Tuesday, November 24, 2009

150th Mega Post. Interviews. Reviews....and all that jazz.

First up, it's the Batman: The Brave and the Bold season finale.

Batman: The Brave and The Bold -- "The Fate of Equinox"

"Justice wins the day thanks to the brave and the bold." -- Batman

The season finale opens up with armed guards on the lookout on top of a building. Batman, always on the prowl, knocks one out with his patented one-hitter-quitter and moves on to take down the other guard just as easily. Batman crashes down and is confronted by legendary Bat-villain, Two-Face. Two-Face & Co. surround Batman and he flips his coin on the decision to see if his henchman will kill the Dark Knight. It lands non-scarred face up... and surprisingly, Two-Face turns on the goons! Batman and Two-Face form a temporary alliance and defeat the hired help without breaking a sweat. To Batman's surprise, Harvey Dent then flips the coin again to see whether Two-Face gets Batman this time around. Too bad for Two-Face that Batman rushes and knocks him out.

After the jazzy intro, we see the Batplane flying over a jungle and a ancient temple. Batman climbs the staircase and then suddenly the temple starts crumbling and he's greeted by new Bat-baddie Equinox who invited him. Equinox explains his plan, which basically consists of halving the world in light and dark. A perfect balance, if you will. He is using some sort of a giant gyroscope that has some otherworldly powers to aid him in this goal. Luckily, Batman brought along Dr. Fate along for the ride. Equinox summons winged serpent creatures and Fate battles them with magic while Bats uses Nth metal knuckles to fight. Fate defeats the monsters, and then tries to get the jump on Equinox. Well, it is revealed that Equinox is the master of both Chaos and Order magic.

During his brawl with Batman, Equinox falls into that gyroscope and that triggers the temple to explode. Dr. Fate teleports him and Batman and both think that they got away too easy, as if Equinox wanted this to happen. Both can't agree on how to pursue the situation further, with Fate wanting to use magical techniques and Batman the more scientific approach. Though, when Batman's plane is transformed into a colossal red dragon, the two retreat to Fate's tower. When there, Fate meditates on the matter at hand, but something is terribly wrong. We cut to see Aquaman in his own realm, and Atlantis is under attack from sea monsters. Dr. Fate feels that it's the planet is fighting between order and chaos.

And he's right. The space-time continum has been unbalanced and we now have dinosaurs roaming the earth again. Worse yet, the shifting energies are affecting Fate's powers, making them weaker. He suggests that he and Batman acquire aid from his masters, the Lords of Order. Off they go to consult them and we learn a bit about Equinox's origin and his ultimate goal. The Lords sense Equinox's presence and try to overpower him, but Equinox soon drains the Lords of their power.

Now, Equinox has become, for lack of a better word, a god. Fate goes in with an attack, but Equinox reverses it. Fate realizes Equinox is too powerful for one hero and he summons all the heroes who have made a cameos during the season: The Flash (Jay Garrick), Hal Jordan, Fire, Red Tornado, Plastic Man, Aquaman, Black Canary, etc... and they are there to create a new hero out of all of their powers, with Batman becoming that hero. He is then transformed into a titan himself in spiffy new blue armor, all to clash it out with Equinox like a Godzilla movie. Batman tries using Fate's magic, but Equinox easily blocks it and he teleports both of them to outer space. Batman uses all of the heroes powers from Plastic Man's elasticity to Green Arrow's, well, arrows, to Beetle's cannons, but it seems that Equinox is still a bit too powerful for Batman, even with the combined strength.

Of course Batman being Batman, he convinces Equinox that he is indeed out of balance and therefore, imperfect. Equinox is now distracted, confused, and losing power. Batman swiftly punches him into the dark portal that Equinox was working on earlier and he returns to Earth and restores the powers of his friends. The balance has been restored, and our heroes have saved the day.

Brave and the Bold viewers, what did you think of "The Fate of Equinox"? I have to say that I didn't feel the tension with Equinox, or any real threat on his part since he's only made three appearances (you're more than welcome to correct me if I'm wrong). I didn't feel any connection towards him as a villain. I sort of wish they just went on ahead and used Libra, instead. I think it's interesting how Batman in this series is frequently in the craziest of circumstances, but this one felt a bit too heavy. Don't get me wrong, I love the series as a whole, but just wasn't really relating to anything in this episode. I did think it was pretty cool of Fate to combine the heroes' powers to morph Batman into this titan and duke it out with Equinox. I also think it was weird of Batman to argue with a wielder of Order magic on how to deal with somebody who possess both Chaos and Order magics. Common sense should dictate here, Batman.

Reportedly Season 2 of Batman: The Brave and the Bold will bring in more A-list names, but that's never been the lure of the show. I appreciate how they give coverage to all kinds of DC characters, not just the ones who already have a slew of merchandise. I'll continue watching, I just think they could have done better with this finale. Readers, I have two questions: One, what did you think of the finale; and two, who would you love to see grace this series with their presence?

Next up, is an interview, with Scott Burn, writer of the new Zenescope series, Agon.

Aliens. Gladiator-style competition. Possible genocide.

In January 2010, Zenescope expands their line from fantasy horror to science fiction. One of the first series to premier from their new direction promises action in a series of cinematic alien battles. Screenwriter turned comic scripter Scott Burn gave Newsarama this exclusive interview about his new limited series entitled Agon and what were the inspirations behind his creation.

Newsarama: So, Scott, for those of the readers out there unfamiliar with your works, mind if you tell what you've worked on before?

Scott Burn: I'm primarily an action/science fiction screenwriter. The other projects that I've written include Countdown (which was sold to Summit Entertainment), a story about a group of astronauts who land on a planet and find their own dead bodies. That's in development now and is based on a Richard Matheson short story called Death Ship. Last year I set up a script called Origin (Relativity Entertainment), a different sort of take on black holes and the origin of the species. And the first script I co-wrote called Redline (Bob Yari Productions) was about an FBI agent trying to catch a beautiful thief.

Nrama: What is the story of Agon? Better yet, what is Agon?

Burn: Agon is a Greek word meaning, among other things, "contest". The story is about an alien civilization coming to earth to tell us that we've reached a stage of enlightenment where we're invited to join an advanced alien hierarchy. But to do so, we have to compete against three other alien civilizations in battle. The winner gets to join. The losers have their entire species wiped out.

Nrama: What were the inspirations behind the look and feel of the book?

Burn: I'm a huge fan of the classic sci-fi writers like Robert Heinlein and Ray Bradbury. They have storylines that are epic in scope, but with many characters who are compelling to watch. And while there may be violence in the stories, they also pose really intriguing questions about the nature of humanity, and that drew me to this story. And I've been very fortunate to work with Joe and Ralph who brought in great artists who were able to capture the images I described almost exactly as I had them in my head.

Nrama: I love history, especially the ancient Greek era, did you take a lot from that time period such as architecture or borrow anything from mythology?

Burn: I majored in history in college, and I'm also very drawn to that period. However for the comic book, because the majority of it does not take place on earth, the story doesn't focus on Greek architecture or myth; except to the extent of exploring our original concept of mythology and Gods from the sky type ideas. There are some interesting theories about whether aliens were mistaken for gods in the early stages of mankind, and in that respect, mythology plays a role.

Nrama: Will this be an ongoing or limited series?

Burn: As of now, the plan is for Agon to be a 5 book series (plus the prequel).

Nrama: What are you hoping readers take with them after reading Agon?

Burn: While I hope readers enjoy the action and suspense of the story, I hope it goes a little deeper as well. The goal is to examine the nature of humanity...and whether you have to be human to possess it. Ultimately, I like stories that explore what is the nature of the species and that's what I've tried to do with Agon.

And finally, interview with Joe Brusha about Zenescope's upcoming Neverland.

Alice Liddle. Red Riding Hood. The Little Mermaid. You can now add Peter Pan's name to the list of characters Zenescope adapts into their popular Grimm Fairy Tales line. Zenescope is so excited about the new series, they recently announced a retailer guarantee, meaning retailers can return any unsold, undamaged copies that they order. The series also stands out as a new fantasy series amongst an expanding line of science fiction and more straight horror in 2010 for the publisher.

Newsarama talked exclusively to the writer of Neverland, Joe Brusha and what his take on the classic story entails in this seven issue mini-series.

Newsarama: How long has this been in the works?

Joe Brusha: This was one of the first stories ideas I had for the Grimm universe. I originally wrote it and did the research a few years so I can't be sure that every character from the original made it into this re-imagined version. But I don't think I missed any of the characters. Tiger Lilly, John & Michael, the mermaids and the Croc are all here as well as some new characters.

Nrama: Can you tell us a bit about those new characters?

Brusha: The main new Character is Johnathon Cross who is the hero of the series. He has elements of Hook from the original story, but basically he's a brand new character. As a boy he was abducted by Pan and taken to Neverland becoming the only victim who was ever able to escape. But he left behind his kid brother and the guilt over having to do that has pretty much destroyed his entire life. He gets a shot at redemption when he returns to Neverland to try to save Wendy's nephews John and Michael.

Nrama: Elements of Hook? How so?

Brusha: He has an actual hook and his hand was also bitten off by a crocodile. In the real world he has resorted to a life of crime and become a petty thief which is kind of like being a pirate. And when he's in Neverland he looks like a pirate.

Nrama: Can you tell us if popular Grimm Fairy Tales antagonist Belinda is involved somehow?

Brusha: Neither Belinda or Sela appear in this story. I actually wrote the first draft of Neverland a couple of years ago, before Belinda was even conceived as a character. Neverland is a very similar to Return to Wonderland in structure and while it ties into the Grimm universe it's a self contained story.

Nrama: What were some of the inspirations that went into the character design?

Brusha: Mostly from recent fantasy and horror films. Films like Lord of the Rings, Pan's Labyrinth and Pirates of the Carribean. For Pan I was thinking of a cross between an elf from Middle Earth, like Legolas, and some kind of Vampire. For creatures like the Croc and the Mermaids I wanted them to have a real monster/horror movie feel.

Nrama: Speaking of the art, can you reveal anything with the artist on board for this title?

Brusha: I can't right now. We had an artist assigned to the project but it hasn't been one hundred percent finalized yet. We should make an official announcement in about a week.

Nrama: This seems more like action/adventure than having Zenescope's brand of horror, were you aiming for that?

Brusha: There may be a little more action in this series than in some of our other Grimm Fairy Tales stories but not much. It has a good blend of horror and fantasy and it fits right into the Grimm universe without moving too far into a different genre.

Nrama: Would you consider this a great book to pick up if you aren't familiar with Grimm Fairy Tales and its history?

Brusha: I would but of course I wrote it so I'm partial. I think much like the Wonderland series this is a story that can be enjoyed even if you know absolutely nothing about Grimm Fairy Tales, Wonderland or even if you aren't that familiar with comic books as an entertainment medium. One of our goals as a company is to bring new readers and fans to the comic book industry and we've had a lot of success with that with our Grimm Fairy Tales books. I've had a lot of people tell me that Grimm or Return to Wonderland is the first comic they ever read. One of the good things about re-inventing classic fairy tales is that they are universally recognized which I think helps people to take a chance on them.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Blog@ interview with Adam Hughes via Blog@Newsarama

One year later…

While the Catwoman title may have been cancelled last Fall, Adam Hughes’ covers are hardly forgettable. He continues to exhibit the talent for which he is most known for. Newsarama briefly spoke to Adam Hughes on what it was like, literally, going back to the drawing board.

Blog@: So what was it like drawing Ms. Selina Kyle on her “resurrected” book? Bring back some fond memories?

AH: Yeah, and some regrets. I felt like I was finding my ‘zone’ in that last year on CATWOMAN; I was having ideas that were outside my usual box. Doing this cover reminded me of them. But it’s always great drawing Selina; she’s one of my favorite characters to draw. T’ain’t nothing like a bad girl gone good!

Blog@: How many drafts did you have before this particular one was selected?

AH: Just the one. I have an extremely subtle and streamlined work process with DC Comics Art Director Mark Chiarello, thanks to my years of doing covers for him. He said to me “Dan (DiDio) wants this certain vibe to the piece…” and explained the vibe, and I knew exactly what they wanted. It’s like an old-marriage where you can finish each others’ sentences. And eat their leftovers from the fridge.

Blog@: I guess you can’t give away any specific plot points, but what exactly is going on here on the cover?

AH: That’s OK: I don’t KNOW any specific plot points…! Basically, the feeling that DC wanted was akin to that moment in the 1925 Phantom of the Opera when the girl takes the mask from Lon Chaney’s head, and reveals his gruesome face. I didn’t want to ape that shot exactly, so I switched it so that the girl is in the front. Selina is finding a bloody face and is holding it up in a WTF?!? moment of dawning horror and the owner of the face is grasping at her from the shadows. Spooky stuff! Also, it’s my first zombie I’ve ever gotten to draw. Thanks, DC Comics, whee!!

You can get your paws on Catwoman #83 this January, ‘Rama readers.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Post Game: Batman: The Brave and the Bold -- Inisde the Outsiders

Batman: The Brave and The Bold -- "Inside the Outsiders"

"Yeah! What are Batman's happiest thoughts??" -- Black Lightning

"Inside the Outsiders" opens up with Green Arrow and Batman tied up to be lowered into a pit of wild cats by Catwoman. Now, I have to admit, I love the old-school Catwoman purple dress get-up and was pleased as punch when the creators of the show went with this costume choice. She has robbed a museum, of course to steal some golden cat statue. There is some banter between Batman and Catwoman, though GA thinks Bats and Catwoman are flirting (they might as well be), but Batman was distracting her and he cuts his and Arrow's bonds. The writers really displayed their chemistry well here, invoking the relationship between Batman and Catwoman from the 1960s live-action show. Batman and Catwoman spar for a bit and eventually he manages to tie up Catwoman using her own whip. Catwoman escapes but leaves her number with Batman. Ahh, true love...

After the theme song, we see Batman running and dodging a gauntlet set up inside Psycho Pirate's lair where he has the Outsiders in captivity. Pirate has some sort of device that is feeding off of their emotions, and giving him strength. Cunning and disciplined as always, Batman uses this same device on himself to enter a sort of dreamworld to find the young team and rescue them. First up we see Katana's origin. As a young girl in her native Japan, she had revealed the whereabouts of a prized sword to her master's enemy and is ordered to hide while her master, Takahiro, deals with the foe. She witnesses her sensei's death at the hands of his attacker, and Batman is trying to snap her out of the dream and make her realize this was not her fault. She is seeking revenge in the dream and that is, of course, making Psycho Pirate stronger since her rage is so intense. Batman stops her from killing the foe and they begin fighting each other. It's a brief sparring between the two with Batman coming up on top, and Katana comes to her senses. With that, Batman and Katana are able to move on to the next Outsider in need, Black Lightning. Mindful of Lightning's rough background with an impoverished upbringing, Batman prepares young Katana for a potentially bleak dreamworld, only...

The two enter BL's mind and find that he is outraged by the most mundane everyday things. Sprinkles on coffee, white after Labor Day, dogs using fire hydrants to do their business (apparently that last trauma cost Lightning a choice pair of sneakers), anything earns his electric scorn. Batman tries to calm him down, but nothing is helping. He's even angered by Batman's cape. While saving a bystander, Katana runs into Pirate and lowers her weapon. To further enrage Lightning, Pirate brings to life an annoying TV kid's show character to life to attack the heroes, a sort of Barney the Dinosaur creation in the form of unicorn. Batman convinces his teenaged charge (no pun intended) to refocus his rage and he conforms to Batman's lesson on calmness. Batman and the Outsiders succeeding now two out of three, Metamorpho is next and he doesn't look happy.

The dreamworld city they enter is destroyed and Metamorpho, taking various elemental shapes is continuously wrecking havoc. He becomes Godzilla-sized and his teammates are trying to figure out why. Turns out Psycho Pirate is taunting him and spreading lies in his ears about how Black Lightning and Katana call him names. Is this elementary school?? They try to subdue him and reason with him, reminding him that he isn't an outcast. BL is the first to talk, but Pirate keeps at it and Metamorpho becomes even bigger and continues to attack his friends while Batman goes after Pirate. When Pirate thinks he can drain Batman, he punches him trying to take him down. Katana actually speaks up and she talks to Morpho about why they formed the Outsiders and that he is not alone. Finally convinced by his friends, Metamorpho eventually withdraws and they share a hug. Back at Psycho Pirate's laboratory, Batman escapes from his "dream pod." He sees Pirate doing the same and flips a switch that appears to have killed them. Turns out they weren't in the real lab at all! Pirate was in Batman's mind all along! In order to physically take down the Pirate once and for all, Batman uncharacteristically channels his outwardly happy thoughts, issuing a series of blows that eventually defeats him. Refreshed since they're now out of their respective dream states, Black Lightning and the rest are ready to go at Psycho Pirate some more. But seeing that Batman is ready to take the high road with their defeated foe, the Outsiders wisely relent and decide that it's best to let the police deal with him.

Interview with Jerry Brown, writer of "Merc: Broken World"

Zenescope Studios are mainly known for the horror stories and retelling of fairy tales. They're taking a different approach this time around with Merc: Broken World, a noir story with a sci-fi edge. Newsara recently had a chance to talk with the writer of the series, Jerry Brown, though managing and scheduling was interesting because Brown resides in city of Adelaide which is in the South Australia time zone. He gives us a peek inside the details and imagery of this out-of-this-world realm.

Newsarama: So, Jerry, what is “Merc” about?

Jerry Brown: On the surface, Merc is a pretty straight cyberpunk story. Noir characters, Fortune 500 industrial warfare, technology gangs, NRA approved cybernetics—all the elements people have been tooling with for years. My goal was to pull it all together in a fresh way.

The main character is Sonny Grissom. Sonny is a merc, which is a cybernetically enhanced, industrial saboteur. Basically, he's a walking death machine, who gets paid to blow-up cola botteling plants, cap crooked CFOs and steal patent applications.
Mercs make a ton of money, live like kings, party like rock stars and every one of them dies in less than 10 years from all the neural stimulants and immune suppressors they need to perform their jobs. And those last few years of life are an utter nightmare. Failing kidneys, crippling arthritis. They live in constant pain, except for the few brief minutes when they get to fire-up the drugs and storm around like living gods—then it's back to being an invalid.

That's where Sonny is. He's one of the most succesful mercs out there, but his body has been completely demolished from all the punishment. He has six months to live, and he knows that he's wasted his life.

He takes a contract to perform a pretty high-risk task, only it turns out to be much-much more than that. That's all I really want to say about the plot. The story evolves and has a few twists and I'd like to leave them for the readers to find out.

NRAMA: What were some of your influences on the imagery and the design of the characters?

JB: Merc is a study of self-mutilation. I am facinated by the human obsession with distorting our bodies.

Piercings, tattoos, steroids. It's one thing to dye your hair. It's another to push a plug of stainless steel through your face. And when it's taken to its extreme it's really interesting, because extremes are always interesting. The first time I saw someone with a phone looped out of their ear I thought, wow, we're really starting to Borg. It's actually going to happen.
Ray Kurzweil posed a facinating question about when augmentation crosses the line.

How many circuits can you add to a human brain before that brain is no longer human?

The characters of Merc reflect this question. Every character is a freakshow, either by choice or by circumstance. Some have lost their humanity, others hold on to it more dearly for having been denied normality by fate.

NRAMA: Why did you choose to set your story in a cyberpunk realm?

JB: The core machinery of the plot could certainly have been used in different settings, but the avenues

I wanted to explore with Sonny's character could only be realized in a cyberpunk world. To be honest, I haven't been the biggest fan of cyberpunk. I think the punk aspect of the genre drives writers to write about minor players doing peon jobs, who get caught up in big things. It's a perfectly valid way to go, but my eye was always drawn to the flashy stuff—the bodyguards and hit men, who've turned themselves into freaks so they can do their jobs.

The complexities arise when you meet these characters at the end of their cycles. Now they're paying the price for all that power. You see this in ex-pro football players, who look back and say, “I can't believe what I did to myself back then.” I find it very compelling, and I wanted to write a character who's experienced a level of human performance far beyond what I could ever know, and is now paying the price. Cyberpunk was the best way to do it.

NRAMA: Who is the artist you're collaborating with?

JB: The artist is Daniel Schneider, and his work was built on concept art by Claudio Sepulveda.

Dan has done a great job, working on a very tight schedule. Because the characters are so physically mangled, there's a lot of room for interpretation. In a few cases I was quite specific about what was needed, but for the most part I've left it for Dan to decide how to achieve the desired effects. It's worked out great. The only change I've requested was on a panel he executed precisely the way I'd described it—which revealed a flaw in my approach and better way to do it.

NRAMA: Now this isn't your first gig in comics is it? For those of you unfamiliar with your work, tell us a bit about yourself.

JB: I actually come from the film world. I did a draft of Lobo for Warner Brothers (the draft prior to Don Payne's draft), worked on Romeo Must Die, worked with Alex Proyas and did bunch of other stuff that's stuck in development purgatory (which is a tad better than development hell).

A few years back I did a monstrously ambitious series of books for Humanoids Publishing,

called METAL. Two of the books were completed (108 pages), but the artist (Butch Guice) has

never done the art for the third book. Consequently, only two books were published and they were in in French (so, I can't even read them). Humanoids really wants to do a US release, but can't without the third book. It was an incredibly frustrating experience and turned me off doing comics for years. This is the first time I've come back to them since then.

NRAMA: Who are some of your influences as a writer?

JB: I'm real old school. Harlan Ellison would be my number #1 influence. After that, Robert Bloch, A.E. Van Vogt, Clark, [Isaac] Asimov, Bester, Farmer, Lovecraft. Frank Miller changed my sense of what was possible with Hard Boiled and Sin City, but I don't have a solid comic background.
In film, James Cameron is one hell of a writer. Critics take pot shots at his dialogue, but I couldn't disagree more. When you're writing sci-fi movie dialogue, you're always just two seconds away from utter idiocy. It takes incredible vigillance to keep your characters from sounding like Ed Wood creations.

Lately, I find games are really coming up fast as a true art form. I'm playing Fallout 3 now and I find the level of immersion—the level to which I care about what's going on—is approaching what a good book can do. It used to be games were just fear, but they're going after the bigger stuff now; hope, regret, situations with unintended consequences. Gears of War had some real characters too.

It's interesting that at a time when so much of the world is being reduced to porn—to the most stripped down components of ideas—that games are raising their standards and striving to tell more complex stories. I heard one game designer say that they feel a real pressure to try to hit it out of the park every time. I think that's exactly how it should be. It's what I strive for. Hopefully, Merc will deliver that.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Shining Force: A week later...

I have to admit, I've been shirking playing my SF. I'm in Chapter 3, in the Laser Eye battle right now. I just promoted a slew of people including Zylo and Gong (who I never used as a kid). I was thinking of using Amon and Balbaroy, but they are too difficult to level up right now. I forgot how slow they are when you first get them. My team consists of Tao, Mae, Arthur, Gong, Zylo, Hans, Diane, Khris, Anri, Gort, Luke, and of course the main character. Now I know it seems funny to have Khris, but she's a really good healer and Lowe doesn't know Aura, plus Gong can also fight back. I will eventually replace Diane later and keep Hans. Range is the key for the later battles.

I like having at least two warriors/tanks/whatever you call a strong person now in your team and Gort really fills out nicely. His defense is super from the start and only gets better when you get him promoted. The toughest battle so far is anything dealing with the undead because they have such HIGH defense. I'm so use to playing other tactics games for years now, I haven't gotten use to using items like herbs and such. Though I have two healers and they seem to get the job done. I just need to make sure Khris actually gets XP during fights instead of getting one-hitter-quitters from damn pegasus knights.

Oh the pains of being a deer...girl...thing.