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.