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August 2011

RIP DC Universe

If you haven't been living under a rock, you know that DC Comics is going to reboot every one of its comics on Wednesday. Say farewell to everything since the 1930s and allegedly this will be a jumping-in point for new comics readers.

Personally I think they'd do better to bring in new readers if they stopped having a crisis of infinite crossovers, but nobody asked me. Instead, they're trying again, and it's a big gamble for them, killing an entire universe.

Among the new lines:

Action Comics, written by Grant Morrison, art by Rags Morales. They get to take on the new Superman.

Batman, written by Scott Snyder, art by Greg Capullo. Guess who they're writing?

Catwoman, written by Judd Winick, art by Guillem March. Of course, she's still in the skin-tight vinyl, but I wasn't expecting miracles.

Green Lantern, written by Geoff Johns, art by Doug Mahnke and Christian Alamy. Rumor has it they might be the exception to the reboot, or maybe they're just continuing what they were up to in the last few issues.

Swamp Thing, written by Scott Snyder, art by Yanick Paquette. No one knows if it's just going to be a riff off Alan Moore's run or a totally new look.

• Also-rans: JLA, Superman (not to be confused with Action Comics, thanks for not confusing us, guys), Batgirl, Aquaman and Batwoman. Wonder Woman is written by Brian Azzarello and gets to keep her pants on. So to speak.

One local comic shop is handling it in style: a funeral for Classic DC combined with a launch party for the New DC. The final issue of Flashpoint will come out the same night as the new Justice League, issue 1, with Geoff Johns and Jim Lee.

So you can drop by Hometown Comics in downtown Edwardsville from 9 p.m. Tuesday to 12:30 a.m. Wednesday, and meet the professional "St. Louis Superman" in his classic costume, pick up freebies and take advantage of a major DC sale: $5 off any DC graphic novel of $12.99 or higher; $1 off any DC comic $2.99 or higher (which is pretty much all of them, right?). Or, of course, you can pick them up beginning Wednesday at your usual pusher.

You know what I notice? Unless I've missed something, there are exactly three women on any of the major books. Kelly Sue DeConnick reportedly pitched them on a six-issue miniseries and was declined. Way to look at expanding your readership there, boys.

BleedingCool.com did a Gendercrunching column that found of the 52 new No. 1 issues, only seven are headlined by solo women or all-female casts. (Some of them get to wear pants this time, though. We've caught up to 1903.) They confirm: of 160 credited creators (artists and writers) on the books, three of them are women.

More fun: FemPop.com says Lois Lane is now a Bella Swan with Clark and some dude named Jonathan vying for her attention (seriously, DC was passing out "Team Clark" and "Team Jonathan" posters at Comic-Con); Catwoman spends half her comic undressed; Harley Quinn's costume is charitably described as streetwalker chic; Batgirl has been reduced to a college kid; the only one of five Robins to be erased from existence was the female Robin; and we won't even get into the wretched behavior of the male DC writers when asked by a fan at Comic-con this summer if they were interested in hiring more women.

So, things are changing at DC? Um... let's just call me skeptical. In the meantime, pick your party and celebrate - or mourn - as you see fit.

 


CultureGeek: Rise of the Awesome Apes

Pass the bananas, because Rise of the Planet of the Apes is unexpectedly great.

Meet Dr. Frankenstein: James Franco as Will Rodman, a scientist obsessed with developing a cure for Alzheimer's as his father (John Lithgow) sinks deeper into it. One of his potential cures results in a super-smart ape (Andy Serkis in his best yet) he ends up hiding at home, so little Caesar first learns the way of man and then the way man treats ape. From there, everything goes bananas (sorry).

Some have dismissed it as a treatise against animal testing. I call hooey - it is no more an indictment of animal testing than Jurassic Park was an academic debate on the ethics of gene therapy. The movie theme of messing with things that man was not meant to monkey with (sorry) is older than Frankenstein and certainly is an appropriate one for the prequel to Charlton Heston's signature Planet of so many years ago.

Fans of the original Apes series will find plenty to love. I dare you not to giggle when young Caesar is seen idly playing with a toy Statue of Liberty. Heston himself is seen on a TV screen, albeit from The Agony & The Ecstasy instead of Planet of the Apes. There are plenty of little tie-ins, such as a newspaper headline declaring the launch of the Icarus mission, and some were obscure enough that only the devout Apes fanatic who reluctantly accompanied me caught them - and he ended up loving it, too.

Also, the Most Famous Line is there. And it's appropriate. And you don't see it coming. And it's a game-changing moment that makes you want to cheer and clap. That's all I'm going to say about that.

That's not to say it isn't predictable. It sort of has to be – guess what, at the end of Titanic the boat sinks. Ta-da! And we go apeshit (sorry) with our movie cliches! We have the Corporate Slimeball, who alternates between standing in Dr. Frankenstein's way and encouraging him despite massive legal and ethical stupidity because of the potential for profit. We have devoutly Stupid Military Men who don't understand the concept of urban warfare in three dimensions - did they train by playing Halo? There's the Designated Asshole, who gets his, and a number of background Assholes who fill various antagonistic roles.

And, of course, there's the Girlfriend, a veterinarian whose role is simply to give James Franco someone to talk to and occasionally provide some ape-specific exposition. The movie fails the Bechsdel Test pretty spectacularly, in that I believe she's the only woman who speaks on camera. As much fun as they had with this script, they could have given her something to do. Also: were none of the apes female? That's going to prove a problem later.

But the CGI is nearly flawless, and Serkis' nearly-wordless performance as Caesar pins the entire movie together. Obviously Serkis has experience with monkey business (sorry), as he donned the suit for King Kong. But he takes his talent to a new level, not only with simian movements, but with his ability to express emotion entirely through facial expression and the veil of CGI. Can someone give this guy an Oscar already?

Apes is a chimp off the old block (sorry) and a terrific launching point for a new series. As I am very fond of apocalypytic fiction, this movie's take on how the apes inherit the earth is fascinating and should lead to a neat series, with the biological problem wrestling with gorilla warfare.

Sorry.


Rise of the Awesome Apes

Pass the bananas, because Rise of the Planet of the Apes is unexpectedly great.

Meet Dr. Frankenstein: James Franco as Will Rodman, a scientist obsessed with developing a cure for Alzheimer's as his father (John Lithgow) sinks deeper into it. One of his potential cures results in a super-smart ape (Andy Serkis in his best yet) he ends up hiding at home, so little Caesar first learns the way of man and then the way man treats ape. From there, everything goes bananas (sorry).

Some have dismissed it as a treatise against animal testing. I call hooey - it is no more an indictment of animal testing than Jurassic Park was an academic debate on the ethics of gene therapy. The movie theme of messing with things that man was not meant to monkey with (sorry) is older than Frankenstein and certainly is an appropriate one for the prequel to Charlton Heston's signature Planet of so many years ago.

Fans of the original Apes series will find plenty to love. I dare you not to giggle when young Caesar is seen idly playing with a toy Statue of Liberty. Heston himself is seen on a TV screen, albeit from The Agony & The Ecstasy instead of Planet of the Apes. There are plenty of little tie-ins, such as a newspaper headline declaring the launch of the Icarus mission, and some were obscure enough that only the devout Apes fanatic who reluctantly accompanied me caught them - and he ended up loving it, too.

Also, the Most Famous Line is there. And it's appropriate. And you don't see it coming. And it's a game-changing moment that makes you want to cheer and clap. That's all I'm going to say about that.

That's not to say it isn't predictable. It sort of has to be – guess what, at the end of Titanic the boat sinks. Ta-da! And we go apeshit (sorry) with our movie cliches! We have the Corporate Slimeball, who alternates between standing in Dr. Frankenstein's way and encouraging him despite massive legal and ethical stupidity because of the potential for profit. We have devoutly Stupid Military Men who don't understand the concept of urban warfare in three dimensions - did they train by playing Halo? There's the Designated Asshole, who gets his, and a number of background Assholes who fill various antagonistic roles.

And, of course, there's the Girlfriend, a veterinarian whose role is simply to give James Franco someone to talk to and occasionally provide some ape-specific exposition. The movie fails the Bechsdel Test pretty spectacularly, in that I believe she's the only woman who speaks on camera. As much fun as they had with this script, they could have given her something to do. Also: were none of the apes female? That's going to prove a problem later.

But the CGI is nearly flawless, and Serkis' nearly-wordless performance as Caesar pins the entire movie together. Obviously Serkis has experience with monkey business (sorry), as he donned the suit for King Kong. But he takes his talent to a new level, not only with simian movements, but with his ability to express emotion entirely through facial expression and the veil of CGI. Can someone give this guy an Oscar already?

Apes is a chimp off the old block (sorry) and a terrific launching point for a new series. As I am very fond of apocalypytic fiction, this movie's take on how the apes inherit the earth is fascinating and should lead to a neat series, with the biological problem wrestling with gorilla warfare.

Sorry.


RIP L.A. Banks

I am sorry to report that Leslie Esdaile Banks, known as L.A. Banks to many of her fans, has lost her battle with adrenal cancer and passed away earlier today.

Shot_smer A New York Times and USA Today bestselling author, Banks wrote in a multitude of speculative fiction subgenres ranging from romantic fantasy to young-adult paranormal. She wrote noirish crime thrillers as Leslie Esdaile Banks, romance and women's lit as Leslie Esdaile and of course the popular Vampire Huntress and Crimson Moon books as L.A. Banks, plus TV tie-ins for "Soul Food."

She won the Essence Literary Award for Storyteller of the Year in 2008, while writing an impressive and varied array of books for several major presses - more than 40 novels since her debut in the early 1990s. She was a major proponent of authors' cooperatives, a founding member of the famous Liars' Club, of which she wrote, "This is a place where you can get good, sage advice, can band together to do promotions that the publishers don’t pay for and can get constructive feedback. Once published, the struggle just begins; questions loom like, 'Now that I’ve published, how do I stay published?' and 'How do I get out of the rut and take my career to the next level?'"

"She is one of my oldest and dearest friends, a great writer, and an example of the human spirit at its best," said Jonathan Maberry, fellow author and member of the Liars' Club.

She introduced President Obama in 2010 when he gave a speech on health care reform, as she was a single mother with four children and a freelancer with a serious illness. She had insurance, which was charitably described as "inadequate."

Her family created a donation fund to help pay her astronomical medical bills and help her family. You can find out more here. The Liars' Club was already planning a fundraiser and silent auction to help raise money for Banks' family on Aug. 6 - details are here. Unfortunately, it will now be a memorial as well. If you live near Philadelphia, sounds like you could do worse than show up.

Rest in peace, Ms. Banks. It sounds like you were a hell of a lady.