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Archive for August, 2008

9. Nightwing

Believe it or not, there was a time when Batman smiled, and one of the things you just knew made him the proudest (amidst the grief of watching the closest thing he has to a son move on) was seeing Dick Grayson grow into his own man, at least, Pre-Crisis.  And indeed, one of the things that puts Nightwing at #9 on my Top-Ten is Graysons rich history.  Be it as a vital member of the “Flying Graysons” that he took so much joy in, to the bright eyed lad that faithfully fought crime for years at Batman’s side as Robin, to his role as Nightwing and leader of the Teen Titans and beyond, Grayson is one of the most pivotal, well respected, and experienced  figures in the DCU and he managed to “graduate” into the big leagues by unassumingly being one of the best there is.

Like Batman, Dick Grayson is one of the most skilled combatants in the DCU, but also like his former mentor, he rounds out his fighting skill with a fierce intellect and a wisdom beyond his years.  He’s a  master strategist/tactician, detective, escape artist, is proficient in multiple languages and is hailed as the world’s greatest acrobat (which plays well to his unique fighting style).  A weapons and tech expert, Nightwing utilizes his signature escrima sticks to great effect and dons a uniform containing useful equipment (e.g. night vision, lockpicks, antidotes, wing-dings,  etc.) along with the ability to blend with the shadows and gluide through the air.

Likewise, to a degree that I don’t know even Batman can claim, Grayson is one of the DCU’s most capable leaders and has seen successful tenures with The Teen Titans, Titans, and Outsiders. Of course, I grew up with Batman and Robin in the comics and on TV and have been on the edge of my seat for so many of their adventures over the years.  I just really enjoy the entire journey that has led a young boy who suffered a terrible tragedy with the loss of his parents on that fateful day, to become the crime-fighting half of the Dynamic Duo, into the well-adjusted hero who yearns for adventure, and for a world better than the one that created the Batman, and later, himself.  Additionally, it’s great to see Nightwing’s influence working so strongly within Tim Drake, another character who is quickly rising on my list of favorites in no small part thanks to what Grayson has helped him become.

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10. Aquaman

Kicking off the countdown, and coming in at #10, is DC’s resident champion of the sea, Aquaman. It was Superfriends, and later, Super Powers where I first encountered the “King of the Seven Seas” and I’ve been a big fan ever since.  Like so many heroes in the Silver-Age (the version that quickly became my favorite) Aquaman bravely stood for good in the face of evil, but did so as a unique denizen of the sea, which separated him from the rest of his super powered brethren.  In the Silver-Age Arthur Curry was the son of seaman Tom Curry and a mysterious Atlantean queen, named Atlanna, and as such had a heritage that afforded him the ability to live & breath underwater, enhanced strength, senses and durability, blinding speed and, among other things, the ability to communicate with and command sea life (his origins would be altered a bit in the modern age,  particularly his name & parentage, but for the most part this basic origin has remained the same).

As a character, Aquaman represented an honor and nobility that I could not only appreciate but that I could learn a great deal from, and I always had the sense that Aquaman would do anything and everything to stand up for what was right, that he was quided by one of the strongest senses of morality to uphold justice. On land or sea (per mare per terras).  I can also point to Adventure Comics #478 for some of my fandom as it was one of the first comics I ever received and I would marvel at that fantastic cover and story time and time again (still do).  It kicked off my Aquaman collection and I’ve had a great time adventuring into the deep ever since.  Years later I’d have the misfortune of finding out that Aquaman was held in some disdain among select fans and creators for being a ‘lame character’ but it’s a sentiment that I don’t understand (or wish to) in the least.  Having grown up enjoying the character presented by the likes of Frandon, Swan, Giordano, Buckler, Perez and Jim Aparo and I think the work of these folks is certainly a stark contrast to some of the lambasts out there.  It’s the classic Silver & Bronze-Age character that continues to resonate with me and I have to admit that I haven’t been able to get into any of the more modern interpretations of the character, be it Peter David’s or some of the even more recent attempts.  But here’s hoping that one of these days Aquaman will indeed get the same kind of high profile treatment that Hal Jordan and Barry Allen are receiving, and that it’ll be deeply rooted in the characters rich history.

And for those who haven’t read it, please check out the 12-issue series Justice by Jim Kruegar, Alex Ross & Doug Braitwaite for some great Aquaman material.  His confrontation with Black Manta is one of the coolest moments I’ve read in recent memory, period, and if it doesn’t leave a positive impression of the character for you, it’s likely nothing will.

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Top-Ten Countdown: DC Heroes

My Top-Ten DC Heroes

As I mentioned with the Marvel list, when as I first started the blog I thought about throwing out a few “top-ten” lists as a way of introducing myself to you good folks, but ultimately I decided against it — I didn’t want the standard “top-ten” list to become a crutch, particularly early on as I was settling in. Well, after several months and a growing readership I’m itching to let y’all in on some of my favorite comic-related stuff – but I don’t want to regulate these to simple lists so I’ll try to make each entry a little more hearty than that, and hopefully it’ll be something worth tuning in for.  I know that at least a few of you are looking forward to the DC list, so stay tuned over the next week or so for that.

As I work through them, please refer to the ‘Categories’ section under ‘Lists’ and I’d enjoy any comments that you have about the characters, my reasons for picking them, your own favorites, etc.

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This one took the long way before arriving at my doorstep, but the first volume of Gemstone’s Daan Jippes Collection is finally here and it was a nice surprise after a long day at work to find it waiting for me. What’s more, I can happily say that it was well worth the wait. Last week’s vacation was a little more hectic than I would’ve liked and I didn’t have much time to read any of Gemstone’s recent offerings so it was nice to be able to take some time to dive into this. I love the Junior Woodchuck stories and this one is chock full of ’em and the highlight of the collection alongside the Carl Barks scripts and fantastic Daan Jippes artwork carefully crafted around them.

Here’s what’s inside, painstakingly brought to you from this volumes Table of Contents to fill in the gaps of a few incomplete online solicitations:

Duckmade Disaster starring Uncle Scrooge
Story: Carl Barks (JW 14, 1972) / Art: Daan Jippes (Dutch DD 1992-01)
Color: Egmont / Lettering: Michael Taylor

Bad Day For Troop A starring Junior Woodchucks
Story: Carl Barks (JW 8, 1971) / Art: Daan Jippes (Dutch DD 1992-07)
Color: Colleen Winkler / Lettering: Sue Klinger

Storm Dancers starring Junior Woodchucks
Story: Carl Barks (JW 12, 1972) / Art: Daan Jippes (Dutch DD 1992-13)
Color: Egmont / Lettering: Sue Klinger

The Day The Mountain Shook starring Junior Woodchucks
Story: Carl Barks (JW 13, 1972) / Art: Daan Jippes (Dutch DD 1192-29)
Color: Summer Hinton / Lettering: Sue Klinger

Traitor In The Ranks starring Junior Woodchucks
Story: Carl Barks (JW 11, 1971) / Art: Daan Jippes (Dutch DD 1992-43)
Color: Egmont / Lettering: Bill Pearson

Cover Gallery Front & back cover art by Daan Jippes

(really fantastic covers here folks!)

And here’s the back issue blurb with more about what you’ll find in the volume:

Welcome to a brand-new trade paperback series collecting the comics of beloved Dutch DUck artist Daan Jippes.  Successive volumes will collect both Jippes’ self-created stories and (as in this opening book) his re-creations of adventures written – but not drawn – by legendary Uncle Scrooge creator Carl Barks.

In this volume, Huey Dewey and Louie try to bump Scrooge’s money bin off Killmotor Hill in ‘Duckmade Disaster.’  The Nephews rescue a stranded circus in ‘Bad Day for Troop A’ and become twister resisters in ‘Storm Dancers.’  The wilderness is the stage for another battle with Scrooge in ‘The Day the Mountain Shook’; and finally, Donald sets his eyes on Junior Woodchuck prizes in ‘Traitor in the Ranks.’

I like the sound of “successive volumes” and will certainly be there for the next issue in the series!  Until then,“Strike the tent, troopers! Furl the Flag! Tomorrow you go back to public school!” Seemed rather fitting seeing as how I start a new class at the University tomorrow.

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Hitting store shelves today is the Blu-ray re-release of Tim Burton’s stop-motion animation classic The Nightmare Before Christmas (Blu-Ray + Digital Copy), complete with its treasure trove of extras. So, if you’re one of the many fans of Jack Skellington’s Christmas tale then you’ve got an awful lot to look forward to. Thanks to the Hi-Def Digest here’s a run-down of what you’ll get for your hard earned dollar:

The Special Edition DVD that was released in 2000 contained a bounty of supplemental material. The Blu-ray retains almost everything from that disc.

  • Frankenweenie (SD, 30 min.) – Tim Burton’s 1984 short film stars Shelley Duvall and Daniel Stern as the parents of a young science whiz who brings his recently-deceased dog back to life through the miracle of electricity. The local townsfolk don’t react well to the discovery. The black & white short is a little stilted in pacing, but is a clever tribute to 1930s classic horror films and demonstrates the promise of Burton’s developing visual sensibilities. The Blu-ray contains the extended director’s cut version of the film. The piece is preceded by a new video introduction in which Burton plugs his upcoming animated remake.
  • Vincent (SD, 6 min.) – Another chestnut from the Disney archives, this early stop-motion animated short by Burton illustrates a poem narrated by Vincent Price. The influence on ‘Nightmare Before Christmas’ (as well as Burton’s short-lived animated series ‘Family Dog’) is abundantly clear. In fact, keep an eye out at time codes 1:20 and 4:45 for a prototype version of Jack Skellington making his first appearance on celluloid.
  • Deleted Storyboards (SD, 3 min.) – Storyboards for three deleted sequences (including an alternate ending) are presented with brief commentary by Burton explaining why they were dropped. All three scenes have temp music and dialogue (not by the main cast).
  • Deleted Animated Sequences (SD, 5 min.) – Three scene extensions and one entirely new scene made it all the way through to completed animation but were eventually cut for time.
  • The Making of Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas (SD, 25 min.) – A fascinating documentary that explains the stop-motion animation process and gives a good overview of Burton’s designs, the music, storyboards, art direction, lighting, and how the puppets were manufactured. Unlike most “making of” featurettes available on home video, this one has some real substance to it and isn’t just EPK filler material.
  • Halloween Town – This section of the disc is devoted to still galleries filled with character designs and concept art, as well as some short animation test videos. The categories are: Jack; Sally; Oogie Boogie; Evil Scientist Igor; Lock, Shock & Barrel; and the Citizens of Halloween Town.
  • Christmas Town – Designs and concept art for Santa and his Helpers.
  • The Real World – More still galleries devoted to the poor townspeople Jack terrorizes with his Christmas shenanigans.
  • Storyboard-to-Film Comparison (SD, 4 min.) – A breakdown of the Town Meeting sequence.
  • Posters – A brief still gallery of five poster art designs.
  • Trailers (SD, 4 min.) – One teaser and one full theatrical trailer. The teaser plays up the Disney tradition for innovation in animation and reveals that the film was originally planned for release under the Walt Disney Pictures banner.

Additionally, the Blu-ray shares the following new bonus features with the 2-Disc Collector’s Edition DVD being released simultaneously:

  • Audio Commentary by Tim Burton, director Henry Selick, and music producer Danny Elfman – This track has been edited together from three separate recording sessions. Selick’s participation sounds to have been culled from the commentary on the prior DVD. Nevertheless, this is an interesting listen with a lot of solid information about the making of the film. Elfman’s comments about the music are particularly interesting. Burton has been hit-or-miss in past commentaries. He’s pretty focused here, perhaps benefiting from his session being heavily edited.
  • What’s This? Jack’s Haunted Mansion Holiday Tour – On Track Version (HD, 7 min.) – This promo for the theme park attraction based on the movie can be viewed either with or without a pop-up trivia track. The trivia jumps on and off the screen far too quickly. The exhibit itself looks kind of neat, but this short ad for it is pretty lame.
  • What’s This? Jack’s Haunted Mansion Holiday Tour – Off Track Version (HD, 37 min.) – Much more interesting is this extended version of the promo, which incorporates numerous interviews from the Disneyland “Imagineers” explaining how they convert the traditional Haunted Mansion ride to a ‘Nightmare Before Christmas’ theme each year. (Note that the pop-up trivia is not available during the “Off Track” version.)
  • Tim Burton’s Original Poem (HD, 12 min.) – The poem that served as the inspiration for the film is narrated by Christopher Lee and illustrated with brand new animation based on Burton’s original concept art. In this version of the story, Jack is much more of a Grinch-like character. This is a very cool feature.
  • D-Box Motion Code – Viewers with D-Box equipped furniture can load the disc into a PC drive to synchronize the shaking and jostling movements with the action on screen. The codes are also available for download from D-Box directly if you don’t have a Blu-ray drive in your computer.
  • DisneyFile Digital Copy – The second disc in the set provides a portable video version of the movie compatible with either Windows Media or iTunes. The file can be downloaded from the disc with an activation code provided in the packaging.

Amazon.com is offering the Blu-ray edition at 30% off the cover price, so at ~ $28 dollars that’s a heck of a steal.  Heck, make it an early Christmas present & have yourself some happy nightmares!

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During the 90’s, the Marvel Universe wasn’t always the most compelling place to visit (with the bright side being that I discovered Indies to a much greater degree). Be it the hyper-angst, multiple covers, trading cards, Wolverine appearing in every issue, or the general downward spiral where both the writing and art were concerned – things just weren’t going all that well. But there were a few bright spots and while my encounters with the character were relatively few and far between before taking a break from the hobby all-together, Darkhawk may very well have been one of them. In those first issues I found that I liked the Darkhawk visual an awful lot (perhaps the good ‘ol Silverhawks influence pulled me in) and Chris Powell seemed to be a character crafted in the mold of a Peter Parker, or Rich Rider, with just enough there to differentiate himself from the two classic heroes. In other words, the potential was there. Unfortunately, as I mentioned, I stepped away from comics for several years about this time and never really got to see how things played out over the next several years. I did catch up with Darkhawk briefly when Excelsior appeared in the pages of Runaways and really enjoyed seeing the character there and in Loners mini-series not too long after. I thought he made a great addition to the current M.U. and that some of that potential I saw back then was definitely being brought to the surface.

So, long story short, I was glad to find out that a couple of newly crowned favorite writers in Abnett & Lanning were going to put their pens to paper and write a Darkhawk appearance in Nova’s excellent series, hopefully, further cementing that potential for future use. Rosemann & DnA have the right idea:

Darhawk’s appearance in “Nova” came about because of a suggestion by DnA’s editor Bill Rosemann, one that the writing duo thought made perfect sense. “For the most part, Darkhawk reminds us of Nova – young, hot-headed, under-appreciated, under-used,” the writers told CBR News. “But there’s a mystical quality to him, that contrasts him with Nova’s SF edge. And he’s got that temper, of course.”

Despite Darkhawk’s temper, DnA feel the character and Nova could possibly become very good friends. “They have been teammates, after all, and they complement one another,” DnA said. “Rich has a ‘big brother’ edge–especially after what he’s been through these last couple of years. He could probably teach Chris quite a lot.”

Nova #16 hits stands later this week!

Nova-17---New-CoverNOVA_017_008NOVA_017_009

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Congratulations to Jake Parker for landing a 2-book deal with Publisher’s Weekly, starring Missile Mouse of Flight Explorer fame.  Apparently this helps explain some of the intricate details he’s been posting on the  world of Missile Mouse recently.  Here’s the press release:

Jake Parker Two-Book Pact
The Flight generation—cartoonists included in artist/editor Kazu Kuibishi’s acclaimed anthology of color comics—continues to prosper in the new graphic novel era. Cartoonist/animator Jake Parker has signed a two book deal with Graphix, Scholastic’s graphic novel imprint, to produce two graphic novels starring Missile Mouse, a cute crime fighting mouse character that will star in Parker’s two sci-fi adventure graphic novels.The deal was negotiated by agent Judy Hansen of the Hansen Literary Agency. Missile Mouse was introduced earlier this year in Flight Explorer, an anthology based on Flight with comics created for young readers, published by Villard. Missile Mouse: The Star Crusher, the first of the two graphic novels, will be published in 2010. Parker’s work has also appeared in Out of Picture, another color comics anthology that collects the comics works of animator that is also published by Random House/Villard.

The first book is entitled: The Star Crusher, and while it’ll be a awhile until 2010 hits, Mr. Parker has promised updates and concept art as the release date nears.  Always glad to see another Flight alumni hitting it big, again.

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