Blade Runner Keeps Running

BOOM! Studios surprised everyone last year when they announced their ambitious plans to publish a 2 year long series devoted to faithfully bringing Philip K. Dick’s seminal novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? to comics. It’s working, and the diverse cover art has been splendid throughout the run so far (8 issues and counting). Below are a few of my faves.

Inspired by 1982’s Blade Runner  film starring Harrison Ford, rather than the novel that inspired it, was a recent Singaporean art exhibition covering a wide range of disciplines, with pieces also going on sale. Cool.

From Green to Yellow to White

And of course, who could forget his blue threads? Sinestro (he with the evil wispy moustache and former mentor of Hal Jordan) has a new colour in his wardrobe it seems.

Unfortunately, living in the world’s most isolated city means that occasionally I miss my weekly comics shipment (and so do all the other fanboys and girls who call Perth home). This week was such a week. Thanks to a delay in Singapore this week’s goodies (of which there were a lot) will most likely arrive 2 days late, ie, Saturday. Blackest Night #7 was one I was looking forward to picking up, and apparently it has quite the ending, but I think I can piece together Geoff Johns’ surprise from the just released cover image for Green Lantern #52. Sinestro as a White Lantern? I’m not sure how I feel about that. I guess I’ll just have to wait and see it in context in the page of Blackest Night’s penultimate issue, which will then launch in to the Brightest Day mini-series.

Gina Torres is Superwoman

So Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths is available now, in the US at least. Here in Oz we have to wait a little longer, but by all accounts it’ll be worth it. The 7th animated DC film has been getting great praise for its epic story and dazzling fight scenes, and the 70s-flavoured bonus short focusing on The Spectre is getting lots of attention too. Expect a full review once I get my impatient hands on a copy. Hopefully that’ll be soon. For now, here’s an official interview with Gina Torres from the film.

ACTRESS GINA TORRES PUTS A SEXY SPIN ON EVIL AS SUPERWOMAN IN JUSTICE LEAGUE: CRISIS ON TWO EARTHS

Gina Torres mixes equal parts evil, sexy and powerful of conjure the hypnotic voice of Superwoman in Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths, an all-new DC Universe Animated Original PG-13 Movie arriving TODAY, February 23, 2010 from Warner Premiere, DC Comics and Warner Bros. Animation.

In Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths, a “good” Lex Luthor arrives from an alternate universe to recruit the Justice League to help save his Earth from the Crime Syndicate, a gang of villainous characters with virtually identical super powers to the Justice League. What ensues is the ultimate battle of good versus evil in a war that threatens both planets and puts the balance of all existence in peril. Torres plays Superwoman, the evil doppelganger to Wonder Woman and one of the leaders of the powerful Crime Syndicate.

Torres had an unanticipated assist in bringing about the powerful, yet sultry voice of Superwoman, coming into the booth in the final days of a bad flu that slightly lowered her vocal range and added a smoky sexiness to the outstanding performance. Even more impressive is her perfect match with the voice of Owlman, James Woods – considering the two actors recorded on opposite coasts, weeks apart, and have never met each other.

She is well known throughout the fanboy realm for her standout roles in Joss Whedon’s Firefly/Serenity and Angel, her performance at Cas in The Matrix Reloaded and The Matrix Revolutions, as well as 28 episodes in Cleopatra 2525. Torres has since been a mainstay across primetime television with recurring roles on 24, Alias and Standoff, in addition to guest appearances in CSI, Without a Trace, Boston Legal, Bones, Eli Stone, Pushing Daisies, Criminal Minds, Dirty Sexy Money, The Unit, FlashForward, Gossip Girl and The Vampire Diaries, to name just a few. Torres has also spent some time in the animated world, working with Warner Bros. Animation as Vixen on Justice League.

Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths is an original story from award-winning animation/comics writer Dwayne McDuffie (Justice League). Bruce Timm (Superman Doomsday) is executive producer, and Lauren Montgomery (Wonder Woman, Green Lantern: First Flight) and Sam Liu (Superman/Batman: Public Enemies) are co-directors. The full-length animated film will be distributed by Warner Home Video as a Blu-Ray™ and Special Edition 2-disc version DVD, as well as single disc DVD, On Demand and For Download.

Torres spent a few minutes after her recording session – and last week during the Los Angeles premiere of the film at the Paley Center for Media – to chat about her performance as Superwoman, the importance of strong female role models, the acting strengths of Whedon alums, her childhood obsession with Wonder Woman, and the fun of allowing her evil side to come out and play. Listen up … or else.

QUESTION: As you stepped into the sound booth to voice Superwoman, were you actually feeling wickedly sexy, delightfully cruel and ultimately powerful … or was that all just acting?

GINA TORRES: I’m so glad they called me to do Superwoman, (she laughs) because I was in the mood to get back in there and be a badass. Superwoman is one of those super heroes that knows her power, and is very comfortable in her power. And it’s all cat – it’s no mouse with her. She likes to bat around her prey and she really enjoys what she’s doing. In the booth, you sort of have to become this person. When you’re not on stage with other actors and you’re not on camera, you really get to free up your body and do all kinds of things that maybe aren’t as pretty on camera. You get to have a good time getting your whole body involved in the interpretation.

QUESTION: Have you ever had a relationship with comic books?

GINA TORRES: Do the Archies count? (laughs) I was a big Archie fan. I love Veronica – I want to look like Veronica. Betty was great, but Veronica was the girl. And that whole “Sugar, Sugar” (singing) thing was great. I’m telling my age – I’m really only 28. My sister is older (laughs). I was listening to her 45s.

I don’t want to disappoint any comic book fans out there, but I’m a girl so I really wasn’t reading the super hero comic books much. But it’s done great things for my marriage. The husband loved the idea of me playing Superwoman. And my girlfriends said, “Well, that’s just kind of you every day, isn’t it?” So I’m happy.

QUESTION: So there was no super hero role playing games when you were a kid?

GINA TORRES: I absolutely played Wonder Woman when I was a kid. I had the lasso, the whole bracelet thing, I even had my twirl down. I just knew that I was going to be taken back to Paradise Island, because that’s really where I belonged. I was this small little Amazon just waiting to express myself, waiting for my true mother to come and get me. (laughs)

QUESTION: Can you give me an idea of what Superwoman’s motivations are in this film?

GINA TORRES: Let’s see. Superwoman is motivated by power and money and sex, and sex and money and power. Who can’t relate to that?

QUESTION: Good answer. Not that Superwoman is a role model, but do you feel like women have enough super hero representation these days?

GINA TORRES: What do you mean Superwoman is not a role model? Isn’t she a role model? She rules the world (laughs). She’s Superwoman! (laughs). What I love about super heroes, and Superwoman in particular, is that in that comics world they’re all curvaceous. There aren’t really any skinny bitches in the world of comic books. They’ve got muscle. I like that. I appreciate that. They’re strong. And it’s important to have strong images of women out there, women who aren’t afraid of expressing themselves, women who aren’t afraid of taking chances, women who aren’t afraid of their own power. Unfortunately, being a woman in society means that sometimes you have to sort of quell what is instinctually broad and magnificent and magical about you. I think a lot of people feel that way. I don’t know if that’s necessarily relegated to being a woman, because we’re all so worried about fitting in and not sticking out. So what’s great about this whole genre is that it’s all about sticking out. It’s all about being magnificent to the highest power.

QUESTION: You’re a terribly nice person by everyone’s perception. What’s your trick for turning on the villainy in a performance?

GINA TORRES: Oh, there is no trick to capturing villainy. (laughs) The rumor is that I’m a nice person. I love that rumor. Everybody has different sides to them. Everybody has that inner villain that you want to break out and express. It’s a good time going out there and letting her come out. Lock good Gina in the closet … and have evil Gina come out and play.

QUESTION: You’ve been in this universe before, most notably as Vixen for Justice League. Do you have an attraction to the medium or just when the situation presents itself?

GINA TORRES: I love voiceover work. It’s wonderful, it’s expressive. It’s a way of using a part of my instrument that I’m comfortable and familiar with. The voice is such a vital part of crafting a character. I’m so pleased that I have the kind of voice that prints well and that people want to hear. I’ve had friends actually say, “You know, I was in the kitchen, and the television was on and I heard you.” I love hearing that there’s something familiar about my sound, and that to some people it’s soothing.

QUESTION: The DC Universe animated original movies have been blessed with numerous members of the Joss Whedon alumni association – from Adam Baldwin and Nathan Fillion to David Boreanaz and James Marsters, to name just a few. Is there something about the Joss experience that lends itself to this universe?

GINA TORRES: Joss has an attraction to a certain kind of actor. Obviously, we’re all so very different in our own way. But when he’s choosing a world, he really does inhabit it quite completely. I mean, it is an entire universe. It is a Whedonverse, which is why I believe he’s so successful when he creates these worlds that one can get lost in.  All the inhabitants in it require, without sounding self-serving, a kind of intellectual whimsy. You have to understand where you are and be true to it and at the same time let it go and let it fly and enjoy it for what it is – for the maniacal, for the fantasy, for the tragedy of it. I think all of these actors have lent themselves to these kinds of projects because we’ve been in that place. And so we can come here and say, “Yeah let’s have fun. I know where we are and let’s just go and have a good time.”

QUESTION: You’ve got significant sci-fi fantasy experience. Is that by choice or happenstance?

GINA TORRES: I would say that I was dragged into the sci-fi genre. (laughs) I wouldn’t say kicking and screaming. I actually went willingly. But it wasn’t something that I sought out. I grew up in New York, born and raised, and cut my teeth in the theatre. I did a lot of off-Broadway, and some Broadway. Sci-fi was certainly not where I thought I’d be making my bread and butter for this period of time. It’s been a pleasant surprise, certainly. I find that it’s a niche that I’m comfortable with. What else are you going to do with a strong, almost six-foot girl? Give her a gun. Give her superpowers. (laughs) And you give her a hefty belt with things attached to it. Yeah!

QUESTION: Can you quantify the passion of the fanboys out there?

GINA TORRES: That passion of the fanboy is immeasurable. And it is priceless. And it is necessary when you’re doing these things because you don’t quite realize while you’re doing the work that you’re in a bubble. And it’s not until you’re released into the world that you realize that you’re making an impact and that you’re making somebody’s day brighter and someone’s universe broader. It is great fun to be confronted with these guys and gals.

Kirby Krackle Strike Again

Nerdcore band Kirby Krackle (who I interviewed at Broken Frontier last year) have just released the first single from their upcoming second album, E For Everyone. The duo, consisting of Kyle Stevens and Jim Demonakos, specialise in writing songs that make fanboys and girls tap their toes and smile wryly at all the witty references. Their first album gained many fans in the comics community, and surely more will follow. The single, On and On centres on a day in the life of Wolverine and you can here it at their site right now.

I also suggest checking out the lyrics to On and On and the songs from their debut album. E For Everyone will be released via their site on March 9 and is able to be pre-ordered now. Below is the groovy cover art from comics artist Jim Mahfood, with colours by Justin Stewart. Yes, that’s a gree lantern generated guitar. Awesome.

Green Gleason

Patrick Gleason is one of my favourite artists and I was fortunate enough to meet him at my first Comic-Con 2 years ago. A busy guy, but very humble – and also friends with one of my other fave artists, Doug Mahnke. I read last week’s Green Lantern Corps #45 on the train journey home this week and thought I’d share a few pages from Gleason’s handiwork. He’s always had a soft, rounded and fluid approach to his pencils and that’s why he’s been doing such dazzling works with the Green Lantern titles for the last few years. His pencils fit in so well with all the swirling light constructs and weird alien races. On to the pretty pictures then.

45 Review

Publisher Com.x has been putting out unique books for the last 7 years and are most known for Cla$$war, but that book may very well be eclipsed by this ambitious Original Graphic Novel. It’s one of those superb, “why didn’t I think of that?!” ideas, and even though it’s been in the works for a while, the buzz surrounding it can only grow now that it’s out. If you’re still not convinced that Com.x is a publisher to take note of, check out this splendid trailer. OK, now before we get to the meat and potatoes of 45, here’s some perty pictures from it.

And yes, that’s just the tip of the iceberg. To see more visual treasures from 45 (18 pages in fact, go here. Now.) Apparently this is the first comic work of UK based graphic designer Andi Ewington. As revealed in an interview with CBR, Ewington first conjured forth this concept when he and his wife were facing the birth of their chid. From there it was a matter of convincing Com.x of it’s validity (of course, they wisely saw its potential) and then beginning the Herculean task of rounding up dozens of different artists as contributors. The attraction of 45 is twofold. Firstly, the concept of a journalist interviewing a bunch of different superpowered people to see what kind of life his own potentially superpowered child faces is brilliantly attractive as a unique narrative structure. Secondly, embracing the potential of the comic medium by giving 45 different artists free rein on one page each (focused on a particular superhero) creates a diverse array of art and makes it feel like  a portable gallery.

I recently read, or at least attempted to read, Max Brooks’ widely praised novel, World War Z. It also follows a journo as he interviews a bunch of different people across the globe. However, I soon lost interest as every interviewee sounded the same. Regardless of their relation to the future-set zombie epidemic, from scientist to military strategist to man on the street, their was no huge difference to the way they spoke. It didn’t sell the concept to me. Thankfully, Ewington knows better.

The world in which 45 is firmly entrenched begins immediately. Well after some praise from writer Jim Krueger and AICN’s comics reviewer. The foreword is written by James Stanley and it is he who leads us through the book. He’s a British journalist facing the birth of his first child in a word where “Normans” in other words non-powered individuals, co-exist with those possessing the Super-S gene, granting them unusual abilities.  Expectant parents can choose to have their babies tested for the Super-S gene to somehow prepare themselves for a possibly powerful offspring.

The first interview sets the tone splendidly, and feels like sitting down in a large, comfy chair you don’t want to leave. English couple Michael and Felicity Brown have only been parents for 5 hours, but knew instantly that their son was gifted as he began flying around the hospital room. Stanley then asks the logical question, “How did you manage to catch him?” to which Michael replies, “The midwife caught him just as his ability waned. Good hands, that one! I joked that she should try out as goalkeeper for West Ham-God knows they need one…” Classic, and a most pleasant introduction to what this book is all about. Let’s face it, “realistic” portrayals of superheroes existed long before Heroes stormed TV land. From Astro City to Marvels to Rising Stars, comics have played with the concept of more grounded powered individuals and how they affect society. However, Ewington brings the notion to the next level by filtering our experience of this world through Stanley’s eyes, or rather, questions. This combined with tantalising glimpses of the world beyond his interviews makes for an attractive and engrossing view, offered in bite size portions. With each new page turn we are presented further morsels, such as the existence of shadowy organisations taking an interest in these special kids, to government monitored S-Zones, to what life was like before the proper support was available.

Each interview begins with a quick intro of the parents and child (with names often changed for their own protection) and the location of the interview. It’s obvious Ewington has thought long and hard about the nuances of each interview. He doesn’t merely throw 45 conversations at us peppered with, “So what power does your child have?” and, “How does that make you feel?” Stanley’s asides, written in italics, let us know how the subjects feel, or what they’re doing during their brief interactions and all these flourishes add much realism to the proceedings.

For example, the Miles-Millers seem to want to talk for their gifted son Nathan and their interview comes across like a delightful Monty Python script. This kind of light humour is rare, but does offer a respite from the mainly serious tone throughout the book. In fact the very next child, Richard Lewis is kept isolated from the world by his frightened mother. When asked what his power is Richard simply answers, “I hurt things.” Creepy. Ewington knows that kids in fiction are a blank slate, used for cute laughs or Japanese horror-styled chills. The diversity of the Super-S interviewees, their personalities, family dynamics, backstories, and powers is very impressive. There’s playful twins in New Zealand. There’s an amputee called FullyArmed who is a so-called 2nd Degree, who was born a Norman but received his powers (morphing arms) via a freak accident. Major Action is a combination between Batman and Captain America. Frenchwoman Katrin Dupuis controls plants. 20 year superhero veteran, Ireland’s Shilelagh tells of giving up due to the constant criticism from the press, going into seclusion. He reveals, “It was incredibly dull. It was perfect.” Shilelagh’s story reminds me of Superman’s in DC’s 1996 epic mini-series Kingdom Come, but like every tale in this marvellous tome, it reads fresh, which is becoming increasingly difficult in this age of superhero saturation.

The words work so well that the page of art for each interview isn’t always necessary. Sometimes they grant greater clarity to the interviewee, and at other times they’re unnecessary, but most of them look great. The standout pages for me are Amy Turner by Jock, LunarBlade by Kit Wallis, and Sean Phillips’ Auroron. There’s enough artistic diversity within these pages, that by themselves they serve as a tremendous example of the variety within today’s comics. Everyone will find at least a handful of pages to simply gaze at.

Once I turned the last page (of 132) , I wanted to visit Ewington’s world again, and that’s essentially what 45 is – a new world, a new universe. With names, superpowers and identities for 45 different characters filling these pages, Ewington has essentially created a new platform from which Com.x could easily spin off an endless series of one-shots and series. For now though, this is an enchanting book and a great testament to the diversity and creativity that the medium of sequential art can fully embrace. For the naysayers out there who believe the death knell sounded for superhero stories years ago, a book like 45 is the perfect example to give hope for the future of this unique art form known as comic books.

MAdM and Comics

I’ve always been intrigued by the relationship between music and comics, and that link is growing rapidly as more artists from both disciplines grasp a greater understanding of how the two artforms can splendidly co-existFor example, Canadian singer Lights launched  a motion comic to promote her new album, and I interviewed Coheed and Cambria’s frontman Claudio Sanchez about his Kill Audio comic (that interview should see print soon in the pages of Arcana #1 magazine) and I recently finished reading the sequel to Gerard Way’s (My Chemical Romance) adventurous and bombastic The Umbrella Academy. Now, Melissa Auf der Maur (better known as the awesome acronym MAdM) is unleashing a limited edition 20 page one-shot to go with her latest album, Out of Our Minds. The black, white and red artwork also extends to the sleeve, picture disc, a t-shirt and other buying options for the arty consumer. The artist Jack Forbes is a new name to me, but his delicate linework is golden, and his gallery is definitely worth a look. Official details below.

Melissa Auf der Maur To Release New Multimedia Project, Out of Our Minds, on March 30th

Limited Edition Comic Book Illustrated by Jack Forbes (HebrewGod) and Tony Stone-directed video included!

Former Hole/Smashing Pumpkins bassist, Melissa Auf der Maur is set to release Out of Our Minds (OOOM), on March 30th 2010. Consisting of 12 powerful tracks produced and mixed by top-flight collaborators including Chris Goss (QOTSA, UNKLE), Alan Molder (Depeche Mode, Smashing Pumpkins), and Mike Frazer (Franz Ferdinand, ACDC), the multimedia project album also extends into a 28-minute, HD film starring and conceived by MAdM, as well as a limited edition comic book and matching Picture Disc Vinyl illustrated by Jack Forbes.

MAdM has also premiered the first music video of the same name, “Out of Our Minds”, which you can watch here. Directed by Tony Stone, the stylishly noir video features MAdM on a mysterious journey into the woods after her car crashes.

Artist: Melissa Auf der Maur
Album: Out of Our Minds
Release: March 30 2010