On the new episode of Gobbledygeek, Paul and AJ told you about all the things you should buy this Christmas season, and now here’s a comprehensive guide! (Including a few items that weren’t even mentioned on the show.)
Note: Most links and prices are from Amazon.
READY PLAYER ONE by Ernest Cline
Hands down one of the best science fiction books I’ve read in recent memory. It’s like my admittedly overdeveloped nostalgia gland were milked and distilled onto the page. This book is my geeky, pop-culture DNA printed in ink. ~ Paul
Welcome to Last Month’s Comics, in which I discuss, uh, last month’s comics. I get my comics in bi-monthly shipments from Discount Comic Book Service, and as such, I can be a little behind. So here we are.
This column is later than usual, as I was a little preoccupied earlier this month, but for all those still madly wondering about what October 2011′s comics had to offer, here we go…
Writer: Brian Azzarello
Art: Eduardo Risso
I’ve read only a fraction of Azzarello and Risso’s acclaimed 100 Bullets, which ran for ten years from 1999 to 2009, but one needs no familiarity with their past work to be immediately sucked in by the opening chapter of Spaceman, their new nine-issue mini-series from Vertigo. It takes place in a weird, sad future, just a few monsters and flying cars away from the one in Joss Whedon’s Fray. Our protagonist is Orson, a monkey-ish man genetically engineered to travel to Mars, a trip the human race never got to make. Orson and his low-class friends speak in bizarre, disjointed slang; “okee” is how they say okay, and they actually say “LOL LOL LOL” instead of laughing. In this first issue, Orson has ominous spaceman dreams and becomes involved in the kidnapping of the adopted child of reality TV stars. Eduardo Risso’s art is terrific, Brian Azzarello’s storytelling immediately compelling. Choice line, as Orson’s alarm chirps “New day, new day, new day” while he opens the door on a bleak, cloudless future: “Why, you lyin machine…it’s the same fuck old day it always is.” (Plus: $1!)
Welcome to our new column, “Four-Color Flashback,” in which we will occasionally discuss classic or interesting comic book runs. First up is the legendary 35-issue span encompassing Chris Claremont’s work with John Byrne on Uncanny X-Men. So legendary, in fact, that I’m amazed I’ve never read it. Claremont’s initial 16-year run on the book, from 1975 to 1991, has been so influential on not just the most successful superteam in the business, but also modern superhero comics as a whole, that at times it can feel like you’ve read the whole thing even if you’ve read nary a page. The four years from 1977 to 1981, during which John Byrne joined the series as penciler and co-plotter, are largely regarded as the pinnacle of Claremont’s work on the title. What with X-Men being in the air as of late, considering the release of X-Men: First Class and my recent purchase of the two hardcover editions of Joss Whedon’s Astonishing X-Men run (itself a loving homage to 70′s-era Claremont), I’ve decided that now is as good a time as any to finally read the thing. If you’d like to play along, I’ll be covering seven issues a week for five weeks, starting with #s 108-114.
First, a little history on both myself and the X-Men. As a big comics fan, I’ve read many X-Men comics over the years, including some of Claremont’s later or more recent work. When I was younger, I cut my teeth on my dad’s comics collection, so I wouldn’t be surprised if I’ve read some of the Claremont/Byrne stuff, as he owned his fair share of 70′s and 80′s X-Men. Though if I did, I don’t remember much beyond certain cover images. As for the X-Men themselves, before Claremont came along, well, Marvel’s mighty mutants were in dire shape. Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, who brought us so many of our popular superheroes, had created the pupils at Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters in 1963. The resulting 19-issue run, which I have read, is fun in the classic Lee/Kirby mold, and even introduced the series’ common sociopolitical themes, with the mutant-hating Bolivar Trask alerting humanity to the so-called “mutant menace” and creating the Sentinels to eradicate all mutant life.
The graduating class of Sunnydale High School 1999.
Totally slipped my mind to make this post yesterday morning, so here we go: Friday’s Gobbledygeek, “Higher Education,” is available for listening right here. Fictional schools discussed are Sunnydale High, Greendale Community College, Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters, Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, and many (seriously, many) others. No annoying tech problems this week, either! In the bonus hour, we talk about the DVD’s that will be out this Tuesday, the new direction the Batman comics are taking, and this season of True Blood so far (though largely spoiler-free, since Kevin hasn’t started the season yet, and we wanted to be all considerate-like). Enjoy!
Came across a pleasant little surprise on Netflix Instant last night: Comic Book Confidential, a 1988 documentary by Canadian filmmaker Ron Mann which takes a look at the history of comic books. It’s interesting from a historical perspective, since this was right when comics were really beginning to be embraced as an artform by the public, what with Watchmen and The Dark Knight Returns having been released to critical and commercial acclaim. Obviously, there was still a long road ahead, and even now most people continue to think of comics largely as kids’ stuff with flashy superheroes and WHAMMO! sound effects. At around 85 minutes or so, it briskly takes you through the early funnies, the whole Fredric Wertham/censorship debacle, the first superheroes, and the Marvel boom before going on at length about the underground scene. We hear and see from a lot of comics legends: Stan Lee, Jack Kirby, Will Eisner, Bill Griffith, Robert Crumb, Art Spiegelman, Frank Miller, and Harvey Pekar, among others. Interestingly, neither in the brief look at then-current superhero books nor in the Frank Miller interview is Watchmen mentioned. Anyway, it’s a cool movie and a nice condensed history.
Originally published on May 8, 2010
Director: Jon Favreau
Writer: Justin Theroux, based on the Marvel comic book by Stan Lee, Don Heck, Larry Lieber, and Jack Kirby
I attended a packed midnight screening of Iron Man 2, and directly beforehand, in the same auditorium, a considerably less packed screening of the original Iron Man. The first is every bit as great as it was two years ago; it is charming, rich with character, brilliantly acted and directed, and with not a wasted minute. It’s the perfect blend of comedy, drama, and action, a genuine crowdpleaser in every sense.