Friday, August 21, 2009

This here is My Boomstick, Mr. President

Ash is back and he’s a liberal. Army of Darkness: Ash Saves Obama, the first in a four part mini-series, will surprise many as a quality comic.

Set at a Detroit comic book convention, the character that made Bruce “Jack of all Roles” Campbell famous once again finds himself face-to-face with the Deadites. Think of it as Dawn of the Dorks. Anyone who has seen Evil Dead, Evil Dead II, or the Army of Darkness will be familiar with the storyline—someone reads aloud from the Necronomicon (i.e. the Book of the Dead) and unknowingly unleashes the demonic spirit that turns unwitting youths into the walking dead—even the book itself says as much when the comic book store guy says “whenever someone stumbles across a successful formula, you always have those who try to duplicate it.”

However, this comic differs from the films and previous Army of Darkness comics in that it stars Barrack Obama who has stumbled across Ash’s long time foes. Now Ash must defeat the Deadites and bail out the President so he can save Detroit’s auto industry.

The book is completely self-referential, constantly referring to events and quotes from the movies, and could be classified as meta-fiction with its allusions to slew of comics that have featured Obama related plots.

The Elliott Serrano’s (Army of Darkness/Xena) quirky story works for laughs but not quite as many as the films and Ariel Padilla (Red Sonja) isn’t too bad either. Even more impressive than Padilla’s illustration work are the covers by Todd Nauck (Amazing Spider-Man) and Lucio Parrillo, whose design mimics the iconic Obama “Hope” poster featuring the likeness of Ash supplanted in presidential pose with “Hope?” written below.

All in all a decent work that will appeal to Bruce Campbell/Army of Darkness fanboys and anyone who likes an off the wall zombie comic. Look for Issue #2 set for release next month.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Googling Yourself Can Be Interesting

Quitters never say die.

If any potential employers were to Google my name, Aaron Brewington, there is practically no chance of me ever getting a job in the future.

For the longest time the number one thing to pop up was a list of registered homeless persons living in New York, it was funny to everyone in college, not so much now though. I wish I could say that would be the worst thing with someone who shares my Christian name, but no, it gets much worse. These are the things my namesakes have done in escalating order.

First up there is the AB who was once the maintenance supervisor for some Podunk county school system until he was charged with felony official misconduct when a program he was running with the local prison that allowed non-violent inmates to work on school grounds doing maintenance work, he instead transported two inmates off-campus to his home where they could work on his tobacco farm.

Next, there was the AB who severely injured his passenger, one Alicia Seedorff, while trying to drive home after drinking in bars, one of which was named One-Eyed Jakes, that served him to the point where they should have known he was drunk. The result was he lost control of his vehicle, left the road, rolled, crashed and ejected Seedorff from the vehicle, thus explaining the severer injuries.

Most heinous of all is the incident involving an Aaron Brewington, though he was not the shooter here, that ended in the death of a 5-year-old in Harlem. 18-year-old big brother Rayshawn Brewington was fucking around with a 9-millimeter Ruger pistol in the bedroom he shared with his two brothers at a homeless shelter when the gun fired a single bullet, striking his 9-year-old brother, AB, in the shoulder and hitting the boy, Lonnie Brewington, in the head. The accident killed Lonnie later that day. This whole thing is so sad and depressing though I am not sure if I am going to end up posting it.

But there are some good things about just good old me. There is my blog, of course, and a picture from a high school reunion of sorts, and my Div School stuff, and my articles with the High Point Enterprise. But the blast from the past I enjoy the most that was quite unexpected and touching seeing after a few years out of my alma mater Kenyon College was a write up about my IM basketball team that ended up winning the A-League title my sophomore and senior years. Play with that team was one of the funnest things I remember about college. We were ridiculous. We had the best player in the school on our team, Colin Hodgkins, and all of the kids were just great guys who had game and knew how to celebrate a post-game victory. I leave on this piece written in the Kenyon Collegian in March of 2003. Most of it are inside jokes that most of you won’t get but hey, I might explain them later.


Quitters never say die, win A league title

In the Ernst Center Mar. 27, the Quitters defeated the Cougars 48-41 to win the 2003 intramural A-League Championship.

The all-sophomore team of Ben Golden, Aaron Brewington, Jon Echlin, Sam Farmer, Eric Fitzgerald and Colin Hodgkins were 9-2 on the season. They finished the season on a six-game winning streak.

As Brewington nailed six three-pointers to start the game, the Quitters jumped out to an early 24-5 lead. The Quitters' man-to-man defense kept the Cougars from entirely erasing the lead. The halftime score was 31-17 in favor of the former varsity athletes. Although the Cougars battled back to eventually cut the deficit to two points, the Quitters held on to secure its championship, getting key buckets from Farmer and Hodgkins. Team captain Fitzgerald kept his team in man-to-man defense, which ultimately secured the win.

In the semi-finals, the Quitters knocked off Shark Attack behind Hodgkins's 22 points. The Cougars beat Team Sykes.

The Quitters, a compilation of two teams known last year as the Quad Squad and Rim Jobs, lived up to its name early in the season when two original roster players quit the team for personal reasons.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

The Creation Myth- Batman: Year One

We all know how Bruce Wayne became the Batman. If you’ve read a single Batman comic, watched any Batman movie or television program, perused any of my Batman related blog entries, or have heard anyone say practically anything about this strange hero—then you already know about how little Brucey’s parents were murdered in a stick up gone bad on Crime Alley from which he inherited the family fortune, mansion (Wayne Manor), and creepy old dude (Alfred) all things he uses to assist in his nightly vigilante quest to clean up a city that is already pretty much gone while posing as the spoiled billionaire playboy who has way too much time/money at way too young of an age. With all this “untouchable” material, Frank Miller set out to revamp this coming of age tale in the way he does everything—by making it dirtier, grittier, and more nihilistic.

And guess what. It kicks ass. Maybe not as much as DKR, but way more than his DK2.

The graphic novel tells more than just the origin of Batman, providing two other comic book character startups in its 80-something pages. In fact, as much as Miller’s work is about the Caped Crusader, it splits near equal time developing James Gordon’s character and how the young, new to Gotham detective becomes all chummy with Bats with their common goal of fighting corruption and taking down the seedy underworld. So here they both are, trying to clean up Gotham, “a city that likes being dirty,” but things are pretty much beyond fucked—the mob runs shit down at HQ, not Commissioner Loeb—so what Gotham needs right now is Serpico. And guess who fits that bill.

This isn’t the inept Commissioner Gordon patrolman from the 60’s or goober from the pre-Christopher Nolan movies; no, he is the Gary Oldman rendition from the newer films—passionate, crusading, moral, etc. He is sort of like Batman without all the gadgets or tights. Almost Marvish (Sin City) in some ways.

But Gordon and Batman don’t start out as BFE as you would expect. His story arc takes us from Gordon trying to catch his vigilante counterpart and ends more or less with how this all team stuff comes to be and how he figures out both figuratively and literally who the man is behind the mask. Readers are given hints to the fact that Gordon has figured out Batman’s identity at a number places within the text. The most obvious of them is when Gordon goes to Wayne Manor with his wife to interrogate Bruce about being Batman, though he never comes right out and says this is the guy. Then in the closing of the graphic novel without his costume when Bruce saves Gordon’s baby boy who has been thrown off a bridge, Gordon who is standing three feet away from Bruce/Batman just staring at him tells him that “I’m practically blind without my glasses,” (95). Some may argue that Gordon was being literal here and was really unable to tell who the guy who saved his boy was, but those people are idiots, for it is clear that Gordon is giving him the go ahead while trying to remain inculpable with this denial. The point Miller makes here is to show how a straight arrow man with a badge “can come to justify a relationship with a violent vigilante fighting a personal war on crime.

With origins of Batman and Gordon out of the way, one of villains who can’t be far from thoughts when the title character is mentioned also gets her own detailed tale—Catwoman. When we first see her, she is a lesbian prostitute with a short fuse and a lot of cats. She is the anti-Batman who comes from the streets and has no interest in making the city a better place; however, she is nonetheless inspired by the Dark Knight to put on a costume and go gallivanting about. Of the three storylines, Catwoman’s is clearly the worst and her character is pretty two dimensional. In this respect she is like all the other female characters in the work—Gordon’s wife and his fuck buddy for example—but other than that the work is flawless.

While the story may not be as brilliant as DKR, though it is pretty brilliant, the art work in this reviewers opinion is actually better. Less colorful than DKR, the work seems somehow dirtier, which lends itself nicely to the novel’s overall themes of transformation of a city in peril and the progression of “man to myth.”

All said and done, this is definitive Batman origin myth. It keeps the parts that are considered sacred but updates the details for an audience that knows the world is a much darker place than the one portrayed in campy 1960’s versions (see below). Or as Hilary Goldstein wrote in her review “The best Batman story of all time? Yes.”: “You know that saying, "If you read just one book, this is the one to read"? Well, that applies to Batman: Year One. It's not only one of the most important comics ever written, it's also among the best.” Not much to argue about there.

Monday, August 10, 2009

9/11 Comics

Approaching the eighth anniversary of the terrorist attacks of September 11th, reading the first volume of 9-11: Artists Respond feels a little weird. This comic was published in January 2002 but most of the work there in came just after the Horror and as such is for the most part a lot of shock and holy shit type reactions mixed with all that gushy American patriotism that pretty much everybody experienced in those early months. For this reason, I have ended up thinking a lot about my own life around that time and how strange it all was. It was the strangest period of my life, and not just because of 9/11 but these are things I will get into momentarily since, as usual, I am quasi making this about myself instead of the book I am reviewing.

First of all, as mentioned, the majority of the pieces found in the book are just full of gooey American goodness. For example, Marc Rosenthal’s strip asserts that the terrorists didn’t change the world on Sept. 11, 2001, no the world changed when “in the end, the criminal terrorists lost what popular support they had, and became increasingly isolated as the world saw the clear moral choice,” (p. 174). Hmm. With hindsight we see that that is a load of shit that we all believed back then. Iraq, “the game changer,” blew that opportunity to all hell and once again we are fucked. More than ever now probably. And in 20 years, when the orphaned Iraqi children are old enough to get their revenge, then “Holy Terror, Batman!”

Looking back on this time, I remember watching Bush’s big speech on the 20th and thinking “Wow, I can’t believe I am actually agreeing with things Bush is saying.” That didn’t last long however. The next day, when I went home for the first time after starting my first year of college, my dad, who like me voted for Nader in 2000, expressed his disbelief at the president’s audacity. He also correctly predicted we would go to war with Iraq because of this. I was confused, “What do you mean go to war with Iraq? That doesn’t even make any sense. Why would we go to war with Iraq?”

“Just watch,” he told me. “He snuck Iraq into that speech, didn’t he? Just wait and see.”

The majority of the reactions featured here, however, come even before that infamous time in the weeks following the Horror. That is, most of the strips are initial reactions that record the shock and terror of that single day in history. For example, one Mark Crilley’s reaction focused on that gorgeous day, a day when I talked with people outside, not many days are like that in an Ohio fall where I went to school, when he writes out one of my thoughts from that day, which was “What a beautiful… horrible day,” (181). On that beautiful/horrible day, I myself was sort of going through a meltdown of my own. Just after I watched the second tower fall, I had to trek over to the athletic complex for an 11 a.m. meeting with the football team, after which I was so screwed up I tried to quit but the coach basically wouldn’t let me. I was clearly out of my mind.

But then again, I still am. Not that that has anything to do with 9/11 or anything, just thought I would share.

So, anyway, there were two types of reactions I really liked: (1) the cynical, nihilistic viewpoint that greatly resembles my own, and (2) the over-grown kid who hasn’t progressed with his/her peers into adulthood—which I can also identify with since I am basically just an overgrown kid myself.

In regards to the overgrown kid theme, one by an artist named Scott Morse stood out. In his story titled “3 Second Impact,” we see a goofy, awkward yet endearing little kid, with a Stewie Griffin lemon-head, coming out of his little shell and doing superhero moves throughout his living room. Halfway through his routine though, we are allowed to see the fully grown Morse, sitting and watching his TV on the day of horror, saying that “I still act ten half the time,” (23). What an excellent image here that nicely captures the way I for one felt at the time—wanting to go out there and do something only having no idea what the hell to do and ending up just reading some comfort material by himself.

Of the latter grouping, standing in a class of darkness all by himself, go figure, is Frank Miller. Who in minimalist style among black and white images of a star, a cross, and finally a negative of a tower’s skeleton, writes “I’m sick of flags. I’m sick of God. I’ve seen the power of faith,” (64-65). This bleak little ditty here is sort of what you would have to expect from Miller. But even though it is sort of twisted and nihilistic and self-absorbed and what have you, it is one of my favorite pieces in the collection, for it is understated and rightly depicts the shit I for one remember going through at the time.

And then there is Alan Moore’s piece, the final and longest in the collection., in which he compares al-Qaeda to the typical villain of the comic book genre. In the strip, titled “This is Information,” Moore claims writing super-villains is “embarrassingly easy” (189). With that in mind, in his genius, long before anyone knew anything about the Muslim world, he tells us that only for the truly evil—i.e. those in comic books—“no motive is required,” (190). But there is more to them than that and to defeat them or what have you you have to look at like the heroes in Watchmen or something—no one is all good nor is anyone all evil. Things aren’t always so simple as he eloquently states: “we are all supposedly with the crusaders or the terrorists.” But how can we even make that decision, especially then before anything was known. Even now, after all the shit that has hit the fan, and to quote a ridiculous movie, The Big Lebowski, for a super serious subject, just using “the parlance of our times, man,” so to speak “the goddamn plane has crashed into the mountain,” it seems even harder to choose after all of the evil the crusading has generated all for nothing.

Its depressing looking back over this and seeing all the missed opportunities. Christ, how things got so fucked and the Right used it all to take control. Jesus, fuck. But then again, Moore left it on the note that we all felt and what was really important and what stuck and what really made us feel and what mattered. We weren’t with the crusaders. We weren’t with the terrorists. We were with you. Whoever you are.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Watchmen: Mother Forgive Me

Reading Alan Moore’s Watchmen for the second time in the last couple of months, I have to say it got better with the second reading—and I still think that I can become Rorschach if I wanted to—but even more than that, I have grown to love the movie—dare I say—at least as much as I do the graphic novel. 

My initial reaction was annoyance that they changed the ending to a seemingly Dr. Manhattan meltdown instead of the awesomeness that would have been an extraterrestrial creature who just showed up on our planet and who’s like brain exploded and also by the fact that they

 turned Rorschach into a quasi-superhero instead of the bum he really was.  For example, I was really pissed when they needed the whole police force to take down the ink-blot-faced badass instead of him just twisting his ankle after failing to clear a garbage can.  I was (and sort of still am) irritated by that development. 

But what can you do?  The movie was still awesome in so many ways and they got some of the best things about the comic book right to a T. 

So why do I still want more from the movie even after the Directors Cut (DC) was released last week and made the movie even better? 

Weeeellll, after seeing the 3 hour and six minute DC version, I was ready to watch another 2 hours of Watchmen.  And they could do this—and still may—too. 

For starters, I want to see “The Black Freighter” stuff spliced into the film.  This was probably the thing I liked the most as far as the asides go from the graphic novel, and this was made into a straight to DVD animated short that came out just after the movie did in theaters.  It wouldn’t be too hard to just throw it in, especially since the newspaper vendor was actually in the movie and all.  Even though, as far as I can tell, the writer of the story within the story was cut completely, it still wouldn’t be shit to put this tale of peg-leg irony into the film. 

Another thing I was sort of peeved about was the fact that they downplayed Nite Owl’s impotency issues.  In short, he couldn’t get it up unless he was kicking ass.  In the film, this was not all that explicit—but then again, the character was cast (greatly so) a little young.  So I am not too upset by this one but still maybe a little.

But I guess I can be a purest when it comes to adapting novels on the big screen.  So, on that note, one thing I really dug and got into after another reading and several more viewings, was the whole Comedian as a crazed Vietnam Vet thing, which I didn’t immediately pick up on. 

At first the Comedian seemed liked a crazed asshole, but then, upon further examination, you become the first Silk Spectre forgiving his past deeds and loving the cynical bastard. 

And so, after reading Watchmen and Frank Miller’s Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, which was published the same year, it is clear that these two pieces end up looking like the appearances of Dr. Manhattan and Ozymandias—a.k.a. Adrian Veidt—as seen when they appeared in the novel Watchmen.  We are left to look on in awe as the old is replaced with the new and everything has changed but in our shock we can’t say how.  But we know.  God help us all.  We know.