Friday, April 27, 2007

The invincible George Tuska

Today, Comic Art Friday salutes veteran comic book artist George Tuska, who celebrated his 91st birthday yesterday.

One of the genuine legends in the comic art field, Tuska's career stretched from 1939 through the 1990s. He was still drawing commissioned projects as recently as a couple of years ago. Tuska's drawing style is energetic and powerful — as I'm certain I've mentioned before, he was one of the first artists whose work I learned to recognize instantly when I was a mere comics-reading stripling.

For 10 years or so, Tuska was the primary penciler on Marvel Comics' Invincible Iron Man. The Golden Avenger remains the character with whom most readers will associate him even today. Tuska also demonstrated a then-uncommon affinity for African American characters, as one of the main artists on such series as Luke Cage, Hero for Hire (later Luke Cage, Power Man) and Black Goliath. After shifting his focus to DC Comics in the late 1970s, Tuska worked extensively on Superman, both in comic books and in the daily newspaper strip.

I currently own only one Tuska original (I've had a couple of others that have since moved on to others' collections), but it's a dandy: Tuska's signature Shell-Head engaged in pitched battle with ol' Greenskin, the Hulk.

One of the features I always loved about Tuska's Iron Man is the way he gives the character expression, even though he's wearing an inflexible metal mask. It doesn't make logical sense, but within the context of Tuska's style, the effect works perfectly.

Speaking of Iron Man, USA Today published an article this week previewing the upcoming Iron Man feature film, directed by Jon Favreau (who played Foggy Nelson in Daredevil) and starring Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark/Iron Man. The article premiered the first publicly released photo of Downey in character:

Happy birthday, Gentleman George! And that's your Comic Art Friday.


Thursday, April 26, 2007

Idol Gives Black... and Ellen too

Throughout last night's American Idol charity extravaganza, "Idol Gives Back," two thoughts kept circling the porcelain bowl of my mind:
  1. They're not going to be able to boot a contestant off after all this feel-good, group-hug folderol.
  2. This reminds me of that dreadful 1970s movie Americathon, in which the President of the United States (played by John Ritter, of all people) hosts a telethon to raise money to bail the country out of bankruptcy,
I was right, on both counts.

A few highlights from two hours of Idol pimping and groveling:
  • Loved: Earth, Wind & Fire. You can bet your last money that any show on which Verdine White and the boys blow out "Boogie Wonderland" is gonna be a stone gas, honey.
  • Hated: Rascal Flatts. Here's a tip for convincing me to dig into my pocket for a donation: Don't make me listen to country music. Ever.

  • Loved: Jack Black. Jack usually thinks he's funnier than I think he is, but his hilarious rendition of Seal's "Kiss from a Rose" (complete with actual Seal) was the comedic highlight of the evening.
  • Hated: Celine and Dead Elvis. Can we knock it off already with the digital resurrections of deceased celebrities? Just because we have the technology, doesn't mean we ought to use it. (Celine is still alive, though, am I right?)

  • Loved: The African Children's Choir. I'm no softie, but have you ever seen a cuter collection of kids anywhere?
  • Hated: Josh Groban. Shut up, Josh, you poseur, and let the cute kids sing. We can hear boring, overwrought lounge acts (***cough*** Bolton ***cough***) anytime.

  • Loved: Ellen DeGeneres tossing 100 large into the poverty pot. If only Idol's producers had taken the dough they wasted digitizing Mr. Graceland and put it into the pot as well.
  • Hated: Way too much exploitation of poor, sick people. When you're starving or dying from AIDS in 100-degree heat, the last thing you need is Simon Cowell and a camera crew in your face. If you really want to help, Simon, whack a chunk off your five-million-dollar-per-week haul and get some construction crews, bottled water, and pharmaceuticals up in here.

  • Loved: Annie Lennox. One of my favorite voices of all time. And is it just me, or does Annie keep getting hotter ever year? She was rocking that cleavage like it was the San Andreas Fault.
  • Hated: Carrie Underwear and her two pounds of makeup, fawning over hungry black children. Go scrape your face, honey child, and maybe listen to an Annie Lennox CD or three while you're at it.

  • Loved: Seeing Micky Dolenz getting his groove on in the celebrity lip-synch montage. You go, Monkee man. Take the last train to Clarkson, and I'll meet you at the station.
  • Hated: Seeing Teri Hatcher's Joan Riverseque plastic surgery face in that same bit of footage. You go, Desperate Housewife — go home, before you terrify the poor kids. And take that infernal windbag Dr. Phil with you.

  • Loved: Jeff Beck. One of my guitar heroes from way back.
  • Hated: Having to listen to Kelly Clarkson sing while the Beckmeister kicked out the jams.

  • Loved: Being right about no one getting kicked off this week.
  • Hated: Being right about no one getting kicked off this week.

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Wednesday, April 25, 2007

When iconic superheroes turn evil

How the mighty have fallen.

First, Captain America got himself assassinated in the aftermath of Marvel Comics' Civil War mega-event.

Now, he's groping women in Florida bars and stuffing baggies full of chronic down his shorts.

The Star-Spangled Avenger sure is having a lousy 2007.

It's a good thing Bucky Barnes didn't live to see this day. It would have broken the kid's heart...

"Say it ain't so, Cap."

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Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Quiz Kid loses his final match

Sad news today for Bay Area game show fanatics.

Daniel Barclay, a young man who dazzled viewers of the local cable program Quiz Kids a few years back, was found dead on a Cape Cod beach last Friday, the apparent victim of a rafting accident.

Quiz Kids, which airs on San Francisco's KRON-4 on Saturday afternoons, pits teams of high school brainiacs against one another in the format of the venerable G.E. College Bowl program. Although I usually hold my own as a home viewer — clinging desperately to my rapidly fading Jeopardy! cred — some of these Quiz Kids are scary smart.

Daniel Barclay may have been one of the brightest youngsters ever featured on the show. Certainly, he was among the most memorable.

During the years when Daniel led the Menlo-Atherton High squad, his team was unbeatable. Menlo-Atherton won the Quiz Kids championship four years running, besting a field of 40-plus rival schools. More often than not, Daniel came on like a one-man encyclopedic wrecking crew, pouncing on question after question with catlike precision and Rutteresque knowledge. As Quiz Kids master of ceremonies Brad Friedman — "the best host on the West Coast," as he is introduced each week — told the San Francisco Chronicle:
He knew when I started a question exactly where I was going before I had the words out. It was eerie. Other kids have come to do that since, but no one has come close to doing it as well as he did.
Few things in life are more tragic than the loss of a young life that held so much promise for a brilliant future. As a father — and as a fan — my heart breaks for the Barclay family.

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Munkey business in Vegas

Let's see how he'll explain this at election time...

San Mateo County Sheriff Greg Munks and his undersheriff, Carlos Bolanos, got nailed (no pun intended) in a prostitution raid at a Las Vegas massage parlor last weekend.

The sheriff pleads his innocence, saying, "I believed I was going to a legitimate business."

Wait a second. The man in charge of stopping criminal activity in San Mateo County can't even recognize criminal activity when he sees it? Munks either: (a) is the most inept law enforcement official of whom I've ever heard tell; or (b) just came up with the lamest, least credible excuse proffered since Bill Clinton "did not have sexual relations with that woman."

The voters of San Mateo County will have to decide which. Either way, it doesn't bode well for the crimebusting career of Sheriff Munks.

Neither Munks nor Undersheriff Bolanos, the former police chief of Redwood City, were formally charged by Vegas Five-0.

News reports failed to specify exactly whom the undersheriff was under at the time of the massage parlor sting.

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Friday, April 20, 2007

A real-life hero: Mario Kawika DeLeon, Sgt., U.S. Army

Today's Comic Art Friday is dedicated to the memory of a hometown hero.

On Monday of this week, Mario Kawika DeLeon, a 26-year-old U.S. Army sergeant from Rohnert Park, California, lost his life to a sniper's bullet while on patrol in Baghdad. Kawika — Sgt. DeLeon was commonly called by his middle name, "David" in Hawaiian — was a member of the Army's 1st Infantry Division, known in military lore as "The Big Red One." He graduated from Casa Grande High School — archrival of my alma mater, Rancho Cotate High — and attended Santa Rosa Junior College, where my daughter KM will be a student in the fall.

I didn't know Kawika DeLeon personally, but my dear friend Donna e-mailed me to say that her parents and his were close friends, back in the day. Donna herself worked for a time with Kawika's mother, Barbara. Thus, aside from the fact that we probably rubbed elbows at Wal-Mart or Costco at some time or other, Sgt. DeLeon and I are separated by a mere two degrees.

To paraphrase John Donne, the bell tolls for me.

According to his obituary in the San Francisco Chronicle, Kawika was a fan of the Star Wars film franchise, the animated TV series ThunderCats, and X-Men comics. I don't have any ThunderCats art — a generation older than Kawika, I wasn't watching many cartoons in the '80s. Instead, I'll share from my art collection some images of my own favorite feline hero, the Black Panther, and my best-beloved among the X-Men, Storm, in Kawika's honor.

The quotes below are excerpted from the Chronicle's obit by Steve Rubenstein.

Mario DeLeon loved the old "Star Wars" movies, fast cars, hip-hop music, shooting pool and hanging out with his pals in Rohnert Park.

He loved his wife, Erika, and his 2-year-old son, Keoni.

And, in February, he told them he'd be home soon from his Army tour of duty in Iraq.
"He kept saying, 'Nothing's going to happen to me, nothing's going to happen to me,' Erika DeLeon said.

"He was fearless. In his mind, he was so strong and so brave. He was so sure of himself. He said he was coming back, and so we all knew he was coming back. That's how he was."
A tall, large man with what one friend described as a "goofy grin," DeLeon enlisted in the Army after graduating from high school and served for four years, including a tour in Afghanistan.

After attending college for a while, he served two years in the Air Force Reserve before rejoining the Army last year. He was sent to Iraq over the winter, and spent most of his time on patrol in Baghdad.
"He loved making everyone laugh," his wife said. "Nobody could make people laugh like Kawika. He lighted up everyone's day."

He drove a 15-year-old Nissan and he was pretty good at the motor sport technique known as "drifting," or driving sideways in a controlled slide. He and his friends enjoyed watching drifting competitions, reading car magazines, and talking about the best pro drivers and the latest tricks.
In the evenings, the DeLeons would hunker down on the sofa and watch a "Star Wars" movie — he had the complete set — or episodes of the old "ThunderCats" cartoon show, in which giant human cats battled the Mutants to save the innocents on a planet called Third Earth. In his 20s, DeLeon still enjoyed the animated shows and "X-Men" comic books he treasured as a kid.

"At first I didn't like watching those shows," his wife said. "But he was so passionate about it. He'd say, 'But Babe, everyone has to watch it.' So I did. And now I'm wearing the 'ThunderCats' sweater."
Above all, Erika DeLeon said, her husband was a gentleman.

"Sweet, polite, kind. I never met anyone like him. I wanted his son to grow up like him. Now all he has is pictures."

He is survived by his wife and son, by his mother, Barbara, and by his brothers, Gabe and Bruce. Funeral arrangements are pending.
Rest in peace, Kawika. Your sacrifice humbles us.

And that's your Comic Art Friday.

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Thursday, April 19, 2007

Good news, for a change

Our long national nightmare is over:

Sanjaya Malakar has been eliminated on American Idol.

Our long basketball nightmare is over:

The Golden State Warriors have landed in the NBA playoffs for the first time since 1994. That's 13 seasons, people. Thirteen endless, agonizing seasons.

That rumble you feel in the earth beneath your feet is not seismic activity. It's me doing my "Goodbye Sanjaya; hello playoffs" happy dance.

And oh, yes...

Barry Bonds
: 738 career home runs, and climbing. Just 17 behind Henry Aaron.

Your T-shirt is correct, Sanjaya: Life is beautiful.

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Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Sometimes I feel like a bullet in the gun of Cho Seung-hui

A few random thoughts about the incident that will forever be known as the Virginia Tech massacre:
  • A neighbor described the 23-year-old gunman, Cho Seung-hui, as "very quiet, always by himself." As KJ and I listened to the earliest news reports on the shootings — hours before the perpetrator was identified — I said to her, "Just wait: When they figure out who did this, someone will describe the guy as 'a quiet man... good neighbor... kept to himself.'" It's scary when I'm right.

  • Given that Cho was a card-carrying legal immigrant, I can hardly wait for the first salvos from the anti-immigration whack-jobs, saying, "This is why we gotta keep them [racist characterization deleted] outa our country."

  • That salvo will be followed shortly by another from the gun lobby whack-jobs, saying, "If every student at Va. Tech had been packing a TEC-9, this guy wouldn't have killed so many people."

  • Already, every would-be pop psychologist is breaking down the myriad reasons why Cho got up yesterday morning and murdered 32 people. What's wrong with the obvious answer: "The dude was a whack-job"?

  • Note to future suicidal mass murderers: Given that you're going to end the deal by killing yourself anyway, couldn't you just start there? I'm not advocating ritual seppuku as a valid means of resolving one's personal issues. I'm just thinking we might be able to get you the death you want anyway, without a bunch of other people losing their lives, who had absolutely nothing to do with your inner demons.

  • Right decent of El Presidente to pop over to Va. Tech for a platitude-laden photo op. Maybe the 33 deaths for which Cho was responsible will deflect at least a modicum of attention from the 3,300 American deaths for which Bush is responsible.

  • You just know that the delay in action on the part of the university administration and security personnel between the first and second shooting incidents is going to make a passel of lawyers extremely wealthy.

  • Small consolation, but the Va. Tech massacre outstripped the previous U.S. mass shooting deaths record-holder, Charles Whitman, by a factor of more than 100%. If you're going to go off, go off big, I suppose.

  • Probably a trivial query in the midst of this maelstrom, but you know how my twisted mind works: What's a Hokie, anyway?

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Friday, April 13, 2007

This female fights back!

First, a much-overdue note of appreciation to all of you who have e-mailed with kind thoughts for my wife KJ. Her surgery went well, but her rebound is proving considerably more difficult than she anticipated. At this writing, she is still in the hospital, though the surgeon is hopeful that she'll be strong enough to come home tomorrow. Our house is a-bustle with activity right now, with a hospital bed being installed and a ramp being built and furniture being rearranged in preparation for KJ's homecoming.

Second, I'm sorry I haven't been posting much this week. But I know you understand why.

For today's Comic Art Friday, we'll salute KJ's valiant struggle toward physical normalcy with a couple of images of another of my favorite fighting women, Ms. Marvel.

As I've written on other occasions, Ms. Marvel's 1977 debut marked the first appearance in Marvel Comics of a female superhero with a physical power level to rival the company's male heavy hitters. By this point in history, DC had already had 37 years of Wonder Woman, and a couple of decades of Supergirl. By contrast, most of Marvel's front-line heroines — Invisible Girl, Wasp, Scarlet Witch — were distance attackers and defensive specialists, not pugilists. Ms. Marvel entered the scene with power to burn, and a decidedly feminist spin (at least, as feminist a spin as could be expected from middle-aged 1970s men). The cover of her premiere issue came emblazoned with the tagline, "This Female Fights Back!" And indeed, she did.

In the sketch below, artist Matt Haley — whose most prominent recent work has been the Superman Returns movie tie-in comic — sends the Woman Warrior aloft in her original classic costume.

Our second Ms. Marvel image marks Daniel B. Veesenmeyer's return to the comic art scene after a lengthy hiatus. Dan, who's actually worked more in the fields of film storyboarding and animation than in print comics, told me that this was the first superhero pinup he'd drawn in about three years. As I'm sure you'll agree, his potent rendering skills remain undimmed.

Mr. Veesenmeyer is currently working on a new addition to my Common Elements theme gallery — which, of course, you'll see on a future Comic Art Friday.

Gotta dash — it's that kind of week. Thanks for stopping by, and please keep the positive energy and prayers coming KJ's direction. Like Ms. Marvel, she's one female who fights back... even against the invisible enemy called cancer.

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Monday, April 09, 2007

Doing our part to keep doctors in BMWs

We'll return you to our usual pop cultural frivolity in a moment, but first, this medical update.

Thanks to all of you who've e-mailed to wish KJ well in her latest battle with The Big C. I'd assemble you all for a group hug if it were technically feasible. She and I both appreciate your kind thoughts and prayers more than we can say.

Today at 3:30 p.m. PDT, KJ will be undergoing a surgical procedure intended to stabilize her fractured thighbone where the tumor has weakened it. A very fine orthopedic surgeon will bolt a steel rod to the femur as a brace, with screws through the fracture to hold the bone together. This will help prevent further breaking, eliminate the intense pain she's been experiencing, and provide a sound platform for healing as the tumor itself is treated with radiation and chemotherapy.

As always, KJ's attitude going into the surgery is positive and strong. We have great confidence in her medical team, and know that she'll come through this first step in her treatment with flying colors.

To complete the picture, KJ's recent full-body scans didn't turn up any additional cancer sites aside from the main tumor on her upper femur, and a couple of smaller loci on her pelvis of which we'd already been made aware. So that's the good news.

I'll keep you posted.

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Friday, April 06, 2007

The wabbit, the Witch, and the wardrobe

To you those of you for whom it has value, happy Easter weekend. (And a belated good Passover to our Jewish friends.) Although in our household we don't attach any religious significance to the occasion, Easter is always a time for special memories — my daughter was born on the Saturday before Easter. (Perhaps that explains her fondness for rabbits.)

Of course, today is Comic Art Friday, and every Friday is a Good Friday when there's comic art on display.

Wanda Maximoff — better known within the superhero community as the Scarlet Witch, even though her personal identity is not held secret — is one of my "Magnificent Seven," that storied septet of comic book characters whose images hold a special place in my collection. Paging through my Wanda archives, I found a couple of nifty items that we haven't showcased here previously. Today's as good a Friday as any to highlight them.

Like many superheroines of lengthy tenure, the Scarlet Witch has undergone several changes in costume over the years. Wanda's most familiar attire — and still my personal favorite — is the outfit she wore beginning in the late 1960s and throughout the '70s and early '80s: a pink full-body stocking, covered by a red basque-style bodysuit and accented with a red cape, boots, and opera gloves. Topping off the look is Wanda's signature M-shaped tiara, a subtle nod to her father Erik Lehnsherr, the supervillain called Magneto.

Wanda works the old-school gear like a dream in this drawing by another personal favorite of mine, veteran Green Lantern artist Darryl Banks.

Sometime in the '90s, artist George Pérez reimagined Wanda's costume to reflect her purported Romany/Gypsy heritage. (Marvel Comics vacillated for decades over whether Wanda's father Magneto is Romany or Semitic in background. I believe the current company line is that he is indeed Jewish. If you've seen the X-Men films, you know which way director Bryan Singer chose to go.) This ensemble eliminates Wanda's body stocking in favor of bare skin — because, heaven knows, we need more skin in comic books — and abbreviates her basque into a shorter, lace-up affair coupled with a flowing, bejeweled loincloth.

To me, this garb makes the Witch look less like a superheroine and more like a belly-dancing instructor, but what do I know? At any rate, artist Louis Small Jr. provides a nice representation of the Pérez look here.

Were you to ask me why Wanda merits a hallowed gallery among my Magnificent Seven, I'd say that she was the first Marvel heroine on whom I developed a crush during my boyhood comic-reading days. The Witch wasn't Marvel's first super-female; she was preceded by Susan Storm (later Richards), the Invisible Girl (later Woman), and Janet Van Dyne (later Pym), the winsome Wasp, but they were both simplistically written as either weak (Sue) or whiny (Jan) in their earliest incarnations. I preferred Wanda because she was the first Marvel superwoman with any real semblance of a complex personality, as would be reflected in her love affair with — and eventual marriage to — the mysterious android, the Vision.

Speaking of which, here's a Comic Art Friday classic worthy of a second look: Wanda and her true love Vision, powerfully penciled first by the inimitable Frank Brunner...

...and then embellished by the equally inimitable Geof Isherwood. This dynamic before-and-after pairing is, without doubt, the highlight of my Scarlet Witch collection.

And that, my little Easter bunnies, is your Comic Art Friday. Don't eat too many Peeps! (Assuming, of course, that "too many Peeps" is not an oxymoron. Which it may well be.)


Wednesday, April 04, 2007

They oughta shoot somebody's eye out

Benjamin "Bob" Clark, the movie director who gave the world the holiday classic A Christmas Story — as well as the infamous romp about libidinous teenagers invading a Florida brothel known as Porky's — died early morning in an automobile crash in southern California. Clark's 22-year-old son Ariel, a budding jazz composer who studied music at Santa Monica College, also lost his life in the incident.

The drunk driver who killed both Clarks, 24-year-old Hector Velazquez-Nava, escaped with minor injuries.

That's the kind of news that burns my biscuits.

I consider myself a forgiving individual, but I hold no empathy for intoxicated drivers who kill or injure innocent people. In my view, vehicular manslaughter resulting from alcohol or drugs should be prosecuted and penalized to the same level as first-degree murder. If you're enough of a heartless barbarian that you would rather risk the lives of other human beings than call a taxi, society is better off with you permanently behind bars.

The reason drunk drivers are not so prosecuted and penalized can be directly attributed to the power of the liquor lobby. That, and many leading politicians — including a certain presently serving Commander-in-Chief — are among the folks most likely to grab the steering wheel while under the influence. Big money and runaway egotism make for dangerous bedfellows.

It would be unkind to use this moment as an opportunity to point out that, with the exception of the aforementioned A Christmas Story, Bob Clark directed a raft of heinously bad movies, including the aforementioned Porky's (and Rhinestone, and Turk 182, and From the Hip, and Loose Cannons, and Baby Geniuses). So I'll refrain.

Instead, I'll mention the one movie in the Bob Clark oeuvre that I really did enjoy: Murder by Decree, which pitted Sherlock Holmes and his sidekick Dr. Watson (played here by two veteran scenery-chewers, Christopher Plummer and James Mason) against Jack the Ripper. If you like mysteries, or Holmes, or both, you owe it to yourself to scrounge up the DVD of this film, and check it out. It's a genuine classic, featuring supporting appearances by such talents as Donald Sutherland, Genevieve Bujold, David Hemmings, Susan Clark, and Anthony Quayle. (Fascinating background trivia: Clark originally cast Peter O'Toole and Laurence Olivier as Holmes and Watson respectively, but the two actors hated one another with such a passion that the director ended up having to replace them both just to get the movie made.)

We here at SSTOL extend our condolences to the Clark family upon their devastating double loss.

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Tuesday, April 03, 2007

What's Up With That? #47: Sympathy for the nasal

If this isn't the nastiest thing you read about today, I definitely don't want to follow you to the library.

Rock and Roll Hall of Famer Keith Richards of the Rolling Stones — a legendary connoisseur of all items pharmacological — admitted in an interview with the British magazine NME that he once intentionally aspirated the ashes of his deceased father, mixed in with his minimum daily requirement of cocaine.

That's right: Keith Richards snorted his dad.

If you need to go hurl, I'll wait.

Feel better? Okay — onward we go.

Here's what the Keefer had to say about this peculiar — and frankly revolting — excursion into the dark side:
He was cremated and I couldn't resist grinding him up with a little bit of blow. My dad wouldn't have cared. It went down pretty well, and I'm still alive.
That's sick and wrong in more ways than I can count.

Richards will soon be appearing alongside Johnny Depp in the third installment of the Pirates of the Caribbean film franchise. Richards plays the father of Depp's character, Captain Jack Sparrow — a character based, as Depp has stated numerous times, upon Richards himself. If Jack follows the example of his real-life model, the advertising tagline "Got a little Captain in you?" could take on a whole new meaning.

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Monday, April 02, 2007

Serenity best? Joss say no!

The British movie magazine SFX has released the results of its recent poll to determine the best science fiction film in cinema history.

In a stunning upset (I've always wanted an opportunity to use that phrase), SFX readers chose Serenity as the all-time greatest sci-fi flick.


I mean, Serenity was indeed pretty darned good. I even wrote as much in this very space a while back. But the best science fiction film ever? Hmm.

In case you're curious, here's SFX's complete Top Ten:
  1. Serenity. Again, you can check out my previous post to see what I thought of this one.

  2. Star Wars. I've never been a fan, either of the original or its increasingly tedious sequels and prequels. When Star Wars debuted back in the day, I actually paid to see it twice, not because I was enamored with it, but because everyone I knew was so ecstatic about it that I figured I must have missed something the first time. I didn't.

  3. Blade Runner. I didn't care much for Blade Runner the first time I saw it, but it's grown on me through subsequent viewings over the years. Certainly, it's as influential a film, visually speaking, as has ever been made in the genre. More than Star Wars, even.

  4. Planet of the Apes. A sentimental fave. I was a huge Planet of the Apes fan as a kid. On at least two occasions that I can recall, I sat in a theater through marathon showings of all five of the original Apes films. The Tim Burton remake, however, stank on ice. Banana-flavored ice.

  5. The Matrix. Like Blade Runner, The Matrix influenced almost every genre film that followed it. The sequels got a little bit outré and self-indulgent for my taste, but the original still rocks.

  6. Alien. This would probably be number one on my personal list, even though it's really more of a horror film in a sci-fi setting than pure sci-fi. Sigourney Weaver's Ripley remains one of the most awe-inspiring heroines in the history of the movies, genre or no genre.

  7. Forbidden Planet. Incredibly influential for its time — there would have been no Star Trek without it — but it's embarrassingly dated if you watch it today. Still, this futuristic retooling of Shakespeare's The Tempest has earned its place among the classics.

  8. 2001: A Space Odyssey. I know I'm in the minority on this one, but I find 2001 — like the entirety of Stanley Kubrick's cinematic oeuvre — pretentious, ponderous, and worst of all, boring. I remember walking out of the theater as a kid and asking myself, "That was it?"

  9. The Terminator. James Cameron's breakout film isn't high art, but it's wicked cool nonetheless. Strictly in terms of quality, however, Terminator 2: Judgment Day is a much better movie. Who'da thunk that hulking mass of humanity with the undecipherable accent would someday be running my home state?

  10. Back to the Future. Shouldn't really count, in my opinion. Back to the Future is a comedy with a fantasy (not science fiction) premise. It's a fun movie, but it doesn't belong on a list of great sci-fi films.
Now the important question: Why isn't Heavy Metal on this list?

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