Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Things That I Found Interesting AKA Some Links to Inspect

What's up? Nothing much? Well, I've seen various things that I find pretty interesting and it makes sense for me to share some of those things with you!

Stuff to Read
Popular website Salon shares its thoughts on how CNN and its constant-stream of "news" about little more than disasters that fill air-time (such as the channel's obsession with the missing flight MH370) represents a missed opportunity to actually broadcast, you know, insightful news.

Caleb on "Everyday is Like Wednesday" always says what many of us are thinking when he reviews the Previews section of Marvel or DC, with this latest edition about Marvel's new solicits being as funny and clever as ever.

The story about the old E.T. Atari game selling so poorly that countless copies were buried in the Nevada desert was often thought by many to be little more than a urban legend. Well, the myth has recently been proven to in fact be true, with plenty of photos from an excavation showing that, incredibly, copies of the game really were/are out there under a bunch of sand and dirt.

I'm always fascinated by pictures of areas that were abandoned for one reason or another--seeing how nature has reclaimed an area otherwise frozen in time results in incredible images that also stimulate thought. The area impacted by the Chernobyl disaster is a popular example, but this article about Brother Island, located incredibly close to the extremely-populated New York City, shows that sometimes fascinatingly humanless areas are closer than we realize.

Coming to a movie theater near you soon!
Okay, maybe in four or five years.
I and everyone else have given DC a good ribbing for not appearing to have a solid plan for how to do their movies, but the recent announcement of a "Justice League" movie to come out quite soon after "Batman Versus Superman" along with other films maybe not in that super-hero Universe (such as popular Vertigo titles "100 Bullets" and "Fables") show that maybe the company has somewhat of a clue what they're doing...maybe.

I'm not sure I fully agree with the thinking in this article  that in the near-future movies will only be in theaters for three weeks before becoming available for home consumption, but the part proposing that depending on how people choose to stream their digitally-rented movies they may cost different amounts did capture my attention. Will we see a time where if you digitally rent a flick on a smart-phone it'll cost less than if you get it on your big-screen TV in a super-high resolution? What about people who download a movie to their handheld device and then just hook it up to a television, how will that be addressed? There are lots of things to ponder, as I think that could in fact become a trend.

I've read reviews of the new "Elder Scrolls Online Game" that range from slightly-positive to a bit more negative, but it seems everyone agrees that the game just doesn't measure up to the feeling of wonderment players would get in past Elder Scrolls entires. It interestingly seems the main culprit behind this lack of enjoyment is how through making this game an MMORPG (Massively Multiplier Online Role-Playing Game), the presence of all the other players ruins your feeling of being special, with that not being fully countered by the possibilities multi-player offers to enhance the game.

In case you had any doubt lately, Sarah Palin continues to be a moron.

I enjoyed the Paul Cornell-written solo-Wolverine series, but dropped it after the first issue of its recent re-launch (the whole "Wolverine is a villain now" thing just didn't get me pumped). Still, when I heard that the long-rumored death of Wolverine would be occurring I--and others, it seems--were surprised to hear that Cornell wasn't writing it, but instead Charles Soule was. This interesting article on Bleeding Cool helps explain why things turned out the way they did. With my talking about how I'm stricken with eventitis I of course won't be reading the series, but I'll stay up-to-date on what happens.

I found this article by The Atlantic about the lack of respect adjunct (non-tenured) professors receive extremely insightful. People don't realize that before you get tenure how teaching at a college or university can be a Hell of long hours, low-pay and even lower-respect from other professors and the college administration.

Lastly, try and follow my thinking here: Comics are magnificent, so therefore the latest upcoming Free Comic Book Day will also be magnificent. In addition, "Reading Rainbow" was awesome, and therefore LeVar Burton is awesome. This makes it so that LeVar Burton endorsing comics and Free Comic Book Day is something that is magnificently awesome. Don't question my logic, you know it is sound.

Monday, April 28, 2014

Done With Comic-Book Mega-Events AKA Eventitis Finally Takes Its Toll


Okay, that's it, I am officially tired of, exhausted by, and done with comic-book mega-events. I'm sorry big comic companies--specifically Marvel and DC--but I just don't have the patience, funds, or optimism to continue following these big event-comics you like to have. When it was one a year I could maybe manage, and sometimes they were even pretty good. I enjoyed "Civil War", "Final Crisis", "World War Hulk", and "Flashpoint" was surprisingly good too. Oh, and I actually kind of liked "Age of Ultron" and  "Infinity" even if they weren't many peoples' favorites.

The thing is though, over time the near-constant influx of events has just taken its toll on me. "Secret Invasion" started promisingly but ended up being startlingly mediocre. "Dark Reign" wasn't necessarily an event, but the "Siege" it led to was, and God was that terrible. I couldn't even finish "Fear Itself" and "Avengers Versus X-Men" may have put Cyclops in an interesting place thematically but was overall a pretty damn poor excuse for a 12-issue series. "52" was incredible, but "Countdown to Final Crisis" was an abomination, with "Blackest Night" being decent but nothing to get overly excited about (I have the same feelings about its follow-up "Brightest Day" but did like that a bit more). Then "Trinity War" turned out to be nothing more than a prelude to "Forever Evil" and with it almost finished I'm pretty sure that event is going to get a solid "C" or "C-" from me once it ends.
I couldn't even finish this event.
Now we have events that overlap with and tie-in to other events. DC is going to have their three weekly-comics going at once that all seem to end in March of 2015 (with the special month-long event in September that uses the horribly stupid 3-D cover gimmick again and which ties in to one of the weekly comics, "Future's End") and therefore might be leading up to another mega-event.
Marvel is going to be making a big deal out of killing Wolverine, and "Original Sin" just kicked off with tie-in mini-series in the works along with those dreaded ".1, .2, .3, etc." issues.Oh, and then Marvel announces a mini-event set in 2061 (100 years after Marvel officially "started" as it were), and starts teasing something called "Axis"  that will clearly involve the Avengers and the X-Men butting heads once again. Plus, there is something in the works featuring all the spider-men in the multi-verse teaming-up, and I'm officially just done, D-O-N-E, done.

Between DC's three weekly series and September event plus Marvel's mega and mini-events, I'm just through. I'm tired of having these huge world-spanning, "Things will never  be the same...until the next big event" shenanigans taking place on what feels like a near monthly-cycle of one event ending and another starting. I've officially caught the dreaded eventitis

What is "Eventitis"?

Some of you out there may not be familiar with the medical condition known as eventitis. The prefix "Event" is of course in reference to comic-book mega-events, and "itis" is a Latin and Greek suffix for something to become inflamed, abnormal, or in excess. Comic-books have and seem to be having more-and-more events and therefore, eventitis is basically a slang term for being burnt-out on all these comics events--with it I suppose quite literally meaning that there is an inflammation/overabundance of events causing irritation, specifically to a person's pocket-book.

Eventitis is usually something that does not happen overnight. Like most irritations and inflammations it develops slowly over time, bugging you slightly but being something you think will go away. Then one day you wake up, look at the problem, and wonder how you let it get so bad before doing anything about it--with the problem in this case of course being all the comic-events happening one after another, after another, after another. Eventitis is something that once contracted may eventually go away, or be stuck with a person forever. I don't know if my eventitis will somehow fade if the prefect event for me to is announced, or if I'm forever stuck with it. All I know is I've come down with it, and I've got it pretty badly.

"D.A.R.E." may have failed as a program,
 but their slogan is quite apt in this case.
I've got eventitis, that much is clear. the only treatment I can think of for it is to not read all the events coming out, and that is in fact my plan.

I'm going to read the "zero" issue of "Original Sin" that was recently released out of curiosity but am not going to be following the event. I'm also not going to pick up any of the weekly comics DC is putting out, and September may be a month where I skip the relatively few DC books I'm still reading ("Batman" "Green Arrow", a "Justice League" or two and "Injustice: Year Two", which isn't even in the main DC Universe, possibly explaining why it is arguably the best book out of all of those). I'm not going to read that Spider-Man event, the Marvel 2061 stuff lacks a place on my pull-list, Wolverine can die without my reading about it, and whatever "Axis" is can carry on without me.
Nope. I'm not gonna do it.
I'm not going to get excited for this.

I still enjoy a variety of comics that are more popular and less popular along with being mainstream or independent. The new "Moon Knight" and "Loki: Agent of Asgard" comics from Marvel are killing it with barely any issues even out yet, and other Marvel titles that aren't trying to tie-in with major events are pretty great too. Image of course has stuff like "Saga" and "Zero" to keep my attention, and Avatar's "Uber" continues to be a treat. Plus there is "Afterlife with Archie" which is just great, and, "The Beautiful War" will be coming out relatively soon with great art by Ashley Wood, ensuring it will at least be gorgeous. All of these show that clearly I'm not burnt-out on comics as a thing I enjoy, I just have a severe case of eventitis.

I may have eventitis and not plan to actively buy and read all of these new events, but I will of course follow the news about them and potentially flip-through any issues I hear about with shocking matters. My main worry is just that some of the comics I still enjoy will tie-in with these events I'm not following and leave me extremely lost. At that point I may have to either resign myself to some confusion or just drop those comics tying-in with events if needed. When that potential time comes and irritates my eventitis I'll deal with it, but until then I guess I just have to accept the fact I have this condition and still enjoy the comics that don't bother it. Whatever the case, please do tell me how they kill off Wolverine; I'm betting its vague enough they can bring him back just a few months later.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Tales From the Dollar Bin: U.S. War Machine 2.0 #3

There are comics which are worth incredible sums of money, but so many of the most interesting, tragic, or just downright weird can be found for a simple dollar or less in a  store's "dollar bin". There, comics that never gained much popularity can be found alongside those that sold so much as for a copy to be worthless. "Tales From the Dollar Bin" aims to explore these comics, be they a single issue or an entire run of a series. From the great to the miserable, some of the best treasures and worst nightmares can be found in those infamous boxes. Let's have a "tale" now...

The Worst Possible Thing A Marvel "Max" Comic Could Produce

Chuck Austen is a writer whom many people hate. Not dislike, but hate, with passion. Considered to have ruined almost any comic he touched, I actually have to defend him on one title, "U.S. War Machine". Putting aside how you aren't supposed to put periods in the abbreviation for "U.S.", it wasn't a horrible comic. It was a black-and-white title put out from Marvel under their "Max" line, which allowed them to throw in swearing, extra-gory violence, and a bit of nudity, but also deal with other truly "adult" topics such as racism and the military-industrial complex. It lasted twelve issues (which were collected in a trade) and ended with a bit of a cliff-hanger. It honestly wasn't bad and I really enjoyed it. That makes it all the more sad how the sequel, "U.S. War Machine 2.0" and this third and final issue of it, happens to be one of the worst comics you will ever find from a big-name publisher.

If you gave a high-school student with a weak grasp of story-telling and terrible image-making software the chance to put out a comic this could very well be the result. What's wrong? I'll tell you some ways. The plot makes little-to-no sense with characters randomly showing up. There are swear words thrown in to make everything feel "mature". Wretched dialogue is the order of the day that is supposed to be deep or edgy, but comes off as ham-fisted--"There is no reasoning, Tony. These people have a nuclear weapon in the middle of downtown London for one reason and one reason only, to kill millions of people. And our job is to stop them, by any means necessary." Also, a random bad guy inexplicably gives a hint where a nuclear bomb is in his final words for no apparent reason other than to move the story forward, and the art, oh God the art is just utterly terrible.

Just a Mess
Iron Man shows up with musings that are about as deep as kiddie-pool.
Clearly I could go on forever about the abomination that is this comic. That Marvel even put something like this out and considered it a product of enough quality to slap a $2.99 on the cover is mind-boggling. Honestly, sometimes you will find buried treasures in a dollar bin, but this 3rd and final issue of the 2nd "U.S. War Machine" story is just wretched and one of the worst possible things a Marvel "Max" comic could be--shallow and relying on nothing more than being an immature "mature" comic that can get away with swearing and extreme violence. Then again, the art is so bad you can't even always tell what the violence is. I think a man gets impaled on a spike at some point, and another person gets their head blown off (to list a couple examples), but really, if you can figure out this gruesome computer-generated art you are a smarter person than me.

I didn't scan this improperly, that weird water/steam/oil/whatever is there for no apparent reason.

This 2nd volume of "U.S. War Machine" basically took whatever goodwill the 12 issues in the first series built up and burned it to the ground in the span of a measly three miserable comics. They represent a dark piece of history that folk would maybe rather forget, a time when Chuck Austen was able to get work and put out a steaming pile of awful that masquerades as this excuse for a comic. I am rare in that I actually liked his first "U.S. War Machine", but this "2.0" is just horrific. Then again for every good comic you find in that infamous place where all comics just cost 100 pennies there are plenty of horrors lurking--I just didn't know that I would stumble upon one of the worst nightmares you could ever find. Then again, that's the risk you take every time you embark on a....tale from the dollar bin!

Sunday, April 20, 2014

A Cool Comic On Kickstarter--"Oh, Hell"

I occasionally will talk about something neat I've seen on Kickstarter, and am doing so again with this current campaign for the comic, "Oh, Hell". One big difference from other Kickstarters I've talked about however is I have actually seen some of the comic and talked with one of its creators first-hand. Writer George Wassil  was at Wizard World Saint Louis promoting "Oh, Hell" and its then-upcoming Kickstarter campaign which started yesterday. I read some of the comic and found it quite fun.

The basic plot is a young girl named Zoel is sent to boarding school with some other youth who have trouble behaving. The twist is that the boarding school is located directly in Hell, and if you don't pass...well, I think it's clear you better try to pass.

The story is interesting, the art is quite good too, and I think this will be a pretty cool book. "Oh, Hell" and its Kickstarter and can be found here. I recommend checking it out and funding it should you find yourself intrigued!

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

2 (Lenghty) Reasons Why It Isn't A Big Deal Amazon Bought ComiXology

Everyone Is Going Crazy!
The internet's response to Amazon buying ComiXology.
Should you have been on the internet recently you probably heard the big news that the company that is arguably the largest distributor of digital comic-books, ComiXology, was bought by big-name online retailer Amazon. Rich Johnston of Bleeding Cool was eager to point out he had predicted this, but most folk were pretty surprised. The thing that I find interesting, along with Rachel Edidin of Wired, is how people are utterly freaking out about this news when in fact I don't think it will really turn out to be that big of a deal in the end, and I have two reasons why.

Reason One This Isn't A Big Deal--OR--Quit Using The Word "Monopoly" Like You Know What It Means
Amazon buying ComiXology is not an example of a monopoly,
your sibling buying Broadwalk and screwing you over with their Hotels is.
The thing that surprises me the most about all this is people bemoan a big company like Amazon purchasing ComiXology as if most of the comic industry isn't run by huge companies (Hello, Time Warner, and greetings, Disney). It always boggles peoples' minds when I tell them how a company known as "Diamond" has what is basically a total monopoly over the distribution of comics and somehow it is legal--basically the Department of Justice concluded that because stores can buy trade paperbacks and hardcovers from other companies, and Diamond does that too, its okay they utterly own market for the distribution of individual comics. Therefore, anyone who takes into account Diamond and their stranglehold on the comics-market is being a tad hypocritical when they talk about Amazon buying out ComiXology as resulting in some sort of unfair monopoly in the digital comics marketplace.
Looking for a legitimate example of a monopoly in the comic's business?
Well, look here.
Amazon has had digital comics on their Kindle, and now they have ComiXology's resources to further improve those Kindle-based comics, and make a nice profit off the sale of digital comics via ComiXology to computers, iPads, and etc. Frankly, I'm more surprised it took someone this long to buy-out ComiXology, not that it was bought. It makes perfect sense for Amazon to be the buyer as they already are expanding into comics more and more with a fair amount of folk finding their website has better deals for the newest graphic novel than a comic-store might. With Amazon making these inroads into physical comics more and more with their incredibly-low prices, would it really be any leap of logic to say they would want some of that sweet, sweet digital pie too? Plus, it isn't even like there is a lack of other digital-buying options. People can get their comics directly from a web-store of publishers such as Image and Dark Horse, so unlike the monopoly that Diamond holds on physical comics, the digital marketplace is still live and well.

Reason Two This Isn't A Big Deal--OR--Your Physical Comics Will Be Fine
If you can buy books on a Kindle or iPad,
is it a big stretch to enjoy the occasional comic on them too?
People buy digital comics, that isn't a secret. It still doesn't make up a gigantic number of sales of comics though (I think I read somewhere maybe 10% of total comic-books sold at the most) and there have been arguments made that at least some of those who buy digital comics may be a different market than the usual physical-comic buyer. For example, someone who buys a digital comic based on a television show they like is buying the comic because they like the T.V. show, not because they like comics, and the odds of seeing them in a comic store other than to buy that one series they like would be pretty slim. While that concept of course wouldn't apply to all digital-buyers, the other argument that those who buy digital comics may be intimidated by a physical store and therefore would have never bought a print comic anyway is another interesting theory I've heard.
It will be many page-turns on a calendar before print is gone.
Although physical calendars may be at great risk, now that I think about it.
Whatever the case is about who does and doesn't buy digital comics, I think it should be evident that for now print comics are going to be okay at least into the near-future. While I would agree that 30, 20, or even 10 years down the line that comics in the physical form could be in danger of being overtaken by digital, it isn't happening yet and people acting like Amazon buying ComiXology is going to somehow cause this to happen sooner are just being foolish. When ComiXology and digital comics in general came into the marketplace there were those who immediately declared this was the death knell for comics and before we realized what had happened that print comics as we knew them would be gone, with the weekly "floppy" a memory, and trade paperbacks and hardcovers barely surviving.
This company didn't kill print comics.
It still isn't going to even with Amazon's purchase.
It's been  some time since ComiXology came into existence and clearly the people who predicted a swift death of the print-based comic were horribly wrong, as while print comics may not do gangbusters compared to the insanely-big sales of the 1990's (right before the market crashed for a bit), the market is still thriving, with the rise in popularity of super-hero movies actually contributing to some new readers coming into the fold and people stopping by comic stores for the first time who in the past may have never engaged in such an activity--or these people buy digital comics, meaning they had never bought print, and therefore are just a new comics customer (not some physical comic-buyer who was lured away by the siren song of digital, as some predicted would immediately happen to almost all print-readers). ComiXology has been around and print is still fine--and will most likely remain okay for a least awhile. With the rise of digital technology it isn't a stretch to say at some point the print comic could be threatened, but that threat applies to books, DVDS, and all forms of physical media that could be replaced by that behemoth of media distribution known as the internet. For now though, don't worry.

Keep Your Cool, Fans of Comic Books!
This is just my own mock-up,
but it would be a good future name.
All of this writing illustrates my point that it isn't a big deal that Amazon bought ComiXology. There already is an example of a huge monopoly in the comic-book industry, and this purchase doesn't even create a digital monopoly because there are other competitors. Also, physical comics will still be here for the foreseeable future so that isn't anything to be upset over yet. That makes stating that this gives Amazon a digital monopoly or saying the purchasing of ComiXology by Amazon speeds up the demise of print something silly and not at all thought-out. Just keep your cool, folks, it's all business as usual.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Some Thoughts About May and How April Already Needs To Be Over

Half-way to May
We are almost mid-way through April and I'm already thinking about May. Why? Well, besides the fact that April is often a miserable month of rain and pollen, May tends to be one of my favorite months--and this May seems to be so chock-full of fun stuff that this year won't be any different.

This May we have a variety of movies I'm immensely excited for, such as the new "Godzilla" and the upcoming "X-Men: Days of Future Past". Plus, there is the new "Amazing Spider-Man 2" that I hope will be good, but am not as pumped-up for as the other two flicks.

May also has some cool games coming out, with the "Wolfenstein: The New Order" sounding bizarre, but at least worth a rental to experience the fun, and of course there is "Watch Dogs" which funnily enough comes out on the very day of my birthday, May 27th (I'll be twenty-six, in case you're curious). I have been excited for "Watch Dogs" since that very-first trailer revealed its existence at the 2012 Electronics Entertainment Expo AKA "E3" and can't wait to play it.

I truly hope "Watch Dogs" is good as I have high-hopes for the title and would be extremely pleased if it turns out to live up to expectations. Considering they delayed it a good six months just to fix-up the bugs that's theoretically a good sign that we are getting a fun, quality, and polished product. Should my saving of funds be enough to play it on a Playstation 4 that would be even better, as I'm hoping to have built-up enough money sometime in the near future to get one of those snazzy consoles.

So, we are only at the mid-point of April and already I'm thinking about all the good stuff at the start, middle, and end of May. Either I'm getting ahead of myself, really don't like this month we are currently in, or its a mixture of both of those factors. Whatever the case, I await May as it slowly creeps ever-closer.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Film Friday--Captain America: The Winter Soldier

Opening Credits

Exactly a week ago today I saw "Captain America: The Winter Soldier", and when I inform you my fiancé and I plan to see it again this weekend with some more people that should tell you a lot about how much we enjoyed it. For the sake of a review longer than a sentence though I'll elaborate on why I liked this movie so much, and what small thing bugged me. Please note there are MINOR SPOILERS, mainly relating to whom the Winter Soldier is and while I don't reveal the big baddie, I do discuss how he/she/they are influencing other aspects and agencies of and within the story.

The Feature
Better than this movie? Some may say so!
My fiancé thinks that this new Captain America movie is the best Marvel film yet and even better than "The Avengers." I don't know if I can quite agree with that, but I will say this is most definitely the best Marvel film since "The Avengers" graced the silver-screen. As every review has to point out, this is not necessarily a super-hero movie so much as a spy-thriller. Considering how sometimes the Marvel films involve aliens invading our planet or other-dimensional travel with space-Gods, having this be such a relatively grounded movie about spies and evil organizations results in this being the most--dare I say the word?--realistic super-hero movie since the 1st "Iron Man".

It makes sense as a claim, after all Tony Stark and Steve Rogers are a lot alike in some ways despite being vastly different in others. Both are basically normal human beings who were enhanced (be it through a machine-suit or a serum) and now live in this fantastical world of super-beings and are simply trying to make sense of it. While Stark greets his trials and tribulations with snark and a genius mind, Steve Rogers is a pretty humble--albeit strong and well-trained--guy who just wants to do the right thing, making his viewpoint both at once honorable and a bit naive.
Some of SHIELD's activities worry Rogers.
It is Chris Evans portrayal of Rogers determination to be a good and righteous person that brings him into a slight conflict with Fury early in the film, when a new security program/method that invades people's privacy in the extreme is revealed. A series of events make almost all of SHIELD untrustworthy however, and the rest of the film is spent with Rogers trying to figure out what evil could be influencing SHIELD, and who a mysterious man known only as "The Winter Soldier" is, whom seems to be very determined to kill Rogers and his allies.

Speaking of Roger's allies, this film may be the best Captain America flick, but it also is a really good Black Widow and Nick Fury film. They got more screen-time here in just the first hour than I think either have received if you add together and combine all the other Marvel flicks they have popped-up in. Samuel L. Jackson's Nick Fury is as solid as ever, shown with steely determination to keep this country safe no matter what, and Scarlet Johansson's Black Widow seems to grow a lot as a character in this movie, having been relegated more to the side-lines in "Iron Man 2" and "The Avengers", with her spying-style here conflicting with Captain America's belief in people only doing the right thing and leading to some tension between the characters.
Evan's and Johansson's characters don't always agree on their methods.
There are other folk in the film who get a good chunk of attention too, and do a great job. Robert Redford turns in a swell performance as a man who is both Fury's friend and the Secretary of SHIELD--which complicates their friendship. Plus, he is one of my Mother's favorite actors ever so I know she'll enjoy the parts of the movie with him too. Also, we meet Anthony Mackie as Sam Wilson/"The Falcon" who does a superb job also, serving as a good friend to Rogers when he is in need but also not hesitating to crack a joke or two--or as my fiancé put it, "He was funny like Tony Stark, without sounding like a jerk." Then of  course there is the Winter Soldier...

As those of us who have read the comics are aware, the Winter Soldier is in fact a brain-washed and physically enhanced good friend of Steve Rogers, in fact his (former) best friend, Bucky Barnes (played by Sebastian Stan). Barnes' unclear "death" at the end of the first "Captain America" movie had others and myself all but sure he would return, and sure enough he's causing all sorts of damage in this new film. The movie actually waits a fair amount of time to reveal that Barnes is the Winter Soldier, with it in fact being revealed who the people controlling him are before the revelation of his identity.
"You don't learn who I am until quite a bit later in the movie."
It's interesting we learn relatively early on what has caused SHIELD to no longer be fully trustworthy, as it kind of muddles the initial message Rogers states about how SHIELD's new programs don't promote freedom, but instead perpetuate fear. With it revealed SHIELD isn't fully in control of its actions that kind of shifts the blame away from SHIELD and drops the potentially-fascinating discussion of if people have much privacy in their lives anymore, or if our interconnected-world has made anonymity all-but-impossible.

That is probably my biggest complaint with the movie. The startling revelations that are made about SHIELD make sense for the story, but also take a movie where the theme seems to be the shades of gray in what is right or wrong, and makes things clearly "good" and "evil" yet again. This is perfectly alright, but I was especially interested in the earlier parts of the film where it is clear Rogers is wondering, "Is this what I fought for?" before it is revealed, "Oh wait, someone evil is behind all that stuff I don't like."
From their first meeting Wilson and Rogers have a great friendship.
That issue aside, this movie is wonderfully entertaining, with the great characterization of our heroes we've come to expect from Marvel Films (the introduction of Sam Wilson as the Falcon is a highlight), incredibly-done action scenes, and a healthy dose of humor to keep things from getting too glum. Also, while this film of course stands pretty well on its own, folk will want to stay seated in the theater until the credits are completely finished so as to see some teasers that point to potential plot-lines for the upcoming "Avengers: Age of Ultron" film and third "Captain America" movie.

Ending Scene
We will see you again soon, Cap!
Overall this was a dynamite film and while not completely perfect, as close to that as most films could hope to get, rivaling "The Avengers" in quality and otherwise being just superb. I don't hesitate when I say this movie earned...
 5 out of 5 stars.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Wizard World In Review Part Three: The Wrap-Up

Wrapping Up
It's Tuesday and by now Wizard World Saint Louis  2014's vendors, celebrities, and artists are all packed up and gone, with the company itself preparing for the next big convention. Those of us who attended Wizard World are now left with our memories, photographs, and of course a stack of comics and other assorted fun stuff we found at the convention.
The banner that greeted me on the first day.
I greatly enjoyed Wizard World Saint Louis (WWSL) and was impressed  by how much it had grown since its premiere last year. It is probably the biggest comic and popular-culture convention in Saint Louis, with the also-popular Project Comic-Con being a great time, but more-so focused on just comics--plus sadly it won't be happening in 2014. This results in WWSL being the place to go if you live in this area and want to enjoy a big comic and popular-culture convention. Seeing as it is the only one around here this year it is a good thing that it was quite awesome, with a great variety of vendors, celebrities, and of course my favorite part of any convention, artist's alley.

This fascinating article in the Riverfront Times discusses the history of Wizard's conventions and the company Wizard itself, from its good times to tougher periods in its history. The good thing is that lately Wizard has distanced itself from those who were in the company and did a poor job, instead focusing on the future and using the skills of their current and newer employees to create some stellar conventions. It really is funny to think how just a couple decades ago these sorts of conventions and comics themselves were considered to only be for anti-social nerds or weirdos, and now we live in a time where San Diego's Comic-Con is one of the biggest events in the nation and enough of people go to see the latest Captain America movie that it earns the highest-grossing opening debut for any movie released in April in the USA.
Some of the showroom floor, moments before folk started flooding in.
Nerd and geek culture is no longer just "nerd and geek" culture, it now is popular culture, and that is why conventions such as Wizard World--with their incorporation of celebrities, movies, books, comics, and all things popular--make perfect sense and have such good attendance. Describing yourself as a "nerd" now is something to be proud of, not a term of derision (at least usually). Seeing the latest "geeky-movie" is now something millions of people make sure to do, so that they can talk about how cool that latest super-hero flick was and ask their friends who read comics what that teaser at the end of the movie meant. It is a golden age to be someone who is a "nerd" or "geek", and I like that.

In closing, I had a wonderful time at WWSL this year, and am delighted to see that a culture that once used to be considered only for losers now has mainstream success and appreciation. I look forward to when Wizard World returns next year!

Wizard World in Review Part Two: The Books, Movies, and Other Assorted Artistry

I've just recently discussed the comics and illustrative works at Wizard World Saint Louis--or WWSL as I'm calling it. However, there were other interesting forms of media and work there too. Be it books, movies, or other kinds of artistry such as crafts and jewelry I wanted to discuss those folk at WWSL who had cool items that weren't necessarily a comic or painting, but which were neat nonetheless.

Authors, Movie-Makers, Craft-Creators, Etc.
Heather Brewer
Heather Brewer is a New York Times bestselling author who is behind a variety of young adult novels about vampires and vampire slayers. She was quick to point out to me however that her stories vary from the usual "Twilight"-style fare in that it isn't about the cliché romantic story of a girl who loves a vampire boy or such, but is instead about that feeling of being an outsider in your community--whether that is because you are just a bit weird, or a vampire. Find more about her here.

Charming Cuisine
Charming Cuisine is the creation of Roxanne Stapleton and it is food-themed jewelry and crafts. For example, hot-dog shaped earrings, or a pumpkin pie charm. He work is as tasty-looking as it is cute and you can look at her neat works at this website.

Fray Fix (The)
I don't have a MacBook, but have friends who do and they've encountered the problem that this handy invention fixes--namely, their "Magsafe" power cord has a tendency to get frayed and rip apart. As someone who has used other Apple products such a iPhones and iPads I know replacing those charging cords can be incredibly expensive. That makes The Fray Fix a quite good deal instead of whatever Apple is charging nowadays to replace a MacBook charger. I showed this invention to a friend of mine who has used MacBooks and they said it was a good idea, so my hat is off to the inventor who was also at the show selling the product. Should you be interested in learning more about The Fray Fix you can find their website here.

Fusion, which has a store in the Chesterfield Mall out here in Missouri was in attendance at WWSL with some of the vendors from the store being folk I mention in this very post such as Charming Cuisine and Unicorgi. Folk who live in the area should check the store out sometime to see what other wares they have to offer! Their website can be found here.

Dr. Travis Langley
Dr. Langley is the writer behind "Batman and Psychology" and was at the convention to discuss his book and help promote the work of Bill Finger. Find him here.

C. S. Marks
C. S. Marks was at WWSL to promote her book "Elfhunter" which is part of a growing series of books set in a fantasy world known as Alterra. From her description of the series it sounds like a very exciting read and I encourage you to check out her website here.
Marcus J. Mosley
I've reviewed the comic "Angelic Wars" by Marcus J. Mosley before and enjoyed it so it was fun to see him again at WWSL. this time he was promoting both his comic and an upcoming movie he directed titled, "Til Death Do Us Part". He described it as being a bit like Paranormal Activity but with an emphasis on having the character's behave in a smart way that defies the sometimes-silly horror movie tradition--e.g. not using the cliché horror-movie logic we see all to often such as when a character hears about an ax-murderer in the neighborhood and then doesn't think to check who is knocking before they open their front door. I greatly enjoyed talking about movies and comics with Mr. Mosley and look forward to "Til Death Do Us Part". You can learn more about his comic "Angelic Wars" at this website, and get more info about his upcoming movie here.

MX Movies
Before I went onto the main show-floor of WWSL there were some booths in the zone just outside the main area, and one of those was a setup promoting MX Movies. I chatted with some of the folk at the booth and they were very friendly, even letting me take a photo of them in some movie-theater seats set-up to display the comfortable lounge-chairs MX apparently has (I say apparently as I have not yet been there to see for myself)! Here is the picture:
They told me how MX Movies was the first movie theater to incorporate in-theater dining in the Saint Louis area--something which other theaters in the area are now doing but which they pointed out to me they have for a lower price than some of the other chain-theaters. I look forward to going to MX Movies sometime as I love both movies and supporting local businesses. You can learn more about MX at this website.

Nostalgia Bomb Studios
The folk behind Nostalgia Bomb Studios had all sorts of neat items for sale at WWSL, from pillow cases that looked like cassette tapes to fashionable hats. Their stuff was really fun-looking and you can find their wares for sale at this website.
Sass and Slash
Sass and Slash is the company of Rachel Rieckenberg, a sculptor, painter, and artist. Her work was both a bit creepy (in a good way) and quite impressive to look at. You can find her at his website.

Ashley Schonberg/Jayne Danger
Ms. Schonberg AKA "Jayne Danger" was at WWSL with the most adorable "Octoplushies" I had ever seen. Between their hats and mustaches I was instantly in love with the plush animals and their price was quite fair too. You can get an octoplushie of your own at her website, which can be found here.

Shadowland/ Jason Contini & Wyatt Weed
Director of the independent horror film "Shadowland" Wyatt Weed was at WWSL along with an actor in the film who is also a comic artist, Jason Contini. Mr. Weed spoke about upcoming works such as "Four Color Eulogy" along with his favorite comics. See more about Shadowland here.

Jennifer Sights
Ms. Sights was at WWSL to promote her series of books starring a detective who also happens to be a witch and has to deal with all the supernatural complications that come from both of these aspects of her life. The first book and second book ("Divided" and "Ravaged", respectively) are available now and the third one is nearing release. You can find out more about her and other projects here.

Unicorgi is company created by Mary Mckenzie and Matt Seniour that makes all sorts of fun items from t-shirts to pins and a bunch of other neat crafts. You can find out more about them and their products here.

Vamrell Inc.
Michel and Ryan Vamrell are the folk behind Vamrell Inc. with Michel having written the horror story "The Full Moon Slayer". I met Michel at WWSL and she had a scary booth with realistic-looking blood and guts to promote her aforementioned book, so that was good marketing! You can learn more about Vamrell Inc. on their Facebook page here and purchase a copy of "The Full Moon Slayer" at this webpage.
William F. F. Wood
Mr. Wood was at WWSL to promote his trilogy of books, the first of which is titled, "The Ruins of Arlandia". A science-fiction series set in an interesting-sounding galaxy I picked up a copy of the first book and look forward to reading it. You can learn more about Mr. Wood and his books at this website.

In Closing About Books, Movies, and Other Arts
While many attendees to a convention such as WWSL are going for the comics or to see the famous celebrities, there are plenty of folk who are interested in hearing about a movie, book, or crafts. These people help inject variety into the show, making it about not just comics, but all forms of media and fun. I enjoyed meeting these creators/seeing the ones I knew again, and look forward to hearing about their new creations, be it a film, new novel, or a really cool pin.