Comic Books

A dark night, indeed by Josh Trudell

For many movie fans, July 20 was supposed to be one of the highlights of this year.

The Dark Knight Rises was expected to be the capper to a trilogy that put comic book movies on the same level as “serious” films – movies with cinematic gravitas, such as Unforgiven or Citizen Kane, but built around characters revered by geeks and nerds the world around.

Midnight showings are a tradition for this kind of movie – art films don’t get hundreds of people lined up dressed as elves or Ewoks. The anticipation was off the charts.

Then, at a midnight showing in Colorado, this happened.

I would have been in a theater that night if I hadn’t had to work the next morning, just as excited to see the next great story unwind from the projector.

I spent that Friday reading stories and tweets about what happened. This self-proclaimed “Joker” may not have gotten the hair color right, but he got the Clown Prince’s craziness pitch-perfect.

Mass murder has been done before, and sadly, will be again. There’s no accounting for crazy.

But this one invaded one of the last sanctums of adult imagination – a place where men and women can put aside having to work multiple jobs to make ends meet, worrying about paying the mortgage, how their children are doing in school, what they are doing with their lives.

Summer movies – the out-of-this-world scenes, the dark superheroes with tortured pasts, the whip-cracking wit – these are our great myths, our great stories.

Some will take the intellectual high ground here and argue that the summer tentpole movie form of entertainment shows how depleted our society has become.

I’ve got no argument for that – I’ve thrown away enough money for dreck such as Transformers II to understand where they are coming from.

But even Shakespeare and Joyce wrote some losers – the difference is at this point, their “Spider-Man 3” has been consigned to the wastebasket of history, while we’re stuck with it on blu-ray for the foreseeable future.

Taking two hours to be as badass as Wolverine, as cocky as Iron Man, or as determined as Batman is how we escape from the daily grind – the same way ha’penny heads crammed into the Globe Theater saw MacBeth, Hamlet, and Othello fight their demons.

This killer splattered real blood on the stage where our players – those embraced by moviegoers everywhere – stood up to injustice and wrongdoing, and made the stage a little smaller and a lot more real.

About the movie: Friday night, I had tickets to The Dark Knight Rises. As I sat in the theater and listened, the buzz was there, but quieter – restrained and questioning instead of joyful celebration.

After the movie ended, the buzz resumed – still lower than one might expect, but interested – people examining the story with each other to understand it. Like The Dark Knight, I feel like I have to see it again (and possibly again) to catch the nuances.

Some mild spoilers ahead.

In general, I found Bane’s blunt battering ram of a villain to be an apt metaphor for the movie – it winds up with a telegraphed swing, but still hits like a truck. The Dark Knight, in comparison, was like the Joker’s knife – it was in your ribs, twisted and out again before you even knew he was there.

Personal preference – I liked TDK, then TDKR, then Batman Begins. But they are all of the highest quality when it comes to superhero-based movies.

Cleaning out the camera... by Josh Trudell

Jason Varitek of the Boston Red Sox and a parody of O Captain My CaptainA few snapshots while waiting for my camera to return from the repair shop…

Camera freak out: I had a momentary panic attack when I logged into Sony’s repair tracking web site to see how much fixing my camera was going to cost.

Staring back at me was a figure almost twice what I had been initially quoted over the phone. I cracked the display screen while at a wedding, and had been working somewhat blind until I saved the money to get it fixed.

I called in to see which quote was correct, and after some rigamarole, was told, “Well, the website isn’t always updated.”

That seems like a significant customer service flaw to me, but I’m not saying anything until my camera is safely back in my hands.

The funny bit about this is that Sony’s repair center for this region is in Laredo, so it would at least be a relatively short drive to go get it back.

Lesson learned: Always call and double-check.

O Captain, my Captain:  I am a fan of the Boston Red Sox.

These days, that brings either a snort of derision or a fist bump of pride.

It was more fun to root for the Sox before they became successful, because then there was some unity in the fact you knew the other person had had their heart broken at least once.

Once – or twice – a generation, the Sox would get close to winning the World Series, and then something heartbreaking would happen and another dream would be snuffed out. It was part of the fabric of New England.

I would never swap the satisfaction of the 2004 and 2007 titles, but it’s kind of sad to see fans now complaining about the team being more like a corporation and less like the lovable losers they once were. After 86 years of losing, it may take that long again to learn how to win gracefully.

Jason Varitek, one of the last ties to the pre-championship Sox, is retiring Thursday. I’ve never met or spoken to Varitek, but I always liked the way he carried himself. Quiet, strong, and did the hardest job on the field with pride and purpose.

He was named the Captain in 2005, and naturally there was a lot of 'Oh, Captain, my Captain,' floating around Fenway Park after that. (Which led to my little rewrite above. Apologies to the Whitman purists.)

Good luck, 'Tek. It won't be the same without you.

Geeking out: The new Avengers trailer is out, and it is a Hulk-sized dose of awesome.

The nerd saliva is hip-deep around here with the drool over Avengers, Spider-Man and The Dark Knight Rises. It’s shaping up to be a fantastic summer for comic book movies.

Now, I’m a Joss Whedon fan from his Buffy and Angel days, and I have had high hopes for Avengers since I first heard he was going to be directing. But I thought the Dark Knight would be the highlight of the summer, with Christopher Nolan and Christian Bale wrapping up their dark and twisted trilogy.

That trailer made me change my mind. All that badassery, plus Robert Downey Jr. delivering Whedon’s snarky script is like watching Walter Iooss Jr. take Gisele Bundchen’s picture. It just doesn’t get any better.

Next week’s assignment: The Superwife and I are headed to a renaissance festival, assuming I kick this cold and my camera comes back in one piece. Those are always fun to shoot, so I’m looking forward to a good time.

Where Does He Get Those Wonderful Toys? by Josh Trudell


I'm convinced every photographer becomes Batman if they shoot long enough.

They swoop about, capturing images before the flighty light has a chance to escape, with the help of a trusty utility bag.

Let’s face it – you’re looking at a Batman. (Or a Batgirl – but if you’re making that distinction, you’re probably deep enough into Batman: Arkham Asylum to understand that Oracle is a better character for this story.)

What makes Batman cool? Other than the movies and the costumes? It’s the gear – the gadgets and gizmos that help him be the World’s Greatest Detective.

Most photographers live and die with their gear bags. Lenses, camera bodies, filters, tripods, tape, batteries, cables, notebooks, flashes – you name it, it’s in there.

So, in my quest to be the World’s Greatest Photographer – what? It’s a dream… - I’m looking at buying some new camera gear.

This is a tricky stage. There are brand choices. Cost choices. Types of gear: Macro lens? Zoom? Lights? Flashes? A new camera body? It’s easy to spend Bruce Wayne’s millions on camera gear, by the time you sort through all the add-ons and should-haves.

Now, I’ve seen the guys who have it all. New cameras, lenses, filters, tripods – all shiny and bright, with price stickers still on them. Usually, I see them on eBay, selling this gear they haven’t touched in two years.

I’d like that to not be me, but it is tempting to splurge, especially after Superwife goes into her study and whips up some mathematical alchemy that shows a tax refund in the offing.

A chunk of money and Wolf Camera’s website? Verrrrrrry dangerous.

But – and this is relative to anything you enjoy devoting time to, I think - it’s not just the gear. It’s the time. It’s the patience. It’s learning and knowing. And it’s being smart with purchases – buying gear that I know I will use, not just things that look cool – so it doesn’t become a money pit of a hobby.

On that note – Alfred, let’s go shopping.