Saturday, April 13, 2013

96 - Dr. Enragelove (Or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Hate Glee)


I loved Glee. Its first season kicked ass, the novelty was bright and shiny, the characters were awesome and the plot was actually engaging. Then the second and third season happened, and it slowly went on a downward spiral for me. The gloss came off, the characters were wooden and the plots...weren't worth mentioning.

Then comes Season 4, with half the cast MIA and the other half split between staying at William McKinley High School or jetting off to New York to some post-school-Glee thingy. I dunno, the premise alone made me switch off. It didn't sound like a show that could survive for very long with such a ridiculous change in status quo.

While I've not been watching religiously since the middle of Season 3, I have kept relatively up to date on Wikipedia out of curiosity to see if it actually goes back to the glory days again (so far, no luck). I was intrigued by the description of a recent episode named Shooting Star that purported to be "harrowing" and one of the most dramatic hours in the history of American television. Spoilers were released prior to the episode's transmission, informing just what kind of harrowing issue the Glee club would be facing next. I won't go much further than that, but the spoilers were enough to make me want to watch this episode - not out of joy at the series finally returning to its sane roots without appealing to the lowest of the cultural demographics through cheesy songs and OC-levels of relationship drama, but because the premise for the episode alone was enough to make me filled with rage.

So for those who haven't seen it, don't worry because:

1. You're not missing anything.

2. You don't need your blood pressure raised, too.

3. I'll paint a portrait of the episode as vividly as I can for you, so you can draw your own conclusions. If you're still keen to see it after this, may God be with you.


For those of you not keen on Glee and its stupid plots, trust me when I say you'll want to keep reading.


So the episode starts with some chaff about who New Directions will be facing at Regionals. After some un-punny names of rival glee clubs, resident airhead Britney suddenly informs everyone that a meteor (named after her obese cat) is coming to kill them all in a few days. Glee club mentor Mr Schuester then sets the class the task of telling those they love how much they mean to them in these last days before Lima, Ohio becomes the set of Deep Impact 2: The Deepening.

To be honest, I know who most of the new characters are through Wikipedia trawls, but seeing them on screen for the first time I've gotta say they're really interchangeable (except for the hot brunette - not that she can act, though). So to start the week's assessment we have Ryder, a young Bieber-wannabe who's apparently been texting with a mystery girl named "Katie" for the past few episodes. He thinks he's found who she really is after being sent a picture of her (a blonde with no personality but who somehow watches the news occasionally) and after an embarrassing rendition of Elton John's "Your Song" he finds out it's not actually her. She says he's been Manti Te'o'd by somebody who's stolen her picture and is screwing with him. Heartbroken, Ryder accuses his friends of being the culprits behind the Te'o'ing, but they swear they're innocent.

While it may resemble the figurative tip of the iceberg for the grievances I have with this episode, I've gotta say that using Manti Te'o as a plot twist for the show seems incredibly poor (and also a couple months too late). If they're seriously saying there's a dude messing with Ryder while appropriating pictures from other women, is there seriously not another plot device they can use instead? I mean, hasn't the fake-man-as-a-woman-on-the-internet thing been done to death? Isn't that what all those creepy Swedes use for their eHarmony profiles?

Anyway, the next relationship that bears scrutiny here is between Sam and Britney, two blondes with roughly the same IQ and grooming regimens. Apparently Sam's with Britney but hasn't really told her how he feels, while she's more interested in connecting with her cat (insert lesbian pussy joke here). Believe me when I say this plotline doesn't actually go anywhere, so let's pay it no more mind.

What is important about Britney in particular is a discussion she has with Becky, the young cheerleader suffering from Down's Syndrome. Becky's worried that, with Britney's impending graduation, she'll have to go out into the big bad world with nobody to stick with her. She begs Britney to intentionally not graduate so they can stay at school together forever. Britney gently tells her they both need to graduate, and that she'll always be there for Becky. Remember this conversation, I'll come back to it later.

The last story before we get to the rancid, rotting meat of the episode is a little relationship drama between Mr Schuester and football coach Beiste, the latter of whom has decided she wants to upgrade their friendship status with a Lady and the Tramp-inspired spaghetti dinner (in the locker room, of all places. Who knew high school was such a romantic location?). Now while the rest of this episode is either boring or infuriating, the scenes between actors Matthew Morrison (Schue) and Dot-Marie Jones (Beiste) are actually decent. I've always liked their friend chemistry, and it's clear the actors are good friends outside of the show. So I won't lambast their performance or plotline here, though I will return to it with a vengeance at the end of this piece.

Then comes the "emotional heart" of the episode - after telling Beiste he doesn't feel the same way about her, Schuester brings her to a reconciliatory glee club rehearsal once it's discovered Britney's meteor is a dud. Just after Beiste gets into the room, gunshots ring out in the hallway.

That's right, ladies and gentlemen - this week's Glee is proudly brought to you by the most flagrantly disgusting of plot twists. A goddamn school shooting.

Schuester and Beiste lock the room down fast and get all the kids into hiding places that would seriously not work if a shooter came into the room, like leaning against a wall or hiding in a corner near some chairs without concealment. They barricade one of the two doors into the choir room with a piano (alright, I'll roll with that) and leave the other door merely locked (because clearly school shooters will be impeded by a few inches of flimsily-secured wood when gunning for teenagers). The kids all start getting the shit scared out of them, and we see that a couple of them weren't in the room when it got locked down - among them, Sam's paramour Britney, who's holed up in the bathroom.

One more point I'm reluctantly willing to give the writers on this one is that they avoided a potentially stupid plot development in amongst the dross they've already got; Sam decides to make a break for it to go save Britney (repeatedly), but is thankfully stopped by Schuester and Beiste and told to sit the hell down. For a moment I was worried we'd have a "Sam, don't be a hero" moment with a bloodied corpse at the end, but thankfully we got something far more vehemently infuriating. But we'll get there.

What follows is a roughly ten-minute chunk where the kids start phone-videoing goodbye messages to parents and loved ones, while SWAT bust in to give the all-clear. During this, Schuester gets into the bathroom to save Britney and two other random kids hidden in there, and not one minute after they get back inside the choir room we hear SWAT say the building's clear. So, crisis averted, right?

Sorry, allow me a moment to prepare for the final twist by imbibing this rather large scotch - and keep in mind, at time of writing, it's 11am. Yep, it's that bad.

It transpires that Sue Sylvester, cheerleading coach who has until now been absent in the episode, claims responsibility for the gunshots - she brought out her gun (distastefully nicknamed Uma Thurman, just to pour some salt in the wound) for a safety check, then accidentally fired it. Under school regulations the Principal has no choice but to fire her, so Sue packs her bags and ships out after a rather ham-handed rant regarding personal safety, slippage in mental health standards and Obama trying to get back people's guns. Bad enough, but we're not done yet.

Remember that conversation Britney and Becky had earlier? Well, it turns out that afterwards Becky - the poor, lonely, unlucky Down's Syndrome sufferer - decided she didn't feel safe having to go out into the world on her own, so she stole her father's gun and brought it to school. When she shows Sue the next day it accidentally goes off, setting off the chain of events making everyone believe there's a shooter in the school. So Sue's taken the fall for Becky, and gotten fired as a result.

And if that weren't enough to make you rend your clothes in fury, you know what happens afterwards? The students, more or less, go back to their normal routine. There's still a bit of discussion and tears about the incident, but the last ten minutes deal with Sam buying Britney a new cat and declaring he loves her, Ryder trying once more to find out who "Katie" is, and Schuester setting Beiste up with an online dating profile. Yup, Schuester is apparently so unfazed by the event that he sets up Beiste on a date like nothing at all happened. It seems they're all too willing to sweep this little hiccup under the rug, and get back to kicking ass at AutoTuning.

So, let me boil it down for you, ladies and gentlemen - the episode makes an absolute mockery of the horror of the Sandy Hook massacre in December 2012, people with Down's Syndrome are mentally unbalanced and apparently likely to bring guns to school, and at the end of the day the power of song and friendship is enough to make you forget you were in the middle of one of the most potentially-terrifying events a person can ever experience.

This...is disgusting. Truly and utterly disgusting. Let's put aside for a moment the "too soon" angles of argument in relation to the Sandy Hook parallels, and instead have a look at the concept behind this episode. A school shooting. A school shooting. In an otherwise comedic and angsty series, this is as awkward a tonal shift as you can achieve without sticking a torture scene from 24 into the middle of Sesame Street. While I've not experienced a school shooting myself, and my heart goes out to all the parents and relatives of those who've lost loved ones in those tragic events, I'm fairly certain that, even if you yourself don't get shot at, you don't go back to normal straight away. It leaves a mark, a scar, a permanent impact. Your school life, meant to be safe and no more dangerous than the odd toilet facial or stolen lunch money, has forever been marred by the knowledge that a gun, one of the most swift and  deadly killing implements known to man, has gone off in proximity to you. Your life has been directly threatened.

You don't come back from that five minutes later.

I feel like the show is subconsciously saying that it's relatively easy getting over a school shooting, and granted, nobody was actually physically injured, but given how distraught and terrified every character was during the scenes that took place just from the mere thought of being harmed, I would be very surprised if most, if not all, didn't seek counselling afterwards.

Furthermore, let's look at the Down's aspect - given how many school shooters have been given exposure as having mental deficiencies or imbalances, at least by media standards, the fact they used the one prominent character in this series with Down's Syndrome (who has been lovely, heartwarming and one of my favourite characters thus far) as the shooter makes me sick. People with Down's have enough of a hard time in society as it is without Glee coming in and basically saying "If you make them fearful enough, they'll protect themselves with guns!" I mean, come on. Seriously. In an age where gun laws and the rights to self-defence are being constantly called into question and gone over from both sides of the argument, Glee comes out with this stupid, fetid, ridiculous and offensive twist?

I feel such heartache for the parents and victims of the Sandy Hook massacre, and I feel doubly sorry for any of them who had the misfortune to watch this trashy, poorly written and utterly hateful piece of televisual garbage that makes a mockery this event. Glee has managed to take a horrific, gut-wrenching tragedy and turn it into this episode of absolutely feckless shit.

I'll see next week's episode in case there's any form of fallout from this one, but I doubt it. If the ending was any indication they're quite keen to just put this event aside and move on. I know nobody was injured in this story, but tell me, Glee - do you think the Sandy Hook parents just moved on? Do you think they moved on at Virginia Tech, or Columbine, or Chardon? Do you think they were able to just put it past them and go on with life?

A school shooting is not something to be taken lightly, not something to be mocked, not something to be abused for the sake of an ephemeral and pointless storyline, and not something you should be proud of for having in your series. The writers, the showrunners, and every online review who wants to go ahead and call this gripping, powerful or an emotional rollercoaster of an episode should be ashamed. This is not what television, artistic endeavour or humanity in general should aspire to create.

If this is what television thinks it needs to do to have an impact anymore, then God help us going forward.

Thursday, February 28, 2013

95 - Moving On


So it seems I've fallen victim to a lax update pattern once again. Though this time, promise, it was for a legitimate reason.

I recently moved into a new home with a couple of other dudes, and our facilities have been devoid of the graceful, sweeping entity of cultural evolution and time-wasting that is the internet. The best I've been able to utilise in the past few weeks involves using my iPhone to update Facebook, explore unlikely news stories about tertiary travel concessions and use the GoodReads app to give micro-reviews for some of the books and comics I've read in the interim (which is kind of like adjusting to life without cigarettes by smoking burning pieces of rolled up seaweed paper).

This has left me also unable to update my regular blog and my ongoing, soon-to-be-concluded-in-true-dramatic-fashion serial CRUD. It's also meant my plans for the fledgling Writer's Multiverse getting off the ground have undergone something of an unavoidable delay. This is not to say I've been sitting idle whilst my internet Rome burns around me and I languish in the Bastille; I've written a slew of new chapters for the serial story I'm debuting in the Multiverse (now at 33 and counting at time of writing), I've managed to get some actual reading done alongside the comic books I pretend to critique officially, and I've done some groundwork on a new novel-length story I've been working on since New Year's. So while I've stayed in the background, giving scant hints of update-nothing and remaining deaf to the muted cries of those of you screaming for my return (which, upon closer examination, doesn't actually include anyone from the human race in its number), I've been busy.

Despite what I've outlined in the paragraph above, I've actually spent most of the time in my pyjamas watching Community.

Now, while most of you who keep up with my ramblings (yep, all three of you) might possibly have missed my constant and unavoidable presence in your Facebook inboxes and front gardens, I do have a bit of sad news for you. Since the Multiverse project is nearing readiness for launch, and I'm going to be devoting a lot of my internet writing energy over there, that means Mind's Eye will be shutting down. It's confusing enough for some people as it is to have three different blogs all on the one website within one mouseclick from each other, and having to split my readers' attentions between Blogger and Wordpress is clearly asking for trouble. I mean, seriously, who wants to spend time dicking around my carefully laid-out and user-friendly blog sites when you've got Team Fortress 2 games that aren't going to play themselves?

There is still a little bit of my Eye left to explore for the next few weeks, so don't automatically start unfollowing me just yet. I'll be running nearly in tandem with the last few episodes of CRUD, so barring anymore internet shortages they should both end at around the same time. The Sunday comics reviews will also be stopping, but I'm hoarding a bunch of those for the rebooted version that'll be appearing in the Multiverse during launch week, so you won't be without my self-important criticisms for too long.

When the Multiverse does go live I will most likely be starting up another opinion blog like Mind's Eye, but given the limited time I'll have between site upkeep, story-writing and Uni work (which I actually have to stop pretending to do and actually do, since they're paying me this year to do it) it probably won't be a weekly occurrence. Besides, you lot will have that much of a fictional and factual smorgasbord to choose from, so you probably won't miss my rants that much.

So for now, I'd like to once again thank everyone who's sticking with me to the end, new and old fans, and I hope you'll all keep by me when the bittersweet end comes. Don't worry, I won't try to hold your hand. You probably don't want my psoriasis.

Friday, February 1, 2013

94 - Find Your Path

I still don't know what I want to do with my life.

Before I go further, consider for a moment the following facts: I'm about to move out of home, with a PhD at my university of choice in one hand and a scholarship in the other. I've had my heart set on being a lecturer for the past few years, hence why I've not stopped to take a fifty-two-week-long breath since Kindergarten. I love research (as dry as it may sound to most people) and I've been driven towards academia as a career as much as a serial killer is driven towards getting arrested.

But still, I'm not 100% sure what I want to do with my life.

This isn't to say I'm giving up on my dream of being Australia's first lecturer who deals primarily in the ways Batman relates to cultural philosophy (and if there's already someone out there doing that, I'll steal his job instead). I just feel like there's way too many variables to be able to conclusively state what I'm going to do with my life. I don't know what the hell's gonna happen tomorrow - who's to say I won't discover that academia will suck because, in secret, all Universities are run by the same shadowy cabal of evil Directors who dictate things like Australian Parliament and the American Film Industry? Or maybe I'll stumble upon a chance meeting with a deep-sea diver in a Sydney bar who claims Atlantis is underneath Bondi Beach, and that all its female inhabitants resemble Scarlett Johansson?

I don't know. And neither do you.

Too many people in my generation are content to let bad things happen, sit back and resign themselves to a life of misery and despair while they languish in jobs they aren't happy with. Others are too keen to call a breeze a wind by saying they're going to be secure for the rest of their lives (keeping in mind the people saying these things are in their early-to-mid-20s) and that the job they're in will see them through until their golden years, when they're stretched out in a reclining hoverchair with Star Wars: Episode XVII playing at their retirement cottage.

How the hell will you know one way or the other?

It sounds like an obvious thing, and I don't mean to come across as preachy, but seriously, how do you know that's what your life is going to be like? How can you declare that's all there's going to be for the rest of your life, if you haven't actually experienced it? This isn't like an episode of Grey's Anatomy, where you can skip to the end and instantly know, from the last few minutes, what the episode's story involved. You have to let life play out as it will, and not leap to any conclusions about where you're headed.

Unless you lose a limb, in which case feel free to lament and state that you'll one day swear revenge with your Terminator-esque prosthesis.

While this may sound rather blasé, for the last few years I've had a New Year's Resolution I try to stick to that's less of a "I will eat this many cheesecakes" or "I'll make my stomach flatter Paris Hilton's chest" kind of thing. It's just a few words, that stay with me for three hundred and sixty-five days (sixty-six last year) so that I know where I'm trying to get myself to by year's end.

2011 was "Grow a backbone". No, I was not born without a spinal column (which would've make sex rather difficult), I just aimed to not be easily overcome by fear in everyday life. Like when my mother asks me to make orders for her at the supermarket deli - that shit freaks the hell out of me.

2012 was "Make your voice be heard". Those who've spent enough time around me can attest that when I make my voice heard these days, tissues to stem the blood flow from the ears are required. This was more in an everyday, work/uni/life kind of thing.

2013 is simple - "Find your path". I'm adjusting to a lot of new stuff this year, like moving out of home for the first time and starting a Doctorate that promises to be every bit as challenging and difficult as everything I've done thus far combined. While I'm incredibly excited for all of it, it's more than a bit daunting. It's all new, and big, and I'll adapt.

The only way I'll be able to adapt, though, is by letting it all come and not overthinking it. I'm not going to snap decisions like "This Doctorate will be a piece of cake", or "I'm gonna murder my new housemates five weeks after living with me, when they discover I secretly sniff paint and name myself the Grand King of Swindon while in a drug-fueled trance". I'm not declaring that everything will get easier or harder from here on, I'm not consigning myself to a locked-in life depending on what happens next, and I'm not about to say with complete and unbreakable certainty that I know where I'm headed in a few years time.

Because I don't know. I could be a whale dentist this time next year. And if I don't know what I'll be doing, or how life will be like, in twelve months' time, how the hell will you know?

To those who are feeling a bit lost this year, who are unsure of where the future's taking them, who feel trapped in jobs or positions or situations they really don't want to be in, who've already thrown in a towel or two and proclaimed their life to be misery from now until the grave, who've loudly vocalised that they'll never find the happiness they've been craving before now - find your path. It's all still out there for you, and if you've already decided you'll be unhappy for years to come, then it'll be a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Take life as it comes. Don't spend it all yearning or fearing or fretting. Just be.


Now if you'll excuse me, I need to go find a news article to get inarticulate and enraged over for next week.

Friday, January 25, 2013

93 - The Third Option



In one corner - DC Comics, the embattled merchandise-driven monster behind such characters as Batman, Superman and the Green Lantern named Ch'p, who resembles an overgrown hamster. Their recent reboot notwithstanding, DC has been the engine behind numerous great and memorable characters and stories that have left a permanent imprint on both comic readers in general and the world at large, despite the fact they've recently gone off the reservation a bit.

In the other corner - Marvel Comics, titanic champions of the comic book film business and the creative thinkers giving us heroes like The Avengers and Deadpool, working tirelessly to continue besting themselves after their stellar motion picture revenue over the last five years. Some might even call Marvel the original comic book company, with the plethora of heroes developed by founding fathers Stan Lee and Jack Kirby.

You would think, given how gigantic they are in contemporary popular culture, that they're your only two options when it comes to comic books. Most plebs would believe they can only read Batman or Captain America if they want to get in on the comics game, and the stigmatic two-dimensional representation most of the well-known superheroes exhibit in the public consciousness (lookin' at you, Superman) is enough to turn people off before trying. I myself would've once believed these were the only two companies worth following, producing work that might shift in quality but is nonetheless popular and awesome.

Then again, I once believed babies were birthed from the rear.

I'm here to let the unclued among us in on a third company that, in my mind, rivals the DC and Marvel juggernauts. I'm here to tell you about Image Comics.

I'm willing to bet quite a few readers already know about Image and their creator-driven works, if not least of all as the company responsible for zombie epic The Walking Dead. These days Image increasingly feels to me in relation to DC and Marvel the way cable channels like AMC and HBO feel in relation to mainstream American television (read: crap). Yeah, there are usually glimmers of excellence amongst otherwise unremarkable or samey garbage in the Big Two's comic lines, but you're more likely to find consistently good material by going to the specialist distributor who really knows what they're doing.

Image is the best place for creator-owned content that can be as crazy, sexy, sweary or bloody as the writers want. While that description makes it sound like a Michael-Bay-meets-Eli-Roth kind of deal, it's far deeper than that. Image is, I'd wager, the comic book company all you non-superhero fans should be checking out. Because there is, quite literally, something for everybody.

I did a review of some of their best work I read over the summer, and that really is just the tip of the iceberg. Image is loaded not only with innovative ideas, refreshing changes to existing genres, more adult takes on stories than some of the Big Two and enough gore to satisfy the most feral hematomaniac. Backing up the stories are writers who really know what they're doing, including some rather big-name talent from the DC and Marvel stables. Remember that dude who wrote the recent awesome Captain America run, Ed Brubaker? Writes Fatale, a combination of Lovecraft and crime noir. Jonathan Hickman, former Fantastic Four innovator and recent inheritor of the Avengers writing post? Has this kickass series called Manhattan Projects, which is like World War II blended with Torchwood. And Brian K. Vaughan, former LOST scribe and the mind behind Vertigo's acclaimed Y: The Last Man, has my new favourite space-story-meets-fantasy-epic Saga.

And those are just the ones I've recently checked out. Looking at Image's solicits we've also got stories like Invincible (acting as a deconstructive and yet still recognisable look at the superhero genre), Chew (a rather quirky twist on detective stories that combines the wit of Pushing Daisies with the artwork of Invader Zim), Elephantmen (which has...elephants, that, er, look like men) and Revival (an undead story without actual zombies). Their releases may be few and far between compared to the methodical monthly process of DC or the fortnightly rush of Marvel's current premier titles, but so far they've been worth the wait. They're creative. They're funny. They're sad. They're violent. But most of all they feel like something born not out of a desire for another lobby fountain made of bank notes, but rather out of a real desire on the part of their creators to craft a story worth telling.

The recent releases of big budget motion picture adaptations, which has inexorably redrawn the attention of mainstream culture to the once-segregated comic book fandom, has galvanized both of the Big Two into making their books more accessible to newer, casual readers (hence their respective relaunches). This had meant somewhat of a dilution across several notable properties, and it's really taken the life out of some of the stories. DC in particular is guilty of this - sure, we might have excellence like Scott Snyder's Batman run, but compared to the other half-dozen poorly written Bat-titles out there (especially those with Tony Daniel on board) it's just a drop of water in an ocean of money-melting hydrochloric acid. The books from both Marvel and DC are fast becoming entirely product-driven, rather than a split between giving intelligent readers what they love and adore while still making a dent in their merchandising market share.

Image is the complete opposite. Granted, I may not know enough about them to make a declaration like that, but literally every single title of theirs I've read has been good. Some of them are excellent. Saga, in particular, is so good I'm seriously considering buying the monthly issues (something I try to avoid doing wherever possible, since money don't grow on trees anymore). In fact, looking over my small yet still modest collection of Image titles, I don't think there's a single one there that I haven't really liked.

Also, by the sound of it, the company treats their writing and art talent comparatively favourably to other publishers, especially when analysed against DC's employee treatment. Mind you, battery hens probably have better treatment than DC writers at the moment.

I'm willing to bet most casual readers won't pick up an Image book because the majority that they're exposed to are the ones with spandex-clad vigilantes, and you won't find much like that (besides the aforementioned Invincible and a couple of other options) at Image. And you might well argue that most of these stories could work better as actual wordy novels rather than graphic literature of people doing stuff that could be recreated just as well in your mind's eye. After all, something like Fatale could potentially be described just as grotesquely with eloquent terminology rather than with blood-soaked imagery, right? You might also think (as I once stubbornly did) that there is no point shelling out cash for stories that don't have more luminescent colours and outlandish costumes than a Mardi Gras float.

You might also look at me as a bit of a kibitzer (look it up) since I keep insisting what people should be reading in the world of graphic literaria. But the thing is, you really should. Not to sound like a comic book Lenin, but people would do well to check out Image's works. I'm not saying you should discount superheroes wholesale (and indeed, there are about five recent superhero books waiting to be reviewed on my nightstand at time of writing) and they will forever hold a place in my heart, but Image is the real center of comic book innovation right now. Sure, other places like Dark Horse, IDW, Vertigo and BOOM have got their thing goin' on right now, but most (if not all) of their works fall within certain strictures in terms of dealing with expanded universes (Dark Horse), media tie-ins (IDW), supernaturality (Vertigo) and...whatever it is that BOOM does well.

Image, to my mind, isn't nearly as choked by obligation as the other comic companies right now. I mean, if they can publish a story about a quirky detective who solves crimes by eating people, or a collection of scientists beating Nazis with alien weaponry, what can't they publish?

Saturday, January 19, 2013

92 - K-K-Kombo Breaker!

Heya guys, just a quick post to let everyone know we've now hit 3000 total page views!

WHOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!

As with our last milestone, I'd like to thank everybody for contribootin' and checking out the site every week. I couldn't have come this far without all of you (except you, Greg. Yeah, you know who you are) and I hope to continue providing you with quality (read: rambley) work for the foreseeable future.

When the Multiverse starts next month, I think I may still post here from time to time - 3000 ain't a number to sniff at, even if it is the number of men Kim Kardashian's married this month - but for now, thanks again to everybody who reads, and I hope you keep checking it out every week!

No, seriously, please check it out. The pageviews are my reason to live. I need my pageviews.


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Tuesday, January 15, 2013

91 - Dear DC, RE: My Broken Heart

To whom it may concern in the bloated, monstrous tower of money DC Comics has become,


I used to pick you over Marvel. Did you know that? Before I got common sense and realised liking certain comics was not like backing a winning football team, I exclusively read your publications. For no better reason than jumping on a ridiculous bandwagon, I was on your team in the utterly pointless "Marvel or DC?" debate. The fact that you owned Batman, my favourite superhero and a symbol of personal significance to me, just made it automatic. My friends from back then will tell you I avoided Marvel's work like each volume was laden with smallpox and written by the staff of Grey's Anatomy.

Then, I started reading both. Books like Captain America and Grant Morrison's X-Men got me intrigued in Marvel's multiple bodies of work, and over time I struck an equilibrium between reading from both publishers. But still, even as my comfort zone evolved and I tried new and exciting stories laid out by the future inheritors of the comic book film kingdom, I stayed loyal to DC. I still ranked Batman as miles above his competitors, through thick and thin, through long and short, through good writers and creatively-devoid scribblers. I trusted you guys with Bats, knew you'd continue to write him (mostly) to the high standard I'd come to expect after years of eagerly anticipating each new volume.

Now, that trust has been trampled.

When your relaunch occurred, I was sceptical. You were going to effectively reboot (but, in the end, not really) every single one of your franchises, bring them almost back to square one in an effort to try and dominate the increasingly Marvel-slanted field in the wake of their successful cinematic universe. You attempted to pander to new readers by making it all accessible, despite the fact you were flip-floppy about what was still canon and what was now nothing but expensive bookshelf padding. In the end, I got suckered in by many of the relaunched titles - most notably Superman, with whom I've had an aversion exceeding my previous disdain for Marvel - and thought they were, on the whole, ok. Not great, but ok.

I see now how wrong I was.

I thought you guys had the best company, even when I started getting into Marvel. I had the pleasure of meeting Geoff Johns (Green Lantern's contemporary architect, and a god among writers) at Comic-Con 2010, and my positive experience with him, coupled with the camaraderie between DC writers and artists that I saw on con panels and in news reports afterwards, made me think you guys had the best job in the world. You didn't seem like a company so much as a community, a great place where intellectual and creative writers with talent exceeding some of the best literary novelists out there could congregate and really shape something stellar.

Obviously, all that gloss was just shallow coating by PR teams.

You not only grabbed me with your superhero titles; in later years I would discover your Vertigo imprint, catering to a wide variety of comedic, supernatural and off-kilter works that were no less welcome on my shelf beside Batman and The Flash. I was transported into the heart of literary history juxtaposed with urban fantasy in The Unwritten. I rediscovered the better qualities of the blood-sucking genre in American Vampire. And let's not forget The Sandman, quite possibly my favourite comic book story in the history of graphic literature. All of it drew me in like a warm and inviting fire, full of life and spark.

I'm now waiting for you to douse that fire with a water tanker.

DC Comics, you've lost your way. I've stuck through your ridiculously assonance-contrived reboot title "The New 52", I've explored works I wouldn't normally have touched with a branding iron had they been in the old continuity, and I've enjoyed a few of them. I put up with your lackluster works, I stuck through your delay of Grant Morrison's Batman continuation almost a year after the previous issue, and I even muddled through your hollow reinterpretation of Aquaman just to see if there was something good in it. At the time I thought "No harm, no foul...everyone writes bad stories sometimes, just means they need to try a new direction".

It seems "new direction" is code in your language for "MONEY".

Enough is enough. I'm sick of you, I'm sick of most of your stories, and I am utterly appalled at the atrocious reputation you're earning yourselves in the comic book world. First there was the reboot itself, hyped to high heaven and delivering on very little of what it touted to possess in terms of creative innovation and fresh approaches, with inanely staggered graphic novel releases in its wake leaving die-hard Batman fans like me waiting almost an entire year for the next Snyder volume. Then you had the utter gall to slap Before on the start of Watchmen and make a franchise of prequels that are wholly and irrevocably ridiculous, pointless and a waste of money, time and creative effort, doing nothing meaningful besides tarnishing and polluting the happy memories of the original magnum opus. Were you really so creatively bankrupt that you felt exhuming Watchmen from its peaceful sleep was the only option?

Following that was this interview nearly a year later, where your VPs of Sales and Marketing (who, incidentally, cannot directly answer a question to save their lives, in a way that'd make Mitt Romney look honest) not only chastised fan reaction to elements of the reboot but also avoided conclusively commenting about (and, possibly, obliquely hinting at) further ruining already-established franchises - most egregiously Sandman - by folding them into the main DC continuity and tearing them to shreds with new ongoing series', probably utilising talent on par with the usual imagination-deficient penny pinchers you've got working for you at the moment.

I was already angry at your narratives, your marketing team and your creative practices at that point, but then this happened. Now, while I'm not personally a fan of Gail Simone's work (and I did rate her first Batgirl volume as my third-worst comic of 2012), I am a huge fan of fair work practices. I'm not about to take up the anti-feminist argument that others have made in regards to why Simone was unfairly axed, but I will say that cutting off one of your most prominent writers - who, if I understand correctly, has a not-inconsiderably-sized fanbase - through such a laissez faire method as sending an email is completely and inexcusably unprofessional. You may have only lost the dominant market share of comic books for 2012 to Marvel by a hair's-breadth, and are still a titanic money-machine within the industry, but you're also feckless, cowardly, creatively bankrupt, incorrigible and more merchandise-driven than ever before. Roughly 80% of your current titles are either immensely uninspired or just entirely regurgitated from older plotlines that are so well-worn you can see the crease marks, and the few exemplary titles and creative teams within your stable of accomplished creativity are but sparkling emeralds within the cart of coal you're currently selling from.

Here's an idea, DC - take the best writers you've still got contracts with (namely Scott Snyder, Geoff Johns, Jeff Lemire, Grant Morrison, Peter Tomasi and Kyle Higgins), pinch the greatest artists still under obligation to work for you, and split their collaborative efforts into a separate continuity under a different DC imprint. You can title it "DCE - Detective Comics Entertainment", since that's what it will actually contain. Then, all your other bland scribes can use their glossy, full-coloured, overpriced toilet paper to form "DCPTB - Detective Comics: Pays The Bills". It'll be what you can use to sucker in casual readers for a quick buck, while the actual talent spends time making comics worth reading.

Despite my vitriolic outburst at what I perceive you've become, I'll still buy some of your books. As I said, you still possess genuine talent and some truly innovative and engrossing stories, and as long as that continues to be the case I'll keep exploring your legitimately excellent titles. But you've backed yourself into a corner, and I know I'm not the only person perceiving your recent activities as foolish, derivative and despicable. Pick up your game, or you risk losing the people you should really be pandering to - dedicated, long-term fans like myself, who love your characters and your stories with a passion exceeding countless other media endeavours. Remember, your newcomers aren't the only people picking up your books.

And to return to my first paragraph, Batman may still be my favourite superhero from either of the Big Two companies, and Snyder may be doing some actually entertaining stories with him, but the fact that I ranked one of Batman's books as the worst graphic literature of 2012, while most of the rest of his bloated range wallowed in either mediocrity or similarly distasteful status, just puts one more nail into the coffin for me. You may have a product that earns money and is popular with the current market, but just remember where that popularity came from.

Sincerely,

Christopher Comerford

Friday, December 21, 2012

90 - The Mind's Eye 2012 Awards Ceremony

WELCOME TO THE MIND'S EYE AWARDS FOR 2012

This ceremony, intended to replace 2011's Best and Worst thing, is a look at some stuff I thought was great and stuff I thought might've given me a brain tumor. I dunno. Could end up I just mention shit I'm into, but we'll see.

This will be something similar to how this gentleman used to do his yearly roundup. Basically, every category has a (un)funny award name, and every award is given to something - good or bad - that I think deserves it.

Those looking for my thoughts on graphic novels should wait a couple days, then go check that other blog I run.

So chuck on a tuxedo, grab some mail-order champagne, and enjoy it like it's the Emmys in your bedroom!


The Future Bargain Bin Award for WORST NOVEL


This should come as no surprise to anyone who's either a regular reader or a right-thinking member of the human race, but this year's Worst Novel award goes to none other than that atrocity of a hack-rag Fifty Shades Freed, the utterly fail-filled conclusion to the Fifty Shades of Grey trilogy. Now, some may argue my choice for award is invalidated given that I only read the first book, and even that was no picnic, but since the original work was published in 2011 I'm giving the award by proxy, since I'm pretty sure the third book will suck just as hard, if not harder, than the first one. And yes, I only now just realised how utterly awful that analogy was to use in this context.

It's nothing you haven't heard about in the news before - unrealistic sex scenes, hideous portrayals of BDSM relationships, and the odd melodramatic pregnancy shock - whoops, sorry, SPOILER ALERT. More sickening, offensive and painful than roast Gillard garnished with burnt Abbott ass.


The Virgin Televisual Birth Award for BEST NEW TELEVISION SERIES


The weirdest-named award this year acknowledges original, innovative ideas in television and rewards them accordingly. While we were beset by a variety of new idiot-box-screens this year, including offerings like GCB and Arrow, in my mind there's only one winner who can take out the award for Best New Series. This is a story I've loved from the first episode, followed religiously, and highly anticipate its return in a year's time. Goddammit.

That's right, it's Aaron Sorkin's latest politics-fest The Newsroom. Despite being a little anvilicious at times and with a few characters and actors who can grate a little (lookin' at you, Alison Pill), it's nonetheless a romantic, sweet, funny, nuance-written narrative that had me hooked from the word go. Even if you've not enjoyed Sorkin's previous works like Sports Night and The West Wing (and really, if you don't, you're clearly a Jersey Shore fan) it's still definitely worth a look - and, it just might make you think twice, particular if you're American, about certain social elements you may have taken for granted.


The Flogged-And-Flensed Horse Award for TELEVISION SHOW MOST DESERVING OF IMMEDIATE CANCELLATION


I'd be willing to bet at least half my readers haven't actually watched the recent output for this award's recipient, despite its original popularity and raging success in the States and abroad. God knows the only reason I'd ever consider watching any more of it is so I've got more ammo for attacking it later it.

The winner is former musical prodigy Glee. Not content with having a second and third season that floundered, meandered and pandered to the fanbase to the point of sacrificing narrative coherency and the singing novelty that meshed showtunes with pop music in Season 1, the show had to keep little-engine-that-could'ing along into a fourth season that split the cast in half, bumped most of the interesting characters off and introduced more sap and melodrama than a Eucalyptus tree starring on Neighbours. Ryan Murphy and co., if you're content with keeping up the cred you're gaining from things like American Horror Story, which is a legitimately badass show, then cancel the hell out of Glee. Seriously, Rebecca Black's starting to look like a better alternative than you.


The Relentlessly-Awesome Warfighter Dude Award for BEST VETERAN TELEVISION SERIES


While Glee was off sucking on the TV battlefields this year, other long-runners made their presence known in style. Breaking Bad kicked seven shades of piss out of the competition and created huge anticipation during its year-long break between season halves, while How I Met Your Mother, starting on shaky ground, began to retake lost territory in its slog towards the inevitable goal of uncovering the titular mother's identity - and, incidentally, provided me with an interesting social theory through the "lobster" principle. Watch to find out.

This year, there was only one clear winner for me - the head-smacking, limb-cutting splatterfest of The Walking Dead. After a second season that most found to be a bit ploddy and padded at times, the third season starts off in style with a multitude of characters knockin' zombies around to get inside a prison, with all the blood and guts porn the comic book is known for. While the season-half ended on a rather annoying cliffhanger, the acting was nonetheless top notch, the new characters intriguing and the plotlines carrying the same gradual-yet-involving development that the first season epitomized. Damn good stuff, and a great setup for next February's continuation. Plus, David Morrissey's American accent is disturbingly sexy.


The Willy Wonka Golden Disc Award for BEST VIDEO GAME


This was actually a really tough decision - up until a few weeks ago the winner had been clear to me, and I was positively convinced that nothing could usurp it, no matter what. How hopelessly narrow-minded I can be sometimes.

The original statesman slated for this award was none other than the incomplete RPG gun-show that was Mass Effect 3, which, while a bit rough around the edges, was nonetheless a rollicking, emotional, and (mostly) satisfying conclusion to the series I'd grown to love. It was otherwise pipped at the post, though, by a late but by-no-means-unsatisfying contender, who ended up taking the gold - reborn tactical management simulator XCOM: Enemy Unknown. Sure, the difficulty might be right up there with headbutting a crocodile, but it's still a bloody enjoyable game and, as Yahtzee Croshaw was keen to point out, a reminder to the games industry that "not everything has to be a bloody shooter" when adapting old properties.


The Cave-Dwelling Sociopath Award for MOST SEQUEL IMPROVEMENT NEEDED


Predictable choice to some, surprising to others, but nonetheless needs saying - Halo 4, you need to step up your game when your next installment is out. If the rumours about Halo 5 being the next Xbox's launch title are true, you've got a lot of work to do.

Granted, the gameplay is standard Halo fare, exactly what I've come to expect - shooting, reloading and hiding behind rocks. My two biggest complaints stem from the difficulty (or, more specifically, that there isn't any - I swear Legendary is more like Heroic this time around, Reach was waaaay harder) and the overreliance on multiplayer (if that's the only draw-card you can think of for future DLCs, you might as well rename yourselves Call of Duty: Intergalactic Warfare). This might be just scratching the surface for some of the more rabid, upset Bungie purists who would crucify the game were it a long-haired Jewish man, who have more problems with the story than Lindsay Lohan has with traffic lights, but those for me were the two big problem areas. Iron those kinks out, and Halo 5 might still be worth a damn.


The e-Pirate Aural Swag Award for BEST MUSIC ALBUM


Between Muse, Metric and The Killers - by far some of my favourite commercial bands - it seemed the industry had the music remit well covered this year. Granted, we're still hearing trite, poppy shit on the radio like Rihanna and Chris Brown (incidentally, when d'you reckon they'll beat each other up again? More accurately, do we care?) but it's nice to know the flowers of rock and un-AutoTuned singers still bloom in the fetid compost heap that is mainstream music.

This year, though, the award goes somewhere a little different. Some of you may have heard of me banging on about this year's winner a few times, and it'd be remiss of me to be limited to official, merchandised material in this category like I am in every other one. This year's Best Music Album goes to Miracle of Sound's Level 2, an outstanding effort of internet culture, mellifluous singing and hard rock fusing into a melodious combination of awesome. As internet musicians go, Miracle of Sound stands at the top of the pyramid - if only because he hates Claptrap from Borderlands.


The Bleeding-Ear Award for WORST MUSIC ALBUM


My choice may be invalidated by the fact that I tried to veer as far away from it as the Titanic's drunk navigator should've done with that iceberg, but really, if you hear one Rihanna album you've heard them all. This year's piece of aural fecal matter Unapologetic is just another stamping-out from the same mainstream pop cookie-cutter that gives us nothing new (or at least, nothing new that's worth singing about). The music industry should take this album as a tacit sign that they badly need to drop the whole "popular music" thing and stick to indy internet releases and alternative rock bands that don't whore themselves too much for money. I realise that'd be nearly 90% of the music I like would end were this the case, but this blog has never been big on logic.


The Cinema Seat Erection Award for BEST MOVIE


What? Are you seriously asking me that? Like, for real? Come on. My choice should be obvious to everybody. Between The Avengers, The Dark Knight Rises and Skyfall, you're seriously telling me you can't work out what my movie of the year was? For shame.


The Cinema Seat Erectile Dysfunction Award for WORST MOVIE


This is actually a tough one. For ages it seemed like the easy option would be to name the anticlimactic finale that was Twilight: Breaking Dawn Part 2, for its horrible lack of proper characterisation, coherent plot or satisfying ending, but really, who here would be surprised if I did that? No, way too easy. Besides, if me hating on Twilight was a horse it'd be so flogged it'd resemble a badly battered Christmas pork.

No, this year's worst filmic experience belongs to a veteran director, an outstanding cast, and a laughably awful script and execution - Ridley Scott's alien adventure Prometheus. The more I think about it, the more I realise how utterly stupid the whole film is. All the plot lines don't go anywhere, the excellent cast get given mostly irrelevant roles, what few important roles there actually are more often than not follow narrative threads that have next to no payoff, and there is about as much final explanation given to any of the film's big driving questions as there was to the LOST finale (which makes sense, since Damon Lindelof - one of LOST's biggest writers - was involved in the script). Prometheus could've meshed together all the very best elements of the Alien franchise into an experience that was visually rewarding and narratively satisfying, but in the end all we get are more bloody questions.


I think that covers almost everything. Assuming y'all are reading this instead of worshipping alien gods or flying on down to hell in the wake of today's big end-of-the-world thing, I hope you've all had a marvelous year for yourselves and look forward to a bright and beautiful 2013. Thanks to everybody who jumps over to my blogs each week, and I hope you'll be sticking around for all the awesome stuff (like a certain Multiverse project) that's happening next year.

Drink well, laugh lots, and both a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to everyone!