The PopCulteer
October 14, 2011

Your PopCulteer has a lot of ground to cover this week, so let’s dive in, shall we?

A Happy Birdie Story

RFC Big Shot and one of my oldest friends, Brian Young and his wife, Debbie Hunt Young are off on a wonderful adventure. They’re going to China to adopt a baby girl, Birdie Ge.That’s her over there, see how cute!

This happy occasion has been a long time coming. Back when I first met with Brian at LiveMix Studio almost six years ago, he and Debbie had begun the grueling process of international adoption.

Earlier this year they were informed of the birth of their baby girl, and had jump through many beaurocratic hurdles to get to the point where they are now, in Nanchang, China, getting to know their little girl.

Debbie has been keeping an online journal/blog about the experience, and it you want your heartstrings vigorously tugged, visit her blog to read up on this terrific event. I love a story with a happy ending. Congrats to my friends, Debbie and Brian.

Pants-Free Fun For Adults

Saturday night at The Walker Auditorium at The Clay Center, the No Pants Players cut loose with a torrent of filth and debauchery. Well, maybe that’s a bit strong, but they will be on stage with one of their adults-only shows. Admission is ten bucks, the doors open at 8 PM for a 9 PM show, and the posters for the event are extremely disturbing.

Nelson Magic

Nelson Illusions brings its award-winning magic to West Virginia State University for shows at 7:30 PM Friday and Saturday in the Davis Fine Arts Theater. Let me swipe most of the rest of this plug from The Gazz Best Bets:

“The team of “steampunk illusionists” is comprised of husband Jeff, wife Lynn and teenage daughter Sharii, who work individually and as a team to present a Broadway-style magical variety show that combines music, dance, humor and illusions — some of which are pretty big. According to the trio’s Twitter profile, ‘producing a 21-foot helicopter on stage is all part of a day’s work!”

Tickets for the shows, which are not recommended for children under age 10, are $15, with free admission for WVSU students, faculty and staff. Seating is on a first-come, first-serve basis.Call 304-766-3196 or 304-741-0925.”

Take a gander at a sample of their act right here:

RFC 146

By the way, did you notice that we had a brand-spankin’ new episode of Radio Free Charleston posted here at PopCult this week? It’s got music from Gabriel, John Lancaster, Born of Conviction and the cast of “Jack The Ripper,” plus it’s got art and animation and a promo clip for HallowEast!

So watch it already…

Walking Dead

Season two of TV’s best episodic zombie show, The Walking Dead starts Sunday night on AMC, right after a day-long marathon of the first season.

However, there’s a little bit more Walking Dead for you. If you’ve seen the show, then you may remember “Bicycle Girl,” a sad zombie from the first episode.

Well, here’s a web-only look at her story, uh, it’s pretty gory, just in case you’re not into that sort of thing…

HallowEast 3 Freak Out

The East End’s big Halloween blowout is rapidly approaching. head over to the HallowEast website for all the details, and watch this promo clip to see what I looked like before I shaved.

Jekyll and Hyde

ARTS of Huntington presents the musical “Jekyll & Hyde” this weekend and next at 900 Eighth St. Friday and Saturday shows are at 8 PM, with dinner at 6:30 PM Sunday shows are at 2 PM with no dinner served.

This show stars our buddy, Symphony Idol winner Ryan Hardiman, as both Dr. Jekyll AND Mr. Hyde, thus ruling out any chance of a big tap dance duet between the two. This promises to be a great show, and your PopCulteer is trying to find a way to make it down to Huntington to catch it, either this weekend or next.

Tickets are $15 for the show only or $30 with dinner. Call 304-733-2787.

Haunted Theater

Kanawha Players is holding a haunted house at The Kanawha Players Theater. It kicked off last night and runs through next weekend. The details are in this graphic.

New 52 Rundown

“Rundown” is the operative word here. I never thought it would be this hard to make myself read comic books. Here we are, more than two weeks into the second month of DC Comics’ big relaunch with their “New 52” and I still have nineteen books left to review from last month. I’m going to look at five more this week, and try to get this series of reviews wrapped up.

I don’t think the problem is that these are all bad books. I’m just not in the target demographic. In fact, I’m in the demographic that the publishers are wanting to run away from, screaming–older folks who have been reading for decades. They want to attract young readers. If they hadn’t ignored young readers for decades it might be easier for them, but it looks like DC has set its sights squarely on the video-gamer crowd.

So far, the plan seems to be working. DC announced just yesterday that they’ve sold five million comics in six weeks. That’s phenomenal by today’s standards. The real challenge will be in keeping those new readers. DC had 12 of their first-month titles top 100,000 in sales (three of them topped 200,000) and their worst-selling title (OMAC, a book I really enjoyed, but expect to be the first to be cancelled) sold at least 34,000, which is really impressive, again by today’s standards.

In fact, OMAC #1 sold more copies last month than The Astonishing X Men and The Walking Dead did in August. Again, the real result of this reboot will be known six months from now. I know that, of the “New 52,” I only followed 18 books to a second issue, and that may very well drop down to 10 or 12, which is fewer DC comics than I was buying before they relaunched the line.

This week we’re going to look at five single-hero books, with some major-league rebootery on display.

The Flash #1
by Francis Manapul and Brian Buccellato

This is a tricky book for the long-time reader. The Flash was the star of “Flashpoint” and was the catalyst for this entire DCUniverse shift. The character had a long history, but until the last couple of years, it was pretty straight-forward, and he didn’t really require the clean slate that some of the other DC heroes were in need of.

But he got one. This Flash is Barry Allen, the classic secret identity of the 1960s Flash. However, he’s back to square one. He’s never been married, killed, convicted of murder, brought back to life or become one with the “speed force.” He’s a guy who got caught up in a freak accident that gave him super-speed.

This reboot takes a little getting used to, but it works. This is a solid superhero comic. Like most of the new DC “52,” it’s not a complete story, just the first chapter of a story arc. At least it looks like a good story.

The attractive artwork departs from the new DCU house style, and the color is nicely subdued. Artist Manapul and colorist Buccellato collaborate on the script, and have put quite a bit of care into the look of the book. This one’s a keeper.

Aquaman #1
by Geoff Johns and Ivan Reis

Aquaman is one of two DC heroes who has been so badly handled, with multiple stops and starts, that he really needed to go back to square one. The character has become a bit of a joke, which was quite a tumble for a superhero who co-starred with Superman in a Saturday morning cartoon at one point.

Johns takes an interesting tack with the King of the Seas. He embraces the ridicule. This is a superhero who gets no respect and is fed up with his lot in life. He’s sick of being the kind of Atlantis, and he has little patience with the surface dwellers who think he’s a joke. While there are some intriguing sequences in this book, I have to wonder if Johns can sustain the energy level without sinking into self-parody.

Reis’ artwork (inked by Joe Prado) is gorgeous, and the book is off to a good start with the creators who revived Green Lantern and made him one of DC’s franchise characters.

This is another one to watch.

The Savage Hawkman
by Tony S. Daniel and Philip Tan

Hawkman is the other DC hero who has been rebooted so many times that nobody can keep up with him. Is he an archeologist, the reincarnation of an ancient Egyptian prince, an alien police officer, or all three? Man, did they need to scrap everything and start this guy over from scratch.

I’m not entirely sure they did, though. This comic starts out with a world-weary Carter Hall trying to destroy the “Nth Metal” that gives Hawkman the ability to fly. He’s apparently been Hawkman for years already, and wants to stop so he can devote his time to being a Crypto-archeologist.

Why they didn’t just start over at the beginning of his career is beyond me. However, this is a pretty cool comic book. Tan’s art is fantastic, with an almost painterly feel courtesy of colorist, Sunny Gho. The story pulls you in. Like most of the New 52 it’s just the first chapter of a longer work, but Daniel crafts a very interesting story.

Hawkman has apparently fused with the Nth Metal, so that it just appears when he needs it. There’s a good story with alien vampire-like beings, and it does capture the imagination.

Yet another book to keep on the “buy” list.

DC Universe Presents Deadman
by Paul Jenkins and Bernard Chang

This is probably the most obscure character I’m looking at this week, and oddly enough, he seems to have been rebooted the least. Deadman is Boston Brand, a circus performer who was picked off by a sniper in the middle of a trapeze act. Originally conceived as a knockoff of the 1960s TV show, “The Fugitive,” Deadman spent his early adventures trying to track down his killer.

He did this using his power, which was bestowed him upon his death. He can inhabit, possess if you will, any living person. This was great when he was trying to find the guy who killed him, but in this new version, he does this to restore his karmic balance, since he was a jerk when he was alive.

The big twist here is that Jenkins has our dead hero facing different kinds of people now. He’s being sent into the lives of folks who don’t have easily-resolved problems.

I’ve been a fan of Deadman ever since I was a seven-year-old knocked out by the art of Neal Adams for the first time. This new incarnation, with nice art by Chang, has me hooked. It’s a shame that DC Universe Presents is an anthology, and we’ll only get five issues of Deadman.

Superman #1
by George Perez and Jesus Merino

You’ve probably heard of this guy before. Perez, who wrote and laid out the story, had a hard act to follow, with the universal praise that Grant Morrison and Rags Morales received for Action Comics #1, but he does quite well here. For one thing, this is a complete story. For another, it’s a rock-solid Superman adventure, grounded in Metropolis that eases the reader into the changes from the traditional Superman mythos.

And there are changes, beginning with the opening pages where we see The Daily Planet building imploded as the paper joins the media empire of Morgan Edge, who is now African-American, and seems to be a bit like Rupert Murdoch. Lois Lane has been bumped upstairs at Galaxy Communications and Clark is still just a print reporter. Also, in this reboot, Lois never married Clark Kent, and has never dated Superman, preferring instead to knock boots with an anchor on the Galaxy News Channel.

I don’t quite get the change of race for Morgan Edge. It comes off seeming a bit pointless, like they saw what Marvel did with Nick Fury in the movies and want to get in on the action. I’m not opposed to an African American being in that role. I just wonder why they didn’t create an all-new character, instead of giving him the name of an established character who, in the old DC Universe, was the leader of a major organized crime gang and was tied somewhat to the intergalactic villain, Darkseid. It’s either heavy-handed foreshadowing, or they intend to disappoint long-time readers who think they know what’s going to happen.

Asdie from that minor quibble, this is a solid story. Superman has a positively dreadful new Jim Lee-designed costume, and there’s a one-page irrelevant diversion to cross over with Stormwatch #1, another of the New 52, but all in all, this is a good relaunch for The Man of Steel.

After six issues, though, Keith Giffen takes over the writing chores, while Dan Jurgens will take over the art. It’ll be interesting to see if that means a drastic change is in store.

That’s it for this week’s PopCulteer. Keep reading this thing, you never know what’s going to happen next.