On Star Wars

OK, so I’m not gonna beat around the bush here. We all know that Star Wars: The Force Awakens‘ new teaser trailer, unveiled today at Star Wars Celebration Anaheim, basically won the Internet today. If you haven’t seen it yet by some miracle, here it is.

Now that you’ve seen it, I hope you’ll understand when I say I actually did get a little misty-eyed. But it’s kinda funny-feeling that I did so because I don’t consider myself a real “Star Warrior” (a term that I don’t think she invented, but which I first encountered in Sam Maggs’ new book that you should preorder because it is a Good Thing). I’ve said that before: I own and have read some old Expanded Universe novels and comics, I’ve seen each of the films multiple times, I play Battlefront II and I even compared the two Clone Wars shows.

But still, I’m not really a “fan” in the sense that I am of Star Trek and Transformers (i.e. thoughts about it consume most of my mental energy). It’s just something I dip my toes in every so often. Yet, when I saw this trailer, it hit me. Star Wars, like it or not, is such a huge part of the American cultural memory that it can still affect me. It’s surprising.

Even more surprising to some of you: I like all the films on balance. Yeah, Phantom Menace is particularly dire (something I refused to believe for a long time, then got it drilled into me after I paid to see its 3-D re-release a few years back) and the other two prequels have pretty lame dialogue, but on balance, I like them only slightly less than the Original Trilogy. Why?

Well, it’s because, like how all of Generation X saw the OT in theatres, I saw all the Prequel Trilogy in theatres. I was about 6 when Phantom Menace hit, 9 for Attack of the Clones and 12 for Revenge of the Sith. Granted, I didn’t know nearly as much about good storytelling as I do now, but I was entertained and caught up in them (because yeah, Star Wars is pretty squarely aimed at kids really) at the time and, whenever I rewatch them, I still kinda am.

At the end of the day, Star Wars is one of the best examples we have of science fantasy and despite how huge and massive the brand has become, that’s still true. So for me, seeing this given new life now and in the years to come from gifted directors like J.J. Abrams, Rian Johnson (!) and Gareth Edwards (even if I didn’t love Godzilla, I still like what he did) with stories for today’s kids to latch onto and enjoy, that’s good enough for me.

Interview: THE BIG CON JOB and HARLEY QUINN Writer Jimmy Palmiotti

Tom Speelman:

I got to talk to one of my favorite writers Jimmy Palmiotti about his current and upcoming work. Pretty Good Friday.

Originally posted on Another Castle:

If you’ve read comics over the last 20-something years, odds are you’ve seen Jimmy Palmiotti’swork. The Brooklyn-based writer started out inking several Marvel titles in the late ’90s like The Punisher and Ghost Rider. Alongside his extensive inking career (which included DC and Dark Horse as well as Marvel),  he also expanded into writing.

Working with longtime friend Joe Quesada (currently the Chief Creative Officer of Marvel Entertainment), he founded Event Comics, creating series like Ash and Painkiller Jane. In 1998, they were hired by Marvel in 1998 to create the Marvel Knights line, a banner for mature superhero stories for adult readers.

Nowadays, Palmiotti is primarily a writer, having worked on a variety of books like Deadpool, Daughters of the Dragon, Hawkman and Superboy, as well as co-writing tie-in video games for Punisher and Ghost Rider films and the story for Mortal…

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Girls With Slingshots: A Remembrance

Danielle Corsetto

Danielle Corsetto

So today, one of my favorite webcomics–and one of the most prominent webcomics of the last decade–ended. At 2008 strips, the decade-and-plus-old Girls With Slingshots by Danielle Corsetto ended this morning. If you’ve never heard of it, I’d highly recommend it. It’s a smart, knowing and incisive comic about a group of adults and the trials of life. The title characters (who, to disabuse you of any notions, never use slingshots) are Hazel, a bitter, booze-loving writer and her best friend, the fun and compassionate Jamie. I should warn, though, if you’re averse to this kind of thing, the strip deals with sex and sexuality quite frankly, honestly and openly. If you’re not turned off by that, you can start reading here.

I discovered GWS (to use the common acronym) my sophomore year of college which was great in some ways (a stable circle of friends, employment, my discovery of Adventure Time) and really hard in others (a very tough foreign language class, jerk bosses). Because of all the stress of that year, I was seeking out and consuming webcomics like peanuts. At my peak, I was keeping up with something like 45 comics (55-60 if you count all the newspaper comics I was reading online).

I don’t think it’s any exaggeration to say that GWS kinda broadened my horizons. When you’re raised in a Christian bubble and surrounded by conservatism, you tend to not know a lot about how the average person works, lives and loves. GWS taught me about that and a whole lot more. For that, I’m grateful.

The things I admired the most about the strip were its broad and endearing cast of characters (such as McPedro, the talking, mustachioed cactus), its commitment to diversity and inclusion, its slight but fun satire of the writing world, Corsetto’s gorgeous, ever-improving artwork and her respect for the comics medium while also taking it to new territory,

In a 2011 interview with The Washington Post’s Alyssa Rosenberg (although then she was at ThinkProgress), Corsetto mentioned that she drew inspiration from syndicated strips like Zits or Luann or Foxtrot. That influence was always telling: most of the strips were the standard 4 panels and, aside from the subject matter, a lot of the pacing would have been perfect in a newspaper format.

The photo at the top of this article is Corsetto herself from when I met her at San Diego Comic-Con last summer. I know I never blogged about it or posted my pictures, and that’s my fault. But I figured I should share that photo and tell you the story of how I met Ms. Corsetto,

This was on Sunday, the last day of Comic-Con and I was running around Artists’ Alley, trying to meet and/or buy stuff from all my favorite webcomics people who were there (I bought a Dark of the Moon-era Decepticon toy just so David Willis could sign it). Corsetto, at the time, was in the middle of a nationwide tour she did last summer to celebrate GWS’ 10th anniversary. She had mentioned online that she’d be in San Diego that weekend, and I was lucky enough to catch her in the brief window of time she was at the booth for Topataco (which puts out her books and that of several other creators).

I didn’t have any money to buy anything from her, but we talked briefly, mostly about how awesome the current run of guest strips by Molly “Jakface” Němeček was (they were indeed awesome and you can read Molly’s awesome webcomic Woo Hoo! here). I remember her being really nice, although obviously frazzled. Given how crazy Comic-Con is in general and how busy she herself was, the fact that she was so approachable was really heartwarming.

It’s not as if Corsetto’s going away anytime soon, thankfully. Next month, Graybles Schmables, her third entry in the line of Adventure Time Original Graphic Novels put out by BOOM! and drawn by Bridget Underwood comes out. And on Monday, GWS will be rerun from the beginning with brand-new coloring (by Corsetto’s talented colorist, Laeloo) and commentary. In addition, Corsetto has also teased some new projects. I’ll keep following her on Twitter and I can’t wait to see what she does next.

A Humble Bundle That You Need In Your Life (Really)

Transformers comic

If you’ve followed this blog or have known me in real life for any significant amount of time, you know that I love me some Transformers. That baffles people, mostly because the Michael Bay films are all they know. Even if the last one was comparatively decent, that’s still a shame for this multi-layered, multi-faceted science fiction franchise (which obviously exists to sell toys, but it does so because it gets us to care about the characters).

The biggest slap in the face to what Michael Bay has done to the franchise is the comics IDW Publishing has been putting out since 2006. Taking place in a new iteration of the Generation One continuity (that’s the original ’80s cartoon, comics and toyline), the line was initially a succession of connected miniseries and one-shots written by the Major Domo of Transformers writers, Simon Furman. In 2008, the maxi-series All Hail Megatron which had the Decepticon leader formally conquer Earth was released and kicked off events that led to an ongoing written by Mike Costa that, after three years, ended with the most daring storytelling anybody had done for Transformers yet.

The Great War between the Autobots and Decepticons–y’know, the thing THE ENTIRE FRANCHISE is based on–actually ended. Cybertron was restored to life after eons of barrenness and loads of NAILs (Non-Aligned Indigenous Lifeforms, those who left the Great War) arrive back home. From there, the franchise split in two directions in 2012, with IDW’s Transformers editor John Barber writing and Andrew Griffith drawing Robots In Disguise, about the efforts to unite the new Cybertron, and fan-favorites James Roberts and Alex Milne writing and drawing More Than Meets The Eye, where a bunch of characters, led by Rodimus (aka the guy who became the new Prime in the 1986 movie), leave in search of the legendary Knights of Cybertron to help restore the planet and…well, pretty much everything but that happens.

It’s those two series that are the focus of Humble Bundle’s new Book Bundle, which started last week and concludes on Wednesday. Like all Humble Bundles, the focus is towards charity–here, it’s the Hasbro Children’s Fund–but the staggering greatness of the deal offered here is incredible.

For as little as you want–yes, even a penny–you get 37 issues of More Than Meets the Eye–that’s every single issue ever published but the current one. That’s an astonishing deal. If you pay more, you can also get nearly every issue of Robots In Disguise (which has been renamed to avoid confusion with this) as well as the “Dark Cybertron” crossover, which bridges the gap between the first and second “seasons” of both comics (but really isn’t required reading). But if you can’t pay that much, just get MTMTE.

Roberts, Milne and colorists Josh Burcham and Joana Lafuente are the most underrated storytellers in comics today. Yes, even if they’re working on a licensed book put out by a Top 5 comic book publisher, they’re still written off. It’s a branding thing, obviously. Because the public perception of Transformers has come to be “shiny shit blowin’ up REAL good” for four films now, other media gets written off as similarly stupid.

More Than Meets The Eye is the complete opposite of that. Milne’s gorgeous pencils are distinctive and emotive; you clearly know and feel for these characters. Burcham and now Lafuente compliment that with astonishing colors. And Roberts–himself a long-admired figure in the fandom–leads the way with absolutely incredible scripts that either redefine old characters or define characters who never got much or any backstory in the first place.

The series is full of wit, humor, Big Ideas, dysfunctional personalities, epic space-faring adventure and small-scale introspection. In short, it’s everything you can get in great science fiction. The fact that this has a lot of firsts like, say, the franchise’s first canonically gay married couple (really), only is more points in its favor.

This is an incredible comic that is only going to get better. If you don’t believe me, read Lindsay Ellis’ take on it. Then get your butt over to Humble Bundle, donate and download. Even if you don’t like Transformers–hell, especially if you don’t–read this. You’ll be so glad you did.

Star Trek Saturdays #41

It’s time for [at long last]…Star Trek Saturdays #41!!!


This week’s episode is “I, Mudd” and it is  absolutely hilarious in a way Trek usually isn’t. The return of Harry Mudd, the only other reoccurring TOS villain besides Khan, is most welcome and the whole episode is, even with the danger posed this time around, a romp from start to finish.

Before I go on, let me profusely apologize for not having done this since September. It’s not like I haven’t been writing–I’ve done a ton of news stories over on Another Castle, for instance, and had some other big stuff happen, which I’ll have up here shortly. But this blog and, most especially, this feature, have suffered drastically for all my increased productivity.  I am truly, truly sorry for that.

Also yes, I know posting this the day after the death of the iconic Leonard Nimoy. I’ll post my own tribute to the man shortly, but I hope the way I describe Spock here will articulate just how key Nimoy was, as Alan Sepinwall wrote, to making Trek the institution it is.

Now then.

We open with Spock & McCoy walking down the halls when a new crewman, Norman (Richard Tatro), passes them by and barely says hello. McCoy mentions how irritatingly unemotional he finds Norman; Spock replies that he hadn’t noticed. The whole exchange is golden, but the capper is when Spock, after McCoy mentions Norman still hasn’t shown up for his physical, responds “He’s probably terrified of your beads and rattles.” Spock is so wonderfully wry throughout this episode and it’s great.

Norman enters the auxiliary control deck, knocks out the crewman there and initiates an override. On the bridge, Sulu registers a course change but can’t correct it. Kirk orders security to auxiliary control. Norman heads to engineering, knocks out most of the crew there (including Scotty), and jams the controls.

Norman then makes his way to the bridge and exclaims that he’s in control, with the ship slated to reach its new destination in 4 days at Warp 7; he’s jammed the controls so that if anything deviates from this plan, the ship blows up. When asked why he did this,  he opens a panel in his stomach to reveal he’s an android.

File:Norman's circuits, remastered.jpg

4 days later (during which time Norman’s been asleep in front of the lift), the ship arrives at an uncharted planet. Norman awakes and tells Kirk that he, Spock, McCoy, Uhura and Chekov must beam down with him to the planet or he’ll destroy the engines. They do so and are ushered into the presence of Lord Mudd the First aka Harcourt Fenton “Harry” Mudd (Roger C. Carmel).

File:Mudd the First.jpg

Mudd, surrounded by androids who are mostly beautiful women–the two in the photo are both named Alice (played by twins Alyce and Rhae Andrece) and are part of a series of 500–explains that Kirk and the others have been brought here to spend the rest of their lives on the planet, which he’s named Mudd.

Even though he ended up in prison at the end of his last appearance, Mudd explains that he escaped and turned to illegally reselling patents. He was caught on the planet Deneb V and sentenced to death, but stole a ship and drifted through space until he found planet Mudd. Of course, he doesn’t outright say this; instead, the truth is revealed through a great bit of banter between Carmel and Shatner that is really funny.

Although he likes having a slew of robot women at his beck and call, and he even has an android replica of his nag of an ex-wife, Stella (Kay Elliot) to yell back at, Mudd says he’s so bored because the androids won’t let him leave. He told them to get a spaceship to find more humans to study and so he could leave; finding Kirk & co was just dumb luck.

The androids take the landing party to a recreation area with quarters, where they explain that every comfort will be provided to them. They reveal at Kirk’s prodding that they were made by a humanoid race in the Andromeda galaxy, meant to serve their masters’ every whim. Eventually, the civilization was destroyed by supernova, leaving just exploratory outposts into other galaxies–including planet Mudd–alive. Spock surmises when the androids leave that the sheer amount of them–over 200,000–and their actions mean they must be controlled by a central operator.

Spock discovers a central control room with Norman in it and asks him about it. Norman replies that he isn’t programmed “to respond in that area.” Meanwhile, Scotty and the rest of the crew are beamed down and replaced by androids on Mudd’s orders.

Kirk worries that the crew will grow to love their “gilded cage” and he appears to be right. Chekov is delighted when he finds out the Alices are programmed to act exactly like human females (“This place is even better than Leningrad!”); Scott is astonished by the engineering facilities; McCoy marvels at the research labs and Uhura seems taken with the idea of being transferred to an android body.

Can Kirk get his crew to snap out of it? Can he reclaim the Enterprise and stop Mudd leaving? And do the androids merely want just to serve man?

Like I said, this entire episode is pretty much one big laugh riot. Yeah, some of it is definitely dated–the nagging wife bit especially–but it all works thanks to the energy of the cast and the freewheeling attitude of the script.  Although still a scuzz, Mudd is less creepy here. Now, he’s just one big joke. The goofy outfit he’s derived for himself and his loquaciousness help reinforce this. Carmel gives a tremendous performance. His rapport is amazing and it’s a wonder Mudd was never brought back after this outside of The Animated Series (reportedly, there was a plan for Mudd to appear in TNG, but it was never followed through).

The rest of the cast is great too. Like I said, Spock gets a lot of great one-liners and Nimoy proves that one of the ways his unmistakable voice could work was as a dispenser of dry humor. Mild spoiler (but not really if you know how people usually trick robots in fiction), but the crew has to act completely irrationally and bonkers at one point. These scenes are about as funny and surreal as it gets. It’s very Batman ’66-ish in a lot of ways.

Writer Stephen Kandel, who created Mudd, is clearly having a lot of fun here and you get swept along with it. Director Marc Daniels, back after “Mirror Mirror,” doesn’t have a whole lot of flashy tricks here, but he does bring a campy ’60s humor vibe to the whole affair. A little cheesy, sure, but great stuff.

Thanks to Memory Alpha for the pics and episode info and Amazon Instant Video for hosting the series. We’ll see you next time and until then and always, live long and prosper.

New DUCKTALES Cartoon Coming to Disney XD in 2017

Originally posted on Another Castle:

Disney announced on February 25, 2015 that a new version of its beloved 1980s cartoon DuckTales is entering production and will air on Disney Xd –the media giant’s boy-oriented digital cable channel that airs shows such as Star Wars Rebels and Gravity Falls. The new series will be produced in-house by Disney Television Animation. A voice cast has not yet been announced.

DuckTales has a special place in Disney’s TV animation history,” said Marc Buhaj, Disney Xd’s general manager and Vice President of programming, pointing to how the original series was primarily based on the comic book work of former Disney animator and story writer Carl Barks, who created Scrooge McDuck–Donald’s uncle and the richest duck in the world–in 1942 for comics published by Dell Publishing (currently being reprinted by Fantagraphics Books). Uncredited for his original work, Barks’ identity was uncovered by fans in the late 1960s and…

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Best of 2014 Year End Review: Tom

Originally posted on Another Castle:

Weird to think I’ve only been here on Another Castle for not even a year yet and already I’ve written so dang much. Between editorials, reviews, interviews and news stuff, I’ve written more non-academic stuff in the last half-year than I ever have. It’s amazing.

Equally amazing are the good writers and editors I’m surrounded with here. We put out a lot of good stuff here. So as you’ve probably seen already, we’ve done some wrap ups reflecting on the best writings our coworkers have done, as well as our own. So, without further ado, here are my picks (in no particular order):

5 Cartoon Characters That Would Make Great Comic Books

Source: LATimesBlog.LATimes.com

Jean-Pierre Vidrine has always had a simple, direct style of writing that’s informative without being overbearing and this is the best example. Plus his choices here range from “Yeah, that is kinda obvious” to “”Wait, why HASN’T this happened…

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