Monday, September 16, 2019

About My Son, Clarkson

I want to tell everyone about someone. My son, Clarkson, is 2 and-a-half years old. He is energetic, loves to laugh, adores foods that are crunchy (apples and almost any kind of chip are arguably his favorites), enjoys kisses as well as tickles, and has autism. His developmental delays started becoming noticeable after he had a follow-up NICU appointment at 1-and-a-half years of age (due to being a preemie he had consistent check-ups until he turned two). Whereas once he had seemed to mostly be on-track developmentally, some regression was noticeable (less babbling, minimal interest in responding to people to the point it was wondered if he might have a hearing problem, and so forth). We started working with a number of organizations that help children with delays such as Parents as Teachers which then also referred us to First Steps (we didn't qualify for First Steps when Clarkson was initially born due to his being too big, but we did qualify after a later First Steps' evaluation confirmed he had some notable delays).

We worked with those programs and saw improvement and development, but Clarkson still seemed to be lagging behind. He was mostly nonverbal outside of, "Mom," "Dad," and, "No." He never wanted to look at people or really interact with them--adults or kids. He was object-driven and not people-driven. At his last NICU follow-up after he turned 2 they said the delays were bigger, and while they could not officially diagnose anything as their specialty was as neonatologists it looked quite likely Clarkson may have a form of autism. That was March of 2019. From that point we started getting more services from First Steps by adding in more behavior therapy in the form of ABA and enrolled Clarkson in half-day daycare three days a week to work on his socialization with other children as the daycare we wanted him to try only took kids two-and-up, which he had just turned. We began the lengthy process of filling-out and submitting paperwork to have Clarkson tested officially for ASD--Autism Spectrum Disorder.
Story-time at Barnes and Noble last weekend!
On July 30th, 2019, we saw a number of specialists, reviewed everything about Clarkson with them, assisted with a variety of tests that Clarkson did in addition to his being observed, and were told that yes, Clarkson has ASD. We were informed he had the most severe level, level 3, due to the delays being at the point where overall developmentally he was at about a 1 year-old's level of development and his speech and language was at the point of an 8 or 9 month old child. The diagnosis was not a surprise, it was expected, but it still was anxiety-inducing and stress-causing as we did not realize just how delayed Clarkson arguably was. I will freely admit to feeling sad, worried, and otherwise upset at knowing my son was not neurotypical. Perhaps I wished he would be as I am someone with my own issues in the form of depression, anxiety, and so forth.

Knowing my son Clarkson had autism put me awash in a sea of emotions. Being reassured that a number of people with Autism live very fulfilling lives without the need for much extra assistance and others do need help was of some comfort, yet still I was worrying. Being told the statistics on speech and talking and wondering if my son will have much of any vocabulary was often being thought-about in my mind. Feeling guilty about being upset because there are children who are born with extremely severe disabilities like missing limbs, being unable to even breathe or eat on their own, because here was my son who has stellar motor skills (those are not delayed, he can jump and run like nobody's business) and is generally very joyful as long as he doesn't need a nap (then he gets really cranky) who happens to have ASD but is otherwise perfectly healthy. You feel a lot of ways coming to an understanding that you are a parent of a child with special needs.
Enjoying the trampolines at Flying Spider earlier today.

With Clarkson's diagnosis we were able to increase the hours of some of his therapies but also still make sure he has plenty of time to have fun, nap, and otherwise enjoy life as a 2 year-old. The people we work with for Clarkson's therapies are amazing and understanding. They have helped us immensely on the journey of noticing delays, to getting tested, to having an official diagnosis of ASD. I do not love my son any less or feel any different about him knowing he has ASD, but I will say I worry about the difficulties he may face in life. The World is already hard, and being different in any way can make it even more tricky. Clarkson has many people who love him however, from his aunts and uncles to his grandparents and our family friends so no matter what challenges he'll face, there are people eager to back him up.

As Clarkson starts to grow older and with the assistance of therapy he is now much more interested in people and loves to interact with kids his age, playing with toys and sharing laughter with friends. Clarkson is learning how to do stuff at his own pace and we are there to encourage him to engage in both independent and social play, learn about sorting, counting, and shapes--all of that stuff that maybe requires he puts forth a little bit of extra effort compared to other kids because he has his autism making learning certain things a little bit more strenuous. He is learning though, and developing new skills and interests everyday.
I took this picture from above his crib as he woke the other day.
He was still pretty groggy, clearly.
No one should ever tell you how you can or cannot feel as a parent of a child with special needs. You can be sad and worry. You can be happy for the small accomplishments that others maybe take their kid being able to do for granted and the big accomplishments as well. You as the parent are not, "Broken," due to having a child with special needs. Your child is not broken either, just different and working on things in their own way with help from others. When it comes to ASD there is a lot of information online, and a whole heaping ton of misinformation as well which can make finding accurate data and facts a little trickier. There are some extremely false beliefs about autism and off-the-wall theories about how everything from vitamin-shots to special diets can, "Cure it," as well as if it is caused by everything from radio signals to vaccines due to one fraudulent study decades ago. We do not know an exact cause of autism and there is no special treatment or cure. However, working with your child to help them grow and develop with peer-reviewed and scientifically-proven practices is going to help them a lot more than denying your child is different or buying into outlandish theories with snake-oil salesman peddling cures and fix-alls that are more quackery than medicine.

Clarkson having autism is not a secret. We have told friends, family, and even strangers out-and-about who ask questions about why he makes little hissing sounds when he is happy or slaps his legs when he's excited. We explain he does not yet know how to talk but is working on it, and his slapping of his legs is a form of stimming he does to help with processing everything he is taking-in. I just have not really talked about all this on Facebook (outside of some groups for parents I joined) or on my blog as it has taken some time to process everything. That, and I just did not feel ready to deal with the possible ignorance I may face due to all the aforementioned incorrect opinions and misinformation/outright lies about autism. I am at a point now however where I won' hesitate to tell a person claiming vaccines caused Clarkson's autism to shut their idiot mouth, and I will feel zero urge to apologize for calling them an idiot due to the fact I will always defend my son from ignorance.
He stopped enjoying all the toys at one of our favorite play-places, "Grandma's Playroom,"
because, "The Price is Right," came on the television that morning.

I am also now in a mental place where I do not feel self-conscious if he starts having a sensory meltdown or gets loud at the grocery store. People can stare and assume he is simply behaving badly, they are wrong. I do not need to loudly announce, "My son has autism," to these people, they can incorrectly guess whatever they want, but should someone inquire about Clarkson's sounds and behaviors, I will without hesitation provide information and education. I want to inform people about ASD and I also want them to know it is not the only thing they should be aware of when it comes to my child as that is not what defines him. I will tell them how Clarkson has ASD, yes, but I will also let people know he is a big fan of jumping on trampolines, how one of his favorite shows is inexplicably, "The Price is Right," because he seems to love how much people on the show shout and cheer, and that Clarkson used to not really be into books but in the past month has developed a strong affinity towards ones about animals such as a short book about a duck with a book of his own he shares with the other farm animals and another about a bear who steals honey from bees (not Winnie the Pooh, this is some random dumb bear who also gets stuck in a bunny's burrow when he tries to escape the angry bees, it is pretty funny).

My son is named Clarkson and he is one of the most important people in the world to me. When he and my wife, Samii, are with me on the couch that means the two individuals I love more than anything else are sitting by my side and that makes me feel so happy. I would not change Clarkson in any way and every single day I am thankful he is in the life of my wife and myself. Today before he fell asleep for his nap he laid-down next to me, looked in my eyes,  and gave me the biggest loving smile. I told him I loved him and gave him a kiss on the cheek at which point he dozed-off and I moved him to his crib so he could get in a quality nap (again, he is very cranky without his nap). That is just one moment out of many I get to treasure thanks to having Clarkson as my son. I wanted to tell you all about him, and now that I have done so I hope you see just how incredible a person he is too.

Sunday, September 15, 2019

Schnuck's Brand Soda is Tasty

If you live in the Saint Louis region you are probably familiar with a number of grocery chains that are local. Dierbergs, Straubs, and of course Schnucks. Schnucks recently introduced a new line of sodas that are quite tasty (for the most part). They are very inexpensive but don't taste, "Cheap," as you sometimes hear said of other less-costly soda brands like well-known punching-bag Vess. There are your usual flavors of Cola, Diet Cola, Dr. Lou (like Dr. Pepper), Grape, Black Cherry, and Root Beer. In addition, some more out-there flavors exist which are pretty interesting like Pineapple, Strawberry, Red Cream, Fruit Punch, and so forth.

I have tried most of the flavors (I'm too scared to give Pineapple a chance) and would say that the only flavor I outright disliked is Black Cherry--this is strange as I generally like that flavor. Besides that, however, I have been a fan of the colas, Dr. Lou, Root Beer, Grape, Strawberry, Red Cream, and so forth. Schnucks sodas are really yummy and if you find yourself around the Saint Louis area at a Schnucks grocery store I would recommending trying them out.

Note: This is an opinion piece, nobody asked me to write this and Schnucks is not paying me or anything. That said, if Schnucks wants to send me some free soda anytime I would welcome a few 2 liters of Red Cream.

Saturday, September 14, 2019

If I Were A Super-Villain My Evil Plan Would Go Kinda Like This...

I was thinking the other day about how I an not a super-villain, and I have zero desire to be one. That said, if I did want to be a super-villain, I do have the best evil plan ever. To see what I mean, please refer to the super-detailed and complicated drawing I did above and then read on...

Basically, my dastardly plan is to purchase a vacant strip mall on a little hill and then at opposite sides of it install a Walmart and Trader Joe's. These two establishments are notorious for having some of the worst parking lots ever, so between the slight incline that is just steep enough to cause trouble and these two businesses at separate ends of my parking lot there is sure to be mass mayhem, confusion, and otherwise lots of people honking their horns and cursing with displeasure. I am not doing this evil plan simply to cause trouble however--I am not some chaotic evil person who just wants to, "Watch the World burn."
An actual Trader Joe's parking lot.
Just picture this multiplied by a Walmat lot!
No, I am doing this plan because the inevitable news stories and memes about this, "Worst parking lot ever," will allow me to get famous and in the process score all kinds of sponsorship deals as the super-villain America loves to hate. With this money I will then donate most of it to charity so that in the ultimate twist I am a super-villain and super-hero at the same time, allowing me to both cackle with evil glee at the turmoil in my parking lot from my perch to the side (as pictured) and still feel like I'm doing good in the World. Also, with the bit of money I do keep I'll go buy some more, "Everything but the bagel," seasoning at the Trader Joe's in my plaza because that stuff is delicious.

Friday, September 13, 2019

"Dark Knight Returns: The Golden Child," Features an Artist in Their Prime and a Writer Well Past It

Frank Miller is a man who has created some amazing comics but I think 99% of people will agree is way past his prime in terms of his creative output as a writer. He does not do too much art anymore either, but I have an affinity for his style even at its roughest so while I'd dismiss much of his recent writing I still like his drawing. That said, hearing he is going to be writing another one-shot set in his, "Dark Knight Returns," Universe that gave us one amazing book ("The Dark Knight Returns,") and a lot of garbage (everything else) which is to be titled, "Dark Knight Returns: The Golden Child," made me feel completely uninspired...until I heard who the artist is.

Rafael Grampá is an absolutely incredibly artist whose style reminds me of if Geoff Darrow and Paul Pope somehow had a baby and that baby grew-up to draw insanely gorgeous and kinetic comics (I know they both are not much older than Grampá, but shut-up, its my metaphor and I'll do what I like). Upon reading about this 48 page one-shot that features the writing of Miller and the art of Grampá  I felt the weirdest mixture of dread and joy that is hard to describe--it is kind of like how you would feel if it were an incredibly hot afternoon and the ice cream truck was coming around the bend blaring an announcement about how all the ice cream is free today...but you also notice it's being driven by scary clown covered in blood (another weird metaphor, I'm aware I am on quite the roll today).

I guess my point in all this is I'll probably buy, "Dark Knight Returns: The Golden Child," but I expect the actual plot and dialogue to be terrible whilst I spend most of my time just ogling the incredible visuals. For all I know the story might actually be decent too, but as this is Frank Miller in 2019 we are talking about, I do not plan on it. Again though, Grampá  will be superb.

Thursday, September 12, 2019

My Thoughts on Mountain Dew's Mystery Flavor, VooDEW

I am that odd person who does not really like Mountain Dew itself but enjoys a number of its offshoot flavors. I love, "Code Red," and was a fan of, "Livewire," which I think still sometimes comes out. I did not hate, "Pitch Black," and the Lemonade flavor you could get at Taco Bell for awhile was pretty solid. I know I'm forgetting a number of temporary flavors because there have been many but my point is I tend to like at least trying them. That brings us to the Fall/Halloween 2019 Mountain Dew event flavor, the humorously titled, "VooDEW." It is a mystery flavor, meaning Mountain Dew won't tell us what it is supposed to taste like, we just have to figure out for ourselves what it is. I took on this challenge because I am naturally curious about mysteries even if I suck at solving them (I never could figure-out who the real villain was in any, "Scooby Doo," episodes). I bought a bottle at my local Schnucks grocery store, drank it, and have thoughts to share.

VooDEW presents itself in a somewhat unappetizing way. It is a weird milky-white color with a dark orange and purple label that causes the white to stick-out even more. Thankfully, the taste is better than the color. It is a bit like carbonated orange skittles, which if you like skittles is a good thing (should you hate skittles, you will be quite disappointed). One person online (Kotaku's Zack Zwiezen) said it reminds them a bit of an orange cream soda which I kind of see where they are coming from, but I tasted less of a cream-sensation so much as a that slightly chemical-vibe you would get if you were to eat (you guessed it) orange skittles mixed with club soda. That maybe sounds a bit odd, but I liked it even if I didn't love it.
I found VooDEW to be decent if lacking in any sort of, "WOW factor. It is another welcome addition to the Mountain Dew family of random and wacky flavors and even if I don't adore it, I can say with 100% confidence it is much better than the all-time worst flavor, Baja Blast (come at me, internet). Should you want to try it I recommend you visit your local grocery store/pharmacy/gas station/extreme skate park, you know, anywhere Mountain Dew products are sold. Should you be unable to buy VooDew anywhere close you can always buy it online right from Amazon as well if it is not temporarily sold-out as seems to happen sometimes. Overall, I rate this soda as 3.5 out of 5 stars.

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

9/11/2001 Was 18 Years Ago

It was 9/11/2001. I was living in West Virginia at the time and in 8th grade. I was in my first class that morning after our initial Homeroom that I can't quite remember the subject of--it was English-related but had more to do with reading literature than learning grammar or such. The class had just ended and someone said how on the news they were saying one of the World Trade Center towers had been hit by a plane, a gas leak had gone off inside, or some other freak accident, people were not sure. Not too much later in my Algebra class we were told that the 2nd World Trade Center tower had been struck by a plane, and clearly America was under attack. The day all that happened felt like simply too much to take in and I was unsure how to respond. I just felt numb and confused. Then the Pentagon was hit and one other plane crashed Pennsylvania, the passengers had fought-back against the terrorists aboard. It was overwhelming.

The next day is when it really hit me, as all the images of sheer terror played-out on the television screens, collecting what had been recorded of towers falling, people running and screaming, the death-total made me and pretty much everyone else in my school cry as basically every class had the news on with us watching instead of doing our classes. Eventually the Principal had everyone just shut the televisions off in our classrooms because it was just bringing everyone undue stress and misery, but whether we had our T.V. screens going or were browsing the still-quite-basic-compared-to-today internet, something had changed for the many of us who had never lived in an America which had suffered an attack from a foreign entity on our home soil--the last time that had happened was Pearl Harbor decades ago.

Some years later I would move to Upstate New York, some hours from the city, and meet people who had lost loved ones on 9/11. My heart would ache for them then, and it still does. It was an awful day and thinking back to it 18 years later it is weird how some parts of it feel incredibly distant and other memories of that day feel immediate. Many politicians have used 9/11 for political gain while not actually caring about those affected, and countless civilians (famous like Jon Stewart and non-famous alike) have worked tirelessly to care for those first responders who now years later suffer health ailments from exposure to all kinds of chemicals, dust, and debris in the wreckage of the Towers and Pentagon.

9/11 has at times been reduced to more of a talking-point and some people like our so-called President Donald Trump would rather make the occasion all about them than the thousands of people who died or lost loved ones. Trump make everything about him however, and it would be hoping for too much to think he'd realize a day like 9/11 is about a lot more than one person (even a huge narcissist like him). Some people will never learn. There are still those who try to make all kinds of conspiracy theories sound true about that day, ignoring the simple and depressing truth that there was no master plan, it was just a huge intelligence failure on a massive scale that illustrated how vulnerable our Nation could be if someone really wanted to hurt it, but again, some people will never learn.

Now there are people who will be old enough to vote this year who only know of 9/11 from their history books or watching old footage, that is how much time has passed. I won't claim there was some lesson to learn or try to make foolish silver-lining claims about how it, "Brought us together," or other platitudes, because it shouldn't take a terrorist attack to make a Nation feel unified. It was a tragedy and the best thing we can do is honor those we lost and try to prevent something similar from happening again. The most darkly ironic thing is that now, 18 years later, our Country may be at its most divided since the 1960's and we are facing an epidemic of homegrown terrorists committing mass-shootings at an alarming rate.

It isn't Al-Qaeda we most need to fear now, it is our own hatred towards whoever we think is, "The other." 9/11/2001 was 18 years ago, but humankind's ability to hate one another is unending, be it foreign powers flying planes into our buildings or our own citizens shooting-up public places. I have no solution, the only thing I can do is hope that eventually love can win-out over hate, because as Martin Luther King Jr. put it, "I have decided to stick with love. Hate is too great a burden to bear." I hope eventually the burden of hate can be cast-off by more of us, because it seems all-encompassing in our Country right now. I can only dream and do the best I can to spread more love than hate.

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

My Latest Post is Up on Cinemaways!

I have another contribution up at the great website, Cinemaways. This time I'm discussing the top 10 movie sociopaths or psychopaths who AREN'T villains. We are so used to those kinds of characters being the bad-guys it is was fun to write about individuals in flicks who are basically terrible, but within their film maybe garner some sympathy or are even heroes. Check it out if you enjoy my style of writing (e.g. the ramblings of a man who either needs more coffee or has had too much coffee).

Monday, September 9, 2019

The Dreamcast Came Out 20 Years Ago Today (In America)

I know it launched in Japan in 1998, but for me the U.S. launch of the Sega Dreamcast holds a special place in my heart. 9/9/1999 was the day the console that was just too ahead of its time and too beautiful to exist went on sale in America. That is 20 years ago today. It had awesome and quirky games I still fondly recall ("Crazy Taxi," "Sonic Adventure 1 & 2," "Seaman," "Shenmue," and the list goes on), was capable of connecting to the internet for multiplayer gaming back when that was a shockingly new concept (outside of PCs). It was a console ahead of its time and the last one Sega released before deciding to focus instead on making games for everyone else's consoles. Nowadays it is commonplace to see Sonic and Mario popping-up in the same game, but back in the 1990's that would have been unthinkable.

The Sega Dreamcast provided some of my happiest video-gaming memories, and it was beloved by countless others too. It literally changed lives and I hold fond memories to this day of the last and best console Sega released--heck, it arguably was the best console ever. 20 years on so many of us still crack that little smile of joy when we think about time playing the Dreamcast, that proves more than anything just how much of an impact it made on those of us lucky enough to have enjoyed it in its too-short prime.

That controller was honestly pretty terrible though.

Sunday, September 8, 2019

"Trench Dogs," Review

"Trench Dogs," is an original graphic novel that came out last year from newer publisher, Dead Reckoning. Dead Reckoning itself is owned by the Naval Institute Press, which is, "The publishing arm of the U.S. Naval Institute, an independent, non-partisan, non-profit, professional military membership association. Through Dead Reckoning, the Naval Institute seeks to broaden the community of those who understand the history, dedication, and experiences of all who serve." Basically, it  has the goal of publishing comics that explore military and naval history through both nonfiction and fiction means. As I am a history nerd this appeals to me.

It is interesting when a nonprofit enters into comic-book making, as it can produce works that don't have to sell a ton of copies or be super-commercial. The announcement of a different new publisher the other week that is non-profit, Fieldmouse Press, shows it is a growing group of entities who want to make comics published by their organizations. Anyways, the reason, "Trench Dogs," caught my attention when I heard about it coming-out from Dead Reckoning is that it happens to focus on World War One, a war often give a lot less attention. Also, "Trench Dogs," does the clever thing sometimes seen in other comics about war (such as the seminal, "Maus,") where it turns the people fighting the the wars into different animals depending on their Nationalities.

"Trench Dogs," was created by Ian Densford and he does a stellar job mixing the anthropomorphic soldiers and civilians with scenes of both peaceful everyday life and a war that was brutal. If this comic had the soldiers as humans it would maybe be too grotesque for many readers to handle, but thanks to thanks to the slight cartoon-element it allows people to witness how horrific war back then was (and still continues to be) in a manner that informs without shutting-down the reader. "Trench Dogs," is presented with very little speech from any characters or narrative captions, but Dendsford and the Dead Reckoning website helpfully provide a detailed study guide that goes in-depth about much that is in the book and provides further explanation about the historical elements of everything Densford draws in the comic.

"Trench Dogs," is a fascinating read that touches-upon many aspects of World War I and is a good way for those less knowledgeable about the first, "War to end all wars," to learn a bit about it in a visual manner. Ian Densford is a fantastic illustrator who portrays how ugly and terrible war is with some of the edge that might turn-off more sensitive readers a bit filed-down thanks to the anthropomorphic art-style. It is quite a good read and I recommend it to anyone who is a history buff or loves comics that are a bit more out-there than the norm.
5 out of 5 stars.

Friday, September 6, 2019

Is Nicki Minaj Retiring or Just Trolling Us?

I have never made it a secret I lack much of any enthusiasm for Nicki Minaj. Unlike the rapper who has taken a lot of press that Nicki used to get, Cardi B., whom I have at times been really hard on but will admit has some solid jams and is a pleasant person, anything I've ever heard Nicki rap on has only suffered from her presence. Also, she apparently is a huge, "Meanie," to put it politely. Nicki Minaj tweeted yesterday how she plans to retire from rapping and focus on starting a family with her love, Kenneth Petty. This announcement of course had nothing to do with how none of Nicki's songs were hitting the radio/streaming/etc. lately and how dare anyone state she is desperate to troll us all for some press.

I don't know what Nicki Minaj's long-game is here, but if she is indeed retiring or simply taking a break from rap to truly focus on starting a family I honestly wish her the best as I love being a parent and would tell you having a kid/kids is awesome. If this is just a ploy to get media attention however, then that is honestly par for the course with Nicki doing whatever it takes to get headlines besides actually, you know, making good music.

Wednesday, September 4, 2019

Etsy's Got Some Drama with Sellers

I like buying stuff from Etsy on occasion. Whether it is nice presents for my loved ones or old vintage comic-books for myself, it is a fun place to shop. I of course do a chunk of selling things on eBay as a hobby, and once dabbled in trying to sell older stuff on Etsy too, but I just lack the right skills pro-Etsy users do, plus my crafting abilities are nonexistent so I am unable to sell neat handmade jewelry, woodworking, furniture, or the like. In other words I don't have much to offer in terms of an opinion on Etsy as a seller but it seems to be experiencing some drama with Sellers right now.

This in-depth and very interesting article from VOX discusses how Etsy has oftentimes gone through stages of evolution such as when it went public, and right now in an effort to help sellers compete with Amazon it is being suggested/forced upon them to offer free shipping on purchases over $35 lest a seller's listings be de-prioritized against other stores. Now, Amazon has Prime and is a big corporation sending goods out whereas Etsy has individuals like a nice Grandma in rural Minnesota who has to send her hand-knit scarf with her eating the cost of shipping in the near future. Now sellers either suffer or just raise the price of stuff in the hopes that helps counter the cost of shipping (which is what Etsy basically has recommended and just seems a bit sleazy to hide shipping in the main cost of something). Apparently that is what buyers want now, and I do know people hate the idea of paying for shipping these days (I've learned that much selling on eBay), so Etsy is gonna force it through, and drama will be had. We shall see where this leads, and if my presents for friends & family along with the vintage comics I enjoy suddenly are going to have free shipping but suspiciously cost a good deal more.

Tuesday, September 3, 2019

I Want to Play That New, "Control," Game

There is a game developer who always makes weird and interesting titles. They are known as Remedy and I will forever defend their (best title in my opinion), "Max Payne 2," as an incredible game whilst admitting the first one is quite wonky and the third one is great too but is sometimes feels like a Michael Mann film if Mann took a lot of upper-type drugs and refused to sleep for a week (so, both awesome and a bit much). I will also say, "Alan Wake," is a surreal masterpiece and volunteer I never played, "Quantum Break," but heard it was okay. With all of that said, I am eager to play the newest game from the developer, "Control," which features a trippy plot about otherworldly beings that inhabit technology, exciting game-play, and loads of weird little stylistic touches Remedy is known for--how about a creepy live-action puppet show for ya?

The overall plot of, "Control," is a bit mysterious as a lot of the fun comes from untangling the story. The general idea however is that you play a young woman named Jesse Faden who is looking for her lost sister and ends-up at the Federal Bureau of Control, which studies and tries to contain phenomena that should not exist within reality. Clearly things get quite wonky and I am eager to try it all out on my PlayStation 4. I would hope to get the game from the library sometime or see if it comes to Redbox--that or wait for a price-drop as I try to be frugal and not buy a new game at full-price considering how quickly things get discounted with sales these days. Worst comes to worst, while I wait for a chance to play, "Control," I could always buy a cheap copy of, "Max Payne 2," for my computer and try out some old mods on it. I'm patient, after all, and I'm always looking for an excuse to play, "Max Payne 2," again.

Monday, September 2, 2019

Bret Stephens Earned His Bad Week

Last Monday morning a man named David Karpf tweeted a joke. He saw there was an article about how the, "New York Times," offices were suffering from a bedbug infestation and it was proving difficult to get the bedbugs removed because they are notoriously good at burrowing-in somewhere and a huge nuisance. David Karpf tweeted, "The bedbugs are a metaphor. The bedbugs are Bret Stephens," and went on with his day. The post was not retweeted by anyone and got all of nine, "Likes." Karpf made this light joke about Stephens because Stephens is notorious for being difficult and a pain--much like bedbugs. Stephens is someone who always goes on rants about how, "Liberal snowflakes whine about needing safe spaces," and that free-speech is important because people need to feel uncomfortable and should develop thick skin instead of getting offended all the time. Stephens is one of those guys who likes to, "Tell it like it is," in his mind, but as with many people who ramble at length about how, "People are too damn sensitive these days," he actually turns into a mess should someone call him on his own B.S. This became apparent not long after Karpf's tweet.

David Karpf not too long after his mild joke about Stephens found himself receiving a very sternly-worded email from Stephens. In it, Stephens went on about how hurt he was to be called a bedbug and told Karpf how if Karpf were to meet Stephen's wife and kids, get to know him, and all that jazz he would never dream of using such hateful language against him. Bret Stephens also CC'd the head of Karpf's department with the clear intent of getting Karpf in trouble...for making a joke almost nobody saw about Bret Stephen being a bedbug. Karpf tweeted about what Stephens had done, and then a tweet that had garnered all of nine likes and no retweets began to really take off.
Brett Stephens once defended human cesspool Tucker Carlson as free speech is all about a right to offend.
This, of course, does not apply to anyone offending him, it seems.
From this point Stephens went on to attempt to defend himself during the week by talking about how he wasn't trying to get Karpf in trouble (yes he was) and was by no means a hypocrite for all his talk about free-speech and then being upset some random guy called him a bedbug (yes, he is). Things only got weirder when on Friday, August 30th, before everyone got to go home for a nice Labor Day weekend Bret Stephens turned-in an editorial at the NYT. Stephens' editorial was about how dangerous language is as a tool and that Nazis used it to dehumanize others. Yes, Stephens literally went and compared being called a bedbug online to the Holocaust. "What the Hell?" is the response from me and many others.

When you write your thoughts online people may take issue with it. I have been called all kinds of names by people who disagree with me and I know as a White Man I am getting barely a hint of what writers who are people-of-color, women, and/or LGBTQ face. I have heard first hand from female journalist friends who often they are threatened with rape by people they have never met enraged at an article they wrote. I hear about LGBTQ people being harassed by alt-right morons who doxx them with threats towards their family and friends. Bret Stephens was called a bed bug as a joke by a professor, and he absolutely flew off the handle about it. I guess the importance of free speech applies to his right to insult others, but should never be applicable to somebody telling a joke at his expense.
I spoke with David Karpf via Twitter last night as he said his DM's were open to any reporters curious about all this craziness. I wrote him and asked if this was really as weird as it all sounded and he confirmed that it was. Stephens must have found the tweet through an assistant who looks for any references online for Stephens or via having his Twitter set-up with a keyword alert for his name. In my opinion that sounds absurdly narcissistic, but how else could he have found Karpf's tweet? As Karpf told me, Stephen's must have put in some effort to find the tweet, managed to get offended at it, and then took the time to track Karpf down and figure out a way to contact him as well as the people above Karpf at the University. Stephens did all this to--in his mind, "Put me in my rightful place," as Karpf told me. This entire debacle is one I told Karpf I felt bad he was dragged into and I said I hoped things got less weird for him soon.

To review, a tweet almost no-one would have seen is now trending massively and Bret Stephens is being given funny hashtags like, "Bretbug," by Twitter users cracking-up about how stupid this all has been--with the blame for the idiocy falling squarely upon Bret Stephens. Bret Stephens earned his bad week, and hopefully once he returns to work from Labor Day (its amazing if the NYT wants to employ him still after all this) he'll realize how all the blame for this getting so much traction falls right upon him. Then again, he will probably just blame everyone else, something Conservatives tend to excel at.

Sunday, September 1, 2019

"Bad Gateway," Review AKA Simon Hanselmann Has Done it Again!

I have voiced how much I love the work of Simon Hanselmann before. Whether it is his mini-comics or his big books, he is an amazing creator who manages to mix humor and sadness in his writing like nobody else and makes some incredibly gorgeous artwork too. "Bad Gateway," is published by Fantagraphics and follows-up on all of the previous stories with the main characters, Megg and Mogg (along with all their friends/enemies/romance partners/sometimes all three at once) but it can be read by someone going-in fresh as it summarizes all the madness from before in a handy two-page spread before taking us back into the really messed-up lives of these individuals.

Megg is a witch, Mogg is a cat and they are in a long-term relationship but both are basically miserable with each other. Their current roommate is a man named Werewolf Jones who sells drugs when he isn't using them-up because their old roommate, Owl, was maybe the one responsible person they knew and they drove him away by being terrible towards him. Megg has strong feelings for Booger--she used to be Boogeyman but since transitioning to female is known as Booger--and Mogg hates Booger and blames her for the trouble in Megg and Moog's relationship although Megg cheating with Booger off-and-on is a symptom of the domestic-trouble, not a cause. Also, they really need to get money for rent but blew it all on drugs and Megg might not pass her evaluation to keep getting Governmental support, so stuff in general is pretty messed-up. This sounds dreary, and it at times is, but this book is also hilarious.

Werewolf Jones anytime he appears in any of Hanselmann's books continues to be a source of both misery and hilarity. The man is messed-up and as bad at being a roommate as he is being a Dad or hard-working employee. The only thing Jones is really good for is coming-up with terrible ideas and passing-out from being too drunk or too high to function. As readers of the book we feel a little bad for him, but also frankly disgusted with much of his behavior and general treatment towards others. Megg and Moog inspire a little more sympathy as they sometimes are somewhat trying to not just be miserable, but between their reliance on a whole lot of drugs and basically being co-enablers of their worst impulses it is just tragic to witness them go about their day-to-day lives. Again, though, this book is funny too so don't think you'll just be sobbing the whole time you read it.

Hanselmann's art-skill are top-notch, with his masterfully illustrating everything from a beautiful landscape to the garbage-covered home of Megg, Mogg, and Werewolf Jones. Whether he's drawing a nasty and crowded bus or a quiet night's drive, Hanselmann expertly balances the gorgeous and grotesque in a manner that invites readers to just be drawn into a page and dive-in to scenes no matter how disgusting the things he illustrates so incredibly are (Werewolf Jones is often naked and needs to bathe for sure). When it comes naming creators who are currently at the top of their game making comics currently, Hanselmann is someone who has to make most short-lists.

"Bad Gateway," is a book that is equally tragic and funny with some incredible illustrations that mesh perfectly with the purposely disjointed tone. I would not be surprised if this book appears on many, "Best-of," lists at the end of the year, and imagine it'll probably be one of my top titles too, with Simon Hanselmann being due lots and lost of praise heaped upon him for his incredible work. I rate this book 5 out of 5 stars and will most likely be singing its praises for a good long while.

Saturday, August 31, 2019

My Spider-Man Comic With Black Cat Looks Gorgeous

Feast your eyes upon this gorgeous Spider-Man comic featuring Black Cat upon the cover. This cover was used for an American comic, "Superior Spider-Man #20," but also was printed on a variant that was sold exclusively at a Mexican Comic-Con (La Mole Con) and put upon the Marvel Mexico, "Amazing Spider-Man #11," comic. I was able to acquire this gorgeous book thanks to my awesome friend Ozzie, who lives in Mexico and I enjoy swapping comics with. I then had the book pressed by Chris, The Comic Book Presser, which I blogged about previously. My friend James Doe of Cabal Books helped me with the CGC submission process and now the final result is here!

I have found from the CGC data that this is the only 9.8-graded copy of this comic in existence, with some 9.6 and lower grades existing, but nothing 9.8 (or higher, although 9.9 and 10 are basically unheard of in CGC grading). I attribute this stellar score to how Ozzie always treats his comics with care, the amazing work of Chris pressing the comic, and James Doe being so helpful in my ensuring the book was shipped securely to CGC in the safest way possible. I owe everyone named a big, "Thank-You," and now proudly have the book on display with all my other favorite comics and geeky knick-knacks. I am so pleased and deeply appreciate all my friends who helped me reach this, "Destination," of a gorgeous high-grade book to proudly own and be reminded of all the fantastic friends I have when I gaze upon it.

Friday, August 30, 2019

Brian Wood Deserves Only Scorn

I feel like we've been talking about how Brian Wood is someone who preys upon women for years now. I feel that way because in fucking 2013 Tess Fowler came forward about Wood being sexually inappropriate with her yet the comic-book industry basically shrugged, told Fowler to shut-up, and carried on with giving Wood work. It is now 2019 and Laura Hudson is contributing her own story of Wood forcibly kissing her back when she was a much less-known name in comic's journalism and he knew she could preyed upon. Also, she has discussed how he then sent her extremely raunchy and inappropriate messages about how he wanted to have sex with her even though he was married and had a daughter.

Brian Wood deserves only scorn yet he keeps working in the comic-book industry on various books as if nothing big has happened. I need to admit my own faults here, I purposely avoided any books that Brian Wood wrote after the news broke but still picked-up and read his run on, "Moon Knight," that came after Warren Ellis because I love the character and generally buy and read anything with Moon Knight. If I could go back and time and not buy anything Wood has done however, I'd be more than willing to do so. 

Much of the entertainment industry is finally talking about and dealing with all the predatory actions of people within it, and comic-books clearly need their own #MeToo moment between this, the mess that was Eddie Berganza's career at DC, and countless other incidents that I imagine were kept secret through threats and intimidation. Things need to change for the better, and predators shouldn't be able to just keep getting gigs doing comic-books whilst preying upon others thanks to their position of power.

Thursday, August 29, 2019

I'm a Taylor Swift Fan Now? What The Hell Happened?

I remember when I was mad at Taylor Swift. The days when I thought she was a bully who liked to play the victim while actually being the bad-guy. Then things changed and suddenly her line of thinking was a lot like mine. I said I would give her, "A pass," and not say anything mean because she was doing good work. Then she has more music come out that sounds kind of good, and starts speaking-out loudly against Trump even though she knows it could upset a chunk of her fanbase who are White and Conservative. She follows this up with a performance at the 2019 Video Music Awards all about equal treatment and when she wins an award does not hesitate to call-out Republicans for not supporting equality, and oh dear God do I like Taylor Swift now between finding more of her newer music listenable and loving this activism of encouraging young listeners to get out and vote for a party that cares about people (Democrats)?

What the Hell happened that Taylor Swift could very well be America's best hope for Democracy and I'm here cheering for her? Did I wake-up one day in a strange alternate reality or has Trump really ruined everything, including how I used to love-to-hate Taylor Swift? Now I'm just a fan of hers and actually considering buying one of those special editions of her new album exclusively available at Target? I never saw any of this coming and can only say the World continues to get stranger, weirder, and more unpredictable every single day.

Wednesday, August 28, 2019

Marvel's Desperate Attempt to Seem Apolitical is itself Political

The first issue of, "Captain America," featured the titular hero punching Adolf Hitler right in the face. At the time the comic-book was released America had not yet entered World War II and was trying to, "Stay out of it," for the most part. However, creators Joe Simon and Jack Kirby were so disgusted with Nazi Germany they pushed for the book to be published despite fears it would anger people. The publisher of that comic eventually turned into Marvel. Now, the company of Marvel is so desperate to remain apolitical it is both hilarious and depressing.

Trying to, "Stay out of politics," is itself a political action. If you claim you are going to remove yourself from politics you are basically making it that much easier for those who would do harm to win and keep power. If everyone who did not vote in the Presidential election had voted for Hilary Clinton she would've won by an absurd margin. Instead, a bunch of folk mumbled there was no difference between Clinton and Donald Trump. Now America is a laughingstock on the World stage, our economy is teetering on the brink of a recession, the rights of Women and LGBTQ individuals are being rolled-back, and we have concentration camps full of immigrants who are ripped from their homes or places of work by goose-stepping I.C.E. agents. Maybe you don't want to worry about all that though, you just want to be apolitical--your desire is to, "Stay out of it." Well then, you're basically failing as an American who is able to love their country but also hold it accountable. Interestingly enough, this is basically the idea of an essay Mark Waid wrote for a Marvel comic that was rejected and swapped-out for a, "Less political," piece.

Marvel comics is controlled by a man named Ike Pearlmutter who is a mega-donor and friend to Donald Trump. Marvel is owned by Disney, but Pearlmutter is the one guiding the ship of Marvel to a big degree. Disney probably would not mind its billion-dollar properties avoiding seeming too political and Pearlmutter most likely is quite happy with how much of America looks right now considering how much money he has pumped into Donald Trump's political career. A big retrospective book about Marvel already had Art Spiegelman pull his essay from being contributed to it when his reference to a, "Orange Skull," threatening America was requested to be tweaked so as to not compare Donald Trump to the infamous evil Nazi the Red Skull. Now, a big anthology comic also meant to look-back at the past of Marvel while picturing its future--"Marvel Comics #1000," has been tweaked to avoid fanning any political flames as well.

Mark Waid wrote an essay on a page featuring artwork of Captain America about how he loves America, but it needs to be held accountable. One excerpt goes, “America’s systems are flawed, but they’re our only mechanism with which to remedy inequality on a meaningful scale. Yes, it’s hard and bloody work. But history has shown us that we can, bit by bit, right that system when enough of us get angry. When enough of us take to the streets and force those in power to listen. When enough of us call for revolution and say, ‘Injustice will not stand.’” Waid also observed in his piece, “...we’ve perpetuated the myth that any American can become anything, can achieve anything, through sheer force of will. And that’s not always true. This isn’t the land of opportunity for everyone. The American ideals aren’t always shared fairly. Yet without them, we have nothing.” Marvel swapped the essay out. The new essay actually published in, "Marvel Comics #1000," talks about Captain America's mask serving as a symbol of the American idea of fighting for justice. Justice for what, you may ask? Well, Marvel's answer to that is, "Shut-up, we can't get too deep into politics."
I read a chunk of this book years ago and would recommend it.
We've gone from Captain America punching a Nazi dictator even when America was refusing to, "Get involved," in fighting him to an essay that dares make any political point being pulled for fear of being, "Too political," resulting in lost sales. Is this Pearlmutter's fault? Is Disney to blame? I don't know, but it is pretty damned ironic to witness an essay about how not being involved in politics is bad being pulled for being more political than a company wants. What a mess.

Tuesday, August 27, 2019

I Had a Pumpkin Spice Latte Today and Make No Apologies

I took an excited selfie before I drank my PSL!
I love Pumpkin Spice Lattes and upon hearing that Starbucks was going to be bringing them back for the season starting today, August 27th, 2019, I eagerly went and bought one. I do not care it is still Summer and hot out, I got my nice hot PSL with almond milk (too much dairy hurts my guts badly) and drank it with a smile on my face. My wife was with me when I ran into Starbucks to get our drinks and upon my returning she remarked, "Wow, your drink smells, 'Basic.'" It failed to phase me, I love PSL and make no apologies.

I don't care what people say about being a fan of White Claw Seltzer, enjoying shows like, "Bachelor in Paradise," or the fact I'm guzzling a Fall drink when it is still August. They can call me and everyone else basic, because if loving a Pumpkin Spice Latte to a borderline unhealthy degree is basic, that's me to a T.

Monday, August 26, 2019

Mini-Run Review: "Banjax," #1-#3 Has Been a Great Read

There is a comic I've really been enjoying which just released what I think is the penultimate issue of its mini-series (issue three of four total). It is titled, "Banjax," and between the clever plot and solid artwork I'm really digging it. The book follows an old hero who was super-popular (a big-time celeb) named Laird Mason AKA Banjax, who found when he got too brutal with villains the populace turned on him. Now its years later and his former sidekick, Abel Raines, has become a billionaire who wants to sell a private security force of powered individuals to a World that no longer trusts masked vigilantes and thinks commercialized heroes are the way to go. However, Banjax has found out he's dying of cancer and ready to go on quite the tear to kill anyone he thinks still deserves it, whether Raines likes it or not.

I find the book works really well because it mixes some deeply personal aspects of the characters with some striking and clever political commentary thanks to the talents of Rylend Grant. There are shades of a lot of great comics in here, such as, "Watchmen," with a world where heroes are now either big corporate-powers or mostly forgotten novelties, or a bit of, "Dark Knight Returns," where a grizzled hero comes out retirement to try and fight evil one last time before his end. "Banjax," is by no means a copy of these comics however, instead being its own beast. I appreciate that neither Mason or Raines are especially good or evil, they just are men so subsumed with their obsessions (Mason with ending crime, Raines with making the world safer even if it means questionable choices) they don't even see they are becoming worse monsters than many of the bad-guys they used to fight.
The clever political aspects pop-up in how Mason is astounded that his return to being a vigilante who is even more brutal than in the past is not upsetting the populace, it actually is making him a hero. The comic observes that despite everyone's best efforts they are only making things worse and our current society is if anything more hateful and ready to cheer for violent resolutions to problems than we'd like to admit. Just turn on the news and you can see America is currently in its own downward spiral of hatred and holding-up people who used to once be thought of as tyrants as heroes who got things done, as well as mega-corporations buying and selling every commodity possible. The most outlandish thing about, "Banjax," is how uncomfortably not far-fetched it feels today as compared to how it would've read a decade ago.

Artist Fábio Alves gives the book a suitably dark and dreary vibe, excelling at alternating between the grimy and dirty life of Laird Mason versus the tech-filled and shiny corporate World of Abel Raines. The scenes of fighting are amazingly brutal (in a good way) and even the quiet scenes of tragic contemplation (Mason wondering if he actually is going too far, Raines doubting his own plans) work spectacularly too, with some stand-out moments occurring in issue #2 as a sleep-deprived Raines starts hallucinating due to stressing about Mason keeping him up. The art fits the tone of the book perfectly, in other words.

"Banjax," has been a stupendous read so far and I am very excited to see what the concluding (I think) issue for this volume brings. I only hope more volumes will be on the way depending on who manages to survive the end of this mini-series! I rate these first three issues an amazing 5 out of 5 stars. If you want to check Banjax out for yourself you can visit the page of its publisher, Action Lab (and its, "Danger Zone," imprint) and buy some, or get yourself digital copies on Comixology.

With a Single Poster, "WandaVision," Has Piqued My Interest

The relationship between Wanda (the Scarlet Witch) and Vision (the, um...Vision) was always one of the sweetest low-key things in the Marvel Cinematic Universe that seemed to happen nice and organically as opposed to how they shoe-horned in some other romances (Bruce Banner and Black Widow suddenly being all close). In the comic-books it was a nice and happy story too, until later on when things got weird with Wanda's powers causing all kinds of twisted things to happen that were warping reality in dangerous ways (creating children out of thin-air considering Vision was incapable of having kids, stuff like that). The poster for the upcoming, "WandaVision," show has my attention because it seems to be hinting at the very same, "Things look nice but something is horribly wrong," vibe the comics eventually tackled.

It may sound odd to say a poster gives me hope, but compared to all the other Marvel movies or super-hero shows that have gotten posters, "WandaVision," is the only one where stuff simply looks the least bit weird or different. All the other new Marvel posters of movies or even shows just look like the standard image of a hero (or heroes) standing and looking stoic with bad-guys sometimes in the background appearing imposing as well. For real, look:
It is drab, and as the Marvel Universe has a number of movies that are starting to just feel like one big formulaic method (in the, "Avengers," films especially) with only some key standouts recently ("Black Panther," was a delight and "Doctor Strange," was incredible, no matter what haters say about Strange) I can appreciate a Marvel property being able to do something a little bit different, which it seems Disney+ will be good for allowing some deviation from the usual somewhat-homogeneous vibe of the movies. I'm full down for a surreal nightmare-sitcom starring the Scarlet Witch and the Vision, in other words. If it is at all like the amazing, "The Vision," series by Tom King that focused on the Vision trying to have a normal suburban life while horrible things happened, that will be a good thing as well, because that comic was bonkers (in a good way).

Saturday, August 24, 2019

People Who Like, "Breaking Bad," Should Be Happy About the New Movie

I have never watched, "Breaking Bad," when it was on or its current sequel-prequel series, "Better Call Saul," even though both of them have been loaded with actors whose work I like and I hear so many good things about the programs from fans. I am not opposed to watching the shows, my Netflix que is just an enormous mess of shows and movies that is intimidating to look at for 20 minutes before I go, "Eh, forget it," and just re-watch episodes of, "Nailed It," because I'm overwhelmed deciding what new thing to start. Well, people who loved, "Breaking Bad," and want more answers about its characters (who survived, at least) are probably very happy to hear, "El Camino," will be coming to Netflix October 11th, 2019.

It's a movie that follows-up right after the conclusion of, "Breaking Bad," and I am impressed it was kept secret so well, with only Bob Odenkirk (who is busy with, "Better Call Saul,") letting slip a week or so ago in an interview that something had been filmed without any least until he mentioned it. Now folk can get excited and I can try and make myself motivated to binge-through some seasons so I understand the many comments and memes that will most likely occur online as of October 11th.

Friday, August 23, 2019

"Moon Knight," Getting a Show!

Well, this is news that has me excited and cautiously optimistic. That news, of course is that my favorite comic super-hero, Moon Knight, will be getting his own show on the upcoming Disney+ streaming service! He is a darker character and Disney+ doesn't want to stray too far from PG-13 kind of stuff at the most, but I'm frankly just happy to have Moon Knight appearing on a screen in what will hopefully be an entertaining experience. She-Hulk and Ms. Marvel (the Kamala Khan version) will be getting shows as well. This is wonderful news, and makes me even more excited to have some Moon Knight-related books I sent-out for pressing made extra-pretty so they'll look gorgeous on display, "Raw," or in a CGC case.

The one immediate downside in all this is that now I'll basically have to buy a subscription to yet another streaming-service in order to enjoy some (hopefully) high-quality Moon Knight-programming.

Thursday, August 22, 2019

Nick Nolte is the One Reason I Would See, "Angel Has Fallen."

I remember seeing, "Olympus Has Fallen," some years ago via Redbox or Netflix and being pretty unimpressed with it. Gerard Butler was a Secret Service agent who saves the President from evil foreigners and corrupt fellow Secret Service agents in order to prevent a special nuclear code from being used to end the world or something. I did not even bother with, "London Has Fallen," and was completely unaware this series had become a trilogy with, "Angel Has Fallen," until I started seeing ads for it this week and read a review by the AV Club who are astounded it is not as terrible as the preceding flicks. There is maybe one reason, and one reason alone I would see, "Angel Has Fallen," willingly if it shows-up some months later in streaming-cue. It has Nick Nolte in it.

Nick Nolte is an interesting man. He loves acting and always brings a strange and engrossing vibe to any character he plays. Whether it was being one of the few good things in the Ang Lee version of, "The Hulk," as Bruce Banners dad, or a man faking being a Vietnam Veteran in, "Tropic Thunder," Nolte excels at both comedy or drama thanks to his weirdo energy. The man has had many ups and downs in his personal life (the infamous 2002 DUI mugshot was pretty bad) but is always a fantastic actor. Hearing he is in, "Angel Has Fallen," playing the grizzled conspiracy-theory-obsessed Father of Gerard Butler's character whose name I don't recall but think is something bland like, "Rick Masters," actually sounds pretty cool. Even if, Angel Has Fallen," otherwise is disposable tripe at least any parts with Nolte on the screen will be engaging.

Note: I looked up the name of Butler's character, it is, "Mike Banning," which frankly I think is about as generic as my guess of, "Rick Masters," so there you go.

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

I'm Always Down for More Garth Ennis-Written Punisher

Garth Ennis is one of those writers who even if he is barely putting forth any effort makes really good comics. Creators who spend decades in the field either get better and better to the point where any title they do is solid or slowly decline to the point they go from amazing to terrible. Thankfully, Ennis has just generally gotten to the point his worst works are damn good and his best works are incredible. Some of his best work has of course involved the Punisher, so hearing that he will be doing some new mini-series involving the Punisher as well as (I assume) his take on a really old and grizzled Nick Fury sounds cool. Also, it is icing on the cake that two illustrators I love the work of--Jacen Burrow and Goran Parlov, will each be doing one of the books.

The comics will be, "Punisher: Soviet," with Burrows doing art on that and, "Get Fury," with Parlov. These books will most likely be out-of-regular-Marvel-continuity and probably have a MAX label if Marvel digs that imprint up for these books or some other, "Mature Readers," advisory because Ennis loves his comics gory and full of unique-takes on the word, "Fuck." I'm not a huge fan of the Punisher generally, but a creator like Ennis almost always does him justice so between Ennis and some fantastic artists I'm excited.

Tuesday, August 20, 2019

Sony and Marvel/Disney Are Squabbling

As lots of folk know, "Spider-Man," and his film rights are owned by Sony due to how in the early 2000's before Marvel became absurdly profitable (and bought by Disney) it had to sell movie-rights to not go outright bankrupt. Then in 2008 Marvel made, "Iron Man," then made some more flicks, was bought by the House of Mouse, and here we are today. Disney/Marvel also acquired Fox recently so now the X-Men and Fantastic Four (whom Fox had film rights too) can be in Marvel flicks as well. However, Sony and Marvel have had a very interesting agreement. Essentially, Spider-Man could pop-up in Marvel's movies and Marvel heroes could be in Spider-Man's movies but everyone kept the rights and most of their individual money from those films. There could be other Sony-hero movies (like, "Venom,") and those could involve Spider-Man too even, but no Marvel Cinematic Universe stuff. It was a unique little set-up, but it seemed to work. It may be falling apart now with Sony and Marvel having a nasty break-up.

I think everyone is probably a victim of their own success. Since the newest Spider-Man first appeared in, "Captain America: Civil War," and the rest of the agreed-upon shared movies have wrapped the Marvel Cinematic Universe movies have gone on to make even more cash, and Sony probably feels emboldened with their own hero-movies thanks to, "Venom," doing incredibly well. Hence, we have two companies butting-heads over who gets how much much money for each other's flicks and any kind of deal to basically, "Share," Spider-Man is possibly quite dead in the water for now. This is awkward as Spider-Man is now so ingrained with some of the Marvel heroes and them popping-up in his movies, it would be awkward for Marvel to try and completely ignore Peter Parker or the next, "Spider-Man," to drop any pretense of the, "Avengers," existing in his world.

I think some kind of deal will be reached eventually as both Sony and Marvel/Disney know full well even if more cash has to be shared, even more money will still be raised having this shared-Spidey agreement than keeping stuff overly separate. Perhaps we will see a weird splitting-off of stuff, but it would be less messy if an agreement is made.

Monday, August 19, 2019

Rant-Reviews: No Theme in Particular

No Particular Theme
Sometimes when I do these capsule-style reviews there is a particular theme to it all. That honestly is not really the case here. These are just some recently-released comics that I read and had enough of an opinion about to share some thoughts. Enjoy!

Comics and Thoughts About Them

Eternal Thirst of Dracula Book 2 #1
Friend of the blog Mike Wolfer returns with his intriguing, "Dracula in the Tropics circa 1975," series, with Elmer Cantada providing wonderfully lush and creepy artwork. This issue involves a lot of talk as the character who is a descendant of Van Helsing fills his friends-in on just how crazy things have become with Count Dracula wanting his help to destroy a certain breed of vampire who want to destroy both the original vamps and humans. Compared to some of the earlier-issues this one is a bit lighter on action, but there is a nice human-vampire fight at the end of the issue that keeps the pace-up. A good read, in other words.
4 out of 5 stars.

Savage Avengers #4
There are, "Avengers," comics that are very serious and deal in heavy subjects, and then there is the gleeful madness found in, "Savage Avengers." Written by Gerry Duggan it is bonkers. Whether it was Conan the Barbarian (he's in the modern age of Marvel now, don't question it) swinging a passed-out Wolverine around like a weapon to slice people-up last issue or a weird dino-shaped Venom fighting an ancient God of blood-lust in this issue, I was right to predict, "Savage Avengers," was gonna be a weird and fun read. With Mike Deodato providing the artwork too everything looks even more simultaneously gorgeous and grotesque thanks to how the man knows his way around drawing big spurts of blood. It is a bizarre comic. I love it.
5 out of 5 stars.

Black Hammer/Justice League #2
I am a huge fan of almost anything Jeff Lemire does with his, "Black Hammer," brand of comics. Whether it is the original series, its sequel, "Black Hammer: The Dark Age," or the spin-offs, almost everything has been superb (I'll admit, "The Quantum Age," dragged a bit for me, however). That said, "Black Hammer/Justice League," is not outright, "Wowing," me but also is far from a disappointment. Essentially it has the main characters from, "Black Hammer," finding themselves suddenly swapped with some key members of the Justice League with one team suddenly in Metropolis and the Leaguers now on the mysterious farm from, "Black Hammer," convinced they've been trapped there for a decade even though its only been a day.

There are some nice little flourishes to the book, such as Gail being annoyed she can't swear freely in the DC-world and Bruce Wayne practically going-mad from how peaceful life is when he thirsts for a crime to fight, but overall nothing that, "Big," is being said other than how, yeah, it would be pretty zany if these characters switched realities. Perhaps as the book proceeds a point behind all of this (besides Dark Horse and DC making money) will become clear, but right now this is more of a, "Wouldn't it be cool if these characters swapped places," kind of story than something deeper--which is a little disappointing considering how clever the, "Black Hammer," books at times can be.
3 out of 5 stars.

Show's End #1
A new release from Mad Cave Studios, this book is focused upon a traveling freak-show when decades ago when such a thing was a common sight. Back then freak shows were both popular and looked-at with immense suspicion. Writer Anthony Cleveland portrays this well and introduces another wrinkle to the story with a young girl who seems normal and wants to tag-along with the freak show but may be the most dangerous person under the big-top. Jeferson Sadzinski provides some stellar illustration, making the, "Freaks," look different but never as gross caricatures--with the writing by Cleveland also expertly walking the fine line of portraying these people whose varying disabilities rendered them judged by a society they just wanted to survive in. I look forward to the next issue for sure!
5 out of 5 stars.

White Trees #1
Reading this comic published by Image and written by the generally-zany Chip Zdarsky with artwork by Kris Anka set in a fantasy world where a bunch of retired warriors have to rescue their kids could have been formulaic, but three things make this delightfully different.

1. The heroes once were mighty but are really out-of-practice to an almost embarrassing degree.

2. A number of characters are Queer which is nice in the often super-Heteronormative field of Fantasy stories.

3. Kris Anka draws a lot of dongs.

Now, the comic is not an, "Adult," read, but just sometimes has a dong show-up in the same manner that lots of comics seem to randomly have topless women as fan-service, but here the fan service is a big elf-penis. Between the solid writing mixed with great fight-scenes and plentiful phallus-appearances this comic has something for everyone and is a good start to the two-issue mini-series (yep, it is just two over-sized issues, interestingly). If you like fantasy stories and enjoy (or at least don't mind) illustrated dicks this is a comic you ought to read.
4.5 out of 5 stars.

In Conclusion...
To conclude, we talked about a wide-range of comics from heroic cross-overs, to the freak-shows of the past, and well-drawn male genitals. Yeah, there really wasn't much of theme at all today besides how comics are fun to read, was there?