HCN Classic Comics, Awkward Moments Thursday

Welcome back to Classic Comics, Awkward Moments, your one-stop snarking comic book headquarters.

Previously in CCAM, the readership was presented with a Make Your Own Caption Challenge. As is often the case, T. Gregory Argall stepped up and won one for the Gipper.

 

 

A nice surprise there from Mr. Argall. I must admit, that one was set up to go in a completely different direction. Boom-chick-a-wow-woowwww…

 

Now, from The Flash #207, June 1971:

 

 

Weird War Tales #17, September 1973:

 

 

Wonder Woman #194, June 1971:

 

 

Tales of the Unexpected #5, September 1956:

 

 

And in traditional closing, we present our next Make Your Own Caption Challenge. Just for a change, however, why don’t we take a look at some vintage advertising? Anyone who was young in the 70s may remember this item, one of the more… unique comic book tie-ins to wind up on dime store shelves. Saying no more on the subject, and having removed most of the original ad copy, we present this, upon which you may unleash your comedic imagination.

 

 

Until next time, remember: even with four colors, it’s what you do with them that matters.

HcN Doctor Who Wednesday: RIP Caroline John

Caroline John (1940-2012)

Last week, it was announced that earlier this month actress Caroline John had passed away. While she had a long and varied career on stage and screen (big and small), she is best known to Doctor Who fans in the role of Dr. Elizabeth “Liz” Shaw, companion/assistant to Jon Pertwee’s 3rd Doctor for a single season in 1970.

John first appeared in Doctor Who in the serial “Spearhead from Space” when Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart (played by Nicholas Courtney) decided that UNIT needed a scientific advisor along the lines of the Doctor and, with her multiple degress, felt that Liz Shaw fit the bill. When the Doctor shows up banished to Earth, however, Liz found herself relegated to being his assistant.

While only featuring in a single series, John found herself in a fairly diverse role. Liz was originally presented as a fairly serious, almost dour scientist, scornful of the utterly ridiculous stories she was being told of previous alien invasions of Earth. Naturally, working with the Doctor, you start to believe very quickly and the character became a little more at ease and cheerful, while almost managing to keep up with the Doctor mentally. Also, after a very severe look in her initial appearance, John found herself suddenly wearing some very fetching mini-skirts for the rest of her tenure. John also got to play an entirely separate version of Liz, Section Leader Elizabeth Shaw, in “Inferno”, DW’s mandatory “evil alternate universe” story.

John was dropped from the program fairly abruptly, without her character even getting a farewell scene (just a mention in the following season’s first episode that Liz has gone back to Cambridge because, “What you need, Doctor, as Miss Shaw herself so often remarked, is someone to pass you your test tubes, and to tell you how brilliant you are.”). Reportedly, producer Barry Letts didn’t really like the character; however, John herself was planning to leave the show as she had recently become pregnant.

Over the years, John worked on a wide number of stage and screen projects, but never completely gave up Doctor Who. As Liz, she made cameo appearances in the 20th anniversary episode “The Five Doctors” and the rather awful 1993 Children in Need special “Dimensions in Time” and fully-fledged appearances in the unofficial spin-off series P.R.O.B.E. She did audio commentaries for DW DVD releases, voiced Liz for a number of Big Finish audio adventures, and even read the audio books for several DW novelizations and the late Elisabeth Sladen’s autobiography. She was also a frequent convention attendee.

Given the she only appeared in 4 stories over a single season, Caroline John’s death will leave quite a gap in the world of Doctor Who.

HcN reviews BRAVE

 

After a rather disappointing summer last year for those of us who worship at the alter of Pixar, we the faithful have been rewarded for our devotion in the face of adversity (aka CARS 2) with BRAVE.  A visually stunning and charming, though possibly not as strong as some of its predecessors, film about having the right to choose your own fate.  And the right to have gorgeous flowing red locks of luscious lusciousness.

Now, unlike most of my reviews, I’m saving the plot summary until later because it is the plot itself that I have the most to speak about.  First let’s just get to the obvious:

BRAVE is visually stunning.  Not that any of you will be surprised to learn this.  All you need is to glimpse a poster, or watch less than a second of the trailer.  Pixar has outdone itself in the looks department for this one.  I truly don’t think any other Pixar film can compete for sheer sumptuousness.  The green, the blue, the mountains, the trees. . . And when things turn grey: beautiful and cold and fabulously foggy. What makes the look of this film even more brilliant is that while there is passion for the details of the worldbuilding, there isn’t blind reverence.  The characters within the settings are still realised with wit and charm, there is still a playfulness along with the gorgeous vistas.

The voice acting is delightful (especially Merida played wonderfully by Kelly Macdonald who, depending on your personal preferences you either know from TRAINSPOTTING, GOSFORD PARK or BOARDWALK EMPIRE, or as “that girl who’s Scottish right? But she’s in everything including for some reason NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN, not that there’s anything wrong with that because she’s always fantastic it’s just weird the random places she shows up”).  Though I will say at times the dialogue does get a bit frenetic to the detriment of the storytelling.  The comedy is pitch perfect and charming as always, and a little silly.

And the story is moving.

Ah yes, the story.

If you’ve seen the trailer then you know what you think this film is about.  And it is partly correct.  Yes this is about a Scottish princess named Merida who longs to be in control of her own fate and gets more than just a little pissed that her very proper and by the book mother (Emma Thompson) is arranging her to be married to one of three sons of important clans.  Yes there is also a scary bear who bit off dad’s (Billy Connolly) leg , and yes dad has become obsessed with said bear.  And in more recent ads you might have noticed a witch and Merida making a wish.  But I’m telling you.  These are all but subplots to the main story.  Which I won’t tell you about, because I think it would be a rather big spoiler.

But here are two things I’m going to tell you about the film you might not realize:  1. It’s small in scope, not as epic as the trailers make it out to be.  It’s more intimate and has a relatively small cast (uh, aside from the armies that arrive with each of the clans).

And 2: this is a film first and foremost about the mother/daughter relationship.

And you can bet dollars to donuts that the reason Pixar has kept the latter point a secret is they are scared.  They are scared that such a relationship doesn’t have the universal appeal as say a father/son relationship has (think HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON).  That men/boys won’t want to see such a movie – despite the amazing animation, well planned action, comedy and of course heart that we have come to expect from all Pixar films.  Getting any further into the conversation about how stories about women/girls are seen as niche, and those about men/boys are seen as universal will only drive this reviewer batty, so I’m not gonna.  Needless to say, I am mighty interested to see how this film is received and how well it does.

Of course I really do hope it does well.  Because the relationship is wonderful, both in how it is realised and grows throughout the film, and in the delightful flashbacks.  I think anyone who’s been a teenager and had conflict with their parents can relate to the story.  Further that’s not all there is to it of course.  There is still the subplot of the three sons and their fathers and the evil bear, and of course Merida’s hilarious three younger brothers.  There’s a lot of classic visual gags that Pixar has perfected, never mean spirited, but still a little cheeky.

My largest qualm with the film relates to my first point, which is the size of the scope.  I wanted something grander, more epic, especially considering how the film had been advertised.  When I realised what it was about, my first thought was, “That’s it?”  I felt a little dissatisfied with that.  Also the frenetic dialogue at times comes across as a bit too loud and a bit too messy, and some punchlines get lost in the sound and fury.

But aside from those two issues. . . I still highly recommend you see it.  See it in all its visual glory on the big screen.  You’ll be mad at yourself if you don’t.  I didn’t see it 3D myself, but I have read some reviews complaining of the same thing one always complains about, that in the darker scenes (and there are a fair few that take place at night) it’s hard to see what’s going on.  See it for the fun, and the charm.  And you don’t have to see it for the incredibly risky thing that Pixar has done, but it might be a reason as well.  Because it’s one thing to make a first film with a female protagonist feature a feisty tomboy that can be universally related to.  It’s quite another to make one about the complex relationship between mother and daughter. That’s quite probably the bravest thing about this movie.

 

 

 

HcN Doctor Who Wednesday: The Eternity Clock Review

This ended up being a lot longer that I though it would. Bear with me.

Doctor Who: The Eternity Clock is a new video game released for the Playstation 3 system (and later this year, the Playstation Vita and PC), produced by Supermassive Games, the first in a planned trilogy. It features the Doctor and River Song (voiced by Matt Smith and Alex Kingston) trying to solve the mystery of the Eternity Clock, a device that seems to contain a record of all history (past and future). The Clock, for mysterious reasons, has broken up and scattered across time. And the fragments of the clock have fallen into the hands of some of the Doctor’s greatest enemies. It’s up to River and the Doctor to retrieve the fragments and restore the Clock… but should they?

Clock is a side scrolling game, with characters only going to the left and right, but sometimes swinging around a corner, giving the game a faux 3D feel. Single player mode has you switching between the Doctor and River, with two-player allowing both to function at once. Along the way, the Doctor can use his sonic screwdriver to scan objects and open doors, with River using her trusty laser pistol and hypnotic lipstick (sneak up on a guard and lay one on him to put him out of action for a few moments). The characters also run into a variety of consoles that start puzzles you must solve to make them work the way you need. Oh, and there are hats! Yes, hats for the Doctor to collect, 40 in all, spread throughout the game. The first possible hat is, naturally, a fez.  Also collectible is a series of pages from River’s diary.

Doctor Who games have been notoriously difficult to pull off it seems. So, how does The Eternity Clock hold up? Weeeell…

The Good: Every aspect of the game that might be part of an actual episode were great. The story is a good one, with plenty of hopping between time zones in the same physical location, leading to our heroes slightly tweaking history to their advantage (like changing the past plans to London gas lines so that an inconvenient explosion blocking their progress will happen elsewhere). The script has plenty of wonderful, fully in-character dialogue for the Doctor and River, and the voice acting of Smith and Kingston does it justice. The game also looks pretty nice, albeit fairly static. And I’m not sure that River’s boobs are quite that big.

I also like the variety of enemies you get to fight/outwit. Cybermen, Silurians, the Silents, and the biggest damn Dalek you’ve ever seen! And the collectibles are fun (although why can’t the Doctor wear the hats he collects?). River’s diary has some interesting revelations, like her views on earlier incarnations of the Doctor (“Four: Good hair. Good hat. Has fourteen of those scarves. All the same. They take up a whole lot of room to themselves.” “Nine: Leather jacket. Funny accent. Big ears. And don’t mention the war!” “NOTE: Need to buy more mnemosine recall-wipe vapour. Can’t keep hopping into my sweetie’s life without it!”).

The Bad: The gameplay. Pretty much all of it.

The gameplay is, quite simply, painful to deal with. The puzzles, even on “easy” mode, can be terribly difficult and frustrating, especially when you’re dealing with a timed event. The game way too often doesn’t make it at all clear what you’re trying to accomplish (“Hold on, I’m shooting? What am I supposed to shooting at?!”), and you invariably die multiple times before you can figure it out. There’s also a lot of stealthing in the game and it is not well designed; it’s nigh impossible to make it through a sneak level without returning to checkpoints several times. I found myself raging quite a bit working through some of the more poorly designed levels.

In one level in particular, as River, you need to lead an army of slow-moving Cybermen to the top floor of a building so that they can smash open a room you need to access to open the security doors trapping you in said building. So… run up to the room aaaaand wait. And wait. And wait. An– oh, look, Cybermen! This way, boys, smash away! Oh, and you’re shooting at me, run! Go back down to the bottom floor! Aaaaand wait. And wait. And they’re here. Back up to the control room and go, go, go, solve the very frustrating puzzle quickly, while the Cyberdudes work their way towards you again! Yes! Done it! Just in time, here come the Cyberguys! Back down! Out the door! Thank God!

Except you die eight times trying to do the puzzle quickly enough and have to do it all over from the beginning. Ugh.

Multi-player doesn’t improve things much, with a horizontal split screen, with one character on each, sometimes in completely different environments, meaning a bit of a clash when dialog or music pop up from both at once. And all the initial problems are still there.

The Ugly: Holy mother of God, this is one of the buggiest games I have ever played. Dialog not playing when it’s supposed to (then running all at once when you hit a certain point), often bad AI and major glitches abound. I had to do the final boss fight no less than four times, not because I was having trouble with it, but because of bugs. Elevators on the Dalek spaceship didn’t show up, or worse, evaporated between floors, making the Doctor fall through the entire level, out into space and, eventually out of space and into nothing. Oh, and it crashed on me once, forcing me to redo one level over from the start.

Bottom line: I wanted to love this game. And I do love all the parts listed in “The Good”. But the rest of the game is largely unfun. Hopefully, Supermassive ups their game for the subsequent installments. I do wish Telltale Games (who gave us the excellent Back to the Future games last year) had the contract.

This is game is only a must if you’re a fairly hardcore DW fan, like myself. Otherwise, avoid.