Friday, October 28, 2005

What a Marvelous King!

In one of the worst kept secrets in comics recently, Stephen King is collaborating with Jae Lee on a prequel to his Dark Tower saga for Marvel comics. I loved the Dark Tower saga, the last couple of books were the best things he has written in years. What I’ve seen of Jae Lee’s art, I’ve liked. I wonder of the Dr. Doom references in The Wolves of Calla had anything to do with King bringing this thing to Marvel, rather than DC, or even Dark Horse.

Suffice it to say, I think it is pretty easy to surmise that I am looking forward to this. I will have to add two copies to my pull list, one for me and one for my Dad, since he is obsessed with King.

This has to be considered a pretty major coup for Marvel, getting the bestselling novelist of ALL TIME to bring his MOST FAMOUS creation to them.

Keeping with the "King" theme, I started A Clash of Kings today.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

1000-fold thoughts on words and pictures

Congratulations to the Chicago White Sox, World Series champions for the first time since 1917. I didn't watch too much of the series because a) I can't stand Fox b) I can't stand Tim McCarver, c) VH1 is running another new batch of "I Love the '80s", which is something of an addictive drug I hate admitting to having on the television and d) Fox is awful.

Of course, this was all background noise for me as I’ve been plowing through The Thousandfold Thought, the forthcoming conclusion to Scott Bakker's wonderful Prince of Nothing series. While there is a good amount of action in the book, a lot of the narrative consists of dialogue, both internal and between the different characters. Very compelling and adrenaline inducing dialogue at that, and overall, a great sense of mounting tension as everything is coming to a head. I'll save the rest for the review I'll be writing, but Scott is really delivering on the promise laid out in the earlier two volumes.

My copy of Batman Begins arrived last week, and I spent Friday night watching the film and the extras into the night, and goddamn this is a great movie. The extras were pretty cool as they were laid out as an "interactive comic book." The stuff I was most interested in focused on the comics and the reverence Goyer and other commenters held for Miller/Mazzucchelli's Year One storyline. I also thought it very convenient how they managed to slip in plugs for Miller/Lee's All Star Batman and Robin, the Boy Wonder, with comments from Jim Lee himself, as well as DC head honchos Paul Levitz and Dan DiDio. Overall, Warner Brothers put together a great DVD package.

Along with Batman Begins, I decided to buy Crisis on Multiple Earths, Vol 1, which tells of the first team-ups of the JLA & JSA. Let's just say comics have come a long way in their storytelling since the issues comprising that book were published in the 1960s. It is cool to see the groundwork for the DC Multiverse laid out, but the dialogue, in particular, is for lack of a better word, hokey. The art, by Mike Sekowsky, is not flashy or out of this world, but fairly solid.

Another Silver-Age collection I recently picked up was the Showcase Presents: Green Lantern volume. Whereas Sekowsky's JLA art in Crisis was very workmanlike, even without the coloring, Gil Kane's art in the GL book is very strong, perhaps the best thing about the book. This isn't to say the stories are bad, because they aren't. Kane’s artwork always has a great sense of activity and movement and seeing his early work is nice. I've been a GL fan for a while now, and some of the things that are now part of the canon of the character were somewhat loose in the early goings. For example, Hal decides to call himself Green Lantern, rather than really having the name bestowed upon him by the Guardians. Another interesting thing was how much of a celebrity Green Lantern was in those early issues, which goes to show heroes as celebrities isn't really something new. Granted, this theme is somewhat embellished now, but don't let Mark Millar let you think he is working with entirely new concepts in The Ultimates.

It really is very much overdue that DC is publishing these giant black and white volumes of the old, stories. Marvel has been publishing their Essential volumes for a few years now and DC finally doing the same. I'll probably be picking up the Superman volume once I make my way through the GL book. I mean really, how can you go wrong for $9.99 for 20+ issues of comics?

Lastly, I am getting back into Bill Willingham's Fables. I don't really remember why I dropped it from my pull list a little over a year ago, I think maybe I was going to start getting it in trades. Either way, I've started to fill in with all the back issues, and read them in order. I like the conceit of the story in this book, fairytale/fantasy characters are real and living in our world, a lot. Sure it may not be the newest concept, but Willingham spins it very well. Mark Buckingham's art is spot on too. Not just the characters, but the overall page design of each issue is unique and conveys the overall theme of the issue/storyline very well. DC is giving away the first issue for free.

However, one of the biggest reasons I've decided to go back and get the single issues rather than the trades is because of the gorgeous cover art of James Jean. Jean also did the cover for Shinedown's new album, Us and Them, which while very good, is not as even and strong as their spectacular debut. Jean is one of the top cover artists in the industry, he's won many awards, and has published for a variety of mediums – comics, magazines, album covers, etc. Much like artist Dave McKean and Sandman, Glenn Fabry and Preacher, Jean will be immediately associated with Willingham's Fables. I just hope they publish a book of Mr. Jean's Fable covers like DC/Vertigo did for the two aforementioned wonderful cover artists. Hell, right now I'd love for DC to publish an issue of Solo focusing on Jean's work.

I think I’ve covered enough geekery for today. Back to life and Mr. Bakker’s wonderful novel, and next week NaNoWriMo. Oh yeah, I added links on the sidebar for artists.

Monday, October 24, 2005

Author in the slammer

Anybody else see or hear of this? I found it on Locus's new books listing and I'm not exactly sure what to make of it and just had to post something about it here.

The bottom line is that the author is in jail right now for murder. It's a bit more complicated than that, of course, so go check out the Web page, which is informative. At the very least, it sounds as if this guy is making the most of the time there.

Any thoughts?

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Baseball, Throning, Comic-ing, & Bakking

I guess this big post makes up for a week's absence here at 'o Stuff.

Finished up my re-read of A Game of Thrones last night, and my god, I didn't realize how powerful this book really was. I say this because I didn't realize how many of the scenes really remained strongly ingrained in my memory, even almost 10 years after originally reading it. Scenes like the Stark's discovery of the Direwolves, Bran's initial enncounter with Jaime and Cersei, everytime Tyrion speaks, his interactions with Jon and the powerful, spectacular ending with Daenerys. I don't think I'm reinventing the wheel by saying this, but A Game of Thrones is such a sprawling epic, constructed so tightly by Martin. I also forgot how much happens in this book. One aspect of the novel that affected me more on this reading was the overall sense of nihlism. From the beginning, everything in the story seems to build towards a crumbling, destructive end of what has been the norm for many years. Nothing good happens to anybody in this book, and Martin makes this spiraling chaos so goddamned entertaining.

With both the Yankees and Cardinals not in the World Series, I may not even watch. Sure it is a compelling series, the Sox haven't won in almost 90 years and this is the first trip for the Astros, but as I said last week, Fox does everything to make watching baseball all but unwatchable.

After reading Infinite Crisis last Thursday, I've become more excited about comics again. Not that I wasn't enjoying them lately, but this issue really re-invigorated my passion and interest in reading and acquiring comics. Which is ironic or timely, because something very odd happened last week. Since moving into the new house, I've somewhat reoganized my comic books. Rather than have them in stacked on top of each other, we bought two stackable shelving-units. The packaged stated the shelves could hold up to 500 pounds. No problem, I put a few long boxes, each long box holds between 250 & 300 comics and I had 12 long boxes all together. I know they are heavy, but I didn't think combined all 12 would be five hundred pounds, so I figured things would be ok. I also bought these really great new plastic boxes and wanted to transfer from the decaying, old cardboard boxes into the new corrugated plastic boxes. I figured they were about half the size of the long boxes, so I bought 25 of the plastic boxes.

Well, the reorganization project was set in motion a bit earlier than I anticipated. Last Monday into Tuesday evening, at about 2:30AM I hear a loud bang, which woke up my wife and I. I've only been in this house since July, so I'm till growing accustomed to the noises in the neighborhood, but this was really strange. So, groggily I grabbed a baseball bat and skulked through my house, down to the basement. I opened the door and what do I see? One of my two comic shelving units tipped over. Apparently it fell over and the sticker stating it could hold 500 pounds was bullshit. So there I was 2:30AM beginning my comic book reorganization project. The 12 long cardboard long boxes turned out to be more than 25 short boxes, so I have to buy more of the plastic boxes. I only picked up the stuff off the floor, and thankfully none were really damaged. But damn, 15-17 years on and off comic book collecting really adds up.

Two nights ago, another sound woke Mrs. Blog o' Stuff and I from a deep slumber at about the same time. No, no, the comics didn't tip over again, this time it was gunshots! Right, I lived in New Brunswick, NJ for a couple of years - not exactly the most peaceful city, and I never heard gunshots. I move to farmlands, right around the corner from two farms and I hear gunshots, which I find quite ironic. Apparently, a deer was run down in the road and the police came and mercy-killed the deer, which is the right thing to do. But still, at 2AM, it is a bit jarring.

Lucky me! Scott Bakker sent me an ARC of The Thousandfold Thought, which arrived yesterday. This is the concluding volume to his stupendous Prince of Nothing trilogy, but most people who read my blog already know this. This book is/was right at the top of my anticipated read list, so I am excited and read the "what has gone before" this morning. I really like when authors do this in their multi-volume sagas, it such a big help in triggering the memories of the previous books. Going between GRRM's saga and Scott's saga should prove a definite glut of reading enjoyment in the very near future.

And lastly, I joined last night. I am putting the current novel I'm working on on-hold and starting fresh for nanowrimo, with an idea that's been boiling and clanking around my head for a couple of years. 50,000 words in one month should prove very challenging with work and the responsibilities of a new house, but I'm looking forward to it.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Affinity Trap & FOX Trap

I posted my review of The Affinity Trap, by Martin Sketchley last night. I thought it was a pretty fun book, with some over-the top stuff to go along with the graphic stuff. Another great looking book from Pyr.

FOX sports should rot in hell, they are clearly the worst thing to come to American sports, EVER, specifically baseball. I think FOX Sports has done more damage to the Great American Pastime than the 1994 Strike and the recent Steroid nonsense. Fox's coverage of MLB, for years, has been awful and there are no signs that it is getting better. Since they've been doing the national Saturday game, only one or two games can start at 1PM, the traditional starting time, for as long as I can remember, for Saturday games. All other games have to start at the earlies, 4PM.

It gets better, as having the two LCS games schedued at the same time is simply asinine, they are dividing their audience. If they are going to do a half-hour of a pre-game, then start the programming at least an hour earlier. I mean, they have that stupid, fucking baseball Scooter telling us about pitches, or rather telling kids about pitches. Here's one of the many problems with Scooter, the demographic for that thing is likely in bed by the time his grinning, evil face comes on the screen because of Fox's ridiculous scheduling. Scooter makes the glowing puck from their NHL coverage look brilliant. This more than the strike in 94, makes me almost embarrassed to be a baseball fan.

And the announcers, stick a goddamned knife in my ear. Tim McCarver and his ever-changing shades of orange hair needs to SHUT UP, he is wrong half the time, harps on the same wrong point for innings at a time, and often gets players names wrong. Now I don't wish death upon him, but damn I wouldn't be upset if by some freak accident he lost the ability to speak, and he was never heard from again. I don't know anybody, nor have I ever seen anybody who is a true baseball fan have any thing to say except words for disdain about McCarver's awful coverage. A lot of people don't like his partner, Joe Buck. I have had the MLB Extra Innings package for the past two years and Buck often is one of the hometown announcers for the Cardinals. In that setting, away from the Black Hole of Ineptitude of Baseball Announcing that is Tim McCarver, Joe Buck is a perfectly capable, pleasant, and knowledgable Baseball announcer. The Joe Buck on the Cardinals broadcasts is a different Joe Buck that is teamed with McCarver. McCarver's pure awfulness affects his co-broadcaster in such a negative way to render him dull and uninspired. Piniella is pretty good though, I think he is just auditioning for a job with the YES Network, which will hold him over with the Yankees until he takes over for Torre. This is the trio we are with for the ALCS and most likely, the World Series.

The three guys doing the Cardinals game are simply awful, AWFUL. Steve Lyons is unfunny to the point of being painful, providing nothing worthy. Thom Brennaman projects his voice so overbearingly loud to make up for the fact that he is a midget and Bob Brenly is no better. Why is it that idiot former catchers seem to automatically get jobs as broadcasters? People say Torre walked into an easy situation when he took over for Buck Showalter, take a look at the Diamondbacks team Brenley was handed on a silver platter when he took over for Showalter.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Winter is coming

...and so is golf season for the Yankees. What an embarrassing loss on Monday night, they looked absolutely inept and prostrate. Now I can root for the Cardinals in earnest, with out letting my Yankee loyalties getting in the way. The Astros are a tough team, but I want to see Clemens lose very badly.

In another day or two, I'll be posting my review of Martin Sketchley's The Affinity Trap, a very interesting, at times unsettling, and often thought-provoking book. Lou Anders, Pyr's Editorial Director, posted the Spring/Summer catalogue of books PYR will be publishing, a very impressive list of books. I'm looking forward to MacDonald's River of Gods, Sean Williams The Crooked Letter, Chris Roberson's Paragaea, and Sketchley's follow-up The Destiny's Mask.

Yesterday I started my re-read of Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire with A Game of Thrones, since, as I indicate in the previous post, the time between readings has been so great, I am opting to re-read all three books. Sure there are plot summaries on various Web sites, but I also wanted to see if my memories of enjoying the books were genuine. Well, I am just over 100 pages into A Game of Thrones and the book is holding up very well against my fond memories. I am loving, getting into the heads of characters and just reading Tyrion once again.

Today is a big day for DC Comics, they are kicking off their huge mega-event, Infinite Crisis. I'll be buying this. I like most of the DC comics Geoff Johns has written, I really like Phil Jimenez's art, and I am an unabashed DC fanboy, so this really is a no-brainer, despite some of the ill-will some have towards Johns and this saga.

Sunday, October 09, 2005

Silver orphans

Tonight I posted my review of Orphan's Destiny by Robert Buettner. I really enjoyed this novel and I hope Buettner continues to write entertaining, good Science Fiction. Last week I posted my review of Silverheart by Moorcock and Constantine, another pretty good book. Not the best I've read by Moorcock, but still an entertaining novel.

I've got one more review book on the plate then I start my re-read of Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire series. It has been 5 years since I read A Storm of Swords, which is when it published, and 8 years since I read A Game of Thrones, so as much as I loved the books, I really need and want to refresh my memory, I can't wait to jump back into the Seven Kingdoms.

As I type this the Yankees are mounting a nice comeback against the Angels. Hopefully by the time I check back here tomorrow the Yanks will be getting ready to play game 5 in Anaheim.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Catching up

I finished a couple of good books this past week, the Moorcock/Constantine collaboration Silverheart and Robert Buettner's Orphan's Destiny. I liked Buettner's book a little more, and that isn't just because my review of Orphanage was blurbed on the very first page of the book. Self congratulations aside, I was really sucked into the story and I hope Buettner continues the storyline. I'll be posting reviews of both books in the next couple of days.

Lost last night, I thought, was good and better than the first two episodes. Maybe that is because there was some forward progression in the story as opposed to two episodes telling almost the same story from different viewpoints. Even though more of the specifics of the hatch and the others are being revealed, more questions are raised, and in my mind, that makes for good, addictive storytelling. The writers should be careful not to raise too many more questions though, since that would offput many people.

The season opener of Smallville last week was better than the whole of the previous season. Of course showing the Phantom Zone, helps. I think I will just have to suck it up and deal with the fact that all super-powered threats on that show are dispatched or dealt with at the 8:43PM or 8:44PM mark. I'll be TiVO-ing the whole season, at this point, I'll stick around.

NHL Season is now underway! The Devils started off with an impressive win over Pittsburgh, this Zach Parise kid looks pretty good. This is going to be a really good season, I think, with the rule changes and adress changes of many players.

Even though Anaheim evened things up last night, I still see the Yankees winning the next two games and playing Chicago in the ALCS.