Monday, 25 May 2015

Love don't mix with this pimpin' man!

Because a man cannot live on hate alone - God knows I have tried - I have put some work up on Comicsy that you can pay for if you fancy.  No, I don't fully understand this concept of giving someone money in exchange for their creative work either and I'm not sure it'll catch on, but I've done it anyway so never let it be said that I won't try new things.

The creative work in question is a restoration of the first 21 pages (five chapters) of mid-80s toy tie-in comic War Cars, which you might remember I mentioned here on the blog on the first of Apr-- erm, back at the start of April this year.  I have made no secret of my affection for old UK comics and this project has been prompted by that, specifically Ian Rimmer and Simon Fuman's utterly bonkers Zoids run, as well as elements of Furman's Transformers comics from around the same time.  If you like the thought of a post-apocalyptic Whacky Races-type scenario, have £1.99 to spare and don't fancy waiting around until it turns up on scanning sites so you can read it for free, perhaps you might give it a try?

War Cars Collected 001 is available as a .PDF, .CBZ or .CBR for download to e-readers, tablets, and Borg Distribution Nodes HERE

Saturday, 23 May 2015

It was more of a drinking team with a rugby problem

Seeing as the pilot episode has been stolen from CBS servers and disseminated by pirates to the web and definitely not leaked in a deliberate ploy to drum up publicity ahead of time as has been the case with the producers' other shows, I gave Supergirl a look because I am basically pirate scum, contributing to the destruction of television by downloading pilot episodes that have definitely been leaked to drum up publicity ahead of time.
To start with, the pilot has one good thing going for it: in having a healthy, sexually attractive lead  who is above the age of consent, it will most likely help fill Google Image search results for "supergirl" with something other than pictures of grotesque waifs and the Superman logo photoshopped onto porn stars.  For this alone I am willing to watch at least four seasons of whatever CBS want to throw at me.

Some thoughts as they come to me (the following may or may not make sense if you haven't seen the Supergirl pilot):

So she has all these powers and abilities, but in order to "fit in" with normal people, she creates this illusion of someone weak, clumsy and servile because this is what she thinks human women are like?  What an elitist snob Supergirl is, and I am literally less than four minutes into the show. 
I know Clark Kent is categorized in popular culture as being the same kind of stumblebum character, but he's never actually been a doormat in the various tv shows and movies in the way Supergirl's alter-ego is - the closest he's ever come to that has been the Christopher Reeve movies, but those have the in-built rationale that Clark Kent spent over a decade in the Arctic learning to control his powers (and to be Superman) and forgetting what it was like to be around people so that when he has to be around them as one of them when he rejoins society, he genuinely is clumsy because he doesn't yet know how to function in this world where he can now knock walls down with a careless sigh, and so overcompensates with politeness that is usually thrown back in his face.  With Supergirl, she's grown up around humans and learning to be human all the while, which makes her alter-ego a conscious choice rather than a consequence of isolation, so this is what she thinks a woman should be like in order to blend in.  And why is she wearing glasses?  Clark wore glasses because he knew he was going to be Superman ahead of time, but Supergirl doesn't know she's going to be Supergirl yet, so why the glasses?  Is that what she thinks "forgettable" people look like or something?  What an asshole.  Okay I am probably overthinking this.
I like Dean Cain as her foster dad, though - partly because I like Dean Cain, so I don't mind such utterly daft stunt casting as this and Helen Slater as her foster mum - but mainly because when he's introduced he just shrugs like he could not give a fuck that an alien demigod has just landed in his front yard and told him to look after his cousin because he has cities to flatten and necks to snap.  Cain is just like "muhyeah okay then I don't care" and without speaking a single word, he is already my favorite character in the show.
Cat Grant is being set up as Supergirl's Lex Luthor or J Jonah Jameson already, and even before she's appeared onscreen I don't like this because it reminds me of a similar setup in the comics where the Cat Grant character was thrown under the bus to put Supergirl over with audiences, which I thought was pretty poor storytelling as the problem there was that Supergirl at that time was a pretty flimsy character who buffeted on the winds of each and every writer who took over her title, so what she really needed wasn't an outdated and embarrassing "mean girl" nemesis but a consistent character for more than two months at a time.  It also did a disservice to the relatively new character of Cat Grant who in the comics had a great deal of backstory compared to most of Superman's backing cast (though only ever broke out of the comics to become a one-note sex addict in Lois and Clark), so to see her reduced to petty jealousy of a teenage girl was actually kind of uncomfortable as a reader because it reminded me of how superhero comics generally encourage us to view women.

Oh hey, now I remember where I've seen this actor who plays Supergirl's bezzie - he was that super-unlikeable prick in Smash.  I'll be upfront and say he might have done too good an acting job on that, as I now instinctively hate this character he's playing, even before he says the line "if there was an algorithm for love I would know about it."

James Olsen is introduced as an impressive specimen of towering manhood - I'm not gay or anything, but yeah, I probably would - which seems a bit off to me as he's more well known as a scrappy gopher with lots of heart.  He's kind of one-note here, to be honest, and not very interesting.  Teen shows are literally choking on characters like this - though to be fair, they're choking on scrappy gophers, too (Supergirl's bezzie from Smash being a prime example).

Supergirl has just thrown herself on the sofa of her UTTERLY MASSIVE apartment saying "I don't think I'm living up to my potential", because we're not going to beat about the bush in Supergirl pilot land, we're just going to straight-up read our own character description from the show's PR material.  You know what?  I don't care.  It saves time.  But that apartment - Jesus.  Clearly this city doesn't suffer the same problems with housing that the rest of the cities of the Western world do.  An asshole and a contributor to the social cleansing of the modern urban environment - she needs to save puppies or something real quick, because I am not liking this woman so far.
I think the record will reflect that I am totally on board for superheroines doing plane rescues, but it is 2015 now and outside parody, I think we can do better for an origin story.  Before flying, Supergirl also throws away a perfectly good coat for some reason - more evidence she is stinking rich!  She was also wearing this huge overcoat while on a date in a nightclub for some reason - or was it a restaurant?  I literally could not tell what the set designers were going for just by looking.  Also I am not sure what to make of her clearly only taking an interest in a crashing plane when she thinks it has someone she knows on it.  Oh wait, I do: asshole.
Some of the effects work in the plane rescue sequence are quite good, but sexist pig that I am, I cannot help but notice that the CGI artists have lovingly crafted quite the CGI arse for Supergirl - a CGarse, if you will.  I like that they retain the old warhorse effect of head and shoulder shots of the actor in front of zooming backgrounds, too, though her hair doesn't seem to move very much for someone flying as fast as a plane.  I'm also not sure what her plan seems to be, as she grabs the wing and starts pushing - won't this just make it turn faster to one side?  Then she tries pushing it from below and instead of just making a Supergirl-shaped hole in the fuselage, this actually seems to work, which I have no problems with, as it happens, because despite nitpicking like a jerk, I like this bit of comic-booky logic in a superhero show.
What I do have a problem with, however, is the tremendously tasteless visual of the plane's wing scraping across the bridge.
The show doesn't seem to have any theme music, or they haven't bothered putting any in the pilot.  I suppose Supergirl doesn't really have any close association with any particular theme music, though it's a shame Jerry Goldsmith's superb Supergirl Overture never caught on, as I always like that it was identifiably a riff on John Williams' Superman score, but mostly lacked the militaristic undertones and replaced them with a sweeping sense of scale fitting for a credits sequence featuring light years of space travel.  They might give it a nod in the show proper, though.

Supergirl hugs someone and nearly breaks their spine, so I am expecting they will address The Sex at some point - specifically how she can have some with a normal human male or female (it's 2015, no reason the dramatic potential should be limited to one gender).  I picture her attempts to mate with a human man to end up with something like that time I accidentally stood on a slug when I was taking out the bins.
Supergirl has a 50 inch HDTV in her UTTERLY MASSIVE apartment, I'm just throwing that out there.  Supergirl's sister is all like "don't help people", fulfilling a role usually occupied by the imposing parochialism of Superman's dad in the various media adaptations of the Superman mythos such as Man of Steel and Smallville.  These characters usually serve a narrative purpose in holding the hero back from heeding the call to adventure, and in his dissection of the heroic monomyth, Joseph Campbell saw this as a necessary resistance that helped inform the character of the hero: "Walled in boredom, hard work, or 'culture,' the subject loses the power of significant affirmative action and (...) life feels meaningless" but I think the writers are just doing this because this kind of character is in every superhero show.  Her sister really just comes off as a dick, to be honest - an ungrateful one, at that (she was on the plane Supergirl saved from crashing).
Oh shit they are calling the place National City.  On one hand I like comic booky logic, but on the other hand fuck off.
"James" Olsen is totally dropping his friendship with Superman into conversation now.  What a cock.
Now he's saying Superman saved a plane.  Dissing the originality of the show he's on is a total cock move.  And also my job.

Her bezzie says Supergirl must be gay because she's not into him.  My personal theory is that she's seen Smash.  Her bezzie is also now sliding prickwards in the characterisation scale.
I could have done without that clumsy flying FX and the comedy mugging to the camera.  Also evil truck drivers are making some astounding leaps of logic and deduce within seconds of speculation who Supergirl's mum was out of all the millions of people on Krypton - they just pull it out of the air.
Supergirl is going on about her family's coat of arms being a giant "S" because they're "the house of L", and I quite like the idea of non-nerds being utterly stumped trying to figure this out.

Supergirl finally debuts in her fancy costume and is immediately kidnapped and tied up.
A character refers to Supergirl as an "immigrant", which just gets me wondering why she doesn't have an accent if she came to Earth as a 13 year-old.
I genuinely laughed at the "escaped space prison convicts" thing being Supergirl's fault, as it is exactly the same monster-of-the-week plot enabler used by dozens of other superhero shows too lazy to give their lead characters the virtue of altruism.  Lazy, unoriginal and stupid - they'd already got the character in costume and committed to being a hero, so why does that character need any kind of motivation now?  Why not move this reveal to before she becomes a costumed hero?

A character has just decried the power of coincidence.  I can't tell if this is a sly nod to the viewer about the quality of scripting or a Freudian slip.
A character is asking why the character is called SuperGIRL if she's a grown adult.  Again: nod/Freudian slip=?
I know I have been a total jackass about this show so far, but these bits where she just tears her shirt open and flies at top sped while the music blares - WAS THAT REALLY SO HARD TO DO, AMERICAN TELEVISION?  YES I AM LOOKING AT YOU, 10 YEARS OF SMALLVILLE.  These bits are awesome.

I am assuming these super-vision effects are at the unpolished stage and will be refined later, because they are kind of underwhelming as they are right now.

Supergirl has her first fight with a supervillain and is immediately beaten up and has to be rescued.
"Before you came to live with us, I was the star, but HOW COULD I COMPETE WITH SOMEONE WHO COULD TOUCH THE STARS?"  Holy shit - someone wrote that down.  Let it out of their head and wrote it down on a page.

Sadie Stone from Nashville!
 God she really looks like she thinks she made a terrible mistake in taking this role - and yet also looks bored at the same time.  I don't care, I love her, even if her spouse abuse storyline in Nashville felt like it went on forever and they never made more Go On.
You've probably seen the truck-scrunching bit in the trailer, it's fab.
It's the third act, so Supergirl is much better at fighting now.  Because.

But still gets beaten up.

Which was so inevitable that the characters who are supposedly on her side factored this into their master plan.

Like TV's The Flash, Supergirl needs someone to be talking to her over a radio telling her to do stuff that is both blindingly obvious and also the only possible course of action to take apart from "stand there like a fucking lemon."
Basically, this advice amounts to "use your powers."  So she does.
This is supposed to be a really tense scene where she's holding back a space axe that might kill her, but the makers really need to take a good look at re-cutting this somehow, or at the very least looking up "no sell".  Is it a nerdy complaint to say that "heat vision" shouldn't be blue?  I am pretty sure this is a subjective opinion, but I am also pretty sure it's one that will travel.
"Blah blah big bad threat is coming you have no idea" - tv pilot writing by the numbers.
Also what is it with teen shows and stabbing-related deaths?  Is it a sexual thing people over twenty don't understand?
James Olsen delivers a message from Superman to Supergirl about being proud of her, despite what can only be called a total absence from her life.  Isn't aliens wandering around a major city with a laser axe the sort of thing Superman should take a more active hand in, rather than leaving it to someone who's never even been in a fight?
 Also there's this bit where he makes it clear that he knows Supergirl is really Supergirl and then says "meet me on the roof" and the elevator doors close and Supergirl has this look on her face that says "if we're both going to the roof why didn't he let me get in that elevator with him?"  So now it's not just me attempting to skew events onscreen so that they support humorous hypotheses anymore, "James" Olsen is an in-canon straight-up prick in this show.
I genuinely laughed at Sadie Stone from Nashville playing the evil twin of Supergirl's mum - literally her twin, who is evil.  I cannot decide if this is brilliant or awful, but either way it's amazing that a writer in 2015 would put it down on paper and be like "Sadie Stone from Nashville's evil twin will totally be our show's Thanos."

So them's my impressions of the Supergirl pilot that was definitely not leaked deliberately - by which I mean it totally was leaked deliberately.  By which I mean it's only a possibility and I use phrasing to suggest it as being the case purely for the purposes of humor in case you're reading this Supergirl's producer's lawyers.
Overall, I thought it was at best average.  It lacked focus and a lot of elements seem to be there purely because they're staples of these kinds of shows rather than because they contribute anything at all to what I just watched - like the bestie played by the guy from Smash, who contributes literally nothing to the story beyond making an inappropriate costume for Supergirl to wear so meninists can reassure themselves that the female lead is still there to be ogled now and then and won't accidentally empower any female children that might be watching, but this is not actually contributing to the story so this bestie character is pretty much superfluous.
Supergirl is also kind of boring as a lead.  She doesn't seem to have any identifiable personality traits beyond what's needed for any given moment in a pretty rote superhero storyline.  The only relationship Supergirl seems to have with anyone at all is with her sister, which is a dynamic that Frozen has already proven to be doable in popular media without going over people's heads or lapsing into pantomime or parody territory, but here it seems pretty confused and doesn't go anywhere.  The dynamic with her boss seems to be getting compared to something women and gay men call "The Devil Wears Prada", but I've not seen it so can't comment upon the similarities, though it also goes nowhere in the end.  Nothing is resolved, really, it's just some stuff that happens and then it's over, but then it's maybe asking too much for a superhero tv pilot to be self-contained when superhero movies can't even manage that trick.
 I liked the overtly comic-book logic of a lot of it where they just don't bother explaining things and get on with it, like the plane rescue, the alien space prison that just lands fully intact in the desert and people walk out the doors like it ain't nothing, the evil alien trucker that needs an articulated lorry just to move his phone around, Supergirl deciding to be Supergirl for no discernible reason at all, the alien conspiracy having a top agent who works in the shadows to keep their existence a secret by attacking superheroes in broad daylight with a giant space axe made of lasers - this works for me because it's not supposed to make any kind of real-world sense, it's the right kind of goofy escapism, and for all my nitpicking, I like to see this kind of thing if only as an antidote to the usual teen show wangst.
When they try to overexplain things or create character logic, that's when it seems to me to fall apart a bit more than I'd like, and that bit with Supergirl's sister doing the "I believe in you" speech is beyond painful to watch and disintegrates at the point the writers give up and turn the chore of plot progression over to the Superman staple of holograms of dead parents, leaving the character elements unresolved in favor of Supergirl doing a crying bit that I am not sure would fly were we dealing with a male character.  It also brings up a recurring trope in superhero media where a lot of superheroes are orphans, but they have surrogate parents in their story (Uncle Ben, Alfred Pennyworth, etc) that they love just as much as anyone might be expected to love a parent, so the disregard for Supergirl's human family the moment she sees a hologram of her biological mother seems a bit of a disservice.
I don't like the costume, either - it seems too busy for the sake of being busy, because if you take the disparate elements it has, it's just the same Supergirl costume from the 1984 movie but with lots of unnecessary texture and piping and all the primary colours muddied down until it may as well just be black with a red logo on it.

I also liked the explodey stuff, like the refinery fight, which was well done even if you could see the joins between FX and live actors, and speaking of actors, Faran Tahir should get a medal for playing the same character in so many shows without snapping and going on an entirely justified murder spree of half of Hollywood, because he has a ton of presence and as usual it's wasted on a subordinate role - although I grant you any actor would be subordinate to not just one Sadie Stone from Nashville, but the two Sadie Stones from Nashville we get here.

So a resounding "meh" from my critical faculties for this one, though it'll probably get a pass for its many faults because it's a genre show and/or aimed at teens, both of which usually have pretty low standards as audiences.  It'll also likely get a free ride because it's the first costumed female superhero on USTV since Wonder Woman and female genre fans are treated so poorly that I can understand why they'd be happy enough being tossed a bone like this, as even if the show isn't much good and features a character derived from a male, it's still a lead female superhero on the screen, a feat that Marvel haven't managed in 11 movies - though to be fair to Marvel, they know what they're doing and I'm sure every last one of those billions of dollars their superhero movies made came exclusively from male cinemagoers.

Thursday, 21 May 2015

You don't understand - you're dealing with Catholics now

So that's me done with the old scanning now.  Regular readers of the blog will notice that I've been scanning these old comics at such a slow rate it might actually have been faster if I'd conceived, written, drawn, coloured, lettered, and then artificially aged each and every page of this comic myself, but you would be wrong about that because it would have taken exactly the same amount of time if I had done that.  Which I haven't.

Tuesday, 19 May 2015

I was defending the fantasy genre with terminal intensity

Simon Pegg has denounced the trappings of geekdom as childish, but I vehemently disagree - kids aren't as close-minded and conservative as geeks are.  Personally I think it'd be great if geeks were childish - if they had a love of the risky, the outlandish, the new and the exciting, instead of the same few tired old tropes wrapped up in reboots and chauvinism, like that Trek franchise that stars that English comedian... what was his name again..?  I'm sure it'll come to me later.
I suspect that some glib comments have simply been blown out of proportion to drive up web traffic for a struggling website, though I don't discount that Pegg might be trying to reinvent himself as a Hollywood sellout so that people will take him seriously as a screenwriter on the other side of the pond - and if that's how the creator of Spaced and Shaun of the Dead wants to roll, I can't as a fan of both begrudge him.

I don't get the tattoo thing, he looked like the wall of a bar's bathroom

Nearly done... erm... scanning the final War Cars pages, so only a hit-and-run post today, to paste a screen-grab before speeding off into the dawn.  Handily, it looks like I'll be finished with this post-apocalyptic car racing thing right before I go see Mad Max Fury Road.

Thursday, 14 May 2015

Turns out my dad and terrorists have similar tastes

There's an old saying that's always fascinated me: "A thief, above all other things, fears that he will be robbed." which is a great saying about how what a man does in life defines him and how he views the world.

"We cannot allow these workshy layabouts to get something for nothing from the British taxpayer" they tell us as they drink at a free bar in the house of Commons, have their meals and houses paid for, vote themselves raises, and sell public property and infrastructure to companies they will later work for.
"Violence on the streets will not be tolerated" they tell us as they send armored thugs into the streets against women and children.
"We can't have the EU dictating what human rights we have" they tell us as they change laws to avoid being charged with human rights violations.
"We can't go on a pedophile witch-hunt" they tell us months before it emerges they've been suppressing an investigation into their own MPs raping and murdering children.
"We will stamp out ideological extremists that are hell-bent on destroying our way of life" they tell us now, as they get ready to scrap the human rights act, to "create a threshold under which human rights no longer apply", to declare strike action illegal, to criminalise protest, to take benefits from the most vulnerable, to force the unemployed into working for corporations for nothing like the slaves in a cyberpunk novel or something - all a bit mad if you think about it, but no madder than the fact we accept it.
God, here we are at the final paragraph and I've forgotten where I was going with the theme of this post.  I'm terrible at this writing thing.

Wednesday, 13 May 2015

I don't know about "the world", but I'm about to end YOUR FACE

Nashville is the usual USTV drama, but it's also got a subversive streak in that, while almost all USTV dramas are about the wealthy, affluent or middle classes and the dramas specific to their income bracket, Nashville is quite clearly a show about white trash, but unlike shows like Revenge or Ray Donovan with equally ludicrous storylines in affluent white American surroundings, it's not actively unpleasant to watch.

Tuesday, 12 May 2015

There are two things I won't talk about - taxes and your flying dreams

Last Man Standing YES I AM STILL WATCHING IT LORD HELP ME I HAVE A PROBLEM tries and fails of late to counter its reputation as a right-wing soapbox for noted DUI conviction collector Tim Allen by addressing social issues that I suspect would rarely impact upon the lives of its affluent protagonists, such as homeless families, the plight of war veterans and so on, yet it never seems to address what government was in power when these homeless people or war veterans tossed on the streets like trash were created, even though it will make the effort to go back years to find jokes it can make about Democrats, especially jokes about about "Bill Clinton", who according to Wikipedia was a Democratic president twenty years ago, though I suppose I shouldn't rule out the idea that Tim Allen's material stops being fresh around that time.  I guess I just find it odd that the scriptwriters need to go so far back to find something about the Democrats to make fun of, as there's plenty of stuff to make fun of right now, like the Democrats being in the pocket of oil companies, their waging questionable wars, their refusing to tax the rich, their fear mongering and conservatism and the lasting harm it does to Americans outside the tiny cloister of the super-rich... for some reason, Last Man Standing doesn't want to make fun of these specific and very current issues and I can't imagine why.
But hey, Galaxy Quest was a good movie - am I right?

Monday, 11 May 2015

Do you like the Mentalist? Hands are goin' up - okay, hands are not going up

One of my earliest experiences of Tokusatsu was the opening moments of Tokusou Sentai Dekaranger, where the main character drives a giant toy across an alien planet's surface and crashes through a wall into a church where dozens of cats are having what is clearly a Christian wedding ceremony, so obviously there's some kind of cultural osmosis going on, most likely fueled by Christianity(1) being the dominant theological orthodoxy of the Western media that permeates the vast majority of popular culture, making it utterly amazing that in the year 2015, someone who lives and works in the West knows absolutely nothing about Christianity beyond the words "God, "Devil", and that angels have wings - although they somehow also do not know that angels are called angels.  Like I say, it's pretty amazing - but "amazing" does not in this instance translate to "good television."
Don't get me wrong, though, The Messengers is not embarrassingly terrible all of the time, most of the time it is competently made and doesn't draw attention to itself or the mountain of cliches it heaps upon your screen, but every five minutes or so there's something so cliched or thick-headed happening that a little voice starts going "holy cats, you are actually sitting here watching this."
The voice continues: "what if someone came in and saw you?  What if that bit was the first thing they saw of this show, and they thought it was like this all the time, and that you choose to watch a show like this?"  I am not saying that you would be less embarrassed if someone came into the room and found you watching pornography, but it's a close thing.  I would probably grab my phone quickly and pretend that I didn't notice what was on my tv because I was busy masturbating to animal-based pornography videos I had saved to my flash card and no you can't see them but they definately exist and I was whacking it hard to them and not watching The Messengers - if that's even what that show is called because I wouldn't know.
That's basically the quality of The Messengers - as long as you are completely alone and no-one knows you're watching it, you could probably sit through an episode, but you would be in no doubt that what you were watching was not very good.  I made it all the way through episode 2, but didn't make it to the end of the recap at the start of episode 3.  I suppose that here in the last paragraph I should thematically link back to the first paragraph's subject matter of Christianity in the media and maybe make some kind of point about the makers of The Messengers not drawing upon Christianity but instead the villainous interpretation of its mythology presented in post-millennial efforts such as Constantine, Supernatural, and Spawn comic books, if for no other reason than that I can also link back to my past posts about tv writing feeding upon itself like a human centipede and the viewer being the person at the back, so that is what I have just done.

(1) And by "Christianity" I of course mean "Protestantism", as Catholicism is only featured in media if they need to do something about guilt, forgiveness, or pedophiles.

Friday, 8 May 2015

I'm gonna go watch the Hurt Locker to cheer myself up

Still scanning old comics.  Yyyyyup.
Ironic that I should currently be working on something that so prominently features characters scrabbling to survive in the ruins of society, as the result of the recent election means I'll soon have all the firsthand visual reference I could hope for.  The bright side of all this is that those who voted for the Tories will shortly be feeling the results of doing so, because no-one outside the elite will be spared from the five-year cash-grab that's about to happen.  Still, it could be worse - at least I've got my health.
I'll want to hang onto that, I gather.