13th Jun2017

Toy Biz Hotline Bling: I Used To Call You On My Wall Phone

by Will

If you’ve been to this site before, you were probably brought here for my weekly pop culture news review, West Week Ever, that I post every Friday. It didn’t always used to be like that, though. No, I used to write about anything that popped into my mind, as you’ll see in my archives. Over my time online, however, I’ve found that anything I can do, a lot of other folks can do better. When it comes to the nostalgia game, no one does it better than Matt over at Dinosaur Dracula. So, imagine my surprise when something popped into my head that he hadn’t covered yet! That’s right, kids – today we’re gonna talk about the Toy Biz Hotline.

A few days ago, I saw that a Facebook friend had shared the video for a Knight Rider hotline where you’d call and K.I.T.T. would tell you a story. Considering William Daniels actually respects himself, it was more likely the chance to hear a randomization of pre-recorded dialogue from a K.I.T.T. impersonator. One of the perks of calling the hotline, however, was that you’d receive a free “Wuppie”, which is basically a cotton ball with googly eyes and feet. You’d be surprised how many hotlines used the promise of a Wuppie to lure kids into calling.

If you’re a youngin’, then let me educate ya on something: the 80s were chock full of these hotlines, mainly because we didn’t have the Internet yet and unscrupulous business folks learned how to monetize that thing hanging on your wall in the kitchen. To put it in 2017 terms, 900 numbers were the “in app purchases” of the 1980s. While they were required to tell kids to get their parents’ permission, these hotlines were designed to trick kids into racking up high phone bills – ya know, so they could talk to Santa and get a toy cotton ball.

While we were obsessed with our phones in a different way than we are today, I can assure you that not everything was designed to make a dollar. Before you could tweet your displeasure at a company account, you used to have to call them. That’s right, you had to be indignant and ask an employee, “What’s the number for corporate?!” Remember, you couldn’t Google that shit yet. If they weren’t too busy using that slide thingy to process a credit card transaction, they would take out a Lisa Frank pen and write down a number for you. If you were lucky, that number would connect you to a phone system that MIGHT eventually lead to a real person on the other end. Basically, customer service was handled solely by phone. Some companies, instead of just waiting around for complaints, decided to be proactive with their customer service hotlines. That’s what brings us to Toy Biz.

http://thecomicscode.weebly.com/x-men-toy-biz.html

“But what’s a Toy Biz, Uncle Will?” Well, back in the late 80s/early 90s, all comic book-based action figures briefly came from the same company! I’ll let you catch your breath there for a minute, as I know that’s a crazy notion in today’s competitive world. Not only did Toy Biz land the license for 1989’s Batman (for which they produced an assortment of a whopping THREE figures), but they also handled DC Comics Super Heroes, based on Kenner’s old Super Powers molds. Then, shifting into the 90s, they dropped DC in favor of the Marvel license when Marvel CEO Ike Perlmutter bought the company. We initially got a Marvel Super Heroes series, but their real claim to fame was the 8,000 X-Men figures they would go on to produce. I’ve always said that nobody mines a property quite like Playmates, but Toy Biz was a close second.

This was probably the first toy line to teach me about waves, meaning that the toys were released in batches at a specific time.  Most toys don’t include an “evergreen” line of toys that you can always find on shelves at any time. They used to differentiate the multiple iterations of a character by Roman numeral. So, “Wolverine” eventually gave way to “Wolverine XVII”. For example, if Wolverine II came out in September of 1994, then you’re probably not gonna be able to find him on shelves in October of 1995, because Wolverine III will be out by then. How would you know which figures were supposed to be in stores, without your parents wasting all their gas driving around? That’s where the Toy Biz hotline came in.

 

Listed on the cardbacks of all Toy Biz figures was a hotline that you could call that served as Toy Biz’s customer service line: 1-800-634-7539. While I guess you could call them to let them know your Colossus had two left legs, that’s not why people called it. No, the hotline had a prerecorded message where an emotionless male voice rattled off the names of the figures in the latest wave, in many cases mispronouncing them because they couldn’t give two shits about what they were actually saying. So, you’d get them just putting two words together, like “Omega Red”, but you’d also get mistakes like them calling the X-Men villain “Mag-NET-o”, instead of “Mag-NEAT-o”. I can’t speak for other folks, but I didn’t care! My best friend, Brett, and I used to call that number ALL THE TIME. It was the centerpiece of our sleepovers. It was like “So, should we call the number?” as if we were discussing digging out one of our dad’s old Playboy stash.

From what I could gather, it seemed like the message was updated about every 6 months or so. As the Toy Biz catalog increased, the message got longer. There was the X-Force subset, and the Hulk series, the Fantastic Four series, and more. If you wanted to, you could just listen to the dude drone on for a good 30 minutes. I have to admit, though, that once Power Rangers mania hit, I left Toy Biz in the past. So, I missed the evolution of the basic figures into the dynamic, articulated sculpting of the Marvel Legends that soon dominated Toy Biz’s offerings.

The hotline also had an answering machine portion, where you could ask questions about the toys. You were told to leave your name, number, and address, and they would get back to you. To date, I don’t know a single person who ever heard back from them. According to this article, it doesn’t seem like anyone heard back from them.

Since most of Toy Biz’s output was Marvel figures, it made all the sense in the world for them to change the name to Marvel Toys in 2007 – only to give up the Marvel license to Hasbro later that year.

So, we were left with a Marvel toy company that couldn’t make Marvel toys, and the company circled the drain as it cranked out Lord of the Rings and Total Nonstop Action Wrestling figures. The hotline remained a fixture on Marvel Toys packaging through the release of 2007’s Legendary Comic Book Heroes line. By this point, they had established a website, but were still advertising the number as the best way to reach them. In 2008, with no fanfare, the Marvel Toys website was taken down, signaling the end of the hotline and the company itself. Nowadays the number belongs to a DirecTV promotions department.

Despite what the ladies of LiveLinks would have you believe, the age of the interactive hotline is over. The Internet came along with its promises of instant gratification and all the correct AND fake news that you could want. Still, there was something quaint about the “personalized” experience of calling a hotline. Sure, we knew the messages were prerecorded, but that didn’t matter to us. When calling that hotline, we felt like we were getting insider information. We could go back and tell the news to our friends who lacked phone privileges. “Wolverine VII? Yeah, he’s not out yet, but Black Tom Cassidy is. Oh, you don’t know who that is? Well, I can’t help you there.” The Toy Biz hotline: Building fandom snobs before the Internet.

So, am I alone in remembering this? Do any of y’all have fond memories of dialing up this number? Share your memories in the comments!

02nd Jun2017

West Week Ever: Pop Culture In Review – 6/2/17

by Will

Whoo boy! This is gonna be a controversial one this week, but I’ve got some stuff to get off my chest.

First up, there was controversy surrounding the new Wonder Woman film (in theaters now!). Theater chain Alamo Drafthouse announced women-only screenings for the film, where proceeds would go to women’s charities, including Planned Parenthood. Originally planned to be 5 screenings at the Austin and Brooklyn locations, tickets sold out instantly and more screenings were added. According to Alamo, the screenings were meant to be a celebration of “Girl Power”, and were only open to those who identified as women. Now, this isn’t the first time Alamo has done special screenings, as they have screenings for active military members, as well as for children with special sensory needs.  I’ve also heard other explanations, like the screenings give women a safe space to watch the film without having it mansplained to them the entire time. But, of course, the social media shitstorm started. A lot of folks who might be considered Men’s Rights Activists felt that this was discrimination, and that they should retaliate with all-male screenings of the next Star Wars movie.

As Twitter was dead over the holiday weekend, I tweeted that the backlash to the screening was stupid, but the screening itself is also kinda stupid. Now, hear me out: I see both sides of the issue here. Alamo wanted to make a fun exclusive event to celebrate the release of a movie starring a female superhero. That doesn’t happen every day, so it was a cause to celebrate. I’m not “butthurt” over the idea. That said, Alamo had to know they’d get this kind of reaction, as this kind of thing is somewhat of a slippery slope. “How is it a slippery slope, Will?” So glad you asked! Let’s, for a moment, propose a different kind of screening. Let’s say it was a Black Only screening of Get Out. I mean, it had a similar pedigree in that it was a Black horror/suspense film from a Black director – something that also doesn’t happen every day. You’d better believe people would have a problem with that! Sure, it could be spun as a celebration “for the culture”, meant to foster community and whatnot, but White people would shit ALL the bricks! So, as this has been great publicity for both Wonder Woman and Alamo Drafthouse, they knew exactly what they were doing when they set out to do this. In the long run, this isn’t gonna hurt Alamo or Wonder Woman one bit, but let’s not act like this was some kind of altruistic celebration of sisterhood. This was Shrewd Marketing 101.

See? I toldja this would be a controversial one, and I’m just getting started!

Let’s visit the world where Hollywood and politics intersect. You see, comedienne Kathy Griffin posted a photo of herself holding what was meant to be Donald Trump’s severed head. AND PEOPLE LOST THEIR MINDS! Trump, himself, even took time off from golfing and nudging his way to the front of photo ops to tweet about it, saying that it had affected his 11 year-old son, Barron, who apparently thought the photo was real. The backlash was strong against Griffin, who apologized hours later, but still ending up losing her Squatty Potty endorsement, as well as her CNN New Year’s Eve gig with Anderson Cooper. A lot of people seem to be in agreement of the backlash, but I’m gonna take a different approach: I don’t think the photo was that bad.

There are so many things to unpack here, so bear with me as I try to navigate through all of it. Societies have a history of burning politicians in effigy as a form of protest so, while extreme, how is this any different? Had she actually decapitated the man, and was brandishing his severed head on social media as some sort of trophy, that would’ve been too far. Like it or not, this was “art”, and you don’t really get to judge art. It can make you uncomfortable but at least it triggered some sort of opinion or emotion, which means it did its job.

I also feel like this is a situation where folks are more upset by the messenger than the message. Kathy Griffin isn’t taken seriously. We’ve put her in this box along with Andy Dick and several other unpredictable, slightly unstable comedians who at one time did a stint on an NBC sitcom. We don’t expect anything “deep” from her, because we’ve already written her off. She knows this, as she’s in on the joke. I mean, her reality series was called My Life On The D-List, so she knows she’s not a top-tier celebrity. Still, she has a team behind her, as everyone in Hollywood does, and they all decided that this was something she was going to do. Maybe she felt it’d just blow over because of her lessened celebrity status, or maybe it’s doing just what she thought it would. A friend and I were talking about it the other night, and he’s the one who made me realize it was the messenger we were blaming here. After all, if Samantha Bee had done this, liberals would be creaming their jeans about how daring and smart it was. Why? Because that’s what people expect of her. Griffin made the simple mistake of veering out of her lane, and that’s how we got to where we are now.

Now, let’s look at the photographer, Tyler Shields, whose work tends to push boundaries like this. For him, this was just another Tuesday photoshoot, and this isn’t the first time that Griffin has worked with him. I mean, just look at some of his work above. He likes weird shit, but again, it’s art and we don’t really get to police it.

Meanwhile, there’s the whole thing about Barron thinking the photo was real. That poor, poor boy. To quote Hank Hill, “That boy ain’t right”, and the family either refuses to acknowledge it or is dealing with it in secret. On the one hand, I guess I have to commend the fact that we’ve “grown” to the point of saying “Kids are off limits”, but I find it convenient that we’re adopting that stance now. Where was that when comedians were calling little Chelsea Clinton a “dog” every chance they got? Where was that when Sasha and Malia had to see the stuff folks said about them and their family? It’s a shame that Barron doesn’t know the difference between a photo and reality but, as one Tweeter put it, it wouldn’t be an issue if Donald actually lived with his son. But I digress. I think this whole thing has been blown way out of proportion to dominate the news cycle. After all, last weekend it was looking like Jared Kushner was in the hot seat, and then next thing you know, it’s Kathy Griffin this, and covfefe that.

Where to next? Oh yeah, remember Mary Kay Letourneau? She was one of the first stories of teachers sleeping with their students to hit the news. Back in the late 90s, Letourneau fell in love with her student, 12 year old Vili Fualaau, and ended up getting impregnate by him. She was convicted of child rape, served 3 months in jail, and THEN got caught having sex with Fualaau in her car just two weeks after her release. And she got pregnant again. She served 6 years that time, but married Fualaau when she got out. And they lived happily ever after…until May 9th of this year, when Fualaau filed for legal separation from Letourneau. Now 33, perhaps Letourneau simply got too old for him at 55. But the plot thickens! Yesterday, that bastion of journalistic integrity, The New York Post, reported that the separation was really just something of a scam. You see, Fualaau wants to get a license to sell pot, but he knows they’ll do a background check before granting it to him, and it wouldn’t look good to be married to a registered sex offender. He claims they’re still in love and this is just a business arrangement. So, while he awaits his pot license, he’s working as a DJ in Washington state. Too bad she couldn’t fuck some ambition into him all those years ago! Fun fact: one of Letourneau’s brothers is a foreign policy adviser to the president. He’s clearly been doing a heck of a job lately!

Still here? OK, then let’s talk about some pop culture stuff. Someone at NBC must’ve read my Upfronts post, as they just announced changes that perfectly mirror my suggestions. This Is Us will no longer be moving to Thursday, and will stay put on Tuesday nights. Meanwhile, the comedies planned for Tuesday, Superstore and The Good Place, are moving to Thursday to join Will & Grace and Great News for a 2-hour comedy block. This is how it alway should’ve been, and I’m not quite sure what’s going on at NBC. From the cancellation/uncancellation of Timeless to this new schedule scramble, it makes you wonder who’s at the wheel over there. Still, I think these are smart moves, so hopefully they’ll work out in the long run.

The hardest working man in Hollywood, Ryan Seacrest, is developing a new show. Best.Cover.Ever. will air on YouTube and will feature people singing cover songs, vying for the chance to sing a duet with the original artist of the song they sang. Hosted by Ludacris, the show will feature Demi Lovato, Jason Derulo, and Backstreet Boys to start out. Contestants are asked to upload videos of covers of “Trumpets”, “Confident”, and “As Long As You Love Me”. The artists will each choose two finalists, who will be the contestants actually featured on the show. The winner gets to duet with the original artist for an exclusive YouTube performance. It’s an interesting concept, and it requires a partnership with a streaming service to work, but I’m still not sure it’s going to be successful. I’m also surprised that it’s not on YouTube Red, where they can charge for it. After all, nobody really talks about the offerings on YouTube Red, but this is the kind of thing that could get folks talking and maybe boost subscriptions. I’m a sucker for “As Long As You Love Me”, so I’ll be keeping tabs on this just to see how it fares.

Major news in the world of pop music this morning, as will.i.am confirmed that Fergie has left the Black Eyed Peas to focus on her solo career. The news isn’t exactly a surprise, as last week it was announced that she was leaving the band’s label, Interscope, to start her own label, Duchess Music, over at BMG. It’s still a pretty big deal, though, as she’s been with the band for the past 15 years. Still, I feel like their time has come and gone. They showed up, gave the world a suitable soundtrack replacement for Jock Jams, and left their mark. However, will.i.am says they’re still together, recording new music to celebrate their 20th anniversary as a band. To be honest, I thought they were gonna be done in 2008, when they released The E.N.D., but it proved successful enough, with the hits “Boom Boom Pow” and “I Gotta Feeling”, that they just kept trucking along. Now there are rumors swirling that Nicole Scherzinger might replace Fergie in the group, which would be her third time in a group, after Eden’s Crush and The Pussycat Dolls. I swear, Scherzinger must have a tail or something, because there’s some sort of defect that’s preventing a label from being able to package her as a solo act. Always a bridesmaid…Anyway, let’s pour one out for The Duchess and her tenure with Your Grandma’s Favorite Rap Group.

Netflix founder and CEO Reed Hastings recently said that he felt Netflix should be canceling more shows. In his mind, they have too many hits, which results in creators taking fewer chances and not “swinging for the fences”. The successful shows are basically taking real estate from potential new hits. Now, it being the internet, there’s no “real estate”, per se, but it’s still marketing dollars, bandwidth, etc. It used to be that you could count on a Netflix series getting at least 2 seasons, but they just killed that with the cancellation of The Get Down after its first season. Yesterday, they followed the trend and canceled the sci fi series Sense8 after its second season just debuted last month. If the axe is swinging, I’m worried about the shows that aren’t generating a ton of buzz right now, like F is for Family and the adaptation of Dear White People. Kind of a weird problem to have, though: too much success might be making them complacent. It’ll be interesting to see how this affects the Marvel shows, as well as the Netflix perennials like House of Cards and Orange is the New Black.

There was a scary moment last weekend at Phoenix Comicon, when police arrested a man who reportedly had three handguns, a shotgun, knives, pepper spray, and throwing stars, and had a reminder on his phone that said “Kill JDF.” That’s right, folks – his plan was to kill the Greatest Power Ranger of All Time, Jason David Frank, as well as some police officers. Sidebar: can you imagine being so absentminded that you need to set a phone reminder to make sure you remember to murder your target?! Anyway, the reason police were able to capture 31 year old Mathew Sterling was because he had told his plan to some chick on social media, who then tipped off the police. Anyway, JDF continued with the convention as if nothing had happened, claiming that he wasn’t going to let fear govern his life. Meanwhile, the convention cracked down on prop weapons and banned them from the show. In fact, if you were getting your Saba or Dragon Dagger swords signed by JDF that weekend, he was posting on social media that you would have to leave them in their boxes. This has caused other conventions to look at their own weapons policies, so look for some changes coming up on the con circuit.

Song of the Week

This week, I give you “You Look Good”, but Lady Antebellum. This is just such a funky song, and could’ve been a contender for Song of the Summer had they waited a bit longer to release it. Anyway, it’s like the 2017 offspring of Santana and Rob Thomas’s “Smooth”. I really dig it, and I think you will, too.

Things You Might Have Missed This Week

  • Hailee Steinfeld is in talks to star in the Transformers spinoff, Bumblebee
  • After 14 years off the air, MTV is bringing back the MTV Beach House this summer
  • WGN America has canceled slavery drama Underground after 2 seasons
  • There are reports that Steven Spielberg is gearing up for an Animaniacs reboot
  • Fresh off the recently canceled Powerless, Vanessa Hudgens was announced as a judge on the upcoming season of So You Think You Can Dance
  • Scott Pelley is out as the anchor of CBS Evening News, and will return to 60 Minutes in a full-time capacity
  • A Sin City TV series is in the works
  • Universal is reportedly interested in Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson for the role of The Wolfman in their Dark Universe franchise
  • Speaking of Dark Universe, I called it last week: Warner Bros may sue Universal over the Dark Universe title. According to official documents, however, it appears Universal may have had the name first.
  • Charlie Heaton, of Stranger Things fame, is reportedly up for the role of Cannonball in the X-Men spinoff, New Mutants – which is now supposedly going to be a straight horror movie. Um, OK…
  • Speaking of New Mutants, Fox continues to mine Netflix shows, as 13 Reasons Why‘s Henry Zaga has been cast as Sunspot
  • Ben Stiller and Christine Taylor have split after 18 years together
  • The Ludacris-hosted Fear Factor reboot premiered on MTV this week
  • Tiger Woods was arrested for a DUI, even though he had no alcohol in his system and was found passed out in his car. He says it was the result of mixing prescription drugs, but the whole thing sound fishy

  • Sharknado 5: Global Swarming will premiere August 6th on SyFy, guest starring Charo, Fabio, Tony Hawk, and Chris Kattan. This thing is one Ted Lange appearance away from becoming a Love Boat reboot
  • Thanks to an article on Slate, we now know to pronounce the “T” in Gal Gadot’s name.

I had absolutely no desire to see Wonder Woman. While she was my favorite part of of Dawn of Justice, I just wasn’t jazzed about the idea of her starring in a World War I period piece. I mean, we already got that movie, and it was called Captain America: The First Avenger (before you history buffs come out of the woodworks, I know that movie was set in WWII: War Harder). I wasn’t looking forward to DC’s lackluster attempt at a retread of that. So, imagine my surprise when I found myself in the theater on opening night. And then imagine my surprise when the movie ended, and I realized that I LOVED it!

It might be premature to say that Warner Bros has finally righted the DCEU ship, but Wonder Woman is definitely a step in the right direction. My buddy Chad predicted that it would be the new gold standard in comic book movies, and while I don’t think it quite achieves that, it’s definitely the gold standard for the DC Universe. It’s one of the rare comic book movies where I left and didn’t really have any issues with plot holes. It was such a joy to watch, thanks to the acting of Gal Gadot. First of all, she’s so goddamn beautiful that it should be illegal for the camera to be trained on her for prolonged periods of time. Seriously, I thought I was gonna have a seizure like those kids did from that Pokémon episode back in ’99. She does such a great job playing  up Wonder Woman’s sweet naiveté about “Man’s World”, but is also a commanding presence during the battles. It’s funny how when she was cast, we were all saying “She’s too small to be Wonder Woman”, but watching her onscreen, all those doubts slip away.

Now, as much as I loved it, it’s not a perfect film. It deftly straddles the line between “suspension of disbelief” and just plain hokey, but it sort of feels like a 90s comic book movie in that way. And while Patty Jenkins may have directed it, Zack Snyder’s fingerprints are ALL OVER IT (as he co-wrote it with Allan Heinberg). I swear, I think about 60% of it was pure green screen, as I sat there thinking to myself, “This is on a soundstage. That is on a soundstage. Oh, that’s definitely a sound stage.” At points (especially during the final act), it shifts into that “Snydervision” that most of the DCEU movies are in, where it just becomes a copper-tinted music video.

Plus, I’m still not sure about the shared universe nature of the DCEU. While Marvel has almost flawlessly built their world over the course of many films, it just feels so forced with the DC movies. Whereas the MCU feels organic, the DCEU feels copycat. The framing device of the movie is meant to sort of further that idea of a shared universe, but I’m not sure it works. To be honest, I’d probably enjoy it more if I knew nothing about Dawn of Justice or the fact that she’ll pop up in Justice League later this year. She’s strong enough to stand on her own, and the rest of the disappointing DCEU almost taints her.

All that said, it’s really a great cinematic debut for the character, and young girls finally have their own big screen hero. Not to give too much away, but as the film starts, Diana is a wide-eyed little girl, and I could see so much of the audience connecting with that. I thought of my own daughter, and the fact the she now has her own hero. I think that will mean a lot to folks. As far as I’m concerned, scrap Justice League and the rest of the solo films on DC’s slate, and rush Wonder Woman 2 into production stat! For these reasons, Wonder Woman had the West Week Ever.

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.

16th Jun2015

The Price of Admission: The Socioeconomic & Racial Implications of Jurassic World

by Will

jurassic world gate

Let’s talk about Jurassic World  namely about the socioeconomic status of the people who visit the park. I asked this question when the movie was first announced, and I still wanna know: how much does it really cost to visit Jurassic World?

First off, we have to look at comparable theme parks. The Washington Post recently posted an article about how parks like Walt Disney World have priced middle class families out of the market, as the cost of a daily pass is now $100 per person. In fact, Walt Disney World is currently promoting a 6-night, 7-day package for a family of 4 at $2,370 – which doesn’t include transportation to the park. Disney is an experience, but it’s essentially just a park full of rides. Jurassic World has motherfucking DINOSAURS! Sure, it’s not like they went back in time and retrieved them, but they still managed to genetically engineer dinosaurs in the present day. There’s GOT to be a premium on that, right? I mean, based on the movie, enough time has passed that humans are pretty blasé about the fact that this place even exists. We learn that attendance is steady, but it’s not growing or really going down – which is where the Indominus Rex comes in. A new attraction equals a spike in attendance.

Jurassic World crowd

All this is to say that there weren’t a lot of minorities at Jurassic World. While everyone was captivated by the dinosaurs onscreen, I was focused on the folks in the background. The park attendees don’t seem rich, per se, but the majority of them are White. In fact, most of them appear to be middle- to upper middle-class, which might actually be the most unrealistic part of the movie about a park full of dinosaurs. How does a middle class family afford to fly to Costa Rica AND go to the park full of dinosaurs? There’s also the ferry to Isla Nublar, but according to the park’s website, that’s included in the cost of park admission. So, why aren’t there more Black people at Jurassic World? I think of it this way: you really only have to tell us something once. I forget which comedian said it, but he used to joke that if Black people see folks running, they join in and don’t ask questions. I figure after the tragedy at the original Jurassic Park, the Black community was essentially like, “Well, fuck that shit!”

Kids Playing With Dinosaurs

I’m even gonna go out on a limb here and say that there’s a racial disparity in the love for dinosaurs. I always joke with @sharepointjoe about this, but White people LOVE dinosaurs. It’s almost like a developmental phase. There’s the phase where little boys love trucks, and next they love dinosaurs. “Well, Will – the movie made half a billion dollars, so surely that means a lot of Black people went to see it.” Yup, they sure did. But, you see, Black people love MOVIES. If given the choice to see real dinosaurs, or a movie about people being attacked by dinosaurs, we’ll choose the movie 9 times out of 10. Going to the dinosaur park would be “White People Stuff”, like white water rafting and brie. In fact, if you Google Image search “black people and dinosaurs”, you get NOTHING.

I also think the Black Church plays a role in things, as there’s not really an emphasis on dinosaurs. They, like the unicorn, didn’t get on the Ark. Then, down to simple economics, with the exception of Oprah and Beyonce, Black people just don’t have the disposal income to go to dinosaur island. With the disproportionate love of dinosaurs, I feel like White families are more likely to scrimp and save up for the dino resort than Black families, who’d use that money for something else.

Equally, though, one thing that people don’t realize is that, due to the popularity of the park, one would also have to assume that it would result in an increase in attendance at the Creation Museum. The extreme Christian Right would LOATHE Jurassic World, as everything it’s done is an abomination in the eyes of The Lord. Plus, add in the fact that they’re hard-working, salt of the Earth people, they more than likely can’t afford the trip to Jurassic World. After all, that would require a trip to Costa Rica, and that’s where “all the damn Mexicans come from”. Also, you can see animatronic dinosaurs there, so it’s a lesser experience, but at a much lesser price. Right now, the cost of adult admission to the Creation Museum is only $29.95 for an adult (which is good for admission on TWO consecutive days), and you’ve only gotta get yourself to Kentucky. The mere existence of Jurassic World is probably driving Creation Museum attendance through the roof – which will surely help them finish that life size Ark they’ve been building.

Essence Festival 2015

So, what could the park do to lure more minority guests, which equates to more dollars? Four words: Jurassic World Jazz Festival. The annual Essence Festival is HUGE, drawing thousands to New Orleans every July. Just this year alone, the festival features headliners such as Usher, Mary J. Blige, Kendrick Lamar, and Missy Elliott. Move the festival to Isla Nublar, or create a similar festival, and watch the dollars roll in. Also, film a Beyonce video there. She’s the highest profile Black entertainer these days, so she’s got the audience. Plus, it’s an exotic location that everyone would be curious about. Remember when Boyz II Men filmed the “Water Runs Dry” video, and everybody wanted to go to the desert with the white sand? It’d be just like that. But you know what would go a long way to appealing to minority guests? STOP LETTING THE DINOSAURS GET LOOSE AND KILL PEOPLE!!! You take care of that simple matter, and you just might have the Black community on your side. For now, though, the cost (and risk) is just too high.

17th Mar2015

Much Ado About Batgirl

by Will

So, usually I’d just let this kind of thing go, or just drop a casual mention of it in West Week Ever, but I was inspired to say more about this particular thing. Last week, DC Comics revealed a variant cover for the upcoming Batgirl #41, which can be seen here:

BG-Cv41-Joker-variant-solicitation-88c4e-31e8d

The cover, by Rafael Albuquerque is an homage to Batman: The Killing Joke – the 1988 graphic novel where The Joker shoots Batgirl/Barbara Gordon and paralyzes her. This was a violent and pivotal storyline, resulting in Barbara eventually adopting the role of Oracle to the DC Universe. The reason this cover is controversial, however, is because of this page from The Killing Joke:

Killing Joke

You see, after shooting her (in her Barbara Gordon guise), Joker then showed pictures of her, naked and bloody, to her father, Commissioner Gordon. Over the years, it has been surmised that Joker actually sexually assaulted Barbara before and/or during the photoshoot. The creative team of Alan Moore and Brian Bolland have never confirmed whether or not this was a depiction of the aftermath of a sexual assault. It’s really left open to interpretation by the reader. I can see where that idea comes from, with the S&M imagery of Commissioner Gordon’s garb to the facial expressions in the photos. That said, until DC Comics comes out and says “Yes, Barbara was raped” (and yes, they are just dumb enough to do that), then I’m going to assume that she was not. I don’t even think DC would go that far.

So that brings us to the variant cover above. Many people felt it was in bad taste because it harkened back to this assumed sexual assault. The Joker with his arm draped around her, holding a gun pointed downward, while her eyes fill with tears. The Internet heated up with demands for DC to cancel the cover, via the #CancelTheCover hashtag. Eventually, things got out of hand as death threats were being hurled around, and DC finally announced that they were cancelling the cover at the request of Albuquerque. Well, what do I think about all this? So glad you asked!

I think the Batgirl cover’s uncomfortable, but I also think that’s *the point*. There’s more storytelling in that image than anything current Batman writer Scott Snyder’s done. As my Twitter pal @Friginator put it,

It’s supposed to trigger a response in you. They want the reader to think that there are high stakes involved. That said, I’d probably cry if I were cornered by the guy who paralyzed me. He wouldn’t have had to have raped me to trigger that response. To me, the cover is just another Big 2 crossover tactic to make you think something worthwhile may actually happen in the book. That said, covers haven’t really correlated to a comic’s content in years. For all we know, Joker’s on the cover, but Batgirl’s probably saving the local coffee joint in the story (if you haven’t read recent Batgirl, she’s moved to the hip Burnside neighborhood, which is Gotham’s stand-in for Williamsburg). At the end of the day, it’s probably much ado about nothing.

I’m also surprised that this kind of uproar is the result of a VARIANT cover. If you’re not familiar with how the comic industry works, variant covers are considered incentives to the retailer. Let’s say a retailer typically orders 35 copies of Batgirl. DC would like retailers to order more copies, so as an incentive to do so, they’ll give the retailer a special cover if they increase their orders to, say, 50 copies. The idea is that the retailer can then sell that variant cover at a price that’ll make up the difference in copies that may never actually sell. It’s a common practice, and variants can be offered at any level. Some publishers offer a variant cover for every 10 copies ordered, while some high dollar variants are 1:100. In this case, there are 25 Joker-centric variant covers released in June to commemorate the character’s 75th anniversary. The main point that I’m trying to make is that these aren’t the regular covers going to consumers. Right now, it’s unclear as to what kind of ratio in which the variants will be shipped. People were worried about what kind of impression the Batgirl cover would make on a new reader, but that’s probably not the cover that a new reader will see. The regular, common cover of the book looks like this:

batgirl-41-cover-cameron-stewart-600x927

This isn’t the first time in recent history that a variant cover has caused fan uproar. Just a few months back, Marvel commissioned a variant cover for Spider-Woman from noted erotic artist Milo Manara. After all of his years in the profession, Marvel had to know what it was going to get from him. The result was this:

SPIDERWOMAN001Manara-06299-600x853

 

The uproar was deafening, though Manara just did what he had been asked to do. He did what he does best, and apparently that’s drawing apple bottoms on crazily-contorted superheroes. Whatever. The point is that Marvel couldn’t play dumb since they knew the guy’s resume, but they also didn’t want to alienate the fans. So, they canceled the cover. Which was a variant. Which most people would never see outside of the websites bashing it.

I can understand the side that opposed the cover, even if I don’t share that sentiment. What bothers me is the precedent that this sets. Kinda like the Robin Thicke/Marvin Gaye decision, I fear for what this means for the future of the comic industry. Are they going to have to run everything by The Mary Sue (popular website by and for female comic fans) before they approve it? Does Gail Simone (DC Comics’ most prominent female writer) have to give her approval for everything concerning women before it’s universally accepted by fans? Are all controversial comic decisions going to have to be approved by some sort of committee comprised of fans and professionals? Nobody needs to be hurling death threats over *comic books*, so this clearly escalated quickly. Did DC make the “right call”? Well, that’s in the eye of the beholder. In his statement following the cancellation of the cover, Albuquerque said, “I respect these opinions and, despite whether the discussion is right or wrong, no opinion should be discredited.” I think this whole thing uprising was a bit much, but that’s just my opinion. Convince me I’m wrong in the comments!

20th May2014

Upfronts with Will – CBS Edition

by Will

_cbs_network_logo

Finally, here were are at CBS. I’d have to say that CBS has the least ambitious schedule of the Big 4 next season. They’re playing it safe with spinoffs of existing shows and themes with which we’re already familiar. Let’s take a closer look, shall we?

Madam Secretary

Tea Leoni is something of a showkiller. The premise of this show is kinda hokey, but it could tap into the West Wing audience that’s been looking for a new outlet the past few seasons. My problem with this trailer is that it shows us the entire pilot in 5 minutes. Seriously, there’s no reason to watch the first episode at this point. I really don’t see this getting a second season, but I’ve been shocked before. It’s on Sunday night against Once Upon A Time and The Simpsons, leading into The Good Wife, which is probably the best place for it. I think they would share an audience, but it might be in a stronger position if The Good Wife led into Madam Secretary and not the other way around. It seems CSI is following The Good Wife, and they ain’t moving that.

The McCarthys

Oh, Boston humor! This feels like the sitcom equivalent of those Hopper commercials from DirecTV. It’s good to see New Kid Joey McIntyre on the show, as well as Roseanne‘s Laurie Metcalf. That said, I’m not sure about this one. Then again, I wasn’t sure about The Millers, and it somehow got a second season. Well, actually, CBS owns The Millers so they have a vested interest in keeping it around. I’m not sure if the same arrangement will apply to The McCarthys. I’m saying this one won’t last. Hell, if CBS couldn’t save a show with Robin Williams, I really don’t see this one working. I mention The Crazy Ones because The McCarthys will be in the same Thursday 9:30 timeslot in which the former died.

NCIS: New Orleans

I’ve never watched a single NCIS, but it seems to be a proven formula. Man, when they spun NCIS off from JAG, I’ll bet nobody knew it would turn into a Law & Order/CSI incubator for future spinoffs. I don’t think we’ve reached critical mass yet for NCIS shows, so this will do just fine. It’s on Tuesday nights, going against Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., New Girl/Mindy Project, and Supernatural. Based on CBS’s older audience, I’m not so sure that competition will matter much.

Scorpion

This is my favorite new show on CBS’s schedule. I like the premise, I like the cast, and the trailer really sold me on it. I think this has a shot because it could tap into that Numb3rs audience, and that show lasted 6 seasons. I’m saying it gets a second season. CBS is shortening the Monday comedy block by an hour, so this will air at 9 PM, against Sleepy Hollow and The Voice. I still think it’ll do OK.

Stalker

Something about this just doesn’t work for me. Maggie Q’s pretty, but Dylan McDermott just helped kill Hostages last season. I don’t think it makes it. It’ll air Wednesday night against Nashville and Chicago P.D., so it’s not exactly going up against ratings juggernauts. So, it could go either way, but I just don’t see it finding an audience. Then again, maybe I’m underestimating the number of torture porn fans out there.

CSI Cyber is also on the schedule for this Fall, but there’s no trailer. It’s a CSI show, so it’ll at least get 3 seasons, easy.

Out of the new shows, outside of CSI and NCIS spinoffs, my money’s on Scorpion to be the big CBS debut of the season.

19th May2014

Upfronts with Will – NBC Edition

by Will

nbc-logo

Man, NBC has not been having a lot of luck when it comes to programming. Were it not for The Voice, they’d be dead in the water. Last week, they announced the cancellation of MANY shows, including cult darling Community. Next season will be something of a rebuilding year as they try to get their schedule on track. Let’s see what they’ve got in store for us.

 

A to Z

It’s too soon for How I Met Your Mother: The Remix. It’s got everything that show had, including celebrity voiceover (Katey Sagal) and The Mother herself, Cristin Milioti. I want to like this show, as I love Milioti and Ben Feldman, but this is just such a rehashed plot. I’m just not sure there’s an audience for this. Hell, CBS hasn’t even given an official order for How I Met Your Dad yet, so I don’t see this imitator taking off.

Bad Judge

I hate the title, as Bad Teacher just got cancelled and it just feels kinda lazy. Still, I love Kate Walsh and I want this to work. Screwed up judge who means well, but just can’t get her shit together. I can dig it. The problem, however, is scheduling, as this and A to Z will be going up against both Scandal AND Fox’s Gracepoint. Thursdays at 9 are going to be a tough battleground next season.

Constantine

I’ve never been a big Hellblazer fan, so I don’t know much about John Constantine. I also never saw the Keanu movie, so I’m coming into this blind. Still, it looks pretty interesting. When I first heard about the show, I had no interest in seeing it. After watching the trailer, however, I’d check it out. Something about it, though, just doesn’t feel like an NBC show. It seems like it’s left over from The WB era. I also don’t know what that Friday timeslot is going to do for it. Still, Grimm airs on Fridays and will serve as a decent companion show, so it might just do OK.

Marry Me

I always want Happy Endings alums to do well, and I love Casey Wilson. I’ll definitely check this out, but it’s got a bitch of a timeslot: Tuesday at 9. So, next season, it will be going against New Girl and Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. I’m not sure it can take that kind of heat, especially when I think it and New Girl share a portion of the same audience.

The Mysteries of Laura

Terrible title, but I love Debra Messing. Tough detective, single mom. I like the premise, but I don’t know if it’ll keep folks coming back. Plus, I was kinda surprised to see that this is an hourlong show, so I guess it’s your standard police procedural. Luckily, its scheduling gives it a little air to breathe, as it’s only going against the aging Hell’s Kitchen and the ABC combo of The Middle and The Goldbergs.

State of Affairs

I haven’t really been a Katherine Heigl fan since Roswell, but in this she dates a black guy. That is, until he’s killed. Oh, and Alfre Woodard is the president. I’m not sure about this show, but they certainly put together a damn fine trailer. I gave up on 24, but this might be just the thing I need to fill that void. It’s scheduled for Monday at 10, and so far its only announced competition is Castle. I hope the whole series is as good as that trailer.

So, that’s NBC. They’ve packed a schedule filled with stars that I love, but we’ll have to see if the rest of America loves them, too. What are y’all’s thoughts on that lineup?

 

15th May2014

Upfronts with Will – ABC Edition

by Will

abc

ABC has Modern Family and Scandal. That’s pretty much all you need to know. They don’t have a ton of failures like NBC, but they also don’t have a ton of hits. They’re still dependent on the aging Dancing with the Stars and The Bachelor, and they could really use some new hits on their schedule. Let’s see what they’ve got in store.

How To Get Away With Murder

I’m not a big Shonda Rhimes person, which means Thursday nights on ABC won’t necessarily be the place for me. That said, I really liked this trailer. I’m not sure what the show will be like, but this trailer does the job of making me want to learn more. Plus, it’s got the Shonda staple of a ball-busting black chick. It’s scheduled for Thursday night at 10, which means its going against Parenthood, which will be in its last season. I see no reason for this not to be a success, as everything Shonda touches for ABC turns to gold.

Cristela

I’ve never  heard of comedienne Cristela Alonzo, but this show brings diversity to the network. It’s going to be paired with Last Man Standing on Friday nights, so it might do OK with the audience looking for that kind of thing. I completely forget that Last Man Standing exists, so I suspect the same fate will befall Cristela. Plus, this trailer did absolutely nothing for me. I thought the show was about the dude, as the woman says nothing. Turns out the woman’s Cristela. You learn something new every day…

Manhattan Love Story

More like Canceled After One Season Story. Nothing about this feels fresh or unique.

Selfie

It’s certainly timely, but I’m not sure Karen Gillan’s character is likable enough to make this appointment television. Plus, the role is such a departure from what folks are used to from her that I doubt she’ll be bringing her Whovian fanbase with her. It seems too cutesy, which is the kind of show ABC picks up every season and drops (see: Don’t Trust The B and Super Fun Night). ABC loves to give these shows a shot, but they never keep them because they don’t have long-term potential. Still, having John Cho in a lead role does help to diversify their lineup a bit. Anyway, it and Manhattan Love Story will have to face off against Utopia and The Voice next season, which won’t be an easy task.

Black-ish

This is probably the show I’m most looking forward to on ABC’s schedule. It not only brings diversity to primetime, but it also deals with the whole notion of whether someone is “black enough”. I can really relate to the subject matter of the show, and it looks pretty funny. I like the cast, with Tracee Ellis Ross and Laurence Fishburne as the grandfather. Anthony Anderson is kinda sitcom Kryptonite, but I’m willing to give him a chance here. It shows that ABC has faith in the show, as it’s been given the post-Modern Family timeslot, which is valuable real estate. I really hope folks give this one a shot.

Galavant

I hadn’t even heard of this show until I was going through ABC’s upfronts trailers. This show’s got it all! Adventure, music, Lassie from Psych. Typically, this wouldn’t be my cup of tea, but I can’t wait to watch this show. It’s not on ABC’s schedule yet, so it’s probably a midseason replacement. Now, excuse me while I watch this trailer 1,000 more times!

Fresh Off the Boat

I’m conflicted about this one. On the one hand, I’ve heard a lot of buzz about it from the Asian community, as they lobbied hard for ABC to pick up the pilot. That said, it’s kinda racist. Like when they’re about to go into the grocery store, and the mom tells him to go with a white family, as he’ll be safe there. Or when she asks him why all of his shirts have black men on them. I’m sure this is probably a common theme in Asian households, so it might just seem funny or relatable to them, but there were certain jokes that sort of stung. Maybe I’m being too sensitive, and I’ll probably give the show a chance once it has a timeslot.

The Whispers

This looks freaky. I was ready to give it a chance until the scope widened. When it looked like it was just a small-town show about imaginary friends, I was intrigued. Then, when the president got involved and it became a worldwide phenomenon, I kinda lost interest. This is the kind of show that’ll be canceled before they answer any of the important questions.

Forever

I like Ioan Gruffudd, as I didn’t hate the Fantastic Four movies as much as others. He’ll always be Reed Richards to me. I also like Judd Hirsch. I’m curious about this show, as it’s an intriguing premise. Basically, the trick is to see how long they can keep killing him before they have to explain why he can’t die. Again, I don’t know if the show will last that long. Right now, it’s scheduled to go against Chicago Fire, so there’s not a ton of competition there. I just hope the audience is ready to go on this particular ride because it seems like the sort  of show where answers will be few and far between.

Secrets and Lies

This feels like Fox’s Gracepoint, but with the pacing of a box office thriller. If it’s a one and done series, I might check it out. I’m certainly curious. Been a long time since we’ve seen Ryan Phillippe! No timeslot as of yet, so it must be a midseason replacement.

American Crime

This looks really good, but it feels more like a movie than a TV show. If this is an exploration on race, I wonder if it’ll start discussions the same way that Crash did. There’s no timeslot yet, so this is probably slated for midseason. I’ll have to check this out when it hits.

Man, there’s a LOT of good looking TV coming from ABC this Fall. It’s been a long time since I’ve been an ABC man, but things may be about to change. What looks good to you guys?

14th May2014

Upfronts with Will – Fox Edition

by Will

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This is the week that dreams are made of in the world of television. The network “upfronts” take place, where networks present the shows and schedules that will debut in the fall. I’ve been told that folks enjoy when I write about TV, and I actually have a lot of thoughts this season, so I thought I’d do some daily posts analyzing the shows that are announced. For today, we’re going to start with Fox. Fox’s embedded trailers autoplay, and I couldn’t turn it off, so to see the trailers on the Fox site, just click the show title.

Backstrom

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This looks like House as a cop. It could work because House was a big hit for Fox, and they’ve been having a hard time filling the void left when it ended. The question is whether or not the audience is ready to forget Dwight Schrute and accept Rainn Wilson in a new role. I could see this thing running for quite some time. This is a midseason show, so Fox either needs something to fail, or it’ll get the Gracepoint slot once that series ends.

Empire

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This show looks interesting, as it would definitely bring diversity to the network. Plus, outside Scandal, there really aren’t any black-led dramas on broadcast television. It also seems to tackle some pretty hot-button issues, like homosexuality in the hip-hop community. It’s got some great casting, with Terrence Howard and Taraji P. Henson. That said, I just don’t see it catching on. I hope the audience can find it, but I’m not sure if Fox is the network for this show. It’s being held for midseason, so it’s unknown which night it’ll air. As long as it doesn’t end up going against the aforementioned Scandal, it might have a chance.

Gracepoint

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I’m tempted to watch the source material for this, Broadchurch from the UK. That way, I can compare and contrast, as I’ve read that the ending will be different for our version. Anyway, this will do just fine, as it’s got a strong cast with Anna Gunn, David Tennant, and Michael Pena. Plus, the beauty of the show is in its structure: it’s 10 episodes and done. No worry about a second season, no worrying about getting the “back nine” episode order. It’s self-contained, and when it’s done it’s done. That’s somewhat of a new f0rmat for US television, as we tend to want everything to be a multiyear franchise. I think Gracepoint will do well, and even if it doesn’t, Fox doesn’t have much to lose by burning off the episodes. It’s a simple 10-week commitment. The only problem is that it’s going against Scandal. If they share an audience, then maybe it’ll make up the ratings difference through DVR numbers.

Hieroglyph

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This show doesn’t have a chance in Hell. The problem with it is that it’s mired in the desire to deliver something on the level of Spartacus or Game of Thrones, but within the confines of broadcast television standards. It could push more envelopes if they’d shift it to FX, but Fox is not the place for it. Why watch an imitator when you can watch the real, balls to the walls shows on premium cable? If they’d “teen it up”, it might work on The CW, but this is not going to have a second season. It’s another midseason show, but it really won’t matter when they schedule it.

Last Man on Earth

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This looks like a pretty cool premise for a movie – maybe something put out by Fox Searchlight. This does not, however, work as a television series. The American public isn’t patient enough to wait for it to build, and the whole idea of JUST Will Forte for 22 minutes a week doesn’t sound that engaging, even though I’m a big Forte fan. As with most things I’ve discussed so far, this is also a midseason show, so it’s not yet clear on what night it will air. I’m not sure it matters, though, as I don’t really see it taking off.

Mulaney

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I’ve been excited about this show ever since it was slated for NBC. When they passed on it, I was glad to hear that Fox was picking it up, especially since it’s a multicam show. I’ve loved John Mulaney for quite some time, and I’m a big fan of anything that gives Nasim Pedrad a bigger showcase, as she’s been tragically wasted on SNL lately. That said, I hope the writing gets better as the show goes along. The footage we see is probably just from the pilot, and I’m not finding it all that funny. Mulaney’s a hilarious guy, and he seems to have a good cast to support him – especially Martin Short, who’ll probably chew every scene he’s in. I really want this show to succeed, but I’m also not sure of its scheduling. You see, Fox is getting rid of the Animation Domination 2-hour block, and they’re airing Brooklyn Nine-Nine and Mulaney on Sunday nights. I think that block would work were they back-to back, but instead they’re airing B99 after The Simpsons and Mulaney after Family Guy. I’m not quite sure I understand why they’re being split up like that, as it’s kinda jarring to go Animation-Live Action-Animation-Live Action. Plus, I’m not sure if I like the Seinfeldian stand-up bits or not. Part of it is because I’ve heard most of the jokes before, but another part is it just seems kinda dated.

Utopia

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Ah, a good old fashioned Fox reality show. I love how it’s comprised of “15 everyday people”, yet they’re mostly beautiful. Anyway, I’m intrigued by the idea of a 52-week experiment to build the perfect society. I can see myself checking it out, but then getting bored as the show goes along. It’s scheduled to go against The Voice on Tuesday nights, and will serve as a lead-in to New Girl. Another episode will air Fridays, against Grimm and Shark Tank. I don’t know how this is going to do, as 52 weeks is asking a LOT of an audience. I wonder if the contestants are there 52 weeks, but it’ll be truncated into a season’s worth for TV. Reality shows work because the cycles are relatively short, allowing them to run multiple cycles per year. I’m not so sure this is gonna be a hit…

Wayward Pines

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Hey Twin Peaks fans, your show is back! Strange things happen in strange town, and Matt Dillon can’t leave. And it also stars Terrence Howard. That dude must really need work! It’s an M. Night Shyamalan production, so your mileage may vary. I’m intrigued by the trailer, but it seems like a show too mired in its own mythology. I fear those sorts of shows because I’m scared they’ll be cancelled before any of the questions are answered. It’s another midseason show, so we don’t know what it’ll be going up against.

Red Band Society

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It doesn’t have a trailer yet, but it’s described as follows:

What if a hospital was your high school, boarding school and summer camp rolled into one? What if it was the place where you fell in love for the first time and made friendships that lasted a lifetime? And what if it was all weirdly hilarious and the most fun you ever had in your entire life? This is the world of RED BAND SOCIETY. RED BAND SOCIETY is a provocative, unconventional and, at times, comic high school drama told through the eyes of a group of teenagers who meet as patients in the pediatric ward of Ocean Park Hospital in Los Angeles. The series is part comedy, part drama, with a tone that’s unique unto itself.

So, it sounds like Glee amongst sick kids. With Glee on the way out, Fox is trying to find a way to secure that audience and keep some teen viewers away from The CW. I’m intrigued, but I need to see a trailer.

Bordertown

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BORDERTOWN (working title) is a new animated comedy about two families living in a Southwest desert town on the U.S. – Mexico border that takes a satirical look at the cultural shifts occurring in America, where the U.S. Census forecasts that by 2017, Caucasians will be a minority. Set against this increasingly diverse backdrop, the series explores family, politics and everything in between with a cross-cultural wink.

Every season, Fox debuts some animated shows to make people think that Family Guy and The Simpsons will have company on Sunday nights. With the exception of Bob’s Burgers, these shows always fail. Even though Seth MacFarlane is an executive producer of this show, and Family Guy‘s Alex Borstein is doing voicework, I’m not sure this one is going to fare any better than the others. I might change my tune when I see a trailer, but for now, I’m not banking on success. It’s also a midseason show, so we’ll have to wait until January to see.

Weird Loners

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WEIRD LONERS is a new single-camera comedy about four relationship-phobic, quasi-underdog 30-somethings who are unexpectedly thrust into one another’s lives, forming unlikely bonds in a Queens, NY, townhouse.

There’s only one thing about this show that I like: it stars Zachary Knighton from Happy Endings. Otherwise, this sounds like the same single-cam version of Friends that every network has tried and failed at. It’s yet another midseason show, so it’ll be interested to see what it goes up against.

Well, those are my thoughts. What do you guys think? Excited for anything in particular? Also, I didn’t forget Gotham – I already discussed it here.

09th Jan2014

West YEAR Ever – 2013

by Will

Well, 2013 has come and gone, but we couldn’t let it go without looking back one last time. I couldn’t really wrap my head around how to write it all, so I figured we’d just go with bullet points and pics. Hell, if you’re a loyal reader, you’ve seen all this stuff before. This is just to whet your palate as you await tomorrow’s 2014 debut of West Week Ever!

Milestones of 2013

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I explored a dead mall

I got cornered by Conservatives from Craigslist

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I binge-watched a Sentai series

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I met Twitter pal @LamarRevenger

I changed the way I consume comics

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I beat a video game!

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I finally met @chrispiers! & @robotspjs!

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I celebrated 10 years of blogging

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I went to Canada

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I introduced a new blog column

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I ran my first 5K and met Twitter pals @claymationhowl, @JohnDoctorKent, @FakeEyes22, @meistershake, @bmorin54, @doubledumbass, @P0LISHPHEN0M, @howardthedeck, @chapmanrunner, and @monsterfink.

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I met Adam West and Burt Ward

My Favorite Posts of 2013

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1 Broke Plot: How 2 Broke Girls Shortened Its Lifespan

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Black History Month is Back-ack-ack-ack-ack-ack-ack-ack!

Because Nobody Asked: Will On Comedy

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“I Wanna Xup, Baby” AKA Anyone Else Remember Xuxa?

My (Alternate) Reality

2012-09-09 15.34.26

Judging Bottles By Their Labels

Must Flee TV – The Future of Comedy on NBC

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Pitch Perfect and the True Story of Collegiate A Cappella

The Fall Guy Cast

Reboot That Bitch: The Fall Guy

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Best of the West #3: Knight Rider Knight 2000 Voice Car

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A Tribute to Mystic Music’s Cool Rock

Where’s Mama Cass?

2013-06-25 21.50.28

Thrift Justice – The Expendables XI: Never Stop Spending!!!

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Monday Musings – Skins Series 7 and the Close of a Franchise

New+Pure+Moods+disc+1+pure+moodsPure Moods and The Loss of Innocence

West Week Ever Recipients of 2013

Seth MacFarlane
Mila Kunis
Hugh Grant
Charles Bronson
Cast of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia
Psy
Delta Gamma Sorority
Fall Out Boy
Robert Downey Jr.
Charles Ramsay
The Office
Cast of Saved by the Bell
Howie Decker
Superman
North West
Happy Endings
America
Regular Show
Breaking Bad
G.I. Joe: Retaliation
Canada
Christina Bianco
Ben Affleck
Power Rangers
Jennette McCurdy and Andre Drummond
Baltimore Comic-Con
Retro Con
Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.
Breaking Bad
Miley Cyrus
Star Wars Trilogy
Cool and Collected Magazine
Marvel
Ground Floor
Batkid
Gal Gadot
Beyonce
Paul Rudd

breaking bad reters

So, last year, I was asked “Who had the West Year Ever?” Well, for 2012, the answer was me. I’d gotten married and a whole slew of other stuff. That’s not the case for 2013, however. No, that distinction goes to Breaking Bad. It’s the only multiple West Week Ever recipient, and the series wrapped up in 2013 in top notch fashion. The only entity to come close to Breaking Bad‘s 2013 was Miley Cyrus, but she just flew a little too close to the sun to clinch it this year.

2013 was also the first 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 2014!

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