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Grumpy Fanboy’s tribute to Casey Kasem (1932-2014)

16 Jun

American icon Casey Kasem passed away yesterday from complications after suffering from Lewy Body Dementia, Parkinson’s disease and sepsis. Beloved father and radio & television personality, Kasem was in many ways the voice of my childhood. From the American Top 40 radio show to voicing cartoon characters like Shaggy from Scooby Doo and Robin the Boy Wonder, his voice was a constant companion when I was growing up. He will be sorely missed.

Somewhat fitting, Kasem died on Father’s Day. I won’t dwell on the legal battle over his care in the months leading up to his death. (His son, Mike, is a former colleague and someone I consider a friend.) Instead, this being a blog dedicated to comic book pop culture, I am going to celebrate his memory through his body of work and the many cartoon characters Casey Kasem brought to life. There are too many to count so if you can think of any others, please let me know.

Thanks for the memories, Casey Kasem. From the generation that grew up listening to your wonderful voice, may we always remember to keep reaching for the stars.

Casey Kasem as Robin the Boy Wonder from the Batman and Robin cartoons (1968) through to the Super Friends series.

Zoinks! Casey Kasem as Shaggy from the Scooby Doo series.

Casey Kasem as Mark from Battle of the Planets, the American-voiced version of Gatchaman.

Casey Kasem as Cliffjumper from the Transformers cartoon.

Fly vs Frog from Sesame Street.

 

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Man of Steel: the Grumpy Fanboy review

15 Jun

Man of Steel is thrilling, audacious and sometimes even touching. But it’s too damn loud for its own good. 

Henry Cavill as Superman

Man of Steel is the re-telling of the origin of Superman by director Zach Snyder (300, Watchmen). It reboots the Superman franchise with a new hero played by the impeccably-cast Henry Cavill (The Tudors) and a grittier tone, possibly one that sets up a series leading to a Justice League movie. Man of Steel is filled with the impressive cinematography and special effects one would expect from a superhero-genre film.

That’s not to say Man of Steel isn’t without its tender moments. The flashback scenes between Clark and his foster parents Jonathan and Martha Kent (played by Kevin Costner and the eternally-beautiful Diane Lane) are genuinely touching. Cavill also convincingly portrays the tragically lonely but gentle alien trying to find his place in the world. But ultimately, this film suffers from being too imbalanced, toggling awkwardly between otherwise well performed character-development scenes and the obligatory action sequences of a ginormous summer blockbuster.

Despite its intense buildup, action and moving origin story (the scenes with the Kents were by far my favorite moments), I found myself looking at my watch midway through the film. Characters talked about their motivations rather than acting them out. Supporting cast members ate up large amounts of screen time without moving the story forward. And after seeing it for the third time, even watching an invulnerable Kryptonian being punched through entire office blocks gets old really fast.

Superman’s ability to fly, the feat that captivated audiences’ imaginations when the character debuted on the big screen in Richard Donner’s 1978 film, is relegated to motion blur and sonic booms. It’s hard to feel a sense of awe and majesty when Superman simply bends his knees and disappears from view in a split second.

This is a very loud movie. Its action sequences are bombastic to the point of distraction and feel unnecessarily extended. It’s as if either the studio or Snyder himself was under constant pressure to outdo last year’s superhero summer blockbuster Marvel’s the Avengers. (That film’s climactic action scene was also an alien invasion in the heart of a major city. Coincidence?) Man of Steel‘s response is simply bigger explosions, more buildings destroyed and people being killed on a disaster movie scale.

In the end, Man of Steel may be a credible addition to Superman lore but it is sadly unrewarding. The arrival of the world’s greatest superhero is no triumph when it happens amidst the deaths of tens of thousands. As the credits roll, you find yourself wanting more. Not more super-powered battle scenes but more character.

I really wanted to see more Clark. And much more heart.

Virtual Action Figures

6 Apr

Some people collect action figures. I collect virtual action figures. 

Freedom Force - Iron Man

All right, I also collect action figures. But nevertheless …

Behold! My Virtual Action Figure collection.

Using the game Freedom Force (Irrational Games, 2002), I have built (or I like to think curated) a collection of character meshes and skins. I’ve always considered it a collection of digital action figures, which I have preserved by meticulously copying files from PC to PC as I’ve upgraded my hardware over the years. Recently I re-installed Freedom Force from Steam and have been spending time with my collection again.

In the run up to Iron Man 3, I am dedicating this entry to ol’ shellhead himself. In my collection I have eight Iron Man suits.

My collection represents heroes from what I consider to be the best age of comic books (i.e. when I was feverishly collecting comic books as a kid in the late 1970s to the late 1980s). Today, one of my favorite pastimes is to run the game in “Watch Mode” and recreate some epic moments from my childhood. In the run up to Iron Man 3, I am dedicating this entry to ol’ shellhead himself.

For example, here’s Iron Man facing off against the Raiders, three mercenaries in the employ of the Cord Conglomerate (a rival of Stark Industries). Here’s that first encounter with the raiders straight out of Iron Man #145 (April, 1981).

What about this classic battle between shellhead and the Titanium Man? (You have to remember that this was during the height of the Cold War. So billionaire/industrialist/super-hero Tony Stark had to have an arch-nemesis who was from the Soviet Union and wore similar hi-tech armor, right?)

For those of you who have only come to know and love Tony since the first movie (Iron Man, 2008), here’s a recreation of Tony in his Mark I armor escaping from the desert camp of the terrorists of the Ten Rings. (I am using the Mark I from the comics, not the movies, by the way.)

Again, for the movie fans … most of you probably don’t know that the alien race called the Chitauri, Loki’s invasion force, was originally just another name for the Skrulls in the Marvel Ultimates universe. Here’s my comic book-style recreation of the movie’s final battle scene, with the shape-shifting Skrulls standing in for the Chitauri. I decided to throw in a special guest star, too!

And finally … the one disappointment from the Avengers movie (The Avengers, 2012) was that we never got to see Iron Man go toe-to-toe with the Hulk. So here’s what might have happened.

(I think the computer gets the outcome right.)

You might have noticed that I have tons of characters in my collection: from Marvel, DC Comics and even some others. Who would you like to see in action? I just might have them in my collection.  Let me know and I’ll see what I can do.

NOTE:

I must emphasize that I am not an animator nor a digital artist. I didn’t create any of these skins or meshes. I owe everything to what the awesome Freedom Force modding community has generously shared on the web for free for over 10 years. Special shout out to folks like the Beyonder, Courtnall6, Tommyboy, Renegade, Grenadier and the gentlemen of Heroforce, who keep Freedom Force modding alive even today. Thank you all!

The Best Batman Ever

11 Jun

As the third and final installment of the Christopher Nolan-helmed Batman films, The Dark Knight Rises, is released the week of 19 July, already fans are speculating about the future of Batman in film and what direction the franchise may take.

The Batman character is among a handful of “super-heroes” that have transcended from popular culture into myth, joining the ranks of characters now forever linked to human culture. These mythic figures include the likes of Sherlock Holmes, Dracula, Robin Hood, King Arthur and Hercules. It’s no surprise that since the Batman’s debut in Detective Comics #27 in 1939, he has been interpreted by hundreds of writers, artists and filmmakers.

For my favorite versions the Batman in any medium, click here for the story published in Yahoo!

Top 5 Most Improved Superhero Franchises

5 May

Can you imagine David Hasselhoff as Nick Fury? Yes, it really happened. Be happy Samuel L. Jackson replaced him for the Marvel movie francises.

Super hero franchises don’t always get it right the first time. A number of comic book franchises today flopped miserably in their first forays into television and film. Through some trial and error (Captain America with a plastic shield? A Batman suit with nipples?) , various comic-book movies and television shows have gotten their acts together and delivered incarnations that audiences have finally come to embrace.

See the full list published in Yahoo!

 

Here are clips from the Captain America TV movies:

 

Here’s a clip from that awful Justice League live action pilot:

 

And finally, here’s “The Hoff” as Nick Fury:

The Hottest Super-babes from Movies and TV – Ever!

25 Apr

Whether you’re into Scarlett Johansson as Black Widow (Avengers), Anne Hathaway as Catwoman (The Dark Knight Rises) or Cobie Smulders as SHIELD Agent Maria Hill (Avengers), 2012 has no shortage of hotties in tight superhero outfits. And even before that we’ve been treated to the likes of Jessica Alba as the Invisible Woman (Fantastic Four), Malin Akerman as Silk Spectre (Watchmen), Famke Janssen as Jean Grey and Rebecca Romijn as Mystique (X-Men).

Those us who have been following onscreen superheroes for well before the current wave that began with X-Men in 2000 know that the genre is full of beautiful women.

Read my full list of the hottest women who played superheroines, villains or their love interests of all time, published in Yahoo!

DC Comics’ Paul Levitz

21 Aug

I met Paul Levitz, former President & Publisher, editor and writer of DC Comics, at the Singapore Toys Games & Comics Convention 2011 yesterday.

For more than 35 years with DC Comics, Levitz was responsible for hiring talents such as John Byrne, Marv Wolfman, Keith Giffen and Alan Moore. My favorites among his works as a writer include All Star Comics in the late 1970s, featuring the resurrected heroes of the Justice Society of America. He is credited with creating the Huntress of Earth-2, Helena Wayne.

My favorite of all Levitz’s contributions would have to be his run on Legion of Super-Heroes in the 1980s. He wrote Legion from 1981 to 1989, including the classic “Great Darkness Saga” where the LSH faced off against Darkseid.

Legion, with its ensemble cast  of more 30 super-powered teens from the 30th Century, was easily my favorite book at the time. I have the emblem of one of its members, Timber Wolf, tattooed on my arm. Even the electronic hardware I have at home (PCs, network drives, etc) are named “Ayla”, “Kara” and “Imra” after female Legion members.

Paul Levitz returns as writer for Legion of Super-Heroes on 21 September 2011 as part of DC Comics’ “New 52” line-up of new #1 comic books.