Friday, June 30, 2017

Film Friday: Lesser-Known Movies You Should See

You Oughta Check These Out
I was inspired recently by how, "Screen Junkies," does a segment about the best movies people haven't seen to share how I have my own list of lesser-known flicks to recommend. In alphabetical order:

The Movies
Brick, Released 2005
I love, "Brick," so much. Director Rian Johnson's first movie is also possibly also his best and only rivaled by the fascinating, "Looper." This movie was basically unknown but has been getting a little more attention due to the fact that Johnson is going to be directing another small art-house film titled, "Star Wars Episode VIII: The Last Jedi." Yup, the guy who did this fantastic little flick is now directing a movie that will probably make all the monies. I like to think its an example of his talent being recognized though because, "Brick," is just so weird and so good.

Starring a then-still-pretty-young Joseph Gordon Levitt as a high-schooler whose ex-girlfriend ends up murdered with her body left by the sewer, he realizes he only has a short amount of time to figure out who killed her before she's found and questions are raised. This leads him down a rabbit-hole of navigating weird cliques, teenage mob-bosses, and did I mention everyone talks as if they were straight-out of a 1950's noir movie? Yeah, that happens too and while it is jarring at first after awhile it stars to fit the movie perfectly. This movie has just the right mix of quiet moments and bursts of brutal violence that it is one of my favorite films and otherwise worth watching. Plus, if you see it you can be that annoying hipster at the new Star Wars movie who brags how, "I liked the Director's earlier independent-work," if you want to be that guy/girl.

Cashback, Released 2006
Do you like really weird independent movies full of quirky British humor that swerve around in their genres from funny, to artsy, to depressing, have a dash of horror, and then be back at funny again? Also, do you like lots of nudity? Then, "Cashback," is for you! Originally a short it was expanded into a full feature-film and is about a man named Ben who develops insomnia after a bad break-up and gets a job at a grocery to fill his nights. To help with his boredom and make time pass faster he paradoxically imagines he slowing down to a stop, at which point he fantasies about drawing women naked, staring longingly at a girl he has a crush-on, and otherwise doing stuff that would make him a creep if he actually had super-powers and wasn't just dreaming. The thing is, the movie hints at various points that maybe there is something supernatural at play, at least, not when it is telling an assortment of funny jokes or flashing-back to when Ben and his friend were horny teenagers up to mischief.

This movie admittedly has received mixed reviews with some people arguing Ben is a creep seeing as how so much of the movie is focused on Ben and his obsession with the female body and sex before he actually finds a woman he wants to spend (and stop) time with. I think that is missing the point though in that we aren't supposed to approve of what Ben imagines. It is clear that he is kind of, "Off," and has some odd sex fantasies, but so do many other people. This movie shows us how Ben is like many humans--hugely flawed--and chronicles how he tries to navigate life. It's weird, it's funny, and if you like off-kilter movies I think you'll like it as much as I do regardless of what some critics say.
Confessions of a Dangerous Mind, Released 2002
The first movie George Clooney directed is also arguably my favorite movie ever (or at least tied with, "Jurassic Park,") because it is just a darkly comedic masterpiece. Based on the autobiography of the recently departed Chuck Barris, it follows his claims about how while he was creating, "The Dating Game," or hosting, "The Gong Show," he was also an assassin for the CIA during the Cold War. Is it true or some kind of elaborate joke by a man known for a twisted sense of humor? Who cares, the movie is amazing.

Sam Rockwell turns in one of his most amazing performances ever as Barris, and a strong supporting cast of talents such as Drew Barrymore, Julia Roberts (actually doing a great job and not just smiling the whole time), and George Clooney himself, as well as other great folk paints a picture of a horrifically damaged man taking his frustrations out on show business as well as killing in the name of his country--but maybe also because a twisted part of him likes it. Interspersed with documentary-styled interviews with actual other celebrities who know Barris, it explores how the cutthroat business of Hollywood ain't that different from the bloody mess of Geopolitics. Plus, it makes some dark jokes that are funny as Hell. It is frankly embarrassing that more people haven't seen this movie because it unquestionably deserves to be on countless, "Best of," lists. Rent it or buy it, watch it, and then feel free to thank me for my recommendation.

Dinner Rush, Released 2000
I  actually discovered this movie thanks to a recommendation from my Mother. As she tells it, one day back when Hollywood Video actually existed, she and my Dad wanted to rend one movie that had just come out, found no copies were left, and instead grabbed this independent film as it looked interesting. It is now one of her favorite movies, and I'll agree to it being a fantastic flick for sure. Besides a short opening scene, it all takes place within or right outside of a popular Italian restaurant during a single night and chronicles how an owner (who denies any past mafia ties) deals with mobsters trying to get gambling money his son owes, snobby restaurant critics questioning the skill of his cooks, and just does a stellar job juggling a wide range of characters and they come and go from the hopping-establishment.

One aspect of the movie that is really cool is how it quite focuses-in on Italian food. There is plenty of shots of it being made (and looking delicious) discussion of the importance of food in Italian culture and how it brings families together, and basically is as much a cool Food Network show about Italy as it is a mob-type movie. Between the tight-plotting and delicious food this movie will keep you entertained and get you hungry!

Now Go and See These!
Those are my lesser-known movies you should see. I now encourage you to seek them out on streaming services (I think some of these are on them), via your library, through Amazon, or however you like to get your movies.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

We Need to Talk About, "Marvel Legacy," AKA I'm Worried About Marvel

Let's All Take a Seat
Okay everyone, we need to sit and talk about, "Marvel Legacy." I know, I know, it's easier to just shrug this off or laugh about how Marvel claimed their various homage covers would be an announcement that would, "Change comics forever," but we need to be serious here and acknowledge that the publishing branch of Marvel is really having some trouble these days.

Now, I've been concerned about nothing before, with DC's Rebirth turning out to actually be some good stuff. That said, when a website that butt-kisses everyone like IGN points-out how there is a lot of reason to worry about Marvel's Legacy re-launch, clearly we've got some dark omens. After all, Marvel revealed 52 covers/new comics and many of them looked like little more than continuations of past books, no creative teams were even announced, and besides the fact I always treasure more Moon Knight, barely any of the books look especially promising (from the minimal info we've been given, at least).

Questionable Behavior
The one thing I'm excited for--if the creative team is good at least.
Frankly, a lot of this, "Legacy," stuff is looking more like an excuse to diminish advances in diversity some of Marvel's comics made by either demoting characters back to past roles (Sam Wilson will be the Falcon again instead of Captain America) or whitewashing characters that used to be minority individuals and now have white guys filling the roles Frank Castle/Punisher-based War Machine apparently sounds cool to some people? It is weird and a little offensive, but maybe if we had more details than some assorted covers it would be easier to draw conclusions. You know, maybe tell us the plot of these comics, or who the Hell is even writing and drawing them, if that maybe isn't asking too much?

Whether Marvel is making Captain America a Nazi/Hydra agent and encouraging comic-shop employees to dress-up like they are members of Hyrda, saying moronic things about how diversity doesn't sell, or now making boisterous claims about how this latest re-launch of the same old stuff will somehow change comics forever, this shit is getting pretty alarming. That's why I'm saying we need to talk about this, because I'm worried.

I'm Worried About You, Marvel
Does it, really?
Some of the first comics I ever read were Marvel titles. I exclusively read Marvel for years growing-up until I started exploring DC's titles and dipping my toe into more and more independent books before eagerly diving into indie titles and the creativity they displayed. Even as I've found myself consuming an increasing number of titles from other publishers (bigger  ones and those so small they don't even appear in, "Previews,") I've always been reading at least some Marvel titles and loving them. Lately it is getting to a point where I'm barely reading anything from Marvel, and what I am reading usually is extremely far removed from any lame events or supposed, "Industry-changing," matters.

It is weird that Marvel is having so much difficulty with their printed books because they generally are absolutely killing it in their film division. Depressingly, we are getting to the point where the comics basically are serving as an idea-mill for the flicks to pluck-out the good stuff and leave all the garbage-elements behind in the printed material. I don't know what we can do to resolve this issue, but I'm afraid that, "Marvel Legacy," is going to be a failure and/or big mess and am concerned how Marvel might act-out if that happens. I hate to have to say we will wait and see, but I guess we'll have to wait and see.

Monday, June 26, 2017

Rant-Reviews: #2-#6 Because I'm Reading a Mix (of Comics)!

Numbers Are Always Fun
It is no secret I like doing silly little number-tricks when I review comics, counting up numbers and such. This time I thought I would start with a second issue of a comic and go on up to the sixth issue of a book. Some of these books are just starting, others are in the middle, and one actually concludes with its latest issue.

Commence Counting!
Slasher #2
Charles Forsman is a highly-talented man who is starting to get a lot of recognition for his amazing indie-comics. His series, "The End of the Fucking World," was  fascinating look at two horribly damaged teenagers, his, "Revenger," series is a stellar take on 1970's and 1980's style exploitation movies, and now we have, "Slasher." I would describe, "Slasher," as being like a horror-movie that's produced by a small independent film studio. It isn't outrageously gory or scary, instead ratcheting up tension and unease while telling the tale of two horribly fucked-up people who are slowly letting their inner-psychopath out.

The main characters are  woman named Christine and a teenager named Joshua who  have met online and they both have an affinity for knife-play and violent fantasies. In this issue however Christina starts to act-out these fantasies and I wonder if Joshua is going to be into it or freak-out. To Forsman's credit he doesn't demonize these people or make it clear right away they have these dark secrets, instead almost garnering some sympathy for them as he shows these lives of quiet desperation they live--be it difficult parents, a harassment-prone supervisor, or a litany of other things that clearly have driven these seemingly normal people to start doing some terrible things to themselves and others. "Slasher," is a stellar book and thankfully despite being an indie-comic is getting a somewhat wider-release (e.g. you can find it in, "Previews,") so you have no excuse to skip-out on reading it.
5 out of 5 stars.

Plastic #3
If the aforementioned, "Slasher," is a serious study of flawed people doing terrible things, this comic from Image is more of a gross-out flick with a heavy dose of humor. This book has focused on a mysterious reformed serial-killer whom we only learn the name of in this issue as he continues his violent crusade to get back the kidnapped love of his life, Virginia. Oh, and Virginia is a sex-doll. Yes, this whole book is a bloody and pretty hilarious yarn with its psychotic man who honestly now would quit hurting people if he was just left alone, but instead he's gotta ramp-up the murder quotient in order to save his sweetheart--who again, is a sex-doll. "Plastic," is a strange and funny book that honestly surprised me with how good it is based on how the solicitations made it sound like it was trying almost too hard to be quirky and weird. It doesn't seem that way though, with all the zany elements and brutal ones actually mixing together quite perfectly to result in a book that I love. I believe this is a mini-series and only has two issues left, so I'll be sure and savor them!
5 out of 5 stars.

Amerikarate #4
"Amerikarate," has been a comic that is all about a mixture of love for and spoofing of classic 1980's movies and comes to us via Action Lab. Whether riffing on martial-arts flicks, "Roadhouse," "Dirty Dancing," or a multitude of other references, this comic is good over-the-top fun even if sometimes it seems more busy trying to be silly than actually telling much of a concrete story. This issue marks the conclusion of the first story-arc although another one is coming soon, as our karate-chopping heroes kill the dictator of an island nation all in the name of Justice. Again, it is a very silly book but I like it a pretty good deal.
3.5 out of 5 stars.

Man-Thing #5
R.L. Stine wrote this, "Man-Thing," mini-series which concludes with this issue. Stine is an author who is of course known for his superb young-adult series, "Goosebumps," as well as, "Fear Street." I have read a great many of his titles when growing-up and found many of them enjoyably scary, funny, and great. I'm not sure if this is his first comic-work, but if it is he's turned in an admirable if flawed effort. When you hear about a man known for his horror-writing taking on a character who has the power to make people that fear him burn at his touch, you might expect a scary comic. This series weirdly wasn't that.

R.L. Stine's, "Man-Thing," was more of a silly little jaunt full of interdimensonal travel, and jokes about show-business as the character inexplicably gains the ability to think and talk, and then loses the ability to talk shortly after but maintains his full mental capabilities for the rest of the mini-series. There are lots of jokes and this frankly reads as more of a humor-based comic than it does something scary as you might expect from Stine. Every issue, including this one, have also had little short back-up stories by him as well which feature more of a scare-based vibe even if there is still some humor, but the main, "Man-Thing," book really has been straight-up jokes. This is okay though as many of the goofy bits land well, but it all reads as a very competent comic as opposed to something amazing. This was a good mini-series and this issue ends it decently, but that's it--good, not great. It was quite the, "Get," for Marvel to have Stine make a story about one of their characters and he does a fine job, but I honestly just expected a bit more.
3 out of 5 stars.

Uber: Invasion #6
Kieron Gillen continues to write the widest variety of comics of anyone currently making books in the industry that I can think of as he balances his time between projects like, "The Wicked and the Divine," as well as this WWII alternate history with super-powered Allies and Nazis. Published by Avatar Press--so you know it gets bloody--the #6 is a bit misleading as this book went for a good number of issues when titled simply, "Uber," before being relaunched. As I read the previous series it is hard to say just how new-reader friendly these latest entries have been, but regardless of how accessible the book is I still continue to enjoy its mixture of historical fact and fictional bloodshed. When people talk about Gillen a variety of his critical and commercial hits come-up, but far few people seem to discuss his, "Uber," books. I wish that would change as this always entertains.
4 out of 5 stars.

This time I altered my counting just a bit, and as always had fun with this activity. Perhaps in the future I'll do even higher numbers, or perhaps multiples of a number if I feel extra wacky? We shall see!

Sunday, June 25, 2017

I Get Abnormally Mad at Stupid Advertisments

When I'm watching television that hasn't been DVR'd I of course have to sit-through the ads. This is a normal part of life and I have no issue with it. However, I seem to have a problem where I get abnormally mad at advertisements that strike me as being really stupid. Something about really dumb ads just enrages me. Now, I like ads that are silly or intentionally dumb and absurd, don't be confused. I'm talking about the supposedly professional and snazzy T.V. spots that are just moronic. Car promotions seem to be the worst.

I will see advertisements for cars that just strike me as horrifically stupid. For example, there is an ad for the Honda Accord where the wife wants the husband to upgrade his old car to the new Honda Accord...and they even mention his old car is another Honda Accord! Therefore, the only big difference is a camera for when he backs-up, which somehow makes him so excited you think he's gonna jizz himself with delight. Or that car ad where it looks like the couple keeps humping in the car so they have to keep getting a bigger and bigger one? I'm serious, that is real and many agree it is weird:

I just can't stand dumb ads, and while car advertisements are often stupid, perfume and cologne ads are just indecipherable. We get the most random imagery that makes zero sense, usually have barely-clothed people in strange mythical-looking lands, and then get a logo for whatever new scent the companies want us to buy. Look, I get it can be hard to impart a sense of smell through a visual medium and you need to be creative, but being bizarrely enigmatic ain't gonna help you.

Now, there are plenty of other idiotic ads that on television, and I don't even have the energy to go into dumb internet pieces that play before Youtube videos or such. That said, car and perfume/cologne ads are the biggest offenders at making me irrationally pissed-off at the stupidity on display. It's silly, but that's my struggle.

Friday, June 23, 2017

Flashback Friday: Halcyon

I've read a lot of comics in my life, clearly. There are ones that I found amazing, books I found terrible, as well as comics  that I immediately forgot and others that stuck with me. One comic I found really enjoyable and which also stuck with me would be, "Halcyon." A mini-series that went five issues and was originally announced under the name, "Utopia," before a title-change, It seems to barely be remembered online, although I can find some other reviewers who liked it.

Written by Marc Guggenheim and Tara Butters, the general concept in the comic is one that I find extremely clever in that all the anger and violence in the world among humans has been decreasing over the year to the point where nobody wants to commit a violent crime, fight over religion, or go to war about resources. It is obvious that this isn't normal, but people figure it is okay, because what's so bad about World peace? The Batman-esque hero Sabre feels this is all horribly wrong though, and later in the comic discovers that the big-time super-villain, Oculus, actually created a device that has been beaming out a signal of sorts that makes everyone peaceful/non-violent. Basically, he figured the most evil thing he could arguably do to the heroes was make them unnecessary in a happy and wonderful world--basically doing something that makes him the hero.
Sabre confronts Oculus
However, once the truth is realized Sabre goes and tries to destroy the device, with everyone discovering the closer you get to the beam/transmitted the less it affects you. Hence, plenty of violence occurs and Sabre basically becomes the villain in his wanting to make the world a miserable place again because he claims people deserve free will...but maybe he just hates being made obsolete in a land of joy and peace.

Ryan Bodenheim provides artwork that is very clean, precise, and works wonderfully for this comic at showing these incredible powered beings coming to terms with the fact they are now obsolete. Bodenheim's artwork has a nice formal look but he can break-out some stellar imagery at times, such as in the fifth and final issue when Sabre releases an energy blast that rips a former colleague apart. After some relatively restrained artwork it is a shockingly graphic and grotesquely gorgeous image. Observe:

"Halcyon," was a book that really struck me when I first read it upon its being released back in late 2010 through early 2011 and when I was rooting through all my comics to identify ones to sell I made sure to put it aside and re-read it, having recalled that I found it quite well-written and full of great artwork. I would recommend people seek it out if they like super-heroic stories with a dash of philosophy that explores that question of just what happens when the heroes, "Win," by having violence end, but in order to truly win in this case they have to let themselves lose, in a sense. It's great stuff.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Start-of-the-Summer News and Links for June 2017

Summertime Is Here!
Summer has arrived!
As of yesterday is it officially Summer now. It's also hot as Hell in many parts of the Nation. Let's cool-off via enjoying my various links by a nice big air conditioner, shall we?

News and Opinions
Real or fake, your ads suck.
You know those incredibly annoying ads by Chevy that feature, "Real people," absolutely fawning over the cars? This article by the AV Club discusses how in a shocking twist these ads actually feature...real people? Huh, who would have thunk-it?

I enjoyed the first, "Mass Effect," and what I played of the sequel. Apparently the mess that the latest game, "Andromeda," turned out to be can be blamed on quite a tumultuous development cycle.

My article I wrote about the politics of Frank Miller some time ago garnered a solid share of agreement and ruffled a fair share of feathers as well. Reading this piece where a reviewer discusses a book about reconciling a love of Miller's past work with how he behaves today says a lot of what I tried to say even better than I could.

A whole bunch of previously unreleased pictures of Jimi Hendrix are now available for public consumption. The man was undeniably a genius and as, "Rolling Stone," magazine has said (and I agree with their conclusion), the greatest guitarist ever.

I am thankful that video-game companies don't appear to be pursuing the whole, "Shared-Universe," concept with all their very different franchises (outside of some in-jokes) that many film studios seem to think will somehow succeed and bring them immense wealth through sheer force of will against all logic because, "Hey, it worked for Marvel!". Yeah, I'm not a fan of unneeded shared-universe ideas done poorly.

Reactions to the announcement of more, "Watchmen," adaptations on the horizon are mixed at best, annoyed and peeved at worst.

I've seen it pointed out how for a group that always protests how gun-owners deserve respect the NRA has been silent on the murder of Philando Castile and his killer walking free, giving the impression that the NRA respects gun rights for only Americans who happen to be white. Castile did everything he should have, informing the officer of his legally registered firearm, and he still was shot-down like an animal while his murderer was able to hide behind their badge and get away with it, as all the cops who kill black men seem to do (and I'm not anti-police, I just want the police to be accountable for those on the force who are the bad apples and do this shit). It is depressing.

The company, "Juicero," sure sounds like a horrendous mess of a control-freak CEO and unrealistic optimism mixed with ludicrous amounts of investment money.

Earlier today I realized that we are now less than a month away from San Diego Comic-Con/Comic-Con International. It is sure to be a big mess of announcements for film, movie, video-games, and maybe comics if they can get some attention in between all the other stuff. I'll of course be paying close attention to all the news to come out of the show and most likely have plenty of snarky opinions to share.

I remember this video-game you had to play in the sun! Called, "Boktai," it was for the Game Boy Advance and was pretty fun. Before, "Pokemon Go," became a big thing this was arguably the only video-game you needed to put on sunscreen (upon your body, not the device) to enjoy safely.

Our Nation's Moron-in-Chief, Donald Trump, today tweeted that he never made any tapes of his conversations with former FBI Director James Comey despite previously claiming he did. This means Trump is either a liar, an idiot, or both. I'm gonna go out on a limb and say, "Both."

Lastly, I just want to point-out that the superb comic, "Buzzkill," is getting a re-release in trade via Image comics. This is one of the first works by Donny Cates and Geoff Shaw to ever come-out and illustrated how great they already were. It is a prime example of why I'm not surprised they are having so much respective success now with a hit like, "God Country."

Enjoy the Season!

Get on out there (when it isn't too hot) and enjoy a dip in the pool, walk in the park, or something else fun. Oh, and for my readers South of the Equator, perhaps enjoy a ski-trip or something?

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Is DC's Latest Event-Teasing Comic Any Good? A Review of, "Dark Days: The Forge #1"

I love doing my rant-reviews/capsule reviews but sometimes you just wanna do a deeper-dive into a single comic because there is a variety to discuss. This book was interesting because it was strange, and while I wasn't amazed, I did overall at least like this comic. First off, the artwork is solid throughout as various talents pop-up to provide their talents (Jim Lee, Andy Kubert, and John Romita Jr.), but Scott Snyder and James Tynion IV really have maybe a bit too much going on within the span of this single comic for much to make any sense.

"The Forge," leads into the upcoming DC event, "Metal," which seems to be about how a mystical metal provides many famous artifacts in the DC Universe with power. This isn't just about that though, it involves other worlds, past Universes such as the New 52 one, and the denizens of that universe such as Plastic Man, plus we have one of the, "Three Jokers," a version of, "The Outsiders," so-called, "Immortal Men," the possibility of a dystopia ruled by Batman, and Hawkman and Hawkgirl play a role too. Also, Green Lantern is involved too because something is up with his ring that relates to all this. Yes, there is a lot going on here and it can be a bit much.
Oh, I didn't even mention the dimensional tuning-fork
To the credit of all these competing stories, enough stuff is interesting that I'm considering giving, "Metal," some attention. While I could take-or-leave the idea of various powerful items in the DC Universe all sharing some mystical metal, I'm a fan of stories that involve alternate universes as well as tales where those dimensions meet-up. This book isn't exactly friendly to casual readers of the DC Universe however (like myself) who just dip our toes into various books. No, this is the kind of thing that rewards folk with extensive knowledge of DC and I had to look-up a lot of reviews and break-downs to make sense of some things.

"Dark Days: The Forge," is a comic so loaded with teasers for a variety of story-elements that it hampers the overall flow of the plot a bit with an unclear focus. Is this a tale of magical metals, alternate universes, dark futures ruled over by Batman, or a multitude of other things? Thankfully a variety of these ideas are compelling and--as I said--the book looks quite good, so I overall liked this comic and am curious what comes next--which was arguably its whole intent, to get us intrigued in future stories.
3 out of 5 stars.

Monday, June 19, 2017

Saint Louis Comic-Con 2017 In Review--Overall Thoughts

I enjoyed this years Saint Louis Comic-Con immensely. I didn't go Sunday as I enjoyed my first Father's Day with a son at home, but I was there extensively Saturday. It was great to come to a comic convention where there is big focus on comics and comic-related merchandise. I am perfectly okay with other interesting vendors at comic-shows, but it is nice when there is more than just a handful of comic-sellers (I even overheard many people stating how they were pleased to see actual comics at a comic-convention). This year's Saint Louis Comic-Con had all kinds of folk selling a variety of cool comics, people with Funkos, minifigure-merchants, folk selling clothing or decorative weaponry, and all other kinds of neat stuff. There were some snazzy guests too such as Chris Claremont who was very nice and gave a great talk Saturday as well.

I viewed some cosplay contests while at the show and they were all fun, but the cutest was by far the children's-cosplay event where little kids walked-up on the stage (or had parents carry them up) and looked adorable. You already know I'm hatching plans for what Clarkson can dress-up as if he comes to a con with me sometime in the future.

The Saint Louis Comic-Con was much larger in terms of floor-space and the expanded event-space was for sure a good thing to have as this show was busy! When the doors first opened in the morning there wasn't too long a line to get in, but when I stepped-out of the main show-floor at 11:30AM to use the restroom the trickle of folk arriving had turned into a metaphorical downpour. The line winded around and everyone was eager to get into the show, with lots of excitement and good spirits being evident among all the attendees. I think a mixture of positive word-of-mouth about last year's show, the fair pricing, and free parking all helped to make this show appealing to the fans!

This year was a great one for Saint Louis Comic-Con. It had a fantastic debut last year and this second show continued the stellar momentum of fun and fans. I want to thank Geek Inc. Comics/Mighty Con for putting on such a great show and remembering that when it comes to comic conventions, people want fair prices and good fun!

Saint-Louis Comic-Con 2017 In Review--Items I Got

Items = Fun!
I met cool people at the show of course, but when we go to comic conventions don't just make precious memories, but it's also fun to get stuff too. With that in mind, I want to present the things I got at this year's Saint Louis Comic-Con!

Stuff I Got (in Alphabetical-ish Order)
Alien VS Predator Playset
I of course love many of the, "Alien," movies and adore a number of the, "Predator," flicks. While I may not be the biggest fan of the movies where characters from the franchises actually met, this playset a vendor had out caught my eye and after I found myself repeatedly walking past it and staring at the darn thing during the show I knew I just needed to buy it.

Avatar Press Trade Paperbacks
I'm a big fan of comics new and old from Avatar Press, so when I saw these two trade paperbacks on sale for just five dollars each I grabbed them. I already have a hardcover copy of, "Black Summer," but don't have it in paperback and this collection of some Alan Moore-works looked fun, so it was a good purchase.

Colored-in Wonder Woman Comic
I previously picked-up this black-and-white variant Wonder Woman comic which I got signed by its writer, Merdith Finch at another comic convention. I wasn't a huge fan of the story-arc this became but love the art by David Finch on the cover. Jeff Balke was kind enough to let me commission him to give it some color and really make it pop! It now looks even better displayed on my bookshelf thanks to the awesome color.

Doc Brown Funko Pop
As my wife and I were married on what is known as, "Back to the Future Day," we enjoy collecting various items related to the series. Therefore, when I was able to grab this Funko Pop of Doc Brown you know I jumped on the opportunity to have it!

Moon Knight Figurines
I got two awesome Moon-Knight minifigures, one in a snazzy case for display and another one by itself for enjoying with my Lego playsets!

Negan Minifigure
My Mother-in-Law is a huge fan of, "The Walking Dead," and her favorite actor by far is Jeffery Dean Morgan. Therefore, when he became Negan for the television show she was basically in heaven. I knew she would appreciate a cute little miniature version of someone who on the show is not at all sweet and adorable.

"Predator 2," Comic--With Dark Horse Trading Cards!
As discussed earlier in this post, I love the Predator movies. There have been a variety of Predator-related comics but this one looked cool as it was the first issue of the official comic-book adaptation of the 2nd movie. Also, the Dark Horse trading cards that were advertised as coming with it still were in the comic, which I took as a sign I ought to snatch it up.

"Tyrants," Comics
I mentioned meeting the guys from Hollow Harbor press in my post earlier today, and this was the comic-series they were at the con promoting. It is about a family dealing with power, magic, and sounded exciting. I look forward to reading and reviewing it!

Hooray for Things!
I tried to be responsible with my budget this year and only get stuff I really wanted--and not buy too many comics as I've been selling many of my books already, after all. I think I did a good job with that goal, as I didn't purchase too much, but what I did buy (or was given for the purposes of review) I am really pleased about.

Saint Louis Comic-Con 2017 In Review--Some Cool People I Met

There were a bunch of cool folk I met and talked with at the Saint Louis Comic-Con this year! How about we discuss them in alphabetical-ish order?

The People I Met
Amy Hale
I met author Amy Hale who had a variety of cool books for sale and has an intense thriller titled, "The Things we Cannot See," coming out this Fall which I am for sure interested in as a fan of thriller-stories. I subscribed to her e-mail newsletter so I can be in-the-loop about when its released!

I chatted with a representative from the Sci-Fi Convention, Archon. Considered by many to be the Midwest's Premier Sci-Fi Con, it sounded like a really cool time and I should for sure try and get to it assuming my schedule cooperates!

Excuse my medicore photo-taking skills
Chris Claremont
The line was usually long to get to meet him, but it was worth the wait as Chris Claremont was very engaging and fun to speak with. Known for a variety of comic-works and arguably the writer who helped take Wolverine from a dull character to a fan-favorite, Mr. Claremont was a delight to see.

DMen Designs
One of the coolest things I saw at the show were tables, end-tables, and other decorations made out of actual comic-book art. It was super-impressive and gorgeous stuff at reasonable prices and I would encourage you to check-out their page.

Hollow Harbor
I chatted with some really cool gentlemen from the publisher Hollow Harbor who have a comic titled, "Tyrants," which I picked-up and look forward to reading and reviewing!

Jane Bush and Arleana Holtzmann
Sharing a booth which showed-off their stellar artwork were Jane Bush and Arleana Holtzmann. Both had some fantastic-looking pieces I encourage you to check out Ms. Bush's work here and Ms. Holtzmann's artwork on her website.

Jeff Balke
Jeff Balke is a fantastic colorist and I always enjoy running into him at various conventions. This time he actually colored something for me which I'll discuss in my post later about the stuff I got at the show.

Meraki House Comics
I made the acquaintance of J.W. Cury who is the CEO and Art Director of Meraki House Comics. He told me they were a local publisher dedicated to helping new creators get their work published. You can find them online here!

STL Brick Fanatics
I purchased some cool minifigures from STL Brick Fanatics. They had an assortment of cool stuff and said they would reach-out to me when they got some Luke Cage figures in stock, as they didn't have any on-hand at the show but wanted to be sure and get one to me when I inquired. That's some great customer service!

Cool People Everywhere!
There were a variety of cool people at the Saint Louis Comic-Con this year, and as usual I'm sure I forget to mention many due to forgetting to grab a business card/being my flighty self.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Saint Louis Comic-Con 2017 Posts Tomorrow!

This Year's Saint Louis Comic-Con has wrapped as of today. I had a fantastic time and will be putting-up some posts tomorrow discussing the people I met, stuff I got, and my overall thoughts on the show. Expect posts as soon as very early in the morning!

Happy Father's Day!

I am so honored that as of this Father's Day I am not only a daddy to fur-babies, but also my son Clarkson. From his early arrival, to when he came home, to today he has been a wonderful joy to have in the life of Samii and myself. I want to wish all the other fathers out there a wonderful day too and thank everyone who has reached-out to me to share their warm thoughts as well.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

My Thoughts on the, "Black Panther," Trailer

When it comes to movie trailers it seems normally you've got to post your thoughts as soon as possible or people will move on to the next thing in a short span of time. I was so busy formulating my thoughts about the, "Black Panther," trailer however it has now been a number of days since its debut and I still haven't shared an opinion. I shall rectify this...

To summarize the trailer in one sentence:
Oh Hell yes!

Seriously though, we see how this ties into the main Marvel Cinematic Universe with a villain from, "Age of Ultron," and Martin Freeman from, "Captain America: Civil War," popping-up at the start, but even if this takes place among the Marvel movies it clearly is its own unique and gorgeous thing. The outfits, action set-pieces, and just how awesome Chadwick Boseman looks and acts as the Black Panther all grab a viewer's attention and demand your awe. Plus, this is a mostly-black cast in a field of movies (super-hero flicks) that besides some exceptions like, "Blade," or Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury, tends to be pretty white.

I wasn't really worried about if this was going to seem promising however, as director Ryan Coogler has created great stuff before ("Fruitvale Station," "Creed," to name his previous work), and seems to be bringing his film-making talent into, "Black Panther," with full-force (and of course his oft-collaborator Michael B. Jordan is here too, making him the second person to play the Human Torch in a, "Fantastic Four," movie and then get to make-up for it as a different character).

Oh, and because Marvel the Publisher can't quit messing-up even when Marvel the Movie Studio is doing well, a newer comic that ties-in with Black Panther which was just about to have the first trade come out has been cancelled. That first trade is now the only trade, so there won't be a bunch of newer comics to tell people interested in the character about when his movie releases, just the main, "Black Panther," series in trade and one edition of this, which I'm sure most non-readers of comics who might want to try trades will love. I'm so sarcastic sometimes it hurts.

Anyways, I'm excited for this movie, and from the looks of things, many other folk are too. Of course, some haters have to come out of the woodwork as always and complain about random and stupid stuff, but I think most of us are pumped for this film.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

I've Been Continuing To Read Manga And Have Reviews

Yet Even More!
I previously discussed how I was dipping my toe into the, "Manga," pool more, and then I talked about when I continued to read some more books. I've been reading yet even more Manga-books lately thanks to my local libraries and good deals at book-stores, so I thought  I would discuss what I've picked-up!

My Latest Manga Reads
Goodnight Punpun Volume 3
Punpun grows older with every volume, and seems to be less and less a precocious little kid than a bit of a self-obsessed jerk. I don't know if Inio Asano has intended for Punpun to seem that way, but he kind of does. As seemingly sweet characters reveal their metaphorical fangs, folk get hurt, relationships get cheated on, and throughout it all there is still some bits of great humor that help keep things from feeling too dark--plus as always Punpun and his family are weirdly illustrated as minimalist blobs while everything else on the page is hyper-detailed in its drawing or incorporation of photography. The first volume of this series has a melancholic vibe but also was fun and absurdist. There still is some of that in these later books, but even the quirkiest characters have been revealed to have a decent amount of depth, with mean characters shown to maybe not be all bad, and seemingly perfect folk making it apparent they have a number of flaws all their own. This is one of the stranger and best comics I've read, and as with my reviews of the previous books I encourage you to check this out.
5 out of 5 stars.
Citrus Volumes 2-5
I quite liked the first volume of Citrus, a weird little slice-of-life Yuri-themed tale about two step-sisters with an extremely complicated and somewhat taboo relationship. Written and illustrated by Saburouta, my library had the other five volumes that have come in out English so I requested they be put on hold. I gave them all a read and now here we are! As for volumes #2-#5, I enjoyed them a great deal too but started to notice the plot will at times advance certain aspects at quite the glacial pace.

The whole point of this manga is centered on the relationship between two step-sisters and their will-they-or-won't-they relationship (as presented to younger-adult readers), but it finally takes to the end of the 4th volume/start of the 5th volume for the characters to agree they are actually dating and for the plot to show some glimmers of life outside of pages and pages of repressed longing and, "I don't know how to handle these feelings,"-type chapters. It results in books #3 and #4 feeling like they drag a bit, with the attempt to spice things up by introducing new characters in each who complicate things coming off more as filler than exciting plot developments. As I mentioned though, the fifth volume finally seems to have some momentum as an interesting development occurs with a student-government election and actual stakes (the risk of being expelled) as opposed to just the earlier books never-ending, "I like you--no I don't--yes I do--no I don't." I'm thinking when the sixth book comes out it will keep the invigorated pace of the latest volume, at least I hope it does.
Volume 2: 4 out of 5 stars.
Volumes 3 and 4: 3 out of 5 stars.
Volume 5: 4.5 out of 5 stars.

High School of the Dead Vol. 1 & 2
I read this, but honestly have trouble recalling much about it. I recently read the writer passed away, which is sad, but that's about all I remember off the top of my head. I mean, I didn't hate it, but clearly not much stuck with me. Essentially a zombie outbreak occurs and the first volume follows some high school students in Japan as they struggle to deal with it. Volume 2 gets a bit more interesting as we see how other folk are handling the outbreak, because frankly the high schoolers themselves are a little dull and some bathing-related nudity in the 2nd volume makes it clear the book realizes readers need something to keep their attention. The art is passable and at times shows a nice flourish during scenes of zombie-fighting action, but little stood-out to me--as I said, I'm having trouble recalling much of note in this manga. I don't regret reading it, but if I had paid for the books (as I did with some of the manga I've reviewed) as opposed to getting them from my local library I might be a little perturbed. I'd rate these a boring-yet-not-terrible...
2 out of 5 stars (for both volumes).

Safe-for-work smileys!
Aqua Bless and Peachy Triangle
I read and quite enjoyed the sexually charged, "Vanilla Essence," which was basically illustrated pornography/"boderline h/hentai", but really sex-positive and peppy pornography. I reached out to the publisher behind the book, Project H (please note that website is not safe for work at all), who were happy to provide some other titles for review I thought looked interesting--specifically, "Aqua Bless," and, "Peachy Triangle." "Aqua Bless," is from the creator of, "Vanilla Essence," Yamatogawa, and has some fun and sexy tales, with the first one being especially striking in how it tells the story of a young woman who has psychic abilities she can't control that involve her feeling the sexual pleasure of everyone around her--despite physically being a virgin herself. If I may spoil the twist at the end of the story, it seems her gift may actually be shared with others through the act of having sex, almost like some kind of sexually-transmitted-psychic-power--it is good and silly fun. Another humorous yarn is where a twin poses as her sister to get a young man to admit his feelings for her--but as always seem to happen in situations where twins pose as one another things go pretty awry. It's a really funny (and sexy) book for sure.

"Peachy Triangle," is--as the title hints--about a love triangle. Written and illustrated by Renya Sabashi, it centers on a young man named Kazuki who is interested in a classmate named Ako, but she's more into another girl named Chikage. They enter in a poly-relationship of sorts but a variety of factors come-up that result in some dramatic (and raunchy) situations. There are some other shorter stories besides the main one but they were a little less remarkable. "Peachy Triangle," was overall a fine book and interesting, but it lacked as much of the humor that, "Aqua Bless," had that made it so enjoyable. Both books were great though and if you like your manga highly sexually-charged, Project H doesn't disappoint.
Aqua Bless: 5 out of 5 stars.
Peachy Triangle: 4 out of 5 stars.

Inuyashiki Volumes 2-5
The first book wasn't too bad, but also lacked much, "Wow," factor. I was able to get my hands on books 2-5 thanks to the City Library however, and read through all the volumes I got in an epic multiple-hour reading session one weekend. Having read more of the story I would say it definitely gets more interesting, and whereas I found, "Gantz," starting to lose me with its 3rd book after five of these I'm still quite intrigued by this title. Writer and artist Hiroya Oku has been giving us an interesting take on super-hero styled stories, but without the usual capes and such. This instead is more grounded, focusing on a world where our hero (Inuyashiki Ichiro) has his body destroyed and rebuilt by aliens, and in an effort to still feel human goes around helping others. What is interesting, is that in the second book we focus on a young schoolboy named Shishigami  Hiro who also was affected by that alien crash, but he goes in the opposite direction. Hiro starts murdering people with his powers for little reason other than it makes him feel alive, and then when asked by a friend agrees to try helping people instead, but at this point it is too late and everyone wants to hunt him down--including Ichiro.

It is fascinating and terrifying how Hiro is essentially a sociopath who can as easily murder people as heal them with nary a second thought. After all, if these two people were given powers and did such drastically different things, just imagine what could happen if more people were given this, "Gift." The books follow Ichiro as he helps people and Hiro as he does the opposite, with a big final-battle not yet occurring in any of these books, but clearly on its way to taking place in the near future. Some solidly entertaining reading for sure.
4 out of 5 stars.

Akira Volume 1
Ah, we might as well close this review segment on an OG of manga (and anime). Until recently (as these reviews have discussed) I wasn't especially into manga, and the only anime-properties I enjoyed were, "Gundam Wing," and without a doubt, "Akira." A fascinating piece of entertainment that some consider the most important animation property of all time, before the movie sent shock-waves through the world there was of course the manga. As for rating the manga? I mean, its got great artwork, an exciting story, and is otherwise a really great time. I don't think at this point when something is this ingrained in the cultural zeitgeist that it would matter what I'd rate it in terms of stars, but I can easily say it is...
5 out of 5 stars.

A Variety of Interesting Books
Some of what I read was really good, other books were admittedly a bit lacking. I continue to greatly enjoy manga and its variety of genres, however. Should any of my readers have a manga they would recommend please feel free to comment on this post or email me. I am so lacking in knowledge when it comes to manga as compared to Western-comics so I always appreciate tips on what to check-out next.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Television Tuesday: Why I Quit Watching Fallon and Now Religiously Watch Colbert

I was a fan of, "The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon," when it first came out. It was fun, lighthearted, and silly--a good way to close out the workday. Then our nation went utterly insane and Donald Trump gained political ground before being elected President against all logic. Due to his softball questioning of Trump at the time and otherwise acting all chummy with a monster, Fallon now has basically no respect and is suffering a lot in the T.V. ratings. There has been some sympathy for Jimmy Fallon with people saying he's a, "Nice guy," and that makes him somehow a sympathetic character. The thing is, as this piece at Nylon argues, the, "Nice guy," sometimes is his own kind of dangerous narcissist.

Personally, I got sick of how Fallon seemed more interested in telling fluffy jokes and being friends with all his guests than asking pressing questions of his guests or at least having a monologue with some bite. It didn't bug me too much at first, but then, well, Trump. I used to be at a point where I would sometimes watch Fallon and occasionally Colbert, but over the past number of months I've found myself never watching Fallon and viewing Colbert intently and without fail. I'm not alone in this either as while Fallon's rating are sinking, Colbert's are soaring.

Stephen Colbert is not afraid to, "Go there," even if it has caused controversy when he uses especially shocking language (which gets bleeped, but we know what he is saying). I appreciate he is willing to do so, call-out our joke of a President, and otherwise be funny while making important points. Fallon can keep trying to be a, "Nice guy," but I will be tuning-in to Colbert.

Monday, June 12, 2017

What is the Xbox One X and Who is it For? Is Anyone Excited?

Forgive me for my ignorance as I am getting older and increasingly out of touch with, "The kids," today as I've discussed before in relation to the Nintendo Switch and popular music, but that said, can someone explain to me what exactly the Xbox One X is (or who it is for)? It was announced at E3 this year and it confuses me horribly. Are we looking at something similar to the Playstation 4 Pro that will play all upcoming games but make them just a bit better-looking or is this a brand-new console that the Xbox One won't be able to play the games of? Okay, I checked and this is more like a PS4 Pro. It will have those 4k graphics I keep hearing about and will be able to play really old Xbox games too, it seems, but again, who is this for? Even the website IGN, which fawns over everything video-game companies do, seems unsure who will want this.

Oh, and I haven't even mentioned the price, which is a hefty charge of $499 before tax, or as Polygon says, "Be prepared to pay for that power," with, "The power," referring to how this thing has a ton of computing ability, making it the, "Most powerful--and expensive--console in the world," as The Guardian puts it, which when compared to top-of-the-line gaming computers still makes it relatively weak, if we are being honest.
This is a monstrosity for sure...
Also, while we are being honest, does anyone actually want this? Yes, there are the people out there who always want to be on the cutting-edge and have the, "Best," console with the prettiest graphics and fastest speed, but is this geared more towards folk who want to upgrade their old Xbox Ones or people who don't have an Xbox One yet? Oh, and if someone doesn't have an Xbox One yet what are the odds they want one enough to shell out half a grand as opposed to just getting the weaker and cheaper version? Is this for folk who were dying to play their original Xbox games on a newer console because for some reason the original Xbox doesn't suit them anymore? As I keep asking, who is this for?

This isn't a new console in the sense it is a generational step forward that you have to buy to play the games, it is a weird half-step that seems to muddy the waters of console generations just as the PS4 Pro did. In case you can't tell, I 'm lacking much interest in this thing.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Everyone's Pissed at Howard Chaykin and Image for, "Divided States of America," But Should They Be?

Howard Chaykin recently had the first issue of his, "Divided States of Hysteria," released from Image Comics. I quite liked it but it seems to have pissed many people off, with it being declared transphobic, racist, or otherwise horrific. As I have shown many times on my blog and in everyday life I am someone who is extremely politically conscious, against hate, and otherwise a fighter for respect and rights. so when it comes to people mad at this comic...I just don't get it. There is a scene in this comic with transphobic characters, yes, but does that make the comic transphobic? There are also scenes with racism, hatred, and all of that, but I am 99% sure Chaykin is not having this reflect his own views, it is for his story. He says in the essay in the back of the book itself, this is a twisted view of an America torn apart by hateful people doing terrible things. It is a fun-house mirror reflection of what our nation is becoming and meant to be taken as hyperbolic and absurd.

Now, I am a cisgender, heterosexual, white man, so as much as I strive to be cognizant of the challenges and hatred faced by people who are minority individuals, gay, trans, or anything besides the so-called, "Majority," I can't truly understand what it is like to be someone who is within that demographic. Perhaps if I were transgender I would have immensely different feelings about this comic. That said, this whole book is full of bombastic excess and shocking imagery, because that is the point. This isn't Chaykin pulling a Frank Miller and giving us an earnest-yet-terrible, "Holy Terror," he is fully aware how terrible and cliché many of the people in this book are because, as I said, this is an exaggerated, "What-if," as opposed to reality.

The craziest thing about all this is that it will probably increase interest in the book and make any copies still on shelves relatively scarce as many folk are going to want to pick this up and, "See what all the fuss is about," so thanks to this controversy Image will potentially have yet another hit on their hands. Funny how that works, ain't it?