Saturday, March 21, 2015

We have moved!

I have a new space for the blog now, over on Wordpress.  You can find it here.  This one will stay up for archival reasons, but everything new will be there. 

Friday, March 13, 2015

Worst finish ever

With WrestleMania just a few weeks away, there are pieces being written about past shows and which ones were great (as well as not so great).  There's also nonstop speculation about how this year's main event is going to end.  Now with a less than enthusiastic reception for the match itself (Roman Reigns challenging Brock Lesnar for the WWE title for those who haven't been tuning in lately) and for the man poised to win the title that night (Reigns), there's little chance that it's going to be remembered as one for the ages.  The only thing that could change that is if the finish delivers something more palatable to the crowd than Roman Reigns walking out as champion.  But whether some twist like Seth Rollins crashing the party with his Money in the Bank briefcase happens or we get a straightforward Reigns victory, I can guarantee you that the end result won't be as bad as the way the match I'm about to talk about went down.  This match was the biggest squandering of fan interest ever, and started a once proud company on it's road to ruin.  The match I'm talking about is:

Starrcade 97 - Sting vs Hollywood Hulk Hogan


This was supposed to be the big blowoff to what had been the hottest angle in wrestling since Hulkamania was running wild.  For over a year Hulk Hogan and the NWO had run roughshod over the entire WCW roster while Sting stayed away from it all, disgusted by his WCW mates losing trust in him.  Then in the fall of 1997 Sting returned with a new look and began doing run-ins to bail his former friends out of the group beatdowns that had become a weekly occurrence.  Everyone knew where it was headed, of course: a showdown between Sting and Hogan.  And for anyone who watched wrestling for more than five minutes knew, the finish was going to be obvious: Sting taking it to Hogan and ultimately beating him in the middle of the ring to win the championship and set the dismantling of the NWO.  But whether it was because Hogan's legendary refusal to job or just some bad work by the creative team what should have been a layup became a turnover.  Hogan hit his big move and then instead of Sting kicking out and demolishing Hogan we got a botched supposed to be fast count that wasn't very fast at all, and sloppily executed submission finish that would be invalidated the next night on Nitro and a rematch two months later that didn't end clean either.  This was the beginning of the end for WCW as they never got on track again.

The lesson here is that sometimes you have to do a clean, decisive finish.  Yes you have to start moving towards the next big event immediately afterward.  And yes, this was long after the day of loser leaves town matches where Hogan would have left the company or just been taken off of TV for six months.  Hogan would have had to come out the next night on TV a loser and done something to stay relevant going forward. But that's wrestling; the competition had done that very thing multiple times before so there's no reason they should have deviated from the tried and path here.  Sometimes the fans really do just want the straightforward storyline, and not some twist and turn laden enigma.  The ending to this match was the bastard child of Hogan's unwillingness to do a straight job to Sting (and again I'm assuming here - Hogan had creative control over his matches in WCW and had already used it in the past so it's not crazy to believe he employed it here) and the infamous Dusty finish - a finish employed by Dusty Rhodes where run-ins and rulebreaking would lead to a false finish where the good guy appears to win a title only to see it overturned shortly after.  I remember watching the show with a group of friends and when it was over we were all like 'really?'

And like I said earlier they never recovered.  At the time of the show they were regularly doubling up Monday Night RAW in the ratings, but the WWE was starting to right it's ship as they fully embraced the Attitude Era.  A strong effort was needed in order to keep from losing any major ground and they totally screwed the pooch here.  The end result was a show that came off looking really lame next to what the WWE was doing and made it clear that Eric Bischoff was not in Vince McMahon's league.  From there the downward spiral started and never ended.  The NWO as a faction and a storyline was kept going and going when it should have been wound down over the next year.  Invasion angles aren't hard to transition from, really.  Once the outside group has been vanquished you simply come up with an avenue to transfer them over to the main roster and keep it moving.  But their inability or unwillingness to do that led to the same people dominating the main event scene long after they after some new people should have been cycled in and the product looking very stale next to the WWE's new stars in Stone Cold Steve Austin and the Rock.  Within a year the war was for all intents and purposes over.  So a finish can erase tons o f goodwill in one fell swoop, or restore it just as quickly.  It'll be interesting to see if the WWE takes that kind of gamble this year and sends Rollins in with the briefcase to change the end result of WrestleMania 31.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Another Tron movie?


So the news dropped earlier this week that Disney is going to start filming a third Tron movie, which is cool I guess.  I don't know that anyone was really clamoring for it but the concept is cool and the last one, Tron: Legacy did good worldwide business to the tune of $400 million.  Both movies were great ideas that fell a little short in execution.  Neither movie was bad by any stretch but in both cases I found myself thinking 'is that all?' when they concluded.  Tron was the matrix before The Matrix, if you will.  Like the 1999 Keanu Reeves classic it took place inside a computer generated world contained all the networks and pathways that our systems operate on.  The similarities don't end there.  The character of Sark is a powerful strongman similar to Matrix's Agent Smith, who is ultimately serving a more powerful master (Tron's Master Control Program as opposed to The Matrix's sentient machines).  And on the good side you have the tag team of Tron and Flynn, a heroic insider and super powered newcomer respectively, similar to Morpheus and Neo.  Where the two departed was in depicting the state of the flesh and blood outside world.  In The Matrix that world had already fallen to the machines that once served us while in the Tron movies things hadn't taken that tragic turn yet.  And that's where The Matrix succeeds and the Tron films don't; in the latter the stakes for the outside world are explained but not shown in a way that gives the movie any gravity.  What goes on in the computer world often seems more like an adventure of choice for Flynn and his son (in the sequel) rather than a mission to save the world from itself.  The Tron films are both ultimately a two hour video game instead of a movie; it's hard to develop any real sense of care towards the characters even while you're mesmerized by the special effects.  When Tron: Legacy ended I wasn't left with any sense of wanting to see what lay ahead for Sam Flynn going forward. 


So why do more if you're Disney?  Well, money talks and Tron: Legacy made a decent profit once you include the overseas gross.  Despite everything I just said I would go see a third film if there weren't any other movies to see that weekend, and would definitely watch it On Demand later if I missed it in the theater.  It's interesting enough to attract your attention but like the Transformers movies you're better off going in with realistic expectations and not holding out hope for it to reach it's potential.  The one good thing about the lightweight execution is that they didn't try to do too much like the Matrix sequels and turn everyone off in the process.  The Matrix Reloaded was like going into the fourth quarter of a football game with a 20 point lead, calling nothing but passing plays that result in interceptions that set up easy scores for the other team that cost you the lead and the game.  By the time it's over you're dazed, confused and disgusted at what just transpired.

OK, I got off on a tangent.  That's just how upset the Matrix sequels made me.  But anyway, my final verdict for now on the third Tron film is that it will likely do as well and be as good as the second one.  If they release it at a time of year when little else is out there it should make good money at the box office.  And while the potential is there for it to be everything the Matrix trilogy failed to be, I don't expect it.  There comes a point with all of these serialzed movies that you have to accept what they are if you're going to keep watching and going to them.  You do that and you won't be disappointed.  But if you go in there like we are wont to do with the Transformers movies thinking that this next one may be the one where they finally get it right.........don't be surprised when you feel like Charlie Brown after Lucy pulled the football away again.

Monday, March 9, 2015

Agents of Shield/Agent Carter - what to do next?


So the eight week experiment has come to a successful close, and Agent Carter is in the books.  There's talk of doing a volume two next season, which would be a good thing, and a lot of people prefer it to the show it filled in for, Agents of SHIELD.  This is understandable and correct, in my opinion, although one has to take into account that Agent Carter was an eight episode miniseries and not a full 22 episode season.  And that the storyline wasn't as constrained by an upcoming movie as every season of Agents will be.  The only real constraints for Agent Carter are not killing off anyone who's still alive in the present day MCU or contradicting something that's already been laid out in an already completed film.  And lastly, with no burden from fans to include Marvel characters that we want to see they can introduce and dispose of new characters who aren't in the comics as they wish.  In short they have much more creative freedom and it shows.  They also benefited from having a better actress in the lead role, and having a more compelling character for her to play.  The only parts of the miniseries that didn't work for me were some of the scenes at SSR (the precursor to SHIELD), that dragged at times.  But beyond, the entire run was excellent and like everybody else I hope they give us more next season.

As for the show it filled in for, I'll say that it's much better than it was when it started.  Now I did defend the show last season when a lot of people were trashing it (mainly because too many were complaining about the lack of MCU characters even though we were told from the jump that wasn't happeneing), but now looking back I'll admit that it did have some issues.  The direct tie-in to Captain America - The  Winter Soldier hamstrung the storytelling, and there was some very wooden acting among the main cast.  Brett Dalton was often downright painful as Agent Ward, and for most of season one he was the lead agent so that made for really stretches to watch.  Chloe Bennett wasn't much better as Skye, and her importance to the team's activities throughout meant a lot of screen time for her, too.  It took Bill Paxton's run through the final stretch as the main villain The Clairvoyant (which coincided with Agent Ward's heel turn to be his subordinate) to make things better at the end.  This season has been a huge improvement.  For the longtime Marvel fans there was an appearance from the Absorbing Man and the addition to the team of Bobbie Morse (Mockingbird).  And the introduction of the Terrigen Mist and the reveal of Inhumans are major bones being thrown to Marrvel fans.  Henry Simmons and Nick Blood have joined the cast as members of the SHIELD team as well, and Ward has been largely disappeared save a few scenes here or there.  I'm guessing lots of this was in the plan from day one but some of it had to be in reaction to the negative press the show was getting.

So what's next for both?  Agent Carter is off until next year, assuming it comes back, and we'll get more of the days leading up to the formal creation of SHIELD.  More Peggy in the field, more Howling Commandos, and more Howard Stark would make it perfect for me.  There are probably two good seasons worth of stories to tell here, maybe more.  As for Agents of SHIELD, I have no idea.  We'll get some lead in to Avengers - Age of Ultron for sure but this season is much less connected directly to the MCU so it likely won't be as direct.  Next season there will be some dealing with the fallout from Ultron and some buildup toward next year's Civil War.  The elephant in the room will be the Inhuman story. The Inhumans movie isn't coming for four more years.  How they'll deal with a four year build up to that is beyond me.  There's only so much slow burning you can do, especially without including any of the Inhuman royal family until the movie itself.  I'm guessing though that the show won't have four more seasons after this one so that may not really be that much of a problem.  That's not a dis; it's just that I don't see the current cast making it through six season without some turnover, especially if no one besides Agent Coulson makes it to the MCU (The TV team showing up in a future Marvel film won't exactly be a stand up and cheer moment).  What would really be cool is if there's some overlap with Agents and the Netflix shows; those are crossovers that are more feasible and would be a good way to include some well known comic characters without begging Robert Downey, Jr. or Scarlett Johannson to come through.

Whatever happens, interesting times lie ahead for both shows.


Thursday, March 5, 2015

Back to the Race Question


It seems that no matter how many times it comes up, we just cannot reach a final conclusion when it comes to race and comic books (and comic book movies, of course).  Almost without fail, a casting or rumored casting for a role hits the internet and the comments come flying fast and furious.  And when it involves taking a character that's always been white and casting a black actor or actress to fill the role, the reactions are always spirited on both sides.  And the two sides can reliably be counted on to be:

  1. Hey, why not?
  2. This is an outrage!  Why must they change something that's been one way for decades?
The past couple of weeks have seen a few things kick this debate back up.  There has been some wishful speculation on the part of some fans that when they choose the new Spider-Man it will be Miles Morales from the Ultimate Universe.  There was a pretty heated Twitter debate between current Spider-Man comic writer Dan Slott and several people over whether or not it would be ok for Marvel and Sony to keep Peter Parker but racebend the role by casting a black actor.  Slott pretty deftly fended off every justification given for why it was essential to keep Parker white (all of which were variations of option 2 above), but of course no one changed their minds because they were already locked into their opinion.  The lastly there were the comments from actress Michelle Rodriguez that black actors need to stop stealing roles that were meant for white actors in superhero films.  Uhh......yeahhh.......ok, Michelle, whatever you say.  She apologized later but that was more stupid than racist.  That being said, the more vocal viewpoint is that white characters should white regardless of the circumstances under which they were created and that most of them do not have particular traits that lock them in to being white (the obvious examples being Jewish characters like Magneto who was a boy during the Holocaust or Bruce Wayne with his old money blood lineage back to colonial times).

I'm ambivalent on it.  There have been times where I've felt it was no big deal (Laurence Fishburne  playing Perry White in Man of Steel) or even the right choice (Michael Clarke Duncan as Kingpin in Daredevil, because skin color aside he was closer to the size and body type to play the role than anyone else working at the time).  And there are also some instances where it has reeked of stunt casting (Idris Elba playing Heimdall in the Thor movies and Michael B. Jordan in the upcoming Fantastic Four film).  The need for some to change the race of some characters is almost entirely a result of the time period in which most of them were created. As you can see here, the vast majority of the most well known characters were created before 1970; given the way things were in our society during those decades you it doesn't take a PhD to figure out how we ended up with such a monochromatic slate of characters.  It's also not a coincidence that with the 70s and more integration in society that nonwhite characters began to appear in comics.  And in recent years there have been a handful of new characters of color created as well.  None of these characters save Storm of the X-Men have really gained the traction and popularity to become true comic icons, distinguishable from other characters by laypeople.  So when it's time to make movies in 2015 and you have a more diverse audience than you did in 1965 but your major characters were made for a 1965 audience you have a problem. 

Now I've been down this road in earlier posts here.  Other than changing the race when you go to movies or even in the source material itself you have two choices: try to elevate existing characters to a higher level or recognition or create new ones for a new time.  Both have their drawbacks, of course.  The universes in both major companies are pretty crowded to start with and creating more just means less space for ones that exist.  And elevating existing ones can be met with indifference by people who've already decided who they want to pay attention to.  In the case of Spider-Man, you have a legacy character in Peter Parker and a new one in half black, half Hispanic Miles Morales who has developed a decent sized following of his own. The debate over which one to use is sparked both by Miles' popularity, a loathing by most of us to have to endure yet another Peter Parker origin story on film, and the desire by a lot of people to get a Peter Parker Spidey film under the Marvel/Sony banner now that the two companies are working together. I personally wish they would have stuck with the existing continuity and Andrew Garfield instead of starting over again, then brought in Miles later.  But that ship has sailed.  Miles showing up is inevitably on the table, but we're probably going to get Peter first.  And I think you stick to the Peter we're used to.  As a Bat-fanboy I can say that DC would not get any cool points from me if they decided to up and make Bruce Wayne black in some effort to make inroads with black readers so I can see why Spidey fans wouldn't want that either.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Fastlane to WrestleMania 31!

WWE Fastlane 2015 results

That's the image that closed the show at WWE Fastlane on Sunday night, Daniel Bryan congratulating Roman Reigns on his victory in the main event and his looming title match with Brock Lesnar.  That match is taking place much to the chagrin of many fans, as they wanted Bryan to prevail and move on the face Lesnar.  There are legit reasons beyond just being a fan of Bryan to want him in there instead of Reigns, but at this point barring some switchup in the next few weeks it looks like that's going to be the title match.  Now I will be the first one to say that a Bryan-Lesnar match or a three-way with Bryan joining Reigns and Lesnar will be much better than what it appears we're going to get.  I totally agree that Reigns is not ready to carry the load in the ring like Bryan, John Cena, Seth Rollins, or Dolph Ziggler can.  The match between Reigns and Bryan was very good, and that was all Bryan's doing.  Anyone who's been watching for a long time can tell when a real pro like Bryan is leading the way in a good match.  Reigns and Lesnar are two guys who need to be led through a good match, so having them together in an one on one match probably won't result in a Match of the Year candidate.  Do I think they can put together something decent?  Yes.  Neither man is Sid Vicious or Goldberg; you haven't seen bad until you've been subjected to a series of matches involving either of them.  Vicious may have wrestled two very good matches in his entire career, both against Shawn Michaels, and Goldberg never had one, not even against Bret Hart.  However this match turns out it won't be as that bad.

The real reason it seems that people are anti-Reigns is not any personal dislike towards him but because he's not ready.  I get that, but Vince McMahon doesn't think that way.  If you want to see what things look like with great workers who don't look like Supermen at the top of the company there's an era for you - the New Generation Era.  That's when Hart and Michaels ruled the roost and worked against each other a lot when they weren't carrying Vicious, Kevin Nash, and others to good matches.  It's also a time when the company didn't make as much money and became ripe for the beating they would get from rival WCW that necessitated the Attitude Era.  If you're Vince McMahon you don't want to go back there, and Daniel Bryan probably reminds you more of that era than he does of the Hulkamania Era, the Attitude Era, or even the John Cena era.  When it comes to picking someone as the face or co-face of the company Vince has always wanted someone who could transcend the wrestling business and cross over into movies, television, etc and while Roman Reigns may not be that guy he has a better chance of doing it than Bryan does.  Nobody's casting Daniel Bryan in a movie or TV show. 

Now you might think that's a bad way to do business, but Vince would likely point you to the evidence of history.  The New Generation Era has more than it's share of good ring work, but it's the one period Vince would gladly give back if he could.  The realty is that the ring work matters but it's only one aspect of things.  On the same show where people bemoaned the Reigns victory there was a lot of Twitter anticipation of the Bray Wyatt-Undertaker match that's going to happen at WrestleMania 30.  Now if you're complaining about workrate re: Reigns and Lesnar but are drooling over the prospect of Bray Wyatt getting in the ring with the Undertaker.....just stop already.  Really, just stop.  I hope Vince puts Bryan in the main event so we an have a better match, but even if that happens then what?  You gonna have Bryan win again in the same fashion as last year?  Doubt it.  Bryan wins, and then Seth Rollins cashes in Money in the Bank the same night?  Possible.  Reigns goes over?  Won't stop the booing from Bryan fans and then you sill have to do he Rollins cash-in by July.  If I was writing it I would have kept Bryan out until after WrestleMania and then you could have had Reigns go over without someone around that a vocal group of fans prefer to poo poo it.  But that ship has sailed.  Bryan is back, and lots of people want him to win it again but I just don't see that happening. 

Saturday, February 21, 2015

The DC Strategy (or at least what I think it is)

In case you missed it earlier, that picture is the recently released photo of Jason Mamoa as Aquaman.  The reaction has been mostly good but as always there are some folks who were hoping for something more like this:


Uhh yeah.....that wasn't going to happen. Thanks to the Suuperfriends cartoons, which is where most of us got our first exposure to the character, Aquaman has been largely considered a joke and has been the least appreciated member of the Justice League.  The comic series has long been an afterthought and gone through numerous re-boots, restarts, etc.  The current series has been a godsend due to a 25 issue run by Geoff Johns, one of the best in the game right now, and a real triumph of the New 52 continuity.  The cinematic version will likely have a storyline in the same vein as the comic series, reportedly with a change in his human heritage from the New England upbringing of comic lore to a Polynesian one to match the actor's, which is a good thing.  This is undoubtedly going to be a serious, take no prisoners depiction of the character and not the one that has been the butt of jokes, Entourage plotlines, and Robot Chicken sketches. 

The decision to make a big deal out of this costume reveal looks like what I'm guessing is a alrager strategy for the DC film universe, and that is to devote serious time and energy to characters that have real marketing growth potential.  It wouldn't surprise me if there is a Cyborg costume reveal later on this year to coincide with the launch of his solo comic series, and he has a solo film of his own scheduled for a 2020 release.  And of course Wonder Woman will be getting a solo flick of her own that has only been decades in the making.  The goals here, if I'm correct, are to create two new viable movie characters (Cyborg and Aquaman) that speak to the changing demographics in the country, and to create in Wonder Woman a third stalwart movie superhero to go along with Batman and Superman, one that can be re-cast every 10 years or so if need be or dusted off after long breaks and get people excited by her return.  If the DC film universe succeeds those will be the real triumphs.  At this point in time Batman and Superman are what they are, business-wise: a good casting and a good enough movie are a license to print money but they've pretty much hit their ceilings box-office wise.  The new money to be made is with new characters or old ones that haven't been used to their potential. What they're doing is an entirely different venture from what Marvel Studios had to do when they got started.

                                                 gadot-wonder-woman-expendables-3-star-calls-out-gal-gadot-over-wonder ...

What do I mean?  Marvel was starting off minus their most well known and most popular characters in Spider-Man and the X-Men (particularly Wolverine), and had to create a product that could resonate despite relying on B-listers like Iron Man and Captain America.  And yes, in 2008-09 Cap and Iron Man were B-listers; even today their books don't sell like Spidey's or Batman's.  As a result, it was crucial to land a top notch actor the likes of Robert Downey Jr who also happened to be a perfect fit for the role of Tony Stark.  Once Iron Man succeeded they could go to lesser known (at the time) actors like Chris Hemsworth and Chris Evans to fill the roles of Thor and Cap, respectively.  DC is starting with Batman and Superman already established as icons and is using them to set up the rest of the universe, and is not relying on big names to get any of their superheroes over.  (By big name I mean people who can be recognized by those who aren't movie connoisseurs.  There are people who know Henry Cavill well but the average casual moviegoer has no idea who he is.  Ben Affleck is the only player the average moviegoer knows well.)  Now before you Marvel fans start firing up your 'DC Sucks!' remarks, let me be clear that I am not praising or trashing either approach.  I am simply laying out two different approaches that are being used because of two different sets of circumstances.  Let me explain a little more.

Marvel is building an NFL team, DC is building an NBA team.  NFL teams need several good to very good players across throughout the different areas of the roster in order to succeed.  You have three units (offense, defense, special teams) and you need several good to very good people in all three.  One superstar does not make much of a difference if you're lacking everywhere else.  (For proof of that see Sony, who could not ride Spider-Man past fanboy complaints, disingenuous web stories, and a hacking scandal).  And NBA team is different in that you need superstars if you want to win big.  A collection of good to very good players can get you in the playoffs, but not very far afterward so the strategy in building a team is to get a few superstars then fill in with good role players.  Marvel is very much like New England Patriots in that you have your Tom Brady, your Rob Gronkowski and a bunch of guys who are very good but aren't as famous.  DC is like the old Celtics with the Bill Russell-esque linchpin in Batman, Superman as Bob Cousy, and Wonder Woman as Havlicek, the sixth man who eventually became the star of his own championship teams.  Both of them worked, they just work differently.  Ultimately we won't know until we see finished products just how well the DC method is going to play out, but there's no reason to think it's a bad strategy.  The players just have to execute.  Marvel of course has already won a few Super Bowls and is trying to keep the dynasty going.  My advice to you all is to just sit back and enjoy the next few years because as fans of this stuff, we're winning by getting a chance to see it all on the big screen.

Monday, February 16, 2015

The next Black world champion is.......


With it being Black History Month there are sure to be some tributes out there and lists of the best black wrestlers in pro wrestling history.  The WWE does tributes every year during this month on their broadcasts and their website, and there are other sites and blogs that will do the same.  So I'm posing a different topic here: who is likely to be the next black wrestler to become the WWE Champion?  OK, the answer's pretty simple right now: no one.  To be honest, there's no one on the current roster who has any real chance of rising to that level.  Kofi Kingston, Xavier Woods, R-Truth?  Nope.  Titus O'Neal?  Heck no.  Big E Langston?  I won't say never but it sure doesn't look like it right now.  This shouldn't come as a surprise; there are usually no more than a handful of black wrestlers on the WWE roster at any given time and when you factor in how hard it is to climb that ladder in general the odds of there consistently being a black wrestler who has the chops to ascend to champion aren't very good.  The last one was The Rock and he was almost finished before he got started thanks to the horrendous booking he got after his debut.  Only after he and the booking committee course corrected and he became the biggest star in the business.

Ron Simmons    WWE Superstar Koko B. Ware : Wallpapers, Videos, Theme song, Biography ...

That's been the case for most of wrestling history; even when there were multiple top shelf companies the number of black world champions was pretty scant.  The NWA/WCW had Ron Simmons and Booker T, the WWF/WWE had The Rock, and.......that's it.  Of the WWE's present day competitors TNA has Bobby Lashley, and none before him.  Is it racism?  Yes and no.  Wrestling history is littered with stereotypical roles for most of it's nonwhite performers (and plenty of it's white ones, too, to be fair) so it's been extremely difficult for any black wrestler to progress beyond any comedic or middle of the card roles.  And until not too long ago, that was almost entirely by design. In the 80s we had to endure the likes of Koko B. Ware and the Junkyard Dog, jive talking cartoon characters who had zero chance of ever being taken seriously enough to become champion.  And even more solemn, serious characters like Simmons ran into a glass ceiling for most of their careers.  Today we still have clownish characters like R-Truth and guys intentionally stuck in the midcard like Kingston, whose yearly highlight is a miraculous escape from elimination in the Royal Rumble (which is soon followed by his actual elimination).  And in between we had Booker T, who straddled the fence between the jive talkers of the 80s and more serious characters like Simmons during his WCW run.

kofi kingston wallpaper  The Truth Hurts

So for right now things look pretty bleak on the championship front.  Looking at recent history the biggest opportunities came when there was a void of sorts at the top.  Simmons won the WCW title almost on a whim when champion Vader needed an opponent because Sting was occupied with short-timer Jake Roberts.  The Rock got in as the corporate champion to set up Steve Austin's reclamation of the title at WrestleMania XV, and got over so much that they kept him at the top.  Booker T became champion of WCW in it's dying days when they were trying whatever they could to get attention and their biggest names were choosing not to work much.  The likelihood that the one remaining major company in the business will be in such dire straits that such a window will open is very small, at least for the current members of the roster.  Maybe if Lashley comes back over to the WWE fold, but other than that forget about it.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Spider Man Returns!

              Spider-Man and The Avengers

About the months ago I said very loudly that Spider-Man would not be coming back to the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU).  Welp......looks like I was wrong.  OK, not 100 percent wrong but definitely wrong.  Hey, it happens.  Directly from Marvel itself, we have the news that a deal was reached between Marvel and Sony to bring Spider-Man into the MCU.  Well, sort of.  There's a lot of speculation that's going way too far as to what it all means, and a lot of you guys are going to be disappointed next year if you believe it.  So before you start dreaming up all the awesome ways Spider Man will be showing up on the big screen, you need to get one thing straight:


Yes, that is correct.  Sony still owns the movie rights to Spider-Man.  Marvel will get to use him in their movies, and can lend some of their characters to Sony for use in future Spider-Man movies.  Marvel Studios head honcho Kevin Feige will co-produce the next Spider-Man film with Sony, but Sony maintains creative control.  The next Spider-Man film will be a Sony project and not a Marvel Studios film.  That is important to remember because the decisions that are made are not necessarily those that would come from a Marvel-only production.  The best case scenario is that Sony follows Marvel's lead on how to present the character, and that Marvel feels good enough about what comes from it that they'll let Sony use Daredevil, Kingpin, and other New York-based characters in future Spidey films.  Now I'm one who liked Amazing Spider Man 2 and was ready for more from that universe, but for all intents and purposes that seems to be over.  So the best thing for Sony to do is Marvel-ize things when they start over and please, no more Peter Parker origin stories!  We've gotten two of those way too close together already so the last thing we need is one more.  Either pick things up in progress or......go with Miles Morales.

A second thing to calm down about is the Spider-Man cameo that is slated to happen in the next Captain America movie, Civil War. In the print version of the story Spidey played a huge role and some people are already salivating at the thought he will do the same in the MCU.  Forget it, folks.  Civil War hits the theaters next May.  Assuming that a new Peter Parker will be chosen that's not enough time to recast the role and do major script rewrites to give him a major role (without marginalizing Chris Evans, Robert Downey, Jr., and Chadwick Boseman's  parts in the film) in time to meet the filming and editing schedule in time for theatrical release.  And on top of that, the issue from the storyline that Spidey was a part of, masked superheroes acting as vigilantes, has not been introduced into the MCU yet.  Yes, it is getting brought in via the Daredevil series, but it's still not a big enough part of the MCU to change an entire film that's already in production around it.  My bet is that we get a few scenes added in post production with him in costume; that way Sony can take its time casting the new Spidey.

Lastly, there is the matter of the revised Marvel film schedule.  Because they are partners now, the Sony Spider-Man films are now being given a position amongst the Marvel studios-helmed films as if they are part of the slate.  Which means that the July 2017 release date for the next Spidey film will move some previously scheduled Marvel films down the calendar. The third Thor movie along with the movies for Black Panther, Captain Marvel, and the Inhumans are being moved to later dates. And that has some people feeling some kinda way.  There was much rejoicing when the Black Panther and Captain Marvel films were first announced, so it kinda sucks for them to get pushed back.  But, that's the price of doing business if you want Marvel involved with Spidey.  Spider-Man is Marvel; you will move things out of the way for a chance to showcase him.  The truth of the matter is that the only reason there are movies for Black Panther, Captain Marvel, etc are that Marvel can't make any movies for it's most popular characters - Spider-Man, Wolverine, and (by association) the X-Men. If Marvel had those movie rights we would have gotten a plethora of films featuring those characters, and maybe eventually some Avengers-related films.  The miracle of Marvel studios is that they've created a great film universe using B and C-list characters, and in doing so raised their profiles.  But were they to be given the full movie rights to their biggest name characters today they would wrap things up as quickly as possible to get to the business of making Spider-Man and X-Men movies.  So as a fan you have to ask yourself whether that's something you'd really want to happen. 

So while there's a lot to chew on, and some big reasons to curb your enthusiasm it's a day to rejoice for all comic book movie fans. Excelsior!

DC Changes

So Marvel isn't the only company that's going to be shuffling the deck this summer.  DC is going to cancel some books and start up some new ones.  Check out the full list here.  There are a few things to take note of:

  • It's not a reboot! - There were some clickbait headlines like 'DC says goodbye to New 52' on a lot of rumor sites.  As always, those sites are trash.  The New 52 continuity is still the existing timeline that the current books are existing in; the only thing changing is that the label 'New 52' won't be on the cover anymore. Which makes sense because after four years it's kinda dumb to call it new anymore.  But of course there are the New 52 haters who are hanging on to hope that DC will ditch the whole thing and go back to the way things were before Flashpoint.  Sorry guys, not happening.  And the further out we get from the Flashpoint changeover the less utility there is in going back, especially as the DC Film Universe begins to kick in and cement at least some of the changes on film. 
  • New solo series on deck - For the first time in DC Comics publication history, Cyborg and Starfire will be getting their own solo series.  Cyborg's series is going to be written by an African-American writer, David Walker, so that's a double whammy on the diversity front.  No doubt they're getting the character more exposure leading into his big screen debut as part of the Justice League and his own future solo film.  But all signs point toward this series being a keeper.  As for Starfire, this is also some new territory for the character.  Given that people are rightfully asking for new material and new opportunities for existing characters, this is another good step.  Starfire has slowly been promoted from a member of an ensemble to part of a trio to a solo act.  Of course, both series success will come down to the writing and whether or not people buy it.  Hopefully they will.
  • Missing in action - One name that didn't make it to either the returning or cancelled series lists is Supergirl.  I haven't heard anything about the series being cancelled, but not seeing it on the continued list a cause for concern.  It's a good series, and the character has been given her own personality and purpose separate from just being Superman's cousin.  Seeing as how there's a TV series for her in the works, it's highly unlikely that her solo series is gone for good.  My guess is that it will be back, maybe starting over with a new number one issue.
We have until June for all of this to start, but from the looks of things it will be interesting.

    Wednesday, February 4, 2015

    Some stuff I noticed watching WWE Network

    The other day I was home alone for a few hours so I took the opportunity to do some targeted WWE Network viewing.  For the millionth time, you can't get a better deal so if you're into wrestling I can't recommend it too much.  Even if you don't watch it now it's worth it for the archives, they have major matches from every organization that mattered, save TNA.  So I decided to take a look at a few matches featuring one Stone Cold Steve Austin, and live tweeted the experience (You can check out my storified tweets here.)  The matches hat made up Austin's rise to top dog in the WWE (then WWF) serve as a good point of reference for the decisions that are being made today.  No, I'm not trying to say that Roman Reigns is the next Austin.  Of course not.  But here are a few things to remember:

    • Austin's run almost ended before it began - The Austin character really began to take off in 1997, but he still didn't mature into the Monday Night War winning force that he eventually became until a year later.  And he almost didn't get the chance.  In August of 1997 at Summerslam Austin took a bad bump from an Owen Hart piledriver and suffered a severe neck injury.  Watching that match, you can see that it's fortunate his career survived as long as it did afterward.  The finish had to be performed almost entirely by Hart as Austin could barely move enough to do to very weak rollup that got him the win in the match.  It was one of those endings that anyone who'd been watching wrestling for a while knew was due to a legit injury.  The other thing that's important is to watch how Austin worked before the piledriver; his moveset was significantly more varied (he did a powerbomb during this match, something you never saw from him after) and the level of bumps he could take diminished every bit as much.  For context go back and watch his match against Bret Hart from Survivor Series 1996; you'll see the same level of variance between what he did then vs after he came back.
    ... -bret-the-hitman-hart-vs-stone-cold-steve-austin.jpg?resize=480%2C360  Thread: 50 Most Important Matches in WWE History
    • He almost couldn't go after he came back - His first match was another match against Owen Hart; almost a do-over of sorts from the Summerslam match.  It was not a good match, and it looked like something you'd run for a guy who was retiring immediately afterward.  It was over in under 10 minutes, absurdly short for somebody with the athletic ability and stamina of Owen Hart.  Austin's offense consisted of punches, kicks, and a Stone Cold Stunner.  It was a foreshadowing of what was to come; Austin's greatest career feat was being able to take that punch-kick repertoire and turn it into something that could give us entertaining 20 minute main event matches a year later.    Watching this match explains everything that went once Austin was champion.  His title defenses in 1998 were against Mick Foley, the Undertaker, and Kane - brawlers whose offense mostly could be done against a opponent who was standing up or laying prone.  Austin's style also made it easier for one Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson to rise to prominence.  Austin's first matches after finishing with Owen Hart were with the Rock, and they would hook up again a year later leading up to and in WrestleMania 15.   Rock had a style that meshed well with Austin and the extra flair he added to his pretty basic movset and selling of Austin's offense made for a ideal dance partner. 

    • WrestleMania 14 was a nail-biter - And not in the way you'd think.  It was pretty much a foregone conclusion that the main event was Austin's coronation, minus an urban legend that Shawn Michaels notorious penchant for not jobbing when the mood hit put things in jeopardy and the Undertaker was ready backstage to pound him if he acted up.  But given that Austin was only a few months away from not being to work more than a brief match and that Michaels had suffered a severe back injury himself at the Royal Rumble (one that would keep him out of action for the next five years) there was a real chance that a bad bump could have left the company without it's best performer and it's new star.  That didn't happen of course, but that had to leave Vince McMahon scarred in a way that leaves rally apprehensive about putting his eggs in the Daniel Bryan basket. Bryan is almost 35 (not old but an age where an injury history can start catching up to you), just missed over half a year due to injury, and employs a pretty dangerous style in the ring.  Entrusting him as the guy to share top billing with John Cena and maybe  even move ahead of him in the short run isn't a sure a thing as some folks would have you think.

    • Running off Bret Hart was the right move - The Montreal Screwjob is a day that lives in wrestling infamy, but the decision to move Hart out of the burgeoning Attitude Era was the right choice.  Not only was he lacking the personality to captivate an audience during the direction that the company was about to embark on - he was never exciting on the mic as a face and wasn't willing or able to engage in the sophomoric act that Degeneration X made famous - his in-ring style wouldn't have been a good fit for Austin post-injury.  Taking the barrage of suplexes and submission holds that Bret utilized would have been hell for someone with Austin's fragile neck and spine at that point.  Bret was indeed the odd man out so it made sense to let him go.  That doesn't excuse how it happened, but hindsight is 20/20 of course.
    So that's what I figured out in one afternoon of WWE Network viewing. 

    Friday, January 30, 2015

    X-Men Casting Questions, Part Deux

    As you may have heard, there were three additions to the cast of the next X-Men film, Age of Apocalypse.  While Michael Fasbender, James MacAvoy and Jennnifer Lawrence will return as Magneto, Prof. Xavier, and Mystique, the roles of Jean Grey, Storm, and Cyclops are being filled with new faces. Grey will be played by Sophie Turner. Storm by Alexandra Shipp, and Cyclops by Tye Sheridan.  The casting of Storm has been met with the most consternation.  For one Shipp looks like this:

    and is being cast to play Storm, who looks like this:


     Now the obvious logic here is that director Bryan Singer is going for a younger Halle Berry by casting Shipp, but that of course brings back the original disdain people had with Berry being cast originally.  Berry, of course, looks nothing like the character as she's drawn in the comic books.  The other problem a lot of people have is that Shipp isn't considered a good actress right now.  Her most recent role was starring in a universally panned biopic of the late pop star Aaliyah, in which her own performance was dumped on as much as the movie itself.  If you're a fan of Storm, which most people who are X-Men fans are, then this was an extra punch to the gut to go along with the one you got 15 years ago.  Do I understand?  Sure.  But........a few things:

    • These movies are their own thing.  The famed Claremont/Byrne print run is not going to be represented on film, and neither is the 1990s cartoon series.  Those are probably the two most beloved runs for the X-Men in either medium, and barring some major changes we're not going to get those on the big screen.  (The irony of ironies of course is that the cartoon series took a boatload of liberties from the print material and yet there are people who love them both)  These movies are almost more like science fiction films that feature the X-Men characters than actual X-Men films.  Singer and company have chosen to go their own way.  Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn't.  If you've stuck with the movies this long, then you've probably accepted that.

    • Storm, Cyclops, and Jean aren't going to factor into the story much.  The X-Men movies are four character shows and those characters are Xavier, Magneto, Mystique, and Wolverine.  That won't ben changing either seeing as how three of the four actors are big time A-listers now.  You can count on each movie focusing on the Xavier/Magneto relationship with a major plot thread for both Mystique and Wolverine.  Everyone else is a role player.  Now of course that's going to cause a disjointed story seeing as how Cyclops is the leader of the X-Men and all, but that's what they're going to do.  With that in mind it makes sense to not put much diligence into casting anyone outside the big four.  They'll probably have a few lines each and a bunch of special effects laden action scenes.  Whether or not that's a good or bad thing probably won't be known until we actually see the movie.
    So why do they continue to take such big detours from either of the forms that fans would accept the most?  Well, that's pretty easy to explain.  Here it is:

    That's the worldwide gross of X-Men: Days of Future Past.  It also has an 8.1 rating on  And that's following a $353 worldwide gross for X-Men: First Class.  So they doubled up from one movie to the next, which means that people like what they're doing so they're going to keep doing it.  It's no different than the Transformers films; they have a formula and it's working so they're going to ride it until it doesn't .  If you don't like what they're doing the only thing you can really do it tap out and stay away.  Your move.

    It's never organic

    So here we are almost a week later and the fans ire over Roman Reigns Royal Rumble victory and seemingly inevitable WrestleMania victory over Brock Lesnar has not died down.  I've already talked about this some but I feel the need to address one more part of this.  The organic part.  What am I talking about?  Well, one of the main arguments people have had against Reigns push was that it's been forced on them as opposed to more organic ascensions like those of icons past.  And I just have to call bs on that.  Very little of what goes on in the entertainment world is organic, and last year's fan revolt that put Daniel Bryan over the top was an exception, not the rule.  No matter how hard you cheer at a pay per view or house show, you're still rooting for someone who was put in front of you by.....wait for it........Vince McMahon.  Must I run through the list of WWF/WWE top dogs to set you straight?  Apparently so, so here it is.

    Hulk Hogan was already over based on his look and natural charisma, and he had name recognition beyond the wrestling world thanks to his cameo in Rocky III as Thunderlips, then he came back to McMahon's company right when he was looking to expand nationally.  That push was happening no matter what anybody said, and given that Verne Gagne had the chance to make the exact same move a year earlier and opted to stop short of putting AWA belt on him, it's pretty clear that Hogan embodied what promoters were looking for at the time and was not rising because some cool kid faction of fans pushed for it.  The character of Stone Cold Steve Austin was pitched at a time when the WWF was getting pounded by WCW on Monday nights and Vince needed a Hail Mary pass to get back in the race. The persona fit perfectly with the direction Vince was going to take the company in with the Attitude Era so it was Vince McMahon.  When Rocky Maivia did not get over a decision was made to embrace the hatred being shown by the fans and go with it.  That decision was made in a board room by Vince McMahon before any fans were clamoring for it. 

    What am I getting at here?  Basically, that these decisions about who does and doesn't become a big star are rarely made in the stands, or blog posts or message boards.  There was no golden age of star picking.  The people in charge make decisions based on what they think will work, and that's based on history and sales figures.  I remember how many people were happy when Hulk Hogan lost to the Ultimate Warrior because we finally had a face champion other than Hogan, and how half of those happy people didn't support their new champion like they did the man he beat.  I remember how Bret Hart, and then Diesel and then Shawn Michaels did not draw well as champions even though it was supposed to be so great to have workers who could do more than punches, bodyslams, and a legdrop at the top.  I bet Vince McMahon remembers that too, and that colors any decision made about one Daniel Bryan just like it did with Punk.

    Look, I get it.  You like Bryan more than Reigns, and you want Bryan to get a title run that explores every possible angle more than any coronation of the next Superman.  But that just isn't how the business works.  The men at the top want Superman.  It's easier to book Superman vs a parade of bad guys than the little engine that could, and Superman will always have the potential to branch out into mainstream entertainment and raise the overall profile of the company.  Daniel Bryan is never doing that, sorry.  Vince McMahon has always seen himself as a competitor to Disney, not some other wrestling company.  That was true whether the opposition was Jim Crockett, Verne Gagne, or Ted Turner, and it's true today.  Same as it ever was.

    Monday, January 26, 2015

    (Some) WWE Fans are stupid

    Get over yourselves already

    Things took a real turn for the stupid in the hours following the Royal Rumble.  It's one thing to not like the choice of Roman Reigns to win the Rumble, and you're more than entitled to boo if you're in the building.  But blocking people from getting to their cars after they worked their butts off to entertain you because you don't like the way the show they worked was written?  That's a bush league move at best.  And trying to drop your WWE Network subscription is even more stupid.  As much as I believe the booking for the Rumble match was bad I was still entertained by the show.  And that's pretty much what matters.  It's a show, not life or death.  It's not your job, where someone you didn't want getting a promotion might end up costing you money or advancement.  It's not like you applied for college or a loan and got turned down so someone you think is less deserving could get it.  Do you react this way with everything else you watch on TV or in a movie?  If you wanted Luke Skywalker and Princess Leia to get together would you have turned off the movie and never watched a Star Wars flick again after it was revealed they were siblings?    Did you leave your parents house never to return when you were 12 if they didn't buy you something you wanted?  I'm betting the answer to both is no.  You don't always get the story result you want, but what matters is that the story or the show entertains you. 

    Let me take you back to the late 80s NWA.  A lot of fans wanted for Lex Luger to beat Ric Flair for the championship, and it never happened.  They didn't like it then, but years later it would all be explained.  Luger wasn't a good enough worker to be the champ and have to go night in and night out against all kinds of opponents.  Flair made him look great in their matches but being champ means you have to be the one to make people look great and Luger wasn't up to that.  Another example I'll give you is Sid Vicious, or Psycho Sid to WWE fans.  Sid was an impressive physical specimen, and as a result there was constant clamoring for him to be put at the top of the card and challenge for big things.  It never happened; Sid was constantly put in tag team matches or quick squashes and didn't get much of a chance to do anything in WCW.  Again, we found out later why that was.  When he did get to work some big solo matches in the WWF later on.....he was terrible unless he had Shawn Michaels to bump and sell for him.  Try watching Sid vs The Undertaker from WrestleMania 13; if you think Roman Reigns is a bad in ring worker, you clearly have not had the full Sid Vicious/Psycho Sid experience.  In either case had the fans gotten what they wanted the results wouldn't have been so good.


    Now the situation with Daniel Bryan is different.  In Bryan's case it is really just upper management (aka Vince McMahon) not feeling he is up to the standard of being Face of the Company.  He wants, and has always wanted somebody like.....Roman Reigns.  It's why he never really committed to Bret Hart or Michaels after Hulk Hogan was done, and why there were the constant attempts to go with Luger or Diesel during that time.  It's why he's clung to John Cena and didn't want to go all in with CM Punk.  It is what it is.  He could very well be making the wrong choice, but that doesn't warrant a full on abandonment by the fanbase.  If you like wrestling, and want to see the best overall product, then you have one option: the WWE.  Now if your issue is that it's not as good as it was back in the day then I've got news for you.  Go watch some WWF TV from the 1980s.  And if you're talking about the vaunted Attitude Era, if you haven't dumped your subscription yet go watch some of those awesome RAW episodes from back then.  Watch Mae Young give birth to a hand.  Go watch the Val Venis vignettes or the Oddities or the payoff to the Higher Power angle.  Watch Vince and company botch what could have been the easiest money making storyline ever - the Invasion. The good old days weren't always so good, folks.

    Now that doesn't excuse the awful booking of the Rumble match on this year's show.  The fan favorites were all buried early except for Dean Ambrose and even he got dumped quickly when it got down to the final four.  There's no reason to waste two final four spots on Kane and Big Show.  Bryan shouldn't have come in at number 10 just to get dumped less than 20 minutes later.  Ziggler shouldn't have been held until number 30.  No reason to even have Curtis Axel come out just to get jumped by Luke Harper.  No point in having a faux elimination for Rusev just so he can get tossed at the end anyway.  Why even bother with Titus O'Neil?  But one badly booked match doesn't mean you throw the baby out with the bath water.  We watch this stuff to be entertained, and that doesn't always mean it's going to get written the way you want it to.  Sometimes it will be written badly.  My other big subjects on the blog here, comics and movies are perfect examples.  When a bad comic book movie gets made we don't stop asking for more.  Same with a bad issue of a comic series or a bad video game.  We don't stop listening to music because of a few bad releases or because an artist we don't personally like gets blown up.  So just pipe down a little.  You can protest by not watching WrestleMania if they don't make changes, but getting out entirely is a bit much.

    Royal Rumble Recap - Oh Boy We Have a Problem

    Roman Reigns celebrates his 2015 Royal Rumble Match victory.

    Royal Rumble is in the books, and for the second year in a row the live crowd was not feeling the end result.  Roman Reigns did not get booed as badly as Batista did last year but he did hear it from a house that wanted Daniel Bryan to take the victory here.  And to make matters worse, Bryan came in and got tossed pretty early and once that happened the boos began to come down.  Then later on the two other guys who they could have lived with, Dolph Ziggler and Dean Ambrose, got tossed.  When Ambrose got eliminated leaving Reigns with no-hopers Kane and Big Show it was clear what the end would be and the fans reacted accordingly.  It's not Reigns fault and he's been put in a real bad spot.  Bryan never got to see his run as champ come to any meaningful conclusion due to his injuries, and the fans wanted to get the win at the Rumble then WrestleMania so he could get that chance.  But clearly, Vince McMahon had other ideas.  My guess is that he didn't see repeating last year's finish with a man he doesn't want on top anyway as the right way to go.  When I watched the Rumble and how it shook out, I didn't think of Vince McMahon.  No, I thought of this guy:

    Yes, Eric Bischoff.  Why?  Because of the way the internet fan darlings got treated.  Bischoff coined the term 'Vanilla Midgets' to denigrate certain WCW wrestlers who'd developed a pretty strong following but weren't his guys, and parked them all in the midcard without letting any of them so much as sniff a main event.  You may have heard of some of these guys; the midgets were none other than Chris Jericho, Chris Benoit, Eddie Guererro, and a few others like Dean Malenko.  And no matter how they got themselves over in the ring or on the mic they all hit a glass ceiling.  The modern equivalents of this are Dolph Ziggler, Bryan, and it looks like Dean Ambrose.  Ziggler gets jerked around with the Intercontinental Title and usually takes an L if he's put in with a big name.  Ambrose blew up last summer but has jobbed on pay per view shows to Seth Rollins and Bray Wyatt for four straight.  And Bryan, despite his successes, seems to get slapped down whenever McMahon feels he can get away with it.  Last night was no different.  Bryan came in at number 10 and wasn't around long.  Ziggler came in at number 30 but was gone in about 10 minutes.  And Ambrose made it to the final four but was the first one to go.  Reigns on the other hand is the guy who was anointed by Vince a year ago and by god he's going to make it happen by hook or by crook. So now we're looking at a potential repeat of the run up to last year's WrestleMania where the presumptive challenger to the tile is someone the fans just flat out don't want

    All that being said, the show was a good one.  The pre-show tag team match and the tag team title matches were good.  The Divas tag team match wasn't bad, and the Triple Threat WWE World Championship match was freaking awesome.  Seth Rollins certified himself as a main event in ring talent last night, and the flying elbow onto Brock Lesnar on the table followed by the Phoenix splash onto Cena in the ring were two of the craziest spots I've seen in a long time.  That match alone was worth whatever you paid for it, the $9.99 monthly fee for the Network or the pay per view price.  That match is why you watch wrestling in the first place and should not be negated because you didn't get the Royal Rumble winner you wanted.  I'm sorry but I refuse to go on a "I hate Vince McMahon...I'm done!" rant after seeing that title match.  They have two months to turn WrestleMania into something all the boo-birds want to see, and guessing they will one way or another.  If you can't bring yourself to soak in he awesomeness of that Phoenix splash from Seth Rollins then I don't know what to tell you.  That doesn't mean you should accept the result of the final match going forward, though.  By all means make your voices heard and get it changed.  Hey, it worked last year.

    Sunday, January 25, 2015

    Marvel Reboot Time!


    The big news coming out of Marvel yesterday was that everything ends this Spring.  The 616 Universe, the Ultimate Universe, all the other alternate universes.....gone.  OK, actually merged together, not gone.  The Secret Wars event starting in a few months will be the culmination of the Time Runs Out arc running through the Avengers and New Avengers series, where worlds are being sacrificed in something called an Incursion in order to save the main earth in the 616 universe.  The final incursion will occur between the 616 Earth and the Ultimate Earth and then it's on to Secret Wars, where everyone that's going to exist afterward (and at least one or two token sacrificial lambs) will make it to Battleworld and duke it out.  For all intents and purposes this is Crisis on Infinite Marvel Earths.  When it's over, bad plot turns will have been erased by way of retcon, some of the cooler more recent characters will get a chance to shine in the new, singular Marvel Universe (I'm talking about you, Miles Morales and alternate world Gwen Stacy), and there will probably be at least one resurrection (prime candidates are the soon-to-be killed off Deadpool, Charles Xavier, and that guy they killed off last year....I think his name is Wolverine). 

    The reaction I've seen so far is mixed.  Some are excited and ready for what the event could bring, but others are having a similar reaction to the one DC received from a lot of longtime readers when they launched the New 52.  Marvel has already been catching heat from readers and collectors over their annoying habit of making new number one issues for series that weren't even being cancelled, and now EVERYTHING could possibly start over with a new number one, save the handful of series that just started within the last few months.  Let me tell you, that sucks.  A lot of people who were close to fed up over the new number one issues situation are claiming that they're done with Marvel over this.  Marvel is likely gambling that the new start will bring in new readers similar to how the New 52 brought people like me in because there was a recent jumping in point.  With the success of the Marvel Cinematic Universe there is a pool of thousands of potential new customers to reel in and there are characters whose existing series have grown in popularity because of the MCU (Black Widow, Guardians of the Galaxy) or are about to get an MCU close up (Ant-Man) and have the chance to catch fire with a new title. 

    As someone who is more reader than collector, the only thing that ultimately matters is good stories.  There are a few things I hope do or do not happen, though.  I really hope they keep the tie-ins and crossovers to a minimum.  That's beyond wishful thinking, of course, but there are only so many books one can buy and read.  Second, I hope they don't undo all of the new developments that happened last year.  We all know that it's only a matter of time before Wolverine is alive again, Steve Rogers is Captain America again, and the hammer is back in the hands of Odin's son.  But seeing as how those things just changed late last year it would really suck for them to get undone in mere months time.  And lastly, let's hold off on the resurrections, ok?  We know Wolverine will be back either during this event or shortly after by way of something that happens during it.  But please, no bringing back Uncle Ben or Professor Xavier for that matter.  Those deaths are crucial parts of Marvel lore and would be stupid too undo now just because you can. 

    All in all, this should be pretty damn interesting.  Even though I'm more of a DC guy, I will more than likely be checking this out.  Marvel has a really good chance to polish off their current continuity and kick off a new one in pretty spectacular fashion.  We'll see how it goes.

    Monday, January 19, 2015

    New Day for Star Wars


    The pictures in this post are a few of the variant covers from the Star Wars comic series that Marvel kicked off last week.  And while the new movie doesn't drop until this December it's safe to say that the Star Wars phenomenon is back, alive, and well.  Judging by the first issue, the comic series will be a good one; Marvel employed one of their best storytellers in Jason Aaron to work on it so they're serious about making a good comic and not just something to capitalize off of their parent company (Disney) owning the source material.  So now the first two steps in the revival (the Rebels cartoon series and the comic) have come off well, and only the worst naysayers aren't waiting with bated breath for Episode VII to hit the theaters.  And we have one person to thank for all of this: the man who gave it to us 37 years ago, George Lucas.  Why him?  Because he did the only other thing he could for all of us Star Wars fanatics:  He got out.  That's right, I'm glad he got out and you should be too.  Because quite frankly, if the franchise was going to have any further life it had to be without him at the helm.  That may sound harsh but it's the truth.

    I remember when Episode I came out in 1999.  I remember going to the theater, ready for the next chapter in the first series I loved as a child.  I left the theater underwhelmed.  Now I tried valiantly to defend it against all the people who unloaded their disgust on Lucas' work, but ove r time and after repeat viewings the awfulness of the dialogue, the acting, and Jar Jar Binks was no longer deniable.  Episode II had a better story, but the painful dialogue remained.  By the time Episode III rolled around I was just hoping for a decent ending to it all.  Thankfully, Episode III mostly delivered on the initial promise of the prequels.  With the end in sight and less need for backstory most of what made the first difficult to watch was kept to a minimum.  But I don't think it's a reach to say that there weren't a lot of people walking out of the theater after Episode III ended saying 'Bring on Episode VII! We need to see what happened after the Empire fell!'  After three movies with Lucas fully at the helm it was pretty clear what that meant.  Awesome special effects, great visuals, great action scenes, a good enough overall story, painful dialogue, and wooden acting.  The plusses enticed you but the minuses scared you away.

    The next big project that came from Lucasfilm was the Clone Wars animated series.  It was excellent, and no doubt much of that was because Lucas was directly involved in the creative process.  The Clone Wars series was what we were hoping for from the prequels, and that was both a boon and a punch to the gut.  Even though I have the entire series I haven't watched it all because I really wish they could have done that instead of the films that we got.  Then a few years later the announcement came that Lucas was selling it all to Disney.  While some didn't like it I was ecstatic.  Disney is about good storytelling and using good storytelling to maximize their income.  I knew they were going to put good people on any future endeavors because that's the best way to make the most money.  Done right, Star Wars is a printing press even after the so so taste the prequels left in our mouths.  But it was clear that Lucas wasn't going to do it right.  He remains a master of visuals but has not business writing a script or directing a film.  Under his direction a star studded cast of Natalie Portman, Ewan McGregor, Liam Neeson, Samuel L. Jackson, and Jimmy Smits sounded like they were reading off of cue cards with tips like "show some emotion here" written in parentheses before their lines.  And don't get me started on Hayden Christiansen's emo Anakin Skywalker.

    Now after all the Lucas bashing let me say this.  I am eternally grateful to George Lucas for giving us Star Wars.  Going to the movie theater to see that on the big screen when I was all of three years old changed my life.  But I am equally grateful that he felt comfortable enough to hand things over so that some new stories can be told.  Lucas is a pioneer in special effects and  through his production company changed the way movies are made.  The things we take granted in science fiction/fantasy films today would not be there without his work.  Being a not so good director or script writer does not nullify all of that.  But it does mean that, at this point, the product is better without his involvement.  So bring on Episode VII, more comics, and more animation. The foundation that he laid is ready to be built on and taken to a new level. 

    Friday, January 16, 2015

    We're number one! (Again and again)

    We have numbers in for the top selling issues of comic books for last year.  Marvvel dominated the top ten, and in from a character standpoint it was once again a Spider-Man/Batman year.  But there's something else that you hear about in chat rooms, Facebook rooms and the like that is driving a lot of reader and collectors nuts: the preponderance of number one issues.


    By my rough count 29 of the top 100 were #1's of some kind (series starts/re-starts, first issues of special event series, or special one-shots), and 100 out of the top 500.  One-shots are no big deal, and new series starting are actually a good thing since it's bringing in some new material.  But the re-starts of existing series are nerve-wracking.  Marvel was the egregious here - in 2014 we got #1's from the following long established character and titles:

    • Amazing Spider-Man
    • Thor
    • Spider-Woman
    • Wolverine
    • Hulk
    • Daredevil
    • Silver Surfer
    • Fantastic Four
    • The Punisher
    I really hope this doesn't become a thing, but it looks like it will be.  DC re-started Suicide Squad and Teen Titans almost immediately after "series ending" issues.  Now in both cases there were new directions taken and new creative teams coming onboard, but they recently switched teams and tones on Batgirl and Green Arrow without starting over with new number one issues.  I just don't find it necessary to start all over with a new number one issue unless you're doing a full-on New 52 style reboot of everything.   Of course the real reason to do these new number one issues involves a different kind of number:  sales.


    Like I said at the top, number one issues make up a major chunk of the top selling issues.  Whether it's a new series or the next chapter in an existing one, a number one issue always gets more attention and often sells well.  But if you're a serious collector it flat out sucks.  The one argument I'm sympathetic towards when it comes to people bashing the New 52 is that the long running legacy titles (Batman, Superman, Detective Comics, and Action Comics) could and should have been continued with their existing numbering.  Every time you start over with a new number one it devalues the previous number ones.  For collectors who put real time and effort into putting together a collection of a series it's a real deflater.  Unfortunately the only way to put an end to the practice is to stop buying these number ones, and as the sales numbers show that's not going to happen.

    Wednesday, January 14, 2015

    How I saw Randy Savage

    If you were watching RAW Monday night you saw the announcement that Randy "Macho Man" Savage would be posthumously inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame.  You saw several WWE wrestlers pay tribute by giving their version of Savage's trademark "Ohhh Yeahhh!"  And you may have seen Savage as a member of the NWO in the late 90s.  But if you weren't watching back during the 80s, you just have no idea how great he was.  So what did Randy Savage mean to people like me?  If you started watching wrestling during the Monday Night Wars and the Attitude Era, you really have no idea.  By that point Savage was living off his name more than his current in ring work.  If you really want to see what he was about you need to go back to 1985, when he first landed in the WWF after leaving Jerry Lawler’s Memphis territory.  In the ring he was captivating.  It was hard for 11 year old me to tell whether he was a good guy or bad guy because the reactions he got were that favorable.  His matches on the Saturday morning shows, which were chock full of squash matches against professional jobbers with promos for house shows in between, were the highlight of the show.  The top dogs at the time (Hulk Hogan, Rowdy Roddy Piper, Andre the Giant) did not wrestle on these shows so an appearance by someone with the in ring repertoire of Savage was must-see TV.  Vince McMahon and his top men knew they had something special because they put him in main events against Hogan for the title within months of his arrival and put the number two belt, the Intercontinental Title, on him after he’d been around for just eight months. 

    The way he came out of those matches with Hogan was pretty telling.  Save Roddy Piper, Hogan’s opponents usually went out like action movie villains in that by the end of the program they were vanquished in such fashion that there wasn’t any real desire to see them challenge for the belt again.  Not so with Savage; he came out smelling like roses to such an extent that some fans actually preferred him as a performer.  And this was in 1986 at the height of Hulkamania, not 1991 when it was on its last legs.  It was like a guest rapper or duet partner outshining the main artist in a performance, and part of the audience wanting them to stay on while the star exited stage left.  For the next few months he carried George “The Animal” Steele, a comedy act and rudimentary performer at best, to some decent matches for the I-C title before striking gold in a program with another great in-ring worker, Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat.  The two put on an epic series of matches culminating in a show stealer at WrestleMania III that outshone the once in a lifetime main event of Hogan vs Andre the Giant.  For fans of good technical wrestling, Savage was a breath of fresh air compared to the majority of the WWF roster. 

    When Savage turned good guy in late 1987, he again brushed up against the threshold of being as popular as Hogan, and it was proven when he was chosen to win the WWF Championship at WrestleMania IV in order for the company to have a champion while Hogan was off shooting a movie.  But from there, it was largely downhill.  Unlike 11 year old me, 14 year old me was able to discern pretty quickly that Savage’s title win was a set up for Hogan to get the title back at WrestleMania V the following year.  For all intents and purposes he was a high level plot device in the ongoing Hogan story.  When the two formed the tag team the Mega Powers it was fairly obvious that Savage would turn on Hogan in time to set up a big match at WrestleMania V.  Once that was done, he would reach those heights again.  He spent the year after WrestleMania V losing rematches to Hogan while winning the Crown, a pseudo-title the company made up largely to have something else to have contested in matches that didn't involve the World or I-C titles.  Under the moniker Macho King he spent whatever days he wasn't busy jobbing to Hogan carrying limited and/or older workers like Hacksaw Duggan and Dusty Rhodes in the main event of B-level live shows.  A seemingly final program with the Ultimate Warrior saw him carry another limited worker to some great matches culminating in a loss in a retirement match at WrestleMania VII.  

    There was a last WWF hurrah of sorts when he came out of retirement to take on Jake the Snake Roberts and work a program against Ric Flair that saw him capture the title again, this time without Hogan around to overshadow him.  But even with the Hulkster gone the company still would not make him the number one guy.  By this point, in 1992, the company was looking to move on so Savage's second run with the belt wouldn't last very long.  Flair would regain the title from him a few months later in order to transition it to the new big name, Bret Hart.  The less said about his time in WCW the better.  He spent those years living off his name and putting in the occasional good match here or there but was a shell of his former self.  It was too bad, really.  Had there been an internet in 1986 his career, as great as it was, may have been even greater.  With YouTube videos for the world to see his Memphis work before his WWF arrival, a schedule of live television and pay per view events (where he could have riffed his way through promos in a way that Hogan's cookie cutter act wouldn't allow), and fans that were willing to head to these events and rain boos down on any  events they didn't approve of, Savage very well could have shared or overtaken Hogan on the WWF totem pole.  The men compared the most to Savage, CM Punk and Daniel Bryan, were able to ride all of those and force the company to give them the spotlight and victories over the Hogan of today, John Cena.  But Randy came of age about 25 years too early to capitalize.  

    When you get a chance, if you have the WWE Network (still only $9.99!) go check out some of his best work.  You won't be disappointed.  He was truly one of the best ever.