Archive for the 'Comic Books' Category

How to build retractable Wolverine claws

wolverine claws
I don’t imagine that building Wolverine look-alike claws is all that hard, in fact many costumes have cheap plastic ones. But this guy managed to build real-looking claws that actually retract:

Nate used Photoshop to enlarge an image of Wolverine’s claws from the X-Men movie that he had downloaded. This allowed him to print out the image until it fit exactly onto the 1″ x 1/8″ Aluminum Flat Bar that he had purchased for creating the claws. Once the basic shape was on paper, Nate traced around it onto a piece of wood that he had cut to 1″ x 13″, which was the calculated maximum length of the claws. This length was determined to be the longest length that could fit on the back of Nate’s forearm. Once the wood had been traced, Nate gathered up his aluminum and headed to his Grandfather’s barn, where he cut the wood out on a band saw, sanded it on a vertical standing belt sander, and used it to trace out the aluminum claws. The aluminum claws were then cut out VERY CAREFULLY on the band saw and sanded lightly on the belt sander. The next step was to put each claw under the wire brush wheel to give them a “brushed aluminum” finish, which Nate determined would look closest to “adamantium”, which Wolverine’s claws are actually made out of.

Now he should go try to rob a bank or something as Wolverine. That’d be awesome.

Comic Book Urban Legends

comic book
A blog called Comics Should Be Good has taken the Mythbusters approach to comic book urban legends and set out to see if any of them were true. A complete list of them can be found here.

Among the more interesting urban legends: 1. Mark Gruenwald’s ashes were mixed in with the printing of a comic book.

STATUS: True

When Mark Gruenwald tragically passed away at the “too young” age of 42 in 1996, one of his farewell wishes was that he be cremated, and that his ashes be mixed in with the print run of a comic book.

2. Nicolas Cage took his last name from Luke Cage, Hero For Hire.

STATUS: True, depending on when you talk to Nicolas Cage

Nicolas Cage originally began acting under his birth name, Nicolas Coppola, which reflected the fact that he was the nephew of acclaimed director, Francis Ford Coppola.

However, since he did not want to appear like (in his words) “some nepotistic asshole,” he decided to take a stage name.

The origin of the last name choice, though, has changed over the years. Originally, Cage (an avid comic collector, with a collection once worth in the millions, before he sold it recently) was quite up front about the fact that he took the name from the comic character, Luke Cage.

3. Woody Allen was once featured in an issue of DC’s Showcase.

STATUS: True

In the late 60s, DC was searching to try to duplicate anything that was popular for any other comic company (specifically Archie), and the best place to try these concepts out was, naturally, Showcase, which served host to so many successful comic debuts for DC.

4. Marvel and DC own the trademark of the word “Super Hero.”

STATUS: True

Reader Jason asked a question about a Captain America T-Shirt that he had that had a DC copyright on it.

It is likely that Jason’s T-Shirt was, in fact, an error.

However, it did remind me of something that DC and Marvel DO share, and that is a trademark on the word “Super Hero.”

There’s tons more. Follow the links to read the rest.

Related posts: Interview with Derik Badman from Madinkbeard, The art of saying “I’m sorry.”

Interview with Derik Badman from Madinkbeard

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Derik A Badman is a librarian living outside Philadelphia, PA who writes the blog Madinkbeard (an anagram of his name). After about a year of focused blogging on constraint in literature (the Oulipo and related artists), he switched the focus of his blog to comics. He writes about all kinds of comics from classic comic strips to European bande dessinée (and much in between), often concentrating his attentions on the formal elements of comics and the experimental use of such elements. Maroon, his webcomic about a man stranded on a tiny island, ran from August 2005 through July 2006, using a number of constraints. His current webcomic is Things Change: The Metamorphoses Comic (started August 2006). Derik is using Ovid’s Metamorphoses as a generative device for structure as well as characters, themes, settings, or phrases. His other comics experiments include pictureless comics, comics haiku, and a comics pantoum.

Simon Owens: Any internet nerd out there could tell you that the web comics scene has become huge. As someone who both does web comics and blogs, which group do you feel more connected to? Do the two projects compliment each other?

Derik Badman: I’ll take your second part first. The two projects compliment each other wonderfully, at least for me. Part of my blogging about comics is an investigation into history and form. In that regards I think it makes my comics work better. I am a firm believer in knowing one’s forefathers and foremothers when working in art. By not only reading comics but also writing about them, I pay closer attention to the works and garner more that I can put to use (or not, in the case of negative examples) in my work.

As far as feeling connected to either bloggers or webcomickers… I don’t feel particularly connected to either. Most comic bloggers are writing a) news or b) superheroes. Even those that stray from such rarely write with similar intentions to how I see my blogging (albeit my writing is still an evolving function). That isn’t to say I don’t enjoy a lot of comics blogs (or other blogs) and learn about new comics or old comics from them, but that I don’t find a lot of compatriots (or whatever you might call them). I certainly end up getting a lot more links from non-comics bloggers than comics bloggers.

Similarly with webcomics. The majority of webcomics fall into genres which hold no interest to me (webcomics is the only place where “gamer” and “manga-esque” are prominent genres) or are sub-par brethren of print comics. Perhaps it is hubris to see my work as so much different from the rest, but I haven’t found much else that comes from a similar (perhaps literary? experimental?) angle. I’d love to find more interesting webcomics, and maybe they are just lurking below my radar. As there is a huge glut of bad webcomics, it often gets wearying to try to find ones that are worth the time. Sometimes one wonders if certain cartoonists have read much else than other comics in their genre.

Simon Owens: How hard is it for you to meet the deadlines you set for the updates on your web comic?

Derik Badman: So far the only time I missed a deadline was when I was working on a (printed) mini-comic while drawing my now completed strip Maroon. That said, for Things Change I’ve set myself a twice weekly deadline. I’ve only published five strips as of this writing, but I amassed about 10 strips before I started publishing them to give myself a head start.

I actually enjoy deadlines, which fits in with my former blogging focus of constraint. A regularl schedule forces you to work.

Simon Owens: Let’s switch gears. Does being a librarian affect your blogging at all? Do you feel like you’re close to the pulse of the book-publishing scene?

Derik Badman: I’m sure there must be a librarian influence on my blogging… my tendency to cite sources? The rare books I can get through interlibrary loan (just got a French book that performs a close reading of a Tintin book, in the same vein as Barthes’ S/Z). I don’t have any sense of the pulse of the publishing scene. I find the publishing scene predominantly uninteresting. I do manage the occasional worthy review copy, though so far not from any of the better comics publishers (Fantagraphics, Drawn and Quarterly, etc).

Simon Owens: Who are some of the main comic creators who inspire your own work?

Derik Badman: That’s a hard question, as I read so much, I’m not sure how much I’ve incorporated from others. Certainly my influences do not start or stop with comics creators. Probably the Oulipo writers, particularly Queneau and Mathews, have been huge influences on the way I work. Without them I never would have started Things Change with its use of Ovid as a generative device. The movies I’m interested in probably color my work in less obvious ways, particularly film noir and the French New Wave (Godard and Rohmer mostly).

But, to name some comic creators: Hergé (Tintin), Lewis Trondheim (Lapinot), Osamu Tezuka (Buddha), Dave Sim (Cerebus), Jaime Hernandez (Love and Rockets), Harold Gray (Little Orphan Annie), George Herriman (Krazy Kat), John Porcellino (King Cat), and lately the Archie house style from past decades. That probably says something about my comics reading and taste, though I can’t imagine I achieve anything like what these creators have done.

Simon Owens: What upcoming book publications are you looking forward to the most?

Derik Badman: Curses, a collection of short works by Kevin Huizenga. Mother’s Mouth by Dash Shaw (whose work is extremely inventive if still rather undeveloped). The new volume of Kramer’s Ergot, which I usually only half like, but that one half is good enough. The new Finder collection by Carla Speed McNeil. And new reprint volumes of Gasoline Alley, Peanuts, Krazy Kat, and On Stage.

Simon Owens: What are the five blogs you’d recommend to supplement the reading of your own?

Derik Badman: I feel like the supplement blog, but…

1. Tom Spurgeons’s The Comics Reporter is the best place to go for news, commentary, and links on a regular basis. The too infrequent appearance of Bart Beaty’s pieces on Eurocomics is the icing on the cake.

2. Jog Likes Comics writes on a wider range of comics than I would read, but Jog is consistent in posting and quality. His enthusiastic writings even got me reading Grant Morrison’s Seven Soldiers series, a superhero book (which is a genre I do not usually pay any attention to).

3. The Comics Comics blog from Dan Nadel and Tim Hodler supplements their new Comics Comics magazine. Both write intelligently on a wide range of comics. Dan in particular is good at finding the forgotten greats.

4. du9, “le autre bande dessinée,” is a great French comics site, offering regular news and reviews. Lately they’ve been posting a long thesis on silent comics.

5. Not a blog, but Douglas Wolk’s regular comics reviews in Salon are great examples of mainstream (as in the wider public not the “mainstream” of comics (superheroes)) comics reviews.

(Related posts: Comic Book super heroes fighting the federal encroachment of George Bush, Interview with C Max Magee from the millions, Interview with jessica stockton from the written nerd, the new yorker is on fire)

Comic Book super heroes fighting the federal encroachment of George Bush

As anyone who knows anything about comic book history will tell you, the enemies of super heroes are usually a reflection of the times. In the forties, they fought the nazis, in the fifties, they fought communism, in the eighties, they fought the oil industry.

And today? There are knew trends in the comic book super hero industry where our heroes are fighting federal encroachments on our civil rights and liberties:

So what’s it tell you that in 2006 he is on the run from the federal government, a fugitive resisting what he sees as its encroachment upon his civil rights?

The aforementioned Speedball, a young superhero, is under federal lockdown, secretly detained at an undisclosed location. When he asserts his rights and demands a lawyer, the government man replies, “You’re an unregistered combatant. I define your rights.”

”God, where am I?” gasps Speedball, as he is being hauled away by guards. “Am I even in America?”

Welcome to Civil War. Any resemblance to real life post-Sept. 11 is purely intentional.

This new series, Civil War, began earlier this summer, and will be running for seven months. Be sure to check it out if you’re a comic book fan.

Related posts: Interview with Skippy the Bush Kangaroo, Marvel Comics to allow fans to place their characters in their own home-made comics

Marvel Comics to allow fans to place their characters in their own home-made comics

I would have never thought in a million years that a major company like Marvel would do this, but they’ve entered a deal with a company that makes comic-book software so fans can make comic books using Marvel characters:

Planetwide Games has entered into a multi-year licensing deal with Marvel Entertainment to create new content for Planetwide Games’ original Comic Book Creator interactive entertainment software. Under the terms of the agreement Planetwide Games has the right to create and publish versions of the interactive software and content booster packs for Comic Book Creator based on classic Marvel characters such as the X-Men, Spider-Man, Fantastic Four, Hulk, Daredevil, Ghost Rider, The Punisher, Captain America, Thor, The Avengers, and Dr. Octopus to name a few.

“Marvel heroes are some of the most recogniseable and beloved characters in the history of entertainment,” says Kevin Donovan, president of Planetwide Games. “By marrying Marvel’s pantheon of heroes with our original Comic Book Creator self-publishing software we are making it possible for legions of fans to tap their own creativity in creating professional-quality digital and home made comic books with authentic Marvel Comics art for their personal enjoyment.”

I’ve never used the software myself, but I have worked with other kinds of publisher software, including Adobe and music-writing software, and never before have I encountered publishing software that specifically allows you to integrate copyrighted things into your own work.

Now, I’m sure that there was a lot of money involved with this deal, but there’s more. The company is working on a web application so that people can share their comic creations online, meaning that mass audiences might have access to fan comics with these copyrighted characters.

Related posts: Interview with Dave’s Long Box, An essay on conflicts of interest for journalists

Superman Returns: A Lesson in Mediocrity. Not even your theme song will save you

by Simon Owens

I had a romantic notion before going to see the ten o’clock showing of Superman Returns. We would go to the video store, rent the original Superman movie, and watch it, reveling in old Superman nostalgia from my childhood. Upon hearing this idea, my friend said, “Dude, the first Superman movie was terrible,” and then began to rattle off a number of points, most importantly the fact that in the original Superman, Lex Luthor had been cast as a silly, comedic character, unworthy as Superman’s nemesis.

He’d confirmed a number of my own suspicions that had begun to arise when I flipped to HBO one day and watched the second Superman movie, one that I had watched over and over again as a child while humming along to the now-famous orchestral theme song. The movie, I could see now, was complete and utter dogshit, but I had held out to the possibility that it had suffered from bad-sequel-syndrome, and that maybe the original was just as good as I remembered it to be.

Obviously, it wasn’t, so we skipped out on that idea and went to the theater without any Superman prep time, ready to discard the previous Superman movies from our minds and view this new, 21st-century, post 9/11 (for some reason, movie critics like to use the words “post 9/11″ when talking about epic movies, so I’ll follow in line) interpretation of it.

Only, from the very beginning the audience immediately begins to see references from the original movie. Indeed, the opening credits are almost exact replicates of the 80s-style blue retro laser credits used before. And throughout the movie, the plot is littered with smirking winks to not only the original movies, but the old television show and comic books as well (It’s a bird, it’s a plane, etc…), in what adds up to a movie that is perhaps too much a homage to the Superman franchise as a whole rather than the Man of Steel himself.

The movie picks up somewhat from the series, when Superman (Brandon Routh) returns to Earth after being gone for five years in search of left-over remnants of Krypton (as a result of scientists claiming they’d found the planet). He tries to pick up his life where he left off, but predictably, he comes to find that the world has moved on without Superman. Lois Lane (Kate Bosworth) has a kid and is now engaged with the editor’s nephew. She’s also now a Pulitzer Prize winning journalist for an editorial titled “Why The World Doesn’t Need Superman.” The Daily Planet seems to have gotten along fine without his investigative reporting, and Clark Kent is met with lukewarm sentiment from everyone at the paper except Jimmy Olsen (Sam Huntington) who couldn’t be happier to see him.

Meanwhile, Lex Luthor (Kevin Spacey) has managed to get out of prison because of a silly, implausible legal loophole that had to do with Superman not being there as a witness for his appeal (is it just me, or does the central theme to this story add up to: “Superman shouldn’t leave the planet for long periods of time”?), and is back to his scheming ways. He treks up to the Fortress of Sollitude to trick Jor-El’s (Marlon Brando) pre-recorded ghost into telling him all the secrets of Krypton, allowing him to have technology much more advanced than that of the rest of the human race. His grand scheme is to drown out most of the continents with crystal continents of his own (using Kryptonian technology that apparently just involves dipping crystal in water), and then sell the land for vast sums of money. Because Superman is such a God-like character and almost impossible to stop, of course he has to find some Kryptonite along the way so he can have his typical scene where he is able to best Superman.

Like the Batman Begins movie, this one suffers from an overly-convoluted scheme that we’re not really able to wrap our minds around, despite the fact that we’ve turned our brains off at the very beginning (as anyone should during a comic book movie). After we find out that Lex Luthor has gathered technology thousands of years ahead of our time and we begin to consider all the cool things he could do with it, he decides to…grow masses of ugly, barren land so he can sell beach-front property?

Kevin Spacey, though much better as Lex Luthor than Gene Hackman’s comedic portrayal, still isn’t quite able to capture the pure genius that we’ve come to expect of the character. He adds some interesting crazy psychosis to the mix, and comes off as slightly darker, but director Bryan Singer can’t quite give up the old Lex Luthor – the one who thinks it prudent to lighten the atmosphere with a corny joke every few minutes. Kate Bosworth makes for a terrible Lois Lane because we’re never able to really like her throughout the entire thing – in fact she plays a self-absorbed bitch. Though there seems to be a few sparks between her and Superman, she treats Clark Kent like an irrelevant piece of shit (or a child, even), and ignores everything said by anyone that doesn’t add up to her getting her way. Jimmy Olsen is his usual gee-golly self, and Perry White’s (Frank Langella) character is too much a rip-off of Spiderman’s arrogant J. Jonah Jameson. And like most super hero movies of late, the movie rushes through scenes that should be longer, and gives us prolonged stare-into-each-others-eyes scenes when we wish it would speed up.

This is not to say that there aren’t successes in this movie. Most of the action scenes are terrific – when Superman zooms through the clouds in his red and blue, there is something uniquely American about the entire thing, and there are certainly things that Bryan Singer borrowed from the original movies which were welcome, especially the old orchestral theme song. As the movie nears its end, we grow slightly more convinced at the connection between Lois Lane and Superman, especially in the scene where he flies her off the rooftop for a night-time air-stroll through the city. Lex Luthor’s hatred for Superman is more fully-realized, and though the dialog is corny at times, it’s several steps above the drudge that was Xmen 3.

Superman isn’t necessarily a bad movie, it’s just a mediocre one. When a fan-base is forced to wait years in between one sequel and the next, expectations begin to rise. Add to the fact that this particular sequel has had a very long and bumpy ride (read that, it’ll make you laugh and cry and cringe), then one can understand the disappointment that arises when movies like Batman Begins and Superman Returns have the plots of half-hour television shows, rather than epic movies. If you want us to love a super hero movie, give the villain some real ammo, something more than just the desire to sell shitty beach-front property, and perhaps you won’t hear us say “We waited almost twenty years for that?” when the credits begin to roll.

Related posts: Comic book purchases are on the uprise, Thank You for Smoking: If only lobbyists had it so good, Interview with JaPundit

Comic Book Purchases are on the Uprise

A year or two ago, I had a debate with a friend of mine about the recent surge in comic book movies. I argued that it was causing a mainstream acceptance of super-heroes and that as an effect of this, would cause an uprise in comic book buying (something needed for the comic book industry, since it hit bad times in the 90s). Well, it looks like my prediction is coming true, though not at a super drastic rate: Comic book fans, industry revel in surging popularity:

Maryland-based Diamond Comic Distributors Inc. is the largest comic book wholesale retailer in the world. Last year, the company sold more than 94 million comics to stores worldwide, a 5 percent increase from 2004 and a continuation of steady growth in the last five years, said Elissa Lynch, Diamond public relations associate.

Of course many of the comic book readers are subscribers, so it’s hard to say whether or not there has been an increase in that area. And on top of that, the article doesn’t specify if there has been any increase in independent comic book publisher sales.

Related posts: Interview with Dave’s Long Box, Interview with Cartoon Brew, Interview with Nehring the Edge, Cornrow Geometry


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