Thursday, December 27, 2012

Thoughts on Amazing Spider-Man 700

By JOE BEN DEAL

Amazing Spider-Man 700, the controversial final issue hit stands yesterday. A lot of people are talking about it. While it was an entertaining comic romp, Dan Slots take on Peter Parker and Spider-Man are just not for me. The following is part review, part speculation, and part discussion of the themes of Amazing Spider-Man 700. I'm going to talk about Amazing Spider-Man 700 in depth so consider this a MAJOR SPOILER WARNING, READ NO FURTHER IF YOU DON'T WANT TO KNOW THE ENDING OF AMAZING SPIDER-MAN 700. Also, you should know I think about Spider-Man comics way too much so be forewarned that I am going to over think the simplest moments and possibly be blinded by nostalgia and love of classic Spider-Man comics as I've been reading Spider-Man comics for almost as long as I can read (I'm 32 now). Okay, that's out of the way, on with the show.

Amazing Spider-Man 700 came out and even though I had avoided all spoilers, the comic book offered no surprises. Well I guess I didn't avoid all spoilers, I knew that this was the last issue of Amazing Spider-man which would dramatically end Peter Parker's story and that a different Spider-Man would be in the pages of Superior Spider-Man and since Doc Ock was already Spider-Man as of 698, the logical assumption would be that Peter Parker would not be able to reverse the mind swap before he died. That's exactly what happened. Comic solicitations having been spoiling comic book story lines before the internet ever came along.

So just imagine a story where the villain kills Spider-Man and then attempts so prove that he is the superior person by donning Spider-Man's costume and become a better Spider-Man… of course I'm talking about Kraven's Last Hunt. So far, the current Spider-Man story arc seems to thematically be rehashing Kraven's Last Hunt in which Kraven shoots Spider-Man pointblank with a rifle and buries his body, then becomes Spider-Man and captures Vermin, a villain that Spider-Man had never defeated solo before, proving to himself (Kraven) that he was a better Spider-Man than Spider-Man was. Meanwhile, Spider-Man was only unconscious, having been shot with tranquilizers, not bullets, and digs his way out of his own grave. Kraven's Last Hunt is beautifully written by J.M. Dematteis and drawn to perfection by Mike Zeck. It is a comic book that offers a compelling and moving story with out forcing controversy moments into it just to stir up media frenzy. It actually received unwanted controversy over Kraven's suicide. While covering similar themes, the current story doesn't come close to matching it's depth of emotional and haunting psychological story telling.

I'm most disappointed by the lack of twists and turns. For once, everything goes Doc Ock's way. It must be Peter Parker's brain, because in the past, Peter Parker could always out think Doc Ock, but now that he's in Doc Ock's body, Doc Ock was out thinking him at every turn. While we're on that subject, Slott writes Parker as very absent minded when it serves the story. All the way back to his story arc "New Ways to Die," where Peter Parker battles the Thunderbolts who are being coordinated by Norman Osborn and doesn't notice that they take his camera. Now at this point in time, Parker had made a tracking device in his costume that his camera would follow and take pictures of him in battle, but Norman Osborn finds it and reverse engineers the tracking device so that he can use it in weapons. Now even though Parker's camera is his livelihood, he does not realize it is missing after the battle so he doesn't realize Osborn has it. That just seems like a big gaping plot hole. For fifty years, Parker has been retrieving his camera after every fight and this one time, after a battle in which Osborn was monitoring what was going on, he just absentmindedly forgets about his camera. This absent minded Parker is who Doc Ock was able to swap brains with him. In the past, Parker would test things out, like the Venom Symbiote, he wore it for awhile, but then he took it to Reed Richards and they ran all sorts of test on it. But when it comes to Doc Ock's equipment he repeatedly used it without fully understanding it and then incorporated it into his own devices. It seems overly carless for Parker, who has so much experience as Spider-Man, would repeatedly make the mistake of using machines that gave Doc Ock full access to his brain. It also doesn't make sense to me that Doc Ock would suddenly be a better Spider-Man than Parker, they have comparative intelligence, but even with years of experience as Spider-Man and as he was falling to his death, Parker was thinking about how Doc Ock, who had only been Spider-Man for maybe a day, was using webbing in ways he had never thought of.

That sums up the issue, with Peter Parkers body, Doc Ock can out think Peter Parker at every turn even though Peter Parker has Doc Ock's full arsenal of secret bases and weapons and octobots at his disposal. There was a nice moment ASM 699 when I thought the Lizard was going to get involved and maybe the Superior Spider-Man would be Curt Conners, but that was just a red herring. The Lizard, believing Doc Ock is about to die, confesses to him that he has the mind of Curt Conners trapped in the monsters body. I was really hoping he was going to be the unexpected development that would help Peter Parker try to get his body back, but when Peter Parker dies before being restored to his body, Curt Conners would over write Doc Ock's brain waves with his own so at least a super villain was not in control of Peter Parker's body. Then Conners would fight crime in an attempt to redeem himself for killing his son, failing Peter Parker, and all the other horrible things he has done in his life. But nah, even knowing that the Lizard has his brain back, after Parker summons fellow super villains to break him out of prison, he doesn't insist on breaking the Lizard out as well. He does ask the Lizard if he wants to join with him and the super villains he has summoned to break him out of prison, but the Lizard doesn't know he's Peter Parker and doesn't respond.   

The press is crying that Peter Parker died and he maybe did… kinda. The Amazing Spider-Man 699 ends with Peter Parker trapped in Doc Ock's dying body and Doc Ock in Spider-Man's body. Like I said, there are no surprises, they tussle and Doc Ock's body dies with Peter Parker still in it, kinda. The reason I say kinda is that this is all about brain waves, it's not a body swap situation. By that, I mean traditional stories don't try to explain the body swap, just some machine magically switches peoples bodies and we buy it. This story gets more technical and makes it a little more murky. The machine rewrote Doc Ock's brainwaves over Peter Parkers brain, but kept all of Peter Parker's memories so essentially, the body is still Peter Parker, just with Doc Ock added to it. The machine then wrote all of Peter Parkers brain waves onto Doc Ock's brain, but again kept all of Doc Ock's memories intact. It's not stated why Peter Parker's brain waves were written onto Doc Ock's brain instead of just being erased, but Doc Ock is a super villain and it makes sense that he would want his archenemies to know who killed him. The whole brain wave idea feels murky to me, but essentially Doc Ock used neurotherapy to change Peter Parker's brain to Doc Ocks. At the end of issue 700, Peter Parker/Doc Ock forces Otto-Spider-Man to experience his memories that made Peter Parker, well, Peter Parker. If the memories make the man, and Peter Parker's body has his own memories and Doc Ock's, who is really in Peter Parker's body? Its seems more like a combination of the two than a straight up Doc Ock. But what about Peter Parker's spirit? For a brief moment at the beginning of issue 700, Peter Parker/Doc Ock dies for a few minutes and Peter Parker's spirit interacts with the spirits of characters who have died over the years. Then he is suddenly sent back to Doc Ock's body to keep fighting. So I guess the spirit goes with the body that his the brain waves it matches to.  

The creators keep saying this is a permanent change and the new title with a new number one shows their commitment to the new status quo which is almost insulting to the long time fan. I remember when Amazing Spider-man was canceled and replaced with Amazing Scarlet Spider which only lasted for two months and then Amazing Spider-Man resumed with Ben Reilly as the new permanent Spider-Man. That lasted for a little over a year I believe before Peter Parker returned to be Spider-Man. Then a few years later Amazing Spider-Man ended to be relaunched with a new number one with a new creative team, that title lasted for several years before resuming the numbering of the original title so it could celebrate it's 500th issue. I also remember Spider-man number one, Web of Spider-Man number one, Sensational Spider-Man number one, Peter Parker Spider-Man number one, Marvel Knights Spider-Man number one… the point is, a new number one is just a bump in sells and in no way illustrates that some change is permanent. There are quite a few ways this could easily be reversed.

1. Doc Ock's brain waves over time continue to alter biased on Parkers memories and strong beliefs till they alter to the point where Peter Parker is the dominate personality again but still carries Doc Ock with him. This is not so much a reversal as an everything you though you knew is wrong, he never stopped being Peter Parker to begin with!

2. This idea I think has the most promise, the spirit of Peter Parker returns and knocks Doc Ock out of his body. There have been countless Marvel stories over the years featuring character's spirits so we know spirits can still interact with the world even after their bodies have died. Hell, how many times has the Red Skull put his spirit or brain waves or what ever in a new body? But the essence of Peter Parker is that he never gives up and I think the idea of him fighting his way back even after death takes the never give up attitude to a whole new level. I don't really see this happening since at the end of 700, it felt like Peter Parker gave up when Doc Ock said he would be a hero, but hopefully once he hits the after life and sees Doc Ock going after his woman, he'll recant and fight his way back and reclaim his body. This idea also most directly follows the themes of Kraven's Last Hunt, and if you are going to do your own spin on one of Spider-Man's most famous and critical acclaimed story, might as well go all the way with it.

3. At the end of ASM 700 Peter Parker/Doc Ock had reprogrammed an octobot to rewrite his brain waves back onto Peter Parker's body/brain, but fails because Otto has the brain protected, but theoretically if the octobots are just copying brain waves then that octobot still contains Peter Parkers brain waves and could still restore them. The problem here is that no one knows that except Doc Ock. This story would follow Doc Ock changing so much that he seeks redemption for killing Peter Parker and restores Parker to his body.

4. And lastly, Mary Jane. Mary Jane has been through a lot and it stands to reason that it would be most obvious to her that Peter Parker is not himself, but she would never suspect that Doc Ock has taken over Parker's brain would she? Well, Peter Parker/Doc Ock did tell one person that his body had been swapped and that person was his friend, ex-girlfriend and police officer, Carlie. At the time, Carlie didn't believe him even thought he was able to reveal Spider-Man's secret identity to her (she is one of the few people who knows it). If she or Mary Jane suspects something is up, this could be the thread that starts them on the path to restore Peter Parker. Maybe Mary Jane could call up Mephisto and offer him Aunt May's soul if he'll return Parkers.

In summation, I just don't really like body/mind swapping stories. It's a somewhat silly premise that seems rife with problems that muddle the story. The idea that Doc Ock had taken over Spider-Man's body got a whole lot more uninteresting when Doc Ock proclaimed he would be a hero. I'm not a fan of hero deaths for sensationalism or for stories were the villains uncharacteristically decide to be super heroes. Doc Ock has spent a long time being a selfish crazy psychopath and now he's suddenly, in a blinding moment of revelation, decided to be a super hero? I get that the memories of Parker was powerful, but to have anybody make a complete turn around as a character in such a short amount of time seems a little forced and to undermine the whole premise. Also, the question of who exactly is Peter Parker if he has both Parker and Otto's memories is an interesting take and I would love to see it addressed by someone who can handle compelling psychological stories, someone like say J.M. Dematteis, but I don't have any interest in reading more stories by Slott. I've been reading Spider-Man for over twenties years, but I don't believe I'm really the target audience anymore, which is okay. I've got lots of Spider-Man comics that I love and will be happy re-reading them.

During the Clone Saga, similar to this story, someone replaced Peter Parker as Spider-Man and that person also had Peter Parker's body. That person was Ben Reilly. At the time, Reilly believed he was the original Parker and not a clone. Peter Parker thought he was the clone, was married to Mary Jane and expecting his first child. I liked Ben Reilly and I think most people did, it was the downturn in story telling that made the clone saga hated, not Ben Reilly. But Reilly became Spider-Man because Peter Parker had decided to stop being Spider-Man so he could spend more time with his wife and raise their child in peace, away from the super hero life. They moved to Portland, Oregon where Peter got a job as a research scientist and actually lost his powers. Eventually, Peter Parkers powers started to return, he moved back to New York, Norman Osborn paid a nurse to make it look like Mary Jane's baby was stillborn and he kidnapped the baby. Parker later found out that Gwen Stacy, his first love that was murdered by Norman Osborn, had had an affair with Norman Osborn which had resulted in children who returned to confront Parker. Then, to save Aunt May's life, Parker made a deal with the devil that erased his marriage to Mary Jane. And now Parker has died a super villain with out anyone even knowing he is dead. Peter Parker deserved better. I'm going to take a break from new Spider-Man comic books and pretend Peter Parker and Mary Jane never moved back from Portland, Oregon. They're story continues and they are there now, married and raising a family. And they are happy.


Joe Ben Deal writes for The Nerduary and can be found over on his own slice of the Internet here.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Merry Christmas!

Ryan Stegman original art from Fantastic Four 611, page 19...


... gifted to me on this very Merry Christmas from my insanely wonderful wife.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Man, This Post Was Going to be Something Else...


So I was going to write about some shit that went down on Twitter last night between me and a professional comic book writer. What kind of shit? The kind that bleeds over onto a message board with collateral damage. I even sat down and wrote a long post complete with screen caps and a play-by-play of this apocalyptic battle of words. I was proud of how I handled myself and proud of what I wrote. It was amazingly awesome and gave me the feeling of having the final say in an Internet fight.

But then I went and did some… I don’t know, stuff? I came back, read what I wrote and decided, screw it.  It’s Christmas, right? Who needs rehashed Internet drama on Christmas Eve?

Hell, even Skeletor fell victim to the season...






Friday, December 21, 2012

12/21/12 Isn't the end...

Nope. According to Grant Morrison's The Invisibles...



We still have one more day.



Thursday, December 20, 2012

OMG YOU GUYS THEY'RE KILLING SPIDER-MAN!!!!

No, I didn't just spoil next week's Amazing Spider-Man #700. The title of this post is just an echo of thousands of fans speculating (and maybe rightfully so) on the the events of the forthcoming issue. People are angry. Really angry. So much so they're actually making death threat against series writer Dan Slott. Death threats. Over a comic book. And what makes this entire thing that much worse is that if you've spent more than, I don't know, a week reading comics, you know there's absolutely no reason to assume Peter Parker's alleged death will be meaningful for any reasonable length of time.


Here's Marvel writer Jonathan Hickman on deaths in Marvel and DC from a panel this past summer at HeroesCon in Charlotte, NC:
"If you seriously think that a corporate owned comic book company is just going to let a popular IP sit around and collect dust then you're kidding yourself. Every popular character you love that's ever killed off will come back. Next question."
It's one thing for a child to get seriously upset when someone like Spider-Man is killed off. They don't know how the game is played. For them, comic book death has a real finality to it (yeah, kids are dumb). But adult fans who've lived through the death and resurrections? No excuse. Off the top of my head, here's a quick list of characters who've bit the big one only to come back from beyond the veil, some of them two or three times:

Superman
Jean Gray
 Cyclops
Magneto
Professor X
Bucky
Flash (Barry Allen)
Aunt May
Captain America
Mister Fantastic
The Thing
Human Torch
Iron Man
Wonder Man
Wonder Woman
Hawkeye
Batman
Green Lantern (Hal Jordan )
Martian Manhunter
Ant Man (Scott Lang)
Wasp
Thor
Hercules
Metamorpho
Colossus
Multiple Man
Adam Warlock
Aquaman
Hawkman
Green Arrow (Oliver Queen)
Nick Fury
The Punisher
Betty Ross
General Thunderbolt Ross
Firestorm
Mockingbird
Doug Ramsey
Black Bolt

And those are just heroes I can think of off the top of my head in about a minute. I'm not even listing villains here.

There are legitimate things to be angry about in comics. Bad story telling, terrible art, gross mischaracterization, ever increasing prices... But character death? That shit hasn't been permanent in decades, if it ever was at all.

No, death in comics, at best, serves the story being told at the moment. When Martian Manhunter was murdered in Final Crisis, it was needed to show just how organized and brutal the villains had become. When Superman was killed in The Death of Superman, it became this story to show the world (both the DC world and the real world) just how important Superman really is. When Hercules died in The Incredible Hercules a few years back, it was to show that he'd grown as a character from being self-centered and carefree to willing to make the ultimate sacrifice for the people he loved.

But in all cases, you knew they were going to get better. Or, you should have at least.

The heroes we all know and love, for the most part, exist in corporate owned universes. The majority of them were here before us and they will all be here long after we've died (with no hope of resurrection, sadly). Enjoy the ride while you can and when a character dies, take it and the emotions that follow in the context of the narrative. Trust me, it's a far richer experience that way.

Or don't. If you're really angry about a Spider-Man with no Peter Parker behind the mask, stop reading until he inevitably comes back. Seriously. It's that simple.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Interlocking The X-Men Movieverse Is Like Printing Money




Chris McQuarrie, writer of The Usual Suspects and at one point attached to write The Wolverine, thinks it's a good idea for Fox to make a bunch of interlocking X-Men movies.
"I thought that it’d be really cool to create a ‘bible’ – you know, a series of outlines of interlocking movies where you could do kind of you’re creating multiple movies that could come together as one movie here and there."
According to Screen Rant, he pitched the idea, but never heard back.
"…And… you know… I never heard back."
Someone needs to run with this. Not only did Marvel proper make a mint interlocking all their Avengers players, but X-Men? Those comics wrote the book on how to get fans hooked via uber-connected stories across various titles. And God knows there are enough mutants to fill out multiple movies over the next three decades.

Now it used to be the different mutant books kind of sort looked the same more often than they didn't, but Marvel has, over the last few years, diversified their mutant books. As they stand now you could not only get nice rub of the popularity of the existing films,

Plus, you know, I'd probably be able to die happy if I could see a good X-Factor movie. So there's that.


Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Ricky Gervais Meets The Muppets

I do love The Muppets and I sometimes have a hard time listing anyone I find funnier than Ricky Gervais. So the idea of Ricky Gervais teaming up with The Muppets is more than a little appealing to me.

From The Hollywood Reporter:

"The follow-up movie to the 2011 hit, which starts production in January, is a European-centric adventure. And while the film will be populated by a slew of cameos, there are three main human roles. THR reported Dec. 7 that Ty Burrell, one of the stars of ABC's Modern Family, is on board as a lazy Interpol inspector.
Gervais, however, would play the lead -- as much as one can be a lead opposite Kermit, Fozzie and Miss Piggy -- with his stature being compared to the role played by Jason Segel in the 2011 movie. But the nature of Gervais' character is unknown because the script is being kept secret. Also unclear is whether the part calls for singing, a requirement for the first movie (but here's hoping)."
Now if Karl Pilkington can score a cameo this may have a chance of being my favorite movie of all time...

Monday, December 17, 2012

How Dennis Hopeless Sold Me on Arcade

I hate the Marvel villain Arcade.


He's always been a placeholder villain. He’s the “threat” writers historically bring in to face the X-Men between a battle with Magneto and a showdown with The Sentinels. Every Arcade story is the same, too. The heroes of whatever book he’s turned up in are out doing something normal when their suddenly kidnapped, typically knocked unconscious, and then awake in... you know what? Let Arcade explain it himself...


Arcade’s voice comes over the speaker, talks some shit about fun and games, blah, blah, blah, and then we have the next 16 pages of the X-Men, or Fantastic Four, or some other character throwing down in what I can only assume started out as Marvel’s attempt to do their own version of The Joker. We’re told how crazy Arcade is. Hell, Arcade does nothing but talk about how crazy he is. But he’s more annoying than anything. As a reader you know when Arcade is billed as the villain of the month you’re pretty safe in skipping that particular issue knowing that absolutely no one is in danger of dying or even getting hurt.

That said...


Damn if writer Dennis Hopeless didn’t accomplish the impossible last week making Arcade an actual, effectual bad guy in Avengers Arena 1.


To be clear, I picked up Avengers Arena because it was a light week for comics and I wasn’t aware that Arcade was going to be the big bad. Had I known, I wouldn’t be writing this piece right now. Like I said, if Arcade’s there, I’m out.

So what did Hopeless do differently than other writers over the last thirty-some-odd years? For starters, Arcade has been inspired by pop culture to go darker…


With a nudge and a wink, Hopeless presents an Arcade who, for the first time ever, actually comes across like a very real and very serious threat. Whenever he speaks to these children, there’s an edge of terror. And kudos to artist Kev Walker who renders an Arcade with body language just as frightening as his words.


Oh, then there’s the fact Arcade actually wracks up a body count and it’s fucking gruesome…



As a comic book fan who’s always hated this particular character with the white hot rage of a thousand burning suns, I’m honestly giddy to see what Hopeless does with the character over the course of the series. He’s made me feel as if I’m seeing the character for the first time despite having seen him in countless times before. And maybe I am seeing him for the first time because no one has ever managed to make this particular villain worth seeing.



Friday, December 14, 2012

5 Awesome Jobs That Don't Exist (And Why They Kinda Suck)


Be honest. As much as you may like or even love your job, it's nowhere near being the most awesome job ever conceived of by a human being. And if you hate your job with the white hot anger of a thousand burning suns, that knowledge is all the more bitter. Because you know that out there, somewhere, your dream job is there waiting.

Sadly, for many of us, those dream jobs don't actually exist. They exist only on the printed page or silver screen, never to be had by you or me. So join me now as we take a look at some of these dream jobs, examine why they're awesome and then make ourselves feel a little better by acknowledging why they'd suck more than just a little...


Judge



PROS: You are the law. Sure, you live in a massive, unimaginably overcrowded megalopolis surrounded by a nuclear wasteland, where the citizenry is constantly under threat from outrageous and sometimes even supernatural threats. But when it comes to the rules, to keeping this society together, it all starts and stops with you. You’re not just judge, jury and executioner (power over life and death, baby!), but you get to cruise around on a sweet skycycle. And don't get me started on that most fantastic of benefits; job security.

CONS: Before you decide to go act as judge, jury and executioner on your noisy neighbor who watches reruns of The Big Bang Theory with the volume all the way up, you may want to keep in mind that standards are more than a little strict when it comes to the behavior of judges. Abuse of power is a big no-no, and forget about breaking even the slightest law. Something like jaywalking may be a slap on the wrist for the average citizen, but for you it's a sentence of hard labor on one of Saturn’s moons for the rest of your life. And speaking of the rest of your life, that’s how long you’re going to be a Judge, so don't expect to be making like Roger Murtaugh, going on about how close you are to retirement. And cool things like drinking, smoking and sexy time? Yeah, not so much.

But hey, getting to shout “I AM THE LAW” with impunity makes up for all that right?

 Time Cop


PROS: When Cube said “Fuck the police” he couldn’t have been talking about Time Cops. I mean, why risk pissing off a cop that can accidently push you in front of a school bus when you were five, before you ever get the chance to say NWA?

When you’re a Time Cop, not only do you get all the requisite cool shit that comes with being a regular cop (badge, gun AND free coffee refills at Quick Trip? Yes, please…), but you get to TRAVEL THROUGH TIME. And let’s be honest, add a time travel element to ANY job and it automatically becomes a pretty sweet gig. Plus, by all accounts, you can actually change your own timeline and no one will call you on it (most likely because you’ve just done irreparable damage to the space/time continuum). Add perfect abs and an ass seemingly forged from steel into the mix, and you've got one sweet gig.

CONS: Just, you know, don’t bump into yourself when you’re knocking about in the past. Or shake your own hand. Or fist bump. Don’t do that either. Unless you’re okay becoming a gelatinous glob of goo.

Watcher


PROS: On a cush, secret base on the moon, you watch everything that occurs in your designated corner of the universe and… well, that’s about it actually. The name of this job says it all.

This job has literally zero expectation beyond sitting on your ass and looking at major cosmic events. I can’t think of any other job in existence quite like that, can you? In most jobs, there’s reward for going above and beyond and taking on more responsibilities. Not so with being a Watcher. That shit’s discouraged. The less you actually do, the better you're doing your job. For the George Costanza’s of the universe, this is pretty much a dream job.

CONS: Did I mention you’re an impossibly old and immortal being that can do nothing BUT watch? You don’t eat. You don’t sleep. You just watch other people doing really cool things. In fact, the people you’re watching will do such cool things that you’ll inevitably become attached to them. This will cause you to feel the need to step in and give them a hand from time to time and of course this will result in you getting a stern warning from your superiors.

But you won’t lose your job. Like, ever. So there’s that.

Ghostbuster


PROS: You get to live in a classic, old school NYC firehouse. You get to play with homemade nuclear particle accelerators. And you get to tool around the city in Ecto-1.

Not to mention the city comes together from time to time to hail you and your crew for the heroes you are, what with throwing down with Lovecraftian gods, reincarnated occultist conquerors and sentient ectoplasm. And attractive women are way easier to woo once you’ve saved them from an interdimensional cross rip.

CONS: The hours suck. The pay sucks worse. An $11,500 a year salary in 1984 is roughly a $25,000 salary in 2012. In New York City.  I guess we know why most employees have to live in a firehouse that has been compared to “a demilitarized zone.” And that city that comes together to hail you as a hero? Yeah, they’re just as likely to shut your operation down and toss your ass in jail and/or the nut house. The public is fickle when it comes to ghostbusting.


Starfleet Captain


PROS: Not only do you live in a future utopian society that has advanced beyond racism, bigotry, money and personal drama, but you, sir (in the future, “sir” is gender neutral) are top dog on one of the most marvelous technological achievements ever. You command a starship.

Not only that, but your main mandate is to go out and just do… stuff. Seek out new life! Explore strange, new worlds! Boldly go where no one has gone before! While you’re at it, break every law of physics you can and maybe even make some up. And if that gets boring, you can always make your own, better reality over in the holodeck.

CONS: Yeah, when shit goes down in this utopian future, it goes down sideways. You’re just as likely to get turned into a Borg drone as you are to get laid by hot alien strange and while the occasional jaunt through time is awesome, odds are, unless your ship has the right name, your ass is stuck (or worse). The holodeck is prone to malfunctions that result in the birth of sentient literary villains, cosmic gods play with you and yours much like a malicious child with an ant farm, and everyone uses words in casual conversation that require at least two PhD’s to understand. 

Thursday, December 13, 2012

She-Ra Goes Dark. Real Dark, Evidently...



I totally want to hate on this. In fact, I’m actually fighting the urge to break into geek rage as I type this. “HOW DARE YOU DARKEN THIS PURE CHARACTER FROM MY CHILDHOOD! MEEEH! THINGS!” Or something to that effect.

But, man, from what the creators say, it makes sense and even sounds... God help me... cool. Some choice quotes from the article on CNN.com from those involved with the project:

Writer Mike Costa on the fact that she was in fact raised by Hordak and served as his personal assassin:
 “…rather than being just a passive dreamer, she's actually already a very powerful character. Sure she's a powerful character working for evil, but that only makes her journey all the more heroic and interesting. The messages of strength, capability and redemption, those are some really empowering and sophisticated ideas for a princess character aimed at girls from 30 years ago."
Damnit, that makes narrative sense.

Artist Drew Edward Johnson on her nature:
“She wasn't born as this deadly Hordak enforcer but was made one, and over the course of the story, we can see how she's been kept in line and made to do things that are against her nature.”
Quit it! Just admit this is a sly way to ruin someone’s childhood! Quit trying to make this sound like an engaging comic!

Johnson adds:
“…like Wonder Woman, She-Ra is iconic. She stood, and stands, as a strong and good-hearted character that anyone of any age can get behind.”
How DARE you try to make this character about more than trying to sell kids back in the 80’s more toys!

Phew. Took a lot out of me.

CNN has a gallery of images of old and new. The comic looks great and based on the interview with those involved, it might possibly be great.

But it’s being published by DC. So there’s that. And never underestimate DC’s ability to screw up anything iconic.

So What's the Plan For Darkseid in the Justice League Movie?


Over at Latino Review, “someone” has an alleged lead on what the plot source material will be for the impending Justice League movie. Let the speculation begins!


Word is the plot will be loosely based around the events of Justice League of America 183-185. The plot of said arc was essentially Darkseid scheming to blast Earth away to make room for Apokolips. The arc, while no means a bad (I'm actually more than a little fond of it), one kind of makes me said as, to me at least, what always made me dig Darkseid was that he didn’t want to destroy humanity so much as subdue it. That was the crux of the character under Kirby, what with the big bad on a quest to find The Anti-Life Equation. And Grant Morrison has shown us twice what a world would look like under Darkseid’s thumb (JLA: Rock of Ages and Final Crisis), and both were a whole hell of a lot more terrifying than just being blown to space dust. I get that producers want stakes that are as high as you can get them, but…

But Darkseid completely corrupting the Earth and humanity with it seem to me to be more fitting with the darkening of the movie DC characters, ala Nolan’s Batman and what we’ve gleaned from Man of Steel.
That and blowing Earth up to make room for your planet is a bit too Flash Gordon for me. Not that I don’t like Flash Gordon, but Ming ain’t the villain of Justice League. Darkseid is. Let’s have him act like Darkseid.

Pacific Rim Trailer: Giant Robots and Giant Monsters Throw Down



I want you to sit back. I want you to close your eyes and meditate for a moment on the fact that we live in a time where all the movies we wanted to see as children are not only being made, but often times by great directors. That a director like Guillermo del Toro makes a movie about giant, human pilots robots fighting giant interdimensional monsters.

I mean... shit.


Wednesday, December 12, 2012

How To Talk Sports (When You Don't Know Jack About Sports)

Turns out someone over at The Huffington Post reads The Nerduary as I was invited by Huff Post Live to participate in an on-air segment based on this article. Check out the interview here.

I’m not a sports guy. I’ve tried. God knows I’ve tried. I played baseball (okay, T-ball) and soccer as a child, a little intermural football (2 games) in college, and bowling (not actually a real sport). Every few years I try to get into football, both college and professional. I try. I really, really try. But, alas, it never sticks. Unfortunately for me, a lot conversation between adults revolves around touchdowns, goals, and other synonyms for scoring.

 As unfortunate as it may be, workplace conversation rarely turns to the latest issue of Iron Man or which actor played best The Doctor. When it comes to small talk, geeks are at a severe disadvantage (unless, of course, you're that odd geek who actually likes sports). 

But fear not! Over the years, despite knowing precisely jack and shit about sports, I’ve managed to be an integral part of many a sports conversation. How, you ask? It’s actually easier than you think if you remember a few key phrases…

1) “He’s a Good Player”- If you remember nothing else from this list, remember this one. “He’s a good player” will become the most versatile tool in your toolbox. Carry this one close, and you’ll be like Macgyver when it comes to any conversation revolving around athletic competitions. Why? Because sports conversations inevitably boil down to talking about specific players and chances are, the player in question is, in fact, good. He may be hated. He may be divisive. But if he’s managed to reach the professional or collegiate level of competition, you can be assured someone will agree that he is a good player. And in the off chance the player in question is not actually good? Repeat it again, only this time really, really, sarcastically. Everyone has a good laugh and you’re recognized for your keen insights and quick wit. But what if someone wants specifics? What if someone wants to know why, exactly, he’s a good player? In that case drop…

2) “He has a lot of heart”- There’s a reason heart was included amongst The Planeteers. People universally love the idea of heart, maybe none so much as sports fans. Heart is a way of saying losers are worth rooting for. Heart is what gets Rudy Ruetigger paid on the motivational speech circuit. When someone asks why an athlete is “a good player” as you say, invoke heart. Heart makes the shittiest player beloved, and a lack of heart can vilify the greatest. Why is a he a good player? Because he has heart, that’s why.

3) “Their Defense Could Be Tighter”- If you’ve chosen to engage in a sports-centric conversation, there will come a time when someone will ask your thoughts on a specific team. This is tricky, because you can’t just drop “They’re a good a team” as the team may well be shit. Your first inclination will be to be panic as you don’t know one athlete from another, let alone what teams they're playing for. But no worries, as you’ve got “their defense could be tighter.” This is perfect as it’s not only noncommittal, but it’s also true. Unless the Patriots have recruited the 300 Spartans, no one has a perfect defense. No one. And even the most passionate team follower will have to admit that, yes, as perfect as the home team is, their defense could indeed be tighter. Alternately, you could turn to…

"Come lads! It's 4th and 10, the bases are loaded and the 2-minute warning has just sounded... or you know... something like that!"

4) “Their Offense Could Use Some Work”- See the last explanation as everything, including the bit about the 300 Spartans, still applies.

5) “That Was Something Else”- Still in the conversation? Well, now things are going to get a little bit trickier. Because if you’ve done your job right, folks now think you’re avid. Now, they’re going to ask your thoughts on specific games and maybe even plays. Most posers start to fall apart at this point. Was it a big game? Did something out of the ordinary happen? Did a tiger get loose on the field? What the hell were they even playing? Don’t panic! And for the love of God, don’t try to patch together what happened, at least not blindly. When someone asks about last night’s game, simply say “that was something else.” “Something else” can mean so many things! It can mean you did see that spectacular play! It can mean you did see that astounding snafu! It can mean you watched in awe at the sheer professionalism and skill on display right there on your television or it can mean it was boring as hell! “That was something else” is more a trigger than anything else, as those in the conversation actually interested in sports will agree with you and start recounting the events that transpired that you in no way saw.

Eventually, though, it will happen. Someone will be onto you. Someone will figure out you’re talking out of your ass and want to call you out. Not only that, but this asshole will want to embarrass you in the process. What then? Is there a weapon in your new arsenal designed specifically to scorch the Earth (and possibly a friendship)? The answer is “yes” and it’s as easy as…

6) “You’re a racist”- Confusing or not knowing the details has been the downfall of many a sports poser and nothing screams you don’t know shit like not knowing a player’s race and/or ethnicity. “Oh, he’s a ‘good player’ is he? Then what color is he?” Yes, as a fan, this should come easy you. But you’re not a fan. But they might be a racist. Call them to task on it. Ask them what race has to do with the game in the first place. Accuse them of letting outdated mindsets cloud their love of the game. Tell them they're part of the problem and proof positive that as a country, we still have such a long way to go. Then, politely recuse yourself from the conversation and walk away. You're now not only known as a passionate sports fan but a man (or woman) of conviction and high moral fiber. 

Respect all around.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Look! Up in the Sky! The Full Man of Steel trailer!


Quick thoughts before I run off to do actual work:

1. This actually feels like a Superman movie. Which is saying a lot considering DC's non-Batman movie offerings.

2. The music, holy hell. It grabs you. Glad they finally left the John Williams stuff behind, as iconic as that score is.

3. Look! Action! Superman doing stuff besides tossing and lifting heavy objects!

4. HAIRY CHESTED SUPERMAN! Welcome back, friend.

5. Wait... did Pa Kent just tell young Clark he maybe should have let those kids die? Um... no. Sorry. That ain't Pa Kent. Not at all. Clark becomes Superman as we know him BECAUSE of Pa Kent's moral guidance. This just sits poorly.

6. The lack of red tights still doesn't work for me. At all. Come on, Snyder, it ain't too late to bring'em back in post.

7. From the looks, it looks like it won't be a Superman version of what Nolan did with Batman. This is a good thing.

8. I still long for a Superman movie with Superman doing batshit insane things ala Superman back in the 50's and 60's.

Shit. This actually looks like it's going to be a good Superman movie. Oh, well. There's other things to hate on without seeing them in completion I suppose...

In Defense of Kevin Smith


Kevin Smith has gotten a bum rap here lately. It’s become a thing for geeks to hate on the guy to the extent that a fairly popular nerd-centric blog recently ran a list, “10 TV Geeks That Give Geeks a Bad Name”, and planted Kevin Smith firmly in the number one spot. I read that and remember thinking, "Jesus, are you serious?" Kevin Smith ranks higher than Sheldon Cooper or any of the other geek minstrels on The Big Bang Theory? I mean, shit...

You know what? Let’s go back to the The Dark Time. You remember the Dark Time. It wasn’t that long ago. It was during The Dark Time that talking openly about your love of Star Wars was a huge social no-no. It was during The Dark Time that only the nerdiest of nerds and geekiest of geeks openly admitted to reading comic books and it was during The Dark Time that TV shows like Saved by the Bell painted a picture of people like you and me as socially awkward misfits worthy only of scorn and open derision. It was during The Dark Time that it was okay to like the Tim Burton’s Batman movie, but woe be unto those over the age of 10 who read Batman comics.

The Dark Times were horrible times to be a geek.

Then in 1994, there came a little movie called Clerks. It was a black and white darling of the indy circuit, making list after list in all the mainstream publications as a must see of the year. It was hailed as a game changer, right there alongside with Pulp Fiction. Clerks was all anyone could talk about, and featured two regular dudes, doing regular dude things. They were funny, they were witty. One of them had a real, cute girlfriend and the other was just cool as hell.

And they loved the shit out Star Wars. In 1995, when 16-year-old Chris was watching Clerks on VHS for the first time, seeing the main characters of a popular movie talk about the shit he could only talk about behind closed doors right there on a movie screen, changed everything. If geeks who wanted to function in polite society were living in a closet, Kevin Smith was at the door, prying that mother fucker open with a crow bar.

Then Mallrats dropped. Now, the geek stuff wasn’t just relegated to the occasional bit of dialogue. Oh, no. In Mallrats, the main character was a dyed-in-the-wool comic book geek who not only wore his passion openly, he wore it with pride. Not only that, but Brodie Bruce was, wait for it, really popular. Everyone liked Brodie. The stoners liked him, the smart kids liked him. And in another turn on cinematic conventional wisdom, this geek was no man’s sidekick. No, this geek had his own sidekick and it was one of the popular kids. Eat shit, Pretty in Pink! In one movie, Kevin Smith not only made it okay to be a geek, he made it okay for a geek to be the charming, awesome and cool lead in a movie.

Then came Chasing Amy wherein Ben fucking Affleck portrayed a working comic book professional. A working independent comic book professional. Chasing Amy was huge. Not only was it a step forward in Kevin Smith’s filmmaking career, but it was deemed an important movie. People paid attention to Chasing Amy and in paying attention, they once again got to see geeks functioning just like the normies.

Then the Dogma shitstorm hit. Remember how controversial that movie was? Remember the protests, the calls for boycott, the torches and pitch forks? Yeah, me too. I also remember Kevin Smith’s face everywhere, assuring the viewing public that Dogma wasn’t going to tear down the moral fabric of America. He was all over the place, on talk shows, news shows, any shows that would have him. He was all over the place, and he was clearly a geek. But he was personable as hell. He was funny, he was charming, he was witty, and he was insightful. The more you saw Kevin Smith in public, the more you saw he wore his geekiness like a badge of honor. He was hanging out with Matt Damon and Ben Affleck, turning up at big time movie premiers. He started writing comics and talking them up in mainstream publications. He was everywhere. Finally geek culture had an ambassador we could rally behind and be proud of. We had a successful filmmaker with hot wife, a child and he could articulate a point to perfection.

After that, a series of events saw Kevin Smith start to slowly withdraw from filmmaking. We saw the first signs of backlash towards Smith, and Smith’s reaction seemed to be giving Hollywood the deuces (which is unfortunate considering how amazing Red State was). But the man didn’t stop creating.

Over the last few years, Kevin Smith has carved a pretty sizable empire in the world of podcasting. He has an entire network of shows operating under the SMODCO umbrella, most of which consistently rank in the listings of top downloaded shows. And on many of those shows, he’s still out there pimping geek culture to the listening masses as his audiences continue to grow.

In the almost 20 years Kevin Smith has been putting himself (and by default geek culture) out there, I’ve never felt ashamed to have the man associated with the things I love. I’ve never felt like we had the wrong ambassador out there showing the world who and what we really were. Even when he’s making money off the gig, I’ve never felt taken advantage of. I just look at a guy just like me who was able to parlay his passions into a paid gig.

You wanna hate Kevin Smith? Can’t stop you from doing that, but don’t try to pollute the waters with unfounded hate and bile. Say you don’t like his sense of humor, or that as a filmmaker he doesn’t speak to you. Criticize, but back that shit up. Because otherwise it just sounds like the sourest of sour grapes, and that’s just embarrassing. 

Monday, December 10, 2012

The Dreaded Hostess Holiday Fruit Cake Review


This installment of The Nerduary Christmas Treat Review series is one that’s bitter sweet. Today we review a treat that, come next Christmas, will no longer be with us, thanks to the manufacturer having recently gone out of business. That’s right, we’re chowing down on a Hostess product.


Ah, the famed Holiday Fruit Cake. Now keep in mind that the only fruit cakes Tiffany has ever had are the ones made with love (and quality ingredients) by her dear grandmother. And me? I’ve never had one in my whole life.  So it’s with that knowledge that we dive right into The Nerduary’s review of the Hostess Holiday Fruit Cake.

CHRIS: I’m not going to lie to you; I’ve been dreading the hell out of this. Like real, sincere dread. The kind that wakes you in a cold sweat at 3 A.M. I look at this thing and get nothing but bad vibes from it.

TIFFANY: Yep. It’s pretty much the scariest thing EVER. It’s fruit cake, but not the kind grandma makes.

CHRIS: In the interest of full disclosure, I need to tell you I found this in a massive box in a back corner of a Wal-Mart. There was no signage, no pricing, just a giant box of liquidated Hostess Fruit Cakes.

TIFFANY: There’s no “real” expiration date on this.

CHRIS : Excuse me?


TIFFANY: It just says “sell by Feb 15.”

CHRIS: February of what year?

TIFFANY: It doesn’t say.

CHRIS: Huh…

TIFFANY: I just imagine it as a couple of guys standing there in the fruit cake plant and one saying, “Well, Bruce, we’re required by law to put an expiration date on it but this shit never expires. February 15th is technically a date.”

CHRIS: I think that may have been how Hostess handled all their product expiration dates. I think that scenario with Bruce actually took place back in the 30's.


TIFFANY:  Ugh. Okay, so let’s look at the package. It says it’s full of “nature’s finest fruits and nuts.” Um, somehow I think this is false advertising, based on the convo with Bruce and the other guy. Just a hunch. I don’t exactly see the “fruits and nuts” for this fruit cake falling off a tree in The Blessed Garden.

CHRIS: Are you trying to tell me Hostess didn’t use the freshest ingredients?

TIFFANY: You bet your ass I am. Hello – no expiration date???!!! Perhaps the fruit really did come from The Blessed Garden as it never expires. Hmmm….do I sense a Christmas miracle on our hands? Will this be like eating the Fruit of Life?

CHRIS: Something tells me this will be more like eating from the Tree of Knowledge in that we’ll have the knowledge to never to eat a fruit cake with no concrete expiration date or to buy one from an unmarked box at Wal-Mart. I also want to point out the label also says to keep this sucker in a cool place. That box I found it in? Not a cool place. It wasn’t even near a cool place.


TIFFANY: Let’s check out the nutrition facts and ingredients. Awe, shit…


CHRIS: 350 Calories. Not as bad as I thought, I guess.

TIFFANY: For ¼ of the loaf.

CHRIS: How much for the whole loaf?

TIFFANY: Learn to do math, honey. 1,400 calories total.

CHRIS: 1,400 calories for the entire loaf? Shit. What about ingredients?


TIFFANY: First ingredients look promising.  We’ve got raisins…

CHRIS: Fuck raisins…

TIFFANY: … orange peel, pineapple, cherries….but, oh my. Can’t really pronounce much else but there are dried whole eggs in this junk. Eww. Gross.

CHRIS: It’s got beta-carotene. That’s good, right?

TIFFANY: That’s what makes carrots orange. At this point, that’s like throwing a bunch of carrots into a bucket of shit.

CHRIS: Alright, speaking of a bucket of shit, we’re stalling. This thing ain’t gonna eat itself and I want to get this over with.

Tiffany unwraps the package.


TIFFANY: It’s really hard to cut. And we’re going to eat this?


CHRIS: Courage, dear. Courage.

On the count of three, Chris and Tiffany each take a big bite…

TIFANNY: Oh fucking shit!

CHRIS: This is terrible. Oh, God, it’s so fucking terrible.

TIFFANY: Fuck this, dude. I’m not eating any more.

CHRIS: DON’T YOU SPIT IT OUT! YOU HAVE TO…

Tiffany spits her bite out.


CHRIS: Seriously?


TIFFANY: Spit yours out. NOW!

CHRIS: I have to eat it.


TIFFANY: Spit it out! You’re going to get sick!


Chris actually starts to gag uncontrollably at this point. Shit is now getting real.


CHRIS: Oh, God…

TIFFANY: NO! It’s not worth it!

CHRIS: Just… keep taking…[long gag] pictures.


Tiffany is now laughing hysterically as Chris continues to gag


CHRIS: Goddamnit, Goddamnit, Goddamnit. Oh, Goddamnit…

Chris finally chews it back, tears streaming from his eyes.

TIFFANY: (looking down) Well, Spike seems to like it.


CHRIS: Are you...? It literally tastes like shit!

TIFFANY: Well, he and Dirt [our other cat] lick each other’s buttholes all the time so I guess this is like dessert for them.

CHRIS: Fuck Hostess.

TIFFANY:  Agreed.

CHRIS: I’m glad they’re gone. Seriously, you made a product that was on par with eating cat butt. Good riddance.