Friday, July 30, 2021

Scarlett Johansson is Suing Disney over, "Black Widow," and its Theatrical Profits

"Black Widow," had a simultaneous debut in theaters, and if you paid an extra fee to watch it on Disney+. Apparently, Scarlett Johansson had a deal similar to many actors where she gets a cut of the profits from the silver screen. It seems this deal oddly did not include the money made from Disney+ so now Johansson is suing Disney to get her funds. I'm surprised Disney didn't cut her a better deal as opposed to basically burning the bridge, so to speak (maybe because she is finished with the Marvel franchises it wasn't a big deal in their eyes). You think this would worry Disney that actors may not want to work with the studio if it is going to make it so they lose out on money.

Disney, for its part, is trying to make Johansson look like a greedy monster. They say the suit is “especially sad and distressing in its callous disregard for the horrific and prolonged global effects of the COVID-19 pandemic," as if Johansson herself is responsible for the pandemic and Disney choosing to put, "Black Widow," out on a streaming platform as well as theaters instead of just waiting longer to release it and/or giving Johansson a deal for streaming profits. This is getting ugly fast.

Thursday, July 29, 2021

"Hawkeye," Comes to Disney+ on November 24th

Everyone's least-favorite Avenger, Hawkeye AKA Clint Barton, has a show on Disney+ which debuts this November 24th. I am excited for, "Hawkeye," but I'm excited for basically all the reasons that don't directly involve Jeremy Renner's character. No offense to Renner, but his portrayal of Hawkeye is generally not that interesting. However, we will be getting the appearance of Echo/Maya Lopez (played by Alaqua Cox), Kate Bishop/the younger Hawkeye (played by Hailee Steinfeld) and if you've seen, "Black Widow," you may know that (spoiler alert) the latest Black Widow (played by Florence Pugh) is going to be going after Clint Barton too. In essence, I'm more excited for the supporting cast than I am for Hawkeye himself in the show.

It's not like Hawkeye always struggles to be interesting in the comics. Matt Fraction and David Aja had that good run some years ago. Back in the 1980s or so Hawkeye led the West Coast Avengers--a team of reformed baddies and heroes often considered too extreme for the, "Regular," Avengers. I swear Hawkeye can be interesting, he just usually isn't on the silver screen! Perhaps a television show will help to flesh out Clint Barton and let Renner stretch his solid acting chops (dude has done a great job in other properties besides Marvel stuff). Plus, as I said, we get a fantastic supporting cast that has me excited for the show, regardless of how boring Hawkeye sometimes is to watch. Now then, when will, "Ms. Marvel," be out as that's due this year too, right? I'm even more intrigued by that show.

Wednesday, July 28, 2021

Smiley Indoor Playground And Arcade in Indianapolis is Fantastic!

I've put up some posts about various places I had the chance to stop when we visited my family in Upstate New York. I stopped by an assortment of comic stores, we stayed at a Tru hotel, and we also stopped in Indianapolis and visited a really cool play center. Known as the, "Smiley Indoor Playground and Arcade," it is a bit like a Chuck E. Cheese combined with a big snazzy play area and it is all geared towards 10-and-under-age kids.

We discovered this Simley Center while looking up cool things to do in the region while we were heading through and lots of positive stuff had been written about. You can buy cards you load with funds and swipe to play in the arcade (which has a fun assortment of games that award digital tickets). You can buy time in hour allotments for the massive playground. The playground is fantastic. One segment is basically a massive (oft-sanitized)  ball pit full of stuff to play on and another has trampolines, obstacles, and it is wild to witness. There are big video screens kids can interact with as well and some spots with assorted toys and Lego-style blocks to use for building.

There is a cafe with a surprisingly detailed menu (not just pizza and wings, but pretzels, fried fish, fries, and more are available) and it all actually tastes quite good. We loved visiting the Smiley Indoor Playground and Arcade, it was immense fun for Clarkson and us! He had a stellar time climbing, jumping, and navigating everything. If you get out to Indianapolis and have some small children (or those of any age are welcome in the arcade area) give the Smiley Center a visit!

5 out of 5 stars.

Tuesday, July 27, 2021

Hilton's Tru Hotel Brand is Weird

On the way back from visiting my folks in Upstate New York we stopped at a hotel. It was part of the Hilton line but was a, "Tru," hotel. Found in Cleveland, Ohio, the building is the one pictured above. It was weird.

Tru hotels are designed to appeal to Millenials who are tech-savvy, at least as far as text written about the brand goes. The lobbies are full of couches and chairs so everyone can hang out and work in an open space, which is fine if you want that, I suppose. The rooms are really small, all the soaps and shampoos are dispensed from tubes that reminded me a bit of the kind you see in your bathroom on cruise ships. I didn't like that but my wife thought it was convenient. There is a hot breakfast but it was minimal. The bed had odd stains and I mentioned it without demanding any kind of reimbursement, but they immediately said there was nothing they could do anyways as I used Booking.com, so I was unable to get any kind of financial refund. The whole experience was just odd. Other folks have written about not being big on Tru either. Apparently, people either love it or hate at Tru. I think, "Hate," would be a strong word for me, but 2 out of 5 stars sums up my thoughts on Tru hotels. As a relatively tech-savvy Millenial, I didn't feel that appealed to, so maybe I'm just a grouchy old dude at heart.

Monday, July 26, 2021

Let's Review the First Issue of the New, "Moon Knight," Comic

Marvel has relaunched a new Moon Knight comic as it's been a smidgen since he last a had series, that Disney+ show is on the horizon, and because Moon Knight is just plain awesome. The character has had some stellar runs and some terrible ones, so I wondered what we'd be getting with this latest debut. Having read the first issue, I'm quite pleased.

The writer of, "Moon Knight," for this run is Jed Mackay who has been doing stellar work on a variety of titles including, "Black Cat." Art is provided by Alessandro Cappuccio. This is their Marvel debut, having done other comics such as, "Power Rangers," for BOOM! Studios. To bring everything together nicely, Steve McNiven provides the ,"A," covers and has really brought his, "A," game, if you'll excuse my terrible pun. Anyways, I know Mackay's writing so I had optimism in that regard and I looked into Cappuccio's artwork and thought it could be snazzy too. I was right to be hopeful as this #1 does a lovely job introducing new readers to Moon Knight and giving us big fans plenty to chew on too.

Basically, Moon Knight now is offering his services to those in need during the nighttime in any part of the city he marks as being under his protection. You can call him or stop by an office. By day he talks with a therapist the Avengers requested to serve him. The recent (awful) arc of Avengers he popped up in is acknowledged briefly (where he was pretty out of character and tried to steal a bunch of other heroes powers to help Khonsu take over the World...it was odd), but the main focus is on the contradictions he lives with. 

He's Jewish and serves an Egyptian God. He was arguably a war crime-committing mercenary for hire who turned into a hero. He has mental illness but also has dealt with actual supernatural and superpowered elements that would sound insane except for actually existing within the Marvel Universe. Whether he's getting therapy or fighting monsters during the nighttime it all looks gorgeous with Cappuccio's art and the dialogue flows wonderfully under Mackay's pen.

This is Moon Knight as I like him. With some dry humor but not outright trying to be funny (the Bemis run attempted to be quite comedic and was terrible). A little brutal and willing to go further than other heroes but still not a villain or anti-hero to the degree someone like the Punisher is. We get some hints of new future conflicts (an individual named Hunter's Moon is clearly going to be in disagreement with Moon Knight) and I am just happy to be reading a Moon Knight comic I enjoy again after--as I mentioned--the mess that was the last run by Bemis, a writer I actually usually enjoy. If this first issue is anything to go by, we're in for a wildly fun ride with this run of, "Moon Knight." Now I just have to hope it goes for a good long while!

5 out of 5 stars.

Sunday, July 25, 2021

Late July 2021 News and Links

 

Ending July With Some News of Interest


As we near the end of July let's close out the month in style with some quality news stories I thought were interesting enough to curate and share with you all.

Things to Read/Watch/Etc.

Our 2020 Summer Olympics have kicked off in 2021 (you know, because COVID-19 shut everything down), and as someone who enjoys watching assorted people excel beyond what seems physically possible at varying activities, I'll be tuning in when able.

The, "Bachelor/Bachelorette," franchise has stumbled a bit despite being the OG of dating shows in many ways. Streaming networks have seized upon the opportunity to provide their own programs all about finding love (or at least having a good shag).

John Carpenter has made some damn fine films. "Escape From New York," is now 40 and still relevant as ever.

MF Doom, who passed last year, has been honored with a street being named after him. He continues to be missed.

There has been some discussion about the film, "Luca," and if the characters within it are/could be gay. Faefyx Collington wrote about how it, "...may not be a gay narrative, but it's absolutely a queer one."

It amuses me a bit that, "Kaiju Score," was optioned before even the first issue came out and it just got a little buzz. Then, a tiny bit more news came out discussing some writers being attached to script it, the ever-popular Key Collector Comics app mentioned that, and speculation went crazy simply because the app talked about it. Shows how KCC has a lot of fans. I myself find it handy and have blogged about it before.

Ales Kot is a writer I've always greatly enjoyed the work of. He kind of took a break for a bit but has been writing stuff again and will actually be doing a, "Gunslinger Spawn," comic. Cowritten with Todd McFarlane, and featuring an assortment of artists, seeing Kot is involved has me intrigued.

A Robocop-themed game sounds like it could be fun if it remembers its satirical roots and does something clever with the concept. Whether, "Robocop: Rogue City," will do that and hopefully have fun gameplay or fail to utilize what makes the series special will probably determine whether it succeeds or fails.

To close on some other video-game news, as someone who enjoys crane games, a virtual one where you collect fish that are then released back into the ocean just sounds adorable. The name is cute too, "Clawfish."

Enjoy the rest of July and the Start of August

I hope you have a nice rest of July and for some of you, August will mark the start of the school year (some folks don't start till early September). August also may be a month that is incredibly hot in your region (or cold, for my readers South of the Equator). I just hope this month concludes in a pleasant manner for you and we all enjoy the kicking-off of August in a bit.

Saturday, July 24, 2021

Visit These Comics Shops if you Get Out to Central New York

I live in the Saint Louis region, but as longtime readers of my blog may recall, I used to live in Upstate New York AKA Central New York AKA the region where the cows outnumber the humans. It had been a while since we were able to visit my family but we were just recently able to do so. When we had some free time I was able to stop by some fantastic comic stores. Some I've maybe mentioned before, others are new (at least in terms of me discussing them). Should you get to the upper-central area of NY you should give these places a visit!

Central NY Comic Shops (in Alphabetical Order) to Visit:

Comics for Collectors

Comics for Collectors used to be at one end of the Ithaca Commons, but about two years ago moved to the opposite side. The owner, Tim, is a fantastic guy full of knowledge about comics. There is a wide assortment of new releases, a good chunk of back issues, and plenty of hardcovers and trades to explore as well. The shop is celebrating its 40th anniversary this year and may it have many more!

Heroes and Villains

Found in Cortland--smack dab between Ithaca and Syracuse. Heroes and Villains is located with other businesses in the old Cortland Corset building that was retrofitted to fit an assortment of snazzy stores, "Heroes and Villains," was on the first floor but now is on the second of the big former factory. The owners are extremely nice and there is a good selection of current releases, trades, and back issues to enjoy digging through. Should you need magic cards or the like they carry those too!

Larger than Life Toys and Comics

I discovered Larger Than Life Toys and Comics when my family took a trip during the day to the Syracuse Mall/Carasouel Mall/Destiny USA/Whatever you want to call it. They have another location in Clay, New York, as well that is probably cool as this location was awesome! There are tons of vintage and newer toys, Funko Pops, and shortbox upon shortbox full of back issues you could inspect. I didn't have a ton of time to check the store out while there, but what I did see was stellar. Next time I'm in town you know I'm gonna do a deep-dive on those older issues!

Friday, July 23, 2021

"Max Payne," is 20 Years Old

I've always been a fan of the, "Max Payne," series. Three games in total--the first two developed by Remedy and the 3rd by Rockstar--they each had their charms. For my money, the 2nd one was the best, but the first is still a grand time. It is now 20 years old, believe it or not.

An over-the-top story about a cop fighting a big conspiracy, "Max Payne," is drenched in a noir tone. It is full of, "Bullet time," where you leap and drive in slow-motion while shooting your gun, and is possibly best known for Payne's angrily scrunched-up face that was provided by developer Sam Lake. It inspired an incredibly poor movie and, as I mentioned, had some stellar sequels. As far as I know, we shouldn't expect any more games with Payne anytime soon, but what we got was snazzy indeed.

Thursday, July 22, 2021

A New, "Luke Cage," Comic? Yes, Please!

Marvel announced today the first new, "Luke Cage," comic in a while. It is a three-issue mini-series titled, "Luke Cage: City of Fire." It sounds like it won't hesitate to be topical and features Luke working with the hero he teams up with the most besides Iron Fist, Daredevil. Here's the blurb:

"In the new series, a shadowy rogue group named the Regulators are terrorizing ordinary citizens in New York City, and Luke Cage is called to action when a Black man in his community is murdered by a crooked police officer. Cage quickly crosses paths with Daredevil, who is determined to bring down the Regulators no matter the cost, but Mayor Fisk is equally determined to use them to tighten his grip on the city. There is unrest in the streets, and it’s up to Cage to keep the city from going up in flames."

I keep forgetting Wilson Fisk somehow became Mayor of New York City in the comics (I think J. Jonah Jameson was mayor at one point too some years ago). Creator Ho Che Anderson is making his Marvel, "Debut," writing this comic and the artists will change issue-per-issue which will either be really cool or disorienting if other comics that have done that trick in the past are any indicator. I'm just excited to be getting a new Luke Cage comic and bet Anderson and the group of artists will make something pretty snazzy.

Wednesday, July 21, 2021

"Skull and Bones," Has an Even More Troubled Development Than Suspected

Back in 2020, I discussed how, "Skull and Bones," was a video-game that seemed to be in development Hell. Little did I suspect just how bad things really were as a new and lengthy article from Kotaku breaks down. Written by Ethan Gack, the piece has quotes from many (anonymous) developers discussing a title that seems to lack any clear focus, is millions of dollars in the hole, and has basically nothing to show for years of work--so much would get made then scrapped. The phrase, "Running around in a loop," is used to describe development. The developer, Ubisoft, has had lots of controversies over the years about staff mistreatment and sexual harassment, so this is yet another problem for the conglomerate.

"Skull and Bones," may eventually take shape into a playable and enjoyable game. It may even be awesome if it does finally come out. Right now though? Things are just rough. It's a shame as pirate games can be pretty fun when done well.

Tuesday, July 20, 2021

AdHouse Books is Shutting Down and Will be Missed

AdHouse Books is the publisher owned by Chris Pitzer and it has put out some fantastic comics over the years. Chris has announced that AdHouse is closing for an assortment of reasons and he's ready to move onto other things. I totally understand this even if it makes me sad as AdHouse released some phenomenal works. I wish Chris the best and will hold a fond spot in my heart for AdHouse.

Monday, July 19, 2021

"Kane and Able," is a Mind-Bending Mix of Comics from Two Wild Creators

I've been a fan of Shaky Kane for some time and am a bit less familiar with Krent Able but like what I have seen of his work. The two recently teamed up to create a two-man anthology in the form of, "Kane and Able." Published by Image comics, it is utterly insane and delightful.

"Kane and Able," features stories about the, "Shield Bug," which seems to riff a lot on the history of comics in general, includes a story about monster-men who patrol the, "Creepzone," and has my favorite story, "Black Fur," which features a jetpack-riding bear that fights a strange humanoid cockroach that creates flesh monsters from humans in a weirdly self-aware short story. Kane and Able are two different creators but have styles that complement each other well. Kane is a bit more geometric and abstract at times, Able goes for a hyperdetailed look that can be suitably gorgeous or gross (those flesh monsters are impressively nasty).

"Kane and Able," is a nice big oversized comic in its physical dimensions and page count of 72--it has a spine to it too so it is more of an original graphic novel than just a big ol' comic. Whatever you call it, it is a treat. The bigger pages really let the amazing art and surreal storytelling breathe. Cain and Abel did not do so well as brothers in the bible but Kane and Able make a great team in the field of comics.

5 out of 5 stars.

Sunday, July 18, 2021

Valve Announced a Handheld Computer Gaming Device--The Steam Deck

Back in January of 2020, I observed how there were rumors of companies making handheld computers that were designed to be kind of like the Nintendo Swtich or just outright ripped it off. It is now 2021 and Valve just recently unveiled the Steam Deck. The Steam Deck is designed to connect to Valve's online computer gaming store (the biggest one in the market for digital games) which is known, of course, as Steam. Many companies that utilize Steam are down for being a part of this device and its prices will vary from the competitive-with-a-Switch $399 to more fancy models that'll run you cool 650 smackers. A portable gaming PC you play like a handheld sounds intriguing. I'll be keeping my eye on the Steam Deck and think that Valve's influence in gaming definitely gives them enough power to maybe have this thing succeed.

Saturday, July 17, 2021

The Heroes for Kids Comic-Con Was Great Fun!

I attended the Heroes for Kids Comic-Con today and had a fantastic time! Heroes for Kids is a nonprofit and they held this con to raise funds and give everyone a great time. I went down to Perryville with my good friend Greg and we had a stellar time seeing old friends, making new ones, and (obviously) buying comics.

One of the first people I met and really enjoyed talking with was Eric of PJ Comics. I bought some cool stuff from him including a, "Batman," #6 from the New 52 era with beautiful Greg Capullo artwork and a, "Secret Invasion," #1 second printing variant cover (ya'll know love snazzy variants). I also met Ethan from E&A Comix who had an assortment of cool stuff (including some stellar, "Daredevil," issues from the Bendis and Maleev run). I bought some cool, "Avengers," comics from Red Brick Collectibles as well. I checked out some laser-etched items by Mr. Laser which were snazzy, saw my friend Justin of Wayne Kent Comics, and saw the always-delightful Bruce Reynolds. He had a bunch of comics for sale! Bruce was kind enough to let me snap a pic of him with a chunk of his wares:

I proceeded to meet some really cool creators. I met sci-fi and fantasy author Jason J. Nugent, chatted with author and artist Chely Penn who had some really snazzy prints for sale, and had the pleasure of meeting the author and cartographer Ellie Mack--she can custom make maps for RPGs and such! I talked with author Molly Daniels as well. Then I met the folks behind Russxplode Studios who had a fun book called, "Xenonanite Titan!" I met Lacye Lembcke, one of the creators of the cartoon Dope Bunny and Clive. I saw my friend, author J.E. Nelson (we had just chatted at Toyman last week too), and met artist Breanna Horneker. I had the pleasure of meeting author Ellie Mack and learned about her cool book, "The Awakening." I also saw Bradley Potts, who I've written about before, selling his awesome comic, "Stalker."

Before heading out in the afternoon, Greg and I watched a fun cosplay parade (a pic of some of the lineup is above) and I had some coffee from Villainous Grounds--a shop in Perryville that sells comics and coffee! The Heroes for Kids Comic-Con was a real treat to attend and I already can't wait for the next one in 2022!

Friday, July 16, 2021

Biz Markie Has Passed

Biz Markie was a cool dude. He passed today at the age of 57. He had battled health complications from Type 2 Diabetes for years. Best known for the song, "Just a Friend," he had many other awesome songs, with, "Vapors," being a favorite of mine. Whether he was rapping, beatboxing, or half-singing he just always seemed so happy and enthusiastic. He'll be missed.

Thursday, July 15, 2021

"Something is Killing the Children," gets a Spin-Off Comic, "House of Slaughter."

The comic, "Something is Killing the Children," has been a huge hit. It follows a lady named Erica Slaughter who fights monsters that, well, kill children. I don't love the series as much as some other stuff written by James Tynion IV, but it is interesting. The book has gone bonkers in terms of everyone wanting to get earlier issues and the new ones coming out sell like hotcakes. An option with Netflix was just announced as well. A spin-off was revealed today, "House of Slaughter," and the press release hints it might be the first spin-off of many. 

"House of Slaughter," focuses on another character in the main comic, Aaron Slaughter (everyone comes from a mysterious group hence the shared last names) back when he was younger. It's probably going to get a ton of orders considering how huge, "Something is Killing the Children," has become. I like a lot of Tynion's stuff so I'm just happy his comics are doing well--for my money, "The Department of Truth," is the best thing he's currently putting out though.

Wednesday, July 14, 2021

"To Be a Brave Scout," is a Charming Comic About Exploring Nature

I've been on the mailing list for the indie comic publisher Rotopol for some years now. They always put out fantastic comics and the latest one, "To Be a Brave Scout," is stellar as well. Written and drawn by Julia Kluge, it is a faux-guidebook of sorts about exploring nature. It doesn't break down species of birds or how to identify plants, however. Instead, "To Be a Brave Scout," focuses on discussing how to have a love of nature and enjoy being in it.

As someone who isn't too great in the outdoors themselves (I like air conditioning and other creature comforts), I admire those who can spend hours (or days) outside in nature, even if I can't. "To Be a Brave Scout," expresses a deep love of nature and its power as it tells readers, "Brave scouts are friends to all mushrooms," and, "Sometimes brave scouts go into a forest and leave their sadness there." The book has funny surreal twists too, such as a page that warns," Be aware of passing the borders of space and time," and shows an outdoor explorer running into a dinosaur. Kluge clearly has a strong sense of humor and it shows in her writing and the artwork, and what amazing artwork it is!

Kluge's illustrative style is full of abstract shapes and colors that somehow combine in a miraculous fashion to give us recognizable shapes and people--while still managing to maintain a strange and intriguing appearance. Whether she's giving us anthropomorphic flowers or drawing a lovely night sky, Kluge's illustrations are amazing and a treat to witness as you turn each page. The witty writing and gorgeous art combine to produce a fantastic comic.

"To Be a Brave Scout," is a superb comic for anyone who loves nature (or at least respects it from indoors such as yours truly), enjoys clever writing, or wants to mesh themselves in some gorgeous artwork. I wholeheartedly recommend you order it from your comic shop, bookstore, or Rotopol's website.

5 out of 5 stars.

Tuesday, July 13, 2021

It's Okay to Play Games on the Easiest Mode

As this article by John Walker at Kotaku discusses, it is perfectly fine to play games on the easiest mode possible. This is an opinion Microsoft has backed up and the video-game developer Double Fine has shared they believe in as well. For some reason the past number of years the big thing seemed to be playing games on the hardest difficulty and pulling off near-impossible feats (like not getting damaged once) or else you weren't, "Good," at the game. I'd say as long as you're having fun you're playing the game right and perfectly skilled at it. I am pleased to see that assertation getting more love these days. If a game having an easier setting enables more people to effectively play it that is a good thing, why such an idea would be controversial escapes me. Play a game at whatever difficulty level you're comfortable with and have a grand time. That's all there is to it.

Monday, July 12, 2021

I'm Excited for the Heroes for Kids Comic-Con This Saturday

For a while, there were no comic shows. Now a bunch are happening and I couldn't be happier! This Saturday will have the latest, "Heroes for Kids Comic-Con," held by the nonprofit organization, Heroes for Kids. Heroes for Kids is all about, "...bringing together costumed heroes, law enforcement, firefighters, and military to bring smiles to kids' faces and bolstering community relations." It'll run from 10AM-6PM and be in the Perry Park Center at 800 City Park Lane (Perryville, Missouri). Tickets are $5 per person and there will be cool guests as seen above as well as plenty of vendors and creators of cool stuff. I am excited to go and encourage you to attend as well if you're able!

Sunday, July 11, 2021

The Toyman Show Returned Today and it Was Glorious!

It'd been a while since the last Toyman show due to the entire World shutting down with the COVID-19 pandemic (which is still ongoing but a lot better as more and more people get vaccinated). Therefore, I was extremely eager to attend the Toyman show today! It did not disappoint, with tons of merchants, creators, and plenty of my friends I was eager to see after quite a long while. My chum John Chaffee of Bigfoot Comics and Toys was present, as was the always funny Spike Forester from Lost in Space Toys & Collectibles. I ran into my friend Brian Lan who was selling a lot of cool stuff and we talked about how glad we were 2020 was over. Phil and his awesome Comic Grind bus were present too, and I was able to trade some stuff and a bit of cash for this awesome, "Thor," #337 with the first appearance of Beta Ray Bill:
Tom from Alliance Comics, Toys, & Games had a variety of cool books--I bought a very fairly priced, "Spawn," #1 from him. Also as the show was Heroes for Kids, who actually have their own convention coming up on the 17th--I'll be posting more about that soon. The talented J.E. Nelson was present and we talked about how it was a bit tricky to get back in the swing of going to a show, but we felt we were all doing okay. Also, I ran into my good friend and author Jessica Mathews who had all her previous books for sale as well as the latest one, "Chicken Noodle Soup." I bought a copy to read to Clarkson and she was kind enough to sign it! She also included a bookmark and a cute little toy chicken:
I've only named some of the folks at the show. There were tons more selling everything from Lego, to Funko Pops, die-cast cars, movies, and basically anything cool you can think of. I loved going to the Toyman show today and I would 100% encourage you to attend the next one on August 29th. It is such a fantastic event and I never fail to find something exciting!

Saturday, July 10, 2021

CCG to Grade Video-Games

CCG is the parent company of CGC--the folk who grade comic-books, posters, and other stuff. I've always had mixed feelings about putting a comic book in a slab because then you can't read it. I don't mind that too much if you want to preserve a unique or valuable comic as one cool thing is you can usually find a reader copy, read it in a trade paperback, or find an online copy on a (legal) site/service. Video-game grading though...I really don't get much. We play games, why trap the cartridge/disc in a case to never be played? I guess if you have a digital version it makes some sense as you can still play it, but as much as I occasionally struggle with comic grading, I really have trouble grasping video-game grading. Some agencies already exist that do it, and now CCG is getting in the game too (pun intended).

CCG is hiring a bunch of professional video-game graders to launch a new game-grading service. You know, because the company isn't backed up enough in some of their services (comic grading is really delayed lately due to an influx in submissions with comics getting even hotter these past years). While CCG's comic grading company, CGC, is the most respected comic grading company around (with CBCS in a close second), I don't know how easy it will be to break into the video-game grading biz. We'll know soon enough how this goes.

Friday, July 9, 2021

Film Friday: Black Widow

On Thursday night I did something I hadn't done for nearly two years. I saw a movie in a theater. Like, an actual movie theater. I felt comfortable doing so as I've been fully vaccinated and the theater was only half full (not due to any rules, but because Thursdays are not as huge for movies as the weekend). I saw, "Black Widow," with my brother-in-law, Kyle, and we both enjoyed it!

"Black Widow," serves as a prequel of sorts, focusing on the time right after, "Captain America: Civil War," where Nathasha (Scarlet Johansson) was on the run for going against the Sokovia Accords that made heroes need to register and be official government agents. The fact this all takes place before things got quite real in the, "Infinity War/Endgame," movies does have some folks asking, "Why does this movie matter if we already know what happens to Black Widow later on?" but my counter-argument to that is what do any of these movies matter? They exist to entertain us and I was indeed entertained by, "Black Widow." Also, without spoiling anything I will say it clearly sets up future characters to be important in upcoming Marvel flicks.

As I said, "Black Widow," is a bit of a prequel, focusing on how Natasha and a younger black Widow--Yelena Belova (a fantastic Florence Pugh)--take down the evil Red Room which trains future Black Widows who are young girls that are abandoned/kidnapped/bought and made into assassins. On the way to this conclusion of finding the Red Room, we get a lot of, "Family," drama as Natasha and Yelena quarrel along with father-figure Alexei (the former Red Guardian who is played hilariously by David Harbour) showing-up to bring some levity. Between the arguments and fights with agents from the Red Room, everything moves along briskly and I found myself consistently engaged with the flick.

If I had one major gripe with, "Black Widow," it would be that it has yet another villain who is utterly wasted--Taskmaster. In the comics Taskmaster is a man named Tony Masters who is a fascinatingly ruthless and at times hilarious character thanks to his wisecracks. Black Widow takes the character of Taskmaster, gives them a generic outfit, and renders Taskmaster basically completely silent. The, "Gimmick," of being able to copy all the moves of various heroes that are studied remains, but everything else is different. Taskmaster isn't a mercenary-for-hire, they work for the Red Room doing, "Special projects," and besides some cool fighting moves I just feel using Taskmaster in this movie was pointless.

"Black Widow," is not the best Marvel movie ever, but it is good fun. Besides being yet another Marvel movie with a forgettable villain it excels at mixing drama, action, and throws in a solid dash of humor. In other words, it's another standard Marvel movie. Even if you're worried it doesn't, "Matter," much you should give it a chance, it's a good time.

4 out of 5 stars.

Funko Friday: I Want This, "Loki," Funko Pop

Okay, so a spoiler warning if you haven't seen the most recent episodes of Loki, but he met a bunch of variants of himself and one happened to be an alligator. This was hilarious and resulted in some great moments. It has been announced there will be a Funko Pop of the Alligator Loki (Alloki?) and I don't collect nearly as many Funko Pops these days but I do think I want this. I mean, just look at it up there--it's adorable! Expect it in stores sooner than later and expect me to probably buy one!

Thursday, July 8, 2021

"Vax That Thing Up," is the Remix I Didn't Know We Needed but I'm Glad We Have

Juvenile and Manny Fresh have made a number of hits songs. One big one that saw them working together was, "Back that Azz Up," or if you were listening to the clean version, "Back that Thang Up." It was a fun ditty and I still enjoy hearing it on the radio. Well, decades later here is the remix you didn't know you needed but should treasure now that it is here. I'm talking about, "Vax that Thang Up." I know I get mad when Summer has barely started and people declare something, "The Song of the Summer," but this remix that is honestly more of a parody-meets-PSA than anything else actually really slaps. Give it a listen/watch below:

We get the return of Juvenile, Mannie Fresh, and Mia X joins too for some lyrics encouraging everyone to get vaccinated so it is safer to go party and have sex again. This all came about thanks to the dating app BLK which is a dating app geared towards black people. The app wanted to encourage vaccines as, "Black adults under age 40 are the most likely group to avoid the Covid-19 vaccination, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Distrust of doctors and government, less access to vaccination centers, and online misinformation each play a role," and BLK wants you to get the shot and then go smash someone you met on their app, basically. 

To quote Juvenile, "I just wanted to do something positive for my people...We don’t know what we’re facing right now but we really do all need to be vaccinated so we can continue to do our thing and survive." I'm just happy to see music artists encouraging us to be safe when other ones out there liked to deny COVID-19 even existed up to the point it infected them (perennial dumbass Ted Nugent). Anyways, as the song goes, "Vax that Thang Up," if you haven't already, everyone!

Wednesday, July 7, 2021

Nintendo Announced a Switch With a Bigger Screen and Everyone Shrugged

It seems like for a while now the hot rumor has been Nintendo is working on a successor to the Switch. Nothing was announced at E3, to the surprise of many. Well, now I can report that Nintendo has announced...a new Switch model with a bigger and nicer screen. If I had told this to a big crowd you could probably hear the crickets and yawns that metaphorically greeted this announcement. It is a bigger screen and it is OLED instead of LCD. That's basically it. The little detachable controllers work with this model the same as others, it has expandable memory, it is the same Switch we are all familiar with, it just has a slightly bigger screen. I'm sure it'll look nice, but one wonders when Nintendo may reveal the more interesting stuff they're cooking up. We'll have to wait and see.

Tuesday, July 6, 2021

Television Tuesday: "Big Brother," and, "Love Island," Premiere Tomorrow

I love watching trashy reality television and two shows I am quite fond of premiere tomorrow on CBS. The latest seasons of, "Big Brother," and, "Love Island," will be launching! "Big Brother," is the reality show where everyone is stuck in a house for some months and plots against each other to win money while Love Island is the U.S. version of the show (it originated in the UK) where everyone is stuck on an island and plots to have sex with one another. Both shows are wonderfully silly and a great way to relax after a long day. Check your local listings for what time the shows start and then engulf yourself in some junk food for the brain.

Monday, July 5, 2021

"The Union," by Paul Grist and Andrea Di Vito Deserved More Attention

"The Union," was a fun comic by Paul Grist and Andrea Di Vito that received almost no attention. This was odd as Grist is a popular writer and artist. He has done some fantastic less-than-mainstream work, with this mini being a relatively rare example of work for either of, "The big two." Focused on a team of heroes from the United Kingdom dealing with Brexit as well as the latest huge Marvel event, it was solicited at first to tie in with, "Empyre," but a lot of tie-ins for that were derailed by the comic distribution shutdown COVID-19 caused. It was seemingly canceled, but then came back with a solicitation linking it up with Marvel's big, "King in Black," event. The earlier issues heavily utilized, "King in Black," but then the comic went off to tell its own interesting tale.

Focused on an assemblage of known, lesser-known, and (I think) outright new heroes from the UK, we watched as the latest Union Jack struggled to keep a team together through death, destruction, and messy politics. It was a lovely read and considering the talent involved (again, Grist is great and Di Vito is a fantastic artist too), it was odd how little an impact, "The Union," made. Perhaps the fact it started as a tie-in to an event that was pretty mediocre sunk it? I don't know as you honestly could read, "The Union," and skip, "King in Black," as long as you have a general understanding it involves an evil Symbiote God who wants to destroy Earth with darkness caused by symbiote goo.

My favorite twist is how one seemingly main character--and the heart of the team--Britannia, is killed in the first issue by the invading symbiotes and then the rest of the series examines the fallout of what it means when the person who is also a symbol that stands for everything you love about your country is suddenly gone. That sounds very dark and dreary, but, "The Union," works in a lot of humor as well (I loved the Corgi). It is just a great read and you should check, "The Union," out regardless of your interest in, "King in Black," or Marvel in general as stands out nicely as just a stellar little mini-series.

5 out of 5 stars.

Sunday, July 4, 2021

Have a Safe and Fun July 4th!

Last year it wasn't really possible to do much in the way of celebrating July 4th due to COVID-19. I am thankful that this year many people are vaccinated (and hopefully more will be soon) and it is safer to gather a bit and celebrate our Nation's independence. I hope anyone using fireworks is careful and if you drink a bunch you are sure to have a designated driver/Uber/Lyft/etc. Oh, and to all my friends in countries besides America, I hope you have a pleasant regular ol' Sunday.

Saturday, July 3, 2021

Six Months After Release, "Cyberpunk 2077," Is Considered Playable

You should not release a game you feel is mostly unplayable. the developer Cj Projekt Red had a team that felt, "Cyberpunk 2077," was nowhere near ready to come out. It was released in December of 2020 and was an utter buggy mess. Even with those concerns, it was my favorite game of 2020 as I had a lot of fun playing it in the month of December--more fun than anything else that year, warts and all. Still, it was a mess. Now we are six months out from release and...we're being told the game is finally in a state resembling being ready for the market. At this point CD Projek Red is happy to report is can stop trying to fix all the countless issues and actually focus on adding fun things to the game. Yah?

I mean, it is great, "Cyberpunk 2077," now resembles something like a playable game in the eyes of the company that made it, but that's a bum deal for lots of folks who eagerly bought it and were less forgiving of the countless issues than myself. At least it works better now and perhaps they can have some of that promised free downloadable content feature Jackie. He was an awesome character who gets far too little time in the game with you.

Friday, July 2, 2021

Flashback Friday: OutKast Edition Volume 7: Idlewild


Intro

How do you follow something like, "Speakerboxx/The Love Below," after it utterly demolishes the sales charts, award shows, and finds its songs filling the airwaves? If you're OutKast you put out your final album, a companion of sorts to a film. Just like the film, it is enjoyable but flawed. It is, Idlewild."

Idlewild

"Idlewild," is not exactly a movie soundtrack or a standalone album. As I said, it serves as a companion to the decent flick, "Idlewild," which features the acting talents of Big Boi and Andre (they both do a solid job) as well as other skilled thespians like Terrence Howard, Cicely Tyson, Ving Rhames, and more. The album has some interludes with scenes from the film and the film itself has some songs from, "Idlewild," and other OutKast albums so the LP or flick are both fun if you're an OutKast fan. The album itself is still one of the best things to come out when it was released in 2006 because even a so-so OutKast album is better than 99% of other stuff.

The opening song after the intro, "The Mighty O," features Andre talking more about being tired of rap (a running theme by this point), Big Boi skillfully dropping bars too, and is a great start. A bit like, "Speakerboxx/The Love Below," a good deal of time has the duo doing songs separate from one another--again, it was clear OutKast was fracturing at this point. For example, another early-album song, "Idlewild Blue (Don'tchu Worry 'Bout Me)," is all Andre, doing some bluesy singing and it's great fun, just more of a solo work than an OutKast track, per se. Some tracks later is the stellar, "Morris Brown," with Big Boi, Scar, and Sleepy Brown as well as some fantastic horns blaring aloud. Andre returns after that with, '"Chronomentrophobia," discussing a fear of how time keeps passing and it has him looking back on life. 

We get, "Hollywood Divorce," mid-album and it is a real treat. We get both of OutKast, Lil' Wayne, and Snoop Dogg discussing how success is like a toxic relationship as Hollywood and the entertainment industry uses you up and then tosses you aside. It's probably my favorite track on the LP. Unfortunately, after that nothing much really grabs me for the remaining 13 tracks of songs and skits (this is a 25 track album, it is stuffed). "Makes no Sense at All," is okay, as is, "In Your Dreams," but the rest of the album just fails to really grab me, and then it ends on a weird super-slow song that is the worst on the whole album, "A Bad Note." Then that was kind of it for OutKast in terms of full albums. Big Boi has done some great solo LPs, Andre has acted in a variety of films and programs, and they sometimes have teamed up for a great track--"International Players Anthem (I Choose You)," is lovely. After, "Idlewild," OutKast was basically done, however.

Conclusion

OutKast made seven albums (six if you don't count the kinda-sorta compilation LP). Some were utter masterpieces, some weren't that but still damn good. OutKast is my favorite music group of all time and as Ron Funches said--to some controversy--even better than the Beatles. I hope you all have enjoyed this segment as much as I did revisiting some great music.