Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths: Real-time movie review


I acquired my copy of Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths yesterday, but I’m just now getting a chance to sit down and watch it this morning because yesterday was Mighty Mite’s BIRTHDAY! The little bugger is now two years old! Can you believe it? Yep, she’s two years old, and Mickey Mouse is the new love of her life. So, we spent most of last evening watching Mickey Mouse cartoons –- the CLASSIC ones, thank you very much, like "The Brave Little Tailor" and "Mickey and the Beanstalk." NOT the TV stuff.

Anyway, time to fire up Justice League: Crisis of Two Earths. I picked up the two-disc special edition, which also includes a new cartoon short of The Spectre. I haven’t been paying any attention to the previews, etc., for this movie, so I’m not sure what to expect. Here we go! Spoilers ahoy!

- Previews of Superman-Batman: Public Enemies and the SmallvilleJustice Society” episode. Old news.

- Play movie!

- Hey, it’s Luthor and his old buddy, the Joker.

- Martian Manhunter and … Hawkwoman? I guess? Geez, these alternate Earth stories give me a headache …

- The Crime Syndicate!

- Oh –- it's the JESTER, not the Joker.

- Another Baldwin actor? And James Woods. INTERESTING.

- I like the graphics in the opening credits. Very well done.

- Hal’s in his current Green Lantern uniform.

- Not sure I like Batman’s voice, and -- Hey! Batman just stole Flash’s donut!

- Is this version of the Flash supposed to be Barry or Wally? He acts like Wally.

- Martian Manhunter is also in his most recent uniform, not the "look-Ma-no-pants" uniform.

- Speaking of no pants --! Oh, my! Naked Luthor! “As you can see, I’m not armed.” Ha!

- Once a Luthor, always a Luthor.

- Batman is such a killjoy.

- The Outsiders and Detroit Justice Leaguers as bad guys. Cute. And it appears that the 1970s are still in fashion on this Earth.

- Ah, James Woods is Owlman. And, thank goodness, he isn’t talking like Hades from Disney’s Hercules.

- Fight! Fight!

- “Hey! This is like the Jedi Mind Trick!” Yeah, this has GOTTA be Wally.

- I do like the character designs in this film.

- OMG, is that the Marvel family? That sure as heck looks like Uncle Marvel.

- Wonder Woman is now flying an invisible plane. *Groan.*

- Um, aren’t Hal and J’onn capable of making themselves invisible without the plane?

- Project Damocles. Named after an ancient Greek legend showing that one cannot be happy when living under fear. Interesting.

- Hmmm, outspoken red-haired chick. Who’s she gonna hook up with?

- HA! Harley the monkey!

- Well, that’s one way to take care of "Black Canary."

- Wonder Woman is marvelous. Absolutely marvelous.

- Superman vs. Jimmy Olsen! I love it! We need more of that!

- Blue kryptonite? So, does this mean Ultraman is a Bizarro?

- President Deathstroke. Nice. Oh, and the red-haired chick is his daughter, Rose (Ravager). Of course.

- Just when you think Batman is in over his head, he calls in his Brave & Bold buddies.

- Ha! RESPECT AQUAMAN!

- Black Canary is MEAN. MEAN, MEAN, MEAN!

- Way to short out the satellite, Jeff.

- Awww …. Martian Manhunter is such a sweetie.

- Batman just used one of Hal’s old lines!

- “That’s going to cost you a rib.” Ow-weeeee! Superwoman really is an excellent villain in this.

- Yep, once a Luthor, always a Luthor.

- Hey, the Martian gets the girl for a change! “KNOW ME.” Y’know, in ancient Greece, that was another way of saying, “Let’s have sex!”

- Starro!

- “That wasn’t funny the first fifteen times you said it, either.”

- “Some of us don’t speak Star Trek.”

- Big green boxing glove!

- As much fun as it is to watch the heroes battling evil versions of themselves, wouldn’t it be smarter for them to change partners?

- I don’t remember Ultraman ever being this powerful in the comics. Wasn’t he supposed to be more like his world’s version of Wonder Woman? Superwoman was always the really dangerous one –- dangerous, but vain.

- Earth Prime is deserted? Really?

- Owlman is obviously suffering from depression and misanthropy, and he's hung up on "philosophy of mind" theories. He needs a good therapist. Y'know, most of these bad guys who want to blow up the universe could really use a good therapist.

- Gee, I hope that Earth wasn’t inhabited.

- “Good one, mate.” Batman is a ruthless bastard.

- “With my luck, she’ll be evil.” Ha!

- “YOU drive a car.” Hal never says much, but he really doesn’t need to.

Final verdict: Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths is entertaining, but I can't shake off the feeling that I've seen this before. MANY times before. I'm also getting tired of Batman saving the universe. It's becoming a running gag: Batman has a contingency plan for EVERYTHING. Yeah. Right. Whatever happened to Batman being the most HUMAN of the heroes? He ain't human anymore. It's getting old.

Anyway, back on topic: Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths is fun, but I liked Superman-Batman: Public Enemies better -- though I think Crisis of Two Earths is a better-looking film. I still think Wonder Woman is the best of the recent direct-to-video DC films. That, and the filmmakers still haven't quite shaken off the sense that these movies are TV-bound. They still don't have a theatrical feel to them. Nonetheless, I like this movie well enough to want to keep it.

Okay, now it's time to watch the bonus Spectre cartoon ...

Ahem. Well. They did a great job with the art and animation, but they went with a noir approach coupled with 1970s cop show music. Cheesy beyond belief. Sad, too, because the Spectre would be very well served with a classic horror movie approach. It was also nice to see Jim Corrigan as the Spectre again. Still ... I think they tried too hard to make it like the 1970s Fleisher stories. They should have taken a more classic, timeless approach. Still a good effort, though.

I think I'll go watch Wonder Woman again ...

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Kirkus Reviews has been saved by a Hoosier!

Well, well, well ...! It doesn't look like Kirkus Reviews is going to bite the dust anytime soon after all! The review magazine has been purchased by none other than Indiana business big-shot Herb Simon, who owns a vast amount of property around Indianapolis, amongst other things, including the Indiana Pacers basketball team (though the current team is a far cry from the heyday of Reggie Miller, Rik Smits, the Two Davises & Company). Mr. Simon's reason for buying Kirkus and saving it? He's a longtime fan and subscriber, and he loves books.

That's a rather sweet reason for a business man to buy into a publishing business, and Mr. Simon IS a rather smart business man, but this also has me a bit worried. I've experienced first-hand what it's like when someone buys into a publishing venture because they think "books are cool." I once worked for a rather large, well-known publishing company that was bought out by Paramount Pictures. The Paramount purchasers (who evidently knew nothing about book publishing) allegedly thought that the publishing company would be a fun business to run, make them lots of money, and naturally tie-in with Paramount's motion picture projects. They found out the hard way that publishing businesses are very, VERY tricky to run.

Now, let me tell you: being run by Paramount Pictures was an absolute BLAST when it came to the work environment. We were ALWAYS getting freebies tied to Star Trek and other Paramount properties -- movie posters, free movie tickets, access to sneak previews, t-shirts, etc. In no time, my office was decorated in wall-to-wall Star Trek, complete with stand-up cardboard figures of the Next Generation crew.

Then there were the parties! Paramount threw FANTASTIC parties for us. I remember one particular Christmas party in which Paramount rented out the entire Indianapolis Children's Museum for an evening -- the largest one in the world, by the way. The bash included INCREDIBLE catered food and tons of booze -- all free for the publisher employees. Let me tell you, there's nothing like getting stinking drunk and then riding the antique carousel ten times in a row, or heading into the then-Theater-In-The-Round to watch the "Roller Coaster" film. It's amazing I didn't throw up. (I also suspect the Children's Museum slapped Paramount with a HUGE bill after THAT party, what with all of the cleanup they had to do -- beer and wine glasses everywhere, amongst other things.)

Yes, working for Paramount was fun. It was also doomed. Paramount (at least at the time) didn't know the first thing about running a publishing company, and we started losing money hand over fist. By the time Paramount panicked and decided to unload us on another, smaller company at a loss, the damage was already done. The publisher never recovered. I really, really hope Herb Simon doesn't make the same mistake with Kirkus. Fingers are crossed!

On a somewhat related note: I have made good on my threat and taken steps to remove my eBook from regular distribution. I do plan to make it available for free, but first I'm going to fine-tune it a bit. I won't make any drastic changes, but this is a golden opportunity to have the editing tightened. I also need to do a little research into an ideal site for offering free downloads. This should be interesting!

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Happy Valentine's Day!

From the ULTIMATE romantic couple ...







The Joker and Harley Quinn, from Mad Love (1994), by Paul Dini and Bruce Timm. The comic was animated in 1999, almost word for word, for the TV show The New Batman Adventures.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

The day before Valentine's Day

Black Canary and ... HAWKEYE! Courtesy of JLA*Avengers (2004), by Kurt Busiek and George Perez. Ha! You thought it was going to be Black Canary and GREEN ARROW, didn't ya?



Friday, February 12, 2010

Two days 'til Valentine's Day

Cutter and Leetah from Elfquest, Book 2 (1982), by Wendy and Richard Pini.





Thursday, February 11, 2010

Three days 'til Valentine's Day

Hal Jordan and Dorine (Onu Murtu) from Green Lantern #160 (1983), written by Mike Barr and drawn by Keith Pollard -- from the time when the Guardians exiled Hal to space for one year. This scene always cracks me up:



Gee, what do you think Hal and Dorine did in that cell -- after being told to use their last hours however they wish and then left alone until dawn?

Afterwards, Dorine stayed with Hal for the remainder of his exile in space. Once his year of exile was up, he high-tailed it back to Earth -- and back to Carol Ferris -- without a second glance at Dorine. Hal, after all, DOES seem to subscribe to the attitude, "If you can't be with the one you love, love the one you're with."

I've always said that if Hal has fathered a child anywhere in the universe, it's been with Dorine.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Four days 'til Valentine's Day

Bruce Wayne and Selina Kyle -- Batman and Catwoman -- from Justice League of America: The Nail, written and drawn by Alan Davis:


Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Five days 'til Valentine's Day

Courtesy of Nightcrawler, Cerise, and Excalibur #55 (1992), written and drawn by Alan Davis.




Monday, February 8, 2010

The SAINTS?! Heck yeah, the Saints!


Yes, I got the Super Bowl matchup that I wanted -- the Indianapolis Colts vs. the New Orleans Saints. YES, the Saints kicked our butts. But, you know what? That's all right! I mean, heck, the Colts have BEEN to the Super Bowl before -- and we won. The Saints didn't have that feather in the cap before -- and if any city deserved a Super Bowl win, it was New Orleans. Best of all, the Super Bowl this year didn't consist of two teams that were there purely due to a fluke. Both the Colts AND the Saints deserved to be there, both having gone undefeated for 13 straight games during the regular season. And the Saints didn't have to beat just ANY team to win the Super Bowl -- they had to beat native son Peyton Manning (Archie's boy!) and the Indianapolis Colts. Hardly pushovers! It was a good game.

Besides, Saints quarterback Drew Brees has Hoosier connections -- he was quarterback at Purdue University. And cornerback Tracy Porter played at my alma mater, Indiana University. So, this wasn't a TOTAL loss for my home state of Indiana.

Well done, New Orleans! If we had to lose to someone, I'm glad it was you. You deserve the win. :-)

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Probably the closest, real Superman-vs.-Green-Lantern "fight" we'll ever see

Apparently, some people have been wondering why I never followed up on my long-ago post on Superman: New World of Krypton #4, which had cover art showing Hal (Green Lantern) Jordan vs. Superman (in his "Krypton cop" uniform).

Well, the reason I never followed up is because the cover -- as is often the case with comic books -- is deceptive. Sure, Hal puts in an appearance in the issue, along with fellow Lanterns John Stewart and Sodam Yat. The Lanterns arrive on New Krypton to do some reconnaissance work -- and that's about it. Hal gets to be all self-righteous. General Zod expresses a grudging respect for Hal's power. Sodam Yat expresses interest in seeing what Kryptonians are like. John Stewart gets to tell Hal to chill out. Hal gets to fire off one last snarky comment at Superman before all of the Lanterns leave New Krypton. That's about it. There's absolutely no fighting between any of the Lanterns and/or Superman.

Based on DC's track record, THIS is probably the closest we'll ever see to a real "conflict" between Superman and Hal Jordan:

I have no idea who did this drawing, or where it comes from, but it cracks me up. Quit looking so smug, Hal -- you dirty cheater!

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

On the ridiculous (OVER)pricing of eBooks

This sort of thing makes me so mad …!

Earlier this week, Amazon.com caved to Macmillan Inc.’s demands to raise the prices on its eBooks. Amazon HAD been selling its Kindle eBooks at pretty much a flat rate -- $9.99 per copy. Now, with Macmillan’s eBook pricing going up, you can bet other publishers will follow suit. Actually, I know for a FACT that many other publishers have been chomping at the bit for an excuse to raise their eBook prices. My current company is certainly guilty of it. In my opinion, this whole approach to pricing eBooks has been ridiculous -- and a ripoff for consumers.

Make no mistake -- regular, printed books are expensive because they’re very expensive to manufacture:

- PAPER is expensive, and it gets more expensive every year. The paper also becomes more expensive with quality -- the higher the quality, the greater the cost to print the book.

- INK is also expensive -- and the more colors you use, the pricier your printing costs become.

- A way to keep the price low for one copy of a book is to print as many as you can -- the more units produced, the cheaper the cost per unit. However, publishers can’t go around printing a million copies of every book they produce. Most books don’t come close to selling 12,000 copies, let alone a million -- therefore, there’s no justification for printing many, many copies unless a book proves to be a bestseller. Most books AREN’T bestsellers. So, printed books have to be priced accordingly -- the cost of producing the book vs. the number of copies that the publishing company projects can be sold.

I repeat: Printing books is VERY expensive. However, creating eBooks is NOT expensive. Not in the slightest.

Here’s how a printed book is made: Almost all books these days are created electronically. The authors and editors work on the text via a word-processing program (usually MS Word). Any illustrations (including the cover) are either created via an art program (Illustrator, PhotoShop, etc.) OR drawn by hand and then scanned, creating a computer art file (JPG, GIFF, etc.). Once all of the editing and art is finished, the contents are layed out together in page form, usually through a program like PageMaker or Quark. The completed book file(s) is then sent to the printer for printing, binding, packaging, warehousing, and distribution.

(In the old days, books were layed out on page boards -- or cardboard sheets. If you needed to fix a typo on the page, you literally had to type or print out the new word, cut it out with a Xacto knife, and GLUE it in place on the page board. I’m not kidding. Stacks of page boards were then Fed Exed to the printer -- and woe betide the publisher or printer who dropped the page boards or otherwise accidentally got them out of order!)

Now, here’s how an eBook is made -- Take the exact same file that you send to the printer, tweak it a little bit to make it more eBook friendly (delete blank pages and eliminate other layout tricks common for printed books), and generate a PDF file of it. That’s it. Piece of cake. EASY. Hardly any effort involved.

Sure, for eBook pricing, you still have to take into account the amount of work that went into creating the book files in the first place -- not to mention royalties owed to the author, the author’s agent, etc. (and royalties generally REALLY aren’t a very high percentage, folks). But take away all of the print and distribution costs, and you end up with a product that really isn’t very expensive. Not $10.00+ expensive per unit, anyway.

I repeat: The pricing of eBooks is RIDICULOUS. Most eBook novels, especially, can be sold for a buck a copy, and the publisher would STILL make money. It should be no different from what iTunes charges per song. Because books with illustrations are harder to produce, they should probably cost more -- but not $10.00 more!

Actually, one of my own books is in eBook form, and the distributor insists on charging a ridiculous amount from purchasers. I’m seriously, seriously thinking about pulling it from distribution and making it available for FREE online. I can do it very easily. I own all copyrights and all creative and distribution rights to the book, so there’s really nothing to stop me. I understand why my printed books are priced the way they are for distribution, but there’s no excuse for the eBook. NONE. AT. ALL.

99.9% of all novelists never make enough money off of their books to allow them to quit their day jobs. I’m not foolish enough to believe I will ever make very much money off of my novels. I’d rather just have people read my work.