Tag Archives: Scott

“The Fantastic Four And Wolverine Are Dead, Jim”

Well, that’s what the late, great Deforest Kelly might say in the role of Bones, from Star Trek. In two recent and stunning moves, the cognoscenti at Marvel Comics killed Wolverine (a good thing if he would just stay dead) and cancelled august superhero title The Fantastic Four.  It will be hard for me to continue with this post and not seem like a curmudgeonly old man screaming for some snotty kids to get off the grass in his front yard. I will still try.

For a while in the early 2000s it seemed like every story-based decision Marvel made involved length of arc and fitness for inclusion into a trade. That’s what Library Journal would call a graphic novel. Stories, and the nature of storytelling in comics, changed because of this. The monthly comics became secondary to the collected work in the more popular and marketable graphic novel.

So be it. At least then Marvel (and DC) were still thinking in terms of the comic books themselves.

Then sometime after the very first Spider-Man movie killed it at the box office, Stan Lee’s long held dream of Marvel’s marriage to Hollywood and wider media came to pass. Sean Howe covers Stan’s Hollywood vision-quest in his amazing book, Marvel Comics: The Untold Story. It’s now gotten to a point where even the mediocre Marvel movies make mad loot. That old adage that money ruins everything is not true. Money ruins most things.

While they will never admit it, the folks at Marvel “killed” Wolverine and cancelled Fantastic Four because both properties belong to rival movie studios. They might cite creative reasons, or the low sales of FF, but we should know better. Making these moves undercuts in some small way the creative impetus of rival studio Fox. For an awesome visual of exactly which studio owns each major Marvel superhero property, check here.

While I was born on a Tuesday, it was not last Tuesday. I know Wolverine will be back (dude, he’s the best there is at what he does, and what he does is sell comics). I also know FF will rise again. Comics are a business. They have been since the halcyon days of Timely. The business used to be about selling comics. Now it’s about pillaging them for the next movie script.

My position is not without hypocrisy. I saw Guardians Of The Galaxy five times. I will content myself with cherry-picking the Marvel and DC movies I like.

Meanwhile, I need to go see my grief counselor; Wolverine is dead after all.

–Scott P.

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CLP Gets To Work

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Friday, November 7th featured CLP’s first ever installment of Show Your Work, a partnership between the public library and local entrepreneurs and innovators in the fields of commerce, art, and technology. This amazing event, held at our East Liberty branch, included over fifty attendees and featured four presentations from local innovators in various fields. These folks gave five minute lightning talks about their current projects and then took questions and feedback from the audience and an esteemed panel of experts.

The presenters included:

  • Todd Medema — CMU alum and serial entrepreneur working on a new way to view the passage of time
  • Shannon Miller — co-founder and Chief Gift Officer at giftbug
  • Alexandra Oliver — creator of the Collective Archive project to document and archive Pittsburgh culture
  • Allison Plummer & Ethan Plummer — creators of the Sentinel Box bicycle safety mapping device

The panelists included:

  • Nick End — entrepreneur and leadership team member at Shoefitr
  • Rabih Helou — co-founder of the coworking space at The Beauty Shoppe
  • Chris Millard — Program Coordinator at AlphaLab Gear

Part cocktail party and part networking session, Show Your Work represents the first of a new type of programming venture for CLP. We saw a need for more common space where Pittsburgh innovators could meet up and share their energy and ideas. As we move forward into 2015, we’ll continue to address that need with more Show Your Work events and with our new Work Nights series of programs.

Debuting at the South Side branch Thursday, December 12 from 5:00 PM – 12:00 AM (yes, that’s right, the library will be open until midnight), CLP Work Nights will offer entrepreneurs and innovators a clean, well lighted space with amenities like free wi-fi, photocopies, coffee, and snacks. While these comforts are all good things, the atmosphere a Work Night offers is what really counts. A gathering of like-minded innovators carries a special energy all its own, and we hope folks can harness that creative power to drive their own projects to completion.

Programs like Show Your Work and Work Nights allow us to further our mission as a community facilitator and economic incubator. We measure the impact of our service in the success stories our patrons tell us. As the new year dawns think about joining us for these special new programs. Work nights. Then tell us about it.

–Scott P.

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“New” Pulp Conjures Familiar Feelings

Graphic novel (re: comic book) fans seeking something other than standard superhero fare need look no further than two new titles from publisher Image Comics.

Five Ghosts from writer Frank Barbiere  and artist Chris Mooneyham details the exploits of explorer, thief, and bon vivant Fabian Gray. Set in the 1930s, Gray inhabits a world much like the one Indiana Jones made famous, but tinged with even more supernatural power. Gray himself is a haunted man. Cursed by the presence of the fabled Dream Stones embedded in his chest, he possesses the ability to call upon the powers of five “literary” ghosts. This quintet includes the archer (Robin Hood), the swordsman (Musashi), the detective (Sherlock Holmes), the vampire (Count Dracula), and the wizard (Merlin).

Gray and his cohorts face off against threats both magical and mundane, from possessed tribesmen to murderous pirates, and of course, Nazis–I hate those guys!   Mr. Barbiere weaves plenty of cool literary references into the stories, and Mr. Mooneyham’s moody, gorgeous artwork looks like a cross between Mike Mignola and Howard Chaykin.

Start by reading Five Ghosts: The Haunting Of Fabian Gray (that’s volume one); then read Five Ghosts: Lost Coastlines (that’s volume two).

If Five Ghosts inhabits the realms of Indiana Jones and King Solomon’s Mines, Black Science takes its lead from the sort of retro-raygun sci-fi seen in Flash Gordon and DC Comics Adam Strange. Don’t think that these more innocent antecedents make Black Science light or frivolous. Writer Rick Remender and artists Mateo Scalera and Dean White inject plenty of darkness into Black Science. Lead character and rogue scientist Grant McKay uses proscribed experiments to punch his way into a forbidden dimension of madness and chaos.

He and his intrepid crew encounter a host of horrors as they journey through worlds undreamed in search of a way home.

As I have grown more and more disenchanted with modern superhero fare, I take comfort in titles like these. They have a spirit and sense of fun that “modern” Marvel comics lack. If you dig pulp, check these titles out!

–Scott P.

Black-Sci-cov  Five-ghosts-cov1 Five-Ghost-cov

 

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Some Scary Sci-Fi

Being only three days out from Halloween leaves me thinking of scary movies. Being a sci-fi nut, I love those films that freely mix the horror and science fiction genres. Two dynamite films come to mind: one well-known, the other mildly underrated.

Alien_movie_cover AlienRepeat after me. “Alien is not a sci-fi movie; it’s a horror movie.” Ridley Scott’s brilliantly gritty space thriller dresses in plenty of sci-fi trappings, but delivers all the chills of a first-rate horror flick. The spacers terrorized by H. R. Giger’s hideous creature are simple corporate workers trapped in a terrible situation and knocked off one by one in gruesome fashion. Mr. Scott uses cunning visual techniques and camera angles, and just enough creature effects, to perfectly capture the frenetic action of the crew’s hopeless struggles against a power beyond their capabilities. The best way I can demonstrate this is by linking to a clip of Brett’s (Harry Dean Stanton) death. It is not for the faint of heart, so don’t click unless you can handle it. Here it is. Brett stands powerless in the face of the inhuman Alien. The horror he endures in those last few seconds of his life freezes the viewer’s blood. It did mine. That’s why Alien succeeds as a horror film. 

 

Event-Hor-cov  Event HorizonIf I ever make a list of the most underrated films of all time, this one will rank very highly on it. This also happens to be another horror movie masquerading as a sci-fi flick! The sci-fi equivalent of a haunted house is a haunted starship, and oh boy, does Event Horizon deliver the goods on that account! The eponymous ship, the Event Horizon, mysteriously reappears after seven years of being lost in space. Lead by Captain Miller (Laurence Fishburne), the crew of the Lewis and Clark answer the lost ship’s distress call. They find the Event Horizon deserted. A ghost ship. Horror ensues. Director Paul W. S. Anderson sets a dark tone with plenty of darkly shot corridors, strange sounds, and haunting visions. Things really start to go pear-shaped when the crew of the Lewis and Clark find a hidden video recording of the last horrific moments on the Event Horizon’s bridge before it disappeared. I am going to link to this, but it is incredibly disturbing and horrific. You have been warned. Here is the link.

These two films represent the pinnacle of what creative folks can do when they skillfully combine two genres. As Halloween approaches, think about tracking down one or both of these titles. If you’ve seen them already, watch them again. If you’ve never seen them before and watch them for the first time, I envy you.

— Scott P.

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Short List Of Banned Sci-Fi

Get your ray-guns ready! I’m going to list my three favorite banned sci-fi and fantasy titles.

F-451-cover Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury. This one marks a double-threat–great book and a great movie version (you can watch it at CLP’s Downtown & Business location on October 21st)! Working at the height of his powers, Mr. Bradbury takes us to a dystopian future where fireman start fires instead of putting them out! The ultimate anti-censorship book suffered the terrible irony of finding itself on more than one banned book list since its publication in 1953, and even the publisher itself released expurgated versions removing what certain editors considered to be objectionable content. Fahrenheit 451 remains such an important work, it’s at the center of this year’s Big Read.

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 Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman. People sometimes challenge the most innocuous things. Mr. Gaiman’s Neverwhere has a bit of violence, a bit of sex, and a lot of really uplifting and incredible stuff. Of all the things from a high school reading list a parent might challenge, this book should fall near the bottom. According to complaints, one particular sex scene did this one in. If you can get beyond this,  you’ll find a story that effortlessly blends the worlds of modern London and a subterranean shadow-plane of magic, mystery, and adventure. While Neverwhere’s sex and violence quotient seems quite tame to me, I guess I can at least understand why someone might object to it, but learning the last book on this short list had been banned flummoxed me.

Hobbit-cover The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien. Yes, that Hobbit. Some accuse the book of promoting smoking. As an individual who has been rabidly anti-smoking his whole life, but also loved The Hobbit since at least first grade, I don’t see it. Fictional characters smoking a fictional pipeweed (even one as pure as Old Toby) never caused me to waver. Then there’s the folks who identify Tolkien’s work as irreligious. The man was a devout Catholic and his work is suffused with Christian symbolism. I think his Christian bonafides remain pretty unimpeachable.

Folks will come up with all sorts of reasons to ban the books we love. Genres like sci-fi often take it on the chin from would-be censors. All we can do is call them out.

Sunshine remains the best remedy for ignorance.

–Scott P.

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Three For The Pennant Run

The Battling Buccos seem poised to make a run at the first or second Wild Card playoff berth, so let’s keep our fingers crossed that they can continue surging forward in September!  In the meantime, here are three titles for those among us who love Fall baseball.

baseball-codes The Baseball Codes : Beanballs, Sign Stealing, And Bench-clearing Brawls : The Unwritten Rules Of America’s Pastime by Jason Turbow with Michael Duca. No stage reveals baseball’s many esoteric “unwritten” rules quite like the playoffs. This book will provide the perfect companion to anyone wondering why the catcher  suddenly stands up and hurls epithets at the batter, or why a seemingly accidental hit-by-pitch sparks a series of 95 mph retaliation strikes!

 It-aint It Ain’t Over ‘Til It’s Over : The Baseball Prospectus Pennant Race Book edited by Steven Goldman.  This 2007 book looks at some of the most famous and fascinating baseball pennant run chases through the game’s long history. This slick collection of historical essays on the game includes a number of what-if stories, and also recounts great deadline trade deals, pennant races that weren’t, and much more.

 when-red When The Red Sox Ruled: Baseball’s First Dynasty, 1912 – 1918 by Thomas J. Whalen. Love them or hate them, the Red Sox represent a key pillar of Major League Baseball, and one of its most storied franchises. Mr. Whalen’s book explores the golden age before the Babe, and provides a telling glimpse into the professional baseball world of a bygone era.

–Scott P.

 

 

 

 

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From The Mists Of Obscurity…

The Guardians of the Galaxy movie has made a gaggle of money so far and enjoyed wide critical acclaim from the likes of Forbes Magazine  and others. In other words, Marvel and parent company Disney have struck gold again by trusting writer/director James Gunn to make a blockbuster film with incredibly obscure feature characters. I could go on and on about the greatness of Guardians, the cast, and Mr. Gunn himself, but I’ve done that already. The point of this post is to entertain the thought of what other obscure property might make a great feature film. So what are the ground rules? The characters could be from a comic book or graphic novel. Or from a novel or stage play. I’ll entertain a few titles, and then ask you, the reader, to chime in with a few of your own.

Wait, what? Click here for more clever Vulture posters.

Wait, what? Click here for more clever Vulture posters.

Suicide Squad from DC Comics tops my entries from the graphic novel department. You can read an issue #1 of this oft-reincarnated title in our copy of DC Comics: The New 52 vol 1. The basic premise of this title is simple. Lame super-villains get an offer of amnesty in exchange for performing sometimes deadly missions. This cool formula allows writers to play with otherwise ignored characters, but could this setup carry a movie? Would audiences flock to see a movie featuring the likes of Captain Boomerang and Bronze Tiger? I think they would if the producers employed marketing strategies similar to those used for Guardians.

Eisenhorn by Dan Abnett marks my choice for gamer fiction most likely to succeed in the right hands. Set in the Warhammer 40,000 sci-fi universe, this collection features three linked novels that detail the exploits of Gregor Eisenhorn, an Inquisitor in the service of the monolithic Imperium of Mankind. He and his allies hunt aliens, heretics, daemons, witches, and other threats to humanity. I imagine if someone like Mr. Gunn handled this material, it could be movie gold.

Ari Marmel’s Hot Lead, Cold Iron offers a slick mix of fantasy and noir with detective Mick Oberon solving mysteries in 1930’s era Chicago. Yes, I know it sounds like Dresden Files, but Oberon’s Fae blood makes the “rules” of the book’s action a bit different than Jim Butcher’s Dresden stuff. The 1930’s era patois Marmel uses for Oberon’s narrative voice also makes the reading fun.

I usually do these things in three’s, but I’ll step out of my comfort zone a bit and suggest a fourth title, Katherine Boo’s Behind The Beautiful Forevers: Life, Death, And Hope In A Mumbai Undercity, a haunting and sometimes uplifting account of families surviving in the face of utter poverty and hopelessness.  Read this and you will cry and also experience moments of triumph. Give this to the “right” film crew and you have an Oscar-candidate for sure.

Now it’s your turn. Give me some obscure titles that need the Hollywood treatment.

–Scott

 

 

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