Monday, July 30, 2007

Justice League of America: The Movie

I just finished reading an old issue of Justice League of America, number 146 to be exact, and after I finished the story I started skimming through the letters pages. This letters column featured the final results from a poll conducted in an earlier issue asking fans to write in their casting choices for a JLA movie. This poll was conducted in 1977. Here were some of my favorites.

Farrah Fawcett: Black Canary.

Lee Majors: The Flash
Okay, one more time. Lee Majors as the Flash!

Jack Klugman: Green Arrow.

Roger Moore: Green Lantern.

William Shatner: Aquaman

Henry Winkler: Hawkman

Jan Michael Vincent: The Atom

Burt Reynolds: Batman

Kate Jackson: Wonder Woman

They announce at the end of the column that Christopher Reeve has been cast as Superman in the forthcoming movie but JLA readers of 1977 made such fine casting choices as Sylvester Stallone and Bruce Jenner as the man of steel! The above mentioned did not necessarily receive the most votes for those parts but they apparently got enough to be mentioned. Jack Klugman as Green Arrow! Shatner as Aquaman! We need to find Jerry Bruckheimer a time machine and get it done.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Manhunter Uncancelled!

As I have said before DC comics’ Manhunter is one of my favorite comics so you can imagine my disappointment last month when I read in Previews that after a five issue reprieve it was getting cancelled again. Well good news! The word from the NYCC is that Manhunter has been given a permanent reprieve. I know this will please all of you since you all became Manhunter readers after my previous post on the subject, right?

Read the news here.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Movie Review- Stoked: The Rise and Fall of Gator

This post has nothing whatsoever to do with comic books. This post does have a lot to do with skateboarding and is a movie review so it gets in on the blog. I have just watched Stoked: The Rise and Fall of Gator twice now in two days, the second about an hour ago and I am still reeling from what a good movie this is. This actually came out in 2003 and I remember hearing about it then but somehow I never managed to get around to seeing it until now.

I started skateboarding in 1985 and continued skating up to around mid 1993. When I started skating in eighty-five Mark “Gator” Rogowski was one of the biggest names in skating and along with Lance Mountain, Christian Hosoi, Steve Caballero, and Tony Hawk was one of my favorite skaters. This feeling was shared by many as I remember the Gator deck being very popular with other skaters I knew at the time and the documentary confirms this. My second deck was a Gator and I had a least one more after that one. In 1992 he murdered a girl and went to prison. I was, like I imagine most of his fans, shocked by this.

This documentary is just what the title says, the story of the rise and fall of Gator. I generally don’t approve of life story documentaries about murderers but this one serves a larger purpose as a cautionary tale about the excesses of fame at a young age and the hardships young people endure when their time in the spotlight is over and they aren't the big thing anymore. The movie begins in the early eighties when Gator was first becoming popular. The film does an excellent job of capturing that era in a way that I really felt transported back to it. Old video footage from Vision videos that I haven’t seen in years mixed with still photographs from Transworld and Thrasher that I haven’t seen in years and a soundtrack featuring Naked Raygun and the Faction (both of who I have continued to listen to through the years) had me wistfully nostalgic for the first half hour of the movie. This seems an odd feeling to have because by the end of the movie I was completely bummed out.

And that’s part of the movies brilliance. It reminds us why we liked Gator in the first place and put us smack in the middle of his world on the road to fame evoking all the fun and excitement of skateboarding at that time then taking us through the hollow, phony commercialism of the late eighties Vision Street Wear phase where Gator seemed to reach the height of his fame and success. Actually I don’t remember much about Gator from this time. I always thought Vision Street Wear was lame and never had any. Instead of Vision I mostly skated Zorlac, Powell, and Santa Cruz products in the late eighties. I do remember seeing him on that episode of Club MTV that they show in the movie. Following this we see his decline as his alcohol problems and mental problems get worse culminating in his raping and murdering a friend of his girlfriend.

The film brings home the horror of what he did showing interviews with the police who investigated the crime recounting it in horrible vivid detail. The only criticism I might have of the movie is it spends so much time humanizing Gator as a tragic figure and maybe not enough time on humanizing his victim Jessica Bergsten. The movie is Gators story however and it is a sad story indeed. Many people from skateboarding who knew Gator are interviewed and Stacy Peralta sums up what I think is the point of the film best in his interview stating that fame is often not worth the cost especially at the young age that most professional skateboarders are. This film should be required viewing by anyone who is on the verge of becoming famous in any field that has a quick turnover of superstars.

I highly recommend this movie to anyone even if you were never interested in skateboarding. I’ll try to get back to talking about comics again soon.

Friday, January 5, 2007


If you have not read Manhunter 27 spoilers follow.

I want to share some thoughts on what I think is one of the best comics being published by DC at the moment: Manhunter. I was in the store today telling Tug that I would love to see a meeting between Kate Spencer and another of my favorite DC characters of recent years Sasha Bordeaux. I get to home to read this months issue of Manhunter and who shows up? Sasha Bordeaux! Were they reading my mind? That’s eerie. This comic literally gave me exactly what I wanted! I hope all of you reading this are picking up Manhunter because it’s a terrific book and sadly overlooked. It was cancelled earlier this year and then given a reprieve due to enthusiastic fans writing DC. I wasn’t one of them but I’m glad for their efforts.

If you aren’t reading and/or are completely unfamiliar Manhunter is a divorced single mom named Kate Spencer who works as an attorney. Busy as this keeps her she is also a costumed vigilante named, you guessed it, Manhunter. The character Manhunter has been with DC since the Golden Age though Kate Spencer is a relatively new character created by Marc Andreyko and Jesus Saiz. There are many things I like about this series such as making elements of the DCU from the nineties that were not very popular or are generally not highly regarded cool aspects of the book. There is one courtroom scene where a defense attorney asks Hawkman which version of Hawkman he is and how he works and Hawkman can’t answer him! Cameron Chase, the Darkstars, and Azreal are all nineties characters that pop up at some point. I found myself blown away by the most recent issue when former Manhunter, Mark Shaw is taken to the castle of the Knights of the Order of Saint Dumas. I actually said, “oh, shit. It’s the Order of Saint Dumas!” as I was reading. And I meant that in a good way not in the, “oh, shit. It’s the Order of Saint Dumas” way I said it around 1996 when the Order of Saint Dumas seemed the pinnacle of lameness.

Manhunter also reminds me in some ways of what may be my favorite comic series of all time, the nineties Starman series. Starman took a character that had been around forever in several incarnations and tied them together and streamlined the legacy while at the same time creating a new compelling character, Jack Knight. (I’ll probably get around to talking about Starman more at some point in the future). Andreyko ties together the Manhunter legacy a bit differently than Starman did but still very effectively. He kills most of them off. Also like Starman Kate is tied into DC history with family connections. She is the granddaughter of Iron Munro and Sandra Knight and cousin to Jack Knight himself. Yea!

There are many other reasons to love this book the main one being that it’s about an interesting character, with a solid supporting cast that presents a fresh and unusual perspective on superheroes.

Friday, December 29, 2006

Five things meme

Well, I got tagged by Phil about a week ago but with the holidays, my new iPod, and Battlestar Galactica box sets I’ve kind of gotten behind on my blog. So this is catch up week folks. We are back on track here at Matt’s Comic blog. Now, five things you don’t know about me.

1. I hate pickles! (Actually everyone probably knows this about me but if someone I don’t know personally is reading this it’s new to you.) Pickle juice saturates everything it touches thus rendering pickle touched food inedible.I do not hate pickles as much as this person.

2. I was once mistaken for the artist Joe Jusko. I look nothing like Joe Jusko but I was working a booth at a comic convention next to the Frank Frazetta Fantasy Magazine booth where Joe Jusko was scheduled to sign. The person running the Frazetta booth asked if someone from my booth would sit there and watch the Frazetta booth while he went to get Jusko. I volunteered and was sitting at the Frazetta booth when an announcement comes over the PA system that Joe Jusko is now signing at the Frank Frazetta Fantasy booth. The next thing I know there is a long line of Jusko fans looking at me expectantly. Luckily Jusko showed up pretty quickly.

3. I was once saved Chad's life in bar because I was able to speak intelligently about the band Black Flag with a crazed drunk guy. A guy who was working a 50/50 combo of drunk and clinical insanity was eyeing Chad with a troubled look while we were quietly enjoying our beers. All of sudden the drunk shouted at Chad and the following conversation transpired.

Drunk guy: Hey!

Chad: Yeah?

Drunk guy: You look like Henry Rollins.

Chad: Really? (Chad does not look like Henry Rollins but he may look more like Henry Rollins than I look like Joe Jusko.)

Drunk guy: Yeah. You know what?

Chad: What?

Drunk guy: I hate that motherfucker!

Chad: Uh. Okay.

Drunk guy (menacingly): Yeah!

Matt: You don’t like Black Flag?

Drunk guy: Huh?

Matt: I kind of prefer the Chavo and Dez Cadena stuff myself. (Actually I’m quite fond of Rollins era Black Flag as well.)

Drunk guy: Yeah, those guys were awesome. Black Flag was awesome.

Drunk guy thankfully soon lost interest and wandered off.

4. I love the Arby’s French dip sandwich.

5. I’m still trying to give All Star Batman and Robin the Boy Wonder the benefit of the doubt. There is much doubt.

I think I’m supposed to pass this five things meme on so I send it to my pal David over at Blowdenblog.

Coming soon: My obligatory best of 2006 list!

Monday, December 18, 2006

League of Extraordinary Gentlemen

Several years ago, after Alan Moore and Kevin O’Neil’s brilliant League of Extraordinary Gentlemen series came out, comics fans everywhere began applying the concept to characters from other media and making their own fantasy Leagues. For those who haven’t read it, League of Extraordinary Gentlemen applies the concept of the shared universe to all of published literature. The two series that have been published to date revolve around characters that appeared in Victorian era novels being recruited by the British secret service into a sort of Victorian Justice League.

While traveling to a comics convention not long after the series came out my friend Scott and I began assembling our own fantasy League of Extraordinary Gentlemen with characters almost as good as those from Jules Verne, H.G. Wells, and Bram Stoker. Which characters?

You guessed it. Fast food marketing characters!
Here's the team.

The Colonel:
After the mysterious disappearance of his predecessor, General Tso, the Colonel was brought out of retirement to lead this elite team of operatives. Aside from being a tactical genius he’s got a top secret recipe and its finger lickin’ good.

The Chihuahua:
Though speed and stealth are the Chihuahua’s main contributions to the team, he also coined the team's catchphrase, "Drop the chalupa motherf***ers!"

Every team needs a rampaging monster and Grimace fills the bill nicely. You wouldn’t like him when he’s angry. Grimace Smash!

The team’s secret weapon, Wendy is proficient with many weapons and is a master of at least twelve martial arts fighting styles. She can dispatch any opponent before he can ask “where’s the beef?”

The Cows:
The cows are masters of disguise. They have been confirmed to have posed as super-heroes and as cowboys. All other data is classified.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Superman II: The Richard Donner Cut

While Richard Donner was shooting Superman: The Movie he was also simultaneously shooting the sequel Superman II. After a dispute with the producers Donner was replaced and Superman II was ultimately re-shot by director Richard Lester.

Superman II has been one of my favorite movies since I saw it in 1980. As I’ve grown older some of the hokeyness, okay well a lot of the hokeyness (General Zod shooting people levitating lasers out of his hand, the super-kiss, the funky machine that takes his powers away, the screwy logic that says he has to have his powers taken away, etc..) has become more evident but I have still been able to enjoy this movie relatively uncritically over the years. Then finally comes the long awaited Richard Donner cut.

Long have Superman fans wondered how truly magnificent Superman II would have been if only Donner had been able to finish realizing his vision. Surely without all of those weird and corny bits (I guess it was assumed they were either touches of the new director or orders form the producers), Superman II would be the greatest comic book based film of all. And now we get to see it. Well, I’m not eight years old anymore, so with my critical faculties intact I finally watch Superman II as it was supposedly intended.

Where to begin in describing what a truly awful movie this version is? I guess I’ll start at the beginning of the movie. It opens with some cut together scenes from Superman: The Movie that hit the major plot points to get you caught up for the new movie and then the movie proper begins with an establishing shot of Metropolis. Or should I saw New York City some time before September 11, 2001. I find it weird and jarring to add a shot of the World Trade Center (you can see it in other shots that were in the original version but, it’s not jarring or weird because it’s always been there and it’s never the most prominent feature in the shot). I don’t know if it’s just me but it is impossible for me to see the WTC and not immediately be reminded of 9/11. I realize that at least the exterior shots of the movie were shot in New York but I would like to be able to suspend disbelief and believe that I’m seeing the fictional city of Metropolis. To add a shot of the WTC, at the very beginning no less, only serves to take me out of the movie right when it should be bringing me in.

The next major change comes soon after with a different version of Lois willing to bet her life that Clark is Superman by jumping out of a window. The sequence plays okay but it isn’t any better than the sequence which took place later in the original version that accomplished the same thing. Also, by beginning with this, they take out the terrorist attack on the Eiffel Tower that came near the start of the original version which gave us some pretty damn cool Superman stuff early in. We don’t even see Superman for about forty minutes into the Donner cut unless you count the opening montage.

The film then trudges on until we get to where Lois proves that Clark is Superman. Here, instead of the charming and reasonably romantic version from the original we get a screen test-- a screen test, where Clark’s glasses don’t match the rest of the movie. Was it really so important that we see a different version of this that that was the best they could do? It’s like watching a play that someone filmed. They even tell us before the movie starts that they had to use a screen test, basically apologizing in advance for the movie being shitty for a few minutes. This might be understandable if this sequence was bringing some new perspective but again it doesn’t accomplish anything that was not accomplished better in the Lester version.

There is more to complain about such as the ridiculous sequence with Clark and Jor-El after Clark has renounced his powers and is trying to get them back now that General Zod has taken over the planet. For some reason now the Phantom Zone criminals destroy the Washington Monument instead of heat visioning their own faces into Mount Rushmore but the second most appalling change occurs when Superman arrives at the Dailey Planet to challenge the Phantom Zone criminals. This is my favorite part of Superman II. When all appears lost, after Earth has been conquered by General Zod, after Clark’s had his ass kicked by a redneck in a truck stop, Superman triumphantly returns to saves the day. I still get goose bumps when he shows up outside the window and says, “Excuse me General. Would you like to step outside?” I’m getting goose bumps now remembering it. I did not get goose bumps, however while watching Donner’s vision of the scene when he shows up and says, “Excuse me General. Haven’t you ever heard of freedom of the press?” Well gee, Superman he’s from another planet and he hasn’t been here very long, I don’t think he’s gotten around to reading the U.S. Constitution yet. He had just found out that he was on planet Earth not planet Houston a few days earlier.

I said that was the second most appalling change. What was the worst change? I’m glad you asked. At the end of Superman II, Clark gives Lois amnesia with a kiss. That’s pretty stupid I agree, but I would prefer that to what I got in this one. Yes folks he did it again. HE TURNED THE WORLD BACKWARDS A SECOND TIME! Yes, exactly like the end of Superman: The Movie. I guess that’s how movie Superman solves his problems. Yes once again everything that happened was reversed and didn’t happen. Except for Clark getting his ass kicked by that redneck trucker. That truck stop must be in some sort of time-vortex because Clark still shows up at the end to give this guy his comeuppance. And every one in the truck stop remembered the incident. Wow!

This new version of a cherished classic is so bad it makes me long to see Jabba the Hut show up at the Mos Eisley spaceport and that is really saying something. I really wanted to like the Donner cut of Superman II, I like Donner’s work in general especially Superman: The Movie, The Omen, Lethal Weapon, and that awesome Shatner on a plane episode of the Twilight Zone.