Thursday

Congrats to Gutters for 300! (with a visit from Nick Cardy)

If you aren't reading The Gutters, a comic written and overseen by Ryan Sohmer (the guy behind Blind Ferret Entertainment and the webcomics Least I Could Do and Looking For Group) and you're a comics fan, then you're missing out. Sohmer uses the strip to poke fun (sometimes affectionately, sometimes less so) at comics. It's a lot of fun and honestly I think comics could use more commentary (and mockery) in comics form. Sohmer writes the strip and works with a talented lineup of artists and while not every one hits a bullseye (no one does), it's always worth reading.

The 300th comic just went up and the strip is drawn by a living legend, Nick Cardy. I don't know how he got Cardy, much less to poke fun at Aquaman (just one of the series that Cardy defined visually during his lengthy career), but Sohmer continues to impress me (and it should go without saying that Cardy can still draw).

Looking forward to the next 300, guys.

http://www.the-gutters.com/comic/300-nick-cardy

Monday

Joe Kubert, for Memorial Day Weekend

Last year I proposed talking with Joe Kubert for an interview to run on Memorial Day on CBR. DC was bringing some recent work of Kubert's back into print and it was a good time in addition to being an appropriate holiday. Anyway we ran the article again today. It's great to know that Mr. Kubert is still with us and still trying to do interesting and different work.

http://www.comicbookresources.com/?page=article&id=32514

My Sunday Conversation with Greg Rucka

Over at Comic Book Resources, we're trying something a little different. The Sunday Conversation is a talk show-ish interview where we talk about a lot of different topics. The point is to talk about something other than work, but we always inevitably talk about work, because that's just how things go. With Greg we talked about amusement parks (his new novel Alpha which came out last week revolves around a fictional Southern California amusement park), soccer, Portland, and more. It's always great talking with Greg (who I think I've interviewed more often than I've met him in person).

Anyway in the weeks to come I'll be chatting with Boaz Yakin, Rick Remender, Rebekah Isaacs, Kaare Andrews, Andrew Chambliss and many more. Every Sunday morning on CBR.

http://www.comicbookresources.com/?page=article&id=38852

Television This Week

Ah, summer. When television becomes much less interesting, but it's nice in a way. After all, watching too much TV does rot one's brain, so having a few solid hours of viewing that can be spaced out is a nice thing.

Hemingway and Gellhorn  -  Monday at 9 on HBO. I don't have HBO, I'm not a fan of Nicole Kidman, but I'm very excited for this movie. Phil Kaufman is directing the movie and I love Kaufman, though admittedly some of his projects since 1990's Henry and June have been uneven. Quills was an excellent movie, but Rising Sun and Twisted were...less so. Any new Kaufman film should be an event and can't wait to see this one.

Hatfields and McCoys  -  Monday through Wednesday at 9 on History Channel. Kevin Costner and Bill Paxton star in this miniseries with a great supporting cast that includes Powers Boothe, Mare Winningham, Tom Berenger and the great British actor Sarah Parish. Kevin Reynolds is an uneven director, but let's be honest, we're all a little curious about what the hell the Hatfield and McCoy was about, even if we do end up getting a slightly fictionalized version. And it's a good cast.

Appropriately Adult  -  Monday at 10 on Sundance. A British drama starring Dominic West, as a serial killer, and Emily Watson. I'd watch Emily Watson read the phone book.

Cougar Town  -  Tuesday at 8 on ABC. The series' one hour season finale before moving to cable next year. 

Breaking Pointe  -  Thursday at 8 on the CW. I loathe reality television but am curious about the idea of a series about dance. It could be interesting. I do fear the show becoming bogged down with annoying personalities and not actually depicting dance. I'd be up for watching a behind the scenes drama and the training and the sweat and tears and craziness if at the end we actually got to watch the performance. I fear we'll just get to see the drama with a few second of dancing thrown in as filler.

Sunday

Television This Week

Masterpiece Theater  -  Sundays at 9 on PBS. Sherlock concludes with "The Reichenbach Fall." I'm curious to see what Andrew Scott will do with the character of Moriarty and where this episode will leave us. The first season ended with a cliffhanger, so I expect that we may see something similar this year.

The Simpsons  -  Sundays at 8 on Fox. The season finale of the animated classic which guest stars Lady Gaga.

House  -  Mondays at 9 on Fox. After a one hour look back at the show's eight seasons, the Hugh Laurie starring series ends its run. I'll be honest, I'm one of those people who loved the show, but feel like it hasn't been as fresh as it used to be. Honestly I haven't watched this season, so I am hoping that it's had a good run up to the finale (which I will watch). There are plenty of reasons why the show isn't what it used to be, but a long-running very talky series with an unlikeable lead character who quite frankly is happy to be hated is a rarity. People always bring up how House is based off of Sherlock Holmes, but I occasionally think of Hickey from Eugene O'Neill's "The Iceman Cometh." It's a poor comparison for a lot of reasons, but the fervor with which Hickey early in the play is trying to convince people to abandon their illusions reminds me of House and how he believes that everyone is lying and what's important is to get at the truth. The truth may save people's lives, but it doesn't necessarily help them. Still, Laurie was never short of brilliant. He showed depths as a dramatic actor that I didn't know he was capable of and his skill as a comedic actor really transformed a character who could have been much less fun to watch and much less interesting in the hands of an actor who was more interested in making the character more dramatic. The show's promos may have emphasized the strange medical cases that entered Princeton-Plainsboro hospital each week, but it was House's wisecracks, pantomimes and funny asides that kept us watching each week.

Admittedly, I'm biased. I'm more likely to be House than probably any of other character on television.

Don't Trust the B– in Apt. 23  -  Wednesdays at 9:30 on ABC. I've been enjoying this show and looking forward to what they do next season.

Revenge  -  Wednesdays at 10 on ABC. I have a feeling that not everyone will survive this season finale...

Ooh Baby, don't you want to go...

I don't believe I've ever thought to myself, I wish I were in Chicago.... But after hearing about this conference, I wish I was in Chicago...

Someone joked that every great American cartoonist is at this convention except for Los Bros Hernandez, for the same reason that one member of the cabinet spends the State of the Union address in a secure location, because if something happens, not everyone will be together in the same place.

I would risk it. I don't know how Hillary Chute managed to pull this together, but I stand in awe.

http://graycentercomicscon.uchicago.edu/

R.I.P. Ernie Chan

I was sad to hear that the Filipino artist Ernie Chan passed away this week at the age of 71. His passing is just on the heels of his colleague Tony DeZuniga, who as I and everyone else mentioned, was not just a fine artist but helped open doors for other artists, among them Chan. Chan drew a lot of covers for DC, penciled and inked a lot of comics. Some of his best remembered work was inking over the late John Buscema on Conan. Indeed some of his finest work was on non-superhero work. He retired a number of years ago, but in recent years a lot of his work has been reprinted in new editions. Often in black and white editions where stripped of the colors, it allows his linework and embellishments to shine.

Saturday

"Abigail/1702" at the Powerhouse Summer Theater Season

One of the great theater events each summer is the Powerhouse Summer Theater Season which New York Stage Film runs at Vassar College. This year there are few interesting productions taking place including a new play by Stephen Belber ("Tape") and a musical, "Fortress of Solitude," based on the novel by Jonathan Lethem.

The most interesting show, though, has to be "Abigail/1702" written by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasca, the noted television writer ("Glee," "Big Love"), comics writer ("Fantastic Four: Season One"), musical book writer ("It's a bird...It's a plane...It's Superman," "Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark," "American Psycho") and playwright ("The Mystery Plays," "Based on a Totally True Story"). Directing the play will be David Esbjornson who directed "Much Ado About Nothing" at New York's Shakespeare Festival and the recent revival of "Driving Miss Daisy" with James Earl Jones and Vanessa Redgrave. If that weren't enough, the fabulous Chloe Sevigny is starring in the play.

The official description of the play:  "Ten years after the events of The Crucible, Abigail Williams is living under a new identity in Boston and haunted by her past.  When a mysterious figure appears, she confronts Salem’s dark history head on and must atone for her role in it."

I, of course, won't be around to see the play. Hopefully there will be another production soon. Next year? New York City? Fingers crossed.

Thursday

R.I.P. Jean Craighead George

Jean Craighead George, the Newbury Award-winning author, died on Tuesday at the age of 92. I'll be honest that I knew her name before I read her, but in the end I read very few of her books. Only three that I can think of, "Julie of the Wolves," "My Side of the Mountain" and its sequel "On The Far Side of the Mountain."George was clearly fascinated by nature, though I remember reading "Mountain" early in middle school and being unable to shake the feeling that it was unrealistic and took place in another time. I was right–she wrote the book in the fifties. It also convinced me that while I enjoyed camping with the Boy Scouts, I was not about to live off the land. (And puzzled me because he could have had such a nicer, easier life on the mountain with just a few simple gadgets)

Anyway, "Mountain" didn't enamor me, though I read it in class in middle school and I'm not sure I read anything for school then that I loved. I did read the sequel, and it's far from the only book I've read about a young man who goes off into the wilderness or into the wider world in search of the essential part of himself. I suppose in that sense, it was a pretty big deal.

Alison Bechdel asks "Are You My Mother?"

It wasn't long ago I was praising Alison Bechdel and congratulating her on being named a Guggenheim Fellow. I recently got to speak with her about her new book, "Are You My Mother?" Her first book, "Fun Home," focused on her father while this one tackles her mother, and the result is a very different book. It's different in ways that are fascinating. In a strange way, I feel as if "Are You My Mother?" is a more accomplished book, and it's a much more challenging one as well.

Memoir is an odd genre. Ignoring all the celebrity stories and tabloid nonsense, the memoirs that tend to attract attention, often do because of their strangeness. Oddball characters, unusual circumstances, strange family environments. "Are You My Mother?" is a story that is more ordinary, the complicated relationship of a mother and daughter, the tension of different ideas and lifestyles, generations and generational possibilities.

I told Alison when we spoke that I really loved the book and then hesitated, because perhaps a better, more accurate description would be to say that I was fairly consumed by the book; reading it three times in as many days. I know that the book isn't for everyone, but for those who will plunge into the book, there are many rewards. I spoke with Alison about the class she's co-teaching this semester at the University of Chicago, Winnicott, Helen Vendler, Terry Tempest Williams and more.

http://www.comicbookresources.com/?page=article&id=38695

Sunday

Television This Week

Once Upon a Time  -  Sundays at 8 on ABC. The season finale. I have no idea what's going to happen, what will get wrapped or how it's all going to play out in what is clearly a longer story being told.

Sherlock: The Hounds of Baskerville  -  Sundays on PBS. They'll be hard-pressed to deliver a show as good as last week's, but looking forward to what's in store.

I continue to be glad I don't pay for expensive channels. If I had HBO, there would be Game of Thrones, Veep and Girls. If I had Showtime, there would be The Borgias. Much easier to not deal with all that and just buy or rent the series on dvd.

How I Met Your Mother  -  Mondays at 8-9. A one hour season finale. We learn who Barney marries, watch Lily give birth and whatever else is happening.

Lost Girl  -  Mondays at 10 on SyFy. Apparently this week's episode involves a stolen Mongolian death worm. Sure, why not? I'm game.

Smash  -  Mondays at 10 on ABC. Season finale. I admit, I gave up on this show early for a few reasons. Among the, that when the show is set up to b about the rivalry between two actresses for a role and one of them is so clearly more talented–and yet every effort is made to create sympathy for the other–it becomes a little annoying after a while. Megan Hilty is just better than Katherine McPhee. I don't say that to be cruel, but one of them is just a better singer and dancer than the other.

30 Rock  -  Thursdays at 8 on NBC. Season finale. Elizabeth Banks and who knows what else.

Community  -  Thursdays on NBC. Season finale. Love this show. 3 episodes in one night, though? That seems odd.

Person of Interest  -  Thursdays at 9 on CBS. I really enjoyed this show for the first half of the season, but then CBS stopped posting new episodes online. So, I'll watch it on dvd when it gets released.

Grimm  -  Fridays at 9 on NBC. The season finale and hopefully it will continue the trend of recent shows in building the mystery and the world of the show.

Saturday

Television Canceled, Television Renewed

It's that time of year when some television shows get to live on for another year and some get canceled. They get announced piecemeal over months. I mean everyone knows that Pan Am and Bent aren't going to come back (well, except for the people who don't remember what those shows are). Other shows like Smash were renewed weeks ago while other shows like The Simpsons get renewed two years at a time.

It's great to see Community renewed for another season. It's not the most popular show, and I'd love to see if the writers find a way to wrap up the show in the course of the fourth season. 30 Rock will be back for its final season. This season has been the best for a couple years, and hopefully Tina Fey and the other writers will find a way to do the show justice.

Among other renewals, Parks and Recreation, Happy Endings, Don't Trust the B– in Apt 23, Once Upon a Time, Revenge, Grimm, Parenthood, Scandal, Touch.

Among the cancellations aren't many surprises. Missing has done poorly and The River, despite a good cast, wasn't a success.

GCB was canceled. I'm still not quite sure why the show wasn't promoted as "Created by Robert Harling, the writer of Steel Magnolias." It seems like everyone has seen Steel Magnolias, or is at least familiar with the flick. Plus Harling also wrote the scripts for Soapdish and First Wives Club. Again, it might not have helped gain more viewers, but it couldn't have hurt.

R.I.P. Tony DeZuniga

Comics artist Tony DeZuniga passed away the other day. Mr. DeZuniga suffered a stroke in April nd died surrounded by wife and other family members. He was 79.

Mr. DeZuniga is best known as the co-creator, with writer John Albano, of Jonah Hex, the Western anti-hero. The character has had a resurgence in recent years, which led to a very bad movie starring Josh Brolin, but DeZuniga illustrated a graphic novel "Jonah Hex: No Way Back" to coincide with the film's release. DeZuniga also created, with writer Sheldon Mayer, The Black Orchid.

One of his best known accomplishments was in opening the door for other Filipino comic creators, and by extension, creating opportunities for other international creators in American comics. Today it's quite common for creative teams to span the globe, but when DeZuniga convinced DC's Editor-in-Chief Carmine Infantino and Editor Joe Orlando to look at artists there. Among the people who were recruited were Alfredo Alcala, Alex Nino and Nestor Redondo.

I never had the pleasure to meet the man but our thoughts and condolences go his wife Tina and the rest of his family
.

Josh Neufeld awarded a Knight-Wallace Fellowship

Josh Neufeld, the cartoonist behind "A.D.: New Orleans After the Deluge," which was serialized online in Smith Magazine before being published as a book. The Knight-Wallace Fellows program is at the University of Michigan and is awarded to mid-career journalists. It's great to see Josh getting such recognition and for a cartoonist to receive acclaim for nonfiction journalism.

According to Josh's blog:


My study plan is to extensively research Bahrain’s Pearl Revolution (which I did a short piece about for Cartoon Movement, the Eisner Award-nominated “Bahrain: Lines in Ink, Lines in the Sand“). I plan on taking courses in the history of the Persian Gulf, Islam (specifically the Sunni-Shia divide), and the language and culture of the region. The ultimate goal is to produce a long-form comics-format book on the topic.

Can't wait to read it.

http://joshcomix.wordpress.com/2012/05/10/2012-2013-knight-wallace-fellow-thats-me/

Friday

Fox Cancels The Finder (no surprise) and Alcatraz (good riddance)

Fox canceled two shows today, but it's no real surprise, since neither show was very successful from either a ratings perspective or a creative one.

The cancellation of The Finder is no real surprise. Since the first episode, I've been lamenting how the show is much less interesting than it could be. It's not a bad show, it's just meh.

Alcatraz is a show that had an interesting premise and the pilot was good, the cast was top notch, but overall the thirteen episodes felt odd and it never managed to find the right tone or the right approach. The elements were all that for an interesting show, but the producer's insistence on making the show a procedural. Each week the team sought a new Alcatraz inmate who has reappeared. The problem is that between the hunt and the flashbacks to events at the prison in the sixties, there was too little time to spend with the characters in the present day or investigate the central mystery in more depth.

What was most striking watching the final episodes was just how badly the series had been managed. At the center of the show were characters played by Sam Neill and Parminder Nagra. They knew each other in Alcatraz back in the sixties, but she–like the inmates and other employees–reappeared decades later, while he aged and tried to learn what had happened. I would have been interested to see the dynamic between the two, where they were once in love but no longer are, because he's become such a very different person.

Consider:  A young man interested in poetry and philosophy who loses the love of his life and he becomes obsessive and intense. He grows lonely and cold, leading an ascetic life because he is no longer anything but his work. After decades, on the verge of retirement, having achieved power and influence that he doesn't enjoy at all, he's reunited with the life of his life, who hasn't aged a day. He's loved the idea of her for so long and has become someone who can't quite be capable of love for another person. She loved the young man he was who bears little resemblance to this older man. And circumstances force them to work together. She's the only one he treats as his equal, and they work well together, know how each other thinks, but in the end, all they have are those glances they steal across the room that remind them of what they used to have and force them to ponder what might have been...

I'm not egotistical, and I'm my own worst critic, but I think there's more emotion in that paragraph that the scenario elicited in thirteen episodes of television.

When many people–genre fans and non-genre fans alike–complain about how science fiction and fantasy stories tend to be flat and uninteresting, this is what we mean. The actual human emotion at the heart of this story was completely eliminated. The result was that the actors were left with all too little to do. Sam Neill is a fabulous actor but he can play intense and grumpy in his sleep.

In fact all the actors had far too little to do in the series. The writers seemed to constantly be trying to figure out how to prolong the mystery, but no one ever asked, shouldn't these characters react like normal human beings?

Again, this is why so many people dislike science fiction. So little attention to and concern for human beings and far too much attention spent on other details. I enjoy world building and mystery as much as the next person–well, more than the next person, really–but as much as I wanted to like this show, it was something of a train wreck. A deeply disappointing one, but a train wreck nonetheless.

Thursday

Mahmoud Shokraiyeh sentenced in Iran

Cartoonist Mahmoud Shokraiyeh was sentenced to 25 lashes for drawing a cartoon that depicted a member of parliament wearing a football (soccer) jersey. Probably the best explanation for these sad and troubling events can be found on Daryl Cagle's blog on MSNBC. Cagle reached out to Nik Kowsar, an Iranian cartoonist now living in Washington, D.C. who was briefly imprisoned by the Iranian regime, for more details about what this means and what was behind it.

http://cartoonblog.msnbc.msn.com/_news/2012/05/09/11618816-iranian-cartoonist-sentenced-to-25-lashings

Sal Buscema talks to Comic Book Resources

Sal Buscema may not be a familiar name to non-comics fans, but anyone who read Marvel comics over the past 45 years or so has likely come across his work. The younger brother of Marvel legend John Buscema, Sal Buscema illustrated thousands of pages of comics over the years and he's not planning to quit any time soon. He's inking two books over at IDW, "G.I. Joe" and "Dungeons and Dragons: Forgotten Realms." He's always an incredibly nice guy and though he may claim otherwise, a legend in his own right.

http://www.comicbookresources.com/?page=article&id=38577

Ted Naifeh on Suicidegirls

I spoke with Ted Naifeh recently for suicidegirls. I've been a huge fan of Naifeh for years, ever since the first "Courtney Crumrin" miniseries a decade ago. He's only gotten better since and now Naifeh is bringing out a monthly "Courtney" comic from Oni Press.

I've met Ted a few times over the years in addition to interviewing him, and at conventions, he's honestly one of the nicest people you'll meet and incredibly generous with his time.

http://suicidegirls.com/interviews/2873/Ted-Naifeh-Courtney-Crumrin/

R.I.P. Maurice Sendak

It's hard to know what to say about the death of Maurice Sendak. The thing that is so overlooked about the writers and artists that we learned to read with and then read on our own, is that they helped shape our view of the world. Sendak didn't sugarcoat life. He knew it was strange and frightening and miserable and beautiful and he tried to convey that to us as honestly as he could.

What was so stunning was that he worked for long and that for those of us who went back to his work as adults, he remains as fascinating and talented as he seemed when we were children. In interviews, Sendak showed that he was a thoughtful and brilliant man. He suffered through trauma and depression, but he kept working. He said, "Children surviving childhood is my obsessive theme and my life's concern."

Fresh Air posted the interviews he did with them and this quote they pulled out says so much, I think:

"I have nothing now but praise for my life. I'm not unhappy. I cry a lot because I miss people. They die and I can't stop them. They leave me and I love them more. ... What I dread is the isolation. ... There are so many beautiful things in the world which I will have to leave when I die, but I'm ready, I'm ready, I'm ready."

Monday

Masterpiece Mystery 2012

Ah, spring. The time when Masterpiece Theatre turns it's eye to crime...

Masterpiece Mystery kicks off the season with the second season of Sherlock. Creators Steven Moffatt and Mark Gatiss (who co-stars as Mycroft) have brought back Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman for more fun with appearances by Irene Adler and more Moriarty. I'm curious what the show will do with Adler, played by Lara Pulver. The first season was a lot of fun and this one should be no different as the show presents a Holmes who isn't middle-aged and gives a sense of how strange and unsettling a figure he could be. His outbursts may be funny at times, but they can be unsettling and Cumberbatch is unafraid to be unsympathetic.

In June, Masterpiece is repeating Zen from last year. Starring Rufus Sewell as Aurelio Zen, the series was light-hearted and entertaining, but it was very different from the books by Michael Dibdin as far as tone, too the point where I was a little thrown by the series and I'm not sure I was able to judge them on their own merits. They were enjoyable, but the books were much moodier and deeply cynical and quite frankly presented Italy as a painfully corrupt place. It wasn't light and fun like the movies at all.

July 1 marks the US premiere of Endeavour. For fans of Inspector Morse, this film is about a rookie Morse and though when it was first announced I did mock it as "Young Inspector Morse" but the honest truth is that I'll watch the movie. It was enough of a hit in the UK that they're planning a series. I'll admit that I've never quite gotten why Morse is so big. I like Morse, but I just don't why he became so big, though perhaps it's partly because he represents a certain type of Brit and was a gentleman detective.

I was more than a little skeptical about the Morse spinoff series, Inspector Lewis, but I have to say that it quickly became one of my favorites. Ken Whatley and Laurence Fox are two of my current favorite crime-solving duos and I love the different look at Oxford that the show offers.

And finally in September, we welcome autumn with Kenneth Branagh returning as Wallander in three new episodes based on the books by Haskell Manning. We all need some Swedish moodiness in our lives.

Just to point out the obvious. Part of the reasons why these shows work is because they have the time to do so. 90 minutes allows the shows a chance to setup a scenario, introduce characters, give the main characters some moments to shine and craft a mystery that's actually satisfying.

http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/masterpiece/schedule/index.html

Eliza Griswold and the Female Poets of Afghanistan

I'm behind on my magazine reading so it's taken me a week to get around last week's New York Times Magazine. The magazine features Samuel L. Jackson on the cover, an excerpt from Paul Krugman's new book and a chilling dispatch from Ada Calhoun about how Alabama has criminalized bad mothering.

What stood out for me, though, was a story by Eliza Griswold who wrote a piece about why Afghan women risk death to write poetry. It's heartbreaking.

http://www.nytimes.com/indexes/2012/04/29/magazine/index.html

Sunday

Television This Week

Sherlock on Masterpiece  -  Sundays on PBS. Benedict Cumberbach as Holmes and Martin Freeman as Watson return for three new mysteries. I hope that we'll see more of Rupert Graves who was an interesting though underused Inspector Lestrade in the first season. Lara Pulver will be playing Irene Adler and more Moriarty.

GCB  -  Sundays at 10 on ABC.  I haven't seen it, though I do like some of the cast members. And I would have thought that a series from the writer behind Steel Magnolias would have gotten some more attention. I mean that's a fairly big movie. A cast that includes Kristin Chenowith, Annie Potts, Leslie Bibb and a lot of tv veterans.

Two Broke Girls  -  Monday at 8 on CBS. The comedy series wraps up its first season with a one hour finale. I like the show's attitude, but I'm not that fond of its comedy, which I find a little too crude with regards to racial humor (which I wouldn't mind so much except that many of the characters can be so one dimensional). Also I'm not sure what version of New York City the show takes place in, but it does manage to squeeze laughs out of work and class, which ain't easy.

Eureka  -  Monday at 9 on SyFy. Curious to see what happens now that the dangling plot thread has been resolved and where things go from here for the remainder of the season.

New Girl  -  Tuesday at 9 on Fox. Zooey Deschanel's sitcom wraps up its first season. I like Zooey, think that the show's creator Elizabeth Meriweather is fabulously talented, but I only sometimes enjoy the show. It's one of those programs I binge watch when I'm in the mood.

Unforgettable  -  Tuesday at 10 on CBS. Not a great detective show, but a great lead character with a great actor in Poppy Montgomery (who I loved in Blonde, Relativity and Glory Days in addition to Without a Trace). Also the finale will feature Elias Koteas, who's always great.

The Big Bang Theory  -  Thursday at 8 on CBS. I watch the show, I enjoy the show, but I keep wishing that it could be better in many different ways. When Jim Parsons' Sheldon is front and center, though, I rarely care. though I wish that the rest of the show were as good as his character and performance.

The Office  -  Thursday at 9 on NBC. This season James Spader makes that the people who used to run Dunder Mifflin look brilliantly talented, though it's only been intermittently funny. Ed Helms' Andy has been impressive this season and it should be interesting to see what happens next season. Last week's episode made it clear that change is afoot and I wonder what next season will look like and whether there will be more than one season. It would be nice for the show to find a way to wind itself down.

Parks and Recreation  -  Thursday at 9:30 on NBC. Election day and I can't wait to see what happens. This season hasn't been perfect, but I do think it's had some brilliant episodes.

The Finder  -  Friday at 8 on Fox. The show ends its initial season, and the way that the show has been okay but far from spectacular and the ratings have reflected this. I enjoyed Geoff Stults and Michael Clarke Duncan, Duncan especially, and hopefully we'll see something else from them soon.

Fringe  -  Friday at 9 on Fox. Can't wait to see it and excited for what next season will bring.

Common Law  -  Friday at 10 on USA. The commercials seem amusing, though I worry it end up as just another lightweight cop show with a twist–in this case that the two detectives are in couples therapy. Still, Michael Ealy plays one of the detectives and Sonya Walger plays the therapist. But the pilot is worth a look

Christina Weir and Nunzio DeFilippis prescribe "Bad Medicine" for Free Comic Book Day

I spoke with Christina Weir and Nunzio DeFilippis about their new comic available on Free Comic Book Day - "Bad Medicine." You might remember their work from "Play Ball," "The Avalon Chronicles: Once in a Blue Moon," "Past Lies," "All Saints Days," "Amazing Agent Luna," and a run on Marvel's "New Mutants" and "New X-Men." Anyway they have a new series coming out from Oni and the first issue is free on FCBD. There's also a preview on CBR.

http://www.comicbookresources.com/?page=article&id=38492

Friday

Jake Parker's Antler Boy Gets a Kickstart

I spoke with cartoonist Jake Parker. I've spoken with him before and I love his all-ages comics from his contributions to the "Flight" anthologies to the two "Missile Mouse" books that were published by Scholastic and has figures based on his designs coming out this summer. There are far too few all-ages comics being created, and Parker is doing some of the best ones available. He's raising money on kickstarter for a collection of his short stories that have appeared in various anthologies.

http://www.comicbookresources.com/?page=article&id=38380http://www.comicbookresources.com/?page=article&id=38380

G.I. Joe: Retaliation and shallowness

I’ll admit that I watched the movie “G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra.” I didn’t enjoy it, though, not even as a guilty pleasure. Admittedly part of me watched the series because I have somewhat fond memories of the Larry Hama-scripted comics from back in the day and watching the old cartoon show. Even by those standards, I didn’t enjoy the flick. Part of me blames it on Stephen Sommers, the director and one of the writers of the movie. Considering that Sommers’ last two films were “The Mummy Returns” and “Van Helsing,” I should stop being surprised the movies he helms are really bad.

I think Joseph Gordon-Levitt is one of the best actors of his generation. I think Marlon Wayans is a criminally underrated actor. Sienna Miller is great. I love most of the cast–Dennis Quaid, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, Ray Park, Said Taghmaoui, Christopher Eccleston, Arnold Vosloo, Jonathan Pryce. Despite this, I still didn’t enjoy it.

So I watched the trailer for “G.I. Joe: Retaliation” when I was told that it used the White Stripes song “Seven Nation Army” and honestly I think I enjoyed that trailer more than the first movie.

One of the reasons I enjoyed the initial trailer, and the subsequent one, would have to be the addition of Adrianne Palicki to the cast. As anyone who watched “Friday Night Lights” knows, Ms. Palicki is a fabulous actor. I would have liked to see her play Wonder Woman, though the script for the pilot was uneven. I also enjoyed her in the movie “Women in Trouble.” Admittedly it’s not so much her acting talent that captured my attention as it was the fact that she’s stunningly hot on the poster.

I feel very shallow.

Of course I know that I’ll also see “Wrath of the Titans”–even though “Clash of the Titans” was horrible, really horrible, barely coherent–solely because Rosamund Pike is in the sequel and she’s always great and will hopefully class up that nonsense.

Like I said. Shallow.

Anyway, I'll see it. Maybe I'll enjoy it. Odds are it won't be the worst movie I've ever seen. Hell, the odds are good it won't be as bad as the first one...

Tuesday

Thoughts on the future of Captain America

The studio has already announced that Captain America 2 will be set in the present day, which is too bad, because I would have liked to see another WW II adventure tale. So here are my thoughts.

In the sequel set in the present day, the film should try to deal with the fact that Cap is a man out of time. One of the things that The Ultimates as written by Mark Millar did well was to address what that meant. In the comics, one of the characters Sharon Carter, was the relative of Peggy Carter, who Atwell played in the film. I would be interested to see that relationship on screen handled with the maturity that the first film managed.

Of course I’d really be interested to watch a sequel that was set during WW II and would take place sometime during the events of the first film. I picture it like a Bond film with a lengthy opening sequence and then the rest of the film is a single complicated mission with Agent Carter stuck in the field a little longer than planned. I think of a film like Where Eagles Dare (a great flick if you haven’t seen it starring Sir Richard Burton and Clint Eastwood) but there is a whole school of films set during the war which aren’t light-hearted per se, but aren’t realistic takes on the conflict.

Another option is to give the Howling Commandos their own film. Bring back Atwell and Tommy Lee Jones and send the team off on missions. Have Dominic Cooper as Howard Stark play Q. In the comics they were led by Sgt. Nick Fury (who later ran SHIELD). Obviously that won’t work, but it might be interesting to bring in a character of Sgt. Fury to lead the team after Captain America was killed. It might be interesting to watch a white man who has back home an African-American wife and is the grandfather to Sam Jackson’s Nick Fury.

I mean for Cap, the filmmakers assembled a great group of actors including Neal McDonough and Derek Luke. Might as well put such a great troupe of actors to good use.  And to do it in a summer action movie that a kid could see with their parents or their grandparents would be something no one else is doing, but Cap showed that there is a market for such a film.

I just watched “Captain America” the other day

Admittedly I watched it more as a “Joe Johnston film” and a “Hayley Atwell film” than as a superhero movie or as a Marvel Comics movie. That may be splitting hairs so that I don’t feel guilty about Marvel screwing over Jack Kirby (and the fact that Joe Simon and Jack Kirby may have received credit in the film but in tiny print in the end credits rather than front and center in the opening credits as it should have been).

I’m not a big fan of Joe Johnston’s work. I think he’s an interesting director with good taste, and I like his movies, but I’ve never loved any of them. It also stars Hayley Atwell, who I think is fabulously talented and has a great supporting cast including Tommy Lee Jones and Stanley Tucci.

One of the things that Johnston doesn’t get credit for but should is the female actors he casts. Look at his films and who are the female leads – Jennifer Connelly in The Rocketeer, Laura Dern in October Sky, Zuleikha Robinson in Hidalgo, and Hayley Atwell in Cap. Obviously all four are stunningly beautiful women, but none of them are typical anorexic Hollywood types. It would be easy to say that he casts women with “old fashion movie star” looks, which is true, but he casts gorgeous women who happen to have curves. Sadly, that stands out.

Anyway, Atwell who I remember fondly from Pillars of the Earth, Cassandra’s Dream, The Duchess, and Brideshead Revisited among other things (I also remember her from The Prisoner but I really didn’t like the miniseries, so I'm choosing to ignore it). She doesn’t have a lot to do but she makes the best of it. She’s an intelligent, capable woman who punches above her class and is more than the typical “girl” part in most action/adventure movies. She gets to machine gun bad guys, fall for the lead, take part in planning war operations and wear a red dress that, quite frankly, was stunning.

What surprised me about the movie was that I actually felt something. There was actual human emotion in this film. Maybe it’s unfair of me to be surprised by this, but past experience has taught me not to expect much from a summer movie except a theme park ride and the Marvel movies haven't been particularly impressive in that regard. The banter between Robert Downey Jr. and Gwyneth Paltrow in the Iron Man films may be fun, but it's just banter. There's not much real emotion in the films. This is a PG-rated film that’s very consciously aimed at an all-ages audience, and so the final scenes were all the more surprising. Everyone knows that Captain America survives in the end, but his death is still treated seriously.

Of course then he’s thawed out in a lame scene and there was a commercial for The Avengers. That kinda ruined the mood for me. Though to be fair, I think the ending and post credit sequences in Marvel movies tend to be poor.

Also I still don’t know what the hell that cube is or what the hell it means, but let’s be honest. No one else seems to know or care, either.

So Captain America is a Joe Johnston film that I like and respect and think is interesting–I'm sure that if we were to hang out we'd have a lot of interests in common–but I didn't love it. Of course much of what I hated were the elements that were required by the studio to be included. Anyway, I'm excited to see what Johnston decides to do next.