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  • New Patreon Page Design

    Yesterday, I revealed my new Patreon page design on social media.

    As part of my redesign efforts for my webpages–this blog and social media–I also redesigned my Patreon page with a new banner and color scheme. My first design was a little distant whereas this new one invites you to immerse yourself in my Realm of Heroes and Monsters.

    This is a screenshot of the new page:

    Author and artist A.P. Fuchs's Patreon page

    Also, a new chapter of Gigantigator Death Machine went live yesterday so be sure to check it out for a just a buck.

    Patreon is one of the best ways you can support me outside of grabbing my books for your personal library. I have some cool stuff planned for Patreon for over the winter so now’s a good time to get in on the ground floor, catch up on what’s there, and get ready to be entertained as the temperature drops and we’re locked indoors together for a season.

    A quick reminder of what is currently offered:

    For $1, you get access to an ongoing serial novel (minimum of one chapter posted every two weeks). Current creature feature playing is Gigantigator Death Machine, an homage to classic B-grade monster horror following a group of friends on a cabin getaway only to meet something sinister at the docks. You also get regular Patreon-only blog posts.

    For $2, you get complete access to the serial novel as well as Patreon-only essay blog posts exploring the ins and outs of publishing and tricks on getting your work done so you can share your craft with the world. (Minimum of one essay per month.) Plus regular Patreon-only blog posts.

    For $5, you get access to the serial novel, Patreon-only essay blog posts, a look behind-the-scenes (whether text, photo, or video; advanced looks at works in progress), a nifty A.P. Fuchs/Canister X Official Membership Card mailed out to you with your name and membership number, and regular Patreon-only blog posts.

    For $30, you become a member of the A.P. Fuchs Book-of-the-month Club. Each month I will select a book or comic book of mine from my inventory and mail it out to you complete with signature for the duration of your Gold Standard patronage. You also have access to all other reward tiers, including your membership card.

    A public thank you to those who have already shown me support on Patreon and a public thank you in advance to those who join the journey as this post goes live.


  • Reinventing the Horde: Problems in Zombie Fiction

    zombiefightnightdrivethruAuthor’s note: This essay originally aired on this blog prior to the file purge of 2014. It is now being rerun for your reading pleasure. Please note Zomtropolis is no longer available as a free on-line serial and will be released in paperback and eBook in the near future.

    Zombies are monsters. At least, that’s the standard definition. Someone dies, rises, has a taste of human flesh and so hunts down the living and, once the prey is caught, chows down and eats their guts. Oh, and they’re ugly, too, slowly rotting away with each passing day.

    That’s the standard version of the zombie and the one most are familiar with.

    It’s the one I knew of when I first discovered them, but as for their main backstory, I didn’t know what that wasy.

    See, I grew up in a household where horror and monsters where off limits. This was a good thing, in that I didn’t have to view creepy faces, see blood and guts, watch people get killed, or be subject to dark forests like other kids I knew. I was probably saved hundreds of hours of nightmares as a result. This absence of horror made for a happier childhood, in that regard. My dad always said, “If you want to watch horror, watch the news.” And he was right, and still is. We live in a sad world with villains in it that outmatch most of what we create in books or on screen.

    At the same time, being so sheltered was a detriment to a well-rounded upbringing because later on, I was naïve about a lot of things, including the darker side of life, both in terms of what humans were capable of and scary images.

    My first exposure to monsters was seeing a ripped-from-a-magazine picture of Freddy Krueger lying in the playground in elementary. The image of a disfigured man with bubbles on his skin was so foreign to me that I had occasional nightmares from that single image for years. I never saw an actual Freddy movie until I was eighteen and living on my own, but I got to tell you: going to the video store to rent one sent up all sorts of red flags and I was scared to watch A Nightmare on Elm Street for the first time.

    But zombies, werewolves or vampires growing up?

    At most I saw the Halloween episode of Highway to Heaven where Michael Landon was a werewolf for part of it. Scared me to death. Same with that other episode with the devil.

    Highway to Heaven. Good show, from what I remember, and it was allowed in the Christian household I grew up in for its message. It was also this growing up in a Christian household and the zero tolerance policy for horror and monsters that shaped my life, not only in terms of what I couldn’t see, but how I reacted when faced with the horrors that pop up in life now and then.

    In fact, I only got into horror because of something painful that happened to me. It was in this place of darkness that I found comfort in other dark things for a long time.

    Later, when I incorporated writing about zombies into my writing career, my view of the undead and fandom of them wasn’t your typical horror fan’s. It wasn’t the blood and guts that excited me or their spooky nature, the whole things-that-go-bump-in-the-night thing.

    Instead, it was rooted in my first love: superheroes.

    And they still are.

    I’ve never viewed zombies as “horror monsters” in terms of how I create and write them. To me, they’ve always been supervillains, and I think it’s this definition of them that is more accurate: they are “super” because they can’t die via conventional means—only by the removal of the head—and are certainly not part of our everyday lives, and they are “villains” because of the evil act of eating others they commit.

    When I set out to write my first zombie book, Blood of the Dead (book one of the Undead World Trilogy,) I didn’t want to write a standard zombie novel about a virus, people dying, people coming back, people surviving. I’ve never been one for formulas in my fiction and have always tried to do something new with each tale. Once the story was done, it immediately birthed unusual plans for the sequel, Possession of the Dead: angels, demons, giant zombies some fifteen stories high, shamblers and sprinters, shape shifting zombies and the consequences of the time travel ending of the first book. The third, Redemption of the Dead, incorporated all these unusual elements, while neatly dealing with the time travel issue and ensuring it was paradox-free, which, as a major time travel fan, was something important to me. But all along, as these books were written, the zombies were supervillains to me, with my main cast—Joe, Billy, August, Des, Tracy—being superheroes in their own right, especially Joe and Tracy. While Joe was an excellent shot with the gun, tough as nails and grim, Tracy was a highly-skilled marksmen and fighter. Likewise, they had the tendency to rescue people versus just letting people die.

    The story certainly would not have been what it was without my love of the superhero genre and my sheltered upbringing. Doing zombie stories this way also enabled me to tackle Zombie Fight Night: Battles of the Dead, with a kind of comic book sensibility, that is, classic characters—ninjas, samurai, robots, Vikings, and more—and pit them up against the undead in Bloodsport-like battles, each fight with a purpose that served the overall story being told between each bout.

    The supervillain angle—I like it. I grew up with it, being a huge fan of Super Friends, the Christopher Reeve Superman flicks, the Tim Burton Batman movies, even the Spider-Man TV show. To be honest, I can’t imagine writing monsters any other way other than as supervillains because that’s what they are to me.

    Any monster is, actually, and I explored this idea in the series of anthologies I edit called Metahumans vs. The first two are Metahumans vs the Undead and Metahumans vs Werewolves. For the uninitiated, metahumans are superheroes are the same thing. The idea with this series was not only to showcase independent superheroes, but also put them up against a new kind of supervillain that isn’t used that often in comics or cartoons: monsters.

    Before you accuse me of this article being a giant commercial for my undead work—for free serial zombie fiction, see my on-line novel, Zomtropolis at www.canisterx.com, wink wink, nudge nudge—there’s a point to all these examples, and that is this: not to let stereotypes and archetypes be a guide for your fiction, in this, we’re talking about undead fiction.

    Why do zombies have to monsters via the standard definition? Why can’t there be something more to them?

    I fully realize we live in a very commercialistic society, where most of what’s produced is made because it’ll make the most money. For me, this is a shallow way of approaching storytelling. It’s selfish, it’s limiting, it’s, frankly, wrong. Art—which includes writing—should be about honest expression, about pushing boundaries and trying something new. Will this new thing always be popular? No, but the fact that it is new is important and shows the artist behind it has put thought into it and expressed something from within versus simply a formula of what would sell.

    Let’s look at the typical zombie formula.

    1) a virus sweeps the world, killing people

    2) these people rise from the dead as flesh-eating machines

    3) a group of people were somehow not infected—which may or may not be explained

    4) this group must survive in a half-destroyed world with limited resources—are our armies really that incompetent that the surviving military couldn’t defeat creatures who are stupid and slow?—and battle amongst themselves and against shambling zombies

    Did I miss anything?

    While this is fine for the skeleton of a story, it doesn’t make much for the meat of it. There needs to be more. Reasons for things need to be given. A new spin on these four main ideas needs to be taken otherwise it’s just the same story being told over and over again, the only difference being the people’s names and locales.

    “Well, that’s what the audience expects?” you say. They expect that because that’s what we’ve been giving them.

    Ever read a book or see a movie and go, “Now that’s a new way to do it?” I have. It’s an amazing realization and elevates the work in question to a whole new level upon seeing it.

    Some possible fixes to the aforementioned zombie formula, off the top of my head:

    1) Why is it always a virus? Why not something supernatural? Or something from space? Something from Earth? Something mechanical that gives the illusion of people back from the dead? I edited an anthology called Dead Science, which challenged the authors to create unique science-gone-wrong-based origins for the undead. The stories they came up with were fun and original.

    2) Shamblers and sprinters seem to be the order of the day. Some have ventured into smart zombie territory. What if they had super strength? What if to kill them it wasn’t cutting off their heads but it was their guts—source of hunger—that needed to be removed? What if they were giants? What if part of the cause of them dying also shrank them and you had zombies so small they were like bugs and could get all over you so quickly like ants that you had no hope of survival?

    3) Seldom is it explained why the group of survivors were immune to the zombie virus. An explanation for their survival needs to be included? Was a vicinity thing? Did the cause of the undead only affect people indoors? Outdoors? Is the whole world taken out or just a part of it?

    4) How come the world is always destroyed within a few weeks of the outbreak? Have you noticed this or is it just me? While I realize people act like animals under panic—we’ve all seen riots on the news—all these cities with broken everything, over-turned cars, bodies everywhere, graffiti, everyone suddenly in torn clothes, etc.—I just don’t get it. What about our military? Wouldn’t the countries’ forces combine to eradicate a common threat like a zombie outbreak? How could even a horde of zombies take out a guy with a machine gun unless they’re oh-so-slow moving bodies somehow got in a sneak attack? What about planes and bombs?

    I won’t admit to having read every zombie book or seen every zombie movie, but it seems to me the element of realism has been taken out. It’s always been my view that a book or comic or movie—whatever—needs to be grounded in reality somehow, the whole “what if this happened tomorrow for real” thing. To add such an element to a book—regardless of how out-of-this-world the circumstance is—suddenly brings that fantastic circumstance into our world and puts the reader right in the middle of the tale because he/she can completely understand why things happen a certain way. Life isn’t full of conveniences, tidy plotlines and clichéd ideas. It’s a mess with tons of twists and turns.

    Shouldn’t our stories reflect life?

    The argument is people want to escape. For me, that’s just an excuse to get out of a life that isn’t the one you wanted. How about turning that on its head and reading stories about lives like yours, that aren’t the way the characters wanted, and you draw strength and encouragement from that? There’s lots to be said about relatability and seeing people in the same boat as you, whether they’re real or not, whether the world they inhabit is yours or not.

    But I realize that trying new things and going against the grain is countercultural, especially in the West. I realize that to propose writing zombie fiction as something other than zombie fiction flies in the face of decades of tradition.

    It just seems, though, that these standard ideas have become so ingrained in us that we’re afraid to move or operate outside them. Afraid to grow. Afraid to step off the beaten path and blaze a new trail.

    Seems we all just go with the flow.

    Just like a pack of zombies.


  • Canister X Book Review #14: Stargazer, Vol. 1 by Von Allan

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    Stargazer Volume 1
    by Von Allan
    5 out of 5

    After the passing of her grandmother, heartbroken Marni is having a hard time dealing with her loss. Her friends Sophie and Elora come to her side and try and comfort her. All Marni has to remember her grandmother by is a strange-looking artifact that looks more like an antique vacuum cleaner without the hose or cords than anything else.

    In an effort to get back to a normal life, Marni and her friends have a campout in the backyard and Marni brings the artifact with them into the tent. After a brief tussle, the artifact transports them to a mysterious world, tent and all. The three girls now need to find a way home. The question is how? Perhaps the cute robot they discover can help them. He seems pretty handy, giving them food and all, but he better act quick because a foul beast lurks somewhere in the dark and Marni and her friends will be doomed if they don’t stop it first.

    This is my first exposure to Von Allan’s work aside from what I’ve seen on his website (which I think I found while Googling Canadian cartoonists). I’m very pleased and Stargazer was better than I anticipated.

    The writing: very solid. Allan’s pacing is spot on and his delivery of information is succinct and gets you from point A to B without any clutter. I was very impressed with how he was able to convey what are very detailed story points, characters and the world they inhabit without him over-explaining everything. His word choice and placement does the work for you and tells you what you need to know when you need to know it.

    The art: Lately I’ve been falling in love with black-and-white comic books and Stargazer further convinced me that the black-and-white comic book medium is an arena that needs to be explored by comic book enthusiasts everywhere. Von Allan’s artwork is natural, shaded well, inked clearly and is detailed enough so you know what you’re looking at, without you getting lost in endless black lines. His proportions are bang on and regardless of the camera angle chosen, each scene unfolds smoothly and easily.

    The book: Well put together and well bound. I particularly enjoyed the non-standard size of the book (I think it was around 6×9 thereabouts) which made for easy handling when reading.

    Von Allan also included extras in the back: a character gallery (very cool posters here); plot outline; brainstorming sessions; and even a few pages of sample script. I’ve always been a fan of behind-the-scenes material for books and comics and Allan’s little package at the back of Stargazer was well put together.

    I’m looking forward to what will no doubt be a dynamite Volume Two from a talented storyteller.

    Keep ’em coming, Mr. Allan.


  • Canister X Movie Review #96: Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015)

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    Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015)
    Written by Joss Whedon
    Directed by Joss Whedon
    Runtime 141 min.
    5 out of 5

    In an effort to protect the world from future alien attacks, Tony Stark uses the artificial intelligence inside the gem of Loki’s scepter to complete his Ultron program. It works but, unfortunately, the now-sentient Ultron AI has taken it upon itself to destroy the human race.

     

    Time for the Avengers to assemble.

     

    Recruiting the Maximoff twins, Ultron uses them to take on the Avengers while he attends to building a robot army. Soon the Avengers are taken out and must re-assemble if there is any hope they can stop Ultron before his plan of global destruction comes to pass.

     

    With the fate of the planet hanging in the balance, can the Avengers stand against a seemingly unstoppable foe?

     

    Sequels are tricky business, especially when creating a sequel to not only a quality film, but one that was a hit at the box office. Usually, sequels pale in comparison to their predecessors, but now and then—and more often than not in the superhero genre—the sequels outshine the original and Avengers: Age of Ultron did just that. As good as the first Avengers was, Age of Ultron is better.

     

    I don’t want to give away any plot points to those who haven’t seen it yet, so these are more my thoughts instead of notions on specifics of the film.

     

    One of my greatest fears for this movie was its giant cast. Not only did the standard Avengers team return—Iron Man, Captain America, Thor, Black Widow, Hawkeye, Hulk, Nick Fury, Maria Hill—but it was greatly added to with the addition of War Machine, Quicksilver, Scarlet Witch, Vision and, sorta, Falcon. All these characters could have quickly made the movie go the way of Spider-Man 3, but instead more or less equal screen time was given to the majority of the cast, with supporting roles coming in to do their job without making the film feel overly crowded.

     

    On the acting front, the main Avengers team have really come into their own, the actors having now portrayed their characters a minimum of three times prior to this movie and it really shows through. There’s an air of comfort about who they’re playing and each one has made the character their own while also staying true to that character’s comic book roots. Even the humor in the movie was fitting and not once did it feel forced or cheesy or slapstick. Most of the humor was off-the-cuff comments, which made the team more human and relatable.

     

    Ultron was a terrific bad guy. He was smart, dangerous, evil, but at the same time had a humanity to him that helped connect him with the audience. He wasn’t just some evil robot and that’s it. He was also a formidable foe for the Avengers and it did take the entire team to take him down.

     

    The addition of Vision worked well and was a good progression of the Jarvis character. He had a specific purpose in this movie and fulfilled it to a T. I’m curious to see what role he plays either in the stand-alone Marvel movies or in the upcoming Avengers: Infinity War flicks.

     

    On a fanboy note, there were some amazing iconic superhero action shots in this flick, the kind that makes you gush and squeal (yes, I’m that nerdy). There is one particular moment—you’ll know it when you see it—where I was just, like, “Wow, oh wow.” And the action on the whole was well done, with each character fighting according to their skillset.

     

    Going to have go back for a second outing to the theatre on this one and, of course, will be adding it to my personal movie collection when it comes out.

     

    Highly recommended.


  • Canister X Movie Review #94: The Wraith: Eyes of Judgment (2005)

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    The Wraith: Eyes of Judgment (2005)
    Written by Stephen J. Semones and Frank Dirscherl
    Directed by Stephen J. Semones
    Runtime 50 min.
    4 out of 5

    I’ll admit I’d been looking forward to this film for a long time and when I finally received a rough cut of the film in the mail from the film’s director, Stephen J. Semones, I was pleasantly surprised by what I saw.

    The Wraith: Eyes of Judgment is based on The Wraith comic series and novel created by Frank Dirscherl. It follows the story of Michael Reeve, an honest and dedicated cop who, through an encounter with The Wraith, finds himself adopting the crime fighter’s identity, both as The Wraith and the hero’s alter ego, billionaire Paul Sanderson.

     

    The good:

     

    This is the first longer-than-five-minutes independent superhero movie I’ve seen and I have to admit I was quite amazed, and pleased, with what I saw. There was an atmospheric sense to the film that made you believe, yes, you were in The Wraith’s world and you truly felt his presence. There’s a scene right at the opening that does that—an encounter between The Wraith and a robber—setting the tone for the rest of the film.

    The special effects were great—the CGI backgrounds, the “eyes of judgment” glowing on The Wraith’s chest, the sweeps of the city—and there’s no complaint from this fanboy here.

    The music was amazing. Then again, when getting Emmy-award winning composer Larry Groupé (Apt Pupil, The Usual Suspects, The Cable Guy) to do the music for your film, amazing is something of an understatement. The music was heroic, dark and, to a degree, sad. It really carried a sense of emotion, which helped move the story along. Speaking of music, “Home of Darkness,” sung by Mandi Leigh during the credits, was extraordinary and I wish there was a soundtrack for the film available because of it.

    The action and fighting were great and there were some really cool, super-realistic sequences where I jumped in my chair after each punch or kick. There was only one fight sequence that lasted just a few seconds that looked rehearsed.

    The story was down-to-earth, human, realistic and didn’t carry the sense of “there’s no way this can happen” like some of the superhero stuff coming out of Hollywood. You honestly believe that this story could happen in real life, which to me is a huge plus as I often wonder if superheroes could ever truly exist off the comic book page.

    Having read both the novel and the comic, the major props for the movie go to Stephen J. Semones for directing a flick that was 99% true to source material. Of course a few minor changes had to be made, but that’s film for you. Staying true to the comic or book the story is based off of has been time and again the biggest concern of fans of whatever franchise they happen to love. I’m happy to say Stephen nailed it on this one.

     

    The not-as-good:

     

    The story ended too soon, in my opinion. It felt like it was the beginning of a movie and didn’t carry a sense of closure that the story was over. All franchises have “origin films” (see Fantastic Four or Spider-man or Batman Begins) and they’re meant to be open-ended, but this one was a bit too open-ended. Though it was intended to pave the way for any future films, I wish there was something a little more finite to the tale. I still wouldn’t let this point hold you back from checking it out. If anything, I was really disappointed it ended so quickly.

    The acting, on the whole, was not bad. I understand independent films cannot hire the likes of Tom Hanks or Helen Hunt, but there were a few points where I wondered if the actor was monotonously reading his/her lines versus really saying them with conviction.

    All in all, I’d give this film 4 stars out of 5. I’m looking forward to the DVD and all the extra features (and believe me, there’s a ton of them) come September. I’ll be the first in line to get one. You should be there, too.


  • Canister X Movie Review #93: Watchmen: The Ultimate Cut (2009)

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    Watchmen: The Ultimate Cut (2009)
    Written by David Hayter and Alex Tse
    Directed by Zack Snyder
    Runtime 215 min.
    5 out of 5

    After the Comedian has been murdered, lone remaining vigilante Rorschach begins an investigation into his old acquaintance’s death. Since most superheroes were banned from existing after some legislation several years before, he looks up old allies and even old enemies in his quest for the truth. Slowly, he begins to unravel a plot that could bring about a disaster unlike anything the world has ever seen before.

     

    Based on what some would argue is the greatest graphic novel and superhero story of all time, Watchmen written by Alan More and Dave Gibbons, this movie adaptation was years in the making. Not this specific rendition, but from what I know, the book was optioned way back when it came out in the ’80s but never got off the ground. One of the reasons was very few filmmakers had the guts to touch it because Watchmen is such a revered work amongst comic fans and even in some literary and academic circles.

    Enter director Zack Snyder (Dawn of the Dead (2004), Man of Steel, 300 and more), whose eye for detail and a knack for visual storytelling takes on the gargantuan project and does his best to faithfully adapt Watchmen to the big screen. Him and his creative team nail it, in my opinion, and adapt the book the only way something like Watchmen could be adapted: panel-by-panel. It was the safest route but also the smartest. Some changes were made—like the ending—but for the most part, the book is translated completely as is to the big screen. Even the director’s cut includes additional scenes and animated clips from Tales of the Black Freighter interspersed throughout just like the graphic novel has bits of the pirate comic peppered throughout the main narrative.

    Watchmen asks the question: what would superheroes be like if they existed in the real world? Whether they are of the superpowerless variety or something more Superman-like ala Dr. Manhattan, you get an honest portrayal of superheroes in real life, all centered around the mystery of the murder of one of their friends.

    This story is about as down-to-earth as you get regarding superheroes in real life, and depending on the angle you’re coming from, can be equal to or more so than Kick-Ass in that regard.

    Each character in the flick matched their character in the book, all the way from the crazy-yet-cynical Comedian (Jeffrey Dean Morgan), to black-and-white-justice-seeking Rorschach (Jackie Earle Haley), to idealistic-yet-obsessed Nite Owl (Patrick Wilson), to insecure-but-strong Silk Spectre II (Malin Akerman), to misguided-but-you-can-see-how-he’s-right Ozymandias (Matthew Goode), and a supporting cast that makes every moment believable.

    The Watchmen story is so dense that the fact they were able to take the twelve-part series and showcase nearly all of it in around three and a half hours—I’m talking about the ultimate cut of the movie, which includes Tales of the Black Freighter and a bunch of additional footage not seen in the theatrical release—is pretty impressive. What’s amazing about the Watchmen narrative and thus the movie is the incredible amount of history for the characters that needed to be shown without bogging down the main story, which was the Comedian’s murder. You get to know these characters intimately, their pasts, their present and in some cases, their future.

    Zack Snyder’s knack for visuals gave this flick its own flavor and tone thanks to the color filters on the film. The score is fantastic. The action scenes were well done and quickly-paced, using brutal fighting techniques and the right amount of blood.

    Watchmen is certainly not your traditional superhero flick. It’s a superhero drama and is meant for an audience who likes to have some thinking along with their superhero slugfests. As a comic book fan, I appreciated the movie’s faithfulness to the graphic novel, the overall story of Watchmen, and how each person involved really seemed to take this movie seriously. Nothing was tongue-in-cheek.

    Watchmen ranks right up there as one of the greatest superhero movies of all time. If you consider yourself a superhero fan, then you should check it out. It’s a serious look at the genre through the lens of a clever story with amazing characters, all of which you feel like you’ve known for ages instead of just for a few hours on the screen.

    Highly recommended. Not for kids.


  • Canister X Movie Review #92: Watchmen: Tales of the Black Freighter & Under the Hood (2009)

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    Watchmen: Tales of the Black Freighter & Under the Hood (2009)
    Written by Zack Snyder and Alex Tse
    Directed by Daniel DelPurgatorio and Mike Smith
    Runtime 26 min.
    4 out of 5

    The DVD contains two features: Tales of the Black Freighter, an animated adaptation of that oh-so-bloody pirate comic embedded in the overall Watchmen strip (by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons), and Under the Hood, a TV show interview with Hollis Mason (Stephen McHattie) about his bestselling, tell-all autobiography regarding his time as the original Nite-Owl during the first superhero boom of the late ’30s/early ’40s.

     

    Tales of the Black Freighter was remarkable, grisly, and just plain cool. Even if you don’t like pirate stories, it’s guaranteed you’ll dig this. It’s a story about survival, the need to save others and the consequences of choosing that path, and what might happen to a man who becomes so obsessed with an ideal that he runs the risk of distorting reality completely.

     

    Under the Hood was equally well done. Done as a “look back” magazine television show—complete with commercial breaks using products from the Watchmen graphic novel—it explores the origin of the superhero fraternity through the very realistic eyes and humble spirit of Hollis Mason. You forget that it’s fiction quite easily and the segment also has that nostalgic feel of the Watchmen movie.

     

    Also included is the very cool motion comic of the first chapter of the Watchmen graphic novel. This was just plain cool and the animation was far more than I expected. Thought I was only going to get a few sliding frames ala some anime segments but instead got a lot of animation for each panel of the graphic novel. In fact, this segment alone sold me on getting the whole graphic novel animated DVD. Likewise, you also get a behind-the-scenes featurette on the back stories that are Tales of the Black Freighter and Under the Hood and what they mean to the overall Watchmen experience.

    The reason I gave it four stars instead of five is solely because five stars means I’ve been blown away and, well, the Watchmen theatrical film already did that and this isn’t quite as good. It’s my hope, however, that on the Watchmen director’s cut they splice in Tales of the Black Freighter as shown above. Very cool. They shot all the newsstand scenes with the kid reading the comic book for it anyway so might as well use them.

    Recommended.


  • Canister X Movie Review #83: Superman: Doomsday (2007)

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    Superman: Doomsday (2007)
    Written by Duane Capizzi
    Directed by Bruce Timm, Lauren Montgomery and Brandon Vietti
    Runtime 78 min.
    4 out of 5

    Digging deep beneath the planet’s surface, Lexcorp accidentally unearths the merciless killing machine known as Doomsday. Immediately, the behemoth of rage goes on a rampage, destroying everything in its path, and all efforts to stop it fail.

    The Man of Steel, learning of the destruction and deaths in Metropolis, takes it upon himself to bring the monster down before more lives are lost.

    The battle is epic.

    The action is huge.

    The consequences are dire.

    Superman fails, falls . . .

    Dies.

    Adapted from the biggest and most shocking comic book story of all time, Superman: Doomsday is the emotional and action-packed tale of the life, death and return of the world’s greatest superhero.

     

    This story is dark, and not just because Superman dies. This isn’t a kids cartoon. The themes are mature (i.e. Lois half-naked in the Fortress of Solitude), Lex Luthor, distraught over Superman’s absence in his own weird way, is the most evil Lex ever seen in a cartoon and the things he does at some points in the film make you go, “Man, that’s evil. Not just evil. Hugely evil.”

    What was most astonishing was the swearing. I never would have expected that from a Superman cartoon.

    On the plus side, the battle between Superman and Doomsday is the greatest slugfest this reviewer has ever seen in a superhero cartoon (and I’ve seen nearly all of them). The story is solid and packs a lot in given the amount of time Warner Brothers seems to allow for these direct-to-DVD animated movies of theirs.

    The animation is dynamic, the coloring bold, the art in the style of the Justice League cartoons.

    This DVD includes a few special features, most notably the enthralling documentary on the life, death and return of Superman, chronicling the death saga from conception to fruition, with interviews with the many artists, writers and editors on the project.

    A very awesome movie.


  • Canister X Movie Review #81: Superman/Batman: Public Enemies (2009)

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    Superman/Batman: Public Enemies (2009)
    Written by Stan Berkowitz
    Directed by Sam Liu
    Runtime 67 min.
    4.5 out of 5

    The Man of Steel has been framed for the murder of Metallo.

    Now on the public’s radar as a wanted man, Superman must team up with his greatest ally—and closest friend—Batman, to clear his name and show the public what really happened the night Metallo died. But before he can do that, he must survive an onslaught of superheroes and supervillains alike, all of whom have come to cash in on the bounty for his capture.

    Meanwhile, a giant kryptonite meteor is on a collision course for Earth, making things even worse for the Man of Steel who has no way to stop it, especially since the President of the United States, Lex Luthor, wants to destroy it himself with nuclear missiles.

    Will the Earth survive and will Superman restore his good name?

     

    This movie, based on the graphic novel by Jeph Loeb and Ed McGuinness, Superman/Batman: Public Enemies, is a comic book fan’s dream come true. Not only does it feature all of comicdom’s two most popular icons, but also a super supporting cast consisting of Power Girl, Captain Atom, Major Force, Black Lightning, Starfire, Katana and a host of other familiar faces, including, but not limited to, Captain Cold, Mr. Freeze, Bane, Lady Shiva and a ton of others.

    The story is solid, simple, but enough to really showcase each character: Superman as the one who doesn’t kill; Batman as the disgruntled detective; Lex Luthor as the glory-seeking, power-mad President—it totally works. The pacing was bang on and not once was I bored. Even the humor was in-step with the rest of the movie and didn’t come across like jokes from left field. Case in point, the giant robot in the end would’ve come across as goofy had not an explanation been given for the way it looked.

    There was a good give-and-take between Batman and Superman in this flick, too, both in their banter with one another, their approach to doing things, and also in saving each other’s bacon. Sometimes it seems that whenever the two team up, it’s always Batman that saves Superman. It was awesome a balance was finally struck between who helps who and when.

    I’m a huge fan of Ed McGuinness’s rendition of Superman and to see that they mimicked that art style in this feature made this fanboy happy. His Superman is big and strong and powerful. His Batman is top notch, too, same with the other characters.

    Of course, having Superman voiced by Tim Daly and Batman voiced by Kevin Conroy only adds to it as these guys were the voice talent behind these characters on their respective animated series. I really wish they would’ve been used for all the animated movies, but sadly that’s not the case and, of course, there’re different behind-the-scenes reasons as to why that is. Regardless, each actor captures each character perfectly, their tone, inflections and presentation reflecting the hero they’re supposed to portray.

    Superman/Batman: Public Enemies was one of the early feature-length DC animated movies and still holds up to this day as a classic.

    Highly Recommended.


  • Canister X Movie Review #72: The Spirit (2008)

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    The Spirit (2008)
    Written by Frank Miller
    Directed by Frank Miller
    Runtime 103 min.
    3.5 out of 5

    Denny Colt was one of the best cops Central City has ever known. After being killed in the line of duty, he returns from the grave as the Spirit and fights evil as a masked crime fighter. Enter the Octopus, an evil villain bent on gaining immortality and will do anything and stop at nothing to achieve it.

     

    So basically this is Sin City meets an old pulp superhero, the Spirit, who was created by Will Eisner. We can thank Frank Miller for the Sin City spin on this flick as he was the man behind it. Which, to me, is fine. I thought Sin City was the breath of fresh air movies needed and adding that kind of style and storytelling to the world of the Spirit is cool with me. Granted, I never read the comics so I can’t comment on if that was a smart move for an adaptation or not. I can comment that the costume change—going from an all-blue suit and fedora with a red tie, to an all-black suit and fedora with a red tie—was a cool move as a guy in a blue suit, a non-spandex one, wouldn’t translate to film very well.

    This movie is big time over-the-top, so leave your expectations for a realistic comic book movie at the door. The characters take a ton of abuse and keep on kicking. I mean, the Spirit taking a toilet to the head and still standing after? Come on. But if you go in not expecting a realistic superhero movie, then this won’t bother you.

    On a visual scale, this movie is aces. The black and white, the spot coloring, the glows, the different animated scenes thrown in—again, like Sin City but a really cool way to do a super flick and it makes me wonder how it might look if it was done with some of the more major franchises—i.e. if Captain America had a couple slick, three-or-four-second animated scenes as part of the movie. You never know.

    Gabriel Macht did just fine as the Spirit—was tough, suave and able to hold his own on the action scale. Samuel L. Jackson as the Octopus—well, he’s SLJ so you got SLJ. I love the guy but he’s the same guy in every movie despite what he’s supposed to be. Granted, there are a few exceptions (i.e. The Caveman’s Valentine).

    Bottom line: this is a crazy ride and cool detective story blended with superhero action and mayhem. It won’t change your life, but it certainly might add to it in a little way.

    Good movie.