Thursday, September 18, 2014

From Multiversity: The Society of Super-Heroes


"As long as I get Doc Fate's balls to wear as earrings." - Shiva

Huh. Well, that's a first as far as I know in a non-Vertigo DC comic book. A character directly referencing the testicles of another. And not just referencing them. No, Shiva wants to wear Doc Fate's testicles. As earrings. Because...?

Individuality, maybe? It's not like she'll go to a party and stumble into, I don't know, Cheshire, only to find that she too is wearing Doc Fate's balls as earrings. Except, this being Multiversity, the tale of parallel universe hoping heroes and villains, I guess it would be possible for two people to show up to a party wearing Doc Fate's balls as earrings. Not the same Doc Fate, obviously. Clearly, they would be the balls of two unique individuals. Only, said unique individuals would be Doc Fate and his balls would be in use as earrings. The same balls. But different.

Seriously, though; in a mainstream DC comic book, a character actually puts in a request to attain possession of another character's testicles. To wear. As earrings.

Monday, September 15, 2014

"The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug" Made Me Sad

Maybe I'm a bad geek. Maybe it's just a sign that life is getting busier and busier. Either way I missed seeing The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug in theaters when it released last December. 

However, thanks to the magic of HBO I finally got the chance to sit and take in the second part of Peter Jackson's take on not just one of the great works fantasy, but literature as well. The movie clocked in at 2 hours and 42 minutes. Sure, I had been disappointed in Jackson's first installment of The Hobbit, but that was overshadowed by the knowledge that it was in this film I would see Bilbo meet the mighty dragon Smaug, one of my all time favorite book scenes. Underwhelming first outing be damned, I was stoked. Stoked!

And then I watched the movie and that sense of stokedness turned to sadness.

EVERYTHING IS DARK

The world of The Lord of the Rings trilogy is a dark place. In all fairness, how can it not be when the actual Lord of Darkness is on the move? Everything from the land to the wizards protecting it is being corrupted. That's the point of the film. It's a dark time and the heroes are trying to combat that.

The world of The Hobbit, on the other hand, isn't meant to be a dark place. Oh, it's a dangerous place, no doubt. There are trolls, Goblins, man-bear-things, and fire breathing dragons. The Hobbit works, and has worked for over 75 years, as a children's story. It's a fairy tale and like all fairy tales it's wrought with danger and peril and yes, sometimes even death. Yet "dangerous" is not the same as "dark" but Peter Jackson doesn't seem to be aware of that. He's clearly trying to connect The Hobbit with The Lord of the Rings thematically and aesthetically, but in the process seems to have forgotten the world hasn't become a dark place yet. Ultimately, the fun is sucked out of one of the most fun stories ever written.

When the fun is sucked out of stories like fairy tales they become a little harder to sit through. When something's fun, you forgive a lot. You tend not to notice glaring plot holes, one-note characters or anything else like that. You don't really care if something is patently absurd even if it is high fantasy. Take that sense of fun away, though, and all the faults begin to become glaring.

LONG, DRAWN OUT, EVEN TEDIOUS ACTION PIECES

I found myself actually dreading action scenes. Whenever it became clear the dwarves were about to engage some orcs in battle or take on some giant spiders, I actually began to get anxious. Not because I was afraid for their fictional wellbeing, but because I knew I was in for yet another 10-minute plus, overly rendered, overly choreographed fight sequence. For scenes designed to titillate the audience, they did the exact opposite for me. The more someone ran from one collapsing bridge to another, the more an elf made one impossible trick shot after another while leaping upside from a tree branch, the more extraordinary escapes packed into one scene that showed up on screen, the more I wanted to stop the movie. After a while it just seemed like the filmmakers were showing off more than serving the actual film.

NEEDLESS CHARACTER INSERTIONS

When it was first announced that Evangaline Lilly would be playing a completely original-to-the-movie character, many fans got all kinds of riled up. Me, I figured I'd trust Jackson since he'd given me three of my favorite films to date. Why not give him the benefit of the doubt and at least see what his original character brought to the story? As it turns out, not much of anything. It felt as if she was only included so that Legolas (also needlessly plugged into the film) would have someone to look at intensely at random times and that Kili would have someone to flirt with. 

Speaking of Legalos, why, exactly, was he in this film other than to serve as a wink to the audience? There was no narrative reason in The Hobbit's story and there was no narrative reason built into Jackson's interpretation. The same goes for Radagast. As much as I love Sylvester McCoy, I'm still trying to figure out what purpose Radagast serves in these films other than (forced) comic relief. 

TOO MANY FORCED 'LORD OF THE RINGS' REFERENCES

If you were to take a shot every time the ominous music from The Lord of the Rings played whenever Bilbo wears, touches, feels, and/or even thinks about his magic ring... well, you'd be pretty properly fucked up. Bilbo can't just wear the ring as he does in the book, oh no. Every time the ring comes into play in Jackson's film there has to be a comically direct and overt foreshadowing of The Lord of the Rings. 

And it's not just the ring. Everything seems to be recast to directly foreshadow The Lord of the Rings. Spiders in the woods? Foreshadowing. Orcs on the move? Foreshadowing. Even Smaug starts spouting off with cryptic references to Sauron at one point. Not only that, but these constant call backs destroy the pacing of an already poorly paced film. Take, for example, Bilbo's conversation with Smaug. By the time the film gets to this point, we've already waited over two hours. This is the moment everyone's been waiting for and it's actually one of the parts of the film that exceeds expectations. Everything is perfect to the point of making all sins of the past two hours absolved. But as soon as things really start to take off, we're forced to cut back to Gandalf running around an old, abandoned fortress because, well, Peter Jackson really loves referencing The Lord of the Rings.

And therein lies the problem with Jackson's The Hobbit films. So far, they've yet to be allowed to exist on their own. Even worse, he's taken a fun, whimsical story that probably needs at most two hours to tell and has turned it into a 9 hour extension to the films he made 10 years ago. What should be a fun revisitation to a world we all loved has instead turned into a slog, something I feel obligated to see rather than excited to see.

The thing is, though, I get what Jackson was trying to do. He saw The Hobbit as his chance to not just go back to Middle-earth, but to bring even more of Tolkien's mythology to the big screen for general audiences. There's as much DNA from things like The Silmarillion and even more obscure writings from Tolkien in these films as there is The Hobbit. The problem is none of that serves the the film or the story. It weighs it down, it makes it feel cumbersome and despite the intention of making the film feel richer, it just makes it feel at times unwatchable.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Let's Rank The Batmobiles!

Earlier this week, photos of the Batmobile from the currently in production Superman v Batman: Dawn of Justice hit the Internet. The first batch were leaked and were all kinds of unofficial…




But then director Zack Snyder released an official photo via Twitter…



With the Batmobile once again getting a redesign to go along with a new Batman and a new movie, I felt like it was appropriate to take a look back at the cars live action Dark Knight’s of the past have driven into battle. After all, the Batmobile is an important piece of the Batman mythos, one that both filmmakers and show runners alike consistently try and put their marks on. Some nail it while others seem to miss their mark entirely.

So let’s see how they all stack up…

#7- The Nolan Batmobile (aka: “The Tumbler”)



Yes. I’m ranking this one dead last and it comes down to realism. Or, unrealism as the case may be.

Understand, I don't go into super hero movies expecting realism. Quite the opposite, actually. Batman movies are still super hero movies and super hero movies are, at their core, unrealistic. Trust me, when it comes to super heroes, I can forgive a lot when it comes to realism or a lack thereof. However, the Nolan Batman films are a different animal. In his Batman films, realism is paramount. Because he goes to such great effort to ground everything firmly in the real world, every time The Tumbler rolls out it undoes so much of that effort.


For starters, it’s not a car; it’s a tank. And when was the last time anyone managed to look inconspicuous in a tank? While having any identifiable car runs counter to the mission of a guy who’s bag is to blend into the shadows, a tank outright scuttles that mission completely. Not only that, but The Tumbler also consistently does massive amounts of property damage to the streets and buildings of Gotham City almost every single time Batman takes it out. Again, when you’re crafting a film wherein you want the audience to believe everything they’re seeing can actually happen, it’s hard for that same audience not to notice that the hero wantonly destroys city infrastructure as well as people’s homes in his giant tank as he runs from the police. Nolan did successfully make Batman movies I believed could, for the most part, happen. Until, at least, The Tumbler hits the road.

#6 and #5- The Cadillac Batmobile and the Mercury Batmobile From the Batman Serials





I guess technically you have to consider these cars from the serials of the 30s and 40s to be Batmobiles since they were both cars owned and operated by Batman. But besides looking classy like all cars before the late 1970s, there’s really not too terribly much to go crazy about with either of these models. In fact, unless you see Batman driving, you'd never know either was his car. It would be like making a Batman movie today where the Dynamic Duo rush to thwart The Joker’s most recent schemes in a regular, run of the mill, 2013 Hyundai Elantra. Sure, he would get there, but no one’s going to cower in terror as he rolls up.

#4 and #3 The Batman and Robin Batmobile and the Batman Forever Batmobile




Hold on. I can’t hear anything over the din of: “WTF, CHRIS?!?! HAVE YOU LOST YOUR GODDAMN MIND?!?! HOW DARE YOU RANK ANYTHING JOEL SCHUMACHER HIGHER THAN CHRISTOPHER NOLAN! HOW DARE YOU RANK ANYTHING JOEL SCHUMACHER HIGHER THAN?!?!?”

Are you calmed down now? Just take a deep breath. I’ll be right here.

Ok. Ready?

The reason I rank Schumacher’s over the top, ostentatious Batmobiles as high as this is simple: For better or for worse, they match the world Schumacher crafted for Batman. Schumacher’s Batman operates in an over the top, over exaggerated DayGlo world where everything from the buildings to the people walking the streets look like set pieces from an Adam West LSD excursion. So it was only fitting that so too did Batman’s rides. For the purposes of these particular Batman movies, both of these Batmobiles worked.

Don’t, however, confuse this as an endorsement for Schumacher’s films. While I totally get where he was coming from with his vision, I don’t see that markedly different vision as an excuse for shoddy filmmaking. And thematically correct automobiles aside, that’s just not OK.

There’s a lot wrong with both of Schumacher’s Batman films. The Batmobiles, however, are not among them.

#2- The Tim Burton Batmobile


Speaking of a ride fitting into the world built around it, this one is damn near perfect. The thing I’ve always loved about Tim Burton’s Batman movies is the unique look of the film. He took the 1930s aesthetic of the original comics and mashed them together almost flawlessly with then-modern sensibilities. That went a long way towards creating a movie that, Prince soundtrack aside, still feels timeless. Everything fit that vision, and so too did the Batmobile.

The Tim Burton Batmobile looked to be designed by engineers from the 30s who were allowed to peak forward in time and use technology from the late 1980s. It looked vintage and futuristic all at once and it still does. Most of the Batmobiles that came before and after this one started to look dated within just a few years, but this one is aging quite well. Plus, it doesn’t hurt that it was functional and looked like a car that Batman would and, more importantly, could drive around in.

#1- The 60s TV Show Batmobile


This is the Batmobile that, more than any other, has stood the test of time. Kids are still, almost 50 years later, able to point to this and positively ID it as belonging to The Caped Crusader.

And what’s not to dig about this Batmobile? It’s sleek. It’s practical. It has both style and substance. Sure, it looks like it came straight off the set of a trippy, camp-fueled 1960s TV show, but it also looks like a masked crime fighter, campy or dark, would actually be right at home behind the wheel.

This is the Batmobile that filmmakers, game designers, comic artists and everyone else will be chasing for as long as Batman is a money making venture. This Batmobile has cast a long shadow that still looms over pop culture and there’s a reason for that: when you get something so absolutely right, it can’t help but have staying power that lasts through the ages.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Things I Want To Accomplish Before the Baby Gets Here (That I Know I Actually Won't)

As of today, my wife and I are exactly two weeks out from the expected due date for our son. In 14 days (or possibly less I’m told), life for Team Brennaman takes dramatic turn. The footloose and fancy free adult lifestyle I’ve come to know and love filled with doing whatever the hell I want whenever the hell I want will give way quite literally over night to diaper changes, 3 a.m. feedings, and the 24/7 care of another human being. Ready or not, here he comes.

But, shit. There was so much I wanted to get done before the kid got here, ya know? Back in January, when we found out we were having a baby, it seemed like we had nothing but time before this kid's arrival. I made mental note of all the things I wanted to accomplish before his arrival with the absolute, fullest of intentions of getting them done. Oh, not important things, mind you. No, I’m talking about the accomplishing of completely useless, inconsequential and ultimately meaningless goals. I’m talking goals like:

Finishing Final Fantasy VII

I feel like there's an analogy between Cloud looking at the seemingly insurmountable obstacle before him and my own inability to complete this game but I'm too lazy to fully identify it.

Final Fantasy VII was a pretty big reason I picked up a PlayStation in the wayback days of 1997. A few guys on my floor in the freshman dorm were hooked on this, and not just the nerdy, mouth-breathing types. Take our resident advisor, Neil, for example. Neil was, for all intents and purposes, an all around cool guy. He played the guitar, played lots of sports and had lots of sex. But when he wasn’t doing those cool things, he was playing Final Fantasy VII. So when I got a PlayStation, I made sure Final Fantasy VII was one of the games I picked up with it. I played it with zeal and I played it with joy.

And then, one day, I stopped playing it all.

Every few years since Christmas of 1997, I’ve returned to Final Fantasy VII, with the fullest of intentions of completing the game. It’s become something of an obsession, and one I’ve even tried breaking. I’ve sold the game multiple times only to buy it back via eBay or Steam. At one point I even spoiled all the plot points in the hopes that it would quell the urge see it all the way though, but nope. Not even knowing all the outcomes stop my heart from aching to check in with Cloud and the gang every few years. Stranger still is the fact it’s the only Final Fantasy game I feel incomplete having not completed.  Since 1997, I’ve played installments VI, VIII, IX, X and XIII. And like VII I’ve completed not a one of them. Yet I don’t feel any obligation to complete those other installments. None.

Odds are pretty solid I’ll fire up FFVII in the next few days but odds are even better I’ll tire of the turn based combat, the grinding, the incessant leveling and everything else that comes with the game and walk away once again. But, hey, I’ve waited 17 years to finish the game. What’s18 more, right?


Finally Watching the Entirety of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine

I get it! You're the unsung heroes of the Trek universe! Stop looking at me like that!

I’ve seen most of DS9, but not all of it. Or maybe I have seen all of it, but just not in order. I don’t know. I do know that I while it’s not my favorite Trek, I do see the argument folks make for it being the best Trek as being more than a little valid and as such, feel a need to see it in it’s entirety and in order. Since it was added for streaming on Netflix it’s been on my queue. For years, I’ve glided past it while looking for something to watch, and each time I say, sometimes aloud, “tomorrow.” But that tomorrow? It never comes. If it were possible for dust to collect in the Netflix queue, DS9 would be completely obstructed by the stuff. Now that I’m two weeks out from being a father, I feel like now is the time to fire up season one, episode one and let the long haul begin. Seven seasons in two weeks? Oh, yeah. That’s totally doable.

I’m not going to do it, though. At best, I can hope that, years from now, my son will show an interest in watching Star Trek and maybe, maybe I’ll finally sit down to watch the entirety then.

But I probably won’t.

Playing a Game of Diplomacy

If your friendship can't survive a board game then you probably shouldn't be friends to start with. Or maybe you should play a different board game. I'm kind of uncertain what the takeaway is here.

I first learned about the board game Diplomacy earlier this summer thanks to a piece on Grantland of all places. You can read about it here. It’s a long read so if you don’t feel like slogging all the way through, here’s the short version: Diplomacy is a strategy game not unlike Risk or Axis & Allies but seemingly designed for the sole purpose of annihilating the bonds of friendship, oftentimes completely.

I’m a huge fan of board games and I’m an even bigger fan of strategy games like Risk, Axis & Allies and those obscure,so seeing that there existed a game that’s considered the grandfather of that entire genre, I had to own it.

Too bad it takes roughly eight hours to play and requires the full attention of all players at all times. When I bought the game, I had this plan that at some point before Baby Brennaman’s arrival, I would be able to set aside an entire day to get a game in. However at this point, that’s just not happening. Between getting in last minute grown-up time with friends before the kid gets here or taking care of lingering baby related projects, having a full day to dedicate to a game seems like a luxury I’ll never have.

Which makes me sad, because I was looking forward to testing a friendship or six.

Successfully Capturing all 718 Pokemon in Pokemon X/Y

Uh... lot's of 30-something-year-old men play Pokemon, Mr. Judgey McJudgerson.

The catch phrase of the series might be “Gotta Catch’em All” but I’ve yet to come close to doing just that. Like, not at all remotely. Oh, I’ve earned all my badges. I’ve beaten all the gym leaders. I’ve entered into combat with the Elite Four and shown them what elite really means. I’ve even caught a Legendary Pokemon or two. But caught’em all? Not at all.

Like everything else on this list, I had hoped to get this done before the kid’s arrival, but it’s been months since I’ve pulled my copy of Pokemon X out of the case. That, obviously, makes it a little hard to catch’em all. I have gone as far as to set the game on my nightstand with the hope that I’ll log sometime before bed, the idea being that seeing it there will spur some kind of action. Instead, I just keep checking on the people of Awesome, my humble little Animal Crossing burg. Gotta Catch’em all? Never gonna happen.

Reading Crime and Punishment

A new afterword by THE Robin Feuer Miller you say?!

What? I’ve never read this Russian classic but have always intended to. Oh, don't act like this is the weirdest thing on this list.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Spider-Woman, Milo Manara and Geek Controversy

Italian artist Milo Manara was commissioned to produce a variant cover for the upcoming Spider-Woman #1. Anyone who’s been anywhere near the Internet in the last few weeks is already aware of this. Here’s what he produced:



It's important to remember that this is a variant cover. Most people will never see this on the comic stand. This is just an incentive created by Marvel to encourage retailers to order more copies of Spider-Woman #1. 

If you’ve already seen this variant cover, you’re more than likely aware of the reaction its received. Almost immediately, the cover was vehemently denounced as yet another glaring example of the overly, and perhaps unfairly, sexualization of a female character. Twitter exploded and not only did the comic press weigh in but so too did many mainstream news outlets, many of which don’t typically give any indication of caring about comics one way or another. It trickled down from there, as my own Facebook and Twitter feeds were filled with friends and acquaintances who’d never shown an interest in comics all of a sudden expressing strong opinions on Manara’s variant Spider-Woman cover.

Like all controversies, both geek centric and otherwise, this one divided a lot of people. On one side there were the folks saying that this cover represented all that was wrong with the treatment of females in comics and sometimes even pop culture in general and on the other side were the folks telling those upset to chill out, and that there was absolutely nothing to be upset about.

So where does Chris stand on all of this?

I don’t like the hyper sexualization of mainstream comic characters. Never have. I think it cheapens the character and the property. I think no matter the intention, it attracts the wrong kind of fan to the hobby; the kind of fan looking for jerk-off material rather than an entertainment experience unlike anything else available in any other medium. And yes, there’s a difference between “sexy,” “sexual” and “sexualized.”

As for the Manara Spider-Woman cover, there is zero denying that the intent of both artist and publisher was to create something sexually provocative. After all, Manara is known as being an artist who's stock and trade tends to be erotic art. I understand why so many fans are upset by it. Covers like this one send an awkward, mixed message to the growing number of female fans walking into the comic shop every week. After all, this isn’t 1994 where comics are the sole domain of the 14-year-old boy nor is it 2004 where comics are the sole domain of the 20-to-30-something-year-old man.

At the same time, I think some outlets and bloggers (many mainstream, “legit” news sites) took the Manara Spider-Woman cover and its ensuing controversy as an opportunity to generate traffic and clicks on a slow news day. Still others saw an opportunity to promote themselves via insertion into a conversation they had no point of reference for. Some even took a strong moral stance against the cover despite their very publication’s editorial decisions consistently undermining any point the writer was trying to make (looking at you, Elle Magazine).

For better or for worse, this kind of cover is nothing new to the medium and publishers have a long and storied history of using sex to move product. And when said product stars gorgeous men and women built like Olympic champions wearing what looks to be body paint (or “fetish suits” as writer Warren Ellis is wont to call super costumes), then sexualization is going to be an easy go-to for enticing readers to pick a book up. Publishers are, after all, for profit businesses and history shows that nothing makes people fork over their dough quite like a little skin.

However, no matter what side you fall on or if, like me, you’re somewhere in the middle, what I think Milo Manara’s Spider-Woman cover ultimately accomplished was putting a spotlight on the current growing pains being experienced by the comic book medium. For the first time since perhaps the 1960s, comic books and their super hero stars are part of the mainstream cultural conversation. People are showing an interest in comics who historically haven’t given much of anything even resembling a damn. And not just women are coming to the comic reading table; people, both men and women, who want as much substance from comics as they want style are pulling up a chair as well.

Believe it or not, the Milo Manara Spider-Woman variant cover controversy is a good thing for people who want comics crafted on a foundation of substance. Five years ago, hell, one year ago, a cover like that one would have generated zero interest in any one besides people into images of super heroes in erotic poses. I know I’m not the only longtime reader who’s been frustrated on more than one occasion, feeling like publishers are outright pandering to the wrong kind of comic fan. There is a tangible sea change afoot, and no matter what side of the Manara controversy you fall on, I think we can all agree that a comic industry focused on actual substance over the occasional sexualization of characters is one that’s better for all of us in the long run.

Friday, September 5, 2014

Geek Controversy! #JanetVanCrime

The summer of 2014 has had zero shortage of good, old-fashioned geek controversies. For a minute there it seemed like a new one was popping up every single day, whipping our little slice of the Internet into a frothing frenzy.

Sadly, I missed out on commenting on these controversies at the time (i.e.- ranting like a crazy person). When you're doing your best to tackle things like where rent will come from next month, where your next freelance job is coming from or how you're actually going to afford the impending arrival of a baby, things like upset gamers or riled up comic readers have a way of falling by the wayside.

Or, to put it another way: Real life has a way of making shit like a risqué super hero pose seem quaint.

But worry not! Now that things have calmed down over here at Nerduary central (but only a little), it's high time I jump into the fray not unlike Dalton in a roadhouse bar fight.


Something, something, something my way or the highway.

Controversy 1: #JanetVanCrime


Hash tag campaigns are always tricky. They're completely amorphous, changing at the whim of the masses and we all know how good unorganized masses are at staying on message. So it goes with #JanetVanCrime. The hash tag campaign means something totally different to almost every person you talk to.

For some people, the point of #JanetVanCrime is as simple as responding to a beloved character being disrespected by means of being excised from cinematic existence. After all, longtime comic readers know that Janet Van Dyne (aka The Wasp) was not only Ant-Man's companion. She's a pretty amazing super hero in her own right. In fact, she's a founding member of The Avengers. She's even the character who named the group “The Avengers” after their inaugural adventure. In Avengers history, Janet Van Dyne is as important as they come. So, as a fan, it sucks that audiences miss out on seeing in live-action the awesomeness that is Janet Van Dyne.

However, to others, #JanetVanCrime is about more than a fictional character being done wrong. To many it's about diversity, or in this case, a lack thereof. It's long been a complaint by fans that as great as the Marvel movies are, aside from Black Widow, there's not much in the way of female super heroics. Compound that with there being no plans even for a Black Widow movie on the horizon, a lot of people take the exclusion of Janet Van Dyne as another example of a studio posting a "No Girls Allowed" sign on a pretty popular movie franchise.

Still others take #JanetVanCrime a step further and say that her removal from movie canon sweeps the issue of domestic violence under the rug. As famous as Janet Van Dyne is as a founding Avengers, she's perhaps more famous for one of comicdom's most controversial moments. Hank Pym, the original Ant-Man (in the movie Paul Rudd will be playing Ant-Man number 2, Scott Lang), having suffered a number of nervous breakdowns, actually slaps Janet, his then wife. 

Sorry, Hank, but fans will never actually let you redeem yourself for this. 

It's a dark moment, and one that, since it's 1981 publication, has all but defined both characters for fans. It also didn’t help that writer Mark Millar all but doubled down on the domestic violence in his 2002 run on The Ultimates, a book set outside of main Marvel continuity but still the blueprint for much of Marvel’s movie universe. The Ultimates not only saw Hank Pym once again hit his partner Janet Van Dyne, but Millar and artist Bryan Hitch portraying the abuse much more savagely. There's an overt implication that this is the norm in their relationship; that Pym consistently beats her. At one point Pym is even shown going after Van Dyne with a can of bug spray as she shrinks to escape him. 


Believe it or not, this is the tamest part of the sequence.

So where does Chris stand on all of this?

Janet Van Dyne has always been one of my favorite Avengers. She's always seemed to have a much more fleshed out personality compared to a few of her teammates. Sometimes she's all business, sometimes she's flighty, and sometimes she'd rather hang out with her friends than do the whole super hero thing. Most importantly, Janet Van Dyne has consistently proven to be one of the team's go-to leaders, with even Captain America himself voting for her on multiple occasions to ride shotgun in the Quinjet. She's not just a strong female character, she's a strong character period and I think Marvel is missing out big time by not including her. More often than not, her's is the voice of reason, the voice of levity and the voice the others follow into battle.


Thor doesn't swear by Odin's blood to follow just anyone, ya know...
But...

But remember how I said before it's rare that you can have a conversation about Janet Van Dyne without having one about Hank Pym hitting her? That moment happened over 30 years ago, in one panel of one issue of one comic. 30 plus years have passed since then and the character has gone on to do so much, and yet any conversation seems to inevitably turn to domestic violence (interesting aside, there is debate as to if Pym was even intended to have hit her or if the artist just misinterpreted the writer's instructions.)


As important an issue as domestic abuse is (and to be sure, it is very important) I don't know that I can fault Marvel for not wanting that to be the focus of two of their characters. And to be sure, that would be the focus. Entertainment Weekly or TMZ or Buzzfeed or any number of other sources looking to get clicks would eventually write that article tying the latest potential Marvel blockbuster to domestic violence. It sucks though that to get around this the only option the studio seems to have come up with is the removal of one of the most celebrated and distinguished characters, male or female, to have ever answered the call of "AVENGERS ASSEMBLE!"

To be fair, we could all be over thinking this and the studio could have just opted to go with a story that, for whatever reason, has no place for Janet Van Dyne (although I can't imagine that being a scenario when it comes to an Ant-Man movie). Or, more likely, Evangaline Lily's character, Hope Van Dyne, is just a Janet Van Dyne by another name.

I hope the latter is the case, as there's no denying the fact that The Avengers is pretty much a big sausage party at this point and that needs to change. Black Widow isn't the only female super hero in Marvel's "library of 5,000 characters" and Marvel is certainly aware of that. But with the ditching of Janet Van Dyne and much of that decision's reaction, I think now is the time for the studio to come to terms with what fans of both comics and film already know: female super heroes kick ass and we want more of them in our movies.

Next up: Milo Manara’s Spider-Woman…

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Chris Brennaman Returns to Dragon Con

This past weekend I went to Dragon Con in Atlanta. I used to go all the time. Then I started to hate it so I stopped going. But then I realized maybe I was being more than a little cynical in my geekdom so I decided to go full immersion with the con in 2014. I bought a four day pass last year with plans to get there early day and leave as late as possible. I then doubled down and got involved in the comics programming, volunteering to moderate two panels. Then, a week before the show, I was asked to actually sit on a panel.

Ya know, just chillin' with Batman: The Long Halloween artist Tim Sale before a panel. No big whoop.

So. How was the convention?

It was fun, no doubt. I successfully managed to get there early every day, and I successfully managed to stay out until all hours. I ran into friends I hadn't seen in years and friends I'd only interacted with online. I even left with more than a few new friends to boot. I moderated panels with some of my favorite creators and, I'm happy to report, did not embarrass myself or my fellow participants during the panel I sat on (You've Seen the Movie, Now What?). Seriously, not one "fuck" was uttered.

But...

Goddamn, was the show way too crowded. Crowded in that way where zero movement happens. Saturday afternoon I found myself trapped on a skywalk for over 30 minutes, trying not to hyperventilate or scream "DEAR GOD IN HEAVEN DON'T LET THIS BE WHERE I DIE" over and and over again. Every year the show gets bigger and bigger but something's gotta give. I get Dragon Con is a for-profit con, and more people means more money, but unless someone magics up an even bigger venue, maybe it's time to start capping attendance.

Oh, and cosplayers? Yes, your costume is amazing. Yes, you very clearly spent all year carefully designing and creating that zombie Mario get-up. Yes, people want pictures taken with you. But perhaps stopping IN THE MIDDLE OF A BUSY WALKWAY WITH THOUSANDS OF PEOPLE BEHIND YOU TRYING TO PASS THROUGH isn't the place to stop and pose. Maybe?

Really, now that I think about it, those were the only two complaints I have about the show. I was able to actually not be cynical for most of three days. Some personal highlights include:

- Watching indie wrestling with a friend I'd only interacted with online (well, we'd met once in person for all of three minutes back in 1999) and thinking "damnit, why the hell am I just now hanging with this guy?"

- Hanging out with a good friend who just moved back into town and realizing how glad I was he was back.

- Getting to know the crew from GeekRex.com.

- Playing the game "Are You a Werewolf?" at the bottom of the Hyatt until past midnight with a group of complete and total strangers.

- Watching the craziness that was A Gameshow of Thrones.

- Hanging out in an empty ballroom with Kelly Sue Deconnick, cracking jokes before the start of a panel.

- Talking Doctor Who with artist Kelly Yates.

- Late night drinks at Trader Vic's.

- Making fun of a dear, dear friend (who wasn't at the con) with Tim Sale.

- Realizing I'd spent my entire discretionary budget for the show not on me, but on things for my unborn son.

Will I go back for 2015? Most likely, yeah, I will. The key, I realized, is to treat this one show as more geek party than actual con. Once I let go of the fact that I wasn't going to have the same experience as I would at, say, Heroes Con in Charlotte, North Carolina, it was a lot easier to let go and enjoy Dragon Con for what it is: a celebration. A big, massive, over crowded, kind of expensive, fan-driven celebration.

Monday, August 25, 2014

What The Hell Have I Been Up To?

Quite a bit, actually. Sadly, maintaining The Nerduary was not among them and I do apologize for that. I get emails every week asking when I'm going to update and judging by the stats, lots and lots of folks stop by every day.

So why no Nerduary for Chris?

Back in January, I got laid off from my job. The place shut down and in one horrific afternoon everyone was sent walking. It's was terrible, but, meh, them's the breaks. So a lot of my time went into looking for work. As summer set in, damn near all my time was dedicated to freelance work. There was a stretch there that if I was awake odds were good I was working on some paying project. Fortunately I just started a long-term contract gig so that takes a good bit of pressure off and with some of that pressure off I figured, what the heck, let's update The Nerduary.

That last time I posted anything was back in May, so let's see what I go into between then and now...

FINDING PAYING FREELANCE WORK

If you've never lived the life of a freelancer before know that it's exhilarating while being simultaneously terrifying. Exhilarating in that your fate is on your hands and terrifying... for the exact same reason. Being a freelancer took the absolute vast majority of all my waking hours.

VOLUNTEERING WITH HEROES CON

This being my fifth year attending HeroesCon, I decided to actually contribute something this go round. The staff gladly put me to work. How? By moderating a few panels, of course. And not just any two panels. Oh, no. I got to spend an hour each with two of my all time favorite creators.


Here I am chatting it up with Mark Waid...


... and here I am with one Jim Starlin (with Andy Smith who, I have to say was a pretty swell guy).


And, best of all, I didn't suck!

WRITING FOR OTHER SITES 

For as long as I can remember I've been a reader of Comic Book Resources. In fact, what comic fan doesn't at least know of the site? One of my personal goals has always been to write for CBR and since I was more than a little motivated to find opportunities since being laid off, I managed to get a pitch through.

And accepted.

I did a feature on Transformers Vs. G.I. Joe writer and artist Tom Scioli, one that I'd been wanting to do for a long, long time. Not only did it run, but feedback was much better than I could have anticipated and the door seems to be open for more work with CBR.

I've also been steadily contributing each week to Forces of Geek plus I'm about to start work on another giant feature for Back Issue Magazine on Jim Starlin and the various Infinity sagas.

GETTING READY FOR A BABY

When not looking for and working paid freelance gigs, I'm getting ready for a baby. I'm not going to lie; I had no idea just how much work went into preparing one's life for the arrival of a kid. None. Just when I think I've got everything squared away I find out that there's a half dozen other things I never even gave a passing thought to. It's scary and it's daunting and it's hella overwhelming. But, hey, people have been doing this over and over again with varying degrees of success for thousands and thousands and thousands of years. I mean, if pre-verbal hunter gatherers who look to the moon in fear can handle parenthood, I think I'll be perfectly fine. I think...

WHAT'S NEXT?

What's next? Next I try to get back into my own work. There's a moment when you're freelancing when you realize that it's not just all your time you're pouring into finding (and executing) paying work, but damn near all your creative energies as well. Next I get better at juggling. This is me getting the balls rolling.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

On X-Men: Days of Future Past


I don't have too much time, but I did want to comment on the big super hero movie of the weekend, X-Men: Days of Future Past.

Oh, and SPOILERS. Clearly...


The Good:

The Cast

I really can't think of any other super hero movie with a cast of actors of the caliber Singer had to work with in this film. Seriously, you usually don't get a cast like this unless you're Woody Allen or if you're making a Shakespeare adaptation. Having a cast with the likes of Patrick Stewart, Ian Mckellen, Michael Fassbender, Jennifer Lawrence, James McAvoy and pretty much everyone else in the film makes it easy to hide most plot holes. When you're focusing on top notch actors perfectly executing their craft, you tend to forgive or outright ignore any and all wonky science.

The Stakes

As good as most of the X-Men movies have been, the stakes have never really been that high, even under Bryan Singer's tenure (Magneto's plan to turn some humans into mutants in the first film is especially eye-rollingly bad). So watching the entire fates of both mankind and mutantkind hang in the balance for two hours was a pretty cool turn.

The Humanity

It's easy for a sense of humanity to get lost in a super hero film, but X-Men: Days of Future Past made damn sure to keep the humanity present at almost all times. With the exception of one character (more on that later), you totally got why each and every person on screen was doing what they were doing, good or evil. Everyone understood why Xavier had closed the school why Mystique had become a killer and why Magneto dropped a stadium on the White House lawn and damn near executed Nixon on national TV. But that's something Singer has always excelled at with his X-Men films, and it was nice to see that back in play.

Quicksilver

As I watched actor Evan Peters work cinematic magic in one of the best choreographed fight scenes ever put to film, all I could think was how Joss Whedon has his work cut out for him in putting his own Quicksilver to screen next summer. Yes. Quicksilver was that good in this film. Plus, we even got a subtle acknowledgment of his heritage which was more than a little nice.


Good-bye, X-Men: The Last Stand

If nothing else, if for some reason or another you hated X-Men: Days of Future Past, it will always be the movie that formally negated everything wrought by the abomination that was Brett Ratner's X-Men: The Last Stand. And for that, we shall always... ALWAYS... be grateful.

The Bad:

Trask

No, no, no, I'm not saying that Peter Dinklage somehow sucked. I don't even think that's possible. But when I was talking about the humanity present in all the characters and understanding why they were all doing what they were doing? Yeah, I didn't get that sense from Trask. I just got that he wanted to build mutant killing robots because mutant killing robots are cool. Which is sad, because if Dinklage has taught us anything it's that he can bring a sense of humanity and purpose to any and every scene ever thanks to his work on Game of Thrones. I just felt like his presence was wasted here.

Wonky Science

Look, I get it. Time travel is more fantasy than science, but even by the rule the movie set forth for how time travel works, they sure played fast and loose with them. While they said any changes Wolverine made in the past would be felt in the presence, that was never shown to be the case. Not to mention the fact that said changes would instantly negate the present/future, making the climactic battle in the present/future never happen and... ugh. Time travel, am I right?

A Catalyst For Dystopia

Just to be clear, killing one random scientist guarantees the hunting and extermination of the human race but a mutant terrorist dropping a stadium on the White House lawn and almost executing the president on on national TV ends in... not that? I mean, the U.S. invaded two countries and toppled their governments when a group of terrorists took down The World Trade Center. It rang false to me that there were no repercussions for mutants after Magneto's very public, very violent attack on something as iconic to America as the White House.

***

Like I said, though, I enjoyed the hell out of this film. It felt good to see Singer back in charge of things and it felt better to see another good X-Men film. Here's hoping Fox can keep it up and that Singer sticks around for a film or two...

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Forces of Geek and Old School Chris

As previously mentioned, a few weeks ago I started blogging for ForcesOfGeek.com. For some reason or another, site founder and editor Stefan Blitz thought I'd be a good fit for the site so now, every Friday, you can read a little column called Secret Origins by Chris Brennaman. I bring it up again because, hey, there's volume now.

Secret Origins is where I lay bare the key moments in my formation as a geek. In other words, I write about the shit that caught my attention as a young man and made me the bitter old-ish man I am today.

I say "old-ish" because, hey, I'm only in my mid-30s so back off.

So if you've ever wondered to yourself either silently or aloud, "hey, why is Chris Brennaman such a raging, self righteous asshole?" Well, now you can get some insight. This week's topic, Transmetropolitan!

Speaking of "formative" I keep running into this photo...


That's me and Mike Allred, circa 1997 at my first comic convention. I had just graduated from high school and had been wanting to go to a U2 concert. My dad and I were going to go together, but then he learned there was a con that same weekend and was all like "let's go get our geek on" and I was all like "Goddamn better believe!"

So me and dad spent four days together at a con. In hindsight so much better than a U2 concert (although I'm certain the concert was great). I have a whole lot more pics from that weekend in '97 but this is the one where I look the most full of hope, the most innocent. 

And Mike Allred ain't a bad lookin' guy, am I right, ladies? Huh? Huh?! Am I right?!?!

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

What The Hell Have I Been Doing For A Month?!?!

Neglecting this poor blog, evidently.

I tell, ya April got busy fast.

I write for ForcesOf Geek.com now. Yep, someone has decided that Ol' Chris should be given space on their website. Every Friday I write a piece called Secret Origins. The premise of Secret Origins is actually quite simple.

Each week I look at a comic, a TV show, a video game, anything really that I can point to having a major impact on me during my formative years. You can see my contributions so far here. And do check out the rest of the site while you're there because it's pretty fantastic. I also picked up a couple of freelance assignments that kept me busy, but still...

That's no excuse to continue neglecting The Nerduary. So there it is. Neglecting over.

Man, that felt good.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

On The Passing of The Ultimate Warrior


Having just been inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame this past Saturday, making his first appearance on Raw in 18 years this past Monday and after signing a multi-year contract to become a WWE ambassador, The Ultimate Warrior has died.

He was 54.

You can read proper obituaries here, here and here.

It’s always been hard for me to be a fan of The Ultimate Warrior. When he first debuted, I was at that age where Hulk Hogan was akin to a god.  So someone else competing for the Hulkster’s spotlight made me uncomfortable. Sure, like every other kid at the time, I couldn’t avoid being drawn in by his energy, his mystique and his batshit insane promos. But that’s about where it ended for me, and at Wrestelmania VI, when Ultimate Warrior challenged Hulk Hogan for the WWF Championship, I was rooting hard for Warrior to lose.

Needless to say there were tears in the Brennaman house that night.

Still, I enjoyed watching the guy in the ring, I enjoyed his rivalry with Macho Man Randy Savage and I enjoyed the hell out of watching him shake the ropes like he was some sort of wrestling ring safety inspector. I even got to see him perform live once and, boy howdy, let me tell ya, the guy knew how to whip a crowd into a frenzy.

That ability to work a crowd into a frenzy would, after his wrestling career came to a close, be used for evil. That's why I've always had a problem celebrating the man. Over the weekend, as I watched his WWE Hall of Fame induction, I couldn’t help but tweet on some of the actual hate Ultimate Warrior spewed in recent years. See, he became a prolific “motivational speaker” and his speeches were filled with some pretty terrible things. You can do a Google search to find some of the things he’s said, but to me the highlight will always be: “Queering doesn’t make the world work.” It’s hard to celebrate someone like that, even when they’re being inducted into a hall of fame, or making a celebrated return…

Or dead.

But, that doesn’t mean I can’t try to separate the art from the artist.

For wrestling fans, The Ultimate Warrior is so indicative of this one, magical moment in time when it seemed like super heroes actually walked among us. To watch an Ultimate Warrior match was to be almost overwhelmed with energy and excitement. Despite his world views, Ultimate Warrior’s return to WWE this past weekend did feel special. Watching his Hall of Fame induction speech and his speech Monday night on Raw did illicit feelings of closure while giving everyone a glimpse at a new beginning.


It’s sad that beginning is already over.


Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Come See Me On HuffPost Live With The Iron Sheik


I guess I didn't do a completely horrible job questioning Hulk Hogan on live Internet TV two weeks ago as the good folks at HuffPost Live emailed me yesterday asking if I wanted to come on with The Iron Sheik.

Of course I said yes. Who would say no to that?

The segment airs today at 3:30 p. EST. And no worries if you're reading this from the future as HuffPost Live segments are all archived.