Friday, February 22, 2019

My Only Comment on Jussie Smollett and His Apparently Manufactured Attack

Jussie Smollett
I write a lot about popular culture as well as race, sexuality, and the intersection of all these concepts. Therefore, I feel I should comment on everything that has been going on with Jussie Smollett and how it turns out he may have faked being the victim of a hate crime in the hopes it would boost his fame and income lest I be accused of some kind of bias or trying to ignore it. My one and only comment on this is as such:

I would find it really encouraging if all the people dedicated to making sure justice is served in this case were just as passionate about the countless LGBTQ people of color who are in fact attacked and often ignored, disbelieved, or victim-blamed. It is really telling that in a singular case where someone actually did fake their attack it has become a huge story and yet nobody cares how often individuals are attacked and sometimes murdered. As a friend of mine from college named Steven Canals put it succinctly on his Twitter, "I reject the rhetoric that Jussie has now made it harder for us to believe victims... cause let’s be honest. If they were Black/Brown, Women, or LGBTQ+, ya’ll weren’t believing them in the first place!" Oh, and Steven is the co-creator of the stellar show on FX, "Pose," which I'd recommend everyone watch, but that's off-subject.
Smollett may have lied,
but countless others have not.
My point is that I'm disturbed how much of a big deal people are making out of Smollett faking an attack, as they are essentially silently-but-obviously trying to say in a not-so-subtle manner that they think a lot of the harassment, attacks, and violence towards LGBTQ individuals, women, people of color, etc. is some kind of conspiracy to..take the white man down, or something? We need to believe survivors, and we need to believe victims. A water-droplet of a lie in an ocean of truth doesn't change anything, if my metaphor makes any sense. Smollett may have manufactured his attack, but 99.9% of the cases we hear about (or which go unreported out of fear) are true, no matter how much some people want to deny it or use this case as an excuse to write-off real survivors and victims.

That's all I have to say about that.

Thursday, February 21, 2019

Rant-Reviews: Checking in with the Mainstream Publishers

It Has Been a Bit
Hey, I haven't done some rant-reviews for a bit, and I ought to discuss some of those more mainstream titles out there, right? Let's do this.

Reading and Writing (My Thoughts)
Captain America #7
Ta-Nehisi Coates has been giving us a bit of a slow-burn comic with some solid artwork by Leinil Yu but things are starting to finally get a bit more to a boiling point, if I may mix my metaphors. Steve Rogers has been accused of murdering General, "Thunderbolt" Ross because he realizes some nefarious force is looking to slander the name of Captain America--in the end it is about the shield and what it stands for no matter what America is going through. Coates is building-up a fascinating political conspiracy full of twists and turns, even if the pace is a bit slow.
4 out of 5 stars.

Oliver #1
Apparently there have been a number of new takes on the classic Dicken's tale, "Oliver Twist," but this one is just downright weird and only vaguely reminiscent of that classic story. That is probably also why I quite liked it. Image has been putting out a ton of #1 issues lately, probably because enough end-up becoming big hits that a smattering of failures is acceptable. I hope that this book gets a lot of good buzz however, because we have a splendidly odd comic here. It is the future, a bunch of mutant-soldiers live isolated from society, but a young boy named Oliver they adopted once his mother came to the nuclear wasteland and gave birth to him before she died (and he strangely survived) goes around causing mischief. Clearly Oliver is special and will be journeying to parts of the world not destroyed yet, and I am curious to see how the old book will be riffed upon and also quite clearly differ. Another solid debut from Image.
4 out of 5 stars.

Deathstroke #40
Christopher Priest's masterful magnum-opus run on, "Deathstroke," hits issue #40 here, featuring his usual mixture of pathos, purposely-disjointed pacing and time-jumps, and a solid dose of humor. Slade Wilson AKA Deathstroke breaks out of Arkham Asylum finally in this issue but learns some of the hallucinations he suffered from Hugo Strange (who took over the Asylum and let the inmates make a mess within it) may have been all too real (killing his therapist) and others quite fake (thinking he killed Two-Face). Oh, and he fights some space aliens because why not? Just an amazing series, and one I hope isn't impacted by DC's recent announcement of cost-cutting measures which will include reducing their comic-line.
5 out of 5 stars.

Immortal Hulk #13
Speaking of amazing series, albeit one a lot earlier in its run than, "Deathstroke," but no less impressive, here is, "Immortal Hulk." Al Ewing has been making amazing comics for some time now but seemed to not get much recognition. Well, his horror-themed Hulk comic which has now literally taken the character to a form of Hell is getting a whole lot of love thanks to his phenomenal scripting and (usual) artist Joe Bennet's disgusting-yet-incredible illustrations. In this issue the Hulk finally breaks out of the strange Hell but still has a whole lot of questions about the nature of just who/what he is to address. This is arguably the best Marvel comic on stands latley, and the best Hulk comic possibly ever--although Peter David's run a good deal of years ago was extremely solid, and I liked Planet Hulk a good deal too. Still, this is just off-the-charts incredible stuff.
5 out of 5 stars.

Savage Dragon #242
Just thought I'd dip my toe into the long-running and surreal weirdness that is Erik Larsen's comic, "The Savage Dragon." This issue just came out yesterday and it still is a bizarre mixture of heroics, sexy-stuff, politics, and general strangeness, Larsen is doing what he likes all these issues later. That it is delightfully entertaining decades into the series is admirable.
3.5 out of 5 stars.

Green Lantern #4
I previously had a big review of the first issue of this Grant Morrison-written and Liam Sharp-illustrated comic. We are now four issues in and the weirdness expressed via the story and artwork has continued without relenting in the slightest. One of my favorite comics ever was written by Morrison and was a very off-the-wall science-fiction mini-series known as, "The Filth," so I clearly like when Morrison ventures into sci-fi stories. That perhaps is why I'm so far really digging his, "Green Lantern," run with its weird mixture of wacky aliens, space-law, and a dash of super-heroics from Hal Jordan and his fellow Lanterns. Morrison and Sharp fill these pages with a lot--a whole bunch of story and mind-bending artwork--but it hasn't been overwhelming yet so much as enthralling in its strangeness. I'm not sure where exactly this book is heading with its countless strange creatures and plots, but I'm eager to see where it eventually ends-up.
4 out of 5 stars.

Check-In Complete
Well, that was a productive post discussing what is going on with some assorted bigger-name publishers. Clearly even if I often am discussing the difficulties and complexities going on Marvel and DC (Image usually ain't having much drama) they still can publish some stellar work when not dealing with big fiascoes or controversies.

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

The, "Magnus the Brave," Kickstarter Looks Awesome and Still Has Some Time Left to Pledge!

I heard about, "Magnus the Brave," from my chum, Tony, who runs Comics Heating Up. Created by a fellow fan of CHU, Chris Rau, Tony mentioned it to me and readers of his website how it was a cool-looking comic with a Kickstarter that was going on to raise funds. I was intrigued when I heard how Rau does the story, artwork, and coloring, with some story co-writing by Ace Nuckolls, as having a creator who does most of the aspects of a comic is always cool to me in this era where sometimes comic-creation can be a bit fragmented between a big creative team. I had the opportunity to read an advance digital copy of the comic in my capacity as a journalist (that's what I call myself, at least) and was quite impressed. I can see why, "Magnus the Brave," met its funding goal so quickly and has continued to raise money from interested backers!

"Magnus the Brave," is described by Rau as mixing the identity of Conan the Barbarian with Samurai Jack to create a warrior who can fight in a bloodthirsty and viscous manner, but also values peace and introspection. Rau's art style is inspired by a cool mash-up of anime-styled over-the-top action and bloody violence. Imagine if the warriors of old who fought with swords and arrows could also occasionally bust-out a super-powered move full of bright explosive colors and you get the idea of what Rau is doing. The comic follows Magnus as he protects his village from all sorts of strange villains...villains who don't last long. The meshing of the ideas and the weird characters Magnus fights creates something that is original yet also readily appeals to fan of these different style of entertainment. I greatly enjoyed what I read of, "Magnus the Brave," and would encourage you to visit its Kickstarter page while there is still time to pledge (a bit under two days now) and to back it should the comic strike your fancy.

I Was Wrong About a Movie's Box-Office Potential Yet Again

At the end of 2018 I described how my biggest mistake of the year was predicting that the movie, "Venom," would be a box-office bomb as opposed to making a whole lot of money. I just had a post last week where I stated James Cameron was trying to get publicity for the, "Alita: Battle Angel," film he had executive-produced because I and everyone else was convinced it was going to bomb, hard. Well, I was wrong yet again and maybe should quit predicting box-office intakes as besides thinking that, "Aquaman," would be a big hit I've been wrong, often.

"Alita: Battle Angel," is by no means a huge, wild hit. It did place 1st in the domestic box-office this extended President's Day weekend, however, making about $43 million within America if you look at the stats for Thursday showings through Monday. The thing still cost nearly $170 million to make and has had a huge advertising budget, but between a solid first weekend in the US and decent International box-office sales it might very well end-up turning a tidy profit if it does well in China and Japan (it has not been released there yet) and getting a hinted-at sequel made--something I would have thought had the chance of happening of a snowball in Hell last week.

"Alita: Battle Angel," has proven it is not a huge bomb, but it also is struggling to some degree that others would say it is somewhat tanking. Still, I thought it would crater so I have to admit I was wrong to some degree. If in the end it has a quick drop in ticket-sales and inexplicably falters in Japan and China it could very well qualify as a box-office disaster, but the fact it even placed first in America over our combination Valentine's Day-to-President's Day weekend (albeit a modest first-place) is enough proof that as good as I sometimes am at predicting what comic-books will be hits or failures, my track-record with movies starting to look like it ain't that good. At least I can be pleased for the Director, Robert Rodriguez, whom I've always heard/read is a nice guy that simply loves making movies, big-budget like this one or smaller-scale stuff too. I'm happy for him, even if I am disappointed in myself.

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Prudence Photography Is Fantastic!

Last year my wife, Clarkson, and I had professional pictures done and loved them, but the person who did those moved away. Thankfully, we got in contact with another professional photographer we knew. We were able to purchase the services of them in order to take photos commemorating how our son, Clarkson, is about to turn two years old! We had the pictures done over the weekend and they are just perfect.

Christy Prudence of Prudence Photography was phenomenal between her skillful shots, photo-editing, and overall patience as we wrangled our son to get some good photos. Between how nice she was, the great pricing, fast turnaround time to get our images, and the gorgeous pictures we are very pleased.
I always love sharing photos of my awesome son and wonderful wife, and the fantastic pictures Prudence Photography took are just amazing. I would encourage you to visit the website I linked to above but will provide another helpful link to here, or you can give Christy a holler via Facebook if you live anywhere near the Saint Louis region and want to have professional photography done of you, your family, etc. I know I'd encourage you to use her services--my wife and I are very happy customers!

Monday, February 18, 2019

Should I Try-Out This DC Universe Thing?

Okay then, I previously wrote about my confusion regarding exactly what this DC Universe app/service was. Now that it has been released and out for awhile I think I finally have a grasp on it. The thing essentially is a way to pay a monthly fee in order to gain access to a curated selection of all-you-can-read DC books (which side-steps Comixology and saves DC paying it, Apple, or Amazon--who owns Comixology--any fees) along with an assortment of DC films, television shows, and original content. It is a combination streaming-service, comic-app, and so forth. Am I right, I think I'm right? Anyways, I am thinking maybe I should try it out, as I am curious about if it is in fact a good service for watching/reading content, plus I've heard the exclusive-to-DC-Universe show, "Doom Patrol," is remarkably good. I mean, when I heard it had Matt Bomer and Brendan Fraser I was basically already all-in.

There is a free 7-day trial period, and those, "Doom Patrol," episodes are being released every Friday so I could watch at least two and get a feel for the show as well as exploring the app/service. I am a little annoyed there isn't an easy way to launch it on my PlayStation 4 and instead to get it on the television I'll need to use a work-around method like having it stream on the computer and be displayed on my T.V. via the Chromecast or such, but with my PC and our old iPad reading some comics shouldn't be hard. Yeah, I think I maybe will go ahead and try-out this DC Universe thing when I have some free time, even if I hate most aspects of it I still get a solid dose of Bomer and Fraser, after all, I love those actors.

Sunday, February 17, 2019

Another Great Micro Con is in a Week!

I am a fan of local toy and comic events, and have often discussed my great enjoyment of the Mirco Cons put on by STL Comics. Well, a week from today there will be another Micro Con! That's right, February 24th, 2019, from 10AM-4PM you can see all kinds of great vendors, awesome guests (Kenneth Rocafort will be there along with such stellar guests as Lorenzo Lizana and David Gorden), and otherwise have a ton of fun for just $3 admission (kids 10 and under are free). I always find stellar stuff at the Micro Cons, which feature such fantastic vendors as Trade Up Comics, CoMo Comic Books, Wayne Kent Comics, Cabal Books, and more! I look forward to attending the show next week at the Holiday Inn located at 3400 Rider Trail South, St. Louis, MO, 63045. Should you be a local who reads my blog or just happen to be in the area I'd encourage you to attend--I'll be there buying wares and trading my own stuff!

Friday, February 15, 2019

Trump and the Emergency of His Own Making

Well, it happened. I previously wrote about my concern regarding any President declaring a State of Emergency to do things the Executive Branch should not be able to do, and my worst fears have come true (something I often say in regards to this dumpster-fire of a Presidency). Donald Trump is going to declare a state of emergency--an emergency of his own making--in order to get funds to build his stupid symbolic wall (that Mexico was supposedly going to pay for), a wall taht Congress won't allow--hence the previous Government shutdown. Trump has had enough people make it clear how terrible the last shutdown made him look (e.g. like a petty loser) so he thinks this will show strength or something if goes ahead and oversteps the bounds of his Executive power...all to build a dumb wall. What happens next? Nobody is sure. This is a big Constitutional crisis. The President is doing things the President should not be able to do, and this will result in folk suing him, further questions about if the 25th amendment should be invoked so he is removed from power, and just general attempts to block his stupid efforts. You can't say Trump's Presidency has gone off the rails because this crazy-train jumped the tracks months ago and is barreling through all common-sense. Trump has made his own emergency and now is diverting Federal funds for it. Should such a thing stand it sets a dangerous precedent for other mayhem Trump could try to cause with more future emergency declarations, as well as what later Presidents could attempt in regards to basically disregarding our Nation's laws--assuming this all doesn't end in nuclear apocalypse and Trump becomes the last President (America, it had a good run).

These upcoming days and weeks are going to be pivotal in determining if Trump will be allowed to run roughshod over America's foundational laws, or if his temper-tantrums will be put to a stop now that Democrats at least have some power again--lord knows his own party is so used to kissing his ass they ain't gonna do a thing. The ultimate irony in this of course would be if Trump gets his moronic efforts approved by the Supreme Court our next President, who willy very likely be a Democrat after what the GOP has done lately, will then have the right to push through all kinds of Progressive ideas even if Republicans protest. After all, if it was good enough for Trump why not have it be good enough for our future President, Ms. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez? Seriously, she is a breath of fresh-air among all these other ancient and corrupt politicians. Anyways, to summarize my article: Trump created an emergency to do what he wants, it is madness as usual, America is doomed. On the plus side, all that Valentine's Day chocolate that didn't sell yet is now heavily discounted, so that's nice.

Thursday, February 14, 2019

As I Have Said, Shit is Going Down at DC Coics

Just recently I observed that the comic-book publisher known as DC Comics had a whole lot of shit going down. People were being let-go, restructuring was clearly planned, and it seemed the company was getting more controversy-averse (for one example, see the Black Label/Batman's penis fiasco). Well, recent events only seem to further support how--as I have said--shit is going down at DC Comics.

Let's start with some less remarkable things occurring at DC. Namely, that the surprisingly-good series, "Doomsday Clock," has been delayed yet again, which isn't a shock as the artist, Gary Frank, is incredible but lacking in regards to turning-in his work speedily. Oh, and, "Batman: Damned," #3, the final issue in the series which started all the wiener-fuss, was delayed (probably to now clean-up any naughty bits in artwork)...and then all pre-orders were cancelled. Now, it is not uncommon for a heavily-delayed series to have issues cancelled to be resolicited at a later date, but maybe this signifies something else, such as possibly DC just wanting the series and the Black Label itself to quietly fade away (all the other new Black Label books also seem cancelled to maybe be solicited again too, after all).
An even bigger significant occurrence illustrating that DC is scared to rock the boat is that the upcoming Vertigo comic, "Second Coming," has been cancelled, but the creative team is being given the rights so as to take it to another publisher who won't mind some controversy (basically any other publisher, in other words). For those unaware, "Second Coming," was about Jesus returning to Earth and being extremely let-down to see how people were using his teachings, as well as appearing to worship a violent super-hero named Sun-Man more than himself. It is clearly a satirical comic and seems tame compared to other stuff DC's Vertigo imprint has made before--I mean, this is the company that gave us, "Preacher." Still, there was some media attention and so-called, "Christians," complaining the comic was offensive or blasphemous, so away it goes. I mean, these are the same people who protest they should be allowed to draw Muhammad in offensive ways thanks to our nation's freedom of speech, but when has hypocrisy ever stopped the far-right in our country?

DC seems to be wanting to do comics that carefully avoid pushing too many buttons, and instead of edgier work are going to give us stuff like, "The Year of the Villain," a comic-event where villains yet again go and work to take over the world (so..."Forever Evil," but this time it is villains from the same dimension instead of another one, I guess). It isn't all bad news at DC, however, as their planned films made by their owner, Warner Brothers, have had the ones with Jared Leto's mediocre Joker potentially cancelled, so we won't have any more of that to suffer through. Hopefully he'll be a better Morbius, as Leto has shown in other roles he is a solid actor (just not a good Joker). I'd be willing to get a whole bunch of crappy Leto-Joker flicks if it meant the publishing-arm of DC would actually put out challenging and thoughtful work, but that isn't my choice to make.

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Oh Hush, James Cameron

Apparently James Cameron recently said in an interview how he thought the, "Aquaman," movie was, "Great fun," but also had a bunch of observations delivered in a vaguely passive-aggressive manner about how it required too big a suspension of disbelief because, "I could have never made that film because it requires this total dreamlike disconnect from any sense of physics or reality. It exists somewhere between a Greek mythic landscape and a fairy tale landscape. And people just kind of zoom around underwater because … they propel themselves mentally? I guess?" Oh hush, James Cameron. You've made movies about Aliens (verbatim, "Aliens,") whose reproductive cycle was already confusing before you introduced the idea of a Queen Xenomorph to muddy things further.  You made the visually-stunning but repulsively dull, "Avatar," with some of the silliest plot concepts ever (you literally named a hard-to-acquire resource, "Unobtainium," after all). I think I know why you're even stirring the pot like this too, and it isn't just to express your thoughts.

The upcoming movie, "Alita: Battle Angel," which you executive-produced draws from a manga about a robot-girl with weirdly big eyes (so very realistic). Also, I think you know full well it is probably going to bomb hard on a film-packed Valentine's Weekend, so you're trying to get some press by saying something outlandish. Seriously, as Edward Douglas over at Comicsbeat observed about this movie it appears it," going to be seen as one of the year’s biggest bombs regardless of how well or poorly it does, because it cost somewhere between $150 and 200 million to make...and it’s not likely to make more than $25 or 26 million in its first five and a half days even with the higher 3D ticket prices. (Fortunately, it’s already made $32 million overseas)." With box-office predictions like that, you probably figure you've got nothing to lose attempting to get some media attention for dissing the ocean-dwelling hero, am I right?
I can practically hear James Cameron exclaiming,
"Now this here looks realistic!"
You don't make especially realistic movies outside of your documentaries, Mr. Cameron, so please don't be so silly as to think we take you seriously when you say the movie is lacking in quality as it, "...doesn’t help us with our issues of actually understanding the ocean and exploring the ocean and preserving the ocean — though they did throw in a couple things like whales and things like that to remind us we are using the ocean as a garbage dump, so I applaud the film for that. Yeah, I couldn’t have made that movie." I see through you and how you're trying to get some press because nobody cares about the release of, "Alita," which I feel sad about--not because you worked on it as an executive-producer, but because the Director is Robert Rodriguez and he seems like a cool guy (who has made some fun films I like a decent amount too).

I haven't seen, "Aquaman," yet but plan to as it looks like good fun, realistic or not. I have basically no desire to see, "Alita: Battle Angel," however unless I can stream it for free in a few months because it frankly looks underwhelming in terms of quality and overwhelming in terms of overdone special effects. Nobody cares if you actually have issues with the realism of, "Aquman," or just want to cause a ruckus, Mr. Cameron, least of all the flick's fans or Warner Brothers (which is just happy to have a hit DC movie besides, "Wonder Woman," I'd bet). You're more than welcome to your opinion, but if you're just stating this particular one in the hopes it'll drum-up some attention for your bomb of a movie, then stop such shenanigans and instead go back to focusing on your not-at-all-eagerly-awaited sequels to, "Avatar."

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

I'm Surprised This Needs Repeating, but Blackface is Basically Never Okay

Not. Okay.
You know when it is okay for someone to wear blackface? Perhaps in a play or movie about the painful history of minstrel shows--e.g. the Spike Lee movie, "Bamboozled," or maybe if you have someone engaging in blackface to make an important social/cultural/historical point, such as Robert Downey Junior does as a clueless Australian actor named Kirk Lazarus trying to portray a black person in, "Tropic Thunder."  You know when else it is okay? Basically never (including cosplay). I can't believe this bears repeating, but between Megyn Kelly getting herself fired for her comments (I don't miss her as the third hour is good again), the state of Virginia being a mess thanks to its Governor and Attorney General engaging in blackface in the 1980's (oh, and the Liutentant Governor may have sexually assaulted at least two women, but that is a whole different article) I guess this needs re-stating. Blackface has a painful and unambiguously racist history within America and it is startling to think possibly 1-in-3 people surveyed by CNN think it is okay, "Sometimes." I have zero problem with someone dressing-up as a character of color they admire. White people are more than welcome to enjoy Halloween or a comic-convention dressed as Luke Cage, the Falcon, Vixen, or so forth, but dear God put the black face-paint down.

I don't get it. I mean, you don't see black people wearing whiteface when they dress-up as white characters, and frankly the only time I see anyone wearing white face-paint to some degree is they are dressed-up as the Joker (which lots of races do, and that isn't whiteface so much as a dab of stark-white paint). Yet, a chunk of white folk either dress-up as black characters and apply blackface ignorantly at best, or maliciously at worst (e.g. not just blackface, but trying to look extremely stereotypical like the, "Sambo," cliche or such). I will admit sometimes people overreact to something and think it is reminescent of blackface when it is not--e.g. the recent controversy over Katy Perry's shoe-line that doesn't look like blackface so much as really ugly shoes. That said, for every time people are maybe being overly sensitive, there are 100 occurrences of actual blackface or blackface-related imagery that are stupid and offensive. Everyone, please just stop engaging in blackface, you'll only look like a fool.

Monday, February 11, 2019

Marvel Cartoons for Mature Audiences? Yes Please!

This morning while I was driving back from a fun event at The Magic House (it is a really cool place) with my son, Clarkson, my phone suddenly dinged a bunch. Once I was home and could check it I then saw that what has quickly become my favorite app, Key Collector Comics, was sharing the news that there were going to be four new animated Marvel cartoons on Hulu geared toward mature audiences AKA adults (but not in the, "ADULT," sense). I looked into it online and sure enough, Hulu is going to get a, "Howard the Duck," "M.O.D.O.K.," "Hit-Monkey," plus, "Tigra & Dazzler." Eventually all the shows will come together for what will either be a season or just a special (that seems unclear) titled, "The Offenders," which is admittedly a hilarious title that takes a little bit of a swipe at all the dramatic, "The Avengers," movies and, "The Defenders," show, may it rest in peace. Taking advantage of this info I made sure to dig-up my old Deadpool comics where Hit-Monkey first appeared (plus a random one-shot) and I'll put those aside in the hopes that when the shows come out they are hits and I can sell those comics and make enough money to cover my pull-list at the comic store for or a week or two (here's hoping).

The shows don't look to be throwaway cash-grabs either, with some solid talent involved. I'm talking Patton Oswald as M.O.D.O.K., Kevin Smith writing the, "Howard the Duck," show, and Chelsea Handler is involved in some capacity with, "Tigra & Dazzler," to name just some creative folk working on these shows. Now then, some people online were asking, "Why Hulu?" considering that Marvel is owned by Disney and Disney+ is launching soon-- it will have all sorts of Marvel content, to be sure. The best reasoning I could find is the idea that Disney+ will apparently try to keep everything in the realm of PG-13 and younger and these shows might easily tip-into R-rated language/TV-MA content (I mean, we are talking Kevin Smith here); so now that Disney will be acquiring much of Fox they'll basically have around a 60% share in Hulu, making it perfect for more grown-up programming. This has all just been announced so it may be awhile until we get the completed shows or even much in the way of teaser footage. That said, between the wacky character choices and great creative/acting teams involved, this sounds like we will be getting some shows that will be quite off-the-wall if nothing else.

For the First Time in Long While, I Agree with the Grammys About a Lot of Their Awards

I have not made it a secret that I often disagree with the Grammys. Their choices of winners for various categories sometimes makes me shake my head in puzzlement and I don't think I have agreed with their pick for, "Album of the Year," since they awarded it to, "Speakerboxxxx/The Love Below," way back in 2004 for OutKast's 2003 masterpiece (which some argue set an impossible standard for rap albums to win album of the year henceforth due to it being so, well, OutKast-y). However, last night the Grammy's awarded the coveted album of the year to none other than Ms. Kacey Musgraves for her incredible LP, "Golden Hour." I raved about, "Golden Hour," when I first heard it and didn't hesitate to say it was my album of 2018. She also won at the show for best country album, best country song (for, "Space Cowboy,") and best country solo performance (for, "Butterflies), all well-earned accolades.

I am as surprised as anyone that I loved a country album to this degree, especially considering I generally have not listened to the genre much outside of some Garth Brooks and Shania Twain. It truly did break out of the, "Country music bubble," thanks to a unique sound and how Musgraves herself has always defied the country-music stereotypes (she proudly supports LGBTQ rights, cannabis decriminalization, etc.) all to create this incredible music. While I did enjoy the, "Black Panther," soundtrack which was also nominated for best album and had a decent chunk of Kendrick Lamar on it (another musician with amazing work), I thought its mixture of artists resulted in a slightly disjointed overall theme/feeling, even if Lamar and SZA's, "All of the Stars," is a phenomenal song and deserves a win at the Oscars. I'm so happy for Kacey Musgraves and can't wait to see what sonic wonderland she makes for her next album.

Oh, and don't think I forgot that, "This is America," won song of the year, being the first rap song to do so thanks to Childish Gambino's/Donald Glover's exemplary song-writing. He also won record of the year, which is not to be confused with Musgraves album of the year win, as despite the confusing title record of the year honors a single song--hence, "This is America," winning that. He was awarded music video of the year too, so cheers all around for the amazing Mr. Glover. Yeah, it was finally a Grammys I agreed with more than not, for the first time in over a decade--who would have thunk-it?

Sunday, February 10, 2019

Tales from the Dollar Bin: Toxic Crusaders #2

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

This is an Odd One
Be forewarned that this starts out strange and gets weirder as we go along. There is of course the low-budget indie-film studio known as Troma and they make weird little gross-out comedy flicks. One of their most famous characters is the Toxic Avenger. Toxie, as he is sometimes known, is from New Jersey and fights crime in movies that had to be heavily edited to achieve an R-rating and which have all kinds of inappropriate, raunchy, tasteless humor...not for kids, right? Well, at one point Marvel made comics themed for the Toxic Avengers that were more youth-friendly. That's interesting, but in a further bizaare twist--I didn't even know about this one and I know a smidgen about Troma and Toxie--there was a 1990's cartoon aimed directly at kids called, "Toxic Crusaders."

"Toxic Crusaders," was about Toxie and a bunch of misfit superheroes fighting pollution--like a weird, "Captain Planet," kind of vibe, I guess. The cartoon ran all of 13 episodes and was cancelled, but Marvel made a spin-off comic of it for a short while, which went eight issues and had some surprising talent involved. There was no set writer or artist so there were at times Steve Gerber contributing, or Ann Nocenti, and more. That's bizarre and fascinating to think some folk who went on to become big names (or who were already known to some degree in 1992 when the comic came out) did this random comic, of all things.

Great art and a funny meta-joke about the captions?
This comic rises above its source material for sure.
Let's be honest, all those old, "Toxic Avenger," movies are pretty shoddy. They have a certain, "Oh no they didn't!" kind of charm, but to say the movies are actually, "Good," is pushing it. Hearing that a big-budget reboot might happen with Toxie at another film studio sounds like it really misses the point of the old stuff, but more power to anyone attempting that. Still, I'm just frankly bewildered by this, "Toxic Crusaders," comic series having its level of quality. I found issue #2 whilst digging in the dollar bins (you never know what gold you'll find in them, after all), and it features the writing of Hilary Barta and Doug Rice with pencils by Joe Staton (yes, the Joe Staton)--again, it is shocking the talent these books got. It's a perfectly well-done read full of clever jokes and it looks great thanks to the artwork. It is just odd to see these strangely competent and professional comics that relate (however loosely) to a film property from a studio that prides itself on being tacky and amateurish.

It is a little strange to find something as odd as a spin-off comic from a cartoon that was itself a weird kid-friendly outgrowth from another property ( one which was extremely adult in nature), but it is outright inexplicable that such a comic series be as good as it was with such a degree of talent involved. I suppose it goes to show how you can find a shocking amount quality in any comic, even one that is a...tale from the dollar bin!

Thursday, February 7, 2019

I Feel Like There is a Story Behind These Comics I Found

Comics and the Tales of Their Owners
I enjoy going to a popular somewhat-National chain known as Half Price Books. They sell all kinds of stuff, from (obviously) books, to comics, movies, music, collectible stuff, video-games, and are always buying those things from people too. It is a great place to unload your comics that aren't valuable enough to bother selling online because after shipping and fees you'd lose money, in other words.

As I've been selling some stuff lately to clear-out space I would browse the store while they examined whatever items I brought and in that process I stumbled upon some comics that got me wondering if there is an interesting story behind them. On one of the occasions I was at Half Price Books I was rooting through the old comics and found a, "Stargate," book that was published by Avatar Press. This one was notable in that it had a super-limited cover of which only 350 copies had been produced and it was sold exclusively at a comic-convention in Dallas (Texas). Observe a close-up:
As I have a soft-spot for Avatar Press as a publisher and like snazzy variant covers I picked it up for $1.50 and took it home. I added it to my pile of comics to read and forgot about it. Until, when I was at Half Price books again a week later to unload more stuff and found two other ,"Stargate," comics that also were extremely limited covers, this time from two completely different conventions--one in Arlington (Virginia) and another in Chicago (Illinois). Now, this struck me as odd, and made me imagine there must be a story behind these comics. I sat down, and imagined some things.

Imagined Yet Possible Stories
Possible Story 1: A young man or woman spends their time going to an assortment of comic-conventions and buying comics related to properties they love. They adore, "Stargate," and basically plan-out their conventions they want to attend based on if Avatar Press will be at a show with the super-rare covers. They buy these comics and treasure them, but something changes in their life--a relationship, a child, an illness, it could be happy or sad--and they need to unload all these comics. Perhaps they look online and see even though these covers were very limited there just isn't much of a demand for them. They sigh and sell these comics along with other stuff they've collected at Half Price Books for a lot less than they must have spent going to all the shows.

Possible Story 2: Someone learns that their relative has passed away. They go into their house and sort through their stuff. They stumble upon a bunch of comics and look online to see what is valuable and what is not. They look at this assortment of rare covers and are convinced this books must be worth hundreds of dollars, only to disappointingly learn they are worth maybe a few bucks each. The comics their relative had worked hard to acquire via either visiting conventions or buying them from the Avatar Press' website (sometimes the company would sell con exclusives online) are unceremoniously dumped at Half Price Books along with the other less-valuable comics while the ones with some worth are put on eBay or on consignment with a professional comic-seller.

Possible Story 3: Someone was sorting their comics and didn't mean to sell these rare variant covers of their, "Stargate," comics they acquired at comic-cons or from Avatar Press and are really upset right now. If that is the case I encourage them to contact me.

A Mystery Without a Doubt
Who owned these comics before me?
I feel like there has to be some kind story behind these comics and am incredibly curious who put forth the effort to acquire these rare (if lacking in monetary worth) comics and then jettisoned them at Half Price Books. I'm not judging, as I've had things that I once was desperate to own and then shrugged at getting rid of, but I wonder what exactly the tale is behind these books. I may never find out and just have to imagine the scenarios, and wanted to encourage my readers to do so too--or if they know someone in the Saint Louis region desperately trying to find their, "Stargate," comics to please reach-out. For now, it is a mystery indeed.

Wednesday, February 6, 2019

New and Links for Early February 2019/My Valentine's Day Present to You

The Day of Romance Approaches
We are still in the earlier part of February, but Valentine's Day is getting closer and closer (so if you have a lover or friend you want to show you care, get working on that). I have some assorted bits of news and links for you to enjoy. Consider them my early Valentine's Day present for you, because you are wonderful.

News, Links, and All That Good Stuff
The film, "The Matrix," turns 20 this year and it has had a lasting impact on our culture and concepts of truth--for better and worse.

I was fascinated by this piece discussing how, "Nextwave," from Warren Ellis has both aged spectacularly well and not at all well depending on certain elements. I don't know if I agree Ellis has disappeared from public discussion however--I just think instead of his comic-work being as focused on more talk is about his work on stuff like, "Castlevania," now.

The treatment of 21 Savage—or anyone—by I.C.E. continues to be alarming in how dehumanizing and cruel it is, and no amount of cutesy memes will change that.

Marvel is going to attempt get some of that sweet, sweet, “Venom,” movie-money in their comics with a comic focused on symbiotes and Spider-Men this Free Comic-Book Day which will of course lead-in to a massive and overstuffed event, I'm sure.

I like Edie Falco, so to see her talent wasted on the upcoming, “Avatar,” sequels in the same manner Sigourney Weaver didn’t deserve to have to muddle through the first makes me happy the flick will have some talent and sad she’s stuck committing to at least two of these.

As recently as this Monday I was bemoaning how the new game, "Apex Legends," seemed to signify the death of a true, “Titanfall,” game. Then I read this today and perhaps maybe, "Titanfall," as we know and love it isn’t in fact dead?

If you want Burt and Ernie (of, "Sesame Street," fame) to be gay they are, if you don’t want them to be gay, then they are hetero, seems to be the official statement. I personally have always thought of them as heterosexual--not out of any spite for the LGBTQ community of which I am a proud ally, but because so rarely in the media are platonic friends (gay or straight) shown as cohabiting without a romantic element. Plus, considering how relentlessly unpleasant Bert is I doubt Ernie would want to put up with that in any kind of romantic relationship. Oh, and this is all ignoring the fact that as fictional puppets they don't necessarily have any kind of sexuality, or genitals.

Is anyone surprised Disney is planning to put all the content they have the rights to on Disney+ AKA their own upcoming streaming service? I mean, we all saw that coming.

“Heroes in Crisis,” has been so bad it makes me sad it has plot-elements invading other titles like, “The Flash,” or another comic written by Tom King that is not good but at least passable, his aggressively mediocre run so far on, “Batman.“

I keep hearing good things about this, “Astroneer,” game and I always enjoy titles that focus more on the excitement of exploration and creation as opposed to bland, “Kill everything!” games.

The subject of discussion lately (including on this blog) has been questioning when (not if, when) the Direct Market will contribute to being a major reason the comic industry as we know it ends/runs out of money/tanks in a spectacular fashion, Comicsbeat had an editorial on just how grim things are looking.

Now to close on something that gave me a good chuckle. This article debunks the rumor that (most likely former) Superman actor Henry Cavill was demanding anything related to a possible, “Man of Steel 2,” script, which is silly and obviously false as I doubt anyone even is working on such a script. I mean, is there anyone chomping at the bit for more of that as opposed to Wonder Woman or Aquaman (I never thought I'd see the day people are clamoring for more Aquaman and tired of Superman)?

Tuesday, February 5, 2019

A Comic Was Solicited With a Writer I Adore...and an Artist I Loathe

I am a big fan of the comic-books by Peter David. His run on, "X-Factor" from the early 2000's to the 2010's was among my favorite comic-runs ever. Even if he has at times said some tone-deaf things, he apologizes for them and grows as a person who I enjoy reading his thoughts online along with his stellar comic-work. Therefore, in latest Marvel solicitations in this month's edition of, "Previews," I was ecstatic to see he was going to be writing a Spider-Man mini-series set during the time Peter Parker had the black suit (which turned-out to be a Symbiote, and once he cast it off turned into fan-favorite character, Venom). Titled, "Symbiote Spider-Man," I was ready to tell my comic-shop to put me down for all the issues...and then I saw who the artist was. The artist is (insert a big sigh sound effect here) Greg Land.

Greg Land is of course notable for how instead of doing much actual artwork he just traces a lot of stuff and the finished product looks like a crappy pin-up as opposed to telling a story. He'll use other's art as well as pictures to create his supposed work. Perhaps he will trace a photo from a magazine, a sporting event, or (quite often it seems) porn, as all of his women are posed suggestively and usually have faces shaped as if they are in pure ecstasy even if they're supposed to be yelling or angry. Greg Land is just terrible and the last time I suffered through his artwork for a comic it was when Al Ewing was absolutely killing it on, "Mighty Avengers," and Greg Land was killing...almost all of my enjoyment of the book. I  honestly don't think I can take any more of Land's atrocious excuse for art and for that reason I'm going to sit-out, "Symbiote Spider-Man," just so I can keep my eyes from burning in pain upon glimpsing Land's work.

Monday, February 4, 2019

They Made the, "Titanfall," Series into a Battle Royale Game...Why?

In the past I discussed how much I loved, "Titanfall 2," even going so far as to say it was game of 2016 even if its terrible sales did not reflect much love from the marketplace. Now they have made and just released a battle royale game vaguely set in that world titled, "Apex Legends." As I understand it, this game lacks both the cool big mechs of the, "Titanfall," series as well as the incredible acrobatic parkour. What is the point then other than to make a generic battle royale shooter in the hopes of snatching-up some of that sweet, sweet, "Fortnite," money? Oh, and it has paywalls to block-off certain classes unless you earn in-game currency or pony-up cash, so it is a lot less free-to-play than other games in the field.

The real punch to gut of all this is that, "Titanfall 3," is not being made, and that was outright stated. While it maybe was being created once, it apparently isn't in production now. Hearing that of all things is probably the most utterly depressing aspect. Instead of making more great, "Titanfall," games they took the series' corpse, ripped-out anything that made it special, and shoved in a bunch of bland battle royale guts. Sorry if that's graphic, but I am expressing my own visceral reaction to all this, and harsh words as needed for such a massive let-down. I'm not exactly eager for this, in other words.

Please, No One Ever Write the Word, "Gynocentric," Again

Over the weekend people read a review of Carolyn Nowak’s new graphic novel, "Girl Town," by a writer named Jake Murel, who wasn't trying to be offensive (as today's blog entry on The Comic's Journal websites discusses) but made some really weird observations. The review itself has been edited, but The Comic's Beat has the original excerpts which feature many a use of the word, "Gynocentric," as in how because ladies have vagina's their art reflects this in its formatting, or the comic-gutter or something? I don't know. I am both a fan of Nowak (her erotic comic, "No Better Words," was hot as well as smart) and I like The Comic's Journal (their EIC, Tucker Stone, is someone I consider a friend of mine) but man did TCJ fuck-up with this.

Stone already apologized profusely on the site, as I linked to above, but it has spurred some discussion about how TCJ maybe could use some more female contributors, points-of-view, etc. as it is doubtful a woman would ever refer to a work as, "Gynocentric," just as it would be silly to talk about a man's comic as, "Phallocentric," unless, I guess, the whole comic was actually about a penis...note to self: make a comic about a humanoid penis who spends the pages wondering aloud if he is too phallocentric, have him meet a vagina that talks about if it is maybe too gynocentric, then find an artist willing to illustrate how they fall in love in a very detailed physical manner and profit off my weird meta-porno comic. Anyways, this whole thing is weird, but it seems TCJ has learned from it and will try and do better, Nowak took it all in stride, and I honestly would hope no one ever writes the word, "Gynocentric," again.

Marvel's 80th Anniversary One-Shots are Good Fun and Make Me Kind of Sad Too

Marvel is celebrating being 80 years old (technically a lot less with the actual name, "Marvel," but counting its years as Timely comics and Atlas we hit 80), and as a part of this has been releasing some cool one-shots themed for their past works and in genres a bit more diverse than they do now. For example a war comic, sci-fi, horror, and some others have come out with other cool stuff on the way too. I have quite enjoyed the books I've read so far, full of today's talent creating stories with an equal mixture of a nostalgic vibe and new techniques, and each book is end-capped with a short article about that genre/type of comic and some examples of the comics in that milieu from assorted eras. They are good fun and make me kind of sad too.

Why do these great comics make me sad? Well, reading all these comics full of subjects Marvel doesn't really cover anymore is a little depressing. Marvel maybe will dip into horror a bit (look at how terrifying, "Immortal Hulk," has been), or do some science-fiction with its heroes, but that's the rub right there--Marvel basically is all about super-hero comics now. We are all aware that comic-books as an art-form have a lot more than super-heroes, but Marvel and DC do still find vast, vast majority of their income comes from comics with people in spandex or capes (DC maybe a little less throughout history with its assorted imprints). Marvel might attempt to occasionally do something outside the realm of super-heroes, but it is a rare occurrence because when that happens these tries at something different get minimal-to-almost-zero sales.

Now, Image comics is of course a big publisher now and does a lot of stuff besides super-powered folk (after all, "The Walking Dead," is often a top-10 comic and has nothing to do with super-heroes) Marvel has found that its attempts to branch-out often sadly fail, and the end-result is a big focus on super-hero comics that maybe poke-at other genres, but still in that wheelhouse of superpowers. These one-shots are exceptions to that usual practice, and the fact they are such good fun paradoxically makes them all the more depressing. Who knows, maybe these will sell well enough Marvel experiments a bit more, as unlikely as that sounds it could happen, right? Right? Sigh.

Sunday, February 3, 2019

I'm Watching the Super Bowl Today for One Reason

I'm only watching the Super Bowl today for the half-time show. Yes, I'm being serious. The region of Saint Louis despises the Rams because the owner, Stan Kroenke insulted the area and everyone who lives in it repeatedly when he up and left for California, and I personally do not like the New England Patriots because even in my limited knowledge of football I'm familiar with their coach being a cheater, and how star-player Tom Brady engages in bypassing rules as much as he can too--in addition to engage in poor sportsmanship, pouting and engaging in blaming everyone else he can whenever he doesn't win/get his way (seriously, there are articles from every year he lost the Super Bowl or big games discussing how he was petty). I wish both teams could lose, so I'm not watching the game for the game itself, that much I know.

I am watching for the half-time show because I am extremely excited to see Big Boi--a member of my favorite music-group of all time, OutKast, perform along with the generally solid Travis Scott whose music I relatively enjoy. Oh, and Maroon 5 is going to be there, which is good for them, Adam Levine is perfectly pleasant, after all. Perhaps while waiting for the half-time show I'll be able to enjoy some (presumably) humorous advertisements and pay vague attention to whether the Patriots or Rams have much success against one another. I really don't care for either team, but I love me some Big Boi and am a fan of Travis Scott so that should be good fun.

Friday, February 1, 2019

A Review of "Warlock," and its Amazing Use of the Comic-Form

There are certain things comic-books do that can't really be done in any other format. For a prime example of the comic form being used in an amazing way I would point people to the fantastic indie comic by Dale Forward, "Warlock." I met Mr. Forward on Reddit where he was posting about how he hoping to get opinions on a new comic he wrote. I told him I had a blog and would be happy to give him an honest review of his work. The way he described it sounded intriguing, and having now read the comic I would say if anything he under-stated how creative it is.

The plot centers on a Warlock--always referred to simply as the Warlock--who has one of his eyes cursed. This curse results in him seeing things differently, be it warped realities, images of the past or glimpses of the future, and all kinds of weirdness. That sounds interesting, but what Forward does that is purely genius is how the comic comes with 3-D glasses...yet the comic isn't in 3-D however. You heard me right, while 3-D is of course a fun little gimmick, what Forward does is have his artwork done so that if you look through either the red or blue lens of the glasses you see very different artwork. For example, there may be a page where through the, "Normal," blue eye it looks like a quiet night, but once you peer through the red cursed eye suddenly evil monsters are clearly lurking. It is incredible to see on the page, as without the glasses the comic appears to be a jumble of just red and blue with some black, but after alternating, "Eyes," it is a startling thing.

My scans don't do the effect justice.
Forward makes great use of this storytelling element he created (I don't believe I've ever seen this technique used anywhere else). It never feels gimmicky as the whole thing with the Warlock's cursed eye and his attempt to be cured is integral to the story. Forward does all kind of clever tricks with this too, for example in a segment where the Warlock temporarily loses use of an eye only one lens will, "Work," on the page, with the other lens/eye now reduced to being completely obscured. Now, as much as this technique is genius if the artwork were poor that would do little to help the comic. The art is great however, giving everything a solid otherworldy and fantasy vibe. When goblins or other creatures emerge they are grotesque and scary in all the right ways, with the Warlock being large and imposing yet still clearly vulnerable enough in his actions and mannerisms to garner empathy from readers. Throughout the story all kinds of philosophical considerations are discussed and if the Warlock is truly cursed or in a way has a gift is a question raised but left for the readers to determine.

I am very happy to have met Dale Forward online. His comic he provided for the purposes of review is amazing between the thoughtful story, great artwork, and incredible technique he uses with the Warlock's eyes that must have taken a ton of time and effort--Forward essentially had to draw each page twice with different colors, after all. This is a prime example of the kind of incredible work that only can be produced in the form of comics and I loved it. I enthusiastically rate it 5 out of 5 stars.

You can purchase, "Warlock," via the popular website/format for selling stuff, BigCartel. You can learn more about Dale Forward and check out his art on his Facebook Page, via Instagram, or give him a holler on Twitter as well.

Note: A copy of, "Warlock," was provided by the creator upon my request for the purposes of review.