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February 28, 2014

Marvel Sales

January. The new guy. He starts off with an incorrect usage of "begs the question" but he has a background as a comics retailer, not obscure grammar, so we'll give him a try (i haven't read this yet; posting it here so i don't forget to read it later).


By fnord12 | February 28, 2014, 4:35 PM | Comics| Link



The Importance of Properly Setting Up a Study

Scientists have only recently proven (to themselves because really, have you seen the documentaries on elephant behavior in the wild?) that elephants are at least on par with chimps in terms of intelligence. It took them this long because the tests they were setting up didn't take into account how an elephant's senses work.

Link

From the cable they dangled fruit-tipped bamboo branches of various lengths both within and without of Kandula's reach. After preparing the aerial snacks they retreated out of sight, turned on a camera and waited to see what the young elephant would do. It took several days for Kandula to achieve his initial insight, but after that he repeatedly positioned and stood on the cube to wrap his trunk around food wherever the scientists suspended it; he learned to do the same with a tractor tire; and he even figured out how to stack giant butcher blocks to extend his reach.

Other elephants had failed similar tests in the past. As it turns out, however, those earlier studies were not so much a failure of the elephant mind as the human one. Unlike people and chimpanzees, elephants rely far more on their exquisite senses of smell and touch than on their relatively poor vision, especially when it comes to food. Previously, researchers had offered elephants only sticks as potential tools to reach dangling or distant treats--a strategy at which chimps excel. But picking up a stick blunts an elephant's sense of smell and prevents the animal from feeling and manipulating the desired morsel with the tip of its dexterous trunk. Asking an elephant to reach for a piece of food with a stick is like asking a blindfolded man to locate and open a door with his ear.

Ignore the fact that it seems like they got my mother to operate the camera and focus on how awesome it is that the elephant got his stepping stool to reach the tall thing.

And more examples of awesome:

"When they are getting ready to do a group charge, for example, they all look to one another: 'Are we all together? Are we ready to do this?' When they succeed, they have an enormous celebration, trumpeting, rumbling, lifting their heads high, clanking tusks together, intertwining their trunks."

Cynthia Moss, director of the Amboseli Trust for Elephants and another preeminent elephant researcher, once saw a particularly amazing example of elephant cooperation. One day the young and audacious Ebony, daughter of a matriarch named Echo, bounded right into the midst of a clan that was not her own. As a show of dominance, that clan kidnapped Ebony, keeping her captive with their trunks and legs. After failing to retrieve Ebony on their own, Echo and her eldest daughters retreated. A few minutes later they returned with all the members of their extended family, charged into the clan of kidnappers and rescued Ebony.

At a Thai conservation center, they divided an outdoor elephant enclosure into two regions with a volleyball net. On one side stood pairs of Asian elephants. On the other side the researchers attached two bowls of corn to a table that slid back and forth on a frame of plastic pipes. They looped a hemp rope around the table so that when both ends of the rope were pulled simultaneously the table moved toward the elephants, pushing the food underneath the net. If a single elephant tried to pull the rope by him or herself, it would slip out and ruin any chance of getting the food. All the elephants quickly learned to cooperate and even to patiently wait for a partner if the scientists prevented both animals from reaching the rope at the same time. One mischievous young elephant outsmarted the rest. Instead of going through the hassle of tugging on one end of the rope, she simply stood on it and let her partner do all the hard work.

A lazy, but clever elephant!!

The article brings up the "how can we justify keeping such an intelligent animal in a zoo" question. I can see how the more intelligent the animal, the more painful the captivity must be. But really, how we can justify keeping any animals in zoos? Zoos aren't sanctuaries. A zoo's purpose is to make something available to the public that they would not otherwise see without trekking through some jungle or wilderness and they charge you for that favor. How would you feel if your entire life consisted of one room and one fenced outdoor area? And everyday, strangers came and stared at you, making noises and pointing? Possibly petting you?

I say we release the animals and pen up the people who buy poached animal products. They prolly deserve to be poked and prodded. Then we wouldn't need to worry about poachers because there'd be nobody to buy their stolen goods. And we wouldn't have all this hand-wringing when a giraffe gets fed to the lions (the lions would have been fed lettuce otherwise. clearly.) because they'd all be out in their natural habitat and the lion could give the giraffe a sporting chance at running away.


By min | February 28, 2014, 8:25 AM | Science| Link



Serving Sizes That Make Sense

I don't care so much if the new nutrition labeling affects obesity or diabetes. I'm just glad someone's finally making those labels less stupid. Hopefully, this will eliminate stupid serving sizes like 1 can of something equaling 2.3 servings. What the hell am i supposed to do with 0.3 servings? Save it up until eventually my extra 0.3 adds up to a whole number?

Current serving sizes are based on the amount people should eat, not how much they actually consume. A quick glance at the nutrition label on a 5.3 oz bag of M&M's shows 220 calories--but snack on the entire 3.5-serving package and you've actually consumed 770.
...
Larger packages that could potentially be eaten in either single or multiple servings will have "dual column" labels listing both "per serving" and "per package" calorie and nutrition information.

I hope the "per package" info is more prominant in these cases then the "per serving" info. I think most people aren't sharing their M&Ms with their 2.5 friends.

Although, this is still a problem:

But there are lingering concerns with current labels that have not been solved in the new proposal. For example, the proposed label does not address the fact that the FDA currently permits five different methods of measuring total calories and allows for a calorie-count margin of error of 20 percent.

Hrm...

And obviously, the Sugar Association isn't happy about the "added sugar" category that will now be appearing. I picture the Sugar Association as a bunch of little people with big heads (kinda like the original Strawberry Shortcake) covered in frosting and sugar and candies. That's pretty close, right?


By min | February 28, 2014, 8:07 AM | Science | Comments (2) | Link



February 27, 2014

More Cat Video

Cause it's awesome.

I'm watching it again!


By min | February 27, 2014, 9:16 PM | Cute Things| Link



SuperMegaSpeed Reviews

Just two this week due to delays in the supply chain which are totally fine, really.

X-Men #11 - Ah, it's my weekly installment of this book. A weekly pace is difficult to maintain, which is i assume why we have minimal backgrounds, one page that is just a huge close-up of Monet's face, and a "meanwhile" section in the back of the book by a different artist that repeats its opening splash page on the prior page as a "cover". And having different artists on the same book can lead to problems, which is why we seemingly have Quentin Quire back in the X-Mansion with John Sublime at the same time he's fighting sentinels with the kid X-Men. Unless the two scenes aren't meant to take place at the same time, but then why "meanwhile"? Despite all of that, Brian Wood's actual writing continues to be good. This is the part of the story where people stand around and try to figure out the plot (synopsis: the X-Men stand around on an empty boat and wonder what's going on), but i enjoy the snarky back and forth dialogue and the continued build-up of the Sisterhood (and a reference to Necrosha!). I am watching with interest the way Enchantress reacts to all of this. She's clearly aware that she's gotten in over her head (bowing to both Arkea and Selene?). We've already seen how Ana Cortes has tried to deal with it; presumably she won't be the last to rebel and i expect something better from Amora. But clearly i'm interested in the book despite the continued production problems.

Daredevil #36 - No caveats about this: i enjoyed this issue and this series and i will be back for the "reboot". You could argue maybe there's too much reaction to Daredevil revealing his identity since it's not like it wasn't already essentially known, but it was done for a clever reason. And as Uncanny Michael pointed out, there's Beat-Up Hawkeye so now i have to go pick up all of the Fraction/Aja series to find out about that (see Marvel? That's how you cross-sell comics!)(although it's the crowd scenes that always get you when it comes time to work out the chronology).


By fnord12 | February 27, 2014, 3:16 PM | Comics | Comments (1) | Link



To me the problem is not enough other monsters

It's rare that i get to use our Godzilla tag but i guess it'll be happening more in the run-up to the new movie. Here's MightyGodKing's thoughts on the trailer.


By fnord12 | February 27, 2014, 1:31 PM | Godzilla | Comments (2) | Link



Unacceptable use of the word "prequel"

From Netflix's description of 1989's Vampire vs. Vampire:

Ching-Ying Lam directs and stars in this weird mélange of martial arts, horror and comedy. Ying reprises his role as the sorcerer from this film's prequel, [1985's] Mr. Vampire. This time around, he must protect a village when townspeople dig up a vicious vampire (in tandem with a vampire baby he's been harboring in secret!).

It's only a prequel if it comes out after the movie that it takes place before. Rocky isn't the prequel to Rocky II.


By fnord12 | February 27, 2014, 1:06 PM | Master of Style| Link



Sucker for Lip-synching Cat Videos

Just look at that angry little cat face!


By min | February 27, 2014, 11:14 AM | Cute Things | Comments (1) | Link



February 25, 2014

Dementia via Fried Meats

Well, that's one path to losing my mind that i don't have to worry about. Whew!

I concur with wnkr, though, who upon seeing this article declared, "omg that fry up looks so good.". Except for the baked beans. And the black pudding. And the fries are a cheap replacement for homefries. But i can totally get behind those eggs and mushrooms and sausage.

Toxic chemicals found at high concentrations in fried and grilled meats may raise the risk of diabetes and dementia, researchers say.

US scientists found that rodents raised on a Western-style diet rich in compounds called glycotoxins showed early signs of diabetes, along with brain changes and symptoms that are seen in Alzheimer's disease.

The findings matched what the researchers saw in a small number of older people, where those with higher levels of glycotoxins in their circulation had memory and other cognitive problems, and signs of insulin resistance, which precedes diabetes.

...

The sheer ubiquity of glycotoxins means dietary changes might not be easy or effective as public health interventions, but Vlassara said that cooking foods differently might help. Levels of glycotoxins rise when food is cooked dry at high temperature, but moisture prevents this.

"People will grill bacon and fry eggs for breakfast, or have a toasted bagel or muffin. But they could boil or poach the eggs, and have fresh bread. With meat, we recommend stewing and boiling, making sauces instead of exposing meat to very high dry heat," she said.

Cause i do worry, you know. About losing my mind. I need a loyal retainer to care for me in my old age. Where can i find one of those?


By min | February 25, 2014, 3:44 PM | Science| Link



February 24, 2014

Bill Mantlo

The Beat has some info and basically an OK from Mantlo's brother Mike to go ahead and see the Guardians of the Galaxy movie.

I want to use this as an opportunity to say that while i often knock his writing style, i hope it's obvious that i think Bill Mantlo's contributions to the Marvel universe were HUGE. In addition to Rocket Raccoon, here are some other character creations (certainly not comprehensive):

Cloak & Dagger
White Tiger
U-Foes
Ursa Major
Jean DeWolff
Sabra
Arabian Knight
Woodgod
Razorback
Swarm
Captain Universe
Firebird
Bug (and all the secondary Micronauts)
Hybrid (and all the secondary ROM characters)

Of course we shouldn't neglect the artists' contributions or the way later writers built off this stuff. The recurring theme of my timeline project is that the sum is greater than the parts. But Mantlo contributed so many of the parts (and in terms of events and storylines, much more than is reflected by the above list).

I'm glad to see Marvel doing something in the right direction for Mantlo. The question of character creations is in my mind a difficult one due to the "sum of the parts" issue (the characters in the Guardians of the Galaxy movie illustrate that very clearly), and Mantlo's specific issues are part of a larger societal problem (and one that Obamacare didn't really fix, per this moving article). Min and i do a monthly recurring donation to the Hero Initiative, but Mantlo's situation is unfortunately not going to be fixed with money. So it's good to see the Guardians of the Galaxy getting him some recognition, too.


By fnord12 | February 24, 2014, 9:59 AM | Comics| Link



February 21, 2014

SuperMegaSpeed Reviews

The second batch....

X-Men #10.NOW - Ghosts #1 my ass. This is the story that this entire series has been about, and it's a direct continuation of last issue. I can see with the fake #1 that Wood is making an effort to be more expository, and that's useful. Unfortunately there's some basic quality problems in this issue that may be offputting, starting with basic grammar. "I'm not use to going toe-to-toe with magic users"? (And that's from Monet and she's supposed to be perfect, right?) Then there's Storm saying "This display is courtesy of the Cerebro spikes that Psylocke stole from that freak show Xavier descendant." I can't even parse that sentence, let alone believe it came from Storm's mouth. Also some problems with word balloon direction...

...and a missing face (haven't seen one of those in a while!).

Not putting your best foot forward. If you can get past the production problems, this DOES seem like a decent jumping on point for someone interested in the book but missed the first few issues (or coming in off the crossover issues that i skipped). Not because it's the first part of a story but because the script actually bothers with making the book accessible. And frankly, that's useful to me, too, as someone that reads lots of comics and other stuff every month and can't remember every detail of every issue. Not to mention the fact that this book has all the kid X-Men that i don't know much about, so again the exposition was helpful. The fact that it requires a special issue with a made-up number to do this stuff is kind of sad; it used to be that this kind of thing was standard. I know it often went too far in the other direction, with every character shouting their names and powers every issue, but this issue finds a nice balance and there's no reason it couldn't always be like this. As for the actual story, it continues to be interesting and is building nicely. The sentinel battle and the planned new recruits for the Sisterhood are things to look forward to.

Black Widow #3 - One thing we were disappointed by in the Captain Ms. Marvel series was how she was first thrown into a time-travel story that mucked with her origin, then given a brain aneurysm, de-powered, etc.. Similarly with Sif and her berzerker thing. Why couldn't we just watch these super-heroines do their thing for a while before we get into deconstruction? So i have to admit, that's exactly what we have here with Black Widow. Just going on spy missions and kicking ass, with a little bit of character insight. That said, the stories still have to be interesting and i'm still on the fence about that. And maybe my complaints about decompression are being taken a little too literally; the stories don't have to be entirely one-and-done. I think with the introduction of Maria Hill and the Widow taking a SHIELD job, we might see a larger plot develop. So i'd say it's worth going a little further with this.

Iron Man #21 - This continues to be good with the Red Peril character having some nuance (and a terrible name; i still think she should have been a new Firebrand) and Gillen doing nice with the scripting and the new "Mandarins" and their funny rings.

Secret Avengers #15 - Very nice! Luke Ross really shines in this issue. Doing things Steranko-style seems to be the new trend again, but Ross does it well and it's of course fitting for this style. And a nice fakeout on killing Mockingbird. As i was reading it i was thinking what was the point of bringing back Bobbi in Secret Invasion just to kill her again, but (i assume at this point i'm not spoiling this for anyone except Min) killing off the extraneous Black Widow is a lot easier to take, and of course she can come back as a cyborg if we want to use her again. The inclusion of the fake Shang-Chi was a little weird and he was taken care of very easily, but whatever, still a fun little fight. See? I praised lots of stuff in this issue and didn't even mention that all i'm really excited about is MODOK joining SHIELD.

Ms. Marvel #1 - Wow, this was really great. I've read some complaints from potentially sympathetic readers saying that Kamala comes across as TOO stereotypically Muslim, with the bacon bit at the beginning and other things with her family, and i agree that it comes on a bit strong at first. But once she pivots to "why can't i be normal" you realize it's a classic Spider-Man type story. And i liked the art by Alphona. I liked him recently on the issues he did of Uncanny X-Force but a more quirky teen drama book like this is better for the original Runaways artist. So, here's hoping this keeps up. (Wanyas is right, though: i don't know what beach these kids are hanging out at in Jersey City).

Revolutionary War: Death's Head II - First of all, i've never liked Death's Head II, just on principle, because he isn't Death's Head I. But i did enjoy this. Because, hey, Death's Head I, yes? And holy cow, knock me over with a feather, he mentions rebuilding his body after his encounter with Iron Man! Yeah, this was fun. You can't go wrong when the villain busts out in a giant concussion cannon with a big drill bit on the front. And this series continues to do a good job of introducing these characters and their histories (if only through a standard "let me download your memories" plot device this time). And despite the unusual format - different writers, different characters, no sequential numbering - the story has been fairly cohesive. It's been a nice diversion.

Superior Foes of Spider-Man #8 - Poor Shocker. He used to have such a nice apartment. And now even the severed head of Silvermane is mocking him. Thanks, Obama! This continues to be just an awesome comic. And i've finally figured out that the one guy on this team that i haven't really gotten a handle on is actually Big Wheel.


By fnord12 | February 21, 2014, 2:20 PM | Comics | Comments (1) | Link



Whoodwin?

King Ghidorah vs.Sink Piece
King Ghidorah This stupid piece of our kitchen sink that's been broken for months while we waited for Pfister to very slowly ship us first the wrong piece and then tell us to soak things in vinegar and then finally the right piece

By fnord12 | February 21, 2014, 1:27 PM | Godzilla & My stupid life & Whoodwin | Comments (1) | Link



Book Review: The She-Hulk Diaries

To start, the plot courtesy of the back cover:

Saying there are two sides to Jennifer Walters's personality is an understatement. When she hasn't morphed into a 650-pund, crime-fighting, party-loving superhero, she's a single lawyer trying to get her act together. Hilarious and action-packed, The She-Hulk Diaries tells her story, as she juggles looking for Mr. Right and climbing the corporate ladder by day with battling villains and saving the world by night. Maybe she'll finally take on a case that will define her career. Maybe she won't meet one Mr. Right, but two, and she'll have to choose. Maybe bad guys will stop trying to destroy the planet so she can read her Perez Hilton in peace.

Á la Henry Fielding's Bridget Jones's Diary, The She-Hulk Diaries by Marta Acosta is a series of journal entries made by Jennifer Walters about fulfilling a list of New Year's resolutions. If you hate first person narratives, TSHD might not work for you.

This book falls under the "chick lit" genre. Chick lit (according to Wikipedia) focuses on the "issues of modern womanhood". Between that definition and the plot summary on the back cover, I thought this book would be about how Jen Walters juggles her dual lives of being a top-notch lawyer and a world-saving superhero.

It's not. She-Hulk barely makes a showing with a total of eight very brief appearances where she easily takes care of an immediate threat (this includes the final encounter with the "main" villain) and then does some off-camera partying before going back to being Jen Walters. Limited Shulky time is one of Jen's goals for the new year.

The majority of the book actually consists of Jen trying to convince herself she is not still in love with her post-grad crush/weekend hookup Ellis Quintal IV.

 

**SPOILER ALERT***

 

She is still in love with her post-grad crush/weekend hookup.

 

**END SPOILER ALERT**

 

And as for the "issues of modern womanhood", well, from reading TSHD, i have determined that means moaning about not having a job (she finds a job about 3 seconds after she starts looking), not having a place to live (she goes from one luxury apartment where she's been living for free to another luxury apartment where she lives for free), and not having a boyfriend (this one takes a bit longer to resolve). Even her therapist wants to know why she hasn't yet found a man. It's quite empowering.

I was very surprised by how this She-Hulk is totally unlike the She-Hulk i was familiar with. Ok, admittedly, i have no knowledge of She-Hulk from any of her solo books. All of my knowledge is gleaned from her appearances in other titles. For instance, the current run of FF (Matt Fraction/Mike Allred) - the Fantastic Four ask her to be one of the people to hold down the fort at the Future Foundation while they go off on a family trip. This alone signals to me that she is considered responsible and capable by her superhero colleagues. And her portrayal in the book has lived up to that.

Conversely, Acosta's She-Hulk is immature, irresponsible, willfully destructive, and the Avengers don't want to have anything to do with her.

She-Hulk got us kicked out of Avengers Mansion. People keep posting videos online of her New Year's Eve shenanigans: twirling flaming telephone poles in Times Square, climbing the Empire State Building while dangling Anderson Cooper, dancing wildly at parties, and commandeering a motorcycle cop's ride to do wheelies across the Brooklyn Bridge.

In one scene, she "borrows" a parking attendant's motorcycle to get to a fashion show. In order to avoid traffic, she drives up on the sidewalk. And then for kicks, she jumps the motorcycle off of a row of cabs, causing their roofs to cave in, while waving to the media.

Additionally, in the novel, the public is unaware that Jennifer Walters is She-Hulk.

Just to make sure i hadn't missed some major character changes over the years, i conferred with my comic book experts (fnord12, Wanyas, and Bob). They all agreed with my vision of She-Hulk. Problem was none of us read Dan Slott's She-Hulk run in 2004. Whoops.

So, She-Hulk was (is?) irresponsible and destructive and did get kicked out of Avengers Mansion by Cap in the comics. The She-Hulk Diaries takes place shortly after that.

Now, if you normally dislike epistolary novels because of the lack of detail and the jumps in time between entries, fret not. Jen Walters assures us in the very beginning that she will be as faithful as possible while transcribing conversations and whoo boy, did she deliver on her promise. Her daily interactions are so exactly transcribed, you will start to wonder if Acosta realized she was supposed to be constructing journal entries.

Dahlia had left her radishes on the paper plate so I snagged them.

Nothing is too mundane to be chronicled!

Jen mainly interacts with her best friend Dahlia. Other key characters include Ellis Quintal, the aforementioned crush; Sven Morigi, a client she's representing and the second "Mr. Right" mentioned in the blurb; and Amber Tumbridge, Jen's colleague and, more importantly, Ellis' fiancée.

The supporting characters are generally pretty under-developed and two dimensional. The worst of them is Amber Tumbridge. She was created to fulfill the "bitchy rival" role. Her only expression is a "smeer", a combination smile and sneer. She's outrageously condescending about everything and to everyone. The complete lack of redeeming qualities often leaves both the reader and the characters in the book wondering why Quintal is with her. I suppose we could say that since this is all written from Jen's perspective, it's a skewed picture of her romantic rival. That's all well and good for real life, but it doesn't make for very interesting reading.

There was added frustration when Jen almost has a real and meaningful conversation with Ruth, the woman in charge of all the Avengers' paperwork. Ruth brings up the inequality women face when they are deemed "sluts" by men for being equally sexually active. When i read that, i thought "Yeah! Now we're getting somewhere!".

Jen gives a rather unemotional statement of agreement and then switches the topic immediately to Fan Club business. I was so disappointed. It's like the author enticed me with something that is a very real problem of "modern womanhood" only to say "Just kidding! That's too serious. Let's get back to the lighthearted hilarity.". *sigh*

The She-Hulk Diaries wasn't entirely unreadable. It gave nods to comic book geeks with tidbits such as Holden Holliway mentioning his granddaughter's (AKA Southpaw) left hook. But with zingers like this...

Jen: How come I never have any devastating retorts?

Dahlia: Because you waste all your energy on torts, not retorts.

...representative of the level of wit and humor you can expect throughout the book, i couldn't actually recommend it.

 

**MORE SPOILER ALERT**

 

The big villain turns out to be Sven Morigi who is really Doctor Doom in disguise. He explains in his villain speech. Obviously.

Rearrange the letters in Doctor Sven Morigi and you get Victor Doom reigns! I dropped the von, which had seemed right at the time but now is a little much, don't you think? Like using punctuation for a name. Glad I never did that!

Wha??? Who the hell is this guy? No way in hell Doom is talking like that. The "von" is "a little much"??? I made a gurgling noise when i read that cause i was choking on my disbelief. Yeah. If you have any respect at all for Doom, don't read this book.


By min | February 21, 2014, 9:53 AM | Boooooks & Comics| Link



February 19, 2014

Bruce Willis is still alive

Despite what you may have heard on Facebook. But the theme song has been ready since 2008.


By fnord12 | February 19, 2014, 2:06 PM | Music & Ummm... Other?| Link



Marvel Sales

December. Paul O'Brien's last.


By fnord12 | February 19, 2014, 12:30 PM | Comics| Link



February 18, 2014

Twofer

Just some quick Kevin Drum link-blogging. The TPP is apparently stalling. No word on whether the Hulk smashed it (cf).

And this one's a twofer within a twofer. Kevin Drum quoting Paul Krugman on the Comcast/Time-Warner merger, and what it means especially for us cord-cutters that only use cable for internet.


By fnord12 | February 18, 2014, 2:34 PM | Liberal Outrage| Link



SuperMegaSpeed Reviews

I'm a bit behind on currents. Here comes the first batch...

Iron Man #20.INH - Nicely standalone for an Inhumanity tie-in. I like the sentient rings, and i liked the analysis of their various candidates (and it's nice to see they have standards in rejecting the Red Skull for his views on ethnic genocide). One thing i haven't loved in the glimpses i've been getting of Inhumanity is the unfriendly rivalry between Tony Stark and Bruce Banner (it's just really stupid for Stark to antagonize Banner), and i did like seeing Arno call Tony on that to a degree here.

X-Men #9 - This has been a fun adventure story. I do really miss Olivier Coipel's art, which was a big reason we were attracted to this book. And the Dodsons are not helping matters. But i'm still liking this. I do like the use of the Enchantress here unlike a lot of the internet, apparently. As a character that was in the Masters of Evil and a participant in Secret Wars, i like to see her integrated more into the Marvel universe and not just dealing with Thor stuff. And i liked seeing her use her physical side against Monet; she's not just a sorceress, she's also a physically powerful Asgardian. I'm also liking Monet too, actually. She's a character i never knew much about since i didn't read Generation X and fell away from the X-books generally later on. And she didn't make much of an impression in Peter David's X-Factor (at the point where i started, anyway). But she's been used well here.

Revolutionary War: Knights of Pendragon #1 - I want to say that this book seems to be trying too hard, with a Zombie King Arthur and his Zombie Knights of the Round Table and his Zombie Exclaibur. But who am i kidding? I love Zombie King Arthur and his Zombie Knights of the Round Table and his Zombie Exclaibur. I do have to say that my lack of knowledge of sports and especially British sports defeated me for the ending, though: i have no idea who G.Knight is, although i do get the basic idea. This book was a weird kind of fun. Good scripting gave me a feel for the characters even though i haven't really read them before (i do recall having picked up a few of the original books in bargain bins but what i most distinctly remember is Black Panther on the cover crying over a dead hippo).

Indestructible Hulk #18.INH - I don't really have anything to say about this except that the way they draw the Beast nowadays is ridiculous.

FF #16 - Wow, this was like a treatise on the Marvel universe. I don't know, there was a lot of continuity in this book. Was it really in the service of a story? Interesting idea on Pym particles - in some ways it's synergistic with Erik Josten, who had powers based on both Pym Particles and Zemo's ionic rays, but at the same time it makes Josten less unique to say that Zemo's work is actually just using Pym's particles a different way. Innovative, in any event but i have to sleep on the implications. For the purposes of this story, i liked it as a way for Scott Lang to beat Doom, even if from here they decide that using Pym Particles that way is unstable and never do it again. And i thought the comments on Dr. Doom's scarring were interesting as well. I have to admit i was skeptical about this FF book when i first picked it up but i am glad i gave it a try and am sorry to see it go. It's been weirdly old school and hyper-modern at the same time, and of course a lot of that is because of Allred, but not entirely. So to the degree that Matt Fraction was involved, i amend my opinion of him accordingly.

Black Widow #1-2 - In my rant about renumberings i mentioned both Hawkeye and Daredevil but for brevity (ha!) i left out an aside where i wanted to say how the funny thing about those books is that their selling point is that they are driven entirely by the unique voice of the creative team. As if that's some innovative new way of producing comics! But lately, it has been. Walter Lawson has some good comments on my other recent rant where he likens Marvel writers to the 90s artists that had more power than the editors. But at the same time the Marvel direction seems very editorially driven, alongside the handful of "Marvel Architects". So Hawkeye and Daredevil really are outliers to a degree (ironically since Fraction is one of the Architects). And interestingly those books have gotten some critical acclaim, and now we're seeing more books that are being explicitly promoted along that line like this Black Widow book. Get on the hot new trend of books not written by committee! As for the actual content of this book, well, Phil Noto's art is interesting (and it seems to have gotten better since his Iceman retcon) but it's not very dynamic and i'm on the fence about it working for Black Widow. The stories are fine spy stuff, but i'm again not sure about the idea that she does all this work but donates the proceeds to charity. Seems unnecessarily complicated. She's an Avenger and a SHIELD agent. She ought to have plenty to do if she wants to do good. But it's an interesting way to keep her in the spy game while keeping her heroic. Honestly i find it all a bit bland but thanks to Marvel's opportunistic publishing schedule (or what Marvel calls the reader trend towards binge consuming) i already have not just these two issues but a third sitting in my second batch of currents, so i'll have another chance to form an opinion.


By fnord12 | February 18, 2014, 12:10 PM | Comics | Comments (1) | Link



February 17, 2014

1986

It's hard to believe, but i originally envisioned that if i did have anyone reading my Marvel Timeline site, i would quietly put a year together, work out all the details, and then announce here where people would go and read it. Instead, i get comments as i'm working on the year, and i actually like that much better. Instant feedback and a real motivation to keep up a steady pace so that there is something new most days. Plus, i was doing it on the internet. I don't know what i was thinking. But if there are any lurkers out there who prefer to read it all at once, i'm calling 1986 done for now (with the usual caveats).

I said i'd finish 1986 in the winter, and judging by the endless snow that keeps coming down, i made that deadline, although just barely. But: 1986! The conclusion of Secret Wars II! X-Factor! The Mutant Massacre! The Raid on Avengers Mansion! And just a great year generally.

And thanks to everyone who does read and comment, whenever you do it. I appreciate your corrections, challenges, opinions, and recollections. I really did just start this project for myself, to get a better grip on my own collection, but it's so much more rewarding to get all your feedback and see that others see value in it.

I do intend to go directly to 1987 as promised, and i already know that there are some books that will wind up going back into 1986, so watch the Recent Updates> Pushback space if you are following along in real time.


By fnord12 | February 17, 2014, 7:46 PM | Comics | Comments (3) | Link



February 14, 2014

Trolls and Pendulums

Let me start by saying that i appreciate that Tom Brevoort does his tumblr Q&A. I like hearing the thinking that goes on at Marvel, even when i don't like it or think it's good for their business. But sometimes i think he's trolling me and my ilk (if you read my Timeline website, you are of my ilk for the purposes of this conversation). And i know whenever i quote Brevoort, Min gets upset. So by posting this, i'm kind of trolling her.

So i apologize for all of that. But i did want to preserve this post where Brevoort claims that the focus on Marvel continuity comes from Mark Gruenwald. I get what he's trying to say, which is that Gruenwald did some things that really increased the internal consistency and cataloged (literally) a lot of things. And it's nice of him to acknowledge that a lot of fans like Marvel continuity because Marvel encouraged us to do so. But the idea that continuity in the 60s and 70s before Gruenwald was "much, much looser, much more in the service of the stories being told" is demonstrably false. Steve Englehart's Celestial Madonna storyline is almost as much a Marvel Handbook as Gruenwald's Marvel Handbooks. And i can't count the number of stories that Roy Thomas wrote just to fix some previous continuity error. Two that quickly come to mind are the Invaders story that fixes the discrepancies in the original Squadron Sinister story, and the Avengers time travel story that fixed various inconsistencies in the death/freezing of Captain America. Those stories were barely stories in their own right; they were much more in the service of the continuity than telling a story. Whether that's good or bad is up for debate, but the idea that the interest in continuity was some mid-80s aberration is completely wrong.

As always, i log this stuff for posterity so if i ever get my Timeline up to the current era and tumblr hasn't link-rotted away, i can easily refer back to it. But it's also relevant in terms of a little controversy that seems to be bubbling right now. I'm not reading the comics in question, so it's not of immediate concern to me. But it seems that Corsair has been dead, and he's just shown up on the final page of a Bendis comic with no explanation. Now, of course, it's a last page reveal, so it's entirely possible that Bendis had every intention of explaining it. But people have reason to be concerned, as the return of Star-Lord has not yet been explained after how many issues, and the response on that is that he's getting to it. So who knows if Bendis ever really intended to explain why Corsair was back if people hadn't written to him about it. And i guess a subset of this controversy is that Hepzibah was last seen on Earth, and now she's in space with Corsair. And the response there is a dismissive "She went back into space".

Brevoort says (one of the links above) that what the complainers want is a "Reese [sic] Commission report with footnotes and cross-referencing", and certainly some footnotes would help ease the tension and confusion quite a bit. But i think what these type (us type) of fans really want is just that internal consistency that if we see Corsair and Hepzibah, there's some sort of explanation of how they got from the point A that we last saw them at to the current point B (remember, the Corsair example is just because it's topical; we've been through this a thousand times before and that's why fans are being so quick to react this time). Especially if point A for one of them was seeming death (like Star-Lord). Sure we can make it up on our own. But then what's the point? The thing about this is, we're supposed to care about Corsair and Hepzibah; i assume their appearance on that last page is meant to be an exciting cliff-hanger. But we care about them because of their past appearances. What Brevoort and Bendis really want is the ability to say "Oh no, this is a different story and Corsair and Hepzibah and Star-Lord are alive in this one", but they don't want to actually say that. Because they know that a large subset of Marvel fans aren't really interested in the little stories as such. They are interested in THE story of the Marvel universe.

If i'm wrong about that, and it's just a few loud complainers, then they could easily put their money where their mouth is and just abandon continuity. No need to pretend that Bendis will eventually explain this stuff. Just let your comics sell on the strength of the individual stories you are telling. But i don't think that's the case and so Brevoort has to at least pay lip-service to the idea that it really still is a shared universe. But you can sure see the contempt they have for having to do that. And the reason i'm logging this here and i'm not just giving up is because i think this is just a phase Marvel is going through. I think what you have is an almost visceral reaction to the excessive continuity that happened in a period where the Mark Gruenwalds rose to the top of the ranks and maybe put too much emphasis on continuity by the period of the early 90s. I'm interested in getting to that period again, but i've already seen glimpses of it with various comments about Quasar. And that seems to be a period that Marvel currently looks on with embarrassment, maybe when talking to Disney execs or the movie guys (see the reaction in Sean Howe's book from the movie execs about the "the Talmudic continuity scholars in Marvel editorial" at the time). So the pendulum is currently swinging hard in the opposite direction. And it's interesting to watch and see where it goes, whether it will swing back or just keep going in that direction until the weight just crashes right through the ceiling.


By fnord12 | February 14, 2014, 2:37 PM | Comics | Comments (11) | Link



We don't have a category for sports, obviously, and this post doesn't link to a comic

Wondermark's Better Olympic Narratives is funny.


By fnord12 | February 14, 2014, 11:37 AM | Ummm... Other? | Comments (2) | Link



February 13, 2014

Snow Day

We used to have lawn furniture.

And a front walk.

Now we just have snow. I mean, it's not like we live in Wisconsin or something, like a couple of chumps.

It's a good thing we have a garage cause we're getting to the point where the snow is going to block the front screen door from opening. And it's only 11am.


Explain to me again why we, as a society, don't just take the winter off to hibernate? We've got plenty of beans. I think we can make it til spring.


By min | February 13, 2014, 11:07 AM | My stupid life| Link



February 12, 2014

I'm not even going to *have* kids

Who will take my chronologically ordered comics collection when i am gone? Another argument in favor of immortality.


By fnord12 | February 12, 2014, 3:52 PM | Comics| Link



That's Just So Wrong

It's bad enough that crocodiles exist at all. They're prehistoric! Why haven't they died out or evolved into something new ferchrissakes??? *shudder*

And now this!

Crocodiles can climb trees. And they do it well, too: Some of the toothy reptiles have been spotted as high as 32 feet up a tree.
...
To determine just how frequently crocodiles climb into trees, the team looked in several places. The first was published scientific literature -- all three references, one of which, dating back to 1972, described how baby crocodiles could "climb into bushes, up trees and even hang on reeds like chameleons."
...
In Australia, they saw crocodiles in trees -- and spotted one individual attempting to scale a chain-link fence. In the Everglades and Central America, many crocodiles were spotted basking on the concealed lower branches of mangrove trees. At some of these sites, the only way the reptiles could have reached their resting spot was by climbing up the tree trunk itself. And in Africa, Nile crocodiles and their relatives were seen just as frequently in trees as were some birds. In many instances, these reptiles were lying on tree limbs that were nowhere near the water. One was spotted on a log 13 feet above the water and 16 feet from the riverbank. "To reach this site the crocodile would have had to scale a [13-foot] completely vertical bank and then walk amongst the branches to reach the end of the tree," the authors reported.

WTF?? Next you'll be telling me sharks can come out on land. Goddamned landsharks!


By min | February 12, 2014, 9:45 AM | Science| Link



Off to a good start

Economic reporters adjusting to a female Fed chairwoman.


By fnord12 | February 12, 2014, 9:37 AM | Liberal Outrage| Link



February 10, 2014

#1 Crush

Paul O'Brien lays out the history of #1s and the problems with the increased usage. I don't think there's anything we haven't heard and said before but it's a good summary and there are some insights along the way so it is worth reading.

It got me thinking again about what the problem is, though. By coincidence i happened to be skimming through an article in Rolling Stone about the TV show Homeland and how it's been floundering lately (i guess? i don't watch it.) but until recently it added viewers with every episode, which is the opposite of what every Marvel comic does. Like most TV dramas the show would have a continuing uber-story but people still seem to be able to jump in on any episode and keep watching. That's very unlike modern decompressed comics where you have to read 6 issues for a single story. So the idea that you need a new #1 to convince readers it's a jumping on point seems to stem from that. I don't know that going back to single issue stories is the solution, but better exposition and some sense of movement every issue might be steps in the right direction.

But i think there's more than that. Paul O'Brien mentioned Hawkeye as a series that has bucked the trend and gained readers every issue. But i'll use that as my example of a book i didn't pick up even after it got good reviews. I didn't get on board with Hawkeye because a) i'm not really a Hawkeye fan and b) i'm not a Matt Fraction fan. But i admit that the buzz around the book has been tempting. For me, personally, though, there's a few reasons why i still didn't give it a try:

1) Unsure about ability to get back issues. I initially passed on Daredevil which had a similar buzz, and i made the effort to jump on the series and get all the back issues. But getting those back issues was a real challenge. We tried several stores and eventually i had to put the items on an online store's "wish list" and wait to get notified that they had an issue. Now, the fact that i decided i needed all the back issues in order to jump on probably proves Marvel's point. And of course if not for my own peculiar special needs, i could have waited for the trade (but i'd have to first wait for the Deluxe Hardcover trade, then the Deluxe Softcover trade, and then, if i'm lucky, something affordable). But compare that with television where there are re-runs and even marathons that you can Tivo, plus often the ability to watch older episodes on a website. And the need to get back issues comes from the decompressed story problem. I have to admit that it probably wouldn't have been a problem for Daredevil and probably not for Hawkeye, either. But my general experience has been god help you if you pick up a story in the middle, like when i jumped on to Fantastic Four after Karl Kesel came on board.

2) Fill in art. The big selling point of Hawkeye was David Aja's art, and by the time i was considering jumping in, he wasn't even drawing the book (issues #4-5 were by Javier Pulido). Aja has come back but if you look at the run it's been fairly inconsistent. This isn't the end of the world but it definitely feels like a bait and switch, and with other books the artists don't come back (Uncanny X-Force and the current adjectiveless X-Men come to mind). Maybe it's the equivalent of having really great special effects for the first episode of a Walking Dead season and then having the rest of the season be people talking to each other on a farm. Again, by itself it's not the core problem (Daredevil is again similar here; the artists that aren't Samnee have been doing fine keeping the look together), but it does lessen the appeal especially when the buzz about a book is about an artist.

3) Lack of impact on other titles. This is probably the biggest one for me, and as much as Marvel hates it, for a lot of fans. At the same time i haven't been reading Hawkeye, i have been reading Young Avengers (which features Kate Bishop, who i understand had a prominent role in the Fraction series) and Secret Avengers (which features Hawkeye). And neither book has made any reference (possibly there was an unfootnoted nod in Young Avengers #1) or shown any effects of any of the events of the Hawkeye book. And that says to me that whatever is going on in the Hawkeye book is irrelevant. I'll avoid delving for the umpteempth time into why a book has to be "relevant" for me to want to get it, but suffice it to say a lot of fans feel that way and Marvel knows it or we wouldn't have Inhumanity coming on the heels of Infinity on the heels of Age of Ultron. I'm not suggesting that Hawkeye should have been included in those events. Only that Hawkeye when appearing in other books ought to occasionally make reference to the events of his own series, and let the character development Fraction is doing there inform the character elsewhere. It's really not hard to make me feel bad about "missing" something in another book, which in theory should translate to me starting to pick that book up if it sounds interesting. But if it's not important for Hawkeye to mention in Secret Avengers, it's not important enough for me to care about. Right now Marvel books are so silo'd outside of those mega events it doesn't feel like we are looking at a unified universe or the same characters.

The above definitely turned into a mid-morning ramble and i don't know that i've necessarily hit on the real problem or just used it as an opportunity to vent about my own personal bugaboos ("Aha! Marvel comics aren't selling well? It's because they're doing the things that *I* don't like!"). But i see people saying the reason Marvel needs to keep injecting the #1 heroin is because the quality of their books suck and they need gimmicks to keep people interested. I don't think that's the problem, exactly. I think there are a lot of talented people working at Marvel right now and that the books have a lot of potential. I think that potential definitely fizzles with each new relaunch though. Books start off interesting, drag on and go nowhere, and then get cancelled before a story is completed. And six months down the road, the story turns out to have no relevance or impact on anything, so who cares and why bother reading some other relaunch? But maybe i'll still get excited by some new promotions and try something until i again realize we're going down the same path. And by the same token i'm unlikely to pick up some other book that's getting buzz once i've passed on it initially. These seem to be strategic or editorial problems, not problems with the creative teams.

With that though, the last thing i'll say is that editorial doesn't seem to think there's a problem. Reading the direct market sales charts every month it seems to me like there's a problem. I've quoted Paul O'Brien and Mike Sterling and others who seem to think there's a problem. But when you read Tom Brevoort's tumblr page or interviews with EiC Axel Alonso, they don't seem to think there's a problem. There are secret sales that we don't know about,a nd they are doing well and the reason they structure stories the way they do and relaunch books the way they do is because that's what fans want, which is proven out by the sales. So maybe everything's fine and we're all spilling pixels for nothing (i guess no matter what we are spilling pixels for nothing, because even if there is a problem it's not like anyone looking to me for a solution). But i still wanted to add to the voices saying that increased reboot trend is sure looking like Marvel is getting increasingly desperate.


By fnord12 | February 10, 2014, 11:39 AM | | Comments (2) | Link



February 8, 2014

Marvel studio movies

I don't have anything profound to say but just to prevent any off topic conversation i wanted to quickly throw up a post here in response to a comment in the General Comments section on the Timeline.

Short answer is i really like all the Marvel Studio movies. After years of disappointing super-hero movies, Marvel showed that by doing it in house they could create a popular set of movies that don't throw out all the concepts that make the comics what they are. Of course the movies change some stuff, but for the most part the movies are a lot closer to the comics than past super-hero movies. No one says "my powers don't work that way" like Storm did in X-Men. In that vein i'm a little apprehensive of the upcoming Ant-Man movie because some of the changes they seem to be making, but i'm willing to wait and see.

Speaking for my partner Min too, i think our biggest complaint so far is that there haven't been enough gigantic hats in the Thor movies. On a slightly more substantial note, i thought Thor 2 was good but was a little disappointed in the fact that they used Malekith but really made him not at all like Malekith. My fanboy dream of course would be the Casket of Ancient Winter saga, with all the other surrounding Marvel movies having an unexplained snowstorm (which would also help explain why, say, Iron Man doesn't show up when the world is threatened in the Thor movie). But that aside, i thought even the Thor movies and the Hulk movie and Iron Man 2 were good. Heck, i even watch the SHIELD tv show.

I did think the X-Men movies were ok but they definitely had problems and i remember the third one being a terrible mess. I think the Spidey/Doc Ock battle on the train in Spider-Man 2 was awesome, but the Spidey movies were similarly at the X-Men level - ok but not fantastic. I haven't seen the Spider-Man reboot. Here's some other random reviews of the lesser tier movies.

Characteristically, i haven't seen most of the recent DC movies. I fell asleep during the first of the Dark Knight Batman movies (there was an interminable car chase scene... on a roof? with a tank?) and haven't bothered to watch the rest or Superman. I'll probably see the Batman/Superman movie, though.


By fnord12 | February 8, 2014, 12:50 AM | Comics & Movies | Comments (3) | Link



February 6, 2014

Backwards

As i've said before, i don't really care about the gun control issue, and maybe Wendy Davis doesn't either. I also don't really care who becomes governor of Texas.

But Wendy Davis' supporters, both in state voters and those out of state who would send her money, by and large do care about gun control. And pro-gun rights people are going to vote for the Republican no matter what Davis does. So this kind of thinking gets it exactly wrong:

One Democratic consultant suggested that since Abbott supporters already tried to paint Davis as an anti-gun candidate, it may be pragmatic for the state senator to support the proposal.

"If the issue isn't important to you, then it would be smart to take it off the table by saying, 'Me, too; now let's go back to talking about education and how we fund road building and the stuff the mainstream of Texas is really concerned with,'" strategist Harold Cook told the AP.

Democrats needs to stop listening to consultants that think the way to win elections is to appeal to the mythical independent voter that carefully weighs each issue and decides, on balance, to vote for the candidate that supports slightly more of the same issues that you do. You win elections with turn-out, by rallying your base and getting people to come out on election day for you. And you win undecided voters by looking principled, not by flip-flopping and pandering.


By fnord12 | February 6, 2014, 10:12 AM | Liberal Outrage| Link



Splitters!

I heard on Colbert that Pussy Riot was appearing with Madonna and it got me thinking. To me, Madonna is/was the quintessential media pop star, the opposite of everything punk rock stands for. But is it different in Russia? Is she thought of as more subversive thanks to her upfront sexuality? I think of that as just T&A to sell records, but maybe Pussy Riot thinks differently? Well, it seems not everyone in Pussy Riot is happy with their concert. But the reasons seem to be more broad than appearing with Madonna.

It's hard for me to see how playing a charity concert sponsored by Amnesty International is selling out. But in terms of my Madonna question, i don't think i've learned anything. Except that the old rule that if two leftists enter a room, three splinter groups will emerge is still true.


By fnord12 | February 6, 2014, 8:00 AM | Music| Link



February 5, 2014

Apologies for all the politics

Here's a frog riding a beetle to make up for it.


By fnord12 | February 5, 2014, 5:22 PM | Ummm... Other?| Link



Well then your job sucks

Following up on the post below, here is the Washington Post's Chris Cillizza using Alice In Wonderland logic to explain why even though the CBO report on the ACA doesn't say what lazy pundits like him says that it says, it's still ok for him to say it.

My job is to assess not the rightness of each argument but to deal in the real world of campaign politics in which perception often (if not always) trumps reality.

Wow. Gotta go to Brad DeLong for this one:

Note the assumptions here:
  • That what actually happens to Americans as ObamaCare is implemented is not the "real world"
  • That the real world is the world of "campaign politics"
  • That in this real world of campaign politics reality does not count-"perception trumps"
  • That it is not his job to report on the "rightness of the argument" about what the consequences of ObamaCare implementation will be for all those Americans who do not live in the real world of campaign politics but, instead live somewhere else
  • That it is his job to report on the perceptions of campaign politics-because that is the real world

Even if you accept that Cillizza is only a political reporter and it's not his job to report on the facts of Obamacare but only the facts of campaign politics, his immediate rush to declare this bad for Democrats in yesterday's article still amounts to, as i said below, a self-fulfilling prophecy. If he wanted to wait until after Republicans put out their "Obamacare killed 2 million jobs" ads and Democrats put out their "Bill was a 59 year old man with his cancer in remission who was ready to retire but was afraid of losing his healthcare until Obamacare was implemented" ads, then he's welcome to do analysis on that and tell us which was more effective. Instead he even now barely seems to understand the distinction and just says it's too complicated to explain. In his original article he called it "economic nerd-speak". Not sure what value he is bringing to the table.


By fnord12 | February 5, 2014, 4:46 PM | Liberal Outrage| Link



How Obamacare kills jobs

By giving people a little more control over their lives.

Compare to how the dimwits in the media report on the same. The amazing thing is that most of the media personalities seem to acknowledge the reality of the CBO report but nonetheless say that the news will play better for Republicans and that's the real news. Talk about self-fulfilling prophecies.

Update: Credit where credit is due: Paul Ryan, of all people, corrects the misconception. And on the other side, an important clarification from Kevin Drum.


By fnord12 | February 5, 2014, 9:33 AM | Liberal Outrage| Link



February 4, 2014

Science

I don't normally like to wade into the abortion topic, and this is definitely nutpicking, but this was a new one to me and i had to share:

Marshall has also argued that children with disabilities are nature's "vengeance" for abortion.

"The number of children who are born subsequent to a first abortion with handicaps has increased dramatically," Marshall reportedly said in 2010. "Why? Because when you abort the first born of any, nature takes its vengeance on the subsequent children."


By fnord12 | February 4, 2014, 1:11 PM | Liberal Outrage | Comments (1) | Link



February 3, 2014

Most people work for other people

Apparently that's hard for some people to understand.


By fnord12 | February 3, 2014, 2:34 PM | Liberal Outrage| Link



February 1, 2014

Fluid Canonocity

Noting for posterity.


By fnord12 | February 1, 2014, 6:16 PM | Comics | Comments (1) | Link



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