In Comics on September 29, 2009 at 12:38 AM
Robert Kirkman’s Invincible is a coming-of-age superhero comic, in the tradition of the earliest Spider-Man books. Invincible Ultimate Collection (vol. 1), from Image Comics, collects the first thirteen issues of this series from 2003. Mark Grayson, son of a Superman-like hero named Omni-Man, begins to develop powers of his own, and struggles to balance crime-fighting with college applications and social ineptitude. Analogues of preexisting characters in Invincible don’t end with Mark’s father; throughout volume one, Mark battles proxies of Spider-Man villains like Rhino, Vulture and Sandman, and dreams of joining the Guardians of the Globe (nearly all of whom are modeled after members of D.C.’s Justice League).
Because of Kirkman and his artists’ heavy reliance on these analogues, Invincible occupies an odd place in contemporary superhero comics, and a place that could only exist after several decades of Justice League stories. It’s too sincere to be parody, but doesn’t engage Watchmen-style genre commentary either. The series is unique, in part, for just how frequently imitations of other characters pop up: analogues from different ficitional worlds often occupy the same space. (In one issue, Omni-Man rescues the crew of a faux-U.S.S. Enterprise.) Read the rest of this entry »
In Comics on September 26, 2009 at 12:41 AM
‘Old Man Logan,’ a delay-plagued story by writer Mark Millar and artist Steve McNiven that had been running in Wolverine throught the past year, finally concluded this week in the Giant Size Wolverine special. Set in a Marvel Universe some decades after the villains finally won, the story follows Wolverine (and archer/former-Avenger Hawkeye) on a road trip across the decimated American landscape, with stops at Giant Man’s giant bones and the tourist trap where Thor’s hammer fell. Read the rest of this entry »
In Uncategorized on September 20, 2009 at 8:12 AM
People at my work talk a lot about “narrative.”
A campaign’s message must be narrative-driven. When an organizer sits down with a new volunteer, they tell their “story.”
This is a relatively new approach for campaigns, though community organizers and advocacy groups have framed their strategy in this way for years. Marshall Ganz is the prophet of the religion of narrative. A professor at Harvard, a veteran of United Farm Workers strikes, SNCC voter registration drives and other bright spots in progressive organizing history, he found acolytes in the Obama field organization. Some of his Harvard students and trainees went on to take substantial roles in the campaign.
Talking points are pooh-poohed. Yes, you can talk about health care. But the way you do it is very personal. You tell your story about health care. The choices you make in the story reveal your values. Your values ultimately determine where you stand.
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In Film and Television on September 19, 2009 at 1:03 AM
There’s nothing about ’80s TV action show The A-Team that can’t be explained by its theme song. To catch up, click here
At first thought, Liam Neeson’s decision to play A-Team leader Hannibal Smith in the upcoming film adaptation seems like a real boon for the movie. He’s a talented actor, and his stock as an action star has risen in recent years with films like Batman Begins and the surprise hit Taken. The problem is, casting Liam Neeson in a film means giving Liam Neeson time to act, which may not be the best thing for The A-Team. Read the rest of this entry »
In Games on September 15, 2009 at 9:00 PM
There are a lot of reasons I’ve been playing mostly adventure games, lately (and I’m going to save most of them for a later post) but one of the more practical reasons is that there are a lot of them are either free or very cheap. Since the heyday of the genre ended about ten years ago, and demand is low, even new games are inexpensive compared to the latest Rockstar release. Also, thanks to the freeware Adventure Games Studio, anyone with enough time and basic coding knowledge can develop his/her own point-and-click adventure and post it on the AGS website, usually for free.
For the past few weeks, I’ve been poking around AGS forums looking for the best of the best. Among these games, two developers’ names come up often, Ben Croshaw, author of the Trilby survival-horror series, and Dave Gilbert, founder of indie adventure label WadjetEye Games. Both are very good, but in my opinion, Gilbert, one of the few AGS devs to charge money for his games, is the best.
Gilbert’s most famous game, The Shivah, is a mainstay in the ongoing discussion of “games as art” and mature gaming in general. Said discussion is mostly useless, in my opinion, and “art-gamers”, as they like to call themselves, have a bad habit of putting heavy-handed writing and high-mindedness before fun, but The Shivah really is something special. Rarely have a well-written, thoughtful story and immersive gameplay been combined so effectively. Read the rest of this entry »
In Games on September 14, 2009 at 11:57 PM
We haven’t had an inaugural post in a while, have we? Here’s Flashback!, our new series (maybe) of articles on pretty old video games. Technically every game in this series will also be a GGYCPFF, assuming you’ve bought a computer since, like, 1997. But this one’s also about history, man. Starting us off is the The Lost Vikings, a game I knew about way back in the day thanks to Nintendo Power, but never actually played until last week. This is probably for the best: Jonah circa 1992 would have been crushed by a game like this.
In a schtick that’s become more popular lately, you control three characters with different sets of abilities. “Abilities” might be too generous, though, because each of the characters is seriously crippled compared to your average video game hero: Erik the Swift can jump (the other’s can’t), run faster than others, and headbutt certain objects and enemies; Baleog the Fierce can swing his sword and shoot arrows; Olaf the Stout has a shield which protects him (sometimes) and can be used to glide. Combined, they’re almost as powerful as Link after two dungeons of Link to the Past. Read the rest of this entry »
In Generic Culture on September 12, 2009 at 4:30 PM
It seems every city these days has some biennial or annual art fair. Holding out the mirage of international exposure, jet setting benefactors, and celeb artists in its painted hand, the typical art fair’s actual art often gets lost in the excitement over the event. Cities have approached the biennial in different unique ways. When New Orleans held their first Biennial, besides acknowledging the shameless urban promotion of the event, the organizers anchored the event’s art in New Orleans devastated landscape—to see the art you had to explore New Orleans and seek out old buildings. Other smaller cities, like St. Louis, have taken this local route and been successful. If you can’t beat the big boys, they seemed to argue, don’t even try to race with them.
THE Asia Pacific Contemporary Art Fair in Shanghai this past weekend took the opposite strategy. Instead of attempting to sum and express the idiosyncrasies of a particular city, ShContemporary celebrated the state of contemporary art for an entire hemisphere. I guess when you’re one of the largest cities on Earth, you get certain prerogatives smaller cities don’t get to take.
The state of Asian Contemporary Art can be summarized in one word: Play. I can’t think of one gallery that didn’t include at least one or two pieces that had playful colors, playful concepts, playful and obvious references to other works. Talking to one curator, she even honestly called her galleries offerings “ironic.” Not “’ironic,’” but just “ironic.” Instead of continuing to talk, I’ll just lead you through a tour of what I thought was the best of this playful fair.
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In Comics on September 12, 2009 at 1:33 AM
For the past decade, Jeffrey Brown has been producing funny, often poignant memoirs in comics form. (He has also stepped into more absurd territory with books like Bighead and Incredible Change Bots, but that’s another post.) I started reading Brown’s comics around the time I started looking at alternative comics generally, but I hadn’t checked out his latest release Funny Misshapen Body (out back in April) till now. Two of his earliest works, Clumsy and Unlikely, recalled failed relationships through out-of-order vignettes. Later works followed suit, and also featured elliptical statements on topics like friendship and maturity. Funny Misshapen Body traces Brown’s growth as an illustrator; it’s not necessarily his best work, but it is similarly goofy and honest, and a reminder of what comics are good for. Read the rest of this entry »
In Games on September 9, 2009 at 5:27 AM
It’s no coincidence that the second installment in GGYCPFF is, like the first, a send-up to a bygone age of gaming. For the past few years, nostalgia has fueled a lot of young developers’ early projects. Necessity is no doubt an inspiration for these kinds of projects–“retro” is cheaper and easier to code–but a deep, abiding love for the games of the past resides at the heart of all of them, good or bad.
Unlike games like Cave Story, whose retro facades cover more sophisticated designs, Ben There, Dan That! wears its heart on its sleeve. It is, unabashedly, little more than a LucasArts adventure game tribute. And that’s totally okay, because at its best, it’s every bit as novel and entertaining as classics like The Secret of Monkey Island and Day of the Tentacle.
In keeping with these classics, the games’s premise is casually absurd. After being struck by lighting trying to tune into the latest rerun of Magnum P.I., Ben and Dan (avatars for the game’s real-life designers, Ben and Dan), are abducted by aliens and imprisoned in a hallway full of doors to other dimensions. Much adventuring ensues. Read the rest of this entry »
In Games on September 8, 2009 at 2:24 PM
This was the headline photo a few days ago from the Times. I thought this is as good a time as any to give an introduction to the wide world Lego enthusiasts have built for themselves on the internet (Go here to read some reactions to the article. Favorite quote from the comments: “I was surprised that only 10% of sets go to adults. Bugged that lego calls us bizarre but, yeah I guess they’re right.”). Some of them take themselves too seriously, but most are a jovial lot of middle aged men (usually engineers and high school math teachers it seems) who just never got tired of building with legos. While half of the works I’ve seen fall into the corny and mediocre, the overall quality and artistry is surprisingly high. Below are a list of my favorite blogs:
The Brothers Brick: The Target of Lego blogs. They’ve got everything, and it’s all a little nicer than Wal-Mart. Most of the posts feature photos of user-submitted creations. They’re impressive, and the site has impressively organized them. Interested in Star Wars diorama? Perhaps abstract sculpture? It’s tagged there. In addition to user content, there are copious interviews with prolific and skilled modelers and occasionally some breaking Lego news…
LEGO Fun: Some Lego enthusiasts are particularly interested in the minifigs that Lego produces—you know the knobby headed, smiling, yellow Lego people. In addition to modifying Lego’s own creations, they make their own somehow. In addition they photograph them in different situations.
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