Archive for January, 2013


Each One Teach One (Help A Brothers Out)

January 31st, 2013 Posted by david brothers

I’m working on a thing, but I think I need a little help. I’m researching this on my own, but maybe you can help me out.

I’m working on a list of 1) black writers 2) who have done work on the Big Two’s superhero comics 3) and contributed more than one issue to that universe. These constraints are important, I think. Cape comics are mainstream comics, the big leagues in a way, and the writer tends to be, if not the captain of the ship, the person who decides the destination.

I’ve got a spreadsheet here. It’s read-only now, but if you know of more black writers who fit the criteria, leave a comment below and I’ll add them in. Who am I missing? Is this everyone?

I’m not sure where I’m going to go with this info, not yet. But I know that I want to go somewhere, and at the moment, I’m feeling the bullet more than the ballot. Thanks for helping, if you can. Thanks for reading if you can’t.

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This Week in Panels: Week 175

January 27th, 2013 Posted by Gavok

Hey. I’m helped out this week by Gaijin Dan, Was Taters and Space Jawa. No Jody this week. He’s too busy digesting the Cookie Puss we devoured while watching tonight’s Royal Rumble.

Wade Barrett was robbed, by the way.

Sweet week of comics. I mean, just check out this Avengers panel. Also, there’s a new series included called One-Punch Man and it strangely doesn’t seem to have anything to do with Guy Gardner.

Avengers #3
Jonathan Hickman and Jerome Opena

Before Watchmen: Minutemen #6
Darwyn Cooke

Bleach #523
Tite Kubo

Read the rest of this entry �

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20 Days of Battle Royals: Day 20

January 26th, 2013 Posted by Gavok

Date: August 16, 2011 (aired on August 19, 2011)
Company: WWE
Show: Smackdown
Rules: Normal
Stipulation: #1 contender for World Heavyweight Championship at Night of Champions
Roster (19): Trent Barreta, Wade Barrett, Johnny Curtis, Ted Dibiase, Justin Gabriel, the Great Khali, Mark Henry, Tyson Kidd, Ezekiel Jackson, Jinder Mahal, William Regal, Cody Rhodes, Zack Ryder, Sheamus, Sin Cara, Heath Slater, Yoshi Tatsu, Jey Uso and Jimmy Uso

As we hit the last battle royal of this one-a-day series, we end on one of my favorites. It’s from the first Smackdown after Summerslam 2011. At that Summerslam, Wade Barrett defeated Money in the Bank holder Daniel Bryan. Sheamus’ sense of honor cost him when Mark Henry slammed him through a barricade and won via count-out. Randy Orton had finally ended his feud with Christian, meaning he needed a new contender for his World Heavyweight Championship.

And so, a battle royal was put together. It was meant to be a 20-man battle royal, but Daniel Bryan chose to challenge Alberto Del Rio earlier that night and got his arm destroyed. Too destroyed to compete again that night. Also, one of the angles of the time had Jinder Mahal more or less owning Great Khali, due to his status as brother-in-law. It’s a complicated Indian thing.

You can tell that they’re trying to make Mark Henry a big deal because when he walks to the ring, resident strong face dude Ezekiel Jackson is all, “Uh… shit.”

The bell rings and Henry stands in the center of the ring. With the exception of Khali guarding Mahal in the corner, everyone pounds on the World’s Strongest Man. He decides that it merely tickles. It tickles and Mark Henry isn’t a man who enjoys laughter.


He immediately removes Trent Barreta and Yoshi Tatsu. The minutes that follow include your usual filler of guys working each other over with nothing happening. Stuff comes alive when Ezekiel Jackson throws his rival Cody Rhodes over the top and he holds on by skinning the cat and pulling himself back in. Then Big Zeke just sends him back out with a massive clothesline.

Khali is still guarding Mahal in the corner and is commanded to take care of Ezekiel. Ezekiel stuns Khali with a running clothesline, steps back for a second one and runs right into a Brain Chop. Khali flings Ezekiel out of there and Henry decides to step up.

You might recall that Khali/Henry was a showdown that wouldn’t be in that 2007 battle royal I covered a few days ago and while they tangled in the Monster Mash, their interactions were barely of note. Finally, they’re going to go at it and I’m ready for it to be terrible. Khali chops Henry down and prepares for the Vice Grip. Henry powers out and then decides, fuck this, I’m the World’s Strongest Man!

Whoa! That’s kind of awesome! Extra points for most everyone else in the ring hanging back to see how this fight plays out.

Sheamus runs into Henry with an axe-handle and sends him rolling to the outside. He’s still in the match, but just angry. Also, champion Randy Orton is watching the battle royal unwind as he sits near the announce table with Henry angrily roaming around.

Whenever somebody gets eliminated, Henry proceeds to grab them and throw them around like a ragdoll. Just ask the Usos.

His rage not quite satiated, he returns to the ring and helps take the number down to four finalists: Henry, Sheamus, Wade Barrett and Sin Cara. You can tell Sin Cara is the fan favorite because of all the chants they edited in in post-production. Barrett, Sheamus and Sin Cara go at Henry together, but Barrett’s greed gets to the best of him and he turns on Sheamus. The two Europeans end up brawling on the apron after each going over the top rope. Sheamus wins the brawl with a kick to the chest and Barrett falls to the floor.

Sheamus and Sin Cara have a nice little battle that ends with Sheamus preparing to Brogue Kick him out of the ring. Henry gets up from the earlier beating and washes his hands of the big Irishman.

Now we’re down to Sin Cara vs. Henry. Sin Cara does a crossbody off the top and Henry falls over after catching him. It’s hard to tell if it’s a botch or not, but my gut says yes. Sin Cara is unable to move Henry with a couple hurricanrana attempts and goes for a crossbody off the second rope. Henry catches him correctly this time and crushes him with the World’s Strongest Slam. Then he presses Sin Cara’s sin carcass over his head and dumps him out of the ring like he’s nothing.

Mark Henry is the #1 contender and ends the show staring down Orton, taking a second to get a whiff of him.


After a career of being a jobber to the main event, Mark Henry would be rewarded for being suddenly awesome after 15 years by going over Orton cleanly and decisively. Twice! He proceeded to have the best heel title run in forever that sadly got derailed by an injury. Part of me will always lament that we never got the correct ending to the Rocky III Balboa/Clubber angle they were setting up with Daniel Bryan and Henry. But hey, said injury also led to Bryan’s heel turn and the whole, “YES! NO!” thing, so it all evens out.

Enjoy the Royal Rumble, everybody.

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20 Days of Battle Royals: Day 19

January 25th, 2013 Posted by Gavok

Date: November 23, 2009
Company: WWE
Show: Monday Night Raw
Rules: Normal
Stipulation: #1 contender for WWE Championship at TLC
Roster (8): Ted Dibiase, Mark Henry, Kofi Kingston, Randy Orton, Montel Vontavious Porter, R-Truth, Cody Rhodes and Sheamus

2009 to 2010 was a dark time for Monday Night Raw thanks to the guest host gimmick. Every week, there’d be a different guest host, originally in the form of a GM with power over the roster. Sometimes it would be a wrestler who wasn’t active at the time like the injured Batista or long-retired Dusty Rhodes. Sometimes it would be a B or C-list celebrity. Any given week, you’d be in store for a crapshoot that usually depended on how into it the guest was. Sometimes you’d get Bob Barker spinning straw into gold with the Price is Raw. Then you’d get Dennis Miller hosting the Slammys, which was just head-shakingly bad. I recall him making a “joke” that was just him going, “Hey, global warming isn’t real, am I right?” And when people didn’t react, that led to some insisting that the wrestling audience wasn’t smart enough to get that comedic genius. Ugh.

One guest host was former Governor and current nutjob Jesse Ventura. He started up a little controversy about John Cena as WWE Champion, pointing out how sick a lot of guys backstage were of him. Ventura decided on a series of qualifying matches between those who haven’t been champion before, meaning we’d get a much needed break from the never-ending Cena/Orton series of matches. The winners would advance to what he called the Breakthrough Battle Royal.

Throughout the night we had Kofi Kingston defeat Dolph Ziggler, Sheamus defeat Finlay, the team of R-Truth, Mark Henry and MVP defeating the team of Jack Swagger, Chavo Guerrero and Chris Masters, Cody Rhodes and Ted Dibiase defeat Cryme Tyme and a match between Primo and Evan Bourne took a strange turn. Orton was so angry about not being allowed into this match that he attacked Primo and took his place, having little trouble in beating Bourne. Since Ventura loves cheating, he let it slide. Meanwhile, smarks had someone to outright root against for this match because if WWE was stupid enough to let Orton win… Jesus Christ.

A backstage segment had Ventura rant at Vince McMahon in a way that almost seems off-script due to bringing up Vince Sr., something that’s usually a big no-no. Ventura wanted to make a little trip to the past and insisted that the commentary for the Breakthrough Battle Royal be done by he and Vince. Whoa. Now that’s something.

Now for the match. Ventura comes out to nearly zero reaction and Vince not only has his old 80’s theme song “You’re My Obsession” by Human League playing, but he has this swank bowtie picked out by Ventura.

The commentary is very weird. Familiar, but different. It is a trip to hear Vince talk at length in that tone that sounds like he’s thinking to himself aloud, plus Ventura telling him, “Shut up, McMahon!” It’s just that age and development has changed them. Ventura is an asshole face and Vince is a doofy heel when the face/heel alignment should be switched. Plus Vince is just plain grumpy at times, calling this a rotten idea.

There’s some interesting faction stuff going on in the lineup. This is the night after Survivor Series, which included a team that had Kofi, Henry, R-Truth and MVP against a team with Orton, Rhodes and Dibiase. So Sheamus is the odd man out here. At first, it’s the four guys from Team Kofi ganging up on Legacy while Sheamus hangs back and does nothing. Eventually, Orton slinks out of the ring and walks around, surveying the action. Henry and R-Truth start fighting each other to make things fair.

Nothing happens for quite a while, but at least the commentary is entertaining and there’s some nice tension with Sheamus and Orton each staying to themselves. Eventually, Sheamus snaps out of it, grabs R-Truth, clotheslines him down and then flings him easily out of the ring. Shortly later, Sheamus waits for the perfect opportunity to catch MVP off-guard.

Easy pickings, bringing us down to six.

Henry goes for Sheamus and almost has him out of the ring until Rhodes and Dibiase attack. Henry ducks a double clothesline from them and sends them both out over the top with a pair of clotheslines of his own. Sheamus clobbers him from behind and throws him out, giving us Sheamus vs. Orton vs. Kofi. By this point, Orton’s finally returned to the ring.

Sheamus hangs back for the most part, but when he does get involved, Orton makes short work of him. Orton sends Kofi over the top rope, but Kofi hangs on and takes out Orton via skinning the cat.

When Kofi gets back up, Sheamus is ready for him with a running axe-handle, sending Kofi to the outside. Sheamus wins and gets his title shot against John Cena at TLC. Not only are we saved from another Cena/Orton fiasco, but we also got that sweet Orton facial reaction above.

In the following segment, Sheamus and Cena have a contract signing where Sheamus annihilates Cena and puts him through a table. Ventura announces that their PPV match will be a Tables Match. Sheamus would go on to win that match and have a rather interesting feud with Cena. While Sheamus never got to outright defeat Cena decisively, the same can be said about Cena beating Sheamus. All in all, Sheamus looked plenty strong around this time until the Nexus showed up to make him run away in fear, thereby hurting his monster persona.

Kofi and Orton continued their feud. Kofi was looking like he was ready to ascend into the main event at times, but then he fucked up a spot, Orton RKO’d him, had an in-ring tantrum and the feud practically died right after. Since then, Kofi’s been stuck in the position/gimmick of “generic good guy who gets cheers”.

I haven’t heard much from Ventura after he was on Opie and Anthony and Jim Norton verbally destroyed him to the point that Ventura stormed out of the interview. Norton rules.

Tomorrow’s the last day and we’re going to be ending it strong.

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Help Chad Nevett Help The Hero Initiative

January 25th, 2013 Posted by david brothers

Chad Nevett is doing a Blogathon for charity, a blogathon being a 24 hour blog writing jamboree, and I’m helping out. Helped, technically, but you haven’t seen my staggering contribution to the blogathon yet. Chad’s going big for his final blogathon, which is very cool. Here’s the roster of assistants: Tim Callahan, Tucker Stone, David Brothers, Alec Berry, Brian Cronin, Graeme McMillan, Jeff Lester, Tim O’Neil, Ryan K. Lindsay, Adam Langton, Matt Brady, Ales Kot, Shawn Starr, Kaitlin Tremblay, and Augie de Blieck, Jr.

Lotta people in there I dig a whole lot, though I run hot and cold on that Brothers guy.

You can see full details here, but here goes an excerpt, too:

Now, you may think that by bringing in 15 writers to do 16 posts, that means I’ll be taking it a bit easier this time. You would be wrong. For those half-hour periods, I will be doing a series of posts over at Comics Should be Good on the best of 2012. It’s not just a bigger Blogathon in contributors, but in blogs.

That brings us to the most important thing in all of this: the Hero Initiative. It’s a charity that provides financial assistance to comic professionals that require it. It’s an organisation that I have a large amount of respect for and one that, sadly, the comics industry desperately needs.

This is a good project, and you can help out by donating to the Hero Initiative in the project’s name. You can also buy products from their site or visit their eBay store.

Either way, on 1/26 — tomorrow! — take a look at Chad’s site and Comics Should Be Good and enjoy a whole bunch of opinions on and around comics.

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20 Days of Battle Royals: Day 18

January 24th, 2013 Posted by Gavok

Date: January 14, 2008
Company: WWE
Show: Monday Night Raw
Rules: Elimination does not have to be over-the-top
Stipulation: None
Roster: Batista, the Great Khali, Hornswoggle, Kane, Mr. Kennedy, Mankind

I talked about how injuries have a tendency to change the course of wrestling history to a dramatic degree, but it isn’t just injuries. In late 2007, a list was released of wrestlers who had been using an online pharmacy for certain items that were against the wellness policy. All of these guys (except Randy Orton) were suspended for 30 to 60 days depending on previous suspension records.

At the time, WWE was in the midst of an exceptionally stupid and never-ending story where Vince McMahon found out that he had fathered an illegitimate child and said child was on the WWE roster. This was meant to set up an angle where Mr. Kennedy was going to be revealed as Vince Jr. and feud with his “brother-in-law” Triple H. That didn’t happen because not only was he on that pharmaceutical list, but he had just done a big interview talking up how competent the WWE’s wellness policy was. So on Raw, Kennedy tried to say that he was Vince’s kid, only to be shut down and suspended. They’d find out the real answer the week that followed.

Backed into a corner, they revealed Vince’s son to be Hornswoggle, the undercard comedy act leprechaun whose only crime so far was becoming the Cruiserweight Champion and destroying the last remnants of that division for the sake of comedy. I’ll say that I wasn’t too opposed to the idea. I suppose the possibility of Hornswoggle becoming a Mini-Me version of Vince and barking orders in the form of vocal nonsense could have worked in some kind of surreal way.

The main story they went with was that Vince was embarrassed by his tiny son and out of either spite or insane parenting wanted him tortured in the ring as “tough love”. This meant putting him in matches that Hornswoggle would somehow come out of unscathed, either due to luck, guile or the help of Finlay, who disagreed with Vince’s behavior. These matches led to one of the most annoying aspects about Hornswoggle’s character, being the weird double standards about him being a competitor that continues to this day. If he gets the best of someone, then good for him! Way to go! If he is in any way attacked, even if it means being shoved over, Michael Cole and Jerry Lawler will act like they just watched a puppy get run over. How can they let this happen?! He’s just a defenseless child (who has a beard and is in his twenties). Of course, if Triple H murders him, that’s different. Haha, that Triple H! He sure taught Hornswoggle a lesson! That’s what you get for messing with DX!

With the Royal Rumble coming up, Vince decided to enter Hornswoggle into the big match. Backstage on Raw, he talked to his mute son and suggested a warm-up to get him ready. A “Mini Royal Rumble” that would feature a handful of guys scheduled for the PPV match. Hornswoggle went off to the ring, ready to prove himself.

Out comes Mr. Kennedy and… wait a minute. When Vince said it was a “Mini Royal Rumble”, he wasn’t kidding.

Yes, we’re about to get a Royal Rumble of vertically-challenged doppelgangers. Should I be offended? Maybe. Probably. Am I entertained? Probably. Definitely.

At the very least, it’s kind of a nice thing to do for Hornswoggle who himself is a trained wrestler who rarely gets the chance to wrestle guys his own size. The other guys are wrestlers who know what they’re getting into and they’re getting a payday for this, so it really isn’t the worst thing.

Mini Kennedy tries to do the intro bit where he announces himself from the middle of the ring, but the suspended microphone doesn’t reach that far down and he proceeds to jump up and down in a failed attempt to grab it. The bell rings and Kennedy gets a cheapshot in. They fight it out until Mini Mankind shows up.

He pulls out Mr. Socko and Hornswoggle saves himself by kicking Mini Mankind in his mini-er Mankind and throwing him through the ropes. Then Hornswoggle presses Kennedy over his head and throws him over the top.

Having cleared the ring, Hornswoggle awaits his next opponent, Mini Batista. Not only does Mini Batista perform the Batista entrance sequence…

…but his timing on the explosion is better than the actual Batista.

Mini Batista Spears Hornswoggle and shakes the ropes. He sets up the Batista Bomb, but Hornswoggle backdrops out of it. Soon after, Mini Kane enters. While he is the smallest man in the match, he certainly goes 100% into the gimmick by pulling off Kane’s uppercuts perfectly. Despite being the fresher one, he still fall prey to the Batista Bomb.

Hornswoggle again goes for a kick downstairs and flings Mini Batista out of there. Mini Kane starts to take him apart and does a jumping clothesline off the second rope. He goes for a chokeslam and we suddenly remember the size difference.

Hornswoggle hits the Celtic Cross and then slides Mini Kane out of the ring. I should note that probably the funniest part of this whole segment is how when Vince was suggesting it, he said that it would include Mr. Kennedy, Batista and maybe a mystery opponent. This is a subtle joke in how Kane has been the go-to mystery opponent for the past 15 years.

Hornswoggle awaits his final opponent and Great Khali’s music begins playing. Unfortunately for the leprechaun, it isn’t Mini Khali. It’s the actual Khali. He steps into the ring, ready to crush the little guy, but then Finlay appears with his shillelagh and goes to town on the giant. Like I said a couple days ago, Finlay beating the shit out of Khali with his shillelagh is a wonderful thing to watch. It’s like watching a lumberjack going to town on a tree with an axe before, during and after it falls. Khali ends up rolling out of the ring to evade the punishment, meaning that Hornswoggle wins the match. Also, Finlay gets a piece of Ranjin Singh, but lets him off easy with a simple clothesline.

The angle came to a head prior to Wrestlemania, where JBL helped Vince beat Hornswoggle to the point of hospitalization while Finlay was handcuffed and could only watch. JBL revealed to Vince that Hornswoggle was never his son after all, but was Finlay’s. JBL ended up going over Finlay at Wrestlemania in a Bellfast Brawl and Hornswoggle proceeded to star in some terrible, terrible storylines in the years that followed.

Way to go, Kennedy.

Tomorrow we return to the past to build for the future.

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20 Days of Battle Royals: Day 17

January 23rd, 2013 Posted by Gavok

Date: October 30, 2007
Company: WWE
Show: ECW
Rules: Normal
Stipulation: None
Roster: Big Daddy V, the Great Khali, Mark Henry and Kane

I will defend WWE’s ECW reprise to my grave. While there were some tremendous missteps, the show was my favorite part of WWE every week. Once it found its groove, it was a place where new wrestlers could debut and make a name for themselves, old wrestlers could get a new lease on life, guys could have awesome matches with simple-yet-effective booking and once somebody got popular, they’d be drafted away to a wrestling show that people actually watched. So really, it was a lot like the old ECW.

Today’s topic is something that I really can’t defend as part of that. In attempts to get ratings early on, WWE would put high-profile wrestlers in the main events. The main example was Big Show’s ECW title reign where he’d take on the likes of Ric Flair and Batista because of his fighting champion status. Today’s match takes place the night before Halloween from a show that features both Nunzio trick-or-treating with some kids while dressed as Dracula and Tommy Dreamer wrestling while costumed as Paul Heyman.

Because of the Halloween theme, the powers that be decided on a Monster Mash battle royal. The idea is that it would feature four “monster” wrestlers going at it: Kane, Mark Henry, Great Khali and Big Daddy V. There were a lot of other guys they could have included at the time, like Snitsky, Umaga and the Boogeyman, but I guess they figured not to go overboard on it.

I should note that Kane is the only face in this match and while all four men were on the ECW roster at some point before or after this, Big Daddy V is the only ECW guy at the time of the match. He’s also gross as hell due to his various manboobs flopping around.

There is one thing about this match that I absolutely love and redeems everything about it. Throughout the night, they’d hype up the match with a series of vignettes for each competitor (barring Kane, who got to cut his own promo). Each one was overly dramatic and narrated by a Boris Karloff impersonator who proceeded to make each guy sound pants-shittingly scary.

“A leviathan creature driven by malice, the Great Khali yearns to crush all who stand in his path.”

Holy shit. Why couldn’t they do more promos like this? They should have Fake Boris hyping up Ryback matches.

As the match begins, it really isn’t all that terrible. Sure, they’re moving in slow motion, but it starts out strong enough. The three heels try to corner Kane and he evades them, then fights back. Henry and Big Daddy V blame each other for this and go at it with a series of strength-testing running shoulders. Then they both bounce the ropes and collide like two trains.


So, hey, this isn’t so bad. Henry briefly holds up Kane in an almost Angle Slam-type position and almost gets him out. Kane goes back to fighting everyone and the match finally jumps the shark when Henry shoves Kane into Big Daddy V for a Black Hole Slam. Maybe it worked on paper, but…

Wait, wait! He can do that better! Give Viscera a mulligan!

Eh, never mind.

Henry and Khali grapple in the corner, allowing Big Daddy V to crush them both with an Avalanche. He tries the same on Kane but misses, allowing Kane to clothesline him into the ropes and lift him right out of there. Hey, it at least looks impressive.

Khali puts Kane in the Vice Grip, then turns his attentions to doing the same to Henry. Kane and Henry team up and send Khali out of there with a double clothesline. A very slow double clothesline, but an effective one nonetheless. Now we’re down to Kane vs. Mark Henry. On one hand, they’re the two best workers in the match. On the other hand, that’s really not saying a lot.

The two go back and forth for a bit and Kane seems to have things in the bag. He climbs to the top to do his leaping clothesline. Of course, the #1 rule when fighting Mark Henry is that you NEVER. EVER. JUMP AT HIM.

Henry seems pretty into his victory and being crowned King of the Monsters. Not that this match really means anything in the long run. It’s never mentioned ever again and isn’t used to springboard Henry into anything. Granted, his return to ECW down the line would lay the seeds for his build to relevance, but the Monster Mash battle royal is independent of that.

Still, the match was only four and a half minutes, so at least it was short. Speaking of short, check back in tomorrow for the next battle royal.

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Tumblr Mailbag: Direct Market, Schmirect Schmarket

January 23rd, 2013 Posted by david brothers

Tumblr questions! I take questions on tumblr because I get bored real easy, they’re easy to knock out between paying work, and I like when people want to know what I think about things. I got this question from stavner the other day:

Would it be better for the health of American comics if Marvel and/or DC got out of the comics business and just focused on licensing?

My reply was short, but I think pretty okay: “That would literally destroy the direct market almost immediately, so definitely not.”

I got a follow-up question from an anonymous dude and I wrote a half-thought out book on it. I don’t think I’m too off base, though. I’m sure y’all will let me know if I am. I wrote this in… ten minutes? Sorry if this is rough. I lightly edited this after posting it on tumblr to make it more readable. And by “lightly edited” I mean “put in some words that I forgot to put in and cut a paragraph because it didn’t turn out like I wanted.” Onward:

Re: you answer to the question of whether it would be good or not for Marvel and DC to get out of comics and just focus on licensing, you said it would destroy the Direct Market. Putting aside the jobs that would be lost – would that be such a bad thing 4 the art form? (Presumably the original questioner means that, with Marvel and DC out of the picture there’d be less capes & corps) And isn’t the death – or at the very least decimation – of the direct market as it currently exists inevitable?

Nothing’s inevitable, and anything that happens occurs because we tolerate it. You’ve got a lot of things going here, so I’m gonna throw out points instead of a straight answer.

“Putting aside the jobs that would be lost – would that be such a bad thing 4 the art form?”
-You can’t put aside the jobs. Putting them aside makes your hypothetical situation a lie. “Putting aside all the deaths, wasn’t invading ____ a good idea?” No, it wasn’t. You have to account for those deaths, and if you delete Marvel and DC, you have to account for the fact that they have upwards of 60% of the market share. Losing 60-some percent of your business is catastrophic. When that business is the main draw for your store — Marvel and DC have specifically cultivated an audience of people who hit shops like clockwork for a hit in a way that I don’t think most other publishers have managed — it’s apocalyptic.

You lose the curious foot traffic that comes in for X-Men comics but kinda likes that Brian Wood guy’s other stuff, or that digs Wonder Woman and realizes that Empowered is awesome. That counts for a lot, and smart comic shops know this. “Oh, you like Uncanny X-Men? This guy also writes Casanova and it’s crrrrrazy!” “Dazzler fan, huh? Tried Phonogram?” You lose the regular and reliable pay check that comes from selling Big Two comix. You have fewer options for events and materials, on account of Marvel and DC not opening up their wallets.

And screw the art form if the jobs don’t count for anything. People come first, every single time. Do right by the people and the business side of the art form will improve, which will help improve the art form itself. Human beings over everything.

“And isn’t the death – or at the very least decimation – of the direct market as it currently exists inevitable?”

-Inevitability is a fake idea. The direct market doesn’t have to die, and if we’re being real, it probably shouldn’t. It’s a dependable delivery system for a specific type of book to a specific type of person. It serves a purpose that could easily be expanded and fixed.

The problems with the direct market — an apparently unbelievably conservative population of retailers, gaming the system, backstock, ordering, timely deliveries, awful customer service, etc — are ALL fixable. Every single one! It would take work and effort, and yeah a lot of squares would get upset, but it’s fixable, and nobody cares what they think anyway. The rise of Vaughan & Staples’s Saga is a fantastic sign, as-is the continued success of The Walking Dead. Empowered has had a gang of printings and is at the deluxe hardcover stage of things. People are interested in new things — we just have to get those things in front of them so they know to get them. Comic shops, especially ones with personable, intelligent staff, are the best way to do that. If somebody can answer two questions — “What do you like?” and “What do you like about it?” — then you can find something to sell them that they’ve never seen before and will probably enjoy a whole lot. I did it back when I worked (non-comics) retail, and my friends who are still in retail all know that that’s how things work.

So no, the DM doesn’t have to go away, especially not when the alternative is to make it a leaner and meaner murder machine.

“Putting aside the jobs that would be lost – would that be such a bad thing 4 the art form? (Presumably the original questioner means that, with Marvel and DC out of the picture there’d be less capes & corps)”

-It’s not about the art form. It was never about the art form. The art form is what it is. Ed Benes’s atrociously ugly comics deserve to sit alongside the Blankets dude’s sad sack comics as much as anything else. They both serve a different purpose and are aimed at a different audience, and each of them are just as valid as artistic pursuits as the other. Yeah, I think one of them is trash, but that’s just me.

Capes aren’t bad. Corporations aren’t bad. Corporate comics aren’t bad, either. What’s bad is the behavior that people get up to, whether that means screwing talent, running games on your audience, stiffing your retailers, and using predatory tactics to flood the market and then blaming readers for books flopping. Corporations and creator-owned dudes both run scams on people.

It’s not a corporate problem. It’s a people problem. Marvel and DC aren’t holding comics back from being an art form. They’re already an art form, and Marvel and DC have definitely produced books that are genuine classics of the art form. They aren’t the problem with comics. They’re problems in other areas, but erasing them? That won’t fix comics or make comics palatable to whoever.

It’s a real baby/bathwater proposition you’re talking about here, when the more reasonable answer is just “do better.”

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4 Elements: Gangster Squad

January 22nd, 2013 Posted by david brothers

I’ve long enjoyed Los Angeles as a setting for crime movies or novels, especially ones set just after World War II. It’s not my favorite, on account of New York between the ’60s and ’80s being the best setting for everything, but it’s up there. The way it sprawls, the cities that make up what we think of as Los Angeles and their own little cultures and legends, the interstates, the desert, the mountains… I can’t get enough of Los Angeles. It’s beautiful.

With the exception of going to LA whenever I can to visit friends, though, my LA experience is limited to movies, music, and books. Which is cool, yeah, but that’s pop culture, right? It isn’t true. It might be accurate, but it isn’t real. My friend Tucker put me onto this fantastic book a couple years back, John Buntin’s L.A. Noir: The Struggle for the Soul of America’s Most Seductive City. It’s really great. It’s a history that runs from the ’20s up through the Rodney King riots, and it really enhanced my mental picture of LA as a location and a culture. It almost retroactively justified my love of Los Angeles, in a way.

Gangster Squad debuted with a trailer that was something like this one:

They got me with the Just Blaaaaaaaaaaze!, Emma Stone as a cutie pie of a tired moll, Anthony Mackie, and Michael Peña. The rest is aight — Gosling was cool in Drive, Brolin is pretty okay, ROBERT PATRICK — but that’s what hooked me. All my friends who are smart about movies began each conversation we had about Gangster Squad with “Mannnnnnnnnnnn,” but I kept the faith, even after stories of reshoots and rewrites. Saw it release day, even.

I saw Killing Them Softly a couple weeks beforehand and didn’t really like it. I thought it was okayish, but a mess. But the further I got from it, the more I liked it. I thought about it a lot and finally got what they were going for. And now, I’m afraid I’ll love it if I see it again.

Gangster Squad is like that, but inverted. Here’s four reasons why.

Gangster Squad isn’t boring, but it ain’t new. If you’re going to it in search of spectacle, you will find it. Things explode while dudes walk away from them, there’s a posse up scene, there’s a plucky ethnic sidekick, and Ryan Gosling’s character approaches a shoot-out like life is cheap and he got bullets three-for-one at the gun store.

The weird thing about Gangster Squad is that you have to make a mental adjustment when you start watching it. I was expecting something in the vein of a knock-off Michael Mann or Tony Scott flick. Modern action and nihilism in an old setting. Instead, about ten minutes in, I had to readjust my expectations. There’s a strange noise filter over most of the movie, the dialogue is a bit much, and the gunplay is actually much more subdued and boring than I’d expected. I honestly had a moment where I thought “Wait, is this a weird period homage kind of movie and not a real movie? Why are they talking like that and why does it look like this?”

The setup is familiar, but one of the first details they reveal during the movie almost lost me entirely. Josh Brolin plays O’Mara (cool, Irish cop), a WWII vet (even better) who did some secret spy stuff during the war and is some kind of super-soldier (nah son). Ryan Gosling plays Wooters, another WWII vet (Wooters and O’Mara bond over the war at one point and it is the saddest, limpest thing since “O’Mara, you’re basically Captain America. Can you go kill some dudes for me, Nic Nolte playing Police Chief Bill Parker?”). Wooters is… dirty? Probably? He hangs out with mobsters, but he never actually does anything that’s dirty, so whatever. Some kid he liked dies in a shoot-out and Wooters has a change of heart and decides to start killing criminals. He also murders two criminals in the street immediately after but it still somehow a cop/allowed into crime clubs. Who cares. Emma Stone plays Grace Faraday, Mickey Cohen’s etiquette coach slash girlfriend. Great name. Flat character. Sean Penn plays Mickey Cohen like a Dick Tracy villain crossed with the Joker.

The rest of the cast are just sketches. Anthony Mackie’s Coleman Harris is good with a thrown switchblade (sure, okay), hates heroin, and patrols whatever they said the black part of LA is. Robert Patrick and his Sam Elliott mustache is an ancient gunslinger by the name of Max Kennard. Michael Peña’s Navidad Ramirez is obviously Max Kennard’s illegitimate son who is following in his father’s footsteps and has the best name in the movie. (#2 is Grace Faraday because it’s a classy classic, followed by Coleman Harris. #worst is “Wooters.”)

That’s all they are. They’re a brief sentence and a one-liner in a gunfight to remind you that they have a personality.

Gangster Squad mines a rich period of American and Los Angeles history, but mucks it up for no reason. Part of my interest was seeing how they’d fit an action/adventure narrative into the very real story of Mickey Cohen. As it turns out, the answer is “They’re going to rewrite the story of Mickey Cohen entirely.”

Here’s a short list of things Mickey Cohen got up to in real life: sexual extortion, blackmail, boxing, bootlegging, walking into hotels and just firing his gun to try and draw some dudes out, sold love letters to a dead man to the news, and owned a bulletproof Cadillac.

Here’s a short list of things Mickey Cohen does in Gangster Squad: talks about boxing, orders hits, looks menacing, sets up a telephone scheme, says “I’m God,” and I guess goes to jail shortly before getting out of jail in the ’50s so he can hang out with Billy Graham and them.

He’s a cartoon, a Hollywood villain, and is nowhere near as amazing or fascinating as the real Mickey. He’s just some goon with a lot of other goons under him. He’s boring. He’s not scary, or charismatic, or anything. He’s Sean Penn in eight pounds of makeup, and that just isn’t interesting, especially when compared to the real deal. Mickey was flamboyant and charming. Penn doesn’t rate.

It doesn’t help that the squad of super cops all have gimmicks like they were superheroes. O’Mara is Captain America, Gosling is good at walking between crime and law (note: he doesn’t do this in any of the movie), Harris throws switchblades with deadly accuracy, Ramirez is plucky, and Kennard is I guess so old that he only knows how to use revolvers.

I realize that having regular dudes wouldn’t make for the most exciting movie, but we basically had regular dudes in real life and Cohen was eventually put away. Regular dudes on the warpath against an overwhelming threat? That’s great.

Everything doesn’t have to be the Dirty Dozen, and when you jazz it up like that, you lose a lot of the texture that made that time period so interesting. Open corruption, hard-driving politicians and cops attempting to clean up the joint, and actual factual race riots in the precincts are way more interesting than “oh yeah, this guy can throw a knife really fast.”

They should’ve mined that, instead of just taking the setting and stopping there. Real life is already rich and it doesn’t need generic embellishment to be watchable.

I love Anthony Mackie and Michael Peña, but what the heck were they doing in this movie? I will check out anything that Anthony Mackie and Michael Peña choose to do, pretty much, but Gangster Squad was amazingly mis-written from their perspective. Outside of a joke about Ramirez’s heritage being the reason why no one will partner with him but the dude who is obviously his absentee father and the black folks in LA hanging out with other blacks, that’s the only attention given to race in the movie.

Jackie Robinson was doing work and getting hate around the time that Gangster Squad was set, but somehow a black cop and a Mexican cop can hang out with white cops in bars and don’t get crap from their fellow police on account of their skin color? Nah, son. False. I don’t need a movie-stopping break for a discussion of the black and brown condition, but don’t suggest that things were all to the good by omitting the ugliness, either. They threw in a racial slur toward Mickey Cohen and that’s about it. It shatters what little verisimilitude the movie has, because America was wild racist in those days, including and/or especially the police.

Their roles are actually pretty symptomatic of what’s wrong with Gangster Squad. Instead of including them and doing a little extra legwork to show how they fit into the culture of the day, they’re just included in the crew with barely a mention given to their point. Coleman Harris is anti-heroin, Mickey Cohen deals heroin, so of course he’d be down with murdering him. Really? No. That is straight out of a comic book. O’Mara wouldn’t have gotten stand-up guys for this gig. He would’ve gotten a bunch of bent cops with guilty consciences.

Instead, he’s got the most unlikely Benetton Brigade ever, a big fat dollop of untruth that’s stinking up the whole movie. It’s pretending to be race-blind, and that’s terrible.

Ryan Gosling has a weird baby voice. Maybe I’m late to the party or something, but I’ve really only seen dude in Drive and he barely spoke in that. But in Gangster Squad, he says a lot of things, some of which are actually pretty cool but most of which are just “Because the genre demands it!” nonsense. “Don’t go,” he says, as Emma Stone walks out the door. “Don’t let me,” Emma Stone says, in the least convincing delivery of her life. “Please leave,” I say, watching this movie and wishing it was over.

Gosling’s baby voice distracted me the entire movie. His voice is pretty okay in real life, as this youtube video I found by searching “Ryan Gosling” shows, but his voice in Gangster Squad is like a pinched and nasal cross between his actual voice and some kind of awful Edward G Robinson impression, see?

But he waffles back and forth between baby voice and real voice and it doesn’t work at all.

Props for that scene where he fires at a car that’s speeding away, because his body language there is impeccable, but that’s in the trailer.

There’s probably a really good cut of Gangster Squad that halves the Gosling/Stone scenes, jacks up the police brutality, and ends with the whole squad dying that’s really, really good. As released, though? No thanks.

You should read L.A. Noir: The Struggle for the Soul of America’s Most Seductive City instead, and then catch the television adaptation of it whenever Frank Darabont gets around to completing it. Gangster Squad is worth waiting for until it comes on TBS at 0300.

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20 Days of Battle Royals: Day 16

January 22nd, 2013 Posted by Gavok

Date: October 14, 2007
Company: TNA
Show: Bound for Glory
Rules: 16 men race to climb into the ring (over the top rope) until 8 make it in. Then it becomes a battle royal until there are two left. From there, it becomes a singles match.
Stipulation: The 8 that enter qualify for the Fight for the Right tournament. The order of eliminations creates the seeding system for the brackets.
Roster (16): Sonjay Dutt, “Wildcat” Chris Harris, Havok, Lance Hoyt, BG James, Kip James, Jimmy Rave, Junior Fatu, Kaz, Robert Roode, Chris Sabin, Shark Boy, Alex Shelley, “Cowboy” James Storm, Petey Williams and Eric Young

It was the best of times. It was the worst of times. It was the time of Jim Cornette in TNA. It was the time of Vince Russo in TNA. Boy, is that apparent in this match.

To build up a new #1 contender, TNA decided to put together an eight-man tournament with sixteen guys to start. To cut the list in half, they’d have to earn their shots by… entering a wrestling ring. What the hell?

Yes, the Reverse Battle Royal. The same concept that millions of wrestling-loving kids came up with on their own, only to decide that, no, it’s too stupid and would never work. Our competitors surround the ring and then go at it, each trying to climb onto the apron, over the top rope and reach the inside of the ring with all the refs. Once they’re in, they’re in. After it’s down to eight men, the tournament roster is written and they fight in a battle royal over the seedings. In other words, the reverse part in the beginning is the only thing that truly matters.

Exciting stuff right there.

Junior Fatu (Rikishi) smacks aside fellow over-the-hill, ass-based wrestler Kip James and steps over the top, nearly unopposed. That’s one. Kaz and his rival Robert Roode go at it on top of one of the turnbuckles. Kaz wins out via hitting the Flux Capacitor.

Advertent or not, Kaz just introduced Roode into the tournament as well. Alex Shelley hops in. Eric Young makes a go for it and Lance Hoyt stops him. Standing on the apron, Hoyt presses Young over his head and prepares to throw him onto the other wrestlers below, but Young rolls out of his grip and falls into the ring. That’s five.

Chris Sabin jumps in just as easily as his Motor City Machine Guns partner Shelley a minute earlier. Hoyt prevents Havok from entering and steps in himself. That leaves one spot open. Kip James and Chris Harris fight over the last spot, but we see that James Storm has been camped out alone during the entire proceedings, picking his spot. With everyone beaten down and Harris and James busy with each other, Storm enters unopposed and gets in there a second before Harris. Harris is told by the refs that he doesn’t qualify for the Fight for the Right tournament and has to get out of there. That he got tricked by his former partner only proceeds to make him more irate.

Storm’s victory is short lived. At the start of the bell, Young steals his beer, ducks a haymaker and throws Storm right out of the ring. Junior Fatu lays waste to everyone else until he and Young accidentally back into each other. Young is filled with fear and tries his hardest to befriend Fatu, even going so far as to offer him Storm’s beer. Young’s attempt at creating new friends goes a little too far.

Fatu is cool with Young until Young makes the mistake of trying to lift the big man. Fatu continues taking everyone apart, including a spot where Young, Hoyt, Shelley and Sabin are propped into the corner and get crushed by his gigantic posterior. This is followed by a Stinkface on Young and Hoyt at the same time. Angry, Hoyt springs into action and drops Fatu with a running boot. Everyone gangs up on Fatu and it seems like they might have him. The Motor City Machine Guns hedge that bet.

Hoyt becomes the dominant one until the Machine Guns silence him. They maneuver Young into putting Roode in a submission hold, then add their own, creating a neat human knot.

As they go back to double-teaming Hoyt, Kaz puts an end to their reign by eliminating Shelley and knocking Sabin out with a plancha DDT into the ring. Kaz and Roode end up fighting on the apron and Roode wins out with a Rock Bottom out of nowhere. We’re down to the final four with Roode, Hoyt, Young and Sabin. Hoyt climbs the top rope for a moonsault, Roode runs over and shoves him to the floor. Although both faces try to team up on Roode, he’s able to use them against each other, quite literally, by hiptossing Young into Sabin as a way to knock Sabin off the apron.

Now that it’s Young vs. Roode, we have a singles contest. The mini-match is less than two minutes long and comes to an end when Young misses a moonsault, gets picked up for a suplex and rolls it into a pinning combination. Young wins the #1 seed and the crowd goes nuts for him. Though throughout this, the commentators are mostly paying attention to how the seeding system via the match has made it so that Sabin vs. Shelley is an opening round match.

The match is actually extremely fun and well-booked, so I’m glad I watched it. I have to blame that on Cornette, insisting that he took a crappy Russo concept and turned it into something enjoyable.

The tournament that followed was a gigantic mess, sad to say. Wrestlers kept getting removed and replaced mid-tournament and things were incredibly overbooked to say the least. Despite his #1 seed, Young was gone in the first match. The finals came in the form of a ladder match between Kaz and Christian Cage (who wasn’t even in the original 16). Kaz won and challenged Angle on the main event of a random episode of Impact. Angle retained and then a million run-ins happened. Naturally.

When you get to tomorrow’s update, tell them Boris sent you.

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