THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS A COMICS EMERGENCY
SUICIDE GIRLS: ITALIAN VILLA
Available Via SuicideGirls.com
If you don’t know who the Suicide Girls are, click the link above, and then come back when you’re done.
Great. Two of the best hours you’ve spent in your life recently, yes? Thanks for coming back, by the way. Now, if you’re wondering what the Suicide Girls have to do with comics and why they’re being reviewed on this site, read on.
As you noticed about the women on the site, they’re not the types of models you see gracing the ads in mainstream magazines or on the covers of men’s mags like MAXIM or FHM. The Suicide Girls bring a different brand of femininity and sensuality to what they do; they also bring a look that stands apart. Unlike the airbrush horror of, say, Brooke Hogan leaping off the stands at you right now, the Suicide Girls are real (no plastic), and more to the point, they have character, and that’s what makes them so intriguing. And, more to the point, that character is what makes them more relatable to comics and genre entertainment.
These women not only develop their character and their personae through their pictures, they even take on “secret identities”, Ramones-style. Each Girl goes by a first name and the last name Suicide. For instance, one of the Girls is a local here in AZ, and while she has a day life (I’m assuming), she is Tempest Suicide on the site. Very superhero, yes?
I don’t think you have to have to have a thing for women with tattoos and piercings to appreciate the Suicide Girls, though. Again, it’s all about the character; I work at the nation’s largest university. There are over 25,000 female students alone. And I swear to you, 8000 of them are the same blonde/bottle blonde girl. They wear the same hairstyle. They were the same style clothes. And they wear the same three styles of pairs of shoes. Any given day is ATTACK OF THE CLONES, Arizona-style. It’s boring, and it’s disconcerting. The lack of individuality in style and appearance is so sheep-like that it’s genuinely depressing. But that isn’t a problem with the Suicide Girls.
ITALIAN VILLA is the second Girls DVD, and it’s quite different than the first one, which followed a group of the Girls on their first tour doing a live burlesque show. VILLA introduces you to over a dozen European Suicide Girls as they gather at a villa in the Italian countryside to meet, make new friends, and shoot new photo sets. The Girls come from all over Europe, and it’s interesting to see how these women from such a variety of cultures are able to bridge the language gap, find common ground, and enjoy the surroundings and each others’ company.
The scenery is spectacular, from the amazing Italian countryside, to the beautiful beaches the Girls visit, to the lovely cities they travel to during their stay. But, of course, the finest scenery comes from the Suicide Girls themselves; they are gorgeous, sensual, riveting personalities who command the screen during their photo sets. Whether fully clothed, or seductively peeling away layers, or exquisitely nude, these Suicide Girls have a gift for commanding every bit of your attention as they present their character, themselves, for the cameras.
Back to the comics connections for a moment. The site itself has offered a good selection of materials such as interviews of folks like Neil Gaiman and other genre fixtures, and recent issues of Image Comics had back cover ads for the site as well. But the true connection comes from many of the Girls openly acknowledging an affinity for comics and such; for instance one of the European girls notes her love of anime and manga. Another mentions producing a photo set inspired by BATTLE ROYALE. And one of the Girls, who photographs many of the Euro Girls, notes that her art school thesis involved dressing her subjects as superheroes, because the outfits would show the subjects feeling their most sexual and powerful. It’s a true point, and it’s one that carries over into the Girls as a whole; because the Girls conceptualize their own photo sets, each one is able to maximize her own creativity in self-presenting their sexuality and personality.
The breakout star of ITALIAN VILLA is Manko, a wild blonde who narrates the DVD, as well as providing one of the more interesting photo shoots. Her deep, breathy voice and commanding tone reveal her to be almost a force of nature as she appears on screen. Her blunt, direct approach to everything she does while in Italy is not only captivating viewing, but rather a challenge. You can’t ignore her; she won’t allow it. And the rest of the Suicide Girls follow in her wake, taking you with them on the journey. This is as good a reason as any to spend twenty dollars these days. And for God’s sake, hurry; you don’t ever want to keep Manko waiting.
TEEN TITANS: THE COMPLETE SECOND SEASON
The TEEN TITANS cartoon was one of the more pleasant animated surprises of the past few years, and season two was, for me, when the series really began to find its legs and become something special. The classic Titans team headlined the cartoon: Robin, Cyborg, Starfire, Raven, and Beast Boy. However, in season two, it was the addition of a new character to the mix that drove the show
That character: Terra. Smartly, the series producers adapted the greatest storyline of all from the TITANS comic: “The Judas Contract”. Young Terra enters the mix, beast Boy falls for her, she’s eventually made a Titan… and it turns out she’s a plant, working for their arch-enemy Slade (called that, I’m assuming, because Cartoon Network wasn’t excited about calling him Deathstroke). Certain aspects of the story are changed for broadcast purposes; Terra isn’t sleeping with the much older Slade, for instance. But the basic story is intact, and it makes for riveting, wondrous viewing, as the stress and struggle make the Titans truly come alive on the screen.
One of the standout things about the Titans cartoon is how it manages to deliver a solid moral lesson without beating you over the head with it. From episode one of the season, which finds Starfire stuck in a future where the Titans friendship died, to Robin’s taking one for the team and escorting a supervillain’s daughter to the prom, there’s always something to be gained from watching the show. Throw in excellent vocal performances from guest actors like Thomas Haden Church and Ron Perelman, and you have plenty of reasons to pick up this two-disc set. The only issue I have with it is that paucity of bonus features, the only one being a recap of season one. Looks at the making of the show and the actors who give it voice would have been appreciated. But even without it, this is still an excellent buy.
After far too many years of waiting, the original Japanese cut of GOJIRA is finally available for American viewing audiences, and fans of great film (not just of kaiju flicks) are better for it.
Most of you probably remember seeing GODZILLA KING OF THE MONSTERS on television as a kid. Raymond Burr watching and observing his way through the destruction of Tokyo, the giant creature releasing its fiery breath upon the unsuspecting populace… I know I did, and I was hooked for life. Godzilla geeks don’t get much bigger than me. For years, the Burr version was all I knew of the original film, and still, it was all good. Flawed, but beautiful, the film kept my heart.
But the stories about the original Japanese version wormed their way into my consciousness. It was longer? It was more metaphoric and psychologically challenging? It was more than the surface look at the horrors of nuclear armament, instead a richly deep story about the scars left on Japan by Hiroshima and Nagasaki?
Viewing this magnificent DVD, the answer to each of those questions is a rousing “Yes!”
The depth of horror and sadness in the Japanese film is astonishing. The characters are each torn by duty, desire, and fear. But let’s backtrack to the story: as the film opens, a fishing boat is destroyed by a strange flash of light and heat in the middle of the ocean, calling to mind the “Lucky Dragon no.5” incident of early 1954 where Japanese sailors found themselves too close to an American nuclear test on the bikini atoll. From there, more boats disappear, and the investigation leads an older scientist, his daughter, her arranged husband, and the man she truly loves into the complex fight to stop Gojira from destroying Japan completely.
Part of what sets this film apart is the carefully crafted human story at its heart. The desire to advance science and the desire to fulfill the heart are each as important as the creature’s rampaging through Japan, and the characters are each so compelling that you genuinely care what happens to them (a trait later films in the series would struggle with). And when one character realizes that he must make not on, but two, sacrifices, you feel as completely broken as he does, knowing that his life is not only over, but has been for far longer than we realized at the time. Throw in other moments that were cut from the American version, such as discussions about the destruction matching what happened with the atomic bomb, and moments where radioactive children must watch their parents die on hospital floors, and this becomes an amazing, emotional viewing experience.
The DVD package comes with excellent extras as well. GOJIRA contains an informative commentary track by Godzilla historians who provide expert knowledge about the origins of the story, the goings on at Toho Studios, the scenes that were cut or trimmed, and other obscure facts. There are also features about the making of the screenplay and story, and how the original suit was constructed and designed. But what really sells the package is the inclusion of the American cut GODZILLA KING OF THE MONSTERS; not only is it included, but the historians include a commentary track for this film as well, and offer up insights about how Raymond Burr’s scenes were filmed and added to the Japanese footage, as well as interviews with some of the behind-the-scenes principals who worked on making the American film. It’s a glorious treat for any fan of the series.
Whether or not you like giant monsters stomping and burning cities, GOJIRA represents a crowning achievement in cinema, and remains one of the greatest anti-war and anti-nuclear statements ever put to film. Take the time to watch this film and reassess your feelings about what kaiju films can deliver on an emotional and intellectual level to the viewer.
ULTIMATE AVENGERS 2
The sequel to ULTIMATE AVENGERS arrives, facing some enormous hurdles, not the least of which was an extremely lackluster first film. The original, plagued by poor pacing, plodding voice performances, and characters that didn’t ring true, only found a spark in the final twenty minutes. That is, when the action quotient kicked in and the film started being a visual spectacle worthy of Bryan Hitch’s art. With that in mind, I was doubtful about the prospects for this one.
AVENGERS 2 begins by introducing us to Wakanda and the Black Panther, a character yet to be introduced to the comics’ Ultimate universe (one of the special features notes that Hitch was brought in to design Panther and Wakanda). Taking up from the first film, it becomes apparent that the alien Chitauri threat is not ended, and in fact, their focus is on something deep in the heart of Wakanda. Eventually, the Avengers get involved, and the battle is on.
EUREKA, created by comics scribe Andrew Cosby (X-ISLE, ZOMBIE TALES) and his writing partner Jaime Paglia, is (to put it bluntly) Nerd Porn.
U.S. Marshall Jack Carter finds himself in an off-the-map town named Eureka while attempting to transport his runaway daughter back to Los Angeles. It turns out that Eureka is a secret scientific enclave, and the entire town is populated by geniuses working towards the betterment of science and mankind… for the most part. And after Jack proves himself useful, he winds up being assigned back to the town as its sheriff, a new kind of fish out of water.
The cast of characters surrounding Jack (played by the wonderfully stone-faced Colin Ferguson) includes Henry (the great Joe Morton in a role that lets him be T2’s Miles Dyson to the extreme), an engineer who doubles as the town’s mechanic and forensics expert; Maggert (Matt Frewer, chewing the scenery), a hunter in charge of tracking down wayward biological experiments and people who might trespass in the wrong spot; national security babysitter for the town, Allison Blake (Salli Richardson-Whitfield balancing authority and sexiness quite nicely); and her soon to be ex-husband Nathan Stark (Ed Quinn, suitably slipping back and forth between making you believe he’s evil or actually a decent guy). Aided and abetted by his deputy and former commando Jo (Erica Cerra, whom the show runners seem to be trying to make so severe as to de-sexualize her), Jack must navigate a world that finds him to be the dullest tool in the shed… and while doing so, he has to deal with time hiccups, possible alien abductions, and machines that can eliminate short term memory. Nothing quite what he trained for to be a U.S. Marshall.
I’ve become quite addicted to the show, drawn in not so much by the science, but because I’ve grown to love the characters. Henry is a true gem, and it’s nice to see Morton get a part that’s worthy of him. He’s already had a spotlight episode where he got a little romance in his life, and that was great to see. I also enjoy the sexual tension between Ferguson and Richardson-Whitfield, especially since they brought in her estranged husband. You can see that Allison wouldn’t mind a hookup with the sheriff, but knowing that her soon-to-be ex can see it, too, she refuses to give in and admit she’s attracted to him. It makes a nice contradiction to the sheriff’s response when the ex quizzes him; Jack lack’s Allison’s cool and stumbles in his denials about being attracted to her, telling hubby all he needs to know. Sharply written stuff.
“Nerd Porn” was how I described the show above, and the reason why is because of the show’s scientific focus. Never has there been such a show wherein so many highly intelligent characters made up the cast. It sort of answers the question of where the kids in REAL GENIUS wound up living and getting jobs. But from a critical standpoint, there’s an insidious anti-nerd bit lurking below the surface. Normally, genre fiction finds the smart person trying to convince the lesser intelligent authorities of the correctness of their far-out theories and being blown off. However, EUREKA has seen that trope reversed. Jack has the knack for coming up with the answer and struggles to convince the nerd set that he’s right. Because he’s not as smart as them, he tends to get ignored or devalued, but he always saves the day. We’ve yet to see an episode that has been fully executed without Jack coming up with a pivotal part of the solution, and the show really needs to address this aspect. I don’t think it can survive and fully grow if Jack continues to be the “Wesley Crusher”.
Still, there’s so much to like here that I’m in no danger of walking away. This is the first time I’ve ever found Ferguson to be an engaging screen presence; he’s finally found a fit for his laconic and befuddled presence. There’s a nice conspiracy plot lurking in the background centered on the town’s psychiatrist (played with charming iciness by Debrah Farentino, herself a near-genius in real life). The show delivers solid laughs every week (the episode where Jack moved into a “smart house” was a highlight, especially when it got upset with him for being late for dinner and locked him out). And the characters are so intriguing that there’s no shortage of directions for the storylines to go. In short, this is a show loaded with promise. And I’m hoping that by the end of this first season it fully delivers. I’ll be watching.
Copyright 2006- 2010 Marc Mason/Comics Waiting Room. All rights reserved