Friday, November 08, 2013

In Which the Sandman Returns; and Matters of Interest to Lunatics Are Discussed.

As I’m sure is true for almost any comic book fan of any longevity, I responded to news of a new Sandman series, with unfettered delight. No “Before Watchmen” this, no ghoulish exhumation of a completed story best left to rest (although that turned out better than anyone could have hoped for, I think). Nor did we need to expect comparisons to an aging rocker, hoarsely belting out classic hits to middle aged moms and dads reliving their youths. For this Sandman series would be penned by its original creator, Neil Gaiman, who by all appearances is at the height of his powers, having continued to produce quality work consistently since the tale of Dream of the Endless first ensured Gaiman's place among the Pantheon of Comic Book Gods such as Moore and Miller twenty-five years ago. We have every reason to expect that this new Sandman series will be everything we could have hoped for.

Having just read issue number one of The Sandman: Overture, I feel confident in saying no one will be disappointed. The story picks up just where the original series left off… and just where it began, in true Endless fashion. All our favorites seem to be in play, including Death, the Corinthian, and of course, Morpheus himself.

No spoilers here, I’ll only say the story opens with a reminder that there are truly infinite worlds and infinite stories to tell, and the first chapter closes by reinforcing that fact in what may be described as a fairly staggering way. Although I didn't do this myself, too eager to get to the new story, I suspect an evening or two dedicated to re-reading the original series in its entirety before digging into this fresh tale will be quite rewarding. In any event, if you are a fan of comic books, Gaiman, or literature, there’s no question this series is not to be missed.

While picking up Sandman, I also stumbled upon the latest offering by Jonathan Luna and Sarah Vaughn, entitled simply, as is the Luna wont, “Alex + Ada.”  Luna, of Luna Brothers fame, has been co-creator of such unforgettable works as Girls and The Sword, and his artistic style has a kind of haunting realism that is perfect for the type of stories he chooses to tell. “Alex + Ada” is no exception in this regard. The premise is hardly original; it’s probably one of the most classic science fiction tales: In a world where technology has advanced to the level where Artificial Intelligence and robotics are the order of the day, a lonely soul is presented with a robot clearly designed for companionship purposes and all that implies.

Although the scenario is familiar, there is something about Luna and Vaughn’s approach to the story that makes it feel entirely new. There’s that artwork of course, and hauntingly lifelike is naturally perfect for a story about android love. There’s the fact that Alex, although pining away for his lost girlfriend Claire and seemingly despondent, is an unwilling participant in the experiment, his robot having been a gift from a wealthy and well-meaning grandmother. There’s also a foreboding sense of doom foreshadowed by a news report of Artificial Intelligence run amok with disastrous consequences a year before. Little is revealed in the first issue, but it’s more than enough to have you wanting to learn more about Alex, his strong connections to the technology that no longer seems that far beyond our own, and what his relationship with his new potential robot paramour will be.

In my estimation, if you’re looking to get into comics, back into comics, or just add two new quality books to your lineup, these two are a great place to start.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Top Ten Rejected Choose Your Own Adventure Titles

Choose Your Own Adventure books were a popular series of books in the 80s and 90s as one of the first mass media examples of interactive role-playing games, long before RPG games like Skyrim and World of Warcraft were even an inkling of a possibility. The simple concept placed you in the role of an adventurer in different scenarios, and your choices would dictate the story, by telling you to turn to a certain page to continue the adventure depending upon the choices you wanted to make. Gamebooks like these were great at stoking a child's imagination at the time, and there is even talk of a CYOA movie in the works today.

What's little known, however, is that there were several ideas that were considered for Choose Your Own Adventure, and then dismissed for various reasons. Here then, are the Top Ten Rejected Choose Your Own Adventure Titles:

10. Journey Under Grandma's Quilt

9. Trapped on the Couch!

8. The Island of Elvis Impersonators

7. Audit!

6. Bathroom City

5. You Are a Cannibal

4. Adventures in Slave Trading

3. The Mystery of the Irregularly Shaped Mole

2. You Are a War Criminal

And the Number One Rejected Choose Your Own Aventure Tile is........

1. Your Code Name Is Hitler

Thank you! Good Night!

Thursday, August 08, 2013

How "How I Met Your Mother" and "Coupling" are the Same Show

Some years ago, the BBC decided to create their own show to compete with "Friends." Their answer was a show called "Coupling," a funny and clever show about a group of twenty somethings and their awkward sex lives as they try to figure out who they are going to become. It became a big success in the UK, so much so that NBC decided to create their own version, as they had done with "The Office." The attempt was a dismal failure, and that was the end of the experiment.

Or was it?

Not long after, Carter Bays and Craig Thomas emerged with a brand NEW show called "How I Met Your Mother," about a group of 20 somethings and their awkward romances as they try to figure out who they are going to become. Despite the fact that creators of both shows claimed the idea was based on their own lives and relationships, and that both shows experimented with traditional sitcom structure, both shows have only been thought of as "Friends" knockoffs, and no comparison has ever been drawn between "Coupling" and "How I Met Your Mother."

Until now. Follow this little photoessay and judge for yourself.

 That's just the beginning...

And this:

And my personal favorite:

Am I on to something here or not? To the best of my knowledge, the creators of "How I Met Your Mother" have never acknowledged a debt to "Coupling" for inspiring their show, or even an awareness of the prior show's existence. Neither has anyone else. Not to take away from the creative efforts of everyone who has worked on HIMYM, which has turned out completely original scripts as far as I know. But it seems to me some sort of acknowledgement of its clear predecessor is due, no?

Saturday, February 16, 2013

5 Cover Songs That Are Better Than the Originals

I am normally not a big fan of cover songs. I particularly hate when people try to cover Beatles songs. So does Aimee Mann, God bless her. But every once in awhile, lightning strikes, and a cover successfully redefines a song and makes it better than its original. Here are five that I think did just that. Or maybe it's just that they're more up tempo than the originals. Well, you be the judge. Originals first.

Hazy Shade of Winter - Simon & Garfunkel vs. The Bangles

I Will Always Love You - Dolly Parton vs. Whitney Houston

My Way - Frank Sinatra vs. Sid Vicious

Twist and Shout - The Isley Bros. vs. The Beatles

Hurt - Nine Inch Nails vs. Johnny Cash