Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Impact Awareness and the Modern World


I remember about twenty years ago one of my co-workers, not even eighteen years old yet, had not seen Star Wars. He would talk about all the newer movies and his other interests and such, but had no idea about Star Wars. He mentioned a rapper he liked, I do not remember who it was, but at the time I did remember having just seen an interview where that rapper talked about how much Star Wars influenced him. This guy had a really hard time grasping just how big Star Wars was and what it had done to our society on so many levels. I tried to explain to him how the whole idea of blockbuster movies as we know them today, came from the success of Star Wars. How it brought about a new age of special effects, or the impact of those incredible music scores. He just wasn’t understanding it. His focus was on the present, not seeing what had come before to shape things.

And I’ve seen this elsewhere. People often seem to not be aware that there was a past, that in order to bring the entertainment of the present, there was an evolution to get to that point.

Where would music be if not for the Beatles?

While I am not a fan of his writing style, I still understand the impact Lord of the Rings had on genre literature. Like everything else I have talked about here, it has also had an impact on things beyond just genre fiction. The ideas there inspired people to be creative in other areas of society, unrelated to writing.

It is also interesting to see the patterns that form. I had found out the song "Killing me Softly With His Song" was written in response to the song "American Pie", which was clearly written in response to a lot of events and people that inspires the writer. There is a progression of creative endeavors flowing in a path from one person to the next, each inspiring the next step, moving the creative process farther.

I had talked about how there was a defining line between before Amazing Fantasy 15, and after, for the comic book industry. There is such a line for music concerning the Beatles, as a well such a line in movies when it comes to Star Wars. There are events that truly change everything, having helped shape the path out society has taken.  And yes, I do openly say that Spider-Man, the Beatles and Star Wars have all played huge roles in creating our present society.

It is hard for anyone who did not live during those times to understand just what they did, but that is part of studying history. I very much think more people need to be looking at the evolution of our society and our entertainments. Most of the events I have mentioned here were before my life time, but as a fan I have studied them and seen what they did. In my life time we have had events like Nirvana and the Harry Potter books, which have had their impact on people and will be remembered. I am not sure if there are as defining a line with them.  I am not trying to say they are not important, it is just a different sense of how things are. I do wonder if we have gone past the point where we will get the massive events of the past. Instead it seems like we’re getting smaller such events, more often. It’s like we’re hitting a stage of just micro-evolutions for society.

There is still a flood of creative ideas flowing and giving inspiration, but for me it seems that something is slowing down. Whatever we have become, it just seems harder to have the grand impacts of old. I don’t hold to the poorly-conceived idea that things now days are of lower quality, which is part of the generation war drivel which benefits no one. There is a lot of quality entertainment being made and we are still finding ways to move the media forward. Just wherever we are, I have not seen anything have the impact and ignite changes on the level of these past events.

I wait with great anticipation for a truly monumental event in my future. I do not believe we are done with them. And it will be something to see where we go with the next huge event.

Friday, June 29, 2018

Oh Those Milestone Comics

If you are not aware, I am a big fan of Marvel comics.  At one point in the 90s I was picking up just about everything they put out. Over the years I have had to cut back and at times actually take a break from them when money was tight. Right now I am actively picking up some of the new stuff. Several Marvel titles have hit big milestones recently, and I have picked up three of them. I am going to talk about them and one recent wedding issue.

We’ll start with Thor. With issue 700 they started a major storyline titled The Death of Thor that ran through issue 705 with a follow up in issue 706, which was the last for that run of the series.
Several years ago Jane Foster, one time Thor love interest, became the new Thor. It was a huge deal to have a female Thor in the game. Yet there was  twist.  Jane had cancer and the magic of Thor’s hammer was actually making the cancer worst, seeing the chemotherapy as a danger to her and the cancer as her body.
The Death of Thor wraps up Jane’s storyline in well done, powerful manner that is fulfilling. You have real resolutions to various plots threads. You have changes that are going to be lasting, with impacts that will leave an impression on the Marvel universe.  This real is storytelling. When you pick up a comic, this is the kind of ride you want.
And despite the feeling that the title gives away too much, there are surprises and twists to the story.

Next I will talk about Iron Man 600. I am at full loss as to what they were thinking here. My guess is they were hoping for something huge, but just were clueless about how to pull it off.
It was a confusing hodgepodge of what I guess we’ll call a story. I got the impression that nothing was thought out and they just threw everything in there to try and finish up the various plots. I think they must have written themselves into some corners and figured issue 600 would be the place to reset it all.  The problem is there were no real connections between much of what was going.  They jumped around with no good reasoning as to how they went for point A to point B. The characters just showed up and did their stuff.
It also bothered me that in order to bring back two characters from the dead, they introduced a way to make all character immortal.  I get upset enough as it is with how they keep bringing characters back from the dead after making it way clear the character is actually dead (Captain America, Wolverine, Aunt May). I feel it makes the whole concept of death in the comics trivial. With the new technology, they are not even trying to. Death has become even more meaningless it the Marvel universe. It is insulting the way they want to treat the death of their characters.

The same week Iron Man 600 came out, Spider-Man 800 (Now Marvel longest series) came out. This was a true milestone issue that got the respect deserved of Marvel top hero.
We get to see many of those who are part of Spider-Man’s life get caught up in the madness that is the Red Goblin, basically the Green Goblin empowered with the Carnage Symbiote. We get to see so many heroes do truly heroic things, as well as one villain, in attempts to stop Norman Osbourne’s madness. We get surprise after surprise, with some well-done nods to classic stories. This really was a milestone issue on many levels.
And not everyone makes it out alive.  It is a death I hope Tony Stark stays away from. It was a well written, heroic sacrifice that should not be undone.  I so hope future writers show respect and do not resurrect this character. A powerful, meaningful death is good story telling and even if they leave him dead for a few years, the moment he is resurrected makes it meaningless.
This was followed up by issue 801, which was actually a  perfect end to this run of Spider-Man (I’m not going to go into how Marvel does its numbering now.  It can be a little confusing). We start with a  simple one page summary of Spidey’s origin, that starts with ‘You know the story’. Then we get to see a brief encounter with Spidey in his early days and a time jump to the present, where we have a normal man who summarizes just how heroic Spider-man is, and all the worlds he has saved. (Serious, it is worth reading to see what that actually means). It was a lighter, one-shot story, that reminds us why Spider-Man is a great hero. It was a pallet cleanser to get us ready for what will hopefully be some big stories once the new run starts up.

So I will end with talking about X-Men Gold Issue 30. I’ve not been doing much keeping up with the X-Men lately, as for me they have taken them is such an odd direction that goes against what they were and what made them worth reading.  However, I picked up this issue because it is a wedding issue.
After nearly 40 years (Like ten in comic time), Kitty Pryde and Peter Rasputin are ready to tie the knot. This issue had jokes in it that only work with comic book characters. When you have the newly resurrected Jean Grey, questioning her teenage self from a different timeline about drinking and the teenage self-trying to point out that their adult daughter from yet another timeline, is also drinking as way to justify it… Yeah that kind of thing only works in a comic book universe. The few issue I have picked up recently of X-Men seemed to have that kind of humor and it really works. I love that they are poking fun at just how absurd their universe is at times.
And this is not your normal wedding issue. There are some interesting twists that make this stand out from other wedding issues.
I still have no plans to start picking up X-Men, but I did enjoy this issue.

It was bit a mixed bag here, with two milestones and a wedding issue I can highly recommend and one milestone that was best avoided. Regretfully not every Marvel comic is going to be well done.  I have had my disappointments with them in the past, but for the most part I am still a huge fan of Marvel and am looking forward to seeing where they go from here.

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

The Greatest Threat to Fandom is Toxic Fans

With the continuing poor performance of Solo: A Star Wars Story, it really is becoming clear that we are at a point where a certain group of ‘fans’ are ready to bring about a truly horrific time for fandom.

First off, Solo was a good movie and deserves far more praise than it has received. While it was not perfect and was a new take on a story that has been told a few time already.  Han’s early life has already seen a few iterations in the old Expanded Universe (Now known and Legacy). Like with most of the old EU, it was left behind but the basics were kept. In fact a fair amount of Solo was based off the known story for Han and Chewbacca, which have been part of the official history for them for some time. Go back and read my last post to get the full of my views on Solo and why it is not doing as well as it should.

I will summarize it though with saying Toxic Fans are a big part of the reason.

Regretfully Star Wars is not the only place we see this toxic fandom. We saw it with the relaunch of Star Trek. I personal love those movies, even if too often the science is just bad, real bad in them. I actually watch the first with with a group of skeptics and while we ripped apart the idea of building the Enterprise on the Earth’s surface and how it made no sense for Spock to have seen Vulcan get destroyed, we enjoyed it. Why? Because it was actually far more engaging than the old movies ever were. Abrams put adventure and action into the movies, while keeping the stories interesting and relevant, as well as giving us characters we care about and who work well off each other. I already am aware that some of what I just said is not going to be agreed to by everyone, but I have already have the debate on those issues and stand by my statements. The new Star Trek movies are an IMPROVEMENT over the old ones.

But a good deal of the diehard Star Trek fans, these toxic Trekkies, didn’t like the changes. They went off on the movies, ranking them as the worst. They didn’t care that for once their franchise was actually doing real impressive at the box office, since before the new movies, Star Trek, while doing good, was never really dominated the box office. This attitude is partially why the third of the new films, which in my opinion is the best of them, somehow did not perform too well at the theaters. Now this is Star Trek and there is no doubt there will be a fourth one and even talk of fifth with an unexpected director. The classic Trek movies were never as successful as the new ones, but the toxic fans don’t care. Too many changes, this is not their Trek and they would rather sink the franchise as a whole than suffer a new take on the concepts and characters.

Now the same summer we got our last Star Trek movies, we also got a reboot of a classic fan favorite, Ghostbusters. Ghostbusters actually made just as much money at the box office as Star Trek did, but due to how Hollywood works, there are no talks about doing another Ghostbusters. Why? Because true toxic fans ruined it.

This reboot had a female team of Ghostbusters and it was a highly enjoyable film. It was perfect as a Ghostbusters movie. It had enjoyable characters, some being over the top, but they worked. There was a solid story, a lot of laughs and adventure.
It should have worked and restarted the franchise. Before the movie even came out, we saw toxic masculinity take over in an organized attempt to ruin the film. These men claiming to be fans decided they had every right to attack a film they did not see, going after the females stars and countering the positive reviews, just because they could. Regretfully their efforts seemed to have paid off. We most likely will not be getting to see this enjoyable team of Ghostbusters on the big screen again, all because of toxic fans. We saw this as well with The Last Jedi. I liked the character of Rose. She was both strong and venerable at the same time, in way that was actually realistic and worked. Yet toxic masculinity crept in and has attacked her, pushing the talented actress to leave social media after being unjustly targeted and overwhelmed by childish attacks, which also happened to at least one of the stars of Ghostbusters. There is no justification for such trolling, ever.

Of course it also goes the other ways.

We recently saw a group of toxic fans of the DC universe come out and blindly attack Black Panther. The DC cinematic universe is not doing well. The only have one good movie out of six. Yet the diehard fans refuse to accept that reality (Sorry folks, but Batman vs. Superman is about as bad as it gets, with no real story, plot or likable characters in it. I don’t consider the character of Wonder Woman likeable here, as we don’t get a real sense of her in the film.) They have become bitter and there was an organized effort to go after the Marvel movies, which not surprisingly failed. Black Panther has been a worldwide success despite their attempt to ruin its ratings. They have however been much more successful with the organized attacks on Star Wars, which they have openly said were in retaliation, making bizarre claims that Disney has somehow been involved in all the bad reviews the DC movies have received. They were able to play off the toxic masculinity of some disenfranchised fanboys in attacking The Last Jedi and succeeded in convincing some that it was a horrible movie, which seemed to have rolled over into helping hurt Solo. This is a clear effort to try and sink other franchises. If people won’t say their franchise if great, then they’re going to try to bring other franchises down.

Understand I am not saying that a person cannot be critical of films they dislike. I clearly am that. Bu we can express our dislike of things without trying to go the extra levels of attacking them. I am a huge fan of Spider-Man, yet Amazing Spider-man 2 was a true disappointment for me, I felt it was a movie that ignored so much of what Spider-Man is all about with a story that just did not work on any level. It is part of a franchise I love and have enjoyed for most of my life. I am critical of it and will openly talk about my views on it, but I never once considered organizing a campaign to have Sony declare the movie non-canon and start over again. Nor did I put effort into attacking future Spider-man movies, all because I was bitter over one. I loved Spider-Man Homecoming and am excited to see Spidey being an active part of the MCU. There was one movie I disliked, but never once did I think it would be a good idea to ruin the franchise for everyone because of it. I hoped they would learn and make things better, which they did.

Feel free to enjoy what I do not, no one can stop you from finding enjoyment where I just don’t. I have actually disliked critically acclaimed films and shows, as well as liked stuff that was generally considered bad. Never once have I had to bring others down in order to feel my views were justified.

We as fans actually have a responsibility to be fair with our criticisms and how we go about expressing our admiration for the franchises we enjoy. There is nothing of value coming from the toxic fans, especially the toxic masculinity of far too many of them. If you didn’t enjoy a film, say so, give your reasoning and then let it be. Sit back and let others create their own views, even if they disagree with yours. There is nothing wrong with that. It may puzzle you, but that’s fine.

And if you dislike the idea that women are now getting their time to shine and be the center of attention in the films, well that is just being a dick and you need to grow up. The toxic masculinity of some fans is just inexcusable and needs to go away.

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Star Wars is Far Far Away From Being Over-Saturated

So the big news concerning Star Wars right now is how Solo: A Star Wars Story underperformed at the box office over this last weekend. Now understand, to say ‘underperformed’ is a little misleading, as it underperformed for a Star Wars movie, which means it still was the number one movie for the weekend and had ticket sales over shadowing most movies.

I see a lot of speculation about how they are milking the franchise, over-saturating the market and so on. And I call bull on that fully. Star Wars has been milked for worse in the past and far more over-saturated. Yes, it has only been about six months since the last Star Wars movie, but we are still averaging just one a year right now. With Marvel studios doing three movies a year, Fox putting out normally a couple of X-men films a year and Sony this year putting out Venom as a stand alone, with majority of those movies doing really well, Star Wars is being fairly restrained.

Solo suffered from a lot of issues during production that hurt people’s faith in it.  And I think if anyone but Ron Howard had picked up the reins, there is a good chance it would have deserved the lack of faith. Howard came in late in the game and put together a truly enjoyable movie. But due to how it all came about, the chance of regaining people’s faith just because you have a skilled director doing the repairs, just was not going to happen fully.

The bigger issue that hurt Solo however is the backlash from some fans over The Last Jedi.  There really is no doubt that The Last Jedi was a movie that fragmented the fans.  There are still a good deal of fans who are angry over that movie and are still attacking it and claiming it ruined Star Wars, because somehow Jar-Jar and the prequels they can accept just fine. All you need to do is look at Rotten Tomatoes to see that the crowds that organized to bad mouth The Last Jedi and do all they could to bring the ratings for it down, clearly seem to have tried the same thing for Solo. A general truth about movies is that the critics are almost always going to be tougher on their ratings than the average movie goer, especially so on movies that have huge fan bases. Just look at any of the truly crappy as it gets movies from the DC Universe.  They got one good film in there, with the rest being pure crap (And that is me being polite about just how bad Batman Vs. Superman was), yet when you look at the fan reactions, you might fall for the idea that the critics were being jerks. (They weren’t, all but one of the DC movies are just horrible, and unwatchable.)  However, we are seeing just the opposite with the Star Wars movies now. Critically the movies are doing better with the critics than the fans, supposedly. Solo was 70% with the critics, but only a 60% with the fans, far less than it deserves from either. I have no doubt that the group that went after The Last Jedi to bring the numbers down in that same manner, were already ready to bring Solo down. They are angry because The Last Jedi was what it was. So like children throwing a fit, they had already decided to attack anything new with Star Wars without giving it a chance, unless Lucas films gave into their demands. Just look back and you’ll see them having said as much six months ago.

That being said, there is even more to it.

A big issue is the character of Han Solo. Solo had often been the number one character according to many, many different polls. He is truly at the top of the list for popularity, and too many refuse to see him played by anyone but Harrison Ford. It did not matter what actor they go with or how well that actor performed, too many people were just not going to accept anyone else in the role. In this case, the actor did a fine enough job, nothing impressive though. There was just no way he was ever going to live up to expectations. Because of that fact alone, the movie was never really going to get accepted by a great deal of people.

So if you look at what I have said, it was toxic fandom and their harmful attitudes that have led to the under-performing. And I will stand by that assertion. While Solo is not a perfect movie, it is better than the prequels without question.

And while the opening weekend was not as big as the studio had hoped, there is still a chance it will see a rise. All the friends I have who have seen the movie have loved it, with one claiming it to be the best Star Wars ever. Word of mouth is spreading and it can be a powerful thing. As people who were on the fence about seeing it find their friends saying how good it is, the chances of them going to see it increase. My guess is this week will be a better than average week for the movie, and that it will see a good, healthy second weekend as more people decide to give it a chance.

Although there is one aspect that will throw casual fans of Star Wars off. As it might be considered a spoiler, I will not bring it up directly, but if you are not familiar with the cartoon shows The Clone Wars and Star Wars Rebels, there is a cameo that will puzzle you and might, as one person I have seen, make you wonder about the time line. This cameo does however show the seriousness that Lucas Films is taking in connecting what they are labeling as being the actual Canon for Star Wars.

I enjoyed Solo and feel it is a great addition to the Star Wars story line.  With the next one shot film most likely being a Boba Fett movie, I would hope they do not waste the opportunity to use elements introduced in Solo as part of a bigger story with Boba Fett. We already know there are a lot of plans in the works to keep Star Wars movies coming out regularly for some time now and I am looking forwards to seeing just where those future films will take us, as we know they are going to break away from the Skywalker storyline with the future trilogies.

I for one am far from being tired of Star Wars. With all the new voices being allowed in, I have high hopes for just where the stories will take us.

Monday, April 30, 2018

It Was the 90s That Killed Toys R Us

With Toys R Us going out of business, it feels like the end of an era, but looking back on it all that era ended some time ago. And while there are many factors that have led to the company shutting down, the real reasons can all be linked to the 90s.

Over the time I have been raising my two boys, I have noticed that none of their friends collect toys, even on the level when I was young and all my friends traded with each other. At that time you did not collect for value. You collected to play with the toys. And I remember in Junior High being told toys were for kids, but that did not stop me from collecting.

In the 90s everything switched around. Everyone, even the kids, collected toys for the value. I worked in a toy department and was blown away by how often a kid would look at what figures to buy fully based on the value of it. And it was mostly adults who were buying the toys, most of whom were very open about buying them as an investment.

Back in the 80s you had full aisles in the toy departments dedicated to just one toy line. And the toys were in production for several years at a time. By the 90s a toy line was big if it got a full four foot section dedicated to it. Attitudes were changing, but due to the idea of making money off the toys, they sold. New stuff was hitting the shelves like mad, but none of it was in production that long. The secondary market was jumping back and forth on the prices as everyone tried to guess what would be valuable.

And then the bubble exploded. All the collectors had boxes full of unopened 'investments' that no one was interested in because everyone had them. As the realization that there was no guarantee of a great return on investment hit people, the collectors cut back drastically.

Now that alone would not have been as big a deal, except for various reasons, the kids were not as interested as previous generations in collecting toys. Just looking at my sons' friends, most of them just have not been that interested in action figures.  My boys grew up with me, so they both have an interest in them, but never at the same level as my friends and I did. A big part of that I would say is the insane growth in popularity of home video games systems.

Toys R Us grew the most thanks to the boom in the 80s and they gladly jumped on the craze of the 90s, investing heavily of exclusives that collectors had to have. When the 90s bubble crashed, they weren't able adjust. They couldn't offer anything for video games that everyone else was offering and their business model fell apart. They tried to adjust with expanding into other areas like clothes and baby supplies, but once more they had nothing to offer that other stores weren't already offering.

In truth Toys R Us died about 20 years ago, but crawled on zombie-like, barley clinging on to life.

As my generation starts fading away, I get the feeling the whole concept of collecting toys will vanish with us. A collection like mine will end up being a true curiosity. There are not that many of the present generation taking up the hobby and most likely there will be even less in the next one.

Of course one of the more amusing things is that due to the lack of interest in collecting right now, most likely right now is a great time to invest in toys. Star Wars is bigger than ever now, yet the toys are not seeing anywhere near the production levels of the past. If any children do end up becoming collectors, they will most likely want to have toys that are being made now, but no one is buying.

So Toys R Us dies because they just were never going to be able to keep up with changing times. It happens. It was always going to happen, and it really is impressive that it took this long. The 90s did a lot of harm to collecting, and not just the toy collecting. It was  time everyone was looking for easy money through such investments, and that has fallen apart like such things always do.

Now we wait and see where it all goes. Something will be coming along to burst the home video game bubble and create new obsessions. Game Stop and such stores will see their demise as the new market takes over.

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Why The New Star Wars Expanded Universe Isn't Working

One of the issues many fans have had with the new Star Wars trilogy is how it had dumped all the Expanded Universe story lines that had been put together over the last few decades. These were extensive story lines expanding on the stories of the original trilogy. There were several epic story lines that took the Star Wars universe to all sorts of new places, with interesting new characters.

Now we are getting a new expanded universe built under the new story lines, but one thing I have come to realize is that in the end this new EU is not going to be able to live up to reputation of the old one. I am reading Liea Princess of Alderaan and of thing I have realized is that there is something missing. Then thinking about the other new EU books I have read, it is missing from those as well.
This is not review of the book. I have problems with it on many levels and am only a few chapters in, their take on Liea is really bothering as it very openly is going against set canon from the movies, which the old EU seemed to have understood and followed.

This post is a commentary about the limit that are obviously being placed on what the writers can do.

With the old Eu they had a lot of freedom in where they could go. Lucas Film still had final say over it all, but there was clearly a lot of freedom for the writers.

This new EU clearly has next to no freedom.

The new EU novels are not so much stories as fill in character pieces. These books are not introducing new story lines, but are filling in areas of the stories from the movies. We are getting to see what the characters were up to before the movies, but little else. We already know where all these characters end up, their fates already played out in many cases. These novels are not taking the EU anywhere new, with no surprises or unseen twists. Right now it is all fairly straight forward stories which are actually a little bland.

I do understand why this is happening though. With them actually making movies right now, they do not want to have the EU introduce aspects that might be go against the story lines of any new movies. The old EU had a freedom that the new EU will most likely never have. Before the Disney deal, Lucas ha give up o the idea of doing any future movies and so there was no concern about what the EU did. It was not going to interfere with any future films. Since right now we are seeing a long term plan of making movie after movie, it will be some time before the new EU will be able to have that level of freedom, if ever.

Personally I wish there was a way to go back and let the old EU start up again, with the understanding that all of those story lines are a separate universe. The freedom they had allowed for noticeably better story telling.

For good or ill, if anyone wishes to keep up with the new EU, they will not be getting the quality of the old EU (Not saying it was all good). I myself do not plan to put any effort into keeping up with it, which works well as my expendable income is not what it used to be.

Saturday, April 7, 2018

My Writings

Hello everyone,

Its been a while since I put together a list of my writings and figured I should try to promote my works a little. So if you want to support me and see just what comes out of this warped mind of mine, here is what you might want to check out.

I have four stories now in The Divided States of America,
http://www.nomadicdeliriumpress.com/dividedstates.htm


While each is a stand alone story, they do follow the same character and this is the recommended reading order for them

What Lies in the Wastelands: http://nomadicdeliriumpress.com/…/what-lies-in-the-wastela…/

Can't Go Home Again: http://nomadicdeliriumpress.com/…/produ…/cant-go-home-again/

Where Do You Go From Here: http://nomadicdeliriumpress.com/…/where-do-you-go-from-here/

Trial of Payne: http://nomadicdeliriumpress.com/blog/product/trial-of-payne/

And my awesome girlfriend Lorelei has one story in that collection,
Delivery: http://nomadicdeliriumpress.com/blog/product/delivery/

Disharmony of the Spheres (http://www.nomadicdeliriumpress.com/disharmony.htm) is a new anthology that my story 'Time of the Bursting' is in.
I think it is the most intense piece I have written.

Here is my amazon page (https://www.amazon.com/…/B006JD…/ref=dp_byline_cont_ebooks_1) which has most of my other published stories.

Feel free to share this list and if you do read any of them, please leave reviews everywhere you can, they really do make a difference.

 Thanks