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Sunday, August 31, 2008
Is a Basic Understanding of Science Too Much to Ask For?
No, that doesn't happen. Oh, sure, I've heard those sub-Dane Cook level comedians make those same sophomoric jokes: "Hnurr hnurr, I wish I was a lesbian, I'd just stare at myself all day, amiritefellas?" It's not funny. It's really kind of offensively stupid. And the joke really doesn't translate when being applied to gay men. Especially not when it appears in a comic aimed at 25-35 year old man-children who would probably shriek in terror at the thought of a nude gay man. And yes, this is me being appalled at something in the worst comic since Skate Man. A fool's errand at the best of times.
Speaking of people who have apparently never met a real-life homosexual, I'm a little weary of people trying to make the Machine Gun Joe character in Death Race some sort of indicator of the progress of gay characters in mainstream films. In the film, when the question of the character's sexuality is introduced, it is quite clear from the context that it's just a homophobic taunt. From one of the likable "good" characters, naturally, homophobic insults still being something that it's okay for protagonists in mainstream films to say. Unlike smoking or racist insults. Now, I'm aware that some of the film-makers have said that the character is meant to be gay, while others have not. In any case, there is nothing in the film itself to suggest the character is gay, save that insult. The character himself never declares himself to be gay. And the one vaguely "homoerotic" moment in the film is almost instantly deflected by the normalizing return of heterosexual values. In a way, the film-makers have stumbled upon a neat trick; they get to take credit for a "ground-breaking" gay character in an action film without ever actually having to deal with a gay character.
So, I keep thinking about Kevin's posts about bad retailing decisions, mostly because I'm baffled that smart people keep missing Kevin's point so badly. Either they think it's a good thing for a retailer in a small margins business to actively discourage sales in the names of "integrity"--which is an argument that really phenomenally misses the point that comic shops being run like club houses instead of businesses is bad for the industry, or they keep bringing in this asinine restaurateur metaphor, as if a waiter suggesting the crab cakes because the clams with linguine are a bit off tonight is anything remotely like a retailer sending out a mass e-mailing to existing and potential customers insinuating that they're idiots if they like a comic he doesn't. It all makes me reconsider that "smart" adjective. But what I keep coming back to is that telling your customers your opinion of a book, and still selling it to them, are not mutually exclusive.
Amazing Spider-Man #2338; While many fans, myself included, were upset with what it took to bring the character to the new status-quo, the new creative teams on this title have met with critical and commercial success. A new storyline starts here for those curious about what's been going on. Astonishing X-People #2222; While the combination of Ellis and Bianchi are not to my taste, a new storyline starts here, tying in to the larger "Manifest Destiny" branding in the X-books. It's a good jumping on point for those who enjoy Ellis's super-hero work.
Hey, whoa, did you see that there? I gave as neutral a judgement as I could while still finding a way to tell interested customers to check the book out. And it was easy. Of course, this doesn't address the concerns of those bloggers who see nothing wrong with what the retailer in question did because he was bashing super-hero books in his newsletter. But I'm sure that if he had slapped a big NOT BUY on Kramer's Ergot or Love and Rockets, the art-comix bloggers would have had my back.
I've always had a sort of soft-spot for the Duck artists of the seventies. A lot of that comes from them being the artists I first associated with Duck comics. But some of it has to do with feeling a little bit sorry for them.
The artists in this period are doubly damned by most Duck fans. For one, people bash them for not being Carl Barks. Which is insane when you stop to think about it. Barks was the master for a reason, and it's grossly unfair to use him as the baseline. But the artists of this period are also complained about for not being the more stylized European Duck artists of the last decades, as if there was any remote way that the European style would have found a welcome home in cheaply produced licensed comics put out during a recession.
Granted, there's a lot not to like from this era. The characters are stiff. The backgrounds are frequently non-existent. The coloring is garish. And everyone is just a little bit off-model at the best of times, and grossly unrecognizable at the worst.
And, besides childhood nostalgia, that's actually, I think, part of their charm for me. I'll take a well-meaning failure over a cynical exploitation of what a big corporation thinks their customers want anyday.
Thumper decided to take up blogging as a pastime, sharing with the world everything there is to know about himself and his furry forest friends.
Thumper gained some popularity early on for, basically, telling the other forest creatures who were online what they wanted to hear and engaging in a not subtle at all campaign of complaining about the activities of the animals who hung around that other watering hole.
Which led to lots of comments from Thumper's readers along these lines:
One day, flush with his own ego and determined to show the world how great he is, Thumper tried to make some cash-money off the fact that he had a "very popular blog." It was then that Thumper discovered something very important, when he tried telling people who had never even heard of his blog how important he is:
Namely, that the real world doesn't give a good god-damn about how "important" your commentators think you are.
Tom Swift: Cyborg Kickboxer, 1991, Victor Appleton Given how every single world-threatening crisis Tom Swift deals with is caused by his own scientific arrogance, it's a wonder the kid didn't have his lab privileges revoked years ago.
The post below was written by John DiBello, and I'm reposting it here with his permission because I think it addresses an important topic and I'd like to help bring this discussion to as wide an audience as possible.
Overheard at San Diego Comic-Con while I was having lunch on the balcony of the Convention Center on Sunday July 27: a bunch of guys looking at the digital photos on the camera of another, while he narrated: "These were the Ghostbusters girls. That one, I grabbed her ass, 'cause I wanted to see what her reaction was." This was only one example of several instance of harassment, stalking or assault that I saw at San Diego this time.
1. One of my friends was working at a con booth selling books. She was stalked by a man who came to her booth several times, pestering her to get together for a date that night. One of her co-workers chased him off the final time.
2. On Friday, just before the show closed, this same woman was closing up her tables when a group of four men came to her booth, started taking photographs of her, telling her she was the "prettiest girl at the con." They they entered the booth, started hugging and kissing her and taking photographs of themselves doing so. She was confused and scared, but they left quickly after doing that.
3. Another friend of mine, a woman running her own booth: on Friday a man came to her booth and openly criticized her drawing ability and sense of design. Reports from others in the same section of the floor confirmed he'd targeted several women with the same sort of abuse and criticism.
Quite simply, this behavior has got to stop at Comic-Con. It should never be a sort of place where anyone, man or woman, feels unsafe or attacked either verbally or physically in any shape or form. There are those, sadly, who get off on this sort of behavior and assault, whether it's to professional booth models, cosplayers or costumed women, or women who are just there to work. This is not acceptable behavior under any circumstance, no matter what you look like or how you're dressed, whether you are in a Princess Leia slave girl outfit or business casual for running your booth.
On Saturday, the day after the second event I described above, I pulled out my convention book to investigate what you can do and who you can speak to after such an occurrence. On page two of the book there is a large grey box outlining "Convention Policies," which contain rules against smoking, live animals, wheeled handcarts, recording at video presentations, drawing or aiming your replica weapon, and giving your badge to others. There is nothing about attendee-to-attendee personal behavior.
Page three of the book contains a "Where Is It?" guide to specific Comic-Con events and services. There's no general information room or desk listed, nor is there a contact location for security, so I go to the Guest Relations Desk. I speak to a volunteer manning the desk; she's sympathetic to the situation but who doesn't have a clear answer to my question: "What's Comic-Con's policy and method of dealing with complaints about harassment?" She directs me to the nearest security guard, who is also sympathetic listening to my reports, but short of the women wanting to report the incidents with the names of their harassers, there's little that can be done.
"I understand that," I tell them both, "but what I'm asking is more hypothetical and informational: if there is a set Comic-Con policy on harassment and physical and verbal abuse on Con attendees and exhibitors, and if so, what's the specific procedure by which someone should report it, and specifically where should they go?" But this wasn't a question either could answer.
So, according to published con policy, there is no tolerance for smoking, drawn weapons, personal pages or selling bootleg videos on the floor, and these rules are written down in black and white in the con booklet. There is not a word in the written rules about harassment or the like. I would like to see something like "Comic-Con has zero tolerance for harassment or violence against any of our attendees or exhibitors. Please report instances to a security guard or the Con Office in room XXX."
The first step to preventing such harassment is giving its victims the knowledge that they can safely and swiftly report such instances to someone in authority. Having no published guideline, and indeed being unable to give a clear answer to questions about it, gives harassment and violence one more red-tape loophole to hide behind.
I enjoyed Comic-Con. I'm looking forward to coming back next year. So, in fact, are the two women whose experiences I've retold above. Aside from those instances, they had a good time at the show. But those instances of harassment shouldn't have happened at all, and that they did under no clear-cut instructions about what to do sadly invites the continuation of such behavior, or even worse.
I don't understand why there's no such written policy about what is not tolerated and what to do when this happens. Is there anyone at Comic-Con able to explain this? Does a similar written policy exist in the booklets for other conventions (SF, comics or otherwise) that could be used as a model? Can it be adapted or adapted, and enforced, for Comic-Con? As the leading event of the comics and pop culture world, Comic-Con should work to make everyone who attends feel comfortable and safe.
Wh...why would Thumper need bathing trunks to go swimming? He's a rabbit. He's not even an anthropomorphic rabbit, he's just a rabbit. Thank God the children of America were spared the site of a naked rabbit...
Consistency is the last refuge of the unimaginative
Harvey Comics Classics Vol. 5: The Harvey Girls: I know the truism when it comes to comics is that someone, somewhere, is masturbating to it, but oh, God, please no...let it not be true this time...
Magicman is quite possibly the gayest super-hero ever. And I'm finding it really hard to believe there's enough perceived demand for a $60 hard-cover collection of his adventures. Unless I'm really misjudging the demand for flamingly effeminate super-heroes in tacky drag.
It's cute how publishers like to pretend that celebrities have more involvement in the creation of the comics bearing their name than having their assistants sign off on the likeness rights...
So, now that IDW has the licenses for G.I. Joe, Transformers, Angel, Star Trek, Galaxy Quest, Ghostbusters and Doctor Who, is "mega-crossover" too much to expect? 'Cause, you know, I would pay top dollar for a comic in which Davros, Cobra Commander and Megatron team-up to take over the world.
Sterling Publishing has been putting out these nice omnibus editions of Asterix, and I love them to bits, as they're much nicer and better value than the individual volumes, but the way they're going about publishing them drives me batty. They released volumes one and eleven first, and this month they solicit volumes two and ten. Seriously, guys, putting them out in numerical order is just as good, if not better.
Last month Tokyopop solicited forty-four titles, and it was a light month for them. This month they solicit sixteen. It's not hard to see the writing on the wall at this point. And yes, I've already got a draft version of my "I come to bury Tokyopop, not to praise it" post saved. I'm thinking of titling it "Lessons the Comics Industry Should Learn from the Manga Bubble Bursting, But Won't."
I'm curious to know how much space, if any, will be devoted to the fact that Leyendecker was gay and that his work is, well, teeming with homoeroticism. I like Leyendecker's work, but in most of the things I've read about him, his sexuality is either ignored or used as an excuse to claim his work is inferior. Because gay men can't draw women, apparently.
So there are five different L. Ron Hubbard books for sale in Previews, at $10 each. I wonder how many credits for cleared Thetans you get if you buy them all?
I know of a spoiler for the Tropic Thunder film that makes this piece of merchandise hilariously ironic. And it's the kind of irony that that film's target audience, I suspect, will not appreciate.
Huh. I, uh, I may want a twelve inch tall "Indy disguised as 'German'" action figure...
GOD-FUCKING-DAMMIT, JAPAN! It's that she's covered in pink slime more than anything else, this time.
Speaking of Japan, I'm not the only one really skeeved out by the popularity of "bandaged Rei Ayanami" figures, right?
Out of the four Torchwood cups for sale, two of them feature Gwen and Jack. None of them feature Jack and Ianto. Do the marketing people not watch the show?
Relic, 1995, Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child The film cut the most interesting character and killed off the characters neccessary for a sequel. Film-makers can be incredibly stupid sometimes. Oh, the book's good, utterly insane in a good way, filled with exciting chases through, er, museums. Too bad DNA doesn't work that way.
Although many emotionally distant couples had found that erotic role-playing brought them closer together and renewed their marriage, it only seemed to worsen the relationship between Henry and Alice. Henry would offer to play "Cable Installer and Housewife" and Alice would decide that she would play the cable installer, and never show up for the appointment. In fact, nearly all of the role-play scenarios Alice agreed to seemed to involve Henry wearing a dress. She had told him that her experiences with her room-mate in college were only "experiments." Had she been lying to him about that all these years as well?
Still, the role-play was more successful than Henry's attempts to install a sling...
Henry Mitchell's plan to "lose" Dennis in the downtown shopping district was thwarted by the meter maid. With an eyewitness placing him and Dennis both near the rail-way tracks at noon, there was no way he could claim that his son "wandered off" while his back was turned at the mall. His new life, free of a wife who hated him and the son that bound her to him, would have to wait for another day...
"I was young once. I had a future. I was going to be an Olympic show-jumper. I was going to travel the world, wear glamorous dresses, be wined and dined by the most handsome and sophisticated men in Europe, before settling down in America with a trophy husband fifteen years younger than me and get a job as a newscaster or fashion designer. "And then I met Henry Mitchell. "Goddammit, when is the insurance company going to approve that vasectomy for Henry..."
There are so many things worth mentioning here, but I can't stand the possibility of spoilers, so let's do it this way:
The re-union of Sarah-Jane and Davros is a brilliant touch.
Captain Jack meets his match in Donna, though his flirting with Sarah-Jane was a nice touch.
Rose is the most selfish, spoiled character I've ever seen, because even when she's given the one thing she (and all the shippers) want, her own private Doctor she doesn't have to share with anyone, she still manages to complain because he's "only" a clone.
The fate of Donna will break your heart. If it doesn't, I don't want to know you.
Back to the Beach is a strange entry in the "Beach Party" genre. It is not, strictly speaking, a continuation or sequel to the original Beach Party canon. Frankie Avalon and Annette Funicello are not playing the same Frankie and Dee-Dee characters we've seen in five previous films. No, this time out, they're playing a former teen idol/surfer and current used-car dealer and his wife, a former Mousketeer, named "The Big Kahuna" and Annette, who travel out to California with their teenage son to visit their college-age daughter. While there they sing songs with some popular personalities of the time, run into several 60s television sitcom actors, all set against some particularly garish 80s costuming. The intent is to spoof the Beach Party films, but this iteration lacks all the charm of the originals. It's as if the producers of those horrible "[ADJECTIVE] Movie" films that come out every year managed to get the cast of the film they're allegedly parodying to appear in the film. In fact, those garish 80s costumes are very appropriate, as the film exploitive nature and cynical pandering are a pretty good approximation of the 80s. There are really only two redeeming features to the film at all: Annette sings a cover of "Jamaica Ska" with Fishbone, and a spiritual successor to Eric Von Zipper manifests in the person of Zed, an 80s movie caricature of a surf punk. The role is played with the right dash of comedy and charsima by Joe Holland, in what was sadly his only film role.
Psycho Beach Party, 2000
A far better parody/tribute to the Beach Party films is Charles Busch's drag dramedy. It blends the surf antics of the original films with a giallo-esque approach to a thriller, black-gloved killer and all. The film is very knowing, with nods to psycho-analysis, women's lib, postmodern film theory and homoeroticism that would have been out of place in a period film, but are played straight here, without any faux-ironic winks to the audience. We as the audience are in on the joke, but the characters aren't. It's not a flawless film; it suffers quite a bit from "adaptation-itis" and it's roots as a stage production come through from time to time. It also helps, heavily, if you're already clued in to the genres being poked at and some of the nuances of drag comedy and contemporary camp. Plus, it has Matt Keeslar in it: