Tuesday, September 29, 2009
I have been rather busy for the last few days. I haven't written the next piece of "Batman -- Martial Artist" because I've been so busy (and in my head I'm thinking it will be rather lengthy).
I have been working as a Production Assistant on a short film being made by some fellow UCF students. As a PA, I've been doing a little of everything (I've dealt with equipment, recorded a small bit of the audio, dealt with some of the food [craft services], and even been an extra). It's been time-consuming and very tiring, but it's been worth it because I've gotten to work with some great people.
I know that none of you will probably ever see the film, but I encourage you to visit the production site at http://8ththefilm.blogspot.com.
The film is called "8th" and it is a nice little coming-of-age piece about friends having to separate. It's written and directed by a cool cat named Marcos, and produced by a cool chick named Rene.
Check it out.
Wednesday, September 23, 2009
I just read "The Unfettered Mind" Writings of the Zen Master to the Sword Master by Takuan Soho.
It is an excellent little book that contains extensive letters to a sword master (or possibly two sword masters). Takuan Soho was a Zen master who was quite famous in his day and recognized as a very wise man. He was a spiritual mentor of sorts to the famed Musashi Miyamoto (considered by many to be the best swordsman to have ever lived). Two of the three pieces were written to Yagyu Munenori (one of the best; instructor to a couple of shogun; author of a book that is comparable to Musashi's). The third piece of writing in the book was written either to Yagyu Munenori or Ono Tadaaki (another great sword master).
The book really doesn't have much to do with martial arts on the superficial level. However, Takuan's writings show a desire to infuse Zen into anything and everything people do. So, just as one should be spiritual in meditation, he should be spiritual in his day-to-day tasks, and be spiritual in his martial arts practice.
I recommend this book to anyone, really, but especially to those interested in philosophy.
Monday, September 21, 2009
In Detective Comics issue 38 (April 1940), the debut issue of Robin, the Boy Wonder, Bruce Wayne is depicted training the young Dick Grayson. For martial arts, he trains the boy in Boxing and Jiu Jitsu. To my knowledge, this was the first real mention (at least by name) of Batman’s martial arts training. Nowadays, we know that Batman knows many (if not all) styles of martial arts, but 1940 was a different time. There were western fighting arts like wrestling, boxing, fencing, and single-stick fighting (which was a lot like fencing, but with wood). Jujitsu and Judo were pretty much the only eastern arts known in the west, and even those were not nearly as prevalent as they would come to be after WWII. Wrestling seems to most people to be rather boring or even primitive, and fencing and single-stick fighting were only useful when one had a weapon, so boxing seems an obvious choice.
For as much as teachers, students, and various other proponents of the “more graceful” eastern martial arts say that something like Karate or Kung Fu makes a more efficient striking art, boxing has certainly earned its nickname – “the sweet science”.
Boxing is amazingly efficient for what it focuses on. I do think that martial artists and fighters should not be so limited and should definitely learn kicking techniques to supplement hand techniques, but when it comes to flat out punching somebody boxing is the absolute best choice.
Overall, boxers punch much harder and much more quickly than practitioners of Kung Fu, Karate, or even kickboxing. They may not know or use such sophisticated techniques as back fists, hammer fists, chops, or finger thrusts/jabs (these are all effective, though), but they manage to do a great deal of damage nonetheless.
Boxing is as old as wrestling and club fighting. Human beings (and our hominid ancestors) have been punching one another in the face and gut for as long as we’ve been rolling around on the ground or hitting each other with sticks and rocks. As a sport, boxing has existed since at least ancient Rome and Greece. Boxing was an original Olympic sport, and a certain category of gladiators would beat each other to death with their bare hands, metal gloves, or even spiked gauntlets.
In the 19th century, boxing regained its popularity as a spectator sport and manly pursuit. Boxers typically bludgeoned each other with their bare knuckles, going until a knock out. Many bare knuckle boxers died during or right after a match.
It was in the 20th century that boxing became the mega-sport that we know it to be today. Boxers wear good gloves nowadays and follow much safer rules, but plenty of boxers still wind up with brain damage or even die from their injuries.
The goal of the art/science of boxing is really to hit the other guy as hard and as quickly as you can without getting hit by the other guy. Heavy bags, speed bags, focus mitts, and sparring are great ways of training for any martial artist, but they’re absolutely necessary for fighters.
A boxer might only use his balled fists, but an ideal boxer hits so hard, so fast, and so accurately that he doesn’t really need to do anything else.
Without a doubt, Bruce Wayne would learn and utilize boxing. He may not take the posture of a prizefighter when taking care of street punks or super villains, but he hits hard, quickly, and accurately. And often with his fists.
In the Nolan movie universe, I think it’s safe to assume that Bruce would have done some boxing while at Princeton. The Ivy League schools have a good history of boxing clubs.
I don’t know if any of the early Batman comics mention where and with whom Bruce trained in boxing, but more recent comics cover the subject fairly well. I’m not sure when it was first established that Batman had learned how to box from Ted Grant (a.k.a., Wildcat), but in a “fight card” in the back of “Batman/Wildcat” issue 2 of 3 (May 1997) written by Chuck Dixon:
[Bruce] traveled around the world looking for teachers who could help him in his future bouts with the underworld. One of those teachers was heavyweight champion Ted Grant. Bruce was a natural. Grant taught his apt pupil all his best moves. The Champ had high hopes for the kid going into the ring and becoming a contender, but as fast as he’d come, the kid was gone.
He had picked up all he could from Grant and moved on to his next teacher, and his next, and his next. With each new master, he perfected a new fighting skill. He was becoming the sum of all his teachers and more…
Bob Kane and Bill Finger probably had Batman learn boxing simply because they had a very limited knowledge of martial arts, but any crime fighter worth his salt WOULD be quite an adept boxer.
Saturday, September 19, 2009
If you read my review of “Green Lantern: Rebirth” you might be able to pick up on my subtle dislike of the writing of Geoff Johns. This dislike leads me to wonder who had more to do with “Superman: Last Son” – Geoff Johns or Richard Donner.
“Last Son” is quite excellent. Richard Donner and Geoff Johns provide a great story in which a young Kryptonian boy shows up in Metropolis, General Zod and his minions escape the Phantom Zone and wreak havoc, Superman is imprisoned, and Lex Luthor leads a group of villains on a heroic mission.
It’s a great, kind of old-fashioned Superman story, filled with continuity craziness, an unlikely team-up, and a TON of action. Issue 4 is mostly done in “Phantom Zone Vision”, and you get a super cool effect by looking through the 3D glasses provided. This is a great, gimmicky type thing that enhances the feeling that you’re reading a story that is on par with the best Gold and Silver Age Superman stories, as well as the Dick Donner portions of the Superman movies.
I always like Adam Kubert’s art style, even if it kind of looks like it goes straight from rough sketch to the printer.
I can only suggest that you go out and buy this book right now.
I’m usually a big fan of whatever Mark Millar does. Especially when it comes to superhero comics. That said, “1985” is a bit disappointing.
I thought it would be a nice story that called back to the Marvel comics of the mid-80s. It kind of is, but it’s really more about a young boy who likes Marvel comics in this time period. It’s a rather odd story, in which super villains invade the “real” world. I don’t find the plot “twist”/explanation particularly satisfying. I kind of wish that Millar would have just done another superhero comic, with no “What is reality?” gimmick.
Tommy Lee Edwards has an interesting pencil style. I don’t really feel strongly about it, one way or another.
Plenty of people enjoy this story, but I’m not going to suggest it.
Darwyn Cooke is a genius. Plain and simple. And, like me, he doesn’t like event comics. Event comics are pretty much the reason why he doesn’t write in continuity. Event comics always include retcons or such major changes that whatever a writer does to a character one year may be completely moot or forgotten the next. So, Darwyn Cooke (genius, remember) writes stories that stand outside of continuity so that they can stand the test of time. “New Frontier”, his work on Batman, and his run of Will Eisner’s The Spirit are great examples, and so is “Superman: Kryptonite”.
While Darwyn has a different idea about Kent’s first contact with Kryptonite and introduces a character that may or may not sit well with Superman fans, he still presents a wonderful Superman story that deals with the Big Blue Boy Scout’s origins and mortality. The relationships are great and the plot is good, and Tim Sale’s art is as great as ever. We get to see Superman sip champagne atop the Eiffel Tower, fight a volcano, learn about Krypton, and almost die. Lex Luthor is his usual badness. Lois Lane is her usual spunkiness. Jimmy Olsen is his usual eagerness. It’s all there and it’s all good.
The art of Tim Sale and the timelessness of Darwyn’s story make this seem like a spiritual sequel to “Superman for All Seasons”. I highly recommend this book.
I’ve never been a big fan of Green Lantern. Actually, I should clarify: I love the idea of Green Lantern, but there are too few examples of good execution. It’s an idea with so much potential, but the stories almost always fall short for my taste. Alan Moore’s work is excellent, of course. I love Frank Miller’s Hal Jordan in “Dark Knight Strikes Again”. Darwyn Cooke’s “New Frontier” is astonishing. I enjoyed Kyle Rayner in JLA. I liked the Green Lantern episode of “Superman: The Animated Series”. I even liked John Stewart in the animated “Justice League”, Hal Jordan in “Green Lantern: First Flight”, and the “Duck Dodgers” episode in which Kevin Smith has a voice cameo.
These exceptions are few and far between, really. Geoff Johns’s “Green Lantern: Rebirth” is not one of these exceptions. I’ve been hearing great things about “Blackest Night”, so I thought I might actually buy the TPB when it comes out. To prepare myself, I finally bought the TPB of “Rebirth”. I hated the idea of bringing Hal Jordan back to life when I first heard about it years ago. Hell, I hated the fact that he was around as The Spectre! To me, bringing characters back to life simply makes their deaths meaningless. And resurrection is a plot premise that is WAY too overused.
“Rebirth” is a rather poorly paced story, and Geoff Johns fills almost every page with words. A writer’s job is not necessarily to put so many words on each page. The only writers who can really get away with doing that are Frank Miller and Alan Moore, and Geoff Johns is NOWHERE near their level. (Also, Miller and Moore each usually pare their stuff down so the artist can do his job too, as comic books are a visual medium.)
Ethan Van Sciver pencils pretty typical superhero figures. He’s certainly a good artist, but judging by this book alone, he might be better suited for non-sequential things, like ads, covers, or character designs.
Overall, it’s a pretty disappointing read. My local comic book supplier tells that it was Johns in his earlier days, and I should give him a try again, but I do have issue zero (Free Comic Book Day) of “Blackest Night”, and I’m still unimpressed.
Thursday, September 17, 2009
(I’m going to preface this by giving some credit to “Bruce” over at Building Batman for inspiration.)
This is the beginning of a series about Batman’s martial arts training. Batman is one of the most fascinating characters in all of fiction, and probably THE most fascinating character in all of comic books (there are lots of characters who would tie for a close second, though).
One of the things that have always interested me most about Batman is his physical capabilities. Foremost among these is his combat proficiency.
This prologue will just lay out some of the arts that Batman has trained in (or that some writers have suggested he’s trained in). In future writings for this series, I will point to a particular story that mentions or depicts Batman training in a martial art, and I will write a bit about that art’s history and why Batman would (or would not) learn that art. I will do my best to go in historical order, but I may jump around a bit because of timelines/continuities.
According to superhero expert Scott Beatty’s entertaining “training manual”, “The Batman Handbook”, there are ten major martial arts that Batman mixes and utilizes:
In Scott Beatty’s “The Ultimate Guide to the Dark Knight”, he states:
“There are 127 major styles of combat. While abroad, Bruce learned them all, from Aikido to Yaw-Yan. His knowledge of so many varied disciplines has made Bruce an unconventional and unpredictable opponent, quite capable of countering a Savate kick with a Capoeira dodge, then kayoing with a paw-knuckle strike!”
I should be writing about all of the aforementioned arts.
Sunday, September 13, 2009
I’ve been wanting to get “Afro Samurai: Resurrection” since it came out. And I finally did it! Yay for me (and for my girlfriend, who also likes Afro Samurai).
This time around, instead of being 5 OVA episodes, it’s an hour-and-a-half feature. The action is just as good as in the first “Afro Samurai”, and the voice work is as excellent as you’d expect (Samuel L. Jackson! Lucy Liu!) (retroactive props to Ron Perlman [!] for his work in the first, and Kelly Hu [!] for hers). And… Oh. My. God. The RZA’s music is as incredible as ever.
I love this movie, even though the story has its logic flaws. Despite the flaws in the logic and characterization of the villains, the movie does a great job of discussing Afro’s motives and methods (he killed so many people just so he could avenge his father, and now it’s only natural that there are family members of his victims who would want [and deserve(?)] revenge against him).
I made sure to spend the extra bit of coin to get the 2-disc special edition director’s cut. Spending that money got me some nudity, sex, and swearing in the actual movie. It also got me “over 100 minutes of special features” that include:
-exclusive insight from creator Takashi “Bob” Okazaki
-GONZO studios interviews about the Japanese side of production
-interviews with people on the American side of production (including the awesome Sam Jackson, and the gorgeous Lucy Liu)
-a cool behind-the-music thing with RZA
-a look at “Afro Samurai: The Game” (which I’ve played and loved)
-a cool feature about the Afro Samurai stuff at Comic-Con 2008
-insightful video commentary with the Japanese side of production
-a little booklet with art and stuff from the creator, director, and RZA
Anime. Hip-hop. Samurai. Sword fighting. Japanese culture. Black American culture. Samuel L. Jackson. Lucy Liu.
If you like ANY of these things or people, go out and buy “Afro Samurai: Resurrection”.
I should preface this by saying that I (1) dislike event comics (so I’m not enjoying “Dark Reign”) and (2) I have never liked Wolverine’s son Daken (neither as a character nor as a story point).
So, naturally, I’m not really enjoying the main Wolverine monthly title and hate that Marvel decided to create a new Wolverine monthly title.
So, at first I was against Wolverine: Weapon X. However, after really giving the series a chance, I’ve gotta say I’m digging it. I like Jason Aaron’s writing and Ron Garney’s pencils on this series. I like to see Logan being a real bad-ass stealth fighter. It’s so cool to see a black-clothed Wolverine going up against a platoon of soldiers who have pretty much the same powers as him.
If you wanna see some great action, see Maverick being a bad-ass without his powers, and get a pretty much perfect rendition of Wolverine (how he speaks, acts, and looks are all spot on), then you should definitely be picking up Wolverine: Weapon X.
I’ve been in a mood for some manga and anime, as well as martial arts and samurai stuff, so I thought I’d get in on the manga Vagabond. I recently bought the first volume of the Viz Big Edition of the series (it contains essentially the first three volumes of the series).
Takehiko Inoue’s series is loosely based on the novel “Musashi” by Eiji Yoshikawa. Now, I’m a big fan of the legendary swordsman Miyamoto Musashi, which is why I bought the volume of Vagabond. Unfortunately, for my tastes/expectations, this is a manga that is loosely based on a novel that is a fictionalized account of the life of one of my martial arts idols.
The book isn’t that bad. Inoue’s art is good, certainly. The sword fighting is done pretty well and I enjoy the martial arts side of the book, but the story seems lacking. The characterization isn’t all there. Perhaps the problem is that the character of Musashi is a work-in-progress, so maybe I need to read more of the series.
This first volume doesn’t make me want to run out and get the rest of the series, but I figure if I have some extra money (actually, a LOT of extra money; enough money that I feel I can waste some) eventually, I might pick up the next volume and give it an extra chance to engage me.
These are the chapters:
Stance and Posture
Applying Power in the Hips
Balance and Center of Gravity
Hands and Feet Can be Weapons
Tsuki (Punching) Theory and Practice
Uchi (Striking) Theory and Practice
Keri (Kicking) Theory and Practice
Uke (Blocking) Theory and Practice
Defense and Countering Joudan (Upper) Attacks
Defense and Countering Chuudan (Mid-Section) Attacks
Defense and Countering Gedan (Lower) Attacks
Calisthenics and Exercises
It’s an excellent book for anyone looking for some insights into the basic movements of Shotokan karate. While it doesn’t outline the kata (so you won’t really learn the system overall), it does provide great pictures that go through basic moves in great detail.
While it doesn’t really teach an experienced practitioner any new moves, it’s good to go through the basics and get some of this master’s insights and training methods.
I suggest it for both casual and serious, beginning and advanced practitioners of martial arts. The $30.00 cover price is worth it.
I bought those first two issues way back in early 2006, and have recently purchased the last four issues of "Ultimate Wolverine VS. Hulk", finally completing the series.
The art is great. I like Yu’s pencil style. Of, course, the story idea is awesome. Wolverine-Hulk fights rarely (if ever) disappoint. And the actual fighting in the mini-series is anything but disappointing. Wolverine’s characterization is super cool, and the Hulk is done well. Unfortunately, the last four issues that we fans had to wait three years for are pretty disappointing story-wise. Why? Betty Banner as She-Hulk, that’s why.
Sorry to Lindelof if I’m giving away the “big twist” that comes mid- late-series, but I don’t think I’m really spoiling anything for would-be readers (especially since She-Hulk is on the cover of issue 4).
For some damn reason, Lindelof decided to ruin an otherwise great story with the one of the most stupid ideas to pop up in the Ultimate universe.
I still suggest it for anyone looking for some cool Wolverine action and dialogue, and some cool Banner/Hulk discussion. If you’re really averse to She-Hulk and dumb ideas though, maybe you should steer clear.
Monday, September 7, 2009
Okay, so, I didn't read "Ultimatum" (I plan to buy the TPB eventually) and I haven't been able to get my hands on Ultimate Spider-Man: Requiem #2, but I did just pick up the first two issues of Ultimate Comics Spider-Man.
I read Ultimate Spider-Man from about issue 20 to its recent "end". For the most part, it was a highly enjoyable blend of superheroism and teenage angst (I say "for the most part" because, well... Bendis did the clone stuff too...). Now, the new series starts off at issue 1 and it's six months after Magneto's tidal wave attack (which devastated New York and killed many of the heroes). Peter is dating Gwen instead of Mary Jane, the Daily Bugle is out of business (so Spider-Man has to work in fast food, which is hilarious), and things in general are a bit topsy-turvy.
Now, I must admit that I'm very interested and want to see how the series develops. I think the "jump" certainly allows for some accelerated story-telling, but....
While I'm not a professional writer, I do enjoy the craft of writing. Jumping ahead six months is typicaly laziness, I think. It's an attempt to move the story along without actually having to develop the interim stuff.
Still, I look forward to the series (though the re-numbering is dumb, as it usually is in the comics industry). Bendis is still writing fantastically, and even though I'm not sure if I can really like Lafuente's art style, it does bring a new flavor.
I hope that you can continue to enjoy this blog and not hold my selling out against me.
(I know this was made LONG ago, but I only just now bought and read it.)
Johnen Vasquez’s “Bad Art Collection” is an interesting piece of work. On the inside cover, he claims that the art and jokes are intentionally bad, and I believe him. However, just because you make something bad on purpose doesn’t mean that it winds up being good.
I love “Johnny the Homicidal Maniac”, “Squee!”, “I Feel Sick”, and of course “Invader Zim”. The “B.A.C.” is somewhat akin to the Meanwhiles and Happy Noodle Boy pieces in Vasquez’s past works, but… well, it’s just not there.
Good thing, though, is that it only has a $1.95 cover price.
Now, I was initially dead set against Bruce’s death. I still am. I think it’s stupid. I don’t think it brings anything good to the character, readers, or the DCU. Bruce Wayne is an amazing, fantastically rich character (and I’m not just talking about his money). Most other characters, even Dick Grayson, fall short in terms of character depth when compared to Bruce.
Hating the whole “R.I.P” story and his death in “Final Crisis”, of course I hated the idea of Grayson as Batman and the whole Robin/Red Robin thing. As of Batman #690, however, I can kind of get behind Dick Grayson as Batman. Still don’t like the overall idea, hate that Tim Drake is running around as Red Robin while Damien Wayne is Robin, but I am now actually enjoying Grayson behind the iconic mask.
So far, Winick is writing okay and Bagley is drawing alright.
We’ll have to see where this goes.
(Also, I’d like people to note that this ain’t the first time Dick filled in for Bruce)
Now, as a general rule, I’m not a fan of fantasy. Miyazaki, however, is a master of the genre and usually wins me over. I did enjoy “Ponyo”, but I don’t think it’s the masterpiece that most people are making it out to be. That said, I’m not sure if any of the Studio Ghibli films is better than the next, but personal preference winds up playing a big part in enjoyment of each film. I prefer the R-rated “Princess Mononoke” that contains violence and action and adults driving the plot over the G-rated “Ponyo” (the English version being about the love between the youngest Jonas brother and Hannah Montana’s sister).
I really enjoyed the action-y part in which Ponyo is running on the fish-waves (you’d have to see it to know what the hell I’m talking about). This part actually made me really want to see a Flash movie, and some of the underwater stuff made me want to see at least an animated Aquaman movie.
The other day in Japanese class, I overheard a girl talking about seeing the movie with a friend. Her friend was apparently like “This is dumb. I don’t get it. What the hell?!?” and she responded with “Just go with it. Let go of your expectations. You just have to sit back and watch.” I felt like this friend of my classmate had some fair criticism. There’s nothing wrong with you if you don’t like fantasy and want a movie to make sense.
Now, I was able to “let go” and just enjoy a kiddy fantasy movie, but it certainly wasn’t without its flaws. The number one rule for movies is that they shouldn’t break their own rules. A problem with this movie is that the rules aren’t very clearly established, so by the end I’m not entirely sure whether the rules are strictly followed or not. The end, unfortunately, is a bit anti-climactic.
The English voice cast is pretty good. I was originally a bit ticked that Disney went to such in-house pandering lengths as to cast Frankie Jonas (the little brother to the tween-oriented band the Jonas Brothers) and Noah Cyrus (the little sister of Miley Cyrus) in the lead roles. Surprisingly, the kids did well, though I think Disney should have gone with seasoned (adult) vets like Tress Macneille, Pamela Hayden, and Bumper Robinson (to name only a few). Tina Fey did alright. So did Betty White, Cloris Leachman, and Cate Blanchett. Liam Neeson was excellent as usual. Matt Damon was unnecessarily cast (his character had only a handful of lines! Why cast a big-name for that when you could get Billy West or someone like that for much cheaper?).
A problem was that the original dialogue doesn’t seem to translate well, so some of the actors are stifled by what seems to be bad writing.
Overall, I enjoyed it, but I don’t know if I’ll ever get the DVD. We’ll see. “Spirited Away” had to grow on me over time.
Saturday, September 5, 2009
However, if I have just ONE reader, I will keep posting!
So, if you're a reader, please post a comment to let me know!!!!