Friday, March 31, 2017

Marvel Maybe Too Honest (and Ignorant-Sounding) At a Recent Summit AKA What The Ever-Loving Hell, Marvel?

Sooo....I don't check the internet for much of the day because I'm busy and learn that Marvel executives said a lot of things they maybe wish they hadn't said. Apparently diversity doesn't sell, people don't care about the artists on a comic, politics are to blame for poor sales somehow, and fuck anyone who want reasonably-priced trade paperbacks. People are reacting accordingly with displeasure at Marvel actually being disturbingly honest to a brutal degree (and sounding ignorant and rude in the meantime) and now the company is in damage control mode.

 Considering we are now on the cusp of April 1st perhaps Marvel can try to play all this havoc off as some kind of early April-Fool's Day joke? I mean, at this point its either that or go for broke and start straight-up insulting people like, "You don't even deserve our comics, so shut-up and buy them because you have no other options besides countless other great, ignore that last part of our sentence!" The next few days are going to be interesting.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

I Hate a Lot of Today's Music, Am I A Cranky Old Man?

I just used a "Simpsons," meme a few posts ago, but this is too perfect.
I am hip, happening, and, "With it," right? I'm only 28 years-old and follow popular-culture closely, after all...but even if I know what stuff is am I actually a cranky hater for despising so much of today's music? There is stuff I like a good amount, but God, I hate a lot of stuff these days. I can't stand Rhianna and her ability to ruin any song, the Chain Smokers have earned my wrath before, 21 Pilots absolutely sucks, Migos are sub-par, Alessia Cara's songs are hot garbage, Nicki Minaj and her shtick was better when Little Kim was doing it, Future and his raps sound like a someone stuffed their mouth full of peanut butter, and Daya has some songs that are bearable but I'd be perfectly happy if she just disappeared.

Oh, and Fergie can burn in the Hell for taking the Black Eyed Peas and essentially turning them from an interesting independent Rap group to producing tons of pop-slosh. Also, Lorde is simply annoying, Calvin Harris makes dumb faux-house songs, Desiigner is pretty bad, Sia sounds like an animal howling in pain, know what, I'll just stop here right now because otherwise this post may never end with me discussing all of today's popular music I can't stand.
I mean, I don't hate everything new. I reviewed an assortment of albums with good stuff recently, I enjoy Bruno Mars, Ariana Grande can be fun, Ed Sheeran is pleasant, J. Cole is decent, that, "ISPY," song by a new artist named Kyle is delightful, Miley Cyrus has a legitimately good voice when she isn't trying to just be shocking, and I of course am a humongous fan of Kendrick Lamar (plus, I keep praying for a new OutKast album, someday). Maybe I am not a cranky old man and I'm just more picky about my music than when I was younger and liked stuff that now in retrospect maybe kind of sucked (but I wouldn't admit it then)?

Yeah, I'm not out-of-touch, I'm truthfully just well-aware of what is good and what is bad, I have strong opinions and oh dear God I'm sounding just like a crotchety elder who yells at kids to get off his lawn before complaining to anyone who will listen (or pretend to listen) that back in my day popular-culture was good. Then again, maybe back then popular-culture was better, today's stuff just sucks, right? Damn-it, I just sound like an old man again, dab-nabbit.
Wait, I've figured it out. There is no way I can win at this. No matter what I say it'll sound like an older person complaining because I am a bit older (28 in Earth-years and many more in spirit it seems), and I'm complaining. Regardless of if something new is actually awesome or terrible my criticism can just be written-off by the young-folk as some old guy who is out-of-touch. I mean, when I was a preteen or teenager I wouldn't want to listen to some adult telling me my music sucked, even if it did.

There is currently new music that in fact is awful, and new music that is good. Depending on a lot of stuff a person's reactions to music will vary. That is the objective fact of the matter, and I now realize everything else is just purely subjective and down to life experiences, personal tastes, and yes, my age. I both am and am not a cranky old man just as you youth both are and are not mindless consumers who buy whatever crap the big companies shovel at you and claim is edgy and good (don't get mad, I said you are and aren't). There is no way I can win at this just as there is no way I can lose, we all just have different tastes. I feel better about all this now, actually. Oh, and get the Hell off my lawn.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Spider-Man: Homecoming Trailer Thoughts AKA Another Day Another Preview

God, it seems like just yesterday night I was talking about a movie trailer. Oh wait, that's because I was. Now, not to be a jerk to DC and their upcoming, "Justice League," but Sony and Marvel/Disney seem to really have their shit together with this trailer. Yes, it commits the crime of seeming to show too much of the plot within a short 2 minutes and 30-ish seconds, but lots of previews do that more and more often, so I can't hate. There just is so much good stuff in this trailer too, from plenty of Robert Downey Jr. being a snarky Iron Man, to Tom Holland doing his amazingly-great Peter Parker, Michael Keaton being the stellar actor he always is with an ominous Vulture, and explosive special-effects galore.

Something about this trailer just gets me excited for, "Spider-Man: Homecoming," to a greater degree than any other Spidey-flick since maybe the 2nd original, "Spider-Man," movie which most agree was phenomenal/the best of all the Spider-Man films. I'm not sure if it is knowing that this part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe despite being a Sony production thanks to their deal with Marvel (a deal which is sure to make everyone stinking rich), all the great aforementioned actors, or that we are getting a Spider-Man movie that seems more interested in being fun and focusing on Peter Parker as the hero as opposed to rehashing yet again how his Uncle Ben died and he's all torn-up over it (although if we get a flashback with that I'll be kinda perturbed because at this point the only thing worse than watching Uncle Ben die again would be seeing Bruce Wayne's parents getting gunned down for the umpteenth time). Whatever the reason is this looks so good, I'm just glad it does.
In summary, "Spider-Man: Homecoming," looks fantastic and will most likely be a great time for a variety of reasons as I've outlined above. I'm eager to see it for sure!

Monday, March 27, 2017

Justice League Trailer Thoughts/Is "Good" Going to be Good Enough?

The trailer for, "Justice League," arrived upon the internet this past Saturday. I'm finally getting around to discussing it today and don't have a ton of thoughts, but in way that says a lot. You see, I thought the trailer was...good. Not amazing or awful, just good. This is basically how I felt about, "Batman Versus Superman," as well, which many people hated but I found to be solidly entertaining. The thing is, in this era of more and more super-hero movies coming out, is being simply, "Good," going to be enough to stand-out and succeed? Frankly, the "Batman Versus Superman," trailer had me feeling more excited and as I've said, that movie was a solid 3 out of 5 stars (I didn't even bother seeing, 'Suicide Squad," yet). If this trailer only makes me go, "Hm, that seems decently fun," that could be cause for worry, yes?

It is no secret that whereas Marvel has been basically killing it with their cinematic universe and the movies set within it and DC has struggled immensely to establish a good foothold (admittedly, in the realm of television the opposite is more-so true, but this article is about movies). I think things are kind of at the point where if the, "Wonder Woman," film coming out this Summer isn't awesome, and followed-up by a stellar, "Justice League," we may very well find DC's cinematic universe ending with an ignominious death. I really hope, "Wonder Woman," is great because if it is, even scathing reviews and a mediocre performance by, "Justice League," could help the franchise survive. However, if, "Wonder Woman," is absolute trash it could very well poison people against, "Justice League," and make whether the movie is good or awful a moot point. Also, they could both suck and this franchise is completely doomed, but let's think more positively than that.
We could get a stellar flick in the form of, "Justice League," and it would be nice if we did. I'll be happy even if we get a production that is all-around good and enjoyable. The thing that worries me is if everyone else will be happy with that, or as my title said: Is, "Good," going to be good enough? Hopefully it won't have to be as that's a bet I'd hesitate to take.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Later-March Links and News

Later On But Not the End
I've done links at the start of months, ends of months, and even in the middle. How about we try some links towards the end of a month but not quite at the end? Yeah, that sounds fun.

Them Thar Links & News
Budweiser should have just let Spuds rest in peace.
That Spuds Mackenzie ghost-ad during the most recent Super Bowl seemed to be hated by everyone for a variety of reasons. This fascinating write-up by the AV Club breaks-down how some mascots just have to die--both figuratively and at times literally.

You know, people are always saying such great things about Netflix (much of it true) so this article caught my eye saying how there still are some things Netflix could stand to learn from Cable. Namely, content curation.

There is something to be said for short and uninspired-but-decent first-person shooter games. Those solid 7/10-ish rated games that maybe have a cool, "Hook," but never take advantage of it, or which have zero good ideas but just are a solid good time. I liked this piece just because it actually mentioned, "Singularity," which is a game I thought only I remembered.

We've brought this whole, "Internet of Things," and homes being hacked on ourselves, as this editorial discusses. Honestly, the idea of being able to unlock my doors or adjust my lights/thermostat/etc. with my phone made me immediately paranoid about security risks--and I'm someone who loves technology as opposed to a cranky tech-hater!

As more and more discussion is had about cutting money to the arts, I wonder if the point will arise about how funds are at times given to artwork people find, "Disgusting/Gross/Politically Wrong." I say that because it isn't too far a step from not funding art people dislike to banning things that folk consider obscene. It sounds silly, but remember Mike Diana? If not, read-up on him here.

I loved the old, "Peggle," games and hated the pay-to-play, "Peggle Blast." I am not alone in this feeling.

Shepard Smith is probably the one and only person at Fox News I like, so its fitting many of the Fox News-faithful despise him.

Back in the day I navigated my web-browser to, "Homestar Runner," religiously. It still exists but is by no means the phenomenon it once was. This massive oral history makes a good read if you are/were a fan however or simply curious what all the fuss was about in the past.

Lastly, when will Marvel just give-up on trying to make the Inhumans a thing? Seriously, the brand itself just lacks much of any appeal.

Have A Great Month's End!
I hope everyone has a great end to their March, just look out for that lousy Smarch weather.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Chuck Barris Has Died

One of my favorite movies ever--if not the favorite, would be, "Confessions of a Dangerous Mind." Based on the autobiography of Chuck Barris it is a surreal mixture of actual documentary-style interviews, and lots of actors portraying fictional (or possibly real) events from the life of Chuck Barris. The directorial debut of George Clooney, it features Clooney, Sam Rockwell (as Barris), Drew Barrymore, Julia Roberts, and plenty of other talented folk.

In his autobiography Barris claimed that when he wasn't creating, "The Dating Game," hosting, "The Gong Show," or being involved in countless other programs he was secretly an assassin for the CIA during the Cold War. Was that true? An elaborate ruse by a famous showman? As the CIA isn't exactly forthcoming about all their work we may never know for sure (they denied it, but that's kind of a given). Still, it is an amazing movie and as someone who also enjoyed repeats and newer-versions of Barris' shows growing-up I was sad to hear he had died. Apparently he died of, "Natural causes," but I feel like he would have preferred his obituary say an old Soviet foe finally got him, or something equally dramatic and elaborate. Anyways, that news kind of hit me in the gut this morning.

Monday, March 20, 2017

A Review of, "NightLights," by Lorena Alvarez

As I've discussed before, I get emails from Tucker Stone over at NoBrow who tends to know pretty well what I like and don't like based on how he used to be a comic blogger/reviewer famous for his delightfully twisted and at times harsh writings. Now he works in public relations for NoBrow and (I presume) channels his rage via wandering the woods and feasting on lost campers like some kind of bloodthirsty Bigfoot/Yeti as opposed to making fun of Brian Wood (let us never forget that Brian Wood is kind of a huge creep). Anyways, whenever he tells me I might like a book I tell him to send it on over as I trust his judgement/don't want to be eaten alive. The latest fascinating release from NoBrow that was provided for review is, "Nightlights," by writer and artist Lorena Alvarez.

Nightlights focuses on a young girl named Sandy with incredible artistic skills. She loves to draw, doodle, or otherwise create amazing images, and it gets her in trouble at the strict Catholic school she attends (it always seems like  nuns are either mean and strict or really nice and wise in stories). Sandy has an even cooler secret ability however. Late at night her drawings come alive and take her on fantastic journeys full of bright colors and general gorgeous imagery. It isn't made completely clear whether these trips to another world may very well be dreams of Sandy or somehow are real--it is left up to the reader to interpret.
Sandy meets a new girl at school named Morfie and...well, something ain't quite right with Morfie. She really seems to be into Sandy's art-skills and a bit later in the story lures Sandy away to make it quite clear she wants to abuse Sandy's powers for all of time. Not cool, Morfie, not cool at all. Sandy of course escapes however because this is a happy book geared toward children and it would be pretty depressing if she were trapped in a netherworld/dreamland for all of time.

The story in, "Nightlights," is very solid, but I absolutely loved the imagery. There is a wondrous difference between the more muted tones and designs of the world when Sandy is awake versus once her dreams take her to other worlds. The main reason I confirmed to Tucker I was interested in this book was because of how just plain gorgeous the art is.
Between the fun story and absolutely incredible visuals, "Nightlights," is a stellar book by creator Lorena Alvarez and one that is sure to be enjoyed by children and adults alike. It also teaches the important less to not trust any weird kids named Morfie who try to take you to strange dreamscapes, so that's a key lesson for your kids as well (I know I'll be teaching my new son that).
5 out of 5 stars.

Note: A copy of this book was provided for the purpose of review.

Friday, March 17, 2017

Flashback Friday: What a Difference A Sequel/Remix Makes--Examining Tonal Changes in Entertainment Properties

Changing Tones
For this Flashback Friday I thought I would look at movie, song, and video-game that all had a sequel or a remix that drastically changed their tone. Normally when we watch/listen to/play something we can expect a follow-up to be similar, but with these three properties that came out a bit ago it is fascinating how what came next following the initial property could be related to the original, but oh-so-different.

Magic Mike Versus Magic Mike XXL
I'll admit the recent-ish ,"Magic Mike XXL," is maybe pushing it for a, "Flashback Friday," but I'm still gonna use it. For real though, despite having much of the same cast and director of the first one (the awesome Steven Soderbergh) being involved in production for the second, these flicks could not be more different than they are. In my review of the sequel, "XXL," I talked about how darn fun it is, which isn't to say the first movie lacks fun...but it is honestly a little intentionally depressing at times. The first movie focuses more on the lives of the men who strip and their drama with family, starting a furniture business, and inner power-struggles among the strippers. The spoof-makers over at Honest Trailers point out this dichotomy between the fun-time stripping and depressing plot quite expertly in their faux-preview.

Meanwhile, "XXL," is basically the fun-time party we all were promised in the promotional materials for the first movie. There is a handful of sadder moments, but overall the whole movie is basically a lot of jokes, sexy men, sexy women, and general good vibes. Both movies are stellar in their own way, but despite, "XXL," being a sequel, it might as well take place in a whole different universe.

Jak and Daxter Versus Jak II
Remember when the studio, "Naughty Dog," was known for their fun little platformer-games featuring Crash Bandicoot and the first, "Jak and Daxter?" It is crazy to think that studio behind silly fun games went on to make such blockbusters as, "Uncharted," and the relentlessly depressing and gory (but also superb), "The Last of Us." Arguably the first hint of their more mature ambitions could be found in the drastic differences between, "Jak and Daxter," versus its sequel, "Jak II." The original game is a cheery adventure set in a peppy world full of bright colors and lots of doo-dads to collect. Also, Jak never talks, because back in the day it was a thing to not have your protagonist speak at all (think of the silent, "Claude," of, "Grand Theft Auto III," or Gordon Freeman in the ,"Half-Life," games).

Then, at the start of, "Jak II," they go into a portal only to enter a really depressing and run-down world. Jak is captured, horrifically experimented on, and gains the ability to speak (and swear). Daxter rescues him and the game then has some of the platforming of the first title, but a lot darker of a tone and now hover-cars you can drive as well as guns (which the first game had none of as far as I recall). So, to review: the first game is a happy collect-a-thon and the 2nd has you stealing hover-cars and shooting guns. To the credit of, "Naughty Dog," both are still very good games and there was even a third one that apparently was pretty rad too (I never played it).

In My Bed Versus In My Bed Remix
Dru Hill is a Rhythm and Blues group with a great sound that lends itself especially well to sad songs. Member Mark Andrews recorded, "In my Bed," back in 1996 which is a slow and very depressing ditty about how a man's girlfriend is cheating on him. It is melodic, thoughtful, and you can really feel his pain. Then there is the remix with, Jermaine Dupri and Da Brat which features an entirely different beat, melody, sound, all that. Dru Hill turns in much of the same lyrics, but suddenly this thoughtful and slow song about loss and sorrow is a real club banger. Jermaine Dupri has always been great at makings hits so it isn't surprising he creates such a stellar remix, and Da Brat is a talented rapper who turns in a fantastic guest verse as well.

It just is astonishing how different the same song can be with a remix. In fact, both versions of the song had a music video made and they are extremely varied too. The original song's video has a lot of sad staring-into-the-distance, some dancing, and Andrews watching with disgust as his lady sleeps with another man before it closes with him sobbing on the stoop of his apartment complex. Meanwhile the remix-video has everyone looking like they are at a party with lots of cool DJ-equipment, more dancing, and general fun despite the fact that Andrews is still singing the exact same verses about how this woman did him wrong!

Tonal Shift Completed
As these older pieces of entertainment and their sequels/remixes illustrate, sometimes you can have something that is ostensibly related to the original property, but is in fact quite different. Thankfully in the case of these three pieces of entertainment their original iteration is just as great as the sequel or remix.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Interview Time: Colleen Coover

Colleen Coover is one of the first comic-makers I ever interviewed, before I even had this blog. More than five years ago but less than ten (yeah, I'm old), I spoke with Ms. Coover and was doing a huge project for a college Communication's Course where I discussed the portrayal of female sexuality in comic-books. I spoke with Ms. Coover about her comic, "Small Favors," and was honored she took the time to speak with me, a college kid trying to make a presentation and get a good grade (which I did, happily).

After our interview I continued to follow her works and when I reached out to Ms. Coover recently to see if she would like to do another interview--this time for my blog--I was pleased when she agreed to do so! We discussed her multitude of works and I think you'll enjoy reading our discussion whether you're already a big fan of hers or looking for another creators with great stuff to seek-out and read.

The Interview
Hello Ms. Colleen Coover! Would you mind introducing yourself for any readers who may be unfamiliar with you?

Colleen Coover: I’m originally from Iowa, and now I live in Portland, Oregon. My first major project was the adult title Small Favors, which was followed up by the all-ages Banana Sunday, which was written by my husband Paul Tobin. I spent some years drawing fun superhero strips for Marvel, while working with Paul on the graphic novel Gingerbread Girl. For the past several years Paul and I have been creating the teen thief adventure Bandette, which received the Eisner award for best digital comic in 2013 and 2016.

Back when I was in college and before I even had started this blog I interviewed you for a school-project on the portrayal of female sexuality in comic-books. We talked at-length about, "Small Favors," which is one of the most sex-positive pornographic comics I've ever read. In fact, using the word, 'Pornographic," with all of its negative coronations feels a bit wrong. Would you mind sharing about how, "Small Favors," came to exist and what it was about?

CC: Well, I’ve never thought of pornography as inherently negative, so long as it’s consensual and adult. But when I started working on Small Favors, a lot of the porno comics that were then available were very much from the male perspective, created with the assumption that all readers of pornographic fiction are men, which tended to give those stories a vibe that felt exclusionary to women. I set out to make a comic that was sexy, that was about women and very much for women to enjoy, but also welcomed male readers.
The thing that struck me the most about, "Small Favors," was that it was obviously erotic and sexy, but also had this really light-hearted and fun vibe that seems to be lacking in many sex-centered stories (that instead can be extremely dour or sex-negative). How did you manage to make a comic so sexy yet also so joyful?

CC: Man, that’s simple. I just left out anything that might be a bummer. Most bummer feelings about sex come from shame, and none of the main characters in Small Favors are much burdened by shameful feelings (except in the fun “Oh, you’ve been naughty! You get a spanking!” sort of way.) And you know, no one is really mean, and no one is ever put into a situation where they’re uncomfortable. It’s very easy to be joyful when you live in a world where nothing bad happens and everyone is having delightful sex all the time.

I was excited to see that despite formerly being a part of Fantagraphic's Eros line and seeming to be hard-to-find and out-of-print that Oni Press is releasing a big hardcover collecting the entire series as part of their Limerence imprint. How did, "Small Favors," end-up with Oni and are you excited for its big reissue (I assume you are, but I wanted to ask)?

CC: I’ve been wanting to get Small Favors collected for some time, but the logistics of making it happen just weren’t falling into place until Limerence came asking. Their willingness to make it a nice hardcover, and to include the color special, was great, but it was really Limerence editor’s Ari Yarwood’s enthusiasm for the project that finally got the ball rolling. I’m very pleased with the way everything is turning out, especially the nice store display-friendly cover design by Hilary Thompson!
That’s fantastic to hear the color special will be included! Assuming the book is found by plenty of new fans as well as previous readers is there any possibility of new, “Small Favors,” stories from you via Limerence press or any other publisher in the future?

CC: That’s unlilkely. I have a great fondness for Small Favors, but I’m having a great time on my current series, Bandette, and when that comes to its eventual end, I’ll want to create something new.

You've collaborated with your husband, Paul Tobin, on a number of comic-projects. What is it like to work on a comic with someone who isn't just a work-partner, but also a life-partner?

CC: It’s pretty straightforward: Paul writes a very complete script, and I dive into the art after reading it through. Our roles are really very distinct; we work together in very much the same way we work with other collaborators. The real advantage with us is that Paul knows that when he writes a page that is challenging, I will take the challenge as an interesting storytelling puzzle until it works.
Speaking of these collaborations, one is the Eisner Award-winning, "Bandette," which comes out as a, "Digital-first," comic before then being collected in trade paperbacks. Would you mind sharing what, "Bandette," is about?

CC: It’s the amazing adventures of the world’s greatest thief, Bandette! She lives somewhere in France, a city that is not quite Paris, and steals art and chocolates and hearts. Bandette was conceived as a kind of Nancy Drew meets Modesty Blaze meets Raffles The Gentleman Thief, and I think we’ve achieved that, though there are a host of other influences we draw upon.

How is it different to do a comic that comes out in digital installments before being collected as opposed to working on something that is initially released in print?

CC: Mostly it’s the same because we release Bandette in comic book-like installments, but the practical advantages are where the differences really lie. We don’t have to worry about book length, printing schedules or costs, distribution or inventory. By partnering with Dark Horse for the reprints, we have a pretty ideal situation.
You've done work for, "Big," publishers such as Marvel and DC in addition to working on projects that you have created yourself. How is it different playing in someone else's metaphorical sandbox as opposed to working in your own?

CC: It can be very liberating creatively to work within the boundaries set by a publisher when you’re working with their property, which sounds counter-intuitive, but it’s true. If you know you can’t have Spider-Man do or say a certain thing, but that thing is the most direct way for your story to get from point A to point B, then you’re forced to find an interesting way to get around that and make your story work in a different way. That can be a fun challenge!

Are there characters/properties at Marvel, DC, or any other publisher you haven’t yet worked on but would like to?

CC: Once I did a Batgirl story in Batman ’66 with my frequent collaborator Jeff Parker, my bucket list was pretty well taken care of. I have been fortunate in my assignments from the big companies in that most of my projects have been out-of-continuity and not beholden to whatever event or crossover was happening at the time. Working within those kinds of strictures can be a fun challenge, but I’d rather just be able to play.
There have been comics you've done where you were solely the writer, solely the artist, and where you have been both (you also have done lettering as well). Would you mind describing how you adjust your creative process depending on what aspects of a story you're involved in creating be it strictly writing, art, or both?

CC: Every comics writer approaches scripts from a different angle: some write outlines, some go with a screenplay-like format. I tend to break a story down visually into boxes that each represent a page, with a one or two word indicator of what is happening on that page. Then I take each page and rough in panels with a one or two word indicator of what’s happening there. Then I write the script. For the most part I prefer to work with a writer, but every once in a while a story will pop into my head fully formed and I’ll go with it.

Who would you describe as your artistic influences (if you have any you would identify)?

CC: The most direct influences on my work have been Los Bros Hernandez and Milton Caniff, but I’ve up elements of pretty much every but of art and culture that appeals to me and make it a part of my style. Seriously, I could not begin to compile a complete list.
Are there any other upcoming projects or works you are doing that you can share about?

CC: As we write, I’m finishing up the 15th digital issue of Bandette, so that should be available soon on Comixology. Meanwhile, the first 13 issues are available in three hardcover volumes from Dark Horse.

Many thanks to Colleen Coover for taking the time to speak with me and discuss her variety of awesome works! I encourage you to visit her website and buy her stuff!!

Friday, March 10, 2017

Flashback Friday: Warren Ellis' Successful Take on, "The Authority," and the Charming Misfire of Grant Morrison's Attempt

Analogues All Around!

The Wildstorm comic-book imprint and its characters have had a fascinating history, going from an Image-based studio to its founder, Jim Lee, selling it to to DC (ironically enough putting it back into control of a work-for-hire company, the very thing he had initially rebelled against with his earlier defection from Marvel to Image). A lot of the Wildstorm-type books featured heroic characters that were analogues of other well-known powered individuals found at the big 2. The great thing about being like another property but not being that property is that it frees you up to get really crazy with stuff.

Warren Ellis had been writing for a good chunk of time the title, "Stormwatch," and eventually utterly destroyed the team in a cool cross-over with Dark Horse comics where the literal Aliens from, "Alien," killed a bunch of the team (also the last inter-company cross-over I can think of that is in-continuity with the, "Regular," universe of a comic). From the ashes of, "Stormwatch," Ellis gave us, "The Authority," and it was amazing.

A Big Budget Superhero Movie Before Those Existed
Nowadays when people talk about, "Widescreen comics," that, "Look like movies," a lot of folk discuss Mark Millar and Bryan Hitch's, "Ultimates," which arguably inspired much of the Marvel Cinematic Universe that continues to dominate the box-office. However, before that we actually had Warren Ellis and Hitch giving us the over-the-top action of, "The Authority." These comics with The Authority are basically the big budget super-hero movies we love today before such a thing even existed. They are a team of immense power that destroys a terrorist nation, obliterates half of an other dimensions' planet, and at the end of Ellis' short-ish run basically kills God. 

The whole thing is bombastically illustrated and comes-off like zany fun but carries a dark undercurrent of asking if maybe these heroes are just a little too gun-ho to do all the things they are doing--a motif that quit being subtext and just became straight-up text when the writer on the book after Ellis--the aforementioned Mark Millar (basically prepping himself for the later, "Ultimates, "stuff) made it clear The Authority were arguably dangerous and then other folk had them literally overthrow the planet and take over Earth for a bit...before the Wildstorm Universe literally (I like that word a lot) was blown-up and then cancelled; things got weird toward the end.
Wide-screen styled action for sure.
"The Authority," under Ellis and his 12 issue-run was essentially super-hero stories at their purest (big action, exciting characters) with an additional postmodern wink about the characters and their actions. Speaking of postmodern, after the universe had started becoming a little less of a big-seller but before DC exploded its planet they decided to make a big deal out of Grant Morrison writing the title...and boy did it go horribly wrong.

Well, That Derailed Quickly
To much fanfare Morrison's take on, "The Authority," had its first issue released December 2006. In it, the Authority seem to have accidentally ended up in what might be the real world AKA the reality we currently are living in (Morrison does love breaking the fourth wall). The next issue was supposed to come out in two months. It took five. It continued the plot about the team's transport ship (The Carrier) dumping them in the wrong reality and how they needed to find a way home. Then, nothing.

Information seems spotty about just what exactly went wrong, but that was it for Grant Morrison's version of, "The Authority." It wasn't until a good deal of time later--2008--DC announced that writer Keith Giffen would be coming in to finish the story based on Morrison's script-drafts and his own ideas. In January of 2010 we finally kinda-sorta got the third issue, with the new title, "The Authority: The Lost Year," as the rest of the Wildstorm comics had moved-on with The Authority in those books so it had to basically be explained/retconned that this was a lost year they left reality and were missing. The comic went for a total of twelve issues (counting Morrison's first two) and while it is easy to forget with all the drama that surrounded the series, it is pretty good.
Giffen comes on the book, gets them out of a world that looks like our reality but actually features Cthulhu-esque monsters sucking everyone's energy on the planet, and the team proceeds to jump to other realities that are alternatively disturbing, funny, or illustrate the possible logical conclusion of their actions in their home reality (e.g. they become horrible dictators). Giffen has always been a solid writer and I don't envy him having to follow-up with the mess Morrison left him, but he makes it work--even as the art on the series varies between quite-pretty-to-absolutely-amateurish-and-ugly.

Barely Remembered
You won't be able to find this issue in a collection.
"The Authority: The Lost Year," is mostly a forgotten footnote at this point, with more people remembering the hubbub of Morrison starting and quitting the book as opposed to it eventually being finished. In fact, I was able to read the first volume thanks to my library but couldn't find the 2nd collection on sale anywhere. It had been officially solicited a long time ago and even had a barcode number, yet nobody had it in stock and the Saint Louis County and City libraries said it was impossible to order for some reason. I did a lot of digging and discovered that DC never actually printed it

You read that right, they were going to release the second volume but orders were so low they just said, "Screw it, " and never did, which sounds crazy but happens with some of the comics out there. I was able to get the later issues thanks to eBay however and as I said earlier, they are pretty good fun. Still, how tragic is it to think a comic that was a huge deal--"Grant Morrison is writing, 'The Authority,' and everyone is so excited!"--ended-up as such a poorly-selling fiasco that DC didn't even care to collect the whole damn thing when it finished under Keith Giffen? Again, I give Giffen immense props for making Lemonade out of what wasn't lemons so much as shards of broken glass with some lemon chunks attached, but it is still sad.

Success Can Be Defined in Many Ways, Right?
Warren Ellis gave us a juggernaut of a hit with his creation of, "The Authority," and Grant Morrison gave us a mess that I still feel is a bit of a charming misfire that thankfully was reasonably salvaged thanks to Keith Giffen. Interestingly enough, Ellis has actually kinda-sorta returned to these characters, with the recent launch of, "The Wild Storm," featuring new versions of many of these characters in a whole different reality, but with Ellis' signature skill and genius on display. I know success can be defined in many ways, and having someone who wrote a version of these characters coming back to them is clearly one example (I strongly doubt Morrison will ever return to this team), and what we got with Morrison (and later Giffen) arguably tried as hard as it could, but despite being a good read in the end honestly failed hard in the general scheme of things.

Riffing on the book's idea of alternate realities, I wonder if there is one just like ours but with the singular difference that Grant Morrison kept writing, "The Authority," and it was actually a really good book. I wouldn't mind visiting a universe a like this sometime, and afterwards checking out the one where doughnuts are somehow good for you. I've gotta have my priorities, after all.

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Thinking Some More About Nostalgia

Image courtesy of, "LoveLove Films."
I've talked about nostalgia and its power multiple times on the blog, and it was on my mind again today. See, I was listening to the radio and they were talking about how sometimes a lot of the stuff we love only is good because of nostalgia. You know, things we remember fondly from when we were growing-up that in all honesty when revisited now kind of...well, suck. As this was a radio show they talked a lot about bands and music. This got me to thinking about music I loved growing-up that still holds-up amazingly well today. I'll fully admit Linkin Park or the Spice Girls are by no means Earth-shattering talents I thought they were back when I was a kid and teenager, but some things continue to be amazing.

For example, I discovered OutKast in the early 2000's thanks to their smash-hit, "Ms. Jackson," off their 4th album, "Stankonia." I sought-out their three previous albums and continued to listen to them, absolutely astounded by the genius that was their magnum-opus, "Speakerboxxx/The Love Below." They are the artist I've probably memorized the most songs of, with the 2nd and 3rd album basically ingrained in my mind as besides, "Speakerboxxx/The Love Below," those are my favorites. I don't even love the 4th album or their last official release, "Idlewild," a ton but even a so-so OutKast album is an amazing album in general. The best part about OutKast is that while I started listening to their stuff in my early teens it all still is amazing, and so much of it continues to sound incredibly ahead of its time. The one newer artist who maybe holds a candle to their genius is probably Kendrick Lamar, but besides him Big Boi and Andre 3000 are basically without peer.
So, anyone else out there have a favorite thing that still is just as good today, even with the fog of nostalgia blown away?

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

The Most Idiotic Thing I've Heard in Awhile? A Con Banning Cosplay

I was doing my usual perusing of news and saw an article on Bleeding Cool about how Elite Con in Florida was not going to allow any cosplaying. Yes, a comic-con that is so concerned about how people are there for collectibles that cosplayers will be turned away at the door. Putting aside how it can be hard to define what exactly would count as cosplay--a t-shirt with a character, a hat, etc.--this is pure idiocy. There is of course the old fallacy that people who cosplay don't buy stuff (they do, that is an incorrect assumption many make), and trying to say you want to keep the focus on all your wonderful collectibles for sale just sounds like you are stating you're the more respectable fan because you simply buy and sell comics, you're not like, "Those people who dress up." Way to try and diminish how other people enjoy a fandom, ya jerks!

Having checked out the show's website it clearly is geared more towards those who buy and sell comics as there is no kind of guest-list featuring creators or celebrities, so I doubt there even would be much cosplay. That said, what kind of perception do you create when cosplay is flat-out banned? As the article describes, they aren't backing down from their rule, but I wonder if enough people express dismay or many refunds are requested if that tune will change. I would hope they allow cosplay, it is such a fun part of cons and it would be a shame if some sticks in the mud try and ban the activity--it's their show though, so they can do whatever they want, no matter how dumb.

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Film Friday on a Sunday--Logan/An Essay on Being a New Parent

I Legit Cried
I literally was crying at the end of, "Logan," but it probably was because I saw the movie at just the right time in my life that certain parts hit extra hard. I have to basically spoil all the major aspects of the film to explain why so please either see, "Logan," before reading this, or understand I'm revealing all the major stuff.

I had planned a viewing of, "Logan," with some friends on Saturday, March 4th, 2017 long ago. Then on Friday February 24th, 2017 my wife, Samii, and I had to go to the hospital as her water broke earlier than it was supposed to. This resulted in us being relocated a number of times in the hospital as at first it was thought she may deliver, then they were going to keep her pregnant to assist with fetal development, then they were worried about infection risks and therefore induced labor. After being induced late in the day Monday, February 27th, 2017, our baby was born on February 28th, 2017, at 8:14 AM weighing 4 pound and 2.3 ounces. Having developed for only 30 weeks as opposed to the standard 40, he was 10 weeks early. We named him Clarkson Joseph Raymond Bitterbaum. He has two middle names, for both my grandfathers.
Having a premature baby results in a mixture of emotions. You're overjoyed to have your child be born, but panic-stricken at how he's way too early. Seeing him hooked-up to a number of machines in a Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (also called a NICU) makes you sad but also happy he is getting so much care. We were told premature babies don't gernerally cry when they are born as their lungs aren't always as developed, but my son cried a few seconds after he emerged. My son is strong. Even if he looks fragile the care from the hospital and love from my wife and I are sure to help him grow up happy and healthy. Still, he is in the NICU and can't come home with us until most likely mid-April at the earliest, but quite possibly not until later in April or early-May.

I had told my friends I wouldn't go to, "Logan," as a lot was going on earlier in the week. Samii thought I should go and do something fun however, so I took her advice and went. As the credits rolled I pulled out my phone and texted her that the movie was incredibly good, extremely violent, and had an ending that made me sob. I texted her, "I legit cried."

So Much Sorrow
The movie, "Logan," is (obviously) about Wolverine AKA Logan. However it is also in a lot of ways about family. Logan is hiding an Alzheimer's-stricken Charles Xavier in Mexico while he struggles to eke out a living driving a limo in the hopes of saving-up enough money to live on a boat in the ocean with Professor X--far from all the people Charles inadvertently poses a threat to. It isn't discussed in too much detail, but clearly a year ago something awful happened as when you have a mind as powerful as Xavier's and can't control it, bad shit happens (as is also made clear in an amazingly intense scene featuring a, "Psychic Seizure," at a Las Vegas hotel). It's 2029 and no new mutants have been born/appeared in 25 years. The world hasn't ended as this isn't a post-apocalypse movie, but our globe clearly is a little shittier. There is rampant pollution, mass deportations (I'll resist the obvious Trump-joke) lots of crime, and basically besides more automated vehicles and slightly better phones everything is pretty fucked-yet-functional.

Logan is clearly dying, the Admantium in his body has quit being an asset and is slowly poisoning him, taxing his healing factor and making any wound ravage his body to a degree he previously wouldn't have faced. This is a Wolverine who has healing powers, but is by no means at all like his nigh-immortal past-self. Logan is dying, he's basically waiting for Professor X to die, and there is just so much sorrow.
Then a woman comes to Wolverine with a young girl named Laura and we learn a lab in Mexico being run by an evil corporation has been creating mutants with genetic engineering. Through taking the DNA of past mutants and splicing it as needed they made children they hoped to use as weapons. The children rebelled, and were either killed or escaped. This woman was a nurse there and Laura is a daughter of Wolverine. A young selectively-silent girl who never knew her true mother (its hinted any women who birthed these children were killed or paid-off), she may look harmless but is a killing machine. Logan is a Father, and he needs to get this daughter he didn't even know he had to safety. All the current children were X-23 and she is X-23-23, the 23rd child of what we can assume was the 23rd project. Cue a whole lot of violence.

Oh yeah, "Logan," is rated R and earns it handily. If the other X-Men movies tried to avoid being too gruesome and kept things a little light despite immense world-ending threats, this movie is bloody, depressing, and paradoxically feels more important despite the bad guy basically being an evil company as opposed to some Universe-destroying monster. There isn't any big victory to be won, just escape from misery. Right as things seem to let-up in the movie we meet the latest lab creation, X-24. The astonishing thing about X-24 is that he is Wolverine, a much younger, rage-filled Wolverine with no moral compass, just anger. Played by Hugh Jackman with what I imagine was a lot of expensive digital-rendering, X-24 looks how Hugh Jackman did back when he first started playing Logan. It is incredibly trippy. X-24 also murders Professor Xavier, which made me feel very sad but not like crying. That happened a bit later.
At the end of the movie Logan is able to help the kids escape,but is killed by the only thing it feels fitting for him to be done-in by--a younger version of himself. Laura kills X-24 with an Adamantium bullet Logan had been carrying around in case he decided to, "Blow my brains out," but by the time she does so it is too late. Logan is hurt beyond all repair and clearly dying. At this point in the movie all the scenes with them alternatively squabbling and bonding lead to her calling him, "Daddy," and not wanting him to die. Logan looks at her, and simply says, "So that's what that feels like," meaning he now feels the love a parent has a for a child right before he dies. He feels happy, accomplished, joyful. My eyes started welling-up. Then Logan dies, Laura yells, "Daddy," one more time and I lost it.

A scene like this probably wouldn't normally have made me cry as I've seen plenty of movies where characters die and other folk are sad about it. However, I saw this movie yesterday with a son who is less than a week old in the NICU, a person who has existed for a handful of days but whom I already love and would do anything for. I can't fight or heal like Wolverine, but Lord knows I would without a doubt go to any extreme to keep this little piece of me safe and happy. Logan died helping save his child and ensuring she would live a happy life. He did all he could for her, and in that moment, in this movie about people with superpowers fighting I felt like I understood this story better than I ever would have been able to if this film had come out even just a week earlier.

Just the Right Time
Clarkson obviously is not a mutant who can fight bad-guys and heal from any injury--he is much the opposite and needs extra care and love for a number of weeks as he works at developing the rest of his body to be ready to come home with his Mommy and Daddy. Despite all these clear differences between my life and this movie, something at its end really spoke to me, and that is why I cried so much despite not having cried at any movie since the first time I saw, "The Little Princess," during my elementary-school years (it's a long story and this post already is already lengthy so don't worry about the details).

I saw, "Logan," at just the right time for the reaction I had to it. It's a stellar movie in general, but the timing of my viewing it is without a doubt what caused all my waterworks as the credits rolled. A ton of credit for this needs to be given to Director James Mangold and Hugh Jackman for his amazing career-spanning performance as Wolverine that ends in what is possibly the best way possible, with the best X-related movie ever. ("Deadpool," is great too, but very different). Logan has lived a long life and deserves some rest, but my life as a parent is just beginning. I couldn't be more excited despite the stress surrounding the birth of my son and look forward to all the joys awaiting my wife and I. Clearly this movie easily gets...
5 out of 5 stars.

Oh, and there is no after-credits scene, there is a fun little short with Deadpool before the movie, but that's all. It makes sense as having a stinger after the credits of this movie would almost feel a little tacky.