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Bachman’s Best – Man of Steel

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(Slightly Spoilerific, Read With Care)

Kal-El, Man of Steel wallpaper, Superman

Man of Steel

In accordance with what ended up being a fairly small protest to support digital artists working on CGI heavy movies in Hollywood I waited until after the opening weekend to see the new DC offering. So, the best thing I saw last week was Man of Steel, the newest addition to the Warner Bros Superman family.

Holy punching buildings Superman! This film went a long way distinguishing itself from the last outing Superman Returns, which had left a lot of fans complaining that we didn’t get to see hand-to-hand combat with superpowers. Man of Steel goes full-bore into its action scenes and brings you explosive, fast, environmentally-damaging combat sequences that leave you almost breathless. In all honesty I think you could almost re-title this film Man of Steel: Collateral Damage.  Kryptonian-on-Kryptonian violence is a truly spectacular thing to witness.

All of the destruction also leads to one of the major complaints about Man of Steel– there isn’t much saving going on in this film. Something most of us have grown accustomed to with previous Superman films. Though when you add the individual saves along with the movie’s fiery sequence at sea, Superman does indeed save many people, this just seems to be overshadowed by the large amounts of perceived deaths in the major cities and the one rural town featured in the film. I would guess that in real world terms this film’s events would have lead to the deaths of possibly a couple hundred thousand people, if not more. But I believe that in a way this was actually one of the film’s goals.

This is a young Clark Kent that’s learning what it means to be Kal-El, long distance visitor from Krypton, moving along the path to becoming Superman. In the way that Nolan’s Batman Begins gave us a glimpse inside the training and experiences that created the Batman, including scenes of a ski masked Bruce Wayne sneaking into Commissioner Gordon’s office, long before the hero of legend became what some now call the Batgod. Man of Steel presents us with a young Clark Kent that has been different his whole life and has hidden himself away from humanity and so has not been learning his limits and pushing his powers to see what he can really do. It’s a great opening salvo as DC tries to play catch up in an Avengers world. The real question is how strong their next shot will be.

Now of course the film does have its problems and plenty of detractors have jumped on them.  The pacing could use some work, Superman causes a lot of damage and seems to only rescue a handful of people, a somewhat unnecessary and unbelievable love story and the CGI has a few moments that kind of jump out at you. However I found this to be a fun film that really delivers on the idea of what would happen with a super powered alien flying around our planet, for good or for bad.

So if you’ve waited this long because you just weren’t sure, go see it. Leave all your preconceived notions and all your memories in the parking lot. Whether they are from the comics, the Smallville show, or a desperate hope that someone will be able to someday do what Christopher Reeve did in 1978. Go in with an open mind and I think you will be surprised by how much fun there is to be had viewing this film. And see it on the big screen, hit the local dollar theater if your town has one, ’cause this much destruction and punching deserves the big screen treatment.

Zod from Man of Steel FaoraP.S. If none of my other blather can convince you to give Man of Steel a chance, I offer two more reasons.  Michael Shannon and Antje Traue, they play Zod and Faora respectively. These two actors are worth the price of tickets alone.


Live and Let Brony

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After its first season in 2010, My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic has become an almost unbelievable phenomenon. The show boasts one of the most diverse and active fanbases in recent memory.  Known as bronies (for the guys) and pegasisters (for the gals), MLP fans across the country craft immaculate pieces of fan artwork, stitch together gorgeous (human-appropriate) costumes of their favorite characters and host a plethora of conventions worldwide. Celebrities such as Stephen Colbert and Gabe Newell have even stepped forward to show the bronies some love.

And what’s behind it all?  Well, Hasbro has certainly put together a hell of a show.  My Little Pony boasts an impressive cast of talented voice actors, an amazing team of animators and the savvy to leverage the show’s incredible accessibility.  The fluid animation style uses bright colors, but isn’t limited to pale yellows, hot pinks and vibrant purples which may peg it as a girl’s show.  The main characters (or “mane” as the case may be) are all female, but have the support of a wide array of male co-stars ranging from Spike, the lovable dragon sidekick to Discord, the harbringer of chaos (voiced by none other than John de Lancie).  Older audiences can appreciate a slew of clever jokes while catchy musical numbers bring fans of all sorts together in much the same way as Disney’s classic animated films.  This potent combination has created a franchise that appeals to the target demographic, but is able to reach far wider.

While the show’s message touches on making new friends by learning more about them, helping them when they’re having a problem and promoting harmony all around, it certainly isn’t for everyone.  The almost aggressively cute antics of Twilight Sparkle and her friends can be a huge turn off to some folks and the occasionally rabid devotion of bronies and pegasisters is enough to turn off others.  But contrary to popular belief, bronies are not any stranger than your average Browncoat or Trek fan.  Like ’em or not, they’re here to stay and I say that My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic is worth at least an afternoon’s worth of “When in Ponyville, do as the ponies do.”

You might just enjoy yourself.


Wednesday’s Webcomic: The Non-Adventures of Wonderella!

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Wednesday's Webcomic

The Non-Adventures of Wonderella deftly skewers tropes both comic book and mundane in a weekly Saturday strip. Fighting for truth, justice, and product endorsements, Wonderella herself would much rather be at home with a Jack and Coke watching American Idol. Unfortunately for her, a girl has to make a living and her superpowers are the pretty much the only job skill she has.

11406 Wonderlla

She can’t fly, though.

The comic has been published weekly since September of 2006. The vector art is vibrantly colored and cheerful, with a complete full page story every time. Wonderella herself began as combination Wonder Woman/Superman parody.  Creator Justin Pierce has said “I started out Wonderella to make an off-the-clock superhero who was an average woman instead of some 24/7 warrior… though somewhere along the line, ‘average woman’ became a cross between Elaine Benes and Zelda Fitzgerald.” In early strips big name heroes like the Flash and Batman were mentioned as off screen characters, but Wonderella’s own super powered cast of colleagues grew, as well as a regular rogues gallery that is one of the real draws of the series.

wonderella 92212

The real charm lies with the fact that while she is often self absorbed and would rather not be bothered, Wonderella’s  genre-savviness is often her greatest weapon. She has a real world logical streak that doesn’t mesh with her super powered universe, which is probably contributes to her drinking problem. Her own sidekick, Wonderita is more of a teenage stalker and useful hostage for villains than any real assistance. The other heroes she fights alongside are catty and competitive, and she generally gets along better with, and sometimes briefly dates, the villains and villainesses she fights agains. Her mother, the original Hitler-Punching Wonderella, is a super powered Lucille Bluth who didn’t give her daughter much of a choice to be anything other than her successor.  She’s an everywoman with a lot of baggage, but Wonderella might not be the hero her world wants, but she’s probably the hero they need.


Wednesday’s Webcomic, the Intro

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Not only has the Internet shrunk the world to the point where I can virtually walk through a shack in Antarctica, it’s also brought us the versatile and exciting medium of webcomics. Webcomics are free from the constraints of editors and publishers and the physical dimensions of paper. One or two people can sit down with an idea or concept and with the smallest amount of technical know how to create a body of work that touches millions of people daily. The only constraints of the medium seem to be an author’s personal time, funds for reliable web hosting, and determination to stick to regular publishing schedule.

The talent pool that has moved to online distribution has been, for the most part, incredible. As the newspapers began neglecting their comic pages and only reprinting work from long-established series many of the emerging voices moved online, as did many alternative comic book artists whose distribution would only have been possible with copiers, adult book shops, and coffee shop bulletin boards. As the print comic industry shrank and only tried-and-true artists and stories were printed, the writers and artists left to the sidelines worked together to build a presence online. In the last few years, mainstream comic strip syndicates and comic book publishers have seen where the market is moving, and launched new distribution platforms with their libraries either partially or completely online.

Webcomics have been a part of the modern Internet almost as long as it has existed for the general public. The earliest recorded webcomics appeared on CompuServe in the mid-eighties, and as the internet and it’s graphic capabilities grew, so did the medium. You can find newsprint-style comic strips, full page graphic novels, sprawling short stories and single panel gags. Art styles include scanned pen and ink pages, lush digital paintings, clip art, pixel art, and CGI figures. In the mostly censorship-free playground of the internet, the boundaries of content and taste can be pushed to the extremes, but the lack of editing can also work against the medium. Many rough and nonsensical comics exist only because of some lucky author’s plethora of determination and free time. I have put together a collection which I read regularly, and once the subject comes up, I often can’t stop talking about my favorite webcomics and the future of the comics industry on the Internet. While I certainly can’t rhapsodize as well as Scott McCloud on the subject, I am going to share my thoughts in a weekly column here at GonnaGeek.

While a great deal of media attention has been given to major publisher’s choices to move more content online and build digital distribution methods for their books and to the rise of new media giants like the creators of Penny Arcade and the Oatmeal; I wanted to share some of my personal favorites, introduce new readers to some of the classics, and some webcomics I think are doing something new and exciting. While many webcomics are bound together in excellent curated subscription editions such as moderntales; the ones I will focus on will be free to read.

Modern tales also has a large library of completed, free comics from their archive.

As I mentioned before, the only limit webcomics face is the ingenuity and dogged persistence of their authors and creators. Many wonderful ideas and storylines get left behind and abandoned. Because of the massive amounts of time and often money involved in creating a rich web comic you can’t fault an author for having to leave a story behind. Some of my favorite series have had long pauses because of the time constraints of the author’s day jobs. The comics featured in this column will be either completed and continuing, or with a proven track record of returning from hiatuses.

Many friends and acquaintances have mentioned that one of the reasons they do not read webcomics regularly is the inconvenience of bookmarking and finding their place among a massive archive of comics. While I used Google Reader for a long time to track my comics with RSS feeds; I had to manually set each of them to display the oldest comic first, and Reader often distorted the art or displayed only links and thumbnails. Many webcomics design their sites around the atmosphere and tone of the comic itself, and Google Reader only displayed them against a white background. Also, my RSS feed viewing did not contribute to pageview counts, nor could I see my authors side projects, advertising, or donation buttons. Every other simple RSS reader I tried had the same issues or worse.

Luckily, a group of people who know how to write code have started to solve these problems. A small team of programmers has created Comic Rocket, a crowd-sourced indexing tool. Using my Facebook login, I can bookmark every single comic I read, and it tracks the last page I read, so if I leave a comic alone for a short time I can pick up right where I left off. It also takes the reader directly to the authors site with an unobtrusive HUD under your browser bar, so that it is not stealing pageviews. If you decide you want to reread, it’s simple enough to replace your bookmark anywhere you like. I have also used their recommendation section to find new comics as well, although it’s still pretty rough around the edges.  It’s still in beta, so they have a robust system for feedback, with the ability to vote on popular suggestions. They also have author tools which are sadly underutilized, but as authors see the traffic coming from the site and are told about it by their readers, they are discovering the tools and using the site to advertise. They did just have a very successful indiegogo fundraiser to begin development of their free iOS and Android app, so I expect the site to explode soon, and I look forward to all of the crowd-sourced features filling out.

So please stay tuned for next Wednesday’s Webcomic when I will begin gushing about my favorite webcomics, the artists who make them, and the communities who follow them.