Tuesday, June 19, 2018

I'm Astounded, "Doomsday Clock," Has Been Good

"Doomsday Clock," as a title published by DC Comics sounded like such a loaded proposition. A sequel to, "Watchmen," of sorts that links it and the, "Regular," DC Universe could be an utter travesty, after all. There is the fact that Alan Moore has been against all the things DC has done with the, "Watchmen," property, rightly feeling what should have become a creator-owned property was ripped-out from under him once it had success. Also, "Watchmen," is in most ways a masterpiece--albeit an admittedly flawed one with a slightly weak ending and some boneheaded ideas about sexual violence. That said, I was moderately impressed with the first issue of, "Doomsday Clock," as I saw some potential there with the story appearing to be done the one way I think it could work, and that trend has continued.

This comic would suck if it just had been an example of, "Wouldn't it be cool if Rorschach and Batman fought while Doctor Manhattan and Superman fought?" However, if you get kind of meta and point-out how, "Watchmen," as a comic very much so changed all other comics with its existence things get interesting--an idea clearly being explored with its repeatedly discussed how DC's normal world strikes the characters of, "Watchmen," as a hilariously basic Good versus Evil, black-and-white, when these characters think of themselves as existing in shades of gray. The idea that Doctor Manhattan is hiding somewhere in the DCU as it fits his hopes for a simpler world is both incredibly self-aware of DC to print discussion of and almost a little self-deprecating in a way--I appreciate them not protesting writer Geoff Johns doing this. Using, "Doomsday Clock," to create a commentary on comics themselves--much as, "Watchmen," did back in the 80's allows the book to actually kid of, "Work," and not just seem like a big indulgence in fan-service for the sake of a cash-grab (like how, "Before Watchmen," was atrocious and thankfully is basically not in the continuity of all this).
Ozymandias mocks Batman and, "Pulp heroes."
"Doomsday Clock," is still an affront to the wishes of Alan Moore, but it is doing things the one way it could to kind of get away with being as tasteless as it is clever. Plus, artist Gary Frank is a genius and makes everything look amazing regardless of if it is characters simply talking or a page utilizing the familiar nine-panel grid of, "Watchmen," to illustrate Batman being beat-up and battered by an angry crowd. The book is by no means perfect, with an element about how most superheroes are American and it might be a conspiracy being a subplot that is simmering away but not yet at a boil, and a new wrinkle of Black Adam popping-up talking about a super-powered country unclear in what role it will play in the comic. Also, yet another side-element of the JSA from the past/another timeline and Saturn Girl from yet another timeline/possible future is making things extra dense as, "Doomsday Clock," threatens to buckle under the numerous stories all occurring at once. Oh, and I didn't even mention the weird duo of costumed criminals (Marionette and Mime) retroactively created as existing within the, "Watchmen World," and who are just kind of sauntering around looking for the Joker for...reasons?

As of now the plots seem to be very carefully balancing themselves out but I worry things will collapse into a confusing mess. The fact issue #4 was focused mainly upon one character (Rorschach and who this seemingly new version of the hero is) made things nice and simple compared to the sheer volume of stuff occurring before it and in the most recent issue #5. We are about at the halfway-point of this 12-issue maxi-series however and things are working well so far, so I'm optimistic. My hope is that "Doomsday Clock," will keep chugging along nicely despite it already suffering a number of annoying delays that kind of hurt its momentum. Again though, the biggest takeaway here is how astounding it is that, "Doomsday Clock," has been good. Here's hoping once it is finished and collected in a nice big trade paperback it all still holds together nicely.

Monday, June 18, 2018

Jurassic World: Evolution--Impressions Some Hours In

I love Dinosaurs, I am a fan of (most) of the, "Jurassic Park/World," films, and I have an affinity for video-games when I'm able to play them. Therefore, back a number of years ago I had a lot of fun playing a game titled, "Jurassic Park: Operation Genesis," on my Xbox. That game now is old and actually kind of rare, but I had hours of entertainment building my own Jurassic Park full of dinosaurs big and small back in the past. Hence, when it was announced some months ago we would be getting, "Jurassic World: Evolution," and be able to design our own Dino-filled parks again in this era of extra-fancy consoles and computers I got excited.

As much as I enjoyed, "Operation Genesis," the graphics could be lacking and the dinosaurs looked awfully basic. As long as this new game managed to be a solid park-building sim and remembered the main reason we're all here--dinosaurs--it should be fun, right? Well, having played a good deal of hours of, "Evolution," I can say from what I've seen so far it is a really exciting game only occasionally bogged-down by annoying and somewhat unneeded micro-management.
"Jurassic World: Evolution," tasks you with going to various islands with unique aspects (bad storms, losing money) and making a profitable, safe-ish, and enjoyable place for guests. You start out on one island, can leap between unlocked ones at any time to put advancements gained at one on another, and otherwise get to test out various designs and ideas on separate islands (or a sandbox-style island where you can craft whatever you like that apparently unlocks later-on). You build the fences, breed the Dinosaurs, and place them in environs that appeal to the creatures based on how they feel about trees, grasslands, and other species present. I've made good-sized pens full of social herbivores, smaller areas with grass-eaters less eager to be crowded, and crafted some electrified zones to hold the more dangerous and carnivorous creatures such as medium-sized meat-eaters and the small but deadly Velociraptor.

To keep guests further sated I've built gift shops, fast food buildings, t-shirt stores, and of course deluxe hotels to encourage greater park attendance. Plus, putting down some emergency shelters in case of a Dino-escape happens helps put people at ease too. The guests actually aren't really a focus in the game, however. You can't click on them or anything, they are just various clumps of people who you look at genralized stats about to know where to place some shopping. Guests are just a means to an end in this game, honestly, and that end is more and more incredible Dinosaurs.
The game doesn't tell you much about guests or bother to even render them that differently, but Dinosaurs are a polar opposite. Every Dino looks so lovingly crafted in its appearance it is positively striking. The detailed stats about how each specific one is feeling lets you know everything about what they like and don't like. It is breathtaking to zoom-in or drive the ranger jeep around and just gawk at these beings. They are simply polygons on a television screen/computer monitor but the most important thing, "Jurassic World: Evolution," needed to do right in order to succeed is what it excels at--making these Dinosaurs feel utterly real and breathtaking. The awe I feel watching a herd wander around by a pond and socialize with one another is wonderful, and something I keep coming back to when the when less-pleasurable aspects of the game rear their head.

When, "Jurassic World: Evolution," gets caught-up in duller details it makes me testy. For example: the park needs to be powered, which requires constantly laying down power lines, substations, and keeping your power stations going. It becomes an annoying mini-game of figuring out where you can place lines and such to keep things functioning. Once everything is working you then have to send expeditions out for fossils, examine those fossils in the lab to unlock dinosaurs, and otherwise click around a lot of screens just to be able to breed a damn Dinosaur. Then, you can tweak Dinos genes in interesting ways, but if you want to do that you need to research everything--another screen--and you maybe are too busy to research gene modifications because you're trying to develop the ability to treat some new disease making all your creatures sick, but you lack a medication, and once you finally have a cure you have to click each Dinosaur one at a time for your rangers to shoot treatment darts at--unless you upgrade your ranger station to allow more items on their, "to-do list." But wait, that requires extra power, which brings us all the back to that pain in the ass power station we need to keep functional! All I wanted to do was enjoy hatching some new Dinosaurs, but sometimes the game clearly gets in its own way in regards to it best feature.
The annoying barrage of screens you have to muck-around with in order to simply grow some Dinosaurs is a big pain, and little things that would make it easier aren't present that should be--perhaps your rangers could automatically re-stock Dinosaur-feeders instead of you always having to order them to do it or driving the jeep yourself? Still, once you finish the busy-work and get to just marvel at your creations as they frolic much of the irritation melts away...at last until your raptors escape for the second time in 15 minutes and your stupid helicopter-team keeps missing in their attempts to tranquilize them whilst guests panic.

During the time I've spent playing, "Jurassic World: Evolution," on my PlayStation 4 I've unlocked various islands, bred exotic dinosaurs, and tried to come up with the perfect way to connect a monorail track, to name a few activities. I have had a great deal of fun without a doubt. I also have at times felt like I was doing tedious busy-work or been perturbed at design decisions that make things unnecessarily complicated and which could otherwise be pretty simple. That said, "Jurassic World: Evolution," is a gorgeous game full of exciting moments that only are occasionally tempered bydull bits here-and-there. A few flaws don't ruin an otherwise delightful time, and I'd recommend trying this game out for sure!
4.5 out of 5 stars.

Sunday, June 17, 2018

Happy Father's Day!

Clarkson taking a nap today.
Happy Father's Day! This is my second year as a Daddy to Clarkson and it continues to be a fantastic adventure. I hope everyone has a delightful time today!

Friday, June 15, 2018

Flashback Friday: The Alternatively Brilliant and Bizarre, "Secret Girlfriend," T.V. Show

I thought about doing this as a, "Television Tuesday," post but it so old, "Flashback Friday," makes more sense. Okay, so there was a television show that had a short six-episode first season on Comedy Central and then disappeared from the memories of basically everyone but myself and maybe a handful of other folk. It aired from October of 2009 to November of 2009, so short-lived is an understatement. It was both brilliant and quirky at times when not being completely and utterly terrible. It was disgustingly sexist yet almost self-aware enough when it was being that way as to make you think it had a clever message...it probably didn't though. It was "Secret Girlfriend," and its whole saga is downright weird.

Apparently, "Secret Girlfriend," was at first a series of comedic web-shorts on the now long-defunct, "Atomic Wedgie," website. You see, kids, back before YouTube there were various websites that would have their staff post random cartoon shorts or live-action stuff. You had to actually buy bandwidth and junk if you wanted a video online, you couldn't just use YouTube for free in hopes of becoming internet-famous. These, "Secret Girlfriend," web-shorts featured the viewer as the main-character in a point-of-view fashion where women flirted with you and acted in various silly ways whilst getting disrobed to an appropriately PG-13 degree. Anyways, the web-bits were popular enough that Comedy Central paid a little bit of money for a show to be made titled--you guessed it--"Secret Girlfriend."
A screen-shot of the internet shorts that got a series order (with a new cast).
As the opening credits of every episode of, "Secret Girlfriend," tell you, the main character of the show is you, the viewer. Well, kinda. Basically, you're apparently this super-sexy, funny, smart, charming guy who women stare at lustfully. Also, you leer at women constantly, looking at their asses, breasts, and if they notice you doing so they just smile. It's a textbook example of the male gaze because you literally are nothing more than a male gazing, according to the concept of the show. You have an ex-girlfriend named Mandy (Alexis Krause) who is so over-the-top viewers are supposed to hate her, but she actually kind of has a point about your character being awful considering how much, "You," cheat on her--you're supposedly broken-up but always have sex with her when the chance arises. There is also a girl named Jessica (Sara Fletcher) you meet in the first episode and who is probably the only female character ever developed to be more than one-dimensional. She's funny, clever, and logical. Lastly, there are your two best friends, Sam (Michael Blaiklock) and Phil (Derek Miller). The majority of what I like in the show is thanks to them.

"You," never speak during, "Secret Girlfriend." Your face or hands are never even visible but sometimes a phone will pop-up to indicate you're texting. The show will do quick little cuts where if someone asks you question it then jumps to a few moments later when that person reacts to what you said. Basically, you're silent but assured by the show that you're hilarious, sexy, and desirable to many, many women. Every episode has some kind of PG-13 sex-scene where there is suggestive moaning and close-ups on a woman's face as she looks ecstatic. It is tacky and dumb. Yet, then we have Phil and Sam, and goddamn if they aren't hilarious. Apparently some of the writers behind this show went on to work at other programs I've loved such as, "It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia," or, "Arrested Development," and the hi-jinks we witness, "You," Sam, and Phil get up to reflect some of that in the quirky humor.
In one episode the guys come-up with an idea to make a web video promoting a strip club's incredibly tasty buffet. Sam poses as a big baby with green-screen over his mouth so they can make him talk. It is pointed out he can actually talk repeatedly to humorous effect. In another episode Sam and Phil adopt a dog they name, "Chill," as it is incredibly lazy. They push it around on pallet or in a shopping cart. He dies suddenly a few days after being adopted and we get a touching montage of the limited footage they made with him and a picture of the empty pallet with text honoring how Chill lived with the guys, "Wednesday-Friday." Oh, and there is when Phil realizes his phone number is similar to a crisis hotline and uses that fact to hook-up with women and even make a commercial about it...until he gets in trouble, at which point he makes another commercial about how he is sorry and needs a kind woman to help better him (and of course sleep with him). Not all of the jokes involve Sam and Phil, but many of the best ones do (although I did love when Mandy meets Jessica and a lie is concocted to claim she is your cousin...which results in Mandy oddly getting more jealous before singing a song about the dangers of incest at an open-mic night). Sam and Phil are not good people, they are pretty awful much like the characters on, "Sunny." They're funny though.

Also, one interestingly wrinkle to things is how it is strongly implied that Sam and Phil are not merely platonic but might in fact be together. They always talk about finding women, yet in one episode Phil mentions having dated men, and in another when mourning the death of their dog Sam and Phil hug closely and almost kiss. They make jokes about how masturbation is, "Gay," because you're touching another man's penis, but even if it is gay they don't mind for...reasons. The concept of Sam and Phil possibly being bisexual is plainly there, but never played for laughs so much as just an idea that's more then hinted at, but not completely present. It's weirdly progressive for a show that treats women mostly as sexual objects--except for some lesbian characters who are understood to not be into men, but are still fun to watch kiss, as Sam and Phil declare.
"You," finally hook-up with your dream girl...
and then immediately want to bail.
One saving grace for all the sexism becomes apparently in the final and sixth episode where it is actually hinted that maybe--just maybe--your character is the bad guy. You see, at the end of episode five Jessica has broken-up with an on-again-off-again boyfriend and is ready to be with you. This results in you finally having had sex with her during episode six and things seeming actually pretty swell. She is an awesome person after-all, as the show has made apparent. The thing is, you still keep leering at other women, and Sam and Phil talk about how you've never been the kind to be tied-down. Then in the final moments of the episode Jessica and Mandy get into a brawl that results in them falling into a pool as they fight, and a neighbor of yours who we have seen at times during the season notices you at the party and asks if you want to leave with her...then the show cuts to black.

Based on the past actions, "You," have taken all season this episode puts a lot in perspective. I mean, Mandy maybe was kinda crazy but you were always still leading her on with sex whilst hooking up with other women. Jessica is the girl you've supposedly longed after for quite a bit of time, but once she's actually with you it is easy to throw it all away. Is it possible that, "Secret Girlfriend," has maybe, just maybe been quietly and expertly laying the groundwork to help viewers conclude in the end how all along it turns out, "You," aren't as awesome, desirable, and stellar as you've been led to believe? Maybe you're actually just a jerk who uses women and then ditches them? Is the final twist that this show loaded with crass jokes, sexist imagery, and which as I said is basically the male gaze distilled into its purest form turns out to be weirdly self-aware and making a cynical and dark comment, as the bits with Phil and Sam hinted at? I guess its possible, or maybe the show really was just kind of like a raunchy beer ad from the 2000's stretched-out into a half-hour with the occasional brilliant joke mixed-in with offensive misogyny. Six of one, half a dozen of the other, I guess.
The unnamed neighbor-girl that, "You," possibly leave with,
ditching two women who care a lot about your jerk-character.
"Secret Girlfriend," probably was destined to only last one short season. It was just too weird for many people and the gimmick of, "You," being the main character would have worn thin the longer they kept it going. The actors involved in the show went on to do other things and probably rarely even think about this show. Oh, although we do see Tiffany Haddish too, who has a tiny bit-role from long before she became famous in the first episode as a drunk co-worker of Jessica who hits on you. The series can be bought and downloaded on iTunes or via Amazon's digital options and if you want to witness something phenomenally weird I'd encourage you to check it out.

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

A Lot of Folk are Suddenly Leaving DC

I made this meme, I'm proud.
Seriously, no other Kermit-drinking-tea-memes exist.
DC Comics has had its quite successful, "Rebirth," occur, that's a good thing. There have been little hints here and there however that some things were amiss or going to be changing. There has been much going on at DC with lines seeming to end (Young Animal), coming back (Vertigo), plus new lines (Black Label), as well as talk of needing to figure out what to do with the film division and the importance keeping the many television shows profitable--and always, when things change people jockey for power.  Well, after what was supposedly a temporary leave of absence that started in March, DC's Entertainment President Diane Nelson made it official she wasn't coming back. Then Geoff Johns stepped-down as COO but in the process gets to make his own company (Mad Ghost Productions) which will be involved in the creation of a DC movie about the Green Lantern Corps and this new role will keep him involved in DC T.V. productions as well as getting his own DC imprint (yes, another new one), "The Killing Zone." Whether Johns was forced out and this is a, "Golden Parachute," of sorts or he wanted to strike-out on his own but still have heavy involvement with DC is a question nobody is gonna answer honestly.

We had those two big exits happen from DC (well, a half-exit for Johns) and then Ethan Van Sciver made it apparent he was departing DC for the sole reason to focus on creator-owned work, and absolutely no other reason--like how he's made many people angry through his association with terrible people such as the idiots of Comicsgate who basically exist because they dislike women and diversity in comic-books. Yeah, methinks DC told him he could either leave or be let-go, and he chose the route that looked better for him. Oh, and on top of all this going on it seems the Batman movie that's been in development Hell for what feels forever won't even have Ben Affleck involved as Bruce Wayne/Batman anymore. Keep in mind this was going to be a movie he directed and starred in, then wasn't going to direct but at least be in, and now who the Hell knows what is going on besides hopefully at least Director Matt Reeves (who my heart goes out to for being what is essentially the captain of a movie that's the metaphorical equivalent of a sinking ship)?
I mean, Ben Affleck actually did a solid job with some miserable material in these movies.
Everyone at DC in an executive or creative position continue to assure everyone things are fine and these changes are for the better. It strikes me as purse chaos, but maybe things will in fact work out for the best? After all, the film division (other than the, "Wonder Woman," flicks) is a huge mess, certain aspects of the comic-line are shaky and need extra loving focus. Hopefully all of the changes happening at DC are carefully planned, being executed precisely, and this isn't just one big clusterfuck where we get a calm and optimistic veneer being shown to outside world that's hiding a core which is literally rotting-away as it sheds a bunch of employees. I mean, if we at least get a good Aquaman movie from all the crazy stuff going on that's worth it, right?

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Real Deal Comix is as Nasty and Violent as it is Funny and Clever

From 1990 to present there has been an underground comic published off-and-on titled, "Real Deal Comix." Created by Lawrence Hubbard (AKA, "Rawdog,") and H.P. McElwee (AKA R.D. Bone) they both took the money they had from their jobs to put-out a periodical absurdly over-the-top and full of what they described as, "Urban Terror." McElwee Sadly passed away at the age of 43 due to a stroke followed by a heart attack in the 1990's but Hubbard has continued the comic with a variety of contributors too. Just what is, "Real Deal Comix," and what is, "Urban Terror," at that?

In the first issue Hubbard and McElwee said, "Urban Terror," was in essence a reflection of the complexities and difficulties of inter-city life boiled down to pure wild violence. Everyday events such as getting some fast food or relaxing over drinks at a bar suddenly erupt into a, "Massacre," of everyone punching, stabbing, and shooting. The comic often will focus on the character of, "G.C.," a large and anger-prone pimp who will just as quickly give a friend a hug as curb-stomp a homeless person who irritates him. Earlier issues also had a twisted version of The "A" Team called instead, The "R" Team who operate like a uber-violent and twisted version of that popular crew. 
I was able to read the first seven issues by purchasing a big Fantagraphics hardcover reprinting them and picked-up the most recent release of issue #8--now published by Fantagraphics as opposed to its underground days. They hit you right in face with the brutality expressed by these characters with caricature-ish faces yet realistic bodies (something Hubbard said he focuses on doing in his drawing in an interview I read within the hardcover). The vignettes we witness drawn by Hubbard (and initially written by McElwee) are full of foul language, anger, and everyone within the stories tends to be just an awful human. It is all done with a bit of a wink however and some super-dark humor. 

For an example of some immensely, "Wrong," humor, one of my favorite bits is when at the end of G.C. and a friend totally wrecking a, "Slop-burger," with their fighting they throw someone's dead body upon a car. A man declares how that was his his new vehicle and is asked what he thinks he's going to do about it. We get a spread of the burning Slop-burger and him simply responding, "Not a Goddamn thing," knowing any cross word could easily get him killed.
"Real Deal Comix," is not a pleasant or easy read. It is full of horrific slurs, extreme violence, and is just incredibly nasty. It is doing this to illustrate a clever self-aware point however about how for all the ways we try to act polite and civilized we as a society often are on a razor's edge of it all falling apart and everyone just fighting and killing each other--think Thomas Hobbes', "Leviathan," and his statements about life being, "Nasty, brutish, and short," if not for humankind agreeing to try and be orderly instead of living in anarchic chaos. Well, in "Real Deal Comix," anarchic chaos is the deal of the day and for many people life is a nasty and brutish as it can get, and very short.

These sociopolitical ideas actually are further touched upon in the newest issue #8 where G.C. meets a mysterious individual who informs G.C. he's been working to get rich off of the violence and mayhem caused by our protagonist and laughing all the way to the bank whilst the minority and impoverished individuals suffer. As is evident, beneath the over-the-top violence and mayhem lie some very insightful ideas within, "Real Deal Comix."
Hubbard and the sadly-departed McElwee created something supremely weird and fascinating with, "Real Deal Comix," and Hubbard continues to keep things entertaining as he does the book with various collaborators. The, "Real Deal Comix," comic-books are not laid-back breezy reads, they are nasty and rough. They still are very clever and quite funny too though and worth checking-out if you're into comic-books with a bit more of a edge.
5 out of 5 stars.
You can buy the, "Real Deal Comix," hardcover as well as issue #8 at Fantagraphic's website and all finer comic shops.

Monday, June 11, 2018

I Found an Actual Chick Tract in the Oddest Place

My wife, son, and I drove to Upstate New York to visit my folks recently. On the long drive back to Saint Louis we were at a big gas station/truck stop in Illinois and Clarkson needed a fresh diaper. I went to open the changer and lodged within where fresh paper liners are supposed to be stored (almost no place actually stocks it) was a bona fide Chick Tract, put there by someone who I guess wanted to spread their idea of the gospel.

A, "Chick Tract," is the slang term for comics created by Jack T. Chick, who passed away some time ago, but while alive made very many mini-comics that espoused far-right evangelical takes on Christianity. He made comics discussing the dangers of Dungeons and Dragons, homosexuality, rock music, Catholicism, Evolution, and basically anything that he judged sinful and would keep people from getting to hang-out in Heaven with Jesus when they died. Since Chick's death the company behind the tracts (Chick Publications) has had other authors make strips, but the one I found, "Fatal Decision" is a, "Classic," by Chick himself. It features a guy named John who is bitten by an animal, refuses treatment from the doctor, and dies. The idea is we refuse, "treatment," from Jesus or something. It's a metaphor, kinda?
I'm just amazed that I found a Chick Tract lodged in a diaper-changer in the middle of a truck-stop in Illinois. It was the most random thing to stumble upon for sure. I guess I'll take one aspect of the comic to heart, and if I'm ever bit by a mysterious creature and the doctor has a cure for me I won't refuse it.

Sunday, June 10, 2018

My Quick Thought on Gamestop Testing-Out Selling Comics

Background Information
Gamestop as a video-game retailer is dying a painfully slow death, with much of the wounds self-inflicted through their obsessive desire to shove pre-orders down customer's throats as well as relentlessly promoting pre-owned games when all someone might want is a game that just came out instead of solving a mental puzzle. Because Gamestop has had so much trouble with being a decent seller of games they now sell a lot of other stuff in stores, "Geek"-related toys, decor, and of course Funko Pops. Apparently in an attempt to stop hemorrhaging money Gamestop will be testing-out selling comic-books. If people will be able to have pull-lists, what titles exactly will be available, and all of that seem to be unclear. This background information all leads to my quick thought...

My Quick Thought on Gamestop Trying to Sell Comics
If we all hate how terrible Gamestop is at what should be the relatively simple business of selling video-games do we really expect them to have much success at the complex business of comic-books? Skilled comic retailers know what new books to recommend to potential buyers weekly, observe what sells versus what doesn't to adjust orders, watch market-trends, find out what local customers want, or basically do anything besides the crappy job Gamestop does of harassing you every single time you buy anything to get some kind of expensive rewards program, or pointless insurance on your game disc, and so forth. This could go well, but I'm thinking it mostly won't. The headline from the Outhousers, "Gamestop To Bolster Falling Game Sales With Comics Sales," is snarky as Hell, but also quite apt.

Friday, June 8, 2018

DC's Vertigo Line Rises From the (Sort-of) Dead

DC has long struggled about what to do with its Vertigo line. What was once a home to some of the biggest comics has for a good deal of time chugged along with barely anything of note coming out besides the occasional revisit to Neil Gaiman's mythos of, "Sandman," or such. Well, Vertigo just announced what is in essence a relaunch featuring a focus on a wide variety of creators in the hopes a wide-ranging line of titles will appeal to potential new readers with Mark Doyle (someone who got their start in comics with Vertigo) overseeing this new iteration. The press-release has buzz-words such as, "Returning to our roots," and, "New stories, new voices, new possibilities," but corporate-speak aside, the seven books that have been announced as spearheading this era of Vertigo do at least sound like the kind of quirky and unique reads it was once known for. 

The books include a tale of a superhero meeting Jesus in, "Second Coming," a funny-sounding sci-fi thriller about the regulation of pleasure titled, "Safe Sex," or a clever fantasy-political yarn where the damage of mystical monsters is blamed on, "Illegals," in, "Border State," these titles sound funny and interesting. It isn't all humorous stuff however, with the story of a biracial FBI agent passing as caucasian in a white supremacist group within, "American Carnage," sounding appropriately intense. There's also futuristic-sounding stuff like, "Goddess Mode," with its super-powered artificial intelligence and the woman who does tech support on it as well as, "High Level," set in the future after the world ended and rebuilt itself in odd ways. Oh, and a comic about witches brainwashed to become subservient housewives who of course are going to get some revenge, which sounds hilarious. 
Pretty much all of the seven announced comics in Veritgo's rise-from-the-grave sound interesting and I would hope they are all good reads. We will see this latest attempt to reinvigorate DC's original mature-readers line will succeed or wither on the vine. Whatever happens, at least we'll get that really striking cover for, "Safe Sex," you can see above that just looks like a cool and edgy piece of art.

Thursday, June 7, 2018

I Loved Visiting, "Heroes and Villains," in Cortland, NY!

I of course lived in Cortland, New York, from the Summer of 2003 to about August of 2011 when I moved to the Saint Louis region. I was actually living in Cortland when I began the blog and at the start of this Summer we have had the chance to take Clarkson to Cortland for his first-ever visit to where my parents (his grandparents) and my sister (his aunt) live. He's been enjoying crawling around my folk's house and witnessed the big Cortland Dairy Parade as well. While we've been here in Cortland I had the chance to visit the local comic shop, "Heroes and Villains," which was stellar fun!

I loved stopping by, "Heroes and Villains," as they had just opened when we last were in town and now have been in Cortland for a few years, which has resulted in them growing to have a nice selection of trade paperbacks/hardcovers, back-issues, and of course the latest releases. Whenever I visit a comic shop I am always impressed when they don't just carry the, "Big," titles but have a good assortment of smaller publishers too. "Heroes and Villains," of course had DC and Marvel titles, but also had a stellar selection of stuff from entities such as popular publishers IDW, Dynamite, and Image plus smaller but awesome companies including Alterna, Lion Forge, and local creators self-published books too!
I had a wonderful time chatting with one of the owners about our feelings regarding the latest comic-book movies as well as the surprising fan backlash against, "Star Wars," that seems to have occurred lately. She was extremely helpful in assisting me in locating some titles I was after and I was super-pumped to buy a bundle-set the store had made of some old Moon Knight comics--which as anyone who reads this blog knows, I love me some Moon Knight.

I also picked-up an assortment of back-issues including an old, "Cable," mini-series, and some manga-styled work from local creator, "Noel Comix." There was plenty of other pop-culture goodies as well including action figures, general fun fiction books, and of course my beloved Funko Pops. Plus, there was space for tabletop gaming and other fun events.
"Heroes and Villains," is a stellar local comic shop and my only complaint is that they didn't exist when I lived in town! That's alright though, as their being here now gives me a fun store to look forward to visiting anytime Samii, Clarkson, and I make the trek to upstate NY. I encourage you to check out their website here as well as their Facebook page found at this link. Anytime you're in or near Cortland be sure to give them a visit too, between their great selection and awesome employees they've got a delightful store for sure!

Tuesday, June 5, 2018

Brandon Graham is Apparently a Creep and Recently Drove The Final Nail into His Career's Coffin Himself

I really liked Graham's take on, "Prophet."
Now I just feel kinda sick hearing about him.
Popular comic-maker Brandon Graham who actually wrote, drew, and otherwise created a good deal of comic-books I like has turned out to be a huge creep. He apparently habitually harasses women and especially has made numerous trans women feel uncomfortable. He is the kind of person who will feign excitement about a female's work just to get her to sleep with him, and in the case of one person who transitioned to being a woman, had never expressed interest in their work until they had transitioned--then suddenly loved the stuff they created...and made unwelcome advances toward the woman in question.

In response to people bringing accusations against him to light Graham made a, "Diss track," comic that through insulting anyone who has ever criticized him and bragging about how awesome he is managed to fix all of this. I'm kidding, it was basically career suicide and he deleted it off the internet (but as the internet never forgets you can find it saved here if you really want to read the enraged ramblings of someone who's reputation has flown straight into a garbage bin). Did Graham really thinking blaming everyone else for all this was smart?
"No, no, I'm the real victim!"
When people started coming forward with stories about Brandon Graham he could have calmly denied them and pointed-out why these accusations were--as he believes--false. He also could have pulled a Brian Wood and said there was some truth to his sleazy behavior but then claimed he was otherwise a victim. He also could have just straight-up admitted to what people were saying if he wanted to. Instead he denied everything, but in a way where he blamed everyone else whilst simultaneously acting in a manner that basically proves what people are saying about him was true. Then, once that backfired he took the, "Diss-track," cartoon down and replaced it with a strip saying he was feeling ,"Bullied," that you can see above.

Brandon Graham handled all of this in what is arguably the worst way possible and now he's just like the aforementioned Brian Wood--someone whose work I once enjoyed, but now find it hard to like because the creator is too toxic a human (the same thing occurred for me with, "Dilbert," creator Scott Adams but that's because he went off the deep-end in other ways). I feel sad that I can't ever look at Graham's work the same ever again, but I'm even more heartbroken for all of his victims who were at first too scared to speak-out until enough was said to make it clear Graham was a serial-harasser who got away with it for way too long.

Saturday, June 2, 2018

Interesting News about Amazon/Comixology Has Occurred

Comixology, which is owned by Amazon, just recently announced some interesting news. Well, it starts out not sounding especially noteworthy but then as you read more and more it gets progressively intriguing. Basically, Comixology is going to bring back their exclusive, "Originals," comics (nothing shocking yet). Also, these will be creator-owned and even have some existing properties like, "Elephantmen," which concluded a big run at Image recently (getting more interesting). Oh, and with some of these comics there will be original graphics novels, but also folk will be able to, "Binge," ones in regards to individual issues, like with a television show, as in where the concept would be all five issues of a mini-series might go-up for sale at once. This is almost like an original graphic novel but the comic would still be in individual issues for $2.99 (in most cases) so you could buy one, and if you hate the comic stop reading it or if you love it buy more --oh, and if you have Amazon Prime they're totally free (notable parts of this story are increasing). Also, the comics will be available to have printed on demand by Amazon and shipped to your house--now that's quite fascinating.

The, "Free to read digitally for Prime subscribers," and the print-on-demand aspects catch my eye for an assortment of reasons. First-off, these books are creator-owned so there is of course some kind of deal in place with Comixology/Amazon where the creators will get a cut when the comics are bought, and I assume when they are even just read by folk who have Prime. Exactly how much money is paid currently remains a mystery, but this Netflix-style model for comics with the ability to, "Binge," a new series is interesting. We of course have services from publishers like Marvel where you can read a bunch of old comics for a monthly fee, or manga-related digital services, but I can't recall when something brand-new has ever just had all the issues release at once to be read online by folk, as if Amazon were releasing a new season of some big streaming-show.
The print-on-demand aspect has a lot to unpack as well. It bears consideration taht with comics there is the aspect of their supposed value and rarity. A book that has a small first-printing but becomes a huge hit suddenly finds those issues highly sought-after with 2nd, 3rd, or more printings then required. If Amazon can just print a comic on demand it means there isn't a special "value" outside of the cost to get it printed and delivered for a small shipping fee or shipped for free if you're a Prime subscriber (what the cost to print-on-demand will be isn't yet clear outside of one 60-page original graphic novel that will be $4.99 for non-Prime readers digitally and $6.99 to have printed upon demand). I wonder if comic-book stores/retailers will be allowed to order some of these print-on-demand comics to stock upon their shelves or if the idea is to make it exclusive to the consumer (again, it's unclear)?

A lot of the thrill of comic-books for some folk is buying valuable books (both new and old), yet this new model of books just releasing all their issues digitally at once and having print-on-demand throws a big ol' wrench in that classic, "Direct Market," model that the big distributor Diamond has enjoyed a monopoly on for some time now. There is one critical element in how these comics actually need to be good and not horrible trash. Still, "Elephantmen," is a series with quite the long history so anything relating to that will at least be readable, and for the millions of people who already have Amazon Prime this costs them not a single penny to download and read some comics, with the result arguably being if the books can garner even just some positive buzz it'll be easy for anyone with Prime to give them a gander, and if they really want to own a copy also get it printed and mailed to their home.
I see a lot of possibilities with what Amazon is thinking of doing with Comixology, and if anyone has the capital to put towards an idea such as this it is Amazon for sure. I don't know if this will lead to some gigantic market disruption and dramatically change the comic-book industry, fail spectacularly, or land somewhere in-between with reasonable success and simply turn into a great alternative for comic-makers. After all, the fact these creators own the rights to their property is a big draw and an element of a publisher such as Image which  has allowed it to grow into the powerhouse of a company it is today, competing enough with the, "Big Two," of Marvel and DC that's it more like a, "Big Three." I don't know how amazingly well or horribly awful this will go, but I'm eager to find out.