Thursday, September 28, 2017

2017 Cincinnati Comics Expo

Last weekend was this year’s Cincinnati Comics Expo. For several reasons I could only attend one day this year, Sunday. As usual, my friends at Comic Book World had the biggest (and best) booth at the con.

The famous Comic Book World Booth
One thing I love about the Cincy con is that they have lots of comic book dealers. In this day of cons featuring media celebs, wrestlers and cosplay professionals, the Cincinnati Expo likes and features comic dealers of all stripes. Folks were there with quarter boxes (haven’t seen that for a while), dollar boxes and walls full of primo key books for thousands of dollars apiece. There was something for every budget. There were also dealers with comic-related art, posters, clothing, props and weapons.

A Cheesecake art booth. Nice art!
David Bradley

I first walked by the media celebrity tables. I really wanted to meet actor Cary Elwes of The Princess Bride. I read his book about that movie and it was a hoot. He was the con’s biggest media guest and they had been pushing his appearance for almost a year. He cancelled a week before the con. Not sure why, but if it wasn’t an emergency that was a jerky thing to do. I next looked for actor David Bradley, Filch from the Harry Potter movies. He just wrapped up the fourth and last season of The Strain and I loved his performance as the crusty old professor and monster killer Abraham Setrakian. Of course, he had cancelled too. I did meet up with character actor Jason Isaacs. I mentioned he creeped me out with his performance as a New England gangster in the cable show Brotherhood. I’ve spoken with several bad guy actors and movie villains now, and it amazes me how they justify the behavior of their characters. In response, he said, “Yeah, but he had morals and did the right
Jason Isaacs
thing sometimes.” I pointed out that he killed innocent people (and many deserving ones). Isaacs replied, “Sure, but he tried to do the right thing.” That’s interesting. In the show, Isaacs’ character Michael Caffee terrorized his girlfriend, murdered innocent people and threatened anyone he could to get his way. He really was an amoral scumbag who deserved to be removed from the planet for the good of humanity. But the actor who played him only saw the character’s redeeming features, as few as there were. I supposed actors are human and have to survive playing evil people, so they cling to anything good or not wicked about their character. That was an interesting conversation.

L to R: Matt, Ty Templeton, Ted
I next ran across my friends Matt and Ted, waiting for Ted’s sketch from comic artist Ty Templeton. He was drawing Jack Kirby creation Big Barda for Ted (shhhh—I think Ted as a bit of a fetish for Barda—not that I blame him). Matt showed me the Steve Canyon Templeton had drawn for him the day before (shhhhh—I think Matt has a bit of a fetish for Steve Canyon). Here’s the drawing, which I loved:

Steve Canyon by Ty Templeton
I didn’t go to any panels this year, but I did take a few cosplay photos:

Poison Ivy - Excellent costume

Not sure and a Disney Princess

Star Wars Character

Another family that cosplays together ... 

Star Wars pilot and a Sith Cheerleader. Really. 

Suction-cup tip Green Arrow and the Joker

The best Harley Quinn at the show

Emma as a female Joker

Black Cat & Kingpin

Movie Wonder Woman. I approve!
A working R2-D2
A fun con, as always. Hopefully not as many guests will cancel next year. Either way, it is not the con organizer’s fault—some things just can’t be helped. 

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Punisher TV Show: Latest Trailer

The new Punisher TV show trailer from Netflix gets the Humble Opinions 100% approval rating. Can't wait!

Sunday, September 3, 2017

Evansville Museum Geek & Comicon

Last Saturday, August 26th, was the first annual Geek & Comicon hosted by the Evansville Museum in Indiana. Organized by Evansville librarian Karen Malone (with advice and help from my friend Ted Haycraft), this first show was well attended and had some excellent panels.
Early on, Ted asked Ye Author to be part of a panel called “The Ins and Outs of Comic Book Collecting." Since I have collected since before I could read and have more comics than any sane person should have, it was probably a good match. My friend Matt and I set out early Saturday morning for Evansville. Here are some highlights of the con.
Ted Haycraft on left
Here Ted warms up for the first panel of the day, “Attending Cons 101.” No one was sure how many folks would come, to the con or to the panel. Turns out a few folks wandered in and soon the Planetarium where most panels were held had a good crowd gathered.

Ted and Kyle Starks
Here Ted interviews comics creator Kyle Starks about his independent comics work, especially his work on the Rick & Morty comic. His graphic novel Kill Them All comes out later this year.

This gentleman did a wonderful job on a panel entitled “Captain America as a Propaganda Tool During World War II.” He adapted his Master’s Thesis into an hour-long talk filled with little-known facts about Cap and comic book WWII propaganda. It was incredibly interesting. He really got into it, with his helmet and shield.

Ins and Outs of Collecting Comics panel
Ye Author (middle) gets a word in
Above are a few shots from my panel on collecting comics. I had two knowledgeable comic book dealers on either side of me, so it was tough to get a word in edgewise. I did manage to mention my life-long love of telling stories with words and pictures, and how modern comics are too expensive. But whatcha gonna do?

Ted's Jack Kirby Tribute Panel
The last panel of the day was a Jack Kirby tribute from Ted “The Man” Haycraft himself. Although it was a challenge to squeeze even an overview of King Kirby into 60 minutes, Ted did a brilliant job, enthusiastically expounding on the man and his works. He opened many young eyes up to Kirby’s legacy—I hope those kids will seek out his stories and enjoy them half as much as we do.

With all modern comic conventions, cosplayers are along for the ride. Here are a few from the show.

After the show, a starving Matt and I accompanied the Evansville comics crew to a well-deserved feast. A fine group of men:

All in all a great way to spend the day. I look forward to an even bigger show next year!

Monday, August 28, 2017

Happy 100th Jack "King" Kirby

Today we recognize and salute the 100th birthday of Jack Kirby, born as Jacob Kurtzberg. Jack was born on the Lower East Side of Manhattan in New York 100 years ago today.

Jack Kirby was one of the most powerful, creative and prolific artists who ever lived. Everything he did resonated with mad ideas and energy. He didn’t live to see himself become the world-renowned superstar he is today, but I think he’d be happy knowing that his creations will live forever. Thanks for everything, Jack. 

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Fans Strike Back against SJW Marvel

It’s sad to think what (SJW) Marvel Comics has become. Instead of telling adventure stories about heroes and villains and good vs. evil, SJW Marvel has chosen to publish comics about social issues, alternative lifestyles and how racist/intolerant/xenophobic, etc. America is. Of course their traditional audience has fled in droves, decimating their sales and crashing the company’s comic publishing division. What is Marvel’s response? More SJW characters. Fewer classic characters. No stories about heroes fighting villains (unless those villains are Christians, conservatives or businessmen—those evils exist at Marvel to be killed or beaten vociferously).

Diversity & Comics is one of the many YouTube Channels run by an unhappy fan who, like me, detests this new SJW Marvel. The host is a talented artist and insightful commentator with excellent judgment and a refreshing sense of humor. He is fighting for Marvel to bring back intelligent stories with no agenda and no ax to grind. That’s all we ask!

One of the running jokes on Diversity is about Marvel’s new Iron Man, RiRi Williams. For those who haven’t heard, RiRi is a teenaged black girl who stole materials from MIT to make her own version of the Iron Man armor. She is immediately feted by the world for being a savior and genius, the most heroic heroine who ever lived, despite having no real accomplishments except theft and good technical knowledge. RiRi is an obnoxious, clueless character who actually asks other people to denounce her so she can claim racism. While SJW Marvel lifts her up as a heroine, Diversity has a running gag that she is really meant to be a super-villain. To this end, Diversity’s host has commissioned a satirical comic story about RiRi as villain. It’s only ten pages and is hilarious. 

Here is the video where Diversity explains the project: 

And here is the actual comic, which anyone can read free of charge:

Diversity has other such stories planned tweaking different books and characters at SJW Marvel. Fans have been fed up for years that our characters are killed or replaced and our beliefs are mocked by a company we used to love. It’s about time someone struck back. And the way they do it is delicious. This isn’t just about mocking SJW Marvel. It’s about returning sanity and the characters we love to the company. Check it out. Again, this and all subsequent stories will be free to readers.

Rating: ***** out of 5

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Movies: Spider-Man: Homecoming (or The Pathetic Spider-Boy) *SPOILERS*

There are three major rules to making a good superhero movie: 1. Trust your source material. 2. Trust your source material. 3. See Rules 1 & 2. I know many people (and many friends of mine) liked it, but to me Spider-Man: Homecoming was mostly a drastic, politically correct misfire.

Let start with a few things I liked. Tom Holland is pretty good as Spider-Man. He’s a little young, but can probably play Spider-Man for the next 20 years if he desires. Michael Keaton was enjoyable as the Vulture, a bad guy who isn’t truly evil. He believably thinks he’s doing the right thing for his family after being screwed over by a cold, uncaring system. The CGI and FX were great, as always.

The bad: nearly everything else. Again, has ANYONE connected with this movie read a Spider-Man comic? Unfortunately, probably not, unless you count those awful Ultimate stories. I don’t, those weren’t real comics. The supporting cast is irritating. Peter’s best friend Ned (Jacob Batalon) just exists to shout things the movie is already telling us visually. “OH MY GOD! You can walk on ceilings!” “OH MY GOD! You can shoot webbing!” “OH MY GOD ... “ You get the message. Ned, simmer down. He’s Spider-Man. We get it. For some reason, bully Flash Thompson is now an angry Indian boy. That is some inexplicable PC casting. Laura Harrier as Liz does well as Peter’s crush, who actually likes him back. Of course she is shuffled out for the super-annoying Michelle (Zendaya, whoever that is) who has no earthly reason to be in this movie, other than she is a Disney Channel star and they own Marvel. Her character is obnoxious and toxic. The only redeeming feature is that she wasn’t playing Mary Jane (Peter’s girlfriend from the comics and movies) or his love interest. Imagine my bubble bursting when she announces at the end of the movie that her friends call her “MJ.” No. MJ is Mary Jane Watson, not you. This character could ruin the entire franchise. Neither the actress or the character worked on any level. 

The largest problem with the film is that the Pathetic Spider-Boy (title stolen from Diversity & Comics’ review of the film, check it out here) is a failure. In the comics, Peter Parker sure has his share of bad luck, but he mostly manages to save the day and defeat the bad guys. This Peter is a total knob. He manages to accidently destroy an ocean liner, then can’t keep it from collapsing without the help of another hero. In the end, he is soundly beaten by the Vulture, and would have been killed if the Vulture’s armor hadn’t self-destructed. He’s a screw-up and loser. He and his friends are supposed to be around 15 years old, but they act as if they are 10 or 11. OH MY GOD! YOU CAN STICK TO WALLS!   

The great Robert Downey Jr. with Tom Holland
Another problem is that Spider-Man’s uniqueness and intelligence are downplayed if not outright eliminated. In the comics, Peter Parker invents his web-shooters and web-fluid, sews his own costume and figures out the hero thing mostly himself. Being indirectly responsible for the death of his beloved Uncle Ben has put a weight on his shoulders--a weight that helps make him a true hero (as shown beautifully in the Sam Raimi Spider-Man films). In Homecoming, Ben Parker isn’t even mentioned. Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) invents the web-shooters, gives Peter a hi-tech costume and basically invents Spider-Man. What does Peter do, except lose at every major task assigned him? He screws up so badly that Stark takes away his costume and gadgets in the middle of the movie, and HE DOESN’T GET THEM BACK! Spider-Man goes through the last half of the movie in a sweatshirt and sweatpants. That was infuriating. I paid $11 to see Spider-Man, not Sweatshirt Boy. Who wants to see that? This is true numbskull writing and directing.

Tomei, not Aunt May
Finally, I’m not sure what to make of Marisa Tomei as Aunt May. Every Aunt May in comics and the movies has been an elderly woman. Tomei is a very well kept 52 and looks much younger. Tony Stark flirts with her regularly. This isn’t the worst thing in the world, but she’s not Aunt May. Read a comic, producers!

Should every superhero movie be exactly like the comics in every way? No. I realize that certain changes sometimes have to be made for different mediums. However, why make a movie with Spider-Man as your source material, then ignore everything that made that character great? I’d understand if this was 1975 and the film was made by a studio that looked at Marvel like a cockroach. However, Marvel Studios was partially responsible (with Sony) for this movie! What hope do we have of anything being adapted well when the company that owns the character can’t get inspiration from their own source material?

The Spider-Man franchise has nowhere to go but up. I hope they make it there. This movie is not recommended.

Rating: ** stars out of 5

Monday, July 3, 2017

TV Rampage! Netflix Originals: Gypsy, GLOW and Small Crimes

TV Rampage!

Let’s look at some recent Netflix originals, shall we?

What could be better than a psychosexual romp with such a great cast? Watching paint dry, actually. Naomi Watts, a fine actress, plays a therapist who is bored with her perfect life and loving husband (Billy Crudup), and decides to look up exciting people in her patient’s lives. I made it through three episodes of ten before slamming the door on this one. Firstly, her life is actually perfect. She is rich, beautiful, has a fulfilling job. Any material object she desires is at her fingertips. Her seven-year old daughter is going to be gay or transgender (telegraphed so obviously it devolves into camp—is being a boy REALLY the only thing a seven-year old would think about?), but other than that her life is trouble and stress free. Of course she’s bored, she has everything! The character violates all kinds of ethics has no moral compass or conscience. There is very little story here, this is someone’s vanity project with themselves as the audience.

From its laughable PG-rated sex scenes to the glacial pace, Gypsy is TV for rich housewives on Manhattan’s Upper East Side. It’s boring with an unlikable, morally challenged main character. I’d rather watch a slide show of my great uncle’s vacation to Bronson, Missouri.

Rating: ** stars out of 5

GLOW is a ½-hour comedy based on the great ‘70s organization, Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling. The point-of-view character is Ruth Wilde, played by Alison Brie (Mad Men). Ruth is a down on her luck actress, tired of playing background characters with stunning lines such as, “Your wife is on line 1.”

Reluctantly, Ruth joins the fledgling wrestling group Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling, intended to be a syndicated wrestling show. These first ten episodes tell the story of the formation of the league and making the pilot of the syndicated show.

This first season is incredibly well written and humorous. The characters, relationships and situations are a riot and constantly urged viewers to think “I wonder if this really happened?” One of the most interesting aspects of the show is how each lady finds her wrestling persona. From the offensive black woman known as “Welfare Queen” (“I eat like royalty on food stamps ... paid for by the American taxpayer!”) to the Party Girl and Wolf Girl, the organization capitalizes on the zeitgeist of 1970s America. Ruth’s struggle to find her wrestling alter ego is challenging, but when she finally discovers it, the character is perfect for Ruth, the actress playing her and the show.

I can’t wholly recommend the show because of Ruth’s character. She’s hideous. She sleeps with her best friend’s husband in the pilot (which sets up a season-long dramatic arc), and makes another choice midway through the season which portrays her as a horrible person, one whom I don’t want to support or watch. It’s not so much what she does, but how cavalierly she does it. There’s no regret or recrimination, her career and selfishness easily comes before anything else. This stops her from being a sympathetic or likable character.

While I can’t recommend the series, it was funny and entertaining, except for Ruth’s character.

Rating: ** out of 5 stars

Small Crimes
I enjoy crime movies, but there has to be more to the story than a sociopathic thug beyond redemption. Unfortunately that’s all there is to this Netflix misfire. Nikolaj Coster-Waldau (Game of Thrones) plays Joe Denton, a cop sentenced to prison for attempted murder. He is released on parole and returns to his community, ostensibly to redeem himself. He doesn’t. He immediately gets involved with the bad people who put him there and continues his criminal career. At first he avoids causing any harm, more out of a sense of not wanting to go back to prison than any thoughts of humanity or doing the right thing. But eventually his actions damage his new nurse girlfriend (the great Molly Parker) and his supportive parents.

Denton is a one-man wrecking crew, steamrolling through the city and its inhabitants to get what he wants. He is evil and beyond redemption. The only thing that humanizes him is his wish to reconnect with his two daughters, a desire the courts and his parents intelligently deny him. At the end of 90 minutes, Small Crimes has added nothing to the world; no lessons, no hope, no insights into the human condition (other than scorpions sting people, big news), and no entertainment value. Avoid this one. Again, reprehensible characters are fine—but they have to be three-dimensional. Joe Denton is not, despite a fine performance by Coster-Waldau.

Rating: ** out of 5 stars

It’s almost comforting to know Netflix isn’t perfect. With its excellent track record of continuing cancelled series (Longmire) and high-quality original content (Stranger Things, Orange is the New Black) they seemed bulletproof for a while. But the more original material they create, the more mistakes they will make. Welcome to real life, Netflix!