Archive for the american studies Category

X Marks the Spot: Must Read X-Men Stories Part II

Posted in american studies, Cartoons, Comic Books with tags , , , , , , , on February 19, 2013 by Brandon Melendez

(This Post was originally featured at Eat Your Serial)

 

Feel like you’ve walked into the middle of a conversation? Check out the first part of X Marks the Spot!

Many people think that they know the X-Men from the movies and cartoons, but they really don’t. Any comic book fan I know gets supremely annoyed by people who have seen the X-Men movies (or any comic book movies really), and try to have a conversation with you as if they know as much from a few hours of poorly translated cinema as a lifetime fan would. But, getting that knowledge isn’t as daunting a task as one may think, nor does it take as much time as one might assume. The X-Men have one of the more intricate and complicated comic book histories, but their continuity can be accessed and understood fairly quickly at a novice level by reading a few landmark titles. Yesterday, in part one, we ran you from the late 70s up through the 1990s In part two of our X-Men hit list, we approach the must-read storylines of the early 21st Century.

New X-Men:

 

In Grant Morrison’s epic run on X-Men, many of the mainstay ideas surrounding the X-Men were dramatically altered or changed, and have mostly stuck since. This storyline hails the evolutionary leap mutants take toward becoming the dominant race on Earth, and introduces the concept of secondary mutations, such as Emma Frost’s diamond form and Beast’s cat-like appearance. It also saw the return of the Phoenix Force, the romantic relationship between Cyclops and White Queen, the first step toward Wolverine regaining his full memory, and, well…other things, but I’m trying to keep this relatively spoiler free. It also introduced fan favorite character Fantomex, and led to the revelation that the Weapon X program which gave Wolverine his unbreakable adamantium skeleton is actually pronounced “Weapon Ten.” Also in this story arc? Quentin Quire evolves into an idea, the “Magneto was Right” T-Shirt, Charles Xavier revealing to the world that he is a mutant, and Cassandra Nova (which doesn’t mean much to you now but will later). Honestly, there is a lot in this run that I haven’t mentioned, but that’s because I’m recommending Morrison’s entire run and not a particular storyarc because, as Morison fans know well, when he takes on a title he actually plans the whole thing from start to finish to be one massive storyline where the apple that fell from the tree in issue 1 has profound impact on the end of the story in issue 87. Also of note is the off-putting art of Frank Quietly and the truly awesome mod logo design that is the same right side up and upside down.

House of M (spoilers) and Decimation:

 

In another reality-bending storyline that emanated from the consequences of Avengers, Disassembled the Scarlet Witch changed the entire world in order to keep her children with the android Vision real. As it turned out, they weren’t. The Scarlet Witch, daughter of Magneto, simply granted everyone’s deepest desires on Earth. While this story was mainly an X-Men story, it touched the whole Marvel Universe, and we got to see great character aspects from across Marvel. Finding out that Spider-Man’s greatest wish was the Uncle Ben lived and he married Gwen Stacy while Harry married Mary Jane was a big one. Finding an over 100-year old Captain America painting in a Brooklyn Brownstone was another. Also, we get a Wolverine who has his full memory including being an Agent of Shield, and a Magneto who rules the Earth with his royal family in—you guessed it—The House of M. What’s so bad about that? Well, changing the course of history also keep people from being born, it stops the natural course of destiny, and most of all, heroes gotta stop Utopia. The most important impact of this story is that it reverses the effect from Morrison’s story with the Scarlet Witch uttering three words that have altered the course of X-Men comics for the better part of a decade: No. More. Mutants. Apparently, her reality-altering, magic, mutant powers can not only turn people in the pieces of a jigsaw puzzle as they disappear from existence, but they can also completely stop a race from being born. This left only 198 mutants left on Earth. Wanna know what happened next? Read it.

Messiah CompleX:

 

In this story arc, the first mutant baby since the decimation is born and the whole world is clamoring to get control over her. The X-Men, Mister Sinister, and umm…well…that’s actually a lot of people. Everyone wants to control this baby, especially since she comes with the prophecy that she will reignite the mutant race from the ashes, and also do a terrible, terrible thing. Through subterfuge, murder, espionage, conspiracy, and deception the child is set at the center of one of the most intense storylines in the X-Men mythos where character arcs are fulfilled in unexpected ways, and page after page pays off. It was accompanied with a backup feature that saw Beast traveling from scientist to scientist, friend and foe alike, in search for a way to jump-start the mutant genome in the face of certain extinction. How do they overcome it? What happens? Well, most of those questions are still being answered several years later. This is the one that’s going to bring you relatively up to speed on the mighty misadventures of Marvel’s Merry Mutants.

 

And there you have it. I know this list started off yesterday as an example of how easy it is to get integrated into a complicated continuity, but this is a simple list. You have to remember that you can probably blow these story arcs, once collected, in a sitting or two for about the same price as a reasonably priced hardcover novel (between $12.95-$24.99). Stories like Days of Future Past can actually be read in about 20 minutes—just because it isn’t long doesn’t mean it didn’t have impact. Now, I’m sure some of you hardcore fans out there are steaming, stomping on your hats and screaming for X-tinction Agenda, Fall of the Mutants, Mutant Massacre, God Loves Man Kills, The Twelve, X-ecutioner’s Song,  Phalanx Covenant, the Onslaught Saga, Utopia, Deadly Genesis, Deadly Reunion, War of Kings, Phoenix Endsong, or Joss Wheadon’s run on Astonishing X-Men, among many others. But, remember I’m talking about stories that will catch a neophyte reader up to the present. This isn’t a hit list of the greatest X-Men stories ever, hell there’s not a single story here of the Mojoverse. This list functions as a crash course in X-Men to get the reader conversational in the mythos. There’s always going to be more work to do. After over 20 years of reading comics, I could still learn more, but this lists, spanning the late 70s until just about now (relatively speaking), are just an appetizer. It isn’t hard to get into it, and you could blow through all these titles in the course of a week, or two, while riding the train to work. And believe you me; it’ll be well worth it.

Comic Book to TV Adaptations that NEED TO HAPPEN

Posted in american studies, Cartoons, Comic Books, Entertainment, movies, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , on February 12, 2013 by Brandon Melendez

(This post originally was featured as part of the semi-regular column BS’N at Eat Your Serial)

With the (not really all that) recent surge in popularity of comic adaptions on the big and small screen, there are so many stellar standout series that are nowhere near development. There are countless possibilities that I’m discounting out of hand because a TV budget just wouldn’t do them justice. A comic like Runaways has a beautiful high concept (kids discover their parents are super villains, and they go on the run), but TV special effects budgets just couldn’t do justice to the magic, sci-fi tech, and best bud velociraptor to get it right. The benefits of a TV show’s long form narrative are hindered by its sometimes crippling budget restrictions. So we went for picks more grounded in reality so that the story can be transferred without being derailed by poor attempts at capturing the imaginative trappings associated with many comic series.

Shawn: Unknown Soldier

The Unknown Soldier is an often recycled concept by DC comics. But the one that had the most resonance for me, and the one that would make the best start of a series, is the Vertigo iteration from 2008. Set against the backdrop of the horrors of country trying to rebuild itself while dealing with the horrors of war in Uganda, the series stars Dr. Moses Lwanga, a peaceful, philanthropic man who returns to his home country from America to try and do good. Unbeknownst to him, he has been conditioned and brainwashed by the US government and is a dangerous instrument of chaos and destruction.

I’d rather not go too deep into the storyline because discovery is most of the fun with these things, but the story hints at many other “Unknown Soldiers” – essentially sleeper agents – that date back to the Vietnam War. This kind of expansive plot, with the strong emotional core of its lead characters would make a perfect show on HBO, Showtime, or AMC.

Brandon: The Sandman

The Sandman was a comic book series by Neil Gaiman and a variety of talented artists that follow the “life” of Morpheus, the King of Dreaming and lord over all things imagined. While the plot points are a little too complicated to broach in a short list such as this, suffice it to say that the overall scope of the story ranges from Lucifer abandoning his post to Shakespeare writing plays for the Sandman’s enjoyment as part of a back alley agreement concerning inspiration. The Sandman is a member of The Endless who are physical representations of the fundamental aspects of life and the universe; they are gods to the gods.

What I’d imagine in a Sandman TV series would be an animated feature show—as there is no way that this could be done justice in a live action format on either television or in movies. A studio committed to translating the cerebral and mythologically transformative work of Gaiman, et al. would be best served to have different seasons or story arcs animated in different styles, while still maintaining a certain criterion of quality as the Vertigo series did. This would not be a show for everyone because of the heady and lofty, as well as grim and gritty, fantasy and horror themes of the series…but what it would be is a cult phenomenon that—if well executed—would collect awards and a  loyal following for its entire run. It would also be best served in a late-night rather than a prime-time slot—10 PM or later, but rest assured it would be a great ride.

Nick: Bone

Much like Brandon’s choice for Sandman, Bone would be an animated show as well. Unlike Sandman, however, Bone would definitely be a more all-ages show. Bone is a fifty-five issue series written and drawn by Jeff Smith that follows the Bone cousins, Phoniciple “Phoney” Bone, Smiley Bone, and Fone Bone, from race out of Boneville, thanks to the latest in a long list of schemes concocted by Phoney Bone, to their arrival and eventual adventures in The Valley. The cousins are eventually drawn into events involving the evil Lord of Locusts, and do their part to help save The Valley.My hope is that a Bone television series would be able to perfectly emulate the beautiful artwork that Smith has described as a, “kind of mixture of Walt Kelly and Moebius.” It’s really a fitting description. The Bone cousins are very simply rendered, looking not too dissimilar to Casper the Friendly Ghost, with the rest of the characters in the series more detailed but still cartoony. The backgrounds, though are very detailed and do, in fact, take on an almost Moebius-level style of rendition.

 

Shawn: Gotham Central

The only superhero book on my list is anything but. Gotham Central was a series that told the stories of the detectives and beat cops of the Gotham Police Department. Batman was more of an idea than a character in this very risky offbeat title.

And it was amazing. Imagine a police procedural where the characters have to deal with so much more than the usual crimes. Super villains, rogue vigilantes, and a perception that you are completely ineffective in your job. Whenever Batman or one of his rogue’s appear – it’s a major event. Sure Batman’s faced down the Joker a million times, but what’s it like for the grunt cop who’s pulling overtime to put food on the table for his kids? The cop who’s usually just cannon fodder so Batman can get madder for five panels before he forgets about it and returns to his cave for tea and scones.

The series humanized Gotham City like never before, and would be perfectly suited for TV.

Brandon: The Punisher

Alright, I hear you groaning out there. I know that previous attempts at translating The Punisher to live action have been…well…they’ve been shit. Nobody has been a bigger vocal critic of this than me (especially when I specifically asked Jeph Loeb and Joe Quesada about it at Comicon 2010) but there’s a reason why. Without a doubt there is no comic property more box-ready than The Punisher (with the notable exception of…I dunno…Dennis the Menace). The Punisher really just needs to be a guy, in a tee-shirt, with a gun and nothing to lose. He goes around and chases gangsters.

This concept if properly utilized, and without putting too much weight on a supporting cast could make for an easy and gritty show. The supporting cast would be easy to fill out—Ben Urich, Microchip, G.W. Bridge and a rotating list of criminals to be Punished. Start with Jigsaw, work your way up to the Owl, the Rose, the Kingpin. Each big villain could be the focus of a season or half-season. The Punisher could go up against the Marvel mainstay organizations—the Hand, Hydra, A.I.M., without really getting too deep into their high sci-fi or occultist pieces (they’d have to be addressed but wouldn’t have to be focused upon). The budget wouldn’t have to be big, and a lot of the violence could happen off screen to let the gruesomeness happen in the viewers imagination (thereby being much more powerful—thanks Hitchcock!) With a pulp twist and a CSI tone how could this miss—oh yeah the mistakes of the past. You have to respect the character and avert goofy accents, changes, classical music fight scenes, and John Travolta or Dolph Lundgren. Nuff said.

Nick: She-Hulk

You know what are always in style for television? Shows about lawyers! You’ve got Perry Mason, you’ve got L.A. Law, you’ve got whatever show about lawyers is currently on TV (I…uh…I don’t keep current on a whole lot at the moment). Well, that’s what She-Hulk would be! An hour-long dramedy following Jen Walters in her day job as a lawyer for the firm of Goodman, Lieber, Kurtzberg & Holliway (If you don’t get the homage in the first three names of that law firm, consider yourself chastised by me, then go look it up), we’d get a great mix of drama, comedy, romance, and tragedy. You’d also get superheroes and villains! With legal issues! I swear, the legalities of superheroics are far more entertaining than you think.

This series would mostly be patterned after the She-Hulk series that launched in 2004, written initially by Dan Slott, then handed over to Peter David. Something that could help out a She-Hulk television series is that there’s an actress already eager to play the part. In an interview with Conan O’Brien this past July, Angie Harmon stated that if the chance ever came up, she would jump at the chance to play She-Hulk. While Angie might not work for Shulkie’s alter-ego, Jen Walters, she would most definitely be a top choice for the jade giantess.

Shawn: 100 Bullets

It may anachronistic to look at it this way, but I’ve often said (echoing many others) that 100 Bullets is The Wire of comic books. So naturally, it would make for a great TV series. The concept is simple on the surface: You are wronged at such a profound level, and just when you think you’ve hit rock bottom, a savior shows up. Someone who offers you a suitcase with a gun and 100 untraceable bullets so that you can enact your revenge. What do you do? Can you really pass judgment on those who wronged you while escaping judgment yourself? And perhaps the most important questions of all… who is this person offering you the briefcase? Why are they doing this? HOW are they doing this?

And from there, you’re hooked. And lost in an amazingly complex web of moral corruption, death, lies, and some of the most amazing characters and plots ever put to paper. 100 Bullets is a masterpiece, and would stand out like one in any medium.

Brandon: 100 Bullets

I have to agree with Shawn on this one, as much as I hate to agree with Shawn (even on oxygen). 100 Bullets would make for a great television series in a venue such as AMC, HBO, or Showtime where an audience could get a mostly commercial free 48-55 minutes on their hour of a show that has a conspiracy full of complicated and amoral characters. The best part about 100 Bullets is that it was so carefully planned that the comic offers literally no loose ends. When you look at the over all pacing of the story and the usage, introduction, and purpose of characters there is not a single thread out of place or without its use.

Of course one would have to wonder how much of the plot would get lost in the translation to television, and as the time draws near for killings they would have impact because the characters are multi-faceted and dimensional. One really has to applaud the effort on the part of Brian Azzarello for plotting the story so well and Eduardo Risso for illustrating the story in such a noir cinematic style. In my head, each of the 100 issues of 100 Bullets actually plays out like a sixty minute episode of a TV drama—which if well tanslated would slate the show at about five seasons long…and just at the centennial syndication mark. The fact that this hasn’t happened yet, despite the rights being picked up, is a true shame and really remiss on the part of…well…the entire entertainment industry.

Nick: Madrox

I’m going to break away from the pact here and go in a different direction. While 100 Bullets is quite an excellent comic, and I’m sure it would make for a fine show, I’d rather see someone take a stab at bring Jamie Madrox to the small screen. The comic series Madrox was a 2004 addition to the Marvel Knights line and followed Jamie Madrox, formerly Multiple Man of X-Factor, as a private investigator.

Possessing the ability to make perfect duplicates of himself that he can later reabsorb and gain knowledge from, Jamie has been learning as much as he can by sending these “dupes” out into the world to become experts in different fields, such as martial arts, the law, even Olympic-level gymnastics. After finding and reabsorbing a dupe that had been the victim of an attempted murder, Jamie decides to investigate the situation using the duplicate’s memories as clues. After the mini-series ended, it was spun-off into a new ongoing series, X-Factor, following the newly named X-Factor Investigations.

Backed up in the mini-series by Rahne Sinclaire, aka Wolfsbane, and Guido Carosella, known a little better as Strong Guy (You see, he’s this guy that’s really strong), Jamie definitely doesn’t have to go it alone when hunting down mysteries, despite his ability to be a one man army. While the show would be called Madrox, it would really follow more along the lines of the ongoing, X-Factor, which, sadly, is a title that’s been cribbed by a depressing talent contest reality show. A crime, I tell you.

One thing I particularly like about the idea of a television show based around Jamie Madrox is that it would be full of possibilities for one-off episodes. Instead of following the usual cast and story, we can spend a week watching one of Jamie’s duplicates off elsewhere in the world continuing his mission of gaining as much knowledge as he possibly can. Who wouldn’t love an episode based around, say, a kung fu master Jamie Madrox duplicate?

Well, we’ve said our piece, True Believers (don’t worry, Stan Lee gets a dime whenever we say that), but what about you? What are some series that you would love to see brought to the small screen in a serialized format? Give us your ideas in our comment section.

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Written by: Brandon Melendez, Shawn Abraham, and Nick Newert

Nerd’s Eye View Official Endorsement 2012

Posted in american studies, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , on October 22, 2012 by Brandon Melendez

 

Metro’s HIP-HOP EDUCATION (H2ED) CENTER Upcoming Event: “Show and Prove” March 31, 2012

Posted in american studies, hip hop, learning, music, NYU, teaching with tags , , , , , , , , on March 29, 2012 by Brandon Melendez

I got this e-mail from the ol’ Alma Mater yesterday. Unfortunately I will be unable to attend because of the short notice (though I am giving serious thoughts to making my Creative Writing class come on a Kamikaze field trip). The most likely scenario is that I will not be able to attend this awesome seeming event.

I will give a special guest blog edition of Nerd’s Eye View to any of you hip-hop or education heads out there who do go to the event and cover it for me though. Additionally, even if you don’t want to write a guest spot, you should go. This thing sounds sick.

 

Check out the flyer below for pertinent info.