17 March 2007

Holiday Quiz Time

Just got a rejection letter for this from somewhere else, so here is a tricky quiz for your weekend perusal. NO CHEATING!

Rappers, Superheroes or Old Tyme Baseball Players?
1. "Dummy" Hoy
2. Skull Duggery
3. Ol' Aches & Pains
4. "Stinky" Printwhistle
5. LA Sunshine
6. The Big Train
7. Hobie "The Prowler" Brown
8. Dusty Rhodes
9. Sweetface
10. Lefty Grove
11. Snapper Carr
12. Birdie Cree
13. Sleepy Brown
14. The Rawhide Kid
15. Bonecrusher
16. Mr. Terrific

BONUS: Superteam, Rap Crew or Baseball Team?
1. The Gas House Gang
2. The Treacherous Three
3. The Solution
4. Murderer's Row
5. The All-Winners Squad
6. Niggaz with Attitude

09 March 2007

Friday Fun!

It is Friday night, and while I am not having an active and fulfilling social life, I don't want to dwell on why some things are not very good. I would rather dwell on FUN. Funnybooks can often be a lot of fun, as the cover to the right suggests; but it's not some sort of aw-shucks FUN that people seem to think superheroes used to embody. During their earliest years, superheroes were busy beating the crap out of people in a bloody World War, or barring that dropping people out of windows and shooting them. And yes, post-Comics Code things were a lot more sanitized but at their core they were still stories about life-and-death struggle and crazy things like jumping out of airplanes and faceplanting on the street.

Luckily, nostalgic parents can now cater to their children's desire for brightly colored warriors with the Spider-Man & Friends line! While the "adult" Marvel heroes are in the midst of turmoil - the Hulk exiled on a foreign planet, Spider-Man mourning in his black costume as he runs from the cops, Captain America dead -- Spidey and Friends show how allll the Marvel heroes can be pals, run a charity car wash and hang out in an awesome tree-house. Even bloodthirsty loose cannons like Wolverine get to hang out in the treehouse, and despite the posted "NO VILLAINS ALLOWED" policy, lovable scamps like the Green Goblin and Rhino get to tag along. Just remember, it's the Spider-Man & Friends Green Goblin, not the other one, the one who killed Spider-Man's first love after seducing her and forcing her to bear his lovechildren. This little fella has never kidnapped and tortured Aunt May, trying to make Spider-Man go insane with grief at his aunt's apparent death, and he's certainly never strangled nosy reporters with his bare hands and thrown their corpses into the street as a "warning"! No, this is the sort of Green Goblin you can be comfortable letting your kids play with!

Undoubtedly the finest product from the Spider-Man & Friends line is the "Cuddlin' Time" Thing plush doll. I really do think it's adorable, but I wonder what market research led Toy Biz to decide that nothing says "cuddling" like a huge rock-covered curmudgeon. I suppose they couldn't resist the pun.

Sadly, recent real-life discoveries suggest that The Thing would not be very cuddly at all.

Conspiracy Theory #1 - Captain America

By now I assume pretty much anyone who has ever heard of Captain America has also heard that he has been killed. Big name superheroes die all the time; in the fifteen years since a slow news day made the Death of Superman into a mainstream news phenomenon, the following Big Name Funnybooks Figures have been apparently killed or permanently incapacitated/replaced: Batman, Robin, Spider-Man, Green Lantern, Green Arrow, Wonder Woman, the Flash, every member of the Fantastic Four, Iron Man, Cyclops, Wolverine, Jean Grey, Professor Xavier, Magneto, Doctor Doom, the Red Skull, Lex Luthor, the Joker, Doctor Octopus, Galactus, and probably anyone else that anyone has heard of. If you count Marvel's crazy "Onslaught/Heroes Reborn" thing as a 'death', this is Cap's third one since 1994 or so.

I'm not trying to take anything away from Ed Brubaker and the rest of the talented team that has been putting together Captain America's book for the past couple of years; it's been a really good run that has (alongside the groundwork laid in New Avengers and Civil War) made Cap a really compelling character recently. Captain America #25 (available now on eBay for some insane amount of money) is a solid story and pretty accessible on its own. It quickly establishes all the players' relations and feelings about Captain America, and shows them react in short order to his courthouse sniping. I'm personally excited (inasmuch as I am willing to be getting excited about superhero funnybooks on a blog on the internet) about where Brubaker's run on this book is headed. It should be a lot of fun.

At the same time, I worry that when Cap inevitably emerges from beyond the grave, it will somehow be seen as a "betrayal" from any new fans who may wander in on the news of his historic death. I think that most hardened fanboys realize the drill by now, and realize that Brubaker has already managed to resurrect Bucky (dead since 1963) in the pages of Cap, along with fakeout 'deaths' of the Red Skull in Cap and another big fakeout death in his first storyline in Daredevil. This doesn't diminish the stories at all, it's pretty much a genre convention at this point, and Brubaker has handled all of his faux-deaths to this point in his career really effectively. But the doe-eyed optimist in me thinks maybe some of the newly interested people might approach comics with something other than rubbernecking or short-term speculative greed in mind, and the cynic in me says this is the sort of big attention and then deflation that contributed (but by no means created) the horrific crumbling and near-death of the funnybook industry back in the 1990s. All because of a couple of slow news days.

Of course, I may be unduly doubtful here; perhaps Marvel's being 100% sincere when they claim Steve Rogers, Captain America is truly dead. If that's the case, that sadly opens up an entire new dark path of cynicism. If "The Sentinel of Liberty" has been killed off, it is likely just to get one Kenneth Eng off their trails.

I somehow managed to overlook the spectacular career of Mr. Eng until very recently; apparently he's been getting a lot of attention recently for his Coulteresque column about how he hates black people. To be fair, he seems to hate literally everyone but Asians (and anthropomorphic dragons, which I realize sounds like a racial caricature but is apparently very, very true) and believes that all other peoples of this Earth hate and envy the Asian for their obvious superiority.

What does this have to do with Captain America? Well, guess who used to work for Marvel? That's right, Kenneth Eng! He doesn't have many nice things to say about the whites, blacks, Jews, Italians, homosexuals and women that populate the House of Ideas, and in details physical challenges and protests against their citadel of hate. And let's be honest, what figure at Marvel most effectively embodies their hatred of the Asian Man? Why, the World War II veteran and former Jap Slapper himself! Who is conveniently dead now, just as Eng's profile is on the rise. Well played, Marvel. Well. Played.

(Seriously, Eng was apparently at the New York Comic Con a few weekends ago and took the time out of his busy and superior schedule to harangue Brian K Vaughan for being a racist. I thought maybe BKV had fucked up some culturally sensitive topic in his dealings with Dr. Mann in Y the Last Man or something, but apparently it was just someone who is crazy. Good to know that no White Liberal Guilt for liking the book is neccesary!)

Oh, and I almost forgot, Eng puts forth an even more boneheaded defense of ______ as Art as Mr. Chris Hecker, who is already backpedaling, lest he fall victim to assassination-by-Wii-nunchuck. More on that later.

A new conspiracy theory tomorrow, this one potentially more sincere.

Positive Jam: Mistah F.A.B. - Ghost Ride It

Chris Hecker's "Fear of a Wii Planet" thing is kind of negative, as will be the next couple items of interest I want to write up. So here is something positive: a really great music video.

I don't know where to begin about the fineness of this video/song; mostly it's just nice to see something where it is clear that pop performers are totally Doing Their Own Thing. A partial checklist of the slightly batshit but wonderful things on display in this video:

  • Ghost riding the ECTO-1
  • Ghost riding a yellow short bus
  • A Misfits t-shirt with an iced out grill
  • The marionette!!
  • A truly epic airbrushed Slimer on the back of a satin jacket
  • A minor league baseball mascot gettin' hyphy
  • Rather than edit out the bit where he falls down while trying to ghost ride the school bus, they actually replay it repeatedly for maximum hyphy effect
I had been eagerly awaiting this video's release ever since Thrasher Magazine (?!?) leaked some footage of its filming a few months ago, and I have been pestering people with links to this video ever since.

Plus, I support anything that gets Stephenson Hall alumnus Patrick Swayze back on the lips of the general public.

08 March 2007

This is Our Art: Useless, Boring, Impotent, Elitist and Very Very Angry at the Wii

So apparently Chris Hecker (whose name is far too close to my own) gave a speech at the Games Developers Conference about how the Wii was a "piece of shit", and that Nintendo are a bunch of assholes who only care about making "fun games" rather than "art".

My first reaction was to roll my eyes and realize that there are apparently people in the video game world who share the attitudes of pretentious funnybook fans, who insist on correcting the creators of comics on how they are actually producing graphic novels, not *snf* COMICS. Hecker seemed to be running along similarly joyless, self-important rails. But really, his complaints seemed almost self-parodic: because Nintendo doesn't use the word 'art' on their website and Sony/Microsoft do, that means they aren't interested in art? Processing power is the means with which to create art? I wish the full content of the speech was available somewhere online, because this sounds almost knowingly hypocritical, and I'd like some dude who is working on Spore and whose name is almost phonetically identical to my own to be a misunderstood satirist and not a pretentious jerk.

I did find a transcript of his participation on the "rant" panel back in 2005 where he complains about how all the forthcoming "nextgen" systems (PS3 and X-Box 360) are pumping out so much effort on graphics while ignoring other functions of gameplay: "Look, how are we going to get where gameplay, graphics and physics are all evenly well balanced? At the moment we’re the 120lb weakling, except nowadays his right arm here, graphics, is enormous." His complaints appear to be more technical (about how the chipsets used for really impressive graphics actually process gameplay/AI functions slower than less graphically-impressive chips, for reasons I personally am not capable of analyzing) than aesthetic.

Although, as more pull-quotes are leaking out of the speech, I guess I need to resign myself to the fact that he's serious. "What I want to be able to do is spend CPU to make the machine smarter, more interesting and more automatically intelligent. It's about interactivity - that is the key differentiator of our art form, and interactivity is about doing something interesting with that input and threading it back to the user. You can't do that with a piece of sh*t underpowered computer."

I realize that I'm coming at this from a lay person's view, but in terms of "interactivity", stuff like the DS's dual/touch-screens, the Wii's controller and even novelties like the DK Bongos feel more "innovative" and "interactive" than a bigger sexier processor to compile all of Hecker's complicated AI code. The whole rant seems kind of superfluous too, since as of right now the game he's working on (Spore, which looks fucking awesome for the record) is being developed for the PC, meaning he isn't being constrained by Nintendo's stupid desire to make things "fun" instead of "art". Still, given that the Wii is outselling the other current consoles by a wide margin, I suppose on an industry-level someone so concerned about processing and "art" could be vexed.

This is getting to be a lot longer than I had planned, but I for one fully support the Wii and Nintendo's gaming philosophy in general - a bold move, I know! I don't have a Wii myself, but recently purchased one for my father, who along with my brother has essentially turned my parents' basement into a Wii Bowling Alley. To give you an idea of what a big deal this is, my father's last serious dalliances with video games were The Legend of Zelda and The Adventures of Lolo, with a couple of business trips in the early 1990s given over to Game Boy Golf and Tetris.

But after fifteen years of deciding that video games were too complicated to be rewarding, my dad has decided to jump back in because of the Wii's simplistic "fun" and apparent "artlessness". My brother and uncle, neither of whom have completely abandoned video games but have certainly backed off since the 8-bit era, are also full Wii converts. I wanted to talk about other video game concept stuff and this really nice interview with Will Wright, but this is so long I should bracket it off now.

06 March 2007

Brushes with Fame!

My friend Willie visited New York this weekend. While having a mini-Kansas reunion, my friend Jessica pointed out how I had last updated my livejournal in October of 2005, with a Minor Celebrity Sighting Round Up. I do not really plan to update my livejournal, but in the interest of fairness I will relate some brushes with minor celebrity that have occurred in the ensuing sixteen or so months:

ITEM! Willie was in town visiting his younger sister Erin, who attends the Culinary Institute of America. Little did I know she was also a MINOR CELEBRITY! She's been chosen to take part in some sort of "reality" web television Web 2.0 interactive media event on Epicurous.com, which is a pretty swell website in its own right. Watch her discuss the very same "visit from Willie" that I did in the paragraph above, but do so via high-traffic video blogging! SYNERGY!

ITEM! Actually I'm not really sure what other minor celebrities I have seen in the past year or so. Most of them have been very contextual; comic book creators I admire at comic shows/readings, authors I like puttering around in some way related to 826NYC, bands playing when they announce a performance and sell tickets. This is kind of a bust for a blog post. Let me try to puff up some really insignificant encounters so that the list isn't just "hey, my friend's sister is on a neat food site".

ITEM! This year's New York City Comic Con wasn't nearly as much of a fiasco as last year's. There were a lot of comic-related people there. I stood in line directly behind Rob Liefeld, who was neither announced as a guest or promoted as such. I could be a dick and talk about how the mighty have fallen, but at least the guy seems genuinely excited to still be making comics, and hasn't gone off to make action figures or something.
Anyway, for lack of a better conversational topic, I decided to mention this tidbit to about half a dozen people in the opening hours of the convention, and on three separate occasions, managed to begin the anecdote within six feet of Liefeld himself. I never got past the point of saying something along the lines of "Guess who was in front of me in line? ROB LIEFELD!" before I realized my faux pas, so it's not like I made a "Liefeld cannot draw" joke in front of him, but I am convinced he belives me to either be his shyest fan, or a total jerk. Sorry, Rob!

ITEM! Hal Hartley alum Damian Young must live somewhere in my neighborhood, as I seem him once or twice a month. Maybe it is because he will forever be Bus Driver Stu Benedict in my mind, but the best of these encounters was one summer day as I walked up the hill to see Young non-chalantly pull out a pack of gum and offer a piece to a crying young child in a soccer uniform. The sniffling kid demurred, and Young shrugged his shoulders and crossed the street without him. I still have no idea if it was his kid, and I am not sure which scenario (faux-abandoning a crying soccer player of his own, disinterestedly offering gum to strangers) is more fantastic.

ITEM! This isn't really a minor celebrity sighting, even though it involves Eugene Mirman. Awhile back I was at Great Lakes for a friend's birthday party and pretty much had drinks purchased for me all night by apparently heterosexual men. The first few weren't too confusing; a friend of the birthday girl bought drinks for the entire table, and later a guy bought me a drink because he wanted to pump me for information about a girl he assumed I knew. Turns out I had met her only moments earlier, did not know her name, and ended up being given the untouched drink that he bought her a few minutes later when she took off. But later in the evening, most of the birthday group had left, and I was left alone nursing these two ill-gotten drinks when another group "adopted" me, repeatedly declaring my resemblance to singer-songwriter Harry Nillson. It's not the most flattering celebrity to be likened to, but they kept buying me drinks and asking my opinion on jukebox selections, so I wasn't going to raise any objections. I ended up closing out the bar that night after spending about $10 personally, and I suspect I helped some really drunk 20 somethings pretend they were John Lennon or something.

This past summer I was at Great Lakes the week after the MOCCA Arts Festival, and was stopped on the way to the bathroom by a girl who wanted to know if I was "that comic guy". I said that I was pretty sure I was not, but she might have seen me at some comic event around town, at which point she realized I was not British, and explained how the person she thought I was "was some British guy". She then informed me that the person I look like was "really cool". Later I saw her talking to Eugene Mirman (see, a minor celebrity!) and they seemed to be doing stand-up shop-talk, so it's probable she meant [stand-up] comic and not comic [book], which makes it even more confusing.

Anyway, the point is that when I go to Great Lakes, people think I am other people.

The other point is that in the future I will stick to posting Youtube videos.

Don't Let HIm Waste Your Time - Twice

So this is a very cute video for Jarvis's single "Don't Let Him Waste Your Time". It's got sort of odd production values, similar to a lot of Britpop videos; I remember really disliking the video/song "Common People" upon first viewing it, until I came to my senses about 45 minutes later.

What I did not know until just now, however, is that this song appears to have been originally written for Nancy Sinatra, who performed it on television about three years ago. Thanks, Youtube!

01 March 2007

Dave Sim gets his nose smashed by a little girl

Far more heartwarming than you might expect, Dave is surprisingly good with little voids.