Tune-age: End of Summer Mix 2010

Here’s a mix for your downloading pleasure. It features songs that I first heard this summer, or have some sort of connection to a mood or tone during this season for me. Enjoy.

1. Money – Sharon Jones & The Dap Kings
2. City With No Children – Arcade Fire
3. The Happy Goth – The Divine Comedy
4. Lady Luck – Richard Swift
5. Teenagers – Department of Eagles
6. God Help the Girl – God Help the Girl
7. Airplanes – Local Natives
8. Kim & Jessie – M83
9. Flash Delirium – MGMT
10. Crash Years – The New Pornographers
11. Melectric- Ramona Falls
12. Sleep All Day – The Rural Alberta Advantage
13. Home – Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeroes

Click here to download

Comic Quick Hits

Brightest Day #7 (of 26)

This is the “spine” of the DC Universe for the next year, following characters resurrected at the end of Blackest Night. And this particular issue has been hyped as the “every thing is revealed” moment. Former spectral hero Deadman aka Boston Brand comes in direct contact with the mysterious White Lantern, and when he does all the resurrected heroes and villains hear a voice telling them why they were brought back. Of course this voice is vague as hell, but the most interesting for me was Maxwell Lord seeing that his destiny is kill a character whose book is coincidentally on the ropes for cancellation. As a stand alone story, it wasn’t too great, but for the overall narrative it does set an interesting direction for things.

Superman:  The Last Family of Krypton #1 (of 3)

DC returns to its Elseworlds imprint, a focus on “What If?”, parallel reality type stories. The conceit here is that the entire El family (Jor, Lara, and little Kal) escape Krypton and arrive on Earth in the 1970s. Jor immediately uses his alien technology to make life better for humanity, while Lara pushes the philosophic belief of Rao-ology. Lara is the focus here and becomes concerned about Kal’s isolation in the world, so she begins interviewing Earth family’s to find one he can live with in disguise to learn what it is to be human. Guess who she picks. There’s some sub plot threads involving Jor and his Jorcorp, a company developing household devices using Krypton tech, and the child prodigy Jor hires (said prodigy is a very familiar figure in the Superman mythos). What I really enjoyed was a big divergence from the standard Superman story that centers around Lara and has me looking forward to the rest of the series.

Shadowland #2 (of 5)

Marvel’s urban NYC event continues. Daredevil, still inexplicably wearing this new costume, is confronted by old friends Iron Fist, Luke Cage, Misty Knight, Colleen Wing, and Spider-Man. Meanwhile, The Kingpin and Lady Bullseye summon a very familiar Marvel comics character to help in their fight. I’m most intrigued about Moon Knight’s involvement in the story. He gets himself captured by Daredevil’s forces and locked up in the Hand’s prison. Moon Knight has always been a great premise to me, like a completely insane Batman with multiple personalities. The mini-series  is keeping me hooked, which is quite an accomplishment, as it features characters I have never clicked with. Definitely much better than Marvel’s last big event book, Siege. I think it works in part because its keeping the scale small and local.

Comics I’m Getting This Week

BOOM! Studios
Irredeemable #16

Dark Horse
Magnus, Robot Fighter #1 (of 4)

DC Comics
Batman: Odyssey #2 (of 6)
Brightest Day #7
Doom Patrol #13
JSA All-Stars #9
Magog #12
R.E.B.E.L.S. #19
Red Hood: Lost Days #3 (of 6)
Red Robin #15
Secret Six #24
Superman: The Last Family of Krypton #1 (of 3)

Black Terror #11

Kill Shakespeare #4

Amazing Spider-Man #639
Avengers: Prime #2 (of 5)
Avengers: The Origin #5 (of 5)
Captain America #608
Casanova #2
Darkstar and the Winter Guard #3 (of 3)
Deadpool #1000
Deadpool: Wade Wilson’s War #3 (of 4)
Gorilla Man #2 (of 3)
Hawkeye and Mockingbird #3
Hercules: Twilight of A God #3 (of 4)
Hit-Monkey #2 (of 3)
Marvel Universe vs. the Punisher #1 (of 4)
Marvelman: Family’s Finest #2 (of 6)
S.H.I.E.L.D. #3
Secret Warriors #18
Shadowland #2 (of 5)
Shadowland: Bullseye #1
Spitfire #1
Young Allies #3$2.99

Greek Street #14
House of Mystery #28
I, Zombie #4
Sweet Tooth #12

Tom Strong and the Robots of Doom #3 (of 6)

Podcast Recommendations: Comedy and Everything Else

Comedy and Everything Else

I am a big podcast nerd, particularly comedy podcasts. I love hearing my favorite comedians on a weekly/monthly basis instead of waiting for their next album, which might not ever come. I came across Comedy and Everything Else by accident while browsing through the podcasts on iTunes. What caught my eye was that it featured one of my favorite comedians, Todd Glass. The other two names attached (Jimmy Dore and Stefane Zamarano) were completely new to me at the time. What I discovered was a podcast that was both funny, but also explored the nuances of comedy and how comedians view their craft. The episodes are long, many topping over two hours, and I love it. The conversations these people are having are the kind I want to listen to for hours and hours more. The earlier episodes are a little rough in terms of sound quality, but they improve quickly.

The focal point of CEE is Jimmy Dore. Dore is a Chicago transplant to L.A. and comes from your typical large Irish-Catholic family. He’s worked with Doug Benson and Arj Barker’s Marijuna-logues and a highly rated Comedy Central special, Citizen Jimmy, in 2008. Dore’s focus in comedy is on the political, though he works to keep from becoming didactic and aims for a tone of satire in his work. His paramour is fellow comedienne and improvisationalist, Stefane (pronounced Steh-fuh-nay) Zamarano. The duo collaborate on the regular feature “Tuesdays With Moron”, wherein Jimmy has a conversation with himself as the ultra-conservative, Fox News uber-fan Moron. Stef plays Moron’s constantly nagging in the background wife, Terese. Sadly, Todd Glass left in the fall of 2009 after a falling out with Dore. The details of the bad blood has not been publicly released but the absence of Todd was definitely felt while the show worked to redefine and regroup. Glass recently returned to the show as a guest for the 100th episode and, since he suffered a heart attack a few months ago, has reunited with Dore and Zamarano and the conflict seems to have passed.

On the most recent episode, Dore has tackled a controversy in the comedy community surrounding a “Comedy Boot Camp” run by comedians Kyle Cease and Louie Anderson. The program came under fire after Doug Stanhope posted a strong missive about it on his blog, calling up notorious comedy class shills from the past. Dore’s three hour interview with Cease is very interesting and allows the comedian to explain what his program is. Cease doesn’t come off in a great light though, and at time sounds awfully defensive towards hypothetical criticisms Dore throws at him. Dore is also very upfront about his feelings towards comedy classes, particularly ones that cost upwards of $3000 for a week of workshops. There’s some interesting talk about when a comedian is ready to sell himself to the television/film industry and about how a comedian pays their dues and learns their craft. If you are a comedy geek like myself, and appreciate comedy as an art and craft, then I think you will enjoy the topics covered and guests who pop up on CEE.

Comics 101: Booster Gold

Superheroes are honorable and trustworthy figures of great upstanding morals, right? Not in Booster Gold’s case. The hero from the distant future has always been an opportunist, looking for a way to parlay his heroism into corporate endorsements. He came about in the mid-1980s, the perfect super capitalist for the Reagan era. In the two decades since, Booster has gone through many changes and volleyed back and forth between being a humorous or serious character. His partnership with Blue Beetle is legendary, and his ties to the history of the DC Universe are epic. But in the end, he’s just a guy looking to make a buck.

Booster’s story starts in Gotham City of the 25th Century. Michael Jon Carter grew up without a father, his was a drunk who left when he was a child. The pressure to provide for him family started early and Michael eventually gets into Gotham University on a football scholarship, with dreams of going pro. At this point, Papa Carter shows up and convinces Michael to throw his games so his father can win big on bets. Michael tentatively agrees and gets caught, thrown out of the university and forced to get a job as a night watchmen at the Metropolis Space Museum. After getting a good look at all the devices on display, Michael realizes he could take them, use the Time Bubble that is kept in the museum and start a lucrative career in the the past. Employing a security robot named Skeets, Michael jumps back to the late 20th century where he debuts as the superhero Goldstar. When he gains the accolades of President Ronald Reagan, he receives a name change due to the president’s growing senility. Michael’s nickname as a football player was “Booster”, and the president confusingly introduces him as Booster Gold.

During Booster’s early years, he teams with his little sister Michelle Carter who takes his original name “Goldstar” as her own. Booster amasses a large quantity of wealth through his fame, but suffers two tragedies: first, Michelle is killed in battle and second, the CEO of Booster Gold International embezzles all the funds leaving the hero broken and on the streets. His luck changes when businessman Maxwell Lord approaches Booster to join a new incarnation of the Justice League. This allows him to fight alongside such legends as Batman, Martian Manhunter, and Black Canary as well as beginning his long-running friendship with Blue Beetle. Booster and Beetle frequently steal Max’s money to invest in get rich quick schemes, like building Club JLI on the living island of Kooey Kooey Kooey. Booster leaves the Justice League at one point to form the corporate team The Conglomerate, but quickly finds his way back to the JLI. Another dark period began for Booster with the arrival of the alien Doomsday on earth. As the behemoth trudged toward Metropolis, the Justice League tried to stop him. Booster’s futuristic suit, the source of his power was damaged beyond repair. Blue Beetle, a tech whiz ala Tony Stark, builds a bulkier armor for Booster to use.

For a short time, Booster joins an offshoot of the Justice League led by Captain Atom. He goes back to being a solo hero and is able to get a replica of his original costume made for him. The current period of Booster’s life kicked off with the brutal murder of his best friend, Blue Beetle. The murder was the work of their former boss Max Lord, and Booster set off to learn what was going on. He found that Max was working to eliminate superhumans from the Earth, and used normal humans unwittingly fused with a nano-virus. When activated, these humans became OMACs (Observational Metahuman Activity Constructs). A global battle followed, that pitted Earth’s heroes against the OMACs and the giant satellite controlling them, Brother Eye. Booster teams with Batman and the new teenaged Blue Beetle to take down the satellite and they succeed. In the aftermath of this battle, Superman, Wonder Woman, and Batman all take a leave of absence causing Booster to attempt to fill the void of Superman’s absence in Metropolis.

Booster had always relied on Skeets historical database to give him the edge against the enemies, but suddenly Skeets is reporting the wrong information. He also receives competition when the mysterious new superhero Supernova appears in Metropolis and quickly becomes beloved. Looking for answers, Booster travels to the desert bunker of DC’s chief time traveler, Rip Hunter. There he finds a photo of himself circled with the words “All his fault” written next to it. While Booster thinks it is about him, it is revealed Rip has discovered that Skeets has been compromised. The robot sidekick turns on Booster, trapping him in a time loop and beginning a hunt for Supernova and Rip Hunter. When he finally finds Supernova, the enigmatic unmasks himself as…Booster Gold?! Booster escaped the time loop with help from Rip, then traveled back a few weeks to debut as Supernova. It turns out Skeets is actually carrying the minute alien villain Mr. Mind, who has evolved into a new more dangerous form. The monstrous new Mr. Mind chases Booster and Rip through time, accidentally birthing the multi-verse (parallel universes). Skeets is restored, Mr. Mind is defeated, and Booster and Rip begin a partnership.

Most recently, Maxwell Lord has returned from the dead and manipulated Booster and his former Justice League teammates into reuniting. Max has shown a less villainous side, telling Booster he considers him his friend and that all of this has a purpose. It remains to be seen whether Max is playing his former employee or legitimately trying to help him.

Page to Screen: Batman – Under the Red Hood

In Page to Screen I look at comic books adapted to film.

Batman – Under the Red Hood (2010, dir. Brandon Vietti)
Adapted from Batman: A Death in the Family by Jim Starlin and Jim Aparo, Batman: Under the Hood by Judd Winick and Doug Mahnke
Starring Bruce Greenwood, Jensen Ackles, Neil Patrick Harris, John Dimaggio

I’m never one to be against resurrecting comic book characters. It does happen way too often now for the impact of it to amount to much, but if done well it can make for some brilliantly interesting development for the characters affected by the return. In 1988, through a rather callous and cynical phone-in vote, the fans voted for the second Robin aka Jason Todd to be killed off in the current story arc of Batman. Todd was a polarizing character, who started out simply as a blank slate replacement for Dick Grayson. As time went on, Todd was revamped into a counter to Grayson, a rebellious teen who didn’t listen to the advice of Batman. It was a much more interesting take on the Robin character than Grayson had ever been, frankly. But the fans at the time seemed to balk at this brazen rebellion towards the Dark Knight and got young Jason beaten to death by The Joker. Fifteen years later, a new criminal figure appeared in Gotham, calling himself The Red Hood, a blatant reference to the costumed identity the man who would become The Joker wore on the night of his transformation. As Batman investigated further, he would learn The Red Hood was tied to what he saw as his greatest failure.

This latest from DC Comics high end animated film department takes the very end of the Death in the Family story and merges it with a “greatest hits” compilation from Winick’s run on Batman. I was surprised that some more esoteric elements were included, particularly, Batman and Nightwing’s battle with the super android Amazo. In the original comics, that story was tied to both The Red Hood and plot development for Infinite Crisis, the big event at the time. Winick, who handles scripting duties here as well, reworks the moment as a part of the more condensed plot of the film. He also takes his epically long struggle between Red Hood and Black Mask and turns into a much more satisfying and shorter story. Despite the film’s length of 75 minutes, it feels like we got at least a treatment for what could be a longer live action film story.

This is the first true solo Batman comic story since the animated series ended. In a lot of ways, it could be shoehorned into The Animated Series continuity; in TAS we eventually got Tim Drake as Robin and Grayson as Nightwing. It could be said this story takes place in between the Fox version of TAS and the WB follow up, a sort of untold tale of the lost Robin. The voice acting is very well done and Bruce Greenwood sounds so much like Kevin Conroy (Batman in TAS) I thought for a second it was him. Neil Patrick Harris does an excellent job providing comic relief in the first half as Nightwing, but it was disappointing that the character sort of vanishes from the story. John DiMaggio (Bender from Futurama) tackles The Joker and reminded me how strange it is to not hear Mark Hamill’s voice coming out of the animated villain. He’s good, its just a different style and laugh than I suspect myself and my peers are used to. Jensen Ackles rounds out the cast as Red Hood and does a decent job.

What I saw here was how two stories that are important to the canon, but have always felt poorly executed, can be retold in a way that shows its all about the craftsmen behind the scenes. I’ve been surprised by Judd Winick twice in the last week, first by the latest Justice League: Generation Lost issue and now this. I suspect when he is made to really collaborate with others we see the weaknesses in his storytelling diminish. Instead of these stories coming off a cynical and mean, which they do on paper, a lot of redemptive qualities are brought to the front in the animated film. Where Batman and the other characters are left at the end of the story is a very interesting place and serves as a reminder as to what separates Batman from the gun-toting vigilantes that followed in his footsteps. It’s also nice to see a Batman affected by mistakes, something we rarely get in any medium he shows up in. To see Batman as a vulnerable and human figure, a father wracked with guilt, provides an incredibly deeper picture of the character.

Across the Pond: Snuff Box

Berry. Fulcher.

Odd words on their own, but when you know them in the context of Matt Berry and Rich Fulcher they mean “absurdist comedy”. In the great tradition of Monty Python and Cook & Moore comes this duo of such obscene and pointless humor. The two came to the public’s attention through other projects where they played supporting roles. For Matt Berry it was work on Garth Marenghi’s Darkplace, and Fulcher was an American out of the UCB comedy culture. They met while working on The Mighty Boosh and went on to make a single season of Snuff Box together. The result is some of the best, and often times completely confusing comedy out of Britain. It is definitely unlike anything you would ever see presented on American television, including the most obscure cable channels.

What is the premise of this series? Good question. At the surface level you have Berry and Fulcher, professional hangmen. Throughout the six episodes they will occasionally hang someone, but for the most part they hang out in a wood paneled gentleman’s club, sipping brandy. There’s a hallway they use to get from the club to the execution room that contains doors to other dimensions (?). There’s also skits that feature the actors but as one off characters. It’s a hard show to describe because it actively works to be difficult. And that’s part of the fun. There is really no way for a viewer to predict where a scene will lead. It’s definitely not a series for anyone who’s sensitive about language or sex. Snuff Box pushes boundaries and presents a beautifully dark parallel universe.

It’s hard to say which performer I enjoy best, I believe Matt Berry just barely edges out Fulcher. Berry plays himself as a suave and arrogant ladies’ man, and some of his best scenes are when he tries to woo a woman, discovers she is already taken, and has an incredibly harsh reaction to the news. There’s also a recurring series of skits with Berry entering a clothes shop to inquire about silver cowboy boots on order. Each visit a new, yet equally unhelpful employee calls Berry a name under his breath, Berry lashes out, and the whole thing ends with Berry bloodied in the fight. Fulcher is the dimwit to Berry’s pompous ass, he is constantly duped by Berry, and their is an ongoing mystery as to whom Fulcher’s deceased mother is that he receives a check from her estate every month. Fulcher also discovers a door that sends him back in time, allowing him to meet Berry’s ancestors. Each episode is a total surprise and, because of the amount of jokes packed into each one. Below I’ve posted a couple clips to give you a flavor for the show, because of Berry’s musical leanings the show has a lot of songs.