Mixing your comics with your politics

18 Nov

When Before Watchmen happened, Alan Moore had one of his infamous rants. At one point during the hoopla, he stated that those fans who purchased Before Watchmen should no longer purchase his books, because they weren’t HIS fans. Some stood by him and others lamented that the Bearded Wizard had finally lost his mind. I was saddened by this. I supported Alan Moore’s contention that the books shouldn’t be published, because the original story was his, and his story was finished. On the other hand, I couldn’t fault DC. For good or ill, the characters are theirs and businesses produce material to meet demand. I did not approve however of his discounting of his fans. Case and point, I LOVE Moore’s work and have purchased much of it, from a variety of companies he has worked for (including his new novel), but I am also a fan of the characters of Watchmen. (In full disclosure: I eventually read most of Before Watchmen upon finding the issues in discount bins or what not). But I respected his point.
Why bring this up now? Several comic book creators have came out and announced their intent to boycott states that voted “red” this election cycle. I do NOT approve of this and find it reprehensible. Moore’s complaint, at least, was based upon his works and a personal argument he had with the publisher. These creators, including George Perez who I have always loved, however are judging fans based on a political concern. And worse, a political concern the fans may not have supported. A “deep blue” fan might live in a red state and be surrounded by red states. These creators are pushing their fans in this situation aside because of something that the fans cannot help. Moore had the decency to judge fans based on something they controlled: if YOU purchased Before Watchmen, he did not want your support in the future. Meanwhile, Perez and Ramos are blaming many fans they have throughout the southern states, Midwest states, rustbelt states, etc. I find this to be ludicrous.
They could have gone the respectable route: they could ask for “red” fans to not purchase their works, like Moore did. But instead, they are going to vilify entire regions of the country and pretend their importance will make a difference. I have attended MANY conventions throughout the southeast and been to many stores throughout the country. At no point have I been fortunate enough yet to meet with them. But at this point, I won’t worry about it.
Finally, if they really are so serious about this issue, why not respectfully request their publishers not even publish their books in red states? If we are so deplorable by our very nature, why let us peons purchase their books in the first place? Bottom line: we fans aren’t good enough to be in their presence but our money is. They need not worry: they will get neither from me. And in closing, I didn’t vote for Trump, nor am I excited about the prospect of a Trump presidency. But I am VERY TIRED of everyone in the media blaming me because this candidate or that candidate lost.

Rebirth Round 1

11 Nov

We are now in the fifth month of DC’s Rebirth initiative.  The New 52, which had opened to financial success, had alienated many longtime DC readers.  Though I was extremely disappointed in the line overall, I stuck with the New 52 and enjoyed many individual titles, from each launch period.  After five years, though, DC decided the best way to reconnect with their fans was to begin to bring back much of the classic DCU, while not destroying the foundation of the reboot.  Sales have been stellar, pushing DC into the number 1 spot for the last several months.  But is this a better foundation of titles than the New 52 or are we setting up for another big fall a few months down the line?

Personally, I have enjoyed almost all of the titles and have tried the vast majority of the titles that have been published.  Batman, DC’s regular benchmark title, has lost Scott Snyder who dominated the New 52, month in and month out.  And yet, in spite of this, the new Rebirth Batman title has also been a huge success for DC.  The story of the Gothams was high octane, superhero melodrama.  And though I didn’t enjoy the Night of the Monsters crossover as much, the Suicide Squad story seems to have returned the title to its rightful spot in the DC pantheon.  Detective Comics, a title that floundered from writer to writer in the previous series, has similarly experienced great success.  The initial storyline, based around a secret military unit based off of Batman’s tech and training, was exciting and created a new status quo for the Bat-Family.  And its second solo storyline looks to continue this excitement.  And for those of us who loved Scott Snyder’s Batman can take heart as his All Star Batman title has been his typical, crazy but fun ride.  The only complaint I have about it is that it is a rare title that only ships once a month.

The Superman titles are similarly experiencing some of the most fun stories they have seen in a while.  Specifically, the Superman title might be the best it has been years.  Having “my Superman” back and experiencing the trials of father-hood have been fantastic.  And though Kon-El, by Karl Kesel, will always be my Superboy, Jonathon has been a joy to read about.  I especially loved the two part love letter to the New Frontier, which just wrapped up.  Dan Jurgens has been writing Superman over in Action Comics.  Hopefully, everyone is familiar with Jurgens’s Superman work.  And though I don’t think it has been as exciting, it has been reestablishing Superman’s role in Metropolis.  He has placed the “real Lois” back at the Daily Planet, and he is now playing with Geoff Johns’s idea of Lex Luthor being the replacement of Darkseid. It boggles the mind.

I hope to have more to say about the relaunch over the next few days.  Wonder Woman, the Green Lantern titles, and more have similar successes to look at.  Meanwhile, DC Entertainment has diversified their publishing line with a renewed focus on the Hannah Barbara characters and new line called Young Animal which reminds me of the classic Vertigo concept.  But the bottom line is, even though DC upset many fans over the last few years, Rebirth really seems to be living up to its name.  The price drop for almost all of DC’s titles to $2.99 and the 2x monthly shipping seems to be working.  The company seems to be sitting at the best spot it has been in years.  Keep it up!    

Lost Boy and the power of story

18 Jun

Recently, the musical world has taken notice of a Canadian song writer and her beautifully haunting song called “Lost pBoy.” Now, traditionally, I am more of a visual person: I respond to movies, video games, and my first love of comic books. But every once in a while, a song will demand my attention and this definitely has. 

The song is about “Peter Pan, Tinker Bell, and Wendy Darling,” characters I have typically not cared for which is kind of odd, as it hits all of the story points I enjoy, such as good versus evil, people with amazing abilities, and garish costumes. And yet, due to a viewing of a movie version I didn’t care for a child, I shut off to the legend of Peter Pan. But from my first time hearing the song, I fell in love with it.  I began to research the son, the writer, and felt an immediate kinship with the young girl.  

She recently went to a concert in London and recorded her thoughts on the power of music and storytelling.  She explained how to her music was all about stories and a powerful method for sharing stories.  These are ideas I can get behind. Because to me, stories are transformative. 

As a small child, my father told me Bible stories.  He told me history stories and family tales.  My mother read me fables and folktales. My oldest brother gave me hand me down comic books. All of these stories shaped my childhood and my life. The older I got, the more I began to notice similar strains and rhymes to the differing stories. And as I got older, I added classical myths to the stories I read. They all made the world come alive and become more interesting.

Our culture needs to reawaken to the value of stories. They teach morals. They inspire. As a teacher, I have to instill a love of storytelling in my students. I teach in story, carrying on a noble tradition dating back to the cavemen. And I am glad to see this new young musician doing the same.

Marvel and the Never Ending Civil War

9 May

If you listen to the entertainment media, it is not a good time to be a DC fanboy, and I have been one my entire life.  For some reason, Batman v Superman was torn apart in the media and people act like it was a complete bomb, in spite of making $850 million.  And people have been complaining that DC has been completely invested in maiming characters and trying to make their comics as dark as possible.  At the same time, we are assured that Marvel Comics is experiencing a golden age, in both print and at the movies.  Civil War just opened and automatically we are told that it was one of the best comic book movies ever (Newsarama’s updated list places it in the top 10) and comic book creators are leaping over each other to heap praise upon it.  I would argue, however, it is more of a sign that the “House of Ideas” is completely out of ideas.  Basically, for the last ten years, Marvel has one story: hero versus hero.  There really is no need for the company to have villains as the heroes are having way too much fun smashing and clobberin’ each other to need anyone else to punch.  Don’t believe me, true believer?

Ten years, Marvel launched the comic event known as Civil War (you might have heard there is a movie based on?).  In it, Captain America and Iron Man, two of the Avengers’ Big Three, had a falling out and they convinced all of Marvel’s heroes to kick, stab, and eye blast all of the other heroes.

A few months later, World War Hulk happened.  Hulk, Marvel’s perennial grouch, decided the heroes wanted to kill him, even though he was a rare hero NO ONE tried to kill during Civil War.  So he returns to Earth, after an absence, and declares war on the world (hence the title).  The story goes so far as to have him capture four of Marvel’s most important characters, lock them in a gladiator pit, and demand they fight to the death…….almost.

A few months later, the X-men get in on the action of hero versus hero.  Famous 80s and 90s hero Bishop turns rogue (not Rogue, as she is a female X-man) on his team and tries to kill a baby.  Hopefully they took his hero card for that one.

Then we got Secret Invasion.  Please note, all four of these stories happened in a span of two years.  Now, in theory, Secret Invasion has a bad guy: the Skrulls!  Shape-shifting aliens bent on global conquest.  Definitely NOT a story where you have heroes fighting heroes.  Except for the fact that shape-shifting villains were disguised as the heroes, so fans could still see their favorite heroes punching and kicking and eye-gouging each other every month of this story.  And when you realize half the time it was the heroes fighting the heroes because they thought they were the shape-shifting alien villains…..at this point my head begins to spin.

Still, when all was said and done, fans finally had to wait for two years to see their favorite heroes fighting each other again.  But then, Shadowland happened and the Netflix superhero Daredevil beat up a bunch of not so super-superheroes.

In 2011, fans had two opportunities to read Marvel’s one storyline.  In Fear Itself, an ancient evil transformed several Marvel heroes and villains into his evil tools and unleashed marvelous chaos on the Marvel Universe.  And the X-men, the team of the 90s, fought it out in Schism, in which perennial bad boy of the X-men, Wolverine, is revealed to actually be the good boy of the X-men and former boy scout troop leader of the X-people Cyclops is outed as Marvel’s new favorite anti-hero.

And it’s just in time because the next year sees him lead his team of no longer merry mutants against the Avengers in Avengers vs. X-men.  For anyone keeping score, this was the eighth such story in six years.  This time, the Phoenix force, which caused Marvel’s most famous hero versus hero storyline of all time, returned to earth and possessed new heroes.  Cyclops, possessed bad boy, kills his mentor and ends up in jail.

A year later, Age of Ultron happened.  Now, much like Secret Invasion, this story hardly seems to be a case of hero versus hero at first glance.  Instead, evil robot Ultron finally conquers Earth……in the future.  Future Avengers decide the best way to stop Ultron is to send a hero, no longer trophy bad boy Wolverine, into the past and have him kill Hank Pym, the hero who created Ultron.  Hero kills hero…..check!

2014 once again saw two stories of hero versus hero rage.  In Original Sin, not at all to be confused with Identity Crisis, someone kills the Watcher.  Marvel heroes search all over and fight with each other over who might have been involved, only to find out former hero (instead of a hero’s wife…..I see what you did there Marvel!) Nick Fury killed the Watcher.  A few months later saw Axis, a story all about making heroes fight heroes again.  Which was good.  Because after 11 times in 8 years, people might have forgotten what Marvel comics was all about.

I debate whether to include Secret Wars, in which some Marvel heroes team up with Doom to save the Marvel Universe.  This leads to everyone fighting everyone.  But I won’t count it because in theory, it could be construed as an alternate reality, I think?

So here we are in 2016.  Marvel Studios has just released what everyone will tell you is the greatest superhero movie of all time!  This is your chance to watch your favorite heroes beat each other and it’s really serious.  It’s so serious, in fact, that Marvel has decided to publish a comic book tie-in series, Civil War II. It’s a story so good that they had to tell you twelve times!

While waiting for Batman V Superman, some thoughts on Man of Steel

23 Mar

With Batman v Superman launching this weekend, I felt the need to try and defend The Man of Steel one final time.  Now, I understand that it is a film people either love or hate.  There seemed to be little middle ground in defense of it.  And that’s perfectly fine.  Our modern America is not one given to middle of the road viewpoints anymore.   But the movie is a complicated movie and needs a deeper look at some issues, I would suggest.   And before anyone states that I am a Snyder fanboy, who can’t view the movie through a fair lens, I must confess, that this is Zack Snyder’s only movie I love.  I did appreciate his Watchmen, but I can’t say I truly loved it and I can’t stand ANY of his other movies.

For one thing, although it’s a movie about Superman, it is an attempt to tell a more realistic version of the Superman story than the Christopher Reeves movies of our youth.  If beings truly could fly, crash through the moon, and burn the skin off other beings with a glance, we would be in a great danger.  The criminals are evil and Superman has great difficulty stopping them.  Plus, this is “Superman Year One.” He does not use his powers in the open and he is not familiar with having to stop a serious crisis like he faces.  Unless these basic facts are understood, the movie will be very difficult to appreciate.

A major concern in the movie is Kevin Costner’s Pa Kent.  People didn’t like that he told young Clark that he possibly should have let the bus of children die.  But if this was truly Jonathon’s only child, and Jonathon lived in the real world and knew that the government would be VERY interested in a child that could lift a bus out of water, he might be concerned with Clark using his gifts so openly.  Later, for much the same reason, he tells Clark to not save him during the storm so Clark can have a normal life, something he knows Superman will not be able to do.

The biggest concerns people had though with the movie was the final act.  The sheer amount of destruction that is unleashed on Metropolis and how Superman did not save everyone.  Once again, this is Clark’s first real crisis as Superman.  He is fighting an army of beings just like him, who are not holding back at all and are unleashing devastation that is unimaginable on the earth.  Any time he left the battlefield to save one or even one hundred people, the Kryptonian army would slaughter thousands.  Yes, it would have been simple to show Clark try and save a few people here or there, but the movie focused on the major issue, of the true terror Kryptonians would unleash on our planet.

Another issue a reviewer raised was the Superman left Metropolis to take out the machine in the Indian Ocean, where no one was, while a similar machine was destroying Metropolis.  But Metropolis had the military attempting to, and eventually successfully, destroying that machine.  The army would not have made it in time to stop the machine in the Indian Ocean.  Meanwhile, without stopping it, the world would be destroyed.  So Superman left Metropolis to the military while he saved the planet, from certain destruction.

Man of Steel is not a perfect movie and it isn’t the best superhero movie.  But it does a fantastic job I would argue of showing what life with godlike beings would be like for humans.  At the moment children from Krypton arrive on Earth, life would change forever. Snyder shows this and also shows that a young man can rise above his fears and personal shortcomings to save mankind.  From all descriptions in both the trailers and press releases, Superman will be much more like his classic form in his new movie this weekend.  Batman, meanwhile, will be an entirely different story.  

Lego Dimensions

26 Oct

It should come as no surprise to anyone reading this blog, but I picked up Lego Dimensions last week.  If you have been here before, I really enjoy the Lego games, even though I am a father of three and a teacher.  In fact, it’s scary to say, but probably safe to say, but the Lego games just might be one of my favorite game franchises out currently.  But in spite of the love for the titles, and even though I bought the game several days ago, I have had extremely little hands on time with the game: about two hours Saturday morning.  Still, I wanted to share my thoughts for anyone considering purchasing the game and the myriad expansion sets.  

Even if I wasn’t completely sure if it was a game for me, I was completely sold in the first ten minutes of playing.  This was because of one scene I encountered in the first real stage: my Lego Batman was riding a Velociraptor, courtesy of Jurassic World, throughout Oz.  That was it!  At that point, you have completely in the palm of your hand Traveler’s Tales.  I’m stuck.  

The game is the newest in the line of toy/game hybrids.  It is competing against Skylanders, a franchise I couldn’t get into, and Disney Infinity, which won me over with the addition of Star Wars.  But their two major things that separates the Lego version from its competitors.  One thing, and easily the main selling point, is the sheer variety of franchises involved in Lego Dimensions: DC Comics, Back to the Future, Jurassic World, and Ghostbusters are just of the franchises included. There is also Dr. Who, the Simpsons, the Lego Movie, Scooby Doo, and more.  

The other major difference though is that these toys are really toys!  If you don’t enjoy putting together legos, then this would not be the game for you.  The two hours of play time I’ve had?  I was actually playing the game for about thirty minutes.  Right after you start, the game prompts you to put the controller down and build a stargate out of legos.  This then is attached to the portal and took me about 45 minutes.  Shortly afterwards, I constructed another device (15 min) and was off.  Then, because I suffer from minor OCD tendencies, I threw in some bonus characters I had and each had me construct a tool or ride for the specific character (30 min).  In that thirty minutes, though, I had the opportunity to fight the Wicked Witch and a horde of flying monkeys.  

So what did I buy?  And how far back did it set me?  I bought the PS4 starter pack: the game, three characters (including Batman) and the batmobile.  That cost $100 regardless of the system you purchase it on (including the Xbox 360 and PS3).  I bought the Back to the Future kit, which includes Marty McFly, the Delorean, a bonus stage, and his hover-board.  That cost $30 and oddly, it is the only set I didn’t use yet, even though it was the add-on I wanted most.  I bought the Jurassic World kit, two characters, a raptor, and the gyro-sphere for $25.  And finally, my 15 year old has an eerie love for the Wizard of Oz, which led to the purchase of the Wicked Witch and flying monkey pack for $15.  
Although I plan to say more when I have played more and explored the title, I definitely am excited right now.  It’s definitely a pricey franchise, which is why I didn’t buy it at launch, but it seems fun.  The fact that they will be doing four waves of add-ons, including levels, characters, and entire franchises is very exciting.  If you like the lego games and enjoy building, this is the game for.  But if you don’t enjoy both, I definitely recommend passing.  

The end of Fables

28 Jul

cover67350-mediumLike many, I came into the Fables universe late.  Last year, DC had an “essentials sale” in which they dropped the price of their most important graphic novels ever and I picked up several from their main line and for the first time ever, their Vertigo line.  I read the first volume of Alan Moore’s Swamp Thing run which was fun.  I read the first volume of Hellblazer and found it not for me, but I could see where people would enjoy it.  And I picked up the first volume of Fables and really liked it a lot.  Now, I must confess, I didn’t love it, but I really liked it a lot more than I would have thought.  I saw clear similarities between it and early seasons of Once Upon a Time, which I had watched with my wife and daughter.  But after that first volume, I moved back to my standard superhero fare.

A few months later, though, I decided to try the second volume.  The ongoing tale of the Adversary piqued my interest a little more.  The characters of Bigby, Flycatcher, and Boy Blue were very different from my typical heroes.  And the leading ladies of Snow and Rose Red were interesting, and not at all like the typical comic leading lady.  But once again, I put the series aside for a few months.

About two months ago, though, on a whim, I binge bought volumes three through five and it was done.  From that moment on, I fell completely for this series and have now read through volume 13.  At a con, this weekend, I bought through volume 18 and hope to read them soon.  And suddenly, through Netgalley, I have been given the chance to see the end before the middle.

I must confess, I really appreciate what was done here.  Although I don’t know everything that took me from the introduction of Mr. Dark to the death and return of a certain major character, I was able to follow along for the most part.  I don’t know exactly when Snow and Red’s relationship took such a horrid turn, but I found the conclusion of their story to be touching.  I am glad to see King Ambrose is still a noble leader and what happened to Pinnochio was perfect!

I really cannot wait to purchase this volume in print.  It is a fitting conclusion to one of the most interesting and original  comic series of the last thirty years.  I cannot recommend it enough and hope Bill plans on making a few return visits to the Mundy and Fabled worlds.  This is a classic for the ages.