Sunday, June 28, 2015

Rant-Reviews--Let's Talk About Our Feelings

All Those Emotions

Comics make us feel emotions, at least when they are doing their job they should. Whether we relate to the emotions of the characters or have our own sentiments after reading a story, if you don't feel something after reading a comic, I would argue it didn't fully do its job. After all, any comic--nay, any piece of entertainment--should garner some sort of sensation, as opposed to being the mental equivalent of eating a rice cake--e.g. dry, dull, and boring (although I do like rice cakes with a hint of salt, work in a comic metaphor however you can from that). I'll be rating comics not just with my usual stars, but with to what degree of, "The feels," they cause with that term referring to a wave of emotions a person experiences while enjoying a piece of entertainment.

Comics That Result In, "The Feels."
Starve #1
Brian Wood is of course a writer that I now feel slightly icky about when I consider things that came to light not long ago. Still, he can be quite the solid writer, and "Starve" is an interesting comic that reminds of other things--possibly to a fault.

Take a dash of a comic about unfair division of classes (so something like Greg Rucka's "Lazarus"), thoughts on a future full of privatization and weird technology (shades of Warren Ellis' "Transmetropolitan"), our cultural obsession with cooking competitions (most of what is on the Food Network these days) and add just a dash of dark humor about how human beings love being awful to each other (a forte of Garth Ennis). These are all solid ingredients, but while reminding of so many other things, "Starve" struggles a bit to carve out its own identity.

The thing that keeps it from feeling like an utter mish-mash of concepts loosely congealing together is that the protagonist, Gavin Cruikshank, is just the right mixture of unpleasant and empathetic that readers should care about him. Someone who has been at the top, fallen to the bottom, and sees the injustice in the world but actually has a chance to do something about it, Gavin is a neat fellow. Were it not for Gavin this comic wouldn't have too much of a pulse, but Wood has a great character in him and that results in a comic I am interested in enough to want to keep following, for now at least.
3.5 out of 5 stars/"feels".

Material #2
The first issue of this Ales Kot written comic really grabbed me. It was fascinating with how it had these various unlinked (for now) stories, mentions of other media we could consume that related to what was going on the in comic, deep talk about the meaning of life, the (lack of) liberty, and our world's obsession with technology. This issue has the same, but feels like a little less of a shocking punch-to-the-gut as that debut.

It is still amazingly good, and I bet as we build to a conclusion I will love this series even more. For now though, it is a fascinating read not quite as wild as the first issue, but still capable of making readers feel a lot of emotions, many of them sad and hopeful as we witness these people suffering difficulties and dream that everything will work out for them...although it most likely may not.
4.5 out of 5 stars/"feels".

Annihilator #6
Grant Morrison's "The Filth" is arguably my favorite comic, ever. "The Multiversity" is probably my favorite thing he has finished this year. So, what is "Annihilator"? Well, its a good comic that riffs on the concepts of how we as people tell stories, without being as meta as "The Multiversity" got, as the main idea is our protagonist has to write a story before he dies in order to survive. This somewhat-delayed final issue wraps everything up in a nice and clean manner while at the same time mocking stories that wrap everything up nicely. It is a solid series, made that extra bit enjoyable by the superb art of Frazier Irving. Morrison makes readers think with this story, but Irving's stark and creepy artwork makes you feel.

Irving can make even a moment of seeming calm seem unpleasant and eerie--and I mean that as a compliment. The surreal space-monsters that Irving drew throughout this series and the new beings we meet within this issue took this comic from potentially being a good science fiction story straight into the realm of a really good sci-fi-horror yarn. I'm not sure who brought out the best in whom of the creative team, but the combination of Morrison and Irving takes something that would be good, and makes it great--in addition to full of the feels.
4 out of 5 stars/"feels".

The Wicked and the Divine #11
This came out some time ago, with the release of the next issue not far off (i.e. this week), but I just wanted to share some brief thoughts on the end of this particular installment of "Wic+Divine." Namely how upon reading the issue I wanted to shout, "Oh my God, that ending was insane!" Oh, and also how felt the urge to exclaim how, "I honestly have no clue what happens next!"

Seriously though, Gillen utterly shocked me with the events of this comic and has me hooked more than ever on this amazing title. The sheer shock, surprise, and confusion I felt reading this defines what it means to have, "The feels."
5 out of 5 stars/"feels".

Now I'm Just Exhausted

Some comics inspire more "feels" than others. This can be a good thing and a bad thing, considering how something like "Annihilator" is enjoyably scary and fun, but "The Wicked and the Divine" just leaves you emotionally drained (that ends up being a good thing, however). At the end of the day, I would rather read a comic that makes me feel ways I'm not always comfortable with (sad, angry, etc.) than a comic that leaves me feeling, "blah." I imagine most readers would too.

Forgot to Mention One Other Whatculture Post

I'll have a "normal" article here shortly, but it occurs to me I forgot to mention I had yet another Whatculture post go up, this one video-game related. It's about the 10 Most Controversial Video-Games that were rated, "Adults Only," here in good ol' America. It's a post full of crowd-pleasing stuff such as discussion of raunchy content and extreme violence. It also got more views than my less-saucy  posts for the website in one-tenth the time, so clearly sex sells. Go inspect it if you feel the urge, and I apologize for all the promotion of me on other websites, I do have some good things brewing to be posted-up here so don't worry.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Tales From The Dollar Bin: Storm Dogs #6

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...

Science Fiction Fun

I would say I'm a fan of David Hine. From his highly enjoyable work for Marvel on titles such as "District X" and "Silent War" to fascinatingly bizarre stuff such as, "The Bulletproof Coffin." I was rooting through a dollar bin on Free Comic Book Day this year and stumbled across "Storm Dogs" #6, at which point I realized that I didn't think I ever actually read it. I recalled reviewing the fifth issue back in 2013, but said to myself, "Can I recall how this ended?" It occurred to me that I could not, and that perhaps I had missed the final issue those couple years ago. Therefore, I picked up "Storm Dogs" #6 for a hundred pennies (and a bit of tax). The problem is, I enjoyed it.

Yes, I did just say my enjoyment of the comic was a problem. Why? Well, it ends with a huge cliffhanger about a native alien race becoming hostile to humans, a bunch of corporate intrigue kicking in (some business-folk would like to take-over the planet), and some very key characters seeming to die. It's wild, exciting...and to this day I have heard nary a peep about a Volume 2 since this Bleeding Cool Article in May...of 2014.
You can buy your own digital copies of "Storm Dogs" from Image, go buy the trade of volume 1, or could have the good luck to stumble upon it in single issues as I did with this final one. I would recommend you do so as it really is a fascinating exploration of what it means to be a human. It touches on the idea of having less control of our body in a future where technology easily connects us with the senses of others, and it covers how the so-called march of progress and industrialization can at times hurt people native to certain areas.

It of course needs to be discussed how amazing Doug Braithwaite's artwork is. Extremely moody and dark, the flashes of brightness in scenes of action or sudden violence both alarms a reader while delighting their eyes. I would say more, but it is hard to keep finding synonyms for, "excellent."

The final page says we can expect a "Storm Dogs: Volume 2" but as far as I can tell that isn't coming anytime soon. I tweeted David Hine while writing this article and if I hear back will be sure to share what he tells me. As it stands now, however, "Storm Dogs" is a really good series, one that I'm glad to have been able to finish reading the first (and possibly final) volume of in this....tale from the dollar bin!

UPDATE:
David Hine got back to me and told me that Volume 2 should hopefully be announced soon!

Monday, June 22, 2015

New Post on Whatculture about Strange Comic Promotions.

Because Those Comics Won't Sell Themselves...
This "tasteful" Marvel promotion is addressed.
For those who enjoy my articles full of rants, I would now direct your attention to this link on Whatculture. The link features me talking about the, "5 Strangest DC and Marvel Comics Sale Tactics," and is full of my usual musings, but in list-form. Give it a gander, why don't you?

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Observations on "The Best American Comics 2014"

Shall We Talk About 2014 Now That We Are Half-Way Into 2015?

Awhile ago I was able to acquire a copy of "The Best American Comics 2014" for the purpose of review. Considering how the books come out before the year of 2014 has yet ended and actually cover the previous year's comics, I've taken my time getting around to writing about it. The reason for that is how the thing is, I don't think I want to actually engage in a "true" review, as obviously most of the stuff contained within the book is delightful, and even if the, "Best," of something is subjective, a lot of people would agree it's hard to go wrong when a book contains so much talent (look at this list of names and be awed). Don't get me wrong, I'll still assign some stars at the end, but this ain't an actual review. Plus, others have written thoughtful pieces about what the book contains. No, what I'm going to to do is talk about why I am pleased that a book such as "The Best American Comics 2014" is around.

As the article I just linked to mentions, a lot of folk do admittedly still sometimes think of comics as something just for kids--quite recently a college student was mad that she was assigned to read, "Pornography," as opposed to, "Batman and Robin," in her college course on comics (that, "Pornography," was such seminal works as "Sandman" and "Fun Home"). While super-heroes are admittedly still a large part of comics, they are by no means any longer just for kids, evident to any one who picks up some of the more-edgy works out there. Still, despite much of society being more accepting of comics as a true art-form all ages can enjoy, sometimes a perception persists of it all being, "Kids stuff." A book such as "The Best American Comics 2014" helps fight that view.
"Saga"is some awesome stuff.
Apparently guest-editor for the 2014 edition, Scott McCloud, did want the first issue of Marvel's "Hawkeye" to appear in the book but it was for some reason unable to. Interestingly I recall a similar problem happened with an earlier edition when it couldn't be worked-out to get some of "Batman: Year 100" in one of the entries, but in some ways this is perfectly alright. By having things like "Saga", "Hip-Hop Family Tree", and "Building Stories," as opposed to heroes, people get to see how such a variety of comic-works exist, and can be enjoyed. Plus, the list in every book of other recommended works provides encouragement for people to seek out even more material that they could enjoy.

It's 2015 and we shouldn't have to defend comics. Sometimes we still do, however, and having a book like "The Best American Comics 2014" can help with that. There are of many quality works that get overlooked by the series, but regardless of how open to interpretation, "Best," can be, this definitely is some of the, "Better," stuff that you can show to people who ever question the veracity of comics as anything more than childish reading material or simply the first-step in something becoming a T.V. show or movie. Although that's a whole separate thing to talk about sometime.
5 out of 5 stars.

Friday, June 19, 2015

Film Friday: Jurassic World

I Don't Care What They Say, I Love You Anyway
First off, this review is full of spoilers. You have been warned.

"Jurassic World" is a movie I love, regardless of its many flaws. I don't mind the various plot-issues like how it makes almost no sense for a Dinosaur that has always been in captivity (the popular Indominus Rex) to be able to just magically "talk" with raptors, or how the owner of the park who barely knows the methods to fly a helicopter is entrusted with the one big gun the park has when the time comes to try to kill Indominus--to name just a couple issues.

A bigger attraction than the Dinosaurs for some fans.
I love this movie because it has some quality humor, contains the beloved Chris Pratt (who makes a character that might have otherwise been unpleasant bearable), and of course has some just plain gorgeous dinosaurs. Plus, this is loaded with fan-service for people who loved the first film (the events of the 2nd and 3rd are basically totally ignored). We get to see the Visitor's Center from the old Jurassic park with nature growing all over it, the T-Rex from the first film pops-up to help fight Indominus Rex (with help from a Velociraptor!)in a bit that had my inner-child squealing with joy, and it really is a lot of nostalgia, but in a good way.

There is that piece of me that just loves Dinosaurs and the idea of a park with them so much that seeing it come to life on the screen--even if it shortly all falls into mayhem--is a sheer delight. The movie may have its flaws that have resulted in some critics out-and-out bashing it, but there really is too much good stuff to let the poorer aspects leave a bad taste in my mouth. Even though this isn't as great as the original "Jurassic Park" it still is exciting to watch Chris Pratt training raptors, see people riding cool glass spheres alongside dinosaurs, and otherwise just be impressed by the sheer majesty of the flick.

There Is Admittedly An Issue, or Two
"Until you pop-out a baby you're worthless,"
is basically the message Dallas-Howard's character receives.
My only true peeves with the movie are two things. First, it would probably be how it does leave some plot threads hanging for future flicks--B.D. Wong's character jetting off with a bunch of Dino-DNA is ominous--although it can be understandable that with how much money they knew this would make that the  studios try and get people wondering what a future flick could hold. My other issue is that it really is kind of a sexist film, with Bryce Dallas-Howard being a stereotypical "ice queen" who falls in love with Pratt and realizes the most important thing of all in life is letting a man get her pregnant (so just forget about your career and stuff, you need to pay attention to those ovaries!) as opposed to being proud of her intelligence and success.

Oh, and I don't really have an issue with the kids so much as I found them kind of useless to the plot as anything other than a macguffin to get Pratt and Dallas-Howard's character out into the jungle. You could cut them from a lot of the film and it'd be fine.
There is a Dino petting-zoo, how can you not love that?
Those two problems covered, I absolutely loved this film and would see it again and/or own it without question. It may not be as good as the original "Jurassic Park" but it still is a grand time. The assortment of special effects, jokes, and the simple sense of wonder seeing Dinosaurs evoke results in a great movie. I would eagerly recommend this flick, and should you be a big fan of Dinos, Chris Pratt, or fun in general I think you'd agree it is some quality stuff.
5 out of 5 stars.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

My Thoughts on the Microsoft and Sony E3 Press Conferences

Because You Gotta Hype Your Games

Over the past number of days we have seen a wide variety of announcements coming from big game publishers, and the companies behind the consoles we know and love. Having read about and witnessed parts (thanks internet videos!) of both conferences for Microsoft and Sony, I had some thoughts about the companies I thought I would share. Oh, and "Fallout 4" was detailed but as that was announced before E3 and is on both consoles it is kind of an outlier in an event that otherwise was more console-specific.

Before you ask, Nintendo did have a conference too, but at this point in the console wars does anybody care about the WiiU (well, anybody besides those intrigued by the fun-sounding "Splatoon")? That's what I thought, so let's talk about the two big boys/girls and what they had to say recently.
After witnessing some of the announcements to come from Microsoft I really was ready to give them credit where credit is due. Backwards compatibility with the 360 (well, some games), an exciting collection of classic games by Rare, the ability to play mods for games, and try out stuff via Early Access (although Microsoft has a different name for it), that all sounded really cool, and honestly very impressive. Then not too long later Sony walked up to the E3 crowd and simply was like...

"'The Last Guardian' isn't dead, 'Shenmue 3' is happening if you fund it on Kickstarter, and we're actually going to release a remake of 'Final Fantasy VII' like everyone keeps begging us to do."

Mic drop.
Little did attendees suspect how crazy things would get.
The sheer improbability--nay-impossibility of all three of those things actually being announced, within the span of a single day, is arguably enough to make the head of a video-gamer explode in shock as if it were that famous scene from "Scanners".

It is funny to think about how the tide can turn. Microsoft's previous mocking of Sony for not letting the PS4 play PS3 games has now vanished into a cloud of mist--that mist probably being tears of joy from all the "Final Fantasy VII" fans who truly thought that game ever happening was literally less likely than getting struck by lightning whilst simultaneously winning the lottery. That's how it goes though.
It's real? It's real!
I mean, Sony announced plenty of other interesting things (for example, "Uncharted 4"), but to just casually take three pieces of what were arguably vaporware and pipe dreams, and then make them real, that's just...just...wow. Now, should you be a big Xbox One fan you could easily argue that the great number of interesting things outweighs some of Sony's surprise announcements. You would have a point, but seriously man, "Shenmue III" was actually announced, that's just wild.

In the end, we--the gamers--win, because a schmaltzy saying like that always sounds good when you don't want to commit to declaring any particular company the "champ" of E3. Okay fine, Bethesda won, because "Fallout 4".
It really doesn't matter if they officially talked about it before E3 and it is going to be on PS4, Xbox One, and PC. It's "Fallout" and it will almost certainly be awesome whereas the resurrected games Sony announced could very well be bad and Microsoft having its Early Access could turn out as a failure. "Fallout 4" shall  quite likely be the second coming of everyone's respective Messiah however.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Tupac Was Born in 1971 Today

Tupac would have been 44 today. I've mentioned him at various points on the blog, considering him probably the best rapper ever (for those wondering, the best rapper currently alive is Andre 3000 of OutKast, even if he has chosen not to rap as much lately). I can almost picture an alternate reality where Tupac kept living and making quality music; in this world he had a wonderful birthday full of joy and happiness. It would have been nice.

Monday, June 15, 2015

Bizarro, Midnighter, and Section Eight AKA Throughts on the 1st Issue of Some New DC Comics

Does New = Good?
I talked some months ago about how for the first time in awhile DC appeared to have some newer titles on the horizon that looked intriguing to me. I've mentioned too many times to link-to (although I'll provide some links) how DC's publishing behavior has often irritated me--like when they were running 3 weekly series simultaneously, engaging in bizarre PR campaigns (anyone  else recall when they asked folk to draw Harely Quinn killing herself?), and so forth. That said, their "Batgirling" of the comic-line (also called "DC You") has brought with it the idea that perhaps they just maybe can have fun and energetic series alongside the morbidly depressing ones, and having to worry all the time about continuity should perhaps come second to telling a good story (crazy, I know). 

I keep to a pretty strict budget, but had a wee little bit of wiggle room (e.g. I had some extra scratch thanks to selling stuff on eBay) and have been able to purchase and sample some of DC's new offerings; plus, I dropped "Batman" because I felt 40 issues of the creative team varying between decent and mediocre wasn't worth following anymore, so that freed up some bucks. I picked up the first issues of the ongoing series and mini-series titled "Bizarro", "Midnighter", and "Section Eight", so I figured it would be fun to share my thoughts on them, and if I think they indicate DC moving in a different and fun direction.

The Comics...
Bizarro #1
This is cute. An in-continuity-but-not-requiring-of-any-continuity-knowledge story that is basically a road trip between two sorta-buddies who happen to be Jimmy Olsen and Bizarro. The impetus for the story is basically that Jimmy wants to prove to Clark Kent (before he was outed as Superman in another comic, I presume) he can have a successful trip with the warped-version of Superman and maybe write a book about it so he can get rich and famous. It's a paper-thin excuse for a plot, but everything is just so humorous and fun I bet most readers will let that slide--I know I did. 

Jimmy and Bizarro keep running into problems (some the fault of circumstance but many issues can be blamed on Bizaaro) but thanks to their friendship are able to suffer through the various ordeals. The end of the issue makes it clear that Bizarro may have to step-up as a hero, however, when an evil used-car salesman who uses Egyptian-themes gains a magic staff and he tries to mind-control everyone with it so they buy his cars. Yes, that is what actually happens, and clearly that illustrates better than anything just how enjoyably wacky this title is.
4.5 out of 5 stars.
Does this comic indicate a new direction for DC? This strongly gives off the appearance that DC is interested in making more fun and exciting books, with a comic like this seeming like it would have been impossible for it come from DC as recently as a year ago when most titles were morbidly depressed.

Midnighter #1
A DC comic featuring an openly-gay lead that doesn't shy away from the fact that he's gay, yet also avoids coming off as a one big PR effort? Excellent! Within this comic we see Midnighter as the tough fighter he is, along with getting to see how he spends his personal time--with that including having romance with other men, a nice thing to see when comics often will have gay characters,but avoid illustrating them actually doing anything sexual. 

Not too much happens this issue in terms of advancing an overall plot, with only the comic's opening and ending touching upon some extremely dangerous objects getting stolen and taken out into the world. Instead, much of the comic is spent simply enjoying watching Midnighter kicking ass, taking names, and getting in some romance. I feel like the 2nd issue might focus more on the overall plot, as for now we've spent more time getting to know Midnighter than viewing an actual story. That's perfectly alright though, and results in a great read.
4 out of 5 stars.
Does this comic indicate a new direction for DC? While there are dashes of humor, this is more of a general super-hero comic that does have the encouragingly progressive angle of our hero being a happily "out" gay man. Something like this could have been done by DC previously, but probably wouldn't have been as good as it is now.

Section Eight #1
Technically this is humorously titled, "All-Star Section Eight" in a cute way of being able to possibly be in its own continuity like the other "All-Star" books and probably also so Garth Ennis can have a joke at DC's expense about the failure of the actual "All-Star" line. I have to be honest, I've only read some of the original "Hitman" by Garth Ennis (well before "Section Eight" gets introduced in the series) and just as this review by the ever-talented Caleb Mozzocco suggests, that means I'm a little more lost than some folk who fondly remember Tommy Monaghan and this team of super-heroes who are arguably the worst heroes ever. Still, the writing by Ennis and artwork by John McCrea (who illustrated the original past stories with the characters) creates an enjoyable read regardless of how well I actually know the background of everyone within the book.

One thing that did legitimately bug me however, was that this first-issue makes a call-back to how some of the characters in this new Section Eight were introduced in a separate "Harley Quinn" comic. Seriously, this is the first issue and technically we need to track down a completely different comic in order to fully understand what is going on? This just furthers an argument for the practice of, "Waiting for the Trade," in order to get the main issues and the probable inclusion of the, "extra," stories in a TPB. That qualm aside, this was a fun comic, if a potentially intimidating one for those not as familiar with this particular team of "heroes".
3.5 out of 5 stars.
Does this comic indicate a new direction for DC? This comic interestingly is both simultaneously a throwback to past DC works, and a good indicator of the kind of future DC is shooting for. It is sort-of a way for DC to draw in past fans of this creative team and their characters, while also saying, "Hey, we have your old favorites and some great new stuff!" It also is a clever way to get new fans to go and buy all the old "Hitman" trades.

Things Actually Look Encouraging.

It is crazy to think this new "DC You" seems like more a of a reboot than when they re-launched everything back in 2011. True, this time some comics are keeping their original numbering and the DC Universe as we know it hasn't been reset, but the variety of titles, new plot-lines in familiar books (Clark Kent being outed as Superman, and--even if I think it is silly--making Jim Gordon Batman), as well as the appearance of actual humor in titles indicates what is arguably a seismic shift in DC's publishing strategy. 

Whereas back in 2011 mostly everything that was rebooted found itself being grim and a lot like the old DC with just some slightly interesting changes (Superman and Lois Lane weren't married, Oliver Queen got quite altered, and Wonder Woman was given her new origin), now we have honest-to-goodness comics that are funny ("Bizarro", and I heard "Bat-Mite" was cute), portray heroes folk may not know as well but whom are interesting ("Midnighter", "Starfire" the upcoming "Martian Manhunter"), and stuff that references past enjoyable works but can stand alone with new creative changes ("Section Eight", the shifts in the Superman and Batman comics). I'm actually quite impressed by the variety of things DC is doing with their titles now, and am interested to see if things will pan-out well. I hope everything works out, because then maybe DC and their other big competitor (Marvel) will see that taking leaps of creative faith can pay-off. I mean, look how well being open to experimental ideas has worked for Image. They basically have a license to print money now anytime they start-up a new series.

Friday, June 12, 2015

Hey Everybody, I'm on Whatculture!

Got Me Some Side-Work
I've got another writing gig I plan to occasionally contribute stuff to, and now have my first article up for, about 10 better ways Marvel could have killed Wolverine (check it out here!) but it won't impact my blog-output. Let me explain...

Long-time readers of the site know I've occasionally written for various entities, either as a guest poster, for, "exposure,"or as a paid contributor. Sadly a lot of the places I've submitted material to ended up going-under or needed me to provide more material than I could for what I was being paid--which was sometimes nothing as writing for, "Exposure," is something I'll never do again (if you want me to make a big article you can offer to pay me, unless I myself reach-out to write a guest article for you because I love your site a lot). That said, I'm now an official freelance contributor to Whatculture, which is a website kind of like Buzzfeed or Cracked, in that is makes fun list-articles, but Whatculture actually first started in the UK so its list-articles with a slightly more British-bent and spelling of words that us Americans find funny (I say it's color, not colour, but live and let live). 

I'm writing for them because they offered to pay me according to a pay-scale I felt was fair, and they were okay with me expressing myself, e.g. if I hate something I can say so without them getting upset as it would offend an advertiser, or something. Plus, I have read a variety of their articles and like them, so I feel good knowing I'm writing for a site I myself actually have enjoyed looking-at in my free time as opposed to making articles for a website I would otherwise never read.

I'll link to any articles that go up on the site, and I apologize for the format where you have to click for a new page every time  you want to read a new entry on the "list"--that's probably the one thing that bugs me about the site, but it isn't too annoying so I let it slide. 

Also, this won't impact my speaking-freely on the blog as it is separate from them and I can still rail against whatever stupid move DC or Marvel have made recently. I mean, should I ever be told I can't be honest on my blog I would quit any other work, as my focus is of course my actual day job, and doing this website. So yeah, journalistic integrity will not be hurt.

So yes, my journalistic honesty is fine and this won't impact how often I do articles here as I'll only occasionally have the idea for a Whatculture article, so don't think of it as losing anything, think of it as gaining some extra stuff from me at times.

Monday, June 8, 2015

Attention Anyone Doing a Crowdfunding Campaign, Don't Use Crowd PR Guru AKA Top Level PR AKA First Wave PR, It Only Annoys Me

It gets you results? Yeah, sure.
UPDATE 10/17/16
Apparently they now are going by, "First Wave PR," because the latest name now has enough negative reviews they had to change it again.

UPDATE 5/24/16
I am now calling for stories from people ripped-off by Top Level PR/Crowd PR Guru.

UPDATE 4/1/16:
It seems that Crowd PR Guru changed their name some time ago to, "Top Level PR." They are still apparently awful and should not be used. Just a heads-up for everyone. I now present my original post...

I hate it when a website known as Crowd PR Guru contacts me and asks me to promote something, but I'm getting ahead of myself. Read on for an explanation of just what Crowd PR Guru is and why it annoys me so much.

I may not be a highly respected journalist or anything of that sort, but I have been at this blog long enough that I'm considered a member of the media by a variety of people. A lesser-known member that sites like Bleedingcool could squash like a bug, sure, but a correspondent of popular-culture nonetheless. This has resulted in my occasionally getting emails from folk about their comic/movie/video-game/etc.

Sometimes a person writes me to ask if I would like to review their new comic, sometimes a guy or gal has a comic-related infographic they would like my thoughts on, then other times I might get an inquiry about if I would consider discussing a particular magazine column--one strange request was when a men's fitness magazine asked if I would like a copy of their article where they interviewed Chris Hemsworth about his workout routine to get his, "Thor-body." As my idea of a workout is a brisk walk I politely declined. I always am happy to get these messages and talk about whatever is mentioned if I feel it makes sense for the blog, so that isn't an issue.
One thing I get somewhat regularly are requests to talk about crowdfunding campaigns done via Kickstarter or Indiegogo. When an individual behind one of these actually writes me a personal note about why their project is the culmination of a dream and years of hard work, that makes me eager to talk with them more about their campaign. However, there exists a website people can pay money to which claims it will help get their Kickstarter or Indiegogo funded beyond their wildest dreams thanks to its expert skills in PR. This website is Crowd PR Guru and I can honestly tell you when they try and get my attention I just laugh.

Crowd PR Guru tells people how they write-up these individualized press releases which they send out to members of the media--like yours truly--and us media contacts apparently get so excited we post about the project and that somehow gets a campaign a ton of money. Well, as a member of the media I can tell you that every "individualized" press release I've gotten from Crowd PR Guru reads almost the same word-for-word except for how they change-out the name of the project and the brief description they give about it. Otherwise, it is hilariously tragic how grammatically atrocious and robotic the emails are.

Plus, it really irritates me to think someone went and spent 500 dollars or even 1,000 bucks on this joke of a company when they could have put that money toward the project they so desperately want funded, but for some reason don't even have the time to put forth the effort to contact me personally about. My feelings are if you have enough money to hire a shoddy PR team for your comic/movie/whatever, and don't even have the time to tell me about it, why should I give you any of my time? Show me you really care about your creation, make it clear you put your blood, sweat, and tears into what you've created so far, and are ready to put in even more work to get it finished and sent-out to others.
You really don't need the guru.
Crowd PR Guru messages make it apparent what Kickstarter or Indiegogo campaigns I want to avoid, not support. Should you ever engage in your own crowdfunding campaign please, I beg of you, don't use Crowd PR Guru. You will only perturb me (and I imagine many others), and I doubt you will find their so-called "services" to be much of any use.

Sunday, June 7, 2015

"The Rise of the Antichrist" #1 and #2 Review

I'm a fan of all comics, be they the bigger releases or smaller-press indie ones you find on Comixology and such. I picked up a lot of great stuff at Wizard World I plan to review, but actually right before it I was contacted by a gentleman named Betvin GĂ©ant who was curious if I would give a comic written by him a look. Titled, "The Rise of the Anti-Christ," it has had two issues come out via Comixology so far and is an interesting series, with some solid art by an artist called Kay.

When you have something as clearly influenced by religion as a comic touching on concepts of the Antichrist, you figure you're either going to get a super-religious bore that reads like a conservative's wet-dream (just look at Chick tracts), or a supremely politically-incorrect work that mocks religion thoroughly (A variety of Garth Ennis works spring to mind). Interestingly enough, "The Rise of the Antichrist" doesn't really read as a piece of preaching or as if it has the intent to be a parody. Instead, it comes off as an at-times gruesome piece of horror that also deals a fair amount with mental illness.

The main character, Michael, is in a ward of the hospital dedicated to those with psych-issues, his obsession with religion resulting in his being an utter wreck of a human being, terrified of demons only he can hear. The thing is, at the end of the first issue it seems his visions and fears may very well have a true evil behind them, with Michael meeting Satan at the start of the second issue and being informed he serves as the perfect vessel for wreaking havoc on Earth--i.e. he's gonna be the Antichrist.

It is clever to think that someone obsessed with religion from a childhood of being told bible stories to an adulthood where he plucks out his own eye after feeling sinful for ogling a woman would be picked by the Devil to be the new bringer of death and destruction, and the imagery is suitably twisted. The quoting of the bible may be meant to give things an air of authenticity, but the creators go a little heavy on it in the first issue before thankfully letting-up with the bible and focusing more on the plot in the second. The character of Michael is clearly meant to be someone we pity, and his unhealthy obsession with being morally-right and how he is doomed to be a force of evil does make him an empathetic character. Some other elements are less fun, with a variety of characters seeming paper-thin in terms of depth, and allusions that are a bit on-the-nose (a woman named Judith--like Judas--we barely get to know is accused by Michael of being a traitorous friend, the hospital is called Golgotha, etc.). You don't need to be well-versed in Christianity to understand everything, but having a passing familiarity with the religion does let you pick up some references in that manner.
Even if some characters come across as not especially fleshed-out and the 1st issue goes too heavy on the bible-quotes, the general tone of eerie discomfort and creepy imagery helps carry the comic along nicely and results in an intriguing read. Betvin and Kay have given us a solidly entertaining first two issues of "The Rise of the Antichrist" and I am curious to see where things go next. Should you be a fan of horror I would recommend checking it out, especially at its very fair price of $.99 per issue.
3.5 out of 5 stars (for both).
You can find the 1st issue for sale on Comixology here, with the 2nd issue found at this link.

Saturday, June 6, 2015

Exciting News--I'm the Social Media Coordinator for Project Comic-Con this Year!

I've been to Project Comic-Con before and written about it. I often frequent the comic-shop of one of the individuals behind it, Steve, and he is a fan of the blog. Therefore, he asked me if I would be willing to help serve as the Social Media coordinator for Project Comic-Con's 2015 show and I eagerly agreed! Now, as I pride myself on journalistic integrity and my honesty, I wanted to alert all of you readers about this and will be sure to always point it out anytime I comment on PCC.

This year the focus is on female comic-creators and some stellar guests are going to be there, from Erica Henderson (the artist of the phenomenal "Squirrel Girl") to Alex De Campi (writer of too much cool stuff to list) and many more! I've discussed before how I don't mind conventions that aren't comic-centric, but I definitely enjoy that Project Comic-Con is comic-focused and dedicated to being a great time for fans of the medium of sequential art.
My position is a volunteer one so there is no financial conflict of interest--I am simply doing it because I love PCC and am excited to be a part of such a fun event! I encourage you to check out the various web locations you can find PCC at and if you are able to attend this October 17th and 18th!

Check out the main website here.

Buy tickets at this link.

Follow this link for the Facebook page.

Then of course we don't want to forget the Twitter page!

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Television Tuesday--The Duggar Downfall

From Media Darlings to Social Pariahs
I'm not gonna talk about it,  I'm not gonna talk about it....okay, I'm going to talk about it. 

The Duggars. 

I have talked about them on various occasions. I've discussed how they irritate me in various ways, yet have found them fascinating at the same time. Should you have for some reason been living under a rock recently, the family is in the throes of an astonishing fiery crash, shattering any goodwill or support as more and more nasty details come to light that their eldest son, Josh Duggar, engaged in sexual conduct when in his teens towards his younger sisters (and an unidentified girl) that could be called molestation without any hesitation. This article on VOX provides a really solid summary should you desire to understand more before hearing my thoughts.

There is no excuse for it. The fact the family ignored the claims of the girls and didn't do anything for more than a year is even more horrifying. TLC is in a panic and has stopped showing reruns while it figures out what to do, simply looking indecisive while it sits around hoping the scandal somehow goes away. The rumors of spin-offs for the Duggar sisters or cousin Amy could still happen or be dead in the water. It's a mess, and the craziest thing of all to me is that some people have still tried to write the whole thing off and claim somehow everything is A-okay (Mike Huckabee, you're a moron).
Some tried the whole, "He was a curious kid," claim but when you're a teenager and fondling 4 year-old siblings that isn't curiosity, that's just abuse. Some have tried saying he repented, prayed about it, talked to the police, and sought help, but these are the same people who always are claiming how child molestation should be a capital offense and for some reason are ready to let Josh Duggar off the hook because he's been a Conservative darling, working as a lobbyist for a group that basically is dedicated to nothing more than saying how, "Homosexuals are a threat to our kids!" The irony hopefully isn't lost on everyone that meanwhile it turns out Josh was a bigger threat to his little sisters than any scary ol' lesbian would ever be. 

Oh, and that counseling he sought out was helping someone build houses, and the policeman his dad took him to simply gave him a stern warning and now is in prison for 56 years for possession of child pornography (and possibly just tried to kill himself). That is not a joke.
An excerpt of the official Duggar response.
To be fair to the Duggars, they have at least acknowledged what he did was horrible, inexcusable, and said they are, "So, so very sorry, now please don't cancel our show." That doesn't change the fact their very system of belief as sort-of members of the "Quiverfull" movement arguably fosters an environment conductive to sexual abuse and shaming the victims, but hey, they're sorry so apparently it's all good.

Should We Be Talking About This? Yes.
I was thinking of not really talking about this scandal, with one reason being I considered the idea of why should we force those girls to have these old wounds reopened, and should a private family matter where the statue of limitations has already passed anyways be discussed? Then I realized, this family hasn't been "private" since the mid 2000's when they became ravenous for publicity and didn't hesitate to exploit their immense family for fame and fortune, so claiming we should leave them alone when their entire lives have been dedicated to screaming, "Look at us," is just silly. 

The girls do not deserve to have a painful past dug-up, but Michelle and Jim Bob definitely don't deserve to literally act holier-than-thou considering how expertly they buried this dark chapter in their family's history in order to further their own agenda of promoting the subjugation of women, persecuting LGBT individuals and belittling basically anyone who isn't white and Christian, really.

You are not forgiven.
Many people are happy to see this Duggar downfall, maybe too happy when one considers that some very real young women suffered abuse from someone they should have been able to trust--a much older brother. If there really is a question of if we should be talking about this, then the answer is yes, we need to talk about this. When you have a family that treats sex as something forbidden and wrong that can't be talked about, it is amazingly hypocritical for them to act like a sexual act that actually is wrong (sexual abuse) can just be prayed about and everyone's forgiven. Do you really think its a coincidence that some of most religious folk have such high rates of sexual abuse and dysfunction? Can someone honestly claim the Duggar's views have nothing to do with it when the plan for their religion when this occurs is to simply blame the victim and hope it goes away? You really expect us to let this go?

Nuh-uh.  

When you dedicate your life to telling everyone how they aren't as good as you, and do things like using your voice via robocalls to scare people about legislation that protects transgender individuals (to protect children, no less), I think that pedestal you've placed yourself upon is quite precarious considering what one of your kids did to the others in your family.

What's Next?
Do you think we still have the chance for a spin-off?
I don't know what the future will hold for the Duggar family. Perhaps the show will continue with Josh essentially, "Fired," from the family. Maybe the main program will be over and spin-offs will rise from the ashes of the Duggar's until-recently thriving empire. I suppose a lot is riding on the Fox News interview the family has coming-up (because of course Fox News), and maybe after more of the dust has settled TLC will quite waffling and announce just what they are planning to do about all this. 

Whatever happens, it is tragic to think due to the inaction of Jim Bob and Michelle five young women--four of whom were their own daughters--were harmed by their eldest son. It's sad and serves as another example of how often we like reality television, but as I've discussed before, don't like when it actually gets too real . We will see what exactly occurs, however.