Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Also out today: Secret Invasion: Runaways/Young Avengers TPB

Today also sees the release of the Secret Invasion: Runaways/Young Avengers TPB, which collects the recent mini-series. What does it have to do with me? As a bonus feature, the trade contains a variety of Marvel Handbook entries for characters from the Runaways & Young Avengers' titles. I contributed the entry on Mutant Growth Hormone. Check out the details at!

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Tomorrow: Dark Reign Files

This Wednesday is the release date of Dark Reign Files, the latest Marvel book which I ran as head writer/coordinator (look for at least two more before this year is over). Dark Reign Files is a super-thick collection of biographies on villainous-types from all over the Marvel Universe (no lie - wait 'til you see who all is in there). More details about Dark Reign Files can be found here.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Across my desk: A Study of History

Today I was working on a copy of A Study of History by Arnold J. Toynbee (1957) and I randomly opened it to page 177 to see this:
"Of all the sombre ironies of history none throws a more sinister light on human nature than the fact that the new-style nationalist Jews, on the morrow of the most appalling of the many persecutions that their race had endured, should at once proceed to demonstrate, at the expense of Palestinian Arabs whose only offence against the Jews was that Palestine was their ancestral home, that the lesson learnt by Zionists from the sufferings which Nazis had inflicted on Jews was, not to forbear from committing the crime of which they themselves had been the victims, but to persecute, in their turn, a people weaker than they were."

I had two reactions upon reading this:

  1. I've had the same thought more than once. I doubt I'm alone.
  2. That is one long, wickedly rambling sentence.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Michael's books in May

OFFICIAL HANDBOOK OF THE MARVEL UNIVERSE A TO Z VOL. 8 PREMIERE HC Written by JEFF CHRISTIANSEN, SEAN MCQUAID, MICHAEL HOSKIN, STUART VANDAL, RONALD BYRD, DAVID WILTFONG, MADISON CARTER, MIKE FICHERA, CHAD ANDERSON, CHRIS BIGGS, ERIC J. MOREELS, MARK O'ENGLISH, AL SJOERDSMA, JACOB ROUGEMONT, GABRIEL SHECHTER, ANTHONY FLAMINI, JEPH YORK, RICH GREEN, MARKUS ETTLINGER, ANDREW GOLETZ, ROB LONDON & MICHEL GARIEPY Penciled by VARIOUS Cover by TOM GRUMMETT Let's assume you know your mutants: Multiple Man, the MLF, Mystique, New Mutants, Nightcrawler, Northstar, Cassandra Nova, Omega Red, Onslaught, Phoenix -- no surprises for you there. Safe to assume you know Aunt May from Uncle Ben, but do you need a flow chart to tell Namor apart from Namora apart from Namorita? When it comes to heroes, how are you on the New Warriors, Night Raven, Night Thrasher, Nightmask, Nomad, Nova, Omega the Unknown, the Order, Paladin, Patriot, Penance, Phantom Rider or Pip the Troll? Villains, you say? How about Mysterio, Nebula, Nightmare, Nitro, Ord, Orka, Norman Osborn, the Owl or the Phalanx? Places like the Negative Zone and New Universe? Wrap it together with more than a hundred entries in all! Yes, you do need the Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe. You're welcome! 240 PGS./Rated T+ ...$24.99 ISBN: 978-0-7851-3105-2
OFFICIAL INDEX TO THE MARVEL UNIVERSE #5 Written by VARIOUS Continuing the chronicle of the Marvel Universe, starting with Spider-Man (from AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #215 on), Iron Man (from IRON MAN #134) and the X-Men (from X-MEN #219 on). Follow the history of the Marvel universe as it unfolds month by month with the All-New Official Index to the Marvel Universe. Each issue provides synopses for dozens of individual comics, including back-up strips, introducing you to the characters, teams, places and equipment that appeared within, providing vital information about first appearances, where they last showed up and where they appeared next! 64 PGS./Rated A ...$3.99
WAR OF KINGS: ROAD TO WAR OF KINGS TPBWritten by CHRISTOPHER YOST, DAN ABNETT & ANDY LANNING Penciled by DUSTIN WEAVER, PAUL PELLETIER & BONG DAZO Cover by BRANDON PETERSON The X-Men have been defeated. Havok , Polaris and the Starjammers are being held and tortured in the most secure prison in the universe. Marvel Girl, Korvus and Lilandra are being hunted by the Imperial Guard. Vulcan is Emperor of the Shi’Ar Empire and his expansion has begun. No King will stand when Vulcan and his armies are done. Do not miss the book that will change the shape of the Universe and pave the way for the War of Kings. Also, The Secret Invasion may be over, but the Inhumans are still reeling from the terrible wounds inflicted on them by the Skrulls. And this time, the Royal Family and their massively powered people have been pushed too far! You have never seen the Inhumans like this – and it’s only the beginning! Plus: How will the empire-expanding Vulcan react to these recent universe-shaking developments? Collecting X-MEN: KINGBREAKER #1-4, SECRET INVASION: WAR OF KINGS, WAR OF KINGS SAGA and “THE HOLE” from X-MEN: DIVIDED WE STAND #2. 176 PGS./Rated T+ ...$19.99 ISBN: 978-0-7851-3967-6

This is great news for those who thought War of Kings Saga cost too much at the price of free! Now you can have it for about $20! Wotta deal!

No, I don't tire of writing lists.

Why do you ask?

Another kind of list struck me - one that I can through in a single blog post. What books did I read in the course of 2008? It came to me when I considered how many people don't read any books cover-to-cover in a year.

Non-Fiction Books

Fiction Books

Non-Fiction Graphic Novels

Fiction Graphic Novels

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Remembering John Buchan

Today, February 11th, marks the 69th anniversary of the death of John Buchan. I know Buchan best for his novels, first brushing near them when I saw Alfred Hitchcock's film version of the 39 Steps. My Uncle Ted later gave me a collection of Buchan's five Richard Hannay novels (all stories featuring the hero of the 39 Steps) and I've been an immense fan ever since. Last year I went through the university's collection of Buchan novels and read everything of theirs which I didn't own myself.

Today gives me an opportunity to speak about a book I recently finished, John Buchan: the Presbyterian Cavalier, a biography by Andrew Lownie. My parents gave it to me years ago, but it was only weeks ago that I finally read it.

It really is a fine biography, especially for someone who has read as much of Buchan as I have. Buchan's stories are all brought up in the course of the chronology along with some opinions from the author (I agree with him, A Prince of the Captivity isn't that great). Much is made of the various recurring characters who link the novels together, as well as the recurring themes - prominently, the hero who does good work but finds no reward. I was also surprised to learn that the novel Huntingtower was made into a film and that the film apparently did much to help Buchan's election as an MP.

But the real revelation of this biography was to discover what a great Governor General he was for Canada. Much as I like his writing, I knew I couldn't expect him to be much of a politician. And yet, he did so many great things! One interesting facet was his emphasis on national and international pride. He wanted Canada to be unified from coast-to-coast and made several trips to the west and the north to shed light on the areas oft-overlooked in the east. He also wanted Canada to be proud of its king & queen and helped organize their first-ever royal visit in 1939. He also wished Canada to have strong ties to the USA because he wanted the USA to ally itself with England and saw that Canada was the connection needed. He was friends to Franklin D. Roosevelt although after entering WWII he had to overcome the USA's "neutrality" by communicating to FDR through clandestine means.

Also, given some of the anti-Jewish rhetoric which appeared in some of his novels, it was heartening to discover that Buchan was not only pro-Jews, but a Zionist. When he became Governor General it was disheartening to the Jewish organizatoins he had supported as an MP because they were losing one of their best voices in parliament. And yet, God had his hand in that appointment; Buchan helped bring Jews over from Europe to Canada after Hitler came to power, simultaneously helping to populate parts of Canada and saving Jewish lives.

All in all, he seems to have been a fine man, the rare author who you come to admire more as you increase in your knowledge of him.

"We can pay our debts to the past by putting the future in debt to ourselves." - J.B.

Eight more days of favorite films III: 1949-1958

Today I have my favorite films of the years 1949-1958. Some of these were lean years for great films, in my estimation.

Tomorrow: 1959-1968!

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Eight more days of favorite films II: 1939-1948

Today covers 1939-1948; I'm omitting video links for those films which I covered in earlier blog entries:

Tomorrow: 1949-1958.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Eight more days of favorite films I: 1929-1938

I really enjoyed creating my top ten lists for films by genre over the previous two weeks, so I thought I'd keep going with another list.

It did bother me that most of my favorite films hail from the 30s & 40s and that the 70s are almost completely left out; I don't want to seem as though I only care for particular eras of film, so over the next eight days I'm going to list ten films which I consider the best of the year in which they were released. We start today with 1929-1938:

This list should be invaluable to you, just in case you find yourself in 1933 and need to know what films I recommend at the cinemas of that era.

Tomorrow: 1939-1948

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

In stores this Wednesday...

The Official Index of the Marvel Universe#2 is available in comic shops this week! Enjoy, won't you?

Monday, February 2, 2009

Eight days of favorite films: wrap-up

Now that I've finished my coverage of my favorite films as sorted by genre, I'd like to run through various other genres which didn't materialize into list format.

Part of the issue I have with the use of "genre" is that it's mainly to market films or organize video stores. To wit:


Well, I didn't cover romance per se but plenty of the movies in my lists are romance films, notably the various Cary Grant comedies (Bringing up Baby, Philadelphia Story). But I'll also give a shout-out to Grosse Point Blank (1997) if only to confirm that I have watched films younger than Robert Byrd.


What exactly does "epic" mean? A three-hour running time, historical timeframe, widescreen photography, cast including a dozen famous names? If you want to call Ben-Hur (1959), Spartacus (1960), Gladiator (2000), Tora! Tora! Tora! (1970) or even Saving Private Ryan (1998) an epic I won't argue with you, but it seems like more of a compliment than a style of film. I believe in a basic equality amongst films, so I rate the "epics" alongside the indies, the studio factory-produced and the b-pictures.


Which reminds me of a sub-set to the epics - the Biblical Epic. I do like a number of Bible-based films; Jesus of Nazareth (1977) remains my favorite adaptation of the life of Christ (although it's technically a mini-series and was thus omitted from my lists). I also liked the Passion of the Christ (2004) and I enjoy Ben-Hur (1959) and the Robe (1953), although they aren't actually drawn from scripture.


I don't like exploitation films. I like exploitation homage films even less (exploitation parody can be fun though). I've seen some exploitation films which I thought were okay, but not enough to mention their names.


These usually fall into the Mystery/Suspense genre. There are some particularly good movies based around heists and the like - the Killing (1956), Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels (1998), the Great Train Robbery (1979) - but I prefer to match them with the larger genres.


To me at least, "foreign" is not a category. I'm from Canada, virtually everything I watch is "foreign!" Possessing subtitles does not inhibit the likes of Run, Lola, Run (1998), Rashomon (1950) or the Seven Samurai (1954). Once again, they belong with the other genres.


This is only a film style; it's a wonderful archaic style, but I wouldn't feel right including it just to ensure that the Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1920), Nosferatu (1922) and Metropolis (1927) have their due. They're all wonderful films, but in the ages which have passed since then, new filmmakers (like Hitchcock) have built upon their foundations.


Again, this is a style, not a genre. Animated films are really holding their own with the other genres these days, with legitimate science fiction (WALL-E), fantasy (Nausicaa) and action (Incredibles) films. They belong with the other genres.


Where does biography end? I've enjoyed movies which are obvious bio-pics: Man of a Thousand Faces (1957), the Hiding Place (1975), Malcolm X (1992)...but what about films which take serious liberties with the people whose lives they recount (ie, 2000's Shadow of the Vampire)? What about a bio-pic that fits another genre more ably (ie, Yankee Doodle Dandy, a musical-bio)?

And there are many, many, more. Every movie has its fans (even 'Manos' the Hands of Fate) and as they link their favorite film to another, then another, new "genres" spring up to explain these connections. Which is all well and fine - but I'm content to stick with the eight genres I covered here on the blog, they're wide enough to fit most movies in.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Eight days of favorite films VIII: Fantasy

Welcome to the eighth and final list of my favorite films, sorted by genre! We wrap it up with the Fantasy genre.

Back in Science Fiction I mentioned that the two genres are often grouped together. Although the two can be clearly divided in literature, I don't think there's been a conscious decision to "brand" the fantasy genre in film until the recent success of the Lord of the Rings films. Of course, the case has also been made that many so-called "science fiction" films (namely Star Wars) are actually fantasy films disguised with spaceships.

So what I do define as fantasy? An element of magic mixed with adventure or humour and generally family-friendly. Ergo:

  1. Fantasia (1940)
  2. Scrooge (1951)
  3. It's a Wonderful Life (1946)
  4. Nausicaa (1984)
  5. Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (2001)
  6. The Princess Bride (1987)
  7. The Dark Crystal (1982)
  8. The Wizard of Oz (1939)
  9. The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad (1949)
  10. Jason and the Argonauts (1963)

All but two of these are films from my childhood and I still tend to relate to fantasy films based on my youthful standards. I never really graduated to the dragon-loving dungeon-raiding he-man sword/sorcery type fiction.

I leave you with my favorite sequence from Fantasia: Night on Bald Mountain.

Tomorrow: some parting thoughts on film genres.