An Elf’s Story: Elf on the Shelf is Watching Me Watching Him

December 1st, 2011 Posted by Gavok

Working in the retail book business for so many years, I’ve seen my share of weird stuff. I’ve seen cookbooks written by Coolio. I’ve seen Twilight‘s popularity reach such an apex that we have a “Teen Paranormal Romance” section. Not only are there Nascar romance novels that come out two per month, but every year we get at least one Nascar Christmas romance novel. Still, few aspects are as head-scratching as the book/kit known as Elf on the Shelf.

Elf on the Shelf is deemed a new holiday tradition and makes enough money that they may not be kidding. When it first hit the scene, we underestimated it and sold out immediately. Over the past few years, we’ve sold hundreds of units. But what is Elf on the Shelf, you ask? Created by Carol Aebersold and Chanda Bell, the kit comes with a smiling and leering toy elf. There’s a book that explains the backstory and has a space for you to write the elf’s chosen name. Rather than play up the idea that Santa is omnipotent and knows if you’ve been naughty or nice through his… crystal ball… or Professor Xavier telepathy or whatever it is, it’s shown that he gets the intel from his elves. This disturbing little creature vacantly stares at your children all day in the weeks leading up to Christmas and when nobody’s looking, he tells Santa what the score is. The kids are also meant to tell the elf what it is they want. The parent is supposed to move the elf around every day to give the illusion that he’s in some way sentient while the children are warned NOT to touch him else it might remove his magic powers. In other words, don’t touch it or you will realize this is a rickety sham.

The whole concept bewilders me because of the hoops one has to jump through to make it work. The Santa myth has just enough inventive magic and reasonable doubt that a kid can go for years without questioning it. I can’t really understand how most kids don’t call BS on this one if they’re old enough to even talk. The holes in logic are legion. If it’s only checking up on kids between the end of November to the end of December, does that mean you’re allowed to be a total bastard in July? If mom and dad just brought home Elf on the Shelf for the first time, how did this whole Santa thing work before this? What’s the point of having kids tell an inanimate object about what they want if the parents won’t hear it? Santa is at least represented as a talking human being at malls, which holds more water to the immersion than a doll that doesn’t even have joints.

And more than anything else, it’s creepy. Both in concept and appearance. I’ve even had a parent return the item a couple weeks ago because her children found it creepy. But you know what? I’m okay with that. I hold no ill will towards the product for the same reason I hold no ill will towards Twilight or Jeph Loeb comics or any other book I’m supposed to look down on. It’s the retail business. These little guys pay the bills for me and my extended family. Just existing doesn’t raise my ire.

It’s the promotional video that does it. Elf on the Shelf is such a big deal that during the holidays, we have a DVD player set up to hype it. The video lasts three and a half minutes, is annoying and changes tone in the audio enough times that it’s impossible to mentally redirect it into background noise. Just hearing that thing on loop again and again is enough to drive anyone insane after a couple hours. Make it a month during the most stressful time to work and you’re in even worse shape.

This year, the boxes feature an ad for Elf on the Shelf Presents An Elf’s Story, a brand new animated movie featured on CBS on the night of Black Friday while at the same time released on DVD and blu-ray. After all the mental trauma this thing’s caused, I knew somebody at the store had to sit down and sit through this. That man had to be me. And so, a couple days after it aired, I mentally prepared myself the way one does to clean the cat’s litter box when they know they’ve waited a couple days longer than they should have and I pressed play.

The thing to know is that I didn’t go into this set on hating it. I never do for these kind of reviews. I may set my standards low, but I’m open to being wrong. Plus I love Christmas specials in general. Unfortunately… this is not a very good Christmas special.

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The New Avengers Cartoon Makes Me Go XD

October 20th, 2010 Posted by Gavok

I feel that in the never-ending war between Marvel and DC, DC has always trumped Marvel in the animation department. Pound for pound, DC has always been better when it comes to getting their shit together. Even Superfriends past the Wendy and Marvin season was watchable in a goofy sense while I can never enjoy the panel-based cartoons with zero animation that Marvel released back in the 60’s. The only DC cartoon I can ever remember as being outright awful was that Superman one from the 80’s that insisted on giving us a segment about Clark growing up and getting into wacky situations for his mother to deal with. As a child, all I could think was, “Why are they showing me this? I want to see Superman doing super things and fighting Lex Luthor!”

Maybe he was so competent that he’d save the day a little too early and they had to use that as backup filler.

Marvel’s had a lot of missteps. Australian Wolverine goes without saying. The first seasons of Iron Man and Fantastic Four in the 90’s were hard to watch, which was a shame, since the second seasons were way better. The latter went from having Thing deal with a nagging landlady to having Ghost Rider (with his sexy, sexy voice) show up unannounced in order to punk out Galactus.

They had Avengers: United They Stand, which failed on several levels. Spider-Man really wasn’t all that great once you take off the rose-colored glasses and don’t get me started on Spider-Man Unlimited. X-Men and Silver Surfer weren’t bad, but they were nothing compared to what DC was churning out with their Batman and Superman cartoons.

Marvel has been starting to get things moving with their animated movies, like with Planet Hulk and Hulk vs. Wolverine, but the many, many missteps before that can’t be discounted (I will never forgive Invincible Iron Man). Even then, DC’s been cranking out the quality on that end.

I’ve heard great things about Spectacular Spider-Man and Wolverine and the X-Men, but I haven’t gotten around to watching them. I think part of it comes from lack of interest in retreading old ground. It was the same when it came with The Batman. I’m sure there’s quality in there, but I’m not up for retracing old steps. I’ve been there. I’ve done that. I’ve seen that story where Ben Grimm becomes human but has to become the Thing again because damn it, the team needs him. I’ve seen that story where a new girl joins the X-Men and meets the established team as a way to get us acquainted. I need something new. Based on something old, sure, but something new for this medium. At least Batman: The Brave and the Bold was in such a different direction that it came off as a breath of fresh air.

Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes starts tonight on Disney XD and I’ve already gotten to see the pilot at New York Comic Con. I’ve also sat through the 20 micro-episodes, which are each 5-6 minutes a piece, making it longer than any of Marvel’s animated films yet. I can tell you right now that this cartoon is exactly what Marvel’s been needing for a while. This is their Justice League Unlimited.

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The Truth is Back

April 5th, 2010 Posted by david brothers

LeSean Thomas’s blog had the link of the day for me.

Remember Aaron McGruder’s The Boondocks? Heir apparent to Dave Chappelle’s The Chappelle Show and one of the most brutally funny shows on TV?

It’s back!

There’s just glimpses of things in here– Huey vs White Jesus, Stinkmeaner possessing Granddad (!), tons of anime/kung-fu/rap references, VladTV… this season is gonna be something serious.

Who linked me to this on Twitter? I love you madly.

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Fourcast! 39: Harley & Ivy

March 29th, 2010 Posted by david brothers

-6th Sense’s 4a.m. Instrumental for the theme music.
-A little ditty courtesy of one of the subjects of our show opens this one!
-Four Girlcasts in a row! Eat your heart out, Gloria Steinem!
-This is theoretically a Continuity Off about everyone’s favorite Dynamic Duo, the Femmes Fatale, those Titans of Terror, Harley Quinn & Poison Ivy.
-Really, we’re just reminiscing and talking about how great those two are.
-(Or at least how great Harley is, and how being near Harley makes Ivy also great.)
-I said I’d upload some youtubes, but who knew that Warners would scrub most of Batman TAS off the face of Youtube? I’ll put a couple I found after the jump, anyway.
-If you want legit ones, watch online here or start with Batman – The Animated Series, Volume One.
Harley Quinn: Preludes and Knock-Knock Jokes is 13 bucks new on Amazon, or 10 bucks from third-party types. I’d suggest it– it’s really very good.
-See you, space cowgirl!

Subscribe to the Fourcast! via:
Podcast Alley feed!
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“We On Different Earthes”

January 23rd, 2010 Posted by david brothers

Oh hey, Dwayne McDuffie posted 45 seconds of the upcoming Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths on his site!

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Blokhedz Act 2: Paid in Full

May 27th, 2009 Posted by david brothers

Blokhedz Act 2: Paid in Full is up over at MissionG.

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Ain’t Nothin’ But Sweat Inside My Hand

April 16th, 2009 Posted by david brothers

Remember Blokhedz? I reviewed it a couple years ago after NYCC2007, shortly after its animated series was announced. The animated series is here, and it’s coming courtesy of Mission G. Click here to watch it, or just check it out right here on 4l!.

I watched it, I dug it, and I’m gonna keep watching. It’s a short start, but a good one. I recognized a few voices (Talib Kweli, Bobbito the Barber, Charlie Murphy maybe) and caught a lot of references. The Dungeon of Rap should be familiar to any Nas fan, for example.

I like it.

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Return of the Wrath of Comic Con

April 22nd, 2008 Posted by Gavok

The weekend of chunky guys dressed like Colossus and hot women dressed as Slave Leia has come to an end. I myself had a great time, spent with hermanos from this very site and a whole bunch of guys from Funnybook Babylon. Sadly, Thomas “Wanderer” Wilde deemed himself “too broke” to consider joining us and Hoatzin would have probably involved a gigantic plane ticket paid in rare diamonds, since he’s from Europe. I don’t know. I really have no grasp on how that type of thing works. Besides, Hoatzin seems to have vanished from our planet. What happened to that guy?

This one movie sent the other movie into space.

Day One

Last year I got to New York the day before the con started, which allowed me enough rest and whatnot. This year I had to come in the first day of the event and kill time until David Uzumeri came in from Canada, since he was in charge of dealing with the hotel. I walked straight from the Port Authority bus terminal to the Javits Center, which tired me the hell out.

After getting my swanktastical press pass, I met up with hermanos and Joseph of FBB. They were at a panel starting up that was a screening for a new Will Eisner documentary. Since I was tired from all that walking, I decided to stick around and watch it. I found it interesting in the sense that I honestly didn’t know all that much about Eisner, which is almost a sin if you’re a comic fan. The four of us (David U. showed up towards the end) mostly agreed that while it had some fantastic stuff in there, such as taped conversations between Eisner and guys like Kirby, the sum of it was incredibly dry.

Shortly after, we went to the panel on online journalism, with guys from Newsarama and CBR there. It wasn’t as good as the comic blogging panel from last year and mostly focused on arguing over criticism vs. getting press releases. Once that was done with, I was rested up enough to do some wandering.

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Well, I found it funny

March 28th, 2008 Posted by Gavok

You know those Marvel cartoons from the 60’s with the really awful animation and stills taken from the comics themselves? A guy by the name cyphrx took this style and made his own Avengers parody, based on what he considers the aftermath of the very first issue.

Enjoy the Newer Mightier Ultimater Avengers, but be warned, it does feature bad language and blurred out Hulk dong.

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Rubber Bullets. Honest.

March 4th, 2008 Posted by david brothers

I’d forgotten that this existed until the other night. Bless YouTube.

DC, get cracking on a DKR movie and make sure that Michael Ironside plays Bats. Who’d be a good Carrie Kelly?

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