Three comic book reviews: Pull List #22 ('Howard the Duck')

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Howard the Duck #8For all the hubbub about Marvel Studios deciding to go with an obscure team featuring a talking raccoon with a machine gun for their latest movie, they’re only continuing on as they started.

Think about it; not counting serials, what was the first DC universe character to get his own movie? Batman, followed by Superman (followed by Batman, Batman again, even more Batman, Superman, Superman and next Batman and Superman together). That’s their two biggest guns, and barring that weird Ryan Reynolds thing and Vertigo adaptations, that’s about it.

What was Marvel’s first superhero to get his own theatrical movie? Howard the Duck, followed by Blade, a character who struggles to headline his own comic books, but somehow managed a trilogy of movies. Yeah, Howard the Duck was the first obvious warning sign George Lucas wasn’t perfect, but now that Guardians of the Galaxy movie doesn’t sound so weird, does it?

Anyway, this is a special edition of Pull List; we’re taking a look back at one of the odder cult characters in mainstream comics. Howard the Duck got his start in a horror comic, of all places, created by weird writer extraordinaire Steve Gerber (four words: elf with a gun). Howard would have been a nobody in his home universe, where everybody is a duck, but he got stuck in our world, “trapped in a world he never made,” as the series’ tagline goes (which kind of applies to everybody, but whatever), so he got his own comic book series here.

His comics’ introduction describes him:

From the time of his hatching, he was … different. A potentially brilliant scholar who dreaded the structured environment of school, he educated himself in the streets, taking whatever work was available, formulating his philosophy of self from what he learned of the world about him. And then the Cosmic Axis shifted … and that world changed. Suddenly, he was stranded in a universe he could not fathom. Without warning, he became a strange fowl in an even stranger land.

Review: 'Trick or Treat', edited by Ianus J. Wolf

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Trick or TreatThis is Rabbit Valley’s Halloween 2013 theme anthology, “something for the adults to enjoy”. It presents eleven new stories; five scary horror “tricks” and six “delectable romantic and erotic” “treats”. The book’s fine wraparound cover is by Stephanie "Ifus" Johnson.

Ianus J. Wolf says in his introduction that this is the first of Rabbit Valley’s planned annual Halloween anthologies, to mix furry horror and adult erotica, so there will be more to come for those who like it.

Halloween just isn’t Halloween without both the scary and the sweet.

The two sections are each introduced by the two EC Comics-style ‘horror hosts’ shown on the cover, Trick the wolf and Treat the cat. The “tricks” all come first, to leave you with a pleasant taste. They are “Hellhound” by Renee Carter Hall, “Son of the Blood Moon” by Bill “Hafoc” Rogers, “Slough” by Ray “Stormcatcher” Curtone, “Unrealty” by Rechan, and “Wild Night” by Tarl “Voice” Hoch.

Las Vegas, NV, Rabbit Valley, September 2013, trade paperback $20.00 (313 pages).

Review: 'Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles' Mutagen Mayhem DVD

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Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Mutagen Mayhem DVDNow that we’ve finished up with season 1 of the NickToons Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles cartoon, it’s time to start on season 2, the first six episodes of which are collected in the “Mutagen Mayhem” DVD.

For the first time, we meet new old characters like Casey Jones (who begins appearing in the credits from the first episode of this season) and Rahzar (who is new and old in two different ways) as well as new new characters, like the Squirrelanoids (which are seriously the greatest squirrel based mutants since Doreen “Squirrel Girl” Green).

Oh, and the turtles have finished with Space Heroes and have discovered anime in the form of Super Robo Mecha Force Five!, a brutal parody of old school sentai shows like Voltron and Battle of the Planets/G-Force/Gatchaman. Depending on your knowledge and nostalgia level for those old shows, these are either brilliant or just plain mean. Or both.

All in all, the second season of this incarnation of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is off to a rollicking start.

Animation: 'Thunder and the House of Magic'

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Jerry Beck has just announced on his Animation Scoop website that Shout! Factory will release the December 2013 Belgian-made (for Christmas 2013 release in French-speaking parts of Europe) 85-minute animated feature The House of Magic, retitled Thunder and the House of Magic and dubbed into English, in theaters in U.S. “selected cities” on September 5. The selected cities include New York, Los Angeles, Atlanta, Boston, Houston, Miami/Ft. Lauderdale, San Francisco, and Washington, DC. Shout! Factory is primarily a DVD releaser, so presumably this will become a generally-available DVD release shortly after that.

Under either title, this looks like a kids’ CGI animated feature that furry fans will enjoy, with an anthropomorphized kitten, rabbit, mouse, dog, doves, and lots of Toy Story-type toys saving an elderly stage magician’s house from being sold out from under him by a greedy nephew. The movie is made by Brussels’ nWave Pictures, which made the 2010 A Turtle's Tale: Sammy's Adventures and the 2012 A Turtle's Tale 2: Sammy's Escape from Paradise features that have already become children’s DVDs in America.

'Rowrbrazzle' editor's surgery brings in emergency editor

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Rowrbrazzle #100William Haskell, current Official Editor of Rowrbrazzle, will be undergoing surgery in September, which means Steven F. Scharff will be the emergency editor for Rowrbrazzle #123, due this October. Haskell should return to his position as editor for issue #124, due in January 2015.

Rowrbrazzle was launched in 1983 by Marc Schirmeister, the original editor. In 1989, Fred Patten took over as editor, until 17 years later in 2005. After a series of interim editors, Haskell took over in 2007.

Rowrbrazzle has been called "a handy landmark to say that 'furry fandom existed at this time'." Members of Rowrbrazzle have included a veritable "who's who" of early furry fandom, including Stan Sakai, creator of Usagi Yojimbo, and three time Oscar nominee for Best Animated Feature Chris Sanders.

Review: 'Dancing in the Moonlight: RainFurrest 2013 Charity Anthology', edited by Ryan Hickey and Garret Biggerstaff

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This is the third annual RainFurrest charity anthology, published to be sold at the RainFurrest convention in Seattle in late September, following 2011’s Stories of Camp RainFurrest and 2012’s Tails of a Clockwork World. It is also for sale through the FurPlanet online catalogue.
Dancing in the Moonlight: RainFurrest 2013 Charity Anthology

The RainFurrest Annual Charity Anthology was created to celebrate and showcase the literary aspect of the anthropomorphics fandom as well as to raise funds for charity.

All of the contributing writers and artists have waived all fees so that the totality of the sales can go to the RainFurrest charity of the year.

The charity for RainFurrest 2013 is The Clouded Leopard Project, dedicated to the conservation of clouded leopards and their habitat by supporting field research, implementing education initiatives in a range countries, and bringing global awareness to clouded leopard conservation issues.

Dancing in the Moonlight, named after RainFurrest 2013’s theme, contains five short stories in teeny-tiny type, four of them illustrated. The book’s cover is by Sarah Alderete.

Illustrated, Dallas, TX, FurPlanet Publications, September 2013, trade paperback $10.00 (77 pages).

Three comic book reviews: Pull List #21 ('MLP' and 'TMNT')

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Alopex by Ross CampbellAnother day, another Pull List.

Today, we’ve got some IDW titles, including issues from two very different Micro-Series. One is from the My Little Pony Micro-Series, which features cute adventures, and another is from the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Villains Micro-Series.

It doesn’t feature cute adventures.

Review: 'Spies in Their Midst', by Alflor Aalto

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Spies in Their MidstSpies in Their Midst by Alflor Aalto is listed as the third book in The Llyrian Wars: Act One series, following The Prince of Thieves and The Streets of His City and Other Stories. The series is also referred to as "The Llyrian Wars tetralogy”, so apparently there is at least one more book to come. There is no information about what will follow Act One.

Hmmm. The Prince of Thieves includes a Rabbit Valley advisory notice that “This book deals with homoerotic themes and descriptions of erotic acts.” You had better consider that Spies in Their Midst needs one, also.

Spies in Their Midst stands well on its own. The protagonist of The Prince of Thieves and The Streets of His City and Other Stories is Prince Natier of Llyria, a red fox; the heir to the throne. The protagonist of Spies in Their Midst is Orrin, Lord Vintaa, a raccoon and Llyran nobleman. Yet he is not a new character. He was an important supporting character in “The Looking War”; a short story in The Streets of His City and Other Stories. This is his novel-length story, starting before the other two books.

Illustrated by Robbye "Quel" Nicholson, Las Vegas, NV, Rabbit Valley, December 2013, trade paperback $20.00 (303 pages).

Review: 'Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles' is in the top five TMNT movies

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Teenage Mutant Ninja TurtlesIf I were to rank all five TMNT movies, this movie would come in dead last.

This is not to say I did not like this newest Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie; I like all five of the movies just fine, thank you very much, and this one is no exception. It’s quite possible that I may not be capable of disliking a movie involving teenage mutant ninja turtles.

I’d like to point out for the record that I have put forward reviews of the two most recent incarnations of the turtles’ story; I have been overwhelmingly positive towards both of them. Heck, the IDW comics are a reboot featuring ancient aliens mucking around with Earth’s history, and if I had to pick two storytelling devices I hate most, it would probably be those reboots and ancient alien stories. And yet, I not only loved that incarnation, I especially pointed out this newest origin story as a positive.

Since my first story at Flayrah back in 2010, this is my third review of a Ninja Turtle origin story; that’s almost one per year, for those of you who don’t like math in their movie reviews. Thank God this movie is doing well at the box office and the next movie will be a direct sequel with the origin story of the turtles all taken care of. Hopefully this time it lasts a while, and we don’t get a Amazing Spider-Man type situation. Because that would suck.

I’ve already talked about positive bias in movies, and it’s not really fair to compare this movie to previous incarnations of the franchise, but like that’s going to stop any of the hundreds of other amateur fanboy reviewers (and even a few professional fanboy reviewers, I’m sure) from doing just that, so I might as well.

Review: 'The Mysterious Affair of Giles', by Kyell Gold

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The Mysterious Affair of GilesThe Mysterious Affair of Giles is an Agatha Christie-styled murder-mystery and is best read with a cup of tea nearby. (publisher’s blurb)

Kyell Gold already has the reputation of being the preeminent author of high-quality erotica in Furry fandom. Now it seems that he is trying to establish a similar reputation as furry fandom’s number one mystery author, at least of what is usually called the British “cozy” mysteries, or the country-house murder mysteries of which Agatha Christie was the acknowledged mistress.

The Mysterious Affair of Giles makes no secret of this. It is advertised as an Agatha Christie-styled murder-mystery. It is dedicated “To Dame Agatha for all the inspiration.”

An acknowledgement thanks London furry fan Alice "Huskyteer" Dryden for “Brit-picking” the manuscript, making sure that it, and especially the dialogue, are correctly British. The furry characters are all English animals except where they are noted as coming from British India. Most tellingly, the title The Mysterious Affair of Giles is an obvious pastiche of Christie’s first novel, the 1920 The Mysterious Affair at Styles, which introduced both her as a mystery author and her most famous private detective, Hercule Poirot.

Yet do not think that Gold’s novella is a point-by-point imitation. There is no Famous Detective in it. The year is 1951; not exactly the present, but not the old-fashioned past, either. Tremontaine is a large manor house a couple of hours’ drive from London. The cast is Mr. Giles St. Clair, an aristocrat but also an up-to-date industrialist, his wife, and their son and daughter in their early twenties, all red foxes, and Martin Trevayn, Giles’ business partner, a stoat, their guest at Tremontaine on a business visit, plus the manor staff, a deer senior housemaid, two weasel cooks, a rabbit and an Indian otter housemaid, an Indian brown rat butler and Mr. Giles’ dhole valet.

Twelve characters. One of them is murdered.

The principal investigators are a badger police Inspector and his wolf Sergeant. The mystery’s protagonist is Ellie Stone, the young weasel assistant cook, a reader of murder-mystery novels who has never wanted to live in a real one, but who can’t help comparing the actual police’s sleuthing with her fictional police’s detecting. Naturally, everyone has a secret, and during the course of the story they all come out. Some are pertinent; others are not.

Kyell Gold’s stories often come with “Adults Only” readers’ advisories. The Mysterious Affair of Giles does not need one – quite – but its cast are all adults, and some of the secrets revealed are adult ones. I do not recall Agatha Christie ever delving into this territory, but it feels natural here and it helps to keep the story from being a period-piece.

Illustrations by Sara "Caribou" Miles,Dallas, TX, FurPlanet Publications, February 2014, trade paperback $9.95 (107 [+2] pages), Kindle $6.99.

2013 Cóyotl Award nominees announced and open for voting

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The Furry Writers Guild’s annual Cóyotl Awards are now open for voting by all members of the guild in good standing. The Cóyotl Awards were founded in 2012 to recognize excellence in anthropomorphic literature and promote quality writing within the furry fandom.

Voting will last until August 31, and winners will be announced at this year’s Rainfurrest.

The nominees are:

'Mousenet': marketed at children, meant for everyone, reviewed by a furry

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MousenetIt may come off as an unpleasant surprise for some of you, to see a review of something two years old submitted only now. But, as the old saying goes, better late then never!

Anyways...

Mousenet by Prudence Breitrose is something of an oddity, for it is truly a book for all ages. As long as the idea of a child protagonist and cute little mice does not turn you off, you will enjoy the story, no matter your age. Actually, a good thing to compare this story to would be The Rescuers, an obscure little movie from the 70s you have probably never heard of.

The story concerns itself with mice, which is sort of obvious. But these mice are not ordinary; they have evolved. Though it is implied the computer technology of the humans (that's us, by the way) helped, the fact remains that the mice of the book have gained quite a lot of intelligence recently, to the point of creating a worldwide mouse society, with standardized sign language, culture and social order. And the mice have taken a liking to the Internet, creating the titular Mousenet in the depth of our Internet. Unfortunately, mice can only use computers while we are away or asleep, and operating huge keyboards with tiny paws is cumbersome and hilarious, as described.

On the other side of the plot, an inventor named Fred invents the world's tiniest laptop. He intends it to be a novelty, something to be put in a museum of useless but amusing things. The mice however, see it as an opportunity...

Illustrated by Stephanie Yue, Disney-Hyperion, February 2013, hardcover $12.97, paperback $7.19, Kindle $6.83, 416 pages.

Review: 'Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles' Ultimate Showdown DVD, Disc 2

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TMNT Ultimate Showdown DVD back coverHere we come to the finale of the two disc “Ultimate Showdown” set of episodes from the Nickelodeon Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles series. It also contains the final six (or seven, depending on how you count the finale) episodes of the first season, so it’s a finale there as well.

The first disc was reviewed here, and the rest of the first season can be found starting here, continuing here and here. So, let’s get to the episodes!

The Episodes

“Enemy of my Enemy”

Karai is messing with the turtles when it turns out that “alien invasion” thing they’re always talking about is going down right now (though, seriously, she’s already met Justin; how is one Kraang UFO that much more surprising?). She decides to temporarily team up with the turtles; or does she? The turtles aren’t sure, so they decide to betray her before she can betray them. Except she was totally serious about that team-up thing. Whoops.

Also, the Kraang flying saucer pilot is the best Kraang in the series; good thing he survives the saucer’s crash. Maybe.

Review: 'The Sakai Project: Artists Celebrate Thirty Years of Usagi Yojimbo'

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The Sakai ProjectStan Sakai created his first Usagi Yojimbo story in Steve Gallacci’s Albedo: Anthropomorphics #2 comic book, November 1984. Only 2,000 copies were printed.

From there, Usagi Yojimbo has grown to become a very famous comic book, traveling through several publishers, the most recent being Dark Horse Comics since 1996. The comic has always been written and drawn by Stan Sakai. During that time, he has become one of the most popular artists in the professional comic-book community, for his friendliness and readiness to join in numerous benefit projects. When furry fan artist Michael-Scot McMurry was dying of cancer in 2000, he drew the cover for a benefit comic book for McMurry’s expenses for an operation, showing Usagi and McMurry’s Zonie the coyote fighting monsters.

Stan has often been an attendee of furry conventions, sometimes with his wife, Sharon, and their two daughters. I remember one convention, probably a ConFurence in the mid-1990s, where Stan’s daughter Hannah, then about 3 years old, tried to climb up Kjartan Arnörsson, a lean 6'9". Stan was a member of Rowrbrazzle, the furry amateur press association, from 1990 to 1998. He is a member of the Furry Hall of Fame. His Usagi Yojimbo won the Ursa Major Award in the Best Anthropomorphic Comic Book category in every year from 2001 to 2005. He has also won non-furry awards such as the Eisners, a Parent's Choice Award, the Comic-Con's Inkpot, Spain's Haxtur Award and many others. He has been a furry convention guest-of-honor on three continents, at an Anthrocon, a EuroFurence and an Australian MiDFur.

If you have not heard – it has been widely publicized - Stan’s wife Sharon has had an inoperable brain tumor for the past decade. It was mild at first, but has gotten progressively worse until she is now confined to bed and in need of round-the-clock care. The Sakais have medical insurance, but their medical expenses have far exceeded the amount of the insurance. Dark Horse Comics and the Comic Art Professional Society have organized The Sakai Project, this 160-page hardcover book, to both celebrate Usagi Yojimbo’s 30th anniversary and as a benefit project for the Sakais’ medical expenses. All proceeds go to them. Dark Horse is not even reimbursing itself for the printing expenses.

By various, foreword by Mark Evanier, preface by Tone Rodriguez, Milwaukie, OR, Dark Horse Books, July 2014, hardcover $29.99 (160 pages).

'Watership Down' may be joining Criterion Collection

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Watership Down Criterion CollectionEarlier this month, Criterion released Watership Down to iTunes; a full Blu-Ray/DVD release has not been announced at this time, and Criterion's own site doesn't list it as yet part of the collection, even as "coming soon". [Tip: InkyCrow via Newsbyte]

If this does make Watership Down part of the Criterion Collection, it would be only the third animated feature in the collection, after Fantastic Mr. Fox and the no longer available Akira.

The movie is an adaptation of Richard Adams' bestselling novel; it's main competition was in the bestsellers list was Peter Benchley's Jaws, which it beat, despite being about rabbits. Though both novels were later adapted to movies, they didn't directly compete at the box office, which is probably a good thing for Watership Down.

It was directed by Martin Rosen, who went on to direct a second Adams adaptation, The Plague Dogs. It features the voice of John Hurt as Hazel. Hurt is probably best known for his memorable role in Alien as the ill-fated Kane, though he recently played the 8 1/2 incarnation of the titular character in the long running BBC series Doctor Who as the "War Doctor."

The rabbits of Watership Down speak their own language, words of which have been known to be repurposed by furries.

From the Yerf Archive