Saturday, September 25, 2021

"Montero," is a Fantastic Debut LP by Lil Nas X

It feels odd to think, "Montero," is the first album from Lil Nas X considering he exploded onto the scene in 2019 (which feels like a decade ago) with, "Old Town Road," and proceeded to have some smaller hits before coming roaring back this year. Thanks to absolute bangers such as, "Montero (Call Me by Your Name)," and, "Industry Baby," Lil Nas X is on all our minds. Those wild tracks make up a banging first half of his LP while the latter half has a much more introspective and at times concerned/sad tone, as other reviewers have observed. Lil Nas X does a bit of a victory lap for all his immense success at first and then gets serious, talking about how hard it was being in the closet for years, what it is like being a black and gay man who is out and unafraid of haters today, it's deep stuff that folk wouldn't necessarily expect from the same guy who made the jokey, "Old Town Road." Note that is it absent from this album.

Besides the stellar lyricism, the album has some great beats and melodies that really dig into your ear--happy or more melancholy. My favorite tracks are tonally polar opposites, the aforementioned, "Industry Baby," and, "Sun Goes Down," where Lil Nas X sings quite well along with his raps. Was I to have a complaint about the LP, it does have some songs that are a bit of a snooze. I've seen praise for, "Scoop," where Lil Nas X and Doja Cat discuss a workout routine, but I found it drab (a surprise as usually Doja Cat brings a lot of energy to a track). "Void," also is the longest song on the album and maybe could have been trimmed down a bit. Still, it's all-around a fantastic LP and seems less like a debut than the work of an artist who has been doing this for years thanks to how self-assured and confident the whole thing feels. Definitely worth a listen.

4.5 out of 5 stars.

Friday, September 24, 2021

Marvel is Facing Lot of Copyright Claims Suddenly

Okay, some of this news is relatively fresh and there is a ton of copyright law minutiae to parse through. That said, big stuff is going down when it comes to Marvel's characters and how much of a right Marvel has to say it's their characters. A lot of this kicked off with the estate of Steve Ditko suing for control over the copyright of the first appearance (so basically the bedrock) of Spider-Man. Ditko himself never cared much about the copyright stuff but his estate/family does, much to Marvel's chagrin. Then other heirs to popular characters started suing too as we're in a weird gap period for copyright law that allows challenges every 56 or so years or something. The big thing is if these copyrights belong to creators and Marvel or if it was all work-for-hire and Marvel doesn't share copyright. Whatever the case, as soon as it looks like Marvel has the faintest chance of losing in court they will come to a hefty financial agreement (see the case with the Kirby estate). There is bound to be more as this all develops.

Thursday, September 23, 2021

The First Appearance Debate Has Reignited with a Moon Knight Comic

Everyone loves to argue about what is a, "First appearance," in comic books. Some people claim that if a character only pops up briefly, isn't named, is in shadows, or so forth then it is a, "Cameo," appearance. The first full appearance then comes later. People get really heated over this subject. I've seen folks almost come to blows over whether, "Avengers," #195 or #196 is the first true Taskmaster; "Amazing Spider-Man," #299 and #300 with Venom inspires debate too. Oh, and don't get me started on Wolverine and which issue of, "Incredible Hulk," truly counts depending on if you're going more by his first cover on #181 or how he appears in the last panel of #180 and outright says his name. Sometimes a, "First appearance," is a lot less cut-and-dry than you'd think. Now the latest run of, "Moon Knight," has led to debate anew.

In the first issue of, "Moon Knight," he meets a Dr. Badr and we see at the end of the issue Dr. Badr putting on his Hunters Moon mask. He isn't in the full outfit, however. Then, he's on the cover of issue #3 and spends much of that issue (which came out this week) in his full costume fighting Moon Knight. Does this mean #1 is a cameo and #3 is first full? Is #1 a first full and #3 is the first cover? Everyone is debating it online and it has been discussed over at the awesome Comics Heating Up Forums which I would recommend checking out (I'm quite active there, myself). In my own opinion that has no actual foundation besides it, "Feels," right, I'd say Dr. Badr/Hunter's Moon has his first full appearance in issue #1 but then has his first full cover for issue #3. I do not think #1 is a mere cameo as we hear his regular name as well as villainous title, plus we see him with the mask. Observe:

I think that's a pretty established first appearance, but feel free to disagree if you want. Part of the fun is seeing everyone debate!

Wednesday, September 22, 2021

I Made Another Meme to Get a Song Out of My Head

Readers of the blog may recall when I get alternate lyrics to a song stuck in my head they often remain there, annoying me. This previously happened with a Lizzo song where I turned it into a meme. Well, I'm having the issue again, and talking about it usually helps. It all relates to a new song, "Whole Lotta Money," by Bia.

If you haven't heard, "Whole Lotta Money," you honestly haven't missed much. The lyrics are mediocre and the beat is pretty wack. Don't rush out to listen to it on my account, in other words (if you want to, here's a link, I always got you). One thing about it that has stuck with me, however, is a line in the chorus where Bia brags, "There's a whole lot of money in this motherfucker." Somehow--I have no clue why--I keep thinking, "What if this song were about Winnie the Pooh?" Then, I figure, the line could go, "There's a whole lot of honey in the motherfucker," and it could feature Winnie the Pooh from that meme where he looks dapper and, forget it, I'll just make the meme:

I'm sorry, everyone, I'm clearly not well. I just hope this gets the annoying song out of my head. Seriously, I don't even like it!

Tuesday, September 21, 2021

It's The Day We All Associate with Earth, Wind, and Fire

It's not an official holiday, but September 21st is basically Earth, Wind, and Fire Day. The song is over 40 years old but, "September," has managed to stay popular. It's been in movies, television shows, played at political conventions, covered constantly, and has essentially become a meme with stuff like Demi Adejuyigbe’s music videos of the song that are always quite quirky. Why today in September, specifically? Well, it's that first line, "Do you remember? That 21st night of September." If you're wondering, they've said there is no specific meaning to that date, it just works great for the song. Now then, in honor of today, here it is:

Happy September 21st, everyone!

Monday, September 20, 2021

IDW Moves Exclusively to Penguin Random House, Diamond Faces Further Trouble

It was massive news when DC essentially made their own comic distributors (now just one, Lunar) and it was also shocking when Marvel signed a deal with Penguin Random House to have their periodicals distributed by the major bookstore entity. Both of these changes were massive hits to the company that was for years basically the sole force when it came to publishing individual issues of comics, Diamond. A longtime holder of a vaguely legal monopoly on comic distribution, the company now can distribute Marvel and such as a wholesaler, (and sells lots of toys and board games) but in regards to comics sits in a precarious position. 

Things just got even worse for Diamond as now IDW--a sizeable publisher--has moved to work exclusively with Penguin Random House come June of 2022. Now, Diamond will just be a wholesaler for them too and it is getting to the point that Image, Dark Horse, and Dynamite are the sole forces keeping Diamond alive as the other smaller indie publishers who work with Diamond are great but don't exactly keep the lights on. Diamond is in a rough spot for sure and probably is going to need to drastically restructure a lot of its business to stay operable/solvent. In the end, if enough comic stores choose to stick with Diamond for ease of use (even if they are a wholesaler as opposed to the main distributor for some publishers) they might weather this storm, but time will tell.

Sunday, September 19, 2021

"Tech Boy," is a Fun Comic by a Young Local Author

A friend and fan of my blog recently told me how they saw in a Facebook group a mother talking about her sons' self-published comic. I love writing about local authors and supporting young creators so I reached out to the family and learned about "Tech Boy," by DeJuan Strickland, or DJ. DJ is a 13-year-old scholar who is born and raised in St. Louis, Missouri. He enjoys gaming, anime, reading, and indulging in comic books. He is a member of STEMSTL Strategic Youth Advisory Board. He is a long-time honor roll student who thoroughly enjoys science and technology. I was able to interact with him and his mother about his comic and learned how it came about.

DJ first came up with the idea of Tech Boy after watching the movie Black Panther. He went back to his friends house and felt inspired to write his own comic book. He said he felt “seen” after the movie and realized there aren’t many  Black protagonists in books. He included his love for technology after taking a few coding classes at the Microsoft center through the Color Coded Kids program. They taught him coding and he's created a video game before too! "Tech Boy," was self published in April of this year and it became a #1 bestseller in children’s graphic novels section on Amazon.  DJ and his Mom told me the mission for, "Tech Boy," is to inspire other youth to become tech-savvy entrepreneurs.

As for what, "Tech Boy," is about, it features the journey of Tyriq Summerbird, a teenager from Cyber City, MO who gains powers through technology. His newfound adversary, Titan Ray, attempts to demolish the city for unknown reasons. This prompts Tyriq to debut as Tech Boy while attempting to use his powers to stop Titan Ray. Tech Boy strives to encourage youth by showing them the power of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math).

Having read this first issue of, "Tech Boy," I found it very fun! The story has shades of Superman's origin story mixed with more tech-focused heroes such as Green Arrow (with his high-tech gear) or Cyborg (with how his own physical body syncs with technology). There also is some fun mech-fighting as Titan Ray is a massive robot who is trying to wreck the city and I love anything with huge robots or kaiju. At just 13 DJ already has written something impressive and exciting so I look forward to what he makes next!

As I mentioned, DJ is the writer with art by Doneak Pusey and Obbrush. The artwork is solid and portrays the action in the tale quite well. I would encourage everyone to check out the website for, "Tech Boy," or grab themselves a physical/digital copy on Amazon.

Saturday, September 18, 2021

Happy Batman Day, Everyone!

I feel like it was not promoted as much this year, but today is Batman day! Comic stores around the World are giving away some free comics and many are doing sales. You can get free digital comics as well. Batman is a really fun character (when written/portrayed well) so cheers to him on his special day!

Friday, September 17, 2021

Film Friday: "Candyman," the 2021 Version

I have vague memories of seeing the first, "Candyman," movie with the stellar Tony Todd (he's back in the new one too). I recall it being terrifying and really good, but as it was a long time ago when I went to see the latest kinda-sequel/kinda-reenvisioning of, "Candyman," it was a bit like I was going in fresh. How was this newest, "Candyman," you ask? Well, it is pretty awesome in the first two acts of its relatively short 1 hour and 30-ish minute runtime. Then in the last 20 minutes it just kind of falls apart, a trend with a lot of modern horror movies.

This movie focuses on the legend of a man who kills you if you say his name five times. When an artist (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II as Anthony McCoy) learns about this terrifying character he finds himself obsessed with the legend of the Candyman, especially as bodies start to pile up as his artistic depictions of him garner more attention. Anthony's girlfriend (Teyonah Parris as Brianna Cartwright) tries to be supportive even as it becomes increasingly clear things are wrong and she has to deal with her own traumas. As Anthony slowly finds his own body starting to fall apart (there is some real body horror elements in this that are gross) things just get crazier and scarier. Then the movie kind of throws its hands in the air and gives up.

Yahya Abdul-Mateen II is amazing as an artist haunted by the legend of the Candyman.

"Candyman," is loaded with amazing performances from a fantastic cast and Director Nia DaCosta keeps everything appropriately eerie and moody throughout. Those last 20 minutes though are like eating a delicious multi-layer pie and then after you've gotten through all these amazing flavors you reach the bottom and discover the crust is cardboard--as if the chef just gave-up at the end. I don't want to spoil the ending, but it is basically one of those, "Oh, it turns out ____ was the villain all along despite all logic," type moments. Until then, though, it is really good!

At its brisk runtime, I actually wish, "Candyman," were longer and could have fleshed some of its ideas out more. It touches on so much. It discusses concepts of racism, classism, gentrification, and manages to be scary while also being quite deep about a lot of human and social issues. As I also mentioned, the acting is fantastic with Abdul-Mateen II and Parris both stealing the show. Also, as a big fan of Vanessa Williams, I really wish we could have had more of her (she reprises her 1992-version character). I guess it is both a compliment and an issue that, "Candyman," left me wanting more? More explorations of its themes, more scary moments, and more of an ending than what we got. As it is, "Candyman," a film loaded with potential that it occasionally realizes. I just wish it didn't peter out so bad at the end.

3 out of 5 stars.

Thursday, September 16, 2021

"Wheel of Fortune," Fans Are Enraged About Changes for the Latest Season

If you're a big fan of, "Wheel of Fortune," you might be an old person or my child, Clarkson. He used to really be into, "The Price is Right," but then developed a real affection for Wheel. The 39th season kicked off this week and there were a number of changes to the music, set design, and rules. Upon seeing all these tweaks I thought, "I bet longtime fans are pissed." I was right. People literally wrote they were, "Distraught," over changes. What exactly changed though besides the jingle and a refresh of the set? Well, a handful of things.

One massive alteration is that Pat Sayjack no longer spins the wheel for the Final Spin at the end of the regular game rounds. Now, the player in control of the board does it as Sayjack said he never liked feeling as if he had an impact on the game, it should've been players. Okay, that's not too much. Also, if a contestant solves all three puzzles in the triple toss-up they get a $4,000 bonus. Not too wild either. For the bonus round, you get at least $39,000 now too, which again seems reasonable. Oh, and the Free Play wedge is gone, replaced with an $850 wedge...what? Now, that's a bit much!

I liked the Free Play spot because it made it possible for players to call a vowel early when they didn't have any money yet or try a risky letter and still be allowed to spin even if it wasn't present. It added some fun strategies to the game. Oddly enough, it replaced the Free Spin wedge in 2009 and people were really angry then too, so I guess the more things change the more they stay the same.

Even with the alterations, the show still feels like, "Wheel of Fortune," without a doubt. I think little fixes now and then can be good and even if they upset me at first blush (like getting rid of free of the Free Space) I think it'll all work out in the end. Clarkson loves watching still, and if he's happy I'm happy.

Wednesday, September 15, 2021

I Know I'm Late to Discuss this, but the First Issue of, "The Nice House on the Lake," is Amazing!

I am behind on reading my comics. I have a big ol' stack of them that I've lately been trying to make a dent in. I finally had a chance to read issue #1 of, "The Nice House on the Lake," and goddamn was that a crazy comic. It starts slowly, as all these people arrive at a beautiful house by a lake, then as the comic nears the end of its debut an utterly insane twist (which I won't ruin so that you too give this comic a chance) is revealed and now I've already been in the process of finding issues #2, #3, and #4 that are out because this book is wild. I should've expected a great comic as James Tynion IV is the writer and he's been on fire with some stellar books lately. Alvaro Martinez Bueno illustrates everything amazingly too. I am so delayed in being amazed by this comic compared to everyone else but this first issue of, "The Nice House on the Lake," helped remind me why I love comics and why I love horror too.

I've revealed as little as possible about the plot on purpose, but I will talk about how surprising it is this book is at DC under its Black Label as opposed to Image or BOOM! Studios where Tynion has his other works. As I understand it, this is a rare example of a new creator-owned book at DC. Long ago, in the early days of the Vertigo imprint (may it rest in peace) DC had that, but then Vertigo quit letting creators own their books and everyone went to Image whilst Vertigo withered away. Tynion has a hit book at three publishers right now, "Something is Killing the Children," is dominating the charts with BOOM!, "The Department of Truth," is a smash with Image, and now we've got, "The Nice House on the Lake," over at DC. Plus, he does self-published work with his Tiny Onion Studios and has a popular Substack. The man is on fire.

Anyways, I'm sorry I am so late to the party when it comes to singing the praises of, "The Nice House on the Lake." I'll be trying to get the issues that have come out so far post-haste so that I can immediately enjoy them!

5 out of 5 stars.

Tuesday, September 14, 2021

Television Tuesday: "Big Brother," 23--The Season so Far

I love the reality show, "Big Brother." It takes a group of strangers, throws them in a house, and makes them complete for powers and vote each other out week by week until two people are left and a number of the evicted houseguests pick the winner. I've written about basically every season of the show since I started watching it. "Big Brother," has its latest season airing right now with it down to the final six. Last year things were incredibly different as there was no live audience on eviction nights and it was all former players AKA, "All-stars." We still have the setup where evicted houseguests only chat with Julie Chen Moonves (she started verbally adding the Moonves to her name on the show as a subtle form of protest after her husband was fired from CBS for being a sexual predator, but I digress), but this season it is all new faces. 

CBS stated a bit ago it would try to have a lot more diversity on its reality shows and this season of, "Big Brother," did make good on that. It wasn't a bunch of white straight people. This season has multiple folks of different ethnicities, sexualities, and religions. This inadvertently led to the creation of one of the strongest and most successful alliances ever, The Cookout. The six black players in this season started talking on the first day in the, "Big Brother," house about how a black person has never won the show. They observed black players tend to go home early. They agreed to form an alliance they dubbed, "The Cookout," and would move in secret to evict everyone else until it was just the six. They had a person outside the alliance they worked with as a decoy and who they could always sit up against on eviction night if needed with them staying and their faux-partner going home. Few alliances last all the way to their set endpoint, but the Cookout actually just succeeded and the last six people in the house all are/were members of The Cookout. The internet has obviously had opinions on this.

Some people have complained The Cookout is racist. They say the whole point was the black people teamed up to get anyone who wasn't black out. White players who were evicted (such as Christian) have outright said they don't think it was racist and they respect the alliance working so hard and succeeding. Many people have bitched, "If there were an all-white alliance it would be an issue," while ignoring there have by sheer chance been a ton of alliances in the past on the show that were all-white seeing as how--as I mentioned--minority individuals often went home early in past seasons of Big Brother with very few individuals who weren't white winning. I don't think The Cookout is racist but I do think an alliance like this can never work again on, "Big Brother," as now future players will have The Cookout's historic steamrolling of other players in their books of, "Greatest alliances ever."

Now that we are down to the final six there is again a sense of danger in the house as The Cookout now are forced to turn upon each other and make new deals with one another. Even when The Cookout was succeeding at whittling down the house it was still fun to watch and impressive to witness this diverse group of individuals (yes, I said diverse because even if they are, "All black," they are all still very different people) unite and see a complex plan come to fruition. For my money, I think Xavier is going to get the $750,000 (they increased the prize this year). He's won a number of competitions (physical and mental), has kept the fact he's a skilled lawyer a secret, and he's hilarious in the diary room sessions so I also just want him to win because I like him a lot. With only six houseguests left, there won't be too much more time until a winner is crowned!

Monday, September 13, 2021

The Trailer for, "Hawkeye," Has Been Released and You Know I've Got Thoughts

I previously said how I was excited for the new, "Hawkeye," show because the supporting cast looked amazing--e.g. I was excited for everyone but Hawkeye himself (sorry, Jeremy Renner). I like Renner, he just has been kind of wasted as Hawkeye, and this trailer seems to indicate that yeah, Hailee Steinfeld is going to steal the show as her version of Hawkeye. That isn't surprising as Steinfeld is super-talented, but man, she really carries this trailer. Give it a watch below:

I was intrigued by this promo for the show as it starts off kind of dramatically, but then it develops a quirky tone a lot like the Matt Fraction and David Aja run--it even has the tracksuit mobsters from that arc. I really hope Fraction and Aja are getting some royalties for how much this show seems to be cribbing from them. We also get a blink-and-you'll-miss-it appearance of Echo (Alaqua Cox) as well as Lucky the Pizza Dog. In addition, there is a snippet of a Steve Rogers-themed Broadway musical which sounds ingenious (and a bit like Marvel doing a self-own on their failed Spider-Man play). 

Everything looks promising with nothing screaming, "This is gonna suck!" as opposed to, "This will be a good time!" I had some trepidation about the show due to how Hawkeye in the Marvel Cinematic Universe has just been dull, but this trailer helped assuage some concerns. Now, I quite look forward to, "Hawkeye," debuting on Disney+ this November 24th.

Sunday, September 12, 2021

"Star-Crossed," is Another Masterpiece of an Album From Kacey Musgraves

I was a massive fan of Kacey Musgrave's last LP, "Golden Hour," which I considered the best album of 2018. It had a very optimistic and fun vibe along with some serious introspection, and was just lovely. Now it is 2021 and Musgraves has gifted us, "Star-Crossed." A couple things should be addressed right away.

First, this isn't really much of a country album. This is not a bad thing or a criticism. I don't normally like country music much with Musgraves, Garth Brooks, and the (former Dixie) Chicks being a few exceptions. With this album Musgraves has moved even further into a bit of an alternative rock sphere mixed with other genres, incorporating bits of a variety of genres. Secondly, "Star-Crossed," brings a lot more of a melancholy vibe than her previous album, and with good reason. The album is arguably the result of a lot of soul-searching and tells the tale of Musgraves' marriage that recently ended in divorce. 

This sorta-theme leads to some of the best songs that are centered on a fraught and complex relationship--"Star-Crossed," and my favorite track, "Justified." A number of other songs touch upon struggles in love from, "Good Wife," to, "Breadwinner," and, "Easier Said," among some others. This LP is Musgraves diving deep and being open with us about all she uncovers as she digs within her emotions. "Star-Crossed," is a beautiful album and another example of just how amazingly talented Musgraves is.

5 out of 5 stars.

Saturday, September 11, 2021

20 Years Ago Today

20 years ago today I was in a Junior High English class where we read popular short stories and discussed them. The class ended at 9AM and a teacher came into the room and told our teacher how something had happened at the World Trade Center. There had been a plane accident, or a bomb, or something. It had just happened but it seemed it was being addressed. 

We headed into our math class and were getting started with a lesson when it was announced that another plane had hit the other World Trade tower. Clearly, this was no accident and America was under attack. After that, we didn't really do any of our classes the rest of the day, instead, any televisions in the classrooms were broadcasting the news about what was happening as we all tried to make sense of it. The news came in about the Pentagon as well as a crash in Pennsylvania. I was just dumbstruck by it all and the true gravity of what had happened didn't really hit me until the next day as the deaths were continuously being tallied up and the faces of those killed or still missing filled our screens. It made me feel sick.

There was of course a surge in patriotism and unity, people these days still say they miss how wonderful it was on 9/12 that everyone came together. This of course is using rose-tinted glasses as plenty of people were not included in the loving embrace of nationalism, with Muslim individuals still facing persecution in the U.S. to this day. There was some sense of hope that we were going to go to Afghanistan and get revenge. Then for some reason, the war started to encompass Iraq for no (truthful) reason. 

Eventually, we killed the mastermind behind 9/11, Osama Bin Laden, but we still found ourselves wrapped up in Afghanistan until recently when we essentially abandoned it back to the Taliban, fleeing a country that any other government has consistently failed to adequately, "Help," such as previously in 1919 (the British gave up), 1989 (The Soviets gave up) and now in 2021 (we gave up). The failure in Afghanistan does not have a sole President to blame as much as those of us who hate Trump (or others who like to throw shade at Biden) would like. This mess encompasses Bush, Obama, Trump, and Biden, with everyone taking some blame, although I'd say Bush deserves most of the scorn for the attacks even happening and Obama gets out with the least of this stink upon him. We didn't know everything that would be to come 20 years ago today though. We were just hurting, so badly, as a Nation. In some ways, the surge of patriotism and jingoism wasn't a surprise even if some of it is incredibly cringe-inducing today.

Now we have children learning about 9/11 in history classes as something that happened before they were born. It must be weird for them to hear about this major event that for them seems so distant yet for many of us feels so fresh in our minds--the only other comparison I can really make when it comes to a National tragedy is much older Americans who recall Pearl Harbor or when JFK was killed. I remember that day though, 20 years ago. I couldn't have predicted all it would have led to and 20 years out we sure do have a lot more clarity and understanding than we did before, for better or worse. I wish 9/11 hadn't happened, that it could have been stopped, and that our World could be a lot different (I would hope in a better way) than it is when it comes to the global politics of having a, "War on terror," or such. It all did happen though (despite what conspiracy theorists might tell you) and the best thing we can do on this day is look back and remember.

Friday, September 10, 2021

Influencers/Bloggers/etc. Always Need to Sign a Contract When Promoting a Product

If you have a blog (like me) or are a social media influencer (I'm not, but I know some people who are), you probably get solicited to promote a product or service sometimes. I've never been paid to promote a product, but if I were I'd obviously disclose it (I have signed contracts for my writing though, in case you wondered). One reason requests to promote a product or service have never gone anywhere is I am tentatively offered money but there is no contract or anything. Plus, usually whatever I'm asked to promote doesn't even make sense with my blog so why bother? For real though, if you don't sign an actual contract that you should probably have a lawyer check out too, you really shouldn't be cutting deals to talk about a product on your Instagram/Tiktok/blog/so forth. 

This article by Tanya Chen (and this one that the first link references also by Chen) tell the story of influencers struggling to get paid by Ooh! Companion, which is, " Australian-based sex toy company that was founded just a year ago, and much of its visibility and success has been thanks to its Instagram marketing." Basically, they sold influencers a line about female empowerment and shame-free sex toys, agreed to work together via DMs and handshake agreements instead of signing on a dotted line, and then it took months and threats of going public about being shortchanged for any influencers to get paid. Ooh! Companion wanted the clout of influencers recommending their toys without actually paying to get the promotion, and they surely aren't the only company to try that kind of trick.

As the tide turned against them they made their Instagram page private.

If you're going to publically promote a product and lend your fame/readership/whatever to an item you damn well better be sure you're going to get paid; the way to assure that is to have an ironclad contract that protects you if anything goes wrong and you have to sue. Now then, I would like to take this time to promote a new brand that reached out to me and promised a platter of lukewarm chicken wings would be mailed to my address if I talked them up--"Dog Whiskey." It's like regular whiskey, but for your dog so they can get drunk and throw up too! "Dog Whiskey: It'll Send Rover Right Over!"

Thursday, September 9, 2021

Marvel is Launching a Line of Digital-Only Comics Titled, "Infinity Comics," and That's Interesting For a Few Reasons

Marvel Launches New Digital-Only Comics

Marvel has a digital comic service known as, "Marvel Unlimited," that you can subscribe to and read a ton of Marvel comics. Now, there is not anything that has come out in the last six months as Marvel doesn't want to cannibalize print sales or piss off comic shops too much. There have been occasional digital-only comics, but nothing like what Marvel just launched. Titled, "Infinity Comics," these are free if you have Marvel Unlimited. They are in continuity (whatever that means these days) and have some pretty well-known creators writing popular characters. This is intriguing for a few reasons.

Three Reasons Infinity Comics is Interesting

1. There is no extra fee for these digital-only comics and they will be plentiful. They are included with your Marvel Unlimited subscription and as I noted, feature some big creators (Jonathan Hickman, Declan Shalvey, Skottie Young, Dax Gordine, Alyssa Wong, Nathan Stockman, Kelly Thompson, Gerry Duggan, Lucas Werneck, and Jeffo, according to Marvel’s news release are kicking things off). There are already 27 comics as of today and plans for over 100 to exist before 2021 wraps. These things are not lame little bonus comics by creators you've never heard of about characters who are unknown. These have those names writing X-Men, Deadpool, Captain America, Shang-Chi, Black Widow, Venom, Carnage, and more. This has become a major selling point for Marvel Unlimited.

2. The comics are read in a vertical scroll form which is a lot more friendly to tablets and especially phones. Trying to take physical comics and make them, "Work," for a phone can be tricky when you've got a big double-page splash and are trying to put it all onto a phone's screen. By designing these explicitly for digital and having them be in a vertical scrolling format these comics are basically meant to be read on your phone with ease.

3. The elephant in the room here is Substack. A lot of comic creators are going to Substack as it is offering some appealing deals in the form of a ton of cash and creators maintaining control of their intellectual property. The thing is, Substack really wasn't created with comics in mind and has been a bit unwieldy to read comics within. It's just kind of comic pages awkwardly crammed into a newsletter. When these newsletters feature creators writing in-depth about their creative process it's cool (I subscribed to Jeff Lemire's Substack to test the whole thing out), but as soon as actual comics get posted it is a bit strange. Perhaps Marvel is trying to subtly show it can do online comics, "Right," with these Infinity Comics. Now, Marvel doesn't mention Substack at all in any of the promotional text about this, but its shadow looms large.

What Will the Future Hold?

This, "Infinity Comics," is going to be interesting to watch and see how much success Marvel has with it.

"The Matrix Resurrections," Looks Like it Might Actually be Quite Cool

I adored the first, "Matrix," movie. Directed by Lana and Lilly Wachowski, it was a mind-bending experience full of philosophy, kung-fu, wild special effects, and it was just a delight. The two sequels were alright but admittedly let me way down compared to the first flick. Looking at everything now with some distance they hold up fine, but that first movie is still the best of the three by far. Now here we are almost two decades later and a new, "Matrix," movie is on the way. Titled, "The Matrix Resurrections," this one is directed solely by Lana with her as a writer of the script along with Aleksandar Hemon and author David Mitchell (of, "Cloud Atlas," fame, for better or worse). Here's the trailer:

The trailer actually looks pretty good and makes me wonder if this new entry could be a damn good flick. It looks like Neo (although now he doesn't even know he's Neo) is in our new modern era, possibly being monitored and kept relatively sedated (perhaps he didn't truly die at the end of the last flick and is trapped in a new Matrix). Keanu Reeves has had a career renaissance as of late and it's fun to see him return as Neo as you couldn't callback to a more classic role Reeves has played besides if you did another, "Bill and Ted," movie...which I recall now they actually did. Carrie-Ann Moss is back, Laurence Fishburne isn't but a man who looks and acts suspiciously like him is, and we get a healthy dose of Neal Patrick Harris in the preview, and I always enjoy some NPH in my flicks.

It isn't all moody talking and atmosphere, however, there is plenty of kicking, jumping, and slow-mo guns that are this franchise's hallmark. In some ways, "The Matrix," feels even more relevant with its concept of humanity becoming trapped in our own technology--a point that is driven home in a clip during the trailer where Reeve enters an elevator and everyone is obsessing over their phones and tablets. That may very well help, "The Matrix Ressurctions," be deliciously topical as well as packed full of exciting action scenes. Come December 22nd anyone who wants to go to a theater or watch it on HBO Max will be able to judge for themselves if this is all empty hype that is going to be more like the deflated sequels or a new entry that will hit as hard as the first movie. All I know is this preview got me a lot more intrigued than I had been.

Wednesday, September 8, 2021

Ordering a Comic From Asylum Press Was a Delight!

The refrain generally goes that if you order a comic directly from the publisher's website they won't pack it well and you'll be getting a damaged comic (no shade at Heavy Metal, but yeah). That said, I quite like the over-the-top vibe of the Warlash character's comics from indie publisher Asylum Press. Therefore, I took the risk of directly ordering the new comic, "Warlash: Cold Metal Mayhem," from them and was actually pleasantly surprised by what I received. In a very well-secured and sturdy cardboard mailer, I got that latest issue of Washlash's adventures, as well as another newer comic about him, "Warlash: Bioburden." Plus, there was a signed print by artist and founder of Asylum, Frank Forte! Check it out:
 I was just some random customer ordering a comic and they really treated me right! I mean, I only ordered one comic and got two plus a print, with everything packed spectacularly. In an era where people don't even do the bare minimum of packaging or customer service, this was a delightful treat to get. I want to thank Frank Forte and all the good folk at Asylum Press. They put out some cool comics and have some horror anthologies on the way that look snazzy, so maybe give their web-store your business if anything catches your eye.

"Alan Wake," is Being Remastered

I loved the video-game, "Alan Wake," back in the day. It featured a writer who was haunted by shadowy figures you could only combat by shining light upon them and then shooting at it was a little cliche in combat, admittedly. The story, however, was just wild as you watched this writer fight off his nightmares as they came to life and he had to determine if he was crazy or really combatting strange shadowy creatures. It's by the same studio who made the (first two) Max Payne games I adored, Remedy, so that tells you a lot.

Anyways, I am taking this trip down memory lane because Remedy has signed a deal with Epic to distribute, "Alan Wake," with a remastered version that'll include two expansions, fancy new graphics, and a mode with a creators' commentary. It'll be on the latest versions of the Xbox, PlayStation, and run on PCs too. There is still no word if the kinda-sequel/kinda-short-spin-off game, "Alan Wake: American Nightmare," will be getting a remaster too. Folks have expressed an, "Alan Wake," remaster is exciting news and I agree. I don't play video-games nearly as much these days but if I ever get a PS5 or such I'll be sure to dive back into this game.

Tuesday, September 7, 2021

"Snelson: Comedy is Dying," #1 and #2 Offer a Creative Examination of the Art of Stand-Up Comedy

Comedy is hard. Professional comedians will tell you this. Hell, I used to do stand-up comedy at open mic nights and the number of times I bombed well outnumber the times I killed, so I'll tell you comedy is hard. In the past number of years, there has been the added element that people have found some comedy not so much funny as just offensive and unpleasant--or the comedians who tell the jokes have sometimes been revealed to be quite unpleasant people in their private lives or outright monsters. This had led to cries of, "Cancel culture," and complaints that comedians are getting, "Canceled," by overly-sensitive and, "Woke," mobs that can't take a joke. All of these concepts coalesce in the first two issues of, "Snelson: Comedy is Dying," in a thoughtful and quite entertaining manner.

In this new mini-series published by Ahoy Comics, Melville Snelson is a minimally successful stand-up comic. He is nowhere near the career-heights he achieved in the '90s when he had a massive following and almost got a sitcom. He blames people for being too sensitive but the real problem might be some of his stuff just isn't funny. The first issue is mostly set up for a much more interesting second issue where after getting some medical news Snelson turns into a crusader against, "Cancel culture," thanks to his new podcast that allows him to rail against how people won't let comedians say what they want to say for fear of repercussions. This attracts some reprehensible people to Snelson's platform but he's finally getting attention again so he doesn't really care.

"Snelson: Comedy is Dying," amazingly manages to not make Snelson an outright villain. Paul Constant writes him extremely well. He is more a figure of pity for readers. He's washed-up, desperate for viewers/listeners, and figures if he falls into the mold of being an alt-right celeb against, "Woke," culture at least he can be infamous if he's not famous. Those who favor, "Free speech no matter what," do have their argument presented in the form of some characters, but the ones who point out how, "Cancel culture," just isn't necessarily a true thing come off a lot more reasonably and realistically.

I've not touched much yet upon Fred Harper's artwork and I apologize for that as it is utterly fantastic. For a comic where much of the time has characters standing on a stage or sitting behind a microphone in a living room, Harper kills it. He adds these hilarious little abstract touches to moments that really sell the absurdity of what we're reading, such as when Snelson realizes his latest podcast episode's big guest has canceled but he just keeps smiling bigger and bigger in a surrealist manner lest someone reporting on his podcast see how bad things are getting while Snelson whispers to his producer about how they're screwed.

I found the first two issue of, "Snelson: Comedy is Dying," to be great reads thanks to Paul Constant's careful navigating of choppy political waters while at the same time being funny as well as Fred Harper's amazing art. The first issue is a bit slow to get things moving but by this second issue all the cylinders are firing. Check it out, I'd say.

Issue 1: 4 out of 5 stars.

Issue 2: 5 out of 5 stars.

Read My Review of, "The Lab," over at Forces of Geek!

I've contributed another review over at Forces of Geek. This time, I offered my opinion on a very strange graphic novel with an unassuming name in the form of, "The Lab." It is best described as historical fiction with a dash of sci-fi as it imagines a French tech company trying to invent its own computing devices back in the era where Windows and Apple rose to power. Check out my thoughts over there!

Monday, September 6, 2021

Happy Labor Day. Again, Thank Unions!

It is Labor Day again and last year I pointed out that without unions a lot of the, "Luxuries," workers enjoy wouldn't exist. I put, "Luxuries," in quotation marks because you wouldn't think something like having a weekend, a lunch break, or being respected as a human being would be a luxury, but compared to what past workers were treated like, they are. Unions are inextricably linked to Labor Day and we should celebrate them both today.

Sunday, September 5, 2021

Everyone, You Do NOT Force Andre 3000 to Comment on Your Petty Rap Feuds

Andre 3000 is half of my favorite music group ever, OutKast. OutKast released their last album as a group in 2006, but both Big Boi and Andre 3000 have gone on to be involved in a variety of other projects. Sometimes Andre 3000 is so kind as to provide a stellar guest-verse or two on someone's song. It seems he was going to do that for Kanye West's latest LP, "Donda," but for various reasons, it was decided not to use his rap. That sounds simple, but because Kanye West and the person he is currently feuding with--Drake--can't help but act like children, Andre 3000 inadvertently has been drawn into the whole mess.

I basically avoid talking about Kanye on my blog now and kind of pretend the Kanye I knew and loved the music of disappeared after, "The Life of Pablo," because in many ways, he kind of did. The utterly egomaniacal mess of a man West has turned into is unrecognizable from the one who gave us, "The College Dropout," and one thing this new Kanye seems to need to basically survive is to be in a conflict with someone else. Right now, that, "Someone else," is Drake. I've written about my concerns with Drake a number of times and have never been an especially big fan, so when it comes to these two men slinging insults at each other I don't give a rat's ass who, "Wins." That said, these two trifling fools had to involve a man I do still respect and adore the music of, and that is some bullshit.

Drake was on a satellite radio show and played a clip of a Kanye song that had Andre 3000's verse. It was kind of a, "Look how crazy Kanye is, he cut Andre 3000 from a song!" kind of flex. I understand Drake being mad as his private info was doxxed by Kanye--again, this whole feud between the two is dumb. Andre 3000 getting dragged into this mess prompted him to release a short and sweet statement that can be seen above. Yep, Andre 3000 acts like the only adult in the room and says he's happy to make music with any and all of the artists he respects. Andre 300 sees this dumb fight and wants no part of it, thanks. Andre 3000 is far too talented, respected, and mature for this shit, leave him out of it, you two.

Saturday, September 4, 2021

"Dark Ages," #1 is a Dull Start to a Promising Mini-Series

You ever read the initial chapter of a book, watch the debut episode of a television show, or read the first issue of a comic and see how it has a lot of potential but just starts out kind of shaky/weak? That's how I felt with, "Dark Ages." The whole first issue basically sets up the plot that's been advertised of a Marvel Universe that lacks any electrical power. This issue introduces a new big-bad named the Unmaker, promptly has them defeated (maybe to return), and discusses how due to that defeat the Marvel U was hit by an unending EMP that shut off any and all electricity and devices that relied upon electric power. I guess I should say, "Spoiler alert," but this whole series was advertised as being about that, so I ain't spoiling much.

"Dark Ages," starts off in a near-present-day-but-a-few-years-ahead-maybe Marvel Universe with some tweaks in the form of Peter Parker and Mary Jane having a toddler named May, and the Fantastic Four's daughter Valeria is clearly a bit older too. As this is an alternate universe some characters die quickly to prove just how high the stakes are (a common trope). Thanks to some, "shocking," sacrifices, the Unmaker is defeated and we jump ahead 7 years to the actual start of the story, where the remnants of humanity are apparently at war with Apocalypse (the well-known mutant baddie). With that, the comic ends right as things get going.

The Unmaker is really hyped-up as a new threat...and is promptly defeated.

Did I expect too much as Tom Taylor is writing this and he is a fantastic writer of comics--especially alternate-universe tales as his work on the, "Injustice," comic shows? I mean, the artist, Iban Coello, does a fantastic job with all of this so no blame lies at his feet for me being bored. His Unmaker is a massive and imposing machine full of disturbing green energy and sharp edges. His drawings of various parts of the World nearly getting destroyed by the Unmaker are kinetic and scary. All the various heroes look like their popular selves. "Dark Ages," is a pretty comic, in other words. The story just doesn't grab me or seem especially interesting until right as the issue stops, however. 

There is a promising foundation put in place by this first issue, so I think as this mini-series continues things are bound to get a lot more intriguing. As it is now though, this is a weak kick-off to what I hope grows into something much cooler. At least the whole thing is going to look good with Coello on the artwork duties.

2 out of 5 stars.

Thursday, September 2, 2021

"Brick by Brick," is a Fantastic and Hilarious Comic About Bricks, of All Things

Dave Craig is a comic creator who reached out to me and inquired if I'd like to review his latest comic publication, "Brick by Brick." The comics are all about bricks, believe it or not. My interest was piqued so I said I would indeed love to read his comic. Having now checked-out, "Brick by Brick," I can say it is extremely clever and often hilarious thanks to all the creative concepts Craig puts his bricks through.

"Brick by Brick," features an assortment of one-page strips as well as some that are a little more in-depth and use multiple pages to get the story across. You wouldn't think so many clever puns or stories could be told with bricks, but Craig is extremely innovative in the strips he crafts. Whether it is a brick hitching a ride to, "Work," in a wheelbarrow or making its own creative pumpkin carving, each strip is clever and will most likely put a smile on your face or make you outright laugh.

One reason everything works so well would be Craig's stellar artwork. His bricks look like real bricks that just happen to have some appendages, and this results in a mental, "Conflict," of sorts where these normal appearing bricks do all kinds of outlandish things, with the dichotomy between realistic and cartoonish being a big reason the comic catches a reader's eye. With the delightful storytelling and superb artwork, "Brick by Brick," is just plain fun to read!

I am so happy that Dave Craig reached out to me about reviewing his comic and would encourage you to check out his website, Instagram, and Twitter to see his works. "Brick by Brick," can be bought at his website as well should you want a copy. I can't wait to see what kinds of adventures Craig's bricks go on next in future works!

5 out of 5 stars.

Wednesday, September 1, 2021

Marvel Announced a Lot of New Comics Yesterday

Yesterday was a big day if you like reading comic-books from Marvel. They announced a bunch of new titles and events. There is going to be a Kingpin-focused event called, "Devil's Reign," with the creative team of, "Daredevil," Chip Zdarsky and Marco Checchetto.  We're also getting more, "Avengers," comics from Jason Aaron (yah?) in the form of, "Avengers Forever," with Aaron Kuder on art. There shall be a Kang-centric event titled, "Timeless," which a writer who is quickly becoming a favorite of mine writing it, Jed MacKay (multiple artists are involved). More, "Wolverine," comics would bore me except they are being written by Benjamin Percy and he's been doing a good job on the current, "Wolverine," comic so, "X Lives of Wolverine," and, "X Deaths of Wolverine," might be decent with his scripts and art by Joushua Cassara as well as Federico Vicentini. 

I'm not a huge She-Hulk fan, but I did adore Rainbow Rowell's work on the most recent, "Runaways," so seeing she's writing and Roge Antonio is on art has me pretty excited. The, "Reckoning War," Dan Slott has teased in multiple comics for over a decade will be occurring with multiple artists and a currently unannounced team will be bringing, "Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur," back in February of 2022 when (I assume) the animated show premieres too. Some of these comics are sooner and some are later as the graph shows, but they all sound at least like they'd be entertaining. I don't see anything listed here and go, "Ugh, really? Do we need that?" These are all just creative teams we're seeing though (or not even that in the case of, "Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur,") so it will remain to be seen how this all turns out. As it is, I'm just glad nothing is a an obviously recycled event like, "Secret Invasion II," or such.

Tuesday, August 31, 2021

Television Tuesday: "Bachelor in Paradise," is the Trashy Programming I Crave

I love trashy television. I find it to be a spectacular way to unwind. There is little t.v. as trashy as, "Bachelor in Paradise." If the, "Bachelor/Bachelorette," put on airs about being about people finding true love through a game-show format then, "Bachelor in Paradise," is the franchise when it drops any pretense. "Bachelor in Paradise," is the show going, "Let's just take any single fan-favorites or villains and throw them on a beach with encouragement to go at it," and go it they sure do. 

With the whole stress of impressing just that one bachelor/bachelorette gone anyone can couple up with anyone else (the show did finally have a same-sex romance previously, but generally it's all heterosexual couplings) and this leads to tons of hooking-up and immense conflicts. We get to witness everyone making out with each other and then getting mad about it if someone they like gets pawed at by another person. Even the location where people can have sex has a more blunt name. It isn't a, "Fantasy Suite," it is simply the, "Boom Boom Room." It just is like a comforting blanket of audiovisual junk food as all these people we recall from past seasons (and love or hate) get hot-and-heavy or argue with each other.

A rare moment free of anyone kissing or arguing.

This season has been a lot like past ones minus Chris Harrison (because, yeah). Instead, we've been treated to an assortment of guest hosts. David Spade kicked things off, then Lance Bass showed up, and apparently, Lil' Jon is going to be there too, because why not? Everyone's favorite bartender and Sarah Hyland's husband, Wells, is still there though, making drinks and trying not to crack up at how absurd this whole enterprise is. The absence of Harrison has actually shown how little he mattered to this franchise, the real star has always been the drama.

"Bachelor in Paradise," has lately been on Mondays and Tuesdays this season, so I got to enjoy an episode last night and will be tuning in today too. I watch educational things too, but sometimes you just need to give in to your craving for trashy tv, and boy is this a treat.

Monday, August 30, 2021

This Save a Lot Ad with Rapping is Actually...Really Good?

You know what is often extremely cringey? When big brands try to do something, "Hip," or popular. Sometimes it inadvertently works (see Wendy's Twitter account) but oftentimes the whole endeavor is awful. Having people rapping about a grocery store sounds like it should be atrocious, but against all odds, the rap is straight fire. Yes, Save a Lot made an ad of people rhyming about their grocery stores, and it's somehow good. The song is titled, "Like, A Lot a Lot," and while the whole ad has been chopped into 30-second segments for television the entire thing can be seen online. Observe:

Dear God, that deli lady's dubbed-over speed-rap is loaded with clever bits and I'm still astounded this ad isn't terrible. As I'm always doing way deeper dives into stuff than any human needs to, I read some grocery store business websites (yes, there are entire websites dedicated to the trade practice of grocery stores), and the secret to this ad not sucking is actual talented folks were hired. The music video was shot by veteran director Drew Kirsch, who has a Video Music Award under his belt for directing the video for Taylor Swift's song, "You Need to Calm Down." As for the rapping/singing talent, "The spot features emerging singers like Leon Evans, Sarai, and Tamara Bubble, who also has a song featured on Disney’s, 'Raya and the Last Dragon.'” 

I guess when you hire someone who knows how to shoot a music video and give gigs to folks who actually can craft a verse the result is a shockingly fun and catchy ad. The beat is hot, the rhythmic rapping catches my ear, and as I said, the lyrics are solid. Plus, there is a sense of humor to the ad, a bit of a cheekiness that it's acknowledging how silly this whole endeavor is. A little self-awareness always goes a long way.

A PR website with a big article about the ad (I told you I research random stuff way too much) describes how this advertisement is designed to, "...modernize the brand and deepen its relationships with customers." I assume, "Modernize," is a coded way of saying, "We need more young people to shop here too." I'll be honest, when I saw this ad it occurred to me I hadn't gone to a Save a Lot in a while and did recall some geat deals being there. I maybe need to swing by one sometime. Mission accomplished, Save a Lot, you got me.

Sunday, August 29, 2021

The Latest ToyMan Show Was a Delight!

I was overjoyed the ToyMan show returned last month, so you know I showed up to the latest show today eager to find more awesome stuff and make some deals. Anytime I go to a ToyMan show I see such a wide variety of stuff it astounds me. Vintage toys, new toys, diecast cars, Funko Pops, Legos, posters, DVDs, and more are always at the show. As a comic person I focus in on the comic dealers, but I'm always intrigued by how much I see. While I was at ToyMan I ran into a lot of my vendor-chums such as Brian Lan, Spike from Lost in Space Toys and Collectibles, and I chatted with Tom from Alliance Toys, Comics, and Games. I bought a really crisp copy from one vendor of, "Amazing Spider-Man," #299, which features the first appearance of Venom (yes, some call it cameo, I don't want to get in a big fight about it though). Check it out:

After doing a lot of browsing and chatting with various folks at booths I went upstairs and saw a bunch of awesome people I always enjoy running into. I talked with my friends Jessica Mathews and Jennifer Stolzer, who were telling me about how they were already discussing plans for a new book they'd be collaborating on! I also saw the fantastic folks from Perryville's Heroes for Kids and chatted about how enthusiastic I was for the next upcoming con in 2022 after loving the last one. As I was looking around the show I actually ran into a friend of mine named Mark and we showed each other some of the comics we had brought to the show in hopes of trading/selling. He was kind enough to sell me a copy of, "Wolverine #88, which features the first meeting of Wolverine and Deadpool! Here it is:

There are always so many awesome sellers and creators at ToyMan that it has become one of my favorite shows to visit anytime it is held. The next show will be on September 26th and you can find out everything needed to know about attending via this digital flyer. Should you be in the Saint Louis region around then I'd recommend visiting the show as it is always great.