Category Archives: Crabcake Confidential

Crabcake Confidential: Insufferable

“Lifetime pass” is one of those terms that I have, over the years, grown to hate. It’s overused, and it’s usually attributed to people who hardly have done anything artistically to deserve it. (Seriously, I’ve heard it applied to Zack Snyder. Really, people? Really?)

However, if I were the sort of person to give anyone a lifetime pass, it would be Mark Waid.

The guy just loves superhero comics. He loves the history, the symbolism, and the potential. But he does more than just worship at the Altar of Superman. Mark Waid also writes great stories.

Take his most famous work, Kingdom Come. He’s paired with Alex Ross, a guy whose painterly style emphasizes the power and mythical grandeur of his superhero subjects. That alone made it a can’t-miss proposition. Waid, though, brought things down to a personal level. Our heroes weren’t approachable demigods but regular folks with fears and anxieties. Superman is haunted by a world that seems to find him obselete. Bruce Wayne has become a (strangely happy) creepy recluse. Oliver Queen is paranoid, but with strong connections to his family. (He is also responsible for one of my favorite comic book lines of all time after he shoots an arrow in a crowded bar filled with superheroes who’ve just been enlisted by Superman: “So you heard Big Blue’s pitch … now for the democratic response.”) These guys come across as real characters that aren’t at odds with the icons we already know them as.

Then there’s all the homages that Waid squeezes into the comic. He reaches into the forgotten histories of the DC Universe — one that they often like to bury as being too corny or too unhip — and brushes it off for a new audience… all before guys like Grant Morrison and Geoff Johns would make it a regular thing. If you look in the rafters, you can spot all heroes named The Red Tornado, including a fun update to Ma Hunkel. Look in a crowded bar scene, and you may be able to see Marvin from the Superfriends show curiously dressed like Lobo.

Even more impressive — to me at least — was Waid’s run on Impulse. There was the respect for comics history with the inclusion of forgotten characters like Max Mercury. There was also a great sense of fun, something that was a precious commodity in the 90’s where grim and gritty was a corporate-mandated requirement for all superhero comics. The fun, though, radiated not from silly situations and silly villains but from the personalities and the interactions. (Seriously, I would recommend tracking down old issues of Impulse even if you’re not a superhero fan. Especially if you’re not a superhero fan.)

However, that doesn’t mean that Mark Waid only writes kids’ stuff. He’s gone to some disturbing places with his recent material at Boom Comics. There, he imagined a superhero universe where the Superman-archetype goes insane and becomes the world’s greatest villain (Irredeemable). They’re alternate takes of the superhero mythos that feel natural, not transgressive … like, say, much of Mark Millar’s works. Waid’s stuff may go to dark places, but storytelling and character — not shock value and the cool factor — comes first.

It should be no surprise that his recent foray into digital comics, the Thrillbent site, is mainly about guys in colorful tights who punch things. It’s also a logical extension of his recent trend in telling stories of truly morally compromised superheroes. Irredeemable was about a hero who becomes a villain. Incorruptible was about a villain who becomes good. And his latest entry into the genre with artist Peter Krause, the phonetically similar Insufferable, is about the kind of heroes who just cannot stand each other, framed in the context of fathers and sons.

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Crabcake Confidential: Shockwave, Darkside

The say that in space, no one can hear you scream. But can they see you wearing rectangular glasses where one side is red and the other side is blue?

Shockwave, Darkside is a webcomic written by Jay Weisman and illustrated by Weilin Yang and team (who are the same art team behind previous reviewed Keenspot stablemate Wayward Sons). It’s a comic based on an indie movie of the same name. Despite a title that sounds like it could be title of a weepy Tori Amos single, Shockwave, Darkside is actually 3-D sci-fi movie where two factions on the movie fight over patches of water. That’s fairly ambitious for a film without a big Hollywood budget. The movie’s most prominent actor is a fellow by the name of Bill Sage. Also it has Filipino actress Mei Melancon, who played Psylocke in X-Men: The Last Stand.

Wait a minute… Psylocke was in that movie?!?!?

The comic is, in a way, equally ambitious. Because along with being tied to a risky indie project, it’s also coming atcha… in 3D!

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Crabcake Confidential: Never Mind The Bullets

Windows Internet Explorer 9 — which all the cool kids call IE9 — debuted April of this year triumphantly with exciting previews and press releases and parades and a strong undercurrent that, yes, everything had finally changed!

OK, not really.

I have a hard time remembering when Internet Explorer was still relevant. The IE/Netscape Wars of the late 90’s, maybe? That was a war that Microsoft won. By bundling Explorer for free with Windows while Navigator was still something you had to buy at the local CompUSA, IE jumped to something like 90% of the browser market. It was David vs. Goliath, and Goliath not only beat David, he put on a fancy hat and coat and did a little jig on David’s dead body.

In recent years, though, IE’s been slipping due to increased competition from Mozilla, Google, Apple, and other smaller players. At the time IE9 debuted, it had slipped drastically to 46%. IE9 was designed in part to reverse the trend with exciting new features like … I don’t know … pinned sites? Whatever that is?

Perhaps I’m being blase because IE9 is only available for Windows Vista and Windows 7. All my computers at home are Macs. Thus, I pretty much run all web applications on either Chrome, Firefox, or Safari. No IE9 for me, though not by choice.

To show off the capabilities of IE9, Microsoft produced a webcomic in collaboration with Parisian studio Steaw Web Design. The comic was a short Wild West vignette called Never Mind the Bullets. It was directed by François Le Pichon and Jeremy Thomas, illustrated by Kevin Hamon, coded in HTML5 by Sebastien Doncker, and written by Antoine Laroche.

Again, there’s no way I can view this using the clearly mind-blowing capabilities of IE9, so I’m going to use Google Chrome instead. The comic worked for the most part, but I am going to point out some areas where, I imagine, IE9 was supposed to excel. Let’s take a look, shall we?

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Crabcake Confidential: Brentalfloss

Penny Arcade Expo blew into town last Friday, causing a substantial uptick of enthusiasm at my office. A co-worker, who was once a professional gamer, scored some badges and is probably currently basking himself in fantastic awesomeness. My boss, who was once a pretty hardcore gamer but now is happy to play a few games now and then on the Wii with his wife, was fairly envious. He proposed that my co-worker do a lunchtime presentation so we can vicariously live through his experiences.

Heck, if I want to be brutally honest, so was I. Sadly, the cheapest badges on Craigslist at the time were $65, and I’d have a very hard time convincing my wife to drop that much money just to play video games all day.

It’s pretty humbling to realize that all this, the greatest video game expo in the world, started off with a webcomic about video games. It inadvertently launched thousands of dreams, where webcomic creators everywhere imagined an amazing world where their own webcomic about Mario being a delusional middle-aged man met similar glorious fortunes. I should point out, by the way, that I have nothing against video game webcomics. In fact, I enjoy a fair amount of them. There have been so many of them now, though, that it takes quite a bit of effort to stand out from the ground.

In honor of Penny Arcade Expo, I’m tackling video game webcomics all week. First up is Brentalfloss, by Brent Black, Dan Roth, and — as you may be able to tell from the sample panel posted below — Webcomic Overlook’s favorite webcomic creator, Andrew Dobson.

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Crabcake Confidential: Imaginary Range

Imaginary Range isn’t really a webcomic. It’s not really a comic, either. I mean, it’s available for download online and it is sequential art. So I guess you could argue that it’s a webcomic. However, there’s a game in it, too.

Only… Imaginary Range is not really a game, either.

It turns out that Imaginary Range is really hard to define. What most people can agree on, though, is that its an iPhone/iPod app. A free one at that. And with some sort of demonic Moogle as an icon. The iTunes store describes Imaginary Range as “a new genre of entertainment: a hybrid comic and game experience,” which makes it sound like it could either be something new and revelatory or something really disappointing coddled in lame marketing speak.

The project comes to us from the legendary game company Square Enix (and developer H.A.N.D., makers of Final Fantasy: Chocobo Tales for the Nintendo DS). While most of you know that the video game distributor is home to Final Fantasy and Dragon Quest franchises, it turns out that, thanks to several mergers and acquisitions, the company’s library of games is enormous. Square Enix is the also the home to Arkanoid, Tomb Raider, Legacy of Kain, Monster Rancher, and Tecmo Bowl, thanks to acquisitions of Taito, Eidos, and Tecmo Koei. It’s kinda like how Captain Marvel, Batman, Neil Gaiman’s Death, and Jim Lee’s WildC.A.T.S. all ended up under the same umbrella at DC to create a rich and often confusing library of titles.

So which Square Enix will show up in Imaginary Range? The one that made Sepiroth the patron saint to emo kids everywhere? The one that beat Pokemon to the punch in the field of raising some fighting monsters? Or the one that populated arcades in the 1980’s?

The answer may surprise you.

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Crabcake Confidential: The Cape Online Graphic Novel

I’ve made no secret on this site that I admire NBC’s uber-cheesy superhero TV show, The Cape… even though I know that it’s a pretty bad show by most measures of quality. Why? I think the AV Club’s Todd VanDerWerff summarized it best:

The Cape is awful. It just might be the worst TV series you see all year, and the year is only nine days old. It’s bad enough that you can watch it, proclaim it that, then feel fairly confident in saying so, even with the other 356 days to go. And yet something about it is so watchably terrible that I can’t wholly pan it. I can see why some critics I really respect kind of liked it, almost in spite of themselves. Somewhere, buried deep within itself where it’s almost afraid to even admit it exists, The Cape rather knows that it’s this bad, and it’s having fun with the fact that it exists and made it to network television at all.

That’s about right. The cheesiness is what makes it special. I love the silliness of the main character’s powers. I like the awful one liners. I like the colorful Carnival of Crime, the Merry Men to The Cape’s Robin Hood who are led by the sonorously voiced Keith David. I especially love the villains, who have names like Chess, Scales, The Lich, Dice, and Goggles and Hicks. They have silly Dick Tracy-like gimmicks and are, for the most part, surprisingly well acted.

Also, Summer Glau.

Unfortunately, I’m probably only one of a very infinitesimal group of The Cape fans out there. The show hasn’t been doing spectacular in the ratings. It’s original season has been cut from 13 episodes to 10. The very last episode may air next week… if the networks even allows for that small shred of dignity. Thus, right now is perhaps the last time in history fans can revel in all things The Cape.

One of those things you can skip, though, is The Cape online graphic novel. I’d heard about this project when browsing through the Wikipedia entry for The Cape. In fact, the article called it a “webcomic.” “Hooray!” I thought. “What a very convenient opening for me to go off on a related tangent for the sole purpose of discussing my love of The Cape on my webcomic-related blog!” It turns out, though, that Wikipedia has, once again, lied to me. This is not the panel-by-panel webcomic that we all know and love. Hell, it doesn’t even live up to its official categorization as a “graphic novel.”

Instead, it’s the dreaded “motion comic.”

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Crabcake Confidential: Zombie Jesus!/The Beast

There are very few names in comic books as controversial or as mocked as one Rob Liefeld. I’ve mentioned before on this blog that I actually don’t hate Liefeld. I became a huge comic fan in the 90’s and Robbieboy was a huge part of that. However, some of Rob’s projects are so out there that even my own faith is tested. And, man, wouldn’t you know it, Rob’s first forays into webcomics are more that a little off the deep end than usual. But don’t take my word for it. Here’s Zombie Jesus! and The Beast. (These are two separate titles, incidentally, and not some crazy Beauty and the Beast tribute. Sadly.)

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Crabcake Confidential: The Prisoner Online Graphic Novel

I’ve got a pretty embarrassing confession to make: I was pretty damn excited when AMC started airing commercials of The Prisoner remake. I told everyone within earshot about it. “Man, are you going to be watching Prisoner?” I’d say. “It looks totally sweet! Watch it watch it watch it!” I planned my weekend around watching it, even flipping channels from a riveting Patriots-Colts match-up on Sunday Night Football. The special effects looked slick, and changing the setting from an island to a desert not only looked scenic, but also opened up the possibility of new twists to the original. Plus it starred Jim Caviezel and Ian McKellen. You heard that right: Ian Friggin’ McKellen. The man who made Gandalf the Grey a believable parable for the Civil Rights Movement. There’s no WAY this was anything but must see TV!

And I’m not even that huge of a Prisoner fan. I’d only seen three episodes beforehand: “Arrival,” “The Chimes of Big Ben”, and the ridiculously trippy finale “Fall Out.” Plus I was indoctrinated by all “The Prisoner” pop culture references, mainly the infamous Simpsons episode where Homer ends up on … The Island. (“Why a balloon?” “Shut up! That’s why!”) There’s so much potential in a remake: perhaps we could get new, fresh resolutions to a lot of the unanswered questions in the original!

So I watched the remake and … well.. in the words of MST3K‘s The Mads: “Sandstorm. Saaaaaannnnndddstoooorrrmmmm. Deeeeeep Hurrrttttiiinnnggg.”

In the first two episodes, you get maybe 5 minutes of awesomeness (any appearance of Rover and most of Ian McKellan’s scenes) and 120 minutes of moping, “surreal” imagery that really wasn’t all that weird, and uninteresting secondary characters. I tried to like this remake. By God, did I ever try. Even after my initial disappointment, I tuned in to the conclusion on Wednesday, just to see how what the AMC series would tie it all together. I fell asleep only about 10 minutes in. Does Jim Caviezel dance to “Dem Bones” while robed judges in half-black, half-white masks cheer on? I have no idea. The Wikipedia plot summary doesn’t give me much hope, though, because the secret behind The Village sounds LAME AS ALL HELL.

At the same time, AMC launched a webcomic — I’m sorry, “online graphic novel” — to expand on The Prisoner mythos. It can be found here at the AMC site. Now, given that I hated, hated, HATED AMC’s The Prisoner, you’ve got to ask yourself: why in the world would I ever even bother to read The Prisoner webcomic? Well, I was partly driven by due dilligence and partly driven by morbid curiosity. I also held a small, irrational glimmer of hope, too, that there might be a chance The Prisoner webcomic could surpass the TV show as the standard bearer for the modern day Prisoner canon.

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