Ruby Nation

Ruby Nation
Ruby Nation: The Webcomic

Saturday, August 28, 2010

The Neil Kapit Update: Put Your Mind At Peace

Several bits of news on my end, prefaced by an image from Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker ( because realistically, is there ever a BAD time for a Metal Gear reference?

* Ruby's World has moved back to a chapter update schedule, with whole chapters being posted every month or so. This was done in response to complaints that the comic was hard to follow when broken up into single page installments. Expect Chapter 19 some time in September, with the stunning conclusion to the " Evil Obama " cliffhanger.

* Within a few chapters, Ruby's World will conclude. Note that I said that Ruby's World will conclude, not the story in general. A new strip will replace it, set a few months later and with a new hook. This will be done to provide a jumping-on point for new readers. It should be the Metal Gear Solid to Ruby's World's NES Metal Gear. ( I keep doing this. )

* I've been doing weekly graphic novel reviews for Pop Syndicate, a comic and other pop culture news/reviews site. I strongly recommend you check them out in general, not just for my reviews ( though I do enjoy self-promotion ), but for their diverse and entertaining array of commentary and content. But I do have four pieces up, with new pieces every Wednesday. Direct links are...

Blackest Night Hardcover ( Hated It )
The Nobody by Jeff Lemire( Loved it )
Daredevil: The Devil's Hand ( Liked It )
Brody's Ghost Volume 1 by Mark Crilley ( Loved it )

* I am working on a massive new project related to disability and pop culture writings. This is something I can't divulge too much about just yet, other than the fact that I want to get it published. Stay tuned...

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Comic Animated Movie Fantasy Cast #1: Captain America in " Winter Soldier "

While there has yet to be a truly great direct-to-DVD Marvel or DC movie ( though the Last Frontier was pretty close ), the productions are steadily improving. Better yet, the production companies are bringing in some top-notch voice talent. In addition to the legendary voices for the characters ( Kevin Conroy for Batman, Clancy Brown for Luthor, Steve Blum for Wolverine, etc. ), we're seeing a great mix of B-List talent from TV and movies, and veteran voice actors. Who would've thought that David Boreanaz would make such a great Hal Jordan? Anyone who's seen a single episode of Bones, that's who. And the people who've watched Summer Glau on Firefly and Sarah Connor Chronicles know she'll be an excellent Supergirl. Of course, this isn't the leave out the veteran voice actors, but a solid mix of talent from diverse sources helps dispel the Animation Age Ghetto.

Since I spend a LOT of time thinking about who would voice which comic characters, both in my own readings and in my work, I've been doing fantasy voice casting for many years. The difference is, this time it's not too distant. So as I give my example voice casting list for the Winter Soldier story ( the first Ed Brubaker story with the character, and the one that immediately made me a fan of both Cap and Bru ), I feel good knowing the chance that this will appear as an OVA is closer to " slim " than " none ".

Anyway, the list...

STEVE ROGERS/CAPTAIN AMERICA: David Hayter. Hayter already played Steve Rogers in a flashback episode of X-Men Evolution, but he only had a few grunts. But he's qualified for the role because of his voice work as another legendary super-soldier-- Solid Snake of the ridiculously awesome Metal Gear Solid games. Brubaker writes Steve harder and rougher than most Captain America writers ( to his credit ), but keeps the heroic aspects of the character. If Hayter did a slightly less gravelly tone ( as he did with Naked Snake/Big Boss, Solid's clone-father, in MGS3 ), he'd be perfect for Cap.

BUCKY BARNES/WINTER SOLDIER: Yuri Lowenthal. Lowenthal has made a name for himself as the go-to guy for precocious boy heroes. He's done spunky, idealistic young men with Ben Tennyson, Iceman, and Superboy. He's also shown a darker side, as seen in his portrayal of troubled boy hero turned psychopathic man-child Sasuke in the English dub of Naruto. For Bucky Barnes, especially the twentysomething brainwashed cyborg Bucky, Lowenthal would do quite well.

FALCON/SAM WILSON: Phil LaMarr. LaMarr has a very strong hero voice, which can range from dead serious ( Samurai Jack, Green Lantern John Stewart, Vamp from Metal Gear, Hermes Conrad in a lovably uptight way ) to easy-going and jocular ( Virgil " Static " Hawkins, the Transformer Jazz, Wilt from Foster's Home for Imaginary Friends, the doofus Earth King from Avatar ). For Sam Wilson, unofficial heir to Bucky's sidekick mantle and the only man capable of being badass while dressing like a bird and talking to a hawk, he would do quite well.

SHARON CARTER: Tricia Helfer. A veteran actress of action heroines in both live action ( #6 from Battlestar Galactica ) and voice ( Black Cat from Spectacular Spider-Man, Boodika from the Green Lantern OVA, Sif from The Super Hero Squad Show ), Helfer could do exceptionally as Cap's on-again off-again girlfriend/ SHIELD liason. Both by being able to shoot bad guys and tell the Patriotic Super-Jesus things others wouldn't have the nerve to say to him.

NICK FURY: Paul Eiding. The Ultimates has ensured that all non-comic Furies will be played by Samuel L. Jackson or an effective imitator of Samuel L. Jackson, so picking the voice for an Ultimate-style Fury is about as difficult as breathing. For the MU Fury, I'd go with Eiding, Colonel Roy Campbell from ( again ) Metal Gear Solid as well as Grandpa Max from Ben 10. Though he has a wide vocal range, he's also master of the aged warhorse voice.

RED SKULL: Mark Hammil. Accents are tricky and can too often come across as stereotyped when voiced by English-speaking VAs, so I'm taking the Metal Gear approach of " Just Not Bothering ". Besides, Red Skull's evil has far outlasted Nazi Germany, making him his own insidious force. So who better than the master of animated villain voices-- former Luke Skywalker Mark Hammil, whose Joker voice out-evils even the late Heath Ledger, and who played the unparalleled paragon of wickedness that is Fire Lord Ozai in Avatar? It comes to my attention that he did voice the Skull in Super Hero Squad ( in an episode I didn't see ), but this isn't comedy Red Skull, but utterly depraved comic red skull.

ALEKSANDER LUKIN: Sir Ian McKellen. The master of the Cosmic Cube turned summer home for Red Skull's consciousness, Lukin is a suave but dangerous strategist, with experience as both a KGB soldier and the business oligarch head of the Kronas Corporation. Putting aside accents again, Ian McKellen could pull this off excellently-- he was a great Magneto in the X-Men movies, a menacing talking bear in the Golden Compass, and has a narrating voice that can easily shift from classy to dangerous.

CROSSBONES/BROCK RUMLOW: David Boreanaz. Boreanaz hasn't had too many VA roles, but those he's done evoked the strongest parts of his TV career. As Hal Jordan in the New Frontier, he brought the cocky competence and haunted past of Seeley Booth from Bones. As Squall Leonhart in Kingdom Hearts, he utilized the dour angst appropriate to both Squall and Angel. And for the right hand man of the Red Skull, he would bring the naked sadism of Angel's dark side, Angelus. Both are good at being bad, and both are unabashed cradle robbers, after all.

Whew! Any I forgot?

Monday, August 16, 2010

New Batman Costume is Bat-tastic and Manly

DC has released their November Solicits, with the information for Batman, Inc. Already we know that it has Bruce Wayne, back from his journey through time and merchandise-ready period costumes, franchising his identity out around the world. I have mixed feelings about this; as a general rule I don't like when multiple characters share a superhero identity, since it dilutes the importance of the main guy. Batman is a unique case because he's the result of Bruce Wayne toiling constantly to become the perfect weapon against crime, and Grant Morrison's own stories have shown that any attempts to replace him are either mixed at best ( Dick Grayson ) or catastrophic ( the new Red Hood, the three Bat-Cops, the future Damien who sells Gotham to Satan, etc. ). However, most of Morrison's stories on Batman have been utterly stellar, so I'll suspend judgment until the final product arrives.

What I can judge is the new look for the Bat-Suit, as shown on the covers by Yanick Paquette and Andy Kubert. Fortunately, it's quite a good look. It's still unmistakably Batman, but the little details have been refined and modernized. For one thing, the underoos are finally gone-- briefs over leggings are an obnoxious relic of the circus strongman roots of superheroes, and there was no reason Batman should have kept wearing them for so many decades. The darker swaths of fabric on the sides of the suit are an effective replacement, and give the look more texture, like it's an actual suit of armor instead of body paint ( since Batman is not bulletproof, it's good that we see him wearing some protection ). Ribbing on the boots and gloves has a similar effect, with the same success. And the yellow Bat-emblem returns after being simply a black pattern for years-- normally I'd prefer the original shirt, but since Batman's trying to make himself a brand, the logo takes on extra importance.

Time will tell if this design endures; unfortunately, complex costumes tend not to last. The X-Men stopped wearing leather to regress to colorful spandex, most of the Ultimates started wearing tights ( something they had never done before in that universe ) when Millar and Hitch left, and many characters in Brian Michael Bendis' Avengers have returned to their 70's looks ( not coincidentally, the era when Bendis started reading Marvel ). It's likely that Batman will be back in his undreroos in the near future, because " iconic " too often means " simplistic and bland ". But here's hoping he rocks the new look for a while.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Great Moments in Otherwise Terrible Comics?

Here's a question for you all to actively answer in the comments...

What are your favorite scenes in crappy comics?

To give you an example, I'll discuss the good stuff I found in The Other, the big Spider-Book crossover written by JMS ( whose Spider-Man I discussed earlier, after the above cat sat on my copies of his work ), Reginald Hudlin, and Peter David, with art by Mike Deodato Jr., Pat " the Transman " Lee, and the late, lamented Mike Wieringo...

-- There were a lot of excellent character moments with Peter and his supporting cast, both his family and his Avengers comrades. Peter's death sentence stirred a lot of drama to the surface, insights that we might not otherwise have seen. MJ gives a heartbreaking speech about how Peter subconsciously goes into battle half-cocked out of a death wish born of survivor's guilt. Aunt May internally curses Uncle Ben for not allowing Peter to move on with his life. And Peter himself has a great scene where he almost kills a villain, cursing how unfair it is that he's being punished for trying to atone for one mistake he made, and talking about being free to make another big mistake as he beats the hell out of the bad guy. Even after he came back ( one of many reasons why this was a stupid story ), there were some interesting points, like MJ talking about surviving Peter's ( believed ) death made her realize that she was a stronger person than she thought.

And we can't forget how Wolverine hit on the grieving MJ to distract herself from her despair, and how her words of thanks afterwards were along the lines of " I know you didn't hit on me on purpose because I'm so out of your league ".

-- Peter found some clever uses for his spider-powers after his resurrection. The spider-stingers in his wrist....well, there aren't words in human language to described how fucking ridiculous that concept is, even by superhero standards. But I liked the final issue with Peter experimenting with his powers. Seeing him find creative ways to use his abilities, like feeling the vibrations of a target through his webbing, or having a rescued child cling to his back the way he clings to walls, were pretty cool. If only he figured out how to use these without a contrived mystical experience.

-- Mike Wieringo's art was exceptional. Mike Deodato's work was good as always, and Pat Lee managed to be tolerable despite his continuing use of his trademarked " Dull Surprise " expression. But Wieringo was an exceptionally gifted cartoonist. Even with fewer lines than most superhero artists, he managed to exude character from his figures. Look at scenes like Cap tearing up upon Peter's death, Logan's reaction to MJ's aforementioned speech, and of course, Peter getting cornrows when visiting Africa. He is still very much missed. :(

These traits make this Big Lipped Alligator Moment of a story tolerable....well, almost.

So what are your picks?

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Rita Farr, the Doom Patrol, and the Social Construction of Disability

I'm interested in writing about disability representation and superhero comics, but I've never written a post about the Doom Patrol. That book has a more obvious connection between the two than any other superhero series; since its debut, it's been a book of all deformed, traumatized metahumans. Even from the original line-up, we had the paraplegic genius Niles " The Chief " caulder, brain-in-a-robot-body Cliff " Robotman " Steel, bandaged burn victim and host to the negative spirit Larry " Negative Man " Trainor, and size-shifter Rita " Elasti-Girl " Farr. And if you think one of those is not like the other, yes, it's Rita. She can shrink and grow and stretch her limbs, but she looks completely normal by default, and can turn her shape-shifting on and off at will. Her appearance is just as conventionally pretty as any super-heroine; hell, she was an actress before she got her powers. Hardly compares to a man with phantom entire-body pains or a guy who is just the scarred summer home for an energy being-- she could easily join any other super-team.

Thus, when the original Doom Patrol was killed off, it took Rita the longest time to be resurrected. Years passed before she received the inevitable superhero return; the landmark Grant Morrison run on the book had her place taken by Crazy Jane, a more visibly disturbed woman with 50 super-powered personalities. And when she was brought back, it was in John Byrne's less-than-well-received run, which was a clear jump back to the way the team used to be. Superhero comics are all about regressing back to the way they used to be, regardless of wether or not the way things were was good. So is Rita really one of these characters who only exist to serve nostalgia, a vestigial character the concept outgrew?

Keith Giffen, current writer of a particularly good Doom Patrol revamp, says no. And the latest issue is evidence, because it's revealed that Rita isn't nearly as normal as we thought. The issue's revelation is that ever since she was brought back, she's been FAKING her old appearance. Her resurrected body is really just a sentient lump of silly putty that Rita gives form. Giffen goes into particularly unsettling detail about Rita's condition, showing that Rita becomes a gelatinous blob in her sleep and has to sleep in a special chamber to keep from flooding the room, and telling us that she reassembles her appearance based on photos of her old body. ( And in characteristic Doom Patrol fashion, she handles this with gallows humor, admitting that she pressed a newspaper against herself to see if it would leave an imprint. It did. )

This calls back to the original reason Rita joined the Doom Patrol; even though she can look like an ordinary woman, everybody knows she isn't. Her career was ruined by her powers manifesting on a movie set, making her appear as a freak to the entire world. Even though she did gain control, she still had that label attached to her, and was blacklisted from Hollywood. Hence joining the Doom Patrol, a team of people with similar body traumas-- even if she could reset her appearance, she was still the same woman shaped by her powers, and shunned by the ordinary world.

Rita was the only member of the Doom Patrol who could pass; even the Chief had a physical ( though realistic ) disability and an intellect that removed him from the rest of the world. Even then, her normal appearance is just an imitation of normal, and most people see straight past the appearance and onto the stigmatizing labels. But this is exacerbated by the fact that she isn't even normal on the inside-- rather than a person with an ability others don't have, Rita is a blob that can will itself into a woman's form. And the people who know that they're talking to sentient goo will have a harder time accepting her-- even the other " monsters " on the Doom Patrol ( though they do learn to accept things quickly ).

It makes Rita's fate more tragic, and you wonder why she's going through all the trouble to appear the way she used to-- which makes her more at home with the team than ever.