Sam talks with artist Jim Mahfood about the life of a freelancer, Jack Kirby, the connection between music and art, and 80s television. Fun times were had by all!
And in case you wanted to watch the cheesy Don Johnson goodness of “Heartbeat”….
Sam talks with artist Jim Mahfood about the life of a freelancer, Jack Kirby, the connection between music and art, and 80s television. Fun times were had by all!
And in case you wanted to watch the cheesy Don Johnson goodness of “Heartbeat”….
It’s hard to describe the first issue of Pisces. Not because the issue is awful – it isn’t – but because it’s clearly the beginning of something huge, something that’s going to unfold, like all good storied should, and finally make sense by the end. Maybe. It’s hard to tell right out the gate whether the team of Kurtis J. Wiebe and Johnnie Christmas, who’ve been working on this story for two years, will tell a concrete narrative because Pisces exhibits all the traits of an existential character study where time is fluid and each vignette delves deeper and deeper into a man’s psyche.
What is Pisces about? Wiebe offers this synopsis:
Former fighter pilot Dillon Carpenter found everything he wanted when he returned from the Vietnam War. A loving partner, a dream career training with NASA to travel through space, and soon, he will learn, a prime candidacy for a secret mission, one that will forever change the world: First Contact. But as Dillon prepares, his war trauma returns and he’s haunted by dark visions of his future. There is but one constant; the voice whispering from the stars.
The first issue certainly hits the ground running as we meet a drunken, bloody Dillon stumbling into the emergency room on the night of his son’s birth. After being confronted by the reality of his situation by having it literally beaten into him, we’re transported through the unconscious (or maybe conscious?) mind to Dillon’s time in Vietnam to witness one in what could be a series of decisions made with horrifying consequences.
Wiebe cites multiple influences for Pisces including David Cronenberg’s early career of body horror films from the 70s and 80s, psychological thrillers like Jacob’s Ladder and Martyr, Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey, and Duncan Jones’ Moon. Certainly there are elements of each emerging in the first issue but it’s the sci-fi aspects of Kubrick and Jones that are more prominently featured as we take our first dip into the well of Dillon’s mind. And because we’re following Dillon’s mindscape, there’s plenty of opportunity for Johnnie Christmas to show off his amazing artwork. For all of the fantastical transitions, Christmas’ art has a beautifully raw quality that grounds the story. Even when the panels get fairly illustrative, a quick closeup shot delivers a devastating blow of emotion, particularly in the eyes. Reminds me a lot of Jock, actually. It’s gorgeous and made even more so by colorist Tamra Bonvillain palette. The entire Vietnam flashback is a beautiful display of color setting the mood and tone not just of the setting but also the main character. The dusky optimism of Dillon and his co-pilot Henry escaping their plane crash, the sickening yellow cast over Dillon as he makes his decision to escape alone, and the warm colors of dawn contrasted with the bright blood spilt as Dillon makes his assault on an enemy outpost all serve to make us more intimately aware of his state-of-mind.
What really drew my attention was the symbolism of the first issue. Oh yeah, I’m bringing symbolism into this! Throughout the entire issue water is used a transitional device, which makes sense when you consider the nature of the subconscious where water often acts as a tangible metaphor. Our thoughts jump around all the time and dreams are the mind’s way of trying to make sense of what we perceive on a daily basis as well as the psychological baggage we carry. The deeper the water, the deeper we sink and Dillon seems to sink pretty deep after fist meets face. The title similarly refers to water symbolism with the astrological sign Pisces, the two fishes, but also connects to the first contact mission Dillon embarks on where Pisces the constellation serves as a potential anchor point. One of the more interesting tidbits, for me at least, comes towards the end when Dillon radios into headquarters after killing the Viet Cong soldiers. His call sign is Hades and as he steps out of the hut to make his way to the evac point, he sees a monkey in the trees holding a pomegranate – one of the symbols for Persephone, Queen of the Underworld and Hades’ wife. Ya know, in case there weren’t other reasons Dillon is reliving his past.
All-in-all, Pisces is shaping up to be another solid piece of work. Wiebe and Christmas have started strong. They have my attention and they should definitely have yours.
Pisces #1 goes on sale Wed. April 29th!
Sam is joined by her friends JP and Jerry to talk about the Netflix Daredevil series. Spoilers!
You should also check out JP’s review of the Daredevil series!
One trailer shy of a Furious 7 joke. Sigh.
I know a lot of people are concerned that the bubble’s going to burst on movies geared towards those of the geekier sort. If, however, the quality of the six movies whose trailers dropped within the last two weeks is any indication of their quality, then I think we’re good, where movies are concerned, for the next couple years. The last four days alone have seen most of those trailers released into the murky atmosphere of the internet, so I thought I’d go ahead and give you my thoughts on these films based on the most recent and previous trailers.
Spoiler alert: I plan to see all of these films. I may have reservations about a few, some more than others, but I’m also the type of person who likes to experience the entire movie before I decide whether it’s the new love of my life, the biggest assault on the senses since Batman & Robin, or a disposable piece of fluff.
I’m just that type of girl. Go figure. Anywho, on to the trailers.
Second spoiler warning: The Terminator Genisys trailer gives away the biggest twist of the movie, so if you’ve managed to avoid it and want to remain in the dark I’d recommend scrolling down really, really fast and move on to the next trailer at a furious pace!
Since the first trailer dropped I’ve been on board with the concept of Jurassic World as the logical extension of the original Jurassic Park (1993). Park and World share the same themes of scientific and corporate hubris with World upping the ante as the genetically modified dinosaur created to boost attendance wreaks havoc on the park. Previous trailers and clips have shown the movie will definitely be calling back to some of the more well-known moments in the first film while sticking to the tried and true formula of monster movie scares, dinosaur fights, and possibly some philosophical discussion about blah, blah, blah and oh my God Chris Pratt on a motorcycle riding with his velociraptor hunting pack! Ahem. Sorry, what was I talking about? Anyway, at the very least the movie promises to at least be visually stunning with each park attraction having a very Disney-esque immersion happening. And I know this is wishful thinking, but if there’s any chance Jeff Goldblum’s Ian Malcolm could make a for real cameo, I’d consider this movie a win.
Yeah, I’m not sure why a trailer was made that gives away what would arguably be the biggest mind-blowing moment in the movie, but there ya go. Either the filmmakers and the production company really think Arnold Schwarzenegger’s return to the franchise will put butts in seats just because or they’re really worried no one will see this movie because the last two installments didn’t do them any favors. To be fair, the premise is intriguing. With all the time travel that goes on in the myopic missions of machines trying desperately to eliminate one dude from the timeline, the idea of alternate timelines and what if scenarios actually makes sense. Of course, the type of time travel setup in the Terminator movies requires time to be linear otherwise John Connor’s future would keep changing. There’s also the notion of fate and fixed points in time because the machines keep sending assassins to kill John and his mother and yet they never succeed. But I’ve already put too much thought into this movie. Sorry, time travel as a narrative device is one of those things I obsessively pick apart. But hey, Emilia Clarke looks like a rad young Sarah Connor!
I like the trailers for this movie more and more. Yes, it’s disappointing that Janet Van Dyne, a founding member of the Avengers has been all but written out of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but here’s hoping that Evangeline Lilly’s Hope Van Dyne will become the Wasp and give Ant-Man a run for his money! After the teaser trailer left something to be desired based on the performance of previous Marvel trailers, this one definitely makes up for it in every way possible. Better jokes showing off Paul Rudd’s endless charm as thief turned hero, Scott Lang, and a nice hero turned mentor dynamic set up between Lang and Michael Douglas’ older Hank Pym. Since Hank was also a founding member of the Avengers in the comics, it’ll be interesting to see how they incorporate the Ant-Man origins into a world where superheroes have only been a recent thing. Plus, I’m really digging the effects as Ant-Man and Yellowjacket shrink and grow during their fights. Even though the climactic battle will occur in Scott’s daughter’s room among her toys, director Peyton Reed promises there’s much more to it than just a cute shot of an epic battle on a Thomas the Tank Engine.
The Fantastic Four…with powers! Much better, 20th Century Fox. Like Ant-Man, the Fantastic Four teaser trailer didn’t exactly wow anyone, but this trailer feels like we’re getting a better idea of what the movie will actually be about. Yes, the premise for Marvel’s first family has always been a bit hokey, but there’s plenty to work with as the crux of the movie will center on Reed Richard’s genius that leads to the discovery of another dimension and ultimately changes him and his friends into superpowered heroes. Oh, and Doctor Doom is there too. Doooooom! Reed’s sense of responsibility and his guilt are a huge driving force behind the character so I’m interested in seeing how this will play out in the movie. Crucial to this is the friendship between Reed and Ben Grimm, so hopefully the dynamic between Miles Teller and Jamie Bell has some meat to it. Otherwise we’re just looking at four strangers who happen to get cosmic powers, live together and have their lives taped. Like a superhero Real World. So, yeah, I like what I see from director Josh Trank so far. The effects look amazing and there was actually some humor. Thumbs up for now!
As someone who only looks at Star Wars through the movies (I know, I know Clone Wars and Rebels are part of the canon), I held out a lot of hope for Episode VII after being terribly disappointed by the prequels. Thankfully, it looks like J.J. Abrams will be doing right by the franchise because I love every friggin’ second of this trailer. The opening shot of the Star Destroyer is gorgeous and Luke’s narration made all the goosebumps happen. Do I really need to explain how awesome that final shot was? Do I? It’s Han and Chewie, for cryin’ out loud! This looks like the movie we’ve been waiting for as the older generation gets ready to pass the baton down to the next. How John Boyega, Daisy Ridley, and Oscar Isaac’s characters factor into the universe post-Return of the Jedi still remains unclear, but that’s part of the fun. If all I have going into this movie are the ridiculously awesome visuals, then I’m still going in content with my ignorance of the plot. I want to be surprised by this movie and fall in love with Star Wars all over again.
Okay, not gonna lie, I’ve been down on the burgeoning DC Cinematic Universe for a while. Not because I dislike DC Comics, quite the opposite. I’ve been a DC fan since before I can remember, but Man of Steel was so underwhelming – for me – that it’s going to take a lot to change my mind about what this franchise can offer. At the very least, Batman v Superman holds promise. It won’t be out for another year, but I’m hoping Chris Terrio’s script tackles the rivalry and eventual friendship of Bats and Supes in a way that at least makes sense despite borrowing heavily from Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns wherein their decades long friendship falls apart. Throw in a dizzying amount of cameos from other DC heroes and it’s quite the ambitious start on the road to Justice League. The religious connotations are, of course, present. Looks like Zack Snyder will be following up on the destruction of Metropolis and what it means to have a superpowered “savior” among us. Supes and religion isn’t new territory and Snyder isn’t shying away from the obvious symbolism, so hopefully the script handles it with some subtlety…please? Other than that, Henry Cavill still looks great as Superman and Ben Affleck looks good for the few seconds we get of him as Bruce Wayne and Batman. I’m pretty sure people will be griping about the “Batman gravel” in his voice, but those things don’t bother me. I just want to be able to walk out of a theater next March pumping my fist in the air and shouting “Yeah, Bats and Supes!”
So those are the most recent trailers. What did you guys think? Which movies are you the most excited for and does the trailer factor into that excitement?
It’s been a hell of a time for the Rat Queens, internally and externally, but despite some hiccups along the way Kurtis Wiebe’s sophomore arc, The Far Reaching Tentacles of N’Rygoth, went above and beyond in its storytelling as the Rat Queens and friends fought to save Palisade from the mind-altering squid demons of another dimension. Like ya do. But like everything Wiebe does there’s a greater story being told while the Queens punch, curse, and bring destruction to their enemies with righteous fury. If the first volume, Sass and Sorcery, was our introduction to the world of Rat Queens, then N’Rygoth is our introduction to the people within that world. Now that we have a handle on the personalities and the dynamic between Hannah, Betty, Dee, and Violet, it’s time we got a better idea of who they are and what brought them together.
If we’re going to boil the story down to its nitty-gritty elements, then these are the essentials: Gerrig Lake, the merchant who Old Lady Bernadette hired to “take care” of the quest group problem in Palisade, has been secretly plotting to release demonic beings worshiped by Dee’s religious order to get revenge on Sawyer for the death of his wife. As the demons attack Palisade and its residents, the Rat Queens fight their way to Gerrig’s stronghold, with help from the Four Daves and the Peaches, while trying to stave off the time-altering mind fuckery of the tentacled creatures from beyond. Of course there’s more to the story than just that, but we’ll get to that in a bit. Just know that this is the minimal amount of information you need without being ridiculously spoiled.
That being said…spoilers ahead (unintentional rhyme!).
After the events of the previous volume, the Rat Queens find themselves revisiting their pasts on an epic scale that still manages to feel surprisingly intimate. The arrival of Dee’s husband, Kiah, Hannah’s on-again-off-again relationship with Sawyer, and Violet’s inspirational meeting with the clean-shaven Morgan Meldhammer all speak to the underlying themes of the book: outcasts, acceptance, and misfit families. The need for acceptance and the feeling of belonging has been present from the get-go, but it’s really in N’Rygoth that we see exactly why the world of Rat Queens is so important and why so many people within the comic book community have become ravenous fans. Wiebe stated it very clearly when I interviewed him about the Braga one-shot. Rat Queens is about home and how people from disparate backgrounds come together and create their own families.
This is especially relevant when one looks at the geek community. We’ve often felt isolated because of our interests, but within the communities of fandoms and internet groups, and the rallying point of conventions, we find acceptance and a place where we can be ourselves. Yes, there are times when the creation of like-minded groups causes a great deal of harm, but there are just as many, if not more, cases of groups producing beautiful displays of love, friendship, and family through their bond over something they love. It’s the inclusive nature of Rat Queens that makes us all want to be a part of this world where modern sensibilities meet high fantasy. There’s a reason the book won a GLAAD award. Just sayin’.
From the beginning of the book, Rat Queens has felt fleshed out in a way that many sword and sorcery comics suffer to accomplish. Wiebe’s grasp of the characters, of the people of Palisade, contains just enough of the man himself and his own experiences that one can’t help feeling his sincerity. While Dee is the character Wiebe identifies with the most, he still manages to weave in similarities between most of the Rat Queens. Dee’s religious community, Violet’s tradition-mired clan, Braga’s stagnate horde of orcs, and the subtle jabs directed at Hannah for being a “demon baby” all drive the point home that narrow-mindedness is poison and isolation breeds intolerance. The saving grace for all of them was finding each other in a place where diversity is the norm. Although we still don’t know much about Betty…for now.
Yeah, if I was going to lob any kind of criticism on a book I clearly love, it’d be that Betty, while present within the story, didn’t have much in the way of character development in this arc. Even in the last two issues she doesn’t have much to say or do except regroup with her friends. I can understand with the focus shifts in the story and the unintended hiatus of the book leading to a shorter narrative that something had to give. It’s not unlike the previous arc where Dee’s background was put aside so her outlook and background could have a more thorough explanation so I’m gonna give Rat Queens the benfit of the doubt and trust that Betty will get her due with the next story.
As far as the art goes, Rat Queens really can’t fail from a stylistic standpoint. Yes, the circumstances that brought Stjepan Šejić on as the book’s new artist were unfortunate, but the way he renders Roc Upchurch’s designs are fantastic. Šejić brings just as much energy and movement to the book, but it’s in his expressions where he really punches you in the gut. The scene between Hannah and Sawyer in which Hannah reveals that her rockabilly hairdo is actually hiding a pair of horns is pitch perfect. Šejić captures that fleeting moment where Hannah hopefully looks to Sawyer to say the right thing, which goes as well as you might expect, but the impact of that one panel gave me quite the visceral reaction. There was also Dave and Violet’s romance novel kiss, which made me squeal in delight. Of course, it must be mentioned that Tess Fowler’s work on the Braga one-shot was phenomenal! Like Šejić she makes her style work for telling Braga’s tale. There a hint of adorkability that makes the pages feel warmer, more inviting – that would also be the work of colorist Kelly Fitzpatrick – even when Braga is slaughtering other clans so the bards can sing her accolades.
Rat Queens is a book that plans to be around for a long time and I couldn’t be happier. And it looks like the Queens are headed to Mage University soon. I can’t wait!
Full disclosure this was not supposed to be my introductory piece to the Maniacal Geek. No, actually when I reached out to Sam a week ago and told her that I was itching to write something again I had pitched two completely different ideas. The first a wonderful piece about Flash and its importance to the DC television universe, and second a prediction on the fate of the Jedi Order sans George Lucas. I may very well end up finishing those two stories but something happened in the last few days that changed the game and I feel compelled to write about.
When Marvel and Netflix announced their partnership I admittedly did not think much of it. I have read Daredevil comics, and I know of all the other characters and parts that were suggested, but to be honest I have never been much of a fan and I feared that budgetary and production limitations would make these properties as second class to the MCU as they have often found themselves in the comics. So when Friday rolled around, and I sat working from home, I found that my excitement to watch Daredevil had more to do with the lack of anything compelling on Hulu than a real need to see how it turned out. Bottom line if you stop reading now know this… Daredevil is 13 compelling episodes of cinema with a grit and reality that hide its flaws and highlights the fact that film and TV can now match the world building of comic books. I will not give you a play by play of the series, for that you will need to watch yourself, but here are my reasons why Daredevil just moved to the top of my “television” superhero properties.
1. Cinema Not Television
The first thing I realized as I started to watch Daredevil is that my concerns about budget and production where needless. Daredevil and Hell’s Kitchen are as real and as well defined as any television series about a guy with superpowers has ever come close to being. Showrunner Stephen S. DeKnight has been on record as calling the Wire a source of influence and Wilson Fisk himself Vincent D’Onofrio said that it felt like making a movie, well they are both right. Daredevil exhibits a focus in its storytelling and character development that I would expect from a 2 hour film rather than a 13 episode series. Additionally the fight sequences are beautifully done not only highlighting the individual styles and attitudes of the characters, but walking a line of violence that puts my parent radar on alert while keeping me on the edge of my seat.
While I have binged watched shows before, I have never begun one that was intended to be binged watched. You feel it with Daredevil and it works. The story is meant to be told in large chunks and even the progression of time in the episodes reflects this approach. Events are compacted to help you feel like you are living the predicament of the characters and this is reinforced with the acting. The pacing for some of the B stories is not always perfect, but tell me one film where they always are? Most importantly, even with its radically different tone and storytelling, it still belongs in the MCU. Daredevil never feels misguided or second class and its characters are as compelling as everything we have seen in phase 1 and 2 so far.
2. Genuine Not Gritty
As a DC fan I hate when I hear that they are trying to be more “gritty.” That word makes my skin crawl as I feel it has become synonymous with overacting and gratuitous violence. Daredevil has neither, in fact it has a genuine feel to it that had me thinking more about Breaking Bad than Arrow. Both hero and villain find themselves fighting for the same thing, and walking similar lines. The faint difference that puts them on opposite sides is their willingness to kill another human being. Note that this is important as one finds his willingness forced upon him as a child while the other faces an active choice that he is constantly on the edge of making. This compiled with what I feel is an Emmy worthy performance by D’Onofrio, makes Fisk often the most compelling character on screen. Charlie Cox as Matt Murdock does a great job, though he suffers by comparison to the powerful acting around him. Murdock’s often thin relationship with his faith and questions of his own sanity and worth easily run the risk of being too much and too direct with the “Devil” aspect. But Cox’s conversations with Peter McRobbie’s Father Lantom are well written and well performed, and that is where Cox really shines.
Along with D’Onofrio, every time Vondie Curtis-Hall (Ben Urich) is on screen I am immediately drawn in. Rosario Dawson (Claire Temple a.k.a. Night Nurse) and Toby Leonard Moore (James Wesley) are limited by either screen time or role respectively, but you do not notice it. Both of their performances are spot on and Wesley’s one liners are timely and well delivered. I can go on and on about the cast but I will wrap it up with the three show regulars: Charlie Cox is a compelling Matt Murdock, though his Daredevil persona suffers from the lack of personality that comes from a darker story. That is not to say it is good, but while Daredevil holds up to most of the other parts of the MCU, this is the one place where a moodier story makes for a slightly less dynamic hero. Deborah Ann Woll has already proven to make the most out of a limited role with her time on True Blood, but her take on the innocent victim with a dark past of Karen Page is not only well executed, but actually has me excited to watch her fall from grace as the story continues. Lastly, I will admit I was concerned about how Elden Henson as Foggy Nelson would do. Would his natural ease and nerdy charm stand up to the dark undertones and rest of the grizzled cast. Not only does he have his own serious moments, but he somehow finds a way to maintain his likeability while never becoming the comic relief.
3. World Building
Daredevil is not the Avengers and it is certainly not Guardians of the Galaxy. It does not have time for any of that light hearted fair or banter. Its characters can rarely be described as heroes, and are more what we would deem heroic everyday folks. Hell it is not even remotely recognizable to Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D, but in all of that the MCU just become so much richer than it has been until this point. Don’t get me wrong, I have loved the MCU so far (I think I have seen Guardian’s going on 15 times), but nothing has described the impact and everyday lives of the people in this world like Daredevil does. Daredevil reminds us that when Hulk throws someone into a building there are repercussions. There are people and children that have now grown up in this MCU and heroes and villains are just a fact of life. How would that change how we function as a society? What would our lives look like in this new era?
Most importantly even though it brings color to the MCU picture, it also holds its own. Being the gateway to an entire new world of storytelling that the Netflix productions will be charged with. Sure there is a part of me that now wants to see the Devil of Hell’s Kitchen throw it down with Spider-Man and Captain America, but if it never happens I will be completely OK. Daredevil does not need it nor does the rest of the MCU. Daredevil’s sole responsibility to the MCU is to open the door for characters and heroes that are not the Avengers. That do not play whims to galactic trans-dimensional villains, or to alien hoards, or super science. It is to show that even in a world where a guy with a hammer can call lightning at will and SHIELD spends money like it’s going out of style, people still have to struggle to keep the lights on and have clean running water. I only hope that as we get into the more super-natural story telling of Iron Fist, and ultimately the Defenders, that the realism and grounded nature of Daredevil does not get lost. If Marvel has earned anything so far it is my confidence that it will be just fine.
Marvel and Netflix have yet to confirm a second season, but I have no fear (see what I did there) that it will happen. I expect these Netflix series will be a little more Doctor Who in frequency than most shows, but that is . Mainly because if they keep being this good, I will just watch them over and over again until the new stuff finally hits the internet.
Let me know your thoughts and predictions below and as always thanks for reading. JP