“What’s in the box?”
“C’mon…what’s in the box?”
“Why won’t you tell me what’s in the box?”
“For the love of God…! What’s in the box?”
“What’s in the box? What’s in the box?“
“WHAT’S IN THE BOX?”
“OH GOD! OH GOD!”
“C’mon…what’s in the box?”
“Why won’t you tell me what’s in the box?”
“For the love of God…! What’s in the box?”
“What’s in the box? What’s in the box?“
“WHAT’S IN THE BOX?”
“OH GOD! OH GOD!”
Image courtesy of reader John L., who has also been providing a boatload of swell logo banners for this site. And you can provide one, or a dozen, too, if you’d like…details here.
Mystery Science Theatre is being relaunched as a new online project, with new animated shorts starring the ‘bots Crow, Servo, and Gypsy. Two folks from the original show are involved…Jim Mallon (president of MST3K’s parent company Best Brains, and returning voice of Gypsy) and Paul Chaplin (occasional onscreen performer on the original show, and the new voice of Crow). No word on Servo’s voice, but I’m guessing that’ll be handled by one of the “new talents” involved in the project…but whoever it is, he (or she?) is gonna have the unenviable task of following Kevin Murphy’s robust performance as the character.
Of most interest to the longtime fans (like, say, myself) is the promise of behind-the-scenes footage and “from the vault” type material from the original show, as well as “all-new merchandise.”
I suppose the relative success of the MST3K-like spin-off projects by former cast members Mike Nelson, Bill Corbett, and the aforementioned Murphy (Rifftrax and The Film Crew) was a major factor in this MST3K relaunch. I don’t know (and the fan site doesn’t indicate) whether or not we’ll be getting more “wisecracking robots in movie theatres” action, or just the wacky adventures of the ‘bots sans film mockery. But, the ‘bots themselves are appealing characters, non-working arms and all, in their own right, outside of the riffing context, so I’m willing to give this new effort a shot, even with most of the original creative staff having moved on. This is a bit more of a change than the “Crow’s got a new voice?” thing from the Sci Fi Channel years, but the promise of new material under the MST3K banner has got my attention.
And I know the link’s been popping up all over the place lately…but didn’t it make the rounds a year or two ago? I can swear I’ve seen this before.
The film itself is fine, if a very stripped down, simplistic version of the near-epic “Death/Return of Superman” storyline from the early ’90s. While one could fill, oh, say, an entire blog post of the differences between the original comic book version of the story and the animated version, there is one primary difference I wanted to note. And this difference is intrinsic to the formats these two interpretations of the story have taken.
The actual impact of Superman’s death in the course of this story (um…SPOILER, I guess?) is much, much less in the cartoon, if only because Superman’s removal from the narrative is all of about fifteen minutes or so. It’s just a very brief plot twist, there to give Luthor the opportunity to replace him with with a clone Superman under his command. The real Supes eventually wakes up, recovers in his Fortress, and comes back for the big fight scene. The end. The viewer never really feels that Superman is gone, because, well, “how can I miss you when you won’t go away?”
On the other hand…after Superman’s death in the funnybooks, he was gone. For the couple months that followed, we had Superman books with no Superman…pages filled with funerals and tributes and mourners and no real clue given as to how Superman would eventually return. The Superman books even went on a brief hiatus…they stopped publishing for a month or so, which I was going to say would be unheard of today, delaying publication of a top selling comic book. But then I remembered DC’s botched relaunch of Wonder Woman, and Marvel’s year and a half (and growing) gap between issues of Ultimate Hulk/Wolverine, et al, so it’s not so uncommon nowadays, really.
But it really did make an impact when the Superman books stopped publishing, even for as briefly as they did, as the four Super-books had functioned essentially as one weekly title, a new issue of each Superman series every week. To have that schedule interrupted underscored the alleged death of the character. Okay, we had specials and whatnot in the interim, and when the titles relaunched a few weeks later, we still had no Superman. We had folks who took the Superman name, and maybe one or two who could have been a drastically changed Big Blue, but things weren’t quite back to normal yet…and it would still be a couple months before the situation was resolved.
In short, the comics gave us time to get used to the idea, to really feel the impact, of Superman being gone. The movie doesn’t. And, like I said, it’s intrinsic to the format…it can’t really be considered a criticism, because it’s not like the film could end with Superman’s death, with a note to “come back in Summer ’08 for the shocking conclusion.” Of course, no one familiar with comics really thought Superman was gone for good, but that extra gap the comics provided helped enhance the illusion.
The primary special feature on the disc is a longish documentary of the original “Death/Return” comics, with plenty of interviews with the folks responsible and lots of memories of the madness that followed. Period footage (I’m using “period” to refer to events from fifteen years ago…is that overstating it?) shows what the actual “Super-retreat” editorial meetings looked like, where the creative teams got together and hammered out the Superman plots for the following year. I’d always pictured editor Mike Carlin sitting in a throne like this one, making decrees with a wave of his scepter (tipped with the “S” logo), but seeing the actual meeting room in the documentary has spoiled that vision a bit.
There are some close-ups of the the white boards being used for plot notes in the meeting room, which allows for some DVD-pausin’ fun:
Something else I’ve learned from this documentary: creator Dan Jurgens does not age. The man still looks like he’s in high school. Clearly he’s found the Fountain of Youth, and must be forced to divulge its location.
There’s also a brief documentary focusing on the vocal talents behind the cartoon (Ray Wise as Perry White? No way!), which suffers from an extreme lack of any screentime for John DiMaggio, the voice of Futurama‘s Bender and the voice of the Toyman from this Superman cartoon. We also get a commentary track (which I haven’t listened to yet), a preview of the next animated film (The New Frontier, which doesn’t look half-bad), and one of those DVD games which I didn’t have the patience to try. Sorry.
Overall…slight but watchable, with good vocal performances, some satisfyingly destructive action scenes, and backed up with a solid documentary about the comics themselves. If you’re expecting anything close to the story that the original comics provided, forget about it. Taken on its own, however, it’s not a bad way to spend an hour or two.
From another article on the subject:
“Michael Green, who also has prior experience with Berlanti on Everwood and Jack & Bobby, wrote Superman/Batman for Marvel Comics.”
“One idea you may consider is being Wonder Woman or Swamp Thing, especially since Swamp Thing is probably the biggest badass ever.”
You’re damn right. Though having Swamp Thing and Wonder Woman in the same sentence there briefly put the image of Swampy in WW’s bathing suit costume and tiara, and I don’t think I need that idea in my head. Get out, get out!
Me: “You know what action figure line Todd McFarlane should do next?”
Employee Aaron: “What’s that?”
Me: “‘EXTREME BIBLE’ action figures.”
Employee Aaron: “Oh, no.”
Me: “Oh, sure…there could be a special ‘Last Supper’ series, where each of the thirteen action figures comes with a piece of the Last Supper table that you can assemble.”
Employee Aaron: “…Where do you get these ideas?”
Me: “They’re divinely inspired.”
Employee Aaron: “‘Divine?’”
Me: “Yes…the spirit of Divine, from the John Waters films, comes to me at night and whispers these ideas into my ear.”
Employee Aaron: “I quit.”
Restocking the comic supply shelves on Friday, I discovered the case of comic book bags…from Hell:
Then again, it’s just as well…I do have some appropriate comics around here that need some bagging:
And perhaps they have other mysterious and nefarious powers as well. Maybe if I bag up back issues of Brigade, those’ll finally start selli…nah, even the Devil has standards.
Here’s something from the new Previews I missed for yesterday’s “End of Civilization” post:
It’s apparently a “variant” figure, so it’ll be a little harder to find…but c’mon, look at it…it’s worth the search.
(Additional linkage…when I Googled up “Spock’s Brain,” I found this page detailing a stage production of said episode, including video clips. Oh, this looks like it was a hoot.)
First is Chris “Lefty” Brown, entertaining writer and all-around swell cat, who just celebrated his four year anniversary in the ‘blogging biz. Chris is also one of the very few people in the comicsweblogosphere that I eventually got to meet in person. So to you, Chris…thanks for the years of good readin’, and here’s to many more!
Next is Aquaman’s Pal Laura “Tegan” Gjovaag, who just hit the very impressive five year mark. She’s been having kind of a rough time of it lately, what with her vehicular troubles, so along with my congratulations I want to send her my best wishes, and to tell her to hang in there. Things’ll get better, honest!
And then there’s Johnny Bacardi, who also just hit the Big Five. Alas, he’s retiring from comics blogging, which is too bad…I don’t think there’s anyone with an interest in comic blogs who doesn’t respect and admire JB’s work. We’re losing one of the cornerstones of comics weblogging with his departure, and this little hobby of ours will be the poorer for it.
Okay, okay, he’s not dead or anything…he still has an online presence, and he has another project or two he’s working on, but to see him make semi-official his retirement from comics talk…well, nobody wants to see that. Hopefully we can cajole him into returning soon.
According to the rumors in that article:
“Maxwell Lord and Ra’s al Ghul are currently expected to be the major villains of the movie, with a third baddie to be revealed in a major twist during the course of the film. Making up the Justice League will be Superman, Batman, Aquaman, Wonder Woman, The Flash, Green Lantern and the Martian Manhunter.”
I don’t…I don’t know, really. Fanboy Mike says “yes,” Rational Adult Mike says “oh, dear.” Depends on who the alleged third villain is. I say Starro. I mean, what the hell…you’ve already got a half-dozen or so guys ‘n’ gals in tights with superpowers on screen. You’re gonna draw the line at a giant telepathic extraterrestrial starfish? C’mon.
God bless Chris Karath. I love his photographs of his recent action figure acquisitions, showing their packaging, posing/comparing/contrasting them with other similar figures, et cetera. In this case, he even reproduces the Spidey/Mary Jane “rain kiss” with his figures. Chris’s showcasing of his figures in this manner is both lighthearted and informative, and I appreciate the effort he continually puts into it.
Oh, and happy birthday, Junior!
And it’s being written by Jeph Loeb, so it probably won’t make a lick of sense, but it’ll probably be goofy fun anyway. Think those early issues of Superman/Batman, only with more smashing. That’s what I’m hoping for, at any rate.
According to Employee Aaron, a customer saw that Red Hulk image on the cover of the Marvel Previews and remarked “Hey, I’d like to see a blue Hulk someday!”
Aaron’s gonna have to point this customer out to me when he comes back in, because I’m makin’ this sale!
Welcome, younglings, as the 33rd monthly installment of the End of Civilization, this is. Your November 2007 edition of Diamond Previews you will read, and follow along, you wi…oh, okay, I’ll stop. Anyway, the previous installments are, as always, in the sidebar, so let the bad merchandise, silly products, and the objectification of the female form begin!
p. 45 – Judge Dredd Alien Statue:
In case you needed to confuse any of your friends and family…”why does your Alien statue have the face of a helmeted man with a deformed chin?”
p. 131 – Showcase Presents Series 1 Action Figures:
p. 164 – The Godfather Action Figure:
Okay, I know the “action figure” description is a misnomer, but I suppose that helps the item sell better than calling it “only barely-articulated plastic statue.” But I can’t help picturing neighborhood kids playing with their toys:
“Okay, so my Luke Skywalker uses his lightsabre to cut off Snake Eyes’ head.”
“No way! Snake Eyes totally dodged that lightsabre.”
“The Godfather has ordered a hit on both of you, and his thugs gun you down in cold blood. Your bodies lie on the ground, almost looking as if you were sleeping, save for the red sticky pool of viscous liquid forming beneath you.”
“…My mom says I can’t play with you any more.”
p. 174 – Witchblade Takeru Manga #11:
Okay, let’s be honest here. This is a stroke book, pure and simple. And by “stroke book,” in case any of you are confused, I mean “a magazine featuring images of prurient interest for use as visual stimuli during masturbation.” It features an assemblage of barely covered breasts and vaginas (bottoms being generally free of clothing) being posed in a variety of ways. I suppose there’s dialogue, and some pretense at a plot, but the star of the show is female body parts.
I didn’t think they could outdo the cheesecake factor of the original Witchblade comic, but here it is.
p. 209 – Archie Comics:
Dear publishers of Archie Comics:
p. 242-3 – Red Sonja comics:
Speaking of stroke books….
It’s a two page spread of Red Sonja’s rear end! On the left hand side is Alex Ross’ illustration of Red Sonja’s butt:
And to the right are two more Red Sonja behinds, presented for your perusal:
Okay, those two are more or less the same image, one being a comic cover, the other being a 3-D representation. But BAM, BAM, BAM, it’s butt, butt, butt across both pages. Enjoy, boys!
p. 369 – Captain Kirk’s Guide to Women:
At last, we have a replacement for The Bible:
Publishers, shutter your doors. Printers, halt your presses. The book industry has reached its zenith, and human knowledge has achieved its greatest accomplishment. If there is any knowledge in the world not contained within these pages…it’s not worth knowing.
p. 398 – Mounted Cthulhu Head Plush:
You know, after Santa Cthulhu, and Elvis Cthulhu, and so on, I keep thinkng that there’s nothing more that can be done in the stuffed Cthulhu genre…
…but apparently there is.
Of course, now that we’ve achived Mounted Cthulhu, it’s only one more step to incorporate Big Mouth Billy Bass technology to make him talk. Imagine some unsuspecting guest at your house admiring your Mounted Cthulhu, when it suddenly recites “That is not dead which can eternal lie / And with strange aeons even death may die.” Big laffs!
p. 400 – For A Few Dollars More Minimates Box Set:
Is the world ready for a Clint Eastwood Minimate? I don’t really have anything smart-alecky to say about this. I’m just stunned it even exists.
p. 420 – She Dragon Variant Edition Statue:
I’m pretty sure I’ve mentioned this statue before, but, after doing this End of Civilization thing for nearly three years now, I’m running short of ways to say “the things you people make statues out of.” I mean, honestly:
But, in all fairness, Mr. Glum totally rules. This should be sold this seperately:
p. 430 – Lord of the Rings Snaga Ringbearer Bust:
Okay, now, this needs to stop. Gandalf statues, fine. There’ll always be hippies to buy ‘em. And Gollum? Who doesn’t love Gollum? But this guy:
At this point, with the movies well over and done with, “scraping the bottom of barrel”-level characters may be a tough sell.
p. 448 – Marvel Bearz Series 1 Vinyl Figures:
From the solicitation info:
“Each Marvel Bearz features a colorful, hidden button on the back of it’s [sic] head. Some of these buttons are rarer than others, and are covered with a safety cap, so until you have purchased your bear, no one knows what color (or limitation) your button will be.”
Okay, leaving aside I have no idea what they mean by “what limitation your button will be” (I’ll Google it up later, if I still care), does everything have to have some kind of artificial collectible/trading aspect to it? Can’t these just be weird superhero bears? Can’t we enjoy the simple sublime beauty of the concept just as is?
Well, “beauty” is a relative term. This Carnage Bear is just pure nightmare fuel:
p. 452 – Dead or Alive Xtreme 2 – Lei Fang ArtFX Statue:
“I’m ready for my exam, Doctor!”
p. 482 – Smallville Kryptonite Metal Key:
At $39.99, that’s one expensive coaster. Because WHAT ELSE CAN YOU POSSIBLY USE THIS FOR? Leveling out table legs? Paint it red and make a very small stop sign?
p. 482 – Horror Playing Cards:
I’m not sure what’s so horrific about the Vivid Girls cards (though I suppose the implants are terrifying), and I was all set to poke a little fun at these, but…well, I kinda want a set of the Nightmare on Elm Street cards. And I bet they’d sell like gangbusters, especially at five bucks a pop.
Hmmm…I think I need to add “playing cards” to the store’s merchandise shelves….
1. Good Lord, 23 boxes from Diamond this morning? And none of them “cheater” boxes (like the entire Diamond box for just, say, the Comic Shop News flyers). Oy. We’d better sell some comics this week.
2. Dear customer: please try to let your scent of marijuana dissipate slightly before coming to our store. I don’t need the contact high. Thank you.
3. Right at opening time, a huge U-Haul truck parked right in front of our store, blocking all visibility of our shop from the street. It didn’t stay long, and bonus: when it pulled away it broke off that long low-hanging branch from the tree out front.
4. Is anyone buying that Gene Simmons’ Dominatrix comic? Our customers just kinda point and laugh at it.
5. BUYER’S NOTE: There’s a page of Fred Hembeck in the new What If: Planet Hulk comic.
6. FIRE FOLLOW-UP: The skies are sunny locally, but the air is still ashy…we’re keeping the doors closed for the time being. Employee Aaron notes that the evacuation notice out where he lives (Fillmore) has been canceled, though as of last night he can still see flames over the hills near his house.
7. CUSTOMER: “Do you have this comic? I’ve been looking for this comic forever, and I’ve asked you for this comic before, but you guys never have it. Do you have it? Have you even heard of it? I really want this comic.”
ME: “Oh, you mean –” (whips comic out of back issue bin) “– this comic?”
CUSTOMER: “Yes! That’s it! That’s the one I’ve been looking for!”
ME: “Okay…should I keep it at the register for you?”
CUSTOMER: “Oh, no, I’m not going to buy it today.”
…so here’s a panel of Swamp Thing fighting some robot dogs: