Transformers Prime: One of My New Favorite Shows

Optimus PrimeI haven’t really been able to get into a Transformers cartoon for a while. Not since the original Generation 1 series when I was a kid (which I still enjoy). Either the extreme departure from what I was used to or the animation styles kept me away from any of the iterations that have been put out over the years.

Michael Bay’s movies were fun, but still not the Transformers I was used to and grew up loving. In a lot of ways Bay’s Transformer movies insulted my fond memories of the characters more than anything.

Then iTunes had the first episode of Transformers Prime available for free so I gave it a try. At first it didn’t click with me though I had to admit it was the best I had seen in years. Then sometime later I gave it another shot. I was hooked!

The characters are fresh and seem to blend the Bay-verse robot style with the G1 character design, so although they are fresh takes on the characters, I can identify the main players instantly.

Ratchet and JackPeter Cullen and Frank Welker are back as Optimus Prime and Megatron respectively and I immediately felt at home with these characters again. Others like Ratchet, who I never really cared much about before, quickly grew to be one of my favorite Transformers characters ever. I sense bits of Dr. Leonard McCoy in Jeffrey Combs’ performance and his classic deadpan superiority complex that he displayed in characters like The Question are there to mix for laughs and really take a previous background character to a whole new level.

Characters like Wheeljack and Cliffjumper (I was really disappointed I didn’t get to see more of him) have been updated and frankly, although they are strict departures from their G1 counterparts, I think these new interpretations of them fit perfectly with the feel of the show. Soundwave’s new characterization took some time to grow on me but now he reigns as my favorite Decepticon without ever saying a word!

Even with al of these things in the plus column, what had me worried was the inclusion of the humans Jack, Miko and Raph. Again we have a strange mount of dependence on human kids in a war of technologically advanced robots. But soon the characters grew on me and their interactions (especially with Ratchet) helped to bring out the real emotion in the show and in their robot friends.

Megatron vs. PrimeAll in all I can say that Transformers Prime blends the best aspects of G1 with the re-imagined looks of Bay’s films. However Transformers Prime succeeds where Bay’s movies fail. Watch the season one episode “One Shall Fall” and tell me that this show does not do a better job of making you care for the characters in 20 minutes than Michael Bay did in three ridiculously long movies.

The character updates are welcome, since lets face it, some of the G1 Transformers were a bit ridiculous in both size and scale, and the emotion is there. I haven’t felt actual concern of a character in a Transformers cartoon since I sat there in a movie theater in 1986 and cried my eyes out when Optimus Prime died. Download this show (legally if possible) and give it a try. You won’t be sorry!

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Digital Comics: Where they Succeed and Where they Fail

Personally I think digital comics are the way of the future. I can get books, music, movies, TV shows and pretty much any other type of media without leaving my couch so why not comics too? Don’t get me wrong I love going down to my favorite comics shop (Midtown Comics Times Square) and looking through all of the books, checking out the new toys and listening to (and occasionally joining in) the nerd talk going on.

Digital comics are coming. Well they are already here, but they haven’t quite reached the stage where they can really be a true threat. The ones that exist are presented beautifully in their respective apps and do have a lot going for therm, but still leave a lot to be desired.

Where they Succeed

Availability: Digital comics will never sell out. You will never go to the shop and look for the one missing issue you need to finish reading your story and have it be missing from the bins. There is no more fighting the crowds on a busy Wednesday trying to find your pull list. Digital comics are just there and accessible from anyplace you have an internet connection.

But fans will buy their comics no matter what the format. As any comic fan knows, the only way to perpetuate the medium is to grow, not only from its current audience buying more books, but by bringing in new readers. There are very few, if any, spinner racks in grocery stores anymore. Most of the comic sections in books stores I have been to are messes of disorganized, sometimes months old books. Digital allows new readers to download a free app and casually browse for comics featuring the character they just saw on the big screen, or in their favorite cartoon. The books have synopses and even samples so you know where you are in the story. The price point can be unbelievable if you are lucky enough to catch a good sale. Just like digital has brought music exploration and discovery to the next level I think it can and will do the same for comics.

And have you ever read a book and wanted to go back and read the back story, or first appearance of the main character. Now you don’t have to go out and worry about tracking down the back issue, trade or reprint in order to enjoy it. Just open up your comics app and download it and enjoy! This bring a whole new level to how fans both new and old are able to enjoy and dive into the rich history and mythology comics companies have created.

Portability/Storage: No more lugging around trades or worrying about individual issues being shredded beyond recognition in your bag. No more figuring out where the hell you are going to put that last batch of trades because you haven’t had time to make an Ikea run to buy another bookshelf. No more bargaining with your significant other for another couple of square feet to put another stack of long boxes in.

I can’t speak for everyone, but I don’t miss CD jewel cases one bit. Sure the artwork was awesome and it was great to step back and look at your massive collection, but if you’re like me you had to juggle your CDs with your movies, books, video games, etc. In terms of modern comics I am also not going to miss stacks of long boxes, bags, backboards, and the associated expenses.

But even more than that, I can now read carry an entire storyline in my bag, even if iI want to read every New 52 book out there in one big shot. I don’t have to worry about carrying 52 comics with me, or remembering to put new ones in each night to get me through my commute. And when I finish those I can buy new ones or even re-download some old favorites. For someone like me who’s mood can change in an instant in terms of what i am in the mood to read this is a great thing.

Independents: Independent comic publishers now have an inexpensive way to find an audience. Bandwidth and storage becomes your only expense. With the cost of hosting a website and cloud storage so cheap, it opens up all new doors for those working hard to get into the medium. And much like the music industry, it makes success possible to achieve success even without one of the major companies backing you.

Where they Fall Short

Price: Digital comics have a long way to go until they become truly accessible from a cost standpoint. Many are not willing to shell out the same price for a digital file that they could for paper. Digital books have made us used to reaping the befits of publishers saving on production costs. iTunes has made us expect the 99 cent price point for a small piece of entertainment. But if you open an app like Comixology right now you will not see that production savings reflected.

Are the publishers trying to not bite the hand that feeds them and save comic retailers? Are publishers just being competitive with one another? Or are they just confident that fans already pay $4 for a book no matter what the format is and why not reap the extra profit?

No matter the reason digital will not prosper until fans see the savings passed along to them. DC has headed in the right direction by decreasing their price a month after the initial release of the book. Marvel has held fast to their prices and will only lower them many months after release. Other publishers have followed one of those paths or a mix.

If it is to protect comic shops, we didn’t protect record stores or book stores. I love the local comic shop but the bottom line is you can’t hold up progress. The retailers got into business with the same possibility of failure as any other. They will have to adapt to survive and change their business model or get out of the game.

$1.99 is a fair price for back issues and I also think it is fair to have a book be cover price on release date with the promise of a decrease after 30 days. Many forms of media have a premium price on the day of release with a decrease after time and i think comics can follow this format as well to much success.

Selection: More! We must have more! Day-and-date digital needs to happen across the board. Right now DC is the only one of the “Big Two” to do this. Marvel needs to release all of their books digitally. Back issue libraries need to be bulked up. Selection is key. People can only buy books that are there and right now the selection isn’t all it could be.

Start with day-and-date, and move in to filling in those back issue libraries at a reasonable price and i am willing to bet there is a sharp increase in sales from fans old and new.

There are many other reasons that digital can succeed or fail, but I think right now these are the most pressing. Either way I think that digital is the way of the future. Devices are becoming cheaper and more accessible. It may take time, but I think it is the key to saving the medium.

3 Movies That Could Not Be Remade

Remakes. Hollywood is remaking everything in sight. It seems that no one is safe. But every once in a while there is a movie that comes along and its lightning in a bottle. It creates such a following that it solidifies itself in pop culture to the point that remaking it would be an abomination. Here’s a few classics that in my opinion have stood not only the test of time so far, but continue to find new audiences every day.

Sure Hollywood could remake any of these movies at anytime, but the magic that caught the attention of so many would be artificial. It just simply would not be the same.  See if you agree…


GHOSTBUSTERS

To this day Ghostbusters remains a classic. This movie seemed to do everything right. Great story, great effects, great comedy and most of all great cast. I can’t imagine anyone taking over the reigns from any of these actors (yes, yes I know all about the animated series, which was great in its own way, but was not the movie). And that theme song! 27 years later and everyone still knows it!

Take one look around the net and you can see that even though we have not seen proton packs and full torso vaporous apparitions on the screen in 22 years, the movie still has a devout following. People are still out there making home-made proton packs, PKE meters, uniforms, the works! I dare you to go to one major con this summer not bump into at least one Ghostbuster.

Even though the cast say that they knew they had a hit before filming was even finished, I doubt they knew that the movie would still be in demand 30 years later. Here’s hoping Hollywood will leave this one alone. Even though we have a sequel (possibly) on the way the original will remain an eternal classic.


BACK TO THE FUTURE

Who would have thought a failed car would become so iconic? I don’t know anyone who can look at a DeLorean and not immediately ask about its flux capacitor. Personally I know if I ever get the opportunity to drive one the first thing coming out of my mouth is “Let’s see if you bastards can do 90!” right before flooring it.

Back to the Future is a movie that was not afraid to date itself. As a matter of fact it depended on just that. The 80s stand out as a decade that  people love to reminisce about, whether it was the ridiculous clothes they wore, the giant (quite flammable) hair they had, or how back in my day Optimus Prime didn’t have flames on him (that’s a topic for another day).

Back to the Future is just a fun movie that will make you laugh and and never ceases to entertain. I do not think anyone could ever capture the magic that Christopher Lloyd and Michael J. Fox produced in these films. The DeLorean is practically another character! What would they replace it with now? Some bright-colored sports car with flames and all leather interior? Let’s hope we never find out.


STAR WARS

Do I really have to explain why I don’t think they can ever remake Star Wars? Really? Okay I will anyways. (For this lets assume I am talking about Episode IV, but really this applies to the whole trilogy. Yes TRILOGY.)

Star Wars was never expected to become the phenomenon it has. Many in the industry thought it would run its course in the theaters and end up never being seen again. How could they have known this little science fiction movie would become a way of life for some people, spawning sequels, prequels, toys, shirts, books, etc? The list is endless!

How could you reboot something that for a lot of people is considered one of the most important movies of all time? You can’t! I don’t think even Hollywood has the guts to try to convince George Lucas to remake any of these movies. Although with as much as he has altered them with Special Editions, Special DVD Editions, and who knows what on the Blu-Ray coming out this fall, I would not put it past him to start from scratch instead of making Han shoot 3rd this time. But who knows?

There you have it! 3 movies I do not think could ever be remade and capture the same magic as the originals. I am sure dome day we’ll see remakes of at least one of these, but i doubt they will pack the same punch or be remembered with as much fondness. Did I miss anything? What movie do you think is so timeless that a remake would be impossible?

Generous Gene Colon

Gene Colon

Gene Colon 1926-2011

I didn’t know Gene Colon. I was, however, lucky enough to meet him and his wife at New York Comic Con in Artist’s Alley in 2009 where he was doing sketches and selling art.

The only memory I can contribute of him would be that I was checking some of his art for my friend Nick, who is a HUGE Daredevil fan.

A little boy walked up to Gene’s booth. He was with his dad and was maybe about 4 or 5. He saw the Daredevil prints with sketches on them they were selling for $45 each.

The kid said something like “Look dad Daredevil!” to his father. Gene and his wife talked to the boy a little bit and asking about his favorite heroes.

Just as they were about to leave Gene and his wife asked “Do you like that picture?” pointing to the Daredevil art. The little guy answered that he did so they said “Okay, here you go. Take it.”

Just like that they made the kid’s day. When an artist can reach out to his fans by doing something so simple, yet so awesome, it really speaks volumes about their love for the medium and their fans.

I didn’t know Gene Colon, but if that was any indication of his character and love of the medium, I am sure he will be dearly missed by his family, friends and fans.

Pick of the Week: Rocketeer Adventures #2

Rocketeer Adventures #2

Rocketeer Adventures #2

The Rocketeer is back and he’s got some great talent behind him with Rocketeer Adventures #2. They have really done Dave Stevens proud with this miniseries. IDW managed to get some of the best and the brightest in the comic world to breathe new life into a character that was long gone but definitely not forgotten.

There is no denying that the names on the book are a fanboy’s dream. Issue one brought incredible work from high-caliber talent like John Cassaday, Mike Allred, Kurt Busiek and Alex Ross. They are followed up in issue two by Mark Waid, Darwyn Cooke and more, who are guaranteed to deliver the goods. The level of storytelling the writers and artists produced in the first issue hooked me for good and have me putting issue two on top of my pile this week. I am really hoping IDW considers a regular series.

The Rocketeer was much overdue for a return to his high-flying heroics in the medium that gave birth to him nearly 30 years ago and this, so far, is a worthy volume. If the second issue is half as good as the first, you’ll be doing yourself a severe disservice by not picking up this book.

Episode I Syndrome

With the current onslaught of comic book and “geek” movies its hard to tell which ones are good. Sure you can rely on the media and movie reviews, but if you’re anything like me, some of your favorite movies have been panned by major critics.

So what is a geek seeking to avoid seeing their hopes and dreams crushed on celluloid to do? Trust your friends? They wouldn’t steer you wrong. They like the comics you do, the movies you do, and they would never lead you down the dark path right?

I had 15 total minutes of screen time, 2 lines and no backstory and people STILL swore I was their favorite character ever!

Don’t be so sure! I seem to remember way back in 1999 there was a certain movie that came out that almost every fan of sci-fi and fantasy had been waiting 20+ years to see. Of course I am talking about Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace.

When that movie came out I saw it on the first day, first showing with friends. I had been waiting (literally) almost all my life to see this film and find out the real origin of Darth Vader. The original 3 movies were a part of almost every geek’s “stuck on a deserted island” collection, so this couldn’t possibly be bad right? Right?!

After leaving the theater I talked myself into believing that I had just witnessed the movie I had gone in wanting to see. When talking to my friends I got the feeling that they did the same thing. We ignored it like a bad smell in a packed elevator that no one wants to own up to. We knew the movie was bad but no one was willing to admit all the hype was for a pretty terrible film that crapped on almost everything we liked about the originals. After all It was Star Wars, and after not having new stories for so long, we were grateful for anything.

Of course eventually you realize you are lying to yourself and can finally admit that Episode I was a galaxy far, far away from the movie you walked in to see. But it didn’t end there…

Sure, critics hate me but they don't read comics. I can always depend on those suckers... er... fans to bail me out!

How many movies do you see (now especially with Twitter) completely mixed reviews for? Geeks, casual viewers, etc. all seem to have different opinions, but I have noticed that geeks, for the most part, seem to side with their movies no matter what. A movie has to be Batman & Robin bad before geeks, as a whole, will completely pan it. Looking back I think (at least for my generation) Episode I was the first movie that we hyped so much to ourselves that we refused to admit “Wow that sucked!” until Episode II came along and stomped out any hope we had for the new trilogy.

I love movies and I love comics, which is why I may be able to see a movie and say, “Yeah, it wasn’t bad,” before it has a chance to sink in. But then the slow realization of how I just wasted 2 hours of my life and am completely disappointed sets in and I realize that no amount of mental trickery will make this a good film in the end.

Everyone will always have movies they are excited for, especially those of us who love seeing characters we grew up with brought to life on the big screen. And yes, we will always have a hard time accepting when a movie we have looked forward to for so long was just a complete stinker. We may even tell others how awesome it is and how you would “get it” if you read the comics, books, etc., but in the end you realize that the movie just flat out sucked. For my generation, I think “Episode I Syndrome” is as good a fairly accurate name…

Comic Pick of the Week: Darkwing Duck #13

Darkwing Duck #13

Darkwing Duck #13

“Let’s get dangerous!” You know you know the line. And I know you know. And I know that you know that I know… wait what was I saying?

I love this book. It’s tons of fun and if you were a fan of the cartoon series (and what comic fan my age wasn’t?) there are plenty of shout outs to moments that will have you pulling out your Darkwing Duck DVDs and reliving a piece of your childhood.

With all the doom and gloom of the Big Two, its a welcome break to read something that isn’t all about fear, wars, alternate universes where everybody is trying to kill or ruin the life of everyone else, etc. You know the stuff.

Don’t let the Disney label fool you, this actually reads like a superhero book, although a silly one. If you’re looking for a read that mixes quality, humor and all-out fun pick up this book. You know what? Pick up the trades too. You won’t be sorry!