Fanboy News Network Episode 24

Fanboy News Network Episode 24

“San Diego Comic Con 2015”

Jeff and Daniel go over news that came out of this year’s San Diego Comic Con.

Fanboy News Network Episode 23

“This is why we can’t have nice things”

Daniel returns just in time to discuss the following:

Round three of convention staffs behaving badly.

More concerns about San Diego Comic Con

Why Daniel thinks Jurassic World is a comedy

The uproar over the Mad Max prequel comics

The current state of Marvel and DC comics

Why Jeff thinks Daniel should get Marvel Unlimited.

Fight Club II

Fanboy News Network Episode 22

Fanboy News Network Episode 22

“Jillian Venters Returns”

With Daniel out of town Jeff’s sister Jillian Venters of Gothic Charm School returns to the show to act as co-host.

Discussed this episode:

The running theme of convention staffs behaving badly continues with news from Saskatoon Blitz.

Unfortunate news about San Diego Comic Con.

Chris Pratt and the art of being famous in the age of social media.

A review of the movie Grabbers.

Jillian’s excitement over Crimson Peak.

Discussion about the new seasons of Hannibal and Penny Dreadful.

Jillian talks about going back to Disneyland for this year’s Bat’s Day.

 

Fanboy News Network Episode 21

Fanboy News Network Episode 21

“Fanboy News Network 2.0”

The podcast returns from hiatus with a new format

In this episode

Jeff introduces his new co-host Daniel Christensen.

Wishing Nichelle Nichols a speedy recovery.

Going over the harassment incident that happened at Momocon.

The Hugo Awards and the Sad Puppies

Comic Book inspired TV shows:

  • The Flash
  • Arrow
  • Agents of SHEILD
  • Gotham
  • IZombie
  • Daredevil

Avengers: Age of Ultron

Tomorrowland

Mad Max: Fury Road

What Jeff and Daniel are looking forward to.

What’s up with Fanboy News Network

Thanks to a recent conversation with Jillian I have decided to make some temporary changes.

I’m currently working on a script for an audio drama that I hope to produce in the future. The problem is just as I start making headway on it I realize I have a deadline for getting an article up here and switch I have to switch gears. This is leading me to not getting much done on the script and as often as not miss deadlines.

So until further notice I am putting the articles on this site on semi hiatus. I will put up content from time to time, mostly post convention reports and the follow up reviews for The Flash and Gotham. Other than that I will focus my writing on the script.

The podcast will be starting up again in April. I am switching up the format by adding co-hosts. I have come to the conclusion that the best episodes are when I have someone else to talk to and I have some folks lined up to help make that happen on a regular basis.

If you are interesting in keeping up on my progress with the script, I will be making updates about it on my Tumblr https://www.tumblr.com/blog/fanboy-news-network

Once the script is done I’ll return to my regular schedule of site updates.

Thank you.

The State of Geek Culture

http://www.dreamstime.com/stock-photos-geek-culture-image21420053It’s March, and we are now weeks away from the beginning of Convention season.

I know that conventions actually go on year-round, but March is often considered the kick-off of convention season with Emerald City Comicon at the end of March and going through New York Comic Con at the beginning of October.

Already, I hear the laments of cosplayers trying to get their costumes done in time. I hear fans complaining that San Diego Comic Con sold out in under an hour, again. I have friends doing panels at conventions who are stressing about what they are going to say. I had one person explain to me how the Gen Con Hotel lottery system is broken and how he wrote a program to fix it, if they would just respond to him.

All in all, pretty normal stuff.

But this year feels different.

There has been a lot of stress lately in geek culture and, with convention season almost here, people have to deal with what is happening in person instead of just online. The concerns about harassment, and even violence, have a lot of people on edge.

Most of what is going on is not new. I have been covering it here for the last few years. A lot of the old factors are still at play: misogyny, gatekeeping, fear mongering, and privilege. What has changed is the level of focus.

It would be easy to say that this is all Gamergate’s fault, but that would be over simplifying the situation. Gamergate is not the cause of what is happening, it has simply provided a rally point for the problematic aspects of geek culture. The old triggers are still at the heart of what is going on, but what has caused things to go ballistic is actually the fact that things have been improving.

Last year we saw several conventions adopt harassment policies that were well worded and comprehensive enough to actually be effective. You have also seen women, minorities, and LGBT come forth and demand representation and a safe place to be geeks with the rest of us. You’ve seen the industries that fuel geek culture start to respond positively to these segments of their audience.

Sadly, for many people, strides made by others are seen not as an expansion of geek culture but as a threat to them. It’s as if even though 95% of everything is still being about them, they begrudge the other 5%.

Thus, we have the atmosphere of fear that now pervades geek culture. The old guard fear that they are losing something, and they use fear to try to drive off those they see as interlopers. And with the escalation of threats, there is a legitimate fear of violence.

But as awful as Gamergate is, it also has a silver lining.

Yes, there are people being driven off, or deciding never to join in geek culture due to this, but others are being galvanized. People who might have just been going along have become activists to show that the harassers are a vocal minority and not representative of our culture.

The escalation of harassment is terrible, but it has caused wider exposure to it, resulting in more discussion on how to deal with it. It has also led to more mainstream media attention, which helps.

I am not saying it is all rainbows and kittens. I know several people who have been targeted. One had to find a new bank, due to repeated hacking attempts at her account. Another deleted her twitter history after receiving a Gamergate education post, so that she could remove any potential information about her daughter.

As a white heterosexual cis male, I doubt I can even begin to imagine what it is like to be a woman, minority, or LGBT on the internet.

I also do not expect any of this to just go away. I have been writing about it since 2012 and I expect I will still be writing about it, on some level, in 2020.

But as long as we still talk about it, and make sure we as a culture strive to be better, I can have hope for the future.

Until then I am still going to several conventions this year, and plan to do my part to make sure they are safe and inviting events for everyone there.

Review: Kingsmen: The Secret Service

kingsman-the-secret-service

I saw Kingsmen: The Secret Service at a preview screening a month ago. There is a pattern to preview screenings, the further in advance they are the more the studio believes in the movie. Kingsmen’s preview was nearly a month before the movie’s release. Anything beyond two weeks is usually a good sign. For comparison, the night I saw Kingsmen the same theater was having a preview of Mortdeci, a film that opened the very next night and promptly bombed. Clearly, 20th Century Fox believed in the film, but was Kingsmen: The Secret Service any good?

Kingsmen: The Secret Service is a loose adaptation of a little known comic book The Secret Service by Mark Millar and Dave Gibbons. It seems, these days, that Millar mostly makes comic books in order to have them adapted into movies. Fortunately this was one of Millar’s less troubling books.

The plot is a familiar one. Our main character is Eggsy (Taron Egerton) a lower class thug who had shown early promise but threw it away to take care of his mother. However, it turns out that Eggsy’s dad was a member of the Kingsmen, a secret organization tasked with keeping the world safe in total secrecy. Eggsy’s dad died saving the lives of several teammates, including Harry Hart (Colin Firth) aka Galahad who takes it upon himself to see that Eggsy becomes a Kingsman and lives up to his potential.

While Eggsy is training to be a Kingsman with several other potentials under Merlin (Mark Strong), Harry is investigating tech Billionaire Richmond Valentine (Samuel L Jackson) who seems to be involved in a plot that involves kidnapping, subverting leaders of most nations, and an extreme plan to deal with global warming.

Most of the plot points in Kingsmen are predicable, as it follows a very standard hero’s journey plotline. What makes it work is how the characters are presented and the humor involved. At its heart, Kingsmen is a love letter to the Roger Moore era bond films and the old British TV series The Avengers.

As the main character, Taron Egerton does a fine job making Eggsy work, as both the rough and tumble lad and his evolution into the Gentleman spy.

Colin Firth holds the film together as Harry Hart. He plays the part as more John Steed than James Bond.

Samuel L Jackson is the odd one here. His portrayal of Valentine requires him to forgo his usual bad ass attitude in favor of a man who abhors violence, but is ruthless none the less. He does so, in part, by giving Valentine a severe lisp (which is apparently an exaggeration of one Jackson use to have).

Director Matthew Vaughn does a great job with how the fight scenes are staged and filmed. The overall look of the film is reminiscent of the Spy Kids films but with the violence of a Quentin Tarantino film (minus the blood).

An interesting point in the movie is the use of fashion. The cover of most of the Kingsmen is that they are gentlemen’s tailors. The suits and accessories are part of their spy gear, and code phrases involve fashion. Luxury retailer Mr. Porter has made a line of clothes for the movie and has them for sale.

There is also an in joke for the fans of the comic. The comic opens with an attempted rescue of Mark Hamill who is being kidnapped by the bad guys; in the movie, they have an attempted rescue of a scientist, played by Mark Hamill.

There is one issue that takes away from the film, and it is the question of diversity. On one hand the Kingsmen show that they are just as willing to have women in the organization, and the main female character Roxy (Sophie Cookson) never becomes a love interest, and her arc is not dependent on Eggsy, which is good. The problem is that the good guys in the film are all very white. Any character of any other ethnicity is part of Valentine’s team.

In the end I give Kingsmen: The Secret Service a grade of B-. Fans will love the homage to an earlier generation of spy films and non-fans will still have plenty to keep their attention.

 

The Legacy of Continuity in Comics

MarvelSecretWarsContinuity in comics is both a blessing and a curse. On one hand, it allows the creation of a complex universe of interrelated characters and epic storytelling; on the other hand, it means that new readers may not fully understand aspects of a story that has years of background across many titles feeding into it. And in modern comic continuity we have to deal with canon, with some older stories having been removed from continuity.

Before looking at why this is relevant right now, I want to cover a bit of history. Continuity in comics is hardly new. In the early 1940s, Timely comics had its hero (the Human Torch) battle its anti-hero (the Sub-Mariner), each of whom had their own ongoing series. At the same time, DC comics had several of its heroes team up as the Justice Society of America. Almost every comic company had team ups with its various characters. Back in these early days keeping track of continuity wasn’t a priority, so there were often inconsistencies resulting from these stories and they rarely had any lasting impact on the character’s individual titles. This wasn’t a big deal, especially with the waning of superhero comics in the years post World War II.

But it became a very big deal after the birth of the Silver Age of comics in 1956, with DC comics introducing new versions of their characters with different origins and identities. This meant, at the time, that the Golden Age stories were no longer part of the DC continuity. And then DC decided to up the ante by introducing the concept of a multiverse, in 1961, with the story Flash of Two Worlds where the Golden age Flash met the Silver Age Flash who had accidently entered the first Flash’s reality. Suddenly, you had the potential for stories for characters from both eras. These led to dividing up which stories belonged on Earth 1 (The Silver Age Earth) and Earth 2 (The Golden Age Earth). In general this was easy as anything prior to 1956 belonging to Earth 2. But the wrinkle was that there were a few characters that were the same across both Earths as they were the handful that had never gone out of publication, those being Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Aquaman, and Green Arrow. In general the 1956 cut off was used for them as well, with the idea that some stories counted for both, without a lot of concern as to what those were.

Over the years stories were told that on some level clarified the histories, but nothing was comprehensive. Another factor that played into the continuity issue was the static nature of the characters. Most superheroes were presented as being in their mid to late twenties. That meant that in the 1960s you had Superman stories where he met President Kennedy. Years later there would be a Superboy story, back when they were all flashback stories of Superman’s youth, where he met President Kennedy. Things of that nature were usually just hand-waved. In fact, the only characters that aged at all were the teens. Spider-man was introduced as a high school student in 1962. Flash forward to the mid-1980s and he was a college student. Similar aging happened to Robin and Kid Flash over at DC. But that was it for character aging. If there was an update to a character, it was usually handled as a reveal of previously unknown information.

One of the best known of this type was in 1984, when Alan Moore wrote the Swamp Thing Story Anatomy Lesson where he revealed that Swamp Thing was not Alec Holland, a scientist transformed into a plant monster, but instead a plant creature that had absorbed memories from Holland’s corpse as part of its creation. The story was ground breaking, and is still considered the best example of a soft reboot, where the previous continuity is not altered in any way.

In 1985 DC released the ground breaking 12 issue series Crisis on Infinite Earths, which was the first full out reboot of a comic book’s continuity. In it DC merged Earth 1 and Earth 2, as well as other alternate Earths that contained characters DC had purchased from other companies (such as Fawcett and Charleston) creating a single Earth with one history. The stated purpose was to make a cohesive history and create an easy entry point for new readers who were being drawn in by books like Swamp Thing and The Dark Knight Returns.

Over all Crisis was a success, but there were some snafus in the backstories of some characters (especially Hawkman and Donna Troy) that led to several rewrites, which in Donna’s case were ok, and in Hawkman’s case just made things worse. Eventually DC had two different series that tried to do patching rewrites to clear these issues up, Zero Hour, and Infinite Crisis. Both had mixed success at best.

Over at Marvel they decided not to go the full reboot route, stating that they had gotten their universe right the first time. Not that they didn’t like to play with the continuity idea. They have a series, which has come and gone a few times, called What IF. In it the Watcher looks at different universes in which the Marvel characters have made different choices; it’s basically a chance to look at stories Marvel wrote in the past to see what would have happened, had they gone down a different path.

On a more official level they tried some different routes to make clean entry continuities for new readers. The first of these was the poorly received Heroes Reborn, where the Avengers were sent to a new Universe where their histories were rewritten (the basic idea was sound, it was just really badly written – where all the stereotypes of bad 90s comics writing got codified).

A few years after that failed experiment Marvel created the Ultimate Universe. This was a separate continuity from the main Marvel Universe that allowed them to do new stories for the Marvel heroes without the baggage of the old continuity. Overall this was a success, as the old universe was also still going on so the fans didn’t feel a sense of loss and could enjoy the new stories as their own thing. Part of the significance of the Ultimate Universe is that years later, when Marvel studios came into being and created the Marvel Cinematic Universe, they cherry picked the best elements of both the old Universe and the Ultimate Universe to make their stories.

As for the movies, a lot of people attribute the MCU success to that fact that it has continuity between all of its films, just like the comics. Some say it is a throw-back to the old movie serials. This has led other studios to try and create their own mega-franchises, such as Universal attempting new Universal Monster movies with this type of continuity.

But not all was well with Marvel continuity. Marvel was not above tweaking characters with various soft reboots. None are more infamous then the reboot of Spider-man’s continuity in the story One More Day, where Peter made a deal with a demon to save Aunt May, but at the cost of having his marriage erased from history; this remains a hot button topic for many fans.

In more recent years DC did another reboot (which I have written about a lot) called Flashpoint which lead to The New 52. Here I will simply reiterate that it was a hastily thrown together reboot designed as a means to drawn attention to DC comics (who were getting crushed in sales by Marvel). It has been a complete mess and divided fans nearly as bad as Heroes Reborn did.

And that leads us to now.

Both DC and Marvel have events going on that are pulling deep on their continuities. Over at DC is Convergence. This is a two month event that will be replacing DC’s entire line of comics for its duration, that will cover the gap created by DC moving their staff and offices from New York to California. It will feature characters from different DC continuities, such as the pre-Flashpoint universe and DC’s various Elseworlds (their answer to What If). This has fans wondering if this will lead to a more permanent return of the pre-Flashpoint universe, which fans have been asking for since it became clear that The New 52 was a mess. Marvel is doing an event called Secret Wars nameds after an event they had in the 1980s. This series has apparently been in the works for three years and will apparently lead to a new Marvel continuity that combines the old Marvel Universe with the Ultimate Universe (remember how I said that the Cinematic Universe was a combination of the two). There is a lot of speculation that this is an attempt to bring the comics more in line with the movies, and therefore an easier entry point for fans who are picking up the comics because of the movies. There is also hope that it will clear up missteps such as One More Day.

No matter which way you slice it, continuity is a big deal in comics, and will fuel fan debate in all corners of comic culture.

What’s new for 2015

2015

It’s the beginning of a new year. Since the podcast last week covered the old year, let’s take this time to look ahead to what I hope for 2015.

I am happy with the articles for Fanboy News Network itself; I had some health and work issues towards the end of the year that meant updates were a little spotty, but overall I am happy and I need to accept that (as a primarily one man operation) I will miss updates from time to time.

For the podcast, I need to work on a couple of things. One is an equipment upgrade; I need to get a mixing board and an additional mic for when I go out in the field. Sadly I cannot afford these things right now, but I’ll keep an eye open to see if a solution presents itself. The other thing is that I need to cultivate bringing in more people who want to participate with the show. My best episodes are ones where I interact with other people. I’m not sure if that means finding a regular co-host, or just convincing more people I know to come on.

I also need to do some rearranging around my home to create a better recording environment.

So right now I am going to state that for 2015 my goal is to have two articles written each month to go up on every other Monday, with at least one podcast to fill in one of the other Mondays.

I do not want to increase the amount of writing I do as I have another project I need to double down on.

I am currently in the middle of writing a six episode audio-play. I want to finish those and start working on producing the show. If you want to follow the development of this show I will be covering it on my Tumblr.

I also need to take time to see if Patreon is something that I can use to help develop this site more.

One final goal is that I need to work on improving my skills and overall profile so that in 2016 I can start feeling comfortable submitting myself as a pro (and press) to conventions and start doing more there.

So those I are my creative goals for 2015. We’ll see how it goes.

Fanboy News Network Episode 20

Fanboy News Network Episode 20

“A Geek Culture Review Of 2014″

Jeff is Joined by Jillian Venters of Gothic Charm School, Michael Montoure and Jennifer Lovely of Don’t Read the Latin, and Jennifer’s husband Brian to look back at the past year in geek culture.