Posted in Anime, Discussion, Film

What I learnt about film from Pokémon: The First Movie (Yes, Seriously)

As a child of the 90s, there are several things I can’t deny. I watched SM:TV Live on Saturday mornings. Frequently forgot to feed a Tamagachi. Begged to stay up a little longer just to watch shows like Buffy: The Vampire Slayer, and the latest episode of Stargate: SG1. And the subject of today, I loved Pokémon. Granted, I was a bigger fan of Digimon, but I still loved Pokémon, alongside many of my classmates, and almost every other 90s kid. I remember being more than a little jealous of my Game Boy wielding classmates, rushing home to catch the new episodes, and occasionally being gifted a pack of the cards. The often celebrated and sought after, Basic Set 1 card deck.

Cue early 2000. The announcement of Pokémon hitting theatres. My 6-year-old mind went insane. Cinema trips were rare due to the expense, but this was something I so desperately wanted to see. No internet to hunt for plot points and images, no money to buy, or knowledge of, film magazines to get the latest scoop. All I had were the trailers on tv, and the rumours and mutters on the playground. I remember begging my mother to take me. Promising to be good. And then, May 2nd, 2000, my mother told me to get my coat. We were going to the movies. 6:30 in the evening, screen 2, of my local, now none existent, Warner Village Cinema.

That joy and excitement of seeing a much-anticipated film, is one that’s stuck with me. And my childish excitement for, what even I’ll admit is, a cheesy film, is something I still foolishly look back on and smile. I was getting to see one of my favourite series on the big screen. And given how long it did take for films to come to VHS, and the price of them. This was the only time I would be able to see it, for maybe over a year.

When it did finally hit VHS, I was graciously brought a copy of my very own. Along with just a few other tapes, such as The Fox and the Hound, Independence Day, Who Framed Roger Rabbit, and The Matrix. This yellow brick, that mesmerised me so, was watched, and loved. Repeatedly.

(Yes, the first run of Pokemon: The First Movie VHS tapes were yellow.)

Looking back at that film now, almost 17 years after that first viewing. I can see the beginning of my film education. I can see the little strands of curiosity that the film sparked. The childhood questions I had, and the journey it took me on.

Stereo, Mono and Audio Mixing:

Something about the film constantly bothered me as a kid. The sound. The films main villain, Mewtwo, was a genetically created Pokémon, able to use psychic abilities, and was able to speak English directly to the main characters. In the cinema, it’s amazing. His voice reverberates around you. To a 6-year-old, it’s intimidating. Yet, re-watching this, on a child’s mono TV, at a low volume, I had to try and remember what Mewtwo was saying. The only line I could ever clearly hear from him was, “Fool. Trying to stop our battle”. For years, I thought this was a fault with my copy of the film, or maybe even my TV.

With the passage of time, and how technology advances, I learnt my tape and TV was fine, and that it had everything to do with film production, audio mixing, and mono vs stereo sound. With the audio mixed as stereo, this allowed for tracks to be played as if coming from multiple directions. Mewtwo’s audio is set to play through the back speakers of a full set up, as if surrounding the viewing. Impressive in surround sound, but hard to hear on a mono set. The DVD commentary by the producers, spoke briefly about the effect they wanted to create, and how they used the audio mixing to impose Mewtwo’s immense power to the viewer.

Cell Painted Animation:

There’s a moment when multiple trainers are attempting to get through a storm, using their various skills and Pokémon to get to New Island as quickly as they can. One trainer, one that does make it through the storm, is seen riding a Gyarados, a large blue water dragon, through the storm easily. The problem being is that the lower lip of Gyarados is miss-coloured the entire time, but the next time we see it, it’s completely normal. This is something that really bothered me, as it was incredibly obvious, and I didn’t get why it wasn’t fixed. I know this bothered others, as it was one of the few things I did talk about with others when the film came up.

Answer. Cell painted animation. Classic animation is painted on cells, one frame at a time, and done in layers. While this mistake is obvious, the number of frames it took up, and the fact that it would probably be on one of the first colour layer. Meaning the entire frame, for all those effected would need to be repainted. Something that is not cheap. It was easier and cheaper to leave a few seconds of miss-coloured Pokémon, than to redo the entire section of the film.

CGI and Traditional Animation:

There was something very strange about the castle, doors and stadium lights. As a kid, I could never figure out why they seemed so different to the rest of the film. Even when the characters were stood right in front of them, they looked off. Turns out, it’s because they ARE different. While the rest of the film is traditional cell painted animation, little touches like the castle (in certain shots), the doors when moving, and the stadium lights, are all CGI models imposed over the film. Interestingly, during the film’s original run in Japan, these were all done with cell animation like the rest of the film. But when the film got the go ahead to be released in America, and the rest of the world, they were able to go back and improve parts of the animation, for a little more polish.

And yet that Gyarados still has a miss-coloured jaw….

Framing:

During the three on three battle in the middle of the film. Ash’s Charzard goes up against a clone Charzard (trying to explain scenes sometimes gets surreal when you realise how crazy some of this sounds to people unfamiliar with the film). As the two dragons are crashing back to the ground, the camera holds on a shot of Ash, Misty, Brock, and the other ‘good’ characters. On the VHS tape, there is an odd editing jump, where the camera cuts from one side of Ash while Brock speaks, only to jump to the other side of him when Misty speaks. As a kid, this was a little jarring. I used to wonder why they weren’t both on screen at the same time. Why did they have to jump from either side, when they could have just had all three characters on screen? Why do I remember seeing this cut a different way?

Well, I had. The original cinema cut of the film had all three characters on screen, taking full advantage of the widescreen format. Emphasis on widescreen format. While not talking about this film, Bordwell and Thompson’s book, Film Art: An Introduction talks at length about framing, and screen resolution. To put it simply. VHS and televisions at the time, had a different frame size, closer to a square than the rectangle we are more familiar with now. Had the VHS release kept the scene the same, then both Brock and Misty would have been out of frame, and the voices would have seemed like they were coming out of nowhere. Thankfully, newer releases, such as the current Blu-Ray, return it to the original aspect ratio.

VHS Tapes can wear:

Film can wear. The more film is used, the more the image can fade, and become crackled and fuzzy. As a kid, it’s hard to understand why is it that your film looks different the hundred and fiftieth time, then on first viewing. Sadly, despite my love of my childhood VHS tapes, watching them so often taught me why the then upcoming DVD format was a good move. DVDs can scratch. They can break. But they are also fairly easy to copy. Later Blu-Ray’s are even harder to scratch. But the footage on those discs will never fade.

 

There are plenty of moral lessons the film taught me, and ones I can still recite from memory. Take Meowth’s realisation that “we do have a lot in common, huh? The same Earth, the same air, the same sky. Maybe if we focus on the same, instead of always on what’s different, well, who knows”. But it’s those curiosities it sparked in me then, that still bring me back to it every few years.

The first three Pokemon films are available on Blu-ray here: Pokemon Movie 1-3 Collection [Blu-ray]

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Posted in Discussion, Film, Review

Should We Listen to Pre-Release Film Reviews?

When it comes to high budget, highly anticipated films, we are anxious to know if all the hype is worth it. Whether to spend our hard-earned time and money, on the next ‘sure to be game changing’ cinematic experience. When first reactions hit the internet, we hold our breath in anticipation of the ultimate answer. Is it good?

As we approach the tail end of 2017, we reach the point where some highly anticipated films, are right around the corner. From Marvel’s Thor Ragnarok, to the star powered Murder on the Orient Express. DC’s long-awaited Justice League, and Steve Carrell and Emma Stone lead Battle of the Sexes. On top of the that, the cultural juggernaut that is Star Wars: The Last Jedi, and even the nostalgia filled Pokémon the Movie: I Choose You? As media consumers, and franchise fans, find ourselves anxious, and primed with day one tickets in hand. Hoping and praying for a film that lives up to our expectations. Often, especially with the likes of Justice League, a few lucky fans will get pre-screenings, weeks, or even months before hand. Followed by the much beloved, and exciting press screenings, a few weeks before the films hit theatres. When coverage hits the newsstands, and the internet at large. We find ourselves scrolling through pages and pages, hoping to learn that we are in for the experience of our lives, on the big screen.

However, should these pre-release reviews be taken to heart? Should we listen to them?

Take for example, the release of Batman Vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice in March of 2016. A few days before the films released, the internet was franticly diving from one review to another, trying to discern the truth from biased opinion. Was the film going to be everything we hoped for? While many of the reviews did lay into the film fiercely, there were outliners that praised the film as “an impressive start to a new superhero movie franchise”, commenting on how it’s “genuinely exciting for the evolution of this new DC Comics cinematic world in the coming years”. See Business Insider UK for full review. This divide in reviews, granted, causes greater discussion online before the film’s release. But also brings into question the reviewer’s actual opinion on the film. While it’s 100% possible that those that gave the film glowing reviews pre-release, do genuinely see the film in a different light than the others. It’s also possible that they are doing it for more selfish reasons. Namely, getting their name, magazine, or website into the film’s good books. Creating a favourable connection with the films production company for future releases, or trying to get their name on the films poster or new trailers.

An example from this site, is that of the 2017 horror film, Wish Upon. During the press screening for the film, most people in the room during the film, groaned or laughed at points when we were supposed to feel fear. With one reviewer even walking out mid-way through the film. Brief discussions after, gave the general consensus that while some enjoyed the poorly executed scenes as a source of comedy, and others found the whole thing to be a boring mess. Most people in the room, consisting of a variety of ages and backgrounds, agreed that the film was below average. Many of the reviews from independent outlets echoed this on the day the reviews were due for release. Our review can be read here. However, looking at the well-known, and often trusted film site and magazine, Empire, gave the film 4/5 stars, summing up the film briefly. With Empire being a more trusted site by many, it brings to mind the question as to whether or not this was the reviewer’s genuine feelings towards the film. Or the magazine wanting to keep a good connection with those involved with the film?

With the very recent release of Blade Runner 2049, many news outlets and reviewers, were quick to label the film as a “blockbuster”, or “a modern masterpiece”. While the film is certainly stunning, very well done, and well worth it’s run time. It became somewhat worrying to see how quickly many sites and reviews, jumped to the phrase “masterpiece”. Those that referred to it as a blockbuster before release, maybe shocked to find that the film is in fact underperforming at the box office. Many people rely on pre-release film reviews to shape whether or not they will see an upcoming film. Especially those with a limited income. So, the question still stands. Should we take pre-release reviews with a grain of salt?

Posted in Anime, Discussion, History, TV

Serial Experiments Lain and McLuhan’s Global Village

Serial Experiments Lain is a series that begs to be interpreted. Premiering in 1998, Lain is a slow paced, and surreal series that many describe as ‘ahead of its time’. Written by Chiaki J. Konaka, the series acts as a look at our relationship with the internet, and Konaka’s prediction of what the 21st century will look like. Many celebrate the series for how forward thinking it is. Incorporating themes of reality, identity, and communication, while exploring computer history, conspiracy theories, and computer history. While it’s plot comes off as complex, given it’s slow pacing, unusual imagery, cyberpunk styling, and synth/electro-pop soundtrack, the series has gathered itself a cult following. With many dedicating their time, to unravelling the meaning of Lain.

coalgirls_serial_experiments_lain_04_1008x720_blu-ray_flac_260d7cf9-mkv_snapshot_03-14_2011-08-17_06-45-39The series follows Lain, a shy young girl with an inability to communicate with her peers. When a classmate commits suicide, she learns of a mysterious email going around the class from the deceased girl. Having no knowledge of computers, barley checking her emails, she finds herself driven by curiosity. She goes home and finds the email waiting on her barely used PC. Reading it, she finds herself having a conversation with the deceased girl. She tells Lain that while her body maybe dead, she still lives online in the Wired. Asking Lain why doesn’t she join her. Be free in the net. From here, the series becomes Lain’s journey exploring the net, watching the lines between reality and the Wired blur, and finding her place in both.

It’s clear, even from a cursory look at the series, Konaka had his eyes firmly set on the evolution of computers and technology. The series features multiple references to Apple. It’s slogan being “Close the world, Open the nExt”, referencing the NeXT company. It’s ‘to be continued’ slates at the end of episodes, featured a blue and red Be, reminiscent of the logo for Be Inc. The robotic voice heard throughout the series, uses Apple’s Synth Speech synthesiser, specifically the ‘Whisper’ setting. As well as the appearance of Lain’s first computer in the series, resembling a red version of Apple’s Twentieth Anniversary Macintosh. Episode 9, “Protocol”, explores throughout the episode the history of computers. Detailing figures, projects and devices such as Vannevar Bush, Ted Nelson, Project Xanadu, and the Memex. Serial Experiments Lain is certainly a well-researched, and thought-provoking series.

What’s interesting, is how well the series can be used to explain and explore Marshall McLuhan’s theory of the Global Village. Spoken about in both the books, The Gutenberg Galaxy: The Making of Typographic Man (1962) and Understanding Media (1964), the Global Village comes out of McLuhan’s teachings about media always extending one part of ourselves. For example, a car extends our legs, and television extends our eyes, ears and sense of touch. With the Internet, or at least McLuhan’s prediction of the internet, he describes a system that extends our central nervous system. Creating a Global Village, populated by everyone. A way for us to stretch our consciousness across the planet to communicate with others. This can be seen not only with the deceased classmate, but also with how Lain and others appear while online. The random appearances of online entities in the real world, further blur the line. Questioning how far consciousness can be spread, as well as the boundaries of the physical and digital worlds.

Lain-002-20160202Throughout the series, the humming of electricity from telephone wires, reverberates through the screen. Reminding us of the Internet’s consistent presence. Essentially buzzing all around us every moment of the day. If our consciousness is extended through this Global Village, and its existence is all around us. Then the story and strange occurrences within Serial Experiments Lain, could very well be possibilities at some point. If we could truly expand our consciousness, as McLuhan says, to the point that we could leave our physical bodies. Then, wouldn’t the opposite also be a possibility? Expanding something from the internet, to affect the real world.

This is certainly not the first time McLuhan’s work has been touched on in popular culture. A notable, and highly relevant example in this situation, is David Cronenberg’s Videodrome in 1983. The digital prophet within the films plot, Brian O’Blivion, parallels McLuhan not only in appearance, but in his teaching.

While Serial Experiments Lain spends a large amount of time explaining the history of computers and the internet. Predicting the likes of Anonymous with ‘The Knights’, and even touching on conspiracy theories. Konaka seems to have hidden far more academic influences within his work than it initially seemed. Turning what could have been a largely forgotten, and somewhat uncomfortable series. Into a highly relevant, and teachable show, that is still being spoken about and examined almost 20 years later.

Posted in Anime, British Comics, Comics, DC Comics, Discussion, Evangelion, History, Superheroes, TV

Deconstruction without reference – Watchmen and Neon Genesis Evangelion

In any medium or genre, there are titans. Stories and creators that are looked upon as the very best examples of what that medium or genre can be. When a genre or medium has been around for a while, it’s natural to find works and creators that start to question why it exists. Why do we read and follow superhero comics? Why do we watch and enjoy giant mech anime?

To deconstruct something, is to tear it apart to reveal and expose the subject’s weaknesses. To understand and explore its flaws, inconsistencies, and tropes. To literally take it to pieces. However, what happens when the deconstruction becomes the celebrated work? What impact does the work have, when it’s the first thing recommended to new readers or viewers?

Both Watchmen and Neon Genesis Evangelion are held up as master works of their medium and genre. Watchmen appears on Time Magazine’s Top 100 Best Novels in the English Language. The BBC Culture section, even refers to the series as ‘The Moment Comic Books Grew Up’. Taking apart and examining the superhero genre. Exploring the characters, motives and world, through the lens of a murder mystery. Many regard it as one of the greatest comics ever written. While others, including the books writer, Alan Moore, see it as more than a little overrated. Regardless of the opinion you have on the series, it’s hard to deny its impact, both in and outside the medium. DC Comics have even found themselves leaning back on to the books popularity and world for their storylines “The Button”, and “Doomsday Clock”. Neon Genesis Evangelion holds a similar reputation. Praised as one of the best and most influential anime to come out of the 90’s, let alone of all time. Evangelion is a cult classic, that takes apart the Mecha genre of anime. Exploring what drives the characters, the creation of the giant mechs, the EVA’s in this case, and what it’s like to face the end of the world.

Many ‘must-watch’, and ‘must-read’ articles suggest both of these are top contenders in their fields. Giving multiple reasons for why every fan of both mediums should see them. Many also suggest them as entry level material. This raises the question, what’s the point of a deconstruction, if the audience has no idea what is being deconstructed?

To use Watchmen for a moment. Readers walking into Watchmen for the first time, who have no grasp on the superhero genre of comics, or very little. Will find themselves confronted with the story of a group of apparently former heroes who grew old. When one is killed, the rest take it upon their selves to learn why, as well as dealing with their own everyday lives. However, as Walter Hudsick puts it in ‘Reassembling the Components in the Correct Sequence: Why You Shouldn’t Read Watchmen First’, using Watchmen as an introduction to Superhero comics, is a grave mistake. Watchmen is built on the very history of comics. Its characters are stand ins for specific characters. Dr Manhattan, Nite Owl II, The Comedian, and Ozymandias acting as replacements for The Atom, Blue Beetle, Peacemaker, and Thunderbolt respectively. The world’s history mirroring real world comic book history. Superheroes coming to prominence before a war, thriving through, only to begin to fade in the years after. The in-universe comic of The Black Freighter acting as a stand-in for EC Comics horror line. Even the comics very core as a deconstruction of Superhero literature predates Watchmen’s creation. The likes of Larry Niven’s Man of Steel, Women of Kleenex, Harvey Kurtzman and Wally Wood’s Superduperman!, and Roger Mayer’s Super-Folks, are all sighted as highly influential works in the industry. The influence of Man of Steel, Woman of Kleenex showing itself in the relationship of Dr Manhattan and Silk Spectre II for example. The further you dig into comic history, and the more ingrained you are within it, the more you get from Watchmen.

With Neon Genesis Evangelion, we see a slightly different, but equally valid problem. When it comes to Mecha Anime, that is the focus. The Giant Robot battles. The pilots are children or early teen. One or two of them have family who worked on the project that created the robots. There is massive destruction to cities, and the heroes are praised regardless, because they defeated the big bad that episode. That happens when we take this apart and play it as real? We get broken people. Children told that the world rest on their shoulders, that if they don’t do their job, then everyone they know or love will die. Children struggling with depression, anxiety, and inferiority complexes. Haunted by the deaths caused just to write wrongs. A father who is so focused on his work, that the very child he calls upon to save the world, he has driven away and alienated to the point of cruelty. A world population suffering due to the destruction even the battles cause. Adding to that, Evangelion takes apart even anime wide tropes of the ‘submissive but attractive girl’, and the ‘hot headed and tempremental bomb shell’ with Rei Ayanami and Asuka Langley Soryu respectively. If someone approaches Evangelion, without an understanding of Mecha anime, or even anime tropes, then how are they expected to make sense of it, on top of Evangelion’s already confusing nature?

When approaching a deconstruction, with no understanding of the base. Part of the meaning is loss. The comments the creator is making on the subject, fall on ignorant or deaf ears. While that is never meant as an insult on the audience, it’s worth wondering why we recommend such material before a proper introduction? A new reader approaching the material, can certainly enjoy it, and in many cases, it leads to them discovering the very source material they need. But why is it the first point of call?

Posted in Comics, DC Comics, Discussion, Superheroes, Superman

9 Superman Stories Everyone Should Read

While not as popular as the caped crusader, Batman. Superman is *THE* quintessential superhero. The first, and greatest. Since his creation in 1938, Superman and his alter ego Clark Kent, have become the cornerstone of pop culture, recognised the world over, and has become the hero of many. But when it comes to comics, I find that people are incredibly reluctant to explore the man of steel’s many, many wonderful stories. Some refer to him as the big blue boy scout, others say that he is completely un-relatable, or even boring, but I assure you, that’s not the case. While it is incredibly tempting to scream at you all to dive straight into the DC Rebirth books for Superman, it seems worth gathering an understanding of the character and his universe, before his days as a father, husband, and protector of the world from the town of Hamilton County.

With his 79 years in comics, here are 9 to get you started, whether you are a diehard comic reader, curious of Superman, or starting from scratch…

Action Comics #1 by Jerry Seigel and Joe Shuster

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Superman’s very first appearance, and a true landmark in history, sometimes it’s best to go back to the beginning. While not highly engaging, and provides only a bare bones story, it is always worth taking a step back and looking at how it all started. While getting your hands on a copy of Action Comics #1 is almost impossible, the story has been collected in multiple books, including Superman: The War Years 1938–1945, and the Superman The Golden Age Omnibus.

Available here: Superman: The Golden Age Vol. 1 (Action Comics (1938-2011))

Superman: American Alien by Max Landis

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Released last year (2016 if you’re reading this in the future, hi future!), and made up of 7 issues, Max Landis’s American Alien explores Clark’s life from a young boy, all the way up to his adult life. The book makes Clark highly relatable, especially in his younger years, and delivers hard on important milestones, such as discovering his powers and the isolation he feels, Clark’s first assignment for the Daily Planet, his first meetings with Lois Lane, Batman, and Lex Luther, establishing himself as a hero, and learning from his mistakes. Strongly written, with a rotation of all-star artists from issue to issue, including Nick Dragotta (East of West), Jae Lee (The Dark Tower: Gunslinger Born), Jock (The Losers), and more. A fantastic, self-contained read.

Available here: Superman: American Alien

Superman: Earth One by J. Michael Straczynski and Shane Davis

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What would it be like if Superman showed up in modern times? Part of DC’s Earth One line up, Superman: Earth One is a wonderful retelling of part of Clark’s origin, set in the modern day, and exploring Clark’s early days in Metropolis, and his decision of what to do with his life. Exploring both the uncertainty of what to do with your life, post high school, as well as wrestling with his decision for what to do with his powers. Superman: Earth One is full of compelling and heartfelt moments written by Straczynski, paired with Davis’s beautiful renderings, it’s a truly fascinating read that sucks you right into the world. While there are three volumes to the story, the first book can be approached as a standalone story, though the decision to continue will gift you a hauntingly beautiful double page spread in the second volume. Truly worth picking up.

Available here: Superman: Earth One

Superman: The Last Son of Krypton by Geoff Johns, Richard Donner and Adam Kubert

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Taking a page from Superman: The Movie, and The Richard Donner cut of Superman II, The Last Son of Krypton tells the story of a Kryptonian pod crash landing on earth, revealing a young boy inside. Adopted by Clark and Lois, and given the name Christopher Kent (a rather lovely nod to the late Christopher Reeve), they start their happy lives, with Clark safe in the knowledge that he is not alone, he is no longer the last of his kind. However, their happy lives are brought to a screeching halt when it is revealed that Christopher is, in fact, the son of one of Superman’s greatest enemies, General Zod. Brilliantly written by Geoff Johns and Richard Donner himself, with stunning art by Adam Kubert, The Last Son of Krypton is a must for fans of the Donner films, and a highly engaging read for everyone else.

Available here: Superman: Last Son of Krypton TP (Superman (DC Comics))

Superman: Secret Identity by Kurt Busiek and Stuart Immomen

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Imagine you lived in the American Mid-West, and in what feels like the ultimate act of cruelty to you, your parents name you Clark Kent and shower you with Superman merchandise. As a result, you’re heavily bullied and can’t stand the sight of Superman. Well, that’s life for the young Clark Kent in Kurt Busiek’s Secret Identity. In a fit of misery one night, and camping on his own, however, he awakes to find he has been given all the powers of Superman. Set in our world, Secret Identity explores what it would be like if Superman truly existed in our world, as well as chronicling his life from a young man, angry at the world for the hand he has been dealt, to a wiser old man, floating above us all as a fatherly figure. A wonderful out of continuity story, that is truly wonderful to behold.

Available here: Superman: Secret Identity – Deluxe Edition

Kingdom Come by Mark Waid and Alex Ross

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Another out of continuity tale, and not essentially a Superman story, but a purely stunning and cinematic experience. Set in a future where Superman and the rest of the Justice League have abandoned their roles as the Earth’s heroes, after the appearance of figures such as Magog, and other metahuman “heroes” who have no problems with killing, including offing The Joker early on in their career. A being known as The Spectre appears to a human minister, Norman McCay, shows him the oncoming apocalypse that is about to break out between the current heroes and the original Justice League, and invites him to help pass judgment on the events to come. Including the threat of nuclear war, and the intense brainwashing of former Justice League member, Billy Batson, aka Captain Marvel (Now known as Shazam!), Kingdom Come is an incredible experience. You do not read Kingdom Come, you live in it. With magnificent painted art by the great Alex Ross, and a story by the wonderful Mark Waid, Kingdom Come is an absolute must.

Available here: Kingdom Come TP New Edition

Superman: For All Seasons by Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale

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From the wonderful team behind Batman: The Long Halloween, and Daredevil: Yellow, Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale turn their sights to the man of steel. Set across four seasons, and narrated by those involved in Clark’s life, namely Johnathan Kent, Lois Lane, Lex Luther, and Lana Lang, For All Seasons may be set in Clark’s early days, but it is not about his origin. The book chronicles how Clark, and Superman, affect the world around him. From his parents, worrying about his life as he leaves home, his co-workers at the Daily Planet, his enemies as he starts to make himself known, and the people he grew up with and left behind. For All Seasons is truly beautiful, and wondrous. As with any Loeb and Sale paring, well worth the read.

Available here: Superman For All Seasons TP (Superman (DC Comics))

Superman: Red Son by Mark Miller and Dave Johnson

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We play the “what if” game again for a moment with Mark Miller’s Superman: Red Son. Superman has always been paired with the phrase, “Truth, Justice, and the American Way.” Emphasis on the “American.” But what if Superman’s rocket never landed in Kansas? What if he landed just outside of Moscow? Red Son flips the Superman mythos on its head and gives us a chilling tale of the communist party right in the hands of the most powerful being on Earth. The book also gives us alternative takes on the rest of the Justice League, with a Wonder Woman who sided with the Russians, as well as a Russian Batman, who seeks to take down the all-mighty dictator. Red Son works as a perfect definition for what Superman stands for, by showing us his complete opposite. Always worth a read, with a final page twist that will make you want to read it all over again.

Available here: Superman: Red Son

All-Star Superman by Grant Morrison and Frank Quietly

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The book a lot of you probably saw coming, but with good reason. Superman has one year left to live, having effectively developed a form of cancer that is slowly killing him. This twelve-issue series focuses on how Clark chooses to spend his final year. Including a touching birthday gift to Lois, seeking an end to his rivalry with Lex and Bizzaro, and everything he feels is needed before he leaves. All-Star Superman is a truly touching read, dealing with the likes of depression and death, but never dwelling on it. A quintessential Superman and a comic book read.

Available here: All Star Superman

After that massive stack, I highly recommend What Ever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow? By Alan Moore and Curt Swan, Superman Birthright by Mark Waid and Leinil Francis Yu, Superman Secret Origin by Geoff Johns and Gary Frank, The Death and Return of Superman Saga by Various, Superman: Lois and Clark by Dan Jurgens and Lee Weeks, and the incredible Rebirth run currently being published by Peter J. Tomasi and Patrick Gleason.

Happy reading Super-fans..!

 

(Above is the opinion of the writer solely. Everyone is entitle to their own opinion, this is just mine. I have not read every Superman story (Unfortunately).)

 

Posted in Anime, Comics, Discussion, History

Akira—How the World Fell in Love with an Incomplete Masterpiece

In 1988, the world was treated to the stunning marvel that is Akira. Critically acclaimed, and celebrated the world over, Akira has become a staple of cult cinema and anime. Based on the seminal Manga of the same name by Katsuhiro Otomo, and more commonly referred to as the stack of phone books most collectors of such material have in the top corner of their libraries. The film has garnered much respect for its visuals, style, and compelling story. It was revolutionary in its creation, even from a technical standpoint. Having all new colours created for the process of cell colourisation, particularly in the films numerous nighttime scenes, and its use of pre-recorded dialogue, something that while standard in the west, was and still is, consistently uncommon in the east.

However, it is a possibility that you could refer to the film as an unfinished story. To those that have only seen the film, and haven’t sacrificed the necessary time to dive into 6 phone book length tomes, the film comes to a close with the discovery of Akira’s resting place, and the country in ruins, as Kanada and Kei ride off to their future. In reality, however, of the 6 books, Akira is found at the end of Book 2, and the country is brought to its knees in Book 3. While the film is written and directed by the manga’s original author, his story was not complete when the time came to turn his tale to the big screen. In fact, Akira started its publication in 1982, and didn’t publish its final chapter until June of 1990. 2 full years after the film was in theatres. At the time of the film’s release, only 4 of the 6 books had been released, leaving the audience at a similar situation in both media. While reworking his story for the big screen, Otomo found himself with the answer to how to end his now colossal saga. Essentially, what started as an adaptation became the inspiration for the material being adapted. Quite possibly one of the most paradoxical sounding feedback loops I can concoct.

For an American, or rather Canadian example, it may be best to compare it to the likes of Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World. I don’t imagine you’ve heard too many comparisons between Akira and Scott Pilgrim before now. The writer and artist for the original Scott Pilgrim comics, Bryan Lee O’Malley, was approached for the film rights after only the first book, strangely enough also of 6 books. While O’Malley didn’t have as much involvement as Otomo, with Edgar Wright taking the lead on the film, he did help in guiding and plotting the film. However, at the times, he still didn’t have an ending for his comic. Much in the same way as Otomo did, his work on the film guided him in shaping his final book, and ending the story of Scott Pilgrim in the print format. The final fight with Gideon Graves, while ultimately different in both mediums, was a film creation that made it’s way back into the original format.

The real fun part of adapted work is the fan outcry. The arguments as to whether or not the new work is faithful to the original, or whether the original author would be happy with the changes. But with this, as I seemed to put it before, paradoxical sounding feedback loop, the barrier between the original and the adaptation blur. We are left with products that could not be created without the others existence and vice versa. At the end of it all though, we do get two versions of some great stories.

The 1988 Akira film is currently available through Manga Entertainment on Blu-ray and DVD. Both Subbed and Dubbed, though I cannot recommend the original Streamline 1989 dub to anyone due to its heavily stilted acting. If you are so inclined to listen to the English track, always indulge in the 2001 redub, starring Johnny Yong Bosch and Joshua Seth. The Manga is available through Dark Horse Comics, with a stunning new edition due for release in October of 2017.