Wednesday, November 4, 2009
Thursday, October 15, 2009
First off, this book deals with the subject of retcons. For those not familiar with the term, a retcon means "retroactive continuity"; that is, a change in a comic's storyline that affects events that have already happened. One of the most argued retcons in recent memory would be the Spider-Man storyline, "One More Day," wherein a deal was made with Mephisto (Marvel's resident devil) to erase Peter Parker & Mary Jane's marriage in order to save the life of Peter's Aunt May. These retcons can be big or small, and sometimes, the littlest ones can have a greater impact than expected, as we'll see in this story.
When the story opens, we see a man named Michael dreaming about a beautiful woman. He knows everything about her, but yet he knows that he never met her.
His "memories" and daydreams of her start impacting his life: his boss threatens to fire him because he messes up, a date gets angry with him for seeming so distant. He starts wondering if he's going insane because he just cannot get this mystery woman out of his mind.
He calls all his family and friends to see if they remember her, but not a one of them does. Fed up with his inability to sleep, he starts taking sleeping pills; unfortunately, they don't help him for very long.
One night, he starts to take extra sleeping pills, just so he can forget her, when he has an unexpected visitor: the Hanged Man. The Hanged Man is the guardian of Shadow Hill and is closely related to all supernatural events in the city. He shows Michael a series of events from Astro City's past.
A villain called Time-Keeper tried to rob a bank in 1943 but was foiled by superheroes. In his rage, Time-Keeper created a device that allowed him to alter the time stream; Eterneon, Lord of Time, tries to stop him, but to no avail. Time-Keeper starts altering time, but it gets out of his control and time starts to fragment and people and even Astro City start disappearing. Michael doesn't see every aspect of this event and of the battle that raged to heal the time stream; he does see that the heroes managed to save the day.
Through the Hanged Man's visions of the past, Michael comes to realize that his mystery woman was a real person who died in the time maelstrom. Hanged Man tells him that she was his wife and that the reconstruction of the time line was not exact. Through the reconstruction, her grandparents wound up never meeting because a hero and his villains fought on a Sunday instead of a Monday. One little change caused her to never be born. He tells Michael that it's beyond his powers to bring her back, but that he can make it so Michael doesn't remember her any more.
Like I said, this is hands down one of the most beautiful and moving stories of any comic I have ever read. The imagery of the mystery woman is so compelling, and Michael's choice not to forget her breaks my heart every time. If you can find it, I completely endorse getting it, as I do all of the main Astro City title (not so much Dark Age, but it's still a good read). I'm about to start a reread of Astro City, so you'll be seeing more of it here.
And that's it for today. I apologize for the short post, but I'm under the weather. Hopefully, there will be more in tomorrow's post.
Wednesday, October 14, 2009
Rather than try to sum up the backstory of Deadpool, Daredevil & Typhoid Mary, I'm just going to post the ever-so-helpful "Previously In. . ." page.
So, the book opens with three levels of panels. The top level is Deadpool and Blind Al, the middle layer is a bunch of underworld leaders, and the bottom panel is a doctor at an insane asylum. Through the three sections, we learn that Typhoid Mary has broken out of the insane asylum and that two of her personalities have been healed, leaving only the crazy Mary one. Daredevil comes to the asylum looking for information on her as he's trying to bring her back to the asylum. The underworld bosses are laughing about her escape and her recent kills until they realize, hey, they could be next on her list! And, so that leaves us with the 'pool panels. Blind Al is trying to talk him out of going after Mary, but he doesn't listen. He does leave Al with a little present before he goes.
The next couple of pages are Daredevil reminiscing about Mary while he investigates her latest kills, her psych and his staff. From there, we cut into one of the funniest Deadpool scenes ever:
And we cut perspectives yet again. This time, we get a page of Typhoid Mary in all her insane glory. She's working on the judge who put her into the insane asylum while pontificating on madness and destiny before she finally kills him at the end of the scene.
The next day, a strangely loud and overbearing (and familiarly wisecracking) delivery boy is attempting to deliver a bundle of balloons to Foggy Nelson, Matt Murdock's (the alter-ego of Daredevil) law partner. He makes a huge fuss, even elbows a security guard in the gut, until finally Foggy appears.
(I love how his little smiley face buttons change.)
During all the hullabaloo, Matt finally shows up, and his heightened senses immediately tells him something's not right. The delivery boy, dragging Foggy behind him, passes by Matt, and via his abilities, he sees it's Deadpool using a holographic projector to change his image. Deadpool leaps out of a window with Foggy, but he uses a rope to reach the top of the building. He was expecting his buddy Weasel to be waiting for him, but he gets a little surprise instead in the form of Daredevil.
Daredevil warns Wade that Mary is a very dangerous woman, which he does realize, but he also tells DD that she wasn't born that way, that she was manufactured into the monster she is and that the monsters have to stick together. Daredevil decides to allow Deadpool to follow him as he captures Mary, but he warns DP not to interfere when they find her.
Meanwhile, the two sidekicks (Foggy & Weasel) make an accord and decide to go out and get some food while they wait for the guys to finish.
Back to the guys.
Deadpool goes searching for Mary up in the arboretum (calling out to her like Pepe Le Pew), and it soon proves to be a big mistake. Mary quickly finds him and holds him at sword-point.
Downstairs, Daredevil finds the dead body of the judge, and his inner warnings go off when he hears water running from a tap. Mary turned it on to help obscure her discussion with and advances on Deadpool (and boy does she ever make advances!). Wade tries to resist and argues with Mary. Turns out he let her out to take out Daredevil, but he does not like how she's been killing civilians along the say. She promises not to take out any more civilians, but she leaves Wade with "a little something to help you remember your lines. . ."
*dramatic musical sting* Gasp! What will happen now? Will Wade manage to heal his wound? Will Mary live to kill again? Will Daredevil get the stick out of his ass and stop being so damn depressing? Tune in next week for Part 2!
Tuesday, October 13, 2009
As you know if you've been following my blog, I have a lot of affinity for the Elseworld books, and this one (with the possible exception of the pirate Batman story I shared on Talk Like a Pirate Day) is my favorite. My poor copy is so worn from all the rereads it has had over the years. I've never been a huge Superman fan, but I love this one because it kind of gives us the better parts of Superman (his origin, the powers) without the not-so-good parts (the Boy Scout, the overwhelming patriotism). So, here we go!
Monday, October 12, 2009
We open on the bridge of the Enterprise with Kirk, Spock & McCoy discussing a space anomaly the Enterprise has encountered. Kirk's Captain Log tells us that they are at Delta Vega, a planet the Enterprise has been to before, a place that brought a lot of pain to Kirk. This happened in the Star Trek episode "Where No Man Has Gone Before," the series second pilot, when the Enterprise was called to Delta Vega and Kirk's best friend, Gary Mitchell, was transformed into a god-like being.
Monday, October 5, 2009
In 1995, Pixar Animation Studios came out with their first feature film, Toy Story, and it was a game-changing film. This was the first fully computer animated feature film release, shepherding in Pixar as a major player in the animated film arena.
It's one of the Disney package films, a series of vignettes strung together by a loose story. The story in this one is that it's Donald Duck's birthday, and he receives a bunch of gifts from his friends in Latin America. Two of those friends, Jose Carioca & Panchito, come to visit him, and they take him on a trip through their homelands.
This film (and the film prior, Saludos Amigos) were commissioned by the US State Department as part of a goodwill mission with South America. The government feared the ties that some of the South American countries had with the Nazis, and so Disney was brought in to act as an ambassador.
Much of the film feels a bit like an exercise in experimentation as there is a lot of variation in the animation styles throughout the film. It's also one of the first films to blend live-action and animation, the first Disney film to do that being Saludos Amigos, and some of the techniques the studios learned here were put to use later in Song of the South.
Some of the segments are a tad forgettable, but there are a few that stand out for me, ones that I love to revisit time and again. The biggest one is the segment involving the Aracuan bird. The Aracuan is this wacky little bird that just runs around singing his song, popping in and out of the screen in highly mischievous and creative ways, and he has a tendency to annoy Donald.
Another of my favorites is The Flying Gauchito. This adorable little story is about a little boy from Uruguay and his adventures with a flying donkey he finds. He tries to use the donkey to win a racing contest, but it doesn't exactly work out for the best. One of the things I love the most about this story is how the narrator (who is the little boy as an adult) interacts with the story, like when he instructs the boy to cut the rope binding the donkey's wings at one point. It's a great little animated tale.
And no discussion of this film would be complete without talking about the title song. It's manic, psychedelic and unexpected. It's so unlike anything Disney was doing in the 1940s. It's a highly sing-a-longable song, and I never fail to laugh at the predicaments Donald goes through in this scene (like when his fellow Caballeros can make a guitar appear out of thin air, and he can only make every other musical instrument except a guitar appear).
3) The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1996)Ah, one of the most contentious ones on my list! This one garnered a lot of wrath because the book got "Disneyfied" in its translation to film. I'm going to confess that I haven't gotten around to reading the original book yet, but that aside, I feel that this is an excellent film for many reasons.
First and foremost is Tom Hulce's (best known for playing Mozart in Amadeus) nuanced and touching portrayal of Quasimodo. He makes him an intelligent young man who is searching for who he really is and what he wants out of life, and you truly feel for him in his scenes with Frollo & Esmerelda. I think one of the best examples of this can be found in the Sanctuary scene. He takes you through an entire journey of emotion in just a couple of short minutes, and it always leaves me teary.
On the other side, we have the brilliant Tony Jay as Quasimodo's "master," Judge Claude Frollo.
Jay was one of those actors where you know his voice, but you probably didn't know his name. He did a metric ton of voice work over the years; some of his better known roles are Monsieur D'Arque (the man who ran the insane asylum) in Beauty & the Beast, Chairface Chippendale on The Tick, and Megabyte on ReBoot.
In HOND, he created one of the most memorable Disney villains ever. His Frollo is a supposed man of God, but he mentally torments poor Quasimodo by keeping him imprisoned in the bell tower and by treating him as a child. Not only that, but he openly lusts after Esmerelda, even while he strives to kill her and her Gypsy people. He's truly terrifying as he quotes the Bible while wielding a sword over the heads of Quasimodo and Esmerelda.
Also superb in this movie is the animation (although parts of it haven't held up so well) and the music. The downside of the animation can be seen in the crowd scenes; it was one of the first films to widely use computer animation, but, sadly, it hasn't held up so well. At the time of release, it was pretty astonishing to see such large crowds (like during "Topsy Turvy" or the Sanctuary scene) and to know that each one was moving independent of the rest, but you can pretty easily see that they only had a handful of models that they used multiple, multiple times.
Other than that, though, the animation is beautiful. One only needs to see the Sanctuary scene for that or Quasimodo's song "Out There." They used a lot of fantastic, cinematic camera work in those scenes, great pans of the city as a whole that swoop down to focus on a character. I always find it rather awe-inspiring. Oh, and I cannot forget to mention the opening segment, "The Bells of Notre Dame." It's one of those scenes I don't get tired of. The song is the character Clopin telling about how Frollo came to be the one to raise Quasimodo, and it constantly cuts between him in the present and the tale he's telling. One of the most brilliant moments is the line, "Stop! cried the Archdeacon." The animation cuts from the Archdeacon with a flash to Clopin, and it's just kind of an arresting moment (you can see this at about 3:48):
And the music. It doesn't matter how many times I watch this film, the opening bell-tolling with the Latin chanting just gives me goosebumps every single time. I do admit that I'm not terribly fond of the song "Topsy Turvy," but "God Help the Outcasts" is hauntingly beautiful, and "The Court of Miracles" is just a delight, so wicked and fun. Overall, it's just a great film that deserves more credit than it gets.
2) Hercules (1997)The last two films on this list have a lot of common although they are completely different genres. We'll start with the broad comedy, Hercules.
As you can tell by the title, this is a retelling of the classic Greek myth of Hercules (yes, I do know that Hercules is the Roman name for Heracles, but Disney does insist in the movie and in the later TV show that he was Greek, so we're going with that). We have musical narration provided by the Muses (featuring some of the best Broadway voices ever, like Lillias White & La Chanze), we have a sympathetic hero in the form of Herc, but the one thing most people remember about this film is his villain, Hades, Lord of the Underworld, perfectly brought to life by James Woods.
Woods' performance was incredible. Watching Hades is so much like watching Woods himself, and I remember reading back when the film came out that the animators had a lot of trouble animating Hades because Woods so often gave his line deliveries so fast. Nevertheless, he creates a manic, outrageous and memorable villain, a great foil for the "Wonder Boy," Hercules.
One reason I like this film so much is the art direction. It was a completely unique take for Disney, an area they hadn't gone before. I love how the character design is reminiscent of the old Greek and Roman, and the colors they used were amazing. I also love watching Hades and Phil because they look so much like their voice actors (James Woods & Danny DeVito respectively).
But the big reason I love this film is Susan Egan's performance as Megara. Egan, for those not familiar with her, originated the role of Belle in Disney's Beauty & the Beast on Broadway. She has one of the most beautiful voices I've ever heard, and she puts it to good work in her showstopper, "I Won't Say." She also shows a brilliant mastery of comic timing with her line deliveries, and she gave us something not really seen before: a strong Disney female.
Yes, we had had a few of them before then (the prime one being Belle), but no Disney female before or possibly since could stand up to Meg in my book. She's a woman who knows what she wants out of life, and she'll do just about anything to get it. When she tells Hercules, "I'm a big tough girl.", you believe her. She's independent, and she doesn't need Hercules to make her life whole. Actually, when she thinks she might be falling in love with her, she doesn't want it, and when we reach the end of the film, you see it's actually Herc who needs Meg. She's just a great character, and she completely makes the film for me.
1) Atlantis: The Lost Empire (2001)
Another unique path for Disney. This one was their first sci-fi animated film (and, sadly, pretty much the last, unless you count Treasure Planet, which was a mix of sci-fi & historical styles), and I think it gets a bum rap far too often. It's not a perfect film by any means, but I was so happy to see Disney try something daring and new. It's a shame that audiences didn't take to it so well.
The film follows a linguist (voiced by Michael J. Fox) who finds a book in his grandfather's belongings which seems to be a guide for finding the lost city of Atlantis. He, with the help of one of his grandfather's old friends, puts together a ragtag group of adventurers to seek out Atlantis, but things begin to go a little topsy-turvy.
One of the strongest elements of this film is the design, which came from comic artist Mike Mignola (best known for his Hellboy series). Every character has a striking and unique design, and there is such an angularity to the architecture in Atlantis. You can definitely see Mignola's influence everywhere.
The other strong point to this movie, the one that brings me back to it time and again, are the characters. Disney took what could have just been a melange of cliches, but they made it into something fun and unexpected. The team that Milo hires is comprised of a people of various races and backgrounds. You've got a French guy, an Italian man, a young Hispanic girl from the Bronx, and an African American man. You might think on first glance that you've just got a win for Politically Correct Bingo, but you'd be wrong. They put a nice spin on each of the characters. Audrey, for example, is the team's mechanic, even though she's just a teenager (and her sister is a champion boxer). Sweet, the doctor, is half-African American, half-Native American. Mole, the Frenchman, is just disturbing. Really, you have to see him. He's a just a creepy little guy who loves to dig.
And Vinnie. . I love Vinnie. I think he's probably my favorite character in the film, other than Milo. He's voiced by Don Novello, best known for his character Father Guido Sarducci, and he's just hilarious. Everything he says is so dry, and he's probably the one character who's the least like he seems he should be. He's the munitions expert with a passion for blowing stuff up, but his ultimate dream in life is to own a little flower shop. He's just great.
Well, I hope you enjoyed this little exploration of the underrated side of Disney. I had fun putting it together, even if it took me longer than I expected. I'd love to hear your thoughts on either Disney films in general or my list in specific, so feel free to leave me a comment.
Saturday, October 3, 2009
Friday, October 2, 2009
Well, that's a lot of info to end with! If Jack didn't hurt Rose & Bluebeard didn't hurt Rose, then who did?
I'm not 100% sure if I'll have a post for you tomorrow, but, hey, I made it Monday-Friday with a blog post every day! That's got to count for something, doesn't it?