This Column Has Seven Days #034 // Indie Lunch Hour

This week started off a little slow on the pop culture front; I watched and read a few things that were “kind of” good but nothing that really set me on fire. By the end of the week, though, I had read a couple self-published comic books that made me sit up and take notice.

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Deadhorse Book One – Dead Birds

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I found Deadhorse Book One – Dead Birds to be a comic that took a little time to warm up. It’s a quirky mystery comic involving a widowed recluse, a teenage kleptomaniac, a deserted Alaskan settlement, a mysterious key, an evil industrialist with a dark secret, an exuberant science fiction fan, and a masked bounty hunter who calls himself Sasquatch. And that’s not even half of it.

(In retrospect, perhaps it wasn’t that the book needed some time to warm up; perhaps it was me.)

Podcast! The Comics, Episode 145 – Lu-CHA! Lu-CHA! Lu-CHA!

Contains the king of sports!

This episode is brought to you by Wizard’s Comics, home of the best deal on comics in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada.  Check out their website for a list of the week’s new releases and information on upcoming Magic, The Gathering tournaments, and watch their Twitter account for news and announcements about the shop and its stuff.  You can even use their website to buy digital comics!  

Um, Actually // Gilmore Guys

Welcome, dear readers, to our newly regular letter column; a series of missives from and to the internet, delivered by a series of tubes. We welcome your comments and questions about anything. We’ll answer you, and at least one of us will take things seriously. Maybe.

Thank you, internet.

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Josh B (@joshyeg) asks: What do you think about the potential Doctor Doom changes?

James: Oh, you mean the part where Doom isn’t the ruler of Latveria, but a malicious programmer who goes by the handle Doom?  

I love it.

First, just to deal with the elephant in the room: yes, part of this is because it’s pissed off a lot of comic nerds.  I make no secret of this; things that piss off touchy comic book nerds are some of my favourite things in the world, especially when there’s the added irony of people who have been complaining about how serious the Fantastic Four movie sounds when it should be really goofy are really upset about something that’s goofy as absolute hell.

Second, well, the argument that it’s not like the comics could be a little pre-emptive.  In the comics, Doom’s backstory isn’t that he was always the ruler of Latveria; instead, he was an orphaned Romani boy who became a university student in America, got in a blood feud with a classmate while being a little bit blown up, then got rescued by monks, took them over and then took over Latveria.  If we’re to believe that Fantastic Four is an origin story, because, well, it is, then Doom being a programmer doesn’t really preclude him somehow taking over Latveria later.  We just don’t  know enough, so getting upset about something this early when there’s a good canonical reason to hold back seems a little silly.

Third, the actual rumoured origin itself.  Well, I… just don’t care?  I mean, let’s be real.  I’m going to see the movie,and I’ll judge how the origin is pulled off then.  But I do see the potential smarts of separating Doom from his ethnically insensitive comic book origin.  In the year 2014, it’s simply hard to do the comic book version of Doom’s origin as a weirdly-out-of-time Romani child without bringing up the uncomfortable spectre of the portrayal of the Romani themselves, and I can see them picking up with Doom later in life and skipping the part where Romani people in Marvel comics tend to be kind of portrayed as insensitively as hell.  Maybe they’ll keep his ethnic origin and just skip the villagers part.  This doesn’t mean they have/had to ditch the part where Reed and Victor are classmates, but I can see them trying to make a clean break, especially from the previous movie incarnations that are pretty reviled.  For all the fan complaints of movies and comics repeating origin stories, this is something new, and while I’ll judge the actual execution later, I don’t mind the idea of changing things.  Really, the origins don’t really have anything to do with Victor’s actual personality, which is to say as long as he’s a genius, a raging narcissist, hates Reed Richards and would destroy entire nations to see his mother again, I don’t really have a problem with it.  And I’m a dude who openly admires Victor Von Doom.

Brandon: I’m in big silly love with the idea. It’s a beautiful thing, having the people on the internet getting angry about a dude on the internet. You guys. You are doom. You are all doom.

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Sarah (@sjleask) asks: Everyone must choose a side in the Neapolitan debate- chocolate, strawberry, or vanilla?

James: Vanilla.  I’ve really grown to appreciate vanilla as a flavour that pairs well with other flavours and, in fact, chemically enhances themselves.  I like the floral, heady aroma of a good vanilla ice cream, and it’s versatile as all get out.  It’s considered a safe and boring choice, but I really do appreciate how it’s just clean, sweet and often surprisingly complex.

Plus, a mediocre vanilla ice cream is better than a mediocre chocolate or strawberry one.  I mean, I love a good chocolate ice cream, with a rich, fudge-like texture and a nutty smell.  And a really good strawberry ice cream, with chunks of real fruit that are big enough to be distinct but small enough to not be just a frozen hunk of ice, with a base that’s actually fruity and doesn’t just taste like pink?  That’s amazing, too.  But if you’re cracking open one of those cartons of chocolate-vanilla-strawberry Neapolitan ice cream from the grocery story, chances are the chocolate is kind of bland and over-sweet, and the strawberry is artificial-tasting enough that it’s almost got a medicinal taste.  Vanilla, on the other hand, is almost always still pretty dang good when it’s just okay.

Brandon: In the context of Neapolitan, I’m going to go with strawberry. I say this, because I’ve never been big on chocolate ice cream – or at least the chocolate ice cream that my parent could afford, and strawberry ice cream was like… a treat. That only happened in Neapolitan. For real, I thought flavours that weren’t vanilla and chocolate were for family’s with money.

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Sarah continues: The Great Debate- who should Rory have ended up with? Logan, Dean, Jess, or (other)?

James: Sadly, I’m not as educated in The Gilmore Girls as much as you and Brandon are, so I can’t really say who Rory should have ended up with.  However, from the bits of the show I watched, I kind of hated all of Rory’s boyfriends, and I have to side with “Other.”  Rory should have gone out on the campaign trail, grown up a bit and found someone else once she was a little older, a little wiser and less likely to end up with a dirtbag.  I assume you and Brandon will disagree.

Brandon: Well, that’s essentially the end of the show. Like, she does that. I go with Jess, because Dean was sweet, but like… super demanding and was all “yeah, I like the idea of a housewife” and then cheated on his wife with Rory, and then they dated a bit again, and it was a big mistake and… I dunno. He was a dude who was stuck, and that wasn’t Rory or Lorelai really. Anyway, Jess was a dick too, but of all three, he actually got over his shit and grew up. I ship late series Jess and Rory.

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Sarah finishes: What is your favourite holiday tv special and why should I watch it (if I haven’t already)?

James: I’m a big fan of the Rankin/Bass Christmas specials, and every year I look forward to watching Santa Claus is Coming to Town.  It’s fun, bizarre and still charmingly pretty.  Plus, it’s Santa’s origin story, complete with an evil magician.  That’s baller and a half.  I record and rewatch it every year.  I should… probably buy the DVD/Blu-Ray.

Brandon: I didn’t get to see a lot of Christmas specials as a kid. Most I can remember is The Grinch Who Stole Christmas and Rudolph. Rudolph by a nose maybe. Get it? GET IT?

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Scott (@scottowilliams) asks: Who will win, Team Cena or Team Authority?

James: Scott is, of course, referring to the upcoming WWE Survivor Series PPV this Sunday, and honestly, I just don’t know.  If you’d asked me before Monday night, I’d have predicted Team Cena all the way; there’s nothing more predictable than John Cena Overcoming The Odds(tm), and the way the storyline was building up – the Authority taking out Cena’s partners one by one, leaving him theoretically by himself to face off against five guys – made it seem like this was going to be yet another time when the deck is stacked against WWE’s smarmiest, most indestructible hero, which is the safest way to predict he’s going to win.  But then the end of RAW on Monday night happened, where all of John Cena’s demolished pals reappear and he smarms all over HHH and Stephanie McMahon happened, and it’s become a little more of a crapshoot.  I still feel they’re working up to John Cena Wins Again(tm), but now I’m not quite as sure.

And here’s the thing: John Cena the character is an asshole.  HHH, ostensibly the heel in the scenario, opens up the final segment expressing doubt and giving an impassioned speech to the crowd about how he lives and breathes for the company, and wants nothing more than for it to succeed.  He gets visibly emotional and nervous, before his wife calmly and sensitively reassures him that they’ll win.  And sure, he’s being a dick towards Cena, but Cena has been feeding his “friends” to the Authority for a month, getting them beaten up over and over again, with no seeming concern for them.  Cena walks out, insults Hunter and his wife Stephanie, talks about how Stephanie shits her pants or something, and gets slapped.  There is no way I can read this in a way that isn’t “Cena is a bad guy who doesn’t care about anybody but himself.”  Hell, he talks about how he’s gonna bring toddlers into the ring to get curbstomped by Seth Rollins but that won’t matter because he’s gonna win anyway.  Those are not things a hero does.  In this scenario, I’m more inclined to see the Authority’s dickishness as their tragic flaw, and a logical consequence of their father(-in-law, in the case of Trips) coming out and fucking with them, threatening their jobs by trying to feed them to a guy who doesn’t care about anyone.  They’ve been smart in how they’ve dismantled Cena’s team, and they raise a really good point with Ryback earlier in the night when they say, “Hey, Cena has spent years belittling you and saying you don’t have a penis.  We’ll treat you fairly.”  Cena somehow spins this as him being a good guy, I dunno.  Fuck him.

But all that aside, and as much as I enjoy the Authority and the loving, stable marriage of HHH and Stephanie (the easiest way for WWE to tell you they’re bad people), they’ve been around for what, a year and a half now?  They’ve outlasted the Shield.  It makes sense for them to get demoted/broken up and move that story forward, as much as I’d like to see Stephanie hossing over everybody else forever while HHH looks on lovingly and supportively.  No matter how dickishly John Cena exults in the idea of them being janitors or something, it feels like something is gonna change.

Still though, I’ll be wearing my Stephanie McMahon shirt on Sunday and cheering for her anyway.

Brandon: I want this to play out with a Cena heel turn. It will never happen, but how boss would it be if The Authority lost, but the real evil was Cena along?

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Scott continues: What will be the next comic title to be used as a WWE stable name following the Shield and the Authority?

James: The Defenders, or some non-copyright-infringing version of that.  It’ll probably be what Cena calls his team when they win and defend the honour of assholes everywhere.

Brandon: Oh, The Defenders is a great pick. I’d toss in Doom Patrol as well.

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Scott wraps up the best way possible, with T-Swift: What’s the best song on the new Taylor Swift album?  What’s the best Taylor Swift song of all?

James: On 1989, I think it’s a toss-up between two songs: “Blank Space” and “Out of the Woods.”  The former (and its video) feature Taylor Swift mockingly taking on and winking at the cultural narrative of who she is: a boy-crazy insane person who destroys every relationship she touches.  Through the song, she pokes fun at this idea by facetiously embodying it, and the result is a really fun, surprisingly subtle song about having bad taste in man and loving every second of it anyway.  It’s her disarming that vaguely misogynist image of her by letting it pass through her.  It’s brilliant.  However, I also think “Out of the Woods” is a really fantastically written, soft-spoken song about a phase of relationships that’s not often discussed in pop songs, which usually portray “Everything is great” and “BREAKUP DRAMA” and little between those two poles.  Instead, the song looks at those moments when things are calming down after a fight or some relationship stress, and the couple is experiencing these romantic moments, big and small – snuggling on the couch, moving the furniture to the side so you can dance together in the living room – and still there’s this quietly panicking voice in the back of your mind.  Things are supposed to be great for once, and still all you can ask is, “Are we out of the woods yet?  Are we in the clear yet?”  And, of course, you’re not.  Relationships are work, and sometimes all the living room dances in the world don’t fix something that isn’t going to last.  So you fuck things up, hit the brakes too soon, set someone “free,” and then after all that clears you wonder if you’ve been too rash.  You can’t fix it, though.  The cracks are there, and things are breaking.  The chorus is this rushed mantra of the thoughts in your head as you try to convince yourself otherwise.

This is a really nuanced idea for a pop song.  Honestly, it reminds me of Sleater-Kinney’s “One More Hour,” another song about things ending and you just want to pretend they’re not.  Just as Corinne sings, “I’ll hold you close / Before I leave,” Taylor looks at these moments not with complete regret, but a wistful sadness.  Things were good, then they’re not, and even a self-soothing mantra of a chorus doesn’t erase all that.  You remember, oh, you remember.  And that’s okay.  She’ll never get enough props for this song, and presenting such a ubiquitous but underrepresented experience with such care.

It might be the best song she’s written, though I’ve also got a soft spot for “Treacherous,” from 2012’s Red, which she wrote with Dan Wilson.  I adore the lilt in her voice in the chorus as she acknowledges that she likes making these bad decisions, and the way the warble represents that quiet roller coaster of realization.  It’s a soft, understated song, and one of the first really “adult” songs she wrote.  It’s remarkable.

That said, the best line she’s ever written is still “You made a rebel of a careful man’s careless daughter,” from “Mine” off 2010’s Speak Now.  That kind of delightful wordplay is straight-up frustrating when you realize she wrote it when she was 20.  Even back then, she was writing killer hooks with a level of self-appraisal that I wish I had more consistently at the age of 29.

Brandon: Of the two songs of hers I know at this moment, I’m going with “Blank Space”. That shit is rad as hell. I… I need to know more about T Swift. She’s killing it right now.

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That’s it for the 154th instalment of Um, Actually. Check in every Tuesday for a brand new column. If you have anything you’d like answered, hit up our contact page! If you submit anything via Twitter – to @blogaboutcomics, @Leask, or @soupytoasterson – remember to include the hashtag #UMACTUALLY so that we don’t lose it. Remember: you can ask us anything. Seriously, anything.

Elsewhere // A Confluence of Events

A few of you were wondering about my thoughts on DC’s upcoming Confluence event, so I went ahead and wrote ‘em all down for Comics Beat last week.

Of the two, Convergence is being built as a necessity, more than something extravagant. Even if the concept was born out of creative decisions, the execution is all business, marrying the need for DC to pump out enough books to fill out their budgets while simultaneously alleviating editorial and creative pressures during the big move. As such, it’s already on the back foot, appearing as though it’s a fill-in event, something that is decidedly not their main line of books in any way, shape or form. If they don’t tackle this perception in the marketing, April and May might be a couple of DC’s worst months as many opt out of the two months of content.

The article goes pretty deep into what the company would need to do to make the event as successful as possible. Unfortunately, I think they’ve already screwed a few points up. You can read the whole article here – and when you’re done that, you can run straight into my thoughts on Marvel’s big multiversal event, Secret Wars.

While Convergence is an event being built out of near necessity, Secret Wars is an event that’s emerging from years of planning on the part of Marvel and writer Jonathan Hickman. Both approaches have their pros and cons. While I’m really enjoying Hickman’s work on the Avengers line, it was never anything I would be able to hand to a new reader easily – and his work on the title has only gotten more complex. Now, there’s nothing wrong with this approach, especially when you have several titles on the stands that new readers can easily gravitate to like Black WidowMs. Marvel, and Hawkeye – but when it comes to the big event, you want to try and make that thing as accessible as possible. DC can theoretically do this with Convergence by structuring their event as a low-threshold buy-in, featuring two part stories that exist without too much connective tissue. Marvel could theoretically do this, but there’s very little known about the actual structure of Secret Warsbeyond the fact that it will be impossible to escape if you’re interested in their line.

You can read that full article here.

Sometimes I think I go a little easier on Marvel because… well, because I’m enjoying more of their line right now, but I think I stayed pretty even-handed with presenting the potential problems and positives that both events could have. As always, your thoughts are appreciated, so comment below, or on the articles themselves!

 

Elsewhere // Degree of Variants

Because I love puns, you guys. I love them so much.

This week, I returned to providing weekly final order cut-off commentary at Comics Beat with a little ditty about some of the splashier variants coming down the pike.

I’m not a big fan of variants in general (a longer column for another day), but I can at least get behind variants that you can order without qualification. That says you’re offering another variety for a reader to sample, letting them choose what cover they’d like. That, I understand. Qualified variants, on the other hand, are the dirt worst. They’re a dirty manipulation of the whole “supply and demand” market designed for cheap, easy money, both for publishers and retailers alike. If a retailer wants a bigger supply, they will have to order more copies. In order to cover the cost of those copies (many of which won’t sell), they will charge a premium for that cover. And hey, even if they don’t need to charge a premium to cover the costs of extra copies, they’ll probably mark it up because of the low supply, and the high demand.

You can read the full article over at Comics Beat where you’ll also see a quote from the publisher of one of the industry’s biggest companies talking shit about variants. You probably know who already.

 

 

This Column Has Seven Days #033 // Houseguest Adventures

Hey everybody. I have been very fortunate to have my best friend in the whole world, the handsome and intelligent Kim Stolz, staying with me since last Friday. He is great and we are spending a lot of time getting some good pop culture in — he’s reading my Avengers comics and we’re watching True Detective (still good, for those of you who are wondering), and he has finally convinced me to watch the first two episodes of each of my Ultraman and Torchwood box sets (both so good so far, in very different ways). This week’s pop culture outings have been a little grazing at the smorgasbord — a few episodes of this, a few issues of that, a few chapters of the other. Still, I managed to dig deep into a few things that I thought were particularly noteworthy.

Doctor Whooch // Episode 042 // Drunk Hero 2

In which we talk waaaay too much about Passions.

This week’s episode! An ending! Specifially, the ending of Series 8, and there’s lots to talk about. Did we end up liking what Moffat was throwing down after a rough season? Who knows! We were drunk! Also: stuff with Danny Pink (oh my god Danny Pink) leads to a pack of lies and we gab about Big Hero 6, probably. And yeah, Passions, but whatever.

Outro music is “Robots” by Flight of the Conchords

Podcast picture is by GIRL NAMED SHIRL PHOTOGRAPHY

 

Podcast! The Comics, Episode 144 – Roiling in Pain at the Evil Within

Contains back pain.

This episode is brought to you by Wizard’s Comics, home of the best deal on comics in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada.  Check out their website for a list of the week’s new releases and information on upcoming Magic, The Gathering tournaments, and watch their Twitter account for news and announcements about the shop and its stuff.  You can even use their website to buy digital comics!