Archive for the ‘Comics’ Category

I was a DC fan…but I loved Stan Lee

November 13, 2018

I was a DC fan…but I loved Stan Lee

In the 1960s, there was a lot of very serious social division in the United States.

However, as there often is, there were also more frivolous pop culture schisms: The Addams Family vs. The Munsters, The Beatles vs. The Rolling Stones, Star Trek vs. Lost in Space…while fandom is, by its nature, inclusive, you were “supposed” to take sides. People weren’t expected to be agnostic about which ones they liked.

One of the clearest divides was DC vs. Marvel.

The “Silver Age of Comics” was begun in the mid-1950s by DC (with the introduction of what we would now call a “rebooted” version of the Golden Age superhero The Flash), but by the 1960s, Marvel was a worthy competitor.

The feel was very different between the two. DC had the legacy, and was old-fashioned (which could be seen as both a good and bad thing). They had Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, and the reboots (the aforementioned The Flash, Green Lantern). They had the Justice League of America (itself a reboot of the Justice Society of America). Their heroes were, well, heroic. They didn’t all act the same, but the heroes were heroic and the villains were villainous.

Marvel was the counter-culture company of the pair, but interestingly, by being more like the readers. Clearly led by the writing of Stan Lee, new characters including Spider-Man, The Incredible Hulk, and The Fantastic Four lived in the real world (Spider-Man was in fully contemporary New York; Superman was still in fictional parallel Metropolis). They had real emotions, and “day job” problems. Bruce Wayne was a millionaire philanthropist; Peter Parker was a high school student science geek.

While it may seem natural that people would prefer characters which were more like them, I used to jokingly (and somewhat derisively) say that I didn’t want my superheroes to have acne. One of the things I liked about superheroes was the lack of realism, the fantasy, the escapism. That extended to their personalities: I wanted the simplicity and aspiration of always being noble.

Sounds silly, right? Well, it was part of why I liked superheroes better than regular detective stories. I was never a fan of fictional violence, but it’s very different when Superman throws a giant space-whale than when Mike Hammer punches someone and they vomit.

People still could have read comics from both companies, right? I would guess just about everybody crossed over some, but one challenge was that the comics from a single company were interrelated…like what we now call an “extended universe”. What happened in Batman might affect what happened in Superman; Spider-Man interacted with The Avengers. It would have cost a lot of money and time to invest fully in both.

In my

Yikkee-YaG (YKYAG: You Know You’re a Geek…) #1

post, I said

“You know you’re a geek…when people say you don’t know how to dress appropriately***, but you would never wear a DC shirt to a Marvel movie.”

Still, I read some Marvel comics. I knew who Stan Lee was…I didn’t think I qualified as one of his “True Believers” (which felt to me in part like a Marvel vs. DC thing), but I knew what he meant by “Excelsior!” I recognized his intelligence, his creativity, and his enthusiasm for comics. I read some of his Stan’s Soapbox columns…text, not comics, which sometimes took on larger issues (like racism).

Over the years, I greatly enjoyed some of his visual media efforts. I watched “Who Wants to Be a Superhero?”, a reality competition show. I thought Stan Lee’s Superhumans, in which he and contortionist Daniel Browning Smith looked for and tested people with truly extraordinary abilities, was fascinating. I thrilled to every cameo in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (which, with its lighter tone, felt to me more like the 1960s DC universe than the dark DC movies led by Batman Begins and including The Dark Knight…the latter being a wonderful movie but definitely not the bright heroism of the 1960s. I said at the time I didn’t want a ten-year old to watch The Dark Knight because I didn’t want them to be afraid of Batman for the rest of their lives).

Stan Lee was one of the most influential American writers…and I don’t mean just comic book writers. Our pop cultural world would look very different if he hadn’t been in it. Movies, TV…even other comics (I don’t think the social commentary of the Green Arrow/Green Lantern crossover in the 1970s would have been what it was without Stan Lee’s trailblazing) followed the path that he blazed. He always respected the fans…and the non-fans. He lifted the younger generations of artists, he didn’t exclude them or hoard success…he shared it.

I’m not saying he was perfect or that his life was perfect…he wasn’t a 1960s DC superhero, he brought his challenges to the panels of the 1960s Marvel superheroes.

Thank you, Stan Lee, for all you have done for the world, and for geeks like me.

Excelsior forever!

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This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the The Measured Circle blog.


TMCGTT: A comic book with an anti-profiling message and a female hero…from 1942

May 2, 2016

TMCGTT: A comic book with an anti-profiling message and a female hero…from 1942

There has understandably been a lot of discussion about diversity in comics.

Lately, we’ve seen a rise in female-led stories. Minorities who are the victims of prejudice have been given starring roles…and respect.

Some people assume that this is a modern phenomenon, an evolution.

However, there is precedent.

I was adding an item to

The Measured Circle’s Geek Time Trip at The History Project

It’s a public domain comic from March 1942…Captain Courageous Comics #6.

Not surprisingly for the period, the title character fights Nazis.

Here’s what it interesting in that story, though…the victims.

The innocent victims are German-Americans.

German American

That’s right…just about at the same time that an order was given for the internment of Japanese-Americans, a comic book wasn’t demonizing German-Americans, but defending them.

An unrelated B-feature in the same issue is “Kay McKay, Air Hostess”. Kay is as tough as any man in the comic book: resourceful, innovative, and an undeniable action hero. She’s not a superhero, and she can’t do everything. Captain Ned flies the plane (a commercial prop plane) on a special mission for the government…but he’s the one who needs rescuing from Nazi spies, and Kay is the one to do it!

Kay McKay

Sure, it’s great to see Agent Carter, Supergirl, Black Widow, and the women in Arrow’s incredibly diverse cast. Almost 75 years ago, though, Kay McKay was already saving the day…

To read the entire comic, see the link in the event at TMCGTT.

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All aboard our new The Measured Circle’s Geek Time Trip at The History Project!

* I am linking to the same thing at the regular Amazon site, and at AmazonSmile. When you shop at AmazonSmile, half a percent of your purchase price on eligible items goes to a non-profit you choose. It will feel just like shopping at Amazon: you’ll be using your same account. The one thing for you that is different is that you pick a non-profit the first time you go (which you can change whenever you want)…and the good feeling you’ll get. :) Shop ’til you help!

For more information on the Echo and Alexa, see The Measured Circle’s Echo Central.

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the  The Measured Circle blog. To support this or other blogs/organizations, buy  Amazon Gift Cards from a link on the site, then use those to buy your items. There will be no cost to you, and a benefit to them.

Batman vs. Superman: why people pick one or the other

April 26, 2015

Batman vs. Superman: why people pick one or the other

When Titans Clash!

Geeks love to argue over who would win in a fight.

Although, I have to say, I’d rather fight over who would win in an argument. 😉

I mean, after all, don’t we geeks prize our intellects more than our physicality?

Why are we so involved in who can out-bash whom? Shouldn’t we be more interested in whether Sherlock Holmes could out argue Doctor Who, or vice versa?

Well, next year, we’ll get a movie which pits Batman against Superman (they, for some reason, made it “v” instead of “vs”, but that’s clearly still what it means).

On the surface, as Jon Stewart pointed out, it seems ridiculous.

Superman is super.

The Man of Steel is invulnerable and super strong.

Batman is a human being…an extraordinary one, yes, but Superman has “powers and abilities far beyond those of mortal men”.


Batman (like many heroes) often defeats enemies who are physically superior.

Batman is the “scientific detective”. We know it’s possible to defeat Superman with science…once you’ve got that synthetic kryptonite thing figured out, a short term victory becomes possible.

You would think, in this scenario, geeks might tend to side with the underdog…um, underbat?

On the other hand, Superman is a true outsider. Many geeks feel like they are aliens on this planet…Kal-El actually is one.

Regardless of who we would like to see win (and really, don’t we want it to be that they end up working together…as they clearly will, since this is the Dawn of Justice [League]?), who would win is interesting…but so is why you think that.

Neil DeGrasse Tyson on Jon Stewart had really bizarre logic to me in picking Batman. You can see the segment here:

The astrophysicist basically said that it might come down to public opinion, and because Batman is part of the existing social structure (since he reports [sic] to the Mayor), and Superman does whatever he wants, people would be on the side of Batman.


I didn’t realize that DeGrasse Tyson is as old as he is, but I could tell right away that this is someone for whom Batman means the Adam West version (Batman ’66, as it is sometimes now called).

In that series, Batman was very much a law and order person…having Robin buckle up before chasing after a bat-villain in the Batmobile, for example).

The mayor to whom he is “reporting”? Mayor Linseed (a parody of Mayor John Lindsay of New York City).

In that series, though, Batman certainly doesn’t work for the Mayor. Jon Stewart had first identified the  Commissioner  (Gordon) as the person to whom Batman reports…and DeGrasse Tyson corrected him.

Stewart had the relationship more correct, though. Batman responds to the Bat-signal…which Commissioner Gordon uses to ask for help. It’s not like an order to appear by a superior…it’s a way to let Batman know that Gotham City needs him.

If the Mayor was not re-elected, that wouldn’t change the relationship much at all…Batman is a friend of the Commissioner…and again, not an employee.

If you don’t know Batman primarily from 1966, then this is a guy who does not toe the societal line.

Batman is a vigilante…he works outside the law. He is judge and jury, even if not executioner. If Batman decides you are a bad guy, you are in trouble…nobody’s reading you your rights when the bat-cuffs go on.

Batman even quit the Justice League. Sure, he formed a new group…called, tellingly, The Outsiders!

Superman, while an alien by birth, is much more of a team player and rule follower.

I can’t imagine that your average law-abiding citizen would rather live in a city with Batman in it than a city with Superman in it.

Now, admittedly, and avoiding spoilers, the Superman in the movie is different. If you’ve seen The Man of Steel or don’t mind spoilers, you can see what I am talking about here:

The Spoiler Zone: the real problem with Man of Steel

Even so, Batman clearly always has his own agenda, while Superman seems to be about protecting not only his adopted planet, but the society on it. I say “society” and not “societies” because Superman grew up as an American, and that has traditionally been his priority “truth, justice and the American way”. He wouldn’t force American values on others, but that’s his paradigm.

So, what does it mean if you pick Batman or if you pick Superman?

If you pick Batman…

  • You are going for brains over brawn. In some cases, Superman is supposed to be superintelligent, but this is clearly a case of physical superiority on Superman’s side…and presumably, mental superiority on Batman’s side
  • You may be picking the human over the alien…being literally xenophobic, in this case
  • In this movie, you may be picking experience as an important factor

If you pick Superman…

  • You believe physical superiority will triumph
  • You may believe the “light” will win over the “dark (knight)”
  • You think Superman is smart in addition to having his other abilities

In terms of support from society or other heroes (and there are others in the movie), I think that’s undecided. The trailer certainly suggests that there are people arguing that Superman can’t be trusted…but we don’t know what they think about Batman yet.

Now, if the two were to debate…I’ve got to go with Batman. 😉

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This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the  The Measured Circle blog. To support this or other blogs/organizations, buy  Amazon Gift Cards from a link on the site, then use those to buy your items. There will be no cost to you, and a benefit to them.

Here’s what DC should do with all those superheroes

June 20, 2014

Here’s what DC should do with all those superheroes

I can’t be the only person getting a little concerned about all of the superheroes that they are putting into

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice

At this point, were expecting:

  • Superman
  • Batman
  • Wonder Woman
  • Aquaman
  • Cyborg

Those actually show up as credited…there may be a lot of cameos and references as well (I’d love to see Ralph and Sue Dibny get a little shout-out…maybe just that somebody heard something from a Detective Dibny).

Remember, this is not the Justice League movie…that’s coming later.

I get that Marvel does this, and that’s a success it would make sense to want to emulate…but the Avengers wasn’t the first screen appearance of these versions of Iron Man or Thor. Audiences got to know them first, and then the studio brought them together.

I also understand that it’s very expensive to do a feature movie…especially a superhero one.

Still, DC has so many great quirky characters! There are many I’d like to see…and I’ll admit it, a comic like The Hawk and The Dove might not sustain a “tentpole” feature.

Tentpole…that’s what Hollywood calls a blockbuster that opens up the audience to seeing additional things.

What I’d like to suggest here, sticking to a circus metaphor, is “sideshow superheroes”.

These characters don’t need a whole movie: they need a ten-minute short, just like we had in the old days at the movies.

I do think these should be shown in the movie theatres. Marvel has been adding shorts to DVD releases, but that’s not really the same thing.

I’m looking for high concept characters that we can understand quickly. They should have some nostalgia value, but get people talking about them.

If they can expand to a feature later, sure, but don’t plan on that.

Don’t do an origin story: just jump us into the middle of the developed character…leave us wanting more. Make us buy the comics or tie-in novels to get it.

The effects don’t have to be top-notch: just good enough.

Here are some possibilities:

  • Metamorpho
  • Zatanna
  • The Creeper
  • Metal Men
  • Dial H for Hero

I know I’m heavy on the 1960s there, but you get the idea…all of those are high concept, and would be visual in a short piece.

It would be difficult for them to assign creative teams to all of these, so here’s my other idea.

Do it as a contest for amateurs.

Creators submit videos to DC. DC reviews them and makes pre-selections before they get posted to a website. The winner is selected through social media, and that short is shown alongside a tentpole in movie theatres. Other finalists are packaged together, but not shown on the big screen.

DC retains all rights to all of the videos.

I think this would be a great way for them to utilize their backlist, at relatively little expense, while retaining their intellectual property rights.

What do you think? What superheroes would you like to see get the “sideshow” treatment?

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My new free Flipboard magazine, The Weird Old Days features vintage articles on ghosts, sea serpents, psychic phenomena, and more

* I am linking to the same thing at the regular Amazon site, and at AmazonSmile. When you shop at AmazonSmile, half a percent of your purchase price on eligible items goes to a non-profit you choose. It will feel just like shopping at Amazon: you’ll be using your same account. The one thing for you that is different is that you pick a non-profit the first time you go (which you can change whenever you want)…and the good feeling you’ll get. :) Shop ’til you help! :) 

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the  The Measured Circle blog. To support this or other blogs/organizations, buy  Amazon Gift Cards from a link on the site, then use those to buy your items. There will be no cost to you, and a benefit to them.



A short history of the Lone Ranger

July 2, 2013

A short history of the Lone Ranger

The Gore Verbinski/Johnny Depp version of The Lone Ranger opens in the USA on July 3rd.

The character has been around for eighty years, and is a solid part of pop culture.

Before I give you a chronology, let me talk a bit about the Lone Ranger. If you know nothing about the character, it’s possible that you might consider some of this as spoilers, but I think that’s unlikely for most people. I have not seen the movie, so this won’t reveal anything specific to that production (which looks like it is going to take a different approach).

The future Lone Ranger was one of the Texas Rangers, along with his brother. The group rode into an ambush set by the Cavendish gang. All of the rangers except for the one who would become The Lone Ranger (in the original series, his first name was not given, but he is generally now thought of as John Reid) were killed.

The future Lone Ranger was rescued by Tonto. Tonto buried the other rangers (including the future Lone Ranger’s brother), and made an extra grave for the future Lone Ranger, in order to fool the Cavendish gang and give the future Lone Ranger a chance to recover.

After being helped back to health by Tonto, he becomes the Lone (the last left alive) Ranger. He dons a mask, made from the bullet-ridden vest of his brother.

There is a wild stallion that he later names Silver. It may not be appropriate to say that he tames Silver, but they do become a team.

Traditionally, the Lone Ranger doesn’t shoot to kill his opponents. In fact, he avoids gunplay. That’s why he uses silver bullets…it’s because they are rare, expensive, and difficult to get. That means he will always think twice about using one. Obviously, there is also symbolism here, as seen in naming his horse Silver as well.

The Lone Ranger travels around, helping build the West. Tonto travels with him. It’s important to note that the Lone Ranger generally treats him as an equal, and the audience is expected to do the same. While Tonto does encounter a great deal of prejudice, it’s from other characters (townsfolk, bad guys), and the audience believes the prejudice is wrong.

There are other things associated with the Lone Ranger. “Hi-yo, Silver, away!” starts a ride. When the Lone Ranger leaves an area, after having saved someone, they might say, “Who was that masked man? I wanted to thank him.”  The William Tell Overture, used in the radio show and the TV show, is also closely linked to him.

The Lone Ranger is someone who has sublimated his own identity for the greater good. He believes in the individual and helps others. He tends to side with the less powerful against those who abuse power and who might dictate the way the West develops.

To quote the show, “Return with us now to those thrilling days of yesteryear…

Timeline (click links for information and content, including the original radio shows)

January 31st, 1933: the first Lone Ranger radio show is broadcast (there is some suggestion that it might have played on January 30th as a test, but the 31st was the official debut). It would run for close to 3,000 episodes, and become a national show and sensation

1936: the first Lone Ranger novel is published. Seventeen more in the series will follow through 1956. The Lone Ranger Rides

Late 1930s: a serious silent cartoon version is produced

1938: Parker Brothers released The Lone Ranger boardgame Board Game Geek listing

February 12, 1938: Republic releases the first chapter of a 15 chapter serial, just called The Lone Ranger Watch at YouTube

September, 1938: A Lone Ranger comic strip starts, and will run through 1971. Lone Ranger comic strip

January 7, 1939: The Lone Stranger and Porky, a parody with Porky Pig (and directed by Bob Clampett) is released Watch at YouTube

February 25, 1939: A Republic sequel (again, fifteen chapters) is released: The Lone Ranger Rides Again Watch a restored version at YouTube

1947: As a premium for Kix cereal, kids can get a Lone Ranger Atomic Bomb ring…which reportedly actually contains a radioactive isotope Tracy’s Toys

1948: Dell Comics begins a Lone Ranger comic book, originally reprinting strips, but later including original material. It will run for 145 issues

1948: Cheerios prints special editions of the boxes with 9 different paper card model sets, in honor of the 15th anniversary of the show Board Game Geek listing

September 15, 1949: The Lone Ranger becomes an early hit for TV with Clayton Moore and Jay Silverheels. New episodes run through June 6, 1957 The Renegades episode of The Lone Ranger

1951: Dell publishes a Tonto comic book series…it runs 31 issues

1951: Dell adds a Silver comic book series…it runs 34 issues Silver comic book

January-February, 1953: Mad Magazine does a parody: Lone Stranger!

December 1953 – January 1954: Mad Magazine does a parody…sequel: Lone Stranger Rides Again

1956: Parker Brothers releases The New Lone Ranger boardgame Board Game Geek listing

1956: A theatrical release is done with Moore and Silverheels

1956: Lisbeth Wirthing releases The Lone Ranger and the Silver Bullets boardgame. It is reportedly later pulled due to licensing issues Board Game Geek article

1958: Another theatrical release with Moore and Silverheels, The Lone Ranger and the Lost City of Gold

September 1964: Gold Key begins a Lone Ranger comic book series

1965: Bill Cosby’s album I Started Out As a Child features a Lone Ranger routine audio clip on YouTube

1966: A Lone Ranger animated series runs, with Michael Rye as the Ranger. It is reportedly a darker tone than might be expected at the time

1966: Milton Bradley releases The Lone Ranger boardgame, apparently based on the cartoon series Board Game Geek listing

1973: Gabriel Toys released a line based on the Lone Ranger Skooldays article

1978: Warren Company releases The Lone Ranger& Tonto boardgame Board Game Geek listing

1980: The Tarzan/Lone Ranger (later Zorro was added) animated series. William Conrad (Cannon) voiced the Ranger. Ran through 1982

1980: Milton Bradley releases a Lone Ranger board game, The Legend of the Lone Ranger Board Game Geek listing

1981: A big budget version is made…with Christopher Lloyd as Butch Cavendish. A controversy at the time is Clayton Moore, TV’s Lone Ranger, being prohibited from wearing the mask in public appearances (so as not to conflict), and switching to sunglasses

1994: Topps comics does a four-part Joe R. Lansdale miniseries

July, 1991: Konami released a Lone Ranger videogame for the NES

February 26, 2003: A TV movie with Chad Michael Murray as the Lone Ranger IMDb listing

September 6, 2006: Dynamite Entertainment begins another comic book series

2013?: Lego releases a series of figures and sets connected to the new movie Lego

June 6, 2013: Disney releases Johnny Depp and Armie Hammer inspired characters for Disney Infinity L.A. Times article

July 3, 2013:  The Johnny Depp version opens

Lone Ranger collectibles

The Lone Ranger search at Amazon

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the The Measured Circle.

Saturday is Free Comic Book Day!

May 4, 2013

Saturday is Free Comic Book Day!

Sure, tomorrow is Star Wars Day…that’s true every May Fourth. It comes from, “May the Fourth be with you…” There will be some deals in connection with it:

NBC news article
Star Wars store at Amazon (deals this weekend more than 50% off)

However, you can get an even better deal because it’s the first Saturday in May…it’s Free Comic Book Day!

On FCBD, you can go into participating comic book shops and pick up special editions comics for free. You can see the list of them


Since part of the point of it is to promote local shops, I don’t think they are doing digital comics yet, but perhaps some day.

These comics are intended to get people into reading comics, and so are more accessible than some series. Ask your clerk for help with something kid friendly, if you like.


This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the The Measured Circle blog.

“Which hero were you calling, sir?”

March 31, 2013

“Which hero were you calling, sir?”

Let’s face it…we all have times when it might be nice to call a hero to rescue us.

However, they aren’t all equally appropriate in all circumstances. If an asteroid is about to crash into the Earth, the Lone Ranger isn’t going to do you much good. 😉

Here are some pop culture lines about when (or how) you call a particular hero…how many do you know? I’ll post the answers in the next few days. Feel free to guess by commenting on this post, but please, do not look them up first. That’s not trivia: that’s just research. 🙂

Who do you call…

  1. …when criminals in this world appear and break the laws that they should fear?
  2. …when the FBI is helpless?
  3. …when it looks like you will take a lickin’?
  4. …when there’s something strange in your neighborhood?
  5. …any time there’s a rumble out West?
  6. …when things get rough?
  7. …when the going gets tough?
  8. …when there’s a hold-up in the Bronx?
  9. …when all my dreams have fallen down?
  10. …when we’ve got some work to do now?
  11. …when your back is to the wall and there’s no one else to call?
  12. …when some crimes go slippin’ through the cracks?
  13. …when there’s trouble, you call…?
  14. …when you need some teenagers with attitude?
  15. …when you need a knight without armor in a savage land?
  16. …wherever there is danger?
  17. …when your signal watch goes zee-zee-zee?
  18. …when there are people crying for help?
  19. …when you need someone to to champion the cause of the innocent, the helpless, the powerless?
  20. …to stand against the vampires, the demons, and the forces of darkness?

I think some of these are fairly easy, but some may be quite difficult.

Have fun!

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the The Measured Circle blog.

2011: The Measured Circle Year in Review

January 6, 2012

2011: The Measured Circle Year in Review


I had suggested that 2011 might be the Geekiest Movie Year Ever, and certainly, looking at the top movies, they did very well.

There are some late year releases that are going to join the top tiers (Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows, Mission Impossible – Ghost Protocol and Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked will all make over $100m domestic gross). Those are all sequels, and there are fewer originals in the box office champs this year. Four of 2010’s top ten weren’t sequels (Inception, How to Train Your Dragon, Tangled, and Despicable Me). At this point. only Thor and Captain America are non-sequels in the top ten (and that may not be final…MI may get up there for one).

However, if we look at non-geek movies in the top twenty, they definitely were on the rise this year. In 2010, we had True Grit (#13), Grown Ups (#15), Little Fockers (#17), and the King’s Speech (#18) (and I’d entertain arguments about the Karate Kid #11). This year (based on rankings of domestic gross on December 31st…it will change), it’s The Hangover Part II (#4), Fast Five (#6), The Help (#11), Bridesmaids (#12), and Horrible Bosses (#20).

Originality still works in animation…successes included Rio (#15), Rango (#19), Hop (#22), and Gnomeo & Juliet (#27).

When we look at live-action geek originals, there really is no comparison with the cartoons: Super 8 (#18), Battle Los Angeles (#32), Immortals  (#33), Zookeeper (#34), and Contagion (#39).

Some movies that weren’t as successful?

  • Hoodwinked Too! Hood vs. Evil: wide release (over 2500 theatres), big stars (Glenn Close, Joan Cusack, Cheech Marin, and many more), a thirty million dollar budget, and a 50m+ first movie, this one only earned about 10m
  • Straw Dogs: again, big names, big release, remake of a cult classic…you probably would have budgeted $25m for this, too. Gross: about 10m dogro
  • The Thing: okay, not star-studded, but still…prequel to a cult classic, promotable genre…I would have bet the 35m here, probably. Return in dogro: aobut 16m. Not the best year for R-rated horror
  • Some other 2011 geeky movies that didn’t make 25m dogro: Apollo 18, Fright Night, Shark Night 3D, Conan the Barbarian, Dream House, Mars Needs Moms, Your Highness, Season of the Witch

I’m still working on the 2011 Box Office MVPs…hope to have that soon.


It was a good year for geek TV. While The Cape failed to get a second season, a number of new geek shows did. Cable continues to be the best bet, but Once Upon a Time drew good numbers as a network show. Here’s a look at some highlights from the year:

Some 2011 Debuting Series and Their Status

  • Alphas on Syfy (renewed) team of people each with an extraordinary ability
  • American Horror Story on Fox (renewed)
  • Being Human on Syfy (USA version) (renewed) ghost, vampire, and werewolf are roommates…based on BBC series
  • The Cape on NBC (canceled) superhero
  • Death Valley on MTV (renewed) mockumentary: cops deal with zombies and such
  • Face Off on Syfy (renewed) competition show for special effects makeup artists
  • Falling Skies on TNT (renewed) aliens invade Earth
  • Finding Bigfoot on Animal Planet (renewed) reality show search for Bigfoot
  • Game of Thrones on HBO (renewed) based on George R.R. Martin’s book series
  • Grimm on NBC (ongoing) cops and fairy tales
  • Kung Fu Panda: Legends of Awesomeness on Nickelodeon (ongoing)
  • The Nine Lives of Chloe King on ABC Family (canceled) Discovered Destiny series
  • Once Upon a Time on ABC (ongoing) fairy tale characters in our world
  • Paranormal Challenge on the Travel Channel (unknown) reality competition
  • Paranormal Witness on Syfy (unknown) nonfiction
  • Person of Interest on CBS (ongoing) computer predicts crimes
  • Prophets of Science Fiction on the Science channel (ongoing) documentary
  • Teen Wolf on MTV (renewed)  more serious take on the movie
  • Terra Nova on Fox (unknown) time travel and dinos
  • Unforgettable on CBS (ongoing) special (but medically real) power
Special note: Congratulations to Peter Dinklage for winning an Emmy for a performance in a geek series (Game of Thrones). That’s certainly noteworthy…Leonard Nimoy was nominated for playing Spock, but didn’t win for it.


Bestselling geek books listed at for 2011:

  1. Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson
  2. Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Cabin Fever by Jeff Kinney
  3. Inheritance by Christopher Paolini
  4. A Dance with Dragons by George R.R. Martin
  5. The Son of Neptune by Rick Riordan
  6. 11/22/63 by Stephen King
  7. Dead Reckoning by Charlaine Harris
  8. The Throne of Fire by Rick Riordan
  9. Miss Peregrim’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs
  10. The Land of Painted Caves by Jean M. Auel


Released in December, Star Wars: The Old Republic (an MMORPG…Massively Multiplayer Online Roleplaying Game) got to a million players faster than any of its predecessors. While that takes a considerable personal commitment, there is no question that the game with the biggest crossover cultural impact could be played for thirty seconds at a time: Angry Birds. Traditional gamer games, like Call of Duty (both Modern Warfare and Black Ops) and Madden were in the top ten, but so was Just Dance 3 (and 2). Games being marketed for fitness and for party interaction seems like a bit of an evolution. The Kinect was  part of the national conversation…and “hacking” it was promoted in a TV ad. The Kindle Fire provided another platform…and home hardware expanded its offerings (giving you movies/TV and the web). What’s the future of dedicated home gaming hardware? Will games be played overwhelmingly on portable platforms…and “gaming systems” become simply entertainment systems?

Miscellaneous Pop Culture

  • A major story was the Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark musical on Broadway. It became the subject of jokes when it had difficulties getting up and running, including some injuries. There was backstage drama as well. However, it would eventually set a one-week Broadway record of nearly three million dollars. That may not be enough to make it profitable, but it is popular
  • Watson’s IBM won a highly-touted Jeopardy tournament…and would later help with medical research
  • Telepresence robots were in the news…allowing an immunochallenged child to attend school, buying a scone
  • Netflix changed its pricing plans, and ran into massive bad publicity.  Amazon gave free video streaming at no additional cost to paid Prime members
  • The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention published information on how to survive a zombie apocalypse
  • To great fanfare, Pottermore, an online Harry Potter experience was announced. Harry Potter e-books did not materialize when expected
  • DC Comics renumbers and reinvents its comic books with the “New 52”

In Memoriam

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the The Measured Circle blog.

Chronology of the Planet of the Apes

August 9, 2011

Chronology of the Planet of the Apes

This weekend, I saw Rise of the Planet of the Apes.

My involvement with the franchise goes back considerably before that, though. I thought it might be interesting to show some of the chronology*, which began close to fifty years ago.

1963: La Planète des Singes by Pierre Boulle is first published in French in Paris by Juillard. There are significant differences between this and the first movie, but significant elements are preserved (including some character names)

June 1963: An American hardback is published by Vanguard Press, with a translation by Xan Fielding. This version is entitled Planet of the Apes

As early as 1963, Rod Serling begins adapting the book as a screenplay

January 1964: A British hardback (using Fielding’s translation) is published under the title Monkey Planet by Secker & Warburg. Apparently, the word “singes” in French is like “non-human primate” in English…it doesn’t specify apes or monkeys

November 1964: Signet publishes a US paperback copy for fifty cents

1965: Serling submits his script. It will be two years before the funding is raised. Michael Wilson, another screenwriter, also works on the script

1966: Penguin publishes a paperback version (still called Monkey Planet) in England

Up until this point, it doesn’t seem to have made a mainstream impact in the US.  There were a couple of reviews in the 1960s before the movie.

May 1967: Filming begins

February 8, 1968: The movie debuts in New York

April 3, 1968: The movie opens wide in the US. It becomes the third biggest US grossing movie of the year, behind 2001: A Space Odyssey and Romeo and Juliet

1969: John Chambers receives an honorary Oscar for his make-up work on the Planet of the Apes movie

1970: Gold Key releases a one-shot comic book of Beneath the Planet of the Apes

May 26, 1970: The second movie, Beneath the Planet of the Apes, opens wide in the US. It isn’t anywhere near as successful as the first movie in the US, but that doesn’t stop the sequels

July 1970: a novelization of Beneath the Planet of the Apes by Michael Avallone is released

May 21, 1971: Escape from the Planet of the Apes is released, with Roddy McDowell returning to the series

June 30, 1972: Conquest of the Planet of the Apes is released

June 15, 1973: Battle for the Planet of the Apes, the last of the original series is released in the US. It’s profitable, since it reportedly cost under $2 million to produce (it made about $9 million in the USA…at the time, that’s a good showing)

1973: The “Go Ape” movie marathons show all five movies in movie theatres

1974: Milton Bradley introduces a Planet of the Apes board game

January 1974: A novelization of Escape from the Planet of the Apes by well-known science fiction author Jerry Pournelle is released in paperback by Award

February 1974: A novelization of Conquest of the Planet of the Apes by John Jakes (North and South) is released in paperback by Award

Summer 1974: Mego introduces its line of Planet of the Apes toys

August 1974: Marvel begins a comic book series with original stories…it runs 29 issues, ending in February 1977

September 13, 1974: The live-action TV series, called just Planet of the Apes, debuts. It will last until December of 1974, with some episodes re-cut into TV movies

September 6, 1975: The animated series debuts…it will last until November 29, 1975

October 1975: Marvel begins a comic book adaptation of the first two  movies.  It runs for 11 issues, ending in December 1976′

September 6, 1998: American Movie Classics celebrates the 30th anniversary of the first movie, and shows a new documentary, Behind the Planet of the Apes

July 27, 2001: The Tim Burton version is released in the USA: it grosses over $180 million in that country, and over $360 million worldwide, on a budget of about $100 million. Rick Baker leads the make-up team…and doesn’t get an Oscar nomination

September 19, 2001: Ubi Soft introduces a Planet of the Apes videogame for PC

November 21, 2001: Ubi Soft introduces a Planet of the Apes videogame for GameBoy

September 2001: Dark Horse comics begins a new comic book series

August 5, 2011: Rise of the Planet of the Apes opens in the US, using motion capture rather than makeup. It is the number one movie of the weekend and gets good reviews

There you go! I couldn’t find a year that Don Post introduced their Planet of the Apes masks (I had one), but it was in the 1970s. I was a bit surprised not to find an official Planet of the Apes role-playing game…that seems like a natural, with different character types and abilities. I found quite a bit of discussion of the idea, though. I haven’t listed many reprints of the novel: you can get more detailed information in the links below. Do you have a nostalgic memory of PotA? Feel free to let me know.


Internet Speculative Fiction Database (ISFDB) on PotA

Big Comic Book Database listing for PotA

Hunter’s Planet of the Apes Archives

Planet of the Apes Wiki at Wikia

The 6 Best (and 6 Most Ridiculous) Pieces of Planet of the Apes Merchandise

PotA Wikia on Ubi Soft PC game

Board Game Geek

Mego Museum

Planet of the Apes Wikia on the Ubi Soft GameBoy game


* Note: for a chronology of the events within the Planet of the Apes stories (caution: here be spoilers!), see


This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the The Measured Circle blog.

What’s happening at Comic-Con 2011?

July 20, 2011

What’s happening at Comic-Con 2011?

This Wednesday is the preview night for San Diego Comic-Con, and then it runs through the weekend.

The nature of Comic-Con has been changing. The news that comes out of it is usually related to movies and TV…it’s becoming (yuck!) relevant. 😉

Geeks revel in embracing the outcast. You know, things in which the mainstream couldn’t be less interested…robot toys, animals doing kung fu, theme park rides, superheroes based on Norse mythology, mutant teenagers…hey, wait a minute! Outside of R-rated comedies (which are doing very well, without costly special effects), those are the mainstream hits this summer!

Demon dogs! They’ve caught us! 🙂

Quick, go watch The Guild on YouTube, and have a Mighty Boosh marathon. That should help.

Even given all that, major studios don’t really get geeks…they can’t tell how the way the Comic-Con conference halls respond affects their eventual box office. Here’s a secret: we can be completely enthusiastic about something we don’t like and won’t go see.

So, who (and what) is going to be onstage at Comic-Con?

First, here’s the programming grid:

Wednesday’s preview evening belongs to Warner Brothers, in terms of the content providers. They’ll be talking about upcoming series, including Alcatraz, Person of Interest…and the anime version of Supernatural.

Thursday is where it really takes off. Stan Lee and Todd McFarlane…in the same room! Kinnect Star Wars! Planet of the Apes in comics!

Are you jumping up and down in enthusiasm? No? Um…okay, more mainstream stars, then…

Thursday’s celebrities: Bruce Campbell (Burn Notice, The Evil Dead, Bubba Ho-Tep); Wes Craven (writer/director: A Nightmare on Elm Street, Scream); Adrianne Curry (America’s Next Top Model, The Surreal Life); Felicia Day (The Guild, Dr. Horrible); Doug Jones (Hellboy, Pan’s Labyrinth); Piper Perabo (Coyote Ugly, Covert Affairs); Richard Hatch (the original Battlestar Gallactica); author Patricia Briggs (Mercy Thompson); George R.R. Martin (author, Game of Thrones); Rick Baker (make-up artist…when I met him years ago, he was “Rick Baker, Monster Maker”); James Roday and Dulé Hill (here for Psych); author Jim Butcher (Harry Dresden); Sarah Michelle Gellar (Buffy, here for Ringer); Nestor Campbell (Lost, here for Ringer); Jon Heder (Napoleon Dynamite, Blades of Glory…here for the animated Napoleon Dynamite); Jeri Ryan (Star Trek: Voyager, Boston Public); Peter Dinklage (The Station Agent, Game of Thrones…here for the latter); author Kim Harrison (The Hollows); Patrick Warburton (Seinfeld, The Tick); Aisha Tyler (24, Ghost Whisperer) here (along with H. Jon Benjamin and Judy Greer) for Archer…Archer? Can I stop now? That’s enough reason to go…if you could still get tickets; Matt Smith (Doctor Who); Johnny Galecki (Big Bang Theory); Joe Manganiello and Deborah Ann Woll (True Blood); Jorge Garcia (Lost and the upcoming Alcatraz); Robert Rodriguez (director, Spy Kids, Sin City); Mark Hamil (Star Wars, but here in conjunction with Batman: Arkham City…he’s been voicing the Joker for some time); Michael C. Hall (Dexter, Six Feet Under); William H. Macy (Fargo, Shameless); Morena Baccarin (Firefly, V); Elijah Wood (Lord of the Rings, here for Wilfred); Penn & Teller

Friday celebrities: John Barrowman (Torchwood, Desperate Housewives), Eve Myles, Mekhi Phifer, Lauren Ambrose, and Bill Pullman (who I think is giving a great performance in what I’ve seen of Torchwood: Miracle Day so far) are here for Torchwood; Sid & Marty Krofft (H.R. Pufnstuf, Lidsville); William Shatner; Avery Brooks (Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, Spenser: For Hire); author Timothy Zahn; Skyler Samuels (The Gates, The Nine Lives of Chloe King); John Cusack (Say Anything, here for Raven, where he plays Edgar Allan Poe); director James McTeague (V for Vendetta, here for Raven); director Steven Soderbergh (Erin Brockovich, Ocean’s 11); producer Chuck Lorre, Jim Parsons, Kelly Cuoco, John Galecki, Mayim Bialik (and more…here for The Big Bang Theory); Jeff Bridges (True Grit, Tron); Bradley Cooper (Limitless, the A-Team); director Guillermo del Toro; Kate Beckinsale (Brokedown Palace, Underworld); Rob Corddry (The Daily Show, here for Children’s Hospital); Megan Mullally (Will and Grace); Lake Bell (Surface, Boston Public); David Boreanaz (Bones, Angel); Emily Deschanel (Bones); Colin Farrell (Horrible Bosses, Alexander…here for the Fright Night remake); Anton Yelchin (Star Trek, Hearts in Atlantis); screenwriter J. Michael Straczynski (Murder She Wrote, Babylon 5); Colin Ferguson (Eureka); Wil Wheaton (Star Trek: The Next Generation, Stand by Me); Kristen Schaal (The Daily Show…and one of our Box Office MVPs last year); Noah Wyle (ER, The Librarian…here for Falling Skies); Seth Green (Austin Powers, Robot Chicken); Nicholas Cage; Aziz Ansari (Parks and Recreation); Jessica Biel; Bryan Cranston (Breaking Bad, Malcolm in the Middle…here for Total Recall); Andrew Garfield (The Social Network, The Amazing Spider-Man…maybe I should call him The Andrew Garfield 😉 ); Emma Stone (Easy A, Zombieland…here for Spider-Man); Saul Rubinek (Frasier, here for Warehouse 13); Ashley Tisdale (High School Musical, The Suite Life of Zack and Cody…here for Phineas & Ferb); Anna Paquin (The Piano, X-Men…here ((along with a bunch of other people…Stephen Moyer, Sam Trammell, Ryan Kwanten, creator Alan Ball, Rutina Wesley, and more…for True Blood); Lucy Lawless (Xena…but here for Spartacus: Vengeance); Kathryn Leigh Scott and Lara Parker from the original Dark Shadows (could there be surprise guests from next year’s version…Johnny, Tim?); David Straitharn (Good Night, and Good Luck…here for Alphas); Adam West, Burt Ward, and Julie Newmar from the 1960s Batman series; producer/writer Gale Ann Hurd (Terminator, Aliens); Michael J. Nelson, Kevin Murphy, Bill Corbett (Mystery Science Theatre 3000) do RIFFTrax live; LL Cool J (here for NCIS: LA); Sonny Chiba, Mark Hamill, and Noah Hathaway (The Neverending Story) are here for Sushi Girl; Eliza Dushku (Dollhouse, but here for the animated Batman: Year One); Katee Sackhoff (Battlestar Galactica, but also here for Batman: Year One)

Saturday celebrities: Stan Lee; Deepak Chopra (with his son, Gotham…they’ve written a book on superheroes); producer/screenwriter/director David S. Goyer; Zachary Levi, Yvonne Strahovski and others from Chuck; Stephen Lang (Avatar, but here for Terra Nova); Amanda Tapping (Stargate, but here for Sanctuary); author Sherrilyn Kenyon; director Francis Ford Coppola (The Godfather, here for TWIXT); Katey Sagal (Married with Children, Sons of Anarchy…here for Futurama); voice artists Tara Strong, Townsend Coleman, and the remarkable Rob Paulsen; Henry Cavill, Stephen Dorff, Freida Pinto, here for Immortals; Joel McHale, Chevy Chase, Ken Jeong (another of our MVPs)…here for Community; Frank Miller; Summer Glau and Peter Dinklage (here for Knights of Badassdom); John Barrowman, Thomas Dekker, Tyler Posey and others on a panel; Joss Whedon; Damon Lindelof; Nina Dobrev, Ian Somerhalder and more from The Vampire Diaries; Kristen Stewart (Twilight) and Chris Hemsworth (Thor)…both here for Snow White and The Huntsman; Anna Torv, Lance Reddick, Blair Brown, Jasika Nicole, and John Noble from Fringe; Lea Michele, Patrick Stewart, and Martin Short (here for the animated musical, Dorothy of Oz); Annie Ilonzeh, Rachael Taylor, and Minka Kelly from the new Charlie’s Angels; Jorge Garcia (Lost, but here for Alcatraz); Maggie Q, Shane West…here for Nikita; Thomas Jane; Jim Cavaziel, Michael Emerson (Lost), Taraji P. Henson and more for Person of Interest; Adam Savage, Jamie Hyneman, and more for Mythbusters; Vivica Fox; Jeff Fahey; Robert Picardo

Sunday’s celebrities: author Amanda Hocking (USA Today bestselling author…with independently-published Kindle books); Ryan Murphy and Brian Falchuk (Glee); Jared Padalecki and Jensen Ackles (Supernatural); Laraine Newman; Nathan Fillion (Firefly, Dr. Horrible…here for Castle); author Greg Bear; author Vernor Vinge; Matt Smith and Karen Gillan (Doctor Who); Anthony Head (Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Repo! The Genetic Opera, here for Merlin); Danny DeVito (here for It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia); Ron Perlman (here, with a repeat appearance by Katey Sagal, for Sons of Anarchy)

Wow! That was a lot more work than I expected. 🙂 Celebrities, please don’t feel sad if I didn’t include you…that doesn’t mean you are any less loved. 😉 That’s especially true for comics celebrities, of which there are some great, legendary ones…I was trying to go more for the mainstream here.

As for my readers…now are you thinking about going next year? 😉

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the The Measured Circle blog.

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