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Tag: comic book

Happy Friday – May 25th 2018

Hey folks,

I thought I ‘d try a weekly update post.

First up – GDPR – This site is now GDPR compliant. That’s what that banner is about at the bottom. Here’s the privacy page for those of you who want to protect yourself from victimization at the hands of my cookies.

Alvin Baylor Lives!

Alvin Baylor Lives! Cover sketch
Alvin Baylor Lives! Cover sketch by Roger Betka.

I got my edited manuscript back. It’s time to review changes and notes. I’ve got one scene to polish up and add to the book and it has occurred to me that my page count has already changed significantly. This will lead to a change in the spine width of the paperback. The final artwork is not done yet so I’m hoping this is an easy adjustment. I had already anticipated differing specs from multiple POD vendors, but did not expect formatting to add 30 pages! Live and learn. The final cover sketch before painting is posted above.

Kill Night

I’ve got a rough outline for my next novel about urban terror. The first act has been plotted in detail. I hope to finish the rest up and get to typing next week. I will be juggling the start of this project with the completion of ABL. This book will not be sci-fi. It’s sort of Death Wish meets Street Trash. I intend it to be stunningly low brow, yet intelligent. We’ll see how that plan works out.

Black Panther review


I watched this again last night. I wrote a review that I never shared because it felt like shouting in a crowded room. Anyway, two thumbs up from me. Everything I liked the first time, I liked better the second and everything I disliked stopped bothering me. I have one critique – the fight scenes look like spaghetti. When you have a hero who fights with his fists – you use a stuntman for the action, not cgi. Where Avengers: Infinty War fails, this film shines and vice-versa. This was the brains of Marvel’s Phase 3 and I think it will become a classic. If you have super-hero™ fatigue this is the anti-dote.

Cobra Kai review

William Zabka in Cobra Kai

I was pretty impressed by the first two episodes of YouTube’s Karate Kid relaunch. It’s got great characters despite a low budget production value. It seems Johnny Lawrence is the protagonist this time out. I can’t wait for YouTube:Red to fail so I can watch all the episodes. Just like with CBS’ Star Trek: Discovery – I’m not subbing to any damn app.

Steve Ditko

Mr. A by Steve Ditko

I continue to track down new and old Ditko comic books. I’m fascinated by Mr. A, his objectivist philosophy hero. Stunningly original work. I haven’t seen anyone be this brave with their beliefs since 1960’s underground comix.

That’s all I got for now. May you all have a lovely memorial day free from the strictures of employment or mourning.







Ditko Lives!

Steve Ditko is alive and working in 2018.

If that name doesn’t ring a bell – he’s the trippy artist/writer behind Spider-Man, Dr. Strange, The Creeper, Hawk & Dove, Captain Atom, Speedball, The Question, yadda, yadda. He’s one of the greats.

Ditko self-portrait
Ditko’s self-portrait.

I’ve been bored with mainstream comics for a while now. I feel like a music geek who’s favorite band has gone mainstream. Super-Heroes™ rule the box office and the culture. If you think it’s reaching critical mass, just wait until all these little kids grow up.

But I digress into present tense.

So, I’m in search of new fertile territory, someplace that’s not been overrun yet. I’m on youtube. It shows me only the worst parts of my psyche reflected in algorithms and zeitgeist schadenfreude, but I make a break for it. I start searching for comic book vids. Not the angry ones they want to show me – where comic pros and fans bicker over sales and diversity, but the ones that share knowledge. I come across a BBC documentary from 2007 about Steve Ditko. It’s excellent (and pirated). Halfway through comes the shocker –  Ditko, one of the great comic book masters, is still alive and working out of a small New York City office. He’s friendly, but won’t appear on camera.

I pivot to the internet and do some research and he’s still working in 2018. His next book comes out in June. He’s gone all J.D. Salinger, except he still sells his work – quietly. I have my enticing new itch to scratch.

My inner geek feels better now.


******Update – Sadly, Steve Ditko passed away on June 29th, 2018. I was able to sign-up for his last Kickstarter Campaign and even recieved an emailed update from him on the 22nd. So sad. I’m glad I “rediscovered” him before his passing. He was one of the true Comic Book masters.

‘Thor Ragnarok’ is Good Stupid Fun

thor_ragnarok_posterI got a MoviePass so I finally took in a showing of Thor: Ragnarok. I dug it. It was a far better ride than the last two Marvel Studios outings  (Guardians of the Galaxy and Doctor Strange). I thought it was fun with a retro visual style reminiscent of recent low budget genre mashups like Turbo Kid or Kung Fury. Of course, the big budget here allows every frame to be stuffed to the gills with world building visuals. I’m not sure it’s possible for a film to feel more like a comic book. The action is crisp and fun and the film never bores, but I’ve got an unusual critique to make. It’s too funny.

The Humor is Relentless.

Each one of Ragnarok’s cast of characters is both the butt of jokes and a teller of jokes. I can laugh at Thor’s love of beer over tea, but don’t expect me to buy in when he speaks in snarky millennial phraseology. There is a lot of self-consciously clever dialogue that disappointed me. Thor, Hulk, Banner, Valkyrie – all of them are at times played for humor at the expense of character. I would have preferred something with more restraint. There are pratfalls that are out of left field including one where Bruce Banner jumps from a plane. That moment was a low point for this Hulk fan. The humor has another effect – Tom Hiddleston’s performance as Loki is greatly diminished as he is no longer the one injecting levity. That’s my main gripe with the film. Some moments were so silly they betrayed the characters.

It’s Brazenly Kitschy and Absurd.

Overall, this was a good outing for Marvel. It’s got the same kind of bite sized enjoyment that an issue of the comic might have and it removes the ponderousness of the previous Thor outings. There are big knock-around battles that have the kind of silly gusto you want out of tales of the super-strong. Ragnarok also marries sci-fi with the fantasy stylings of the prior films. This kind of genre bending works for an informed geek, but it can be hit or miss for a general audience. It’s a strength here. This is a sci-fi, fantasy, adventure, gladiator, super-hero comedy that works.

Marvel’s Source Material is Nearly Endless.

Ragnarok manages to adapt several comic titles. The film incorporates Hela (Cate Blanchett) and Skurge (Karl Urban) from the Thor books. Neither character gets much time for development, but both have the acting chops to make their scenes work. There are elements borrowed from the late 90’s “Ragnarok” storyline (Thor #80-85) that feature prominently near the end. However, the middle act of the film is not from Thor at all, but a storyline called “Planet Hulk”. The gladiator backdrop as well as Hulk and a few of the secondary characters are culled from this run. It was previously adapted as a mediocre animated film. Finally, the name of the gladiatorial competition is taken from a limited series called Marvel Super Hero Contest of Champions. The only other element borrowed from that series is a single character – Grandmaster – played with electric enthusiasm by Jeff Goldblum.

I’m Excited for More.

Thor ends this entry in a place he has never really been in the comics. The changes to his stats quo have been toyed with in print, but never put forth as a permanent arc. These new elements move the character forward in a way that’s needed to sustain interest. While I think the movie veered off road when Thor was delivering punchlines, the ending was great for him. This third outing is certainly a fresh take on the character. I recommend it heartily to Marvel fans and anyone who enjoys Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em Robots. Thor: Ragnarok is a fun cornball movie that your inner five year old will love.

Year – 2017  | TRT – 2:10 | Directed by  – Taika Waititi  | Written by – Eric Pearson, Craig Kyle, Christopher Yost, Stan Lee (based on the comics by), Larry Lieber (based on the comics by), Jack Kirby (based on the comics by)  | Cast – Chris Hemsworth, Tom Hiddleston, Cate Blanchett, Idris Elba

[adinserter name=”ragnarok”]

Meh-tacular – A ‘Wonder Woman’ Review

I finally saw Wonder Woman. It’s OK.

This entry from Patty Jenkins moves DC’s films up a notch on the positivity scorecard. However, the writing lacks verisimilitude. There’s plenty of dialogue and interactions that seem more anchored in 21st century filmmaking tropes than in Greek Myths or WWI.

That aside, my main gripe is Gal Gadot. She can’t act. She has a nice smile, but she seems like a co-star in her own movie. That’s not Wonder Woman. Physically, she comes from the Michael Keaton school of super-hero performance. The costume looks good, but the physique is lacking. Her role as written is very naive and it muddles the character arc. Wonder Woman of the comics is aggressive, dominant at all times and distrustful of men. She’s a straight-up ass-kicker who learns to soften with experience, rather than a naive girl who hardens as she see’s our world. Here she’s written as strangely confused in a way that panders to the general conception of femininity. Wonder Woman is more aggressive than Batman on the page and she has to learn to trust and respect mankind.

Nonetheless, the film ends her character on the right note. It just gets there in a way that is odd and misplaced for this fan of comic books. It gave me more hope for the DCEU than Man of Steel or Batman V Superman. It’s now up to Joss Whedon to save this cinematic universe with Justice League reshoots.

Beautiful on the Outside – ‘Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets’ Review

posterI was the only one in the theater. Sheesh.

If you liked The Fifth Element you’ll probably enjoy Luc Besson’s Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets.

The visuals are stunningly original. It has fantastic effect and production design in service to the world building. Unfortunately, the story is simplistic and the characters are lightly drawn. It sags a bit in the middle, but then picks up to finish off as a light adventure story. It all adds up to a decent time at the movies if you’re into French comic book adaptations. For what it’s worth, I found it more visually engaging than the comic book source material. If you enjoy science fiction tropes and seeing the boundaries of visual effects pushed, then this film should be a forgettable, but enjoyable ride.

© 2024 by Maximilian Gray