Archive for the Comic Books 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.


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

Posted in Cartoons, Comic Books, Entertainment with tags , , , , , , , on February 17, 2013 by Brandon Melendez

(This post was originally featured at Eat Your Serial)


There’s a lot of talk in the media about comic books, and a lot of snark going around about continuity. Many of you non-comic book types might be wondering what the hell continuity is. It’s a pretty simple concept, it simply means that the stories in a comic book universe count towards a single coherent (as it were) history. It is the element that makes comic book universes work and allows for long lasting, and meaningful, character developments and story arcs. Long time fans, especially hardcore ones, are typically sticklers for continuity. Often times, they can quote writers, artists, years, and issue numbers for particular points of contention when making arguments. Continuity is serious business for fans. Unfortunately, a strict adherence to it can be a turn off to newer fans who often feel that comics are a vast an impenetrable mythology that can be very expensive to break into. This is largely untrue, occasionally there are points to hop on that require little background information and ease the reader into the larger history. Although, more often than not, many of the vast histories found within comics can be eschewed in lieu of finding a few key storylines that give enough information to allow the reader to move on unimpeded.

No continuous comic book storylines are denser, more involved, or more convoluted and confusing than that of the X-Men. Essentially, X-Men has been running without a major reboot since the 1960s. As such, there are over 40 years of story to condense into a time frame somewhere in the area of 15 years “comic book time.” When Stan Lee and Jack Kirby initially started the X-Men series, the original team of Cyclops, Marvel Girl, Angel, Beast, and Iceman were approximately 15 to 16 years old. Cyclops, now essentially a leader of the mutant people, could reasonably be considered to be anywhere in his early to mid-thirties. As such, please take this short list of (mostly spoiler free) landmark X-Men storylines (all conveniently collected into trade books) as your guide to navigating the world of those who fight to protect the world that hates and fears them:

The Dark Phoenix Saga:


This is probably the first truly landmark story in the history of Marvel’s Merry Mutants. This story will familiarize you with a number of aspects and characters of the X-Men mythos that are invaluable in understanding any number of X-themed stories. Firstly, you’ll become familiar with the Sh’iar Empire and it’s host of characters, such as Majestrix Llandra, her brother the mad Emperor D’Ken, Guardian the leader of the Imperial Guard, and the M’Kraan Crystal. Additionally, you’ll find yourself getting a crash course in the Phoenix, the Phoenix force, Uatu the Watcher, the Blue Area of the Moon, The Hellfire Club (most notably the White Queen, Emma Frost) and a classic line up of X-Men. You’ll meet Cyclops, Wolverine, Colossus, Beast, Storm, Dazzler, Shadowcat (then called Kitty Pryde and later Sprite). This story comes from a time when the team of Chris Claremont and John Byrne was king, and their stories could do no wrong. It’s not just a landmark X-Men story, but it’s a bona fide comic book landmark.

Days Of Future Past:


In this tale of time travel, psychic energy, genocide, and politics, you will find yourself introduced to a number of important ideas and concepts in the X-Men mythos. Firstly, lay your eyes on the horrible, horrible future in which the mutant hunting, giant, killer robots known as The Sentinels run the United States, and keep mutants in concentration and labor camps. The future is bleak and most of the Marvel Universe’s heroes—mutant and non-mutant alike—have been killed in battle and buried in a trophy cemetery that all mutants must cross to get to their labor assignments. Left to fight the good fight? Colossus, Shadowcat, Storm, Wolverine, and a few X-Men yet-to-be-born. You’ll be introduced to time travel, Senator Kelly, and the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants (as Freedom Force). You’ll also become familiar with the concept of a dangerous future where the X-Men have lost. This story has essentially informed the importance of Xavier’s Dream in every subsequent X-Men story. Ever.



Another classic from the team that could do no wrong, Inferno is a great follow up to the Dark Phoenix Saga as it deals with Cyclops coping with the (apparent) death of Jean Grey, and falling in love with a woman named Madelyn Pryor who bears an…ahem…uncanny…resemblance to his dearly departed, loved, and omnipotent girlfriend. In this story, you’ll become familiar with the X-Men’s relationship with the metaphysical, the realm known as Limbo, and its master Belasco, the mutant shaman/technology specialist, Forge, the Goblin Queen, as well as X-Men mainstay Rogue. Not the least of which you’ll come to know with the arch villain Mister Sinister, and his modus operandi to manipulate the Grey and Summers bloodlines to create a child who might one day become…well…you’ll have to read more to find out won’t you?

Mutant Genesis:


In this story, the reader is reintroduced to the character of Magneto in what would be the start of Jim Lee’s designs for the X-Men that defined the 90s (and the Fox cartoon). Also seen here is the bow out of Chris Claremont after a writing run that encompassed the 80s and touched both the 90s and 70s as well. You’ll meet Nick Fury, the Acolytes, and Asteroid M. You’ll find the feel of the 90s in the art of Lee and the sudden moral ambiguity to all actions. The world of the X-Men starts to feel a little less black and white in this story—it becomes defined less as a good versus evil dynamic and more of a contradicting philosophy dilemma. Mutant Genesis sets up Magneto as more of an anti-hero than a villain, and really adds a level of complexity to the dynamic that, though present in older stories, really resonates as Magneto’s charisma as a political leader shines.

Age of Apocalypse:


In this reality-bending full-line crossover story written and illustrated by a literal who’s who of comics, we find a world in which Charles Xavier died in the 1960s (aka 30 years ago from the perspective of the story) in a mutant battle including time-hopping, amnesiac X-Men. The battle awakens the world’s first mutant, known as Apocalypse, from his planning to take over the world in a most Darwinian fashion several decades earlier. As this occurs before the dawn of modern heroes, there is little opposition to the megalomaniac and he conquers the North American continent with eyes on the rest of the world. In this world, this alternate timeline, Magneto founds the X-Men in memory of his fallen friend Charles, and everything you thought you knew about the X-Men is turned on its head. This is another one of those X-Men stories that is touched upon forevermore and introduces alternate versions of characters that have taken on life unto themselves. These characters include Sabretooth, Wolverine, Jean Grey, Cyclops, Beast and Nate Grey, who is an alternate version of Cable, as well as original characters (mostly) Nocturn, Morph, and Xorn. The elements of this story are so distinctly dark and popular that they often appear in the mainstream universe either by parallel coincidence or via reality-jumping stories.


Well, that does it for today but, of course, that isn’t all. There’s plenty more baddassery to go around as the X-Men break into the 21st century and into today. Make sure you come back to Eat Your Serial tomorrow and check out part two of X Marks the spot!

Turtle Power: First Impressions of the new Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles show

Posted in 80s, Cartoons, Comic Books, Entertainment with tags , , , , , , on February 17, 2013 by Brandon Melendez

(This post originally featured at Eat Your Serial)

I’ve gotta admit, I’m a snob. My Ninja Turtles are the real Ninja Turtles and nothing is ever going to change that. The four colored amphibians of my youth are the end all and be all of Turtle canon. ‘Nuff said. Even as a kid, it kinda rubbed me the

wrong way that in the live-action Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie, someone seemed to have skewed some of the facts about the Boys of Pizza. Particularly, the origin of Splinter…but that movie was pretty amazing overall and I just accepted that sometimes movies are going to get it wrong.

This was the way I lived my life (my life as a Turtles Fan that is), or at least it was until I was a teenager and I was able to get my hands on some of the original Mirage Studios stories that started the franchise. To my shock and surprise, that first printing of Ninja Turtles was almost exactly the bare bones story of the movie (softened somewhat to have less stabbing of the Shredder). So, shocked was I by this revelation that I started to reconsider all sorts of things in my life. I grew my hair out, picked up a guitar, and started writing songs to express the anguish in my heart.

Several years later, after I had time to heal, there was a cartoon out again called Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, which touted the Heroes on the Half-shell for a new generation. I was glad to accept this show fully into my heart. The designs were simplistic, yet meaner looking, and the Turtles actually had a bit more attitude, but April was more like her comics counterpart and Casey Jones played a large role in the show, which I really liked. The popularity of this show was followed by a movie that actually (somewhat) continued the narrative of the show and comics of my youth in the simplistically named TMNT. Though computer animated, the movie was action packed and fun. But, in the end, neither of these interpretations really captured the light-hearted ninja romps of my childhood.

When the second-generation TMNT show was wrapping up, the creators culminated the show with a crossover entitled “Turtles Forever” that served as a crossover between the 1 first-generation cartoon and the second. I have to admit that I was giddy and excited (even as a married man with a child on the way) to watch this movie when it came out as a Saturday morning special. It was done well, with due deference to the zany and outlandish campiness of my Turtles while also showing the softness of the new ones in respect to the source material, as the movie involved the Turtles of multiple dimensions joining forces to stop a common Super Shredder. It was fun.

Then, recently, some rumblings started coming of a new totally CGI Ninja Turtles cartoon around the same time as the now scrapped and back to square one Michael Bay movie was announced. With what we were all hearing about the Michael Bay joint, it was fair to assume that the planned cartoon on Nickleodeon was going to be just as misguided, and many of my fellows in the Cult of Splinter took an immediate adversarial perspective on it. We didn’t like the character designs, we didn’t like the theme music, and we didn’t like the original Raphael voicing Donatello. No sir, we didn’t like it.

But, I have to admit that after having just watched the first episode, it’s pretty good. I endorse it as a part of the legacy of the Turtles. It was a fun romp, full of referential Turtle humor that was respectful of the older generation and fully accessible to neophyte kids ready to cry for merch. It was well written, with action and humor, and good pacing for an hour-long pilot episode. Both my two-and-half-year-old son and me were engaged by this treat on a Saturday morning. The animation was actually good and the full CGI looks good. Everything was well done and enjoyable, from Splinter’s shadowy design, the Shredder’s voice (though while we’re on the subject, the original Raphael/Yakko Warner voicing Donatello is a little off-putting at first). There are infusions from the comics, the original and newer cartoon, and the movies—but only enough for familiar elements. This show seems to have an approach and spirit all its own. If you were wary of the show’s authenticity…well, it might still tank, but judging by the first episode, as a Turtle Head all my life, I endorse it. Give it a shot. If you love and understand the wide interpretations of Turtles throughout the franchise’s history, you’re bound to appreciate the show.


Turtle Power!

Nerd’s Eye Review: Superman Earth One, Volume Two

Posted in Cartoons, Comic Books, Entertainment, movies with tags , , , , on February 15, 2013 by Brandon Melendez

(This review was originally posted at Eat Your Serial)

I literally just put down the new graphic novel from DC Comics Earth 1 line and I have to say that I have been enjoying the three that have come out thus far. There is, obviously, Superman Earth 1 Volume 1 which has some general issues with its KISS-like super-baddie but overall between the two Superman tomes and the Batman one I think that DC has an interesting approach to the “Ultimate Marvel” revamp style. The thing that I really appreciate about the line is that it is released direct to graphic novel format—and hardcover at that—meaning that the stories themselves are not regularly serialized (which we like around here as a rule), but rather sporadically added to at a rate of about one a year so far.

Looking at Superman Earth 1 Volume 2 (warning spoilers be here), the story picks up at a point somewhat close to the end of the first volume but far enough away that the DC equivalent of Damage Inc. has come through town cleaning up the mess left behind by the comic cosmic Gene Simmons from the Rao System at the end of the last book. Clark Kent has found himself making a little bit of money as a bona fide reporter for a great metropolitan newspaper and moves up from living in a crappy room to living in a crappy apartment. The building has a cast of characters including a tattooed bombshell red head with a thang for Mr. Kent with the initials “LL”…though it isn’t Lana Lang as I thought she might be but rather Lisa Lasalle… and a 1995 era long haired junkie who sits on a stoop quote Bob Dylan. I’m not sure why writer J. Michael Straczyinski did that…but I’ll be honest he was never a favorite writer of mine and I’m not sure why he’s done lots of things though characters owning monogrammed towels displaying LL initials is a staple of Superman lore, so I can’t knock that generally.

Some things happen rather abruptly, at they are wont to do in JMS stories, and flippant comments are made by all the characters who are seemingly all very confident and have nothing in their hearts to question—except of course for Superman who traditionally should not. There are many things in this story that, traditionally speaking, Superman would not do. Having a rather complex fantasy about killing a head of state, or leading the rebels in that state to a cache of weapons to hold an “election”, or even saying “crap” and his vernacular speech in dealing with sentient Kryptonian tech seems a little off balance.

But remember, I said I enjoyed the story. The reason for this is because this is a place and a venue for some of these traditions to be loosened, shaken, or even eschewed. “Earth 1” is not “Earth Prime” where…well…even more extreme traditions are currently being balked with The New 52…but rather is a place where this kind of experimentation is not only allowable but also, in my opinion, permissible. For this reason the somewhat emo and whiney Superman who talks like a Buffy character with a splash of Bendis Spider-Man is a refreshing approach. The hardcore journalist buried under the businessman impetus of Perry White is spun well, and even a very confident and sans-bowtie Jimmy Olsen is nice to see. Lois is Lois…and while she has evolved beyond the damsel in distress looking to wed the Man of Steel that core piece of intrepid journalism and moxie is still apparent.

The art is also quite good in my opinion. It has a cartoony feel to it but is realistic and high quality enough that Shane Davis makes his own mark on the mythos while still evoking a sense of, what for me is classic, Dan Jurgens and Brett Breeding style Superman feel. The costume design on Superman is far more appealing than Jim Lee’s high collared monstrosity evoking the sense of Shuster and Siegel’s circus strongman outfit, but having enough detailing and texture to look like it might be actual clothes (stopping just short of the X-Men movies biker leather gas station attendant suits). Overall he does a good job—even if his “energy absorbing pouches” on Parasite are distracting and disgusting. The renderings are really quite good.

At a little under 200 pages the story is a quick read—even for a graphic novel—and can at times be super preachy (pun intended) and heavy handed. However, looking at it through the prism of a novice, early 20s Superman I think JMS and Davis capture the spirit of the times and update the characters rigidity just enough to make him reasonably relatable. While some might say that it makes Big Blue come off dickish and snide at times (and ostensibly misses a huge character trait at the center of decades of precedent and development), we can all be that way and almost any incarnation of Superman would be glad to be related to by the humans he so admires and tries endlessly to protect and emulate. If you are prepared to leave some of your preconceptions at the door and be slightly preached to with a megaphone I suggest giving this book a try (provided of course you read Volume 1 First).




Written by Brandon Melendez

A Nostalgic Review of the Toy Story Trillogy

Posted in Cartoons, Comic Books, Entertainment, learning, movies with tags , , , , , , , on February 13, 2013 by Brandon Melendez

(This post was originally featured at Eat Your Serial)

It’s hard to believe that the original Toy Story was released in theaters 17 years ago. I remember in my cynical old age of 11, I was curious to see what a fully computer animated movie would look like, but I also worried that the days of t

he hand-painted cell feature would soon be ended. I was right in many ways as the release of Toy Story had heralded the release of a slew of animated feature from everybody’s mother in varying degrees of computer animation…even anything approaching traditional cell animation these days is touched upon by computers (unless it’s some artsy-fartsy French cartoon about the never ending bloody nose). Of course, this is not all as bad as I thought and none of it is really to blame of Toy Story or the franchise that emanated from it. They are good movies and the vultures always circle around a good idea to peck it to death.

The thing about the Toy Story franchise that , as an adult, is amazing to me is the inherent sadness of the idea—a staple of Pixar features that hit its apex in the first few minutes of Up. The notion that these toys exist solely to provide happiness and support to a boy who will inevitably grow up, break them, forget them, move on and leave them behind has an ephemeral memory—a nostalgic twinge causing less than a moment’s pause on most occasions. These toys are well aware of the minute fate and treat it with the impending severity of a military operation despite the finite nature of their existence. The notion is touched upon in every installment of the fantastic series of movies. In Toy Story, Woody has to deal with the new toy on the block, Buzz Lightyear, knocking him from the utmost preferred spot in Andy Davis’s heart. In the second installment, Woody has to cope with the prospect of being outgrown and left behind after being partially broken, and in Toy Story 3 Andy is ready to move on to college and the whole crew has to cope with the prospect of living in the attic or becoming garbage. I won’t get into the nitty-gritty just in case someone out there has impossibly not seen all of these movies (like my wife impossibly has achieved).

My two-and-a-half-year-old son has recently become completely engrossed in the Toy Story movies and requests to watch them ad infinitum. Through the afternoons and nights, he chants “More Buzz! More Toy Story!”…regularly…even as I type this (which is why I said it’s high nigh impossible that my wife hasn’t seen them…I think she’s blocking it out using her Emma Frost-like telepathy). As an adult-child, I find myself invariably torn at the narrative of the story—I am now the parent of a child—children actually—who’s toys exist solely for their enjoyment and comfort. Toys that accompany them to bed, toys that escort them on excursions, toys that provide wondrous opportunities for faux social interaction and imaginative play—some toys that I saved for my kids to play with (that many swore I would never pass down! Fooey to you!). Watching the movies, I am torn between my relation to all the characters, human and toy.

This, of course, is due in no small part to the quality and standard set by the first—the movie that launched a billion dollars; produced by Pixar, funded by Disney, written by Joss Whedon (et. al.), and voiced by Tom Hanks and Tim Allen (et. fantastic-al.). The bar was set high and, to this day, remains one of the highest regarded movie trilogies on Rotten Tomatoes—and, though a love a great many trilogies, I am inclined to agree. The series is remarkably consistent in its tone and humor and each is a well set up adventure-movie-providing its problems, conflicts, solutions, and developments naturally within the course of the plot and in the logical context of the setting (logical that is in the world of sentient toys). There are moments, especially written in to Toy Story 3, that bring elements from the first and second movies full circle in a way that is satisfying and rewarding; something rarely achieved in any movie let alone popcorn animated children’s features. As I am older and watch these flicks through the eyes of a child-now-grown-but-still-a-child, and through the eyes of a parent, I am appreciative of the magic that they bring to the minds of children as well as the, admittedly tear-welling, nostalgia of a kid who actually did save most of his toys to give to his son—and did—just to watch them be given a new life. If somehow you haven’t seen any of these movies, you are missing out on great stories full of laughter, friendship, and adventure. They are well written to such a degree that the man who wrote the first one was tapped to write and direct The Avengers, which is the current reigning top grossing film of all time, and the man who wrote the third was recently tapped to write the newest installment in the Star Wars franchise—you’ll never find a greater endorsement of popcorn entertainment. If you haven’t seen them all, you’re in for a great treat in watching a well-continued story that excellently fulfills all the promises of a trilogy.



Written by: Brandon Melendez

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.


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

Nerd’s Eye Review: The Life and Times of Scrooge McDuck by Don Rosa

Posted in 80s, Cartoons, Comic Books, Entertainment, movies, Nostaligia, Saturday Morning Cartoons, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on February 27, 2012 by Brandon Melendez

Normally, it’s fair to say that I stick to the tights and capes genre of comic book reading. With the exception of the stray Vertigo title ( Y: The Last Man, 100 Bullets) or some cultural touchstone, probably written by Alan Moore (and arguably some form of tights and capes at that!), I don’t venture out of this corner of the industry. That isn’t to say that I’m not interested…in fact of late I have been making major stride to broaden my exposure and see if’n the other areas are of interest to me. In seeking this out, I came to some good advice about reading faire from a friend of mine, Nick Newert (director, AV guy, and Copy editor extraordinaire) to read Don Rosa’s “The Life and Times of Scrooge McDuck”.

At first, when he first proposed this sometime back, I was reluctant; not because it wasn’t the capes and tights genre but rather because it was a Disney Comic. With other pressing matters at hand, and a lack of time to track down and read this volume of tales cataloguing the rise of the world’s richest duck, it sat in the back burner of my mind. Now, I have had many a heated discussion about the tights and capes genre with Mr. Newert, and besides respecting his intelligence, I respect his taste in comics (almost a higher, if-not-equal compliment IMO) so when there was a little bit more space in my life for comic book reading again I made sure that his suggestion was on my pull list.

I don’t know why I waited so long. All of my reluctances over the quality of art and writing in the comic due to my perception of what would be acceptable in a Disney book were assuaged almost immediately. The volume develops the character of Scrooge McDuck from a wee lad of 10, earning his #1 Dime in Glassgow, Scotland to the wealthy, tightfisted, and cantankerous old duck that the world has come to know as Uncle Scrooge with humor, intelligence, and a sophistication that appeals to both adult and child readers.  For example: in the first chapter “Of Dimes , Ducks, and Destinies” Magica De Spell (that evil sorceress duck with the haircut that my wife had in her senior yearbook photo) travels back in time to steal Scrooge’s #1 dime (as is her M.O.). As part of fitting into the scenery she uses a spell to don clothing more appropriate to the time period—a duck is sitting in a nearby window having a drink from a brown bottle. This duck might not be suspicious at first, but after De Spell’s clothing have changed an arm is seen reaching out of the window pouring the drink to the ground. It is a simple, yet easy joke aimed more at an adult audience in acknowledgement in the fantastic nature of magic (if not anthropomorphic ducks and dogs) more so than children, despite their level of involvement with alcoholic hallucinations.

As a man born in the 1980’s I have an especially soft spot in my heart for Disney’s ducks as I was reared on a healthy diet of Duck Tales. The adventures of Scrooge, along with his grandnephews Huey, Dewey,and Louie and their most inept pilot, Launchpad McQuack are a cornerstone of my childhood. While I have somewhat less attachment to Donald (probably it only goes so far as the Dancing Donald Duck toy I had as a kid and my general predilection to incomprehensible sailor babble) I found it interesting that little effort is made in the comics to emulate his characterist “ducky” voice. His characterization, though limited in the long life span of his

miserly uncle (the tale spans 1877 to 1947) is interesting as I never really know what the hell he was saying before (perhaps Donald is only drunk in motion pictures). However, as characters like the afore mentioned De Spell,

it is interesting to see how they operate in different contexts. Additionally, I found particular joy in guessing a largely unnamed Afrikaner Duck who played the role of villain in “The Terror of the Transvaal” was in fact McDucks arch nemesis Flintheart Glomgold, as well as reading the formation of the Beagle Boys Gang in “The Master of The Mississippi”.

All in, reading the character of Scrooge develop from a 10 year old with a shoe-shine kid to an intrepid and adventurous teenager, to a hardened man of his twenties (stopping only to look for “tail” from Goldie O’Gilt –another character I remember from Duck Tales), all the way to a penny pinching, coin swimming, money bin hoarding, old man (duck) looking to connect with some family on Christmas Day is quite the ride; and a refreshing departure from my normal comics faire. The art, while maintaining the Disney character design and manual of style is remarkably dynamic, consistent, and relays at times the same amount of sophistication and humor as the writing does. “The Life and Times of Scrooge McDuck” is a marvelous and fun read for any comic book fan and Don Rosa’s 1995 Eisner Award for it is well deserved, as is the 1997 Comic’s Buyers Guide Favorite Reprint award. I recommend it whole heartedly, and assert that anyone who can’t enjoy this comic book probably can’t enjoy comic books at all.

P.S. Finding out that Duckburg is located in Calisota, USA made me laugh. If only The Simpsons had come up with so simple a solution.

Nuff Said.