Archive for Rants

Last Comic Book Buyer To Leave, Remember To Turn The Lights Off

Posted in Comic Books, Rants with tags , , , on February 24, 2011 by thelasthonestman

Marvel and DC executive believe that this = profit.

I wrote a month or so ago about the media attention Marvel Comics was getting for their latest “Death of a Major Character” nonsense that they’ve continued to thrust upon their dwindling readership, and I’ve already talked about how both the company and the other major publisher in the industry, DC Comics, seem to be doing everything in their respective powers to kill the comic book business once and for all.  And just when you think the companies can’t get any more creatively bankrupt, you have the Senior Vice President of Sales at Marvel admitting this past weekend at a retailer summit in Texas that the company will “kill a major character every quarter in an effort to drive sales — because why try to revive a dying form of entertainment by trying something positive for longer-term growth when you can rely on short-sighted gimmicks instead?

Don’t get me wrong — I love comic books, and I’m devastated at the idea that in twenty years, the business might be gone forever.  At least I’m not the only one who thinks that way — there’s a host of other comic fans like myself who are sick of much of what passes for modern comic books these days (another good take on this can be found at this link on one of the many comic book blogs I frequent).  I buy a fraction of what I used to ten years ago so far as new material goes (concentrating my money mostly these days on older books), and I can see a time when even a die-hard like myself doesn’t buy anything new anymore.  I definitely will be saddened if I’m part of the last generation to care about comic book characters as something other than movie headliners or television cartoon adaptations.

It’s sad that, as is clearly evident with each passing month, Marvel and DC just doesn’t care.  They’re already reaping what they’ve sowed with what’s currently the lowest sales in their histories — and those dire numbers only look to be getting worse in the future.

The BCS Title Game Should Have Been Called The Underwhelming Bowl

Posted in College Football, Rants, Sports with tags , , , , , , , on January 11, 2011 by thelasthonestman

I didn’t find out that Auburn had won until this morning.

That’s because I turned off the game midway through the 3rd quarter and headed off to bed.  Granted, I was tired and I’m looking at a long day of work today and needed the sleep, but that’s not something that ever kept me from seeing the end of a “title” game before.  So what was different last night?

There’s certainly a lot of factors.  The lateness of the starting time (the clock was ticking towards midnight as the game struggled towards the finish line) certainly didn’t help.  But it would have been a lot easier to not steal glances at my clock if the game had been a better-played contest.  For two teams that were supposed to clearly be the best two in the country, the game was anything but exciting — at least what I watched of it before hitting the play.  Of course, if you like penalties, turnovers, mistakes on both sides of the ball, and failed drives — well, there were plenty of those to go around in the game’s first three-plus quarters.

The incredibly long layoff had a lot to do with that — you know, the thirty-seven days between their last games and the game last night (a travesty considering the hypocritical nonsense the NCAA uses about wanting to keep players studying as a reason to not have a playoff) — but what went through my mind on more than once occasion before I finally gave up on the game was — Maybe these two teams aren’t the best two in the country?

They definitely didn’t play that way.  Last night was just more proof positive as to why, so long as the mega-conferences continue to deny a true playoff and deny schools like TCU this year a chance to fairly and legitimately compete for a title, the idea of Auburn [Title To Be Vacated in 2014] as a truly deserving national champion is a bad joke.  I won’t even go into the whole mess surrounding Cam Newton and what the NCAA’s unwillingness to make a tough stand now regarding his entire eligibility does to the legitimacy of [Title To Be Vacated in 2014]’s claim to being the nation’s best — but I’d be lying if it didn’t give me one more reason to turn off the television happily last night.  (It seems I missed Cam Newton embracing his agent father at the end of the game, despite Auburn athletic director Jay Jacobs telling reporters beforehand that Cecil Newton Sr. would not be in attendance by mutual agreement — another strong indication that, when it comes to the truth, neither the Newtons nor the school’s officials are going to be the place to find it).

Unfortunately, as long as the masses didn’t join me in abandoning the game sooner, true reform in the ranks of NCAA football won’t be anywhere on the horizon.  The good news for me as I get older, however, will be that there will be one less night I’ll have to worry about staying up late to see the ending of a game.

Tragedy In Tucson

Posted in News/Current Events, Politics, Rants with tags , , , , , on January 8, 2011 by thelasthonestman

The saddest news today came out of Tucson, Arizona where Congressional Representative Gabrielle Giffords of Arizona the target of an assassination attempt while speaking to a crowd in front of a Safeway grocery store.  The forty year-old Giffords was seriously wounded by the gunman, remaining in critical condition as of late Saturday night, while six others — including federal judge John Roll and a nine year-old girl — were killed and nineteen innocents victims were wounded senselessly.

The suspect — whose cowardice makes him unworthy of my referring to him by any other name than “the lunatic” — was subdued by two members of the crowd after his attack (both who are quiet heroes on this day), though officials are investigating the possibility of his being aided by a 2nd individual.

This is a terrible event, and everyone’s prayers should be for a speedy recovery for all of those who survived this monster’s acts.  The bigger question that will be asked in the next few days by those in the media, and by normal people everywhere, will be “Why?”

Unfortunately, there are plenty of people already speculating about motives and reasons, well before all of the facts are known.  Early suggestions were that the suspect was a right-wing radical, possibly upset at Gifford’s support of the Health Care Act or stem cell research.  However, there have been later reports from people who knew the suspect that he was  “left wing, quite liberal, and oddly obsessed with the 2012 prophecy” — pretty much the exact opposite.  Indeed, Giffords record placed her firmly in what could be described as the political middle — she’s considered a Blue dog Democrat who doesn’t vote lock-step with her party, and she voted against Nancy Pelosi in the recent House election for Minority Leader.

Assassination attempts of elected officials don’t happen with regularity in this country like they do in some others — other than a failed attempt on Missouri Governor Jay Nixon back in September of last year, I believe you have to go back to the attempt on President Reagan’s life by John Hinkley in 1981 to find the last time an elected official this highly ranking targeted.  My hope is that what we saw today doesn’t represent the beginning of an ominous trend.

We ALL need look no further than this

It’s true that we live in one of the more divisive times in our country’s history, and that a lack of civility in political debates has reached an all-time low, both by elected officials and the people who support them.  I understand the anger — I’m often angry and frustrated myself by the actions of those who’ve been put in charge of our nation’s future, particularly those (and there are many) who are sacrificing our nation’s future for their own political gain.

But this a reminder to those who begin pointing fingers in the next few days as to who to blame — we all are, liberal and conservative, Republican and Democrat, for refusing to respect the views of others that may differ from ours, even if we don’t necessarily agree with them.  It’s all our fault for demonizing our political opponents instead of trying to understand, and then to work with them.   And if that’s a lesson that isn’t learned soon, the tragedy of today — God help us all — might sadly be repeated again in the future.  It’s up to all of us to improve the discourse, stop the infighting, and start working together.  We owe it to ourselves and our country.  We owe it to people like Gabrielle Giffords.

So Who’s The Bigger Fools? Marvel Comics — Or The Media That Believes Their Hype?

Posted in Comic Books, Rants with tags , , , on December 27, 2010 by thelasthonestman

And one need not wonder why the comic book industry is slowly dying.

Killing off a member of the FF? What a great idea! We've never seen anything like that before ...

I’m jumping around the internet late tonight, and I see this ridiculous article on MSN detailing how one of the members of Marvel’s First Family, the Fantastic Four, will die in January.  According to Editor-In-Chief Joe Quesada, “The beauty of the Marvel Universe is that it is in constant change.  Things are always happening, very much like life itself.”  And  Executive Editor Tom Brevoort is among the voices at Marvel claiming a great significance to the “event”, saying, “It’s a story that will have a transformative effect on these characters — virtually nothing will be the same after the events of this story.”

Whatever.

Just in case you’re not a long-time comic reader like I am, let me save you the trouble of rushing out to your local comic shop to buy the issue, thinking it represents anything more substantial than the continued evaporation of the comic book industry as a medium that’s going to be viable.  Everything — and I do mean everything — about this reeks of Marvel’s attempting to drive short-term sales of the book at the expense of the long-term outlook — which shouldn’t surprise anyone who’s been following the comic book industry over the last twenty years, since that’s largely what the people in charge of both Marvel and DC have been doing for far too long.

... Errr ... never mind.

A poly-bagged issue (which Marvel claims is to keep people from spoiling the surprise, but veteran comic people know is designed to tempt people into buying two copies, one to read and another to keep sealed)?  That’s a sales gimmick we’ve seen too many times before (remember the “Death” of Superman?).  “Killing” off a main character?  Well, there was a time when that actually meant something in comics (look no further than the deaths of Gwen Stacy and the first death of Jean Grey), but that was a long time ago — now, death is a tired cliche that both main companies trot out on a seemingly monthly basis, all-but-obliterating its effectiveness as a story-telling device.  And the idea that “nothing will be the same again”?  How many times do the readers need to hear that tripe until it’s just another case of the boy crying wolf — again?

Enough is enough already.  It’s obvious that what the heads of Marvel and DC are doing with the properties they’ve been entrusted with isn’t working — and hasn’t been — for a long time now.  Sales are lower than they’ve ever been, and all of the success of the movie and licensing aspects of comic book characters aren’t going to save the publishing wings of the Big Two, since neither is luring new readers into the stores.  Neither company seems interested in building a base for the future, instead relying on major “events”  and cheap gimmicks (like the death carousel) to sell books (and in turn, crippling the chances of most titles to sell when there isn’t some huge “event” going on in the book).

Marvel and DC's idea for keeping comic book stores from closing in the future will probably be to kill off their owners -- it works in the books, right?

You don’t have to look any further than this Fantastic Four story to see that in full effect.  The book , which I’ve been picking up, has actually been a great read from Jonathan Hickman — but the sales have been less than spectacular.  Instead of allowing an audience to build by — gasp — actually telling good stories over a period of time and building an audience (you know, the way they used to do it), Marvel is resorting to the cheap gimmick of  “killing” off a main character.  Whoopee.

It would be great if the mainstream media didn’t give Marvel (or DC, when they resort to the same crap) the cheap publicity like MSN gave Marvel on this non-story, and it would be even better if someone like MSN would do a story on the dwindling comic book industry, once-thriving but now seemingly headed towards extinction.  That’s a lost hope, however, as it’s unlikely that anyone at that media level follows — or cares — about comic books beyond whatever movie opens at number one next summer — the staggeringly bad distribution numbers of most books these days would seem to bear that theory out.

If you ask me, it sounds like a great time for me to be jumping off of the Fantastic Four title — hopefully, what’s left of the readership of the book will join me and send Marvel a message that we’ve had enough.  I doubt Marvel will hear it, though — it seems they haven’t been paying attention for the last two decades — why would they start now?

Showing A Complete Disregard For Safety Behind The Wheel

Posted in Personal, Rants with tags , , , on December 6, 2010 by thelasthonestman

Nothing good comes from a phone call at seven in the morning.

When the phone rang this morning at a little bit past seven this morning, I knew it was trouble.

No one calls me that early.  Frankly, no one calls anyone that early, usually — unless there’s a problem.  When I glanced to my cell phone and saw it was my wife, I was definitely concerned.  I had just talked to her when she’d left the house for work a half an hour or so earlier, and she normally doesn’t call to chat on the way to work so that she doesn’t run her cell phone battery down (and so she can keep it charged for her drive home).  So while I didn’t know what was wrong, I knew something was definitely amiss.

Unfortunately, I was right.  She was calling me to tell me she was in an auto accident, her second in less than a week.

Neither wreck was her fault — not that it matters much.  The first accident happened last week when she was rear-ended on the interstate driving home by a young woman who’d fallen asleep at the wheel. Thankfully, my wife had spotted the woman’s car coming up quickly in her rear view mirror, and she sped up as she approached.  Her quick reactions minimized the initial contact, and the jolt was enough to wake the sleeping driver.  Both my wife and the woman were able to control their cars, and neither were hurt, while the damage to both autos was minimal.

Gasoline trucks are EVIL.

Today while driving to work this morning, my wife was hit again on the interstate — this time she was rear-ended by a large truck (one of those huge gas/flammable liquid trucks — think Stephen Spielberg’s Duel, just less dirty).  The truck pushed up behind her from her right, sliding into her lane and ramming her in the rear.  It crushed the back end of her car and then — the driver fucking sped off!  He didn’t stop to see if she was all right, he didn’t even so much as slow down apparently.  He certainly could have killed my wife if things had gone worse,  and he could have killed any number of other people on the highway with them if the accident had turned into something larger (my wife was able to somehow control her car enough to keep it from spinning while getting it off to the shoulder and out of further harm’s way).  But apparently he didn’t care one stinking iota about anything other than keeping his sorry carcass out of trouble or his time schedule from being delayed.  It’s possible that, due to the nature of the jobs, it’s possible that the truck driver, like the other woman in the first accident, may have been asleep at the wheel — while that might give him an excuse as to why the accident happened, it certainly doesn’t excuse his fleeing the scene.

Meanwhile, while my wife subsequently got a description of the truck and the driver to the police, she was unable to get the plate number (it’s hard to do when you’re fighting to keep your car from wiping out).   But at least there were people who stopped to help her when she was shaking — terrified — in her smashed-up vehicle, and there were people who called the police themselves when they saw the accident happen and reported the driver.   Oh, wait — I forgot — none of that happened either.  No one else stopped or called or anything.  What a wonderful world we live in.

At the end of the day — what’s most important is that my wife is safe (she’s suffering from a sore neck, but she’s otherwise okay — and it could have been a whole lot worse).   But I’m still ticked at that driver and the fact that he’s probably going to get away with what he did.   Maybe next time, the people whose lives he’s ignoring as he barrels on recklessly away from a wreck won’t be as lucky as she was.

The NCAA Is More Of A Joke Than Usual — And Other Friday Revelations

Posted in College Football, Fantasy Football, Fantasy Sports, NBA Basketball, Rants, Sports with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on December 3, 2010 by thelasthonestman

It’s the weekend, and while I should be in a good frame of mind, I’m not.  There’s a lot of things putting me in a sour mood this morning — none of them life-threatening or earth-shattering — but just a lot of things that are aggravating me, and in most of these cases, only me.

But that’s one of the reasons why I have this outlet — to vent — and you’d be sadly mistaken if you thought I wasn’t going to do exactly that.

My first round draft pick

— There are plenty of times I hate fantasy sports.  Today would be one of those days.  It’s been said that no one wants to hear a person complain about their fantasy teams, and I can’t disagree with that — so if you’re one of those people, then by all means, feel free to skip to the next blurb below.  Or, you can attempt to enjoy my misery.

All year long, no matter what fantasy sport I played in, I’ve been killed by injuries.  My baseball season imploded under a record number of DL trips by players I owned, a total greater than any franchise had suffered over a nearly twenty year history of my league — a total that outpaced the second-worst total by almost double!  (And yet, I still finished in the money anyway — go figure).

Several of my football teams have been also hampered by bad luck with injures — I’m looking right at you, Pierre Thomas.  It’s gotten to the point where whenever I see someone get hit, I assume the worst and get really happy when my guy actually is able to come back on the field and contribute (if you watched the Eagles-Texans game last night and are saying to yourself, “I wonder if he owns Andre Johnson”, then give yourself a prize).

But today takes the cake.  After a terrible start for my one fantasy basketball team that matters, fueled by a cornucopia of injuries — Aaron Brooks, Nene, Jeff Green, and Brandon Roy’s lack of cartilage — the season might already be in danger of slipping away.  Facing a shaky opponent, the week was looking promising — until the flu of all things wiped out Dwight Howard, Jameer Nelson, and David West all in one fell swoop.  A winning week looks now to be another huge loss that will leave this team all but dead and buried — which I guess is appropriate.  What’s next to hit the guys I own — the Ebola virus?  2011 can’t come soon enough — hopefully, it’ll be a healthier year for guys I own.

Does the city of Cleveland own a dog? If so, I'd like to kick it please.

— Other than the bandwagon jumpers out there — otherwise known as about 90% of the people describing themselves as  Miami Heat fans — absolutely no one wants to see Miami win an NBA Championship this year.  The bush league way that LeBron left Cleveland, the idea of players like James wanting to take the easy way out to try and win a championship, the ridiculous amount of hype given to the Heat by the media, particularly ESPN — all of these things have made me a fan of anyone-playing-Miami.  As a lifelong Bulls fan — and as the son of a lifelong Celtics fan — I have always held my highest degree of contempt for the Los Angeles Lakers — but if it came down to it, I’d root for them to walk away with the trophy from David Stern this spring over the Miami trio.

If there was a game anyone with a heart could hope for Miami to lose, it would be the emotional game last night that featured James’ return to the city and people he discarded so callously.  Miami has struggled mightily this year, and frankly, the Cavs just aren’t that good.  Would it have been too much to hope for just one night where the underdogs of Cleveland could answer the challenge and vanquish their tormentors?

Evidently so.  The game last night wasn’t even close.  The bad guys won, the good guys lost, and I’m reminded again why I’m not half of the NBA fan I was twenty years ago.  If there’s going to be a work stoppage next fall in one of the major sports, why can’t it be in basketball instead of the NFL?

Reggie Bush -- meet your successor

— And finally, there was the news yesterday that the NCCA has ruled that Cam Newton, Auburn quarterback and Heisman Trophy candidate, is eligible to continue playing — despite the fact that the NCAA found that Newton’s father was shopping his son to schools looking for the highest bidder.

Really?

Granted, there’s no actual smoking gun — yet — that details that any money or other illegal benefits that went directly to the younger Newton.  But really — there’s no repercussions here?  Oh wait — Cecil Newton now will have limited access to the Auburn program in the future.  Wow — I bet that severe punishment is going to completely eliminate parents from shopping their kids in the future to big football schools in an attempt to cash in on their living and breathing lottery tickets.

On the other hand, maybe the NCAA’s ruling has given people a blueprint to start bidding wars for high school athletes while the kids in question maintain a plausible deniability to retain their eligibility.  Go NCAA, go!  As usual, the entire concept of amateur athletics continues to be a sham, the NCAA continues to be a completely inept, corrupt, and outdated institution, and Auburn heads towards a “National Title” game — a joke in itself as long as we don’t have a playoff — with a player who should probably be ineligible.  Does anyone want to take a guess as to when Auburn vacates this year’s victories — sooner than USC did, or later?

— Everyone enjoy your weekend, and I’ll see you back here on Monday.

What’s A Superman Movie Without Superman? Probably A Disaster Even The Man Of Steel Can’t Prevent

Posted in Comic Books, Entertainment, Movies, Rants with tags , , , , , , , on November 24, 2010 by thelasthonestman

When it was announced that Zach Snyder — he of 300 and Watchmen — would be at the helm of the new Superman movie, I was on board.  The two films referenced above had their share of critics, but they were two films I found immensely entertaining.  On the latter especially did I think Snyder proved himself capable of putting a serious comic book movie (tights, powers, and all) on the big screen.

However, word that’s leaking out about the upcoming Superman project makes me believe that Warner Brothers still doesn’t get it when it comes to putting one of their flagship characters on the big screen, and more than ever, it means that the movie battle between Marvel Comics and DC Comics will continue to be won by Marvel.

Anne Hathaway + any movie = worth watching

The news that bothers me isn’t the rumored casting of Anne Hathaway as Lois Lane — not at all.  I absolutely love Anne Hathaway — I’d pay good money to watch her read the contents off the side of a milk carton — and I think she’s got the mixture of sex appeal, spunk, and sass to make her the perfect Lois Lane.  The two previous attempts at getting this character right on the big screen were misfires; Margot Kidder had the right personality for the first four films, but — as bad as this might sound — she just wasn’t attractive enough onscreen to make me think she could sweep the Man of Steel off his feet, and while Kate Bosworth is definitely beautiful, she looked too young for the role and had the charisma of a grilled cheese sandwich in Superman Returns.  Hathaway would take the best of what both other actresses brought to their roles to be the definitive big-screen Lois (though for my money, it’ll take a hell of a performance to top Teri Hatcher’s smoldering portrayal of Lois on the small screen in Lois and Clark: The New Adventures of Superman).

My issue is the supposed plot details that are being leaked, namely that we’re going to have a rehashing of Superman’s origin and a film that largely focuses on Clark Kent, with precious little Superman in it — or at least it seems that way from what’s being said.  According to the above linked report,  the film will focus on the Man of Steel’s alter ego as a young journalist as he helps people while not using his superpowers.  Supposedly, the audience will then watch as Clark Kent travels the world only to return to his Smallville home to learn his true origin.

To quote Bill Murray from the classic Scrooged:

Here’s a newsflash for the good people at Warner Brothers and Snyder as well:  We know the origin story of Superman.  All of us do, everywhere — men, women, and even children.  It might be the most famous origin of any fictional character in any medium.  And it was told tremendously in Richard Donner’s original movie, which everyone who’ll be interested in seeing this film will have already seen.  And you won’t do it any better than it was done there.

You're the Man of Steel -- Stop Crying!

And so far as the “finding himself and who he really is” nonsense — well, we’ve seen that too, again, mostly in the first movie (though similar themes were explored in the second movie as well).  A Superman who is unsure of himself and who can’t embrace his role as the protector of mankind?  This take has been tried before in the comics, usually to universal derision and scorn.  No one wants their Superman filled with angst, doubts, and a touch of self-loathing — while there’s plenty of characters that such an approach fit perfectly with, the Man of Steel is definitely not one of them.

What do audiences — both the die-hard comic-book fans and the casual viewers — want in their Superman movie then?  How about no more tired rehashing of the same things over and over again for a start — enough with Lex Luthor as the main villain already.  No more dumb bimbo sidekicks to the antagonist as comic relief.  No more ridiculous subplots involving children that might be the Man of Steel’s, or real estate scams as the bad guy’s motivation, or endless monologues from Marlon Brando as Jor-El.  No more Phantom Zone escapees.  It’s ground we’ve covered enough times already.

Instead, give us a bad guy who really can challenge the Man of Steel on a physical level as well as a mental one.  Brainiac would be a great start, coming to Earth to shrink Metropolis to add to his collection of cities.  Or Darkseid, in an attempt to enslave our planet under the rule of Apokolips.  Or maybe a classic interpretation of Bizarro, in the form of a weapon used by a smarter, less physical rogue like the Toyman.

Once we have a villain to build a story around, then give us action.  Plenty of it.  You have the most powerful being on the planet with an opponent who can match him toe-to-toe — let’s see them go at it.  While one would think that using this formula isn’t exactly rocket science, it’s worth noting that only one Superman movie has had anything resembling this approach in it (Superman II).  Add in some other thrilling action sequences that display the Man of Steel’s powers to their full effect (like the incredibly well-done Shuttle rescue sequence in the most recent movie, one of the only things about that film that actually worked) and presto — a winning formula.  Certainly, it’s a recipe for something better than the some of the bad-tasting films we’ve seen for a character that’s deserved far better.

Will Warner Brothers realize that before they end up with another big-budget debacle on their hands?  If early reports are any indication, you don’t need a Superman to tell you that the answer is apparently not.