Category: Comics/Graphic Novels

Sep 27 2012

Cool and Classic: ‘Batman: The Dark Knight Returns’

Batman: The Dark Night Returns, Part 1 (Warner), the latest DC Universe animated original movie, tackles Frank Miller’s landmark Batman graphic novel. It’s their most ambitious project to date and if you accept the fact that no conventional animated film could ever really capture the graphic edge of Frank Miller’s dystopian vision or the psychotic intensity of his vigilante fantasy, then you can appreciate how much this direct-to-disc animated feature got right in its translation to a more mainstream audience.

Peter Weller voices old man Bat as an angry, bitter, seventy-something resurrection of the once-retired hero who comes back by sheer force of will in a Gotham City spiraling into chaos, and Ariel Winter (of “Modern Family) is Carrie, the girl who becomes his Robin. Streamlined to a more conventional narrative, the animated film loses the power of Miller’s defining graphic design but is accurate to the story, which becomes more of cartoon of weak-willed liberals in a savage world right out of an Ayn Rand fantasy. But the blocky, square-jawed Batman has the same hard, etched lines and graphic presence of the comic book page and the fight scenes deliver a different kind of action:  the sheer force of will and physical endurance of the old man Bats pushing his body past its limits. The deliberate pacing and pounding action is more about the force of the blows than the grace and spectacle of the choreography. It would take a far more daring approach to really do justice to Miller’s groundbreaking work, which is defined as much by his graphic design as by his writing, but this is at the very least interesting and at best unexpected. The second part of the story is set for release in 2013.

Blu-ray and DVD, with the featurettes “Batman and Me: The Bob Kane Story,” previews of upcoming DC Universe animated original movies, and two bonus “Batman” cartoons from the animated series. Exclusive  to the Blu-ray is the featurette “Her Name is Carrie… Her Role is Robin” and a digital comic.

More cult and classic releases at Videodrone

Oct 19 2011

Videodrone’s Cult Watch: ‘Batman: Year One’

DC comics may be stumbling over their big screen incarnations of their iconic comic book superheroes but their far more modestly mounted the DC Universe Original Animated Movies are surprisingly good, especially given the limitations of their resources. These budget-minded direct-to-DVD films translate graphic novels and memorable comic-book runs into animated incarnations efficiently, at times stylishly and generally true to their source material.

Batman: Year One (Warner) is to date the best. It’s also based on one of the best “Batman” stories of the past twenty years: Frank Miller’s revision of the early days of Batman and Jim Gordon (before he became police commissioner), which was also a major influence on Christopher Nolan’s live action “Batman” movies.

Animation aside, this isn’t a Batman cartoon. Like the comic, the story is told in slivers of action marked by the passing dates of the calendar and framed by the diary-like voice-overs of the parallel protagonists. Emmy winner Bryan Cranston (of “Breaking Bad”) voices Gordon, the lone honest cop on the thoroughly corrupt Gotham City police force, and brings a world-weary, conflicted quality to the man risking not just his career but his family to follow his moral compass, which nonetheless spins askew under the pressure. Ben McKenzie, however, tries too hard to give Bruce Wayne/Batman, the fledgling hero learning his trade on the streets, a sense of gravitas through a pose of stoicism and ends up simply flat and one-dimensional. Eliza Dushku (“Dollhouse”) comes in as colorful support as Selena Kyle, aka Catwoman, born out of the same struggle out of the Gotham cesspool.

Continue reading on Videodrone, where you can see a clip from the film

Feb 23 2011

Man, Superman and “All-Star Superman”

All-Star Superman” (Warner)

I have become a fan of the DC Universe Animated Original Movies, a series of direct-to-DVD (and Blu-ray) features based not just on DC comic heroes but, in most cases, specific creative comic book runs by some the genre’s most interesting talents. This 76-minute film synthesizes the 12-issue mini-series by writer Grant Morrison and artist Frank Quitely that embraces the pulp fun of golden age Superman with a modern grace and a mythic dimension. It’s not a reboot or an alternate universe, just a couple of creative artists offering their version of the ultimate Superman story with the humanity and humility of the Man of Steel coming through between the battles with giant monsters, alien invaders, minor gods and major supervillains, notably the final solution of Lex Luthor. “You’ll die,” our hero (in the alter-ego form of Clark Kent) warns Luthor when he hears his plan. “Ahh, but he’ll die first,” smiles the mad villain.

The artwork is designed to suggest the gentle, delicate style of artist Frank Quitely, but brought down to the minimalist detail and heavy lines of direct-to-DVD animation it more often evokes anime in an American vein… which, in its own way, works for this project. And new voice actors are cast in the leads: James Denton as a strong, confident yet humble Superman / Clark Kent, Christina Hendricks as a modern Lois Lane, Anthony LaPaglia as Lex Luthor and Edward Asner as a cantankerous Perry White. It’s part of what makes the DC Universe Animated Original Movies consistently interesting: just as the characters shift and storytelling approaches change with the creative personalities on the comic books, these films embrace the different sensibilities of the original stories by allowing new actors to reinterpret the characters in this new vein.

Continue reading at MSN Videodrone

Jun 04 2009

Zombies on the Puget Sound – The Seattle / Undead Connection

Zombies of Mass Destruction: The Poster

Zombies of Mass Destruction: The Poster

You could call Pittsburgh the birthplace (deathplace?) of the modern zombie movie. That was home base for filmmaker George Romero and his cast and crew when they put together an indie horror film and unleashed Night of the Living Dead on an suspecting country.

Forty year later, the genre gets a recharge from Seattle creators working in different media. Is Seattle the new Pittsburg, or is the Silicon Forest merely fertile ground for the next evolution of the zombie revolution?

I write about the film ZMD: Zombies of Mass Destruction, from Seattle born-and-raised directed Kevin Hamedini and Seattle-based producer John Sinno, and the comic book Rotten, from Seattle writers Mark Rahner and Robert Horton, for the Seattle PostGlobe here.

I also profile ZMD at the Seattle Weekly here and review the film here.

My interview with the creators of Rotten is on my blog here.

Jun 03 2009

Rotten – the Undead in the Old West

When I penned a list of the ten best Horror/Westerns for IFC a while back, I contacted Mark Rahner and Robert Horton, writers/creators of the (at the time unreleased) comic book Rotten, for some comments and insights. Rotten is a set in the American West just after the end of the civil war, where two American agents are sent to investigate an alarming phenomenon: dead folks are rising from their graves as flesh-eating ghouls. That’s right, it’s a zombie western, strewn with influences ranging from the sixties TV series The Wild, Wild West to the political history of the past eight years.

Rotten cover art

"Rotten" cover art by Dan Dougherty

“The first issue is an over-ambitious 52 pages and the rest will be normal-sized and around 22 pages or so,” Mark wrote me at the time, still awaiting the release of the first issue. “It’s also worth noting that this is a creator-owned title, which entails creative independence you don’t tend much to see with big companies and their licensed characters—not to mention a financial roll of the dice.”

In the interest of full disclosure, let me state up front that Rahner and Horton are both friends of mine and colleagues. I’ve known them both for many years and have watched them develop this project for the past three years. I couldn’t be more thrilled that it’s finally crawling out of the soil and stumbling out to hopefully take a big meaty bite out of the comic book culture.

The Q&A was conducted via E-mail, the preferred format for these writers, over a couple of weeks in April, 2009. The comic should be released this week. As of this writing, I’ve only seen a few sample pages, but I like what I see.

Why a horror western?

Mark Rahner: It was a mash-up of my favorite genres that I hadn’t seen much of — with secret agents thrown into the mix, along with a good dose of social commentary that any fan of Battlestar Galactica, The Twilight Zone or the original Star Trek would dig. In other words, the kind of thing that my co-writer Robert Horton and I would have enjoyed reading if someone else had written it.

The steam-punk aspect also appealed to me as a new twist on zombies — which have been strip-mined in recent years. Throw a character into a miserable situation with no cell phones, cars, or even much understanding of germs or evolution. There were also some great parallels. The main character is a stop-lossed vet, his president took office without the popular vote, and the government’s lying about a terror crisis. But the hero’s a vet of the Civil war, not Iraq; instead of being installed by the Supreme Court like Bush, Rutherford B. Hayes took office in what was called “The Corrupt Bargain”; and the terror crisis … well, it’s not Middle Easterners with planes. It’s different incarnations of the living dead.

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Mar 05 2009

This is Not a Watchmen Review

The world doesn’t need another Watchmen review. Everyone with access to a preview screening and a web page has already done one. The world is not short of opinions and the web doesn’t seem to differentiate between considered responses and emotional reflex put to words, though you can find some of the better ones here (thanks to David Hudson at The Daily @ IFC.com for wading through the onslaught to pick out the more interesting responses).

So this is not a Watchmen review. It’s a consideration of what the film is and how it got that way: perhaps the most faithful cinematic replica of a comic book experience every accomplished.

Here is my question: why would anyone want that? I have the graphic novel. I’ve read it a few times and can pick it up anytime I want to.

I go to the movies to be immersed, impressed, awed, engaged. Zack Snyder’s Watchmen feels like a film made to deliver a sense of comfort that everything is exactly as you remember from the graphic novel. The character stories and arcs are all there, along with the complex backstories and the alternate history of America. The signature images from the comic books are all on display: the marvelous costume designs (which in some cases evoke comic-book silliness and garish impracticality of yesteryear costumed heroes), Doctor Manhattan’s Mars Fortress of Solitude, Archie the Nite Owl’s ship. In an interview Alan Moore gave to Wired Magazine, he complained that no film could get the texture of Dave Gibbons’ artwork. Maybe, but I can’t imagine anyone getting closer.

Nite Owl and Archie

Nite Owl and Archie

Yes, Snyder streamlined the story and judiciously edited out certain subplots and side-stories (notably the “Tales from the Black Freighter,” which will be released on a separate DVD later this month and is promised to be returned to the DVD release – though fans of the comic will notice that the news agent and the comic-book fan are present in a few shots). And he even dared to change the details of Moore’s original ending, twisting it with an insight so perceptive that one wonders if Moore would have done the same had it occurred to him, so beautifully does it wrap itself within the self-contained mythology and the character dynamics.

In moments like these, Snyder showed how much he understood Moore’s Watchmen. He gets the schizoid conviction and moralistic hysteria of Old Testament avenger Rorschach, the vestiges of human emotion struggling with existential disconnection in Dr. Manhattan, and the arrogance and false piety of industrialist gazillionaire Adrian Veidt, aka Ozymandias, whose show of suffering for all the souls he kills is a piece of theater he stages like a martyr. Meanwhile his corporate logo adorns the reconstruction of the devastated cities. These details are inherent in the graphic novel, but Snyder brings them to life in a way distinctive to the movies. Matthew Goode lets the hypocrisy show through the mask of saintly sacrifice, and shows that for all his fears of Dr. Manhattan becoming a God, it is Veidt who acts like one.

Dr. Manhattan disconnecting from his human origins

Dr. Manhattan disconnecting from his human origins

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Oct 19 2008

Some Thoughts on Comic Books and Serial Storytelling

A few months ago, I wrote a review of The Dark Night where I made the observation that comic books and movies had been growing closer over the past couple of decades:

dark_knight_returns.jpg

"The Dark Knight" - graphic inspiration for Nolan's take

the_dark_knight_poster.jpg

"The Dark Knight" - the movie

The development of the superhero movie genre has been fascinating to watch. Over the past couple of decades, comics have become more cinematic and sophisticated and adult, leaving the preteen audience behind to focus on college readers and adult collectors. At the same time, movie blockbusters have become more juvenile and franchise oriented, while on the production side they have adopted technologies that allow them to replicate the kinds of images and action spectacle previously only possible on the page. In retrospect, the superhero movie blockbuster seems like an inevitable meeting of storytelling forms. What makes it so interesting is the way the genre has been attracting some of the most talented and cinematically enthusiastic directors: Bryan Singer, Ang Lee, Sam Raimi, and now Christopher Nolan.”

It’s clear that the dark visions of Frank Miller’s take on the Batman had a tremendous influence on the movies, visually and thematically, though I would argue that Batman: Year One is an even greater influence than the more celebrated The Dark Knight Returns.

mutantx.jpg

Once this was the only kind of show open to comic-book writers

There is, however, a major storytelling difference: comics are (with exceptions) a serial format. Movies are (for the most part) self contained. Sure, there is the increasing franchise aspect to blockbusters, but even then it’s a wait of a couple of years between. In that aspect, comics are closer to TV storytelling, especially with the increase in long-running story arcs in such shows as Lost and Heroes. There, too, you can see the two formats borrowing from one another, not just in the conventions but in the increased crossover in writers.

Back in the seventies, it was almost impossible for a comics scribe (and I mean specifically superhero comics) to make the leap to television (apart from animated superhero shows) or screenwriting. When they did (like Roy Thomas on Fire and Ice and Conan the Destroyer) the results were invariably awkward and cartoonish. Gerry Conway, longtime Marvel writer (among his claims to fame: the Death of Gwen Stacy and the creation of The Punisher, both in The Amazing Spider-Man), quietly made the transition from animated kid shows to TV mysteries and cop shows and has since become a producer on such shows as Diagnosis: Murder and Law & Order: Criminal Intent, but he’s an exception to the rule.

Or rather, he was an exception. In the last decade, the barriers between the media became much more porous, and not just on the genre shows like Hercules and Xena and Mutant X. Jeph Loeb (Batman: The Long Halloween and Spider-Man: Blue, among other notable work) is a writer and producer on Heroes. Brian K. Vaughn (Runaways) is a writer on Lost. Frank Miller retreated from his first Hollywood experience (Robocop 2) to concentrate on comics, only to return and become a director in his own right, following Sin City with his take on Will Eisner’s The Spirit (due this Christmas).

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Aug 01 2008

Comic Books: Straczynski’s Spider-Man

Here’s a little something different, and something I hope to make a regular part of my blog.

spider_man_amazing_fantasy.jpgBefore I really embraced the cinema, my passion was comic books (before that it was ice hockey and the NHL, but that’s another story). I collected them, read them fervently and often feverishly, devoured interviews with creators, and even tried my hand at writing reviews and comic book stories for my comic collector’s club newsletter. And the first comic book character I really embraced and loved was Spider-Man. This was the late seventies, not necessarily a golden age for the character, but he was still the marquee character for Marvel with two solo titles (“The Amazing Spider-Man” and “Peter Parker, the Spectacular Spider-Man”) and his cross-over “Marvel Team-up,” plus the reprint “Marvel Tales,” where I could revisit the old Steve Ditko stories and the handsome John Romita run. Here was a smart but geeky teenager, a social nerd at the low end of the high school pecking order, who found himself with wondrous powers that he felt obligated to use to protect the citizens of his city – because his inaction led to the death of the uncle who raised him – but was unable to use them to make his out-of-costume any easier. This was a hero that an adolescent reader could embrace and identify with.

Spider-Man and Batman are, to my mind, the two great comic book icons, and they couldn’t be more different. Batman is the dark knight, driven to be a vigilante out of rage and obsession. His social counterpart, Bruce Wayne, is a cover for his real identity as a grim hero who works the night and uses his costume and his attitude to create an enigma, a symbol of dark justice. He doesn’t care if he’s loved by the city. He’s just fine with being feared. And his drive is laced with an arrogance that he no longer even notices. He’s staked out his territory and his tactics and no one is going to tell him otherwise. He’s a magnificent creation and remains, if anything, even more interesting now than ever before.

romitaspidey.jpgSpider-Man is both a responsibility and a release valve for Peter Parker, who keeps his identity secret to protect his loved ones more than to protect himself. He’s branded a villain by the news (especially The Daily Bugle) and he can’t catch a break. He’d love to be liked and it hurts him to be maligned for his sacrifices. His private life is in a state of melodrama, and any sustained period of happiness is doomed to be shattered. There’s a soap opera aspect to it, of course, but it’s a mythic soap opera, the Hero’s Journey with a human vulnerability and a modern urban grounding. He’s the working man’s hero, wisecracking as he saves a citizen from a mugger or the world from an alien attack because he finds a joy in his work, and because sometimes he faces threats so intimidating that it’s the only thing that keeps him from panicking.

The Spider-Man comics have gone through all sorts of permutations and cycles over the 45 year run and many of them have been pretty, let’s say, mediocre. A lot of the scripting really doesn’t hold up decades later (especially the exposition-laced dialogue of the seventies and eighties comics, a pale continuation of the sixties Stan Lee style that somehow, even today, still feels more organic) and the storylines are repetitive. There was a renewed vogue for the comic in the nineties thanks to Todd McFarlane’s dramatic and busy artwork (that was the time that Venom and the black costume were introduced), but I was not impressed by the run. Otherwise, it was the rogues gallery that kept the title alive so much of the time.

spiderman_aunt_may_mary_jane_watson.jpgI had not bought a comic book from the newstand or comic shop in years when I returned to comics through graphic novels and bound collection reprints. That was how I checked in on the character, and how I first discovered J. Michael Straczynski’s run on the flagship Spider-Man title, “The Amazing Spider-Man.” Within the first few issues, Straczynski brought the character back to life with a sharp focus on character and powerful relationships with a resonance that hadn’t been felt in the comic for years.

[SPOILER ALERT - I discuss the major story developments of Straczynski's run in the following paragraphs. Read no further if you have not read them and don't want these plot points revealed.]

From working through the strains in his marriage with Mary Jane (under Straczynski’s hand, their time together is the most satisfying portraits of a loving marriage I’ve seen in comics) to sharing his secret identity with Aunt May (who Straczynski made a central player with a vibrant identity and a strength of character so often missing from her earlier portraits) to his relationship with Tony Stark (aka Iron Man). Stark became a real father figure to Peter Parker, the first since the death of Uncle Ben in the origin issue, and not just as the man behind the hero. He encouraged Parker to embrace the fledgling scientist that had been so long neglected.

Straczynski brought Peter Parker to a state of happiness through love and friendship, to a place of trust and respect with the great heroes of his world, to a family that made his problems their problems. The eternal loner, who might cooperate with the Marvel heroes who carry the stamp of authority from the government, never remained with them after the fight was over. He never felt that he belonged. For a brief moment, Tony Stark reached out and told him that he did belong and Captain America confirmed it with his nod of approval.

And then Straczynski took it all away.

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Jan 01 2008

Remembering the things I’m thankful for

J.Michael Staczinski's "Spider-Man"

2007 has been a good year for me. This year I passed the 12-year mark in Seattle, making this the longest I’ve ever lived consecutively in one city. I developed a taste for gunpowder green tea and yellow curry, thanks to an Asian market that opened right next to a nearby multiplex. I discovered a few new authors (thank you, Arturo Perez-Reverte and Tonino Benaquisto, for joining my list of favored writers) in between continuing my run through the Spenser novels of Robert Parker and completing Neal Stephenson’s “Baroque Cycle.” I continued my reengagement with comics and graphic novels through bound collections of both mainstream titles (the J. Michael Staczinski-penned “Spider-Man” comics and the “X-Men” issues by Joss Whedon and Grant Morrison) and indie series (the brilliant “Powers” by Brian Michael Bendis and Michael Avon Oeming and the comics-noir “100 Bullets” by Brian Azzarello and Eduardo Risso), thanks to a library system that actually carries these titles. I continued delving into garage rock past and present (with plenty of help from Little Steven’s Underground Garage). I made an effort to be, however small, a part of the lives of my nieces and nephews and honorary godchildren (that’s what happens to the single friends of married couples). And I finally launched my own website, thanks to the diligent efforts of my dear old friend Nick Henderson and my much newer friend Felipe Lujan-Bear. I’m still working on the rest of my 2007 New Year’s resolutions, but I’m happy with the headway I’ve made so far.

And professionally, it’s been a great year. After a decade of developing and writing my DVD column online, first for film.com and then for the IMDb, I approached MSN with a proposal to expand and enrich their coverage. My column went live in April and I’ve been writing a weekly column for them ever since. I also started writing for Turner Classic Movies in 2007, which I’ve greatly enjoyed, I continue to write for the Seattle Post-Intelligencer and GreenCine.com, and this year I attended my first Toronto International Film Festival, which is a film lover’s paradise and the critic’s keys to the kingdom.

Zombie Heaven

I had grand plans for the week leading up to New Year’s Eve, but I wound up taking it easy and focusing on things close to home – getting back into jogging, organizing my finances for taxes, cleaning house (literally – a near-complete top to bottom clean), and clearing out the clutter by hauling off all those things I’d been saving to donate. I called my parents to wish them a happy anniversary (I’m lousy with birthdays, but I always remember my parents’ anniversary as it is on New Year’s Eve) and listened to “Odyssey and Oracle” by The Zombies, a magnificent pop album released long after the band had broken up, with only one hit (“Time of the Season”) but a unity close to perfection. I opened a bottle of Benton-Lane First Class 2003 Pinot Noir (from the Willamette Valley, my previous home), had a dish of spaghetti, and spent New Year’s Eve repeating what has become my annual ritual: staying at home (avoiding the roads full of drivers under the influence) and watching the DVDs that I’ve been wanting and meaning to see for months or even years. This year, it was King Hu’s Dragon Gate Inn, on a poorly mastered import disc with shoddy subtitles, yet was glorious enough to overcome those surface deficiencies. For those of you unfamiliar with the director, Hu is the godfather of the genre known as “wuxia pian,” or romantic chivalry, and was a major inspiration of the Hong Kong New Wave and director Tsui Hark (who remade the film as Dragon Gate), and of the Oscar-winning Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, which is practically a tribute to the films of King Hu.

Dragon Inn

Dragon Gate Inn is a pure delight, a wild ride of an action film with a sprawling cast representing all sorts of forces who converge on the inn of the title, which lies open and exposed in the middle of the desert. An ambush is plotted by a powerful eunuch, but mysterious figures have, for various reasons, gathered to protect the targets of the assassination conspiracy. Swords flash, poison wine is spilled, arrows fly, armies clash, and rather humorous insults are thrown at the eunuch. Yet it was one otherwise unmemorable moment of the film, a slow track forward in POV shot of the warrior heroine creeping up on the occupied inn of the title, that sparked a purely reflexive response in me: damn, how I love a slow tracking shot, one that creeps with such deliberation that you feel transported into the movement. It started me thinking about those techniques and conventions and details we otherwise take for granted, yet transform otherwise mundane films into visceral experiences, and in the hands of an artist can be turned into transformative moments.

So I started cataloguing, off the top of my head, just a few things about the cinema that transport me, thrill me, engage me, excite me, stir me, and reward me – in films conventional and curious, good and bad, terrible and transcendent. I’m dedicated to exploring cinema for the good and the great, but there are so many things that me engaged in between that I felt compelled to list just a few…

Things I’m thankful for:

Hawks

Howard Hawks – I could put any number of directors here, I suppose, but there is no single director whose world I find more comforting to visit.

The perfect match cut – I realized that I was not meant to be a director in college because I never really had a story to tell when I was making student films, but I could spend hours mucking about on the sloppy, pre-digital videotape editing deck of my college perfecting the editing of my rushes, alternately flaunting exaggerated shifts in perspective and angle and hiding cuts in the movement within the frame. (I might have turned out to be a good editor if I kept with it, but I ultimately found myself drawn to writing more than filmmaking, and I followed my impulses.) I’m still swept along by editing that follows the action to slide from shot to shot and carries the viewer along quietly through rhythms. It was during the third screening of John Woo’s Hardboiled that I noticed how Woo used the momentum and vectors of action to guide his cutting in the opening restaurant shoot-out. It makes the runaway momentum feel even more out of control and chaotic, but Woo is in complete control.

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Nov 25 2007

Patton Oswalt talks movies and comics and more…

That bastard Patton Oswalt!

I had ten minutes for a phone interview with Oswalt. It was just supposed to be a quick, light ten-minutes, a tie-in with the DVD release of Ratatouille. I would lob him some goofy questions about the movie, he’d bounce back some funny answers. I mean, he’s a comedian right? That’s what he does. Often with words that cannot be printed in a family publication..

It turns out that Oswalt is also a serious film buff. The man loves to talk movies. And, well, so do I. He’s also a cartoon fan and comic book fan. After the interview was over, I discovered that he’s even written some comics. Anyway, to make a long story short, we turned a short interview long. We ranged far off topic. He was asking me questions! I stopped interviewing and started conversing.

Patton Oswalt's new CD: Werewolves and LollipopsAnd I still had to turn in a light little interview piece to MSN.

A very small portion of the interview ran in MSN’s “What’s In Your DVD Players” series. I left out oodles of great material, and even more conversations chewing over topics that, quite frankly, I can’t imagine too many people besides us would even be interested in. But it’s there and I loved it so much that I felt I had to print the entire transcript (with minor edits to make me sound smarter). So here it is, in all its geeky glory and nerdish obsession with “The Wire” (the greatest TV series ever made), Michael Maltese, Anthony Mann, and Will Eisner and “The Spirit.”

Click here for Patton Oswalt’s website.

What’s in your DVD player?

I got that Janus Films 50 Years Retrospective box so I’ve been going through that. The last thing I watched on my DVD player was “Fires on the Plain,” which is a Japanese movie from 1959. It’s pretty amazing.

Kon Ichikawa, I believe. I saw that film for the first time just this year.

It’s pretty brutal.

Probably not a film that will ever make an appearance in your stand-up comedy act.

No, I don’t think I’ll be doing any “Fires on the Plains” bits. And I know this is such a lame thing to say, but I re-watched the third season of “The Wire.” I’ve probably watched each of those seasons two or three times apiece.

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