Thursday, November 13, 2014

Review: Captain Marvel #9

Once in awhile a comic, or show, or movie comes along that gives me opinions; Sometimes really strong opinions. Good or bad, sometimes, just sometimes, these opinions are strong enough to write about. This is one of those times. 
Ziggy... er Carol played guitar...

I wanted to like this. I really, really did.
This series as a whole started really strong, and I loved the first arc. The last two issues with Rocket Raccoon have been OK, but despite some good humor and character work, there didn't seem to be any real stakes. I was looking forward to the next arc and a new set of problems for Carol to Punch her way out of. Instead, I get this one-off that is, while fun, yet another throwaway moment with no real stakes or suspense at all.
Taken on its own, the issue is light and fun. I'm not familiar with Lila Cheney, but she seems like an interesting character. The bulk of the dialogue is in rhyme, which you'd think would get old, but it works pretty well, although it did take me out of the story a bit. In a way, I'm glad it was a one-off because if I had to read another issue all in rhyme, I don't know how I'd feel about it.
The art, as always is great. I love David Lopez's style, and his use of facial expressions is fantastic. Nothing against Takara, but it is good to have Lopez back in the artist's chair.
I love Captain Marvel, and DeConnick and Lopez, but this issue was kind of disappointing. I'm really hoping the next arc that was teased on the very last page will be worth the wait.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Angela's Asses (Get it?)

So the cover for the new Marvel series Angela: Asgard's Assassin was revealed along with some teaser pages.

Let me begin by saying there have been some great leaps and bounds made by comics and by Marvel specifically in getting female-led superhero titles out there. The current runs of Ms Marvel, Captain Marvel, She-Hulk, Storm, and Black Widow, just to name a few, are by all accounts strong books with great stories. I haven't read all of them, but the ones I have read have been top-notch.

There are, on the horizon, a whole pile of titles coming next year that feature female leads as well. Spider-Gwen, Silk, and of course ANGELA: ASGARD'S ASSASIN.

I am happy that these books are out there and getting the attention they deserve. I've always had a tendency to like female heroes, and to see the direction that Marvel is going, well, I can't help but smile.

There was, of course the unfortunate alternate cover debacle for this month's Spiderwoman debut, but that doesn't mean the book won't be good. I feel like the fact that so many spoke out against it is a step in the right direction. The fans are not afraid to speak their mind, and it seems like the publishers are willing to take it to heart when they do.

That is why the new Angela title baffles me.

W--  Where are her pants?

Let's back up a bit.

I don't know Angela's origin as a character, except that she is an angel that was a foil for Image Comics's Spawn character. I do know that Image was founded in the 90's by a group of comics creators who thought comics were not EXTREME enough, and wanted to make the OMG MOST AWESUM COMICS EVAR, and that most of the original staple of SUPER EXTREME AWESUM X-men clones at Image are now gone. Image comics is now a place where creator-owned comics rule, and there are some fantastic titles in their current run. Back then, however, it was riddled with musclebound, foul-mouthed heroes and big chested, wasp-waisted spank-bank heroines. That is not to say that it was ALL bad, but there was a lot of bad. Even Marvel and DC were guilty of this at times.

Lobo doesn't count. He was satire.

Fast-forward to today, and the Angela character has somehow migrated over to Marvel. There is something to do with Neil Gaiman, who created Angela, taking his property from Image with him to Marvel, but I don't know, and I'm not going to find out because it's really not important. I guess someone somewhere liked Angela enough to want her integrated into Marvel continuity. I have no problem with that. I admittedly do not know the character at all, aside from her new Marvel persona's involvement with Thor (Spoiler: she's his long-lost sister or something).

The problem that I have is that it seems as though her costume has not changed since the OMG SO EXTREME 90s version.

Ok, she has fewer pouches.

I'm having a real problem with this decision. I mean, she came from another comics publisher altogether. Considering the way hero's costumes change over time within their own universes, I would think they could give Angela a little revamp. Look at what poor Psylocke used to look like:

I hope it's warm there...

And then look at Psylocke now:
How does she even move at all without her butt hanging out!?

Progress has been made, but why not for Angela? She's apparently supposed to be this angelic warrior with ribbon powers, I guess, but she's fighting people up close. With swords. She has this classic fantasy tropey armorkini along with big robust shoulder armor and gauntlets, and thigh-high armor boots. Then she has, like... a huge belt? That's all? Let's forget the possibility of accidentally cutting herself with her own sword, and imagine what area that her opponent would aim for in a fight. Probably the torso or face, right? I hope she doesn't have to fight any archers. At least her boobs will be safe.

It doesn't even bother me that she's as thin as a lingerie model. I prefer a little muscle on my warrior women, but that's not really the issue here. In a time when we're seeing less and less vacuum-sealed boob-women and bathing suit armor, how is Angela NOT getting some kind of revamped design?

They stare because she doesn't have any injuries at all.

Maybe she's nigh-invulnerable, and has no need for armor. I'm not sure. Still, being an angel, you would think she'd have some sense of practicality if not modesty.

She looks like a badass, and could even be a great character, but I can't get past that costume. It's ridiculous and outdated, and is basically the reason that I won't be reading Angela: Asgard's Assassin when it debuts this winter.

Bring on Spider-Gwen!

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

DC vs Marvel: More Things About Comics

I read comics.

Because I have a more than passing interest in comics, I am often led to websites that discuss comics and comic book characters, and, by extension, the TV and film adaptations of comics.

Not all of which have been that good.

Invariably, like the sound of screeching tires, my focus is drawn down to the comments section; that cesspool of trollery and fanboy bitching. I don't know why I even go down there except as a masochistic exercise. Maybe I have too much faith in humanity and need to take it down a peg. Of course it's not all bad. One can often find some interesting debates on there if one is willing to wade through all the one-sentence negativity that tends to pervade.

One thing that I feel like I see all the time, however, and it baffles me, is the "This is why I stopped reading *blank*." comment, where the *blank* is either DC or Marvel. There seems to be quite a bit of A is better than B, or I used to like A but now I like B discourse among fans. Maybe there has always been, but in the age of comment sections, it is more apparent now than ever.

In addition to that, there are more and more articles being written about how Marvel is beating DC in the cinematic universe, or how DC is outproducing Marvel on television. In the wake of the superhero mediasplosion that various films and TV shows have brought about, there seems to be a debate about who has the upper hand. Who is winning this battle? Who is winning in terms of prevalence? Who is winning in terms of quality? Who...  who cares!?

Is it Wolverine? I bet Wolverine cares.

I honestly don't understand why it matters who is winning. It really doesn't. If we are talking about video game consoles, there are endless places where one can find information (both factual and unsubstantiated opinions) about why Xbox is better than Playstation, or vice versa. And wasn't there a third one to choose? I thought there was...

No... maybe I was thinking of something else.

Anyway, this debate, as vitriolic as it can be, actually has some use to us as consumers because these things are major purchases. If you're considering buying a gaming system that costs $500 or more, you are probably going to want to do your research. What games are exclusive to each console? What bundles are available? What are the peripheral services and features? Which one sucks balls? These are important questions you want answered before dropping the better part of a week's salary on a TOY.

DC and Marvel are media companies that create and distribute entertainment. Watching the newest episode of The Flash does not automatically mean you can't watch Agents of SHIELD also and enjoy them both. You may like one over the other just as the next person likes them both equally. And then there's a third person who thinks Big Bang Theory is still funny and relevant. Let's all agree not to talk to that person anymore.


Anyway, my point is that it doesn't matter. I like Ms Marvel. I like Batgirl. I like Daredevil. I like Dick Grayson. I don't see why it matters where these stories are coming from. Saying that DC is better than Marvel is like saying that Random House is better than Penguin Books. They are all just putting stuff out there. Both DC and Marvel have their flagship characters, and both have a stigma related to their past styles. DC is known for iconic, godlike characters, whereas Marvel has been known for telling the human stories behind the heroes. I feel like they have both diversified away from their core competency in interesting ways, and that both have some great things to offer.

There is no reason to choose one over the other. This isn't an all or nothing proposition. The debate makes no sense. "This is why I don't read Marvel anymore" is a very near-sighted opinion to have. If you don't like Avengers, read X men. If you don't like X men, read Captain Marvel. If you don't like Captain Marvel, then there is something seriously wrong with you.

I mean it, go read Captain Marvel.

These aren't $500 gaming systems, these are stories. Read them all. Watch them all. Love some of them. But don't get caught up in where they came from. When these two media companies are competing for our attention, we are the winners. If one of them loses, then we all do.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Review: Gotham

Preface: I've been wanting to write a review column for some time, but really didn't know what to write about. Now that I'm back into some comics and TV shows, I have something to review. I kind of hope this will become a weekly thing, but if history is any indicator, it won't be quite that frequent. I'd also like to keep it relevant, that is, reviewing newish things, but who knows.

So, with that...


They sell a lot of umbrellas here.

As of my writing this, there are now four episodes of Gotham. I have to say, I am on the verge of letting this show go.

First of all, this does not feel like a superhero comics universe at all. This is a grim and gritty cops and mobsters drama. Some characters from the Batman oeuvre are present, albeit in something of a larval state, but not all of them have anything interesting to do. Episode 1: Pilot was particularly guilty of this. Besides the requisite Waynes and Jim Gordon, there is the Penguin, The Riddler, and maybe Poison Ivy? Oh, and let's not forget Selina Kyle, the future Catwoman, who seems to be photobombing every other scene.

I know that was only the pilot, and they threw everything at us at once to hope something sticks. Still, I had hope for the show.

In subsequent episodes, Oswald Cobblepot, or the Penguin (don't call him that, btw) grows as a character, and is to date the most interesting part of the show. He's playing both sides when we're introduced to him, and continues to do so even after a falling out with his former boss. I'm not sure what his angle is, playing the mob against the cops and against each other, but he's doing a pretty good job of it so far.

Fish Mooney is another one of our main characters, and to my knowledge is not from the comics canon. This is Jada Pinkett-Smith vamping all over the place. She's mean and dangerous, but charismatic throughout. She's an interesting character even if a bit one-dimensional. Whenever it looks like she might have some vulnerability, she completely undercuts it with her ruthlessness, and as much as I want to like her, I really don't. If that's by design, then they're doing a good job.

See the red? Red equals evil.

Gordon. I like Gordon, but he's your typical white hat cop in a corrupt system. This trope feels a bit played out even in the setting of Gotham. His paladin-like moral code makes some of the choices he has to make even tougher, especially since he has to play the game or face death at the hands of the mob. I feel like this is true to Gordon, but it's just not that interesting, and the conflict he has at home with Barbara feels forced and unnecessary.

Which brings me to Bruce. Oh, Brucey Brucey Brucey. I get it. It's Gotham. Gotham is all about Batman. We've seen the Batman origin time and time again, in two sets of movies, in comics, in animated series. We know this story. Origin stories are always and forever the least interesting part about superheroes. Why do we have to keep cutting away to Bruce Wayne? Why do we have to get an eleven-year-old's perspective on everything? He doesn't even seem like a real kid. He's reading his parents' files, he's following current events on the news, and worst of all, he's boring. I would much rather see a teenage Bruce Wayne. What is that guy like? Is he trying to get into the family business? Is he beating up muggers in his spare time? I'm not really sure when he put on the cowl, but it would be far more interesting if a proto-batman were out there, maybe getting his butt kicked because he's not good at it yet. Maybe he's filtering information to the police, an anonymous tipper. Maybe he tries to get in with some mob thugs with the idea to infiltrate the system. Little kid Bruce is just nothing, and I'm tired of him wasting minutes of this show. Why does Gordon keep reporting back to him like some kind of underling? It just doesn't work.

Don't worry kid, one day you'll be cool.

I do kind of like Edward Nygma as the CSI or whatever he is. He's odd, but in a kind of fun way, and knowing who he becomes later, I get a kick out of him. He doesn't ham it up too bad, he just does his thing and then is gone again doing whatever it is he does. I'd actually like to see a bit more of him, but what we're getting is enough.

So, I'm going to keep watching it for now, but I'm losing my patience with you, Gotham. Be better. We all want you to be better. You've got a built-in fan base, don't blow it.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

All the Comics

I've spoken about comics before in this blog.

In my post about damaged nerd cred, I lamented my limited experience with recent comics. In a more recent post, I mentioned attending a recent comic con, and reading a book or two some time later.

My first order of business is to retract some of my statements in the latter post. I talked a bit about the Ghost Rider book from the early 90's, which was my jam. I've gone back and re-read up to about issue 25. It's a decent series, but it's pretty dark. The thing is, I wrote in my previous post about Ghost Rider dispensing "lethal justice" and being a "Supernatural Punisher". This is far from true.

Though they do team up once or twice.

the 1990-96 run of Ghost Rider features a spirit of vengeance with principles. He doesn't kill. At least that is not his goal. He gives the baddies a dose of his "penance stare" which forces them to experience all the pain that they themselves have caused others. This typically tends to be an effective deterrent for most lowlifes that Ghost Rider gets his hands on.

So, with that correction out of the way, let me also say something about new comics. I mentioned later in that same Ghost Rider post, that the new Ghost Rider is not for me, and postulate that maybe Comics have either passed me by or I have outgrown them.

No and no.

Now that is not to say that I like the new Ghost Rider. I don't. The art style by Tradd Moore is not to my taste. He is a pretty great artist, but I don't feel like his style fits with Ghost Rider. His characters are exaggerated and cartoony. It's kind of a surreal style, and the spirit of vengeance should be, in my opinion, more on the realistic side. I could see Tradd Moore taking a stab at one of the lighter characters, or ones that are out in space or something and it working out extremely well.

He already looks kind of like a space alien.

Rocket Raccoon would be a fine choice. My lack of enthusiasm for the all-new Ghost Rider aside, I have gotten back into comics in a big way. There are some really great series out there by some fantastic creative teams.

A lot has happened in comics since the 90s. That goes without saying, since there seems to be a "NOTHING WILL EVER BE THE SAME" crossover event every summer from the big two, Marvel and DC. DC Comics even went so far as to reboot their entire continuity back in 2011 with the "New 52". I have seen more negative than positive feelings on this from the comics community, but like it or not, that's what is out there now. It's actually a pretty good time to get into comics. There are many new titles coming out from Marvel and DC alike as well as some of the smaller publishers. There are also some good jumping-on points coming up in existing titles like Captain America, Batgirl, and Thor who are all either changing creative teams or shaking things up in a major way.

My current favorite titles that started this year are Ms. Marvel, Captain Marvel, She-Hulk, Secret Avengers, and Grayson. If I had all the money in the world, I would grab up any number of series that began recently, but these ones are what I'm following now, for better or worse. I've also jumped on board Guardians of the Galaxy, which just finished a story arc, Sensation Comics featuring Wonder Woman, a new anthology series, Copperhead, a new space western from Image Comics, and Amazing Spider Man, which recently rebooted, and was an easy number 1 to grab, but I think I'm going to drop it after the upcoming Ms. Marvel crossover.

Aww yeah...

The thing is, Marvel (and DC is guilty of this as well) is still doing the thing that turned me off in the first place by running these big cross-title events. There are two this fall from Marvel, Axis and Spider-verse. I have no hope of keeping up with either, because it's just too much and too costly. So I think I'm done with Spiderman for now, because there's no way I'm going to get all the supplemental issues to follow the crossover.

I hear great things about the new Daredevil (which I've read a bit) and Silver Surfer which also began new #1's this year, but I'm just not really attracted to those characters. It's the same old story. I want to read it all, and I get this weird kind of anxiety about the stuff I haven't read. At the same time, there is only so much time and money to devote so I have to be selective. So I'll read and enjoy the titles I have now, and if I drop one, then I'll jump on another.

Film Series: Dead in the Water

No, this is not a review for a film entitled Dead in the Water. (though there are several films by that name in IMDB.)

Looks Good.

This is a post to say that the previous post about an ongoing series of film reviews written by your truly was over before it even started. I just can't do it. My heart's not in it.

I did actually watch Paths of Glory with the intention of reviewing it here. While I do still enjoy that movie, when it came time to write a review, I just couldn't. It felt entirely too pretentious, too stilted. I tried to talk about Kubrick's work as an auteur and how this fits in, about the cinematography, the mise-en-scène. I just can't.

There was a time back in film classes when I would have been happy to go on and on about the film as art, but my brain just isn't wired that way anymore. That is not to take away from critics or film buffs who are really into that sort of thing. The whole point I'm trying to make is that no one should be able to dictate the hows and whys that make a movie enjoyable to you. All I can try to do is explain what I do like. My brain isn't wired for the mechanics of what makes a film good. My brain is wired for story.

In addition to that, I simply don't have time.

So, I guess pretend the last post didn't happen? I may from time to time review a movie here or there, or book, or whatever, but I make no promises.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

NEW! Movie Series


My cousin and I are embarking upon a journey through the cinemas by picking and choosing films to watch and discuss from the IMDB's top 250 list. What is the point? Entertainment I suppose, but also, to fill in those blanks. We especially want to see the films that we've overlooked, the holes in our movie watching experiences. And the IMDB list is a quick and dirty way to find them.

Because I have this blog, this place to shout things on the internet, it seems only fitting that I should post up my thoughts and feelings about the films that we watch. I'll invite him to comment too, probably, but who knows where that will lead.

Along the way, I hope to find some gems that I didn't know about, or to revisit films I haven't seen in a long time, and maybe wasn't ready for the first time around. It's a journey of discovery, and I hope to share it with you (both of you) who read my idiotic online ramblings.

Anyway, this thing is coming, and the first film is already in the chamber. It's a Stanley Kubrick directed movie from 1957 called Paths of Glory, and it holds the 59th spot on the imdb top 250. Coming soon to a blogosphere near you!

Quick Post: Hot Links

Image lovingly stolen from

Hello, non-existent people who read this blog.

It has come to my attention that there is such a thing as hot-linking photos on the internet. (It has nothing to do with sausages). Now, I tend to use a lot of pictures in my posts. I feel like it gives them more appeal. This matters very little, since nobody actually reads it, but it makes me feel better about what I post, and I am at heart, a very self-absorbed sort of creature.

Now, I didn't know what hot-linking was, or that I was doing it. (This is a thing wherein instead of saving a photo from the internet and uploading it directly ['ploading' as I like to call it] one uses the web address of said picture. This pulls it directly from its source utilizing the bandwidth of where it is hosted.) Apparently, this is a no-no in blogging. This is a small offense, since nobody reads this blog, and I am not robbing anyone anywhere of any significant amount of bandwidth.


I do want people to read this blog. One day, when my international fame grows to its full potential, as many as twelve people might follow this blog. And I want those twelve people to have confidence that they are reading from a reputable source, one that does not hot-link its silly photographs. So, for anyone from whom I have hot-linked photos, I am truly sorry, and will be working, however haltingly, at fixing all 20 of my previous posts. Please rest assured that this will not be a problem in the future. (Unless you are Amazon. I will hot-link the crap out of anything and everything from Amazon.)

Fifth-Letter staff (me)

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Kill La Kill: Progressive?

I recently watched the entirety of the Anime show Kill La Kill. I'd seen some brief screenshots and animation on Tumblr, but hadn't checked the show out before. Frankly, some of the character design made me cringe, and I had been avoiding it, but for whatever reason, I gave it a go.

Now, to preface this, I want to point out that having been on Tumblr has exposed me to no small amount of feminism as it relates to female characters in fiction, and the male gaze, specifically in comics and animation. So, when I started watching Kill La Kill, I was already prepared to look down on it. I mean, look at the main protagonist, Ryuko Matoi.

Underboob Ahoy!

Yikes. Now, without having seen much of the show, I find myself down on it already. Shame on you Kill La Kill, for pandering to fanboys that want to see all the T&A. For Shame. Tsk Tsk. Now compound that with the main antagonist through the first part of the show, Satsuki Kiryuin.

How does it stay on?

GAH... even worse. So already, I have my doubts. But the show's animation style is hyperkinetic and fun, and the female characters, while scantily clad, are well written and numerous. They all seem to have their own agency. Additionally, they all seem to know and actively acknowledge that their outfits are ridiculous.


OK, So the main thrust of the show is that there are these things called life fibers. Some kind of parasitic alien life form that, when woven into clothing, grants the wearer superhuman fighting prowess. The thing is, that people exposed to too much of this life fiber get overwhelmed by it. So, the amount of skin showing on our two main characters is justified. OK... I'll buy it.

I keep watching, and the show is good. It's from some of the minds behind shows like FLCL and Gurren Lagann, two shows that are as silly and fun as they are weird and inscrutable. Kill La Kill is a little more straightforward storywise with the same strange animation style and off-kilter sense of humor. So I'm enjoying it despite the uncomfortable amount of female nudity, particularly when the characters are supposed to be 17 years old.

Now, a couple episodes in, we are introduced to another character. This character is an undercover teacher at their school. He is an agent for an anti-life fiber group codenamed NUDIST BEACH. They wear little if any clothing because, well, we find out later that the evil corporation REVOCS (anagram for COVERS) is secretly putting life fibers into clothing all over the world. So Nudist Beach does not wear clothing in order to better combat their evil scheme. We get to meet Aikuro Mikisugi.

Nice gun.

Wait a minute. Wait. A. Minute. Now I'm not so sure. So many shows, games, comics, treat the female form as a thing to be seen. Form-fitting, skin-showing, male gazeworthy things are they. I mean, boob windows in everything. Now, here is a show... here is a show that says, here is the reason that our characters are basically fighting in lingerie, and then is not afraid for those rules to apply to its male characters as well. Mikisugi is forever letting whatever clothes he has slip off, even mid conversation. And he keeps his gun right out front.

OK. So I'm starting to understand that this show isn't about T&A. This show is saying something.

Let's not forget Nui Harime, one of our villains.

How cute.

Yeah, she's horrible. She's the one who started this whole thing by killing Ryuko's father. And she did it with a smile on her face. She's obsessed with femininity and cuteness, and also happens to be about as evil as you can be. By the end she's a snarling ball of rage, but still rocking that pink bow like a boss. I. Love. This. Character.

By the time of the show's finale, virtually everyone's naked, or in barely-there battle gear.

Good thing it's warm out.

Male and female alike, it doesn't matter. And it's not overly sexualized nudity. It just is. I think (and this is my interpretation) that the show is shining a spotlight on all those tropes, particularly in anime, of the strong female character who is also a sex object. I think that this show first shows us how ridiculous it is, and then takes it further and further until it just doesn't matter anymore. Man, woman, and child are all in next-to-nothing to combat the life fiber threat. In the last beat of the show, EVERYONE's clothes are obliterated, leaving everyone exposed, hangin' all their stuff out in all its floppy glory. But it doesn't feel weird or unnecessary. It makes sense.

So, in conclusion, between the Nudist Beach operatives and the ultra feminine, yet ultra evil and powerful Nui Harime, I feel like Kill La Kill says some interesting things about objectification both in anime and in general. So I was wrong to snap to judgement about it. It's not perfect. There are some uncomfortable moments with Ryuko and her surrogate family ogling her, but other than that, I think this show is a step forward. This is a definite recommend.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Here There Be Dragons

And just like that, I have another story out there in the world!

Bards and Sages publishing just put out there 6th annual anthology, and my story Dragon's Folly is featured within. I'm so happy!

I know, there's no dragons on the cover.

I've known about it since January, so to see it finally out there is great. This is the first story I've ever gotten accepted at anywhere, so it's very special to me. Also, it's about a dragon, and I fricking love dragons. Anyone reading this now should go get it and read it immediately. I'll wait. It's fine. It starts on page 117 by the way. Found it? Ok... 

Now that you've read it, you can come to the eFestival of Words virtual bookfair. I'll be having some time in the author Q&A there (time TBD). Ask me anything. Come to think of it ask me anything anytime right here on this humble little blog. I don't get enough questions. Just nothing about Caluculus though, cause I'm not good with the maths.

ummm...  17?

Anyway, I really hope this gets read, and I hope people like it. I guess that's the whole point of this crazy writing thing. 

FYI, I linked to the Amazon version above, but it is also available on Barnes and Noble and Google Play, and will be out other places very soon, and in paperback later this month. Happy reading!

Monday, August 4, 2014

I'm Back! What's with all the death?

July is over.

I decided unconsciously to take July off. Rejoice both of you who read this blog!

Well, what really happened is that I busted my buns at the end of June to make a couple deadlines, and found myself creatively dried up. I started reading again, which I haven't done in some time, and watching shows on Netflix. God bless Netflix.

Anyway, I finally got back into my Game of Thrones reading. I am halfway through book four, Feast for Crows, and I had a thought. (no spoilers, I promise.) What is with all the grimdark?

I finished the Anime series Attack on Titan, and began a new one, the Netflix distributed Knights of Sidonia. One thing that all three of these stories share, is a seeming delight in letting us get to know and like a character and then killing that character, often in a brutal way. Where did this come from? I blame Sean Bean.
The man is a walking spoiler.

Now, Martin's Game of Thrones novel is old enough to vote, so I have to imagine that he was in uncharted territory in the world of genre fiction especially back then, but this was totally unthinkable in television as far as I'm aware. Aside from horror, where death and dismemberment are the name of the game, where does this happen? I mean, up until Game of Thrones, the worst I'd heard of was people being shot. Who shot JR? (and much later, who shot Mr. Burns). In either case the character lived. Characters are killed off in daytime soaps, but they often come back. If there's no body, there's no death, and even then sometimes not.

Attack on Titan is about as bad as Game of Thrones. The body count is high, and it's not just unnamed grunts or guys who are just about to retire. That show introduces whole groups of characters that we are taught to love and identify with, and then proceeds to smoosh them like so much raspberry jam. That is almost not a metaphor. Those of you who have seen the show know what I'm talking about.

Be careful who you get attached to.

At times it's like these shows are trolling us.

"Hey, you know that one character you love, and is your favorite character? Nothing, nevermind... muhahahahaaa..." -Scumbag Show

Now, with Game of Thrones, having read well into book four I almost feel like Martin knew he was going to introduce whole countries worth of new characters, and had to kill off a bunch of them just so we had enough space in our cerebral cortexes (corticii?) to remember all the names. But I'm giving him the benefit of the doubt. He might just be fucking with us all, laughing behind his monochrome DOS monitor as he plots another mass murder.

The face of evil incarnate.

All this makes me fear for the future of storytelling. Are we as a people going to tolerate our main characters surviving our stories anymore? I am on the cusp of beginning a new fantasy novel, and I don't want to be expected to kill off my main characters. I mean, unless it makes sense. Sometimes a character was born to die. Especially if he's played by Sean Bean. (spoiler alert).

Monday, June 2, 2014

Behold, a Geeky Horse or Ponies and Demons

Well, I took some time off. The publication of my first story was a big deal, and I celebrated by slacking off for a bit. Actually, if you account for all the time I've been slacking lately, I was celebrating that particular victory long before I earned it. But now I'm back and writing again. I'm back on the horse, as it were.
Yup, it's that kind of horse. (From Hark! A Vagrant)

In the interval I spent not writing I got back to my nerdy roots. I attended Motor City Comic Con. I started Playing Magic: The Gathering again, a game I've not played since I was fourteen. I even purchased a few comics at the local comics store, Nerdageddon. Now granted, this is a thing I've been wanting to do for myself for awhile. Get back to basics. Embrace the geek in me. But I also did it for my son, an indoor kid in the making.

We drove all over our local area hunting for a comics store. Unfortunately, there seem to have been several that opened and closed, and searching online in my phone didn't always yield the most up-to-date results. When we found the aptly named Nerdageddon, it was the fourth place we had driven to looking for a comics store. It's a great store, but seems like it's fairly new. I hope it has legs and will be around for some time.

I let my son pick out a comic book for himself. He's expressed interest in them, and we have such a hard time getting him to read, that if there is something he actually wants to read, we're all about it. He settled on an issue of his favorite superhero, (and I have no idea how he even knows about him) everyone's favorite merc with a mouth, Deadpool.

Yup. That Deadpool.

Now, my son is ten. I don't want to be a prude and stifle my son's interests, nor do I want him saying and doing inappropriate things (especially in front of his mother). So I leafed through the issue he had, and it seemed all right. I got it for him, and I even got one for myself. I picked up the second issue of a comic title that I read back when I read comics. I got the reboot of Ghost Rider.

Now it's been a number of years since I actually read comics. The Deadpool one was enjoyable. It was violent, sure, but in a fun campy kind of way. Deadpool is the consummate wise-ass, and he's metatextual and breaks the fourth wall. I get it, and it's great. The Ghost Rider reboot however, eh... not so much. Now I need to go to my mom's house and dig out my old collection to be sure, but I don't remember it being so dry, so formulaic.

I didn't intend for this to be a comic review, but I guess that's what it is.

The Ghost Rider that I read was the Spirit of Vengeance. He went after despicable, depraved human beings and dispensed lethal justice. He tangled with a few other Marvel heroes who take exception to homicide no matter what the cause. He's the antihero writ large. I mean come on, he's an actual demon who reaps evil souls. He's a supernatural Punisher. Plus his head is a flaming skull. How cool is that?

The new Ghost Rider seems to have a beef with the local drug cartel. Plus the villain in the issue I read was some sort of pharmaceutical engineer who developed a Jekyll/Hyde drug that turns people into bloodthirsty monsters. He actually called himself Hyde.

I was not engaged in this story right away. It would take a couple more issues to hook me, I think, storywise. What really turned me off though was the artwork. The Ghost Rider I remember was gritty and dark. This new incarnation is almost cartoony in its use of color and exaggerated anatomy. I just... it didn't do anything for me. Take a look at a comparison.

The Ghost Rider I remember and love.


Some kind of... Robot... Skeleton?

He drives a muscle car now. Ok, I guess I can live with that. The motorcycle is a standard of the character, but whatever, we're trying to break new ground here, I get it. Cars are still cool. But what is he? Is he a robot? Is he a ghost? Is he somehow both? I don't... He's totally torching the interior of that car by the way. No way that upholstery is original.

If he is a ghost that looks like a bare human skull, it's a pretty messed up skull. Then again, take a look at the people in this thing.

AHGAD a monster! Oh... wait no, that's just his little brother.

The people look all rubbery and cartoony. It's just... maybe comics have passed me by. Maybe I'm a dinosaur. I don't know. Maybe this is a torch I need to pass on to my son and leave well enough alone. I'll go back to my mom's and get my old books and read them again, and rage all over again when they split the story arc into half a dozen new titles that you have to follow or you have no damn idea what' happening. Yeah. That's what made me quit reading them in the first place.

Or maybe I'll just keep writing my own stories.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

It's Here!

The latest edition of New Realm magazine is out now, featuring a short story by yours truly.

And it looks freaking fantastic.

Just had to flop a new post up here to geek out about it. Thanks to everyone who inspired/supported/cheerlead me in the past, as well as New Realm for liking my crazy ramblings enough to publish them. GAH! I'm so blown away. Hopefully I'll get more stuff out there and it will feel this good every time.

Friday, May 9, 2014

It Happened

One of my stories got accepted.

My reaction. True story.

Needless to say I'm pretty excited. I had faith in this story, and I knew it would end up somewhere. The publication is New Realm at

When I know what issue it is slated to be in I will post it up here. I am super SUPER excited to have found a home for a story that I created from nothing. I still kind of don't believe it. It's almost unreal. 

I guess I don't have a lot more to write about it for now. Maybe more when it sinks in. 


Monday, May 5, 2014

All of the Musics

I've been given an assignment.

At my Sister Blog, the aptly named Starpoop and Cheese, my sister blogger (slogger?) wrote a poignant ramble about music, and called upon myself and a few others to put voice to our musical history, or roadmap or whatever. I think that's what she said. I'm not so good with the words.

Be right back...

OK, I went and read it again and it just says "write a music post". So, that's it. It's open to interpretation. I guess I invented that other stuff myself.

Music has been really important to me in that, I just like music all right? Get off my back. I don't feel like I can wax poetic about the way that Ween's "Push th' Little Daisies" got me through some hard times, man. I don't have the emotional vocabulary to explain what it all meant to me. I really just pretty much liked music.

It totally did, though.

 I think my musical taste was all about eclecticism. I prided myself in how "weird" my taste in music was. Not that I was into anything really avant-garde, although Mr. Bungle can be pretty strange when they want to be. I just had a very wide variety of tastes that generally excluded whatever was "pop" music.

This started when I was in my formative years in grade school. When my friends were listening to Vanilla Ice and Bell Biv Devoe (or alternatively Poison and Def Leppard) I was listening to the Beatles, The Four Seasons (whatever records [yes, records] my parents had lying around) as well as classical music (the first Compact Disc I ever owned was Beethoven) and some neo-alternative from They Might Be Giants, REM, Talking Heads, and Primus. This last set of music was weird. It was my kind of weird. It had nerdy, complex, or downright strange lyrics, (Les Claypool, I'm lookin' at you) and almost as strange music. I guess I didn't want to be pigeonholed into being the guy who listens to [insert genre tag] music, so I gravitated toward music that was impossible to define by its genre.

No, it's supposed to sound like that... really.

And I wore t-shirts to proclaim it. I wanted to be undefinable, but be as loud as I could about it. In an ironic twist, all the music I loved got lumped together in what was now called "Alternative" and I myself got lumped in with the "Alternative" crowd. I remember very clearly someone asking me "So what do you listen to". Not wanting to say something categorical like "Rap" or "Metal" I described what bands I listened to, and she said "Oh, you're one of those alternative kids."

I guess so?

In my attempt to be different and follow my own path, I fell into another. At the time, that was when alternative was good. Kurt Cobain was "still alive" (Yes, I know that's a Pearl Jam Song, haha. I make joke.) and "alternative" was in its early ascent to the mainstream. This is when I made connections to bands that I still love to this day; bands like Pearl Jam, Nine Inch Nails, Alice in Chains, Dinosaur Jr, to name a few. The one that I love most of all though is Smashing Pumpkins. I remember where I was. I remember where I bought the album. I remember sitting on the floor in front of the CD player at my friend Mike's house the first time I listened to Siamese Dream and it totally blew me away.

Best track 1 ever.

This is my desert island album. It is (almost) flawless start to finish. Anyway, from there Alternative as a whole fell into complacency and eventually irrelevance. Too many imitators, too many Eddie V wannabes (and I don't mean VanHalen). By the time Nu Metal came on the scene, I was looking for something new. what I found was Ska.

I'm referring to what is known as 3rd wave ska. I won't get into it, but basically this isn't the jazz ska, it's the punk-infused version. The curious can read more here. These bands were Reel Big Fish, The Suicide Machines, and the big one, Operation Ivy. If there is a desert island where you get to pick more than one CD, book, movie, what have you, Operation Ivy's Energy will sit right beside Siamese Dream. This album... my speakers never seem to be able to go loud enough for it.

Hard to pick one when they're all so good.

This was the last time I really let myself be defined by a genre. I went through a phase where I thought I was a punk. I wasn't punk. I went to a State College in Michigan. I've never even set foot on a skateboard or smoked a cigarette. It worked out fine because ska died in the late 90's about as quick as it hit mainstream. That's fine, because a lot of it was silly and superficial.

There isn't enough room in this blog for the rest of it all. I've since become a ravenous music explorer. I love falling down the wormhole of niche subgenres. To pick through all the bands that formed the Black Metal movement in Norway. To find the nuances that made shoegaze music what it was, and how it influenced other bands. To give some bands a spin that people take for granted like Rush or Kansas. To listen to the kings and queens of Motown, your Stevie Wonders, and your Diana Rosses...

My latest new album purchases? Journey - Evolution (Don't judge me. Listen to Steve Perry and tell me the man isn't incredible) Mazzy Star - So Tonight That I might See because I neglected them in the 90's and wow, this is dreamy floaty shoegaze and it's great. Almost better than Jesus and Mary Chain. And lastly, Chvrches, because one has to stay relevant. I'm kidding, I only get music because I genuinely enjoy listening to it, and Chvrches is some solid pop.  Does it speak to me on some kind of emotional or spiritual level? Frankly, I don't really know, and I don't really care. I only know that it makes me feel. I learned some time ago that you can't let what you listen to define you. I learned that earnestness is cooler than being part of a scene. But I don't really know what cool is anyway, so nevermind.

I leave you with my favorite song from Ke$ha, because I think she gets a bad rap and I actually like her music. It' fun and honest and sweary and dancey and awesome.

Maybe more about music in another entry later, but this is a decent overview.

Oh, one more thing. I don't like Jazz or County. I neither understand nor appreciate the aesthetic of either, even though I recognize that musicians are all talented no mater what they play. Just... play it somewhere else.

Monday, April 21, 2014

The Hobbit Desolation of Smaug: Review

I originally wrote this after the film debuted in theaters. I had a lot of strong feelings about it, both good and bad, and was compelled to write them down. I recently bought the DVD of the movie, because I'm a sucker and I can't help myself. Now on with the review.

Elves. Fuck yeah.

Let me start off by saying that I am glad, so glad, that there are people out there such as Peter Jackson and the folks at the Weta Workshop just to name a few who have put so much time and energy and creativity into making films out of the Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit. I have loved these stories for most of my life, and to see them given the attention they deserve on the big screen is a wonder. I don’t know that anyone else could have done as well to bring these stories to life as they did.

That said, despite how much I love The Hobbit, and want to love these movies, There are a lot of things wrong with this one. There are also a lot of things that I love, but let’s start with what I didn’t. I'm going to be echoing phrases like "in the book it was like this," or "the book didn't have that." I know that this is a different medium and that certain license must be taken. With that said, this is one of my favorite books ever, and I can't help but compare them. So take that with a grain of salt.

What I didn’t like:

Yes, Gandalf. Gandalf is Gandalf. He’s a great character, and well played by Sir Ian. But in the book, he’s no more really than an advisor to the Dwarves. He helps them out of a few scrapes and then takes off for business elsewhere and is gone for a good portion of the story. This is supposed to be a story about Bilbo, you know... THE HOBBIT. He’s our main protagonist. Whatever wizarding Gandalf is doing in parts unknown is not really our concern, but boy is he wizarding his butt off in this film. In all the LotR trilogy films we didn’t see him wizarding this hard. 

Wizard harder, nerd.

He even has a showdown with Sauron himself, which he loses, and since I know what happens after the Hobbit, is not suspenseful at all. I kept waiting for Radagast the smelly to come running back against Gandalf’s orders because that guy is a loose cannon, isn’t he? But no, because that would have been interesting, and therefore has no place in this filler material. I suppose all of this Dol Guldur stuff was added to tie in to the larger Lord of the Rings narrative, but it doesn’t need to. It could all be summed up by Gandalf at the end when he reappears, as it was in the book. That would work just as well. I think it’s even more interesting and suspenseful to have Gandalf just be gone on some nondescript wizardy thing, and not quite know where or when he’ll pop up next.

It’s great that they included Beorn. He’s an interesting character and I like him in the book, but he doesn’t really do anything here except harbor the party for a night and push them out the next day in a kind of dickish way. This all could have been cut the same way Tom Bombadil was cut from the Fellowship of the Ring film. I mean, if they were going to include him, they could have at least had him do something interesting. They spend enough time adding stuff that wasn’t in the book, why abbreviate Beorn so much?

Orcs, orcs, everywhere
I understand the addition of Azog, the pale orc. It is good to have a face for your antagonist, especially if it’s all scarred and mean looking. They did this pretty effectively in the LotR trilogy, having certain orcs stand out to serve as mini-antagonists, like that one guy with elephantitis of the face, but I am getting a little tired of the involvement of orcs in this story, one that isn’t even really about them. 

I am not an animal!

They chase the dwarves in their barrels, they raid Laketown, they are all over the Dol Guldur scenes, and all they really accomplish is giving Legolas increasingly interesting ways of killing them. There was almost no orc involvement in the source material save the goblins in Goblin Town, and the army that rises at the climax. Too much. Just too much senseless orc death for a story about a Hobbit and a dragon.

Elf class division
Did we really need a love triangle in this movie? Now, being a Tolkien nerd, I understand the different subdivisions of elves. I understand that Thranduil is of a different sort than the Sylvan elves who have been in Mirkwood (or Greenwood the Great) since forever, basically, but Thranduil and Tauriel’s addressing of it in regards to her being a suitable mate for Legolas left a bad taste in my mouth. Elf racism doesn’t fit in the Hobbit. Leave that for when they make three even more bloated movies about the Silmarils (heaven forbid). They had to manufacture tension somehow, I guess, but I disagree with every part of this. Which brings us to...

Interracial Dating
Why are Kili, the hot dwarf and Tauriel the elf making eyes at each other? Again, I ask, did we really need a love triangle in this movie? Did we really need to make up a reason for some elves to come to Laketown and fight orcs that shouldn’t have been there in the first place? I don’t like that there are hot beardless dwarves, and I don’t like an elf making goo-goo eyes at one of them.


Spiders and Barrel Fighting
In the book, the dwarves are pretty much at Bilbo’s mercy. He saves their asses again and again using his wits and the ring. He single-handedly takes down the spiders while the dwarves can barely move from the venom, and when they are captured by the elves, he loads them into barrels (sealed barrels) and floats them down the river while they hide inside and try not to drown. In this film, they are saved from spiders not just by Bilbo, but by the elves, and only after kicking some spider butts themselves. Then with the barrels, they are only chest-deep in the things and hacking away at orcs the whole time, not to mention some very improbable barrel physics and more help from the elves. This pretty much robs Bilbo of his heroism from the book. He is forced to take on the role of hero, however reluctantly, and proves his worthiness in much more profound ways, not by hacking everything to bits or making holes in them with arrows, but by being brave and resourceful and clever. This makes Thorin’s turn on him that much more powerful later in the story, and Thorin’s ultimate acceptance that much more heartwrenching. If you are going to make changes, at least have them make sense. I expect this sort of thing from Michael Bay, but not from Peter Jackson.

Adding and Editing
As you might have guessed by now, I tend to have a problem with things being different than the book. That is true to some extent. I don’t necessarily have a problem with any and every divergence from the source material. I understand that this is an adaptation, and certain poetic license is going to be taken. I understand that Tolkien is not the greatest storyteller, and he tends to get bogged down in the details, though in this case, the Hobbit is pretty tight for the most part. I understand that certain things have to be cut or tweaked for the sake of the medium. Again, I have no problem with any of these changes if they make sense. The problem I have is with the addition of things that don’t add to the story, that take away from the point of the original, and that make the thing frustrating to watch. I’m specifically addressing the intercutting of Gandalf’s side quest with that of the dwarves. Every time I feel like I’m settling in with the dwarves we have to cut away to Gandalf. It’s awkward and jarring and it takes me out of the story. It’s also unnecessary. I want to see the film recut without Gandalf’s stuff. Someone get on that.

Ring Anxiety
Bilbo seems to understand that the Ring is corrupting him and is reluctant to use it. This is as unnecessary as the Dol Guldur subplot. The Ring isn’t central to the story. There is no reason Bilbo shouldn’t be using it whenever it suits him. This completely invalidates Bilbo’s casual use of the ring at his birthday and his general lack of concern for it later in life. If anything, he should be loving using it because that’s how the ring works. It practically begs to be put on. This also messes up Bilbo and Smaug’s encounter because Smaug could see him the whole time and would most likely have killed him on sight. Which finally brings us to...

Smaug and Dwarves
Bilbo goes in the door, chats with Smaug, pisses him off, and retreats just in time to not get burned to a crisp. That’s all we needed. In an already bloated film, did we really need another highly improbable action setpiece inside Erebor? Forges, waterwheels, molten gold surfing, gold coated dragons, it’s all so over the top that there is no tension whatsoever. This whole sequence is unnecessary.

Now, while there are a lot of problems in this film, these being the major ones (I could go on and on and nitpick every detail, but there aren’t enough hours in the day) there are some things that I liked. I did still enjoy this movie for the most part, and here’s why.

What I did like:

Bilbo (Martin Freeman)
Martin Freeman’s Bilbo is wonderful. In fact everything Martin Freeman does is wonderful. Bilbo is delivered so perfectly and with such nuance. I don’t have enough good things to say about this Bilbo. It is spot on. This only makes the cheapening of his great deeds as mentioned above that much more egregious. Every moment Bilbo is on screen is magic. MOAR BILBO PLS.

Mirkwood is fantastic. It reminded me a little of one of my favorite films, Labyrinth. It is creepy, claustrophobic, and disorienting. It is all the things a nasty, dangerous, haunted forest should be. I missed the bit from the novel with the river, where Bombur falls in and forgets everything. Again, with all that is added to this film that is not from the source material, I don’t understand why they had to abbreviate the Mirkwood experience. They could have conceivably made the whole second film about Mirkwood and the elves and Laketown, but this thing is already stretched too big as it is. Like butter scraped over too much bread, as Bilbo might say.

I love elves. They are one of the things I love most about Tolkien. From the Silmarillion on down to the Return of the King, I am fascinated by them. The Dwarves’ entering Elvenhome was one of the things I was most excited to see, and I was not disappointed. The Mirkwood elves aren’t creepy and melancholic like the Lorien elves, they like to get drunk and party down. I think that Elvenhome was well done, and well designed, and it was great to see. Likewise, Thranduil is well written and well acted, save the bit of elvish class division mentioned above. Having lived for so long has made him a little weird, as one could imagine. He is wise and basically good, but has a cold callousness to him that comes from his long life in seclusion. I even liked the allusion to his previous scrapes with dragons, and thought that was a worthy addition, especially since they somehow resisted the urge to flashback to it. I loved Thranduil, and could have seen more of him, but what we got was plenty.

We're all mad here. I'm mad. You're mad.

Evangeline Lilly
I’m of two minds on Tauriel. On the one hand, she is a character that did not appear in the book, and as such, everything she participates in is a departure from Tolkien. She features heavily in some of the weakest parts of the film, i.e. the barrel fight, the Laketown skirmish, and Kili’s poisoning and confession of love. That they felt we needed this character at all is frustrating, and the love triangle between Legolas, Kili, and Tauriel is ludicrous. That being said, I could watch Evangeline Lilly shoot orcs in the face for two hours and it would make for a pretty good movie in itself. 

Pew pew pew!

She embodies a Sylvan elf so well, I can almost excuse the love triangle business. Almost. I wish she had been used more effectively, and I hate the feeling in my gut that she will most likely die in the third movie, probably sacrificing herself for Kili. *cry* *Dwarf tears* It’s too bad she didn’t appear in the LotR trilogy, because she fits so well into elf ears.

I like what they did with Bard. Not much is made of him in the source material. He’s basically just a guard who happens to be a pretty good shot with a bow. I actually like the liberties they took with this character, and with Laketown in general, up until the orcs show up. Bard is the everyman that we can kind of identify with here. I’m interested to see how things shake out for him in the third film.

Here we go.
Smaug is, by a fairly wide margin, my very favorite character in all of Tolkien. Even though he only appears for a single conversation with Bilbo before flying into a rage and getting himself killed, he is the biggest presence in the Hobbit, and I don’t mean his physical size. His shadow looms over the whole story up until we meet him in the flesh. Then when we do meet him, he is so delightfully arrogant, selfish, and just plain evil. I love Smaug. He is the perfect Dragon. In the film he is very well realized. The design, the animation, the execution is all well done. Cumberbatch does a great job with the voice, and I guess with the expressions too? Did they motion capture those?  

Blunderbuss Cabbagepatch relaxing on the set.

Anyway, I love Smaug. The whole battle sequence was a bit overdone I think, but holy crap, what an awesome dragon. Again, make a whole movie about Smaug and I would watch the shit out of it. I would take exception to Smaug’s acknowledgement of the ring, but he’s just so awesome I’m willing to let it go.

So summing up, I was kind of disappointed by this one. It was overlong and had too much forced action that didn’t have any suspense to it at all. The abrupt ending was a little jarring, as was a lot of the editing, and it really took me out of Middle Earth, which is where I want to be with these films. I’m afraid that the third one will be anticlimactic. There is so little story left, that it’s going to be all action in the last film, and the action, unfortunately, is where these films seem to suffer. I can see the writing on the wall, Smaug besieges Laketown, somehow narrowly missing everyone we care about in improbable ways, then the battle of five armies, which I’m sure will take up the last 2/3rds of the film, Tauriel will likely die for Kili’s sake, furthering the enmity of the dwarves in Legolas’s eyes, which is not needed at all. Azog and Thorin will showdown and kill each other. I don’t even want to speculate about the battle at Dol Guldur, because it shouldn’t even be here. Probably Galadriel and her people will show up, and maybe even Elrond, but I want no part of it.

I really tried to love it, but it fell somewhat short for me. There is a lot here to love, especially for the uninitiated, but ultimately it feels like they are trying too hard.