of you reading this webpage who didn't already know that free comics are to be had from your local friendly comic book retailer, unless of course you're out of town since it's the Fourth of July weekend and all (darn you, Marvel!).

3a. Speaking of Free Comic Book Day, A Bunch of Baboons hasn't shown up on our invoices yet...we received most of our books last week, and Slave Labor Stories and that Avatar book are coming in this week. We did order A Bunch of Baboons, but it may be this year's "late to the FCBD party" book. If any of you folks out there get copies of this from your local store, please let me know.

4. Totally stolen from pal Andy: the Lines on Paper Cartoonist Business Card Gallery.

Monday, June 28, 2004

"Didn't you hear his skull break?" 

Public Enemies #2 (May-June 1948)

So let's dip back into the innocent comic book adventures of yesteryear, and take a look at what the children were reading. Today's reading selection:

Remember, it's all true, since names have been changed to protect the guilty. The story starts with Jeff telling his girlfriend Gail that, if they're going to elope after their high school graduation, they'll "have to pull that job tonight...game?" The job in question? Robbing a hotel clerk:

Well, the clerk puts up a fight...well, not much of a fight, actually all he does is say "you're just a little girl!" Gail doesn't care much for that, and shoots him anyway. She rifles through his desk, and finds only a couple hundred dollars. Suddenly, the bellboy rushes in:

Even though Gail is the only person in sight, and thus a suspect, the bellboy doesn't stop her from leaving on the basis of her somewhat flimsy story. She dashes out to the car, where boyfriend Jeff was bravely waiting, and she tells him that she just had to kill a man. "I hope that bell boy forgets my face," she says foreshadowingly. Jeff tells her not to worry, as they'll be splitting this town after the sure-thing con job he's got planned for tomorrow.

The next morning, Jeff sensitively inquires as to Gail's well-being:

Gail then presents to Jeff copies of her graduation picture..."my mother had several taken of me," again said foreshadowingly.

That night, Jeff and Gail, though presumably still underage, go to the Club 51 bar. A drunk fellow sitting at a table says a few lecherous words to Gail, and is punched out by Jeff for his troubles. Gail is aghast! She thinks Jeff is ruining the plan, but he says that punching that guy is actually necessary to the angle he's working, which leads us to wonder just how much of the plan Jeff has let Gail in on. Or, more likely, it just implies that Jeff is making it up as it goes along.

Anyway, Jeff tells Gail to fake that she's mad at him for starting a fight...and their fake argument results in Jeff making a big show out of abandoning her at the bar. "Here are the keys to your old man's car...I'm leaving right now...alone!" "But I can't drive!" wails Gail.

One of the bar patrons overhears this Oscar-winning exchange, and offers to take Gail home, to which she obviously agrees. Once in the car, and having driven some distance, Jeff pops up out the back seat and slugs the man over the head. Dragging the body out of the car, Gail and Jeff share this loving exchange:

The victim had eight hundred dollars on his person, and thus the apparent plan of killing a random barfly and finding a ton of money in his wallet is successful! "California here we come!" shouts Jeff, since California has no legal system or extradition laws or anything.

After this huge windfall, they decide to skip graduation altogether and head to Gail's house to pick up her clothes...only to be met there by a gaggle of policemen! "You're under arrest for murder," exclaims the lead cop, a charge Gail decries as "ridiculous." However, all that foreshadowing earlier in the story was not for naught:

As you can see, Gail immediately rats out Jeff, and Jeff returns the favor:

After a brief trial, Gail is sentenced to doing twenty years in the pokey. We don't know what happened to Jeff, and neither does Gail, until a year later when a helpful and knowledgable prison guard gives her the "shocking" (har har) news:

And there you go...another all true case from the Public Enemies crime files, where the important moral lesson of criminals always paying for their transgressions comes after several pages of showing us just how glamourous and fun crime is.

Sunday, June 27, 2004

As much as I'm looking forward to Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely's new Vertigo mini-series
WE3, I can't help but think...is there really any new ground to cover in the cyborg-animal warrior genre that hasn't already been expertly covered by the 1990 Marvel Comics mini-series Brute Force?

from Brute Force #1 (1990)

from WE3 #1 (2004)

(Blame pal Chris...he's the one who first noticed the slight resemblance between the two series. Anyway, all you Brute Force fans can Read More About It over at Scott Shaw!'s Oddball Comics column.)

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