Friday, June 30, 2023

The First Issue of "Antarctica," is Fun and Mysterious

I've reviewed a number of comics written by Simon Birks and when he asked if I'd be interested in checking out the debut issue of, "Antarctica," I eagerly said I'd read it. Published by Image's Top Cow imprint and featuring art by Willi Roberts, this is a strange sci-fi adventure that seems to be heading in one direction before swerving into another interesting plot. The comic centers on a young woman named Hannah Curtis whose father disappeared one day but last had been working at a remote research base in Antarctica. Through a lot of hard work and tenacity Hannah ends up being able to get a job there and the comic seems to be hinting we'll follow Hannah as she unwinds a missing-person mystery. However, as the issue concludes it seems she might be getting a lot of answers quite quickly--just from a strange source that might involve time travel, aliens, or alternate universes--we shall see!

I quite enjoyed this first issue of, "Antarctica," with Birks and Robers spending a good deal of time making us care about Hannah as we lead into the main plot and mystery once she gets to Antarctica. Once the wonky sci-fi stuff starts happening Roberts does a lovely job illustrating it and I'm excited to see what exactly is going on in Antarctica based on the cliffhanger at the issue's end! The comic is set to be five issues and the debut of this mini-series hits stores on July 12th, so you don't have to wait long to get a copy at your comic shop--something I'd recommend!

5 out of 5 stars.

Thursday, June 29, 2023

Evernote Expects Me to Pay Double Suddenly, I Will Not

Things go up in price, I get it. Between inflation and the general costs of operating a service, a price will sometimes need to be increased. Microsoft/Xbox Game Pass is raising its price a couple bucks a month. People are upset and I also dislike it but I understand and it isn't an absurd change. Then you've got Evernote, which decided to tell me they were going to basically double the price for me to use their app from $70 to $130. A 100% price increase sucks. If we were talking about raising the price by $10 for the year I could maybe understand, but when you go slap with me such an absurd price hike I'm not going to take part in that. Before my Evernote subscription renews at the end of July I plan to find another service (I've been testing some other sites and apps out), import my notes to my new selection, and be done with it. This is not a decision I take lightly as I've been using Evernote for years. Double the price, however? To quote the great Randy Jackson back in the heyday of American Idol, "It's a no from me, dawg." It's a dated reference, but it works.

Wednesday, June 28, 2023

"Superman: Legacy," Has Casting News, and the Internet Has Opinions

James Gunn and Peter Safran are going to reboot the DC film Universe. This seems sorely needed considering how many DC projects he had minimal or no involvement in struggled lately. Everyone is pointing fingers after, "Flashpoint," cratered in theaters despite looking fun, with Gunn escaping most blame due to it being a mess for years before DC brought him and Safran in to refresh the entire DC line of flicks and shows. One of the first things Gunn has coming down the pipeline is, "Superman: Legacy." Hence, all eyes have been on the project with fans of Gunn as well as his detractors (some folks really preferred Zack Snyder's stuff) eager for any drips of information. Well, two big ol' droplets of news have metaphorically splashed across the internet and said internet has many opinions. Yes, Clark Kent/Superman and Lois Lane have been cast for the flick.

For, "Superman: Legacy," our titular Super-fella will be David Corenswet and Lois Lane shall be portrayed by Rachel Brosnahan. I will say I enjoyed Brosnahan in, "The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel," which just finished its run on Amazon Prime so I'm sure she'll be great. I have to admit I am unfamiliar with Corenswet but from what I've seen looking at his bibliography of work he seems talented. Apparently some on the internet have been making comments regarding how he looks a little like Henry Cavill and therefore is somehow a downgrade or such. A small chunk of the internet sometimes really seems to have a lot of love for Cavill in the role and is providing minimal backlash that some are overstating, but I was never huge on him or opposed to his work in the role, so I'm happy to give Corenswet's take a chance. The flick isn't even due until 2025 at the earliest so I'm sure much more will be revealed about, "Superman: Legacy," and other DC projects the next handful of months.

Tuesday, June 27, 2023

Valiant Has Signed a Publishing Deal With Alien Books

I have enjoyed a number of comics from Valiant. The company was huge in the 90's then folded in 2000, but came back in 2007 with some excellent titles. Since then they had success and failure with some great comics but also the, "Bloodshot," movie which flopped, and they've dabbled in NFTs (you all know I'm not a fan of those). Lately, they were also having some financial issues, publishing one comic a month or so. It was announced today, however, that Valiant will work with another publisher, Alien Books, and be putting out a chunk more comics. Alien Books also works with FairSquare so we could see solicitations in the future for comics from within Valiant, Alien Books, and FairSquare. As Bleeding Cool somewhat sarcastically put it, we will now get more than comic a month from Valiant. All snark from some sources aside, I am excited to see some cool stuff be put out by this new partnership and wish all the companies well as they work together.

Monday, June 26, 2023

Two Game Shows I Like Are Going Through Some Changes

UPDATE for 6/27/23: Ryan Seacrest has been announced as the new host for, "Wheel of Fortune," so that settles that!

I enjoy a wide variety of programming and always have fun viewing, "The Price is Right," and, "Wheel of Fortune." Here in the Saint Louis region, you can enjoy, "The Price is Right," at 10 AM, and then, "Wheel of Fortune," comes on at 6:30 PM. There has been some news about both as of late.

The 40th season of, "Wheel of Fortune," is currently running and longtime host, Pat Sajak, declared that the 41st season (which kicks off in September) will be his last. It's been a good long run and even if some of his other entertainment endeavors failed (few recall his talk show), his tenure on, "Wheel of Fortune," has been a successful one. I've seen all kinds of names floated to replace him ranging from Ryan Seacrest to folks such as Whoopi Goldberg and Andy Cohen saying they'd take a stab at it. Perhaps the 42nd season will have multiple people trying out--and hopefully, that will have less controversy than, "Jeopardy," did when they tried such a thing.
Meanwhile, "The Price is Right," had less earth-shattering but still interesting news. After filming for 51 years at one location with Bob Barker and then Drew Carey (who took over back in 2007 if you can believe it has been that long), the show will be moving its studio. Instead of being in Los Angeles, the show will now film in Glendale. During the Covid-19 pandemic, the set was changed multiple times and currently is a lot less full overall, so I'm curious if the new location will have a big audience again or not. We shall see sooner than later and in the meantime, I'll enjoy watching, "The Price is Right," as well as, "Wheel of Fortune," while Sajak is there and afterward (as long as the new host is good).

Sunday, June 25, 2023

"Tales of Syzpense," #1 Brings Back the Split Comic in a Lovely Manner

I've been a fan of Ashley Wood's work for years and he's done a number of projects with IDW and now with Image. IDW's former Editor-in-Chief, Chris Ryall, and Wood collaborated a lot previously, and now they've come together with some other talents to bring us the esoterically-titled, "Tales of Syzpense." It brings back a format we haven't really seen lately--the split comic--and I'm glad it does!

As Ryall discusses in the back matter of the comic, split comics used to be a big thing with, "Tales to Astonish," and, "Tales of Suspense," over at Marvel, to give some examples. They would take two characters and half of the comic would focus on one and the other half on another with two different creative teams telling two totally different stories but sharing a cover. Now, we've got T.P. Louise and Ashely Wood bringing us, "Les Mort 13," and Chris Ryall and Nelson Daniel with, "Dreamweaver." Each story is quite different thematically and in art, but are alike in how both entertain wonderfully!

The first chunk of the comic is the aforementioned, "Les Mort 13," and centers on an eerie island and a visitor to it. The whole thing has an ominous vibe and features Wood's gorgeous artwork with his usual go-to's such as robots being involved. It's quirky and creepy so I really liked it.

"Dreamweaver," features a magical man named Cutler Carlton who realizes he's at a point in his career fighting mystical crime that he probably needs to retire and pass the mantle on to someone new. In the back matter of this issue, Ryall discusses how the comic will follow Carlton giving someone else his powers but then wanting them back and how much of a mess that causes, writing the idea was a bit like if Abin Sur had lived, given Hal Jordan the Green Lantern ring, and then decided he wanted it back. It was a solidly charming debut for the story as well and I enjoyed its more traditional comic art by Nelson as a counter to Wood's incredibly abstract-yet-gorgeous work.

I had a ball reading this first issue and look forward to more, "Tales of Syzpense." The split comic as a format was pretty much dead, but now it's back. I'm here to sing its praises if such a form can give us great comics like this one!

5 out of 5 stars.

Saturday, June 24, 2023

"Cupid," by FIFTY FIFTY is a Really Catchy Song

I was at Dunkin' Donuts a couple weeks ago and heard a strangely catchy song on their in-store radio staion. I looked it up and found it was titled, "Cupid," by the K-Pop group FIFTY FIFTY. Then I heard it on the radio a bit before I heard it more and more often. My son would watch a Youtube clip and I'd hear it. The funny thing is, I didn't get tired of hearing it. It is an incredibly sugary pop song, but something about it is quite catchy. The ditty has become a Worldwide hit. I've heard the version in English but know the iteration that is entirely in Korean is popular as well. Here's the, "Twin," version I like:

Even though I keep hearing it quite a lot I continue to enjoy the tune. I've listened to a bit of other K-Pop like the group Stray Kids, and there is a lot of catchy stuff out there--I've only scratched the surface, mind you. I will explore other songs by FIFTY FIFTY and hope to enjoy those too!

Friday, June 23, 2023

Steve's Comic Cleaning and Pressing Continues to be Great!

I previously made a post discussing how great a job Steve Ritter of Steve's Comic Cleaning and Pressing does when it comes to getting comics looking the best they can. I had acquired some older Batman-themed comics and wanted to get them graded, but I knew they needed some work. I sent them over to Steve and he worked his magic! My, "Batman," #97 comic came back a solid 4.0, and the, "Detective Comics,"#241 with the first appearance of the rainbow-color Batman costumes got a 5.0 grade. Considering how old these comics are, I was pleased with my 4.0 and ecstatic with the 5.0! I'd highly encourage you to visit Steve's website and utilize his services. I know I'm going to keep returning to him for my pressing and cleaning needs!

Thursday, June 22, 2023

"Ultimate Invasion," #1 Sets a Lot of Intrigue in Motion

Jonathan Hickman is a writer who has done a lot of cool comics and written some big stories at Marvel, especially. He took the Ultimate Universe Reed Richards years ago and helped start him on a dark twisted path to becoming The Maker. He did a massive run on, "Avengers," and, "New Avengers," which led to the last, "Secret Wars." He relaunched the X-Men into their current status quo of having the big island of Krakoa (then either left the books a bit early of his own volition or was pushed off, it seems unclear). Now it has been revealed Hickman will be relaunching the Ultimate Universe in some fashion, with, "Ultimate Invasion," kicking things off via a four-issue mini-series. The artist for this is, fittingly, Bryan Hitch, a man who was there quite early in the life of the original Ultimate Universe with, "The Ultimates."

This debut issue lays a ton of groundwork, with The Maker breaking out of a specialized prison in the, "Regular," 616 Marvel Universe and the Illuminati coming together after he takes a ton of their tech. We also witness as the Maker/evil Reed makes an offer to Miles Morales to go back to the Ultimate Universe as they are the only two refugees from there and Miles politely declines. Eventually, the Maker does seem to escape and the 616 heroes worry just how bad his plans might be. If I may spoil the issue's end, something interesting happens that shows we are possibly getting a different Ultimate Universe indeed. It's the present yet events from the past are just about to happen with a unique spider nearly biting teenager Peter Parker...before a somewhat-disguised Maker stops it. 

This seemingly new Ultimate Universe might end up being familiar but also have some big differences. I'm eager to see how Hickman and Hitch tweak the Ultimate Universe formula. After all, the original take was basically, "The Marvel Universe, but more modern, more edgy, and lots of characters are kind of jerks." Then it spun off in all kinds of wild directions with twists way different than the main Marvel Universe and ended up being destroyed along with a variety of other Universes during, "Secret Wars." I'm quite curious what Hickman and Hitch are going to give us as, "Ultimate Invasion," concludes and a possibly new and significantly different Ultimate Universe hits the scene. It'll be fun to find out what happens!

5 out of 5 stars.

Wednesday, June 21, 2023

Disney/Marvel Really Went and Used AI, "Art," For the, "Secret Invasion," Opening

For the opening to the new, "Secret Invasion," show Disney/Marvel could have paid artists and animators. That, or they could have gotten a skilled editor to take years of past artwork and mash it up in cool ways. A variety of things could have been done, but instead, a company that works with AI called Method, "Created," the opener. The excuse for doing so is that it fits the theme of weird and shifty Skrull stuff as the aliens are all amorphous and eerie. It is pretty weak reasoning and almost feels more like an effort to soften people up for when more shows use more AI heavily. 

As I've discussed, people don't really understand what AI is and how it isn't, in fact, making anything. It just is taking/stealing from the internet and using code to, "Create," so-called new imagery. There has been ample (negative) buzz about this online and while AI can be a useful tool like in de-aging Harrison Ford, it also is being used in ways that even people utilizing it (like the executive producer, Ali Selim of, "Secret Invasion,") admit they fully don't understand. If we don't understand a technology and we're diving headfirst into the deep end with it that generally is a recipe for disaster.

Silver Sprocket Will Now Be Doing Open Submissions for Mini-Comics!

Silver Sprocket is one of my favorite indie publishers. They are small but mighty, I'd say, thanks to consistently putting out a variety of great reads. They will now be doing open submissions twice a year, with the first occurrence being during August of 2023 and then again in Spring 2024. They are right now after mini-comics that are 24 to 48 pages in length. Details can be found on their website. I hope this process helps Silver Sprocket discover some fantastic new talent!

Tuesday, June 20, 2023

Television Tuesday: "King of Collectibles: The Goldin Touch," and the Pricey Power of Keepsakes

"King of Collectibles: The Goldin Touch," is in some ways a six-episode infomercial for Ken Goldin and his auction house. It is emphasized how the empire was built from the ground up with hard work. Multiple times we witness the Goldin auction house take rare collectibles across the finish line in high-stake auctions that only Goldin and his crew could pull off. It would be irritating, but everyone is actually entertaining despite some employees coming across as, "Douchey," but still relatively good-hearted. Some of the collectibles are quite interesting too, with Goldin known for its sports associations but also working with everything from comics to historical pieces, to Beanie Babies. I will say that Robbie Davis Senior and Robbie Davis Junior are absolute hoots and skilled at scouting for Goldin. I would honestly watch a show about just them doing their thing thanks to how funny and smart they are.

The show generally has a format of a buyer coming to the headquarters or the team going to the buyer. Then an item is acquired (or items) and goes up for auction and sells for crazy money. Throw in some celebrity cameos ranging from humorous (Peyton Manning, Ric Flair) to random (Drake) to annoying (Logan Paul), and you've got a general idea of how an episode goes. If you enjoy programs such, as "Pawn Stars," "American Pickers," or, "Antiques Roadshow," then you have a solid idea of what you're getting with Ken Goldin and his staff--although this show is a bit zanier than those programs thanks to the varied, "Cast." Plus, there are often a lot higher stakes with multi-million dollar collectibles. Samii and I were entertained and would keep tuning in should another season be produced. It's worth a watch just to witness the insane money collectibles and souvenirs can bring in nowadays.

5 out of 5 Stars.

Monday, June 19, 2023

The, "Kraven," Trailer Makes the Movie Seem Suitably Entertaining

A clip of the trailer for the upcoming, "Kraven," movie leaked online so Sony went ahead and released the full version. It looks like it might be fun as a high-budget take on an ultraviolent B-movie featuring a guy who fights mobsters with vaguely animal-related powers. When a movie featuring Spider-Man's villain Kraven was announced, I asked, "Why?" in a post. Then I was intrigued by the news that the movie would be rated R due to featuring Kraven being quite violent with the folks he fights. As Sony is making this flick instead of Disney (who really shy away from R-rated hero stuff besides the upcoming, "Deadpool 3," or such) it seems to be in the same Universe as their other sorta-related-to-Spidey fare such as, "Venom," and, "Morbius." This looks a lot more serious than either flick but still pretty fun if you want to watch Aaron Taylor-Johnson violently kill bad guys. He's getting a lot more use out of his muscles and acting talent here than when he briefly played Quicksilver in the MCU, that's for sure. Check out the trailer below and I'll share some more thoughts:

See? It looks like a good time with a silly plot and lots of action--multiple times dudes burst through windows, that's kinda cool! I don't know if this will manage to tie in at all with recent Spider-Man stuff but even if it doesn't I like seeing a take on the Rhino popping up too. Even if this version of Kraven is different from the one in the comics (this Kraven relates to animals in some odd fashion, the comic-book iteration just hunted them) it just seems fun and mostly serious but with a little wink as opposed to being outright telling constant jokes like some MCU properties. Oh, and Russell Crowe is in this too as the evil Dad. He's a pretty good, "Get," for such a random movie This could flop, hard, or turn out to be surprisingly popular in the same manner the, "Venom," flicks managed. I'm just hoping it is as entertaining as this preview hints it might be.

Sunday, June 18, 2023

Happy Father's Day 2023!

It is Father's Day and I continue to be so happy to have my wonderful wife, Samii, and our child, Clarkson. I am also overjoyed that soon we will have a new baby in our lives too. Here he is making a stank face on an ultrasound:

It won't be too much longer until he's here with us too! Anyways, happy Father's Day to all you Dads and Father-figures!

Saturday, June 17, 2023

They Still Publish an Encyclopedia in 2023; It Admittedly Looks Cool

Nowadays people generally find information online. Now, this information might be good and have tons of citations or it might be absolute crazy talk. Back in the day you could look at an Encyclopedia and know you were getting some solid information on a wide range of subjects. They quit publishing any of those though, right? Wrong!

Benj Edwards over at Ars Technica wrote an article about how, "I just bought the only physical encyclopedia still in print, and I regret nothing." He discusses how World Book, Inc. still puts out the, "World Book," encyclopedia and for $1,199 you can buy all 22 physical books. There is still a demand with school and public libraries being common clients along with a chunk of homeschooling families. There is a certain charm and pleasant trustworthiness to reading facts about a subject in an honest-to-goodness encyclopedia. It won't have someone come and rewrite everything the next day to fit their agenda before someone else takes it down and puts up their version of the truth. It is just 22 books loaded with facts on various subjects that you could cite for a research paper and know it is reputable. If you have the money to spare you could buy a copy right now, but if that price tag is too hefty you could always get an online subscription for the year at various prices. That, or call your library and see if they have a recent edition!

Friday, June 16, 2023

Reddit's CEO Seems to Want to Destroy Reddit

Reddit's CEO, Steve Huffman, had plans to make Reddit more profitable by charging third parties a ton more to access the app's functioning. The fees were absurd and some of these apps make Reddit accessible to people with disabilities so the community rebelled and certain pages on Reddit (big and small) went, "Dark." The pages couldn't be accessed after each community voted and moderators took the pages offline for 48 hours to send a message to Huffman. Huffman heard everyone loud and clear and now...wants to make it easier for people to vote out moderators. Wait, it seems like he took the wrong lesson from the blackout?

That's right, Huffman made it clear he doesn't give a damn about Reddit's community because, at the end of the day, he wants as much money as possible. Reddit's CEO seems to want to destroy Reddit. This arguably makes him a good capitalist but a bad person. In all seriousness, Huffman could probably raise fees a little and do okay or even work with third-party apps, but he's just going scorched-Earth and if any moderators on Reddit get in his way he's gonna give them the boot too. I get that Reddit wants to make money, but if you alienate the thing that makes you money (users) then you're going to end up cutting off your nose to spite your face, as the old saying goes. This is a balancing act and if Reddit wants to actually be profitable and possibly even go public as a stock then Huffman needs to balance the desire for cash money with the users' desire for a good experience with Reddit. That's what everyone else is saying, at least, whilst Huffman makes it clear with his wishy-washy damage control about Reddit blackouts that he's going to just barrel ahead. This probably won't end well.

Thursday, June 15, 2023

It Still Astounds Me When People Blame Affirmative Action For Why They Didn't Get Into a College

If you want to get into a certain college, it can be really hard. Even with good grades, extracurriculars, and so forth you maybe will struggle to get in. Some things can help, such as private schools--especially Ivy League institutions--with legacy admissions (a practice that sucks). One thing that is always odd to see blamed would be Affirmative Action. Randall Barnes at HBCU Pulse has a fascinating article showing just how small of a number of Black individuals are at certain prestigious universities and how if Affirmative Action actually were a problem then they'd make up more than the smallest demographic. 

Still, I see certain people bemoaning online or even when I'm around certain individual in person how it is apparently just so hard for a white man to get into an Ivy League school now and, "If only we could claim we were a minority." When I've heard some people say this in my company I've observed that I imagine most folks would gladly trade getting the slightest extra consideration via Affirmative Action in exchange for not facing systemic racism in our nation. Usually those people I say this to then get offended I called them out, but I generally am the king of not giving a fuck about pointing out conservative hypocrisy. 
Seriously though, it may be a struggle to get admitted to your preferred college. Don't blame other people just because you didn't make the cut, however. I was rejected at certain colleges and I didn't go and blame a Black person because I'm not an ignorant asshole. I just considered the places that did want me and look where I am now, writing smack on the internet--your dreams really can come true kids! For real though, sometimes we get rejected in life when it comes to school, a job, romance, or whatever. We live and learn from our failings without throwing shade at someone else. Now we wait to see what the Supreme Court will rule with recent challenges.

Wednesday, June 14, 2023

Skybound to Publish Transformers and G.I. Joe Comics Within a Shared Universe Introduced in the, "Void Rivals," Comic

 6/15/23 Update: It was announced today that Larry Hama will indeed be launching, "G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero," at Skybound with the numbering starting at issue #301, in some ways picking up right where he left off. That's really cool!

Okay, bear with me here. Image Comics has it where creators own the rights to their own comics and they don't do licensed stuff per se. That said, there are imprints within Image that have done licensed works (for example, Top Cow, I believe). Skybound is an Image imprint Robert Kirkman owns. Kirkman is known for, "The Walking Dead," and, "Invincible," which he owns with his co-creators. In interesting news, however, a new comic titled, "Void Rivals," which had its first issue come out today has introduced a new Universe--the Energon Universe--which features original characters Kirkman and artist Lorenzo De Felici have made along with licensed properties from Hasbro. Namely, Transformers and G.I. Joe

IDW lost the license to both of those properties and I'd heard of Skybound as being a possible home as well as Marvel, and so forth. It seems Skybound, "Secured the bag," however, as the end of the first issue of, 'Void Rivals," reveals that, "Void Rivals," will continue as a series and there will be G.I. Joe and Transformers-centric comics. This will all take place within the new, "Energon Universe." Image kinda sorta now has some big-name licensed properties thanks to Skybound. We live in interesting times.

I've read some G.I. Joe comics in the past and dabbled in Transformers ones as well. I'm intrigued by this shared Universe and hearing that Daniel Warren Johnson will be writing and drawing a new, "Transformers," series definitely gets my attention as he's a talented fellow. I am bummed that longtime G.I. Joe talent Larry Hama (he did a bunch of work on the series at Marvel and IDW) appears to not be involved to any degree, but one can hope that will change! In the meantime, it will be interesting to witness if this new Energon Universe works out with its mix of new and old. Kirkman seems confident about it, and the man has engineered some massive hits, so we shall see!

Tuesday, June 13, 2023

"Avengers Inc." Sounds Like a Snazzy New Series

We already had, "Batman Incorporated," over at DC some years ago, so why not let Marvel give us, "Avengers Inc." now? In all seriousness, however, it sounds like a cool comic. Written by Al Ewing (who barely ever makes a weak comic) and illustrated by Leonard Kirk (also fantastic), this new series will follow Janet Van Dyne (the Wasp) and Victor Shade (a former alias of The Vision) as they solve mysteries like classic gumshoes, beginning with the deaths of certain supervillains.

It sounds like an interesting hook and if we get a cool detective story set within the Marvel Universe that sounds like it will be a treat to read. Plus, as I said, it's got Ewing and Kirk, so we know it's gonna be of high quality! The first issue is due in September so it won't be too long a wait!

Monday, June 12, 2023

The First Issue of, "Rebel Grrrls," is Wildly Fun

Recently I got an email from Danny Harrell. He is the writer and colorist of the comic, "Rebel Grrrls," and he reached out to me about if I wanted to review that comic by himself and artist Robert Ahmad. I said sure and was provided a digital copy to read. Due to be released on July 26th and being published by Keenspot, "Rebel Grrrls," follows a band of three teenagers whose music has power--they can summon ghosts and even potentially resurrect the dead. 

The problem with this incredible gift is it hasn't really been utilized much. They have crappy equipment and trying to promote themselves has mostly fallen flat. Oh, and a Devil in disguise keeps trying to convince them to sign a record deal for wider exposure (he's actually been tasked by Lucifer to summon enough undead the living can be overthrown) but they told him to get lost. As you can tell from this description, the comic has a bit of a comedic undertone, but it isn't overly silly as the girls do face a lot of obstacles in their desire for success, and playing at county fairs is not much fun when a crowd is calling you names or demanding you take your tops off.

I enjoyed the mixture of silly and serious in this first issue Harrell's writing provided and Ahmad's artwork did a great job showcasing everyday life with bits of the supernatural (ghosts and other outlandish elements) sprinkled in. He really draws the girls rocking out so well you can almost hear your own version of whatever you might think they'd be playing. It's a fun debut and worth asking your comic shop to order you a copy of for a highly enjoyable read. I want to thank Danny Harrell for reaching out to tell me about his and Robert Ahmad's comic and look forward to more issues of rocking, rolling, and putting the literal Devil in what has been at times referred to as the Devil's music.

5 out of 5 Stars.

#ComicsBrokeMe is Trending on Twitter and Shines a Depressing Light on the Industry

For the past couple of days the topic, "#comicsbrokeme," has been trending on Twitter. It has featured many creators of comics or folks otherwise involved in the business discussing just how incredibly rough and soul-crushing it can be. Should you despise Twitter (I don't blame you), the website Bleedingcool did post a bunch of content in an article discussing the trending statement. We as comic-book fans really don't appreciate the people who actually make our comics enough. We often give far too much credit to the corporations that could care less about quality tales/artwork and just want to cash a big check while simultaneously writing the smallest one possible to those doing the actual work. 

I will forever sing the praises of organizations such as The Hero Initiative, which assists comic creators in need. The idea there are people who created million (or even billion) dollar properties who can't afford groceries or rent is disgusting, but welcome to America, home of the most messed-up health care system and general views on humanity you'll find in the World. As long as things don't get better it seems the comic industry will constantly chew people up and spit them out. It sucks.

Sunday, June 11, 2023

Xbox Has Big Plans, Here's Hoping They Work Out

Today, Microsoft showed off a lot of new Xbox (and PC) games at their big ol' Summer Showcase. A lot more details were revealed about, "Starfield," as well in a follow-up segment and reactions have ranged from optimistic to less-than-excited for it. A new, "Fable," game was confirmed with Richard Ayoade as a character and it does actually look a bit quirky and funny (I recently posted my concerns about the franchise continuing, but maybe I was wrong). A new open-world game titled, "Star Wars: Outlaws," had an all-CG teaser so who knows how the game will be but that caught my eye. Developer Obsidian showed off,"Avowed," and acknowledged it looked a lot like, 'Skryim," while assuring us it is different. I thought, "Still Wakes the Deep," sounded interesting as a horror game on an oil rig, too. 

I haven't even named all the stuff discussed, just what looked cool to me. That said, many would agree the Xbox Series X/S has had a rough go of things lately and is clearly hoping the Fall of 2023 and much of 2024 are going to bring in those games that really draw people to the consoles and the Game Pass. I personally find the Game Pass snazzy but I'm aware more and more people think it needs to step things up to really dominate the market as Netflix (or whatever streamer you like) of games. There is clearly a plan, we just need to see if it works out.

Saturday, June 10, 2023

"Shiny Happy People: Duggar Family Secrets," Shows The Danger of Unchecked Power

The Institute in Basic Life Principles, or IBLP, was created by Bill Gothard. He and the organizations' teachings are basically a cult of extremist fundamental Christianity. The Duggar family are/were (some family members have broken away) big followers of the IBLP and arguably helped draw people to it with their Discovery/TLC programs. "Shiny Happy People: Duggar Family Secrets," explores just how the Duggar family and its leader, Jim Bob, created this image of a perfect family whilst carefully leaving out how the unchecked power, "Authority," emphasized by the IBLP is a perfect breeding ground for abuse. The IBLP is heavily explored as well, as this isn't just the Duggars, the producers of this four-part docuseries would tell you the rabbit hole goes dizzyingly deep.

As, "Shiny Happy People: Duggar Family Secrets," goes on, it is clear that IBLP may be an organization many of us haven't heard of but it has an alarming reach into culture, politics, and like many cults/questionable religions, relies on giving easy answers to tough questions and promises wonderful things (going to heaven, well-behaved children, a successful marriage, etc.) in exchange for blind obedience and a whole lot of money. The Duggars serve as just a single example of how cult-styled organizations can foster many forms of abuse towards basically anyone who questions those in power--the, "Man of the house," in essence. Many people interviewed who know the IBLP express they weren't shocked when the eldest Duggar child, Josh, was revealed to have sexually abused his sisters--that just happens in such a belief system. Things, of course, only get more twisty and flat-out wrong from there.

I wrote about the Duggar family on the blog before their downfall and as it began. I always imagined there were some dark secrets/twisted truths, but I didn't realize just how bad it all was. I always watched their show with a mixture of fascination and horror. This new docuseries talks with relatives, friends, and one daughter who was ready to come forward (Jill), and multiple other people who study cults or were in the IBLP are interviewed as well. This docuseries is enlightening, frightening, and hopefully will help others who are in the thrall of questionable religious/cult beliefs to do the main thing these, "Movements," don't want anyone to do: Question what they're told. Should you have Amazon Prime I'd absolutely recommend viewing this.

5 out of 5 stars.

Friday, June 9, 2023

Flashback Friday: The Opening of, "Drive," Still Mesmerizes

Back in 2012, I observed that, "Drive," was a strange and enjoyable film. I would continue to argue it is a great flick and serves as a fabulous showcase for the acting talents of Ryan Gosling and one of Director Nicolas Winding Refn's better films (if not the best). The entire movie is full of bizarre and gasp-inducing moments (especially some crazy violence) but for my money, the first nine or so minutes are the best due to how it portrays something we've seen in so many films--a car chase--in such a weirdly constrained way. We watch/listen as the Driver (seriously, he is never named) explains if he's given a time and place he'll provide a five-minute window for people and then get them the Hell out of wherever they are safe. After witnessing him getting the car for his next gig we cut to him picking up two men committing a robbery and driving around trying to avoid the police. Basically, the whole scene is shot in the car, and it's wild.

Normally a big car chase will have a camera outside a car, watching as it weaves in and out of traffic in a dramatic fashion. Instead, there is a strange feeling of claustrophobia as we practically sit in the car at the mercy of Gosling's character's skills. We feel trapped in this four-door escape craft as it speeds around the city and then finally ends up in the parking garage for a basketball game right as it concludes and the crowd floods out of the arena--making it all but impossible for the police to figure out where the thieves have gone. At that moment when Gosling steps out of the car and casually strolls off, we finally emerge from the vehicle with him, feeling our own surreal sense of victory and relief that we made it out. Not even 10 minutes have passed in this movie and it's already hooked you in. The opening credits proceed to roll and you realize this crazy ride is just starting. The entire movie is worth viewing, but man, that opening is truly enrapturing.

Thursday, June 8, 2023

The First Two Issues of, "Peacemaker Tries Hard," Are a Hoot

"Peacemaker Tries Hard," is a comic that will appeal to a variety of people. If you like the work of the very talented writer (and artist, but not on this comic) Kyle Starks, you're in for a treat. Should you be a fan of legendary artist Steve Pugh, you'll have fun. Perhaps you enjoyed the most recent, "Suicide Squad," movie and/or its, "Peacemaker," spin-off sequel? Well, this nails almost the exact same tone in its story of Chris Smith (his civilian name) struggling to make friends and otherwise feel appreciated for his unending quest for peace via extreme violence.

The second issue came out this week and between the debut and this follow-up, I'm simply having a blast with this mini-series. It is under DC's Black Label so it doesn't shy away from swear words, violence, and otherwise being over-the-top in its action while managing to feel a bit melancholy and grounded as its apparent despite all his bluster, Peacemaker really just wants a buddy. The first issue has him finding a dog who enjoys his company, but then Bruce Wayne (that's the dog's name) ends up kidnapped by a funny villain with an elaborate plan and things get increasingly zanier. The entire time Steve Pugh's art is just gorgeous so I tip my hat to him for such beautiful illustrations. Between how funny Stark's writing is and the beauty of Pugh's art this mini-series has been a treat already. I can't wait for the next issues!

5 out of 5 stars.

Wednesday, June 7, 2023

The Missouri Family Health Council Has Launched Their Free EC Project

The Missouri Family Health Council is a nonprofit in the state of--where else?--Missouri. They are dedicated to ensuring every Missourian has access to affordable healthcare and health education, including sexual health. They lead The Right Time Initiative which, "...seeks to empower every Missourian to take control of their own health by improving information about, and reducing barriers to, contraceptive services. The initiative provides free or low-cost birth control to all who need it, while addressing the persistent health disparities in unintended pregnancy and among marginalized populations." Recently, the MFHC launched the Free EC Project.

With reproductive rights being rolled back in numerous states (Missouri included) it is important to remember that emergency contraception (AKA Plan B) is still legal. The MFHC has partnered with a number of health centers and community partners to distribute free emergency contraception kits. At no cost to those who request them, a person will receive (confidentially) individually-packaged kits containing two doses of levonorgestrel emergency contraception (an over-the-counter medication that as I said is also known as Plan B), safer sex supplies (e.g. condoms and lube), sexual health education and consent resources, and connections to healthcare providers who can see individuals for affordable prices regardless of if they have insurance or lack it. 

As someone who worked in Public Health and has specifically worked in Sexual Health, I think this is a fantastic program to help people who otherwise might be too nervous to go publically buy EC (or could face danger in some form if they do), can't afford it, or have whatever reason for needing emergency contraception. Even in a state such as Missouri--which has extremely regressive policies regarding sexual health, gender-affirming care, and more as the list goes on--it shows how important the work is of an organization such as the Missouri Family Health Council. 

If you want to learn more or happen to live in Missouri and need free EC you can check out this link. Should you want to support the MFHC in any fashion you can learn how at this link too. I applaud them for their tireless work!

Tuesday, June 6, 2023

Starbucks is Expanding Their Olive Oil-Infused Drinks to More Cities

Some months ago Starbucks began trying out olive oil-infused coffees in various locations. Called Oleato drinks, the reception seemed mixed. There were folks who dug it, some found it gross, and a number of people bluntly said the drinks gave them awful diarrhea. I guess there was enough positive feedback, however, because Starbucks is expanding Oleato's availability. That said, I'm unsure how interested I would be in drinks with a spoonful of olive oil or cold foam infused with the stuff. Nowadays I just drink my coffee black and drink a lot of blonde roast or cold brew as that gives me less heartburn than the darker blends. Perhaps because I keep it simple because I just don't have a desire for a spoonful of olive oil to be stirred into my beverage. Plus, the idea of suddenly crapping my pants shortly after enjoying my drink is less than appealing as well. If folks like it (the taste of olive oil-infused coffee, not pooping themselves) then more power to them. I'm good with an iced blonde roast Americano minus any Oleato for now, however.

Monday, June 5, 2023

Apple Announced the Vision Pro and I (As Always) Have Thoughts

I've never been that interested in Virtual Reality headsets. If we could make VR work like the Holodeck in Star Trek, I'd be down for that--although everyone would be annoying to listen too as they remarked, "Hey, this is just the Holodeck!" This resulted in me not caring about Oculus Rift, HTC Vive, PlayStation Vr, or Cyberview Express. I made that last one up, but if you're as disinterested in VR as I am, you probably didn't even realize it. This long-winded intro leads me to discuss how Apple announced the Vision Pro today, and I gave a disinterested sigh to all of it.

Apple makes great products, there is no question about that. I am sure their, "Facial computer," which costs a whopping $3,500 will be of the highest quality and work spectacularly. It sounds like it will have lots of bells and whistles. I just don't care and never have been big on the idea of strapping a headset to my nogging even if it lets me be further immersed in virtual worlds, bring up data sheets, or whatever. I've changed my mind on stuff before--I used to "Not get," the Nintendo Switch before digging it. That said, I just had to give the Switch a chance to learn to love it. I've sampled VR and never found it especially appealing. The technology has its proponents, but lots of folk seem unsure about it. The comment section on Kotaku had folks remarking the fact this is an Apple product means it probably won't be able to do any PC games and it'll be walled in for just Apple games, products, and so forth. Some other people said the quiet part out loud about how this might really appeal to viewers of pornography--but that's always been a hush-hush aspect of VR--the big companies prefer it not be openly discussed even though I'd imagine that has at times helped spur a number of sales.

I imagine people with deep pockets who adore Apple and its products will eat this up. Massive corporations might give it a try to see how it helps optimize productivity (or other buzzwords). Will this have mainstream, appeal, however? I honestly cannot say as who knew the iPhone would become as massive as it did? Then again, the iPhone now can be had with various deals you cut via your phone provider for a more reasonable price. Apple's Watch is pretty popular too and I was unsure how it would do. Basically, I'm saying I know better than to ever bet against Apple (rare flop like Newton aside) and if anyone is going to finally crack the VR space it'll be them. That said, I'm just as hesitant to bet on Apple in this case too. Once this thing is for sale in 2024 or so and regular folks--well, regular folks with money to burn--can try it out that'll be the real test.

Sunday, June 4, 2023

J. Michael Straczynski is Returning to Marvel to Write a, "Captain America," Comic

J. Michael Straczynski is a writer I have mixed feelings about. I've written before about how I found a lot of his work terrible but then sometimes he'd create an absolute masterpiece like (some of), "Supreme Power." He also did a God-awful run on, "Superman," shit the bed when he concluded, "The Twelve," had, a misfire of, "Thor," and his, "Amazing Spider-Man," run started with promise. Still, it fell apart when (and it wasn't totally his fault, there was editorial interference) it concluded as Mephisto undid the marriage of Peter Parker and Mary Jane. Yeah, that happened. Straczynski hadn't done anything with Marvel after the Spidey fiasco so it's been years since he was there (instead there has been work with DC and other publishers). However, he's returning to Marvel for the latest relaunch of, "Captain America," and it sounds...kind of interesting?

Straczynski does this thing where he starts a story strong and it just ends terribly. Even though I liked a lot of, "Supreme Power," for example, it was never finished by him (other writers had to wrap it up and then the lead-up to, "Secret Wars," literally obliterated the Universe it took place in back in 2014/2015 or so). His take on, "Captain America," apparently is going to feature an examination of Steve Roger's life after his parents died but before he became Captain America and will look at the rise of the Nazi party in America pre-WWII (before we officially fought the Nazis many Americans actually were big supporters of them) and how there are alarming parallels to today as white nationalism gains an dangerous foothold in our Country. 

Looking both at the past and how it is disturbingly reflected in the present with a prominent living symbol of our nation, Captain America himself, sounds fascinating. Will Straczynski screw it all up 3/4 of the way through, however? I'm hesitant to give him yet another chance, but I kind of want to see where this goes. Plus, with Jesús Saiz as the artist, it will at least look great.

Saturday, June 3, 2023

John Carpenter Has Directed a New Television Show, and He Did it Remotely!

I'm a massive fan of John Carpenter. The man has made some fantastic movies and still likes to make music when he isn't busy playing video-games. He is 75 and hasn't directed anything for years, but he let slip that he's back, at least to some degree. Yep, a new television program (maybe streaming, details are scarce right now) called, "John Carptenter's Suburban Screams," is in the works--and Carpenter directed it remotely of all things. It was shot in Prague but he never left his house, assumably being Zoomed-in/Skyped-in. This could mean he minimally contributed in his, "Direction," or he could have been very hands-on even though it would've been virtual, "Hands," in this metaphor. Still, anything with John Carpenter's involvement--be it a movie/show/whatever--is quite welcome by us Carpenter fans. I'm excited to learn more as further news is revealed!

Friday, June 2, 2023

Pride Month in 2023 is Needed More Than Ever

It's June and Pride Month. In 2023 it is clear why Pride is needed more than ever. Anti-LGBTQ sentiment seems to be everywhere. A number of politicians want to make it impossible to function in society as a gay/bi/trans person with all kinds of absurd laws. Random hateful people scream with rage if a company has items that express support for LGBTQ individuals and it's disturbing. Bigots feel emboldened to shoot up Budweiser beer cans or tear down displays at Target and their disgusting statements of loathing are said with little concern for others. 

Some people ask why we need Pride, and I tell them to just look at the state of the World today. It would be nice if being LGBTQ was just another aspect of a person in the same way some of us are left-handed, and some of us have different colored eyes--just an interesting fact about people. However, our LGBTQ friends continue to face persecution so we have to fight harder than ever to help them fight against the tide of hate. I've been asked why a cisgender and straight male like myself cares about LGBTQ folks and the simple answer is I'm a human with empathy and not a jerk. I guess there are just a lot of people out there who'd rather hate anything different from them than try to understand and empathize, and that's quite a tragedy.

Thursday, June 1, 2023

The, "Fable," Franchise (Maybe) Ain't Dead Yet

I really liked the first three, "Fable," video-games. Created by Lionhead Studios and spearheaded by a man who is half respected game developer and half walking punchline--Peter Molyneux--the games had Molyneux's usual grand promises before turning out to be solidly fun if not ground-shaking revolutions (seriously, he always had crazy promises about his games). Ever since he founded 22cans, Molyneux hasn't been involved in any of the other Fable works (a miserable Kinect spin-off and some teased games that ended up canceled along with...a collectible card game). The franchise seemed dead and buried to me despite the occasional tease or promise that something was coming from 2018 to now. Based on some new teasers, perhaps there is concrete proof of a new, "Fable," game. Yah?

Molyneux, for his flaws, gives his games a unique vibe and personality--like other big creators including Hideo Kojima. Will a big, "Fables," game without his involvement feel the same or just have a generic fantasy world vibe? Between teases of this and a possible, "Psychonauts 3," Microsoft clearly has some projects coming down the pipeline. Here's hoping if they are intended for Gamepass they will be good--just look at one huge recent misfire ("Redfall," was terrible) and a hit clearly would be nice.