• Moviestuff: Adaptations.


    I knew I was forgetting a few things in yesterday’s Geekstuff post, so here are some tidbits about upcoming movie adaptations of comic books, graphic novels and cartoons.

    Transformers: Ghosts of Yesterday, by Alan Dean Foster, is the “official prequel” to the upcoming Transformers live-action movie. I’ve got mixed expectations for the movie and I generally avoid movie tie-in books like the plague (ditto for comic book tie-in novelsA recent exception was Devin Grayson’s Inheritance, a novel set in the DC Universe. Unlike the handful of other comic book tie-in novels I’ve read, this one managed to make the jump from panels to prose pretty well.); on the other hand, I’ve enjoyed some of Foster’s earlier novels (particularly his Spellsinger series) and I do loves me some transforming robots. When a bookstore gift card was dropped in my lap earlier this week, I decided to give the novel a look.

    Zack Snyder, who directed the brilliant, beautiful and brutal movie adaptation of Frank Miller’s graphic novel, 300, has apparently been tapped to helm“[T]apped to helm” is officially part of the Hollywood vernacular, it seems. another movie adaptation: Alan Moore’s Watchmen.The likelihood of Alan Moore’s name appearing anywhere on screen is slim to none, as Moore wants nothing to do with his works being adapted to film. Thanks to tricksy comic book companies like DC taking ownership of the works their artists produce, several of Moore’s graphic novels — most notably V for Vendetta, The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen and From Hell — have been turned into movies without his consent. I thought 300 was a fantastic movie, but is about a stylistically removed from Watchmen as you can get; it will be interesting to see what Snyder does with a graphic novel whose fans are sharply divided as to whether it can (or even should) ever be properly adapted to film. It’s been a while since I read Watchmen, but I think Bruce Davison (Lathe of Heaven, X-Men) is well-suited to the role of Dan Dreiberg, AKA Nite Owl.

    I had a copy of the new, extended cut of Fantastic Four in my hands twice a couple of days ago, but ultimately left it in the store. It seems that “Ultimate Collector’s Limited Edition” DVD — which came in a round tin that won’t sit nicely with the other DVDs on my shelf — isn’t quite as ultimateCome on, Twentieth Century Fox, get with the program. Once you’ve released an “ultimate” version, there should be no more versions. The word has a meaning; look it up! as one might expect, as the new release contains twenty minutes of previously unreleased footage and a second disc, undoubtedly jam-packed with new special features. Tempted though I was by this new version, I realized that those twenty minutes are far more likely to contain scenes of Johnny and Ben bickering than an extended battle sequence with Dr. Doom. I’m sure I’ll pick it up eventually, as special DVD features are like a kind of crack to me.

    I’d say something about the Wachowski Brothers’ live-action adaptation of Speed Racer, but I’ve never actually watched the cartoon. If you’re the enterprising sort, you may be able to find a photo of Speed’s car, the Mach 5, on the Internets, perhaps even here somewhere.

  • Geekstuff: The Birthday Rundown


    Well, I’ve been thirty-four years old for a week now and I’ve gotta say I’m liking it so far. There are times when being an adult is all about socks and shirts and ties, oil changes and mortgage payments, but I’m happy to say that my family and friends know that I’m still all about the books, comics, toys and games. Apart from a very nice polo shirt from my mother-in-law, most of my birthday bounty would have been eagerly received by seventeen-year-old me.

    • LEGO Star Wars II: The Original Trilogy for the Xbox, from my young apprentice. Everything is proceeding as I have foreseen.
    • The Making of Star Wars by J.W. Rinzler, from Laura.
    • A Boba Fett t-shirt, also from Laura.
    • The Ultimate Fantastic Four trade paperbacks volumes 1-5, from Miscellaneous G™.
    • Three Hellboy comics signed by Mike Mignola, from Chris.
    • A green FlyTech Dragonfly, from my sister-in-law and her family. A remote-controlled ornithopter! How cool is that?
    • A musical Batman card from my elder, bigger little sister.
    • Filthy lucre from my parents, mother-in-law and grandparents-in-law, which I used to buy:
      • 18 by Moby (CD)
      • Play by Moby (CD)
      • Hellboy: Sword of Storms (DVD)
      • Dune: Extended Edition (DVD)
      • Blade Runner: Director’s Cut (DVD)
      • Pan’s Labyrinth (DVD)
    • Last but not least, pumpkin pie from my grandparents-in-law. Yes, it’s more of a fall pie. I don’t care. I will eat it now and then, I will eat it anywhen!

    [EDIT: I forgot a couple of things!]

    • Police Squad! The Complete Series on DVD, from the Wiitalas. Police Squad! didn’t succeed as a television series (a shame, because it’s hilarious), but it eventually evolved into three Naked Gun movies.
    • Spamalot Original Cast Recording, also from the Wiitalas. Laura and I saw Spamalot last year, and it was fantastic. My favorite song is probably “The Song That Goes Like This”, but they’re all good.
    • The first season of Arrested Development on DVD, from my sister and her boyfriend. Despite several people telling me I should have been watching this show when it was originally on the air, I’ve never seen it. I’m probably directly responsible for its cancellation.
    • The Omnivore’s Dilemma, also from my sister and her boyfriend. I’m not sure, but I think this book has something to do with that “fourth meal” I’ve been hearing about at Taco Bell.

    Are my friends and family not awesome? Yes. Yes they are. They made me a very happy birthday boy.

  • RPG: With Great Power… (Part 1 – Origins)


    With Great Power...When Chris Miller returned from GenCon last month, he brought me a copy of With Great Power…, a roleplaying game from Incarnadine Press. The title is taken from a classic line spoken by Peter Parker’s uncle, Ben Parker. “With great power,” Uncle Ben told his nephew, “comes great responsibility.” This, perhaps more than anything, is what drives Peter to don the mask of Spider-Man day after day and put himself in harm’s way to protect the innocent from all manner of malevolent villains.

    With Great Power…, as you might have guessed, is a superhero roleplaying game, in which players create their own heroes to battle evil and injustice in the world. Unlike so-called “traditional” RPGs, characters in With Great Power… are not defined by a series of ability scores like Strength, Dexterity and Charisma, but rather in more abstract terms, such as their relationships, convictions and sense of duty.

    Wednesday evening I walked through “The Origin Process” with Chris and his friend, Matt. With Great Power… is all about collaborative storytelling right from the start. Players (Chris and Matt) and GM (myself) first decide what the overall theme of the game will be. This is expressed in terms of a struggle that each of the characters must face throughout the story. Chris latched onto “Justice vs. Vengeance” almost immediately, and we ran with it.

    After the Struggle has been chosen, character creation begins. As with everything else in With Great Power…, character creation is a collaborative process. Players do not create their characters in a vacuum, armed with a set of dice and some general parameters provided by the GM. Instead, each player answers a series of questions about his or her character and the other players are encouraged to add details as the hero is being fleshed out, a process referred to as “penciling”.

    None of us were used to this type of character creation, but after spinning our wheels for a few minutes we started to have a lot of fun with it. The characters began to take form as ideas about their origin, powers, relationships and responsibilities came from all directions, some concepts blossoming and others withering on the vine.

    Chris’ probability-altering hero is the twentysomething son of a wealthy defense contractor. Young and idealistic, he wants to see the family’s wealth and influence used for more humanitarian purposes, a goal that is directly contrary to his twin sister’s bloodthirsty ambitions. While their father lies in a coma (thanks to an “accident” arranged by the sister), the conflict between the twins will likely escalate from sibling rivalry to a full-fledged familial war.

    Halfway around the world, Matt’s hero—struggling to understand and control his newly-emerging superhuman strength—mourns the murder of his Lebanese fianceé and begins his quest for vengeance against those responsible for her death. Little does he know that the trail of her killers will lead him back to the United States, and the arms-dealing daughter of a comatose billionaire…

    At this point, The Origin Process isn’t quite complete. We still have to boil the characters’ aspects down to their essence to make it easier to gauge how much they suffer during the thematic Struggle. Suffering is key to the conflict-resolution of the game, which is accomplished through negotiation and playing cards rather than dice rolls. Scenes are built much like characters are created, through a collaborative effort by everyone involved. How well this storytelling concept works for us will be discovered over the next several weeks as we complete The Origin Process and move into enrichment, conflict and the story arc.

    Stay tuned.

  • Podcast: Fist Full of Comics (and Games)


    Fist Full of Comics by The Round TableFriday night, the hosts of The Round Table donned their superhero guises to host Fist Full of Comics (and Games) as part of a crossover event currently taking place among several gaming podcasts. It seems that the wizard Weirdbeard, powerful-but-clumsy mascot of the Does My Geek Look Big in This? podcast, managed to bugger up his latest spell, which should surprise no one. The result of his mangled magick is that eleven of Weirdbeard’s favorite gaming podcasts have been jumbled together. Mick, Chris, Julia and I wound up on Fist Full of Comics, while the regular hosts of that show (including JJ “Working Man” Lanza and Victor “Tangent” Cantu) were off reviewing beer on Does My Geek Look Big in This?

    The show was a lot of fun to do, and we managed to apply our trademark mythic twist on comic books and superheroes, topics we only occasionally discuss on The Round Table. The episode should appear on the regular Fist Full of Comics feed as well as the special Shaken Not Stirred feed sometime in the next week or so.

  • Movie Review: X-Men: The Last Stand (2006)


    X-Men: The Last Stand (DVD)X-Men: The Last Stand (2006)

    Starring Patrick Stewart, Hugh Jackman, Halle Berry, Ian McKellen, Famke Janssen, Anna Paquin, Kelsey Grammer, Rebecca Romjin, James Marsden, Shawn Ashmore, Aaron Stanford, Ellen Page, Bill Duke and Big Chris.

    Directed by Brett Ratner.

    I saw X-Men: The Last Stand at the gloriously restored Pic Theater 1I’m taking some liberty with the word “gloriously” here. There was a fire at the Pic a couple of years after I graduated from high school, and the theater was closed for a while. I … Continue reading in Hancock, Michigan with my wife and two of my siblings.

    The Pic is a very humble theater, a single-screen relic with no stadium seating, digital projector or THX-certified surround sound. Across the Portage Canal, the Pic’s sister theater, the Lode, now sports three screens and, up the hill at the Copper Country Mall, Carmike Cinema has five. None of these theaters rival the Cinemark or Regal multi-plexes scattered across northeast Ohio, but the Pic is the last place I would have expected to see the first of the so-called summer blockbusters.

    As it turns out, the venue in which X-Men: The Last Stand was playing was the least of my worries. Like an unstoppable juggernaut, the creative forces behind the film had trampled the franchise underfoot leaving only devastation and ruin in their path. If only Bryan Singer hadn’t been too busy directing Brandon Routh’s spit-curl in Superman Returns, maybe he could have spared me this pain.

    If you’d rather have X-Men: The Last Stand spoiled for you the old-fashioned way—in a theater, by Brett Ratner and company—then you may not want to continue reading. 2If you do go this route, you’ll want to stick around for the zinger after the end credits.

    1 I’m taking some liberty with the word “gloriously” here. There was a fire at the Pic a couple of years after I graduated from high school, and the theater was closed for a while. I don’t believe the theater was modernized at all during its renovation/restoration/repair; the theater is almost entirely unchanged since I saw Bram Stoker’s Dracula there three times back in 1992, except that the balcony is now closed.
    2 If you do go this route, you’ll want to stick around for the zinger after the end credits.
  • DVD Review: Los Cuatro Fantásticos (2005)


    Fantastic Four Ultimate Collector's Edition DVDFantastic Four Ultimate Collector’s Edition DVD (2005)

    Starring Horatio Hornblower, Jessica Alba, Chris Evans, Michael Chiklis, Julian McMahon, Hamish Linklater, Kerry Washington, Laurie Holden and Maria Menounos.

    Directed by Tim Story.

    The Fantastic Four Ultimate Collector’s Edition DVD comes with a miniature reprint of Ultimate Fantastic Four #12, a $5-off coupon (expired on 31 March 2006) for the 44 Years of Fantastic Four DVD-ROM, and a round “collector’s tin” containing the DVD, eight round “collector’s cards” and CD-ROM containing the first twenty-three issues of the Ultimate Fantastic Four comic book series in PDF. In lieu of a regular DVD clamshell case, the collector’s edition also includes a cardboard stand for the collector’s tin.

    As gimmicks go, this one isn’t so hot. That’s going to look really nice sitting on the center channel speaker above my television until I inadvertently knock it off while fishing for a DVD or Laura gets tired of looking at it. Either way, the lack of a clamshell DVD case is going to make it a pain in the ass to store. Two points for initial impact, minus several dozen points for impracticality.

    The round “collector’s cards” just what you might expect: images from the movie or marketing material with appropriate blurbs on the back. One for each of the main characters and a couple for the movie in general. Nothing too exciting there. Of course, the only place to conveniently store the cards is in the round collector’s tin.

    The mini-comic looks like something Pizza Hut might have given away back in the early 1990’s. I can only guess that issue number twelve of Ultimate Fantastic Four was chosen because it is the culmination of the ultimate quartet’s first encounter with the ultimate version of Doctor Doom. It’s not bad, but a direct movie tie-in—say an issue of the comic book adaptation of the movie—would have been a better choice.

    On the other hand, I’m very pleased with the other “ultimate” material, despite the fact that it doesn’t reflect the movie version of the Fantastic Four. The first twenty-three issues of Ultimate Fantastic Four (plus the first annual) more than makes up for the impracticality of the collector’s tin and the disposability of the collector’s cards and mini-comic, provided you’re at least interested in Marvel’s “Ultimate” line of comics, which I am. I’ll save comparison of the Ultimate Fantastic Four and the Lee/Kirby classics for another day.

    Finally, there is the DVD itself, which has a full-length feature commentary by members of the cast and several “making of” featurettes. There’s also a video diary of the pre-release cast appearances, but to be honest, I can only take so much of Jessica Alba when she’s not portraying someone other than Jessica Alba, so I only watched a couple of minutes before exploring the rest of the disc. There’s only one DVD disc, so the ultimate collector’s edition isn’t exactly brimming with special features. There are a couple of music videos as well as the film’s teasers and trailers.

    So which feature did I most enjoy? The Spanish language audio track, of course. I’m disappointed whenever I see that the only languages available on a DVD are English and French. Why? Well, mostly because I have no desire to learn French as a second language, whereas I would very much like to learn to speak Spanish. Also, Laura speaks a little Spanish, so she can relate the occasional amusing translation tidbit. For example, after Johnny Storm performs a stunt on a dirt bike in front of an arena of screaming fans, the announcer calls the stunt “old school” in the English dialog. In Spanish, he says, “We’ve seen that before, Johnny.”

    Well, it amused us.

    I’ve discussed the merits of Fantastic Four in a previous post, but I will say that the movie works very well on the small screen. The final battle, which seemed rather anti-climactic in the theater, played much better in my living room. Oh, and I like the Spanish version of the Thing’s voice better than I do Michael Chiklis’. Sorry, Commish.

  • Comics: Iron Spidey


    Apart from the occasional Ultimate Spider-Man trade paperback, I don’t pay too much attention to Spider-Man comics these days. I know there was some “Spider-clone” hubbub a few years back, but I had long since stopped buying the comics, so I didn’t get excited about it.

    This morning, co-worker Chuck (AKA gator) tossed a copy of The Amazing Spider-Man #531 onto my desk. The first thing to catch my eye was Captain America sitting next to two other guys on a couch, apparently watching a little teevee. The guy on the other end of the couch looked an awful lot like Tony “Iron Man” Stark, but who the hell was the evil Iron Fist wannabe munching popcorn in the middle?

    Well, that’d be Spider-Man, in his new “Iron Spidey” costume. Seems Tony Stark is now Spider-Man’s “boss” and he gave the webslinger a new, upgraded costume. The new duds are red and gold, which makes for some nice color coordination with Iron Man’s armor (can you say “branding”?), and it was built by Tony Stark, so it’s got all sorts of gadgets and gizmos built in. You know, a nice Heads-Up Display, on-board computer, glider wings, and stabby arms that shoot out of the back.

    Wait a minute. Stabby arms? Yep. Think Doctor Octopus, only… well, stabbier. I counted three golden, multi-jointed arms jutting out of a golden circle on the back of the costume, stabbing Titanium Man right in the face.

    Now, granted, Titanium Man was kinda asking for it, and he is wearing a full-face, armored helmet, but the whole stabby arms business just doesn’t seem like Spider-Man to me. For that matter, neither do the on-board computer and HUD. Spidey has always relied on his radioactive-arachnid-given abilities and sharp wit to get by; using technological gizmos — with the exception of the web-shooters he designed — has always been a last resort. For a fine example of this (not to mention an example of Spidey’s bad luck with new costumes), see the alien costume saga, in which Spidey ultimately turns to Mister Fantastic and a sonic cannon to help him fight the symbiote.

    New costume or old, I don’t plan on reading any more issues of The Amazing Spider-Man any time soon, and as long as Joe Quesada (Editor in Chief of Marvel Comics and apparently the brains behind the new costume) doesn’t mess with Ultimate Spider-Man or (even worse) the Spider-Man movies, I’m okay.

    But damn, that’s an ugly costume.

  • Coming Soon: Hellboy Animated


    While writer Mike Mignola and director Guillermo del Toro work on Hellboy 2: The Golden Army for a 2007 release, Tad Stones and company are working on two animated Hellboy movies that will be aired on Cartoon Network’s Toonami sometime this year. The animated movies feature Ron Perlman as the voice of Hellboy and John Hurt as Doctor Broom.

    Hellboy Animated: What Will It Look Like?

    Tad Stones keeps a production diary at Hellboy Animated, which I found only yesterday. No sooner had I subscribed to the RSS feed than Tad made the Toonami announcement.

    I’m also psyched (do people say that anymore?) that Toonami will have a Fantastic Four animated series, the second Ultimate Avengers movie, and an animated Iron Man feature.

  • The Ultimates Vol. 2: Homeland Security


    The Ultimates Vol. 2: Homeland SecurityThe Ultimates Vol. 2: Homeland Security

    Written by Mark Millar

    Illustrated by Bryan Hitch

    I clearly don’t purchase enough comic books. Some people (my wife, in particular) might question the accuracy of that statement, but “enough” is a subjective term and is currently subject to my parameters. Thus, the statement is valid.

    The upside of not purchasing enough comic books is that the titles that I might be inclined to purchase are often collected in trade paperbacks that are convenient and largely advertisement-free. This is the case with Marvel’s Ultimate universe. I’ve never purchased a single standalone issue of any series in the universe, but I’ve purchase trade paperback collections of The Ultimates, Ultimate Spider-Man and Ultimate X-Men. Ultimate Fantastic Four is next on my list.

    Last week I bought a copy of The Ultimates Vol. 2: Homeland Security, which collects issues 7 – 13 of The Ultimates comic book. Now that I’ve read Homeland Security (how many Google hits am I going to get from that phrase?), I can see that The Ultimate Avengers animated movie was pretty much based on the first thirteen issues of the comic book.

    If you read my review of The Ultimate Avengers, you may recall me mentioning the alien invasion storyarc that wasn’t evident in the first six issues of The Ultimates. That’s because the aliens weren’t a factor in the series until about issue eight, when Nick Fury of S.H.I.E.L.D. pretty much retconned the latter half of the 20th century. The big difference between the movie and the comic book is that the shape-shifting aliens (called the Chitauri, though in some cultures they are known as Skrulls) aren’t shy about revealing their true form on the screen, something they almost never do in the comics.

    The pesky aliens, as it turns out, have been around for quite a while and frequently try to stir up all kinds of trouble. Such a stir has begun and Nick Fury wants The Ultimates and S.H.I.E.L.D. to put an end to it. On the roster are Captain America, Iron Man, the Black Widow and Thor. Team members Giant Man, Wasp, Hawkeye and the Hulk are largely uninvolved this time out, for various reasons. I say “largely” because all of them figure into the story at one point or another, though not necessarily into the “defend Earth from alien invasion” bit. Also, I’m not entirely certain that Hawkeye is officially a member of The Ultimates.

    It’s not a new story, by any means, but that doesn’t make it any less entertain. Mark Millar spins a decent yarn, and his “Ultimate” take on the characters is interesting. Captain America, for instance, is still an uberpatriot, but he’s also not going to put up with any shit from his teammates, and he’ll pound the point home very literally, if need be. Bruce Banner starts the series almost entirely wrapped up in his own little (well, big) problems, but has begun to appreciate the consequences of having an angry, destructive force living within himself. Thor is a hammer-wielding hippie who may or may not be an escaped mental patient and/or the son of Odin.

    To go along with Millar’s imaginative interpretations of these classic heroes, the artwork by Bryan Hitch is beautiful. Taking a cue from Alex Ross and other comic book artists who lean toward photorealism (and, perhaps, from the X-Men movies), Hitch’s heroes aren’t running around in spandex. Their uniforms appear far more practical and (with the exception of Captain America and Iron Man) far less flashy. They look more like clothing and less like a second skin, which works very well for the series.

    I believe that The Ultimates wrapped after thirteen issues, followed by The Ultimates 2, which picks up a year after the alien invasion is resolved and features a bunch of new characters. Whether the sequel to The Ultimate Avengers movie will continue to follow the comic books remains to be seen. All I know is that I don’t purchase nearly enough comics and The Ultimates 2 Vol. 1: Gods and Monsters is on bookshelves now.

  • Hustle & Flow, as it turns out, is not a superhero buddy film featuring The Flash and Aquaman. It is entirely possible that I am the only person on the planet who is saddened by this realization.

    Where’s the love for Aquaman, people? Where’s the love?