06th Oct2017

West Week Ever: Pop Culture In Review – 10/6/17

by Will

So, I guess I’ve got to start off by talking about Vegas, huh? Ya know, it’s been really hard writing this column in 2017. Like, I’m sure some of y’all are thinking, “Man, Will is slipping” or you’ve put me in the category with The Simpsons where “This isn’t as funny as it used to be.” Sadly, it’s just the state of the world, and all I can do is my best to mine the entertainment news that still manages to trickle out. That said, it is really hard talking about pop culture in 2017.

But anyway, Vegas. Unless you’ve been offworld fighting the Jem’Hadar or whatever, then you already know some dude (not gonna name him ’cause why should I?) shot up the Route 91 Harvest 3-day country music festival, killing 59 people, and injuring over 500, in the deadliest US gun attack in history. And while this was a horrific loss of life, I’m kind of numb to these things now. I mean, sure, you wonder “Is anywhere safe anymore?” but at the same time, this is America, and these sorts of things have become somewhat annual, if not more frequent. After all, this is only the deadliest gun attack since the Pulse shooting in Miami back in June of 2016. It’s saddening and exhausting, yet nothing seems to be changing.

I’m seeing a lot of sentiments, post-Vegas, about how we’re all Americans and should now unite and, basically, “cut the bullshit”. But what does that ultimately mean? I mean, around what ideal are we uniting? It sure as Hell ain’t gun control. Or mental health. There’s no “evil foreigner” trope for us to pursue. If anything, it seems to be a plea to stop protesting and kneeling and all that jazz, because it’s “divisive”. Nah, I’m good. I know these things teach us that life is precious and we shouldn’t waste time on squabbles, but the stuff folks are mad about isn’t menial. And I think it’s gonna take more than a “lone wolf” at a country festival to sweep all the issues under the rug, for the sake of “unity”.

Anyway, as you can imagine, Vegas cast a bit of a pall on pop culture this week, and this wasn’t more evident than with the return of MTV’s TRL.

Members of the N’SYNC pose with Carson Daly at MTV Studios in New York City’s Times Square on January, 26, 2000. (photo by Todd Plitt)

Originally Total Request Live, the video request countdown was a powerhouse on the pop music landscape at the turn of the century. It put Carson Daly on the map, and it was what everyone watched when they came home from school (unless they were watching 106 & Park). You weren’t shit if you didn’t stop by TRL to promote whatever new project you had coming up. It was THE place to be. Then the internet got bigger, and you could watch music videos whenever you want on YouTube (and later Vevo). So, the show packed its shit and left us in 2008.

Feeling a bit of nostalgia, I suppose, Viacom decided to revive the show this year with a team of hosts. With the internet being what it is now, surely it’d be more interactive than the original. What nobody told us, though, is that it wouldn’t have any videos!

Monday’s premiered chugged along, despite having to deal with a national tragedy and experiencing technical difficulties, and didn’t air a single video. Yeah, they still make videos. CMT plays ’em, so at least they’re still viable for country. Taylor Swift and Katy Perry still make them. There are videos out there, yet the show known for its video countdown ain’t got no videos! Exactly WHAT is the audience expected to request? Instead, the show featured live performances from Ed Sheeran and Migos, and displayed some awkward banter between the hosts as they tried to fill out the intermittent silences.

People have said “What’s the point of then showing videos if you can get them online?”, and while that’s true, I’d counter with “Then why bring back the show at all?” Imagine if VH1 revived Pop-Up Video, but didn’t actually do the pop-ups because “folks do that better on YouTube now”? That would be a useless show. And in an age where MTV seems to want to get back into the music business somewhat, and they still host an awards show for music videos you’d think they would see this TRL reboot as a golden opportunity. Anyway, maybe they’re just experiencing first week growing pains, but things certainly don’t look all that great for this incarnation at the moment.

Another way that Vegas affected pop culture is that Netflix pulled their Punisher panel that was planned for this weekend’s New York Comic Con. While some folks are asking “What’s that gonna change?”, I selfishly applaud the decision. I say selfishly because I don’t understand anyone who holds The Punisher as their favorite comic character. At least no one over the age of 13, that is. Why, in this day and age, is he still a thing? Sure, he has his roots in the whole Dirty Harry/Death Wish popularity of decades past, but let’s not forgot that comic are just power fantasies. So who does he appeal to?

If you’re not familiar with The Punisher, Frank Castle was originally a Vietnam vet whose family was murdered because they witnessed a killing in Central Park. He then begins his one-man war on crime. Sure, this was “cool” in the 89s, but now? Do you really wanna give a Vietnam vet with a screw loose a bunch of weapons? Shit, most of y’all wouldn’t even give him a dollar!

In recent years, they’ve tried to make him more “comic booky”, sending him after Hydra and having him somewhat idolize Captain America, but at the end of the day, he’s not a good dude. And it’s not like he does it in a funny way, like Deadpool (and I’ve got thoughts about that, too). He’s so “ripped from the headlines” that I’m surprised there aren’t Punisher copycats running around in the streets.

They say that every character is somebody’s favorite, but if yours is Punisher, not only do I want to know who hurt you, but I’m also afraid of you. We’ve got comic retailers pissed that Iron Man is currently a Black girl, or Captain America was a Black man, but don’t bat an eye that there’s this White dude who’s been on a killing spree since the mid 70s. I just don’t know if we need that character anymore.

Anyway, enough Vegas talk. Over at ABC, they finally locked their judges panel for the American Idol reboot and I’ve got problems with it.

The lineup on the judges panel will be Katy Perry, country star Luke Bryan, and 80s superstar Lionel Richie. And my problem is that these judges are current recording artists, so what’s to keep them from torpedoing the hopes of a contestant that they night see as competition? We already know Katy’s petty from her feud with Taylor Swift, so I wouldn’t put it past her.

When the original Idol aired, the judges were comprised of a producer, a hasbeen, and a pop music magic maker. None of them were active recording artists. The only show that has active recording artists as judges is The Voice, and notice how that show has yet to produce a household name after 13 seasons. Not even in the first season, where all eyes were on this newfangled show to see what it was all about, did the winner become a “star”. That show has always been, and will always be about the judges. You think Blake Shelton is gonna choose someone who might compete with him over a CMA? No the fuck not!

Katy’s experienced a lot of success, but I don’t know if she’s really anyone to be judging singing. Despite the fact that she’s the biggest star on the panel, and making the most money, Katy fills the Paula role, as she’s more of an entertainer than a vocalist. Luke, while he’s paid his dues in the country industry, is still a novice to stardom. Not really sure what advice he has to offer the next generation of stars. And Lionel is just there to fill that Randy Jackson, elder statesman role. If you’ll notice, the panel is missing a Simon. There’s no one there who truly understand the behind the scenes aspect of the industry. How to package an artist, how to match them with the right songs, etc. Katy has been packaged, and Lionel has written songs, but there’s no “godfather” on the panel, which I think will be to the show’s detriment.

In comic news, it was announced at NYCC yesterday that DC would be completely rebooting the “urban” Milestone properties, led by a new Static Shock series from Kyle Baker and Reginald Hudlin.

The minority pockets of comic fandom have been claiming for years that they’d support a Milestone reboot, so now it’s time for them to out their money where their mouth is. Frankly, I don’t believe them. It’s the “woke”, socially conscious thing to say, but when you’re faced with paying $3.99 a month for Static, your attitude is gonna change.

Several companies have tried to fill the void left by the Milestone books, and the only one that has come close to succeeding is Lion Forge’s current Catalyst Prime universe. While it’s still very early to tell where this imprint might go, they’ve delivered a quality product, with known creators, and even their footprint doesn’t seem to be that large. Retailers are ordering conservatively, as they, too, aren’t sure how things will shake our. Sure, Milestone will have DC Comics money behind it, but is DC giving then just enough rope with which to hang themselves? I guess time will tell, but I’m not overly optimistic about their chances. Plus, there have been so many bait & switch Milestone announcements over the years that I’ll believe it when I see the books on shelves.

Speaking of DC, there are reports that they’re backing away from their shared DC Extended Universe films, as they’ll downplay the interconnectedness going forward. While I, for one, applaud this decision, money talks, so the success or failure of Justice League will most likely dictate the future of their film universe. It’s increasingly seeming like the Flash movie will be Flashpoint, which is odd because we’re not even invested enough in the characters yet to go through a universe-changing event like that.

If you’re unfamiliar, Flashpoint was the DC Comics event that changed the DC timeline and resulted in the New 52 relaunch a few years back. Most of the DC heroes started with a clean slate, and the books picked up early in the heroes’ careers. While a Flashpoint movie wouldn’t have to be so drastic, as they haven’t really established much of that universe yet, it is interesting that they would do a soft reboot of the films so soon. My feelings is that they’ll keep what works and throw out what doesn’t. Gal Gadot ain’t going anywhere. And Aquaman is probably safe, too.

I think the biggest wild card is Affleck. It was sort of dumb for them to build a film universe around an older Batman, where the most interesting stuff about him occurred before we even meet him. I know they wanted to go all The Dark Knight Returns with his battle against Superman, and that required an older, more skilled Batman. However, Affleck and the DCEU are like a couple who’s clearly unhappy, but neither is willing to pull the trigger on a break-up. Plus, it doesn’t help that Affleck’s most recent non-DC films have been flops, so he’d be a fool to walk away from a sure thing. The films might not be universally loved, but they do make money.

Anyway, we got some character posters for Justice League this week, which is something I guess. It comes out 2 weeks after Thor: Ragnarok, yet I’ve seen almost no promotion for it, while Thor has had TV spots since late August. In fact, the only time I even remember there’s a Justice League movie coming is when I’m in the toy aisle and see those uninspired basic figures on the pegs. They’re really gonna need to pump up the hype machine in the next few weeks. With the way DC’s acting, I almost feel like they’re ready to take the L and move on to the next phase of their movie-making.

Last weekend I went to TFCon 2017, which was a Transformers convention held locally. While I had a great time finally meeting Twitter pals @briantruitt and @brock626, and catching up with my bud @FakeEyes22, the show itself was meh. Like, I can’t believe that people actually travel for that show. Imagine paying for tickets to a music festival with big name acts, only to get their and they say “Psych! Most of these are cover bands!” That’s TFCon, ’cause about 40% of the “convention floor” (AKA hotel ballroom) was nothing but 3rd party knockoff toys and Reprolabels. After all, why buy a legitimate Optimus Prime when you can buy a $70 “Supreme Leader”? I know that 3rd party stuff is popular amongst Transformers fans, but I didn’t think you could prop up a convention with it, especially since it seemed like Hasbro was starting to crack down on those knockoff peddlers. Anyway, I bought my first 3rd party Transformer, KBBMP 21+ Beetle Wasp , who is really just a large G1 Bumblebee.

Song of the Week

You know why. My a cappella group used to sing this and it was one of my favorite arrangements to sing. I tried to find our version on YouTube, but the one that’s up is the quality of hot garbage, so you get the original instead.

Things You Might Have Missed This Week

  • Film sites are teasing that “big star” Kate Winslet is reteaming with James Cameron and joining the Avatar franchise. Sorry, but she hasn’t been a star since 1997.
  • Fast 9 has been given the release date of 4/10/20, while the Fast spin-off starring Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson and Jason Statham now has a release date of 7/26/19.
  • Grammy award-winning singer/songwriter/actress Jill Scott has been cast as the villain Lady Eve in The CW’s Black Lightning. I still feel like they’re dooming this show to fail by not connecting it to the preexisting Arrowverse.
  • OJ Simpson was released from prison last Sunday morning at midnight, after serving a 9-year term. He immediately resumed his hunt for the real killers. Just kidding. He’s reportedly staying on a golf course somewhere.

  • We got a trailer for Syfy’s Happy!, based on the Grant Morrison and Darick Robertson graphic novel of the same name. While this left me with a feeling of “What did I just watch?”, this feels like it’d be more at home on FX than Syfy.
  • It seems like Universal’s Dark Universe is falling apart, after The Bride of Frankenstein just lost its release date. The actors, including Javier Bardem and Angelina Jolie, are on hold until the script can be worked on.
  • Natalia Cordova-Buckley has been upped to series regular for season 5 of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., so expect to see her yo-yoing through space this year.
  • Black superhero series Raising Dion is being developed by, and will co-star, Michael B. Jordan. The show has received a 10-episode order from Netflix.
  • Apparently there’s a Bob’s Burgers movie coming in 2020. Just like the show, I’ll have no direct interest in seeing it, but I’m sure I’ll eventually catch it on FXX one day and enjoy every minute of it.
  • Gore Verbinski, of Pirates of the Caribbean and The Ring fame, will reportedly direct Channing Tatum’s Gambit film spin-off of the X-Men franchise. Man, what kind of blackmail material does Tatum have to keep this movie in production?! I’ll bet it’s some dirt from his days as a stripper!
  • Bruce Willis’s Death Wish reboot has been moved from later this year to March 2nd, 2018. They claim it’s because the Thanksgiving film corridor is crowded, but it’s more likely the fact that a movie about an old White guy shooting up people ain’t so kosher right now. But we’ll have forgotten all about this stuff by March, so it’s cool.
  • The future of Nickelodeon’s Nicky, Ricky, Dicky & Dawn is in question, as they ain’t got no Dicky! Actor Mace Coronel (are we sure he’s not a video game character with that name?) abruptly left the show over the summer, and announced his departure on Instagram this week.
  • TNT announced that the upcoming 6th season of Major Crimes would be its last, despite the fact that it’s the highest rated show on the network. This is like when CBS initiated the Rural Purge, where they cancelled all their high-rated “bumpkin” shows because they wanted to change their image.
  • Alyssa Milano is developing her comic series Hacktivist into a TV series for The CW
  • Freshman ABC drama The Good Doctor has scored a full season order after only airing 2 episodes.
  • The Sonic the Hedgehog film has jumped from Sony to Paramount, and announced director Tim Miller (Deadpool) will now produce, as Jeff Fowler will be making his theatrical directorial debut on the film.
  • After 15 seasons, Pauley Perrette is leaving NCIS at the end of this season. In other news, NCIS has somehow been on for 15 years…

  • CBS is adding Will Ferrell-produced comedy No Activity to the All Access streaming service, to debut by end of year. However, Tim Meadows just joined the cast as the co-lead, so the show is already cancelled.
  • Larry Wilmore and Viola Davis are developing the comedy Black Don’t Crack for ABC, which sounds like an older Girlfriends reboot
  • Co-head writers Chris Kelly and Sarah Schneider have left Saturday Night Live to work on a pilot for Comedy Central. Kelly also wrote for Broad City, while Schneider wrote for Master of None.

  • We also got a trailer for Hulu’s Future Man from Seth Rogen. It looks funny, but Hulu doesn’t seem like the right home for it, as it feels like a Fox show.
  • Glee‘s Mark Salling issued a plea in his child pornography case. One of the stipulations of sentencing means he’ll have to stay away from events frequented by minors, such as “video arcade facilities”. Here’s hoping he not a pedophile AND a time traveler!

So, this has been a Hell of a week. One great thing about it, though, is that today is my 5-year wedding anniversary. Yup, on October 6th, 2012, I married a girl I met on the Internet, and she hasn’t killed me yet. We’ve actually been together 9 years, but only 5 in the eyes of the District of Columbia. It has certainly been a ride. She got skinnier, I got fatter. We’ve had a kid together, which is pretty cool. Sometimes I feel like said kid gets the attention that I used to get, but I’m not supposed to be jealous of a toddler, right? RIGHT?

Anyway, when things like Vegas happen, you do realize that you’re lucky/blessed to be alive, and you look at the life you’ve built around yourself. I certainly could’ve done a lot worse, and probably not much better. Look, I was a lot better at writing this kind of stuff 9 years ago, when we were both still in the “OMG, you love breathing? I love breathing, too!” phase. Life comes along, and shit gets hard. I’m not even going to lie about that. But it’s a lot easier to handle when you’ve got a good person beside you to deal with it together. So, I think the West Family is having the West Week Ever. I love y’all!

29th Sep2017

West Week Ever: Pop Culture In Review – 9/29/17

by Will

So the week kicked off with me heading to the Baltimore Comic-Con. A tradition of mine for the past 14 years or so, I’ve only missed one in that span of time and, while I was kinda under the weather, I’m a stickler for tradition! How was it? It was OK. It felt sort of smaller this year, but that could just be the result of the odd layout of the place. It wasn’t in the main hall, as there was some sort of waste management convention going on in that space. I honestly think it was called WasteCon. I wanted to sneak in just to see what kind of swag they had to offer. Anyway, you get into the exhibit hall, and the photo ops section split up the main floor from the food court. The publishers were set up closest to the photo ops, while the vendors took up most of the floor. Meanwhile, the smaller press, Artist Alley folks were shoved into the back. It might’ve been the same layout as last year, but something just felt off about it. The way things were jumbled together just kind of overwhelmed me – a feeling I’d have for the rest of the show.

The cosplay was pretty decent, though. I was somewhat disappointed by what I had seen at Awesome Con back in June, and I felt like these costumes were actually creative. I spent most of my time digging through longboxes, though, so I probably missed out on much of the “con experience”. Didn’t get to say “hi” to a lot of my publisher friends. Didn’t really meet any comic writers or artists. Just spent a few hours digging for gold.

I walked away from the show with an epiphany: I’m seriously considering giving up buying comics on a monthly basis. While I enjoy the weekly ritual of going to the comic shop, and grabbing the latest books off the shelf, the money really starts to rack up. Your average comic costs $3.99 today, and that can go up to $9.99 sometimes (looking at you, Deadpool). While my local shop gives you a 10% discount, that only goes so far. At the show, it was clear that the industry has changed, as the majority of the vendors were selling comics for $1 each. And I’m not talking about old, dead stock. Some of those books had just come out last Wednesday. Over the course of the show, I bought about 120 comics to fill in some holes in my collection. And you know how much I paid? $120. Had I bought those books at retail, at minimum they would’ve cost $478.

If you’ve talked to me recently about comics, you know the sort of To Read backlog that I’m dealing with. I buy the books when they hit, but don’t read them for 6 months. I have an unread longbox of Marvel and an unread longbox of DC. Why am I sinking all this money into something that’s just going to sit in a box? If I time the conventions correctly, I can buy everything I need every 6 months or so, and be caught up by the time the next show, and the next batch of $1 boxes hits.

I also don’t feel like being taken advantage of by publishers. I got into an argument with Rich Johnston of Bleeding Cool because of a matter I felt he should be covering but wasn’t. You see, DC recently wrapped up Frank Miller’s third entry into the Dark Knight series, Dark Knight III: The Master Race. This was an 8-issue series, expanded to 9 issues over the course of the series, priced at $5.99 each. So, right there, a $47.92 commitment became a $53.91 commitment. Fine. These were higher end comics, with a thicker stock cover and a mini comic inserted into each issue. So, $5.99. I think it could’ve been done for $4.99, but whatever. So, fast forward to last Wednesday, when the hardcover collection of the series was released for $29.99. Yes, I said HARDCOVER (which is typically priced much higher than a trade paperback). All 9 issues are included, plus the mini comics are included at natural size. You’re basically being punished for being an early adopter if you purchased the series on its pseudo-monthly schedule. Johnston tried to say that it’s commonly understood that collections are cheaper than the individual issues, but I say not by that kind of margin! Single issue buyers, like myself, almost paid TWICE what trade-waiters will pay, and I don’t think that’s the right way of doing business. Again, Johnston tried to say that the thicker cover and inserted mini comic would’ve made production costs higher, but not by that much. People always forget I worked at Diamond in Purchasing. Needless to say, Johnston thought it was a non-story because he had to go dig through some Marvel exec’s dumpster, but I think it’s an important issue. People want to blame stories and SJWs and all that for the demise of the comic industry, but ultimately it’s gonna come down to price. Always follow the money. And I’m going to rethink how I invest mine in this hobby.

Speaking of money, Toys “R” Us doesn’t have any, and they filed for bankruptcy last week. Keep in mind, vultures, that they filed for Chapter 11 protection so don’t start waiting for the going out of business sales any time soon.

I worked for Toys “R” Us off and on for 10 years of my life, so I’ve got some thoughts on the whole matter. Right now, they’ve got to restructure, and I think one thing they need to do is eliminate their in-house brands. Nobody wants Fastlane when you’ve got Hot Wheels for a dollar. It’s kind of hard to compete with that price point. Also, I feel like their footprint is too large. I remember growing up, thinking that I loved Toys “R” Us. Then I started working there, and realized I only loved aisles 6D & 7D – action figures. When I had to work other departments, I was like “What is all this shit?” They need a more concentrated assortment of merchandise, taking up less space. Also, seeing as how they own the Kay Bee rights, they should spin off that brand and resurrect it as “The Toy Store in the Mall”. Of course, malls are dying, so these would mainly be located in town centers which are all the rage in commercial real estate these days. A decent sized Kay Bee had all that you needed, except for larger stuff like bikes and the baby stuff. They can keep Babies “R” Us as it is, as that’s the moneymaker these days, but they should really strive for smaller stores. I’m sure I could rattle off some more suggestions, but nobody’s paying me for my ideas, so I’ll just sit here quietly and see what the professionals come up with.

 

*Climbs up on soapbox* I’m tired of the echo chamber. I’m tired of hearing the same shit, with nothing behind it except opinion and vitriol. What am I talking about? I got into a…discussion in a Facebook group the other day about The Big Bang Theory. Someone posted an article about how the show turned 10 years old and “still sucks”. I said that was a tired hot take because where it “sucks” or not, there are people out there who still like it. I won’t lie – I enjoy the show. It’s no marvel of modern television, but when’s the last time anyone said that about a multi cam sitcom? It’s the single cams that win all the awards. In this day and age, you’re bound to get hate just for having a studio audience. Liking it isn’t a hill for me to die on, but I find it almost obnoxious how people will go out of their way to tell you it sucks. OK, that’s great, but that’s your opinion. “But everyone thinks it sucks!” Everyone you talk to, maybe. We live in a time when opinion is routinely taken as fact and I’m just tired of the implications of that.

Let me learn ya something: this week’s 11th season premiere of The Big Bang Theory had 17 million viewers. I consider myself a student of television, and I can’t help but marvel at a show whose ratings trajectory is so strong after all this time. Find me another show, in the modern era, that has that kind of audience in its ELEVENTH season. It’s unparalleled. “But popularity doesn’t mean it’s good.” What are you looking for? Shakespeare? Some folks enjoy it. Isn’t that enough?

There’s a lot of cultural elitism going around, and it’s from the smallest things like TV shows to the biggest things like politics. When people say, “Oh, The Big Bang Theory is a piece of shit”, OK, that’s their opinion. To take that opinion as fact discounts the opinions of 17 MILLION PEOPLE. That’s when one of you will retort with “Well, the Nielsen system is broken”. Fine, I get it. There’s an excuse from everything.

I liken this situation to American politics. To go online, everyone supposedly hates Trump. Still, for all you’re seeing of that, somebody still voted for him. A lot of somebodies. But when you’re in your echo chamber, you don’t really think about that. It turns into “I can’t believe this! How did this happen?!” I’m not saying to go out and hug a Nazi because that would just be stupid, but just take some time to understand that someone has a different viewpoint than you. I’m not even saying you have to respect it, but at least acknowledge that it’s there.

I’ve done a lot of introspection over the past few weeks, and I’m reminded that I don’t want to review something with “That sucks” or “That’s horrible”, because other folks’ mileage may vary. It’s enough to just say “That wasn’t for me.” It’s times like these when I miss my pal Ryan’s podcast, Positively Nerdy. He would always strive to be positive about the stuff he talked about, and it even broke cynical old me. What do you all have to gain by being so negative about shit? Just let people enjoy what they enjoy, and stop acting like it’s some unexplained anomaly. It actually makes quite a bit of sense if you take the time to really think about it.

They announced a Teen Titans Go movie for next summer, and I’ve seen folks just shit all over it. Why? Because to a lot of folks “It’s the show that replaced Young Justice!” even though those decisions were made independently of each other. I love that show. Like, it honestly brings me joy. I work from home on Wednesdays, and the other day they had both a Neverending Story AND a Goonies homage. If you hate it, that’s fine, but it’s not a piece of shit to me. Also, Cartoon Network is a business. Sure, a lot of you hate that the show is ALWAYS on (I’d even probably hate that if I didn’t like the show), but it’s scheduled like that because it’s highly rated. “Well, those people have no taste!” There you go projecting your opinion on shit.

Anyway, I’m tired of hearing the same arguments and the same sentiments, and I’m going to do my best to broaden my horizons in that regard. *steps off soapbox*

Things You Might Have Missed This Week

  • Billy Bush and his wife of 20 years are calling it quits. Man, if you told me former Z104 DJ Billy Bush would end up the fall guy for a presidential administration, I never would’ve believed you…
  • Looks like Gina Torres finally chose the Red Pill, as she and husband Laurence Fishburne have split up after 14 years of marriage.
  • James Cameron said it took him a week to muster up the courage to ask ex-wife Linda Hamilton to star in the 6th Terminator movie.
  • It’s looking like Marvel has no faith in the Inhumans TV series (which premieres tonight), as it is now being billed as “the complete series” instead of “season one”
  • Rumer Willis is now a series regular on Empire. Huh? I can only assume her mom got her the job when she joined the show. So glad I dropped it a while ago.
  • Apparently the Riverdale folks are developing a reboot of Sabrina The Teenage Witch for The CW. Based on the Chilling Adventures of Sabrina comic, I doubt it’ll feature hot aunts this time around. PASS!

 

  • This year’s Arrowverse crossover will be a 2-night event called “Crisis on Earth-X”, and we got the promo image for it this week.

  • We also got this promo image for season 5 of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., where the team apparently heads to space.
  • After 5 seasons, Chip & Joanna Gaines are walking away from Fixer Upper. Knowing HGTV, they’re fast-tracking Fixer Upper Vegas to fill the void as we speak.
  • A female-led reboot of the 70s series Kung Fu has received a put pilot order at Fox. This means it pretty much HAS to make it to air or the network will be out of a ton of money. Considering there are some seriously messed up racial politics with that show, I’m counting down to the shitstorm.
  • Black-ish creator Kenya Barris will write the script for Coming to America 2. I can only assume Eddie Murphy’s behind on child support or something.
  • The Mist has been cancelled by Spike after one season.
  • Reportedly the youngest of the Kardashian-Jenner dynasty, Kylie, is 5 months pregnant, with rapper Travis Scott as the father. As fucked up as it is, I can only marvel at how savvy Kris Jenner is. The original cast members got old and boring, so she orchestrated the dawn of the next generation. If you don’t think Kris had a hand in all this, you don’t know the Kardashians. Kris could’ve been an amazing force as the head of a network or something.
  • The Russo Brothers are adapting Rick Remender’s Deadly Class comic for a pilot at Syfy
  • Amazon is developing Greg Rucka’s comics Lazarus into a television series
  • Former congressman Anthony Weiner was sentenced to 21 months in prison for sexting a teenage girl. How on the nose is that? His name is “Weiner” and that’s what he was showing to people. Man, people better keep an eye on Senator Robert Scrotum!
  • BoJack Horseman has been renewed for season 5 at Netflix. One day I’ll finally catch up with that show. Never even started season 2…
  • Apparently Danny Elfman will be working the John Williams Superman theme into Justice League. Don’t really know what to make of that right now.

  • The Cartoon Network series OK K.O.! Let’s Be Heroes kinda confounds me, but it did find it cool that there will be a Captain Planet crossover on the October 9th episode
  • Saturday Night Live has hired new cast members Heidi Gardner, Chris Redd, and Luke Null to fill the void left by departed cast members Bobby Moynihan, Vanessa Bayer, and Sasheer Zamata.

  • I don’t consider myself much of a “movie guy”, but I remember trailers like this, so I thought this was pretty cool.

It was a big week for Star Trek, as Sunday saw the premiere of the long-delayed Star Trek: Discovery. In all, I didn’t hate it. That said, I’m starting to love Enterprise, so I’m not sure what the fanbase would say about that. For now, it feels like Star Trek in name only (like Enterprise), but I’ve only seen one episode. That said, it was a riveting hour, and I’m interesting in learning more about the main character, Michael Burnham.

According to online reports, about 9.6 million people watched the premiere, and CBS All Access had its highest signup day in history. Still, a lot of that has to do with the fact that the first month is free. I don’t think this show has staying power on All Access, especially with little other original programming to support it. It’s a lot like the situation Yahoo found themselves in with Screen. Sure, they got Community, but it was already a low-rated network sitcom, which wasn’t adequately supported by the other original programming on the platform. It folded after a season. I feel that if Discovery gets a second season, I doubt it will be on All Access. Right now, they can say “Well, at least we tried” if it ends up blowing up in their faces. It’d be hilarious if they pull a Supergirl and farm it off to The CW. I guess time will tell.

Also, this week saw the 30th anniversary of Star Trek: The Next Generation. What better way to celebrate a show that hardline fans said “Wasn’t really Star Trek” than with a new show that hardline fans are saying the same thing? I remember the day TNG premiered. Oh yeah, I’ve been there since the beginning. I remember because my mom’s boyfriend at the time was putting carpet down in our back room. He took me to Kmart and bought me WWF trading cards while he got supplies. He was a hardline TOS fan, and had no desire to watch TNG that evening. I think he finished the job before the show came on, and I watched it wondering “What the heck is this?” After all, I have no real affinity for TOS, but I like getting in on the ground floor of things. Even at a young age, I liked the idea of Star Trek, but didn’t really like the show, if that makes any sense. Anyway, that carpet’s still in that back room, I think that dude may be dead, and now we’ve got a new Star Trek on the air. The circle of LIIIIIFFEEE!

I didn’t love TNG in the beginning, as I argue that it didn’t get good until Roddenberry died. Cruel, I know, but that’s when they took off the kid gloves. I tend to dislike a lot of episodes people love, like “Encounter at Farpoint” and “All Good Things…” Still, the turning point for me was “The Best of Both Worlds Pt I”, which is still the greatest season finale in the history of modern television. After that, there was no looking back for me. Man, 30 years! I feel so old…

Anyway, I think it goes without saying that the Star Trek franchise had the West Week Ever.

 

Programming Note: I used to write about stuff I found at thrift stores. It was called Thrift Justice. It’s back. Check this space on Monday!

15th Sep2017

West Week Ever: Pop Culture In Review – 9/15/17

by Will

In movie news, it was announced that J.J. Abrams would be returning to write and direct Star Wars: Episode IX. This comes on the heels of Colin Trevorrow’s dismissal from the project. If you remember, Abrams was the creative voice behind Star Wars: The Force Awakens, and many fans seem happy about this decision. I’ve seen some folks say that it’s now the cool thing to say you didn’t like The Force Awakens, but I remember hearing those complaints when the movie first came out. I mean, a lot of people felt he just remade A New Hope, so will this be a remake of The Empire Strikes Back? I’m not the biggest Star Wars fan, so I don’t know what I’m talking about. If the fans are happy (and geeks are rarely happy), then that’s enough for me. To accommodate this change in direction, however, the film’s release has been moved from May 2019 to December 2019.

In other movie news, there’s been an interesting development with the new Hellboy movie. Ya see, Hawaii Five-0‘s Daniel Dae Kim has been cast as Ben Daimio, which is the role that was vacated by Ed Skrein. This is good, as it’s an Asian-American character who will now be portrayed by an Asian actor. Done deal, right? Well, now we have to get into the weeds a bit and point out that Daimio is of Japanese descent, while Kim is Korean American. Does it matter? Some might say no. I mean, in Selma, African American Martin Luther King Jr was portrayed by British-Nigerian actor David Oyelowo. That said, if Daimio’s Japanese heritage is important to his character, and you just cast another non-Japanese actor, then it somewhat contributes to the idea that Asians are interchangeable, which doesn’t help matters in their pursuit of fair representation in media. My friend Jenn articles this much better than I can. At the end of the day, does it matter? To someone out there, I’m sure it does.

Oh, and we got a pic of what David Harbour will look like as Hellboy. Not bad!

In TV news, it was announced that ABC will be rebooting 80s cult classic The Greatest American Hero, but with a twist: this time, the show will star an Indian American woman named Meera. She’s described as a 30 year old woman from Cleveland, who enjoys tequila and karaoke. Um, OK. Now, I see what they’re doing here. They want to challenge the notion of what it means to be “American” in this day and age. I see you, ABC. I guess that’s somewhat timely, but people tend to forget that the original show wasn’t exactly a ratings smash. In fact, it barely eked out 3 seasons. It’s probably most notable for its theme song, “Believe It Or Not”. And this also isn’t the first time they’ve tried this idea with a woman, as there’s a pilot for The Greatest American Heroine, where a woman is chosen to take over for William Katt’s character. The pilot never aired, but was reedited into an episode that was added to the syndication package of the show. I don’t see this working in 2018, but ABC apparently has a lot of faith in it, as it’s a “put pilot”, which basically means it’s guaranteed to make it to air or it’s gonna cost ABC a lot of money to pass on it. It’s ABC, though. Just looking at The Mayor coming up this Fall, they clearly don’t have the strongest comedy development department right now.

In comics news, it took 13 years, but Marvel’s finally bringing back Jean Grey. The ORIGINAL Jean Grey. Killed at the end of Grant Morrison’s run of New X-Men, she hasn’t been seen since around 2004, though we all knew this would happen one day. We’ve had a bunch of fake outs, with the character of Hope and the debut of teen Jean Grey from an alternate reality timeline, but this is the real deal. And I’m not quite sure how I feel about it. On the one hand, it’s comics and nobody stays dead. On the other, they left her dead a lot longer than they had to. I’d actually started to think she was gone for good. Silly me! I really do wish death meant more in comics. I’m smart enough to know the character will be back, so I’d prefer they not write like I’m a moron. I’d be willing to accept a concession, like we got recently with Tony Stark. He’s not “dead”, but in some sort of a stasis coma. When they need him again, he’ll pop out of it, right as rain. I’m fine with that. Put more characters into comas! Have them get lost in the timestream, and make them find their way home. But stop “killing” them when you, and everyone else, know it will just be temporary. Anyway, to check out Jean’s grand return, pick up Phoenix Resurrection: The Return of Jean Grey – part of the upcoming Marvel Legacy initiative.

In other comics news, there was a whole kerfuffle regarding the G.I. Joe franchise. You see, IDW Publishing currently has the G.I. Joe license, and they’re publishing a Joe comic written by freelancer Aubrey Sitterson. Well, on the anniversary of that day we’re supposed to never forget, 9/11, Sitterson tweeted this:

 

After getting some blowback, he doubled down with this:

Nice try, Aubrey, but 9/11 affected more than just NYC. Y’all just happen to be the ones who get most of the attention. I’m not one of the guys who gets all choked up in patriotism, though, so if that’s how he feels, whatever.

Well, the Joe fandom didn’t take too kindly to that. And apparently this was just the latest in a long string of what they considered antagonistic behavior from the writer. So, fansites, such as YoJoe.com and GeneralsJoes.com, decided that they were no longer going to cover G.I. Joe comics until something was done with Sitterson. At first it seemed like IDW was standing behind the writer, but they eventually released the following statement:

I’m on the fence on this one. I mean, you vote with your dollars and if you’re unhappy with something, then don’t buy it. That said, I have never been more glad that I no longer identify as a G.I. Joe “fan”. A lot of these guys come just come across as bullies. Sitterson was on his arrogant high horse, but a lot of the response is coming from veterans who are throwing around terms like “Commie” and “Libtard” just because their feelings were hurt by a funnybook writer. Sitterson comes from the wrestling world, so he’s reveling in the role of the “heel”, or the bad guy. This is all a gimmick to him, and the more riled they get, the happier it makes him. It means it’s working. That said, I don’t think he realizes that some of these dudes have a few screws loose. They don’t understand the game, and they don’t care. I really wouldn’t be surprised if he’s getting death threats right now over his opinion.

At the end of the day, G.I. Joe is a dying franchise. You could even say it’s dead, but there’s a small group of +40 year old men who are keeping hope alive. I’ve often said that the franchise needs to take a TMNT-like break, and give folks a chance to actually miss it. Plus, it’s time to give today’s kids their own Joe. Sure, folks are going to argue that kids don’t play with toys anymore but, just like comics, the core audience is going to die, and you’re going to need to replace them somehow. The A Real America Hero era has had a good run, but it’s time for the sun to set on it. No more Duke, no more Snake Eyes. Reboot the fuck out of it! Call of Duty is popular. Make G.I. Joe like that. There are ways to make it viable but the current approaches aren’t working. It’s like porn – there’s ENOUGH porn in the world. There’s really no need to make more. The same with Larry Hama-based Joe stories. There’ve been enough over the past +30 years. It’s time to move on. Sure, this will just piss off the same demographic that’s currently upset with Sitterson, but they’re gonna be dead soon anyway. But who am I to say that? Just another libtard with a website, I suppose…

Things You Might Have Missed This Week

  • I guess he’s over her humps AND her lady lumps, as Josh Duhamel and Fergie have separated after 8 years of marriage.
  • Watch out, conservatives, as Trevor Noah’s contract with The Daily Show has been renewed through 2022. Meanwhile, HBO has renewed Last Week Tonight with John Oliver through 2020.
  • Matt Bomer’s The Last Tycoon has been cancelled by Amazon after one season.
  • TBS has renewed Wrecked, The Guest Book, and People of Earth
  • John Wick: Chapter 3 will be released May 17th, 2019
  • Nick Blood will be reprising his role of Lance Hunter on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. this season. I figure they’ll make some excuse for where Bobbi is, so she can pop up once The Orville gets cancelled.
  • Shaun Sipos will portray DC space hero Adam Strange on Syfy’s Krypton
  • Keke Palmer moves from Scream Queens to MTV’s Scream, as she’ll headline season 3 along with Power Rangers‘ RJ Cyler.
  • ESPN anchor Jemele Hill called the President a White Supremacist on her Twitter account, and the White House insinuated that she should be fired. Ya know, that thing the First Amendment specifically forbids them from doing…
  • Melissa McCarthy is now an Emmy winner, for Outstanding Guest Actress in a Comedy Role, for her work on Saturday Night Live last season.
  • The Black Lives Matter movement will be covered by Arrow this season, as well as an upcoming AMC drama, based on the book They Can’t Kill Us All, and adapted by a writer from Into the Badlands. Considering how bad Badlands‘ writing is, I’ve got more faith in the Arrow storyline…
  • It was revealed that Roald Dahl originally meant for the character of Charlie in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory to be Black, until his agent basically asked “Why?” and said that it wouldn’t be the right move.

  • After nearly 40 years, it was revealed that Mario has nipples, and the internet lost its mind!

  • We got our first taste of the main theme for Star Trek: Discovery, and I don’t hate it. It’s no Enterprise theme, but I like the callbacks to the Original Series theme.


I’m not sure who had the best week this week. I mean, there’s the movie IT, which broke a whole bunch of records, and has made about $180 million. I don’t really care about horror, though, and will probably never see the movie. Still, this was a big deal for the horror community.

There’s adult film star Cory Chase who became something of a household name when Senator Ted Cruz’s personal Twitter account Liked a tweet containing her scene from Moms Bang Teens 20. Cruz has, since, said that it was done by an aide, while his spokesperson tried to insinuate it was a hack. Anyway, Chase was without power due to Hurricane Irma, so she didn’t even realize why she was getting all of this newfound attention. This was a major boon for both Chase and the Reality Kings website.

Horror or Porn? I really can’t decide. So, I’m gonna leave it up to you guys. Tell me: who had the West Week Ever?

16th Jun2017

West Week Ever: Pop Culture In Review – 6/16/17

by Will

 

Hot on the heels of the poster reveal last Friday, we got a teaser trailer for Black Panther during the NBA Finals. And it did very little for me. Yeah, I know. Every other Black person I know is, as they say, “hype” for this movie, but I just have never cared about Black Panther as a character. And I know comic book movies require suspension of disbelief, but Michael B. Jordan plays a villain named KILLMONGER! That’s probably the comic bookiest name I’ve ever been forced to take seriously. It certainly looks colorful, and it’s gonna make all the monies, but I’m gonna need to see more before I get too excited.

Let’s talk about Black Panther for a minute, though, as I think people are conflating his comic book success with his appearances in all other media. At the moment, there are currently 3 Black Panther comics on the stands: 1) Black Panther, 2) World of Wakanda, and 3) Black Panther & The Crew. Also at this moment, the latter two have already been canceled. I’ve seen people online saying that Marvel should rethink their stance, considering all the views the trailer has racked up in its week online (22.6 million as I write this). I get what they’re trying to say, but it’s a faulty argument. Their assumption is that people are clamoring for all the Black Panther they can get, when it’s really just this one movie to which they’re looking forward.

When the Black Panther comic was relaunched last year, written by author Ta-Nehisi Coates, the first issue sold over 250,000 copies, which was a rare feat for 2016. Now, however, the book sells about 1/9 of that amount, and is still decreasing. Ya see, Coates was hot shit because of an article on reparations that he wrote for The Atlantic. Why someone thought that would translate into a successful stint writing comics is beyond me. Marvel struck while the iron was hot, though, and they were able to ride the Coates wave, but anyone who’s actually read the comic knows that he’s more about political drama than superhero action. People came to the table to see what he’d offer, but over time they’ve realized they’re not picking up what he’s putting down. Still, Marvel gave him yet another series, Black Panther & The Crew, which probably should’ve been called Black Panther and His Negrotastic Pals. I bought the first issue, but the book was canceled before I even had  the chance to read it, so womp womp. It could be argued that Coates wasn’t the right choice for the book, but I think a better explanation is that Marvel blew their wad too soon. They should’ve been launching these spinoffs in the wake of the trailer, not cancelling them. Still, the damage is already done, so it’s not like they can let them tread water until the movie is released. If anything, they’re gonna have to cancel and relaunch if they want to capitalize on movie buzz. The ship, however, has sailed for the books currently on the market because this trailer is not going to serve as the shot in the arm that some folks seem to believe it to be.

Fox has got the ball rolling on X-Men: Dark Phoenix, the follow-up to the disappointing X-Men: Apocalypse. It will be directed by Simon Kinberg, who has no directing experience by the way, and is slated to be released November 2nd, 2018. And the gang’s all here, with Fassbender, Lawrence, and McAvoy are all coming back. If you remember, they tried to act like they were on the fence about returning after Apocalypse, but I guess they love money too much. Meanwhile, they’re saying that Jessica Chastain is being pursued to play alien Shi’ar Empress Lilandra, who lets Xavier bone her every couple of years. Did I mention that Kinberg wrote X-Men: The Last Stand? Ya know, the LAST time they did the Dark Phoenix storyline?! THE ONE EVERYBODY HATED?! So they’re basically giving him do-over! Everything about this sounds terrible, but we’ll probably get another cool Quicksilver sequence out of it, this time set to La Bouche’s “Be My Lover” or some other disposable 90s pop song.

Normally, I’m all about those stories where they “get the band back together”, so I was definitely surprised when this video hit the Internet this week. I miss the age of the $20 million comedy, where Hollywood was cranking these things out monthly in the mid ’00s. Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story was one of my favorites, so I had high hopes for this thing, whatever it was supposed to be. Still, 13 years have passed since the movie, and this “return to the well” felt just as stale as Zoolander 2. Its saving grace is the fact that it’s only 4 minutes long (which still, somehow, feel like an eternity). I don’t even know where to start with this thing. The unfunniness of Stiller? The weak delivery from Christine Taylor? Or the fact that I don’t have a clue as to what the Hell Omaze is? Apparently it raises money for non-profits, but it’s far from a household name. I don’t know if this is the bold step Omaze needed to take to make a name for themselves. “Hey, look – we’re making a mini sequel to a 13 year old movie that didn’t need a sequel!” This thing seems dead on arrival, and I’d love to somehow be able to track the success/failure of this marketing initiative. Ugh, so much potential, squandered.

Bachelor in Paradise had its production suspended this week after accounts of “misconduct” began to surface. According to varying reports, Corinne Olympios from the most recent season of The Bachelor was involved in some pretty “heavy petting”, as your grandma would call it, with DeMario Jackson from season 13 of The Bachelorette. From what I heard, they were both drunk and tried to have sex. DeMario, unfortunately, couldn’t…”ready his soldier for battle”, so he “went downtown” instead. Corinne’s friend, who’s a producer on the show, told her that it’d look bad for her to be getting serviced on camera like that. A lot of other contestants reportedly witnessed the event, and said that the two were even seen canoodling together later that night. Then, Corinne started saying that she couldn’t remember the events of the night, and that she had never given consent for what happened. So now both sides are lawyered up, blaming the other for character assassination and worse. Oh, by the way, if you’re not familiar with Bachelor In Paradise, it’s a spinoff where the contestants are encouraged to get drunk and try to fuck. So…mission accomplished?

The format of the show was just asking for a controversy like this, and I’m amazed that it took this long for something like this to hit the Bachelor franchise. I don’t know anything about DeMario, but the one season of The Bachelor that I watched featured Corinne as the villain of the season. She was constantly boasting of her sexual prowess, saying things like “My ‘vagine’ is platinum.” Her tactic to win the show was to throw herself at The Bachelor early and often. Now, some folks are gonna interpret this as me saying she “deserved” this. If this was sexual assault, nobody deserves something like that. All I’m saying is that she was strategic in using sex to get what she wanted, and quick to cower when it didn’t work out as planned. Bachelor Nick Viall rebuffed all of her advances last season, and she’d end up pouting in her room, or taking a nap during the rose ceremony. She was notoriously immature yet manipulative. Word on the street was that she was up for her own show, but this little episode might’ve jeopardized the chances of that.

The most interesting part of this whole thing is that THEY HAVE THE TAPE! LET’S GO TO THE DAMN TAPE! How damning is that tape that it hasn’t been released yet? The production is most likely over for good, as the contestants have been sent home. The future of the show is in jeopardy because of this ordeal as there doesn’t really seem to be any coming back from this. The reality show fuck house actually turned into a fuck house. I guess their plan worked a little too well. If the show does come back, this is a watershed moment for dating shows, as nothing will be the same after this. Remember how talk shows changed when the Jenny Jones Murder took place? After that, they all became more staged, and Jerry Springer thrived in its wake. Now you can’t trust anything you see during daytime, while a show like Donahue couldn’t exist in the current climate. They’re gonna have to treat future iterations of The Bachelor with kid gloves, which isn’t what people come to see. When folks watch these shows, they wanna see if the contestants are gonna hook up. Now, they realize that standards and practices won’t allow that to be shown, but they still wanna see as much as the network will allow them to see. All these years after Joe Millionaire aired on Fox, folks don’t remember it for its janky premise (poor guy pretends to be a millionaire in order to find love from a pool of gold diggers), but rather for the scene of “Joe” (Evan Marriott) and contestant Sarah Kozer in the woods with some intense slurping on the audio. Lewd, yes, but boundary-pushing for 2003 and everyone was talking about it. The goal of these shows is to produce something to dominate the conversation for a while and, in that case, this whole thing has been a success. Still, there are serious matters at hand that need to be addressed, as folks are losing jobs (DeMario got fired for the allegations), and could also end up in jail.

After something like a year in teases, we finally have our release date for the DuckTales reboot: Aug 12th. The show will premiere on DisneyXD as an hour-long “mini movie”, and then be rebroadcast for the next 24 hours on the channel. Then,  the series will officially premiere on September 23rd, with 2 new episodes. As you saw above, we also got the new credit sequence and theme song. Some of the old fuddy duddies have taken issue with the remixed theme, but I love it. The most surprising thing to me is the new jacked Mrs. Beakley, but I figure there’ll be an in-series explanation for all that.

In the world of toys, Hasbro unveiled the full Netflix wave of Marvel Legends figures, and they look so great. In the beginning, I was scared these were gonna turn out to be exclusive to a particular retailer, but that doesn’t seem to be the case. We already knew about Daredevil, Jessica Jones, and Punisher, but the wave is rounded out by Elektra, as well as comic versions of Blade and Bullseye. As an added surprise, there’s a Build A Figure in the form of Man-Thing. That character means nothing to me, but I’ll be buying the whole wave, so someone give me a shout if you wanna buy Man-Thing off me. That’s right, I’m offering my Man-Thing in exchange for money. I think that might be illegal…

Song of the Week

This week’s song is Morgan Wallen’s “The Way I Talk”, mainly because I completely identify with it. If you’ve ever spoken with me, the first question people tend to ask is “Where are you from? You sound SOUTHERN!” Also, I spent more time than I’d like to admit trying to figure out if that actually was a sample from Spacehog’s “In The Meantime” at the beginning (verdict: inconclusive).

Things You Might Have Missed This Week

  • CMT is seriously considering reviving Tim Allen’s canceled ABC sitcom, Last Man Standing. They already air the reruns, so it seems like a natural fit.
  • An Injustice 2 eSports tournament will air on TBS in October. We’re really trying to make “eSports” a thing, huh?
  • Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt has been renewed for a 4th season at Netflix. One of these days I’ll finally finish seasons 2 and 3…
  • Aisha Tyler announced yesterday that she will be leaving The Talk at the end of the season, due to her current commitments on Criminal Minds, Whose Line Is It Anyway?, and Archer. Plus, she’ll be directing an upcoming film. Yeah, that’s probably enough jobs for one person.
  • Someone named Anthony Padilla is leaving something called Smosh. Apparently it’s a thing on the YouTubes. If you’ve got a tween, they can probably explain whatever this means.
  • In an update to something I mentioned last week, Sony has revised their plans to sell clean versions of their movies. Since it was found that the plan violated union contracts, now Sony will only offer clean versions of movies that have been approved by the director.
  • ABC has renewed “Toy Shark Tank”, AKA The Toy Box, for a second season.
  • I took a trip down memory lane to talk about the old Toy Biz Customer Service hotline.
  • In a baffling move, Amazon is buying Whole Foods Market for $13.7 billion. I haven’t been as confused about a business deal since K-Mart bought Sears.

When I first started West Week Ever, I came up with a No Death Policy. Even though I get kinda negative on here, I still want it to be a positive place. I have a bit of an odd history with death, as I became acquainted with it at an early age, so I like to stay away from all that. Plus, there’s that problem where if you mention one death, you’ve gotta mention ALL the deaths, and ain’t nobody got time for that – especially if that death didn’t really mean anything to me. Still, when I created this feature, I always knew there would be at least 2 important exceptions. I wasn’t looking forward to them, but given their age and health, I knew it would be something I’d have to tackle eventually. Sadly, one of those deaths occurred last Saturday.

When I was growing up, there were few things I looked forward to as much as the 1966 Batman series, weekday afternoons on Fox 5. While I’d gotten the Super Powers Batman and Batmobile toys when I was around 4, I really didn’t know anything about Batman until I was introduced to that show. Hell, I remember how I used to think Batman could fly. I mean, he had a cape! All people with capes fly, right? Anyway, like any kid, I was mesmerized by the POW! ZAP! BIFF! of the fight sequences. I was on the edge of my seat for the end of episode cliffhanger. I’d tie a sheet around my neck, and shadow box along with the Dynamic Duo as they fought King Tut’s goons. I also had a next door neighbor, Brian, who was a few years younger than me (he was 7 when I was 11, as I remember him thinking that was cool), and he worshipped the ground I walked on. He’d come over, and we’d be Batman and Robin, fighting invisible goons with gadgets I’d made from Construx and jump ropes. My concept of Batman was formed by Adam West and Burt Ward, walking up the side of buildings with their Bat Ropes.

As I grew up, I was introduced to other depictions of the Caped Crusader. I started reading comics in ’92, around the time that the classic Batman: The Animated Series debuted. Those versions of Batman were totally different than what I’d grown up knowing. The environment wasn’t as campy, the world was a darker place, and Batman wasn’t doing the Batusi. Over the years, I’ve had even more versions of Batman that I’ve compared to West’s rendition, but I’ve come to appreciate him even more. While the world around him was wacky, West’s Bruce Wayne/Batman was solid. He was smart, calculating, and always knew more than the folks around him. Can you imagine a “Tower of Babel” storyline (the classic JLA story where Batman takes down the rest of the Justice League using contingency plans he’d set up for all of them), starring West’s Batman? I can, and it would be AMAZING.

It seems life wasn’t too shabby for West offscreen, either. According to several stories, he was quite the hit with the ladies, and even had an 8-woman orgy with Riddler Frank Gorshin. ZOWIE! While he never really achieved mega success with anything else, he still established himself as a cult superstar, with his turn in Conan O’Brien’s failed pilot Lookwell, as well as his role as Mayor West on Family Guy, which introduced him to a new generation of fans. Other actors who portrayed Batman went on to other things. For Clooney, Kilmer, and Bale, the role is just another notch on the IMDB profile, but West WAS Batman. With the exception of probably Kevin Conroy, no one else has been so closely identified with the role as Adam West. At the end of the day, he’s the Batman that I always come back to, and the one to which I compare all newcomers. Adam West, born William West Anderson (hey, look at that!), was MY Batman and I think we were all lucky to have him. No, he didn’t have the West Week Ever. I don’t think that’s enough of an honor to indicate what he meant to me. So, with that in mind, Adam West had the West Life Ever. Farewell, old chum.

13th Jun2017

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

by Will

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

24th Mar2017

West Week Ever: Pop Culture In Review – 3/24/17

by Will

What did I just watch? So much to unpack…

I wasn’t going to post this week because, outside of the 2-year renewal for The Big Bang Theory, nothing really happened. Then I walked out of Power Rangers, and I had to do something with my thoughts.

I think I liked it? I’m not even sure. I’ll say that I think I know Power Rangers, and whatever that was was NOT Power Rangers. When we first learned that Lionsgate was going to produce the film, I was worried that they would do to the franchise what they do to everything: make it an angsty young adult adaptation. After all, they gave us The Twilight Saga, The Hunger Games, and The Divergent Series. And I think it’s safe to say that Lionsgate “Lionsgated” all over this film. Like, the Ranger stuff is almost an afterthought. It’s really just an angsty film about 5 teens who don’t really fit in until they find each other. I’ve watched enough Degrassi and Skins to know this formula. The whole “My friends are my family” routine. I half expected Drake to show up in his wheelchair.

Who’s this movie for? It’s definitely not for the current audience of the TV show, which is fine because they have the show, so they don’t necessarily need the movie. That said, it’s kinda weird to think there’s a Power Rangers movie out there that you probably shouldn’t take your 8 year old to see. I don’t say that based on the content, either; I just feel an 8 year old would be bored to tears by 80% of this movie. Ultimately, it’s for that Lionsgate audience: teenagers. But are teens too cool for school to even go see this film? The trailers want to make you think it’s nonstop superhero action, and nothing could be further from the truth. I think if that audience actually gets into the theater, they’ll enjoy the film, but I’m not sure it’s been effectively marketed to them.

The reason I say it’s not Power Rangers is because the basic premise of the whole enterprise, from the beginning, was that five teenagers with attitude were recruited to save the Earth from evil space aliens. The catch, however, is that the teens have NEVER had attitude. They’ve been goody two shoes since Day One. Even when they’re not initially good, we eventually find out they’ve got hearts of gold. In this film, these teens definitely have attitude which, in some ways, might make it the most true Power Rangers incarnation yet. The question, though, is whether this is what we want. In a lot of ways, the movie made me appreciate the show more, for all its cheesy faults and camp.

I’m kind of all over the place right now, so here are some thoughts, in no particular order:

  • If there’s a sequel, I hope it’s just a day in the life of Billy. I loved that character. LOVED him. Hell, I even loved Zack. The rest? Whatever.
  • Zordon’s an asshole. Like, he served no purpose other than the fact that the mythos calls for a Zordon. He doesn’t impart any wisdom, doesn’t teach them how to use their powers, nothing. He’s just another disappointed father figure to a group whose cup runneth over with disappointed parental units.
  • How much did Krispy Kreme pay in order to figure into the plot as much as they did?
  • It really is The Breakfast Club Gets Powers
  • There’s some pretty heavy stuff here: Kim’s wrapped up in a revenge porn scheme, Jason’s a delinquent, Trini’s got her whole identity stuff going on, Billy’s on the spectrum, and Zack’s got a dying mom. That’s five whole episodes of Skins crammed into one movie.
  • When you get down to it, I found the characters interesting enough that I would’ve watched a movie about them without all the “gotta morph in order to save the world” stuff tacked on. Instead of giving me The Breakfast Club Gets Powers, just give me a reboot of The Breakfast Club
  • Bandai’s shifty, ’cause they’re selling a movie morpher that doesn’t even exist.
  • Cheap ass Saban gave us 15 seconds of the same damn theme from 22 years ago? He couldn’t even re-record it?
  • Wasn’t really buying Elizabeth Banks as Rita, especially during the final battle.
  • The beginning of the film seemed almost like it took visual cues from that Power/Rangers fan film from a few years back
  • Nice Mariner Bay/Reefside Easter egg
  • I don’t get Goldar here. He’s apparently just a bigger Putty, but made out of gold, though he doesn’t seem as mindless. But what is he? Just a controlled automaton? Loyal pet? They clearly have history, but nothing we saw in the movie’s opening flashback.
  • Not a fan of the barely discernible Bayformers Zords
  • Didn’t hate the suits as much as I thought I would, but it would’ve been nice to see more of them…
  • When the Rangers FINALLY morph and fight the Putties, my kingdom for a Mighty RAW song in that sequence! “Combat”, “5-4-1”, “We Need A Hero”, anything. I know those were cheesy songs from the show, but I really wanted to get into a mindset that Kanye’s “Power” didn’t accomplish.
  • As toyetic property, the goal is to make the audience want to go out and buy the toys after seeing the film. For me, the movie didn’t succeed on that level. And I’m not even sure the typical toy audience (kids, not grown-ups with disposable income) are even the target audience for this film.
  • Kinda interesting that they changed Angel Grove from picturesque coastal city to podunk fishing town from which folks can’t wait to escape

Again, I really wanted to love this movie, despite going in with low expectations. I can honestly say that it’s in my Top 3 of Power Rangers films. It’s not a bad movie, but it’s not what I would’ve wanted in a Power Rangers film. I plan to see it again with my friends Brandon and John, so maybe I’ll feel differently after repeat viewings. It’s funny – for years, I’ve recommended Power Rangers RPM to folks because it was “the Power Rangers we always wanted”. It was more mature than the previous incarnations, in part because Disney was basically done with the franchise and wasn’t paying attention. I’ve come to realize, however, that there’s a cap to how mature I wanted the show to actually get. If you’ve never seen RPM, the series begins with the annihilation of 99% of the world’s population by a rogue computer virus, with the survivors taking refuge in a domed city. The stakes were higher, which I liked, but I never really wanted to know more about the goings on in the lives of the Rangers themselves. I wanted their world to grow up, but didn’t necessarily want them to grow up with it. I still wanted my technicolored battles in the middle of the desert/quarry/”abandoned warehouse district”. This film, while making the Rangers grow up, doesn’t really place them in a believable world for the Ranger parts of the movie. The concept doesn’t feel completely fleshed out, Maybe this can be dealt with in a sequel, where more worldbuilding can take place.

So, I didn’t love it, but I didn’t hate it. I just don’t know how I feel about it, really. I’m not going to say it was bad, because I actually enjoyed most of the movie. I just don’t know if there was a seamless combination between the teen drama and the world saving. I know enough about Ranger fandom to know too many people would love to jump down my throat for not just loving it, but as I said in the beginning, there’s just so much to unpack here.

In other Power Rangers news, I had the pleasure of being interviewed by Traci Lee for NBC News, regarding the history of diversity in the Power Rangers franchise. Oddly enough, a lot of what I found fault with in the show was rectified by the movie. In any case, I really love how the article came out, so check it out if you haven’t done so yet.

Oh, and nothing had the West Week Ever. As the Nina Simone sang, “It be’s that way sometimes.”

10th Feb2017

West Week Ever: Pop Culture In Review – 2/10/17

by Will

Last night, my friend Mike and I went to check out The Lego Batman Movie. Seeing as how we were the only two people in the theater, I’m not quite sure what its weekend box office is gonna look like. I bet John Wick: Chapter 2 takes #1, since that’s where everyone seemed to be heading. Anyway, I LOVED the film. First up, it considers EVERYTHING canon. If you saw it onscreen, then it happened in that universe. The whole thing is kind of surreal, as the movie focuses on Batman’s loner status, while also confronting his complicated relationship with The Joker. On the Batman Beyond cartoon, there’s an episode where old Bruce Wayne and his protege, Terry McGinnis, go to a Batman-themed musical. Bruce can’t get over how goofy the whole thing seems, but I feel like this film is the movie version of that musical. It doesn’t have the camp of the ’66 show, but it’s a movie that never really takes itself seriously. I loved the liberties they took, like making Jim and Barbara Gordon people of color (voiced by Hector Elizondo and Rosario Dawson). It doesn’t hurt the story any, while bringing some diversity to the Lego world. I also liked how it tied in concepts from The Lego Movie, such as the fact that Batman is a Master Builder. I’m not going to spoil the movie for you, but I feel like it’s strong until the middle of the second act, at which point it switches from a Lego Batman movie to a Lego Dimensions movie. Trust me, you’ll understand when you see it, and I think you’ll agree that the story gets a bit weaker at that point. In any case, I can’t wait for it to hit Blu Ray, so I can rewatch it a thousand times to catch all the Easter eggs.

This week, we got a trailer for a new season of Arrow. Wait, what? That was actually for Iron Fist? Huh. Yeah, I was really underwhelmed by that trailer. Finn Jones doesn’t seem like a great actor, there’s not a lot of Kung Fu on display, and it seems like it’s more focused on corporate takeover, as Danny Rand tries to reclaim his family’s business. Since it’s a Netflix Marvel show, there’s also Rosario Dawson and another damn hallway fight. I welcome the former, but I’m SO over the latter. I’ll get around to watching it, but the days of me binge-watching a Marvel season the weekend of its release are long gone. Considering I still need to watch Daredevil season 2 and Luke Cage, I’ll be lucky to get around to it in 2017. That said, I know a lot of y’all will binge it that day, and will tell me if it sucks or not.

In other TV news, it’s rumored that NBC wants to spin Saturday Night Live‘s Weekend Update segment into a weekly 30-minute show. I guess they looked at John Oliver and Samantha Bee, and realized they might be leaving money on the table. Still, Jost and Che as “polarizing”, at best, and I’m not sure if that segment has the legs to air 30 minutes every week, in the same format. Plus, would it also remain a part of SNL, or would it be excised completely? I think this would’ve been a good idea in an election year, as there’s just so much news to cover, but now that all that is behind us, I’m just not sure this is going to work. And then what happens? If it does leave SNL, would it come crawling back next season, with its tail between its legs? The difference between Last Week Tonight/Full Frontal and Weekend Update is that those cable shows are actually smart, with smart hosts. Plus, they can get away with a bit more because cable. Weekend Update has gotten a lot more biting since Trump was elected, but is it too little, too late? Are the SNL writers up to the task of this project? I just feel like it’s a bad idea that will dilute the Weekend Update and SNL brands.

It was also announced that Viacom will be rebranding Spike TV as the Paramount Network. In my lifetime, I don’t think I’ve witnessed a network go through as many format changes as that one. As far back as I can remember, it was The Nashville Network. Then, to appeal to a wider audience, it became The National Network. Then, to appeal to dudebros, it became Spike TV. Now, I don’t even know who they’re targeting. I also don’t know why they chose this particular name. It’s like they have short memories or something. After all, there’s already been a Paramount Network. Sure, most of us referred to it as UPN and not the United Paramount Network, but that’s what those letters stood for. And it was the definition of “failed experiment”. Sure, it hobbled along for about 10 years, but its legacy is basically Star Trek: Voyager, America’s Next Top Model and Girlfriends. Outside of that, it gave us such critical darlings as Shasta McNasty, Homeboys In Outer Space, and The Secret Diary of Desmond Pfeiffer. Hey, let’s see how many shitty (that means all of them) UPN shows I can list without looking them up: DiResta, Legend, Platypus Man, Hitz, Good News, SparksDilbert, Marker, The Watcher, The Sentinel…yeah,that’s enough to make my point, which is you probably don’t remember any of these. UPN did NOTHING for the Paramount brand, and its effects are still being felt 11 years after its demise. So why, WHY would Viacom want to go down this road again? Anyway, the early plans for the rebranding call for the network to be a warehouse for hit Viacom programming from their other networks. It’s basically just gonna be the Now That’s What I Call Viacom Channel, posting the highlights from MTV, Nick, Nick Jr, etc. In fact, there are no concrete plans for the future of other Viacom networks, such as VH1, CMT, and TVLand, but reports say that there’s no immediate push to shut them down.

It was also rumored that there are already talks of an American Idol revival, but this time on NBC. Now, keep in mind the show just ended its run on Fox last year. The idea is that The Voice would be reduced to one cycle a year, and then they would slot Idol in one of its old slots. I feel like NBC sees the value in that show in that it actually creates household names – something The Voice has failed to do after 11 seasons. The focus is too much on the judges, and the winners have gone nowhere. Quick, name a winner of The Voice without looking it up. Hell, I watched the first season, and I can’t even remember that guy (I looked it up: Javier Colon. Who? Right). So, there’s definitely something to be gained from acquiring the franchise. That said, though, I also feel like a network only gets one of those shows. Fox had Idol, NBC had The Voice, ABC had Rising Star, and CBS had some show that got canceled that I forgot. Fox hurt Idol by double-dipping and picking up The X-Factor. That show never caught on in the US, and it hurt the Fox singing competition brand. If NBC picks up Idol, it’s going to do the same to The Voice. I mean, how much longer does America want to see Blake Shelton and Adam Levine bicker at each other? Sure, there’s a new dynamic now that Blake and Gwen Stefani are dating and both judges, but unless the show breaks them up, I don’t know how engaging that’s gonna be. And Miley Cyrus as a coach? Now, let me say that Bangerz was a great album. I’ve written about how awesome it was. But I don’t think Miley is established enough as a singer to be coaching anyone. She’s more known for her antics than her music. Then again, Paula Abdul was a has been, judging the talent of tomorrow, but that was intrinsic to the formula. Ultimately, America chose the Idol, and the show brought in established stars as coaches. The Voice has an unnecessary layer. They have talented judges, but then they also have the coaches, and then America. As Idol showed us, ANYBODY cane a judge, which is going to be an important thing for NBC to remember once it comes to for contracts to be renegotiated. Anyway, I think Idol needs to rest a few more years before they dust it off. It was once a powerhouse, but television AND music changed over time. Let the industry figure out its next steps before trying to reenter it.

I don’t know about you, but I grew up with women, which meant I did a tour of duty with soap operas. I started with Days of Our Lives back in the late 80s, then shifted to The Young and the Restless, and then shifted back to Days in the 00s. And besides Victor Newman, there is no soap villain quite as diabolical as Stefano DiMera. Well, the actor who portrayed him, Joseph Mascolo, died back in December, but his final filmed episode aired yesterday.  Although Mascolo had been battling Alzheimers for the past few years, he had portrayed the character for around 30 years. For some reason (I haven’t watched in a while), he was in prison (he’s killed/led to the death of a lot of folks. But they typically come back after contract negotiations), and at the end of the episode, he escapes! What a beautiful ending, knowing that he will be forever “in the wind”, as they can’t really catch him again unless they recast him. Seeing as how the rumor is Days is coming to an end this year, they won’t even have time to do that, with scripts written about 6 months in advance. So, here’s a toast to one of the greatest villains to ever grace the television set. You will be missed, you evil son of a bitch.

Let’s get a little controversial, shall we? This week, comedian George Lopez got in hot water for kicking a woman out of one of his shows when she objected to a racially-charged joke he told. Basically he said, “There are only two rules in the Latino family: Don’t marry somebody black and don’t park in front of our house.” Apparently, a woman gave him the finger after that joke, to which he began to tell her to “sit [her] fucking ass down or get the fuck out.” Now, comedians are on his side because they say he was just shutting down a heckler. Meanwhile, the general public is on her side because they’re offended by the joke, and don’t see why he had to kick her out for objecting. Here’s my take: First of all, he’s told variations of this joke for years. He used to joke about how his grandmother wouldn’t even want President Obama in her house. If you’re familiar with his material, then his joke the other night shouldn’t surprise you. Now, for the folks offended by the joke: was he wrong? All I know is my own life experience. I dated a Cuban, and as polite and Ivy League-educated as I could be, I was still the Black guy who could only illicit grunts from her father. And I don’t know anyone named Esmeralda Jenkins or Manuela Johnson. Growing up where I did, Black guys didn’t get Latinas or Asian girls. Those girls’ families weren’t gonna stand for that! So, this is one of those jokes that’s grounded in truth. It might rub some folks the wrong way, but it’s not necessarily untrue. Where I stand, I don’t think he really did anything wrong. After all, that’s how comedians handle folks who they feel are interrupting their show, and the joke itself was par for the Lopez course. I wouldn’t say it was “haha funny”, but it wasn’t wrong.

Things You Might Have Missed This Week

  • An animated series based on the Castlevania video game is coming to Netflix later this year. Hopefully it will star gay Simon Belmont from Captain N: The Game Master.
  • Kate McKinnon will voice Ms. Frizzle in Netflix’s reboot of The Magic School Bus
  • Speaking of Netflix, Love, The OA, and Trollhunters have all been renewed by the streaming service.
  • Queen of Soul, Aretha Franklin, announced that she’s retiring after her next album is released.
  • After 25 years over covering the Olympics, Bob Costas announced he’s handing the reins over to Mike Tirico
  • Entertainment newsmagazine show The Insider has been canceled after 13 seasons.
  • Formerly of USA’s Satisfaction, Blair Redford has been cast as the first mutant in Fox’s X-Men TV series
  • Not to be outdone by Beyoncé, it was announced that George and Amal Clooney are expecting twins. Those Hollywood In Vitro clinics are working overtime these days!
  • Speaking of babies, Jason Statham proved he’s the Transporter of Sperm, as he announced he’s expecting a baby with girlfriend Rosie Huntington-Whiteley

I don’t like Tom Brady. Don’t like a thing about him. I find it odd that you can be suspended for cheating AND win the Super Bowl in the same damn season. That said, that was a Hell of a comeback during Sunday’s Super Bowl LI. Somehow, the Atlanta Falcons blew a 25-point lead, allowing the New England Patriots to mount an amazing comeback and win their 5th Super Bowl title. It was the first Super Bowl to go into overtime. There was Edelman’s amazing catch. Some are calling it the most exciting game of football ever. But in the end there can only be one winner, and that was the Patriots. So, with that in mind, the New England Patriots had the West Week Ever.

23rd Dec2016

West Week Ever: Pop Culture In Review – 12/23/16

by Will

Happy Birthday to me!!! Seriously, I should’ve just taken the week off, since A) it’s my birthday, B) I blew my blogging wad earlier this week, and C) nobody ever reads this thing on holiday weekends. So, brace yourself for the most phoned in West Week Ever you’ve ever seen!

Earlier this week, I posted The Greatest Threat To The Direct Market Comic Retailer IS The Direct Market Comic Retailer. Plainly put, comic retailers are their own worst enemy, but the industry also isn’t helped by the dinosaurs (both retailers and consumers) who refuse to grow with the times. There’s not really much more I can say that I didn’t say in the post, but check it out if you haven’t yet. It’s gotten some great feedback, and I’m pretty proud of it.

Justice League Action finally premiered last Friday as a “special” on Cartoon Network. I haven’t watched it yet, but it’s on my DVR. Look for a review next week. In the meantime, when looking for this image, I found a lot of YouTube clips using the word “FAIL” in regards to the series, so I guess folks aren’t liking it? Or maybe it’s the fact that it’s geared towards younger kids while older folks were probably hoping for a JL show like we had 10 years ago? Like I said, I’ll form an opinion by next week.

In Power Rangers news, Lionsgate continues to fail at properly marketing the film, as the toys keep revealing more than the studio. Earlier this week, a Toys “R” Us commercial online revealed the movie design for Rita’s henchman Goldar, and let’s just say it wasn’t pretty. It’s interesting that he shares similar design aspects to the Megazord, complete with wings and head shape. It just looks like someone poured melting gold on the Megazord. Is that what happened? After all, Rita’s suit is clearly a damaged Green Ranger suit, so is Goldar a damaged zord? Anyway, I’m hoping this is one of those designs that just doesn’t translate well to plastic, but will look better onscreen. Maybe? Hopefully?

I had the pleasure of joining my pal Corey Chapman for the latest episode of The Chap Report, where we discussed a LOT of politics. Like, a lot. If you only like me ranting about toys and comics, you’d probably best skip to halfway into the episode. Otherwise, enjoy as I talk about Russia, Trump, and Rogue One. Check it out here!

Things You Might Have Missed This Week

  • The old folks just don’t know when to quit, as we got word that both The Expendables 4 and Sex and the City 3 are happening. I’ve never seen any of The Expendables franchise, while I skipped out on SATC after the first one where we learned Miranda had let her bush become a forest. Poor Steve…
  • Journey, Electric Light Orchestra, Tupac, and some other folks will be inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. Yeah, Tupac. I’m just happy about Journey and E.L.O.  Now, let’s just hope former Journey frontman Steve Perry shows up for the ceremony.
  • Seth MacFarlane’s unfortunately unfunny Patrick Stewart vehicle, Blunt Talk, has been canceled by Starz after 2 seasons.
  • Some chick named Camila Cabello left something called Fifth Harmony. I am old, and don’t know what either of those things are. No, I’m kidding. It’s a girl pop group, but I can’t name a single one of their songs. Anyway, the other 4 Harmonies will carry on, but that can only work for so long.
  • Blizzard confirmed that the character Tracer in the video game Overwatch is a lesbian, and a certain corner of fandom lost their shit. No, I’m not gonna say their name because they’re always searching for that kind of thing. Let’s just say it rhymes with Hamerhate.
  • Blac Chyna took her baby and left boyfriend/baby daddy Rob Kardashian. I feel bad for Rob, but that’s what you get for having a baby with a chick whose name makes her sound like a really racist supervillain.
  • The Ghostbusters 101 comic was announced, which will see the original Ghostbusters travel to an alternate dimension to team up with the 2016 “Answer The Call” Girlbusters.

So, I guess it’s pretty obvious that Rogue One: A Star Wars Story was the belle of the ball this week. I mean, I haven’t seen it, but people I trust saw it and really liked it. I hear there’s so many great characters, like Trixie Bang Bang, Gay Karate Man, and Sass Bot. To be honest, I’m in no real rush to see it. Just like I don’t like my Trek without an Enterprise (with DS9 as the exception), I don’t like my Wars without Skywalkers. I get that this sets up A New Hope and everything, but that just isn’t enough to get my butt in a theater seat right now. Still, it has made $290 million in the US at this point, and that’s nothing to shake a stick at. So, in a week where very little happened, nothing even came close to the status of Rogue One, and that’s why it had the West Week Ever.

Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Kickin’ Kwanzaa, and maybe I’ll see ya again before the new year!

09th Dec2016

West Week Ever: Pop Culture In Review – 12/9/16

by Will

 

 

In Marvel news, we got a new teaser trailer for Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2. Why are there so many teasers these days? We already got a short teaser that actually TEASED. Sure, this was only about 2 minutes long, but back in my day, that was the trailer! Anyway, enough old man ranting from me. It looks good. I love Baby Groot because he reminds me of my toddler. Other than that, I’ve got no real thoughts on it one way or another. I guess I’m looking forward to it? I mean, it’s not marked on my calendar like Logan, but I’ll get excited once it’s closer.

In movie news, it was announced that Amy Schumer was cast as Barbie in an upcoming live-action movie. Yup, that Barbie. And the universe laughed and laughed! Look, I’m probably being more cruel than I need to be, but there’s a reason for it: I discovered last week that she had blocked me on Twitter. Now, I can’t remember ever saying anything disparaging about her, and I say a lot of shit about a lot of people. I certainly don’t remember saying anything block-worthy. So, I’m a little butthurt about that, even though if I were a Black Twitter star, I’d put “Blocked by @amyschumer” in my Twitter bio like some sort of trifling badge of honor. I just don’t get this casting other than the fact that she’s blonde. It also doesn’t help that the movie is reportedly rated PG, so she can’t bring her typical brand of comedy to the mix. Wrong body type, wrong personality. Couldn’t they just put Amy Adams in a blonde wig? Isla Fisher? Is Heidi Klum too old? Katherine Heigl? This casting just seems uninspired. Schumer looks like Barbie after a lot of bad decisions – kinda like how Chelsea Handler looks like someone rode her hard and put her away wet. It’s more a case of Sony and Mattel trying to capitalize on her rising fame than actually trying to cast someone right for the role.

Also, the teaser trailer for The Rock’s Baywatch adaptation was released yesterday. As a lifelong Baywatch fan, I was already a lock for seeing it, but it seems like they’re using the 21 Jump Street formula, so now I’m definitely all-in. It’s basically “What if Ryan Lochte joined the Baywatch team?” I love everyone involved, from The Rock to Zac Efron to Alexandra Daddario. I can’t wait for Memorial Day weekend!

In the world of toys, unless you’ve been hiding under a rock, you know that the hot toys of the season are Hatchimals. Basically, it’s a real life Tamagotchi, as you buy an egg that eventually hatches into some electronic Furby-esque toy. They retail for about $70, but they’re being listed on the secondary market from $100-200. Earlier this week, I posted this article about author Sara Gruen who saw the popularity of the toy as an opportunity to raise money for a man serving a life sentence whom she feels has been wrongly accused of a crime. She won’t go into too much detail because there’s a documentary in the works about the whole thing, but she had contributed over $150,000 of her own money to his legal fees, and felt that reselling the popular toy might help put a dent in her debt (She fucking this dude? If I were her husband, I’d be asking a LOT of questions!). Anyway, she didn’t have any clue what she was doing, so she thought it was a good idea to pay 2X retail for 156 Hatchimals, putting her in about $20,000 of additional debt. She had the harebrained scheme to charge FOUR times retail to parents desperately searching for the toy in time for Christmas. OK, let’s look at where she went wrong.

To some, I might be considered a scalper. I, however, think of myself as more of a Collectibles Reallocation Specialist. I try to keep up with what’s hot and, if I come across any, I resell them at a premium. It sounds bad, but I did this to pay for my wedding and never really looked back. If you keep your finger on the pulse, and don’t risk too much money, you can do alright with it. The way I see it, you’re paying a premium for accelerated access. Most of the stuff I sell will become plentiful given time, but the desire to be the first person to post about it online/give your kid something to brag about at Show & Tell drives folks to pay crazy prices for things they could’ve waited on. I’m not a complete dick, though. Kids are my weak spot. You tell me it’s the only thing your kid wants for his birthday, and I cave. So, I’m pretty much just targeting adults because they’ve got the disposable income.

Anyway, I’ve monitored the Hatchimals thing, and considered picking one up if I ran across it. A friend of mine from college is looking for one for his daughter, and so far they’ve struck out. It feels really good to be that last minute Christmas Savior. Not Jesus, but something a few notches below Jesus, like Peter or Moses. Here’s how I would’ve played this whole thing. I would’ve bought 3 Hatchimals. One for my friend, one to definitely sell, and one to sit on. If the selling one went quickly, then the one I was sitting on would go in the chamber. And that’s it. It’s too close to Christmas to really move that many because your avenues are limited. If you were truly enterprising, I’d even say to buy a case. I’m not sure of the case quantity, but it’s probably about 6-8 in a case. With Craigslist, you could move that in time. Here’s where she messed up: she paid $140 for something that cost $70. There’s already no meat on that bone. Had she bought them at retail, she could’ve doubled her money. With what people have been willing to pay, that would’ve been a fine plan. But you NEVER pay more than retail in arbitrage! So, her plan was dead on arrival, mainly because too many people know the market. If the retail price of Hatchimals fluctuated, you’d have some wiggle room, but the MSRP is $69.99, and everyone knows it, so how do you expect someone to fork over a car payment of $280.00?

Remember how I said there were limited avenues? That’s because Amazon bans toy sellers during the holiday season unless they’re having their orders fulfilled by Amazon. Hell, I’ve been selling on Amazon for 4 years, and I still can’t sell during Christmas. So, that wasn’t gonna be an option for her. Then, she went to eBay, but they’re already onto the Hatchimal racket, so they’re now limiting people from listing more than one a week. At this rate, she can sell about 5 before Christmas (based on when she started), and the day after Christmas the other 151 are gonna be worthless because A) the big day is gone and/or B) stock will catch up with demand. She’s NEVER going to make her money back, so she needs to make peace with that now. If she doesn’t want to sit on these things, she needs to start charging MSRP and accept the fact that she’s going to lose half her investment. As we get closer to Christmas, she could even charge about $80-100, but she still has them listed on her site for the recently reduced price of $189. Plainly put, you’re not gonna make the kind of money she needs with TOYS, especially alone and without a distribution network. She would’ve been better off if she’d bought a house from a sheriff’s sale and flipped it. There have since been updates that she received death threats from people who feel like she’s responsible for ruining their kids’ Christmas, which is a bit extreme. Right now, rest in comfort with the fact that she’s in tremendous debt and a horrible businesswoman. She doesn’t need your death threats.

Things You Might Have Missed This Week

  • NBC aired Hairspray Live, or as I affectionately called it Kristin Chenoweth’s Titties Live. Anyway, nobody watched it compared to the other recent live play adaptations.

  • It was announced that Mariah Carey will host YouTube Red’s The Keys of Christmas special. Based on the poster, it should be called Mariah Carey’s Titties Wish You A Merry Christmas, featuring DJ Khaled and Some Dude
  • Reportedly Beyonce’s recording of “Daddy Lessons” with the Dixie Chicks was rejected by the Grammy Country Music Committee. They’ll rue this day when she summons the Phoenix Force to destroy their lives.
  • Candace Cameron Bure is leaving The View, as it has gotten too hectic filming in NYC, while filming Fuller House in LA.
  • Disney released a new teaser for the DuckTales reboot, announcing that it would debut on DisneyXD next summer.
  • The trailer for Spider-Man: Homecoming was released last night. It was OK. With the exception of Tony Stark, I didn’t see anything we haven’t seen before. I just hate how every time the franchise reboots, everyone’s like “They finally got it right!” Chill. They got it right in the past, too.

I have officially joined the Bourgeoisie! That’s right, kids – I’ve seen Hamilton. Before you get all excited for me, I didn’t actually go to Broadway and see the show. No, some intrepid soul decided to post a near perfect copy of the show on YouTube, which ended up being snatched down yesterday. Sure, it may lack the “theatre experience”, but if you’ve seen ticket prices AND know of the lack of availability for tickets to the show, then you realize this experience was just as good. In fact, based on the vantage point of the person who filmed it, it’s actually better than what you’d probably be able to afford. I mean, these were GOOD seats. I can imagine someone sneaking their phone in the show like Rerun when he was taping that Doobie Bros concert. Before I get into my thoughts on the show, however, let’s take a trip down memory lane for a minute, shall we?

Back when I was at Cornell, I was really obsessed with secret societies. There was one in particular that every Cornellian wanted to get into, and I made it a side project to get on their radar so I could be tapped. Well, senior year came, and the tap never did. I later found out that I’d been nominated for entry, but I guess I didn’t make the cut. Let me just say this: it was not an honor just to be nominated! Fast forward to some time later, when I was up there for an alumni function, and a friend of mine who had been tapped volunteered to give me a tour of their secret lair (apparently the society was OK with folks using their status to impress friends/troll for impressionable pussy). Tucked away in a Gothic tower, the meeting space he was allowed to show consisted of a stone room with a wooden table in the middle. No, nothing fancy like a Justice League table. This thing looked like it had been picked up off the side of the road. It looked like a Biblical jail or something. Needless to say, I was not impressed. Now, all of this isn’t to say that Hamilton disappointed me like that stone room did, but it is to point out that there’s power in mystery. Hamilton has the reputation that it does because people want to see it but can’t, which only makes them want to see it more. I can’t help but wonder if this YouTube leak was part of an alt-right revenge plot in conjunction with that whole Pence matter a few weeks back. They wanted folks to boycott the show, but seeing as how the vast majority of the population couldn’t get tickets anyway, I guess they decided the best revenge was to kill the mystique around the show, and disseminate it to the masses.

The mystique of not being able to see it certainly helps propel the Hamilton legend forward. I mean, as I was watching it, I spent the first 20 minutes vacillating between “I can’t believe I’m finally watching this!” and “Please, God – Don’t let YouTube snatch this down before I finish watching it!” I didn’t really get into the play until around the point of the song “You’ll Be Back”. I wonder if that’s the same way people feel in the actual audience these days, taken aback by the fact that they’re ACTUALLY seeing Hamilton.

First of all, let’s deal with the pros. It’s really good. I mean, really good. Way better than it has any right to be. On paper, it’s a lame idea from that teacher you used to have who tried to hard to look “cool” to his students. You know the one: “No, ‘Mr. Smith’ was my father. You guys can call me Mark. Anyway, today we’re going to discuss our founding fathers through the medium of rap!” Seriously, it sounds like a trainwreck waiting to happen. But Miranda pulls it off, amazingly so.

Next up is the music. It’s great and it gets in your head and won’t leave. Even before you know the words, you’ll still be humming the melodies. That’s, like, the main goal of any musical composition: for it to make a lasting mark, have an impact. Hamilton certainly succeeds here.

Finally, my favorite character is a foppish King George III played by Jonathan Groff. If you’ve heard the soundtrack, then you already know his songs are funny, but his portrayal is just so great. It has to be seen to get the full effect.

Now for the cons. A friend of mine online pointed out that he didn’t care if he never saw the show, as the whole thing is on the album, and he’s right. A lot of musicals are dialogue-dialogue-BREAK INTO SONG-dialogue, but this entire play is sung or rapped. There’s nothing that isn’t on the soundtrack. That’s good for those who’ll never see the show, but it seems like you’re almost losing out by attending the play, as it has nothing more to offer other than the “Experience!”

I hate to disappoint the lot of you, but this really isn’t a show that needs to be SEEN. It’s not a visually stunning show. I can’t decide if the choreography is understated or just lazy, but I was somewhat unimpressed. By this point, you already know what Lin-Manuel Miranda looks like, so if you just play the soundtrack, close your eyes, and picture him in Colonial Williamsburg, you’ve got the gist of the imagery. The only thing I actually enjoyed seeing was Groff’s King George dancing along in the background of songs.

At the end of the day, it’s an amazing feat of theatre, and I’m glad I saw it. I’m also glad I didn’t have to sell a kidney in order to do so. Considering that the rap approach to Hamilton has made theatre interesting to those who may not typically care for the medium, it’s shame that the show hasn’t been made more accessible. I mean, I understand the idea of wanting to remain the hot girl of the Great White Way, but there are a lot of folks who’d really appreciate it who aren’t going to get to see it. Last time I checked, the YouTube file had already been viewed over 300,000 times. That’s almost better than the ratings for Crazy Ex-Girlfriend (I kid, but they’re not much different!). Clearly there is an interested audience out there who simply can’t afford to see the show. Sure, they throw scraps to the proletariat, like the PBS special and The Hamilton Mixtape, but there is a clear class divide between those who can see the show and those who can’t. I think that’s part of the problem I’ve had with the Hamilton phenomenon: it takes the hip hop vehicle and uses it to entertain an audience outside the typical socioeconomic status that actually created hip hop. I don’t quite want to call it “cultural appropriation”, but it’s close. It’s a relatable story about life and legacy, and I think a lot of people would get something out of it. Anyway, if you ever get the chance to see the show, be it online or live, then definitely don’t miss out on the opportunity. Just don’t take out a second mortgage on your house or anything in order to do so. It just ain’t THAT deep.

Meanwhile, all the Hamiltonians were sitting by their iTunes last Thursday night, realizing they’d received volume 1 of The Hamilton Mixtape. Featuring covers and songs inspired by the show, fans are eating it up. I’ve only heard a few of the songs that leaked early, such as Kelly Clarkson’s version of “It’s Quiet Uptown”. I felt she took an emotional ballad and turned it into an overproduced mess that lacks nuance or dynamics. I can only hope the rest of the album is better than that example. Still, like I said, as with all thing Hamilton, fans are loving it. There was no better week to be a Hamilton fan, and that’s why they had the West Week Ever.

26th Oct2016

Comical Thoughts – IDW Presents A Revolution You Can Skip

by Will

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For some time now, IDW has been the comic home of Hasbro’s biggest properties, including G.I. Joe and Transformers. They recently added MicronautsRom: SpaceKnight and UK import Action Man to the mix. So, it seems like as good a time as any to gather them all under the same umbrella in a shared universe. The mechanism for doing this is the miniseries Revolution, which will also result in a long awaited M.A.S.K. spinoff series. While this all might sound good on paper, the execution of it has been horrible. The story runs in a 5-issue miniseries, combined with various one-shots for each property involved. So far, the first 3 issues have been released, as well as the one-shots for Rom, M.A.S.K., and Micronauts. By this point, I feel justified in saying that the story is confusing, ugly, and not well planned. Let’s take a closer look, shall we?

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In the first issue, we learn that the Transformers depend on a mineral called Ore-13, which has recently become unstable and is exploding. The new Action Man is investigating a stockpile of it in Mt Olympus, where he discovers former G.I. Joe member Big Ben who’s not long for the world. Big Ben tells him that he was running a mission when he was ambushed by some Joes. He doesn’t know why his former teammates would attack him, but he managed to grab one of their dog tags before the rest of his crew was slaughtered. He says it seems like they were after the Ore-13, but Action Man is snatched away before the mountain explodes with Big Ben and the rest of the Ore-13. Well, apparently, the Transformers recently proclaimed that Earth would be joining the Cybertronian community, and the humans aren’t too pleased about that, as they see the Transfomers establishing themselves as our overlords. Enter G.I. Joe, who decide to attack the Transformers during a humanitarian mission. Things are pretty much at a stalemate until Rom the SpaceKnight comes out of nowhere and kills 4 Joes, including team founder Joe Colton. Since Rom looks more Cybertronian than human, the Joes assume he’s on the Transformers’ side. So, they take this as a declaration of war. We also get a back-story from Revolution #0, which introduces M.A.S.K.’s Miles “Mayhem” Manheim. They actually do something clever here by saying that he was a member of the original Action Team with Joe Colton. It appears he’s actually got Transformer Blitzwing in captivity, who he’s harvesting for parts and technology.

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In the second issue, it’s the Transformers vs Rom, as they’re pissed at him for “blowing up their spot”. They had formed something of an uneasy alliance with the humans, and Rom’s actions had just undone that by murdering those Joes. Rom, however, insists that he murdered no humans. Rom tells them that he is hunting the Dire Wraiths, who have managed to infiltrate world governments. Meanwhile, we’re introduced to the M.A.S.K. team, and the new Black Matt Trakker. Aileron and Kup face off against the M.A.S.K. team, whose vehicles were built using Cybertronian technology, resulting in Kup being captured. Trakker, however, has second thoughts about what they’ve done when he realizes the Transformers are sentient, and more than mere machines. At the end, we find out that Micronauts’ Baron Karza is behind the unstable Ore-13, as he’s been stealing it via a transdimensional space bridge in order to save the Microspace. Um, OK.

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The third issue brings a whole bunch of confusing Micronauts stuff, ’cause I know nothing about that franchise. It seems like the “heroes” of that world have formed an uneasy alliance with the villain Karza in order to save their universe. It’s Optimus Prime vs Rom because Rom’s mission is to defeat the Dire Wraiths, while Prime insists that Earth must be their primary concern. At the end of the day, Prime determines that, while Earth is important, the Microspace must also be preserved. Meanwhile, the autopsy results are in and the Joes realize their fallen friends weren’t human after all. Since they don’t know who they can trust, Scarlett puts in a call to “somebody we haven’t talked to in a while.” I think we all know who she means. Karza does some shit. Rom does some shit. And the issue ends with an entrance by Snake-Eyes.

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Revolution M.A.S.K.: Mobile Armored Strike Kommand #1 is the only one-shot I’ve bought from the series. It introduces us to the rest of the M.A.S.K. team, as we watch as they’re recruited and how they handle basic training. We also get hints that some of them aren’t as virtuous as they should be, yet those personalities align with team leader Miles “Mayhem” Manheim. Nothing here is original. Some recruits die in training, as “collateral damage”. The team is tasked with an impossible rescue mission. You’ve seen all of this before. Yet, it’s a serviceable introduction to the team and franchise. That said, I think all of this could’ve been possible without it taking place within the clunky Revolution storyline, as nothing in the special ties into present events – it’s a prequel story.

So, what are my problems with the series? Well, first of all, it’s a terrible jumping-on point for new readers. There’s WAY too much backstory with the Transformers and G.I. Joe books for this to go smoothly. Now, IDW did release a The Road to Revolution discount trade paperback with 5 stories that they felt were crucial to making the story a richer experience, but there shouldn’t have been required reading. A successful crossover like this should be accessible to all. To give you an idea of the problems here, IDW has had the Transformers license for ELEVEN YEARS. They’ve had the G.I. Joe license for EIGHT YEARS. In that span of time, the G.I. Joe comic has been rebooted four times, while most of the early Transformers comics were just a series of miniseries. I was IDW’s Diamond brand manager at the time of the early Transformers books, and even I didn’t really know what was going on. For folks with a cursory knowledge of the brands, this series opens with a ton of questions: Why’s Soundwave with the good guys? Where’s Bumblebee? Why is Scarlett the team leader? Where’s Flint and Duke and the Joes people care about? What about Cobra?

Something like this seems like it would be better served by a reboot of the existing brands instead of trying to get them to mesh with the newcomers. It doesn’t feel like they’re bringing their truest, core representations to the party. G.I. Joe isn’t just the military, as it’s used here. Their primary mission was to fight Cobra. Without Cobra, what are they? Here, they’re a shoot first, ask questions later sort of organization, which doesn’t really line up with what we’ve known them to be. If they’d been the least bit diplomatic, then this whole battle wouldn’t have even taken place. Like, why is Scarlett so pissed? And Snake-Eyes is a lot less cool/mysterious when he’s TEXTING! What happened before this miniseries to make her like this? As a new-ish reader, I can’t help but feel that I’m missing a lot. This miniseries might be a rich experience for those who’ve been following the series recently, but it’s just not a fulfilling experience for casual readers.

Another problem is that it seems actual story is taking place in the one-shots, which isn’t how these things are done. One-shots in an “event series” are supplemental material, stories going at the periphery of the action. Here, though, you open up Revolution #3, and Rom is suddenly just chilling with the Transformers like the events of the past issue never happened, and there’s an editor’s note of “See Rom : Revolution #1.” NO! That’s not how you do this. Major team shifts, side switches, etc don’t happen in the one-shots. You leave the meat and potatoes for the main series.

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Finally, the art’s just ugly. I’m not sure if IDW has a stable of “exclusive” artists, but you’d want the best on something this high profile. They do a capable job of handling the tech, such as the Transformers and the M.A.S.K. vehicles, but the humans are rough and inconsistent from panel to panel. They also look a bit cartoony for the subject matter. I realize all of these properties are toylines, but they’re being introduced in a story with some pretty high stakes. Imagine if Marvel’s Civil War had been drawn by an Archie artist. That’s what you’ve got here.

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After saying all that, I’ll probably stick with it since there are only 2 core issues left. That said, it hasn’t been an enjoyable experience. If this had just been a one-off thing, I’d probably give it a pass. It’s not, though. This miniseries is meant to set up the future of the Hasbro properties at IDW, and that just doesn’t seem like a good thing at this point. This series is a mess, so it doesn’t make me too optimistic about the future. If you’re a die-hard Transformers or Joe fan, I guess you’ve got to read it, but if you’ve just got casual interest, this is a revolution you can skip.

 

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