Entry for July 29, 2008: Genre glut

Friends, I hope you've had a good fortnight. I've started telecommuting on Mondays to take advantage of a companywide effort to save gas. However, a leak above my desk at work and the water damage above Janice's and my kitchen sink at home remain unrepaired.

In the meantime, various games and planning for this coming weekend's 40th birthday bash in New York have taken up much of my evenings with phone calls. The face-to-face D&D4e "Vanished Lands: Gusorin Confederation" adventuring party, nicknamed "Faith-Based Initiative" or "F.B.I.," has struggled with rules debates even as it explores some haunted barrows.

Meanwhile, I made some progress with my characters in the City of Heroes online game during "double experience point weekend" from July 18 to 20. Our supergroup is still split between the more casual Sunday morning Champions team (which I'm on) and the higher-level group on the Guardian server. Thomas K.Y. came over the other night to help me "respec" my oldest "toon," "Nightfall IIb."

The D&D3.5 "Vanished Lands: Holy Steel" teleconferencing team continues to deal with scheduling and technical snafus, but at least Dexter V.H.'s Drow Ranger "Faelonia" and Byron V.O.'s Paladin "Ibrahim" are proceeding in their quest to the distant empire of Khemet (New Kingdom Egypt). Byron and Dex now hope to visit the Boston area in late September.

On Thursday, 17 July 2008, Janice and I met former co-worker (and webmistress to the stars) Jacqui M.D., who was in town for work. She told us about the extensive flooding in the Midwest (fortunately, she wasn't directly affected), as well as current genre entertainment. I haven't yet seen X-Files 2: I Want to Believe, which has gotten mixed reviews.

Speaking of genre entertainment, I watched G4's coverage of the annual San Diego Comic-Con this past weekend. On the one hand, it's good to see the trend continuing of adapting comic books and graphic novels into well-made movies. On the other hand, print's convoluted continuities, lengthy crossovers and character deaths/resurrections, and the tendency to write toward adults rather than children who represent a possible future for the medium have raised concerns among industry observers.

Among other news, the Cartoon Network will pair the computer-animated Star Wars: Clone Wars with traditional cell-animated Batman and the Brave and Bold on Saturday nights this coming autumn! As a fan of DC Comics' heroes, I'm glad to see those and Marvel's Wolverine and the X-Men and The Spectacular Spider-Man. Lately, child-friendly material goes to TV, while somewhat more mature fare that's fairly faithful to the source material, such as Wonder Woman, has been going direct to video.

For live-action, the big previews at Comic-Con this year were for Watchmen, a densely written graphic novel that I and others once thought was unfimable. I'm only cautiously optimistic about Supermax, the "We want to do metahuman prison flick; hey, let's use DC second-stringer Green Arrow" project in preproduction. Even Smallville has learned to rely on the emerald archer, one of my favorite costumed vigilantes.

"SciFriday" is again the high point of my television viewing, if not purely on the SciFi Channel. Just as superheroes are winning at the box office, comedic speculative fiction is popular on TV right now, with shows such as Chuck, Reaper, Pushing Daisies, and Eureka gently poking fun at espionage, horror, fantasy, and science fiction, respectively.

Just as we had mad-scientist cartoons such as Dexter's Laboratory, Invader Zim, Powerpuff Girls, Jimmy Neutron, and Kim Possible in the past decade or so, live-action programs have creatively explored this territory. Comedic mystery Psych is back on USA, and I've previously mentioned my fondness for ABC Family's clever Middleman.

The allusions in both shows to 1980s pop culture and comic book
cliches seem directed at the much maligned "Generation X," which I've been thinking about because of the upcoming 40th birthday party/reunion. More grown-up recent cartoons such as Afro Samurai, Metalocalypse, and Venture Brothers also juggle nostalgia with ribald parody quite well. Strangely, movie remakes of vintage TV shows haven't been as successful, often missing the mark in terms of tone.

An underrepresented genre on television right now is heroic fantasy. I found the possible series finale of Nickelodeon's Avatar: the Last Airbender to be satisfying. Let's hope the live-action movie adaptation does justice to that animated universe. As Doctor Who winds down for a long hiatus, I was pleased to see cameos of numerous "companions" in the BBC's revived time-travel saga. On the other hand, some franchises, such as the immortal Highlander or Witchblade, may need a rest or refresh.

I'm also looking forward to the final (for now) direct-to-video movie for the SG1 crew, Stargate: Continuum, as well as the upcoming Star Wars: Clone Wars movie and TV series. Maybe they and the Star Trek reboot (not to mention an attempt to film Isaac Asimov's seminal Foundation) will revive space opera from its hibernation.

By contrast, cyberpunk fans have had no shortage of adaptations of Philip K. Dick stories, with the visionary Blade Runner leading the way. I'm curious about the "director's cut" of Dark City, which foreshadowed The Matrix, as well as about the Tron sequel, "TR2N." In the coming weeks, I hope to blog more about current comics, details on various games, and politics.