A View From The Cheap Seats:
JLA: Behind The Music
By Rich Watson
The name Dominic Nunziato may not be familiar to you at first, but if you’re a regular comics message board frequenter, chances are you may have seen a link to the Flash-animated music videos at his website Spoil-sports.com. Nunziato has become the Weird Al of comics recently, with his hilarious superhero-themed parodies, a trend that began with a song that wasn’t his own, but he helped popularize: the now-famous Aquaman parody that borrows from Five for Fighting’s “Superman (It’s Not Easy).”
“I used www.fartingcommuter.com as a tool to learn how to animate using Flash,” says Nunziato in describing the process that led to the videos. “Those animations are short and a lot of fun, but they contain only sound effects, there's no vocals in them. I really wanted to learn how to make characters speak, so I came up with The Movie Quiz, animating short movie clips. Once I got the hang of it, I wanted to do something more substantial. I remembered that I downloaded the Aquaman Parody (by Damian Petino) off the website of my favorite radio show, Ron & Fez, and it struck me as the perfect vehicle in which to make my first animated film.”
Nunziato was a computer programmer before turning to editorial cartooning, and eventually, with a little help from his friends, he created the book SPOIL SPORTS, a collection of sports cartoons. It has gotten rave reviews from such established sports writers and cartoonists as Frank Deford, Bill Gallo, and Phil Mushnick.
The Aquaman video went up on Nunziato’s site in April and it caught on rapidly. Then came the next step. “I've had some of my own songs be finalists on the Howard Stern Show whenever he had a song parody contest and I even won a song parody contest on the Ron & Fez show so I figured I'd try one from scratch. I started going through my music library and the light bulb went off when I got to Billy Joel's ‘She's Always A Woman.’ It seemed like a natural fit for a Wonder Woman parody, so I wrote and recorded that song and then started the long animation process… I decided to hold off on releasing Wonder Woman because I didn't want to step on Aquaman's toes.”
He’s just come out with a brand new parody, this time borrowing from Creedence Clearwater Revival’s “Fortunate Son” to write a song about Batman. “I banged out the song in a couple of days and then spent weeks watching the beginning to the BATMAN TV show over and over again, one frame at a time, so I could try to faithfully duplicate it. I then had to find reference material for all the superheroes and alter egos who would be making cameo appearances in the parody.”
Now he says his site has received over 500,000 hits and he has gotten kudos from fans worldwide. “Judging by the e-mail I receive and the feedback I get on message boards, these parodies are putting a lot of smiles on a lot of faces, and that really makes all the effort feel worthwhile.” A fourth video, featuring Green Lantern, is coming this fall. Check them out for yourself. The site is www.spoil-sports.com.
THIS YEAR IN SAN DIEGO:
From all the reports I read, the San Diego Con sounded like a blast. The Eisner Award winners weren’t that big of a surprise, though I was a bit disappointed that Brian Azzarello didn’t get Best Writer. I really believed this was his time. The loss seems even more pronounced when you consider that 100 BULLETS took three other categories it was nominated in – Best Penciller/Inker, Best Cover Artist, and Best Continuing Series. Oh well. I have a bigger problem with AMAZING SPIDER-MAN: COMING HOME winning Best Serialized Story over QUEEN AND COUNTRY: BROKEN GROUND. The former, for all of its hype, was still basically Spider-Man fighting a tough bad guy (with some mystical mumbo-jumbo thrown in about his origin), and how many times have we seen that? At least Q&C won for Best New Series. And hey, HEROBEAR AND THE KID won too! How cool is that? Congratulations to all the winners.
NEXT YEAR IN BALTIMORE:
The Small Press Expo announced it would be moving upstate from Bethesda, Maryland to Baltimore next year and merge with the Baltimore Comicon. This sounds pretty exciting. If nothing else, it means a shorter trip for me, coming from New York. I’ve been going to SPX every year since 1997, when it was still in Silver Springs, so I’m prepared for another relocation. This year will be the first I’ll be going as a reporter (after going as a fan first and then an exhibitor), not to mention the fact that it’ll be the first time I’ve written about the show. I would have last year, but, well, we all know what happened then. This year promises to be a lot of fun – as usual, I’ll get to see old friends and make new ones, which to me is always the best part about this or any other con.
SIGNS, SIGNS, EVERYWHERE SIGNS:
I saw M. Night Shyamalan’s new film SIGNS recently. I have a theory about Shyamalan. His films seem to me like either homages to or inspired by the great modern film directors, either during their creative peak or when they were on the rise – meaning the seventies. THE SIXTH SENSE was his Stanley Kubrick film, in which he establishes his now-familiar look - long single takes, an awareness of composition and framing – that is reminiscent of THE SHINING and A CLOCKWORK ORANGE. UNBREAKABLE was his George Lucas film, in which the theme of heroism is explored; i.e., how a seemingly ordinary guy utilizes the talents within him to achieve greatness and give his life purpose and meaning, just like STAR WARS.
And now we have SIGNS, Shyamalan’s Steven Spielberg homage. CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE THIRD KIND is the obvious comparison, since it involves aliens and how their arrival on earth affects humanity, but in terms of storytelling it also brings to mind JAWS - seeing the effects of what the bad guy does, not the bad guy himself, until the end. I liked the film a lot. Mel Gibson and Joaquin Phoenix were very good, and the overall theme about loss of faith and how one regains it was handled with great care. If my theory is correct, I predict Shyamalan’s next film will be inspired by Francis Ford Coppola and THE CONVERSATION. You heard it here first!
(An interesting comics-related post-script: Chuck Dixon posted on his message board recently that the plot of SIGNS – the alien-related stuff, anyway - is almost exactly like an old graphic novel he did called INVASION ’55, which is getting re-released by IDW later this year. Given Shyamalan’s interest in comics, and the fact that one of the major themes in SIGNS is that in life there are no coincidences, one has to wonder…)
OFF THE RACK:
What I’ve bought lately: CATWOMAN: SELINA’S BIG SCORE (DC) confirmed what I believed to be true: Darwyn Cooke is the man! He’s supposed to be doing a big mini-series next year in which he gets to play with the entire DCU. Can’t wait to see it… SATYR (Satyr Play Prod.) is a cute little comic that takes a humorous look at Greek mythology, as told by the title character. Solidly drawn, with writing that is evocative of the epic Greek poetry with a modernized twist, it’s a fun all-ages title… ROUTE 666 (CrossGen) is coming along nicely. There seems to be some sort of equivalent to Christianity on this world that looks like Earth but isn’t. If that’s true, I’m very curious to see how it will figure into the story… BIG DADDY DANGER and GOTHAM GIRLS (both DC) are also good new comics for the younger generation. The former is about a wrestler turned super-spy; the latter features the women heroes and villains of Gotham City done in the “animated” style. I found both quite enjoyable and fun, especially DANGER.
Finally, I leave you all with a joke! I wish I could take credit for it, but I actually saw this at the Digital Webbing message boards and liked it, so here you are…
A manga fan, a DC fan, and a Marvel fan were all in Saudi Arabia, sharing a smuggled crate of booze, when Saudi police rushed in and arrested them. They were sentenced to death, however, after many months and with the help of very good lawyers, they were able to successfully appeal their sentence down to life imprisonment.
By a stroke of luck, it was a Saudi national holiday the day their trial finished, and the extremely benevolent Sheik decided they could be released after receiving just 20 lashes each of the whip. As they were preparing for their punishment, the Sheik suddenly said, "It's my first wife's birthday today, and she has asked me to allow each of you one wish before your whipping."
The manga fan (who had drunk the least) said, "Please tie a pillow to my back." This was done, but the pillow only lasted 10 lashes before the whip went through. The manga fan had to be carried away bleeding and crying with pain when the punishment was done.
The DC fan (who almost finished an entire fifth by himself), said "Alright! Please fix two pillows on my back." But even two pillows could only take 15 lashes before the whip went through again, sending the DC fan out crying like a little girl.
That left the Marvel fan (who had finished off the crate), but before he could say anything, the Sheik turned to him and said, "You support the greatest comic book company in the world. Your supporters are the best and most loyal comic fans. For this, you may have two wishes!" "Thanks, your most Royal Highness," the Marvel fan replied. "In recognition of your kindness, my first wish is that you give me not 20, but 100 lashes." "Not only are you an honorable, handsome and powerful man, you are also very brave," the Sheik says with an admiring look on his face. "If 100 lashes is what you desire, then so be it. And your second wish?"
"Tie the DC fan to my back."