Sunday, July 24, 2005
Weekend Comic Book Blogging
1)Jim Aparo, 1932-2005
Not quite up there with a pop culture icon like James "Scotty" Doohan, the passing of comic book artist Jim Aparo earlier last week shouldn't go unmentioned. Fan favorites such as Neal Adams, Frank Miller and Marshall Rogers may have made their standout marks on Batman. But for a generation who grew up reading the Caped Crusader in the '70s and '80s, Aparo was the Batman artist. Indeed, he drew over a 100 issues of the Bat-team title Brave And The Bold.
Aparo wasn't ever seen as "cool", but he had a wonderfully clean style and a natural sense of storytelling. His style also seemed perfect for a character nicknamed the "Darknight Detective." He was also the main artist on the previously mentioned psycho-Spectre stories of the mid-'70s.
An excellent appreciation -- written just a few years ago as Aparo essentially retired from the business -- can be found here. Some cool covers and panel art are included.
2) Finally, saw Fantastic Four last weekend. And, generally speaking, I liked it. Indeed, my major objections to it are from the basic plot set-up that had been revealed in advance -- arch-enemy Victor von Doom is on the same experimental space-rocket along with the future FF. This fits in with a problem that I have noticed before: The apparent cinematic need for the villain to have a key role in the hero's origins. Maybe it's to dumb things down for the audience, but once you notice it, it becomes really repetitive.
That said, the story was pretty straightforward with a somewhat strained, yet believable-under-the-conventions-of-the-medium modern updating of the team's origin. I found myself liking all the performances -- except Ioan Grufford as Reed "Mr. Fantastic" Richards. I never took him seriously as a guy who is supposed to be super-smart. Yes, it's also hard to take Jessica Alba as genetic scientist Sue "Invisible Woman" Storm. But, she at least a compensating personality and other, um, "assets." No, I'm not trying to be sexist here. Grufford's a good-looking guy, but he just doesn't bring anything to the role (Grufford, though, does benefit from great CGI special effects in demonstrating his stretching powers).
In contrast, Chris Evans as Johnny Storm, AKA "The Human Torch," is both a pretty-boy actor who manages to come across as both an arrogant jerk and an engaging character enjoying has transformation into a living ball of fire. Similarly, Mike Chiklis's Ben Grimm/The Thing captures the gruffness and poignancy found in the original Lee/Kirby years.
(Possible SPOILER question here:
Doesn't von Doom's machine that switches The Thing back to his old self -- which Grimm voluntarily reverses to save the team -- also have the ability to switch him again? Movie left that unclear.)
Anyway, the conclusion left no doubt that there would be a sequel -- given that a boat is seen heading for von Doom's homeland of Latveria (in the comics, he rules the small Eastern European nation). If that is a real set up for a likely FFII, it may actually be better. When von Doom is removed from his regal trappings -- as he was in this movie -- he comes across as an ersatz version of the Norman Osborne seen in the first Spider-Man movie: One more powerful technology mogul gone evil. As my friend Ali says, Julian McManhon's "Doom" is just not interesting -- and the best Marvel movies of the last few years (the aforementioned Spider-Man flicks and X-Men) have very good villains that make for intriguing counterbalances with the heroes.
That's what makes FF an OK film, better than what most critics have said, but with room for much improvement in the inevitable follow-ups.
UPDATE: Oh, how could I forget my slightly more in-depth review of William Eisner's final work? Find that right here.