Three guys talking about comic books, sports, movies, TV shows and the numerous other pastimes that make us Gentlemen of Leisure.

Thursday, January 31, 2008

Baptismal of Hope


My name is Adam James Pankratz. I was born one minute past midnight on June 29th, 1979 and I am extremely opinionated.

I like tigers, sushi, political discussions, hockey, Anna Kournikova, milk, learning, white chocolate, creating, fantasy baseball, making out, Chai tea, poker, The Sandman by Neil Gaiman, Tom Waits, taking pictures, wine, Terry Pratchett, The White Stripes, Wes Anderson, Turkish music, bacon, Civilization IV, The Colbert Report, and above all else but below God, writing. Allahu Akbar . . .

When I grow up I want to earn a living by writing.

A confession – I fully realize and acknowledge I am a hack writer. Ask me what a gerund is; I don’t know.

Why would someone pursue a career in a field he claims to be deficient in?

Passion.

Much like the un-athletic, scrawny kid who tries out for the football team year after year but is always delegated to waterboy, I compile notebooks of ideas and unfinished stories with the hope that someday a prestigious editor will rummage through my jottings and be inspired to release me upon the world.

So far I’m still on the literary bench providing towels and liquid hydration.

We writers are a precarious lot. We harvest an unholy self-righteousness in the belief our opinions are correct and should be shared with as many people as possible while secretly we are crumbling inside from our vacillation and emotional instability. Writers need lots of hugs.




Enter the blog-o-sphere – this wonderful network of idiosyncratic meanderings on the World Wide Web. Blogging gives us writers what we so desperately crave – attention. Reply to our posts and answer our polls. Whether positive, negative, or homicidal in tone, the recognition that you are reading the words we’ve strung together is the literary equivalent of cuddling with Scarlet Johansson next to a cracking fire.

As aforementioned, I am very opinionated. My goal in becoming a Gentleman of Leisure is to express these opinions on anything that tickles my fancy and, in doing so, to open a conversation between reader and writer, swapping viewpoints and creating ideas. I know my opinions aren’t always justified or grounded. Hopefully something worthwhile and positive can be generated through this interaction.

My name is Adam James Pankratz and I hope we can enjoy the time we spend together.

boots~

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Not Patriotic

So, the Superbowl is coming up and I'm sure you're all wondering who I'm rooting for. Well the answer to that is simple: the New York Giants. The bigger question should be who are you rooting for? And the answer should be, again, the New York Giants. The Patriots aren't worthy of your support and I'll tell you why. These are my top 5 reasons you should root against the New England Patriots.

5. Boston Wins Too Much
Am I wrong? I mean, in this decade the Patriots have won 3 Superbowls and the Red Socks have won 2 World Series. This year the Patriots are undefeated and the Celtics are the best team in the East. So maybe it's just sour grapes. Or maybe it's because their success seems to be done on the backs of ex-Minnesota guys like David Ortiz, Kevin Garnett, and Randy Moss. The bottom line is Boston wins too much and it's time they're knocked down a peg.

4. Tom Brady
Yes, NFL's so-called golden boy is certainly a reason to root against the Patriots. I mean, he has those flowing golden locks, a shapely butt, a cool, suave attitude, and he doesn't play football, he blesses the sport with his presence. Seriously, this guy can do no wrong. Even when he has a bad game (like two Sundays ago) his team still wins. It's annoying.
Beyond that, I believe in karma and laws of equity and conservation of mass and such, so I did some calculating. Apparently, in order for Tom Brady to exist, 500 def, dumb, blind, crippled, mentally handicapped children needed to be born. That's wrong, Tom Brady, that's just plain wrong.

3. Bill Belichik
What an ass. I mean...seriously...what an ass. This is a guy who will walk into a room and with one look of disdain you'll know that A. He knows more about football than you do B. You can't comprehend just how much he actually knows about football and C. Him knowing more about football than you makes him an all around better person than you. A-S-S.
Remember when Bill Belichik cheated? Yeah, he had some intern dress up as a reporter and had them try to tape the Jets' sideline during a game. That's illegal in the NFL. That's cheating. Well the media has certainly forgotten it happened. Apparently cheating is OK as long as you win a lot.

2. Rodney Harrison
This guy was voted by the league as the 'dirtiest player' in football in two years: 2004 and 2006. He's been fined multiple times for cheap and dangerous hits. Oh, and he was suspended 4 games for taking performance enhancing substances...this year. (Yes, the very same substances that baseball players get crucified by the media for taking.) Apparently in football taking chemicals to boost performance is OK, but in baseball you have to go before congress. But I'm getting off track. The bottom line is Rodney Harrison is cheap and a cheater but you can cheer for him and his team if you want to...if you have no soul.

1. Randy Moss
I actually hear Minnesotans talk about how they're glad to see Randy Moss finally get to the Superbowl and finally get his chance at a ring. I make sure I'm not eating at the time or I may end up puking the food up.
Randy Moss pretty much screwed over the Vikings. When Randy wasn't taking plays off because of boredom he was happily toking the ganga and running over meter maids. Not only was he a distraction to the team off the field, but if the team fell on any sort of hard times he was a detriment on the field. Randy Moss was a selfish player who played when and only when he wanted to play.
We dumped him off in Oakland where he proceeded to be a non-factor. He finally goes to the Patriots and now suddenly he's good? He was mediocre to bad for 3 to 4 season before the Patriots and do we think he magically found talent simply by walking into the Patriot's locker room? Hell no. Randy Moss was simply dogging it in Minnesota and Oakland because he didn't feel like playing. Randy Moss will only play well when the team is playing well. If he feels the team is no good he'll quit, plain and simple. Which is why the Patriots are perfect for him, because they're always good.
But the Patriots being a good fit for Randy still doesn't excuse his behavior. He's a player who needs to be elevated and refuses to elevate anyone else.
Maybe if Randy Moss was like Kevin Garnett, a guy who gave his all and always tried to win no matter the obstacles, then I would be glad to see him get a championship. But Randy Moss is no Kevin Garnett.
So when people call Randy Moss the greatest wide receiver ever, I gag. He may be the wide receiver with the best physical talents but to be the 'greatest' you need something Randy Moss simply doesn't have: heart.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Sarah Connor Chronicles 1x03: The Turk

For the first time, Sarah’s opening and closing voice over actually made sense. Maybe the metaphor this time was less obtuse, or maybe I’m just too obtuse to really understand the first two. Trite as it may be, I liked the atom bomb scientists/Skynet creator parallel that was drawn throughout this episode.


Why does the Glaubot have such a hard time blending in now? In the pilot she fooled John (this ep even pointed that out, so the writers are at least aware of it) and passed as human for 73 days yet she seems almost Data-like now, rattling off synonyms and not understanding idioms. Obviously the producers are aware of this inconsistency, which is good, as long as they actually address it at some point. Don’t bring up your plot inconsistencies unless you’re prepared to address them on the show. I saw a comment online speculating that perhaps the reboot she experienced in the second episode when the safe knocked her out caused all her “act like a human” programming to get wiped. Works for me, if that’s the way they want to go.


The scene at the school entrance with the metal detectors reminded me of an issue of X-Men (Uncanny 158) in which Storm and Wolverine sneak into the Pentagon disguised as Army officers only to have Wolverine set off the metal detector. He produces a card which states he has metal implants due to war injuries. Yes, I am a geek.


I liked how Tarissa Dyson was less than surprised that Sarah was alive. The actress plays the character with a sort of resignation at the fact that this crazy lady is just always going to keep popping up in her life and there’s nothing she can do about. Very refreshing compared to the extreme disbelief or blinding rage that often informs such characters in the same kinds of situations.


Okay, so I get that the blond suicide girl slept with a teacher or something, but didn’t the doorway paintings seem strangely elaborate? I mean, who had the time to do that, without anyone noticing? Wouldn’t someone spray painting “slut” across her locker or something seem more like something a kid in high school would do? Instead some disgruntled painter turns the walls of the school into an enormous comic book all so to subtly drive this girl nuts? Maybe they’ll go somewhere with it, but if the whole situation was just to set up John’s line about how it’s not worth fighting the robots if they’re just going to be robots themselves, it all seems strangely odd and elaborate for such a seemingly throwaway bit.


Curious to see where the FBI agent subplot is going; as he continues to get further evidence that maybe Sarah isn’t so crazy, will he be stubbornly disbelieving or grudgingly accepting of what the evidence is telling him? Or something else entirely?


I’m no judge of good acting or chemistry, but I enjoyed the scenes between Andy and Sarah. I thought he did a good job of being geeky yet charming enough to not make it easy for Sarah to just cap him one. I appreciated her solution to what was essentially the old “would you go back in time to kill Hitler’s mom, even though she’s innocent?” problem. I appreciate it all the more for the fact that it remains to be seen how much destroying the Turk actually delays the war and whether or not killing Andy would have made a bigger difference (particularly since the internet tells me that the original Turk that Andy mentions was actually a hoax (there was a midget inside the box, apparently). With that in mind, was this Turk a hoax too, meaning its destruction (or continued existence) would have no bearing on the future?). I wouldn’t mind seeing Andy pop up again at some point.


When he first came on screen, I recognized the actor that played the scientist who gave the Terminator new skin and his eyes. My brain whirled about for a few moments and finally realized that he had a bit part in Love Actually. Yes, I am lame.


As someone who wants to see more of John being a leader of men and less a whiny teen, I appreciated the scene where Sarah told him about the Turk and the twenty questions he fired off about it, which reminded us that he has always been a “computer person”, a skill that will likely come in handy when he’s leading a resistance army against evil computers.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

A Few Thoughts on the Oscar Nominations

  • I hope the strike is settled so we actually get an Oscars ceremony, and not just a press conference. I know, I’m weird, but I actually like the show itself, with its inflated sense of self worth and long winded production numbers. Plus, Jon Stewart is hosting again. Latest word on the strike is that the writers and producers are talking again (or at least talking about talking again) so maybe they’ll get something worked out. The recent DGA settlement will surely help things along.
  • No big surprises here regarding the best picture nominations. Michael Clayton was a little surprising, since it came out a few months ago and academy voters have short memories, but it did get nothing but rave reviews when it was released. And Juno, despite countless positive reviews, was a bit of surprise for a best picture nomination, simply because it’s the kind of light-hearted, humorous movie the academy tends to overlook despite its quality (thank last year’s Little Miss Sunshine for helping make the inclusion of such films seem less surprising then they once were).
  • Javier Bardem is my first official lock to win his award; for a film about which nothing but positive things continue to be said, he received more praise than anyone else for his role as the heartless and unstoppable assassin Anton Chigurh.
  • Speaking of Best Supporting Actor, I think they should change the name to the Phillip Seymour Hoffman Award; the dude gets nominated every year it seems.
  • We can now say “Transformers: Nominated for Three Academy Awards.” Still a shame Judd Nelson’s stellar voice work in the original Transformers movie went unnoticed by the academy…
  • In the Best Original Song category, I’m flashing back to the early nineties, what with Alan Menken nominated for three different songs from one Disney movie. Traditional wisdom has it that multiple nods for one movie in one category cancel each other out, but that didn’t stop Menken from cleaning up awards back in the second Golden Age of Disney films.
  • For the record, as a native Minnesotan, contrary to what our media may think, I don’t really care about all the “Minnesota connections” to the Academy Awards this year. Seriously, are other states as desperate as Minnesota to connect, no matter how tenuously, all national news items to the local scene somehow?
  • I’ve actually heard of two of the best documentary feature nominees (No End in Sight and Sicko) this year.
  • I continue to have never heard of (let alone seen) any of the live action or animated shorts noms.
  • Surfs Up gets the third animated feature nomination? Seriously? I mean, it’s obvious Ratatouille will win the award, but still, don’t just hand out the third nomination. I mean, sure, the Simpsons movie isn’t going to win, but I’d rather see it get the nod than yet another animated penguin movie in which the penguins all participate in a specific human activity.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Packers: NO SOUP-ER BOWL FOR YOU!!!

Sunday, January 20th, 10:00 PM. The Giants just beat the Packers in overtime on an improbable 47 yard field goal in subzero temperature set up by a Brett Favre interception. Eli Manning stepped to the podium for his post-game press conference. He couldn't help but smile.
Michael Brick of the New York times asked the first question. "Eli, what was the key to your success tonight?"
"Well, I'll tell ya," Eli smirked while speaking with the slightest hint of a southern drawl, "I was in a good mindset. I was a bit nervous, a bit jacked up, and my adrenaline was pumping. There was just the right amount of urgency in my attitude to keep me performing at an elite level."
"Was there anything that could have derailed you?" Brick followed up.
"Only one thing really." Eli continued. "If I was able to watch Seinfeld yesterday I would have been too relaxed. That show is just too funny. I would have came out tonight too loose, unable to concentrate, and chuckling to myself all the time. My mind wouldn't have been on playing football. It's a good thing Seinfeld wasn't on TV locally yesterday or this game would have ended a lot differently."

Monday, January 21, 2008

Sarah Conner Chronicles

I was planning on doing a review of the first two episodes of the Sarah Connor Chronicles, but now it’s a week later, and a new episode is on, so instead here’s my quick take on it. And hopefully, I’ll get a review of tonight’s episode up in a timely fashion.

Short version? It’s okay; not great, not terrible. I’m intrigued enough by what we’ve seen so far to keep watching. I’m a fan of the Terminator films, inasamuch as I’ve seen and enjoyed all three films-numerous times, in the case of the first two. (And yes, I even liked the third one). But I’ve never embraced the larger “expanded universe” of the franchise through books and comics, the way I have other properties. Still, the mythology of the Terminator stories is built on some of my favorite sci-fi tropes: time traveling in order to change the future, apocalypses that must be avoided, ordinary people with significant destinies and killer robots. Add to the mix the fact that right now, there ain’t a whole lot else on TV and I’m in a pretty good place to enjoy this show.


Some other points:

  • Summer Glau makes a good Terminator, and there is clearly something different about her (compared to the other cyborgs, even the good ones). Hopefully that’s part of the story, and not just the way she’s playing the part. She said she’s from 2027, which is two years earlier than the time Kyle Reese and Ahnuld came from in the first movie. Just worth noting, in case Cameron turns out to be some kind of advanced model. Then again, maybe the events of T2 (which already pushed back Judgment Day) also screwed around with the timeline in other ways and its best not to think about.
  • Lena Headey doesn’t bring the same intensity to Sarah Conner that Linda Hamilton did, but I doubt that intensity would work for a weekly TV show.
  • At some point, I hope we see John do something that foreshadows his role as savior of mankind. I get that he’s a troubled teenager, and his struggle with his destiny is a metaphor for what all teens deal with and blah blah, but at some point, we need to see that he’s on his way to becoming a great leader. At least Edward Furlong in T2 had some computer skills (and I know the show has Sarah putting the kibosh on John using those) and one of the things I liked about T3 was how even though John wasn’t yet a great leader, he was cunning and we could see how becoming one was just around the corner. Basically, what I’m saying is I want to see a John Connor on this show that falls somewhere between “Mankind’s Savior” and “Mom, I can’t find the turkey.”
  • I like the notion of other resistance fighters being in the past, and the whole idea that the war of the future is being fought in the past; after all, if both sides possess time travel capabilities, it makes sense to use it to expand the conflict, and not just to kill John.
  • I’m not sure why they had to time jump into 2007 (other than Dr. Bitz’s theory that the producers were too afraid of having to keep everything “dated” to 1999) but I guess I have no issue with it in principal. I certainly like the idea that they jumped over Sarah’s death. Although technically, the movies had established that time travel was one way (you couldn’t jump ahead). Maybe they just meant it was one way once you were in the past, because there was no time machine to send you back, unless the resistance sends an engineer even further into the past to make one with present day parts. (Hell, Doc Brown did it in the Old West). Or maybe the willingly goofed in order to get the characters to 2007. Still, one way or the other, I hope its addressed at some point.
  • Also, metal can’t time travel. So how did the 1999 Terminator’s head travel along with them (it looked to me like the blast that knocked his head off also blasted off his skin covering; maybe I’m wrong)?
  • I had heard before the pilot aired that the events of this show force the events of T3 to exist in an “alternate timeline.” Having watched it, I’m not sure exactly why they had to do that (obviously, because they jumped ahead to 2007. But again, I’m still not sure they “needed” to have them jump ahead). Knowing it going in made it easier to swallow though, as did knowing that the producers of this show also produced T3, so at least they’re not wiping out someone else’s work.
  • My other concern for this show (if it lasts past the initial 9 episode season) is how the projected T4 will affect it. Again, it’s the same producers, so hopefully some continuity will maintained, but knowing that T4 will focus on an adult John in the future actually leading the fight against the machines (and might I add, finally!) how much will that preempt any development of his character and the events of the future timeline on this show? Will it just end up spinning its wheels, because the movie will be handling all the big important stuff?

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Green Bay Packs In The Stupidity

Well, to get us geared up for the NFC Championship Game I decided I'd rant a little bit about the Green Bay Packers.
When I was first becoming a football fan, which wasn't as long ago as you'd think, I remember having a healthy respect for Packer fans. I felt their passion and fervor was bar none.
I was talking to a coworker of mine at the time and the topic of football came up. We discussed the Vikings and how bad they were. I Then brought up Green Bay fans and erroneously talked about how they always cheer for their team, even in bad times. (I've later found out this is just a myth propagated by Packer fans.) I called Packer fans 'hardcore.' My coworker called them stupid. He then bestowed upon me wisdom for the ages.
"If you're team sucks, you boo them. How else are they going to know?"
Those two sentences transformed how I feel about sports.
Why shouldn't I boo my team? If you're my team, I want you to do well. If you're not doing well then should I not voice displeasure? Isn't losing unacceptable? Why should I cheer you if you're sucking? If people cheer their team regardless of performance, then what motivation does the team have to perform well? Well, OK, maybe athletes don't do everything just for fan appreciation, but you get my point.
From then on I treated the Packer fans' obsession with their team and quarterback with disdain. The fans wore blinders and could never see their team for what it was.
Some say I'm too far to the other side regarding the Minnesota teams, but I ask you, what Minnesota team gives me reason not to be negative?
Anyway, as I got older I also realized that not only were Packer fans delusional, but they have no sense of priorities. (And the constant media hype of Brett Favre isn't helping matters.) So, needless to say, the endless Packer talk I've heard this week has nearly made me puke. And then I heard about this article.

http://www.newsday.com/sports/football/giants/ny-spsein0117,0,702742.story

ARE YOU FREAKING KIDDING ME? This is the stupidest thing I ever heard. First lets look at the stupidity on hand. Eli Manning enjoys Seinfeld, so the program director of the Fox affiliate in Green Bay takes their normally scheduled syndicated episode of Seinfeld off the air. Umm...why? Because it might make Eli Manning (or..."the enemy"...as he calls him) laugh?
Come on. Why would the program director even assume Eli knew Seinfeld was on the air in Green Bay anyway? Heck, if I went to Green Bay I'd be surprised to hear they had televisions that showed something non-Packer related.
Anyway, last I checked, Eli made decent money. And you know what big time athletes do for road games? They bring portable DVD players. And if Eli likes Seinfeld that much, I doubt a couple of seasons of the show isn't out of his price range.
OK, so the very idea of not airing Eli's favorite show is stupid. But let's look at the bigger picture.
What the hell is wrong with Green Bay?
The answer is simple, they're a small town with a nationally recognized commodity. Since all Green Bay is known for is the Packers, that's all Green Bay residents focus on. There's only two things to do in Green Bay, watch the Packers and drink. So, during the NFL off season, things get pretty boring. They just wait sit and wait for football season to begin. I would like to get some statistics on how many Green Bay residents actually have an orgasm after the opening kickoff of the first Packer game of the season. But I digress.
What this all boils down to is a small town that has completely lost its perspective. Some people think it's cute that Green Bay would not air an episode of Seinfeld or change New York Avenue to McCarthy Way for a week. I think it's a sign that people's priorities are out of whack.
Packer fans like to talk about how Lambeau Field is always Packer territory, but when the Packers come to the Metrodome Green Bay fans take the place over. I take that as a compliment. The reason for this is obvious. People living Green Bay, and most of Wisconsin for that matter, always feel the need to move to a real state, like Minnesota. Minnesotans, however, are generally happy where they are and if they are to move it certainly wouldn't be to Wisconsin. Thus the high influx of Packer fans to Minnesota and relatively low influx of Vikings fans to Wisconsin.
People say that football is life in Green Bay. Well, in Minneapolis, during the football season I could walk the streets Monday morning and ask the people if the Vikings won yesterday. I would guess about 25% of the people would respond with either 'Vikings suck' or 'The Vikings played yesterday?' Green Bay residents may see this as a lack of passion or proof that Green Bay is a better football town. I call it a dose of perspective. It helps remind me that not everyone cares about football and football definitely is not life.
Perhaps that's what Green Bay needs. Instead of another Superbowl appearance they should get a dose of perspective. But I have a feeling that's not going to happen.
Of course, this whole post could have been written by me simply out of sour grapes. But that would make me a petty hypocrite, wouldn't it?


There is yet to be a time table on when God will smite Green Bay for the worship of a false idol, but it can't come too soon. Although Packer fans may argue with the use of the adjective 'false'...but talk like that only makes God grow angry...and GREEN!

Thursday, January 17, 2008

So Long Spidey: Teebore Says Goodbye to Amazing Spider-Man

Much has been said in the last several weeks on the blogosphere in regards to Marvel’s recent Spider-Man story, One More Day, and the dissolution of Spider-Man’s marriage. I wasn’t going to add my two cents, because they’re not a lot different than what’s already been said better elsewhere. But, consarnit, I’m just too riled up to stay quiet.

What’s that you say? Spider-Man was married? Come again? Yup, way back in the days when greed was good and yuppies walked the streets with impunity, Spider-man and Mary Jane tied the knot in Amazing Spider-Man Annual 21, 1987. All was marital bliss (or as close to it as two people in a super hero comic book can come) for awhile. But for the last ten years or so, various Spider-Man writers and editors have tried to do away with the marriage in some way or another. They claim principally that there are no interesting stories to tell about a married Spider-Man, that a married Spider-Man destroys an important element of his storytelling engine, namely the love triangle/soap opera aspects, and that marriage ages the character and makes him less relatable to a younger audience. The infamous Spider-Clone story of the mid-90s was, amongst other things, an attempt to address these criticisms by replacing married Peter Parker Spider-Man with his clone, a single Ben Reilly. Needless to say, it didn’t work, for a variety of reasons. They tried again shortly after a largely ignored quasi-reboot in 1999, having Mary Jane “die” in an exploding plane. The resultant outcry from fans (and presumably the realization that a widower Spider-Man seems even older than a married one and still unlikely to hit the singles scene, at least for while) nixed that idea, and it was revealed that MJ survived and was held captive by an obsessive stalker. Time and again writers tried to find ways to get rid of MJ and the marriage without ageing Spider-Man, instead of just, you know, trying to write about the marriage.
When Joe Quesada became Editor-In-Chief at Marvel, he made no secret that he was firmly in the “Spider-Man Marriage Bad” camp and quickly became the most vocal advocate for a change. He knew killing MJ wouldn’t work, and he felt that divorce wouldn’t either, because that would age the character too (and again, he couldn’t have Spidey knocking boots immediately after a divorce and really, that’s what the kids want to see, right?). After years of trying to come up with a solution and story after story that took Spider-Man further and further away from the character we all knew and loved, the comic reading public was presented with Joey Q’s final “solution”: a four part story entitled One More Day.


As One More Day opens, Aunt May is dying, put in a coma by a sniper’s bullet fired on the orders of the Kingpin, taking advantage of Spider-Man’s public unmasking in Civil War to get back at the webslinger. Desperate to save her (because if she dies, it’s his fault) Spider-Man does everything he can think of, including going to mystic Dr. Strange. Strange insists there is nothing he can do and that perhaps, it is simply her time. He does cast a spell that enables him to magically teleconference with the Marvel Universe’s top minds (Reed Richards, Tony Stark, Hank Pym, the Beast, etc) and none of them see any way to refute the doctors’ diagnosis’s. Distraught, and on the verge of accepting that his aunt might just die, Peter and Mary Jane are approached by Mephisto (one of Marvel’s various devil characters, the most obviously satanic) and is offered a deal: in exchange for their marriage (which will cause everyone to forget it ever happened), he will turn back time and save May. He wants their marriage because it is pure and unique, so much so that taking it away will strike a great blow for Mephisto against “Him”. Peter and MJ agree, with the added caveat that Spider-Man’s identity will once again be a secret. The catch in the deal is that both Peter and MJ will remember, somewhere deep inside, unconsciously in a piece of their soul, that they once had the greatest of happiness’s and gave it up. That piece of soul will sing out to Mephisto and he will know great joy. Also, the baby Peter and MJ had conceived (and may have been stillborn or may have been stolen by Norman Osborn) will have never existed. So Mephisto is an abortionist as well as a divorce lawyer. Peter and MJ spend just ONE MORE DAY together, then the world fades to black and when it comes back, May is alive and well, Peter is living with her and eating those wheatcakes, having recently broken up with MJ. He goes to a party to celebrate returned-from-the-dead (for some reason) Harry Osborn’s completion of rehab, surrounded by Flash Thompson and some new babes, likely potential love interests. Let a Brand New Day of super Spidey swinging (in more ways than one) commence!

I consider myself a “fan” of the Spider-Man marriage, inasmuch as I don’t see the need for it to go away. I won’t get into, but let’s just say that I believe there are just as many (if not more) stories that can told about a married Spider-Man as there are a single Spider-Man. Different stories, yes, but not “worse” or “fewer” stories. The lack of such stories over the last twenty years I credit more to the writer’s and editor’s lack of desire to create them or laziness in finding them than I do an inherent lack of quality or quantity of such stories. After all, MJ, and by extension, the marriage, is just a supporting character in the book. It isn’t like creators needed to come up with a new and fresh “marriage” story to fill every issue, just enough to sprinkle in amongst the high octane super hero action and other supporting cast storylines (of course, supporting cast storylines would require Marvel to have not killed off most of Spidey’s supporting cast in the last ten years, but that’s another post).
Anyways, my biggest problem with Joey Q’s anit-marriage agenda is his assertion that a single Spider-Man is a better character with better stories, and that is what “people” really want to see. Here’s what really grinds my gears about that argument. Let’s say he’s right. Let’s say we need a single Spider-Man. Guess what? We’ve got one. Several, in fact. First and foremost, there is Ultimate Spider-Man. Part of Marvel’s Ultimate imprint (in which classic characters are re-imagined for a new, modern audience) this book chronicles the adventures of a young (he’s in high school) single (boy, he’s got girl problems, what with MJ, Gwen Stacy and Ultimate Kitty Pryde all making their presence (and romantic interests) known)Spider-Man. Then there’s Marvel Adventures Spider-Man, a single Spider-Man starring in a book geared towards children. And the Spider-Man who appears in Spider-Man Loves Mary Jane, a book geared towards young women (but that I hear is actually pretty all around good). Not to mention the Spider-Man that appears in multi-media ventures, like the movies and various cartoons, all of which tell the tales of a single, unwed Spider-Man.
So what really irks me about the whole “we need a single Spidey” argument is this: how often do we get to, as the cliché goes, have our cake and eat it, too? Here’s a perfect example of how Marvel could do just that. Hey there, Spider fan, you want to read about a Spider-Man with girl troubles? Here’s Ultimate Spider-Man. What’s that? You want to read about a slightly older, more experienced Spider-Man who is married? Well, then, here’s Amazing Spider-Man. Done and done. Both types of fans are pleased, both sides of the marriage argument are given what they want-and it’s been that way for the entire tenure of Quesada’s reign as EIC; it was under his watch that Ultimate Spider-Man launched.
I have yet, in any of the vast coverage of One More Day, seen Joey Q address the issue of why it isn’t enough for him to have an unmarried Spider-Man, but that every Spider-Man in any book Marvel publishes has be that way. What’s wrong with diversity? With telling two types of stories with one character?
He even uses this argument himself, telling disgruntled fans of the marriage that if they really do want to see a married Spidey, then they should pick up Spider-Girl (a book that takes place in a possible future which chronicles the adventures of Peter and MJ’s teenage daughter). Well, I say to you, almighty Joe, if you wanted to read about a single Spider-Man, you could have just read Ultimate Spider-Man. Or Marvel Adventures Spider-Man. Or Mary Jane Loves Spider-Man Spider-Man. See how that works?


But what really grinds my gears about the whole thing is the way it completely subverts the entire moral of the Spider-Man story. At its core, Spider-Man has always been about one thing: the notion that with great power comes great responsibility. Peter learned this lesson the hard way, when he could have acted to prevent a robbery, but didn’t because it didn’t concern him, only to find out later that the same robber killed his Uncle Ben. This is powerful stuff, and beneath all the layers of every Spider-Man story this moral can be found in one form or another. One More Day, however, changes that moral to “with great power comes great responsibility…unless taking responsibility is just going to be too difficult. In that case, make a deal with the devil so you don't have to accept responsibility for your actions.” Not quite the same thing, is it? Aunt May was injured as a result of Peter’s actions: for good or bad, he revealed his identity, then broke ranks with the government (thus sacrificing the protection they may have provided his family). Instead of accepting responsibility for those actions, no matter how hard that would be, Peter found an out: trade his marriage to undo what he brought about. That’s not accepting responsibility for one’s actions, that’s weaseling out of them.
(I mean, yeesh, why not just ask Mephisto to go back in time and trip up the burglar on his way out of the studio so he never kills Uncle Ben? That way Peter goes on to live the life of a TV superstar. Sure, it wouldn't make much of a super hero story, but he'd be a swinging bachelor celebrity, able to have lots of sex with many beautiful women-that's what all the kids want anyway, right Mr. Quesada? Mission accomplished, right?)
So what really makes me mad about this whole story isn’t that the marriage is gone, or that Harry is alive (for some reason) or that Marvel resorted to a reboot (which it is, even if they won’t call it that) to straighten things out. All of those things I can deal with. It’s the way they did it that angers me, by destroying the entire foundation of Spider-Man. The Powers That Be decided this had to happen, that the marriage had to go away, and that Spider-Man couldn’t be a widower or divorcee, and that’s fine, but they picked the one way to do it that completely destroys the character. Better that Spider-Man is in cahoots with the devil than divorced, right? The Lee/Ditko Spidey, the Spider-Man who mourned Gwen Stacy, the Spider-Man who got married and had a clone and wondered what the deal was with those Spider Totems, the Spider-Man I want to read about, would never have taken this deal. He would have told Mephisto to shove off, mourned the death of Aunt May and accepted responsibility for his actions. The Brand New Day Spider-Man took the deal, so that’s why I won’t be reading Amazing Spider-Man anymore.
In the seventeen years I’ve been reading comics, I’ve never dropped a book for a reason like this. I’m a pretty easy going reader, known for turning off the inner critic when I read comics, and willing to put up with a lot of bad stories and editorial BS to keep following some of my favorite characters, characters I’ve grown up with in, some cases. I've collected every issue of Amazing Spider-Man since the late 90s, and along the way I've filled in a lot of back issues. But I just can’t bring myself to follow the adventures of this new, irresponsible, deal-with-the-devil-making Spider-Man (or to shell out $12 bucks a month to do it. Amazing Spider-Man is also now being published thrice monthly).
I will continue to read Ultimate Spider-Man for my Spidey fix (after all, that Peter Parker hasn’t made a deal with the devil) and I may just take Quesada’s suggestion and check out the Spider-Girl title; lord knows I hear nothing but good things about it. In the meantime, Amazing Spider-Man will go on, some people will love it, others will hate it, Joey Q can purr contentedly at night, having finally slain the demon that was the Spider Marriage, and eventually some new Editor in Chief will realize how much this story tainted the character, and come up with a way to rectify it, and bring back the real Spider-Man. And maybe then, I’ll check back in.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Aliens Vs. Predator: Requiem

An Alien and a Predator walk into a bar. The human ducks.

*rimshot*

Sorry, was that a lame joke? Yeah, well, this was a lame movie. It wasn’t just BAD. Bad I could deal with, bad I more or less expected. The first AVP movie was bad. This one was more disappointing than bad. And that is far worse than it being just another bad movie. When your movie is called Aliens Versus Predator and it isn’t awesome, you’ve done something wrong.

Aliens vs. Predators: Requiem was directed by The Brothers Strause and stars Troubled Loner With A Mysterious Past, His Rebellious Younger Brother, Hot Blond Babe, Her Dumbass Bully Boyfriend, The Well-Meaning Sheriff, and Tough Mother Who Must Protect Her Child (perhaps in a nod to the comparative feminism brought to the Alien films by Sigourney Weaver, Tough Mother Who Must Protect Her Child is a just-returned-home soldier with the necessary knowledge of military equipment to co-lead the main characters as they attempt to survive). Picking up where the first one left off (the internet tells me, since I really don’t remember) a Predator ship carrying Alien Face-Huggers is passing by Earth, and crashes in a mountainous small town somewhere Colorado-ish (?). Aliens escape, breed, kill and a Predator is dispatched to kill them off and clean up the mess by destroying any evidence of the crash, Aliens or their victims using a purple-y acid goo. The humans, of course, are caught in the middle and try to survive it all.

The first AVP movie was bad. It suffered from being set in a remote location underneath the Antarctic. Much was made of the Aliens coming to Earth, but in fact, they may as well have placed it on some alien world for all that the Aliens interacted with humans. When you call a movie Aliens vs. Predators and set it on Earth, you want to see Aliens everywhere, swarms of them, and Predators doing their damnedest to kill them all. You want to see soldiers doing their best to fight back with our primitive human tech, and you want to see some hapless humans caught in the middle. You want big. The first AVP film was decidedly small.

This new film seemed prepared to address the main disappointment of the first (aside from it generally sucking): this time, Aliens and Predators were going to fight in America, in a populated town, and people would be caught in the middle. Not too far off from that vision detailed above. How awesome could that be? Pretty damn awesome. How awesome was it? Not much.

They missed the boat again. There were Aliens, but just one Predator. And they overran a town, but just a small town full of idiots. The military presence pretty much sucked. The stock characters do little more than run around trying to survive. Precious time that could have spent on Aliens fighting Predators was wasted developing these stock characters. Memo to the producers: I didn’t come to this movie for character development. You use stock characters for a reason: so you don’t need to waste time developing them (I cared more about the space marines that were killed off in the beginning of Aliens. Here’s a good point of reference. In action/sci-fi movies, Hard Assed Marine is always a better stock character than Well Meaning Sheriff). When the Aliens and the Predator did fight, it was usually in the dark, with tightly focused camera work and confusing angles, not the clear and straightforward ass-kickery a movie like this demands.

The film also plays a bit fast and loose with some of the established mythology of these characters. To their credit, the filmmakers do address the issue of these events taking place on modern day earth despite humanity’s ignorance of the Aliens in the original films. And there was a nice nod to the previous films at the end. But some smaller details get overlooked (or changed but not properly explained). The Predator’s mission on earth is clearly to cover up the Alien attacks. Yet at one point, after being discovered by a human, he takes to time to leave the body skinned and hung in a tree. Why? Because that’s what the Predators did in their film? But in those movies, they were hunting, and taking the skins as trophies. The Predator in this film is on earth for a different and obvious reason. So why take the time to skin this one victim? They also fudge some of the details of the Aliens reproductive cycle, but I won’t bore you with the details.

So once again, an opportunity to make a thrillingly spectacular film in which one species of kick ass creatures wail on another species of kick ass creatures was wasted; wasted on horror film-esque development of stock characters, wasted on dark and confused fight sequences, wasted on a small setting telling a small story when the premise demanded a big action extravaganza. Not just bad, but disappointing.



Thanos is pretty sure he could take the Aliens AND the Predators...he'd be right.

Saturday, January 5, 2008

A Real American Hero!

Well, I’m back from an impromptu and undeclared little posting vacation, brought about by the winning combination of apathy and laziness. I was thinking of doing one of those “New Year’s Resolutions” posts, but since my resolutions are always the same (lose weight, spend less, write more-speaks to my success at keeping them that I repeat them year after year, doesn’t it), instead I thought I’d follow up Dr. Bitz’s insightful and thought provoking post about politics with one about toys.

I received as an indirect Christmas gift (via a gift card, and on clearance!) a box set of the five main Joe figures from the recent line of 25th anniversary figures: Duke, Scarlett, Snake-Eyes, Roadblock and Gung-Ho, all packaged in a nifty looking box with a plastic…rectangle…embossed with the GI Joe logo that sings the TV show’s theme song.

I’ve been meaning to mention this for awhile, but these new Joe figures are eight kinds of awesome. The new figure sculpts and paint designs are different than the original figures yet still obviously inspired by them. They have more articulation than ever before (including wrist joints!). Their belts/vests/bandoliers aren’t just painted on-they are separate pieces and they don’t interfere with a figure’s possibility. Their weapons actually fit into the holsters, yet the holsters aren’t enormous and ungainly. Speaking of their weapons and accessories, Hasbro made new molds for them, instead of just remaking weapons from the original line (which is what they did for the previous reinvention of the line, in the late 90s/early 00s; don’t get me started on how much those figures sucked, especially compared to these). At 5.99 a figure, they only cost three times more than they did when I collected the originals; not too bad for 20 years of inflation. The artwork on their cards (and the file dossiers on the back) appear exactly as they did on the original figures, further adding to the nostalgia. And each figure comes with a labeled display base.




Originally planned as the two five figure box sets (one Joe, one Cobra) plus a couple waves of carded figures to be released in 2007, Hasbro has announced they are continuing the line into 2008. Which figures would I like to see included? Some of my favorites are already on the shelf or have been announced: Zartan, Serpentor, Shipwreck, and a Crimson Guard trooper. I’d still love to see carded versions of Destro and the Baroness (I haven’t been able to find the Cobra boxed set on clearance anywhere), the weird Cobra twins, Xamot and Tomax (two figures from the original line I always wanted and never got), Dr. Mindbender (with a cloth cape, like the original!), Wet Suit (I always loved the “underwater” figures), Lt. Falcon (voiced by Don Johnson in the movie. Don Johnson!), Mutt and Junkyard (the first GI Joe I ever had), and a true pipe dream, a Nemesis Enforcer with huge, possible wings.

But that’ll never happen, because it would remind people of that awful Cobra-La stuff from the movie. And ignorance is half the battle.

Wait, that’s not right.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

I Hate Huckabee

Well, it's almost a year before the presidential election is held and already the political season has begun. But right now it's Republican vs Republican and Democrat vs Democrat. Presidential hopefuls first fight within their party to become the endorsed candidate and then the parties fight each other for the presidency.
What amazes me is how vicious and slanderous the competitions get. I mean, you'd think people within their own party would be respectful to each other, wouldn't you? You'd be wrong. What's even more amusing is when somebody finally wins the nod from their party all the losers talk about how great they are and how everyone needs to support them.
It would be like if a coworker and I were both up for the same promotion and we all we did was talk about how lazy and useless the other is. Then my coworker gets the promotion but we're still expected to work on the same project together in a harmonious fashion. It just doesn't add up, in my book. But that's pretty much the definition of politics.
With the election looming I will probably be writing more political posts, and most of them negative. If you haven't figured it out yet, I'm incredibly liberal. So I really don't like the Republican party, but don't assume I'm a Democrat. They annoy me too. Mostly because the Democrats have zero backbone. Both parties annoy me to no end. My point is, even though I dislike the Republicans the most, I'll attempt to be fair and open minded.
This brings me to Mike Huckabee, who is trying to win the Republican endorsement over Mitt Romney. Huckabee is famous for being supported by action superstar Chuck Norris. He had an ad in which he stated his plan for 'securing the border' was Chuck Norris. Generally, analysts thought the ad was clever and that it would resonate with younger voters. (Apparently actually discussing the issues in a serious manner or discussing anything that's relevant to the state of our country whatsoever is simply overrated.)
Anyway, on Januray 1st, 2008 Huckabee held a news conference. At the conference Huckabee announced that his team was going to air a slanderous ad against Mitt Romney on television but he has decided to pull the ad because, while the ad was true, he didn't want to do a negative campaign. He then showed the ad to everyone at the conference so they could see the ad he had pulled. The pulled ad was subsequently aired on news stations across the country at no cost to Huckabee.
Huckabee was asked if this was a way for him to show the negative ad yet come out looking clean by saying he didn't want to air the ad. Huckabee suggested the reporter who asked the question was just cynical.
Hmmm...cynical? Interesting. Let's consider the scenario.
Let's say I'm Huckabee and I genuinely want to run a positive campaign. An ad is created and I find it too negative. What do I do? If I genuinely disagree with the ad, I simply say, "No, that's too negative. Let's try again."And that's the end of that. The only people who know I even pulled the ad is me, the people who made it, and maybe some of my assistants. The general public is not even aware there was an ad to pull.
It kind of goes under the same category as compliments and how the most genuine compliments are the ones you never hear. (Because then there's no ulterior motive when the person says them...in general.)
However, this is politics we're talking about. Anytime somebody does something remotely nice or ethical its shouted from the mountain tops. A politician won't even put a dollar in a salvation army bucket unless at least three photos are be taken of him/her doing it. So, if Huckabee was genuine in not liking the ad but still acting as a politician, he'd reject the ad and then send out a memo to all the news station describing how a negative ad was presented to him but his ethics would not allow him to air it.
Huckabee was obviously not being genuine. Because if you're genuine about not wanting this ad to air, there's one thing you simply wouldn't do. Show the ad, period.
But this is what I hate about politics. Politics is a game. It rewards those who are well spoken, great liars, and those who are able to fool the retards of the world. It has nothing to do with who is the smartest, who has the best ideas, or who has real world solutions to real world problems. Its about who's the most comfortable on TV, who has the whitest teeth, and who can insult there opponent the best and at the most opportune time.
The biggest problem with politics, though, is that its probably the most important thing in the world. I'm hard pressed to think of anything that affects people's lives more than politics. Yet people generally see it as a mere game. Millions of people ignore politics because its boring and so many more people will blindly follow party lines or pick the person they'd most like to have beer with. We're picking the leaders of our country here, whether or not I want to hang out at the bar with them is irrelevant. And who the hell cares WHAT Chuck Norris thinks.
But, I don't know what I can do. Political candidates are like books and people vote on which book's cover they like the most. The whole system is broken. That means the whole country is broken...and I have no idea how to fix it.

If you'd like to read the full story on Huckabee's press conference you can do so here: http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/politics/la-na-goprace1jan01,1,6225128.story?coll=la-news-politics-national&track=crosspromo