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

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

X-amining X-Men #24

The Plague of...the Locust!"
September 1966

Editing by Stan (Busy Bee) Lee
Script by Roy (Book Worm) Thomas
Art by Werner (Worker Ant) Roth
Inking by Dick (Doodle Bug) Ayers
Lettering by Sam (Pussy Cat) Rosen

Plot: Jean's parents have pulled her from Xavier's school and enrolled her in Metro University. However, she won't be leaving the X-Men FOREVER (as teased last issue), as she still plans to work with the team as Marvel Girl on weekends. She packs her things and says her goodbyes, and a sorrowful Scott and Warren drive her to Metro University. Once there, she is quickly befriended by Ted Roberts. Meanwhile, the Locust sets a group of enlarged mutant grasshoppers to devour a cornfield. When word of the mysterious attack reaches Xavier, he sends the X-Men, sans Marvel Girl, to investigate. They tussle with the enormous grasshoppers, but the Locust keeps his distance as he's not ready to face the X-Men. The X-Men manage to capture one of the mutant grasshoppers for study.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Brief Thoughts About Baseball (09/21/2009 - 09/27/2009)

For multiple reasons this will be a shorter edition of my brief thoughts. I'll assume you're all devastated.

1. It's everyone's favorite part of baseball...THE STUPID INJURIES!!!

2. The Twins won two of three against the Royals, which was expected when they went against Greinke. But I still feel that the Twins need a sweep of Detroit (all 4 games) to pull off the division win. I'm still not feeling it.

3. I can't find the article, but I know Yankees GM Brian Cashman said that Joba Chamberlain will need to "step up" if he wants to be on the post season roster.
How about the Yankees stop babying Joba and allow him to pitch more than 4 innings and then he might be able to step up? The Yankees have no one to blame but themselves for the Joba mess.

4. I'm amused by this Ian Kinsler clip because of how excited they get. It's amusing how much we get caught up in "mile stone" numbers. Sure, 30 home runs and 30 steals is a good season, but would it be a bad season if he has 32 home runs and 29 steals? Or 35 steals and 28 home runs? It's silly, but we all get caught up in it.

5. Give the White Sox some credit for continuing to play hard...sometimes.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Retro Review: Bart vs. Thanksgiving

Or the One Where: Bart runs away on Thanksgiving

The Setup: After accidentally burning Lisa's table centerpiece, Bart, feeling unjustly punished and refusing to apologize, hits the streets.

Friday, September 25, 2009

X-amining X-Men #23

"To Save a City!"
August 1966

Edited in Ecstasy by Stan Lee!
Written in Rapture by Roy Thomas!
Drawn in Delight by Werner Roth! 
Delineated in Depth by Dick Ayers!
Lettered in a Lawn Chair by Artie Simek!

Plot: Count Nefaria explains to the captured X-Men that they will help him, because either way, they'll be blamed for what's about to happen. He proceeds to create an impenetrable crystalline dome around Washington DC. While civilian and military authorities try in vain to free the city, Nefaria sends images of the X-Men to a special session of Congress and demands one hundred million dollars in order to free the city, or else the crystals of the dome will absorb all the oxygen in the city. Meanwhile, Professor X is working on a secret new invention when he's contacted for help by the army.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Retro Review: Dead Putting Society

Or The One Where: Bart and Todd Flanders compete in a mini golf tourny. 

The Setup: After Flanders invites Homer over for a drink, Homer believes Ned is rubbing his success in Homer's face, sparking a feud between the two neighbors which culminates when they enter their sons in a golf tournament.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

A Few Thoughts about Heroes

Frankly, I don't think I have the energy to do a weekly "Heroes" post this season. I still watch the show, but I find a hard time caring about it much, especially since it's become clear that the producers want to create a show drastically different from the one I want to watch: they're creating a show about ordinary people trying to live a normal life despite having super powers, whereas I'd rather watch a show about ordinary people realistically figuring out how to live a life with super powers. It's a subtle distinction, sure. But, for example, in my show, the characters would be using their powers more instead of pretending they're an addiction that needs to be controlled.

That said, last night's two hour premiere of the fifth volume, "Redemption", did spark a few thoughts and opinions I'd like to share.

A Few Thoughts on the Emmys

I don't usually watch the Emmys (at least I don't go out of my way to watch them) because they usually celebrate shows I don't watch or can't watch (cuz they're on HBO/Showtime). This year, three words made me tune in: Neil. Patrick. Harris. I dig his work on "How I Met Your Mother" and in "Harold and Kumar" and his gig on SNL last year was one of my favorites. Plus, he hosted the Tonys earlier this year (an awards show I have even less interest in watching than the Emmys) and did a bang up job. Also, thanks to the magic of DVR, it's much easier to watch a show like this when I can fast forward through commercials and overly long and boring acceptance speeches.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Brief Thoughts About Baseball (09/14/2009 - 09/20/2009)

1. So Morneau is out for the year due to a back injury. But franky, he seemed to be gone from the team for the last month. A lot of people think this is final nail in the coffin of the Twins. But right now it seems that anyone who is in the lineup over Morneau in Septemeber is an improvement.

2. If you build it, Torii will come.

3. Joe Nathan gave up a home run on Wednesday and nearly cost the Twins the game. I'm not liking what I've been seeing from Nathan lately.

4. Everyone likes a good brawl, right? But why the hell are the Yankees even bothering with Toronto?

5.Magglio Ordonez got enough plate appearances to kick in a clause in his contract which guaranteed him a 18 million dollar one year extension. I wish I could get 18 million dollars by making an out...or by making out!

6. Well this was ugly for both teams!

7. The Twins won two of three from the Tigers (with a little help from the dome). I hate losing the last game of series when you have a chance to sweep. That being said, I did believe going into the series that if they win two out of three they still have a chance at the division. (I still can't believe the Twins got back into the race, but it's thanks to the Tigers' ineptitude.)
Anyway, now that the Twins did win two out of three, that three game lead the Tigers have is looking a bit more daunting than I thought. But if the Twins can make up one game this coming week and then win three out of four against the Tigers, they would be tied for the division. This could get interesting...

Friday, September 18, 2009

Retro Review: Dancin' Homer


Or The One Where: Homer becomes the mascot of the Springfield Isotopes

The Setup: At the power plants annual baseball outing, Homer fires up the crowd by dancing on the dugout.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

To Better Know A VILLAIN: General Zod

Because YOU demanded it! 


Real Name: Dru-Zod

First Appearance: Adventure Comics #283 (April 1961)

Powers and Abilities: On Krypton, General Zod is a highly trained soldier and strategist. When empowered by the radiation of a yellow sun, he possess abilities similar to Superman, including super strength, speed and stamina, flight, invulnerability, x-ray and heat visions, amongst others.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Bold New Look, Same Old Content

Welcome to New Look Gentlemen of Leisure! 

The blog's second birthday has come and gone, which makes it high time we change things up a bit with a new look. Let us know what you think of the new layout, color schemes, and the logo I cobbled together using free Photoshop-esque software I found online!

Also, blogger has recently added the ability to insert jump breaks into posts. So for posts of significant length, you'll now see the beginning of the post, followed by a "read more" link that takes you to the full post. 

So you'll see something like this...

Monday, September 14, 2009

Brief Thought About Baseball (09/07/2009 - 09/13/2009)

1. Twins won in Toronto on Monday. It shouldn't be too surprising since Toronto is bad. However, that was the Twins first win in Toronto since 2006.

2. Of course, the Twins ended up splitting the series in Toronto 2-2. Because that's what the Twins do.

3. On Monday, Chris Carpenter pitched a complete game shut out with 10 strike outs, 1 hit, and two walks. On ESPN's Baseball Tonight, the host said "It may be the best pitching performance of the year." Ummm...is he aware this happened this year? Hell, this was better too!

3. Sure the Twins are floundering. but it could be worse. This season will mark the Pirates' 17th losing season in a row. Ouch.

4. Not that I'm a Tigers apologist, but this suspension was kind of lame.

5. Carlos Gomez hasn't given up on the season, apparently.

6. The Tigers lost 5 of 6 games this week and were simply begging, BEGGING the Twins to get back into the divion race. But the Twins absolutely refused to do so. The Twins lost 4 of 7 to the likes of Toronto and Oakland. If you can't win 5 of 7 against those teams, then you don't deserve to win the division.

Friday, September 11, 2009

X-amining X-Men #22

"Divided--We Fall!"
July 1966

Editor Emeritus
Stan Lee
Script
by Roy Thomas
Art by Jay Gavin
Inking by Dick Ayers
Lettering
by Artie Simek
Colosso
by Irving Forbush Robotics, Inc. 

Plot: In the Danger Room, the X-Men face off against Colosso, a training robot created by Professor X in the wake of their recent battles against the Sentinels and Lucifer's robots. Working as a team, the X-Men defeat Colosso in the allotted time. As a reward, and in light of the fact that their last vacation was cut short by their encounter with Mimic, Professor X grants the team a two week break. The excited teens quickly leave for New York City, where Beast and Iceman meet up with Zelda and Vera while Marvel Girl has dinner with Angel and Cyclops before leaving to visit her sister upstate. Meanwhile,

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Retro Review: Two Cars in Every Garage and Three Eyes on Every Fish

Or the One Where: Mr. Burns runs for governor.

The Setup: When Bart pulls a three-eyed fish from the water near the nuclear power plant, a government inspection of the plant occurs, prompting Burns to run for governor in order to avoid a shutdown.

A Work In Progress: Governor Mary Bailey (a reference to George Bailey's wife from "It's a Wonderful Life") and Springfield Shopper reporter Dave Shutton, two relatively minor characters that only appear in a handful of later episodes, appear for the first time.

Blinky, the three-eyed fish Bart catches, makes his first major appearance (he appeared briefly in a background shot of "Homer's Odyssey"). While Blinky himself goes largely unmentioned on the show after this episode, he has become something of a symbol for some environmental activists, and is often referred to in anti-pollution and pro-environment journalism. In fact, this episode won the first of seven Environmental Media Awards "The Simpsons" has received to date.

This is one of the first episodes to focus on a supporting character as much as a member of the Simpson family, something "The Simpsons" will do often in the future, with Mr. Burns as the main character of this episode while Homer and the others are actually supporting characters in his story.

Finally, despite the fact that Mr. Burns is running for governor in this office, a state office, the name of the state in which Springfield resides is, of course, never mentioned, which is the first time the writers were intentional vague when it came to Springfield's exact location.


Favorite Lines:

Dave: What's your name, son?
Bart: I'm Bart Simpson. Who the hell are you?
Dave: I'm Dave Shutton. I'm an investigative reporter who's on the road a lot and, uh, I must say that in my day, we didn't talk that way to our elders.
Bart: Well, this is my day, and we do, sir.

Marge
: I wonder if he's going to say anything about that horrible fish.
Homer
: Oh, Marge. What's the big deal? I bet before the papers blew this all out of proportion you didn't even know how many eyes a fish had.

Advisor
: Congratulations, Mr. Burns, the latest polls show you are up six points.
Mr. Burns: Ah, giving me a total of?
Advisor: Six. But we're on our way.

Bart: Dear God, we paid for all this stuff ourselves, so thanks for nothing.


Teebore's Take: While more recent episodes of the show have been, like most political humor nowadays, more partisan (in either direction), this early "Simpsons" foray into political humor is much more general, skewering the modern political machine and its ability to create a political persona that is often far removed from the reality of a given candidate. It is also one of the first "Simpsons" episodes to tackle an environmental issue. Both subjects weren't, at the time, often tackled by traditional sitcoms in prime time. Being an animated show on a fourth place network likely afforded them the freedom to do so, but it's another example of how "The Simpsons" was pushing the envelope early in its run, and how, as the show became more and more popular and embedded in pop culture, it helped change the landscape of prime time television.

Classic:

The first major story for a supporting character and "The Simpsons" first real stab at political humor and social commentary.

Retro Review: Treehouse of Horror

Or The One Where: "Bad Dream House" (the Simpsons move into a house possessed by an evil spirit), "Hungry are the Damned" (the Simpsons are taken into space by aliens) and "The Raven" (Lisa reads Edgar Allan Poe's famous poem to Bart).

The Setup: Before the opening sequence, Marge speaks directly to the audience, warning them that the show is scary, and that if they "have sensitive children, maybe you should tuck them into bed early tonight instead of writing us angry letters tomorrow."

A Work In Progress: This is, of course, the first of the yearly Halloween specials. The framing device of this episode, in which Bart and Lisa swap scary stories in Bart's treehouse on Halloween, provides the inspiration for the titles of the subsequent specials, despite the fact that this framing sequence is unique to this episode.

The Halloween-themed opening featuring the camera zooming in over a graveyard with tombstones featuring humorous epitaphs is also used for the first time. The funny gravestone gag will be used in subsequent "Treehouse of Horror" episodes until it was dropped permanently after the fifth special (in the sixth season).

The tradition of opening each Halloween episode with a warning to parents and children begins in this episode; it will be used on and off throughout "Treehouse of Horror V", when it, like the tombstone gags, will be dropped because the writers found it too difficult to come up with new material for the gags each year.


Finally, Kang and Kodos, the green, one-eyed, squid-like aliens, appear for the first time. It is an unwritten rule that they must make an appearance in all Halloween episodes, and their presence is usually seen as an indicator that the events of an episode are non-canonical (they've appeared outside "Treehouse" episodes a few times).

Favorite Lines:

Homer: Mr. Bloot? Homer Simpson here. When you sold me this house, you forgot to mention one little thing: YOU DIDN'T TELL ME IT WAS BUILT ON AN INDIAN BURIAL GROUND! ... NO YOU DIDN'T! ... Well, that's not MY recollection. ... Yeah? Well, all right, goodbye! ... He said he mentioned it five or six times.

Kang: We offered you paradise. You would have experienced emotions a hundred times greater than what you call love. And a thousand times greater than what you call fun. You would have been treated like gods and lived forever in beauty. But, now, because of your distrustful nature, that can never be.
Marge: Mmmm...for a superior race, they really rub it in.

Bart: Lisa, that wasn't scary. Not even for a poem.
Lisa: Well it was written in 1845. Maybe people were easier to scare back then.
Bart: Oh, yeah. Like when you look at 'Friday the 13th, Part 1'. Pretty tame by today's standards.


Teebore's Take: Managing to pay tribute to while parodying "Outer Limits", "The Twilight Zone", "Alfred Hitchcock Presents" and Gothic American poetry, "The Simpsons" first Halloween episode sets the standard and raises the bar for all that follow. This episode is also another early example of how, in the second season, "The Simpsons" is showing it can do more than standard sitcom jokes and crude humor and foreshadows the close relationship the show will have, both in the Halloween episodes and regular episodes, with culture, pop and otherwise, in the years to come. The clearest example of this, my favorite of the three segments in this episode,"The Raven", manages to create an eerie and creepy "Halloween" mood even if it isn't, as Bart and Lisa suggest, all that scary. It's worth it just to hear James Earl Jones' rendition of the poem.

Classic:

A definite classic that sets the stage for some truly hilarious entries in the series.

Halloween:

Between the framing sequence and a clear effort to tell scary stories, this is one of the more Halloween-y "Treehouse" episodes.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Dr. Bitz Makes It Big!*

Congratulations to Dr. Bitz, who's been named one of the Star Tribune's Viking Fan Bloggers this season.

He will be lending his trademark wit, sarcasm and ability to cut through the bullshit to the doings and transpirings of the Minnesota Vikings throughout the season (though presumably with less talk of lesbian porn and dead hookers than regular readers of this blog have come to expect from him).

His first post is up now, and look for future installments on a regular basis (i.e. whenever he feels like it) here, and on the main Star Tribune Vikings Blogs page.

Congrats once again!



*And by "big" I mean "still writing for free, but also now for a site with significantly higher visibility and traffic."

Monday, September 7, 2009

Brief Thoughts About Baseball (08/31/2009 - 09/08/2009)

1. I don't know how many more of these I can do. Really, the only races in questions is the two Wildcard races. And I just feel like the Red Sox are going to pull out the AL Wild Card. I'll get to the death of the AL Central Division race later. But honestly, I was busy this week and missed a lot of baseball. But we'll see what I come up with.

2. I went to the Twins game last Monday. (Feels like months ago.) I saw Jim Thome play for the White Sox. I got home and saw that he was traded to the LA Dodgers. It was weird on many levels. One level is: Why would an NL team want Jim Thome? He can barely walk. Since moving to the Dodgers Jim Thome went 1 for 3 and then injured his ankle.

3. The Twins wanted to trade for Rich Harden but the Cubs were apparently asking for too much. I don't know what "too much" really means but on the surface I can't rip the Twins. You shouldn't give away too much for a one month rent-a-pitcher.

4. No "hip hip" for Jorge after this.

5. I suppose he made up for that embarrassment, though.

6. Here's a pet peeve of mine. David Wright came back to play after getting a concussion from getting beaned in the head by a pitch. (I'm not sure why he came back to play since the Mets' season is essentially over, but that's neither here nor there.) But Tim Kurkjian said that an ordinary person would never be able to get in the batter box again. (The implication was that most people would be too traumatized.) He said that's why they're baseball players and we're not or something like that. Well, you know what? BS!!!
During my High School Archery, Golf, and Bowling class I took a golf club too the forehead. I had a gash down to my skull and needed forty stitches. You know what? After a weekend I went back to the class and still golfed. It's really not a big detail. The human brain is very good at disassociating and filtering things. I'm not bragging either. I'm just an average person. In fact, a lot of people would consider me below average. I'm just saying it's not that impressive to get back into the batter box after taking a pitch to the head.

7. The Twins playoff hopes are all but dead. And it's a bit surprising who drove the final nail into the coffin though...Joe Nathan. One out from sweeping the White Sox and he gives up back to back home runs to tie the game? Unacceptable. I'm not saying he should be cut, but it was painful. And you know, Matt Guerrier has been decent this year, but you can't bring into the game with runners on base. They'll score, seemingly every time.
Anyway, back to the brutal loss the Twins took on Wednesday. Teebore predicted that they'd lose two out of three the following series against Cleveland and that's exactly what happened. The Twins are now a weeks worth of games out of first place. So you could argue that that White Sox game didn't mean much. I mean, if they won that game then they'd still be 6 games out of the division which isn't much better. You're right, but I feel like that blown save had a snowball effect on the Twins.
If the Twins win that game and sweep the White Sox, it really puts the heat on Detroit. I'm not convince the Tigers win their game that night or the following day. And if that was the case the Twins would only be 2 1/2 games out going into the weekend and on a hot streak. At that point, they may have pulled off a sweep of Cleveland which would really would put the Twins in the thick of things.
Now I could be overestimating the momentum the Twins would gain from that win and really there's no way to know either way what would have happened if Nathan could have gotten that final out. But I would have liked to have found out. As it stands, the Twins are hopelessly behind the Tigers and simply left with a whole bunch of what-ifs.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Make Mine Mickey!

Even if you're not an avid comic book reader, you probably heard mention of the big comic book news this week: The Walt Disney Corporation announced it had reached a deal to purchase Marvel Entertainment, the publisher and owner of such characters as Spider-Man, Hulk, Iron Man and the X-Men. As the Gentleman who writers most often about comics, a reaction to this news seems appropriate.


My initial response when hearing the news was "wow!" followed by "hmm...". From a simple "changing the dynamic of the industry" perspective, the acquisition of the most profitable comic book company (I'll leave it to the comments to argue Marvel's current creative merits relative to the other comic book publishers) is the biggest thing to happen to comic books this decade (and possibly the biggest thing since Marvel's superstar artists left the company to form Image Comics in 1992). What impact the acquisition of Marvel by Disney will have on the comic books themselves, however, remains to be seen. Most likely, it will be minimal.

While it's easy to crack jokes about the upcoming Disneyfication of Marvel (Hannah Montana joins the Avengers! Mickey Mouse vs. Wolverine! The X-Men star in High School Music 5! ), Disney, in fact, has a history of remaining fairly hands-off with the properties it acquires, and it doesn't require all of its creative entities to put forth 100% family-friendly fare. Pixar has famously been left to its own devices since it's acquisition by Disney, turning out some of its best films in that time. Miramax, the film studio which, amongst other things, releases most of Quentin Tarantino's films, is also owned by Disney.


So the notion of Disney stepping in and making content changes to Marvel Comics seems unlikely to me (though if they want to step in and reverse that asinine "Spider-Man sells his marriage to the devil!" storyline, I'm all for it). Most industry insiders are speculating that what Disney is really after is Marvel's characters and the licensing money that goes along with them. For years now, the monthly comic book has merely been a loss-leader for the eventual trade paperback or graphic novel collection, and those books are merely a way to keep Marvel's stable of core characters viable while they make the big money turning those characters into summer blockbusters and slapping their images on backpacks and bedsheets. That's the money Disney is after via this purchase, and in all likelihood, that's the area where their hand will be felt the most, multimedia and licensing development (and Disney, as we all know, is a pro at that kind of stuff).


The fact is, from a corporate, bottom-line perspective, comic books have been a minor part of Marvel Comics business model for some time, and there's no indication that'll change now that they're a part of the Disney family. I read online this week (and we all know the Internet never gets anything wrong) that in one year Disney makes more money selling those ice cream bars shaped like Mickey Mouse in Disneyworld than Marvel makes selling their comic books. So the idea that Disney would even spend the time to step in and dictate content to something flying so far under their corporate radar seems unlikely. As long as Marvel doesn't do anything to draw too much negative attention to the characters Disney is trying to license, they'll be fine. And it isn't like Marvel wanted to draw negative attention to its characters before this deal.


The place where the impact of this deal will be felt the most will be multimedia projects and licensing. Disney has publicly stated in the wake of this deal that they were attracted to Marvel's stable of "over 5000 characters" (it should be noted, however, that not all of those 5000 are winners; for every Spider-Man, Wolverine and Hulk there's an Armadillo, Typeface or Ruby Red). Expect more cartoons and animated films and, perhaps, even more Marvel live action films. Marvel currently has a distribution deal with Paramount for the films made within their studio and Disney has said they will honor that agreement, but once it expires, expect Disney to put the full weight of their film brand on Marvel movies. Pixar has already made the best Fantastic Four film with "The Incredibles"; perhaps they'll take a crack at an established Marvel character, or team up with some of Marvel's creators to create something new. Expect to see even more t-shirts, toys, games, lunchboxes and other merchandise adorned with Marvel characters than ever before. Essentially, as this article explains, Disney is basically using the acquisition of Marvel to reinvigorate its appeal and presence within the family and summer blockbuster markets.

The one place within the realm of comic books this deal might be felt most keenly is in distribution. As it stands, comic book distribution to retail stores is monopolized by Diamond Comics Distributors, a situation that invokes ire amongst many comic book fans, especially independent creators and retailers. Disney, with its much broader book distribution that reaches many places outside of comic book shops, could possibly shatter this monopoly should it offer its distribution infrastructure to Marvel Comics. It's also possible that now, with a share of a larger corporation's bottom line, that Marvel will be able to afford to keep lower selling titles around longer, much as DC Comics is able to do thanks to its ownership by Time Warner.


Despite some of the cracks, teeth-gnashing and knee-jerk reactions that can be found throughout the Internet in the wake of this news, this deal will have little impact within the realm of Marvel's comics. In all likelihood, the Marvel/Disney relationship will closely mirror the Time Warner/DC relationship, and that relationship, in place now since the 70s, hasn't destroyed Batman or Superman. Aside from a new well from which fans can draw jokes, increased marketability, new multimedia projects and, possibly, a change in comic book distribution, the merging of the House of Ideas and the House of the Mouse will simply result in business as usual for Spider-man and the gang.