"Dress for the job you want, not the job you have."

If there's a better thing than masked wrestlers all dressed up, then I don't want to know what it is.

Still a thing!

You know how it is.  You get busy, time slips away from you, society itself comes crashing down in an apocalyptic doom spiral... we all know the story.

Anyway, the plan for right now is that posting will resume on an at least quasi-regular basis.  We'll see if I'm able to stick to that.  And if you're still around to even see it, great, thanks so much.

Good Words - A Brief Reaction to Some of the Reactions to Orlando

I woke up this morning thinking about Orlando and had this exchange from Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan stuck in my head on repeat (yeah, I know, but bear with me):

David Marcus: Lieutenant Saavik was right: You never have faced death.
James T. Kirk: No, not like this. I haven't faced death. I've cheated death. I've tricked my way out of death and -- patted myself on the back for my ingenuity. I know nothing.
David: You knew enough to tell Saavik that how we face death is at least as important as how we face life.
Kirk: Just words.
David: But good words! That's where ideas begin. Maybe you should listen to them.

The context is obviously different and not particularly important.  What is important is that last line of David's, and that is what has stuck with me.

News in Orlando brought about the expected horrified responses and a lot of people expressing sympathy and saying they were sending their thoughts and prayers.

Not for the first time, but assuredly the loudest, there was a lot of backlash to this, with people angrily saying that thoughts and prayers were empty and useless, and that it was a time for action, not words.

I get the anger.  The anger is justified.  It's justified after a single such attack occurs, much less the umpteenth.  And yes, we need to do more to make sure all of our people (no matter who they are) are protected from violent attacks (no matter what motivates them).

But I hesitate to tell anyone that their words are useless.  Before we can act, before we should act, we need to stop.  And think.  And feel.  And speak.  We may question that sincerity of what is said by some, particularly those speaking out in sympathy with a group that they usually cast aspersions upon, and that's only natural and probably good (question everything, I say, but not to the point where your skepticism prevents you from accepting what may be genuine, if unexpected, support; that's a problem, too).

But - and I may be totally naive here - I cannot believe than any expression born from empathy and kindness will ever be useless.

Taking the next step and turning those words into action is important and necessary, yes, but it's a start,  We can work with a start, so never downplay the importance of words.

Especially good words.

That's where ideas begin.

Comics Alliance's Andrew Wheeler on Superheroes

So a few weeks ago, when all that hoo-har about the Captain America "revelation" hit, Comics Alliance EIC and writer of "Another Castle" Andrew Wheeler wrote the following series of tweets about the origins of superhero storytelling and how that sometimes (often?) clashes with modern sensibilities.  I liked it because it expressed a lot of similar thoughts I've had on the topic, so I wanted to present the whole series here without any further comment, because it reflects where I'm at well-enough that I can't add too much.

(Click to see them at a readable size.)

RIP Darwyn Cooke, 1962-2016

Too much talent, too many stories left to tell, too young, too soon.

Thank you, Mr. Cooke.

Angry Superhero Movie 2: The Angry Superheroing

"Hey, guys.  Maybe some SPOILERS ahead. So, you know, read carefully."

The Summer of the Angry Superhero™ continues!

Captain America: Civil War is unquestionably a better movie than Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, but they have a lot of the same problems, and I left the theater feeling the same way about both of them. There were parts I liked (some quite a bit) and breakout characters whose solo films I'm now looking forward to, but they were also both overlong, tried to do too much, and were weighed down by an unearned sense of self-importance.

Overall, though, my feelings on both movies comes down to two things:.

The first is simply that I'm sick to death of angsty, angry, morally gray superhero storytelling.  It's not the whole "all the superheros are fighting" thing, per se, because that's a trope almost as old as the superhero genre itself, going back to old school throwdowns like the Human Torch vs the Sub-Mariner and Captain Marvel vs Spy Smasher.  There are misunderstandings, punches are thrown, and then comes the inevitable team-up against a common enemy (admittedly, in the Marvel movies' case, that team-up is several films away yet, but still).  Two of these same types of movie in the same summer is too much, I'd argue, but whatever.

No, what bugs me in these movies - and in the last decade or so of the comics from both publishers that spawned these films - is that no one seems willing (or able?) to let our heroes be heroic anymore.  I've talked about this before, but we've become too skeptical of our heroes' true motivations, we're too cynical to accept capital-G Good at face value.  And hey, I get it... we live in a world now where real-life superhero Hulk Hogan goes on a racist tirade in a sex tape and beloved TV dad Bill Cosby stands revealed as a serial rapist.  Those (and many others) are blows to the American pop psyche that are going to leave marks that will take generations to recover from fully.

But on the other hand, I think bringing the actually-heroic down to that level in the name of "realism" and "making them relatable" does more harm than good.  Sure, darkness defines the light, and you don't have much of a story without a struggle, but an endless slog of that darkness and struggle is really hard to sit through, especially when normally upstanding characters seem to just give into it because actually standing up to it is just too hard.  If our heroes constantly compromise their beliefs in the name of expediency or convenience, then of course cynicism will continue.  We learn by example.  It's the worst of self-fulfilling prophecies.

The second reason ties into the first, and it's that fixation with realism (or realism-adjacency) superhero films have had since the Nolan/Bale Batman movies.  "If these characters and situations existed in our world, this is how they'd work," we're repeatedly told.  And yeah, maybe that's true, but why would I want to see that?  I don't look to superhero storytelling to be a beat-for-beat re-enactment of the world I see every night on the news.  I look to superhero stories for an escape from that.

There's nothing wrong with using real world events as a jumping off point, something that can be served up and discussed allegorically (like on this past season of Doctor Who, where we got a two-part episode about religious fundamentalism and terrorism in Zygon drag)... that's the sort of thing superhero stories do very well.  But a lot of these movies are getting too bogged down in the details, I think, and the escapist fantasy gives way to too much emphasis on the harsh light of day.  Or the harsh gloom of overcast skies at dusk, because a lot of these movies are literally gray nowadays.

I mean, look... when one of your characters is a sentient, nigh-omnipotent android with an Infinity Gem in his forehead and a weird penchant for sweater vests, the real world doesn't really enter into things anymore.  Maybe stop trying to show me how a world with this guy in it is just like my world, and instead show me how a world with this guy in it is actually very different from mine.  The relatable aspects can all be established pretty easily - hey, their grocery store sells Rice Krispies, too! - so spend the time and effort on the fantastic.

Your mileage may vary, of course.  Judging by the weekend box office numbers it probably does, and that's fine.  As I said, neither movie was all bad, they both had many things about them I enjoyed and I find myself looking forward to the solo movies for Wonder Woman, Black Panther, and especially the new Spider-Man, so it's not like I'm coming out of these with a completely negative frame of mind and actually want to watch them both again to see if my opinion changes at all.  I'm just tired of the doom and gloom, and I don't find bleakness to be entertaining (which is why I can't get into stuff like The Walking Dead, Game of Thrones, Breaking Bad, etc.).

Feeling like I need an escapist fantasy to recover from my escapist fantasy seems wrong on so many levels.

 "Bleak or not, though, I'm pretty damn cool, amirite?"

Appreciating Chyna

Joanie Laurer, better known to most as Chyna, died on Wednesday, and it's a damn shame to see another professional wrestler (or anyone, really) lose the fight with the demons in their life.  It's especially tragic because although she will be lauded and celebrated now that she is gone, she should have received her due when she was still here to enjoy it.

I'm as guilty of this as anyone, sadly, because although I saw most of her career in the WWE, I didn't pay as much attention as I probably should have, and did even less so in the years since as she bounced around the lower ends of the entertainment field.  And it's sad, because she was important for two reasons.

1.  She wasn't a sex symbol.  Women's wrestling in the US has been around a long time, but until the past decade or two it was usually just the breather match, the place on the card to go to the bathroom or get another hot dog.  And if you did stay in your seat, what you mostly got was a lot of slaps and hair pulling.  By the time you get to the 1990s and the WWF/E "Attitude Era," most of the women were no better than car show models, parading around displaying the miracles of modern elective medical science in their increasingly tiny tops, and if they wrestled at all it was in "bra and panties" matches where they'd be stripped to their skivvies while a salavating Jerry Lawler screamed "PUPPIES! PUPPIES! BWA-HLA-HLA-HA-HA!'

Chyna was different, though.  Chyna wrestled.  Chyna kicked ass.  Chyna ran with the boys.  Hell, for the bulk of her time in McMahonland she defended the boys, acting as the heater / bouncer / bodyguard for Shawn Michaels, Triple H, and the rest of D-Generation X.  She was mad, bad, and dangerous to know... if you messed with DX, you might have gotten a beating from the guys, but you would definitely have gotten one from Chyna.  And she continued to be an ass-kicker post-DX, twice winning the Intercontinental Championship (three times if you count when she and Chris Jericho were declared co-champions), the only woman to do so.  The reigns weren't long, but they're considered official and legitimately, understandably groundbreaking.

2. She was a sex symbol.  Bigger female wrestlers weren't a new phenomenon by the time Chyna happened onto the scene, but they were always booked and promoted as oddities, the side-sideshow to the sideshow.  They were big, they were fat, they were ugly, they were to be feared and looked down upon in equal measure.  Chyna was different.  She was certainly bigger than the other women on the roster at the time, but she was tough looking and muscular.  This invited a certain amount of "hurr, hurr, she's a dude" snickering at first, but that changed over time.

Admittedly, her looks were altered over time, too - she left the WWE with a bigger chest and smaller chin than when she had come in - and I'm sure that helped to a degree, but even still the overall effect marked a massive sea change for women in the wrestling world.  She was tall, she was muscular, she could put a hurting on you, but she was also - wait for it - a sexual being.  She was Eddie Guerrero's mamacita, master to the Kat's slave, and out in the real world even posed for Playboy.  A woman could be big and strong and still be sexy... given how many of the women in American professional wrestling at the time looked like exceptionally buoyant Barbie dolls, the importance of this cannot be undersold.

Her life before and after wrestling (and probably even during) was reportedly hard, and that's a damn shame.  She was billed in the WWE as "the Ninth Wonder of the World" (Andre the Giant being the eighth, for those keeping track at home), and that title was deserved in many ways.  It's just heartbreaking that it took this to make me realize that... maybe if we all had done so sooner, things might have gone better for her.

Rest in peace, Ms. Laurer, and thanks.

Say, Jim, that is actually a pretty decent outfit, wooooo!

DC's Rebirth is a-comin' down the pike in the next few months and the thing that most people are talking about (besides the fact that it's not really the rollback to the pre-New 52 DC Comics universe a lot of folks - maybe sometimes myself included - were hoping for) is that the Superman featured in all the press materials is the pre-reboot, married-to-Lois-and-now-with-a-kid Superman, the one we saw in Convergence and the Superman: Lois & Clark miniseries (info here, but probably some spoilers).  New 52 Clark seems nowhere to be found (this past week's Superman #51 has a big clue as to maybe why, and there are definitely spoilers at this link).  There will also be a Chinese man with Kryptonian-like powers getting a book called The Super-Man, and aforementioned Super Son will be getting his own spin-off book with the Damien Wayne Robin called The Super Sons (and his hoodie/costume looks all kinds of rad).

Now, I'm as curious as to the hows and whys and what nexts of all this as the next Comic Book Fan of a Certain Age, but what makes me happiest about this news is that it looks like we'll finally be rid of that New 52 Super-armor and in its place will be a Superman costume that more closely resembles the recent Henry Cavill movie uniform.
(art by Patrick Gleason)
Though there seems to be some question as to how it will actually be colored, though:
(Artist unknown)
But no matter.  While I still prefer something closer to the traditional, red trunks costume (as do most product licensors if the shelves at stories almost everywhere are any indication), this is a damn sight better than that godawful, clunky, priest-collared thing the Man of Steel has been wearing since 2011 and I can live with it because I thought the movie costume worked well and have been wondering when the powers of cross-platform synergy were going to finally take hold.

As for the comics themselves, I'll wait and see but I am cautiously optimistic.  I haven't enjoyed a lot of the New 52-era Superman books I have read (though the brief Geoff Johns / John Romita, Jr. run was decent, and #51 that I mentioned above was pretty good), but I liked what I have read of the Lois & Clark miniseries and I am absolutely loving the Superman: American Alien series from Max Landis, so I have hope that a more traditional, less mopey Superman is the four color panacea I've been hoping to see.  Time will tell, I suppose, but if nothing else it will be easier on the eyes.

The Up Too Late Film Club #4 (Field Trip Edition): Thoughts on Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (SPOILERS)

Like so many of the rest of you, I made it out to see Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice this weekend (and seeing as I crossed state lines to see it with friends up in Maine and didn't make it to bed until about 2am afterward, it counts as an Up Too Late Film Club field trip).  Unlike a lot of you, though, I actually kinda liked Man of Steel, so I didn't have quite the same amount of baggage going into it that many did.  I still had my fears, though (mostly due to comments of director Zack Snyder), so if I went in optimistic, it was cautiously so.

I'll break my thoughts up into two sections: the short, spoiler-free version, and then some more in-depth, spoilery comments to follow.

Quick Thoughts, Spoiler-Free: it tries to do waaaaaaaay too much, it squanders an awesome supporting cast, the villain is weak, and I didn't love the ending, but what it does well it does very well and you can't accuse it of being unambitious or boring. Henry Cavill was properly Supermanly, Ben Affleck was a better Batman than Christian Bale, and Gal Gadot steals the show in her (too few) scenes as Wonder Woman.

More specific comments to be found in between pictures of the lovely Ms. Gadot:

Seriously... HERE BE SPOILERS.  Okay, here we go.

The Good:
For all the talk of the wholesale destruction in Man of Steel and the fears that this would me just more of the same, I think the movie did a good job of addressing the issue.  It wasn't just shrugged off and moved on from, there were lasting consequences that affected each of the characters and their motivations, good and bad alike.  It drove Clark to take his responsibilities seriously and realize his every action has an equal and opposite reaction; it may have pushed Bruce too far, but an over-reactive Batman shouldn't be anything new to people who have read DC Comics in the past 20 years; Holly Hunter's senator's motivations seemed realistically driven by a desire to protect the public good and a basic, understandable fear, etc.

On a related note, Henry Cavill's Clark showed some real growth, both as Superman and in his job at the Daily Planet, both driven by the same instinct to inform and protect.  Having grown up on 1980s post-Crisis Superman, I prefer the idea that it's Superman that's the disguise not Clark, and that the same values and responsibilities drive both of the major facets of his life.

I stand by my assertion that Ben Affleck was a stronger Batman than Christian Bale, particular as an older, at-it-for-20-years Batman.  He was strong and driven, and clearly the most clever guy in any given room.  As grim as he was, it was still kind of weirdly fun to watch him Batman around, particularly given the fight choreography.  And I was psyched that they finally put a more traditional Bat-costume on the big screen instead of the usual all-black body armor.  It looked great.

I realize it wasn't her movie, but Gal Gadot could have had a lot more screen time and I would have been happy because she owned every scene she was in, whether she was playing the part of mysterious international glamour woman or badass Amazon warrior.  I'm excited that she gets a whole movie to herself next year, though... the early footage we've seen looks amazing.

It's a shame that we didn't see more of the supporting cast, because they were excellent, particularly Amy Adams's Lois Lane, who we at least got to see do a little more shoe-leather reporting this time, play a part in the action, and show that maybe all this getting rescued by Superman does take a toll; Lawrence Fishburne's Perry White, who (although he never says it) plays the part of the "getting too old for this shit" guy pitch perfectly, and has a nice arc about the battle between what journalism is and what it could be), and most especially Jeremy Irons's Alfred, who could very easily have just echoed Michael Caine but went his own way and created a character who is still recognizably Alfred but very much his own man.

It wasn't so dark!  I mean, sure, the story was pretty grim & gritty, but it didn't look like it was all shot in a coal mine, so you could actually tell what color everyone's costumes were supposed to be this time around.  It was still more "Early Dusk of Justice" than "Dawn of Justice," but still, since film is a visual medium it's nice to be able to see things.

The Bad:
There's no avoiding it: it's just too busy.  The story is built on the framework of The Dark Knight Returns and The Death of Superman, but also elements of Batman: Year One and "What's So Funny About Truth, Justice, and the American Way" figure in hugely.  It has to set up Wonder Woman's movie, lay the groundwork for an eventual Affleck Batman movie, introduce characters and situations that will pay off in the JLA movie, drop some hints of things that I suspect will be picked up on in Suicide Squad this summer, and oh yeah, act as a sequel to Man of Steel.  By my count, that's nine movies' worth of material all rammed into one.  So, yeah, it's ambitious, and by my reckoning I technically got more than my money's worth, but still, it's way too much to do in the space of one movie, and stuff like plot points and especially characters get short shrifted.

On a related note, there are a few times the movie makes some logical leaps that probably should have been explained a little better.  There are assumptions that can be made, sure - Clark's identity was incredibly guessable at the end of Man of Steel, for instance, so someone of Lex's intellect and resources could put it all together pretty easily - but a line or two of explanation here and there wouldn't have hurt, especially since we go from Lex turning on Zod's ship's computer to him knowing the recipe for Doomsday pretty quickly.  It's weird that a nearly 3 hour movie can still feel like there's stuff left out (but I guess that's why there will be an even longer Blu-Ray release, I guess).

Too.  Many.  Dream sequences.  Just way too many dream sequences.  They always feel like lazy exposition dump devices.  Also, no one ever dreams that lucidly or logically.  And everyone has pants, which almost never happens in my dreams, but perhaps I've said too much.

It needed more Wonder Woman.  I know she didn't get title billing, and it's not like there wasn't enough else going on in all corners of the screen at every second, but seriously, Wonder Woman was awesome.  Her movie can't come soon enough.

It needed more Aquaman!  It's weird that he's getting so much merchandise for being on screen for like 5 seconds.  That's like practically a Star Wars cantina creature screen time-to-action figure ratio there.  If Arthur gets a figure, then where is convenience store cooler Flash (with screaming armor dream sequence variant) or weird Rubik's cube Cyborg?

That "and here's the rest of the nascent JLA" scene just kinda stops the whole thing dead for a few minutes.  It's weird to have a movie pause for coming attractions in the 3rd act.

The Ugly:
I really wanted to like Jesse Eisenberg's Lex Luthor, but I just couldn't.  I've enjoyed his performances in stuff like Zombieland and The Social Network, but here he just came off like he was imitating Michael Cera imitating Jim Carrey's version of the Riddler.  Lex needs gravitas, not awkward, manic energy.  It just didn't work for me at all.
Okay, spoilery bit over.

In the end, I think the people spewing the worst of the bile about it online are the people who have been doing so since the moment the project was announced, and they're continuing to make a conscious choice to hate on it.  I can see where it wouldn't be everyone's cuppa, and it is definitely flawed, but if you give it a fair shake I do think there's plenty in there to enjoy despite those very flaws.