AzarRising

Following the journey of award winning author, Alex Azar, as he travels the publishing world and all things interesting. To reproduce or publish any material found within this blog, please contact me at azarrising@hotmail.com

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

What I'm Reading Now 8/24/16

Since it's been two years since I've done one of these, let's go over what you're about to read. The first part of this review will be my expectations of the book prior to opening the first page. Then after finishing (or stopping if the book isn't very good) I'll give my brief spoiler free review, and a rating. Simple, read on...



My next book to read is Clive Barker's "Books of Blood Vol 1-3". To date I've only ever read one novel by Barker, "Coldheart Canyon" and I was not impressed. However, I know within these 6 volumes of 'Books of Blood' were the source material for Hellraiser, Candyman, and The Lord of Illusions. I'm not sure where in these 6 volumes they are, but this collection is just the first 3, so we'll see if any of them are in it. I won't let their possible exclusion influence my overall opinion of the book as a whole.

I have high hopes for this book, I've heard good things, liked some of the movies based off these stories, and like the idea of giving Clive Barker another shot through short stories, since my appreciation for Stephen King is largely influenced by his shorts. Perhaps this will translate to Clive Barker as well.


Monday, August 22, 2016

Rejection 14: Wu Tang Antho

It's been a while since I've posted a rejection, and despite the recent success of my award winning book Nightmare Noir (available for $12.95 here) I do still infact receive rejections. I know, I know, it seems absurd to think, but it's unfortunately true. One day I will get to Stephen King status where I can write about a haunted tape dispenser or tissue box and it'll become a New York Times #1 best seller, until then I will still get rejection replies, sad face.

Hello Alex,

We enjoyed the prose a lot for "Playing for Keeps" but it wasn't the right story for us. Thank you for taking the time to submit.

N** E****** P****

What's so upsetting about this, is that this was for a Wu Tang Clan inspired anthology. I grew up on the Wu thanks to my brother, it feels blasphemous that I couldn't get in. Almost like I let the Clan down. I plan on attempting another story to enter into the anthology. Fingers crossed!

Friday, August 5, 2016

Suicide Squad Spoiler Review

I’m not sure when a big Friday movie release came to mean it’s in theaters a day early, but I saw Suicide Squad last night… despite the fact it was just released in theaters today.


To begin, I want to lay out my expectations of the movie going in, so you could see where my mind frame was. Firstly, I’m a comics fan, super heroes are a big part of my life, hell I’ve got an Iron Man and Batman tattoo (this was before the Iron Man movies FYI). I say this because I want to make it clear I want all comic based movies to be good because it can only help the comic book industry. Unfortunately what I want and what I get aren’t always one in the same.

As big of a fan of Batman that I am, I’m equally as big of a Superman detractor. I was never able to get passed the pre-pubescent fantasy that he was; the strongest hero, the most powers, an alien, but looks as American as can be. It just never appealed to me. With that said, I had high hopes for the Man of Steel movie, believing it was going to start the DC Cinematic Universe on a strong note. It did not. I was not a fan at all. The story telling was convoluted, they took everything away from what Superman was meant to be. Things only got worse with Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice. I know the movie was extremely divisive, and I just happen to fall on the negative side of the divide.   

All of this is to say that the DCCU needed a big boost before it died without ever getting a chance to solidify. Enter the 3rd movie of the franchise; Suicide Squad. With lofty expectations on its shoulders the movie needed to succeed in one thing above all else, it had to garner interest in its characters. So what did they do? They brought in one of, if not the most, popular villains in all of comics, and introduced for the first time in a live action movie perhaps the biggest breakout star of recent memory. Of course I’m talking about Slipknot and Enchantress.

No, of course I’m talking about Joker and Harley Quinn. Everyone’s talking about these two, good or bad, everyone is talking about them.

As much pressure as the movie had with keeping the DCCU afloat, Jared Leto had even more pressure filling Heather Ledger’s shoes as the Joker.  From the first announcement of his signing on for the roll I was more high-up on him than many fans. Leto is a good actor, sometimes even a damned good actor, and screwed up enough in the head that I had faith in his interpretation of the Clown Prince of Crime. And then… and then the photos surfaced, and all hope was crushed. I understand every actor has to make the character their own in certain ways, but no part of the look said ‘this is the Joker’. The longer I saw pictures, the more numb I had become to the look. I never liked it, but stopped caring in hopes that his acting would save the role. Unfortunately, it did not. Perhaps it was the massive reshoots, or maybe that Leto claims a lot of his scenes were removed, but the Joker we got wasn’t good. The look was even worse in action, and his entire role within the movie was unnecessary.  When Harley was taken into custody he and a minion tracked her down and he spends the movie trying to save her from the Squad. (more on that later)


Speaking of Harley Quinn, Margot Robbie had a difficult task ahead of her, and the eyes of the comic book world watching her, and she delivered in spades. Easily the best part of the movie, Robbie surprised me, as I had never been impressed with her acting prior to this movie. Hers is a case where changing the look of the character worked. But best of all, there was a flashback of her wearing the classic red and black one piece jumper from the cartoon, the suit even resurfaced in one more scene very briefly, but the fan service was well received. It’s easy to tell Robbie had fun with the character, which is probably the most important feature of Harley. At times crazy, sympathetic, scary, but always interesting, Harley Quinn was a crucial central figure to the movie, and was served well in Robbie’s hands. The only lull in the character came when Joker saved her from the Squad (told you we’d be back to this). A long running side plot of the movie was Harley covertly planning with Joker to break free from the group. The payoff is when Joker intercepts the Squad’s escape route and helicopter, and delivers on his promise to save her. The copter is shot down by orders of Amanda Waller, and both Joker and Harley are presumed dead. We see that she survives, as the audience we’re left to believe Joker actually did perish. With nowhere else to turn, Harley returns to the team and resumes the mission. Joker’s plot within the movie did succeed in showing the quirks in their relationship, but otherwise felt out-of-place in the context of the movie and the bigger threat in play. The movie ends with the Joker breaking into the prison and freeing Harley, revealing what everyone knew that he wasn’t dead.

Joker would have been better utilized had they not shown him throughout the movie, simply having Harley continuously saying throughout the mission that her ‘puddin’ or ‘Mr. J’ would be showing up to save her. Initially have the others be worried about him showing up, but as the movie progresses and he doesn’t save her they just think it’s more of her being crazy. Then at the end when he saves her, still do that scene but never show his face. Instead the movie ends with his laugh, setting up either the Batman movie where he should have debuted, or the next Squad movie.


The other character worth a closer look at is Will Smith’s Deadshot. To be honest, I can’t think of a Will Smith movie I’ve liked since Independence Day, perhaps there’s another one in there, but the point remains, I’m not a fan. It always feels like I’m watching Will Smith on screen, as opposed to the character he’s meant to be acting as. He’s always Will Smith, and that’s not good acting. However in Suicide Squad, he’s only himself in one scene, otherwise he’s a likeable deadly assassin with cool wrist mounted guns. In other words he’s Deadshot, not Will Smith, and that’s a good thing. Despite the movie having Joker and Harley Quinn, most of the laughs come courtesy of Mr. Smith, which worked.

Jai Courtney, as Captain Boomerang, has received a lot of praise for finally finding a role that suits him. However, I wasn’t impressed, and still wonder how he lands big title roles.

Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, as Killer Croc, was largely forgotten throughout the movie. You can tell the exact moment when the writers remembered he was in it so they crafted one underwater scene for him to ‘shine’, which he doesn’t.  His makeup was better onscreen than I was expecting, but the proportion of his head to body was jarring when you see him without a shirt.

Jay Hernandez, as Diablo, stole the heart of the movie and breathed a deeper soul to the character than there previously was.

Viola Davis, as Amanda Waller, was perfect casting, and I hope to see her in future movies. She commanded every scene she was in, and is exactly what Waller should be.

Everyone else in the film is forgettable, and that includes the main antagonists. Enchantress and her brother that she pulls out of her ass.  They have virtually no back story, and zero explanation is given about their powers so they just do whatever they want. The two spend the entirety of the movie waiting in a big room to be found by the ‘heroes’ like a boss battle in a video game. They have a faceless horde of minions used as cannon fodder to kill some movie time, which gave ample opportunity for the Squad to show what their capable of, which is one of the more enjoyable aspects of the film.


The movie lacked a compelling story, but with a cast of characters as twisted as the Suicide Squad, a story isn’t needed to make the movie enjoyable. Not every movie is going to be a thinking piece, and this is one that sure as hell shouldn’t be. Mindless fun is what you’re promised, and despite some brutal flaws, the Squad delivered on their mission.

Two other spoiler notes, the movie lives up to its name by killing off two of the characters. The first was Slipknot, who was clearly meant to die simply by his introduction. Everyone else on the team has some background given about them, then when the team is getting ready for their first mission, he simply walks into the shot, like an extra that forgot his place. And he’s treated about the same way. He was killed off after Boomerang convinces him to try to escape. He learns the hard way that the bomb implanted in their necks, are in fact real. The other death comes at the end of the movie and sees Diablo sacrifice himself to help kill Enchantress’ brother. A villain so crucial they never actually give him a name. It was a touching sacrifice from the character that needed it the most.



The other big spoiler is the fact 2 Justice League members show up in the movie. The first we all know because they showed Batman in the trailers, and his role was extremely minimal, but it gave several of the Squad members a common link. Ben Affleck appears again, however this time as Bruce Wayne at the end of the movie in the mid credits scene, where he has a sit down with Waller, and asks/demands the files on her team. He then tell her to shut them down, or his friends will. I’m sure this is supposed to feel like a tease for a potential JL vs SS movie, but we all know that’ll never happen. 

The other cameo is the Flash, who shows up briefly in a flashback to apprehend Captain Boomerang. The suit looks much better than it did in BvS:DoJ but the character feels more like Wally West than it does Barry Allen. While to non-comic fans that may sound like gibberish, I hope I’m not the only one that feels the distinction, and is bothered by it.



As for a rating, I’ll give the movie a 65% which is 15-20% better than BvS depending on the version. For a fun, nonsense movie, it serves the purpose, just don’t go into the movie expecting the comic on screen.





Friday, May 30, 2014

Batman's Rogues: The Other Villains Week 5

In the final installment of Batman's Rogues, we take a look at a character that may just be the most popular villain never to make it to the big screen. And on the flipside, a villain that will most likely never appear again... anywhere.



Week 4:
Harley Quinn – Dr. Harleen Frances Quinzel
First Appearance – Batman: The Animated Series “Joker's Favor” (September 1992)
Created by – Paul Dini and Bruce Timm



Brief History:
Possibly the biggest omission from the multiple Batman movie universes is fan favorite (and only character of this feature to first appear in a cartoon) the Joker's on-again off-again girlfriend, Harley Quinn.
She was created as a one-off side character in the Batman: The Animated Series, however the character received such high praise , that she was brought back in subsequent episodes, until she was introduced into the comic world in The Batman Adventures series (which was itself based off of the cartoon) thus cementing her place in the Bat-mythos.

Harley has played different roles in her costumed career, however it all started when she was a doctor at Arkham Asylum. There she became at first enamored, and eventually fell in love, with the man who would define her life for most of her existence, The Joker.

She's grown as her own character, and not simply a tool for Joker to use, and even currently headlines her own series as part of the New 52 for DC Comics. At times she embraced her criminal roots, while at other times she swayed closer to the side of the law, most notably during her pairing with Catwoman and Poison Ivy in the Gotham City Sirens comic series.



Personal Favorite Moment:
My favorite moment for Harley Quinn was during the aforementioned Gotham City Sirens run. After teaming with Catwoman and Poison Ivy for many issues, she betrays the two to break into Arkham Asylum planning on killing the Joker for all the years of abuse. During her break in, she displays the skills she's learned from Joker by manipulating some of the guards and brutally killing others. As she enters Joker's cell, ready to kill him, the site of him brings back all the good times she shared with him, and they decide to take the asylum over. It begins as an impressive example of Harley's own self sufficiency, but quickly dovetails to proof of her own fractured psyche and reliance on Joker and the hold he has over her.




Kite Man – Charles “Chuck” Brown
First appearance – Batman #133 (August 1960)
Created by – Bill Finger and Dick Sprang



Brief History:
*Sigh* Oh the life that was Kite Man. Chuck Brown began his criminal career by employing 'trick' kites to attempt his crimes. I say 'attempt' because I don't believe Kite Man has successfully committed a single crime, constantly being thwarted by Batman, Batgirl and other heroes.

No tragic back story has ever been revealed in the comics, however the character was featured in the Batman: The Brave and the Bold cartoon, where it was explained that as a kid, Charles was a fan of Ben Franklin and made an attempt at recreating the famous lightning-kite experiment. For some inexplicable reason, the kid with metal braces decided to conduct this experiment while standing in a bucket of water. While this origin may not be canon to the comic universe, it's the only one we have.


Personal Favorite Moment:
Honestly, I don't have a favorite Kite Man moment; no one does, not even his creators.

By default I'll list his appearance in the 25th issue of the weekly comic 52. Already thought dead, “killed” by Deathstroke by being thrown off skyscraper. That's right the guy whose whole gimmick is flying, was thought so little of, they believed a fall would kill him. As it was revealed, Chuck survived the fall, only to be captured along side several other Q-list villains and was actually eaten by a Superman villain.




Thank you for coming along with on this journey through the deeper more obscure bowels of the Gotham underground. I hope you had as much fun revisiting (or possibly discovering for the first time) some of the more colorful rogues to plague Batman's war on crime in Gotham City.

You can view the original posting of this article at The Time Warriors, and read up on everything pop- culture.

Friday, May 23, 2014

Batman's Rogues: The Other Villains Week 4

In this week’s installment of my celebration of the Caped Crusader’s lesser known villains for Batman’s 75th anniversary, I take a look at a villain who may be more popular than all the other villains featured thus far, but has yet to be featured in a movie.  Also, you’ll find out about (for many readers for the first time) to a villain who truly belongs on a list of z-list characters.

Week 4:
Man-bat1  – Kirk Langstrom
First Appearance –  Detective Comics #400 (June 1970)
Created by – Frank Robbins and Neal Adams

Brief History:
I have to imagine the entire thought process behind the creation of Man-bat was something along the lines of ‘What if we changed Batman’s name around?’  I’m sure there was more to it, especially since Kirk Langrstrom has grown into a beloved and layered character in the bat-mythos.  Dr. Langstrom specializes in experimental treatments to cure deafness in humans.  He uses an extract from bat DNA in an attempt to replicate their sonar abilities in himself, however this turns him into Man-bat (as we’ve come to expect from comics) and robs him of his intelligence (otherwise a hero would have been born, it’s a formula people).
Discovering the truth, Batman concocts a cure that reverses the effects of the serum, and all is well in the world (so to speak).  That is until Kirk decides to take the serum on another occasion, and later convince his wife to join him on his nocturnal hunting. 
In recent years, Langstrom’s serum has been stolen and modified by Talia and Ras al’Ghul of the League of Assassins, and also stolen (and modified) by his father, creating deadlier versions of Man-bat.


Personal Favorite Moment:
Kirk as Man-bat has many memorable moments in various mediums (unfortunately no movies yet) but my favorite is pretty simple.  Talia al’Ghul pilfered the serum and injected it into her League of Assassins.  Seriously, think about that. ‘Man-bat’ ninja assasins! So much better than a meek scientist who loses his intelligence when transforming into his villainous alter ego.




Crazy Quilt – real name unknown
First appearance – Boy Commandos #15 (May 1946)
Created by – Jack Kirby


Brief History:
Jack Kirby is undeniably one of (if not THE) greatest comic creators of all time, but that’s not to say he hasn’t has a few missteps along the way. Enter Crazy Quilt, a criminal who gives his gang instructions for their crimes via his paintings.  After being betrayed by one of his crew members he’s blinded, and is forced to undergo an experimental procedure that restores his sight.  Of course, being comics there’s a caveat to this, colors are so bright he’s effectively unable to see passed them.
Enter one of the most outlandish costumes ever! In an effort to control the light he dons some spectacular head gear that allows him to shoot light beams, and do a pretty good impersonation of a DJ light show.
Even his creators must have realized how sad a character he was because he’s become more of a Robin villain, not warranting the attention of Batman himself.

Personal Favorite Moment:
The short lived Batman: Brave and the Bold cartoon, introduced the absurdity that is Crazy Quilt for a whole new generation, but my favorite moment is from the JLA-80 Page Giant #1.

In this issue, the JLA devises a plan to stage a fake villains meeting luring many of the more dimwitted villains into their defunct base, apprehending all of them.  During this ‘meeting’ Crazy Quilt’s costume is mocked by Monocle.  Monocle for Christ’s sake! He looks about as intimidating as a modern age Bela Lugosi  Dracula without any of the vampire abilities.