Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Top Eleven: Bottom Eleven Of 2013

Is there really any better way to address the changing of a year than to completely fixate on everything that happened in the previous year?  Who cares what might come up in the following 31,536,000 seconds when we can stare back nostalgically like someone unaware of an oncoming bus heading towards them.

But hey, how are we going to manage to make the future better if we don't remember our regrets from the previous year?  It's why I'm doing my Top Eleven Bottom Eleven Of 2013, the things I covered in this blog that frustrated me, drove me nuts, or just infuriated me with either how hard it was to write about, how painful it was to watch, or just something that I really didn't want to do.

I hope my suffering was worth it.

But first, of course, we're going to cheat a little.

Monday, December 30, 2013

Let's Talk: Goodbyes

I know, I know, everybody is getting really antsy about when the next Mighty Max episode is going to be reviewed.  Everybody wants to know when they're going to deal with the underwater zombie threat.  Well, it is coming, but first there's something I wanted to address.

Before anybody asks, this isn't my saying "goodbye" to the blog or to anything like that.  Tomorrow (Tuesday) is my last day at my current job after five years of working there, and it's made me look back at how I've handled leaving jobs, leaving friends behind, and how, when it boils down to it, I've been a pretty terrible friend in the past.


Friday, December 27, 2013

Erik's Favorite Things: Shotgun Shuffle

I think I've established that I like webcomics.  With the newspaper comics page being as much a source of innovation as a dead cow stuffed in a car trunk, it takes creative individuals with unorthodox stories to really shake things up.

Well, that is unless you count the recent week where they had Doonesbury talk about rape in the military right next to Zits and Prince Valiant.

What I'm saying is that newspaper comics need help.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Erik Eats Cereal: Cocoa Puffs

The last time I wrote this article, I got to experience eating "Froot Loops" cereal for the first time.  Besides offending me on every possible level by their attempts to make "froot" a word that isn't supposed to make me think of something growing between a person's toes, it had an interesting touch of citrus buried under way too much sugar.

Now we're on to what I think must be the children's cereal opposite of "Froot Loops" in that it's balls, not rings, chocolate, not fruit, and grain is the first ingredient as opposed to sugar.  Plus, this bird mascot is much more insane than the calm, reasonable Toucan Sam.

It's Cocoa Puffs!

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Monday, December 23, 2013

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Erik Eats Cereal: Froot Loops

So apparently my having had limited exposure to bits of grain dipped in prodigious amounts of sugar is, as I believe the phrase was used, "a travesty."

As such, one of my early Christmas presents this year was a bag full of individual portions of a variety of cereals for me to try, consider, and eventually review.  I decided to try the first one today, and have since come to the conclusion that science has truly been able to create colors and flavors that one would never find in nature.

Let's begin with what I hope is the most colorful (otherwise I'd be struck blind) of the cereals, Kellogg's Froot Loops.


Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Ask Erik: Episode Forty-Five

I'm skipping the boiler plate opening with the three random questions because I'm out of ideas for questions the question this week almost brought on another Let's Talk article.  It's one that I think about often, especially now around the holidays.

To Erik: What makes you happy?

...this is going to get deep.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Review: Saints Row 4

I honestly can't imagine how they're going to do another sequel in the Saints Row series.  They've managed each time to keep stepping up the level of the threat the Saints crew faces, and while I wouldn't mind another game where you just try to take over a city and come up with some new ways of doing things, it's a bit hard to come back from the story set-up of this game.

But I'm getting ahead of myself.

This is my review of Saints Row 4.



Monday, December 16, 2013

The "M" Stands For Mighty Part Ten

There are a lot of cartoons that have been forgotten from the past twenty or so years.  Few people remember Attack of the Killer Tomatoes had a cartoon series.  As did Toxic Crusaders, Kid n' Play, Mother Goose & Grimm, and Fievel's American Tails.

Most of them deserve it.  Some not so much.  I mean, how did Yo, Yogi! ever miss out on a complete DVD run?


Has there ever been anything more 90s than THAT?

But, sadly, one that has been pretty much lost to the dustbin of time is Mighty Max, which is a shame because it's one of my favorite shows from that decade, which is why I'm up to the tenth episode in my weekly review period.

Oh, and in the spirit of December, we have zombies!


You know, back before they were cool.


Friday, December 13, 2013

Erik Overthinks Christmas Carols: Special Edition!

Since the start of December, I've been taking a moment each evening to examine a popular Christmas carol and overthink/nitpick the daylights out of it.

Anybody who's paying attention knows that yesterday I didn't.

That's because tonight, I'm focusing entirely on one of my least favorite carols of all time.

It drives me nuts on every level.  Characterization, grammar, consistency, tone...every time I hear it, I just want to invent a time machine, go back to when it was first penned down, and shake the author going "WHAT ARE YOU DOING?"

Let's break this song down verse by verse, shall we?  This is Winter Wonderland.


Thursday, December 12, 2013

Let's Talk: Race and Riverdale

Every now and again, I see people refer to comics as "out of date."  Flipping through pages of a rich guy dressed like a flying rodent beating up poor people with mental problems apparently doesn't hold up as much now as it did back in the day, in their opinion.  They treat all comics as "silly stories," with nothing to draw people to them other than "POW BIFF WHAM!" and people in spandex with ridiculous body shapes.

This isn't exactly true.  You have stories such as Pedro & Me, where Judd Winick recounts his experience on The Real World with a roommate who was HIV positive.  You have Persepolis, a true story of a young woman's life growing up in Iran during and after the Islamic revolution.  There are plenty of comics that keep their finger on the pulse of the world and present it through words and imagery.

And then you have Archie comics.  For the most part, Archie and his crew have remained the same for years, just with updates in technology, slang, and occasionally an obscure or out of date look at what's going on in the world.

They'd try to touch on current "hot topics" such as giving Archie an "emo" look in one issue, or having Veronica travel the world to learn about new cultures (though I'll point out that Veronica didn't get her own book until the late 80s), but these were mixed in with issues of things like "Oh, yeah, it turns out Jughead's hat actually allows him to travel through time and he has a girlfriend in the 29th century which is why he doesn't care about any of the women in Riverdale.  Oh yeah, and he's a time cop."



We're going to save the discussion about the fact that his canon-established girlfriend is a descendant of Archie for another time (way too much subtext there) and move on.

My point is that the late 80s and early 90s were weird.

Wait, no, that's not my point.  My point is that for the longest time things didn't really change dramatically in Archie comics.  Especially not when it came to race.  You had characters who weren't white, but they tended to have a boyfriend or a girlfriend of their own race to become the "token ethnic couple."  Chuck Clayton has Nancy Woods, for example.

However, in the past few years, Archie Comics have really started to shake things up.  They introduced their first gay character, Kevin Keller, and let him get married to another man.  Oh, and after his husband was shot (seriously) he ran for office and became Senator Kevin Keller and tackled gun control.  Cheryl Blossom had to deal with the risk of breast cancer.  Miss Grundy, the long-suffering teacher of Archie and his friends, actually died of cancer.  Another storyline that's coming out now involves Archie Andrews and the zombie apocalypse.  No, seriously.

With a unique art style that doesn't match anything that's happened before, the living dead are unleashed upon Riverdale when Jughead's dog Hot Dog gets hit by a car (!) and dies (!!).

That's Sabrina the teenage witch, who uses her magic to bring Hot Dog back to life...but anyone who's seen Pet Sematary knows that it's never a good idea to do that, and soon Hot Dog bites Jughead, turning him into a zombie, and then Zombie Jughead gets unleashed upon the Riverdale High School Halloween Dance.

It's pretty awesome, and it's only two issues in.

But I'm also not here to talk about that, I'm here to talk about race, something that Archie has been dragging its feet over for a long, long time.  In 1992, Archie Comics decided to do a total revamp of the book Betty And Me to make it focus more on Betty.  It was decided she'd get a job as a reporter, have an insufferable boss, and (*gasp*) have a new friend who she'd feel romantically drawn to who also happened to be a co-worker (a college freshman who was working as a cameraman).  It was to give Betty the same romantic triangle business that fueled Archie for years. His name would be Dexter Howard.

Oh, and he'd be black.

I wasn't there, so I'm just going to quote Dwayne McDuffie here.  Remember, the name of the higher-up has been changed to Dr. Doom.

Darryl called Matt with the bad news.  Dr. Doom had literally thrown the issue at him.  He hated the stuff, wanting to know why Dexter was so much more accomplished than Archie.  "What is he, super-Negro?"

Dwayne goes on to point out that he isn't sure that's what was actually said.  He thinks his co-workers were trying to soften the blow by not repeating what was actually said.

Again, this was 1992.

Dexter was recolored to be white (not fooling anybody) and the writer was canned after two issues.

This isn't the last time something like that happened.  In 2008 (Two Thousand And Eight) a storyline was introduced where Cheryl Blossom dated a series of new male characters in a contest and readers could vote on who would become her new steady boyfriend.  One of them was Brandon, who in solicitations was clearly a black character.  However, in the book itself?


Um, his skin wasn't that light before...

Oh dear.

So where does that leave us?

Well, in 2010, Archie Comics broke a milestone:


That's Valerie from Josie and the Pussycats, a long-established character in Archie history.  And she's kissing Archie.  I haven't seen every Archie comics cover, but last I checked Archie had never kissed a black girl on the cover of a comic book.

Again, this is 2010.

It seems Archie comics were in a real hurry to make up for lost time, because not long after Archie's relationship with Valerie started they wound up publishing a "what if Archie married Valerie" that involved them having kids and growing old together, facing adult problems.  This was much in the vein of the previously done "what if Archie married Betty" and "what if Archie married Veronica" books.

But still, for this company to do something like that...well, it doesn't make up for Dexter, but it's a good start.  I think what surprises me is that it took his long to handle something like that.  The same year you have a long established character die and introduce your first in-canon gay character is the first time you spotlight an interracial kiss?

While I respect Archie Comics for being willing to take on such adult issues, I just regret it's taken this long for the All-American Guy to realize that the America he represented in his books was no longer the America everyone else lived in.

Maybe someday we'll get that truly momentous comic that will blow everybody's mind:


(Thanks to comicsalliance.com for that final image)

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Ask Erik: Episode Forty-Four

Here at Ask Erik we've spent a lot of time reading novels and comic books, playing video games, and watching television and movies in order to amass a deep vault of pop culture knowledge.  While constantly trying to still gather new information, it seems only prudent to share some of what we learned to help solve some of the world's greatest questions.

Holy cow, is there a chance we'll actually have a budget soon for the country?  How exactly do they replace a knee in the human body?  Why does China only have one time zone when it geographically covers four?

Once a week Erik tackles a question asked to him and tries to answer it in a method that handles the topic with the respect and attention it deserves.  Failing that, he'll at least try to make it funny so you don't regret the time spent reading it.

To Erik: Have Deathstroke The Punisher and Lady Shiva ever fought?   If so, who won?

Nope!  Well, that was quick.  Good thing, cause today has been pretty hectic.  I-

Who would win?

...curse you.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

The "M" Stands For Mighty Part Nine

In the 90s, I was spoiled for television options once cable became the big thing.  I can still remember when having just a few channels suddenly exploded into almost a hundred (yeah, I know, I'm old), but the number kept growing and growing as time moved on, and every possible thing you wanted to watch was on.  Old movies? Check.  Cartoons? Check.  Educational? Check.

However, one of the primary shows I reme-

...

...okay, just making sure we're actually doing this.

Mighty Max was awesome in the day, and I'm reminiscing, so join me for the ride.



Monday, December 9, 2013

Review: Frozen

In the 90s, I was spoiled for television options once cable became the big thing.  I can still remember when having just a few channels suddenly exploded into almost a hundred (yeah, I know, I'm old), but the number kept growing and growing as time moved on, and every possible thing you wanted to watch was on.  Old movies? Check.  Cartoons? Check.  Educational? Check.

However, one of the primary shows I reme- wait a minute.

Something feels off.  Hey, magic Internet voice, is something different?


Oh, we're doing this instead?  Okay, I can work with this.  Ladies and gentlemen, my review of Frozen.  Does it live up to the hype?  Will there be any massive spoilers?  ...well, I can promise a "not really" on the second question, anyway.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Erik's Favorite Things: Pacific Northwest Ballet's Nutcracker

Everybody has things that mean a lot to them.  It might be the book they've read a hundred times and can recite from memory, the movie that they know every bit of trivia about including who the replacement grip was during a scene shot in a hallway in a real office building, or a television show they always stop at when a rerun comes on because it fills them with a warm nostalgic glow.

Sometimes the source really is something as good as they remember, but sometimes the only thing that fuels that fondness is a blindness to the flaws something has as time progressed and a refusal to admit that something they find precious isn't the greatest thing ever invented.

You know, like Final Fantasy VII.

I'm just as guilty of it as other people, I'll admit.  But hey, this is my blog, so I'll talk about what I want to talk about (see: episode synopsis of Mighty Max episodes), and I'll let my readers decide if I'm right or if I'm just too lost in fond memories to see straight.

So let's look at something that's maybe a bit holiday related.  What have you got for me, magic Internet voice?


Sweet!

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Top Eleven Amendment: Christmas Songs

Just a brief post tonight, having just come back from seeing Rifftrax Live!

There's just something about hearing "Hooray for Sandy Claus" that really gets me in the holiday spirit.  That and realizing we don't need to wait for Martians to die from our viruses, we can just foil their plans with cheap toys from the dollar store.

Anyway, I need to amend my top eleven list, and I feel ashamed for having to do so.

Let's toss out the Chipmunk Christmas, because there's a song from my childhood I love even more that fills me with holiday glee.

"You're A Mean One, Mr. Grinch"

I mean, it's perfect.  It's Seussian in every possible positive meaning of the word I just made up, and it was sung by Tony The Tiger.

You're a mean one, Mr. GrrrrrrrINCH!
Oh, and for those who don't believe me about Spike Jones, just watch this without wanting to chew your own ears off:


Urrrgh.

Oh, and here's Cheech and Chong doing "Santa Claus And His Old Lady."


And now, tonight's Erik Overthinks Christmas Carols!

Tonight, we have "Little Saint Nick" by the Beach Boys, a song I actually like, but for years I didn't understand what was going on.  Santa drives a car?  Where it's snowy?  Quickly?  Or do the reindeer pull the car?  They do say "Run, run reindeer" repeatedly.  Are the reindeer trying to get out of the way of the car?

Some things just don't need a car song made about them.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Ask Erik: Episode Forty-Three

Here at Ask Erik we've spent a lot of time reading novels and comic books, playing video games, and watching television and movies in order to amass a deep vault of pop culture knowledge.  While constantly trying to still gather new information, it seems only prudent to share some of what we learned to help solve some of the world's greatest questions.

Are the new Amazon drones going to secretly gather data?  Is it really true that good behavior by people tends to indicate that there's going to soon be worse behavior by the same people?  That whole business about rubber cement growing up...was that true?

Once a week Erik tackles a question asked to him and tries to answer it in a method that handles the topic with the respect and attention it deserves.  Failing that, he'll at least try to make it funny so you don't regret the time spent reading it.

To Erik: What do you really think of Maine?

This is going to be a difficult question, because I have to find that perfect balance of being honest while managing to not offend people I know who might misinterpret what I say.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Top Eleven: Christmas Songs

I realize, having now opened a can of worms regarding my overthinking of Christmas carols, that I might be presenting myself as being slightly anti-X-mas.

I'm anything but.  Even though I might not fully be behind the religious significance of the holiday, I still appreciate the fact that most religions have a time during the coldest part of the year where people come together and simply bond and remember what's important in life.

And no, it isn't the newest video game system.

However, I take my Christmas music seriously.  I want to hurl something at the radio every time I hear Spike Jones and His City Slickers working with George Rock to perform "All I Want For Christmas Is My Two Front Teeth."  I'm convinced it might actually be one of the worst songs ever written.

But hey, the holidays are about being positive!  So let's break down my top eleven favorite songs to hear at Christmas.  I won't necessarily go into specific groups, unless appropriate.

There also won't be deep explanations for a lot of them, I just think they're great.

Monday, December 2, 2013

The "M" Stands For Mighty Part 8

Back in the early 90s, people were absolutely spoiled for entertainment on television.  You had the boom of stand-up comedy (which I think Comedy Central is still trying to beat the proverbial "dead horse" in the hopes the twitching of the body will be mistaken for life), sitcoms, dramas, teen dramas, evening soaps, game shows...it was a cornucopia of viewing goodness.

But the best part for the younger version of me was the cartoons, and no cartoon made me more excited to watch than Mighty Max.

Let's look at episode eight and get some actual character development from this show.


Friday, November 29, 2013

Thanksgiving Week: Day Five - Soda Shaq: Vanilla Cream Soda

It's day five of the Soda Shaq taste test!  I've sipped and chugged my way through orange, strawberry, and blueberry, and now it's time to get to what I'm hoping is the best of the best.  Or possibly just the "not worst" of the "overall okay."

Enough fiddle-faddle.  Let's get drinkin'.


Thursday, November 28, 2013

Thanksgiving Week: Day Four - Soda Shaq: Blueberry Cream

I cannot say I've ever had blueberry cream anything in my life before this day.  I've seen it, so it's not that I was simply prevented from experiencing it, I simply never took the opportunity to try it.  Apparently I've been missing out if it's a strong enough flavor for Shaquille O'Neal to devote his attention to it.

Day three of the soda test continues, so where does this new flavor rate?

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Thanksgiving Week: Day Three - Soda Shaq: Strawberry Cream Soda


It's day two of tasting the marvel that is Soda Shaq brand drinks from the Arizona (AriZona?) drink company, and while I was nervous about the orange cream flavor of yesterday's beverage, this one actually gives me pause.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Thanksgiving Week: Day Two - Soda Shaq: Orange Cream Soda

Can I confess something?

I was never really a creamsicle fan.  When I was young, I could just never really wrap my head around the idea of "oranges" as a dessert.  To me, oranges were for juice and to put in salads.  Or to stick in my mouth to get a bit goofy grinning face.

I decided to step lightly into the Soda Shaq pool with this one because I know that "orange cream" is a flavor done with more frequency than blueberry or strawberry, but I wanted to save vanilla for last because I hope it's really hard to screw up that flavor.

So, what did I think?  More after the cut.


Monday, November 25, 2013

Thanksgiving Week Introduction

Hey, everyone!  It's Thanksgiving week!  You know what that means!

....

...

........

That's right, it's time for me to make up some arbitrary theme to tie the week together!  Not only have I found a theme, I think I've found a theme that will make Thanksgiving week memorable for YEARS to come.


Friday, November 22, 2013

Thanksgivikah! Hanuksgiving! Chanksgivukah!

This upcoming Thursday, something extremely rare is going to happen.  November 28th, as any true American knows, is Thanksgiving.  It is also the first day of Hannukah.

A brief aside, I'm never sure if I should spell it as Hannukah or Chanukah.  If any readers are Jewish, please let me know if one method is preferred over another.

When's the last time it happened?  Well, depending on how technical you want to get, it was either on November 29th, 1888 or on November 28th, 1918.  When will it happen again?  Probably not until the year 79811.  No, that's not a typo.  Seventy-nine thousand, eight hundred eleven.

So how does all this happen?  Interesting you should ask.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Erik's Favorite Comics: Peter David's Supergirl

I think the record will show that I like comic books.  In case it doesn't, let me make it official:

I think comic books are more than just pictures of people with ridiculous body images fighting each other.  I think they allow us both a form of entertainment and education in a format that nothing else can duplicate.  Television is visual and aural, books are simply reading, music and lectures are mostly aural with a few visual additions.  Only comics really allow words to be combined with the context of an image in a way that presents situations or ideas and allows the imagination to fill in what's missing or provide a deeper meaning.  For instance, take the following comics panel:



In that one page, the narration and image help set an atmosphere that could, at the very least, be described as "haunting."  It sets the mood perfectly in one picture what might take a movie or television show several minutes of footage to do, but it doesn't rush you.  You can read it at your own pace, or start with the picture first, or move back and forth to take it all in.

But I'm not here to talk about Batman (this time), I'm here to talk about one of my favorite comic series of all time, one that most people fall on the "love it or hate it" sides of the spectrum: Peter David's run on Supergirl.


Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Ask Erik: Episode Forty-Two

Here at Ask Erik we've spent a lot of time reading novels and comic books, playing video games, and watching television and movies in order to amass a deep vault of pop culture knowledge.  While constantly trying to still gather new information, it only seems prudent to share some of what we learned to help solve some of the world's greatest questions.

How likely is it the Superman/Batman movie is going to be a huge social commentary?  Will the film Gravity revitalize the interest in space movies, thus reinvigorating man's interest in space?  Are there people who are actually paid to find the "perfect" design for a leopard print clothing item, or is it all randomized?

Once a week Erik tackles a question asked to him and tries to answer it in a method that handles the topic with the respect and attention it deserves.  Failing that, he'll at least try to make it funny so you don't regret it.


Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Pokemon Blue & Red

Not too long ago, Pokemon X and Pokemon Y were unleashed upon the world.  Sales have been staggering, and I've heard people crow about all of the technological advances made to a franchise that has held a death grip on the world since 1998.  That's right, in some states, Ash, Misty, and Brock are old enough to work full time, drive a scooter, apply for a passport, join the army, or have sex with other consenting adults!


...I have no idea how to react to that.

...I'm sorry, what was I talking about?

Oh, right, Pokemon.  Right.  Okay, let's go back to 1998 and the first two games that came out, Pokemon Red and Pokemon Blue.


Monday, November 18, 2013

The "M" Stands For Mighty Part Seven

The early 90s was an interesting time to be growing up.  You had the growing surge of live comedies taking over the afternoon airwaves balanced with some of the best cartoons that ever existed.  You could manage to indulge both in humor that was edgy, dark, and sometimes quite adult...or you could watch Full House and Family Matters.

For me, a great thrill I got was watching episodes of Mighty Max, which screamed "boyhood adventure" with an interesting science fiction twist.  That is, it was science fiction when it wasn't straight up fantasy, or even horror.

For instance, in today's episode we visit one of the now most overused ideas in media: the zombie.


Friday, November 15, 2013

Thursday, November 14, 2013

The Monumental Disappointment That Is Modern Scooby-Doo Games

When I was younger, I managed to get my hands on a copy of Scooby-Doo Mysteryfor the Sega Genesis.  It was a standard "point and click" style adventure game that let you play through two different settings, a hotel belonging to Daphne's...uncle, I think, and a carnival.  One was haunted by a Native American chieftain an the other by a demented clown.  You can probably figure out which was which.

The graphics were simple, and it had a very strong sense of the days of adventure games that included Sam and Max: Freelance Police, Day of the Tentacle, Full Throttle, and other great games made by Lucasarts.



It was fun, and it managed to capture the investigative nature of the series quite well.

My sister recently has started playing some of the newer Scooby-Doo games for the Wii and Gamecube, and having glanced over now and again to see what they're like, I've come to the conclusion that they are the absolute worst things to ever happen to Scooby-Doo.

And yes, I'm including that series where Shaggy inherits millions of dollars and Scooby Snacks give the dog special powers.


Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Ask Erik: Episode Forty-One

Here at Ask Erik we've spent a lot of time reading novels and comic books, playing video games, and watching television and movies in order to amass a deep vault of pop culture knowledge.  While constantly trying to still gather new information, it only seems prudent to share some of what we learned to help solve some of the world's greatest questions.

Will the current talks with Iran ease tensions between us and that part of the world?  Will the Smithsonian's new efforts to scan all of their exhibits into 3D mean people will prefer a digital museum experience to seeing things live?  What the heck is Indian Pudding and why is today it's "national day?"

Once a week Erik tackles a question asked to him and tries to answer it in a method that handles the topic with the respect and attention it deserves.  Failing that, he'll at least try to make it funny so you don't regret reading it.


Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Review: Thor: The Dark World

I'm torn regarding this new tradition in film-naming where you don't include a number to show that a film is a sequel.  After all, in this time of constant reboots and re-envisioning of classic characters, someone who isn't in "the know" later on might come back and try to figure out if The Amazing Spider-Man falls somewhere between Spider-Man, Spider-Man 2, or Spider-Man 3.  Does Captain America: The Winter Soldier take place after the most recent film, or does it somehow take place after Captain America II: Death Too Soon?

I'm not being paid to think of the best way to name films, though (actually, I'm not being paid at all).  Instead, I simply look at a movie I saw recently and discuss what I liked, what I didn't like, and explore a few of the ideas being presented.  The film I saw this last weekend, complete with funky 3D glasses was Thor: The Dark World.


Monday, November 11, 2013

The "M" Stands For Mighty Part Six

I was spoiled for television watching in the 90s.  I had cartoons based on comic book action heroes such as Batman, Superman, Spider-Man, and the X-Men.  I had cutting edge graphics in The New Adventures of Johnny Quest and Reboot.  I had wickedly sharp humor in programs like Animaniacs and Pinky and the Brain.  I even had some educational fun with Captain Planet and Histeria!

You remember Histeria, right?  It was the children's show that had a song about every war fought by every nation that ever existed.


Cartoons were kinda weird in the 90s, is my point here.

But one of my particular favorites was Mighty Max, a show unafraid to take on some rather heavy material and have the hero face some real dangerous threats.  If it came between "giant dragon who destroys the world" and "killer baboons" then odds are he faced against it.

Let's look at the sixth episode in the series, Rumble In The Jungle.


Friday, November 8, 2013

Worst Comics Ever Written: Superman: At Earth's End

I have read many, many comic books.

I've forgotten many of them over the years, but I'm usually able to recall either the absolute best ones I've ever read or the absolute worst ones.  Certain writers resonate in my head when I hear their names because I either love their work or I've learned to avoid it as if it would actually cause me pain to touch it.

However, much like there are different types of "good" (the ones with one strong aspect, the ones that are masterpieces, the ones that are interesting despite their flaws), there are also different variations of "bad" comics.

There are the ones that are poorly drawn.  There are ones where the story makes no sense, was rushed, or simply abandoned because the fans weren't following it.  There are stories that poorly try to reinvent a character or retcon something from their past.

And then there are the stories that simply get it wrong on every possible level imaginable.  Then then somehow they get worse.

Here's an example of one of the last group.  It's possibly one of the best examples of all time of just how terrible a comic can be without having it actually make you require hospital care afterward.


Thursday, November 7, 2013

Things That Make Me Go Whoa

I don't really have much of a post today.  Instead I thought I'd just link a video a guy took when he strapped a video camera to an eagle.

This man is now my hero.


Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Ask Erik: Episode Forty

Here at Ask Erik we've spent a lot of time reading novels and comic books, playing video games, and watching television and movies in order to amass a deep vault of pop culture knowledge.  While constantly striving to gain new information, it only seems prudent to share some of that knowledge to help solve some of the world's greatest questions.

What's the real world ramifications of Blockbuster finally going completely out of business?  Is it really such a big deal that the NSA spies on everybody?  Just how creepy is it to give a Microsoft product a genuine mascot who looks like she just fell out of an anime?

Once a week Erik tackles a question asked to h- you know what, no, we're going to look at that last question, because seriously, what the hell?
 

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

The "M" Stands For Mighty Part Five

I was spoiled for entertainment options in the early 90's.  I had globe trotting adventure in Captain Planet, dark noir drama in Batman, the initial exploration into CG graphics with Reboot, and fancy pop music shared in Hammerman and New Kids On The Block.  Somehow the last two never caught on despite how popular shows like that are now on Disney.  Maybe the idea that a boy band and their dog sidekick get into wacky adventures around the world and chased by fans like something from Scooby-Doo just doesn't appeal, somehow.

My personal cartoon drug for years was Mighty Max, a sweeping heroic epic that starred a boy who felt the need to advertise the initial to his first name not only on a hat but also his shirt (to be fair, the hat came with the "M" already on it), a giant man who still uses a sword (effectively), and a talking chicken.

So let's jump right into the action with a visit with Norse Mythology and a sleeping dragon!



Monday, November 4, 2013

A Tribute to Bill Cardy

Due to some errors with my photo editing software, the next review of a Mighty Max episode is slightly delayed.  Instead, I ask that you all take a moment to remember a brilliant DC Comics artist who passed away named Nick Cardy.  His artwork was absolutely mind-blowing and can probably stand up against some of the best artists drawing now.






The guy could make me pause and take a second look at a character like Lilith, who was really not that remarkable in her run as a Titan.  Plus, she was in some absolutely terrible stories.

But anybody who George Perez says is a "monumental talent" is going to be sorely missed.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Top Eleven: DC Villains Who Don't Fight Batman (Often)

Recently an offhand comment on Facebook sparked a bit of conversation about DC villains.  Batman has, arguably, the best rogues gallery in comics, because each villain fits one specific criteria of villainy or challenge for Batman to overcome.  The Joker is pure chaos, Ra's al Ghul is perfect order without freedom and with unacceptable casualties.  The Riddler, in my eyes, is Batman's most underrated villain and possibly his most dangerous, but then you have characters like Bane, Penguin, Zsasz, Catwoman, Poison Ivy, Mad Hatter, Mr. Freeze, Killer Croc...

Each one has a role to play and no other villain can really take their place.

But try to think of Green Lantern's rogues gallery.  Try to think of Superman's enemies that regularly challenge him.  Try to think of three Wonder Woman villains.  DC simply tends to not have the same name power as Marvel's characters (Dr. Doom, Venom, Galactus, so on), but I think there are some truly great villains in DC's repertoire, and they don't involve giant yellow space bugs, twisted clones, or whiny entitled super-powered fanboys.

In fact, I think there's at least eleven!

Disclaimer: I'm not sure what the status of the "Nu52" versions of these characters are, but I'm willing to point out why they were great before the reboot in the hopes someone at DC realizes what they need to keep.


Thursday, October 31, 2013

Frankenstein Comic Special

Hey, folks, nothing much to see here, it's been another fun Halloween, and I figured I'd just share a link to one of my favorite examples of how comics can get away with story lines that used to thrive in campy movies and bizarre Twilight Zone episodes.

At the following link you'll find a story I wish I came up with:

Frankenstein in "Rescue From Ghost Planet X"

Enjoy.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Ask Erik: Episode Thirty-Nine

Here at Ask Erik we've spent a lot of time reading novels and comic books, playing video games, and watching television and movies in order to amass a deep vault of pop culture knowledge.  While constantly trying to still gather new information, it only seems prudent to share some of what we have learned to help solve some of the world's greatest questions.

What's your pumpkin carving technique?  What's the real origins of Halloween?  Why does anybody even bother giving out Milk Duds when they're such an inferior Halloween candy?

Once a week Erik tackles a question asked to him and tries to answer it in a method that handles the topic with the respect and attention it deserves.  Failing that, he'll at least try to make it funny so you don't regret reading it.


Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Pumpkins!

For so many years I could not be bothered with Halloween.  During my high school years I couldn't be bothered with even handing out candy.  I didn't dress up in any costumes, I didn't go anywhere, I didn't even really eat any candy.  The one single thing I looked forward to every year was the fact that in the evening the local NPR station would broadcast the original airing of War of the Worlds.  I'd sit in a large easy chair and listen, doing my best to imagine the people panicking over a radio show and the power that these simple words had over masses at the time.

Now, to be fair, the Internet has stuff like that happening every day, except I don't think anybody would ever call Orson Welles a troll.

Once I got into my twenties, I started to appreciate the holiday a bit more.  I still didn't dress up, though that partly came from disgust at the fact that even though I was so deeply into anime, I couldn't find a single character I could cosplay as because there just weren't that many tall guys with glasses in the programs I saw who didn't have costumes way outside my price range to assemble.

Yes, before you ask, I did have to look like the character, I wasn't going to try to dress as someone I looked nothing like because I wanted to capture the character.

These days, I'm more into the holiday.  I own a few costumes (a few that I put together myself), I hand out candy, I watch the specials on TV (I swear, one day the Great Pumpkin will show up!), and I find myself volunteering at places to be the one to help decorate or be in charge of buying items for groups.

There is one thing, however, that I've done every year of my life but has only really become a true passion in the past few years: pumpkin carving.

These are a few of my carvings over the past few years.


Monday, October 28, 2013

The "M" Stands For Mighty Part Four

Back in the 90s, no other cartoon show grabbed my attention like Mighty Max.  It was short-lived and doesn't have the same staying power of programs like Animaniacs or Gargoyles, but it will always have a special place for me because of how it managed to explore the world, face fantastic creatures, and have a (to a kid in the 90s) sharp sense of humor.  In much the same way Spider-Man would joke his way through combat to hide his fear, I imagined myself in the place of Max (perhaps with a single t-shirt in my wardrobe that read "E"), facing danger and laughing the whole way through.

Let's look at the fourth episode of the series that so far seems to have continuity like the Swiss have cheese and see if we can't figure out a bit more about this world.


Friday, October 25, 2013

Nintendo 3DS Mii Games

I carry my Nintendo 3DS XL with me pretty much everywhere I go.  Not only is it fun to just bust it out during idle times when I'm stuck waiting somewhere, it's also great for travel.  It has a rather extensive library of classic games, and between older DS games and the increasingly high quality releases of 3DS games, I expect I'll get years of enjoyment out of it.

However, there's one thing I have to admit.  See, there are these built-in games that come with it based on the idea that you can "meet" other people who have a 3DS out on the street, and your devices will exchange information.  This is assuming, of course, that your 3DS is in "sleep" mode with the wi-fi turned on.

Later, when you open up your 3DS to play, you'll notice that your little "Mii" character has met new people, and when you check that out you have the option to play games with the new "Miis" that have stopped by in your system to visit.  These games are evil, cruel, and extremely addictive.

Let's look closer.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Rifftrax & Mystery Science Theater 3000

As I type this, I am sitting in a theater waiting for the Rifftrax live broadcast of the original Night of the Living Dead.  I missed out on the live Rifftrax broadcast of Starship Troopers, and while I own several sets of the MST3K box sets, it's not as many as I want to own.  if you guessed I'm a fan, you guessed right, and I'm willing to go on record that Joel Hodgson, Mike Nelson, Bill Corbett, Kevin Murphy, Mary Jo Pehl, and everybody else who wrote for the show compose the smartest and funniest writing team television ever had.

Take that, Community.

You, too, The Daily Show.

I swear one day I'll start an Internet feud with something huge, and that's the moment I'll know I made it big.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Ask Erik: Episode Thirty-Eight

Here at Ask Erik we've spent a lot of time reading novels and comic books, playing video games, and watching television and movies in order to amass a deep vault of pop culture knowledge.  While constantly trying to still gather new information, it only seems prudent to share some of what we have learned to help solve some of the world's greatest questions.

How do computers work?  How can a tiny percentage shift in a DNA sequence cause such differences between species?  Can I recycle my own paper?

Once a week Erik tackles a question asked to him and tries to answer it in a method that handles the topic with the respect and attention it deserves.  Failing that, he'll at least try to make it funny so you don't regret reading it.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

The Last Of Us

By every right, I should hate the PS3 game The Last Of Us.

No, really.  I have a mental checklist of features in games that drive me absolutely insane, and this game managed to mark off quite a few of them quite often.  Are there monsters with one-hit kills?  Check.   Are the monsters really difficult to pick out from other monsters when a majority of combat happens in dark places?  Check.  Does the AI constantly show how ridiculous it is, either by having monsters trip over NPCs without seeing them or having a bad guy get stuck somewhere so it becomes impossible to sneak past him?  Check.  Do my NPC partners occasionally run over to the other end of a map while I'm in combat and get themselves killed before I can get over to them?  Check.

Worst of all, do I die a lot while playing it?  Check.

I died one hundred forty-four times.  The game keeps track for you.  It's, well, I don't want to call it "kind" for doing that, but I guess the information does come in handy.

So why did I play it through to completion?  That's a good question.  Mild spoilers ahead, but I'll try to be vague.




Monday, October 21, 2013

The "M" Stands For Mighty Part Three

There was a time period in the 80s and 90s where toys were the major inspiration for cartoons.  If the cartoon wasn't directly inspired by toys (He-Man and the Transformers come to mind), then the cartoon simply acts as a means to make more toys (G.I. Joe, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles).  

One of the most blatant examples of this was, of course, one of my favorite cartoons from the time period, Mighty Max.  Of course, the creators of the show had a bonus in that they could extend out further than just the basic premise of "kid fights evil around the world" and develop actual plots and backstories for characters.  Where they came from, who they knew, who they cared for, these were all touched on by the program more than it ever needed to be to move merchandise.

I'll admit I'm saying this as someone who never, once, ever bought a single Mighty Max toy product.

So let's look at the third episode, which is surprisingly light on two of the three main characters!

Friday, October 18, 2013

Jesse James Meets Frankenstein's Daughter

I'm stuck at home today with a pretty bad cold (normally I get over these within a day or two), so I figured it was a good time to clean out a few things in the DVR.  Because I'm apparently also a masochist (or I hoped that the germs would be less tolerant than me and flee first), I decided the first thing I would watch is the horror classic Jesse James Meets Frankenstein's Daughter.

You haven't heard of it?

Probably for the best.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Another Encounter With Gamestop

Yesterday I received a call from Gamestop saying that the used PS3 they ordered for my sister arrived.  This is the one they ordered as an apology for one of their employees selling the one I had asked them to set aside.  I picked up my sister and drove her down to the mall, fully expecting there to be some kind of misunderstanding or confusion because, to be honest, I never really had any truly fond memories of shopping at Gamestop.

I think that part of the problem is that many of the employees feel they don't have to be professional.  I've stood in stores where employees would talk about the gruesome execution they pulled off in a game, using extremely descriptive language, while a couple of kids are walking around them looking for a game that's age-appropriate.  I've seen Nerf gun fights, with shots fired around customers.  I've heard employees act rude to customers, swear around customers, and simply decide to go on break when there's a line of people waiting to purchase something.  The most amazing moments were things like a Gamestop employee wanting coffee, so he let a friend of his (not an employee) man the store while he ran over (the guy's response to everything was "oh, he'll be back in a moment and he can help you"), or when a guy was telling some friends of his (also not employees) everything wrong with his coworkers, using language I'd expect to hear on Springer.

Now, to be fair, from everything I've heard, working at a Gamestop is a bit like selling part of your soul.  In an industry that, really, is still in its infancy, people who don't take an active role in the hobby tend to not to any of the necessary research to make sure they or whoever they're buying a game for gets the most out of the experience.  Remember, I heard a father ask if Grand Theft Auto V would be appropriate for his thirteen year-old.  I've been present when parents blindly buy a Call of Duty, Halo, or Resident Evil for their child who I swear must barely be starting high school, and then the parents complain about the fact that they needed to be present.  I don't think I'd ever want to work at a Gamestop, and there are times I feel bad for those who do.

However, like I said last time, the people at the mall had been extremely apologetic and seemed to be working quite hard to make it up to my sister, so I kept my fingers crossed.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Ask Erik: Episode Thirty-Seven

Here at Ask Erik we've spent a lot of time reading novels and comic books, playing video games, and watching television and movies in order to amass a deep vault of pop culture knowledge.  While constantly trying to still gather new information, it only seems prudent to share some of what we have learned to help solve some of the world's greatest questions.

What's the oldest word origin you know?  How can tiny little meteors cause such huge damage when they enter our atmosphere?  How does "Goo Gone" work?

Once a week Erik tackles a question asked to him and tries to answer it in a method that handles the topic with the respect and attention it deserves.  Failing that, he'll at least try to make it funny so you don't regret reading it.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

The "M" Stands For Mighty Part Two

When I think back to my cartoon-watching habits, I remember soaking up shows like a sponge.  Even if they weren't any good, I loved watching the outrageous ideas they'd come up with.  You'd have things like The Hair Bear Bunch, where three hippie bears rode an invisible motorcycle around town because of course they do.  You had a show based on Mr. T, one based on the Harlem Globetrotters, and a cartoon based on Chuck Norris.

And yet, when I think of all the ones I wish I could get on DVD to just watch at my leisure, the one I always think back to is Mighty Max, the show based on a toy which was a boy's version of Polly Pocket.

However, Polly Pocket never had a skull mountain or dragon island play set, so points for Max.


...I wonder how much those go for on eBay.

While I look that up, let's dig into the second episode of the amazingly brutal show, The Brain Suckers Cometh.


Monday, October 14, 2013

An Encounter With Gamestop

Okay, so a slight delay on getting the next episode of Mighty Max through, but here's the story.

Gamestop is having a special deal right now as they prepare for the newest system releases, and they're selling all used XBox 360s for $99 (I believe) and all pre-owned PS3s for $150.  I contacted the one down at the local mall today to ask if they had any of the 500 gig PS3s left, and they said they had one in stock.  I asked if they could set it aside, and the charming woman who answered the phone took my name down and promised it would be there that evening.  My sister has been looking forward for a long time to own her own PS3 (almost solely to play Kingdom Hearts games), so this is her big opportunity.

I picked her up after work and drove her down, where we waited until the line in the store died down, then approached the counter.  I said I had called earlier that day regarding a PS3, the man behind the counter recognized my name, said that the morning shift woman had clarified that the PS3 was not to be sold until I arrived, and went into the back to get it.

I have to say, this is much better service than I'm used to from Gamestop.  The primary other store I go to in a nearby shopping complex seems to be more determined to act smug and push product than provide quality customer service.  Questions are answered at the barest possible minimum, and I one guy's response to a father asking, "do you think Grand Theft Auto V would be okay for my thirteen year old?" with a disinterested "if you think he's mature enough" instead of either a) looking at updates after it came out and the upset about a (taking the commentator's word on it here) "rather brutal torture sequence that occurs during it" or b) "No, that's why it's rated M."

Anyway, back to the story.  The man searches around the store and then looks on the computer system to confirm it's there.  He frowns a bit, and reaches for the phone saying he's going to contact the woman who worked there earlier to see where she put the PS3.  After a conversation with her, he comes back to me and apologizes, stating that they had a "game adviser" there that day (read: retail clerk, near as I can tell) who apparently sold it despite the fact that a) the woman who ran the morning shift told him not to, and b) the guy working the evening shift confirmed with the woman that it shouldn't be sold, c) IT HAD A NAME ON IT.

So, yeah, real turd in the punch bowl there.

However.

The man working there apologized profusely (fifteen times!) for the mix-up.  He offered to order one from another shop, have it shipped to the store at the mall, and provide a further ten percent discount on it for the inconvenience.  He then personally called a store in New Hampshire, had them take a white 500 gig PS3 off the shelf, put a note on it with my sister's name, and the manager of that store said he would personally hand it to the UPS guy the following morning to try to have it in by the end of the week.

So, while I am a bit frustrated about having driven down for nothing, I think that ten percent discount actually makes up for the gas I used driving down there.

I think Gamestop really needs to work on a bit of its image (especially in particular stores where you can tell the people who work there don't care at all about customers), but I encountered two people today (one by phone, one in person) who really seemed to care about good service.

Plus, I take comfort in the fact that a "game adviser" is going to get yelled at by two assistant managers and a store manager tomorrow.

Expect a Mighty Max episode review tomorrow!

Friday, October 11, 2013

Super Graphic: A Visual Guide To The Comic Book Universe

Every now and again something drifts through the ether and manages to find a way to take root in my brain and become something I fixate on for a short time.  This tends to spread itself across a wide variety of topics, because one thing I absolutely loathe to do is admit I have "no idea" about something.  It's for this reason I've researched topics ranging from the advances in camera technology through history to the winners of the Eurovision Song Contests.  The information buries itself in my mind like a cicada, only emerging every seventeen years when someone else mentions the topic and the information becomes useful, or I'm able to incorporate it into something that lets me show off share the information with others, such as, say, a blog.

Then there are the parasitoid wasps of knowledge that find my brain.  They grab hold immediately and lay their eggs inside, and- hold on, this is disgusting, let's find a new analogy.

Ophiocordyceps unilateralis is a parasitic fungus that infects ants.  It co-opts the mind of the insect it infects, forcing it to behave in a way outside of its nature in order to spread its own growth.  In nature, the fungus makes an ant climb a plant or tree, clamp its mandibles shut on a leaf to lock it in place, and then kills the host so it can consume the body and spread its spores.

In the instance of the book Super Graphic, I'm not really acting outside of my normal behavior, but I have become completely fixated on this book.  Now, after reading through it twice, I feel compelled to share it with all of you before I go read it a third time.



Thursday, October 10, 2013

The Downfall of Pompeii

If I had to describe the current popular technological advances that face the masses, I'd have to describe it as "blending."  A blu-ray player can also hop onto Hulu or Netflix to stream videos.  Your television can sync with a tablet device and act as a larger screen.  Your phone probably either has a camera or a built-in mp3 player.  Even non-entertainment-based technology seems to be coming together, with bluetooth services available in cars for easy telephone use, shoes that sync with your phone to count your steps, and a chair that refills your empty beer.  Obviously we are living in a golden age.

Now, board games don't have the same luxuries.  We all remember the games that tried to advance technology from earlier times.  They either involved swiping a pretend charge card as you travelled through a mall, playing the sound of a missile that missed a battleship, or using an electronic randomizer to replace dice.  Better blendings in board games tend to come from historical periods, allowing you to either retrace the original rail lines of America, simulate the early settler expansion across America, or in the case of one of my favorite board games, repeat an event that caused the deaths of sixteen thousand people.


Let's dig in.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Ask Erik: Episode Thirty-Six

Here at Ask Erik we've spent a lot of time reading novels and comic books, playing video games, and watching television and movies in order to amass a deep vault of pop culture knowledge.  While constantly trying to still gather new information, it only seems prudent to share some of what we have learned to help solve some of the world's greatest questions.

If you win money in a lawsuit, do you have to pay taxes on it or does the source of the payment have to compensate by increasing how much they pay to accommodate the taxes?  How many species are left on the planet to be discovered?  Do CD spindles make good bagel holders for transporting?

(Spoiler alert, they do)

Once a week Erik tackles a question asked to him and tries to answer it in a method that handles the topic with the respect and attention it deserves.  Failing that, he'll at least try to make it funny so you don't regret reading it.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Broadchurch


I used to be a pretty big fan of crime dramas.  Granted, I never watched a show whose title was simply a mash-up of letters (JAG, NCIS, CSI), and I was usually more interested in the solving of the crimes than the personal lives of the characters, keeping me from getting pulled in by programs such as The Wire or The Shield.

Yes, I know, I missed out on some great television, but honestly, I don't really mind!

For a while I used to watch Law & Order and its spin-off Special Victims Unit (which I guess could be L&O:SVU but I hate that acronym), but the former went away and the latter became so completely contrived and far fetched I expected an episode to eventually take place in Narnia.

 My personal favorite series is Numb3rs, but there's a series I just watched recently that's completely changed my attitude towards these kinds of programs.

The show is Broadchurch, and it's possibly the best crime-based television show I've ever seen.

Monday, October 7, 2013

The M Stands for "Mighty" Part One

There were a few cartoons I was absolutely a die-hard fan of in the 90s.  You had your Batman: The Animated Series, you had Gargoyles and Duck Tales and Darkwing Duck.  You had Captain Planet and the Planeteers.  Tiny Toon Adventures and Animaniacs and Pinky and the Brain.  The 90s were essentially a golden age for cartoons, one that faltered in later years and is just now really coming back.

But by far, the series that I absolutely loved to the point that I used to schedule records on a VCR to watch it when I realized it was on television at four in the morning... was Mighty Max.


So starting with episode one, let's look back and see what made it so great (and pray it still holds up).

Friday, October 4, 2013

Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Day Four!

So far we've looked at the opening episode of the new ABC series Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and listed characters we hoped to see and ones we hoped to/figured we'd never see.  Now, at day four of our 4/5ths of a week-long spotlight, it's time to look at the next logical matter to focus on.

...I just wish I knew what that was.

Okay, um, let's see...I've gone over the characters already, I've discussed the story and the set-up, um...

Well, okay, actually, let's talk characters.  Namely, how ABC and Joss Whedon have to be really careful not to get them wrong.


Thursday, October 3, 2013

Top Eleven: Characters I Don't Want To See/Don't Think We'll See In Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.

That might be the longest title I've ever had for an article.

Last time I discussed the top eleven characters/teams/groups I really, really hope we'll get to see or have a reference to in the new awkwardly named Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.  As people know, my knowledge of obscure and obtuse facts and characters is rather well developed, and while I'd love to see every character done in a live action format one day (the world cries out for one of the villains in a Spider-Man movie to be the Big Wheel), I know for a fact there are certain characters who simply don't seem to fit in how the current cinematic Marvel universe is being developed.

Here's where I break down the list of ones I don't want to see or just don't think would work in this new universe we're getting glimpses of annually/weekly.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Ask Erik: Episode Thirty-Five (Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. special!)

Here at- eh, forget it.  Let's get to the question.


To Erik: With there finally being a program devoted to exploring around the cinematic Marvel Universe, who do you want to show up?  Who do you not want to show up?





Well, as we all know, the Marvel Universe is a pretty huge place.  It has decades of history to fall back on, and little pieces of treasure hidden in the darkest corners that could be mined.  As for who I'd want to see, well, is there any better way to handle it than a top eleven?  I didn't think so.

11)  Unlimited Class Wrestling

Picture the WWE franchise in a world with actual heroes.

I mean- okay, let me rephrase that.  Picture the WWE/WWF franchise from back in the 80s with all of the goofy costumes and ridiculous names, and then bombard them all with radiation so they all get actual super powers.  That's the Unlimited Class Wrestling group in the Marvel Universe.

Members have included characters such as Ben Grimm (a.k.a "The Thing"), Demolition Man (not Stallone), the Armadillo, and a bunch of minor characters who never really amounted to anything.  However, the Unlimited Class Wrestling is where one of my favorite, most obscure groups of all time comes from (at least, it's the only time I ever saw them), the Power Tools.  Each of them has various power tool implements on their gauntlets (or in at least one case, I think, replacing their hand entirely).  You had spinning saw blades, a jackhammer, hammers, a pick-axe, a sledgehammer and...um...



Um, yeah.  The guy on the left has screwdrivers on his gauntlets.  His codename actually is "Screwdriver."

Look, they can't all be winners, okay?

Anyway, an underground arena exploiting people who get powers would be a great storyline, one that could be in the background of a few episodes before coming out and being a huge two-parter.  This is especially true because, if you're having the Unlimited Class Wrestling, you have to include...

10)  The Power Broker

Hey, man, looking for a bit of a boost?  Some extra "zip" to your day?  You want to be able to get a high like you wouldn't believe?  Well, man, you just gotta talk to the Power Broker, and he'll hook you up with the goods.

That is, he distributes super powers in drug form.  Criminals, heroes, and people just looking to get to fly for a short time or beat up the guy picking on him at work all come to him to get what they need to get the job done.  I mean, sure, the drugs might kill you, either directly or because they'll wear off when you're flying over the city or holding up that crumbling building, but that's the risk you take, man!

9)  Nova



Imagine, if you will, an ordinary person here on Earth who gets picked to become part of an intergalactic peacekeeping force.  Granted fantastic powers through advanced technology, he gains the ability to fly, project energy blasts and force fields, and still manages to try to deal with the every day issues of normal life around his hidden identity.

And he isn't played by Ryan Reynolds.

We already know aliens exist in the cinematic Marvel universe, in fact we have an upcoming Guardians of the Galaxy movie on the way to enforce it.  So why not have S.H.I.E.L.D. be present when the "good guys" of the universe start picking human representatives instead of it always just being "the bad guys" who come to the planet to mess around?

8) Count Nefaria



Count Nefaria is one of those villains who has links to the Avengers as a whole but has a more personal link to Iron Man in the fact that his daughter, Madam Masque, is both trying to kill him and sleep with him at the same time depending on which writer remembers what part of her history.

Having enough power to take on the Avengers single-handedly, Count Nefaria (which is, let's face it, and awesome name) used technology to grant himself "ionic powers" or something that I never worried about the science of because, hey, it's comics.  It'd be great to have the Agents track down stolen technology that could be used to grant someone those powers and be present at the "birth" of such a major villain, which would probably turn into a "use the same technology to stop him" plot, but at this point I just want to see the character on screen.

7)  The Molecule Man

Owen Reese has, arguably, the most powerful "super power" that ever existed.  He can turn anything into anything else.  He alters them at the (as the name suggests) molecular level so that they simply stop being what it was and becomes, say, a block of solid gold.  Or a ball of twine.  Or a penguin.  He can affect things on a microscopic level or alter entire landscapes around him...

But he has the self-confidence of Woody Allen before Woody Allen was famous.  Instead of shooting, punching, or blowing up a threat that faces them, it'd be great to see Agent Coulson or someone else on the team have to simply talk down a guy with the power to simply make them dissolve just by thinking about it.

6) The Psycho Man

Nick Fury established in the very first Iron Man movie that there was more to the world than Tony Stark knew.  This means they've already had encounters with things that would boggle the human mind.  Suppose one of those was an invader from a microscopic universe who had control over everybody's emotions?  A guy who could make an entire city riot in anger or hide away in fear?  He's not quite as powerful in a fight as, say, Count Nefaria, but seeing a more psychological episode of the show would be quite entertaining, and we know that Joss Whedon has done a pretty great job in the past when it comes to messing with the heads of his characters.

5)  Arcade

In a world where people get super powers, where the Avengers are now action figures, and where technology steadily advances, I expect at some point you'd get a guy who takes all of that and turns it into a twisted means of killing people.  Enter Arcade, one of my favorite villains to ever exist, even if his character has taken a disappointing turn in Avengers Arena.

I'd love to see Arcade in a recurring role, hired by other villains through the series to try to lure S.H.I.E.L.D. agents or "pesky gifted people" to their dooms.

4)  Taskmaster



And yes, he'd have to be in that costume.

A guy with the innate (more about that wording tomorrow) ability to physically mimic the moves of anybody he sees, Taskmaster (Tony Masters, former S.H.I.E.L.D. agent and now trainer of mooks for bad guys as well as the best mercenary ever) is a guy who can throw Cap's shield almost as well as he can, fight almost as well as Iron Fist, and move almost as acrobatically as Daredevil.

In fact, that's his only problem in that when you get right down to it, he's always almost as good as the source material, because the source material he observes can always try new things, he's limited to what he's already seen.  Granted, it means that a martial artist suddenly has to deal with Hawkeye's arrows or Cap's shield being thrown at him or Iron Man is left fighting a guy who ducks and dodges on a level shy of Elektra, but to fight a guy who can never really beat with the same combat maneuver twice is a great villain for this series.

3)  Joystick/The Great Game



This character was just fun.  Originally a villain for the "replacement" Spider-man, Joystick was part of a group taking part in "The Great Game," a series of events where big prizes were given to whoever could get a mission done first.  It might be simply stealing an object from a secure location or attempting to murder a super-hero (major points to her that she once tried to kill Mr. Fantastic and Namor the Sub-Mariner at the same time despite only being as powerful as a "lesser" Spider-Man), but it's all about the fun and adventure for them.

Joystick herself was great, because she somehow managed to break most conventions.  She was the "team slut" of the Thunderbolts, but didn't wear a revealing costume.  She was smart enough to tell when she was being manipulated, but went along away just to see what happened.  A total hedonist, she was always "looking out for number one" and seemed surprised when anybody called her out on her actions.

2)  Black Panther

We already know that Wakanda must exist, we've seen Cap's shield.  I can't remember if vibranium itself has been mentioned, but it only stands to lead that the agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. might be called out to help T'Challa, the Black Panther, defend his kingdom from some kind of threat.  Of course, this could lead to the first appearance of Klaw, but I'd silently be hoping for the first appearance of Man-Ape.

No, seriously, Man-Ape.



...okay, maybe not Man-Ape.  Klaw'd still be pretty cool.

I'm trying to skip all of the obvious ones, since we can pretty much figure there will be Hydra at some point, maybe Paladin, maybe Luke Cage and Iron Fist, probably a good chance of Misty Knight.  I want something not everybody would think of.

So, here goes.

1)  Kang the Conqueror

Yes, I know that time travel is a beast to deal with in story telling.

Yes, I know that future technology is a beast to do CGI on.

Yes, I know that Kang is an Avengers-Level threat, but if you need a great manipulator to be behind events that the agents re trying to investigate, it's hard to do better than Kang.  Well, I mean, I suppose they could do The Wizard or The Leader but those are more specific to other teams or individual heroes.  Kang is just great to have show up when you want everyone to know things just got really serious.

Now, there are some obvious choices I didn't pick, and in fact one or two of my choices might be disqualified, but I'll address those in tomorrow's top eleven: characters I don't expect to ever show up on the show.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.

Hey, folks!  It's the first week of October!  Time for a theme week!  This week (minus yesterday due to some issues involving freshly sanded wood floors and being unable to access my computer) I'm going to focus every article (including "Ask Erik") on the new Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. program.


Man, am I going to get sick of typing that acronym.

I think the new show based off of the Marvel movie franchise on ABC might just have the silliest title for a TV series I've ever seen.  With all of the hype behind it, why do they need to clarify it's "Marvel's" agents?  Is there another S.H.I.E.L.D. out there that I haven't heard of?  Are there people who like Marvel comics but have not seen a single one of the previews, interviews, movies, or comic book ads to be aware that this is a show for them?

You don't see other comic book properties titled this way.  "Image's The Walking Dead."  "DC's Smallville."  "DC's Arrow." "Ben Edlund's The Tick."  "D.C. Cab"

Wait, was the last one not part of it?  I just remember it was made by Joel Schumacher.

Anyway, with the second episode airing tonight, I feel it's about time I gave my opinion of the first episode of the series.  Its strengths, its weaknesses, and the things that make my brain twitch.


Friday, September 27, 2013

A Thought About Remixes And Mash-Ups

I'm a pretty big fan of song mash-ups.  In fact, I plan on some near-future articles for the "Best of Booty" series that spotlights the best songs of the year as well as highlighting my personal favorite mash-up artist DJ Earworm.

There is one thing, though, that bothers me whenever I listen to the music long enough, and I don't know if it's intentional or if I'm reading too much into it.

Namely, is the mere act of creating a mash-up a commentary on how stagnant the music industry is becoming?


Thursday, September 26, 2013

Chessmaster

When I was younger, I was in a chess club one year after school.  I didn't know any of the basic "strategies" that the other kids knew, I hadn't studied hidden rules or knew that you could perform En passant or other tricks, I just liked playing for the fun of it.  I had wild, crazy strategies that would involve sacrificing pieces you should never sacrifice, sweeping across the board on one side while sending one lone pawn the other direction to get to the King, and seeing how I could best turn my side of the board into an impregnable fortress.

Needless to say, I lost almost all the time.  But I still loved chess.

Which is why I was excited when I got this game for my birthday:


Look, I'm just going to leave my lunch money on this table over here now, you guys can just take it when you want, okay?


Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Ask Erik: Episode Thirty-Four

Here at Ask Erik we've spent a lot of time reading novels and comic books, playing video games, and watching television and movies in order to amass a deep vault of pop culture knowledge.  While constantly trying to still gather new information, it only seems prudent to share some of what we have learned to help solve some of the world's greatest questions.

Who invented the spiral notebook?  How hard is it to get your own patent?  Is selling "Hello Kitty" brand beer an attempt to market alcohol to children or just a reach-out to the adult fans?

Once a week Erik tackles a question asked to him and tries to answer it in a method that handles the topic with the respect and attention it deserves.  Failing that, he'll at least try to make it funny so you don't regret reading it.