Saturday, April 28, 2012

Fans and followers, may I direct you to...

I'm very pleased to announce that I will now be a regular contributor for the (much larger) blog, This means UFN will be closing, but that I can still provide the same top-quality content with far less effort. Why? Because instead of being a writer, editor, graphic artist, chief cook and bottle washer, I can let all the other stuff drop and just focus on what matters most: Solid articles about the latest in science fiction. They get an experienced writer, I get a bigger audience... it's completely win/win for everybody.

So please follow me on over to the slick and groovy SciFi4Me where I will be doing my usual reviews and news, as well as live reporting from such events as Free Comic Book Day. Up, up and away!

Friday, April 6, 2012

Witchblade Rebirth: Jump in now!

Based on the artwork and reviews I've seen of Witchblade in the past, it seemed like little more than an excuse for a nearly-naked hot woman to be grasped in all her most intimate areas by some kind of arcane creature while they slice people up together, so I hadn't been interested in reading it at all.

So when I was at the Image show in February, I asked this question at the Top Cow booth: "What do you have that's urban fantasy but without blood and guts everywhere?" He handed me Witchblade: Unbalanced Pieces. The look on my face must have made my doubt clear, because he immediately started trying to sell me on it.

It worked.

It wasn't blood and guts, and it wasn't nearly as tawdry as I'd thought it was. Just as important, the "Top Cow Rebirth" series does not require readers to know the entire backstory and all the events of the main character's past. He described it as a jumping off point for new readers, and as a completely new reader to the series, I'd have to say that it works perfectly.

Mention is made of Sara Pezzini's past as a cop, which does come into play during the story arc a number of times. There's some violence and death, but it's not intestines for two pages followed by decapitations and assorted maimings. There's some hot scenes with a bit of fondling, but it's not Batman and Catwoman screwing on a rooftop. The amount of skin actually makes sense considering the circumstances, and Sara does make sure to mention that she's not thrilled about it.

Here we have a heroic, strong female character who's working hard to do the right thing. There's a lack of gratuitous evisceration, for which I'm very grateful. There's more skin than I would like (there's that male 18 to 30 demographic again), but it's not just for the sake of being slutty. There's a timeline at the back in case you want more information about the major events, and a little character "diary" for even more details.

If you've been thinking about giving Witchblade a try, this is the time to do it, starting with Unbalanced Pieces. From there, you can keep reading the new material as it comes out, and get some of the backlist as well if you choose. Overall, a good read with solid writing by Tim Seeley and beautiful art by Diego Bernard. Well done, Top Cow.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Adventure Time comic gets lost in translation

I'm a huge Adventure Time fan. It's a fantastic mashup between Where the Wild Things Are, Ren & Stimpy, Pee-Wee's Playhouse and Spongebob Squarepants with a little bit of adult suggestiveness thrown in. How they're getting away with saying things like "nobody's going to sack my nut palace" on what's supposedly a kid's show is beyond me. Which makes it three times as awesome at least.

I saw the comic at the Kaboom! Studios booth at WonderCon and knew I had to review it. My whole family loves the show, including my husband and 15-year old son. The comic, however, didn't work for me.

The faces people make, the body movements, the random things that happen, the little looks people give each other... the comedic timing is a lot of what makes the Adventure Time show work so well, and unfortunately there isn't much of it present in the comic simply because of the format. Comics are a static art form where a story is told in sequential panels without movement, or with implied movement only.

The comic does maintain much of the show's humor, including sight gags and the level of weirdness as far as things like people drinking other peoples' sweat unknowingly and undead snails. There are tiny little text gags in the margins that you have to hunt for and might miss the first time or two, which are awesome. The fact remains, however, that a huge amount of what I love about Adventure Time can only be found in a moving animated version with sound effects and vocal inflections. A static paper comic can't ever do all that.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Wendy and Lisa TOUCH a new wave of viewers

Wendy Melvoin and Lisa Coleman, the dynamic duo of television scoring, were recently part of the "Famous TV Theme Music" panel at WonderCon. Prior to the event, White Bear PR admitted a limited number of press to some roundtable interviews with the panelists, and UFN was part of that opportunity.

Here's a partial transcript from the roundtable (we didn't include the section about their work with Prince, which they get asked about every single time). Unfortunately we didn't catch the name of the gentleman who asked about Heroes -- sorry about that, whoever you are, it was a good question!

Urban Fantasy News: Trio of questions for you, all kind of inter-related. What is your process when you get a new show, when you get a new assignment?

Wendy: Process? The script first, then call the producer, set up a meeting, talk about what they have in mind and then the two of us go in with a whole bunch of ideas after that initial meeting.

Lisa: Usually in reading the script you might get an idea in your mind about what might be a good sound, or instruments to use in that particular script or story, depending on what it is. Then you bring that with you to the meeting and compare that to what maybe they were thinking because they usually have their ideas. And if they line up somewhat, or if they’re convinced that your idea’s really cool, they either say “great,” or “can you demo it for us.”

Wendy: I think the magic in that dynamic between us grabbing a script, coming up with an idea, and going and having that meeting is figuring out before we go ahead and blurt out what our idea is, is to just gently test the water to find out what ideas of theirs will work with the ideas we have, and then play off the things we know will work. The reason why we do that is because if it’s a project we want, that’s the important thing to try and hook in. If it’s a project we’re not crazy about, I don’t think we’re as invested in finding out what the exact overarching idea for them is. So that’s how the process begins, and then we have to take it away and hopefully we have more than a few days to come up with an idea.

UFN: Getting a little more specific, you’ve done music for Heroes, phenomenal job on that, by the way...

Wendy: Thank you.

UFN: I hear that you’ve just joined up with Touch, Tim Kring’s new show. How did you get involved with Touch?

Lisa: (laughter)

Wendy: We’ve done every Tim Kring show, so we’re sort of hooked up with him. So we’re kind of his musical mouthpiece, I guess you could say. For “go-to.”

Lisa: Luckily, and thankfully. When he first wrote the script he actually called us and said, “I have something that I want to send you, would you be interested?” Which was really funny...

Wendy: Ha ha.

Lisa: ...Of him to ask, because we’re like, “Of course!” So he sent us the script, and it was the pilot script, and it was so beautiful and amazing. The script itself, if you ever get a chance to just read it, besides seeing the actual show. The show was executed really well too, but...

Wendy: ...But the page was really great to read, and that’s why Kiefer Sutherland actually took the gig, was based on that script and how beautiful the read was.

Lisa: It’s a beautiful story and so amazing. And of course we really get along with Tim, and see things the same way as far as being experimental and trying to break molds and trying different things and still wanting it to be successful. So he’s a good guy to...

(Other interviewer): Speaking of Tim, I wanted to touch on Heroes. I wanted to go back in time here a little bit. How did you approach Heroes, because it’s more or less a superhero series. What was your approach and what was the musical statement you were trying to make with the show, if any?

Lisa: It’s a thing with Tim of not doing a typical... bumbumbum baaaaa... (sings the Superman theme)

Wendy: Action!

Lisa: Which is great, and I love those kinds of action movies and everything, but... also, the way Tim writes is so emotionally-based.

Wendy: There’s a lot of more subjective text.

Lisa: Yeah, these humans who are figuring out or finding out... discovering these powers they had. So it was more like... let’s take a look at how that might be hard for some people, not necessarily a heroic adventure that they go on, but more of a strange sort of... “oh no, I don’t know that I’m okay with this.” And Claire... in a way it was teenage suicides over and over, which is really kind of strange if you think about it. She’s jumping off bridges and catching on fire and it’s like... why are you doing this to yourself? So we just approached the score completely opposite. We had that one cue – we used to do interviews about this a lot – the "Fire and Regeneration" cue that ended up being a template for the show because it went the opposite direction. Super languid and beautiful. So when you came to these action moments and put that up against it, it changed your experience.

Wendy: Your orientation of it.

Lisa: Yeah, it became more subjective as opposed to visceral and adrenaline. It was more like in your mind, a dream experience. That was the approach with that.

UFN: Since we’re still on Heroes for a bit, could you give us a comparison for what it’s like to work on Heroes versus Touch. They both have similar “we’re all connected” and international themes, but at the same time Heroes has a much larger cast and more mythical superpower stuff. Touch is a much smaller intimate cast...

Wendy: Yes!

UFN: ...And you have to stay away from that sound, you can’t just do Heroes all over again.

Wendy: No. And we’re not. Absolutely not. I’ll tell you what, we were asked the same question just the other day, and I think they’re approached completely different. Heroes was much more languid and pad-oriented and evocative and ethereal. Not a lot of time signature stuff except for the Hiro and Ando characters, that was the only thing that had a lot of time signature stuff to it. Touch, because of what the story is about, it’s about communicating through numbers and theories and...

Lisa: Connectivity through patterns.

Wendy: Right. We use time signatures, and a lot of time signatures in the score on this. So if you listen carefully enough, you’ll hear that difference. The shows are so different, and the ways they’re being done are so different, it’s not hard to kind of conform to what it needs. I don’t see it as “how do we not do that again?” I don’t see it as being a problem. It’s made itself really clear what we need to do to it. And we’re only four episodes into composing so it still has legs to find.

Lisa: The thing is that it’s being told initially through the kid who doesn’t speak, so it’s his internal voice, so we try to make the sounds really small, but not cute. In fact, there’s been a conscious effort even with some of the shots that were done in the show. There was one scene that Tim just told us about with a dog in one of the episodes and the dog just went up to the kid actor as they were shooting and sniffed at the kid, and the kid petted the dog, and they were like “That’s great! What a great shot!” But they ended up cutting that, because it was cute. Too cute. And the show can’t go there, because it’ll tip it into a place it doesn’t belong. So with the score, even though we’re using small sounds and even bells and things like that, we’re making it really small and super rhythmic, not too pretty or emotional, even though there are beautiful moments. You have to see it, because hopefully we’re finessing it just so, so that it’s interesting and personal without being cute.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Batman, Superman and other Hollywood Legends up for sale

Ever feel the need to own the original Batman Returns costume from the 1992 movie, featuring Michael Keaton? How about an authentic, screen worn Superman IV costume worn by Christopher Reeve? The latest offers from Julien's Auctions includes both these iconic items and a lot more.

This huge "Hollywood Legends" auction, being held March 31 and April 1, is so massive that the catalog is over 400 pages long, and the sale is broken into multiple sessions. Julien's, located in Beverly Hills, is the same auction house that recently handled the Michael Jackson personal effects sale, and are known for their famous lots of this nature, including the dresses of Princess Diana, photographs and personal effects of Marilyn Monroe, and the ephemera of the rich and famous.

I've personally purchased items from Julien's, and the staff is absolutely professional and pleasant. They will hold oversized items for pickup as well, should you decide to buy one of the life-sized mannequins or oversized props in this sale.

Another major section of this sale are props and costumes from the perennial favorite TV show Eureka. The catalog includes 83 lots, such as an electronic cast worn by Wil Wheaton (it lights up!), petrified character statues, and enough electronic devices to start your own freaky research lab.

Maybe you're more of a film history buff? No problem. Bid on Charlie Chaplin's bowler hat and bamboo cane, the screen-used Ten Commandments tablets, Clark Gable's Gone With the Wind riding jacket, Abbott and Costello's arctic parkas from their 1952 film Lost in Alaska, Jor-El's robe from Superman: The Movie, Princess Leia's wig, Morpheus' dojo jacket from the Matrix, and far too much more to list here.

Feeling more fashionable? Julien's is also offering dresses from Whitney Houston and Princess Diana, as well as a large number of dresses and other personal effects from Rue McClanahan. Or, pick up some furniture from the Puerto Vallarta home of Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton.

If you just want to ogle, there's a free public exhibition of many items starting Monday, March 19 at their Wilshire Blvd. address. For complete information and an online clickable catalog, visit their website, What's your favorite item?

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Last of the Greats is pretty great

One of the great things about going to a show like the Image Comic Expo is that you get to see a lot of truly new, different and creative comics. Somehow, somewhere, I got handed issue #1 of Last of the Greats, and am I glad that happened. This one’s a keeper that I need to see the rest of.

It’s often difficult to review a comic and let you know why it’s so good without giving away the surprises. In Last of the Greats, there are a lot of them in these beautiful, ad-free, 32 pages. There’s not a lot of action, but the twists and turns and reversals of what you think is going to happen continually shock and amaze. The first issue sets up all the back story without making readers go through seeing every detail of the back story, making for an interesting setup.

The twist ending of issue #1 is perfect. It turns a completely hateable character (even, perhaps, a heartless monster) into someone completely different, and one you really want to know more about when it’s done. Grab this Image limited series while you can.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Marineman: Good clean fun for everyone

I liked Marineman a lot more than I thought I would, to be honest. The cover looks like your classic old-school superhero comic book, and a little part of me went “yeah, so what?” But I’m glad I cracked this Eisner-nominated title open, because there’s a lot more there than meets the eye.

The characters are likeable, even the bad guys, who aren’t entirely bad guys. It has a feel-good vibe throughout, including the classic style of the art, which is enhanced with excellent color work and modern coated printed pages.

The basic premise is, “What if a television naturalist, like Steve Irwin, could secretly breathe underwater?” So basically we’ve got a very charismatic Aquaman meets Captain America meets Steve Irwin, with some very interesting elements thrown in to spin a tale that left me wanting more. The six-issue arc ends with someone saying, “At last, finally... phase two can begin!” I found myself saying aloud, “Phase two? What happens next?!”

I sincerely hope there is a Volume Two to this enjoyable comic that’s rated E for Everyone. You don’t need tons of violence and sex to have a wonderful comic for the masses. It's about the people, not the powers, and creator Ian Churchill gets it. Clearly the Eisner Awards committee agrees.