Friday, July 31, 2009

Thursday, July 30, 2009

The new Superman Red?

Over at Newsarama, J. Caleb Mozzocco speculates with tongue in cheek whether Mon-El is Superman Red. At first glance it seems geeky funny. Now he's got me wondering...

Will Mon-El run off with Lana Lang? Stay tuned!

For those of you who need a refresher on SupermanRed and SupermanBlue, here you go.

"They keep pulling me back!"

Those COH folk make it harder and harder to stay away.

Dang it.

It's been a couple of months. Was it really as dull as a I remember it...?

Characters worth saving: A clarification


WARNING!! OLD-TIMER ABOUT TO START RANTING!!

I'm a long-time comics reader, so I remember reading the X-Men first time around. One of the things that used to amaze me was how Chris Clarement would "borrow" a character from another comic's run (say, Belasco from "Kazar the Savage"), do a little hocus-pocus, and boom!, a new character is interacting with the X-Men. This was the way crossovers and such used to be done. I remember this happening most often in the team-up books like Marvel Two-In-One and Marvel Team-Up (which, incidentally, Claremont used to work on, including a memorable run with John Byrne).

Anyway, one thing he'd usually do (but not always, as Rachel van Helsing can attest) is that he'd leave the character in a state where the original character was left intact and could be picked up by another creative team and used in their stories. Thus Dracula would harass the X-Men or the X-Men would travel to Asgard and met Loki and when the story was done, Dracula was still undead and loving it, and Asgard was still intact.

Nowadays, the Avengers travel to Canada and meet Alpha Flight to fight some menace, and Alpha Flight is wiped out by said menace! What the...?!!?

Now the next creative team who wants to use Alpha Flight has to jump through hoops to explain how they've returned? That's just ridiculous...

One thing an old time editor (I think it was Julie Schwartz, but don't hold me to it) used to tell his writers was: "If you're going to wipe out an old character, you've got to create a new character to replace him." There's none of that going on, especially it seems at Marvel. Old characters are removed and then resurrected, with no new ones being created. Characters like the Owl and Alpha Flight are going through their 3rd or 4th re-conceptualization. New characters don't last long enough to make an impression before they're wiped out.

Sigh...

Anyway, this rant is long-winded way of describing "Characters Worth Saving from Oblivion". Some of these characters been done wrong. They need to have their Reset button pressed so they can start over and get back to basics.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Characters worth saving from oblivion: Nebiros

Full bio in the Rogues Section at Justin's Honest to Goodness Blue Devil Page.

My brother was so moved by Nebiros and Blue Devil that he developed sprites for a Blue Devil video game. A project he never finished. I still remind him of that once in a while.

COH: WoW Envy


I wanted to address something that'd been bugging me for years while playing on COH.

WoW Envy.

Serious WoW Envy.

See, I was raised on a steady diet of "The Mighty Thor" and Thor was simply amazing. He was a mythological character engaging with a modern world setting of superheroes and supervillains. In one issue, he'd be duking it out with the monstrous troll Ulik, then in the Avengers he'd help take down Zodiac or Kang the Conqueror. He'd appear with Spider-Man in Marvel Team-Up, but would help out his pal Hercules against the hordes of the god Pluto. There was just no limit to the places he'd go and the villains he'd defeated.

So, flash forward X number of years later. COH is out, but so is WoW. COH was my first MMO and I only played WoW long enough to do the 14-day trial but that was an eye-opening experience.

In COH, I'd have to beat criminal gangs like the Hellions and the Skulls for a long time before I ever saw my first costumed supervillain. Or a slightly different in-game model. See, from working in the game industry for even the short amount of time I did, I knew that the folks at NCSoft used the same 3D character models for the gang members but used different texture maps to differentiate between gangs. Nothing wrong with that. It's just that I knew enough from animation that I was looking at the same silhouettes over and over again. Sure, different texture maps, but the monotony of got really discouraging after a while. In WoW, the variety of shapes and creatures and opponents was really varied and exciting. Even at the lower levels, my characters ran across wild boars, wolves, and all sorts of bandits and such to keep me interested. COH by contrast is a world without animals of any kind; no cats, dogs, birds, elephants or anything.

Not even a robotic dog.

Just those stupid Rikti monkeys.

So I looked at all the cool creatures in the WoW universe. I thumbed through the guide books and RPG supplements. I scanned through the screenshots and captured movies.

And I developed a healthy case of WoW envy.

Which didn't mean I wanted to play WoW. I just wanted to set my CoH characters against some of those WoW opponents. I wanted to go up against a huge freakin' dragon with my electric blaster. I wanted there to be a lich causing all those zombies to rise in Dark Astoria. COH just seemed so... dull. Meanwhile WoW really seemed to live up to its initials.

To be continued...

Shape of things to come?

I was doing some wistful dreaming, browsing through the Paragon Studios' job postings when I came across the listing for an Animator. The job description was pretty much up my alley... maybe about 7-10 years too late, but that's another story for another time.

Anyway, I came across this line in the description:

Experience with unique or non-bipedal rigs


That sounds extremely... evocative. Especially for a game like City of Heroes which has resisted adding quadripedal creatures. Granted the Arachnos spider robots have more than two legs, but it sure sounds extremely... evocative.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Late for the party again...

Once again, I'm the last one to know about something cool. It's one of the joys of getting older.

The amazing Dial B for Blog website.

Head over there and enjoy.

'Nuff said.

Sal Buscema Interviews

When I was growing up, Sal Buscema seemed to be drawing every comic I bought. And if he wasn't, I was wishing that he had.

Even though he was illustrating stories for Captain America, the Defenders, the Hulk, the Avengers, Spider-Man and many others, I still wished he would've been able to squeeze in time to draw "The Justice League of America". His work was dynamic and emotional, even though it sometimes seemed a lot of those emotions were expressed through clenched teeth and angry eyebrows. But that's what comics were about then: high adventure as good heroes banded together to take on menaces that threatened the people of Earth. There were no Neil Gaiman-esque civilized confrontations here (not that there's anything wrong with that); these confrontations were filled explosions of force lines as opponents slammed away at each other with enchanted hammers, shields, energetic force blasts, and fists. Lots and lots of fists. Fists that knocks out teeth and forced the recipients to feel unbelievable pain because it was all right there in their faces as they flew into the reader's POV.

Readers of Akira Toriyama's "Dragonball" would've been right at home here.

When I was younger, I loved Sal Buscema's work on the Defenders and the Avengers because it meant lots of colorfully costumed characters fighting each other in a giant steel-cage match with New York City as the enclosing ring. Now I look back and I'm amazed at the levels of energy and artistic composition involved. Heroes and villains zoomed about and kept the energy on the pages very high, so that anyone thumbing through these comics would've seen lots of movement and excitement going on. Surely, things happened in these books. SO different from the slow decompressed movement of many comics stories today.

With all that movement, Sal Buscema would've been a natural artist to have drawn DC's Flash.

It's been a joy to rediscover Sal Buscema's development as a storyteller in Marvel's Essentials books. It's really interesting to see his earlier work in the occasional Sub-Mariner story or in his older Avengers stories. The Avengers stories sometimes reflected a Steranko dynamic, especially in the stories around the first Zodiac team, while some of the later Captain America stories were influenced by the sword-and-sorcery images of Conan.

Anyway, all of this is a long introduction to three podcasts listed here, which feature interviews with Our Pal Sal. I haven't listened to them yet, but I'm looking forward to doing so.

Monday, July 27, 2009

The lure of the Glowies. Ooooo... Pretty...

I'm taking a break from playing City of Heroes for a number of reasons:

1) I was bored.

2) It's tough to solo a Level 31 Electric Blaster. It gets pretty lonely on the Liberty server sometimes. :(

3) I've been play-testing Champions Online. It's nice. It's not stellar yet, but the missions and bright colors sure are a nice change.

4) I feel like the COH franchise has to play catch-up. Their Issue 16 announcement offers a feature which comes standard with Champions Online. Wow. A whole issue devoted to being able to change colors? I know that's a big deal in terms of behind the scenes coding and game resources and such, but sheesh! After The Mission Architect release and even the 5th Anniversary Issue (which I couldn't enjoy -- see #2), this seems kinda underwhelming.

5) The screenshots for the DC Universe Online MMO just look so pretty.

They make the environments in COH look so flat.

6) In fact, the character models in DCUO are really, really well done. Better than Champions Online (which remind me a bit of the models from World of Warcraft).
Which begs the question: "Sure the art direction is spectacular, but how does it play?" I'm not sure yet, but that hasn't kept DC and Sony from promoting the game at SDCC.


Seriously, I'm pretty interested in seeing more details about the game.

7) I've been playing other games. Among them, FreeRealms.com, FusionFall, and Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles: My Life as a Darklord. This last one is especially addictive. Unfortunately it has the side effect of confusing my son who is wondering when we'll stop beating up the heroes and start acting like one for a change.

8) I've been working on my own Poser characters.

9) The kids are all home for summer vacation. Who wants to play solo when I can play Super Smash Bros. Brawl with my kids?

We're living in the future!

...at least as envisioned by comics and sci-fi.

Via the BBC: Artificial Brain about 10 years away. Give or take a few months.

As Chris Knowles comments: "Yeah, sure. It's for the handicapped. Same with the RFID chips- it's only for medical reasons, honest."

Now I've gotta look for links about giant killer robots. Two great tastes that go great together!

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Kirby follow up!


Christopher Knowles does a follow-up to his earlier Kirby ruminations. This time examining a Captain America story and how it might relate to the Moon landing.

Truly, a trippy examination of co-incidents and how they relate to each other. Face front, True Believer!

Pre-historic ancient history



Via Yahoo, evidence that modern humans may not have gotten along well with Neanderthals. Well, besides those GEICO commercials, anyway.

Snark aside, it sure makes me wonder...

Monday, July 20, 2009

Jack Kirby... Prophet?!?

Christopher Knowles explores the possibility that Jack Kirby tapped into something pretty profound while working on some of his 80's storylines.

At first I was a bit skeptical, but now I'm in the "Wow, I never saw that story quite that way before" camp.

I'm kinda nursing the theory that Jack Kirby worked the hours equivalent of a med school resident for so long that he succeeded in reaching a meditative state of mind while he was working. There's anecdotal evidence he would be in this state for so long that he'd have trouble snapping out of it; his wife Roz had to take care of things like driving the car because he'd be in his own little world.

GENERATOR REX


MAN OF ACTION has a brief blurb about their upcoming show GENERATOR REX. It looks pretty interesting...

Sunday, July 19, 2009

NASA's got pictures!

According to NASA, one of their orbiters found the Apollo 11 landing site. That's nice. But will they tell us if they find the Blue Area of the Moon? Or perhaps disclose info on the alleged German Moon Base? Or the other alien moon bases?

Yeah. Right. Like that'd ever happen. They make fun of their own people.



I'm not saying they didn't find the Apollo 11 landing site. It's just that UK hacker Gary McKinnon has stated that NASA doctors its photos before public release.

In the meantime, here's a clip, complete with spooky music and a British narrator.



UPDATE:
Christopher Knowles goes into much more detail concerning the conspiracy fog surrounding NASA and the Moon with a much better overview than I put together with my few links and attempts at hipster snarkiness.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Mr. Spock: The Perfect Boyfriend?

At least according to this article.

Does that mean Lt. Saavik is the perfect girlfriend?

In the future, all people will carry chainsaws...

...because of news stories like this one.

Will man survive?

Yet another thing to fear about the future: whither goeth the Y chromosome?

It's like Y: The Last Man! It's proof of the Prophetic Age of Comics, True Believer!

Characters worth saving from oblivion: Equinox

Another Len Wein/Gil Kane creation. I swear...

Another visually interesting character with a cool powerset. What could be cooler?

Some dynamic John Byrne scans can be seen here. Wikipedia article here and a rather stiff non-dynamic image here. comicbook db also has a nice appearance list; I've gotta check them out more and provide them here for fun.

Characters worth saving from oblivion: The Basilisk

Both the Marvel Database Wikia and the official Marvel Wiki agree that the Basilisk was killed by Scourge, but Wikipedia says that he was resurrected by the Hood to be sent after the Punisher.

Whatever. I just liked him when he first appeared in Marvel Team-Up #16 and went up against Spider-Man and Captain Mar-vell. Maybe it was the awesome Gil Kane art. Maybe it was that I appreciated a time (now long forgotten) when creators gleefully created new opponents all the time rather than going through the old vaults to see what characters could be revamped or revisited. Anyway, Basilisk deserved better than he got.

UPDATE:
comicbook db has an appearance listing.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Character worth saving from oblivion: Major Disaster

I'm not sure about the "new reformed Major Disaster". I liked the old classic bad guy who could cause earthquakes, shoot lightning from his hands, and stuff like that. That's the one I'd like to see.

UPDATE:
I thought about Major Disaster overnight and I realized that what Major Disaster's major flaw was that he was a Marvel character in a DC universe.

Lemme 'splain.

With his powersets of earthquake generation and lightning control (and possibly other powers like storm control and fireball generation, the Wiki entries seem to be a bit vague on the subject and only discuss his current incarnation), he sounds like someone who (with proper training) could go toe-to-toe in a proper slobberknocker with someone like Thor or Iron Man. Yet he was created in the DC universe where Julie Schwartz and his writers probably didn't watch too much wrestling and so involved him in clever puzzlers with the Flash and Green Lantern. Going up against Flash and Green Lantern (two of the cleverest super-heroes around, especially as handled by Julie Schwartz, Gardner Fox and John Broome) would make any villain look like a putz. Thus his mortyrdom in later years to be regarded as a candidate for the the Giffen/DeMatteis Justice League stories.

What he needed was some serious Stan Lee monologues, declaring how great and powerful he was and how he could completely destroy Green Lantern and the Flash and whoever stepped in his way, blah blah blah. Add some potent displays of power and he could've been an Amazo-level villain capable of taking on the entire Justice League (in a non-Giffen/DeMatteis manner).

Turning him into a megalomaniacal Marvel character might've made more sense than turning, say, Despero into one (truly, a brainy villain if there was one, dumbed down in later years to be an evil smart Hulk) or even Starro, especially in his recently-previewed new incarnation.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Warp

Seriously... someone ought to write a giant book about this play. Collect Neal Adams' sketches and drawings, collect snapshots and publicity images, and just lay it all out for people to see.

I was first made aware of "Warp" through an old old old magazine called "The Monster Times". I guess it tried to copy Forry Ackerman's Famous Monsters formula but just didn't last as long. Anyway, secreted in the back were ads for various monster and comic-related merchandise. Among the items my young eyes spied was a poster of the image displayed above: Neal Adams' DC characters lined up against the characters he designed for "Warp".

I've been chasing around for more info ever since.

Sure, I read the comic published by First Comics so I'm kinda familiar with the storyline, but that's not what I'm after. I'm after that creative spark, that energy, that little bit of being there, that theatre, that drama, that excitement that I only glimpsed in an old issue of Fantastic Films magazine that offered snapshots of the actors and sketches of the characters.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Just because...

Alex Ross read the same comics I did as a kid!!

...and they affected his brain!

Mine too, I guess.

DC showed off some preview artwork for their Absolute Justice volume and that cover pic reminded me of something.

Image from the amazing Treasury Comics website.

Meanwhile...




...over at Golden Age Comic Book Stories, Mr. Door Tree once again does the heavy lifting, this time with a collection of Jim Steranko's paperback covers. Well worth the look.

Comic Shading


Found a neat article here which discusses the unique look of the Champions MMO.

I thought this quote was kind of telling:
Colin: What can you tell me about comic shading and how it differs from cell shading?

Jim: We’re trying to go for the look you get in a comic book. But comics don’t transfer directly to real time 3D very well. Cell shading often looks really bland and has very little detail in it so we have decided on a more realistic lighting model.

If something is bumpy you’ll see the bumps and you’ll get highlights and shadows and that kind of stuff. But on top of that we have an art style that’s similar to comic books with bright colors and things that aren’t necessarily realistic. And then also we have an outline effect that outlines things that are near to the camera and adds to that comic-book feel.

We wanted to make this distinction because cell shading has taken on an almost negative connotation within the industry of looking boring. Artists get upset about being labeled with this generic term. It implies similarity to games that really aren’t similar at all.


It's something I've noticed in reactions to my own Poser work. People seem really enamored with some 3D work which shows all of the figure's textured pores as if somehow the wall between reality and 3D illusion has finally been broken. I've always felt it was a road not really worth following. I think the reality gap is just too wide. That's why I tend to prefer a cel-shaded look to most of my own work. Recently I jumped from trying to emulate the flat lighting in comics and older cartoons to embracing more complex 3D lighting in my renders and I really like the results. I just found it interesting to see an MMO's creative direction mirror my own.

Been out for a while....

...after being exposed to some horribly mutated version of the Martian Measles, Swine Flu, and Human Parvovirus B-19 (as opposed to the canine or feline versions, which I guess would've turned me into a refugee from the island of Dr. Moreau). Luckily I've beaten it back enough to finally sit upright at the computer.

Nothing better to stimulate your desire to get well than to stay in bed and watch daytime TV. I saw the ghost of Billy Mays more times than I care to admit!

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

SUPER SONIC!!!!

Via Yahoo.

A supervillain in the making...

...or maybe the future savior of mankind?

After all, didn't future savior of mankind, John Connor start off as a juvenile delinquent? Maybe this kid will save mankind from aliens intent on filling the atmosphere with Carbon Dioxide?

Whaddayathink, Mr. Schwarzenegger?

BTW, I'm sure someone's already thought this one up, but wouldn't it be quite the movie crossover to find out that the robots in "The Matrix" movies were the same ones in "The Terminator" movies, and that Neo and John Connor have to join forces to defeat them?

Since Newsarama won't let me post...

Newsarama reports on how George Clooney is working on a project:
George Clooney’s production company Smokehouse Entertainment is working on a movie entitled Escape From Tehran, documenting the true story of how the CIA used a fake movie project to smuggle hostages out of 1979 Tehran. What does this have to do with comics legend Jack Kirby? Jack Kirby did the storyboards for this faux movie.

Back in 2005, Wired Magazine did an article about it which you can read in full at their website. Long story short, Kirby did storyboards for a prospective movie based on the Rogr Zelazny novel entitled Lord of Light. It also chronicles attempts to make a Colorado theme park entitled “Science Fiction Land” based on Kirby’s set designs for the movie.

As far as I know, Jack Kirby only did concept designs for "Lord of Light". He produced the image above, a couple of other pieces, and a stunning Kirby-esque god costume for Mahasamatman, or "Sam" (as he preferred to be called). This bit about storyboards might be some confusion on somebody's part. Storyboards imply there might have been a script, but I don't think the people involved got quite that far.

Still, it'd be great to see someone playing Kirby on screen. Any suggestions on who should play Jack Kirby?

UPDATE!!
Apparently there was a script. My bad. Here's a link to images Kirby had created for the movie. They're now being sold as prints apparently. A couple of the images are definitely not by Mr. Kirby, but the ones that are are simply amazing. Kirby at the height of his powers, around the time of his work on "The Eternals", I'm guessing. Very reminiscent of his depictions of the Celestials and their technology...