The Music of Thunder

I foresee a whole lot of 911 calls in her future.

Falling in Love #27 (June 1959).

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Top Ten Jonah Hex Comic Book Tales That Would Have Made The Movie Awesome

Saw the Jonah Hex movie at the theater yesterday on Sunday and here’s my review: What a load of rubbish.

This flick really needed to be more Once Upon a Time in the West and less Wild Wild West. Much like how the 2009 Land of the Lost adaptation failed with a new generation of consumers I sincerely doubt that anyone introduced to the character by this movie will be at all interested in Jonah Hex in the future. I kept thinking I had nodded off without realizing it and missed parts of the story, which would kind of go with most of the other reviews stating that much of the film had ended up in the wastebasket of the editing room. Josh Brolin did a good job but didn’t seem mean enough in that Justin Gray manner from the most recent comic book series I’ve come to appreciate.

My least favorite part of the movie was the the speaking to the dead aspect. I found it a sorry short-cut to fleshing out the actual story. Why ride around all over the country chasing down the villain when in the space of a few minutes all the answers could be had via a seance? Because travel from Point A to Point B in the 1800s took months if not years. It wouldn’t do to have Jonah ride from Texas to Missouri to Washington dogging Turnbull when he could just grope a dead body. Of course the long protracted chase worked just fine in The Outlaw Josey Wales, but what do I know.

As a Hex fan from his first appearance way back in the 1970s I disliked the film because it just wasn’t very good as it was presented. It left out all the characterization that made Jonah Hex what he is and portrayed him as much more of a super-hero then even the Fleisher-penned issues of the 1980s did. Josh Brolin whipped his gray poncho around more than Christian Bale did his Bat-cape in The Dark Knight.

The end of the film? I absolutely expected President Grant to light a fire under the focusing lens of the Hex Signal Lantern, calling the Gray Knight to Washington DC to tussle with El Papagayo, who is poisoning the water supply and making all the fish look like parrots. My advice is to leave the Wild West Batman to Grant Morrison.

As for Megan Fox, her acting isn’t up to the role of Talulah Black even with it being written as weak as it was. The time when an audience would pay to see Megan Fox bend over an engine or foot stool or something in a film is several years past and other than that she did not bring much to Jonah Hex. Talulah should have at least been presented as trapped and weary and Megan just acted scorned and heart-sick for a daddy-figure. Honestly, this film could have had the potential to do for Megan Fox what Monster did for Charlize Theron even though Fox is no where nearly as talented as Theron. Imagine how different the film would have been had they made Fox up as the comic book version of Talulah Black, ravaged and angry?

Matching Dragoons, the best Jonah Hex blog there is, has a roundup of reviews to read. First, check out MD’s review: Official Jonah Hex Review. He approaches it as an unabashed and unapologetic fan of Jonah who I believe is is just glad something about the character got made, regardless of whether it meets his personal criteria for being good or not (I feel the same way about many science fiction films). Then go browse his collection of critiques of the film from around the web: Some Jonah Hex reviews are in. Once you get done reading those, come back for my list of Top Ten Jonah Hex Comic Book Tales That Would Have Made The Movie Awesome.

I feel your pain, Sarge.

Understandably, the story of Quentin Turnbull and how Jonah received his scars are the tales that must serve as the main impetus for the film. That dynamic should be the focus, not a throw-away scene giving a reason for Hex to hate Quentin. In the comic book Hex was falsely accused and trapped and the one thing that really saved him for all those years was time and distance from Turnbull. It was difficult to track Jonah over thousands of untamed miles of territory. What could have been different about the film is some of they story elements. Instead of the science fiction and supernatural aspects that were used to make things “cool” here are some Jonah Hex stories that could have been reworked and successfully included in the film.

1: Promise to a Princess from his first appearance in Weird Western Tales #12 (July 1972). Jonah saves the life of the daughter of a Native American chief, only to have her and the tribe die of a disease abetted by a greedy landowner. Included in the film, this story of corruption and evil could have been one of Jonah’s motivations for hunting Turnbull down and the villain could still have been portrayed as a terrorist.

2: The Hangin’ Woman from Weird Western Tales #17 (May 1973). This superficially resembles the Clint Eastwood movie High Plains Drifter. I could see Jonah fighting alone against Turnbull and the town of variously cowed and nasty citizens High Noon style.

3: Death of a Bounty Hunter from Weird Western Tales #34 (June 1976). What this classic tale would be used for is the ultimate fate of Turnbull after the big showdown. Basically, Jonah would let Turnbull destroy his gang and himself (just prior to the mandatory scene where he tries to shoot Jonah in the back and then gets plugged, letting Jonah make a action hero quip just before the credits).

4: The Holdout from Jonah Hex #11 (v1, April 1978). This issue is perfect for the Tallulah Black story (assuming she would not appear in the sequel) and one that reportedly caused some friction between the creative team members. Allegedly, the artist did not think Jonah should kiss a dead woman goodbye and either had to comply or another artist drew the scene. This issue also noteworthy for the Crucifixion scene. All the villains could have been reworked to be a part of Turnbull and his cronies.

5: The Massacre of the Celestials! from Jonah Hex #23 (v1, April 1979). Include a vengeful Turnbull in a story of the railroad barons and race-relations and you’ve got a winner.

6: The Gunfight at Murphysburg! from Jonah Hex #32 (v1, January 1980). The best Jonah Hex stories are when he is caught between a town of frightened citizens and the bad guys.

7: The Fort Charlotte Brigade! from Jonah Hex #35 (v1, April 1980) and Return to Fort Charlotte from Jonah Hex #36 (May 1980). This two-part tale reveals the entire back story of why Quentin Turnbull wrongfully hates Jonah Hex. Partly told in a flashback it could have been two movies for the price of one!

8: Jonah Hex: Two Gun Mojo #1-5 (August 1993): If you go supernatural with Jonah then go all the way. This is a gritty, mean series and one of Jonah’s first forays into the mystic for the character.

9: Jonah Hex: Riders of the Worm and Such #1-5 (March 1995): Jonah Hex, steam-punk and ancient horror. Done properly this would have messed-up an audience for life. The video game tie-in sales for this version would have been crazy huge.

10: The Ballad of Talulah Black, Part 1 from Jonah Hex #16 (v2, April 2007) & The Ballad of Talulah Black, Part 2 from Jonah Hex #17 (v2,May 2007. While the brutal attack and mutilation of Talulah may have been difficult to portray this tale is most reminiscent of another Clint Eastwood film, Unforgiven, except the victim goes on her own mission of justice instead of hiring someone else. Reworked so Jonah Hex and Talulah are a team getting revenge on Turnbull would have been fantastic.

On a final note, just how great would this page from The Last Bounty Hunter! (Jonah Hex Spectacular, DC Special Series #16, 1978) have been as the final scene in the Jonah Hex movie? What a great setup for the sequel it would have been. To repeat: WOULD. HAVE. BEEN.

Planetary Evolution

From the silly yet earnest early artwork depicting the hopeful future that still seemed to be steam-powered in spite of claims of cosmic and atomic power to the latter-day cover art that depicted hostile and strange life forms poised to consume and assimilate all civilizations, Planet Comics by publisher Fiction House is one of my favorite comic book titles. Not only did it feature Futura, a star-lost woman who alone fights for her freedom against human tyrants and aliens, but the title was both a perfect reflection and herald of trends in science fiction.

The long-running Planet Comics serials revealed what was popular, woefully passe and perhaps even what was anticipated in entertainment media of the genre. Styles were aped and innovation occurred in quantity. Aside from the tales the thematic transformations of the covers were likewise a good indicator of the changes that occurred over time to popular science fiction and the tastes of the market. Particularly noteworthy are the covers that feature women as being depicted as other than damsels in need of rescuing. While this happened more than some would think in the pulps and comics it was actually reflected in the stories within the magazine with the tales of Futura, Gale Allen and Mysta being prime examples. Though the artwork often favored stereotypical male power fantasies there are a number of covers that are progressive for the time.

Witness the evolution of 73 issues of Planet Comics from the early Pulp influences to the distinctive EC house-style of the 1950s by clicking the picture.

Planet Comics 001


Planet Comics by Fiction House Publishers (January 1940-Winter 1953).

Who?

Got sent this yesterday by a pal who works at BBC America (he/she is the one who gets me all those awesome DVDs for the new UK shows). if true, all I can say is: Holy. Crap.

From the press release:

Who Is Johnny Depp?

International film star Johnny Depp has been confirmed to play the part of time traveling Doctor Who in the big screen treatment of the same name slated for a Summer 2012 release. The wildly successful science fantasy television program Doctor Who has been a staple of British TV since the early 1960s. Syndicated internationally, the show about an exiled Lord of Time has seen a resurgence in recent years, particularly among the audiences of the United States where the show has enjoyed high-ratings on BBC America and the SyFy Channel.

Long-time producer of the television series Russell T. Davies reported that the reason he moved on from the show was due to the opportunity to transform the Doctor to the big screen. “Bringing the Who franchise to the theaters is a regeneration for the character beyond the usual one. A theatrical release has a greater range and can reach millions of more people than just the fans. There will be brand new concepts and the film will be just as adventurous, scary and humorous as the television programme. But none of us working the film will forget what makes the character great and interesting and the long-time fans will not be disappointed because yes, the Daleks make an appearance.”

In a telephone interview actor Johnny Depp was brief about the project due to contractual obligations, however he revealed some choice plot twists: “The Doctor will absolutely have a serious romance. I can not reveal who my co-star is yet but I’m told she is a strong, lovely actress that everyone knows and is perfect for the part.” Johnny Depp revealed one other aspect of the Doctor, that of his secret past: “The Doc is always portrayed as this mysterious Demi-God. Russell has penned this wonderful, exciting script that humanizes this all-powerful alien. The Doctor is actually given a name in the film, I’m told he never really has one. He also acts like a Physician in more than just his title. He’s called The Doctor for a reason. His mission is to journey through time and space with a crew of volunteers treating humanity’s illnesses brought on by invading aliens. He cures the bubonic plague and then goes to Africa to fight Ebola. The film will be very human and relevant and have a great message.”

Doctor Who begins filming in 2011 for a Summer 2012 release.

Wanted: Experienced Proof-Reader, Apply DC Offices

Was a racial slur inadvertently inserted in the recent DC Comics title Justice League – Generation Lost #4?

I am one long-time reader who is disappointed by DC Comics apparently turning back the clock on the diversity of their characters even though I kind of understand it. It is fear, perhaps, that any lasting change to the formula that basically carried the company over 60 years will meet with disaster. Fear, perhaps based in reality, that nostalgia is all they have going for them and the shrinking fan-base of continuity-addicts snubs with negative consequences financially to the company anything that resembles true progress.

From all the internet press it is clear that DC is very aware of the recent outcry that there is the perception they are relying on the tried, true, nearly antique and primarily Caucasian models of the Golden and Silver Age of comic books. While the retro models of the characters may represent their perceived and steady market-base they are are not truly representative of the diverse population of both the real and fictional worlds. That mentioned, the creative teams and editors of their books should be a little bit more aware of how their products published after the controversy could and would be examined for every perceived slight, hidden message or racial and political agenda. Every beaten woman, murdered Asian, gap-toothed Southerner or jailed Middle-Easterner in their books, movies and games will be picked apart and commented upon by the rational and irrational fans seeking a pattern, proof of a corporate policy of hostility to a diverse populace.

As example, read this scene in Justice League – Generation Lost #4 (July 2010) which hit the stands this week. Preview images have also been available for public perusal on various websites for a while.

The comic book industry has as one of its primary tropes word-play in the form of acronyms that are explored to sometimes ridiculous lengths. Indeed, major story arcs and even some titles have been pitched and launched merely by how cool or interesting an acronym can sound. It is a tactic of advertising and can pique the interest of a consumer and creates a brand identity that hopefully a buyer will return to again and again. So it is interesting that an industry that enjoys and even exults in word games can depict an African-American (or decidedly non-Caucasian) scientist involved in a super-powers project designated as Nanobyte Genetic Enhancement Research.

If you want to put together and sound out the acronym, go ahead, but I suggest you only do it in your head.

I personally am not the most sensitive or observant person and I noticed and made a connection to a word that sounds like a racial slur that denigrates African-Americans and the character, however tenuous, right away. Unless DC states otherwise I have little doubt that the acronym as it appears was merely careless and unfortunate. It would be career suicide and fiscally irresponsible for anyone to try and sneak an intentional slur into any of the popular entertainment media designed for a wide and diverse audience in this era. Of course it is not beyond the realm of possibility as there are a lot of confused, angry and backwards people out in the world.

There is no proof that someone at DC intentionally included a racial epithet into one of their comic books nor am I claiming that they did. However once something is seen you can not un-see it. It does not matter how unintentional or coincidental the word or how it sounds may be. It is there, however inadvertently and the perception of the individual reader is what will likely hold sway. There are websites that just leap on things like this and run with it. That is important because no one can really conclusively say that the acronym was not intentional and that cavalierly killing off the ethnic and obviously brilliant character in the next page was a mere innocent plot device. Take into consideration in the story it was a secret project and some could infer that killing an African-American who was creating a process that could give the disenfranchised super abilities just looks bad even if it is much-ado about nothing.

Helping create a quality product is one of the jobs of an editor and one could expect that the staff of DC, already under scrutiny by some of their customers and critics, would have paid a little bit more attention to the proof-reading. Some will undoubtedly assert the slur was intentional as a clever flip of the finger to those who complained about the back-stepping of diversity in DC comic books. Some will maintain the incident was just an unfortunate and innocent coincidence. Others will claim there is nothing to be found at all.

Regardless, I expect that in the future trade edition of Justice League – Generation Lost that particular phrase will probably be re-arranged to provide a different result. Given the scene I would submit that an initiative that is all giving super-powers to average people would read better if it was labeled “Project: E.N.R.G.”. It would be a lot more fitting if the acronym sounds like “Energy” when spelled out, instead of that other word.

Futura – Chapter 19

Planet Comics #61 introduces a few new villains who serve as the impetus for Futura’s battle for freedom. The series is in high gear for the next several issues, though it admittedly reworks some elements of the Brain-Men of Pan-Cosmos. Futura is still on Oceania but is pulled into a secret city ruled by tyrannical decapitated heads that are on life-support. Again, Futura surprises the heck out of the fiends that rule their petty kingdoms by fighting back, something that lord and ladies just don’t expect from a subservient and frightened class of subjugated peoples.

The Futura Saga has a mere three issues remaining until it comes to a conclusion. Many of the long-running series featured in Planet Comics come to a close within the following year and Futura was among the first. Changing consumer tastes and market expectations meant the end of many of the decades-long running serials. The Comics Code Authority and nascent Silver Age style of storytelling that was perfected at DC Comics in the early 1960s meant that anthology collections of disposable one-off stories were to become the norm.

Among the Fiction House titles it was Planet Comics that would prove the most adaptable to changing tastes and evolved with more success than the Western or Jungle-based tales but being unable or unwilling to compete with other forms of entertainment that was gaining ground the entire Fiction House line of books would soon become another casualty of the fickle retail market.