Monday, July 21, 2008

EJP's Comics Primer, Pt. 3: Watchmen, The Boys

Alan Moore's Watchmen
It's OK if you're not really into comics and never plan to be, but a good story is a good story, no matter what the format. Alan Moore is an incredible story teller, and he's either created or adapted some incredible characters over the past few decades (for some adapted characters, check out my League of Extraordinary Gentlemen post). Like Hellboy, Watchmen is about to become a little less obscure to the non-comic-reading populace thanks to the upcoming movie about which Clyde Squid just posted. But if you are a geek and/or consider yourself a well-read person, check out the comic first. You'll notice on the cover below that it's considered "One of Time Magazine's 100 best novels." That's not just graphic novels, that's all novels.In brief, the book is set in an America where "heroes" exist, but only one of them actually has super powers (the blue guy you see in the trailer). The rest of the heroes are vigilantes, who dress up and fight crime because they're crazy, rich and bored, crave the fame, or occasionally, are actually trying to mete out some justice. The comic's tagline, "Who watches the Watchmen?" really explains it all. Who places limits on these powerful people, or on the people who take power into their own hands in the name of justice? In the space of essentially 12 comic issues, Moore creates a complex world with its own history (and future). David Gibbons's art is also admirable, and I'll be interested to see how they carry it over into the film (which, supposedly, is sticking insanely close to the comic).

Any further explanation wouldn't do it credit. This one's really not to be missed.

Garth Ennis's The Boys

The Boys is essentially a Troma movie in comic book form. If you have no idea what a Troma movie can probably stop reading this post now. I'm not being a snob--I'm trying to protect you. These comics, like most Troma movies, are packed with gratuitous sex, violence (oh the violence!), and some the foulest language I have ever seen in print. On the spectrum of high brow to low brow, with Watchmen being high brow, The Boys pretty much falls off the other end.

Good thing I can appreciate low brow stuff, too. The Boys is the answer to Moore's question, "Who watches the watchmen?" How to put this...Many years ago, when the first Spiderman movie came out, Jon Stewart gave this synopsis of the character on The Daily Show "Spiderman is the story of weakling who gains super powers, then uses them for good...for free." In that one statement, Stewart exposes the weak underbelly of nearly all superhero comics. Not to diminish Stan Lee's legacy, but everyone praises him for creating such human super heroes, but how human are they really? Sure, with great power lies great responsibility, but doesn't it seem unlikely that so many people with powers actually choose to accept that responsibility?

That's the problem in the world depicted in The Boys: the supes fight crime, but they don't want to live in a crappy apartment to do it. They're going to kill the bad guys, but they don't want to take responsibility for any collateral damage. And a lot of the supes, though nice on the outside, are rotten to the core on the inside. That's where The Boys come in. A group of five who for various reasons (many not divulged yet--this is a relatively new comic) hold grudges against the supes. They'll use blackmail, violence, and some more violence to make sure the super "heroes" are kept in check.

There are a lot of reasons not to read this comic. If you're thin-skinned or otherwise easily offended, don't even open the first page of the first TPB, "The Name of the Game". But here are the reasons to read it: it's laugh-out-loud funny, one of the characters is modeled after Simon Pegg (geek alert!), the writing by Garth Ennis is creative and entertaining, and the art by Darick Robertson is beautifully detailed down to the squishiest eyeball. Pick up the first TPB in your comic shop and glance through the first 10 pages. In those first 10 pages, you'll get a very good idea of whether you'll love it or hate it. So I won't wholeheartedly say "Check it out!", but I know at least some of you should give it a shot, you dirty #@%$ers.

Friday, July 18, 2008

New Watchmen Trailer


These Songs are Dead to Me

The radio station that the technicians I supervise listen to every day could be worse. It's not top 40, or sports radio. It actually plays some good songs, many of which I haven't heard in ages. Yet there are three songs that the station plays EVERY day, at least once a day, if not more. These are songs that I used to kind of like, or at least tolerate. But now, whenever one of these songs comes on, my ears start to bleed and my mind shuts down. These are the songs:

"Bittersweet Symphony" by The Verve (which lasts for freaking ever)
"Wonderwall" by Oasis
"Undone (The Sweater Song)" by Weezer

If you are my friend, please don't play these songs in my presence ever again. If you are one of my co-workers who happens to know about this blog, please don't advertise this post, and if you walk into my office to find me banging my head on the keyboard, now you know why.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Beast with a Billion Backs...Better!

After the first Futurama movie proved pretty disappointing, I wasn't getting my hopes up for the second in the series of four, The Beast with a Billion Backs. So I don't know if it's just because I had lower expectations, or if it's because it really was the better "movie", but I enjoyed this one quite a bit.

The plot revolves around the age old story: rift opens in our dimension, giant monster falls in love with and tries to mate with our entire universe, they break up but decide to continue get the picture. The first movie mucked about in time, whereas this movie mucks about in space. There is at least a bit more of a plot to this one, which was encouraging.

Each character gets about the same amount of face-time, too, which I enjoyed. Like the first movie, there are a lot of references to the TV show, but they weren't quite as distracting this time around. All in all, I found myself laughing and enjoying TBWABB a lot more. But full disclosure: Meine Frau hated it. I doubt I'll be able to get her to watch any of the other movies, and she loved the TV show.

Special features on the DVD are OK. There's a "lost adventure" cobbled together from a defunct video game, a brief featurette with the oft-amusing David Cross (who voices the titular Beast), and a little video of a few of the voice actors. Speaking of which, Billy West, who does most of the voices on Futurama, is quite a character. The Onion A.V. Club interviewed him recently and it's an entertaining look at a very underrated talent.

So I'd certainly recommend this movie for any Futurama fans, but I'd also suggest skipping the first movie and going straight to this one if that's still an option. Or, you could just kiss my shiny metal ass.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

EJP's Top 10 Albums of 2008...So Far

Unbelievably, we're already halfway through 2008. I've been in a bit of a music buying/listening slump the last few months, mostly because my new job does not really lend itself to listening to music at work all that much. Also, April and May were kind of dry spells as far as new releases went, at least as far as I was concerned. But I still have a top 10 list and some honorable mentions, many of which I've already written about here (just links to the previous blog posts for those). These are kind of in a rough order of sorts:

10) Try Me Bicycle: Voicings
A very mellow album. Nice instrumentation...a little piano here, a little violin there, some classical guitar picking, all with just a hint of a catchy hook on a lot of songs. This is a relatively new one for me, but it's growing on me quickly. Give "Two Stern Feet" or "Big Small" a listen from the web site for a taste.

9) The Nobility: The Mezzanine

8) She & Him: Volume One
Discussed here.

7) Nerf Herder: IV
Discussed here.

6) The Kills: Midnight Boom
Several posts. Look here, here, and here.

5) Dodos: Visiter
Also several posts on this blog--see here, here, and here. Please note that as much as I like this album, I still liked their first album more. Get that one first.

4) The Black Keys: Attack & Release
There are enough drum/guitar duos out there now (see Dodos) that they could practically be their own genre at this point. But The Black Keys are really in a class of their own. Really, no white boys should be able to create and perform this type of bluesy rock fusion music so well. Attack & Release, which was produced by Danger Mouse, is a bit of a departure for the BKs, but not only did I tolerate it, I enjoyed it immensely. There are a few more instruments thrown in; it's a bit more rock-oriented. I definitely like it better than their last release, Magic Potion, and I think it's a close second behind Rubber Factory. I already know Evelyn Is Not Real is going to disagree with me on BK faves, but whatever.

3) Vampire Weekend: Vampire Weekend
Posts here and here.

1-tie) Thao and the Get Down Stay Down: We Brave Bee Stings and All
I posted about this album here back in April, and it's continued to grow on me ever since that first listen. It's rare that I get songs stuck in my head months after getting an album, but these songs are that catchy.

1-tie) Jim White: Transnormal Skiperoo
Discussed here and here. Still the most cathartic album I've heard in ages.

Honorable Mentions:
The Ditty Bops: Summer Rains
Headlights: Some Racing, Some Stopping
(check out the video for their great song "Cherry Tulips" at the bottom of the post!)
Tilly and the Wall: o
Eef Barzelay: Lose Big
The Magnetic Fields: Distortion
Pepe Ginsberg: Red

Friday, July 4, 2008

Retro Review: Idiocracy

Mike Judge, the man who brought us Beavis & Butthead, King of the Hill, and Office Space, dropped the cult-classic-to-be Idiocracy about two years ago. Don't remember it being in the theaters? That's because I think the the movie was released in Omaha and Boise for about a week. This movie actually made some minor headlines in pop culture circles because it was probably one of the most poorly distributed films by a relatively well-known (and well-liked) writer/director in recent history.

Which is too bad, because more people should see this movie. I hesitate to call it a "film" because it's not that good. But it was highly entertaining. I laughed out loud several times, and even managed to pour water all over my crotch at one point from laughing...which is kind of ironic considering what I was watching. The story here is pretty simple. Luke Wilson plays Average Joe Army Man who's placed in suspended animation (along with a hooker, for some reason), and pretty much forgotten about for 500 years. When he finally wakes up, the human race has grown so incredibly stupid that they can barely speak in complete sentences and the Oscar winner for best picture of the year is a 90 minute video of someone's ass. Joe has become the smartest man in the world.

Yes, the movie is high concept and low brow, but it's pulled off with aplomb. If there's anything Luke Wilson is good at, it's playing an Every Man. If there's one thing Mike Judge knows how to write, it's stupidity. The people in this future are really, really, really dumb. If I had better taste, I might write this movie off as a very long skit of people doing stupid things, which may get tiring for a lot of people. But I also choose to see it as a biting social satire. I challenge anyone to see this movie and not worry just a tiny bit about how accurate it's portrayal of the future might be.

Below you'll see the clip that introduces the movie (lotsa NSFW language). This was the part of Idiocracy I'd actually seen before. You'll laugh, but you'll also feel a little sick, because you'll know, deep in your heart, that this is really what's happening in the world right now. Smart people: get screwin'.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

The Fart Party

So this post could have gone into my ongoing comics primer, but I'm going to give Julia Wertz's The Fart Party special attention for a couple of reasons. For one thing, it's primarily a web comic. For another thing, it's super-especially awesome.

I have mixed feelings about web comics. There's so much crap out there, I tend not to even stick my toes in the web comic river for fear of contracting some fecal-born illness. But once in a while I'll risk it when I come across a Toothpaste for Dinner or an xkcd (I just realized that my favorite web comics are the least well-drawn...go figure). I now add The Fart Party to this list. Like PBF, I've purchased and read The Fart Party book, so I feel I can write about it on this blog.

This comic has little to nothing to do with farts or parties. It's basically an autobiographical look at Julia Wertz's life, with some exaggeration thrown in here and there. She's crude, often drunk, and shares a lot of interests with your average 12-year-old boy. She's basically a fanboy's dream girl, and since this site is pretty much by and for fanboys (and fangirls!), I figured I better let ya'll know about her.

Anyway, it's 5:24AM and I've already been up for over an hour due to The Bug, who will not be allowed to read The Fart Party until he is considerably older or until he finds it by himself on the internet. I secretly hope he does. He would do well to find a girlfriend this cool and honest and funny. But I's now 5:26AM and nothing I write will really do this comic justice, so just check it out. Wertz also has a blog I just found, and that's purty amusing, too. Please take a look and maybe throw this woman some money for a book at some point.

Example (I tried to find a comic without swear words, but it turned out to be too difficult):