Sunday, September 30, 2007

Sunday Soliloquy

This weekend's NextGen tribute wraps up with -- what else? -- Jean-Luc Picard giving a Ferengi a tongue-lashing.

By the way, "the Vulcan" is everyone's favorite ambassador/former Enterprise captain, participating (along with Admiral McCoy) in Trek's first semi-official intergenerational crossover. Of course no Ferengi jail can hold him!

[From "Game, Set and Match!" in Star Trek: The Next Generation -- The Modala Imperative, Late October 1991. Written by Peter David, drawn by Pablo Marcos.]
Full Post

Friday, September 28, 2007

Friday Night Fights

The glowy-headed guys in the armor are Tholians. According to DC's old TNG title, the suits help them survive in a human-friendly environment.

So they get a little peeved when the humans suggest they "transform and roll out."

Good thing Picard (...huh?) and Worf are there to hand out some punishment!

It's all part of the United Federation of Bahlactus!

[From "War And Madness Part V: Cry Havoc!" in Star Trek: The Next Generation #75, September 1995. Written by Michael Jan Friedman, pencilled by Gordon Purcell, inked by Terry Pallot.]
Full Post

HSM 3000?

So the Best Wife Ever and I were talking about "High School Musical's" female lead. (It's not important why.) She mentioned that Ms. Hudgens had been dating her "HSM" co-star -- "what's his name, Zapp Brannigan?"

If only, darlin'. If only.
Full Post

Happy 20th, TNG!

Twenty years ago today, "Star Trek: The Next Generation" premiered in syndication with the two-hour “Encounter At Farpoint.” I didn’t like it much at first.

Oh, I liked the effects. I liked the design of the new Enterprise, and I really liked the title sequence, which brought back the opening narration and Jerry Goldsmith’s ST:TMP theme. I liked Captain Picard and Data. However, the rest of it seemed to owe too much to the original series -- not just the three uniform colors, but the style of the show itself. By the mid-‘80s, series like “Hill Street Blues,” “St. Elsewhere,” and “L.A. Law” had redefined the hour-long drama, and even shows like “The A-Team” had brought a certain self-awareness to hour-long action series. Next to those, early TNG was stuck firmly in the ‘60s and ‘70s. It was as if it didn’t feel the need to keep up with its peers, as long as it replicated the feel of its inspiration.

Accordingly, early TNG could be painful to watch, but I didn’t hate it; and I wasn’t rooting actively for it to fail. Whatever its shortcomings, it still felt like Star Trek. Besides, the longer it was around, the more opportunity it had to get better; and indeed, towards the back half of the first season, it did.

Over the break, a two-hour special (called “From One Generation To The Next,” I think) traced the history of Star Trek and teased the second season of TNG. In 1988, I’m not sure what the occasion would have been, but the special (narrated by Patrick Stewart) featured the first all-color edition of “The Cage,” and it probably meant a new home-video release. Anyway, Season Two looked to be a bit more loose, with Riker sporting a beard, Diana Muldaur replacing Dr. Bev, and Troi’s hair freed from that bun. However, a TV writers’ strike put it off until just before Thanksgiving, making the six months between seasons seem interminable. The strike also meant that Season Two’s 22 episodes (well, 21 plus the clip show “Shades Of Gray”) got stretched out over nine months, until mid-July ‘89. With Season 3 starting in the last week of September, the hiatus was pretty short.

And, of course, with Season 3, TNG stepped on the gas and never looked back. Original Trek got worse as it got older, but TNG established the “wait for the third season” rule, which fans applied (with varying degrees of success) to later Trek series. Season Three may be remembered best for its apocalyptic episodes “Yesterday’s Enterprise” and “The Best Of Both Worlds, Part I,” but it also had a couple of funny Ferengi episodes (“The Price” and “Menage A Troi”), good Romulan episodes (“The Enemy” and “The Defector”), and the start of the Klingon-politics subplot (“Sins of the Father”). Generally, the ratio of good episodes to mediocre ones seemed significantly better.

Every season since brought at least one milestone. Early in Season 4, TNG produced its 80th episode, one better than the original. Season 5 began in Trek’s 25th anniversary year of 1991, and saw not only the Spock two-parter (“Unification”) and the show’s 100th episode (“Redemption, Part I”), but also the death of Gene Roddenberry and the last Original Series movie. After that, TNG was officially the standard-bearer. Season 6 brought Scotty back in “Relics” and birthed "Deep Space Nine," and Season 7 closed out strong with “All Good Things....”

I was a student at the University of Kentucky for all seven years of TNG’s run. I was a freshman in Season One, graduated right before the end of Season Four, started law school with Season Five, and took my first bar-review class the day of “All Good Things.” My first glimpse of the new Enterprise was on a dorm-lounge TV, and I remember walking home from a football game to watch the tape of “Redemption, Part II.” It’s an odd correlation into which I don’t want to read too much. More than anything else, it makes both my UK experiences and TNG easier to remember. Still, things did pick up for me personally in junior year (Season 3) and beyond.

Of course, TNG also found fans in a number of my classmates, so it was a boon to my social life (certain parts, at least). We got together to watch the conclusions of “Unification” and “Descent,” caught “Parallels” at a Christmas party (between old Rankin/Bass tapes), and stood in line for tickets to Star Trek VI. Because TNG aired regularly on Saturday nights at 7:00 p.m., often it came on before a UK basketball game. I will always associate “Starship Mine” with the 1993 Final Four matchup between Kentucky and Michigan. Kentucky lost in overtime, but “Starship Mine” is still good. Besides, one of my good friends from law school is a Michigan grad and a Trek fan, so I’m sure he was doubly happy.

Overall, the TNG movies were uneven. First Contact is the best, but it still has some problems. Generations and Insurrection were uneven, and Nemesis didn’t seem to want to have much fun. Like TNG in general, they’re all worth watching for Patrick Stewart and Brent Spiner’s performances.

Indeed, I doubt we’d be celebrating TNG’s 20th as lustily were it not for Patrick Stewart. He classed up Star Trek enough to get it away from the stereotype (deserved or not) of Shatnerian acting. When the rumors flew in the summer of 1990 that “Best Of Both Worlds” was a way to write Stewart out of the show, I wondered how well it would do, really, with Captain Riker and Cmdr. Shelby as the headliners.

To me, Stewart was TNG's best asset because I got the feeling he didn't have to do Star Trek. With movies like Excalibur, Dune, and Lifeforce on his resume, it's not like was a stranger to SF/F, but still. TNG flew its nerd flag pretty high sometimes, and Patrick Stewart not only sold it, he made it look good.

TNG wrapped up five years ago with Star Trek Nemesis, which killed Data and promoted the newlywed Riker and Troi off the Enterprise. As vital as I think Picard is to the TNG dynamic, breaking up the crew tends to scuttle any interest I might have in future adventures. I was never that curious about Picard commanding the Stargazer, so with half the TNG cast gone, his further adventures aboard the Enterprise would feel more like that. Picard is such a solitary person that despite the presence of Beverly, Worf, and Geordi, I can't help but think of him as isolated without Riker, Troi, and Data to help draw him out.

Regardless, it's good that TNG got a definite ending. I think it's the only Modern Trek series so far which can really say that. "DS9" hinted at Sisko's return, "Voyager" denied viewers the aftermath of the ship's return, and I hope most of "Enterprise's" last episode was holo-puffery. TNG definitely got the most coverage of any Trek series, such that I can't imagine anyone in another 20 years wanting to remake it to fill in the gaps.

I don't know if that's the highest compliment I can pay to the show, but it's up there. After a shaky start, TNG proved to be a worthy successor to an iconic series, which allowed fans to explore pretty thoroughly the Star Trek format's potential. It didn't do everything right, but it set a high standard. For a show where the sky was the limit, that's not too shabby.

P.S. I can't wrap this up without mentioning Siskoid's excellent recaps of what look to be every Trek episode and film. Someday I'll stage my own five-series mega-marathon, from "Enterprise" to Nemesis, but I'll probably be too tired to blog about it!

Full Post

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Thursday Night Thinking

The 20th anniversary of "Star Trek: The Next Generation" is upon us, so here's a sample of DC's comic-book version.

This alt-universe Wesley Crusher and his shipmates failed to rescue Picard from the Borg. Now Alt-Shelby has hijacked "our" Enterprise, abandoning our crew to attack the Borgified Earth, and Alt-Wesley is doing some serious THINKING--!

We've been assimilated by Diamondrock!

[From "And Death Shall Have No Dominion," Part 4 of "The Worst Of Both Worlds," Star Trek: The Next Generation vol. 2 #50, September 1993. Written by Michael Jan Friedman, pencilled by Peter Krause, inked by Pablo Marcos and Romeo Tanghal.]
Full Post

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Can't blog; watching TV

Sorry about the lack of content. I was out of town all weekend (got in at midnight Monday morning thanks in part to my old nemesis, the Atlanta airport), and between getting caught up on Monday and having a killer headache yesterday, haven't had a chance to post here.

In comics-related news, though, I did finish the bulk of Douglas Wolk's Reading Comics (I haven't read much of the review-and-commentary section yet). I also read all of The Complete Peanuts 1965-66 Friday on the plane. Both were really excellent, as you might expect.

I also finished watching "The Venture Bros." Season 2, and of course caught the premieres of "Chuck" and "Heroes." It's probably unfair to compare the three, but "Venture Bros." was great, "Heroes" was good, and "Chuck" left me a little cold. With "Chuck," and to a certain extent with "Heroes," the style is there, but the underlying structure is pretty standard. I felt like I knew everything that was going to happen in "Chuck" even before I watched the pilot, and in fact I skipped a couple of minutes towards the end (after the day is saved) and didn't feel like I missed much. Future episodes look like they could fall into a predictable pattern, too. I'll give it a couple more weeks, but it's not begging to be put on my must-watch list yet.

Almost forgot to mention "Reaper," the first few minutes of which almost charmed me even through last night's killer headache. It's on tape (yes, tape; don't judge me) and I'm looking forward to the rest.

Anyway, "Heroes" was fun, although it was quite the info-dump. Good to see David "Sark" Anders again too.

As far as posts go, look for a Thursday Night Thinking here tomorrow, as well as thoughts on the end of "Smallville" at Blog@Newsarama; and then my Friday Night Fights entry. I also want to remember Star Trek: The Next Generation's 20th anniversary. I'm still trying to figure out a posting routine, and the lack of travel in the foreseeable future should make that easier. Thanks for your patience.
Full Post

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Thursday Night Thinking

Green Lantern gets the thought balloons, but Green Arrow must still THINK quickly:

In fact (if we're being charitable), it might look like both men are a bit reckless -- no! you don't mean it! -- but actually, they're each thinking a couple of steps ahead! Hal knows Ollie has enough time to shatter the hourglass, despite it hurtling towards Earth at 32 feet per second per second; and Ollie knows Hal is ready to catch them in a power-beam construct.

See? Strategy!

Yeah ... strategy....

(You're freakin-A right this is for Diamondrock!)

[Yes, it's another scan from "Crisis In Triplicate!", Justice League of America #148, November 1977. Written by Paul Levitz & Martin Pasko, pencilled by Dick Dillin, inked by Frank McLaughlin.]
Full Post

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Sunday Soliloquy

Single-handedly and anonymously, the Flash saves the Multiverse's five remaining Earths.

After this point Barry starts jumping around in time, interacting with Kid Flash, the Joker, and Batman, so it's not really a soliloquy anymore. Also, I wasn't in a mood to dwell on Barry's death. It's enough to say that I think this scene holds up as a fine sendoff to the character who introduced DC to its Multiverse. Barry's monologue is one of the few instances in superhero comics where, "realistically," a character would talk to himself as he literally ran out his life.

[From "A Flash Of The Lightning!" in Crisis On Infinite Earths #8, November 1985. Written by Marv Wolfman, pencilled by George Perez, inked by Jerry Ordway.]


Man, now I'm depressed. Let's see if this helps:

That's better!

[From "That's Really Super, Superman!" in Bizarro Comics, 2001. Written by Ivan Brunetti, drawn by Evan Dorkin.]
Full Post

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Judging Library Additions

Help me decide who should go on the JLA bookshelf next:

I'm holding out for the upcoming Mattel Aquaman (classic orange outfit), and I'll probably get a Martian Manhunter at some point. I'd also like to replace Batman and Superman with figures who are more in scale with the rest.

Still, I probably won't add much more than that. There's just not that much more room on the shelf! I have an idea of who'll make the cut, but thought I'd throw it out to the select few who visit here.

So here goes: which single DC Direct/Mattel figure, from either the Satellite League or the Morrison League (reflecting the majority of books on the shelf), would you add? By my reckoning, your choices include

-- The Atom (Ray Palmer)
-- The Elongated Man
-- Firestorm (Ron Raymond/Martin Stein)
-- Green Lantern (John Stewart)
-- Hawkman & Hawkgirl (set)
-- Zatanna (fishnets, unfortunately)
-- Big Barda (in a set with Mr. Miracle & Oberon)
-- Green Lantern (Kyle Rayner)
-- Huntress (Helena Bertinelli; in a "Birds Of Prey" set with BC and Oracle)
-- Orion (upcoming)
-- Plastic Man
-- Steel (John Henry Irons)

I don't think I left anyone out. There is a Zauriel figure, but it's from the Hasbro "Total Justice" line and not in scale with these. The Zatanna figure in her period-appropriate blue-and-white superhero outfit is from the Identity Crisis line, so all her proportions are off. I'd have preferred that costume, because it reflects her time in the Satellite League, but I'll settle for the fishnets. I've seen John Stewart figures in classic and current costumes, and would use either one.

So, whaddaya think?
Full Post

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Thursday Night Thinking

Our story so far: Being attacked by bikers has left Black Canary dazed, confused, and open to the cult-style brainwashings of Joshua, the so-called "Prophet of Universal Tranquility."

When Green Lantern and Green Arrow catch up to her, of course it starts her THINKING--!

(By the way, It predates the show by a few years, but I still think of this as the "Bionic Woman Splash Panel.")

I'll try to find a comparable shot of Ollie thinking happy thoughts about Dinah, but somehow I think that'll be harder....

Prophesy, Diamondrock!

[From "A Kind Of Loving, A Way Of Death!" in Green Lantern vol. 1 #78, July 1970. Written by Denny O'Neil, pencilled by Neal Adams, inked by Frank Giacoia.]
Full Post

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

New comics (quickly) 8/22/07, 8/29/07, and 9/6/07

Okay, by this point I am officially embarrassed to be doing another three weeks' worth of "new" comics roundups. Here's the deal: I'll tell you what I bought, and what still jumps out at me, and we'll get through it before you know it.

I will say that I have been reading some comics other than the normal Wednesday fare. I mentioned Blue Devil already -- it's pretty good on the whole, and it holds up fairly well, but it doesn't have the sublime wit of a 'Mazing Man or an "Architecture & Mortality."

I'm also up to Fantastic Four #201 in the big DVD full of FF PDFs. Just 30-odd more issues until the Byrne run, and then I can stop.

Finally, I was lucky enough to receive a copy of Larry Gonick's Cartoon History Of The Universe Volume III, and it is the most fun I have had learning since Action Philosophers. Very highly recommended! Now I have to scare up a copy of Vol. II....

Anyway, on to the floppies.

August 22, 2007


The standouts for this week were Batman #668 and Superman #666. I love Grant Morrison's take on the Club of Heroes, and hope his promised flirtations with Bat-Mite and the Sci-Fi Batman are as good. JH Williams' mashup of various artistic styles for the Clubbers is also a delight. I was bothered for a minute or so by the philosophical implications of Kryptonian Hell in Superman #666, but only for a minute -- the story itself was a cheerfully horrific tale of Superman Gone Bad; a "Treehouse Of Horror" for our hero. Birds Of Prey was good for a fill-in (I didn't catch the parentage slip-up), GL Corps was exciting, and The Spirit was pretty creepy. I also bought Blue Beetle #18 for the Teen Titans tie-in, but honestly I found it hard to follow in spots.

August 29, 2007


I actually thought the Last Fantastic Four Story was kind of sweet, in a bedtime-story way. These things don't have to be full of blood and death, and I imagined Smilin' Stan bidding farewell to the creations which launched his career, maybe even thinking of Jack Kirby. Maybe not; maybe he just thought he could write whatever and the kids would buy it for the John Romita, Jr. art, and visions of dollar signs danced behind his eyes while he typed. I prefer my illusions, thank you. The main book was good as always, earning a spot on my Sunday Soliloquy list.

Amazons Attack and Wonder Woman felt very perfunctory. I saw the Big Surprise on the last page of AA and was reminded that it had been foreshadowed by that second Countdown Colorforms image, so it wasn't that much of a surprise after all. Here's the thing: I know DC is collecting just the Picoult issues into a fancy-dancy hardcover, but would it kill them to put out a Showcase black-and-white edition of AA, WW, and the tie-in issues? (It would? Okay then.) Seems like that would be a good way to entice readers onto whatever bandwagon DC might fashion, but what do I know?

I liked Teen Titans #50 pretty well, but mostly for the thought of the Titans fighting their evil future selves again. Looks like that will be a good arc. I thought the Blue Beetle bits were handled better in this issue than in BB's own book, too.

Both 52 spin-offs were pretty good. I liked Countdown To Adventure's main story, and I'm not just saying that because I met Adam Beechen in San Diego. Will he remember, though, that Adam Strange and Animal Man were both part of the team that traveled to Apokolips in Crisis On Infinite Earths? I'm not sure even 52 mentioned that. I also thought the "Forerunner" backup wasn't too bad, and the Four Horsemen's first issue was nice and suspenseful.

September 6, 2007

SHE-HULK 2 #21

Atom #15 and the Wedding Planner were both pretty cute. However, am I right in thinking that Dinah and Ollie talked about getting married in the old Secret Sanctuary cave headquarters? (That's "the cave," right? Not the Batcave, surely!) Countdown confused me more than usual, with some weird layouts failing to explain how Donna freed Jason from the witch. Detective was okay -- nothiing special, which is par for the course with the fill-ins for Dini. Another fill-in artist on Nightwing made it hard for me to realize that the couple in the bar was our villainous pair. Finally, I did like She-Hulk #21, especially the Peter David joke.

I'm really going to try and get back into a steady groove for the foreseeable future. Hopefully by October things will have settled down in the real world. Thanks for your patience!
Full Post

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Sunday Soliloquy

The Phantom Stranger gets no respect. First Madame Xanadu won't let him protect Jack "The Creeper" Ryder from Man-Bat...

... and then Blue Devil and Etrigan have the gall to fight while he's trying to soliloquize!

[From "The Day All Hell Broke Loose," Blue Devil Annual #1, 1985. Written by Gary Cohn and Dan Mishkin, pencilled by Paris Cullins, inked by Gary Martin and Bill Collins.]
Full Post

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Busy and busier

I'm going out of town for a few days, back to Kentucky for a seminar. Should have a new Sunday Soliloquy up, along with some thoughts on new comics.

I finally completed my Blue Devil collection, though, and spent much of my free time this past weekend reading those. I like the book more today than I did then, and I got it faithfully almost from start to finish (it ran 31 issues and an Annual) when it first came out. Alan Kupperberg took over as penciller after Paris Cullins drew the first several issues, and I remember preferring Cullins, but Kupperberg doesn't suffer by comparison as much now.

Back then, too, I was a lot less plugged-into the immediate pre- and post-Crisis DC lineup (hard to believe, I know). Today, I can appreciate more of what writers Dan Mishkin and Gary Cohn were trying to do. In large part, they succeeded at placing a new character in the context of the then-current DC Earth (Earth-1, specifically). I daresay you almost have to spend more time ... evoking, for lack of a better word, the standard DC "playing field," in order to ground readers. 52 did this very well, of course, and I've said before (I think) that Countdown kinda doesn't.

Anyway, if you see Blue Devil in the back-issue bins, give it some attention. I especially liked the Annual, which saw Paris Cullins return as penciller and featured a host of familiar mystical guest-stars. Besides, BD is now part of Shadowpact (a book I don't read) and his sidekick is a Teen Titan (a book I just started getting again). Both have gone through some pretty radical changes since their happy-go-lucky '80s days, so I'll be interested in hearing what you think if you come at the old series from a different perspective.

Meanwhile, check out this BD/Amazons Attack-related post from Blog@Newsarama, and a new Grumpy Old Fan should pop on Thursday through the magic of the Internet.

Talk to you soon.
Full Post

Sunday, September 02, 2007

Sunday Soliloquy

It's not entirely a soliloquy, because a couple of other characters have lines, but this week I just couldn't resist. SPOILERS for Fantastic Four #549 after the jump.

Sue unloads on the Wizard, and it's just too much:

As extra-fine as the script and pencils are, I think the inks really make these pages. They give Sue that extra air of menace which really sells her speech.

[From "Reconstruction: Chapter Six -- So I Guess You're Saying The Honeymoon's Over," Fantastic Four #549, October 2007. Written by Dwayne McDuffie, pencilled by Paul Pelletier, inked by Rick Magyar.]

Full Post