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Tag Archive: Jason McClain


Red Handed by Matt Kindt

WELCOME TO EARTH-4

A Weekly Column with J. Torrey McClain

I finished Red Handed: The Fine Art of Strange Crimes by Matt Kindt yesterday morning.  I immediately wanted to start at the beginning again.  If not for the rest of the day’s distractions, I probably would have.  I know I’m looking forward to it tonight.  I know that I’m looking at it over there at the foot of my bed as I type.  At some point during my writing, Kindt’s story will entice me away from the keyboard, call to me to stretch out from my toes to my head and curl up with its tale again.  You, as the reader will never know when that point comes.

Of course, before I read, I may head out on the streets of Los Angeles and turn my phone into its driver mode and start my moonlighting gig as a Lyft driver.  I’ll either crank my car’s engines and start the cool AC blowing over me and the rest of the car so that the first rider will feel their maximum level of comfort, or I’ll just turn on the electric system, roll down the windows and just wait for the first alarm to let me know I’m summoned before I start the gas coursing through the car’s internal system.  Either way, I’ll sit and listen to a podcast, a conversation recorded maybe not so far away and maybe not too long ago, but then again, it could be years and hundreds of miles.  The voices reach out to me and let my mind drift and my mouth smile, the best friends to combat sitting still in Los Angeles while in your car.

Matt Kindt Red Handed The Fine Art of Strange Crimes

Along the way, I’ll meet new people, give them a fist bump and take them to their destination at the Hollywood Bowl, a club, a neighborhood bar or a barbecue.  We’ll talk about life in Los Angeles and for a moment, we’ll connect before we disappear back into the faceless crowd of 10 million souls.

Kindt asks, what if they didn’t disappear?  What if the person in the backseat knows a person who sold me some pluots at the farmers market?  What if the driver of the car that cut in front of me motors to the same club where I’m taking my fare and they meet and fall in love?  What if all of our pattern-seeking monkey brains just haven’t figured out how to see the invisible threads piercing our skin and linking us with trees, metal, sand and the upright piles of water that say, “Hello” each morning?  Is it a natural linking, a mystic connection created by some higher power far above us or from some hidden store of power deep within the earth, or is it a scheme plotted by a nefarious or well-meaning visionary to make the world a worse or better place?

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Snowpiercer train

WELCOME TO EARTH-4

A Weekly Column with J. Torrey McClain

I did not expect an eternal train ride, yet that’s exactly what Snowpiercer gave me.  Then it took a look at the plight of the less fortunate and the caste system that keeps those undesirables in the back of the train.  I didn’t expect action sequences that amazed me in their freshness and scope.  I saw a fantastic apocalyptic future look that had me guessing what would happen as it had me laughing and had me enthralled.

(If I wasn’t so spoiler adverse and had read CJ Bunce’s review of the graphic novel Snowpiercer then I might have expected the train ride to last forever.  However, reading his review now and checking out the graphic novel at Skylight Books after the movie tells me the two versions of the material explored separate stories.  Even with differences, I didn’t even check out the preview and looking back at the controversy on whether or not it would get a U.S. release, I have no clue how 20 minutes could have been removed from anywhere in the film.)

As good as the movie is, the setup keeps me thinking about the movie.  I love the beginning explanation for the apocalypse. Global warming threatens to destroy the earth.  Scientists desperate for a solution try to cool down the planet.  They succeed too well.  The planet is now a land of ice and snow and the only people left alive are aboard the aforementioned train.

Snowpiercer class car

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McClain panel 2

WELCOME TO EARTH-4

A Weekly Column with J. Torrey McClain

I got to drive 125 miles south and east yesterday to visit the horde of awesome that is Comic-Con.  As usual, it was a blast and I wish I had the mutant ability of Jamie Madrox the Multiple Man to see every panel, hang out at every booth, visit every place outside the Con and then at the end of the day, try every dessert at Café Zucchero.  However, I am just one man in one place at one time in this universe.  So, let me break down my small piece of Saturday in San Diego.

The Great

- As a Los Angeleno, the two banes of my existence in this metropolitan monstrosity are traffic and parking.  Driving down took only two hours and I found a lot that only charged $5 for 12 hours.  It doesn’t get much better than that.

- At forty minutes before high noon, I made my way to room nine and the line forming outside.  The line kept on filling and filling and soon I was glad to have foregone any extra time on the floor, for I got to see “Berkeley Breathed: The Last Comic-Con Panel!”  The whole session consisted of Breathed joking about himself, his love of merchandising and his “tiff” with Bill Watterson.  Sitting in the room laughing made evident the comic quickness of the mind behind Opus and Bill the Cat.  It made me miss “Bloom County,” “Calvin and Hobbes” and “The Far Side,” all bits of my past that now only show up in collections (like the future upcoming collection of Breathed’s work “Academia Waltz” from his time at the University of Texas.)  The bit of the panel that will stick with me the most is about how times have changed and how the comic pages have begun to fade.  Pieces of art, comedy and commentary that were in 100 million newspapers on kitchen tables 30 years ago, now barely make it out of the tin boxes in the vestibules of IHOPs.

McClain panel 1

- I may have missed the “Saga” panel at 1 pm, but I caught Brian K. Vaughn and Fiona Staples during the “Strong Female Characters” panel two hours later in the same room.  June Brigman, Colleen Coover, Sara Mayhew, Jimmy Palmiotti, Amanda Conner, Paul Tobin, Vaughn and Staples talked about what it takes to make strong female characters, how they approach it and listed some of their current favorites.  The story that will last with me though came from the moderator, Maggie Thompson.  She told the story of her husband reading to their daughter a run of “Fantastic Four” every night before bed.  As a gift for their daughter when she was away in college they gave her a bound collection of a great many of those same stories.  When she received them and started to read the stories, she angrily called her mom and yelled that these were not the stories her father had read to her.  It turns out that her father had read her all of Reed Richard’s lines as the words said by Sue Storm.  He didn’t want the only female superhero in the story to be the one that fades and hides.

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SDCC 2014 app

WELCOME TO EARTH-4

A Weekly Column with J. Torrey McClain

First things first, I have no clue if the Comic-Con app will work during Comic-Con, as hundreds of thousands of people in such a small area tend to overload the capability of wireless networks.  However, this isn’t about this weekend.  It’s about now.  It’s about finding all of the cool stuff possible and figuring out how to maximize my visit to Comic-Con 2014.

Splash Page

When you open it, a big advertisement for Constantine or The Blacklist as NBC sponsors the app.  If the app has gotten this better, I for one am willing to submit to our Comcast overlords for this one brief moment and think about their TV shows.  I can live with this ad and not feel a bit of impatience.

Discovery

Once you watch the ad, or as soon as you hit skip after reflecting for the appropriate entertainment masters inspired time, you get to a page that lists venues, shows, awards and some of the highlights of the weekend.  There’s a square for Game of Thrones which gives the straight dope on an “immersive experience” at the Omni Hotel including authentic costumes.  There’s a square for the offsite Horton Square Theater venue where “Weird Al” Yankovic will appear on Saturday.  There’s a square for the Comic-Con International Independent Film Festival that lists the panels associated with CCI-IFF, but unfortunately doesn’t include the films to be shown.  However, if I may paraphrase what the kids were saying six years ago, there’s a feature on the app for that.

Comic-Con image 1

Schedule

Click on the drop down menu in the upper left of the screen and right below the discovery section of the app you’ll find the schedule, the most wonderful part of the app.  Do you want autographs?  Filter the schedule to where you just see the autograph sections.  Want to see the films of the aforementioned CCI-IFF?  You can see the whole list of movies playing at the Marriott.  For me, it’s all about the programs.  I can just filter those and check out what is happening day by day, as a menu bar at the top separates Wednesday from Thursday from Friday from you get the idea.  I can focus on any segment of the con I want.  What’s happening with anime panels?  Filter out everything but the anime programs.  Costuming?  Art?  Whatever you want, you can list, or you can just list it all and see how to fit together a puzzle of extracting all the juicy goodness from Comic-Con.  Then just tap the star next to what you want to remember and ta-da, presto, chango; we’ll get to it later.

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Koba socializing with humans

WELCOME TO EARTH-4

A Weekly Column with J. Torrey McClain

When I think about some of my favorite movies, they contain a sense of the dynamics of a family, whether it is by blood or by situation.  The Incredibles is a fantastic example of a family at the center of the story and how, when forced to confront his own mortality, at his core Mr. Incredible finds that family is the most important thing in his life.  Stalag 17 is about a family in a single room wooden cell in a POW camp and even though they argue and kid and get on each other’s nerves, they will risk their lives for each other.  The Philadelphia Story revolves around a family’s plan for a wedding one weekend on their estate.  Up is built on scrapbook glimpses of a life spent together as a family.

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes contains what it means to have family and what a family is as one of its themes.  Humans as a family.  Apes as a family.  The family of Caesar and the family of the lead human Malcolm played by Jason Clarke.  Family by blood and new families after loved ones perish.

It is dealing with the idea of ape families that becomes problematic in my mind.  Scientifically, we know that chimpanzees, gorillas and orangutans have familial bonds.  We can see those attachments as we stare at them through windows in zoos as the elders have learned to turn their backs to our prying eyes.  There are blood families and communities as families.  Yet, we don’t really care much about what happens to them because they can’t tell us how separation from their family feels.  We hope they forget if they ever get sent to a new zoo or study facility.  We hope that any new introductions into a community will forget the families left behind in the wild or their previous place of captivity.  It would be different if our apes, the ones that we see, could scream at us like Caesar and tell us that we won’t threaten or separate their family.

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Creepy Little Girls part 11

The writers at borg.com have one fear in scary movies that seems to trump all others–creepy little girls.  From The Shining to The Ring to the new gothic horror flick We Are What We Are, we’d all just as soon duck in the corner and cover our heads than to watch another movie with the single element that makes you run out of the theater or jump out of your seat every time some evil filmmaker writes them into a script.

We’ve discussed this strange horror element before here at borg.com, with Elizabeth C. Bunce’s review of The Alphabet Killer and her list of Halloween video recommendations, in Jason McClain’s preview of The Woman in Black, in my Halloween recommended viewing list, in Art Schmidt’s favorite horror film list, and Jason McClain’s video recommendations.

We Are What We Are

All in, we’ve logged 11 scary flicks with one or more creepy little girls–enough so that we think it qualifies as its own sub-genre–and not only do we acknowledge them we recommend them, too.  They are The Ring, The Exorcist, Let Me In, Paranormal Activity 3, Watcher in the Woods, The Sixth Sense, The Shining, The Alphabet Killer, Turn of the Screw, The Others, and The Woman in Black.  Yes, they give us the heebie geebies, but if we want to see something that gets us to lift up our feet in the theater seats, it seems the secret weapon for filmmakers is clear.

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WayWayBack

By Jason McClain (@JTorreyMcClain)

When I think of Steve Carell, I think of The Office and how the American version turned out to be different than the British version just because Carell is so much more likable than Ricky Gervais.  I think of Even Stevphen with him and Stephen Colbert on The Daily Show.  I think of The 40 Year Old Virgin and how I found it to be one of the funniest movies I’ve seen because of the way Carell played the sweet awkwardness of Andy.

Within the first 15 minutes of The Way, Way Back, I find it impressive that Jim Rash and Nat Faxon made me dislike him more than I would have thought ever possible.  I’m not talking a mild dislike; I mean an active repulsion where I put my hand over my mouth in shock before I ball it into a fist to control my anger.  Then, they keep ratcheting that feeling higher.

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The Wolverine Japan theme poster

By Jason McClain (@JTorreyMcClain)

It’s strange to be reading December 1941: 31 Days that Changed America and Saved the Worldby Craig Shirley and read all of the vitriol directed against Japanese people in the days after Pearl Harbor in the summations of newspaper accounts.  I know that not using derogative terms to talk about groups of people is a relatively new concept, but looking at the headlines and words used in newspapers still gave me pause.  (The more things change, the more they stay the same, as the chapter I just read mentioned Clark Griffith, owner of the Washington Redskins.)

I recently saw The Wolverine and it begins at the other side of the story of WWII, nearly four years after Pearl Harbor when the sovereign land of the Japanese was hit with atomic bombs in Hiroshima and Nagasaki from the planes of the United States.  Logan is a prisoner of war in a special constructed cell that buries him in a hole well beneath the surface of the earth.  A bomber passes overhead. A Japanese officer rushes to release POWs from their jails.  He finally cuts the lock from Logan’s cage as well after a bit of deliberation and joins his fellow officers as they face the horizon in the position to commit seppuku before the bomb hits Nagasaki.

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Thrilling Adventure Hour

By Jason McClain (@JTorreyMcClain)

Two weekends ago, I helped my good friend Rick move to Oakland.  Yes, I was sweaty.  Yes, I ached.  But, it was good sweat and good aches because I knew I was helping a friend.  Plus, I got to drive a truck, a big ol’ moving truck doing 70 down the highway in a bouncy seat.  The other bonus is that I got to listen to four hours of The Thrilling Adventure Hour as I drove over the Grapevine pass and out into the vast farmland of the Central Valley.  The air conditioning was on “arctic” as Rick described it when he stepped into the cab to talk at one point, and it was just me and Frank and Sadie Doyle, Sparks Nevada and Croach the Tracker, Gummy and Banjo Bindlestuff, Amelia Earhart fighting dirty krauts and Captain Laserbeam and the Adventurekateers. I couldn’t have asked for a better drive.  (Plus, Rick treated me to In N’ Out which is such a delicious meal after a bit of the lift and sweat, if you know what I mean.  Oh heck, moving is what I mean.)

This morning, another good friend, C.J., sent me a link to a preview of Thrilling Adventure Hour graphic novel from Archaia/BOOM! Studios, available in comic book stores today.  I jumped at the chance to read it and compare it to my time shared with the show on the road and at Largo at the Coronet.

TAH-1-Dustin-Weaver

The first two things I encountered were the prefaces by Patton Oswalt and Ed Brubaker, two more artists that I enjoy immensely.  In Brubaker’s writing, he mentioned all of the distractions that are in the city of Los Angeles and how this show based on old-time radio scripts sells out every week. It got me to thinking of all the glorious things that can distract on a monthly or weekly basis here that interest me.  There’s Harmontown at Meltdown on a weekly basis.  There are movies at the Arclight.  There are shows at the UCB, including the Dead Authors hosted by H.G. Wells (Paul F. Tompkins, aka Frank Doyle).  There are concerts all over the place. There are hikes into the mountains and walks along the beach.  There are bike rides in Griffith Park.  There’s improv shows at the IO West.  There’s golf at the Los Feliz Par 3 and Penmar Golf Course.  There’s baseball at Dodger Stadium, Angels Stadium and many more Single-A stadiums in the California League South.  There are restaurants to try, board games to play, bars to have a whiskey or beer and books and graphic novels to read.  I may have only seen the Thrilling Adventure Hour live twice, but I have to give others a chance, don’t I?  I have to explore all that this great town has to offer.

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concrete_large

By Jason McClain (@JTorreyMcClain)

A friend asked me a question the other day that dovetailed nicely with my latest TPB, Concrete Volume 1: “Depths” by Paul Chadwick.  He asked me a simple, yet personal and revealing question, “What is your ideal job?”

Before I get to this question, as I wanted to move on quite quickly in my writing about it, I need to explain how the question connects with “Depths.”  In this opening trade paperback, Chadwick slowly reveals the origin of his hero, Concrete.  Aliens capture speechwriter Ronald Lithgow and transplant all of his memories into a large, agile, powerful, hardened stone body that does not need the air, water and food that his human body needed.  In this body, he can’t be the speechwriter that he trained to be, but the world opens up to him in a different way.  Suddenly he can be the adventurer of the serials, novels and non-fiction he read as a child, stories where heroes save the day everywhere from the far corners of the Earth to far away planets and galaxies.  He decides to change the course of his life and become his version of those adventurers, digging below ground to save miners, trying to swim the Atlantic Ocean, serving as a bodyguard for a rock star and studying giant rays in the Pacific.

Concrete by Paul Chadwick 1 - Depths

As for my friend’s question, I didn’t have the immediate answer that Concrete had.  (Well immediate to the reader, as I kept turning page after page to find out what happened next, and though his time passed slowly going through government tests of his abilities, for me, it was just moments.)  I had to stop and think and because of the kind of person I am (varied and detailed) I did not stop at one, but journeyed into my brain to get four different possibilities, each of which would be a good way to spend the work day.  That got me to think even further and wonder if concern about the ideal job is even the right question.

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