Sunday, March 30, 2008

I Drink Your Slurpee! I Drink It Up!

Iron Man 7-Eleven Movie Items - Superhero Hype!

Seven-Eleven has unleashed Iron Man movie merchandising -- including what looks like an Extreme Big Gulp in the shape of Ol' Shellhead's, well, shellhead. Considering that in the comics Iron Man has had a drinking problem, these tchotkes pose possibilities that are downright -- er -- ironic.


Update -- I swung by the 7-11 at Venice and Sepulveda in West LA today, and picked up a bunch of Iron Man collectibles. They included the Iron Man head cup, which is actually a 28-oz Slurpee cup, complete with the word "Slurpee" imprinted on the Golden Avenger's occipital area. (Has he started sporting sponsor decals?) I got two lenticular Iron Man cups -- one that depicts him dodging a missile from a jet fighter; and one rather ghoulishly reproducing the scene (depicted in one of the trailers) of the Mark I Iron Man immolating a bunch of soldiers with his built-in flame throwers.

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Saturday, March 29, 2008

Don't Fansub That Show, My Friend

Tokyo Anime Center Posts "Stop! Fan-Subtitle" Notice (Updated) - Anime News Network

For those who think the Japanese animation industry is ambivalent about Americans pirating and fan-subtitling their videos:  The Tokyo Anime Center (which we visited when we were in Tokyo last year) has posted a sign in multiple languages -- including English -- warning fans not to make, watch, or download fansubs.

When this story was posted on Anime News Network, one witty reader commented that if the sign had been translated by fans, the translation would have been more accurate and the sign would have been released sooner.
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You Can Watch This Video by Clicking It, By Clicking It . . . .

I hate it when a song as annoying as this gets stuck in my head. The only way to deal with it is to share the misery. Here's "Handlebars" by the Flobots. Believe it or not, it's currently one of the most requested songs on KROQ.

Friday, March 28, 2008

And One Day, Your Heirs!

A couple of years ago, a court ruled that the heirs of Jerry Siegel, co-creator of Superman, owned the rights to Superboy, a later version of Superman that Siegel created. Almost immediately, DC Comics eliminated their latest character with the Superboy name; and an animated version of the Legion of Superheroes featuring the Teen of Steel called him Superman, not Superboy.

Now comes a court decision with wider-reaching consequences: a Central District Court of California judge has ruled that the heirs of Siegel own a portion of the copyright for Superman. In 1997 the heirs served copyright termination notices under provisions of a 1976 law that permits heirs, under certain circumstances, to recover rights to creations. The court ruled that as of 1999, the Siegel heirs owned a piece of the American copyright to the Man of Steel. Further, the ruling leaves the possibility that in 2013, the heirs of Superman's other creator, Joe Shuster, may do the same.

Note that the years since 1999 have been lucrative ones for the licensors of Superman. Media exploitation of the Man of Tomorrow in that time frame includes the long-running TV series SMALLVILLE; the aforementioned Legion of Superheroes cartoon; the SUPERMAN RETURNS movie; the recent Justice League cartoon; direct-to-video animation works, including SUPERMAN:DOOMSDAY and THE NEW FRONTIER; and lots and lots of toys, clothes and assorted knicknacks. A piece of all that gold may be enough to buy the heirs their own Fortress of Solitude. (Whether they can obtain that, though, depends on some complicated issues -- such as how much of the merchandising and licensing is due to elements that appear in Superman's debut, in Action Comics #1; and how much is due to later elements of the character -- as well as his trademark, which DC parent Time-Warner likely owns clear.)

Here's a copy of the court's opinion. And what an opinion it is -- it not only quotes declarations from such comic book historians as Mark Evanier and Jim Steranko, but also sets forth black and white and color illustrations.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Makes Me Feel Like Indiana Jones

Walla Walla 2020 Historic Map

Here's a map of historic homes in my hometown.  Go to the corner of Whitman and Palouse, and click on the yellow balloon on Palouse; and you'll see the house in which I grew up.  Thanks to my brother Steve for the tip.

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Marvel at Myspace - Stan Lee - 85 - Male - BEVERLY HILLS, California -

Yep, comics legend Stan Lee has a MySpace page.  And a blog.  Excelsior.

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Saturday, March 22, 2008

The Nine Billion Thoughts of Arthur C. Clarke

Arthur C. Clarke's death this past week made big news. Clarke is one of those science fiction writers whom nearly anyone who's read science fiction has read -- whether it's one of his novels (such as CHILDHOOD'S END or RENDEZVOUS WITH RAMA) or one of his many short stories (mainly from the era before his books became big sellers). Non-science-fiction readers likely have seen, or at least are aware of, his collaboration with Stanley Kubrick, 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY.

Clarke was never a great literary stylist; just a solid storyteller. His stories excelled in combining a nearly supernatural sense of vast unknown wonder with a solid grounding in known laws of mathematics and physics. They may seem a bit stodgy, especially since the characters were generally subordinated to the plots and ideas; but once you buy into his approach, his works are immensely entertaining.

When I heard of his death, the story of Clarke's that sprang to my mind was one of his earliest: "The Nine Billion Names of God." As with many of his stories, it dealt with man using technology to reach beyond the limits of science into the realm of the cosmic. Yet it also featured a pessimism that I seldom saw in Clarke's other works: Man discovers the unknowable, but the act of doing so literally ends the universe. As a metaphor, it carries both promise and warning. Perhaps that is Clarke's legacy.

Japansub Instead of Fansub

GDH to Offer Worldwide Online Release Synchronised with Japan Broadcast for New GONZO Titles - Anime News Network

Those who follow the marketing of Japanese Animation in America -- or even just those who buy that animation -- have probably noticed that the industry is reaching or has reached a state of crisis.  That crisis is the result of several factors, including the worsening economy, and the general slowdown in DVD sales generally, based on saturation and ease in rentals through Netflix and similar services.  But perhaps the most pernicious factor is the fandom that is literally loving the anime to death.  Anime fans steeped in instant gratification who want their anime RIGHT NOW are tired of waiting a year or two for series to be licensed and sold in the U.S.; and often don't want to pay $25 to $30 for a DVD of four TV episodes.  So a network of fansubbers has sprung up.  They take raw digital video uploaded by Japanese fans; translate the episodes; and put subtitled versions on YouTube, Crunchyroll, and similar services. 

Fansubs have been a mixed phenomenon for American licensors of anime.  On the positive side, they can build fan buzz for a project, so that by the time it reaches U.S. shelves it has a built in market.  It can also provide free market research for licensors; they can judge which anime will be most popular by observing the most popular fansubs.

But the downside is more serious.  Fansubs are, naturally, copyright violations.  The owners of the rights get no money from them.  When American licensors bring out U.S. versions, fans who have already downloaded the entire series for free are often reluctant to buy what they already have.  And with Japanese anime studios increasingly dependent on funding from U.S. licensors, that directly impacts the production of anime.

Now Japanese animation studio Gonzo has taken what may be the next logical step for anime licensing.  They have cut direct deals with YouTube, Crunchyroll, and BOST TV to screen episodes of two Gonzo TV shows -- in Japanese, with English subtitles -- the same day the episodes screen in Japan.  They will obtain revenue through either advertising (for the free streaming versions of the episodes) or subscription fees (for higher quality downloadable episodes).

That would seem to cut out any threat of fansubbing those episodes (unless some fans feel the Japanese supplied subtitles are somehow lacking).  It also, of course, cuts out the American licensors.  (I imagine that they might still reach deals to distribute DVDs of the episodes through Funimation or another of the licensing companies.)  Further, this is the type of "new media" that was at the heart of the recent WGA strike.

Whether this experiment succeeds is another story.  But if it does, it may save the marketing of anime in the U.S.
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Sunday, March 16, 2008

Please Stop Me Before I ITune Again

Curse iTunes for providing, at the touch of a finger, every crappy song that lingers like dried coffee grounds on the walls of my '60's and '70's memories. I've already downloaded (and, yes, listened to -- several times) the greatest hits of Petula Clark; and Edison Lighthouse's "Love Grows (Where My Rosemary Grows)" -- one of those quirky love songs devoted (ala "My Funny Valentine") to insulting the object of the singer's affection. Now I've learned that I wasn't hallucinating when recalling perhaps the worst Top Ten pop song ever -- "Run Joey Run," a 1975 story-song by David Geddes. (Not to be confused with its contemporary, "Run Joe Run," a canine version of THE FUGITIVE.)

I confess that as a ten-year-old, I wasn't sure what Julie and Joey shared together (besides their first initials) that drove Julie's father to beat Julie up and start gunning for Joey -- or why Julie tried to placate daddy by warbling, "We're gonna get marr-ied . . . ."

I've been valiantly fighting the urge to seek out "Billy, Don't Be a Hero." Maybe I did imagine that one . . . .

Evanier Explains it All

news from me - ARCHIVES

I spent yesterday attending the Wizard World LA comics convention at the LA Convention Center (next to Staples Center downtown).  The event is run by Wizard Magazine, and a lot of the programming and events are aimed at Wizard's target audience -- teen and twenties-aged young men.  Which meant that the attractions for an older fan like me were relatively slim.

One standout event was a Jack Kirby tribute panel by Mark Evanier.  Evanier, Kirby's assistant, friend, and hand-picked biographer, has put together a tribute panel to Kirby at every San Diego con since Kirby died in 1994.  Usually, he packs the panel with comics professionals who worked with Kirby or were inspired by his work.  This time, the panel was all Evanier, all the time.  That isn't a bad thing.  Evanier is both a gifted storyteller and a spellbinding speaker, and has a seemingly limitless database of anecdotes at his command.  The panel consisted of Evanier taking about 20 minutes to recount how he first met Kirby in the late sixties, and came to work with him as an assistant; and then Evanier taking a few questions from the audience.  Each question triggered about 20 more minutes of explanations and digressions.  Thus passed the hour.

Evanier's book JACK KIRBY:  KING OF COMICS was recently released, after a few delays.  It was one of those books that I could not resist reading half of as soon as I received it last week.  Evanier described it as the prelude to an exhaustive bio of Kirby he will release in a few years.  His publisher wanted a book now; and so Evanier released this chronological account of Kirby's life wrapped around tons of Kirby comics and art.

The link above is to a current entry on Evanier's always-entertaining blog.  Those who have seen REBEL WITHOUT A CAUSE, in which Jim Backus plays James Dean's father, may recall the scene with Dean, Sal Mineo and Natalie Wood in which Dean mocks his father by imitating the cartoon character Backus voiced, Mr. Magoo --"Drown 'em like puppies, ah ah ah."  Evanier links to a news story on Backus's death, which recounts Backus's anecdote about the imitation and the studio reaction it triggered.
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Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Dave Stevens, R.I.P.

Back in 2003, Creation Entertainment held a comics convention at the Pasadena Convention Center. The event has become infamous for several reasons. One was that the company either promoted the con badly, or estimated attendance poorly; the place was filled with top comic book creators from around the country, yet relatively few fans showed up. Another reason was that the space shuttle exploded on the Saturday morning of the con. A third reason -- one we did not know about later -- was that a B-movie actress named Lana Clarkson was signing her final autographs at the con. Soon after, she would die by gunshot at Phil Spector's castle.

But one conversation I had at that con that sticks in my mind was my chat with Dave Stevens. Stevens had emerged in the '80's as one of the biggest stars of the first wave of independent comic book companies. He did a series for Pacific Comics (and later, after Pacific folded, other publishers) called The Rocketeer; and it was a wonderfully written and gorgeously drawn tribute to the pulps and serials and aviators of the '30's. (It was later turned into a fun movie by Disney that, alas, did not do well at the box office.) He drew covers for several other publishers -- covers that enticed you to buy the comic just for the cover, no matter what was inside. Most of all, Stevens was a master of drawing the female form. Stevens women were not just ink and benday dots; they lived and breathed and threatened to pop off the page.

Stevens and I somehow got on the subject of comic book creators who did not look their age. I used him as a prime example. At the time, he was 47; yet he still looked like a young star of some 1930's swashbuckler. One expected him to whip out a foil instead of a pencil.

Alas, now he will be forever young. Yesterday, Stevens died from leukemia at the age of 52.

Mark Evanier gives Stevens a fitting obit in Evanier's blog. I knew Stevens was a nice guy; but I did not know that he befriended Bettie Page, the '50's pinup model on whom Stevens based his character Betty in The Rocketeer, introducing Page to a new generation. Nor did I know that he helped Page financially.

Now we'll never see another voluptuous brunette or rocket-packed hero emerge from Stevens's meticulous brush. Worse, I'll never again be able to have a pleasant chat with the eternally young artist.

Monday, March 10, 2008

All the Marvelous Movies

Yesterday's LA Times Calendar section featured this story by Geoff Boucher (the LA Times staff writer who handles all things comic-book-ish) about Marvel Studios.  

Folks may recall that a couple of years ago Marvel got tired of studios throughout Hollywood raking in the big bucks on adaptations of Marvel characters, while Marvel itself merely received a licensing fee.  It sought to seize the means of production; and secured half a billion in venture capital to start its own studio.  (Not to be confused with the animation studio Marvel had in the Eighties).  

Now, as the studio's first flick prepares to roll out in May, the paper looks at the studio's prospects.  

On the bad side, it's not a good time to be an independent studio, with New Line dessicating into a division of Warner Brothers.  Plus, other studios have the rights to such cash cows as Spider-Man (Sony), X-Men (Fox) Fantastic Four (Fox again), etc.   And although Marvel struck a deal with the WGA during the writers' strike, the strike still hurt the studio:  It promised its investors 10 movies in five years, but expects to put out only one movie next year.

 On the plus side, Marvel Studios has the rights to such characters as The Hulk (they apparently reverted after Ang Lee's version failed to set the world on fire), Iron Man, Thor, Captain America, and numerous minor characters.  

Further, the studio's May release, IRON MAN, looks to be spectacular.   It's got great buzz, helped along by fantastic trailers.  A hit first time out on plate would go a long way toward persuading  folks to make theirs Marvel.  'Nuff said. 

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Watching the Watchmen

One year ago, director Zack Snyder's movie adaptation of Frank Miller and Lynn Varley's comic-book miniseries 300 debuted in theaters, and did tremendous business. It's no wonder; I saw a few scenes on cable TV last night, and they sucked me right in. The audience I saw it with in the theater last year certainly enjoyed it. Snyder even did well with some lines that sound much better in a word balloon than in someone's mouth. ("Give them nothing. And take from them . . . .EVERYTHING!")

One year from today, Snyder will try to replicate that success with a movie adaptation that people have been attempting for over 20 years: Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons's 12-issue series, WATCHMEN. Whether he'll succeed remains to be seen. WATCHMEN is a lot denser than 300; Moore and Gibbons wove their interlocking storylines out of characters in the foreground, characters in the background, flashbacks, flashforwards, even a pirate comic book read by a kid sitting on a streetcorner. There was enough story in WATCHMEN to fill a season of a TV series, so slimming it down into a movie will be a task and a half.

To give the audience a taste of what's coming in a year, Snyder has posted photos of some of the main characters (The Comedian, Night Owl, Ozymandias, Rorschach, and Silk Spectre) from the film. Some fans are complaining that Snyder has made some of the costumes look too much like Joel Schumacher-Batman-movie type armor. Frankly, I think they look cool.

One costume no one is complaining about, however, is Rorschach's (above.) Everybody's favorite Ayn-Rand-worshipping psycho looks perfect. Hurm.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Justice Breyer's Tomato Children

Breyer adds extreme examples to high court -

Bicycle pedal shopping, taking pet oysters to parks, "tomato children" afflicting Boston -- they've all shown up in the hypothetical questions Justice Breyer of the U.S. Supreme Court asks attorneys during oral argument.

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Monday, March 03, 2008

Feel the Burn

Burn Notice is basically The Prisoner updated for the 21st Century. Except ex-spy Michael Weston didn't quit; he was fired. And he's trapped in Miami, not an English village where all the men dress like Captain Kangaroo. And it's got Bruce Campbell instead of Leo McKern. And it's about dysfunctional relationships rather than dysfunctional totalitarianism. And there's no savage killer beachball waiting in the surf. And . . . well . . . okay, it bears no resemblance to The Prisoner.

Anyway, my cousin Tod is still writing the manuscript for a media tie-in novel; but the novel's cover is already done, and here it is, complete with ISBN number and bar code. Why not pick up a few copies. Christmas is only nine months away.

Sunday, March 02, 2008


Student removed from school for 'Death Note' - Search - South Carolina Now (

DEATH NOTE is an intricately plotted mystery/horror manga series (the anime adapation of which is currently running on Cartoon Network's Adult Swim) that centers on a mystical notebook that causes the death of anyone whose name is written in it.

Apparently that fantasy is too real for school officials in South Carolina.  They've removed a student from middle school for keeping his own "Death Note," with seven names written in it.

Perhaps some counseling might be appropriate for such as student.  But the principal is quoted as stating, "We treat situations like this the same as if a student called in a bomb threat or brought a weapon to school[.]"

Sounds like somebody's taking anime a bit too seriously -- and I don't mean the student.

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Damn Those Millionaire Playboy Vigilantes!

BASE Jumpers Leap Off San Diego Hotel Roof - News Story - KNBC | Los Angeles

In BATMAN BEGINS, Bruce Wayne gets Waynetech science guy Lucius Fox to show him the fabric that eventually becomes his cape.  Wayne's cover story:  He's going BASE jumping.

This is a news story about BASE jumpers leaping off the roof of one of the hotels used for Comic-Con International:  San Diego.


Look for a sleek black car nearby with a jet-engine exhaust . . . .

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Wi-Fi Watering Holes: REDCAT Lounge

The REDCAT Lounge is ensconced at Level P3 of downtown LA's Disney Hall, catty-corner from the Stanley Mosk Courthouse. Besides the parking-structure entrance, it has its own street-level entrance on Grand. Its location makes it the closest wi-fi watering hole (with free wi-fi) to the courthouse (indeed, jurors are routed to the parking lot there when the Music Center parking is unavailable). Unfortunately for non-business users, it also means the parking on weekdays is a maximum of $17, paid in advance -- the same rate as the Music Center across the street.

The bar is an honest-to-goodness booze bar which also serves espresso and tea drinks. When I was there (about 9:45 to 11:00 a.m.), there was no menu posted. The nonfat cappuccino I had was pretty good.

Besides the bar, the rectangular lounge features plush benches and coffee tables around the south and east walls, with some convenient wall plugs. There's also an Imac on a minimalist computer desk, for those who lack laptops.

The lounge is open Tuesday through Friday at 9 am (it opens at noon on weekends), which makes it unavailable to those who want to do work while waiting for an 8:30 a.m. court appearance; but it still provides a haven for those who come downtown for court and have a meeting or other appointment there later in the day. (I hung out there before a noon seminar I gave a half-mile away.)

Saturday, March 01, 2008

There Will Be Milkshakes

This evening, we watched THERE WILL BE BLOOD at The Bridge -- and while it was an undeniably compelling (albeit depressing) movie, I was left wondering whether watching the movie in a theater provided any advantage over watching it on video at home. The movie seemed to be directed for TV: The composition generally favored people over scenery; the director usually put the people and action in the middle of the screen; and we didn't get a sense of a vista that filled every inch of the screen. Plus, had we watched the movie at home, we wouldn't have had the old man who sat behind me and felt compelled to provide color commentary on each scene . . . .