My Favorite 5 Of The New 52

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Like any other MAJOR EVENT from DC Comics, the whole “Flashpoint” storyline kind of went over my head. The core books were easy to follow, but all the side books (basically alternate reality versions of the regular books) just kept me scratching my head. I can’t say it was because of the writing. It’s just that I’ve always felt DC has been mired in a convoluted continuity, and it was always a chore to try and get solid back-stories on the characters I thought were interesting. 

DC seemed to have a solution for that. The end of the Flashpoint event saw The Flash combine the three separated  universes, Vertigo, Wildstorm and the current DC universe, into one. What? Superman and Batman co-existing in the same reality with Jonah Hex, Constantine and Grifter? AWESOME! That was my initial thought. I’d been a dabbler in Wildstorm and Vertigo over the years. This was an interesting concept. And with DC ensuring that this will be a great jumping on-point for new readers..

I was sold. I pushed through ‘Flashpoint’.. kinda following the whole thing. And when the reboot of the entire universe started, I cleared all preconceived notions on what to expect from DC Comics and tried to keep and open mind. Over the past four weeks, I got to read the entire catalog of new books.. all 52. Some I thought were great. A lot of them weren’t exactly my cup of tea. But all in all, I have to say I’ve tripled the number of DC Comics I’ll be buying and following for the foreseeable future (that would be from 1 book to 5). Here’s a shortlist of the issue #1’s that I love and will be continuing the read. I won’t be going into detail on the books. I’ll just give you my quick takes.

Batwing

JUDD WINICK / BEN OLIVER

The African Batman? That’s about right. Simple premise. Excellently written book. One of the heroes tied to the international Batman Incorporated brand. We get to see a young Black hero, being mentored by Batman in superhero AND detective work. Winick does a great job of not ‘over-africanating’ the story and dialog and keeping the character interesting, even though it’s rooted in the Batman style of story. My rating: 4/5


Batman: Detective Comics

TONY DANIEL (?!)

When I first opened this reboot of DC’s flagship book, I got this warm and fuzzy feeling from the first page. It took me back to the days when Tony Daniels was my favorite artist penciling Marvel’s X-Force, and then Image Comics’ Spawn. I was a little skeptical of the whole writer/artist combo thing. That is until we first meet the rebooted Joker. Great action and an ‘oh shit’ ending makes this one of my main MUST READS from The New 52.  My rating:4.5/5


Aquaman

GEOFF JOHNS / IVAN REIS / JOE PRADO

I know, I know.. Don’t hate me for this one. I read a friends copy just for the hell of it. I NEVER liked Aquaman. But when Geoff Johns’ name is on the cover, you give it a chance. And I’m glad I did. Somehow, Johns addresses the big elephant in the room: Aquaman being the joke of the DC Superhero community, AND managed to foreshadow him being a bad-ass. Add in a horrifying threat rising from the ocean to attack the surface world, and you get the makings of a classic ‘redemption’ story.  My rating: 4/5


Batwoman

J.H. WILLIAMS III / W. HADEN BLACKMAN

I have to admit, I initially missed the classic run J.H. Williams did penciling Batwoman’s mini-run in Detective Comics, Although I skimmed over his incredible artwork, it took me a few months to go back and read Greg Rucka’s story. After racing through the whole storyline in a day, i was ready for more. And after a ton of delays, W. Haden Blackman’s first issue was worth it! My rating: 4/5


Grifter

NATHAN EDMONDSON / CAFU

I can BARELY remember Jim Lee’s initial WildC.A.T.S. I just remember I thought they were 3rd rate X-Men knockoffs.. except for the dude with the rag on his face. Grifter was such a standout character, I wished he’d show up in the Marvel Universe. The next best thing has happened. He’s in the new DCU and he has his own book. The first issue wasn’t that strong, but I love this character (kind of like Wolverine with guns instead claws). I’ll try and hang on for a few more issues. My rating: 3/5


There are a couple other series that I’m looking at, but you can spend only so much money on comics. Unfortunately my pull list is pretty much set now. I had to dump a few of my main books that have been getting a little tired, so these five books will fit in nicely for the time being.

(Zombie) Todd Immortalized on APubNamedFender.com

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One of the coolest things about existing in a creative ecosystem is your homies tend to find ways to impress you. One of my closest friends an collaborative partners, Trel Robinson isn’t just a talented singer/musician.. but also a talented cartoonist. When his road-dog and pug in crime, Fender passed away, he decided to play homage to him by immortalizing him in an online webcomic entitled A Pug Named Fender (apugnamedfender.com). Breathing cool life into the awesome Pug, Fender takes a trip through the world of cool culture and soul music with a supporting cast, partly based in his real reality.

Not only did I think this was cool as hell at first, but when I found  myself in an episode of the comic, it made the whole project THAT MUCH more awesome. Flipping through the episodes and seeing cats like Phonte, Lalah Hathaway, Nicolay, Zo! and others.. and then seeing my beardy, freckly mug with the MacBook Pro tucked under my arm (LIKE IT ALWAYS IS) sharing an episode with Fender… F’n AWESOME! So peace to my man Trel for immortalizing me in something that I think is gonna be something big in the ear future!

About A Pug Named Fender
http://apugnamedfender.com

About Trel Robinson
http://allthingsfave.com/

#Reading: Vampire Zero by David Wellington

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I remember the first time I discovered David Wellington. When my obsession with zombie novels reached it’s peak back in (I believe) 2004. I scoured the internet looking for any and all underground novels I could acquire, when i found myself on Wellington’s blog, where he was releasing his second zombie novel, Zombie Nation a few chapters a week. Being skeptical from reading HORRIBLE fan fiction to quench my appetite, I started reading the first few chapters.. and got immediately hooked! I quickly stopped and started to read the first novel, Zombie Island from the beginning. Suddendly, my 90 minute train commute from San Jose to San Francisco was a little less painful. I’d sit at my desk during the week, and cut and paste each chapter from his blog posts and print them out. For months I ripped through the stories until I was caught up, and from then on, I consumed anything on the blog, and later bought any story he published.

Even thought I loved the zombie trilogy and his other works, my favorite immediately became the vampire novels (also known as The Claxton books). Deliciously simple premise. A cop teams up with a grizzled hunter to try and wipe out the vampire menace. Although it took me awhile to warm up to  13 Bullets and 99 Coffins, I was hooked after the first chapters. I’m in the same space right now with the third book, Vampire Zero. And with one more to go after this, I’m enjoying the ride of gruesome vampire hunting and killing.

Next!?! the Werewolf novels!

About  David Wellington

David Wellington is the author of seven novels. His zombie novels “Monster Island”, “Monster Nation” and “Monster Planet”(Thunder’s Mouth Press) form a complete trilogy. He has also written a series of vampire novels including (so far) “Thirteen Bullets”, “Ninety-Nine Coffins”, “Vampire Zero” and “Twenty-Three Hours”, and in October of 2009 began his new Werewolf series, starting with “Frostbite” (all with Three Rivers Press). In 2004 he began serializing his horror fiction online, posting short chapters of a novel three times a week on a friend’s blog. Response to the project was so great that in 2004 Thunder’s Mouth Press approached Mr. Wellington about publishing “Monster Island” as a print book. His novels have been featured in Rue Morgue, Fangoria, and the New York Times.

More on David Wellington

WebsiteAmazon | B&N |  Borders |  Powell’s |  Indiebound

Apocrypha 1st Draft Excerpt: Chapter 9 “Downtown Traffic”

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[box sid=”box-1315076075″ width=”100%” align=”center”] [dropcap sid=”dropcap-1315076250″]A[/dropcap]fter months and months of writers block, I’m happy to say i’ve started writing again! Well.. it’s more like ‘scribbling’. Between work and other commitments, I haven’t had the proper time and/or creative drive to work on my novel, Apocrypha. But a few days ago, i found the perfect wordpress template for my new writing site and it sparked something in me. Also, a watched more than a few zombie flicks to get me back in that frame of mind, so that’s been  blessing.

My problem has been in the second phase of the story. I think I’ve successfully introduced all the characters and their situations. The trick now is to start maneuvering the four separate groups together. My plan is to bring these four groups into two groups, and then into one main group to follow for the second half of the book. The problem has been working with finding ‘realistic’ ways for my characters to do what I need them to do. This is a big problem for a lot of movies and books. Characters do stupid things to push the narrative along. I don’t want that. I want some interesting, yet believable scenarios to progress the story. This is pretty difficult.

In any case, I’m enjoying my return to writing. Below is the first half of my latest chapter entitled “Downtown Traffic”. Basically a team of police officers and a doctor who escaped a hospital are trying to find a way to Fisherman’s Wharf through San Francisco. Of course, they have a few million zombies to worry about. The chapter picks up after they leave the hospital.

(keep in mind, this is still a 1st draft) Hopefully you’ll enjoy what i have so far. [/box]


Lieutenant Clarence Tate lead his team of 4 out of Saint Francis Memorial Hospital and out onto the streets of San Francisco. The retrieval transport that was scheduled to rescue them from the hospital never arrived.

They found it two blocks away at the corner of Jones and Sutter street. The large gunmetal black van had been caught in the intersection blocked three ways by a mass of abandoned cars. He speculated that when the transport came to this position, they probably got trapped by a horde following them. There were no roaming corpses in the area. The soldiers from the transport must’ve abandoned the vehicle and fled for their lives, with their monsters in pursuit.

After a few minutes of recon, he ordered everyone forward. They continued to move east on Sutter Street, which seemed to be the only route with no enemy presence. Their journey was trouble-free until they reached Grant Street. Ahead of them, Kearny Street was crawling with corpses who seem to have found a meal. Tate was hoping it wasn’t the Retrieval Team. The only direction they had was to head south, down Grant Avenue. The journey was uneventful, until they reached the 3-way intersection of Grant, O’Farrell and Market Street.

Just as they arrived, Tate caught multiple movements just ahead. Using military hand instructions, he ordered his group to stop and hide. All five of them crouched behind a smoldering Mercedes S-Class 10 yards from the intersection.

Officer Hanna Johnson, an unusually tall Black woman positioned herself next to Tate.

“What do you see?” she whispered.

“Multiples at the intersection.” He unshouldered his P90 sub machine rifle. “I count four. Get the boys in position.”

Without another word, Hanna nodded and then signaled Officer Milwaukee an Officer Scott to find attack positions.

They both carefully and quietly moved out in opposite directions and found good line-of-sights for their targets. Once the three of them were in position, they looked back at Tate for the next call.

Ivana was amazed at the organized operation of signals and coordinated movements. It was quiet.. Insanely quiet. Back when the world was normal, you took for granted all the sounds of the city. Even at it’s quietest with no one around, there still was a good amount of background noise in the world. Now, there was nothing. You could hear the people next to you lightly breathing. You could hear the wind blowing trash as far as a block down the street.

Tate took another look out at their targets. The four corpses hadn’t moved. They stood scattered in-between the big traffic jam at the 3 way corner. 3 women and a small boy. He used finger gestures with each of his officers to designate their specific targets. One at a time, they nodded and opened their scopes on the head of their corpse.

While the officers set up their attack, Dr. Ivana couldn’t help but study the dead things in their unnatural habitat. All four stood slightly swaying with blank looks on their faces. It was the same look she saw from the drunks the Police use to deliver to the ER. She took mental notes on a few things. She wondered why they didn’t attack each other. She concluded their must be some type of recognition.. Maybe smell or body heat registration. They didn’t seem to have any higher brain functions. They didn’t use weapons. They didn’t know how to use door handles, or operate any type of complicated machinery. She knew she would need to study them more. That would require obtaining an active specimen to run tests on.

Dr. Creed came out of her thoughts just as Tate started a silent countdown with his fingers. When he reached 2, the four of them quickly rose up in unison and each fired a silenced shot at their targets. All four of the corpses jerked at the same time when the bullets cracked open their skulls. The bodies fell to the ground with what seemed like giant thuds in the silent wind. The four soldiers quickly crouched down once again, just in case the noise brought more walkers to the intersection.

After a minute, Tate gestured for his team to move forward toward the intersection. The each reformed a tight group and quickly moved through the maze of automobiles. Their diamond formation was primarily to protect Ivana Creed. Tate took the front position, while Hanna brought up the rear, making sure they weren’t being followed. Officers Milwaukee and Scott were positioned on either side, with the Doctor at the center of the group. Earlier on, Tate had given her a gun; a pristine subcompact Glock G29. She held it in her sweaty left hand, but kept the safety enabled.

As they reached the intersection they they turned to head east on Market Street. With the others occupied, checking the targets they just shot up close, Ivana was the first to see it. She looked down the street in the direction they were traveling, and nearly felt her heart explode in her chest.

Officer Hanna Johnson was to first to hear the doctor’s gasp. She swung her P90 up from the corpse at her feet, in the direction the Doctor was facing and caught the frightening wall of silent corpses twenty yards away. The others followed suit just as the first corpse opened his mouth and let out a deafening wale.

Latest Company Video Project: Managed Print Services from ARC™

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Been on the grind at work for at the past few weeks. My team and I had an 8 week project we had to complete in less than half the time. My part was the official sales presentation and this product video. It was done in Adobe After Effects.

Coming Soon: Beats From Oakland

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I remember how much fun i use to have making beats. I mean FUN, man. Way back when I was in high school. I had a big stereo, a dual tape deck boom box and a little micro turntable system. My mom was away for days at work so I usually had the run of the house. I’d cobble together all three of the systems like MacGyver, until if could play beats on a turntable, samples using the dual tape decks and then record the mix all on the big stereo. I’d never been happier.

These days, I have to say the ‘fun’ hasn’t been there. The last couple collections of beats, Music For Escalators & Elevators, and Unfocused were cool to make and listen to. But they were more compilations of unfinished songs, than a real project. I love some of the tracks in those groups, but most of them were directions I gave up on.

With “Beats… From Oakland”, I’m trying to build the project the way I use to. No pressure.. no expectations.. just FUN.

Real talk: I’ve been collaborating with a lot of people who I consider ‘real musicians’, most notably my brothers in music who I collaborate with in the Cross Country Collective. Trel and Doug have real music backgrounds and play actual instruments, so I’ve always felt like I was the weak link. It’s never been anything like feeling inferior.. more like just different. This has led to a lot of stop-gaps in my creative process. I’ve always thought that I needed to ‘do more’ with my trax.

It took me awhile to realize that I lost track of why I do this. I’ve never wanted to be an musician, artist, or producer. I never wanted to make this my profession because I KNEW the moment I had to compromise my creativity to earn a living, it would no longer be fun. Unbeknownst to me, it didn’t need to be a profession. I actually self-imposed that creative compromise. Somewhere along the way, I got lost in the bottomless pit or Facebook and Twitter accolades.

It took me a minute to get my head straight.. creatively. I had to remember that this is something I do TAKE AWAY  the stress. I never did this for some type of acceptance into the indie music fraternity. I did this because it’s a part of me. I need to mess with beats because i’m addicted to the process. If i feel banging on the wall for 20 minutes if a spoon is a HOT BEAT, then that’s what I need to do. It’s not about pushing your work out to the masses. It’s about building your ‘dream’ sequence of beats. It’s about being able to pull out beats you worked on a decade ago, and still nod your head when you play them. That’s what I’ve been doing the passed couple of weeks. Going through my bandcamp site (biglavstodd.bandcamp.com) and cycling through the work I’ve done over the past few decades (that’s right, I said DECADES).

So with Beats.. From Oakland, I’m taking it back to when I did beats that made me feel good. This isn’t some talent showcase. This will be my love letter to Hip-Hop which has been with me since I heard my first Marley Marl sample. Simple, repeative, head banging beats, hopefully worthy of my favorites from the Boom Bap Era.

Beats.. From Oakland will be a free download on October 1st, 2011.

Preview: “Not Here Anymore”
[haiku url=”http://toddkelley.net/mp3/Not%20Here%20Anymore.mp3″ title=”Not Here Anymore”]

Finally, An MTV Show I’ll Enjoy: Death Valley

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A year ago, vampires, werewolves and zombies mysteriously descended upon the streets of California’s San Fernando Valley. Death Valley is the dark comedy that follows the cops that capture the monsters, and the camera crew that captures the cops.

Follow the horrific yet comedic exploits of the newly formed Undead Task Force (UTF), a division of the LAPD created to combat the emergence of monsters in the San Fernando Valley. Death Valley showcases the outrageous and courageous men and women working the toughest beat in the US: Death Valley.

Balancing dark humor with horror, the show is built upon cold-blooded conflict and character driven comedy, following the cops bent on keeping the streets safe from the presence of the paranormal. Documenting each case of zombie, vampire and werewolf encounter is the daring camera crew that is embedded within the task force, quickly revealing that the monster problem goes much deeper than anyone could have possibly imagined.

Full of subtext about living in today’s insane world, Death Valley is at its core a fun, non-stop thrill ride featuring chases, hardcore kills, and extraordinary creatures. The zombies are disgusting, menacing and brutal, the vampires are dangerous, smart and powerful and the werewolves are beastly and insane. From “blood-for-sex” prostitution busts to undead traffic jams, every call from dispatch will take you to a place you’ve never been: right to the bleeding heart of Death Valley.

#listening: “The Sender”, Median

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I’ve been a Median fan since the first time I heard the 9th Wonder-produced “Comfortable” back in 2006. I believe that was the second song I ever heard from the Justus League Collective, right behind Little Brother’s “Whatever You Say”. Interestingly enough, I was all about the songs and not the artist. But when “Median’s Relief” dropped in ’07, I was completely onboard.

With so much time between releases, it’s easy to expect and artists to ‘shift’ their style to align more with the current state of the industry. Todays constant lack of emphasis on lyrical content and more on ‘catchy’ hooks, presents an interesting dilemma for todays Hip-Hop artist. Is there a comfortable medium between ‘fame’ and ‘the art form’? I don’t know how much milage Median will get in the world of MTV and Clear Channel radio, but his fans with rejoice with “The Sender”.


[haiku url=”http://toddkelley.net/mp3/special.mp3″ title=”Title of audio file”] Special featuring YahZarah + Phonte + Bahamadia

Real talk: This is one of my favorite releases of the year, so far. It doesn’t hurt that the production was done by some of my favorite producers: 9th Wonder, Khrysis, Kev Brown, Zo! and Amp. Solid tracks done by Fatin “10” Horton and Astronote round out the solid production list. Somehow they managed to keep the production under each producer’s personality, yet keep the entire project cohesive.

The mix of Jamla and Foreign Exchange Music guest artists is a dream come true. Coming from the FE camp, I’d expect excellent input from Zo!, Yahzarah, Sy Smith and Phonte (new Tigallo, new Tigallo..). And then you bring over Jamla alumn Sundown, Big Remo, Rapsody, King Mez and Halo, an it guarantees quality performances from both artists AND producers. AND just when you think it’s done, throw in a spot from Philly legend, Bahamadia and you’re good.

All in all, this is another in the long long of solid, quality hits coming out of the Foreign Exchange camp. Normally I’d call out a few songs that I like the most, but that wouldn’t do “The Sender” justice. This is one of the few Hip-Hop projects that can actually qualify as a ‘project’. If you’re like me and watching your pennies, this is a no brainer. If you’re a FE Music fan, just pick it up and thank me later.


Purchase “The Sender” Online

+FE Music Store | iTunes | Amazon


Tracklist

01. Take A Chance feat. Phonte
02. Bright Individual
03. Open My Thoughts
04. Turn Ya On feat. Phonte and Big Remo
05. Crazy Visions
06. Okie Dokers feat. Khrysis
07. Fresh Breath feat. Sundown of Actual Proof and King Mez
08. Sizzlin feat. Rapsody
09. Right On feat. Halo
10. Hi Five
11. Special feat. Phonte, YahZarah, and Bahamadia
12. Kiss the Sky feat. Sy Smith
13. The Sender

“Lost In Love” – Tyler Woods

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Another banger from 9th Wonder’s Jamla group. Produced by E. Jones and directed by Kenneth Price.

Music Of The Moment

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I can’t believe that Hip-Hop is dominating my listening these days. I’ve been on the ‘outs’ with the current state of rap music for a while. But luckily, a lot of indie groups like Actual Proof and Floyd The Locsmif is droppin’ hot releases. Thanx to twitter, kinding these projects are a lot easier to find. Check these six out. Click on the cover art to grab it.

#watching: Justified

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Justified was one of those shows that everyone told me was good, but I didn’t care to watch. I peeped the part of the first episode, but it didn’t grab me. It turns out the plot line didn’t really kick int until the 3rd or 4th episode. The show is so quirky, but excellently written. Most shows can’t successfully weave in ‘one-off’ stories into the overall storyline so well. Marhal Raylan Givens is a laid back country boy with law enforcement training. What does that mean? It means if he tells you he’s gonna shoot you, chances are he’s gonna shoot you.

About Justified

Deputy U.S. Marshal Raylan Givens is something of a 19th century-style officer in modern times, whose unconventional enforcement of justice makes him a target with criminals and a problem for his superiors in the U.S. Marshals Service. As a result of an eager but “justified” shooting of a Miami fugitive while on assignment in Florida, Givens is reassigned to Lexington, Kentucky, in a district that includes his hometown of Harlan, a rural mining town in the east of the state.

Justified Official Website

Dream Come True: Joss Whedon To Direct The Avengers Movie in 2012

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I know i’m late, but this finally feels real. After being burned on the whole Wonder Woman fiasco, i didn’t want to believe that Joss Whedon would bring about a false positive. But now, after seeing this damn poster, I’m about to lose my f’n mind. AVENGERS ASSEMBLE!!!

Joss Whedon Updates Progress on The Avengers; Discusses Sequels and Comic Book Inspiration

Since landing the job directing The Avengers, writer-director Joss Whedon hasn’t said much about the upcoming comic book adaptation. During the 2011 Comic-Con, Whedon discussed working with an ensemble of characters he didn’t create, and later praised his cast.

With a preview teaser for The Avengers showing the first brief snippets of footage from The Avengers finally online, Whedon talked to Potimal (via Latino Review) about the progress on the movie.

[ READ ENTIRE ARTICLE AT reelzchannel.com ]