Wednesday, November 11, 2015

For All Your Holmes Pastiche Needs

Thanks to a mention by Sean Levin over at the Crossover Universe blog, recently I have discovered a website that promises to be both entertaining and useful. It exists under the name Sherlock Holmes Pastiche Characters, although (as the introduction states) at this point it's really more an authoritative, if not quite exhaustive, guide to Sherlock Holmes pastiche works themselves. A remnant of the site's original purpose remains, however, in a list of "Historical & Fictional" characters - this last a great boon for the crossover researcher, especially in cases where more than one author has crossed Holmes over with the same character (perhaps not surprisingly, Count Dracula has his own page).

As if that wasn't useful enough, the site also hosts a number of specialized lists (the one recounting the non-canonical family members of Holmes and Watson is especially interesting), as well as the modestly named Indexes to Classic Sherlockian Works. This last may be the greatest page on the entire site, for two of the works that have been painstakingly indexed are none other than Crossovers I and Myths for the Modern Age. Just those two would be a find - taken as a whole, the site is a treasure trove comparable to the Agra treasure, and great thanks are due the hands that built it.

Friday, July 03, 2015

"30 Years . . . It's a Nice Round Number"

On July 3, 1985, movie-going audiences were treated to the first-ever showing of Back to the Future. Since then, there have been two sequel films, an animated TV series, many video games, and uncounted jokes, references and allusions in pop culture and beyond - even President Reagan once quoted Doc Brown in his second State of the Union address.

This year, 2015, is of particular interest to fans of the Back to the Future trilogy, as it's finally the year that Doc, Marty, and Jennifer visit in Part II. Obviously The Future didn't turn out much like that film showed (although we still have a few more months), although not. perhaps, for lack of trying. One thing that hasn't changed, however, is that the characters and imagery of Back to the Future is still a part of the cultural language.

But why is it, after all that time, that this movie is still so beloved - even by fans, like me, who weren't even born yet when it premiered?

Part of it, I think, is that it's very well done, technically speaking - the story, despite being science fiction of the best kind, is not particularly effects-heavy, and the effects are there succeed (mostly) at seeming realistic, even compared to today's CGI-heavy films.

Aside from the spectacle, Back to the Future also allows for criticism at a deeper level. One example of this is the continuing motif of paradox, not just in the main conflict of the story - Marty imperiling his own existence - but also in the background, such as the name of the town (Hill Valley*) and that of the movie itself. The movie also uses repetition for both humor and dramatic purposes - this is more clear across the whole trilogy, with each new era getting its own Mister Sandman Sequence, but can also be seen in just the first film - as is pointed out at that TvTropes link, Marty's trip across contemporary Hill Valley can be seen as another such sequence, inviting comparisons to all the rest.

 But most of all, while clever and well-done, the most important aspect of the movie is that it is fun to watch. Comedy and drama are present in equal amounts, and even when it touches on heavier topics it does so with a light touch. There's an element of wish-fulfillment present, in that almost everyone has at least wondered what it would be like to visit another time, while simultaneously we see some of the problems - even just minor things, like Marty trying to order soft drinks that haven't been invented yet - such travel would cause. But finally, in the end, the seemingly insurmountable problems are overcome, and the adventure continues.

Oh, and the music is great, too.

* Supplementary material claims this is because the town was founded by a man named Hill, but I bet even he could see the humor in it.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

A Good Feeling About This

Regular readers of this blog would be forgiven from assuming that I neither read nor watched anything of interest for most of 2014. This is of course untrue, so the next few posts will probably be "catch-ups" of a sort.

But first, I'd like to point out that about a month ago we saw the appearance of a long-awaited Star Wars-related video - no, I'm not talking about the first The Force Awakens trailer, but rather fan-film studio Bat in the Sun's Super Power Beat Down Episode 14, "Batman Vs. Darth Vader". And man, but it was worth the wait:

Once the sheer geeky joy of seeing Batman lightsaber-dueling with Darth Vader had subsided somewhat, I was able to appreciate some of the finer details of the film. While the production values of Bat in the Sun's productions have always been high, this one really raises the bar - yes, in terms of overall special effects and set and costume design (all of which are spot on), but also in the little details, like Batman's nose bleeding after his abortive attempt to breathe in space.

Although the final result of the battle was dictated by popular vote*, I was also impressed by the writing of the piece. While it would have been nice to get some hint of the (allegedly plotted out) events that got Superman trapped on the Death Star - giving Batman the opportunity to use the "That's no moon" line was a nice bonus to picking that setting, by the way -  in the first place, once the Bat-wing** docks things flow fairly logically, given a Batman with some idea of Darth Vader's capabilities. Sneaking a lightsaber (presumably Obi-Wan's, which would imply that this whole fracas takes place during the Yavin 4 briefing scenes from A New Hope) from Vader's armory was an especially good idea, though it might just be because it leads to this reveal:

"I underestimate nothing!"
Anyway, it's plain to see that this is a fan-film, in the best sense of the word - if the creative teams working on The Force Awakens and Batman V. Superman show as much obvious care for the settings and characters as Bat in the Sun has, then in terms of fan response they should have nothing to worry about.

*Not that that will stop BitS from releasing an alternate ending next month. 

**Never before has this alternate term for Batman's aircraft been more apt.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Atomic Robo Goes Full Digital

In some stunning news from Tesladyne Island earlier this week, the writers of the Atomic Robo comic announced that as of 2015, the comic will be transitioning from a traditional by-the-issue publishing model to a three-times-a-week webcomic. This means, among other things, that the entire 54-issue run of the comic thus far will be free to read - eventually, their plan is to release one issue a week until they catch up, starting today - and then continuing with the new stuff. Which, cleverly, they now have over a year to come up with, though as today was the expected release date for the Volume 9 trade it probably would have been about that long anyway.

Anyway, it looks like it's going to be an interesting year, to say the least, for Atomic Robo fans as things roll out. But there are still unanswered questions - such as, how long will the "Free Comics" page remain in its current form? Will the new paradigm work as well as the creators hope it will? Will it include the Real Science Adventures spin-off? Will Dr. Dinosaur ever top his first two appearances?

The answer to that last one is, "No".