Thursday, October 31, 2013

Halloween at Biff Bam Pop!


All through October, Biff Bam Pop! has been celebrating 31 Days of Horror, special articles and reviews in the genre of horror.

Go on over to the Biff Bam Pop! website, your online home for comics, movies, music, television, video games, and more, and check it out. This month, you can check out articles about Carrie both old and new, John Carpenter's Prince of Darkness, Nothing Left to Fear, Metallica: Through the Never, and even The Human Centipede.

This month there is also an interview with Slash, terrific guest blogs by Alyssa Lobit, Liisa Ladouceur, Robin Renee, Justin McConnell, Jim Knipp, and great horror themed comics reviews from JP Fallavollita and Jason Shayer. And don't forget the television reviews from Marie Gilbert of "American Horror Story: Coven," "Sleepy Hollow," NBC's new "Dracula," and "The Walking Dead."

Some guy named Glenn Walker even wrote a few things over there, like stuff about The Monsters of Doctor Who, The Atlas Comics Monsters, Solomon Kane, and The Bride of Frankenstein

Please check it out, and Happy Halloween!

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Doris Danger on ComiXology


I have only recently caught up with the world technology-wise. I have only had my iPad Mini a few months, and I'm still learning. And it's also only been a short time since I have been reading digital comics the, um, shall we say, the legal way.

ComiXology is my friend, my reding device, and the bane of my wallet, but it has been a new way for me to experience not only comics, but comics in a new way as well. It has also been a way for me to explore comics I might not have read otherwise or catch up on stuff I haven't read in a while. In other words, I do a lot of exploring on ComiXology.

Imagine my surprise when I discovered an old friend and his work there, and I purchased it right away. I'm talking about Doris Danger by the talented Chris Wisnia. Chris has been doing comics for a while now and I have been following him and cheering him on for most of that time, whether it's Tabloia, or Dr. DeBunko, or even Doris Danger, it is always a fun time reading comics. And really, aren't comics supposed to be fun?

Currently only Chris Wisnia's Doris Danger Giant Monster Adventures is available digitally, and some of the stories included are even specially formatted for optimal e-reading. I had read all the stories in the collection before, but still I was happy to not only have them all in one place, but also in electronic form.

This terrific e-comic is ninety-six pages of tales of giant monsters in the Atlas Comics tradition of the legendary Jack Kirby. Yes, Kirby homage is kinda old hat these days, but Chris was not only doing it before it was cool, he was (and is) doing it better than all the other guys. He's found that elusive groove between respect and humor with falling into insult or mockery. Each page is lovingly rendered and showing what was so cool about 1950s giant monster comics, both good and bad.

The book is described thusly: "As a teen, Doris Danger was abducted by a giant monster. Ever since, she's had a burning desire to prove the existence of giant monsters, but has been unable to prove her beliefs by snapping an indisputable photograph. While she has convinced many, she has also met many who doubt, who try to disprove, or even lie, manipulate, and cover up evidence. Doris Danger crosses the X-Files with the classic Lee/Kirby giant monster comics, with a little bit of Godzilla thrown in for good measure."

Chris Wisnia rocks these comics, that also feature fabulous pin-ups by artists you have definitely heard of like Russ Heath, Steve Rude, and Mike Mignola among others; and great letters columns and text pieces detailing the history of these amazing comics, both real and fictional.

I love these books, and whether you have or haven't experienced them before, you should definitely check out Doris Danger Giant Monster Adventures in electronic or hard copy form, and also stop by Chris' website to see all the other creative stuff he has going on, and Follow him on Twitter as well.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

The Frankenstein Theory


The Frankenstein Theory ~ Shot similarly to The Blair Witch Project, a documentary crew follows the obsessed Professor John Venkenheim to the Arctic where he intends to prove that Frankenstein was not only true, but about his ancestor, and to vindicate his reputation once and for all. He believes he can find the Frankenstein monster.

This is a fascinating concept, and the film moves between actual movie and shaky cam documentary style well. Writer/director Andrew Weiner's background is in Troma and low budget horror, but this is a step above. I liked it.

Kris Lemche plays Venkenheim with perfect obsessive creepiness, but just enough compassion that you care about him. It's just this side of pity, but you do care for the buggy little fella. Joe Egender does him one better as the antsy paranoid meth-head and witness to the monster's present day shenanigans.

Tiny role, but camera crewman Brian Henderson made me laugh doing a funnier Dane Cook than Dane Cook. Timothy V. Murphy playing the wilderness guide who channels Robert Shaw in Jaws wonderfully is pretty entertaining too. I absolutely love him and his campfire story. Beautiful.

Granted, the film does fall apart a bit toward the last act, but there are enough good parts here to push it above say, Sharknado. I really kinda dug it, recommended for horror fans.

Disney's Art of Animation Resort


Our recent vacation included a short stay at the newest resort in Walt Disney World - Art of Animation. Originally it was to be called Legendary Years, a sister resort to Pop Century. As Pop Century was a tribute to the decades of the last half of the twentieth century, Legendary Years would cover the first half, 1900-1950. After 9-11 however, for whatever reason, construction halted for several years.

If you like to see a video of what it looked like during those non-construction years, my friend John Corigliano, of the Your Ear to the World podcast, did a walk-through with his camera. You can see that here. Thankfully construction started again, but with a new objective and name, Art of Animation, with each building dedicated to a different recent animated feature.

The family suites are in the Lion King, Cars, and Finding Nemo buildings, with the single suites in the Little Mermaid buildings. For our time at Art of Animation, we stayed in the Lion King suites, the buildings being surrounded by giant statues of the various characters and scenes from the movie. Outside of our building was Pride Rock, the Elephant Graveyard, the "Hakuna Matata" log, and Rafiki's home, with giant statues of all the favorites in and around. It was something.

Our suite rocked. Not only was it fairly big, almost colossal compared to our cabin on board the Disney Fantasy, the room was literally bursting with iconic Lion King jungle d├ęcor. The carpeting, the bedspreads, the furniture - it was all jungle themed. The TVs were large flat screens with an electronics deck under them to both recharge your phones and other devices, but you could also hook up your video equipment to watch on the big screen.

Our dining room table collapsed into the extra Murphy bed for a fun twist, and came with stackable chairs. The suite even had a small, but almost complete kitchen. The bathroom even got into the act, with a cavernous shower stall in a beautiful orange sunset as shown in the movie. This came complete with orange smelling soap and shampoo. What a terrific extra accent! This was a great suite, right down to the bathroom. And in the hotel itself, even the elevators were jungle-like in motif and temperature, almost lush.

The doors were unlocked by our Magic Bands, which also allowed us access to the parks, and we could purchase items in the hotel and in the parks as well with them, including FastPasses. The lobby, staffed by the usual wonderful customer service folks, is decorated by animation sketches from the films featured there, from original ideas to final products, almost like evolutionary stages.

The food court, Landscape of Flavors, is reputed so good that folks from Pop Century will walk over to have breakfast, lunch, and dinner there. Some of it was okay, and some really good. I'll be talking about some of their offerings over at French Fry Diary in the near future, so keep an eye out.

Also, if you'd like a more personal look at Disney's Art of Animation Resort, The Bride and I talk about it on the newest episode of our new Make Mine Magic Podcast. You can hear it here. Check it out.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Johnny Worthen's Beatrysel


This is the superb first novel from author Johnny Worthen, a man whose knowledge of the occult bleeds into his work, educating and illuminating.

It is also a tale of love and horror, refreshingly set against a modern day background of the American Northwest.

This is a horror romance that manages to inform as well as entertain, worth reading. You can buy the book here.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Arrow S02 E03: "Broken Dolls"


Before I start with the review proper, I wanted to mention what an amazing and tireless promoter and marketer of the show that star Stephen Amell is. If you're looking for behind the scenes nuggets and goodies, insights and motivations, and especially what's to come, you really should be following him on Facebook and Twitter. Just a tip, folks.

Last episode we had one hell of a cliffhanger. Our as yet unofficially named hero was visiting Laurel, who has developed a serious hate for him, at the police station. She doesn't want to see him, so when he tries to pull his usual lights out getaway, he is set upon by cops. As they move in, Oliver is covered with red laser targeting sights. Cue credits. How will our hero get out of this one?

Shocker! How does he get away? A black leather clad blonde in a mask who moves just as fast, if not faster, as our ambushed archer, comes to his rescue. She smashes in through a window, disorients the cops with some sort of sonic device, then leads him outside to safety. Remember how I said sometimes the TV continuity is different from the comics? Well, whoever this Black Canary is, she ain't Laurel... Thea, maybe? Hell, with the reveal this episode that Laurel's father's middle name is Larry, maybe the Canary is Mom?

This episode's villain of the week is an intriguing one. The Dollmaker is another Batman foe, who many will recognize as the maniac who recently butchered, or caused the Joker to butcher, his own face. I don't know the facts as I don't like the more grisly Batman comics of the last two years. If I want a horror comic, I'll buy a horror comic, not Batman. Just my two cents. Oddly enough, the villain's origins may go back the old "Super Friends" cartoons where his more family friendly modus operandi was more similar the the Toyman, only with dolls.

The Dollmaker of the "Arrow" universe is more like the horror villain however. There's no face cutting but he does make his victims like dolls. Same name, similar past, Barton Mathis is a serial killer who had messed with Quentin Lance earlier in his career, much like he has done with the young James Gordon in the comics. The most disturbing thing is that The Undertaking that leveled most of The Glades also broke open Iron Heights. The police are keeping that fact a secret, even from their own, like Lance. The Dollmaker is one of the escapees. Gee, I wonder who else got out...?

Forbidden to interfere, Quentin turns to our emerald archer for help with the Dollmaker. His demotion has made him, like Oliver, try another way. Do we have the start of a Gordon/Batman relationship here? If it wasn't so convenient, I would like the idea. Speaking of new alliances, the former Hood is looking to Roy as almost a snitch, maybe an assistant. How mant steps up is sidekick?

Quentin Lance and Oliver make an interesting dynamic duo themselves as they hunt the Dollmaker. I'd rather see Oliver working with Diggle or Roy. I just wonder how the two of them can be so close without Quentin getting a look at Oliver's face. And isn't it dangerous him knowing that Felicity works for the Hood? And isn't it silly Felicity continuing to make herself a target. Perhaps she has a death wish?

The island flashbacks continue. Deathstroke is still there. Shado is still there. But not much else is going on. Knowing who these two are in the present day DC Comics universe, I really want to see what has become of them now, and when will the Hood meet Shado and Deathstroke in the here and now? The mother of Green Arrow's son, and one of his deadliest opponents are just too juicy to ignore. Unless... Shado is the Black Canary? The island might be getting interesting now however, but only because Oliver's leaving it. On a boat called Amazo!?!

Speak of the devil, Roy's search for the Black Canary leads him to a girl named Sin. For those following the Arrow digital comic, we know that Sin is the Canary's sidekick, and was once being groomed to become the next Lady Shiva. This is important because in theory, the digital comic is supposed to be in continuity with the TV show. Are Lady Shiva and the League of Assassins lurking in the background here? There's an awful lot of Bat in my Arrow lately. Also I liked that Roy's chasing Sin led to a watchtower, The Watchtower being the headquarters of the Birds of Prey, and the Justice League, of which both had the Black Canary as a major player.

Other namedrops this episode include channel 52, that number being so important, for multiple reasons too numerous and complicated to explain, to the DC Comics universe, and the Metamorpho Chemical Company, Metamorpho being the freakish superhero who can change his form into various chemicals and elements. We're getting Black Canary and the Flash… why not Metamorpho too?

So who is the Black Canary? The closing may offer more questions than answers. A man dressed as the Dark Archer meets with her, but we find it's not Malcolm Merlyn, but an emissary of Ras al Ghul. What did I say about too much Bat in my Arrow? Comics readers will remember that not only does Ras lead the League of Assassins, but that Merlyn the Magician was one of his operatives. This Black Canary kills the emissary, just as she did the Dollmaker earlier in the episode. Who is this woman??

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Hey Kids, Comics!


In the planning stages for years, my friend Rob Kelly, who you might know better as the writer and co-creator of the fabulous webcomic Ace Kilroy and the founder of The Aquaman Shrine, has finally released Hey Kids, Comics! True-Life Tales from the Spinner Rack.

Hey Kids, Comics! is a collection of essays, compiled by Rob Kelly, about the love and nostalgia of comics. These stories, by media and industry professionals like Alan Brennert, Glen Weldon, Evan Narcisse, Steve Englehart, J.M. DeMattieis, Paul Kupperberg, Elisabeth Rappe, Sholly Fisch, Doug Slack, and Roxanna Meta, among many others, are experiences and remembrances of the joy of comics.

I love this book, and I'm so proud of my friend for putting this together. I can't recommend Hey Kids, Comics! enough. You can check out Ray Cornwall's and my interview with Rob Kelly on The GAR! Podcast here, and you can buy the book here. Check it out.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. at Biff Bam Pop!


If you've been watching "Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.," you know what a phenomenon it is. ABC and Disney, as well as Marvel Comics, are thrilled with the show - as are millions of viewers.

Also, you might not be aware, I have been reviewing "Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D." at Biff Bam Pop!. You can check out my thoughts on the first few episodes there for "Pilot," "0-8-4," "The Asset," and "Eye Spy."

And there's a brand new episode tonight, so don't forget to check out Biff Bam Pop! for my review later in the evening!

Monday, October 21, 2013

Traffic in Souls


Traffic in Souls ~ This 1913 silent was also known as While New York Sleeps: A Photodrama of Today. Written and produced by George Loane Tucker (best known for his later film, The Miracle Man), it was also called in Hollywood circles 'Tucker's folly,' as he tried for years to get the film made.

Traffic in Souls is about the slave trade in the early 20th century, something that tragically still goes on today. Tucker sought to develop a drama that would simultaneously entertain and inform audiences of this horrid crime. Rumor had it at the time it was based on a government report, but this wasn't true, although that didn't keep folks from seeing the picture. Hype worked the same way a century ago as it does today.

I finally got to see this flick on TCM's terrific "Silent Sunday Nights." It is a tale of two upstanding Swedish immigrant women, played by Jane Gail and Ethel Grandin, one of whom is swept away by deceptive men into prostitution and worse. Matt Moore is also very good here, and it might be why his career stretched beyond this film.

It's one of the first feature films from Universal, one of their first hits, and did what Tucker intended, alerted audiences to the horrors of human trafficking at the time. Great scenes of New York of the time, and worth a look for silent film lovers.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

RIP Lou Scheimer


Lou Scheimer, the father of Filmation, and the king of American television animation for many of our childhoods, has passed away at the age of 84.

Filmation was a small animation studio, one of the few still doing animation in the United States, rather than shipping it overseas. Founded by Scheimer, Hal Sutherland, and Norm Prescott in 1962, they did some little known cartoons like "Rod Rocket." They really caught fire when they licensed the DC Comics characters in 1966.

Beginning with "The New Adventures of Superman," they began to expand to shorts that featured other characters like Superboy, Aquaman, Batman and Robin, and later the Justice League of America and the Teen Titans, as well as those groups' individual members. These cartoons were, along with the 1966 "Batman" TV series on ABC, my gateway drug into comic books. My love of Aquaman, Superboy, and others sprang from early viewings.



The DC deal brought another comics company to Filmation's offices, and Archie came to Saturday morning animation for years under their guidance. Later in the 1970s, Filmation became a major player in the animation game, producing cartoons of "The Brady Kids," "Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids," and "Star Trek: The Animated Series" among many others.

Filmation delved into live-action with shows like "Isis," "Space Academy" and Shazam." While the studio began to get a reputation for repeating backgrounds, limited animation, recycling designs, rapid jump cuts, and using the same music over again, they had also produced some real quality programming as well.



In the 1980s Filmation produced some of its most well known shows like "He-Man and the Masters of the Universe," which featured, like many of the previous shows, a lesson at the end of every episode. Before closing up shop in 1989, Filmation also produced over the years some very cool versions of Flash Gordon, Tarzan, and the Lone Ranger, using then fairly new rotoscoping techniques.

With the loss of Lou Scheimer on Friday, we have lost one the legends of animation, and for me, a big chunk of my childhood. He'll be missed.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Arrow S02 E02: "Identity"


The winds of change from the last episode sweep in in the first seconds of this one, as Oliver Queen's opening narrative has changed. No longer a killer, striving to be a hero, yet still unnamed, even without a name (Oliver swore off The Hood monicker last time), this is a change for the better.

Our secondary opening has Roy Harper, in his red hoodie, driving a red car (nice, but when's he going to get a red costume and red arrows?), trying to save a FEMA truck from China White. He's really not good at this vigilante stuff, Roy should get a... mentor, or something...

Laurel questions him once he gets hauled to the police station. She seems to have developed her father's fixation on capturing The Hood, at all costs. She also scoffs at Roy's mention of a certain Black Canary-like vigilante. If "Smallville" has taught us fanboys anything, it's that the rules change in the jump from comics to TV. While I doubt it, there is a chance that Laurel Lance is not the Black Canary.

Maybe he's not Brother Blood yet, as I posited last time, but Alderman Sebastian Blood, defender of The Glades, certainly is a thorn in Oliver's side. Perhaps this will lead to our hero running for mayor as he did in the comics?

Green arrows, red arrows, black canaries, and brothers blood, that's all good, but that's not the big comics surprise in this episode. That would be the Bronze Tiger, played by Michael Jai White ("Black Dynamite" and Spawn). Here, he's China White's new partner, but in the comics, he was a member of the League of Assassins, and served in the Suicide Squad, ironically alongside Deadshot and Count Vertigo. More Wolverine than Bronze Tiger, he's still bad ass.

There were many things I didn't like. Laurel is annoying in hunter mode. If she is the Black Canary, I hope she's not mining this personality. Thea is not making a believable grown-up, no matter how adult her dresses are. And I prefer Felicity as nerd girl rather than pretty whiner. Is she shopping at the same fashion designer as Thea?

There was a nice namedrop for writer Jeff Lemire this episode. I also loved the use of the first trick arrows - the electric arrow and the handcuff arrow. Can the Arrowcar and the boxing glove arrow be far behind? Next week, we get the resolution to our juicy cliffhanger, the Dollmaker, and the Canary uncaged...

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Derrick Ferguson's Dillon and the Legend of the Golden Bell


I have known Derrick Ferguson a long time as an online friend, and I'm proud to consider him a friend, even if we've never met in real life. For those of you out who think I'm an authority on film, I bow to Derrick as a master. He's given me great writing advice over the years, but none so informative as the lessons I have learned simply by reading his work.

There's a story I've told Derrick, and I guess (I'm really thinking positive here) the whole world as well on the GAR! Podcast, about a visual aid I was using at a point where I was trying to write in a pulp style. It was a sign I taped over my desk that read "I want to be Derrick Ferguson when I grow up." That's how well the man knows his genre. Derrick knows pulp, and he knows it so well, he has created a pulp hero for a new age - Dillon.

Dillon is a man who would make Doc Savage proud to know him, that's how pulp he is. He is a man of skills, of integrity, of style, of exotic and mysterious background, he's a lover, he's a fighter, and most importantly he is a man of his word. Dillon is that rare entity in this dark world of ours - he is a likable hero we can root for, and a man who will win for the right reasons.

In the second novel (although it doesn't much matter in what order you read the books) in the series, "Dillon and the Legend of the Golden Bell," this pulp hero for a new age faces all the threats and situations that make the genre special. He must find an ancient artifact of great power, stop a civil war in an exotic island nation, and save the entire planet from the coming of a demon, along the way fighting femme fatales both human and shape-shifting, jet pack soldiers, warring airships, giant barbarian kings, and old fashioned tough talking gangsters. This was a hoot.

When was the last time you read a book that was fun? When was the last time you read a book where you cheered out loud for the hero? Where you hissed the bad guys? Where you laughed at the quips of the good guy? This is the book (books), and the hero for you. Check out "Legend of the Golden Bell," and the rest of the books in the series, as well as all of Derrick's other work. It, and he rocks.

The Dumpstas Tonight - OctoberFist VIII!


The Dumpsta Players Present "OctoberFist VIII!"

The Date: Wednesday, October 16, 2013
The Time: Doors open at 10 PM, show time is 11 PM sharp! $1.99 cover!
The Place: Bob and Barbara's, 1509 South Street, Philadelphia PA


BULGARIAN PEASANTS REBEL! ALBANIAN EMPATHS EMOTE! NINA HAGEN-DAAZ VS. PUNKS DELTA 5

Come journey with The Dumpstas to distant lands and experience a Greek Diva and her calls for lust! Queer party boyz from Ibiza shake their pompas! Fur Trappers from Iceland reveal the hunt is really for each other! A French Madame longs for her younger days and muchachas from Espana call the telefono to gossip!

But there is trouble in the Balkans… when an Albanian empath senses death in the air, the rebellion begins and anyone may die…

Let the ancient celebration commence. In spirited rhythms and many tongues, let's fill the air with music and make merry!

Behold the songs of the people! Behold the melody of the language! Behold, the symphony of the season! Raise your fist in solidarity - "OctoberFist VIII"!

A portion of proceeds benefit Juntos, a Latino immigrant, community-led organization in Philadelphia fighting for our human rights as workers, parents, youth, and immigrants. Find out more here!



Check out The Dumpsta Players on Facebook, YouTube, Flickr, and on their own website.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Wild Hogs


Wild Hogs ~ Sometimes it's surprising what you'll watch when there's nothing else to watch or you have nothing better to do. I had the unfortunate circumstance of having already seen most of what was available to view in the theater and OnDemand while on our recent Disney Cruise. And that's what brought me to Wild Hogs.

This movie, from start to finish, is like a cry for help, no, not help, a serious cry of desperation. Four actors, ahem, I mean, men, having their mid-life crises and turning to their motorcycle hobby for comfort and excitement. Tim Allen, John Travolta, Martin Lawrence, and William H. Macy star in this badly written, painfully performed, ultimately unsatisfying flick.

Its script and premise might've worked for a sixties Jack Lemmon or Jerry Lewis farce, but audiences and acting is more sophisticated now. I really had to wonder who this movie was for. Ten year-olds? I know ten year-olds this might be too simple for, even some of the gags don't make sense.

Well, hopefully those who phoned it in (I'm looking at you, William and Martin, you should be ashamed of yourselves) got paid well enough to pay their rent, and Tim and John had time to trade hairpiece care secrets. It's almost as if they are acting at each other the lack of chemistry is so bad. Ray Liotta and Marisa Tomei are similarly wasted here.

If you're ever itching to forget that Macy and Travolta have been nominated for Oscars, this is the flick for you. Wow, what a bad movie.

Friday, October 11, 2013

The Secret of Iron Man Three


Iron Man Three ~ This movie is not what you think it is. The trailers give you something that is compelling, but it's not the film, not really. We're not talking about false advertising, no, what you see in the previews you get in the movie, it's just Iron Man 3 (or Iron Man Three as it's actually called in the credits) is a different kind of superhero film, hell, it's a different kind of film, period.

Now I've already talked about that fact and more about director Shane Black's approach to Iron Man Three in my spoiler-free review over at Biff Bam Pop! some months back (read it here). But what I'm going to talk about here is very spoiler special heavy. It's the big secret of Iron Man Three, we're going to talk about the Mandarin. Spoilers away, be warned.

Now this is not new territory for me either, I talked about the Mandarin before in my article about the forgotten foes of Iron Man, but this will be very specific to bringing Mandy to the big screen, and in the year 2013, that is not an easy job. Let's face it, the Mandarin is a piece of history, and a rather nasty piece of history, both outdated and racist.

In the comics, the Mandarin is an Asian villain in the tradition of other such masterminds like Sax Rohmer's classic, but racist stereotype, Fu Manchu. He was created in an age when in the comics every hero fought against the Red Menace, the Communist threat, and yes, the Yellow Peril. We as a nation were recovering from the Korean War, entering into the Viet Nam War, and in the midst of a deadly game of mutually assured destruction in the Cold War. The Asian race was a direct threat.

The Mandarin was a schemer, a manipulator, a mastermind. He worked behind the scenes, he controlled multiple villains, and sought to overthrow not only America, but our entire way of life. But that was the 1960s, and it was racist. That crap don't play now, and quite honestly the Mandarin, although Iron Man's archenemy from early on, has not weathered the storm, one of political correctness, well after all these years.

Enter the phenomenon that is the Robert Downey Jr. and the Marvel Cinematic Universe it started. After two Iron Man movies, and a billion dollar blockbuster Avengers film, where do you go? Is it time for Iron Man to finally face his greatest foe on screen? Yes, but in our politically correct world, with a mainstream audience who may or may not have a background in the comics source material, how do you pull it off.

Easy answer? You lie, you dazzle them with trickery. You get your cake, and you eat it too. Sir Ben Kingsley, first, is inspired casting for the villain. And in the previews, the image he gives us is both Marvel Comics Mandarin and Middle Eastern terrorist pimp daddy, an updating to be awed. This new Mandarin is one who both strikes by surprise like the 9/11 bombers, and announces his attacks like the monsters who have beheaded hostages on video on the internet.

An early interview before the film came out asked if Sir Ben had done any research on the Mandarin character, and he said that he had not, and that he did not intend to. This sent fanboys into a frenzy. The fact is that Sir Ben didn't need to. His character was not really the Mandarin - in fact, the whole concept, in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, was a fake, a deception, a farce.

The Mandarin didn't exist, he was just an actor, a puppet of the real villain. Sir Ben never needed to know anything about the source material, his character was a construct, and one lovingly performed with the proper fierceness, and comedic flair once revealed (loved the Ringo Starr-esque affectation). Kingsley's performance was golden, in so many ways, he was menacing, and ridiculous, and done right. That's right, I said, 'done right.'

There were fanboys who fumed about this as well, but the truth is - it was impossible to transfer the comics character to the screen in our world of political correctness. Sorry, folks who just don't get it, but wake up, the Mandarin is a racist stereotype. And also be aware, there are folks who think the villain as he appears in the movie is also a racist stereotype, one of our current Middle Eastern terrorist enemies.

And therein lies the problem, as much good will as Iron Man, the Avengers, and the Marvel Cinematic Universe have engendered with mainstream audiences, it would all fall apart tragically if the Mandarin were portrayed as a sneering Asian madman bent on world domination. In my opinion Iron Man Three does it right, giving us the best of both worlds.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Arrow S02 E01: "City of Heroes"


We begin, as always, on the island, but much like how things are on Joss Whedon's "Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.," nothing is what it seems. This isn't a flashback, this is the present day. Oliver is on the island, yes, but Diggle and Felicity are coming to find him.

Some time has passed since last season. Well, obviously. Oliver ran away after failing Starling City and losing his best friend. His mom is now in prison, Iron Heights, and Queen Consolidated is ripe for hostile takeover by a company called Stellmoor International. So Diggle and Felicity have come to bring our hero home.

It's worth noting that in the comics, the New 52 continuity specifically, Stellmoor International does in fact buy out Queen Industries. CEO Simon Lacroix, an enemy of Robert Queen, Oliver's father, is also the super-villain called Komodo, one of Green Arrow's rogues gallery. Notably in the comics, the evil archer known as Komodo also killed Robert Queen.

Speaking of comics parallels, there's an opening for mayor of the city, a position Oliver Queen has held, and there's a church and a guy named Blood in the Glades… it couldn't be Brother Blood, and the Church of Blood, could it?

There are also more than a few name drops of Central City. I guess they are already prepping for the Flash two-parter in December and planned spin-off. Speaking of masked vigilantes, in the wake of the destruction of the Glades and the missing Hood, it seems others have taken up the slack. Roy Harper is one, a gang called the Hoods are others.

Genre and fan favorite Summer Glau plays Isobel Rochev, head of acquisitions for Stellmoor. As much as I like her, she's unconvincing here, but I guess we'll be seeing more of her. The returning cast is excellent as always, more comfortable in their roles, Emily Bett Rickards continues to be my breakout favorite, and Stephen Amell's bare chest should still get its own credit.

"City of Heroes" is a very angsty episode. Thea won't visit her mom in prison. Laurel won't get back with Oliver because of Tommy. Oliver won't become the Hood again. That last one is because of guilt, and Tommy's calling him a murderer. It's so good that they are finally facing up to that factor of this version of Green Arrow. I don't like my heroes to be serial killers. This is a good thing.

Speaking of good things, the best part of the episode is in the last five minutes. It's not just Oliver deciding on a new name for his non-vigilante hero identity. While Roy is out amateur vigilant-ing, he gets in over his head and is saved by a masked blonde in black leather. Could this be... the Black Canary?

Tune in next week, same Arrow time, same Arrow channel... for the return of China White, and rumor has it… the Bronze Tiger!

Friday, October 04, 2013

The South Jersey Writers at the Collingswood Book Festival



Tomorrow, October 5th, is the 11th Annual Collingswood Book Festival, one of the biggest events for writers and readers in the South Jersey area. You can check the website for the schedule and guests, but I'm here to talk about some specific local guests - the South Jersey Writers' Group.

The South Jersey Writers will be at Space #52 on Haddon Avenue, from 10 AM to 4 PM, so please stop by, say hi, find out about the group, and maybe buy a book or two. Last year, the group published the anthology Tall Tales and Short Stories from South Jersey, which is available in paperback on Amazon, select local coffee shops, other vendors, and at the Collingswood Book Festival tomorrow.

Members of the South Jersey Writers who will be hosting at our table tomorrow include Amy Hollinger, Krista Magrowski, Mieke Zamora-Mackay, Dawn Byrne, Sarah Miduski, Ava Easterby, James Knipp, Krista McKay, John Faquhar, Shelley Szajner, Christine Hardy, Laurie Strucke, Jessica Walsh, and some guy named Glenn Walker. Click on any of the above names to find out more about these great writers and their work.

The South Jersey Writers' Group, founded in 2006, provides networking and development opportunities for local writers in the South Jersey/Philadelphia area. The group meets regularly several times during the month for topic-based discussion about the craft of writing and the publishing industry.

The group has just opened its doors to new members, and welcomes writers of all ages, backgrounds, genres, and experience levels. Among the events offered by the group are Write-Ins, Topic Discussions, Critique Sessions, Book Signings, Author Appearances, and Blogfests. For more information on the group, visit the website, Like them on Facebook or Follow them on Twitter.

We hope to see you tomorrow!