Monday, December 27, 2010

Minimate Customs: Strong Bad

This one's a little bit of a departure, in that this Minimate was not made for myself, but for my wife as one of her Christmas presents.  Hillary's a big fan of the web cartoon Homestar Runner, and in particular Homestar's (I guess?) nemesis, Strong Bad.  Here's a look at the guy:

Well, one day I was scrolling through Cubeecraft, a site that offers free downloadable papercraft toys.  They are very neat, but also make for great Minimate decal templates (with some adaptation).  One of the characters available in their pop culture section is (you guessed it) Strong Bad, which put the idea in my head.  I had a couple sets of boxing gloves sitting around from the Rocky Minimates, so once I made the template, the rest was easy.


As you can see, Strong Bad's rather... unique body type doesn't translate exactly to a Minimate's dimensions, but what can you do?  Really, the hardest part of the whole thing was not giving him to Hillary right away, but I stayed strong and made it to Christmas morning, where he was warmly received.  I also made one of these for my buddy Dave, another big Strong Bad fan, but he's a little different, since I didn't have another pink torso handy and had to use a slightly tan one.  Hope he's opened it by now....

Oh, and here's my decal, in case anyone out there wants their own (you're on your own for the boxing gloves, though):

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Minimate Customs: Shade the Changing Man

One of my all-time favorite comics series is Peter Milligan's Shade the Changing Man, one of the late '80's mature readers books that DC published that eventually became the foundation for Vertigo.  For my money, it's the best long series in the Vertigo catalog; yes, better then Sandman, and Preacher, and certainly the criminally overrated Transmetropolitan. Though, I have to say, the series does fall apart a bit after issue #50, when Milligan kills off one of the main characters whom, it turns out, was actually the heart and soul of the book.  Milligan admitted in an interview with the Comics Journal that this was probably a mistake, although it's one that he would repeat again in X-Statix.  Some people never learn, even when they learn.

Anyway.  To give you an idea of who I'm talking about, here's a couple bonus wallpapers I made of Shade:

 The artwork here is by Chris Bachelo, Shade's original artist who would go on to greater fame at Vertigo by illustrating two Death mini-series.  He then went to Marvel, where he does largely shitty (though stylish) work on the likes of the X-Men, Spider-Man, and other characters for whom he's wholly inappropriate.

So Shade was always on my to-do list, and, well, one day I did 'em.

His hair comes from the Secret Invasion Phoenix, his head from BSG's Sam Anders.  The hair, I think, is what spurred on his creation, but the face is what gives him just the right poet/pretty boy look.  His boots come from the ice skates that came with Pet Shop Adrian (and yes, I hated to ruin them, but sacrifices must be made sometimes). 

And the coat.  Shade's funky coat.  I really wasn't sure how to do this; in the comics, Shade's coat is very much the byproduct of computer coloring, so I tried as best I could to replicate the blend.  It's just an old white lab coat Sharpied in many colors. Here's a look from the back:

For once, my general sloppiness was actually a help, and not a burden.  He may well be my favorite Minimate custom; my buddy Kevin called him my "masterpiece", and I'm not one to argue... okay, I am, but not in this instance.  Issues of Shade are pretty easy to find in the cheapie bins, and DC has been reprinting the series recently; if your curiosity is at all peaked by what you see here, I strongly recommend you check this overlooked classic out.

Monday, December 20, 2010

The Miracle at the New Meadowlands

Haven't seen this yet?  Then watch it, because it's fucking awesome:

I love Joe Buck's call:  "Gets a block! Are you kidding!"  

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

I Made a Quiz--Marvel/DC Crossovers

Yeah, busy day around here... I made another comics quiz. This one relates to the Marvel/DC intercompany crossovers, on which I'll have more to say at some point.

Can you name the DC/Marvel Comics intercompany crossovers? - sporcle

I Made a Quiz-- Showcase 1st Appearances

Here's a new comics quiz that I made: characters that first appeared in DC's legendary 60's series Showcase. Not a whole lot more to say about it.

Can you name the comic book characters that first appeared in Showcase? - sporcle

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Minimate Customs: Hourman and Green Lantern

As I've mentioned in the past, a lot of my work has been done in filling out the ranks of the DC Minimate Universe. And a big part of that has been finishing off the Justice Society of America, comics' first super team. One of my favorites has always been Hourman; I think I probably first saw him in an old JSA/JLA crossover (which used to happen annually in the pages of Justice League of America), and I first really took notice of him in a not-quite-as-old JSA/JLA crossover. Basically, I just liked his costume: yellow and black, with a cool yellow hood. And he had unique abilities, gaining superhuman strength and speed for an hour by taking what is, in effect, a short-term steroid pill. It's probably pretty dumb for a guy that only has super powers for an hour at a time to advertise that in his name, but whatever. Here's the cover to one of those JLA issues featuring Hourman (he's on the left between the Golden Age Flash and Black Canary):

So Hourman was obviously on my short list, but a little daunting because of his hood. But I got an idea on how to pull it off by looking at the Pocket Superheroes Hourman, which uses a yellow hood piece with some black paint on the head to replicate the traditional black shading of Hourman's hood. Bingo.
The Pocket Superheroes figure also came in handy because I was able to swipe his hourglass for this guy. His hood comes from the Spectre (painted yellow, obviously), and his head from the Spirit, with some black Sharpie extending the mask (more on the Spirit some other time). His cape comes from Robin, with some red and black Sharpie detail work, also seen on the legs from the AIM Soldier. Rounding him out is a belt from Daredevil, with the billyclub holster cut off. I'm pretty happy with him; I suppose I could still paint over those little black lines on his legs, but other then that he's pretty great.

I'm going to post one more today-the Golden Age Green Lantern- featuring my first foray into the world of decals. Most of the better customizers have been using decals for years, but I've only now been getting into them, thanks to the example set by the great Luke Porter at the Minimate Factory. Luke was kind enough to send me a few decals to sample, and I've since started making and printing my own. I'll start showing those off once I take some pictures of the finished projects.

Anyway. This custom stems directly from a discussion on the Minimate Multiverse boards about making an Alan Scott custom. I stole... er... copied the formula used by MM member Nervous, subbing a Hal Jordan GL head for the one he made (with the mask Sharpied purple, which wasn't 100% successful). The cape comes from Ocean Master, the belt from Ares, and my favorite touch, his ring hand, comes from the Kingpin (more Sharpieing here). Oh, I guess I should post the picture:

His boots aren't really comics-accurate, but make for an acceptable (and easy!) substitute. Even without the decal he's pretty much recognizable, but with it he's better then I could have hoped. These guys are two of my favorites, and the best of the JSA ones I've done, save for a few villains that I'll be showing off at some point.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Banes of My Existence: Joe Theismann

Joe Theismann is the absolute worst football color commentator I've ever heard. He was a key cog in what was, year after year, the most dreadful announcing team ever: the ESPN Sunday Night Football crew, with Mike Patrick and, later, Paul McGuire. Paul Zimmerman, the great Sports Illustrated football writer, used to rank the NFL announce teams every year, and he railed against these clowns for year. I don't think they ever managed a star (out of a five star system), and I don't recall anyone ever expressing disagreement. Simply put, Joe Theismann makes a broadcast unlistenable.

He was finally put out to pasture, after one year on Monday Night Football. And no one outside of Joe Theismann missed him for one bleeping second. But, inexplicably, the NFL Network added him to the pretty solid team of Bob Papa and Matt Millen, and the result has been sadly predictable. Imagine if FEMA decided to give Mike Brown another shot, and you'll get the idea.

Anyway, I wanted to share a few nuggets from tonight's Eagles-Texans game:
  • Talking about a Texans receiver whom had just made a catch on second down: "I wouldn't be surprised if they go back to him right here." This was said as the receiver was shown heading to the sidelines.
  • After an Eagles sack: "Well, that's what happens when you send more then they can block. [Brief pause.] This time, it's only four."
  • Seconds before the referee announces an offensive holding call, said confidently: "This'll be defensive holding".
  • On Houston star receiver Andre Johnson, late in the game: "The Eagles have completely taken Andre Johnson out of the second half of this game. He had the one catch along the sideline for about 7 yards, but that's it". Johnson's second half stats to that point: 3 catches for 58 yards, including a 31 yarder. As if to pound the point home, NFL Network posted his stats to that point: 4 catches, 100 yards.
Theismann is the classic example of a dumb guy that thinks he's smart, and tries to prove it over and over. Oh, I almost forgot, my favorite Joe Theismann factoid! Joe's second wife, Jeanne, caught him in an affair and confronted him. As she told the court during their divorce proceedings: ''he said, and I quote, 'God wants Joe Theismann to be happy.' ''

Sunday, November 21, 2010

When Killing Spider-Man is Your Best Idea, You're Out of Ideas

Okay, I'm going to level with you here: the main reason for this post is to break up the monotony of Minimate custom posts. If I'm not careful, this blog will devolve into nothing more then a home for them... and we don't want that, do we? I'm more then just a Minimate customizer. I've got thoughts, feelings, opinions that should... nay, must be shared, for the good of society.

On the other hand, I suppose I also post Sporcle quizzes, so... ah, I've already started typing. Might as well keep going.

The biggest problem in comics these days (not the only problem, mind you, but the biggest) is that the companies rely too much on stunts and gimmicks rather then good solid storytelling to sell comics. Now, I'm not saying that good solid storytelling has disappeared, but rather that books don't succeed or fail because of their quality. I can't tell you the amount of comics that have come and gone recently that everyone seems to like, but can barely sustain a readership above 20,000 copies a month and are thus canceled within two years. The reasons for these failures are varied, I'm sure, but basically it all boils down to a matter of perception. Books that don't "matter" don't sell, period, regardless of quality.

I put "matter" in quotes there because, well, it's just comics. Nothing really matters. I remember Valiant Comics once referring to an issuer (Rai #0, if memory serves) as "the lynchpin of history". Which was a great little line, but ultimately meaningless, particularly after Valiant went bankrupt. Hyperbole has become such the norm in trying to sell comics that it's just a bunch of empty calories. I recently read a Marvel solicitation that referred to "legendary artist Barry Kitson". Really? Legendary? No offense to Barry Kitson; he's perfectly fine. But I doubt anyone's writing ballads about him.

Hyperbole... I keep expecting people to become numb to it, and maybe they are. Maybe that's why readership is falling so precipitously; people just get sick of all the hype, month after month, and just stop reading altogether. Each subsequent stunt and gimmick does worse then the one that preceded it, and overall sales fall, forcing the publishers to rely more on stunts and gimmicks.

Which finally brings me around to what I want to talk about today: Marvel's announcement this week of their latest gimmick, "the Death of Spider-Man". Now, don't get too excited: it's not really Spider-Man that's dying. It's Ultimate Spider-Man, a bait-and-switch worthy of your local nightly news. Just for fun, here's some copy from the press release, and one I made up: "...the groundbreaking new story that forever changes the Ultimate Comics universe..."; "...this is the story that no comic fan can afford to miss ..."; "...he one thing that could be bigger than the CREATION of the Ultimate line..."; ...should be up there with the very small number of events that really mattered."

Good lord. Coming on a little strong there, don't you think? I guess they could have said "if you don't buy this comic, your entire fucking life will have been pointless", though I think that's implied. Or am I inferring?

The Ultimate Comics line, I think, makes a fine case study for what's ailing comics. Begun in 2000, the Ultimate Universe was designed by Marvel as a way of rebooting their characters without blowing up the regular Marvel Universe. Characters were modernized; whereas regular Spider-Man was a chemestry whiz, Ultimate Spider-Man was a computer prodigy. Continuity anchors were shucked, allowing creators to tell stories without worrying about having to make their work jibe with decades of history.

And it was a big deal. The Ultimate titles (Spider-Man and the X-Men) sold very well right out of the gate, and subsequent books were all hits, with the peak probably being Mark Millar and Bryan Hitch's the Ultimates (aka Ultimate Avengers). Hell, even Ultimate Fantastic Four was a big seller, something that can't be said about the regular book since John Byrne left in 1986.

Personally, I was never a big fan. The whole thing seemed a little pointless, since much of the Ultimate line seemed dedicated to rehashing storylines that had occurred in the Marvel Universe over the course of it's forty-odd years. I read the first volume of Ultimate Spider-Man, and thought it was terrible. But I was clearly in the minority, and readers and talent flocked to the Ultimate books. At one point the Ultimate version of Marvel Comics seemed so much more popular then the regular one that it seemed to me replacing the latter with the former made a lot of sense.

But it was not to last. I can't say when it happened, exactly, but at some point Marvel seemed to focus all the attention they'd given to the Ultimate line back to the regular universe, and the fans followed. Here's the funny thing about Marvel Comics: they are by far the dominant publisher in American comics, but they only seem to be able to get their fan base really behind one area of their line at a time. In the '90's, it was the X-Men and their fifty billion spinoff titles (a conservative estimate), and everything else played second fiddle. For a while there, it was the Ultimate books, and now it's the core Marvel Heroes books carrying the standard. And I can't really say why this is, except to take it back to the earlier point about stunts and gimmicks. It's almost as if Marvel says "these are the books that we're focusing on; these are the ones that matter", and readership blindly follows.

Marvel tried to reignite the Ultimate line a couple years ago, cancelling all the core titles and running a stunt series called "Ultimatum". Even by the dubious standards of "event" comics, Ultimatum was a critical disaster. Written by Jeph Loeb, comics' answer to Michael Bay, Ultimatum both sold very well and killed off any lingering interest in the Ultimate line, as well as a score of characters. The core titles were relaunched with new numbering, but Ultimatum was so poorly received that much of the readership used it as a jumping-off point, and even formerly solid sellers struggled to regain their pre-Ultimatum sales numbers.

Ultimatum and its' high body count apparently weren't the sign of ultimate desperation (yes, pun intended. I think it's rather clever) it seemed. No, that's certainly "the Death of Spider-Man". Well, just think about the Marvel Universe- any Marvel Universe- without Spider-Man around. Who would want to read that? Whatever momentary sales boost the related titles will receive from the curious will be undone by the absolute collapse of post-Spider-Man sales. I've no doubt we'll be reading a lot in six months about how "exciting" an opportunity it is to tell stories without Spider-Man around; I also have no doubt we'll be reading about the end of Ultimate Comics this time next year.

Of course, in saying that, I'm making the probably foolish assumption that he's going to stay dead. After all, why wouldn't he? It's just Ultimate Spider-Man. Who cares?

Friday, November 19, 2010

Minimate Customs: the Demon, and Bonuses

One of the things that delights and frustrates me is that there are several other little collectibles out there of a compatible size to Minimates. While it's irritating to see figures of characters that have never become Minimates (and, in the case of DC, probably never will), I'm always looking for ways to adapt these for my customs. One of my favorite, though ghastly, methods is lopping off their heads. Yes, this is basically just what it sounds like. Here's an example, the first time I did this, based on someone else's suggestion:

That's Black Manta, Aquaman's arch enemy, with a head from a DC Direct Pocket Super Heroes figure. Basically, you remove the head, then cut off the neck piece from a Minimate torso (which is a pain in the ass, let me tell you), and glue on the new head. Sure, it doesn't move, but it looks great, doesn't it?

The problem is that most of the figures of compatible size- Marvel's Super Hero Squad and DC's Action League, mainly- have goofy heads that wouldn't really work as a Minimate. With at least one notable exception: Jack Kirby's Demon, Etrigan!

As soon as I saw him, I knew that he would suit my purposes nicely. Unfortunately, as you can see, his noggin is a little big for a Minimate body, but I balanced that out by attaching it to Ma Hunkel's cape, which is nice and wide. I decided to use the torso, arms, and little skirt from the new Spider-Man villain Menace, which has a nice Medieval feel to it. Consequently Etrigan's not as bulky as you normally see; I like to think of him as based on Matt Wagner's version of Etrigan. Rounding things out are the hands from Ultimate Sabretooth, and a pair of Deadman booties colored with a purple Sharpie to match the rest of his outfit.

I was so pleased with him that I ended up throwing together a quick custom of Jason Blood, his alter ego:
He's a Sub-Mariner head and Clint Eastwood hair, colored red and silver. What pleases me most about this custom is that the Demon is a character I'd basically written off as being beyond my abilities, until I got a little creative. And he's not even the best Minimate I've made from an Action League figure....

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Minimate Customs: Quasar

I don't make many Marvel customs, for a few reasons. For one thing, the Marvel Minimates line is still going strong, so it's always possible, likely even, that my custom will be replaced by an "official" one. Conversely, DC 'mates were prematurely ended, and there are lots and lots of characters left that I want and will never see any other way. And the basic truth is that I've always been more of a DC guy then a Marvel guy, so my heart leans that way. But there's a handful of Marvel characters that I really like that haven't been made, forcing me to take matters into my own hands. Foremost among them: Quasar.
Quasar is, I think, the most underrated character in the Marvel Universe. He managed to support his own series for some five years in the '90s. Written by the late, great Mark Gruenwald, the series peaked in the late teens to the mid-thirties, when it featured superb art by Greg Capullo (who then went on to become a terrible Todd McFarlane clone... sigh) and, briefly, Steve Lightle. But the series, never a big seller, suffered through inferior artists the rest of it's run, and Quasar himself drifted into the background of the Marvel Universe.

But I still like him. I'd long wanted a Quasar figure in some form, but he's never had the honor. So making him as a Minimate was always on my mind, but his classic costume is fairly unique, as seen here by Capullo (image courtesy of the Quantum Zone):

But he finally came together when Marvel wave 31 arrived. That's when two pieces for this guy were released: Captain Britain's hair (the perfect Quasar hair) and Mar-Vell's chest, and the First Apperance Angel's head. Add Mary Marvel's arms (though Marty McFly's will do also), some Ocean Master wrist bands, the Sentry's cape, and Ultimate Spidey's crotch and legs, and you've got yourself a Quasar!
He's not perfect, unfortunately, because his chest symbol doesn't look quite like Mar-Vell's. My ultimate plan is to paint a C3 Alt Superman's cape blue, then use this decal here:

But he'll do for now. Oh, the energy blast from the second picture comes from an Iron Man 2 figure. Fits on the bracelet just right.

EDIT: I did, in fact, make that modification. Here's the updated Quasar; my apologies that the flash washed the decal out a bit:

Monday, November 1, 2010

Minimate Customs: Grendel

Well, I've fallen tremendously behind at posting these. I was trying to go more or less chronologically, but now I think I'm just going to pick and choose my favorites. First up, one I just finished: Matt Wagner's Grendel.

Grendel's pretty simple; he's just black and white, after all. But there were some tricky things about this one. First off, in order to get his mask right, you need to use Deathstroke's, which is not easy to find any more (and I didn't really want to sacrifice mine). So I had to buy an extra Deathstroke, which ended up taking a while.

And then there's the mask detail, which can't simply be painted on (at least not by my shaky hand). I managed to put together a decal based on Wagner's existing art, but had no way to print it. Enter Minimate Factory guru Luke Porter, whom was kind enough to print this out as part of a trade we were making. He even sent me an extra, so I might end up making Grendel Prime one of these days.

Finally, here's my decal, for anyone out there that might want to give him a shot. The chest, by the way, comes from one of the Ghostbusters, and his arms come from Blackhawk. Enjoy!

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Good Grief

The only loss in baseball history more excruciating, I think, must have involved Charlie Brown. Seriously, what the fuck just happened?

Thursday, October 21, 2010

I Made a Quiz-- MLB Game 7 Winning Pitchers

In honor (though after last night, I don't know that I want to be honoring anything about baseball) of the MLB playoffs, I whipped up a little quiz: MLB postseason game 7 winning pitchers. This is a pretty hard quiz; I made it, and I think I'd do terribly on it. But it seemed like a fun idea. Hopefully, I'll be updating this quiz with the name "Cole Hamels" in a few days.

Can you name the winning pitcher for each game 7 in MLB postseason history? - sporcle

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

I've Been Called Out

Yes, it's true: I picked the Minnesota Twins to reach the World Series. Which means I picked them to beat the Yankees. Which not only did they manage to not do, they managed to do so in the lamest way possible (non-Cincinnati Reds division). Yeah, this one's on me. I made this pick because I thought that the Twins had added some very nice players to the mix this year (JJ Hardy, Orlando Hudson, and my man Jim Thome) and had finally closed the talent gap with the Yankees. Plus, I thought (and still think) that the Yankees are not as strong as they were last year: their rotation remains a question mark after Sabathia (no matter how well Petite and Hughes handled the Twins), and they let go two of last year's heroes in Matsui and Damon. And Jeter officially sucks now, don't forget that.

But I knew the Twins were fucked shortly before game 2 began, when I was watching the TBS pregame, and Craig Sager reported all these little things the Twins were doing to deviate their routines. Because that said to me that they had let their failures against the Yankees into their heads, and that they had bought into all this Yankee mystique bullshit, and that they certainly weren't going to win that night, and probably wouldn't win the entire series.

After watching what's happened to the Twins, and the Reds, and the Braves, I can't help but wonder if the geniality of fans in places outside of the northeast is really for the best. I've read several things about Brooks Conrad, the Braves infielder whose defensive miscues greatly contributed to his team's elimination, and they talk about how supportive the fans are of him, and how they gave him a loud ovation when he pinch hit last night, and that's nice and all, but... dude made eight errors in seven games. You know that, if he were a Phillie, or a Yankee, or a Met, or a Red Sox, there'd be no gentle soothing ovation. Maybe in ten years we'd remember what we liked about this guy. But not now.

Things are just different here. Look, Donovan McNabb threw for over 300 yards and three touchdowns in a Super Bowl his team lost by three points, and people still talk about it as if it were one of the all-time worst big game performances. So perhaps there is something to this notion that playing in these places where trying your best just isn't good enough, because we can all try our best, but you're the professional, dammit. You ain't paid to try. Maybe that gives you the killer instinct needed to take advantage of your opponents mistakes, and the confident swagger that, sometimes, lets you win a game before it's even played.

Whatever. I just know I'm not picking against the Yankees again... until the Phillies get them, that is.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Well, it's not the Reds

Yeah, yeah, I know, it's been a while. Working on some things, and should have some fun posts up soon. But I just wanted to jump in here, because a Sportscenter promo on Monday Night Football just now stuck in my craw. Stuart Scott, from the Soldier Field sideline, pops up to remind us to stay tuned for Sportscenter after the game where they'll tell us "which team just clinched their division... for the fourth straight year". Jaysus. If the answer's going to be so damn obvious, why ask the question?

This is the kind of thing that gets me yelling at the TV, which Hillary thinks is hysterical.

Oh yeah, it's the Phillies, by the way.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Commencing Quarterback Controversy in 3...2...

Well, that was something, huh? The Kevin Kolb era got off to about the worst start imaginable: he sucked, got hurt, and his backup was great in rallying the team against a superior opponent. And now he gets to spend the season looking over his shoulder, and we all are going to wonder if Vick isn't the answer. The Eagles, at least offensively, didn't belong on the same field with the Green Bay Packers in the first half. Under Vick, they looked like a different team. It's a unique situation, in which the backup is not only more accomplished then the starter, but still in his prime. Kolb really has no window for growing pains. Not in this city, at least.

The defense looked good, though, all things considered; those things being often dealing with a short field due to poor special teams play, and having to be on the field every two minutes or so in the first half. But they got consistent pressure on Aaron Rogers without having to blitz on every play, which was a big problem last year, and forced him into several mistakes. But they slumped noticeably when Stewart Bradley went out, and I still think they need another cornerback. It's hard to read too much into this game, because the Packers are very, very good. Next week gets easier, against the Lions, but they won't be a pushover.

Oh, and Donovan McNabb is 1-0. He wasn't great, but good enough. The Cowboys sure don't look like a Super Bowl contender, though. Due to the quirky scheduling yesterday I was able to watch all four NFC East teams, and the division sure looks wide open. The Giants, at times, looked like the same group that fell apart last year, but to their credit they came out strong at halftime and ran over an inferior opponent. Competent quarterback play, in this case meaning NOT throwing three interceptions in the end zone, probably would have been enough to beat them, though. A lesson the Eagles certainly reinforced, and would do well to remember.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

I Made a Quiz-- Titles Won at WrestleMania

So I suppose by doing this I'm outing myself as a wrestling fan. Ah well. That's not as bad as when James did this (it's close, though). Anyway, this is a quiz of wrestlers that won a championship at WrestleMania. It's actually tougher then you might think, because some very prominent names never actually captured a title at WrestleMania (meaning they came in as the challenger and left as the champion). And some pretty obscure guys actually won multiple championships. I actually took this after I was done making it and almost missed a couple.

Titles Won at WrestleManina Quiz

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

The Football Post for which I Could Not Think of a Name

For the past, I dunno, five years or so, I've made the same Superbowl prediction, Eagles vs. Chargers. I don't think that's going to happen this year-- but more because of the Chargers then the Eagles, honestly. I think this is a pretty wide open year, with my hunch being that a lot of the traditional powers will take a step back, and that we'll see some surprising teams. Of course, that's pretty much what happens every year, doesn't it? Anyway, here's my division picks, and maybe even a Super Bowl pick, if I decide on one by the end of my typing. Naturally, we'll start in the most important place:

NFC East: Eagles, Redskins, Cowboys, Giants

You may detect some homerism here, and some wishful thinking. Well, fuck you. I'm sure as hell not picking the Cowboys. But, honestly, I do think the Cowboys are going to struggle more then most. Yeah, they finally had a late season breakthrough last year. Bully for them. Now do it again.

A lot of people seem to think that the Giants' collapse was an aberration, but c'mon, it happened in week six. Week after week they went out still in control of their own playoff fate, and week after week they looked like garbage. The Redskins, on the other hand, were a lot better last year then their record. They outplayed at least three playoff teams, including the eventual champion, but were unable to seal the deal. With McNabb and Shanahan, that shouldn't be a problem this year.

As for the Eagles, let's just say this: they'll be the surprise team in the league this year; Kevin Kolb will be the breakout star; Stewart Bradley will be All-Pro; and Andy Reid will (again) be coach of the year. That seems like a fair and balance prediction, right?

NFC South: Falcons, Saints, Panthers, Bucs

The Saints had a storybook year last year, but they're due for a tumble. The Falcons will follow a typical football pattern: breakout playoff year, followed by regression the next year, followed by a resurgence as a legit Super Bowl contender. The Panthers look to be slightly less shitty then the Bucs, so they'll be third. Advice to Bucs fan Dave Miller: definitely don't get the Sunday Ticket this year.

NFC North: Packers, Vikings, Lions, Bears

Everybody else is on the Packers bandwagon, so why not me? It would be lovely to see Brett Favre return just to see Aaron Rogers and co. leapfrog him. Heck, the Vikings have the smell of desperate team throwing everything against the wall to win, and imploding. Of course, so do the Bears. I think the Lions are headed in the right direction, and will be a pleasant surprise, and will even pass Chicago.

NFC West: 49ers, Seahawks, Cardinals, Rams

Yeah, the dogshit division (boy, I'm cursing a lot today, aren't I?). San Francisco looks to finally be legit again, but we've been fooled by them before. But I'm rooting for Mike Singletary, so they get the benefit of the doubt. Besides, everyone else will be somewhere between mediocre and terrible. The Cardinals are looking to replace Kurt Warner with the guy that couldn't hold down the Browns' job. The Browns. The Seahawks are in transition, so no one knows what to expect from them, but probably not much. And I will be forever mystified why Steve Spagnuolo, one of the hottest head coaching prospects after the Giants' Super Bowl year, decided to take the Rams job. Hope he gets another shot after he's fired for going 2-14 again.

AFC East: Patriots, Dolphins, Jets, Bills

I honestly do not like any team in this division this year. The Jets seem to me to be headed for a comeuppance. They are at act one of a Will Ferrell movie, where their hubris leads to their undoing. Next year's the year they come back humbler, wiser, better. The Patriots are definitely on the way down, but I guess there's enough left in the tank for another division title. I dunno. They benefited for years from the weakness around them, and they don't have that luxury any more. The Dolphins could definitely sneak back in, like they did two years ago, but I'm not big on them either. I suppose I should root for them, considering that Chad Henne is also an alum of Wilson High School.

Are the Buffalo Bills still in the NFL? They are, in the immortal words of Ned Flanders, the NFL's answer to a question no one asked.

AFC South: Texans, Colts, Titans, Jaguars

Yeah, I think this is the year the Texans finally break through, and that the Colts begin to regress. Peyton Manning absolutely carried them last year, in a way I've never seen before, and I just don't think he can do that again. Eventually, Jim Cauldwell's going to have to prove if he's an elite coach or not. I'll say not. I'm tempted to predict that the Titans will also jump over them, but I won't go that far. Maybe next year. At least they don't have to worry about the Jags, the NFL' answer to a question....

AFC North: Ravens, Steelers, Browns, Bengals

Also an interesting division. I think the Ravens are the real deal, and that Joe Flacco and Ray Rice are ready to take the next step (and I love John Harbaugh). The secondary is worrysome, though. It's very difficult to predict where the Steelers will end up, because even with Roethlesberger playing at the highest levels of his career, they still collapsed last year. I've never been a big Troy Polamalu guy, but I guess he really does make all the difference. As for last year's division champ, how can a team add both Pacman Jones and Terrell Owens and not implode? They made the playoffs because they went 6-0 in their division last year; that won't happen again. I like the direction the Browns are heading in; I think Jake Delhomme will provide them with competent quarterbacking, which will be enough to get them out of the basement.

AFC West: Chargers, Raiders, Broncos, Chiefs

The Chargers have had such a ridiculous advantage over the other elite teams of the NFL in terms of division foes over the last few years it's made us all overvalue them. No more. They'll still win the division, but not as handily. I seriously expect the Raiders to give them quite a run. I've always liked Jason Campbell, and think he got a bit of a raw deal in Washington. The Broncos will continue to regress, sadly for Brian Dawkins. The Chiefs are not the NFL's answer to a question nobody asked, but only because that's the Bills and the Jaguars.

So there you go. As for the playoffs, lets go with the Eagles, Falcons, Packers, Niners, Saints and Redskins in the NFC, and the Patriots, Titans, Ravens, Chargers, Colts, and Steelers in the AFC. And in the Super Bowl, how about the Ravens and... hmmm... let's see here... oh yeah, the Philadelphia freakin' Eagles. Can you guess who I like to win that game?

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Good Lord, it's 9/02/10

Somehow, I don't feel like I can just let this day go by without saying something.

I was of the same graduating class as the 90210 kids; I never watched much in high school, but I did watch a good bit in college. My crazy friend Mike Daly and I used to MST-it, and later my roommates and I would often watch with some of the girls in our social circle. A guilty pleasure, I suppose, though never as much campy fun as Melrose Place. Bad shows just aren't bad in quite the right way anymore. I miss that.

A few memories spring up: The Flaming Lips playing the Peach Pit After Dark, after which my eternal nemesis Steve Sanders remarked something like "I don't know much about 'alternative music [in my mind, he did air quotes here], but those guys rocked!"; the Real World parody episode, where Tori Spelling uses the word "proletariat"; wishing I could have a recurring cameo as the guy who walks up to Steve Sanders and punches him in the face; once convincing a roommate who was late coming home that one of the minor cast members had been killed off. Had him going pretty good.

...And that's about it. Really, 90210 was left behind by Melrose Place, and even while it was still airing felt a little desperate to recapture it's early notoriety. But on this day let's all raise our glasses to Aaron Spelling, most assuredly rotting in the circle of Hell reserved for the creatively bankrupt.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

I Made a Quiz-- Marvel Minimates (Part 1)

Yep, another one. This one's a lot longer, and probably even harder if you don't know anything about Marvel Comics, not to mention Minimates. But I wanted to do it, so here you go. "Part 1" is because you can only have 200 answers in a Sporcle quiz, and there have been a lot more then 200 Marvel Minimates. So part 2 will follow sometime soon.

Can you name the Marvel Minimates (part 1)--Sporcle quiz

EDIT: Finished Part 2. Looks like there's going to have to be a Part 3. Dammit.

Can you name the Marvel Minimates (part 2)--Sporcle quiz

Friday, August 27, 2010

I Made a Quiz-- Superhero Pets

I've been fooling around with the quiz site Sporcle a lot recently; there are quizzes in all sorts of different categories. You would be surprised how much time you can waste here. Or perhaps you wouldn't. Anyway, I decided to try my hand at a quiz. A pretty simple one, but hopefully challenging and fun: superhero pets! I encourage you to give it a shot, and I will hopefully find the time to come up with a few more of these.

Can you name the superhero pets? - sporcle

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Brett Favre is a Teenage Girl

Well, looks like my prediction that Brett Favre wasn't really retiring was on the money. Golf clap for me. Honestly, I don't think anyone was particularly fooled this time, save perhaps the Minnesota Vikings. What's amazing to me is that, this time around, it took not only a personal visit from head coach Brad Childress, but the Vikings had to dispatch three of his teammates to Louisiana to bring him back. What, is he afraid to fly by himself? Did they have to hold his hand on the plane, gently stroking his grey beard while they whispered how much they love him? Did Farve rest his head on Steve Hutchinson's shoulder?

This is just sad now. I fully believe that Favre created all this drama because he didn't feel like he was getting enough attention, because everyone just assumed he'd be back. So he pouted and said "well, maybe I won't come back. After all, my ankle still hurts. Really really bad". So his team had to make a big deal about it, and all the reporters had to file Brett Favre stories until he felt loved enough. Childress even picked him up at the airport! I hope he at least brought one of those "B.Farve" signs.

Apologies to teenage girls for the comparison. And I swear, I swear, I will never write about Brett Favre again.

A Pointless Thought

Do you think Danica McKellar really hates Danica Patrick? I mean, she used to have the name Danica all to herself. She was a one name celebrity, like Madonna. And then along comes this race car chick, who's not even as cute, and all of a sudden she's Danica, and she's a one name celebrity, and it's like Danica McKellar never even existed, and Danica Patrick never even wins any races! That would make me mad.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Banes of My Existence: Kevin Smith

I suppose it was inevitable that something would set me off to rant about Kevin Smith here. It's probably a surprise it's taken this long; after all, I've been ranting about him for years. It's fair to say that I hate his work, in that I've hated every movie of his I've ever seen or comic book that I've ever read. I've often wondered if I'd hate him personally if our paths were ever to cross. He seems like a nice enough fellow. We'd certainly have plenty to talk about. I also wonder if it's possible to be friends with someone if you despise their work; I guess it's like dating a girl even though you think she's a twit. And I did once chase after a girl that thought there should be a Constitutional amendment passed requiring every American to see Pearl Harbor. She, though, was a helluva lot hotter then Kevin Smith.

I'm going to go on a quick tangent (or continue the tangent) here and tell a story about my friend Travis. He was talking to some girl once at a party, and she was telling him about her boyfriend, and how they have such a great connection, like all the same things, ect. And she said something like "he likes ice cream and puppies, just like me!" And Travis, bless him, told her how stupid that was, because every body likes ice cream and puppies. And she got mad at him and, I think, tossed his hat in the pool. But what impressed me was that Travis did something that men in our twenties never do, which is call out a girl we're hoping to pick up on something inane she said. I have the utmost respect for him for that.

I want to make one thing clear here: I'm not one of those Johnny-come-lately Kevin Smith haters. I've always hated his work. No, I did not think Clerks was funny, or keenly observant, and I was, in fact, working at a convenience store at the time. Mallrats I did not see, but I did see Chasing Amy, oh so many times. I was working at the Ritz Five in Philly, the art house chain, and Chasing Amy must have played there for about seven years. By the end of its' run I couldn't even bring myself to walk into the theater while it was playing. I've gone around and around with people on this, but what I always come back to in criticizing the film is that it is so ineptly made. Let me give you an example: there's a scene at the end of the movie where Jason Lee is talking to a fan at a comic book convention. The scene basically cuts between shots of the two of them, with the fan's monologue running uninterrupted between shots. Except that the background audio is different between each shot. This might not seem like a big deal; but, for a guy making his third film, it's inexcusable.

And then there's Dogma, the last Kevin Smith film I've ever seen. Against my better judgment, I allowed my brother to talk me into watching it, with promises that it was a very smart deconstruction of organized religion. No, it is not. It's a shambles of a film, confirming that Smith still, after now four feature films, does not understand the first thing about storytelling, and has no ability as a director to illicit a compelling performance from an actor. So after that I swore that I'd never give the guy another chance, and that was it. And, really, it hasn't been that hard to avoid him. Sure, the Jay and Silent Bob movie *shudder* was a hit, but Jersey Girl pretty much exposed his limitations, and he's never really recovered. Certainly, the bloom is off the Kevin Smith: filmmaker rose.

And then... there's comics. I guess that, if Kevin Smith is a terrible filmmaker, he's at least only a very bad comic book writer. His dialogue doesn't read quite so stilted as it sounds coming out of an actor's mouth. And he certainly knows comics, unlike some of the other Hollywood bigshots that slum it up for Marvel, DC or Image now and then. I certainly feel, as a comics fan, that we're expected to be thrilled when even the most minor of celebrities does comics, because even the most minor of celebrities is bigger then anyone in comics. So Seth Green's comic is about frat boys with super powers? Who cares, it's by Seth Green! From Austin Powers!

You get the idea. Smith, at least, really did seem to be committed to being a part of the comics industry-- at first. He did successfully relaunch both Daredevil and Green Arrow, though, so I suppose that's something, even if the former did result in the death of a longtime supporting character at the hands of a minor villain, and the plot of the latter revolved around a grandfather raping his grandson. Yes, you read that right.

But his own inability to complete projects soon destroyed his reputation. There was his Spider Man/ Black Cat mini- series that had a literal wait of years between issues. Then there was the Daredevil mini- series that only saw one issue released before Smith just stopped writing it (that one issue, by the way, is among the worst comics I've ever read). And that, really, was it, until DC Comics decided a few years ago to cash in on whatever remaining cred Smith's name has by letting the guy write some Batman. And the first series, Cacophony, was relatively well received.
Well enough, at least, for Smith to do a sequel, The Widening Gyre, originally intended for six issues, but now apparently to be twelve.

And this, finally, is what brings me here today. Because, frankly, Smith had fallen so far off my radar that I was only vaguely aware this thing was even coming out. But this review here really does a nice job bringing me up to speed. And, please, go read it for yourself, because I really don't want to spoil any of the awesome, awesome twists described there. You should have the same thrill of discovery I did when you learn that Kevin Smith had Batman tell a story about... no, no, see for yourself.

But I would really like to share with you a quote from this interview with Smith, that I think explains a lot: " I’m not telling you anything new…I’m far more creative now, you know. I’ve been writing this Batman: The Widening Gyre miniseries, and I’m stoned all the time when I’m writing it. And, I swear, I’ll write it, and then, it’s not so much blackout, but forget, so much so that the next morning, I go to read what I wrote, and it’s, like, I’m that fuckin’ little cobbler and elves came and fuckin' wrote it in the night, because I’m, like, "This is better than anything I’ve ever written before." I mean, like, I’ve done comics, but this is way better."

That really wraps it up nicely, doesn't it?

Thursday, August 12, 2010

The Miami Heat are the Biggest Scumbags in Sports

You all remember the Miami Heat, right? NBA team that added superstar Chris Bosh and superduperstar LeBron James to Dwayne Wade, creating a superteam and creating a mockery of any ideas of competitive balance? Sure you do. Well, as you can imagine, they've become a hot ticket in Miami, no pun intended. So hot, in fact, that they've sold out every ticket for every game this season. So how do you reward that hard-working sales staff? Bonus, right? Well, if you're the Miami Heat, you fire the entire sales roster. Of all the low, scummy things to do. You spend some $300 million on three men, then fire a staff of thirty who, according to spokesperson Lorrie-Ann Diaz, were working so hard "[w]e couldn't get them to go home!" Well, you found a way, Lorrie-Ann!

As if you needed another reason to dislike the Heat. First, they play in Miami, one of the worst cities in the world. And then there's the stupid nickname. Then comes the most dislikable power trio this side of classic rock radio, and now this. If I owned one of the other franchises in town, like say the Marlins, I'd hire all these guys, saying something like "let's see them bring that energy to the Marlins boxoffice!" And sure, they wouldn't be bringing James, but it's a publicity stunt! Not to mention the right thing to do.

God, what happens if the Lakers and the Heat meet in the finals last year. What do you root for? Nuclear winter?

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

The Tale of Todd

I spent an hour or so the other day reading this eyewitness account by Comics Buyers Guide Senior Editor Maggie Thompson on the most recent court case involving Neil Gaiman and Todd McFarlane. It's pretty entertaining. Both Gaiman and McFarlane take the stand; my favorite part is probably here, at the end of Gaiman's lengthy testimony, where he denies that comics have a history of scantily- clad women. I mean, I understand that you don't want to give Todd's lawyers anything, Neil, but come on.

This trial, though, is really just an extension of the seminal 2002 trial between the two. To understand that trial, you really have to go back to 1992, when McFarlane tapped Gaiman to write the issue of Spawn you see to your left. McFarlane, along with several other top-selling comics artists of the day, had just left Marvel (and the Spider-Man title they created specifically to keep him happy) to form Image Comics. There, the artists would be unfettered by the restrictions of Big Brother Publisher, free to create comics that... were distinctly similar to the comics they'd created for Big Brother Publisher. Huh. Well, at least McFarlane's Spawn was somewhat different from Spider-Man. He wore a cape, after all.

Most of the Image guys, and McFarlane in particular, soon suffered from a fan backlash when it was noticed that their comics were really really poorly written. Todd, at least, came up with a novel strategy to rebut this claim: hire the very best writers in comics to each write an issue of Spawn. Gaiman joined Alan Moore, Dave Sim, and Frank Miller in writing Spawn #s 8-11. If you're wondering, they aren't particularly good comics, though they are a step up on the average issue of Spawn at the time.

Gaiman summarized the genesis of his issue quite well in his recent testimony. Essentially given no parameters by McFarlane, Gaiman decided that, if Spawn is a warrior of hell, he must have an opposite number from heaven. So Gaiman created Angela, a female warrior angel babe, and member of a host of female warrior angel babes. Furthermore, to establish her as a killer of Spawns, he created a past Spawn for her to, well, kill; he became known colloquially as Medieval Spawn. Gaiman later returned to Angela for a three issue mini-series, which introduced more female warrior angel babes.

All of this is fine and good, until Gaiman and McFarlane have a falling out. For which there are several reasons, but for our purposes now you only need to know that Gaiman became upset that McFarlane reprinted his issue of Spawn without paying Gaiman royalties, and turned both Angela and Medieval Spawn into action figures, also without compensation. Gaiman claimed he was co-creator of the characters, McFarlane claimed it was work-for-hire, they went to trial, and Gaiman won. At least, that's the 10-cent version.

I've always found it ironic that McFarlane, whom had made grandiose claims of being "emancipated" when he left Marvel, had been so willing to screw over another creator. In fact, the issue of Spawn immediately following Gaiman's, written by Cerebus creator and noted self-publishing iconoclast Sim, is a ham-handed allegory about the evils of Big Brother Publishers, and the freedom that Sim, McFarlane, and their creations were now afforded. It seems, though, in McFarlane's mind at least, that freedom didn't extend to those he hired.

The 2010 trial stems from the findings of the 2002 trial, with Gaiman now suing McFarlane over characters he considers derivative of those from Spawn #9. Two of them seem pretty straightforward, to my eyes: they are female warrior angel babes of the same host as Angela, which everyone agrees was Neil Gaiman's idea, and not Todd McFarlane's. The defense's retort? Oh, they're entirely different... because they've got different haircuts, and their skimpy armor is different from Angela's skimpy armor, and look, this one uses a gun! Um, yeah. Point (or two points, as it's two characters) for Gaiman.

The other claim is far more interesting, involving the character (and title) known as Dark Ages Spawn. This is a series from 2001 set in the Crusades, and featuring a knight tricked into becoming an agent of hell, who still fights to retain his nobility. Sound familiar? It did to Gaiman, who claims that Dark Ages Spawn is just Medieval Spawn by another name. To refute this claim, Dark Ages Spawn writer/creator Brian Holguin took the stand. He stated, basically, that he'd been only midly aware of the earlier character, did not have him in mind at all when creating his character, and that Todd had just told him to "come up with something cool" and he'd hit upon the Crusades theme on his own. Which all seems plausible enough. You have to wonder, though, if McFarlane wasn't just trying to stick it to Gaiman by tweaking one of the characters they'd been feuding (and would later go to court) over. On the other hand, considering that McFarlane at this time still believed that he owned the character outright, it wouldn't make sense not to just call him Medieval Spawn and attempt to cash in on whatever cachet the earlier character possessed. It's certainly conceivable that McFarlane didn't put two and two together and realize that he already had a Spawn running around that was a knight from the Crusades; after all he is the guy that "...couldn't even keep track of how many spikes were on the costume."

That was not an argument that worked for the judge, as she found for Gaiman in all counts, just as the judge in 2002 had done. She did not buy the argument that McFarlane was unaware of the similarities between Medieval and Dark Ages Spawn; or, perhaps more appropriately, that he should have been aware of them, which in the eyes of the justice system is the same thing. I love how, in her decision, she offers several interesting and plausible variations on the Spawn character that McFarlane has not considered. Are you a frustrated wannabe comic book writer, Judge Barbara Crabb?

McFarlane's detractors (of which there are many) look at Neil as a hero that finally called out the bully and won. Meanwhile, Todd's fans (of which there are also many) think the whole thing is preposterous, because Gaiman was just playing in Todd's sandbox (ugh, I hate that term), and anyway, the whole thing was clearly work for hire, even if there wasn't a contract explicitly stating so. The truth, of course, is probably somewhere in between. Gaiman is clearly at least the co-creator of Medieval Spawn and Angela, in that they would not exist today were he not there to think them up. Would Todd (or somebody) have come up with something else? Probably, but legally that doesn't really matter. At the same time, I do think that the working situation for these hired gun writers was always intended to be work-for-hire, and Gaiman is taking advantage of McFarlane's lack of early business sense in clearly defining terms. But that's Todd's problem, not Neil's, and while this latter trial does feel like piling on (particularly since Gaiman doesn't even care about the profits he's to receive, and will donate them to charity), it's certainly legally justified.

One thing we can all agree on, I think is this: Todd McFarlane has the absolute worst track record when it comes to court rooms. He's now 0-3 in big time court cases, with these two joining the fairly ridiculous Tony Twist case. McFarlane, a big NHL fan, named a mafia don after Twist, a notorious goon. Twist, he of 10 career goals and 1121 career penalty minutes, sued on the grounds that his character had been defamed and his marketability hurt. Actually, as I research this, he's actually 0-4, because the there were actually two lawsuits lost to Twist; the first one was thrown out by the judge after the jury awarded Twist $24.5 million; the second case, in which Twist was awarded $15 million, was upheld on appeal. The two eventually settled for $5 million, with McFarlane's company being driven into bankruptcy.

Litigation, unfortunately, is a large part of Todd McFarlane's legacy, as are toys, Korn videos, and home run balls-- pretty much anything but comics. McFarlane hasn't drawn Spawn regularly in over a decade; his last few attempts at a comeback have resulted in painfully missed deadlines. It's been suggested that comics were never Todd's passion; while I can't speak to that, he's certainly marginalized himself in an industry he once ruled. And that's a shame, because McFarlane definitely brought something to the table back in his day. He legitimately reinvigorated Spider-Man; his work, vibrant and energetic, was exactly how a teenage boy would draw a comic book. I always felt that McFarlane lost his edge when his work became too slick and polished. Still, at least it was work. What does he have now? Not Angela, Medieval Spawn, or any related characters, that's for sure.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

This Time for Real, I'm Sure

Break out the tractor, Deanna, because Brett Farve may actually be retiring now after all. Seems his ankle isn't responding well to treatment after surgery, so that might be it. Time to hang 'em up. Which means his ranch will look great this year, because, as we all know by now, Brett Farve has two choices in life: play football or yardwork. There will be no hobbies for him, no taking up golf, no business ventures, no cushy commentator's gig, no working on There's Something About Mary 2: Electric Squequel.

There's been no real chatter about Farve this offseason, because everybody that cares just assumes he's going to play at this point. And, after playing so well last year and coming up so short of the Super Bowl, there's no reason to expect otherwise. Which is why it would make sense for him to actually retire now, when nobody expects it. Because that's Brett Farve for you: just when you think he'll zig, he zags; just when you think you know the answer, he changes the question.

Of course, even if this is really it, it won't be really it. Because in about week 4 or 5, his ankle will be feeling better, so he'll consider a comeback. Or, next season, he'll feel like he's in the best shape of his life, so he'll consider a comeback. And on and on. I feel kind of stupid even writing about this now, it's such a foregone conclusion. We've got at least two more years of waffling from Farve to which to look forward.

Why? Because a quick look at his career records in the AP article shows that he's got a good shot at winning 200 games as an NFL starter, which is pretty extraordinary. He's at 181 now, and if the Vikings remain among the NFL's better teams, he should get there. This year is a foregone conclusion, because he'll move his touchdown total above 500 and his yardage total above 70,000. Why would he leave those milestones on the table?

Oh, I know, because he doesn't care about numbers. Athletes never do, right? It's the rest of us that get hung up on them. The fans. The rabble. We care about the records, not them. They just want to play the game to the best of their ability, God willing. Have a little fun out there. And all that.

Anyway. Tune in to this blog for more exclusive coverage as this story develops.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Top Five Most Hated Sports Franchises

Sports Illustrated just published a list of the 25 most hated teams in sports history, and that reminded me of my own little mental list, composed as the Lakers and Celtics were sucking all the joy out of the NBA playoffs. A Lakers/ Celtics finals might have been great for the NBA, but to me it just meant that we'd have to suffer between one of those two teams winning a championship again, certainly not something to embrace. Now, I don't hate the Celtics, just dislike them, so I suppose I was pulling for them. But it was a tepid support, kind of like accepting Russia as an ally against Nazi Germany. Sometimes, the fight against evil makes for strange bedfellows.

There's really nothing worse as a sports fan then watching a team you truly despise march towards a championship. I'm sure that every Red Sox fan will tell you that the Curse of the Bambino years were made all the worse by watching the Yankees win some two dozen championships at the time. Yet, somehow, the Red Sox 2004 championship, seeing as it included the Sox vaulting over the Yankees in about the most humbling way possible, somehow seems to even things up. Yankees fans won't admit it, but I think they'd trade at least, oh, five or ten of those titles to get that one back. And this is something Sox fans don't get: to the rest of us, now, you guys are even. That was it, you slayed the dragon. You're not the good guys against the Evil Empire any more; you're both Evil Empires now.

Anyway, back to the SI list for a moment. It's a decent list, though it seems like they, for the most part, chose the 25 most hated franchises (or colleges, or countries, or whatever) and chose their most hated teams. I don't, for example, hate the '92 Dallas Cowboys any less then I do the '93 or '95 Cowboys that also won the Super Bowl, or, for that matter, the 2009 Cowboys. Well, maybe a little bit more. Plus, in the interest of being inclusive, there's things like the 1976 East German women's Olympic swim team, for whom I suspect the venom has mostly faded. There's even an honorable mention for an America's Cup sailing team. But not one Lakers or Celtics team. Nor the Lawrence Phillips-era Nebraska Cornhuskers. Hell, how about the 2010 French World Cup team, that was seemingly reviled by even the members of the 2010 French World Cup team? Now that's hatred.

So while there may be high spots in hatred for certain teams, and there are certain, otherwise harmless franchises that have the misfortune of assembling a truly despicable team (the 2000-01 Trail Blazers is a great call), I think it's really the year-in, year-out hatreds that stick with us. My list, of course, is biased from the perspective of a Philadelphia sports fan. There are teams on here (well, one team) that the average fan probably doesn't hate. Conversely, there are several other teams, such as the aforementioned Celtics, not to mention the Yankees, Red Sox, Steelers, Notre Dame Fighting Irish, and Duke Blue Devils that just don't raise my ire like they do others, though I fully accede to them being eminently hatable (the Blue Devils, I must note, get a pass because I married into the family of a graduate). I encourage you to make your own list!

1. Dallas Cowboys. Oh hell yes. If you're a sports fan from outside the southwest, and you don't hate the Cowboys, there's just something wrong with you. They are, without a doubt, the most despicable organization in the Western Hemisphere not named the Tea Party. Though, let's face it, a lot of Tea Party members are probably Dallas Cowboy fans. I hate the Cowboys so much that, when it looked like they were heading back to the Super Bowl in 2007, I found myself desperately rooting for anyone to beat them, even the Giants. Only a team like the Cowboys can inspire mortal enemies to put aside their differences for the greater good. Oh, and don't even get me started about Tony Romo. I want to get some sleep tonight.

2. Los Angeles Lakers. I'm honestly a little surprised that they placed so high on my list, because I care so little for basketball in general and the NBA in particular that it seems odd to so hate an NBA team. Perhaps it's just the glow of their second straight championship, and the public redemption of Kobe Bryant, but the fact is that the Lakers get me stirred up more then just about anyone else these days. My dislike of them stems from the 2000-01, when they cruised through the Western Conference playoffs without loosing a game to meet the Sixers, whom were pretty beaten up by this point. I will maintain to my dying day that the Sixers would have won that series had the Lakers been even remotely challenged at any point along the way to the finals and weren't fresh as daisies. But whatever. Most of my hatred, really, is for Kobe, whom I never did like, but c'mon. He's a rapist. We all know it. He should be in jail right now, not staring back at me with come-hither eyes. You're still a scumbag, Kobe, no matter how many rings you have.

3. Atlanta Braves. This is a bit of a weird one, that I know most people don't share. It comes, mostly, from watching the Braves dominate the NL East for 14 straight years. But it also comes from their horrible, milquetoast fans, that can barely sell out a playoff game, and from years of watching excruciating Braves broadcasts on TBS. Oh, and that !@#$ tomahawk chop. Oddly, they've had several players over the years that I've liked, especially the big three of Greg Maddox, Tom Glavine, and John Smolz, but also guys like Ron Gant and Fred McGriff. But I still can't stand them. This year, I've found my anti-Braves passions renewed once again, particularly on the day they came back from a seven-run deficit in the ninth inning to beat the Reds, punctuated by a game winning grand slam. I think we were all happier when the Braves were also-rans, don't you?

4. New York Giants. My hatred of them has tempered a bit recently, since several of the players that most especially struck a nerve- Strahan, Shokey, Barber- are gone. They do still have Eli Manning, though, so there's that. For a couple years there, when the Cowboys were down and the Giants were peaking, I honestly thought I hated the Giants more. But I can see now that I was mistaken. I can't believe that Eli Manning is a Super Bowl winning quarterback and Donovan McNabb is not, though.

4. New York Mets. This might be a bit stronger if the Mets hadn't embarrassingly collapsed several times of the last few years, to the benefit of the Phillies. It's hard to hate a team when they pratfall into a pie repeatedly. But they are the Mets, our biggest rival, so I can't not hate them. And that 1986 team really was a bunch of scumbags. Not that the 1993 Phillies weren't....

Monday, July 26, 2010

Mad Men Returns

"Mad Men" is a show I like quite a bit, but at the same time think is vastly overrated. While the first season really was quite excellent, the two subsequent seasons have been far less compelling. Much like stylistic forebearer "The Sopranos" (not to mention later issues of The Sandman, in my opinion not widely shared), the show seems to be already resting on its' laurels, having established a standard of impeccable, if sometimes dull, storytelling sure to win awards and accolades.

Last night's episode felt like more of a return to form, at least for one episode. Though last season was often quite tedious (the nadir, in my mind, came in the episode in which the most notable thing was that Pete Campbell and his wife danced the Charleston), it did change the dynamics at both work and home for Don Draper. This was our first chance to dip our toes into the new status quos, and it was mostly successful. Of course, it helps that at least half the episode went by before we saw Betty Draper. She's long been the show's albatross, a vain, vapid nitwit who is impossible to root for even when she's in the right. At least the show finally disposed of the neverending "will she or won't she?" teases that Betty might have an affair by having her have an affair

Of course, my new favorite character to ever appear on "Mad Men is seemingly Henry's mother, who referred to Betty as "Dirt". I hope this means we're not supposed to try and like Betty any more. I still can't decide if January Jones is just a terrible, lifeless actress, or if that's actually part of the performance. Anyway, I'm all for hating on Betty, so keep that coming. I want at least one scathing insult directed at Betty per episode (per scene if possible).

One last thing: It's a really odd tonal shift to go from watching "True Blood" at 9 to "Mad Men" at 10. And when was the last time anyone actually drank any True Blood anyway?

The San Diego Stabbing

Well. This was surprising. A fight at a panel at the San Diego Comic Con ends in one man stabbing the other in the eye with a pen. Looking at the pictures of the assailant being led away in handcuffs made me sad; no one expects their day at a convention to end in a jail cell. Of course, no one expects their day to end with a pen in the eye, either, so I suppose my sympathy should be tempered.

Not to excuse either party in this situation, as violence is obviously not called for, but the convention organizers share a large part of the responsibility here. The hullabaloo about Comic Con panels has clearly gotten out of hand, and little has been done to adjust. At my one and only San Diego Comic Con, I ended up avoiding the panels almost entirely because Hall H, where the panels are held, was chaos. Lines for the big panels are so long, with people waiting in line all day for afternoon panels, that it seemed pointless. I don't really understand this need to attend a panel, to the point that you'd pay whatever the cost of tickets, transportation, and accommodations only to spend a day at the con sitting in a hallway.

One thing San Diego doesn't do that most other major cons do is clear the convention halls after each panel. This has lead to people sitting all day in convention halls, "attending" panels for which they have no interest, waiting for their panel later that afternoon. And that, apparently, was the cause of the dispute this year, and it's surprising, really, that there hasn't been more instances of violence.

This is a monster of the Con's creation. They've spent so much time building San Diego as the event of the year for all things nerd, and the panels as the must-attend for "true" fans of your given property, that people have become desperate to be in the room. And it gets worse every year, even though every panel is extensively covered from several sites, and video of most panels eventually makes it online. Is the need to ask Joe Quesada a question really that great?

The Beat this morning has several suggestions for alleviating the problem. I agree with most of them, but I think the idea of distributing tickets/collectible wrist bands for the panels will just cause more chaos. You'd just be shifting the problem, not solving it, and by creating a new "must-have" collectible, possibly adding on. I think, first off, San Diego has to start clearing out the panel rooms immediately. Also, it's time to start streaming the panels online, and perhaps even take online questions during the panel. Perhaps, if it's clear to all that you'll still be able to participate in the panels even if you're not in the room, some tension will be alleviated.

There's been a lot of talk over the last few years about the con leaving San Diego, with the thought being that the con has outgrown the hall. I wonder if this incident will be the tipping point that expedites the process. That Harry Potter fan may just have stabbed the Comic Con out of San Diego.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Banes of My Existence: Sheryl Crow

So we're in a hotel right now, upstate for my sister-in-law's wedding, and yesterday I caught a little bit of Good Morning America. Just in time to see Sheryl Crow perform her crappy new song. Lucky me! Her performance was, even by the standards of the Good Morning America Summer Concert Series, lame. See for yourself:

EDIT: Okay, that's just the interview. Can't seem to find the performance. Perhaps that's just as well.

I have a long history with accidentally stumbling across Sheryl Crow performances. I remember several years ago watching a Pittsburg Steelers game (either a playoff game or the opening of Heinz Field, can't remember which) and she was the halftime entertainment. At the time, I don't think she'd done anything significant in years (not even Lance Armstrong... badumbump), so I was surprised to see her. She was debuting a new song, which I thought was poor even by her standards... which was, of course "Soak Up the Sun", which ended up being arguably her biggest hit. My opinion often has that effect.

I suppose she's not terrible; she's just so... lame. It's like a word association game. The name "Sheryl Crow" just screams mediocrity passing for something bigger. Like, she's hot, but she's no Shania Twain. And her music's awful, but she's no Shania Twain. This performance yesterday really sums up the Sheryl Crow experience well. The song's entirely unmemorable, her performance bland, the crowd only remotely interested. I imagine a Sheryl Crow concert to be dull beyond belief; even Celine Dion can connect with a crowd.

To balance this out, here's a couple videos from the woman Sheryl Crow desperately wishes she was (though she's probably sold ten times as many records) Neko Case.

The Ultimate Workout Video

I know that most regular readers of this blog are fitness nuts, so I'm pleased to share what (I think you'll agree) is the most comprehensive, challenging workout you'll find. WARNING: this is intense. Don't attempt if you're a wuss...DAVE. This blog absolves itself of all responsibility for any injuries that may occur, kind of like when you leave something in a taxi.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Things That Make You Go Hurrm

A couple months ago, comics rumor monger Rich Johnston reported that DC Comics, and perhaps more specifically parent company Warners, was exploring ways to expand Watchmen-- sequels, prequels, you name it. And this of course caused quite a kerfluffle, and this of course led to then-editorial director (and now co-publisher) Dan Didio to deny that DC would ever do anything of the sort. "Shocked, I am SHOCKED at this outrageous insinuation", I believe he was heard to say. And I meant to blog about it, and then I didn't, and it all went away.

Until this week, when right before Comic Con, Wired released a teaser for an upcoming interview with Alan Moore in which he claims that DC offered him back the rights to Watchmen in exchange for new stories. And he, of course, turned them down, because basically the characters are dead to him. So that was it, right? DC asked, Moore said go fuck yourselves, and we all went on with our lives. Well, here's what now-copublisher Didio told Comic Book Resources yesterday:

"[T]he one thing that we've been saying for a while is that 'Watchmen' is truly one of the premier projects out there, and if we were ever to proceed with [a sequel] the most logical place to start would be with Alan and Dave. For me, it's one of those things that's still one of the crown jewels in comics, and if you ever wanted to approach it, you'd have to do it in that manner – making sure the best talent available and possible was working on it."

So, obviously, they're doing it.

Which, hey, is their right, since they own the characters. And Moore did essentially base the Watchmen off preexisting characters, so there's that. And... it's still pretty shitty.

Thing is, to DC/Warners, Watchmen isn't just a book anymore, it's a tentpole franchise (that's the kind of thing they like to say) sitting around collecting dust because some asshole freak writer got his feelings hurt 20 years ago. And that must seem pretty insane to them. I mean, the book sold a million copies last year alone. A million copies. They'd be stupid not to make sequels! And the only thing stopping them is a guy that doesn't even work for the company any more?

The biggest- perhaps only- drawback for DC will be to find anyone willing to step over Moore's corpse and risk career suicide for this. Because "best talent available" means a lot of things, but if it's "in Alan Moore's league", well, there's basically Neil Gaiman, and he sure as hell isn't going to do it. Then there's the generation of British writers that followed in Moore's footsteps-- Morrison, Ellis, Ennis, ect. On the one hand, they might be intrigued to tackle such a daunting challenge; on the other, well, they'd be insane to do it. Certainly, none of them needs to be the new Watchmen guy, and it's really not worth ruining their careers to be universally deemed an inferior sellout. One guy that makes for an interesting possibility is Peter Milligan, whose just as good (if not better) then the others, but has never received the same kind of public acclaim, mainly because he has no feel for writing traditional superheroes. Would it be worth it to him to try and, finally, make a name for himself, basically going all-in?

Probably not. Try as I might, I just see the name "Judd Winick" floating around in my magic 8-ball. "Best available talent" will mean "the guy under contract that says yes". All we can really be sure of is, no matter what happens, it will not be very good. Because if there's one thing DC Comics has taught us under Dan Didio, it's no matter the project, no matter the concept, they will absolutely, positively fuck it up somehow.