'Before Watchmen:' Watching the controversy
Part of the "DC Entertainment Presents: Watchmen -It's Not The End, It's the Beginning," presentation at the Los Angeles Times Festival Of Books.
June 6th, 2012
02:11 PM ET

'Before Watchmen:' Watching the controversy

Editor's Note: Vanessa Gabriel is a Florida-based writer, and the co-creator of the comics blog Girls-Gone-Geek.com.

Even if you are not a regular at your local comic shop every Wednesday, there is a good chance that you have heard of “Watchmen.” For longtime comic fans, “Watchmen” has a biblical status. Since its publication in the mid-‘80s, the controversy surrounding Watchmen is as legendary as the book itself.

At a time when comics were overcome with mutant superhero teams battling with the evils of their fictional worlds, Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons’ “Watchmen” was an unprecedented social commentary on the anxieties of the real world. The artistic structure and thought-provoking content made creative, critical, and commercial waves that have extended through the decades.

At the time, Moore and Gibbons signed a contract that gave DC Comics rights to “Watchmen,” with the rights (and subsequent revenue) reportedly returning to them when the book went out of print. But the success of the title was also unprecedented, and unexpected. Thus, DC has never stopped printing it. Moore has been unabashedly vocal over the years about this (and other) perceived injustices, “You have managed to successfully swindle me, and so I will never work for you again.” Moore isn’t the only one.

In February, DC announced that it would be publishing “Before Watchmen.” The project consists of seven mini-series, prequel stories about Moore and Gibbon’s iconic characters in the Watchmen: Rorschach, the Comedian, Night Owl, Ozymandias, Dr. Manhattan and Silk Spectre. DC recruited a remarkable roster of comic industry talent for the project; Amanda Conner, Darwyn Cooke, Adam Hughes, J.G. Jones, Brian Azzarello, Lee Bermejo, J. Michael Straczynski, Joe Kubert, Jae Lee, and original Watchmen editor, Len Wein. This sent the comic book community into an Internet frenzy. FULL POST

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Pop culture fans: Ever consider becoming a theater geek?
The cast of "Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark" on opening night.
June 6th, 2012
01:00 PM ET

Pop culture fans: Ever consider becoming a theater geek?

Despite what most would agree was a particularly rough start in previews, "Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark" seems to be having the last laugh, breaking Broadway records, with nearly a full year under its belt as one of the most popular shows on the Great White Way.

It's the latest in a series of geek-friendly musicals, including the Tony Award-winning "Spamalot" and Mel Brooks' "Young Frankenstein."

Shows with a large audience in nerd culture are nothing new, take "The Rocky Horror Show," for instance. But a major touchstone for the modern geeky musical has to be "Wicked," which almost 10 years into its run, remains one of Broadway's biggest draws.

Before "Wicked," however, the idea of geeky, fan-favorite genres making great musicals was hardly a given. "Science fiction in particularly has had a bad rap in the theater for decades, but only because it's been rare to have a sci-fi show of great success," Taryn Kimel, with the fan-driven "Spidey Project," said.

"I think there are plenty of shows now considered classic that people likely wouldn't have considered stage-worthy if they only heard a summary. ('Sweeney Todd' definitely comes to mind. Horror is an example of a genre that's become more accepted in the theater,)" she said.

What seems to be even more relevant to the established Broadway community, said "Project" writer and actor Justin Moran, is the fact that geeks in general are more receptive to different methods of storytelling - which makes them natural converts into the world of musical theater.

"I was totally against musicals and musical theater," said Adam Grumbo, who runs the fansite WitchesofOz.com. "I always thought it was exclusively for teen-aged girls, flamboyant guys, and well-off philanthropists. I was hooked after the first viewing [of 'Wicked'], and I've been to dozens of musicals since." FULL POST

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Snow White, the milquetoast heroine
Kristen Stewart as Snow White.
June 5th, 2012
04:15 PM ET

Snow White, the milquetoast heroine

Editor's note: Aaron Sagers is a New York-based entertainment writer and nationally syndicated pop-culture columnist. He has specialty knowledge in "paranormal pop culture," has lectured at conventions nationwide on the topic and is a media pundit on supernatural entertainment. He covers pop culture daily at ParanormalPopCulture.com and can be found on Twitter @aaronsagers.

Wielding a sword and embarking on a quest to vanquish an evil queen does not a warrior princess make. What it does make, however, is about $56 million and a top spot at the box office.

Released last Friday, the movie “Snow White and the Huntsman” is an attempt to launch a female-driven fantasy franchise. Based on the money it is pulling in so far, that attempt will likely succeed, but the movie falls far short of being a story worthy of the genre. And for fantasy nerds who have come to expect more from female protagonists, this armor-plated princess flick will not be the one to rule them all.

Within the fantasy genre, the exploration of humanity – in both its selfless acts and depraved depths – is what makes these stories of myths and magic more than just swords-and-orcs tales. J.R.R. Tolkien, Marion Zimmer Bradley, Robert Jordan, Stephen King, J.K. Rowling and many other fantasy authors know this when they put their characters on a quest.

The quest is clear with “Snow White and the Huntsman.” Instead of an animated Disney film with a porcelain-skinned heroine, this outing stars Kristen Stewart (the “Twilight” films) as the eponymous heroine from the Grimm fairy tales. The movie tries to go in a, well, grim, direction by making Snow White a virginal, innocent hero who escapes the clutches of her sorceress stepmother (Charlize Theron) and then returns to take her out.

Joining her on the journey – because the queen has been sucking life and youth from their lands – is an assassin- cum-protector Huntsman (Chris Hemsworth), seven bandit dwarves (including Bob Hoskins, Toby Jones, Ray Winstone and Nick Frost) and the fairy magic of the forests which has deemed Snow “The One.”

But trading in on a reinvigorated fascination with fairy tales, and the popularity of “Twilight” (Stewart as Snow sports her same Bella Swan grimace and is caught between two suitors), the film fails to develop a believable heroine on a mission. It opts instead for a character who rapidly transforms from a pouty ragamuffin captive to a pouty source of light magic, and leader of men. FULL POST

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The 'Diablo' blues: When the games don't change, but we do
June 4th, 2012
05:51 PM ET

The 'Diablo' blues: When the games don't change, but we do

The word "Diablo" is magical to me. Before 2000, it just represented a Spanish word that I was largely unfamiliar with other than seeing it on bottles of hot sauce.

Then I discovered "Diablo II," and hit me so hard, I couldn't go a day without playing. The recent release of "Diablo III" had me panting for more.

I stayed up until 2 am the night of the release of "Diablo III," watching the game slowly download onto my computer and feeling a nervous, celebratory brand of glee. The first week of play was just like what I remembered, except with more social connectivity than ever before. Within seconds, I could be in a full party, enjoying all the blissful memories of the past, and finding it all fit so well - like a pair of jeans you've had since college and furtively sleep in from time to time because they're so comfortable.

It knows you, because it's been with you for so long. And you know just what to expect from it.

I wasn't much of an MMO gamer before "Diablo II." (Thankfully, the black death known as "Everquest," kindly passed me over - which kept my sanity intact while my friends quit college to make a living hoarding platinum.)

When I looked at these games, I saw gamers as rats in a wheel, running an endless race. I was the type of gamer motivated by stories with a beginning, middle and an end. It made no sense to me to pour so much time and effort into something that essentially had no real finale.

Why did "Diablo II," break my habit? I'm not sure. Truthfully, at first it was fun to play with friends - that held some novelty for a primarily solo gamer. Soon enough, the game became a familiar face. It always felt good to run through those memorized levels or kill that miniboss yet again (Hello, Rakanishu!). No matter how many times I played through the acts of "Diablo II," I never lost my appetite for it.

But after that first week of jumping back into the world of "Diablo III," I realized something was different. FULL POST

Word minion or word nerd?
Kate Karp, center, participates in the 2012 Atlanta Open Orthographic Meet.
June 1st, 2012
05:39 PM ET

Word minion or word nerd?

Do the Scripps National Spelling Bee competitors love words? Word nerds have to wonder.

There's something about compulsion, the competitiveness of reading the dictionary every night and only being in it to win it that disturbs writer, editor and self-described word nerd Ed Hall.

Hall is part of a community that derives joy from words — orthology hobbyists who gather for low-stakes, adult spelling bees.

Adult spelling bees, like the one hosted by AARP, the National Adult Spelling Bee in Long Beach, California, and the long-running Atlanta Open Orthographic Meet, are held across the nation.

Some of them look a lot like the Scripps bee, with contestants wearing pinned-on numbers and spelling steadily into a microphone. Others are deliberately more laid back. FULL POST

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