Extra Sequential Podcast #79-Unfinished Projects

51 mins. Advertised, but never released, or completed projects is this show’s focus, and there’s quite a few of them! We also present an unpopular viewpoint on the legal battles of Ghost Rider co-creator Gary Friedrich, and Mladen rails against Kevin Smith’s popular public persona. Also Oasis, Dolly Parton and Doctor Who.

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You can email us at kris (at)extrasequential(dot)com and befriend us on the NEW ES Facebook page.

A brief return to What We’ve Been Reading including Star Wars: Dawn of the Jedi, B.P.R.D: Hell on Earth-The Long Death, and Love and Rockets.

4:45 NEWS

The legal case between Ghost Rider co-creator Gary Friedrich and Marvel, and The Walking Dead battle

DC relaunch sales figures

Kevin Smith’s new Comic Book Men reality TV show

21:05 FEATURE TOPIC – UNFINISHED AND UNRELEASED PROJECTS

Barry Windsor-Smith’s Superman

Alan Moore and Bill Sienkiewicz’s Big Numbers
William S Burroughs’ Ah Pook Is Here!

All Star Wonder Woman by Adam Hughes

Batman: Europa

Kevin Smith’s mass of titles

Image United

Captain America: White by Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale, and Astonishing Captain America

Loeb’s and J. Scott Campbell’s Spider-Man

Bryan Singer’s Ultimate X-Men

Daredevil: End of Days

Extra Sequential Podcast #53-The Deep & Century: 1969

50 mins. We focus on two very different comics this week, in Gestalt’s The Deep and Top Shelf’s League of Extraordinary Gentlemen Century: 1969. Also, comic shops in Sydney, ping pong balls, The Rock and more.

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You can email us at kris (at)extrasequential(dot)com and befriend us on the NEW ES Facebook page.

4:30 NEWS

The Annotated Sandman Volume 1

The White Rabbit Batman villainess

Robert Crumb cancels his Australian visit

Tanarus, the new Thor

13:16 FEATURE REVIEWS-THE DEEP & CENTURY: 1969

From Tom Taylor and James Brouwer comes this fun all-ages adventure about the Nekton family.

Alan Moore and Kevin O’Neill bring us the latest, and certainly not all-ages, instalment in their increasingly strange League of Extraordinary Gentlemen series.

Watch Moore and Morrison Docos for Free

If you’re in the U.S that is. Last year’s doco, Talking With Gods on writer Grant Morrison can be seen here and 2002’s The Mindscape of Alan Moore can be seen here.

I’ve only seen the Morrison one, and it’s pretty good.

Extra Sequential Podcast #40-Drugs!

72 mins. Our fave hallucinations and drug inspired, and induced, tales of sequential art. Also, attractive people in poor countries and more.

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1: 36 NEWS

A doco for Alejandro Jodorowsky’s aborted Dune film

Rombies #0 free online

Sydney Opera House’s Graphic event in August

Fanboys rejoice in NBC’s decision to drop the Wonder Woman TV pilot

Spider-Man musical retool

Kevin Smith’s Six Million Dollar Man comic

Neil Gaiman gets picked on, and so does Batman

13: 20 WHAT WE’VE BEEN READING

Locke and Key from Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodriguez

Mythbusters and Eurovision

Devil from the mind of M. Night Shyamalan. 5 strangers in a lift start dying.

Daytripper from Fabio Moon and Gabriel Ba, about death and the beauty of life

Shaolin Cowboy by Geoff Darrow and its detailed art, a talking mule and a vengeful crab

27: 30 DRUGS!

Fictional drugs, hallucinations and superheroes who owe their existence to drugs, such as Captain America, Luke Cage, Cloak and Dagger and Karen Page.

Batman and Bane and their use of the drug Venom, and Scarecrow’s fear toxin.

Spice from Dune – the do-it all drug.

Drunkeness in Tintin and the surprising violence it brings, including an attempted decapitation of the lead character.

Tony Stark’s love of booze.

Pain pill hallucination in X’ed Out by Charles Burns.

Drugs in Marvel and DC Comics in the ‘70s.

The sordid, yet award winning, tale of Speedy/Arsenal.

Alan Moore’s Swamp Thing’s trippy potatoes, and Superman’s bad birthday dreams.

The Mask Strikes Back by John Arcudi and Doug Mahnke.

Preacher, and writer Grant Morrison.

League of Extraordinary Gentlemen 1988

I just discovered this awesome April Fool’s Day joke revealing great film heroes from the decade that produced the best of them. B.A. Baracus, MacGyver and Back to the Future’s Doc Emmett Brown teaming up to fight a vampire Tony Montana from Scarface? If only this were true. See the full solicitation info right here.

League of Extraordinary Gentlemen: Century #1 Review

I published my review of the latest League adventure from masters Alan Moore and Kevin O’Neill in the 2nd ish of Extra Sequential, but seeing as the book is coming out this month, I thought I’d run it here too, for those who haven’t read it. Obviously Moore and the League have a lot of fans, but Century may not live up to their expectations. Read on…

lxg3coverThis third volume of the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen opens at the bedside of a sweating man with feverish dreams involving a young lady swimming naked and cloaked cult members’ ambitions to create a Moonchild, whatever that may be. As the man, Tom Carnacki, the ghost finder wakes he speaks of his night-time adventures to his fellow team-mates, Orlando, A.J, Mina Murray and Allan Quartermain. Thus we are introduced to the latest batch of “gentlemen.” This has been an extraordinary series from the outset. Well, mostly. Writer Alan Moore (Watchmen, From Hell) and artist Kevin O’Neill unleashed their concept of famed adventurers from the annals of literature upon the world in 1999. Mina Harker, from Bram Stoker’s Dracula was tasked by British Intelligence to form a team and gathered Allan Quartermain, Dr. Jekyll, Captain Nemo and others along the way to saving London. The second volume was a great tie-in to H.G Wells’ War of the Worlds while the third was a stand-alone graphic novel entitled The Black Dossier. Dossier was not the high point that the first two series were, mainly due to its varied narrative and frequent use of Moore extras such as prose pieces, letters, maps and the like. The greatest asset throughout the series has been the constant relationship of Harker and Quartermain in the different time periods. Dossier was light on that but did fill in some details about other incarnations of the League, reminding comic readers again that Moore is no slouch when it comes to research.

Not nearly as accessible as the first two volumes, Century is the first to be published by Top Shelf, instead of DC Comics. This is the first in a trilogy of 80 page one-shots, with this introduction set in 1910. The next one will delve into the swinging 60s, with the finale set in the present day. That prospect intrigues me. However, this isn’t the Leagues’ greatest outing, though I am curious to see where it goes. O’Neill’s harsh lines are perfect to Moore’s creation, with it’s dark humour, nudity and brutal violence and he makes the most with the dirty world they inhabit.  League has always been unashamedly gritty and multi-layered, like most of Moore’s work, but League has always been, not surprisingly, his most literary series. You either feel smarter for having read it, or dumber for not grasping the references to works of fiction scattered throughout each page. Student of literature will continue to have a field day with this series.

The problem with Century is that there is simply too much going on. I know doubting Moore’s genius is like slapping Shakespeare, but whereas the first two volumes were just manic fun with a boy’s own adventure feel stamped all over it, this feels unnecessarily complex. The number of characters is greater than a Cecil B. DeMille film and the League gets diluted because of it. Saying that, I’ll attempt to break down the plot as best I can. Here goes…

The woman from Tom’s dream, Jenny Diver walks past a popular reproduction of Captain Nemo’s impressive battle ship, Nautilus and discovers from Nemo’s old friend Ishmael that the Captain’s last wish was to give his recently changed beauty of a ship to his only child. The crew need a Captain, but the stubborn woman doesn’t want to be any such thing. She eventually changes her mind for some reason and goes on a mad rampage.

Tom, along with Mina, new League member Orlando (known as he-she, behind his/her back), thief A.J Raffles and Quartermain (who is introduced as his own to avoid suspicions of his newly gained immortality presumably) visit the Merlin Society. While the team wanders around a room full of occultists, A.J does some snooping around and the team discover Doomsday premonitions from magicians Simon Iff and Oliver Haddo. Tom eventually barges into the cult’s HQ and sees the events of his dream played out before him -almost. Amongst all this, there’s plenty of singing from various characters espousing exposition, claims that Orlando posed for the Mona Lisa, and wields the famed sword Excalibur, the return of a famed serial killer and a meeting with Andrew Norton a figurative prisoner of London. All of these characters and more are from old novels, though don’t ask me which ones, and they do serve a purpose in moving the story. However I think Moore needed to restrain himself. The majority of the scenes, and singing, just appear indulgent. This could have been a tale with fewer pages and it would have been a lot less shambolic. References to actual events of the time, such as King George V’s coronation, as well as the events of the brilliant previous series help give this perspective, but it’s not enough.

Fans of Watchmen will be familiar with typical Moore devices, particularly the panels that are filled with details that go over this uneducated fanboy’s head. After reading Century, I’m still a fan, but one of the earlier, and simpler tales. I don’t mean to say that I’m a fan of the much-diluted film version (which made Sean Connery retire from cinema) but Century has gone too far the other way. This is strictly for League lovers only. However, I am curious to see where the next two one-shots venture forth. League is far too grand an idea to let go just yet.

league31_06

Preview available here.

Black Freighter/Under The Hood DVD Review

Available now is the double feature DVD tying in to Watchmen, and is a must for fans of the film or ground breaking comic series.

Black Freighter DVDTales of the Black Freighter

As Watchmen readers know, the pirate adventure Tales of the Black Freighter, was a comic within the comic. As an eager kid read it at a newsstand, sometimes the panels would spill over into the narrative of the Watchmen tale. Originally, film director Zack Snyder wanted to film Black Freighter in a manner similar to how he approached 300, but due to budgetary and time constraints, chose to make it a stand-alone animated feature instead. And it was a good choice as Black Freighter is a lush, engrossing story. Written by Snyder with Alex Tse, and directed by Daniel Delpurgatorio and Mike Smith, this 25 minute short film mirrors its printed inspiration beautifully. 300’s Gerard Butler is the primary voice, narrating the descending horrors faced by his sole survivor of an attack by the titular ship of ghouls. Washing ashore, he uses the bloated carcasses of his dead crew as a makeshift raft, fighting sharks and his own descent into darkness, to Davidstown. It is here that his wife and daughters live, and it is also the Freighter’s next target. At least that’s what the captain believes.

The mini-comic inside Watchmen gave me just as many memorable moments as Watchmen did, and it’s satisfying to see them on the screen. It’s filled with simple, yet bold colour choices and gross visuals such as seagulls eating brains and plucking eyeballs. Thus the R rating is understandable, compared to the PG of Under The Hood. The animation is superb and fluid and though not a lot happens, it’s still highly entertaining. You don’t have to look too far to see the allusions to Watchmen’s thematic explorations. Though at first a dark pirate tale may seem an odd companion to a superhero deconstruction, it does sit proudly on the same shelf, just like the other film included on the DVD.

Hollis MasonUnder The Hood

The live action Under The Hood is an imagined documentary about the life of Hollis Mason, who was the original costumed adventurer Nite Owl in the 1940’s world of the Watchmen. Played by Stephen McHattie, as he did in the film, it also includes interviews with Carla Gugino as Sally Jupiter/Silk Spectre, her agent and former husband, as well as bad guys (also seen in the film) Moloch, and the imprisoned midget Big Figure. Set in 1985 TV host Larry Culpeper (played by Ted Friend) introduces us to his 1975 report on Mason in an episode of the Culpeper Minute. He and Mason talk about Mason’s career as a baddie-basher, first as a cop, and then as Nite Owl, in the Gunga Diner. Dialogue from Alan Moore’s Under The Hood excerpt is used, and it brings a geeky smile to my face as Mason explains how he constructed his costume, his motivations for being a superhero (“because it was fun, and the right thing to do.”), how he was inspired by the mysterious debut of the first costumed do-gooder, Hooded Justice, and the assembling of the Minutemen (whose members are seen in authentic looking news footage).

Tying into DC Comics’ rich history, Mason mentions also being wowed by Superman’s first appearance in 1938 in Action Comics #1, and the Golden Age Green Lantern and Blue Beetle are also shown on comic covers.

The archival footage of WWII is used well, but we are only jarred out of the realism when obviously Photoshopped pics of the young Mason are revealed. The whole Hood doco really is well done though. The interviews look like they’ve been lifted directly from 1975, with their slightly grainy and faded look, without being distracting, and the 1985 ads for products such as Veidt’s Nostalgia fragrance, and Seiko’s cutting-edge LCD watches, just add that extra realism.

The actors are vital to these kinds of endeavours. All the cast sell the premise well. Sometimes these kinds of fake docos can be very unconvincing, but writer Hans Rodionoff, director Eric Matthies and the actors pull it off ably.

Special Features

The extra features are a nice touch too. Usually on straight to DVD experiences like this, the bonuses are usually just an afterthought from the marketing department. However, with Under The Hood, Black Freighter plus the extras the running time for the whole shebang comes in at a rather impressive 2 hours.

Story Within A Story – The Books Of Watchmen is essentially a combination of behind the scenes footage of Watchmen and Tales of the Black Freighter.  There are interviews with cast members (Stephen McHattie, Carla Gugino, Jeffrey Dean Morgan), DC creators of the original maxi-series (Jenette Kahn, Len Wein, artist Dave Gibbons and colourist John Higgins) and the director of Under The Hood, Eric Matthies. It’s not exactly a riveting 25 minutes, but is necessary viewing for those unaware of the importance of Alan Moore’s original extras, such as newspaper cutouts and prose pieces as well as the Black Freighter pirate comic that runs within, and alongside the Watchmen story. And if you feel like getting intellectual, influences of Black Freighter, such as German playwright Bertolt Brecht, are mentioned by a few of the interviewees.

Curiously, it also includes a behind the scenes look at the original Nite Owl, Hollis Mason attacking a punk in his home. I assume this will be on the Director’s Cut of the film.  Speaking of which, it’ll be interesting to see how director Zack Snyder manages to squeeze the Black Freighter into the film itself when the Director’s Cut DVD is released in July.

The other substantial extra is Chapter One of the Watchmen Motion Comic, which also runs at 25 minutes. I’ve seen so-called animated comics before, and the concept has been around for a long time, but this is far and above the best approach I’ve ever seen. The original Watchmen comic really does come alive, but I’ll say more once I check out the whole 2 discer Motion Comic soon.

The final inclusion amongst the special features is the first look at Green Lantern: First Flight, the next animated DVD release from Warner Bros./DC. It’s being released in July and it looks fantastic, and is a nice present for Hal Jordan, seeing as it’s the 50th anniversary of his creation this year.

Watchmensch Review

WatchmenschI’ll be honest with you. I only ordered this from Previews because it’s written by Rich Johnston. Rich is the man in the know when it comes to insider goss in the comic book biz, and is always the first to offer up juicy news that gets all those forums hyperactive. I’ve enjoyed his Lying In The Gutters column at CBR for years now and felt it was my civic duty to buy his latest foray into writing comics, rather than about them. He also was extremely kind enough to mention Extra Sequential, my free on-line comics mag, as we were one of the few comics sites with daily updates during last year’s Christmas break.

Johnston isn’t a first time creative writer though. The English scribe has written for TV’s Smack The Pony sketch show as well as indie comics such as The X-Files and The Flying Friar.

I must say reading Watchmensch from Brain Scan Studios was a relief. I was blessed enough recently to get a preview copy of Alan Moore and Kevin O’Neill’s latest League of Extraordinary Gentlemen adventure from Top Shelf. (See the review in the upcoming Extra Sequential #2!) and was disappointed. Hugely so in fact. As is Moore’s want Century is brimming with the stuff that makes literature students giddy, but makes the rest of us feel somewhat perplexed.

However Watchmensch gave me the happies. It spoke to me. Sure, it’s a niche comic. A very niche comic. Not only is it a Watchmen parody, but it is also filled with a multitude of references to Moore’s unique personality, DC’s mistreatment of its writers and artists, and the troubles with Moore’s film adaptations. Fanboys will eat this up, but everyone else will be left scratching their heads, kinda like the Watchmen film really.

With nods to The Simpsons and reality TV, heartless studio execs and even Ozzy Osbourne, Johnston and artist Simon Rohrmuller have crafted a tidy, black and white laugh giver. It was honestly a refreshing read, and after the sour taste of Century in my mouth, I felt relieved after reading this. It spoke to my inner geek and gave it a warm hug. It’s a good feeling being an insider.

Rohrmuller’s art is very much like Dave Gibbons in places and he uses the constraints of the two colours very well, managing to fill in the panels with enough detail and give great expressions to the characters.  It’s no easy feat to summarise the epic that is Watchmen, but this creative duo have done it, even down to exact panel recreations and familiar lines. I won’t say too much about the plot, as the genuine laughs come from the surprises but it’s cleverly done.

The characters we all know and love from Watchmen are amusingly tweaked here, so The Comedian resembles Krusty the Clown, Rorschach becomes the “Jewish” Spottyman and Dr. Manhattan becomes a man who walked under a falling tin of blue paint and became Mr. Broadway.

Thanks Mr. Johnston. I may not be educated enough to get Moore’s latest League (though I loved the first two) but Watchmensch makes me feel part of the in crowd. Yes, it’s a crowd of misunderstood, net-aholics with opinions as varied as their action figure collections, but it’s my crowd. The kind of crowd that will enjoy this too.

Watchmen Review

watchmenposterfinalHollywood has been trying to make Watchmen ever since the lauded 12 issue series from DC Comics was released twenty years ago. With a variety of writers and directors attached, the adaptation kept going nowhere. Director Terry Gilliam (Monty Python,  The Brothers Grimm) was attached to the project in the late 80s, but soon gave up, after realising that Watchmen was unfilmable. Alan Moore, the writer behind the much loved series agreed with him, and after witnessing unfaithful Moore adaptations, such as V For Vendetta and The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (Sean Connery’s last film before retiring), it became glaringy obvious that Moore’s works should remain on the page, not the screen.

However, as it was announced that director Zack Snyder was attached, after his faithful 300 film stuck close to Frank Miller’s comic, fans became cautiously optimistic. Snyder is a brave man though. Watchmen is revered, and rightly so. You’re not a fanboy unless you’ve read it. Alan Moore and artist Dave Gibbons’ masterpiece is to the medium of sequential art what War and Peace is to literature, or Citizen Kane is to cinema.  Yep, that’s how big a deal it is.

Of course, it’s really only those who have been reading comics for any considerable amount of time who know anything about Watchmen. That’s all due to change now though, and that’s a good thing. Those expecting just another standard superhero movie won’t find that here. It’s a good thing Watchmen wasn’t made twenty years ago, as superhero films weren’t the hot commodity they are today (and Watchmen subverts expected superhero clichés) and special effects have advanced greatly. So, what’s it all about then?

On the surface, Watchmen is about a group of retired superheroes set in 1985 who loosely reform when one of their own is brutally murdered, and it looks like every other superhero is a target. Gruff voiced vigilante Rorschach (named for his moving ink blot like mask), played by Jackie Earle Haley, discovers the death of The Comedian (Jeffrey Dean Morgan from TV’s Grey Anatomy and Supernatural) in the film’s brutal opener by a mysterious man. As Rorschach narrates throughout most of the film, he warns his former team mates, Silk Spectre II (Malin Ackerman), the unearthly Dr. Manhattan (Billy Crudup), Nite Owl II (Patrick Wilson) and Ozymandias (Matthew Goode) about the potential mask killer.

Watchmen

The film does an excellent job of creating a fully immersive environment. I can’t remember the last time I was transported to another world with such relish. Keeping the story set in late 1985 is a wise decision, with the U.S versus Russian threat of nuclear Armageddon being pivotal to the story’s structure.  The relatively unknown cast do a superb job with their distinctive characters, but Wilson as the slightly overweight Nite Owl II, pining for days of glory past, and Haley as the menacing anti-hero Rorschach stand out.

I won’t say much more, for those unfamiliar with the rest of the narrative, save to say that if you’re expecting another Spider-Man or Iron Man, don’t. Watchmen is far removed from any superhero film you’ve ever witnessed. It’s almost 3 hours long, and is riveting all the way. There’s some great dark humour and typical Snyder slow-mo action, and it’s all mixed up with some resounding themes about the meaning of humanity, the cost of peace and the skewed psychology of crime fighters.

The original 400 page book, which collects the 12 issue series, has been flying off the shelves lately, and is filled with extras that the film can’t capture, such as excerpts from diaries, memoirs and psychiatrist’s notes, all which serve to remind the reader about Moore’s brilliant dedication to detail. The other notable omissions from the film would be the catastrophic and bloody ending, and the Tales of the Black Freighter comic woven throughout the book, though an animated DVD of this will be released at the end of March. The main contention with the film, from loyal comics readers, has been the slightly different ending, but Snyder is extremely faithful to the comic, with literal dialogue used abundantly. The ending, as it is in the comic, would be jarring to cinema audiences, but the intent remains the same and doesn’t suffer for it’s variation from Moore’s creation.

This is a powerful film, and one that will definitely be shocking to some. The violence is brutal, the heroes aren’t what you expect (Rorschach kills, The Comedian shoots his pregnant lover, beats civilians, and much worse) and there is nudity, and raw sex scenes throughout. So, be warned, this isn’t intended for children. Watchmen is an adult film.

The music is great and helps sell the time period. Usually it works, such as the subtle use of Tears For Fears’ Everybody Wants To Rule The World, and at times mis-fires, such as with 99 Luftballoons, or The Sounds of Silence. It’s when choral or classical pieces are used that the effect really works.

Snyder should be congratulated for taking on this mammoth endeavour, and for doing the original proud. His hard work, and the studio backing, has paid off. Those unfamiliar with comics in general may be taken aback, but that’s a good thing. There’s a whole world of intelligent, intellectual comics out there, of which Watchmen sits atop the pile. The movie is its cinematic equal, and I never expected to say that.

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