Archive for January, 2014


Check out National Pro Wrestling Day 2014! Live! For Free!

January 31st, 2014 Posted by Gavok

It’s been a long, long time since I’ve posted anything about CHIKARA Pro Wrestling and with good reason: CHIKARA is dead. Sort of.

Eight month ago, they did a big, climactic internet PPV during the mid-point of their season. During the show, a disgruntled former referee revealed that Titor, the company owning CHIKARA, was really involved in some shady stuff. The brass got really mad about this and during the main event, a wave of security guards washed over the ring and removed both the wrestlers and the acting referee. The set was destroyed, the live feed went out and everyone was told to go home. After that, all of CHIKARA’s future dates were cancelled and the company was gone.

After a month or so of inactivity, Icarus, a longtime heel, decided that he wouldn’t let CHIKARA die and tried to find assistance in a rebellion. He got some fans to help him, but finding other wrestlers to rally on his side was easier said than done. A series of YouTube videos have been released over the past few months called Ashes that tell the story of Icarus’ search for allies, as well as other subplots involving CHIKARA talent (mainly Fire Ant and Green Ant searching for their missing teammate Soldier Ant and tag team 3.0 venturing to Parts Unknown to find time-traveling marching band leader Archibald Peck). The videos were initially released weeks apart, but have since been released weekly and several have popped up in the past week.

As for actual wrestling, there were several affiliated promotions that popped up right before CHIKARA went under. Wrestling is Intense, Wrestling is Respect, Wrestling is Cool, etc. Put them all together with Kaiju Big Battel and you spell out “CHIKARA”. These shows were pretty uneventful until they were snuffed out. Various heel factions from CHIKARA’s past would show up and end these promotions, revealing some kind of massive Secret Society of Superheels. Dr. Cube and his Posse, the GEKIDO, the BDK, Sinn Bodhi and the Odditorium, the Colony XTREME Force and the Wrecking Crew have joined together as an unstoppable army.

A lot of this is going to come to a head at National Pro Wrestling Day 2014, a free show featuring at least 7 matches that’s trying to raise money for the Against Malaria Foundation. It’s this Saturday, February 1st and starts up at 1pm. Here are the announced matches:

Colt Cabana vs. Drew Gulak
(Best 2 Out of 3 Falls)
Mike Bennett vs. Hallowicked
The Baltic Seige vs. Bloc Party
(Six-Man Tag Match)
Sonjay Dutt vs. Eric Corvis
Juan Francisco de Coronado vs. Shynron
(No Disqualification Match)
Eddie Kingston vs. Francis O’Rourke
Heidi Lovelace vs. Joe Pittman
(For Wrestling is Heart’s La Copa)

Some of those matches should be really good, but naturally, I’m more interested in seeing the Return of CHIKARA plotline move forward. Really, that’s what most people are interested in because the backlash to this whole storyline has been brutal. It looks like they’ll be coming back wholesale in May, but NPWD should be good enough for the meantime.

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This Week in Panels: Week 227

January 27th, 2014 Posted by Gavok

As the Royal Rumble ends and the Superbowl is on the horizon, it’s This Week in Panels! This week, I’m helped out by Gaijin Dan and Space Jawa. Meanwhile, I read way more than last week, including Superman being a dick to Jim Gordon, which is just too terrible for words no matter what universe you’re in. Never be mean to Gordon. He’s a good guy.

The Deadpool digital comic is seriously good, though. It has some of the best use of the digital format and it’s fun regardless.

All-New Invaders #1
James Robinson and Steve Pugh

Animal Man #27
Jeff Lemire and Rafael Albuquerque

Atomic Robo: The Savage Sword of Dr. Dinosaur #5
Brian Clevinger and Scott Wegener

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Royal Rumble Megapost

January 24th, 2014 Posted by Gavok

Over the years, I’ve written much about my love for WWE’s annual Royal Rumble PPV/match. Back in 2009, I did a countdown of all the matches from worst to best. Then last year, I spent 20 days or so talking about various battle royals. This year, I decided to revisit it as an excuse to write up a bunch of stuff for Den of Geek US.

That meant having to watch all the previous Rumble matches. That’s nearly 30 matches by this point and they’re mostly about an hour. A couple months ago, I decided to use that to my advantage. I’d transfer the matches onto my tablet and make it so that the only time I was allowed to watch them was at the gym. That got me motivated to go to the gym about five times a week, just so I could spend an hour running and watching.

So here’s what I’ve ended up writing.

The 15 Best (and 5 Worst) WWE Royal Rumble One-Timers: I became kind of intrigued by seeing the wrestlers who only made one Rumble appearance. Sometimes they were really obscure and sometimes they were a big deal, but only for a limited time. I wrote a list about those who did really well during their one shot and those who lasted mere seconds.

The 20 Worst Royal Rumble Moments: A lot of stuff that irked me in my massive rewatch. A lot of it was bad booking and storytelling, but the top spots go to stuff that I found legitimately hard to watch.

WWE Royal Rumble 2014 Predictions: Me and some of the other Den of Geek guys discuss who we think will win the various matches at the PPV. Pretty straightforward.

The Top 100 Royal Rumble Moments: This one took a lot of work and effort and is one of the reasons why I’ve been so lax on this site and why This Week in Panels has been regularly delayed. Recently, I’ve been getting overtime at work, so my free time to write has been sparse. Mike, my editor, seemed genuinely concerned about me getting this done in terms of my health, but like many of my gigantic writing projects, I did it out of passion and I saw it through. It ended up being the longest single article I’ve ever written, coming in at 31 pages on MS Word. Not to mention gathering the images took an entire night to do. I’ll admit, I didn’t get as much sleep this week as I would have liked, but I got it done.

I’m proud of how it turned out and that it actually got done. That said, I think I’ve said all that there is to say about the Royal Rumble.

Actually, no! While I have you here, I should probably mention one of the more fun things about the match that I’ve recently become involved in. My friend Bob tends to throw get-togethers for WWE PPVs, especially the big ones like Rumble and Wrestlemania. For the Royal Rumble, he’s created an incredibly fun party game. If you find yourself watching the show with a handful of people, I suggest giving it a try. Here are the rules:

– Everyone picks numbers 1-30 out of a hat. Hopefully your party is made up of enough people to make it even, like how we tend to have ten people, meaning three picks each. You are represented by whoever comes out at those numbers.

– Someone has to keep a tally. The actions in the ring gain points. When a wrestler hits a signature move, it’s one point. When a wrestler hits a finisher, it’s two points. When a wrestler eliminates someone, it’s three points. Reaching third place is three points, second place is four points and winning is five.

– Once the match is over, all the points are added up to see who wins.

There are certain people you want to get in these situations, even though you know they won’t win. For instance, Randy Orton is like hitting the jackpot because he tends to do spots in each Rumble where he hits a series of RKOs. Khali is the same way, as all of his movies count as either signatures or finishers, especially his brain chop.

The first year I was involved with this, it was 2011 when they did the 40-man Rumble. There were 13 of us, meaning we all got three picks and a Macho Man action figure was given #21 (which ended up being Booker T). Before the show, we bought a crappy championship belt from the toy aisle at a store and decided that it would be the prize. One guy brought his girlfriend to watch with us and she didn’t know wrestling. She ended up getting #1, which was CM Punk.

Thanks to the New Nexus helping him out, CM Punk got a ton of eliminations and won this girl a lot of points. Then it was time for her next pick, #22. We joked that with her luck, she’d probably get John Cena. Cena’s music started playing, Bob got up, walked across the room, brought back the title belt, handed it to her and then sat back down.

One year I got zero points because I ended up with Primo, Epico and Hunico. Even if they actually did anything, none of us could figure out what their signatures or finishers were.

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This Week in Panels: Week 226

January 20th, 2014 Posted by Gavok

I really don’t know! Maybe next week will also come Monday night, but that’s because I’m in the middle of a major deadline of one of the biggest articles I’ve ever written and I almost had to delay this entire week’s update and merge it with next week’s. By this time next week, I’ll have a lot more breathing room.

In the meantime, I’m helped out by Matlock, Space Jawa and Gaijin Dan.

All-New X-Men #21
Brian Michael Bendis, Brandon Peterson and Brent Anderson

All You Need Is Kill #1
Hiroshi Sakurazaka, Ryosuke Takeuchi, Yoshitoshi ABe and Takeshi Obata

Batman: Li’l Gotham #10
Dustin Nguyen and Derek Fridolfs

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What are you saying, really?

January 16th, 2014 Posted by david brothers

Steve McQueen & John Ridley’s 12 Years A Slave got nominated for an Oscar this year. That got me thinking, so I dug up a list of winners and nominees for the Academy Award for Best Picture.

You should click through, so that you can accurately answer this brief survey:

-How many black movies, with “black movies” defined as “primarily concerned with or created by black people” for the purposes of the question, have been nominated for Best Picture by the Academy?

-How many of those movies are about how sad it is to be black, or racial strife, or just the black condition in general?

-What does it mean when the organization of record for the movie industry only pays attention to black people, and undoubtedly people of several other stripes and types, when they’re in pain, but eats up movies about white people doing fantastic things?

Eddie Murphy, presenting an award at the 60th Academy Awards:

(and, just to stay on brand, here’s Jadakiss in 2004: “Why Halle have to let a white man pop her to get a Oscar?/Why Denzel have to be crooked before he took it?”

This year’s the 86th Academy Awards, but it’s biz as usual, isn’t it? According to a Feb. 2012 study, “the Academy is 94% white, 77% male, 14% under the age of 50, and has a median age of 62.”

You can tell.

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This Week in Panels: Week 225

January 13th, 2014 Posted by Gavok

It’s a day late, but better late than never, I guess. It’s the Gavin’s Burning the Candle at More Ends Than Candles Actually Have Edition of This Week in Panels. Huge batch this time around with help from Matlock and Gaijin Dan.

Great week in terms of digital comics. Deadpool: The Gauntlet came out, they’re building to the release of the Down Set Fight! graphic novel via releasing pieces of it in digital form. And I’m a happy guy because the second season of Injustice just started! Nobody cares about the game anymore, but whatever! The comic is still great!

Recently at Den of Geek US, I wrote a piece on 11 Comics That Act as Movie Sequels. That one took me a long time to finish due to the research. Which reminds me, some of that research will find its way here in a day or so. But now, let’s panel up.

Action Comics #27
Greg Pak, Aaron Kuder, Mike Hawthorne and R.B. Silva

Afterlife with Archie #3
Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa and Francesco Francavilla

All-New Marvel NOW! Point One

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My 15 Favorite Comic Issues of 2013

January 8th, 2014 Posted by Gavok

Usually, I don’t tend to do end-of-year lists. Not out of disinterest, but because my memory is one big fog. My sense of time is completely out of whack and I can’t tell what was six months ago and what was two years. How long has 4thletter even been around? It could be the ten year anniversary right now and I wouldn’t be able to tell.

Luckily, when it comes to comics, I have an ace up my sleeve. As it goes, it turns out I have a weekly feature that archives every single comic book issue I’ve read. New ones, at least. I searched through the This Week in Panels backlogs and figured out my top 15 favorite comic issues of 2013.

15) Infinity: Infinite Comics #1
Jason Latour and Agustin Alessio

This digital side story to Infinity is absolutely breathtaking, especially on the art side. The story deals with the Silver Surfer’s role in the Builders’ rampage through the cosmos as he makes an attempt to protect a Skrull world against overwhelming robot forces. I think it says a lot that even the Surfer is out of his league here, even if the main story already showed off that even a planet of Space Knights aren’t enough to save the day. There’s also the neat dynamic that the Skrulls see their savior as the symbol of a world that’s about to die, which doesn’t exactly help their morale.

14) Wonder Woman #23
Brian Azzarello and Cliff Chiang

Wonder Woman is still one of the best comics of the New 52, but I’ll admit that it seems to survive on its character work. It feels that not much truly ever happens. #23 is a truly climactic issue, as not only does the First Born get to play the role of big bad, but we finally get to see War/Ares show his potential. Unlike the pre-reboot version of Ares and even the Marvel one, War doesn’t look all that impressive. Just an old man with no eyes. He gets to shine, First Born gets to shine, Orion gets punched in the face and they even throw in an Izuna Drop. That’s that thing in fighting games when somebody grabs someone, jumps up in the air, flips and drives them headfirst into the ground. The First Born does that to Wonder Woman. It’s rad as fuck.

All that and the ending pushes an interesting new status quo for our main heroine.

13) Batman Incorporated #13
Grant Morrison and Chris Burnham

I was let down at first when I read Grant Morrison’s final issue of his epic Batman run, but I soon came to realize that that was the idea. I was let down because DC let Morrison down. He was given Batman during a time when it was unanimously agreed that the character was too dark and untrusting and needed a more uplifting world. He sculpted a strong take on the mythos and then DC threw a lot of it out the window. Through the reboot, certain characters were suddenly off limits and Batman’s lengthy history had been cut down. Plus the new guy in charge of the character was writing a depressing horror story with the main Batman book. Morrison’s attempts at change did nothing and the once boastful, “Batman and Robin will never die!” became a cynical quote about the Hell that the character is cursed to experience by never being able to move forward in any meaningful way.

12) Burn the Orphanage: Born to Lose #1
Sina Grace and Daniel Freedman

The moment I heard about this comic, I had to read it. It’s Final Fight/Streets of Rage as a comic book. Rock is an angry, young man who was the only survivor when his orphanage burned down as a child. For years, he’s been looking for answers and getting into fights. Now he’s closer to figuring out who’s behind it. While Rock is your usual Axel/Cody balanced main hero in this situation, he’s flanked by big, slow bruiser Bear and the quick-footed girl Lex. They follow through on the usual side-scrolling fighter tropes. Then the second issue becomes a blatant Mortal Kombat and who knows what the third and final issue will be. It’ll be fun, that’s for certain.

11) Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Micro-Series: Alopex
Brian Lynch and Ross Campbell

I’ve been loving the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles series to death, but I thought this was the best standalone issue of the past year. Alopex is an original character created for this incarnation of the franchise and she started off as a pretty run-of-the-mill villain. A mutant arctic fox with no real personality other than loyalty to Shredder and the Foot Clan. Her spotlight issue starts by showing that she’s more honorable and that there’s more to her character than taking orders and barking at Raphael. We get the idea that she fights for Shredder not due to being evil, but out of pure loyalty. Unfortunately, as she discovers as the issue develops, blind loyalty to a dishonorable leader will only lead to disaster and we’re given a strong genesis for Alopex’s eventual face turn. As it is now, she’s primed to be something of a romantic interest for Leonardo.

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Stuff I Liked in 2013: Wack Rappers

January 7th, 2014 Posted by david brothers

If you asked me in 2012, I’d say that A$AP Rocky, Big Sean, and Childish Gambino were wack.

I went home for Christmas in 2012 and spent a lot of time with my little brother for the first time in a few years. It might have been the first time we hung out as real deal adults, rather than me being older and him being a younger brother. We watched basketball, he drove me to get a new tattoo, fun times were had.

He played a lot of Big Sean in the car, when me and our cousin let him instead of trying to bogart the stereo. My position on Big Sean has been “son is wack” for ages, at least since GOOD Fridays. He’s not awful so much as boring, like he’s doing a poor impression of someone I might have liked.

But my brother kept at it, talking about how lyrical this verse is or deep that song’s concept is, and so on and so forth. I was hesitant, but you know what? Sitting in that car, talking about the raps, running tracks back, I had to rub my chin and admit that this guy got it in on occasion.

My brother told me to cop his Detroit tape, and I got really into it. It sounds better than anything Sean has done, and while he’s still not great, he’s definitely somebody who I’m willing to check out on occasion. So I guess I kinda like Big Sean.

I hated on A$AP Rocky for a long time because he rapped like he was from the South, but about half as good as the people who influenced him. I liked his video for “Purple Swag”, especially the visual impact of the lady in the grill, but as a rapper, he didn’t move the needle. I wasn’t into his LiveLoveA$AP either. I didn’t like him, but I liked a few features, like his cut on Main Attrakionz’s 808s & Dark Grapes II album and “Hands on the Wheel” with Schoolboy Q.

But his Long.Live.A$AP…I think it was Sarah Horrocks (twitter, tumblr) who kept talking about him while I was busy ignoring him. I hadn’t even heard any singles until I bootlegged Long.Live.A$AP, but by the end of that week, I was hooked.

More than hooked—I copped the vinyl at my first opportunity and binged on the videos. (The vinyl is translucent orange, and it warps easily if you fall asleep listening to the album on a lazy Saturday while the sun’s out.) So much of it is way hotter and way deeper than I’d ever imagined. It opens on a few hot lines (“I thought I’d probably die in prison; expensive taste in womennn/Ain’t had no pot to piss in, now my kitchen full of dishes”) and then Rocky is off and running. The biggest surprise was that it’s my type of album, and I felt dumb for sleeping on it. Now I like to play “Wild For the Night” at max volume when playing video games.

Childish Gambino was in that Big Sean box, too. I like Donald Glover’s stand-up comedy a lot, but his raps were firmly in the “dorky Drake” vein, but less listenable than pretty much every other Regular Guy Rapper I messed with. It felt like a pantomime to me. He definitely found a fanbase and kept making music, but I got to the point where I wouldn’t bother, even though random people would ask me what I thought about him for reasons I still can’t figure out.

I picked up Jhené Aiko’s Sail Out a couple weeks ago, mainly off the strength of her being a killer guest on basically every rap song I ever heard her sing on. I wanted to see her in her element, guiding the ship instead of playing First Mate, and it delivers. It’s a good album. It includes this song, “Bed Peace:”

And Aiko is good, as expected (pick a line, they all stuck with me), but Gambino goes in on a verse that puts me in mind of Tabi Bonney, who I like a whole lot. It’s sensitive guy raps, love raps, but his delivery and contents kill me. He hit the triple axel and stuck the landing, and I’m glad I got to hear it.

2013 involved a lot of dumb personal and professional stuff, but I experienced a lot of change over the course of the year, too. Pusha T, who was once a Scorn Lord, dropped a weak album. I went from ignoring Lana Del Rey to really digging her stuff. I slept on Future, mistakenly thinking he was another cat out of Atlanta who I thought was mediocre, and now I listen to “First Class Flights” and “Same Dame Time” (remix and original) four or five times a day.

I don’t mind being wrong, especially when being wrong about one thing doesn’t stop you from enjoying other things. All of this stuff, opinions to typing on the internet, isn’t set in stone. It’s okay to change, and it’s definitely okay to be wrong. I’m constantly re-evaluating and thinking about why I think what I do, and sometimes giving a little gives you a lot.

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This Week in Panels: Week 224

January 5th, 2014 Posted by Gavok

Such a lonely week. Only Space Jawa has my back. Then again, there wasn’t much for me to read either. Ah, well.

At Den of Geek US, we had a huge article go up of the 101 comics creators to watch in 2014. I wrote a handful of the entries and was tasked with gathering most of the images. I guess doing 200+ installments of this ThWiP feature has paid off.

EDIT: Matlock was a little too slow on the draw and while I’m a little too tired/rushed to edit in his images to the article itself, here’s what he has to offer this week.

All-Star Western #26
Jimmy Palmiotti, Justin Gray, Jeff Johnson and Moritat

Aquaman #26
Jeff Parker, Paul Pelletier and Netho Diaz

Atomic Robo: The Savage Sword of Dr. Dinosaur #4
Brian Clevinger and Scott Wegener

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Stuff I Liked in 2013: Black Is

January 3rd, 2014 Posted by david brothers

The thing about the black condition is that it’s exhausting. If it’s not major stuff, like living in fear of police brutality or struggling under the weight of being born behind the eight ball, it’s smaller things, little aggravations like realizing that “ghetto” is a code word or googling to make sure you got a joke right in an essay and accidentally finding a white supremacist site. You gotta keep your guard tight as you bob and weave through your everyday life, and that makes it easy to miss things. You find yourself trying to weather the storm and forgetting about the sunshowers.

As a kid, my knowledge of what Black People Did was limited by my education, my family, my region, and my society. “Black People Don’t” do this, that, and the third. I’m sure you’ve heard a few. Sometimes it’s spoken outright, but a lot of times, it’s an assumption. If I didn’t know that black people were specifically doing something, if there wasn’t some obvious signifier, I’d assume they didn’t. Milestone Media in the ’90s was a revelation because it made it very obvious that black people did, in fact, make comics, and excellent ones at that. Sean Combs and Master P did own record labels. Barack Obama did become president. Spike Lee made movies. There was a wall here before, but it’s gone now. Now it’s become a door. It’s become an option.

In December 2013, cartoonist/animator LeSean Thomas shared this post on tumblr, which featured these images, plus a few more:

LeSean Thomas

Ron Wimberly

Roni Brown

That’s LeSean Thomas himself (in an ill One Piece shirt), Ron Wimberly, and Roni Brown. Thomas is the Creative Producer/Supervising Director of Black Dynamite, Wimberly does character design and layout assists, and Brown is Production Coordinator on the show. There are several more people through the link, too.

Black Dynamite is a brutally funny show, a worthy successor to an excellent movie. It’s a cartoon, a good-looking one, and it airs on a popular channel. As a kid, the thought of a team that was all, a majority, or even partly black probably didn’t even cross my mind. Cartoons were from Japan or Hollywood, and black cartoons were Fat Albert. (Were there more cartoons starring talking cats than blacks?) But this, and The Boondocks, where black people aren’t just on the ship, but guiding it through the waters? Outfitting it with all types of guns and accessories to make it the biggest, baddest ship on the block? It was unimaginable. But it’s beautiful.

As an adult, the tumblr post struck me. I know Ron, Ron’s a friend, but it was more than just “that’s my man doing big things.” It’s bigger. It’s an example, and it’s something that I hadn’t necessarily seen put into one place like that. It’s a reminder that black people do, and do it well.

It’s the flip side to the black condition, the narrative that gets tamped down in favor of slaves and graves. We’ve got rock’n’roll, wild sci-fi tales, ancient civilizations, rap music, soul music, R&B, Richard Pryor, Milestone Media, all types of wild and unbeatable innovations and creations.

I wish I’d had it as a kid, or at least that that idea was easier to access than it was back then. I was talking about this with a few friends the other day, and we were all…not in awe, we’re all grown-ups here, but we definitely felt something warm. “This is good. This is right.” Our news, our culture, delivers a constant stream of misery, condescension, and death, so it’s nice to have reminders that black is, and has always been, more beautiful than I ever realized.

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