19th Dec2016

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

by Will

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

The article posits a few different reasons retailers are afraid:

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

16th Dec2016

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

by Will

The biggest news of the week is probably the fact that Star Trek Discovery is finally getting somewhere, as they cast the lead role of the series. Sonequa Martin-Green, most recently of The Walking Dead, has been cast as Lt Commander Shaznay Jenkins. I totally made up that name, but she will be playing a lieutenant commander, as they felt there have been enough Trek properties that focused on captains. Surprisingly enough, she’s still keeping her job on The Walking Dead. Now, I wonder if that’s actually true, or if they just don’t want us thinking too hard about the fact that her character is probably gonna be zombie chow soon. In all honesty, though, it makes sense for her to keep that job, as the Trek gig is supposed to be a one-season story. If there even is a second season, it’s unlikely it would follow the same cast, as that was never the original intention (keep in mind, intentions may have changed now that Bryan Fuller is no longer attached to the show). Still, it’s basically January (which was the original launch month), and they’ve got to put this thing together by May, special effects and all? I totally wouldn’t be surprised if it gets postponed again. I mean, they already missed the 50th anniversary, so they might as well just say “Fuck it” and take their time. Anyway, I wonder how Black they’re gonna take her character. Like, will she be Girl Sisko, or will she be more subdued? I mean, Sisko was In-Tense unless he was playing baseball.

 In WTF? news this week, Wonder Woman was removed as a United Nations Honorary Ambassador for the Empowerment of Women and Girls – just TWO MONTHS after receiving the honor in the first place. It seems that some folks were upset that a fictional character got the honor when there are real women out there fighting the good fight. Also, they felt that she wasn’t “culturally encompassing” (Too White) and “overtly sexualized” (Too Damn Hot).  Apparently, the UN received a petition with more than 44,000 signatures asking for her removal, from inside and outside the organization. This is a tough one. On the one hand, she is a fictional character, so it probably is a slap in the face to some women out there. But on the other hand, this is what you wanna waste your petition power on? Plus, it should be pointed out that honorary ambassadors tend to be fictional characters, as goodwill ambassador is the role reserved for the living. Former honorary ambassadors include Tinkerbell (honorary ambassador of green) and Winnie the Pooh (honorary ambassador of friendship). The character was chosen due to her roots in feminism, but many felt that she didn’t embody the image that the UN should be putting forth to the world.

In other DC Comics news, there are reports that Margot Robbie is donning the Harley Quinn costume again for a Gotham City Sirens movie, directed by Suicide Squad‘s David Ayer. I actually really liked Robbie’s Harley, so I don’t mind this one bit. I was also a big fan of the Gotham City Sirens comic, which was a buddy team-up between Catwoman, Harley, and Poison Ivy. They weren’t quite villains, but weren’t heroes either. They were almost like a super Golden Girls, lending support to one another. Sadly, though, they’re saying that Megan Fox is lobbying for the role of Poison Ivy, and that’s not a good fit in my opinion. But this is a DC movie, where they’re not known for their smart decisions, so Fox will probably get the part.

I’ve written about how good Boom!’s Power Rangers comics are, and the Kimberly-centric Power Rangers: Pink is no exception. The comic focuses on Kimberly after she leaves the team to go train for the Pan Global Games, with Kat taking her place on the team. Well, when the French village where her parents live is attacked, and the residents are turned into fish monsters, she’s called back into action. The Power Rangers are off-world, so they can’t help her, but Zordon utilizes the Sword of Light from “The Power Transfer” to infuse Kimberly with his own power. As the threat gets more intense, she realizes she needs a team of her own, and she goes and seeks out fellow former Rangers Trini and Zack. They end up with these cool, redesigned almost black ops versions of their MMPR suits. As the story goes on, they recruit 2 French teens to round out the team. At the end of this week’s issue, however, they threw us all for a loop when it was revealed that Trini and Zack are now a couple. Now, I’ve never been a fan of “shipping”, but I guess I always assumed Trini and Billy had an unspoken love, since they were the two smart ones on the team. I can’t even remember Zack interacting with Trini on the show, but somehow this comic makes it seem plausible. I’m really enjoying how these books are playing with continuity, managing to make stories that still “matter” even if they aren’t part of the canon that we’ve come to know.

Things You Might Have Missed This Week

  • NBC announced that their Taken prequel series will premiere February 27th. I’d watch a Taken prequel film, with a digitally de-aged Liam Neeson, but I have no interest in a TV show. There are NO stakes, considering we know he lives to be featured in THREE movies!
  • Taran Killam will assume the role of King George III for Hamilton on Broadway. I think this is PERFECT casting! It’ll be like his Jebediah Atkinson character on comedic steroids.
  • Tarek and Christina El Moussa of HGTV’s Flip or Flop announced their separation, following a crazy incident last May where Tarek flipped out and ran into the woods with a gun. Christina is reportedly now dating one of their contractors. And they still expect the show to continue!
  • Patrick Wilson was cast as Ocean Master in the upcoming Aquaman film. I’d ask “Who?”, but I know who he is. I’m just not impressed.
  • While we still await the first broadcast cancellation of the Fall TV season, Netflix cancelled Marco Polo, and WGN America cancelled Salem. I don’t even know why WGN tried to get into original programming. Manhattan failed, Salem failed, and Underground‘s days are probably numbered, as I’ve never met anyone who’s watched it.
  • R.L. Stine will be writing Marvel’s Man-Thing. Aw shit, son! They gonna get Goosebumps on their Man-Thing?! Better get some cream for that!
  • TBS renewed recent West Week Ever recipient Search Party, as well as Wyatt Cenac’s People of Earth for second seasons.

It ain’t easy being Black in professional wrestling. It’s even harder to be THREE Black guys in professional wrestling. Yet, somehow, New Day has risen above it all, and this week they were heralded as the longest-reigning tag team champions in WWE history. The previous record was 478 days, set by Demolition members Ax and Smash, but that was also a different time. In a lot of ways, that’s what’s so conflicting for me. I mean, what does it really mean to hold a belt over a year in the rigged world of “sports entertainment”. Back when Demolition did it, we still kinda pretended the stuff was real, in an era of gimmicks and ring names. Now, the title is held by Kofi Kingston, Big E Langston and Xavier Woods – all names that would’ve been held by “jobbers” 30 years ago (for y’all not into wrestling, a jobber is the no-name guy who’d get into the ring with someone like Hulk Hogan in order to make Hogan look better. Now they’re referred to as “enhancement talent”. Sounds like the ability to make your penis grow at will or something, but I digress…). So, now that the curtain has been pulled back, and we know how the sausage is made, what does it truly mean for New Day to be the champions?

Some might say that this is a triumph for Blacks in wrestling and, in many ways, it is. I mean, Vinnie Mac doesn’t cotton to minorities too often, so the fact that he hasn’t stripped them of the title either means that there’s nobody in the locker room with the heat to do it, OR he actually believes in them. I’d like to think that he’s caught up with the times and that it’s the latter. Still, when the #BlackExcellence hashtag started circulating earlier this week in regards to New Day, it was proven that many fans aren’t as “progressive” as McMahon. The slurs and insults began to fly! But is anyone surprised? I mean, it’s still 2016, where everything is horrible.

I’ve seen New Day, and I can believe the hype. It’s really hard to hate those guys, as they just bring a certain energy to wrestling that wasn’t there before. I can’t explain the Booty O’s and the unicorn horns or any of that, as I’m a casual wrestling fan these days, but whatever they’re doing is working. I will say this, though: I find the whole “record” thing funny because how is it a streak if you’re not constantly defending your title? For example, I saw them at my first live wrestling experience a few months back, and they lost. But their title wasn’t on the line that night. How convenient. It doesn’t mean much if you can just pick and choose when the title is on the line. At least, that’s not how I would run MY wrestling promotion. I’d have hardcore rules on all the titles, so you could get a chair to the head while standing at a public urinal, and it would all be legal. But I can’t give away ALL of my million dollar ideas!

On top of breaking the streak, this week also saw the release of a beautiful 3-pack of WWE Elite figures of New Day from Mattel. Designed to look like a cereal box of Booty O’s, the whole package is amazing. The figure sculpts are great, and it’s a package so gorgeous that you won’t want to open it.

Yes, everything was coming up Milhouse for New Day this week, and that’s why they had the West Week Ever.

21st Oct2016

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

by Will

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WWE Edit

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Things You Might Have Missed This Week

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

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


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

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

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

14th Oct2016

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

by Will

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07th Oct2016

West Week Ever: Pop Culture In Review – 10/7/16

by Will

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So, I surprised even myself by going to see Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children. This movie wasn’t even really on my radar, but my friend, Jenn, was in town and she wanted to see it. She knew her husband back home would have no interest in it, but I was a more willing accomplice. This was the first time in a LONG time that I’ve gone into a movie knowing absolutely NOTHING about it. The most I knew was I was pretty sure it was based on a YA novel. Other than that, I didn’t know a thing.

Well, the movie’s about Jacob Portman, who’s really close to the grandfather who used to tell him fantastic tales about the other children at the orphanage where he grew up. Now, about to turn 18, Jacob visits his grandfather only to find him dying in the woods. He tells Jacob to go to the orphanage and that he would learn the truth. Somehow Jacob’s psychiatrist convinces his parents to take him to Wales to visit this orphanage, and that’s when the craziness starts. All those stories that his grandfather had told were true! Those strange kids really lived at the orphanage. There’s a girl who’s lighter than air and has to wear lead shoes so she doesn’t float away. There’s a little girl with a monster mouth in the back of her neck. There’s an invisible boy. There’s a girl who can control plant life. And more! And they’re all cared for by Miss Peregrine, this sexy schoolmarm type (played by Eva Green) who has the power to control time. It turns out they’re all something called Peculiars, and Jacob’s grandfather had been killed by an evil Peculiar. Apparently, there are evil Peculiars who were trying to figure out how to live forever, but the experiment turned them into monsters. The only way to get back to their human form was for them to eat the eyeballs of other Peculiars. Anyway, the evil Peculiars are led by Samuel L. Jackson who hunts down Peculiars for their eyes so he could heal his friends. Yeah, this is some patented Tim Burton freaky shit, and the monsters are nightmare-inducing. Some fool had their baby in the theater, so I can only imagine those future therapy bills.

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Right now, Tim Burton has been getting a lot of flack for the lack of diversity in his films, but I’m not sure it’s really warranted. He tends to be an auteur of “Weird White People” films to the point where I think diversity would be out of place. He’s still the man who gave us Billy Dee Williams as Harvey Dent, and he created a the Sam Jackson role here just so he could work with him, as the novel plays out slightly differently. So, I’m not about to grab my pitchfork just yet. Anyway, Miss Peregrine’s has been described as “Harry Potter meets X-Men“, and I think that’s probably an accurate assessment. If you like either of those properties, then check this out.

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On TV, I finally watched the pilot for MacGyver. I was never a fan of the original, as the only episode I ever saw was the series finale (I used to be a series finale whore; I’d watch the final episode of anything). All I know is that Angus MacGyver worked for the Phoenix Foundation and he could do amazing things with stuff just found lying around. What I remember from the old series finale (and bear with me, as it’s been about 25 years), but MacGyver met the son he never knew he had. So, I was kinda hoping this series would pick up on that thread, and we’d be watching the son’s adventures, also keeping the door open for appearances by Richard Dean Anderson. But that was not to be, as this is a complete reboot. Now, I wondered how amazing MacGyver would seem in a 21st century world, as we live with smartphones and lifehacks, so a lot of what RDA did back in the day wouldn’t seem so spectacular these days. Surprisingly, it still works. I was really worried about this show, as CBS completely threw out the original pilot and most of the supporting cast. It was a concept they were committed to without any real proof that it would work. So far, though, I think it works. It’s your typical, formulaic CBS one-hour procedural. I thought MacGyver was kinda smug with a punchable face (like Lucas Till), but I got used to him over the course of the hour. I’m not sure I’ll watch it every week, as I’d rather watch Shark Tank, but I wouldn’t mind watching it if my TV somehow got stuck on CBS.

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Also on TV, I caught the premiere of Conviction on ABC. Starring Agent Carter herself, Hayley Atwell, it’s about a former First Daughter who’s kind of a fuck up. She gets arrested for cocaine possession, but instead of sending her up the river (jeopardizing her mother’s Senate campaign), she’s offered the job as the head of the Conviction Investigation Unit. They investigate convictions that should probably be overturned, and they do it with such…wait for it…conviction. The supporting cast is serviceable, including Iceman Shawn Ashmore and Deacon’s wife from King of Queens (I know I wasn’t the only one who recognized her!). It was a basic paint-by-numbers legal procedural, with the crew saving the day in the last five minutes. If it aired on CBS, they simply would’ve called it C.I.U. and kept it moving. But I guess ABC wanted to really wanted to go with the bold title, and it works. Still, I’m not sure this is destination television. Every member of the team has a backstory and, while I’d love to see how some of them play out, I’m not sure I’ve got the conviction to stick with this show. Atwell’s cute and all, but she’s not playing Peggy Carter, and I don’t really buy her as an extreme version of Jenna Bush. You know they’re always gonna win, so I don’t really know what the draw is except to find the answers to those backstories.

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I just mentioned Iceman and that reminded me that the poster for the third Wolverine film, now called Logan, debuted this week. Based on the color palette and the child’s hand, it feels almost like they’re trying to evoke something like The Road. It’s been rumored that the film would be based on the “Old Man Logan” storyline, in which an older Wolverine has to cross what’s left of the country, in a world in which the heroes lost. The problem with that, however, is that most of the important characters of that storyline are not characters to which 20th Century Fox has the rights. So, it looks like they’re doing their own take on things. Reportedly, Logan is set in 2024, in a world where mutant births are declining, while the government is training young mutants to be soldiers. Oh, and Wolverine clone X-23 might be the child holding Logan’s hand. Now, while I’d love to see an older Wolverine in a dystopian future, I’m not quite sure such a thing would fit tonally with the rest of the franchise. The problem with the Wolverine films is that they’ve never been great. They don’t take any chances, and they’re serviceable at best. I don’t hate X-Men Origins: Wolverine as much as most, but even The Wolverine played it pretty safe with its Wolverine In Japan story. I’d love for this to be a departure from those movies, but it certainly won’t make for a balanced trilogy. Still, Jackman should go out on a high note, so if this is the way for them to do that, then I’m all for it.

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In other movie news, we got our first look at the Red Ranger’s Power Sword from the upcoming Power Rangers film. It looks like a fancy razor from Gillette or a futuristic writing pen. But a sword, it is not. There will be other movie reveals this weekend at New York Comic Con, including the debut of the trailer. There will also be an exclusive Movie Red Ranger Legacy figure, which looks kinda horrible. I really want to like this movie, but nothing about it has me excited. I know you have to reimagine things to appeal to a new audience, but I feel like they’re losing sight of what Power Rangers is.  This is just starting to look like a team full of Guyvers.

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Speaking of Power Rangers, it was announced that former Green/White/Red/Black/All Time Greatest Ranger, Jason David Frank, will be playing Bloodshot in a webseries based on the Valiant comic properties. It’s not a huge surprise because the guys behind it are Bat In The Sun, who JDF has worked with in the past. In the role of Ninjak will be Arrow‘s Deadshot, Michael Rowe. I knew Valiant was trying to do something live action with their properties, but I thought it would actually be something cinematic. You say “webseries” to me, and it just makes my penis soft. Anyway, JDF will also be at New York Comic Con doing signings to promote the project.

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I can’t really let this week go without talking about the whole Kim Kardashian thing. If you were unaware, Kim was robbed at gunpoint in a Paris hotel by a group disguised as police. She was bound and gagged and put in the bathtub. Obviously frightened, she said that she feared they were going to rape her. In the end, they stole millions of dollars worth of stuff from her, including her $4 million engagement ring. And then the jokes started.

Look, I get it: the Kardashians put themselves in the spotlight, so people feel they’re fair game. Still, this is the kind of occurrence that you shouldn’t wish on ANYONE. Sure, people like to think “Well, who cares? They’re rich and famous simply for being famous.” As radio host Bobby Bones put it, we’re all rich to someone. And don’t give me that whole “They’re famous for being famous thing” because that was pretty much the description of Donald Trump until recently, and look where that got him.

I’ve never really understood Kardashian hate, and I guess I’ve become something of a Kardashian apologist. It takes too much energy to hate someone who really doesn’t even give a shit about you. And people like to slut-shame her about being famous for a sex tape, but from the public’s perspective, Taylor Swift has been with WAY more men than Kim, and nobody says shit about that. And I’ll bet there’s a sex tape of her out there somewhere the same way Jennifer Lawrence can’t seem to stop taking nude selfies that end up getting hacked. At the end of the day, Kim Kardashian is still a person and, contrary to what some folks are saying, didn’t deserve to have that happen to her, nor is it funny. If you’re laughing about that whole ordeal, get your life right. I can’t imagine what she went through, and I hope it doesn’t have any long-term effects on her.

Things You Might Have Missed This Week

  • Netflix’s The Punisher announced three new cast members, including Ebon Moss-Bachrach from Girls as Frank Castle’s ally Micro.
  • Speaking of Marvel Netflix shows, it was announced that Iron Fist will debut on 3/17/17. Happy St. Patrick’s Day, muthatruckas!
  • It was also announced that BOOM! will publish an ongoing WWE comic book. So, I figure half the book will be nothing but ads for The Network or Connor’s Cure.
  • Despite the fact that director David Ayer claimed the theatrical cut was his final version, an extended cut of Suicide Squad will be released on Blu-Ray on December 13th – because 10 extra minutes are gonna make folks like that movie (for the record, I already liked it).
  • Alec Baldwin made his debut as Donald Trump on the season premiere of Saturday Night Live. Hosted by Margot Robbie, it was one of the best episodes in YEARS.
  • Based on how they’ve painted him as an emasculated wimp, I would bet money that President Kiefer’s wife eventually has an affair on Designated Survivor – perhaps with her husband’s Chief of Staff. They might save that for season 2

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Luke Cage won the week. The Marvel Netflix series debuted last Friday, and was so popular that it BROKE Netflix. Spinning out of Jessica Jones, Luke Cage focuses on a nigh invulnerable man with bulletproof skin, forced to survive in a world that fears and hates him. Or I guess it does. I haven’t watched it yet. I still need to watch Daredevil season 2 because I wanna watch them in order, so I probably won’t get to Luke Cage til around Christmas. Still, it was on everyone’s lips, and the thinkpieces runneth over. Everyone had something to say about the series, and I feel like it has even stolen the thunder of Marvel’s upcoming Dr. Strange film. Once I watch the series I’ll have more to say, but I think it’s safe to say that Luke Cage had the West Week Ever.

23rd Sep2016

West Week Ever: Pop Culture In Review – 9/23/16

by Will

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WWE Edit

So I started a new job last week, and it has drastically changed my life. I used to roll into work whenever I wanted, blog, tweet, the works! Now everything is blocked and they are kicking my ass. I feel like I’m gradually losing my grasp on pop culture, but I’m doing my best to hang on. So, let’s see if I’ve still got it, huh?

I had no time to watch movies this week because in the world of television it was PREMIERE WEEK! New shows! Returning shows! Bad shows! Good shows!

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On Monday, I caught Kevin Can Wait on CBS. Yeah, yeah, I know it’s not the cool kid thing to do, but I actually really liked The King of Queens, and I think I’m the only person, besides Adam Sandler, still championing James’s career. In the show, James is a retired cop who’s trying to get used to civilian life. It follows the fat schlub/hot wife sitcom formula, with Childrens Hospital‘s Erinn Hayes as his wife. In the pilot, James meets his daughter’s effeminate fiance and can’t deal. Oh, and there’s a role for his real life brother, Gary Valentine, who happens to be in most Kevin James productions. At the end of the day, it’s serviceable, but not great. It’s basically Kevin James starring in Last Man Standing. Swap out James for Tim Allen, and this easily could’ve been a spec script for that show. There’s not a lot on Monday nights, so I might stick with it, but I won’t enjoy it. It might end up like Rules of Engagement: not very good, but kinda manages to be decent background noise for 7 seasons.

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Tuesday night gave us the return of Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., which had been heavily promoted because they were introducing the latest incarnation of Marvel antihero Ghost Rider. This version, with the alter ego of Robbie Reyes, drives a supercharged Charger powered by the Spirit of Vengeance. So, he’s really more like Ghost Driver than Ghost Rider. Ah, semantics. A lot of folks thought it was a great episode. I, however, did not. I actually loved the Robbie Reyes Ghost Rider in the comics, but seeing him onscreen did nothing to energize a show as weak as Agents. I just don’t think that he fits tonally. They spent all this time facing Inhumans and now they’re fighting demons? I guess they’ve got to diversify their portfolio, but it just seems like a leap to me. I also hate the whole “We’ve gotta eventually get the band back together” vibe of the season, since they’ve been scattered across the organization. Some folks online remarked that it felt like an entirely new show, but I’m not sure that’s a good thing. Based on the ratings, which were about 1.5 million viewers lower than last season’s premiere, I wouldn’t be surprised if this is the final season. Still, the show has way outlasted my initial projections.

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Wednesday brought 2 delightful new treats: Lethal Weapon and Designated Survivor. Now, I have a confession to make: I’ve never seen Lethal Weapon. In fact, I think I’ve only seen the 4th one. That’s the one from that week Jet Li was famous, right? Yeah, DVDs were just hitting the scene, and my freshman year roommate bought it. So, I’ve seen that one. Never seen the original recipe, though. So, I can’t tell if they nailed the characters or not in the TV adaptation. What I will say is that I loved what they did with them. In my mind, this show was just Fastlane: 15 Years Later. If you’re not familiar, Fastlane was a one-hour action comedy on Fox back in 2002, created by McG of the Charlie’s Angels reboot fame. Starring Bill Bellamy and Peter Facinelli as undercover cops who took orders from Tiffani-Amber Theissen, it was hot women, fast cars, and a hot soundtrack. It was the Foxiest Fox show of the early ’00s. It only lasted one season, and I loved the HELL out of it. I have the whole show on both legal and illegal DVDs. I loved it that much. Anyway, if they had been allowed to age naturally, I feel like they would’ve evolved into Damon Wayans’s Murtaugh and Clayne Crawford’s Riggs. Anyway, Murtaugh’s coming back on the job following a heart attack and he’s paired with recently widowed Riggs, who clearly has a deathwish. Can they get along? Will hilarity ensue? Well, you’ll have to tune in to see, but I thoroughly enjoyed what I watched. I will be back next week.

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Next, ABC gave us Kiefer Sutherland in Designated Survivor. Basically, during the State of the Union, one cabinet member is designated to stay behind in case something drastic happens. Well, it does, as the Capitol blows up (Man, between BvS and this show, Hollywood REALLY hates the Capitol this year), killing EVERYONE. So Kiefer, who had just that morning been fired as the head of the Department of Housing and Urban Development, finds himself thrust into the role of President of the United States. Nobody thinks he’s qualified for the job, Kiefer included. Meanwhile, there are a few subplots. Who is FBI agent Maggie Q looking for in the rubble? Why is Kiefer’s son selling drugs in da clurb? Was this whole thing orchestrated by some unseen force? It’s funny to watch because we spent 8 years getting to know Kiefer as Impossible White Man Jack Bauer. There was nothing he couldn’t do, so it’s kinda strange to watch him be such a pussy. Right now, I’m pretending that Jack has amnesia and that he’ll regain his memory and skills by season’s end. There are glimpses of Jack that sneak out, such as Kiefer’s confrontation with the Iranian (?) leader who seems to be trying to take advantage of the situation. He threatened the dude, and it was like Jack was back with us in the flesh. But it was not to be, as he returned to his meek self following the meeting. Still, it’s a suspenseful hour, and Kiefer has been the king of TV suspense for the past 15 years, so I’m all in for this.

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Finally, last night gave us the premiere of Pitch on Fox, focusing on Ginny Baker, who will be the first woman to play major league baseball. In the series, Baker gets called up from the minors to start for the Padres and she BOMBS. Meanwhile, we get flashbacks to how she came to be where she is. Her discovery of baseball, her refining her skills – all while her overbearing father was behind her. Apparently his major league dreams flamed out and, when he saw that his son wasn’t going to follow in his footsteps, he focused on his more talented daughter. It’s funny to me that after 30 years, there’s still something that could be considered a “Fox show”. Like, it’s an ingredient that can’t be shaken. I’m not saying it’s a bad thing, but there are some projects that would only work on Fox, and this is one of them. It was a good hour, and it ended with quite the twist (seriously, between this and NBC’s This Is Us, it appears that weird twists are en vogue this season), but I don’t know how long it could last. If they went into it as a Done In One, I could really embrace it. But if they’re trying to build a franchise out of this show, I just don’t think there’s much there. Still, I enjoyed Mark-Paul Gosselaar acting like the asshole we always knew Zack Morris would grow up to be. I’ve got nothing else going on Thursdays at 9, so I’ll stick with it for now.

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In movie news, we got our first glimpse of the Power Rangers movie Zords in these new character posters. I have no clue what I’m looking at. Seriously, are they even still dinosaurs? I can make out the Mastodon’s tusks and that’s about it. The rest is just so…”Bayformers”. It was also announced that Bill Hader would be voicing Zordon’s assistant Alpha 5. Wow, this movie is the surprise that keeps on surprising. The trailer will debut next month at New York Comic-Con.

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Speaking of Power Rangers, the Yellow Ranger was mysteriously recast for Power Rangers Ninja Steel. Though the entire cast was introduced last month at Power Morphicon, it appears that Chantz Simpson (that CAN’T be his real name!) has left the production. His role has been recast with Nico Greetham. I find this casting interesting because a lot of folks had pointed out that this would be the first season without a single White member of the team. It was basically the Diversity Rangers, which was unprecedented. But with the casting of Greetham, we’ve got a White guy again. I wonder if there was some pressure for them to do that. Anyway, this follows a long tradition of recast Yellow Rangers, as it happened in Mighty Morphin (Trini was originally Latina), it happened in Lost Galaxy, and it supposedly happened in RPM.

Recently I’ve been talking a lot about country music on here, but that’s really because it’s the only music I keep up with these days. I can’t tell you anything about the pop charts, but I can name Maren Morris’s latest song (“80s Mercedes”) and I listen to Bobby Bones every morning. I’ve always loved pop, but I’ve also always loved country. When I was a baby, I used to have WMZQ playing next to my crib and it stuck with me. In fact, my migration to pop was a slow one. It started with soft rock, “at work radio”, and then made its way to boybands and Britney. But it wasn’t always like that. When I started dating Lindsay, the country came roaring back, as that’s pretty much all she listened to. For a while, I could juggle the pop and the country, but lately it’s pretty much all country these days. Anyway, this is a long intro for me to say that I’ve got a LOT of thoughts on “Forever Country”, the mash-up song released to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Country Music Association.

The video for “Forever Country” was released this week, and it’s a medley of John Denver’s “Take Me Home, Country Roads”, Willie Nelson’s “On The Road Again”, and Dolly Parton’s “I Will Always Love You”. The song is sung by 30 of country’s hottest stars, like Tim McGraw, Faith Hill, Luke Bryan, Miranda Lambert, and more. I also appreciated that they included Darius Rucker and Charley Pride to add some diversity. There are, however, some glaring omissions: Where’s Kenny Rogers? Where’s GARTH?! That last one is even more odd, as Garth’s wife Trisha is present on the track. I thought maybe it was a scheduling conflict, but I’ve read that he’s against the platforms where the song will be released, such as YouTube, iTunes, and Spotify (his songs aren’t on any of those services). I’ve got a confession to make: I’ve never really liked Garth, so it’s not a huge loss to me. I missed the Garth Brooks era the same way I missed the WWE Attitude Era. By that point, I was knee deep in Ace of Base. The only reason I even know “Friends in Low Places” is because drunk White people love to sing it once “Don’t Stop Believin'” goes off. But if you’re tackling the biggest stars of the past 50 years, you’ve GOTTA have Garth. It’s just incomplete without him.

Now, the video itself is a frenetic mess. It moves too quickly. There’s not enough focus on each contributor. It honestly makes me dizzy. Plus, it’s obvious it was just some green screen thrown together for whenever the artists were free to come in and film their parts. I mean, there’s no way Blake and Miranda were in the same room together. So, I like the idea of the song, especially since it allows Dolly to reclaim her song; it always kinda bothered me that everyone thought of it as a Whitney Houston song, but Dolly cashed all those royalty checks, so I’m sure she’s cool with it. They do a good job mixing the three songs, and it’s not something treacly like “We Are The World” or “Let The Music Heal Your Soul”. The video could’ve been a lot better, though.

Things You Might’ve Missed This Week

  • Season THIRTY-THREE of Survivor premiered. You did this, America. You only have yourselves to blame.
  • Brangelina powered down into its divided forms of “Brad” and “Angelina”, as Jolie filed for divorce from Pitt.
  • 80s heart throb Corey Feldman had an emotional breakdown after the internet had a field day with his performance on The Today Show.
  • On Empire, they killed off the White girl. Poor Rhonda never really had a chance.
  • The Big Bang Theory kicked off what is likely its final season. And the “real nerds” rejoiced.
  • Buckle up, Puddin’ – Margot Robbie will host the season premiere of Saturday Night Live on October 1st
  • Two of my recent favorites – Better Late Than Never and Odd Mom Out – scored renewals this week. (Thanks for the tip, @jrwells82!)
  • CBS’s The Case of JonBenet Ramsey proposed that her older brother was her killer, and it was covered up by the parents

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So, I don’t talk about her on here, mainly because I basically have to beg her to read this thing, but today we’re gonna talk about my wife.

When we first met, I was much skinnier and used to run. The running started in college, when my friend Eric and I used to take midnight jogs to Wegmans (What? It was Ithaca and nothing else was open). I kept running even when I came home, but it decreased somewhat. I had an ex who did marathons (though you wouldn’t know it to look at her. Bada-bing!), and I would run with her to help her train. After awhile, though, the running tapered off. I met Lindsay and she was the type of person who would only run if being chased, and even then it was a crapshoot.

So, fast forward 8 years later. I have gained…some pounds, and now Lindsay runs. She started about a year ago, just starting out with a Couch to 5K program. She had done one in the past, as we ran the Color in Motion 5K Run some years ago. Still, she hadn’t really stuck with it after that, so she was giving it another shot. Well, Couch to 5K turned into actual 5Ks, and then 10Ks, and then 10 milers. She gets up every morning at a time when I’m usually going to bed (we’re on two completely different schedules), and goes for her runs. She’s only missed running due to illness. Other than that, she forces herself to get up and puts in the work. Well, last Sunday, after months of training, she ran (and completed) her first half marathon! This from a woman who would’ve probably let her attacker overtake her just a mere year ago. This my long drawn out way to say that I’m proud of her, and watching her complete that half was the most impressive thing I witnessed this week. So, with that in mind, Lindsay West had the West Week Ever.

16th Sep2016

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

by Will

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WWE Edit

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

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

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

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

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

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

She put the “her” in “hurt

She put the “y” in “try”

She put the “S-O-B” in “sober”

She put the “hang” in “hangover”

She put the “ex” in “sex”

She put the “low” in “blow”

She put a big “F-U” in my “future”

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

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

Things You Might Have Missed This Week

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

14th Sep2016

Ooh Baby I Like It Raw: My First Live Wrestling Experience

by Will

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I suffer from the fact that I belong to too many fandoms. Throughout my life, I’ve found myself “retiring” from some in order to join others. Just as I consider myself a retired Trekkie, the same could be said for my membership in the wrestling fandom. I’ve loved wrestling since I was a kid, but I never really glommed onto it like some folks did. I have the distinction of missing, basically, every important movement in the industry. I didn’t have cable growing up, so I missed the Monday Night Wars. I completely missed the Attitude Era. I’ve never seen John Cena in his prime. No, my wrestling fandom occupied the quieter spaces, such as when The Undertaker became the American Badass or when Too Cool were tearing up the tag team division. Of course, I couldn’t ever be considered a “true” fan, however, because I had never been to a live show. Well, that all changed Monday night as a friend and I made the trek to the Royal Farms Arena in Baltimore to attend a taping of WWE Monday Night Raw.

First of all, let me just say that it was a dream come true. I’d always wanted the live WWE experience, but had never really had the chance to attend.  I will say, however, that the WWE cameramen are frickin’ magicians for making such a small area look huge on television. For example, the ring was a lot smaller than I expected it to be, but the biggest surprise was how short the entrance ramp was. On TV, that thing looks to be about 30 feet long, when it’s really about 10. So, when Undertaker makes those long, dramatic entrances, he’s probably moving about as fast as that sloth from the Zootopia trailer.  It’s also odd how quiet the match is since you can’t hear the commentators. Instead, you just hear the ring noises and the chants from the crowd (early on, they tried to get a “CM PUNK!” chant going, but most folks weren’t having it).

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When we first got in, they were filming a match for WWE Superstars, with Darren Young and Neville vs Titus O’Neil and Curtis Axel. I didn’t know who any of those guys were. Well, no, that’s not exactly true. I knew them from the toy aisle. After all, the inability to find a Neville figure kept me from trying to complete the Paul Bearer Build A Figure. And until my friend, John, reminded me, I had completely forgotten that Young had come out as the first openly gay professional wrestler last year. I also didn’t realize that Axel was Mr. Perfect’s son. Seems like he should be playing off that legacy more instead of doing whatever it is his gimmick’s supposed to be.  Anyway, I didn’t even know what was going on because they were playing with my sense of “normalcy”in the WWE. I mean, since Young and O’Neil are both Black, I was sure they were partners in the match. Well, imagine my surprise as I witnessed the Black on Black crime of Young kicking O’Neil in the face! No, these dudes were NOT on the same team. After that, my brain and sense of everything I thought I knew about wrestling were so screwed up that I can’t even tell you who won. It didn’t matter, though, as Raw was hitting in the next 60 seconds.

The show started with a recap of the rise of Kevin Owens. I’m not sure I like that guy. I know he’s risen from the indies, but he looks like the grown up version of every childhood bully. Still, folks seem to like him – especially now that he’s the WWE Universal Champion. Anyway, that would all have to wait for later in the show. No, to kick things off, there would be a Triple Threat Match between Sasha Banks, Dana Brooke, and Bayley – the winner of which would face WWE Women’s Champion Charlotte for the title in 2 weeks at Clash of Champions.

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Charlotte is one mannish looking chick, but you haven’t really lived until you’ve done the Flair “Wooo!” with a couple thousand other people.  I get the feeling she really wouldn’t be much without her father’s (Ric Flair) involvement. She’s kinda riding on the coattails of the limo riding son of a gun. Sasha lost the title to Charlotte back at SummerSlam, after a botched slam that looked like it might’ve been career-ending. Instead, Banks showed up on Raw last week, saying that she had some bad news for Charlotte: she would be taking back her title at Clash of Champions. Well, it’s TV, and WWE still has two more weeks to fill, so general manager Mick Foley decided there should be this three-way match between friends Banks and Bayley against Brooke.  Going into it, you knew that Banks would secure her title shot at Clash, but they still had to make it look like it was in jeopardy. This is where it was funny to watch the difference between seeing it live and seeing it on TV. In a real fight, you’d probably just all attack each other at once, but this was a carefully planned ballet. Banks would get knocked out of the ring, and then she’d just chill on the floor for about 10 minutes, DOING NOTHING. I mean, she kinda straightened out her hair and groomed herself, but she was clearly waiting for her cue to come back in the ring. The ladies gave it their all, and I was actually pretty impressed by Dana Brooke. She didn’t have the typical build of a WWE female wrestler, and she seems like she could be a dominating force if they remain committed to developing her. I still don’t get the hype about Bayley, as last night wasn’t too strong a showing from her. Anyway, Banks won like you knew she would, but they’ll probably throw some monkey wrench into things next week.

Next up, Bo Dallas went up against some dude who must’ve won a contest or something. I figure he was from a local promotion, like MCW, but he was clearly a nobody meant to job this match. I don’t know much about Dallas other than what I learn on TMZ, but the crowd didn’t seem to like him. There were lots of chants of “Let’s go, Jobber!” Anyway, I think the match was probably about the same length as CM Punk’s UFC debut the other night.

Next up, there was a Best of Seven Series between Cesaro and Sheamus. I didn’t really know who I was rooting for in this match, as I’ve never really liked Sheamus, but Cesaro looks like the dude who’s banging your recently divorced mom. The problem with the match, however, was that they went into it with a record of 3-1, in Sheamus’s favor. So, there are 7 matches, 4 of which had already been fought, so simple math and logic dictated that Cesaro HAD to win just to keep the series interesting. That said, considering this was match 5 of the series, both of them were just kind of phoning it in. I’m sure match 7 will knock it out of the park, but this match just felt like they were going through the motions. And, of course, Cesaro won.

Then, we had Alicia Fox vs. Nia Jax. Fox seems ghetto fabulous with her weave, while Jax is really just built like someone’s fat mom. She’s kinda like if Chyna and Luna Vachon were spliced together. Before coming out, Jax was talking about how she planned to beat on Fox, and GOD did she deliver. She swung her around by her hair, slamming her into the barricades. Finally, she speared Fox through a barricade and basically left her for dead.  A bunch of officials came out to check on Fox, but Jax eventually got tired of waiting around and simply walked back up the ramp to the backstage area. After about 5 minutes, the officials were able to help Fox up and walk her to the back.

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Next up, we had the New Day. I’d heard so much about them that I was glad to actually see them live. They’re interesting to me, though. They straddle a very thin line between entertaining geeks and Sambo caricatures for the modern age.  They started out by talking a lot of trash about Gallows and Anderson’s performance last week. Well, of course, Gallows and Anderson came out, and they had a non-title bout. I really thought New Day were going to pull this one off, but since they didn’t stand to lose their tag team titles, I guess all bets were off. They got manhandled! I was begging Kofi Kingston to make a tag, but he just couldn’t get back to his side of the ring. It was kinda sad to see the once boisterous trio have their asses handed to them like that.

The next bout was WWE jingoism at its best. Out came Jinder Mahal, who was a brown dude talking about how he’d found “inner peace”. I know my WWE enough to know that we’re supposed to hate the brown foreign guy – ESPECIALLY the day after 9/11. As my friend was wondering who would end up fighting Mahal, out ran Jack Swagger. That’s a name I hadn’t heard in years, as I really thought he’d been released or something. Apparently he’s got some patriotic “We The People” gimmick now. Well, this triggered chants of “USA! USA!” from the crowd, as everyone was boosting Swagger as the hero. Well, let me remind you that it was September 12th and not the 11th. Had this match happened at Backlash the night before, then Swagger would HAD to have won. But it’s September 12th, baby – back to business as usual. Despite having found peace, Mahal thoroughly beat up Swagger.

Next up, we had Enzo and Big Cass going up against the Shining Stars. While I’d heard of the former, I’d never heard of the latter. Again, based on WWE’s history, it was kinda obvious which way this was gonna go. Were folks gonna root for the fun guidos from Jersey or the brown guys from Puerto Rico? I was amazed, though, by the pop that Enzo and Big Cass got. They were truly…electrifying. The crowd knew every word to every part of their promo, and you can’t teach that! I was telling John that I felt Enzo was really just an evolution of Scotty 2 Hotty, but Too Cool never got anywhere near the amount of adoration from the crowd as these guys did. Still, the Shining Stars cheated and got the win.

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Finally, it was time for the main event: Universal Champion Kevin Owens vs Roman Reigns. Owens was already slated to defend his title against Seth Rollins at Clash of Champions, but if Reigns managed to win, the there would be a Triple Threat title match at Clash. Now, I’d heard that Reigns is kind of a polarizing figure in the world of wrestling, but it was completely different thing to experience it live. He was booed just as much as he was cheered.  The crowd broke out into the opposing chants of “Let’s go, Roman!/Roman sucks!” As I said earlier, I’m still not sure I’m sold on Owens yet. After all, I never watched NXT, and I barely ever watch Raw anymore (3 hours of wrestling is too much damn wrestling on a weekly basis. Especially now that SmackDown Live means there are 5 hrs of wrestling on TV in a 24 hr span of time), so I don’t know much about the guy. I just don’t like his look. Still, Owens is pretty good on the mic, so that was entertaining. When it comes to wrestling, though, his moves just seem sort of sloppy to me – especially the Cannonball. Anyway, both guys gave as well as they got, and it was a decent match. Before the match, however, Mick Foley warned Seth Rollins not to interrupt the match, so I spent most of the time watching the backstage area, waiting for the Rollins run-in. And I wasn’t disappointed! Rollins ran in to disrupt the match, and he was quickly followed by Foley and some officials. They led Rollins out, at which point Foley surprised everyone by saying “Restart the match!” And this is when things got GOOD. What had merely been a decent match then became a great match, as both were fighting like they had something to prove. And the near-pins were incredible. There was a point at which you could tell that they were both even surprised the match was still going. And then Rusev ran out. While Reigns was distracted by Rusev’s appearance,  Owens came up behind him and got the pin for the win. Meanwhile, Rusev’s valet (and wife) Lana came out with his US Championship belt, and just stood there, pointing, as Rusev beat the shit out of Reigns. I had no complaints about that at all. After the live broadcast ended, the crowd broke into a chant of “Thank you, Rusev!”, which prompted him to find a mic and yell back “I don’t need your support!” Meanwhile, Reigns took his sweet time getting up, and slowly made his way out of the ring and up the ramp.

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In all, it was a great show. Had this been the last Raw before Clash of Champions, I’m interested enough that I’d probably watch the PPV. Knowing, however, that they still have another week to screw things up makes it less of a “must see” thing for me. I will say that I was disappointed that Stephanie McMahon and Triple H weren’t there, but apparently Stephanie was in Singapore speaking at a conference (kayfabe?). I thoroughly enjoyed my first Raw experience and I’m dying to go again. It might have been my first time, but it certainly won’t be my last.

 

09th Sep2016

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

by Will

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WWE Edit

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Things You Might Have Missed This Week

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

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

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

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

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

02nd Sep2016

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

by Will

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

Things You Might Have Missed This Week

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

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

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

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

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

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