Saturday, July 21, 2012

The last Comic Con EVER!

The Mayans were renowned for their prognosticational abilities. As they laid their collective fingers on the year of 2012 and said: "this is when it all ends" we have just passed the final San Diego Comic Con.

Or so that reliable source known as the internet says.

Let us collapse the experience into its component parts as they might be discussed more easily.

Hitman: Absolution Those who feared this may be a departure from the series to focus on action instead of stealth need worry not. The level I played felt just the same as past games, an open level with multiple options for eliminating the target. Openly firing on the target will bring down waves of guards and SWAT in the demo level. The murder puzzle remains intact. Advertising for this series has always been a bit schizophrenic; promo images and trailers always display the bald head, suit and Silverballers. A commercial for Hitman: Contracts featured 47 unleashing a barrage from a minigun.

Tomb Raider Lara Croft and I had never crossed paths before outside of a movie theater, so I cannot comment re the controls as compared to previous games. The demo level featured some platforming but largely focused on bow hunting. In my many years of playing games I have killed countless people, aliens and robots but loosing an arrow into a deer then needing to finish it off as it struggled made me feel uncomfortable. Perhaps I simply have a greater affection for animals than people, digital or otherwise. Or perhaps deer hunting is something so alien to any game outside of Oregon Trail that I am not desensitized to it.

Assassin's Creed III This is a game that was not playable at the convention. After some waiting in line I was ushered into a dark theater to sit upon a wooden box while a woman yelled at us for not being excited enough. She demanded we inflate our swag tomahawks and cry out when Connor used his in the pre-recorded demonstration, most of the assembled crowd remained reserved. The video was impressive, as these nearly always are; hopefully the promises of an improved control scheme alleviates the problems I had with Brotherhood.

Archer After waiting in line for roughly an hour and a half I entered the Hilton's Indigo Ballroom roughly half way through a screening of an Archer episode from the coming season. It remains as funny as ever, littered with callbacks and references. Adam Reed, H. Jon Benjamin and Aisha Tyler dominated the panel following the screening, leaving Chris Parnell and Amber Nash largely mute through the proceedings.

Venture Bros Once again in the above mentioned Indigo Ballroom I was treated to the Venture Bros panel. No finished animation was available to be shown but they did provide a short video of voice overs on top of animated storyboards. Once again the show remains hilarious. I mention the panel largely to comment on something I had never seen before in 14 years of attending panels. Doc Hammer called out the audience on their terrible questions.

Panel questions for a movie or TV show often fall into two categories:

To an actor or actress: "In this movie/show you got to play X. What was that like?" The answer often boils down to: "Wow, good question. It was pretty cool."

To a creator: "In the upcoming season/movie will we get to see X?"

It was the second query that the good Doc objected to. He was saying basically people were asking to see the show now, but phrased in a manner to fish for spoilers. His answer was: "You will get the show when you get the show."

Next: Pic post with added commentary.

"Uma has it."

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Personal Best

Three blog posts in a single year. Shall I post again a double my own record? I have consulted my personal adviser and he states: "All signs point to no."

As always the camera was my trusted companion throughout the convention. Let us see what it caught in its digital net.

Invisible Man (we'll take the green out in post).

Fun fact: The guy in the costume is normal sized everyone else in the shot is midget.

In San Diego, it turns out.

...and Jon Lovtiz as Robin.

The middle one is the hottest, clearly.

This one is for you, Bean. Sorry it's not a panda.

Also for Bean.

I'll be honest, for ninjas, not that coordinated.

I wonder how the found each other.

...and the award for Creepiest Thing at the Show goes to...

Oh shit, now I need to change my password.

"You and I must fight for our rives."

Sunday, July 31, 2011

30 Minutes or Less?

Now a week out the high has faded, seven days since I immersed myself in all things nerd. Amazing how concentrated it is in that time and place. Ads cover the sides of hotels and trains, there are even trucks with images of True Blood characters that patrol back and forth in front of the convention center. Then, just outside the epicenter it begins to cede. Get a few blocks away and you might see someone carrying a large bag with a logo on it, few will be in costume and most will be going about their daily business. They look at us as if to say: “Oh, is that thing going on again?”

In the convention proper, what was there to experience? Long lines and greasy, overpriced food were the most common. I braved such lines for two things, Spider-Man and The Old Republic along the way I caught sight of a few others as well.

Spider-Man - Impressive. The funny, sarcastic Spidey from the comics seems to have finally made it onto film. This was an element always lacking in the Raimi films, and sorely missed. All of the swinging shots from the extra footage were wire work as opposed to CGI, which gave him more weight. To me the digital Spidey from the Raimi films always looked like he was floating through the air, as if the web he had a hold of was a prop rather than a fulcrum. Some of the scenes were in 3D, which continues to add nothing for me beyond annoyance.

Fright Night - Despite it's subject matter being close to my heart I have almost no interest in this movie. The panel did not change my mind. It did allow me to witness something I had never seen before. In a theater of roughly 6,000 they ran out of questions from the audience and wrapped up early.

30 Minutes or Less -
What was this movie doing at Comic Con? Nothing sci-fi, comic or fantasy related about it.

Dead Island - It would be difficult to live up to the promise of that first inverted trailer. I hoped it would, it appears I was wrong. Characters lips moved in no relation to the lines they spoke. The controls felt loose and floaty and the damage numbers looked out of place for a first person game.

Batman: Arkham City - Two years ago I sat in an Arkham Asylum panel. It was only a half hour long and was before something I actually wanted to see. I sat there, arms crossed on my chest with a smug look on my face. Just try and impress me, I thought. I'm a gamer, I had seen the warning signs: a licensed property, a mix of two vastly different game styles, stealth and action. Then I played it.

Everything that was great about the original is back and more. Fluid animations, bone cracking combos and every Bat-villain that can be squeezed onto the disc. I have only two complaints: the writing and the writing. Are the old Batman animated episodes cloaked in nostalgia for me or was Paul Dini's dialogue always this terrible? I fear to watch them and find out. The second complaint is a holdover from the original: Batman's internal (or external) monologue explaining to himself how to solve puzzles. "If I throw out a smoke grenade I can slip away unseen," he muses to himself standing roughly ten feet from about four men armed with automatic weapons. Do you want me to play the game or just hand you the controller and let you take care of it yourself?

Ever since seeing the first Arkham City trailers one question has plagued me. If part of the city was walled off to create this ad-hoc prison it would imply that the Arkham City moniker is a nickname or at least a recent designation. If so, then where did all the signage come from?

Kinect Star Wars - I did not play this game, but I did watch several others as I waited in line for my next entry. As a tech demo it is amazing, as a game it is not. Animations are jittery and the enemies dull. The characters are on rails and seem to be allowed only a few actions at any time. A Force Push may seem advantageous but it is only an option when prompted for it.

The Old Republic - For twenty minutes I was granted access to this universe. Given the options I chose a level 1 Sith Warrior and set out to make my name and claim my lightsaber. Perhaps not in that order. While that third of an hour rushed by I walked away feeling let down. Combat seemed uninspired, like WoW not much more than a metagame of managing cooldowns. Graphics were cartoony but the first cutscene places a part of your shuttle in the extreme foreground, emphasizing the low res texture. Mobs seemed to have no pathing or idle animations, making the world seem lifeless and stiff. The standard 3 option response BioWare dialogue tree has been tacked on and did not add much.

It is possible the game becomes better and more innovative later, but after the first twenty minutes I cannot see it dethroning WoW or even keeping decent numbers past the initial curiosity. MMORPGs are primarily played for the MMO, not the RPG. So if your friends are still in Azeroth, that is likely where you will return as well. Perhaps I am just burnt out from my time in Blizzard's playground and can no longer find entertainment in the tropes of that genre.

"I'll never teach your monkey French."

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Turns out I didn't

It had been my intention to triumphantly declare in the title of this posting that despite the many months which had passed, and the resulting collected dust in that corner of my mind, I had been able to remember my password. We are left instead with the sad truth.

That time comes round again, Comic Con and with it the annual blog post. In this year's missive let us speak of panels, an opportunity to share elbow room with our fellow geeks in uncomfortable, stackable chairs. Regardless we wait for sometimes hours for the privilege to sit in those cramped quarters and hear writers and artists and actors provide their insight and try to sell their product. Can we speak honestly? It is mostly to sell their product.

How much selling is required could be debated. If a person endures such a long queue it is likely he or she is already interested in the property being pitched. It is rather like trying to convince a gathering of evangelicals that Jesus was a pretty okay guy. We come to see something exclusive, some new footage or news, so that we might brag to our fellow nerds: "I've seen the Green Lantern throw a giant emerald fist, have you?"

The panelists make stupid jokes which are dutifully laughed at and then once the moderator has asked each one a question in turn the floor will be opened to questions from the audience. At is at this time that the panel loses all forward momentum and crashes into the dirt, rolling and flipping and tossing off pieces.

The audience questions are terrible, universally.

They are at their worst at a panel for movies and fall into a handful of categories.

A.) The most popular: "Hello, Actor X, what was it like to play Y?"

This will invariably result in a furrowed expression as if the subject is deep in thought but the answer remains ever the same: "Wow, that's a really good question. It was pretty cool."

B.) The nitpick: "Why did you choose to change X, when it was like Y in the book/comic/TV series?"

The answer will stress how seriously the source material was taken for a few sentences and then either be dodged or say that the change was required. As an aside my favorite version of the dodge was done thusly: "I never saw a version of a script with X in it." Scripts, as you may know, are never revised.

C.) The repeat: "That footage looks awesome, can we see that again?"

Allow me to don a tin foil hat and suggest that the questioner for this one may be planted by the studio.

One final note about panels. The person on the end farthest from the podium, be he or she a producer or supporting actor, will never be asked a question from the audience. I am waiting for one of them to walk off after taking their only query from the moderator.

So in a few day's time, Gods of the Lines be favorable, I will finally know what sort of an experience it was for Andrew Garfield to portray Spider-Man. I expect it to be insightful.

"We built this city on logs and coal."

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

The word "friend" is used very loosely

This is for you, my rose-haired friend, don't ever say I never did nothing fer ya.

When this blog was first created out of the ether, it was my intention to update this blog regularly, how did that work out for everyone? This is not to suggest that things have been quiet around Azrael HQ. I finished a feature script named User and in a total break from my normal genre this is about vampires in Los Angeles. My delusions must have been worse than normal because I felt it good enough to enter into a scriptwriting competition. Expect an announcement soon that I have lost, probably about this time next year.

In other writing news I have started on a werewolf script which I am calling Idyllwild and continue to work on rewrites for Trinity with the other half of the Azrael team. Should you have any criticism of our first 6 pages of the comic you may contact us to offer it, please word said missives in the most soul-crushing manner possible. There has been a dearth of hate mail and this makes me uncomfortable; fan mail is entirely too much to ask so much like most married couples, we will settle for what we can begging will get us.

From comics and movies we move onto another medium which I hold an unhealthy fascination, video games. Working in that industry is can be described as punishing; long hours are often cited as a culprit. Though perhaps due to a 3 can a day Mountain Dew habit and how often I ate at a Chinese restaurant with a "B" in the window I found my time in those trenches quite rewarding. So I have been studying for a new method of entry. Click below and witness the glory plain polygonal cups, screw drivers and a vehicle from an obscure 80's fantasy movie.

Comic Con charges at us yet again, aiming like some high school jock to impress us with his size and popularity. Azrael will again be represented, and should you run across us you are encouraged to approach, but do so slowly, we are skittish. My picture can now be seen on the right side of this blog, and yes I am in fact vector based.

"Scallaboosh, Scallaboosh, will you do the banned tango."

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Zombies crave brains... and cheesy nachoes

Another year of the Geek Mecca has come and past. Footage was seen, expensive plastic was bought, sketchbooks were signed, sentences were written in the passive voice. It is my great regret that I failed to document in pixels one of the more amusing sights; three cosplayers dressed as zombies from the Popcap game sitting cross-legged on the cement floor, conversing and dining on an overpriced meal inspired by corn and milk fat but free of all natural contaminants.

Speaking of overpriced: autographs. The entirety of the appeal of a celebrity's name illegibly written in ink has long escaped me. This is not to say I have never engaged in the custom, merely that I have never paid for it. I was prepared to note the absurdity of Mark Hamill charging $100 for his John Hancock, that was until I noted that one of the men who played a Stormtrooper was requesting 25.

130,000 booth babes, costume enthusiasts, and all flavor of nerd crammed into 600,000 square feet. My olfactory senses were not produced to factory standards of quality, for this I am quite thankful.

Seriously, $25?

"Might as well face it, you're a dick with a glove."

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

What it do, nephew?

Sometime after the Earth cooled and while monsters of improbable size wandered, we began to work on a little something we would eventually call: Trinity. Now, at long last, we are able to present to you a little preview of our endeavor along with the debut of our new, still in progress website.

Trinity is to be a limited 72 issue series. Our plan is to soon provide you with regular pages, laying out the narrative for you Hanzel and Gretel style. Exactly when this will begin I can make no promises, it will all depend on what kind of schedule my co-writer/artist with the unfortunately spelled last name can manage. Delay in this matter is due to the barbed whip being on backorder.

Post or email your praise, criticism will be given all of the wait it deserves.

"Let's pee in the corner, let's pee in the spotlight."