Thursday, January 29, 2009


A while back, the fine folks at Moonstone asked me to contribute a vampire short story to their upcoming prose anthology. I didn't have a vampire story in mind other than Dead Inspector, a property Top Cow's Filip Sablik and I have been slowly working on for a million years now. What's more, it had been ages since I wrote a fictional prose story and I didn't know if I could do it as quickly as they needed. It seemed pretty daunting.

So, of course, I said, "Sure!"

I'm actually happy with "Vampire Hunter Dean," the story of a HVAC repairman from Dormont, PA who unitentionally discovers that vampires are real and they don't like Carson Daly any more than the rest of us do...

Some of the rest of the folks working on the prose collection mightnot have been as fast as me, I gather, because the book is due to come out... but my Antiques: The Comic Strip collaborators, Brendon and Brian Fraim, read the story and were game to try it as a comic...

We'll have a seven-page teaser story in the Zombie-Proof one-shot, and then a Vampire Hunter Dean one-shot later in the year (not a lot later, I think). More soon.

Friday, January 23, 2009

REVIEW: Gran Torino

It is difficult to find the right combination of words to describe just how good a film Gran Torino is, but that’s no excuse for not trying. Here goes:

Clint Eastwood, in what he says may be his last acting role, plays Walt Kowalski, a retired automotive worker and Korean War veteran, who has seen his neighborhood transformed – mostly for the worse – by the realities of white flight and the influx of lower income immigrants.

Immediately the viewer is caught up by Kowalski’s smoldering distaste for the shallow eulogy offered by the parish’s young priest (in what turns out to be a superb coming-of-age performance by Christopher Carley) and the lack of decorum demonstrated by his grandchildren in failing to show respect for their departed grandmother. He clearly has a strained, at best, relationship with his own children, who he holds at a distance and views as spoiled and self-serving.

Similar disdain is held for his neighbors, two Hmong teens, Thao (Bee Vang) and his older sister, Sue (Ahney Her), who live next door to Walt with their mother and grandmother.

Through Walt’s constant and simmering contempt for the situation as a whole, much of his world view becomes clear, or at least so it seems. What changes everything is when Thao is confronted by a Hispanic gang and “rescued” by a Hmong gang led by his cousin Spider (Doua Moua).

Spider and his compatriots badger Thao into joining them. His initiation, they say, will be easy. Simply steal Walt’s prized 1972 Ford Gran Torino. Of course it wouldn’t be a Clint Eastwood film if Walt didn’t interrupt the robbery with the rifle he carried in the Korean War. From there, events spiral in unexpected ways.

Walt, who clearly carries many of the prejudices of his era – and frequently says things that many think but don’t give voice to – finds himself in the middle of a fight he didn’t ask for... but one he won’t run away from. Despite what the character himself would say, the viewer finds that there are many layers to the man and that his moral sensibility is far in excess of his reality.

Gran Torino is the finest film I have seen in many years. It tosses out the political correctness and portrays Walt Kowalski how he is rather than how he should be, and it becomes a superb study of humanity’s high and low points by doing so. It meets head-on the loneliness that time and change can bring, and it weighs and measures idealism against experience, benign prejudice against racism, and what a man says against what he does.

Across the board, the performances are solidly grounded and beautifully delivered. The choice of shots, photography, and editing are superior. The script must have been an awesome thing to behold and only made better by this master director.

How did Eastwood give such a great performance as an actor and get such performances out of the rest of the cast as a director? I don’t know, and it doesn’t matter. He did.

Monday, January 12, 2009

REVIEW: 24 Season Premiere

It's been a long wait, but it was worth it. As we saw in the prequel telefilm, 24: Redemption, which aired mostly as a teaser prior to the start of Season (or Day) 7, fans of the program were more than ready for agent Jack Bauer to return.

When the Writer's Guild of America strike was looming last year, the producers wisely dedcied that due to the real-time nature of the show, it would be foolish to continue until they knew whether they could compelte a full seasn (24 has for the the few seasons been shown without re-runs).

Some wondered whether or not Jack would weather the twin storms of public fickleness and showbiz circumstance, but he clearly has.

Now he's off and running in what has been, through four episodes, been an incredible start. Action, adventure, conferences at the White House, you name it, the show is definitely back up to power.

Great action, good acting, very nice to see the show out of Los Angeles, and it's all beautifully photographed. Using the Washington, DC backdrop, it's an amazing show. Just the way we like it.

REVIEW: The Spirit

Okay, so I'm a bit late with this one.

I am probably one of three people in North America who not only liked The Spirit, I really liked it. I have to admit, that's partially because I like the underdog, and flat out this is a movie that most of the critics simply don't get. That's okay, of course, because even most superhero fans don't get The Spirit in comic book form either.

When Will Eisner created Denny Colt, also known as The Spirit, he wasn't doing a mean-spirited send-up of the superhero genre, but he was indeed tweaking some of its then-current standards, and a certain number of them haven't changed over the years. The Spirit was like the Timex character: he took a licking and kept on ticking. He was dogged, determined and a man's man, but he also wore a silly little mask that stopped anyone from knowing he was Denny Colt. The very notion was ridiculous, which clearly is what Eisner must have thought of many of the superhero secret identities that were already the norm for the Golden Age heroes by the time the Spirit first bowed.

In other words, the Spirit is semi-serious, and semi-silly. It's a hard road to walk. Frank Miller, who wrote and directed this highly stylized, campy-action hybrid, knew and related well to Eisner. He knew that Eisner wasn't interested in seeing some paint-by-numbers version of his own work.

In fact, it's probably important to point out, that Eisner recounted more than once in my presence -- and it's not like I knew him that well -- that he was thrilled with the different interpretations of his character when Kitchen Sink was publishing The Spirit - The New Adventures.

This is important to how I see the criticism of this film. There are two camps. The movie critics who don't get it, and the self-appointed arbiters of superhero purity, who also don't get it.

The critics, who frequently just cough up what the critic before them said, just don't fully understand costumed heroes yet. Sure, they can understand the box office successes in terms of dollars, but they can't tell us why something is cool, why it resonates or doesn't. They only understand the mold, and The Spirit doesn't fit.

The self-appointed purity police are even worse. I've actually heard complaints that this wasn't a pure adaptation of Eisner's work on The Spirit. My advice to them is to take the money they would have spent on their next movie and purchase a clue instead. If you don't like the movie, fine, just fine, but don't suggest that it's because Miller didn't do a true version of the Spirit.

Denis Kitchen, Eisner's longtime friend, publisher and agent, could probably tell us oodles about what Will Eisner would have thought. Other than him, I really don't want to hear from anyone proclaiming to know what the grand master of the graphic novel would have thought about his old creation hitting the silver screen.

The film is indeed highly stylized. I would have been happier never seeing The Octopus's face, but Sameul L. Jackson was hysterically funny and menacingly crazy. The Spirit and the various femme fatales (and their Eisner-created names) were likewise over the top. Why it worked, for me, was that the characters -- even with all their silliness, never stopped to point out what they were doing.

This is not my finest review. I have a lot of random thoughts flying around my head, but this was a fun film. On the other hand, if you can't take Adam West Batman because he isn't "the real Batman," pass on it.

And, you know, get some help.

Friday, January 09, 2009

NYCC: Vampire, Werewolf, and Zombie Round Table Panel

New York Comic-Con: Vampire, Werewolf, and Zombie Round Table Panel
Saturday, February 7, 2009
6:30 PM to 7:30 PM
Room 1A21
"Vampires, werewolves, and zombies have haunted the human imagination since pre-history. Even now in the 21st century, these creatures of the night continue to cause shivers to race down our spine. Explore what makes us love to be afraid in this chilling, thrilling panel! Panelists include Dr. Arnold T. Blumberg, Curator of Geppi’s Entertainment Museum, co-author Zombiemania, and Andrew Hershberger, Registrar of Geppi’s Entertainment Museum, co-author Zombiemania."

The panel also includes yours truly, J.C. Vaughn, author of Zombie-Proof.

For more information on the show, click here.

REVIEW: Dead Irons #1

I had a chance this week to preview Dead Irons #1, the first issue in a new horror-western mini-series from Dynamite Entertainment written by Jim Kuhoric, writer of Freddy vs. Jason vs. Ash (I think they should have added vs. Hilary vs. Ghandi vs. Mechagodzilla, but maybe that's just me) and Army of Darkness, illustrated by Jason Shawn Alexander, and art directed by Jae Lee, most recently known for Marvel's adaptation of Steven King's The Stand.
It's not too late to get your retailer to increase his or her orders for this, but you don't have long. It goes on sale at the end of February. There are a lot of comics competing for rack space and more importantly for your hard-earned money, so sometimes you have to speak up and let your retailer know you're looking for a specific title before it ships...
If you're into horror and westerns, this is definitely one you should think about adding to your buy list. It ships in late February.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

REVIEW: Kath & Kim

I may need some help from a theoretical mathematician or someone at NASA in actually measuring how little talent is displayed on this show. I have nothing (that I know of) against any of the individuals in front of or behind the camera on this show (except maybe Molly Shannon), but seriously, if there was any less collective talent on display they would actually have to change its name to Countdown with Keith Olbermann.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

BLAST FROM THE PAST: Steven Banks Home Entertainment Center

While hunting for something else on YouTube last night, I came across this blast from the past. If you like '60s and '70s rock and comedy, you have to check out Steven Banks Home Entertainment Center. Now I have to go find out if this is on DVD.

Sunday, January 04, 2009

REVIEW: Slumdog Millionaire

Here it is: THIS IS ONE OF THE BEST MOVIES I'VE SEEN IN A LONG TIME. Benjamin Button was superb, but this is actually better. I'm quite surprised to be saying that. What a wonderful time to be a movie fan...

The story follows two brothers (and a friend) from one of Bombay's worst slums through the early years of their lives until they become young men. They come from the humblest and sometimes horrible circumstances, struggling just to get by. As Bombay itself is transformed into India's economic center, the brothers find themselves in changing circumstances, and not always for the better.

One of the brothers, who ends up as a contestant on India's version of Who Wants To Be A Millionaire, pursues their childhood friend, who disappeared first as a young girl and later as a young woman.

I'm not even coming close to doing the story justice.

The characters are great. The story is gripping. The performances are compelling. The photography and direction are spot-on. See it.

NYT ARTICLE: The New Austerity in Publishing

This is an interesting article from The New York Times. While I know that probably means it's written by someone who will later turn out to be a complete fraud, it nonetheless covers some of the downturn in the publishing industry. So, on the chance that it's actually for real (and like I said, it's the Times, so take it with a grain of salt)...