Saturday, December 17, 2011

MY LITTLE BRONY

In a surprise to everyone involved and the media, the cartoon My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic has gained a fanbase above and beyond the targeted demographic of little toy-purchasing girls. That fanbase is comprised of teenaged and adult males, affectionately dubbed by the media as "Bronies."


My Little Pony is a Hasbro toy line that began in 1983 and are exactly as they sound: colorful ponies designed to entice young girls. Gaining in popularity, two movies were released, Rescue from Midnight Castle in 1984 and Escape From Catrina in 1985, before spawning an animated series from 1986-87. In 1992, a follow-up series, My Little Pony Tales, was produced but only lasted the year. In 1993, the toy line ceased regular production, with intermittent releases over the next two years.






1997 saw the return of the toys with a new, sleeker look called Friendship Gardens (or Generation 2). This run proved unsuccessful in America and was discontinued in 1999, though it continued to run overseas until 2003's Generation 3 began. These ponies were said to reside in Ponyville and often came with magnets in their feet designed to activate elements on playsets. Recognizing a growing adult fanbase, Hasbro made collectible ponies available only at different events and targeted at these collectors. Between 2003 and 2009, Generation 3's ponies were featured in a series of direct-to-video movies 



In 2009, Lauren Faust was approached to make a new show for Hasbro to premiere on their new network, The Hub. Faust set out to steer the series beyond it's "girly" roots and make it something more than a 22 minute commercial for their toys. The result was Generation 4, My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic.

Left to right from top: Pinkie Pie, Rainbow Dash, Rarity, Twilight Sparkle, Applejack, Fluttershy.
The show's initial focus was on Twilight Sparkle, a magical unicorn who is the student of Princess Celestia and overly dedicated to her studies. Sensing danger on the horizon, Celestia sent Twilight from the royal city of Canterlot to Ponyville to learn about friendship and make new friends in order to harness the elements of friendship and save Equestria. Initially reluctant, Twilight, along with her assistant, a baby dragon named Spike, managed to make five close friends: Fluttershy, a timid Pegasus who is responsible for all of Ponyville's various animals and whose friendship element is kindness; Rarity, another magical, and highly fashionable, unicorn who runs a fashion boutique and represents the element of generosity; Applejack, a hardworking farm gal who harvests apples on her family farm, Sweet Apple Acres, and represents honesty; Rainbow Dash, a boastful Pegasus who works in Cloudsdale controlling Equestria's weather while aspiring to become one of the high-flying Wonderbolts, and represents loyalty; and Pinkie Pie, a hyperactive pony who loves to party and partake of sweets from her job at Sugar Cube Corner, and represents laughter.



Each episode of the first season had Twilight learning about friendship and writing a weekly report about it to Princess Celestia, to coincide with the moral eventually learned at the end. The second season expanded this concept during its third episode "Lesson Zero" to include reports from any of the "Mane 6" (as fans have dubbed the main pony cast) who learned anything at all about friendship. As a result, the second season focuses a lot less on the group dynamic of the 6 friends and more on individual character stories with lessons targeted towards them.

So, where do the Bronies come in? Faust managed to achieve her goal of making not just another toy tie-in cartoon and gave it an actual story and heart. With superb writing, well-developed characters and morals that aren't exactly forced into each story for the sake of being there, the show reached an unprecedented level of quality that managed to be noticed by a larger fanbase than anyone involved with the show ever expected. Not to be outdone, the series has also garnered loyalty from older female viewers dubbing themselves "Pegasisters." The show has also inspired countless of Youtube video remixes and parodies, fan art and internet memes (fanfiction and forums are pretty much standard and expected by this point).

Does it live up to the hype and attention it's gained? Doesn't hurt to give it a try, does it?

My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic, airs Saturday mornings at 10 & 10:30 Eastern on The Hub. Check local listings.

Friday, December 2, 2011

CLASSIC ENDINGS

In honor of Archie Comics' 70th anniversary, the company has been reprinting classic strips and covers on their entire main Archie line since October. A glimpse of what has been:









Life With Archie #51 meets Archie & Friends #157.

Life With Archie #56 meets Archie & Friends #159.

Life With Archie #54 meets Archie & Friends #158.
Archie Giant Series #168 meets B&V Friends Double Digest #219.



Laugh #168 meets B&V Friends Double Digest #220.




Betty and Me #32 meets Betty #194.
  
Betty and Me #31 meets Betty #195.

However, these are not all just mere tributes to Archie's past. For two of those books, these mark the end. Both Betty and Archie & Friends have been cancelled, and reprints were used to finish out their respective lines. Also cancelled is Veronica, whose final issues are currently the Kevin Keller mini-series. Betty and Veronica will continue for the girls, while Archie's friends still have the similarly-named double digest to play in. Kevin Keller also gets his own ongoing in 2012 after favorable reaction to both the character and the mini.

Kevin Keller #4/Veronica #210 marks the final issue of the series.

Friday, November 18, 2011

THE BRAVE AND THE CANCELLED



Tonight American audiences were finally graced with the final episode of Batman: The Brave and the Bold. Beginning in 2009 on Cartoon Network, TBATB was a dramatically different take on animated Batman than what has been seen since The Animated Series began in 1993. It was a tongue-in-cheek show designed to be a love letter to the often silly and outlandish comics of the Silver Age, particularly the covers which, produced before the actual book, very rarely matched the content and featured one-panel bizarre scenarios. Much like the comic the series took its name from, each episode featured Batman teamed-up with heroes from across the DC Universe, some never prominently featured in animation before, including the Metal Men (Lex Lang, Bill Fagerbakke, Hynden Walch, Corey Burton, Brian Bloom and Dee Bradley Baker respectively), the new Blue Beetle (voiced by Batman Beyond veteran Will Friedele), the Weeper (Tim Conway) and Doctor Double X (Ron Perlman).


"Like, hey, groovy tights, man."
The show featured many homages to the comics, particularly from the Silver Age, and previous television incarnations that came before. "Battle of the Superheroes" saw Superman, finally cleared for use on the show, infected by personality-altering Red Kryptonite, resulting in him pulling off many of the gags found on Superman-related covers such as Superman's Pal Jimmy Olsen #30, Superman's Girlfriend Lois Lane #26 and Action Comics #311. "Bat-Mite Presents: Batman's Strangest Cases!" recreated the MAD Magazine parody Bat Boy and Rubin, featured Jiro Kuata's manga found in Bat-Manga!: the Secret History of Batman in Japan, and parodied The New Scooby-Doo Movies Batman team-up episodes. "The Super-Batman of Planet X!" featured the Batman of Zur-En-Arrh voiced by Batman veteran Kevin Conroy (Batman from TAS through Justice League), an alien that first appeared in 1958's Batman #113 and resurfaced in 2008 during Grant Morrison's run on Batman as a back-up personality for Bruce Wayne. "Chill of the Night," one of the most widely well-received episodes of the series, gives a retelling of Batman's origin inspired by Untold Legend of the Batman and features Batman veterans Adam West and Julie Newmar (Batman and Catwoman from the 1960s live-action series), Mark Hamil (the primary actor for the Joker from 1993-2011), Richard Moll (Two-Face from TAS), and Conroy.

"Never mind that I'm naked, stop your diminutive evil!
The final episode, titled "Mitefall" after the one-shot parodying the Knightfall storyline, features Bat-Mite (Paul Reubens) who is bored with the show as it is, feeling it has jumped the shark, and seeks to cancel it to allow a new, darker show to be produced. He does this by introducing every show-killing trope to Batman's world: giving him a family, creating a Scrappy-Doo-esque nephew for Batdog Ace, giving Batman toy manufacturer-inspired costumes and accessories, and replacing a long-standing voice with actor Ted McGinley (who is often credited with killing any show he's casted on, despite Married...With Children lasting an additional six years after). Ambush Bug, fittingly voiced by Henry Winkler (who literally jumped a shark on Happy Days as The Fonz), is aware of the plot and tries to save the show. Unfortunately, the network decides to cancel the show anyway, and Ambush Bug arranges for one final send-off from all the characters featured over the last three seasons. The episode was written by Paul Dini, one of the principals behind the DC Animated Universe, and of course featured some of the fourth-wall breaking situational commentary his Bat-Mite episodes have become known for.

"Let's go, Neon Talking Bat-Luge!"
Although the show stumbled a bit during the second season, it had often delivered classic characters in humorously enjoyable settings and stories. It managed to blend the sensibilities of the previous DC Animated Universe cartoons with that of the Adam West years, without often taking it too far into the camp and corn. Although not widely received by Batman purists, the show managed to find a strong enough following to last as long as it did. With 65 episodes, a video game, an ongoing comic series, and an outstanding voice cast to its credit, there's no doubt that TBATB will be fondly remembered in the annuls of the greater Batman mythos.

Only the end of the world can bring evil and justice together in peace and harmony.

Monday, October 31, 2011

HALLOWEEN VIEWING



As the witching hour is upon us for one of the best nights of the year, I thought I'd take a moment to share with you some of my favorite Halloween viewing. Who knows, maybe some of them are yours too.

Garfield's Halloween Adventure (1985) - Three years before the classic animated series Garfield and Friends, there was this great 30-minute short. It's Halloween and Garfield has one mission: get free candy! Heading out with his trusty fall-guy, Odie, the two end up in a heap of trouble when confronted by ghost pirates! Watching this as a kid, I'm man enough to admit that the ghost scenes, starting with the old man who told the tale of the pirates, really freaked me out. This was scary stuff when you're a youngster! Even in that period when I was growing up and slowly began to forget the thrills of my childhood, the one thing that always stuck with me was the signature crackle of the fire in the fireplace. I never forgot it, or this. And, much like the show that followed, watching it is still a treat nearly 30 years later.



It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown! (1966) - The seminal Halloween classic based on Charles Schultz's Peanuts comic strip, we follow each of the Peanuts gang on their adventures one Halloween night. Linus and his quest to meet the Great Pumpkin. Charlie Brown getting nothing but rocks from houses. And, of course, Snoopy as the World War I flying ace fighting against the Red Baron. As one of only animated specials still played every year, this is a must-see. No matter how many times you may have already, it never gets old and never loses its magic. That's the power of the Peanuts, and why, years after the strip ended with Schultz's death, they still go as strong today.



Evil Dead (1981) - Tagged as "the ultimate in grueling terror," this film lives up to that distinction. Following five teens who head for a getaway in a mountain cabin, they end up finding an archaeologists things including the Necronomicon, aka the book of the dead. Playing a recording of the archaeologist translating text from the book, they awaken something evil in the woods that comes for them one by one. This is the film that launched the careers of Sam Raimi and Bruce Campbell, and with good reason. On a budget a FRACTION of that of any other horror film you may have seen, it managed to accomplish the same effects in both visuals and storytelling. Sure, some of the more gruesome things don't hold up to scrutiny in today's CGI world, but guess what? Very few movies from the 80s do, so it's all good. A must for any true horror fan, especially on Halloween.



The Monster Squad (1987) - Take The Goonies, add monsters, and you've got Monster Squad. Several members of a monster club end up smack dab in the plans of Dracula's attempt to take over the world with the other Universal Monsters. Although far from cinematic gold, this movie is a fun romp from start to finish, showing kids taking the initiative where adults' common sense fails. This is also the movie that established the answer to the age old question: does wolfman have nards? Yes. Yes he does. 



Ghostbusters (1984) - No Halloween list is complete without this comedy classic. Three scientists believe in ghosts and discover a way to capture them. Forced to begin their own business, they end up in a fight for the world with a Sumerian demigod who takes the form of a giant marshmallow man! Unless you've been under a rock, you know what Ghostbusters is and what it's about. It's the movie that spawned two cartoons, hundreds of toys and a dozen different types of video games. Almost 30 years later, Ghost Fever is still in full-swing, and while they may not play the movie every year, you can still hear the classic Ray Parker, Jr. theme on the radio (at least here in New York, which is awesome).


Lonesome Ghosts (1937) - Disney's precursor to the Ghostbusters concept, Mickey, Donald and Goofy are ghost exterminators that are called to a haunted mansion by the bored ghosts looking for some victims to scare. This is the usual Disney short fare, full of slapstick and zany antics. Another one that creeped me out often as a kid, particularly because the older Disney cartoons had such moody background set pieces, and the hand-drawn animated had such an effect to it since it wasn't as smooth as today's computers. More personality.


Thursday, October 27, 2011

GHOST TRAP REVIEW

Since Mattel aquired the license to Ghostbusters back in 2009, they've been steadily putting out a stream of products. Managing where Neca failed in 2004, they've released the actual Ghostbusters and look to be going into the villains soon. Then they began to delve into the realm of prop replicas, releasing the PKE meter whose only flaw is the sound effects, which match an old Tiger handheld game more than the movie.

But, this month, Mattel's Matty Collector division outdid themselves with the release of the ghost trap. This thing is insane with the level of detail that went into it. Not long before or after it's release, the proppers in the Ghosthead community began doing side-by-side comparisons between the toy and the parts they used to build their own real traps. Let me tell ya, it's pretty damn close.


Functionality wise, they went all out. The trap comes with two modes: prop and movie. Movie mode, you press the pedal once to open the trap, and again to close it. Once the "ghost" is trapped, the LEDs come on complete with sounds from the movie and "electric jolts." After a while, the "ghost" attempts to escape from the trap, causing it to jump. Prop mode allows you the same functions, but without the sound effects for display purposes.

This is a pretty impressive item. It puts the Kenner toy from the 80s to shame by far. Imagine growing up with this thing instead of that! If you're a Ghostbusters fan without the time or talent to build your own, getting your hands on this is the next best thing.


Wednesday, October 26, 2011

POST-NYCC REPORT

New York Comic Con may only be four days (up from three, by the way), but it sure as hell takes up my entire month, which is why this entry is so delinquent since the con has been over about two weeks now.

Anyway, the show was decidedly bigger with the usual assortment of fanfare. Hasbro had a nice set-up with a giant Optimus Prime statue, a life-size Amazing Spider-Man statue, and all their Marvel figures duking it out in a diorama. Marvel and DC had the biggest booths with their characters prominently displayed. The toy booths looked like miniature flea markets with all the stuff crowded together. And, as usual, the Anime show was shoved off in a far removed corner. Although, instead of the basement, they got a subdivision of the second floor with massive windows and balconies.

And there was the CAG booth, sitting just below Artists Alley between a book about Jaws and some web sitcom. We got a lot of attention during the show, filling up three pages of the mailing list with hopefully future productive members of the group. We also moved quite a few Iconics, albeit at the educator discounted price. The other members who manned the table made some sales with their own stuff. My stuff, though, still going nowhere. Got a ton of Marvel Indexes nobody wants to buy, and Worst Case Scenario moved off the GWP table better than it did on ours. Weird. At least I was able to get around and see some friends and colleagues alike.

The crowds were immense. You could barely move Friday through most of Sunday. Hell, most of the panels I wanted to go to ended up shut out, especially the Archie one. There was the usual assortment of booth babes and girls in costume who probably don't want anything to do with our world for the rest of the year. Then there were the fan costumes, some that were as extravagant as they always are. If I had space to get a clear view I would have taken more costume pictures than I did. Think next year I'll do all my exploring early on Thursday while it's being set up.

We had some fun gatherings after the show, holding an altered drink and draw (our intended model bailed at the last minute, resulting in a shared drawing being passed around between artists over dinner) and then just going to dinner on Saturday. It was relaxing, and it was fun, and a nice break from being jammed in a sardine can.

One thing to note this time was the extreme LACK of discount comic bins. The only places that had them were the Midtown Comics booth and the Captain Action booth. A colleague was inclined to tell me that's a good sign, meaning the books have more worth than before now. I suppose that's true. Although, really, what you mostly find in those bins are books from the 90s, which is decidedly regarded as the worst period for comics. But, I guess the other good part of it is I didn't walk out with three longboxes of comics. But, I did get some awesome art, some books signed, and good deals on trades.

Overall, good show. Hopefully at lot of positive fallout comes from it. Next: Boston!

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

SATURDAY MORNING TRIBUTE: NBC

As part of the 25th anniversary celebration of The Real Ghostbusters, and Saturday morning in general, here are the shows that aired on rival network NBC back in the fall of 1986. Enjoy the little trip down memory lane!

8:00 - Kissyfur (1986-90)

8:30 - Disney's Adventures of the Gummi Bears (1985-89, on ABC from 89-90)

9:00-10:00 - The Smurfs (1981-89)

10:30 - Alvin and the Chipmunks (1983-90)

11:00 - Foofur (1986-88)

11:30 - Punky Brewster (1984-88)

12:00 - Lazer Tag Academy (1986-87)

12:30 - Kidd Video (1984-87, reruns)
 

SATURDAY MORNING TRIBUTE: CBS

As part of the 25th anniversary celebration of The Real Ghostbusters, and Saturday morning in general, here are the shows that aired on rival network CBS back in the fall of 1986. Enjoy the little trip down memory lane!

8:00 - The Berenstain Bears (1985-87)

8:30 - Wildfire (1986)

9:00-9:30 - The Muppet Babies (1984-91)

10:00 - Galaxy High School (1986)
  
10:30 - Teen Wolf (1986-87)

11:00 - Pee Wee's Playhouse (1986-90)

11:30 - CBS Storybreak (1985-87)

12:00-12:30 - Hulk Hogan's Rock 'n' Wrestling (1985-86)

WHO YA GONNA CALL?

23 years ago, one of the most recognizable 80s franchises made their leap to comics. Transformers? Nope. G.I. Joe? Hardly. Fraggle Rock? Close. We’re talking about the professionals in paranormal investigation and elimination: Ghostbusters.

BUSTIN’ MAKES ME FEEL GOOD

Ghostbusters was originally conceived as a vehicle by comedian Dan Aykroyd for himself and his friend, fellow Saturday Night Live alum, band mate and friend John Belushi, as a follow-up to their hit movie The Blues Brothers. It was inspired by Aykroyd’s own interest in the paranormal, and was intended to be about a group of men in SWAT-style uniforms that traveled through time, space and other dimensions while using specialized wands to take on a horde of giant ghosts (of which The Stay Puft Marshmallow Man would have been a member of). When brought to the attention of director and producer Ivan Reitman, he liked the concept but felt the story, as it was, would cost far too much to make (remember, there was no CGI  as we know it in the early 1980s, so many of the special effects and creatures would have to be practical effects). Reitman would pair Aykroyd up with Harold Ramis to fine tune the idea to more realistic proportions, or the version we all know and love today.

In 1984, Aykroyd and Ramis as Doctors Ray Stantz and Egon Spengler, alongside Bill Murray and Ernie Hudson as Dr. Peter Venkman and Winston Zeddemore (Belushi had died during the screenwriting process from a drug overdose), led Ghostbusters to become the most successful comedies of the 80s. That success would be translated into an animated series by DiC Entertainment called The Real Ghostbusters in 1986 (The Real was added to the title by Columbia Pictures to snub Filmation, who was banking on the movie’s success with their own spin-off cartoon of their 1975 live-action Ghost Busters TV show starring Larry Storch and Forest Tucker). The show was just as successful as the movie, thanks in large part to the earlier seasons being headed-up by renowned comic writer J. Michael Straczynski who helped give it a dark tone that even adults could enjoy. Ghost Fever was in full swing, with toys, games, and even a movie sequel. But there’s one aspect in particular we’re here to talk about today.


THE FRANCHISE RIGHTS

In 1988, The Real Ghostbusters made their foray into the four-colored world by both Marvel’s United Kingdom office and Tony Caputo’s NOW Comics. The UK run, which lasted 193 weekly issues (monthly with the final few), 4 hardcover annuals, and multiple reprint collections put out as specials and their own monthly title, came out a few months before the NOW run. The book was published in magazine format with anywhere from two to three comic stories (depending on their length, sometimes extra one-pagers were added), a prose story which alternated monthly from a standard adventure to an entry in Winston Zeddemore’s diary, a prose spirit guide entry by Egon Spengler that would discuss something supernatural related to a story in that issue, and even a strip featuring their resident ghost, Slimer, primarily written and drawn by Bambos.



These comics were decidedly kid-friendly; the plots never being too deep and loaded with pun-laden dialogue. It featured a large rotating roster of creative talent, including names such as Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning (Nova, Guardians of the Galaxy) and Richard Starkings (founder of lettering house Comicraft and creator of Elephantmen). The series also tended to introduce designs seen within the toy lines, rather than exclusively from the cartoon.

Late in the run, the books began to reprint stories from the NOW series, but because the length of the stories differed between the two comics they were usually broken up into multiple parts over the course of several issues. Stories previously published in the book itself were also sometimes reused. By issue 173, original stories ceased to be produced, and by #186 the book would finish out its run in a larger monthly format, but still using reprints.



NOW Comics, known as NOW Entertainment and NOW 3.0 in future incarnations, was founded by Tony Caputo and grew from a one man operation to publishing many titles in various countries. NOW’s biggest draw included licensed properties such as Married…With Children, The Green Hornet, Speed Racer and, of course, The Real Ghostbusters. The book ran for 28 issues before NOW filed for bankruptcy in late 1990. They were primarily written by James Van Hise, except for two issues, and drawn by John Tobias, who would later create the Mortal Kombat video game series with Ed Boon.

Their run also included a 3-issue limited series adapting the script from Ghostbusters II, but using the cartoon characters rather than trying to go for the actors’ likenesses. The series is most notable for introducing the cartoon version of Dana Barrett, absent from any episode delving into their origin and receiving only mentions in the UK books. It was also the only run collected into a trade paperback, limited to 3,000 copies and usually found on eBay for sale by writer Van Hise. Marvel, who ran the series as part of their reprints, also released their own version of the trade.



NOW made a brief comeback and resumed publishing. A second series was attempted later in 1991 and ran for 4 issues, with a 3-D special issue kicking off the main story than ran through all of them and often being considered the same as a #0 issue because of it. Two annuals were produced, one of them also being a 3-D issue. These issues would not only feature the original story, but a back-up reprint of a story from the UK series. This wouldn’t be the first time the main series had borrowed from the Marvel run. Issue 21 of the first volume was composed of 3 UK stories due to a production delay, splitting a two-part story in half. A few of the covers in volume 1 and all the main covers in volume 2 also ran with covers used in the UK series, but modified to normal comic size.

HE’S AN UGLY LITTLE SPUD

With the growing popularity of Slimer on the cartoon and the growing concerns of parents that the subject matter thus far was too dark for kids, the focused was shifted to make him a central character and the show as a whole more kid-friendly. Slimer was given his own spin-off cartoon with more stylized animation and paired up with the regular cartoon, creating the new hour-long Slimer! and the Real Ghostbusters. Following suit, both companies began publishing a Slimer comic.



NOW’s Slimer! ran for 19 issues featuring stories done in a similar style to his cartoon as well as the various characters from it. Marvel’s Slimer! ran monthly for about 12 issues in 1990, featuring longer versions of the strips found every month in the main book and reprints of NOW material. The Slimer! book was merged into the main book with #121, his name added to the title. Conversely, NOW did a similar move adding the Ghostbusters’ name to their Slimer! book with #12, featuring UK reprints until the book’s cancellation. It was also the only other Ghostbusters book to be collected in a trade; specifically the first three issues.

MY DAD SAYS YOU’RE FULL OF CRAP

In 1991, almost prophesized by the beginning of Ghostbusters II, Ghostbusters began to fall out of the public eye and the animated series eventually came to an end. The comic held on a little longer, though; the final issue produced in the 20th Century was 1993’s Slimer! 3-D Special.

As 80s nostalgia began to grow once again after the millennium, older properties started to find themselves with new life. Ghostbusters was experiencing its own resurgence with a brand-new release of the DVDs, a die-cast model from Ertl, a re-release of Ecto-1A from Johnny Lightning, action figures of the first movie villains by Neca (they could not secure Bill Murray’s likeness rights, so the actual Ghostbusters were never released until Mattel acquired the license in 2010), and the long-awaited commercial release of Elmer Bernstein’s score from the first movie.

WE’RE BACK

In 2002, a mysterious user calling himself Red Ketchup appeared on the forums at Ghostbusters.net, one of many Ghostbusters fan sites on the web, dropping vague hints about something Ghostbusters related on the horizon. Concept artwork featuring characters heavily influenced by the animated series, but in movie gear, appeared by someone called El Diablo. After more dropped hints and a lot of questions directed to fans, the identities of these two individuals were revealed to be Sebastien Clavet, owner and publisher of Canada-based 88MPH Studios, and Mark Brooks (Ultimate X-Men, Avengers: The Initiative). Brooks, it should be noted, was not the intended regular artist for the series nor were his designs the ones used.

Clavet had announced that, beginning in 2004, his company would produce a 4-issue mini-series called “Legion” that would lead into a new ongoing series. What set this series apart from the comics that came before was it took place in the movie universe, and that it featured a sliding timeline that placed the events of the first movie in the present, rather than 20 years prior. That meant internet, cell phones and modern pop culture references galore. It also completely disregarded Ghostbusters II, and paid homage to the animated series.

Billy Dallas Patton (Zoom Suit) was the intended artist for the series, but medical problems forced him to drop out after only doing a promotional picture of the characters and a #0 black and white issue called “The Zeddemore Factor,” which was given out at San Diego Comic Con that year to promote the series. Steve Kurth replaced him on the main title, with writer Andrew Dabb (Happydale: Devils in the Desert, Atomika), inker Serge LaPointe (Star Wars Tales), colorist Blond (War of the Supermen, Adventure Comics) and letterer Ed Dukeshire (Farscape, Shadowhawk). Despite the impressive overall presentation of the series, and the tremendous hype surrounding it, the series was plagued with numerous problems and controversy.



THESE MEN ARE CONSUMMATE SNOWBALL ARTISTS

One of the biggest fan contentions came from the numerous amounts of variant covers for the four issues. Each issue had a cover by the series regulars as well as a painted cover of the main characters by Dan Brereton (Nocturnals). Issue one, however, had four additional covers; one exclusive to retailer Graham Crackers Comics, one exclusive to toy retailer Toyzz.com, a retailer incentive cover of just the logo made with ultraviolet inks that shipped in sparse numbers depending on how many copies were ordered, and a second printing with a Christine inspired Ecto-1. Issue four had an additional cover exclusive to Bulldog Collectibles. Small publishers often rely on variant covers to bolster sales of a book to keep cover prices low and compete with the bigger companies.

The cover complaints, though, were quickly overshadowed by increasing delays between issues. The mini was intended to run from February to May 2004, with an ongoing series beginning immediately in June, the 20th anniversary of the first movie. However, the first issue didn’t hit stores until that April, with the final issue coming out the following January. This resulted in a dip in sales with each successive release, as well as aggravation amongst regular Ghostbusters fans.

Clavet tried to combat this by keeping the hype alive, promoting that the series will happen and, in the meantime, a special hardcover of the mini would be released to tide fans over. Enticements included concept art, informational “Ecto-Logs,” a colorized version of “The Zeddemore Factor,” a foreword by Dan Aykroyd and an afterword by an unidentified actor related to the movies (popular speculation was this actor would be Bill Murray). The deadline for the pre-orders of the book were extended several times, causing concern over whether or not the book would actually come out, despite Clavet’s assurances to the positive. To date, however, only a soft cover version featuring just a cover gallery as an extra was released in the UK by Titan Books.

Rumors had begun circulating that 88MPH was experiencing some financial difficulties, which may or may not have been a direct cause of the increased delays of the book. Co-inker Chuck Gibson (Silken Ghost, Backlash) and “Zeddemore Factor” colorist Adam Nichols reportedly experienced a massive delay in receiving payment for their work. Clavet made an attempt to raise money to publish the hardcover by offering an Ecto-1 and Peter Venkman lithograph for sale. He also considered cutting costs by replacing their trademark vehicle as he had to pay General Motors a fee for using the Cadillac ambulance as the base. That announcement drew a mixed reaction from fans, some not wanting it to happen while others just wanting the book to be made.

With the ongoing postponed indefinitely and the hardcover missing in action with most attempts at refunds futile, it seemed like this was the Ghostbusters’ last foray into comics for a long time. However, Titan Books stepped up once again to fill the void by releasing four digest-sized collections of the Marvel UK stories. Between 2005 and 2006, they released A Hard Day’s Fright, Who You Gonna Call?, Which Witch is Which? and This Ghost is Toast, three of them named for a story that appeared within.

THE BOYS IN GRAY ARE AT IT AGAIN

Then, at San Diego Comic Con 2008, IDW announced they had acquired the rights to the franchise, as did Manga publisher Tokyopop.  IDW's first salvo was The Other Side by Keith Champagne (Green Lantern Corps, The Flash) and Tom Nguyen (Army of Darkness) set in the movie universe but after the second movie. The series was met with mixed reviews for both the story and artwork. Tokyopop's Ghost Busted was a a 192-page one-shot, featuring the talents of Nathan Johnson, Matt Yamashita, Maximo V. Lorenzo, Hanzo Steinbach, Chrissy Delk, Michael Shelfner and Nate Watson.  It incorporated six different adventures of the Ghostbusters with one unifying subplot. 




Although Tokypop never released another book, IDW continued on.  IDW's  next mini, Displaced Aggression by Jeph Loeb (Superman/Batman), was viewed more favorably.  Following several one-shots, each one received more positively than the last, plus an appearance in IDW's crossover event Infestation, IDW announced that a new ongoing series would begin in September of 2011 with artwork by known Ghostbusters fan artist Dan Schoening.



After many starts and stops, and the debacle of 88MPH, it looks like the franchise has found a viable home intent on keeping it going.

Ask your local retailer about the new Ghostbusters books this September. To find a comic shop, call 1-888-COMIC-BOOK or go to http://csls.diamondcomics.com/.

25 YEARS AGO, ON SATURDAY MORNING

To help celebrate the 25th anniversary of The Real Ghostbusters, the Quarter Bin presents the ABC Saturday Morning line-up that debut season!

8:00 - The Wuzzles (1985-87)

8:30 - The Care Bears (1985-88)

 9-9:30 - The Flintstone Kids (1986-88)

10:00 - The Real Ghostbusters (1986-91)

10:30 - The Pound Puppies (1986-89)

11:00 - The Bugs Bunny & Tweety Show (1985-2000)

11:30 - Star Wars: Ewoks (1985-86)

12:00 - ABC Weekend Special (1977-97)

12:30 - The Littles (1983-85, reruns)

Sunday, September 4, 2011

REVIEW: SUPERMAN BEYOND

SUPERMAN BEYOND #0
Writer: Tom DeFalco
Pencils: Ron Frenz
Inks: Sal Buscema
Colors: Chris Beckett
Letters: Dave Sharpe
Cover: Dustin Nguyen

 










Released in August by DC Comics, Superman Beyond #0 features the Batman Beyond version of Superman first seen in the episode "The Call."

Superman/Batman Annual #4
Written by Tom DeFalco with his Spider-Girl cohorts Ron Frenz and Sal Buscema on art, the book presents the old-school, yet entertaining flair, they've brought readers for 10 years on Spider-Girl. Superman, gradually losing strength, decides to end his sabbatical in space since Superman/Batman Annual #4 and return to Earth. There, a new foe, Armorgeddon, arises from a series of unfortunate personal circumstances. Add a little Kryptonite solution into the mix that made him what he is, and the already diminished Superman has his hands full.

The magic in the story is that DeFalco makes you want to care about the villain.  Armorgeddon isn't a villain for evil's sake.  There's a real human motivation behind what makes him the way he is.  And, the strength in the story is, that Superman eventually recognizes the humanity behind his actions and tries to figure out a way to stop him without hurting him too much.  This creates an interesting conflict, and plays to the strengths of Superman's character.  The fact that he manages to accomplish all this in a mere 30 pages, where most writers take 6 issues to tell as much, and is able to interweave previous continuity without bogging down the reader is a testament to DeFalco's tried and true skills.  Frenz and Buscema continue to compliment each other as the pages dance out and pop; from the soft moments to the heavy action scenes. Chris Beckett's vibrant colors also contribute to the flair on the page, giving readers a nice taste of the glory days of comics.

The most interesting thing to note is that the comic itself seems more directly tied into the cartoon than DC's recent Batman Beyond series.  The character designs, specifically for old Bruce Wayne, seem directly pulled from the show whereas Beyond the comic made some tweaks to the models. Although, while art on Beyond has generally been good, if Frenz ever gets offered the regular penciling chores on the book I hope he takes it.  And, despite an uncertainty expressed in interviews of dedicating their time to another ongoing, if DC decides on a Superman Beyond ongoing I hope these guys are on board.
The verdict: if you love old school comics, they don't get much better today than DeFalco and company.  They present the stuff that made comics what they are without it seeming too tired and dull.  And, if you love Superman, you can't do much better than the characterization in this book.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

DC NEW UNIVERSE

 
This Wednesday, the DC Comics' "New 52" begins with the launch of Justice League #1.  The New 52, named after the 52 alternate universes said to comprise the DC universe, is a line-wide relaunch of all of DC's primary books with brand new #1s and continuity stemming from their Flashpoint event of the last 5 months.  However, with the exception of Action Comics which will focus on Superman's early years, the books will not all be starting from the beginning.  They will all continue on as if things had been going for quite some time, but the DC universe will have only aged 5 comic-years (as per the sliding timescale that allows characters to remain young despite existing for many years in real time).

This is DC's most radical relaunch since Crisis on Infinite Earths, in which a great deal of Silver Age continuity was either eliminated or revamped for the purposes of streamlining and unifying things.  The decision is also most likely a hasty one in the face of dwindling sales, as indicated by an interview with Grant Morrison about being approached by DC to work on Action back in March.  An issue of a comic usually has at least 3 months of lead-in time from production to publication.  The result was many of the ongoing DC books had to have their stories modified in order to wrap-up by August, leading to some obviously rushed or disjointed conclusions.  Other books, such as Green Lantern: Emerald Warriors were left to flounder with nothing but fill-in stories to wrap up their runs with the inability to do anything meaningful.  New books just started, like Xombi, had to conclude after their first story arc. And series that are under a decade old, like Blue Beetle, are getting a new start. Then there were those few books who were able to adapt to the shift and go buck-wild, like Teen Titans, who had a massive Superboy battle that destroyed much of their base, Titan's Tower.

The question on most reader's minds is what counts and what doesn't?  What is the same and what is totally different?  For instance, both the Justice League and the Teen Titans are said to be the first incarnations of those teams, effectively eliminating the prior membership of any character from their continuities and histories.  It has already been revealed that Superman's human parents, Jon and Martha Kent, will have both died early on in his life, leaving him more of an alien outsider than an adjusted human.  Supergirl will also be playing the alien card, having a huge chip on her shoulder in regards to the Earth.  And Lois Lane?  Unmarried and not even dating Clark Kent. Bruce Wayne is back to being the only Batman, which will be interesting to see considering Batman: Incorporated is still said to exist.  Dick Grayson, after a two-year stint as Batman, will be returning to his Nightwing persona, while Tim Drake will be keeping his Red Robin identity and Damian Wayne will be staying on as Batman's Robin. Batgirl will also once again be Barbara Gordon, who has been Oracle since she was crippled in 1988's The Killing Joke.

Success or failure?  The coming months will decide.


Friday, August 5, 2011

THUNDERCATS, HO!



Wildstorm's ThunderCats update.
Continuing the wave of recent nostalgia and reboots comes ThunderCats, Cartoon Network's latest series that provides an update to the original from 1985-90.  As with most reboots, significant changes were made to the characters and settings in order to make it more appealing to modern audiences while also providing reminiscent fun for older fans. A previous attempt at resurrecting the franchise was done in 2003 by DC Comics' Wildstorm imprint. They launched several mini-series and one-shots taking place both during and after the run of the show, the latter complete with updated looks for the 'Cats.



1980s.
2011.
The show is set on Third Earth, where Thundera is now a kingdom on the planet rather than a separate world the ThunderCats have to escape from. The ThunderCats cling tightly to the old ways, only prince Lion-O (Will Fridele) acknowledging the existence of technology (unlike the original series where, in a Star Wars-esque fashion, technology co-existed alongside medieval weaponry and battle tactics). That ultimately proves their undoing when the ThunderCats are betrayed by one of their own, who leads their enemies, Mumm-Ra (Robin Atkin Dowens), Slithe (Dee Bradley Baker) and his Lizardmen, to the destruction of Thundera using technology. Only Lion-O, Tygra (Matthew Mercer), Cheetara (Emmanuelle Chirqui), WilyKit & Kat (Eamon Pirrucello & Madeleine Hall) and Snarf (Satomi KĊrogi) survive and are sent after the Book of Omens by Jaga (Corey Burton), basically turning this into a quest show.

The series is now two episodes in. After a solid and engaging premier episode, the follow-up felt like a filler story thrown in where Lion-O's quest for revenge against Mumm-Ra is called into question after meeting Captain Tunar and taking part in his obsession to kill the creature that stole his people's water (ala Moby Dick, or Jaws for you non-literary types).  Of course, that makes Lion-O realize he was behaving foolishly and resumes his quest for the Book of Omens.

Some other things to note: Larry Kenney, the original voice of Lion-O, rejoins the franchise as Lion-O's father, King Claudius. Snarf, a cowardly nursemaid to Lion-O, is reduced to just a pet. Panthro has yet to be featured in an episode, appearing only as an illusion in the pilot so far (but, considering he's got an action figure based on the new design one can assume he'll pop up eventually). Also, like many shows these days, there's no proper intro beyond a brief title graphic and a few notes of the original theme song ending with the episode title (much the same way as Friedele's previous series, Batman Beyond). One also needs to wonder what the deal is with the blank orbs on their clothing, besides eventually (hopefully) bearing the ThunderCats logo.




How will the new ThunderCats ultimately compare to the old?  We'll just have to wait and see.


Saturday, July 23, 2011

THE FIRST AVENGER


It took 70 years and four tries, but Captain America finally made it to the big screen.  So, did the good captain deliver?  I thought so.  Potential spoilers ahead, so read at your own risk.

Agent Peggy Carter escorts Pvt. Steve Rogers to his future.

The Red Skull.


Captain America: The First Avenger shows the transformation of Steve Rogers (Chris Evans), a kid from Brooklyn, from a 98 pound weakling into America's ultimate super-soldier. The process is developed by Abraham Erskine (Stanley Tucci) under the supervision of General Chester Phillips (Tommy Lee Jones) and Agent Peggy Carter (Hayley Atwell).  Steve was meant to be the first of a line dedicated to combating Hydra, Hitler's science research division, led by the Red Skull (Hugo Weaving) -- the first recipient of Erskine's formula. However, Erskine is killed leaving Steve the only one of his kind: Captain America.

Evans proved to have deserved the role and the three attempts the producers made to convince him to take it.  He delivered a well-ranged performance and managed to nail the little comedic moments peppered throughout the script.  Weaving proved a true threat as the Red Skull, and the make-up department did spectacular work on his "skinless" face.  Jones redeems himself for his last comic-based outing as Two-Face in Batman Forever with an excellent performance as the hard-as-nails commanding officer, while Atwell was able to achieve the strong independence the producers went for with her character.

The original shield.
The costume was nicely designed, combining practical elements with the design from the Ultimates comics. However, they also found a way to utilize Cap's original spandex suit AND triangle shield within a context so as to provide a treat for comic fans and yet not hurt the overall tone of the movie. A nice touch with Cap's round shield was the "battle damage" to the paint job it received as the movie went on.

Cap suit version 2.0.
With Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) relegated to being a present-time secret agent (the original Fury in the comics served in WWII and was given a formula that slowed his aging), Cap took over leadership of the Howling Commandos after having rescued them from the Skull's clutches. Unfortunately, while the group does get to participate in some humorous and action-packed scenes, their development is left on the back burner. While comic audiences will know and appreciate who they are, general audiences are afforded no such resonance. Marvel's tie-in prequel, Captain America: First Vengeance actually gave the characters a decent introduction that could have been utilized here.

The Howling Commandos.
The character of Howard Stark (Dominic Cooper) makes a return to film as the US Army's go-to technology guy, who has several roles instrumental in helping Cap in his battles. His presence also helped tie the movie into both Iron Man films, including the Stark Expo location from Iron Man 2 and the presence of an incomplete version of the shield seen briefly in Iron Man and utilized in a fashion in Iron Man 2. Also featured in the film were Arnim Zola (Toby Jones), a research scientist working with Hydra, and Bucky Barnes (Sebastian Stan), Cap's best friend and sidekick, and a cameo from Stan Lee, who brought Cap into the Avengers in the 1960s. Not to mention a couple of Easter eggs these movies have become known for (hint: keep on the lookout for the namesake of a prior Chris Evans role).

SHIELD Agent Caulson holds an incomplete replica of the shield in Iron Man 2.

The Avengers.
Overall, the movie was well done and well-paced.  The only place that really suffered was the ending, which felt a bit awkward in order to leave it tied-in and open for next year's The Avengers.  And while the extra ending scene was also underwhelming, The Avengers promo after it did its job and built up some excitement for the upcoming film. Captain America: The First Avenger is definitely worth a look in theaters, and, if you're willing to shell out for it, makes the most effective use of 3-D technology yet.
  

Cap buried in the ice in The Incredible Hulk.
Bonus Fact: Captain America made his first appearance in the combined Marvel Movie Universe in The Incredible Hulk. The original arctic opening cut from the theatrical release has a brief shot of a red, white and blue figure in the ice after an avalanche.  However, it's a good thing this scene was cut as Cap's icy discovery was made a bit more complex in The First Avenger. This scene is can be viewed on the DVD special features of the movie.