Saturday, September 25, 2021

"Montero," is a Fantastic Debut LP by Lil Nas X

It feels odd to think, "Montero," is the first album from Lil Nas X considering he exploded onto the scene in 2019 (which feels like a decade ago) with, "Old Town Road," and proceeded to have some smaller hits before coming roaring back this year. Thanks to absolute bangers such as, "Montero (Call Me by Your Name)," and, "Industry Baby," Lil Nas X is on all our minds. Those wild tracks make up a banging first half of his LP while the latter half has a much more introspective and at times concerned/sad tone, as other reviewers have observed. Lil Nas X does a bit of a victory lap for all his immense success at first and then gets serious, talking about how hard it was being in the closet for years, what it is like being a black and gay man who is out and unafraid of haters today, it's deep stuff that folk wouldn't necessarily expect from the same guy who made the jokey, "Old Town Road." Note that is it absent from this album.

Besides the stellar lyricism, the album has some great beats and melodies that really dig into your ear--happy or more melancholy. My favorite tracks are tonally polar opposites, the aforementioned, "Industry Baby," and, "Sun Goes Down," where Lil Nas X sings quite well along with his raps. Was I to have a complaint about the LP, it does have some songs that are a bit of a snooze. I've seen praise for, "Scoop," where Lil Nas X and Doja Cat discuss a workout routine, but I found it drab (a surprise as usually Doja Cat brings a lot of energy to a track). "Void," also is the longest song on the album and maybe could have been trimmed down a bit. Still, it's all-around a fantastic LP and seems less like a debut than the work of an artist who has been doing this for years thanks to how self-assured and confident the whole thing feels. Definitely worth a listen.

4.5 out of 5 stars.

Friday, September 24, 2021

Marvel is Facing Lot of Copyright Claims Suddenly

Okay, some of this news is relatively fresh and there is a ton of copyright law minutiae to parse through. That said, big stuff is going down when it comes to Marvel's characters and how much of a right Marvel has to say it's their characters. A lot of this kicked off with the estate of Steve Ditko suing for control over the copyright of the first appearance (so basically the bedrock) of Spider-Man. Ditko himself never cared much about the copyright stuff but his estate/family does, much to Marvel's chagrin. Then other heirs to popular characters started suing too as we're in a weird gap period for copyright law that allows challenges every 56 or so years or something. The big thing is if these copyrights belong to creators and Marvel or if it was all work-for-hire and Marvel doesn't share copyright. Whatever the case, as soon as it looks like Marvel has the faintest chance of losing in court they will come to a hefty financial agreement (see the case with the Kirby estate). There is bound to be more as this all develops.

Thursday, September 23, 2021

The First Appearance Debate Has Reignited with a Moon Knight Comic

Everyone loves to argue about what is a, "First appearance," in comic books. Some people claim that if a character only pops up briefly, isn't named, is in shadows, or so forth then it is a, "Cameo," appearance. The first full appearance then comes later. People get really heated over this subject. I've seen folks almost come to blows over whether, "Avengers," #195 or #196 is the first true Taskmaster; "Amazing Spider-Man," #299 and #300 with Venom inspires debate too. Oh, and don't get me started on Wolverine and which issue of, "Incredible Hulk," truly counts depending on if you're going more by his first cover on #181 or how he appears in the last panel of #180 and outright says his name. Sometimes a, "First appearance," is a lot less cut-and-dry than you'd think. Now the latest run of, "Moon Knight," has led to debate anew.

In the first issue of, "Moon Knight," he meets a Dr. Badr and we see at the end of the issue Dr. Badr putting on his Hunters Moon mask. He isn't in the full outfit, however. Then, he's on the cover of issue #3 and spends much of that issue (which came out this week) in his full costume fighting Moon Knight. Does this mean #1 is a cameo and #3 is first full? Is #1 a first full and #3 is the first cover? Everyone is debating it online and it has been discussed over at the awesome Comics Heating Up Forums which I would recommend checking out (I'm quite active there, myself). In my own opinion that has no actual foundation besides it, "Feels," right, I'd say Dr. Badr/Hunter's Moon has his first full appearance in issue #1 but then has his first full cover for issue #3. I do not think #1 is a mere cameo as we hear his regular name as well as villainous title, plus we see him with the mask. Observe:

I think that's a pretty established first appearance, but feel free to disagree if you want. Part of the fun is seeing everyone debate!

Wednesday, September 22, 2021

I Made Another Meme to Get a Song Out of My Head

Readers of the blog may recall when I get alternate lyrics to a song stuck in my head they often remain there, annoying me. This previously happened with a Lizzo song where I turned it into a meme. Well, I'm having the issue again, and talking about it usually helps. It all relates to a new song, "Whole Lotta Money," by Bia.

If you haven't heard, "Whole Lotta Money," you honestly haven't missed much. The lyrics are mediocre and the beat is pretty wack. Don't rush out to listen to it on my account, in other words (if you want to, here's a link, I always got you). One thing about it that has stuck with me, however, is a line in the chorus where Bia brags, "There's a whole lot of money in this motherfucker." Somehow--I have no clue why--I keep thinking, "What if this song were about Winnie the Pooh?" Then, I figure, the line could go, "There's a whole lot of honey in the motherfucker," and it could feature Winnie the Pooh from that meme where he looks dapper and, forget it, I'll just make the meme:

I'm sorry, everyone, I'm clearly not well. I just hope this gets the annoying song out of my head. Seriously, I don't even like it!

Tuesday, September 21, 2021

It's The Day We All Associate with Earth, Wind, and Fire

It's not an official holiday, but September 21st is basically Earth, Wind, and Fire Day. The song is over 40 years old but, "September," has managed to stay popular. It's been in movies, television shows, played at political conventions, covered constantly, and has essentially become a meme with stuff like Demi Adejuyigbe’s music videos of the song that are always quite quirky. Why today in September, specifically? Well, it's that first line, "Do you remember? That 21st night of September." If you're wondering, they've said there is no specific meaning to that date, it just works great for the song. Now then, in honor of today, here it is:

Happy September 21st, everyone!

Monday, September 20, 2021

IDW Moves Exclusively to Penguin Random House, Diamond Faces Further Trouble

It was massive news when DC essentially made their own comic distributors (now just one, Lunar) and it was also shocking when Marvel signed a deal with Penguin Random House to have their periodicals distributed by the major bookstore entity. Both of these changes were massive hits to the company that was for years basically the sole force when it came to publishing individual issues of comics, Diamond. A longtime holder of a vaguely legal monopoly on comic distribution, the company now can distribute Marvel and such as a wholesaler, (and sells lots of toys and board games) but in regards to comics sits in a precarious position. 

Things just got even worse for Diamond as now IDW--a sizeable publisher--has moved to work exclusively with Penguin Random House come June of 2022. Now, Diamond will just be a wholesaler for them too and it is getting to the point that Image, Dark Horse, and Dynamite are the sole forces keeping Diamond alive as the other smaller indie publishers who work with Diamond are great but don't exactly keep the lights on. Diamond is in a rough spot for sure and probably is going to need to drastically restructure a lot of its business to stay operable/solvent. In the end, if enough comic stores choose to stick with Diamond for ease of use (even if they are a wholesaler as opposed to the main distributor for some publishers) they might weather this storm, but time will tell.

Sunday, September 19, 2021

"Tech Boy," is a Fun Comic by a Young Local Author

A friend and fan of my blog recently told me how they saw in a Facebook group a mother talking about her sons' self-published comic. I love writing about local authors and supporting young creators so I reached out to the family and learned about "Tech Boy," by DeJuan Strickland, or DJ. DJ is a 13-year-old scholar who is born and raised in St. Louis, Missouri. He enjoys gaming, anime, reading, and indulging in comic books. He is a member of STEMSTL Strategic Youth Advisory Board. He is a long-time honor roll student who thoroughly enjoys science and technology. I was able to interact with him and his mother about his comic and learned how it came about.

DJ first came up with the idea of Tech Boy after watching the movie Black Panther. He went back to his friends house and felt inspired to write his own comic book. He said he felt “seen” after the movie and realized there aren’t many  Black protagonists in books. He included his love for technology after taking a few coding classes at the Microsoft center through the Color Coded Kids program. They taught him coding and he's created a video game before too! "Tech Boy," was self published in April of this year and it became a #1 bestseller in children’s graphic novels section on Amazon.  DJ and his Mom told me the mission for, "Tech Boy," is to inspire other youth to become tech-savvy entrepreneurs.

As for what, "Tech Boy," is about, it features the journey of Tyriq Summerbird, a teenager from Cyber City, MO who gains powers through technology. His newfound adversary, Titan Ray, attempts to demolish the city for unknown reasons. This prompts Tyriq to debut as Tech Boy while attempting to use his powers to stop Titan Ray. Tech Boy strives to encourage youth by showing them the power of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math).

Having read this first issue of, "Tech Boy," I found it very fun! The story has shades of Superman's origin story mixed with more tech-focused heroes such as Green Arrow (with his high-tech gear) or Cyborg (with how his own physical body syncs with technology). There also is some fun mech-fighting as Titan Ray is a massive robot who is trying to wreck the city and I love anything with huge robots or kaiju. At just 13 DJ already has written something impressive and exciting so I look forward to what he makes next!

As I mentioned, DJ is the writer with art by Doneak Pusey and Obbrush. The artwork is solid and portrays the action in the tale quite well. I would encourage everyone to check out the website for, "Tech Boy," or grab themselves a physical/digital copy on Amazon.

Saturday, September 18, 2021

Happy Batman Day, Everyone!

I feel like it was not promoted as much this year, but today is Batman day! Comic stores around the World are giving away some free comics and many are doing sales. You can get free digital comics as well. Batman is a really fun character (when written/portrayed well) so cheers to him on his special day!

Friday, September 17, 2021

Film Friday: "Candyman," the 2021 Version

I have vague memories of seeing the first, "Candyman," movie with the stellar Tony Todd (he's back in the new one too). I recall it being terrifying and really good, but as it was a long time ago when I went to see the latest kinda-sequel/kinda-reenvisioning of, "Candyman," it was a bit like I was going in fresh. How was this newest, "Candyman," you ask? Well, it is pretty awesome in the first two acts of its relatively short 1 hour and 30-ish minute runtime. Then in the last 20 minutes it just kind of falls apart, a trend with a lot of modern horror movies.

This movie focuses on the legend of a man who kills you if you say his name five times. When an artist (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II as Anthony McCoy) learns about this terrifying character he finds himself obsessed with the legend of the Candyman, especially as bodies start to pile up as his artistic depictions of him garner more attention. Anthony's girlfriend (Teyonah Parris as Brianna Cartwright) tries to be supportive even as it becomes increasingly clear things are wrong and she has to deal with her own traumas. As Anthony slowly finds his own body starting to fall apart (there is some real body horror elements in this that are gross) things just get crazier and scarier. Then the movie kind of throws its hands in the air and gives up.

Yahya Abdul-Mateen II is amazing as an artist haunted by the legend of the Candyman.

"Candyman," is loaded with amazing performances from a fantastic cast and Director Nia DaCosta keeps everything appropriately eerie and moody throughout. Those last 20 minutes though are like eating a delicious multi-layer pie and then after you've gotten through all these amazing flavors you reach the bottom and discover the crust is cardboard--as if the chef just gave-up at the end. I don't want to spoil the ending, but it is basically one of those, "Oh, it turns out ____ was the villain all along despite all logic," type moments. Until then, though, it is really good!

At its brisk runtime, I actually wish, "Candyman," were longer and could have fleshed some of its ideas out more. It touches on so much. It discusses concepts of racism, classism, gentrification, and manages to be scary while also being quite deep about a lot of human and social issues. As I also mentioned, the acting is fantastic with Abdul-Mateen II and Parris both stealing the show. Also, as a big fan of Vanessa Williams, I really wish we could have had more of her (she reprises her 1992-version character). I guess it is both a compliment and an issue that, "Candyman," left me wanting more? More explorations of its themes, more scary moments, and more of an ending than what we got. As it is, "Candyman," a film loaded with potential that it occasionally realizes. I just wish it didn't peter out so bad at the end.

3 out of 5 stars.

Thursday, September 16, 2021

"Wheel of Fortune," Fans Are Enraged About Changes for the Latest Season

If you're a big fan of, "Wheel of Fortune," you might be an old person or my child, Clarkson. He used to really be into, "The Price is Right," but then developed a real affection for Wheel. The 39th season kicked off this week and there were a number of changes to the music, set design, and rules. Upon seeing all these tweaks I thought, "I bet longtime fans are pissed." I was right. People literally wrote they were, "Distraught," over changes. What exactly changed though besides the jingle and a refresh of the set? Well, a handful of things.

One massive alteration is that Pat Sayjack no longer spins the wheel for the Final Spin at the end of the regular game rounds. Now, the player in control of the board does it as Sayjack said he never liked feeling as if he had an impact on the game, it should've been players. Okay, that's not too much. Also, if a contestant solves all three puzzles in the triple toss-up they get a $4,000 bonus. Not too wild either. For the bonus round, you get at least $39,000 now too, which again seems reasonable. Oh, and the Free Play wedge is gone, replaced with an $850 wedge...what? Now, that's a bit much!

I liked the Free Play spot because it made it possible for players to call a vowel early when they didn't have any money yet or try a risky letter and still be allowed to spin even if it wasn't present. It added some fun strategies to the game. Oddly enough, it replaced the Free Spin wedge in 2009 and people were really angry then too, so I guess the more things change the more they stay the same.

Even with the alterations, the show still feels like, "Wheel of Fortune," without a doubt. I think little fixes now and then can be good and even if they upset me at first blush (like getting rid of free of the Free Space) I think it'll all work out in the end. Clarkson loves watching still, and if he's happy I'm happy.