Monday, April 24, 2017

2017 Cape-Con Recap

The day didn't start well, because whatever sinus infection my coworker came down with last week transferred itself to me midway through Friday and was in full effect by Saturday morning. Not great to deal with during the 3+ hour drive, combined with intermittent rain. It was bad enough that on the drive home, I had to wear my sunglasses even though it was completely overcast and raining, because the light was making my head hurt. But I made it.

It didn't seem as crowded in the main hall as I remember it being last year, which isn't great. But I stepped outside three times during the day including when I left, and every time, while there were people leaving, there were other people driving up and coming in. So maybe there was a steady churn. At some point I'd like to watch an aerial shot of the crowds inside the convention, see if there's a pattern to where they concentrate at certain times. I might walk past an artist's table at one point, and there's a huge crowd, and circle around 10 minutes later and it's empty. But now there's a bunch of people in an aisle a couple of rows over. Does seeing the crowd draw more people in, or send them away (you can guess which it does to me)?

I did not find the recently released comics I was searching for, so that narrator from Friday's post was correct. What a jerk. I did find some issues of Solo Avengers I was looking for, a couple of issues of Incredible Hulk, JSA All Stars, and some Marvel Comics Presents. There's a stretch in that book where Ann Nocenti keeps throwing Typhoid Mary at different characters, mostly Wolverine or Ghost Rider, which are at least interesting in theory. And you never know when they get a strong surprise artist in there, like Gene Colan or young Jae Lee drawing a story about the Beast.

I did not ever work up the nerve to actually talk to Mike Grell. I know, he's there to interact and talk, and sell some artwork, but I felt like I wasn't knowledgeable enough about his work to really talk with him. I just know enough to know Mike Grell is a big deal in the comic world, which is enough to make me not want to stand there shifting awkwardly from one foot to the other, trying to decide if I can buy a print or if I have a good question (fortunately there were a lot of other people not suffering from my social anxiety). It's one of those times I needed Alex there, since he can talk with anyone. But there was no chance of him waking up early enough to hit the road before 6:30 a.m. the way I planned. And I was not inclined to alter my plans to anyone else's whims this time.

I stopped by Brian Rhodes' table to pick up his new comic Six Legs, No Heart, which reminds me a bit of some of those '70s short stories Stephen King might do. What was that one about the rat-infested tunnel and the work crew at the factory? Night Shift? I bought three more prints from Brian Koschak, and I need to make it a point to hold back a little more money next year to commission a sketch from him. I did commission a Starfire sketch from Lorenzo Lizana, who drew the Darkhawk sketch for me last year. Learned that he was a participant in the same contest that got Mark Bagley hired by Marvel back in the day, and then spent several years in toy design for things like Mars Attacks! and the Lost in Space movie, before making his way back to comics. That was kind of cool, because I read about artists working in TV or movies when they aren't in comics, but I never really understood what that would entail.

I bought this really great Two-Face from Matthew Miller, who drew my Amanda Waller sketch last year. He had done one drawing of Harvey Dent, another of Two-Face, cut up the Two-Face side, then glued it on in a shattered mirror style to the Harvey Dent picture. The description doesn't doe it justice, but I had to get that one as soon as I saw it. I picked up a couple of Overwatch-related pieces for Alex, though that involved asking the artists who certain characters are. I basically know the little zippy on the box art, Tracer, and that wasn't one of Alex' favorites. We'll see if they suit him or not. I worry he might have wanted more badass, and these are going to trend towards cute, but oh well. One of those pieces came from Nick Minor, and going through his sets of prints, I realized I have more artwork by him than anyone else at this point. It was like, 'Got that one, ooh that looks- wait I have that, got that one, there's one I want!' I just really like his style.

It isn't all to my interests, but I do appreciate the variety of vendors. People selling comics, people selling arts, or jewelry, or cosplay stuff, or toys and other collectibles, or food. And I feel like there's a good balance between them, in terms of providing something for everyone. Obviously I would prefer nothing but people selling back issues or artists, but this is for your kids' amusement (the kids!)

I saw one table selling Heroclix, which was a disappointment, but I probably don't need to spend money on pieces for a game I never play anymore. But I might take it up again someday! There were a couple of other vendors I'm used to seeing I didn't this year. I don't know if they decided not to show up, or they were too late reserving a table.

On the way back, I stopped at a gas station and after I answered the guy behind the register's, "How's it going?" with "Not too bad," he said I looked like I had a bad day, based on my mumbled response. I told it was just my understated style, then wrecked my attempt at nonchalance when I put my bag of chips in my coat pocket and they tumbled out before I got out the door. But I made it halfway across the parking lot before I realized, and by the time I got back in, another customer had found them and returned them to the counter. That was embarrassing. *sad trombone*

But it was a really good day. Long, but really good.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Earthworm Jim 1.5 - Conqueror Worm

Plot: Having survived a death trap of Evil the Cat's, Jim showed off the Terlawk Mall to the Mighty Hamstinator. The Hamstinator got a little too excited in the copy store and tried to photocopy Jim, producing a smushed and blurry picture, which wound up in the landfill. Where it is naturally exposed to toxic waste, causing the copy to become a 3-dimensional, green version of Jim, bent on causing mayhem, robbing banks, and stealing condiments. Jim, suffering from a frozen yogurt hangover, believes he's developed a split personality and turns himself in. And is promptly sentenced to several life sentences in prison, minus his supersuit, with a cellmate who uses him as dental floss.

Meanwhile, Evil Jim wreaks havoc and possibly takes over the world. He at least has Congress declare him King, which, lets face it, our Congress would probably do in a heartbeat. Evil Jim: He's a strong leader, bleats Mitch McConnell's neck jowls. Good Jim, realizing Peter was right about it being the work of an evil twin, escapes from prison, right as Peter and Snot try to bust him out. They eventually meet at the lab where Jim's suit is being researched, only to find Evil Jim waiting. His attempt to kill them Goldfinger style fails, and Jim has to rush to stop his doppelganger from destroying the mall. Which he does, with yogurt.

And in the interlude, Bob the Goldfish learns how an educated populace is a danger to despots. Or he learned the lesson of not giving people super-powers without some way to control them. Either/or.

Quote of the Episode: Peter - 'I'm just the sugar, but I'm gonna barf too! And the jelly! Jelly barf!'

Times Peter loses control: 1 (4 overall).

Cow? Yes, an enormous cow destroyed the mall. If it had waited 10-15 years, the economy would have saved it the trouble.

Other: I think this is the first episode Peter used the 'I must not fear, fear is the mind killer. . .' mantra. It won't be the last. I think it's also the first episode we've seen Jim utilize spinning his head really fast so he can hover like a helicopter. Although it was Evil Jim that did it, as he was in the process of dismantling the Army like he was the Hulk.

Peter's puppet show to describe his angst to Snot (which is where the quote of the episode comes from) was, uh, really something. But he's constantly having characters tell us how they feel. That makes me feel angry!

During Jim's escape from prison, he demonstrated a worse sense of direction than Bugs Bunny. He also helped four lions escape captivity, so that's something.

To escape Evil Jim's death trap, Jim has Peter pull him from the suit by grabbing Jim's head with his foot, then implores Peter to, quote, whip him. Causing Peter to raise an eyebrow until Jim explains he means use him to a whip to pull the off lever for the laser. Peter, uh, Peter's got an interesting mind.

I was feeling kind of down partway through the episode, because the show seemed to be doing a much better job keeping Evil Jim as an opposite than I do in my stories. Then Jim pointed out Evil Jim should love losing since Jim hates it, and Evil Jim brushed that off with, 'Don't be so literal minded.'

Evil Jim loves drinking orange juice right after bushing his teeth, which is just horrible. That sensation is the worst. But there'll be no orange juice or toothpaste in prison, Just that large fellow using Evil Jim for dental floss.

Friday, April 21, 2017

What I Bought 4/20/2017

1-for-2 on the new comics this week. Maybe I'll have some luck tracking down the stuff from the last two weeks at Cape-Con tomorrow. Looking for comics at a comic convention? That's just crazy enough to work!

Narrator, three days from now: It didn't work.

Ms. Marvel #17, by G. Willow Wilson (writer), Takeshi Miyazwa (artist), Ian Herring (color artist), Joe Caramagna (letterer) -  I've really enjoyed Nelson Blake and Rachelle Rosenberg's covers for this story arc.

Zoe has to deal with school after all her unsent texts to Nakia were leaked by the virus, but her friends are there for support, which makes it a little easier. Kamala's plan for dealing with the virus involves getting her online guildmates to come to Jersey and play nicely on the game so the virus will learn to be nice instead. The plan sort of stumbles when Kamala runs into a parade, and the virus first possesses people, then manifests as a physical being itself, but she punches it into temporary oblivion.

I don't understand what went on at all. Last issue Kamala went to a spot with no one else around, no machines, or networks, to tell the virus to shove off when it had nowhere to jump to. But there were, according to Mike, thousands of copies of the virus that hadn't been overwritten by the niceness attack at the time she ran into the parade. Which is why it's still possessing and attacking people, but then I don't understand what Kamala was hoping to accomplish by getting to a secluded place again.

So the specifics are fuzzy to me, but the overall idea is a good one. The unintended consequences of casual cruelty or anger, things we create growing in ways we didn't intend or anticipate. But also the capability of people to come together and work towards a good end. Also, I laughed at how Kamala's attempt to disperse the crowd resulted in a panic. Superheroes yelling at you that you're in danger would tend to make a person freak out.

All the odd background details Miyazwa puts in there continue to amuse. Mike's apparent fascination with someone called "Sleep Guy", going by the posters over her bed. And the collection of oddballs in the Founder's Day parade. orange Bear Suit Guy. Scuba Guy. A guy on stilts wearing a lampshade over his head (and a shirt with a light bulb on it). Maybe that stuff is normal for those sorts of parades. I don't think I've ever been to one, so hell if I know. Also, I think Miyazawa went heavier on the inks in the panel where the virus emerges from the giant screen. More hash marks, thicker lines and shadows in places. Makes him look more ominous, and maybe out of place.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Violence Set To Music Sticks With Me, Apparently

Simple question for a post tonight: What are songs you link with a particular movie? Not songs written for that movie, but preexisting ones the film used, and now you think of that film when you hear the song?

I was watching a show with a bunch of music videos, and realized I hadn't seen several of the videos before. Instead I had scenes from films I associated with the songs.

At this point, both Salt-N-Pepa's "Shoop" and DMX's "X Gon' Give to Ya" are linked with Deadpool, for example. Or The Beat's "Mirror in the Bathroom" is tied to the high school reunion fight scene from Grosse Pointe Blank.

So what are some for you?

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Related 'Cause I Don't Understand Kids

Two tangentially related thoughts:

There was, a month or two back, a thread making the rounds on Twitter about how basically none of the major comic publishers make any comics suitable for kids age 5-7. Even the comics based on TV shows ostensibly for kids that age apparently had too many panels, too much dialogue, too many cultural references and in-jokes kids of that age wouldn't understand.

My initial reaction was that this was a load of bull, and not giving kids enough credit. I was introduced to comics when I was roughly five, and we're talking Claremont X-Men and Tom DeFalco-written Spider-Man comics. Neither of whom are authors known for brevity, and I won't claim to have understood everything (I had an issue from Kraven's Last Hunt, the one where Peter digs out of his own grave, and I sure as hell didn't know what was going on), but I understood enough to keep going. Though comics then would have generally done more to catch up the new reader each issue than comics now.

So I wondered if the writer wasn't selling kids short on their ability to comprehend and stick with a story. But I figured I didn't know, so leave it be.

Flash forward a couple of weeks, my TV is on and Teen Titans Go! is playing. Because if you have your TV on Cartoon Network at any point during the day, there's a 70% chance Teen Titans Go! is playing. I don't hate the show, though I find the jabs at the fans of the earlier Teen Titans show tiring, but sometimes it's funny, and sometimes it's just annoying, and the line is thin. But it's not for me, given the number of friends I have who tell me their kids or young nephews love it. And that's fine.

I don't remember which episode specifically I was watching, but it was one of the ones with the terrible "moral" at the end. There are a lot of those, where one of the Titans or the entire team do something awful or completely ignorant and the episode treats it as the right thing. Like the Titans becoming villains because being heroes was interrupting their goof-off time. Or eating unhealthy foods and wasting money to kill off their future selves who had come back to force them to eat better and be thrifty to prolong and improve their own lives (which, to be fair, I found pretty funny). Most anytime Robin's competitiveness causes him to behave like a dick, or the show rewards the other characters for willful ignorance. Etc., etc.

Whichever episode it was I saw, I wondered to myself if kids watching recognize the show is trying to be funny, and that the kids shouldn't try to apply the "lessons". My gut feeling is they do, because they know the show isn't trying to be serious, but I can't be sure. This isn't a pearl clutching thing, I'm not worried the kids are being corrupted, more just curious about how they perceive this versus how I do. Most of the cartoons when I was young were pretty aggressive with their messages of everyone getting along (except the bad guys, who were Bad), any differences being settled with everyone learning a valuable lesson at the end, drugs are bad. That kind of thing. A different experience.

I'm not drawing any sort of conclusion from either of these things, other than the one in the title of the post, which I already knew. But it was something I'd been mulling over for a few weeks.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Another Lukewarm Movie Review

Something else I did over the weekend at Alex' was watch Suicide Squad. Most of it. Well, part of it.

I could see some things in there that were good. Will Smith's personality didn't match a Floyd Lawton I was used to, but Floyd as he was presented in the '80s comics might have been a hard sell to audiences. And I tend to like Will Smith, so it's fine. Margot Robbie was Harley was OK, in that I thought she did well with what the film gave her. That feeling Harley's almost always either a) amusing herself, or b) trying to play everyone. Jai Courtney as Captain Boomerang, had some of the naked self-interest and sleaziness I enjoyed with old Boomerbutt, but maybe I missed the points where he showed more of Boomer's dangerous side.

I'm not sure why they went the direction they did with Enchantress (Cara Delevingne), with that outfit, and the swaying, and at one point I think she started talking in rhyme. Did they figure the look with the pointy witch hat was too silly? Or did they not want Margot Robbie to get lonely with the sexualization? Especially strange given her brother was this giant, almost armored, fiery looking guy. Hard to see the relation. Viola Davis did alright with what she was given as Amanda Waller, though, again, not quite all that I was hoping for. The whole bit with the binder full of files on the characters was kind of clunky as a expository device, but that's not Davis' fault. I did end up skipping the next bit of the film after that because I'd read that they go over all that stuff again right afterwards, which seemed stupid and pointless (I think I was also watching Star Trek Beyond and Jazz vs. Clippers at the time).

Every scene with Jared Leto in it was unpleasant. He's trying for this effect, but it's too obvious he's trying with how he moves to emphasize certain things. Course, I didn't see any point to having Joker in a damn Suicide Squad movie anyway. I know they figured it would goose interest to have a villain the public at large knows, I just don't care about that line of thinking. If we're dealing with a universe where Mistah J actually gives a shit about Harley as this one does, Waller wouldn't be stupid enough to put Harley on her team where she'd have to expect Joker to show up. In the comics, where the Joker would be too busy trying to kill Batman to care, she might try it, but here it's just a dumb decision.

Beyond that, I wasn't sure how much characterization was the movie and how much was me filling in gaps with stuff I know from comics. I thought it looked as though Diablo and Killer Croc might be turning into pals at one point, Diablo being the one who wasn't going to tease Croc about his appearance, but I'm not sure about that. I think, given time, this was a combination of characters that could make something interesting, but it didn't come together. Maybe use the time wasted on Joker on some of the rest of the cast instead.

I do appreciate that they went with a weird kind of threat, with an evil spirit possessing someone and trying to form a gateway back to her dimension and rule both. That's kind of out there, not mundane, not bickering about politics, so credit for going for something there, even if I'm not sure that's really a good mission for the Squad. It seems more like the kind of clusterfuck that would develop abruptly during some other, slightly more grounded mission they went on. Trying to stop some rival government's metahuman force and things get out of hand. Still, it was something.

I guess at some point I should try to watch the whole thing in one go and see if I like it any better, but it's hard to get fired up at the prospect of doing so.

Monday, April 17, 2017

Just Arguing About Smashmouth In Cracker Barrell

Spent the weekend at Alex, so did not get as much done as I intended, but it was a good weekend. On Saturday, we were having breakfast with one of his other friends on who was hanging out with us, and a music argument started up.

 I don't remember how it started, but Darren was speaking disparagingly of the music of the '80s and '90s, and the 2000s as well, he was undecided which of the three were the two worst decades for music. Especially in comparison. For the record, Darren's a little younger than me, so it isn't as though he grew up through the '60s or '70s, which he touted as being much better. He seemed annoyed especially by what he felt was a large number of one-hit wonders.

Anyway, he somehow settled on Smashmouth as indicative of everything bad about the more recent eras, because they made, quote, 'the douchiest song possible,' which I think was a reference to "All-Star", but could have been "Walking on the Sun". That everything was about just trying to cobble together something that would be super-popular, and there was no artistic drive involved.

Which, hell, could be true, probably even is true, but I countered - out of contrariness than any desire to defend Smashmouth - by asking if he believed that, for example, Creedance Clearwater Revival had made every one of their songs from a place of deep artistic vision. He conceded the point, sort of, though he and Alex both argued that CCR was writing their own songs, and there weren't a bunch of producers involved.

Again, sure, that's true for all I know. And I'm not going to try to argue for Smashmouth over CCR, but that wasn't really what I was interested in. I was more interested in the idea that the music from before Darren was alive was better than the stuff he lived through. It reminded me of the discussions about pitchers I see in baseball arguments. About why pitchers today can't throw as many innings as pitchers used to. But the arguments - while also ignoring differences in the game, ballpark dimensions, tape study, better drugs, whatever - cite the few pitchers who were able to do that. The Bob Gibsons, the Nolan Ryans, and so on, but ignore the legions of pitchers who were contemporaries of those guys who never came close. Who managed one, maybe two of those years, and then collapsed, or the guys who blew out their arms in the minors and never got close.

Survivorship bias. We look back and see the pitchers or bands that made it and think that's all there was. But for the stuff we lived through, we remember the ones who didn't have sticking power, and so there seems like a much lower percentage of big successes. Darren remembers all these one-hit wonders and bands he liked when he was younger he now knows were terrible, and sees an ocean of crap. But if he'd been alive in the 1960s, he'd have encountered a bunch of different bands he would have loved that faded into obscurity or that he hated once he got older.

Which doesn't dismiss his feelings about Smashmouth, but it was a discussion I enjoyed. Plus it prompted Alex to pose a poll online about Smashmouth vs. CCR just to tweak Darren, which CCR ultimately came from behind to win (after Darren posed a video of Alex scratching "Down on the Corner" on his turntables), which was funny to me.