13th Mar2015

West Week Ever – 3/13/15

by Will

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So, I had a bunch of snow days last week, and just didn’t have the motivation to write. We’re back now, however, and we’ve got a lot to talk about!

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Trying to clear off my DVR, I watched the standup special Sommore: Chandelier Status. If you don’t know Sommore, you’ve clearly never seen BET’s ComicView. You’re also probably White. Seriously, except for Celebrity Fit Club, Sommore really hasn’t broken out of the Black Comedy world. Still, I’ve found her to be hilarious in the past, so I thought I’d check out this special. It was really nothing to write home about. It was about an hour’s worth of “Black people do this, and White people do that.” That gets old fast. I think I laughed twice. Kinda disappointing, as I had high expectations for that special.

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While on the comedy topic, I also checked out Aziz Ansari: Live At Madison Square Garden. Now, I’ve gone on record to say that I didn’t like his last special, Buried Alive, because he spent too much time talking about grown-up stuff like having kids and his fear of marriage. Well, this special was really just more of that. I think I’m starting to realize that I like younger, less mature Aziz who talked about hanging out with Kanye and going to R. Kelly concerts. Older, wiser Aziz is WAY too introspective, and I don’t find a lot of *humor* in what he has to say. He’s more like a relationship guru than a comedian these days, and that’s just not what I’m looking for.

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On TV, I caught The Marine, which has quickly become one of those “I have to watch it whenever I see it’s on” movies for me. I can’t really explain it, but I think John Cena is a pretty good action star. And whatever happened to Kelly Carlson? After Nip/Tuck, she seemed poised for bigger things. Sure, The Marine is just a WWE Studios production, but it was still a job. Nowadays, I hear she’s acting in some online spinoff of Supernatural. Eww, a webseries!

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Speaking of disappointing webseries, this week saw the premiere of Powers on the Playstation Network. If you’re not familiar with the concept, it’s a police procedural based  in a world of people with superpowers, and it’s based on the comic of the same name from Brian Michael Bendis. Now, I have a complicated relationship with Bendis; I used to love everything he did, but then I met him. Don’t meet your heroes, kid. Anyway, as much as I’ve loved his work, I never really liked Powers. I felt it was overrated and moved WAY too slowly. So, I’m probably not the target audience for this show. That said, it was just as bad as I expected. The show had been in development for years, and eventually landed at FX with a pilot starring Jason Patric. FX passed on the series, but the creators were determined to get it on the air somewhere. So, they went back to the drawing board and gave us the show that we have here. The trailer for it made it look like a big budget fan film, and the actual product wasn’t much better than that. It felt like a really bad Canadian series that would air on Syfy. And no, not a American show filmed in Vancouver for budgetary reasons – I’m talking about a show made by and for Canadians, like Lost Girl or something. The effects are hokey, the casting is off (Sharlto Copley? Really?), and it just feels empty, though yearns to be so much more than it is. The series will air exclusively on Playstation Network, but the pilot is currently available on YouTube. If this show is indicative of PSN’s original programming capabilities, I am far from impressed.

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It’s not all bad news this week, though. I have a new favorite reality show: Kosher Soul. Airing on Lifetime, the show follows the relationship between standup comedian O’Neal McKnight and celebrity stylist Miriam Sternoff. He’s Black, she’s Jewish and hilarity ensues! When the series starts, they’re planning their wedding and O’Neal is starting the conversation to Judaism, as it’s important to Miriam that she marry a Jew. O’Neal’s a funny guy, though I’m not that familiar with his standup. He’s friends with other reality show stalwarts like Fonzworth Bentley and Russell Simmons. Meanwhile, Miriam reminds me a lot of Bethenny Frankel – who was my favorite of the Bravo Real Housewives franchise. Right after their wedding, Miriam wanted to start trying to have kids, so that’s where we are at this point in the show. O’Neal and Miriam seem to have great chemistry, and I can see how their relationship has endured for 9+ years. Hell, they may last and they may not, but they’re trying to make it work. I’ve seen no hype about this show, and only watched it because I ran across it On Demand. It doesn’t even have a Wikipedia page yet! So, with my luck, it’ll probably be canceled after one season.

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Had I done a West Week Ever last week, that honor would have gone to The Last Man on Earth. I never thought it had a chance to work, and the jury’s still out on it, but I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the three episodes that have aired so far. If you haven’t seen it, Will Forte stars as Phil Miller – the seemingly only survivor of a virus that has killed the rest of the world’s population. So, the pilot follows him as he gets used to the idea that he is, in fact, the last person on Earth. Then, at the end of the pilot, you’re thrown for a loop, as you learn that he’s not alone; he may be the last *man* on Earth, but there happens to be a woman – Carol Pilbasian, played by Kristen Schaal. So, then the show focuses on the relationship between the two, as Carol thinks she and Phil are meant to repopulate the world, while Phil really wants nothing to do with her. I thought this would work as a movie, but I had no idea how they’d get an entire series out of it. Three episodes in, and I’m still not sure where it’s going, but I’m enjoying the ride so far.

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So, I was busy on the Internet this week, and some might even say I was trolling. I didn’t think that was the case, but let’s take a closer look, shall we? So, on Monday morning, I was tweeting with a friend about American Idol, and he mentioned Kris Allen. I replied, “Man, where’d THAT dude end up?” And he replied, “In the scrap heap along with Taylor Hicks, Lee DeWyze, and Scotty McCreery.” And then the floodgates opened. We got tons of replies from obsessed fans who clearly set filters for anytime those guys’ names are mentioned. They insisted that Taylor and Scotty weren’t on a “scrap heap”. Turns out they were right. I mean, I already knew of Scotty’s country success, but who knew that Taylor Hicks made $2.5 million last year? Apparently, he’s the first Idol to get a residency in Las Vegas. Anyway, as I got sick of these grannies blowing up my timeline, I tweeted the following:

guarini 1If you’re not familiar, a “stan” is slang for an obsessive fan – based on the Eminem song of the same name. Oh, and Justin Guarini lost to Kelly Clarkson in the very first season of American Idol. I didn’t really have to call out Guarini, but he seemed like an easy target. Kick a man while he’s down, I guess. I was riled up by all the old ladies defending their favorite Idols, and I was really just trying to call out some more fans, as I was amused by their terrible misspellings and grammar. And since he has nothing to do with his time, Guarini responded. He has since deleted his tweets to me, so let’s see if I can do it from memory:

JG: “*stars *shitty”

This was his was of trying to correct me. He thought I meant to say “stars” instead of “stans”. He was also correcting the end of my tweet to read “Justin Guarini ain’t shitty”

And I replied:

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JG: “Hey fan. I know a fan when I see one, fan.”

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Then things took off. He tweeted his response with the period before the @, so all of his followers could see it. So then everybody started favoriting his tweets to me. And then one theatre groupie tried to say that I was kissing up to him. I actually wasn’t. While my tone might seem conciliatory, in my mind I wasn’t done. I didn’t appreciate him reaching out to his followers for support. What I said was true – I had voted for him, and an ex had given me From Justin to Kelly. I failed to add that I sold that DVD and that I thought his album was a piece of shit. Seriously, it’s terrible as there isn’t one commercially viable single on the entire disc. I didn’t add any of this, though, because I had been an asshole and it was probably best to let it drop. The next day, however, I listened to Kelly’s new album and I got the desire to tweet Justin and ask him what he thought of it. I was just about to hit send, but I thought better of it. I like a good feud, but I’m not particularly a fan of a situation where I’m the bad guy.

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Last time, I mentioned that I had a bottle of Pepsi True in my refrigerator. Well, I tried it. And it tastes like bilge water. In the Stevia flavored mid-calorie cola department, Coke Life wins the title.

Things You Might Have Missed This Week

– Pharrell Williams and Robin Thicke lost a court case against the family of Marvin Gaye, who claimed that “Blurred Lines” ripped off Gaye’s “Got To Give It Up”. This decision resulted in a $7.3 million payout to Gaye’s children. I get that they kinda sound similar, but I really don’t get this decision. Plus, it sets a really bad precedent for anything that remotely sounds like anything else. Thicke had kinda been a bit of a douchenozzle over the past year, so I wonder if that played into the jury’s decision.

–  a new trailer was released for the Netflix Daredevil series. For a great scene-by-scene breakdown, check out this post at The Robot’s Pajamas.

-Rolling Stone had a great minute-by-minute breakdown of the We Are The World recording session on its 30th anniversary.

– Have you ever wanted to see Earl Sinclair from Dinosaurs rap Notorious B.I.G.’s “Hypnotize”? Who cares. Here it is and it’s awesome:

– My pals over at the Nerd Lunch Podcast did a musicals episode that you should really check out.

– At a Disney shareholder’s meeting, it was reported that Star Wars Episode VIII will be released May 26, 2017. Also, Felicity Jones to star in the Rogue One spinoff. I have no idea who she is…

– My pals at UnderScoopFire tackle the Pop Culture Alphabet

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I had no idea I’d love this show as much as I do, and I don’t know what I did with my life before it came along. Yes, I’m talking about Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt on Netflix. Originally developed by Tina Fey for NBC, the show was picked up by Netflix with a 2-season guarantee. It stars The Office‘s Ellie Kemper as Kimmy Schmidt who, along with 3 other women, has been held captive in a doomsday bunker for 15 years. When the series starts, they’re liberated from the bunker, and Kimmy moves to NYC to start her life over. Since she was in middle school when she was first abducted, Kimmy’s missed out on a LOT, including current music and slang. Once she gets to New York, she moves in with flamboyantly gay Titus Andromedon who eventually becomes her best friend. Meanwhile, she works for a crazy rich lady played by 30 Rock‘s Jane Krakowski, and tries to put her bunker life behind her.

If you loved 30 Rock, you’ll love Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt. They share a sensibility, and I’d even consider them in the same universe if it weren’t for the fact that Krakowski and Tituss Burgess are playing different characters. Whenever they watch TV on the show, I keep hoping for a mention of TGS, Bitch Hunter or MILF Island just to confirm that Jack Donaghy and Liz Lemon are in the same city somewhere.

Part of what makes the show work so well is the casting. Kemper is simply adorable as Kimmy, as she manages to capture the wide-eyed wonder that the character would certainly experience by her new surroundings. She spent her adolescent years in the bunker, so her development’s a bit stunted. If you’ve ever seen 13 Going On 30, you know that Jennifer Garner was awkward as Hell as a 13 year old girl who magically becomes a 30 year old. This takes that formula and gets it right. Kimmy may be 29, but she’s still a 14 year old in many ways. And Kemper does an excellent job portraying that. Meanwhile, Tituss Burgess is AMAZING as Titus Andromedon. Everything he says is quotable, and he manages to straddle the line of self-serving and lovable. If you watched 30 Rock, you’ll remember him as D’Fwan – a hilarious member of Tracy’s wife’s entourage. Here, it’s like he’s playing the same character, but cranked up to 11. He and Kemper have great chemistry, and it’s fun to watch their friendship grow.

I don’t want to spoil the guest stars, or where the story goes, as that’s half the fun of the experience. The minute I was done, though, I instantly wanted season 2. I haven’t felt that way since Bojack Horseman – another Netflix series I fell in love with. All of my friends online have been talking about Kimmy Schmidt, so I see that I’m not alone in my love for the show. If you haven’t checked it out, remedy that soon. I’ve heard the first episode didn’t grab some folks, but stick with it. So, for being the belle of the comedic ball this week, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt had the West Week Ever. Troll the respawn, Jeremy!

07th Jan2015

West YEAR Ever – 2014

by Will

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The time has come to say goodbye to another year, and boy was 2014 a doozy! They say that every day is a blessing, but that was hard to agree with some days last year. It seems like it was rough for a lot of people, and it didn’t help that we had to deal with things like hacks and the word “bae”. In any case, this is where we take a look back and see what kind of year I had as I was bringing you the best in pop culture entertainment. Well, that was the goal, at least. Anyway, let’s get started, shall we?

Milestones of 2014

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I finally gave in to Brian K. Vaughan’s Saga

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Mister Mister squared off against Boy Meets Girl in audio combat

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I was linked by NPR’s Code Switch blog

I met @smurfwreck & @shezcrafti at a toy show

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I discovered that the Quokka exists

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I reviewed Superman: Earth One Volume 2

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I had some thoughts on some comics

I had a Twitter dialogue with the Toy Hunter

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I went to Toy Fair and finally met @MattGuzy, @T16skyhopp, @Preternia_, and @Tekcorps in the flesh!

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I went to Walt Disney World for the first time!

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I dissected the problems with the How I Met Your Mother series finale

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I reviewed the classic Nick Fury Vs. S.H.I.E.L.D.

There was a Free Comic Book Edition of Thrift Justice

I previewed the upcoming fall shows from Fox, ABC, NBC, and CBS

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I examined what made The Cleveland Show special

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I discussed FX’s new comedies Married and You’re The Worst, and got a tweet favorited by co-star Aya Cash.

The cast of Power Rangers Super Megaforce said my name! It’s recorded!

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Special Forces got his own spinoff installment of Thrift Justice!

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I rebooted Three’s Company!


We said goodbye to Jimi Jamison, former lead singer of Survivor

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I made my annual trip to the Baltimore Comic-Con

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I discovered Nymphomaniac and Bojack Horseman

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Special Forces and I made the trip to Wizard World Richmond and I met Tommy, The Green Ranger!

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I did the Warrior Dash in Connecticut

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I finally met @Classickmateria and we (including Special Forces) met up with @LamarRevenger at Retrocon

Lindsay and I celebrated our second anniversary!

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I found out I’m gonna be a daddy!

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I made my return to the New York Comic-Con, where I met up with @Tekcorps and finally met @BionicBigfoot

I was invited to participate in my pal Dex’s Halloween Countdown, over at AEIOU…And Sometimes Why.

I hit post #900 on version 2.0 of the site!

2014 Hidden Tracks

While I tend to talk about everything on the site, there are a few things that happened during 2014 that I never got around to blogging about. First of all, I had my first paid writing gig, which was printed in Bleeding Cool Magazine. I interviewed the creative team behind Boom! Studios’ Hexed ongoing series. Seeing as how almost no comic shops carry Bleeding Cool (and the interview wasn’t published on the website), I have yet to actually see it, but I still got paid, so there’s that.

Near the end of the year, I found myself on TMZ Live, talking about Nicki Minaj’s ass. It all started when I replied to one of TMZ host Harvey Levin’s tweets. The next thing I knew, the TMZ account was asking me if I wanted to be a part of that day’s TMZ Live broadcast. I was getting off work early, so I figured “Why not?” They called me up, and had me talk about Nicki’s ex-boyfriend. Apparently, he’s been having suicidal thoughts since she broke up with him. My response basically boiled down to “Can you blame him? Have you seen dat ass?” I made Harvey laugh. And then they didn’t use the recording. Womp womp.

West Week Ever Recipients of 2014

1/10/14 – Sasheer Zamata

1/17/14 – Michael Douglas

1/24/14 – Richard Sherman

1/31/14 – Ryan Lewis

2/7/14 – Facebook

2/14/14 – Michael Sam

2/21/14 – Chris Pratt

2/28/14 – Jimmy Fallon

3/7/14 – Lupita Nyong’o

3/14/14 – Walt Disney World

3/21/14 – N/A

3/28/14 – Psych

4/4/14 – How I Met Your Mother

4/11/14 – Stephen Colbert

4/25/14 – Lupita Nyong’o

5/2/14 – John Boyega

5/9/14 – Now That’s What I Call Music

5/16/14 – Superman vs. Batman Batsuit

5/23/14 – Michael Jackson

5/30/14 – Charlie Cox

6/6/14 – Ghostbusters

6/20/14 – The Cold Slither Podcast

6/27/14 – Batman (1989)

7/3/14 – Community

7/11/14 – Garth Brooks

7/18/14 – Marvel

7/25/14 – SDCC 2014

8/1/14 – @MattGuzy

8/8/14 – Guardians of the Galaxy

8/22/14 – Taylor Swift

8/29/14 – Full House

9/5/14 – 14 Year Old Boys

9/12/14 – TMZ

9/19/14 – Alex Trebek’s mustache

9/26/14 – Forever

10/3/14 – “The Simpsons Guy”

10/10/14 – The Flash

10/17/14 – Arrow

10/24/14 – Avengers: Age of Ultron trailer

10/31/14 – Marvel Studios

11/7/14 – Taylor Swift

11/21/14 – Aaliyah: The Princess of R&B

12/5/14 – The Flash/Arrow Teamup

12/12/14 – Girl Meets World

12/19/14 – Ascension

12/29/14 – James Lamb and Jenn Fang

Totaling things up, we have a five-way tie, as Lupita Nyong’o, Taylor Swift, Marvel, Flash, and Arrow each won 2 weeks out of the year. Lupita doesn’t clench West Year Ever, as most of her impact came in the beginning of the year. The Flash doesn’t get it because, while it’s a great series, its second West Week Ever win was the result of a teamup between it and Arrow. The same goes for Arrow itself. So, that brings us to Taylor Swift vs. Marvel. Technically, Marvel Comics won one week, while Marvel Studios won another, and they’re not really the same thing. So, that leaves us with Taylor Swift.

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Taylor Swift’s 1989 was arguably the best pop album of 2014. Really a Robyn album in disguise, the synth-heavy 80s-inspired offering picked up the ball from Miley’s 2013 Bangerz and ran with it. It was a milestone for Taylor, as it officially marked her transition from country to the mainstream. She also rocked the industry model, when she took all of her albums off of Spotify. Everyone thinks that streaming is the future, but Taylor is one of the biggest artists to simply state that the model didn’t work for her. In October, she became New York City’s newest ambassador – due in part to her track “Welcome to New York” from the album. 2014 was the year that the ladies took back pop music from the guys, and Taylor led the charge. When everything’s said and done, nobody had a 2014 quite like Taylor Swift, and that’s why she had the West Year Ever.

2014 was also the second full year of West Week Ever, and I couldn’t do it without you, the readers. Thanks for all your support and I hope you’ll stay with me into 2015!

12th Dec2014

West Week Ever – 12/12/14

by Will

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Can someone pinpoint when Bruce Willis just stopped even trying? I watched A Good Day To Die Hard a few days ago, and it just as easily could’ve been RED 3 or The Whole Eleven Yards.  On the plus side, I was glad they went with an R rating for this one, so it didn’t feel as neutered as Live Free Or Die Hard. That said, it really just felt like a failed “passing the torch” movie. About 75% of Willis’s lines are “I’m on vacation”, while Jai Courtney isn’t charismatic enough to inherit the franchise from Willis. And that plot! This was the first movie where I had to read the wiki entry afterwards just to understand what I just saw. It had all of the ingredients to make me like it – it’s in Russia, it’s Die Hard, it’s rated R – but it just didn’t do it for me. I’m a big Die Hard fan, even though I initially watched them out of order (3, 4, 1, 2), but I can hardly even count this as part of the franchise.

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A Sony email leak revealed the fact that Marvel and Sony had been in discussions for Spider-Man to appear in Captain America: Civil War. The initial plan was for Marvel to produce a trilogy of Spider-Man films where Sony would still retain some quantity of creative control. Talks broke down, however, and now Sony is moving ahead with its own Spidey plans. For example, there are talks of an animated Spider-Man comedy from the 22 Jump Street team.  I’m in the minority here, but I don’t feel like Sony is as adrift with the Spider-Man franchise as some would like to believe. Sure, it’s not as strong as it was during the Raimi days, but I’ve enjoyed the Garfield movies. I don’t see why they just don’t move ahead with a third instead of all of these spinoff ideas (Sinister Six, female-led Spider film, etc).

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Speaking of 22 Jump Street, that same Sony leak revealed plans to cross over the Men In Black and Jump Street franchises. The hope is to reinvigorate the MIB franchise, seeing as how the studio lost money on Men In Black 3, despite the fact that it made $624 million worldwide. It’s believed that Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones wouldn’t be in the movie, but would focus on Tatum and Hill interacting with the MIB universe. I’ve got to say that I don’t exactly hate that idea. I’ve never been a huge MIB fan, but I LOVE the Jump Street movies, so I’d be onboard for this.

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Entertainment Weekly got the exclusive reveal of the Star Wars: The Force Awakens character names, and it was done in the form of trading cards. I really hope Finn’s last name is Jenkins, but I’m sure they’ll go with something like “Starwiper”.

Song of the Week: “When Will I See You Again (Japanese)” – The Three Degrees

Things You May Have Missed This Week

-Time Magazine announced the Ebola doctors as their Person of the Year

-Former WWE star Phil “CM Punk” Brooks announced that he has signed with UFC

-Mike & Molly‘s 5th season started on CBS

-FX’s Sons of Anarchy ended its 7-season run

-Guardians of the Galaxy was released on DVD/Blu Ray

-iPod Classics are selling for up to $900 since Apple quietly discontinued the model

-ABC announced that new comedy Fresh Off the Boat will occupy the Tuesday 8 PM slot formerly filled by Selfie

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-New comic, Bitch Planet, was released by Image Comics. I read it, and don’t understand it, but I love that title.

Links I Loved

How Darude’s “Sandstorm” Became the EDM Track Everyone on the Web Knows – Gawker

Holly Jolly Ninja Turtles Gift Guide – Crooked Ninja

Ten 80s Cartoon Characters Who Are Impossible to Christmas Shop For – UnderScoopFire!

The Best Female Character in Sci-Fi & Fantasy – The Robot’s Pajamas

AwesomeToyBlog Holiday Gift Guide Day 7 – Power Rangers – Awesome Toy Blog

The Onion’s Person Of The Year 2014 (TIE) Malala Yousafzai And John Cena – The Onion

ROWAN BLANCHARD, SABRINA CARPENTER, RIDER STRONG, BEN SAVAGE, AUGUST MATURO, DANIELLE FISHEL

I’ve been a booster of Girl Meets World since it was in the rumor stage, but I sort of stopped watching it because it got a little schmaltzy. I came back, however, last week and boy am I glad that I did. You see, it was the Christmas episode and it brought back a lot of the cast that we loved from the original Boy Meets World – namely Cory’s parents and best friend, Shawn Hunter. I was amazed that they packed so much into a half hour episode, but it was a great dose of nostalgia. We even got to meet the teenage version of Cory’s little brother who was born near the end of BMW.

I do have a few little gripes, though: where were Eric and Morgan, and why weren’t they even mentioned? Boy Meets World has a tendency to forget about Morgan, but there’s no excuse for an Eric omission. The news is that he’ll be appearing in season 2, but it really would’ve rounded out the package if he had been in this episode.

Anyway, We find out that Shawn’s still got a wandering soul, as he now travels and blogs about it for his job. Cory’s daughter, Riley, wonders why Uncle Shawn never really pays attention to her when he’s in town, and it turns out that she just reminds him of what his life is missing. And I’m not saying that I relate, per se, but I definitely know where he was coming from. It’s so weird to see that these characters have grown with me, and are now dealing with 30-something problems that I, myself, have to confront. That’s sort of been my issue with Girl Meets World: it’s heavier than I feel a tween show should be. In my teen show experience, everything is supposed to be in neon colors, and the characters are supposed to get into wacky adventures. GMW forgoes all of that, and it really tries to be a coming of age tale of Riley and the things that she has to confront as she grows up. BMW was certainly a more lighthearted show, but maybe this is what this generation needs. What do I know? Well, what I do know is that seeing Rider Strong (that name will never fail to make me laugh) was a welcome treat, and it was nice to see what the character has been up to since we last saw him. Most of my friends who watched it said they loved it, so the show successfully catered to BMW‘s former audience, while still appealing to its new demographic. So, for its Christmas-themed nostalgia, the Girl Meets World had the West Week Ever.

17th Sep2014

West Week Ever – 9/19/14

by Will

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Powers Cast

The first set pic has come from the Powers set, and I’m not impressed. I’ve been following the casting in prior editions of West Week Ever, but I just don’t have a lot of hope for this show. The main thing going against it is that it’s not even on a real network. Hell, straight to Netflix would’ve even worked, but instead it’ll only be on the Playstation Network. Looking at this pic, though, it looks like a fan film. The casting feels off, and it just doesn’t feel like the comic. I could be proven wrong, though…

 

the hubThings aren’t looking good for Hasbro’s The Hub Network, as there are reports that Discovery Communications is trying to gain control of the network and rebrand it as Discovery Family. I never really understood why Hasbro felt they needed a network, especially when they didn’t use it to sell more toys. Sure, there are Transformers and My Little Pony shows, but there are also Blossom and Step By Step reruns. The network has a serious identity crisis, and a takeover by Discovery may be just what it needs.

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First, there was The View. Then, there was The Talk. Apparently, some executive felt there needed to be an urban counterpart, as now we have The Real. Hosted by Tamar Braxton, Jeannie Mai, Loni Love, Tamara Mowry, and Adrienne Bailon, the show premiered this week on local Fox affiliates. It was given a try-out last summer in a few markets, and I guess it was successful enough for a national launch. I haven’t had the pleasure of watching it yet, but it looks like someone threw Bethenny, The Wendy Williams Show, and The View into a blender. I hope it’s the trainwreck that I’m imagining. That pic isn’t doing them any favors, as Tamar looks like a gremlin, while Loni looks tired already.

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Speaking of daytime television, there’s a new court show on the scene: Hot Bench. Have you ever felt like one judge wasn’t enough? No? Never? Well, too bad ’cause this show features 3 judges. Yes, 3 diverse judges listen to a case, and then they go back to their chambers to deliberate. If it’s 2 against 1, the majority verdict wins. It was created by Judge Judy, and I feel like the only reason she would give herself a competitor would be if it involved something crazy like this. On the plus side, they hired Judge Joe Brown‘s bailiff, Sonia Montejano, so she’s no longer out of work.

Darrell Hammond

It was announced yesterday that former cast member Darrell Hammond will assume announcing duties on Saturday Night Live, following the passing of former announcer, Don Pardo. Hammond was always my first choice as the replacement, as it was reported in Live From New York that he even filled in for Pardo a few times when he was too ill to announce. The audience never knew the difference. The question now, however, is will he do a Pardo impression or will he do his own thing?

7th Heaven Reunited

Rounding out all this TV news, the 7th Heaven cast (minus Ruthie) recently got together for dinner. It’s not talked about much anymore, but I always loved the Camdens, and the show ran for 11 seasons! It’s good to see that Jessica Biel still gets along with everyone, considering how badly she wanted to get out of her contract back in the day. As punishment, the writers really ran that character through the mud! Anyway, they all look good, except for David Gallagher. That hair’s not working out so well for him.

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It appears the honeymoon is over for Avril Lavigne and Nickelback’s Chad Kroeger, as they appear to be breaking up after one year of marriage. Seeing as how everyone hates both of them, I’m not quite sure who I’m supposed to feel sorry for. I’m sure they’ll both eke out some breakup songs, so I guess I should feel sorry for all of us, as we’ll be forced to hear them.

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Over the weekend, I was messing around on Tumblr, sharing old pics I’d posted on Instagram. Well, this pic of Batman in the Dairy Queen now has over 100 likes/reblogs, so let’s just say I’m back to using Tumblr again. Follow me at wbwest.tumblr.com!

In Case You Missed It This Week

Wizard World Richmond 2014 – A $25 Show at Twice The Price

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Well, since this was a TV-centric West Week Ever, it only makes sense that the winner of the week also come from television. After a 13 year absence (I really can’t believe it’s been 13 years!), this fixture returned to nightly television. That’s right, Alex Trebek’s mustache is BACK, and Jeopardy will never be the same!!!! Actually, I’m pretty sure it’ll be the same, but it’s like a bushy old friend has returned. What do you want from me, folks? Nothing really happened this week, so this is what you get! After a long absence, Alex Trebek’s mustache had the West Week Ever.

05th Jan2014

Adventures West Coast – Saga Vol 1

by Will

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OK, Saga. You won this round.

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

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

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

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

2014-01-05 02.01.56An alligator butler!

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

02nd Dec2013

Virginia Comicon (& Rob Liefeld) In Pictures

by Will

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I know I said that my convention season was over, but “just when I thought I was out…” Here’s some backstory. It’s funny how you can meet people. About a year ago, when I started Operation: Trade Up, I was selling a bunch of my comics on Craigslist. That’s when I met John – a pretty cool guy with whom I ended up talking comics for 2 hours in a freezing parking lot. Though we never hung out as much as we should have, we kept in touch and talked comics over text. One of his favorite artists was Rob Liefeld, and Rob just happened to be coming within a few hours of us to the Virginia Comicon in Richmond, VA. John wanted to commission a sketch from Rob, so he was all about making the trip to see him. I’d been getting emails about the VA Comicon for years, but had never made the trip. Since John was moving back home to NY, this was sort of a last hurrah before hitting the road.

We got to the show at around 10, and the doors weren’t opening until 11. So, we braved the cold for an hour. Once inside, we immediately ran over to the Liefeld line, where we took turns waiting in what would be a 3-hour line. John would go to the bathroom, and I’d hold his spot. He’d come back, and I’d make a loop of the place, checking out the dealers’ wares. Rob’s flight was late, so that made the wait even longer. At around 2 PM, we finally made it to Rob’s table to meet the man himself.

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Now, I’ve met Rob Liefeld before, so I already had his autograph. I didn’t have the budget for a commission, so this show was all about John. It turns out he had already ordered a sketch online, which Rob brought with him. It was a gorgeous sketch reminiscent of a Cable & Deadpool cover. Now, John wanted Rob to draw Cable and Deadpool on a sketch cover comic that he’d brought with him. In the midst of all this deal-making, John had Rob sign a chunk of his comics. I mean, we’re talking a sizable chunk – comprised of X-Force, New Mutants, Hawk & Dove, and other books. We weren’t sure how many Rob would actually sign, as the promoters had quoted a limit of five items. John, however, was of the “it doesn’t hurt to ask” mindset, especially since he was commissioning a sketch. So, he had his chunk, and since I didn’t have anything for Rob to sign, he gave me a small amount to get signed for him. Here’s where things got a little messy. See, Rob’s main claim to fame is that he created Cable and Deadpool, and really hasn’t done much since. You know how I know that? Because he charges $20 to sign each copy of New Mutants #87 (first appearance of Cable) and New Mutants #98 (first appearance of Deadpool). On top of that, he charged $10 just to sign random issues of X-Force. So, having paid for admission to the show, as well as having stood in a 3-hr line, the only way to get something signed for free would be to have some of his less-desired books, like Hawk & Dove or his 2-issue Teen Titans arc. Anything “worthwhile” was gonna cost ya. John had given me some second printing copies of New Mutants #87, so these clearly had no value, yet Rob still wanted to charge for them, so I kindly said “That’s OK”, and handed him a stack of his lesser-desired books to sign.

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There was something I wanted to ask Rob about, but he had his son with him and I didn’t know how that would go over. Actually, I wanted to ask his kid: “How’s your Aunt Leanna?” Here’s some backstory for that. Remember the weird 5th season of Saved By The Bell, where Tori replaced Kelly and Jessie? Well, pseudo-lesbian Tori was played by real-life lesbian Leanna Creel – one of a set of triplets. Rob Liefeld married one of her sisters. Since he was the son of a preacher, and kinda devout, I hear that they don’t associate with Aunt Leanna, and didn’t go to her wedding to her partner. Now, I can be kinda messy, and my Saved By The Bell fanboyishness really wanted some info on how Leanna’s doing, but I didn’t want to cause a scene – especially while John was trying to get his collection signed.

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Rob was going to do John’s commission during the show, so we had to kill some time before it was done. My pal and former Diamond boss, Jim Kuhoric, was there promoting his creator-owned series, Dead Irons. In fact, he had some folks cosplaying as some of the characters from the story. After catching up with him, I was able to fill some holes in my collection from the vendors. I think John was able to grab a lot of stuff he’d been needing, as well.

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It’s not a comic convention without cosplay, and it was out in full force. I’ve gotta say that Harley Quinn has quickly become the de facto choice for female cosplayers, as I must’ve seen about 8. There was traditional Harley, Injustice Harley, Steampunk Harley, etc. I think we’ve reached the saturation point of Harley by now. Plus, the queen of cosplay herself, Yaya Han, was in attendance. Fresh off the success of Heroes of Cosplay, she was there promoting her brand and giving out hugs.

Once John got his commission from Rob, and they took a pic together with it, we hit the road. In all, I think a good time was had by all. I was certainly glad to grab the stuff I got, and John was glad to have finally met Rob. As a convention, VA Comicon’s nowhere on the level of Baltimore Comic-Con, but it’s bigger than the hotel comic shows I tend to frequent when looking for $1 comics. I’m not sure if I’ll ever go again, but it was a worthwhile trip. Now, I’ll leave you with some cosplay pics.

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And here’s my haul:

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01st Apr2013

Comical Thoughts – Changing The Way I Think About Comics

by Will

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While I understand today’s date makes one question everything read, I assure that this is not a joke. This was actually a hard conclusion to come to, as I’ve been dealing with this for the past few months. Anyway, I have decided that the time has come to get rid of the bulk of my comic collection. While the show was a laughing stock of a disaster, there was one thing that I took away from Elyse Luray’s Collection Intervention: it’s important to curate a collection. We live in an age where everyone with a Twitter account thinks they’re a “curator of pop culture” and the like, but it all boils down to the fact that they’ve got certain taste, and what they follow should adhere to that. It’s all too simple for collecting to simply turn into hoarding. I’ve realized that I really haven’t collected in years. Actually, all I was doing was keeping, without any regard to whether or not possession was warranted. Eventually, the “collection” grew to 20 longboxes spread between two houses. I don’t know what I have anymore. All the covers bleed together, and I’ve got no sort of filing system. Long story short, I had about 10,000 books with nothing to really show for it. Something had to change.

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Let’s be honest here: none of these things are worth anything. The general rule is that, with a few exceptions, nothing printed in the past 25 years is worth anything. Think of it this way: those comics were printed under the guise of one day being collectible. The books that are worth money hail from an age when comics were a disposable pastime, purchased for a nickel. People abused those books, and few survived, so those that did are worth money. Fast forward to the 80s and the evolution of the “direct market”. Instead of buying Superman at the newsstand, there were now comic shops – whole businesses dedicated to the sale of what was once disposable. It’s like if a network of POG stores had arisen in the early 90s. To keep people coming back, and to promote the longevity of the medium, the collectability of comics was promoted. Instead of the old approach of “you should read this because it’s fun”, comics became “you should buy this because it’s an investment.” Notice how I didn’t say “read” in that last sentence. It didn’t matter if you read them. Hell, reading them actually hurt their value. No, instead you were to buy them, get minimal fingerprints on them, and get them safely into a bag, with a backing board for support. That’s why every first issue released in the late 80s/early 90s had “#1 Collector’s Item Issue” emblazoned next to whatever die-cut/hologram/prismatic/scratch & sniff cover gimmick they were using that month. I’ve admitted it before, but I fell for all of that.

Fast forward to when I worked for Diamond. This was before budget cuts at publishers, so comps were still being sent out. I amassed a ton of books I’d never actually buy from Image, Dynamite Entertainment, and even Marvel. I got all of World War Hulk that way, and I don’t think I’d ever spent money on a Hulk comic at that point. After a while, I wasn’t really collecting things I liked. Instead, I was just keeping things that I kinda loathed. There were series I despised, yet kept buying because I felt more fulfilled by knowing that I had a complete run of the series. What does that mean, really? Honestly, it simply cost me space and sanity. To look at it in real estate terms, the crap books were lowering the property value of the good ones. As I started focusing on Will’s World of Wonder, I had a lot less time for comics. I stopped going to the shop every Wednesday, and when I did buy comics (usually from Barnes & Noble or Books-A-Million for convenience), they sat around, unread for months. The only books that I actually looked forward to getting were the Marvel Ultimate Universe books and Deadpool. Basically, comics just got in the way. As therapeutic as I find bagging & boarding (I do!), the books are just stacked in corners and in steamer trunks. That’s not how things should be.

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Then, the reboots happened. First, DC threw out their universe during Flashpoint (written about here), and restarted with The New 52. Yeah, except the books I was reading didn’t change anything. See, DC felt that took much work had been put into the Green Lantern and Batman franchises, so their events basically remained unchanged, yet were now forced into the compressed timeline of this new universe. So, I had to learn a new universe, while also trying to make it work with what I already knew. Ain’t nobody got time for that! I’d been reading the Bat books, but really didn’t enjoy them. People are prepared to give Scott Snyder their firstborn, while I’m simply not impressed by the non-event events he keeps forcing into the book. And I just don’t have it in me to reacquaint myself with characters I knew, yet apparently don’t know anymore. The first DC hero I loved wasn’t Batman, but it was actually Tim Drake’s Robin. My first trade paperback was “Robin: A Hero Reborn”. Now, however, he apparently was never Robin. Great…

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Meanwhile, Marvel hopped aboard the “clean slate” train, and gave us Marvel NOW – most of the books restarting at #1, with “bold, new directions”. Or Marvel just wants the comics to look like the movies. Whatever it is, I’m still in Marvel THEN. I haven’t read any of their gimmicks, from the recent “death” of Peter Parker, to the new flagship team of “Uncanny Avengers”, I just don’t have it in me. Why should I care? Once I get comfortable, they’ll just change everything for the sake of change. It’s like going back to a boyfriend who beats you. They don’t care about me, as long as I hate myself enough to keep giving them $4 (FOUR DOLLARS?!!) per book, per month. Something had to change.

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So, here we are. What am I saying? Well, over the past 6 months, I have offloaded about 2,000 books from the collections via Craigslist. Though it may seem like a drop in the bucket, it’s very freeing. I didn’t make a fortune off of them. In fact, I only got about $0.10 per book. Yup, I ended up getting 1969 retail for $2.99-$3.99 books. But I didn’t care. They were already a sunk cost, especially since they’re non-returnable. There are folks in the area who are getting back into comics, and they love the idea of a cheap, ready-made collection. Sure, the fanboy investor in me still kept a lot of the #1s, but I got rid of a bunch of junk. At the same time, it was more about the redistribution of space. Oddly enough, a 6-issue trade paperback takes up a lot less space than those same 6 issues individually. Plus, the TPB can go on a shelf, while the books have to go in something, taking up space. Also, I’ve always been impressed by people who talk about rereading favorite story arcs and series. Do you know how hard it is to reread comics that are in stacked longboxes, individually bagged and boarded, with scotch tape? There are times I’ve wanted to revisit an old tale, and then end up tired just thinking about all the work it’d take to get to the books. Collected editions are simply easier to read, easier to store, and easier to handle.

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So, I initiated Operation: Trade Up. Over winter break (I love working in education!), I used Christmas and birthday money, as well as whatever was in my Paypal (it’s not “real” money until it’s in a bank account) to find the cheapest trade paperbacks I could find. You see, there were stories that I enjoyed, but just didn’t need to have in their “original” versions. As for condition, trade paperbacks don’t have to be in great shape. They’re, by nature, reprints, so they could be beat to Hell as long as they’re intact. My only qualification was that the spine needed to be intact so that I can easily identify the book on the shelf. Other than that, the cheaper the better. I went through all the boxes, and got rid of everything I felt didn’t really belong in my “collection”. Books that held no special meaning, books I’d gotten for free, incomplete miniseries, and stories that have since been retconned. That’s how I got to the initial 2,000. I say initial because I’m not done. At the end of the day, I’d like to be down to no more than 10 longboxes. Seeing as how they each hold approximately 350 comics, we’re looking at 3,500 comics. That may sound crazy, but it’s not too bad when you remember I’ve been doing this for 20 years. That’s roughly 15 books/month purchased over that 20 year period, which isn’t absurd. And I think I can actually pare it down even further than that.

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Where am I now? Well, as I mentioned above, I’ve gotten rid of about 2100 books, and that’s just since I really started to focus on getting rid of books. I’d been doing 50 here, 100 there for the past 5 years or so. Meanwhile, I’ve foolishly had to repurchase storylines that, in many cases, I’d already purchased. Still, many of them were cheap enough that I had clearly spent more on worse. Just as before, I looked at the venture as an investment, only this time I wasn’t look at them for financial gain. Instead, this was an investment in sanity, space, and order. Over the course of the last 4 months, those 2100 books have been replaced by 112 TPBs. Not all stories were worthy of being rebought, while I’m still seeking a few others. Space isn’t really a concern, as I already have 2 IKEA Billy bookcases, and have the wall space for another, if needed. I think I’m heading in the right direction, even if the whole “rebuying” thing sounds questionable.

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Now, where does that leave me with current books? I’m not really sure. I’ve already soured on most of the new stuff coming out of the publishers, but I think I have the biggest problem with the price point. These things just aren’t worth $4 each. Same gimmicks, same bait & switch. Comics have succeeded in regressing back to being disposable. Lucikily, as I discussed here, I’ve found a cheaper alternative: $1 boxes at hotel shows. They’re recent books, and it’s just a dollar. How many things can you get for that price anymore? So far, I’ve taken advantage of it for the first issues of a lot of Marvel NOW. If I like what I see, I might keep buying. If it’s really great, I may upgrade to the collected edition once it becomes available. As with all things, the future’s unwritten, and always changing, but I think I’ve finally gotten a handle on the past. And that’s a good feeling. I’m done simply amassing, and I’m going to explore what it really means to collect again.

07th Jan2013

Thrift Justice – Sign Your Name Across My Art

by Will

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Welcome to the first Thrift Justice of 2013! Oddly enough, the stuff you’re seeing today is probably the stuff I’ve been holding onto the longest. Before I ever really envisioned the whole Thrift Justice thing, I used to frequent thrift stores to rummage through the longboxes of long forgotten comics. Longboxes are a funny thing for me – while they’re sometimes filled with treasure, they simultaneously fill me with a sense of anxiety that I can’t even convey. I have this tic where I feel like I HAVE to go through each box because you never know what might be in them. I HAVE TO. So, a room with 14 longboxes is both a blessing and a curse. Luckily, the thrift store only had about 2 boxes, but I never really expected to find what you’re going to see here today: autographed comics!

The thing with autographed books is that you never really know if they’re authentic. I mean, unless you watched it get signed, anyone could’ve put that signature on there, certificate of authenticity be damned! Still, I’m a bit familiar with the signatures we’ll see, so even if fake, they’re good forgeries.

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First up, we’ve got the Top Cow “classic” (can you see me making air quotes?) CyberForce #1.  I actually recently read the first volume of this series, so I’ll cover it in the upcoming return of Adventures West Coast. For now, let’s just focus on this one issue. It appears to be signed by EVERYONE at Homage Studios (except Jim Lee). Sadly, they gave it the gold Sharpie treatment, so I can’t read most of them. Because I have history with Dynamic Forces limited editions, I can make out some of it. For example, that’s Top Cow CEO/series creator Marc Silverstri’s signature across the title. Anyway, this book is from the early 90s, so it’s got the requisite holofoil gimmick cover, and will probably give you lead poisoning if you breathe in too much around it. Man, I can’t wait to review that book. It was GOLD!

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Anyone remember Devin Grayson? Well, if you’re new to comics, there was actually a woman who once worked for DC Comics NOT named Gail Simone! While Gail was off writing Agent X (Deadpool Who Wasn’t Deadpool. Don’t ask), Devin was a key writer in the Batman corner of the DCU. She had long stints on The Titans and Nightwing (she actually wrote a controversial issue where he got raped. Not even lying), plus she wrote the majority of the Batman: Gotham Knights series. Then, she went on to Marvel to write the forgotten Ghost Rider: The Hammer Lane series, and just kinda faded away. At one time, there was Devin, Christina Z, and Louise Simonson, yet people act like Gail was some sort of trailblazer.

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If you were a comic creator in the mid-late 90s, chances are you went through a Titties & Monsters phase. It was something of a rite of passage. This was that phase for Tony Daniel. Oh, you know who he is. He likes to be called Tony S. Daniel or Anthony Daniel now, but same guy: he took over the art on Grant Morrison’s Batman once Kubert bailed. He also wrote the New 52 relaunch of Detective Comics. I actually bought this series when it was out. Published by Image Comics, The Tenth was about some jailbait that hung out with a big ass monster. It probably had some kinda plot, but I was 16 and I liked how he drew girls. At least Spawn was “What if Satan Were Batman”, but 15 years later and I still can’t tell you what the Hell it was about. Anyway, this was an exclusive cover offered by American Entertainment – they were a mail order company that used to have ads in all the comics.

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This is the final issue of the JLA: Year One maxiseries, signed by inker Michael Bair. I’m familiar with his work because he inked Rags Morales’s art on Identity Crisis. In fact, I initially got his autograph when I met him and Brad Meltzer at a signing for Identity Crisis. So, while flipping through the longbox, I said aloud, “I know that guy!” Anyway, I’ve never actually read this series. Mark Waid wrote it, so it’s probably good. That said, it’s pre New 52, which means it “doesn’t count” anymore. Ain’t nobody got time for that!

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This is Wonderlost #1, signed by writer C.B. Cebulski. This was an interesting project. I actually read this when it was originally released, as I got a comp copy some years back. CB was an editor at Marvel, but had the option to do work for other publishers, so he delivered this anthology of anecdotes from his adolescence. While it entertaining read, it still left you wondering “Why?” Like, it read like one of those collections you’d get from a company like Top Shelf, where they call them “comix”. Each anecdote is handled by a different artist, and the cover was by Leinil Francis Yu.  It’s clear that it was a bit of a love letter to his teenage years, but it was just such an odd fit for Image at the time. In fact, it probably still would be. He’s currently the Senior VP of Creative and Creator Development for Marvel.

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I put these two together because that’s how I found them: sharing opposites sides of the same bag/board combo. Also, they seem to go together thematically. Here, we have Hitman #5 and Preacher #17. These clearly came from the same collection, as they’re both made out to “Bob”. Hitman is signed by series artist John McCrea, while Preacher is signed by cover artist Glenn Fabry. Plus, the chick at the register just seemed to think it was one really thick comic, so two signed comics for $0.50! Anyway, I haven’t read much of either series. I think they’ve finally collected all of Hitman, so I’ll definitely check that out. Meanwhile, I’m still on Vol 2 of Preacher.

So, there ya have it. My mild obsession led to some interesting finds, and I never paid more than fifty cents for any of them. Try paying a creator fifty cents for his signature at a convention! Are they all legitimate? I think they are, but who knows? WHO CARES?! I got a good story out of it, right? And, really, that’s all that really counts.

22nd Nov2011

Off To See The Wizard…

by Will

So, in an effort to sort out my junk room, I decided that I could probably start with my longbox of Wizard publications. I quickly tired of being reminded of Wetworks and Vampirella books, so I decided to focus on my issues of Toyfare instead. For those not really “in the know”, Toyfare was a monthly magazine published by the fine folks who also gave the world Wizard: The Guide to Comics (which later rebranded itself as a “Men’s Pop Culture Magazine”, whatever that means). Anyway, Wizard used to highlight toys, but as the industry ramped up, there was too much to report than the meager 2 pages in Wizard allowed, so the toy focus was spun off into its own magazine. At its best, Toyfare gave an in-depth look at fan favorite toy lines. At its worst, it was a glorified toy catalog. To be honest, “glorified” doesn’t even fit, as regular toy catalogs at least listed prices – something Toyfare couldn’t be bothered to do in many cases. Anyway, while flipping through the pages, a few thoughts came to mind, and I figured I’d share them here.

-What happened to Palisades Toys? I was never a Muppets fan, but I could respect that they truly paid attention to detail in making those Muppets toys.

-Diamond Select should’ve been run out of business for those horrible Serenity figures. I’ve actually said this to DST staffers. They like to change the subject when that line is brought up. I’m no Serenity fan, but I know a slap in the face when I see it.

-Did Hasbro ever present a use for those Jedi Master points?

-Is bbi still around? I remember they used to make those awesomely detailed solider dolls. Sometimes they’d use a Hollywood likeness without ever really securing the rights. So, instead of a Saving Private Ryan doll, it’d be a “World War II Officer” with a Tom Hanks face or something.

-An issue from 2002 stated that we had a better shot of seeing a Thundercats revival before a true G.I. Joe renaissance. Huh.

-The book REALLY started to suck when they took a parody approach to the articles. It was cute for the April Fools issue, but for a good  3 years every article in the book was like a Robot Chicken skit. While Robot Chicken showed that approach could be funny, it just gets tired in print.

-I wonder how many of the toys previewed in Toyfare actually NEVER came to fruition. I know for a fact that King of the Hill Series 2 never came out. That was when everyone wanted to jump on the interactive soundchip playset bandwagon, but I guess Toycom realized they couldn’t swing it.

-When they started posting the Complete Photo Guides to toy lines, that made the magazine worth the price of admission.

-Near the end, they were just reprinting the movie articles from Wizard, seeing as how comic movies also tended to have toylines.

-I never realized how many 80s Toy Quizzes they published. That magazine survived an extra 3 years just by jerking off fans to fantasies of a M.A.S.K. revival.

Culling the ranks of the Toyfare stash didn’t take much time, so then I cam back around for the herculean task of weeding out the Wizards. After all, I had a complete run for about 10 years or so. Along the way, I noticed a few interesting things:

-Where is Christina Z these days? For those not in the know, she was the first woman to make Wizard’s Top 10 Writers List, and she used to write Witchblade back when it was all T&A. That way, whenever someone criticized it for being a T&A book, Top Cow could protest, “No, it’s written by a woman!” Her last publicized work was Jenna Jameson’s Shadow Hunter. I bet that wasn’t a T&A book at all…

-Paula Cole should sing “Where have all the CCGs gone?”

-I don’t want anything to do with J. Scott Campbell until he finishes Wildsiderz.

-Brandon Jerwa started his career on G.I. Joe with a fan submission

-I had no idea Fox has been using the “Animation Domination” name for its Sunday block since 2005!

-Broken Promises: Bryan Singer’s Ultimate X-Men arc

-Broken Promises: Jeff Loeb & J. Scott Campbell’s Spidey title

-Broken Promises: When Bendis left The Pulse, he said it would continue with another writer. This didn’t happen.

-Yay! Kubert’s on Batman. Surely, he’ll have a long run on this book!

-In ’03, J.Scott Campbell went exclusive with DC. Can anyone name what came from that? Anyone? No, because NOTHING came from that contract.

-Why did they stop making DC Minimates?

-There was actually an article called “Treasured Chests”, where they compared the cleavage of Talia Al Ghul, Power Girl, and some Wildstorm chick.

-Kia Asamiya. Yes, I get that everyone had Manga Fever, but WHO THE FUCK PUT HIM ON X-MEN?!!!

-Broken Promises: Loeb & Lee’s promised post-Hush 6-issue arc on Batman.

-Before they diversified their brand with Pilot Season, Top Cow was pretty much just, “Hey, kids! Tits!”

-After Chaos went under, Lady Death went to the Code 6 imprint at Crossgen. Now, she’s at Avatar, under the Boundless imprint. Lady Death: She Doesn’t Just LOOK Like The Village Bicycle!

-There was an Olympic ad in the March 2002 issue. Like, a real brand, and not some e-store or superhero-inspired motorcycle jackets. The actual Olympics, with the athletes and shit. SO out of place.

-Chaos allowed fans to serve as associte editors on books. They spun it as “interaction”, but it was really just cheap labor. They went under soon afterwards.

-Only in 2002 could Joe Mad make the Top 10 Most Influential Artists List. He ranked higher than Sienkiewicz!!!

-Broken Promises: Kevin Smith was supposed to take over Amazing Spider-Man, and JMS was to move over to a new book. Smith also said in interviews that he only agreed if they would allow him to reunite MJ and Peter.

-Broken Promises: Kevin Smith was also announced as the writer of a new iteration of Brave and the Bold just before signing an exclusive with Marvel.

-Based on the number of articles, Fathom “returned” about 12 times, but never actually finished.

-Top Cow has been streamlining its universe since 2001, with no end in sight. The first event, Universe, made Tomb Raider & Fathom part of TC canon…interesting, seeing as how both properties are no longer under the TC umbrella.

-Where is Devin Grayson? Did her career end at the same time as her relationship with Mark Waid?

-I think the best depiction of Rogue was the promo image to her Icons mini. She’s strong and athletic – believably 19 (which is the age she’s rumored to be), and not a busty, 30-something skunkhead.

-Alicia Witt would’ve been a MUCH better Mary Jane in the Spider-Man movies.

-Instead of rushing to reprint them, Bill Jemas put the Ultimate titles online, 12 pages at a time, to “reward the readers and retailers who jumped on the Ultimate bandwagon at the beginning, thus making those initial issues all the more valuable.” – 2001

-In 2001, Poison Elves creator Drew Hayes signed an unprecedented 50 year deal with Sirius Entertainment. While this was clearly a publicity stunt, Drew would pass away in 2007.

-Casting Call: Geoff Johns cast Heath Ledger as Wally West and Owen Wilson as Trickster.

-Issue #110’s letter column only featured mail sent by prisoners.

-They used to have a column called “oops…” where they made corrections to previous stories. This was phased out in later years, as the entire magazine became one giant collection of typos and mistakes.

-Broken Promises: Top Cow got the A-Team rights in 2000. Did nothing with them.

-Did America ever get Bandai’s handheld system, the WonderSwan Color?

-They were REALLY pushing for Brendan Fraser to be Superman, as they cast him in 3 different Casting Call articles over the years.

-Casting Call: Tom Selleck as Tony Stark, Kevin Sorbo as Thor, and Howie Long as Cap. This would’ve been fine…in 1990. They also cast Howie Long as Duke in G.I. Joe. Wizard really liked Howie Long.

-The same character was named “Venus”, “Sexbot”, and finally “Aphrodite IX”

-Finally, back when DC did the whole Superman Red/Blue thing, a few high profile artists were asked to redesign Superman’s iconic suit. One of those artists happened to be Jim Lee. Looks like he’s been married to that high-collar design for quite some time…

 

 

So, what were your favorite Toyfare/Wizard memories?

25th Jul2011

So, That Was The Wonder Woman Pilot…

by Will

All of the “real” sites used their connections to see the rejected Wonder Woman pilot right after the network upfronts in May, but I don’t have that kind of Rolodex (does anyone use an actual Rolodex anymore?). Anyway, thanks to a pal on Twitter, I was finally able to see what all the fuss was about. Let me just get my snobbery out of the way: as a student of comics and television, it’s glaringly obvious as to why NBC passed on this show. Even in its position at the bottom of the ratings, Wonder Woman was NOT going to be NBC’s salvation. If The Cape didn’t save them, this sure wasn’t going to do it, either. Honestly, Wonder Woman is more on the level of the short-lived Birds of Prey series.

Few people remember it, as Smallville went on to last ten seasons compared to BoP‘s one, but I maintain that Birds of Prey and Smallville were of the same level of quality. The only difference was that Superman was a more recognizable character than Commissioner Gordon’s crippled daughter/niece and Batman’s daughter (?!). Both shows were on The WB, where it didn’t matter what the shows were about, as long as the people were pretty. With Adrianne Palicki and Elizabeth Hurley, Wonder Woman‘s got that in spades. Also, Birds of Prey struggled with the fact that it was trying to tell a story without being allowed a full understanding of the characters. As BoP was laid out, Barbara Gordon was the former Batgirl who, after being crippled by The Joker, now operates as infojock Oracle. If you’ve read the comics, that’s familiar enough. Next, you’ve got Helena Wayne, who in this situation, is actually the adult daughter of Batman and Catwoman. Oh, and she’s also a mutant. She’s got heightened senses and jumps high and shit, which enables her to patrol the streets as Huntress. Now, here’s the kicker: since Warner Bros wanted to focus on revamping the Batman movie franchise (this was pre- Batman Begins), they didn’t allow Batman in the show (except for a brief sequence in the pilot). So, you’ve got your core cast, whose origins revolve around a concept that can only be danced around. And to explain it in the show, apparently The Joker killed Catwoman. TV Batman was such a punk bitch that he became distraught, and left Gotham City forever. So, what followed were 13 episodes of Barbara and Helena, both inspired by He Who Shall Not Be Named, defending Gotham City in the hopes that He Who Shall Not Be Named decides to stop being a bitch and comes home. Sadly, the show didn’t last that long, but the finale did involve a cool fight scene set to the t.A.T.u. classic “All The Things She Said”.

How does this all relate to Wonder Woman? Well, just like BoP, it doesn’t seem like David E. Kelley was allowed full access to the character. Sure, it’s a Wonder Woman costume, and DC was behind the project, but it lacks an understanding of Wonder Woman. This has been one of the biggest problems for Wonder Woman, as the comics lost sight of what makes her tick quite some time ago. The Greg Rucka era was the last time that anyone proudly read the WW comic series, and even “female character wunderkind” Gail Simone couldn’t get a grasp on the character. I ranted about this at length on twitter, but I felt like they should’ve focused figuring out the answer to “Who Is Wonder Woman?” before committing her to other media, like a weekly TV series. If they had called this show “Donna Troy”, it would’ve worked better. She wears a similar costume, looks the same, and nobody knows what the Hell her deal is. That’s her gimmick! Over the past 30 years, her mere existence is perpetuated on the fact that she’s just a walking identity crisis. Wonder Woman, however, should have a defined mission statement, which is neither present in the recent comics nor this pilot. There’s nothing to “wonder” about the woman in this pilot unless you’re wondering how she got cast. Anyway, here are the thoughts that occurred to me as I watched the show:

-There’s a LOT of exposition, but you’re really only informed of Wonder Woman’s backstory through newscasts and political pundits.  I liked the pundit sequence. Not sure if they actually got Dershowitz, Dr. Phil, and Nancy Grace on board, or if it was just clever editing, but this is what would happen if superheroes existed in the “real world”. If that’s what they’re going for, however, this could be a problem down the line.

-OK, here’s where things get more confusing than they need to be. In the show, Wonder Woman has THREE identities! She’s Wonder Woman, she’s international businesswoman Diana Themyscira (who’s also publicly known to be Wonder Woman), but she’s ALSO Diana Prince, which is the mousy-’cause-she-wear-glasses-and-a-ponytail-even-though-you-know-she’s-really-hot-like-in-She’s All That identity. By day, she’s one of the first two, but by night, she goes home to be Diana Prince, where she watches The Notebook with her cat. Yes, that happens. Since she’s not a lawyer, nor is she in Boston, I’m left to believe that this is the “David E. Kelley Touch” on this project. First off, I don’t think Wonder Woman would watch The Notebook, nor would she ask her cat if she should set up a facebook profile. This is all part of the “Well, she is a single woman, so she’s got needs and is probably lonely.” Family Guy conveyed that best here:

 

I get it. Set up a love story to grab some female viewers, but all that’s missing is the pint of Ben & Jerry’s. Also, I don’t see why she needs a 3rd identity in order to be lonely and “normal”. So, she puts on glasses and hides in her modest apartment so she can pretend she’s making decent lonely single lady money, when she knows that she’s actually a multimillionaire with a penthouse and a multinational corporation? I can understand having a weekend getaway, but this is a bit much.

-I’m the one guy who’s never watched Friday Night Lights, so I have no previous experience with Adrianne Palicki, but I don’t feel this was good casting. She never conveys the strength of Diana.  Instead, she’s soft, and comes across as Kelly Kapowski in a Halloween costume. Her acting is also phoned in. Surrounding Palicki, everyone else feels like they’re over acting. Everyone has a sense of urgency, while she just seems…bored. In my mind, Lake Bell or Missy Peregrym would’ve been stronger, better choices, as they have the look, and they’re still somewhat “unknown talents”, since nobody watched Surface or Stick It.

 

-I liked the color/weight blind casting on Etta Candy, but I know the fanboys would’ve loathed that! They hate Wonder Woman, but still would’ve jumped on that. Plus, I some fangirls would be upset that Etta Candy wasn’t “properly” portrayed as a larger gal…

-This is always going to be a problem when you make an adaptation of a comic character, but the suit doesn’t translate to reality. Batman works ’cause he hides in shadows. Superman works in a way. Wonder Woman just looks like she’s on her way to her shift at The Crazy Russian. Call me sexist, but the suit doesn’t work. You don’t know if she’s gonna arrest you or try to take you to the champagne room.

-I hate Diana’s male assistant, Henry. Had the show been picked up, I feel like he exists solely to be the person close to Diana who gets killed by some villain trying to make a point.

-They say “prick”, “balls”, and “tits” as an attempt to be edgy.

-Can we talk about the political/legal ramifications of the structure of this show? Everyone knows that businesswoman Diana Themyscira is Wonder Woman, yet no one goes after her company in a lawsuit? They kinda address it, when a senator threatens to sic the Justice Department on her. Diana answers that threat by saying that the country’s in two wars, so it doesn’t have time to investigate her. Not only is that lazy storytelling, but it’s another problem with combining real world aspects with comic aspects.

-She fucking kills a guy! I mean, she throws a pipe through his fucking throat! A security guard who’s just following orders! Not a Star Wars guy, but it’s really the whole “independent contractors on the Death Star” debate all over again.

-The villain, Veronica Cale, was experimenting on folks from a slavery ring, yet they were all white males. Not who you usually think of being involved in slavery, even the white kind. So, I guess this is when the show decided to stop trying to ape the real world, huh?

So, in the end, it’s not a horrible show, but it’s certainly not great. Based on production value, this show would’ve lasted 6 seasons in weekend syndication back in the 90s, but sadly that market is dead. It could’ve been in a block with Mutant X, Night Man, and Viper. It might even work as a cable show, but it certainly wasn’t a good fit for NBC. At the end of the day, it’s a serviceable action hour of television, but it’s not Wonder Woman. They tried a different take on the character that just didn’t work. The funny thing is that there’s source material for what they were trying to do: it’s called Ultra. As the first big comic project from The Luna Brothers, Ultra was a miniseries from Image Comics which was basically “Sex and the City with Powers”. Sure, it had dating drama and whatnot, but there was also a lot of action. Based on what I’ve seen here, David E. Kelley would be the PERFECT guy to adapt that series. Wonder Woman, however, just wasn’t the project for him.

 

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