The Con Job Set at Old-School Comic Conventions

I thought the premise of The Con Job, coming in March from Boom! Studios (four-issue miniseries, order code for issue #1 JAN15 1104, $3.99), was interesting, if a tad self-referential.

The Con Job #1 cover by Amanda Conner

The Con Job #1 cover by Amanda Conner

But then, I would expect a lot of comic knowledge from long-time creator Jimmy Palmiotti and co-writer Matt Brady (formerly of Newsarama). What I didn’t expect was that their comic convention heist story would seem so old-fashioned — by which I mean, the character design page in Previews features, out of eight characters, one woman, and she’s an overly busty blonde in a low-cut top.

The story is described as “a character-driven, comic book convention crime caper… a Galaxy Quest meets Ocean’s 11-style crime story set in the larger-than-life backdrop of the modern convention circuit… a group of flabby action heroes, aging sex symbols, and sci-fi bit players have become close friends as they watch their lines get shorter and their autographs get cheaper. That is, until they hire a cocky new booking agent who offers them their only chance at a comfortable retirement by robbing one of the largest cons in the country!”

There’s nothing to that description that assumes most everyone has to be male. Women have been action heroes and sci-fi bit players in real life, even leaving alone how imagination shouldn’t constrain writers in that fashion. (Of course, most people do assume that an “aging sex symbol” is a woman.) I hope that the promotional page isn’t representative of the entire cast, because a truly “modern” con has a lot more women involved. And artist Dominike “Domo” Stanton draws with a nice sense of character, so I’d like to enjoy this title without feeling like it’s too old-fashioned in its approach.

Archie Comics Moves From Riverdale to Superheroes

The Fox #1 cover by Dean Haspiel

The Fox #1 cover by Dean Haspiel

The January issue of the Diamond Previews preordering catalog has an odd discrepancy when it comes to Archie Comics offerings.

They’re promoting two new titles in their Dark Circle Comics superhero line, The Black Hood #2 (with three variant covers) and the relaunch of The Fox with a new #1 (and five variant covers).

However, when you look at their comic offerings — items that aren’t digests or paperback collections or magazines — there are NO core titles listed. No Archie, and no Betty and Veronica, which were the only two left. The video game titles — Mega Man and various Sonic items — are still ongoing, though.

Has Archie finally decided that they don’t need to pay for new material in the Riverdale universe, since they can run their digests and collections for years on reprints? The February Previews is due out soon, so I guess I’ll have to check there to see if this is a temporarily hiatus.

Nutmeg Goes From Kickstarter to Action Lab

I enjoyed Nutmeg when I sampled #1 a year and a half ago, when they launched their Kickstarter. Now, it’s in the Previews comic catalog for pre-ordering.

Nutmeg #1 promo art

New publisher Action Lab bills it as “Betty and Veronica” and Heathers meets Breaking Bad — I enjoyed it because it’s got a retro setting (60s girls’ school) and revolves around a bake-off. The first issue is premise setup with promise, and I liked the distinctive art style. The creators, James F. Wright and Jackie Crofts, describe it as a “culinary coming-of-age crime comic”.

You can order issue #1, priced at $3.99 for 32 pages, from your local comic shop with Diamond code JAN15 0927. For more information, visit the book’s Tumblr.

Big Hero 6 Out on DVD, Digital in February

I’ve been meaning to see Big Hero 6 since it was released in November, but the holidays aren’t a great time for me to go see a movie. Instead, I was preparing for celebrations and spending time with family (and traveling). I know theater owners don’t want to hear this, but now that they’ve announced the film will be out on home video next month, I’ll just wait. Especially since I can (with Amazon discount) preorder the Blu-ray for the same amount I’d spend on tickets for two adults, and the snacks are much cheaper in my home theater.

I don’t mind buying the movie without seeing it first, since I’ve enjoyed the two previous releases from Walt Disney Animation Studios, Frozen and Wreck-It Ralph. Typical these days, the film will be available digitally on February 3, with the Blu-ray combo pack (or single-disc DVD) coming out on February 24.

I’m really looking forward to seeing the robot Baymax (voiced by Scott Adsit), since I find him adorable and I’ve heard good things about his portrayal. I like the design being the opposite of the usual gears and hard angles style tech. I’m also curious to know more about the team — robotics prodigy Hiro Hamada, adrenaline junkie Go Go Tomago, neatnik Wasabi, chemistry whiz Honey Lemon, and fanboy Fred.

Baymax hugs Hiro from Big Hero 6

I’m disappointed to see that Disney has decided to split the extras between the Blu-ray and their Disney Movies Anywhere site. If I buy the Blu-ray, I expect it to be complete. Both sources will include these extras:

  • Theatrical short “Feast”
  • “The Origin Story of Big Hero 6: Hiro’s Journey” (hosted by Jamie Chung, voice of Go Go Tomago) — Join the team behind the team that brought Big Hero 6 to the big screen as they travel on research trips to Tokyo and San Francisco and go behind the scenes of this epic film. Explore everything comic-book about Big Hero 6, from director Don Hall’s passion for comics to the story’s roots in a lesser-known Marvel property. We’ll talk to Marvel’s Joe Quesada and Jeph Loeb, who were consultants on the film, to learn what makes a good comic-book story, and how these devices were used to help create Disney’s Big Hero 6.
  • “Big Animator 6: The Characters Behind the Characters” — Join the six lead animators of Big Hero 6 as they talk about each of the characters and how they came to be the heroes they are now.
  • Deleted Scenes (intro by Directors Don Hall & Chris Williams) — Includes two alternate openings and more.

Only on the Blu-ray will be “Big Hero Secrets (Easter Egg) — The movie is filled with Easter Eggs, and this Buzzfeed-type list piece will give you a sampling of some of the hidden treasures in the film. See if you can find this Easter Egg about Easter Eggs!” Here’s a sample clip:

Only on Disney Movies Anywhere will be these two pieces:

“Gag Animations (intro by Directors Don Hall & Chris Williams) — For fun, animators made alternate versions of scenes they were working on and threw them into the mix at review sessions. The directors will present some of these gags for the first time to the public in this piece.”

“Beatmax — Check out some of Baymax’s greatest lines auto-tuned like you’ve never heard before.”

The DVD will only have “Feast”, “Big Animator 6″, and the Big Hero 6 theatrical teaser.

Batman: The Second Season Part 1 Out on DVD Next Month

I’ve already talked about how much fun Batman: The Complete TV Series was, but if you don’t want to invest in all 120 episodes at once — it can be quite overwhelming — Warner Bros. is now breaking out the seasons into more reasonably sized sets.

Batman: The Second Season Part 1 will be available on February 10 as a four-disc DVD set with 30 remastered episodes list-priced at $39.98. Foes for Batman (Adam West) and Robin (Burt Ward) include the Joker (Cesar Romero), Catwoman (Julie Newmar), the Penguin (Burgess Meredith), Egghead (Vincent Price), Chandell (Liberace), and King Tut (Victor Buono). There appear to be no special features. Here’s the episode listing:

  1. Shoot a Crooked Arrow
  2. Walk the Straight and Narrow
  3. Hot Off the Griddle
  4. The Cat and the Fiddle
  5. The Minstrel’s Shakedown
  6. Barbecued Batman?
  7. The Spell of Tut
  8. Tut’s Case Is Shut
  9. The Greatest Mother of Them All
  10. Ma Parker
  11. The Clock King’s Crazy Crimes
  12. The Clock King Gets Crowned
  13. An Egg Grows in Gotham
  14. The Yegg Foes in Gotham
  15. The Devil’s Fingers
  16. The Dead Ringers
  17. Hizzonner the Penguin
  18. Dizzonner the Penguin
  19. Green Ice
  20. Deep Freeze
  21. The Impractical Joker
  22. The Joker’s Provokers
  23. Marsha, Queen of Diamonds
  24. Marsha’s Scheme of Diamonds
  25. Come Back, Shame
  26. It’s How You Play the Game
  27. The Penguin’s Nest
  28. The Bird’s Last Jest
  29. The Cat’s Meow
  30. The Bat’s Kow Tow

Kingsman: The Secret Service

I just got back from a free preview of the upcoming Kingsman: The Secret Service, due out February 13. I had fun, since there were twists I wasn’t expecting (although I didn’t like some of them). Then again, I didn’t remember much about the comic it was based on.

Colin Firth in Kingsman: The Secret Service

It’s an action-adventure spy film, emphasis on the action. The plot threads are familiar: young aimless dude Eggsy (Taron Egerton) is taken under the wing of accomplished, well-dressed older man (Colin Firth, codenamed Galahad, which is so silly I kept forgetting it). Although Eggsy doesn’t follow the rules of the spy organization, he wins through in the end, demonstrating the value of spirit and initiative over propriety.

Kingsman: The Secret Service movie poster

The two men of Kingsman: The Secret Service

I found the spy setup amusing, with the use of classic British symbols. The Kingsman organization sets up in a tailor shop, and the operatives are beautifully dressed, with brollies and glasses. Their spy gadgets are gold lighters and signet rings and such, and they’re always gentlemen, in addition to being perfectly trained. The people in the organization we see most are the leader (Michael Caine, of course) and the tech genius/trainer (Mark Strong, in a nice change for him). I wish Jack Davenport (another Kingsman) had been in the film more, since I’ve liked him since Coupling.

Kingsman: The Secret Service agents

The pacing is similarly British, slower than other movies in its genre, and several of the scenes go on too long. Typical of Mark Millar’s work, there’s a certain amount of self-referential foregrounding of cliches to say “see, I know the cliches, and I’m smarter, so I’m pointing them out and doing something else” — yet there are still an awful lot of cliches that the film relies upon.

There are a number of major female roles, but none of them interact with each other. We’re told the female Kingsman recruit, Roxy (Sophie Cookson), is incredibly talented, but we only see her do things after Eggsy holds her hand or encourages her to overcome her fears. Super-rich bad guy Valentine (Samuel L. Jackson, with a lisp and a series of baseball caps) has a female second-in-command, Gazelle (Sofia Boutella), who uses the blades inside her prosthetic foot-hooks (think running blades, but really sharp) to kill people.

The bad guys in Kingsman: The Secret Service

It’s with Valentine that the movie’s costs becomes most apparent, because for a billionaire tech genius, there are rarely any people around him, just Gazelle. I think they spent all the money on the extensive fight scenes, which go into great detail, in slow motion, with different creative ways to violently kill people. It’s so lovingly filmed and so cartoony, though, that it didn’t bother me. It is very violent, though, so take note. (Update: I have since realized that this film is not yet rated, so some of the most violent scenes may be trimmed or edited.)

Matthew Vaughn (X-Men: First Class) co-wrote and directed the film. There’s a training section, as Eggsy competes against other, higher-class possibilities for the organization opening. There’s a “show how tough he is” fight scene for Firth (as shown in the second trailer) that belies his proper appearance. There’s an abusive stepfather for Eggsy to rescue his mother from. There’s some pasted-in class debate to provide the superficial appearance of depth beyond the fight scenes, as well as a cartoonishly bigoted Southern church to attack. There’s the “saving the world” final third act, where lots of anonymous henchmen get mowed down. There’s even a cute dog.

For an alternative perspective, the friend I went with said it was “bad. Gloriously bad. They’re clearly working very hard at making something this bad.” It’s true. There’s a lot of effort on the screen. Whether you enjoy it or not may depend on your expectations. Mine were extraordinarily low — I was happy just seeing Colin Firth in some nice suits. Oh, and Mark Hamill plays a supporting role, which may please fans of the comic.

Kingsman: The Secret Service and the gear

*What Did You Eat Yesterday? Book 6 — Recommended

It’s so entertaining reading more about Kenji and Shiro’s relationship as it continues, with key moments involving food. Meals are such important family moments, and I love the emphasis on preparation and sharing of home cooking as a carrier of deep feeling, as well as the conversations the two men have over dinner.

My favorite scene of the entire series so far occurs in this volume, as the two spend time with another gay couple at a pickup baseball game. Shiro doesn’t have other gay friends, since his career as a lawyer (and his restrained personality) has kept him mostly closeted. He’s beginning to get to know this other couple, and to be more comfortable with being himself in public, although one of the friends is terribly rude when it comes to his bento choices.

The other, overly emotional man thinks “gay bentos have to look good!” so he’s made a cute, decorative lunch. Although Shiro’s bento is all brown, it’s much tastier — with fewer unusable leftovers and less work, demonstrating his cooking philosophy.

But first, Shiro and Kenji have an important showdown. Some readers have asked for more emphasis on the relationship, and they’ll love this chapter, as Kenji blatantly presents his jealousy of Shiro spending time alone with another guy. The two work it out, good to see, but more importantly, this scene allows Fumi Yoshinaga to demonstrate how beautifully she draws emotional reactions.

That isn’t the only compromise the couple makes, as we get to see Shiro celebrate his birthday in a way that will also make Kenji happy. Shiro also spends time with his housewife friend, who makes a key observation about how the two men handle money. It’s practical and yet touching, which sums up the series.

The food in the next-to-last chapter will give US readers an interesting perspective, as Shiro is gifted some amazing-looking steaks, but he says he’s “never cooked any” before, so he has to look up how to handle it. What he comes up with, with side dishes of potatoes, string beans, pickled vegetables, and cabbage-bacon soup, is a fascinating Japanese twist on a classic American meal.

I continue to recommend that Vertical get a knowledgeable cook to polish the translation when it comes to the recipes, since it’s laughable to read about “balls of pepper” (which I assume means peppercorns) and “a laurel leaf”, which we call a bay leaf. It is very cute, though, when Shiro, thinking through instructions to himself, punctuates several of them with “yum”. (The publisher provided a review copy.)

Owly Books Leaving Top Shelf

One small piece of news coming out of the Top Shelf acquisition by IDW was the fate of the wonderful Owly books by Andy Runton. Runton tweeted, in response to a question: “I’m actually gonna publish all of the Owly books myself.”

There are five paperbacks, currently from Top Shelf, and two larger-format hardcover picture books from Atheneum Books for Young Readers. You can get signed copies of all of the above at Runton’s online store.

I’m excited to see Owly continue, because I think the stories are terrific, so I wish Runton the best in keeping the books in print.




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