Thursday, August 29, 2013

I Find This Funny For I Am A Nerd

There was a surrealist painting of a pipe declaring that it was not a pipe, because it wasn't, it was a painting of a pipe. This is a fun take on that, and for some reason I find that hilarious. It's a postcard from the McSweeney's collection of Postcards.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Blaming Video-Games AKA "Think of the Children!"

This past week an extremely tragic story appeared in the news. In the town of Slaughter, Louisiana an eight-year-old child was able to get his hands on a loaded gun in his grandmother's home and allegedly intentionally shot her in the head. Clearly, everyone should be up in arms asking how in the Hell a child was able to get his hands on a loaded gun, and the media is having a fit...but about video-games. Wait, what?
Apparently the child had been playing "Grand Theft Auto IV" for awhile before shooting his grandmother, so of course instead of seeing headlines exclaiming how tragic it is that a child was able to get their hands on, I repeat, a loaded weapon, we see the news exclaiming how he did this horrendous act after playing some video-games. To put in perspective how stupid that is, imagine a headline saying, "Child shoots grandmother after reading violent book," except it wasn't a book, it was a game, so here we are.

Thankfully there are level-headed people out there who don't claim that a violent video-game is somehow practice for murder anymore than watching a violent movie is a way to prepare for killing. People are blaming video-games ,as they often seem eager to do, because yet again we have a newer form of media that everyone wants to go off and say is the root of all evil. In the early 1900's it was ragtime music making our youth cause a ruckus, then comic books were causing children to becoming murdering communists, after that television was destroying society as we knew it, followed by "Dungeons and Dragons", and on, and on, and on.

A video-game did not kill this child's grandmother, a gun that he was somehow able to get his hands on did. Comic books did not cause youth to kill people either, and if someone were to say that today they would be laughed at, yet back then that made "perfect sense" to people, and now saying electronic entertainment is the cause of our violence is the popular thing to do.

It doesn't take a genius to know that this is another opportunity for politicians and the media to play to the fears of older viewers who don't understand video-games so as to muddy the real issue--which is how in the Hell did a child get a gun in his hands, and why did he use it to kill someone? Without question soon people will be blaming the parents who may not be at fault at all as the child could very well be disturbed, or other people will be saying guns need to banned while the NRA will claim we actually need more guns, with everyone putting in their two-cents about what is "really" to blame. It's simple though, a child was able to take hold of a loaded weapon and kill someone. Whether that means we need to educate people about how to safely store guns away from children, look into what caused this child to think murder was okay, or some other solution I feel something should be done--but I don't think blaming a video-game is the answer anymore than saying it was ragtime music that caused this tragedy.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

I Dropped a Lot of Comics Part Four: What It Means

We Reach the End
You've either slogged through all three of my posts about the comics I kept and quit, or you've skipped those articles to read what exactly my point is. You've (possibly) been patient so I'll tell you why I spent all this time breaking down the comics I wanted to keep getting and the ones I wanted to cut. It's because it illustrates exactly what is right and what is wrong with comics today.

I cut comics that were okay reads but generic, I got rid of ones that were dull slogs, and I stopped buying the ones I was getting not because I liked them at all, but out of some sort of commitment to a character or creator. I couldn't stand the idea of all these cross-overs so I just gave up on almost every X-Men comic due to "Battle of the Atom", and am hesitant about "Infinity" and "Forever Evil" but am at least interested enough in their premises I will give them a try. I'm the comic reader Marvel and DC don't want, someone who has loved their stuff, but is getting bored with a lot of it.

The Marvel and DC comics I kept without hesitation are the ones that are doing something interesting, be it with creative stories ("X-Men: Legacy") or making a character people once mocked kind of neat ("Aquaman"). Image and the less-big publishers that are putting out the more experimental stuff found much less of their comics cut, because I want comics that tell unique tales, not just dull comics of the same ol' super-heroes fighting some bad guy when they aren't fighting within each other.

I like the comics that push boundaries, such as some of Avatar's stuff that can be a bit extreme, but also can make for some damn good stories. I enjoy super-heroes, but if I'm reading a super-hero comic I want it to have a unique spin like Joe Casey's current works do (or again, "X-Men: Legacy", the book is truly awesome), or an intriguing hook as "Forever Evil" does with its, "Villains take over," concept that is by no means new, but should make for at least some good comics (putting aside the whole 3-D cover mess). You can even do a hero story that makes a commentary on today's comics versus the past's just as the excellent "The Standard" does. Just make sure you create something that isn't the same old song and dance.

I want my hero comics to have interesting "spins" as I said, but I also want my comics in general to have that, of course. "Saga" is an epic space-tale that at its heart is a simple and sweet love story. "The Westwood Witches" is an intriguing and dark horror yarn. "Lazarus" is a futuristic sci-fi story that seems scarily possible. These are all comics that do something different, and succeed at it wonderfully.

I can't do the boring generic super-hero comics anymore. I don't have the money and I lack the patience for it also. Should comic companies not stray from the formula of never-ending events that "compliment" boring tales of capes and capers they may find more people leaving their brand behind for other, more intriguing things. After all, I plan on doing more rounds of cutting and if Marvel and DC aren't careful they may find themselves almost completely missing from my pull-list, and many other folks' lists too.

For those who want to read the earlier posts:
Part One: Marvel
Part Two: DC and Image
Part Three: Other Publishers

I Dropped a Lot of Comics Part Three: Other Publishers.

I already talked about the Marvel Comics I kept or ditched, along with DC and Image's output, but what about the other, smaller publishers? Let's discuss....

Other Publishers
Among Dark Horse's offerings, I no longer want to read that "Killjoys" comic because the damn thing makes no sense to me. It is sad as I truly adore Gerard Way's "Umbrella Academy" comics and hopes he returns to them soon. I am keeping "Dark Horse Presents" because even though it is an anthology book, and lots of anthologies are hit-or-miss, "Dark Horse Presents" has enough titles that "hit" I feel it is a good value for the money. One other Dark Horse title I want to keep up with actually had a segment in the anthology, "Resident Alien" which has a new mini, "Resident Alien: The Suicide Blonde" coming up. Lastly, "Fatale" by Ed Brubaker and Sean Philips is shaping up into quite the big story and I want to keep on following it for now.

Publishers that I am reading only one book from currently are Dynamite with their title "Uncanny" and the newly-formed Amigo Comics with its superb, "The Westwood Witches". I am also reading a good number of Boom Studios books considering they don't have a ton, with "Six Gun Gorilla", "Deathmatch", and "Suicide Risk" all being excellent reads by great writers (Si Spurrier, Paul Jenkins, and Mike Carey, respectively). There is a small publisher known as Comixtribe who puts out some good stuff too, such as "The Red Ten" and "The Standard". Also, anytime IDW releases something by Ashely Wood I snatch it up, but there aren't any current works solicited by him that I know of.

If there were one company who "won" all of this cutting among the smaller publishers it would probably be Avatar Comics. I am reading a lot of their output besides "Crossed" (which I got tired of some time ago) and "Feral" (which I haven't gotten around to trying). I'm reading the new Christos Gage title. "Absolution: Rubicon" which is a sequel to the original great mini-series "Absolution". I'm also reading "Uber", "Skin Trade", "Extinction Parade" and am eager to read the upcoming, "God is Dead" by Jonathan Hickman. I guess I just really like a lot of Avatar's stuff.

That's all the smaller stuff I can think of that I'm still interested in. Stay tuned for Part 4 where I discuss all of these posts and what they reflect of my tastes and the comic-book industry.

I Dropped a Lot of Comics Part Two: DC and Image

In an earlier post I discussed how to save money I stopped reading/"dropped" a variety of comic titles. Let's examine what from DC and Image either made the cut, got eliminated, or I forgot to mention.

DC Books
I'm keeping "Batman" and "Aquaman" with little hesitation as I enjoy both a lot, but all the "Justice League" books I've been reading ("Justice League", "Justice League of America", and "Justice League Dark") are "on notice" as it were, meaning I'll finish this "Trinity War" cross-over they are going through, but when all the "Forever Evil" business starts they could find one or all of them cut from my pull-list.  "Superman Unchained" is a tentative "keep" because I do like Scott Snyder's writing and will give him a chance on a Superman book, even though historically I don't really enjoy Superman's solo stories.

"Injustice: Gods Among Us" is an interesting comic that ties in nicely with the game, so its a keeper. "Green Arrow" has amazing art and (good writing by Jeff Lemire) so it is safe and I'll always have a soft spot for John Constantine so his book remains on my pull-list even if it isn't the "real" John we grew to love during his long time on the Vertigo imprint. Speaking of Vertigo, it is sort-of DC so its worth mentioning I am going to keep reading "The Wake" and the new series "Trillium" because again, Scott Snyder and Jeff Lemire make good comics--and seem to be behind most of the DC-related books I'm still reading.
Sorry "Green Team" but you just don't entertain me enough.
Books that are okay but not that impressive to me are gone, so bye bye, "The Movement," and "Green Team", plus a terrible book such as "Stormwatch" is unquestionably cut. Also, "Batman/Superman" has had two issues worth of time to prove it is anything more than pretty art by Jae Lee and it has not done so, therefore it is cut. Also, "Batman: Black and White" may turn out to be a great mini-series as the past ones were, but I just cant afford an anthology that may have more bad than good.

Weirdly, I'm keeping "Suicide Squad" for now, as I started it with the Ales Kot issues that were really good and hope when Matt Kindt takes over on issue #25 the interestingly weird tone of the comic continues. Oh, and I'll try the first issue of "Superman/Wonder Woman". Last of all for the DC books, I'm going to read the "Forever Evil" mini-series as long as it isn't bad and look into the tie-ins--e.g. I'm trying some of those villain one-shots and such.

I read some Image books so it is worth talking about the imprint. Even though I dropped "Sex Criminals" before the first issue even came out (if it gets good word of mouth I'll look into it) I am reading another book with "Sex" in the title, namely Joe Casey's comic that is simply called that, "Sex". Also, because I like Joe Casey's writing as much as I do, I think I'll keep up with "The Bounce" for at least a few more issues, as it is starting to make more sense than the illegible first issue. Catalyst Comix is written by Casey too, so it of course is a lock.

Other titles I want to keep up with for at least a bit by Image include the new Greg Rucka series "Lazarus", the lushly illustrated by Juan Jose Ryp series "Clone", and  Jonathan Hickman's "East of West". Plus "Satellite Sam" is proving to be a dense, but intriguing read.
I love me some "Elephantmen" so that title has no need to worry. Also, as much as I've enjoyed the long-running "Elephantmen" I might have to say I love Brian K. Vaughn and Fiona Staples' "Saga" even more, so you know I'm keeping that! Also, even though Kot isn't on "Suicide Squad" any longer his new comic "Zero" looks enticing.

It would seem that I'm cutting a fair amount of DC (or have a lot "on notice") and very little of Image. That's worth discussing in my Part 4 overview of reflecting on what my, "cuts and keeps" mean. Before that however, look out for Part 3: The Other Publishers, which will be posted before long also.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

I Dropped A Lot of Comics Part One: Marvel

Ready, Set, Cut Books!
So yeah, as the title says, I dropped a lot of comic books from my pull-list/s. Comics are getting more expensive and I'm not made of money, so it is potentially interesting to note what I'm still reading as it is reflective of how I think about comics, and what I enjoy in them. Let's examine things in a sort-of-by-publisher method. First up, a post about Marvel comics and a variety of the books I am keeping or dropping.

Marvel Books

We should address the biggest casualty of my pull-list reduction, almost every X-Men book. While some past X-Men comics are among my favorite, currently much of the line seems to be moving at a glacial pace, with Bendis' "New X-Men" and "Uncanny X-Men" being decent reads but so abhorrently slow in actually, ya'know, going anywhere that I just can't put up with them anymore.

I do truly enjoy Jason Aaron's "Wolverine and the X-Men" and those first few issues of Brian Wood's "X-Men" are solid, but considering how almost the entire line is being drawn into this "Battle of the Atom" cross-over, it makes sense to drop all of the books that will be involved as there is little point in reading just some of this cross-over. Plus, with Marvel's "Infinity" event going on (more on that in a second) I honestly can't fund two mega-event cross-overs at once from the same publisher. Oh, and "Uncanny X-Force" has been dropped because even though I like the whole plot with Betsy and the Fantomexes (Fantomexi?) I still just can't pay that much for a comic I only enjoy a few aspects of. The only X-books I am keeping on my pull-list are "X-Factor" because it is awesome and almost through with its run anyways, and the amazing "X-Men Legacy" which I have not been shy about singing the praises of. Oh, and I'm keeping the main "Wolverine" book because Paul Cornell is a Hella' good writer.
Despite dropping all those X-books I am sticking with most of the Avenger's titles for now (like "Avengers Arena"--even if it is getting canceled), at least whilst "Infinity" is taking place. I would like to follow that event to its conclusion, so after "Infinity" I may drop a bunch of Avenger's titles, keeping only the stellar ones such as "Young Avengers" and maybe "Uncanny Avengers" which varies between really interesting or a trudge to read through, sometimes within the same issue. The new version of the "Mighty Avengers" hasn't come out yet either, but any book with Luke Cage playing a prominent role is worth getting in my opinion.

Oh, and my apologies to Cullen Bunn, but "Fearless Defenders" just isn't doing it for me, even if you kinda-sorta brought back Annabelle, and "Venom" hasn't been the same since Rick Remender left so those are cut too. His "Deadpool Kills Deadpool" series is going to stay on my list as it is sort of the conclusion of a trilogy to the "Deadpool Kills" saga and I feel too invested to quit now.

Even though I dropped Bendis' X-Men books, I do want to keep reading his "Guardians of the Galaxy" as it is always enjoyable to see space-adventures in the Marvel Universe, plus it ties-in with the aforementioned "Infinity", so it is safe for now. Other books that were safe with little hesitation were "Thunderbolts", the normal-version of "Deadpool", and I'm going to at least try that first issue of "Fantomex Max".
I still enjoy both "Daredevil" and "Hulk" by Mark Waid.
Lastly, Mark Waid should be feeling good because "Daredevil" is still being picked-up by me, without question, and after some hesitation I do still want to keep getting "Indestructible Hulk", at least while he is still writing it. Oh, and "Superior Foes of Spider-Man" by Nick Spencer may be his Marvel comic that breaks the trend of most of his Marvel work being, well, terrible. Also, even though I don't normally read "Savage Wolverine" I want to at least get those issues written and illustrated by the amazing Jock.

Wait, I completely forgot for a second, I plan to follow "Cataclysm" as the Ultimate Imprint came about when I was a young teen reading the comics and enjoying them a lot, so I feel a bit of a connection to the Ultimate Universe. I won't be reading all the tie-ins though, just the main book.

That's the Marvel books, stay tuned for DC and Image (Part 2), other publishers (Part 3), and a post reflecting on how what I chose to cut and keep reflect on not only my tastes, but the comic industry (Part 4).

"Truth in Journalism" AKA How to Do Venom Right

I'm really late to the party in discussing this stellar short film, but it took me awhile to have the time to get around to watching it, so please excuse me talking about this well after the rest of the internet has.

In case you missed it also and like super-hero movies or comics please do watch it right now and then scroll down to read my thoughts:

That was pretty damn cool, wasn't it?

Ryan Kwanten has always been a hoot on "True Blood" (which I honestly haven't watched since the 3rd season but want to get back into) and here he plays Eddie Brock with just the right mixture of egotism, sleazy charm, and psychosis. The black-and-white style with the French titles is not just an homage to the famous faux-documentary "Man Bites Dog" but also fits with the dirty and raw feel of the flick. Adi Shankar has been involved in some dimension with a variety of movies, but this short (and his earlier Punisher one, "Dirty Laundry" are just delightful, and I think myself and other people know why--the man is a fan.

Super-hero movies can be great when you have people who don't know much about comics or the characters, but if you can get a huge fan to do something, you have that passion injected into the project too. It helps to have someone who truly loves comics and their characters. This can be dangerous because if you just do something from a purely fan-standpoint it can be too enmeshed in comics lore, or obsessed with being like the comics. If you can take that fan-love and still do things with an objective eye however you might get yourself something startlingly delightful such as this.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Thoughts on the Topic of Sexual Violence in Comics (Spurred On By Recent Events).

Recently there has been more of a hubbub than usual about Mark Millar and the various things he says. It all has to do with a piece written about him in the New Republic where the issues of his using rape as a plot device in comics so often is discussed and he basically writes it off as, "Hey, its just a way to show someone is evil by having them rape somebody." Understandably many people have expressed how they are upset at such a cavalier attitude toward sexual violence, and I knew the issue made me feel uncomfortable but I couldn't quite find the words to verbalize it. Then I saw this quote from writer Bradon Seifert and it helped me understand why I felt the way I did. Let's verbalize my thoughts.

As the above quote from Seifert discusses, many people are affected by sexual violence, be it abuse, harassment, or rape. I have no data to back it up, but I would bet many authors who think to use sexual violence as a plot device have never suffered these abuses. When I would write fiction (back in my days of thinking I'd somehow write the next great American novel) I never thought of including rape in a story, because it just didn't seem appropriate. While I myself am lucky enough to have never suffered sexual abuse, I know too many people--both men and women--who at some point in their lives had their bodies violated to think it would be okay for me to dare use rape in a story . The way they describe the horrible feelings it caused, the confusion, and otherwise misery they suffered is just something I don't plan to have in any tale I write.

I'm not saying sexual violence is off-limits in stories. If that were the case the T.V. show "Law and Order: Special Victims Unit" would have run out of material before the first season ended. I just feel that too often sexual violence is treated in this simplistic way as if it is some plot device to throw in a story--"This female character needs motivation to fight crime, let's have her be a rape victim!" for example.

Other writers who want to tackle the subject of sexual violence and feel they can treat it responsibly are welcome to, I just wouldn't do it, and agree that writers such as Mark Millar use it as some sort of lazy storytelling tool instead of thinking of it as the horrible thing it is.

That's all I really had to say.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

What My Girlfriend and I Thought of the Game "Remember Me"

This may be one of the few times where starting the game with your main character suffering from amnesia actually makes sense and doesn't seem lazy. After all, this is a game about a world where memories are stored by a big (and of course evil) company and you are someone who tried to stop it, was clearly caught, and had her memories wiped. Even if the rest of the game were terrible the fact that this title actually pulls off the tired and overused, "You have amnesia," plot-device, is in and of itself impressive. Luckily, the game isn't terrible, it is in fact pretty good, if with some notable faults--ones both myself and my girlfriend noticed.

Before saying anything else about this game, "Remember Me" is an interesting release if for no other reason than it is a completely original property. This isn't a sequel to something, or based on a movie/T.V. show/comic/book. It doesn't tie-in with any other games, it's just a brand new release. While completely original games are not unheard of, they do seem to be getting somewhat rarer, so even putting aside everything else in the game that I enjoyed or didn't care for, the fact that a company worked hard on and released something like this is at least worth some plaudits in itself. What is the game about though? As I said at the start of the article, memories, and how they impact us.

It is 2084 and you are a memory hunter named Nillin. For some reason you are locked up and have had your entire memory wiped. From that point on the game has you doing some things that get repetitive and dull, but in fascinating city known as Neo-Paris that is as beautiful and creative as it is unfortunately sterile. Even though you'll want to wander around Neo-Paris, this is basically an on-rails adventure in that you run through various small alleyways and rooms, find something to climb on to move ahead, and then fight some enemies--again and again and again.
If only you could truly explore the city...
The city of Neo-Paris is gorgeous but almost never truly feels alive and/or vibrant. With the constant variation of "run here, fight these guys, climb this, run some more, climb, etc." you'll always enjoy the sights and sounds of the game, but grow tired of only being able to interact with them in a single way. It is telling that at one point while my girlfriend, Samii, was watching me play she asked if in this game I can pick things up and interact with them like in other titles. I told her, "No, you can only touch or climb on what the game makes explicitly clear you can," and that helped illustrate the limitations of the game quite well--namely it is full of beautiful things and imagery, but you can't really "touch" any of it, so to speak.

My girlfriend may have been disappointed this game didn't have much interaction outside of the dull fighting, but she and I really did enjoy the story. It has some cliche plot elements, but much of the game is loaded with creativity, from the aforementioned city of Neo-Paris, to the idea of how people store and exchange memories, the portrayal of class-ism in a world where the rich keep getting richer and the poor live in dangerous slums, and of course nothing is cooler than flying drop-ships.

So, we have a game with a fascinating world but game-play that grows old often. Is there some element of the game-play that is exciting to do so that you aren't playing through mindless fights waiting for the next interesting cut-scene? Yes, there is; they are the memory remixing segments and they are incredible.
The segments where you "remix" memories are astounding.
If I and Samii were to say what our favorite part of this game was, we would both agree on the memory remixing segments. The only negative to them really is that only four occur, but when they happen it is amazing. Your character, Nillin, has the ability to steal memories, but she also sometimes goes in and alters how someone remembers something so as to change their opinions, outlook on life, or basic reason for being. Suppose someone is after Nillin because the bounty on her head would help fund drastically-needed medical care for the bounty-hunter's spouse. Well, Nillin goes on in there and makes them think their spouse is dead, killed by the very people Nillin is fighting, and suddenly you have a new ally.

Playing through the memory remix segments involves cycling around as if rewinding and fast-forwarding a video, looking for little "glitches" that can be manipulated to alter a memory and make things go completely differently. These bits in the game are so cleverly done and impressive that you'll wonder how the developers thought this stuff up--and why no one else has yet.

Samii and I both found ourselves bored when the game was simply engaging in the basic stuff of moving around, climbing objects, and fighting--she was bored watching, I was bored mashing the buttons. Anytime the story advanced however, or a memory remix occurred we immediately found ourselves intrigued and enjoying the game. This results in a title that as I said is pretty good, but has some noticeable faults. In the end however, the good of the amazing story, memory remixes, and beautiful world is a bit stronger than the faults of boring combat and constricted exploration.
The combat may get dull, but the story keeps you playing.
If you find yourself the opportunity to rent or buy "Remember Me" I would recommend you do so. Should you rent the game it doesn't take too long to beat, but if you are able to own it for a good price that is of course good too, and supports the developers, thereby hopefully encouraging more new games with this kind of creativity to be made. If you want a great story and some moments of incredible game-play such as with the memory remixes, you won't be disappointed. Should you be expecting fun combat and a world you can spend time exploring, you'll be upset. The key is to have balanced expectations and enjoy the game for what it is--good, but flawed. Plus, with the great story this makes "Remember Me" a fun title for others to watch you long as that boring combat doesn't go on too long.

In closing, give "Remember Me" a chance, you just might really like it!
My Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars.
Samii's Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars.

Side Note: "Remember Me" is on multiple platforms, but the version I played was on PlayStation 3, for those who were curious.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

The Madness of DC's Villains Month Allocations

Sheer and Utter Stupidity
If you've been following the comic-press much you've probably heard about Villains Month (I did my own post about it right here). It is this supposed big deal where a variety of DC's comics are being "taken over" by villains for a month, and as my earlier linked post discusses this has both good, bad, and ugly elements to it. In my post I said the worst thing of all was how each of these Villains Month comics are $3.99 due to having special "3-D" covers. Well, the news has gotten crazier and worse, believe it or not.

Apparently DC did not predict how many orders of some comics they would get for Villains Month, so they don't have enough 3-D covers. This means they are going to engage in allocation. For those of you who like me said, "What is allocation?" let me explain.
The Black Manta cover without the 3-D effect,
which is what some who wanted 3-D may be stuck with.
If you ordered 24 copies of the Villains Month comic with Black Manta, and you get all 24 copies, you've got 100% of your order and weren't allocated. Should you get 12 of the comic, you just got 50% of the comic allocated to your store. Now, DC doesn't want stores to go without getting the comic completely, so the store that only get 50% of that Black Manta comic does get the other half of their ordered issues...only the comic is not 3-D. That's right, stores will be getting regular-cover versions too of all those DC Villains Month comics, and these will be only $2.99. This makes those 3-D covers now some kind of "collectible" item that is rare, and it is all one big--excuse my language but it applies here--clusterfuck.

This is either a case of incredible incompetence at best, or if someone is really cynical, a twisted way for DC to drive up demand for some of their comics by suddenly making them more scarce. Retailer and writer Brian Hibbs has written about how much this has upset him, and many other retailers seem none too pleased either.

I myself am at least happy that I can tell my shop to purposely not pull the 3-D covers for me if they find themselves allocated regular covers, as I would much rather get my comic for $2.99 than pay an extra dollar for the gimmick of cover that looks like it moves when you wiggle the comic around. Still, there are customers of shops out there who will probably utterly freak-out when their comic about Lex Luthor doesn't have a visual effect because their store didn't get every 3-D copy it wanted.

Clearly, this is a huge mess, and DC should feel horrible for what it has caused to happen in its desire to have these special covers for the event.  I feel really bad for stores that have to put up with this and at least am happy I won't be one of the people harassing my store to make sure I get one of the now-rare 3-D covers. This is just absurd, there is no other way to put it, its absurd. Good luck to all the customers and retailers when these things start getting shipped, you're going to need it.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Television Tuesday--"Princesses: Long Island"

I've watched "Princesses: Long Island" off and on throughout this first season of its existence, and found myself confused, disgusted, intrigued, saddened, and laughing at various points--and sometimes all at once.

For those of you unaware of this show, it is a reality program on Bravo which is basically about five self-proclaimed "Jewish American Princesses" (didn't that phrase use to be more of an insult?) who waste their spoiled lives whining about how hard they have it, and one sixth member of the troupe who seems to actually be relatively grounded and has to work for her money.

Some think the show is a bit anti-Semitic, as many Jewish women don't just live at home when they are still in their late 20's or early 30's due to being unmarried. Most Jewish women, and women in general, go have lives instead of being adults that act like spoiled teenagers. I don't think the show is anti-Semitic so much as it is a reflection of the unusual extremes of some members of Jewish society. Being Jewish I've met plenty of Jews, both men and women. There are plenty of Jewish women who are accomplished, smart, and successful. I have also met a few who are utterly insane and basically are a perfect reflection of some of the women on this show--just not many.
Ashlee, the face of self-entitlement.
To be fair, I don't know anyone as utterly delusional as Ashlee. She is thirty years old and acts like her life is so tough, in the season finale checking herself into a hospital. Why? Well, because she freaked out so much when arguing with the other girls over petty nonsense that she then wandered off and had to hitch-hike to the ER so that some doctors could give her a benadryl, seriously.

I don't think the show is all bad though. We also may have the drunk and boyfriend-stealing Erika, the hung-up on decades-ago high school drama Casey, Amanda with her really creepy mom (and so effeminate I think he may be closeted boyfriend Jeff), and the mostly bland Chanel, but Joey is actually not that bad.

Joey can be a bit rude to the other girls, but some of them need a reality check. Joey is still living at home rent-free, but that is basically it. She actually goes out and works for money, has built up some funds through working to invest in starting a business, and may have come from privilege, but realizes life isn't all about shopping and riding around in a limo while bemoaning how difficult things are for you.
Joey is actually not that bad.
"Princesses: Long Island" is really just a reality show that takes spoiled teenagers and ages them into their late 20's and early 30's for disturbing effect. These are the real housewives if they took away the "wife" part and instead made their parents who they are dependent on for everything. They just also happen to be Jewish because when looking for a show about crazy women the people at Bravo saw a demographic to exploit that hadn't been tapped yet.

I don't think this show makes Jews look bad so much as it makes spoiled rich girls who never grew up look like atrocious people (with Joey being the odd-one-out whom is sane and actually trying to make something of herself). Yes, some are worse than others, with Ashlee taking the self-absorbed cake, but when you have someone nearing 30 crying about how her high-school boyfriend left her (Casey), or someone whose mother is so desperate to be hip she goes clubbing with her daughter (Amanda's mom) you see these women have serious issues.
"Someone stole my high school boyfriend more than a decade ago,
 this ruined me for life!"
As a reality show "Princesses: Long Island" is a decent piece of programming for people who never tire of seeing spoiled people act stupid. As a way to learn about Jewish culture and people it is a horrible reference piece unless you are looking for the worst examples of Jewish American Princesses. I wouldn't mind a show that focuses on well-balanced, hard-working, and productive Jewish women, but that probably wouldn't get many viewers so for now we are stuck with this motley bunch. At least one of them is bearable.
3.5 out of 5 stars (in terms of entertainment value).

Saturday, August 3, 2013

I'm at a Wedding this Weekend and it has Me Thinking about Super-Hero Marriages.

A cousin of mine is getting married this weekend (later today, actually!) and it has me thinking about super-hero marriages and relationships. Often they don't end well.
The murder of  Green Lantern Kyle Rayner's girlfriend inspired the term "fridging".
A fair amount of times it seems the girlfriends of male super-heroes don't have the best time, often being killed (or "fridged" as the term goes thanks to the above comic image) by a villain to make the male super-hero angry. Super-hero marriages seem to work out a bit better with at least some relatively happy couplings, but even those have had issues.
For every Reed Richards and Sue Storm couple that is well-functioning and even has kids, you have two sad occurrences such as Matt Murdock/Daredevil with his former-wife being driven insane, or Peter Parker/Spider-Man with his marriage to Mary Jane finding itself undone via a deal with the devil (yes, it was a very stupid story). You have Buddy Baker who generally seems to have a good thing going with his wife, but then there is Clark Kent/Superman having his marriage basically written out of continuity by DC when they re-booted their universe, or Storm and T'Challa/The Black Panther having their marriage annulled.

I know marriage can be hard, but why does it seem so often super-hero relationships or marriages seem to be impossible and end either A. horribly or B. through a silly continuity-alteration that has the flimsiest of stories to explain it(I'm looking at you, Peter Parker and Clark Kent)?

One of the few super-hero marriages that are still going strong.
Perhaps it is because a lot of comic readers are young folk--especially young males--and having super-heroes be older and married with children makes them more difficult to relate to than a young and single crime-fighter. It could be writers find it is easier to tell stories about dating and romance with various characters as opposed to coming up with perhaps less-exciting tales of happy matrimony, after all, stories thrive on conflict and when a hero is content in their relationship we are lacking a little in drama. I don't know why super-hero marriages and general relationships often face troubles, it just seems they just do.

All of this goes without saying we are just talking so far about heterosexual relationships if for no other reason than that there are so few gay characters, and even less in relationships. True, the more independent comics have had gay characters with relationships and marriages for some time, but one of first "mainstream" super-hero weddings just occurred within the last few years when Northstar married his boyfriend Kyle in the pages of "Astonishing X-Men". There are other gay characters who are dating, but only time will tell if their loved ones will also be "fridged" in an attempt to give said characters motivation to fight crime or save the world. You may think I'm joking, but it is kind of already happening! In the comic "Earth 2" we find Alan Scott (this version of the long-lived character is gay) proposing to his boyfriend before Scott nearly dies in a train crash and his boyfriend does sadly pass--thereby inspiring Allen to become a Green Lantern (it seems Green Lanterns have a really bad track-record when it comes to romance).

I hope Northstar and Kyle are able to stay happily married.
We don't need another super-hero love ended!
Both straight and gay super-heroes are finding their loved ones are not safe from the pens of writers who need to introduce conflict to stories, and it is kind of sad, because even if many marriages in the real world do end tragically due to accidents or divorce, there are still a good amount that last a long time and are full of love and happiness. I myself would like to see more Reed Richard and Sue Storm-styled couples in comics, where they may face conflicts with their marriage from both within themselves and outside forces, but in the end their love helps them conquer challenges. It would result in some fresh and innovative stories and make these characters more appealing to readers who have a loved one they are dating or married to.

I guess we will see if as time goes on our heroes are allowed to mature at least a little bit and have relationships or marriages that are joyous instead tragic. I would like that, because if anyone deserves to finally have some happiness and love in their lives it's Bruce Wayne/Batman...
Someday you'll settle down, Bruce, someday.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Reflecting on the Tragic Death of Cory Monteith from "Glee"

Cory Monteith played the character Finn Hudson on "Glee" and sadly passed away a short while ago. I've discussed the show before on my blog (here and also here) and felt I should address his unfortunate death. I've waited to say anything though as generally when something big and tragic happens I give myself some time to formulate a calm response instead of getting swept up in emotion. I've taken some time, and now want to discuss Cory's best-known role of Finn and what I liked about it.

If we are being completely honest, Finn wasn't my favorite character on "Glee". I didn't hate him like I do the character of Rachel Berry (not that I have anything against Lea Michele herself), but it would be a lie to say he was at the top of my list when it came to my favorite characters. The thing is, regardless of how much I did or did not like Finn, Cory Monteith played him exceptionally well. Sometimes we didn't like Finn because he was being a jerk, and Monteith did an amazing job at portraying Finn as a jerk. Then there was the episode where out of any "Glee" I've seen I think I saw the best acting of Monteith or anyone on the show, the 22nd episode of Season 3, "Goodbye," which was also the season finale. The scene where Finn tells Rachel that instead of them getting married he wants her to go to NYC for school is so amazingly done that I was enraptured--and Monteith nailing the scene was one reason why.

Monteith had substance abuse issues and had been open in discussing it. The fact he genuinely wanted to talk about and try to face his problems (such as by going to rehab) makes his death tragic, as opposed to say Amy Winehouse whose death I was sad to hear about, but which in no way surprised me. Monteith was talented young man, and his passing is a big loss to "Glee" and any future roles he may have been a part of. He will be missed.