18th Jan2017

West YEAR Ever: Pop Culture In Review – 2016

by Will

Thank 8 pound, 6 ounce newborn Baby Jesus that 2016 is over! I mean, I guess there was some good stuff peppered in there, but it was an overall rough year for a lot of people. I tried to keep my sanity here on the blog, but even I checked out for the month of November. Like Kenny Rogers told us, sometimes you’ve gotta know when to walk away. But I did make a return in December just to kick the year in the ass on its way out. So, besides celebrity deaths, what did 2016 bring us? Well, there was that week we were all mesmerized by Pokemon Go! Those were fun times. We got new X-Files episodes. Peyton Manning retired after winning the Super Bowl with the Denver Broncos. Atlanta and Luke Cage came along and entertained us on television. And things weren’t too shabby here on the blog either.

During Spring Break Week, I discussed several of the most underrated TV theme songs, including Webster, California Dreams, and Enterprise.

I also covered the worst Batman comic ever written, in the form of Just Imagine Stan Lee’s Batman

I did my annual Fall TV Upfronts post, where I discussed the upcoming fall lineups of the major broadcast networks.

A post that was several years in the making, I ranked the Hot Moms of Teen Shows over on The Robot’s Pajamas

I also did a guest post ranking the hottest Power Rangers Villains

It wasn’t all fun and games, though. The country was going through some dark stuff, and I’m particularly proud of this West Week Ever where I discussed the racial problems in the country.

I also experience my first live wrestling event as I attended a taping of WWE Monday Night Raw.

I brought back my graphic novel review column, Adventures West Coast, where I covered Wonder Woman: Earth One.

I also brushed off my Comical Thoughts column, where I discussed IDW’s disappointing Hasbro-centric Revolution event.

Finally, I closed out the year with a post that I’m particularly proud of, discussing the greatest problems facing comic retailers.

I saw about 13 fewer movies in 2016 than in 2015. It wasn’t for lack of trying, but there are only so many hours in the day. As you know, I’m not necessarily Mr. Movie, so I’m not even going to try to rank them. Here they are, simply in the order that I saw them. Wanna know my thoughts? Plug the title into the search box up on the top righthand corner!

Movies I Watched This Year

  1. Lucy
  2. Beauty Shop
  3. Bikini Spring Break
  4. Fifty Shades of Grey
  5. X-Men: Days of Future Past (The Rogue Cut)
  6. We Don’t Live Here Anymore
  7. Gone Girl
  8. Cloudy With A Chance of Meatballs 2
  9. The Martian
  10. Inside Out
  11. Sisters
  12. Batman: Bad Blood
  13. Son of Batman
  14. Batman vs. Robin
  15. The Hundred-Foot Journey
  16. Tomorrowland
  17. Deadpool
  18. San Andreas
  19. Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Rodrick Rules
  20. Autism In Love
  21. Cop Car
  22. Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice
  23. Dead 7
  24. Justice League vs. Teen Titans
  25. Pacific Rim
  26. All Things Must Pass: The Rise and Fall of Tower Records
  27. CHAPPiE
  28. Unhung Hero
  29. Trainwreck
  30. Confirmation
  31. The Boss
  32. Captain America: Civil War
  33. They Live
  34. Ted 2
  35. Creed
  36. Zoolander 2
  37. The Ladykillers
  38. 10 Cloverfield Lane
  39. X-Men: Apocalypse
  40. The Intern
  41. You’re F@#k’n Dead!
  42. LEGO DC Comics: Batman Be-Leaguered
  43. LEGO DC Comics Superheroes: Justice League: Attack of the Legion of Doom
  44. Focus
  45. The Good Dinosaur
  46. Sleeping with Other People
  47. Big Hero 6
  48. Keanu
  49. Southpaw
  50. The Night Before
  51. The Equalizer
  52. The Bronze
  53. Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping
  54. Batman: The Killing Joke
  55. Sharknado: The 4th Awakens
  56. Suicide Squad
  57. The Day
  58. Kingsman: The Secret Service
  59. Independence Day: Resurgence
  60. Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children
  61. Meet The Hitlers
  62. Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates
  63. Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising
  64. Doctor Strange
  65. Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

 

West Week Ever Recipients of 2016 (with commentary)

1/8/16 – Fall Out Boy’s “Irresistible” video

I’m a huge boyband fan, so the news that one of my favorite bands (Fall Out Boy) had reimagined the It’s Gonna Be Me video by one of my favorite boybands (*NSYNC) definitely made my week. The sheer fact that it didn’t really move the world of pop culture, however, shows you how slow of a news week it was. There would be many weeks like this in 2016.

1/15/16 – Power Rangers

This was quite the week for the Power Rangers franchise. First off, it was revealed that Saban would be skipping the train-centric sentai series Ressha Sentai ToQger, and instead adapt Shuriken Sentai Ninninger as Power Rangers Ninja Steel. This announcement was almost a year to the date of the premiere of the show (scheduled to debut next Saturday), and we spent the next few months getting casting and toy news about the show. Meanwhile, the #0 issue of the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers comic was released by Boom! that week, setting up a series that is so much better than it has any right to be. I’ve written about it several times over the year, as I’m a big fan. And finally, former Wild Force Red Ranger actor Ricardo Medina was formally charged that week for killing his roommate with a sword. All in all, I think Power Rangers truly earned the West Week Ever that week.

1/22/16 – DC Entertainment

The Suicide Squad trailer was released this week, as well as the series premiere of Legends of Tomorrow. The Suicide Squad promotion machine would see its ups and downs over the year, the Legends premiere was fairly strong, even with a bunch of useless characters (I’m looking at you, Hawks). The show would get stronger in its second season, but this is where it all started. We also got a DC movie special hosted by Kevin Smith, giving us some Wonder Woman and Justice League footage. Marvel usually dominates the news cycle, but DC showed that they can also step up to the plate.

1/29/16 – The X-Files

When news of an X-Files revival hit, it was pretty big news. Then it launched, and it wasn’t exactly what folks were expecting. Clocking in at 6 episodes, only half of them focused on the conspiracy aspect of the show, plus they were aired out of order.  I went from really liking the premiere to completely forgetting it existed, in a very short amount of time. If it was going to get the WWE, it would had to have been this week of the premiere, as it ended with more of a whimper than a bang.

2/5/16 – UnderScoopFire Podcast

I appeared on the UnderScoopFire Podcast 8 times over the years, and had a great time on every one of them. Those guys are some of my good friends that I’ve met online, so of course I was sad to see it go. After 150 shows (give or take a few. Yeah, I’m not letting that go!), I think their swan song deserved the West Week Ever.

2/12/16 – Denver Broncos

I couldn’t give two shits about sports, but Lindsay’s from Denver, so we’re a Broncos household. So, everything was coming up Milhouse this week, as the Broncos won Super Bowl 50. Not only was it a nice, round, milestone number, but it also served as future Hall of Famer Peyton Manning’s final game. It was the perfect storybook ending that sports fans seem to love so much. So, yeah, they totally deserved the West Week Ever.

2/19/16 – Deadpool

Deadpool came out and blew away everyone’s expectations. I mean, this thing is getting nominated for awards. And not Razzies, too! Personally, I thought it was too gratuitous. I’ve gone over my reasoning before, so I won’t rehash that here. Still, it went on to become the second highest grossing superhero film of the year, just behind Captain America: Civil War. Totally deserved.

3/4/16 – Fuller House

After Girl Meets World came along, the runway was cleared for any and every nostalgic reboot to come along. And along came Fuller House. Every fan of TGIF awaited it with bated breath, hoping for the same mindless entertainment they got from the original show. And it did not disappoint! The second season just debuted a few weeks ago, and it’s already been picked up for a 3rd on Netflix. This show not only showed the power of Netflix as a home for original comedies, but also showed that old dogs still have some fight left in them. I think this was definitely the high point of that week.

3/11/16 – Jay Pharaoh

This was a slow week. Sure, Pharaoh did an amazing impersonation spree during that week’s Saturday Night Live Weekend Update. Like, it was AMAZING. And to pay him back, the show fired him at the end of the season. He’s OK, as he immediately booked a Showtime pilot, but the fact that this was the most noteworthy thing of the week shows how slow things were.

3/18/16 – Nothing

Some weeks you’ve just gotta call a spade a spade. Instead of insulting anyone’s intelligence, nothing had the West Week Ever.

3/25/16 – Wonder Woman

Like a lot of people, I did not like Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice. Like a lot of people, I also felt that Wonder Woman was the brightest spot in that dark film. Totally deserved

4/1/16 – Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice 

I may not have liked it. A lot of folks may not have liked it. But it made some money. A lot of money. And it was the true springboard to DC’s cinematic universe. So, for its money-making and its importance, I think it earned the West Week Ever. Just because I don’t like something doesn’t mean that it’s bad. It just wasn’t for me.

4/8/16 – American Idol

Idol‘s series finale aired that week, marking the end of a pop culture juggernaut. Unlike The Voice, Idol actually created household names. It gave us Kelly Clarkson, Clay Aiken, Carrie Underwood, and Fantasia. On the flip side, it also gave us William Hung, Taylor Hicks, and Daughtry. It spawned so many copycats, but it was the original recipe. Its influence may have waned in later years, but no one can deny what it was in its heyday. I think it’ll eventually come back, but this was when we said “Ta ta, for now.”

4/15/16 – Marvel

That week, we found out Natalie Portman wasn’t coming back for Thor: Ragnarok, we got a teaser trailer for Doctor Strange, an we learned that the new Spider-Man movie would be called Spider-Man: Homecoming. Marvel definitely dominated the news cycle that week.

4/22/16 – Harriet Tubman

While it was pretty monumental that a woman (a Black woman, mind you) would be adorning American currency, it doesn’t really move the pop culture needle that much. So, I ended up giving the West Week Ever to a dead woman – in a column that has a pretty strict No Death policy. This was kind of a slow week…

4/29/16 – Beyoncé

The singer dropped the surprise album Lemonade following their airing of her HBO special. One of the songs alluded to the possibility that her husband, Jay-Z, might have cheated on her. For the next week, everyone was pondering the identity of “Becky, with the good hair”. This is the kind of thing the drives pop culture. Totally deserved.

5/6/16 – Captain America: Civil War

I had seen the movie, and thought it was excellent.

5/13/16 – Captain America: Civil War

Then the movie made a lot of money. I mean, a fuckton of money.

5/20/16 – Nothing

It was just one of those weeks

5/27/16 – DC Universe: Rebirth #1

DC Comics lost a lot of fans after the New 52 event, in which they rebooted their universe. So, the Rebirth event was something of a mea culpa to those fans. More like a “Please come back! We promise to make stuff you’ll like again!” And for the most part it has worked. This special not only brought fan favorite Wally West back into the fold, but it also sort of introduced the Watchmen comic into the mainstream DC universe. We don’t yet know how that’s all going to play out, but this move helped DC to dominate more market share than Marvel for most of the year.

6/3/16 – Ecto-Cooler

I never really liked Ecto-Cooler. I mean, it tasted kinda like tropical piss, but I loved the fact that Slimer was on the box. That’s about where my nostalgia ended. But a lot of y’all out there LOVED that shit! So, when it was announced that Coca Cola was bringing it back in conjunction with the Ghostbusters movie, y’all started assembling street teams to track it down. I swear, if the 2016 election had been run in a manner similar to the vim and vigor displayed trying to track down green sugar water, I might actually have some hope for tomorrow!

6/10/16 – Awesome Con 2016

Slow week. Cool show, great company, but slow week.

6/17/16 – Hamilton

I discovered the Hamilton soundtrack the same week that it won 11 of the 16 Tony Awards for which it was nominated. We’ll talk more about the show later, but the West Week Ever was deserved, even if the wins did fall short of the Tony Award record.

6/24/16 – Black actors in Hollywood

This was more of a joke, as every Black actor in Hollywood was being cast in the upcoming Black Panther film. That trend has continued since this post. Still, slow news week.

7/1/16 – The 683 New Members of the Oscar Academy

Another joke. Due to the #OscarsSoWhite hashtag, signifying that the Academy was lacking in diversity, 683 people were invited to be members, bolstering the number of women and minorities. Still, slow news week.

7/8/16 – TNA’s The Final Deletion

Oh, man! This thing was incredible. They went on to milk it for the rest of the year, andI missed all subsequent installments. Still, this got me to pay attention to a wrestling promotion not owned by Vince McMahon, and for a brief moment, all wrestling eyes were on TNA to see what Matt Hardy would do next. Completely deserved.

7/15/16 – Pokemon GO!

This game came along and took the world by STORM. To say it was a success would be an understatement. It was envisioned to promote fitness, as kids would have to walk around to find perks and to get their eggs to hatch, but there were workarounds. Hell, I drove around looking for Pokestops. For about 4 weeks, this was all anyone could talk about. It was the Tamagotchi of a new generation, and I think, outside of all the political stuff, it’s one of the things we’ll remember most about 2016.

7/22/16 – Ghostbusters

It was a slow week, but Ghostbusters and the Republican National Convention were the only newsworthy events of the week. As much as we want to pile on that movie, it did take in a respectable $46 million, and it set a record for Paul Feig/Melissa McCarthy movies. I know a lot of folks don’t feel the movie’s deserving of any kind of accolades. As you saw above, I didn’t watch it, but I still think it’s not as bad as people would like me to believe. I swear, though, had they named it anything other than Ghostbusters, we’d still be talking about it.

7/29/16 – DC Entertainment

DC, back with their SECOND West Week Ever of the year? The word on the street was that they “won” San Diego Comic Con, with their new footage of Justice League, as well as the debut of the Wonder Woman trailer. Considering Marvel usually dominates SDCC, this was a feat worth acknowledging.

8/12/16 – Suicide Squad

The movie made $160 million in 5 days, which is nothing to sneeze at. Plus, I actually enjoyed it. I didn’t like it as a component of DC’s cinematic world building, but I liked it as a standalone thing on its own.

8/19/16 – Ryan Lochte

He was an Olympian at the center of a fake robbery attempt in a foreign country, who then fled to let his teammates take the fall. It’s the stuff of a great Aaron Spelling show. He had the West Week Ever simply because he got away with it.

8/26/16 – Guardians trailer

Slow news week, even if the trailer is pretty awesome. Billed as “Russia’s Avengers”, the English version of Guardians trailer started making the rounds because of its crazy action and gun-wielding bear man. Yeah, you’ve gotta see it to believe it. The movie might not even be released over here, and if it is, it’ll never get higher than cult status. Still, if you want to know what everyone was talking about that week, it was Guardians.

9/2/16 – Are You Being Served? one-off special

Some might say this was a slow news week, but I think this applied the West Week Ever to an international stage when I typically just focus on the US. After all, this special didn’t even air in America (nor has it since, nor do there seem to be plans to do so in the future), and I had to resort watching it on YouTube. Still, I grew up with Are You Being Served? and I was more than curious to see how an update of it might hold up. With a few small exceptions, it was pitch perfect, and definitely in the spirit of the original series. This one might’ve been a bit personal for me, but I think it was the best part of this particular week.

9/9/16 – Atlanta

The show just won the Golden Globe for Best Comedy Series. I think I called this one correctly.

9/16/16 – Better Late Than Never

Another personal one for me, but it’s my site, so whatever. I’m more than certain none of my friends were watching this show, but I watched it weekly with my mom and we enjoyed it. I wrote about it to get folks to seek it out, but I doubt that happened. Still, in a week when nothing happens, things like this are allowed to shine.

9/23/16 – Lindsay West

Mah wife. Running your first half marathon is pretty impressive. And nothing happened in the overall pop culture world. If you’ve followed West Week Ever since the beginning, you know that every so often some random person gets the honor. Hell, last year, my kid had the West Year Ever, so you never know where I might play that card.

10/7/16 – Luke Cage

It broke Netflix! So many people tuned in that Netflix couldn’t handle it. I still haven’t seen it, but I haven’t heard a bad thing about it other than the fact that it kinda drags in the middle – like most Marvel Netflix shows.

10/14/16 – Will & Grace

Considering I think I was the only one impressed by this Will & Grace special that was designed to get folks to get out and vote, I’m sure a lot of folks disagreed with this choice. Still, if you were a Will & Grace fan, then you can’t deny how great it was to see those characters in a way that felt like they’d never left us.

10/21/16 – Logan trailer

Can’t say much more because the movie’s not out yet, but we were ALL talking about this after it dropped, and it’s on most folks’ most anticipated movies of 2017 lists. I don’t think it’s going to disappoint.

10/28/16 – The Walking Dead

I don’t watch it, but I did tune into this episode just to watch a man die. Or two men. Whatever. All folks could talk about this week was whether or not the show had gone too far. The Walking Dead dominated the discussion, so this West Week Ever was well-deserved.

11/4/16 – The Chicago Cubs

Um, the “cursed” team won their first championship after 108 years. Yeah, this was deserved.

12/2/16 – Search Party

I don’t feel like a lot of my readers had seen the show when I wrote this, but I know a few who checked it out because I’d written about it. That’s why I do this, kids! It was one of my favorite shows of 2017, and if you haven’t checked it out yet, I’m not quite sure what you’re waiting for.

12/9/16 – Hamilton

Hamilton for the second time this year. The last time was for its Tony wins, but this one was two-fold: The Hamilton Mixtape was released and a beautifully pirated copy of the play was uploaded to YouTube. I watched it during the 5 days that it was allowed to stay on the site, and I can now die saying that I saw Hamilton. This was on the heels of a controversy where the cast members took a moment to address Vice President-Elect Mike Pence while he was taking in the show. For the next week, the conversation was whether or not they should’ve done that. So, it’s safe to say that Hamilton was on everyone’s lips around that time.

12/16/16 – WWE’s New Day

Yeah, then they lost two days after I posted this. I guess that’s how the cookie crumbles. Still, they deserved the West Week Ever for all they had put in leading up to this point.

12/23/16 – Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

It was the last thing to make a dent in pop culture before the clock ran out on 2016. A lot of folks are saying it’s one of their favorite Star Wars movies. I don’t really get that, but I’m happy for them if that’s the case. I thought it was entertaining, but I didn’t really like it. It’s hard to explain, and I’ve tried. Still, there’s no way anything else is going to take center stage when there’s new Star Wars to be consumed.

So, who had the West Year Ever? In the past, I’ve added up who had the most West Week Ever wins and then it’s a runoff. If we’re being honest, Death had the West Year Ever. There were SO many celebrity deaths this year, that it would take another post just to do a proper In Memoriam for everyone we lost. And of course, you have those guys who wanna “Neil deGrasse Tyson” everything by pointing out that people die all the time, or that the year is an arbitrary number. Whatever, asshole. That doesn’t help anybody, and it’s why you don’t get invited to many parties. Anyway, I don’t like to focus on death in West Week Ever -not because it’s morbid, but more because I feel like I’d have to acknowledge every celebrity death, even when I didn’t personally give a shit about that person. Ain’t nobody got time for that!

Doing the math, it’s a three-way tie between DC Entertainment, Captain America: Civil War, and Hamilton. DC Entertainment really stepped up this year, taking a good chunk of the comics market share away from Marvel, as well as by launching their cinematic universe. After years of being the joke of the industry, DC finally started pushing back. And the Rebirth initiative didn’t hurt things, either. Meanwhile, not everyone loved Civil War. I did, but even I’ll admit that it’s basically “Dawn of Justice Done Right”. They’re both superhero slugfests that surround the concept of dead moms. Some called it “Civil Bore”, but I don’t agree with that. Still, I have to kind of acknowledge that there is a divide out there. Finally, there’s Hamilton. It had a big year, but I don’t know if we’ll look back and say “Hamilton really came into its own in 2016.” If anything, that’s more likely to happen at a time when the show can more easily be consumed by the masses. So, Hamilton’s year may actually be ahead of it, but it’s not 2016. So, I think it’s pretty clear. 2016 was the year where retailers stopped buying everything Marvel was selling, and so did the fans. The quality of Marvel’s output was in question more this year than it was in recent years, yet people still seemed to be able to find positive things about the DC Universe. Meanwhile, their movies might not be your cup of tea, but they made money, and the critics haven’t deterred them from forging ahead. So, with that, I believe I simply have to admit that DC Entertainment had the West Year Ever.

19th Oct2016

Adventures West Coast – Wonder Woman: Earth One Vol 1

by Will

wweo

awc

 

Wonder Woman: Earth One is the least “Grant Morrison” project I’ve ever read from Morrison, and I’m not sure if that’s a good thing or a bad thing. I’ve come to expect a bunch of “over my head” stuff from Morrison’s work, as I rarely even understand most of it. So, when he actually brings a fairly grounded approach to Wonder Woman, I’m almost disappointed that he didn’t bring his patented magic to the book.

If you’re not familiar with the Earth One books, they’re reimaginings of the popular DC Comics heroes, with the stories taking place on a “real world” Earth much like our own. The series started a few years ago, focusing on Superman (I reviewed the second volume of that book), followed by Batman, Teen Titans, and now Wonder Woman.

Now, I have to go on record that I’ve never been the biggest Wonder Woman fan. Sure, she’s part of DC’s “Trinity”, but her greatest strength is just the longevity of her publication history. She’s got no rogues gallery, and there are very few “iconic” Wonder Woman stories. Since her film debut in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, however, I’ve developed a newfound respect for the character, and I’ve been searching for a comic that really gets to her core. As the first volume of an Earth One series, this was bound to be an origin story, so I thought it would be a great place to start. Despite the fact that I don’t necessarily “get” a lot of Grant Morrison’s work, he has a reputation for getting to the core of characters, and here he is teamed with Yanick Paquette, with whom he worked on The Seven Soldiers of Victory, which I enjoyed.

The story opens to a flashback of Hercules and his crew trying to subjugate the Amazons. After Hippolyta, Queen of the Amazons, kills Hercules, she frees the other Amazons from captivity, and they proceed to murder their would-be captors. At this point, they decide to retreat from Man’s World , and we are then taken to present day Paradise Island – an idyllic utopia established by the Amazons, untouched by men. They’re flying around on hovercycles and in invisible jets, and my chauvinism came out: my first thought was “What man created those for them?” Yeah, I know I suck, but admitting it is the first step to recovery, right?

Anyway, Diana, daughter of Hippolyta, is being brought back to Paradise Island in chains, on trial for breaking Amazon law and going to Man’s World. Through various testimonies, we learn how Diana discovered an injured pilot named Steve Trevor, who had crash landed on the island. Knowing that he would be killed simply for being a man, she devises a scheme to get him back to the US for the medical help that he needs. Along the way, she finds herself bewildered by the state of women in Man’s World, and she ends up getting a makeover from a sorority. Yeah, that happened.

The book does take some interesting liberties with the story, however. For example, Steve Trevor is a Black man in this version, which works just fine. After all, there’s nothing that says he had to be White other than the time period in which he was created. Another thing is that the story confirms Wonder Woman as a queer character, as its her lover’s invisible jet that she steals in order to get Trevor to safety. I just find it interesting that the latest news cycle revolved around the fact that the current Wonder Woman writer, Greg Rucka, had identified her as queer when this story predated his run. So, either nobody read this thing OR they figured it “didn’t count” since it takes place on another Earth.

The art is beautiful, yet flat. There’s no real action, and the characters look like Colorforms just creatively placed around the page. It almost felt like Paquette took a page from the Greg Land playbook, where the model images come from different sources so they don’t necessarily mesh well when placed together. As pretty as the art may be, I’m not sure it really complements the story being told.

I’m not going to spoil the whole thing, as most of the story is told through flashbacks, and would make more sense if you read it. At the end of the day, though, Morrison basically just gives us an update of The Little Mermaid. Diana has everything she could want, but she knows there’s more out in the world and she wants to experience it, much to the chagrin of her royal parent. There’s little depth to Diana, and it’s odd seeing Morrison tackle a character who’s so brazenly optimistic. There’s typically a darkness to his subjects, which probably lends to their complexity. It’s a cute story – the kind of thing you could read to your young daughter before she goes to sleep. But it’s not a Morrison Story, which is synonymous with layers and crazy, wacky shit. I guess I should appreciate the fact that he wrote something I can actually grasp, but part of me feels like he just phoned it in. I’ve found that a lot of the heroes’ depiction in the Earth One books leaves a lot to be desired, so maybe this follows that pattern. Their Superman is a quiet loner. Their Batman is kind of a doofus who’s a shitty detective. So, I guess it makes sense that their Wonder Woman would be a peppy cheerleader. It just feels like such a wasted opportunity, though. Here, Morrison seems out of his element, and has little to offer a story that’s been told better by others before him.

17th Apr2014

Adventures West Coast – Nick Fury Vs. S.H.I.E.L.D. TPB

by Will

awc

 

nick-fury-vs-shield

In light of recent events in Captain America: The Winter Soldier, as well as Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., I figured it’d be a good time to finally read this tale. Upon reading it, it’s clear that it was more of an inspiration for The Winter Soldier than the actual Winter Soldier storyline. As it’s a miniseries from the 80s, it predates the debut of the Winter Soldier by about twenty years, but that doesn’t change things. Nick Fury discovers that S.H.I.E.L.D. has been infiltrated, and he goes on the run as an enemy of the state. Sound familiar? Lets take a closer look.

When the story starts, Fury and other S.H.I.E.L.D. agents are trying to recover the nuclear power core from the recently destroyed helicarrier. The minute it seems like the core is secure, A.I.M. and Hydra attack and steal the core. Thanks to a well-placed deep cover agent, Fury discovers that the core is actually in the possession of the evil Roxxon Corporation. When he reports back to his superiors, they cut him off and say they’ll look into it. Next thing Fury knows, The Council is saying that there’s no evidence against Roxxon, and it appears his deep cover agent has been brainwashed. Suddenly, Fury is wanted for treason, and is forced to go on the run from his own organization.

While Fury’s on the run, we find out that people aren’t who they say they are, as several S.H.I.E.L.D. agents have been replaced by clones. Jasper Sitwell is placed in charge of S.H.I.E.L.D. and he leads the search for Fury. Sitwell meets with both Avengers teams, as well as the Fantastic Four, and warns them not to aid Fury. With no heroes to turn to, Fury is forced to turn to deep cover agent Alexander Pierce. Unlike in The Winter Soldier, Pierce is not Fury’s boss, but rather another sleeper agent who’s a little rusty since he’s been out of the game for a while. While escaping several ambushes, Fury and Pierce piece together a ragtag group that includes Al McKenzie, the CIA liaison to S.H.I.E.L.D., as well as an incarnation of Madame Hydra – all in an attempt to figure out what’s been going on with S.H.I.E.L.D.  Here’s where the similarities end, and the third act gets kinda weird.

The person behind the whole S.H.I.E.L.D. infiltration was a Life Model Decoy (LMD) that gained a sense of independence. It was originally designed to maintain areas that were too dangerous for human agents, and it increased its objective to be on a global scale. Instead of maintaining S.H.I.E.L.D.’s systems, it sought to maintain humanity. In order to do this, the LMD worked its way through S.H.I.E.L.D., replacing key people with Deltites – flesh and blood clones with malleable personalities. This expanded into almost a game, as the LMD eventually controlled S.H.I.E.L.D., A.I.M., Hydra, Roxxon, and The Council. Deltites would help him assert control over humanity, but there was a problem: the Deltites decayed at a rapid rate, so the clones kept having to be recreated. Like copying a tape, the further you got away from the source, the worse the copy. So, the only way to make sure the Deltites didn’t decay was to infuse them with the Infinity Formula that keeps Fury from aging.

There’s a whole bunch of other craziness, like the LMD created a false religion and disciples in order to serve the Deltites, and Hydra kills a village of a couple thousand people. In the end, S.H.I.E.L.D. is ordered to disband.

So, in Captain America: The Winter Soldier, both Nick Fury and Captain America share the comic Fury role. Both were betrayed by S.H.I.E.L.D. and both go on the run. In the movie, it makes more sense that the agency would be infiltrated by Hydra rather than by an LMD – a concept that hasn’t even been introduced in the Marvel Cinematic Universe at this time. Sitwell finds himself on the wrong side of history, and both stories end with S.H.I.E.L.D. being dismantled.

At this point, I’m not even sure this miniseries is considered canon. A lot of the S.H.I.E.L.D. agents who were replaced by Deltites are still around, even though they were supposedly killed when the switch took place. Clay Quartermain, Jimmy Woo, and Jasper Sitwell are all key agents who were killed in the story, yet there’s been no mention of it since.

So, do I recommend this story? Sure. If you’re like me, and you’ve always been curious about how S.H.I.E.L.D. operates, it’s a really interesting story. It even references the Academy, which I didn’t even know existed until it was featured on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.  The first two acts are suspenseful in the same vein as The Winter Soldier, and it’s just unfortunate that the final act is bogged down with an exploration of what it means to be human and to have a soul. It really kills the suspenseful mood, and I don’t feel like it stuck the landing. Still, if you’re looking for a comic that mostly feels like The Winter Soldier, this is a good place to start.

12th Feb2014

Adventures West Coast – Superman: Earth One Vol 2

by Will

awc

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I guess it’s kinda odd for me to write about Volume 2 when I never got around to writing about Volume 1, huh? Oh well, that’s just how I roll. Earth One was an interesting concept: Let’s tell stories about our marquee heroes that start from the beginning. No baggage, no continuity. In many ways, it was DC’s version of Marvel’s Ultimate Universe – a no frills modernization of classic heroes. In fact, a lot of the character designs (especially Batman) were based on early art for a DC “ultimization” that was shown in an old issue of Wizard Magazine. I’ll probably get around to writing about Earth One: Batman at some point, but we’re here for Superman today. The Earth One concept was somewhat unique until DC rebooted their universe with The New 52. Suddenly, a Superman wearing a hoodie wasn’t as revolutionary as a Superman wearing jeans and a t-shirt. No, Earth One Superman never went through a Superboy phase, but now neither had New 52 Supes. So, the real question is this: can Earth One Superman still carve out a niche when the regular product has stolen his mojo?

As the first volume dealt with Clark’s arrival in Metropolis, this installment finds him still getting settled into his new digs. There are subtle changes to set this apart from the Superman canon we all know and love. For example, it’s Clark, and not Lois, who gets this first interview with Superman. Not only is this something of an unethical conflict of interest (um, they’re the same guy!), but it also stokes the fires of the Lois & Clark rivalry. As such, this also means that “Superman” is a name that he gave to himself, rather than a moniker given to him in that first Lois interview.

The biggest aspect of this volume, however, is the origin/introduction of Parasite. I’m not an expert on Parasite, so I can’t tell you if this was an original origin or just an homage to something done in the past. Basically, it seems that he was a psychopath turned serial killer who ended up in the wrong place at the wrong time. This led to his transformation into Parasite, which left him with an insatiable hunger for power. Superman fights him, of course, and eventually beats him with the help of containment armor.

While Superman may have met his physical match, the most compelling aspects of the story are those that deal with Clark’s inability to fit in. We’ve experienced the tales where Clark is advised to keep his head down and not attract unwanted attention, but this story goes a long way to explain the cost of that behavior. It led Clark to be a withdrawn, straight C student with no friends. In this Smallville, there didn’t seem to be a Lana Lang or a Pete Ross to bring him out of his shell. So, instead we got a Clark Kent who took great pains to lead the most average life so as not to stick out as being different. In the most emotional part of the story, Clark tells a new friend about his favorite childhood pet, and it becomes obvious that the pet was the best friend he had ever had.

An interesting part of the story is that it features a flashback where Jonathan Kent tries to have The Talk with Clark. Though movies like to poke fun at it, I think this is the first time that a Superman comic has addressed the fact that his ejaculate could potentially injure a partner. This comes into play later, as Clark’s new neighbor is totally DTF. He clearly wants her, but his father’s words come back to haunt him, so he shies away from her. It’s probably for the best, as he later learns she hooks on the side.

Anyway, this leads back to my original question: is there room for Earth One Superman in a New 52 world? I think the answer is a resounding yes. I like the original graphic novel format, as it ensures there’s only one book you have to read for the full story, which is being told by one creative team. I like that there’s no real continuity outside of the two volumes. Anyway, if you’re looking for a fresh, modern take on Superman (no, Smallville doesn’t count), then you should definitely pick up this book.

05th Jan2014

Adventures West Coast – Saga Vol 1

by Will

awc

OK, Saga. You won this round.

Saga

I really didn’t want to like this series, and it took me several tries to actually get into it. I first encountered Saga in the comic shop when the debut issue shipped. I made the mistake of turning to a particular page, which left me wondering “Why are these TV-headed people having doggiestyle sex?” Clearly, that wasn’t going to be the best introduction to this tale! I also decided that I didn’t like the art, so I walked away. Yet, the world continued to rave about how great of a book it was. A few weeks back, I found a reprint of that first issue for $1 at the VA Comicon, so I decided to give it another chance. I didn’t hate it as much as I’d expected, but it still didn’t do much for me. Still, the hype machine continued to laud the series with praises. A pal of mine told me not to judge it until I tried the first volume. Luckily, I got it on sale a few weeks back, and finally got a chance to read it over the weekend. Well, as much as I hate to admit it, he was right. The first volume was a much better sampling of the story, and I really enjoyed it.

Before we get into the whats and wherefores with Saga, let’s back up a little. Why was I expecting the worst? Well, it has something to do with writer Brian K. Vaughan. I’ve ranted about this to anyone who’ll listen, but it basically comes down to this: Vaughan is a great idea man, but he’s not a “closer”. The endings of his longform series have always left me disappointed. His major contribution to the Marvel Universe, Runaways, had a non-ending because new writers were coming aboard. Y: The Last Man switched gears about 2/3 of the way in, and became a story that was about the journey and not the destination. The ending of Ex Machina made me want to throw the book at a wall. The only Vaughan ending I ever enjoyed was the Marvel Knights Wolverine: Logan series – mainly because he only had three issues with which to work his story. Oh, and Pride of Baghdad was also good.

Going back to Y, that leads to something I dislike about Saga: because the story is told looking back from the perspective of the grown up baby, you know that the baby survives. I feel this takes some of the suspense out of the story, eliminating the “anything could happen” aspect. By using this vantage point, however, Vaughan is setting up from the beginning that this story is definitely about the journey rather than the destination. While I don’t tend to like those types of stories (because they tend to come at the cost of a satisfying ending), I’m more OK with it here since the story was set up that way from the beginning; there was no switching gears midway through the story.

So, what did I like about Saga? Well, the series is full of so many WTF?! moments that you can’t help but get engrossed. Why are the robots having sex? How are the robots getting pregnant? How is the topless, armless woman a spider?! Plus, there are enough crazy bounty hunters to give Cowboy Bebop a run for its money. What, at it’s core, is simply a story about two starcrossed lovers trying to protect their baby from threats from all corners of the galaxy, is enhanced by the rich world that Vaughan and artist Fiona Staples have created. This could have easily been “Romeo and Juliet with a baby”, but instead it’s so much more. Plus, how can you hate a book with a panel like this?

2014-01-05 02.01.56An alligator butler!

You got me, Saga. I wanted to hate you, but now I just wanna see what happens next. I’m trusting you here, so don’t let me down, Vaughan. I’m giving you one last chance, so please don’t let me down.

18th Jun2013

Adventures West Coast – The Wolverine Post

by Will

awc

Well, it’s been quite a while! For those not familiar with Adventures West Coast, it’s a comic review feature that I created back when I was unemployed a few years ago. “The more things change…” Let’s just say you’ll be seeing a lot more of it in the near future. But enough of that! There’s no format to this. Sometimes I do a full in-depth recap, while other times I just kinda list my thoughts. Some will be long, some will be short. I’m complex like that. Today, we’re looking at a few Wolverine collections. I’m not the biggest Logan fan, and I find him to be HIGHLY overrated. I mean, it was one thing when he had a simple healing factor, but now he’s basically invincible. I think a lot of what makes him unique has been lost by that power boost, plus current writers can’t seem to get a handle on him. On the one hand, he’s know for being the berserker, but it seems like he’s the ONLY character in which writers wish to show “growth”, as his recent appearances have mellowed him. Hell, he’s even the headmaster of the school in one X title! So, we’re going to look at a few of his most important storylines.

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Marvel Premiere Classic Vol 3: Wolverine #1-4, Uncanny X-Men #172-173

As the breakout star of the All-New, All Different X-Men, Wolverine got his first miniseries in 1982, by fan favorites Chris Claremont and Frank Miller. It’s a Wolverine In Japan story, and since the art’s by Miller, it has a shitload of ninjas. I have never been a fan of Wolverine in Japan. It’s their attempt to make him have some sort of code of honor that somewhat contradicts the fact that he’s supposed to be this maniacal killing machine. I can handle him in Madripoor, ’cause that place is basically Sodom, but his whole “peaceful samurai” shtick doesn’t work with me.

The series opens with Wolverine killing a bear. Ya know, to prove he’s badass. Then he goes to Japan and all Hell breaks loose. How to break this down? OK, he’s in love with Mariko Yashida, but she’s married to another man – a man who beats her. And Wolverine’s just looking for a reason to fight. In 4 issues, he defends Mariko, meets and teams up with Yukio, and ends up popping his claws in some Japanese gangsters. At the end of the mini, he and Mariko decide to marry, and he sends the wedding invitation to his X-Men pals.

The included Uncanny X-Men issues feature the lead-up to the wedding. The X-Men land in Japan, and Wolverine’s surprised  to see that they took in a villain like Rogue. Don’t worry, she proves herself before the story’s over, and earns Wolverine’s trust. Storm befriends Yukio, which will be much important later. Oh, did I mention that Mariko’s brother is the Silver Samurai? Well, he is. So, Wolverine’s got to deal with that, as well. Just before the wedding, Storm reveals her punk mohawk look, inspired by Yukio. If you remember Storm from the 80s, this is how you remember her. At the wedding, Mariko calls off the ceremony because Wolverine “is not worthy” – this was due to the fact that Mastermind intervened and influenced her decision.

In all, it’s “classic Wolverine”, but not the aspects of the character that I like. In Marvel comics, I hate Japan as much as I hate space. They just seem like a cop-out.

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Marvel Premiere Classic Vol 5 Wolverine: Weapon X

This was more powerful than I was expecting. It’s a fairly well-known story at this point, but the nuances in the story really make it something special. Barry Windsor-Smith wrote and drew this story in Marvel Comics Presents, which was the first time they had really tried to explain how Wolverine had become the person that he is. What struck me was the fact that he’s really a victim in this tale. While we know he’s not necessarily a “good” man, he’s still a man…at least at the beginning of the story. Department X kidnaps him and turns him into a monster. Along the way, you see the adamantium bonding process. You see the pain that it causes him. You also see the carnage that ensues when he breaks free and goes berserk in the compound. Sure, you have that “Death Star moment”, when you realize that some of these folks were independent contractors and whatnot but many of them laughed as the program treated Logan like an animal. As you see him slaughter them, you know that he’s justified in what he’s doing. No man should ever been put in that position. As you read Weapon X, you watch as a man is stripped of his humanity. If you never read another Wolverine story, you’d understand why he’s so angry. He has every right to be.

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Wolverine: Origin

When this was first announced, comic fandom shat a collective brick. How could they reveal Wolverine’s origin?! That would kill his mystique! Little did we know that this story  wouldn’t really contribute much to the Wolverine mythos. Some define “origin” as “the beginning of something’s existence”. They could’ve released 4 issues of Wolverine coming out of his mother’s vagina, and it would have been classified as an “origin”. All we learned was where he came from, but we still didn’t learn much more from Origin. Here are the bulletpoints:

-His birth name was James Howlett; he takes the name “Logan” (which was the name of the groundskeeper) once he runs away from his old life

-He was from a rich family, but the groundskeeper is probably his real father, as a dalliance between he and Mrs Howlett was implied

-He was cast out after one fateful night when basically everyone in his house was murdered from various circumstances

-We find out why he has an affinity for redheads

-He also has a brother out there somewhere, who eventually comes back in Wolverine: The End

He runs away, becomes a cagefighter, and that’s pretty much it. This project was ordered by Bill Jemas, and it seemed like it was the beginning of a larger project. Not that it had to be an ongoing series, but it did feel like they could return to the well anytime they needed to boost the bottom line. That, however, didn’t exactly come to pass. The Origin storyline seemed to culminate in the Wolverine: The End, though many of these events have been contradicted since, especially by the “Old Man Logan” storyline. It’s important to note that Origin and The End were both written by Paul Jenkins, allowing him to expand on his ideas. Eventually, Marvel released a Wolverine: Origins ongoing series, which meant to fill in some gaps but it seemed to “dance between the raindrops” of continuity. It was written by Daniel Way, and introduced such concepts as Romulus and Wolverine’s pre Weapon X life. The series lasted for 50 issues, but it didn’t really fill in many gaps, nor have we had a sequel that picks up immediately after the initial Jenkins story.

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Wolverine: Logan

I used to be a fan of Brian K. Vaughan. While I was late to the game on Y: The Last Man, I was an early adopter on Runaways and Ex Machina. After finishing those 3 series, I came to a conclusion: Vaughan is a HORRIBLE closer. He’s got some great ideas, and he seems to think outside the box of conventional concepts. That said, I don’t think he has ever followed those ideas through to a satisfying ending. His Runaways stint ends with a bit of a non ending, as the reigns were handed over to Joss Whedon, who kinda shat the bed. That situation’s even sadder when you realize that he created the Runaways. Sure, it was work-for-hire, but it’s as close to “creator owned” as you’re gonna get at Marvel without moving over to Icon. He created characters that will actually factor into the Marvel Universe in years to come. All that, but he never really said a proper goodbye. Y: The Last Man is one of those situations where, late in the game, you realize it’s more about the journey than the destination. That’s fine and all, but it made for an unsatisfying ending. And I know people who were angered by the ending to Ex Machina, myself included. So, I pretty much considered myself done with the Vaughan catalog.

One day, I happened upon this collection of Wolverine: Logan, and I couldn’t resist the $5 price tag. I’d read good things about the series, and it’s only 3 issues, so how bad could it be? I can honestly say that this is one of the best, most fleshed out things that I’ve read from Vaughan. As bad as it sounds, I think he’s better suited to minis than ongoings. With only 3 issues, he didn’t have enough time to get lost in his ideas. Hell, if you read Y: The Last Man collected, you know there are some volumes around Vol 6 that just kinda slow things down. So, he seems better when he’s focused and has a finite page limit.

Basically, this is another Wolverine in Japan tale, but it’s unlike any we’ve seen before. It’s the middle of WWII, and Wolverine and another soldier end up in a prison camp. After they escape, they happen upon a woman. The partner wants to kill her, as “all Japs are the same”, while Wolverine tells him to just walk away. She nurses Wolverine’s wounds, and the two strike up a romance. They enjoy their solitary life until that soldier returns, bent on killing the Japanese woman. He stabs her, and Wolverine goes berserk. During their fight, an atomic bomb is dropped on them. Yes, an atomic bomb. WOLVERINE IS CAUGHT IN THE BLAST OF AN ATOMIC BOMB. I don’t even know how to process that, but I accept it. Turns out the soldier was a mutant, and the bomb blast turned him into something of a ghost, who’s been haunting Logan ever since. Logan returns to the island to finally end the nightmare.

Like I said, it’s a tight, 3-issue story. It felt like it was longer, but it hit all the necessary beats. Plus, the artwork by Eduardo Risso hit all the gritty notes needed in a story like this.

So, there ya have it. I still think Wolverine’s overrated, but you can’t get much more definitive than the four stories I covered today. If you really want to get down to the core of the Wolverine character, definitely check these out.

13th Jun2013

Adventures West Coast: DMZ

by Will

awc I don’t know if there’s a less likable protagonist in comics than Matty Roth. Before we get there, let’s back up a bit. DMZ basically follows the story of “what if the tactics of the Gulf War were being used on American soil during a new civil war?” As is prone to occur in real war, the story’s been going on so long that I don’t even remember why they’re fighting. I know there’s the Free States militia, and the US is still intact, but I don’t even remember if the country’s gone to shit outside the borders of the 5 boroughs. The story focuses on Manhattan, and how its citizens have learned to cope during wartime. When the fighting first broke out, many were evacuated, but there are still about 400,000 people left in NYC. In the meantime, there’s Trustwell – a Haliburton-esque group that’s profiting off of every aspect of the war. DMZ_-1_page01_panel01 At the beginning of the series, clean cut Matty Roth is accompanying reporters into the DMZ when they’re shot down. After a string of horrific events, Matty finds himself thrust into the role of documenting the struggle of the city’s survivors. At first, he was just a wet-behind-the-ears child of privilege. Both of his parents had some political clout,  which is how he landed such a high profile gig. As yuppie kids are wont to do, he decides to lash out at his parents and strike out on his own path…in the middle of a battle zone. So, the series is really about impetuous Matty finding himself being thrown from one clusterfuck to the next.

courtesy goodokbad.com

courtesy goodokbad.com

The role of the press is odd here. Matty’s press badge seems to gain him access and connections that I didn’t know existed. I’m left to wonder if the Power of the Press is truly that strong, or if it’s exacerbated for the sake of the story. I feel like, in another time, the press might have been afforded certain access. Here, however, it’s almost incredible the sort of protection that Matty’s press badge gets him. He’s in a virtually lawless society, yet everyone seems to understand that a member of the “press” is untouchable. Any war report pretty much invalidates the claim that the “press” has any sort of immunity on the battlefield. At first, Matty was that preppy kid that none of the survivors trusted. He really wanted them to accept him, but they couldn’t because he was clearly just a “tourist”. Over the course of the next four years, he makes a few important friends, and even finds himself as a part of the political machine. The US allowed NYC to hold election, however they plan to rig the results by authorizing mercenaries to attack people at the polls. Matty aligns himself with Parco Delgado, who’s a bit of an Al Sharpton character – he’s liked by the common man, but seen as a thug by those already in power. Matty tags along with the campaign because he thinks it’ll be “fun”. He eventually becomes Parco’s right hand man, not realizing what that will mean when everything eventually goes to shit. A nuke is set off in Connecticut, Parco disappears, and Matty becomes the fall guy. Now, he’s skulking around NYC looking like a hipster Serpico.

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The series is best when it focuses on characters other than Matty. From Wilson, the quiet, elder boss of Chinatown, to Zee, the former nursing student turned tour guide to the DMZ. The situation just seems like a game to Matty, while everyone else is just trying to survive. While he had been in dangerous situations, and his parents have each made public shows of cutting him off, you never really believe that Matty’s in any trouble. When the shit hits the fan, his parents will be there to bail him out, which is exactly what happens at the end of Volume 9. Matty strikes a deal with the US government, that his political crimes/associations will be expunged if he agrees to become a mouthpiece for the right-wing media. Instead of reporting the truth, Matty’s now being paid to spin the story for the international press, to drum up the support that America needs in order to finally win the war. He makes a big show saying that he’ll take the job, but he still wants a trial following his assignment because he wants a chance to tell his story on the stand. That’s all well and good, but nobody gives a shit about his “faux nobility”.That doesn’t mean anything to the citizens of NYC, and if there’s any justice, Matty won’t survive the end of the war anyway. He’s like that emo kid who doesn’t know how good he’s got it. Now he’s all wrapped up in self pity, going on about how he doesn’t deserve to live, while it’s obvious that he’s not a man who’s prepared to die. This is not a hero’s journey. This is some spoiled asshole who got in over his head, hurt a LOT of people, and will probably make things worse before they get better. A YEAR AND A HALF LATER… Yeah, it took me that long to get back to this post. I started it on 9/16/11, and here it is June of 2013. A recent trip to NYC inspired me to finish the series – especially since I had the two remaining volumes on my shelf, collecting dust. Where to begin, where to begin? Matty returns to the DMZ, now as an “impartial observer” meant to sway public opinion on the campaign in NYC. The final battle is on the horizon, and history needs to be assured that the surge was a necessary action. The US Government devises “The Battle for Manhattan”, as US troops are finally prepared to take back the city – even if that means destroying it in the process. Parco is found, and we find that he was working for another group the entire time. He was meant to be a puppet, but he had been determined to run New York in the interest of the people. Anyway, he’s captured in a Saddam Hussein-like hole in the ground, and put on trial. Let’s just say that the Parco story ends in an interesting way…

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Meanwhile, we get flashbacks to how the war began in the first place. Imagine if Occupy Wall Street had actually accomplished anything. That’s what essentially starts the second American Civil War. Disgruntled members of the 99% decide that they’ve had it with the way things are going, and they gradually form the Free States of America. As the country continues to fall apart, police and other first responders are defunded, with their ranks joining up with the FSA. The FSA starts in the Midwest, but moves east towards NYC, looting and raiding military bases and weapons stockpiles along the way. Manhattan is the symbolic beachhead of the war, yet neither the FSA nor the government have secured it, hence its status as a demilitarized zone. It’s powerful to see that this 6-year civil war was borne out of the very same events that we’ve experienced in the real world. It really makes the reader think about what might have been. Back in the present, the surge is swift, the treaty is signed, and the war ends. Matty takes one final tour of NYC, looking up familiar friends and allies, while trying to process all that he’s gone through. It’s at this point that we learn Matty has cut some sort of deal with the US Government, brokered by his father. We don’t know what the deal entails, but we know that Matty has 2 weeks in which to get his affairs in order. After two weeks have passed, Matty is taken into custody, and put on trial for crimes against humanity. He ends up pleading guilty to all counts, including some charges that were untrue. I won’t spoil the nature of his sentencing, but let’s just say that it comes as no surprise. dmz-20120103000346302-000 Around the midpoint of the series, Matty became determined to be a martyr, in whatever form that might take. After being bamboozled by Parco, he’s never able to forgive himself for the actions that ensued. That said, his wish for martyrdom seemed just as insincere as everything else he had done while in the DMZ. For a character who seriously needed his comeuppance, I can’t say that I was satisfied with the ending. While he seemingly loses everything, it almost feels like he didn’t lose enough. He goes out on his own terms rather than have his fate governed by external forces. In that light, it’s less like a man taking responsibility for his actions, but rather a man who pity parties himself into his situation. Before his trial, he found out enough information that could’ve have saved him during his trial, but he decided not to use it. He decided that ending the war was more important than the truth. Again, it’s that foolhardy martyrdom, devoid of clear thinking. In the end, I think Matty got what he wanted, even if the reader didn’t.

27th Nov2012

Blast From The Past: Small Press Expo/SPX 2006

by Will

So, I pretty much find any excuse to let you know that I was once a purchasing brand manager for Diamond Comic Distributors. Basically, I helped make the Previews catalog, and worked with small press publishers. Anyway, I was going through old emails yesterday, and I found this draft from that time. I’m not quite sure why I never posted it. I think I was going through a blogging dry spell. Anyway, I thought I’d share it with you, as a lot of my feelings haven’t changed in the past 6 years. I’ve also added annotations to it. So, sit back and enjoy this blast from my comic past!

I went to my first-ever Small Press Expo today in Bethesda, MD, to see what the nation’s alternative “comix” creators and fans are all about

My initial impressions:

1. It was a different scene than the Baltimore Comic-Con last month. For one thing, there were a lot of young women — the brainy, hippie types with pale skin, sharp noses and chins, piercing eyes and Lisa Loeb glasses … if you’re into that sort of thing. Sadly (*sigh*) I totally am.

Heh, I’m gonna get in trouble for that one. And it’s right up front. Next!

2. Even the guys looked different. Super-hero comics guys are two-thirds fat slobs, one-third skinny geeks. Indie comix guys are two-thirds skinny geeks, one-third fat slobs. Indie comix cost more, so maybe their readers can’t afford food.

Aren’t stereotypes a wonderful thing? Still, I maintain that you’re more likely to find a vegan amongst the indie crew than the mainstream set!

3. It’s hard to casually flip through comix for sale on a table, then walk away, when the artist is sitting right there, staring at you. I felt guilty. A similar problem: Opening a comic, realizing it’s very explicit gay porn and worrying that I’m going to look like a homophobe to the artist two feet away if I quickly close the comic and put it down. So, um, how long do I have to stand there?

So, there’s an anthology I picked up called True Porn. It’s really just trying to cash in on the taboo nature of sex, but it’s pretty graphic. For years, it was one of my prized indie collections. A few years later, I picked up True Porn 2. This volume, however, was nothing but trucker sex and glory holes. I’ve never ventured to see if there was a 3rd volume.

4. Lots of self-published comix have colorful, well-drawn covers with clean lines … but then you open them, and the interiors are black-and-white scribblings from an epileptic chicken that must have clutched a Bic pen in its claw. One guy was charging $5 for a comic in which he had simply scratched out typos, rather than use Wite-Out.

True story, boo.

5. I think I’m the only fanboy who does not want to write or draw comics or comix.

This part is why I didn’t last long at Diamond. The vast majority of the employees are in the midst of a conflict of interest. Everyone wants to be a writer or artist. I just liked getting comps. If you’re not trying to get your foot in the door, you’ll realize you care more about paying your bills than having an uncredited short story in a Red Sonja anthology.

6. Scott McCloud packed a room to share his latest theories on comix storytelling, which bored the crap out of me. He drew a four-box grid, divided it into “classicists,” “animists,” “formalists” and “iconoclasts” and talked at length about the wars between those camps. He referenced ongoing debates on THE COMICS JOURNAL message board — in-jokes that provoked waves of nerd laughter. I left early. My seat was claimed immediately.

I don’t remember this at all, and I pride myself on my memory. I remember trying to read Understanding Comics while in college, and ditching it after a few pages. I just don’t care about the “science” of comic making. To me, that’s taking the fun out of it. Sure, it’s cool to learn about creators and influences, but when you get into the mechanics of thought bubbles and page gutters, I’m out.

7. The panel next-door, on political cartooning, was much more interesting. Ted Rall is very funny. The cartoonists agreed that America is so badly polarized now that nobody is going to change their minds on any serious issue, such as the Iraq War. So they see their job as rallying the liberals, the way Fox News Channel rallies the conservatives. A dozen lost elections in a row — way to go, cartoonists!

I do remember this, which is funny because I grew to dislike Ted Rall and his whole schtick. To me, this is the crowd that birthed the Occupy Movement.

8. Rick Veitch, our Comicon lord and master, is a truly nice guy. I walked up to his table, stuck out my paw, gave him my real name and said I was one of his message board idiots. He smiled and asked for my screen name, which he claimed to recognize. And he didn’t tear-gas me! We had a pleasant chat about Comicon, which he says he enjoys doing, except for the occasional defamation lawsuit threat. Veitch and co-owner Steve Conley apparently are thinking of ways to make this place bigger and link it to other parts of the fanboy Web world.

This. This shit right here. This…OK, let me back up. I don’t remember this. I don’t even remember having a screenname on Comic.com. I remember the site. It used to be awesome, as it had The Pulse, The Beat and more. I don’t remember being on a message board, though. I HATE message boards. I tend to always kill threads. I need a medium where a response is somewhat guaranteed. I do remember having nice correspondence with Jen Contino, who used to edit The Pulse. Was that on a message board? Who knows?

Here’s the kicker: when I got to Diamond, I kinda got in some shit with Rick. Ya see, part of the conversation that I didn’t post was that he kinda steered me into talking about his books. I get kinda starstruck, so I was all like “Sure, sir. We’ll put the spotlight on your books!” Later on, I realized that he was, at that point, primarily a backlist publisher. This meant that he wasn’t putting out anything new, but was depending on reorders of his back catalog. Let me tell ya something: unless you’re Marvel or DC, Diamond doesn’t give much of a shit about your back catalog. So, I essentially made promises that I couldn’t keep – something I was raised never to do. So, my Diamond career could be charted by a series of flubs and make-goods for Rick Veitch. I gave him an ad in Previews ($3500 value!) but none of his books were in stock. Once they were restocked, he wanted his free ad again. Instead, I relisted all of his books (something that’s never supposed to be done unless there’s a new printing or REASON), and he didn’t like that there wasn’t enough of a spotlight on things. I think I even requested a “Rick Veitch Month” for Previews, and no one could understand why I was doing all this. Mainly, I had to make good on my word. He was a tough bastard, though I feel he kinda took advantage of me. I had offered him things he hadn’t really earned, but he was going to hold me to it. I learned a lot from that experience.

9. Fantagraphics sells a ton of lovingly produced comix and books (boox?) that I’d read for free at my local library out of curiosity, but I don’t see myself plopping down $5 to $45 to buy it. Like a comic about an unshaven clown who weeps. For the entire 20 pages. In French. Drawn with chalk. On black paper. Who has the money to fill their house with this?

I later became the Diamond contact for Fantagraphics. Regardless of how I felt about your product, I became a starstruck poseur once those people were on the phone. I pimped everything that came down the pike from them, and it’s not like you can suggest anything because they’re FANTAGRAPHICS! Once I was gone, I started railing against all their stuff in the comments sections of hoity-toity blogs. Such a coward. They’re still cranking out the same kinda highbrow pablum, though.

10. My apologies to those who suggested questions for me. I had no chance to ask McCloud anything, because I left his panel to hear the political cartoonists. I started to ask Gary Groth a question at the Fantagraphics booth, but as I opened my mouth to speak, he snarled at some guy that he wanted to catch the next flight the hell out of Washington and get back home. It wasn’t a “come introduce yourself, my friend” snarl. Groth is a relatively short, compact, wiry guy with dark hair fading to gray — ironically, he looks like Harlan Ellison did about 20 years ago.

Who the Hell am I apologizing to? Questions? I didn’t have readers to submit questions. Hell, I only have about 20 readers now when I don’t write about Power Rangers. I don’t know what’s going on in this blurb. How the Hell did I know what Harlan Ellison looked like 20 years ago? I guess I had read some old Comics Journals or something.

11. I think I like super-hero comics fanboys better than indie comix fanboys. Comics guys don’t take themselves half as seriously as do comix guys. Even John Byrne, on his most arrogant day, isn’t waiting for his MacArthur genius grant so he can start his 1,400-page autobiographical graphic novel.

This is one of most incorrect statements I will ever make. I wasn’t as entrenched in the internet at this point (MySpace was still hot and The Facebook hadn’t let in the riffraff yet), so I didn’t know what was going on amongst the various message boards. Both fan bases are two sides of the same coin. I hold the same opinion of the indie set, but I also apply those traits to the mainstream.

So, there ya have it – the ramblings of 25 year old Will. I enjoyed my time in the industry, but it was definitely a “don’t meet your heroes” kind of experience. Also, I ABHOR the stylized “comix”. I hope I wasn’t too hard on the small press. Over the years, I’ve encountered a lot of cool small press books that I’ve recommended to friends (some are even in the Adventures West Coast posts!), so there’s definitely some great stuff out there. That said, I just can’t bring myself to go to SPX anymore. It has gotten was too hippie at a time when I just don’t have time for that. I’m not sure what that says about me or them, but we’re just not in the same place anymore. To read this post, I’m not sure we ever were.

12th Oct2012

LoEB Presents The State of the Site Address

by Will

It’s funny that this week’s topic for The League is a “state of the site” address. You see, about a month ago, I posted a total emo rant over on Tumblr during a bout where I wasn’t feeling so great. If you’re interested, it’s here, but it’s not all sunshine and lollipops. I think my problem is that I’m constantly trying to figure out that one thing that’ll put me over the top. I’m a funny dude, I’ve got a cool name, and I like the same stuff that you do. So, why do I not have disciples?! My blogging role models wouldn’t surprise you: X-Entertainment/Dinosaur Dracula was my first geek blog reader experience, and I admire the empire that Rob Bricken has built over at Topless Robot. At the end of the day, I want what they have. I want to be the defining opinion on nerd culture. I want to be a frequent guest on podcasts. I want to be able to throw up a Kickstarter and meet my goal in a matter of hours. I WANT POWER!!!! I’ve been striving to find my niche, like the period of time I decided I wanted to be America’s Top Blerd. Then, I stumbled upon Black Nerd hanging out with actual nerd-lebrities, and realized he’d already claimed the title.

Honestly, I think it’s a bit different than that. I mean, power sounds fun and all, but one thing that people don’t realize is that I live on the internet. Recently, I’ve come to realize that I have Aspie tendencies, and I don’t like reality too much. My IRL friends call me and I avoid the phone, for reasons I can’t really explain. Over the past couple of years, some of my most meaningful friendships have been online. For some, Twitter and Instagram and the like are just pastimes, but I honestly consider you people friends. When you disappear for a period of time, I worry. When you get married or have a kid, I celebrate. Sure, I’ve never met any of you, but that doesn’t matter. So, the blog is a bit of an extension of that. I’m sharing myself with you, so I like to know that it’s at least being accepted. Comments, retweets, blogroll addition – all of these make my day. Sure, that sounds sad to some, but that’s really where I’ve found myself lately. There’s always the whole “we can agree to disagree” thing, but if you reject my site, you’re rejecting me. I put more of myself into it than expressing myself in everyday life.

There’s a guy on Twitter. Most of you know him. Hell, he’s probably the coolest guy to you. He likes to tweet his thoughts, which range from “random” to running commentary. Recently, he thought it was deplorable that people would no longer care about your opinion if you unfollowed them. This hit close to home to me because he had unfollowed me, and his opinion had pretty much faltered in my eyes. Sure, Twitter doesn’t have to work both ways, but it should. Every now and then, you might accidentally follow the wrong person, and then have to come up with a digital equivalent of “it’s not you, it’s me” to get out of it, but I can see that line of reasoning. If my words no longer matter to you/annoy you, then why should I put up with your words? We’re no longer having an exchange, so what’s the point?

All of this probably sounds like rambling, but this is what I think about when I think of the site: What is my reach? Have I done anything that has gained traction? Does this feel like it did when I started back in 2003? What do I get out of this process? Over the past year, a few things have stood out to me. I think I’ve settled into 4 basic themes/features that seem to work:

Thrift Justice/Thrift Justice:YSE – The place where I showcase things I find at thrift stores and yard sales. This has been more successful than I could’ve imagined. I’m far from the only one doing this stuff (Flea Market Finds over at Toy World Order, Goodwill Hunting for Geeks), but I certainly struck at the right time. With shows like Collection Intervention and Toy Hunter, it’s a good time to be in the “buried treasure” game. I could honestly write these forever, based solely on the amount of stuff I’ve already found. I could never set foot in another thrift store, and still keep that feature going for another 2 years.

Comical Thoughts – I’m hesitant to make this a “feature”, per se, but it serves as a nice umbrella under which to discuss comics. I’m not as comic-focused as in the past, as the thrift stuff has taken over my life. Still, I’ve been able to have some good, focused discussions on events in the comic industry.

Adventures West Coast – This one is harder to do than it seems. Ya see, I got laid off a couple of years ago and found myself with a lot of time on my hands, and a lot of unread graphic novels on my shelves. So, AWC was where I’d review all the graphic novels I read during that stint of “funemployment”. The problem is that I was reading more than I was writing. Once I started working again, if I read a graphic novel, I just folded it into the stack read during the unemployment. THEN, I got laid off again. Rinse and repeat. Long story short, I now have an IKEA Billy bookcase filled with books I’ve read but haven’t reviewed. Many of those books were terrible, while others weren’t memorable. I have a Gotham villain-like tic, where I swore that I HAD to review it if I read it, even when there wasn’t much to say about certain books. I’m currently trying to figure out where to take that concept.

Best of the West – I’m a collector. This comes as no surprise. This segment is where I showcase the absolute BEST of my collection. The holy grails, the white whales, the black Republicans – ya know, rare stuff. So, these shouldn’t be too frequent, but shouldn’t disappear altogether. I’m trying to figure out a logical schedule for those.

Upcoming Ideas

Track Star – I’ve really lost my grasp on bubblegum pop. Music has always been important to me, but it hasn’t been a big focus of the blog in recent years. The problem is that it’s hard to find people who actually want to read about “bad” music. Everyone wants to be ahead of the curve, blogging about The Next Big Thing, but I actually like to focus on gems that fell through the cracks. I dwell in the world of “guilty pleasure” music, like boybands, UK pop groups, and the like. My last attempt was Westlife Wednesday over on Tumblr, but I’d be lying if I said I’d ever figured out how to get Tumblr to work for me. I think I’ve come up with a great angle for this, but I’m waiting on the graphics department before I unveil it.

Book Retort – Contrary to popular belief, I do read “real” books. I don’t, however have an outlet to discuss those. Since I get my fiction from comics, I tend to gravitate towards non-fiction and biographies. Lately, I’ve been on an “autobiographies by comedians” kick, so a lot of Mindy Kaling, Tina Fey, and Chelsea Handler. I need to find a way to sneak this into the rotation somewhere.

Real Life – yeah, this isn’t really a “feature”, but I don’t talk about my life much anymore. Despite the narcissistic nature of using all my name for all my screennames, I’m still a somewhat private person. Still, this flies in the face of the former nature of this site, as I jokingly say that it used  to read like a Livejournal. Then, I revamped the site, deleted about 100 posts to retcon certain people/events, and then threw myself into geekdom. I know that my wife (wow, that’s the first time I’ve typed that), Lindsay, would like to be mentioned more so I need to find a happy medium of “how much do you need/want to know about me outside of geek stuffs?” I think this will happen organically, but it’s still on my mind.

Visuals – I wish I knew graphic design, or at least had a designer in my pocket. I need a header, I need logos, and few people are willing to work for free. I really need to figure out what to do there. I’ve got ideas, but no way to bring them to fruition. I am, however, happy with the general layout of the site for the first time. I’d like to take that to another level.

Don’t let the introspection fool you, though – It’s been a good year online.

-Guested on the General Geekery, Nerd Lunch, Super Hero Time, and PowetCast podcasts.

-Launched my e-store, Will’s World of Wonder

-Finally compiled my Black History Month calendar

-Made lots of new friends

So, thanks for reading, and here’s to another year of this mess. 2013 marks my 10th year of blogging, so it should be pretty exciting. Until next time, check out these other great blogs to see what they’ve been up to recently:

http://shezcrafti.com/shezcrafti-then-now-the-state-of-the-site/

http://goodwillhunting4geeks.blogspot.com/2012/10/day-24-state-of-site.html

http://that-figures.blogspot.com/2012/10/feature-loeb-state-of-site.html

08th Nov2011

Thrift Justice – Lois Lane Meets The TMNT

by Will

Last weekend saw the final Civitan Flea Market of the year. As I’ve written in the past, this neighborhood sale is GREAT for finding collectible treasures. This sale was no different, as I made some pretty sweet deals. Let’s take a closer look at some of the booty I scored.

Now, when I get to any sale, I try to pace myself but I have a lot of trouble with that whole process. Whether it’s a comic con or a yard sale, I tend to blow my wad too soon, and then end up spending more judiciously as the day goes on. The Civitan market takes place in a 5-level parking garage, and you enter from the top level. I didn’t know what wonders might lurk in the depths below, but before I could descend I immediately found myself rifling through a box of Silver Age comics.

I’ve gotten to a point in my life where I try not to buy old comics unless they’re just basically giving them away. Anything under $1 is fair game to me. After all, most folks think their stuff is worth way more than it is, and most of those stories have been retconned 3 times over by now. I do, however, have an affinity for Silver Age DC books. If you pick up Marvel stuff from that era, it’s just full of hyperbole and cave drawings, but old DC books were actually…fun. Due to a magnet set that we have on our refrigerator, I’ve gained an appreciation for Lois Lane comics. Honestly, I feel like DC writers sat around and wondered, “How can make Lois a huge bitch this month?” Those old bastards clearly had some run-ins with the wrong kind of women, and seemed to have an ax to grind. That series is CRAZY, whether she’s tricking Superman into a paternity suit or changing her race to be black for a day. I picked up a few some months back, and I found 13 more on this particular day. This batch even included the issue I mentioned where she’s black for a day! I actually already have a copy of that one, but I know I’ll probably end up gifting it to someone. I told the old lady manning the booth that the books would be going to a good home, for a little boy who loves comics (it’s secretly ME! Muhuhahaha!). She cut me a pretty good deal, as I paid $25 for these, as well as the comics you’ll see below.

These are some other silver age books I picked up. Back when I first got into comics, I used to buy these grab bags from my local shop that were just FULL of crap. I didn’t know any better then, but it would have comics for toylines, like Visionaries, as well as old All-Star Squadron and issues of canceled series. I remember getting issues of The Secret Society of Super Villains and Kobra, and loving them. So, I had to jump on the issues you see here. I probably already own that Brave and the Bold (I bought a bunch of them at a con a few months back that I still haven’t processed), but I’ll buy any cheap Batman comics.

Not quite “Silver Age”, these are some 80s era comics I got. Again, more cheap Batman. I believe that’s the final issue of Ted Kord’s series. It says “The Final Adventure”, but that could just be comic hyperbole. There was a time when you could always count on Superman to have dynamic covers, and this is a great example of that. He’s begging, in an alley! How can you pass that up? I probably have that issue of X-Men, but I’m a sucker for 80s Uncanny. The way I see it, the $25 was for the Lois Lane books, as $2 an issue was a great deal; the rest of this stuff was just a bonus.

The series that wouldn’t die! Fans brought this thing back to life more than I can remember, but that must say something about its quality. I’ve never read Spider-Girl, but I was always curious. Plus, it’ll give me more Adventures West Coast material. I’m not sure if this is the very first collected edition, but it does include issues 0-8. Plus, I got it for a dollar, so it’s not like I could shake a stick at that!

Let me clear something up – I am nowhere near a “gamer”. My newest system is the PS2, and I use it primarily as a DVD player. Lindsay and I had a Rock Band/Guitar Hero phase, but I don’t really get into games. I do, however, pick up games when I find them A) interesting and B) cheap as dirt. Somewhere along the line, I forgot that I’m in a relationship, so the concept of “downtime” doesn’t really exist anymore. Still, in my mind, I have this vision of playing video games all night, while drinking Smirnoff Ice. When I come across a cheap game, I think to myself, “Would I enjoy playing this game, while sipping on a cool malt beverage?” I didn’t even know this game existed, and it appears to be the precursor to the popular Red Dead Redemption. The guy sold it to me for about $3, so that was enough for me. I’ll probably never play it, but if I ever feel like reenacting a Western, at least I’ll have it.

I’ll admit that this was an impulse buy. While I collect Batmobiles, I’ve passed on this thing at many a thrift store. I found it at a booth that usually has a lot of great comic stuff. Remember the comic posters and Age of Apocalypse cover from the last flea market post? Yeah, that booth. Anyway, at that time, they’d assured me that they would have a ton of comic stuff at this sale, as it’s the last one of the year. I went just looking for them. I get there, and this is pretty much all they had. It had a sticker on the hood, guaranteeing me that “it works”. I can’t even verify that at this time, but it’s a big-ass, battery operated Batmobile monster truck. Yeah, I’m kind of ashamed, so let’s move on.

So, I’m wandering through the aisles, and I find myself at a dead end, with this TMNT Lair playset sitting on a table. I start looking at it, as I’ve never really seen one of these in person. I didn’t really pay much attention to TMNT, as that was the incarnation for kids of the ’00s. For me, I only deal in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Show some respect, and spell that shit out! Anyway, as I inspecting it, the seller comes by and asks, “Would you like that big thing?” I proceeded to tell her that my fiancee would kill me, but she keeps on pressing. She tells me that it wuld be 50% off. That’s when I see the price tag: $3.00. I ask her, “So, wait, you mean this would only be $1.50?!” She says that is correct. Well, now you understand why I currently own a Turtle Lair playset. Back when the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle Sewer Playset came out, my mom gave me a choice: I could either get it OR get the G.I.Joe General. I was more into our American heroes, so I chose the latter. The General’s sitting out in our shed, as I get to fill that void with this newer Turtle playset.

So, there ya have it. I’ll miss the Civitan Flea Market, but you better believe I’ll be there on the first Saturday of next April! Coming soon, I’ve got another installment of Thrift Justice:YSE, where we’ll talk about some of my greatest yard sale FAILS.

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