Comics Ate My Brain

March 31, 2005

Odds are I’ll have a better score than the Big Book List…

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tom Bondurant @ 3:56 am
Once again I’m following Johnny Bacardi, mostly.

BOLD movies you own in your personal video/DVD library
ITALICS for movies you have seen
— Leave plain movies you haven’t seen
— Pass it on to three people at the end [which I can’t figure out how to do, so I’m just adding a *few titles]

The Big Red One (1980)
200 Motels (1971)
12 Angry Men (1957)
2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)
28 Days Later (2002)
The 400 Blows (1959)
8 1/2 (1963)
Adaptation. (2002)
The Adventures of Robin Hood (1939)
After Dark, My Sweet (1990)
Aguirre, the Wrath of God (1972)
*Airplane! (1980)
Ali: Fear Eats the Soul (1974)
Alien (1979)
All About Eve (1950)
Amadeus (1984)
Amarcord (1974)
American Beauty (1999)
The American President (1995)
American Splendor (2003)
The Animatrix (2003)
Annie Hall (1977)
The Apartment (1960)
Apocalypse Now (1979)
The Apu Trilogy (1959)
Around the Bend (2004)
Arsenic and Old Lace (1944)
Au Hasard Balthazar (1966)
The Band Wagon (1953)
The Bank Dick (1940)
Barefoot Gen (Hadashi no Gen) (1983)
Batman (1989)
The Battle of Algiers (1967)
Battle Royale (Batoru rowaiaru) (2000)
The Battleship Potemkin (1925)
Beat the Devil (1954)
Beauty and the Beast (1946)
Being John Malkovich (1999)
Being There (1979)
Belle de Jour (1967)
The Bicycle Thief (1949)
The Big Heat (1953)
The Big One (1997)
The Big Sleep (1946)
The Birth of a Nation (1915)
Blowup (1966)
The Blue Kite (1993)
Blue Velvet (1986)
Bob le Flambeur (1955)
Body Heat (1981)
Bonnie and Clyde (1967)
Bound (1996)
Bowling for Columbine (2002)
Breathless (1960)
Bride of Frankenstein (1935)
The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957)
Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia (1974)
Broken Blossoms (1919)
Buffy the Vampire Slayer (1992)
The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (Kabinett des Doktor Caligari, Das) (1920)
Casablanca (1942)
Chasing Amy
Children of Paradise (1945)
Chinatown (1974)
A Christmas Story (1983)
Citizen Kane (1941)
City Lights (1931)
Clerks
A Clockwork Orange (1971)
The Color Purple (1985)
Comic Book Villains (2002)
Conan the Barbarian (1982)
The Conversation (1974)
Cries and Whispers (1972)
Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (Wo hu cang long) (2000)
Crumb (1994)
Damage (1992)
Daredevil (2003)
Day for Night (1973)
The Day of the Dolphin (1973)
Days of Heaven (1978)
The Decalogue (1988)
Detour (1945)
Die Hard (1988)
The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie (1972)
Do the Right Thing (1989)
Donnie Darko (2001)
Don’t Look Now (1974)
Double Indemnity (1944)
Dr. Strangelove (1964)
Dracula (1931)
Duck Soup (1933)
Dune (1984)
E.T – The Extra-Terrestrial (1982)
The Earrings of Madame de… (1953)
Easy Rider (1969)
Edward Scissorhands (1990)
Ed Wood (1994)
Elektra (2005)
The Elephant Man (1980)
El Norte (1983)
Eraserhead (1977)
Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004)
The Exterminating Angel (1962)
The Fall of the House of Usher (1928)
Fanny and Alexander (1983)
Fahrenheit 9/11 (2004)
Fargo (1996)
Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (1998)
F for Fake (Vérités et mensonges) (1976)
The Fifth Element (1997)
The Firemen’s Ball (1968)
Five Easy Pieces (1970)
Floating Weeds (1959)
Four Rooms (1995)
Frida (2002)
From Dusk Till Dawn (1996)
From Hell (2001)
Gates of Heaven (1978)
The General (1927)
Ghost World (2000)
Glengarry Glen Ross (1992)
The Godfather (1972)
Goldfinger (1964)
Gone With the Wind (1939)
The Goodbye Girl (1977)
The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (1968)
GoodFellas (1991)
Gospel According to St. Matthew (1964)
Grand Illusion (1937)
The Grapes of Wrath (1940)
Grave of the Fireflies (1988)
Great Expectations (1946)
Greed (1925)
Groundhog Day (1993)
The Hand (1981)
A Hard Day’s Night (1964)
The Hearts of Age (1934)
Hellboy (2004)
High Fidelity (2000)
Hoop Dreams (1994)
House of Games (1987)
The Hustler (1961)
Ikiru (1952)
In Cold Blood (1967)
The Incredibles (2004)
It’s a Wonderful Life (1946)
Jackie Brown (1997)
Jaws (1975)
JFK (1991)
Jules and Jim (1961)
Juliet of the Spirits (1965)
Kill Bill Vol. 1 (2003)
Kill Bill Vol. 2 (2004)
Killing Zoe (1994)
Kind Hearts and Coronets (1949)
King Kong (1933)
L’Atalante (1934)
L’Avventura (1960)
La Dolce Vita (1960)
The Lady Eve (1941)
The Lady from Shanghai (1947)
The Last Laugh (1924)
The Last Picture Show (1971)
Last Tango in Paris (1972)
Last Year at Marienbad (1961)
Late Spring (1972)
The Lathe of Heaven (1980)
Laura (1944)
Lawrence of Arabia (1962)
Le Boucher / The Butcher (2003)
Le Samourai (1967)
The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (2003)
Leaving Las Vegas (1995)
The Leopard (1963)
The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp (1943)
The Lion King (1994)
Lolita (1962)
Lolita (1997)
Lost Highway (1997)
M (1931)
The Magnificent Ambersons (1942)
Mallrats
The Maltese Falcon (1941)
The Man Who Laughs (1928)
The Manchurian Candidate (1962)
Manhattan (1979)
The Matrix (1999)
The Matrix Reloaded (2003)
The Matrix Revolutions (2003)
McCabe & Mrs. Miller (1971)
Mean Streets (1973)
Metropolis (1926)
Mon Oncle (1958)
Moonstruck (1987)
Mr. Hulot’s Holiday (1953)
Mulholland Dr. (2001)
The Music Room (1958)
My Darling Clementine (1946)
My Dinner With Andre (1981)
My Life to Live / Vivre sa Vie (1963)
My Neighbor Totoro (1993)
Nashville (1975)
Natural Born Killers (1994)
Network (1976)
The Night of the Hunter (1955)
Nights of Cabiria (1957)
Nosferatu (1922)
Notorious (1946)
Not Without My Daughter (1991)
On the Waterfront (1954)
One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (1975)
Orpheus (1949)
Out of the Past (1947)
Pandora’s Box (1928)
Paris, Texas (1984)
The Passion of Joan of Arc (1928)
Paths of Glory (1957)
Patton (1970)
Peeping Tom (1960)
Persona (1966)
The Phantom of the Opera (1925)
Phantom of the Paradise (1974)
*The Philadelphia Story (1940)
Pickpocket (1959)
Picnic at Hanging Rock (1975)
Pinocchio (1940)
Pixote (1981)
Planes, Trains and Automobiles (1987)
Playtime (1967)
Pollock (2000)
The Producers (1968)
The Prophecy (1995)
Psycho (1960)
Pulp Fiction (1994)
Raging Bull (1980)
Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)
Raise the Red Lantern (1990)
Ran (1985)
Rashomon (1950)
Rear Window (1954)
Blue, White, Red (1994)
Red River (1948)
The Red Shoes (1948)
Reservoir Dogs (1992)
Return to Glennascaul (Orson Welles’ Ghost Story) (1951)
Return To Oz (1985)
Rififi (1954)
The Right Stuff (1983)
Roger & Me (1989)
Romeo and Juliet (1968)
The Rules of the Game (1939)
Santa Sangre (1989)
Saturday Night Fever (1977)
Say Anything (1989)
Scarface (1983)
The Scarlet Empress (1934)
Schindler’s List (1993)
Scrooge aka A Christmas Carol (1951)
The Searchers (1956)
Se7en (1995)
The Seven Samurai (1954)
The Seventh Seal (1957)
Shane (1953)
Shaun of the Dead (2004)
The Shawshank Redemption (1994)
The Silence of the Lambs (1991)
Singin’ in the Rain (1952)
Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937)
Solaris (1972)
Some Like It Hot (1959)
South Park: Bigger Longer & Uncut (1999)
Spider-Man (2002)
Spider-Man 2 (2004)
Star Trek: The Motion Picture (1979)
Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (1982)
Star Trek III: The Search for Spock (1984)
Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home (1986)
Star Trek V: The Final Frontier (1989)
Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country (1991)
Star Trek Generations (1994)
Star Trek: First Contact (1996)
Star Trek: Insurrection (1998)
Star Trek: Nemesis (2002)
Star Wars (1977)
The Straight Story (1999)
The Strange Case of the End of Civilization as We Know It (1977)
The Stranger (1946)
Strangers on a Train (1951)
Stroszek (1977)
A Sunday in the Country (1984)
Superman (1978)
Sunrise (1928)
Sunset Boulevard (1950)
The Sweet Smell of Success (1957)
Swing Time (1936)
The Taking of Pelham One Two Three (1974)
A Tale of Winter (1992)
The Tao of Steve (2000)
Taxi Driver (1976)
The Terminator (1984)
Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991)
Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines (2003)
The Thin Man (1934)
The Third Man (1949)
This Is Spinal Tap (1984)
Three Colors Trilogy (1994)
Three Women (1977)
Tokyo Story (1953)
Touch of Evil (1958)
Touchez Pas au Grisbi (1954)
The Treasure of the Sierra Madre (1948)
The Trial (Procès, Le) (1962)
Trouble in Paradise (1932)
True Romance (1993)
Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me (1992)
Ugetsu (1953)
Umberto D (1952)
Un Chien Andalou (1928)
Unforgiven (1992)
Unprecedented: The 2000 Presidential Election (2002)
The Up Documentaries (1985)
Vertigo (1958)
Victim (1961)
Walkabout (1971)
West Side Story (1961)
*When We Were Kings (1996)
Where the Buffalo Roam (1980)
Wild at Heart (1990)
The Wild Bunch (1969)
Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory (1971)
Wings of Desire (1988)
The Wizard of Oz (1939)
Woman in the Dunes (1964)
A Woman Under the Influence (1974)
A Woman’s Tale (1992)
The Wonderful, Horrible Life of Leni Riefenstahl (Macht der Bilder: Leni Riefenstahl, Die) (1993)
Written on the Wind (1956)
X-Men (2000)
X-Men 2: X-Men United (X2) (2003)
xXx (2002)
Yankee Doodle Dandy (1942)
A Year of the Quiet Sun (1984)
Yellow Submarine (1968)

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March 27, 2005

Book learnin’

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tom Bondurant @ 5:36 pm
From Johnny Bacardi and others:

— Bold those you have read
— Italicize those you started, but didn’t finish
— Add three books after the last one

001. The Lord of the Rings, JRR Tolkien
002. Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen
003. His Dark Materials, Philip Pullman
004. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Douglas Adams
005. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, JK Rowling
006. To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee
007. Winnie the Pooh, AA Milne
008. 1984, George Orwell
009. The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, CS Lewis
010. Jane Eyre, Charlotte Bronte
011. Catch-22, Joseph Heller
012. Wuthering Heights, Emily Bronte
013. Birdsong, Sebastian Faulks
014. Rebecca, Daphne du Maurier
015. The Catcher in the Rye, JD Salinger
016. The Wind in the Willows, Kenneth Grahame
017. Great Expectations, Charles Dickens
018. Little Women, Louisa May Alcott
019. Captain Corelli’s Mandolin, Louis de Bernieres
020. War and Peace, Leo Tolstoy
021. Gone with the Wind, Margaret Mitchell
022. Harry Potter And The Sorcerer’s Stone, JK Rowling
023. Harry Potter And The Chamber Of Secrets, JK Rowling
024. Harry Potter And The Prisoner Of Azkaban, JK Rowling
025. The Hobbit, JRR Tolkien
026. Tess Of The D’Urbervilles, Thomas Hardy
027. Middlemarch, George Eliot
028. A Prayer For Owen Meany, John Irving
029. The Grapes Of Wrath, John Steinbeck
030. Alice’s Adventures In Wonderland, Lewis Carroll
031. The Story Of Tracy Beaker, Jacqueline Wilson
032. One Hundred Years Of Solitude, Gabriel Garcia Marquez
033. The Pillars Of The Earth, Ken Follett
034. David Copperfield, Charles Dickens
035. Charlie And The Chocolate Factory, Roald Dahl
036. Treasure Island, Robert Louis Stevenson
037. A Town Like Alice, Nevil Shute
038. Persuasion, Jane Austen
039. Dune, Frank Herbert
040. Emma, Jane Austen
041. Anne Of Green Gables, LM Montgomery
042. Watership Down, Richard Adams
043. The Great Gatsby, F Scott Fitzgerald
044. The Count Of Monte Cristo, Alexandre Dumas
045. Brideshead Revisited, Evelyn Waugh
046. Animal Farm, George Orwell
047. A Christmas Carol, Charles Dickens
048. Far From The Madding Crowd, Thomas Hardy
049. Goodnight Mister Tom, Michelle Magorian
050. The Shell Seekers, Rosamunde Pilcher
051. The Secret Garden, Frances Hodgson Burnett
052. Of Mice And Men, John Steinbeck
053. The Stand, Stephen King [the long version, if that matters]
054. Anna Karenina, Leo Tolstoy
055. A Suitable Boy, Vikram Seth
056. The BFG, Roald Dahl
057. Swallows And Amazons, Arthur Ransome
058. Black Beauty, Anna Sewell
059. Artemis Fowl, Eoin Colfer
060. Crime And Punishment, Fyodor Dostoyevsky
061. Noughts And Crosses, Malorie Blackman
062. Memoirs Of A Geisha, Arthur Golden
063. A Tale Of Two Cities, Charles Dickens
064. The Thorn Birds, Colleen McCollough
065. Mort, Terry Pratchett
066. The Magic Faraway Tree, Enid Blyton
067. The Magus, John Fowles
068. Good Omens, Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman
069. Guards! Guards!, Terry Pratchett
070. Lord Of The Flies, William Golding
071. Perfume, Patrick Susskind
072. The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists, Robert Tressell
073. Night Watch, Terry Pratchett
074. Matilda, Roald Dahl
075. Bridget Jones’s Diary, Helen Fielding
076. The Secret History, Donna Tartt
077. The Woman In White, Wilkie Collins
078. Ulysses, James Joyce
079. Bleak House, Charles Dickens
080. Double Act, Jacqueline Wilson
081. The Twits, Roald Dahl
082. I Capture The Castle, Dodie Smith
083. Holes, Louis Sachar
084. Gormenghast, Mervyn Peake
085. The God Of Small Things, Arundhati Roy
086. Vicky Angel, Jacqueline Wilson
087. Brave New World, Aldous Huxley
088. Cold Comfort Farm, Stella Gibbons
089. Magician, Raymond E Feist
090. On The Road, Jack Kerouac
091. The Godfather, Mario Puzo
092. The Clan Of The Cave Bear, Jean M Auel
093. The Colour Of Magic, Terry Pratchett
094. The Alchemist, Paulo Coelho
095. Katherine, Anya Seton
096. Kane And Abel, Jeffrey Archer
097. Love In The Time Of Cholera, Gabriel Garcia Marquez
098. Girls In Love, Jacqueline Wilson
099. The Princess Diaries, Meg Cabot
100. Midnight’s Children, Salman Rushdie
101. Three Men In A Boat, Jerome K. Jerome
102. Small Gods, Terry Pratchett
103. The Beach, Alex Garland
104. Dracula, Bram Stoker
105. Point Blanc, Anthony Horowitz
106. The Pickwick Papers, Charles Dickens
107. Stormbreaker, Anthony Horowitz
108. The Wasp Factory, Iain Banks
109. The Day Of The Jackal, Frederick Forsyth
110. The Illustrated Mum, Jacqueline Wilson
111. Jude The Obscure, Thomas Hardy
112. The Secret Diary Of Adrian Mole Aged 13 1/2, Sue Townsend
113. The Cruel Sea, Nicholas Monsarrat
114. Les Miserables, Victor Hugo
115. The Mayor Of Casterbridge, Thomas Hardy
116. The Dare Game, Jacqueline Wilson
117. Bad Girls, Jacqueline Wilson
118. The Picture Of Dorian Gray, Oscar Wilde
119. Shogun, James Clavell
120. The Day Of The Triffids, John Wyndham
121. Lola Rose, Jacqueline Wilson
122. Vanity Fair, William Makepeace Thackeray
123. The Forsyte Saga, John Galsworthy
124. House Of Leaves, Mark Z. Danielewski
125. The Poisonwood Bible, Barbara Kingsolver
126. Reaper Man, Terry Pratchett
127. Angus, Thongs And Full-Frontal Snogging, Louise Rennison
128. The Hound Of The Baskervilles, Arthur Conan Doyle
129. Possession, A. S. Byatt
130. The Master And Margarita, Mikhail Bulgakov
131. The Handmaid’s Tale, Margaret Atwood
132. Danny The Champion Of The World, Roald Dahl
133. East Of Eden, John Steinbeck
134. George’s Marvellous Medicine, Roald Dahl
135. Wyrd Sisters, Terry Pratchett
136. The Color Purple, Alice Walker
137. Hogfather, Terry Pratchett
138. The Thirty-Nine Steps, John Buchan
139. Girls In Tears, Jacqueline Wilson
140. Sleepovers, Jacqueline Wilson
141. All Quiet On The Western Front, Erich Maria Remarque
142. Behind The Scenes At The Museum, Kate Atkinson
143. High Fidelity, Nick Hornby
144. It, Stephen King
145. James And The Giant Peach, Roald Dahl
146. The Green Mile, Stephen King
147. Papillon, Henri Charriere
148. Men At Arms, Terry Pratchett
149. Master And Commander, Patrick O’Brian
150. Skeleton Key, Anthony Horowitz
151. Soul Music, Terry Pratchett
152. Thief Of Time, Terry Pratchett
153. The Fifth Elephant, Terry Pratchett
154. Atonement, Ian McEwan
155. Secrets, Jacqueline Wilson
156. The Silver Sword, Ian Serraillier
157. One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest, Ken Kesey
158. Heart Of Darkness, Joseph Conrad
159. Kim, Rudyard Kipling
160. Cross Stitch, Diana Gabaldon
161. Moby Dick, Herman Melville
162. River God, Wilbur Smith
163. Sunset Song, Lewis Grassic Gibbon
164. The Shipping News, Annie Proulx
165. The World According To Garp, John Irving
166. Lorna Doone, R. D. Blackmore
167. Girls Out Late, Jacqueline Wilson
168. The Far Pavilions, M. M. Kaye
169. The Witches, Roald Dahl
170. Charlotte’s Web, E. B. White
171. Frankenstein, Mary Shelley
172. They Used To Play On Grass, Terry Venables and Gordon Williams
173. The Old Man And The Sea, Ernest Hemingway
174. The Name Of The Rose, Umberto Eco
175. Sophie’s World, Jostein Gaarder
176. Dustbin Baby, Jacqueline Wilson
177. Fantastic Mr. Fox, Roald Dahl
178. Lolita, Vladimir Nabokov
179. Jonathan Livingston Seagull, Richard Bach
180. The Little Prince, Antoine De Saint-Exupery
181. The Suitcase Kid, Jacqueline Wilson
182. Oliver Twist, Charles Dickens
183. The Power Of One, Bryce Courtenay
184. Silas Marner, George Eliot
185. American Psycho, Bret Easton Ellis
186. The Diary Of A Nobody, George and Weedon Gross-mith
187. Trainspotting, Irvine Welsh
188. Goosebumps, R. L. Stine
189. Heidi, Johanna Spyri
190. Sons And Lovers, D. H. Lawrence
191. The Unbearable Lightness of Being, Milan Kundera
192. Man And Boy, Tony Parsons
193. The Truth, Terry Pratchett
194. The War Of The Worlds, H. G. Wells
195. The Horse Whisperer, Nicholas Evans
196. A Fine Balance, Rohinton Mistry
197. Witches Abroad, Terry Pratchett
198. The Once And Future King, T. H. White
199. The Very Hungry Caterpillar, Eric Carle
200. Flowers In The Attic, Virginia Andrews
201. The Silmarillion, J.R.R. Tolkien
202. The Eye of the World, Robert Jordan
203. The Great Hunt, Robert Jordan
204. The Dragon Reborn, Robert Jordan
205. Fires of Heaven, Robert Jordan
206. Lord of Chaos, Robert Jordan
207. Winter’s Heart, Robert Jordan
208. A Crown of Swords, Robert Jordan
209. Crossroads of Twilight, Robert Jordan
210. A Path of Daggers, Robert Jordan
211. As Nature Made Him, John Colapinto
212. Microserfs, Douglas Coupland
213. The Married Man, Edmund White
214. Winter’s Tale, Mark Helprin
215. The History of Sexuality, Michel Foucault
216. Cry to Heaven, Anne Rice
217. Same-Sex Unions in Premodern Europe, John Boswell
218. Equus, Peter Shaffer
219. The Man Who Ate Everything, Jeffrey Steingarten
220. Letters To A Young Poet, Rainer Maria Rilke
221. Ella Minnow Pea, Mark Dunn
222. The Vampire Lestat, Anne Rice
223. Anthem, Ayn Rand
224. The Bridge To Terabithia, Katherine Paterson
225. Tartuffe, Moliere
226. The Metamorphosis, Franz Kafka
227. The Crucible, Arthur Miller
228. The Trial, Franz Kafka
229. Oedipus Rex, Sophocles
230. Oedipus at Colonus, Sophocles
231. Death Be Not Proud, John Gunther
232. A Doll’s House, Henrik Ibsen
233. Hedda Gabler, Henrik Ibsen
234. Ethan Frome, Edith Wharton
235. A Raisin In The Sun, Lorraine Hansberry
236. ALIVE!, Piers Paul Read
237. Grapefruit, Yoko Ono
238. Trickster Makes This World, Lewis Hyde
240. The Mists of Avalon, Marion Zimmer Bradley
241. Chronicles of Thomas Convenant, Unbeliever, Stephen Donaldson
242. Lord of Light, Roger Zelazny
242. The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay, Michael Chabon
243. Summerland, Michael Chabon
244. A Confederacy of Dunces, John Kennedy Toole
245. Candide, Voltaire
246. The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar and Six More, Roald Dahl
247. Ringworld, Larry Niven
248. The King Must Die, Mary Renault
249. Stranger in a Strange Land, Robert Heinlein
250. A Wrinkle in Time, Madeline L’Engle
251. The Eyre Affair, Jasper Fforde
252. The House Of The Seven Gables, Nathaniel Hawthorne
253. The Scarlet Letter, Nathaniel Hawthorne
254. The Joy Luck Club, Amy Tan
255. The Great Gilly Hopkins, Katherine Paterson
256. Chocolate Fever, Robert Kimmel Smith
257. Xanth: The Quest for Magic, Piers Anthony
258. The Lost Princess of Oz, L. Frank Baum
259. Wonder Boys, Michael Chabon
260. Lost In A Good Book, Jasper Fforde
261. Well Of Lost Plots, Jasper Fforde
261. Life Of Pi, Yann Martel
263. The Bean Trees, Barbara Kingsolver
264. A Yellow Rraft In Blue Water, Michael Dorris
265. Little House on the Prairie, Laura Ingalls Wilder
267. Where The Red Fern Grows, Wilson Rawls
268. Griffin & Sabine, Nick Bantock
269. Witch of Black Bird Pond, Joyce Friedland
270. Mrs. Frisby And The Rats Of NIMH, Robert C. O’Brien
271. Tuck Everlasting, Natalie Babbitt Bleh.
272. The Cay, Theodore Taylor
273. From The Mixed-Up Files Of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, E.L. Konigsburg
274. The Phantom Tollbooth, Norton Jester
275. The Westing Game, Ellen Raskin
276. The Kitchen God’s Wife, Amy Tan
277. The Bone Setter’s Daughter, Amy Tan
278. Relic, Duglas Preston & Lincolon Child
279. Wicked, Gregory Maguire
280. American Gods, Neil Gaiman
281. Misty of Chincoteague, Marguerite Henry
282. The Girl Next Door, Jack Ketchum
283. Haunted, Judith St. George
284. Singularity, William Sleator
285. A Short History of Nearly Everything, Bill Bryson
286. Different Seasons, Stephen King
287. Fight Club, Chuck Palahniuk
288. About a Boy, Nick Hornby
289. The Bookman’s Wake, John Dunning
290. The Church of Dead Girls, Stephen Dobyns
291. Illusions, Richard Bach
292. Magic’s Pawn, Mercedes Lackey
293. Magic’s Promise, Mercedes Lackey
294. Magic’s Price, Mercedes Lackey
295. The Dancing Wu Li Masters, Gary Zukav
296. Spirits of Flux and Anchor, Jack L. Chalker
297. Interview with the Vampire, Anne Rice
298. The Encyclopedia of Unusual Sex Practices, Brenda Love
299. Infinite Jest, David Foster Wallace
300. The Bluest Eye, Toni Morrison
301. The Cider House Rules, John Irving
302. Ender’s Game, Orson Scott Card
303. Girlfriend in a Coma, Douglas Coupland
304. The Lion’s Game, Nelson Demille
305. The Sun, The Moon, and the Stars, Stephen Brust
306. Cyteen, C. J. Cherryh
307. Foucault’s Pendulum, Umberto Eco
308. Cryptonomicon, Neal Stephenson
309. Invisible Monsters, Chuck Palahniuk
310. Camber of Culdi, Kathryn Kurtz
311. The Fountainhead, Ayn Rand
312. War and Rememberance, Herman Wouk
313. The Art of War, Sun Tzu
314. The Giver, Lois Lowry
315. The Telling, Ursula Le Guin
316. Xenogenesis (or Lilith’s Brood), Octavia Butler (Dawn, Adulthood Rites, Imago)
317. A Civil Campaign, Lois McMaster Bujold
318. The Curse of Chalion, Lois McMaster Bujold
319. The Aeneid, Publius Vergilius Maro (Vergil)
320. Hanta Yo, Ruth Beebe Hill
321. The Princess Bride, S. Morganstern (or William Goldman)
322. Beowulf, Anonymous
323. The Sparrow, Maria Doria Russell
324. Deerskin, Robin McKinley
325. Dragonsong, Anne McCaffrey
326. Passage, Connie Willis
327. Otherland, Tad Williams
328. Tigana, Guy Gavriel Kay
329. Number the Stars, Lois Lowry
330. Beloved, Toni Morrison
331. Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ’s Childhood Pal, Christopher Moore
332. The mysterious disappearance of Leon, I mean Noel, Ellen Raskin
333. Summer Sisters, Judy Blume
334. The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Victor Hugo
335. The Island on Bird Street, Uri Orlev
336. Midnight in the Dollhouse, Marjorie Filley Stover
337. The Miracle Worker, William Gibson
338. The Genesis Code, John Case
339. The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, Robert Louis Stevensen
340. Paradise Lost, John Milton
341. Phantom, Susan Kay
342. The Mummy or Ramses the Damned, Anne Rice
343. Anno Dracula, Kim Newman
344: The Dresden Files: Grave Peril, Jim Butcher
345: Tokyo Suckerpunch, Issac Adamson
346: The Winter of Magic’s Return, Pamela Service
347: The Oddkins, Dean R. Koontz
348. My Name is Asher Lev, Chaim Potok
349. The Last Goodbye, Raymond Chandler
350. At Swim, Two Boys, Jaime O’Neill
351. Othello, by William Shakespeare
352. The Collected Poems of Dylan Thomas
353. The Collected Poems of William Butler Yeats
354. Sati, Christopher Pike
355. The Divine Comedy, Dante
356. The Apology, Plato
357. The Small Rain, Madeline L’Engle
358. The Man Who Tasted Shapes, Richard E Cytowick
359. 5 Novels, Daniel Pinkwater
360. The Sevenwaters Trilogy, Juliet Marillier
361. Girl with a Pearl Earring, Tracy Chevalier
362. To the Lighthouse, Virginia Woolf
363. Our Town, Thorton Wilder
364. Green Grass Running Water, Thomas King
335. The Interpreter, Suzanne Glass
336. The Moor’s Last Sigh, Salman Rushdie
337. The Mother Tongue, Bill Bryson
338. A Passage to India, E.M. Forster
339. The Perks of Being a Wallflower, Stephen Chbosky
340. The Phantom of the Opera, Gaston Leroux
341. Pages for You, Sylvia Brownrigg
342. The Changeover, Margaret Mahy
343. Howl’s Moving Castle, Diana Wynne Jones
344. Angels and Demons, Dan Brown
345. Johnny Got His Gun, Dalton Trumbo
346. Shosha, Isaac Bashevis Singer
347. Travels With Charley, John Steinbeck
348. The Diving-bell and the Butterfly by Jean-Dominique Bauby
349. The Lunatic at Large by J. Storer Clouston
350. Time for bed by David Baddiel
351. Barrayar by Lois McMaster Bujold
352. Quite Ugly One Morning by Christopher Brookmyre
353. The Bloody Sun by Marion Zimmer Bradley
354. Sewer, Gas, and Eletric by Matt Ruff
355. Jhereg by Steven Brust
356. So You Want To Be A Wizard by Diane Duane
357. Perdido Street Station, China Mieville
358. The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, Anne Bronte
359. Road-side Dog, Czeslaw Milosz
360. The English Patient, Michael Ondaatje
361. Neuromancer, William Gibson
362. The Epistemology of the Closet, Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick
363. A Canticle for Liebowitz, Walter M. Miller, Jr
364. The Mask of Apollo, Mary Renault
365. The Gunslinger, Stephen King
366. Romeo and Juliet, William Shakespeare
367. Childhood’s End, Arthur C. Clarke
368. A Season of Mists, Neil Gaiman
369. Ivanhoe, Walter Scott
370. The God Boy, Ian Cross
371. The Beekeeper’s Apprentice, Laurie R. King
372. Finn Family Moomintroll, Tove Jansson
373. Stormbringer, Michael Moorcock
374. Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep, Philip K. Dick
375. Assassin’s Apprentice, Robin Hobb
376. number9dream, David Mitchell
377. A Game of Thrones, George R. R. Martin
378. Five Quarters of the Orange, Joanne Harris
379. Darkness at Noon, Arthur Koestler
380. Einstein’s Dreams, Alan Lightman
381. Dance On My Grave, Aidan Chambers
382. Left Hand of Darkness, Ursula Leguin
383. Hyperion, Dan Simmons
384. Martian Chronicles, Ray Bradbury
385. Checkmate, Dorothy Dunnett
386. To Say Nothing of the Dog, Connie Willis
387. A Clash of Kings, George RR Martin
388. The Egyptian, Mika Waltari
389. Moab Is My Washpot, Stephen Fry
390. Contact, Carl Sagan
391. Mythago Wood, Robert Holdstock
392. Feersum Endjinn, Iain M. Banks
393. The Golden, Lucius Shepard
394. Decamerone, Boccaccio
395. Birdy, William Wharton
396. The Red Tent, Anita Diaman
397. The Foundation, Isaac Asimov
398. Il Principe, Machiavelli
399. Post Office, Charles Bukowski
400. Macht und Rebel, Abu Rasul
401. Grass, Sheri S. Tepper
402. The Long Walk, Richard Bachman
403. Neverwhere, Neil Gaiman
404. The Joy Of Work, Scott Adams
405. Romeo, Elise Title
406. The Ninth Gate, Arturo Perez-Reverte
407. Memnoch the Devil, Anne Rice
408. Dead Famous, Ben Elton
409. Scarlett, Alexandra Ripley
410. Dead Souls, Nikolai Gogol
411. Look to Windward, Iain M. Banks
412. The Colossus of Maroussi, Henry Miller
413. Branded, Alissa Quart
414. The Idiot, Fyodor Dostoyevsky
415. Dharma Bums, Jack Kerouac
416. White teeth, Zadie Smith
417. Under the bell jar, Sylvia Plath
418. The little prince of Belleville, Calixthe Beyala
419. Madame Bovary, Gustave Flaubert
420. A King Lear of the Steppes, Ivan Turgenev
421. The Brothers Karamazov, Fyodor Dostoyevsky
422. Memoirs of a Revolutionist, Peter Kropotkin
423. Hija de la Fortuna, Isabel Allende
424. Retrato en Sepia, Isabel Allende
425. Villette, Charlotte Brontë
426. Steppenwolf, Herman Hesse
427. Ubik, Philip K. Dick
428. Mein Kampf, Adolf Hitler
429. Solaris, Stanislaw Lem
430. The Sun Also Rises, Ernest Hemingway
431. Nausea, Jean Paul Sartre
432. The Island of the Day Before, Umberto Eco
433. The Elementary Particles, Michel Houellebecq
434. The Angel Of The West Window, Gustav Meyrink
435. A Farewell To Arms, Ernest Hemingway
436. Naked Lunch, William S. Burroughs
437. Slaughterhouse-Five, Kurt Vonnegut
438. In the Eyes of Mr. Fury, Philip Ridley
439. Consider Phlebas, Iain M. Banks
440. Into the Forest, Jean Hegland
441. Middlesex -Jeffrey Eugenides
442. The Giving Tree -Shel Silverstein
443. Go Ask Alice -Anonymous
444. Waiting For Godot, Samuel Becket
445. Blankets, Craig Thompson
446. The Girls’ Guide To Hunting And Fishing, Melissa Banks
447. Voice of the Fire, Alan Moore
448. The Geography of Nowhere, James Howard Kunstler
449. Coraline, Neil Gaiman
450. The Circus of Dr. Lao, Charles G. Finney
451. Jitterbug Perfume, Tom Robbins
452. John Lennon: The Lost Weekend, by May Pang and Henry Edwards
453. The Bonfire of the Vanities, by Tom Wolfe
454. Mason & Dixon, by Thomas Pynchon
455. Underworld, by Don DeLillo

[There would be a few more noted if I’d had a category for “saw the movie.” Thank goodness for English classes!]

[Edited 3/28/05 because I forgot about Oedipus Rex, Raisin in the Sun, and Candide.]

March 23, 2005

New comics 3/23/05

Nostalgia abounds this week, most notably in Spider-Man/Human Torch #3, written by Dan Slott, with art by Ty Templeton and Nelson. It’s goofy for goofy’s sake, as you would expect any storyline featuring the Spider-Mobile to be. Spidey and the Torch confront the Red Ghost, and the plot’s resolution involves a bit of Marvel ephemera which most people would never have expected to be brought into “official” continuity. Although there are some moments of soul-searching (the story takes place shortly after Gwen Stacy’s death and Crystal’s return to the Inhumans), most of the issue is concerned with wacky monkey fun. This issue might appe only to those fans who are old enough to wonder why Mego’s lame Spider-Car didn’t resemble the Spider-Mobile, but those folks will probably love it.

Continuing with the nostalgia kick, Nightwing #106 (written by Chuck Dixon and Scott Beatty, with art by Scott McDaniel and Andy Owens) wraps up “Nightwing: Year One.” This issue features Nightwing and Robin rescuing Alfred from Killer Croc’s gang while Batman recuperates from being shot in the bulletproof plate. While it was good to see Jason Todd and Barbara Gordon in caped spandex again, I have to question the utility of this arc. It offers a couple of insights into the Dick/Bruce/Jason relationships, and it ends with Dick returning to the Teen Titans (as opposed to becoming another Bat-operative). Still, it’s not clear to me how this affects Dick’s current station in life. Sounds like a topic for another post….

Thirdly, JLA Classified #5 (written by Keith Giffen and J.M. DeMatteis, drawn by Kevin Maguire and Joe Rubenstein) offers Part 2 of “I Can’t Believe It’s Not The Justice League!” This issue revolves around fears that Guy Gardner will corrupt Mary Marvel. (Billy Batson shows up in a cameo that’s very funny mainly because he’s a kid chewing out adults.) Meanwhile, Blue Beetle and Booster Gold try to recruit Power Girl from the Justice Society, and Booster ends up triggering the group’s next adventure. There’s a lot of witty banter, and it’s obvious that these creators are very comfortable with the characters. The banter is carrying the book for now, and it’s up to the task, but judging by the last couple of pages (and the previous miniseries) that’s about to change. Not that that’s a bad thing, because these creators also seem comfortable with big superhero fights too. So far, “ICBINTJL!” is another enjoyable visit with the former Justice League International.

As for books which “live in the now,” Batman: Gotham Knights #63 (written by A.J. Lieberman, drawn by Al Barrionuevo and Bit) continues the Poison Ivy storyline from the last couple of issues. Again, this isn’t the most objectionable Batman storyline Lieberman has done, but it’s emphasizing style over substance. The opening action sequence is told almost silently, which wouldn’t be a bad thing if it were easier to follow. Ivy has fights with a squad of troopers and with Hush that come off better, but not by much. (The Hush sequence’s main problem, of course, is that it features Hush.) A Bruce Wayne/Selina Kyle date is a pleasant (if brief) sight, but overall it doesn’t amount to much. At the end of the issue, nothing seems to be too much further down the road than it was at the beginning.

Last up is Seven Soldiers: The Manhattan Guardian #1 (written by Grant Morrison, with art by Cameron Stewart). It starts off well, as a gang of subway pirates look for a lost treasure map. This is the best part of the book, because Morrison’s world-building here includes the notion that roving bands of rogues stalk New York’s subways with Jolly Rogers painted on their train cars. Once it gets into the actual super-heroing, things get more predictable, especially the Guardian’s first day on the job. Still, Morrison tells an entertaining story, even updating the Newsboy Legion and explaining this Guardian’s tenuous connection to Jack Kirby’s. My favorite part was the Guardian’s boss “Ed” — a highly appropriate name for a guy who runs a newspaper; and he reminded me of the boss from Being John Malkovich. As for Stewart’s art, it’s more restrained than his work on Seaguy, and reminded me of Ty Templeton’s work. This was still a good read, but it wasn’t as far-out as the previous Seven Soldiers books.

March 22, 2005

Countdown To Infinite Crisis: more buzzwords than a Dilbert strip

Filed under: crisis — Tom Bondurant @ 12:05 am
Pop Culture Shock has a preview of next week’s DC Countdown, or as we’re supposed to call it now, Countdown to Infinite Crisis. Go read it before you get any further here, because my speculation below contains SPOILERS.

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So, the big mystery is that a shadowy government agency has discovered Batman’s identity (and by extension, everyone else’s, because you know Batman does the most to hide his)? Didn’t we just have to deal with “oh no, they know our secrets!” in Identity Crisis? Apparently this makes Identity Crisis more of an intro to Countdown. I thought the point of IC was to tell a self-contained story that would be accessible to new readers, not one that would be a gateway miniseries into the harder, more continuity-oriented stuff coming in 2005.

Moreover, this seems to confirm those rumors that Countdown would kill off Blue Beetle. Sure, he survives the preview intact, but you know the Shadowy Government Operatives are coming after him for breaking into their database. Besides, the preview spends about as much work building up Beetle as IC‘s first issue did on Sue Dibny. I suppose this means we won’t see a third Giffen/DeMatteis/Maguire Justice League International reunion — at least not until 2009’s DC Special: The Return Of Blue Beetle.

That said, I hope that Countdown, its sequel The OMAC Project, or some descendant thereof, links the superheroic paranoia of Identity Crisis with the knowledge that the federal government knows their secret identities. Wouldn’t this lead logically to the Justice League vs. the feds? How far would the League go to protect the information which allows it to operate behind that veil?

This subject matter was addressed, albeit obliquely, in the Justice League Unlimited episode “The Doomsday Sanction.” There the (animated) League was reminded by a shadowy government operative that in an alternate universe, it assassinated the President of the United States and took over the world. Superman and the other heroes who hide their everyday faces aren’t treated as criminals precisely because they have agreed to work with the authorities and within the law. Otherwise, as with Batman at the end of “War Games,” all bets are off.

However, I would be surprised if Countdown or OMAC gets into super-fascism territory. It just seems like a topic that the mainstream DC line doesn’t want to explore. DC doesn’t mind having Batman having to evade police, because that fits his mystique; but I doubt it wants to have Superman or Wonder Woman either sliding into totalitarianism or questioning a government not headed by Lex Luthor.

Anyway, we’ll see on March 30.

March 19, 2005

All Together Now: "For Tomorrow" (SPOILERS)

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tom Bondurant @ 5:18 pm

And I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away; and there was no more sea.

And I John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.

And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God.

And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.

Revelation 21:1-4

“For Tomorrow” is the 12-part arc produced for the Superman book by writer Brian Azzarello, penciller Jim Lee, and inker Scott Williams. It picks up shortly after The Vanishing, a worldwide phenomenon when a million people simply vanished, leaving behind only ghostly silhouettes (shades of Hiroshima and Nagasaki). Superman blames himself for not being able to prevent the Vanishing, and seeks out the counsel of Father Leone, a priest with a checkered past. The story’s 11th part came out on March 9, so I wanted to recap and review it all to get ready for the conclusion.

While “For Tomorrow”‘s premise is rooted in longstanding Superman mythology, it doesn’t require the reader to know much about current Superman continuity. In fact, the regular Superman supporting cast (Jimmy Olsen, Perry White, Lex Luthor, even Clark Kent) hardly makes a dent in the plot. However, Superman’s troubles come from the fact that his wife Lois was “vanished,” so in that respect her presence is felt in the story.

Otherwise, the major supporting characters are new. Besides Father Leone, there’s Mr. Orr, a mercenary who wants Superman brought to justice for his role in the Vanishing; and new villains Equus and Halcyon. Along the way Superman also runs afoul of the Justice League, including Aquaman, Wonder Woman, and Batman. The fight with Wonder Woman provides an issue’s worth of action, as does a fight with Halcyon’s elemental giants.

The story starts off with Superman, post-Vanishing, trying to stop regional conflicts. He wins the battle with Equus, but loses the war — the strongman Equus is supporting also has the support of the locals. Supes quickly decides to do as much good as he can in rebuilding the country, but after finding that Equus and his boss have the Vanishing device, Superman ends up activating it. Equus and his boss vanish, along with thousands of other people. Now Superman’s in trouble with the rest of the world, including the JLA.

It’s probably safe to say that Lee and Williams’ art is the main attraction for most casual Superman fans. As with their Batman arc “Hush,” there are a lot of big set pieces. However, Brian Azzarello has also produced a thoughtful script that attempts to cast Superman in a new light by exploring issues of faith and duty.

As you might expect, there’s some fairly obvious religious imagery, especially in Superman’s conversations with Leone, but eventually, that serves more to paint Superman as a flawed, almost tragic figure. Azzarello’s dialogue has a certain noirish quality, so it takes a little getting used to coming out of ostensibly square characters like Supes and a priest. Azzarello also tends to begin each issue with dialogue boxes from a character who is off-panel, so after a while it’s distracting trying to figure out who’s speaking. One of Azzarello’s nice touches is showing the homemade memorials to the Vanished people. Together with Azzarello’s emphasizing how Superman cares about each person he tries to protect, it puts a more human face on the super-powered action. This too is contrasted with Superman’s questioning of his own humanity, apparently since Lois’ absence has made him feel less human. (Azzarello hasn’t yet explained where the elder Kents are in all of this, or why Supes isn’t seen as Clark Kent.)

Many Superman stories test him with extremely powerful opponents. In “For Tomorrow,” the problems which Superman confronts have more philosophical underpinnings. Still, they are problems worthy of Superman’s attention, but paradoxically they are problems that Superman’s respect for humanity doesn’t normally attempt to solve. In this respect, “For Tomorrow” aims high, and for the most part succeeds.

[WARNING: past this point this essay contains SPOILERS.]

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Picking up where the previous summary left off, Superman and Father Leone go to the Fortress of Solitude to analyze the Vanishing device. Superman figures out who created it, but just then Wonder Woman and Orr attack separately. After taking care of both of them, Superman tells Wonder Woman that the Fortress is set to auto-destruct, and tells her to save Orr and Leone. Superman then sends himself into the Vanishing.

There we learn that Superman himself created the Vanishing out of the Phantom Zone, as a refuge for the people of Earth if it faced a planetary catastrophe like that which destroyed Krypton. Supes then sent the device into the Phantom Zone, erasing his own memory of having created it. Because Supes was inspired to create the Vanishing after a conversation with Lois, this means that Lois was the only person on Earth who knew about its existence.

However, Superman apparently didn’t know that General Zod, a Kryptonian criminal, was already in the Phantom Zone, having been sent there by Jor-El. Zod learned to use the device and abducted the one million people. Having assembled an army out of some of those less charitable abductees, Zod faces off against Superman. During their fight, Superman sends the Vanishing device back to Earth — specifically, to Father Leone. Unfortunately, Orr has taken Leone to a shadowy laboratory, where Orr was turned into a super-soldier. Leone is now Version 4 to Equus’ Version 3. And that’s where we are now.

As I said above, “For Tomorrow” aims high. It contrasts the public perception of Superman-as-God with Supes’ own view of himself as a man trying to do the best he can with what he has. Thus, Father Leone wonders if Superman can cure his cancer, and Superman explains that he doesn’t try to impose his will on the world that way. Azzarello tells us over and over that Superman won’t get involved in a macro level with the Earth’s destiny, which is why he sends the Vanishing device away and erases his own knowledge of it. Nevertheless, Superman has opened Pandora’s box simply by creating the Vanishing, so naturally it comes back to haunt him.

If Superman reminds us of God, the Vanishing seems to be a Garden of Eden; and like the Biblical garden, the Vanishing was corrupted almost from the beginning. (Azzarello hints further that the Vanishing would have been corrupted eventually even without Zod’s presence.) Just as Eve prompted Adam to eat the forbidden apple, so Lois’ question about Earth’s fate prompts Superman to create the Vanishing. However, the Vanishing is more like the new Heaven and new Earth promised by God in Revelation — a safe haven following the apocalypse, where there will be no more danger and all may live in peace.

It is therefore hubris for Superman to have trespassed in God’s domain by (as he puts it) “creating Heaven out of Hell.” Superman claims that his sin was “saving the world,” which is actually not far from the truth. Superman’s sin was to put his faith in his own ability to save the world, rather than in God’s ability to use him for God’s own purpose. There’s an old puzzle about whether Jesus could create a rock so heavy he couldn’t lift it; well, here we see that Superman has created a device so dangerous that he might not be able to stop it.

(I’m treating Superman as a Christian because Superman in this story is using a priest of the Christian God as his confessor; therefore, Superman apparently is submitting himself to the rules of Christianity in order to find the answers he needs.)

The lesson of “For Tomorrow” seems to be that not even Superman is God. God knows all, sees all, and can be everywhere; but Superman, powerful as he is, is still subject to the limitations of this world. Superman wants to succeed where Jor-El failed, namely by ensuring Earth’s safety where Jor-El could not ensure Krypton’s — but he forgets that without Krypton’s sacrifice, there might not have been a Superman. Who knows what intergalactic boon might result should Earth face a similar catastrophe? Superman walks a fine line between being reactive and proactive. If he is going to buy into the Christian faith, he needs to trust that God will keep him on the right side of that line.

“For Tomorrow” has a lot of potential, and could eventually become a classic Superman tale. Still, this just raises the stakes for part 12.

A hardcover collection of the first 6 parts goes on sale in two weeks, and the conclusion is scheduled to appear on April 13.

March 18, 2005

All Together Now: "Riddle Me That"

Filed under: batman — Tom Bondurant @ 3:00 pm
Back in March 9th’s comics rundown I mentioned I wanted to revisit a couple of recent arcs. First up is “Riddle Me That,” a 5-part story which appeared in Batman: Legends of the Dark Knight #s 185-89 (cover dates January-May 2005). It was written by Shane McCarthy, with art by Tommy Castillo and Rodney Ramos. At the time I thought it was a little confusing, because I was trying to figure out where it fit into what had become a convoluted Riddler timeline.

The Riddler’s last big moment was at the end of the Jeph Loeb/Jim Lee Batman epic “Hush,” when it was revealed that he had learned Batman’s secret identity. Batman bullied Riddler into keeping it to himself, so that mitigated the event’s impact. Anyway, the Riddler next appeared in a very strange Detective Comics backup series, which had him on the wrong side of Poison Ivy. The impression I got was that Ivy tortured him and left him for dead. Don’t know whether that affected the secret-identity subplot, because Bats’ secret ID doesn’t figure into this story. However, Riddler begins this story as a homeless person.

In fact, “Riddle Me That” — which is styled a pre-“War Games” story because Batman is still on good terms with the police — produces a revamped, redesigned Riddler. Gone (for the most part) are the clues the Riddler used to leave. Gone also are the Riddler’s mask and question-mark-motif costume. Now he sports a question-mark tattoo on his neck, and a simple black outfit. He looks about 10 years younger too.

At heart it is a caper story, so I am loath to reveal the plot mechanics. In a nutshell, Batman’s investigation of a kidnapping leads him to Riddler’s attempt to steal a museum piece. Batman races to stop Riddler from committing the theft, and the resulting game of wits goes back and forth between who has last outsmarted whom.

Meanwhile, a flashback subplot traces Riddler’s return from hobo-dom and includes another flashback to Riddler’s childhood. The classic Riddler origin has him discovering a love of cheating at an early age, when he snuck into his school to get the answers to the next day’s test. McCarthy neatly explodes that part of the origin without denying any of the Riddler’s earlier motivations or escapades. In fact, “cheating” is a recurring theme of the story which also plays with the current Batman-is-always-prepared trope. Batman considers himself prepared for the Riddler, but the reverse is also true.

Batman does have a couple of handicaps throughout the story. First is a Metropolis reporter tailing him for a piece she’s writing. McCarthy has some knowing fun with her, and she’s not entirely a damsel in distress. Second, Batman takes a significant beating about halfway through. While it doesn’t slow him down too much, his tattered costume is a visual reminder that he’s already been put through a wringer. This gives a little more urgency to his adventures, because he looks on the verge of collapse at a couple of points.

Still, while I appreciate the effort that went into making cool a villain most famous for screwing up his own crimes, I wonder how necessary it was. I wouldn’t be surprised if this storyline started off as a bet. Goofy as the old Riddler might have been, he had a unique schtick. Now he’s a more generic criminal mastermind — he just has a new tattoo and some new clothes.

Besides all that, this was pretty enjoyable on the second read. McCarthy starts off with a plot that looks complex, dials it back a little, and then ties everything together. The aforementioned “cheating” theme recurred unexpectedly and made me look at the story in new ways. There are a couple of twists that I’m not sure are justified by the overall story, but by the time they surface the story has built up sufficient goodwill to overcome them. The flashbacks give the Riddler a degree of sympathy he didn’t have before, such that he becomes the story’s anti-hero. All in all, “Riddle Me That” is a well-constructed tale.

The art is also fairly good. Castillo and Ramos draw a very moody Batman, with excellent use of blacks (as you might expect) and a familiar reliance on that dark silhouette with glowing white eyes. It did take me a while to figure out which sequences were the flashbacks. The dialogue and narrative captions didn’t help either, so this isn’t entirely an artistic problem. Also, the hobo Riddler has the requisite thick beard (symbolizing rebirth, of course), which makes him look a lot like the guy rehabbing him. The new-look Riddler is very metrosexual — almost like Sandman‘s Desire. Compared to the other characters, he’s very clean-looking, and really stands out among all the dark colors.

Again, my only caveat — and it may not be one, in the great scheme of things — is trying to fit this into the larger Batman universe. In a weird way, by taking away the old Riddler trappings and making him a more formidable opponent, “Riddle Me That” has made it that much harder for future writers to use the character. Now he can’t just be a wacky guy who announces his crimes ahead of time through clues. Because he has to be smarter, so must his writers. Obviously this isn’t a bad thing, but it does seem counterproductive to DC’s larger purpose for the story. If you can get past this (and it’s not hard — you could even consider it the last Riddler story), it’s a rewarding look at the character.

March 16, 2005

New comics 3/16/05

I almost didn’t buy JLA #112 (written by Kurt Busiek, with art by Ron Garney and Dan Green) because the cover made me think it was Justice League Elite, and I’m waiting for the JLE trade. Silly me. The issue is mostly action on three fronts, as the JLA and friends confront the Qwardian weapon in space and the Crime Syndicate on Earth, and travel to the anti-Earth to try and defeat the Syndicate there. Accordingly, the dialogue and narration are more expository, but in a few instances Busiek keeps things suspenseful by cutting away a beat before you’d expect him to. I had to check a couple of times to make sure I hadn’t missed anything. Garney and Green do a good job of keeping everything straight, and turn in a few spectacular panels, including the opening two-page spread. This was the first issue that really seemed to suit their style, because everything starts to unravel. A “cleaner” style of art (even, dare I say it, George Perez’s) might not have conveyed that as well. There are two more parts to this story, but it already feels full-to-bursting. If Busiek and Garney can sustain this momentum through the end, it may be one for the ages.

Wonder Woman #214 (written by Greg Rucka, with art by Drew Johnson and Ray Snyder) concludes the Zoom/Cheetah team-up begun in the last issue of Flash. This one too is a lot of action, although it advances Rucka’s Olympian political subplots for a couple of pages. Rucka also weaves in a few comments about Zoom’s mission to “improve” Flash and Wonder Woman through tragedy. One gets the strong feeling that Zoom represents for Rucka a certain element of superhero fans who (for example) prefer Batman because he’s suffered. Therefore, when Wonder Woman shouts about “men believing [that] pain is the necessary component of strength,” it rings true for her character, but it also sends a message — both to those fans and to the people who have criticized his blinding of Wonder Woman.

What’s interesting is that Rucka currently writes Superman (not known for his suffering), and made a name for himself at DC writing Batman. The fallout from DC’s Identity Crisis — which explored the whole “strength through suffering” notion — also cannot be ignored. Zoom’s attitude, and Diana’s reaction to it, seem to be Rucka’s commentary on DC readers’ reactions to DC’s recent handling of its core characters. Still, Rucka doesn’t take it any further, beyond suggesting that Zoom is wrong because Diana disagrees.

Anyway, the issue itself doesn’t do much for the more substantial plots Rucka has been cultivating during his run on the title, and at the end I got the feeling this too was setup for one of DC’s upcoming projects.

Speaking of Rucka’s Superman book, Adventures of Superman #638 (drawn by Matthew Clark), it’s another Mr. Mxyzptlk quasi-farce, as Mxy gives Clark and Lois a newborn. This draws out the Kents’ feelings about when, whether, or even how they can have children. More Identity Crisis-related issues surface here too, as Clark wonders about protecting a super-daughter from equally super dangers. Matthew Clark gets playful with the art, doing both a Calvin & Hobbes parody and an animated-style sequence. Overall it’s a good standalone issue which still relates back to Rucka’s macro plot.

Yet more Identity Crisis repercussions in Teen Titans #22 (written by Geoff Johns, with art by Mike McKone). Dr. Light, in what is either a callback to his ’70s and early ’80s schtick or a way to connect the Titans to the Justice League, or both, shows off his vastly improved powers as he takes out the Titans. Most of the dialogue is Light musing about what the JLA did to him and whether they stopped with him, or even with villains in general. In the end, it’s still “to be continued,” but there are a couple of nice moments for old-school fans like myself.

Captain America #4 (written by Ed Brubaker, with art by Steve Epting and a little by Michael Lark) has a lot to offer its own old-school fans, which unfortunately I am not. I never knew Cap had the legacy outlined here, but it is kind of fascinating (especially after the ancillary information in Marvel: The Lost Generation). Cap’s “relatives” figure into the story, as he and Agent 13 are sent on separate missions involving them. Cap’s unfamiliar memories also come more fully into the main story. It’s more exposition than action, but Brubaker handles everything pretty well without either slowing down the story or confusing the reader. I’m glad I’m not waiting for the trade on this one.

Incredible Hulk #79(written by Peter David, with art by Lee Weeks) explains a little more about the mysterious island, but the explanation for now seems more confusing as to what’s real and what’s not. More compelling is the flashback to Bruce’s college days and his relationship to a “girlfriend.” Not everything is tied together here, and like I said it’s even a little more confusing, but overall it doesn’t seem like a very deep storyline — more a psychological exploration of Bruce’s relationship to the Hulk. The letters page even states that it was originally pitched as an Ultimate Hulk miniseries, so it’s not even necessarily tied into specific Hulk lore. It’s still fun and interesting.

March 15, 2005

Brought To You By The Letter "M": March Madness

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tom Bondurant @ 6:54 pm
Several years ago, an Entertainment Weekly cover screamed out at me, “OSCAR PICKS! How to win your office pool!”

Maybe it’s just my upbringing, but I never heard the copy machines singing for Oscar like they do the second Monday in March, when those insidious bracket forms start sapping worker productivity.

It doesn’t hurt that March is a funny time of year around here. Towards the end of February the weather might get warm enough for short sleeves, and sometimes everything lines up just right for at least one sunny, pleasant weekend afternoon basketball game. Even the bitter taste of defeat goes down a little smoother if you can walk out of Rupp Arena into a nice springlike day.

That didn’t happen this year, and there haven’t been too many warm days lately. Regardless, the end of college basketball season means the end of winter. In a week, after the first two rounds are history, it’ll officially be spring. The last two Final Four spots will be decided in two weeks, on Easter Sunday. By the time the championship game tips off eight days later, the baseball season will be underway. In Lexington thoughts will then turn not only to baseball, but also to thoroughbred racing, as we gear up for Keeneland’s April meet and May’s Kentucky Derby. Spring offers so many opportunities for rebirth, and it also eases the pain of the winter just ended.

You can tell by the flowerdy prose that basketball fandom does strange things to a person, or at least to me. For decades, University of Kentucky mens’ basketball has dominated sports in this state, and it’s been fairly successful. However, success has apparently bred a kind of paranoia, or at least insecurity, that it could all come crashing down at any moment.

It did come crashing down in 1988, when a wayward overnight package popped open and started an NCAA investigation that forced out the coach and athletics director and put the program on two years’ probation. New coach Rick Pitino brought Kentucky back to prominence quicker than anyone expected, most notably with an heroic one-point overtime loss to Duke in the 1992 NCAA East Regional. That game was soon dubbed “the greatest college basketball game ever,” and it was probably the last time Kentucky was considered a serious underdog. Over the next five years, Pitino’s Kentucky teams went to the Final Four three times and the national championship game twice, winning it all in 1996 and losing in overtime in ’97. In 1998, Pitino’s successor Orlando “Tubby” Smith guided the team to another championship, the school’s seventh.

Kentucky hasn’t been back to the Final Four since then. Twice it’s reached the round of eight; twice it’s gone out in the round of sixteen; and twice (including last year) it’s been humbled in the second round. Each time it’s failed to live up to its seeding. This year Kentucky is a No. 2 seed, which means that of the 15 other teams in its region, it should meet the No. 1 seed (Duke) in the round of eight. That’s not impossible, or unreasonable, but the longer Kentucky goes without a Final Four berth, the more grumbling there will be.

By contrast, Kentucky’s first opponent is Eastern Kentucky, located a half-hour south of here in Richmond. Eastern’s coach, Travis Ford, is a former Kentucky player who was part of both that 1992 Duke game and Pitino’s first Final Four team. By winning the Ohio Valley Conference tournament, Eastern earned its first NCAA tournament bid since 1979. (Ironically, in 1979 Kentucky did not go to the NCAA tournament, but made up for it with 23 appearances in the next 25 years.) Thus, Eastern is one of many schools who are just happy to be invited, even with the bittersweet realization that its leviathan neighbor to the north will probably send it home before its bags are unpacked.

Therein lies the tournament’s drama. Of the 65 schools invited, 64 will end their seasons with losses, including at least three of the powerhouse No. 1 seeds. (“Beware the ides of March,” indeed.) In recent years the NCAA instituted a “play-in” game, with the two lowest-seeded teams playing for the privilege of most likely losing to the highest-seeded team. The thought was that the play-in winner would have won at least one NCAA tournament game before being eliminated.

In 1992, even after winning the Southeastern Conference tournament, Kentucky was still largely in happy-to-be-there mode. Beating reigning champion Duke to go to the Final Four would have been virtually a fairy-tale ending for Pitino’s players, all of whom were unheralded and none of whom had been involved in the events which led to NCAA probation. As it is, that team is remembered very fondly for rehabilitating their alma mater.

And yet I still find it hard to deal with each year’s inevitable loss. It’s ultimately easier to take, as it was in 1992, when every win isn’t so much an affirmation of greatness as it is a sweet reprieve from the end of the season. Better to let each win lift your spirits than each loss knock them down. This year — unlike many, many others — no one is picking Kentucky to win it all, and while that’s humbling (or even a little frustrating), it has lowered my expectations. Last year (as the very well-meaning Best Wife Ever pointed out) Kentucky was the No. 1 seed overall and won only one game. That was frustrating to watch.

Of course, some frustrations are greater than others. Many traditional basketball powers, including Michigan, Maryland, and Indiana, didn’t even make this year’s tournament. Because it is not good form to complain in the face of success, I imagine there is not much sympathy for Kentucky fans around the country. That’s fine. No one feels sorry when the Yankees lose except for Yankee fans, but I do like to think I have a good perspective on the whole thing.

If there is one lesson to take away from every college basketball season, it’s that virtually no one ends on a perfect note. That’s what makes the national title so elusive, and the struggle to gain it so all-encompassing. Kentucky has won more regular-season SEC titles and more SEC tournament championships than all the other teams in the conference put together, but somehow that all gets minimized for three weeks in March.

So I’m really going to try, as I do every year, to enjoy each game as it comes. College basketball inspires a lot of strong feelings, whether you think it’s a way of life or a waste of time. It can be a tremendous thrill to watch. The trick seems to be in outweighing the lows with the highs.

Besides, if all else fails, spring will be here soon enough.

An Exercise In Futility, or NCAA Tournament Picks 2005

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tom Bondurant @ 6:44 pm
DISCLAIMER: These picks represent my opinion only and are not to be taken seriously or relied upon in any way by anyone else for any purpose, legitimate or otherwise. They exist solely for your entertainment. All picks subject to change depending on mood.

Now then:

First Round Winners

Chicago bracket: Illinois, Nevada, Alabama, Boston College, UAB, Utah State, Southern Illinois, Oklahoma State

Albuquerque bracket: Washington, Pacific, Georgia Tech, Louisville, Texas Tech, Gonzaga, West Virginia, Wake Forest

Syracuse bracket: North Carolina, Iowa State, Villanova, Florida, Wisconsin, Kansas, North Carolina State, Connecticut

Austin bracket: Duke, Mississippi State, Michigan State, Syracuse, Texas-El Paso, Oklahoma, Cincinnati, Kentucky

Second Round Winners

Chicago: Illinois, Alabama, Utah State, Oklahoma State
Albuquerque: Washington, Georgia Tech, Texas Tech, Wake Forest
Syracuse: North Carolina, Villanova, Kansas, Connecticut
Austin: Duke, Syracuse, Oklahoma, Kentucky

Regional Finals

Chicago bracket: Oklahoma State beats Illinois
Albuquerque bracket: Washington beats Wake Forest
Syracuse bracket: Connecticut beats North Carolina
Austin: Kentucky beats Syracuse*

Final Four

Washington beats Oklahoma State
Connecticut beats Kentucky
Washington beats Connecticut

The End.

* Or not. If UK just makes it to the round of eight, I’ll be happy.


March 12, 2005

Star Trek Goes To Eleven

Filed under: star trek — Tom Bondurant @ 3:27 pm
Erik Jendresen is a screenwriter whose most notable credit may be working on HBO’s “Band of Brothers.” Now, according to SyFy Portal, he’s been tapped to write the eleventh Star Trek film, set after the events of “Enterprise” but well before the birth of James T. Kirk. It will feature an entirely new crew and (again) promises a fresh take on the almost-40-year-old series. Not surprisingly, Jendresen says he’s going back to basics:

“In the original series, there were big ideas, and they were delivered each week with a lot of verve,” Jendresen said. “The crew in particular, lead [sic] by a commanding officer who had a certain sense of timeless style, boldness and vision. He had a pioneering spirit, the spirit of all great explorers, that was captured by the original series.”

After the original series went off the air in the 1960s, Jendresen said a lot of that was lost, with a few exceptions. And now that four decades have passed, he said it’s time to find it again.

“‘Star Trek,’ the original series, borrowed in an often elegant way from classic mythology and great ancient storytelling,” he said. “There’s something kind of epic — almost mythic about the prequel (movie).”

As I’ve noted elsewhere, it’s not so much a question of whether Star Trek would come back, but how and when. While Jendresen seems to be saying the right things, the sentiments aren’t unfamiliar. Every new Trek series promised a new crew going “back to the basics” by ditching accumulated baggage. “The Next Generation” got rid of the original series’ aging cast; “Deep Space Nine” got rid of the starship; “Voyager” got rid of the Federation; and “Enterprise” got rid of two centuries’ worth of technology and politics.

Setting Star Trek XI in a time between Archer and Kirk probably also means a new Enterprise, or at least an upgraded NX-01. While this will give Jendresen and the producers a freer hand, this means yet another setting to compare with the more familiar Kirk and Picard eras. It’s not necessarily a problem for Trekkies, either. Even the more casual fans have certain expectations in mind when they hear “Star Trek,” and they may require more convincing that the new elements can be put on the same plane as the icons.

Were I in charge of the next Star Trek permutation, I would first consider recasting the original series (maybe George Clooney as Kirk, Hugo Weaving as Spock, and Gary Sinise as McCoy). Failing that, I would go back only a few decades before Kirk’s adventures and use the original Enterprise NCC-1701 under the command of either Christopher Pike (from the pilot “The Cage” and the two-parter “The Menagerie”) or Robert April, the man who Trek lore says was the ship’s first captain.

Any of these would take advantage of Trek‘s most recognizable icon, the original Enterprise. That in turn would allow the producers to recreate the first show’s 40-year-old art direction and make it believable to modern audiences. (“Deep Space Nine” revisited this era once, and “Enterprise” will in an upcoming pair of episodes.) Such retro appeal would reinforce Star Trek‘s swashbuckling style, especially in light of today’s more realistic takes such as “Firefly” and the new “Battlestar Galactica.”

(Not that I don’t like “Firefly” or “Galactica” — far from it. “Galactica” has been particularly good the past few weeks, and was very good last night. Still, both it and “Firefly” have markedly different tones from any Star Trek show.)

All things being equal, recasting the original roles might also work best dramatically. The first series distilled its viewpoints into three characters: Spock’s logic, McCoy’s emotions, and Kirk’s harmonization of the two. Later shows used a larger regular cast with characters who arguably became more complex, but perhaps less distinct. You knew what Geordi La Forge’s capabilities were, but was his outlook really so different from those of Will Riker, Harry Kim, or Julian Bashir? Eventually even the Next Generation movies narrowed their gaze to Picard and Data, with maybe a little Riker or Worf thrown in. Such an arrangement not only fits the economy of film, it works better for the kinds of morality plays the series started out telling.

However, Star Trek‘s socially-aware spirit has been hard to sustain. Part of this is Trek‘s entrenchment in a corporate structure which undoubtedly encourages it to play safer. Going along with that has been a shift in focus towards exploring the intricacies of the Trek universe. (“Deep Space Nine” did this best, albeit over multiple seasons; and “Enterprise” was starting to adopt “DS9″‘s approach.) Revisiting Kirk’s crew would help return that focus to Trek‘s humanist message quickly and efficiently. Besides, any new cast will be compared to the five previous ones; so why not go whole hog and compare apples to apples?

Still, there is tremendous resistance to recasting Kirk, Spock, et al., and I don’t expect to see George Clooney in command gold anytime soon. (Clooney might actually make a better Christopher Pike….) On the other hand, I don’t see Star Trek reaching a mass audience again without returning to the original series’ setting.

I always root for Star Trek in whatever form it takes, so I’m eager to see whether this movie can get off the ground. The series’ tradition of progressive optimism is needed today just as much as it was in the ’60s. Here’s hoping that film #11 lives up to its heritage.

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