So here goes. You can listen to this lovely, goosebump-inducing score by Hans Zimmer as you go:
I have to say, I’m pretty proud of my buddy Josh.
He’s in the midst of what he’s calling a ‘Man of Steel’ media blackout. Essentially, he’s avoiding anything having to do with the ‘Man of Steel’ movie until it opens June 14. No trailers, no stills, no samples of the epic Hans Zimmer score, no reviews.
He’s gone Geek Amish.
I’ve been cheering him on the last few days via Twitter, giving him a day-by-day countdown ’til the film’s release that parallels an imagined pre-flight check for the flying Boy Scout before he launches himself into the clouds.
Because here’s the thing, I think Josh’s blinders are up for a good reason. He wants a clean slate heading into the film. That’s commendable. Superman’s important to him, same as he is to a lot of geeks. And when it comes to a nerd’s favorite heroes, the greater appreciation they have for them, the loftier the expectations they have of a film. That’s why ‘Green Lantern’ was such a bummer for me. More like ‘Great Letdown.’
When it comes to the pantheon of my comic book favorites, my feelings about Superman are difficult to explain. He’s not my favorite. He just squeezes into the top 7.
But there’s something about nailing his origin story/character in ‘Man of Steel’ that’s become worrisome for me, more than any cape flick I’ve geared up for. I have such a narrow view on who Superman should be, and it’s a tough nut to crack. How do you make someone so strong and noble so vulnerable and lonely at the same time?
And that might be the characteristic about Superman that sets him apart. Of all the heroes, he’s the most open to interpretation. Whether he’s seen as an archetype for Jesus – and no, I’m not being flippant; whole books have been written on the subject – an alien trying to fit among a different species or just a surface level good-versus-evil poster child, there really is something for everybody in there.
I think people like Josh and I are just hoping our visions are included. This goes beyond hoping the filmmakers don’t screw it up. We – at least, I – want to feel our interpretation of this timeless character is shared.
My job at the Mail Tribune has mutated since I started. Think Spider Man, Ninja Turtles, X-Men; that kind of mutation. A complete 180, as far as cliches go.
I was hired two years ago to do web stuff. Make videos. Make multimedia content. Make surveys. Cover breaking news. Tweet. Facebook. Etc.
Then a few months goes by and I’ve got the county government beat, along with a lot of crime stories. A lot went into that equation. Newsrooms were not intelligently designed. I don’t say that in a derogatory way. I mean that they are bona fide products of evolution. Responsibilities change, all that.
There’s also been a lot of crime in Jackson County lately. A lot. Armed robberies. Drugs. Arson. And when it comes to local government, there’s always a ton to write about.
I don’t have as much time to devote to web stuff now. Well, until this week.
We’re trying something different with the Medford School Board candidate races. Bossman Bob Hunter wrote a fine bit about it here. Essentially, in addition to our “black ‘n white” coverage, we’re also adding some color. The candidates for all three up-for-grab positions will make their case on video, and that’ll be on our site. Viewers will have several videos to look at, broken down by position and question, with each candidate response included verbatim.
They’ll start arriving on our site tomorrow.
I hope it’s a useful service. I think a lot of non-verbal communication gets lost in the printed word. Readers don’t see tone, volume and a lot of other things. I think these videos will help with that.
Anyway, back to it. Video number 7 just finished rendering.
I think we’ve all needed a little Superman this week.
Between the Boston Marathon bombings that killed three and injured hundreds and the almost-unreal explosion at a Texas fertilizer plant that killed 15, I wonder how many folks across the U.S. – comic readers and non-comic readers a like – wish he’d appeared in a flash of red at both sites to save the day.
For me, that thought and hope was only enabled further by the most recent trailer for the upcoming ‘Man of Steel’ movie that’s coming out in June.
Then we reach today. Exactly 75 years ago, the Last Son of Krypton first appeared on the front of Action Comics No. 1, lifting a car over his head while explosions bloomed and bad guys panicked. He’s endured as the iconic and pivotal superhero since. Doesn’t matter if he’s your favorite or not, there’s unflinching respect for him as a character among comic book readers the way ‘The Godfather’ or ‘Citizen Kane’ is revered among film buffs.
Is it coincidental that the week for such great tragedy is also the week we’re exposed to so much of this fictional character? Yes, probably.
But it doesn’t change the fact that many of us have needed him just the same.
So basically, those who read into situations like these – myself included – could say there seems to be some mysterious connection between Medford and Dreamworks Animation, located in Redwood City, Calif. Why the connection? Who knows. Coincidence? Probably. Atheists would say there doesn’t have to be a reason for everything. What is sometimes just, well, is. The appendix is part of the large intestine. No definitive reason, but there you go.
Honestly though, I don’t care about trying to find reasons. Yes, there probably are none; beyond the fact that Medford – heck, this whole valley – has an astounding amount of artistic talent, enough to where we can ship off the occasional citizen to a place like Dreamworks Animation.
It’s time I stopped lying to myself, to you. We need to go our separate ways for awhile.
We both know I deserve better. At some point you have to stop deluding yourself into thinking second-rate is OK, especially where my money is concerned.
I guess to really understand how this happened, one would have to talk about that defining moment where they realized staying in a relationship wasn’t the right option anymore. They stay in it because it was familiar; any existence outside of it was scary, unpredictable.
Then that epiphany hits them and they utter a quiet “Oh.”
For me, that “Aha” moment was the closure of “our place.” Iguana Comics in Medford. We’d rendezvous there at least once a week. Remember the excitement on Wednesdays when new issues would be released? I’d head there during lunch and walk away happy.
Then I got this notification via Facebook:
“We can no longer deficit spend in order to keep this location open, we’ll be closing the doors on Feb 26th. This store has lost money every month it has been open. We apologize for missing books, there simply wasn’t enough funding to keep up the orders.”
And with that, so many other indicators that I should have taken a leave of absence from you fell into place.
* Neat, original yarns like DC’s “Frankenstein: Agent of Shade” and “Deathstroke”…cut.
* Crossover titles. Everywhere. If I want to get one complete story, I have to buy six books. That’s absurd.
* I only have so much room. I have six long boxes of single issue comics and counting in my closet. My wife, God love her, can only stand so much. One more box and I’m afraid I’ll find that “I’m at my mother’s. Don’t call” note.
* The writer that got me into this is leaving my favorite title. Yep. Geoff Johns, chief creative officer and Green Lantern scribe at DC comics is moving on to even greener pastures (didn’t know that was possible). He’ll be helming Justice League of America, one of those crossover titles requiring readers to buy all the individual character’s books on top of every regular issue to understand the story’s full context.
And listen, the argument of me being fairweather holds zero weight. I’ve been a loyal reader for years, never breaking routine. It’s time to take a step back and think things over.
I’m not saying this is the ultimate end. It’s not. I’m just going to put the money I normally would spend on US aside. In time, I’ll have a tablet, preferably a Nook, and slowly, I’ll start picking titles up again and read them via screen. No more boxes. No more issue protectors. No more tape. No more lost room. Easier re-reads.
It’s time I treated myself to the 2.0 version of you.
Former Medford resident Matt Heverly starts his work day the same way many professionals do, by checking email.
But the most important message, the one he looks forward to each day, isn’t your typical “remember-to-fill-out-your-timecard” request or “there-are-cookies-in-the-break-room” announcement. It’s not even from a human being.
It’s from a robot, one that’s trundling slowly across the scarred, rusty surface of Mars over 200 million miles away. It name is Curiosity, and it checks in with Heverly twice a day. In the morning, Heverly gets bombarded with data: pictures of the Martian landscape, movements, composition of analyzed soil samples, etc.
Then based on that, other NASA scientists tell Heverly and other engineers, essentially, what they’d like the robot to do next. These engineers translate that “honey-do” list into lines of code and send it back into space.
Heverly, who lived in Medford during his elementary school years, is responsible for “driving” this $2.5 billion project, one built to explore the possibilities of past life on Mars.
“That we all paid for,” Heverly’s father, Mike, said at a recent presentation at the Rogue Valley Manor. “We built it, we paid for it, but we let this guy drive it.”
The Mail Tribune will run stories on Heverly’s job and the Curiosity Rover this Sunday. I’d encourage you to pick it up.
As it drifted through space, you think it saw that asteroid that crashed in Russia today?
It’s the fourth such story I’ve done on the innovative competition in the past four years, one that forces high school teams from around the world to throw their own disc-throwing, pyramid-climbing Johnny 5 together in six frantic weeks. The Oregon/SW Washington regional competition is set for early March.
An email I received the day the story ran reminded me of a key – maybe forgotten – reason why this type of opportunity can be so important for science-minded youth. Here’s a bit of what it said Note the bold section:
I have read your article in today’s paper regarding the Ashland High School students involved in robots and want to share a couple of thoughts. Our son, Matt Heverly, is an engineer at JPL in Pasadena. He is a robotic designer and the lead rover driver for Curiosity, the robotic science laboratory on Mars.
Can you put me in contact with (the team’s coach) to see if he might be interested in listening to Matt’s presentation or contacting him for a possible Skype interaction with these young robotic students?
I, of course, forwarded the email on to the team. I hope this meeting gets set up. If it does, this group of teens will get to chat with someone who has similar interests and dragged that passion around with him until it paid off in full. “Curiosity” is a household name now.
I covered education in Klamath Falls before moving here, and I have to tell you, to know a meeting like this could take place in the middle of so many cuts to public school budgets is encouraging. The administrative types may not appear to give a damn about shaping and molding the next generation of Steve Jobs-es and Albert Einsteins, but individuals like the man above clearly do.
And it’s not just him. These students received grants from NASA and several local businesses. They have mentors lining up to help and offer advice.
This group of robot-building lads and lasses is surrounded by knowledgeable encouragement on all sides, and they should milk it with all their might.
We all have an old, suspender-wearing guy living inside us.
He’s the one who’s lived in the same house his whole life and complains about how quiet and ordered it all used to be before his neighborhood got paved streets and a stop light; before all the damn fool kids got phones that can make talkies.
His name is Theo.
I found out about Theo during the Christmas season when I bought my wife her first iPad.
She was overwhelmed, truly grateful. She uses it all the time. It was a good gift for a 20-something. The monsters we encountered throughout our travels to visit family in Colorado and Texas reminded me why.
On the plane, in the airport, waiting outside on the curb to be picked up; it didn’t matter. The brats were everywhere. They were an army of Gollums, shrieking and crying when the Precious wasn’t in their sweaty, Muppet-y paws, and getting their snot and fingerprints all over it when it was.
That kind of “when-I-was-your-age” observation is not the only thing Theo’s taken notice of lately. The Den of Geek has evolved going into 2013, sometimes for the better, which Theo will acknowledge with a small, approving nod. Other times, he throws up his hands and mutters about how it used to be and starts screaming at little kids for owning iPads.
Here are just a few things for the bespectacled to take note of:
There are glimmers of “Blade Runner”-caliber science fiction in our midst.
It’s a year my dad, the Godfather of Sci-fi Fans, is undoubtedly grateful for. IO9 just released a list of 77 sci-fi movies and fantasy movies to watch out for in 2013. A bulk of them look questionable. Single-word titles like “Oblivion” and “Elysium,” the uber-political allegory tale directed by “District 9″ wunderkind Neill Blomkamp more than make up for it. The giant-robots-versus-subterranean-monsters tale of “Pacific Rim” also has Theo drooling.
The cherry on top? Iconic franchises like Superman, Thor, Iron Man and Star Trek are returning.
And did I mention a film adaptation of “Ender’s Game,” one of the best science fiction novels in modern history? Don’t get me wrong, Theo’s terrified of the potential for screwing up the story of a genius child and his futuristic combat training to take on an insectoid race of aliens. Still, fingers crossed.
Superhero flick reboots just won’t wait.
One of the best and elegant takes on a superhero ended in 2012 with the final installment in Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight Trilogy.
The franchise, which kicked off in 2005 with “Batman Begins” and ended last July with “The Dark Knight Rises,” was a success, commercially and from a critical standpoint; blockbusters with brain power.
And guess what? They’re going to give it another go. Warner Brothers is most likely going to reboot Batman as a lead-in to a Justice League movie, obviously piggybacking on the success of Marvel’s “Avengers.”
Theo’s take: give it a friggin rest, man. Spider Man had barely taken a bow on his pathetic third arc when the dull, emotional remake that was “Amazing Spider Man” came along. Now this. There needs to be a rule, a Constitutional Amendment BANNING franchise reboots for at least 15 years. Let a generation have its classics.
THEO PLEADS THE FIFTH
Smaller comic book publishers are the tortoises in the comic book quality race.
Theo is a straight-laced DC Entertainment man with Marvel Comics tendencies. It’s no secret those two publishers – the Big 2 – pull the majority of sales year after year in close 1-2 races. They own all the iconic titles, so that makes sense.
But there’s a quiet quality that’s been brewing for years and just keeps growing, tiny step after tiny step. Where the Big 2 have rebooted all their titles – reboots again – to hook new readers with the New 52 and Marvel NOW initiatives, Image Comics has not. The publisher of “Spawn” has been doing some really good stuff this past year. The 100th issue of “Walking Dead” had the best sales record of any single comic book for 2012; 366,000 copies. That’s truly unbelievable.
It’s the kind of thing the Big 2 need to keep an eye on. Yes, they have their core audience. They have the names everyone recognizes.
Image, meanwhile, seems to be nailing it when it comes to new, exciting content that’s not limited to superhero books. Titles like “Chew,” “Fatale,” and “Saga” are growing sizable fan bases. That’s because they’re not recycling.
They’re strengthening longstanding titles and coming up with solid new ones. They’re focused on the story, and really, that’s all that matters.
Fact: While living in Klamath Falls, I interviewed a high school student who waited in line 16 hours for the sixth ‘Harry Potter’ film’s midnight premiere.
That’s 8 a.m. to midnight in the same lawn chair. Nice kid. Steroid-strong passion for the young adult fantasy series that’s yielded millions of thick books that can double as bricks in a pinch. His sister put leftover Chinese food in Tupperware for him. He also had a Nintendo DS for when the button mashing urges got strong.
Truth time: He was insane.They all were.
“They” being the masses that joined him dressed like the pupils of Hogwarts: high school students, adults, parents, smokers, non-smokers, introverts, extroverts, bookworms, variety packs. They compared Dark Mark tattoos and had wizard’s duels with handcrafted wands and knew all the made up words.
I’m not withholding judgment because there’s no judgment to withhold. I admire these folks. It’s EASY to clam up and try and find mainstream acceptance through faux-apathy; to be a true-blue fan of something and just about shriek with glee the moment it’s MENTIONED makes you genuine, genuine because there are just too many things in the world to NOT be interested in at least one of them.
Which brings us to now, just days before the release of the the first installment in the J.R.R. Tolkien-adapted ‘The Hobbit’ trilogy that serves as a prequel to ‘Lord of the Rings.’
You want to talk about conniption-inducing subjects? ‘The Hobbit’ and ‘Lord of the Rings’ are pretty close to the top of my list, just below comics and one or two rungs up from Denver Broncos football. And honestly, it should be higher. It should be king. It was my gateway drug, after all. My dad read it to me when I was six years old. I’ve read it five or six times since then.
Then there was the demented Rankin & Bass cartoon. Remember this?
I have to imagine this passion exists for at least a dozen others who will undoubtedly be in line at Tinseltown for “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey” late Thursday night. The folks who quote passages, have lengthy discussions on the mythology, argue over story interpretations, etc.
Just an FYI for parents who bring their kids: don’t be scared of these folks. They’re completely harmless. They want an escape just like you. The only difference is that if the opportunity presented itself, they’d leave this place and jump through the screen into Tolkien’s rich, fantastic world, never look back.
I did, the beginning at least. My wife pulled me outside and pointed it out to me. Clouds crept across the silver-white glow as the temporary fade began; a mustache – or eyebrow, I suppose, depending on your position – that came and went.
Those free Nature’s IMAX features are fun to watch for a little bit, but I’m learning to hate them, too. In the newsroom, whenever there is a slew of over-caffeinated mayhem in the area, we tend to “blame” it on the moon, usually on a full one or an eclipse. This week’s been no different.
Point is, we’ve been plenty busy. Do I think, absolutely, that the eclipse is to blame? No. Do I wonder about the connection from time to time? I’m imaginative and speculative enough to say yes. Not that that’s not completely insane.
But give me a break. We are 15 days out from the Apocalypse, after all. At least that’s the story folks who don’t take two minutes to look at Wikipedia are stuck with. The Mayans, ancient peoples who probably knew about the aforementioned lunar eclipse in great detail – they were the NASA of ancient civilizations; true story – said the world isn’t actually ending. Whatever deity they believed in is essentially hitting the F5 key. Or something.
Still, the idea that the undead will rise up and swarm over the planet like fleas, or that an asteroid will shred the atmosphere and do a cannonball into the Pacific Ocean that yields a miles-high tidal wave is much more exciting. Eclipses suddenly become something more than temporary, lovely reminders of how vast and amazing our universe is, mutating into harbingers of tragedy instead. If we choose to look at it that way. Or maybe we just can’t help thinking this is all just going to fade out someday soon, despite assurances from the U.S. government that Dec. 21, 2012 is not that day.
Still, despite the logic, these over-the-top non-possibilities are embedded deep in my brain box, latched on tight with quality ice axes and hooks.
“There’s too much nifty stuff coming up,” these parasitic thoughts whisper at times. “The ‘Deathstroke’ comic just got a new writer/artist team. ‘The Hobbit’ is coming out in theaters. You and your wife are heading out to Colorado Dec. 22! Dwell on this nightmarish fantasy that you’ll never get to experience any of it! Enable this Mayan Apocalypse garbage!”
So I do, albeit occasionally. I’ll glance at the sky and wonder what it would look like if the whole thing was burning while swarms of red-eyed undead overran city streets below; because my imaginative side is just that hyperactive. My rational side typically mumbles in these moments and gets shouted down.
But then my imaginative side’s espresso/Four Loko buzz wears off, and it takes a nap.
This is a blog for southern Oregonians to check in on all things geek. Sci-fi, history, comics, movies, video/photo and anything else that would have gotten you shut in a locker in high school. Have fun. Read Full