Pop Culture Gadabout
Saturday, April 10, 2010
      ( 4/10/2010 07:38:00 AM ) Bill S.  

WEEKEND PET PIC: Here's a spirally shot of Boo the Cat, taken deep inside the kitty kondo:

THE USUAL NOTE: For more cool pics of companion animals, please check out Modulator's "Friday Ark."
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Thursday, April 08, 2010
      ( 4/08/2010 09:42:00 PM ) Bill S.  

THE JUXTAPOSITION BETWEEN “THE VERY DOMESTIC AND THE VERY EXTREME”: At one level, the idea of putting together a big book on the making of a movie that hasn’t been shown yet is a profound act of hype ‘n’ hubris. The finished product hasn’t been released for public evaluation, and here we’re expected to be fascinated by the minutia of its creation? It’s not like we’re talking about The Making of Citizen Kane or something -- this is basically a big beefy promo pack for an r-rated superhero flick.

That gotten out of the way, I’ll admit to being curious about Mark Millar’s Kick-Ass: Creating the Comic, Making the Movie (Titan Books), if only to see how close to the edginess the movie’ll get to the comic. As a mainstream comics writer, Millar (who also gave us the source for the comic book movie Wanted) can get overly satisfied with his own transgressiveness, but at his best he can be an entertaining troublemaker. The idea behind Kick-Ass -- real-life boy and girl attempt to be costumed heroes in a world where every hit leaves real-life bruises -- is a simple but potentially powerful one, especially it’s presented in movie mode without too much flinching.

Millar’s volume -- packed with extended quotes from all the players, film shots and comic art in all stages of creation -- conveys the obstacles the moviemakers had to surpass to get to the finished product: convincing skittish movie execs that a film with a foul-mouthed little girl as its heroine was viable, casting young actors who genuinely looked the characters’ age yet could handle the demands of action moviemaking, working on a movie version of a comic book series with an as-yet-unfinished storyline, managing Nick Cage’s outlandish mustache. All pretty intense stuff. But as Francois Truffaut once tellingly noted: “Making a film is like a stagecoach ride in the old west. When you start, you are hoping for a pleasant trip. By the halfway point, you just hope to survive.”

Elsewhere, we get to read about Millar’s nerdy youth and the ways it inspired his original comic book series, plus learn what we already knew about Nicholas Cage (that he’s a big ol’ fanboy.) But for many comics fans, the high point of the book will most likely be its healthy helpings of John Romita Jr.’s art. Showing the Wall of Villains that Nic Cage’s character has created in the movie, for instance, we’re treated to eight pages of Romita illustrated mug shots: a great gallery of goons. Asked if he included a pic of Millar in this set of illos, Romita replies, "I don’t think there’s a way of thug-izing Mark. He’s got a baby-face, he can’t be turned into a thug.” Which only goes to show you can’t judge a writer by his baby-face.

Whether Millar’s Kick-Ass consideration will become the movie equivalent of one of those glossy rock tour books you spend good money on at the concert and then toss in a closet with the other disposable mementoes -- or a valuable glimpse at a work its makers hope will be “the Pulp Fiction of superhero movies” will ultimately rest on the film itself, of course. I know I’ve got high hopes for the movie, but I also know that similar hopes of mine have been dashed plenty of times in the past. Let's all hope this handsome trade doesn’t serve as a melancholy memento of what might have been . . .


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Wednesday, April 07, 2010
      ( 4/07/2010 06:35:00 AM ) Bill S.  

MID-WEEK MUSIC VID: A classic bit of Brit (Isles) pop, Travis' "Why Does It Always Rain on Me?"

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Sunday, April 04, 2010
      ( 4/04/2010 10:05:00 AM ) Bill S.  

“CURSE YOU AND YOUR UNICORN ALLY!” A rollicking graphic novel about a girl and her Easter Bunny, Brooke A. Allen’s A Home for Mr. Easter (NBM) got me thinking of the days when comic book creators thought nothing of doing books about fat girls (Little Lotta) or big dumb diaper-clad ducks (Baby Huey) or anything else they thought kids might find amusing. Tesana, the big girl heroine of Home, though rendered by newcomer Allen in a looser more alt-comics style, could have easily palled around with Little Lotta in Foodland: the two share the same strength and propensity for active fantasizing, after all.

An imaginative, if somewhat childlike teen with a history of getting into fights with school bullies, Tesana is a high school outsider who, while attempting to ingratiate herself with the school elite as they prepare for a pep rally, discovers that one of the rabbits being used in a date auction has the ability to lay colored eggs. After “going 2012” on the entire football team, she takes the rabbit to return him to his home. In her quest to do so, she runs into a sleazy pet shop owner, cosmetics testers, animal rights activists and charlatan magician, all of which want to get a hold of Mr. Easter. The book climaxes in a frantic chase wherein our heroine (who we earlier see dreaming of riding atop a unicorn) gets to race through the woods on a galloping horse. “This is the best day ever!” our heroine thinks.

Both comic and bittersweet, A Home for Mr. Easter takes what could easily be an overly sentimental premise and invests it with an anxious energy. If at times, our heroine comes across maybe a little bit too comically dim (after hulking out on the football team, you half expect her to ask George to start telling her again about the rabbits), she ultimately proves a likable and appealing figure. Allen has a knack for rendering visually expressive moments (there’s a one-page segment on a city bus, for instance, where our heroine learns her rabbit can talk that’s particularly priceless) and a facility with black-and-white brushwork that ‘s particularly impressive in the crowded action scenes.

NBM is promoting this release -- initially set for June, though apparently moved to the more appropriate Easter season -- as the launch of a new talent in the graphic novel field. That it is, and it also serves as the debut of an engaging comic heroine, too. I’d definitely like to read another book about Tesana -- with or without the magical egg-laying rabbit.


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Pop cultural criticism - plus the occasional egocentric socio/political commentary by Bill Sherman (popculturegadabout AT yahoo.com).

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