Thursday, November 30, 2017

Stabbity Bunny #1 & #2 Advance Review

I posted not too long ago about how I was excited to win the contest from SCOUT Comics, Comics Heating Up, and the creative team behind, "Stabbity Bunny," to supply the name and breed of a dog that will appear in the comic (I look forward to seeing a Pug named Humphrey in the near future)! Therefore, when SCOUT reached-out to assorted bloggers and media outlets with an assortment of comics to review (I signed-up to get updates) I jumped at the chance to read the first two issues of the SCOUT editions of this formerly self-published series. Having now read the debut two installments I can say, "Stabbity Bunny," strikes just the right balance of being cute and gruesome enough that it comes off like a delightfully twisted children's story gone horribly wrong.

The comic focuses on Grace Lee, a young girl whose family is hinted to have a supernatural secret that makes them a target for dark forces. This results in the first issue being about Grace being kidnapped and almost killed before her plush bunny makes it clear he won't stand for anyone threatening his owner. The second issue fleshes out the plot a bit more and introduces a lot of the cast--I honestly worried it would lack the dark edge of the first issue until its end when some dark magic cast on an unsuspecting victim makes it clear Grace and Stabbity are still in plenty of danger.
Richard Rivera's writing strikes the perfect balance of cute and funny mixed with morbid and gruesome. He can have a mellow scene where Grace and her friend enjoy a pleasant lunch and then seamlessly segue to all kinds of malevolent forces wreaking havoc. The first issue has a bit of a rhyming storybook theme that is almost a little grating as opposed to clever, but the second issue thankfully drops that. Illustrator Dwayne Biddix is also owed a great deal of credit for being able to make cute things look adorable--such as Stabbity--which makes it all the more shocking when the scene gets violent and bloody. Speaking of bloody,  colorist Liezl Buenaventura is superb with a mixture of bright happy colors offset by crimson red when Stabbity gets violent.

The creative team behind, "Stabbity Bunny," walks a dangerous tightrope with their mixture of childhood whimsy meeting with evil magic and brutal violence, yet they somehow manage to make it work perfectly and give us a comic I loved reading and am honored to have contributed to--even if it is in a way as minor as suggesting a dog's name and breed. I am excited to read future issues of, "Stabbity Bunny," and would encourage you to get in touch with your local comic-shop and have them order issues or pre-order copies for yourself at Things From Another World. I give these first two issues 5 out of 5 stars for sure!

The, "Avengers: Infinity War," Trailer Was Great Except For One Small Thing...

Yesterday the first official full trailer for, "Avengers: Infinity War," was released onto the internet. Arguably the culmination of everything since the first, "Avengers," where we glimpsed big-bad Thanos, it is a darn good look at what to expect and I'd recommend you give it a view if you haven't yet:

Now then, despite my mostly loving it one thing does bug me. What is up with Thano's chin? Like, it is prominent in the comics, sure, but here it is just distracting. He sounds ominous thanks to Josh Brolin's great voice but he doesn't have quite the imposing gravitas you'd expect in his appearance due to that chin. It is a minor quibble, sure, but as I said, it is the only one I really have. There are just a couple of Marvel Cinematic Universe films I still haven't seen for one reason or another so I"ll be sure to catch-up on those before going to this epic in May! If only I got this excited about Marvel's comics lately...

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Today Show Thoughts in Regards to Matt Lauer

Okay, so Tuesday night I became horribly ill with food poisoning. It wasn't pretty and I thank my wife for all her help as that was the sickest I've been in awhile. Needless to say I was still in bed much of Wednesday and therefore did not get to do what I usually engage in everyday--enjoy my morning with the Today Show.

Dear God, did I pick quite a day to miss the program.

My phone lit-up with the news a bit later in the day that Matt Lauer had been let-go from the Today Show due to sexual misconduct claims. I am of course an aficionado of the Today Show, but was never that big a fan of Lauer. I think the only person currently there I disliked more than him would be Megyn Kelly. That said, it at first made me sad to see someone who has been on the Today Show for so long leaving, especially under these terms. Then again, it sounds like Lauer was a real sleazeball so good riddance. I watched the Rockerfeller Center Tree Lighting event this evening which usually features Today Show anchors and it was telling that Lester Holt (of the Nightly News) just happened to stop by for the first time ever to join the Lauer-less Al, Hoda, and Savannah. I swear, if it turns out Al Roker has been up to anything unsavory then that will be truly heartbreaking.

Two New Comic Kickstarters of Note

I will at times shine a light on Kickstarter campaigns that catch my eye, and there are two new comic ones I felt like giving a shout-out. Both are coming-out from smaller comic-publishers and creators who otherwise would possibly be unable to publish the books, so I feel they could use our support!

The Eternal Thirst of Dracula
Mike Wolfer is a friend of the blog whom I've enjoyed interviewing a number of times and whose works I always enjoy reading.  He has a new project coming out from American Mythology titled, "The Eternal Thirst of Dracula," and it looks like a great grindhouse movie-esque read set in 1975 where some horror-movie producers discover that the supposedly fictional Dracula is oh-too-real. Wolfer is writing with Roy Allan Martinez providing art, Enrica Eren Angiolini doing colors, and (also friend of the blog) Natalie Jane is lettering. The Kickstarter has exclusive stuff that won't be in any comic-store releases and as always has a number of great pledge levels as low as $10 for a digital copy or more expensive for folk who want to get a ton of stuff. You can check out the Kickstarter here and I wish the creative team great success!

Ted Naifeh's Heroines: The Graphic Novel
Space Goat Productions Inc. has a number of cool comics and broad games they produce, with, "Heronies," being one of those series. Written and drawn by Naifeh, I heard a variety of good things about this series which focuses on, "The tale of Marcy Madison, a bright, capable young woman just out of college, blessed with boundless optimism, a fresh perspective, and a nifty superpower--ready to make the world a better place. Marcy finds that most of the world is trapped in its own dysfunctional stories, mired in pessimism, and is more than ready to dismiss her. However, she’s determined to blaze her own trail, which soon proves dangerous." This collects the series so far in graphic-novel form  (a digest that Space Goat refers to as perfect for backpacks/"a backpack edition")and a digital copy can be had for only $10, with other higher levels coming with physical copies or personalized sketches by Naifeh. You can view the campaign at this link and I wish Naifeh and Space Goat all the best in reaching their goal!

Update: It seems Space Goat is having its own sexual harassment scandal, but it is unrelated to Naifeh so I still think the Kickstarter is worth giving attention!

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Television Tuesday: Westworld

There is an HBO show I haven't gotten around to watching that sounded really interesting to me. No, please quit asking me about ,"Game of Thrones," because I ain't into it. I am instead talking about, "Westworld," which as far as I could see was pretty critically divisive. I was able to carve out some time before Thanksgiving however and watched the first season over about four days. Based on the book by Michael Crichton (and which has actually already had a movie made of it too), "Westworld," is about an amusement park full of robots (or, "Hosts,") who exist to give visitors to the park something to shoot, have sex with, or otherwise do whatever they want whilst having the Hosts unable to hurt them. 

This all occurs in a setting of the American West in the Civil War-era and costs a ton of money to go visit. Throughout the season we have the focus set on certain guests and Hosts as the things of course start to go horribly wrong and the robots become self-aware and eager to strike-back at the humans who've been harming and forcing themselves on them for nearly 35 years. The season ends right as it looks like the Host rebellion will be kicking-off which is quite the cliffhanger considering this program wrapped season 1 in 2016 and will finally be back in 2018.

I would say there is easily five episodes worth of just smashing and awesome content...unfortunately this is spread-out across 10 episodes, resulting in a whole lot of filler. We witness a whole lot of seeing how the park operates, get an industrial espionage subplot that feels like it didn't really matter in the end, eventually realize we are witnessing multiple timelines, that certain, "People," are actually Hosts, and as you can see from what I've mentioned some of this sounds quite interesting and some sounds relentlessly dull. "Alternatively quite interesting and relentlessly dull," is actually a great way to describe this show. The little moments and big moments that grab a viewer's attention are stellar but spread-out over a lot of monotonous stuff.

I think, "Westworld," is a great show that somewhat annoyingly moves along at a really slow pace sometimes. What could have been a tightly-plotted half of a season leading into the 2nd half being full of exciting robot-rebellion action instead is one long first season full of lead-up. I am for sure interested in watching next season (whether I see it via a trial of HBO GO or wait a long time for it to come out on Blu-Ray and DVD) and would encourage anyone interested in science-fiction, robots, and the question of, "What makes us human?" to give it a viewing. Just be prepared for some parts to feel like a slog and others to be super-engaging.
4 out of 5 stars.

Sunday, November 26, 2017

Everyone (Myself Included) is Pissed About this New York Times Article About a Neo-Nazi

The, "New York Times," had a recent article about, "The Nazi Sympathizer Next Door," which depressingly doesn't emphasize how terrible a human being he is but actually comes off as if it is saying, "Nazis, they like television and have good manners and stuff!" I and everyone else who has read this has found ourselves disgusted.

Articles like this that try to normalize the horrible monsters that Nazis are just are atrocious. This makes me think of a random example: I remember back in the 1990's the idea of shooting Nazis in a video-game was the one thing that parents wouldn't get mad about. You would tell your Mom and Dad the game had you shooting Nazis and they would go, "Oh, you can rent that then." Now if we have a video-game where Nazis are shot, people say how it is left-wing propaganda. When did being an open Nazi-sympathizer in America become something supposedly okay that newspapers like the New York Times tries to normalize? Nazis aren't normal, they are terrible people who in living memory tried to commit genocide. Ugh.

Saturday, November 25, 2017

"Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp" is as Charming as it is Mercenary

I've always loved the, "Animal Crossing," games ever since I played the first one back in the day on the Gamecube. I've enjoyed it on that console, the Nintendo DS, and previously got very excited when it was announced a version would come-out for the iPhone. Finally this week, "Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp," was available in the United Sates for all us Americans to enjoy on our mobile devices and it is just as charming and fun as always...with a new unseemly element we will get to in a minute.

"Animal Crossing," as a game series has been about living in a town full of anthropomorphic creatures whom you can chat with or do errands for in between catching bugs, fishing, or decorating your house. It is like stepping into a happy world where you can just relax and have good fun. "Pocket Camp," changes a few things and has you visit a camp-site where you can decorate the setting as well as your camper and invite other animal-humans to come hang-out. It is a little different but still like the good ol' classic games except for the new off-putting aspect that threatens to ruin all the fun: Microtransactions.
Microtransactions are hated by many a video-game player. Want more lives in your game? Just spend 99 cents and there you go. Interested in boosting your Kingdom's crops? For just $4.99 you can buy a great harvest, and so forth in many games. These little ways to make stuff happen faster are annoying but at times make sense in games. "Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp," is a free game with microtransactions however which feel just kinda icky and almost game-breaking for something like, "Animal Crossing." After all, the whole point of the old games was to check in every once in awhile as the world advanced in real-time. You could harvest fruits and then had to wait for more, things took time but that was okay because the whole point was to enjoy this chill and relaxing game.

Now everything can happen faster. Want more fruit? Use some special tickets you can buy more of. Interested in catching a bunch of fish? Use some nets bought with tickets. Should you want to attract more bugs you can buy some honey, if you want to craft something quickly than you can pay-up for that too. Do you wish your animal-friends had more errands you could run, because if you do there is a microtransaction for that. There is even an area you can visit as long as you cough-up tickets or have enough friends to get more in-game goodies. It feels a bit against the whole motif of, "Animal Crossing," to be able to speed things up as long as you are willing to spend some cash. It goes without saying I would've been happier to just truly purchase the game and have all this microtransaction nonsense go away.
The saving grace to all these microtransactions is that you can still basically fully enjoy the game without having to spend a dime and let everything take its time--just as in the classic iterations of, "Animal Crossing." It is still off-putting however and while I don't necessarily think Nintendo should be ashamed, it is kind of a downer. After all, everything about the game I enjoy can be had faster if I just provide some cash. Any charming moment is undercut by this purely mercenary focus on saying, "You like this? Give us money for more of it!" I love anything, "Animal Crossing," so I still like it, but any recommendation I can give for people to try it out comes with that heavy caveat of, "It's fun, but those microtransactions..." As it is, this is a fun but flawed way to spend some time on your phone.

Thursday, November 23, 2017

Thoughts on Doomsday Clock #1

A Lot of Talk
There has been a lot of discussion about DC's big 12-issue event-comic, "Doomsday Clock." There is of course the much-loved comic, "Watchmen," which--putting aside the, "Before Watchmen," debacle of lame prequels--we haven't had too much of outside of Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons self-contained masterpiece. DC has now released the first issue of this sequel of sorts with all the moral quandries that brings.

You see, Alan Moore has always been vehemently opposed to DC doing anything with his work from, "Watchmen," stating how he should have had the full rights. It's a long and tangled history, but the short version is: Alan Moore and DC apparently agreed that once, "Watchmen," had been out-of-print for a period of time the full rights would revert to him, the comic was a huge smashing success and DC now has forever been printing versions of it, thereby robbing Moore of what he felt was his. There are many arguments in favor of Moore, some against, and people much smarter than me have made highly detailed cases.

How then, does one review, "Doomsday Clock," considering all the elements at play here? I suppose I would review it in a number of ways with different things taken into account--which sounds complex but there are many complexities to this comic-event.

Looking at The Plot in Isolation From Other Elements
From a strictly plot perspective there are some intriguing ideas at work here. The idea is arguably that the existence of, "Watchmen," was so world-altering it essentially changed the reality of other comics, like DC's main stuff. It is a really meta idea and arguably the only way this comic can work--the dark sad world of, "Watchmen" going-up against the happy and more hopeful world of DC. After all, if you just have a comic with Batman fighting a bunch of folk from, "Watchmen," what's the point?

"What's the point?" could be asked about a lot of this though. Did DC absolutely have to take, "Watchmen," to use for this story or does utilizing the famous IP allow the story to feel like it has more gravitas? Moore and Gibbons comic is a masterpiece so anything attempting to follow-up on it that lacks them probably will struggle to measure up. Having read the comic, if one puts aside all the baggage of using, "Watchmen," it reads quite well, but the whole idea is taking the baggage of, "Watchmen," and using it to tell a story, which arguably is why we are in this aforementioned big ol' moral quandary. Should we work to put all that aside though and just look at the plot in isolation from all the other outside elements at play--go all, "New Criticism," on the comic, then it is pretty good.

We have the world of, "Watchmen," that seemed to achieve peace through the lie of a false alien invasion now falling apart due to the truth coming-out. Things are miserable again and its a mess. We get some info-dumps and it is a good read. I would give it a solid 4 out of 5 stars viewed by itself. We can't view it by itself though, can we?

Looking at the Plot in the Shadow of, "Watchmen."
Many folk would agree, "Watchmen," is a masterpiece. Intricately plotted, designed, and with an ending that is kind of weak--but arguably intentionally so--it is amazing. Any book trying to pick-up that ball and run with it is bound to suffer. Reading this book written by Geoff Johns gives the impression of someone desperately trying to recapture that, "Watchmen," lightning in a bottle but struggling to do so. The artist can't be blamed at all, as Gary Frank is a stellar illustrator and uses the classic nine-panel grid to give us some stellar imagery--at least as best as the plot can allow.

This first issue mostly takes place in the world of, "Watchmen" so perhaps as we see more of it and the DC-Universe bleeding into one another things will flow a bit better. As it is though, when one looks at this as a sequel to something so amazing as, "Watchmen," and puts the quality and craftsmanship side-by-side, this work suffers and is more of a pale imitation, a 2 out of 5 stars.

Looking at the Comic in Regards to Creator Rights
Just as with, "Before Watchmen," this is basically DC saying, "Fuck Alan Moore!" Even DC's most vehement defenders will admit that Moore was done dirty whilst trying to rationalize things by saying stuff like, "Well, Moore used other people's creations for his, 'League of Extraordinary Gentleman!' His, 'Lost Girls,' stuff too!" Those people seem to miss the point that all of those things were public domain and even if Moore was using creations in a manner the original creators would have disliked, he wasn't outright stealing their work from them to do what he wanted whilst they loudly protested. Moore isn't mad that the stuff he created is being used to tell other stories, he's mad because he was promised those things he crafted would be his to do with as he pleased and then once he made these metaphorical toys they were snatched away from him by DC.

Should someone look at this comic's existence in regards to what its progenitor--Alan Moore--would prefer, clearly it shouldn't exist. Dave Gibbons basically has faintly offered his approval/said he doesn't care, so is it enough for one of the makers of, "Watchmen," to be okay with it, or if anyone is against this should their preferences be acknowledged? Whatever the case, considering how badly Moore was screwed-over by DC when it comes to the comic in regards to creator rights, this is a 0 out of 5.

Much to Mull Over
It is evident that there is a lot to wrestle with when it comes to the very existence of, "Doomsday Clock." As its own piece of work it is interesting, but it suffers compared to the amazing work it is a sequel to, and is also one big middle finger to creator rights. It is impossible to judge if the overall meta-message will work well based just on this first issue, but I'm hopeful all this controversy at least gives us an interesting story--especially considering just how questionable the taste is of this comic even existing.

Happy Thanksgiving!

I hope everyone has a nice Thanksgiving today full of rest and relaxation! I'll get a post-up later today on, "Doomsday Clock," too--as the countdown to Black Friday is arguably a Doomsday clock of its own.

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Dear Nicki Minaj, You're Trying Too Hard

Yes, that is Nicki Minaj having a three-way with herself.
I debated if I wanted to write this article because I didn't want to seem like I was criticizing Nicki Minaj for being a sexual person. I am someone who loves people being comfortable with their sexuality, expressing it how they please, and otherwise am not a prude in any way. That said, having seen the latest cover to the magazine, "Paper," and looking at interior images too I feel I need to say, "Nicki Minaj, you are trying too hard."

I seriously have no problem with the, "Hyper-sexual bad bitch rapper," act that Nicki has been doing, I just liked it more the first time Lil' Kim was doing it and many a person out there (Lil' Kim included) would argue Nicki's whole motif is basically taking what Lil' Kim did, going a bit further, and claiming she's some kind of amazing creative force for doing what's already occurred. Plus, if we're being honest Lil' Kim could still rap circles around Minaj.
The only thing worse than Nicki Minaj is three of her.
In case you've been living under a rock, "Paper," magazine is a publication that likes to try to, "Break the internet," with shocking photo-spreads and articles, having done this kind of stuff before with Kim Kardashian and now giving us Nicki Minaj with clever Photoshop-editing making it look like she is having a three-way with herself. First of all, the idea of wanting to not just have sex with a manifestation of yourself, but a three-way of yourself sounds like the epitome of narcissism. It reminds me of that scene in, "American Pyscho," where Christian Bale's character pays two sex-workers to have sex with him and allow him to tape it...with his character then proceeding to keep the camera's focus entirety on him and how amazing he is as a sexual force in his mind. This isn't to say Nicki Minaj is a narcissistic serial killer, but the fact that I even drew the mental comparison says something, I would argue.

A bunch of people have been critical of this spread for a variety of reasons, with Eve thinking it isn't a good thing, and Wendy Williams stating it looks desperate. I want to state again I am by no means trying to slut-shame Nicki for doing this. I will admit without hesitation she is a beautiful woman and the imagery is very sexually charged--but it also just looks really self-obsessed and a bit like a cynical marketing ploy to play-up the, "I'm a raunchy rapper," image she's cultivated.
I'm amazed I haven't seen more, "Me, Myself, and I," puns.
Nicki Minaj has every right to be as sexual as she likes and people can respond accordingly with accolades or criticism. I have no problem with the photos and will give props to whoever had the technical skill to pull-off the illusion of three Nicki Minaj all going at it. I will say I take issue with how it just seems so calculated, narcissistic, and observe these stunts really do just remind me of when Lil' Kim did it first and did it better.  You're trying too hard, Nicki. Work on your flow and give us some solid rhymes and then maybe I'll care more.

Monday, November 20, 2017

Tales From The Dollar Bin: The Savage Dragon #1-#3

There are comics which are worth incredible sums of money, but so many of the most interesting, tragic, or just downright weird can be found for a simple dollar or less in a  store's "dollar bin". There, comics that never gained much popularity can be found alongside those that sold so much as for a copy to be worthless. "Tales From the Dollar Bin" aims to explore these comics, be they a single issue or an entire run of a series. From the great to the miserable, some of the best treasures and worst nightmares can be found in those infamous boxes. Let's have a "tale" now...

Long-Running and Full of Fun
Let's take a trip down memory lane to the early 1990's and get ready for a mind-blowing fact. "The Savage Dragon," is a series that debuted back then and is still coming out with the exact same original creator--Erik Larsen--and has no relaunches or reboots having happened. It is one of the longest-running comics with the same creator at the helm since its inception with only other books like, "Cerberus," and a handful of others (mainly if if you don't count renumbering) beating it. That is incredibly impressive and when one looks at the newest issues of, " The Savage Dragon," you can see how Larsen has both grown as a storyteller and illustrator as well as observe he was pretty solid right at the start. 

Yes, these early issues have some immense cliche's such as our protagonist having amnesia (resolved later on in the series) and random plot elements will pop-up and change at a jarring pace, but when you compare the latest issues to these you can see Larsen already laying a foundation for what has turned into an epic story full of generations of families, an ever-growing cast of characters, and Larsen's delightfully fluid art-style.
Erik Larsen's art has always given me a bit of a Jack Kirby-vibe (in a good way).
"The Savage Dragon," along with some other Image titles such as, "Spawn," are the O.G. books of Image back when it emerged in the 1990's as a creator response to the unfair conditions at work-for-hire companies. Image of course used to be more super-hero focused but in the decades since has grown into a publisher of a wide-range of quality titles. Now it is so big and successful you could argue the, "Big Two," of Marvel and DC really are the, "Big Three," with Image and its many smash-hits taking-up a big ol' chunk of the comic-market.

As, "The Savage Dragon," was one of the first books released when Image was a brand-new publisher it sold a ton of copies and therefore these debut issues are relatively easy to find in a dollar bin. Also, because it is  a super-hero comic from the 1990's it features big muscles and even bigger guns. Observe:
Reading these old issues of, "The Savage Dragon," is a delightful trip down memory lane for someone who first got into comic-books as a young man in the 1990's. The comic-book market of course eventually suffered a crash later on which many blame on a variety of factors (with Marvel and DC getting a ton more blame than Image, which thanks to its solid business planning survived that crash unlike many other then-smaller publishers), but through all the changes in the comic-book marketplace and the rest of the world, "The Savage Dragon," has kept coming-out at a rate that is occasionally sporadic and at other times very regular--regardless of how on-time or delayed it is however you can count on it eventually hitting the stands for your reading pleasure.

Erik Larsen's dedication to his comic over these many years is admirable, and the way he has altered and grown the comic with our changing times is just as impressive. It's a pleasant thing to think about--how Image and its focus on treating comic-book creators with respect resulted in so many great books coming out and continuing to be released. The continued success of, "The Savage Dragon," gives this edition of my spotlighting of dollar-bin books a rare happy ending among all the more tragic yarns, it would seem. Then again, you never know what to expect when reading...a tale from the dollar bin!

Saturday, November 18, 2017

I Decided to Investigate the Now Mostly-Hidden, Weird, and Really Stereotypical World of Cigarette Advertising

I Was Wondering
To begin with: I hate cigarettes. The smell makes me gag, the smoke makes my eyes hurt, and I promised my Grandmother who was a lifelong smoker and unable to quit I would never try it. To this day I've not had a cigarette in mouth and find them disgusting. I was wondering recently though, with all the laws that have basically made cigarette advertising mostly gone do they even have much of a P.R. budget for the United States? They haven't had cigarette promos on television in a long while, billboards are banned, and etc. Other countries are more lax about ads but America has shut it least unless you go looking for it, then a whole weird secret world of cigarette culture opens-up.

When I was thinking about cigarette ads I remembered seeing during my youth two images immediately came to mind. There was Joe Camel and the Marlboro man. Joe Camel was a young hip cool Camel that maybe in retrospect was too young and cartoony, with enough people arguing he was designed purely to appeal to kids that he was eventually buried in graveyard of unwanted mascots between the Noid and whatever the fuck Spongmonkeys were.
Joe Camel
While the real-life inspiration for the Marlboro man died of lung cancer, Marlboro has kept the imagery going to this day. I decided to visit their website and find out if people who clicked-through to willingly see cigarette promotions maybe would find a Marlboro website with a little banner ad featuring cowboys and some cigarette coupons. I mean, it couldn't be anything that interesting, right? As I said, dear God, did I discover a weird hidden world.

Internet Time
The main menu full of sub-menus and lavishly-designed pages and videos
Visit the website of a cigarette company and due to U.S. laws you will have to prove your age through various verification methods that can go as far as providing the last four digits of your social security number. I didn't feel like doing that however and Marlboro allowed me to just answer other intrusive questions to create an account and get into their website. Once I did so I was taken to a website with a slick design that looks like a surreal mixture of a social network and lifestyle website all with a heavy emphasis on the supposedly smooth and delicious taste of a cancer stick. Also, a lot of stereotypes focused on manliness.

Once you're logged-in on Malboro's website you can watch fun videos about the wide-open wilderness, read about ranches, how saddles are made, and basically enmesh yourself in the life of the fictional cowboy that never really existed but we like to imagine did in our rosy view of American history. After indulging in the Wild West you can read about music, enter a contest to design your own neon sign for nightclubs, and use Marlboro's handy bar-finder tool to locate a drinking establishment that will also let you puff on all kinds of deadly chemicals whilst getting tipsy. Then you can follow a link to download a picture game featuring imagery of (what else?) cowboys, guys riding motorcycles, and other masculine imagery? Next, you can get some cooking recipes to help you, "Cook like a man," and grill-up some dude-food. After all that, share some comments and enjoy chatting with other smokers on the site while you bond over how, um, great smoking is?
Enjoy manly tales of cowboys...and smoking, I guess?
Marlboro's website bleeds testosterone. It is going for that tough-guy image of saying, "Don't listen to the people who say you're lame and out-of-touch with a world that realizes smoking is terrible, you're a strong man who needs our inexplicably manly cigarette." Marlboro insists you're a man who doesn't trust any fancy scientists or government telling you how cigarettes are dangerous. You ride horses, listen to music, grill, and otherwise do things that actually have nothing to do with smoking but when a company associates them with cigarettes is able to make you think that cigarettes are the same as cool stuff like riding horses, listening to music, and grilling. That's the most insidious thing here, the idea that the act of smoking something as gross as a cigarette--but for the purposes of these ads it has to be a Marlboro cigarette-- somehow makes you cool and strong man.

I didn't think a cigarette company would put so much money and effort into a website you can only view with a lot of effort. Then I realized why they did. You see, the people who access these sites are willingly seeking this stuff out and in this advertising vacuum where cigarette companies can only, "Preach to the choir," they do so. It is getting harder and harder for big tobacco to gain new smokers so they need to do whatever they can told hold onto the current ones.
The website's main food page,
because if you're gonna cook don't cook like a woman.
If this means stroking a smoker's ego by creating a false mental link between smoking a cigarette somehow being as rad as cooking a tasty BBQ chicken, riding a bull, or dancing at a club, then these companies will draw these false comparisons with gusto. This mostly-hidden and really stereotypical world of cigarette advertising geared toward keeping smokers in their grasp is uncomfortable and bizarre. After I first signed-up out of my aforementioned curiosity and saw all this I logged-out and mostly forgot about my idea to even write this piece. Then the packet came.

One Day a Packet Came
Fresh air and deadly smoke!
When I signed-up on the website I was told I'd be mailed a welcome packet, but that it could take a few weeks for it to come. About three weeks later I got a really fat all-black envelope from the Marlboro corporation. It wasn't even really an envelope though, it was more of a packet. I unsealed it to find it then folded out to reveal a bunch of glossy papers featuring much of the same imagery from online. The pictures of horses, cowboys, and wide-open plains looked inviting, with the irony of fresh clean wilderness air versus the dangers of smoking clearly ignored.

The other papers advising me to visit the site for more recipes to, "Cook like a man," made me again wonder what the Hell that phrase even meant. There were some coupons for taking a dollar off a pack of cigarettes or three dollars off a carton included as well. This packet did everything to make smoking look awesome and have you forget the fact that you are literally inhaling deadly smoke into your lungs. It would be impressive if it weren't so disturbing and false. I threw the packet in our recycling.

Just Plain Weird
The cover to a little packet with some coupons.
I haven't joined any other cigarette websites as the surreal world of Marlboro was more than enough for me to explore with its alternate-reality view of our world where smoking is somehow a great hobby. I still find it just plain weird how much money Marlboro (and I assume the other companies) pump into this advertising that only will be viewed by people who currently smoke or oddballs like me wanting to investigate stuff. It is weird, but not mysterious, as if you want people to keep buying your product that literally kills them you need to offer as much reinforcement and encouragement as possible for them to keep smoking.

Perhaps as less and less new smokers pick-up the nasty habit and more and more long-time smokers work to quit then eventually these tobacco companies won't even have enough money to make advertisements that are as fancy as they are insular in the focus on being geared towards keeping smokers smoking. Perhaps big tobacco will someday become little tobacco with an increasingly shrinking amount of clients for their product, I certainly hope that does occur!
Just a reminder what cigarettes do to the human body.
In the meantime, the companies will continue to make these promotional materials for their fans/victims in the hopes that all the talk of masculinity, freedom, and fun will help people ignore the fact that at the end of the day they are buying a product that is designed to shorten their lifespan and harm them. I guess we will see and in the meantime I'll continue to try to parse-out what it means to, "Cook like a man." I mean, is that when you kill the animal with your bare hands and then throw it on the fire pit or what?

Lastly, for anyone I know who smokes and wants to quit, is a great tool for finding resources and support. The last thing the cigarette companies want you to do is stop smoking, but that is the a great choice you can make for your health.

Friday, November 17, 2017

More Disconcerting News About Marvel as Well as Wizard

A Phrase I Normally Hate
I have a confession: I hate the phrase that involves, "Waiting for the other shoe to drop," or, "There's the other shoe dropping," etc. Sometimes stuff just happens in isolation and there are no other shoes to drop, and sometimes a bunch of events happen at once--more than a pair--so the expression doesn't work then either unless you say something dumb like,"All the shoes are dropping." Well, I guess I can eat crow today as there are two situations where the other shoe did indeed drop.

The "Shoes"
Axel Alonso
I recently talked about how Brian Michael Bendis was leaving Marvel for DC and other people wondered if this could signal other folk leaving Marvel--especially individuals who used to work closely with Bendis. There had been rumors for awhile about Axel Alonso, Marvel's Editor-in-Chief, leaving, but they had been simply hearsay. Well, after having been involved at Marvel as EIC for a number of years and in general in some capacity since all the way back in 2000, Alonso has announced his departure from the company. The other shoe just dropped.

Also, I just posted about how Wizard was disclosing a lot of financial problems that made it apparent that while we may get shows in 2018 from them, the future was looking a little bleak. I and others wondered how in the dickens they would re-launch their magazine in this publishing climate considering they are hemorrhaging cash. Well, that other shoe dropped  in that scenario too and they aren't going to be doing a magazine anytime soon.
C.B. Cebulski
Marvel has announced another long-time employee, C.B. Cebulski, will assume the role Alonso filled. With all his years at Marvel it is easy to point out how Alonso had at times made controversial decisions or said questionable things, but overall it seems he was well-liked and respected at Marvel, making me wonder what caused his quitting (or if it was secretly a firing).

Wizard has discussed how they still intend to do their shows in 2018 and to never-mind all that talk of publishing a magazine, but if their are doing as badly economically as I heard I wonder what else might get cut or who else could be let-go to stem the metaphorical bleeding of funds. I hope the quality of the shows doesn't suffer as plenty of past news stories have shown that when corners are cut in the production of convention things can really fall apart (remember Dashcon? You don't? Exactly).
We shall see how things go for Marvel and if we are on the cusp of some big editorial shake-up just as before too long it will become apparent what the long-term outlook (e.g. surviving into 2019) is for Wizard World. For now though, it seems despite how much I hate the term, the other shoe has dropped for both these companies and the news is quite disconcerting. Who would think DC would be having such a good month in comparison to Marvel considering they had to own-up to keeping a sex-monster gainfully employed for way too many years?

Thursday, November 16, 2017

I'm Worried About Wizard World Conventions and The Company in General Too

I have previously gone to a number of the Wizard World conventions held in Saint Louis. I am excited for the upcoming one in February and have already applied to attend it as press. Therefore, when I read news that their financial forecasts are getting increasingly dreary/bad that makes me concerned. Between posting lots of losses, having legal issues with a former executive (lawsuits ain't cheap) and the disconcerting idea to bring their defunct magazine back, I worry that something will delay or cancel the show being held the first weekend in February.

I personally hope that Wizard can have a good rest of 2017 and have a great 2018 as anyone from the company I've ever interacted with has been great and the shows tend to be good fun.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Rant-Reviews: Imagining What If?

Let's Imagine...
Sometimes comic-books ask, "What If?" with Marvel even having had a line of comics at various times asking that. I thought it might be fun to review some books that ask that question about some subject or topic and shall do so now...

Asking the Questions
1985: Black Hole Repo #1
What if the Cuban Missile Crisis Had Led to Nuclear War?
Published by Heavy Metal, this comic takes place in a 1985 where the Cuban Missile Crisis ended in nuclear war and much of the planet was wrecked, causing countries to take to space and colonize the Moon. President Ronald Rump of the United States keeps saber-rattling and making it possible there will be further war but our protagonists don't really care about Earthly-politics as they are just a repo crew who take-back spaceships that don't get paid-off on time. It's a fun introductory issue full of action, jokes, and as the name of the President hints, some political allegory. I liked it and see a lot of potential for it to grow into. You can buy this first issue at Things From Another World, MyComicShop, or via eBay.
3.5 out of 5 stars.

Port of Earth #1
What if Aliens Asked Us to Open a Refueling Station?
This is quite the concept coming to us from Image Comics, the idea is that aliens come to Earth and they don't really come in peace or war, they just have a business proposition. Spaceships that run on water need to refuel while flying through the galaxy and if we let them use Earth as a gas-station of sorts they'll end our energy crisis for us by teaching us how to use our own water. Earth of course accepts and over a period of years things get rocky as some alien visitors go into the general populace and violence erupts. This leads to a security force of sorts being created and we get to witness them going about a usual day of business.

I feel like this comic would have benefited from being a special double-sized issue as a good half of it is dedicated just to laying-out the story and background, which is fascinating but allows scant time for us to get to know any characters or watch conflicts develop. I am for sure intrigued and chomping at the bit to read the next issue, but again, if this had been just a little bit longer I might be even more satisfied. Grab yourself a copy at MyComicShop, on eBay, or get it at Things From Another World.
4.5 out of 5 stars.

Solar Flare Season 2 #1
What if a Solar Flare took out all our Electronics?
The previous six issues of this series from Scout Comics (so, the first season) focused on a group of people as they dealt with how a solar flare has knocked-out all our electronics and the result is the country beginning to descend into chaos with one militia posing an extra-large threat to everyone's safety.  This issue takes us back in time a bit to show us what life was like for one of the characters in the series before the Flare hit. It is interesting as that is exactly how the first season started with a different person as well. It's a solid book and provides a nice look at how people on a smaller-scale might handle such a large world-altering event. Buy it on eBay or at Things From Another World.
4 out of 5 stars.

Uber: Invasion #9
What if the United States and Nazis developed super-powered humans?
This new series is really just a continuation of the first series of, "Uber," with some extra explanations at times to help newer readers. It continues to be a brutal read full of tactics, warfare, and occasional grim humor. It continues to astonish me the same man writing this book--Kieron Gillen--is the author behind books like, "The Wicked and the Divine," seeing as how this is more like a super-powered Garth Ennis-esque book and WIC+DIV is so different tonally. That 's perfectly alright though and just shows how skilled Gillen is as a writer, I think.

"Uber," has been the kind of series with so many characters and theaters of war that it can get confusing at times with me forgetting who is supposed to be where and such, but Gillen clearly has it all carefully planned and plotted out. He says in the back-matter for this book there aren't too many more issues so I'm interested in seeing how all the metaphorical chess-pieces come together for what is sure to be an explosive climax. Buy a copy from eBay if you would like to check it out!
3.5 out of 5 stars.

Moon Knight #188
What if the Egyptian Gods Used Super-Heroes to Duke it Out?
I am of course a big fan of Moon Knight and have enjoyed some titles by the writer, Max Bemis, as well as many comics by the illustrator, Jacen Burrows (who worked at Avatar Press for years before now popping-up on a Marvel title). This issue is interesting in that it actually never has Marc Spector, Moon Knight, or any other alter-egos appear outside of dream-sequence. This issue instead centers on Dr. Emmett (who appeared in the previous Moon Knight series and was hinted to possibly be supernatural and seems to be completely human here) and her dealings with a mysterious Patient 86. Emmett remembers having worked with Spector and finds some striking simmilaties between his case and Patient 86. This leads to her trying to get the patient into Egyptian mythology as well but (spoilers) it all goes horribly awry as patient 86 may very well have some super-powers and deigns himself a representative of Ra, the Sun God in Egyptian mythology--one who doesn't gel well with moons.

Bemis and Burrows work well together, with everything being illustrated expertly and a surreal dream sequence being suitably scary and unsettling. It is a bit of a storytelling risk for Bemis to not have the man who is arguably the protagonist of the comic appear in this first issue (don't let the #188 fool you, this is part of that absurd Marvel Legacy re-launch), but it pays off through having Moon Knight's absence still result in his influence being felt. Having read some stellar comics with Moon Knight and some that were absolute garbage I am so far cautiously optimistic. Plus, even if the story ends up sucking at least Burrows will continue to provide stellar art, so that's good. Buy yourself a copy to enjoy at MyComicShop or on eBay.
4 out of 5 stars

Questions Answered, Sorta

The comics I read and reviewed ask questions and work to answer them. What conclusions the books come to will eventually be discovered, but for now I'm enjoying reading the debut issues of some and continuing entries of others.

Sunday, November 12, 2017

DC May Have Finally Fired Eddie Berganza After Enough Bad Press

Since 2012 an editor at DC Comics named Eddie Berganza had been known as a serial harasser of women. He had supposedly been punished and gone through training to prevent re-offending and DC had also taken an effort to reduce the risk of any trouble occurring by not having women work with him in the Superman editorial office. You read that right, a company bent-over backwards to keep women away from a harasser instead of--you know--doing something about the harasser himself. As for why, because apparently Berganza was considered too valuable to fire. Bleeding Cool reported on Berganza on multiple occasions but nothing ever happened. Then, Buzzfeed released an article about him and suddenly DC cared so much they went and suspended the guy, with the latest news being he's fired. So you see, a man who harasses women will in fact face consequences....if the company he works for finds itself getting enough bad press.

I know Bleeding Cool is thought of as a bit of a tabloid in the field of comic-book journalism, but for how many years did they talk about this asshole and their news bounced off of him like he was Teflon? Then suddenly a more mainstream outlet reiterates old claims and throws in some new ones and just like that DC is sooooo shocked and ready to fire the guy? I already said people in positions of power who abuse that power to take advantage of others are the worst kind of people, so what does that make the power structures that do nothing to stop them? The answer to that question is: Really shitty.

It seems in so many places of power--politics, Hollywood, and in this case, comics--that people get away with doing terrible things and everyone in that area turns a blind eye until enough public attention is drawn that something has to be done to sate an enraged public. Why is nothing ever done before public outcry? Why do people get to use their power to harass and assault others? I really don't know, because after all a sexual predator who was caught on tape discussing grabbing women, "By the pussy," still won the Presidency. I'm not sure if gaining power turns some people into jerks or if some jerks try to seek out power, but we as the public need to hold all the people with authority to standard, because the people around them who they share power with sure don't do that.

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

How Clarkson and I Reacted to the News of Brian Michael Bendis Leaving Marvel for DC

The above video of Clarkson responding to me telling him the news--Brian Michael Bendis is leaving Marvel for DC--sums up my feelings pretty well too. I wanted a snack and let out an exhausted sigh. Bendis has for over a decade been associated with Marvel ever since he did some indie and Image stuff before the company scooped him up. He's written almost all the most popular characters at the company (Daredevil, The Avengers) and created a few popular individuals himself too (Jessica Jones, Miles Morales). The man's love for Luke Cage helped the lesser-known character become a household name and lot of the Marvel stuff that made it to Netflix is based on his character work with Cage, Jones, and Daredevil (not so much Iron Fist, that was more Ed Brubaker who revitalized that character) and even if his most recent stuff has been weak (anything X-Men related) he created some stellar stuff and still was masterful at writing solo-books although I personally feel outside of his first, "New Avengers," stuff that he struggles horribly to do team-focused books.

Well, after all these years it was announced today that Brian Michael Bendis of all people has signed a big, "Multiyear, Multi-faceted deal," with Marvel's biggest competitor. I at first thought it was a joke when I saw some comments about this on Twitter, but then a number of creators along with Bendis himself were confirming it. The official DC tweet is as such:
I'm no really upset or happy about this. It just is if anything stressful (making me want a relaxing snack) to wonder how this will impact books at both companies as Bendis is a writer who either makes awesome stuff or really underwhelming-to-awful books--it is hard to recall a purely mediocre title by him, they just fit into extremes. All I can do is what my son does at the video's conclusion, let out a big sigh and see how things turn out. Perhaps we will get more of, "Awesome Bendis," and a lot less of, "Terrible Bendis."

Monday, November 6, 2017

Best Weird Comic I've Read in Awhile AKA The First Issue of "No.1 With a Bullet,"

I of course love comics that are more, "Out-there," and weird. Now, if a comic can be weird and good that is just awesome. "No.1 With a Bullet," has grabbed my attention fully with its surreal first issue and heft dose of weirdness. This latest Image book imagines a near-ish future/alternate present that is basically our own world but warped just a little bit more. Technology has continued to expand and the latest hot thing are contacts clled iRis you can wear to record images or see alternate-reality images (like a video-game of sorts, but more twisted). As the back-matter of the comic discusses, this actually is a patent that already exists and is just another example of how we are having our privacy invaded further and further. The synopsis of this comic written by Jacob Semahn and illustrated by Jorge Corona almost sounds a little too straightforward considering how wildly odd the comic is:

Her social media, strong. Her variety show segments, a hit. Nash Huang is at the top of her game. But when the iRis Shutter contact lens hits the market, Nash’s life is personally invaded. The latest leap forward in “technological progress,” these contacts not only play video or augment reality…but also record footage. Fighting to keep her life together after a leaked sex tape goes viral, a clingy super-fan is the last thing on Nash’s mind…but that’s exactly when the bodies pile up and the terror begins. From the bestselling team that brought you GONERS, comes NO. 1 WITH A BULLET!

Seriously, that sounds vaguely interesting but not especially odd. However, Semahn's way of having almost everyone talk in off-putting tech-jargon and popular slang combined with Corona's art giving us exaggerated bodies and environments gives everything a slightly fun-house mirror feel of if we were staring in a reflection of our own lives gone just slightly wrong. The protagonist, Nash, is a young woman who works for a popular nightly television talk-show and loves technology until at the issue's conclusion (as the above promo-text describes) she finds a sex tape leaked. There are other nefarious things at play too as some mysterious suicides make clear.
Nash states how, "Hackers gonna hack," before becoming a victim herself.
The comic shows technology as something that is less of a tool than a constant invasion into our lives. Nash can barely pay attention to the movie, "Jaws," and cuddle with her girlfriend without constantly fiddling around on social media, friends talk about how someone who was well-respected found themselves fired and a social pariah for a slightly off-color joke they sent in an email leaking due to their being hacked. Everyone says how if we don't stuff getting out then don't put it on the web, but these new iRis Shutter contact lenses create a whole new problem of if we will even know whether something is getting recorded and put online.

"No. 1 With a Bullet," is off to stellar start and stands as another example of the kind of quality publications Image continues to release. The company is just releasing hit after hit thanks to having so many great new books and, "No. 1 With a Bullet," makes a glowing addition to that list of stupendous new titles. You can buy yourself a copy at Things From Another World or via MyComicShop and I would recommend you do as this book easily scores...
5 out of 5 stars.

Sunday, November 5, 2017

My 2nd Time at the Toyman Show Was Stellar!

I previously posted about my first-ever time at the Toyman show put on by Chris, "Toyman," McQuillen. I was able to attend the next one that occurred today and had just as much fun (if not more fun) than last time! There were just as many quality vendors as before such as STL Comics and numerous toy-merchants, plus of course everything from plush dolls to video-games and Hot Wheels. Also, Funko Pops, so many Funko Pops!

I arrived early and it should be noted that for a small extra fee folk can head in at 8AM instead of 9AM (Early-Bird is what it is called). I would for sure recommend to anyone who is big on getting the prime pick of stuff to take advantage of this as it gets really busy once 9AM rolls around and it is nice to have a quiet hour to check all the stuff for sale and mull-over what you might want. I didn't buy as much this time, but got a few fun odds and ends such as this stellar-looking Pennywise Funko which has him with a balloon and was exclusive to Hot Topic back when the movie, "It," came out:
I also got some assorted comics and enjoyed seeing the guests at the show--Paul T. Taylor (Pinhead in the latest upcoming, "Hellraiser," movie) and Santiago Cirilo who played, "Julio," on the fourth season of, "The Walking Dead," and as I understand it did not have a happy end for his character. The show was awesome as always and assuming I am able to attend I for sure would love to go to the next event on December 10th at the Machinists Hall in Bridgeton. For more information visit the website for the show and I'll see you there!