BATMAN YEAR ONE or EARTH ONE: Which Should You Read?

tomspeelman:

Happy Batman Day! I’m in California!

Originally posted on Another Castle:

Source: The Fellowship of the Geeks

Source: The Fellowship of the Geeks

2014 marks Batman’s 75th anniversary and DC Comics has been celebrating in high fashion. They’ve launched a weekly comic book called Batman Eternal that, throughout the year, will change Batman and his supporting cast “forever” — as it goes in comics.

In February, they released an extra-sized issue of Detective Comics #27, commemorating the Dark Knight’s first appearance. DC has also released an oversized hardcover collection of essential Batman stories.

Among the many Batman books that’ll see increased sales numbers this year are 1987’s Batman: Year One by Frank Miller & David Mazzucchelli, and Batman: Earth One by Geoff Johns and Gary Frank, released in 2012. Both are origin stories told by all-star creators. Critically acclaimed upon release, they’ve both been partially adapted into other media.

Batman: Year One

Source: Fanzing.com

Source: Fanzing.com

The Script

Frank Miller is one of the most influential comics writers…

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5 Must-See Asian Films on Netflix Instant Queue

tomspeelman:

Not an article of mine but worth reading.

Originally posted on Another Castle:

Source: 4GeeksLikeYou.com

Source: 4GeeksLikeYou.com

After Oldboy, Ringu, and pretty much every Jackie Chan film dating back to the early ’80s, Asian cinema has won over audiences worldwide and shown that they mean just as much to the film industry as any American produced fare.

In the technologically advanced age we now live in, cinemaphiles and weekend watchers alike can now take full advantage of films that never could or would have occupied limited Blockbuster shelves. Among the thousands of Netflix Instant titles that exist sit a lesser exposed market of Asian films.

Understandably, the bevy of titles available can sometimes be overwhelming and cumbersome. Fortunately, we have a few we think you’d like.

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New World [Korean | 신세계 | 2013]

As the first in a planned trilogy, writer / director Park Hoon-jung tackles the seedy underworld of organized crime through the eyes of undercover officer Ja-sung. After being tasked with infiltrating the biggest…

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Star Trek Saturdays #38

It’s time for…Star Trek Saturdays #38!!!

292px-TOS_head

This week’s episode is “The Apple” and it has some really strong McCoy moments and some pretty great suspense, even if the ending doesn’t quite hold up.

We begin with the landing party of Kirk, Spock, Chekov, McCoy and some others beaming down to the planet Gamma Trianguli IV for exploration and analysis. The surface is completely jungle-like and Spock registers with his tricorder that the planetwide temperature is 76 degrees.

However nice it seems, the planet proves to be dangerous. One of the crewmen gets shot and killed by a pod plant that shoots poisonous darts. Kirk contacts Scotty, who’s been left in charge on the bridge. Scotty says that the antimatter pods are acting strange and the planet’s electromagnetic field seems slightly abnormal. Spock records that artificially produced vibrations are emanating throughout.

Kirk orders the other redshirts to sweep the area, but to beware anything that looks humanoid. Kirk sees something moving and decides to lead the party on to the nearest village.

As they journey along, Spock finds a very thin rock that explodes. Scotty radios Kirk to say that because of whatever the planet is doing, the antimatter pods are completely dead and the ship can’t move. McCoy analyzes one of the plant darts and finds it’s loaded with poison.

Then, noticing that  a pod plant is preparing to shoot Kirk, Spock steps in and takes the bullets himself, falling unconscious. Seeing this, Kirk decides it’s too dangerous and orders to be beamed up. But Scotty tells him that the ship’s power is being drained and that the transporter is inoperable.

Spock regains consciousness due to the poison not affecting his Vulcan physiology. Then, a storm starts and another redshirt is vaporized by lightning. The others run for cover. Meanwhile, one of the other officers has found a village and tries to tell Kirk what he’s seen, but his communicator shorts out.

Kirk rallies the others forward and they meet up with the crewmen, only to see him step on an exploding rock and die. Angry at three deaths on his watch, Kirk begins berating himself, despite Spock and McCoy telling him that he couldn’t have foreseen any of this.

Just then, Spock notices the humanoid chasing them from earlier has come back. Kirk punches him in the face, but the man starts to cry out. Perplexed, Kirk and co. learn that the man is called Akuta (Keith Arkles) and that he is “the eyes of Vaal” and the leader of the “children of Vaal.” He’s also wearing a copious amount of redface so there’s that.

File:Akuta.jpg

Yeah, the makeup and appearance of the natives is-kinda cringe-worthy. That said, what we learn about them–namely, that because of Laal, they’re truly immortal but don’t no other realities of life–that it’s a lot easier to excuse them as much as they might’ve been.

Max Erlich and Gene L. Coon wrote this episode and it’s remarkably how well they wring fresh tension out of this setting of a thousand serials. Again, the pulpy spirit the show has comes to the fore.

Joseph Pevney directs once again and he’s simply the best, using the jungle sets to full effect. He’s quite good at conveying the terror of the steamy jungles.

Everyone in the cast is also on board with the story and it works. Kelley is incredible and his action and speech foreshadows the explicit humanism of The Next Generation. As a righteously angry Kirk, Shatner is tremendous. And with his repeated, relentless chatting up of a female crew member, Walter Koenig makes Chekov into a riot.
Also, this priceless exchange between Chekov and McCoy:
“This place is so lovely. Just like back home in Russia.”
“Don’t you mean the Garden of Eden?”
“The Garden of Eden was just outside Moscow.”

Thanks to Memory Alpha, the official Star Trek wiki for the pics and episode information, as well as Amazon Instant for hosting the show. We’ll see you next time and until then, live long and prosper.

What Constantine and Orange Is The New Black Have In Common

Constantine poster. Source: i09.

OITNB Poster. Source: http://www.samyroad.com

The supernatural drama Constantine and the women’s prison dramedy Orange Is The New Black, on the surface, could not be more different shows. One’s a horror show featuring an iconic DC/Vertigo character airing Friday nights on NBC and seems of a pace with other genre programming (not that that’s bad; I’m very much looking forward to it).

The other is a groundbreaking series–based on the memoir of the same name by Piper Chapman–that recently garnered a ton of Emmy nominations and has justifiably won praise for its diverse casting, including the amazing Laverne Cox, who has made history as the first transgender person on the cover of TIME Magazine and the first transgender person to be nominated for an Emmy (and deservedly so).

Yet, there’s one thing both of these shows have in common and it annoys me to no end. What could they possibly have in common, you ask?

Well, they both seem rather determined to ignore bisexuality. So…yeah.

All right, that’s a bold claim, but let me try and defend it (disclaimer: I’m not LGBT+, nor am I an expert in sexuality/gender studies, but I DO consider myself an ally and I’m trying to become more aware of this sort of thing, hence this post).

See, in the pages of Hellblazer, the long-running and incredibly good Vertigo comic that starred John Constantine, it was established canon that John was bi. “Girlfriends, the odd boyfriend. They’ve all walked out on me.” he said in Hellblazer #51. Now, this is a tossed-off detail mired in self-pity and black humor (that’s kinda John’s whole thing. He’s a cynical jerk who can blow up your face with magic) but it’s still an established fact about the character and has been called back to over the years. Heck, in his run on the title, writer Brian Azzarello caught some flak for showing John in a gay relationship!

Yet, the producers of Constantine recently confirmed at this year’s Television Critics Association’s press tour that “there are no immediate plans” to show John with a man; basically, it’s not happening. He also won’t be smoking, which is just as flat-out stupid, considering it’s so central a trait to Constantine that what is widely acknowledged as the best Hellblazer story ever revolved around him getting terminal lung cancer.

But I digress. Now, how does Orange Is The New Black, one of the best-loved shows of the moment, go similarly wrong?

Well, remember the initial ads for the show last summer? Where Piper (Taylor Schilling) explained to her family that the reason she was going to jail was because she had previously dated Alex (Laura Prepon), a drug smuggler? And her mom simply went, “You’re a lesbian?” And Piper replied, “I was a lesbian, at the time.” To which her weirdo brother Cal (Michael Chernus) pipes up, “Are you…still a lesbian?” Beat hit. Laugh. Hahaha.

Now that is a funny exchange in that moment, but the more I watch OITNB–and I’m not that far, as of this writing–that beat gets hit over and over and over again. From what I understand, it’s continued into the second season. Now that’s just dang annoying.

Given how the show’s open diversity is constantly touted as one of its strengths, it’s odd and weird that they can’t bring themselves to say the word bisexual. Not to mention it, like so much else, erases the B from the LGBT+ movement.

Especially considering that over on Game Of Thrones this past season, one of the best parts of the show, a fan favorite and a well-deserving Emmy nominee (although he was stupidly shut out) was Pedro Pascal as Oberyn Martell, the prince of Dorne, who openly said when asked about his bisexuality responded that if most people are only attracted to one gender, then “both [men and women] are missing half the world’s pleasure.”

Now granted, Oberyn never said he was bi either, but considering that word didn’t, y’know, exist at the medieval period GoT is ostensibly st in, that’s somewhat understandable. But the point remains: if HBO can bring themselves to show an openly bi character, surely Netflix–which has even LESS censorship surrounding it than HBO does–can bring OITNB to do the same.

And NBC? Well, it’s NBC, so just consider it a miracle that John Constantine wasn’t made American. Take what you can get in some cases with TV, but fight for more in others.

So, Dashcon

This past weekend saw possibly the biggest PR disaster in fandom history. Some Tumblr users, looking to bring the experience of the website’s many fandoms into the real world, ran a successful Indiegogo campaign for what became known as Dashcon, after the fact that the primary component of Tumblr is the dashboard.

Although a first-year con is always a difficult, precarious thing to pull off, if done professionally and smartly, it can work really well. Example: last fall, I attended the first ever GrandCon which, after the first day, had so many walk-in attendees that they were already making plans to relocate to a hotel next year, rather than the convention center they were already at.

Throughout, the GrandCon staff–I should note that GrandCon was run by the same people who run Gencon–were well-organized and helpful.

Dashcon, 5 days after the dust has settled, appears to have been NONE of those things.

The Daily Dot has a comprehensive writeup, but short version: the first night of the con not only saw a vastly smaller crowd than what con organizers had anticipated, but barely any events or panels–with those that were there hastily organized. There was basically no vending area. Guests that were promised didn’t show up and those that did were forced to pay their own fees (something that any con that tries to attract guests certainly should NOT be doing).

In the most egregious example, Welcome To Night Vale,one of the most popular podcasts on the planet, took time out of their busy European touring schedule to bring their entire crew out to Dashcon purely to support fans. They found out upon arriving that they were expected to pay their own room fare and were only to be paid after they had performed. They promptly walked out in disgust.

The thing that’ll make Dashcon truly infamous though is the “$17,000″ thing. See, Friday night, the con organizers told everybody assembled–a crowd of 1,000 people, it must be said–that the hotel was going to kick them out by the end of the night unless they paid $17,000, something they said had just been thrust upon them and had never been brought up in prior meetings between con organizers and staff. Further news reports have since revealed that the hotel, when contacted, had no idea what these people were talking about.

They got the money–because Tumblr users, by and large (and I know I’m generalizing), all wear their hearts on their sleeves–and then encouraged attendees to rail against the hotel staff by singing songs from Les Miserables and throwing salutes from The Hunger Games and organizing sit-ins.

Yeah…taking parts of narratives where people are killed by the government and railing against mimimum-wage hotel staff? TOTALLY CLASSY THING TO DO.

The most embarrassing thing? This was held in my backyard–Schaumberg, Ill., a fairly decent drive from where I live, but still close. The hotel in question is probably used to dealing with all kinds of noteworthy events. This will reflect badly on them, but at the end of the day, it’s the con organizers–who were probably scam artists all along, in one way or another–who are the absolute worst.

The second most embarrassing thing? I actually kinda wanted to go to this, both because it’d have been nice to go to a local con and because one of my favorite podcasts was going to be there. That would have been awesome.

In the end? I’m glad I kept my $50. And I’m reminded more than ever of why I don’t use Tumblr.

Why You Should Watch BRAVEST WARRIORS

I think it’s safe to say at this point that if you have a kid or like cartoons or television in anyway, you’ve heard of Adventure Time. And that show is great and a full-blown cultural phenomenon for a reason. It’s incredible. Never has a cartoon taken such a simple premise–boy and dog wander through a post-apocalyptic wasteland–and turned it into a fully fleshed out world so expansive and real.

But besides Adventure Time , Pendleton Ward has another show to his name. This one is a little more obscure, but just as rewarding. I speak of Bravest Warriors.

Credit: Bravest Warriors Wiki

Credit: Bravest Warriors Wiki

Bravest Warriors is by Frederator Studios–makers of Adventure Time, Fairly Oddparents and a bunch of other great shows–and is the flagship show of their original YouTube channel, Cartoon Hangover. The channel’s official description calls it the home of cartoons that are “too out there for TV [sic]” and that’s pretty true. None of their projects fit into easy categories to slot on cable, and Warriors is a good example.

With its teen-aged characters, the series is easily aimed at teens, but college-aged kids and adults can get a lot out of it too. The show’s more mature tone, as well as the fact that it doesn’t have any censorship other than what Cartoon Hangover dictates, make it a wild card.

But I get ahead of myself. What’s the story of the show?

Well, it’s the far future and in the city of Neo-Mars, there was a band of heroes called the Courageous Battlers. Two years ago, they all got sucked into another dimension, the See-Through Zone. In their absence, their children have taken up their parents’ stead as adventurers and defenders of peace.

As the Bravest Warriors, leader Chris Kirkman (Alex Walsh), inventor Danny Vasquez (John Omohundro), scientist Wallow (Ian-Jones Quartey) and Lone Girl/warrior Beth Tezuka (Liliana Mumy) travel through space “helping peeps” and righting wrongs. Along the way, they deal with the wacky antics of all sorts of aliens like unofficial team members Catbug (Sam Lavagnino), a childlike extra-dimensional being and the rude, jerkish Impossibear (Michael Leon Woodley) and Beth’s friend Plum (Tara Strong), a merewif–she turns into a mermaid once she hits the water.

Across 2 seasons of YouTube shorts, they deal with every menace from the apocalyptic Aeon Worm to the Hardcore Hill Midgets, while also dealing with the mysterious, wacky Emotion Lord (Breehn Burns), who has a mysterious connection to Chris.

While the concept and characters were created by Ward, due to his involvement with Adventure Time, he left the running of the series to Breehn Burns, famed independent filmmaker and creator of the surrealist webseries Dr. Tran . If you think Adventure Time is trippy, this show will give you a run for your money. I mean, the third episode introduces a holo-john: a bathroom that is also a holodeck.

Burns, who has written and directed every single episode (although he has since stepped down), is an inspired choice for this series. His constant presence–he also voices basically every character that’s not the main four or Catbug or Impossibear–helps ground the series in a consistent viewpoint. It’s a demented, nutsy viewpoint. Yet, it’s also a really authentic, believably teenage viewpoint.

Chris is attracted to Beth and that forms the emotional crux of the series. Underneath the goofy slang and wacky situations, there’s a real heart at the bottom of this show. Being that each episode runs from 5-10 minutes, everything has to be expressed directly and quickly. Burns’ experience with webseries formats helps that work.

Key of course is the wonderful animation. Frederator doesn’t pull any punches; this is as detailed and rich as an episode of Adventure Time. There’s some truly awesome, cool images in there. The fact that the series is willing to turn the reins over to famed animation and comics folk like Ryan North, Noelle Stevenson, Niki Yang and Jhonen Vasquez only solidifies its uniqueness and expressivity.

The core cast ties it all together. Walsh, a virtual unknown, is fantastic as the naive, tentative Chris. Omohundro sells the macho cockiness of Danny. Mumy brings layers and layers to Beth beyond “just the girl.” As the goofy, upbeat Wallow, Quartey, a non-professionnal actor, is a delight. Strong, voice acting goddess, makes Plum an intriguing ingenue.

Impossibear doesn’t show up that much, but Wooley is fun in the role. As the breakout catchphrase machine, Catbug, Lavagnino–a little kid–is silly and fun and the episode “Catbug’s Away Team” is one of my favorites.

The show can easily be binged in an hour or two and is very much worth your time. If you want a great cartoon that doesn’t speak to any one audience and can do whatever it wants because the Internet, then check it out.

If you like it, I strongly suggest checking out the tie-in comic from Kaboom, which tells an alternate, but equally fascinating, story of the characters–for example, Plum has a second brain and personality belonging to an ancient woman and switches beneath the two seemingly at random.

Basically, if Adventure Time is a fantasy-loving kid, Bravest Warriors is that kid’s SF-loving older brother. Check it out. You’ll love the moop out of it.

A Beginners’ Guide to TRANSFORMERS Cartoons

tomspeelman:

You want to watch some Transformers? I’ll show you some Transformers!

Originally posted on Another Castle:

Source: MoviePilot.com

Source: MoviePilot.com

With Transformers:Age of Extinctionmaking over $300 million dollars worldwide in its opening weekend, a lot of people are interested by everyone’s favorite robots in disguise. Thanks to the DVD reissues done by Shout! Factory and Netflix, it’s never been easier to get into the many Transformers cartoons that have aired over the franchise’s 30 years.

But with so many series to choose from, where do you start? Which one best captures the appeal of the Transformers and is genuinely good in its own right? Well, because I know more about Transformers than most people know about baseball, I’ve ranked them all, so let’s find out!

One note: I’m only counting the cartoons that saw release in America. The many Japanese-exclusive shows that have been made are interesting, but even with recent reissues, they’re still really obscure over here. So sorry, Masterforce fans.

11. Transformers: Generation 2

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