Archive for the ‘ Comic Books ’ Category

Open Letter to Marvel: Diversity Itself Isn’t the Issue

It’s been recently reported that Marvel Comics’ David Gabriel stated Marvel had come to understand “that people didn’t want any more diversity.  They didn’t want female characters out there” as a reason for the recent sales slump. I think this is a narrow view and doesn’t look at the wider elements causing said slump. The House of Ideas needs to look a little deeper here at a myriad of issues contributing to this and what exactly it is about the ‘all new, all diverse’ Marvel that isn’t resonating with readers.

Price

Let’s face it, comics have gotten expensive. $2.99 is the good deal these days with many titles at $3.99 or even $4.99 for a standard length issue while special editions and double size issues can be $5.99. The price really racks up if you’re buying a large number of comics. Alterna Comics made the move this year to bring prices down by returning to newsprint (#bringbacknewsprint) for their books, which might not be a bad idea.

Comics used to be seen as disposable. It’s one of the things that makes issues like Amazing Fantasy 15 so valuable and it might prove beneficial for comics now. If you want the slick beautiful image, digital options are available from the publisher. If you’re a collector, newsprint books for $1.99 or $2.99 could be appealing, especially if you want to collect multiple titles every month and occasionally dabble in new titles. What’s more, if people see the lower quality paper as disposable, they might read and toss once more, making comics kept in mint condition a collector’s item once again.

Events

Being perfectly blunt, Marvel has gotten event crazy. Every year there’s a huge event that will “change everything” or “alter the course of the Marvel universe forever.” Whether it’s Secret War, Secret Invasion, Secret Wars, Avengers vs X-Men, X-Men vs Inhumans, Death of X, RessureXion, or the upcoming Secret Empire, there’s always some huge event involving seemingly every book. Readers are simply getting exhausted.

In the 1980s, there were a total of 11 crossovers events.
There were 27 in the 1990s.
Down to 20 in the 2000s.

And a total of 41 announced from 2010 to 2017. FORTY ONE crossovers with two years left in the decade. In the 80s and 90s, crossovers were also a bit more contained. You usually had a Spider-Man crossover that was contained to Spider-Man titles (3 in the 90s). X-Books had a contained crossover (3 in the 80s, 12 in the 90s, 6 in the 2000s). Over the years, though, it’s become more and more necessary to buy titles all across the publication line that a reader normally never picks up just to follow a single crossover event story, as well as a separate 8-or-so part mini-series.

I personally blame this guy for starting the all-titles crossover mega events.

To solve the event fatigue, just take them down to a smaller level like they used to be. Have a big “Marvel Universe” crossover event that impacts everyone once every 5 years or so to make them feel really special. Meanwhile, you can still do Spider-Man crossovers that cross all the Spider-titles and X-Men events that cross X-titles, and Avengers events that cross various Avenger member titles. Age of Apocalypse never touched Spider-Man or any Avengers or the Fantastic Four and it’s one of the most liked crossover events I can recall.

Politics

This may be a big issue, even bigger than the whole diversity angle, but a lot of readers are just tired of having writers’ politics not just presented, but crammed forcefully in their face and rammed down their throat. Sure, Marvel has always had a little politics in their comics. Steve Rogers punched ol’ Adolf before the US had entered into WW II and he dealt with a Nixon-esque character IN the White House during the Watergate scandal, but largely these on the nose political statements were the peak of a crescendo while their build up was often told with subtlety, nuance, and grace. Now writers push the real world into their stories more often than having readers think about hypothetical story scenarios applied to the real world.

Subtle. Real subtle. And totally what an Asgardian would be spouting, right?

What’s more, in the post-Internet age, we live more than ever in a world of grays rather than stark black and white. While we still like our heroes a bit more cut and dried in right and wrong with the occasional anti-hero walking the gray territory, we know the real world isn’t like this. I’ve seen people sharing panels of Red Skull and questioning why the villain is the one making sense when he says people aren’t evil for fearing space alien neighbors who first pledge their allegiance to an alien emperor with open distaste for inferior humans.

Instead of taking a stance of “liberal politics = hero, anything else = villain” writers could offer some heroes who lean left, some who lean right, some who are more central, and some who personally lean one way but acknowledge understanding of another view.

We’ve seen heroes oppose one another on political issues twice now in Civil War and Civil War II (three times if you count the film). The most positive thing our super heroes could possibly do right now is have opposing political beliefs, but still work together and still respect one another. You want your heroes to reflect what society should strive for? That’s about the most idealistic thing I can think of at this time, bringing people together to work towards a middle ground of common good despite their differences.

Also, maybe don’t have good guys say stuff like this to an actual Holocaust survivor, even if Magneto is a villain in his own right.

Diversity

Now to the topic David Gabriel touched upon, that readers don’t want diversity or women leads. Mr. Gabriel, I respectfully disagree. Readers don’t want hamfisted diversity pulled out of nowhere and forced upon them as a replacement for beloved figures. I personally feel that’s been Marvel’s biggest problem. These characters are quickly tossed in the mix as replacements for long standing characters without ceremony or transition. A few have made sense, but most simply don’t. The most frustrating aspect of this goes back before the big diversity push of the last few years and is probably a bit out of Marvel’s hands, but I’m still going to call it: The X-Men.

We’re not going to pull any punches here: While wanting to promote diversity, you’ve completely shot down the most diversity driven team in your entire roster. Over the last number of years you’ve completely gutted this team.

Jean Grey, Xavier, Cyclops, and Wolverine are all dead now. Probably four of your most popular X-Men killed in the last number of years. What’s worse, before killing off Cyclops, you completely murdered his character as he became more and more militant and resembled Magneto more than Xavier. Whoever thought this was a good idea needs a smack in the back of the head.

The X-Men were always about opposing ideologies (sound like a familiar current societal topic?), Xavier’s Martin Luther King opposed to Magneto’s Malcom X and accepting one another despite our differences (sound like another familiar current societal topic?).

By bringing Magneto to the X-Men in approval of Scott, you eliminated this element entirely and corrupted the X-Men a little in the process. What boggles my mind is how you took them down this path when a clear alternative was available in Havok. Always more brash and hot headed, the right sequence of events could have led Havok towards Magneto’s point of view while Cyclops remained in pursuit of Xavier’s dream (even if he was a little more realist about it. I liked “General Cyclops” vibe that placed him a bit more like Cable in approach, but carrying the weight of his decisions as Xavier would have). Having the brothers as the new flag bearers of Xavier and Magneto’s views would have allowed you to carry on the overall X-Men theme with a new dynamic of opposition in the opposing sides.

So with the X-Men essentially out of the way, the push for a diverse cast of characters moves to other titles. This in itself is fine, but again I feel some stark errors were made.

Diversity via Addition by Subtraction: Race/Gender (and a sexuality) Swapping
This seems to be a big issue for many readers. Instead of creating, introducing, and cultivating new characters, it seems to be more common to replace an existing character, typically an iconic and beloved one, with the new character so the hero name will sell the book rather than the character behind the mask.

Thor, except a woman:
Jane Foster becoming Thor is the most cited example and I still don’t understand that one at all. Nothing about it makes sense and to my knowledge it still haven’t been explained. Nick Fury shouldn’t be able to whisper Thor into unworthiness. What’s more, if Jane Foster picked up the hammer, it isn’t entirely clear why she would transform into Thor rather than just receive his powers. After all, Captain America, U.S. Agent, Iron Man, or Storm didn’t transform into Thor (though I think Storm got an Asgardian outfit from it) when they wielded Thor’s hammer. It also seemed to me that rather than gender swap Thor, you could have had the Unworthy Thor off on his quest while another Asgardian took on his position in the book. Valkyrie would be an obvious choice, but I’m more surprised Sif wasn’t brought up to the big time, especially after she was well received in the Thor films and on Agents of SHIELD on television. If Marvel wants new readers from the movie & TV popularity, having Sif headline the Thor book seemed like a no brainer.

Hulk, except he’s Asian:
Totally Awesome Hulk is race swap that seemed somewhat out of nowhere. Now, I understand that Amadeus Cho has been around for over a decade now, but the point still stands – why a race swapped Hulk to replace Bruce Banner? Why isn’t Amadeus Cho instead a Hulk-like character: able to transform, super strength like Hulk, but not big and green? You could have a character that fits all the traits of Hulk without being Hulk, perhaps even more monstrous than the green goliath. My first thought is something akin to Beast in Bill Willingham’s Fables.

Just ignore that this pic suggests he ignores leg day entirely

Iceman, except now he’s (always been) gay:
This one was a big one for a lot of people because, much like JaneThor, it didn’t jive with history and it was handled really poorly. Iceman has a history of relationships with women, they just aren’t stable and haven’t lasted long (then again, Marvel seems to hate long term relationships for all characters and destroy them anyway). He’s been in a love triangle or two, vying for a woman’s attention against another guy. Nothing but the exception of one single panel that some point to has ever indicated he’s gay (yet some claim it’s always been obvious).

I asked my friend for his opinion on this one, wanting a perspective on how it comes across for someone it would have more impact on and he was pretty adamant: “It’s total crap.” He agreed nothing has indicated Iceman is gay and there’s too much history to the contrary to pull a Jean Grey handwave saying it’s so and thus it’s now canon.

Instead he pointed to Northstar, a character who had much less relationship history, or character history in general, until they decided to do more with him and develop him as one of the first notable gay characters in the X-Men books. Northstar had become one of my friend’s favorite characters and he feels was handled in such an organic way that his development was outstanding. Where Iceman was outed by another character and just went with it, Northstar himself made the announcement and even had a storyline with a team mate being weary of him for his sexuality. Northstar’s story actually dealt with issues that real people face, albeit in a world of super heroes. It’s worth noting I don’t recall an uproar over Northstar’s coming out, nor his marriage in the comics.

Captain America, except now he’s black, after being old, after having a metal arm:
This one I’m a bit conflicted on personally, but some still aren’t crazy with it going as long as it has. On the one hand, it makes sense with Steve Rogers out of action that he’d pass the shield to his most trusted friend in Sam Wilson. On the other hand, once Steve Rogers is restored to super hero status, it seems like Sam would insist the shield go back to Steve. Of course, it’s even more complicated with having them both acting as Captain America at the same time. Sam’s only been wearing the name for two years while Bucky Barnes was Captain America for four before he could no longer carry the shield, so I’d actually put more criticism on bringing Steve back to Cap status too soon. He could have been a SHIELD director for longer, which would have tied in well with the next example…

Captain America, except he’s a Nazi Hydra Agent:
I’m not conflicted on this. Anyone who’s read comics for more than a year knew this was a fake out from the beginning, but it doesn’t make it any less infuriating. This is blatant pandering for shock sales and definitely upset a lot of people. Captain America means something, he stands for something. This is a pretty sticky one to step in, no matter the story you’re trying to tell. On its own, apart from all the other changes and shake ups, I don’t think this one would have been seen as a fake out and readers would have gone along to see how things panned out before Steve is returned to normal. But it was released at a time when it was just another straw on a straining camel’s back.

Riri Williams, however, may have been the straw that did that camel in. With all the various changes building a strain, it was announced a 15 year old black female MIT student would replace the out-of-action Tony Stark as the new Iron Man. There was the inevitable backlash and uproar, which was written off by many people as white nerds angry about a black female lead, but that’s taking a very dismissive and superficial view. These aren’t just white nerds, or angry men. It’s long time Marvel readers of all walks of life, all sexualities, all skin colors that are upset.

Falcon is now Captain America.
Captain America is now a Nazi.
Thor is now a woman.
Hulk is now an Asian kid and Banner is dead.
Hawkeye is now a woman.
Wolverine is now a woman.
Cyclops is dead (after he cheated on his wife, hooked up with his mistress, utilized child soldiers, took an aggressive stance against humans in defense of his declared nation, and became Magneto 2.0, if not worse than, oh and KILLED XAVIER).
Xavier is dead.
Jean Grey is still dead.
Spider-Man sacrificed the love of his life for selfish reasons to the devil himself.
Spider-Man is now also a woman in Silk.
Spider-Man is also now a woman in Spider-Gwen.
Spider-Man is ALSO now a mixed race kid.

On their own, none of these are that big a deal. Some are really well done, even. But character after character gets changed and you build up some ill will that this universe is simply no longer meant for people that loved these characters for the past 10, 20, or 30+ years. So, feeling it’s no longer written for them, they stop buying and you blame the sales slump on “readers don’t want diversity” and paint your customers as sexist, homophobic, misogynistic, etc.?

Marvel, it’s not that readers hate diversity or female characters, it’s just that they don’t like the entire Marvel Universe being completely replaced over the course of a couple of years. They just love the characters they’ve grown up with and don’t want to see them replaced. DC Fans didn’t embrace Dick Grayson as Batman, even though he’s the only heir worthy of the cowl and they KNEW it was temporary. But they still didn’t love it because Bruce Wayne IS Batman.

And Steve Rogers IS Captain America. Tony Stark IS Iron Man. Bruce Banner IS the Hulk. And Thor Odinson IS Thor. Others may step in to fill the role temporarily, but not as a permanent replacement, yet that no longer seems to be something readers can rely on. I thought Jean Grey would come back and the Peter / Mary Jane marriage, or at least relationship, would triumph over the devil Mephisto, yet here we are a decade later and nothing on either front.

Alright, Smart Guy, How Can Marvel Still Do Diversity Then?

First off, pace yourselves. Change doesn’t come overnight and cramming every race, gender, orientation into your books all at once causes massive upheavals and you get what you’re getting now. People get tired of all the changes for the sake of change and just walk away, resulting in sales drops. Decide on a few things to focus on, do those, and do them well.

For example: The Avengers can put Rogers and Wilson together as Cap and Falcon again, using both characters on the team. Keep Stark, but bring in T’Challa (remember when I said opposing ideologies/politics? Iron Man and Panther have enough in common that opposing ideals would make them an interesting pair to butt heads). Bring She-Hulk in as both the Avengers’ legal council and a team member rather than Banner. Keep Luke Cage and Jessica Jones on the team. And introduce a couple of new characters to join up (I would have said Ms. Marvel, but I think she’s getting her own team elsewhere soon).

Over in the X-Men, you could introduce a gay character, or a transgender character, and have them dealing with feeling as a bit of an outsider even among outsiders. I’m kind of surprised a mutant with shape shifting powers hasn’t been used to explore some themes of self identity and orientation themselves, taking real world concepts to the super hero level when their powers allow them to quite literally be fluid in who they seem to be.

And here’s a key: Don’t throw it in reader’s faces right off the bat. You don’t introduce yourself to someone at a party as “Hi, I’m Jeff. My sexual orientation is….” because it’s not THE defining feature of the individual. You start with your interests, your job, who you know in common, what movies or shows you like. Let the readers learn about these characters before you start stepping into the intimate areas of their personal lives. Let your characters breath first.

Second, introduce new characters as entirely new characters. You can base their core features on legacy characters, like I previously suggested with Cho’s Hulk being Hulk-like instead of a copy of the original. For example, Hulk and Thing are the same character – big, strong, brawlers. One’s green and the other’s a blue eyed teddy bear made of stone, but they’re the same super hero qualities in different physical forms. Utilize the key elements, but make the character new and unique.

Look at your diversity successes – Squirrel Girl, X-23, and Ms. Marvel Kamala are the primary “this is how you do it” examples, I think. Squirrel Girl was introduced in a quirky way, but really struck a chord and has grown in popularity over time. X-23 did the same with her original introduction, then her time with the X-Men (though how Jubilee was Wolverine’s sidekick for years yet you guys never did any father/daughter bonding with Logan & Laura over some ninja killing globetrotting is beyond me). Also, Laura was always cooler as X-23 than she has been as Wolverine’s replacement. Her upcoming new costume looks way better than wearing Logan’s.

X-23

Way cooler. Just enough Wolverine without fully copying Wolverine.

Miles Morales is a bit of a unique situation since he was a response to the Ultimate Universe becoming too carbon copy of 616, but despite some initial resistance, he built up his own foundation and gained his own personality, along with his own costume design, to gain acceptance and a huge fan following.

Moon Girl is also a good example. Yes, she’s a gender swap, but of a character that many readers have likely never heard of or followed if they had. There are plenty of lower tier characters you could revive with a new version and bring them up to A List status.

Ms. Marvel may be your most successful diversity character of all and look how she developed. She wasn’t just a replacement of Ms. Marvel with the same look and similar powers. She could have been given any name, really. That Danvers’ story had taken her on to a new role and left the “Ms. Marvel” name open was a great fit for a huge fan to take on the name (and let’s face it, it’s a very fan girl thing to do). But Kamala has her own look, her own powers, and her own basis. She doesn’t feel like a copy & replace design.

Third, once you’ve created these new characters, with their own superhero persona and their own costume and identity, give them just a mini-series to introduce them or add on stories in other titles. I know it’s risky publishing books that might not sell, but this is where we look back to digital and newsprint options being cheap ways to introduce new books. Who’s going to say a 99 cent first issue isn’t worth picking up, even on newsprint? If the mini-series does well, don’t jump the gun. Guest star them in another title or two or pick an existing team for them to join. Build up their popularity before they break out on their own.

Once these new characters are ready to spread their wings and fly (or swim, bound, teleport, swing, or whatever they do), let them actually do so. Don’t put another hero in New York or Los Angeles. If you want to start introducing new characters to increase diversity, let them spread out. A new character all alone against the street crime of Chicago. A superhero immigrant dealing with criminal schemes of drug or human traffickers in Miami. Put a team in Dallas, Seattle, or Atlanta. You’ve dabbled with these ideas briefly, but give a character or team the devotion the New York characters had in their early years this time.

Occasionally, a legacy character can come through town for a team up. Punisher would make sense to be moving around the country. Blade or Ghost Rider and a new character could go road tripping fighting supernatural enemies as they train them to fight more than just street thugs, but with the expectation they’ll break out on their own once they finish the hunt. I’ve heard Ben Reilly is being brought back as Scarlet Spider, so set him in a city well away from New York and let him mentor a young character if you wish. Just be sure these new characters have their own personalities and gimmicks.

And of course not every character is going to be a big hit. Some won’t resonate with readers, but that just gives you a cast of fodder to introduce on a team and potentially kill off to heighten the stakes of whatever threat they face.

Again, Riri Williams came along at the end of all these changes and may have simply taken the full brunt of reader frustration. Please, Marvel, listen when I say that readers did not show resistance to Riri because she’s a young woman, nor because she’s black. They resisted her because she was presented as Tony Stark’s replacement.

If you had a story that took Tony away from the U.S. on an international trip that lasted a good long time (or into space, or other dimensional), Riri could have been introduced as a “meanwhile, back home” situation. Same basic concept: reverse engineering Stark tech, starts using it as Ironheart, and fighting villains. As the Stark story away continues, you devote more time to Riri until the comic is almost 50/50 split between them. Riri becomes a new character expanding Tony’s book rather than replacing him.

Personally, I would have made Riri an anime fan and given her Iron Man reverse engineered suit a bit more of an anime mech suit vibe to further distinguish it. She looks like she’s simply wearing Tony’s Mark Hojillion armor rather than her own design.

Imagine if a fan of this got Stark’s design and did a merger of the two

Once Tony returns to the US, he could find out about this “new Iron Man” getting headlines and look to confront her over patent violations, copyright issues, and just what the heck she’s doing with his tech and what her intentions are. Once it’s sorted out, Tony goes on being Iron Man while Riri continues being Ironheart. Going back to politics, you could even have Riri not wanting to be under Tony’s wing due to difference of opinion on various matters.

Remember, Peter Parker didn’t take over Johnny Storm’s role. Ororo Munroe wasn’t introduced as the “new Marvel Girl!” X-Force debuted as the “New Mutants” but not the replacement to the X-Men and even the second generation of X-Men were a new team, not replacements of the old.  Storm, Bishop, Dazzler, Jubilee, Black Panther, Luke Cage, Psylocke (including a body swap), Falcon, She-Hulk, Forge, Blade (first Marvel character to get a modern movie was black btw), War Machine, M, Skin, Mondo, Synch, Cloak, and more are all minorities or women and readers didn’t hate them. There was no outcry over them. When they were introduced, though, none of them were brought in as replacements for popular characters, but as additions to existing rosters. Additions that brought diversity to those rosters.

Summary
To summarize this long winded ramble from a long time Marvel fan, diversity itself and female characters themselves are not why readers were driven away from the books. To get readers back, you need to address these simple challenges:

  1. Price point – Consider a return to newsprint to lower cost and potentially revive the collectability of comics.
  2. Politics – Tone it down instead of preaching to your readers. Acknowledge issues aren’t black and white and let your characters have varying degrees of opinions, but mostly address politics through metaphor with occasionally on the nose stories. Super heroes are escapism and too much real world politics shatter that outlet to forget about life for a while.
  3. Build diversity by adding new, well developed, characters without replacing others.
  4. Pull the big events back to one or two smaller ones for specific groups per year with the major events far apart and thus more anticipatory.

2014’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

So while there are officially three trailers, the third one that just came out is the first one I consider a full length trailer where Trailer 1 was a teaser and Trailer 2 was just Trailer 1 with 10 seconds of extra footage.  There’s also been a TV Spot.  But here’s the latest trailer:

So I’ve been holding off talking about the new TMNT movie because I wanted to wait until there was enough there to really talk about and form an opinion.  To say it’s been a rocky road for the movie is to put it lightly.  From the “alien origin” to the atrocious leaked “Blue Door” script, to the first look being a crappy children’s Halloween mask, to the late and, in my opinion, weak marketing push so far, I don’t think the heroes in a half shell have been off to a good start.  This trailer is the first that really starts to give some decent look at things.  So let’s break it down.

So we start off with a look at a slew of monitors which from set photos we know are in the turtles’ sewer lair.  Donatello, whose voice sounds pretty good, says “Surveillance is showing heavy foot clan activity.”  We then get the look at the “Foot clan” in the subway in their para-military tactical gear and assault rifles.  While some have argued otherwise, I still have yet to see anything that suggests the Foot Clan is a ninja clan.  They just seem like a military group or a terrorist group.

0:17 in – They have April O’Neil amongst their hostages.  I think Leo says “They’ve taken hostages” to which Raphael replies “Let’s rock and roll.”

0:20 in – We get a look at all their weapons. Leo’s katana, Mike’s nunchaku, Raphs sai (IGN notes that the sai is inscribed with “To find peace, look within, not from without” (paraphrased), and Donatello’s bo.

0:23 in – Going down the subway tunnel, we get a flash of Karai, with a handgun. Karai is flung across the subway and breaks the tile on impact against the wall.  Leonardo throws a Foot soldier across the subway station and through the window of a moving subway car. Don swipes at one, then we get a quick cut to another soldier being thrown into the ceiling.  I really don’t like the idea of the TMNT having superhuman strength, but I’m convinced they have it.  They did in the Blue Door script (Leo one arm throws a forklift) and what we’ve seen here looks like they have superhuman strength in the final product.

0:29 in – Raph proclaiming “This is OUR city” as we get a look at the soldiers again, a freight container is hurled at them, swinging forward and hitting them. Still implies super strength.

0:32 in – On a rooftop, the turtles seem to be celebrating their victory while April starts climbing from the ground up the fire escape.  Raph shouts “That’s what I’m talking about!” One (again, perhaps Leo?) says “Like shadows in the night.”  And finally one says “You don’t believe what you don’t see” just as the flash of April’s camera gets a pic of them, Raph, Don, and Mike celebrating with a high five and Leo off to the side from them, his weapons not yet sheathed.

0:35 in – This is my favorite part of this entire trailer.  The three brothers freeze in place after that flash.
Mike (whispering): Wha’wassat? (“What was that”, but the delivery is slurred in the whisper, it sounds great.  He sounds a lot like the current cartoon interpretation from Nick)
Donatello (whispering): A camera flash….

0:38 in – Chains shoot out to wrap around April to pull her onto the roof.  From images, Mike seems to have his usual nunchaku, but other weapons as well and they seem to have this one, though just seeing chain it’s hard to say with certainty what it is (I could wager guesses, but won’t).

0:41 in – Raph lands heavy next to April and gives a gutteral growling “Gimme the camera”  It loses some intimidation with Mike or Don mimicking the growl saying “Oh look, he’s doing his Batman voice.”  Leo jumps off the water tower, the scene that’s been in prior to the “just a mask” gag from the previous trailers, telling Raph to back off.  However, right after doing so, he threatens April with “Do not say a word about this to anyone. If you do, we will find you.”  Knoxville actually sounds decent as Leo here.  Honestly, I’m impressed.

0:51 in – Following Leo’s threat, Mike chimes in, echoing it. “Yeeeah, we’ll find yooou.  …I’m sorry, that came across super creepy, okay, that’s just, heh..we-will-find-you-though.”  And we get the now oft-seen April faint.

1:02 in – We get a shot of the city skyline with that Michael Bay WHOOOOM sound.  Get a look at Mike, Don, and Leo in the sewer lair with weapons drawn. Kanji is spray painted on the wall behind them, there’s a bicycle leaning against the wall.  I sometimes don’t like their shells as they don’t look like they’re actually attached to the turtles. They look like a big half shell held against their back with a belt and straps at times.  Leo’s looks worst in this shot.  Splinter has a voice over saying “My sons, I have trained you your whole lives to protect the city above. But I fear you are not ready for its greatest threat.”

1:03 in – While Splinter’s talking, we get a shot of Leo outside in the snow.  Humans running scared. Foot soldiers shooting. Raph running through a tunnel towards a fan grate. An explosion knocking the Foot soldiers back. Close up of Leo (who seems to have a scar along his head, subtle but there).  This shot of Leo, if you pause it, shows a lot of texture on the skin.  Don runs up and pulls his tech goggles down over his glasses.  His glasses seem to have something that comes down and hooks into his nostrils, which may help keep them in place since he doesn’t have a true nose.  Mike in the snowy setting atop a moving vehicle. Raph wearing his brothers’ weapons and twirling his sai (from previous trailers).

1:14 in – As Splinter says “greatest threat” we get to see William Fichtner’s character, Eric Sachs who we’ve been told is Shredder speaking to someone in the shadows. He is bald, his face scarred and he seems to be wearing a black kimono.  This definitely SEEMS to be Oroku Saki, but it’s not clear if he legitimately IS Saki, a wax model (we’ve seen Sachs in a museum of Japanese artifacts and he’s reportedly obsessed with the armor and Shredder’s history), or if he’s a figment of Sach’s imagination. Who knows!  Sachs tells him “We’re taking your armor to the next level.”  We get a look at said armor, which looks black with gold trim from behind. The Shredder armor has really got a cool samurai vibe to it.

1:18 in – Quick clips of Foot soldiers running down a tunnel, Splinter twirling a katana, bomb counting down and exploding, which knocks Mike back.  We get another glance at the lair with that explosion, though it’s an area we’ve seen in photos just from a different angle. Mike gets blasted back over their couch.  He appears to have something painted on his shell as well.

1:20 in – Shredder stands and faces off against Splinter, showing off way too many blades from his hands with a real bad Wolverine complex going on. Splinter says his name finally “Shredder.”  Leo shouts “Sensei!” and goes for Splinter, who jumps over the blades being shot out from Shredder’s arm. Leo is fighting four Foot soldiers, all armed with electrocuted staffs (taser on a stick!).  He also seems to have something bright blue spray painted on his shell.  We get a glimpse of Donatello yelling through what appears to be a cage or something blocking him. Then Mike next to Don getting zapped as well.  They continue to be tazed as they’re led into a truck and locked in.

1:37 in – Raph returns to the lair and jumps across the rubble to Splinter, shoving aside a massive chunk of concrete like it was nothing (superhuman….strength…).  Splinter, buried under rubble, tells him he must stop Shredder.  “Together, you are stronger than he can ever be.”

1:42 in – As Splinter is speaking, Donatello is shown moving forward through the lair spinning his staff and deflecting gunfire.  I think they’re tranq darts, but still gunfire.  Leo takes a couple of swipes at Foot soldiers and Mike skateboards through.

1:48 in – Close up of Raph “Let’s go save my brothers.”  Then we get Raph spinning his weapons, looks to be on the rooftop from when they first ran into April with the water tower behind him.

1:50 in – Queue the DUBSTEP MUSIC!  Three hummers fly over a hill coming down on Leo, who jumps and crashes into the windshield to be thrown ahead of the vehicles.  Mike sees this and yells “Leo’s in trouble” and heads after him on a rocket powered skateboard, drop kicking a guy off a hummer. Another Foot soldier pulls out a rocket launcher and fires, hitting a semi truck (bear in mind, this entire scene is mostly from The Blue Door script).   The explosion cuts back to the sewer lair explosion, though.

1:59 in – Raph gritting his teeth with all his brothers’ weapons strapped on faces off against Shredder with “Come on!” Shredder simply grabs him by the throat and walks forward, sliding Raph back, whose feet are breaking up the concrete beneath him and he gets thrown through the air into the ceiling.  Will Arnett, Vernon Fenwick, gets a line “Four turtles, one’s fighting a robot samurai….why not?”  During that we get a quick shot of Mike and Don readying for a fight.

2:06 in – Another shot of Shredder Wolverine-ing out his claws. Another explosion. The tower collapse from every trailer they’ve put out.  People running screaming.

2:12 in – At this point we see Shredder with his arm up calling his blades BACK to attach to his arm (the ones he shot at Splinter earlier).  Mike falling off the semi truck from the snow chase scene.  Raph and Leo flying towards the camera. One of them catching April from atop a building in daylight. Leo sliding down the snowy mountainside.  Donatello uses a button on his bo to flip a hummer completely end over end.  And then a scaffolding with all four falling towards the ground in broad daylight.

2:21 in – Vernon voice over “So they’re aliens” while we get a shot of Leo and Raph from the roof scene facing April.  April replies “No, that’s stupid. They’re turtles.”  Their boss, played by Whoopi Goldberg asks “Is there anything else we should know about the?” to which April says “They’re ninjas.”  End with another look at them fighting Foot soldiers in the sewer.

So I presume what we can piece together so far is this:

Foot Clan activity is something the turtles are monitoring and have been fighting. The Foot take hostages in a subway and the turtles go fight them.  Afterwards, April manages to follow them and first sees them on the rooftop, where they meet and she faints.  I’m assuming they take her back to the lair, but that might be later.  One way or another, she chooses to report what she saw to her boss which her insistence on the story may get her fired (the photo we’ve seen of her with her box outside the station).

Raph has an argument with Leo and leaves. The turtle lair gets attacked by the Foot with Shredder. They defeat Splinter and capture the brothers. Raph returns to find April in the lair and Splinter injured.  He gears up with the weapons and goes with April and Vernon to rescue the turtles.  Once they find out where they are, they make their way into the facility where Raph fights Shredder and gets beaten.  He gets away from Shredder to free his brothers and they escape with April and Vernon in the semi and the turtles fighting off Foot soldiers through the chase.

Returning to New York we get a show down with wanton destruction of public property.

I think I’ll just leave this for now. I need to mull over the details before finalizing my opinion so far.

 

 

Godzilla Stomps Box Office, X-Men Save the Future, Comics, and More!

Wow, it’s been busy this month.  With the TMNT anniversary month wrapped up, there was a lot of other things going on and it’s delayed me from writing another blog entry.  Godzilla stomped destroyed the box office with his release, X-Men: Days of Future Past hurtled through time to win over audiences and critics, a new chapter began in the Amazing Spider-Man comics, the TMNT anniversary issue and new issue of the ongoing IDW comic came out, and Project A-Kon starts tomorrow!  This blog will be a bit more brief and run through all these items…or will be terribly rambly going through all this items!  Let’s see which!

Godzilla

Despite the poorly accepted Godzilla 2000, it seems most people were still remembering the abomination of a movie simply titled “Godzilla” starring Matthew Broderick.  As the latest American production of Godzilla slowly built up its promotional material, fans were growing more and more excited.  The Internet seemed hopeful and as more teasers came out, excitement actually started building and anticipation grew for Godzilla.  A few weeks before release, I read an article in Forbes predicting the movie was going to be a box office flop.  The King of Monsters proved that prediction false with over $93 million on opening weekend and a worldwide gross that’s reached over $521.5 million in box office revenue.  A sequel is already in the works for the new series of the franchise and I hope they continue to do well.

To me, the movie was great.  Perfect, I’m sure there’s a lot of problems, so no, but absolutely fun.  Some complained about the lack of Godzilla, but the series of films have always been about the human element and the problem they face with another giant monster threatening Earth until Godzilla comes along and fights it.  Bryan Cranston was great as expected, but I felt like Ken Watanabe was underutilized.  I’m hoping he returns with a larger part as a more knowledgeable expert on Godzilla in the sequel.  The plot was particularly enjoyable in that it took the standard set up from past films with Godzilla vs a Monster, or MUTO (Massive Unidentified Terrestrial Organism) where past Godzilla flops have focused on man vs Godzilla.  We don’t want Godzilla as a bad guy, it’s his film and despite the destruction he causes fighting the enemy, he’s our hero!

I thought Godzilla looked great, though he didn’t have the personality of the old films.  He was more animal-like, described as an Alpha Predator of prehistoric origins as hypothesized by Ken Watanabe’s character.  They hint at the original Godzilla film with nuclear testing having awoken Godzilla in the past and granted the first glimpse of him, which was neat as well.  The size of Godzilla is massive. He seemed bigger than I recall, but then the old ones were a man in a suit on a set of miniatures, so it’s more perception than fair comparison.  I’d like to see a little more of his personality in future films, showing he has a little higher intelligence than simply a predatory animal.  After all, the original Godzilla could not only be communicated with by other monsters, but as relayed by Mothra through the twins, he didn’t care for mankind.  In a fight, Godzilla would gloat and laugh at his enemies in his own way and would somewhat throw a tantrum when getting frustrated.  While I don’t think that level of silliness would work for this new Godzilla, showing some level of emotion would be interesting.

I won’t spoil anything, but I will say I was expecting Godzilla to end the fight at the climax by breaking the female MUTO’s jaw.  The way he actually ended the fight shocked me and left me with a big grin on my face.  It was an awesome finisher to the fight.  I’m hoping the next film involves aliens as the source of the monster.
X-Men: Days of Future Past

The film impressed critics, which is saying something.  It’s currently 92% positive with critics and 94% with audiences at Rotten Tomatoes, which is the highest the franchise has ever reached. Even higher than First Class or X2: X-Men United.  It’s also been out for only a few weeks and is already the highest grossing X-Men film, amassing $500 million in just 10 days.  I not only enjoyed the film, but moreso appreciated the direction it has established for films going forward, the next of which is X-Men: Apocalypse.

As Bryan Singer suggested, the film was used to tie up some loose ends and fix some problems almost everyone had with the original trilogy’s plot missteps.  Days of Future Past avoids the temptation of mutant cameos for the sake of saying a mutant had a cameo (seriously, that was NOT Psylocke in Last Stand) and the mutants it does give an appearance to are actually used.  Fan favorites Blink, Bishop and not-as-favorite Warpath join Storm, Colossus, Iceman, and Magneto among the chief combatants in the dark future against the evolved Sentinels.  The story of the Sentinels themselves is different than the comics, but works well and is a nice spin on the storyline itself.

People did complain about Wolverine being the one sent back in time rather than Kitty Pryde a la the comics, but it makes sense to me.  The Mary Sue claimed it was lazy writing that neared sexism, but I disagree.  Lazy writing would be to further strain logic to send Ellen Paige back for the sake of it, having to make a convoluted excuse of her returning to a time where’s she’s not even been born.  Compound that with the fact that Wolverine is the frontrunner for the series and it’s logical to have Jackman’s character as the focal point since his character is logically in the past already.  The series already has enough continuity problems, particularly with ages, to need yet another one with Kitty alive when Kitty wasn’t alive for the sake of using Kitty who has been a minor role in the films as a whole so far.  Honestly, if we were arguing for not using Wolverine in Pryde’s place, I’d prefer to go totally unknown and have Bishop as our main focus.  The nice thing about sending Wolverine back, however, is that he doesn’t actually take the spotlight.  Logan is actually better used as a character amongst an ensemble in this film rather than the focal point of the spotlight.

As stated, though, I’m more interested in seeing how things develop from here.  Days of Future Past is the first Fox X-Film under the world building coordination of Mark Millar as consultant for Fox, Jackman said there was more presence from Marvel on set than previous films, and it’s the first real X-Film that’s been produced as an established comic team in the post-Marvel Studios Hollywood.  The film maintained the thematic continuity of the original films with the future X-Men wearing black armored suits akin to the leather of the original trilogy, but there’s some color coming into them as well.  Blue and yellow (in a black/yellow pattern that gives it a tan look) for Wolverine, for example.

I was stoked by the yellow at the ribs and on the arms, actually.

And with the 70s really being pre-X-Men there were not costumes for the majority of it other than Magneto donning his armor which had far more color than the original dark tones.

Very much like his comic colors

Which leads me to wonder if X-Men: Apocalypse, which has already been confirmed to be bringing in young Jean Grey, Cyclops, and Storm, will be going more traditional in their costumes as well.  Cyclops in a Captain America-like blue, hopefully.  I’m also personally hoping that Storm will have her mohawk for the 80s set film.  My only concern right now is Wolverine.  The timeline was altered in Days of Future Past and rather than undergoing the Weapon X project with Stryker in the 80s, we see Wolverine being taken by Mystique-as-Stryker instead.

With Lawrence’s Mystique becoming the face of the films alongside Jackman, and Mystique’s history of being used as a tie to Apocalypse, I’m wondering if they’re planning on having the Weapon X project headed by Stryker at the behest of Apocalypse and Wolverine becoming the Horseman of Death.  It would be a comic influence to do so, but not one I’d like to see as it causes continuity questions for the films all over again with the X-Men knowing Wolverine before he joins.  There was some cool speculation that the mutants we glimpsed in Days of Future Past, rescued by Mystique, could become the Four Horseman (or three, because…well, Toad).  Havok as War, the one with the radiation symbol on his face for Pestilence, and the one that made the soldiers simply pass out as Famine.  This would indeed leave death open.  Instead of Wolverine, though, I’d much rather see Angel brought back and made into Archangel.

 

Amazing Spider-Man

I have to admit I really enjoyed the Superior Spider-Man arc and as it moved along, you could literally start seeing the problems that were being put together for Peter upon his return.  As predicted at the start of the run, Peter’s return coincided with the release of Amazing Spider-Man 2 in theaters, and here he is.  The first story they’re telling is going to introduce a new character, Silk, who was also bitten by the same spider that gave Peter his powers in high school.  Now, the character might be interesting, but I hate when writers go back and add to the long held origin story.  The “oh, but here’s what really happened” or “here’s the rest of the story” doesn’t work for me and it rarely adds anything of value to the overall story.  I may also still be annoyed at “Xavier is an asshole” from the Second Genesis addition with Deadly Genesis.

The only thing I was particularly nervous about that won me over in a single issue was Anna Maria Marconi.  It was obvious that Otto had fallen in love with her and was in a serious relationship with her.  I liked that she found he was thinking of proposing to her, but I didn’t like the fact that they revealed that things had gotten to the point of sleeping together.  I’m old fashioned and I do like the notion of monogamy after marriage rather than sleep-around-single then settle-down-married.  Yes, I know it’s old fashioned, but it’s also the type of character I’ve always seen Peter to be yet Brand New Day has had him engage in one night stands and friends with benefits.  I think it would have been more contrasting for Otto, who is an older man and might see things more like his generation did, to have followed that notion.  However, I will say the “I’m pregnant” scene was absolutely fantastic and it nailed Maria as a favorite for me.  It’s been a long time coming, but I’m really interested to see how Spider-Man will work having a bit of a Batman quality to him.  With Parker Industries serving as Wayne Enterprises and Anna as his Alfred/Lucius-in-one.

Now when will Mary Jane appear in the movies again so she and Peter can start dating in the comics.  I will always hate the One More Day plot and dissolving the marriage rather than, I dunno, writing it properly and having MJ as a strong character.  Oddly enough, it seems that the whole Brand New Day has done more to better MJ as a character than done anything to really make Spider-Man/Peter better.  Mephisto was certainly right about one thing, though…just under the surface, Peter and MJ still seem to know they’re meant for one another, but just can’t get there….and the other relationships they enter into just don’t feel quite right.  Damn you, Mephisto.  I hope Dr. Strange gives you a whomping in an arc around the time of his movie release too.

TMNT Anniversary Wrap Up

I watched Secret of the Ooze again.  While the original movie still holds up, the Secret of the Ooze doesn’t.  It’s a perfect example of Hollywood getting involved with too much control. The film is clearly made to be silly and more funny for kids where the original film, an independent film, had a more mature tone.  I couldn’t bring myself to take time for TMNT III or to rewatch TMNT from 2007 (which I actually really liked).

The 30th Anniversary issue came out and while nothing particularly special to delve into on a continuing basis, it was a neat comic.  Multiple short stories, each one in the style of the various incarnations of TMNT: Mirage, Archie Comics, Image, IDW.  Very cool stuff.

The latest issue of the ongoing IDW was great. I really like Don’s friend Harold and the introduction of Metalhead was really cool. Santolucco is a great artist for the series and the writers are still doing some neat stuff there.  With Leo still being my favorite turtle, I’m interested to see how things continue to develop for him.  Everyone writes him off as the boring character since he’s the boy scout, but I think IDW has done well fleshing him out more. He’s sometimes a jerk (he’s the big brother, after all) to the others when they disagree, but he also cares about his family.  Despite being the most dedicated student, you can see a bit of difference of opinion between him and Splinter growing in his concern over agreeing with Don that dealing with the Technodrome and Krang may be most important while Splinter is focused on their direct problem with Shredder.  I’m definitely interested to see where that leads as all children have difference of opinion with their parents as they grow.  We know the Rat King is going to be appearing soon and that will be a good story for Leo as he’ll have to handle things alone if Splinter is under the Rat King’s sway.  Next issue, however, is looking to be great as we get a pairing that isn’t explored enough: Raph and Mike.  I’m really looking forward to that!

And Old Hobb and Slash are still working their own plan, as we saw in the end of this latest issue.  I’m expecting Alopex to wind up back in New York and possibly joining him for a while.  I’ll admit, I really like Alopex.  Granted, she a fox, literally, so that’s a plus for her in my book, but I like the character.  I just hope they don’t further the Raph/Alopex friendship as it makes her too much like Ninjara for me.  I’d much rather see Alopex and Leo form a friendship since they have history of going through similar challenges with the Foot and, honestly, Leo needs a friend.  Raph has Casey, Don has Harold and April, Mike has the pizza shop guy and possibly a police detective.  Leo has his family.  That dude needs a friend.

Project A-Kon 25

The big 25th Anniversary of the longest running Anime Convention in North America is THIS WEEKEND!  This will mark my 10th year straight going to this convention and I’m really looking forward to it.  I don’t cosplay anymore and sadly I won’t be taking Crow T. Robot (or will I?) since I don’t have a friend to carry Tom Servo.  I loved taking Crow and Servo and there’s no end to stopping to take photos, but my time at A-Kon is now usually spent at panel after panel with little time to waste in between.  Then again, there’s always down time in the evenings it seems. Maybe Crow will go, though he won’t be cosplaying this year either (seriously, cosplaying Crow is a heavy Crow).

I’m expecting a larger turn out of Attack on Titan cosplay as well as Sword Art Online. Expect to see a few Log Horizon as well.  I’ll be working on a preview of my schedule and which panels to attend today, packing up and getting ready. I’ll also be driving over today to go ahead and pick up my badge and bag o’ goodies.

A-Kon, here I come! 🙂

Batman Revealed, X-Box One Price Drop, and No More Gold Required

Wowzer, today is just full of news and exciting stuff, huh?

First off, and in my opinion most geek-tastic, Zach Snyder gave the world its first look at Ben Affleck in the Batman suit for 2016’s Batman/Superman film.

You can read about that and see the released photo over at Forbes.

But for here, let’s take a look at the lightened version from Comingsoon.net instead!

Best Batman Suit Ever?

The costume definitely has the shorter ears as suggested by earlier rumor that there would be a Batman:Noel influence as well as looking like there’s some influence from Frank Miller’s Dark Knight Returns (which has some influence on the film itself, supposedly).

I’m really digging the texture of the suit having a bit of a kevlar armor look and actually looking more like a fabric than some molded rubber or armor plating.  Honestly, I see some influence from another Batman source in there myself.

Because why not take a bit from THE BEST Batman games ever?

 

We also get a look at the new Batmobile there, which looks a bit like a mix of the Nolan-verse tumbler and the more classic Batmobile designs from the years, bit of the Burton/Animated Series influence perhaps.

Now, the Snyder/Affleck suit isn’t 100% perfect in every way. I’d like to be able to tell there’s some darker black to the bat symbol on top of the gray suit and I’m hoping there’s some yellow on the belt like the Arkham design above, but this is a black and white image, so we just have to wait for now to see the fully unveiled color shot of the suit.

Your feelings on Affleck as Batman aside, you have to admit, this is a pretty sweet Batman costume and definitely not something we’ve seen on film before (just like Kevin Smith said).

Now, switching gears to gaming news…

X-BOX ONE WITHOUT KINECT

They said it was impossible! They said it couldn’t be done! They said it was integral and necessary to the entire experience and you would be a raving lunatic to go without it!

And then, just about 6-7 months afterwards, Microsoft is reversing that decision, just like almost everything else they said about X-Box One last year.  That’s right, come this summer, you’ll be able to snag an X-Box One for $100 less than early adopters by forgoing the inclusion of a Kinect if you don’t want it.  Titanfall wasn’t quite enough to help Microsoft catch up to Sony as the PS4 is still about 3 million units ahead of X-Box One in sales, so this price drop is a definite way for them to try and get back into the race for some stronger competition.

Microsoft also announced a change to their X-Box Gold subscription, in that it will no longer be required to access applications for streaming services (because all these years, it totally made sense to require a subscription to access your subscription over the Internet, which you basically pay a subscription for…).

It’s good timing for Microsoft to announce this before E3, putting on-the-fence gamers in a mindset to keep an eye on X-Box reveals and news at the conference with a lower console price point to tackle.  However, you can bet Sony will be planning some big reveals to follow up on the massively successful PS4 launch last year.  Personally, this is all Microsoft playing catch up.  I’m more interested in seeing exactly what Sony and Playstation 4 have in store for Project Morpheus.

30 Years of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

Like most children of the 80s, I grew up steeped in everything I could get my hands on related to TMNT.  Of course, as a child in the 80s, and not a teenager, that mostly meant the original Fred Wolf cartoon and the plethora of associated toys.  I had no childhood knowledge of the gritty, more violent Mirage Comics from Kevin Eatman and Peter Laird at the time, but I still loved the turtles dearly.

I’ve been reading the IDW comics and have wanted to write some blog entries for a while.  My thoughts on story arcs, a piece on the Alopex character, some things I particularly like, and chances to talk about the mainstay characters. And, of course, I’ve been wanting to compile all my thoughts on the upcoming movie “from producer Michael Bay” (honestly, if you’re the only guy behind the camera getting billed on trailers, then you earn all the flak and ire from those unhappy, so yeah, it’s “Bay’s turtles” to me so long as he’s getting top billing over the director).  So far, however, I’ve waited to write about the turtles.  Waited for this month. For May 2014.

For this month, we celebrate the 30th anniversary of the first appearance of Leonardo, Michaelangelo, Donatello, Raphael, Shredder, and Splinter.  A comic series that still inspires today, a comic series that has no small part in my own ideas for a comic book or webcomic that I’m still working to put all the pieces of the puzzle together.  Two guys took influence from their favorite comic creators of the time and released what has to be the most successful independent publication in the history of comics.  That’s a really cool story.

So I decided I would dedicate the month of May largely to TMNT.  Oh yes, I’m going to see Godzilla and X-Men: Days of Future Past and I’m going to read other comics and play some other games. But largely, this month is dedicated to comics, games, cartoons, and movies involving four mutated turtles trained as ninja as well as pizza. Lots of pizza.

I actually spent last night watching the first five episodes of the Fred Wolf cartoon again.  The classic intro theme is still catchy as ever and the animation for the opening theme still holds up today.

The cartoon’s take on the turtles origin, with Splinter being Hamato Yoshi actually works pretty well and is still used in today’s incarnations in some way or another.  Cam Clarke and Barry Gordon are still the voices I most associate with Leonardo and Donatello, though I like later voice actors for Mike and Raph more, particularly Raphael.  Since the cartoon was for kids, Raphael’s personality took the largest change into one of more of a wise cracking sarcastic character rather than the most anti-hero archetype of the group.  Shredder was pretty cool in the first five issues with only occasional childish antics that grew more pronounced as the series continued.  And while Peter Laird is known to have not liked them, I think Bebop and Rocksteady were fantastic additions to the turtle continuity.  They suffered from bumbling henchman syndrome of a children’s cartoon, but the character have a lot of potential to be a serious threat, as IDW has been showing with their development of them.

I don’t know that, even with nostalgia encouraging me, I’d want to pick up the full 10 season run of the original cartoon, but going back and watching the original 5 episodes is still a lot of fun.  While I have my share of complaints with what has been seen and what’s known of the upcoming movie from Platinum Dunes, I do think that taking elements of the original cartoon could definitely work for a more updated and seriously toned film, but I’ll get into that later.

Happy birthday TMNT, here’s hoping to many more. Cowabunga, dudes.

May 3, 2014 – Free Comic Book Day!

Every since the first Spider-Man movie came out, the first Saturday in May has been Free Comic Book Day (click the link to learn all about its history!).

I found myself doing a lot of driving around today, starting with a 5 AM wake up call to drive a friend to the airport followed by a stop at a garage sale where I got a few nice games, namely Donkey Kong 64, Donkey Kong Jr., Gauntlet II, RBI Baseball 2, and Tetris 2 as well as about 32 NES and N64 manuals.  I returned home and caught about 30 minutes of sleep before getting back up and taking a shower before driving over to FX Games Exchange in Plano, TX where they, too, were celebrating Free Comic Book Day with Free Game Day!

I snagged a free copy of True Crime: Streets of LA and bought Mega Man X and Super Punch-Out with their Buy One, Get One 1/2 off sale.

After that, I stopped by Madness Games and Comics to get my grab of free comics.

Picked up:

Mouse Guard: Labyrinth and Other Stories (hardcover)
Guardians of the Galaxy
Soulfire (Madness Games & Comics limited edition)
Fathom (Madness Games & Comics limited edition)
Street Fighter #0
Worlds of Aspen (Damsels in Excess and Zoohunters flip side book)

Now, I have to say Free Comic Book Day is a little dangerous if you’re into comics.  It can quickly have you spiraling into new titles your wallet has not approved of, but it’s a great way to check out a preview of some new titles and this year it may have gotten me interested in looking into some further.

With the new movie coming out, I’ve been curious about Guardians of the Galaxy.  I’m not sure I’ll be picking it up monthly, but reading the free issue definitely has me leaning towards considering this in graphic novel format.  The new run helmed by Bendis looked pretty good with Iron Man among the team and upon his return, it looks like Agent Venom will be joining them for a while.  I have to say I do miss the old, dangerous, legitimate and serious threat of Venom as a Spider-Man villain, but the new direction they’ve taken the character bonded with Flash Thompson is pretty interesting.  Though I still think the symbiote’s knowledge of Spider-Man’s identity being wiped by Mephisto is stupid.  Then again, I think everything tied to One More Day/Brand New Day/One Moment in Time is pretty stupid.  Guardians of the Galaxy is definitely on my radar for graphic novels, though.

Street Fighter.  I was actually picking up Udon’s Street Fighter and Darkstalkers series for a while, but it got hard to predict when the next one would come out and when each series would end.  Street Fighter, then Street Fighter II, Super Streeth Fighter, Street Fighter Alpha, and so on.  I like the idea of each series being a set number and then the next story following other game titles, but it wreaked havoc on my monthly subscription at the local store.  Skimming issue 0 here reminded me that it’s still a good series from Udon and I was already thinking of going the graphic novel route with the Street Fighter books anyway!

Soulfire.  I remember when Soulfire first published.  I loved the scene of a military helicopter flying through a smokey, clouded sky only to find itself dealing with a dragon atop a modern skyscraper.  Soulfire, however, also seemed erratic in publishing and it often felt like it was getting dropped and restarted with new titles often.  Reading the free comic still makes me think there’s a lot of potential with this one, but I don’t know if I can keep up with it.  Anyone want to persuade yay or nay?

Ironically, the Worlds of Aspen drew my attention to a potential new title as well, though neither of the ones featured in the issue itself. Well, okay, the little creature on the cover of Zoohunters does make the series appealing in a Lilo & Stitch kind of way, but I was more intrigued by the poster image for a comic title Jirni.  I can tell you exactly why I dig the look from the image too…. it’s World of Warcraft.  Oh, I’m sure it’s an interesting story in its own right, but c’mon, a busty half naked purple skinned warrior woman with blue hair and a sword riding a feline-esque mount?  That’s a night elf for all intents and purposes.  And I’m intrigued.  I’ll be looking into Jirni and deciding if it will become a regular pick up.

My comic subscriptions have dwindled in recent months to the last year or so.  I used to pick up X-Men, Uncanny X-Men, Wolverine, Amazing Spider-Man and for a while Astonishing X-Men, Wolverine Origins, and I think another Spider-Man title.  I was reading Avengers for a while too, leading up to X-Men vs Avengers.  Really, the whole Marvel Now! movement just sort of drove me away from most of Marvel’s titles.  I just lost interest in the story direction.  Even Wolverine is making me struggle to stick with it after the Killable storyline, but I have every issue of Wolverine from each volume, so I’m loathe to break the collection just yet.

X-Titles became just Wolverine and the X-Men and Wolverine along with Amazing Spider-Man and IDW’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, but now I’m down to just Wolverine, Spidey, and TMNT.  With Wolverine dying later this year, perhaps that will open yet another slot on my dance card, though I expect X-23 might take over the solo title for a while until Logan is revived with his healing factor in tact (hopefully he’ll be back to his 90s self and X-Men as a whole will get back on track).

So what comics did you pick up at Free Comic Book Day?

And, it’s a little early, but May the 4th be with you tomorrow. And don’t forget Monday is the 30th Anniversary for Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles! I’ve got some special blog entries planned for Monday!

Amazing Spider-Man 2; Good, but not Amazing (Spoiler Free)

Fair warning, I say “spoiler free” but there are two minor spoilers regarding what I’d say is more of an Easter egg than a plot point.

I saw Amazing Spider-Man 2 on opening night, or apparently on preview night as the showings prior to midnight are apparently called, and while I’ve seen a lot of people hated the movie, I really enjoyed it.  Is it one of the best comic book movies? Probably not. Is it the worst? Absolutely not.  It’s a good movie, it’s fun, and it’s the best version of Spider-Man himself on film thus far.

The first thing I knew from the trailer proved to be accurate; I love the costume.  They finally managed to bring the classic Spider-Man costume to screen in complete accuracy (well, except the stylized spider emblem, but I’ll forgive that).  It looks like cloth, it folds and creases with his movements, it ripples in the wind as he’s free falling, and it looks fantastic with the large white eyes. Hopefully they don’t try to tweak the costume going forward and they just keep this one from here on out.

Seriously, it looks really freakin' awesome.

Seriously, it looks really freakin’ awesome.

Peter Parker is well presented as well, his inner conflict, his hesitation to get close to people out of concern for them, but unable to stay away because he genuinely cares for people.  This is also the semi absent-minded Peter that will ramble a bit before realizing his surroundings when he’s excited or upset.  Honestly, I think Andrew Garfield nailed both Peter and Spider-Man in this film.  He’s got Peter’s emotional anguish as well as his compassion, but foremost, he just seems like a fun Spider-Man.  Cracking jokes, making quips at the expense of his enemies, even just sort of talking to himself while he’s web swinging.

Emma Stone still plays a fantastic Gwen Stacy and the relationship between her and Peter is still perfect on screen. Aunt May is good, though I still can’t quite get over her still having color to her hair, but she’s definitely the caring aunt who still worries but also has her own strength (as she should be).  The only supporting cast member we haven’t seen that I am still looking forward to is J. Jonah Jameson, though I wonder if they’re delaying to set themselves apart from Raimi’s trilogy or if they can’t decide on an actor.  Minor, very minor, spoiler: Jameson does “appear” in the movie in the form of an e-mail response to Peter who is starting to freelance photos for the Bugle.  Personally, I don’t care that it’s a new continuity, I want J.K. Simmons to reprise the role.

Now for the reason the movie was good and not great.  The villains.  Electro is perfectly adapted to screen in terms of his powers and the visual portrayal of them. The fight with Spider-Man is pretty cool and seeing him at full power “living electricity” Electro is pretty cool (unless you’re a purist who wanted the Earth 616 Electro, but remember the movies are, like Marvel Studios films, largely influenced by Ultimate Universe of the comics).  The problem with Electro was Max Dillon.  I don’t fault Jaimie Foxx for a bad performance so much as the writers.  It just felt like he had poor motivation for becoming a villain against Spider-Man.  I kind of dug the origin of him being a nobody that everyone overlooks. Electro has always been a second rate villain in the eyes of many of the rogues’ gallery in the comics and he’s often had stories where his goal is to prove himself a legitimate power player as much as accomplishing whatever scheme he has in the works, so the basic premise of his arc was fine.  It’s just that the build up just seems decent, then the “moment” of going rogue seems fairly forced.

It also felt like the music for Electro’s first fight had this sort of “hearing voices” effect to it, which I felt seemed off for Electro, particularly in a movie with Green Goblin, who is supposed to pretty much be outright insane.  Speaking of Goblin, he also didn’t have the greatest development. Harry had a much better motivation as a foundation for his actions, but it still felt a bit rushed.  I think I also missed a single line that explained why Harry decided to put on the military suit thing that goes with the glider after becoming Goblin.  No spoilers, so I won’t go into detail there.

I will say I didn’t care for Goblin overall, though. It’s one thing I really don’t like from Ultimate Universe being used in film. I really want to see Norman Osborn, completely batty out of his mind, dressed up like a fairy tale goblin with green and purple.  It’s not like it has to be total spandex. Green Goblin has had enough iterations that his traditional look should be able to be pulled off instead of some quasi-pseudo-military/paintball suit.  There are plenty of versions of Osborn’s Goblin costume that has a bit of a scale mail design to it, so I’m just not clear on why they can’t go with that for a movie.

Because this could actually look cool on film

Because this could actually look cool on film

Instead we keep getting all green robo-suits for some reason. Osborn, either Harry or Norman, is crazy as a loon. There’s really no reason someone that far off their rocker couldn’t rationally, in their mind, dress up like this actual goblin to terrorize people and Spider-Man.  On top of that, is it just me or does Dane DeHaan look more like he’s supposed to be Hobgoblin than Green Goblin?

Looks more like Hobgoblin to me.

Looks more like Hobgoblin to me.

Add to the rushed, rather weak, development of the villains with a terribly short fight against Green Goblin and you’ve got a rather disappointing film in terms of villains.  There’s also Rhino, who is really used more as a set up to lead into the Sinister Six film, or Amazing Spider-Man 3 (I’m not sure which they plan on doing first), which Paul Giomatti seems underutilized for.  Mickey Rourke seems like he would have been a better choice after his role as Whiplash to play the Russian Rhino.

All in all, I still enjoyed the film. I know critics hated it, though the review I read from a critic seemed overly critical to me, even suggesting that the movies staying true to their source material is a detriment because it takes away some possible surprises.  Critics aren’t comic book fans, it seems.  I don’t know of any fan who WANTS the movies deviating from the source material.  A Spider-Man movie where Gwen and Peter move to Europe and live happily ever after isn’t what fans are looking for.  We want to see our comic stories brought to life and while I’ll agree adaptation does not mean scene by scene replication, the general direction of the films should be true to their origins.

"I would look across the tables and I'd see you there with Gwen, maybe a couple of kids" --wait, wrong movie!

“I would look across the tables and I’d see you there with Gwen, maybe a couple of kids” –wait, wrong movie!

 

Honestly, though, my favorite addition to the Amazing Spider-Man trilogy came in the form of Norman, then Harry’s, personal assistant at Oscorp.  A pretty raven haired young woman by the name of, spoiler, Felicia.  I’ll leave you to guess her last name, which is not stated nor listed in the credits, but I think we all know what the plan is for her.  I think it would be interesting for Peter to have an ally in ASM 3 myself.

Now, that said, I spent a bit of time playing The Amazing Spider-Man 2 game on Playstation 4 today as well.  Honestly, it seems like it would have been a better overall script, but you’d need a lot more time, even trimming it down from game length.  I’m well into it and dealing with a gang war, Russian mafia, Kinpin’s presence, and Kraven the Hunter thus far as an ally and I’ve only met Max Dillon once.  I’m interested to see how they develop Dillon into Electro in the game’s story, which may be able to flesh him out further than the film.  He just seemed so sniveling in the film…

The game, however, is pretty fun but nothing new.  The combat is fun, but not as sharp as the Arkham series and I’m beginning to wish, like many, that Rockstar could get a crack as Spidey since Activision seems happy to recycle every previous iteration of free roaming Spider-Man with a few tweaks.  I do like that the game finally returns to the style from Spider-Man 2’s game where you actually have left and right triggers for web swinging. If there’s a building on the left, a right trigger isn’t going to do anything if it’s just open air and you can’t snag a web line to the sky.  I’m still unlocking things, so I’m not sure if it gets as detailed as Spider-Man 2, which is currently still the best free roam web swinging – being able to do different tricks while swinging and such was a nice addition.

Overall, the game doesn’t seem too ground breaking over Amazing Spider-Man, though there’s a few new random crimes to help with.  Since there’s a crime wave, I’d like to see the petty crimes getting so out of hand that there’s almost no way to manage them all and have that reflect on the city’s opinion of you.  Mostly, though, I just wish Marvel and Activision would develop a free roam Spider-Man game with a lot of thought into it and set firmly in the Marvel comics world.  Let players swing out to the Statue of Liberty and hang out with Johnny Storm.  Have Wolverine cameo.  Contact the Avengers for help to find they’re off world or out of the country.  Iron Man cameo would be another nice touch (get a good Robert Downey Jr impersonator and let the game indulge our fantasy of the merged cinematic universe).  Still, if you enjoy Spider-Man games, this one doesn’t have too much to disappoint other than a general lack of new or groundbreaking features.

So far, at least the story has been interesting and Stan Lee is always a welcome addition to any game (it’s still the same “Stan” you were house sitting for in the first game, who owns a comic book store, the “Comic Stand” with the neon D burned out).  The store is where you can view the statues, comics, art, and access the fight challenges on the arcade machine. I also was amused to bring up my camera and zoom in to look over the comics on the stand, t-shirts on the walls, etc.

All in all, I’d say Amazing Spider-Man 2 is worth the look, either in theaters or on your console.