Monday, December 5, 2022

Store-Exclusive Hip-Hop Covers Are Becoming Really Popular

I don't really buy store-exclusive variant covers. Comic shops can buy the rights to have a variant cover from a publisher and as long as they front the cash and get the cover approved by everyone, the comic gets made. Store variants can be pretty but don't have much speculation value, generally being considered worth less even if they are a key issue compared to the version of the comic you could buy in shops. That said, sometimes store variants seem to strike just the right nerve and become quite popular (at least for a bit). That has happened with some hip-hop covers featuring popular rappers.

The Haul did an exclusive variant cover featuring Notorious B.I.G. and Deadpool. It took a bit to sell out from their site but once it did the price kept creeping up from the initial $30 to over $100. Then, some covers with Eminem dropped via his website and people eagerly scooped those up. Now, some are selling online for $200 or so. Perhaps it is the combination of fandoms that has resulted in these being quite popular? It is hard to say, but it would not surprise me if we start seeing a bunch of rap artists on more comic covers now that it is clear there is some money to be made.

Sunday, December 4, 2022

Interestingly, "Blue Beetle," is Still Happening

Warner Brothers Discovery and the person in charge of eliminating a ton of its content, David Zaslav, had a ton of stuff canceled or outright erased from HBO MAX for cost-cutting purposes. "Batgirl," was locked in a vault, tons of cartoons vanished into the ether if you didn't have them on DVD, and so forth. There was going to be a, "Blue Beetle," movie as an HBO MAX exclusive and I honestly assumed it had just been canned too. I was wrong, however! It will now be coming to theaters in August of 2023 and stars Xolo MaridueƱa as the superhero Jamie Reyes. I'm just pleased something avoided the ax over there and hope it is good. We will see this Summer!

Saturday, December 3, 2022

Build-A-Bear Adventure is a Fun Place!

Our son, Clarkson, went to a friend's birthday party today at an interesting new concept that Build-A-Bear has created called, "Build-A-Bear Adventure." The company actually originated in Saint Louis so they have tested-out various business ideas in the region before with this being the newest cool thing. 

You can check Build-A-Bear Adventure out at its website where you'll see the idea is you have a fun combination of activities. You get a party room where you can all enjoy birthday grub, everyone builds a bear, and then there is an arcade area for folks to play in. It is a bit like Build-A-Bear and Dave and Busters had a baby. The website says how it is great for everything from birthday parties to school outings, bridal showers, baby showers, and so forth. I know we all had fun!

Our visit to Build-A-Bear Adventure started with us checking in at the entrance and going to our party room. Once everyone had arrived we went to the area for building our new fuzzy friends. Certain bears and outfits were included with the party but folks could always add on other outfits or bears/creatures (I saw Sully from Monsters' Inc. for example, he was cute). After all the kiddos assembled a bear we went back to the party room and had pizza and treats. 

Then, we went over to the arcade area. There was everything from racing games, to games that awarded (digital) tickets, crane games, and a really cool one called, "Water Fantasy," that shot actual water onto a video screen and had the creatures in the game getting shot with water reacting. That was wild. Clarkson loved running around the arcade area with his friends and seeing all the fun games lighting up.

Everyone had a great time at the Build-A-Bear Adventure. We appreciate our friend inviting us for such a fun birthday party and I'd encourage anyone in the Saint Louis area who needs to have a party to check out Build-A-Bear Adventure. Assuming it does well I bet they'll be expanding the concept into other areas as well before too long in the future!

Friday, December 2, 2022

Aline Kominsky-Crumb Has Passed

Aline Kominsky-Crumb has died. She was 74 and had pancreatic cancer. She was an amazingly talented, well-known underground comic-maker (as oxymoronic as that sounds). I have a soft spot in my heart for all those edgy, weird, and otherwise crazy underground comics and she was a pioneer in a number of ways regarding the form. Rob Salkowitz of Forbes has a better obituary than I could ever write and I'm sure in the next few days a number of other sites will also detail all the ways Kominsky-Crumb was stupendous. In a field that wasn't always especially welcoming to women, she broke down barriers and created awe-inspiring art. Kominsky-Crumb is survived by her husband, Robert (himself an Underground icon as well), and her daughter, Sophie.

Thursday, December 1, 2022

World AIDS Day 2022

Since 1988, December 1st of every year has been World AIDS Day. Amazing progress has been made in the fight against HIV/AIDS, but there is still a lot more to do. Plans are always being updated in the fight against HIV/AIDS and hopefully, someday, we can create a vaccine/cure/etc. and make it a thing of the past.

A GoFundMe Has Been Established For Peter David

Peter David is currently hospitalized having suffered a heart attack and a number of strokes. He previously suffered from a stroke in late 2012 and recovered. He now has medical bills building up due to these recent health complications. Therefore, a GoFundMe has been established to assist with all the expenses. I send Mr. David and his family my best wishes and hope everything works out okay.

Wednesday, November 30, 2022

"Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2," Has Shock but Lacks Much of Any Awe

Note: This review contains spoilers for the plot, or what there is of it.

First off, there was a, "Modern Warfare 2," game in 2009 but I'm talking about the 2022 version. If you are confused that is perfectly okay. For those of you familiar with the, "Call of Duty," franchise, it has focused on conflicts from World War II, to possible future wars, to the modern-ish day. Some of the games are a bit insightful and at times have an interesting message to impart about war and its futility--nothing close to, "Spec Ops: The Line," but something. "Call of Duty: Modern Warfare II," doesn't have much of a message besides, "America, Love it (and Some Allies) or Go to Hell in Cool Fiery Explosions."

This is a game where a bunch of bad buzzwords have teamed up to put the United States in danger via a Mad-Libs-styled team of Iranian terrorists, Mexican cartels, and Russia (depending on the era of the Call of Duty games Russia is a friend or huge foe). To combat this combination of dangers America along with some other friendly troops (a Brit named Ghost, a Scottish fellow named Soap, and some, "Good," Mexicans who aren't corrupt among other random folks). The result is a big and dumb jingoistic action movie where rules keep the good guys from getting the job done and sometimes they have to violate international laws in the name of freedom. It's a cynical paradox but one that is never actually thought about in any deep manner. This is a game that views the World through a prism of good, evil, and little else. Ed Smith of Polygon called it, "A masterpiece in the worst way." That said, even something vapid and visceral can be admittedly mindless fun.

"Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2," is a series of moments and vague political gesturing in search of a plot. There are people who hate our freedom and want to destroy us, we have to go after them before they can hurt us, morals be damned. Should our efforts to stop bad guys result in cool night-vision shoot-outs, hopping truck to truck on a dusty highway, or raiding an oil tanker in a blinding rainstorm (it looks great on the PS5), then all the better. Will there be the usual betrayal halfway through where someone who you thought was on your side turns out to be evil? Well yeah, this is a, "Modern Warfare," game! 

This is where I give the one, count it one, piece of credit that is due to, "Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2." Another villain in the game turns out to be a private military company/PMC. Anyone who is familiar with these entities knows they are basically mercenaries who can be hired by any country and follow none of its laws/rules of engagement. At first, you work with them but then they turn out to be jerks, and the fact that this game takes any stand at all beyond the usual, "Pro-war, pro-intervention," one and says that maybe PMCs are bad is at least...well, not admirable, but a bare minimum, maybe?

For real though, if you want to read up on some history when it comes to America and PMCs a whole lot of shady stuff can be found (just Google, "Blackwater," for starters). At least this game takes a stand of sorts that hiring people to fight your wars could be a bad idea (I mean, the, "Metal Gear Solid," series touched on this years ago, of course, but at least this game is doing the bare minimum in one element). I agree with Claire Jackson of Kotaku in observing that once Shadow Company is revealed as a villainous entity the game gets a bit more interesting story-wise, although I was entertained by some of the bombastic parts in the earlier segments--you hang upside down from a Helicopter at one point by a rope shooting at terrorists, it's zany.

"Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2," is generally as deep as a muddy puddle. Just like a puddle, it provides an ugly reflection of one way to view the World. Puddles can be fun to jump around in, however, splashing about and having a good time. Still, you eventually need to go back inside and wash all the grime off. I had fun with this game, but I'm ready to rinse the cynicism and its simplistic messaging of, "Us-versus-them," away. I imagine there are real people who view international politics with a rhetoric as reductive and spiteful as this game, but I honestly hope they are kept as far away from any real power as possible.

4 out of 5 stars in regards to fun.

1 out of 5 stars when it comes to having an actual message.

Tuesday, November 29, 2022

Television Tuesday: The First Two Episodes of, "Welcome to Chippendales," Are Fantastic

Up until recently, I did not realize how much bloodshed was involved in the male stripping industry, at least in regards to Chippendales. There have been podcasts and documentaries discussing the rise and fall of the famous brand, but, "Welcome to Chippendales," is a fantastic dramatization of the whole thing, delivered in a tone that is both at once ominous and darkly comic. Kumail Nanjiani plays the founder of Chippendales, Steve Banerjee. An Indian immigrant who used his savings from working at a gas station to found a Backgammon club, once that started failing he pivoted to a number of ideas before a strip club for women resulted in him hitting a gold mine. Then things went horribly wrong. 

The first two episodes of this eight-episode series dropped last week on Hulu and a third episode (which I still need to watch) is out today. Through these two initial entries, we see how Chippendales rose to fame quite quickly through Banerjee's keen business mind and assistance from choreographer Nick De Noia (played superbly by Murray Bartlett). The whole cast is great, with Dan Stevens' Paul Snider absolutely dripping with an equal mixture of sleaze and desperation. Annaleigh Ashford as Chippendales' accountant and Banerjee's love interest, Irene, is fantastic as well. I'd be remiss if I didn't mention how Juliette Lewis is always a treat in any role and she's here along with Quentin Plair as a dancer named Otis with a lot more to him than dancing.

There are elements of, "Welcome to Chippendales," that are a bit exaggerated or fictionalized, but when you Google certain things that happen in the show it is astounding how stranger truth is than fiction in some cases. I know a bit about everything that happens, but I'm still incredibly entertained seeing how we get there, with Nanjiani totally stealing the show as Banerjee. If you have Hulu I'd recommend tuning in and getting ready for one of the most bizarre stories of show business you'll ever witness.

5 out of 5 stars (for the first two episodes).

Monday, November 28, 2022

My Least Favorite Holiday Commercial is Back

I hate holiday car/truck commercials. Unless your bank account is flush with cash I can't imagine most people just randomly surprising their partner or family with a car. The most annoying version of this ad is the one where the man surprises his lady with a puppy by whistling before she then whistles and reveals he gets a truck. It's just dumb. You should always talk with a partner/family before randomly getting a pet or vehicle. Both are expensive and both are a responsibility.  The latest version of the ad can be seen at this link, but it has been around for a chunk of years. I recall how, "Saturday Night Live," skewered these advertisements with its own parody a couple of years ago. Check it out:

Now that's an ad!

Sunday, November 27, 2022

Mad Cave Studios Has Expanded to Lunar For Distribution; The Trend Continues

I wrote earlier this month about how AWA was expanding their comic distribution beyond Diamond to also work with Lunar. I discussed how it seemed like there was a trend where--if I may quote myself--"I'm pretty sure these publishers who are sticking with Diamond but also willing to work with Lunar and/or PRH are hedging their bets on Diamond's comic division folding or otherwise not being used by a chunk of stores." Now, Mad Cave Studios will be working with Lunar as well as Diamond. More publishers expanding to other distributors. Bets are getting hedged.

I honestly think that even if folks hate Diamond, they do need them for the distribution of a chunk of stuff, but ever since 2020 (which seems like eons ago) Diamond has lost its once firm grip on the comic distribution market as the sole entity. As long as Image and a variety of other publishers stick with Diamond as their sole distributor their comic division will struggle along. Plus, many comic and comic/collectible stores will need Diamond for a variety of items besides comics. Still, times are rapidly changing.