Thursday, September 30, 2021

Attention Readers: I Need Your Help so I Can Sell on Whatnot Sooner Rather Than Later!

Asking a Favor

Hello, my dear readers! I'm good to you, aren't I? I always compliment how smart and good-looking you all are, after all. I sometimes do giveaways, I entertain you, all that jazz. Might I ask some of you for a favor? Yes? Wonderful!

You all may recall I wrote previously about enjoying using the Whatnot app. Well, I have the opportunity to sell on it but have been placed on a waitlist as tons of people apply. If I can show I have a strong following I can be approved a bit faster to sell. This would allow me to do weird little live shows where I can sell my cool comics and crack awful jokes in the most awkward manner possible. I have 10 people following me on Whatnot and need 100 or more. This is where you all come in.

"David, get to the point!" I can hear you yelling at your computer/phone. Well, if you don't have Whatnot, I would recommend trying it out. If you do, you can follow these simple steps to assist me in getting approved by following me. Plus, if you do that you'll be alerted when I'm, "Live," and such (if you want) once I am allowed to do shows. Anyways:

Steps to Follow Me on Whatnot

1.Log into your Whatnot app. It should look like the above picture for the most part. Click the search button.

2. In the search box you type, "thenewestrant," and then make sure you click, "Users," to see me.

3. Once you see my handsome mug click on me.

4. Upon going to my profile instead of the, "Share," button I see you will see that you can, "Follow," me. Smash that button down and you'll have done me a solid, dear reader!


Let's get me approved for Whatnot and I can guarantee my shows will be off-kilter and strange along with having cool comics that you'll probably want for great prices as I'm always buying/selling/trading!

A, "Grand Theft Auto Remastered Trilogy," Seems Due Soon and Thinking Back on Those Games Makes Me Feel Old

We may never get, "Grand Theft Auto 6," anytime soon, but the online mode of GTA 5 remains popular. That, and we can always revisit the older games (the good and bad of them) with even more ease soon as it seems a trilogy of, "Grand Theft Auto 3," "Grand Theft Auto Vice City," and, "Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas," will be released soon with some nice little remastered touches.

This news makes me feel old when I think about these games because the other day I realized an interesting fact. Basically, "Grand Theft Auto Vice City," was released in 2002 and takes place in 1986. That's a 16-year difference. That means if we were to make a throwback GTA game today set the same amount of time in the past do you want to know when it would be set? 2005. That makes me feel freaking ancient. The fact I'm close to yelling at kids to get off my lawn aside, it might be fun to play some, "Vintage," GTA with (hopefully) some updates here-and-there that makes the older game a tad prettier and modernizes the controls a bit.

Wednesday, September 29, 2021

I Recently Discovered the Strangest Cover of, "Trap Queen," Ever and Love it!

Think back to 2015. It was a simpler time. We all were sure Hillary Clinton would beat Donald Trump in the election, everyone used Facebook to argue over the color of a dress as opposed to if a pandemic killing millions was, "Real," and the song, "Trap Queen," by Fetty Wap was a monster of a hit. The song was just absurdly catchy and I was a fan even if the lyrics were relatively vapid examples of a man just rapping about a lady he likes to make drugs with when they aren't having sex. Well, in 2021 I discovered a cover from back then that is absolutely weird and amazing. Here's a music video:
Yes, "Trap Queen," has a piano cover by Kurt Hugo Schneider with singing by Josh Levi. These two take the song and make it sound like a gentle and emotional love ballad. Levi sings with such conviction the lyrics suddenly seem like they have a lot deeper meaning (even if they don't) and KHS is just amazing as he plays those keys with fiery determination. This cover came out at the height of popularity for, "Trap Queen," but it took me until 2021 when I was looking for random covers of songs I like to discover KHS and Josh Levi's superb cover. This just goes to show if you have the right music artist you can turn a song into anything. I mean, if, "Gin and Juice," can have a bluegrass version and, "Trap Queen," can be this beautiful ballad then it is only a matter of time until someone makes a punk rock version of Juvenile's hit, "Back that Azz Up." Wait, they did what? Wow.

Tuesday, September 28, 2021

The Jewish Brigade is a Fantastic Piece of Historical Fiction!

I love history and I love fiction so obviously, I enjoy historical fiction. "The Jewish Brigade," is a new trade paperback published by Dead Reckoning and written as well as illustrated by the single-named creator Marvano. It is a fantastic piece of historical fiction as it takes the very real Jewish Brigade that was formed by the UK in the later years of World War II and proceeds a tell a fictional story of some imaginary members within it.

The Jewish Brigade fought against the Nazis in Italy and also had some members who went around other parts of the nation in search of Nazis who had fled after committing atrocities via the Holocaust so they could hunt them down to answer for their crimes--something one character takes issue with (even if vengeance is deserved, is it morally right) while another feels it is perfectly just. "The Jewish Brigade," faces the horrors of war head-on, touching upon the nightmares of the Nazi death camps, how the formation of Israel was controversial politically and led to its own war, and basically wonders if we can ever truly achieve peace when the human race seems determined to wipe itself out over our differences in race, religion, and so forth. There is an element of hope amongst all the sorrow, and Marvano shows how even if there will always be battles fought in our Nation, there will be those willing to do what is right to help others.

Marvano illustrates everything expertly, not shying away from the ugliest elements of war and laying it all bare for us to witness in its nasty brutality. We need to know what happened during WWII so that it never happens again, and this is made abundantly clear in the text and expert artwork. Marvano also clearly knows his history well the vehicles and weapons of the past are presented expertly with an eye for detail that is remarkable. You really feel like you're looking at an old Jeep or Tank thanks to Marvano's fantastic work.

"The Jewish Brigade," is an insightful read that not only tells a great story, but it also provides a lot of great information about the very real titular Jewish Brigade. The book can at times be a bit depressing--which makes sense as this is WWII we're talking about--but its little glimmers of hope for a better tomorrow are what help make it such a lovely read. Definitely a fantastic book!

5 out of 5 stars.

Note: A copy of, "The Jewish Brigade," was provided by Dead Reckoning for the purposes of review as I am on their press list.

Monday, September 27, 2021

Read This Oral History of the New 52 For Some Fascinating Insights!

If you are someone who enjoys, "Seeing how the sausage is made," when it comes to comic books, this oral history of the New 52 that Polygon published is a stellar read. They have one anonymous quote and note a number of people contacted didn't want to, "Spill any beans," as it were, but they do get some juicy insights from former DC head honcho Dan Didio (who we may recall was suddenly laid-off from DC in 2020 and has nothing to lose sharing his thoughts), Scott Snyder, Judd Winick, Christy Marx, and more. Didio provides a ton of info and even though his relationship did not end with DC on the best of terms as far as we know he doesn't come off as bitter at all, just a bit melancholic about how the New 52 ended up working out (long story short: it didn't work out well in the long run at all).

I always think of the New 52 as having a ton of potential it didn't quite reach. The article itself points out we all have an, "Underrated New 52 comic," that we feel deserved more attention (for me it is, "Men of War," without a doubt). The New 52 was a cool attempt at doing a brand-new relaunch/reboot and even if DC undid basically everything some years later, I have some fondness for the era. Reading how it came to be and end is a nice treat.

Sunday, September 26, 2021

I Had a Fantastic Time at the ToyMan Show Today!

One of my favorite shows to go to whenever it happens is ToyMan. Run by Chris, "ToyMan," McQuillen, it is always loaded with so many vendors and creators it can make your head spin. I saw a lot of my old friends and met some people who were new to me today. I also found some stupendous comics during my browsing of all the stupendous stuff on sale. 

I kicked off my time at the show talking with Tim of Tim's Toys and Comics, LTD. His knowledge of comics and the great stuff he sells makes him always a delight to interact with. I then chatted with Dustin who had some awesome comics he was kind enough to sell me for a great price:

I then was able to run into a bunch of my friends I always am happy to see. Brian Lan was selling wares, Spike of Lost in Space Toys and Collectibles was packing a ton of goodies. I also met The Perler Mom AKA Bethany Leisure. She was making all kinds of awesome creations for sale. 

After a bit, I saw my friend Mark who was attending the show (we actually met at ToyMan before, so I have it to thank for a friend), and we talked for a bit. I walked around some more and ran into Tom from Alliance Comics, Toys, and Games who was kind enough to sell me this issue of, "Secret Invasion," the first! Check it out:

I went upstairs where I was able to visit with a bunch of my favorite authors! I saw Jessica Mathews and Jennifer Stolzer, then I ran into Heroes for Kids who were fundraising for their nonprofit with all kinds of awesome stuff.

As I explored the show I ran into my friend Lindsay Hornsby. Blog readers may recall I met her some years ago at the Saint Louis Mini Comic-Con and had the pleasure of reading her, "Princess Pups," comics. I bought a book collecting all her, "Princess Pups," work and was ecstatic to get more great comics from her! Here's a pic:

I proceeded to meet two new folks who were great to talk with. I saw Justin of Justin's 3D Prints. He had all kinds of neat 3D printer items for sale. I introduced myself to Trash Panda Studios and admired their magnets while I heard about their podcast.

"Bug," as he is known was at ToyMan selling comics too and had a flyer with exciting news. He is going to be opening a physical location with comics (new & old), toys, games, and all kinds of collectibles. I can't wait! Here is the flyer:

Before I left a bit later in the day I saw my chum Phil of the Comic Grind bus. He's always a joy to speak with and I would encourage you to book his bus for an event where a vehicle loaded with comics would be enjoyable (so anything)! Clearly, this latest ToyMan was an extra-great show with a ton of my favorite vendors and creators present. I had lovely conversations, got awesome comics, and would encourage anyone who is able to attend the next ToyMan show on November 14th! 

Saturday, September 25, 2021

"Montero," is a Fantastic Debut LP by Lil Nas X

It feels odd to think, "Montero," is the first album from Lil Nas X considering he exploded onto the scene in 2019 (which feels like a decade ago) with, "Old Town Road," and proceeded to have some smaller hits before coming roaring back this year. Thanks to absolute bangers such as, "Montero (Call Me by Your Name)," and, "Industry Baby," Lil Nas X is on all our minds. Those wild tracks make up a banging first half of his LP while the latter half has a much more introspective and at times concerned/sad tone, as other reviewers have observed. Lil Nas X does a bit of a victory lap for all his immense success at first and then gets serious, talking about how hard it was being in the closet for years, what it is like being a black and gay man who is out and unafraid of haters today, it's deep stuff that folk wouldn't necessarily expect from the same guy who made the jokey, "Old Town Road." Note that is it absent from this album.

Besides the stellar lyricism, the album has some great beats and melodies that really dig into your ear--happy or more melancholy. My favorite tracks are tonally polar opposites, the aforementioned, "Industry Baby," and, "Sun Goes Down," where Lil Nas X sings quite well along with his raps. Was I to have a complaint about the LP, it does have some songs that are a bit of a snooze. I've seen praise for, "Scoop," where Lil Nas X and Doja Cat discuss a workout routine, but I found it drab (a surprise as usually Doja Cat brings a lot of energy to a track). "Void," also is the longest song on the album and maybe could have been trimmed down a bit. Still, it's all-around a fantastic LP and seems less like a debut than the work of an artist who has been doing this for years thanks to how self-assured and confident the whole thing feels. Definitely worth a listen.

4.5 out of 5 stars.

Friday, September 24, 2021

Marvel is Facing Lot of Copyright Claims Suddenly

Okay, some of this news is relatively fresh and there is a ton of copyright law minutiae to parse through. That said, big stuff is going down when it comes to Marvel's characters and how much of a right Marvel has to say it's their characters. A lot of this kicked off with the estate of Steve Ditko suing for control over the copyright of the first appearance (so basically the bedrock) of Spider-Man. Ditko himself never cared much about the copyright stuff but his estate/family does, much to Marvel's chagrin. Then other heirs to popular characters started suing too as we're in a weird gap period for copyright law that allows challenges every 56 or so years or something. The big thing is if these copyrights belong to creators and Marvel or if it was all work-for-hire and Marvel doesn't share copyright. Whatever the case, as soon as it looks like Marvel has the faintest chance of losing in court they will come to a hefty financial agreement (see the case with the Kirby estate). There is bound to be more as this all develops.

Thursday, September 23, 2021

The First Appearance Debate Has Reignited with a Moon Knight Comic

Everyone loves to argue about what is a, "First appearance," in comic books. Some people claim that if a character only pops up briefly, isn't named, is in shadows, or so forth then it is a, "Cameo," appearance. The first full appearance then comes later. People get really heated over this subject. I've seen folks almost come to blows over whether, "Avengers," #195 or #196 is the first true Taskmaster; "Amazing Spider-Man," #299 and #300 with Venom inspires debate too. Oh, and don't get me started on Wolverine and which issue of, "Incredible Hulk," truly counts depending on if you're going more by his first cover on #181 or how he appears in the last panel of #180 and outright says his name. Sometimes a, "First appearance," is a lot less cut-and-dry than you'd think. Now the latest run of, "Moon Knight," has led to debate anew.

In the first issue of, "Moon Knight," he meets a Dr. Badr and we see at the end of the issue Dr. Badr putting on his Hunters Moon mask. He isn't in the full outfit, however. Then, he's on the cover of issue #3 and spends much of that issue (which came out this week) in his full costume fighting Moon Knight. Does this mean #1 is a cameo and #3 is first full? Is #1 a first full and #3 is the first cover? Everyone is debating it online and it has been discussed over at the awesome Comics Heating Up Forums which I would recommend checking out (I'm quite active there, myself). In my own opinion that has no actual foundation besides it, "Feels," right, I'd say Dr. Badr/Hunter's Moon has his first full appearance in issue #1 but then has his first full cover for issue #3. I do not think #1 is a mere cameo as we hear his regular name as well as villainous title, plus we see him with the mask. Observe:

I think that's a pretty established first appearance, but feel free to disagree if you want. Part of the fun is seeing everyone debate!

Wednesday, September 22, 2021

I Made Another Meme to Get a Song Out of My Head

Readers of the blog may recall when I get alternate lyrics to a song stuck in my head they often remain there, annoying me. This previously happened with a Lizzo song where I turned it into a meme. Well, I'm having the issue again, and talking about it usually helps. It all relates to a new song, "Whole Lotta Money," by Bia.

If you haven't heard, "Whole Lotta Money," you honestly haven't missed much. The lyrics are mediocre and the beat is pretty wack. Don't rush out to listen to it on my account, in other words (if you want to, here's a link, I always got you). One thing about it that has stuck with me, however, is a line in the chorus where Bia brags, "There's a whole lot of money in this motherfucker." Somehow--I have no clue why--I keep thinking, "What if this song were about Winnie the Pooh?" Then, I figure, the line could go, "There's a whole lot of honey in the motherfucker," and it could feature Winnie the Pooh from that meme where he looks dapper and, forget it, I'll just make the meme:

I'm sorry, everyone, I'm clearly not well. I just hope this gets the annoying song out of my head. Seriously, I don't even like it!

Tuesday, September 21, 2021

It's The Day We All Associate with Earth, Wind, and Fire

It's not an official holiday, but September 21st is basically Earth, Wind, and Fire Day. The song is over 40 years old but, "September," has managed to stay popular. It's been in movies, television shows, played at political conventions, covered constantly, and has essentially become a meme with stuff like Demi Adejuyigbe’s music videos of the song that are always quite quirky. Why today in September, specifically? Well, it's that first line, "Do you remember? That 21st night of September." If you're wondering, they've said there is no specific meaning to that date, it just works great for the song. Now then, in honor of today, here it is:

Happy September 21st, everyone!

Monday, September 20, 2021

IDW Moves Exclusively to Penguin Random House, Diamond Faces Further Trouble

It was massive news when DC essentially made their own comic distributors (now just one, Lunar) and it was also shocking when Marvel signed a deal with Penguin Random House to have their periodicals distributed by the major bookstore entity. Both of these changes were massive hits to the company that was for years basically the sole force when it came to publishing individual issues of comics, Diamond. A longtime holder of a vaguely legal monopoly on comic distribution, the company now can distribute Marvel and such as a wholesaler, (and sells lots of toys and board games) but in regards to comics sits in a precarious position. 

Things just got even worse for Diamond as now IDW--a sizeable publisher--has moved to work exclusively with Penguin Random House come June of 2022. Now, Diamond will just be a wholesaler for them too and it is getting to the point that Image, Dark Horse, and Dynamite are the sole forces keeping Diamond alive as the other smaller indie publishers who work with Diamond are great but don't exactly keep the lights on. Diamond is in a rough spot for sure and probably is going to need to drastically restructure a lot of its business to stay operable/solvent. In the end, if enough comic stores choose to stick with Diamond for ease of use (even if they are a wholesaler as opposed to the main distributor for some publishers) they might weather this storm, but time will tell.

Sunday, September 19, 2021

"Tech Boy," is a Fun Comic by a Young Local Author

A friend and fan of my blog recently told me how they saw in a Facebook group a mother talking about her sons' self-published comic. I love writing about local authors and supporting young creators so I reached out to the family and learned about "Tech Boy," by DeJuan Strickland, or DJ. DJ is a 13-year-old scholar who is born and raised in St. Louis, Missouri. He enjoys gaming, anime, reading, and indulging in comic books. He is a member of STEMSTL Strategic Youth Advisory Board. He is a long-time honor roll student who thoroughly enjoys science and technology. I was able to interact with him and his mother about his comic and learned how it came about.

DJ first came up with the idea of Tech Boy after watching the movie Black Panther. He went back to his friends house and felt inspired to write his own comic book. He said he felt “seen” after the movie and realized there aren’t many  Black protagonists in books. He included his love for technology after taking a few coding classes at the Microsoft center through the Color Coded Kids program. They taught him coding and he's created a video game before too! "Tech Boy," was self published in April of this year and it became a #1 bestseller in children’s graphic novels section on Amazon.  DJ and his Mom told me the mission for, "Tech Boy," is to inspire other youth to become tech-savvy entrepreneurs.

As for what, "Tech Boy," is about, it features the journey of Tyriq Summerbird, a teenager from Cyber City, MO who gains powers through technology. His newfound adversary, Titan Ray, attempts to demolish the city for unknown reasons. This prompts Tyriq to debut as Tech Boy while attempting to use his powers to stop Titan Ray. Tech Boy strives to encourage youth by showing them the power of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math).

Having read this first issue of, "Tech Boy," I found it very fun! The story has shades of Superman's origin story mixed with more tech-focused heroes such as Green Arrow (with his high-tech gear) or Cyborg (with how his own physical body syncs with technology). There also is some fun mech-fighting as Titan Ray is a massive robot who is trying to wreck the city and I love anything with huge robots or kaiju. At just 13 DJ already has written something impressive and exciting so I look forward to what he makes next!

As I mentioned, DJ is the writer with art by Doneak Pusey and Obbrush. The artwork is solid and portrays the action in the tale quite well. I would encourage everyone to check out the website for, "Tech Boy," or grab themselves a physical/digital copy on Amazon.

Saturday, September 18, 2021

Happy Batman Day, Everyone!

I feel like it was not promoted as much this year, but today is Batman day! Comic stores around the World are giving away some free comics and many are doing sales. You can get free digital comics as well. Batman is a really fun character (when written/portrayed well) so cheers to him on his special day!

Friday, September 17, 2021

Film Friday: "Candyman," the 2021 Version

I have vague memories of seeing the first, "Candyman," movie with the stellar Tony Todd (he's back in the new one too). I recall it being terrifying and really good, but as it was a long time ago when I went to see the latest kinda-sequel/kinda-reenvisioning of, "Candyman," it was a bit like I was going in fresh. How was this newest, "Candyman," you ask? Well, it is pretty awesome in the first two acts of its relatively short 1 hour and 30-ish minute runtime. Then in the last 20 minutes it just kind of falls apart, a trend with a lot of modern horror movies.

This movie focuses on the legend of a man who kills you if you say his name five times. When an artist (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II as Anthony McCoy) learns about this terrifying character he finds himself obsessed with the legend of the Candyman, especially as bodies start to pile up as his artistic depictions of him garner more attention. Anthony's girlfriend (Teyonah Parris as Brianna Cartwright) tries to be supportive even as it becomes increasingly clear things are wrong and she has to deal with her own traumas. As Anthony slowly finds his own body starting to fall apart (there is some real body horror elements in this that are gross) things just get crazier and scarier. Then the movie kind of throws its hands in the air and gives up.

Yahya Abdul-Mateen II is amazing as an artist haunted by the legend of the Candyman.

"Candyman," is loaded with amazing performances from a fantastic cast and Director Nia DaCosta keeps everything appropriately eerie and moody throughout. Those last 20 minutes though are like eating a delicious multi-layer pie and then after you've gotten through all these amazing flavors you reach the bottom and discover the crust is cardboard--as if the chef just gave-up at the end. I don't want to spoil the ending, but it is basically one of those, "Oh, it turns out ____ was the villain all along despite all logic," type moments. Until then, though, it is really good!

At its brisk runtime, I actually wish, "Candyman," were longer and could have fleshed some of its ideas out more. It touches on so much. It discusses concepts of racism, classism, gentrification, and manages to be scary while also being quite deep about a lot of human and social issues. As I also mentioned, the acting is fantastic with Abdul-Mateen II and Parris both stealing the show. Also, as a big fan of Vanessa Williams, I really wish we could have had more of her (she reprises her 1992-version character). I guess it is both a compliment and an issue that, "Candyman," left me wanting more? More explorations of its themes, more scary moments, and more of an ending than what we got. As it is, "Candyman," a film loaded with potential that it occasionally realizes. I just wish it didn't peter out so bad at the end.

3 out of 5 stars.

Thursday, September 16, 2021

"Wheel of Fortune," Fans Are Enraged About Changes for the Latest Season

If you're a big fan of, "Wheel of Fortune," you might be an old person or my child, Clarkson. He used to really be into, "The Price is Right," but then developed a real affection for Wheel. The 39th season kicked off this week and there were a number of changes to the music, set design, and rules. Upon seeing all these tweaks I thought, "I bet longtime fans are pissed." I was right. People literally wrote they were, "Distraught," over changes. What exactly changed though besides the jingle and a refresh of the set? Well, a handful of things.

One massive alteration is that Pat Sayjack no longer spins the wheel for the Final Spin at the end of the regular game rounds. Now, the player in control of the board does it as Sayjack said he never liked feeling as if he had an impact on the game, it should've been players. Okay, that's not too much. Also, if a contestant solves all three puzzles in the triple toss-up they get a $4,000 bonus. Not too wild either. For the bonus round, you get at least $39,000 now too, which again seems reasonable. Oh, and the Free Play wedge is gone, replaced with an $850 wedge...what? Now, that's a bit much!

I liked the Free Play spot because it made it possible for players to call a vowel early when they didn't have any money yet or try a risky letter and still be allowed to spin even if it wasn't present. It added some fun strategies to the game. Oddly enough, it replaced the Free Spin wedge in 2009 and people were really angry then too, so I guess the more things change the more they stay the same.

Even with the alterations, the show still feels like, "Wheel of Fortune," without a doubt. I think little fixes now and then can be good and even if they upset me at first blush (like getting rid of free of the Free Space) I think it'll all work out in the end. Clarkson loves watching still, and if he's happy I'm happy.

Wednesday, September 15, 2021

I Know I'm Late to Discuss this, but the First Issue of, "The Nice House on the Lake," is Amazing!

I am behind on reading my comics. I have a big ol' stack of them that I've lately been trying to make a dent in. I finally had a chance to read issue #1 of, "The Nice House on the Lake," and goddamn was that a crazy comic. It starts slowly, as all these people arrive at a beautiful house by a lake, then as the comic nears the end of its debut an utterly insane twist (which I won't ruin so that you too give this comic a chance) is revealed and now I've already been in the process of finding issues #2, #3, and #4 that are out because this book is wild. I should've expected a great comic as James Tynion IV is the writer and he's been on fire with some stellar books lately. Alvaro Martinez Bueno illustrates everything amazingly too. I am so delayed in being amazed by this comic compared to everyone else but this first issue of, "The Nice House on the Lake," helped remind me why I love comics and why I love horror too.

I've revealed as little as possible about the plot on purpose, but I will talk about how surprising it is this book is at DC under its Black Label as opposed to Image or BOOM! Studios where Tynion has his other works. As I understand it, this is a rare example of a new creator-owned book at DC. Long ago, in the early days of the Vertigo imprint (may it rest in peace) DC had that, but then Vertigo quit letting creators own their books and everyone went to Image whilst Vertigo withered away. Tynion has a hit book at three publishers right now, "Something is Killing the Children," is dominating the charts with BOOM!, "The Department of Truth," is a smash with Image, and now we've got, "The Nice House on the Lake," over at DC. Plus, he does self-published work with his Tiny Onion Studios and has a popular Substack. The man is on fire.

Anyways, I'm sorry I am so late to the party when it comes to singing the praises of, "The Nice House on the Lake." I'll be trying to get the issues that have come out so far post-haste so that I can immediately enjoy them!

5 out of 5 stars.

Tuesday, September 14, 2021

Television Tuesday: "Big Brother," 23--The Season so Far

I love the reality show, "Big Brother." It takes a group of strangers, throws them in a house, and makes them complete for powers and vote each other out week by week until two people are left and a number of the evicted houseguests pick the winner. I've written about basically every season of the show since I started watching it. "Big Brother," has its latest season airing right now with it down to the final six. Last year things were incredibly different as there was no live audience on eviction nights and it was all former players AKA, "All-stars." We still have the setup where evicted houseguests only chat with Julie Chen Moonves (she started verbally adding the Moonves to her name on the show as a subtle form of protest after her husband was fired from CBS for being a sexual predator, but I digress), but this season it is all new faces. 

CBS stated a bit ago it would try to have a lot more diversity on its reality shows and this season of, "Big Brother," did make good on that. It wasn't a bunch of white straight people. This season has multiple folks of different ethnicities, sexualities, and religions. This inadvertently led to the creation of one of the strongest and most successful alliances ever, The Cookout. The six black players in this season started talking on the first day in the, "Big Brother," house about how a black person has never won the show. They observed black players tend to go home early. They agreed to form an alliance they dubbed, "The Cookout," and would move in secret to evict everyone else until it was just the six. They had a person outside the alliance they worked with as a decoy and who they could always sit up against on eviction night if needed with them staying and their faux-partner going home. Few alliances last all the way to their set endpoint, but the Cookout actually just succeeded and the last six people in the house all are/were members of The Cookout. The internet has obviously had opinions on this.

Some people have complained The Cookout is racist. They say the whole point was the black people teamed up to get anyone who wasn't black out. White players who were evicted (such as Christian) have outright said they don't think it was racist and they respect the alliance working so hard and succeeding. Many people have bitched, "If there were an all-white alliance it would be an issue," while ignoring there have by sheer chance been a ton of alliances in the past on the show that were all-white seeing as how--as I mentioned--minority individuals often went home early in past seasons of Big Brother with very few individuals who weren't white winning. I don't think The Cookout is racist but I do think an alliance like this can never work again on, "Big Brother," as now future players will have The Cookout's historic steamrolling of other players in their books of, "Greatest alliances ever."

Now that we are down to the final six there is again a sense of danger in the house as The Cookout now are forced to turn upon each other and make new deals with one another. Even when The Cookout was succeeding at whittling down the house it was still fun to watch and impressive to witness this diverse group of individuals (yes, I said diverse because even if they are, "All black," they are all still very different people) unite and see a complex plan come to fruition. For my money, I think Xavier is going to get the $750,000 (they increased the prize this year). He's won a number of competitions (physical and mental), has kept the fact he's a skilled lawyer a secret, and he's hilarious in the diary room sessions so I also just want him to win because I like him a lot. With only six houseguests left, there won't be too much more time until a winner is crowned!

Monday, September 13, 2021

The Trailer for, "Hawkeye," Has Been Released and You Know I've Got Thoughts

I previously said how I was excited for the new, "Hawkeye," show because the supporting cast looked amazing--e.g. I was excited for everyone but Hawkeye himself (sorry, Jeremy Renner). I like Renner, he just has been kind of wasted as Hawkeye, and this trailer seems to indicate that yeah, Hailee Steinfeld is going to steal the show as her version of Hawkeye. That isn't surprising as Steinfeld is super-talented, but man, she really carries this trailer. Give it a watch below:

I was intrigued by this promo for the show as it starts off kind of dramatically, but then it develops a quirky tone a lot like the Matt Fraction and David Aja run--it even has the tracksuit mobsters from that arc. I really hope Fraction and Aja are getting some royalties for how much this show seems to be cribbing from them. We also get a blink-and-you'll-miss-it appearance of Echo (Alaqua Cox) as well as Lucky the Pizza Dog. In addition, there is a snippet of a Steve Rogers-themed Broadway musical which sounds ingenious (and a bit like Marvel doing a self-own on their failed Spider-Man play). 

Everything looks promising with nothing screaming, "This is gonna suck!" as opposed to, "This will be a good time!" I had some trepidation about the show due to how Hawkeye in the Marvel Cinematic Universe has just been dull, but this trailer helped assuage some concerns. Now, I quite look forward to, "Hawkeye," debuting on Disney+ this November 24th.

Sunday, September 12, 2021

"Star-Crossed," is Another Masterpiece of an Album From Kacey Musgraves

I was a massive fan of Kacey Musgrave's last LP, "Golden Hour," which I considered the best album of 2018. It had a very optimistic and fun vibe along with some serious introspection, and was just lovely. Now it is 2021 and Musgraves has gifted us, "Star-Crossed." A couple things should be addressed right away.

First, this isn't really much of a country album. This is not a bad thing or a criticism. I don't normally like country music much with Musgraves, Garth Brooks, and the (former Dixie) Chicks being a few exceptions. With this album Musgraves has moved even further into a bit of an alternative rock sphere mixed with other genres, incorporating bits of a variety of genres. Secondly, "Star-Crossed," brings a lot more of a melancholy vibe than her previous album, and with good reason. The album is arguably the result of a lot of soul-searching and tells the tale of Musgraves' marriage that recently ended in divorce. 

This sorta-theme leads to some of the best songs that are centered on a fraught and complex relationship--"Star-Crossed," and my favorite track, "Justified." A number of other songs touch upon struggles in love from, "Good Wife," to, "Breadwinner," and, "Easier Said," among some others. This LP is Musgraves diving deep and being open with us about all she uncovers as she digs within her emotions. "Star-Crossed," is a beautiful album and another example of just how amazingly talented Musgraves is.

5 out of 5 stars.

Saturday, September 11, 2021

20 Years Ago Today

20 years ago today I was in a Junior High English class where we read popular short stories and discussed them. The class ended at 9AM and a teacher came into the room and told our teacher how something had happened at the World Trade Center. There had been a plane accident, or a bomb, or something. It had just happened but it seemed it was being addressed. 

We headed into our math class and were getting started with a lesson when it was announced that another plane had hit the other World Trade tower. Clearly, this was no accident and America was under attack. After that, we didn't really do any of our classes the rest of the day, instead, any televisions in the classrooms were broadcasting the news about what was happening as we all tried to make sense of it. The news came in about the Pentagon as well as a crash in Pennsylvania. I was just dumbstruck by it all and the true gravity of what had happened didn't really hit me until the next day as the deaths were continuously being tallied up and the faces of those killed or still missing filled our screens. It made me feel sick.

There was of course a surge in patriotism and unity, people these days still say they miss how wonderful it was on 9/12 that everyone came together. This of course is using rose-tinted glasses as plenty of people were not included in the loving embrace of nationalism, with Muslim individuals still facing persecution in the U.S. to this day. There was some sense of hope that we were going to go to Afghanistan and get revenge. Then for some reason, the war started to encompass Iraq for no (truthful) reason. 

Eventually, we killed the mastermind behind 9/11, Osama Bin Laden, but we still found ourselves wrapped up in Afghanistan until recently when we essentially abandoned it back to the Taliban, fleeing a country that any other government has consistently failed to adequately, "Help," such as previously in 1919 (the British gave up), 1989 (The Soviets gave up) and now in 2021 (we gave up). The failure in Afghanistan does not have a sole President to blame as much as those of us who hate Trump (or others who like to throw shade at Biden) would like. This mess encompasses Bush, Obama, Trump, and Biden, with everyone taking some blame, although I'd say Bush deserves most of the scorn for the attacks even happening and Obama gets out with the least of this stink upon him. We didn't know everything that would be to come 20 years ago today though. We were just hurting, so badly, as a Nation. In some ways, the surge of patriotism and jingoism wasn't a surprise even if some of it is incredibly cringe-inducing today.

Now we have children learning about 9/11 in history classes as something that happened before they were born. It must be weird for them to hear about this major event that for them seems so distant yet for many of us feels so fresh in our minds--the only other comparison I can really make when it comes to a National tragedy is much older Americans who recall Pearl Harbor or when JFK was killed. I remember that day though, 20 years ago. I couldn't have predicted all it would have led to and 20 years out we sure do have a lot more clarity and understanding than we did before, for better or worse. I wish 9/11 hadn't happened, that it could have been stopped, and that our World could be a lot different (I would hope in a better way) than it is when it comes to the global politics of having a, "War on terror," or such. It all did happen though (despite what conspiracy theorists might tell you) and the best thing we can do on this day is look back and remember.

Friday, September 10, 2021

Influencers/Bloggers/etc. Always Need to Sign a Contract When Promoting a Product

If you have a blog (like me) or are a social media influencer (I'm not, but I know some people who are), you probably get solicited to promote a product or service sometimes. I've never been paid to promote a product, but if I were I'd obviously disclose it (I have signed contracts for my writing though, in case you wondered). One reason requests to promote a product or service have never gone anywhere is I am tentatively offered money but there is no contract or anything. Plus, usually whatever I'm asked to promote doesn't even make sense with my blog so why bother? For real though, if you don't sign an actual contract that you should probably have a lawyer check out too, you really shouldn't be cutting deals to talk about a product on your Instagram/Tiktok/blog/so forth. 

This article by Tanya Chen (and this one that the first link references also by Chen) tell the story of influencers struggling to get paid by Ooh! Companion, which is, " Australian-based sex toy company that was founded just a year ago, and much of its visibility and success has been thanks to its Instagram marketing." Basically, they sold influencers a line about female empowerment and shame-free sex toys, agreed to work together via DMs and handshake agreements instead of signing on a dotted line, and then it took months and threats of going public about being shortchanged for any influencers to get paid. Ooh! Companion wanted the clout of influencers recommending their toys without actually paying to get the promotion, and they surely aren't the only company to try that kind of trick.

As the tide turned against them they made their Instagram page private.

If you're going to publically promote a product and lend your fame/readership/whatever to an item you damn well better be sure you're going to get paid; the way to assure that is to have an ironclad contract that protects you if anything goes wrong and you have to sue. Now then, I would like to take this time to promote a new brand that reached out to me and promised a platter of lukewarm chicken wings would be mailed to my address if I talked them up--"Dog Whiskey." It's like regular whiskey, but for your dog so they can get drunk and throw up too! "Dog Whiskey: It'll Send Rover Right Over!"

Thursday, September 9, 2021

Marvel is Launching a Line of Digital-Only Comics Titled, "Infinity Comics," and That's Interesting For a Few Reasons

Marvel Launches New Digital-Only Comics

Marvel has a digital comic service known as, "Marvel Unlimited," that you can subscribe to and read a ton of Marvel comics. Now, there is not anything that has come out in the last six months as Marvel doesn't want to cannibalize print sales or piss off comic shops too much. There have been occasional digital-only comics, but nothing like what Marvel just launched. Titled, "Infinity Comics," these are free if you have Marvel Unlimited. They are in continuity (whatever that means these days) and have some pretty well-known creators writing popular characters. This is intriguing for a few reasons.

Three Reasons Infinity Comics is Interesting

1. There is no extra fee for these digital-only comics and they will be plentiful. They are included with your Marvel Unlimited subscription and as I noted, feature some big creators (Jonathan Hickman, Declan Shalvey, Skottie Young, Dax Gordine, Alyssa Wong, Nathan Stockman, Kelly Thompson, Gerry Duggan, Lucas Werneck, and Jeffo, according to Marvel’s news release are kicking things off). There are already 27 comics as of today and plans for over 100 to exist before 2021 wraps. These things are not lame little bonus comics by creators you've never heard of about characters who are unknown. These have those names writing X-Men, Deadpool, Captain America, Shang-Chi, Black Widow, Venom, Carnage, and more. This has become a major selling point for Marvel Unlimited.

2. The comics are read in a vertical scroll form which is a lot more friendly to tablets and especially phones. Trying to take physical comics and make them, "Work," for a phone can be tricky when you've got a big double-page splash and are trying to put it all onto a phone's screen. By designing these explicitly for digital and having them be in a vertical scrolling format these comics are basically meant to be read on your phone with ease.

3. The elephant in the room here is Substack. A lot of comic creators are going to Substack as it is offering some appealing deals in the form of a ton of cash and creators maintaining control of their intellectual property. The thing is, Substack really wasn't created with comics in mind and has been a bit unwieldy to read comics within. It's just kind of comic pages awkwardly crammed into a newsletter. When these newsletters feature creators writing in-depth about their creative process it's cool (I subscribed to Jeff Lemire's Substack to test the whole thing out), but as soon as actual comics get posted it is a bit strange. Perhaps Marvel is trying to subtly show it can do online comics, "Right," with these Infinity Comics. Now, Marvel doesn't mention Substack at all in any of the promotional text about this, but its shadow looms large.

What Will the Future Hold?

This, "Infinity Comics," is going to be interesting to watch and see how much success Marvel has with it.

"The Matrix Resurrections," Looks Like it Might Actually be Quite Cool

I adored the first, "Matrix," movie. Directed by Lana and Lilly Wachowski, it was a mind-bending experience full of philosophy, kung-fu, wild special effects, and it was just a delight. The two sequels were alright but admittedly let me way down compared to the first flick. Looking at everything now with some distance they hold up fine, but that first movie is still the best of the three by far. Now here we are almost two decades later and a new, "Matrix," movie is on the way. Titled, "The Matrix Resurrections," this one is directed solely by Lana with her as a writer of the script along with Aleksandar Hemon and author David Mitchell (of, "Cloud Atlas," fame, for better or worse). Here's the trailer:

The trailer actually looks pretty good and makes me wonder if this new entry could be a damn good flick. It looks like Neo (although now he doesn't even know he's Neo) is in our new modern era, possibly being monitored and kept relatively sedated (perhaps he didn't truly die at the end of the last flick and is trapped in a new Matrix). Keanu Reeves has had a career renaissance as of late and it's fun to see him return as Neo as you couldn't callback to a more classic role Reeves has played besides if you did another, "Bill and Ted," movie...which I recall now they actually did. Carrie-Ann Moss is back, Laurence Fishburne isn't but a man who looks and acts suspiciously like him is, and we get a healthy dose of Neal Patrick Harris in the preview, and I always enjoy some NPH in my flicks.

It isn't all moody talking and atmosphere, however, there is plenty of kicking, jumping, and slow-mo guns that are this franchise's hallmark. In some ways, "The Matrix," feels even more relevant with its concept of humanity becoming trapped in our own technology--a point that is driven home in a clip during the trailer where Reeve enters an elevator and everyone is obsessing over their phones and tablets. That may very well help, "The Matrix Ressurctions," be deliciously topical as well as packed full of exciting action scenes. Come December 22nd anyone who wants to go to a theater or watch it on HBO Max will be able to judge for themselves if this is all empty hype that is going to be more like the deflated sequels or a new entry that will hit as hard as the first movie. All I know is this preview got me a lot more intrigued than I had been.

Wednesday, September 8, 2021

Ordering a Comic From Asylum Press Was a Delight!

The refrain generally goes that if you order a comic directly from the publisher's website they won't pack it well and you'll be getting a damaged comic (no shade at Heavy Metal, but yeah). That said, I quite like the over-the-top vibe of the Warlash character's comics from indie publisher Asylum Press. Therefore, I took the risk of directly ordering the new comic, "Warlash: Cold Metal Mayhem," from them and was actually pleasantly surprised by what I received. In a very well-secured and sturdy cardboard mailer, I got that latest issue of Washlash's adventures, as well as another newer comic about him, "Warlash: Bioburden." Plus, there was a signed print by artist and founder of Asylum, Frank Forte! Check it out:
 I was just some random customer ordering a comic and they really treated me right! I mean, I only ordered one comic and got two plus a print, with everything packed spectacularly. In an era where people don't even do the bare minimum of packaging or customer service, this was a delightful treat to get. I want to thank Frank Forte and all the good folk at Asylum Press. They put out some cool comics and have some horror anthologies on the way that look snazzy, so maybe give their web-store your business if anything catches your eye.

"Alan Wake," is Being Remastered

I loved the video-game, "Alan Wake," back in the day. It featured a writer who was haunted by shadowy figures you could only combat by shining light upon them and then shooting at it was a little cliche in combat, admittedly. The story, however, was just wild as you watched this writer fight off his nightmares as they came to life and he had to determine if he was crazy or really combatting strange shadowy creatures. It's by the same studio who made the (first two) Max Payne games I adored, Remedy, so that tells you a lot.

Anyways, I am taking this trip down memory lane because Remedy has signed a deal with Epic to distribute, "Alan Wake," with a remastered version that'll include two expansions, fancy new graphics, and a mode with a creators' commentary. It'll be on the latest versions of the Xbox, PlayStation, and run on PCs too. There is still no word if the kinda-sequel/kinda-short-spin-off game, "Alan Wake: American Nightmare," will be getting a remaster too. Folks have expressed an, "Alan Wake," remaster is exciting news and I agree. I don't play video-games nearly as much these days but if I ever get a PS5 or such I'll be sure to dive back into this game.