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Tuesday, May 26, 2009

 
I'm Not Going to Comicon -- But you might be, so make sure you check out the always-entertaining convention tips from Tom Spurgeon (entertaining both because they're well-written and because a lot of them are applicable to going to any comics convention, not just the San Diego mega-version).

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The Monday Briefing on Tuesday -- It was a busier than expected holiday weekend for me, ending yesterday with a backyard barbecue at our house attended by some family and good friends and held in about the best weather you could hope for in late May. The sun was shining, but the humidity was low and the bugs were almost non-existent. Ate too much, talked too much, and slept like a log last night, which I almost never do.

Recently read and really enjoyed: Why I Killed Peter from NBM (startlingly good autobio that veers from Michel Michel Rabagliati-like whimsy to head-crushing reality) and The Photographer from First Second (non-fiction as well, an amazing account of one photographer's journey through Afghanistan and the life-altering experiences he had there).

Recently pissed me off: The cancellation of Life on NBC and The Sarah Conner Chronicles on Fox. Both were well-done series that I looked forward to every week, and I'm sorry they didn't get another chance to find an audience. I'm glad Dollhouse was renewed, but I hope it starts to feel more like a real Joss Whedon series and less like the network suits are going over every script with a red pencil and an X-Acto knife.

Decided not to bother: The new Terminator movie was always a "maybe" for me, but the cancellation of the TV series and the uninviting trailers combined to keep me away from the theater this past weekend. Plus, I am still riding the buzz from seeing the new Star Trek movie and I feel like seeing something so obviously inferior would spoil that. If that makes sense.

Can't believe the weekend went by so quickly. Today it's back to work, for a thankfully short work-week. Off to the salt mines.

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Saturday, May 09, 2009

 
Star Trek -- For a long time it seemed we had lost Star Trek in a slow leaching off of what made the original 1966 series special. From the high points of its second life (Wrath of Khan; the TNG episodes Best of Both Worlds Parts One and Two) it was all an agonizingly slow downward spiral. The series finale of TNG was a great, emotionally satisfying tribute to the unlikely success of the first sequel series, but instead of leading into a brilliant new movie era featuring Picard and company, it was the last real gasp of creative honesty in the 1990s for "the franchise."

Generations had an awesome opening 15 minutes followed by tedium, bad writing and the worst mistake in Trek history, the ham-fisted death of James T. Kirk. Not that Kirk necessarily shouldn't have died on-screen, but the unconscionably bad writing of his death scene (and the even worse writing of the earlier draft, available for viewing on the Generations DVD) should have been a signal to all involved that they had traveled far down the wrong road and needed to rethink the entire journey.

Despite that, director Jonathan Frakes managed to make the next cinematic outing, First Contact, into a fun adventure movie that demonstrated moments of genuine wit and human insight (mostly in the Cochrane storyline; the Picard-as-Ahab metaphor is as heavy-handed and tedious as any Roddenberry conceit one could name). The less said about Insurrection and especially Nemesis, the better. The latter was literally the worst Star Trek entertainment ever produced, with less creative spark and more embarrassing moments than the worst of the Gold Key comic book series. And like Generations, it goes not boldly but wrong-headedly down the same stupid path of creative immolation by killing off Data, probably Roddenberry's last great contribution to Star Trek entire.

And oh, the other sequel series; Deep Space Nine, Voyager and Enterprise all have something to offer despite their enormous flaws (Colm Meaney's acting, the Holographic Doctor and all of Season Four, respectively), but compared to the '66 and '87 iterations of Trek, they demonstrate the slow death of an idea. In 1964, when Roddenberry conceived the series that would be refined and redefined by the other writers brought in (Fontana, Ellison, and dozens more), the series was about exploring both space and what it means to be human and alive. By the time Voyager launched, Star Trek had literally become a series about Star Trek. Enterprise grew a pair in its final season, but by then the fact that the franchise had been in the wrong hands for many years was crystal clear. Berman, Pillar, and the rest were the bad guys as far as I was concerned. They had taken away Star Trek and replaced it with a very poor substitute.

And now J.J. Abrams and company have given it back.

I don't remember how Roger Ebert justified his 2.5 star review, and I don't care enough to go look and grab a link. You're good with the Google and I trust you to know if you need to see for yourself. But for me, the new Star Trek is 3.5 to 4 stars of greatness from beginning to end. It has everything I love about the '66 series, from laughs and melodrama to the costumes and pageantry of Starfleet as a vision of the best humanity (and other races) have to offer.

Is it perfect? No. The performances of the actors playing Sulu, Chekov and (yes) Scotty all wander over territory ranging from cipher to parody, even if their individual charms still won me over. Does the plot make sense? Is the science sound? Probably not. Is that really Spock, though, being played by Zachary Quinto? Is Chris Pine really Kirk? Hell, is Bruce Greenwood really Captain Christopher Pike? Yes, yes, and much to my amazement, yes.

Is it too shiny? Yes, the lens flares are a distraction and will look as goofy in ten years as the ones in Ellis and Hitch's Authority comics do now. But the passion with which this story is told, and the little character moments that pepper it throughout, feel more true to the essence of what the original series accomplished than any moment of Trek since The Wrath of Khan first reminded us that Star Trek was fucking loaded with the potential for great storytelling, hammy actors and bad special effects be damned.

Leonard Nimoy's first scene as Spock is astonishingly well-acted, drawing upon the actor's 45 years of experience playing the character. Quinto makes Spock his own, but at no time does the new version feel discordant with Nimoy's lifetime of contributions to the canon. The moment when Spock materializes on the transporter pad and realizes what he has lost on Vulcan is one of the most powerful in the character's history, twisting some of the most beloved moments of the original series into a new form and setting the character on a new path. And it never feels like anything other than honestly-won drama that works on every level.

Chris Pine completely inhabits the ideal of Kirk as a character and as a legend-in-training. He doesn't feel like a Luke Skywalker-type Hero with One of a Thousand Faces, but rather he comes across powerfully as a new, divergent path for the character Shatner portrayed for decades, struggling to get where we know he belongs, on the bridge of that ship. And Pike is a special case for me: I have been obsessed with the original pilot's captain (and actor Jeffrey Hunter's performance) for over thirty years. The first time I saw The Menagerie (the episode that wove footage from the original, Kirkless pilot with a new Kirk/Spock story), I was fascinated by the idea that the ship had had another captain before Kirk, and even more riveted by the question of what the series could have been like with Pike, not Kirk, at the helm. Bruce Greenwood does an amazing job of making Pike his own, and having a new story on film involving this great, semi-lost Trek character feels to me something very much like a gift.

The movie throbs. It shines and sparkles and shakes with energy and movement. It propels you through its story and leaves you so, so ready for more Star Trek. Personally, I want to see more of the world Nimoy's Spock comes to this movie from (see the IDW comic book prequel Countdown for a hint), but if all we ever get is more of this new type of Star Trek, I'll be very happy. It's a brave new canvas Abrams and company have created, and Trek hasn't felt so filled with potential since Spock's coffin landed on the Genesis Planet all those years ago. For the first time in a long time I am asking the essential storytelling question, what happens next?

I can't wait to find out.

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Friday, May 08, 2009

 
The Current Discussion About the Direct Market -- Reading various comments about how to fix the direct market, it occurs to me that it's largely a semantic problem. 90 percent of the stores within the DM are, proudly, superhero stores, not comic book stores. I think it was Sean Collins that quoted Spurgeon saying "comic shops are the places you can find comics," or words to that effect, and we should insist that be true. Superhero shops can be the place you can find superheroes (including comics, Heroes DVDs, whatever floats their boat), and the 10 percent of DM stores that actually embrace all of comics and all the people who want to read them (including women and children) can then rightfully be called comic shops and carry Manga and Tintin and all the stuff that is comics that superhero fans (including the ones that own superhero convenience stores) spit on, hate and fear.

Just a thought.

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This is Post #1701 -- Well, no, it's actually #1508, but that's my fault due to failure to plan ahead.

The new Star Trek is out in theaters and I plan to see it tonight. I've been waiting for this day with an insane level of enthusiasm from the moment word first got out that the movie was in the works. I am so excited to see the movie that I don't even care that Roger Ebert only gave it two and a half stars.

Presumably in the next day or two I'll post my thoughts about the film. I've got my fingers crossed that it will be every bit as good as every trailer and behind the scenes clip I've seen indicates.

If not, there will always be the original 79 episodes, right?

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

 
Sneakers O'Toole Fan-Fiction -- With apologies to Seth MacFarlane and Sneakers O'Toole.

In The Room - Hard-Boiled Detective Fiction by Alan David Doane

“I’m not taking my sneakers off,” he said, as he sat down across the table from me. I asked him “What’s your name,” and opened my pad to start taking notes. “I am Sneakers O’Toole,” he said.

This was going to be a tough one. Legally I had no probable cause to force this asshole to take off his sneakers, but without seeing what was going on under them, I had no case, either. “Let’s make this easy on both of us,” I began, trying to seem as reasonable as possible. “If you take those sneakers off, O’Toole, I promise you it’s going to go a lot easier on you.”

“I’m not taking my sneakers off,” he said again. “What part of ‘I am Sneakers O’Toole’ don’t you understand?” Now he was getting hostile. Good. It was time to turn up the heat a little.

“Look, O’Toole,” I said, and he held up his hand as if to cut me off. “Call me ‘Sneakers,’” he said. “I don’t want to call you ‘Sneakers,’” I told him. “I just want to get to the bottom of this.” “Well,” he returned, “How will you find out what you want to know if we can’t be friends? My name is Sneakers O’Toole, Detective, what’s yours?”

Somehow I had lost control of this entire interview. I don’t know if it was his charm, or just the deafening clang of his brass balls there in the confined space of the interrogation room, but I let him lead. “My name is Crocker, Detective Bill Crocker.” He smiled at me across the old, scarred table. “Please to meet you, Bill. I am Sneakers O’Toole. You can call me Sneakers.”

“All right, Sneakers,” I replied. “Is there any chance I could ask you to take your sneakers off?”

He looked up at the ceiling thoughtfully, before slowly returning his stone-cold gaze to mine.

“Not a chance in hell.”

TO BE CONTINUED

Monday, May 04, 2009

 
A Couple of FCBD 2009 Pix -- Here are a couple of pictures from the Team Doane excursion to Earthworld Comics this past Saturday, Free Comic Book Day.

My college buddy Jay, Arisia and myself.


Katma Tui, my daughter Kira and Arisia again.


Thanks to JC, Jesse, Tom and everyone at Earthworld for making it another great Free Comic Book Day (as always!).

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My Custom Shatnerverse Kirk 4.5" Action Figure -- In the ten Shatnerverse novels by William Shatner with Judith and Garfield Reeves-Stevens, Captain Kirk is alive and well in the current Star Trek timeline, having been resurrected after the events of Star Trek Generations. After meeting the true love of his life and having all sorts of adventures, the last few books in the series detail Kirk's current gig as Captain of the Starfleet Q-Ship Belle Reve under the supervision of Admiral Kathryn Janeway.

I've recently been rebuilding my collection of Star Trek Playmates 4.5" action figures, and having collected all the extant Kirks, it was really annoying me that I didn't have him in his most recent incarnation, especially since Playmates did produce the other members of the Belle Reve crew, Admiral McCoy, Ambassador Spock and Captain Scott (all in the versions seen on Star Trek: The Next Generation).

Reading up on customizing techniques and having doubles of both figures needed to create my Shatnerverse Kirk (a Generations Kirk and the mail-away exclusive Captain MacKenzie Calhoun figure), I got to work last night, and much to my amazement, I think it worked. Here are the pictures to prove it.













I recommend the Shatnerverse series of novels, by the way, to anyone who was disappointed with where Trek went after First Contact, because Shatner and Judith and Garfield Reeves-Stevens really capture the characters voices and personalities, and it's a gas to be able to experience so many stories about Kirk tooling around the galaxy with Picard, Janeway, and the holographic Doctor from Voyager, not to mention his only friends from the early days of his career to survive into the 24th century, Spock, Bones and Scotty.

Can you tell I am excited to see the new movie coming out this Friday?

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Sunday, May 03, 2009

 
Free Comic Book Day -- The only comic from this year's batch that really struck me was Drawn and Quarterly's Nancy/Melvin flip book, which caught my eye with its design (by Seth) and won me over with its charming stories printed on paper made to look like a vintage comic book. An excellent package.

Did not see the Love and Rockets comic, although after all these years it's safe to say it was probably wonderful. Comics Festival disappointed me by seeming pretty scattershot, like pictures of people having fun from a party I wasn't invited to. One or two of the strips amused, but the overall package didn't knock my socks off like the 2007 edition did.

Everything else I picked up was crap of varying degrees. I guess the days of publishers putting their best foot forward for FCBD are pretty far gone unless you're a boutique artcomix publisher.

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