Watching FANTASTIC BEASTS AND WHERE TO FIND THEM

fantasticbeasts

Here’s where I stand on Harry Potter. I read all of the main series of books by J.K. Rowling and enjoyed them but didn’t love them, though I thought the writing improved over the course of the series. Probably if I first came to them as a teenager I would have loved them. I saw the first two or three films, and thought they were well done, but was not motivated to see the rest. I haven’t read the short book that sparked this new film or any other newer writings by Rowling. What got me to the theater for this film was the trailer, seen when viewing “Doctor Strange.” I liked what I saw, and I liked the idea of finding out what Rowling herself would put into a film she wrote and co-produced.

Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne) is a Hogwarts graduate who has become a specialist in magical beasts, traveling the world in search of them, and putting some of them into his magic suitcase which is MUCH larger on the inside. He comes to New York, where there is a well-developed society of wizards, but one which hides itself from the common people. (This reminded me of Bill Willingham’s FABLES.) Soon after his arrival, he meets Jacob Kowalski (Dan Fogler) a non-magic New Yorker with the dream of opening his own bakery. In the old switched suitcase gambit, Kowalski unwittingly allows some of Newt’s fantastic beasts to escape. Newt is soon collared by New York witch Tina Goldstein (Katherine Waterson) who tries to convince her superiors to help Newt regain his beasts, and failing that, decides to help him herself. Newt and Jacob end up at her apartment where Tina’s sister, Queenie (Alison Sudol) takes a shine to Jacob and wants to help, too.

Other plot lines involve a cult-like society out to destroy wizards and witches, a very dangerous evil force spawned by a mistreated child, a high-ranking New York wizard, Percival Graves (Colin Farrell) who is playing a deceptive game to gain power, and of course the beasts themselves, which are all made-up creatures of varying kinds. The one we see the most and earliest is a Niffler, which loves to steal and horde gold and jewelry. It looks something like a cross between a mole and a platypus, and is charmingly naughty. All the beasts are interesting and visually impressive, as are the effects in general. The true focus of the story, though, is people. The four heroic leads, some mistreated children, the devious wizard, and more. There’s plenty of action, plenty of magic and magical destruction, mentions here and there of Harry Potter connections, and all taking place in 1920s New York, adding historical charm of its own. There’s also a nifty reveal near the end.

I liked the film a lot. Not sure that I loved it, but I would certainly go see the next one. I’m generally impressed with Rowling’s work here. The emotional strings are pushed a bit harder than necessary, but I liked the characters, and would enjoy seeing more of them. I also liked the expansion of Rowling’s magical world both back in time and out to America, and further by implication. More of that, please.

Recommended.

 

Ira Schnapp in DETECTIVE COMICS Part 2

tec112_03firstschnappThis and all images © DC Comics.

While Ira Schnapp began lettering covers for DETECTIVE COMICS in 1945, the first interior story page lettering I see for him is the Batman and Robin story in issue #112 dated June 1946. The story title on the splash pages is very much his work, and the caption lettering, while still not quite settled into his later style, is right: very square and even. Continue reading

Ira Schnapp in DETECTIVE COMICS Part 1

tec104coverThis and all images © DC Comics.

Continuing my research into the work of lettering legend Ira Schnapp at DC Comics beginning in the 1940s, I’ll start with Ira’s lettering on DETECTIVE COMICS covers. The first work I think might be his is on issue #104 dated Oct. 1945. Most of the early DC covers had little or no text other than the logo and trade dress, but here we see some very fine lettering on a large billboard. Continue reading

And Then I Read: CAVE CARSON HAS A CYBERNETIC EYE #1

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Image © DC Comics.

The new Young Animal titles I’ve seen so far all feature a mix of old and new characters and ideas. This one builds on the 1960s DC characters in CAVE CARSON ADVENTURES INSIDE EARTH, which appeared in both THE BRAVE AND THE BOLD and SHOWCASE, but never in its own titled series. Cave Carson and some of his original team are here, but his wife Eileen has died recently. Their daughter, Chloe, is going to college, and looks to be the “young animal” in this series. Carson himself has an odd addition, per the title, a cybernetic eye that provides unexplained views and visions. Carson is worried about that, and visits Doc Magnus, creator of The Metal Men for help with it, on the advice of his daughter, but doesn’t learn much there. Meanwhile, Carson’s former company is now a tech giant, EBX, where new underground explorers are being trained, with Cave’s help. Other weird, unexplained things and characters are hovering in the wings waiting for their moment.

Writers Gerard Way and Jon Rivera have me intrigued, but not yet convinced I want to stay with this one. I’ll see how it goes. The art by Michael Avon Oeming is rather cartoony, which at times fights with the script, and other times works well, in my opinion. There’s also a very odd Super Powers backup by Tom Scioli that has lettering so small I gave up on reading it.

Mildly recommended.

Incoming: THE UNWRITTEN DELUXE EDITION Book 1

unwrittenbk1

Image © DC Comics.

I’m happy to see this series receiving the deluxe hardcover treatment, the first of which has just arrived here. I enjoyed working on it writer Mike Carey and artist Peter Gross. It was often challenging, but also well written and drawn, and fun to be part of. The deluxe format is about ten percent larger than previous printings, on glossier paper. The colors are slightly brighter. There’s about 20 pages of additional material like sketches and alternate script versions, as well as a nice introduction by editor Pornsak Pichetshote. This first volume includes issues 1 to 12, including two of my favorites, issue 5: “How the Whale Became” about Rudyard Kipling and issue 12: “Eliza Mae Hertford’s Willowbank Tales” which is a delicious combination of Beatrix Potter and a thug out of “Goodfellas.” The price is $29.99, and should be in shops and online soon.