Sunday Brunch: 6/13/10

I bought a sexy new computer yesterday. I'm writing this on its decade-older cousin, however, because it's hard to blog when your only available monitor (er, besides this one) is the TV. Doin' it old school!

QUESTION OF THE WEEK: I forgot all the good questions I was going to ask. So what's a question you'd like to answer? I'm open to suggestions.

ITEM! The AV Club has featured another comics-focused article, this one by Noel Murray entitled "Astro City vs. Planetary: Superhero reconstruction vs. deconstruction." I imagine it will piss less of you off than last week's link:

Astro City serves as an unintentional counter to Planetary, in that Busiek and Anderson do put the ideas from old comics to good use. Like Planetary, Astro City uses the plots and characters from DC and Marvel’s respective heydays (with the names changed, of course) as set dressing for new stories that are primarily about those old comics and what they mean. The difference is that Busiek is simultaneously trying to write stories that stand up to and even improve on the classics of the Golden, Silver and Bronze Ages. There’s a higher degree of difficulty on Busiek’s part, as he’s writing a comic that’s not so challenging for the audience, but is complicated for the author.

ITEM! Colin Smith has written several articles since I last linked to him, and you should go read them all, because they're awesome. His latest epic article is about Captain Marvel, Billy Batson, and initiation rites. Among other things:

And how cleverly Shazam's death leaves Billy free of any supervising adult authority beyond Captain Marvel himself. How effectively, if considerably less gracefully than when facing previous problems of design, has Mr Beck hidden the rather gruesome fate of the three thousand year old man. There nearly always needs to be a sacrifice of some sort at the climax of a rite of initiation, a freedom or a foreskin or whatever, but the flattening of a very old man was obviously not a sight that the youthful consumers of "Whiz Comics" needed to be concerned with. Yet, the force of the old magician's death must have inspired at least a few childhood cogs to start turning, and it lends some small measure of gravitas, some little dread and confusion, to the conclusion of Billy Batson's initiation. Something of importance and mystery has indeed occurred here, because old men don't submit to being squashed to death without good cause.

ITEM! By the way, Stan Lee agrees with me on the whole "Donald Glover for Spider-Man" thing.

ITEM! That stuffed little bull is at it again. Can you solve Encyclopedia Bull's vexing mystery before he does?

RANDOM THOUGHT! Marvel has begun its push to put out a buttload (one buttload = one shitload = two dickloads = 1/2 a bushel) of Thor comics. And I'm probably going to buy them all (especially this Langridge/Samnee series). I'm desperate for a Thor fix, but I will probably wait for the trades, though I may spring for the hardcovers of the Fraction/Ferry run, if only because they will be so handsome.

RANDOM THOUGHT! Bruce Campbell, Patrick Stewart, Adam West, James Marsters, and Ernie Hudson were all at WizardWorld Philly this weekend, and I didn't go! Man, I suck.

ITEM! Justin Zyduck writes about Two-Face and the Riddler, and why they're cooler in his head than they are in most portrayals:

But not with the coin. Nothing’s ever Harvey’s fault anymore. Caught by Batman? Mob takeover bid ruined? Hey, that’s on the silver dollar, man, not him! Neither luck nor the criminal justice system are perfect or even always fair, but at least the coin gives you a black-and-white answer with no fuss. I like to imagine DA Harvey Dent as a guy on the verge of a nervous breakdown before the incident, and that he doesn’t quite see why everyone calls him crazy for developing this great new therapy he’s found that really does make him feel so much better about everything!

OBLIGATORY CHRIS SIMS DEPT: Chris picks the 18 Best Batman Panels, and yet there isn't a single one depicting Batman lifting a car battery over his head.

ITEM! Matthew Brady (the other one) shares ten things he didn't know about Wonder Woman until he read the Wonder Woman Encyclopedia. All of them are awesome.

HEY, LOOK, KATE BEATON, YOU GUYS: Sometimes, you have to draw bawdy comic strips about Ben Franklin being a pimp:

REMAKE/REMODEL this week is Blast! #3. This has next-to-nothing to do with comics, but shut up. The thread is far from over, but my favorites so far are by Art Grafunkel and Felipe Sobreiro:

SPEAKING OF Warren Ellis things, Freakangels has reached its 100th episode. Round of applause time. Okay, round of pints, you're right.

DOCTOR WHO DEPT: "Vincent and the Doctor" Written by Richard Curtis / "The Lodger" Written by Gareth Roberts

Wasn't able to screencap, so I've nicked the images I would've used anyway from folks like Rich Johnston and Blogtor Who. Nice chaps. Click for the bigs.

A lot of folks had been saying that this season of Doctor Who was missing the chewy nougat center of emotion it once had under Russell T. Davies, who emphasized emotional and character beats over plot mechanics. These two episodes kindly tell those folks to shut up.

The first, written by Richard Curtis-- yes, he of Blackadder, Mr. Bean, Four Weddings and a Funeral, Love, Actually, and all those, the guy who built Hugh Grant in his basement-- is a brilliant episode, a modern classic that not only tugs at the heartstrings, but tears them from your heart-harp with bittersweet abandon. The Doctor discovers something sinister in a Vincent van Gogh painting, and so he and Amy travel back to spend some time with the Dutch painter. Tony Curran, a dead ringer for the artist's self-portraits, puts in an award-worthy guest spot as the bipolar and possibly synaesthetic van Gogh. There's also a fantastic monster metaphor wrapped up in a pretty realistic take on depression, some cracking dialogue, brilliant direction and art design, and a hell of an ending that left me a blubbering wreck, pinned together with a terrific cameo appearance by the majestic Bill Nighy, who is contractually obligated to appear in all Richard Curtis productions. This is the heartbreaker of the season to date. If you're reading this-- even if you're accidentally reading this while searching for beef bourguignon recipes in the year 2014-- seek this episode out and watch it. And then shed manly, manly tears.

The following episode, written by Who and Sarah Jane regular Gareth Roberts, trends back toward the "domestic approach" that Davies focused on so steadily. The Doctor, separated from his TARDIS, has to solve a mystery while pretending to be a regular bloke and sharing a flat with the dude from Gavin & Stacey. Suddenly, your science-fantasy adventure show, which the week before had been a stirring drama (and the week before that a giant political allegory), becomes a sitcom about flatmates, and again proves that this show can do anything and everything, and do it better than anyone else (as Steven Moffat said, "You don't need other shows. This one is all of them"). Matt Smith is a walking tour-de-force in this one, given a billion things to do that all play to his strengths (especially the football-- I mean, soccer-- match). His performance has gotten stronger and more natural over the course of the season, and he now completely embodies the Doctor, in my mind. Sure, it's all a bit "filler"-y and has a power of love ending, but The Lodger is a great episode filled with excellent moments.

Next week: Somebody, go out there and make some news. It's getting a bit slow in these Sunday posts.

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