The Dark Horses of Dark Horse Comics

xwrs-wedgeSome of my earliest memories of Star Wars fandom are of searching my local comic book store for trade paperbacks of X-Wing: Rogue Squadron. Huge book stores were still in vogue back in the nineties, so odds were good that the only thing between me and whichever novel I’d decided to read next for my Great Bantam Catch-Up of ’97-’99 was a quick trip to Media Play or Borders. Catching up on the comics was another matter—something “mainstream” like Dark Empire wasn’t too hard to track down, but there were at least six trade collections of XWRS already in print by the time I got around to it, and a couple more on the way—and that’s not counting the first story arc, The Rebel Opposition, which wasn’t collected until the first XWRS Omnibus several years later.

For sixteen-year-old me, just figuring out which TPB came next was something of a challenge; actually finding the damned thing in tiny little Seeley & Kane’s a couple blocks from my house was far more uncertain. I eventually managed, of course, but if those trades hadn’t been out there, I’d have stood virtually no chance of finding the original issues, meaning I wouldn’t have had another shot at reading the series until the aforementioned Omnibus set much, much later.

All this is to say that it’s incredibly heartening to see the announcement this week of Marvel’s first Star Wars “Epic Collection” TPB, including much of Dark Horse’s post-Revenge of the Sith material, some of which is less than a couple years old. Regardless of the Legends banner on the front, Dark Horse’s Star Wars catalog includes some of—no, many of—the best SW stories ever told, and I’m thrilled to know that the comics license changing hands doesn’t mean new generations of fans will lose access to that material; at least not all of it. » Read more..

In Defense of CGI

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Computer Generated Imagery or, as it’s better known, CGI gets a huge amount of flak from just about everyone. It may have revolutionized filmmaking, it may have opened the doors to unrealized dreams for directors but none of that stops it from getting a regular royal kicking! Now why is that? I am inclined to suggest it is a combination of factors – lazy thinking and fool filmmakers. Together, these two factors form an unholy alchemy into a destructive firestorm of criticism that never fails to repeatedly roast CGI.

First then: Lazy thinking. The charge made against CGI is that it is lazy and unimaginative. This is the sort of charge anyone could come up, no matter their state of being. Drunk as a skunk? You can still slur that CGI is lazy. High as a kite? Hey man, I may be lazing here stoned but it takes a laze to know a laze and that CGI is a laze! This charge falls apart the instant it hits reality. Here’s the world of CGI as the accusers would like it:

CGI Data Monkey hits Run on his computer panel, goes down the pub for a swift couple of pints, comes back a couple of hours later and blam! Work’s done. » Read more..

What Star Wars Can Learn From the DC Animated Universe

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As I’ve mentioned, well, repeatedly at this point, I’m unusual among my generation (and certainly among people with Star Wars websites) in that I didn’t really grow up with Star Wars. My first exposure to the original trilogy was the release of the Special Editions, at which point I was already almost 15. I have no memories of the films correlating with my early development, my understanding of narrative, or my appreciation of science fiction and/or fantasy. In fact, I’m still not really into sci-fi and fantasy to the extent that many SW fans are.

No, growing up, my thing was superheroes. My earliest genre memories are of the original Ninja Turtles cartoon in the eighties, which led to Spider-Man and X-Men in the nineties, which led to buying actual comics around 1995, which I’ve been collecting pretty much ever since.

But despite my natural affinity for Marvel properties, the genre throughline from childhood all the way to my college years was the DC Animated Universe. I was ten when the first episode of Batman: The Animated Series debuted in 1992, and I still remember it vividly all these years later—because that episode, spearheaded by visionaries Paul Dini and Bruce Timm, ended up ushering in an expansive new DC continuity that lasted more than a decade in animated form, and technically continues in comics form to this day. From Batman to Superman to Batman Beyond to Justice League (with the occasional Static Shock and Zeta Project thrown in for good measure), Dini, Timm, and others built a shared universe rivaling its comic-book predecessor (and in my opinion, often surpassing it in quality), developing disparate elements—and, crucially, voice actors—from series to series and era to era in a way that imbued each new story with a weight that’s rarely seen in children’s television. The DCAU taught me what expansive, long-form storytelling could do, and I owe my appreciation of continuity in Star Wars to that example. Here are some of its other lessons. » Read more..

What Star Wars Can Learn From Warcraft

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When I’m not thinking about Yuuzhan Vong, Sith Lords, or Force philosophy, I’m probably thinking about blood elves. In other words, World of Warcraft. The Warcraft franchise spans three real-time-strategy games, one MMO that is still the definition of the genre, and quite a few spin-off novels and comics. The Warcraftverse is starting to enter the cultural lexicon more and more, and for a game celebrating its tenth anniversary this year, it still has quite the audience.

Warcraft has plenty of things to offer other media, especially since as a franchise it’s rife with pop culture references. It’s an expansive world whose unexplored corners, plot holes, and possibilities for expansion echo those of Star Wars. As something of the definition of its genre and a mishmash of references and ideas, it has much of the worldbuilding feel of Star Wars. There has been much discussion over the last few years about whether Warcraft is a dying franchise, but it certainly doesn’t feel dead to those of us who lose $15 a month and much of our free time to it. No other MMO has been able to knock it off its pedestal, despite quite a bit of effort (even from SWTOR). It’s successfully navigated many years and quite a few different markets, and has much to offer to other massive media franchises. » Read more..

Scoring the Saga: The Music of Star Wars

What would Star Wars be without John Williams? The opening blast of horns, percussion and strings in the Star Wars theme is one of the most iconic moments in all of cinema. The music score for the film we now know as Episode IV: A New Hope has more than stood the test of time, being named #1 on the American Film Institute’s list of the all-time best movie scores, and each successive entry in the series only added to that legacy. Songs like the Cantina Theme, the Imperial March, Duel of the Fates and Battle of the Heroes are hummed across the world by hardcore fans and casual moviegoers alike. The series’ collective soundtrack ranks with the most iconic and influential film scores of all time.

You don’t have to rely on imagination to wonder what Star Wars would be without its soundtrack. If you watch the first trailer cut for the first film, you see iconic scenes from the Death Star escape and the cantina fight unfold in almost complete silence aside from a stock synthesized beat. It’s an eerie experience. John Williams gave the Star Wars films a sound that is at once classic and distinctive, filled with blaring trumpets, shouting horns, soaring violins, humming cellos, pounding drums and crashing cymbals. His work is a substantial part of what has made the films such icons of pop culture for the last four decades. » Read more..

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