December 29, 2008

Nano Film Review #22 -- The Spirit


All I've read of The Spirit comics are "best of" comic stories that show Will Eisner experimenting with the medium, using the pen and the page in new and unique ways to tell stories. And the stories I've read are genius. Masterpieces. A "The Spirit" movie should experiment with the cinematic canvas, and we live in a day and age where that's possible. Look at the poster and you see they way they tried to mimic Eisner's use of words and artwork to create a mood. A "The Spirit" movie should be funky dissolves and wipes and camera tracking using smoke and snow and shadow and light, so the screen and camera aren't just the tools of storytelling but become part of the story itself! With a skilled director at the helm, this could have been. Oh, there were funky dissolves and wipes and camera tracking . . . but they just didn't work.

So, instead of an homage to the spirit of Will Eisner's "The Spirit", what we end up with is an homage to Frank Miller.

All I could see in my mind while watching that movie was what could have been. All I could see on the screen was what was: a movie that tried to be many different things in one (an homage to Eisner, a parody of superheroes, a noir film, a comedy) and failed at all of them.

There were twenty people in the theater. Four got up and left in the middle of the movie. Behind me, a woman kept sighing and saying, "What?" When the film was over, I heard someone say, "That was terrible."

Me? I was just disappointed about what could have been . . .

~ Ben

December 19, 2008

Nano Film Review Recommendations: Alternatives to Delgo

So you want a fantasy movie that actually IS what Delgo wanted to be?

Here's some recommendations:

The Last Unicorn
I just discovered this film. It's beautiful. The story is interesting and satisfying, if a bit weird.

The Dark Crystal
Similar to Delgo, in that a LOT hinges on the world it creates. It's a valid criticism to say that The Dark Crystal is more style than substance, and some would say that it's a concept in search of a real story. The difference is that this creates a living world, while Delgo's world is dry and disconnected. I love this film. It's a masterpiece of puppeteering that we won't see again because of today's reliance on CGI.

Labyrinth
With Labyrinth, Henson wanted more story to go along with the world, and story-wise it works better than Dark Crystal. World-wise, not as much. Still, it's a bizzare and unique world, and once more pushed puppeteering film effects in to directions we will never be able to see the culmination of.

My Neighbor Totoro
Wow, wanna talk interesting creature and world creation? This movie is crawling with them (literally!).

The Hobbit
I've always loved this movie, since I first watched it on the black and white TV in the basement as a kid on some Saturday afternoon to when we rented it on VHS a little later to when I rewatched it as an adult on DVD. To me, Bilbo Baggins will always sound like Orson Bean.

And don't forget The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (all three versions, including the BBC version and the '70's animated version), Prince Caspian, Pan's Labyrinth (not for kids), The Lord Of The Rings trilogy (The Fellowship of the Ring, The Two Towers, and The Return of the King), along with the two other versions that were made (both interesting in their own right).

What say you?

~ Ben

December 18, 2008

Not-so-Nano Film Review #21 -- Delgo


(SPOILER WARNING. Not that you need to worry about it, since you're not really going to see this movie, are you?)

Needed to get away last night. I have a check from a script I wrote a few months ago. I hadn't been to a movie in a while.

I went to see Delgo for four reasons:

1. I'd heard about it over the years and was curious. It's had a long and tough history, struggling to find a distributor, even with an all star cast and good buzz online.
2. Wanted to see if it really was THAT bad. Couldn't be, could it?
3. Figured I'd be alone in the theater.
4. Knew it wouldn't last long in theaters.

#3 was correct. In fact, according to this article, it averaged to two people per screening last weekend. Wow. This means that #4 is also correct.

And yes, to #2, it was that bad. Mash all the annoying things from Disney movies (but leave out the awesome) with Star Wars semi-mystical mumbo-jumbo and Lord of the Rings battle scenes and you get Delgo, a movie that can't seem to figure out who its audience is or where it wants to steal its plot points from.

I hate to be harsh, but . . . man.

You've got a painfully unfunny slipstick sidekick and a dog-creature that pees on someone, juxtaposed against casual killing (the main character knocks some troll-like creatures to their death miles below, a smile on his face) and assassination and gambling addiction.

All the deaths are off screen, usually with the implication of a stabbing and then a hand falling limp, which lessens the emotional impact of a screen death for children, but also lessens the emotional impact of a screen death for the older viewers that the death was put in the story for in the first place. It happens multiple times, as well.

Add to that confusing, inconsistent character development (Delgo hates the buterfly-ish people because they killed his parents, butterfly-ish people ruin his sacred temple, but he still keeps his date with the butterfly-ish princess, has a painful Disney musical number "we're gonna put all our hopes and dreams and troubles into two or thee sentences for each other so the audience doesn't miss it" only without the music number, flirts with her, almost kisses her, and THEN remembers he's supposed the hate the butterfly-ish people -- the worst example of inconsistency).

Oh, and don't forget the (SPOILER WARNING) bad guy who got killed ten minutes before the end of the movie who turns out not to be dead ten seconds before the end of the movie, but no one noticed before he had time to crawl through not one but TWO cheering armies to get close enough to throw a spear at the heroes who are about to kiss, only so the sidekick can save the day. It's a useless scene that does nothing for the theme or story, and it's not the only scene like that.

The theme of revenge is never fully explored with the characters. It's given lip service by the mentor-character, but when (SPOILER WARNING) Delgo's new friend, a butterfly-ish warrior, is killed in front of his eyes, the killer runs away and Delgo never gets a chance to internalize and use his lesson about revenge. He smashes some tables in anger. But the filmakers are making a movie where the theme deals with revenge, and they make a point to have the murderer of Delgo's friend run away and do not let Delgo confront the theme! Then Delgo goes off to the next part of the story, and it's as if his friend's murder never happened.

Or (SPOILER WARNING -- do I need to say that?) when butterfly-ish princess confronts her mother's murderer, gives her a cool looking flying butterfly-fu kick to knock her into a deep crevice. The princess intends to kill the bad guy. It's the final climax of the movie (except the OTHER bad guy who rises from the dead ten seconds before the credits roll). The princess (the other lead character, next to Delgo) wants to kill the bad guy. Kicks the bad guy toward the crevice. But the bad guy doesn't fall down. Oh, wait, then the ground opens up beneath the bad guy. Good. The princess doesn't kill the bad guy. She wants to. She tries to. She fails. But the bad guy dies anyway. But it wasn't by the princess's hand, so that means it satisfying to us! Bad guy dies! And good princess didn't do it!

The backgrounds and creature design are awesome. The voice acting is decent (there's a big name cast . . . well, they were big names when the movie was made ten years ago). The character design is nice and expressive. Some animation is weak, but forgivable. The popcorn was okay.

Overall, Delgo is a movie that loses sight of its audience, characters, and story, though. Which is amazing, considering it had six credited writers and something like twenty story consultants. (Maybe more.) Is this an example of writing by committee? Is that why it fails to deliver? Or is it an example of a bad script that couldn't be rescued? I don't know where the blame lies. I just know this is the only time I have left a theater really wanting my money back . . . especially in this economy.

Not recommended. But you don't need me to say that. You already didn't see it.

~ Ben

PS -- I do find watching and reading bad examples of storytelling to actually be helpful to me as a writer. You can learn from seeing people do it wrong, just like you can learn from people doing it wrong.

December 17, 2008

Shoe Throwing Guy . . . I Want to Throw My Shoe at You (updated)

Is anyone else as upset as I am about the guy who threw his shoes at the president?

I mean, say what you will about him (and people do), he is the President of the United States of America. And he was attacked.

But in the coverage I'm seeing (granted, not a lot) the guy who threw the shoes is being lauded as some sort of hero. He might be lauded as a hero is he had thrown his shoe at Saddam as well.

Rather, he'd be lauded as a martyr.

Look, I don't think Bush is as terrible as most people seem to think. I also don't think he's as great as he'd like us to remember him. No Child Left Behind may have brought test scores up, but I know many teachers felt left behind. America has not been attacked since 9-11, but that hasn't made the world safer necessarily.

But President Bush is the President of the United States. And on foreign soil, he was attacked. This bothers me. Am I the only one? Maybe I'm missing something. I understand the insult involved in throwing your shoe at someone. But do Americans hate the President so much that they actually applaud this attack? Had it been a violent attack, or had it struck and drawn blood even, would people have celebrated it in the same way?

As for all the people who are latching on to this as a great opportunity to mock the president -- I want to throw my shoe at you, too . . . (Reminds me of my friend Brad's joke: he hated those stickers of Calvin peeing on truck logos so much that he wanted to get a sticker of Calvin peeing on those stickers.)

~ Ben

UPDATE:

Seems President Bush himself isn't as bothered as I am . . . and Bill O'Reilly agrees with some of my assessment, and makes some interesting comments:



I don't think Bush's legacy is up for as much debate as it should be, though.

December 10, 2008

Stuck in 1986, part IV: Conclusion

The same things I said about 1986 could be said about the '90's boom, I guess.

But here's the bottom line:

Comics are stuck looking to the past, and as such making themselves irrelevant to the future.

Okay. Rant done.

~ Ben

December 9, 2008

Stuck in 1986, part III: Audience

Marvel and DC have 'em.

They have your audience, if you are a comic book creator.

Just so you know that.

What? You've sold some comics at some conventions? Great!

But most people's money is tied up in buying Marvel and DC. It's just the way it is.

So why go head to head with them? "Because those are the comics I read, and I want people like me to read my comics."

Understandable. But with the price of comics going up and up and up . . . we creators have to be thinking of ways to get around the fact that DC and Marvel are snapping up those dollars. We've got to be all "kung fu" about things, and use the giant's strength against itself.

How?

By innovating. Not copying.

By looking for different audiences. People who don't buy comics, but might buy yours.

By giving content away.

I think, unfortunately, too many of us are stuck trying to be the people we looked up to in 1986 . . . or 1996 . . . or, for some, 1976 and 1966.

But back then, we were the audience. Now, we're aspiring creators. We simply cannot try to emulate the past. Not now.

We have to look forward. Bring our product to the audience. If we were Marvel or DC, we could expect the audience to find us. But, hate to break it to you, we aren't.

The time has come. If you are a creator, you have to stop thinking about what it was like back in the day when you were the audience, and start thinking about tomorrow and where you're going to FIND your audience. And then grab 'em! Give 'em awesome content that they've never seen before! Hook 'em! And then make 'em glad they came, and look forward to coming back.

Easy? Heck no! But it's what I'm trying to do.

We'll see if I manage to succeed somehow.

~ Ben

December 8, 2008

Stuck in 1986, part II: Form

The $3 22-28-page comic book.

Soon to be the $4 22-28 page comic book.

Remember when it was just $1? I do.

Am I waxing nostalgic about that? Heck no.

Why?

Because the 22-28 page comic is not dead. Not like people predicted. But it IS strangling the comic book industry. Just killing it. How?

Well, let's just get the whole "graphic novels are the wave of the future" thing that has been the mantra for years now.

And the whole "webcomics are the wave of the future" thing that has been the mantra for fewer years now, but still years none-the-less.

Those ideas are great in theory, but let's face facts. Theory is only good if it leads to some sort of action. And so, some people have been trying to ride those ideas, focusing on graphic novels and webcomics.

But the 22-28 page comic book format continually rears it's ugly head. Don't get me wrong, the format is not evil in and of itself. And it is a financial viable method for DC and Marvel and a few select others.

But.

Because of that success, many, many people who would be able to produce a wonderful webcomic are focused on trying to be Marvel and DC. That's the way the big boys do it, that's the way it's gotta be done.

22-28 page comics aren't going anywhere. The comic industry is too dependent on them, comic shops rely on the comic collector who will come in every week to get the latest installment of whatever comic characters they follow, and it's worked great for the last 80 years. Why mess with a good thing?

Because it's not the ONLY thing. And it's not even the BEST thing.

Too many creators are stuck looking backward, at an outdated model of publishing that can only work if you have lots and lots of money to throw at it. And they get burned. It tears me up to see so many small start ups waste so much money. Some of us (yes, I say "us" because I've been involved in this) were able to dust ourselves off from the mistake, and try looking in other directions. Others of us just plain lose everything.

It's not pretty.

The sky is the limit these days, for anyone with an idea, some time, and some talent. So why are we getting so many people who are producing material that, if you overlook the glossy paper and the lack of comic want ads and Sea Monkey ads, looks just like something they were selling in 1986.

The difference? In 1986, people were buying.

Tomorrow, part III . . . probably the last part.

~ Ben

December 6, 2008

Stuck in 1986, part I: Content

1986 was the Golden Days for comic books.

Watchmen.

Batman: The Dark Knight Returns.

In fact, those two books are the Golden Standard for what comic books are. Or should be. Or want to be. Or whatever.

The broke the mold, subtly and not-so-subtly poking holes at the conventions of supeheroes, deconstructing the idea of modern heroes, and presenting archetypes in a new light.

Watchmen and Dark Knight. Top of many, many lists of best comics ever.

Still.

It's 2008, people. Where's the next Watchmen or Dark Knight?

Everything about comics these days seems to be looking back in the rear-view mirror. Looking back at this two comics.

That's not to say they aren't great . . . they are. But where is the next breakthrough? The next "changes everything" story?

The answer: it's come. And it's gone. And we didn't notice. Because our collective eyes were on those two masterpieces, in the rear-view mirror . . . instead of looking ahead.

On Monday, part II . . .

~ Ben

December 4, 2008

For Writers -- Best. Rejection. Ever.

I've been watching a lot of Hulu, especially The Bob Newhart Show. I really, really like it. Bob Newhart is one of my favorite comedians.

As a writer, though, this episode had a couple scenes that struck my funny bone. I was going to wait to put this up with a different writing-related post. But that post isn't ready, and this video clip expires soon.

The episode is actually about Newhart writing a chapter about office furniture in a psychology book, and right before going to a psychologist convention he finds out his twenty pages were cut down to two.

But the bit that struck me as funny was the b-plot with Jerry, his dentist friend, who wants to write his own book.

There's three bits to this plotline . . .

First, the set up:



Second, the dentist's book:



Third, the pay-off:


Of course, the whole episode is great . . .

~ Ben

December 3, 2008

(Web)Comics Worth Reading

Well, as we're nearing the launch of our new webcomic (some of you may have already clicked on the link above . . . but the truth is, we haven't officially "launched" -- what does that mean? I don't rightly know, except to say we haven't done it).

Anyway, as we approach that launch (and a couple others as well -- keep your eyes peeled) I though I might just post a couple links to some webcomics that are worth checking out.

The Dreamer is by a friend of mine, Lora Innes. I met her at one of my first conventions and when she showed me her artwork, all I could say was that I thought she should be working for a big publisher. A while after that, she and I were doing a little topical comic for a youth magazine a while ago and I was disappointed when she told me she'd have to quit. Well, turns out she was quitting so she could work on The Dreamer. So, while I was disappointed, it turned out to be well worth it. IDW will be publishing a print version in the near future. There's just something about Lora's artwork -- something captivating.

Clockwork Game, by another friend of mine (Jane Irwin), who I met at another one of my first conventions. Her Clockwork Game comic is a classic example of the "find something interesting, write about it" school or art. I've written about Jane's work before, but in coming up with a list of webcomics I actually enjoy, her's was on the list. I'd be stupid not to include it. It looks great (always a plus) but has an interesting story (also a plus) and a definite ending planned. Check it out.

Jump Leads was a comic I knew nothing about and know none of the people behind. But their banner on a webcomic list drew me in -- and with comparisons to Dr. Who and Red Dwarf it would have been very easy for me to be disappointed. But I wasn't. It's actually a fun and funny comic, and the comparison is apt but they aren't just aping those shows. It's quirky, snappy, and comedic, and just sophisticated enough to be good sci fi.

Truth be told, I've read a lot of webcomics. I've read a lot of really awful webcomics. I mean, the kind of thing that, if he read it, would make Alexander say, "Hmm, guess I wasn't having a horrible, terrible, no good, very bad day after all . . . compared to this" awful comics.

As I get to know more people and see more webcomics, I'll post some links here.

~ Ben

November 22, 2008

The Two Way Street: Thoughts on Art


There's been a lot of talk recently about a new movie. Fireproof. Now, I haven't seen the movie, but that's okay, because this post is not about that movie. At least, not the content or the film-making or the message. Strike that, this post is about ALL of those things. Just not specifically that movie.

Some who read this may consider this an apologetic (not an apology -- it's two different things) for mediocre art. It's not. I encourage you to get that out of your head right now. The intent of this post is to put into words some new thoughts I've had about art and how it works.

Art is a two way street. There is the creator and there is the audience.

I've been seeing a lot of Christians (usually armchair quarterbacks -- in other words, consumers rather than creators, which doesn't invalidate their opinion, but it does cast a different light on it) complaining about how wretched ALL ART BY CHRISTIANS is.

Granted, there is some truth to that. Why is it that we must ALWAYS provide a Christian rip off of mainstream successes? Granted, some could say my work is just that: a Christian rip off of mainstream successes, because there truly is nothing new under the sun.

And that does give Christian artists a difficult time gaining legitimacy.

But . . . what's the audience?

That must always be taken into consideration.

For example: Fireproof.

What's the audience? Mostly, Christian married couples. And, then, married couples who aren't Christians.

Okay. Cool.

So, when you're making a movie for that audience, there are certain things you need to do, and certain things you do not need to do. Certain things you should do, and certain things you should not do. Might you show a married couple in bed? Perhaps. Might you show a married couple being active in bed? No. (Sorry, I'm trying to think of ways to say this so key words on this blog aren't going to hone in on the wrong phrasings.)

And when you are a part of the target audience, you tend to be forgiving of the artist . . . understanding the artist's intentions. The acting is a bit wooden? That's forgivable, because the message is speaking to me. The characters are preaching a bit? That's okay, I came into it wanting to be preached to a little bit.

Of course, hackles are raised when someone not part of that intended audience gets in there.

These are just some thoughts. And they are by no means to be taken as excuses for not producing the best art you can produce. Just because you're not the top of your field, doesn't mean you should give up and not produce art . . . but it also does not mean you should not put your everything into it.

This goes for everyone, by the way. Not just Christian artists and Christian audiences. The same could be applied to any niche or genre of artistic endeavor.

~ Ben

November 20, 2008

The Death of Pop Culture

Was talking about this with a friend of mine . . .

"Pop Culture" isn't dead yet. But it's starting to flatline.

Its replacement is "niche culture".

Because of the internet, thousands of channel choices through digital television, and

In today's environment, we can never have a Beatles or Bob Dillon or M*A*S*H or Seinfeld or anything like that.

It's a plus and a minus.

On one hand, you can ALWAYS get what you want.

On the other hand, you are NEVER exposed to new things.

So when I have webcomic, if I work hard enough, I'll be able to find the people who are interested in it. But, the chances of a broad audience coming across it are nil. And even if the broad audience happens across it, if it's "not their thing" they won't give it the chance to let it become their thing.

There will always be things like American Idol and Hollywood blockbustsers, because there will always be people with the pockets to put things in front of people and keep them there. But Seinfeld and M*A*S*H, like I said, just don't have a chance to happen again.

Is this a bad thing? I think not. I think this will force artists/creators to work harder at their craft, as they compete for audiences. I think the potential for BETTER works of art on the larger scale is possible.

But the people with more money will have to take less chances.

And the people with less money will have to do more with less.

It's an interesting conundrum.

~ Ben

November 17, 2008

STAR TREK trailer

The new Star Trek trailer is now up. This is the trailer that actually shows what is going to be in the movie.

I have to say, I'm liking what I see.


As a Star Trek fan since I was in grade school and watching the old school Star Trek downstairs on my parent's old black and white television that made everything in the top quarter of the screen enlongated (which created some very large foreheads) . . . I've realized that Star Trek was a big part of my adolescence. While Star Wars engaged my imagination, it was Star Trek that caused my imagination to reach out an explore. When I wrote and drew my own comics in elementary school and junior high, I had a handful of superheroes that I made up and I did Star Trek stories.

When I started writing fiction, the only "fan-fiction" I wrote in junior high and high school was Star Trek. (It wasn't fan fiction back then, it was just Star Trek stories.) I didn't do that with Star Wars or Superman. I mean, I loved Star Wars and Superman . . . but for some reason, it was Star Trek that actually seemed to encourage artistic creation for me.

I find that interesting.

Anyway, I hope this movie lives up to the promise. There's a great cast, some strong writers, and the guy who gave us Lost. Already, Trek fans around the world are nitpicking the heck outta this thing . . . some claiming that this new movie has ruined their childhood, others claiming this new movie is the science fiction equivalent of the Messiah.

As someone who has always preferred "Trekkie" over "Tre
kker" . . . I'm waiting and looking forward to seeing the movie. They've been saying things about how this will be a "positive" movie, and how it will be a different kind of movie in a landscape where The Dark Knight is breaking records.

We'll see . . .

~ Ben

The new version of the U.S.S. Enterprise, from Entertainment Weekly

Nano Film Review #20 -- Quantum of Solace


Casino Royale was a great James Bond movie.

Quantum of Solace is a movie with great action scenes.

Big difference.

Quantum of Solace feels like it's just an extension of the previous movie (plot-wise, it is) and a set up for the next movie. Like too many big action movies, it felt like the character moments were little more than pit stops between action sequences.

Can't say I really liked it. Can't say I really didn't. Fits nice and snugly in between. I don't recommend it, really. Maybe as a rental.

~ Ben

October 2, 2008

Comics Worth Reading -- Star Wars: Vector

Okay, so the Clone Wars movie didn't excite me much. At all. Although I hear rumors the television series is better than the movie . . .

But here's something that got me excited about Star Wars again.

It's called "Vector" and it's a miniseries that crosses over a number of different Star Wars comics from Dark Horse. The different series all take place in different time periods, and that's what initially attracted me to the story. From a purely analytical POV, I wanted to see how they went about doing it.

But I stopped reading from an analytical POV with the first issue.

Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic #25
Vector Part 1, written by John Jackson Miller

I looked at that first cover and I saw Darth Vader, Luke Skywalker, and two dudes I'd never heard of (although I assumed one of them is Luke's ancestor, because I at least knew enough about Star Wars: Legacy, one of the titles the crossover went into, to know it was about the grandson or grand-nephew or whatever of Luke).

In this first issue, we're introduced to a bunch of characters that have been established in this series: Knights of the Old Republic, which takes place generations (I think) before the movies. But the writer does a fairly good job of introducing the characters to new readers (like me).

But what gets me excited in this issue is the opening prophetic dream that has Luke, Darth, and the new Skywalker . . . and makes it known that something terrible is going to happen.

Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic #26
Vector Part 2, written by John Jackson Miller

And something terrible DOES happen. It's a plague, and it has something to do with the force, and I'm not going to get into the details too much because I recommend people read the series and enjoy and experience it for themselves.

Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic #27
Vector Part 3, written by John Jackson Miller

Now, other than the initial prophetic dream sequence, the characters I know and love don't appear in these first three issues of this story. And that's okay. The characters who DO appear are likable, and the story itself is intriguing.

Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic #28
Vector Part 4, written by John Jackson Miller

The first four issues of the "Vector" story make for a great first act. I really enjoyed it. I'm curious about the further adventures of those characters, and I'm curious about earlier adventures as well. The old pocket book may not let me actually read them, but I was pretty happy/satisfied with the story. And I was ready to get into some of the characters I DO know . . .

Star Wars: Dark Times #11
Vector Part 5, written by Mick Harrison

"Dark Times" is Dark Horse's Star Wars comic series about Darth Vader, during the time between Episode III (when he is "created") and the original Star Wars movie (still can't bring myself to call it Episode IV).

Again, I don't want to give away too much of the plot, but generations have gone by and Darth finds the ancient plague . . . and some other ancient evils . . .

Star Wars: Dark Times #12
Vector Part 6, written by Mick Harrison

. . . and we get to see Darth in some good old fashioned Jedi fighting.

There's much more to it than that. Again, I don't want to give too much away. But the writers of this crossover series do a nice job of finding a natural device, that makes sense in the context of the story, to move the action (and even some characters -- again, don't want to give too much away) generations ahead in time.

But as cool as it is to see Darth in action, he's not who I was waiting for.

Star Wars: Rebellion #15
Vector Part 7, written by Rob Williams

I was a pretty big fan of the Star Wars comics when they were being published by Marvel. In those days, we didn't have a VCR, so the Star Wars comics were all I had to fuel my Star Wars excitement between movies. As a result, I did get pretty fond of and attached to the original trilogy characters. (And I still think, as I said in my Clone Wars movie review, an animated series featuring those characters would be fun, but I'm biased.)

Star Wars: Rebellion #16
Vector Part 8, written by Rob Williams

Again, a nice, natural device is used to move the story from Darth's early years to Darth's later years is utilized. And it works. Putting on my analysts hat, this is one of the better crafted crossovers I've seen, and not a lot of absurd concepts have to be put into play to make it work. The Rebellion chapters and the Dark Times chapters flow together so seamlessly, you almsot don't notice it's two different titles the story just passed through.

Getting away from looking "under the hood" as a writer, and switching over to being a reader and a fan, I'm just enjoying seeing Luke and Leia in action again.

Sadly, Luke's chapter in the story is only two issues long out of the twelve. So far, that's my only complaint about the crossover.

Star Wars: Legacy #28
Vector Part 9, written by Rob Williams

What will the future bring? That's my only concern. Like the first four chapters, which dropped me into a series revolving around characters I know nothing about, these final four chapters are about the future "Legacy" of the Skywalker family -- and again, these are characters I don't know about.

Will the story sustain itself? I don't know.

But man, I've not gotten excited about reading a new Star Wars story in a while.

Ah, but here's the difference:

With Clone Wars, it felt like they were just doing a story with the Star Wars label and expecting you to like it because it's called "Star Wars", it has lightsabers, spaceships, and explosions.

With "Vector", it feels like they're trying to tell a good story and using Star Wars characters to do it. And they succeeded.

Dark Horse, and those four writers plus whatever editors and story consultants worked on this story have done a great job. This is how a crossover should be done.

~ Ben

September 24, 2008

September 8, 2008

J.K. Rowling wins her copyright lawsuit! Hooray?

Not sure how I feel about this:


Essentially, J.K. Rowling sued a guy who ran an online Harry Potter encyclopedia (she approved of the website, from what I understand, because it encouraged a fanbase and community), because he planned to publish it as a book.

She planned to do a Harry Potter encyclopedia herself.

She sued him to shut down his publishing plans. And she won.

On one hand, I see her point. He's competition, after all, when it comes to Harry Potter encyclopedias. He'd be making money from her characters and her work.

On the other hand, she approved of the website (from what I understand): what's the difference when already he's offering the information for free. And it just seems so harsh. Big powerful author who's richer than most third world countries stepping on the little fan tribute dream of a diehard Potter fan. It does rather squash the whole "fan tribute" type of thing.

But when does a fan tribute become a copyright violation?

Well, here's a pretty cut a dry answer: when you plan to publish a book.

I'm torn. One one hand: creator's rights, which are more and more difficult to defend as the technology changes and makes it easier and easier to violate. On the other hand: the fan community, which while it can't claim copyright, wants to claim ownership.

~ Ben

September 1, 2008

Nano Film review #18 & 19 -- Star Wars: The Clone Wars and WALL*E

Let's compare and contrast two science fiction CGI animated movies.

First, this:


Star Wars: The Clone Wars.

Animation: pretty okay. It's stylistic, not realistic, and I've been waiting for a stylized 3D animated movie that would work. This did.

Story: pretty okay. It didn't engage me.

Characters: The "little girl" Jedi, I liked. The baby Hutt, okay. Uncle Hutt, no way. Established characters, nothing new -- which was frustrating. Since we know their futures already, it felt like there needed to be more to it. Subtext? I'm not sure. I mean, the "little girl" Jedi is going to be killed. And Anakin is going to survive the war and become evil. And the "little girl" Jedi will die because of him.

Script: I did laugh at a couple lines. I groaned about more, though.

Overall: A great big "meh". A diversion. But it's sad that Star Wars, which at one time captured my imagination and made me want to create these kind of stories, has become something so unimpressive.


WALL*E

Animation: Beautiful. Simply gorgeous.

Story: engaging, although meandering. It felt like two movies in one. Both were good, but the WALL*E story was best.

Characters: So likable. WALL*E and EVE moreso than everyone else. These are cute characters that exist in their own world and make sense and make you like them. The "stock" cute/eccentric Pixar-type characters are there as well, and they're good, although not as fun as other Pixar supporting characters.

Script: Again, beautiful. Again, I felt like I was watching two movies as the second half of the movie moved away from WALL*E to make room for a whole new cast of characters and a related but different plot. But it's totally forgivable because the characters are likable. There wouldn't have to even BE a plot, and you'd still enjoy watching these characters.

Overall: One of my favorite movies ever. If I made a list of favorite movies . . . WALL*E would be on it. Like Star Wars did years ago, WALL*E ha inspired me to create fun, engaging stories.

Two notes:

1. For a look at an energetic, engaging Star Wars: The Clone Wars, check out:
These collections of a handful of short animated films are fun, energetic, stylistic, and, above all, enjoyable. I love them.

2. I really wish we'd move away from the Clone Wars/Star Wars Prequel movies period of time. How awesome would it be to have Star Wars movies in this style, but featuring Luke, Han, Leia, and Chewie? The actors are still alive and while they aren't young enough to act in movies like that . . . they could do voice overs for animation!

Sorry . . . fanboy moment.

~ Ben

I know I get a tiny percentage if someone orders something from Amazon from a link I put here . . . but I'm only going to link to the movie I actually recommend . . .

August 28, 2008

Comics Worth Reading -- With the Light

I keep meaning to review this.

With the Light is a touching, funny, heartwarming, and heartbreaking story about a family in Japan coping with raising a child with autism.

Each volume clocks in at over 500 pages. That's a lot of story. I found I didn't want to read it all in one sitting. It was overwhelming. Not because it wasn't good. Quite the opposite. It was extremely good! That's what made it so overwhelming. You're drawn in as you experience the life of this family and the cultural, societal, and familial troubles they are forced to face, while at the same time taking care and learning about their child.

With the Light is graphic storytelling at its best. It creates characters with depth, a storyline that engages, and becomes an experience, not just a quick read. I found it to touch me in an emotional way that no other graphic novel I have ever read has ever managed to do.

The story is based on a number of different real people's experiences, in Japan, raising a child with autism. Like all good fiction, you experience a life unlike your own. I found myself not only learning -- through empathetic fictional experience -- about autism, but about Japanese culture as well.

This is not escapism, I should point out. If you want to read a book that will let you escape into a fun world, get something like this. (EDIT: Please note, I suggest that you get something like that not because it's a bad thing -- quite the opposite -- but rather as an example of good escapism.)

With the Light is a story that is difficult to read at times. But it is also powerful. Yeah, sometimes it's great to read the latest story about a superpowered man in tights punching the daylights out of another superpowered man in tights to save the day. But stories like this, which are about a different breed of hero, need to be read sometimes too.

EDIT: Some people have asked me for more information about this series. 

First, the author and artist is Keiko Tobe. A search on Amazon for Keiko Tobe only brings up the four "With the Light" volumes, but that doesn't mean much. I'm sure Keiko Tobe has done other things, I just don't know what. She based the characters in the book on many different people from interviews and research. In Japan, under the original title Hikari To Tomoni, the manga received an Excellence Prize at the eighth annual Japan Media Arts Festival. It was adapted into a television drama, which also won a bunch of prizes. (I only know this because I read the back of the book.)


~ Ben

Nano Film Review #17 -- Pan's Labyrinth

Just to get this in quickly, since I did the Hellboy II review . . .

Pan's Labyrinth is brutal and beautiful. Savage and whimsical. Realistic and fantastic. Not for the weak hearted, but also not for the callous hearted.

Hey! A "Nano Film Review" that lived up to it's name!

~ Ben

August 27, 2008

Nano Film Review #16 -- Hellboy II

I've been looking forward to this movie. Guillermo del Toro is a director I've come to love, mostly through his movie Pan's Labyrinth, which is a visual feast. It's also a beautiful (and horrible) statement about fairy tales and hope and all that stuff.

Hellboy II got looked over, I think, partially because of all the hubbub about Dark Knight. Heck, I looked it over. I intended to write this when it came out, but Dark Knight took my attention away.

But it deserves some recognition. Where Dark Knight was, in essence, a crime drama about a superhero (seriously, put Dark Knight up next to Heat), Hellboy II was, in essence, a High Fantasy movie about a superhero.

Seriously. Put Hellboy II up next to Lord of the Rings.


The character designs are fantasy.


The sets . . .


Heck, even the plot. They must stop the evil fairy/elf from finding the object that can raise an evil army to take over the world. Okay, I simplify it . . . but if you take the Reader's Digest version of Hellboy II and put it up next to the Reader's Digest version of Lord of the Rings . . . you're reading two Reader's Digest stories that are quite similar.


Truth be told, Hellboy II is, like Pan's Labyrinth, a visual feast.


Indeed, when the fantasy parts were the best parts. When the characters leave that world, you almost feel bad. Like you didn't want them to leave that world because you don't want to leave that world.


If you like High Fantasy and you like smart Alec superheroes and you don't mind getting a bit of peanut butter in your chocolate, check it out.

Images from Yahoo Movies.

July 31, 2008

Origami Flash Game

Since I cannot draw worth anything, one way I express myself artistically is origami. In the back of my mind, I've had a dream about doing an origami fumetti (comic made with photographs) or origami "puppet" video . . .

Also, in the very very forefront of my mind I've got the dream to have some Flash games made for the TimeFlyz website I'll be bringing out in the next few months (you've seen the results of the beginning of my quest here and here, but unfortunately with those games you have to link back to a web 2.0 site that, frankly, has some pretty awful content that I don't want my kid, parent, and teacher friendly TimeFlyz website to link to, so the search goes on for either a simple game creator that even someone like me could use or some people who have the necessary skill set) . . .

So, here I've found a Flash game using origami!

O-RI-GA-MI is a "trapped in a room" style game, where you must point and click to find the clues necessary to escape. Even though it's all in Japanese (although you can find a translation here, at the JayIsGames blog, if you scroll down to the comments), it's easy enough to do without knowing what the words say.

I find it quite fascinating.

~ Ben

July 28, 2008

July 20, 2008

Nano Film Review #14 -- The Dark Knight


I'm behind on my "reviews". Wall*E, Hellboy II, and a couple others just have to wait. Last night I saw The Dark Knight in Imax.

It. Was. Amazing.

I have to go again and see it. This is a movie that bears repeat viewings. This is a movie that Says Something. And I want to see it again.

First, the Imax stuff: it was beautiful. The last Imax movie I saw was something about the Wright Brothers at Disney or something. Just gorgeous. I'd like to see it again in Imax, but it was just happy circumstance that I found myself 20 minutes away from an Imax theater on this particular weekend. I'll not be seeing it in Imax again. But I think I want to see it on the big screen again.

This movie is a dark movie. Very dark. I'm surprised it did not get an "R" rating. I found myself squirming whenever Joker came on screen, because you never knew what he was going to do.

This movie mines the ideas of good and evil, heroes and antiheroes. And it does it well. It was a very dense movie, with a lot packed into the 2 hour 30 minute running time. And there were some cuts where you could just see they had to trim another second here or there to get it under the studio's desired running time. That's my only complaint: the movie needed some breathing space. Time not for US to breath, but for the story to breath.

Heath Ledger will not, and should not, be nominated for an Oscar. He was awesome, but it wasn't that kind of awesome.

They didn't really dig into my idea of the Two Face character: that Two Face is essentially half Batman and half Joker. I expected to see more of a tug of war between Batman and Joker over Harvey Dent. But the story that DID develop made sense for the theme they were running with.

It was a powerful film, exploring ideas in a mature way, but because of the capes and costumes, it was able to explore it in a more powerful way than had it been a "real world" action drama.

If you can see it in Imax . . . do it.

~ Ben

July 18, 2008

Cloverfield UPDATE!


I haven't bought the Cloverfield DVD yet. I'm sure I will sometime in the future, when it's $5 or something. I enjoyed the movie. A lot.

But I'm more excited about this:

In an earlier posting, I mentioned the end credits music (by composer Michael Giacchino) and how awesome it was. And now, it's available from iTunes for $0.99. Yes, the entire 12 minute 16 second masterpiece of awesome can be found right here.

Sweetness. Pure, bombastic sweetness. This will be playing in my iPod. A lot. Probably too much.

~ Ben

The Dark Knight

Not sure when I'll get to see this. I have tons of work to do today and this weekend (compounded because I'm completely rewriting the majority of the project), a signing tomorrow afternoon, and I'll be visiting my parents tomorrow afternoon and Sunday.

I'm excited to see the movie, though. My parents live near an IMAX theater . . . maybe after the kids are in bed. :)

I hope this movie is the story I want it to be. To me, Two Face is the composite of Batman and Joker. One side, seeking justice. The other side, seeking anarchy. I haven't heard much about the Two Face elements of the story, but I truly hope that's the direction they go in.

~ Ben

NEWSFLASH: Man sues Christian publisher for violating his consitutional rights by publishing the Bible (UPDATED)

From WFRN.com's news section:

A well-known Christian publisher in Grand Rapids, Michigan is facing a 60-million dollar lawsuit. 39-year-old homosexual activist Bradley Fowler is suing Zondervan, claiming the Bible has given him emotional stress and violating his constitutional rights. Fowler says Zondervan Bibles linked homosexuals with being unrighteous in 1st Corinthians 6:9, and he says that's made him an outcast in his family. Zondervan spokeswoman Terra Powers responds, by saying "Zondervan relies on the scholarly judgment of the highly-respected translation committees behind each translation and never altered the text of the translations they're licensed to publish." Powers says Zondervan only publishes credible translations produced by credible Biblical scholars. Fowler has also filed a ten-million dollar lawsuit against Tennessee-based Thomas Nelson Publishing.

Wow. Think of the possibilities. I wonder if this guy has though through all the ramifications if this goes to court . . . or if he knows it's going to get tossed out and is just trying to get attention.

I used to have this daydream that I would be able to sue the parents of the bullies who picked on my in Jr. High, which contributed to my low self-esteem issues that I was dealing with through college.

Hm, between Bradley and me, I just wrote an episode of Boston Legal!

Seriously, I feel for him. If he's an outcast in his own family because they believe the Bible, then they're reading it wrong.

Then again, I could sue the publishers of the Bible as well. It says, pretty explicitly, "No one is righteous." That would include me. And his family. Seems to me the guy should be suing his family. They're the ones who forgot that they're just as unrighteous as him, jumped on their high horse, and instead of, you know, loving him like they're commanded to, made him into a pariah.

(Really? You want to debate with me that they should treat him with love? You think they should treat him like an outcast? Hmmm, you might be on to something. Maybe they SHOULD treat him like an outcast . . . considering the way Jesus treated outcasts. You know, spending time with them and loving them. I went round and round with a guy about this, who was ina situation where someone had wronged him. He believed he had every right to "treat him as you would a pagan or a tax collector", which is what Jesus said to do. But, the one problem with that argument was if you examined the way Jesus treated tax collectors and pagans: eating with them and spending time with them.)

(Full disclosure: I am published by Zondervan.)

UPDATE: Zondervan has not been served any papers. Thomas Nelson's lawsuit has already been thrown out of court by a judge who warned that, had a lawyer brought the case to him, said lawyer would be fined for a frivolous lawsuit. 

~ Ben

July 16, 2008

Nano Film Review #13 -- The Incredible Hulk


The Incredible Hulk would've been a much better film if I hadn't seen Iron Man first. But I did. So here we are.

Overall, it was a fun movie. Lots of smashing. Lots of running. Lots of blowing stuff up. Lots of references to the original television series. Cool stuff.

Stan Lee's cameo was good . . . but I wish we could've seen more. Lou Ferrigno's cameo was fun. And Bill Bixby's cameo was cool to see.

And the ending? Well, the climax was cliche. And the epilogue was done MUCH better in Iron Man. (Not so spoilerish spoiler: Just like Iron Man, there's a quick zoom to a smile as Bruce Banner accepts who he is. Iron Man did the same thing, but it had been set up throughout the movie. In Hulk, the denouement here sort of -- to me -- canceled out the theme of the movie!) And the "crossover" that you already know about (Tony Stark/Iron Man showing up) was okay.

Other than the ending -- which wasn't bad, it just wasn't great -- it I enjoyed this movie. It didn't have the raw emotion of the first Hulk movie. But that's okay.

~ Ben

July 14, 2008

From an athiest website . . .

I found this article just a few moments ago:

COPERNICUS, GALILEO AND DARWIN
THREE MEN WHO CHANGED THE WORLD


I just found it ironic that two of those men who are spoken of in glowing words such as this --

"Atheists are indebted to them for their courage and wonderful discoveries. Three men though, stand out as truly world changing."

-- were also devout Christians who considered their exploration into science and exploration into God.

This is something that most people don't realize. The scientific method comes from a long tradition of Christians (and, to be honest, people of other religions) compiling data about the world to learn about God!

Ah well. It's much easier to ignore the truth in seeking facts, if the truth doesn't support the facts you want to see.

~ Ben

July 10, 2008

To Rev. Jesse Jackson -- an open letter

Dear Rev. Jackson,

"Character is what you do when you think no one else is watching."

Sincerely,

Ben Avery

July 5, 2008

InConjunction

I'm sitting here behind a table, looking out at some wizards, Vulcans, a dude with horns, a little fairy girl, and lots of people with lab coats.

I'm at InConjunction, an Indianapolis based sci-fi/fantasy convention. It's easily the best convention I've been to (I was her last year, and really wanted to come back).

I just finished a panel discussion about the "Art of Adaptation", where I was the only person on the panel (the other guy didn't show up) and we talked mostly about my experience adapting stories into comics, which became a pretty fun discussion about movie adaptations we liked and don't like.

In an hour, I'll be going to a panel discussion about Time Travel (is it possible and why do we like those stories? . . . answer, Yes: in one direction, though; and, because we love to think about "What if?", especially as it regards choices and decisions - but I hope the panel discussion is a little longer than that). I'll be able to talk about TimePiece (the comic), TimePiece (the radio drama), TimeFlyz (the manga), and my love love love of time travel stories.

Last night I took part in a panel discussion about "Science and Religion: Can the Two Eve Be at Peace" (short answer: sure, why not?) which was fun, and an opportunity to share and listen to people's different spiritual journeys. Very interesting, considering the setting brought in a hugely diverse group of people.

~ Ben

July 3, 2008

Hedge Knight II: The Sword Sword review

Well, Hedge Knight II: The Sworn Sword is out. Came out a little bit ago. I wrote the script, based on George R.R. Martin's novella. I worked very hard to script it so that when you were reading Hedge Knight or Sworn Sword, you were reading George R.R. Martin's Hedge Knight . . . not Ben Avery's. Although, that said, it's impossible to work on something like this and not have a bit of "you" leak in.

Anyway, I'll be at a convention in Indianapolis this weekend, mostly promoting Sworn Sword and TimeFlyz and Oz/Wonderland. Sworn Sword is in hardcover, and it looks awesome if I do say so myself. Last year at this convention, InConjunction, I got to actually meet George R.R. Martin there! (He was the guest of honor.)

Anyway, all that to get to what I really intended this post to be: a link to Todd Klein's blog, where he reviews Sword Sword. If you're into comics and you think Todd Klein's name sounds familiar, that's because he's been lettering comics since the 70's, so you've probably read a comic he's worked on at one time or another. A friend of mine forwarded me a link to his blog, where he talks about Sworn Sword:

And Then I Read: HEDGE KNIGHT II Sworn Sword

Thanks, Todd.

~ Ben


June 27, 2008

TimeFlyz Gamez 2

And another game, possibly the better of the two.

The music, btw, was generated on Garageband. The graphics are by Adi, from book 1 of the TimeFlyz series and from some conceptual work he did.




Click here to make your own game on Fyrebug.com

TimeFlyz Gamez

A little more fun than last post, here's a little game I put together at a Web 2.0 site called Fyrebug.




Click here to make your own game on Fyrebug.com

June 2, 2008

Chronotron -- game

This is fun little online game I found:

Chronotron

Those of you who know me know I love time travel. My first "real" comic was a time travel story and one of my most recent projects is a time travel story. So this intrigued me.

The basic premise is your time machine has broken down and you have to fix it using time travel. So on each level, you have to solve a puzzle that involves setting something up, going into your time machine, and coming out again. The past you sets up what you did before, and the present you uses the set up to get to the goal . . . or works on setting up more of the solution so a future you can get to the goal.

Lots of fun. I really enjoy playing it. It involved a lot of forward thinking, cause and effect, trial and error. It's easy enough to understand quickly, but it gets challenging as you go on. It could easily become confusing, but it doesn't. Instead, it's a challenge to figure out the steps you have to take in order to get to your goal.

Last night I played up to level 8 and then went to bed. While I was trying to fall asleep, I was also trying to figure out level 8 (which I did) and this morning I quickly played level 8 to see if my plan would work (which it did).

Of course, now the gears start spinning . . . what could a TimeFlyz game look like? I've been imagining that for a while, but now to think of the possibilities of actual time travel in the game where you work side by side with a past version of yourself. I can't design games, but it's fun to think about.

~ Ben

May 30, 2008

Disney Admits Mistake in Prince Caspian Release

Really? You think?

Disney is admitting that maybe releasing Prince Caspian the week after Iron Man and the week before Indiana Jones might not have been a good idea.

I think Iron Man surprised everyone, I guess. Indy, with name recognition and the hype machine, was going to do as well as it did, though. And releasing Caspian less than a week before Indy was NOT a good idea.

~ Ben

May 28, 2008

TimeFlyz . . . CHEAP! And also SPANISH EDITIONS!!!

For a limited time on ChristianBook.com you can get TimeFlyz at a discount:




TimeFlyz 5: Power Play for $5.49!!! (To be released this summer)

Also available, TimeFlyz in Spanish! Before the first books were even finished, I had been told that TimeFlyz was going to be translated into Spanish. And here it is . . .

CRONOMOSCAS!!!


Coming August 1 . . . available from Amazon:

Book 1: Peligro en la piramide

Book 2: El caso tortuga

Expect more on the TimeFlyz front in the near future. There's some exciting things happening . . .

~ Ben