16th Feb2018

West Week Ever: Pop Culture In Review – 2/16/18

by Will

It’s a 3-day weekend, and y’all never read this thing on a holiday weekend, so I kinda phoned it in today. I’ll make up for it next week 😉

HarassmentWatch(TM)

James Dashner – a recent article pointed out the sexual harassment that occurs in the children’s literature industry, and the Maze Runner author pulled a “Morgan Spurlock” by tweeting “I’ve been part of the problem”. He didn’t need to do this, though, because a few of the women accusing him of sexual misconduct popped up in the comments thread. He did the whole “I’m ashamed and I’m gonna get counseling” routine, but it was too late, bucko! Not only did his literary agent drop him, but he was also dropped by Random House.

Jay Asher – Wait, James Dashner and Jay Asher? Are we sure these aren’t the same dude? The 13 Reasons Why author was also accused of sexual misconduct in the same article as Dashner. He swears he engaged in several consensual affairs with women, but he was still dropped his agent, and Netflix has stated that he won’t be involved in the second season of the TV series.

Scott Baio – Welp, now he’s back in the spotlight, as former Charles In Charge costar Alexander Polinsky is now accusing Baio of sexually assaulting him. I normally don’t weigh in on these things, and I hate modern-day Baio, but this is getting to be a bit much. Eggert keeps changing her story. First she was 17 when they had sex, but now she’s saying she was 18, which is legal. Still, her argument was that Baio was still too old to be having sex with an 18 year old at the time. Um, OK. Now the little boy from the series is coming out against Baio, too? Did Baio screw them over on a royalties deal or something? Anyway, Polinsky’s account only vaguely comes close to be “assault”, in that he claims Baio once cut a hole in his dressing room wall and exposed his genitals to Polinsky. Yeah, that was kinda fucked up, but the rest of it just sounds like assholish hazing. He would use homophobic slurs against the kid,and apparently one time pulled his pants down in front of the cast and crew. OK, Scott Baio was then, and still is, an asshole.

The CW announced that they’re expanding their schedule to Sundays next fall. Way to catch up with 1995 WB, man! Anyway, this is actually good news because it means there’s another night to program, and several “on the bubble” shows have a better chance at renewal now that there’s more real estate. This means the Supernatural spinoff has a better shot at getting picked up, and Crazy Ex-Girlfriend will probably be a lock for renewal.  It’d be quite the coup if the addition of a new night prompts WB to move Titans to basic TV instead of holding it for the streaming service (that’s doomed to fail).

It was quite the week for the Power Rangers franchise. The week started off with a press release announcing that Saban and Nickelodeon have negotiated to keep the show on through 2021. The adult fans were upset about this, while the appropriate audience (the kids) went back to playing in the sandbox. Yeah, Nick kinda does dumb shit, like air the episodes out of order, or go on hiatus multiple times a year, but just be glad the thing is still on somewhere. I mean, it’s been 25 years! The thing could end tomorrow, and we would just have to say “Well, they had a good run”. But we’ve got at least 3 more years before we have to say that!

Next, the new franchise logo debuted ahead of the 25th anniversary celebration. I kinda hate it. I mean, it’s sleek, but I’ve been used to the same logo since Zeo. There’s a way to write “Power Rangers” and that ain’t it! Yeah, yeah I hate change. Anyway, the biggest bombshell of the week, however, was that Bandai had lost the master toy license they’d held for the past 25 years. And not only that, but the Power Rangers master toy license was moving to Hasbro! Can you imagine Marvel Legends-style Rangers? Ya know, better than the Legacy Collection ones that Bandai gave us? I’m still processing this news, and we haven’t see what Hasbro has to offer, but we might get a glimpse during Toy Fair this week. I do feel, however, that it wouldn’t be fair for Hasbro to take the wind out of Bandai’s sales during their swan song. The Hasbro license doesn’t begin until April 2019, so Bandai might still have some surprises in store for us.

Things You Might Have Missed This Week

  • I posted a preview of the upcoming Warner Bros Home Entertainment release Batman Ninja
  • New Girl‘s Hannah Simone has been cast as the lead in ABC’s The Greatest American Hero reboot.
  • Lots of movement over at Netflix, as Disjointed was cancelled after 2 seasons, while Grace and Frankie was renewed for season 5. Also, it was announced that The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt would return in May, but it’s 4th season will be split in half, ’cause that’s what the cool kids do these days…
  • Speaking of Netflix, TV producer Ryan Murphy just signed a $300 million production deal to move from Fox to Netflix.
  • Tosh.0 has been renewed for 3 more seasons. I didn’t even know it was still on!
  • Amy Schumer secretly married chef Chris Fischer. I was going to congratulate her on Twitter, but still blocked. Womp womp
  • One union begins while another one ends, as Jennifer Aniston and Justin Theroux “separated lovingly” after 2 years of marriage. Poor Jen…
  • Female wrestler Ivory will be inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame Class of 2018
  • Hamilton‘s Angelica Schuyler herself, Renee Elise Goldberry, will be singing the Muppets Babies theme song for the Disney Junior reboot
  • Apparently there’s a feud between Sarah Jessica Parker and former Sex and the City costar Kim Cattrall. When Cattrall’s missing brother turned up dead, Sarah thought she was being nice with a message on Instagram, to which Cattrall responded with a post of her own, including “Let me make this very clear. You are not my family. You are not my friend.” Ouch!

  • We got a teaser for YouTube Red’s Cobra Kai spinoff of the Karate Kid franchise. Yeah, I liked that first movie well enough, but I can’t think of anything that would make me subscribe to YouTube Red…
  • Jerry Seinfeld teased the possibility of a Seinfeld reunion, but I’m good. He can keep it.
  • Chloe Kim and Shaun White brought home the gold for America in snowboarding at the Olympics. They both made it look so easy. USA! USA!
  • There’s a rumor circulating that Woody Harrelson might play Carnage in the Venom movie. I hope his agent talked him into staying away from that disaster.
  • There are now reports that Zack Snyder was actually fired as the architect of the DCEU, and didn’t walk away as voluntarily as we had been led to believe.
  • Chris Columbus will direct the Five Nights at Freddy‘s film. What the Hell is that franchise even about?
  • NECA, maker of highly detailed, yet terribly fragile, action figures has reportedly purchased the company that makes The Clapper and Chia Pets. I don’t even know what the endgame is there.
  • A scene making fun of food allergies in the Peter Rabbit film resulted in Sony issuing an apology. ‘Cause that’s where we are now.
  • Michael Fassbender needs to fire his agent, because he’s apparently signed on to star in a full-length Kung Fury film. Remember Kung Fury? Here ya go. It’s only good because it’s short. He must still have the same agent who convinced him to do Assassin’s Creed.

 

 

Black Panther had the West Week Ever. It’s excellent, and I’ll talk about it more next week, once you’ve all had the chance to see it.

09th Feb2018

West Week Ever: Pop Culture In Review – 2/9/18

by Will

HarassmentWatch(TM)

We almost did it, kids. We almost had a week without this section. This one is a bit sad, though, and it’s something of an update more so than the reveal of a new wang dangler. You see, film producer Jill Messick took her own life.

Messick was the former manager of Rose McGowan, at the time when McGowan alleges she was raped by Harvey Weinstein. According to the statement issued by Messick’s family, she was battling depression and ended up as “collateral damage” in this whole scandal. She couldn’t bear to see her name dragged into headlines about the whole ordeal.

THIS is the kind of thing I’ve been worried about this whole time. Yes, people are out here doing bad things, but it was only a matter of time before someone lost their life to these developments. I’ve said before that I was scared that Louis CK would resort to this, just based on the instantaneous way in which he lost everything. Following the character assassination that Aziz Ansari faced, I also feared he might resort to something like this. Instead, the first victim of these call-outs is a woman herself.

Now, it could be argued that Messick didn’t know what was going on, but that doesn’t seem to be the case. McGowan said that she first went to Messick, who comforted her at the time, but was later shocked to find out Messick had taken a job as the vice president of development at Miramax, which was run by Weinstein. Messick’s family said that she remained quiet during the recent allegations because she didn’t want to undermine the voices of the women who had come forward. So, was this the cost of silence? Will she be the last? These are sad and interesting times…

So, when I was unable to watch The Cloverfield Paradox with the rest of North America, I decided to catch up on The Good Place instead. Have you guys been watching this show? Over the 3 nights, I binged the second season, and I’m constantly amazed by how great that show has become. And that’s not to say that it started off poorly. The opposite is actually true – I loved the show from the beginning, but wasn’t sure how it would bounce back from the major twist of the first season finale. Let me back up a bit first, though.

The Good Place stars Kristen Bell as Eleanor Shellstrop, a horrible young woman who dies and, seemingly by accident, ends up in the place reserved for good people when they die. Based on the life she’d lived, she immediately realizes there’s been a mistake, but she doesn’t voice her concerns to her guide, Michael, played by Ted Danson. The first season basically follows her as she tries to conceal the fact that she belongs in The Bad Place, while simultaneously trying to mend her ways and truly earn her place in The Good Place. Along the way, she befriends philosophy professor Chidi, socialite Tahani, and Jason. Man, there’s SO much to say about Jason, but I’ll let you discover that for yourself.

Anyway, the first season finale throws EVERYTHING for a loop, which made the audience really curious as to how they’d stick the landing in the second season. I’m glad to say that they were not only successful, but also added new dimensions to and challenges for the characters. And the way the second season ends? WOW. It’s the kind of show that can’t overstay its welcome in order to still work, so I don’t see it running for more than, say, 5 seasons. It’s already been picked up for a 3rd season, but I like that the show is packaged in tight, 13-episode seasons so there’s no filler or wasted time. If you haven’t checked it out, you really should. Even if you don’t believe in Good Place/Bad Place, I think you’ll still find it enjoyable. I mean, you don’t believe in dragons, but you like Game of Thrones, right? Anyway, if you DO believe in those places, it also gives you some stuff to think about. I know I’ve spent a lot of the past week thinking about the concept of Moral Dessert: that we do good things with the expectation of some sort of reward at the end, when we should be doing good things simply because it’s the right thing to do. But I digress…The Good Place. Watch it!

It was a big Star Wars week, as we got our first teaser for Solo: A Star Wars Story during the Super Bowl, followed by the full trailer the next morning. Basically, the fandom is split between “Why is this a thing?” and “I guess I’ll give it a shot”. Nobody seems particularly excited about the film, but everyone’s at a various point of cautious anticipation along the spectrum. There are some folks out there who just refuse to believe that anyone other than Harrison Ford could play Han Solo, and I guess that’s their prerogative. That said, it’s been revealed that Ford did coach star Alden Ehrenreich on how to play the character. Based on recent Ford, though, I can’t imagine he did more than sit back in a chair and say “Make sure you cash all the checks they send ya!” Most people seem more excited by the glimpse we got of Donald Glover as Lando Calrissian.

Meanwhile, it was announced that the Game of Thrones TV show creators David Benioff and D.B. Weiss are being given their own series of Star Wars films. There are two takeaways from this development. First of all, this seems like a smooth way for them to quietly transition out of their planned Confederate show for HBO. In case you’ve forgotten, this was to be their next project, a controversial drama where slavery still exists and the US is on its 3rd Civil War. The backlash to that announcement was pretty fierce, but HBO didn’t show many signs of backing down from it. Now that these guys have bigger fish to fry, combined with the fact that Confederate hadn’t been fully fleshed out, seems to imply Confederate is dead in the water. The second takeaway is that maybe it’s time for an R-rated Star Wars installment, since that’s the kind of material in which these two specialize. Most fans are saying “No!” to that idea, but it might be interesting to test the boundaries of what the franchise is capable of doing. I wouldn’t hate an R-rated Star Wars, mainly because I’d love them to go “HARD R” with it. But that doesn’t sell toys, so it probably won’t happen. After all, it’s not 1987 anymore, when you can make toys for an R-rated movie.

Some folks are upset that Disney went with more White guys to make Star Wars movies when there are diverse voices out there. Ava Duvernay’s name keeps coming up, but maybe they don’t want her on the franchise. Or maybe she doesn’t want them. After all, she turned down Black Panther, so maybe she likes having room to tell her own stories without being beholden to franchise mandates. I don’t know. Either way, these kinds of debates aren’t going to go away any time soon.

We got our first information about what to expect from Disney’s upcoming streaming service. While we knew that it would launch with around 5 series, including High School Musical, Monsters, Inc, a live action Marvel series, and a Star Wars series, it’ll also launch with about 5 films that are being fast-tracked for the service. Also, there will be no R-rated content on the service, as that will be routed over to Hulu (of which Disney now owns a majority share). The service will cost less than Netflix, though no price has been revealed yet. Also, the Marvel shows on other streaming services (Defenders series on Netflix and Runaways on Hulu) are expected to stay put.

Things You Might Have Missed This Week

  • Jessica Jones season 2 will premiere on Netflix on March 8th. It looks like this season will delve into her origin story. Seeing as how I haven’t seen The Defenders yet, it doesn’t appear that she experienced any sort of character growth from that team-up…
  • Speaking of Netflix, the Queer Eye for the Straight Guy reboot debuted on the streaming service this week. Karamo Brown from The Real World: Philadelphia is the new Culture Guy and, just like his predecessor Jai Rodriguez, they still haven’t figured out what his job is.
  • Netflix and Paramount shocked the world by teasing the next installment in the Cloverfield franchise, The Cloverfield Paradox, during the Super Bowl, only to release the film on Netflix immediately following the game. I couldn’t even get on the service to watch it that night, but the reviews seem to imply that burning it off without a theatrical release was the smart move. Oof!
  • It’s another week, so that means Bryan Fuller has left another project. This time, he’s stepping down from Apple’s Amazing Stories anthology reboot, due to “creative differences”. I swear, this guy pretty much stays on a project long enough to get that first check. He’s living off advance money!
  • If you’re trying to keep up with the Kardashians, there’s a new one you’ve got to keep track of, as Kylie Jenner gave birth to her daughter, Stormi Webster, fathered by rapper Travis Scott.
  • Disney is finally reviving the Kim Possible live action movie plans, but this time it’ll just be a Disney Channel Original Movie. She deserves SO much better…
  • Another YouTuber is in trouble, as some kid named Kian Lawley just got fired from the movie The Hate U Give for posting a video where he uses the N-word a couple times. In the film, he was playing the boyfriend of a Black girl. Womp womp.
  • Fox renewed The Four for a second season hours before its season finale aired last night. No word yet on whether judge Charlie Walk will return or be replaced amid his sexual misconduct investigation.
  • It was announced that one of the sisters in the Charmed reboot will be a lesbian. In my headcanon, they were ALL lesbians. And the show ran for 25 seasons. On Cinemax.
  • Jenny Slate will voice Nanny on Disney Junior’s Muppet Babies reboot.
  • Attention all spinsters and cat ladies, ABC has cancelled Once Upon A Time, which will end at the conclusion of its current season.
  • Kevin Hart will produce and voice Lil Kev, an animated series at Fox that focuses on a 12 year old growing up in North Philly.
  • Speaking of Hart, he, along with Alison Brie and Jim Rash, will be the first guests on Netflix’s The Joel McHale Show with Joel McHale, which premieres February 18th.

  • We got our first teaser for Venom: The Case of the Evil MRI. This movie is gonna suck so much…
  • Jumanji has become The Rock’s highest grossing film in the US, so of course a sequel is coming.

  • Speaking of Dwayne Johnson, we got a full trailer for his post-Rampage film, Skyscraper. Four thoughts came to mind when I saw this: 1) Hey look! Neve Campbell’s got work again! 2) They finally gave him kids that actually look like they’re HIS kids (looking at you, San Andreas!) 3) Can a man run like that with a prosthetic leg? 4) You know at some point, the studio looked into just calling it Die Hard.

  • While we’re on trailers, here’s the new one for Deadpool 2. I didn’t just LOVE that first one, but I’ll see this.
  • It’s the end of an era, as Best Buy will reportedly pull CDs from stores on July 1st. Target may follow suit if the labels don’t meet their demands, which include selling CDs on a consignment basis.

I started the week thinking that the Philadelphia Eagles toppling the New England Patriots dynasty would be the biggest event of the week. Nobody, and I mean NOBODY, was prepared for the bombshell that’d be dropped in our laps Wednesday, in the form of a VERY candid interview that producer Quincy Jones gave Vulture. Not only did he reveal who killed JFK, but he also revealed a few homosexual relationships between some celebrities that surprised everyone. Then he revealed he’d dated Ivanka Trump! I mean, every paragraph had him dropping a new nugget of amazing information, only to nonchalantly change the subject like he hadn’t done anything as major as he had.

I don’t want to give a laundry list of the truth bombs in the interview because that simply wouldn’t do them justice. No, you’ve got to go read this thing for yourself. When you’re done, I think you’ll agree with me that Quincy Jones had the West Week Ever.

02nd Feb2018

West Week Ever: Pop Culture In Review – 2/2/18

by Will

HarassmentWatch(TM)

One of these days, the well for these allegations will dry up and this segment will be discontinued. That day ain’t today, however!

  • Nolan Bushnell – The Game Developers Conference was bestowing their Pioneer Award to the Atari founder, only to be met with the #NotNolan hashtag. Apparently, back in the day, he didn’t treat women so well. He used to hold business meetings in hot tubs, and walk around the office wearing an “I Love to Fuck” t-shirt. Anyway, the GDC rescinded the award following the outcry, saying nobody would get a Pioneer Award this year. Bushnell actually agreed with them, saying:

“I applaud the GDC for ensuring that their institution reflects what is right, specifically with regards to how people should be treated in the workplace. And if that means an award is the price I have to pay personally so the whole industry may be more aware and sensitive to these issues, I applaud that, too.

“If my personal actions or the actions of anyone who ever worked with me offended or caused pain to anyone at our companies, then I apologize without reservation.”

  • Scott Baio – Chachi turned out to be a dirtbag? NO! Whatever. Baio’s been a douchebag for years, so it was only a matter of time before something caught up to him. The something is former Charles in Charge costar, Nicole Eggert, who is accusing him of sexually assaulting her when she was a minor. She alleges he “let his fingers do the walking” when she was 14, and then had sex with her when she was 17. He confirmed the sex, but insists she was 18 when they did it. She was set to appear on Dr. Phil this week, but the show shelved the episode when they couldn’t verify her timeline of events. After she later appeared on Megyn Kelly Today, Phil had a change of heart and aired the episode Wednesday. Baio said that if she was so certain about it, then why didn’t she file a police report. She replied, “Be careful what you wish for.” Welp, yesterday’s TMZ headline was ”
    Nicole Eggert Headed to L.A. to File Police Report Against Scott Baio”.
  • Charlie Walk – The fourth judge from Fox’s The Four, who nobody had ever heard of just 6 weeks ago, is headed back to anonymity as multiple women have come forward with sexual misconduct allegations. Not only has he been fired from The Four just before the season finale, but he’s also been placed on leave from his role as president of Republic Records.
  • James Franco Update- Following his sexual assault allegations, he’s being erased everywhere. Reportedly vanity Fair digitally removed him from the cover of their Hollywood issue. Meanwhile, his high school has removed his artwork, like a disgraced quarterback who bombed during the big game against Central. A mural he had painted has, since, been painted over.
  • Fred Savage/Jason Hervey – In a story I’d never heard before, in an interview celebrating the 30th anniversary of the debut of The Wonder Years, former costar Alley Mills said that the show was actually cancelled because of an ongoing sexual harassment case that involved her TV kids Fred Savage and Jason Hervey. Apparently, Savage had a crush on the show’s costume designer, and would repeatedly ask her out. Well, costume designer didn’t like being hit on by a 13 year old kid, and went to the network brass. Mills is especially angry because the network apparently paid her off, which is something that folks only do when there’s guilt. Mills vehemently defended Savage, calling him “the least offensive, most wonderful, sweet human being that ever walked the face of the earth.” I’ll point out that at no point did she say anything defending Hervey, who I’d TOTALLY believe sexually harassed someone at some point in his life.

In the comic world, former Ultimate Marvel Universe architect Brian Michael Bendis’ first DC Comics work has been revealed. Following a short story in Action Comics #1000, he will, then, deliver a 6-issue miniseries called Man of Steel. Once that’s done, he will become the writer of both Action Comics and the Superman comic. Action Comics will focus on the Clark Kent/Superman dichotomy and his relationships at the Daily Planet, while Superman will be the more adventurer stories. And I have an issue with this.

Why give him BOTH books? If you want to make a big splash with him, give him his OWN Superman book and make it the flagship. Marvel did a similar thing when Joss Whedon joined the X-Men franchise, where they created Astonishing X-Men for him, and shifted the “flagship” status from Uncanny X-Men to that book. As it stands, this new plan puts THREE people out of work: Dan Jurgens on Action, and Peter Tomasi and Patrick Gleason on Superman. It’s comics, so I’m sure they’ll land on their feet somewhere, but does he really need to corner the entire Superman franchise? AND they’re relaunching Superman from #1 again – the 3rd Superman #1 in the past 10 years. I understand DC getting Bendis was a major coup, and they want to make a splash, but there were better ways they could do this. Plus, if you end up not liking his take on Superman, it’s not like you can say, “Oh, I’ll just stick to Action.” Nope, it’s ALL him now.

We got the reveal of the character designs for the new Rise of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles series, and the Internet reacted just about how you’d expect: the usual “What is this shit?!” and the “This raped my childhood”. I mean, there’s a lot to unpack here. April’s Black again (she was always intended to be Black but the 80s cartoon had other ideas), Raph has no sais and Mikey has no nunchucks. The big thing about it, though, is that Raph is now the leader. And I HATE this.

 

Nothing about Raph  says “leader”. Sure, this is a different iteration, and they can do what they want with it. I hate to sound like those folks who hate when a comic character’s race is changed, but when you mess with the core of the character, that’s a problem. Donnie’s smart, Mikey’s fun, Raph’s the hothead, and Leo LEADS. That’s pretty much every iteration. This feels like a decision made by pro wrestling reasoning. It’s like, “Well, Raph’s merch sells the best, so he’s clearly over with the fans. Time to move him up the roster.” Then again, it’s for another generation, who may have no prior knowledge of the different personalities. It’s like when kids discovered Tommy Oliver on Power Rangers Dino Thunder, thinking he was always a paleontologist with a PhD, not knowing he was once a struggling high school student who probably wouldn’t have even made it through college. I mean, NOTHING about Tommy’s character trajectory made you think he’d end up where Dino Thunder put him. So, the loner became the leader. It kinda worked there. So maybe it could work here. At the end of the day, though, it doesn’t matter if I think it works or not. Just like the Muppet Babies reveal from last week, this isn’t for my generation, even if they haven’t realized that yet. It’s for the children. And if you learn nothing else today, it’s that this, like Wu-Tang, is for the children.

Things You Might Have Missed This Week

  • In Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald, the film won’t reference Dumbledore’s sexuality, which is funny because “fantastic beast” seems like the kind of thing a gay guy would call something.
  • In what’s sure to be an ill-fated venture, DC Entertainment announced that they were preparing a Metropolis series for their upcoming streaming service, which will focus on Lois Lane and Lex Luthor investigating the mysteries of the city. But no Superman. Ya know, ’cause THAT’s what folks really want.

  • We got our first teaser for the next installment in the Purge franchise, this time showing us how it all began in The First Purge. I swear, if this idea were ever gonna come to fruition, this administration would be the one to do it.
  • SNL‘s Leslie Jones is traveling to South Korea to be part of NBC’s team covering the XXIII Olympic Winter Games
  • USA has renewed Suits for an 8th season, as costars Meghan Markle and Patrick J. Adams leave. Don’t worry, though, ’cause Katherine Heigl is joining the cast. Grand opening, grand closing.
  • Marvel announced that season 2 of Jessica Jones would hit Netflix on March 8th.
  • Syfy has renewed Grant Morrison’s Happy for a 2nd season. I gave that pilot 30 minutes. Not for me!
  • Tom Hanks has been tapped to play Mister Rogers in an upcoming biopic.
  • Valiant Entertainment has been purchased by DMG Entertainment, which I’ve never heard of. Apparently we’re supposed to think this is some kind of big deal, but it’s Valiant and it’s some entertainment company run by some dude. ‘Cause everyone’s clamoring for that X-O Manowar movie…
  • Fox has outbid NBC and CBS for the 5-year rights to Thursday Night Football for $3 BILLION. In true Fox fashion, they’ll cancel it after one low-rated season, and replace it with a wacky sitcom starring Wanda Sykes or Seth Green.
  • In what seems like a vote of no confidence, Paramount has sold the international rights to Natalie Portman’s upcoming Annihilation to Netflix. So, the movie will only open theatrically in the US and China, but will hit the streaming service everywhere else.
  • Not one to let Superman have all the wardrobe fun, Batman’s yellow oval will be returning to his costume regularly following Doomsday Clock
  • Family Guy predicted Caitlin Jenner and it also predicted the proposed sequel to The Passion of the Christ. Mel Gibson is getting the band back together, with original Jesus, Jim Caviezel, on board.
  • CBS has ordered pilots for reboots of 80s classics Magnum P.I. and Cagney & Lacey. I could’ve sworn we already got a Cagney & Lacey reboot. It was called Rizzoli & Isles
  • My pals over at Nerd Lunch released a THREE HOUR episode about Star Wars: The Last Jedi. That’s longer than the film itself. Anyway, I’m considering their take to be the final word on that film, as they brought both sides to the table. If you haven’t, be sure to check it out.

  • We got our first teaser for Ant-Man and the Wasp. And it was good.

So this week I had a first: I watched my first Royal Rumble. As an in and out wrestling fan, my fandom has pretty much been at its highest when wrestling programming was readily available. When I knew WWF Superstars or WWF Challenge were coming on Channel 5 every week, I was there. When I knew Smackdown was coming on Channel 20, I was there. Basically, if WWE had a “free TV” show, then I was an active fan. Sadly, there were spans of time when that wasn’t the case. Superstars ended in syndication in 96, and Smackdown moved to cable around 2010, and there went my fandom. Considering I always watched the free shows, this also meant I’d never seen a pay-per-view. I did find an illegal stream of Wrestlemania where Undertaker ended The Streak, but other than that I’d never seen one of WWE’s big events. My friend has The Network, so he invited me over, and I was NOT disappointed.

The matches were whatever, but the real draw was the rumble itself. If you’re not familiar with the concept, they start with two men in the ring, and then add a new one every 90 seconds until 30 guys have come out. Whenever someone goes over the top rope, they’re out of the rumble. The winner would get a shot at the title at Wrestlemania. That winner turned out to be Japanese wrestler Shinsuke Nakamura – a dude I’d never seen before, but was fascinated by his “strong style”.

The BIG point of the night, however, was the first women’s rumble. Same concept and rules as the men, with the winner having a choice of facing the Smackdown Women’s Champion Charlotte Flair or RAW Women’s Champion Alexa Bliss. The beauty of the women’s rumble was that they don’t currently have 30 active women on the roster, so they had to reach back in history to pull in some of the women who helped pave the way for the Women’s Division. There were appearances by Lita, Trish Stratus, and Mrs. Undertaker herself, Michelle McCool. In the end, though, the last woman standing was Japanese wrestler Asuka. Can you believe that?! Vince McMahon let TWO Japanese wrestlers win his Rumbles. Is there a shift happening? Is this a hint of things to come? Before we learned which challenger Asuka would choose, it was interrupted by wrestling’s worst kept secret: the debut of former UFC star Ronda Rousey, who’s officially signed on to the WWE.

Both rumbles were electrifying and had me on the edge of my seat. I got kinda bored during the matches, like Cesaro/Sheamus vs whoever those guys were. I will say, however, that I felt the introduction of Rousey kinda shat on Asuka’s moment. I’ve heard that argument that Rousey will bring more viewers and more mainstream attention which should trickle down to everyone else, but I just didn’t feel like this event needed that. The women’s rumble was great enough. Adding Rousey at the end almost made the show overstuffed. Plus, I kinda hate Rousey. Whatever.

Anyway, for being something of a trailblazer this week (Wrestling? Who knew?), the WWE Royal Rumble had the West Week Ever.

26th Jan2018

West Week Ever: Pop Culture In Review – 1/26/18

by Will

 

HarassmentWatch(TM)

I thought we’d get through a week with no sexual assault updates and allegations. I thought wrong.

  • Eric Ardnt – the WWE wrestler known as “Enzo Amore” was released from his contract AND his Cruiserweight title this week when a woman came forward, saying that he had raped her in a Phoenix hotel back in October. At first WWE suspended him, due to a supposed “zero tolerance” policy regarding sexual assault, but they fired him later the same day. Word on the street is that Ardnt knew an investigation was ongoing, but didn’t warn WWE officials about it. So, it seems more like he was punished for keeping it a secret than for actually doing it. After all, it’s bad for business…
  • Casey Affleck – Casey Affleck was accused of sexual harassment a couple of years ago, but nothing came from it. When the #MeToo movement started up, there were rumblings again about his misconduct. Last year he won the Academy Award for Best Actor for Manchester By The Sea, and tradition dictates that he present the Best Actress award at this year’s ceremony. Well, with the heat on him for negative reasons, he’s told the Academy that he won’t be attending or presenting, for fear of taking attention away from the films and the winners.
  • Larry Nassar Update – After the testimonies of over 140 women, the former Team USA Gymnastics doctor’s trial ended with him being sentenced to up to 175 years in prison – a sentence to begin AFTER completion of his 60-year sentence for possession of child pornography…

Oscar nominations were announced earlier this week. There were some surprises: Logan was nominated for Best Adapted Screenplay, which is an honor that’s not typically bestowed to comic book movies. Get Out scored 3 nominations: Best Director (Jordan Peele), Best Actor in a Leading Role (Daniel Kaluuya), and Best Picture. The biggest surprise to many, however, was the nomination of Boss Baby for Best Animated Feature Film. The film was maligned when it was announced (I added to some of that because I was sure it was gonna bomb), and it went on to make $500 million. A lot of folks felt the nomination should’ve gone to something like The LEGO Batman Movie. Just as I had to pour water on some of y’all for the Wonder Woman nomination “snub”, I feel the need to do that here, too.

As much as I enjoyed most of LEGO Batman, it lacks a strong 3rd act. At some point it devolves into a weird LEGO Dimensions team-up movie and I can’t even remember how it ends. Meanwhile, I haven’t even seen Boss Baby straight through, even though I’ve watched 3/4 of it about 37 times (my daughter LOVES it), and I feel like I had a more enjoyable experience with it, even while consuming it in disjointed chunks. It’s cute, clever, and pretty well done. I felt like LEGO Batman was a “less is more” character, so while a Batman fan, I wasn’t exactly jumping for joy about this particular iteration having the entire spotlight on him for a feature length film. I know a lot of y’all are cool and/or childless, so you wouldn’t be caught dead watching Boss Baby, but I’m here to tell you that it’s better than you think it is. Plus, let’s not ignore the fact that Ferdinand‘s on that list. Forget Boss Baby. LEGO Batman actually lost the nomination to John Cena as a talking bull, so think on that!

Everything old is new again, as two popular 80s properties are coming back to television. First up, not one to be left out of the reboot spree, CBS announced that Murphy Brown will return for a 13-episode run. I watched Murphy Brown pretty religiously (up until Miles left, and Lily Tomlin’s quirky ass was brought onboard). I remember all the Murphy Brown controversies: the child out of wedlock, the cancer, the medical marijuana, etc. My problem with the Murphy Brown announcement is that you just know it was greenlit the minute the whole “The Conners are Trump supporters now on Roseanne” news hit. And I don’t need the liberal counterpoint. You just KNOW Hillary’s gonna guest star on it. I mean, she did Broad City! I know Murphy will have a ton to say about the state of the world, but I’m not sure I’m in the mood to hear it right now. Maybe when this whole circus is over, but not while we’re still in the thick of it.

Meanwhile, Disney is reviving Muppet Babies, with a new Muppet along for the ride. Summer is a purple penguin who’s artistic. That means she likes art, not that she’s on the spectrum. Anyway, it seems like she’s replacing Skeeter, who reportedly won’t be a regular on the series. They said that they wanted another girl to help balance things out. The computer animated incarnation will premiere in March on Disney Junior.

In other TV news, comedian Mo’Nique’s is trying to get Black people to boycott Netflix because they only offered her $500,000 for a comedy special, which pales in comparison to what Dave Chappelle and Amy Schumer got for their specials. She claims the streaming network is racist and sexist for giving her such a “lowball” offer. Um, Mo’Nique, you ain’t relevant, baby. You should’ve taken that $500K and used it as a springboard for brighter things in the future. The Original Queens of Comedy came out SEVENTEEN YEARS AGO almost to the day. Sure, you won an Oscar for Precious, but that was NINE YEARS AGO. Everyone in Hollywood says you’re hard to work with, which is why you’re falling back on stand up. I can’t boycott Netflix ’cause there’s too much on there I wanna watch. Go start some beef with Hulu. I don’t have an account with them, so I’ll be right there with you in spirit. Anyway, Wanda Sykes popped up to thank Mo’Nique, because she said that Netflix offered her even less than $500K. Um, I love you, Wanda, but your current job is the voice of of a gargoyle on Disney Channel’s Vampirina. I’m pretty sure they just offered what they thought you’d take…

In comic news, Amazing Spider-Man writer Dan Slott announced that he’s leaving the book after a 10-year run as the head writer. His final issue will be #801, and he will be moving over to the Iron Man series. He said that this has been the plan for about 4 years or so, and that he always wanted to break the record for Most Spider-Man Books By One Writer, which is currently held by Brian Michael Bendis. He said that he never saw Bendis leaving, so that was a number that kept moving and was always out of reach. When Bendis announced his departure, however, Slott saw it as his chance. He says he’s still about 18-20 issues shy of reaching the goal, even when #801 hits, so he might come back one day down the road to do an arc or two just to hit that magic number.

A lot of fans are rejoicing at the news, while I’m not sure how to feel. I know many fans didn’t like Slott’s take on Spider-Man, but I haven’t read enough of his run to have formed an opinion. Full disclosure: I own every issue of Amazing Spider-Man from the past 17 years, but the past 5 years are in my To Read pile. For those of you familiar with the series, I’m at “Spider Island”. Nope, haven’t even gotten to Superior Spider-Man yet, where Doc Ock takes over Peter’s body. So, needless to say, I’ve got a lot of catching up to do. Still, it’s an impressive run, even if I was recently saying it was time for him to give a new voice a chance. Well, I guess I got my wish. Now I just hope he doesn’t ruin Iron Man.

Meanwhile over at DC Comics, a play in 3 acts:

What’s funny to me is that this exact scenario was the plot of the pilot for Comedy Central’s new series, Corporate. I mean, the thing just aired a week ago.

It’s not all PR blunders for DC, though. They did announce that Superman’s red trunks return in Action Comics #1000 – which also features the DC Comics debut of Brian Michael Bendis. I’ve got to say that I got used to the Jim Lee New 52 redesign. They made slight tweaks along the way, but I didn’t really miss the red trunks. The be honest, it was more jarring to me to see Batman without his trunks than Superman without his. Still, DC’s trying to get the old fans to come home again, so I guess they felt they needed to do this. The only thing that upsets me is the switcheroo nature of The New 52. They went to all this trouble to reboot everything, and then spent the past 2 years undoing what they’d done with Superman in order to turn him back into the character he was pre-New 52. It reminds me of how Marvel gave Grant Morrison the keys to the X-Men kingdom, only to spend the next 5 years following his run undoing everything he’d built. Some folks will say, “Well, at least you enjoyed reading the comics”, but I counter that with “Yeah, but now I’ve got 7 years of Superman comics that don’t ‘count‘ anymore.” Continuity is important to me as a fan, and a move like this makes me look at the whole New 52 enterprise and just wonder “What’s the point?” Ya know, besides a temporary, unsustainable spike in sales…

In music, we got a new single from Justin Timberlake, called “Supplies”. This is the second song I’ve heard from his upcoming album, Man of the Woods, and I just don’t know what he’s trying to do here. I almost wonder if the song works better without the video to distract you. I mean, the video is almost like he’s homaging Michael Jackson’s “Scream”, then the bridge comes along, and he’s like “Hold up, while I bang this hot girl”. Then it’s right back to the political stuff, almost like he’s saying, “I’m sorry, girl, but racism makes my dick soft”. Part of me thinks he saw that failure of a Kendall Jenner Pepsi commercial, and was like “Oh, I can make this work”, because there are definitely shades of that project found here. Anyway, I hope these songs get gradually better, or else I’m about to write this album off like I did Taylor Swift’s Reputation.

Then, last night, he released the video for “Say Something”. I swear, this album is just gonna be a collection of sounds. I feel like he just got a mixer, and is releasing his demos as he tests out the effects. At least this one has a melody, and it only took him 3 singles to get here. I hope the radio edit chops off the first 1:16, ’cause after that you’ve got a pretty tight song. The big surprise here is he’s got a feature: breakout, soulful country star Chris Stapleton. It’s an odd pairing, but it works. Can I just say that I hate this new trend of releasing all your songs before the album comes out? I mean, I realize the industry has changed, but I miss the act of finding a surprise gem or possible deep cut on an album, and then later being surprised when it was released as a single. It was validation, like, “”Huzzah! I knew this was a hit, and now it truly is!” Anyway, it’s a 16-track album (and the inevitable Target exclusive edition will scrape together another 3 tracks from demos or something), so there’s still 13 songs we haven’t heard yet. More songs like this, JT!

Toys “R” Us announced that they’re closing 182 stores, and everyone’s getting a hard-on for the going out of business sales that are bound to result from this. Well, hold your horses, cowboy. I posted this one Twitter, but it bears repeating – I’ve been through a TRU closing, so here’s what happens: the store is taken over by a liquidation company that marks everything UP. The good stuff is returned to the manufacturer or sent to a non-closing store. So, what’s left is marked up stuff you don’t want. Everyone has these visions in their heads of these great sales that are about to take place, but you’re pretty much about to be as disappointed as you have been any other time you walked into a TRU in the past 20 years. So instead of Transformers and Power Rangers, it’s more than likely they’ll dig out some lost cases of the female Ghostbusters or have a ton of The Good Dinosaur toys they never sold. If you’re a reseller who utilizes FBA (Fulfillment By Amazon) then it’s a great time to stock up, but there’s not much to offer to the casual shopper/collector. So, happy hunting, but I doubt you’ll find much…

Things You Might Have Missed This Week

  • There are Jurassic Park Funko Pops coming. While I typically wouldn’t care, you can’t NOT love this one of Dr. Ian Malcolm

  • 9 years after the release of the original, we’re apparently getting a sequel to Black Dynamite, based on this teaser released by creator and star Michael Jai White. I hope it washes the taste of that animated series out of my mouth, which just didn’t work tonally for me.
  • It appears the original Barney suit actor now runs a tantric sex workshop. “I love you, you love me” indeed!

  • We got our first look at Brie Larson suited up as Captain Marvel. Some folks aren’t feeling the green uniform, but it works with the source material. She’s also sporting the “Rachel” hairstyle, so this movie’s gonna be 90s to the max!
  • After 8 seasons of putting a bird on it and just generally being weird, Portlandia started its 8th and final season last night.
  • Certain media outlets are reporting that ABC has cancelled Marvel’s Inhumans based on the fact that the network has removed the show from its press site. While that’s probably true, I think I’ll wait til the official announcement at the May upfronts.
  • 90 years after her debut, and 40 years after Mickey got his, Minnie Mouse finally got her star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame
  • There’s talk of a Mighty Ducks television series, but there’s no script, no stars, and no known home for it (though it’s not like Disney is lacking for TV networks). I’ll talk more about it when the project is further along.

Did anyone have a week quite like WWE Chairman and CEO Vince McMahon? He started the week celebrating 25 years of his flagship wrestling program, WWE Monday Night Raw, and he ended the week reviving one of his greatest failures, the XFL.

First, let’s talk about Raw 25. The anniversary broadcast had been promoted for weeks, with special guests announced on each preceding episode. They were bringing back the likes of The Undertaker, old Divas, and they were even gonna have a reunion of Triple H and Shawn Michaels’ old DeGeneration-X stable. To commemorate the big event, it was held in 2 different venues: the Barclays Center in Brooklyn and the Manhattan Center in Midtown Manhattan. I’m sure folks at both venues thought they were in for an awesome show. They would be proven wrong. You see, all the big stuff happened at the Barclays Center, while the folks in Manhattan seemed to get a lot of the cast off stuff. Barclays got John Cena, while Manhattan got old Scott Hall. It was clear that the Manhattan Center was geared more towards the older fans, but I’m not quite sure they got their money’s worth. Anyway, I’m sure Vince would say it was a success, and it’s pretty impressive he’s kept that show on the air for 25 years.

Yesterday, Vince proved he wasn’t done surprising us this week, as he announced the upcoming return of his football league, the XFL. Scheduled to debut in either January or February of 2020, there are a couple of things that will set this league apart from the dominant NFL. First of all, he plans to keep games to 2 hrs, as he believes this is the longest people can be expected to watch – which is funny, considering he runs a weekly THREE-HOUR wrestling program. Next, there will be no politics on the field, so all players will stand for the national anthem. Finally, he says that none of the players can have arrest records. Muhuhahahahahahaha! Where, pray tell, does he plan to find these professional caliber athletes, with no arrest records, who haven’t already been snatched up by the NFL. He better shut up and load those teams up with convicts. I know that’d get ME to watch! Instead of being the badass leaague that it was during WWE’s Attitude Era, McMahon hopes to present a family friendly game, with simpler rules than the NFL.

I’m confused here. The dominant professional football league in the country is already experiencing a ratings downturn, so I’m not sure competition is what’s needed now. Plus, let’s not forget how colossally the first XFL failed. It barely lasted a season. I mean, it must be nice to have so much money that you can blow MILLIONS reliving your biggest mistake simply due to ego. And I know the television landscape has changed, but he doesn’t even seem to have broadcast partners yet. Back in the day, he at least had NBC and UPN to lean on to broadcast the games. He can’t rely solely on streaming, and he created a separate entity for this venture, so it’s not like he can just throw the games on the WWE Network stream. I dunno, man, but it’s not my job to. It’s not my money, it’s Vince’s. And he has so, so much money to waste.

In any case, based on his dominance in all corners of sports entertainment this week, Vince McMahon had the West Week Ever.

Off
19th Jan2018

West Week Ever: Pop Culture In Review – 1/19/18

by Will

If you haven’t been following the site this week, I’ve been recapping DC Comics’ “DC in D.C.” event that was held here last weekend. I started things off by reviewing the world premiere screening of the new animated feature, Batman: Gotham By Gaslight. Then, I recounted my struggle to not only gain access to the event, but to also understand the purpose of it. Finally, I detailed the panels that I was able to attend, and discussed how they helped me to figure out the true reason DC came to D.C. when they did. If you’ve already read them, thanks for playing along at home. If you haven’t, then what are you waiting for? This post will be here when you’re done!

HarassmentWatch(TM)

Aziz Ansari – OK, let’s get this one out of the way first so that you can hate me and go on about your day. It’s cool – I already got your click, and I’m prepared to possibly be on the wrong side of history on this one. Last weekend, feminist blog Babe.net published an account from “Grace”, a young woman who went on a date with Ansari late last year and believes that he sexually assaulted her. After their date, they went back to his place, where he repeatedly tried to have sex with her. He’d put his fingers in her mouth, he’d perform oral sex on her, and then expect her to reciprocate. She said that he wasn’t picking up on her nonverbal cues that she wasn’t interested in taking things to that level. While she knew that the situation had been uncomfortable, it wasn’t until she shared the story with her friends that they convinced her it was assault. When she saw him win his Golden Globe award for Master of None, it all came flooding back to her and she had to tell the tale.

OK, got all that? That’s the abridged version, so if you wanna know all the sordid details (and they are sordid), go find the original article. Here’s my take: It sounds like it was a horrible date, and Aziz is a lame with no game. My immediate takeaway from the account is that Aziz must actually be like Tom Haverford – the character he played on Parks & Recreation – because that was totally some shit that Tom would’ve pulled having learned it from his friend Jean-Ralphio.

These were complete Pickup Artist techniques. Shit, I wouldn’t be surprised if he even “negged” her: saying something like, “Why’d you wear those stripes when you know they aren’t flattering on you?” in an effort to decrease her sense of value, thereby elevating his own. Tom Haverford was TOTALLY a PUA, and now I guess Aziz is, too. How do I know all this? Because about a decade ago I was fascinated by that whole scene. I read about 2/3 of The Mystery Method until I just couldn’t stomach it anymore. I was an avid viewer of the VH1 reality show The Pickup Artist. And one thing I can say about that “movement” is that it’s like Sex Panther: “60% of the time it works every time”. The PUA thing is a complete numbers game, almost like a sexual Ponzi scheme. You’re gonna strike out a lot, but eventually you won’t. Like most “self help” gospels, most people think it’s just a bunch of bullshit, but I know people for whom it worked. The problem with it, though, is that you pretty much have to hit rock bottom for that to happen. You have to hate your life so much, and want to change so badly, that you just blindly adhere to every tenant of the movement. If you’re willing to do that, you will see change. You’ll also kinda realize you’re a soulless asshole. But you’re not supposed to care about that because you’re so knee deep in minge now that you’ve got no time for self pity or introspection. Anyway, that’s enough about me and my questionable taste in literature.

Back to Aziz, the Babe article is a complete hit job, as it was clearly meant to serve as character assassination. The reporting is unprofessional, and it focuses on trivial details in a sensationalized attempt to set the scene.

After arriving at his apartment in Manhattan on Monday evening, they exchanged small talk and drank wine. “It was white,” she said. “I didn’t get to choose and I prefer red, but it was white wine.”

Who the Hell cares? This isn’t Fifty Shades of Grey. None of that is relevant considering the seriousness of the allegations. Reading the entire account, Aziz is not without fault here. He should’ve just “read the room” and put her in an Uber way earlier in the night. He issued a statement following the article, that read:

“In September of last year, I met a woman at a party. We exchanged numbers. We texted back and forth and eventually went on a date. We went out to dinner, and afterwards we ended up engaging in sexual activity, which by all indications was completely consensual.

“The next day, I got a text from her saying that although ‘it may have seemed okay,’ upon further reflection, she felt uncomfortable. It was true that everything did seem okay to me, so when I heard that it was not the case for her, I was surprised and concerned. I took her words to heart and responded privately after taking the time to process what she had said.

“I continue to support the movement that is happening in our culture. It is necessary and long overdue.” – Aziz Ansari

OK, there are two things to take away from: 1) he confirms that he may have misunderstood the situation and 2) he apologized to her privately after it happened. You go to the press when there are denials. You go to the press when you demand justice. You don’t go to the press when it seems like both parties have talked it out and put it behind them. Why did she go to Babe, and would we even know all this had he not won the Golden Globe?

Another thing is people seem not to realize that we only got one side of the story here. While Aziz confirmed that the evening occurred, we don’t know his perception of the events, or if they played out as Grace described them. You know why? Because he knows it doesn’t matter. Sexual assault allegations favor the man about as much as the American legal system does in custody disputes. There’s a lot of talk going on about “Affirmative consent”, in that you shouldn’t engage in sexual activity unless it’s clear that both parties are willing participants. One thing about affirmative consent, though, is that it could be affirmative at the time, and at some later point become a “What did I just do?” This doesn’t sound like “assault”. This just sounds like a horrible date. I think his perspective is valid here because we honestly don’t know how he was processing things. I know this skews really close to “victim blaming”, but there’s not enough discussion about personal agency in this situation. I’m seeing a lot of “Well, she’s young” or “He used his celebrity to intimidate her”. All of that could be true. However, she performed oral sex on him twice that night. I can see how one might think there was no conflict in the air following that second blowjob.

I need to circle back to the reporting, though. Babe wanted their 15 minutes and they got it. There’s a reason these allegations need to be reported by reputable media outlets because they do actual journalism. This was a site with an axe to grind, and they found their golden ticket. This wasn’t a grand revelation of assault: this was humiliation on the public stage. When these allegations first started coming out about celebrities, I was really struck by the Louis CK stuff. While I was never a big fan, he was the first guy who lost EVERYTHING from the scandal, and in record time. I was telling friends that I felt he probably needed to be on suicide watch because there was no coming back from that. That’s how I almost feel here. There was nothing to be gained from this, and I fear for the well-being of both parties. Grace wasn’t ready for the public’s response once Babe cast her to the wolves when they were done using her. Meanwhile, I don’t really know where Aziz goes after this. I mean, can even go to the corner store to get milk without being ridiculed? Grace is not pressing charges, she got an apology, and she educated him on what to never do again in the future. But Babe came along and just demolished Aziz’s image and reputation. There’s no way he comes off looking good from this, and a lot of it is for good reason. But at the end of the day, it was a poorly written, sensationalized account that helped Babe to build a reputation on his back. And when journalist Ashleigh Banfield came to his defense, saying much of what I’ve said, how did Katie Way, the writer of the article, respond? By sending Banfield a hateful email, attacking her age and her appearance. Yay, feminism? Babe’s account of the evening is damning regardless of which side you take. If it truly was assault, Grace’s encounter is completely undermined by Babe’s style of reporting. If it wasn’t assault, then they may have destroyed the career of a guy who simply doesn’t have charisma or a clue. Not everything needs to be decided in the court of public opinion.

There’s a lot to unpack from this situation, and it’s not as cut and dried as “Why didn’t she just leave?”, though I do feel it’s a legitimate question to ask because you might get an answer like, “Well, he had a gun.” I just don’t believe the “cat & mouse” game of dating is as black & white as folks want to make it. I have a friend from college who’s now a professional dating coach, and she wrote a post about the situation. She brings up an excellent point that we’re taught to respect boundaries, but we’re also taught that some women like to be pushed against a wall and kissed spontaneously. You can’t always have both, and it’s not always easy to “read the room”. What works on one woman may not work on the next. His whole shtick was employed because it had worked on some woman in the past. Everybody’s got an opinion on this one, and I’m not convinced any of them is the “right” way to look at the situation, especially since we weren’t there and there’s a lot we don’t know.

Joel Kramer – actress Eliza Dushku revealed that Kramer sexually assaulted her in a hotel room when she was 12, while he was serving as the stunt coordinator on True Lies. She didn’t tell her parents, as Kramer had endeared himself to them, but she did confide in another adult friend. When this friend confronted Kramer about the allegations, Dushku was “coincidentally” injured in a stunt gone wrong that had been coordinated by Kramer. This was sexual assault of a minor, which is pretty heavy, but the story got lost in the Aziz tsunami. Kramer is denying the allegations, while Dushku’s costars on the film, such as Arnold Schwarzenegger and Jamie Lee Curtis, said that they were unaware that it was going on at the time. Kramer has since been dropped as a client by Worldwide Production Agency.

Larry Nassar – This is one I kinda missed reporting in 2017 when he was sentenced, but former USA Gymnastics national team physician Larry Nassar is accused of sexually abusing over 140 women. In December, he was sentenced to 60 years in prison for possession of child pornography, and was pled guilty to 10 charges of sexual assault. This week, gymnast Simone Biles came forward that she had also been abused by Nassar. Meanwhile, gymnast McKayla Maroney was sought after to testify against Nassar for his abuse against her, but USA Gymnastics had her sign a nondisclosure agreement after she received a $1.25 million settlement a few years back. If she violated the NDA, she would be hit with a $100,000 fine. Well, model/Twitter activist Chrissy Teigen publicly offered to pay Maroney’s fine if she would testify. Public outcry resulted from the revelation of the NDA, prompting USA Gymnastics to release her from it.

Seal – Billboard reported that the singer is under investigation for sexual battery inflicted on his neighbor, actress Tracey Birdsall when she came over to retrieve a salad spinner she had loaned him. He reportedly grabbed her, and attempted to kiss and grope her. This is just a week after he released a video attacking Oprah for being part of the #MeToo movement when he felt she was complicit in much of the abuse.

Paul Haggis Update – fellow former Scientologist Leah Remini believes that the sexual assault allegations against Haggis are the work of the Church itself.

Meanwhile, Alec Baldwin came out and said that the public’s treatment of Woody Allen is “unfair”. If you’re not familiar, not only did the 82 year old director marry his adopted daughter, Soon-Yi, back in the early 90s, but he’s also accused of sexually abusing Dylan Farrow, the adopted daughter of his former partner Mia Farrow. This was in response to the many actors who have recently publicly distanced themselves from Allen. Just this week, actor Timothee Chalamet said that he was donating his salary from his role in Allen’s most recent film, A Rainy Day in New York, to charities that fight sexual abuse and harassment. Baldwin said that these allegations need to be handled carefully, for the sake of both the accused and the victims.

Man, that was a long, heavy section to get through, wasn’t it? Let’s get to the pop culture stuff.

In comics news, it was announced that X-Men Gold #30 will feature the wedding of Kitty Pryde and Colossus. I’ve gotta tell ya that I didn’t even know they were back together. They’re not exactly one of those enduring relationships, as one minute they’re on and the next they’re off. It appears this is the big “Wedding of the Century” that Marvel had been teasing late last year. In my mind, this hardly qualifies, but whatever. As I said on Twitter when it was announced, Marvel always has such a hard-on for weddings, which is tone deaf to its audience of single, unmarrieds who make up a good percentage of their readership. Ain’t nobody getting excited about these weddings. All this little stunt is going to accomplish is make it hard for the regular consumers of this book to actually get a copy because of all the speculators and lookie loos (full disclosure: I haven’t read the series yet, but I have purchased every issue with the intention to read them, so this does affect me). I mean, my friend Brandon swears that Gold is a great book, but it’s also his introduction to the X-Men franchise, so I’m not sure how it stacks up against the classic stories. That said, if the book is as good as I’ve heard, I hope this development serves the story instead of just serving as a gimmick to spike sales.


Nintendo announced Nintendo LABO, and I’m not quite sure I know what it is. Like most geek things these days, though, the internet is split over it. It appears to consist of a series of DIY cardboard design kits that work in conjunction with your Nintendo Switch. I mean, it certainly looks unique, but I’m still left asking “Why?” I mean, that’s a cool cardboard piano you’ve got there. Ya know what would be even cooler, though? A real piano. Anyway, I’m getting up there in age, so it’s not for me to understand. I’m sure Nintendo will make a bajillion dollars off of it.

Things You Might Have Missed This Week

  • On the heels of last week’s controversy, Mark Wahlberg announced that he would donate his All The Money In The World reshoot fee of $1.5 million to Time’s Up, in Michelle Williams’ name.
  • Hawaiians thought they were about to be killed by a missile until everyone was like, “Psych,  you pineapple heads! False alarm!” We have to confront these things with humor ’cause to really acknowledge them is just too damn depressing…
  • The Jumanji re…mix(?) has surpassed Justice League, earning $700 million in the worldwide box office
  • Fox renewed freshman drama 9-1-1 for a second season after airing three episodes.
  • Tracee Ellis Ross considering decreasing her presence on Black-ish unless the pay discrepancy between her and Anthony Anderson is addressed. Sources involved say that Anderson is paid more because of increased involvement with the show, as well as the fact that he is an executive producer.
  • Speaking of the “-ish” franchise, Freeform has renewed the spinoff grown-ish for a second season.
  • And while we’re talking about Freeform, Marvel’s Cloak & Dagger will premiere on the network on June 7th
  • A LOT of cancellations were announced by streaming outlets this week. Netflix cancelled Maria Bamford’s Lady Dynamite after two seasons. Meanwhile, Amazon cancelled Tig Notaro’s One Mississippi, the Kathryn Hahn/Kevin Bacon series I Love Dick, and the action-comedy Jean-Claude Van Johnson. It’s not all bad news, though, as Amazon renewed The Tick for a second season.
  • Surprising no one, ABC has cancelled The Mayor. It’s kinda sad, as it had a lot of heart, but it felt more like a movie premise than a TV show – the kind of movie you buy bootleg from the dude at the barbershop.
  • The Shannara Chronicles has been cancelled after debuting on MTV and then moving to Spike TV for its second season.
  • Speaking of Spike TV, the network shut down this week preparing to be rebranded as the Paramount Network, and its Twitter feed had a faux, yet hilarious, meltdown.
  • Spinning out of the John Wick film franchise, The Continental was announced at Starz, as a TV series focusing on the assassin-harboring hotel from the films. Ian McShane is in talks to appear.
  • In relationship news, former Bachelor Nick Viall is reportedly dating actress January Jones. Meanwhile, vroom vroom driver Danica Patrick is officially dating sportsball player Aaron Rodgers.
  • The series co-creators for Modern Family have announced that they’re preparing for next season to be its last. There are talks, however, of a potential spin-off…
  • I completely missed John Francis Daley’s transition from actor to director (I’ll never forget him as the rookie who didn’t get a chance to speak in Waiting…). Anyway, he and Jonathan Goldstein have been chosen to direct the DCEU Flashpoint film for Warner Bros.
  • In the world of wrestling, Goldberg will be inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame Class of 2018. I was never a WCW guy, and I missed everything he did for WWE, so I have no frame of reference for this. For you smarks out there, is this deserved?
  • Meanwhile, Women’s Division wrestler Paige is reportedly done with WWE after their doctors refused to clear her return to the ring following a career-ending injury she sustained at the end of December.
  • There’s a rumor now that Tom Holland will appear in the Venom movie as Peter Parker but not as Spider-Man. Um, OK…

  • We got a new pic from Ant-Man and The Wasp, showing Paul Rudd and Evangeline Lilly in full costume. I totally forgot that movie was coming out this year. I mean, I knew it was coming, but it just always felt like it was far off in the future.
  • Kanye West and Kim Kardashian had their 3rd child this week, this time through a surrogate. I still say that the world coincidentally went to Hell when their second kid was born. I mean, it was like everything folks feared about the Large Hadron Collider come true. Lord only knows what kind of death and destruction will follow this kid. Anyway, Mazel!
  • Sam Rockwell joined the exclusive “I Just Said ‘Fuck’ On Live TV” Club while hosting last week’s Saturday Night Live 
  • The President’s doctor, Ronny Jackson, reported that he is in good health and weighs 239 lbs. I call bullshit because “Ronny Jackson” is NOT the name of a reputable doctor. It is, however, the name of the captain of an ’80s breakdance crew.
  • Meanwhile, adult film star Stormy Daniels was allegedly paid $130,000 to cover up the fact that she had sex with Trump just after his son Barron was born. Yup, nothing to see here…
  • Sarah Huckabee Sanders used the official White House Press Secretary Twitter account to complain that her kid ordered an expensive Square Enix Batman figure by simply yelling at Alexa. This also reveals that the WH Press Secretary has an always-on mic in her house, in case there are any curious Russians out there…
  • Wally West will do a brief stint on Legends of Tomorrow for the second half of the season. Ya know, ’cause they need another Black guy now.
  • The recently announced Dick Tracy comic from Archie is already dead due to a licensing dispute.
  • In a surprising collaboration, country group Zac Brown Band is going on tour with pop group OneRepublic. I wish the tour was called the “Too Late for Chicken Fried” Tour
  • Some butthurt dude made an edit of Star Wars: The Last Jedi where all of the women were removed. Clocking in at about 45 minutes, the edit basically gives you no choice but to ship Finn and Poe.

  • Finally, I was strolling through Target last Friday when I stumbled upon this shirt featuring Topanga from Boy Meets World. Naturally, I had to Instagram it. Little did I realize that by tagging actress Danielle Fishel that she would actually reply! 1997 Will can’t stop smiling!

 

I had no interest in Black Lightning. First of all, I was beginning to tire of the live action superhero shows. It seems like whenever Greg Berlanti launches a new DCTV series, the quality of the older shows tends to take a dip. Secondly, it was originally developed for Fox, so I immediately thought, “Well, here’s another Fox show that’ll be cancelled after one, low-rated season”. When Fox passed on it, and The CW swooped down on it, my curiosity was piqued. After all, there was no way the show could operate in the Arrowverse while airing on Fox. But now that it was “coming home”, the possibilities were endless. Then they announced the show would not be part of the Arrowverse. Womp womp. I kinda stopped caring again. I had nothing against the character, per se. Unlike Black Panther, who’s a character I kinda dislike for a few reasons, I didn’t have much familiarity with Black Lightning. I hadn’t read many books with him featured, and the only thing I could remember was when President Luthor appointed him the Secretary of Education (probably the only good thing to come from that administration). So, in a lot of ways I would be going in blind, and I just didn’t have it in me to learn a new hero.

Fast forward to last weekend at DC in D.C., where the cast and producers were present to explain their take on the character. Executive producer/showrunner Salim Akil explained that the show is about an African-American man in America. However, even if you take the “African-American” off, you’ll still see a MAN who just wants the best for his family and his community. And that’s where the story comes from. Black Lightning is just a dude who wants to do right by those around him. Akil said that’s the kind of man that he aspires to be. I found that kind of interesting. Could Black Lightning be that inspiring of a character?

I missed the premiere last weekend at the event, but the reviews started trickling out and they were resoundingly positive. Some were calling it the “greatest superhero show on television”. That’s some pretty high praise right there. I missed the actual Tuesday night premiere ’cause of “Daddy Duties”, but everyone on Twitter seemed to love what they had just seen. So, of course I had to check the show out.

Let me just say that I’ve never been more happy to have been wrong. I thoroughly enjoyed that hour, and I can certainly see how Black Lightning is the hero that we need right now. Jefferson Pierce is a high school principal in the town of Freeland, who’s trying to change the world from inside the classroom. He used to patrol the city as the vigilante Black Lightning, but it tore his marriage apart. Now he does what he can at the root of the system, trying to educate and mold kids before they can be recruited by Freeland’s gangs. It’s been 9 years since he last suited up as Black Lightning, and he was pretty sure those days were behind him – until his daughters end up in a situation from which only Black Lightning can save them. It could’ve felt really hokey, but it felt so real. The series is grounded in reality by dealing with topics like racial profiling and police brutality.

Star Cress Williams is great as the character, and you can really feel the conflict that’s raging inside of him. His non Black Lightning life has been good to him: he’s been principal for the past 7 years, he and his ex-wife are on the verge of a reconciliation, and he’s established a sort of truce with the local gangs to stay away from his school. With all of the good things going on, he begins to realize he’s been living in a bubble and things in the overall world weren’t going as well for people. “Just when I thought I was out…”

I think the show really resonated with me, as I saw some parallels. We’re both Black men. We both work in education. We are both fathers to two daughters (oh yeah, I’m having another girl. Way to bury the lede, Will). He’s in great shape, and I would like to be. Anyway, I was starting to see what Akil was talking about during the panel. Jefferson Pierce is someone to strive to emulate. He’s the perfect Black superhero role model. Sure, Black Panther is a king, and sits on the world’s stockpile of Vibranium, but ain’t none of y’all gonna wake up and find out you have royal blood. Black Lightning, though, is an attainable goal. He’s a street level hero making a difference. Meanwhile, in his alter ego he’s attractive, he’s fit, he’s got amazing suits – thanks to his own “Alfred”, Gambi – he’s educated and imparting that wisdom to the next generation. He’s a family man and he’s a pillar of his community. He’s a Black Batman for the middle class. As much Black Pride as folks are feeling about Black Panther, this should generate just as much hype because it’s more relatable. To me, at least.

I’m still processing how good that pilot was, and I hope the show continues on this path. With the Berlanti track record, I’m sure it’ll take a creative dip when Berlanti goes off to work on Hitman or whatever (Yes, at DC in D.C., Geoff Johns said there were discussions about a Hitman series). By that point, they’ll figure out how to pull Black Lightning into the richer Arrowverse during the annual crossover, but I don’t want the show to lose its authenticity. It’s an important show – a necessary show – and I think that’s more important than getting to see Cisco geek out over Black Lightning’s powers. In any case, I wholeheartedly believe that Black Lightning had the West Week Ever.

18th Jan2018

DC in D.C. 2018: The Proof Is In the Panels

by Will

Previously on DC in DC 2018, I discussed all the obstacles I endured just to get into the event, but I didn’t really discuss the event itself. As I had mentioned, the real meat of the 2-day event was the slate of discussion panels that were lined up for Saturday. These panels were not only informative and entertaining, but as you sat there listening to the panelists, the true meaning of the event finally began to click: REPRESENTATION. The whole thing was a celebration of representation of the diverse characters and viewpoints in DC Entertainment. THIS is why it took place over MLK weekend. It wasn’t just that they were debuting a new series starring a Black hero, but it was also that, in their various media, they were striving to create a world like the one Dr. King always envisioned. Marvel seems to get the credit for trying to add more women and minority characters, but they’re always met with backlash from old school fans who don’t like change. And in those cases, it feels more like it’s the individual writer who wants to do it, rather than a mandate from editorial. DC, on the other hand, was here to essentially say that, as a company, it was committed to the representation of all. It was something of a bold step for a legacy publisher who’s commonly seen as looking backward instead forward.

The morning kicked off with a surprise appearance by DC Entertainment President, Diane Nelson. After a somewhat awkward trivia contest, she addressed the crowd in an attempt to explain the purpose of the weekend. While her brief remarks were scripted, the message still didn’t come across as coherently as it could have. It felt as vague as what had been in the press release. Remember? “’DC in D.C.,’ a landmark pop culture event that brings together the worlds of entertainment and public service to illuminate the story of America and current issues through the lens of comics and Super Heroes.” She basically said that. Once she was done, they quickly got the stage ready for the first panel.

The Art of the Matter: From Sketch to Screen

Moderator: Brian Truitt, writer USA Today

Panelists: Caity Lotz (actor, Legends of Tomorrow), Brandon Routh (actor, Legends of Tomorrow), Sarah Schechter (executive producer, Supergirl, The Flash, Arrow, Legends of Tomorrow, and Titans), Greg Berlanti (executive producer, Supergirl, The Flash, Arrow, Legends of Tomorrow, Black Lightning and Titans), Geoff Johns (President and Chief Creative Officer of DC Comics), Salim Akil (executive producer/showrunner, Black Lightning), Cress Williams (actor, Black Lightning), Danielle Panabaker (actor, The Flash)

The purpose of this panel was to discuss the ways in which the original DC characters are adapted into live action media, specifically television (I should point out that DC had a case of amnesia regarding their movies, as there were no movies clips in their presentation reels, nor any mention of the films throughout the event except during the Wonder Women panel). Some characters are a natural transition, while others are changed to more reflect the world around us.

Berlanti mentioned how the first five seasons of Arrow were basically the origin story of the island. Had it been a movie, that would’ve been a fifteen minute segment. So, he feels that television is a medium where you can showcase longer, richer storytelling.

Johns emphasized the need to be authentic and lean into the super aspects of these characters. He said that you need to embrace it and celebrate it rather than be ashamed of it. He told a story of an article he read as a child about the 90s The Flash TV series, starring John Wesley Shipp. Apparently a studio executive asked why he needed to be in a costume. “Couldn’t he just wear a gray jogging suit?” That’s why Johns insisted on the Grodd cage in The Flash early on. He wanted to give the audience a feel for what they were in for with this show.

Lotz said that we need heroes with everything going on right now, and that we need to be heroes. We all know what she’s talking about, but she wouldn’t pull the trigger and I know the WB execs’ anuses were clenched during those few minutes.

Williams does a great Bill Woodson impression, saying that he would wake up on Saturday mornings to tune in to “Meanwhile, at the Hall of Justice…”

Akil says he’s probably the “angriest Black man in Hollywood”, and that he’s a very sensitive person, so the state of the world affects him every day. He said he can’t help but put it in his work because he feels blessed by the opportunity that’s been presented to him. He simply feels an obligation to put that all in his work.

Berlanti related to Akil, in saying that he’s an out gay man, so it colors everything that he does. He talked about deciding to make the character Mr. Terrific gay on Arrow, who isn’t gay in comics. He jokingly said that when he first heard the name “Mr. Terrific”, he said “That’s a WONDERFUL name for a gay man!” He, then, discussed changing existing characters and creating new ones in finding the right balance for representation.

Due to the panel running a bit behind schedule, there were only about two questions asked by audience members, but nothing notable enough that I wrote them down.

In all, it was a really great discussion with some of the stars and creatives behind the hit CW TV shows. That said, considering it was billed as following the transition from sketch to screen, I would’ve liked a bit more comic representation on the panel. Sure, Johns was there, but a couple more writers would have made things interesting. Maybe talk about how the live action portrayal of certain characters may have, then, affected how they were depicted in the comics. It’s a two way street, with the comics as the source material for the live action adaptations, but the comics then experience some “reverb” from the live action. In any case, it was a good start to the day, and laid the groundwork for some of the bigger discussions that would occur as the day went on.

The Many Shades of Heroism: DC Heroes Through the African-American Lens

Moderator: David Betancourt, writer The Washington Post

Panelists: Candice Patton (actor, The Flash), John Ridley (executive producer, 12 Years A Slave), Mara Brock Akil (executive producer, Black Lightning), Cress Williams (actor, Black Lightning), Salim Akil (executive producer/showrunner, Black Lightning), Chris Chalk (actor, Gotham), Jamie Broadnax (blogger, founder of Black Girl Nerds), Denys Cowan (co-founder of Milestone Media), Alice Randall (professor, Vanderbilt University), David Harewood (actor, Supergirl)

OK, this is the panel where things really started to click. The panel opened with Williams saying that he desperately wanted to play a superhero, and that the list of possibilities for Black heroes was short. He said he was like, “Well, Luke Cage got taken. Oop, there goes Black Panther.” He actually hadn’t heard of Black Lightning until he read the script.

Salim Akil said that we use the term “authenticity” when we’re talking about the nuance of culture. Black culture is an integral part of American culture. He explained that, in the show, you’ll see what it’s like to be an African-American man in America. However, even if you take the “African-American” off, you’ll still see a MAN who just wants the best for his family and his community. And that’s where the story comes from. Black Lightning is just a dude who wants to do right by those around him. Akil said that’s the kind of man that he aspires to be.

Betancourt mentioned how the casting of Candice Patton as Iris West on The Flash was surely influential in the casting of Kiersey Clemons as the character in the DCEU movies (her scenes were cut from Justice League). Patton said that she was honored, but that at the end of the day these characters exist to make money, and that she’s just glad the powers that be realized there was money to be made with her in that role. She said that there was a consumer base ready for her, and that representation matters. She capped it off by saying that Black women need that platform to feel beautiful and smart.

The day before the panel, it was announced that Ridley would be working on a secret DC project, called The Other History of the DC Universe. Of course it was too early for him to be able to discuss any details about the project. Still, he started by thanking DC and Warner Bros for this experience, as not enough of these events happen anywhere – not just DC. He was glad to know they were treating the Black Lightning premiere with such weight. Discussing his comic The American Way, he discussed a story where Lyndon Johnson felt that if one astronaut was a Black man it would diffuse a lot of conversations that were being had at the time. Ridley said the space program was agitprop against the Russians. He said how, before Obama, you knew a movie was science fiction because they’d cast a Black president. He said it’s amazing to have lived long enough to see Black Lightning presented to everyone as mainstream entertainment. He talked about how he experienced pulling Black Lightning out of his comic bag as a young boy, and said this was akin to how some folks never saw Star Wars in a theater. Likewise, they will never know the experience of being that little boy, who now sees that representation on screen.

Cowan said that he wasn’t used to seeing Black superheroes where they weren’t being made fun of (See: Meteor Man). Other than Static Shock, there haven’t been other Black heroes leading shows. Someone mentions Steel. Cowan answered, “I like Shaquille, but…nah.” Cowan credits fellow Milestone Media co-founder Dwayne McDuffie with pointing out how they needed to open up the industry to diverse voices when they were starting Milestone, and that it’s important for a new generation to do that.

Randall was introduced as a professor at Vanderbilt University. She said that the folks on the panel are working in the footsteps of DuBois, “helping to create the text that makes sure our reality is better in the future”. While her role with Milestone 2.0 is unknown, she said she brings Black Girl Magic to the project. She said that you see what isn’t there and then you create it. Milestone is not meant to be racist but rather universal. They’re trying to “make the tent bigger”.

Broadnax explained the importance of social media in giving a voice to fans of color. Black Lightning‘s hashtag is #GetLit. The Black Girl Nerds Twitter presence has empowered folks to pick up a comic book, and provides the power to connect with one another. She says it’s a big deal to see yourself reflected in something in media.

Chalk plays Lucius Fox on Gotham, who’s a younger, less experienced Fox than we’re used to from Morgan Freeman’s portrayal in the Nolan trilogy. H said there’s freedom in his role because it’s an unexplored time in Batman’s life. He called it the “accidental activism” of being a Black character on screen with no powers. He’d never been a part of something like this, as “12 Years A Slave and Underground keep you from sleeping at night because it’s depressing”. He discussed how Lucius is just “a smartass Black dude” and it’s a refreshing role.

Harewood plays Martian Manhunter AND Cyborg Superman on Supergirl. He pointed out that he was the only Black Englishman in the room, and that when he was growing up the only Black heroes who looked like him were American. He said it was amazing to be there, and that being in America with those excellent Black creatives, on that particular weekend, meant the world to him. He discussed how J’onn is a shapeshifter but chooses to be Black. It was struck by the fact that one of the most powerful people on the planet stands with those who fight injustice.

Somewhat surprisingly, the first question came from a young White woman, who asked how much race will be a factor in Black Lightning since it’s subtle in The Flash. She also asked Patton if she liked the approach that The Flash took with that, or did she wish things were discussed more head on. Patton said that she and costar Jesse Martin have discussed it and that it’s tricky. She said she would need Black writers to handle that carefully. She added that she wonders what it was like for Barry to grow up in a Black family. Said he can probably dance and probably loves her fried chicken (crowd laughed). In the end, she said the race stuff is hard for a show like The Flash, because it’s Barry’s story, which makes her even more excited for Black Lightning.

Next up, a young Black woman said she’s thankful to see Williams representing a powered Black hero. She just wanted to thank them all for being there.

It was a great panel. It was a powerful panel. Betancourt employed an efficient style to keep the panel on schedule, where he really only gave each panelist one shot at having their say. They all said some variation of “Representation matters, and this is what I’m doing to contribute to it”.

I will say, however, that DC kinda stacked the deck with this panel. I mean, everyone was at the event to support the debut of Black Lightning, based on DC’s first Black hero to star in his own ongoing comic title. The panel was comprised of Black creatives who discussed what the character and representation meant to them. Patton even mentioned how she would need Black writers to carefully handle nuanced storylines about race. Well, here’s where it gets tricky: Black Lightning was created by Tony Isabella, a White man – one, might I add, who’s still alive. Now, most minority characters were created by White men “back in the day”, so this is nothing new. It was odd, though, how they never even mentioned him for the sake of the narrative. As far as we were concerned, Black Lightning was a Black hero of nebulous origins, being brought to the small screen oozing with Blackness courtesy of the creative team behind Girlfriends and The Game. They were treating Black Lightning like a wrestler from “Parts Unknown”. While the panel was exploring heroism through the “African American lens”, I think it would’ve been interesting to have heard Isabella’s motivation for creating the character, as well as where he drew inspiration for the character. To me, his absence was suspect. At first I thought maybe he had a prior engagement. Then, later that night as I was searching the event hashtags on social media, he was present at the Smithsonian premiere party! So, it gives the feeling that DC “kept him under wraps” so as not to undermine the Blackness of what they were there to celebrate. Just my two cents on that one.

Wonder Women

Moderator: ? I kinda got involved in Twitter when they announced her name, and the audio went out at this point on the livestream, so it seems a lot of folks don’t know her name. I believe she’s an E! News correspondent? She mentioned she had just flown in from LA…

Panelists: Candice Patton (actor, The Flash), Caity Lotz (actor, Legends of Tomorrow), Danielle Panabaker (actor, The Flash), Camren Bicondonva (actor, Gotham), Jessica Lucas (actor, Gotham), Erin Richards (actor, Gotham), Sarah Schechter (executive producer, Supergirl, The Flash, Arrow, Legends of Tomorrow, and Titans), Julie Benson (comic writer, Batgirl and the Birds of Prey), Shawna Benson (comic writer, Batgirl and the Birds of Prey), Mariko Tamaki (comic writer, Supergirl: Being Super), Shea Fontana (comic writer, DC Super Hero Girls), Agnes Garbowska (comic artist, DC Super Hero Girls)

This was an interesting panel from the start because it was apparent that the moderate was out of her comfort zone. Unlike Truitt and Betancourt who clearly had a familiarity with the industry and the source material, this woman really didn’t know much at all. My friend and I joked that if she had ever even read it a comic book, it’s because E! gave her one to read on the plane out here. Plus, she introduced each woman by complimenting something about their appearance, be it their shoes, clothes, or hair. she was basically pulling a red carpet “Who are you wearing?” at a panel about women’s empowerment. Yay, feminism? While she was engaging and upbeat, she didn’t know what she was getting herself into. I bet she originally felt it would be something of a fluff piece, where they would drool over how cool the Wonder Woman film was, but she was met with a panel of strong, opinionated women who weren’t there for that. In fact, my friend pointed out that there was a point midway through the panel where it became apparent that Schechter had essentially taken over the moderator job, as the panelists began to look to her before answering the moderator’s questions.

The panel started out by stating that 53% of comic readers are women, though you wouldn’t know it by their lack of strong representation in the books. The moderator asked if this increased readership for women was the result of the success of the Wonder Woman film, but the panel quickly corrected her and told her that “women have always been here”. For the first half of things, the questions were fairly comics-centric, which led the TV stars to be pretty silent on the panel. We learned that the Bensons grew up reading their father’s Silver Age comics, so they’ve been lifelong fans. The moderator asked the comics professionals how they did their best without alienating fans. It was a softball that felt like that Barbie doll that used to say “Math is hard”. Tamaki replied, saying that if the fans don’t like the new stuff, there’s always the retro stories for them to fall back on. Otherwise, you can’t let that fear hold you back.

Next, the moderator asked everyone how they felt after seeing Wonder Woman, and also asked if they felt we might be “hanging our hat” too much on the film’s popularity. The panel disagreed with that sentiment, with Lotz explaining how she felt leaving the theater. She said she looked around, saying “I could crush YOU, and I could crush YOU!” She said it felt amazing and that it must be how men felt all the time.

Lucas discussed how she originally felt some sort of pressure to make her Gotham character more likable, but then realized that there was freedom in that, and that the character was still representation for somebody out there.

Bicondova said that social media is helping folks to become more understanding and interconnected, and that Wonder Woman and the characters that they portray have become more popular because of it.

The moderator then said that a male friend of hers told her that he had a problem taking Wonder Woman seriously. He said that female heroes are more cerebral than strong. Panel disagrees. They say that her friend needs to watch some of their shows. Females can be anything. Bicondova mentioned how when she got the role of Selina Kyle, she got a lot of online backlash about how wrong Gotham got things (Sidenote: She seems very young. Might be her first panel?). She said she gets a lot of questioning about the writing and acting – which is interesting considering that she just a few minutes prior said that she felt social media was causing people to be more understanding. She asked the panel if that’s something see should get used to. They didn’t give her an affirmative answer, but it was clear that their answer was “yes”.

Tamaki said “realism” isn’t something they think about in a medium where you’re making people fly. She said change comes with conflict and that you have to resist.

The moderator, then, asks a very E! question: did the actors feel that the costumes that they wear serve to undermine their strength and feminism. Bicondova said “feminism” is that you can kick butt and wear what you want. Shechter chimed in, and mentioned how they added the skirt to Supergirl’s costume when designing her suit for the show. Lotz said that as long as she’s not a plot device to move the male character along, she doesn’t care what she’s wearing. Women are more than what they wear.

Patton added that what matters is the fact that women are the heroes of their own stories. Women are making choices now, which makes folks uncomfortable because that’s not the “feminine way”. She said women are now stepping up and saying, “Thanks for your input, but I decide”.

The Gotham actors brought up a scene where they were supposed to torture someone while in their underwear. An executive called the actors and asked how they felt about it, but were fine with them saying no. They emphasized that Warner Bros is a supportive environment, and that it’s important to have that second voice/other women in the costume fitting, in the writers room, etc. Shechter added that the best part of working in TV is the continued collaboration with the actor, as the actors grow into their roles and know them better than anyone else.

As for the comics, the Bensons mentioned they’ve asked for clothes to be functional when talking to artists for Batgirl and the Birds of Prey. They ask for cleavage to be toned down, etc. The comics pros discussed the Power Girl “boob window”, and how it has meaning because it undermines the strength of a woman as she’s doing kick-ass things. When designing DC Super Hero Girls, all the girls wear flats because fighting in heels makes no sense.

Patton then mentioned that she agreed with the last panel in that her role as Iris is “accidental activism”. She got into it to pay her rent but now she’s become a voice for girls who look like her. She said her heroes were White and blonde but it felt outside of herself (Lotz, sitting next to her as a blonde White woman, began flipping her hair. The crowd got a good laugh out of that). Patton she would never get those parts but would end up the best friend of the Pretty White Girl. She said that, for the first time, she IS the Pretty White Girl. The moderator (herself a Black woman) was quick to correct her by saying,”Well, pretty Brown girl”, which kinda knocked the wind out of the sails of what Patton had just conveyed. Schechter jumped in, adding that the hashtah she sees on Twitter is #keepirisblack, and that comes back to the need for representation.

The moderator, then, asked if they have they seen a more inclusive nature in Hollywood? Schechter said she still sees a lot of problems with wage inequality. What’s first step in correcting it? Lotz said that if folks on other side of the table don’t value you, they’ll just move on to the next woman. Negotiators have to value women as much as women value themselves. Schechter said it’s about breaking precedent. Lotz and Patton live together and have open discussions about pay. They said they can’t fight the fight without their male comrades, and that they need to be transparent about their pay, too. They said it’s about those with power lifting up those without. Panebaker added that the Time’s Up movement is important because it’s about coming together.

Standing up for her employer, Schechter ended the discussion portion by saying that Warner Bros and DC have an emphasis on equality, and that the good people have to be applauded, too.

Q&A

A little girl dressed as Wonder Woman asked “If you could have a superhero what would it be?” Based on her age, it wasn’t really clear, so they interpreted it as “If you could have a superpower what would it be?”The popular answer from most of the panel: fly, because LA traffic sucks.

A woman pointed out that to Patton that Iris isn’t scientific amongt all of these scientists, and asked how important is it to her that she’s a Black, non powered character who’s just as important as the heroes? Patton answered that she thinks it’s important in all hero stories to have characters who aren’t heroes. She doesn’t have to be a super scientist to have value. Iris has tremendous power and value.

Another young woman asked if there will be a chance for Lotz and Patton to work together since it was recently reported that Wally West would be appearing on Legends of Tomorrow. Either this was news to the panel, or they weren’t at liberty to say anything, but they didn’t seem too optimistic about the prospect.

A visibly nervous young woman asked “How does facing women’s issues inform your portrayal of your characters? Conversely how does your portrayal empower you in real life?” Richards responded that women are typically very supportive of each other and feels panels like these help her to reach out to other women that she’s representing them. Bicondova said she’s shy and introverted and feels Selina is the same but also manages to stand her ground. So Selina is her inspiration in faking confidence. She pointed out that we sometimes have to fake confidence to face certain situations.

The next woman mentioned the “Trial of The Flash” trailer. She noted that there’s so much power in Patton and Panebaker’s characters right now, so she wanted to know how that felt for them. They answered that the shows are lucky to have incredible casts, so it doesn’t always have to be a focus on the hero, but can focus on the supporting cast for them to have their moments as well.

Another woman asked Lotz “What was the process like getting into the head of Sara Lance?” She responded that Sara’s a bit if a tortured soul so it was a little bit of a dark time. She said she’s talked to a lot of fans who felt the same: irredeemable and guilty for what she’s done. When she gets past it, even if just a little bit, it’s powerful. She slips back and forth as it’s a constant work in progress, like it is with most people.

A woman who might have been of Middle Eastern descent thanked Lotz for the character of Zari that was added to Legends of Tomorrow this season. Lotz responded that Zari’s a terrific actress and a great human. The woman, then, asked “How does the atmosphere onset change when they get to team up instead of being only woman in the room?” There was a sigh of relief from panel. Lotz said they came together to run the set and to keep things moving, which was really empowering. She said that when you have someone in your corner, that IS power.

A teenage girl asked “What is Shethority?” This referred to the female empowerment brand that was established by the women of the DCTV universe. Lotz said they started getting together during the crossover and realized how important it was to have each other’s backs. They wanted to create a place that gave folks a sense of community and a place from which to pull strength. It’s a place to share stories, lift each other up, and share collective power.

There was a lone male who went up for a question on the other side of the auditorium. Because the line was longer on the opposite side, the moderator kept passing him over because those women had been waiting longer than he had. I thought he was going to give up, but he was persistent and patient, and I’m glad he was. He said that he was a father to a young girl, who has strong female role model in the form of her mother. Thanks to the panel, he said she’ll have even more strong role models. He asked if they had any advice for a dad who wants to raise a Wonder Woman? Someone said “Believe in her”, and that knowing enough to ask his question shows he’s on the right path. Lotz said he should challenge her and not assign typical gender roles. “Give her the confidence of a white man.” Bicondova seemed to get a bit choked up with her answer, saying she thinks dads are held to impossible standards (they shouldn’t cry, they have to be strong, etc), and as a girl she very much looked up to her dad. She said “It’s good to have your hero stand next to you just as well as above you. Let her know she can talk to you.”

For the final question, a woman asked Patton and Panebaker, “How do you include a strong, sexy vibe into your character without submitting to the male gaze?” They said “Strength and confidence.” Patton perfectly ended the panel, saying, “Sometimes I just tell them ‘That camera better not be on my butt!'”

While I missed the afternoon panels, from what I was able to see, I’d say Wonder Women was the most powerful in its interaction with the audience, as well as for what it meant to those in attendance. While the same might’ve been said about the Many Shades of Heroism panel, the lack of a real Q&A period didn’t allow the audience to really share in the experience with the panelists. This panel was packed with strong women who didn’t come for a fluff panel, in spite of a moderator who constantly tried to make it entertaining rather than informative. I feel it was empowering to an audience of women who appreciated the representation these women provided, and in many ways was probably inspirational to a few of them. When the Q&A portion occurred, there were several who clearly weren’t comfortable speaking in public, yet they struggled and succeeded in finding their voice to get their questions out to the panel.

What easily could’ve been a “Wow, wasn’t Wonder Woman so cool?!” panel turned into a very informative hour about gender pay equity, advocating on your own behalf, and the power of strength in numbers. It was when this panel ended that I thought, “Oh, I get it now” in terms of the purpose of the weekend. While DC and Warner Bros didn’t effectively convey it in the publicity and the marketing, this panel is what the weekend was all about: the fact that WB/DC have not only acknowledged the need for representation of various backgrounds and viewpoints, but also went the next step in bringing that representation to meet with the very people they were representing. With that in mind, I’d say that, despite any organization hiccups or seeming lack of preparation, the weekend was a success in that it achieved its goal. I believe everyone in that auditorium not only enjoyed the event, but also left feeling better for having been in attendance. DC has been saying that this is the first event of its kind, so I’m sure its success (or lack there of) will decide if there are any future events of this nature. I truly hope there is a “next time” because, once they iron out some of the kinks, they could have quite the enjoyable and empowering fan experience on their hands.

DC livestreamed the event on YouTube if you want to see the panels for yourself.

Anyway, that concludes my reporting on #DCinDC2018. Thanks for joining me this week, and be sure to come back tomorrow for my recap of the week’s big pop culture topics in West Week Ever!

17th Jan2018

DC in D.C. 2018: One Fanboy’s Quest To Gain Access To A Mysterious Comics Event

by Will

So if you follow me on Twitter, you’ve probably seen me using the #DCinDC2018 hashtag a bunch over the past couple of days. I’m sure you wondered what it meant, as it seemingly came out of nowhere, and to do a Twitter search on it wouldn’t yield many results until midday Saturday. If you want to know what it was all about, take a seat, as ol’ Uncle Will is gonna learn ya something. Ya see, it really did come out of nowhere, almost a month ago to the day. Back on December 14th, Warner Bros Television Group & DC Entertainment issued a press release announcing “DC in D.C. on MLK Weekend”, described as “a landmark pop culture event that brings together the worlds of entertainment and public service to illuminate the story of America and current issues through the lens of comics and Super Heroes”. Kind of exciting, but kind of vague, right? It went on to say,

“DC in D.C.” brings together stars and producers from Warner Bros. Television’s DCTV series, as well as comic book writers and artists from DC Entertainment, who will join invited guests from politics, government service, entertainment, business, academia and more. The event will explore the intersection of comic books, culture, entertainment and enlightenment through a series of panel discussions open to the public.”

I still wasn’t getting a ton of information out of that blurb. I mean, was it a convention? Or was it a festival? Would it cost anything? On top of the panels, there would also be appearances by DCTV cast members, as well as some world premiere screenings. OK, I’m listening. The event would take place at the Newseum which, as a native Washingtonian, is one of the few museum’s I’ve never visited. So, without even really knowing what I was getting myself into, I was determined to take advantage of DC Comics planning to show up in my back yard. This is my account of how I achieved that goal.

First of all, let’s talk about that press release. It was released one month before the festivities, so it gives the appearance that this was a hastily thrown together event. I mean, anyone who wanted to attend only had a month to make arrangements and get tickets, and the organizers were NOT making that easy. The dcindc2018.com URL had been acquired, but all it did was redirect you to the press release. The release specifically said to check that site for more information, but nothing was ever updated except to later add links to Eventbrite for the panel tickets (more on that later). It did list the anticipated guests, as well as the panel topics and meeting times, but it failed to truly answer a few poignant questions, like Why is this event happening?

From what I could gather, there were 3 core pieces to the weekend’s festivities: the Batman: Gotham By Gaslight animated feature premiere on Friday night, the slate of discussion panels during the day on Saturday, and the new DCTV series Black Lightning sneak peek/premiere Saturday night. The release really leaned into the fact that this was taking place over MLK weekend, but why did that matter? Well, a new show starring a Black hero, debuting over MLK weekend? It’s a little on the nose, but I get it. I mean, the cynical side of me says that DC wanted to get the jump on Marvel with a Black hero of their own before Black Panther takes the world by storm. I can’t be mad at that.

We were encouraged to follow the various DC accounts on social media, but I can’t recall any major updates from them regarding the event. When tickets were finally made available (I was able to get mine on 12/22), there was no fanfare. I randomly popped on the site at 1 AM, and snagged a ticket to every panel. Yes, this was designed more like a carnival than a convention; at a carnival you have to get a ticket for each ride, but a convention allows you to pay one price for access to pretty much everything. Oh, but did I mention that tickets were free? Yeah, that was a nice little surprise. Anyway, I can’t say that I saw any DC account on social media say “Tickets to DC in D.C. 2018 are now available!” Those accounts did, however, tout the fact that extra tickets had been released for certain panels (the day before the event), but there was nothing posted for that initial release.

The whole event almost became something of a local secret. “Psst! Hey! Did you get your tickets to DC in D.C.?”And half the time that query was met with blank stares. You’d be hard pressed to find someone who knew that it was happening. If you did find someone familiar with it, they were just as in the dark about the details as you were. By New Year’s Day, with tickets acquired, the website still hadn’t been updated. Were all of the announced guests still coming? Would there be a signing schedule for the celebrities? If you were hoping to get that information from the website, you’d be out of luck.

Remember the Black Lightning premiere? Well, that was another point of confusion, as the release mentioned a sneak peek screening of the pilot that would be taking place at the Newseum, but there was also a fancy, schmancy red carpet premiere at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History, to be followed by an after party at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture. The sneak peek tickets were issued via Eventbrite, just like the ones for the panels, but the fancier event was by invitation only. Ugh! This being Washington, I feared those invitations would go to a bunch of local political muckety mucks who didn’t care a thing about comics. Who was getting invited? How could someone get invited? I guess it’s one of those things where if you have to ask then you’re already out of luck, but I don’t give up that easily. It was time to try that “networking” thing folks are always going on about.

One of the publicists from Warner Bros Television and I have followed each other on Twitter for quite a few years now. I can’t remember if we’ve ever interacted, but she used to favorite my tweets every now and then. She was also listed on the press release, so I felt she would be able to answer any questions that I might have. I fired off a message, asking for clarification on the Black Lightning screening situation. Keep in mind, I didn’t ask for anything, nor did I expect to receive anything except a response. I mean, I was pretty sure I was going to be blown off, but I thought I’d get some kind of blanket “Sorry, but all invitations have already gone out” response. Instead, I got nothing. Whatever. I’m not important in the world of public relations. I get that. So, I did a search of the #DCinDC2018 hashtag, and I saw a woman tweeting the Black Lightning publicist, begging for tickets. I was going to take a different approach, so I just messaged the same questions I had asked the other publicist. Again, no response. I mentioned on Twitter that I wonder if I didn’t get a response due to my Twitter avatar (it’s me in a bunch of Marvel garb). Guess I was going to have to figure this out on my own…

Fast forward to last week – With the event merely days away, the WB PR folks hadn’t replied to me, and I didn’t have any more information about the weekend than I’d had a month ago. I checked the hashtags, and there was no real news. Just some minor chatter, and that same woman, begging the publicist for tickets. Then, on Thursday, my friend sent me a link to tickets for comic creator signings. See, there’d been so much emphasis on the TV stars that they had somewhat glossed over the fact that fan favorite comic creators Jim Lee and Geoff Johns were coming to town. I had noticed their names on the release instantly, and one of my goals for the weekend was to get something signed by them (or, at the very least, get a selfie). I figured they would be signing at some point, but DC never released a signing schedule as publishers are wont to do for conventions. So, imagine my surprise to find out that they were using the same system for signings that they used for panels: you had to hop on Eventbrite and pray you got lucky. Current Batman writer, Tom King, was coming to the event, and that was the link that my friend had sent me. Of course by that point all the tickets were listed as “sold out”. It dawned on me: if they’re doing tickets for King, then there are probably tickets for Lee and Johns. So, after some Google Fu, I was able to find those Eventbrite pages and, of course, they were “sold out”. HOW?! There hadn’t even been any publicity around them. At that point, the DC Comics Twitter account hadn’t even announced the signings. I was beginning to feel like the whole thing was just one big mismanaged enterprise and, while I had tickets to the panels, my enthusiasm for the weekend was beginning to wane. I adopted the mantra I would fall back on several times over the weekend: “Yes, it’s a mess, but at least it’s FREE.”

Discouraged that it didn’t seem like a Lee/Johns signing was in my future, I turned my focus to the Batman: Gotham By Gaslight screening Friday night. By this point they had added another Lee signing, which the social accounts were actually promoting, but tickets flew for those, too. So while the event was actually kicked off by Friday night’s screening, they managed to schedule a signing at 3 PM that afternoon. When people have work. I didn’t care – I’d have blown it off had I gotten a ticket. Anyway, I mention that to point out that the event hadn’t truly started by the time I arrived to the Newseum at 5:30 last Friday evening. Once there, I checked out the DC in D.C. Pop-Up Shop located immediately outside the Newseum, which was stocked with souvenirs like Funko Pops of DC characters, as well as the Top 50 Bestselling DC trade paperbacks and graphic novels. Oddly enough, while nobody could be bothered to update the website, they did manage to crank out an announcement about the Pop-Up. They had created some exclusive t-shirts for the event, and I had my sights set on a particular one. Still, before the event had officially begun, they had somehow already run out of ANY t-shirt sizes bigger than a large, and they had run out of bags. Womp womp. The guy manning the register wasn’t even sure if they would be restocking the next day. As a consolation prize, I bought the Black Lightning: Year One collection, as it was pretty much the only book they had that I didn’t already own. Between this and the signings ticket fiasco, I was really not feeling the lack of preparation on display. But remember, Will: “Yes, it’s a mess, but at least it’s FREE.” Things were about to turn around once my friend and I got inside the Newseum.

courtesy of @lofthouse555 on Instagram

After standing in line for a bit, we were greeted by lines of waitstaff holding trays of water, red, and white. I’m not a drinker by any stretch of the imagination, but I jumped at that Chardonnay. It would be the first of many. I’ll hand it to Warner Bros in that they put together a wonderful spread for the pre-screening reception: Open bar, as well as hors d’oeuvres of mini open-faced cheeseburgers and bacon-wrapped cheese, and more. The strategies we were all employing to get that food would make you think we’d never had a meal.

I made it to six Chardonnays. When the movie started, I was more than ready for it. They even gave us popcorn and snacks. I was a BIG fan of DC/WB at that point. It was a great film, so be sure to check it out when it becomes available on digital on January 23rd. I was feeling really good by this point; I was looking forward to the next day’s festivities, and crossing my fingers that they’d receive a shipment of larger shirts.

When I got home Friday night, I checked Twitter, and there was a local woman who was asking if anyone had extra tickets. When it came to the panel schedule, it was as follows:

10:00–10:45 a.m. The Art of the Matter: From Sketch to Screen
11:00–11:45 a.m. The Many Shades of Heroism: DC Heroes Through the African-American Lens
12:00 p.m.–12:45 p.m. Wonder Women
2:00–2:45 p.m. The Pride of DC: The Art of LGBTQ Inclusion
3:00–3:45 p.m. The Aftermath: Battle & Trauma in Comics

While I had gotten tickets to them all, my interest in some of them actually waned as time wore on. I knew I wanted to see the first 2, was waffling on the next 2, but wanted to see Tom King’s, which was the last one. Since she really seemed to want to go, I gave her my ticket to the Wonder Women panel. I didn’t really have much of a plan for Saturday, but I had finally gotten tickets to the Black Lightning sneak peek (not the fancy invite-only one) earlier in the day, thanks to a tip from a stranger on Twitter, so I felt I should pay it forward. So, while I’d had a great time at the screening, some part of me was already checking out of the whole thing.

The next morning, I got to the Newseum for the first panel, only to find two lines wrapped around the building. No one seemed to know the difference in the lines, nor did they want to lose their spot to fight out. It was to start at 10, but we were still lined up in the cold at 9:50. Once inside, it was a far cry from the night before. We had to empty our pockets and go through security checkpoints. They hurriedly put wristbands on us, and said that we would have to exit the auditorium after each panel. Make a note of that point. I’ll cover the panels in detail tomorrow, so don’t worry about them right now. Just know that there were quite a few empty seats in that first panel. So, I guess it shouldn’t have come as much of a surprise when, following the first panel, they announced “In order to keep the schedule running on time, please feel free to remain in your seats for the next panel.” They would repeat this message following all of the morning panels. They flipped the script. Instead of actually needing a ticket for each panel, you really just needed one to get in the building. Once in, you didn’t have to leave. Oh, and they were also granting us free admission to the rest of the Newseum, which is something they really could’ve told us sooner in order to plan the day accordingly. I began to wonder if the signings, which were taking place in the lobby at the same time, had also given up on enforcing tickets. I wouldn’t find out, though, as I ended up staying for the Wonder Women panel and the signings had ended by the time it let out.

I had run into some friends over the course of the morning, and it was good catching up with them. Once the lunch break occurred, a few of us decided to just go get lunch and decide whether or not we cared about the remaining panels. I checked out the Pop-Up again and they had restocked on bags and shirts, yet were now out of anything bigger than a medium. I never really intended to wear the shirt; I just wanted a souvenir of the occasion, so I grabbed a random size and bought it. While in line, some folks behind me were asking the shop employees how they could get tickets to get inside to the event. There was a father and son trying to get in, so I gave the dad my ticket to the LGBTQ panel, telling him that it seemed like he just needed it to get in, and he’d be set for everything else. This left me with only the Tom King “Battle & Trauma” ticket, but I didn’t feel like having to kill time until it started, and then have to kill time until the Black Lightning screening. So I offered that panel ticket up on Twitter, but nobody took me up on it. After lunch, my friends and I just decided to head home, so I eventually offered the Black Lightning ticket up on Twitter, as well, to no takers. By that point, those not in attendance were split into two camps: “What is this thing that’s going on anyway?” and “I’ve already given up on trying to find out more about this”. My offer was simply too little, too late. Plus, it was cold as Hell, which was probably a deterrent for some. Anyway, my DC in D.C. 2018 experience ended not with a bang, but with a whimper.

Epilogue

Late Saturday night, I hopped on Twitter after the Black Lightning premiere had finished. I checked the #DCinDC2018 hashtag, and was greeted by a flood of selfies and pics taken at the Smithsonian premiere party. As I scrolled down my timeline, something caught my eye: the stranger who had tipped me off about the Black Lightning tickets being available had managed to get a selfie with Legends of Tomorrow star, Caity Lotz. I thought that was pretty cool, as I kept scrolling. Then something else stopped me dead in my tracks. Remember that woman who had been begging the WB publicist for tickets? Well, there she was on the timeline, all dressed up, AT THE PREMIERE PARTY. Her incessant pestering had worked! The publicist had gotten back to her (this was publicist #2 to ignore me, mind you) and she even hashtagged it #dreamsdocometrue. Well, good for her. I guess I know what to do if there’s a next time. There were a lot of hoops and obstacles during this whole process, but at least it was free…

Anyway, that’s far from my final thoughts on the weekend. Tune in tomorrow for my final installment, where I’ll get into detail about the panels, as well as discuss how they colored my feelings on the event as a whole. I’ll answer some questions you probably have, like “Well, did you enjoy it?” and “What could they have done better?” Teaser: Contrary to what you just read, it was an overall enjoyable weekend, content-wise. I honestly had a good time, in spite of the seeming lack of organization’s best efforts to thwart that. Tomorrow we’ll get into the panel content that made the event so special.

16th Jan2018

Batman: Gotham By Gaslight – A Strong Adaptation of a DC Comics Classic

by Will

So, this week we’re going to be talking about the DC Comics local “pop-up event” DC in DC 2018, and those festivities kicked off last Friday with the world premiere screening of the latest animated offering from Warner Bros Home Entertainment, Batman: Gotham By Gaslight. Screened at the Newseum, in Washington, DC, the film adapts the 1989 classic Batman tale by Brian Augustyn and Hellboy creator Mike Mignola.

When it comes to alternate Earths and universes, nobody does it better than DC Comics. In fact, they popularized the squarebound “prestige format” of books with their Elseworlds imprint, which focused on non-canon, imaginary tales set on different Earths. The very first of these was Gotham By Gaslight, and offered fans something they’d never seen in its story of a Victorian era Batman chasing down Jack the Ripper. It’s a visually striking tale that showed fans what characters were capable of when taken out of their “natural” element. Still, despite its popularity, I never would’ve pegged Warner Bros to adapt it into an animated feature – especially not as the third R-rated feature in the DC Universe Animated Original Movies franchise.

I have an interesting history with the DC Comics Warner Bros Home Entertainment releases. When they first started, I was pretty underwhelmed. The series was kicked off with Superman: Doomsday, which clocked in at a scant 77 minutes, which made it seem more like Superman took a nap rather than *died*. Still, as the movies kept coming out, they got increasingly better at using the abridged runtime efficiently. I religiously bought them whenever they were released, even before I’d had time to see the one that had come out previously. From Justice League: New Frontier to Batman: Year One, I was an avid collector of those movies. I eventually looked at my unwatched DVD pile, though, and decided to take a bit of a break. I’d later come back when they started to weave New 52 continuity into the films following Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox. While I’ve been a casual viewer of the newer stuff, I still seem to find myself present for the big events. I went to a limited theatrical screening of Batman: The Killing Joke, and I found myself in the Newseum for this screening. All of this is to say that I love the DCAO output, but I’ve become more restrained with my fandom in recent years. When In saw that the premiere screening was happening locally, though, I knew I had to see it.

I haven’t read Gotham By Gaslight in over 20 years, so you could say that I went into the film with fresh eyes. Hell, let’s be honest here: as iconic as it is, I couldn’t remember the ins and outs of the story, other than “Batman fights Jack the Ripper”. I used to be quite the student of the Jack the Ripper phenomenon, even taking a tour of that vicinity when I was in London. At a certain point in my life, the idea of my favorite hero tracking down my favorite villain fired on all cylinders. Still, life happens, time passes, and we forget things. So, I sat down in the Newseum and hoped what I saw onscreen would refresh my memory. It did not, but we’ll get to that later.

When the film started I noticed that the animation was serviceable, yet it didn’t “wow” me. It’s not on the level of Batman: Mystery of the Batwoman, which was a decidedly low point for Warner Bros Animation, but it didn’t seem as strong as what we’ve gotten in recent WBHE releases. I think part of the issue is that it was meant to emulate a certain style instead of the regular “house” style that the New 52 animation releases have stuck to. After all, the original story was drawn by Mignola, and the animation was trying to capture that. During the Q&A after the film, DC Animated Universe (DCAU) architect/producer Bruce Timm said that they’d approached Mignola to take a pass on the animation designs, but that he had taken a pass, wanting to see what someone with fresh eyes would bring to the production. So, instead, they opted for a style that was something of a Mignola callback. Those “fresh eyes”, however, were somewhat lackluster, and there’s a sense of laziness to the character designs. Other than Wayne, every other male is just a stocky White guy with a thick mustache. In that same Q&A, Timm alluded to a tight production timeline, saying “Thank God for facial hair.”

At the beginning of the film, a dancing showgirl, immediately recognizable as Poison Ivy, ends her shift with a gentleman from the audience. As she’s about to take him someplace they can be alone, she finds out she got more than she bargained for, becoming the Ripper’s latest victim. As Gotham braces for this new crime wave, their native son, Bruce Wayne, has just returned from Europe and is getting reacclimated to his hometown. His return happens to occur at the same time a masked vigilante makes his debut, and sets his sights on the one who’s been killing the women of Gotham. This sets off a game of cat and mouse between Batman and the Ripper, while incorporating familiar characters in new roles, such as Robins Dick, Tim, and Jason as street urchins, as well as Dr. Leslie Thompkins as the nun in charge of the local charity. Harvey Dent and Selina Kyle are also prominently featured in the story.

It’s the voice cast that really brings this movie to life. Bruce Greenwood reprises his roles as Bruce Wayne & Batman, having played them in the Young Justice TV series. A lot of my generation tends to look at Greenwood as the Great Value Kevin Conroy, which isn’t really fair to him. He does a great job aping Conroy’s style, while also bringing his own touch to both Wayne and Batman. This is a younger Wayne, who’s not quite comfortable in his role as Batman yet. According to the folks at the Q&A, Bruce is pretending to be Batman throughout the movie, and doesn’t truly become him until the end. Meanwhile, Dexter‘s Jennifer Carpenter is excellent as Selina Kyle, while Buffy The Vampire Slayer‘s Anthony Head brings gravitas to the role of Alfred Pennyworth. The cast is rounded out by animation superstars Tara Strong, John DiMaggio, Yuri Lowenthal, and Grey Griffin. At times, you forget you’re watching an animated feature, as they really pull you into the story.

Remember how I said that the movie didn’t refresh my memory of the comic? Well, that’s because the film is very different from the book.  I didn’t realize just how different until the movie ended, and I hopped on Wikipedia while the folks were lining up for the Q&A session. I’m talking different characters, different villains, different ending. Don’t pass this by just because you think you know what’s going to happen because you don’t. Personally, none of the changes bothered me, but that’s because I had forgotten most of the original story. That didn’t mean I wasn’t along for all the twists and turns, as I thoroughly enjoyed where the story went.

So, at the end of the day, Batman: Gotham By Gaslight is an entertaining and thrilling adaptation, using the classic story as its springboard. If you’re looking for that original story here, then you might be disappointed. If you go in with an open mind, however, and take the story for what it is, you’re in for a real treat. Due to the lack of intense detail in the animation, seeing it on the big screen might’ve done a disservice to the final product. That said, I think a reasonably sized screen, during a home viewing, will deliver a tighter, sleeker presentation. I know this was a special presentation for the DC in DC 2018 event, but I think this production will be more at home on DVD/Blu Ray.

Batman: Gotham By Gaslight will be available digitally on January 23rd, followed by DVD/Blu Ray on February 6th.

 

12th Jan2018

West Week Ever: Pop Culture In Review – 1/12/18

by Will

Welcome to the future! Or at least that’s what I could’ve said a week ago, when 2018 was still new. Anyway, I hope you read West YEAR Ever yesterday, but if you didn’t make sure you hit that post next so I get double the clicks!

HarassmentWatch(TM)

Some part of me naively thought that I’d be able to retire HarassmentWatch when 2017 ended. I mean, surely those powerful men had learned their lesson by now, right? Right? Well, 2 weeks into 2018 and they haven’t missed a beat. And I’ve got to say that this week’s revelations hit a little too close to home

  • Ben Vereen – That’s right, the Leading Player himself was accused of sexual misconduct during a local production of Hair in Florida back in 2015. Not only did he hug and kiss the female cast members without their consent, but he allegedly went as far as to strip naked on stage with the cast during an “acting exercise”. OK, duder. Anyway, he has since apologized to the cast via a statement on Twitter, but various theatrical groups are cutting ties with the Tony Award winner.
  • James Franco – Coming off the high of winning the Golden Globe for his film The Disaster Artist, Franco was ridiculed for wearing a “Time’s Up” pin in solidarity with the women who have been speaking out about sexual misconduct in Hollywood considering the fact that he’s been accused of sexual conduct by five different women. He has always seemed like a weird dude, so it’s not that surprising to me. He does, however, seem like the kind of person who doesn’t acknowledge/respect boundaries. Like, maybe he went into it in a non-malicious way, but totally overstepped his bounds with these women. I dunno. I’m not his lawyer, so it’s not my job to make excuses for him. All I’m saying is I’m not surprised.
  • Stan Lee – This one hit a little too close to home for me. I’m a horrible person because not only do I believe it, but some part of me is just shrugging his shoulders. Let me explain. The elder statesman of Marvel Comics is being accused by former nurses of groping them. Here’s where I’m like, “The dude’s 95! That’s just Harmless Dirty Old Man Shit.” But that’s where I would be wrong. Nothing makes that OK, and I’ve just been socialized to laugh it off. Ya know why? Because I think it’s hilarious to picture him wheeling himself around, pinching nurses’ butts and yelling “Excelsior!” each time he does it. Go ahead and picture it and tell me it doesn’t make you at least smirk! But that’s the wrong approach to take, and I will work towards being a less horrible person. Plus, things got a little dicier when it was reported that he also demanded oral sex in the shower. No, Stan, no! Then allegations came out that he asked for sex from a masseuse. So maybe he’s just as much of an evil wang dangler as the rest of these guys. Don’t meet your heroes, kids! At the moment, Lee is denying all of these allegations.
  • Paul Haggis Update – If you remember, Haggis had already been accused of sexual misconduct by one woman, and he countered by saying that he couldn’t have forced himself on her as she claimed because he was recovering from back surgery at the time. Well, some more have come forward. He’s an interesting case because he very well could be guilty, but there’s also a strong possibility that this is a Scientology hit job, as he’s become quite the enemy of the church since leaving the congregation year ago. Haggis’ ex-wife, Deborah Rennard, has come forward to defend him from the claims, saying that these reports are playing out in media reports and not in courts, and that they are damaging and dangerous because of that.

The 75th Annual Golden Globe Awards were Sunday night, and there was some controversy surrounding the fact that no female directors were nominated for Best Director. In fact, it was noted by some how Patty Jenkins didn’t get a nod for Wonder Woman. Now, let’s be real here: Wonder Woman is the best film of the DCEU, but it is NOT an “award winning” film. It’s an entertaining jaunt with a weak ass 3rd act surrounding the Ares reveal. I’ve spent some time thinking about why, exactly, the movie doesn’t work at that point, here’s what I’ve come up with.

At the end of the day, my problem comes down to the presence of Ares. If you ask me, he undermines an important part of the narrative. You see, when Diana first comes to Man’s World, she’s convinced that World War I is the doing of Ares, when the truth is that humanity ain’t shit. The fact that humanity ain’t shit proves the Amazons right and explains why they don’t want to interact with the world. Instead of Diana learning this harsh truth, however, yup it’s Ares who’s behind the war. Which then goes further to trivialize WWI itself. So instead of learning the truth about the reality of humanity she learns that the gods are still active and messing with the world. I feel like there’s a stronger story with her learning that the age of the gods has truly passed. But hey, there’s a sequel coming and, as someone online pointed out to me, there’s still a World War II, so she still has a chance to learn of man’s true nature.

Speaking of some stuff that’s unfair to women, get a load of this shit: When Kevin Spacey was recast with Christopher Plummer in the J. Paul Getty film All The Money In the World, director Ridley Scott stated in interviews that any reshoots would be done for free, for the sake of the art. Well, this week it was revealed that Michelle Williams received ONE PERCENT of what costar Mark Wahlberg received for the reshoots. Wahlberg reportedly earned $1.5 million, while Williams received less than $1,000. This is odd, considering Williams actually had higher billing on the film. To make things even more suspect, both actors are represented by the same agency – an agency that claims that their agents don’t talk to each other in situations like this.

So, now the story goes like this: apparently Wahlberg had costar approval in his contract, so he wouldn’t sign off on the Plummer casting unless he got what he wanted. Meanwhile, it seems like Williams was royally screwed by her representation, as they were the ones who were supposed to be acting in her best interest. Up until this point, the film was considered an awards shoe-in, but this new controversy isn’t doing it any favors in a lot of folks’ eyes. Scott is reportedly furious because he wasn’t involved in the money discussions, so he truly thought the actors were working gratis. Meanwhile, Wahlberg’s people are insisting “Our client never works for free”. Former MTV VJ Dave Holmes posted an excerpt from his book on Twitter about an interaction he’d had with Wahlberg years ago, where he told Holmes on multiple occasions, “You got to make sure they’re payin’ you, bro.” It seems like that’s his guiding mantra.

In other controversies, Roseanne revealed that her character, as well as John Goodman’s Dan Conner, would be Trump supporters in the revival of her sitcom. And with that, any interest I had in that show is gone. Let me explain, though. Folks are always saying we have to “separate the art from the artist”, but she’s dragging her views into the art. Nobody gave a shit about real life Roseanne being a Trump supporter because she’s been batshit crazy for the past few years. When she brings that into the show, however, it is a different thing. Folks seem to think this is a partisan issue when it’s not. Some have said “Well, if the Conners were Dems, this wouldn’t be an issue.” Folks aren’t upset that the Conners are conservative. They’re upset they’re TRUMP SUPPORTERS. There is a difference. There are smart Conservatives just like there’s dumb ones. The smart ones, however, don’t tend to support that guy.

Some feel like it’ll be played for laughs, where the parents clash with their more “woke” children, a la Last Man Standing. For some shows that works. I’m begging for the rumored King of the Hill reboot because Hank would have to decide whether he stands with his party or on his own. I can see him hating Trump, but Bobby loving him because he comes from the Hollywood complex that Bobby worships. That’s a story I’d love to see told. I don’t think this, however, really adds to the narrative of the Conners in a positive or interesting way.

It’s a new year, and Marvel can’t stop Marveling. I mean that in both good and bad ways. On the one hand, they announced a new Exiles series (do we really need one of those right now?), featuring fan favorite Valkyrie, as depicted by Tessa Thompson in Thor: Ragnarok, as a member of the team. Folks seemed to dig that. Then, not content to leave well enough alone, they announced Captain America #700, where Steve Rogers awakens from the ice, again, as a man out of time, again. Oh, and he becomes King Captain America. You know, a dictator, kinda like the story they JUST TOLD in Secret Empire last year. Executive Editor Tom Brevoort did his usual “This is really happening” song and dance, but it just feels empty. Not only does it feel like a rehash, but it makes you wonder if someone high up at Marvel has some sort of delusions of grandeur. I mean, sure DC had an alleged sex offender in Eddie Berganza, but Marvel’s the one who’s always quick to depict a fascist society.

Things You Might Have Missed This Week

  • Hulu picked up a 2-season revival of the hit 90s cartoon Animaniacs

    • We got our first teaser trailer for Teen Titans GO! To The Movies, and my body is ready. I’m not quite sure what to expect, format-wise, seeing as how the cartoon itself is just 10 minutes long. The last time one of those short shows got a movie, I was VERY disappointed (Looking at you, Aqua Teen Hunger Force Colon Movie Film for Theaters!)
    • After a rousing speech at the Golden Globe Awards on Sunday, folks started calling for Oprah Winfrey to run for President in 2020. Look, she seems cool and all ’cause she used to give away free shit to housewives, but we’d just be swapping one billionaire for another. I know it’s more nuanced than that, but when it comes to this idea, no me gusta!

  • Justin Timberlake announced his next album, Man of the Woods, would be released a few days following his performance at the Super Bowl LII Halftime Show. The first single, “Filthy”, debuted, and here it is. I, um, I don’t know, man…
  • Apparently Mad Men‘s Kiernan Shipka is Netflix’s new Sabrina, which shows that studio didn’t listen to my notes of “Make sure her ass is as phat as Melissa Joan Hart’s”
  • It was a busy week for freshman show renewals, as Fox renewed “X-Men adjacent” The Gifted, while CBS renewed breakout hit Young Sheldon. Meanwhile on streaming, Hulu renewed Future Man and Runaways.
  • Speaking of X-Men, director Gore Verbinski has exited Channing Tatum’s Gambit film, meaning that demon is probably gonna get to come collect Tatum’s soul at this point.
  • Not wanting to sit on the sidelines while his old friends get work, Paul Reiser says he has an idea for a Mad About You revival. File this under: Things Nobody Wants. I mean, in hindsight, the Buchmans had a terrible marriage. AND SHE KISSED DOUG BERKUS! (I was a huge Mad About You fan, because I was a 42 year old White woman when I was 12. Anyway, this was MY “We were on a break!”)

  • We got a glimpse at what is probably production art for Solo merchandise and I, like many others, didn’t like it. Some rando popped up to tell me to “calm down”, but my biggest issue is that it has such a cosplay/fan film vibe to it. It looks like one of those direct to DVD prequels, like National Lampoon’s Van Wilder: Freshman Year. Nobody wanted this movie. It just looks like Donald Glover was a giant nerd who used his newfound fame and money to film a Han Solo movie in his backyard. Yup, I got ALL of that from this one image. Prove me wrong, Lucasfilm!
  • It appears Will Smith’s Lord of the Rings/End of Watch swirl, Bright, was actually a hit for Netflix, and a sequel has been ordered without Max Landis’ involvement this time around (he wrote the movie).

  • I took this pic at Toys “R” Us the other day, and HAD to share it. I mean, who ever thought they’d see this day?

So this book came out that has taken the country by storm. Written by journalist Michael Wolff, Fire and Fury: Inside The Trump White House details just how ill-equipped the Trump Administration was as they set up shop in the White House. Am I the only one who thinks of DragonForce’s “Through the Fire and Flames” when they see/hear that title? Oh, you don’t know about DragonForce?! SIDEBAR!

Now that you’re sufficiently pumped, let’s talk about this book. The anecdotes are page turners, but also fill you with fear when you realize such an unqualified group of people currently wield as much power as they do. I’m gonna be honest – as much as I think I wanna read this book, I really don’t wanna read this book. I’d just rather be in the dark on some of this stuff, just so I don’t collapse into a balls of tears. Plus, I hear there are some careless typos in the book, which would irk me more than it should. I’m, however, clearly in the minority, as it was so highly anticipated that it was released early. Good luck finding a copy of the book right now (ya know, for you fellow troglodytes who still read paper books)! Wolff has been on the talk show circuit all week, while the White House is trying its best to do some damage control. Whatever, man. Since everyone’s a giant liar these days, I almost don’t even care if it’s fake as long as it’s entertaining, and from what I’ve read about it, it’s got entertainment in spades! I think it’s pretty safe to say that Fire and Fury: Inside The Trump White House had the West Week Ever.

 

11th Jan2018

West YEAR Ever: Pop Culture In Review – 2017

by Will

 

God, did 2017 suck! It’s funny – if you go back and read the WYE 2016 post, it starts pretty much the same way. The problem with 2016, however, is that Death kept coming for all of our favorite celebrities, while 2017 was just a garbage fire through and through. To put in in Community terms, I like to write 2017 off as “The Gas Leak year” (for those who aren’t Community fans, let me explain: the 4th season of the show didn’t have the involvement of creator/showrunner Dan Harmon, so a lot of the stories and characterizations were off. When Harmon returned for season 5, he explained away a lot of the weirdness by saying that the school had experienced a gas leak during season 4, which was the cause of their odd behavior).

I had a rough time dealing with 2017 and it shows. I had to take a lot of weeks off from the site. I was basically on that schedule Regis had before they pretty much forced him to retire. When I did post, I don’t feel like much of it was that strong because I didn’t really have a lot to work with. The world of entertainment was kinda boring until Q4 (more on that later), and the major developments were happening in the world of politics, which is not what you come to this site to read. Still, I managed to crank out 41 West Week Ever posts, even though 4 of those weeks saw nothing crowned as having the West Week Ever. I also managed to post a handful of standalone things, like my tribute to the Toy Biz Hotline and my rundown of my top 40 songs of 2017. Still, with 2017 making it feel like we were constantly on the receiving end of a one-two punch, I feel a lot of stuff fell through the cracks. So, let’s take a look back at some of the stuff that I feel stood out about the year.

2017 was quite the year for “zombie shows” – shows that are long dead but just can’t seem to stay that way. NBC brought back Will & Grace, while ABC got the Roseanne gang back together. On top of those, there are talks in the works to bring back Frasier, King of the Hill, and Mad About You. I don’t have time for these shows. I watch the ones that continue the narrative for the next generation, a la Fuller House and Girl Meets World, but I’ve got no interest in these “The Quest for More Money” sequel series. After all, both Will & Grace and Roseanne had to retcon their series finales in order for these new seasons to work. While the Lottery Season of Roseanne is critically maligned, I was pretty OK with where Will & Grace left things. I don’t need to see these casts, 10+ years later, doing the same shit, and struggling with the same problems.

I recently called Roseanne “The White Good Times” on Twitter because I feel they both shared a lot of depressing traits. Will James get a new job? Is Dan gonna lose the bike shop? Is JJ gonna have to drop out of art school to provide for the family? Will the loose meat sandwich restaurant have to close? I watched these shows when I was younger, but as I’ve grown I just realize how damn poor these folks were and I don’t want to revisit that. The difference between the shows is that the Evans family DOES make it out of the ghetto in the series finale of Good Times. Roseanne, however, seems to be dealing with the same shit, in the same house, still struggling to make ends meet. And now they’ve tacked on that she and Dan are going to be Trump supporters? They clearly want me nowhere near this thing. I know a lot of y’all love Roseanne, especially for the Halloween episodes, so this revival is clearly a love letter to you and not for me.

It was QUITE the controversial year for the folks over at Marvel in 2017. First off, they announced an event where everyone’s favorite patriotic hero became a fascist dictator who was under the influence of Nazis. Sure, we can have the whole “Are Hydra soldiers Nazis?” debate, but it’s basically the same thing as far as the comics go. The fandom was spit, as they couldn’t believe Marvel would do this to Captain America. They’ve become so enamored with the Chris Evans portrayal of the character that they can’t let go of if enough for something different to be done with it. I actually thought it was an interesting idea because the buildup to it was so good. Nick Spencer was telling some great “Not MY Captain America” stories starring the Sam Wilson iteration of the hero. Of course the purists wanted Steve Rogers back, but they weren’t prepared to receive him in the state that he appeared: brainwashed by the Red Skull to believe he’d basically been a double agent. Not only did Marvel do a shitty job of damage control in marketing the story, but they also failed to stick the landing, as the buildup to Secret Empire was much more riveting than the Secret Empire miniseries itself.

Then, continuing to be tone deaf to their audience, Marvel entered into a partnership to print a comic focusing on an elite group from Northrup Grumman. If you’re not familiar with NG, they’re a defense contractor, which is a nice, friendly way of saying “arms dealer”. They had collaborated on a joint comic that was to be distributed that New York Comic Con, but when word got out that this was basically a recruitment tool, Marvel had to act fast, cancelling both the scheduled panel and the distribution of the comic. A few copies got out, making it a sought after item, but mainly the whole thing left fans scratching their heads, wondering why Marvel would enter into such a partnership.

Then there was the CB Cebulski situation. If you’re unaware, CB Cebulski was announced as Marvel’s latest editor-in-chief, but it was soon revealed that some years ago he (a White male) posed as a Japanese writer in order to get work from Marvel – during a period when Marvel employees weren’t allowed to pick up writing work on top of their salaries. Also during a time when Marvel was actively seeking diverse voices who would be able to tell different stories than what everyone had been used to. So, he basically stole somebody else’s shot, and there was never any comeuppance for it. It seems like it was a loosely guarded secret, with some other folks surely in the know. Still, Marvel refused to address it as a company, and Cebulski was left to eventually issue an apology in The Atlantic after a few mainstream publications caught wind of the controversy.

To cap things off, DC Comics pulled off a major coup by poaching writer Brian Michael Bendis from the House of Ideas. Bendis had been THE Marvel Company Man since 2000, and the idea of him at the Distinguished Competition seemed like something that would eventually happen (comics is an incestuous industry, and you really just end up jumping back and forth for work), but not something that would happen anytime soon. Well, things didn’t go as smoothly as they could have. Immediately after the Bendis move was announced, he got a MRSA infection which almost killed him and caused a delay on his remaining Marvel work. So, now not only was Marvel losing him, but they weren’t even sure when, as he had some outstanding deliverables he still needed to get to them. It’s since been announced that his first big DC property will be Superman, while Marvel doesn’t have anyone in their stable who even comes close to having the brand loyalty to them that Bendis had. So, it begs the question: what did Marvel do to make him leave? Whatever it was, it was just another blunder in a long year of mistakes from the House that Stan Built.

Not every relationship made it out of 2017 alive, as there were some fairly high profile splits. Anna Faris and Chris Pratt split up, while Billy Bush continued to shoulder the blame from the Access Hollywood/Trump debacle as he split with his wife of 20 years. Gina Torres and Laurence Fishburne separated after 16 years together, and Fergie took her lovely lady lumps and packed her bags to get away from Josh Duhamel.

Movies I Watched This Year:

I REALLY fell short in this department, as I only managed to watch 18 films in 2017, down from SIXTY-FIVE in 2016. A lot of it had to do with the fact that we moved in with my mom after her stroke. When we lived on our own, I had every premium channel, DVR, and I was up all hours of the night. Now, I don’t even have HBO, no DVR, and my night is split into 2 different shifts. Plainly put, I have neither the time nor resources to watch a lot of movies these days, though I’ll point out that the majority of the movies I did see this year were seen in the theater, which is something of a novelty for me. I’m not a “movie guy”, so the fact that I managed to get to the theater for 13 of 18 movies is somewhat impressive to me.

I know a lot of y’all use Letterboxd to keep track of your movies and reviews, but I’m wary of those kinds of sites. I mean, what happens when Amazon buys it and decides to just wipe it? Back in the early 00s, Wizard: The Guide to Comics used to have a comic portfolio option on their site. Since they were a price guide, you could just enter all the books you owned and it would give you a value. I spent a lot of time on that site. And then, one day, without warning, they yanked it. No option to export what you had or anything. So, at that point, I said “Never again!” I’ll just use my own rinky-dink site to track stuff like that. Anyway, here’s what I saw. If you wanna know my thoughts, just click the links.

  1. Split
  2. The Lego Batman Movie
  3. Central Intelligence
  4. Logan
  5. Power Rangers
  6. Get Out
  7. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2
  8. Wonder Woman
  9. The Founder
  10. Spider-Man: Homecoming
  11. Keeping Up With the Joneses
  12. The Nice Guys
  13. The Mountain Between Us
  14. Thor: Ragnarok
  15. Justice League
  16. Star Wars: The Last Jedi
  17. Coco
  18. Daddy’s Home – I’m going to talk about this here because I watched it between my last post of 2017 and now, and never got a chance to write about it. The basic premise of this movie is that Linda Cardellini’s character is a bitch who puts new husband Will Ferrell in an uncomfortable and unnecessary situation. When her first husband, played by Mark Walhberg, comes to town, we find out she’s never even told him that she’s remarried, and it’s clear that he still gets her wet (which she barely even tries to hide). Ferrell is a dutiful and doting stepfather to her kids, but he’s scared he’s going to lose them to their real dad who’s now back on the scene, and is also a total badass. And Cardellini really doesn’t pitch in to help matters. She basically tells Ferrell he needs to establish some ground rules and boundaries for Wahlberg – a situation that could’ve been mitigated had she only told Wahlberg about Ferrell in the first place. Of course the whole thing ends with them as friends and co-fathers, but I can’t get the taste out of my mouth as to how much I disliked Cardellini’s role. I do, however, want to see the sequel now because I loved how they set things up at the end of this one, and I’m curious to see if Cardellini gets her comeuppance.

Surprisingly, while I didn’t see many movies this year, I thoroughly enjoyed everything I did see – including some of the more maligned pics, like Justice League. It wasn’t perfect, but I was entertained. I’m not a cinephile, so I’m not gonna rank them, but I will say that The Founder may have been my favorite film I saw this year. Keaton is just so good in it, I love the McDonald’s story, and I feel like a lot of folks missed out on this gem.

Things You Might Have Missed This Year

January

  • 80’s pop star Richard Marx and wife, former VJ Daisy Fuentes, subdued a crazed passenger on a Korean airline. In other news, how the Hell did Richard Marx land Daisy Fuentes?!

  • In Arizona, folks reported seeing a winged demon, heralding the beginning of the apocalypse. We should’ve known then that we were fucked…

  • Adorable 4-year old, Daliyah Marie Arana, had already read over 1,000 books and visited the Library of Congress as Librarian for the Day

February

  • Playboy gave up on its quest to get on supermarket shelves, and brought back the titties!

March

  • Scientology traitor Leah Remini was announced to star in a gender-swapped What About Bob? sitcom. This would later be scrapped when she joins the cast of a revamped Kevin Can Wait with former The King of Queens costar Kevin James.
  • Han Solo is not the character’s real name. His birth name was Handsome Solowitz, but his manager made him change it

April

  • Barry Manilow came out as gay, which makes me realize that he’s actually been singing about Man D all these years

  • In news that will only matter to you if you’re a Cornell alum, all-male a cappella group The Cayuga’s Waiters were kicked off campus for hazing. And let me tell you, this couldn’t have happened to a shittier group of douchebags.

May

  • Universal’s Dark Universe shared monsters universe was announced, to be kicked off by Tom Cruise’s The Mummy. By November the idea will be abandoned, as architects Alex Kurtzman and Chris Morgan leave the project.

courtesy of TVLine.com

June

July 

  • CBS basically said “Bye, Felicia” to the Asian cast members of Hawaii Five-0 when Daniel Dae Kim and Grace Park asked for raises on the level of what their White costars were making.
  • The Master of Bar Science himself, Jon Taffer, favorited some of my tweets during a Bar Rescue marathon:

  • Completely tone deaf to the political climate, the showrunners for Game of Thrones announced that their next project would be called Confederate, based on an alternate reality where slavery still exists and the Civil War never ended. This was not well received by folks.
  • After 24 years, Archie Comics ceased publication of the Sonic The Hedgehog comic
  • The directors of the documentary Catfish (which inspired the MTV series) were announced to direct a Mega Man film
  • It was a Black sex scandal trifecta, as R. Kelly was accused of running a sex cult in his house, Usher was accused of paying a woman $1 million to cover up the fact that he’d given her Herpes, and Kevin Hart was caught cheating on his pregnant wife
  • I discovered the All Star Trek block on the Heroes & Icons channel

  • My elementary school friend and her husband did some kickass Saga cosplay at SDCC
  • Amy Schumer dropped out of the Barbie film – a film which I originally mocked, which resulted in her blocking me on Twitter
  • Apple discontinued the Shuffle and Nano models

August

  • On the heels of the Confederate announcement, Boondocks creator Aaron McGruder announced Black America – a show that takes place in an alternate reality where Blacks have established a thriving nation state via the reparations they received after the Civil War.
  • MTV’s Total Request Live rose from the dead to return to airwaves. Only it seems like they’ve eliminated the video portion now, so what’s the point?
  • There was a Nostalgia War going on between streaming services as Hulu added the TGIF library, while Amazon added the Carsey-Werner catalog, including Roseanne, 3rd Rock from the Sun, and A Different World
  • Social media app Sarahah was popular for about a week. Used by teens to cyberbully each other, it gained a spike in popularity as grown folks used it to fish for compliments.
  • Netflix acquired Mark Millar’s Millarworld comic imprint. It’s the best of both worlds, as it gives them an IPO farm, without the overhead of running an actual comic publisher (Millarworld books are published through deals with Image and Marvel).
  • Drama hitmaker Shonda Rhimes moved her Shondaland production house from ABC to Netflix after signing a major deal with the streaming service
  • A My Cousin Vinny sequel was released in book form as Back to Brooklyn, which catches up with the characters 25 years later. ‘Cause some goomba out there wanted that.
  • Wizard Magazine was slated to return as an online website called WizPop to be hosted on the WizardWorld website. As of this post, there’s no sign of that ever having occurred on the site.
  • Controversy struck the Hellboy reboot as British actor Ed Skrein was cast as a character who was originally intended to be of Japanese descent. He eventually dropped out of the role, which was quickly snatched up by Daniel Dae Kim – who was jobless after CBS cut him loose from Hawaii Five-0 last month.
  • Joss Whedon went underground after his ex-wife wrote a scathing tell-all article for The Wrap, where she accused him of serial infidelity and of being a hypocritical feminist. His Whedonesque fansite was shuttered soon afterward.

September

  • There was a LOT of Star Wars shake ups, as Colin Treverrow was fired as director of Episode IX. This was following the earlier firing of Lord and Miller from directing the Han Solo movie. The Solo movie would be picked up by Ron Howard, while it was announced JJ Abrams would return to write and direct Episode IX. Oh, and Episode VIII director Rian Johnson was given his own Skywalker-free Star Wars trilogy.
  • I experienced what is probably my most popular tweet to date:

  • ABC announced a reboot of The Greatest American Hero which will now star an Indian-American woman named Meera. I see you, ABC!
  • There was a lot of controversy in the G.I. Joe fandom as the current writer on the series was driving away the dwindling fan base with his social media tirades.
  • It was revealed that Roald Dahl originally meant for Charlie Bucket to be a Black child until his agent intervened and advised him against it.
  • Toys “R” Us filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection because they don’t understand the word “sale” and are constantly getting their asses handed to them by Target and Amazon.
  • Black-ish creator Kenya Barris was announced to be working on the script for the completely unnecessary Coming to America 2, as Eddie Murphy must be behind on child support or something.

October

  • Milestone Media announced their return to the world of comics at New York Comic Con. And nothing has been mentioned about it since. I expect another reboot announcement somewhere around 2022.
  • The Juice is loose! OJ Simpson was released from prison.
  • AOL announced that Instant Messenger would be shut down on December 15th.
  • Just as easily as I found Heroes & Icon’s All Star Trek block I walked away from it. Oh, and I ranked the pre-Discovery Trek series. 

November

  • Donald Trump was kicked off Twitter for 11 minutes thanks to the inside work of an intrepid engineer. Remember, kids – not all heroes wear capes!
  • Funko experienced the worst IPO in 17 years as the stock opened at $12 and dropped to $7 by the end of the day
  • Smallville star Allison Mack was reported to be allegedly running a sex slave cult in Los Angeles.
  • People Magazine named country star/The Voice coach Blake Shelton the Sexiest Man Alive, and the internet had a field day with that one!
  • Taraji P. Henson will star in What Men Want, inspired by the Mel Gibson film What Women Want. The movie will reportedly only be 10 minutes long, as she will learn the answer is “Pussy and sandwiches”.

December

  • Jay-Z told The New York Times that he cheated on wife BeyoncĂ© because he was in “Survival Mode”, whatever that means. Look for Hallmark to come out with a new line of “I’m Sorry I Survival Moded You Last Weekend” cards
  • THERE’S A NEW BABY WEST ON THE HORIZON!
  • Disney bought Fox for a reported $52 million. And I had thoughts…
  • Quentin Tarantino announced that he wants to direct a Star Trek film. I maintain that it’ll never see the light of day.
  • Apple admitted that they slowed down the performance on older iPhones, supposedly to preserve their batteries, but were then forced to offer low cost replacement batteries to make amends.

 

West Week Ever Recipients of 2017 (with commentary)

1/6/17 – The Mick

See, this is the kind of thing I like: spotlighting a new show that a lot of folks may have missed. Considering It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia has been around for 12 seasons, it clearly has a fanbase. Since Kaitlin Olsen is essentially playing the same character that she plays on that show, you can basically consider it The Further Adventures of Sweet Dee. Still, it felt very “Fox”, so I was expecting them to cancel it. Imagine my surprise when it got picked up for a second season!

1/13/17 – Donald Glover

He won the Best Musical or Comedy in Television Golden Globe for his nearly perfect series Atlanta, inked an exclusive development deal with FX Networks, AND got to film scenes as Lando Calrissian in the Han Solo movie. Everything was coming up Milhouse for that guy!

1/27/17 – The Women’s March on Washington

I guess I should’ve known what kind of year 2017 was going to be when this event happened so early in the year. See, I kinda thought of it as some kind of royal “F You!” to the establishment. The inauguration had just occurred, drawing anemic crowds, yet here was this march by the opposition to show that there was strength in numbers, and that those numbers weren’t on Trump’s side. Like I said in the post, I’m not the guy to explain the nuances of what the women were fighting for, and there were some interesting takes about how feminism and race haven’t always gone hand in hand. In fact, many feel that the women out there wearing the “pussy hats” were the same White women who had voted Trump into office. Again, I don’t know about all that. What I do know is that I hadn’t seen an organized demonstration like that since the Million Man March, so it certainly seemed noteworthy, even if it wasn’t the most “pop cultury” moment to come along.

2/3/17 – Winona Ryder

So, she made some funny faces at the SAG Awards ceremony. Was she high? Was she ACTING? Who knows? That’s just how low pressure the world of pop culture was at the start of the year. Sure, the progression of faces was amusing, but surely there should’ve been something more attention-worthy happening that week, right? Right? Wrong.

2/10/17 – The New England Patriots

Those sons of bitches Patriots! I’m not a sports guy, and we basically live in a Broncos home. Still, you don’t have to know much about sports to know that everyone who isn’t a Patriots fan hates them for being cheaters, while their fans defend them adamantly. I mean, I’m still amazed you can be suspended for cheating AND win the Super Bowl in the same season. Still, the Patriots pulled off an amazing comeback during Super Bowl LI, as Atlanta blew a TWENTY-FIVE point lead. It was the first Super Bowl to go into overtime. Yeah, I don’t care about football, but I gotta give credit where it’s due.

2/17/17 – CeeLo Green/Gnarly Davidson

So, musician/escaped mutant from Genosha CeeLo Green showed up to the Grammys looking like King Midas himself, calling himself “Gnarly Davidson”. Everyone had a good laugh for about 24 hours, but I bet 9 out of 10 people today couldn’t even tell you what or who Gnarly Davidson is supposed to be. I like to think that things that earn the WWE have made some sort of impact on popular culture, and this wasn’t even a mosquito bite in terms of magnitude.

3/3/17 – Logan

Great comic book movie. Great movie in general. As the year went on, Logan would enter the conversation, but it would quickly be overshadowed by anticipation for Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2 or Spider-Man: Homecoming. It was even brought up in Oscars speculation. It was a great note for Jackman to go out on, and it’s just a shame that the Wolverine film trilogy is so uneven. Totally deserved the WWE.

3/10/17 – Man Seeking Woman

This was such a great show, and while I’m sad to see it go, I felt it told a very tight story. It didn’t wear out its welcome, and it smartly used the time that it had available to it. Clocking in at 3 seasons, it started with Jay Baruchel’s Josh stumbling out of a failed relationship, trying to get back on his feet in the dating world. It ended with him getting married to the perfect girl for him. Sure, it could’ve dragged along with them being newlyweds, having a kid, etc, but it didn’t want to insult our intelligence or waste our time as it devolved into just a run of the mill sitcom. Part of what made it special was that it was such an absurd show at times. I mean, Josh’s sister had an affair with Santa Claus at one point. But that just added to its charm. This is a great example of one of those “The Best Show You’re Not Watching”, because none of y’all were watching it. Still, it managed to chug along, and tell the story that it originally set out to tell. Most shows can’t say that, so it totally deserved the WWE. I think it’s streaming on Hulu if you ever want to check it out, which you should!

3/17/17 – Tyra Banks

Tyra had a pretty big week, as she was announced as Nick Cannon’s replacement as the host of America’s Got Talent, plus it was announced that she’d be returning to her old stomping grounds as head judge/host of America’s Next Top Model. In the same week, Banks became the grand arbiter of America’s standards of talent and beauty. That’s quite the coup!

3/24/17 – Nothing

As I always say when this happens, “As Nina Simone said, ‘It Be’s That Way Sometimes’.” Not happy with the trajectory the West Week Ever “honor” was on, I just couldn’t throw it at something willy nilly. We were seven posts into the year, and nothing chosen had really blown anyone’s socks off, except maybe Logan. I needed a week to regroup.

3/31/17 – Spider-Man: Homecoming trailer

It was a trailer for a new Marvel movie. When don’t those get the West Week Ever? Sure, we were all hype for the film, but we’re at a point in society where Marvel doesn’t really even have to try anymore with these things. Did it deserve it for the week? Sure. Can I even remember that first Homecoming trailer? Nope, I cannot.

4/7/17 – The Undertaker

By now, most of you know of my love for The Undertaker. In a world where wrestlers basically use some juxtaposition of their real names for their in-ring names, he was a relic of a bygone era of gimmicks and kayfabe. His retirement had been commonly rumored over recent years, but he was on a part-time schedule where he pretty much only came back for Wrestlemania. Well, at Wrestlemania 33, he jobbed to Roman Reigns, left his trademark hat and coat in the ring, kissed his wife, and walked out of the arena – all to chants of “Thank you, Taker”. For all intents and purposes, that seemed to be all she wrote. Now there are reports that he’ll be back for Raw‘s 25th anniversary. I really hope that’s not true, as it was a beautiful way for him to go out. The card for Wrestlemania 33 was weak sauce, but it being the swan song of Taker was what would make it stand out in the history books. I cried when Flair retired, and even though he eventually crawled back, it didn’t take away the experience of his retirement run. If Taker does return, I’m hoping I can feel the same way.

4/14/17 – Thor: Ragnarok teaser

Scroll up, and re-read what I said about the Homecoming trailer. Apply all of that here. Keep in mind, Thor was coming off a serviceable debut and a forgettable sequel. We didn’t have the highest expectations for this movie, even though it was apparent it had been dipping into the GOTG Cookie Jar of Humor. But, like I said, Marvel trailers pretty much always get the WWE, whether they deserve them or not. Actually, ya know what? Black Panther never got it. I think it’s because it debuted during one of my bye weeks, but I’m sure someone out there will say it’s due to my self-hatred or whatever.

4/21/17 – Girls Series Finale

While Girls pretty much became the poster child for Millennials, I’m not quite sure history will be kind to it. After all, the characters embodied everything we tend to hate about that demographic. They’re spoiled, they have delusions of grandeur, they don’t want to pay their dues, and they’re tremendously self-centered. Marnie sucked because she only used people to pursue her own happiness. Jessa sucked because she was a junkie succubus. Hannah sucked because she thought she was the Voice of a Generation, while commonly looking unwashed and unhygienic. She spent 6 seasons making us accept her body positivity while engaging in the unsexiest sex scenes imaginable.

Still, through all of that, the characters actually seemed to experience some growth in that final season. Hanna found herself pregnant, eventually giving birth to Grover (Fuck you, Lena Dunham. Just fuck you right in the ear for that shit). And she found out she had to grow up FAST. Marnie thrust herself into the role of doting aunt, as if to make amends for being such a shitty person to those around her. She soon found, though, that she couldn’t assume that role and still continue to grow. She had her path, and Hannah/Grover had their own. And the only character with some sense was strangely neurotic/possibly on the spectrum Shoshana, who managed to remove herself from the equation before the series finale because she realized she was better than those with whom she had surrounded herself.

As a whole, Girls is a forgettable mess that I hope I never see on any of those Greatest Series of All Time lists. That finale, though, made up for a lot of problems I’d had with those characters over the course of the show. I went from Hate Watching it to just Watching it. And, to her credit, as much as Hannah sucked, Dunham was the voice of a generation, like it or not. They say that the mark of a good series finale is that you can watch it and get a whole, fulfilling story even if you weren’t an avid viewer of the series. Since I’d been watching the show, I can’t attest to whether that’s true here, but I do feel like it was a damn fine finale that did more for its characters and narrative than the whole rest of the series put together.

4/28/17 – Nothing

I guess I felt like Girls had set a pretty high bar, and nothing came close to that in the week following its finale. Go figure!

5/5/17 – Ryan Seacrest

Next to maybe Steve Harvey,  Seacrest is the hardest working man in show business. It was announced that he would be taking over Michael Strahan’s cohost role on Live with Kelly, and a grueling schedule was floated that would allow him to maintain that job while also flying to the West Coast multiple times a week in order to host ABC’s reboot of American Idol. While he hadn’t officially signed on to the Idol revival at that point, he would later take the job, and that theoretical travel schedule would become reality. I know folks love to make fun of him, and make all the gay jokes, but I don’t think he gets nearly enough credit for his work ethic. The man rarely sleeps and is constantly developing new projects. And he’s a shrewd businessman, as evidenced in how he pretty much just swooped in and assimilated Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve.

5/12/17 – Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2

I really enjoyed this movie, but I’m scared I’m falling into that cynical thing where I’m like “Well, it’s a Marvel movie”. We pretty much know what to expect at this point. I’m not getting bored by the formula or anything, but I don’t think it’s a surprise when these things come out and dominate the pop culture conversation for the week following.

5/19/17 – CBS

This was my annual upfronts post, and I felt like CBS had the most promising schedule for their Fall lineup. They had a few misses (Wisdom of the Crowd, Me, Myself, and I), but I still stand by that assessment, as Young Sheldon was a breakout hit and SEAL Team was the only successful military drama of the three that launched in the fall.

5/26/17 – Red Nose Day Actually

I still feel like bringing the Red Nose Day thing to America is the equivalent of trying to make “fetch” happen. I don’t think it’s going to catch on, but I won’t say anything bad about something that gives me a sequel to one of my favorite movies. Yes, I’m that guy who adores Love Actually. And this year we got a “sequel” short during the telethon that caught up with the characters in the present day. The Sam and Joanna portion alone made me want to cry, but it was like catching up with old friends. Totally the best thing that week had to offer.

6/2/17 – Wonder Woman

This was a great comic book film that seemed to right the ship for the DCEU. Sure, it’s not perfect, but it’s a far cry stronger than BvS and Suicide Squad. We thought this was shades of things to come from Justice League. Perhaps we expected too much. Still, it’s a strong entry into the comic book movie universe, and totally deserved the WWE.

6/9/17 – Wonder Woman

This made me realize a problem with how this weekly post is scheduled. You see, I’m an avid Thursday night viewer of these movies. Since the post comes out Friday, I could theoretically post about it the next day. And many times I have. That’s what happened with Wonder Woman. I saw it Thursday night, and it got the WWE the next day – at a time when most of my readers had not had the chance to see the movie yet. This is problematic because they tend to not read that post for fear of spoilers. So, I’ve tried to change things up where I sit on my review for a week, giving folks a chance to see the movie first. This is the week when Wonder Woman should have gotten the WWE, but instead it just made me look lazy.

6/16/17 – West Life Ever: Adam West

Ah, the very first West Life Ever recipient. As you probably know by now, there’s a pretty strict No Death policy for this column. Sure, once in a blue moon, someone will come along whose death needs to be acknowledged, but I knew that there were a few people whose death would require me to make a bigger deal. Adam West was always at the top of this list. When I posted that entry, I called it the West Week Ever Hall of Fame, which never quite felt right. My pal Zac Shipley came up with West Life Ever, which was perfect. So, the post was changed and that’s what the honor will be called going forward. It’s still not something that I plan to abuse, but I’m glad it exists when I need to use it. Sadly, I would have to use it again not much later.

6/23/17 – Nothing

I guess I was still affected by West’s death, and I thought I was gonna be able to promote my appearance on a podcast where we looked back on his life. That episode has never seen the light of day (Looking at you, Chad!). So, nothing was worthy of the WWE mantle that week.

7/7/17- Michael Keaton

I had seen Spider-Man: Homecoming and The Founder that week, both films showcasing amazing performances by Keaton. The surprising thing to point out here is that Homecoming had been seen by me, but did NOT get the WWE. Keep in mind, though, I was moving to my schedule of waiting a week so that more folks have time to see the film. Will it get the WWE next week?

7/14/17 – Milana Vayntrub

Nope! Yes, in a world where there’s a new Marvel film in theaters, I give my highest honor to the AT&T Girl. I didn’t love Homecoming. In fact, it’s probably the first Marvel movie since I’ve been doing this column where I wasn’t just immediately smitten. I probably need to watch it again but the timeline of the film challenged my inner fanboy the entire runtime, and it ruined the experience for me. Why did Vayntrub get it? Well, she’d been cast as Squirrel Girl in Marvel’s New Warriors series for Freeform. I really thought it was going to be her big break. Well, later Freeform would decide that it didn’t have room for the show on its schedule, and its future is currently in limbo. Womp womp. Marvel thinks the show has a lot of promise, but they’re no longer allowed to farm out their shows to non-Disney owned networks, so that limits their possibilities. It was probably the biggest week she’s ever had, but it didn’t really pay off into anything. Yet.

7/21/17 – Jodie Whittaker

A female Doctor Who? That shit is history in the making! I don’t care anything about that franchise, but I know when history is being made. Totally deserved.

7/28/17 – West Life Ever: Jim Vance

When I first conceived of the WWE: Hall of Fame/West Life Ever, there were 2 particular people in mind for it. I never really thought it would expand outside of those two unless it was a rare, special case. And that’s exactly what it was when local newsman, and DC institution, Jim Vance succumbed to cancer. He was a great example of “Ya don’t know what you’ve got til it’s gone”, as it never felt like he’d made that much of an impact on my life until he was no longer in it. My whole response to his passing surprised me, and I’m sort of curious to see what other surprises are in store for the West Life Ever honor.

8/4/17 – Female Comic Editors

Some dumb shit about female comic editors going out for a milkshake to honor the passing of Marvel staple “Fabulous” Flo Steinberg, and ended up being heckled by a bunch of stupid dudes online. It somehow turned into this symbolic gesture throughout the industry. Fellow creators were posting selfies of themselves drinking milkshakes, and it all just kinda fizzled out. It’s really one of those “You had to be there” kinds of things because the whole “controversy” just sounds stupid to me in hindsight.

8/18/17 – DuckTales reboot

I watched the pilot and loved it. Then I promptly forgot about it. I kinda expected more from it, to be honest. I guess that’s my own fault. I thought it was just going to compel me to watch it every week, but instead if became just another forgotten animated show of 2017, like that Big Hero 6 premiere I would totally miss in November.

8/25/17 – Solar Eclipse of 2017

These things don’t happen that often! At least, that’s what the science folks always tell us, even though it feels like there’s some kind of eclipse every time we turn around. Well, I never claimed to be Thomas Einstein-Tesla, so I’m not the best person to get your science info from. Anyway, it was a big deal that week, as those free glasses needed to look at the thing were being sold for, like, $250 a pair, as if they came from Sunglass Hut or something. And the President even looked directly into the thing, ya know, ’cause he’s a stable genius and all. This thing was all anyone could talk about that week.

9/8/17 – Batman: The Animated Series

This week marked the 25th anniversary of the debut of the classic animated series which, I believe, changed animation for the better. It was a show that was gritty and intelligent enough for primetime, yet worked on a level to keep kids engaged – all the while dodging some incredible mandates from Fox Kids Standards & Practices, like “No blood” or “Can’t say ‘kill'”. In some ways it might be seen as a cop-out to look to the past for a WWE winner. After all, for all the fans of the show, there wasn’t a lot of fanfare surrounding the anniversary. Instead of Warner Bros making a big deal, it was more like the hardcore fans were holding thousands of little private wakes for the show. Still, 25 years ain’t nothing to shake a stick at, so I felt the show’s milestone needed to be acknowledged and honored.

9/15/17 – Cory Chase/Reality Kings

When this post originally went up, I put it to a vote: should the WWE go to horror remake IT OR should it go to porn star Cory Chase and the Reality Kings porn franchise? Ya see, IT had a successful week, but all anyone could talk about around the time of publication was the fact that Senator Ted Cruz’s personal Twitter account had Liked a video clip of some of Chase’s work. It was quickly blamed on a staffer, but the damage had been done by that point. Cruz was just like the rest of us, trawling the web for porn. Hell, if he’d been smarter, he could’ve spun that into some sort of political clout, but he took the coward’s way out. Anyway, the readers spoke and decided that Chase should be the victor. While I don’t disagree, I think it was very “2017” that such a salacious choice was even an option for Biggest Pop Culture Thing of the Week. We’d sunk so low, and we weren’t even close to the bottom yet.

9/29/17 – Star Trek franchise

This week not only saw the premiere of Star Trek: Discovery on CBS and CBS All Access, but it was also the 30th anniversary of the premiere of Star Trek: The Next Generation. Just as with Batman: The Animated Series, these were milestones deserving of recognition. I haven’t revisited Discovery since the free premiere on CBS, but I’ve heard enough good things that I’ll circle back around to it eventually.

10/6/17 – The West Family

Self-indulgent post because it’s my site, and I do what I wanna! It was my 5-year wedding anniversary, and nothing else was going on. If you go back in the archives, pre-2010 or so, this thing reads like a really bad LiveJournal. “I’m tired of my boss at H&M”, yadda yadda yadda. I later pivoted to a solely pop culture focus, but I left most of those posts up because I hate to delete anything. So, every now and then, I feel like I’ve written enough about celebrities that I’ve earned a personal post or two, so this was me pulling that trigger. Had it not gone to us, it would’ve been another week when it went to Nothing.

10/13/17 – Nothing

Kinda like this week.

10/27/17 – Super Mario Odyssey

I’m not a gamer, but it was easy to tell who the gamers were, as they were all anticipating this release. I’ve heard nothing but great things about this game, it I feel this was totally deserved.

11/3/17 – Stranger Things Season 2

I’ve never seen the show, have almost no real desire to see the show, and I’m kinda sick of seeing those kids everywhere. Still, I have to put my own issues aside for the good of “real reporting” sometimes. This was one of those times. Everyone was anticipating the second season of this show and, while the general consensus seems to be that it wasn’t as good as the first season, I’ve yet to hear anything actually negative about the season.

11/10/17 – Thor: Ragnarok

Here we are, back to having a Marvel film get the WWE. Earlier I said that I was beginning to wonder if all this hype was deserved, as we pretty much know what we’re going to get from the MCU franchise at this point, but I feel this was totally deserved here. Easily the best Thor film of the trilogy (not a difficult feat, really), but it presented a new side of the title character. And it totally took some creative notes from Guardians, which was to its advantage.

11/17/17 – Justice League

I kinda broke my own rule here. I know I was trying to wait a week before reviewing new, highly anticipated films, but I felt like this one needed a shot in the arm. So many folks were determined not to see it, that I felt I needed to post about it on opening weekend to get some more butts in seats. I’m hardly an influencer, but if I convinced just one person to see the movie who had been on the fence, then I guess I did my job. I hate to do a comparison, but it’s “No Marvel movie”. That said, I was happy it did something different, and I was thoroughly entertained. It’s not a “great” film by any stretch of the imagination, but nobody should expect Citizen Kane when one of the main characters runs around, dressed like a bat.

12/1/17 – Avengers: Infinity War trailer

Obligatory WWE for new MCU film trailer. All it did was fortify millions of speculation boners without really giving us anything other than eye candy. We’ve reached a point where I don’t even know if we’re capable of determining if these things are good anymore. Part of the problem is that they’ve yet to really have a “miss”, so would we even know it if/when it happened? Like, Black Panther could be the worst thing they ever put onscreen. It won’t be, but even if it is, there are certain communities who are going to refuse to admit it. It’s just fascinating to me how that works. Anyway, this came out while Marvel was avoiding the Cebulski controversy, while its parent, Disney, was making a play for Fox. It was a nice little distraction that caught everyone’s attention at just the right time. Their success rate is just so unprecedented that I guess I’m waiting for the other shoe to drop, which is somewhat unfair to them.

12/8/17 – MCU Fanboys

Remember how I just said there are some folks who would refuse to acknowledge Marvel’s “failure” even if it were right in front of them? Enter the MCU fanboy. And nobody had a better week than them because Disney’s play for Fox became official, meaning that the X-Men and Fantastic Four film rights were finally “coming home”. And you couldn’t swing a dead cat without running into one of them surmising how the X-Men would be integrated into the established MCU. Would Marvel honor everything Fox had done with the franchise, or would it be a complete reboot? These discussions were going on everywhere online, so this week truly belonged to those folks. Who cares if the acquisition would result in redundancies and the loss of anywhere from 5,000-10,000 jobs? You’re finally getting the chance at a House of M movie, right? Right?

12/15/17 – Black Women

While there was a tongue in cheek aspect to this, I totally meant it. It was a big week for Black women. Omarosa got kicked out of the Trump White House, to the delight of many, while the Black female vote helped keep suspected child molester Roy Moore out of office in a very close congressional race in Alabama. A lot of folks were taking a break from social media that week, for fear of being spoiled by those who had already seen The Last Jedi, so they missed this one. It’s a shame, because I felt there was a lot of good stuff in this post.

12/22/17 – Fandom Gatekeepers

You know how I was just talking about MCU fanboys? Well, this is what happens when that shit is cranked up to 11. It’s like the Chappelle’s Show sketch, When Keepin’ It Real Goes Wrong. These are the folks who take shit too far, and there was a lot of that going on due to the polarizing reactions to The Last Jedi. I felt kinda bad about this one, because I typically want the WWE to be a *celebration* of something, but I couldn’t not acknowledge it, and I had a lot of thoughts on the matter, born from a late night Twitter rant.

I had to do something different this year. Usually, to determine who had the West Year Ever, we look at the list of folks who earned the West Week Ever throughout the year. There are always entities that receive it multiple times throughout the year, like Marvel and DC, and then there’s a runoff between them to see who truly deserved it. That doesn’t work this year, though. You see, most of the WWE recipients this year had no real lasting impact outside of the week that they won. The only thing that got the honor more than once this year was Wonder Woman, but it surely didn’t have the West Year Ever. Close, but no cigar. No, I had to take a closer look at trends of the year, and get a feel for what truly dominated the news cycle.

Remember how I said that the entertainment world was boring until Q4? Well, once October hit, the whole thing blew wide open thanks to one man: Harvey Weinstein. The reports and allegations of his sexual improprieties opened the floodgates for more reports on other celebrities. All across the country, men in power were being exposed for the lotharios that they were. There seemed to be certain patterns that surfaced. For example, a lot of them liked to abuse their power by masturbating in front of women over whom they held some sort of influence. Every week, there was a new LIST of men to add to the list. I hate to create HarassmentWatch(TM) just to keep track of it all, and mine isn’t even close to an exhaustive list. Still, I managed to track allegations on the following men:

  • Producer Harvey Weinstein
  • The Loud House creator Chris Savino
  • Actor Kevin Spacey
  • Actor Jeremy Piven
  • Director Brett Ratner
  • Actor Dustin Hoffman
  • Actor Danny Masterson
  • Actor Charlie Sheen
  • Mad Men creator Matthew Weiner
  • Actor Jeffrey Tambor
  • Comedian Louis CK
  • Actor George Takei
  • Actor Richard Dreyfuss
  • Actor Tom Sizemore
  • Actor Ed Westwick
  • The Royals/One Tree Hill creator Mark Schwahn
  • Flash/Supergirl showrunner Andrew Kreisberg
  • Actor Steven Seagal
  • Producer Gary Goddard
  • Actor Sylvester Stallone
  • DC Comics Editor Eddie Berganza
  • Senator Al Franken
  • Producer John Lasseter
  • On Air Personality Ryan Seacrest
  • Singer Nick Carter
  • Producer Russell Simmons
  • Humorist Garrison Keillor
  • Newsman Charlie Rose
  • New York Times Reporter Glenn Thrush
  • Newsman Matt Lauer
  • US Representative John Conyers
  • Chef Mario Batali
  • Talk Show Host Tavis Smiley
  • US Representative Blake Farenthold
  • Documentarian and Fast Food Truther Morgan Spurlock
  • Comedian TJ Miller
  • NFL Media VP David Eaton
  • Newsman Chris Matthews
  • Director Paul Haggis
  • Pastry Chef Johnny Iuzzini
  • Half the damn NFL Network

That’s over FORTY instances reported just since October! And they’re still coming (tune into tomorrow’s West Week Ever for some new 2018 additions to the list!). This shit is crazy! Keep it in your pants, powerful men! Even though it was a phenomenon that came along later in the year, I feel like it colored the whole year, and fit tonally with what a trash heap fire the year became. So, in my mind, 2017 was the Year of the Wang Dangler. In October, the weather started getting cold and, for whatever reason, the wangs started coming out. There were reports of forced oral sex, public masturbation, walking amongst staff while naked, and secret buttons under desks to lock vulnerable women in uncomfortable places. What pieces of shit these men are! But they’re the official mascots of 2017. So, without further ado, the celebrity wang danglers had the West Year Ever. Here’s hoping we can aim a bit higher in our aspirations in 2018.

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