I've never been there, but it's always sad to see a bookstore close, especially one that caters to my particular tastes. Head on over to Jen's Book Thoughts to watch a really nice tribute. If you happen to live in the Los Angeles area, there will be a farewell party tonight at 6pm.
This February I'm going to revisit what I did last year, meaning...
All Blaxsploitation, All The Time!!!
I've got a ton of films lined up, but when it comes to other media I'm at a bit of a loss. For comic books I'm going to go with old Power Man (Luke Cage) issues and the brilliant Afrodisiac, but for actual novels I'm coming up blank. I read King Suckerman by George Pelecanos last year (review here), so I'm hoping somebody out there can point me towards something, anything, similar and equally enjoyable. I'd also welcome suggestions to essays or critical responses to the genre.
"The world of the comic book is the world of the strong, the ruthless, the bluffer, the shred deceiver, the torturer and the thief."
-Fredrick Wertham in Seduction of the Innocent
This past week both DC Comics and Archie Comics, the last two holdouts of a bygone era, have decided to rid themselves of the creativity cancer that was the comics code and it's authoritative stamp of approval. Unless you're an avid comics reader like myself, you might not have even known there was a code, but odds are you've seen it's stamp.
For years, the stamp has meant nothing to the average reader. It was found on some corner of the book, and unless you knew what it meant, you most likely ignored it. But ten years ago, Marvel comics, home of such family favorites as Spider-man, Captain America, and the Hulk, decided the code was completely unnecessary since they were about to implement their own ratings system. Certainly ratings such as All Ages, Teen +, and Max:Explicit Content (plus a few others) was more explanatory than a shadowy authority who would reject any reference to zombies, vampires and the always frightening "sexual perversion" out of hand.
But back in the day, this regime, along with Wertham, was responsible for ending comics such as The Vault of Horror, Tales From the Crypt, and Crime SuspenStories, and it basically put publisher EC Comics out of business. Underneath the new regime, superhero comics were mostly all that were left, and those were severely neutered. Don't believe me, read some of that Silver Age silliness. Even writer Marv Wolfman had a story initially rejected because of his name. Here are the initial 1954 rules that companies were forced to follow.
Crimes shall never be presented in such a way as to create sympathy for the criminal, to promote distrust of the forces of law and justice, or to inspire others with a desire to imitate criminals.
If crime is depicted it shall be as a sordid and unpleasant activity.
Criminals shall not be presented so as to be rendered glamorous or to occupy a position which creates a desire for emulation.
In every instance good shall triumph over evil and the criminal punished for his misdeeds.
Scenes of excessive violence shall be prohibited. Scenes of brutal torture, excessive and unnecessary knife and gunplay, physical agony, gory and gruesome crime shall be eliminated.
No comic magazine shall use the word horror or terror in its title.
All scenes of horror, excessive bloodshed, gory or gruesome crimes, depravity, lust, sadism, masochism shall not be permitted.
All lurid, unsavory, gruesome illustrations shall be eliminated.
Inclusion of stories dealing with evil shall be used or shall be published only where the intent is to illustrate a moral issue and in no case shall evil be presented alluringly, nor so as to injure the sensibilities of the reader.
Scenes dealing with, or instruments associated with walking dead, torture, vampires and vampirism, ghouls, cannibalism, and werewolfism are prohibited.
Profanity, obscenity, smut, vulgarity, or words or symbols which have acquired undesirable meanings are forbidden.
Nudity in any form is prohibited, as is indecent or undue exposure.
Suggestive and salacious illustration or suggestive posture is unacceptable.
Females shall be drawn realistically without exaggeration of any physical qualities.
Illicit sex relations are neither to be hinted at nor portrayed. Violent love scenes as well as sexual abnormalities are unacceptable.
Seduction and rape shall never be shown or suggested.
Sex perversion or any inference to same is strictly forbidden.
Nudity with meretricious purpose and salacious postures shall not be permitted in the advertising of any product; clothed figures shall never be presented in such a way as to be offensive or contrary to good taste or morals.
As you can see, with rules like these in place, crime and horror comics were not going to continue.
The code has been updated many times, each time becoming a bit more lenient. By the 80's, violence was becoming more graphic and acceptable, so the code started to wither and die. This year was the final nail in the coffin, and oddly enough it was hammered down by Bongo (Simpsons comics) and Archie, the two super-family friendly comic companies.
The damage the code did cannot be undone, but each year a few more crime comics slip into the system. I hope Fredrick Wertham is rolling over somewhere.
Warner Bros. Pictures announced today that Anne Hathaway has been cast as Selina Kyle in Christopher Nolan?sThe Dark Knight Rises. She will be starring alongside Christian Bale, who returns in the title role of Bruce Wayne/Batman. Christopher Nolan stated, "I am thrilled to have the opportunity to work with Anne Hathaway, who will be a fantastic addition to our ensemble as we complete our story." In addition, Tom Hardy has been set to play Bane. Nolan said, ?I am delighted to be working with Tom again and excited to watch him bring to life our new interpretation of one of Batman?s most formidable enemies. Nolan will direct the film from a screenplay he wrote with Jonathan Nolan, from a story by Christopher Nolan and David S. Goyer. Nolan will also produce the film with his longtime producing partner, Emma Thomas, and Charles Roven. The Dark Knight Risesis slated for release on July 20, 2012. The film will be distributed worldwide by Warner Bros. Pictures, a Warner Bros. Entertainment Company.
This news broke a few days ago, and within moments of it's release, the comic community went insane. There were plenty of rumblings and mumblings on message boards, ranging from "who the hell is Tom Hardy?" to "Picard's clone" to "not FREAKING Bane!!!!"
Even if you are not one who frequents these boards, it still won't come as a surprise that people on the internet tend to overreact and pass judgement, often in a negative light. I know, I know, shocking. But I'm here to tell you that this is good news.
Tom Hardy will be an amazing addition to the Batman franchise, regardless of which character he would have played. (Personally, I was hoping for Dr. Hugo Strange.) For the uninitiated, Bane is the character that broke Batman's back in the 90's. Along with Superman's death, it was pretty big news. Sadly, most of the general public is only aware of the character's appearance in Batman & Robin, where his only job was to be hulking and predict the movie's performance. (All he says is Bomb.)
In the comics, it's an all together different story. Bane grew up in a prison for the crimes his father had committed. In that time he became well read and physically strong, both traits that served him well. However, he also became dependant on a strength enhancing drug called "venom." Upon his escape from prison, he decides that he needs to destroy Batman. He hatches an immaculate plan, which starts with an Arkham jailbreak, to run Batman through a gauntlet of his foes, which eventually leaves Batman tired and weak enough for Bane to "break." He was also smart enough to decipher Batman's true identity as Bruce Wayne.
Personally, I am salivating at the thought of Tom Hardy in this role. He's shown he can play the physical tough thanks to his amazing performance in Bronson, and he certainly proved in Inception that he can be clever.
The Dark Knight certainly set the bar high, but I've got even more hopes for this one. Lets just hope they leave the Luchador mask off.
And does anyone need convincing that Anne Hathaway will make one hell of a Catwoman? I didn't think so.
The complete listing is up, and can be found here.
Some highlights include:
-Duane Swierczynski's fantastic novel Expiration Date is up for Best Paperback Original. I have not read any of the others, but I'll be keeping my fingers crossed for Duane. He's a real talent and a hell of a nice guy.
-Tara French is up for another award for her newest, Faithful Place. I haven't had a chance to read it yet, but if it's half as good as her others, it will be deserving of the win. She's up against some heavyweights though.
-The Wire: Truth Be Told by Rafael Alvarez is nominated for Best Critical Biography. I mentioned back in December that it's rare for tie-in books to be worth your time. This proves to be the exception. Anything concerning The Wire will get a read from me.
-The TV Episode catagory is dominated by two shows, with two nominations each going to Luther and Breaking Bad. (Damages got the lone remaining nod.) Breaking Bad is always good, and hopefully the newest season will be on DVD soon. As for Luther, it's one of the few television seasons I've bought blindly, and I did so because of it's star, Idris Elba. The man is a tour-de-force talent, and the show wisely showcases it. Fantastic show that, sadly, most people on this side of the pond don't know about it.
The Edgars will be awarded on April 28th. Place your bets now, as I'd love to hear some opinions and guesses.
Last year the Seattle International Film Festival screened a mystery short film written and directed by Ed Brubaker (Criminal, Gotham Central, Captain America) and starring Wil Wheaton called In The Dark. Here are two trailers, neither of which gives away any information about the film. Doesn't matter. I want to see it.
At Christmastime, I picked up the Complete Deadwood. I'm a bit embarrassed to say I hadn't watched it, other than a stray episode here and there, until this point. But since the New Year, I've been watching it as often as possible, and today finished up with the second season. At first, it was just a great western show, but three or four episodes into Season Two it all became clear to me.
Deadwood is modern day Shakespeare.
The language became more poetic (even with the amazing amount of swearing), the monologues more frequent, and the plans of the wicked and just more labyrinth-like. With each passing episode, I yearn more and more to see Ian McShane run wild with his speeches.
Of course, I'm not the only one who has come to the Milch/Shakespeare comparison. The internet is loaded with essays concerning the topic, many of which I plan to read. But I'm addicted to quizzes, so I couldn't pass this up.
Don't bother filling out any of the dating BS if you don't want to, just click for your results. I'm pretty happy with my 83% especially considering I haven't watched Season 3 yet. I'd love to hear how others scored.
I happened to pick this up before Christmas at DeepDiscount.com for the seriously low sum of $12.99. I haven't had time to throw a single disc in, and honestly, I'm in the middle of watching, or about to watch, four other shows. If I had to pick something in this set to watch, what should it be? Keep in mind, I have the complete first seasons of The Commish, Wiseguy, Hunter and 21 Jump Street. I'm thinking more along the lines of the following never released shows.
I've never been the biggest fan of Wolverine, the Marvel Universe's resident badass. He's certainly got some qualities that other superheroes do not possess. Besides his handy adamantium claws and healing factor, he also loves to drink, smoke, and have sex with any woman who will have him. He doesn't have a problem with killing, and will take on the jobs that others with more puritanical views of heroism won't touch. As far as anti-heroes go, he's pretty good.
But he's also over-exposed. He appears in X-Men books, Avenger books, and his own titles. When that happens, he gets a little watered down, and even a little bit of him can be too much. He's pretty one note when not written well, and that happens far too often for me to even bother picking up his books.
Right now, only one writer really seems to write him well, and that's Jason Aaron of Scalped fame.
But I'm not here to talk about that book today.
Last month, another new Wolverine title hit the shelves, Wolverine: The Best There Is. Normally I wouldn't even give this book a second glance, but it happens to be written by a favorite author of mine, Charlie Huston. Charlie has written the Joe Pitt Casebooks as well as numerous other books, including The Mystic Arts of Erasing All Signs of Death, which is being adapted by HBO. The guy can flat out write. Even his first uneven venture into comic books, Moon Knight, had certain qualities that I enjoyed. It wasn't great, but showed some promise.
Sadly, I cannot say the same for Wolverine: The Best There Is. It is flat out terrible. Sure it's dark and violent, but not for any particular reason. The story certainly doesn't hook me in, as I'm not interested in a drugged out Wolverine at a rave type thing. Dialogue is awkward and often unnecessary. It might just be the worst comic I've read all year. Were this from a rookie creator working on an non-established character, I'd be a little easier on it. For this book from these creators and company, especially a #1 issue, there is just no excuse. As the cover says, this book certainly isn't for kids. But it's not for adults either.
A few years ago I would frequent the neighborhood Blockbuster video quite often. They had a decent amount of New Releases, a fairly good back catalog, a monthly rental program, and most importantly, a mass amount of used DVD's. I would show up every Tuesday to pick up the newest releases, browse the used section, and more often come home with a few extra titles to add to my burdened media shelf. At the time, 3 for $20 was hard to resist.
As the time went by, the unlimited rental program became more expensive, and oddly enough, more limited. I axed the Blockbuster.com account as soon as the store exchange problem became a headache instead of a benefit, and before I knew it, I stopped going to Blockbuster all together. A locally owned chain, something we should all champion, started renting New Releases at a $1 to compete with Redbox, and to their credit only recently upped their fees to $1.50. (They actually apologized to me when the fee went up. Picture BB doing that.) And now I only buy used copies of DVD's rarely, thanks to my new obsession with Blu-ray, and those are purchased at another locally owned store (Bull Moose) whenever possible.
So when I heard that Blockbuster was in financial trouble, I was hardly surprised. Out of curiosity I wandered back in after a year long absence. The shelves were still stocked with 100 copies of the latest "big" movie, but I didn't exactly wander the aisles. I was there for one reason, the used Blu-rays.
To my surprise they were reasonably priced, with a decent enough stock. Will it save the company? Hardly. But it might just give me reason to go back. My big purchase? Blu-ray copies of The Curious Case of Benjamin Button and Zodiac.
I happen to be watching Zodiac, for the first time in at least a year, as I watch this. It's a phenomenal looking film, and the BR presentation captures Fincher's look perfectly. Besides being a dynamite movie, the discs are also packed with the all important commentaries and bonus features.
One day I'll be sure to talk about Fincher, and how he is an absolutely amazing crime director, but for now I'm just going to keep watching.
Sadly, Peter Yates passed away yesterday at the age of 81. He's a director most people won't recognize, but odds are, have seen at least one film of his. His career was quite varied, first finding a foothold in television with shows such as the excellent Secret Agent and The Saint. Films such as Robbery and Bullitt soon followed. Although I didn't see the film until recently, I must say that The Friends of Eddie Coyle is an absolute masterpiece. Besides excellent crime films, he also directed comedies like Mother, Juggs & Speed, family oriented flicks like Breaking Away, and one of my all time favorites, Krull. His directing career ended in the mid 2000's with television adaptations of Don Quixote and A Separate Piece.
When in actuality he does indeed text. Just once. It's a hell of a text though.
But Machete does so much more.
The "mexploitation" flick, brought to us by the insanely creative mind of Robert Rodriguez, along with co-director Ethan Maniquis and co-writer Alvaro Rodriguez, is hopefully the first in a long line of Machete movies. I haven't had this much fun watching a movie since Black Dynamite.
What can you look forward to if you throw this movie into your Blu-ray player?
-Rappelling with human intestines
-Cheech Marin as a shotgun toting priest
-Steven Seagal, with a terrible accent, in a movie that didn't actually go direct to video
- Lindsay Lohan as a drug addled irresponsible girl who likes to get naked.
-Jessica Alba playing twins (if you watch the deleted scenes)
-a cat used as a silencer (again, deleted scene)
-death by low rider. And finally a reason as to why you should make your car bounce
-a performance by Michelle Rodriguez that does not annoy the hell out of me.
-a sketch artist
-a Luchador assassin
-a convincing argument against anti-immigration laws
-an interesting new place to store your cell phone
-the best damn performance of Danny Trejo's life.
The only reason for not watching Machete is if you take heart medicine, have a fainting condition, or a weak stomach. Seriously, there is a lot of blood.
Just came upon this trailer on IMDB.com and it looks all kinds of awesome. Something about young girl assassins, from Natalie Portman's Mathilda to Chloe Moretz's Hit Girl, strikes me as particularly entertaining.
I would not expect a film like this from Joe Wright, the director of Pride & Prejudice and Atonement, and perhaps that piques my interests even more. The underrated Eric Bana, the always amazing Cate Blanchett, and talented newcomer Saorise Ronan certainly doesn't hurt the films chances at being something good.
I'm hip dip in Deadwood right now, so this is the time to suggest westerns to me. Thankfully, David Cranmer of Beat to a Pulp and Education of a Pulp Writer has a new Cash Laramie story over at the Tainted Archive. Go and take a peak. You won't be disappointed.
I've heard the question asked a million times to authors of every possible genre,
"Where do you get your ideas?"
It's a question I get sick of reading, so I can only imagine the nausea it causes the oft-asked authors. If I have the opportunity to ask a question of my favorite writers, you can bet your paycheck that question won't be one of them. Everyone's answer is going to be different. If Writer A happens to find inspiration in a bowl of Lime Green Jell-O, are you going to hustle to your local mart to stock up on the wobbily treat?
In other words, I don't care where you or anyone else finds your muse. I only worry about where mine happens to be hiding.
90% of the time, she's hidden in music.
I constantly need noise in my life, as I don't put any faith in quiet solitude. If a movie isn't on for background noise, it's a sure bet that my iTunes is plugging along on shuffle. And surprisingly enough, certain songs/artists will crack open that rusty door in my brain and allow an idea to make a run for it. But please don't misinterpret this. I am not simply putting song lyrics into a story. No matter how much I love Springsteen's Thunder Road, I have no interest in adapting it into a novel. But how can you not get ten different ideas from the line-
"There were ghosts in the eyes of all the boys you sent away
They haunt this dusty beach road in the skeleton frames of burned-out Chevrolets"
Last week a song happened to spring an imprisoned idea in my head, and that inmate has been running wild for days, rattling the bars, shanking every other idea in the kidneys, and threatening to start a riot. I've been looking for a new project to work on, and it seems this will be it. More information will be forthcoming, but for the meantime, enjoy the trigger for my inspiration.
Truly a sad sad occasion. While not necessarily know by name to many of the movie going public, he was always recognizable, and more importantly memorable. I first happened to notice him in The Usual Suspects, as the lawyer Kobayashi, but he made his imprint in films such as:
In the Name of the Father (Oscar nominated)
Last of the Mohicans
The Lost World
The Constant Gardner
and in just this past year alone
Clash of the Titans
and The Town.
His final film, Killing Bono, is scheduled to be released in April. I'm off to go watch The Usual Suspects.
Now that Shawn Ryan's other new show, Terriers, is officially off the air, it seems that The Chicago Code could not come at a better time. I've been waiting for this for the better part of a year, despite knowing absolutely nothing about it other than it deals with crime and corruption in Chicago.
But now promos are starting to appear, and I'm excited as hell for one reason...
The city of Chicago is a paradox that serves as the setting for Shawn Ryan's new drama, THE CHICAGO CODE. In this series, the audience is the passenger, taking an unpredictable ride through the streets of Chicago and navigating crime and corruption with the most respected - and notorious - cops in the city.
JAREK WYSOCKI (Jason Clarke) is a local legend and larger-than-life veteran of the Chicago Police Department. Like the city of Chicago, Jarek is razor blades and brass knuckles wrapped in politeness and egoless charm - a man who throws away partners the way others throw away tissues. TERESA COLVIN (Jennifer Beals) arrived at the pinnacle of the Chicago Police Department in a short period of time. She's determined to implement changes before the mud that is Chicago politics clogs her office. As a result of Teresa's difficult choices, she has made some powerful enemies along the way, including two street gangs, the police officers' union and a city alderman who proves to be a dangerous adversary.
Jarek's new partner, CALEB EVERS (Matt Lauria), is a smart young detective who desperately wants to prove himself. He is savvier and more observant than most people give him credit for, and just might make the perfect yin to Jarek's yang. Also in Jarek's charge is his niece, VONDA WYSOCKI (Devin Kelley), a rookie beat cop whose father, Jarek's brother, was killed in the line of duty when she was young. Jarek keeps close tabs on her and is less than thrilled to discover she's falling for her partner, ISAAC JOINER (Todd Williams), a charismatic cop who takes unnecessary risks on the job that land him and Vonda in some dangerous situations.
ALDERMAN RONIN GIBBONS (Delroy Lindo) is a building-magnate-turned-politician who has ruled his ward with a velvet glove for three decades. Jarek and Teresa are convinced Gibbons and his cohorts - including LIAM HENNESSEY (Billy Lush), an Irish tough guy in Gibbons' construction empire - are dirty to the core, but they've never had the evidence to prove it. When a murder investigation leads them to Gibbons, they are determined to bring him to justice and clean up Chicago - if that's even possible.
THE CHICAGO CODE is a production of 20th Century Fox Television and MiddKid Productions. The series is written by Shawn Ryan, and is executive-produced by Ryan, Tim Minear and Charles McDougall. McDougall directed the pilot episode.
The Chicago Code premiers February 7th at 9pm Eastern.
I believe in their existence, but they might as well be dragons or the Easter Bunny. They are simple to make, hard to see through to the finish, but at the start of the New Year people make them just the same. These people are masochists, doomed to spend time and money only to fail. I'm sure resolutions were created only to be exploited.
Case in point. Look at any sales flyers from your weekend paper. Places such as Target, Walmart, and other retail outlets all lead with exercise equipment because they know most people always resolve to get healthier in the next 365. How many of these exercise bikes and weight benches will soon become $400 clothes racks before bikini season?
This is why I don't make them.
Don't get me wrong, this blog itself started last January 1st because I had a goal I wanted to achieve. And I met most of those initial goals. Posted every day for a consecutive year. Check. Watched every episode of Homicide. Check. Played Grand Theft Auto IV to completion. Check again. The only goal I failed on was reading every book published by Hard Case Crime. It wasn't a lack of quality that kept me from this goal, only far too many other wonderful books. At last count, I read over 70 books last year, so I'll still consider that a win.
So what are my goals, not resolutions, for this year? Rather unsurprisingly, I'm going to continue with this blog. It won't be daily like last year, but at least weekly. I'll have the opportunity to write about whatever I want, whenever I want, for as long as I want, without the confines of the daily deadline. Freeing me up from this deadline will allow me to create some more for myself.
I'm going to rededicate myself to prose writing this year, beginning with finishing that long gestating novel and at least a short story a month. I've been amazed at all the creative outlets I've discovered on the web, and I want to play in their sandboxes. I'll still work on the occasional comic (shameless plug for Warrior 27 here) but it's time to exercise some other writing muscles.
At least once a day. But it's not a resolution.
Currently Reading: The Terror of Living by Urban Waite (so very very good)
Currently Watching: Deadwood : The Complete Series on glorious Blu-ray
Currently Listening To: The Promise by Bruce Springsteen
I'm only adding this because I've been asked a few times, but yeah, I always accept review/preview copies. Who turns down free stuff? Email me at email@example.com for my mailing address. And thanks.
Dan Fleming is the writer/co-creator of Warrior Twenty-Seven, the independant comics anthology. He's been known to bury his nose in books since the earliest of ages, and has been busy writing a crime novel for a few moons. His comic work can be viewed at www.warrior27.thecomicseries.com. He is also one half of the podcasting duo, The Potato League Podcast, which can be found on Podbean. He can be contacted at either firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com