Comic Books!, Event Photography, Uncategorized

San Francisco Comic Con 09/2016

What Happened?

Since Wondercon bit the dust in 2011 as the premiere Comic Book Convention in San Francisco we have been happily satisfied with the shows coming out of San Jose, Stockton and even Sacramento.

But there comes a time where eBay doesn’t do it, that you want to dive into some great comics deals, check out the cosplayers and have some fun.

Back in September 2016 I went on a Friday, the first convention in San Francisco in some years. In response the place was packed!  I got to see some old buds and made new ones.  Really liked the artist alley and even met some Golden Age of comics artists (those who were young and published in the 1940s) who are now quite elderly but have not lost their spirit.

Of course the cosplayers make the show. They were creative, inspiring and sexy.  I did note they were not all excited to get their photo taken by me, not knowing of course what an amazing cosplay photographer I am.  Hope you agree with that statement.

Tech notes: Didn’t use a flash unit this time as I normally do, and it does show, even with some white balance compensation in Lightroom 6, still not by absolute best work.

Pros: Lots to see and do, great comics deals and great cosplayers.

Cons: The Marriot Hotel at Market and 4th was not the best venue.  The panel rooms were all scattered on other floors and the maps were via iPhone only so if you didn’t have a phone you were stuck.  I really hope they find a better venue next year.

 See you at the San Francisco Comic Con!

http://sanfrancomiccon.com/

 

 

 

Classic Films, Comic Books!, Science Fiction Movies

Movie Review: The Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015)

Avengers-Age-of-Ultron-IMAX-HR-2The Avengers: Age of Ultron
First Impressions: Full of action, pathos and humor, not canon but I didn’t care.

Storyline:

Basically Tony Stark comes up with a perfect machine capable of protecting the Earth. Or so he hopes. By sarcastically saying “peace in our time” (alluding to the same phrase spoken by Chamberlain as he signed a non-aggression treaty with Hitler in 1938 – we know how that went down!) Ultron clicks on it and finds that Man, full of the lust of war and greed, decides he will bring that kind of peace, too – the quiet of a graveyard!

Special effects:

Great stuff with Jarvis and Ultron. Even the colors contrasted well! The banter scripted was at times annoying as Jarvis slowly (too slowly to save himself) realizes Ultron, coming online faster than anyone realized, begins assimilating Jarvis! Yikes!

Evil large supply of robots built by Ultron, flying through the sky. Only one instance of an exploding fireball. Always must include one fireball in these kinds of films.

Pathos:

The beautiful sadness of Bruce Banner and Black Widow (yikes, what would Kirby say?) was a bit maudlin and sad. Your girlfriend would probably like this part. It was “OK.”

Revenge:

The whole film was based to a greater or lesser degree on revenge. Is revenge a good enough motivation for killing? Only Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver can answer that.

Take Over the World:

There’s always an element like that. Love how the origin of the Vision has changed to a Stark/Ultron hybrid who has none of Stark’s smart-aleck jokes, nor Ultron’s death wish. Vision was the most under-rated character of this film as he brings the team together.

Credit Scene:

In this film, the credit scene is in the middle of the credits, not the end.

Final Words:

Whedon did a great job putting this together. He gave just enough to the fan boys to make us wanting more; he appealed to a general audience that does not read comic books (Muggles); and he didn’t overdo it on the special effects.

Pros & Cons:

Pro: Dream sequences and Easter eggs. See the Roy Thomas Band in Cap’s dream?
Con: Tony Stark’s bad jokes; Hawkeye’s scenes slowed the film considerably.
Great: Stan Lee Cameo! Iron-man’s Hulk-buster!
Not so Great: No Pepper Potts! Wait until the year 2018 for an Infinity Gauntlet!

Recommended from this DC fan!

Comic Books!

The Dreamer – Volume 3, by Lora Innes – A Graphic Novel

TGT_EP61_TheDreamer  The Dreamer – Vol 3

The Dreamer is a series of comics written and drawn by one Lora Innes. They’re web comics but since I’m old-fashioned, I wait until they are collected and put together in book form. This means of course I gotta wait months between graphic novels. Sigh.

Bea Whaley has been having dreams. Vivid dreams of the men and women of the American Revolution. She falls in love, experiences the war, the death and threats of death with such realism, she begins to won

der if she is really, actually there. She accesses the era through falling asleep. Interestingly when she falls asleep in the 1770s, she awakens in the here and now!

Plots and Plans:

Of the three volumes, really like the third set. It’s rare to get a glimpse of American Revolutionary history. And to wonder if our heroine is really just dreaming or really living back in the 1770s.

Her friends and parents are freaked, even moreso in this volume than the others. At first it was fun, but now Bea Whaley’s vivid dreams are becoming more real to her than school, friends, parents, etc.the dreamer vol 3

Who needs high school when you can live the dream with Nathan Hale? I mean really now!

Bottom Line:

The mix of American history, unrequited love across the centuries and boring homework clash for an interesting tale of romance and what makes America great – and scary.

The artwork is pretty good in its bold slashes and war scenes, the muted colors for the sad parts, the harsh reds for war. Quite a graphic novel!

Comic Books!

Movie Review: Captain America’s Sequel Best Yet!

Very short review to help reduce Spoilers!

Captain America – Winter Soldier

I have seen the earlier Cap film and I have been a casual reader of Captain America since the Jack Kirby/Stan Lee run, so didn’t know what to expect here.

Story:

The story is one of trust. The Trust theme goes throughout the film. People who you thought were your friend seem to betray and want to kill you. Why? Nick Fury finds that out fast with some help from the General Secretary, played competently by Robert Redford, who has aged gracefully and has some pretty evil one-liners in this film.

The SHIELD helicarriers, what are they, a new peace machine or as Cap puts it, holding a gun to our heads to keep the peace?

And what of Hydra? Did they really go away after WWII or what’s going on with that?

Characters:

Love Chris Evans whole creation of Cap. A man out of time, still trying to relate to a 21st century world where he finds the goals of freedom and democracy from the America he knew to one of subplots, secrecies within secrecies, and a culture of mistrust that could get a guy killed.

Love the Falcon, remembering his team up with Cap in the comics back in the 70s and 80s.

The Black Widow is no slouch, lots of shooting and beating and so on. Yikes!

captain-america-the-winter-soldier-old-school-posterFight Scenes:

The Winter Soldier is as tough if not tougher than Cap. The fight scenes are amazing in their choreography but also in Cap’s unwillingness to clobber his former friend who does not remember him!

Stan Lee!

Stan is a security guard at the Captain America exhibit at the Smithsonian. Excelsior!

 Final Word:

Not a lot of blow up action, much more of a cerebral, spy story that might appeal to fan boys but is mostly created for a general audience that doesn’t know a lot about the Marvel characters.

Stay tuned for the mid credit scene and a final scene at the end that makes you think and wonder.

Sorry for an abbreviated review. Tough to write this without giving away the story. Do watch it!

Comic Books!, Science Fiction Movies

Movie Review: Does Whatever a Spider Can! Great Sequel!

Amazing Spiderman 2

Wow, what a movie! I did like the Sam Raimi versions, but this actor has really gotten down the wisecracking wallcrawler down pat.

The story is one of relationships, of making decisions and of paying the consequences, some of which are not that great.

There are many deviations from the original comic book story by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko, but I am happy with the whole Gwen Stacy/Peter Parker story. Unlike the Raimi films that concentrated on Mary Jane Watson, it was Gwen who was one of Peter’s very first loves (yeah, Betty Brant was there too, but I digress).

Another variation is that they’re not high school kids but college grads. Gwen makes a great valedictorian speech about hope and about what to do when there is every reason to give up.

Another subplot deals with Peter’s dad, Richard Parker. Why was he abandoned? Why was Peter left with thinking his dad was a bad guy?

Plots!

Wait, am I describing a comic book movie or what?

One thing about this film is that a general audience who has a passing interest in comics will like the film. Women will likely love the Peter/Gwen relationship, and how the ghost of Capt. Stacy gets in the way of Peter’s decisions regarding her.

Guys will like the wallcrawler spinning through NYC, capturing the bad guys and being interesting in the corporate plans of Oscorp, an ostentatiously benign group that has been working on plans for domination, making a better world through intimidation perhaps.

sunrise love cityscapes movies spiderman emma stone peter parker gwen stacy the amazing spiderman_www.wallpaperfo.com_16Bullied!

Jamie Fox is great as the unwitting subject of an experiment that turns him into Electro, who becomes an intelligent force of Nature. How will Spidey defeat him? And the Goblin, Harry Osborn, also at the short end of the stick when it comes to be accepted by those who matter most. I hope there is more of him to come. Lots of potential here.

Secret labs, a crazy Harry Osborn who has a fatal disease, the Goblin as you’ve never seen him and some hints that a Doc Octopus or a Vulture is in the works (check out the secret lab with its armored tentacles or the vulture-like wingspan on display).

Listen to the ringtone, old timers. Guess from where that is?

Final Word: And check Sally Field – she has not lost her flare for drama as an Aunt May who knows her boy is not her bio son, but she raised him that way. Pretty powerful performance.

Check it out. And stay through the credits! Amazing how people still walk out when there is so much more to know about our friendly neighborhood Spiderman.

A mid-credit scene, but my theater did not have an end-of credit scene.

Go see it! See the first film first, as that will fill in the gaps in discussions regarding the Lizard and what he was all about.

 

Comic Books!, Cosplay Photography

Big Wow Comicfest Convention Review!

Vegas Cosplay
Mr. Freeze, sexed up. 🙂

Rant Against Muggles:  I have not been to a full comic convention in over a year, so it’s fun to go to a mid-sized convention.  If you have never been to a comics convention, throw away the idea that it’s “kids only.”  My biggest pet peeve is people who are not in the know regarding the comics/graphic novel industry, who think comics are for kids and are not relevant.  Or that people who “dress up” have maturity issues.  Yikes, I even knew a person who wondered if comics were still published!

Muggles!

May 17th!

I jumped on a train to San Jose (yes, I did know the way).  I found that the Maker Faire is the same day, full of families who want to see creativity at work.  I’ve never been there.  It’s near Hillsdale, CA, on the Peninsula.  http://makerfaire.com/

Artists!

I saw and chatted with Mike Mignola (Hellboy) and Terry Moore (Strangers in Paradise).  I saw but did not meet Arthur Adams, Neal Adams and a host of others.  Great independent artists; or just common folk selling their wares, splitting the table fee and running on hope.  I picked up some nice artwork from these.  Support your local artist!

Cosplay!

I always go for the cosplay.  Cosplay (or costume play) is the art of being your favorite character from the movies, video games, comics, etc.  Kit Quinn and Valerie Perez are great (Google them!).  Hopefully some of my cosplay photos will be published.  I got one person email me for a few of them.

Comics!

Of course it’s all about the comics!  Many dealers than earlier years, most are local, a few guys set up at many conventions.  Some are overpriced and some have great 50% bargains to recapture our youth.  Picked up some Godzilla, Nick Fury and Steve Ditko works from Charlton Comics Group.

Panels!

I went to a few, none really sparked my interest.  There was the cosplay panel on how people are mean on the internet and diss their costumes.  I agree, it’s not cool, but they went on and on about it.  The Godzilla panel I stumbled into was quite interesting.  The original actors from the first Japanese Godzilla films were there.  Elderly men today, but still had that thrill for what they created so many years ago, little guessing the current Godzilla craze.  There were panels for writers and artists breaking into the business too.

Halls!

Plenty of places at the San Jose Convention Center to shoot cosplayers.  Get a decent camera (mine is a Pentax K-5) and set up on a wooden platform inside, a grassy/tree area outside, and even a U.S. Army Jeep out front!  Great props!Silver Age Batman

Conclusion: 

Went pretty well.  The costume contest was fun, hanging with the photographers there, geeking out.  One disappointment was the number of contestants who at the last minute cut out and did not perform on stage or even compete for the prizes.  The top prize was $300 in cash, nothing to sneeze at in this economy.  Though I missed the Sunday show, I heard they had a Kid’s Costume Contest.  A visit to the Batman Museum with its Batmobile replica was fun.  So was the Back to the Future Delorean!

Do it next year; usually in the third weekend of May.  🙂

All photos on this blog are mine. 

Comic Books!

Movie Review: Thor: Dark World!

Thor Dark World is the second in the Marvel Universe of great comics films. Marvel continues their excellent portrayal of their universe picking up where we left off with the last Avengers film.

thorFamily:

Loki clearly has family issues. His father is disgusted with him, considering that Loki’s fate should have been dying on one of the Nine Worlds than being taken in by Asgard. Loki is jealous of Thor, cannot be trusted and has several tricks that are evident in the film.

Loki’s ability to trick through changing his appearance is used to great effect. Hilarious scene where he changes into Captain America!

The tension between Loki’s mother Frida and his brother Thor is quite intense at times and lends some realism to this fantasy tale.

Odin:

The All Father gets to shoot a few power blasts at the Dark Elves, gives us a closer look at the mythology of the time. Really liked that the film went more for the Asgard realm and the mythology of the time rather than staying mostly on small-town Earth.

Malekith:

Not a bad villain. He’s the leader of the Dark Elves, and the actor who portrays this character is trying to play it cool and subdued. But I like my villains active and energetic than subdued. My Marvel fan friends took offense on how Malekith is portrayed. But heck, it’s fiction, right? Malekith wants to collapse the Nine Worlds and after thousands of years (great back story) he makes another try at it.

Jane Foster inadvertently loses the Aether, an interesting “Tesseract” of power, that some internet blogs figure might lead us to the other Marvel tales of the Infinity Gauntlet. Perhaps so. This stuff is pretty evil; I don’t understand why Jane could not have used it against the Elves but that’s fine.

Romance:

Yeah, a bit of that. We have a few scenes between Thor and Jane. Even between Jane’s assistant and her intern.

Comedy:

The director really went overboard on the comedy. I don’t mind one or two scenes to break up the seriousness of the story, but a new skit every five or ten minutes was a bit much, but I feel that’s really a matter of taste.

Bottom Line:

Great fight scenes, though it was disturbing to see Thor being mopped up all over the place. The overall themes of family, of betrayal and of love & honor were well-displayed. Can’t wait for the final film in the trilogy.

There are two extra scenes at the credits and after the credits. Don’t miss them!

Comic Books!

Comic Book Review: Classic Western – The Thundering Herd, by Zane Grey!

comics the thundering herdAn old Dell Comic Book: Zane Grey’s The Thundering Herd, based on the novel of the same name. Dell Comics often did book and film adaptations throughout the 1940s through the 1960s. Most stories are watered-down for the kiddies and this one is no exception, though quite interesting. The art is fair for its time.

Three Stars (outta five!) :

I wrote this one a couple of years ago. Enjoy:

The Thundering Herd is a decent adaptation of the Zane Grey story.

Dell Comics didn’t wear the “Comics Code Authority” seal, soon after Congress and others accused comics companies of contributing to juvenile delinquency, since their comics were “good comics.”

And it’s true. Their four-color issues were fun to read and dealt with wholesomeness but also tended to sugar-coat the realities of life as here on the open prairies.

The Kindle version starts out with a nice painted cover of a cowboy as he tries not to fall off his white horse as it rides atop a fierce bison buffalo. Quite a dramatic cover to convince any 10 year old boy to pull out that dime and get some Western stories.

The Kindle version has a Wiki article on Zane Grey (which obviously was not on the original comic book), giving the reader some background on Zane, such as his rough childhood and depression as he carved out a writing career.

The Dell comic tries to do this too in comic-strip form, but sugar-coats it. Family is supportive and people who rejected his stories are looked on as crazy editors, quite a stretch from the Wiki story. Zane was a dentist and soon gave it up for the Wild West, and with the help of his wife who organized things, he became a successful writer, if a pretty bad, neglectful husband.

Stories and Plots:

The first story is the bio of Zane Grey himself, with the modest title, “King of the Westerns.” Zane is seen as writing the Lone Star Ranger (later the Lone Ranger!), and his story’s impact in the movies, novels and on radio. In 1939 “he came to the end of the trail” but his legacy lives on, etc., etc. Art is not bad. Writing tends to be a bit over the top.

Title page has a cool article on the Sequoia Tree, where you can ride a whole Wells Fargo coach through it!

Main Story: The Thundering Herd stars Tom Doan, who hooks up with some guys who want to go out buffalo hunting. To the modern reader, the hundreds of buffalo mercilessly shot down by rifles, with their meat wasted and hides stretched to sell at market might be a bit much, but that was apparently how things were in the Old West. The Indians are looked at as hostile savages. The women, supporting their men.

One such woman meets Tom and they immediately take a liking to each other, but she has a mean father in law and she’s not “of age.” Good dynamic tension here, though hackneyed in its execution.

The art is stiff but shows good action between man and horse and buffalo. Enjoyed the close-up panels with action and excitement. Some panels take up the entire middle of the page as Tom rides hard through a herd.

A few tear-jerkers as Tom thinks Milly Fayre is dead after an Indian raid. This girl is tough to kill as she uses a herd of buffalo to disguise her escape from Indians. Yeow!

 

Written Story:

Some sections of the comic are pure story text without much illustration. This one was about young Jim Harkness who gets his first rifle. His dad is proud of him. Jim runs into a bear and then things start happening. It’s one page, and gives some decent pointers on power and responsibility.

“True Western Adventures”, about Jesse James’ gang trying to hold up a bank, and a particularly plucky banker who won’t let them do it. It’s great how the town gets together and starts shooting at Jesse and the gang shoots back, yet not ONE person gets killed by a bullet. Bad shots! At the story end, Dell Comics encourages the kids to read another Zane story, “The Trail Driver.” I just might, but it may cost more than the ten cent cover price!

A cute article about the modern cowboy “At Work, At Play.” Nice picture of a mesa and a cowboy looking out on the prairie, as we learn of the attitudes and hard work the cowboy enjoys.

Finally a cute article from Wrigley Juicy Fruit Gum (keeps your teeth clean, kids). Dopey Dan rides his bike recklessly and doesn’t obey traffic rules. Safety Sam though always does these things. Which do you think Wrigley’s wants you do be? There are no morality articles in today’s comics, unfortunately.

Kindle Quirks: You can just slide your finger across your Kindle to “turn” the pages, but it’s hard to read. I tap on the screen twice to enlarge the page, read it, then tap again to activate the slider. The slider doesn’t work when the page is in “enlarge” mode.

Bottom Line:

Interesting history of the West, with one of the more prolific writers of westerns, Zane Grey. The stories are fair, which is too bad. I’m sure the actual novels are richer in description and characterization. The morality plays in the comic are heartening though it’s way too bad today’s comics don’t do this.

KINDLE Version on Amazon.com: http://www.amazon.com/Thundering-Comic-Edition-Classic-Western-ebook/dp/B006O4UU1U/ref=cm_cr-mr-title

What Is Dell Comics?  [Video]

 

Comic Books!, Science Fiction Movies

Movie Review: Ironman 3!

Comic book fans who know all about the Mandarin and his origins can forget all that when they see this film.  The film is made by Marvel, but for the general audiences who know nothing about the character or mythos.  It can stand on its own, but better to see Avengers first before seeing this one.

Here’s my review, written at the time of the movie’s release:

[THIS REVIEW IS FOR THE THEATRICAL RELEASE].

Ironman 3 ** MINOR SPOILERS **

First Impressions:

Though I was a bit disappointed that the storyline was not about Chinese megalomaniacs with 10 alien rings of power, I did enjoy the non-stop action and humor!

Storylines and Plot:

Well heck, you can read most of that on IMDB or other user reviews. I will say that Tony Stark has to be the most prepared guy in the universe.

After further improvements in his armor and even getting to a point where the armor comes to him and parts of it can act independently, we find the only reason he’s doing this is to immerse himself on what he does well – a mechanism for controlling is panic attacks!

We forget sometimes that Tony is just a guy. A very smart guy but really behind that superior façade it must be a shock that there are aliens and gods in the universe and that he was barely able to hold his own with the technology that he has to hand.

Rather than being an advertisement for the earlier Avengers film (and that would be a natural conclusion, LOL), it’s similar to Ironman 2 – an exploration into Tony the man.

I love the Marvel films because they are more than about the heroics. This may fall flat with fan boys but the producers want a film that resonates with the general public, and Ironman 3 does just that.

ironman 3Best Scenes:

Destruction of the Malibu home yet there is some pretty clever moves that ensure survival from a missile attack by black helicopters.

Mid-scene reveal of who The Mandarin really is (and no, he is not a Chinese dictator who has alien rings of power – dang it!) as he is surrounded by beauties. Humorous bathroom scene.

The people that Tony dissed at a 1999 New Years’ party and the resultant backlash 20 or so years later. Some surprises.

Though it is scientifically impossible for the body to heat to 3000 degrees, the film made the idea somewhat plausible – the weaponization of scientific discoveries is not completely unheard-of.

Pepper Potts kicking some violent action!

Bottom Line:

Plenty of great action scenes – some ties to terrorism and the media’s slavish reporting of it – and the power of what one man can do to either conquer the universe or conquer himself.

Recommended!

[Do stay tuned for the end-of-credits scene!]