Sunday, September 28, 2008

We interrupt this tranzmission...

From Wednesday I will be doing time at my workplace's annual conference/ convention. There will be no pop culture joy this week! I'll be back on line early next week.


Wednesday, September 17, 2008

PopFUZE #40

Rob Liefeld cites this cover mock up as proof that the long awaited remastered edition of the mini series that includes Image's first million selling comic is on the way. I can't wait to get my hands on this baby, even at an inflated price thanks to the crash of the Australian dollar against the Green Back!

Firstly, the series has been re-scripted by uber talented scribe Joe Casey. As much as I love the early issues of Youngblood they are not noted as brilliant examples of late 20th century literature.

Secondly, the series has been re-colored with today's coloring technology. Now, this is what I call re-mastered! Rob's style has morphed since the early years of Image and I prefer the more detailed work that started to come from Rob's pencils from about 1994, but his early Image work looks awesome given a modern coloring touch up.

Youngblood redefined comics in the early 90s and it looks set to do so again!

This second pic is, I think, from Image United which is due out in 2009. I have often said that I prefer the raw energy that comes through when Rob's art is colored straight from the pencils, but boy does his line work look sweet with these inks! If this is from Image United, then I think it is Rob inking Rob (which would be kind of annoying seeing as how you would essentially have to draw every page/ image twice). Actually, I am not very good at picking out inking styles, so if this is someone else inking over Rob's pencils, I wouldn't know it. None-the-less, it's a beautiful image and an intriguing preview!


Thursday, September 4, 2008

Tikki's Phayrie

Chapter 1

The hour was just past midnight in the land of Solost. The gleaming moon shone its crescent of radiance over the rooftops of the city below, its cold light striking millions of colors off the gleaming tower of quartz known across the lands as the fabled Crystal Spire. The icon of hope beat in the heart of the city, vaulting towards the stars that appeared as flecks of glass in comparison to its brilliance. The tower’s beauty was unmatched in all the known world, the manner of its building lost in the swirling mists of time, the true identity of its builders now shrouded in myth and legend.

The skill required to raise the marvelous spire were not known in this day and age, not even by the ageless elves of far off Arnh’Kyto. The mystique that surrounded the structure, the aura that enveloped the building, was perfectly suited to the current inhabitants. For as long as anyone could remember, the Crystal Spire had been the home of the Mages of Solost, the Esteemed of the Robed Circle. The tower’s vaulting walls of quartz hid the greatest secrets in the land and perhaps its mightiest power.

Despite the tower’s location in the centre of their city, striving to challenge the heavens themselves, most citizens of Solost avoided the spire, its grounds and its enigmatic inhabitants.

However, once darkness falls those with dark desires claim dominion.

That night, high above the tiled roofs and the swirls of smoke from the fires that kept dreamers warm, one such shadow threw down the gauntlet and challenged the Spire itself! Her small, wiry body inched its way up the smooth gemstone surface, slowly and deliberately seeking out the most insubstantial footholds, as the mysterious figure sought a way inside.

The exterior of the tower was pocked by many windows carved into the stone, however any hope of entry onto the lower levels was barred by shutters or metal grilles. Yet the shadow knew specifically which window she sought… Passing by other small portals guarded by hexes and elementals, the opening far above called to her in a seductive voice that promised riches unimaginable.

Not far now! Her thoughts sounded as a scream in the silence of the night. Sweat beaded on her brow, from exertion and fear, one slip and … splat! Half way up the tower now, the fall to the ground below would surely shatter every part of her tiny body. The blood rushed to her head and the shadow came to an apprehensive stop.

Digging her jeweled fingers further into the translucent stone, inching her toes deeper into any crevice she could find, the shadow risked a look back the way she had come. The ground, seemingly leagues below her, rushed up at the shadow as vertigo threatened to seize her and send her spiraling to a horrific death as her small body crunched against the onrushing earth.

‘I am Tikki Brand, the greatest thief in the guild and apprentice to Ganif Quickhands!’ the shadow declared to herself and any silent or unseen witnesses. ‘I can do this!’

Three deep breaths, a flex of already tired, cramped and cold muscles and Tikki returned to the task ahead. The window was so close now, almost there to touch and inside…

‘Whoa!’ Tikki lost her footing. Fingers nearly numb with cold and exertion scrabbled for a hold on the tower. But the long fall down was denied as the icy claws of panic were banished from her wildly beating heart; the young pickpocket had come so far and there was no way out now. The waiting prize meant everything to her and if she were to succeed, she would become the greatest thief ever known, all at the grand old age of twelve!

With her resolve even stronger, the would-be master thief reached carefully for the stone windowsill, slowly and silently hauled herself up and snuck inside, falling on her feet as silently as an alley cat.

Tikki quickly brushed the dust off her brown leather long coat and pushed away a few strands of her blonde hair which had become messy during her ascent up the tower. As she caught her breath, Tikki reached a hand to the three crystal pendant she wore about her neck. The necklace, Tikki’s lucky charm, had been ‘given’ to her by a very generous noble lady who had come to visit her father during the spring fair. Tikki noticed that the lady had carelessly left the jewel-laden golden chain on her dresser and the young girl collected the trinket to ensure it was kept safe. Somehow, she had forgotten to return the necklace to its owner and … well, now it was hers!

Sure that Lady Luck was by her side, Tikki glanced about the dim chamber. Her wide green eyes peered intently over the heavy wooden benches, the scattered spell scrolls and mystical books that littered the dark room. Her gaze slipped past gleaming polished skulls, odd vials of unknown and bubbling liquids, jars containing bloodshot eyeballs, giant spiders and other creepy crawlies, dull burning candles dripping wax and thickly tangled cobwebs seeking out… Treasure!

There! Tikki spotted her fantastic prize on the table in the darkest corner of the room Hidden behind stacks of spells and broken shards of crystal tossed about carelessly, there was the object she sought; a cage. The gold of the birdcage glowed coolly in the pale moonlight and inside, her form crisscrossed by shadows, was a being of legend; a woodland phayrie!

The tiny creature slept on the floor of her prison, he frangible multicolored wings folded over her slight body for warmth. The little creature’s skin gleamed like cold marble and her long blue hair, which ran down her back, reflected the silvery light of the moon. Sensing someone else near, the phayrie rose from her slumber and looked about with her gleeful purple eyes.

Tikki approached the cage in a rush, almost forgetting that, as a thief, she was supposed to be sneaking around. In her haste, and clouded by the gloom, Tikki didn’t notice a small bench that was in her way… BAM! Tikki knocked herself into the table.

‘Ouch!’ she cried as the wooden edge bit into her hip. There would be a big bruise there in the morning, but worse still…

KKEERRASHHH! The door to the dark chamber flew open and the light from the flaming torches in the hallways poured in. Silhouetted against the glow was a tall figure in flowing crimson robes; a Mage of the Crystal Spire! The old wizard had a long face and bushy, balding grey hair. His hair stood on end, as did his long beard, as his hands glowed with blue magical fire.
‘’Ware thief!’ the old magician cried.
‘Aiee!’ Tikki screeched in fright.

When the wizard arrived in the room Tikki had her hands on the golden wire cage that held the tiny phayire. Belying the panic that was swelling inside of her, and quickly looking around for some way to cause a distraction, Tikki said the first thing that popped off her tongue.
‘You’re home early!’ she cried while her mind raced.

But, the Mage was one step ahead of the thief. With his gnarled hands raised in the air, the old man began to chant a horrible spell.
‘Ichan, ganifeth, al-asbrinki…”
As he pulled his hands into fists and tucked his elbows by his sides, the wizard’s hands caught fire and a terrible green flame started to shoot from his clenched fists!

A fireball leapt from the Mage’s hands and struck the wall just above Tikki’s head!
‘That was too close!’ Tikki screamed as she flung herself away from the emerald fire.

Desperately looking around, Tikki could see there was no escape. The Mage was standing between her and the door and behind her was the window and a long fall to the ground below. There was no way out.

‘Halt! Thief!’ The Mage cried as his hands began once again to glow with that ominous green light and he stepped towards the frightened girl.

Tikki turned to face the oncoming Mage. She looked quickly at the phayrie in the cage that she grasped in her left hand and, seeing she had only one chance, she whispered to the mystical creature, ‘This better work!’

The Mage was almost upon her, and the window was only a few paces away, when Tikki spun on her heel to face the enraged wizard. Her hands were held in front of her, her rings speaking dully in the cold light, and she began to whisper.
‘Ichan, areth, en-isili!’

Tikki’s hands flashed with a bright pink light, there was a loud bang, and … the room was suddenly filled with thousands upon thousands of pieces of multicolored confetti!

Caught by surprise, the Mage’s hands rushed up to cover his face and his spell died away. As the storm of tiny colored paper danced about him, the Mage’s concentration was lost. He also could not see anything of Tikki but a shadow that was crouched in the window.
‘Stop! I’ll catch you!’ he cried.

But, it was too late…


Monday, September 1, 2008

PopFUZE #39

Not much going on with me and the world of pop culture at the moment. Let's see... I am re-reading the Invincible HC Vol 2 for, like, the seventh or eighth time; I love this comic so much! I am hanging for the Vol 4 HC which I think has just come out, or is coming out soon, so I will definitely nab that one!

Hmmm... I wish the Australian dollar hadn't crashed so badly against the Greenback (it did get up to $US .98 a few months back, but has now crashed to $US .85). The drop in value does make a difference to my spending so, depending on how cheaply I can pick this up online (and also after factoring in shipping costs), I may end up just buying the new HC from my LCS, Alternate Worlds.

So, that's definitely a buzz on the horizon for me and the world of comic book collecting. I am still somewhat excited by the re-launched Youngblood over at Image Comics. Joe Casey is doing a decent job on the story, but I am not really into Derec Donovan's pencils. Here's Derec's cover for #6.

Yes, there have been other artists who have worked on Youngblood including Steve Skroce, Marat Mychaels, Roger Cruz... But, in my mind, none of them measure up to the man himself, the Big Daddy of the mighty 'blood, Rob Liefeld. Here''s Rob's variant for #5.

To me, that POPS! Plus Fire Girl (no one knows who these characters are until #5 actually comes out with the big reveal) is smokin' hot (pardon the pun). Oh, yes, I want to see Rob back drawing the 'blood so badly that I even want to read Mark Millar's horrid take in Youngblood: Bloodsport.

However, I do understand why Derec Donovan got the job. His style pretty closely mirrors the look of a couple of existing Image titles, so I guess that Rob and Eric Stephenson felt that the look of Youngblood should be closely tied to, for example the look of Invincible or The Astounding Wolfman. Back in the day, Youngblood set trends and paved the way for other comic books. Now, the 'blood is playing follow the leader. Stange days indeed, most peculiar...

So, what else is jazzing me in the world of snap, crackle and pop culture? Well, I enjoyed The Dark Knight so much that I went out and bought Batman Begins on DVD.

I love this movie, the character work is superior to that of any other recent comic book movie. Bruce Wayne becomes real and his motivation for becoming the Batman, and the steps that he takes to do so, are well fleshed out. Awesome movie. Watching all the extras has been really interesting too. There was no move to make a Batman movie until Christopher Nolan just decided he was going to do one and then hooked up with David S. Goyer (hope I got his name right!). Yeah, it's an awesome movie. I have only re-watched the first hour or so (having a nearly one year old boy doesn't leave too much time for watching movies), but what I love so much about this movie, over The Dark Knight, is the slow and deliberate path we walk through Bruce's psyche as he becomes the Batman.

In this movie Bats is more of a supernatural force of fear and retribution than in the second; and that's the part of this character I love. I really enjoy the smoke and mirrors of Batman seemingly appearing out of shadows. The scene where the Batman first appears, flitting in and out of darkness, is awesome. My favourite part of the movie so far (based on re-watching) is in that scene where the crim screams out "Where are you?!" and Batman suddenly emerges from the shadows, all gruff voiced, and simply declares "Here". Now, that's awesome.

But, what I have been enjoying more than anything else is 8:15 am on Sunday morning when Storm Hawks bursts onto my TV screen.

I may have only seen two episodes, but this cartoon is shaping up to be my favourite since the days of the Roadrunner, The Blue Falcon and Dyno-mutt and Star Blazers. The show is full of cool tech/ mecha and high speed visuals. The team are constantly fighting the evil Cyclonians, but this is cartoon violence with the odd laser bolt and explosion rather than blood and guts. The two episodes I have seen emphasised team work and self confidence, which I think are cool values for kids to pick up on.

Plus, Storm Hawks keeps my young boys eyes glued to the screen for a few minutes. He is 11 months old, so his attention span is pretty short, yet he is attracted to the bright colors and quick moving images of this show. So, that's a win for the creators in my book.

All in all, that's my take on the world of pop culture right now...


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