Saturday, December 22, 2018

The Use of Bad Comic Book Science, I Thought We Were Past This

I have never really been a big fan of DC Comics or their related properties. I generally am aware of them, but I don't go out of my way to watch their stuff for the most part and when I do, I normally find my views to be justified. I just do not enjoy most of what DC puts out there. In past posts I have talked about some of the DC-related elements that I do not like and why.

Every so often something DC-related surprises me.

I am a huge fan of Watchman and I understand why it is such a big deal. Neil Gaiman's Sandman is just so incredibly well done. I liked Batman Begins, the only good movie of that trilogy, as The Dark Knight is one of the most overrated films ever.

And thanks to my son, I got into the new Flash TV show and Supergirl. While neither fully breaks away from the flaws of DC, they a least were different and had interesting characters and plots that I enjoyed. And while the Flash is insanely overpowered and they tried to pull Supergirl down power-wise, they soon gave that up and let her get as overpowered as the concept always is, I was able to ignore those flaws and just look at the basic storyline. After all they never let themselves sink to the worst level of bad 'science' that we often see with DC. Yeah, the Speedforce is questionable and in Supergirl a small rock can be spread to contaminate the whole Earth with lethal levels of a substance, so you have to over look a lot of rational thinking to enjoy them, but at least they never did the really lame flying real fast around the world to turn back time...

Now for the big crossover event for this year, Elseworlds. It started off interesting. Switching around The Flash and Green Arrow led to some interesting and amusing confrontation. It had some character growth in it, having both of them have to look a themselves from a different perspective.

So it was off to a good start that had possibilities.

Then we get Batwoman forced into the story where she does next to nothing, just walks around saying 'hey look at what the next show we're working on will be.' And Gotham just felt like a city that should be allowed to die. There was nothing there to convince me it was a city I wanted to see get saved or watch any adventures happen in.

This is followed by introducing Arkham Asylum into the world... My guess is the diehard DC fans loved it, as there were names all over the place that I am betting were Easter Eggs that I just didn't get. Which is fine, but there were other elements that really bugged me. Way too easy for the prison break to happen. Throw one switch and all hell breaks loose. Then why would they store dangerous weapons in the basement of a mental institution for the most dangerous of criminals? I was really thrown out of the story there. Then at the end of it all, they let the one guy keep his nice gold mask. No, you don't lock them up still in their costumes.

But all of that is just annoyances compared to the big final battle and the 'risky' solution they come up with.

So the Flash is to run around the world as fast as he can in one direction, while Supergirl flies as fast as she can in the opposite direction and they know, they know without a doubt, that this will somehow slow time down... What? Seriously, WTF? No, just no. Big No. This is stupid on so many levels. And they are going to do this, a task which somehow Green Arrow has foreseen will kill them both, because, well... Yeah, that's going to do something...

When they got to this point in the story, where they throw out this truly idiotic plan, they also have nothing else to the plan, all it was 'we going to risk our lives to slow down time, and then you guys do something, and bad guy gets defeated.' Seriously, at the point they started running and flying, there was nothing set to how the others were going to bring the bad guy down. Both Superman and Green Arrow would have been affected by the slowing of time as far as we knew. Now after the two heroes go to throw their lives away in a plan that is not really a plan, with nothing having been shown that would actual save the day, Green Arrow goes and makes the deal that allows him to be able to stop the bad guy during the slow down. This is AFTER the process of slowing time down has started, so if he didn't do this the Flash and Supergirl would have died (Or so we have been told) and the villian would have won, all becuase there was no actual plan made before they took off.

I cringed at how bad this 'solution' was. It had bad science and logic at every stage, huge gaps in plot followed by forced risk to the characters, as they did something truly pointless.

I fear for where the shows are going to go now. If we're going to get the worst aspects of DC storytelling now, then there is no point to keeping up with it all. I may have to drop the shows, as it would be painful to have to watch such piss poor storytelling week after week.

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Will This be the Greatest Spider-Man Movie to Date?

When I first heard they were working on an animated Spider-Man movie I thought "Okay, might be fun," but really did not think of it as anything big.

The trailers came out and I thought "Okay, this looks better than I was expecting," yet I was still not taking it too seriously. I had little faith they were going to do anything special with it. I figured it would be just another attempt at Sony Pictures getting their money's worth from having the rights to Spider-Man cinematic universe. They have been so hit or miss with what they have done with it so far, I was not seeing a full animated movie as being promising from them.

So now on Rotten Tomatoes Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse has 62 reviews and is at 100%. Now that is a truly rare event.  Normally by 62 reviews there are a few who didn't like a movie, no matter how good it is. Several reviews call it the best animated movie of the year, which is saying a lot. A Sony Pictures animated film is getting better critical attention that anything from Disney and Dream Works... Okay, maybe this is going to be a much better film than I thought. I had originally planned to hold off until it made it to DVD, but now I'm thinking I'll have to see it in the theater.

For those who don't know, I'll give a quick explanation of what the Spider-Verse is.

In Marvel comics, there are an endless amount of alternate dimensions and from time to time their basic characters get to explore these alternate realities. Well a few years ago Marvel did a huge comic book event where they explored a great deal of alternate versions of Spider-Man/Woman/Pig/Monkey/Robot. Many had been introduced before, but there was also a huge batch of fully new ones such as Spider-Punk and fan favorite Spider-Gwen. It was a lot of fun and I felt a well done story line. The concept is that there are 'Spider-totems' in the various realities as part of a greater balance.

Right now they are running a follow up story with some new Spider-person created for it. Not as epic as the first one, but it has so far been fun.

Now the main character in Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse is Mile Morales, who was an established Spider-Man well before the events of the original Spider-Verse. In the comics there was an alternate world called the Ultimates Universe, which was what the Avengers of that world were called. In that reality Peter Parker was the original Spider-Man, but ended up dying. In the aftermath Miles Morales ends up taking up the identity. After various big, cosmic events that rearranged realities, that universe has been merged with the main Marvel Universe and Miles Morales is Spider-Man, but the original Peter Parker Spider-Man is still doing his thing as well. So we now have two heroes calling themselves Spider-Man running around and some times teaming up.

From what I have seen, Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse is not going to follow any of that though. While it is clearly using the characters and the basic concept, the story appears to be fully its own fresh take.

Right now the plan is to see Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse in the theater to see if it does live up to the reviews. I'm sure I'll enjoy it no matter what, but there does seem to be some high expectations being placed on it now.

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

The Measure of Man in Death

Stan Lee has died. It was not a surprise or shocking death, as he was 95 and had been having health issues. Yet his death does hit hard those of us who were fans. When a person who has inspired us, entertained us, created something that we hold important in our lives dies, it is going to leave us at a loss of words, even if it is expected. And while I am one of those who feels that Lee's contribution is too often over hyped, (Steve Ditko and Jack Kirby were just as important in creating what became the Marvel Universe, but are not as well known) he very much became a known inspiring personality. 

Anyone who reads my blog knows how big a fan of Spider-Man I am, so having both creators die in less than half a year from each other (Steve Ditko passed in June) is somewhat surreal. You can look back to my posts about how Amazing Fantasy 15 changed the world of comic books and entertainment in general. With just that one creation the two of them created a legacy that is clearly going to outlive them and most likely inspire many generations to come.

Now that is a legacy worth leaving behind.

I find myself drawn to being emotional about anyone who creates such a legacy. The idea of inspiring anyone, let alone millions across multiple generations is such a huge thing, yet our society still has not gotten to the point of treating creative types in general with the respect they deserve. While Stan Lee is being talked about everywhere,  Steve Ditko seemed to be almost just a footnote, yet he played a huge part, equally really to Lee's, in creating Spider-Man and he is solely responsible for the creation of Dr. Strange. He just did not seek the publicity that Stan Lee received.

I remember Jim Henson's death as being another huge one for me and he is another who is the face of a creation that had many others involved in making it what it became. There is no doubt he was a powerful creative force, but we know there were others involved with making the Muppets what they are. The most famous of those is of course Frank Oz, who in so many ways was Jim's equal in their endeavors, but for whatever reason has not ever received the same level of recognition for his contribution.

I look at all those creative individuals who have come before me and left their impact on our world, opening the doors for new paths of creativity and inspiring so many with their works and I openly admit that I am jealous. Being a creative type myself, the idea of creating anything that someone find inspiring and triggers others to become creative because of something I did... I can only imagine how rewarding that would feel.

That is a worthy legacy to leave behind.

Stan Lee played a major role in shaping our present level of story telling and is not going to be soon forgotten for all he did. His legacy is clear and undeniable. Countless people have expressed what he and his creations have meant to them. I don't believe there is another comic book writer who is as well known and recognizable. He is a face that will forever be associated with the comic book industry, more than any other.

I know I am one who has been inspired by what he created, and his work is something that will be part of my creative endeavors for the rest of my life.

Saturday, November 3, 2018

How Our Time Lady is Doing So Far

The new season of Doctor Who has started. We have our first female Doctor, played by Jodi Whittaker. We have a new TARDIS.  We have a new show runner and I believe a full new creative staff putting it all together.

So at four episodes in, what does this all mean?

Our first episode, The Women Who Fell to Earth, did what it needed to do with the basic introduction of the new Doctor. The story was decent, nothing special. It let us see the new Doctor in action and gave us some feel for her three new companions.

My main problem with this first episode was it felt rushed. There were jokes in there that seemed good, but had bad timing on them for a proper reaction. There was enough filler shots in there that they could have told us the same story at a better pace if they had tried.

Next we have The Ghost Monument, which worked for me. Nothing special in it, but it felt like Doctor Who. It had some interesting concepts in it and flowed well enough.

We get to see the new TARDIS. Small changes on the outside, big changes on the inside. Did not feel comfortable with it all at first. It really was a bit off putting with just how dramatic the changes were.

Then we come to Rosa. This is the episode that the season will most likely be remembered for. It focuses on Rosa Park and everything going on around the historic event.

Dealing with such a topic is a tricky thing, but they pulled it off and made a truly memorable episode. It was unapologetically honest and political, not holding back at all with its message and just where we are at today with the same issues.

A few funny moments where the black companion Ryan is fan-boying over Martin Luther King Jr before he becomes known, after having done the same with Rosa Park.

This episode introduced a new character of Krasko, who is a criminal from the future and was trying to change time due to racist ideals. I get the feeling he will be returning due to all that was given to use about him.

My only real issue with this episode was that the Doctor seemed to go out of her way to NOT refer to the TARDIS as 'her' or 'she'. This felt really awkward to me. The Doctor has always referred to the TARDIS as being female, which is not unusual as we traditionally refer to our various types of ships in the feminine. Just because we now have a female Doctor does not mean the TARDIS should be an it now. If anything there might be some awkwardness between the two of them now due to the kind of relationship they have had in the past.

Then we get to the fourth episode of this season, Arachnids in the UK. This is one that is better forgotten and ignored. There was nothing interesting or of value in it. Our villain for the episode was a truly unconvincing character that felt like a poor parody of Trump in many ways. He had no real motivation to most of what he does in the episode, with much of his actions feeling fully forced. Regretfully I got the impression he would be back in the future.

The story itself tried to be political, but failed at that big time. Felt more preachy than anything, not living up to what it needed to be.

Then we get really, really bad science with giant spiders, larger than a person, walking on the walls and ceilings. It really was too much for me. Then they go scientific and talk about the problems the spider would have breathing once it got that large. So it really bothered me that they tried to get real science into it after showing a full lack of caring before that.

What really bothered me the most about this episode was the big solution that did not feel like a real solution. Besides the gap after gap in logic that was used, a big one being they could not know how many spiders were out there, they were confident they got them all. Through out the episode, the Doctor goes on about the spiders being living creatures and deserving respect and should not be killed, then goes and traps them in a confined space where they will be slowly starve to death. Uh, how is that better than killing them out right? How does making them suffer count as a natural death? For me this painted the Doctor as unusually cruel and thoughtless, which is what we are supposed to believe the villain is. And then the villain shoots the largest of the spiders, which upsets the Doctor, because she would rather see it suffer and die slowly through suffocation. Really did not work for me at all.

So we're four episodes in and I like the new Doctor, but we seem to be going up and down episode wise. We'll see where things go. I don't expect every episode to be great, but there is a lot of rough edges here that need to be worked out. One being too many companions. There were a few times where you just had three people blindly following the Doctor around with nothing else to do. I get it, ti is hard to make sure they are each doing their own thing all the time, but it is obvious at times they are just there because they are there.

It's going to be the shortest season since they started the program up again. Will be interesting to see where it all goes from here.  There is no doubt they are openly being more political than ever. That does not bothers me if the stories are good. Problem is with that last one, story seemed to have been something they put in as an after thought.

Monday, September 24, 2018

The End of The Comic Con Era?

In an interesting turn of events, San Diego Comic-Con won the law suit against Salt Lake City Comic Con over the use of ‘Comic Con’. This is a term most fans just assumed was going to be used as a generic term for the big conventions. Just about every major city now seemed to have a Comic Con and we more or less knew they were not all connected. Much of the law suit seemed somewhat petty to me. San Diego Comic-Con as the Comic-Con, with all the others just being a comic con. And since SDCC always sold out and was about as crowded as it gets, I really doubt they were losing any business to those other conventions.

But the judgment has been made.

Here in Colorado we have at least four conventions that were using ‘comic con’, with the Denver Comic Con being the biggest of them.  Well they have now changed their name to Denver Pop Culture Convention, DPCC now, although I saw two friends refer to it as D-Pop. Doing a quick check on-line, I get the impression Denver is ahead of the game on this one. Many of them have not yet made a change and a few have gone with Comic Convention as their name, which is not that creative and while the judge in the case said such was acceptable, it is still saying the same thing. That is one area of this case that comes off a little silly. Comic con means comic convention after all, and all the fans know that.

The bigger conventions like Denver will be the ones who have more at stake and are the big targets. The smaller conventions will most likely change their names as well, but may take some time as they do.

Of course the main reason so many used ‘comic con’ was because there was a ready body of fans that wanted to go to comic cons. By using that name, a convention could start off attracting a crowd and hopefully grow fairly quickly. That did seem to work here in Denver at least. With the need for name changes, what will happen to the smaller conventions that were using ‘comic con’? Will they be able to draw in the fans with a comic convention or other new name? Will it now be harder to get a new convention up and going?

This will change the geeky convention landscape a little. For one thing, you won’t be comparing comic cons any more.

There will be changes, there will be new dynamics introduced into it all now. Should be interesting to see how it all reshapes everything.

I think D-Pop will be able to do just fine without the ‘comic con’ title, but a big part of that is because it was able to build itself up using the title. They are making the announcements of the name change very loudly, so all will know and the attendees will most likely have no issue with switching. Could it have gotten as big as it did without saying it was a comic con? I don’t think so. Using comic con does make a difference.

Going forward, the big conventions that have already used ‘comic con’ to get established will most likely do well and be unaffected by having to do a name change. The smaller ones that used ‘comic con’ most likely will lose much needed attention by renaming, as comic convention just is not really as catchy. And any convention that was hoping to come out and use ‘comic con’ to get that boost is just out of luck now.

This may led to more creative names for conventions or less conventions, as the cost to get known grows. I myself enjoy the small conventions, which generally have the more creative names to them, but do not attract the crowds. The problem is there is no money to be found in starting those kinds of convention and are more often die-hard fans who start and run them.

I know I will continue to go to D-Pop, as will thousands and thousands of others. I someday would like to get to the comic-con, SDCC,  just to experience it. And I would love to get out and see comic conventions in other states. I have no doubt these conventions will be with us for some time.  But it does feel like there will be a change to it all now and we will just have wait and see how it all plays out.

Friday, August 10, 2018

The Age of Acceptance

Stephan Colbert this last week had actor Joe Manganiello on to talk about his upcoming projects. That never happened.  The two of them instead talked about Dungeons and Dragons for most of the interview. They covered the classic 'Red Box' edition of the game, the 'Satanic Panic' era as well as various changes made through the various editions, ending with Colbert pulling out a bag of dice and talking about rolling for attributes before Manganiello rolled a natural twenty to end the interview with. Colbert explained that he was not supposed to make the roll, as it was to see if they were going to end the interview or not. Colbert had to apologize because the interview had to end, despite what the die roll said. During the interview they showed pictures of Manganiello’s gaming dungeon, which was just awesome, as he talked about all the celebrities that hung out at his place to game. The two men then set up a date for Colbert to come by and do some D&D next time he was out that way.

They did discuss how it used to be something you hid and didn’t talk about publicly.

We are at a new stage where the geeky stuff many of us at one time were mocked over has now become mainstream and popular.

In junior high I was told it was childish to collect action figures. In high school I was given odd looks while trying to explain what D&D was to one group. Many times my enjoyment of Star Wars was seen as being silly. I even had a good friend criticize how I decorated my room as being as sign of my immaturity.

I still collect action figures as my budget allows. I had a great group of friends who I did various RPGs with for over a decade. Still a huge Star Wars fan and openly show it. And my whole house is now decorated in the manner my room had been back then, if not more so. Now however, just about everyone looks at all of that and tells me how cool they find it. None of it is regarded as being childish or odd.

What had been geeky and shunned in my youth is dominating our culture now. I was neck-deep in most everything that is hugely popular now at a time when it was laughed at.

I think our society is headed in the right direction in that area at least.

Thursday, July 26, 2018

Just a Joke of a Character That Has Grown Old

In general I am not one who is afraid to voice my opinion. I have done it on this blog many times, so I am starting this one off by saying the following is my opinion and everyone is free to agree or disagree. I know this opinion will most likely not be popular, but that has never been my concern. Feel free to disagree with me here, as I am willing to bet there are a lot who do.

As many here know I am not a fan of Batman, a boring character to say the least. Some time ago I wrote about my issues with him.  At that time I mentioned just how bad a character The Joker is and that I would write a future post on that.

Well here is that post.

The Joker is about the most overrated character in comic books, ever. He is a poorly conceived one trick pony that grows old quickly. But of course you look at most of Batman’s enemies and you can see a pattern of them just not being interesting.  However The Joker is the one everyone seems to love and is too often at the forefront of Batman’s big stories.

The basic character of The Joker is a criminal "mastermind" (I’ve never seen any real proof of this) who is crazy and chaotic. Oh, and for some reason, which keeps changing, he is disfigured in a way to be pale with a huge, ugly grin. And that really is all there is to his character. There is no depth to him at all, in the least. He is an asshole because he is an asshole so he is an asshole. That really is it.

I have no problem with keeping his past a secret, which they sometimes do, with then often ret-conning it or just ignoring what has been put out there, going with the Joker being a really unreliable narrator.  But how long do you keep that up? Now it worked, and was about the only thing that worked, in the movie The Dark Knight. There we only have to deal with this for one movie. In the comics however, if he is supposed to be an interesting bad guy, I need something more. He is just the same joke over and over again, going nowhere. In order to keep the character a "mystery" and play off the chaotic concept, they have painted themselves into corner where the character is not able to be anything more.

We get told he is charismatic, yet this is never shown to us.  I have never liked how a highly educated, strong and intelligent woman got caught up in a fascination with him and destroyed her life for him. I never saw The Joker display any attributes that I believe would have that effect on a woman. Even in the real world, the "bad boys" who get the girls and very much drag intelligent, strong women down, normally have something that you could see as attractive. The Joker has a complete lack of any charming attributes. I have seen several versions of how The Joker played Harley, but none of them have been believable for me. I don’t buy it. Harley Quinn might be a fun character, but I do not believe her back story. It is an overly forced concept. At least they seem to have realized this as Harley has escaped that relationship that from the get go was absurdly abusive, with nothing else to it. The Joker and Harley never had a loving relationship at any level at any point, which all the more makes it hard to believe Harley would have ever fallen for him.

Now going off of The Joker fully lacking charisma, we get into the issue with him always having a loyal gang. In the Tim Burton movie this at least is shown by him already having a loyal gang before becoming The Joker, but everywhere else it just doesn’t work.  The Joker is about creating chaos, I get that. And yes, there will be people out there who will join in and help create that chaos. Now those kind of people are not going to be loyal, because chaos does not create loyalty. That is the nature of chaos. In The Dark Knight we see The Joker killing his first batch of goons just because he can. When he takes over the Gotham’s underworld, he does it with no one at all loyal to him. Then when he has put together a mountain of money and in front of goons who are not loyal to him, but to the other crime lords, he sets the money on fire. These goons don’t give a damn about chaos. They want money.  That scene should have ended with every one of those goons shooting The Joker, then putting the fire out. And that is really how much of The Joker’s schemes should go. Your average criminal goon is not going to risk it all for convoluted, over complicated schemes that are not going to pay out big. They want cash, quick and easy cash. The Joker does not deliver that. He is not going to have loyal goons. If anything he might have a group of zealots, who see him as some kind of religious figure. That would be more believable, except a person still needs charisma to start up a cult. Maybe if they had The Joker hire a PR person with charisma to do the real work for him.

For me The Joker is an interesting character for the first five seconds, but grows old rather quickly. I want my villains to be interesting and have some depth to them. A sense of mystery is fine, but a character can be developed and be something more while keeping that mystery. The Joker just has nowhere to go as a character. He is a holdover from the "golden age" of comic books, and while most such characters have been updated, too many just never come together for effective modern age characters.

So that is my opinion of The Joker.