Tuesday, April 30, 2024

Note to Self: Don't Ever Make Kendrick Lamar Angry/"Euphoria" Song Review

I previously wrote about how it seemed a lot of rappers were feuding, with the biggest, "Attraction," being Kendrick Lamar and Drake's beef. One big metaphorical volley of ammunition happened on April 19th. That date marked Drake releasing the diss track aimed at Lamrar, "Push-Ups." Then we all waited and waited...and waited for Lamar to respond. Usually, these lyrical fights move at a quick pace. Lamar did nothing, however. The clock was ticking for him to respond--would he let Drake have the last word? Well, as of today, April 30th, it is clear he would not.

Clocking in at just over six minutes, the track, "Euphoria," is Kendrick Lamar focusing all his rage onto Drake in a manner that with Lamar's skill results in something I don't think Drake can ever effectively counter. Lamar's response was worth the wait and feels less like faux-feud posturing than Lamar earnestly being pissed and outright declaring a hatred for Drake that is all-encompassing. With his rapid-fire delivery (over multiple beat-change ups, no less) Lamar gives us a scathing critique of Drake that paints him as a manipulative scam artist who needs to go back to acting and spend some time raising his son whom he denied for a period of time even existed. Give it a listen:

When Jay-Z and Nas had their big feud it ended with them coming together to collaborate. After, "Euphoria," I don't think Lamar and Drake will ever want to be in the same room together, let alone give us another team-up like, "Poetic Justice." Aside from seeming to accidentally confuse Haley Joel Osmet and Joel Osteen on his track, it is pure fire. I have made a note to myself to never make Kendrick Lamar angry, lest he unleash his vitriol on me in a musical manner I can never recover from.

5 out of 5 stars.

Monday, April 29, 2024

"Hexes: Four Breaths," is a Thoughtful Comic

"Hexes: Fourth Breaths," is an upcoming title from Blue Fox Comics with a big supernatural element and a bit of a psychological horror edge. A woman named Barbara has the ambulance taking her to the hospital get in an accident and as she and the paramedic, Tim, find themselves stuck she discusses the concept of, "Breaths," as they exist in a manner a bit different than our traditional understanding of breathing. 

Fantastically written by Simon Birks with gorgeous artwork by Majory Yokomizo--plus stellar letting by  Rob Jones, I really enjoyed my digital preview copy of, "Hexes: Foruth Breaths," as it will in the future have a crowdfunding campaign on Backerkit (a competitor of sorts to Kickstarter that has become quite popular these last few years). The metaphysical discussion of, "Breaths," and the lush artwork all synch up beautifully to tell a tale that's a bit sad, a tiny bit spooky, and very thoughtful.

Blue Fox Comics consistently puts out great books and has had a ton of successful crowdfunding campaigns with happy backers. I'd encourage you to keep an eye out for when, "Hexes: Four Breaths," launches and to back it so that you can have your own fantastic copy to read!

5 out of 5 stars.

Sunday, April 28, 2024

I Visited the Saint Charles Location of Endless Comics, Games & Cards!

I always like to check out a comic-book-related store when I hear of one opening in the Saint Louis/Saint Charles/South County/etc. region. I became aware of how Endless Comics, Games & Cards had opened a location in Saint Charles, so I drove over there yesterday with Clarkson after we got in some rides at the Saint Louis Carousel (Gibson was at home chilling with Samii). It was a nice large space with a bunch of new-release comics, some back-issues, and a bit of sports & pop-culture cards. There was a large space for playing tabletop games. A number of folks were doing so at the shop as they had a ton of those for sale too.

A well-organized comic area.

I was impressed with how well-organized all the comics were as I've been to shops before in my life that were hot messes to try and find anything within. All the comics at Endless were easy to locate, however, between the newest releases, recent issues, and backstock.

The front of the store.

Everyone within the shop was friendly too, from the store's manager to the patrons playing games. It made the store feel warm and inviting, like a spot you could spend some time at for a hang-out with friends. I'd recommend visiting the Saint Charles location of Endless Comics, Games & Cards if you have a chance to get out there Tuesday-Saturday, 11AM-7PM. They are located at, "10 Triad South Dr suite b, St Charles, MO 63304," and are a fun place to visit!

Saturday, April 27, 2024

"City of Heroes," is (Officially) Back

Back in 2019, it was revealed that an online game thought dead/discontinued had been operating in secret for six years. That was both impressive in an era where almost nothing stays secret online and a bit infuriating for fans of the game who missed it. That game was, "City of Heroes," and through a variety of agreements and manuverings it now is, in fact, playable online without any legal gray areas. Since it first was released 20 years ago, "City of Heroes," has died, been revealed secretly alive, and now has risen like a phoenix for anyone to enjoy in an official capacity. If it were a human celebrity it would make for quite the biopic.

Powered solely by donations and totally free-to-play, "City of Heroes," has defied the odds regarding the majority of online games that end up canceled. It's back, and despite any bumps along the way to its true (legal) return, now we can all enjoy it. That's a win in my book.

Friday, April 26, 2024

Flashback Friday: "Superman: The City of Tomorrow Volume 1," AKA I Suppose Superman Can Be Entertaining After All!

I made a Facebook post once where I don't remember exactly what I said, but it was along the lines of: Superman as a character generally bores me and I usually only like stories with him that are out-of-continuity and have a great writer ("All-Star Superman," by Grant Morrison) or involve him acting out-of-character ("Red Son," and, "Injustice," come to mind). My statement was how the DC comic Universe Superman generally just doesn't have yarns that interest me. One of my friends, Brian Lan (who also does great work with the Hero Initiative) saw this and didn't so much take offense as he wanted to school me on how, "Superman," can actually give us some good stories. He recommended a number of books to me and I made a request to my library so I could try them out.

One of the books Brian told me to try out was the collection, "Superman: The City of Tomorrow, Volume 1." It featured a number of Superman stories from the early 2000s that he told me didn't require too much knowledge of Supes to follow along with. Having read the collection, I will admit I was entertained. If one goes into stories keeping one big thing in mind, they can work well. the main thing to remember is that Superman is inextricably good and wants to help. If you hold onto that as a focal point you can enjoy many tales of Superman (or sometimes his civilian identity, Clark Kent). 

The concept with Superman is he faces an obstacle and finds a way to overcome it.  The obstacles can be big or small, but Superman's good heart and caring nature help him find a way. He has no ulterior motive, he just wants to help, and there is a kindness and purity to that which I mistook for boring at points but can see isn't boring so much as a starting point. It is a launchpad for stories about how someone who wants to be the best they can be towards others deals with a World where essentially nobody else thinks that way. Superman isn't cynical. Superman isn't spiteful. He's Superman, and the fellow has everyone's best interest at heart, against all odds.

Superman might try to help a man keep his house from being demolished by greedy building developers or he could end up having an epic fight in space with an interplanetary tyrant. He'll always try his and best and attempt to see the best in others. Garth Ennis, of all people (the man generally seems to hate superheroes and writes them as terrible people) wrote one of the best summaries of how Superman views, "Us," as Earth years ago in a comic that wasn't even about Superman--it was focused on a creation of Ennis named Hitman in a different comic than what I read but it bears sharing. Observe...

So yes, when you get some skilled writers (Joe Kelly plus Jeph Loeb and Mark Millar before those two went downhill in storytelling) and great artists (Doug Mahnke and Ed McGuinness to name a couple) you can create some solid Superman tales if you go into the tales knowing what to expect. I suppose my friend Brian had a good point and I thank him for turning me onto some solid Superman tales. I plan to pick up a book chronicling the recent, "Warworld," stuff as he told me that was excellent as well. I look forward to reading that too now!

OutKast's First LP Came Out Today 30 Years Ago

Three decades ago, to the day, OutKast's debut LP was released. With the lengthy one-word title, "Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik," it became available on vinyl, cassette, and those newfangled CDs on April 26th, 1994. It is a great OutKast album even if it isn't my favorite--but it shows glimpses of the amazing group Big Boi and Andre 3000 (then just going by Andre or Dre) would grow into. I've written at length about all of OutKast's LPs and would encourage you to read my thoughts on their premiere album. All these years later it holds up as a great listen.

When OutKast was awarded Best New Rap Group at the 1995 Source Awards following the release of, "Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik," it was at a time when the East Coast versus West Coast feud was at a fever pitch. Here came these two young guys from Atlanta and Andre made it clear they were just getting started with the statement, "The South got something to say!" which he declared even as the crowd booed. As the decades since have shown with OutKast's amazing work along with tons of other Southern artists, the South had a lot to say--and made a big impression saying it.

Thursday, April 25, 2024

"Dick Tracy," #1 is a Fun Return to a Classic Character

I wrote about when it was announced Mad Cave would be publishing a new, "Dick Tracy," comic. I was intrigued as Tracy has been around for decades--longer than many other pop-culture characters--and I was wondering how a new take would go. Having read the first issue, I really enjoyed it!

This new, "Dick Tracy," comic is still set in the past, during the 1940s. It doesn't update the character into the modern day but also is by no means a hokey throwback or anything. It keeps Tracy as a skilled member of the police force who has been climbing the ranks due to his keen eye and deductive skills. We immediately are thrown into a mystery involving corruption and certain vintage elements are present such as Tracy wearing his signature yellow getup and villains having nicknames, but this book isn't stuck in a nostalgic rut--it expertly uses the past to tell the timeless story of crime and Tracy trying to fight it.

Credited writers Alex Segura, Michael Moreci, and Chantelle Aimée Osman are great and Geraldo Borges' art is stellar. You feel like you've dipped back into a bygone era and I was especially pleased by how Borges draws the villains in a manner that isn't cartoony but makes it clear who they are (Flattop has the hairstyle you'd expect from his name but it isn't exaggerated by any means, for example). Everyone does stellar work in this first issue.

Whether you're a longtime fan of Dick Tracy and his crime-fighting adventures published years ago or a newer fan who got into Tracy through seeing later takes on the character or even someone who liked the...interesting movie Warren Beatty made in 1990, you'll appreciate this new, "Dick Tracy," comic and its debut. Give it a read!

5 out of 5 stars.

Wednesday, April 24, 2024

Considering Everything Our Government Could Focus On, It Worked to Ban TikTok?

We've got Ukraine and Russia in a war. Israel and Hamas are fighting as other nations hint at entering the conflict (such as Iran) to the point World War III seems possible. The rights of anyone with a Uterus are constantly being threatened with abortion being made illegal by politicians who want to ignore the will of the people who tell them to keep it legal. LGBTQ+ individuals are under constant legal and sometimes physical assaults. The Supreme Court is a joke. I could go on with what our Government could work on fixing, but instead, it seems to look at everything and go, "You know what? Let's try and ban a social media app!"

Facebook/Meta, YouTube/Google, and the rest all invade our privacy, but they're American companies so apparently that's okay. However, if a company has some Chinese-related ownership like TikTok, suddenly that's a problem. Elon Musk has American citizenship now so he can do whatever he likes with Twitter/X, but for some reason, we really care about privacy only when it comes to TikTok, according to our two-faced politicians--on both sides of the political aisle! Republicans who espouse a free market for some reason don't think that applies to TikTok and Democrats are looking for an easy win on something after looking like a joke these past number of years. Democrats are professionals at snatching defeat from the jaws of victory, to alter a common saying. I mean, Joe Biden has been President and is going to run again against a man he handily beat who is currently in a criminal trial, yet Trump polls better? Us Liberals are not enthused with Democrats even if the alternative is fascism so we support them, but don't think I blindly love anyone with a, "D," next to their name in Congress either.

That puts us into the here-and-now where Congress has passed a law stating if TikTok's Chinese-related ownership doesn't sell to another company it could end up banned in America. Biden signed the law and I just shook my head at these out-of-touch politicians saying, "Seriously?" This is an easy win for Democrats to make Republicans look like old fogies who hate technology by taking a stand for younger voters (tons of folks who are 18 to mid-20s and even older people use TikTok, it isn't all kids) who could very well not care about any other issues but vote for Biden if he said, "Nah, Conservatives, TikTok is a-okay with me." Democrats love to screw up any chance they get to look good, though, so here we are. TikTok has about 9 months to make sure there is no Chinese-adjacent ownership or is banned. I'm all for privacy, but Zuckerberg gets to spy on us as much as he wants because he's an American, I guess. Hypocrisy and corruption reign, which in a way is the most American thing about all of this.

Tuesday, April 23, 2024

Dark Horse Comics to Somewhat Shift Ownership as Embracer Divides Into Three Different Companies

Back in 2021, Dark Horse Comics went from being relatively independently owned to finding itself acquired by a big corporation. Embracer bought Dark Horse and added it to a growing portfolio of tabletop and video-games. The idea was to have Dark Horse as an option for printing comics relating to various Embracer-owned properties and the company spent some time on a buying spree...until 2023 when another company was going to infuse Embracer with $2 billion and changed its mind. Since then, Embracer has been laying off a lot of folks and now plans to split into three companies. Dark Horse will impacted by this by joining one of the three oddly-named new entities.

Asmodee is one, "New," company and will focus on board games/tabletop games. Coffee Stain & Friends will be dedicated to making smaller-scale games (including free-to-play titles) for mobile devices and PC/consoles. Middle-earth Enterprises & Friends will be the owner of Dark Horse and will focus on big-time games involving properties such as The Lord of the Rings (hence the company's name) and Tomb Raider. How exactly this reorganization of a company into companies will affect Dark Horse is unclear, as Embracer was relatively hands-off with Dark Horse by most accounts--outside of founding, "Dark Horse Games," in 2021, although that did not yet produce anything to my knowledge. I just hope Dark Horse will be okay. I already worry plenty about IDW, after all.

Monday, April 22, 2024

Earth Day 2024

It's Earth Day, April 22nd. Started in the 70s by Senator Gaylord Nelson to bring awareness to air and water pollution, the holiday has expanded to cover climate change and more. The theme this year is, "Planet vs. Plastics," because--as we've most likely learned--plastics aren't that great for the environment. They're made from petroleum, take forever to decompose, and recycling efforts can only do so much. We only get one Earth (as far as we know) so let's treat it right and try to fix some of the damage we've done to our planet before it is too late. Ice is melting, storms are getting worse, and so forth, but efforts can be made to address our Earth and its concerns. We could've listened to Scientists and Al Gore decades ago but at least he doesn't say, "I told you so." Our planet clearly is in trouble, however. We should try to work together to help it.

Sunday, April 21, 2024

Animals Aglow at the Zoo is a Beautiful Event

Yesterday evening/night my family went to the Animals Aglow event currently happening at the Saint Louis Zoo through May 5th. After the real-life animals get put away to sleep for the night a bunch of awesome displays get lit up and it was gorgeous. 

Clarkson had fun walking around and riding the zoo's carousel and Gibson enjoyed wheeling around in his stroller too. Various fictional and existing animals are represented at the event and it is worth seeing if you live in the region (or are visiting) and want to see some awesome lights. 

The zoo itself is free during regular hours but the event does cost money to attend as it is after the regular zoo hours. You can buy tickets online ahead of time and I would recommend doing so as the event hits its maximum capacity often--it had sold out the night we went!

As I mentioned, Animals Aglow runs until May 5th and is definitely worth checking out when you have an evening/night free. We all had a lot of fun there!

Friday, April 19, 2024

The First Day of the Big River Comic Convention 2024 Was Superb

I attended the opening of the fifth annual Big River Comic Convention when it kicked off today. This show has always been a blast and the start of the show this Friday was great fun. Taking place in Hannibal, Missouri, you can still attend as it runs through tomorrow and I'd recommend doing so if you're at all near the region of Northeast Missouri.

The BRCC always has fun guests, tons of vendors, crafters/creators, and is like one big and fun party. Upon arriving at the event I said hello to my good friend, Jack Thomas of Fortress Comics. He was excited to be back at BRCC and had a great setup of high-end and inexpensive books. He was kind enough to let me snap a photo:

I proceeded to talk with the cool folks from Comic Book Relief, a stellar shop located in Saint Charles, Missouri, who had set up at BRCC. Not too far from their booth was the superbly cool Bruce Reynolds. He had brought a wide assortment of snazzy older books and some newer ones. I always love chatting with Bruce and he had the same glowing feelings about BRCC that I do! I met the celebrity guests at the show, Emily Swallow, Jake (the Snake) Roberts, and had fun chatting with Scott Innes. You may not recognize Scott's face but you definitely have heard his voice as he currently is who you'd listen to if you watch any Scooby Doo cartoons. He's the voice of Scooby, Shaggy, and more! I loved his shirt he had on and he posed for a pic:

John Davis IV was there with his stellar books and near him was Geek to Me Radio, a really fun entity to listen to. My friends from Heroes for Kids of Perryville, Missouri, were present raising funds for charity as well. They have their own fun convention coming up in July! Not too far down the line, Destination Toys had some cool comics, toys, and other neat stuff and I enjoyed chatting with them. Artist Dave Mitzel had a ton of fantastic drawings for sale, but had recently sold out of any Moon Knight when I asked him! Then, I proceeded to browse the wares of Nathan's Nerdy Knick-Knacks and got a picture of his fun banner:

I talked with a number of crafters and artists at the Big River Comic Convention. Dip Sticks had a number of edible goodies and I ran into Laura of Orion's Dragon Gems who I enjoyed seeing at ToyMan on previous occasions! I also met Libra Arts and admired her works! Leisure Time Treasures had some incredible creations for sale too, and Bilbus Thiq was selling fantastic works at the show. Artist Anne Elizabeth had a ton of cool artwork and I was surprised to run into a friend of mine, Andie! She was set up at the show with, "Cartoons By Andie," offering custom artwork with the slogan, "Yes, I can draw anything!" I got a picture of her as the show was kicking off:

Before I left BRCC a little later in the day I did some shopping and bought a chunk of comics from G&K Collectibles. I also enjoy seeing him at every show as he brings cool stuff. I was especially pleased to get a fun issue of, "Johnny Quest," featuring cover artwork by the late, great David Stevens. Here is a picture of that exciting pickup:

The Big River Comic Convention is such great fun every year. I appreciate they let me come write about the event and would encourage anyone who can attend the show tomorrow to do so--then start planning on next year while you're at it!

Thursday, April 18, 2024

"Action Comics," #1 Hit Newsstands This Day in 1938

On this day 86 years ago, "Action Comics," #1 hit newsstands (comic-book stores didn't exist until the 1960s and 70s). Comic-books existed beforehand, but the debut appearance of Superman changed the World as know it. That isn't an exaggeration. Imagine if Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster hadn't created Superman, how we'd have a World without superheroes. April 18th, 1938 was a monumental day without a doubt, even if people back then didn't realize at that time just how much of an impact Superman would have. Oh, and for those wondering why the comic is dated for June, that is because the date on items at newsstands was generally when an issue should be taken down--two months from release. Anyway, thank you to Siegel & Shuster for Superman and all that has come since thanks to that first spark of superheroics!

I've Been Trying Zero Sugar Sodas, Eating Better, and Walking More in an Effort to Lose Some Weight

I am a fan of soda, but it is not a good choice for your health. Sodas with zero sugar are not perfect by any means and can have their own health concerns, but at least lack calories. I've attempted to simply not drink soda before, but have failed at that. Therefore, as I've been working at eating better, walking more, and losing some weight, I figured I would try zero-sugar sodas.

I don't like diet sodas, usually. They just taste wrong to me. That said, Diet Dr. Pepper and Dr. Pepper Zero Sugar tasted the least off so I started drinking them a bit. As I got used to those I shifted into trying Coke Zero and Cherry Coke Zero. Having gotten used to the Dr. Pepper versions I seemed to do okay with the Coca-Cola options. I've been drinking those when I can't fight the craving for some soda but generally do stick with seltzer. I also am trying (but need to try harder) to drink more straight-up water. Still, with my combination of eating a bit better, getting in motion more, and drinking less sugar-filled soda, I've dropped maybe 10 pounds. My weight can fluctuate but I hope to keep making choices that help me be a bit healthier.

Wednesday, April 17, 2024

Jontay Porter is the Tip of a New Iceberg When it Comes to Professional Sports, Gambling, and Ethics

Today is a sports-themed kind of day, I guess, considering I just wrote about a new sports card store earlier and now have this post! It's funny as I used to never write about sports but now I touch on that along with other popular culture. Now then, I have zero problem with sports gambling because if it can bring income to states, and isn't hurting anyone (problem gambling should obviously be addressed), then states should do it. That said, if sports leagues are going to partner with gambling sites/entities, have them advertise a bunch, pay for stuff, and otherwise be a huge part of sports, can anyone really feign surprise if some athletes take all that as a sign they can get involved in sports gambling to some degree? It was announced that Basketball player Jontay Porter was caught by the NBA illegally gambling on his performance to make money and working with bettors. He is going to be the tip of the iceberg in regards to some athletes trying to game the system to make extra funds.

Think about it. If you make gambling a huge part of the game, don't be stunned when those playing the game see a way to possibly get some scratch--ethically/legally or not. It's a new era of professional sports and gambling on a sport has mostly come out of the shadows, but plenty of metaphorical dark crevices for illicit activity remain. I don't know if there is enough light to stamp out everything questionable that could occur--although thanks to everything being legal various systems noticed the odd betting patterns regarding Porter, at least. Pete Rose's gambling on baseball was Earth-shattering news decades ago. Now, that's going to look positively quaint compared to the shitstorm I could see hitting pro sports in the coming years if athletes try to get in the game on their games. It isn't right, but I can predict it happening more and more. 

Porter isn't an isolated case, either, just the most brazen so far. Major League Baseball's new star player Shohei Ohtani has his own scandal by proxy. Ohtani's translator, Ippei Mizuhara, allegedly stole 16 million dollars from him and placed sports bets without his knowledge, but only so many players have a translator to blame (I'm not saying Ohtani did any illegal gambling, but if it ever came out he did, my lack of shock would be evident). We aren't even halfway through 2024 and already two sports have been rocked by gambling scandals. I'd bet--no pun intended--that there are going to be a lot more gambling fiascos before the year is done. I mean, don't forget that the Summer Olympics are this year, and plenty of legal sportsbooks are ready. I'm bracing myself for a mess with that, although I hope nothing sketchy occurs. Time will tell.

314 Sports Cards is a Stellar Place to Buy (What Else?) Sports Cards

I've gotten into hockey cards as of late (and sometimes I'll dabble in other entertainment cards as well for fun) and National Hockey Card Day was this last Saturday. I was unable to make it out to any stores on the day itself but had the chance today to visit one I'd heard good things about and had been meaning to visit, 314 Sports Cards.

Located at 9640 Olive Blvd in Saint Louis, MO (63132 area code), 314 Sports Cards is a fun shop! They've got all the fandoms represented that others know and love as well as the one I follow, hockey! Everyone there was extremely nice when I visited and I appreciated how they gave me some of the free cards for National Hockey Card Day that they still had leftover! You can buy hobby boxes of a variety of products and individual packs of some items too. There are notable single cards for sale as well. With, "Sports Cards," in their name it makes sense they have plenty to offer!

Matt (left) and Devin (right) posing with some of their awesome wares!

314 Sports Cards is a great spot to visit in the Saint Louis region whether you're an expert in the hobby or a relatively newer person like myself when it comes to sports cards. I'd recommend stopping by their shop or buying from them via their website; I know I'm excited to have another great sports card shop in the region to frequent!

Tuesday, April 16, 2024

DC Comics Allegedly to Launch an, "Absolute," Line of Comics With Scott Snyder at the Helm

Marvel and DC love creating lines of comics set in alternate universes. Whether it is Marvel's Ultimate line (which is now back and doing well in a new iteration), the New Universe, DC's Elseworlds or some of the Vertigo stuff (that's a little complicated), unique lines of comics often occur over the decades. It seems Marvel bringing back the aforementioned Ultimate line has piqued DC's interest as they aren't going to do a full reboot like in 2011 with the New 52, but are going to launch an, "Absolute," line which is not to be confused with their big hardcover Absolute collections. Bleeding Cool is a bit of a tabloid site with way too many ads (seriously, without an adblocker it is impossible to navigate) but it sometimes breaks big news and it seems Rich Johnston and company found somebody to leak them the juicy story about the Abstolue line.

These Absolute Comics will have a separate continuity and start DC over fresh in a new-reader-friendly manner. The rest of the DC Universe will continue doing its own thing so as not to enrage longtime readers and Scott Snyder--a skilled writer for sure--is spearheading much (if not all) of this new Absolute Comics line. The heroes in Absolute Comic will be heavily reworked versions of DC heroes and will share their own universe but be separate from the main DC one. It'll all be the same multiverse, apparently, so I imagine in 10 or so years these heroes might overlap with the main DC ones or such as eventually all the separate Universes end up interacting at some point or another. The line supposedly will kick off in late 2024 and early 2025, so now we just await the, "Official," announcement from DC since this big ol' leak.

Monday, April 15, 2024

Music Mondays: K-Pop, Carpenter, and Batz--Plus More!

The Segment Returns!
I said in March that this would be my newest randomly occurring segment and now that we're here with the second edition I've made good on my claim! Let's get into it.

Music & Musings

I've been listening to a chunk of what is known as K-Pop lately. It is a bit of a blanket term for pop music from South Korea. I quite like the song, "Cat & Dog," by Tomorrow X Together, "Easy," by Le Sserafim, and a variety of other tunes by popular artists (Stray Kids has some good hits). As I got into K-Pop I learned about how one aspect can be extremely controversial. Debates persist over K-Pop artists re-recording their songs exclusively in English. A lot of K-Pop incorporates English and Japanese, but fans have strong thoughts on when the artists only sing in English (there are versions of songs exclusively in Japanese to appeal to that market too, but the debate focuses more on the English-exclusive takes). I personally am fine with a musical artist doing whatever they want with their own music, as it is a bit like a remix. This isn't a case where some other random American artist is ripping off a K-Pop song, after all. As I continue to check out more K-Pop I'll share what I like.

Having loved Vince Staples' show, "The Vince Staples' Show," I've been listening to more of his music. Two songs I find on repeat in my playlist are, "THE BEACH," and, "Yo Love." which also features 6lack.

Beyonce's county album, "Cowboy Carter," continues to dominate the music charts. I enjoy a number of Beyonce's songs, but readers of the blog are aware that I don't listen to much country. That said, I love seeing artists who don't hesitate to dabble in a range of genres and I applaud Beyonce for trying something new and succeeding at it!

Sabrina Carpenter is another of those new young pop stars (she's only 24 and started making hits a smidgen ago). I often whine about today's new music but I like some songs I've heard by her. "Nonsense," and, "Feather," are both good fun. So you see, I don't hate all the new youth with their pop jams!

A number of OutKast's albums (and lots of other hits) were produced by Organized Noize. One member of that production outfit, Rico Wade, passed away recently at the age of 52 (the cause of death was not disclosed). A ton of amazing music artists expressed their sympathies to his family and I do the same.

J. Cole was part of a spat with Kendrick Lamar, but after releasing a song critical of Lamar, "7 Minute Drill," he apologized publically a couple days later to mixed reactions. The song has now been taken down from official music streaming sources at the request of Cole. Don't you think that Cole is done engaging in beef, however, with a new track apparently taking a swipe at Drake.

4batz is an artist I don't know much about, but their weird little song, "Act ii: date @ 8," was on the radio randomly and I really dug it. It's incredibly short, trippy, and catchy.

Coachella happened last weekend and was quite the event by all accounts. I feel a little bad for how Grimes's equipment had a technical meltdown, but at least we got to see a reunion of No Doubt (Gwen Stefani's Ska band from back in the day), and Olvia Rodrigo joined them on stage too!

Finally, Taylor Swift is one of the biggest names in music so her fans (who are known as Swifties) are pumped for the debut of her 11th studio album (15th overall), "The Tortured Poets Department." It drops this Friday, April 19th.

Sunday, April 14, 2024

Mini-Run Review: "Captain America," #1-#8

Back in 2014 I wrote about how J. Michael Straczynski had written a chunk of awful comics, some mediocre ones, and a single incredible series I adored--"Supreme Power," under the then-relatively-new (at the time he wrote for it) Marvel Max line. He gave us 18 amazing issues and then it all fell apart. JMS dabbled in other comic series for some time, but he came back to Marvel recently for a new run of, "Captain America.". I was concerned I'd be disappointed going into the series but so far it has been...good?

JMS' take on, "Captain America," has started strong, but a lot of his comics do that and then get incredibly messy. He seems to be avoiding that, however, but letting this series be a bit messy from the start but in a charming manner. He's added a supernatural element of demons, the human embodiment of life (as well as death) and it is a bit weird but has still somehow managed to work. I have concerns with how heavily JMS has changed the continuity of Steve Roger's past (basically, he teamed up with some Jewish and Italian mobsters to stop some local Nazis before he even became superpowered, it's a little quirky), yet, between that and the introduction of some demons and vaguely angelic figures we're clearly getting a more out-there take on Captain American than before, but one which manages to have some nice grounded moments too.

In this day and age, it is alarming how Nazi-related ideas seem to be rearing their ugly head again. JMS touches upon that plenty within these first eight issues and even with a lot of more magical story elements emphasizes the humanity of Steve Rogers and the people he fights to protect as Captain America. JMS gives us some fun bits of dialogue too, be it a Stakeout-gone-wrong with Spider-Man that results in awkward apologies or a bit where Steve and Sam Wilson watch a movie about heroes and crack jokes about the overreliance on CGI these days (JMS has got jokes about the Marvel Cinematic Universe, clearly). Now, all of this interesting writing would matter little without some stellar art, and Jesús Saiz thankfully provides stupendous work.

Whether we're witnessing the past with everything looking impressively period-set or in the present as Captain America fights threats of a human or demonic nature, Saiz illustrates the Hell (no pun intended) out of every page. Quiet silly moments such as Captain America interacting with a Dr. Strange doll used by Stephen Strange to astroproject are as pitch-perfect as eerie scenes of Nazi-sympathetic Americans filling Central Park for a disturbing rally. Saiz is at the top of his game and gives us the mundane and realistic just as well as he portrays the supernatural stuff.

J. Michael Straczynski has a tendency to start a story like a pro but then loves to either abandon it in the middle of his telling the tale or to just utterly shit the bed (figuratively) at a narrative's conclusion. Would I be foolish to get my hopes up and think JMS might actually stick the landing with his run on, "Captain America," at whatever point it finishes? Perhaps, but I'm ready to be ever-so-slightly optimistic with my usual caution. Plus, whether JMS does his usual thing of driving the metaphorical train off the tracks or not, at least everything should continue to look good with Jesús Saiz providing art. Time will tell if the story wraps well eventually, but for now, I'm having fun!

4.5 out of 5 stars.

Saturday, April 13, 2024

"Nacelleverse," #0 Kicks the New Line off Wonderfully

When the, "Nacelleverse," was announced late last year, I thought it was an interesting bit of news. With the comics published by Oni Press, this is a shared universe of various properties that folks might recall (but with a new modern take) You've got Roboforce, Sectaurs, Power Lords, Biker Mice From Mars, and the great Garloo, to name some. The line has big plans ranging from the Oni-published comics to toys, and cartoons with big names attached (Dwayne Johnson, Ryan Reynolds, and so forth). None of that would matter if the comics kicking this all off sucked, though. Thankfully, the debut issue of everything, "Nacelleverse," #0 is a really fun comic and makes me interested in the other various characters/lines. 

Melissa Flores is the writer of this debut and all the upcoming comics; it gives everything a nice unified voice as we spend this zero issue watching Garloo go to various planets in search of a home (after his gets blown up). This allows us to meet everyone from the cosmic Power Lords, to the insect-themed Sectaurs, the Biker Mice...of Mars, and a futuristic Robo Force on Earth. The Cowboys of Moo Mesa do not appear in this comic, but are apparently part of the future parts of the Nacelleverse. Several artists illustrate, "Nacelleverse," #0 and the different segments including Rahmat Handoko, Rhoald Marcellius, Diogenes Neves, and Francis Portela. They'll be working on the respective solo books focused on the differing characters.

Between some solid action, a nice dose of humor, and great art, "Nacelleverse," #0 is a fantastic introduction to this new line of comics/cartoons/toys/etc. As long as everything else is as enjoyable and high-quality as the comic I could see the Nacelleverse possibly succeeding in its varying iterations! I know my interest is piqued enough to sample some other comics and check the shows and toys out when they debut later on!

Friday, April 12, 2024

The Machinists Hall Sports Cards & Collectibles Show is Really Cool!

I've written about how I got into hockey the past handful of years and then late last year began really enjoying hockey cards. When I saw that Machinists Hall was going to have a sports card show, I reached out to them and asked if I could come and cover the event for my blog. They said yes, so today I attended my first-ever sports card show! The Machinists Hall Sports Cards & Collectibles Show was a little intimidating to think about going to as while I know a ton about comics, I will not pretend to know even 10% as much about sports cards (although I've learned a lot about hockey cards these past months). That is why I appreciated how of the many dealers at the show everyone was incredibly friendly and not at all judgemental at my, "Newness," to sports cards.

There was a range of cards from tons of baseball and basketball to a chunk of football, and hockey had some representation along with fandoms from Pickleball to Pokemon (and a bit of wrestling). Everything from expensive single cards to cheap bundles was for sale, along with sealed packages from the past to the present. If you were looking for a specific sport or era, it was likely represented by a number of dealers here!

It wasn't just cards, of course. There were balls, pucks, and Funko Pops plus old magazines that (mostly) related to sports in some fashion. I even saw a comic or two along with the occasional Marvel trading cards. The vendors were eager to talk about their varied wares and it was really fun to interact with this card fandom that has similarities to the one I know quite well (comics) but is also very different. 

Gibson came with me and enjoyed the show too!

All my pictures you see in this post I was able to snap before the show kicked off and it got busy, fast. The Machinists Hall Sports Cards & Collectibles Show runs through Sunday, so try and go this weekend if you live in the area (or can make the trip). It's only $3 to get in tomorrow and free on Sunday! Here is the link again for the show so you can check it out too!

Thursday, April 11, 2024

Trina Robbins Has Passed

Two obituaries in a day is a downer, I know, but this one is someone we remember a bit more fondly than my earlier post. But yes, Trina Robbins has passed at age 85. I found out late yesterday. The word, "Trailblazer," is sometimes overused, but in Forbes piece discussing her death, I agreed 100% with the phrase. She spent decades in comics doing everything from creating Vampirella's outfit to offering feminist takes on a variety of subjects during a time when comic-books were more of a, "Boy's Club." Underground classics like, "Wimmen’s Comix," come to mind whenever I think of Trina Robbins, and she was the first woman to ever draw Wonder Woman within her own comic series. The list of things Robbins accomplished would be an extensive list indeed. I was able to meet her, once. Back at a comic convention in 2015, I had the pleasure of speaking with Robbins and found her to be kind, approachable, and full of great stories. An amazing talent and voice for the art form of comics departed and she will be missed.

O.J. Simpson Has Died

Orenthal James Simpson, better known as, "O.J." or even, "Juice," has died of cancer at age 76. Simpson was a famous athlete, amateur actor, and infamous for being accused of the murder of his ex-wife Nicole Brown and her friend Ron Goldman. Simpson was found, "Not Guilty," to the surprise of many in 1994 after a long trial that was quite the media spectacle (in 2016 a great show chronicled everything). The thing I always found most interesting (I don't want to say, "Impressive," per se) about O.J. was his audacity. You would think most people after a controversial murder trial would slink away out of the spotlight and try to live a quiet life. O.J. did not. He kept himself in the media via a variety of methods. Whether he was doing a controversial prank show, signing autographs at sporting events, or writing a book literally titled, 'If I Did It," where he did everything but admit he was guilty, O.J. craved attention, positive or negative. He did, in fact, go to prison for some time due to an altercation over sports memorabilia, but after serving nine years, he was granted parole in 2017.

O.J. Simpson was not a good person, but he was a famous one. O.J. wanted to be a celebrity, good or bad, and he got that wish. It is quite likely he did murder Nicole Brown and Ron Goldman, but it seems he took any true confession to his grave. I only hope that the families of Nicole Brown, Ron Goldman, and Simpson's own family can get some kind of closure from his passing. The internet has been having a field day with jokes, but one actually stuck out to me. It basically was someone stating, "I just hope O.J. can rest easy knowing the killer has died." That sums everything up pretty well.