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A few words about Jack Kirby...
Appellate Judge James A. Stewart -- July 14th, 2012 6:50PM

Many of you have heard of Jack Kirby, but Arlen Schumer wants to make sure, given that Stan Lee is in the spotlight as the writer behind classic Marvel characters like Spiderman. Schumer and others involved with the Jack Kirby virtual museum, have been working on it this week at the San Diego Comic-Con.

Schumer, the author of The Silver Age of Comic Book Art, aims to put Kirby and other comic book artists (for example, Dick Spranger, who gave Batman shape through the Fifties) in the spotlight. Even in his book on comic art, he uses illustration heavily to emphasize the importance of the drawing.

"Written word is just the initial structure. Until an artist visualized a script, you don't have what is called a comic book," he said. "Unfortunately, in our society, the writer is elevated above the artist."

He compares his theory of auteurship to the auteurship theory voiced by French movie critics, and likens comic book artists to great film directors. "Kirby should be considered the auteur of Marvel Comics, not Stan Lee, the writer," he says. Schumer notes that Kirby lost that battle in court last year, but hopes readers--and moviegoers--will take an interest in Kirby and his work.

"People have no idea that Kirby created the visual iconography that makes that vision possible," he said.

However, Schumer doesn't want to take away from writers. "Everybody thinks that I want to strip the writer of all credit. The writer is still the writer, just not the auteur."

To read more about the Jack Kirby Museum, go to http://kirbymuseum.org/

Nature walk with hexenbeasts
Appellate Judge James A. Stewart -- July 13th, 2012 3:31PM

Yes, I know it's a promotion for the [b}Grimm Season Two premiere (August 13, by the way), complete with video screens, but I had to take in the Grimm Experience. It's short--perhaps shorter than the wait in line--but it can be fun if you're a fan of the NBC series. It's just across from the San Diego Comic-Con in the Gaslamp District.

The first part is one of the actual Airstreams used in the show, which will be seen in future episodes (provided it doesn't get dinged up too badly by fans). Inside are actual props from the show, with descriptions, although I'm told the weapons aren't the real TV thing, for obvious safety reasons.

The second is that nature walk, with trivia about hexenbeasts and other Grimm creatures, not to mention that video screen. It's got a neat fog effect as you walk into the woods.

Yes, I've been in a fog today. Har-de-har-har.

Gaslamp Jumble...
Appellate Judge James A. Stewart -- July 13th, 2012 3:10PM

Friday morning, I actually took a walk outside the San Diego Comic-Con into the Gaslamp District.

To get two blocks, I walked through a Science Channel something-or-other, passed some not-so-scary aliens handing out movie rental passes, passed a couple of Wilfreds (much-advertised FX dog) with a fire hydrant, saw part of an iPhone scavenger hunt (sorry, but I'm low-tech) that had something to do with the Marvel Avengers, and was handed free gum by some attractive women (God, was my breath that bad? Possibly, but they were too polite to say so) who pointed me in the direction of a CNet break area, where I tried a new Tomb Raider game (in which Lara Croft was very dismayed to learn that I'm a lousy gamer). I've also got cards about GeekNation and the AFL-CIO, to name just a few, coupons for Burger King, and a drink special for tonight. Somewhere in there, I noticed that Syfy has taken over a restaurant for Defiance, a game and future TV series.

Holy Legos, Batman!
Appellate Judge James A. Stewart -- July 13th, 2012 2:47PM

Today, Batman is being immortalized in Legos. As I write, Nathan Sawaya is adapting a Jim Lee painting of Batman to Lego sculpture at the DC Comics Darkness and Light exhibition on 5th Avenue, the main street of San Diego's Gaslamp District. It's part of San Diego Comic-Con festivities, and he's expected to wrap up around 4 p.m.

Sawaya has been a full-time Lego sculpture artist for around eight years. Before he investigated what he could do with a childhood toy, Sawaya "sculpted art out of more traditional media." The folks at DC looked him up for their exhibit, part of the We Can Be Heroes campaign. Catwoman was his first DC Lego work.

Darkness and Light: Art Inspired by Heroes & Villains, Hope & Heroism includes art with a DC theme and photos documenting the effects of hunger in the Horn of Africa, according to a DC press release. It's on display until July 15 at Michael J. Wolf Fine Arts Gallery, there's no charge and you don't need to be a Comic-Con attendee. It's part of DC's We Can Be Heroes campaign to raise money to combat hunger.

Still life...
Appellate Judge James A. Stewart -- July 13th, 2012 2:49AM

There are days in heavy traffic when you might think about giving up cars because the joggers are moving faster, but that wasn't so at San Diego Comic Con on Thursday night as the event let out for the evening around 7. I got to experience my first complete standstill of foot traffic, watching buses unable to move through masses of people. I'm told that's not surprising by Comic-Con veterans, though.

I also found out that the swag bag is almost as tall as I am, making for carrying that's a little uncomfortable.

Drawing a picture of Dreamworks' future...
Appellate Judge James A. Stewart -- July 13th, 2012 1:58AM

With 10 movies in production and around eight others in various pre-production stages, key members of the Dreamworks team talked in a San Diego Comic-Con panel Thursday mainly about three of them, including Rise of the Guardians, about a super-team of Jack Frost, Santa, The Easter Bunny, and The Tooth Fairy, and The Croods, a prehistoric story.

"Does the Easter Bunny know Santa Claus?" A child's question led to a book, and then to a movie that made warriors out of some familiar characters for Rise of the Guardians. Production designer Patrick Hanenberger described creating recognizable swords for each character in keeping with their image, even as they became action heroes.

The Croods, set in a fictional "evolutionary puberty," will have an array of animal "mashups" to suggest an as-yet-undiscovered stage of evolution, said Dreamworks Chief Creative Officer Bill Damasche. Supervising animator James Baxter said the animated voice performances of actress Emma Stone as a cave girl yielded expressions that will find their way into the film.

Madagascar 3 director Tom McGrath noted that The Penguins of Madagascar will be a sequel to the Madagascar films. He also discussed generally the work involved in managing an animation team that could involve 700 people, comparing it to Tom Sawyer getting people to paint a fence and noting that he has to pitch the stories to the people working on them. "It's not a dictatorship; it's inclusive," he said.

Asked about whether hand-drawn animation will make a comeback, Baxter noted a 2-D sequence in The Croods and Damasche noted a mix of 2-dimensional work and CGI in the upcoming Me and My Shadow. The panelists agreed that the material dictates the form the animation takes. "Is this film going to taste better when it's animated?" is the standard Baxter described, noting that many animated films could also be live-action.

Sing along with Psych...
Appellate Judge James A. Stewart -- July 13th, 2012 1:36AM

Psych, the USA network comic mystery going into its 100th episode, may have ended last season on a cliffhanger with the shooting of Henry Spenser (Corbin Bernsen), but the cast has something to sing about.

At a crowded San Diego Comic Con panel Thursday, stars James Roday and Dule Hill broke into two songs they've made up on-set: "The Boom from the Bottom Song," about the boom operator's job, and "We Are Out of Here," which goes with the last shot on an episode.

The show will get even more musical this season with a double-length episode to be shot in October entirely in song. In comments after the panel, Roday described it as something "we've been talking about for a very long time." Hill is looking forward to the "change-up" after 100 episodes. The cast will all be singing--something Maggie Lawson expressed a note of nervousness about--although Roday mentioned the possibility of dubbing for comic purposes. Creator Steve Franks told the panel he wouldn't mind seeing it wind up on Broadway.

Other coming episodes mentioned at the panel and afterwards included a Bigfoot story told entirely with "found footage" (which, from clips shown at the panel, looks like it could be the show's strangest moment), a trip to Mexico (shot in the show's usual Vancouver filming locale, Franks notes), a Clue parody for the 100th episode, and, of course, the cliffhanger resolution ("I don't know if I have a job," Bernsen, wearing a question mark T-shirt, says, although I don't know that many fans believed him). Guests will include Kristy Swanson, Cybill Shepherd, Garrett Morris, Leslie Ann Warren, Jeffrey Tambor, and Steve Valentine.

The romance between Shawn and Juliet will slowly continue. How far is yet to be determined, but Franks said he wouldn't be worried about it leading to the altar--story-wise. "It's not the central relationship of the show; the central relationship is Shawn and Gus," he said. Lawson teased that Juliet and Lassiter will develop their relationship "in ways you can't imagine. There is a bubble bath involved." Hill will also have a romantic storyline this season, and Chief Vick's husband will appear.

Are the actors anything like their characters? In panel discussions, they do sound a bit like their TV counterparts, with Roday even appearing to shoot Lawson a look as she mentions how handsome guest star John Cena is.

"There is certainly a dark, serious side to Tim that is used by Lassiter," Timothy Omundsen says, noting that he and Lassie share ego and "enjoy shooting stuff." Huh? Marksmanship training is a part of his preparations for playing permanently wired cop Clayton Lassiter, and he was even noting the shooting skills of a journalist during interviews. "I'm okay. I'm not going to say I'm super-good." Omundsen says he'd also wanted to try tap dancing, a skill Lassiter pursued on the show.

At the panel, Hill told a fan that Burton "Gus" Guster's "stealth mode" was something he utilized in real life, and the cast noted that Hill is fussy about people handling his food (Can't you imagine Gus doing that?). Hill says he's not quite as geeky as Gus, but said he believes "every level of geek has some coolness in them" and vice versa.

"In my head, I have a fabulous life," Kristen Nelson, the show's authority figure as Chief Vick, says. On the panel, she ruminated about her character's VCR choices, including The Big Bang Theory, The Closer, and nineties music videos.

The panel also included fans vying on Psych trivia as the cast sipped pineapple juice, referring to the show's pineapple cameos.

Comic Con gets off to a tragic start
Chief Justice Michael Stailey -- July 12th, 2012 1:01PM

The 2012 San Diego Comic-Con began on a somber note. A 53 year old New York woman and rabid TWILIGHT fan, camping out in line for the film's Hall H panel, was struck and killed by a car in front of the convention center Tuesday morning. She was apparently crossing against the light, tripping and falling into the busy street that separates the convention center from San Diego's famed Gaslight District and was struck by a passing car. She was taken to Mercy Hospital but was unable to survive her injuries. Twitter quickly exploded with the news and rallied to support the deceased woman and her family, with fellow TWILIGHT fans now sporting black arm bands in memoriam. One wonders if this will not lead convention officials to reconsider allowing fans to congregate so far in advance of these popular panels, which have grown considerably in size and scope in recent years. Those of us who have been attending Comic Con for years, if not decades, remember not too long ago how easy it was to step in an out of the ballroom events without having to line up hours (or days) in advance.

Comic-Con 2012 Coverage
Chief Justice Michael Stailey -- July 12th, 2012 9:38AM

Welcome to DVD Verdict's coverage of Comic-Con 2012. Our esteemed editor Jim Stewart is live on site and will be providing updates throughout the weekend. We'll also be keeping you abreast of other developments from a variety of news sources, so as Stan Lee would say... "Stay tuned, true believers!"

--Chief Justice Michael Stailey

Director Ken Russell is off to see the Pinball Wizard
Chief Justice Michael Stailey -- November 28th, 2011 1:21PM

Controversial director Ken Russell passed away in his sleep over the weekend at the age of 84. Born 3 July 1927 in Southampton, England, filmmaking was not his first profession. Having served in her majesty's army, trying his hand as a dancer, and a photographer, he eventually began to dabble in short films before getting into television in the early 1960s. His BBC series Monitor and Omnibus garnered a great deal of attention and acclaim, but it's films like Oscar-nominated Women in Love (1969), the Cannes favorite Mahler (1974), The Who's rock opera Tommy (1975), and cult classics Altered States (1980) and Lair of the White Worm (1988) for which he will be most remembered. He is survived by his fourth wife Lisi Tribble, five children by his first wife, costume designer Shirley Russell, and one unreleased film still in post-production -- Invasion of the Not Quite Dead, in which he stars and executive produced.

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