Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Don't hate the fandom, hate the fans.


I love comics, but some days I truly hate comics fans. Today I read about Janelle Asselin’s recent harassment on Twitter, so it’s definitely one of those days.

In case you missed it, Asselin wrote a critique online about how she found the cover for the relaunch of Teen Titans #1 offensive because Wonder Girl, a 16-17 year old character, is depicted as having Playmate proportions. Folks on the internet – including at least one DC Comics staffer – didn’t like that, and discussed the matter with her in a calm, reasoned, open dialog.

Ha! Just kidding. What actually happened was people called her stupid, attacked her credentials, dropped the old “fake geek girl” meme, and threatened to rape her. Then they cried out about how their rights to expression where being infringed upon whenever anyone tried to point out how they were being terrible human beings. Because the internet.

Seriously. There are people in this world who will threaten people with sexual assault because they disagree with their opinions on comic book boobs. This is why the universe keeps lobbing asteroids at our planet, people.

Not every comic book fan (whether male, female, or those who identify non-binary) is like this, of course, nor are these sorts of overly entitled, persecution complex-possessing, mouth breathing Men’s Rights Activist types limited just to our particular tribe. But ours seem so much more exclusionary and desperate to maintain some misguided view of a hierarchy in which they maintain some sort of power, and even the slightest perceived threat to that tiny existence of theirs sends them into apoplectic fits. It’s tiresome. It’s loathsome. And most of all, it’s embarrassing.

Nerds of a certain stripe like to rail against the things in society that they feel are keeping them down. Jocks. Girls. Pop cultural depictions of nerdy types like Steve Urkel or the guys from The Big Bang Theory. Well, if you’re one of the people who falls into this particular group, I’m going to let you in on a little secret. Ledge Riprock, captain of your high school football team, isn’t the real problem. Sally Jenkins, the girl who laughed when you asked her to prom, isn’t the real problem. Sheldon, Leonard, Howard, and Raj aren’t the real problem.

You are.

You don’t get to complain about a lack of acceptance when you go out of your way to not accept anyone, set impossible barriers to keep them from entering “the club,” or threaten someone solely because their opinion differs from yours. You don’t want to let anyone into the kingdom? Fine. I can tell you with certainty that no one wants into your hateful, awful little kingdom anyway. Enjoy that palace you’re building around yourself; it’s going to be lonely.

You get the community you deserve. Don’t try and drag the rest of us down with you. If you have issues with how the rest of the world sees and presents you, it’s because you’re out there embodying the very worst traits possible. You hate yourselves, and we hate being associated with you. Smarten up, or get the hell away from the rest of us, because you’re trying to drag the rest of us down with you and we won’t have it.

You think you’re ostracized now? Brother, you don’t know the meaning of the word.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

RIP The Ultimate Warrior (or, "THERE IS NO PLACE TO RUN! ALL THE FUSES IN THE EXIT SIGNS HAVE BEEN BURNT OUT!")

The death of Warrior, (a.k.a. the Ultimate Warrior; f.k.a. Jim Hellwig) hit me a lot harder than I would have expected, because I was never his biggest fan.  Don't get me wrong, he was fun and memorable as can be.  Even if he wasn't the best wrestler around, he famously brought a lot of energy to the ring and was entertaining as hell on the mike; his promos are deservedly the stuff of legend:


But, well, I held a grudge.  Back in the early 90s, in the midst of his famous feud with Undertaker, the two were set to headline a house show in my hometown of Bangor, Maine, and though Undertaker showed up, Ultimate Warrior didn't.  He ended up being replaced on the card by Roddy Piper, who put on a hell of a body bag match with 'Taker (Piper ended up filling in for a lot of bigger name talent who wouldn't show up for house shows in Bangor at that time, which is one of the main reasons I'm a huge fan of the man to this day).  Not long after that, Warrior would be gone from the WWF WWE (mustn't invoke the wrath of the pandas by referring to the company's old name).  He'd bounce back into the employ of Vince McMahon a few times, of course, but just a few years later he'd be gone for good.

At time I thought "good riddance".  But back then I was a young, disappointed wrestling fan who didn't know a lot about the behind the scenes aspects of the wrestling business, so I had no idea about the professional or personal turmoils he was going through at the time.

So flash forward to the weekend of WrestleMania XXX and the Hall of Fame ceremony, and here's a guy on stage who has both hurt and been hurt, forgiving people who had slighted him, earning the forgiveness of people he had slighted, and reveling in his legacy with his wife and young daughters.  And deservedly so, I say.  It was a wonderful moment.  Warrior didn't just bury the hatchet with the likes of Hulk Hogan, Jake Roberts, and Vince McMahon that night, but he did it with me, too.  He certainly didn't know it, but he gave the impression that he probably would have cared if he did.  And then to see him back in character on Raw was fantastic... even if he wasn't as big or as fast anymore, he was the Ultimate Warrior again, and I was back to being 12 years old for a few minutes.

So losing him the very next day... that was just unfair.  But at least the past could be put to rest at last.

Thanks for entertaining me, Warrior.  My condolences go out to his family, his friends, and all of his fans, my fellow warriors.


Sunday, February 23, 2014

Look up, waaaaaaay up: a short appreciation of CBC's The Friendly Giant

I know we're supposed to be all "Boo, Canada!" here in the states right now because of the women's Olympic hockey final or something, but I can never bring myself to hate our neighbors to north.  For one thing, I grew up in Maine, so Canada really was my neighbor and I've visited a bunch of times throughout my life.  And I've written before about things they've given the world that I've enjoyed (stuff like Tim Horton's, SCTV, You Can't Do That on Television, Douglas Coupland, Reveen the Impossibilist, William Shatner, Superman co-creator Joe Shuster, and so many more), but basically my warm affection for Canada comes down to one simple fact: it's impossible to hate a country that gave us as gentle a show as The Friendly Giant.


And gentle is really the best word possible here.  The Friendly Giant was a 15-minute long show that ran for three decades on the CBC, and it helped teach generations of Canadian children (or Americans north enough to get the CBC) an appreciation for traditional folk music, storytelling, and a relaxed, genial humor.  Every show followed pretty much the same pattern... the camera would pan across a model of a village until we saw the feet of Friendly (Bob Homme), who would then ask the audience to "Look up, waaaaaaaay up!" and speak with him.  Then it was back to the castle, where he'd set out tiny model furniture for (ostensibly) us at home to relax in while he, Jerome the Giraffe (who'd peak his head in through the window), and Rusty the Rooster (who lived in a bag hanging on the wall) would talk and entertain.  As the show ended, he'd put the furniture back and give us a kind wave and farewell, and then the drawbridge would go up for another day.

(Speaking of the furniture, my grandmother used to have a couple of tiny chairs on the windowsill of her apartment when I was little that reminded me of the ones on the show.  Whenever we'd go to see her, I liked to pretend we were visiting Friendly's castle.  Nanny had no idea what I was doing but she'd indulge me because she was great like that.)


It probably seems a bit slow by today's standards.  Truthfully, it was probably slow by the standards of the time I can remember watching it (about 1979 through maybe 1981, or whenever it was our cable provider replaced the CBC with another hallmark of my childhood, Boston's WVLI - Channel 56).  But I think that was a large part of the appeal.  For one thing, it came on first thing in the morning, so it was a good show to wake up to and begin the slow build up through Mr. Dressup and maybe the Canadian Sesame Street until I'd switch over to Captain Kangaroo or regular Sesame Street.  The slow pace and, well, friendly manner of the show also hit those same parts of my brain that appreciated Mister Rogers' Neighborhood.  It's not too hard to imagine the village where Friendly's castle sat being adjacent to either Fred Rogers' "TV neighborhood" (where the real world interactions took place) or the Neighborhood of Make-Believe.  Handyman Negry and Lady Aberlin could play guitar while Friendly accompanies them on the recorder or something... it's a nice thought.


They definitely don't make 'em like this anymore, but thankfully there are a bunch of episodes up on YouTube if and when I want a reminder of the time when they did.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Pretty Sketchy: Animated Vi

The gothy, perky, prone-to-snorting-when-she-laughs, cute as a freakin' button version of Shrinking Violet from the CW's too-short-lived Legion of Super-Heroes cartoon (just two seasons, 2006-2008), as rendered in my sketchbook for me by Chris Gugliotti at Rhode Island Comic Con 2012.  Chris was a super nice guy and a hell of an artist, so you should check out his website at the link above and consider throwing some money his way via the inter-ma-nets or at a con.  Thanks, Chris!

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Everything is Awesome (Though Maybe Occasionally a Bit Puzzling) - Thoughts on The Lego Movie

Like apparently most of America, the kiddo and I made it out to see The Lego Movie this weekend, and we both enjoyed the heck out of it.  The script was funny and imaginative, taking some pretty well-worn kids movie story beats (Be Yourself! Embrace Creativity! Everyone Has Something Special About Them!) and keep them interesting.  The casting was just about perfect, from the main characters right on down to the bit players (in my head, that's how Green Lantern has been for years).  And, of course, visually it was amazing, good enough to make you think that the nearly 4 million unique virtual bricks used in the movie - over 15 million virtual bricks total (via) - existed in real space, not just in some computer somewhere.  We're both looking forward to seeing it again to pick up on all of the things we missed while laughing at other stuff, as well as all of the Easter eggs we surely missed the first time.

Also, I'm pretty sure we're already driving my wife crazy by shouting "SPACESHIP!!!" at each other a dozen times a day, but I don't see that stopping soon.  Sorry, honey.

However, there are a couple of things that left me scratching my head when I left the theater.  These aren't nitpicks so much, more like Arsenio Hall's (or C&C Music Factory's) old things that make you go hmmm...

This will get pretty SPOILERY.  So if you haven't seen it yet, skip the section in between the picture of the cast looking confused and the picture of Benny the 1980-Something Blue Spaceman about to realize his movie-long dream.



Okay, so in the final act of the movie (See? I said there'd be spoilers!), we learn that the entire plot of the movie is taking place in the imagination of a kid named Finn as he plays in his Jerk Dad's giant AFOL (Adult Fan of Lego) Basement Paradise Lego Set-Up (we know Jerk Dad is a Jerk Dad because his Basement Paradise Lego Set-Up has signs everywhere that say "Hands Off!" and "Do Not Touch!").  Right after we learn this, Jerk Dad comes home and is upset to find Finn has been disassembling and rebuilding parts of the Basement Paradise Lego Set-Up to tell his story.

Stuff happens, of course, and Jerk Dad begins gluing everything in place so it can't be taken apart again, but he starts to really look at Finn's handiwork and gets impressed by it (because, yeah, the stuff this kid was making was pretty awesome), and in the end we all learn an important lesson about sharing our hobbies (and our Lego) with our kids, and maybe to stop worrying about following the instructions and just play creatively.

These are lessons I wholeheartedly agree with, endorse, and attempt to practice in everyday life (though admittedly I may limit access to some of the more important-to-me parts of my own Lego stash - which is SIGNIFICANTLY smaller than my son's, I might add - because the kid tends to lose things).  Two things, though.

1.  For a movie that spends its entire running time driving home the point that there's no one way to play with this toy, that you can do ANYTHING with this toy... it does spend the last 20 minutes or so unironically lecturing you on how you should be playing with this toy.  For all his faults?  Jerk Dad's Basement Paradise Lego Set-Up is quite an achievement, you guys, and if he wants to slavishly recreate cityscapes in impressive detail, maybe that's kind of his prerogative so long as he's not a complete Jerk Dad about it to his kids?

2.  For a movie that spends its entire running time driving home the point that you should step beyond the instructions and build creatively, it does have a rather impressive (and equally unironic) marketing push for tie-in Lego sets in which you are encouraged to follow instructions and recreate the builds from the movie in slavish detail.

Just sayin'.


But those puzzling bits aside, The Lego Movie is a good time, one of those things that's actually worth leaving the comfort of your home to experience (and with a winter like the one we're having, I think that's saying something).  Skip 3D, though... it doesn't add as much to the experience as you'd hope.

SPACESHIP!!!