Review: Journey To the West: Conquering Demons

Stephen Chow is one of my favorite film makers. He started out doing low budget kung fu comedies in the 90s and has since gone one to produce CGI laden comedy classics like Kung Fu Hustle and Shaolin Soccer. Journey to the West is his latest. It’s available on VOD (Video on Demand) and I highly recommend it Based on one of the most famous books of Chinese literature, about a young Buddhist monk who is sent by his master to India to bring back sacred texts. He is accompanied by three reformed demons in the shapes of men, who were once Fish, Pig and Monkey demons. The ex-demons have superpowers and have to prove themselves to be reformed and are tested along the way as they pass through magical lands.

This is not that story, it’s the prequel. It tells how the monk came to meet these demons as a dorky demon hunter who tries to reform demons with nursery rhymes. In the process he gets his ass kicked repeatedly and saved by a female demon hunter who has the hots for him. The climatic build up is where he is sent to find the Monkey King who has been imprisoned for 500 years in a mountain shaped like Buddha. He seeks the Monkey King’s help but the monkey king just wants to be let out of prison.

This leads to a climatic fight that is on the level of Man of Steel’s climax only with hilarity.

This movie is really funny, if you like slapstick, which is a staple of Stephen Chow. It me laughing at the silliness, which few comedies manage to do these days. But also, it’s full of wild originality and amazing sequences that are worthy of a great comic book fight.

Lots of fun, worth a look.

Oh, and another big budget Monkey film is coming out soon from another director starring Donny Yen that’s a must see.

The Fate of the Ultraverse

Many people ask me and other Ultraverse founders why Marvel, who bought Malibu all those years ago, hasn’t done anything with the Ultraverse. All the information I and most of my collaborators had was mainly second hand. Tom Mason, a former editor and writer there, cleared it up in a recent Comics Beat article in the comments.

As far as I know, there are no creator contract issues with the Founders that would prevent the revival of the Ultraverse. I know that phantom issue gets tossed out there a lot, but both Tom Brevoort and Joe Quesada have stated that it’s not a creator contract issue that prevents Marvel from reviving it. And since I’m one of the people who has an Ultraverse contract and an interest in multiple characters, I would know. Also, Marvel owns the Ultraverse outright, so they don’t need anyone’s permission. (The Founders still keep in touch and we’ve all talked about it over the years – there’s nothing legal going on between the Founders and Marvel.)

Johanna is correct that the Ultraverse contracts for the Founders do have participation %. However, the Founders do not have an ownership stake, do not share in any “profits” (however that may be defined), and have no control over the properties. (Just as if they had created a character for the DCU.) Character Interest Agreements for the Ultraverse simply state that writers and artists who created specific characters will receive a very small percentage of the money that comes in based on their media exploitation. The agreements were based on standard terms at DC at the time for creators who created a character for the DCU. And those terms are in perpetuity, so if for some reason there’s a Sludge movie, Steve Gerber’s estate receives a check. But, those percentages are not onerous and not out of line with what DC was offering at the time.

Brevoort has stated in the past that the reason Marvel can’t discuss the Ultraverse properties is because there’s an NDA in place with certain parties.

If you read the original press release where Scott Rosenberg left Marvel and announced the formation of Platinum Studios back in 1997, you’ll find this nugget: “Rosenberg also has an ongoing producer deal for all Malibu Comics properties.”

So that NDA just might relate to that and probably has more to do with the reason why the Ultraverse properties have languished.

That explains a lot. Thanks, Tom. At least it wasn’t anything to do with us.

Kiss Your Privacy Goodbye

As if the NSA snooping on everyone’s phone and email wasn’t enough, and the police scanning everyone’s license plates creating a database of your movements, there is also the eye in the sky. Now, its even become commercially available to see real time satellite images. They can zoom to a meter square image and see cards and planes from the air with ease.

Than then you have Google Glass and a host of others like it coming out where people can stream what they see to a server and save the info. They can identify you by looking at you. All of this will only get more sophisticated. To the point where you can have no expectation of privacy anymore, just like a celebrity.

So those who wanted to be famous may get to find out what its like., Perhaps the news will be about live feeds of ordinary people screwing up. Imagine if every time you tripped or spilled something on your clothes became a youtube video.

Getting pretty crazy out there.

Old Town

Coming to Aces Weekly, a new series by James Hudnall and Federico De Luca. Old Town is the story of an unlikely friendship between two outsiders. A high school student and a vampire. The student, Zack O’Quest teaches the vampire, Furio Dante about the world of today to help him connect to the present. The vampire teaches Zack about the world of the shadows and how to deal with the harsher realities of existence. They live in a city where supernatural creatures co-exist with humans and things are never boring.

“It’s a series I’ve been wanting to do for a long time. Now’s my chance.” said Hudnall.


Vonnegut Story Shapes

Kurt Vonnegut had graphs in mind to explain the shapes that stories take. These are just a few of them.

Kurt Vonnegut - The Shapes of Stories

by mayaeilam.
Explore more infographics like this one on the web’s largest information design community – Visually.

I explore one of this other graphs in my Secrets of Writing book which is running late, I know. I need to finish up some of the new material but I’ve been swamped. It’s coming soon.

Guardians of the Galaxy Trailer

Looks like Marvel has another hit on their hands. As long as the humor isn’t too dumb. Not sure about it yet, but it looks amazing.

Alan Moore on Writing

I totally agree. This is why I try different things. I am always trying to learn new approaches and techniques. My novels are in part exercises in areas I have not been able to do in comics. I’m pushing myself harder than I ever have. And I am not doing it for money. I have stories to tell and they have important things I want to say. My next novel, Diogenes is a great example of this.

I don’t agree with Ballard’s comment, though. The new digital media is leveling the playing field and removing the filters called publishers. I’m sure that new talent will emerge to shake things up from the indy publishing world.