Archive for August, 2013


Loosies: Off to the Races b/w Murda Something

August 30th, 2013 Posted by david brothers

I like Lana Del Rey in part because there’s something about her lyrics and performance that makes me want to ask questions. Fabolous and blur are pretty self-evident to me. I don’t listen to “No Distance Left to Run” or The Soul Tape II and have to untangle what they’re talking about. I still have to untangle how they’re saying it, yeah, but the subject matter I get pretty much instantly. But something about Del Rey makes me listen real closely to her music. I’m sharp enough to know there’s something there, but not sharp enough to catch it.

“Off to the Races” is one of those songs that made me sit up and take notice. The song blends Vladimir Nabokov’s Lolita with a bit of Bonnie & Clyde. But there’s a performative aspect to it, something in her voice and delivery that makes it feel like a role or pose, one that goes beyond the implied roles in every other song. She’s portraying something or someone, building a world and telling a story, that I want to know more about. There’s a performance there.

None of this would matter if she didn’t sound good, obviously. Liz Barker at Strawberry Fields Whatever described her style as being “sexy music that feels like being asleep,” and I like that. The music feels very relaxed, something to sit around with friends and vibe to, but the tension comes from how the play against the music, like a smiling face saying “I’m going to kill you.” The juxtaposition clicks.

A lot of the songs on Born To Die feel like they’re about relationships, rather than love. There’s not a lot that feels like the usual I Love Him, He Loves Me, or He Did Me Wrong. It’s more about the structures we build and the ways power works in male/female relationships, who has control and when or how. In “Off to the Races,” Del Rey sings about a lover who spends a decent amount of the song watching her, whether she’s swimming or getting dressed, as opposed to doing things or being loving. There’s a voyeuristic aspect that feels significant. “National Anthem,” on the other hand, sounds like obsession to me.

The video for “National Anthem,” like a lot of Del Rey’s work and videos, feels like coded language. It features Del Rey as Jackie Kennedy and A$AP Rocky as John F Kennedy. It’s a simple thing and they don’t do much that’s transgressive or surprising with the idea, but that makes it even more interesting to me. It’s pretty much just a 1:1 swap, with allowances made for our idea of fun—Rocky playing dice, Del Rey dropping low, that kind of thing.

But by and large, the video portrays the First Family having fun and living life before Rocky gets shot. It’s touching and loving. There’s a weird tension here, too. The idea of a black husband and white wife, their cute children, their friends, their parties, all of these things are normal to me. But push it back to the ’60s, and slip it into the fantasy of Camelot, and it makes me feel uneasy. It feels a little unreal, a little like a dream where you know things are about to go hideously wrong, but still compelling.

I’m really interested in Del Rey and Rocky’s hands in this video, how he touches Del Rey and how she touches him back. His hand on her thigh before dying, their closeness on the beach, the butt grab when they’re dancing, her playing with his braids… “sexy music that feels like being asleep.”

I like Lana Del Rey because she makes me want to have conversations about her music. There is something there that I want to know.

I hated on A$AP Rocky for a long time because he tended to rap like the dudes who influenced him and that bothered me. But at the same time, I’d praise his features, like somehow all of the features I liked were exceptions to the rule that Rocky sucked. But I was wrong, obviously, because that’s silly. “I don’t like dude, except for all these songs where I like dude, but really, son is wack.”

The first feature where I sat up like “Wow, this guy is getting it in” was probably Rocky’s turn on Schoolboy Q’s “Hands on the Wheel,” from Habits & Contradictions. The song has a great sample. The woman singing “hands on the wheel” on the chorus is an artist named Lissie. She covered Kid Cudi’s “Pursuit of Happiness”, a song I like quite a bit. I like the different feeling songs have when women sing songs originally sung by men or vice versa. Otis Redding’s “Respect” is a different animal than Aretha Franklin’s “Respect,” both for the mechanical differences between the songs and the way both singers apply their own style to that blueprint.

It’s not the same situation, but you should probably listen to Notorious BIG’s reference track for “Queen Bitch” and then Lil Kim’s version, too. Just having a different voice in there changes the game.

Q rides the beat real well in this song, as usual, but Rocky kinda outshines him. His flow is super swaggery, with colorful punchlines and a killer interpolation of the chorus. It’s not particularly deep or technically proficient in the spherical lyrical miracle sense, but it’s good. It’s rapping. Saying something mundane in a tight way is equal to saying something tight to me, and Rocky does it real well.

I especially like his feature on A$AP Ferg’s “Shabba.” The song is raunchy, but supremely catchy thanks to a great gimmick. The music video, though…

I like this new trend of rap videos being conceived as weird, stressed-out, feverish nightmares, and this is definitely a solid example. It’s just off, from the Shabba Ranks impersonator to the cameos to the last supper scene to the 4th wall suddenly shattering about three minutes in…and that’s all before Shabba Ranks himself shows up. This song is real hype, but the video is just uncomfortable enough to be super tight. It’s a party video, no different than “I Get Around,” but slanted.

Rocky’s on the remix to A$AP Ferg’s “Work,” along with Trinidad Jame$, Schoolboy Q, and French Montana. Rocky comes correct, Trinidad Jame$ too, but man. French Montana? Dude is wack, but “When they mask up, comin’ for your ice/When they barefaced, they comin for your life” is pretty tight. But even then, he can’t compete with Schoolboy Q’s “Yeah, put in work, spray his ass in front the church/ Deacon said I did my shit, the pastor said, ‘That nigga turnt!'” It puts me in mind of Ghostface’s “Wu Banga 101,” where he kicked a whole verse about a crooked church.

Euge Ahn, alias Adam Warrock, put me onto A$AP Ferg. I had basically written off the whole A$AP Mob as weed carriers, but Euge’s enthusiasm for Ferg’s Trap Lord record got me to buy it sight unseen… and it was worth it. With the exception of a sex skit, the whole album pretty much goes. Euge said it was something like gangster music made by a space alien, and that’s pretty close to how I feel. There’s a lot of singing, some patois, and a lot of swag rap. There’s a lot of posturing for the sake of other men in there, too, which leads to some truly absurd scenarios, but sure. I listen to rap, I can deal.

It’s tight, though. Ferg knows how to utilize a feature, too. Bone Thugs is on “Lord,” and Krayzie Bone blacks all the way out when he steps up to bat. Ferg brings out B-Real and Onyx on “Fuck Out My Face,” which gives Sticky a chance to say “I’m a CBGB… crazy bald-head grimy bastard!” and make my year.

Ferg’s not really saying anything new, lyrical content-wise, but again, he’s saying it in a dope way, so who cares, really? He reminds me a lot of Young Dro, who I like a lot. They just do what they do and do it well. Reliable dudes who go in on occasion.

The highlight of the album for me is “Murda Something” with Waka Flocka Flame. I know Waka is on record as not wanting to be seen as a lyrical dude for whatever dumb reason, but this type of song is exactly why I like him. It’s fast, almost to the point that he can’t keep up with his own raps, and A$AP Ferg chanting “ain’t afraid to murda something” before he comes in with a verse that’s half the speed of Waka’s is too dope. It’s music to throw bows to, run miles to, lift weights to. It’s motivation music. Black superhero music.

Also Ferg drops this during that song:

Y’all quick for the tweeting, y’all quick to be tumbling
How about a Vine? Two clips to your spine
And Instagram pics of me dumping

First rapper to beef with tumblr? Might be.

I keep talking about Schoolboy Q on this, but he’s been on my mind. He’s got a new album dropping this year, #oxymoron, and he’s been on a tear all year with hot songs and hotter features. This is “Collard Greens,” with Kendrick Lamar:

This is what I like. The beat’s remarkable, Schoolboy Q’s flow is… I called it a eurostep flow on Twitter the other day, because it takes a step in one direction before jetting down another. It’s jerky, but jerky in a way that feels natural, or normal. It’s not like “Dang, son’s way off-beat.” He’s hitting different marks and changing direction, is all.

I like the video, for the most part. It turns out adding a kaleidoscope effect to your average video featuring parties, half-naked girls grinding on dudes, and Macklemore turns something average into something that’s a little interesting. The inset transparent rapping faces aren’t special, neither are the colorful visual effects, but for some reason, that kaleidoscope effect feels perfectly paced for the song. This is another nightmare video, too, and Q kinda dances like Grover at a few different points, thanks to the jittery cut frames.

Kendrick’s got verse two, and he blacks out, as usual. I like the whole TDE crew, Ab-Soul, Schoolboy Q, Kendrick Lamar, and Jay Rock. It’s dope they have such a range of personas and characters, from Soul’s stoned conspiracy theorist to Q’s groovy gangster. I have half a hunch—I haven’t put a lot of thought into it yet but it feels right—that if Kendrick is the GZA of the group, the most technically proficient and deep, for whatever value of deep you prefer, that makes Q the Method Man. Remember when Meth was the charming one in the Wu-Tang, the fashionable player? That, and their shared smiley face/dark subject styles, makes me think that’s a fair comparison, even if it isn’t 1:1.

Here’s E-40, Danny Brown, and Schoolboy Q, “All My Niggas”:

40 is one of those dudes like Bun B or Scarface who go extra hard when they’re featured on someone else’s song or have hype guest features. 40 can phone in verses better than a lot of dudes, but Danny Brown and Q simultaneously keep up and pay homage to the legend.

I like this old video for “There He Go”:

“Got my daughter swaggin’ like her motherfuckin’ daddy, though!”

Let’s go out on the first A$AP Rocky song I heard and a video I’ve grown to like a lot, “Purple Swag”:

This song has grown on me over the past couple years, and the sample from the Akira soundtrack is hot.

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Thoughts on the Current State of Mainstream Wrestling

August 29th, 2013 Posted by Gavok

A year ago around this time, I was talking up how I had stopped watching WWE and started finding TNA to be pretty fucking good. It was shocking, but just as shocking is how a year has passed and my feelings couldn’t be more opposite. As it is right now, WWE is probably at its most solid since 2001 while TNA has gotten so laughably bad that I really wouldn’t mind too much if it died.

Hey, it’s not like most of the guys are getting paid well anyway.

So what happened?

With the WWE side, it appears to be two major things. First off, Triple H has been taking over more behind the scenes and while he failed pretty badly in bringing in Sin Cara, he’s smarter than Vince in a lot of storytelling aspects and is finally able to get his vision off the ground. One of his big problems has been how he makes for a terrible face character and puts himself over way too obnoxiously (having a semi-retired guy as one of the top faces does nothing for anyone other than short-lived ratings peaks), but now that he’s a heel, it works.

The other big change came from something that’s been hurting the company for years and that’s the Who Moved My Cheese? factor. For way too long, WWE’s been in need of an era shift. They’ve been stuck in the Cena/Batista/Orton era for so long while being too afraid to move forward. Batista quit a few years ago and Orton’s been deemed too much of a risk to be top face, so they’ve been stuck making Cena super important while doing a bad job of building up anyone to be on his level.

CM Punk came really close, but they chose to instead turn him heel and ruin that momentum. Sheamus has come close, but just hasn’t been able to come off as more than Player 2 Cena. Then there’s Ryback, who got pushed to the moon, only for the bookers to realize that he’s nowhere near ready to be champion, leading to him losing a bunch of matches, turning heel and falling down from the grace of the main event.

At this point, they’ve reached the point where they have to move on or simply flail around like they have for the past few years. While they’d love to ride out Cena forever, he’s finally reached the point of having to take a vacation to recover from injuries. They’ve handled this the best way possible by pushing Punk and Bryan as top faces while NOT having them succeed at the bat, while at the same time having Bryan get the first 100% clean win on Cena in forever. Meanwhile, Orton’s turned heel, which is the best place for him.

It’s weird to look back at three of the biggest things to piss me off with WWE in the past three years.

1) That time Christian won the World Heavyweight Championship and they immediately jobbed him out to Orton.

2) Daniel Bryan losing his title in mere seconds on a huge PPV stage.

3) CM Punk beating Cena at Summerslam, only to have a Clique member attack him and the Money in the Bank holder to come out and pick the bones.

The crazy thing is, all of these basically happened at the end of Summerslam! Daniel Bryan won his big title match, Triple H laid him out and he lost the belt in mere seconds to Orton. And it worked!

WWE’s really been on a roll lately, firing on all cylinders. Watching three hours of Raw used to be a chore, but now it flies by because nearly every segment is a good time. It’s been a long, long time since they’ve had that kind of quality.

Not only that, but there’s some great talent coming down the pipeline. Sami Zayn (El Generico), Adrian Neville (Pac), Kassius Ohno (Chris Hero), Solomon Crowe (Sami Callihan) and many others are on the NXT roster, waiting to be called up. The reason they aren’t being called up? Because Triple H wants to make sure that they have actual plans for any new member of the roster. This is a smart thing.

As for TNA? A year ago, they were really damn good. Even their cheeseball Claire Lynch storyline, which had some of the worst acting we’ll ever see, was entertaining as hell. The matches were great for the most part and the Bound for Glory Series round robin tournament was super interesting to watch. After losing wrestling’s cancer Vince Russo, the writing took a huge upswing.

So what happened? The main thing that killed their momentum was their desperation to hold onto Jeff Hardy. His contract was coming up, so in order to entice Hardy into staying, they pushed him to the top. The final four in the Bound for Glory tournament were Hardy, James Storm, Samoa Joe and Bully Ray. Storm, Joe and Ray all had their build-up reasons as to why they could or should win the tournament and move on to challenge Austin Aries at the Bound for Glory PPV. Instead, Hardy won with no build. It really ruined everything. Aries had to turn heel despite his run as a mega-face being short-lived and they had to put the “Bully Ray is behind Aces & 8s” reveal on hold.

That was the worst. Aces & 8s went on FOREVER. What made it really bad was that for the first few months, they didn’t even give anyone in the gang identities. They all wore masks, so they had no personalities and no reason for us to care. They were just a bunch of generic bikers. There was nobody it could be to make it worthwhile and much of the revealed roster proved it (ie. Bischoff’s son and Mike Knox). At least when they finally showed Bully Ray was behind it, the explanations made sense. It’s just that it wasn’t very exciting while it happened.

But therein lies one of the other major problems with TNA. See, Vince Russo’s main problem was that he could come up with a good beginning to an angle, but would then just swerve it into oblivion or forget about it. Post-Russo TNA would come up with a good beginning and maybe a good middle… but then they’d stay there. For instance, last year they introduced Abyss’ “brother” Joseph Park, who went from searching for his missing brother to becoming a wrestler to having episodes where being cut open would cause him to black out and become like Abyss for a minute. The first instance of him having one of those episodes was a year ago and only now are they giving it any attention! It’s not even follow-up! They’re simply calling it out as something that happens and are letting it ride.

The company’s also been falling apart outside of the ring. They’ve been in a perpetual storm of bad publicity where they’ve treated their talent like shit and have had problems even paying them on time. One of their wrestlers Jesse Sorensen got a major neck injury and they tried to give him an office job, only to fire him from that. Not for doing a bad job, but because they needed to save the money. Meanwhile, wrestler Zema Ion contracted some kind of stomach cancer and put up a failed Kickstarter to pay for the surgery. Surgery that TNA wouldn’t foot the bill for. Vince McMahon’s no saint, but he’s smart enough to know that you take care of this kind of thing for the sake of publicity.

Now you might figure that between the fucking over of the ailed roster and the firing of many others, it would be because the company is simply in dire straits and can’t afford it. Well, maybe that’s true, but it’s also so they can afford to bring in Rampage Jackson and Tito Ortiz and put them on the roster. I can’t imagine how much Ortiz cost them, but considering his debut was met with complete and utter silence and confusion from the crowd, I figure they paid him too much.

And what about the Bound for Glory Series? They’re doing it for the third time this year and it worked out so well last time. Up until they panicked and made Hardy win, it was strongly booked. At the very least it should have given them focus, right? Not so much. As of right now, the tournament needs to wrap up in about two weeks and they haven’t even done HALF of the matches they need to do! Yeah, check out that time mismanagement. They most certainly had the chance to get it right, but now they don’t have enough TV and house shows to fulfill the concept and will likely have to sweep it under the rug.


Also funny is how TNA lets their wrestlers compete at indy shows and one indy show in particular recently featured much of the Aces & 8s roster. They all jobbed.

As it is right now, TNA appears to be beyond saving and watching them cut corners makes it look like they’re in their death throes like WCW was in their final few months. The thing is, I’m not as down on it like I was when WCW went under. Other than the showcase of some strong – if meandering – talent, it’s lost its purpose. They’ll never be good enough to make WWE sweat even a bead and will be lucky if they can ever make it a good show in general. It’s run by incompetent and rather callous people. There’s a lot of good talent in there, but it’s not like these guys are getting the most out of it. Hell, some of the younger guys like Magnus could probably find a place in WWE.

WWE is the Gallant to TNA’s Goofus. I look forward to every WWE show now to witness this new era shift that was ultimately set in motion by CM Punk’s “pipe bomb” promo, all while the most entertainment I’m getting out of TNA is watching them gasp for air. Just like WCW in 2000.

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Dark Knight Strikes Again: Politics as Usual

August 26th, 2013 Posted by david brothers


I always liked this page from Frank Miller & Lynn Varley’s Batman: The Dark Knight Strikes Again. It’s one of my favorite scenes in the book, alongside all of the stuff with Supergirl. I like it more for the dialogue than anything else, though Miller’s formless, chunky Batman is an obviously great take on the character’s design. But this bit is killer, from Hawkboy’s mouth to Batman’s heart: “Thanagarians do not believe in fate. We do not believe that anything is beyond the power of mind and bone and muscle and will. I do not accept these deaths. I do not accept this crime.”

I really dig that bit, despite the Ayn Randiness of it. I like how it perfectly sketches that character out, giving him a moral immovability that’s also present in characters like Rorshach. There is Justice and there is Crime, and one must be eliminated at all costs.

Hawkboy discusses his life as if it were a conflict, a constant series of battles between Us and Them, the Just and the Fallen. There is always something To Be Triumphed Over, which ain’t necessarily the best way to look at the world. The directness of the statement appeals to me a great deal. It posits a world where change is not only possible, but possible due to the direct intervention of human hands. If something’s gone wrong, you reach out a hand, you take hold, and you fix it, and that thing has no choice but to bow to your will.

“I do not accept these deaths. I do not accept this crime.” That mentality sits at the root of a lot, if not most, superheroes. With precious few exceptions, your average superhero is doing something that is wildly illegal, but they’re doing it for “good reasons.” When people talk about how cape comics have fascist or authoritarian elements, they’re talking about Superman bending a dictator to his will, Batman creating a surveillance state for the protection of the people inside it, the Punisher playing at executioner. They are the Good Guys, so what they do is by definition Right and Just, even when it is illegal and horrible, because we know their hearts are in the right place.

This sort of doctrine really only works in comics, where you can “avenge” someone’s death and have that be an actual ending or provide closure. Real life doesn’t work like that. There are a lot of things that will bow to the power of mind and bone and muscle and will, but then there are greater things that will never bow. You will have to accept death. You will have to accept crime. You can’t pull yourself up by your bootstraps if you’re too poor to afford boots, right? But it’s nice to think about a world where we have total control, instead of none.

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This Week in Panels: Week 205

August 25th, 2013 Posted by Gavok

Yo! Welcome to a manga-less edition of ThWiP. Due to some kind of big Japanese holiday, Gaijin Dan doesn’t have any ammo, so he’s taking the week off. My backup comes in the form of Matlock and Space Jawa.

I did an article for Den of Geek of Top 25 Comic Characters Who Owe Everything to an Actor’s Portrayal. That was a fun one to write. Too bad it pissed off Reddit. Apparently, they took the “Everything” part a bit too literal. Ah, well. My next list article is bound to piss off even more people. It already got my editor mad for me saying that Popeye is a bad movie.

The best omissions I’ve heard from readers are Josh Pais as movie Raphael, Peter Cullen as Optimus Prime and maybe Tom Hiddleston as Loki.

Now for comic panels.

Animal Man #23
Jeff Lemire, Steve Pugh and Francis Portela

Avengers #18
Jonathan Hickman and Leinil Francis Yu

Avengers Assemble #18
Kelly Sue DeConnick and Barry Kitson

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The Selfish Avengers: Thunderbolts Finally Gets on Track

August 23rd, 2013 Posted by Gavok

First off, it pains me to say that after forty-plus issues, Venom is cancelled. I’m bummed, not just for the obvious, but because I wanted to see if it could have outlasted the 90’s solo series, which went a full 60 issues. I can’t say I’m too surprised. The whole demon subplot (which is still a dangling thread) really hurt the momentum and the symbiote’s been tossed to the sidelines as a character, always being drugged up and being a mental non-factor. It’s a weapon rather than being a creature.

They did just give him a teenage girl sidekick and that had potential. Ah well. Chances are he’s going to be killed in the big upcoming Spider-Man crossover when Doc Ock Spider-Man goes too far or something. You know, regular Spider-Man never did blow a gasket over Venom being a government agent and member of the Avengers. You’d think he would have had a passionate opinion about that, but all he ever did was make a joke about the Punisher and tell Venom to please not kill Carnage.

Whether Venom’s set to die or not, he currently has another series to call home in Thunderbolts. Recently, Thunderbolts was pretty bad, mainly because it was written by Daniel Way, who wrote 11 issues of… I’m not really sure. It was a bunch of twists and turns and I found myself not caring for a lot of it. Frank Castle strapping a landmine to his chest and jumping onto a guy was pretty sweet, though. That and it gave me one of my favorite Deadpool quotes with, “You may kill me first, but I fucking guarantee I’ll kill you last.”

Charles Soule took over as of issue #12 and already it’s felt like a breath of fresh air. #12 was a Punisher-centric story that turned his “banging on the side” relationship with Elektra into something more dramatic as she’s given him reason to kill her down the line. Then #13 was kind of average because it was an attempt to clean up Way’s mess by explaining who the hell Mercy is and why she’s on the team when she’s yet to do anything of note or interact with anyone other than Red Leader. For any of you who haven’t been paying attention, Leader has been resurrected and he’s red. He’s currently the intelligence of the team, although he’s given limited intellect to work with to keep him from remembering who he was. Right now he’s just a timid follower of General Ross, retaining his personality from before he became an insane supervillain.

The big problem with the series has been that it hasn’t delivered a hook. Sure, I get that it’s taken the Thunderbolts name because of General Ross’ nickname and how they’re a bunch of dark heroes with blood on their hands, but why are they together? The first issue had Ross recruit everyone and it gave the idea that they were going to be a non-mutant version of X-Force. Even though it took fourteen issues, this week’s issue FINALLY gives us an idea of what the series is really all about.

And it’s a pretty awesome idea.

Right there! Why couldn’t they make this clear from the very first issue? Hell, the second issue or even sixth? Why did we have to wait that long to get this great hook for a series about a group of heroic killers working together? I mean, you’re the fucking Thunderbolts! You know what the original Thunderbolts were known for? Telling us why we should be reading it from the end of the first issue! Imagine if Citizen V unmasked in the middle of the 14th issue.

“The Selfish Avengers.” All members of the team (outside of Red Leader and Mercy) get a chance to lead the team into a mission of their choosing. If Deadpool wants them to kill Sabretooth, they will all go off together to kill Sabretooth, go back home and ask Elektra who she wants iced. It kind of has a low-rent Illuminati feel to it.

So far the first choice has gone to Castle, leading to this exchange.

I hate it when comics get so obsessed with decompression that by the time they get to the point, people have stopped reading and it dies. That’s what happened with Chaykin’s Squadron Supreme and I have a feeling it’s going to happen here. I don’t have too much experience reading Soule’s stuff, but so far he’s turned Red Lanterns around and he’s been doing good work on Swamp Thing.

All that I’m saying is to give Thunderbolts a chance. Which is really the opposite of giving peace of a chance.

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Can Superman lie to Lois Lane and still be Superman?

August 19th, 2013 Posted by david brothers

Quick hit, because I have a question but no answer and I haven’t had one of these conversations in a while:

Superman is, as depicted in the comics, essentially perfect. He’s an upright, straightforward, and moral man. Like Captain America, the choices Superman makes are generally the ones that we would consider correct or moral. There are exceptions, obviously, but in general and in canon, Superman is the moral center of the DC universe.

The one thing about Superman, the franchise and character, I’ve never been able to figure out is his relationship with Lois Lane. There are a couple minor things that bug me—Superman is literally the Best Man Alive, so every story where Lois gets jealous because he’s hanging out with some other lady is silly at best—but the biggest one is the Superman/Lois Lane/Clark Kent triangle.

How does that love triangle not make Superman look really dishonest? Superman is Clark, Clark is Superman. They’re both reflections of the same core person, who is generally unfailingly honest and moral. But he lies to the woman we’re supposed to believe he loves. He actively lies, in fact, concocting schemes and routines that’ll maintain his identity at the expense of Lane’s career and personal life.

I know that this is partly the result of the friction that comes when stories for children are haphazardly turned into stories for adults, and the horrifying juxtapositions that situation tends to bring with it, but it’s also something that’s stuck around as the character has been continually rebooted into someone meant for adults, rather than children. That means that it’s a significant part of the character, something with deep roots and importance to basically every single portrayal of Superman.

But, knowing what I know and feeling what I feel about Superman, it seems like one trait that’s in extreme opposition to his usual portrayal. I can’t bridge the gap between Superman being The End-All Be-All Of Goodness and lying to Lois Lane.

So what’s the deal? How did you make this work situation for you?

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This Week in Panels: Week 204

August 19th, 2013 Posted by Gavok

Hey! Panels! Yeah! Pretty light week, though. Even Gaijin Dan has less than usual and Space Jawa and Dickeye only have one panel to toss my way each. That’s okay, though. Infinity kicked enough ass to satiate my hunger.

Elsewhere, I wrote some stuff from Den of Geek. I did a review of the Mega Man/Sonic crossover Worlds Collide and also a review of Phineas and Ferb: Mission Marvel, the cartoon crossover that involves Venom ringing doorbells and running away. I have a huge article ready and done, hopefully to be posted sometime in the next few days.

Batman #23
Scott Snyder, Greg Capullo, James Tynion IV and Rafael Albuquerque

Batman ’66 #7
Jeff Parker and Joe Quinones

Batman: L’il Gotham #5
Dustin Nguyen and Derek Fridolfs

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Salty Bet: One Gigantic Waste of Time… and I Love It

August 17th, 2013 Posted by Gavok

So now that I have a new writing job, you’d think that I’d dedicate more of my time strictly to writing. You’d be right, but yet these days I’m finding my attention being dragged away by something incredibly stupid that can’t help but captivate me.

It’s the phenomenon that’s sweeping the internet. I bring you, Salty Bet!

So what is Salty Bet? Salty Bet is a 24/7 site that streams MUGEN matches and allows its users to bet fake money. The odds and payout are calculated based on how much people have collectively bet on which character.

I think I might be getting a little ahead of myself. First I should explain MUGEN. MUGEN is a program that’s been around since 1999 that lets you custom make your own fighting games. You get to put together your own roster of characters from Street Fighter, King of Fighters, Mortal Kombat and really anywhere. Like I said, it’s completely custom. You can have anyone from Rolento from Street Fighter Alpha 3 to a terrible series of MS Paint frames turned into something halfway playable. Programmers from all over made thousands of characters of varying quality.

I paid a good amount of attention to MUGEN back in the early 00’s. What I found was that a lot of the enthusiasts and detractors both took it way too seriously most of the time. This was during the time when fighting games were still 2D and easy to rip onto your computer, so there were a lot of faithful depictions of mainstream fighters. I’ve seen people looked down upon for basically having fun with MUGEN. Like, say, making a version of Sagat with two eyes and crazy attacks that he never had. Or maybe Ken with angel wings.

Things got looser as the years progressed, mainly because MUGENgineers had to find new ground. 2D fighters were dying out and they were running out of characters to rip. I stopped paying attention for a while, but I always saw some kind of “Marvel vs. DC” or “Marvel Superheroes 2” type project. As a whole, more people tried to make either original characters based on preexisting sprites, upgraded characters or flat-out new guys. And it’s awesome.

Detractors of MUGEN mainly point out that the whole thing is pretty worthless because it’s the most unbalanced garbage in the fighting game universe. And they’re right! But that was never what MUGEN was about to me. I think I actually played MUGEN once. The rest of the time, I played around in CPU vs. CPU mode. I mean, what’s the point of having Sub-Zero and Ryu in the same game if you can’t just sit back and watch them duke it out?

That’s what Salty Bet is all about. Just showing random AI-based exhibitions isn’t really enough, even with the people in the chat going nuts over it. Salty Bets includes the ability to bet fake money. You start off with $400 and you can bet however much on each match. Based on the bets, the odds and potential payouts are tabulated and the fights begin. Sometimes it’ll be obvious. If one character has over a million salty bucks gambled on them while the other has maybe ten thousand, it’s going to be a slaughter. Like clockwork, one of the people who bet on the underdog will announce in the chat, “I have made a terrible mistake!”

They also say a bunch of sexist shit, but we don’t have to talk about that right now.

If you bet away all your money, luckily there’s a bailout system that doesn’t let you go under a certain amount. I heard it was $10, but these days I’m finding myself at $28 an awful lot. They also refer to this place as the “salt mines”. If you donate money to Salty Bet, you’ll always have a minimum of $666 and can go all-in on your heart’s content.

So how do you know who to bet on? It can be hard. Sometimes you might see two guys from the same game who aren’t even comparable. One will dominate while the other just stands around and gets killed. It’s a pile of different things to take in mind, such as move set, speed, hit points, hit box, damage and AI. For instance, Takuma Sakazaki from the latest King of Fighters game looks really well-animated and all, but he will just stand around and punch every now and then when he isn’t getting his ass handed to him.

There’s also an influx of Dragonball Z characters. Those guys are a crapshoot. They’re mostly very small, which gives them a tiny hit box. In other words, if their opponent keeps punching most of the time, they aren’t going to land most of their attacks. The DBZ folks also tend to have super attacks where not only do they shoot laser beams, but they kill their opponents in one hit. The drawback is that the AI in these guys are usually terrible, so even if they have three bars, they’ll still just take a beating and abstain from trying to go for the easy win.

It’s also important not to listen to the advice of the chat. They might be telling you that Kabal is “real”, but they’re just trying to convince you to bet everything on him. That in turn increases their winnings when Kabal turns out to be totally shitty and eats it in five seconds.

Watching Salty Bet can be a fun showcase of the original/edited characters, especially in the superhero sense. I’ve seen Lex Luthor, Green Lantern, Black Adam, the Atom, Plastic Man, Flash, Jean Grey, Mongul, Mr. Fantastic, Darkseid, Thanoseid, Astonishing-style Cyclops, Iron Lantern, Wonder Woman, Thor, Carnage, Scream, Agony, Sandman, Kitty Pryde and Mole Man. Some of them are really expertly done (ESPECIALLY Sandman). There’s also an Ash from Evil Dead who pops up a lot and some really cool Mega Man characters redrawn from the Mega Man from Marvel vs. Capcom.

It will eat up your hours if you let it, but just remember one piece of advice: NEVER bet against Rare Akuma, Ronald McDonald or Silversamurai. Betting against Silver Samurai is fine, though.

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Loosies: RAP MUSIC!!!

August 15th, 2013 Posted by david brothers

If you’re on tumblr, you’ve probably seen this fantastic gif set of Rinko Kikuchi talking about chocolate from this interview with What’s Up Hollywood:

rinko kikuchi chocolate 01 rinko kikuchi chocolate 02 rinko kikuchi chocolate 03

If you’ve ever been around me for forty-five seconds or more, you know that she be to chocolate like I be to rap. I want to have conversations about rap all the time, give or take a few minutes in the day. Sometimes it’s over something big, sometimes it’s over something small. I like rap so much that I feel like saying “RAP MUSIC!!!!” is a coherent way to say “This song bangs.” I’m painfully earnest on this subject to an absurd extent.

So here are some loose thoughts on rap, because sometimes all you have is an idea, not an essay:

A lot of my love of books, and crime (or crime-inflected) stories specifically, comes from how basic acts, usually acts of violence, are turned into something more poetic or interesting than the flat statements like you’d see on the news. I really like this thing I read in Charlie Huston’s novel Skinner, his latest release: A single bullet that perhaps goes in one ear and out the other, like a complicated idea quickly dismissed for the effort it requires.

There is an elegance there that works really well. The mental image of a thought considered and discarded is a peaceful one, while a bullet passing through a head is anything but. But there’s a middle ground in there that makes the line sing. It’s very vivid and easy to imagine.

I get the same feeling out of that line as I do out of this sort of line, from Fabolous’s “Can’t Deny It” off the album Ghetto Fabolous: When the time’s right, I’ma put this nine right/ to the left side of your head, push ya mind right.

There’s a parallel in there that I really like. I feel like the rappers who are best at this sort of rap tend to be talented at creating innovative threats and boasts. Being direct is all well and good, but eventually you’ll have to make another song and you can’t reuse your old stuff. So rappers get creative, and that’s where they start to shine.

Shyne’s “That’s Gangsta” is another crime song I like a lot. Where Fab doubles down on his punchlines, winks, and sly grins, Shyne opens his mouth and a flood of apocalyptically nihilist lyrics come flooding out. He flips Rakim:

I got a question as serious as cancer
Where the fucking safe at? Somebody better answer


Got dead gangstas rollin over like, “Yo, this nigga cold”
The way he cut his coke, his murder game, to his flow

and even:

Mac-10s, crushed rocks, and drops
The best respect the feds only—cops

and especially:

Riches my only reason for being, shit
I never had hope until I sold dope

So yeah, this song made an impression on me. The beat is memorable, too.

What got me earlier today, though, was hearing the sample on that beat on a new song. The sample’s Foster Sylvers’s “Misdemeanor,” and it’s been sampled more than a few times. I’ve heard it in other songs, but not in years, so when it popped up in a song called “Love Traps,” off Pete Rock & Camp Lo’s 80 Blocks From Tiffany’s 2, I sat up and paid attention.

It actually took me a second to figure out where I knew the sample from, since this song is pretty far from “That’s Gangsta” in sound, lyrics, and approach. But I kinda dig it, so I went digging.

There’s a neat symmetry in Shyne flipping that Rakim line on “That’s Gangsta,” because Eric B, of the legendary Eric B & Rakim, made a song called “Love Trap” back in the day.

And from here, I could easily fall down a rabbit hole. I could make an infinite number of connections from song to song, taking my own constantly shifting trip down memory lane, with just this at my base. Rakim leads to lyricism, which could loop back around to Fabolous (he’s nice) or anywhere basically, and from there, I could go anywhere. It’s all connected.

I tried to write an essay earlier this week about this RA the Rugged Man song, “Lessons.” It’s a catalog of things Rugged Man has experienced, from labels telling him to find a black dude to rap with to knowing Norah Jones before she blew up. Rugged Man is a talented dude, so even though this song is seriously just a series of one- and two-bar anecdotes, it still manages to be not just coherent, but pretty fascinating.

I couldn’t make the essay work, but I was going to focus on this line: I don’t want fans that don’t know who G Rap is.

At the time, I took it as Rugged separating the real from the fake, and I was into it for that reason. ’cause, you know, fake rap fans are annoying, and they probably didn’t even listen to real hip-hop, and several other equally tiresome thoughts. I’m older and smarter and hopefully less annoying now, and I still like the line, though I read it much differently.

It’s about curiosity and history to me now, about being in a constant state of learning about the music and culture. It’s not a requirement—I won’t hold out the “You Must Be Able To Name Three Big L Songs To Vibe” signs for now—but it enhances the experience of listening to rap so much to know a little bit about a little bit.

I talk and think about context a lot in terms of criticism or social issues, but it’s true of even something as culturally neutral as “music.” Connecting those dots is so much fun (I’ve done it before on here) and so enlightening that I can’t imagine listening to rap and not wanting to dig in. Things branch out to weird places, songs show up in weird places (remember the Numa Numa song? Just Blaze, TI, and Rihanna sure did), and sometimes you discover people who are right up your alley, despite being before your time.

Here’s Big Daddy Kane and Big L rapping together (kinda) on “Platinum Plus”:

They used this Big L verse on Lyricist Lounge Volume 2, sans Kane. That’s a shame, because Kane says this:

If you block the cash, we locking ass
I’ma put it in your chest like a Stockton pass
Only out to earn figures like we please
But I don’t mind to burn niggas like CDs
Now: exhibit, styles I kick with it
[*COUGH*] Pardon me, but I’m fuckin sickwiddit

Got me fanning myself like I’m in church over here.

Here’s Big L and Kool G Rap getting it in on “Fall Back”:

More head from chickens, it’s time to turn the ape loose
Bust out the cage and let the gauge loose
Blow the feathers out of your North Face goose
It’s G Rap coming back with a clique of brave troops
Have y’all niggas running for home base like Babe Ruth
Have you holding holes in your body like you play flute
Lay you down til you get found up in the sprayed coupe
Prepare for the takeover—give you the face makeover
The seat of your Rover, sheet draped over
Be found on the block with the street taped over
or comin out of deep coma, your speech made slower

What I like about G Rap is that he raps like this pretty much all the time.

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This Week in Panels: Week 203

August 11th, 2013 Posted by Gavok

Yo, hey! ThWiP time. Light week this time around, what with it being me, Gaijin Dan, Space Jawa and Jody. First time in forever there’s been no overlap in panel choices, so that’s a thing.

I have a review up of the newest Axe Cop cartoon at Den of Geek. Tomorrow it’ll have my review of the Archie Comics Sonic/Mega Man crossover, so give that a look if you remember.

This week I read Burn the Orphanage from Image, which I highly suggest. It’s essentially any given Final Fight/Streets of Rage brawler game written in comic book form, starring the well-rounded hero, the big, strong guy and the street-smart young woman. No turkeys found in drums in this issue, sad to say.

Okay, let’s do this like Brutus.

Atomic Robo: The Savage Sword of Dr. Dinosaur #2
Brian Clevinger and Scott Wegener

Avengers #17
Jonathan Hickman, Nick Spencer, Stefano Caselli, Marco Rudy and Marco Checchetto

Batman ’66 #6
Jeff Parker and Jonathan Case

Read the rest of this entry �

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