19th Dec2016

The Greatest Threat To the Direct Market Comic Retailer IS The Direct Market Comic Retailer

by Will

So, a few days ago, The Beat wrote the article “Why Are The Comics Retailers Worried About Mass Store Closings?“, which was your standard fear mongering about how the Direct Market is on its last legs. If you’re not familiar with the comic industry, here’s a crash course: the Direct Market is comprised of the comic shops who specialize in selling comics and related merch. If you buy the latest issue of Batman from Barnes & Noble, you’re not participating in the Direct Market. However, if you buy it from Jack’s Comics & Stuff, you’re a Direct Market consumer. Comics in the Direct Market are sold on a non-returnable basis, meaning that if retailers order too much of a book, they’re stuck with that stock, and can’t send unsolds back to the distributor unlike other periodicals.

The article posits a few different reasons retailers are afraid:

  • DC’s Prices Are Too Low – Um, $2.99 isn’t too low when most of those books are shipped biweekly. Simple math dictates that retailers will make more from selling two $2.99 books than one $3.99, even if it’s marginal. Sure, the retailer may want to make more money, but it’s a nice gesture of goodwill to the consumer – something Marvel could learn from, considering they keep releasing quarterly $9.99 Deadpool issues on top of the several spinoff series they have for the character that month.
  • Customers Are Disappearing – Well, duh. Minecraft and video games. Oh, and for the lucky older consumers, sex. Gotta pay for that sex!
  • Customers Are Switching To Collected Trade Paperback Format – Well, you get more bang for your buck that way. For example, each comic from Image has a cover price of $3.99, however each first volume of an Image series’ trade paperback collects approximately 6 issues for $9.99. Can you blame them?
  • Customers Don’t Like Marvel’s Output – When have customers liked Marvel’s output? No, when was the last time someone was like “Marvel’s really firing on all cylinders”? The first Civil War crossover? That was ten years ago. It’s not that Marvel’s necessarily worse these days. It’s that people are used to Marvel being better than DC, and now the gap between their quality is a lot smaller, due to Marvel trying to make lightning strike twice and DC getting a slight bump from Rebirth.
  • Rising Costs of Doing Business – Well, you can’t really fight that. Everything is more expensive.
  • Diamond Credit Crackdown – This is on the retailer. They knew they owed Diamond money, and kept letting it build up, not thinking Diamond was ever gonna come collect. It’s a business, not a charity.

A lot of comic shops are having a tough go of it, but the blame is being passed on to everyone from the distributor, Diamond Comic Distributors, to the Big 2 publishers, Marvel and DC. It’s always the same crap: “Diamond’s model is antiquated and comics should be returnable” or “Everything Marvel’s publishing is crap right now.” To read the comments on the post, however, you see a lot of folks railing against Marvel’s supposed “Social Justice Warrior” agenda, where they’re “forcing” diversity into all of their books. Really, if you wanna make a bunch of middle aged White men mad, start trying to diversify their funny books. Anyway, in a fit of anger, I wrote the following comment:

 

This is going to be a controversial opinion, but I see no overwhelming reason to support small businesses, and I don’t think I’m alone. Why am I paying more for something I can get cheaper elsewhere, especially with complaints of poor customer service, poor stocking of items, etc so pervasive these days? Now, call me an “ungrateful millennial” or whatever, but I don’t have fond memories of walking down by the crick, with a rolled up comic in my back pocket that I got from the local five and dime. It’s not an experience that I relate to. Same with comic shops. I have several I love, but the world would keep spinning if they shut down tomorrow.

The mentality that wants me to support Mom and Pop is the same one that wants Marvel to never change, and keep offering the same product it did 50 years ago. This is a common argument in the geek TV world. There are tons of adult fans angry at Power Rangers because it “sucks” compared to when they were kids, or hate Cartoon Network for showing nothing but Teen Titans Go – never stopping to realize they’re not the target audience. Thirty year olds wonder why today’s kids can’t love Snake-Eyes as much as they did, not realizing that maybe it’s time to give a new generation their OWN stories. There’s no shame in knowing when to walk away. I’ve seen folks say things like “I didn’t leave comics, comics left me.” Well, take that as a hint. Maybe the industry doesn’t want or need you anymore. Time to find new hobbies and pursuits!

 

What I said about small businesses is true. Just as I don’t really subscribe to the notion of “team spirit” (which is why I’m a terrible sports fan), I also never understood the push to support local mom and pop stores. I’m just fine with my big box retailers, with their affordable prices and decent customer service. These comic retailers chose to open their businesses, but now they approach them as if they’re victims. The distributor is out to get them because of the lengthy ordering window and lack of returnability. The publishers are out to get them because they keep publishing lackluster product. But it’s never “Ya know, I backed the wrong horse by buying into Marvel’s crossover hype.” It’s never “I made the wrong call”, but instead it’s phrased like “How dare Marvel make me order that tripe?!” That doesn’t even make sense. I think there’s a certain level of professionalism needed that’s not always there for small businesses. I don’t know what the CEO of Walmart thinks about the latest Hulk book, but you better believe Joe at Joe’s Comics & Stuff is gonna gripe to me about it. Not recommend it, or pivot to something better – GRIPE. That’s no way to run a business. Retailers are sitting there going “Man, Marvel sure is putting out a lot of shit”, but in the same breath asking, “Why won’t anyone buy books from me?” Maybe stop badmouthing your product and find a way to hype it! Even if it’s a turd, polish that turd and sell it because that’s your JOB.

There’s another unique thing about the comic industry that people never really think about: comics are the only industry where the consumer knows the distributor and is trained to hate them – trained, mind you, BY retailers! If a shipment gets messed up at Toys R Us, nobody blames Lash Tamaron, ’cause they don’t even know they exist. No, they blame TRU. In comics, however, retailers have this special ability to pass the blame on to Diamond when it’s their own decisions that got them in jeopardy. Didn’t order enough copies of a book, it’s easy to just say “Oh, Diamond shorted us”. Customer might mutter a “Fucking Diamond”, and both parties just kind of shake their heads together at the distributor’s ineptitude.

I might sound like a Diamond apologist, and in many ways I am. Full disclosure: about ten years ago (wow, has it been that long?), I was a purchasing brand manager in the print division of Diamond. That’s a big fancy way to say that I killed a lot of dreams. No, seriously, and I’m not proud of that. If Dave has had a lifelong dream of seeing his name on a comic sold in stores, I’m the guy who would have to work with him to make it happen. The problem, though, is that Dave has created some derivative superhero comic, and consumers have no reason to support his $3.99 black and white book when Marvel and DC have full-color superheroes covered. But I’d get him into the Previews catalog that all retailers use to place their orders, and I’d let the market decide. Then, for a variety of reasons that probably deserve their own post, I’d end up having a very difficult discussion with him about 6 months later. Why? Because a lot of creators aren’t business people. And a lot of comic shop owners aren’t, either. The successful ones have found ways to survive, but it’s the dinosaurs who were sitting pretty during the 90s bubble that don’t know what to do with themselves now.

Now, that’s not to say that Diamond isn’t without problems. It is antiquated. The men running that part of the industry have been doing so for the past 30 years, so there’s not a ton of new blood. There are problems at the warehouse. Back when the main warehouse was in Memphis, there was a UPS center across the street that paid more. The UPS center, however, required you to have at least a year’s experience in a warehouse environment. And guess where they’d get that experience: Diamond. So, the main warehouse is filled with a bunch of novices trying to pad a resume for a better position. No shame in the game, but it’s to Diamond’s detriment. And let’s not forget the publishing cycle: Diamond advertises books that will be available for sale two months from now, with no returnable cushion. So, a retailer does have to take a gamble when it comes to ordering the next month’s books, before they even have this month’s books in hand. But here’s the kicker: Diamond is so ensnared in the distribution process that it couldn’t extract itself if it tried.

Another quick history lesson: about 20 years ago, Marvel bought a distributor called Heroes World, which turned out to be a terrible idea, but I guess it seemed right at the time. In a mad dash for survival, Diamond signed everyone else to exclusive contracts for distribution. This drove a lot of smaller distributors out of business, lessening competition. Then, to make matters worse, Marvel declared bankruptcy and came crawling back to Diamond. This made Diamond king of the hill as the result of a flurry of activity needed for survival. In the years since, people have longed for a competitor to Diamond, but it just ain’t gonna happen. It’s the WWE of comic distribution, and there isn’t really even a TNA waiting in the wings. It’s an unintended monopoly, but a monopoly all the same. But as much as people clamor for the death of Evil Diamond, no one has stopped to consider what would happen if they went away. It’s not going to mean freedom for all the publishers. No, THAT will be the death of the Direct Market, because no one is equipped to take its place. And even if they somehow managed to do so, then they’d eventually become just as hated as Diamond. After all, “You either die a hero…”

The medium needs change, and those fighting that are part of the problem. My friend James once said that comics are for children, and that’s true. I’ve always felt that there’s a 20-year lifespan on comic fandom. If you stick around longer than that, everything becomes Been There, Done That. After 20 years, it’s time to move on. Start repairing old cars, or take your Harley for a three-day cruise. Comics are for the young, but the problem is that the young want nothing to do with them. Oddly enough, though, it’s a bunch of middle-aged armchair quarterbacks who think they know what today’s youth would like. “Spider-Man should be the same as he was when I was growing up!” they yell. Let’s see, kid whose parents are dead, lives with his old aunt in Queens, and he’s late all the time? Hate to break it to ya, but that’s a Black kid. They just didn’t have the social clout to do that back then. If they turned Peter Parker into a Black guy now, those fans would lose their shit. “Why can’t Marvel create NEW characters?” Marvel, then, creates Miles Morales, and then they cry, “Why are you forcing diversity down our throats?!” Is the mere existence of a minority the equivalent of “forcing diversity” on you? Well, I’m sorry the sight of me offends your eyes, Mr. White Man! I just think it’s time for certain fans to go. They don’t like what the industry is doing, and the industry is starting to realize that it can’t survive on mutton alone. There’s no shame in knowing when to walk away.

Anyway, this is all to say that the greatest threat to the comic retailer IS the comic retailer. Stop being a victim, and buckle down. You made this bed so now lie in it. But I also don’t believe in these crowdfunding attempts to keep shops open. The market has spoken, and you’re really just delaying the inevitable. Some shops need to go. That’s nothing personal. It’s business, and they simply lived out their usefulness. The more resourceful shops, however, will find a way. At the end of the day, Superman and Wolverine will outlive the Direct Market, so retailers can gripe all they want, but Disney and Warner Bros are gonna make that money with OR without them. Retailers need Marvel and DC, regardless of the quality of the output, but Marvel and DC don’t necessarily need retailers. The sooner Direct Market retailers realize this, the sooner they can start planning for the future.

And that’s where the post originally ended. And then I saw that I’d received a reply on my comment at the original post (I removed his name ’cause it’s not like I asked his permission to post this or anything):

 

@Will
“I didn’t leave comics, comics left me.” Well, take that as a hint. Maybe the industry doesn’t want or need you anymore. Time to find new hobbies and pursuits!

No, that`s a terrible attitude to show contempt at long-time customers who helped build Marvel. These long time fans deserve better than that!
Also be careful what you wish for as Marvel`s sales are in the tank, and they might be begging for those old time fans back one day!

 

I saw this and figured it was just another middle-aged White man, mad about change. His biggest mistake is that line about showing contempt for the customers “who helped build Marvel”. So, I had to address that:

 

See, that’s dangerous thinking, because Marvel doesn’t really owe you anything. You’re approaching this like a shareholder, when that’s not the nature of the arrangement.

As for the old-time fans, they’re gone. Plain and simple. Sure, catering to them might lead SOME of them back, but not enough to really make them the focus. The old time fan wants too much in order to come back. DC did Rebirth, basically as a “We’re sorry for what we did”, and a bunch of fans still wanted them to kiss the ring and do a little humiliating dance. The thing to remember is that these companies don’t *owe* you anything, long-time fan or not.

 

And then he had to go and prove my assessment of him correct:

 

@Will.
The thing to remember is that these companies don’t *owe* you anything, long-time fan or not.

Maybe my friend,but let`s sticky this post because I predict in less than a year Marvel will do a 180 with all their SJW theme comics and will please their old-time fans by bringing back the old school style. Marvel is going to have to go back to basics to stop their ship from sinking. It`s all about money, and Marvel`s old time loyal fans have the deep pockets that the majority of cosplay SJW fans don`t seem to have.

 

Ugh, he had to go and use a term like SJW. You can tell a lot about a person when they’re worried about the perceived Social Justice Warriors. He’s just another stick in the mud, resistant to change. So, of course, I couldn’t let that go:

And you just had to go and torpedo your argument with “SJW” nonsense. The injection of diversity is an attempt to get the dollars they’re not already getting, from audiences they’ve previously ignored. That, my friend, is the future. Any industry propped up by the buying habits of middle aged White men is an industry in trouble (unless you make Cialis or Rogaine), and they’ve finally come to realize that. What’s gonna happen when you die? Are you still going to be rallying from the grave “Put White Spider-Man back in high school!” to an audience base that clear couldn’t give two shits? The Marvel you grew up with is fine, but it’s done. I just don’t get why fans can’t grow up in their expectations.

I won’t exactly call it a “mic drop”, but I really don’t know what’s left to say after that.

02nd Dec2016

West Week Ever: Pop Culture In Review – 12/2/16

by Will

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Since I basically took off the month of November I guess this has got to be good, huh? Recently, some online friends were discussing taking breaks from blogging, and one of them said that you don’t need to offer an explanation as to where you’ve been. After all, the world doesn’t revolve around your blog, so it’s kind of egotistical to think anyone cares where you’ve been. I get that, but I don’t really agree with it. When people come to expect something regularly, you do kind of owe them an explanation as to why you broke your “promise”, so to speak. Plainly put, something inside me is broken. Yeah, I’m basically stealing Selena Gomez’s speech from the American Music Awards, but that doesn’t make it any less true.

When I started West Week Ever, it was to celebrate the week that was in pop culture. But can you honestly cite anything that had a great week over the past month? And I’m not even really going to delve into the political landscape of things. I’ll save that for a podcast, where it’ll be harder for someone to cut and paste my words without context. No, nothing had the West Week Ever for the past few weeks. I try to go by the whole “The show must go on” mentality, but I just couldn’t do it. Contrary to popular belief, I don’t go into these posts to be negative, but sometimes that’s what comes out. I couldn’t be positive lately, though, and I saw no reason to put that off on you. I wanted Fantastic Beasts to fail. I want Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.’s cancellation to be announced. I guess I’m one of those men who wants to watch the world burn. But I’m back in the saddle, trying to fight the good fight. Sometimes you’ve just got to take a step back and look at things, so that’s where I’ve been. So, ready to talk about pop culture? Let’s go!

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Seeing as how I usually enjoy the CW DC show crossovers, I’m sure some folks probably figured this year’s “Heroes vs Aliens” featuring the Dominators would get the West Week Ever this week. Well, I’m sorry to disappoint you, but I really didn’t care much for this year’s crossover. To start, I always thought it was a bit of heavy lifting by spreading it across 4 shows. The Berlanti Dilution Effect is full force on this one. Oh, you’ve never heard of the Berlanti Dilution Effect? It’s probably because I just named it. Basically, whenever the Berlantiverse adds a new show, it dilutes the quality of the preexisting shows, as everyone just seems spread too thin. Folks loved Arrow until The Flash came along. All of a sudden, it was the new hit show, while Arrow’s quality dropped. Then, last season, Supergirl and Legends of Tomorrow were introduced, while fans felt Flash’s quality dropped, and Arrow was damn near unwatchable. Fans seem to love Supergirl, while Legends is just kinda off to the side, not bad, but not great. Well, since Supergirl is the new kid on the block, I felt like she could’ve sat on the bench for this year’s crossover. This year should’ve just been Flash/Arrow/Legends, as they at least occupy the same universe. Adding Supergirl was just overstuffing the thing, and her addition didn’t really add much to things.

I also had another issue with the crossover: I don’t think Team Arrow should be fighting aliens. They’re too street-level for that. Now, they’ve dipped their toe into the supernatural with Damien Darhk and Ragman, but I’ve also felt those were creative missteps for the series. They should only be concentrating on street level threats, as something extraterrestrial is out of their wheelhouse. Plus, it’s no secret that Arrow is basically TV Batman, as a lot of Batman’s rogues and tropes have been added to the show. I don’t think Green Arrow should be fighting aliens as much as I actually don’t like Batman as a member of the Justice League. Bear with me a minute here. Prior to the New 52, about 10 years ago, the Bat books were united in the fact that they approached Batman as urban legend. He has more power as a mysterious being, whispered about amongst thugs and criminals than he does as a guy fighting next to Superman in broad daylight. I’m fine if Batman lends his support from the Watchtower, but he shouldn’t be a public face of the Justice League, as he really shouldn’t “exist” as far as the Man on the Street is concerned. I feel the same about the Green Arrow. That hero loses his clout if he’s seen running around with Flash and Supergirl, fighting aliens. He needs to stick to what he does best.

Now, for the crossover itself. I skipped the Supergirl episode because I really have no desire to get into that show, and the pertinent parts of the crossover were repeated in the next night’s Flash episode. Flash was just a little too cutesy for me, as everyone got acquainted, learning each other’s names and power sets, but they didn’t seem to be taking the threat seriously. Sure, there was some Flash stuff going on that didn’t make a ton of sense to folks, like me, who are still basically on season one of the show. They did a pretty good job, though, explaining Flashpoint and how it had affected things. They even threw in some development for the Legends crew, following up on Professor Stein’s visions. Outside of that, though, most of that episode was fluff. I mean, aliens KILL the president, and even it’s kinda treated as an afterthought. Then we got to the Arrow episode which was one big dream sequence. Sadly, this was also the show’s 100th episode, so I felt bad that it was “squandered” on a crossover. And of course I didn’t like the episode, as it featured all the non-metas on a friggin’ spaceship, IN SPACE! The Legends finale was just more of the same. Kara acting too cutesy, Team Arrow being USELESS against aliens, and there were too many characters without a use for most of them. There was just WAY too much going on, with a threat that wasn’t entirely credible, vanquished in a manner that also wasn’t too credible. I realize I’ve gotta suspend disbelief a bit, but COME ON! And the episode ends with a private press conference with Green Arrow, front and center, meeting the new goddamn President! THE PRESIDENT SHOULD NOT BE PUBLICLY ASSOCIATING WITH A VIGILANTE! It’s like Flashpoint has got them living in Trump’s America or some shit! Anyway, there was a pretty clever Brandon Routh/Superman Returns joke near the end, so I’ll give them credit for that one.

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In television news, it was announced that the long-gestating Inhumans film had been demoted to a television series to debut on ABC in 2017. In fact, the first 2 episodes will debut in IMAX in theaters. This whole thing is laughable to me, but not surprising if you understand the nuances of Marvel. The Inhumans were a pet project of Marvel CEO Ike Perlmutter, as Marvel didn’t have the film rights to the X-Men, so he saw the Inhumans as plug and play “freaks with powers” that Marvel Studios could exploit. And he basically forced this idea on Marvel Studios head Kevin Feige, who really wanted nothing to do with the project. That’s why it was put on Marvel’s film schedule, but kept getting shuffled further and further into the future. Well, after the somewhat ugly divorce between Marvel Studios and Marvel Television last year, Marvel Studios now reports directly to Disney, while Marvel Television is still under the Marvel umbrella. This also dissolved the “brain trust” of comic pros who had given input on the movies up to that point. So, this means there’s even less hope of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. ever truly aligning with the movies, but it also allowed Feige to get The Inhumans off his plate and pass the buck on to the TV division.

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Anyway, the show is supposed to focus on the Inhuman royal family, such as Black Bolt and Medusa, and I can’t think of anything I’d rather see less of. That franchise has never interested me, and the idea of it on a TV budget isn’t too impressive, either. In its defense, the season will only be 8 episodes long, so they can hopefully apply 22 episodes worth of budget to those 8 episodes. The unofficial cancellation of Conviction, however, has me hoping Marvel might start conversations with Hayley Atwell to bring Agent Carter back for one more season. Adding Ghost Rider to Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. might’ve been a creative shot in the arm for the show, but it hasn’t moved the needle much in terms of ratings. So, the idea of a 5th season isn’t a guarantee at this point, despite the fact that ABC/Disney own the show. If it were up to me, I’d opt for more Agent Carter as a companion show to Inhumans and say adios to Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.

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In other TV news, three cast members were announced for Star Trek Discovery. Most people are gonna say Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon’s Michelle Yeoh, but I’m gonna say Supercop 2’s Michelle Yeoh has been cast as Captain Georgiou of the starship Shenzhou. Meanwhile, Anthony Rapp of Rent fame will portray the Discovery’s science officer Lt. Stamets. Motion capture veteran Doug Jones will play science officer Lt. Saru, who will be a member of an alien species new to the Trek franchise. And none of these announcements do anything for me. Where’s the obligatory former Benson cast member? Plus, people mistakenly took the news of Yeoh’s casting to mean that she’s the lead, but she’s not, as it was already announced that the lead would not be a captain, and would be a member of the Discovery crew. So, Yeoh is really just more of a high profile guest star. Still, for a show that’s supposed to debut in May (formerly January), they sure seem to be dragging their feet with this casting process.

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In comic news, the rosters were revealed for the upcoming X-Men Gold and X-Men Blue series. Now, for fans of the 90s X-Men, those divisions were important because the adventures of the Gold team were featured in Uncanny X-Men, while the exploits of the Blue team were featured in the X-Men cartoon, as well as the “Adjectiveless” X-Men comic. Fans thought this would be a return to those days, but this week’s announcement dashed those hopes. X-Men Blue will focus on the time-displaced original teen X-Men, led by Magneto – a nod back to the 80s New Mutants era when Magneto served as their mentor. Meanwhile, the Gold team will be comprised of Storm, Old Man Logan, Rachel Grey, Nightcrawler, Colossus, and Kitty Pryde as leader. In a lot of ways, the current Gold team isn’t too different from the old one, as Storm and Colossus were on that team, while Nightcrawler, Rachel, and Kitty were in Excalibur at the time. I’ll probably grab the Gold book, as it seems the closest to the Extraordinary X-Men team – a book I’m already reading – plus I couldn’t give two shits about that time-displaced team. The Gold team also has the distinction of being written by Arrow co-creator Marc Guggenheim, whose work I like, while the Blue team is written by Cullen Bunn, whose indie leanings have left me somewhat disappointed. The biggest issue with the team division is that it leaves a LOT of mutants on the table without homes. Back in the day, while it could be argued that the Blue team was the more popular of the two, both had heavy hitters on their rosters. The “wealth” was spread evenly, so to speak. That doesn’t seem to be the case here. If anything, the Blue team is just a continuation of All-New X-Men, while the Gold team seems to be taking Extraordinary’s place. But where’s Magik? Beast? Am I missing their fates since I’m not reading Death of X or Inhumans vs X-Men? The whole thing just feels kind of lopsided, without a real “A” team in the mix. The Gold folks are classic characters, but lack a “wow factor”, while the Blue team just still feels like a gimmick all these years later.

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In movie news, we got the concept art of how Zordon’s assistant Alpha 5 may look in the upcoming Power Rangers movie. This is the stuff of nightmares, kids! Why does he have those floodlight eyeballs? Was his scanner not enough? And why do his arms go down to the floor? I hate everything I’ve seen about this film, but I’m hoping it succeeds just so they can hopefully build off of this for the sequel and make something good. Look, I understand the need to update things for a new audience, but this thing seems almost ashamed of its source material. So, that alienates the built-in fan base, while offering almost nothing to entice a new one. I really don’t know what this movie is doing.

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While we’re on the topic of Power Rangers, one aspect of the franchise that’s getting it right is the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers comic series from BOOM! There have been several Power Rangers comics over the past 20 years, and they all sucked. I know because I read the vast majority of them (One day I should write about the terrible Hamilton series where the Rangers and Zords just randomly change in the middle of the story). Anyway, for anyone who’ll listen, I’ve been telling them that the current series is better than it has any right to be. Between it and the Kimberly-centric Power Rangers: Pink spinoff, the creators are really mining the property without telling meaningless stories that “dance between the raindrops of continuity”. For example, we found out that Rita actually approached Zack to wield the green power coin before Tommy even came to town. And we also found out that Zordon reenlisted the help of the original Rangers even after they had officially left the team. But this week was this biggest shocker: in #9 of the comic series, we were introduced to a mysterious Ranger who seems to be drawing both green and white power from the Morphing Grid. Oh, and he’s evil and working with Rita. I used to be the guy who said “If it wasn’t in the show, it didn’t count”, but BOOM! is finding ways to tell interesting compelling stories while still honoring the continuity that we already know. If you’re a comic and Power Rangers fan, you should definitely be reading this series.

Things You Might Have Missed This Week

  • The season finale of HBO’s Insecure had many Black males joining #TeamLawrence and #LawrenceHive, sparking quite the divide on Black Twitter
  • Speaking of premium cable channels, Showtime announced that Masters of Sex would not be coming back for a 5th season. I guess they, uh, mastered the sex.
  • Full House creator Jeff Franklin actually purchased the San Francisco house that served as the exterior of the Tanner home
  • Billy Dee Williams will be the voice of Harvey Dent/Two-Face in The Lego Batman Movie, reprising his role from 1989’s Batman.
  • Quantico showrunner Josh Safran has said that the show will never feature a Muslim terrorist. That snickering you hear is coming from the producers of 24.
  • While promoting his new book, Saved By The Bell executive producer Peter Engel said that Zack and Kelly “weren’t built to last” and are probably divorced by now.
  • Good girls finish last, as Amazon has decided against a second season for Mad Men clone Good Girls Revolt

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When I first saw the ads for Search Party, I thought “What a dumb idea for a show.” It looked too hipster, and it starred the Great Value Ilana Glazer, Alia Shawkat, who you probably remember as Maeby from Arrested Development. I remembered reading about it, and wondered how exactly they could make a show out of that premise. Well, I can admit when I’m wrong, and BOY was I wrong!

If you’re not familiar, Search Party kicks off with the disappearance of a young woman. Dory (Shawkat) and her group of Millennial hipster friends kinda knew the girl in college, but they wouldn’t necessarily call her a “friend”. Then, she disappears, and they milk it for all it’s worth. They post updates on social media about how a piece of them is now missing, and they even attend a vigil for her upstate. Meanwhile, Dory is sort of lost in life, and she gloms onto the case with an unexpected fervor. Things really kick into high gear when she randomly sees the missing girl in a Chinese restaurant, yet no one will believe that she really saw her. Like they’ve been doing, Dory’s friends just believe she’s milking the whole thing for attention. Then crazy people come out of the woodwork, a private investigator appears, and a cult is even involved. I never saw any of this coming, but enjoyed every minute of it. It’s like a hipster Nancy Drew.

Airing on TBS, Search Party was sort of burned off at a pace of two episodes a night in Conan’s timeslot all last week. In addition to that, immediately following the premiere on Monday, all the episodes were made available On Demand. So, I can’t figure out if TBS was extremely proud of the show OR if they couldn’t be done with it fast enough. I’m not sure how these tactics helped ratings, but critics seemed to love the show. As some critics pointed out, it’s basically what Girls could’ve been, but wasn’t. The problem with Girls is that is filled with such unsympathetic characters who all suck at life. With Search Party, however, you can kind of relate to those characters and, if not, you at least know someone like them. You understand their insecurities and the ways in which they cope with them. Sure, they kinda suck at life, but they know it, and they want to NOT suck. That can’t be said for Hannah Horvath and her friends.

In many ways, it was a major coup for TBS to get this show. It probably would’ve been more at home on something like Netflix, and probably would’ve gotten more promotion. It’s SO bingeable, and you’re going to want to blow through the 10-episode series in one sitting. It’s that good. I didn’t even see some of the twists coming that it throws at you. And the ending was nothing like you’d expect. Oh, man do I wanna talk about that ending. I don’t know how they’d get a second season out of it, but I’d love to see that cast back together. If it’s just a one and done series, it does the job there, as well. It’s the perfect miniseries. And that’s why Search Party had the West Week Ever.

04th Nov2016

West Week Ever: Pop Culture In Review – 11/4/16

by Will

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WWE Edit

Earlier this week, I found myself having an impromptu Zac Efronathon, as I watched 2 of his comedies the same night. I used to think he was just some one-note himbo, but I think I really like that dude. He’s a funny guy, and he’s also beautiful (What? I have to give credit where it’s due!).

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Anyway, first up was Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates. When I first heard about this movie, I was convinced I’d actually see it in the theater, but that didn’t come to pass. I was really looking forward to it, but was too lazy to actually go see it. Oh well, that’s what DVDs/streaming are for! Zac Efron and Adam Devine play the title characters, who have a reputation for ruining family gatherings. Since they’re known to rile each other up, their father insists that they bring dates to their sister’s destination wedding in Hawaii. It’s their father’s hope that they’ll bring “nice girls” who will keep them in check. Well, not knowing how to find these girls, they post an ad on Craigslist, which gets thousands of replies from folks who just want a free trip to Hawaii. Eventually they end up on The Wendy Williams Show, and their episode is seen by two slackers played by Aubrey Plaza and Anna Kendrick. They decide to pretend they’re nice girls so they can get the trip. And hilarity ensues. As an R-rated raunch comedy, it was about what I expected, though it could’ve been better. Plaza has this weird pseudo-ghetto accent that I’m never really sold on, though I do feel like she manages to do the impossible: outshine Kendrick. None of that Pitch Perfect Kendrick magic is on display here, as she pretty much plays The Dumb One opposite Plaza as The Schemer. I’m still not sure if I’m down with Adam Devine’s whole thing or not. He’s a lot like Eric Andre in that he’s not a bad looking dude, but he goes out of his way to make himself look as annoying/unattractive as possible. I guess it’s good he’s found a niche. I wouldn’t say this movie is worth owning, but it’s definitely worth seeing. And make sure you see the real thing, and don’t wait for it to get neutered on FX.

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The Efronathon continued with the sequel Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising. Now, I have to admit that I remember very little about the first movie, but I didn’t really think the world of Neighbors had a rich continuity to it. Basically, I remembered the airbag gag, and that’s about it. Totally forgot that Dave Franco came out in the last film, which probably would’ve made me less confused by the beginning of this installment. Did you see the first movie? If not, here’s how it went: New parents Seth Rogen and Rose Byrne learn that the Delta Psi Beta fraternity has moved next door to them. They just want a quiet life to raise their newborn, while the frat brothers wanna do what frat brothers do: PARTY. So, a war breaks out between Rogen and the frat, led by Zac Efron. By the end of the film, the college shuts down the house, and it seems like Rogen and Efron are friends. Well, based on the age of Rogen and Byrne’s daughter, this movie takes place roughly two years later. Byrne is expecting their second child, and they’re selling their house to move out to the suburbs. After the sale, however, they enter escrow – meaning that they basically have to cross their fingers that nothing goes wrong for the next 30 days, or the sale won’t go through. Well, everything’s going smoothly until a sorority decides to set up in the old Delta Psi Beta house. And you basically get the same movie as the first, only the guys are replaced with girls. This one, however, kinda has a heavyhanded message about feminism that it’s trying to get across, but I’m not quite sure it sticks the landing. It’s funny, but I’m having trouble accepting that Chloe Grace Moretz has grown up; she’ll always be little Hit Girl to me. I didn’t talk too much about Efron’s role this time around because I don’t wanna give away the whole movie, but he’s just as good here as he was in Mike and Dave. Again, probably not worth owning, but it’s worth checking out.

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Finally, I went to see Doctor Strange last night. For the first time in a long time, a comic book movie didn’t get the West Week Ever. You see, I liked it, but I didn’t love it. I don’t know if it’s the fault of the film, however. At the end of the day, I just don’t like Mystical Marvel or Cosmic Marvel. I’d probably rank this film with the first Thor. Don’t get me wrong – it’s visually stunning, and probably the first Marvel movie that you NEED to see in 3D. At the same time, I felt it was a little on the short side and some extra time could’ve been used for character development. For example, I don’t think we see enough of civilian Stephen Strange, before all the mystical stuff happens. Then, when the mystical stuff does happen, it happens too quickly. We never really see him struggle to master his power. So, it’s definitely got pacing issues. I actually liked Tilda Swinton as The Ancient One, despite the whitewashing. The cape, though…I hated the cape. Also, Marvel keeps telling us “It’s all connected”, but they miss golden opportunities to link in the stuff that they claim is difficult to do. I mean, part of it takes place in a hospital in NYC. Claire Temple (Rosario Dawson’s character from the Marvel Netflix shows) also works in a hospital in NYC, so… Still, it’s got some cool Easter eggs if you’re paying close attention, and Strange seems like a cool addition to the MCU. I can’t exactly put my finger on it, but I needed more of something from this film that I didn’t get. It’s definitely worth seeing, but this isn’t the film that’s gonna sway the crowd that’s never been fans of the Marvel films.

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On the standup front, I caught Pete Davidson: SMD on Comedy Central. By now, you probably know the general bulletpoints for Davidson: he’s the youngest current SNL cast member at 22, he’s a stoner, and his firefighter dad died in 9/11. There have been a lot of really good interviews with him going around lately, like him talking about how he pretty much hates his life, but he’s trying not to blow this great opportunity that’s been given to him. Well, this one-hour special is more of that. To be honest, he’s not ready for an hour yet. He’s a pretty good storyteller, but he could do the same thing in the interviews instead of doing it onstage. It’s almost like the stage is therapy for him, but he just happens to have an audience. He’s not especially charismatic, nor does he work the crowd. Still, it could’ve been a lot worse. It wasn’t a bad special by any means, but it wasn’t especially polished. The production values were pretty low, but I guess they fit his brand, so to speak. If you like what he does on SNL, it’s worth checking out, but it doesn’t reinvent the wheel or anything.

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On TV, this week saw the season finale of Donald Glover’s exceptional Atlanta, which capped off a near perfect season of television. I really liked how cyclical the whole thing was. The episode, titled “The Jacket”, has Earn retracing his steps from the night before in order to find his jacket. As the episode starts, he wakes up in the aftermath of a party, with the host telling him that he has to leave. The host tells him, “We boys, but we ain’t boys. See, I know you, but at the same time, I don’t know you.” He’s basically saying that no matter how much you think you know a person, you can’t ever fully know what’s going on with them. And that’s proven to us by the final scene of the episode, as we learn we don’t know Earn as well as we thought we did. I’m really looking forward to the next season, which I hope isn’t derailed by filming on the Han Solo film.

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In music, Beyonce decided she wanted a challenge, so she showed up at the 50th anniversary of the Country Music Association Awards. And the kids on social media lost their shit. “She needs to stay in her lane! She’s not country music!” Oh, and she didn’t come alone: she brought country music black sheep The Dixie Chicks along for the ride. She basically showed up to the door and said, “These are my Plus Three”. Now, I’m not the biggest Beyonce fan in the world (frankly, I prefer her Destinty’s Child stuff), but it was kinda cool for her to use her clout to usher the Chicks back into the world of country. After all, not everyone has forgiven them for their jab against W all those years ago. With the exception of an International Artist Achievement Award in 2006, the Dixie Chicks haven’t won a CMA since 2002. I’d have preferred it if they’d done a Beyonce take on a Dixie Chicks song, instead of them serving as the backing band for one of her Lemonade songs, but she’s the Queen. I’ve hit that age where pop music bewilders me, but I know everyone on the country charts. I guess the CMAs have become my Grammys, but I’ve got to say that I was disappointed with about 80% of the live performances, as it seemed like nobody had showed up to soundcheck. Levels were off, tempos were off, folks were pitchy. It was a mess, and didn’t feel like a worthy tribute to the 50th anniversary of that institution.

Things You Might Have Missed This Week

  • CBS announced that the CBS All Access spinoff of The Good Wife would be called The Good Fight
  • Johnny Depp not only has a cameo in Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them, but he’ll also star in the sequel.. This isn’t good news, however, to those in the Amber Heard camp…
  • Since it’s just gonna become a full-on Batman adaptation, it was announced that Ra’s Al Ghul’s other daughter (and mother of Batman’s son) Talia will be appearing on Arrow this season.
  • It was revealed that Taylor Swift wrote “Better Man”, the latest single from country group Little Big Town. It’s not clear if it’s about Calvin Harris or Tom Hiddleston, though.
  • Lindsay Lohan now speaks with a really bad Boris & Natasha accent.
  • John Wick director David Leitch is considered the frontrunner to direct Deadpool 2. Meanwhile, in a show of solidarity with former director Tim Miller, composer Junkie XL is leaving the sequel.
  • Speaking of Tim Miller, he’s reportedly developing a Sonic the Hedgehog movie at Sony
  • DC stays losing, as director Rick Famuyima has left the film adaptation of The Flash, citing “creative differences”
  • The Nerd Lunch Podcast celebrated its 250th episode, and yours truly makes a cameo appearance!
  • We got a new Wonder Woman trailer yesterday, and my pals over at The Robot’s Pajamas have a great frame by frame breakdown.

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I’m not a sports guy, so I don’t really have a ton to say here. After I finished watching the CMAs the other night, I decided to turn on Game 7 of the World Series. I haven’t cared about baseball since about 1992, when I was in the prime of my baseball card collecting career. I did, however, know that the Cubs and the Indians are some of the losingest teams out there, so it was pretty awesome that they had made it this far. Immediately, I was riveted by the game, as I watched everything happen that could happen. Fatigued pitchers, sloppy bunts, and a rain delay. But I stuck it out until 1 AM to see the Cubs break a 108 year “curse”, winning the series. I don’t think anything topped that this week, so that’s why the Chicago Cubs had the West Week Ever.

21st Oct2016

West Week Ever: Pop Culture In Review – 10/21/16

by Will

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WWE Edit

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On TV, I caught the HBO series Insecure. Everyone’s talking about Westworld, but nobody’s really talking about this. Created by and starring Issa Rae of Awkward Black Girl fame, it follows a young Black woman who’s trying to find her way in an unfulfilling job and a dead-end relationship. It’s a cute show, but I could see myself getting bored with it the same way I got bored with the Awkward Black Girl webseries. According to the ratings, the show’s not doing all that well on HBO, with fewer than a half million people tuning in. Rae’s had this development deal with HBO for years, but I can’t help but think this show would do better on another network. In fact, it would be the PERFECT companion for Atlanta over on FX. Both Rae and Glover have been thrown into that “You aren’t Black enough/Why do you talk White?” camp at some point in their careers, yet now they’re some of the leading voices of the Black Millennial. Hell, the show might even do better on Starz, scheduled after Power. What I’m saying is that Sarah Jessica Parker’s Divorce is NOT the right lead-in for the show, as I’m sure Insecure isn’t retaining much of that audience.

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In TV news, it was reported that Jason Segel is down for a How I Met Your Mother reunion. THIS is what’s known as a “slow news day”. I mean, the show basically JUST ended. Yes, I realize it’s been 3 years, but that’s still too early for us to be wondering where those characters ended up. I mean, I just got done being mad about that finale. I’m not ready to deal with Ted Mosby’s shit again this soon. Give it some time to settle. Maybe wait until you’ve got an idea that’s legen…wait for it… As for some HIMYM trivia, did you ever realize that Marshall and Lily don’t kiss that often? Apparently, Allyson Hannigan couldn’t stand Segel’s smoker breath, so she asked that they not kiss too much. I never realized that, but now I’ll be looking for it.

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In comics news, it was reported that Justice League/Mighty Morphin Power Rangers would be launching as a miniseries next year. Personally, I think this is a horrible idea. I think it boils down to the fact that I have never really seen the Power Rangers as “superheroes”. They’re more like “global peacekeepers”, which makes them more like galaxy cops. Then again, the Green Lanterns are space cops and they’re considered superheroes, so what do I know? Hell, Batman just teamed up with the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles so it’s not like these crossovers have to “make sense”. Someone on Twitter pointed out that it’s really more of a cash grab since both have movies coming out next year. Adult Rangers fans, God bless ‘em, are happy about the news because it sort of lends some legitimacy to the Power Rangers brand. Justice League fans, however, are pretty much in “WTF?” mode. Morbid curiosity dictates that I check out the first issue, but I can’t say I’m excited for this. I’m not even cautiously optimistic about it.

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There was also some drama in the art camp as J. Scott Campbell came under fire for a variant cover he did for Midtown Comics of upcoming Tony Stark replacement, Riri Williams. The biggest complaint is that he basically sexualized a 15 year old girl. Now, Campbell and I have had our differences – to the point that he’s blocked me on Twitter. Still, I have to give credit where it’s due, and I don’t see anything wrong here. He drew her based on how she’d been previously depicted: same hair, same shirt, same bare midriff, etc. Have you looked at a 15 year old lately? This is how a lot of them look. I see the curvature of the hip, but I’m not seeing Campbell’s version as “sexy”, per se. If anything, I’m more surprised that he drew a convincingly Black face. My biggest complaint about him is that he’s built a career on basically drawing the same female face and only changing the hair. In this case, I would’ve expected him to draw that same face and let the colorist handle the fact that it’s a Black character. No, he actually drew a serviceable Black teenager, so I’ll give him credit there. Some blame has to go to Marvel, as they knew what you get with a Campbell cover, but he’s nowhere near as brazen as, say, Frank Cho. Riri has some big shoes to fill, so Marvel’s going to have to be careful with how they handle her – especially with so many eyes on her debut. Anyway, last night Marvel and Midtown mutually agreed to kill the cover, with Campbell blaming “faux outrage” for the decision.

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In toy news, Hasbro announced the creation of HasCon, which will be their own convention devoted to their brands, to be held in Rhode Island next fall. This had been rumored for some time, but now it’s a real thing. I understand branding and all, but “HasCon” is a terrible name. It’s not something that evokes fun. It sounds like something you’d hear in a disaster situation. “Mr. President, alert HasCon that the virus has gone airborne!” Anyway, some fans are upset because Star Wars and Marvel won’t be represented, but that shouldn’t come as much of a surprise since Hasbro doesn’t own those properties. I still think this could spell a resurgence for G.I. Joe, and maybe we’ll finally get that M.A.S.K. toyline reboot.

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In wrestling news, everyone’s crush, British wrestler Paige, proposed to her boyfriend Alberto Del Rio. This is a dumb, dumb girl. I say “girl” because she’s 24, and I don’t really trust the judgment of anyone under the age of 25 – especially when they jump off shit for a living. The dude’s not even divorced yet, as his wife is claiming that he cheated on her WITH Paige, and then Paige went and did the dumbest thing you can do at her age – got his name tattooed under breast. This is all just a midlife crisis for Del Rio, but I really feel like Paige doesn’t realize how she’s squandering her opportunity with the WWE. Del Rio already left abruptly, and she’s on a suspension for violating the Wellness Policy, as well as claiming she needs neck surgery that WWE doesn’t think she needs. She’s even been removed from Raw’s opening sequence. She is NOT in good standing with WWE, so she should really be focusing on her career instead of this high school, lovey dovey shit. But hey, it’s her life.

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In video game news, Nintendo announced the Nintendo Switch console. The benefit of the system is that you can take the home gaming experience with you, as the console undocks to become portable. The trailer shows people in a lot of public settings where you wouldn’t typically be playing video games anyway. So, it’s like, “thanks but no thanks”. I already think it’s weird when socially awkward folks whip out a DS in the middle of a party or while standing in line, but now they’re gonna have a whole, damn full-fledged console? Anyway, it looks cool in theory, but I don’t plan on buying one. Based on the trailer, it looks like it’s designed to make you anti-social in social environments.

Things You Might Have Missed This Week

  • Leo DiCaprio is producing a Captain Planet movie that picks up years after the show, where a washed-up Captain Planet needs the Planeteers more than ever. OK, whatever…
  • The Walking Dead was renewed for season 8, so there’s no end in sight for it or the comic it’s based on
  • CBS granted full season orders to freshman shows Bull, MacGyver, and Kevin Can Wait. They also canceled summer series BrainDead and American Gothic
  • Speaking of CBS, they’re developing popular app Candy Crush into a game show. Personally, I’d rather have a Fruit Ninja show, but I bet Asian groups would lose their shit
  • Max Steel became one of the biggest bombs ever, taking in just over half a million dollars on opening day
  • Billy Bush and NBC parted ways, with Bush receiving a $10 million payout. Man, NBC sure has a funny idea of what “punishment” is…
  • After 30 years, MetLife is dumping Snoopy and the rest of the Peanuts characters from its marketing campaign.
  • Bob Dylan won the Nobel Prize, but won’t answer his phone for them to get it to him.

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Programming Note: If you notice, I never really talk about comics or graphic novels that I’ve read in West Week Ever – mainly because I’ve got separate columns for that. Yup, Adventures West Coast is my graphic novel review column, while Comical Thoughts is where I discuss monthly comics that I’ve read. They’ve been gathering dust for over a year or so, but I dusted off Adventures West Coast this week with my review of Grant Morrison’s Wonder Woman: Earth One Vol 1 (check it out if you missed it the other day). My goal is to have a comic post every Wednesday – either an AWC or a CT post, but I can’t do that if you’re not reading them. So, if you’re interested and like what you see, click and click often. AND SHARE!


The X-Men movies get a bad rap as a franchise. Despite creative high points like X2: X-Men United and X-Men: Days of Future Past, fans choose to remember the low points, such as X-Men: The Last Stand and X-Men Origins: Wolverine. When you break down the 9 movies that comprise the franchise, it’s about a 50/50 when it comes to whether or not they were “good” movies. Then the Marvel Cinematic Universe came along and changed folks’ idea of what a shared comic book universe is supposed to look like. Suddenly, X2 was no longer good enough and Fox needed to “give the X-Men back to Marvel!”

I’ve never thought the situation was that dire when it came to the X-Men movies. I like that there’s some MCU competition out there, as the Fox movies basically have a different tone to them. You actually feel like things are at stake in X-Men movies, not sure if they are going to be able to save the day at the end. The audience loves RDJ and Chris Evans, so you know Cap and Iron Man aren’t ever in any real danger, but Anna Paquin? She could easily die. In Avengers, we never really saw what would happen to Earth if they had failed to defeat the Chitauri, since that would never happen. In Days of Future Past, however, we saw what happens when the X-Men lose, and it ain’t pretty. Well, yesterday we got the trailer for the third and final Wolverine movie, titled Logan, and we see that the future can be bleak in more ways than one.

In the trailer, we see the near future, where mutants aren’t as prevalent, and Logan’s healing factor isn’t working so well anymore. A young girl needs saving, and Professor X, now old and sickly, believes that Logan is the man to do the saving. Set to the Johnny Cash version of “Hurt”, the trailer is evocative of similar media like The Road or The Last of Us. It’s just Wolverine and a young girl trying to survive. Hell, I don’t even know if Professor X is really even there or if he’s just something that Logan sees. I wouldn’t put it past them. What we get, though, is a story that seems like it has weight. It has finality to it. Jackman may come back in future X-Men movies, but this sure doesn’t feel like it. This is it. And the thing at stake is the reputation of the X-Men movie franchise. Following the success of Deadpool, the movie is rated R, so hopefully Wolverine can finally cut loose like we’ve been expecting for the past 17 years. I think this is gonna be good. I think it’s gonna be really good. And that’s why the Logan trailer had the West Week Ever.

19th Oct2016

Adventures West Coast – Wonder Woman: Earth One Vol 1

by Will

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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.

14th Oct2016

West Week Ever: Pop Culture In Review – 10/14/16

by Will

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16th Sep2016

West Week Ever: Pop Culture In Review – 9/16/16

by Will

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WWE Edit

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I didn’t really watch anything this week, but I did kick things off by checking out Monday Night Raw, live in Baltimore. Here’s my recap of the event. No, don’t act like you already read it. I track these things! Go ahead – I’ll wait.

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Well, this could be called The Week of Delays, as two pretty big projects just got shuffled down the release schedule. First up, Marvel’s Civil War II is now running so late that the final issue isn’t set to hit stores until December 28th, 2016. Yup, their “summer event” will now be cleaning up after Santa’s reindeer. This shit is getting out of hand. A similar thing happened with Secret Wars, where the final issue shipped after all the All New, All Different Marvel titles that were meant to spin out of the event started hitting shelves. It really took the wind out of that story’s sails. It was like, “Guess Doom doesn’t die since he’s now co-starring in Invincible Iron Man.” In that situation, another issue was added late in the process just like they did here. The writers always spin it as “I came up with a better ending, and Marvel was so gracious to allow me to write the best story that I can.” Well, why couldn’t you plot that shit out better in the beginning? It’s funny books, not rocket science. A lot of folks act like we should just shut up and let them write the best story that they can, but we all know that’s not it. Nothing ever ends with Marvel. It’s all just set up for the Next Big Thing. Marvel is 4-color blue balls. With DC, at least shit is wrapped up til the next Crisis. With Marvel, however, you end up just letting one event feed into the next, with little to no payoff. It’s the print equivalent of watching this gif :

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SPOILER ALERT: HE NEVER BREAKS THE FUCKING GLASS! BREAK THE FUCKING GLASS, MARVEL!

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Elsewhere in the world of failed deadlines, it was announced that Star Trek Discovery is delayed until May 2017 on CBS All Access. It’s not really a surprise, seeing as how it’s September and they haven’t even announced a cast yet. It’s just one more way CBS/Paramount screwed the pooch when it came to Star Trek‘s 50th anniversary. I was talking to some friends online this week about Trek‘s 25th anniversary. They actually *cared* back then. I remember that Star Trek was EVERYWHERE, and the movies were being played at the Smithsonian Museum of Air and Space. In fact, that’s how I first saw Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home. There were trading cards, WITH HOLOGRAMS! Sure, that’s all very 90s, but where’s my Star Trek mobile game (no, Star Trek Online doesn’t count)? Where’s my Star Trek cross-promotion with Pokemon Go or Angry Birds or some shit? Instead, we’ve just got some weird Quicken Loans commercials. Anyway, it’s probably a smarter move to wait til May because then the show won’t have to compete with the regular broadcast networks. If it premieres during May sweeps, then the rest of the series will roll out over the summer, competing against less prestigious summer series. So, it might be a smart TV decision, even if it rubs fans the wrong way. In the meantime, as a consolation prize, the streaming spinoff of The Good Wife will now debut in February, which is earlier than its originally planned premiere. Whatever.

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Speaking of TV, this was the kickoff of syndication week in most markets. That’s when your local CW’s evening schedule gets shuffled so you get one less episode of Mike & Molly but one more episode of something, like, Anger Management. I used to LOVE this week, as I grew up watching syndicated TV. Everything I watched came on five days a week, which is how I ended up watching every episode of most of those shows. Something odd happened this week, however: nothing changed. It’s no secret that TV shows aren’t lasting as long these days. It used to be that 5 seasons or 100 episodes would get you to syndication. Then they lowered it to 80 episodes. Then Community went into syndication in its third season. The model got desperate, so it took what it could get. Anyway, on my local CW affiliate, nothing changed. Wait, one thing changed: The Bill Cunningham Show ceased production, and it’s been replaced by The Robert Irvine Show, sandwiched between two episodes of Maury. Other than that, though, no new shows, no new timeslots, same old shit. I actually do the math in my head to figure out when these things should be hitting. By all reasoning, New Girl should’ve hit syndication this fall. Sure, it’s syndicated on basic cable, but I’m talking about free TV here. Meanwhile, as episode orders have decreased, it’s getting harder for shows to hit that magic number. Take The Carmichael Show, for example. It will have to air for TEN YEARS in order to get enough episodes for the “classic” 5 days a week syndication model. Now, it could do into weekend syndication, which would require fewer episodes. Maybe airing late Saturday night opposite SNL or something. Still, as a TV guy, this sort of stuff both intrigues and worries me. There aren’t a lot of evergreen syndicated hits. Sure, Friends and Seinfeld are still airing to this day, but do you really think Modern Family or The Middle have that kind of staying power?

One of my favorite songs at the moment is Blake Shelton’s “She’s Got A Way With Words”. Rumored to be about his ex wife, Miranda Lambert, it features some clever wordplay about how he feels about her. The chorus goes:

She put the “her” in “hurt

She put the “y” in “try”

She put the “S-O-B” in “sober”

She put the “hang” in “hangover”

She put the “ex” in “sex”

She put the “low” in “blow”

She put a big “F-U” in my “future”

Yeah, she’s got a way, she’s got a way with words

Well, I knew that country music was full of a bunch of conservative prudes, so I was surprised that last line about “F-U” made it into the song. So, imagine my surprise as I’m singing along the other day, and discover there’s a new radio edit. They’ve replaced that stanza with “She put the ‘S-O-L’ in ‘solo’.” What the fuck? I Googled the song to see if anyone else was talking about it, but there’s no outrage. I even tweeted at Blake himself, asking why he let his label release that neutered thing. Why aren’t more people mad about this?! Stupid Clear Channel. I mean iHeart Media. Ugh!

Things You Might Have Missed This Week

  • 12 year old Grace VanderWaal won America’s Got Talent by singing with her ukulele. America lost their mind over her, like she’s the next Jewel, but I think she’s a cubic zirconia
  • Timbaland got fired as the musical supervisor for Empire, to be replaced by Rodney “Darkchild” Jerkins and Ester Dean. So, they’re basically going from the sound of 2008 to the sound of 2000. Whoever’s at fault here, I wonder if it’s too late to ‘pologize…
  • As a surprise to no one who saw the post credits scene in X-Men: Apocalypse, Mr. Sinister will be the villain of Wolverine 3 (Why isn’t it actually called Wolverin3?) Anyway, there’s absolutely no way they can screw that up. Nope, nada, no way
  • Saturday Night Live hired SEVEN new writers and three new featured players for the upcoming 42nd season, which premieres October 1st. Don’t get too happy. Kyle Mooney’s still there.

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  • Zack Snyder revealed the Tactical Batsuit from Justice League. Is it supposed to look like Nite Owl from Watchmen? This is where I feel like Mattel got involved and said “Help us sell some shit!”

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  • Do you see this shit? This isn’t fan-made! This is something Marvel officially released. Do you see Ghost Rider up there in the corner? Scowling Coulson? And Daisy/Skye as the Not Black Widow? I can’t take anything seriously on this teaser poster for Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. – which premieres next Tuesday in its new timeslot.

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  • Lady Gaga announced that her next album would be released on October 21st, and would be called Joanne – which is her middle name, as well as the name of her aunt. I dunno, y’all, but I’m expecting to be disappointed by this one

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So, for the past four weeks, I’ve actually been watching a certain reality show with my mom. Since y’all are cool and hip, I’m sure you’ve never heard of it, but I’m ’bout to give ya some schoolin’! The show is called Better Late Than Never, and it’s an NBC show that follows four senior citizens as they travel through Asia. It’s an American remake of the South Korean show Grandpas Over Flowers. These are no ordinary senior citizens, however. Nope, they’re Henry “The Fonz” Winkler, Bill Shatner, boxing great and grill mogul George Foreman, and NFL legend Terry Bradshaw. To round out the group is 30 year old comedian Jeff Dye, who kind of acts like a chaperone for the guys. Sure, they’re all rich, but the point of the trip was for them to basically backpack so they could get the true cultural experience.

Throughout the trip, you really get to know the guys, and in a lot of ways, you feel for them. For example, Shatner’s 84 years old, but he said that the older he gets, the more he feels death approaching, and the more he is afraid of dying. Here’s Captain James Tiberius Kirk who’s afraid of the grim reaper. After all he’s done and seen, wouldn’t necessarily expect that. I mean, at least I wouldn’t. I really saw a vulnerability in Shatner here, and while everyone who’s worked with him seem to have horror stories, he really seemed to gel well with the rest of the guys.

The show is basically a travelogue as seen through the eyes of some grumpy old men. But they also know how to have some fun. Bradshaw will jump at anything that involves singing and/or karaoke, as he’s actually released several albums. Winkler approached everything wide-eyed, with a positive attitude. Foreman was shy, but had an inner child he was dying to let out. They ate exotic foods, like chicken vagina and live octopus. They participated in a water festival in Thailand, and robot fights in Japan. They stayed in a luxurious hotel in Hong Kong (so, they kinda broke the rules on this one, but Shatner said he didn’t know if he would ever see Hong Kong again, so he’d like to know that he did it the “right” way). Now that I think of it, I keep coming back to Shatner. I hope he’s OK. While he seemed to truly enjoy the experience, there was a sort of pall hanging over him. He’s a man searching for something, and I hope he finds it.

Anyway, it’s a great binge, as it’s only 4 one-hour episodes, and they’re all On Demand now. The season (series?) finale aired this week, and I really hope it gets a second season. Sure, they could switch up the cast, but these guys have great chemistry. And I think a Europe is the prime location for a second season. Anyway, it was fun watching The Fonz ride an elephant, and George Foreman knocking out Captain Kirk, and Terry Bradshaw get a tattoo for his birthday. Oh, and then the whole gang starred in a music video with K-Pop sensation Girls’ Generation. Despite their age, they all discovered that they’re still kids at heart, and that you’re never too old to experience new things. It’s a really fun show, and it’s fun for the whole family! Anyway, I thoroughly enjoyed all four weeks of the show, so that’s why Better Late Than Never had the West Week Ever.

09th Sep2016

West Week Ever: Pop Culture In Review – 9/9/16

by Will

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WWE Edit

Welcome to the 1,000th post at WilliamBruceWest.com! Well, technically, I hit 1,000 posts years ago, but when I switched over from Blogger to WordPress, I deleted several hundred posts. So, this is post 1,000 for version 2.0 of the site. Anyway, if this were a comic book, it’d have a holographic cover and it would feature a reprint of my first issue in the back. But it’s not a comic book, so you’re just gonna get some ramblings and some pictures I stole from bigger websites. You’re lucky I even wrote anything considering how few of you read last week’s post. I’ve really gotta stop writing on holiday weekends!

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Speaking of holiday weekends, last week some friends and I took in the Baltimore Comic Con. It was pretty much what you’d expect from the show. It wasn’t the best BCC, but it was made better by the company I kept.

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I will say, however, one thing stood out to me. You see, WWE Hall of Famer Sunny (AKA Tammy Sytch) was a guest on behalf of MCW Wrestling. Now, let’s talk a bit about Sunny, shall we? In her heydey (circa 1994), she was the valet of the Bodydonnas, a fitness-themed duo of heels. That didn’t last long, but her Bodydonnas partner, Chris Candido, was also her boyfriend, so she went wherever he went. They next went to ECW, which is where Sunny’s drug problems really started to surface. After leaving there, they ended up in WCW – also leaving once her drug problems arose again. Candido died in 2005, and then the shit really hit the fan. On top of the drugs, she ended up posing nude for the adult site, Wrestling Vixxxens, which she later said she regretted. Well, she must not have regretted it too much, as last January, she signed with Vivid Entertainment and released Sunny Side Up: In Through The Backdoor – full-fledged porn-o-graphic moving picture! She was even trying to sell her Hall of Fame ring. Rough times…

OK, so let’s fast forward to last Saturday. She was sitting at a table, charging the “Virgil standard” of $20 per picture. Now, she doesn’t look anywhere near as good as she did in 1994. I mean, who does? Still, she’s kept it fairly tight, considering all her life’s been through. But it was weird watching guys have her take pictures with their sons, like it was some sort of rite of passage or something. I mean, we’re not talking about Trish Stratus here, as Sunny never really did anything notable in the ring. She was basically known for being hot and doing porn. And somehow that got her into the WWE Hall of Fame. Anyway, the whole thing was just weird to me.

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In movies, I watched Independence Day: Resurgence with my buddy Keith after the con. If you’ve been hiding under a rock, it’s 20 years after the first movie, and the aliens are back for revenge. Apparently, the mothership from the first movie sent off a distress signal that has finally been picked up by an alien queen. Man, that movie should’ve been called Nepotism Day. I say that because EVERYONE already knew EVERYONE. I’m not even talking about the characters from the first movie who have returned. Even the new characters somehow know everyone else. There are no introductions in this movie. It’s basically, “Hey, it’s been awhile.” Will Smith’s character got killed off on the movie’s promotional website, so his son takes the lead in this installment. Somehow, though, he already knows President Whitmore’s daughter (who was recast because they didn’t feel Mae Whitman was “Hollywood Hot” enough) AND new movie hero Liam Hemsworth. He also knows the new President (Sela Ward), while Hemsworth somehow knows Jeff Goldblum’s David Levinson. None of this is really explained. We’re basically expected to just accept that they all met each other over the past 20 years. In fact, the only character that is even somewhat introduced is Angelababy’s Lt Lao, who was clearly crammed in for the lucrative Chinese marketplace.

Another thing is that the deaths are meaningless. In the first movie, when the world capitals and landmarks were destroyed, you kinda felt something (possibly because we hadn’t seen anything like that before). This time around, though, instead of a destructive laser beam, the aliens basically use gravity to pick up one side of the planet (people, cars, buildings) and drop it on the other side of the planet. Visually, it was…interesting, but it felt empty. The movie requires a LOT of suspension of disbelief. The worst part, though, is how it ends in a Super Mario Bros-esque fashion, setting up a sequel that will never come, based on the box office results of this installment.

There’s a subplot of the movie that focuses on Not John Oliver and an African warlord. You see, the Africans fought a ground war against the aliens for the next ten years after the first movie. That would’ve been a MUCH better movie than what we got. Hell, this movie would’ve been better had it just focused on Not John Oliver and the warlord, killing aliens. They were, by far, the most interesting part of the film. If you didn’t see this movie, you definitely didn’t miss anything.

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Speaking of space stuff, Star Trek celebrates its 50th anniversary this week. The franchise has had a profound impact on my life, but I find myself speechless when it comes to any kind of tribute. I’ve often referred to myself as a “retired Trekkie”, but it’s all still in my heart. Still, I couldn’t let the occasion pass without at least mentioning it. To get my thoughts on the franchise, check out my most recent podcast appearance with the guys over at Nerd Lunch, and check out this classic post from the archives, where I wonder why anyone would want to join Starfleet.

Things You Might Have Missed This Week

  • It was confirmed that Joe Manganiello will play Deathstroke in Ben Affleck’s solo Batman film
  • Greg Berlanti’s Black Lightning has been picked up for a pilot at Fox, which sucks because there’s no way Fox is gonna play ball with The CW for a crossover.
  • Lil Wayne may have retired from hip hop over Twitter. I hope that means he’s going to devote all his free time to pouring champagne on phones.
  • Shailene Woodley said she’s not interested in doing Divergent as a TV show, which is probably music to the ears of the folks financing the thing
  • This week saw the Comedy Central Roast of Rob Lowe, which actually just featured everyone ganging up on Ann Coulter
  • MTV announced Wonderland, a September 15th-premiering live music show. I tend to hate when people cite the whole “Remember when MTV used to play videos?”, but it is strange that this is “news” considering this is what they should be doing.

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  • Freddie Prinze Jr and Rachael Leigh Cook hung out, and apparently this WASN’T taken in the unemployment line. Good for them!
  • Lady Gaga finally released her new single “Perfect Illusion”. The only illusion here is that she thought this was a worthy comeback song.

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One thing took me by surprise this week. When I first heard of FX’s Atlanta, I had no interest in it whatsoever. My first thought was “Oh, Donald Glover’s being weird again.” After all, this is the dude who left Community and then had a mini breakdown as to whether or not he’d made the right choice. This was the dude who desperately wanted to be taken seriously as rapper Childish Gambino, despite the terrible name. This is the guy who, in recent years, always looks like he needs a sink and a washcloth. So, what could Donald Glover possibly have to offer that I would want? Well, it turns out he had something I didn’t even know I needed.

Created by, and starring, Glover Atlanta is about Earnest Marks who’s a Princeton dropout who just can’t seem to catch a break. He’s moved back home to Atlanta, but he’s got no money, he has a baby daughter, and he’s in a pseudo-relationship with the girl’s mother, though she’s starting to see other people. He really doesn’t think his ship is gonna come in until he finds out that his cousin is an up and coming rapper named Paper Boi. “Earn” decides that he’s going to manage his cousin, which will change both of their lives. Of course, nothing like that is going to go smoothly. Earn and Paper Boi get involved in a shooting, and Earn finds himself in lockup while Paper Boi starts to question whether he’s as “of the streets” as his music portrays him to be.

It was such an engaging hour, and it left me begging for more. If I could binge the whole season right now, that’s exactly what I’d be doing. I mean, there’s a mystical aspect to it, while there’s also this anxious sadness that I haven’t felt since Breaking Bad. It’s like you know something bad is coming (I feel it involves Paper Boi getting shot), but you kinda just want it to hurry up and get it over with. Sure, Mr. Robot causes anxiety, but it’s wrapped up in so much mindfuckery that it never really settles. Here, though, the suspense is palpable. You want the characters to win, but you also know it’s not going to be an easy road. Plus, at the end of the day what, exactly, would “winning” look like? I look forward to seeing all of this play out, and that’s why Atlanta had the West Week Ever.

02nd Sep2016

West Week Ever: Pop Culture In Review – 9/2/16

by Will

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WWE Edit

It’s a holiday weekend and y’all never read this thing when that happens, so let’s keep it short and sweet today, shall we?

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In comic news, the Diamond Retailer Summit is currently happening, so some news is trickling out of there. In the Marvel camp, they revealed a Monsters Unleashed series. Whatever. They’d been teasing something called MU for weeks, first revealing Cullen Bunn was involved and then slowly revealed artists, such as Leinil Yu, Adam Kubert, and Greg Land. Well, today it was announced it was this monster shit. I know some people are into all that, but I’m not one of them, nor do I feel like such an announcement deserved all that fanfare. It’s making me think that Marvel’s cried “Wolf!” one too many times. It’s also odd to me that a monster series is coming out in January instead of October. Also, they announced that the follow-up to Death of X and Inhumans vs X-Men would be called ResurreXion. Yeah, you read that right. I’ll bet someone in Marvel’s marketing department got an erecXion when they came up with that one.

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Meanwhile, DC announced their first major Rebirth crossover in the form of Justice League vs. Suicide Squad. I can’t help but feel like this would’ve been better timed to coincide with the release of the film, but maybe its release will bolster the Blu Ray sales, while getting folks primed for Justice League. In the story, Batman decides to take down Amanda Waller’s Task Force X – much like *SPOILER ALERT* Batfleck threatened to do in the post-credits sequence of Suicide Squad. And like all comic book fights, I’m sure they’ll be forced to team up against a greater threat. Anyway, it’s expected that a new Justice League of America series will spin out of this event.

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Speaking of Batfleck, this week Ben Affleck “leaked” some footage of Deathstroke the Terminator. Originally a Teen Titans villain, it seems that Mr. Stroke has been promoted to the big leagues. At first, it was believed this might be Justice League footage, but now the word on the street is that Deathstroke will be the main villain of Affleck’s standalone Batman movie. Oh, and it’s rumored that Joe Manganiello will be playing Deathstroke. Not really excited about it at the moment, but I probably will be as we learn more.

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In TV news, it’s reported that Marvel is shopping around a comedy based on the New Warriors – but featuring Squirrel Girl. Now, this bothers me because Squirrel Girl was never in the New Warriors. Sure, I can understand creative liberties, but it seems like Marvel’s just desperate to create a Squirrel Girl vehicle and this is what they’ve come up with. First off, I don’t know if I like the Superhero Comedy genre for television. I think they should wait and see how DC’s Powerless (which looks horrid) does on NBC. Second, I’ve never really understood the whole Squirrel Girl thing. I get that she’s cutesy and all, but I’ve yet to read a comic where I’m like, “Wow! That Squirrel Girl!” Lately there’s been this movement to get Anna Kendrick cast as the character in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Yeah, that’s nice and all, but I think that casting’s wrong. And there’s no way Kendrick is gonna do TV at this stage of her career. No, I think The Middle‘s Eden Sher is a much better choice. It was reported that she was having meetings with Marvel years ago, trying to figure out ways to get her into the MCU. Sadly, I think that ship might’ve sailed, as nobody expected The Middle to still be on at this point. At the moment, though, I’m hoping this project ends up with the same fate as Marvel’s Most Wanted.

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Meanwhile, in DC television world, Greg Berlanti is developing a Black Lightning show with the creators of Girlfriends/The Game, Mara Brock Akil and Salim Akil. I’m all for the Berlantiverse becoming more robust, but I always feel like the older shows suffer when he introduces a new one. I’d much rather they try to make Legends of Tomorrow a better show, and maybe add the character over there first. Black Lightning is an inner city teacher who has lightning powers, hailing from an age when all Black heroes had to have “Black” in their name. If this show gets off the ground, I’m sure it’ll end up being called something like Lightning. The funny thing is that he’s supposedly shopping it around to networks, like we all don’t already know it’s gonna end up on The CW.

 

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You know what really grinds my gears? Country radio (yes, some of us still listen to the radio) does this thing where they play a new single from an album, and then they ask listeners to call in and tell them what they thought of the song. Supposedly, if the response is predominantly negative, the song won’t be played anymore. Um, THAT’S NOT HOW THE INDUSTRY WORKS! If a song has been released as an official single, they pretty much HAVE to play it. Radio doesn’t have the power to make or break an artist anymore. There are people selling albums and touring who’ve never even been on the radio. The days of “If I spin your record, it’ll make you a star” are over. So I guess I wish country stations would cut the shit and stop making the audience think they have some power they don’t really have.

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Another thing I don’t like? An Adult Swim show called Million Dollar Extreme Presents: World Peace. I’ve tweeted before about how I don’t really like the show, but last week I found I’d attracted the wrong attention: fans of the show. Now, first let me explain who’s behind it: Million Dollar Extreme is a sketch comedy group comprised of Sam Hyde, Charls Carroll, and Nick Rochefort who specialize in making you uncomfortable. Just Google Sam Hyde. I’ll wait. Especially look up his TED Talk. Basically they’ve made a name for themselves as part of the alt-right movement that despises political correctness. So, they go completely in the opposite direction. They do shit in blackface, they mock the handicapped. It’s pretty bad. So, last week, I tweeted this to a friend:

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And then I went to sleep. When I woke up, a bunch of their fans had sarcastically favorited the tweet, and were replying to us, saying stuff like “Yeah, but you’ll watch it and LIKE it”. I looked at these folks’ profiles, and they are NOT nice people. I thought I was gonna end up doxxed or something. Anyway, bottom line: don’t watch World Peace.

Things You Might Have Missed This Week

  • Image Comics will reportedly relocate from Berkeley, CA to Portland, OR
  • Netflix announced a second season of the show you’re all raving about, That’s Still So Raven. No, I kid. You’re getting more Stranger Things.
  • Jon Favreau will reprise his Happy Hogan role from the Iron Man movies in Spider-Man: Homecoming
  • Though I don’t know anyone who watches it, someone’s bound to be upset that Grimm will end after its next, abbreviated season
  • Pretty Little Liars will also end after its next season. Unless, you know, they’re lying about that…
  • The next season of Dancing with the Stars will feature Vanilla Ice, Babyface, Gov Rick Perry, Amber Rose and more. Still no word on which *stars* will be on the show
  • Chris Brown almost got killed by a SWAT team after pulling a gun on some chick who tried to steal his jewelry.
  • Disney Interactive shut down the Marvel: Avengers Alliance mobile game, which won’t be playable by the end of the month
  • Britney Spears released her 3rd “comeback” album, Glory. I’ve heard it, and I don’t think she’s back yet
  • Alison Brie and Marc Maron have been cast as the leads in Netflix’s series GLOW, based on the Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling

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So, the only thing I really watched this week was the BBC Are You Being Served? special. Sure, it was a UK thing, but luckily I was able to find it on YouTube. I grew up watching the original show, so this was something that I HAD to see.

If you’re not familiar with it, Are You Being Served? was a Britcom set in a high end department store called Grace Brothers. The show particularly focused on the employees of the Men’s and Ladies’ departments, including Mr. Humphries, Mrs. Slocombe, and Captain Peacock. It had a very rigid class structure, where everyone was supposed to know their place and follow a certain chain of command. Captain Peacock was the snobbish “floor walker”, who kept everyone in line. Mr. Humphries was the butt of gay jokes because he was effeminate and lived with his mother. And Mrs. Slocombe was always talking about her pussy (Get your mind out of the gutter! It’s her cat!). The show ran for 13 years, but only has 70 episodes because, well, England. Once it ended, they even tried to “Golden Palace” it by moving the cast to a manor in which their pensions had been invested.

Anyway, in a celebration of British comedy, The BBC “revived” several shows by casting current actors in one-episode specials. This was especially necessary for AYBS?, seeing as how the entire cast is dead now (well, except for Mr. Spooner, but nobody gives a shit about him). Surprisingly, I didn’t know a single actor they cast in this thing. I always joke that there are only about 11 British actors, but I guess there are only 11 who’ve crossed over the pond. None of them, however, made it to this special. I felt the casting for everyone was pretty spot-on, though, especially Mr. Grainger and Mrs. Slocombe. I did, however, feel like they overdid it with Mr. Humphries. While he was effeminate in the original show, there was always a question of “Is he or isn’t he?” but here they just pretty much played him as humorously gay, which sort of took something away from the character.

When the episode starts, a young Black man named Richard Conway shows up for his first day as a member of the Men’s department staff. One thing I’m always curious about is race relations in other countries. While the episode was set in 1988, I was surprised that they never once referred to or joked about his race. Is this just not done in the UK? Or was it felt like that wasn’t the kind of humor you would expect from AYBS? I’d really love to know more about how they came to that decision, because an American show would’ve been ALL ABOUT the fact that he was this Black guy in a prim and proper establishment. It’d be called Homeboy In Knickers, and would air on UPN after Shasta McNasty.

Anyway, at the end of the day, it felt like a genuine “lost” episode of the show. It completely retconned the spinoff Grace & Favour, and it did some clever tinkering to get Mr. Grainger back in the mix. Basically 3 years have passed since the final episode, but things are pretty much like you remember them. There’s a Downton Abbey aspect to the show where it’s mired in class humor in a world that’s quickly changing. The crux of the episode is that the new Mr. Grace is determined to drag the store into the 20th century. It’s an interesting idea, and I’d actually love to see more of it. From what I’ve read, the special wasn’t well-received by the Brits, but I couldn’t have really asked for more. It didn’t swing for the fences by killing a major character, nor did it go for shock value. It tried to give you more of what you loved about the original show, and in that respect, I think it succeeded. That’s why the Are You Being Served? one-off special had the West Week Ever.

 

19th Aug2016

West Week Ever: Pop Culture In Review – 8/19/16

by Will

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We got our first look at the poster for Spider-Man: Homecoming and it’s whatever. This was seen at a Las Vegas trade show, so it was probably just thrown together for the show. I doubt this is the one-sheet you’ll see in theaters. It gives ya a good view of the suit, but it just doesn’t get me excited, ya know? Meanwhile, it’s being reported that Zendaya is actually playing Spider-Man’s sometimes girlfriend/sometimes later wife, Mary Jane Watson. Now, originally they said Zendaya’s character’s name was “Michelle”, but it seems that was all a ruse. So, with Zendaya being biracial, we got the typical online reaction: “That ain’t mah MJ!” I get it. I hate change, too. That said, I really like Zendaya, but I don’t necessarily see her as Mary Jane. Whatever, though. I didn’t see Krysten Ritter as Jessica Jones, and I was wrong about that. So, I’ll give it a shot. I’m just kinda Spider-Manned out. I feel about Spider-Man the way some folks feel about Batman. We’ve had 5 movies in 14 years, and two different actors playing him. While a lot of folks are saying “They’re finally getting him right!”, I felt like they’d gotten him right before. I loved the Tobey Maguire movies. And I enjoyed the Andrew Garfield movies. So, I’ll probably like this one, too. But am I “hype” for it, as the young kids would say? Not at all.

runaways

In Marvel TV news, it was reported that a Runaways series is in development at Hulu, from the folks behind Gossip Girl and The O.C. Now, Runaways isn’t exactly a household name, as it featured all original characters – teenagers whose parents were some of the worst villains in the Marvel Universe. We’d never heard of these villains, though, ’cause they didn’t live in New York City like every other character in the Marvel Universe. Well, once the teens realize just how evil their parents are, they run away. Oh, and one of them is a traitor. I LOVED the series, and it put writer Brian K. Vaughan on the map, who went on to do Y: The Last Man and Saga. The first few years of the book are pretty engaging. Then Joss Whedon came along and wrote, probably, the most forgettable comics of his career. Next, Terry Moore of Strangers In Paradise fame came along and took over the book. And that’s when I kinda lost track of it. So, here’s hoping the TV show news will result in a return of the comic series, as I’ve come to miss those kids. As for the show itself? Well, I’ll just have to wait and see. If you asked me “Who’d be the best team to adapt Runaways“, my first answer would not have been “The Gossip Girl creators”. Still, that show handled big mysteries, and this series is full of them, so maybe they’re the right ones for the job.


In DC news, we got a surprise trailer this week for Batman: Return of the Caped Crusaders. It’s a straight-to-DVD animated film set in the 1966 Batman world. It features the voice talent of the show’s original stars Adam West, Burt Ward, and Julie Newmar – ya know, all the ones who aren’t dead. I guess that’s cool. Again, ever since the DVD rights got cleared up, we have had Batman ’66 overload. I’m glad to keep these folks working, but it’s not something I’m especially jazzed about. Not sure what it is. Maybe it’s the animation style? This movie looks closer to the animation that we get in your standard DC Universe Animated Original Movies, when I think I’d rather have something that mimicked the look of the animation in the opening credits of the show. Anyway, the movie hits digital on October 11th, and on Blu-Ray November 1st.

PRNS

The biannual Power Rangers convention, Power Morphicon, was held in Pasadena last weekend, and a few interesting things came out of the show. For one thing, we were introduced to the cast of the next incarnation of the show, Power Rangers Ninja Steel. There are a few notable things about this cast. First of all, the Ninja Steel Blue Ranger will be played by Peter Sudarso, who happens to be the real life brother of Yoshi Sudarso, who plays the current Dino Super Charge Blue Ranger. This is a first for the franchise. Another first for the franchise, this is the first time the team doesn’t have a single Caucasian on it. If you want diversity, this team’s got it in spades! #RepresentationMatters

BeFunky CollageRG3

Now for the gossip portion of our evening! So, Robert Griffin III is quite the controversial figure in these parts. He was drafted in 2012 as the starting quarterback of the Washington Redskins, with folks believing he was the Second Coming. Well, when you put a guy on a pedestal, he’s bound to disappoint you. He was released in March and snatched up by the Cleveland Browns. Now, I don’t care anything about sports. If anything we’re a Broncos household because Lindsay cares, and she’s from Denver. No, the only reason RGIII was ever on my radar was because of his college sweetheart, Rebecca. Plainly put, she had big bazooms. Anyway, the two got married in 2013, and even had a kid last year. Well, as the story goes, RGIII met a young hot thing from Estonia over Instagram 7 months after the baby was born. Grete Sadeiko is a track and field star at Florida State University, and she’s RGIII’s new boo – so much so that he, foolishly, got her name tattooed on his arm. Oh, and he blindsided Rebecca with a request for a divorce.  If he had been half this interesting when he was still playing here, it might’ve gotten me to care about the Redskins!

metzger schumer

In the world of comedy, there was a bunch of drama involving comedians Amy Schumer and Kurt Metzger. First of all, I’m actually a big fan of Metzger, and I listen to his Race Wars Podcast weekly. That said, I feel like sometimes he’s just trying to see how far he can go and still keep his job. You see, Metzger was a writer and producer on Inside Amy Schumer, but this week he went on a Facebook rant about rape that got him in hot water. Long story short, someone in the NY comedy community had been accused of rape, but Metzger felt that the person was being tried in the court of public opinion instead of any actual proof or evidence being presented. He’s even said himself that his retorts went too far because he let his ego get in the way, but at the end of the day attention was diverted from the fact that there could be a sexual predator in the comic scene and was now focused on what a terrible person Metzger was. People started tweeting at Amy Schumer, asking if she knew what her employee had been saying. Schumer responded by blocking these people, for whatever reason. Finally, she came out and denounced Metzger’s statements, saying that she was disappointed and didn’t share his sentiments. She later tweeted that Metzger doesn’t work for her show anymore, leading folks to think he had been fired. It revealed a bigger truth, however – Inside Amy Schumer is actually going on hiatus for an indefinite amount of time so that Schumer can work on other projects. Yeah, the last time something went on an indefinite hiatus, Justin Timberlake became a solo star. Anyway, not only has this hurt Schumer’s brand, but now a group of Redditors have organized to give fake 1-star reviews to her new book, The Girl With The Lower Back Tattoo. I think this is gonna get worse before it gets better, but will it do more damage to Metzger or Schumer?

Phelps2

This is the tweet that keeps on giving. Though it’s starting to taper off, it got RTed last weekend, giving it a bit of a resurgence. So far, it’s had over 20,000 impressions. Again, just let me have this.

Things You Might Have Missed This Week

  • Though I could’ve sworn it was confirmed months ago, this week it was reported that Cyborg will costar with Ezra Miller in the movie verison of The Flash
  • It was rumored that Punisher’s ally Microchip will be a supporting character when his Netflix series debuts
  • Caitlin Jenner’s reality show, I Am Cait, might as well be called I Am Cancelled, as the show’s being put out to pasture after two seasons.
  • Speaking of cancellations, last night saw the final episode of Larry Wilmore’s The Nightly Show on Comedy Central.
  • After 13 years, Robert Kirkman’s comic Invincible will be ending next year with issue #144. This reminds me that I really need to catch up on Invincible
  • WWE stars Alberto Del Rio, Paige, and Eva Marie were all suspended for 30 days after violating the WWE Wellness Policy

https://www.instagram.com/p/BIis9E1BJvm/ Screengrab of Ryan Lochte's Instagram post of his new hairdo 7/31/16 Source: Ryan Lochte/Instagram

US Olympic swimmer Ryan Lochte and his elite group of swim bros created a shitty lie to cover up a pretty lame infraction. You see, Sunday morning they claimed they had been robbed at gunpoint after leaving a club in Rio. Their stories, however, weren’t lining up and the Brazilian police wanted answers. They weren’t going to stand for the swimmers besmirching the protection they had provided during the games. Around Wednesday, things started moving really quickly, as the passports of the swimmers were seized, and two of them were taken off their plane. But there was a twist – Lochte was already back in the US! At the end of the day, it seems like they actually vandalized a gas station in a confrontation with a guard, yet they PAID FOR THE DAMAGE. So, why lie about a situation you’ve already smoothed over? The other guys are saying it was all Lochte’s idea, while he’s probably chilling in a Titled Kilt somewhere, laughing his ass off.  For whatever reason he did it, he seemingly got away with it. We’ve underestimated him all these years, but what if Lochte is a criminal mastermind? Or what if he’s just a dumb guy who did a stupid thing? The world may never truly know. And that’s why Ryan Lochte had the West Week Ever.

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