Indie Cover Spotlight: Lost Heroes #0

Wow, hard to believe, but this is the 200th installment of ICS! Be sure to check the archives for all the previously featured covers.

So I had almost forgotten about this rather strange artifact of the late 90s, which I have in my longboxes somewhere: Lost Heroes.

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Created, written, and drawn by Rob Prior, and published in 1998 by Davdez Arts (which, surprisingly, are still around, though not, it seems, as an active comic book publisher). It was a modern fantasy-adventure series about…honestly, I don’t remember at all. It ran for 5 issues (including the #0) before publications ceased.

And yes, that’s Mark Hammill and Julie Strain on the cover. In fact, the book’s whole schtick was that all the characters’ looks were based on the likenesses of actors, used with permission. Who else “starred” in Lost Heroes?

  • Kevin Eastman (TMNT)
  • Patricia Tallman (Babylon 5)
  • Jason Carter (Babylon 5)
  • Walter Koenig (that famous TV sci-fi series, and Babylon 5)
  • Peter Jurasik (Babylon 5)
  • Bill Mumy (that old TV sci-fi series, and Babylon 5)
  • Richard Biggs (Babylon 5)

…and more.

Hey, I’m detecting a pattern here…what TV show ended in 1998, leaving a whole bunch of actors with plenty of free time on their hands? Oh, right, Babylon 5.

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Now I want to dig out my back issues and re-visit the series…

Indie Cover Spotlight: Age of Heroes #1

Another long hiatus for ICS has ended. Let’s just jump into it with our look at covers for various independently published comics. Leading off this return is Age of Heroes #1:

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This fantasy series was written by James Hudnall and featured the artwork of John Ridgway. Hudnall self-published it through his Halloween Comics imprint in 1996. I think the venture folded by issue #3. There was a one-shot special later through Image, and I think at some point Hudnall finished the initial story arc in a TPB, but I lost track of the details.

Review: Space Pirate Captain Harlock (movie)

So brooding. So angsty.

Guardians of the…oops, wrong movie.

So I watched this 2013 Japanese CG animated movie on Netflix, totally on a whim. While I was aware of the existence of the Captain Harlock manga and anime, I had no exposure (or vested interest) in it. I’m pretty sure this slick remake/reboot differs quite a bit from the source material, but I’m going to review it based solely on my experience with the movie.

We used to be a lot cuter.

We used to be a lot cuter.

To put it succinctly: the animation was beautiful, the story was a hot mess.

So in the future, billions of humans have colonized space, but dwindling resources forces them all to return to earth. But since our world can’t possibly support all of them a huge war (known as the “Homecoming War”) breaks out for the privilege of return. Blah blah blah, a governmental body called the Gaia Sanction forms and declares Earth off-limits to everyone. Blah blah blah, alien race called the Nibelung, dark matter technology, Captain Harock and his dark matter ship the Arcadia, Gaia Sanction espionage, treachery, loyalty, angst, pseudo science, lots of futuristic jargon with the words “protocol” and “Jovian” and “oscillator” thrown about, ships blow up, people yell at each other, and then….

Well, I’m not sure. See, while there’s a beginning to the story, and what could pass for a middle, there’s no ending. It’s a complete and utter failure, where the motivations of both the protagonist and the antagonist (and the antihero) are completely forgotten or dropped, and there’s no clear resolution to anything The origin or purpose of the Nibelung? Harlock’s mission to reset the “Genesis Clock”? All forgotten. The narrative focus jumps around more than a faulty projector, random facts and events are thrown at the audience for no apparent reason, and…well, you get the point.

This is a script that could have used some serious, serious editing.

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The visuals, on the other hand, are very strong. I found the costumes, sets, and world building to be top notch. There’s a bit of steampunk sprinkled in with the slick future tech, and the weapons and armor and spaceships all look really well-designed and impressive.

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There’s lots of epic space battles that look good (but make zero sense if you stop to think about the logic of what’s happening). And I’ll admit, each time the Arcadia burst out of a cloud of dark matter “smoke,” it looked pretty bad-ass.

So in conclusion: great eye candy and entertaining in some ways, if you’re willing to turn off your brain, and not try to make sense of things.

Update 8/26: On Facebook, my friend Tony Goins asked the question “How does this fit with your essay from a while back, that not every story needs a beginning, middle and end?” Here was my answer:

Good question. I guess my feeling on that is the work as a whole needs to embrace that aesthetic for it to work. So for instance, it’s ok if it’s a Jim Woodring comic, or a Jim Jarmusch movie, or a Jack Kerouac book. But when you give me a very traditionally structured story, then in the 3rd act be all like “eff it, man, I don’t need an ending because ART!” that doesn’t work for me.

Maybe you can get away with that in some rare cases, like Christopher Nolan’s Inception. That movie was tightly plotted and hewed closely to the Hollywood 3-act paradigm, but it still left the audience with a very ambiguous ending. But it worked, because that ending tied in directly to the very theme of the movie, it’s whole DNA, about what exactly is “reality”?

But in the case of this movie, not only did it start out with a very traditional story structure, but it’s very look screams sci-fi action video game, a medium firmly rooted in beginning-middle-end storytelling.

Of related interest to this discussion: this article about the Chinese & Japanese 4-act (introduction, development, twist and reconciliation) plot structure called kishōtenketsu, which doesn’t rely on conflict to advance the narrative.

Review: Paris, Je T’aime (movie)

paris_movie-754580I really enjoyed Paris, Je T’Aime, a 2006 anthology movie featuring 18 vignettes set in (and inspired by) Paris. It features an ensemble cast of American, British and French actors (Bob Hoskins, Natalie Portman, Elijah Wood, the ubiquitous Gérard Depardieu, and many more) and directors (Alfonso Cuarón, Gus Van Sant, Wes Craven, Bruno Podalydès, The Coen Brothers, etc.)

As with any anthology, there are hits and misses, but the vast majority of the shorts were well done. A few of my favorites:

Parc Monceau – A conversation between Nick Nolte and a young woman, filmed in a single continuous shot, with a very clever, funny, and unexpected ending.

Loin du 16e – a heartbreaking piece about an immigrant nanny.

Quartier des Enfants Rouges – notable not so much for the story itself, but actress Maggie Gyllenhaal delivering her entire dialogue in French, with a great accent to boot.

14e arrondissement – a bittersweet story as told in broken French by a middle-aged American tourist (actress Margo Martindale, who went on to win an Emmy for her role as Mags Bennett on Justified, one of my favorite shows). She’s making a “book report” of sorts for her French class about her first trip abroad, and it’s simply emotive and quietly heartbreaking.

Watching the movie, it suddenly occurred to me that this is what a Lifelike movie would look like, were such a thing ever to come about. The individual films are all very short, 5-10 minutes each. And they’re filmed in a variety of styles and techniques.

The producers of this film followed it up with New York, I Love You in 2008, but I didn’t enjoy that one quite as much. It just didn’t have the same charm and ambiance, probably because I romanticize Paris way more than NYC.

Anyway, I highly recommend this movie.

(A version of this review originally appeared on my Ferret Press blog, January 2008.)