Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Bryant Has Issues #53

Bryant here, back again with another look at some comics I couldn't squeeze into the previous post.
 
It's a simple two-fer this week, beginning with:
 
 
  
 
That cover is by Eric Powell, who is also the writer of this particular series.  He's credited as the writer, and also has a co-story credit alongside (and behind) John Carpenter himself.  Your guess is as good as mine as to how much involvement Carpenter has here; my guess is that he's occasionally speaking to his agent, who checks the bank statements to make sure the payments from Boom! are being deposited on time.  Apart from that, my guess is that Carpenter's involvement is nil.
  
But what do I know?
  

THIS is what I know: this series is beginning to lose my interest.  Here's an example of the reason why:
  
  

 
 
If you've seen Big Trouble in Little China -- and I pray to gawd you have, lest you spend eternity in the Hell of People with Bad Taste in Movies -- then you know that its central conceit is that Jack Burton is an all-American action-movie hero who has no idea how buffoonish he is.  He's SO clueless as to that buffoonery that he occasionally manages to actually do something badass.  Almost accidentally.
  
The tone of that movie is an absolute tightrope-walk, one which director John Carpenter and lead actor Kurt Russell manage to walk pretty dang nimbly.  One could argue that they teeter on occasion.  One could even argue that they fall, if one was okay with with shooting them the stink-eye immediately after they said it.
  
Regardless, this comic book has neither John Carpenter (not in his guise as director, at least; nor in his guise as the film's composer, which is a much larger key to the success of the endeavor than the average fella probably realizes) nor Kurt Russell, so it is beginning at a disadvantage.  It doesn't have any of the other key players, either.
  
What it's got is Eric Powell on script and Brian Churilla on art.  Churilla is giving it his all, and he's made the good decision to opt for caricature as opposed to portrait.  That's a good decision because, in my view, it eliminates the need for the characters to look exactly like 1986-vintage Kurt Russell, Victor Wong, James Wong, Dennis Dun, etc.  Instead, Churilla can suggest them, and suggest their nature of the characters rather than get bogged down in "realistic" depictions.
  
Powell, in his scripts, seems to have opted for much the same approach; and so you count on there being a joke every few panels, typically of the "gosh isn't that Jack Burton dumb for not realizing how dumb he is and how overblown he sounds" variety.  About one out of every three of the jokes lands; the other two typically float away into the ether.  Hence, the gag about the guy opening the radiator shop falls (for me) dead flat.  It was funny enough to suggest that there even HAD been a previous guy to piss on Jack's truck; delivering the punchline only makes the joke less funny.
  
So I guess what I'm saying is this: Powell is failing to get the tone of Big Trouble right.  And since that movie lives and breathes on its tone (and on its peculiar viewpoints on heroism), the comic getting it a bit wrong is beginning to really weigh me down.
  
Another example:
  
  
  
  
I don't necessarily need or want the comic to recycle jokes from the movie, either.  The bit in the movie about what ol' Jack Burton always says?  Funny.  Retelling it here with a different punchline doesn't do much for me apart from suggest that Eric Powell has seen Big Trouble in Little China.  Good for you, dude.  How about that commentary track, huh?  Stellar.
  
What else you got?  Because the page above is Family Guy and Robot Chicken-style "have you seen __________?" recognition humor.  It's only ever funny for me when I don't see it coming, and can't believe you went there.  That does not describe most of the jokes here.
  
Try these on for size:
  
  
  
  
The idea of using the word/name "Wang" as a dick joke is SO retardedly juvenile that it sort of charms me.  It's at least as old a joke as I am a person, but the idea of a Big Bad sorcerer-type villain taunting Jack Burton with it is so goofy that it puts a smile on my face.  Also?  It's not in the movie.  So while it's old as the hills, it's also at least new within the universe of this story.  So there's that.
  
Anyways, here's how the issue ends:
  
  
  
  
"Ha!  Wasn't it funny in Big Trouble in Little China when the old Chinese dude said 'this really pisses me off to no end!'?  When we bring him back in the comic, he's got to say that line so that everyone reading the comic knows that we've seen the movie, just like they have!"
  
Fellas, please.  If you MUST bring Lo Pan back -- and I'm not sure it's a good idea to have done so -- then it's just tedious if you have him say his one-liners from the movie.
  
What else ya got for me?  Because what you're giving me is beginning to seem a bit stale.

Now, for our second and final title of the week, we've got the tenth issue in Marvel's Miracleman reprint series.
  
  
   
  
If that cover -- drawn by Rick Veitch, who also drew the main story contained within ("Mindgames," which was originally published in the December 1986 issue of the original run) -- is any indication, Kim Miracleman is in for a rough go of things over the course of the next sixteen pages or so.
  
However, of the sixteen pages which comprise "Mindgames," Kid Miracleman and Johnny Bates appear on a mere two; and while they do push that subplot forward a wee bit, I'm not at all convinced they ought to have formed the basis of this month's cover.
  
The bulk of "Mindgames" is devoted to Liz trying to figure out how to nurse her new baby (which she names Winter), and the efforts of an unidentified and very mysterious pair of siblings to find...
  
Well, I'm not sure quite how to explain it, so let's just have a look at the first few pages:
  
  
I love the layouts in this issue.  The detail of the cat stalking and killing the bird on this and the third page are a nicely grim touch.

I feel like I ought to remember that ghastly figure in the TMS hat; but I don't.  Also: what is it about the image of superheros floating in vertical space like this that is so compelling?  I've seen it done in many other places by both Marvel and DC, and it always gives me a weird sort of thrill.  Something about it is uniquely superhero-comic-book, I guess.

  
  
This brother and sister, whoever they are, end up in a doctor's office; she, evidently, is the female equivalent of Miracleman, and while she doesn't quite make her entrance in this issue, rest assured that she is not far off.
  
#10 is decent, but it's almost entirely setup, and overall it feels like a bit of a letdown compared to previous issues.  The main story is a mere sixteen pages, and the rest of the issue is padded out with a whopping 23 pages' worth of pencils; which, admittedly, are always nice to see, but it feels perhaps a bit much this month, given the $4.99 price tag.
  
You also get a four-page reprint from 1955, and we may as well have a look at it:
  
  

The "radio destructicator" is a phrase worthy of President Bush Jr.; abbreviating it to the "R.D." even more so.

I love Marvelman slinking out the window, defeated.  Genius.

Am I crazy, or are there more typos than you would expect from a professional publication?  "An" instead of "and," plus missing commas and hyphens and whatnot...sloppy.  "We  must get of" Marvelman should presumably read "get rid of."

  
  
Well, you've got to love comics from the olden days, don't you?
  
Not that there is any need to discuss Marvelman Miracleman in terms of his motion-picture-franchise potential (and at the risk of infuriating Alan Moore on the fantastically-slim chance he might read about it), but . . . I've got a great idea.  Somebody should make a series of Miracleman films consisting of two trilogies.  The first would be a family-friendly, fun romp of adventure films in which Miracleman goes around having your typical superhero-style confrontations with his rogues' gallery.  I'm not talking anything as goofy as what we see in these reprints of '50s comics, but something more along the lines of the sort of fun the Iron Man movies represent.
  
The third film would end with the accident which brings Miracleman's exploits to an apparent close, and then the second trilogy would pick up where the first Alan Moore issue began.  
  
Make it happen, Hollywood!

8 comments:

  1. Whatever one thinks of the comics, rest assured, they like like masterpieces compared to another marketing ti-in with the original movie I know.

    Oh believe me, what I'm talking about is BAAAAAA-aaaaad!!!!!! (in the background, several sheep respond).

    You wanna know what's worse than a so-so comic sequel?! Oho it's doozy. I let vloger Noah Atwiler (ODDwiler) give the full review (along with an affectionate parody):

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Zrf5wlEALaY


    Also, since we're on the subject of John Carpenter comic adapts (and since Halloween is just around the corner) that Atop the Fourth Wall guy actually reviewed all six or so issues of a Marvel published sequel to The Thing. Thankfully, the review takes up only four parts:

    Part 1:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NwQep-GwKb0

    Part 2 (note, these links may take a second to load, just be patient):

    http://blip.tv/at4w/at4w-211-the-thing-from-another-world-2-6399355

    Part 3:

    http://blip.tv/at4w/at4w-the-thing-from-another-world-climate-of-fear-1-2-6655162

    And Part 4:

    http://blip.tv/at4w/at4w-the-thing-from-another-world-climate-of-fear-3-4-6661182

    ChrisC

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    1. I feel obliged to point out that those comics were published not by Marvel but by Dark Horse. I tried to watch the first video in which the guy was reviewing it, but he started shouting at me, and I'm not in a mood to be shouted at today. Like many vloggers, that guy has a voice and a camera presence built for blogging.

      As for the video game, that does indeed look lame. I didn't know they were stil making games for the Commodore 64 that late in the '80s!

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    2. The secret shame (I think) in this is that although I was definitely old enough to be aware, at least, of the video game boom, I was too young for the first wave, so my first ever console was a Super Nintendo. Reviews like these are like playing a game of catch up really.

      Guys like Atwiler, and a few others I've seen are way ahead of me when it comes to these old relics. As for whether or not a Big Trouble videogame could work? I don't know, I'd be willing to see what some company would be able to do with it.

      I do know that the biggest challenge would be translating a movie experience into that of a game. As you say, the film walks a fine line, and in doing so it creates it's own quirky serio-comic tone. That takes talent, or at least someone who's up to the task of making a predominately button pushing experience chime with that kind of wit.

      I've since come to believe that there is a difference between the art of movies and that of games. I noticed this when I saw several vids of gamers who were able to edit their playthroughs into actual cinematic experiences. The thing was, once they'd done that, it ceased to be a game and turned into another art-form altogether. So I don't know how anyone planning to turn Big Trouble into a game could expect to have their cake and eat it too.

      ChrisC

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    3. I know how you do that as a game. You have the player be Wang, and no matter what you do, Jack will blunder in and mess you up on occasion; but he will occasionally help you, too. You just never know which.

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    4. Oh good cripes, I just had this (very vague) image of where your at that stage where it seems like you have Lo-Pan cornered, and then Jack blunders in, the net result being that you can't decide whether to continue the chase, or quite literally "stick it" to Jack (unless he's gun toting, of course)!

      It also reminds me of this old video game based on the Hitch-hiker's Guide to the Galaxy. A text game written by Douglas Adams himself. It just makes me wonder if it could be done that way.

      ChrisC

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    5. Oh, no, you wouldn't have the option of attacking Jack. Like Wang in the movie, you would simply be stuck with him.

      The more I think about this idea, the more convinced I am that I am a genius. In a VERY narrow corridor...

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  2. I've got all the Miraclemans loaded on a flash drive, ready for consumption... I need to make time for this. Sadly, not sure when/where that time will come from. But when I do, I look forward to circling back to these and engaging more comprehensively. That idea for two trilogies, though, meets with my approval, even not having read more than a handful of them at present.

    I agree 100% on every last one of these Big Trouble in Little China thoughts.

    As well as vlogs. I can't stand those things. I remember that DH sequel to The Thing, though. I picked up an issue or two, though I can't recall a damn thing about it.

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    1. I knew the comics existed, but I have zero interest. Unless it's Carpenter doing it, I have zero interest in a sequel to "The Thing." I watched the prequel film a few years ago, and that was lame enough to quash any further interest in spinoffs based on that version of that story.

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