Fan Expo ’09: JAKE BLACK Fights ENDER’S GAME: WAR OF GIFTS
By Zack Smith
Read the full interview here!
August 30, 2009
August 29, 2009
World War Hulk nearly tore the Marvel Universe apart…and that was when there was just one Hulk running around. After an eventful year that has seen a Red Hulk, a new She-Hulk, and at least one Hulk-Spawn wandering around, it all comes together in December with the start of…wait for it…World War Hulks.
August 28, 2009
By Zack Smith (Zack)
Everyone remembers classic kids’ movies from the 1980s like E.T., or maybe something more eclectic like The Dark Crystal, The Neverending Story or The Monster Squad.
But there are also those films that are just … weird. And I’m not just talking about how the original Transformers movie from 1986 included the voices of Orson Welles, Judd Nelson, Scatman Crothers, Leonard Nimoy and Eric Idle (not to mention The Touch).
There are many films out there that only briefly played in theaters, but still enjoy a cult following from video, cable screenings or just the childhood trauma they inflicted on their viewers. Some are weird E.T. knockoffs, like Mac & Me, featuring deformed aliens who love McDonald’s (almost as much as Paul Rudd loves showing clips from this on talk shows). And some … some kind of defy description.
August 28, 2009
August 28, 2009
August 26, 2009
by Zack Smith
by Glen David Gold
Alfred A. Knopf, 559 pp.
Glen David Gold’s first novel, Carter Beats the Devil, was a marvelously over-the-top historical fiction that by the time you were finished with it, had educated you thoroughly in the workings of stage magicians, the Secret Service, the early years of television and much more.
By the end of Gold’s follow-up, Sunnyside, you will know quite a bit about Charlie Chaplin, British general Edmund Ironside, psychologist Hugo Münsterberg and a great deal of other things, not the least of which is the birth of the studio system. Even Rin Tin Tin shows up. If this sounds like a heady brew, you’re right.
Sunnyside starts with a real-life incident in 1916, where Chaplin was sighted in 800 places simultaneously, prompting mass hysteria. Chaplin himself figures as one of the three major narrative figures in the novel, the other two being Hugo Black, a soldier under Ironside’s command, and Leland Wheeler, who will wind up meeting a very unlikely movie star while servicing airplanes in France. And then there’s Sunnyside itself, one of Chaplin’s oddest films, whose filming contrasts with the actor’s complicated and tragic personal life.
This is, as you might have guessed, a bit overstuffed—the sequences with Hugo rank alongside the Antarctica bits in Michael Chabon’s The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay as one of the longer military digressions in a good historical novel—but Sunnyside, like Carter Beats the Devil, has a way of making you feel wiser for having read it.
At times, it’s difficult to tell where the truth ends and fiction begins, but the effect is like being caught up in the whirlwind of the early 20th century. You’ll come away with a newfound appreciation for the history of liberty loans, diamond cutting and Wild West shows. It’s a powerful look at both Chaplin the man and the power of cinema. Not only that, but you’ll pick up some nifty trivia that will come in handy at parties.
August 26, 2009
Richard Stark’s Parker: The Hunter
Adapted and illustrated by Darwyn Cooke
IDW, 144 pp.
In the Indy‘s look at the best books from 2008, I named the University of Chicago Press’ reissues of Donald Westlake’s crime books that he wrote as Richard Stark as one of the best of the year; days after that review was published, Westlake passed away. But before his death, he approved cartoonist Darwyn Cooke’s adaptation of his books, and the first release should only fuel his posthumous reputation.
Donald Westlake was known for his comic, witty thrillers; under the pen name of Stark, he scripted ruthless, pared-down tales of a professional thief known only as Parker. Cooke, a longtime Stark fan best known for his 1950s-themed DC Comics series The New Frontier, hasn’t so much adapted Stark’s prose as literally translated it into a visual format.
The Hunter, the first Parker tale, chronicles his ruthless path of vengeance after being left for dead by his wife and his partner. It’s been adapted into films, most notably John Boorman’s Point Blank and Brian Helgeland’s Payback, but none has completely captured Parker’s sheer ruthlessness. (Payback, which starred Mel Gibson, was notoriously recut to make the main character more sympathetic, though a director’s cut last year rectified that.) But Cooke retains Stark’s hard-boiled character, so much that this is the only adaptation where Westlake allowed the character to be called by his original name, as opposed to Point Blank‘s “Walker” or Payback‘s “Porter.”
Cooke’s take on The Hunter renders the tale in stark black-and-white with blue tones, contributing to the dreamlike atmosphere. His figures have the curves and squiggly features of animation, which add to the fluid action of the time-hopping tale. He lets the tale stay visual; the bravura opening sequence is reminiscent of the camera-as-POV from the 1947 film of Raymond Chandler’s The Lady in the Lake, only revealing Parker when he looks in the mirror.
The sequences showing the details of the heists are quickly condensed using prose; other sequences erupt into startling splash pages that enhance the unexpected violence. And Cooke doesn’t shy away from the scenes that portray Parker as a cold bastard; he’s equally violent toward women and men, and his moments of conscience are fleeting.
The Hunter might be the best adaptation of a crime novel into comics since David Mazzucchelli’s take on Paul Auster’s City of Glass. (Mazzucchelli also has new work out this summer with the superlative Asterios Polyp.) IDW currently plans to do at least four Cooke adaptations of Stark, and the University of Chicago Press is approaching the halfway mark on its Stark reprints. There couldn’t be a better tribute to one of crime fiction’s grand masters.
Incidentally, Raleigh-based TwoMorrows Publishing has a Modern Masters collection of Cooke’s work coming out in late August; preorders are available at www.twomorrows.com.
August 26, 2009
The Big Rewind: A Memoir Brought to You By Pop Culture
By Nathan Rabin
Simon & Schuster, 342 pp.
As head writer of the The Onion‘s AV Club, Nathan Rabin has become one of the most entertaining and prolific entertainment writers around in recent years. From his film reviews to TV evaluations (his episode-by-episode look back at Saturday Night Live‘s first years on DVD is a great resource for fans of the show) to his “My Year of Flops” look at critical and commercial failures, Rabin’s work is insightful, entertaining and profanely funny.
Rabin’s memoir, The Big Rewind, uses his pop-saturated memory as a window into his life and times, with a different piece of cultural detritus prompting each recollection. Some of these involve his work for the AV Club and the short-lived TV review show Movie Club, while others rehash dysfunctional romantic relationships. But the most harrowing passages—and the ones that probably do the most to justify the book—detail Rabin’s harsh upbringing, which includes a trip to the mental ward, a stint in a group home and an attempt to reconnect with the mother who abandoned him.
Did I mention that most of this is extremely funny? Rabin is aware that there are plenty of hard-luck stories out there, and he’s just as hard on himself as he is on such targets as a video store boss, several girlfriends from hell and a Movie Club co-commentator married to the guy who wrote Soul Plane. But the beating heart of this memoir comes from the simple truth that the power of popular culture comes from its ability to inspire people and lift them out of whatever’s going wrong in their lives. In its own way, this book is perhaps the best argument for the shrinking field of film criticism and serious pop culture writing, even when his stronger insights are mixed with some rather marginal arguments, such as a comparison of the death of Ol’ Dirty Bastard to John F. Kennedy’s.
Rabin also has a “My Year of Flops” collection and a compilation of AV Club pop-cultural lists coming out later this year. If you want to see some of his work, head over to avclub.com, which also features an excerpt from The Big Rewind.
August 24, 2009
Friend of Newsarama Marc Guggenheim has many projects on his plate, ranging from producing the fall TV series FlashForward to co-writing the Green Lantern feature film to his work on Amazing Spider-Man and his own creator-owned series Resurrection.
So why did we call him up at his office to discuss why he’s doing a comic of a 30-year-old, critically-lambasted TV show?
August 10, 2009
Cecil Castellucci and Holly Black are two authors well-known to young adult audiences – and also to comics fans, for such graphic novels as The P.L.A.I.N. Janes and The Good Neighbors. Now, they’re co-editors of a new anthology from Little, Brown entitled Geektastic: Stories from the Nerd Herd. It features tales of fanboys and girls from some of today’s top writers for teens – plus original comics by Bryan Lee O’Malley and Hope Larson. Here’s the scoop on this ultra-geeky new book.