28 June 2010


Once in a while, we're blown away architecture that's so fantastic and future-forward that it's like something out of a comic book -- like Dubai's Burj Khalifa a rival for even Metropolis' elegant super skyscrapers. Marina Bay Sands, however, is more like something we'd expect to find on Risa, Star Trek The Next Generation's pleasure planet. Built by the Las Vegas Sands Corporation to be the launchpad for Singapore's budding tourism industry, Marina Bay opened the doors to its three towers Strip-style hotel in early April -- but it's main attraction saw guests for the first time just last week.

Resting 200 meters in the air and size-equivalent to three football fields laid end to end, the Sands' Skypark is a 380 meter-long roof top playground that spans across the length of the complex's three skyscraper structures. With an observation deck capable of holding 900 people alone, the Skypark itself hits it max capacity near 4 thousand;  a 150 meter-long infinity swimming pool, bar, restaurant and spa, and a botanical garden with 250 species of trees and 650 plants keep visitors entertained if the view fails to impress.

Spending even one night at the Sands would come with a price tag well near $1,000;  thankfully, $20 gets you into Skypark. No reservations are required, but we hear the para-gliding insurance is sky-high. More info on Marina Bay Sands on the hotel's new website - here.

26 June 2010


Need more proof that superheroes are taking America by storm -- and not just at the box office? Now, they'll be protecting all of us at the drive thru, too.  Taco Bell, our favorite purveyor of la comida rapida has launched their latest ad campaign - and the nation's newest band of superheroes:  Super Delicious Ingredient Force 

In true team-up fashion, the 'Bell joined forces with advertising giant DraftFCB Chicago and legendary comics artist Neal Adams to develop a Taco team of Super Friends-esque heroes that would have their own online cartoon and appear on Taco Bell menus and signage - very similar to the use of the Hamburgler and Ronald for McDonalds.  The result: Super Delicious Ingredient Force (or SDIF), a nine-member team that includes heroes like the blatantly gay Fantastic Rice and Flex Tortilla - a definite in-joke and spoof on Grant Morrison's own inside spoof-ish creation, Flex Mentallo - and a buzz-worthy video that succeeds at hitching Taco Bell to the superhero choo-choo.

The first of a planned trio of videos hit the internet this month; in over three minutes, the short's more mini-cartoon than commercial, and surprisingly as subversive as it is funny - or ridiculous, depending on your point of view.  With a mission to rid the world of "minuscule meals of mediocrity," an El Camino that stands-in for the Batmobile, and a scene with a pickle that pushes into Family Guy territory, the humor and super hero shout-outs actually over-power the actual product.  But that's likely the intention anyway: establish the brand - especially if the likes of Chicken Woman and Crunch Boy will soon be filling Taco lobbies as super standees.

Super Delicious Ingredient Force -  pure awesome, for one reason or another.  But after the enchirito was invented, who really needed another reason to love Taco Bell anyway?

21 June 2010


Although Iron Man 2's world premiere in late April had to be moved from London to Los Angeles thanks to travel complications caused by the Icelandic volcano Eyjafjallajokull, the sequel did make it into European theaters a good week before its North American debut. So in a way it makes sense that while no official word on an Iron Man 2 DVD has come from Paramount or Marvel Studios, the movie is already up on Amazon Germany for pre-order with a 7th October release date.

In addition to a single DVD release, Amazon Germany also lists a Blu-ray as well as a limited edition Iron Man 2 Steelbook for the 07 October date - and with details like those, it's a date we find difficult to doubt.  The only questions remaining are what extra fans can expect to find when Iron Man 2 does hit, and if American fans will have to wait a bit longer for a heavy metal fix than their European counterparts.  Considering the film made Europe first, it's altogether reasonable the DVD might, too.

As far the extras, the only clues fans have so far came from Iron Man 2 director Jon Favreau, who noted just before the Los Angeles premiere that behind the scenes cameras 'were always running' and the future DVD should include several featurettes and a robust commentary.

Abbracadabbling will keep dabblers up to date with Iron Man 2 DVD news as it hits, so stick around...! 




New York-based comics illustrator and designer Brendan Tobin provides some quick insight into the creative process of comic book creation here by completing a rough sketch of DC Comics' Hawkman by legendary artist, the late Jack Kirby.  Kirby originally penciled  the work as a presentation piece for an unrealized Hawkman cartoon, presumably dating his initial sketch back to the late 60's or early 1970's. 

[Interestingly, Kirby left New York and the comics industry behind in the late 1970's, disillusioned with both Marvel and DC Comics for not giving him fair payment or enough credit for his creations. He went to California and began a new career in animation, working briefly for Hanna-Barbera before winding up at Ruby-Spears in 1980.  There, he designed characters and backgrounds for the Saturday morning action series Thundarr the Barbarian as well as created presentation boards for potential new projects. Although none of Kirby's concepts were produced before he died in 1994, the Ruby-Spears company (in tandem with Sid and Marty Krofft) announced in April they plan to revisit his ideas for production. ]

Working from the original pencils, Tobin completes what Kirby began, first by inking the Hawkman, then finally coloring and lettering. What he ends up with is an amazing piece of comics art and history. Tobin also posts this process on his own blog, which you can find [here].

Hawkman  - Jack Kirby's original pencilsTobin inks Kirby's line work, then adds the lettering

 Hawkman completed, Kirby -style - by Brendan Tobin
The New York Times recently compiled an online slide-show of Jack Kirby's yet-to-be-produced cartoon characters and concepts, found [here].

Figures In Action! On The First Day of Summer, VICTOR FREEZE Is NOT Pleased

DC Superheroes, Mattel (2007) [via]

20 June 2010


One last round of great graphics for you before the weekend's officially over, with comics artist Cliff Chiang's latest mash-up at the head of the (brat) pack. Chiang's been turning out 12-inch Remixes, as he calls them, for the past couple years, merging famous comics characters with classic 80's album covers. His latest with the X-Men was auctioned at Heroes Con earlier this month, and its his second Remixed nod to the late director of Pretty In Pink, John Hughes. Chiang's first tribute casts the classic Teen Titans as The Breakfast Club -- and you can check it out [here]!

Iron R2 by Mike Verta




Spock, Esquire by Norma Bar

Heroes' Mister Muggles Wallpaper [via]

Hulk Hyde by 'Book Eats The Art'[via]


The major players, the  triple-A Big Two characters that top each publisher's  'A-Lists' of characters, are impossible to control completely, even by the companies that own them.  Fan-films like Batman: City of Scars clearly illustrate this point: some superheroes -- Batman, Superman, Iron Man, Green Lantern, Captain America, and Spider-Man, for example -- have 'lives' of their own, their destinies often beyond the reach of the editors, writers, and artists whose job it is to forge them.  From both a  creative and a business standpoint, then, it's interesting to observe the machinations of Marvel's and DC's respective A-List business units and watch them exert the control they do have.

Marvel Comics' Spider-Man group under the direction of Executive Editor Tom Brevoort and Editor Stephen Wacker may be one's best bet to observe the editorial in action process. Wacker, who made an abrupt departure from DC Comics as editor of the experimental weekly comics title 52,  in September 2006 to join Marvel and fell in with the Spider-office soon after, is the guy in charge of Spidey's day to day and as such, he deserves much of the credit for reigning in - even salvaging - Marvel's flagship wall-crawler.  But How Wacker pulled that feat off must wait until we explore the one big Why. 

As a creative property, Spider-Man is unique among his fellow A-Listers as the only character not to have the privilege of being killed and inevitably resurrected.  A-list superhero deaths, from Superman to Green Lantern, and Wolverine to Captain America, may have served to make  a statement now and again, but in nearly every case, their main function has been to reign in a property that's spun completely out of editorial control.  In dramatic storytelling, readers' interests are raised  (as are sales) anytime a writer pushes the protagonist higher up the metaphorical tree and sometimes, there's no way to get them back down other than putting them six-feet under. 

Marvel and writer Mark Millar sent Spider-Man up into that tree in 2006-2007, when the hero publicly revealed his Peter Parker secret identity during the company's Civil War mega-event.  Spider-Man's unmasking achieved its goal of gaining major exposure and drove Civil War's sales -and those of the three Spider-Man titles being published at the time - even higher. But it also sent Spider-Man higher into the terrible tree, the same tree that would claim the fictional life of Marvel's Captain America just mere months later.  

To necessarily undo the genre-disabling damage that Millar's Spider-Man unmasking caused, Marvel's 'brain trust' took, upon editorial mandate, a more novel if not completely dissimilar approach to recreating their character: they - or Spider-Man - made a deal (literally and figuratively, it seems) with the Devil, the longtime Marvel character and demon, MephistoIn the 2007 storyline One More Day, Mephisto agrees to undo all the harm Spider-Man's unmasking caused (including Aunt May being mortally wounded as a result) by making everyone forget whose face was under the Spider mask. The caveat was he'd  only do so in exchange not for Peter's soul, but for his marriage to Mary Jane Watson.  Peter Parker made his secret ID known to Mary Jane and married her in 'The Wedding' - a seminal comics event (and one of the most important in Peter Parker's life) that occurred in Amazing Spider-Man Annual #21 in 1987.

Spider-Man's - and perhaps Marvel's - deal with the Devil set Peter Parker's life - and the stability of his fictional world - back to normal, though in true tragic Spider-Man form,  Peter alone would remember what he sacrificed. Beyond the comic book pages, however, the story was different. Then head Spider-Man scribe and screenwriter Michael J. Straczynski, who wrote the events of One More Day, dismissed the editorial directive as "infuriating and downright disrespectful to anyone who has come to love Spider-Man comics over the years " and resigned as a result. His sentiments were shared by, we'd daresay, the majority of Spider-Man's fan followers, perhaps one of the most loyal - if not the most loyal - fan base in all of comics.
For a great many Spider-Man loyalists, the character they'd grown up with had died; for Marvel, the publisher had found the one way to rejuvenate Spider-Man and Peter Parker, which according to Editor-in-Chief Joe Quesada, was necessary for the longevity of the Spider-Man franchise.   While one single, all-important, life-changing decision by a character is the basis of all great drama, Spider-Man's pact with Mephisto was more than many readers could handle, and the unenviable duty of damage control has belonged to Stephen Wacker's group ever since. 
It would be incorrect to assume Marvel's plans to ret-con Spider-Man were reactionary in the least; indeed, Stephen Wacker's move to Marvel from DC Comics weekly 52 project is just one indication that Marvel editorial had been planning to un-marry Peter Parker for quite some time. Immediately following the conclusion of One More Day, both Sensational Spider-Man and Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man were canceled, and Wacker became the editor of the one remaining title and the franchise's flagship, Amazing Spider-ManThe move was a consolidation of control and a concentration of creativity. It was also a gamble; along with its price point increasing by one dollar - from $2.99 to $3.99 an issue --  Amazing Spider-Man would now be published three times a month instead of just one.  

To find the tomorrow after One More Day, Spider-Man would make yet another ambitious move into his future.