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July 31, 2012

Another Good Reason to Stop Shaking People's Hands

So you don't get their ebola cooties.

On Monday Uganda's President Yoweri Museveni advised people to avoid shaking hands, casual sex and do-it-yourself burials to reduce the chance of contracting Ebola virus.

It's bad enough that handshakes are often awkward to synchronize and you risk having to touch someone's clammy hands-of-questionable-cleanliness. Now you could end up with liquified organs, too. It's just not worth it. Keep your hands to yourselves. Polite nods should come back in fashion.

By min | July 31, 2012, 12:49 PM | Science| Link

What Link Was Actually Looking For in Those Pots

Link (ha! link! get it? zing!)

Australian police have seized a record half a tonne of the drug ice and heroin worth up to A$500m (£335m) hidden in a shipment of terracotta pots from Thailand.

Ganon prolly kidnapped Zelda because of a drug deal gone bad with Link. Threatened to sell her into white slavery unless he got his merchandise. Link runs around the world desperately trying to locate the heroin, but in the end, has to off Ganon to save Zelda and himself. And that's why video games are bad for you.

By min | July 31, 2012, 12:39 PM | Video Games| Link

July 30, 2012

Where's Godzilla?

If you're at all interested in Japanese politics or, i guess, nuclear energy, you can click to read this article about Japan's first green party.

The party said it would offer voters a viable alternative to the two main parties, both of which have retained their support for nuclear power, particularly after the recent decision to restart two nuclear reactors in western Japan.

Me, i don't care about any of that. What i want to know is why their mascot isn't Godzilla, known for his outspoken criticisms of anything nuclear? Plus, it would garner them tons of support. Who wouldn't vote for the Godzilla party? Who? People with no souls, that's who.

By min | July 30, 2012, 2:07 PM | Godzilla| Link

You must be this strong to bear these arms

I guess Justice Scalia was interviewed at Fox News over the weekend, where he laid out his criteria for the 2nd Amendment.

WALLACE: What about... a weapon that can fire a hundred shots in a minute?

SCALIA: We'll see. Obviously the Amendment does not apply to arms that cannot be hand-carried -- it's to keep and "bear," so it doesn't apply to cannons -- but I suppose here are hand-held rocket launchers that can bring down airplanes, that will have to be decided.

WALLACE: How do you decide that if you're a textualist?

SCALIA: Very carefully.

Serious Sam begs to differ, Scalia.

By fnord12 | July 30, 2012, 1:51 PM | Liberal Outrage & Video Games| Link

July 29, 2012

You know you're not

No one is man enough for MegaForce.

That isn't Chuck Norris, by the way, although Wikipedia says, "Delta Force, the 1986 Chuck Norris blockbuster, had a plot very similar to MegaForce, and in the movie, Norris rides a motorbike which fires missiles." So not even Chuck Norris was man enough for MegaForce.

By fnord12 | July 29, 2012, 11:54 AM | Movies| Link

July 25, 2012

SuperMegaSpeed Reviews

I think with this we'll be all caught up to my usual "one week behind" state (but don't ask me about Hulk Smash #5). This is also my first "think positive" Speed Review; we'll see how that goes.

Avengers Assemble #6 - Last issue we were told that Thanos' name "translates to" Thanos. This issue, the Badoon's dialogue is depicted as weird symbols, except for one word: Thanos. I guess it's a cognate. But i'm being positive, and that means i'm not asking any questions about Star Lord's hair color or how he escaped the Cancerverse, and i'm just focusing on the fact that Rocket Raccoon is in this book. Yay!

Avenging Spider-Man #9 - This was good enough to get me hopeful about the Captain Marvel series. I do think it might have been better as a one-and-done with no twist ending, but we'll see where that goes. I'm not a big fan of the Dodsons, and i thought the cover was a little wonky, but i actually liked the interior art.

Battle Scars #6 - As i said before, if you accept that they were going to do this, this was about as painless as it was going to get.

Captain America #14 - A comic immediately loses 5 points if i can't remember by looking at the cover what happened in the issue. But this was a nice conclusion to the D-Man fight (and i assume min will be happy to see D-Man kicking some ass) and i'm actually enjoying the larger Bravo/"Other Hydra" plotline. Nice character-driven dialogue; decent art (even some Deodato). So i guess this issue gets a 95?

Daredevil #15 - The thing i remember and liked best about this issue was Samnee's depiction of Iron Man blocking the bullets at the end of this issue. Very not-actually-but-suggestive-of-old-school-ish. Beyond that, i'm enjoying this as usual, but i'm nervous because min has threatened to be put out if this book goes dark the way Daredevil books usually do, and it's looking like that might actually be the case. Also, and i'm sure this is just a reading comprehension problem on my part, but did it seem like Daredevil was getting his sight back to compensate for the loss of his other senses? Is that going to persist?

Fantastic Four annual #33 - I like Alan Davis' art, and i remember liking what i've read of ClanDestine, but it's been a while and this book either took it for granted that we remembered who these characters were, or assumed it would work as a good introduction, and neither of those things were true for me. I was still able to enjoy it as a "Thing & Human Torch meet weird people" adventure story, but i imagine there was supposed to be more to it than that.

X-Factor #240 - I don't know what people who haven't seen Run Lola Run made of this. As for me, i have to say i don't think the art did a good job depicting the possibilities/time-split or whatever. Kind of bland at a time when the story actually called for something innovative. And here's the thing about PAD's gigantic cast of characters in X-Factor. I've been reading this for contractual reasons for 10 issues now. I know Layla Miller from her brief appearance in House of M, and these past 10 issues. The recap page says her power is Resurrection. I've seen characters discussing the implications of her resurrections over the past 10 issues. I've never seen anything about this alternate future vision business. So what am i to make of this? I assume that at some point over PAD's 300+ issue run on this book, this was clearly explained, but is there any consideration for "new" readers? Fair or not, this book has to fight my "Peter David Pension Fund" perception every time i open it, and stuff like this doesn't help. But accepting the premise and rolling with the punches, this was fine, if a little sentimental at the end. However, Strong Guy vs. the Man-Elephant and we see but a single panel of it?

Avengers vs. X-Men #8 - We all know that this is where my "no negativity" policy is going to be put to the test. Nnnnnnngh! I'm... sure the people who produced this issue worked very hard? No, i actually thought this was one of the better issues (once you accept the shifting premise). But since this issue was basically "heroes vs. cosmic powered entity" it would have been nice if the fight was actually shown. A panel showing a hammer touching Namor's face, and then the Thing's fist, etc., doesn't really make for an exciting battle. A narration panel saying "And then they fought for a while" would have served just as well. See, the three panels where Namor grabs Rulk's finger and twists it worked very well. More like that, please. What else? Still waiting to understand why the Scarlet Witch is the anti-Phoenix. Professor X's confrontation with Cyclops might be interesting. And i did like the dialogue better this issue; the Bendis tics are noticeable but at least people have personality (Spider-Man's line at the end was amusing).

New Avengers #28 - Amazingly, the K'un-Lun issues seemed to actually be relevant to the main story, but this issue is pure water treading. And it didn't do much as a character-focused story, either. In a story like this, if you can't move the plot forward and you're focused on three character reacting to the same situation, you'd think you might use it as a way to do some character development by drawing distinctions between how they act. Maybe Luke Cage shows some sympathy with the way mutants have been treated in the past, and he tries to reason with them, while Spider-Woman agrees to join the X-Men and then betrays them, and Hawkeye fights even in the face of overwhelming odds. I'm sure you can come up with something better, but along those lines. Instead all three characters are plucky fighters who never give up. I dunno. The story was fine; it just feels like we got nothing out of it. I actually felt like more distinct personalities were given to the X-characters who turned out to not even be real.

Spider-Men #3 - Peter Parker is acting like he's never been in an alternate universe before. ;-) But i'm enjoying this. I still say the pacing is a bit slow but min tells me to get over it.

New Mutants #45-46 - I guess they don't teach Reed Richard's theory of time travel at the X-Academy. Or maybe at Marvel. As always, i like the character interactions in this book a lot, but the "character development by evil future self" plot has me wondering if it's a way to quickly get to where DnA planned to go with Cypher but couldn't since the series is wrapping up, and i didn't really love it as a story. The cover to issue #45 looks like something i would do.

Uncanny X-Men #15-16 - I really liked these. I actually don't know much about Mr. Sinister. I've probably read a ton of comics he was in, but they were mainly in the 90s and he generally just showed up and acted mysterious without revealing anything. But i know he's into cloning, and that he was specifically interested in the Summers and Grey families and if i understood the back-up story in Classic X-Men #43 correctly, his Madelyne Pryor clone of Jean Grey actually messed with the Phoenix in some way, so he seems like a good fit here. And i really like how Sinister continually thwarted the Phoenix Five (*snicker*) and especially Cyclops in these issues. It's kind of unfortunate that something of major significance (a heavy super-villain has stolen the Phoenix Force) is relegated to a side-story in a tie-in book that will probably have no impact on the main event, but at least we're getting a good story out of it here. I like the character interactions (the palpable anxiousness combined with feelings of uselessness from the non-Phoenix X-Men), i like the art, and i like Gillen's take on Sinister.

Avengers Academy #33 - Phew, the Sentinel is safe! I have no complaints about these past few issues, but i was reminded during a group shot that there are characters at this Academy that haven't been getting any attention (Thundra-Shulk and the new Power Man, for example) which i guess is inevitable with a cast this size but is exasperated by the AvX crossover. And looking at the ads for the upcoming issues plus the fact that the school is apparently getting shut down, should i be worried that this book isn't going to survive the upcoming reboots?

Dark Avengers #177 - I guess Parker's just going to build his own mini shared universe by bringing in Sharzhad from the Red Hulk book. It's a fine tradition; many a writer has kept his creations alive this way. And i'm fine with it because it also keeps alive my hope of seeing some Rigellian action. I really like this book. It's not just that i really like Parker; any book about villains is going to get a few extra points. But it's really that i like Parker. I would like the time travel stuff to finally stop now, though. And i don't know if you noticed it, but Moonstone kills the Doombot Boombot that called Ms. Marvel a "cow" some time back in a Bendis Avengers issue, so that settles that controversy.

Journey Into Mystery #641 - Oh, no! Leah! No no no no no! On the other hand (heh) we were already going to be purchasing Fraction's Thor because of the Alan Davis art, but Surtur being involved sure sweetens the pot.

By fnord12 | July 25, 2012, 7:44 PM | Comics | Comments (3) | Link

Perhaps Its Name Was Prophetic

Cause it's looking like Greenland will soon be green, afterall.

The Greenland ice sheet on July 8, left, and four days later on the right.
An estimated 97% of the ice sheet surface had thawed by July 12. Photograph: Nasa

The Greenland ice sheet melted at a faster rate this month than at any other time in recorded history, with virtually the entire ice sheet showing signs of thaw.

The rapid melting over just four days was captured by three satellites. It has stunned and alarmed scientists, and deepened fears about the pace and future consequences of climate change.

In a statement posted on Nasa's website on Tuesday, scientists admitted the satellite data was so striking they thought at first there had to be a mistake.


It was the second unusual event in Greenland in a matter of days, after an iceberg the size of Manhattan broke off from the Petermann Glacier. But the rapid melt was viewed as more serious.

"If you look at the 8 July image that might be the maximum extent of warming you would see in the summer," Zwally noted. "There have been periods when melting might have occurred at higher elevations briefly - maybe for a day or so - but to have it cover the whole of Greenland like this is unknown, certainly in the time of satellite records."

So, if you live near the coasts, i would suggest looking for a new place to live. Or start construction on your underwater habitat.

By min | July 25, 2012, 3:16 PM | Science| Link

July 24, 2012

It's still link-blogging; i know

Co-Host Min told me that, for the sake of my own sanity, i shouldn't bother with the crazy man who says the government didn't create the internet, and since it was only going to be link-blogging to Kevin Drum and Atrios anyway, i agreed. But then i read Matthew Yglesias, and he has an interesting twist. Even if you accept that the government didn't create the internet (you shouldn't accept it; read Drum and Atrios), Yglesias points out that this innovation came at a time when top marginal tax rates were 50%+.

The thing about this is that we ought to understand both PARC and its East Coast friend Bell Labs as in important respects outgrowth of the high marginal tax rates prevailing in postwar America. These were, lets recall, very high rates. If you look on the corporate income tax side (PDF) you'll see that during the Eisenhower, Kennedy, and Johnson years the top rate hovered around 50 percent. Dividends were taxes at a rate that maxed out at 91 percent before declining to "only" 70 percent as a result of LBJ's tax cutting.

This created a dynamic where "earn a profit and pay the profits out as dividends to our richest and most influential shareholders" was not a very high priority for managers. And for executives to give themselves a raise was tantamount to handing money over to the government. There was nothing left to do but spend it on something, and various high-tech research labs and skunkworks' fit the bill. After all, if something really awesome emerged you'd get glory--and the government can't tax glory.

So i guess if Crazy Guy wants to go back to that, i'm willing to let him pretend Xerox created the internet by themselves.

By fnord12 | July 24, 2012, 3:59 PM | Liberal Outrage| Link

Negative interest rates

Per Krugman.

Right now people will pay us to borrow money from them. We can't afford not to have a giant stimulus.

By fnord12 | July 24, 2012, 3:45 PM | Liberal Outrage| Link

July 23, 2012

God Bless Mary Worth

And all praise to the Comics Curmudgeon.


I should probably make have made this the new Error Message image on this site.

By fnord12 | July 23, 2012, 3:58 PM | Comics | Comments (1) | Link

Leave the goat man alooooooone

Now you know why i rarely post vacation pictures anymore.

A man spotted dressed in a goat suit among a herd of wild goats in the mountains of northern Utah has wildlife officials worried he could be in danger as hunting season approaches.

Phil Douglass of the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources said Friday the person is doing nothing illegal, but he worries the so-called "goat man" is unaware of the dangers.

Douglass said wildlife officials received an anonymous call Thursday from an "agitated man" after the sighting was reported in local media. The caller simply said, "Leave goat man alone. He's done nothing wrong.'"

By fnord12 | July 23, 2012, 3:06 PM | Ummm... Other? | Comments (1) | Link

The number is suspiciously equal to the number of left-of-center politicians elected to office

I try to avoid genuine nut-picking but this was too good to pass up:

How many more "Fraud-Babies" [like Obama] have been injected into the U.S. system and are now being prepared to assume office?

By fnord12 | July 23, 2012, 12:54 PM | Liberal Outrage| Link

Never underestimate the lure of hippie punching

Paul Krugman points to an article by David Roberts on how the experts of a decade ago vastly underestimated the amount of energy gains to be had from renewable sources and increased energy efficiency.

Roberts thinks the reasons are due to the distributed nature of renewables, making estimations of innovation and usage difficult. Krugman says it's industry capture. But we shouldn't neglect the basic fact that solar and wind power are associated with dudes who also build houses out of used tires, and there's a natural tendency to dismiss them as cranks, especially among pundits but even possibly among the type of industry experts that Roberts is citing.

Anyway, it seems like Roberts has some good news for us.

By fnord12 | July 23, 2012, 12:16 PM | Liberal Outrage & Science| Link

Adding the advice at the end makes this post not negative

Left this out of my ridiculously long and rambling rant from Friday, but i wanted to comment on this excerpt of a Press Release-y article from CBR:

Bendis commented on Jean Grey's return to the Marvel U via time travel, explaining, "It's the one thing X-Men fans have always asked for is: They want Jean Grey back. But they want Jean Grey. Not reincarnated Jean, or the ghost of Jean. Well, you're getting Jean back. And Jean is gonna be looking at a world that rattles her."

I have no problem with the premise of this series. It's Days of Future Past flipped on its head, and i think that's a cool idea. But i wish Marvel wouldn't try to present this stuff as "We're just giving the fans what they asked for."

I wasn't aware that there was a huge clamor for the return of Jean Grey. I think probably the most unified message from X-fandom would be "Less titles, and more coherent stories". And i think people are tired of death being a revolving door. Maybe that's what Bendis means by "Not reincarnated Jean". But in any event, i don't think anyone was asking for Silver Age Jean to show up in modern times.

Again, not saying it's a bad idea. But i see this type of rhetoric a lot (usually from editorial, not the writers), and along with it is usually "Man, fans say they want something and then when they get it they're all up in arms about it." Well, no one wanted this. Advice: just talk up the cool idea; don't pretend you're responding to fan feedback.

By fnord12 | July 23, 2012, 10:47 AM | Comics| Link

July 20, 2012

Proof i'm not the meanest Dungeon Master around

I'm prepping for tomorrow's D&D session. Often when i'm thinking up tricks and traps for dungeons and trying to come up with new spins on things, i say "There must be lists of this stuff on the internet." Surprisingly, i never really find anything interesting, but last time i looked i found references to a book called Grimtooth's Traps. So i bought a used copy and was flipping through it. So far, it seems to be full of stuff like this:

...the Idiot's Vase, which will point out how stupid some delvers can be. The item is an enchanted crystal vase; eighty gold pieces are visible inside. The vase itself radiates negative magical vibes. Whoever carries the vase will lose 2 strength points per turn. Whoever breaks the vase will lose 6 intelligence points. Whoever reaches into the vase will turn blue, unless he is already blue - in which case he turns green. All attribute losses and changes are permanent.

The way to defeat this trap is painfully simple: merely turn the vase upside down and pour the gold out. Delvers whose mentalities are geared to destruction will seldom think of this.

This seems arbitrary and unnecessarily cruel. It's really more about punishing undesired player behavior than coming up with a cool puzzle or challenge. I see this sort of thing a lot and i don't understand it. Lots of the traps in this book are just pure unavoidable death traps. No solution/escape is offered. The player is presented with some object and if they don't guess the right way to interact with it, they die. Again, i don't get it. It's easy to kill players. You're the Dungeon Master. Just tell them they're dead. The point is to challenge and entertain. Right? Am i doing it wrong?

By fnord12 | July 20, 2012, 9:18 PM | D&D| Link

Long rambling comics rant and link dump The New SuperMegaMonkey Marvel Comics Manifesto

With the political climate down to a presidential horse race between two candidates that don't seem to have a single viable idea between them on what to do about 8% employment, i've slowed the usual stream of Liberal Outrage posts to a trickle. Barring the rare bit of Godzilla news (it seems to me that if one were to combine Pacific Rim with characters from the Godzilla franchise, you'd have an awesome), that pretty much leaves comic books to talk about here. But i've been holding back on that front as well, because i've discovered Tom Brevoort's Formspring page and the quality of the questions there are so awful it's just sort of put me off from talking about current comics at all. Just looking at the negative comments, the things people complain about and they way they articulate those complaints... it just makes me never want to say anything negative about Marvel again (on the other hand, the positive Formspring comments are downright sycophantic).

The truth is, i'm actually kind of conflicted. I've said, and i still believe, that the Quesada period (actually three periods, right? Quesada/Jemas, pure Quesada, Alonso/Brevoort/Quesada) is the best since the Shooter era. And i initially didn't understand the anti-Bendis sentiment at all and even now i'm mostly a defender of his. Everyone's got their weak points. So i think this rambling post will be me waffling back and forth about the current state of Marvel. Who knows where it will end up? I certainly won't have the energy to come back and revise it by the time i'm done.

One of my planned complaints was about the reshuffling of writers with this Marvel NOW! phase. I like Bendis but was ready for him to move on and i find Fraction and Hickman really dry, and i don't like Aaron for different reasons, and the fact that it seems like those four seem to be just getting shuffled around on the core books while really fun writers like Parker, Gage, Van Lente, and Abnett & Lanning are remaining on secondary books is confusing to me. I also don't understand why Marvel keeps going back to Jeph Loeb, who doesn't seem to have a single defender on the internet (speculation that Rob Liefeld was talking about Loeb here rings true).

In fact (tangent warning: i told you this was rambling) i enjoyed Greg Pak's Hulk quite a bit during the World War Hulk event, but i stopped following the book after that because it was tying into a Loeb-driven story. I've since gone back and picked up the Pak issues (#601-611) and found them to be really enjoyable (except where i felt like i was missing half the story due to the tie-ins with the Loeb issues). But Loeb's involvement not only kept me away from his own book, but also Pak's (having subsequently bought the books used doesn't help Marvel any). But i did, counter-intuitively, read Parker's (Red) Hulk book because it seemed self-contained.

And that brings up another twist in this ramble. I can't tell you how many recent characters have been introduced that i rejected on a basic level that i've later turned out to like. Most of them are Hulks. All of the Hulk children. Pak has made me like Skaar and Thundra-Shulk. As for Hiro-Kala, i haven't read that yet but holy crap! His story took place on Jarella's world during the Realm of Kings event and he faces off against Arcturus Rann and the Enigma Force? How the hell did i skip that? Because i was blindly anti-Hulk children at the time, that's why. As for the Red Hulks, turning Thunderbolt Ross and Betty Ross into Hulks is stupid on the face of it, but Jeff Parker has made me love Red Hulk and i am really impressed with his mission statement for Red She-Hulk.

Beyond Hulks, there's X-23, to which my initial reaction was "Are you kidding me? A cloned daughter of Wolverine?!", and now thanks to Yost's X-Force and Gage's Avengers Academy, i think she's a great character. I've even liked the appearances of Daken that i've read. Heck, i'm willing to admit that Flash Thompson as Venom isn't that bad an idea. So next time i start complaining when a new character is announced, someone needs to tell me to STFU until i at least actually read a few of their appearances. (Does this apply to the time-traveling Silver Age X-Men?)

Back to the "Marvel Architects", as i've seen Bendis, Fraction, Hickman and Aaron referred to (along with Brubaker but unfortunately it seems he is mostly bowing out to focus on indie stuff), i'm somewhat baffled by their prominence but unlike Loeb i see that the three that i don't personally like definitely have their fans. As for Hickman, you'd think stories where the plots are "Mr. Fantastic creates a school that includes Gee Power, Artie & Leech, and Franklin Richards and also Spider-Man's involved and gets a cool new costume" or "The Kree experimented on other alien races, including Dire Wraiths and Kymellians" would be catnip for me, but i just haven't been able to get into his writing.

Same with Fraction. Take Fear Itself. Daughter of the Red Skull makes an alliance with a forgotten Asgardian God of Fear and a bunch of major super-villains get Thor-style hammers and attack the world alongside Nazi mechas? Of course i should love that. Actually i skipped it just because i'd already decided i dislike Fraction. Judging from the online reaction that seemed like the right move, but who knows? I've just finished reading Gillen's Journey Into Mystery and Uncanny X-Men tie-ins and loved them both (and why wasn't i reading Gillen's UX all along?), and i'll soon be reading the Fear Itself series (another "recent backissue" order triggered by the JiM books), so we'll see.

I also recently picked up the first appearance of Northstar's now-husband Kyle Jinadu, just to see how he was introduced, and it was in an issue of Fraction-written X-Men. As an overall issue it actually wasn't bad. Again, a little matter-of-fact or dry. Greg Land's art (also on the Gillen UXs) is another story - does he just trace all his people from pictures from Cosmo and GQ? But the story at least seemed interesting from a set-up perspective. It just so happened to also be the beginning of the X-Club set-up, bringing in a diverse and interesting group of characters including the doctor from Whedon's AX run, Dr. Nemesis (a Golden Age/Invaders character!), and a dude from Marvel's Godzilla series! The X-Club mini (not by Fraction) was disappointing, but i still like the basic idea of a super-science/tech group. So maybe i don't really dislike Fraction; at the very least i like his continuity mining.

The problem seems to be that i like Fraction's plots and story ideas, but i find his dialogue unengaging. Same with Hickman mainly (although my attempt to get back into Hickman resulted in trying out the 900 page FF #600 which was just a mess; in retrospect i'm willing to say that issue was an exception). But that's a pretty weak complaint, especially when i compare to the books i've been going through on my timeline project. If i could go back and take Bill Mantlo's Hulk run and replace the histrionic dialogue with Hickman's, i'd probably be giving those books A ratings. But now i'm comparing Hickman to Parker and Gage instead of to the historical average.

Another factor may be that we were (or maybe i should say "i was") introduced to Fraction and Hickman in a sneaky way. Bendis was co-writing Secret Warriors with Hickman, and i remember starting off thinking the book had a lot of promise, and then 15 issues later i realized the book wasn't as good and i looked down and said "Why am i reading this series? Who the heck is Hickman?". Similar with Brubaker/Fraction and Iron Fist.

So am i saying here that i should buckle down and just get all the core marvel books (plus whatever second-tier books i know i'll like)? From a timeline project perspective, and just as a long time marvel fan, that makes a lot of sense to me. I hate missing out on what's happening in the FF and the X-Men. But the problem is that Marvel just puts out so many books. I'm fortunate enough that i could probably afford them all but there's also time and space considerations!

Even reading through the Pak Hulk back issues this week, i was amazed and overwhelmed by the number of additional mini-series that i would have had to pick up in order to get the whole story. Savage She-Hulks, Son of Hulk, Planet Skaar, Alpha, Gamma, Hulked Out Heroes, Incredible Hulk, adjective-less Hulk, Red Hulk. Holy crap! And that's just the Hulk!

The X-titles alone seem to be impossible to keep up with. There's so much interaction it doesn't seem feasible to stick with one title (except, perhaps a non-core title like Astonishing). I don't even know how to dig in and find out what books are happening currently. And now Marvel's announcing new titles with Marvel NOW! so i have no idea what's where.

I think the sheer volume that Marvel produces causes a lot of the crankiness among fans, directly or indirectly. Marvel knows very well that their main selling point is their shared universe, and over the years fans have been encouraged to keep up with all of what's going on. But people obviously can't get everything so they stick to core books, and then important stuff happens off in odd places. I remember being pretty weirded out when the Scorpion showed up with the Venom suit, and it turns out that happened in like Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man or something, a title that just screams "skip me". And i imagine people are feeling pretty similar about Battle Scars right now.

I found Brevoort's Formspring page when he made this somewhat controversial statement that continuity isn't more important than the stories themselves. I'll come back to that statement, but he follows it up with "I can't tell you the number of times I've seen angry letters from readers who feel like we've violated continuity who had simply missed the story in which that situation had changed." I think that's a bit of a strawman argument in itself, but there probably are a lot of cases where people just didn't know to pick up the Fear Itself: Food Itself one-shot to find out that Captain Vegan is indeed now eating honey. An easy solution here is footnotes, but some basic expository scripting wouldn't hurt either. You can't expect readers to have read every book so you have to provide a little background.

The big complaint on Formspring right now is that Starlord's hair is blond. Coloring issues are the least of my concerns, but while Brevoort is sticking to the fact that Starlord's hair was apparently blond in his 70s appearances (although not in my reprint or on Marvel's own wiki page), he's being really stubborn about acknowledging that most people who've come to know and love the character over the past 10 years have experienced him with brown hair.

I don't care about the hair. And i have nothing but sympathy for Brevoort having to field these questions repeatedly. But his attitude in responding shows a man who is just disillusioned with what he's doing and he's gotten to the point where he can't distinguish between complaints about hair color and complaints that the Vision seems to have two opposite personalities in two Bendis-written comics published the same week.

Back to Brevoort's larger point, i've said this a thousand times before, but with Marvel, the continuity is the story. The truth is no one really cares about men in tights beating the shit out of each other for the umpteen-millionth time, and even if we do, we can get better from, say, Robert Kirkman's Invincible. It's the shared universe, the ongoing uber-story, that is cool to us and keeps us buying the on-goings. The way you hear Brevoort and others complain, it's like they could be producing works to rival John Steinbeck (to pick a personal literary fav) if only these annoying fan-boys would stop asking how Star Lord is suddenly back from the dead. Get real. You're producing super-hero comics, and your main distinguishing characteristic is your shared universe.

I recognize that mistakes will be made. It's not easy keeping track of it all. Going through my timeline project has made it clear that even in Marvel's supposed continuity heyday there were inconsistencies aplenty. But a lot of effort was made, fixes were retconned in, the whole thing just wasn't treated with such disdain. And again, another important fact was the footnotes and exposition. It's not a mistake that Captain Vegan is spreading honey on his wheat toast? Explain it.

I was actually pleased to see footnotes in the Hulk stuff that i read (and it got me to order some trades, so, you know: revenue, people!) but i know they are generally out of favor due to some misplaced sense of embarrassment. I don't understand it at all. If Tom Brevoort is right and the majority of the fan boy rage he has to deal with is all a big misunderstanding, why not placate your audience in advance? Footnotes are also new-reader friendly; it's an opportunity to explain stuff. And again, if we can't get over the embarrassment of footnotes, well written expository text should be perfectly acceptable. They do this stuff in TV shows, people. It's ok!

I recognize that comics have gotten more sophisticated, and the writing better (at least at the mid-tier level. I'll put 80s Roger Stern or Walt Simonson up against any writers from any time period, but i'll take Hickman and Fraction over Mantlo or DeFalco). But it seems to be at the expense of some of the basics. Doesn't mean one period is better than the other but it feels like we've gained in some areas and lost in others. And we're losing sight of what's important about Marvel. It's the shared universe, stupid.

And the contempt we see for that is actually part of why there's all this rage and a lack of acceptance. I think i'd be much more accepting of the Hulk having a family or General Ross turning into a Hulk if i wasn't afraid of the implications. Marvel spent the better part of 3 decades thrashing about after the Spider-Man/Mary Jane marriage. Is there going to be a Brand New Hulk event in 5 years when the next Hulk movie comes out and marketing realizes that every character in the movie is actually a Hulk-creature in the comic? Marvel rebooted the entire Spidey-verse and then made Flash Thompson Venom? That's why people howled about Franken-Castle. Awesome concept, but it changes the character. Are we sure we're ok with that? And often you can put the toys back in the toybox; they actually did a fine job of that with Punisher. But it's going to be pretty difficult to retcon away the Hulk's children, and it's going to be pretty difficult to believe that Ross can go back to generic Hulk hunting when this is all over.

I'm ok with - i prefer - the change. Preferably when it's lasting, but i'm even ok with the illusion of change that began (per Chris Tolworthy's mad-genius rantings) post-Shooter. It's when something can get ignored and rebooted just because a writer has a "great" idea, or to mesh better with some other media, that scares me.

What we really need here, and i'll try to wrap this up because i have a headache, is a bit of two-way acceptance. Marvel needs to come to grips with the fact that they've currently got about 100,000 readers, which is not a lot, but it's potentially a great fanatical fan base that can create mass success ala the Avengers movie. SuperMegaCo-Host Min was reading the latest Avengers vs. X-Men comic the other day in a public place and someone went up to her and said "Hey, is that any good? I used to read Marvel comics..." and she said "Nah, it sucks." (paraphrasing). I would've done the same. So yeah, Marvel's got 100,000 readers, but they're just as likely to badmouth as promote. Not a good situation. Most companies try to keep their current clients happy while expanding their market presence. When you're losing clients, you need to do some damage control. Marvel sometimes seems like it's at war with its readers. Throw us a bone. Acknowledge the importance of the shared universe and work to preserve it. No more Brand New Days. Don't give us a heart attack announcing "soft reboots". Try to figure out in advance where your tie-ins fit with the main crossover, and tell us. Stop fighting with us.

Oh, and get organized. There one more thing i wanted to bring up. If you check out The Hurting's thoughts on AvX, you will find this:

But you can't say that AvX is in any way arbitrary or unplanned: they've fairly clearly been planting the seeds for this story since somewhere around 2004. I believe them completely that this story has been brewing for almost a decade. The same people in charge of Marvel then are the same people in charge now; the same people writing AvX are the people who wrote all the other stories that fed into this one; and - at least on paper - this does actually appear to be the culmination of almost a decades' worth of event storytelling. But in actuality - well, yeah, this does read like the kind of story that they've been building to since 2004, in that it is so clearly a set of bullet points put together to clear out eight years' worth of dead-wood continuity problems.

I agree. In retrospect it does feel like there has been some uber-theme that's been building since Disassembled and/or House of M. And if so, i'm pretty excited about Marvel NOW! because it means a change in direction, finally. But the key here is that it only looks like there's a theme if you look at the big event level. House of M, Civil War, World War Hulk, Secret Invasion -> Dark Reign, etc. is all this building of a militarized super-hero force alongside a de-populated mutant minority, and at 10,000 feet that's an interesting story culminating in AvX. And it's a Marvel Universe size story. I should be thrilled! But in practice, at the individual level, character motivations are weakly defined and change from story to story without development, seemingly to fit the needs of the issue's plot, and it just hasn't been working. Reading that quote from The Hurting put me in mind of a story Friend Wanyas has relayed to me several times, that John Byrne has said that he and Claremont would get to talking on the phone about X-Men plots, and then the next thing he knew Claremont would be scripting stuff as if those plots had already happened. No idea if that's true, but it almost sounds like the same thing as what's going on here. The Marvel "Architects" get together and plan out the story beats at a macro level, and then go off and write their individual books and assume that the overall story is being taken care of, but it isn't. Someone needs to own that.

But going back to my two-way acceptance paragraph before i went down the Hurting tangent, fans need to make some compromises too. Give Marvel the benefit of the doubt when there's a mistake. Accept that we're a dying niche market, and that means higher prices, double-shipping popular titles, re-numberings, variant covers, and other gimmicks to keep books alive. And note that Marvel is reacting to fan criticism and experimenting with stuff. Avengers vs. X-Men has less tie-ins and supplementary mini-series than previous events (it's true!). And is this writing-by-committee approach on AvX an attempt to fix the uber-story coordination problem? It's not working - it might just be too late in this case - but we should acknowledge that they're trying something different. And i am personally committing to doing less bad-mouthing and pre-judging.

If nothing else, can we at least agree that the recent Captain Vegan appearances must have been a Skrull? Honey comes from bees; it's not vegan.

By fnord12 | July 20, 2012, 5:38 PM | Comics & Godzilla | Comments (1) | Link


Krugman says the reason we have to shout in restaurants isn't necessarily because we're going deaf (click through to the Times article).

By fnord12 | July 20, 2012, 3:03 PM | My stupid life | Comments (1) | Link

July 19, 2012

I didn't say anything about licking batteries

I am not a pot smoker (nor an alcohol drinker, nor a glue sniffer) but i do think it should be legal.

Matthew Yglesias says that if marijuana were legal, it would be incredibly cheap (he uses this as a starting point to say that there's a lot of margin to place a hefty sin tax on it).

This would make pot far and away the cheapest intoxicant on the market, absolutely blowing beer and liquor out of the water. Joints would be about as cheap as things that are often treated as free. Splenda packets, for example, cost 2 or 3 cents each when purchased in bulk.

In my younger, wilder, ZMag days, i seem to remember the conspiracy theory being that the fact that it was so cheap was the reason that the alcohol companies got together with the government to make pot illegal. But Kevin Drum points out that our laws come from a UN treaty.

Probably nobody cares about this, but there's a reason marijuana isn't legal anywhere in the world: the Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs, an international treaty adopted in 1961. Marijuana is a Schedule I drug under this treaty, which means it's flatly, totally forbidden. Countries can decriminalize marijuana use, but no signatory to the treaty can legalize either use or cultivation.

So it's not just a matter of getting either Congress or a state legislature on board for legalization. You'd have to get the United States to withdraw from the 1961 treaty, and that just isn't in the cards. Decriminalization and wink-wink-nudge-nudge lack of enforcement are about the best we can hope for anytime in the near future.

Getting marijuana decriminalized already seems like an insurmountable hurdle, even after having several former pot smokers in the White House. Revoking/revising a UN treaty just seems impossible. So the war on drugs continues...

By fnord12 | July 19, 2012, 4:42 PM | Liberal Outrage| Link

July 18, 2012

Recap 48

The Sword in the Desert

By min | July 18, 2012, 10:38 PM | D&D| Link

July 17, 2012

Marvel Sales


By fnord12 | July 17, 2012, 1:25 PM | Comics| Link

July 15, 2012

SuperMegaSpeed Reviews

I am back and i've got a big backlog to get through, so usual caveats apply...

Avengers vs. X-Men #6 - The cover and title page still say "Round 6", implying that this is still a fight book, but in fact we've completely lost the original plot and we're now doing a "power corrupts" thing instead. Which is fine, although i suggest that the title of this event should have been Phoenix: Good or Bad? instead of Avengers vs. X-Men. Even when the fight starts up again next issue, it's not really the Avengers vs. the X-Men anymore; it's Avengers vs. the Phoenix Force. Again, not what i was expecting, and i was defending the thinness of the plot for the first several issues on the grounds that this was just a Big Dumb Fight book, but fine. However, even looking at it from that perspective, there is no development of the "power corrupts" theme. We've got the Avengers just taking it for granted that the X-Men are going to get corrupted, and it makes them look like jerks. Taking the time, either here or in the tie-ins (preferably here), to show the X-Men starting off doing good but eventually doing questionable things, and having that happen before the Avengers start building their new anti-Phoenix weapons, would have made this story a lot more believable. But the worst thing about this issue in particular is how dry it is. I think it's because Hickman is scripting. I couldn't get into his FF book for the same reason. No one has any personality. Even when significant things seem to be happening (like Thor punching a 12 year old boy in the gut) my initial reaction is "who cares?". They should really have Bendis scripting the whole thing. I'm sticking with this event and hoping it'll read better all at once, but right now i don't know what they're thinking.

There's also the chronology of this issue to consider. It opens with "Ten days later". That's how it starts. Then "Two days later". Then just "Later". Then "Three days later". Finally, we get "Now". Uh, when?

New Avengers #27 - Speaking of the chronology, i guess everything we've been reading in this book about K'un Lun takes place after AvX 6. It's really weird how Marvel just dumps out a bunch of books and expects you to piece it all together like it's a jigsaw puzzle. It's fine for those of us who have websites devoted to this sort of thing, although even i find it frustrating, but i can't imagine what someone coming in from the Avengers movie thinks of it. Anyway, you can give me Bendis/Deodato Spider-Man any day, in any context, and i'll enjoy it, so we're good here.

Avengers Academy #32 - Godammit, White Queen, i just bought all those Sentinel comics now that Gage has made me enjoy the characters so much, and now you're gonna go and kill the Sentinel before i even have a chance to read them? Jerk. This was great, as always. I love Gage's X-23. I love Gage's everybody, really.

X-Men Legacy #269 - Except his X-Men. It's odd how i love his Academy but i'm not getting into his Legacy. Granted it's some AvX stuff that, per the plot of AvX #6, requires Magik to already be so corrupt that she's throwing prisoners into a demonic Limbo pit, and that's not Gage's fault. But i see what he's trying to do here with the Rogue/Ms. Marvel connection, and it's just not working because he's writing Rogue to be so punch-happy that the characters can't have a decent conversation.

Daredevil #14 - Cool scenario to put DD in, and a great ending. Fun comic. And i like that Dr. Doom isn't actually in it, since i don't imagine him to be quite so petty but it's fine coming from his Secretary of Treasury or whatever.

Dark Avengers #176 - Heh. That didn't take long. Hope readers coming in for the actual Dark Avengers don't mind the bait and switch. In any event, *i* enjoyed this. And all signs are point to me having to go back and pick up where i left off on the Millar/Hitch FF.

Winter Soldier #7 - I am over the gorilla thing, and Guice is off art, so i'm enjoying this more. And considering this is all the Brubaker i'm going to be allowed, i guess i'll stick with this title. Can't say i really care about the plot or anything, but this is fine.

X-Factor #238-239 - ... (i really just have nothing to say about these. I don't recommend them to anyone, but they're fine.)

Avengers vs. X-Men #7 - I need to start by saying the White Queen's costume is just offensively ridiculous. Thank you. Ok, so it's not even the Avengers vs. the Phoenix Force. It's Scarlet Witch vs. the Phoenix Force. I kinda thought the point of Children's Crusade was to bring the Scarlet Witch back down to her regular power levels, but maybe she was left with a special Phoenix zapper or something? I don't know, people. I hate to be so negative all the time, but this series just doesn't seem to be very good.

Spider-Men #2 - If friend Bob, who is keeping up with the Ultimate universe, understood this correctly, and if i understood Bob correctly, then the big revelation for this issue is that Ultimate Mysterio is actually a projection of the "real" Mysterio. Which, if accurate, is an interesting and seemingly permanent connection to make between the main and Ultimate universes, which really makes the Ultimate line a pocket-verse like any old alternate future or whatever; something that Marvel used to swear would never happen but i'm totally fine with. As for the part of this issue that wasn't over my head: plot's a bit thin (actually two issues in and i'm not sure we've done more than establish a setting) but i like Bendis' Spidey-dialogue.

New Mutants #44 - I'm building up to a whole post about this but for now: every time i see the Defenders show up somewhere in a book that i like, such as here or Red Hulk, i think to myself, "Hrmm, i should be reading the Defenders". Then i remember that it's by Fraction, and every time i read anything by Fraction, i'm disappointed. So i guess i should just enjoy the guest appearances. And this was fun, even if their only purpose was to vaguely deliver a plot for the Mutants to handle. I'm hoping this is tying in with Astonishing X-Men, since both are hinging on Karma' possession powers, but it doesn't seem like it, which is really bad coordination.

Astonishing X-Men #51 - I love how the Karma plot is literally just on hold so that Northstar and Kyle can have their wedding, but clearly most people buying this issue aren't going to care about all that, so it's to be expected. And thankfully this wedding doesn't get interrupted by a super-villain attack and just gets to be an actual wedding, and decently written. I want to quibble a bit with who's not comfortable with a gay wedding (Alien bird lady has a problem with it? Really? And Puck?), but i guess someone had to be. I'm really not sure where we are with Aurora's multiple-personality disorder anymore, but her Jean-Marie persona's strict Catholic upbringing might have made for a more interesting conflict. I did like my alternate cover with all the super-hero wedding photos, but it was funny as i went through the pictures and went "dead", "dead", "divorced", "divorced and dead", etc..

Hulk #54-55 - These issues are a lot of fun and that's even before you get to the talking monkeys.

Journey Into Mystery #640 - i've been enjoying these issues so much i got all the back issues and i've now read them all and i can say that this is an A+ comic book. Really great stuff. As for the current plotline, i appreciate working in the stuff from Cornell's Captain Britain series.

By fnord12 | July 15, 2012, 9:52 PM | Comics | Comments (2) | Link

July 12, 2012

While Working Through 1985...

...fnord12 realized he was missing a few things. So he put in a small order.

Pre 1985

Post 1985

I'm just happy he relocated a pile so i can use the recliner when i'm watching tv. Although, i do wish he'd stop moving the pile of 1964s i'm trying to read to a new location everyday.

By min | July 12, 2012, 12:02 AM | Comics & My stupid life| Link

July 10, 2012


The Wraith War! Franklin Richards in Power Pack! Roger Stern/John Buscema/Tom Palmer Avengers! And, er, Secret Wars II.

My Marvel Comics Timeline project is one year closer to completion (a mere 26+ years to go).

By fnord12 | July 10, 2012, 5:07 PM | Comics| Link

Creme Eggs

Well, they're not actually egg-shaped, but there is a yolk and a white, so that counts for something, right?

vegan creme eggs


  • 1/2 cup light corn syrup (or vegan honey. brown rice syrup or malt syrup will work, but be aware they both have a distinct flavor)
  • 1/4 cup butter (we like Earth Balance sticks)
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 3 cups powdered sugar
  • 4 drops yellow food coloring
  • 1 drops red food coloring
  • 1 12-ounce bag chocolate chips
  • 1 1/2 T vegetable shortening (we like Spectrum or Earth Balance sticks)
  • Yield: approximately 2 dozen

Combine the corn syrup, butter, vanilla, and salt in a large bowl. Beat well with an electric mixer until smooth. Add powdered sugar, one cup at a time, reserving 1/4 cup. Mix until creamy.

Remove about 2/3 of the mixture and place into a bowl. Cover and refrigerate.

Add the remaining powdered sugar to the smaller portion left in the mixing bowl. Add the yellow and red food coloring and stir to combine. Remove to a small bowl. Cover and freeze the "yolk" mixture for at least 2 hours.

When both mixtures are firm, roll 1/2 tsp-sized balls from the yellow filling. Place on a lightly greased cookie sheet. Remove the white mixture from the refrigerator and freeze both the yellow and white candy for at least 2 hours.

Taking teaspoon-sized portions of the white filling, flatten and wrap around a yolk, rolling slightly to form a ball. Repeat for the remaining filling ingredients, then freeze these centers for 3 hours or until firm. If the candy starts to become too soft to handle, refreeze until firm again before continuing.

Melt the chocolate chips and shortening.

Take the egg centers out of the freezer one at a time otherwise they will begin to soften and be impossible to coat in chocolate.

Use a fork to roll each egg around in the chocolate. Tap off any excess and place each candy onto wax paper. If the coated candies look like they are starting to soften, place in the refrigerator for 30 min before resuming. The chocolate should be reheated in order to have the proper consistency. Chill for 2 hours.

Reheat the chocolate and give each candy a second coating of chocolate. Chill overnight.

A word of warning - you will end up covered in candy and chocolate. It's inevitable. I found chocolate on my leg hours after i had finished. So, try to have a friend inspect you before you go anywhere.

By min | July 10, 2012, 1:42 PM | Vegan Vittles| Link

July 3, 2012

Gone fission

Radioactive Man wouldn't implement a cooling off period.  He'd be irradiating some testicles right about now.

Just wanted to announce that we're going to be on vacation for a while. It's a partial staycation, and i'm using some of the time to hopefully finish off 1985 on my timeline project. But probably no posts here except maybe a Speed Review.

I mention this especially in light of the announced Marvel "soft" reboot. Withholding commentary for now. Consider this a cooling off period.

By fnord12 | July 3, 2012, 4:00 PM | Comics & My stupid life | Comments (1) | Link

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