Archive for November, 2013

The House Always Wins

Tuesday, November 5th, 2013

PostAvatar_Euge Writing this from a convention in Las Vegas. So gambling terms are on my mind.

 

 

 

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I’ve had a lot of discussions lately with people of a nerdy persuasion, and it’s encouraging to see the turning tide of positivity take over what once maybe was, and could have easily become a steaming cess pool of negativity. People have begun to take nerdy and geeky media for what it is: entertainment. And yes, entertainment can have meaningful, emotional significance to all of us. And yes, I do believe that pop culture and stuff like comics and TV can actually change your life, in small to very big ways. But at the end of the day, it’s all entertainment. It’s distraction from the important things in life. It’s supposed to be “fun.”

So when someone tells you they love something that you hate, or vice versa, it’s completely understandable to have strong emotions about what these things are. It’s easy to lose sight of that concept that, this is all supposed to be fun. That when you were little, and something wasn’t “fun,” you just… walk away from it. You move on to something else. You don’t sit and play, and try desperately to blow it all up from the inside simply because it wasn’t fun for you; or that it was fun for others. You moved on and found the things that you found fun, and shared it with people that agreed. It’s one of the reasons we’re nerds. We liked things that the majority of people, at least we thought so, didn’t love. So we had to find communities at comic stores, we had to hide inside and play table top games and relate to each other in movie quotes that no one else got. And then the internet came, and well… game over. We dwelled in message boards, on websites and found others who loved what we loved.

As technology took over culture (and by proxy, big bussiness to a degree), those of us who could navigate the landscape and speak the language rose to power. They greenlit movies and TV shows, they signed book deals, the put people in power who loved what we loved, and they took care to infuse everything they touched with what they loved. Everything started to grow familiar. For a while, everything was great. And then, as predictably as rain when the critical mass of clouds gather, the naysayers and cynics came. The HATERS came. Then canon wasn’t followed. Then prices rose. Then tshirts started appearing. Then Diablo III commercials played during the Super Bowl. Then Superman broke a dude’s neck.

We longed for those quieter days, hidden away in rooms and our insular circles where we knew who we were dealing with. Where there was safety. Only now, all the real estate had been taken. All the Venn diagram bubbles were filled. Where else did we have to go? To hide? When Big Bang Theory was making jokes about D&D, and Wal-Mart sold Captain America tshirts, and Mountain Dew made Halo cups? Where were we supposed to go, when we had spent a lifetime of curating interests, of passions, of obsessions. These aren’t the things you can manufacture. Love just doesn’t work like that (ask my ex-girlfriends, ayoo, but serously folks). And so all we could do was grow bitter. Scoff at the things that once gave us so much happiness, talk about how everything and everyone had ruined it. The only safe haven we ever had, and maybe would ever know.

This is the way of the world. The numbers always swing back to center. The house ALWAYS wins. It’s something maybe we didn’t understand earlier in life, why money swayed everything. Why stock prices and bottom line revenue would always trump creative interests. Why our obsessions and passions would always get exploited. We didn’t know it, but we were all time bombs. Waiting for the the corporate universe to descend, at the exact confluence of low cost manufacturing and maximized disposable income. Studies, focus groups, analyses, they were always waiting there, in that little black dossier, sitting in a safe, waiting for when the dark, shadowy figures that sit around mahogany conference tables gave the go ahead. And all of a sudden, there was just too much stuff. We had to have it all. And by trying to have it all, we ended up feeling like we had nothing. A handful of pebbles sitting in front of a mountain of boulders.

The only hope is that as we get older, as fires burn a little less brighter to have that new, shiny thing, as anger subsides and gives way to the real worries of the world – like mortgages, like children, like jobs, like psychological health and sanity – the only is that we go back to the idea of “fun.” That embedded inside of each of these things, around the crispy, crunchy outer shell of profit, market share, ratings, box office, somewhere down there that love is still there. There was still a person who loved something so much, this love that they had nurtured since they were little, they took every spare moment to infuse this behemoth in front of them with at tiny sliver of that love. That once in a while, that light can wash over you and make you smile, make you feel something, remind you what it was like to be scared, to be alone, to find comfort in something that others would tell you is silly or insignificant. Isn’t that one of the true beauties of life? When you can find beauty in the darkness, when you can find meaning in the seemingly meaningless? Isn’t that the magic of the universe, right there in a nutshell?

So together, we can say, “I liked it.” That it made life a tiny bit better than it was before, and in some circumstances, it can make life sing if even for the few moments you leave a movie theater, or you put down a book, or you click that power button and sit there for a second, taking in what you’ve just experienced. Others may say, “but it’s not THIS” or “it’s not THAT,” and of course, it’s not. Isn’t it the sign of maturity and growth that of course, it never will be.

The house always wins. You can sit down at the table and have dreams of walking away rich beyond your wildest dreams; and sure, once in a while, someone hits the jackpot. But it’s a rule of gambling that you don’t play unless you know that the game was always rigged. That you’re almost SURELY going to lose. Did you have fun? Did it make life a bit more exciting while you were doing it? Was it time and money well spent?

Then who says that we can’t win too. And when others don’t understand the smile on your face or why you liked something that they think is utter crap, tell them that the house always wins.

Doesn’t mean that you can’t have fun in the process.

Odinson and Then Some

Friday, November 8th, 2013

PostAvatar_Euge Chris and I (and Curt. And like 10 of our friends) saw Thor 2 last night. I won’t spoil any of it, but safe to say, I liked it a whole lot more than Iron Man 3, if only because it played on the universe a lot more. I can understand why these Phase 2 movies want to establish the characters in their own stand alone worlds. Iron Man 3 was as much about “Tony Stark” as it was “this guy in the Avengers,” and by the same token Thor 2 was about Thor in Asgard, and the Asgard lore. But it still managed to touch lightly on the fact that he existed in a world with the rest of the Marvel universe (although that old joke about SHIELD never being around when you really need them rings true for this one too). But I dug it. A lot. Like I said, I’ll talk more about it after people get a chance to see it.

I’m not going to lie. The LBFA machine this week has been full of car troubles, illness, and a ton of other things tugging at our time. So give us a minute, we’ll get it all back to zero and move ahead with some semblance of a schedule.

So leave your thoughts about Thor Dos in the comments, and stay tuned for more comics and shiiiiiiiieeeeeet.

 

Thor 2 Thoughts For SERIOUS

Tuesday, November 12th, 2013

PostAvatar_EugeNow that more people have had a chance to see Thor 2, I can talk about what I really thought about it. So let’s. Get. Dangerous. Or something like that.

I feel like it has to be said that I was not OVER THE MOON about Thor 1. Thor’s never been a book or a character that I had a strong connection with growing up. Because I HATE fantasy, as my friends put it. I’m not a swords/sorcery/dragons guy (except GoT, which is AWESOME), and I doubt I ever will be. So the first Thor movie itself was a weird introduction to a lot of concepts that I was not too familiar with; and a large portion of the movie was balanced between my mild boredom with Asgard as a fantasy realm, and the parts on Earth that fit into the Marvel Universe that was slowly being built up. So it’s weird to say this: I liked the fact that Thor 2 took place mostly in non-Earth realms, and it’s amazing to me what a difference it makes to fantasy stuff when you add lasers. For me, the fantasy-like nature of Asgard didn’t take away from how much I enjoyed it, and I thought the playing of the nine realms against each other worked well for the movie (yo dog, you like portals?).

Like many others, a lot of the first movie for me was spent wishing there was more screen time for Loki. So it’s almost kind of weird to have the whole “Oh this is my cake now? I can eat it?” sensibility of a movie that had almost TOO much Loki (is there ever too much Loki?). Thor, now being the protector of Earth and everything, is now such a paragon that it risked running close to boring. Loki was infinitely more enjoyable. They tried to balance this off Thor by bringing in some more characters, fleshing out The Warriors Three and having Sif be around to stare at Jane a lot. But I wanted more. I wanted more Heimdall (now that I got a sweet sweet taste of his invisible ship knifing skills). I wanted more Frigga knife fights. I dunno, I wanted more everyone else, and maybe a little less Darcy, y’know? It was almost like I had a taste of a bigger cast, and now with Thor not smashing cups on the ground and kind of being a dick to everyone, I wanted to see that cast fill in around him. I wanted to see a Warriors Three on Earth moment too. But that’s not really a complaint. It’s just me babbling.

I’m not entirely sure what Eccleston was doing as Malekith. There’s no question he was a bad guy. But I’m not entirely sure I gave a crap about him. He’s dangerous. He’ll kill you. He’s a BAMF. And the aether is crazy and powerful. But beyond that, I feel like it missed an opportunity, and really made the movie lack a great villain (see Thor 1: Loki). And the plot with the aether, I mean it made sense – don’t get me wrong- but I’m not entirely sure WHY it had to walk us around the long bend to get to the point of getting Jane to Asgard, and then bringing Malekith to Earth. I mean, there was the convergence. The portals. The aether. The darkness. yadayadayada. Do you see why I don’t like fantasy. SNORE!

So here’s the weird thing. You’d think from me telling you all this, that I obviously liked Thor 1 better than Thor 2. But I didn’t. I liked Thor 2 better, because it seemed to have a better sense of being a Marvel movie. There’s no question that Branagh gives a true emotional core to Thor 1 that the second can’t rival; and yes, Alan Taylor is a TV dude, who basically made a really dope TV drama arc this time around. But Thor 2 has the benefit of a universe around it, a studio that is letting the toys in the sandbox play with some degree of freedom, and at this point? There’s a certain confidence and swagger that Marvel movies have, where even when they dip and stutter, they’re still…magical. Even watching that new opening Marvel Studios logo shot was thrilling. Add in the Collector post-credits, and I’m ready to say that we may all not be truly prepared for what is coming. I mean that in the best way.

Thor 2 was a movie full of awesome, amazing, cool ass moments: the numerous Loki moments; the awesome Mjolnir shots; a great caper/heist escape from Asgard; the awesome fakeout of Thor vs. Loki in front of Malekith – that adds up to a pretty to very good movie. I say that not as an insult. Not as a bag. I say that as my honest belief.

And honestly? Pretty to very good movie used to be ASTOUNDING for a comic book. That used to be a resounding win. And Marvel in a weird way, has set itself up to crazy, unrealistic standards. Because now, pretty to very good feels like a slightly missed opportunity. You did it to yourself, Marvel.

But if the job of Thor was to keep me intrigued and engaged? Mission fucking accomplished.

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Demand Better…

Friday, November 15th, 2013

PostAvatar_Euge It’s impossible to talk about anything going on in the comics world without having to at least consider touching upon the controversy that erupted yesterday (and the subsequent response). So I’ll just say if you haven’t read up on those, you should take a second and check it out. Whatever the truth is, I think the accused behavior is obviously disgusting, unacceptable, and totally heinous behavior towards another human being. Whether it’s true or not, I choose to believe one thing based on what I’ve heard and what others tell me, knowing full well it’s all second-hand accounts. You may believe another. That’s totally fine. That’s not what I really want to talk about.

When I posted this story, and a status on my facebook yesterday, about how I’d basically have to stop buying the new all-female X-Men book, someone raised the point (non-contentiously) about why I would abandon a book that did not just involve the writer: it involved artists, inkers, colorists, etc. Basically how one person’s objectionable behavior would negatively affect a bunch of innocents who just happen to get caught in the blowback. I raised the point that I have refused to see Ender’s Game, which involves a whole lot more people than the staff of a comic book; I refuse to eat at Chick-Fil-A now, which is a corporation that employs thousands of innocent people who are just trying to make a living. And while I’m fully aware that my $3.99, my movie ticket, my “whatever the price of a chicken biscuit is” — this will in no way cripple a corporation. It will in no way sink a movie studio. It will not matter to a book that, most likely, will keep being written and published for a long, long time. It doesn’t matter. I’m not an idiot. I get that.

So why do we do things like this? Because it’s the principle of the matter. And it’s not simply the principle of boycotting objectionable behavior (which is important too, mind you). It’s the principle of the fact that we live in a time where quite frankly, we should demand better from the people who make the stuff we love. We follow them on twitter; we read their blogs; we hear them on podcasts. We are in an Internet age where the walls have broken down, and it’s not just a monolithic, faceless corporation who churns out the pop cultural stuff we enjoy. The creators aren’t in a cave somewhere, they’re not inaccessible – they are in front of us, at cons, via email, via tumblr. They are people, and I believe that art and media is inextricably intertwined with the creator at the center of it.

We have only ever been able to vote with our wallet. We can bitch, whine, comment, moan, scream on websites, reddit, forums, wherever – about how much we hate something, about how we wish things would change. But most of us are powerless to affect any change. All we can do is vote with our wallet, and say simply, “I’m not going to buy this.” I choose not to support this with the money that I’ve earned with the precious hours of my life. One person doesn’t make a difference; but if we all acted like this, trust me – it would make a difference. This isn’t new, you’ve heard this before. But the mindset I propose to you may be. About the why.

We don’t live in a time where, if we choose to pass up one X-Men book, there isn’t an alternative. Back in the 80s, maybe if you for some reason DETESTED the person Chris Claremont was – you were kinda shit out of luck if you loved the X-Men. Today? That’s not really the case. And not only that, but there’s just SO MUCH stuff out there – Netflix, movies, books, comics, video games, whatever – there’s a lot out there we can do that excite us, that move us, that make our day to day lives better. You have access to a sea of indie creators, good people who answer emails and shake hands at cons – who are scraping by for every dollar they make for this thing that they pour their hearts into. You can support them. You can find something else. You should demand better.

I know what you’ll say. But Eugene, Apple and Nike and etc. These are bad corporations. They employ horrible labor practices, they harm the environment. Agreed. You can’t demand better of a corporation. I’m willing to say (as the owner of a pair of Nikes on his feet and an iphone and macbook in front of him) that there’s such a thing as fighting the good fight. This is not the good fight. This is a fight for government agencies, for organizations, for something you yourself can contribute to, but not execute yourself. But a singular creator’s whose intolerant beliefs, whose objectionable behavior, trust me when I say you can point at them and demand better. You can vote with your dollar and make their employers notice. You can teach them the meaning of deterrence. It’s not an all-out, immediate solution. But it’s a start. And you can do it by simply sacrificing one thing on top of a mountain of other things you love and cherish. THIS is the good fight.

I’m not talking about Brian Wood (even though I’d be happy to say it to him). I’m talking about you. About us. I’m talking about how we should not only demand great art from creators; we should demand good creators themselves. We should demand people who at the base minimum, share our beliefs of tolerance, of fairness, of equality, of progressivism. Because in the end, the total package of satisfaction you, that we get, from experiencing art, from experiencing the voice and the passion of a creator does in fact stem from our enjoyment of them as the person they are. That B- product from an A+ creator will, at least to me, always outweigh A+ art from a D- soul.

Fight the good fight. Demand better. Because comics deserve better creators. Because pop culture deserves a better community of creators.

Because you deserve better.

In Hue Manatees

Tuesday, November 19th, 2013

PostAvatar_Euge I’ve been trying to figure out what I think of this upcoming Inhumanity event and title from Marvel. I mean, don’t get me wrong, I love The Inhumans. I believe that Black Bolt is one of the most fascinating, formerly underrated characters around, and I’m totally stoked to read stories in their universe. But I guess the confluence of Infnity before it, and the news that Marvel is grooming The Inhumans as the new mutants, largely because they don’t have the X-Men movie rights, and well, the idea that all these Inhumans are activated across the galaxy kinda slides into that mutant revolution ethos nicely, without all the hassle of things like contracts and the such.

marvel-comics-inhumanity-are-you-inhuman-promo

This coming on the heels of the largely reactive Marvel Now! event that occurred oh, a year ago (shit has it really been a year already!?!), it seemed like one of those planet aligning moments where even largely being reactive to DC’s New 52 and a total grab to bring in those sweet #1 issue dollaz,, it still took great pains and care to make a unified, editorially controlled, and artfully crafted relaunch of all the major titles. Out of the smoke of this barnburning, we’ve seen a revitalized Hulk title, a Thor title that at the moment, has the amazing distinction being slightly a movie tie-in while maybe doing the villain better justice in the book itself; and yeah I’ll say it – the best X-Men books that have ever been written. Underline it. Bold text. Color font something bright. Gifs.

After several consecutive years of maddening, frustrating, overly bloated summer event comics (hey guys, remember Siege?), Hickman has made Infinity into a title that accomplishes the seemingly impossible – being understated and leaving major story moments to the tie-ins, while not sacrificing the central narrative of the main storyline. As we storm the doors of the final Infinity issues, though – it’s a bit frustrating to see the earmarks of what seems to be a ramp-up to Inhumanity. None of us should be surprised – if any of us read Hickman’s FF, we all know that he plays the long game; and Infinity was never going to be the zip-bam-boom “now it’s like this!” kind of event (not his style) – I guess considering Inhumanity in the context of being a push for more movie franchises, maybe it’s possible that the end and point of Infinity is colored a bit by the idea that this was all to serve the movie gods.

This all becomes a moot point if Inhumanity is AWESOME – which I mean, it could totally be. I guess we reserve judgment for that later. Some fantastic comics have come at the behest of the Marvel movie machine (see Invincible Iron Man). And it’s true that yes, big two comics serve the shareholders, just like television shows have always served their sponsors. We’re here to make money. Cha ching, cha ching.

But I guess that with how GOOD comics have been lately in the Marvel universe, a part of me thinks it’s unnecessary to tie their movie hopes and dreams to this kind of creative reverse engineering. I guess Marvel Now! surprised me so much, that rare moment of thinking a move by big two comics was a reactive cash grab, and instead it turning into something awesome. Something about Inhumanity smells of the opposite. Something that should be awesome, but hopefully, is not just the pathway to make more money at the box office at the expense of the comics we love.

But what do I know? I’m the guy that still loves Darkhawk.