Sunday, July 30, 2017

Fantastical and Disturbing AKA "Shit and Piss," Comic Review

For a book titled, "Shit and Piss," this comic is really good looking--albeit in a disturbing way. The off-putting title belies a highly engaging book that collects all five issues of the small-print book getting wider release thanks to Retrofit and Big Planet Comics. I saw this mentioned on The Comics' Journal website and thought it sounded interesting, so when I saw it at the comic shop the other day I picked it up. The basic idea is that a sewage processing plant of sorts built on a ruined civilization continues to run despite the world apparently ending long ago, and in the process all kinds of horrible things come to life and evolve within its walls.

Landry's writing and artwork gives everything a weird mixture of seeming like half a horror-comic and half a twisted science lesson, as weird strangely-formed and misshapen creatures are birthed and change to try and survive within the walls of the plant. The rest of the world has reverted to a primitive and barbaric state (as we see in the 4th and 5th chapters when humans with barely any clothing or technology are shown outside in the ruins of the world fighting), so in a surreal twist this plant full of waste has turned into the most advanced and complex thing around--quite a marvel for literal piles of shit.
The comic details how inside this world of waste whole colonies and life-forms appear and get wiped out in the span of a day--creatures that work together or quarrel just like the once supposedly more advanced humans. Landry often uses a nine-panel grid layout and will take advantage of this format to cut-between scenes in the present and compare them to other concepts--such as in the above image where weird sewage-creatures work together not unlike humans of the past or an ant colony. As this book is lacking much cheer in its subject matter it wouldn't be a spoiler to say this colony finds itself wiped out by pure happenstance. While that occurs Landry shows his metaphorical examples of all manners of civilization and such falling apart too, as if illustrating no matter how supposedly "Advanced," we are everything can find itself suddenly wiped-out brutally--we all come from shit and will return to shit, basically.

While Landry often uses the nine-panel grid, he isn't beholden to it, occasionally breaking-out of that form to give us a full-page spread of strange creatures, a surreal landscape, or whatever else he feels deserves that entire space to really strike the reader--and there is much to strike us with. The sprawling sewage plant is as imposing as it is fascinating. Landry makes its cramped corridors, rivers of sludge, and dripping pipes all capture a reader's attention as the lifeforms struggling to survive within the plant's walls go about their brutal business of springing to life and ending it. As the mysterious narrator says as a matter-of-fact about something so disturbing, "Down here in the shit and the piss, genocide is a matter of course."

Later in the book when a human from this now-primitive world stumbles into the plant he finds himself taken aback by how despite all this supposed advanced technology life is just as violent and terrible as outside. He asks for what all this exists, why is this here? It is just as miserable a place as outside but with more excess and filth in here, so what is the point? Perhaps there isn't a point, because the book is basically stating for all our individuality, all our so-called civilization, despite any of that, as I said earlier, we end-up just returning to the shit, eventually. It's a morbidly depressing concept and not one I'm sure I fully endorse in its misery, but it still makes a fascinating overall thesis to the book.

"Shit and Piss," is violent, nasty, introspective, weird, and gorgeously illustrated. My copy seemed to have a slight printing error where some pages were upside down (and from the random spots where it happened I am pretty sure this wasn't intentional) but it didn't harm my experience of reading and greatly enjoying the book in any way. I would highly recommend, "Shit and Piss," to anyone who likes philosophy, science, horrific images, or just great comics in general. You can buy it on Amazonand enjoy it.
5 out of 5 stars.

Saturday, July 29, 2017

My Wife and I Tried, "Hello Fresh," and Have some Initial Thoughts

My wife and I had a referral code which allowed us to try, "Hello Fresh," for free for a week. We thought we would give it a go along with an extra week or two. We just completed our first week of three meals and I thought sharing some initial thoughts on the service would be fun.

We went with three meals per week, as I mentioned, and the food arrived on a Saturday the 22nd not too long after we ordered it and made our selections. We opened our front door to find a massive box on our porch-area and brought it inside. We were a little concerned if everything had stayed cold as this was one of those recent 100+ degree days that afflicted America. Impressively, between the insulation and a ton of ice-packs everything was still nicely cool on top and the frozen items packed in even more ice packs near the bottom were still solidly frozen too. The three meals we selected were the following which I'll list below their website-picture and say what day we ate them:
Ate Monday: Mushroom Chicken Scallopini with Skillet Zucchini and Basmati Rice
Ate Wednesday: Very Teriyaki Pork Tenderloin with Basmati Rice and Asparagus
Ate Thursday: Barbecue Chicken Tenders with Sweet Potatoes and Sugar Snap Peas

As you can see we didn't eat one of our meals Tuesday. That is because we were tired and took advantage of the wing deal at Buffalo Wild Wings on Tuesday. I'll give an overall review score at the end but thought it might be fun to discuss in further detail each entree item.
Cooking the stuff!
The Chicken Scallopini was solid but not amazing. The skillet zucchini and basmati rice complimented the chicken well, but the sauce needed a lot of seasoning to have enough flavor. The chicken itself cooked very nicely however.

One thing I have to admit is I did water the sauce down a little more than I was supposed to by adding too much water (I mis-measured the cups, I'm clearly not a professional chef), so maybe the sauce not being flavorful enough was kind of my fault, but once we threw in a little more flour it thickened-up nicely and still needed plenty of salt and pepper. Decent but not especially inspiring.
All mixed together!
The Pork Tenderloin was delicious. We were pleased that the Teriyaki flavor wasn't too strong and instead tasted just right. The asparagus and rice all mixed in the bowl with the pork created some great flavor and this was probably our favorite dish.

It is worth noting that the produce pretty impressively lasted a number of days and only had a little bit of spoiling occurring. The asparagus was still looking relatively tasty when we cut it up and I got to learn what, "Blanching," was when we did that to the aforementioned asparagus.

The last meal we tried was the meal of barbecue chicken tenders along with sweet potatoes and snap peas. This was tasty but I didn't find the barbecue sauce we coated the chicken with as delicious as other sauces I've enjoyed on tenders before--it still was pretty good though. The sweet potatoes and snap peas cooked well in the oven and worked nicely with the chicken too.

While our meals the other two days involved a lot of stove-top usage, the tenders and veggies meal actually was a fully oven-based affair. We waited to do the tenders till late in the week because of how hot it had been earlier-on (and it thankfully cooled down enough to use the oven by Thursday).
Next week!
My wife and I were impressed by how almost every ingredient needed came in our Hello Fresh package, with only the most common stuff not being provided (e.g. olive oil, salt, pepper, and whatnot). The directions for how to make the food were usually concise and even someone relatively inexperienced at cooking such as myself was able to understand what needed to be done most of the time--and Samii helped guide me through any other parts I was confused about while we cooked it up together.

We are excited to try Hello Fresh for at least another week and changed our preferred delivery day to Tuesday so that we can enjoy our meals during the rest of the weekdays. We were quite pleased with our meals if not especially amazed (although that Teriyaki Pork was, "Lit," as the kids apparently say these days). The directions were straightforward, the ingredients all were of good quality and stayed mostly fresh, and the food was usually flavorful. Taking into account all of these factors my wife and I both agree that a rating of 3.5 out of 5 stars is apt.

Should you be interested in trying it you can of course visit the website here and if you use the promo code, "SAMIIA," you can get $40 off your first order.

Friday, July 28, 2017

Film Friday: Spider-Man: Homecoming

That Was a Good Movie! 
It came out a bit ago and last weekend I finally saw it after being pretty good about avoiding spoilers, and I have to say, "Spider-Man: Homecoming," was a really good movie even if it isn't one of the best Marvel movies ever. I suppose the problem is that with so many Marvel flicks now that are at least good it can be hard to be the, "Best," but when you're super-enjoyable like, "Homecoming," that's perfectly fine.  You've probably seen, "Homecoming," by now or don't mind spoilers so know I'm going to throw some out there. How about we break things down by what I liked and what I didn't like that much? Yeah, let's do that!

What I Liked
The acting was superb. Tom Holland makes a pitch-perfect Peter Parker and Spider-Man, Robert Downey Junior as Iron Man continues to be amazing, and Michael Keaton steals the show as he illustrates why he is such an amazing actor. That scene where Peter is driven to Homecoming by Keaton (who is revealed to be his date's dad and we already know by then he is the Vulture) whilst Keaton slowly realizes how Parker is Spider-Man has got to be my favorite scene in the movie. Plus, Marisa Tomei is always welcome.

The street-level view of a world where the Avengers exist is clever. It's a world with heroes which has therefore changed, but still is recognizable. I know the  Marvel Netflix shows kind of do this too (and, "Agents of Shield," if you remember that exists) but this movie really delves into that, which I like. We also answer the question finally of how all that damage to NYC from the first Avenger's movie was cleaned-up.

Thank God we don't get a ton of origin or back-story, because at this point I think watching Uncle Ben die one more time will drive me insane. At one point a spider-bite is mentioned and the movie has a prologue where we see Spider-Man's role in, "Civil War," fleshed-out a bit, but no long drawn-out tale of how he got his powers. Thank you God.

The movie is funny, as most of the Marvel flicks are, but doesn't border on too funny like the, "Guardians of the Galaxy," flicks sometimes get dangerously close to doing, bordering on being more of a comedy. "Homecoming," knows when to crack some jokes and when to give us some serious bits.

What I Didn't Like
I wish we got more Donald Glover. He is so great and clearly they are hinting he could become the Prowler based on his character's name--plus the mention he makes of a nephew hints that Miles Morales exists too!

It's a little nit-picky, but how is Spider-Man getting away with operating in Queens so flagrantly when heroes are supposedly regulated now? The, "Sokovia Accords," even get mentioned when Peter is in a class. Is the fact the Spider-Man mainly sticks to Queens as opposed to going to other countries what keeps him exempt from that sort of regulation? I mean, he isn't exactly under-the-radar as evidenced by when he makes National news saving people at the Washington Monument (which is damaged in manner that is actually mostly his fault, but people don't know that, thankfully for him).

Closing Observations
Nothing else really occurred that I disliked, it all was pretty good, if not utterly amazing. In some ways the lack of much that made me go, "Whoa," outside of that stellar car-scene is a little bit disappointing, but if I can see a movie that is a solid 4 out of 5 stars.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Rant-Reviews: Checking-In

Time To Check-In
There are a number of comics I read and enjoy whenever they come out, but don't necessarily always post reviews of. I thought it might be good to check-in on these titles and see how good a job they are doing of continuing to hopefully entertain me!

How's It Been Going?
Redneck #4
Donny Cates has been blowing-up lately, with superb books like, "God Country," and the recent news he will be writing titles for Marvel. I've of course been a fan of his since the amazing, "Buzzkill," and continue to enjoy his work on titles such as, "Redneck." A comic about a family of Vampires who mostly keep to themselves in Texas until all kinds of fighting breaks-out, this book in some ways reminds me of the stellar, "Southern Bastards," which also comes out from Image in its focus on the South and how it has horribly broken people as main characters. That isn't to say, "Redneck," is at all a copy of that book, as this baby is its own unique weird mixture of Western, Horror, and a bit of a Supernatural-yarn too, what with the Vampiric element. Still, Cates himself has said to simply call this a book about vampires would be highly reductive as it is about a lot more.

This is a book about family, and the terrible lengths we will go to for the people we love and care about. A lot of this issue involves one vampire as she uses her psychic powers to go into another's memories and provides us readers with some more back-story. This background helps give the current-day events a lot more context and also helps to illustrate how whether we are humans or vampires that escaping the constant cycle of bloodshed within life can be quite hard. Violence begets violence and no matter what era we live in people seem to find an excuse to fight. It's tragic and fascinating to read, making, "Redneck," one of those books you've probably heard a lot of hype about and might be surprised to learn actually lives-up to all the accolades!
5 out of 5 stars.

Deathstroke #21
21 issues in (well, a bit more counting the, "Rebirth," one-shot and a recent cross-over) and Christopher Priest continues to make a character I had never cared about a fascinating lead in a really good book. Slade Wilson AKA Deathstroke has always been a horribly flawed person and a villain, but what if he tries to be a hero? Is such a thing even possible? Well, as of this issue Priest is starting to explore that concept and making it clear even a, "Heroic," Deathstroke is pretty dangerous. This was one of my favorite comics of 2016 with Priest being one of my favorite writers last year too, and, "Deathstroke," continues to impress.
4.5 out of 5 stars.

Black Hammer #11
Jeff Lemire's comic, "Black Hammer," has slowly grown from an intriguing little title to something really special and fascinating. A super-hero book that isn't in fact a hero-comic in most definitions of the word, we follow some heroes who were able to stop a great evil, but then ended up trapped in some weird normal-ish town removed from the rest of reality. The book works so well because it isn't just a nostalgic look at Golden-age heroes or a dark post-modern take on the concept of heroism it is just an earnest exploration of people who have powers and are stuck in a weird situation and trying their hardest to make the best of it.

In this issue a recent joiner of the heroes from the, "Real-world," continues to investigate how odd this town is, a character I adore almost (but thankfully doesn't) die, and things just get more and more mysterious and ominous. In other words, more stellar comic-making. I personally feel this is one of the best books coming out currently from Dark Horse, and one of the best books in comics in general!
5 out of 5 stars.

Jessica Jones #10
I was a huge fan of, "Alias," back when Brian Michael Bendis and Michael Gaydos were doing that O.G. Marvel Max title. Later Jones of course popped-up in various titles but we didn't get any more, "Alias." This is the closet to that as it isn't a Max title, but still slips in some stronger language than most Marvel books and features that original creative team. Some of the old magic is for sure there, but instead of being a mostly self-contained kind of book this draws heavily from recent Marvel events and whereas, "Alias," could have been read mostly independently of other Marvel stuff this will leave you scratching your head should you not have at least Googled what Marvel's been up to (two major plot points in the first arc came from the recent, "Secret Wars," and had a minor character from, "Civil War II," involved as hiring Jones. In other words, this is good, but different from the classic, "Alias."

I should be annoyed with how reliant this book is on the rest of Marvel's events that are going on as opposed to being more self-contained, but Bendis' still gives us such a compelling character in the form of Jones and Gaydos is an artist whose work I always enjoy. Gaydos splotchy and borderline-abstract style just really appeals to me, I guess. This book isn't perfect, but it is still good fun.
3.5 out of 5 stars.

I Hate Fairyland #14
Skottie Young continues to use his ability to make cute child-friendly images to take those adorable drawings and draw them swearing and being violent. The saga of Gertrude AKA Gert as she has struggled to escape Fairyland has been hilarious to witness, with this issue continuing a recent them of Gert trying to be a good person in the hopes that will assist in her actually getting-out. In this issue that involves her working through a confusing labyrinth full of random and creepy dudes who in a hilarious running-gag want Gert to marry them, with her observing it is a strange cliché how in magical realms all these older dudes want to hook-up with young chicks. Young's combination of writing and fantastic artwork makes everything delightful in its twisted-humor and the shocking last page that shows Gert might actually--gasp--become a good person has me eagerly awaiting the next issue to see how it all goes humorously wrong (which I would bet it will).
4 out of 5 stars. 

All Caught-Up!
It is good to see a lot of the books I've been liking have continued to be at least good and sometimes great reads.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Television Tuesday: Castlevania

I have played some, "Castlevania," games but am by no means a huge fan of the games. I also read very little about the Netflix television show and only knew a writer who makes lots of great stuff--Warren Ellis--wrote the story. Once this came out I heard a lot of good things so I thought I would give this short 4-episode season a viewing. You can almost tell this was originally going to be a movie  and was kind of split into television episodes, plus once it seems to really get going this bite-sized season ends, but when I'm complaining something was too short or offered too little that usually is a good sign I liked what I got--and I did!

"Castlevania," is cleverly written by the aforementioned Warren Ellis and produced by a number of folk including Adi Shankar. It has gorgeous anime-ish visuals, and otherwise is a fantastic time! I was impressed by how the first episode doesn't even introduce our main protagonist (Simon Belmont) until right towards the episode's end, instead setting-up Dracula as the big-bad and actually making him look quite sympathetic and almost understandable. Yes, he's trying to destroy the world, but humans have really done some terrible stuff to him. The rest of the series shows as Belmont helps a town deal with invading monsters (summoned by an angry Dracula to destroy the countryside) and meets some other folk who then all agree to go and fight Dracula...right as the season then immediately ends. It makes all four episodes almost feel like one big prologue, which is a little perturbing, but what we got was stellar so now we just have to patiently wait for the already-announced 2nd season which will feature eight episodes.
This short first season of, "Castlevania," is almost more of a teasing taste of what I imagine is more goodness to come, but of what is supplied by, "Castlevania," I found to be smart, fun, and all-around great entertainment. I went from having minimal interest in this show to now being a big fan--I am already eager for the next season!
5 out of 5 stars.

Monday, July 24, 2017

A Small Number of SDCC/CCI 2017 Observations

San Diego Comic-Con/Comic-Con International has concluded, and frankly not a ton of note occurred. I can really just in a short number of paragraphs say what I thought was at least slightly worth I'll do that now!
In regards to Marvel and DC, it frankly seemed like Marvel was just desperately trying to convince people, "Legacy," isn't terrible and when that failed simply went, "Fuck it, just enjoy this awesome trailer for, 'Thor: Ragnarok,' okay?" Meanwhile, DC had a decent-looking big trailer for their upcoming, "Justice League," and talked about a variety of stuff but the only thing that really caught my attention was seeing that, "Doomsday Clock," is going to be 12 issues and has a slightly confusing time-concept (which makes sense to mix time with a, "Clock," concept, but still). I'm less excited than when it was a short mini but still cautiously intrigued. Oh, and Noah Hawley of, "Legion," making a movie featuring Doctor Doom is something I'm 100% on board with.

Other stuff that caught my attention was reading that Michael Davis as well as some other friends are launching a comic-thing called, "Level Next," to assist creators of color with the creation and marketing of their stories, which sounds great! Also, after 24 years of being published by Archie Comics it was made public that, "Sonic," would no longer be a property there, before two days later it was announced as being a new property at IDW, so that has got to have some interesting drama behind it. It also sounds like there were some good panels that discussed gender and race in the field of comics.
Besides all that plenty of other things happened, but nothing else struck me enough to feel it was worth even expressing an opinion on (that or something interesting could have happened and I just missed it). It sounds like it was your usual SDCC/CCI--assorted movie and television news, lots of random exclusive comics or Funko Pops, and a bunch of cool cosplay. I imagine it was fun, crowded, and a bit overwhelming for those who attended and maybe someday I'll be able to get out there and report on the show for my blog, even if I honestly NYCC or TCAF are higher on my list of cons I, "Dream," about getting to report on. Anyways, another San Diego Comic-Con/Comic-Con International is in the books, I bet everyone who was there shall enjoy a long nap!

Friday, July 21, 2017

Film Friday: Officer Downe (Spoiler: It Sucked)

Well, that was terrible. I had read, "Officer Downe," was a bad movie but I didn't think it would be this atrocious. I watched it on Netflix as I love many comics by Joe Casey and he was heavily involved in the production of this film based on his and Chris Burham's book of the same name. I had to force myself to finish the movie after leaving it with 30-ish minutes left a few days ago because I was looking for any excuse to not watch it and instead watch things I actually enjoy. I managed to complete my viewing however by looking for the diamonds in the rough/shit (I'll touch on the couple of bearable-factors in a bit) and there are worse things to have on and struggle to pay attention too when I'm feeding Clarkson his bottle, like an endlessly-looping clip of howler monkeys, or techno-remixes of Kenny G, I guess?

The plot of, "Officer Downe," if you want to call it much of a plot is that a rookie cop known as, "Officer Gable," and played by Tyler Ross is brought into an experimental program within the LAPD that involves reviving a once-deceased officer named Terrance Downe (played by Kim Coates) who goes to kills criminals, dies, and then gets sent out again. In the process he fights against an assassin who speaks English as a weird dub-over for some reason as well as a group known as, "The Fortune 500," which consists of three people who dress-up like animals for no apparent reason and run crime. Already we have a number of questions such as, "Why do they revive Terrance Downe in their program other than he was a great cop back in the day? Is he special somehow?" as well as, "Why is this rookie cop picked for the program?" plus, "Why do the Fortune 500 wear weird animal suits," and of course, "Why am I asking all these questions that will never be answered about a movie that makes almost no sense?"
The movie also features evil and, "sexy," nuns. So there ya go.
Multiple times in the movie certain plot elements are brought-up or hinted at and promptly dropped.  Such as if the LAPD is using Downe to eliminate criminals without having to take them to trial, if there are plans to expand this program, if this program has much oversight or is an abuse of power by the LAPD, and a weird after-credits teaser hints that the Fortune 500 might somehow have come out of a different program for...reasons. As I've made clear, the plot is a joke. "It's an action movie though, David, why are you so upset about the lack of plot? Tell me about the action," you may be saying. Well, the action is a weird jumble of quick-cuts, over-the-top and fake-looking gore, and basically gave me a headache with its terrible editing and weird stylistic flourishes (random text imagery or other, "Funny," things) that are more annoying and distracting than clever. This looks like a school project that was given some extra money and they decided to blow the surplus budget on weird lighting and buckets of fake blood.

I've made it clear this movie was painful, but what keeps me from utterly despising it? I said it was a couple things and that is true--it is two people. Kim Coates as Officer Downe and Tyler Ross as Officer Gable actually do a really good job acting and help take F-grade dialogue and make it actually seem a little engaging. Ross gives us the impression of a man who truly is committed to the law, cares about his fellow officers, and wants to make the world a better place. Coates takes a character who is supposed to arguably be a blank slate and gives him enough hints of humanity in some of the rare quiet moments that the dull character of Downe for almost a second seems a little engaging and interesting...before everything starts sucking again. If it weren't for Ross and Coates taking this shit and working so hard to wipesome stink off of it the movie would be a total loss. Without them I truly would have just given-up on, "Officer Downe," and quit watching as there would be absolutely nothing else to recommend this other than that it amused me to see Glenn  Howerton (Dennis from, "It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia) pop-up in a small role with a weird accent. I was so bored I imagined he was actually Dennis playing one of his characters and had somehow stumbled into the movie--I had to use my imagination to stay sane and get through this, as you can see.
Just read this instead.
When it comes to seeing this movie, all I can say is, "Don't do it." Just go and read the comic the movie is based on because at least that looks good thanks to Burnham's awesome artwork. Some good acting aside, "Officer Downe," is a steaming pile of cinematic garbage and I'm not exactly the pickiest when it comes to movies (I think, "Joe Dirt," is really entertaining). Thanks to two good actors this is barely worth...
1 out of 5 stars.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

San Diego Comic-Con/Comic-Con International Has Commenced

Yesterday was  the, "Preview night," at San Diego Comic-Con/Comic-Con International which is when I think just industry professionals, accredited press, and the like can attend. As of today however anyone and everyone (who has a ticket, of course) can go enjoy the con. If you're at SDCC/CCI I hope you have fun. I'll probably have a variety of opinions to share next week after it wraps, the dust has settled, and everyone is still arguing about if, "Dooomsday Clock," looks like a fun and clever event from DC or is just a shameless insult to Alan Moore and the, "Watchmen," comics (maybe both).

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Mid-To-Later July 2017 News and Links For You to Enjoy and Treasure

Yet Even More Interesting Stuff
I do so love sharing the assorted fascinating news and links I've found on the internet with you all, and I hope you enjoy checking them out (or at least can withstand my encouragement of you doing so). Shall we commence the links? Yes, yes we shall.

Let's Get to Linking!
Let's start with something weird, namely that there is a middle silo full of Mario-related artwork. Okay?

Publishers Weekly has an article discussing something I discovered a bit ago myself. Namely, that libraries are a great resource for comic-lovers.

I was fascinated by this write-up from The Cut about how, "Wellness," and the quest for us to achieve our best health possible has become its own kind of epidemic.

This may be obvious to many, but Trump has basically mortally wounded the Republican party and it is falling into shambles whilst throwing-away any semblance of values it held before our very eyes.

Check out Polygon's oral history of Crash Bandicoot as it is a good read, even for someone who isn't a big fan of the series such as myself

While we're doing oral histories, here is one about how, "The Simpsons," created its stellar, "Planet of the Apes as a musical," gag.

What if instead of being murderous HAL just ranted about, "SJWs," and immigration?
Could our artificial intelligence of the future be racist and sexist as this piece by Lifehacker discusses? That would suck.

People are making a big deal out of how Floyd Mayweather and Conor McGregor are going to fight, with many looking to figure-out who the, "Good guy," or, "Bad guy," is in this situation. Frankly, they both are just terrible people and for a variety of reasons and you don't actually have to cheer for either.

Speaking of sports, this is the funniest correction to a story I have seen in some time thanks to a hilarious Reddit screen-name.

Paste talks about how, "The Fifth Element," has an interesting alternate take on male masculinity.

I also read on Paste a good piece about Steve Orlando. I like Orlando's writing a lot and was a big fan of his run on, "Midnighter," as readers may recall.

Tim Kreider used to be a political cartoonist and points-out that while artists can do whatever they want, we don't have to approve of it, but also our getting upset is kinda the point
Conventions can be a stellar time, but if you have a disability there are times assorted cons seem to let fans with special needs down. For example, cons that don't take into account how to make sure deaf fans have the most fun possible.

Wait, why do so many black superheroes have electricity-based powers?

Can we just come to terms with the fact that investing in stuff like Tumblr or 4chan isn't going to give you the big return on your cash you're hoping for? These things just ain't profitable.

I was saddened to hear about the passing of amazing director George Romero. I watched many of his films from the amazing stuff to the less-legendary movies. Even his so-so stuff always was done well, however, and his best works are seminal and have a lasting impact to this day.

I'd express an opinion about the upcoming, "Ataribox," console, but nobody seems sure exactly what it is.

In closing, I just wanted to remind you that the Direct Market is broken. You don't have to try and explain and defend it to people though, okay?

Stay Cool Out There!
It has been absurdly hot here for some weeks and doesn't look to be cooling off anytime soon. I hope you're someplace comfortable and enjoyed all the links.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Space Goat Publishing's Retailer Advisory Board is How Retailers Should be Treated but Often Aren't

A smattering of publishers
If it weren't for the retailers who sell comic books--e.g. comic shops--the vast majority of comic publishers would be out of business or making a ton less scratch. Publishers depend on retailers to help promote their books with posters, good word-of-mouth, and they need retailers to order the books (obviously). It isn't always just as simple as putting out a good comic, you gotta have retailers to actually stock the books! Considering how important retailers are it is striking just how poorly some of the bigger publishers seem to at times treat them.

Now, I've been rough on Marvel lately (at least in regards to their comics) but it isn't out of some kind of vendetta, I truly have loved many of their past books and enjoy some current ones.  That said, "Legacy," is a mess and a big middle finger to retailers and readers with re-numberings that don't make sense, stories that seem like terrible jumping-on points and moreso a great time to quit a book, and etc. Marvel's response to concerned retailers seems to have been basically, "Shut-up, you're still going to order this shit so grin and bear it." DC has at times been poor to publishers and at other moments been actually pretty good with nice deals on making comics returnable if they don't sell (the, "Direct Market," comic shops use does not usually allow unsold merchandise to be refunded). Other publishers seem to be a lot better with retailers, with Image seeming to carry on a good relationship with many folk. That said, what Space Goat Publishing just announced they are going to do is an example of how retailers should be treated thanks to their ingenious idea: A Retailer Advisory Board.
Space Goat Publishing is a comic company that will admit it isn't the biggest or best-known, but has been around for a bit and is, "Scrappy, nimble and sometimes a little stubborn," as the press release about the Retailer Advisory Board discusses. Just what is a Retailer Advisory Board? It is what it sounds like, an assortment of comic retailers (at the moment 15 in North America but I imagine it can grow) who speak with Space Goat Publishing about trends they notice in their shop, what kind of promotions might be wise to do, etc. Basically, it is a publisher treating the very entity (retailers) that keeps comic-books going like the important resource it is.

For their time and knowledge, Space Goat Publishing will reward these retailers with, "Access to works in progress across the entire SGP publishing portfolio, deep discounts and free shipping for all direct orders that meet a modest minimum, participation in group exclusive variant programs, in-book ad pages promoting member stores, customized digital marketing materials, and free mini comic previews of every new #1 shipped at no charge." Those are some cool benefits for sure.
One of the latest releases from Space Goat Publishing
As someone who personally feels that retailers deserve a lot more love from publishers than they often seem to get, this Retailer Advisory Board from Space Goat Publishing seems like a refreshing breath of fresh air. Retailers of course shouldn't tell people what to make or interfere in the creative process by any means, but they can be an invaluable resources for studying market trends, figuring out what people might want more (or less) of, and otherwise are useful and awesome. This is an example of how retailers should be treated, but often aren't. Hopefully it helps inspire other publishers to do something similar.

Friday, July 14, 2017

Film Friday: Wonder Woman

What's that? You would expect if I do a, "Film Friday" segment today, July 14th, 2017, that I would talk about the new, "Spider-Man: Homecoming," flick that came out last week as I'm already delayed with that now? Well, I haven't seen the new Spidey-movie yet but want to, and I did just recently have the opportunity to see, "Wonder Woman," so I thought I would write about it!

Basically, it is good to see that DC finally has a really good film in their Cinematic Universe because dear God did they need one after all these movies that weren't especially great, but were good enough. Also, now that, "Wonder Woman," has made so much money perhaps people will realize girls like super-hero movies too and men are more than willing to see a movie with an ass-kicking woman as the lead. Essentially, director Patty Jenkins just showed us that maybe DC should just put her in charge of their cinematic films because damn did she make a solid movie (and DC rushed to sign her for the sequel after realizing they hadn't already done so). Perhaps the success Jenkins has had with, "Wonder Woman," will show DC they should give their directors space and creative freedom, because Jenkins apparently had to argue for one of the best scenes in the movie--e.g. the bit in, "No Man's Land."
"Wonder Woman," is an expertly plotted and paced film, with it moving from a brief present-day prologue to showing us the origin of Diana in a manner that actually feels fresh after countless origin-stories in other hero-films. We witness her growing from a little girl to a young woman as she trains on her secluded island with the Amazons before World War I comes to their island. This results in Diana going with Steve Trevor (who crash-lands on the island and tells the Amazons of the war) to fight for freedom. It takes a little longer for things to get moving than I would have liked, but once Diana leaves home its great scene after great scene throughout the rest of the running-time. By now most people have seen the film so I won't bother re-hashing all the story-details for you, but I will say I loved the reveal of just who, "Ares," was after it at first seemed Diana's mission to kill the God of War (whom she was convinced had to be behind WWI) was a fruitless endeavor only to have some twists come at us fast and hard. Also, Chris Pine was fantastic as Steve Trevor and I would hope he can return in some manner for a sequel despite, you know, what happens to him at the end. I've said all this and I realize I haven't even discussed how fantastic Gal Gadot is as the titular, "Wonder Woman!"

Gal Gadot was arguably one of the best parts of the so-so, "Batman VS Superman," despite barely being in it and continues to shine in, "Wonder Woman." She plays Diana perfectly and turns a character that at times has struggled to be portrayed well in other forms of media into a fantastic heroine. I personally appreciated how Diana was presented as a perfectly capable and mature woman who just didn't understand certain social-norms, as sometimes adaptation of the story of Wonder Woman for some reason make her seem more like a confused woman-child as she acclimates to the world instead of a smart and skilled warrior who knows how to adapt.
Gal Gadot is stellar.
One thing that is notable about, "Wonder Woman," is something a friend pointed-out to me. Namely, we have had plenty of super-hero movies where male heroes are busting through walls or throwing tanks around, but we've never yet seen a female super-hero do so. Yes, we've had films with lady-heroes involved, but not in the manner of them doing everything guys can do, and sometimes doing it even better. It's good stuff.

"Wonder Woman," is a movie that was needed. DC needed it to show their Cinematic Universe wasn't doomed, Wonder Woman needed it to show she was a character deserving just as much admiration as Batman, Superman, etc. and we as a world needed it to show that films with female super-heroes will draw a crowd. Thanks to a solid cast, fantastic director, and a stellar plot (even if at first things drag a bit as I mentioned) and imagery this movie is wonderful, no pun intended.
4.5 out of 5 stars.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

An Engaging Fantasy AKA Tyrants #1 & #2 Review

I mentioned how when I was at the Saint Louis Comic-Con I met the guys from Hollow Harbor who were there to promote their, "Tyrants," comic. Written by Josh Barbeau with art from Esau Figueroa, "Tyrants," centers on a teenager named Atum in a fantasy world that involves a chain of islands called, "The Spiral." Atum's Father used to hold a great deal of ruling-power in the region but for some reason lost it and now has a tiny sliver of the chain he controls. There is clearly a lot of political intrigue and power-plays going on around Atum during the two issues I read, but he frankly doesn't care. Unlike some stories featuring teenagers that seem to be all the rage (all that dystopic-future young adult stuff that have countless books coming out) Atum isn't acting like some wise-beyond-his-years savoir of the world. He's just a young man who wants to be free to roam and do what he wants.

It's refreshing change of pace from all the stories where teenagers for some reason are eager to take-on the world and cause epic things to occur. Sometimes teens just want to be able to hang-out and enjoy life. Atum of course can't just relax however, as his Father has big plans and the fact that Atum possesses mystical powers like some other residents of the island chain (he can turn into smoke). This is a tool that his Father for sure will want to use, as the comic makes clear.  This isn't to say Atum's Dad is a bad person, he just clearly is a bit overbearing and obsessed with reclaiming lost power. Throughout the first and second issue of, "Tyrants," Atum and his Father interact with a variety of folk and hatch plans, but I actually liked the comic most when it was just focusing on quieter moments--Atum and his Father training, Atum chatting with the daughter of another ruler about the history of the spiral of islands, etc.
All this talk of my liking the quiet moments isn't to say I had issues with the bits of action, however. In the second issue when Atum goes-up against a very large and very angry bear, illustrator Esau Figueroa gives us a brutally efficient scene of running and fighting. Figueroa also draws the smoke from Atum's power in a way that looks natural and truly weightless, which impressed me greatly. Figueroa without a doubt turns in some good-looking imagery that has an appropriately fantasy-esque feel without appearing too, "Magical," in this world that has magic, but is by no means a joyful world of pixies and rainbows.

A good deal of, "Tyrants," centers on Atum being a part of grand plans for, "The Spiral," but I actually was most engaged when we had the great smaller moments of character development. Writer Josh Barbeau balances these quiet bits with other action-filled elements of the story and it results in what I would feel is a very solid read. I encourage you to visit Hollow Harbor at their website and I personally am excited for what the 3rd issue will bring us!
4 out of 5 stars (for both issues).

Monday, July 10, 2017

This, "Comics Twitter Bingo Card," Is Uncomfortably Apt In a Lot of Ways

The website Loser City writes about all kinds of popular culture including comics and has recently produced a bingo card for us all to enjoy which is uncomfortably apt about the field of comics today. Observe:

As someone who writes a lot about comics I have both been critical of some of the things listed on this bingo sheet (just stop, Frank Cho) and engaged in some of the activities myself (I once made a post where the whole point was taking-on, "Sacred Cows," of comics). This card is meant more for publishers, but it applies to those of us who do journalism too, as in a sense those who write about comics are a part of the comic-book industry and influence it (or piss it off, as in the case of Marvel probably being none-too-pleased about all terrible reviews for, "Secret Empire," I bet). As the post says though, "It seems like a week can’t go by without the entire comics industry losing their shit on Twitter about something or another," which stings in how true it is. The, "twitter rage cycle," we see in the field of comics is exhausting, with it too often feeling like we are moving from one moment of outrage to the next.

Plenty have argued that with the rise of social media and a 24-7 news cycle that the never-ending outrage we see in applies to plenty more than comics, with the world itself seeming to be in a constant state of crisis due to either terrible Presidents like Trump saying stupid shit, celebrities putting their private business and private-parts out in public, or whatever else it takes to get people's attention and make them perturbed. This comics twitter bingo card could easily be retooled into a bingo card for any huge mess of people getting pissed at one another. It's uncomfortable because it is so true, basically. I tip my metaphorical hat to Loser City for creating something this effective.

Friday, July 7, 2017

Beautifully Disgusting AKA "The Thing Artbook," Review

Masterpiece of a Movie
I previously talked about the masterpiece of a movie, "The Thing," all the way back in early 2011 and had the nerve to only give it 4 out of 5 stars because apparently the me from 2011 is a dumbass who doesn't recognize one of the greatest sci-fi and horror films of all time deserves top marks. "The Thing," truly is a marvelous movie, with its mixture of tight plotting, minimalist score, and amazing imagery. The titular alien with the ability to mimic/become anyone is as clever as it is terrifying, and  the gross ways the practical effects gave us bloody and sinewy messes has stuck with viewers to this day. Much of the reason we all remember, "The Thing" is because of how beautifully disgusting it was. Therefore, an artbook titled--what else?--"The Thing Artbook," full of pieces inspired by the movie as we celebrate its 35th anniversary sounds like a smashing idea!

The Most Twisted Yet Beautiful Images
"The Thing Artbook," is published by, "Printed in Blood," who are a company dedicated to creating artwork inspired by an assortment of horror movies. They truly have some amazing poster-prints so a big book full of artwork inspired by, "The Thing," would most likely impress any reader who holds a fondness for the movie, right? The answer to that question is, "Yes!" with this being a book full of stupendous visuals. Whether it is my favorite earlier section of faux movie-posters, pieces sporting humorous comic-book-esque drawings, violent images of the alien itself, or showing fantastic interpretations of assorted scenes from the movie, "The Thing Artbook," has some of the most twisted yet wondrous images related to this flick that I've ever seen.

Fresh and New Again

Whatever it is about, "The Thing," that grabs us and makes us love it is expertly captured within this tome. These images draw back out of us those same feelings of foreboding, abject terror, excitement, and even the bits of humor we had watching the movie for the first time. Looking-through this book and being reminded of all those amazing moments from, "The Thing," through a different metaphorical, "Lens," via the unique artwork makes it all just seem fresh and new again. It really is magical stuff.

The Perfect Tribute
Considering how we all remember the visceral imagery of, "The Thing," a book dedicated to visuals is the perfect tribute. The foreward by filmmaker Eli Roth discusses just how influential, "The Thing," has been and the afterword by none other than Director John Carpenter himself where he expresses delight at what has been created simply help to drive home the point that, "The Thing," is a seminal movie, and clearly something that has inspired many of our imaginations. "Pritned in Blood," have produced a majestic publication in the form of, "The Thing Artbook," and I thank them for it. "The Thing Artbook," will be for sale later this July and you can pre-order it now here.
5 out of 5 stars.

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Advance-Release Review: Sink #1

"Sink," finished making clear it was a stellar comic at the end of its first issue when we met the most terrifying clowns I've seen in a comic-book in some time.Clowns, fucking clowns. I don't even have a phobia about them but can admit that I understand why they freak some people out. Even before we're introduced to a posse of violent clowns in a blue van that actually come from a real-life scare in the 1990's that writer of the comic, John Lees remembers well, plenty of other creepy events occur.

"Sink," is a comic series focused on, "A forgotten East End district of a warped funhouse mirror vision of Glasgow, Scotland," known as Sinkhill. You may wonder if it is a pleasant place? Well, "Sinkhill is a hive of crooks, deviants and killers, and ordinary folk unfortunate enough to live among them." Each issue will be its own standalone tale in the region and the first issue introduces us to a variety of folk whom I imagine will pop-up again as the story proceeds. This first issue focuses on a young man named Allan who finds himself stuck walking home late at night/super-early in the morning after missing-out on a variety of transportation opportunities and not thinking to charge his phone enough to keep it from dying. As he proceeds on his jaunt he runs-up against a serial-killer bus-driver whom he doesn't even realize he's narrowly escaped, faces deranged mobsters who wear condoms as headgear (its a part of  a gang initiation), and meets a man who wears a huge fox mask and wields a deadly shovel appropriately named, "Mr. Dig." Oh, and those damn clowns.
As I mentioned, John Lees' writing gives us quite a scary tale, but what really makes things eerie would be Alex Cormack's moody and dreary artwork that gives Sinkhill an incredibly depressing and uncomfortable vibe. The hideous and misshapen people compliment the atmosphere perfectly, with Allan and his friends looking perfectly normal but as the night proceeds and Allan meets an assortment of twisted figures, the designs morph from regular humans to disgusting and gross beings that look more monstrous than real...which is kind of a given for clowns, but yeah.

In the back-matter for, "Sink," Lees touches upon how he wants his comic to exist on that line between a crime-comic and horror-comic. There are scary and nearly-supernatural elements but also there is an emphasis on the horrific nature of crime. The gang-members chasing Allan down for little more than shits and giggles may look terrifying, but are all-too-human (as Mr. Dig and his shovel prove). There is discussion of class and how Allan may think he's some kind of everyman but clearly is ill-prepared for the kind of rough life faced by these Glasgow residents he claims to relate to. Obviously, nobody deserves to face danger simply walking through a, "Bad part," of the city. It is just as true however that not using your brain and putting yourself at risk because you think you, "Know this area," when you just ride past it on a bus daily to get to your higher-class establishments is a prime example of class-privilege. As Mr. Dig tells Allan upon saving him, "You act like you know Glasgow because you bus in on weekends? We live here. Maybe the only thing making these animals any different from you is they don't have a nice house in the suburbs."
The first issue of, "Sink," is scary, bloody, and has some smart social messages mixed into all the horror and violence. I loved it and can't wait to see what other residents of Sinkhill we can look forward to seeing in future issues. The debut issue of, "Sink," is currently in the July 2017 issue of, "Previews," magazine and you can tell your comic shop to order you a copy for its upcoming September release. I would encourage you to do so.
5 out of 5 stars.

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Happy July 4th!

Clarkson and I (as well as my wife Samii) want to wish everyone a happy and safe July 4th! I took this picture via the, "Snapchat," all the kids love. Clarkson was mad when I told him he couldn't drink any beer even if we were celebrating his first-ever July 4th.

Monday, July 3, 2017

Tales from the Dollar Bin: The Unfunnies #1 & #2

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 One Thing Mark Millar is Embarrassed He Made
Mark Millar has written many comics that have made him a lot of money thanks to big sales, movie adaptations, and the like. He has released books in the past which overlook all his work and he seems to be proud of every single thing he's written, regardless of if it was good or horrible. He's just as pleased with the clever, "The Ultimates," as he is with trash like, "Nemesis," which featured a super-villain booby-trapping a woman's uterus so that she couldn't get an abortion--you see the fetus was from her brother's sperm she had been impregnated with when knocked-out against her will. Yeah. That said, there is one book Millar seems to refuse to acknowledge he ever made. What could be so twisted, so heinous, so terrible that even Mark Millar doesn't want to own-up to it? "The Unfunnies," of course!

"The Unfunnies," was published by Avatar Press from 2004-2007, but don't let all those years fool you, it was simply a four-issue series that was plagued with delays due to Millar taking his time turning in scripts. As with many things written by him there is actually a really good idea buried within but his practice of trying to build a story around it can struggle a lot. Basically we have a happy-go-lucky cartoon world of cute comic adventures where the characters talk to the reader about the assorted adorable shenanigans they get up to. The thing is though, something seems to have begun corrupting this world in a disgusting fashion. Characters are getting foul mouths, violence and sex-crimes suddenly are happening everywhere, and nobody knows what the deal is. Plus, while all this happens the adorable cartoon imagery by illustrator Anthony Williams gives it all a weird happy-go-lucky vibe whilst characters discuss murdering their children or a housewife whose husband has gone to jail for child molestation turns to sex-work so that she and her kids aren't kicked-out of their housing. Oh, and this whole comic with all its despicable elements is played for laughs.
Clearly, this four issue series of which I was able to buy two issues from the dollar bin is incredibly weird with its mixture of the horrible and humorous. The idea of an outside influence from reality manifesting within a comic-book world is a concept we've seen mined before (Grant Morrison is famous for doing it with, "Animal Man,") but this book raises the query of what would happen if something dark and evil came into an otherwise pleasant comic-world. It's revealed early-on how a dead man named simply, "Troy," was summoned into this place through some help from the gullible residents and Troy was a murderer, rapist, and otherwise not someone you want in a Universe where the worst crimes were generally snatching pies from windowsills. It's a clever concept--pure evil invading a world of pure good, but then as I already said Millar is great with the ideas and not so much with the execution.

"The Unfunnies," reads pretty haphazardly. It clearly is trying to be a book that offends and grosses-out readers but in doing so ends-up being not so much offensive as tacky. There is a difference between shocking and just making us shake our head when you're nasty. If you just do disgusting stuff to be able to say, "Look how horrible I am, aren't you mad?" without actually wanting to make a statement it comes off as hollow. Millar isn't making an especially pointed statement when he has his cartoon characters talk about child pornography or yell insults at one another, he's just being dirty in the hopes we'll clutch our pearls and say, "Why I never!" The problem is that when Lenny Bruce swore and told raunchy jokes he was doing it to prove a point and fighting against people telling him to be quiet, Millar doesn't have anyone trying to stop him or have anything to say besides, "I'm being naughty!" It's a shame, because as I said, there are some smart ideas buried in his attempts to enrage people with cute animals spouting scatological insults.
Mark Millar to this day seems to refuse to acknowledge he ever made, "The Unfunnies." He doesn't list it on his websites as something he did whilst having anything else he's ever written shown with gusto. To my knowledge he didn't do any other work with Anthony Williams and there could be a variety of reasons for that--however, as I understand it this book got horribly delayed due to Williams having to wait forever to receive scripts, so perhaps a better way of putting this is Williams never worked with Millar again, possibly for personal reasons (and it seems Williams doesn't list having ever done the book either on his bio). Why both creators refuse to discuss this comic is open to interpretation. Are they embarrassed by the content--e.g. Millar actually thinks there was one time he went too far? Did a bad working relationship make them want to forget ever doing the book? Is it something else? I don't know, and we may never know, but at least in looking at the first two issues of this series we got another...tale from the dollar bin!