Sunday, May 24, 2015

Poltergeist (2015) Review at AIPT

I made the time to go see the Poltergeist remake today.

Here's my full review over at AIPT.

Ultimately, it follows the original's story beat for beat, so of course you can predict everything before it happens.  They change up some of the details in visually interesting ways, I just wish they'd strayed from the original's path even more.

Pretty average, all thing's considered.

As for TMNT stuff, I'm currently working on a really big article that's taking me longer to write than I thought it would.  Hopefully I'll have it ready to go sometime next week.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Comics Interview Super Special: TMNT

Originally published by: Fictioneer Books
Publication date: 1990


Kevin Eastman & Peter Laird
Bobby Herbeck (1st draft writer, TMNT: The Movie)
Todd Langen (screenplay writer, TMNT: The Movie)
Judith Hoag (April O’Neil, TMNT: The Movie)
Paul Beahm (Casey Jones stunt double, TMNT: The Movie)
Simon Fields (Producer, TMNT: The Movie)
Tom Gray (Executive Producer, TMNT: The Movie)
Dean Clarrain (Steve Murphy), Ryan Brown, and Dan Berger
Ken Mitchroney
Dean Clarrain (again)
Mark Freedman (brand licensor)
Peter Laird (again), Steve Lavigne, Michael Dooney, and Eric Talbot

Turtle Tips:

*These interviews were originally printed in several issues of Comics Interview and then gathered for this Super Special.


Look what I found at the bottom of my foot locker!

I was digging through there for not-porn and I rediscovered this old thing beneath piles of Heavy Metal magazines and those TMNT & Other Strangeness manuals that haven’t seen daylight since I wrote that old article about them.  Also binders of old Marvel Comics trading cards.  Worthless, worthless trading cards.

The interviews collected in this special are quaint and of their time, but holy shit there are a LOT of them.  And they’re damn thorough, covering just about every angle of Turtlemania, from the comics to the movies to the super boring behind-the-scenes business stuff.  Just about the only end of the spectrum not to get any coverage were the cartoons and toyline, at least not directly (guys like Brown and Freedman talk about them, but we get no words from folks strictly involved in those mediums).

Obviously, not all these interviews are going to be insightful.  I found the plethora of conversations with the folks involved with TMNT: The Movie to get pretty tiresome.  They all tell variations of the same stories (“I thought the name sounded really crazy when my agent told me about it!” “The animatronic suits were always breaking!”) and after two or three of these things you get the feeling the interviewees were all paraphrasing a single script of approved responses from a publicist.

One of the most common themes of the movie interviews is how everyone involved wants to make DAMN SURE readers know that they’re staying true to the Mirage comics.  Steve Barron and Eastman and Laird and the screenwriters and everyone else reiterates, under no uncertain terms, that despite the colorful bandanas and the presence of pizza, that the TMNT movie would be a Mirage comics adaptation, not a Fred Wolf cartoon adaptation.  I guess they knew their audience with these interviews (the magazine was called “Comics Interview” after all) and wanted to make sure they wouldn’t dismiss the film out of hand.

I guess my favorite story in the movie portion of the special, and one Laird has told many times over the decades, was the initial pitch he received for the film.  Apparently, the film was going to be a low budget spoof flick starring popular comedians like Gallagher, Billy Crystal and Howie Mandell in green face-paint.  Eastman, Laird and even Mark Freedman (the licensor) vetoed that idea in an instant.

The more interesting interviews were with the comics staff.  Or they were more interesting to me, anyway.  Steve Murphy (under his pseudonym, Dean Clarrain) gets two separate interviews; one about TMNT Adventures and another about the TMNT newspaper strip and other assorted odds and ends.  He goes off on tangents about the environment FREQUENTLY, not that I was surprised, and he’s constantly giving himself a round of applause about the political and environmental themes he’d be including in TMNT Adventures.  It’s a bit masturbatory, but it’s typical Steve Murphy.

What I found hilarious was that he makes the claim: “I don’t want to get too preachy in the book.  I would like to somehow hit this middle ground where environmental themes can be, say, the crux of a problem, or a part of an adventure.”  Shit, man, you wrote a half-yearlong storyline where the Turtles try to save the rain forest, only deviating momentarily to try and save the whales.  If that’s your idea of not being “too preachy” then dear god, I don’t want to see you on a soap box.

The best bit comes when he starts calling out Captain Planet and the Planeteers: “And Ted Turner’s got a show he’s working on with DIC Enterprises for Autumn release, an animated series called Captain Planet.  From what I’ve seen, they’re humans with one character who is super-powered… I’ve heard that it’s very preachy… They seem to just be fighting the evil oil spill captain; very blatant type of stories.”  Real pot-kettle-black stuff, right there.  I mean, sheesh, Murphy wrote a story where a heavy metal singer screams songs about the evils of Big Oil and wrote god knows how many comics about the evils of pollution.

If anything interesting came from Murphy’s interviews, it was the reveal that Man Ray/Ray Fillet was based on the flying manta rays from his own comic, Puma Blues.  I hadn’t thought about that before, but it seems obvious in retrospect.

Ken Mitchroney’s interview is fascinating, though the Turtles are only a small part of it.  At the time, Mitchroney was working in Hollywood on shows like Tiny Toon Adventures and actually drew TMNT Adventures on the weekends!  I find that amazing, especially considering how few fill-ins he required during his run and how great the pencils looked.

Mitchroney talks mostly about the landscape of the animation industry circa ‘89-90, and if you’re at all interested in American animation history then you’ll recognize most of the names he drops.  Apparently, every person in Hollywood who worked on cartoons knew each other back then.  What’s even more fascinating is just WHO he talks about with reverence.  He mentions what an honor it was to work with John Kricfalusi on Beanie & Cecil before spiraling into anecdotes about Tiny Toons.  If you have ever, EVER read an interview with John K., then you know how much contempt he has for Tiny Toon Adventures (and nearly every cartoon made after 1955).  I guess the respect wasn’t a mutual one.

Most of the other interviews center around promoting stuff that’s been out for over two decades now, so it can get a little dull on that end.  I mean, it’s fun to read the excitement from the creators about their new comics and projects, and you can feel a little smug knowing how those things turned out because we’re 25 years in the future, but the exercise gets old after a while.  This special is 121 pages long!

The whole book is punctuated with promotional images.  A lot of it is “the usual”; the same old Eastman/Laird stock TMNT artwork you see in every retrospective book or magazine.  There were a couple pieces in here that I wasn’t familiar with, like a neat one with 6 (!?) Turtles cosplaying as various Marvel Comics characters.  I think the only other piece I’d never seen before was a cropped image of the Mirage Turtles sneering with contempt at a billboard promoting the cartoon Turtles.  Anyone have an uncropped version of this?  It’d make a good Awesome Turtles Picture update.

So I guess the question now is whether or not the special is worth tracking down on the aftermarket.  Well, it’s a mixed bag of content, but considering the sheer size of the thing, that was bound to happen.  While some of the interviewees are insufferable and a few seem interested in talking about anything BUT the Ninja Turtles, several of the tidbits they drop are rare and fascinating.  The editors get pretty obscure with who they contact; I mean, the stunt double and the 1st draft writer?  So you get to hear insights from people at every leg of production, big and small.

Many of the stories are repeated between interviewees and there are times when the interviewer talks more than the guest, but it’s a good firsthand source for quotes and facts.  And I’ve always loved this promotional photo of Michelangelo outside the Metropolitan Museum of Art:

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Wacky Races Forever: The 2006 Series Revival Pilot (Review)

This week's animation review at AIPT gets a little obscure (even by my standards).

In 2006, Cartoon Network pitched a revival of Hanna-Barbera classic Wacky Races, titled "Wacky Races Forever".

The pilot attempted to blend Western and Japanese aesthetics (banking on Japan's inexplicable affection for Wacky Races), but it didn't go anywhere.

Never-the-less, it showed some potential, even if I didn't care much for Jim Cummings as Dick Dastardly (he's just using his Darkwing Duck voice).

No new TMNT comics this week, except maybe the TMNT/Ghostbusters #1 Director's Cut (but that might not be coming out tomorrow).  I'll just keep plugging away at those TMNT Movie Prequel comics this weekend.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

TMNT: Mutanimals #3

Publication date: May 6, 2015

Story: Paul Allor
Art: Andy Kuhn
Colors: Nick Filardi
Letters: Shawn Lee
Edits: Bobby Curnow


At the train yard, Slash tells his (non-lethal) strategy to Mondo, who hotwires an old truck.

Inside the train, Hob and the other Mutanimals are introduced to Ray and Sally Pride, other experiments of Null’s.  Sally insists that she could drive the train to freedom if she could just get out of her cell (having been reflex-tested on driving sims at the lab), but Hob has a better idea: Wait for Slash and Mondo.

Slash and Mondo jump from the truck to the train and get inside the car, only for the car to fill with guards.  They overwhelm Mondo instantly and force him into a cell.  They try the same thing on Slash, but seeing the cages makes Slash lose his mind.  He rampages, hurling guards out of the train and ripping the bars off the cell doors.  His violence derails the train and it crashes.  Everyone is okay, but even after Slash calms down, his friends still fear him.

Lady Null arrives via chopper to the roof of her building.  A pair of guards inform her of their failure to keep the mutants locked up and she isn’t happy.  Jillian and Lindsay then arrive and Null tells them she plans to start over and have a new batch of mutants ready by the next fiscal year.  Lindsay tells her that after seeing her organization, she has to make a moral objection and quit.  Null informs her that mutant technology now exists and it WILL be used by someone, somewhere, and so she would be better off benefitting from it.  And anyway, if she tries to quit, she’ll get tossed off the roof of the skyscraper.  Lindsay tries to call Null’s bluff, but Null proceeds to grab one of the guards who failed her and drain him of his life, turning him into a withered corpse.

In the elevator going down, Lindsay and Jillian get into a fight.  They exit into a stairwell so the cameras can’t see them and Lindsay accuses Jillian of lying to her about Null’s intentions.  Jillian says that she had no choice; she was in too deep and needed someone to help her get out.  Just then, guards show up to escort them back to the lab.

At Mutanimals HQ, Slash is bummed about how he lost control and how everyone was afraid of him.  Hob tries to cheer him up just as Pete walks in, finishing the tour for Ray and Sally.  Sally wants to destroy the lab, suggesting that one of Null’s familiar experiments return and setup an ambush (hearing this, Mutagen Man sneaks away).  Ray suggests that the lab isn’t the root of the problem; they need to get to Null-herself.  She’s vain and cruel, wanting to crush her opponents personally, and Hob figures they can use that to draw her out.

Later, Pete is installing nightlights in the HQ when he finds Mutagen Man in the bathroom, messing with his suit’s wiring.  Mutagen Man asks what kind of nightmares Pete has and Pete talks about what scared him when he was just a normal pigeon.  Mutagen Man confesses that his nightmares are much different.  He then flees the HQ, running past Mondo and Herman, who try to stop him.

Mutagen Man arrives at the lab claiming that his suit is malfunctioning and the guards bring him to Lindsay and Jillian.  Lindsay is horrified at the sight of Mutagen Man, but Jillian brushes her off and promises to help the mutant.  Mutagen Man shows them the broken part of his suit, but reveals that he rewired it himself.  He’s overheating and in a few minutes he’ll explode, taking them all with him.

Turtle Tips:

*This story is continued from TMNT: Mutanimals #2.  The story continues in TMNT: Mutanimals #4.

*This issue was originally published with 2 variant covers: Cover A by Kuhn and Filardi, and Subscription Cover by Ben Bates.


While this issue didn’t feel so much like it moved the story along (aside from the daring rescue and Mutagen Man going suicide-bomber), it was rife with little character moments.

We get a little glimpse at Mondo’s rebellious, punkish side as he hotwires that truck.  Kinda calls back to the Archie series, where he knew how to pick locks (or the Fred Wolf cartoon, where he was an out-and-out crook).  It’s a small thing, but it illustrates that he’s not just the vacuous skater dude and there’s a more devilish streak to him.

I liked Pigeon Pete’s little talk with Mutagen Man about nightmares.  Pete was never experimented on in a lab or horribly tortured, no, but his fears stem more from the life-or-death, eat-or-be-eaten existence he endured before he was transformed.  So even the comedy relief character gets a moment of heart.

As for Slash “hulking out”, well, I’m not so sure if that’s the direction they should have gone with the character.  So basically, Slash is a highly intelligent, gentle and thoughtful individual until something makes him angry, then he loses control and turns into a berserk cyclone of indiscriminate destruction.  Does that sound like anybody else to you?

Yeah, so what the fuck is IDW going to do when they get around to introducing Leatherhead?  The Jekyll/Hyde or Banner/Hulk thing is essentially Leatherhead’s entire stock and trade.  But Slash has just called dibs on that archetype.  So is Leatherhead’s whole shtick going to wind up feeling redundant alongside Slash?

Or maybe IDW will surprise us and we’ll get Cajun swamp trapper Leatherhead!  Hey, I can dream.

This issue was mostly “little talks” between the characters, which did a good job getting into their heads or defining their relationships, but doesn’t leave me with too much more to discuss.  The characters sort of exposit or explain their feelings during these talks, so there isn’t a whole lot for the audience to think about.

Regarding the action, well, after the recent Amtrak derailment that happened right after this issue was published, I think we all know you don’t just walk away from a train derailment without a scratch on you.  Even without the tragedy in the news, that moment was still pretty goofy.  Kuhn draws the derailment as this big disaster full of twisted metal and fire, yet everyone just brushes themselves off with a “meh”.

As for the new characters, Sally and Ray, we still don’t have the best feel for them outside of broad strokes.  Sally is wild and hotheaded while Ray is more pragmatic and patient; but then, we figured that much out from their brief dialogue last issue.  I’m sure they’ll get more to do as things progress, we just don't have a lot to go on, yet.

Oh, and Null sucked a guy dry (his lifeforce, I mean).  Makes me wonder what her deal in the scope of the IDW universe is, now.  Is she a literal demon from Hell like Archie’s Null?  Or is she maybe connected to the Pantheon alongside Kitsune, Rat King and Chi-You?  All of them are based on regional folk lore and mythology, so with Null taking on a very cartoonish appearance of a devil, she would fit right in.

Anyway, this issue was a lot of talking, but at times it was like it was talking to the reader, not the characters.  “This is how I feel”, “this is my story”, “this is my personality”, “this is my evil plan”.  I get that exposition and awkward phrasing is a necessary evil for reader benefit, but it was just a lot crammed into a single issue, that’s all.

Grade: C+ (as in, “C’mon, Mutagen Man.  We JUST had a conversation last issue about how the Mutanimals don’t want to act like terrorists and now you’re going to turn into a suicide-bomber?  In one ear and out the other with that guy”.)