Tuesday, July 31, 2012

New Music Review - Hellyeah


            There are some intriguing aspects of Band of Brothers from Hellyeah, some that made me sit back and think that this was going to be a decent album.  Among those that piqued my interest was the Pantera-sounding guitars on a few of the songs as well as the overall heaviness of the album.  However with the good must come the bad, and with this particular album there is quite a bit of bad thrown in that made me realize that this, in fact, was not going to be one of those quality “keep it in the car” albums.
            The songwriting is pretty sad.  While the music is heavy (though fairly similar) throughout, the lyrics, when understandable, are pretty ridiculous.  “Raising hell like a murder of crows”?  Really?  That’s the best you can come up with?  So the “Band of Brothers” will go around shitting on stuff?  I realize that the guys from Mudvayne are basically pulling double duty, but if your songwriting abilities are going to be burnt out to the point where this is your best output, time to hang up the mic on at least one of your projects.  
The previous two albums; Stampede and their self-titled debut did a good job of mixing heavy music with more accessible (and dare I say radio friendly) hits.  It looks like they decided to avoid that mold altogether on Band of Brothers.  I can imagine how that conversation went:

            “Let’s be even more metal on this record”
            “Yeah, none of that pop shit from the last few albums “
            “ok, how do we do that”
            “Screaming, lots and lots of screaming, and garble the words as much as possible”
            “Yeah and try and take all of the Southern Rock out of it”
            “This is going to be so cool”

            This is really all this album is, similar sounding music with screeching, unintelligible lyrics over the top for every song.  It does not let up for the entire album, unlike the previous two albums that had slower, more melodic sections to break up the ear-pounding monotony.  This may be ideal to some people but if you can’t show a little variety in your music in terms of tempo or style then it is hard to take you too seriously.
            This seems more like a Mudvayne album than a Hellyeah album.  I am not a big Mudvayne fan so maybe that is what I dislike about this album in general.  Any Mudvayne fans out there?  Is this a good album?  Is this a Mudvayne album with a couple songs that sound like they could (musically) be included with Pantera’s work?
            I am not saying that this is a terrible album.  If you are a fan of Pantera, Mudvayne or Damage Plan it would be right up your alley genre-wise.  However I would suggest just listening to those older albums, and even the first two Hellyeah albums, instead of bothering with this one.  It is a bottom the rotation CD at best. 

Sorry if this review seems half-hearted, it is fitting though since the album itself feels so half-hearted as well.  

Monday, July 30, 2012

Training

I used to think I was a martial arts master because of all the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles I watched too.  
Boy was I wrong.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Men's Room Etiquette Rule 6

This is it for the Men's Room Etiquette series.  If you have any suggestions as to rules that I missed leave a comment!  Next week: Something different.

WTF 7.23-7.27


Are you sure this was just a hunter?
-Matt


So this guy needs to actual get into a herd of goats to hunt them?  How is he hunting them?  With piano wire, all mafia style?  I guess that being able to get closer to the animal you are hunting obviously increases your accuracy, but shouldn’t you wear something to blend into the local flora?  It feels like the old cartoons with the wolf and sheep dog where the wolf dresses up like a sheep in order to catch his prey.  I’m just hoping a male goat takes a liking to this guy and gives him and old “welcome to the herd” if you know what I mean.

This is a sign of things to come
-Matt


I am not all for plane crashes or anything like that, and it’s nice to see the pilot is fine, but if you can’t laugh at the ominous foreshadowing by having a “will you marry me” banner plane crash, then you have no humor in your soul.  To the bride and groom:  get out now while you still can (and honeymoon locally).

Find someone else to blame
-Matt


Isn’t this the American way?  You know who is responsible for the shooting?  The fucking shooter.  Suing the movie theater, the shooter’s doctors and Warner Brothers for creating violent movies just makes me not care for you as a victim at all.  I realize that you are probably hurt and traumatized by the incident, a lot of people are, but suing anyone and everyone that you think could be responsible turns you from a victim into just a giant douche (the lawyer is a giant douche too but that goes without saying as it pretty much comes with the law degree).  Fuck you Torrence Brown, Jr.  Karma is a bitch, maybe next time the shooter will aim better.

News?
-Matt


You know what gets rid of a stinky sponge?  Getting rid of the stinky sponge.  What are they $1.50?  Just get a new fucking sponge!  How is this news?  How have we gotten to a point where we as a society are trying to prolong the life of a dish sponge?

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Comic Review - The Goon #40


            I’ll say this as succinctly as possible, The Goon by Eric Powell is great.  If you long for the days of well drawn art coupled with a complete story that is both parts engaging and wacky, this book is for you.  Let’s break it down:
Cover:
            This is how a cover should be done.  Even though it is a montage of images, it still has a lot to do with the story contained within.  If you couldn’t tell by looking at it, this comic deals with The Goon (naturally) fast cars and some unsavory characters that he meets as a prohibition-era rum-runner.  The art on the cover is indicative of the beautiful art contained within with a color palette that is perfect to cause it to pop out on the shelf.  It is subdued enough to set it apart from the super-hero drivel but vibrant enough to draw your eyes to it.  Powell even gets the logo right.  I love the idea of putting the logo anywhere but the very top of the page as is traditionally done (and I understand the reasoning behind the traditional logo placement but this looks so much better).  Powell colored the logo red, which some may say “but the cover is predominantly red in color, doesn’t that cause the logo to blend too much into the background?”   It would, my observant friends, if the logo did not have a black stroke around it and was not placed over a bright yellow lightning bolt design.  Not only that but there is a hot rod coming right at you as the central image on the cover that draws your eye right to the logo.  Powell knows exactly what he is doing here and it shows.

10/10 – I love the overall pulpy/old time movie poster feel to the cover and the technical execution is top notch.

Story:
              I am not familiar with The Goon, so I don’t really know if this is the era that The Goon is set in or if it is a character that Powell puts into any era and builds a story around (which he could as the characters themselves are very solid).  That being said, the prohibition-era story here is great.  It starts off with a dirty hillbilly with an acoustic guitar introducing himself as the narrator.



From the first few pages, before we are even introduced to The Goon himself I can tell that this is going to be a hilarious book.  The content reminds me a little of the Flaming Carrot without all of the random craziness, or The Tick with a more believable cast of characters, either way it is incredibly solid as a story.  Plus it is a stand-alone story with a beginning, middle and end (and it actually has three parts, each with their own story).  It reminds me a little of the old EC Comics such as Tales from the Crypt in its artistic style but also the pacing of the story. 
            Powell packs so much into the story that it hurts any character development that could have been had.  I guess it’s a sacrifice that he is willing to make, and one that I am reasonably ok with.  The Goon almost feels like a generic character that could be plugged into any situation (kind of like a Bugs Bunny) where you do not expect there to be much actual character development because they will just be in a completely new and unique situation the next episode/issue.  If that is the case then it works like a charm.  The characterization that is given to both The Goon and his partner Franky accomplishes the goal of getting the audience to root for them against the “bad guys” and cheering their inevitable victory. 
            The third story in the book “The Hooch Monkey” is by far the weakest of the bunch, but it is still better than 90% of the comics on the market today.  And I laughed out loud at the exposition by our hillbilly narrator to close the issue.  Well played Powell, well played.

9/10 – It’s pretty impressive when a done-in-one story can make me want to go out and pick up the next issue right away.  Hell, it makes me want to go out on a back issue search, and just absorb as much of this as possible.  The Goon is a shining example why independent, creator-owned comics are heads and shoulders above their mainstream counterparts.

Art-
            What can I say about the art aside from the fact that it is beautiful.  It fuses a Tick-like cartooniness with a sense of realism that works perfectly.  Very few inkers do work that makes me stand up and take notice (generally Tim Townsend and Scott Hanna just because of the difficulty inking Bachalo and Romita Jr. respectively) but the inking here reminds me a little of Toby Cypress which is great as Toby’s style is incredible.  I love how the inking is so fluid and organic, there are places where the ink is not solid black, it kind of washes out a little, which works so well with the painterly coloring (also done by Powell) that I could not imagine The Goon with anyone else on the creative team.  It may just be the era that the comic is set in, but the art has a very nostalgic feel to it that I can’t get enough of.  The storytelling and the pacing of the comic work incredibly well especially with the dialogue and narration (which there is a lot of).  The panels and pages could easily feel claustrophobic with so much text but Powell does a great job of balancing everything while also playing with, and often times eliminating, panel borders in order to open up the page a bit and give it breathing room.



10/10 – A work of art.  I have not enjoyed the coloring on a comic book this much since Blacksad.

10/10 – Welcome to my pull-list Goon, glad you could make it.


Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Men's Room Etiquette Rule 5

Please comment if this has ever happened to you so you can be referred to the nearest psychiatrist.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Hear Me, Oh facebook Sheep!


            One thing that I notice a lot lately is the massive amount of religion that has invaded facebook.  I am not religious in any way, but I went to church growing up and hit all of the Roman-Catholic milestones on the way.  While I do not begrudge my father for forcing that upon his children, the fact that it is being forced upon adults in ever so shitty ways makes me both shake my head and get kind of punchy.  Let me make something clear, I do not care what religion you are, or how far ingrained in that religion you are, you could be a Christmas/Easter Catholic or someone that goes to church everyday and does not leave home without a Bible/Prayer Book etc.  What I find to be ridiculous is when that love of religion that you have is shoved down my throat in the form of your forwarded facebook posts. 
            I am not talking about the bluntcard meme things that take up way too much of everyone’s time and energy to find and read.  Those are dumb, and the people that post ten to fifteen of them on their own page per day are dumb as well (especially if they are over the age of 16).  What I am talking about is the “like this post and you side with Jesus, ignore this post and you are Satan’s butt-buddy” posts that pop up from time to time.  Like I said, I don’t care how fanatic your religious leanings are, putting that on your own page and sharing it with all of your “friends” proves that you, my friend, are a dumbass.  Liking your fucking facebook post will have no bearing on my eternal soul.  If I really believed in all of that, I may be offended by your assumption that what you post on your wall has any bearing on me whatsoever.  You should know two things about me.  1.  I am not easily offended by anything, and 2.  I find that the best way to deal with that kind of fanaticism is through humor and, if I may use a term that will probably get me stoned (the bad kind not the good kind), bullying.  You are trying to bully me into liking your post so that I don’t have to get a pineapple shoved up my ass for all eternity, well bullying is a two way street and I can be very effective at it.
            You, oh religious nut, are a sheep.  Anyone that clicks on that post is a sheep.  And for that matter, anyone that clicks on those posts about veterans or cute animals is a sheep as well.  Of course we want the veterans to be safe, of course that cat wearing sunglasses is cute, why must the request be made to like your stupid photo?  More importantly, why are people falling in line like Jews to the oven in order to like something that someone else tells them to?  Your blind devotion to cute animals, veterans or the feeble promise of saving your immortal soul makes you mindless, thoughtless sheep. 
            As if to prove me right, directly after writing this article I checked my facebook account and lo and behold, a posting proving me right.  Hold on to your nuts because this one is a doozy.  “Hit like if you love your grandma, ignore if you want your grandma to die”.  Yup.  Not liking their stupid fucking post is apparently a death sentence for grandmothers everywhere.  It’s like the “step on the crack break your mother’s back” children’s rhyme but amongst people that should know better – and yet they don’t. 
            Have an opinion of your own.  If you want to like a photo, try liking one that does not come with the stigma attached to it, or a requirement for liking it.  You know who else has certain requirements like that?  Cult leaders.  Yup.  Quit drinking the fucking facebook Kool-Aid!  

Monday, July 23, 2012

Friday, July 20, 2012

Men's Room Etiquette Rule 3

It's true, even more so if there is a line of people behind you.

WTF 7.16-7.20


From the state that brought you Sarah Palin
-Matt


Yup, this is real.  Apparently voting jokes into office is not limited to the Governor.

Bobcat pulls a reverse Shawshank
-Matt


What really gets me about this article is the fact that the Bobcat was able to break in because he “climbed a fence or pushed in through some gap in the fence”.  Really?  That Washington prison is so insecure that there are holes in the fences?

Dear India, you are stupid, signed everyone else
-Matt


When you invite someone to perform that is notorious for crazy, provocative costumes and then sue her for indecency, you look stupid.  Way to look stupid India.  It would be like me attending a Phish concert and suing the band because I got a contact high.  Looks like some people in India have done a little too much bathing in the shit river, it’s messing with their minds.

Fred Willard pulls a PeeWee!  (That just sounds dirty)
-Matt


I think my first question is, why the hell do they have porn movie theaters anymore?  Everyone can get porn at home and yet you would rather go to a theater and pay someone money (probably avoiding their eyes in the process) so you can sit in a sticky-floored theater with other guys watching some guy bang a girl (or guy, or goat, whatever). 
My second question: you are a celebrity, what the fuck?  When did this occur to you as being a good idea?
My third and final question: Is the “porn theater” beat a desired beat for cops or is that where you stick rookies and people you don’t like?  My guess is the latter but you never know.

Thanks for playing Jersey!
-Matt


Hmm, another corrupt New Jersey politician.  This is my surprised face.


Thursday, July 19, 2012

Comic Review - Elric #11


            I have not read the preceding ten issues of Elric: The Balance Lost by Chris Roberson and Francesco Biagini.  However, I do love a good sword and sorcery book and if this issue really struck a chord with me, I was considering searching out the rest of the series.  While the book had some high points, it was also fairly boring and, at times, I found myself struggling to even want to finish it.  But I did, and here’s what I think.

Cover:
            Of course this book has three covers.  Didn’t you know that we are in a time warp back to the 90s where every comic has to have three to four covers, even though collectors are far less likely to pay for variant covers if each issue is $3.99 as opposed to the $1.50 they were in the 90s.  Regardless, I picked up the Dan Panosian cover as that was the first one on the rack.  It is a decent cover, that definitely makes good use of the featured character’s white skin for artistic effect.  While I understand that in order to make that design technique work, nothing else can be as light as that character (and nothing is), that does not prevent the colorist from mixing things up a little, you know, making everything a color other than brown.  The fact that there is an awful lot going on in the cover could have been a good thing if it had been colored to highlight some of that, or at the very least ensure that it was not a giant mess.

4/10 – It was ok, the illustration was nice and it kind of had something to do with the actual story.  The coloring really killed this for me though. 

Story:
            While it was not too hard to follow the story from the get-go (even though this was issue 11) I have a feeling that that is more because of the simplicity of the story itself than the fact that the between-issue transition was written well.  It’s basically good versus evil so that made the whole thing kind of generic, regardless of what little twists Roberson tried to throw in there.  There were a couple instances that I just shook my head at (which is never good, regardless of the media that you are using).  There was an interesting few pages where two of the characters revealed that they both had their love interest killed by a relative.  Ok, that’s fine in terms of a plot device to unite the heroes I guess, however it just felt so clumsy in its execution.  “bad guy relative killed my girlfriend” “I too lost a girlfriend to a bad guy relative”.  That just sounds like something you would expect from a middle school creative writing class, not someone that is a professional writer.
            Another instance is when the four main characters claim that they are the “four who are one”.  Now not everyone will understand this reference but that is generally what KISS refers to themselves as.  Now this comic is based on the novels by Michael Moorcock that debuted in 1961 (thank you Wikipedia).  I did not see any reference on the page to the “four who are one” though.  It is entirely possible that KISS adopted the phrase to serve their purposes, so I won’t come down too hard on Roberson for that as he is probably just referencing the content of the books, but if not it just sounds weird to me and any other KISS fan I am sure.
            There was an instance toward the end of the book where one character has to fight someone else.  His words, and I quote “You want to do this?  Let’s do this.”  Really, I’m not making that shit up.  That is just lame and downright lazy writing.  You’re telling me you couldn’t come up with a better phrase than that?  Really?

2/10 – The story, while clear, really doesn’t do much in terms of engaging the reader.  Maybe it’s a better read if you have already invested in the previous ten issues, but I find that hard to believe. 

 Art:
            At least the art is good.  I do enjoy the intricate details that he puts into the background and costume elements.  The monster designs are very interesting as well.  

Very cool monster

Full shot of the monster, interesting design, the panel border that it is breaking is kind of ridiculous but the monster design is very well done

They are not standard looking monsters and have a more thought-out feel to their design and kind of look like something out of a Guillermo Del Torro wet dream, which is pretty cool.  The people all look pretty similar though, to the point where if they did not have different clothing on I would be unable to tell who was who. 

Ok, I get it, you are a fancy panel border master.

This just borders on absurd.

            My final complaint about the art is the panel borders.  Too many times Biagini uses what he probably deems to be “creative” panel borders.  Now I am fine with mixing it up every once in awhile but the constant use of gimmicks such as this, along with oddly shaped panels tell me that you are either trying to hard to be “artsy” or that you are overcompensating for a lack of storytelling ability.  The storytelling is ok, nothing groundbreaking, but ok; so I have to assume that Biagini is trying to do too much.  Time to reign that in as it is distracting and unattractive if it is repeated throughout the book.

6/10 – The art was undoubtedly the best part of the book.  It unfortunately was not good enough to carry a sub-par story though.

4/10 – It’s not the worst book I have read but probably only something to be picked up by die-hard fans of the creators or of Elric himself.


Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Men's Room Etiquette Rule 2

These last two strips were from back in 2004 when I started Eat @ Shrimpy's (they may be the first two strips I did, honestly at this point I can't remember) the following four strips in this series were written between then and now and drawn fairly recently, so there will be a slight stylistic change, just bear with me.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

My mom is more metal than your mom


            We are products of our parents, not just physically but developmentally as well.  Any douchebag with a psychology degree from an online “university” (meekly raises hand) will tell you that.  It is interesting to see that at work, as well as to see it come full circle.  Last night was one of those “full circle” moments. 
I was a sophomore, maybe a junior in high school when I really got into what is now termed “classic rock”.  You know what I mean, turn on your local classic rock station and you will hear Zeppelin, The Rolling Stones, Creedance, etc.  You catch my drift (I heard Pearl Jam on the Classic Rock station in Syracuse the other day and almost shit my pants).  A big spark in my classic rock fixation was my parents’ record collection.  It was interesting to see because they both had the standards of their day, Elton John, Bruce Springsteen, Rod Stewart (oftentimes in duplicate as each parent had a copy from back in the day).  Where they deviated in their taste of music is where my real interest was born.  My father gave me the gift of the guitar-centric work such as Led Zeppelin (we used to listen to Led Zeppelin IV over and over), Jimi Hendrix and early Aerosmith.  My mother, on the other hand, actually had the heavier stuff.  One of the first albums I remember listening to was her old beat up copy of Black Sabbath’s Paranoid.  I know that the clarity we can get on CDs or digitally now is great, but you have not heard moodier music than listening to Hand of Doom on a record from the 70s.  She also was my first exposure to Alice Cooper.  Yes, it was the School’s Out album, which seems like an obvious and even generic addition to a record collection from someone of that generation, but to a 15/16-year old that had yet been exposed to Alice, it was perfect.  I would go on to collect all of the Cooper albums, so my kids will have a little more variety to pick from, but I think  that I would still share School’s Out with them right out of the gates.  It is just a complete album.  Even the later tracks, especially the later tracks (love My Stars) are great.
            That brings me back to my earlier point about everything coming full circle though.  I had concert tickets to the Iron Maiden/Alice Cooper concert last night.  The individual that was supposed to go was unable to make it, so I put out an open invitation to anyone that wanted to go (thank you Facebook), an invitation that was accepted by my mother.  That’s right, my little eighty pound mother wanted to go rock out at a metal show.  Now, to be fair, she wanted to go so she could see Alice Cooper, she actually had no idea who Iron Maiden was (she was listening to songs from Sesame Street throughout the 80s so she kind of lost a decade musically), but still, my mom at a metal show.  For those of you that do know her, just let that sink in before you continue.

I’ll wait.

            Ok, the concert itself was decent.  Alice was awesome, but he always is.  Not only was the band extremely tight, but Alice had not lost a step since I saw him 4-5 years ago when he opened for Heaven & Hell (RIP Dio!).  The only major complaint that I had is that his set was only 45 minutes long.  I realize that that is double the time that most show openers get, but this is Alice Fucking Cooper.  The original shock rocker, and you give him only 45 minutes?  For shame.  This even prompted my mother to say “that’s it?” when Alice finished School’s Out (with a little bit of Pink Floyd’s Another Brick in the Wall thrown in there to really get the crowd going).  If my mother is asking for more Coop, then he wasn’t out there long enough.
            At that point it was a 45 minute wait as the stage was set for Iron Maiden (and after seeing their show I can understand why the setup took so long).  During the set break I saw something that stuck with me more so than even the show itself.  They were playing Black Sabbath’s Iron Man as they set the stage and as I was standing on the grass with my mother a father and his son, who was all of probably seven or eight years old, walked by.  The little kid was singing along to Iron Man.  Word for word, and it wasn’t even the chorus!  How cool is that?  In an era where there are more choices in music than ever before (and more shitty choices I might add) this little kid was rocking out to Sabbath.  This makes me happy, and proves that the country may not be full of Kanye West or Nickelback fans, so there is hope for the country after all.
            Iron Maiden went on stage at nine and immediately something seemed off.  After the super tight, crystal clear set of Alice Cooper, the sound quality for Iron Maiden was just wrong.  It felt like the sound engineers just said “fuck it, let’s just turn everything up to 11” and that’s what they did.  The whole night was full of that high pitched whine that is associated with everything being too loud, and it oftentimes overshadowed the expert musicianship of the band.  One major problem that was brought to the audience’s attention about two songs in was that the stage was too small at the Darien Lake venue for Maiden to roll out their entire show.  They still did a lot, with a special appearance by Eddie, their lovable mascot, during the song Iron Maiden, so I am not too sure what else they had planned, but between that issue as well as the fact that the video screen facing the lawn seats switched between no picture at all and an unintelligible picture not unlike a scrambled porn channel, it knocked Darien Lake down a couple notches on the quality concert venue meter (I won’t even discuss the post-concert parking lot situation which was just ridiculous). 
            The Maiden set was full of the classics, but no Wrathchild.  Party foul for sure.  I know that if they had bumped one of the other songs for that tune someone else could pose the same argument that I am now, but really?  I would have assumed that Wrathchild would have been a staple along the lines of The Trooper and Run to the Hills.  They did a lot off of the Seventh Son album, and I really enjoyed The Prisoner, but it just didn’t feel complete as a Maiden show without the inclusion of one of their classic tracks.
            The concert was good but not great (Cooper was great) and it reminded me of the Megadeth/Motorhead concert that I attended in February.  This one had sound quality issues as well but I attributed a lot of that to poor acoustics at an indoor venue (the overuse of the goddamn smog machine is another matter entirely) but after seeing Maiden suffer from the same difficulties sound-wise last night I wonder if it is some kind of epidemic.  If anyone else was there and not too wasted to tell, was the sound quality better in other areas of the venue?  I find this hard to believe as Cooper sounded perfect.  So is it just sound guys that are bad at their job?  Is it a mindset from metal bands from the 80s that the best way to play their music is just turn every instrument up as loud as it can go?  Where is the balance?  Where is the clarity?  I would love to have actually heard Steve Harris’ galloping bass lines or even the three guitar parts instead of a convoluted guitar sound.  The drums were barely heard and Bruce Dickinson’s vocals were unintelligible because of the volume that they were being pushed out at.  If there is a 99% chance that the singer will be screaming into the microphone, common sense dictates that you turn his microphone down. 
            Another quick word on Dickinson, not only does that guy still have some pipes, but holy shit does he have a lot of energy.  When something causes my mother to stand up and take notice, such as the amount of energy Dickinson had throughout the entire two hour performance, it definitely should be noted.  While it was very hard to make out what he was saying most of the time based on the volume of the microphone, he commanded the crowd better than many frontmen I have seen and everyone in the venue seemed to feed off his energy.
            All in all it was not a bad time.  My mother was in no way out of place due to her age and was actually quite a bit younger than many of the people in attendance.  If you and your mother or father share a similar taste in music, especially if it is a “Classic Rock” band, take them to a concert.  It will not be as bad as you think, and who knows, they may get a contact high from it.  We are already anticipating the rumored return of Fleetwood Mac next year, and as long as I don’t have to give up an arm, leg and firstborn child (sorry Goose) for tickets, we may just go see them as well.
While I do not anticipate that my mother will rush out and purchase any Iron Maiden albums, she was a good sport the whole time (I could even see her subtly bopping her head to the music every now and then).  She even got me back by turning on a radio station that was in the middle of a Nickleback song on the way home.     

Monday, July 16, 2012

Men's Room Etiquette Rule 1

And now the premier of Men's Room Etiquette.  If you find yourself a violator of any of these rule please turn in your man card immediately.  That is all.

Friday, July 13, 2012

WTF 7.9-7.13


This day in “not news”
-Nik

            Really? Is this propaganda? An allegory for Obamacare? "He's going to kill us all! Starting with our poor elderly!"
            Or is it the opposite? "We should be so honored to meet the President, that the proper thing to do afterward is just die. Like this truly patriotic woman!"
            Both stupid. Still not news.

Flying the friendly skies
-Nik

            I can't believe they wouldn't tell us what she was singing! It must've been something important. And was she still singing when she got off the plane? I'm assuming she wasn't when she got on the second plane, otherwise they'd've commented. So when did she stop?
-Matt – I hope it was “leaving on a jet plane”.  I wonder if she changed her song to “Fuck the police” when they asked her to exit the plane.  Either way, this is what shows like Glee are doing to this country.

Stick to hunting, Uncle Ted
-Nik

            This guy just keeps opening his vapid idiot-hole. Cancel his current "reality tv show" (if it's still going, I don't even know), and then set up a new one. "World's Most Dangerous Game." We run a contest to get people to try out, show their talents in hunting, tracking, hiding, et cetera. Then, the top five winners get to hunt the Nuge. Each hunter gets the same cache of weapons, including the prey, but they bring their personal skills to the mix. Think of it as a higher stakes Hunger Games. Oh shit. The Nugent Games. Sold.
-Matt- I love the Nuge, but even I know that his outspoken views on pretty much everything bring nothing to the table.  Just focus on hunting and concerts in the South and you’ll be fine Ted.

You can make a difference
-Nik

            This happens every year. With the more obscure and stupid holidays in the mix now too. It's bad enough to see Christmas decorations on Halloween. But now, in July, we're starting Back to School crap already? Oh, and I'm sure our founding fathers really strove for our freedom so that we could buy a couch at a discount. Thanks Presidents' Day Sales at Raymour & Flannigan.
            Using holidays to sell shit is getting old, and quite grotesque, really. Every time a big holiday rolls around, I hear people complaining, "Oh, I hear Christmas music already and it's only Thanksgiving." "Why would they put up Christmas decorations so soon? I haven't even finished my turkey yet." And the like. I agree. Wholeheartedly.
            But, until the consumerist zombies of America stop buying in and jumping on these "deals", these pre-holiday holiday sales, they're going to keep doing them, and doing them earlier and earlier. And by the way, people who complain about these sales: half of you to whom I've spoken, still go to the damn sales! You can't bitch to me and then go support them! Counter-productive! "Oh, but one person won't make a difference, and it's a good sale." Then don't complain. If every person who said "One person won't make a difference" didn't go to the October New Years event, then it'd make a damn difference!

Buddy comedy in the works?
-Nik

            Maybe this is a sign from the powers that be. "This just in: the set of the new Die Hard movie was consumed in flames today when the fist of an angry god came down and smote the shit out of the people who thought this would be a good idea. And now for weather, Skip Johnson."
            Bruce Willis: give it up. Every one of your "action flicks" has become a blur of shooting guns and shitty lines (watch the trailer for the new GI JOE movie coming out if you don't believe me).
            Sir Patrick Stewart: I'm just disappointed. (unless you're playing Willis's plucky sidekick. That'd be hilarious. I'd actually go see it then.)
-Matt- I would pay to see Willis and Stewart in a Lethal Weapon-style buddy comedy.  Just to see Patrick Stewart say “I’m too old for this shit.”  Priceless.

Cold dose of reality
-Nik

            This is awesome. I'm so happy to see the current generation of kids break out of their ennui for a second to express their feelings. I do see a deeper lying problem, though. If Seventeen is claiming that they've never made girls thinner via photoshopping/digital touch-up, then they've just chosen to photograph the picturesque skinny girls. And even if the girls are healthy young models (which they're out there, I'm not saying the magazine's lying there), it means that Seventeen is making the conscious choice only to use those kinds of models. You're not being cutting edge using "healthy models" if the models don't even need a touch up.
            If you want to fairly represent the self-conscious seventeen year old girl that your magazine is catered to, I want to see a picture of a girl all in black (lipstick included), wearing long sleeves over her hands and her bangs over her eyes. I want to see a happy girl who is heavier than what you show. I want to see her with a big ass smile on her face, eating from a pint of ice cream. And while you're at it, I want to see the gay theatre guy in there as well, putting make-up on in the dressing room mirror as he gets ready for a performance of Rent. (*disclaimer: I'm not saying all theater guys in high school are gay. I was in every play in high school, and went on to be a drama major in college, and I maintain my straightness to this day. In fact, I encourage all walks of sexuality to pursue theater in high school!) And y'know, put in the brave girl who's not afraid to admit she's a lesbian as well. Show her holding hands with her girlfriend as they walk down the school hall. And lastly, I want to see a Hispanic girl, an Asian girl, a black and a white all at the same lunch table, all of different body types, all wearing different styles of clothing, laughing and talking together.
            If you're touting equality and the "true seventeen year old girl" represented in your magazine, show me. You can release as many statements as you want, but while I still see skinny white girls in your magazine (photshopped or not), you're just blowing smoke up those poor girls' asses. (which you pay a lot of money to do in Taiwan)

This just in, hot girls attract creeps on the internet
-Matt


            Not that stalking of any kind is funny at all, but come on.  Is anyone surprised here?  I love that the first paragraph of the article says “Kourtney Reppert describes herself as a glamour model and an online personality. She posts semi-nude photos of herself online and sends out life-affirming tweets, which has earned her hundreds of thousands of adoring followers.”  Yup, cuz it’s the life affirming tweets that gets you thousands of followers, not your tits and ass.  If you draw attention to yourself in that manner, you kind of have to expect it.  This doesn’t excuse the stalker because those were some pretty vicious things that were written, but Kourtney should have not been so na├»ve about it.  There are many times where hot women are just ogled online, some quiet sweaty dude in a basement somewhere while he wife is asleep upstairs, or a teenage boy that is too shy to ask the girl at school out so he resorts to beating off to pictures of ass and side-boob.  It’s not very often that it gets this far, but it does, and being an attractive woman increases those odds exponentially.
            Luckily, Kourtney did the right thing and contacted the police, who found the 47-year old guy, that’s right, living with his mother.  Yup.  Way to be the stereotype.  Kourtney says that she doesn’t “feel safe”, and honestly, she shouldn’t.  No one should, especially when their visage is plastered all over the internet for every perv to beat off to in a public library in Chicago. 
            As an aside, I would like to apply for the job of proofreader for these articles.  Obviously whoever currently owns that gig has fallen asleep at the wheel.  Christ, how hard is it to read an article and make sure that words are used correctly?  It bothers me to no end that so called “news outlets” let something as simple as editing get away from them.  At that point you are just a blogger.  A dirty, dirty blogger.
Boo Fucking Hoo
-Matt


Is this really necessary?  I get it, your four year old kid likes Steve Nash, probably because daddy likes Steve Nash, or because mommy once banged a Canadian guy that looked like Steve Nash, I don’t know.  Why, pray tell, is it necessary to post a video of your child crying over this?  This is not an isolated incident either, after every popular player leaves the team they have made a large contribution to we always get the obligatory crying child YouTube video.  Stop it.  Just fucking stop it.  This is how sports is.  It is a business and nothing is sacred.  Your shitty kid crying over it (and you posting it online like the attention whore that you are) will not change how sports are managed.  Quit exploiting your kid for pageviews.  The sooner you explain to them that the world is full of disappointment and heartache, the better off they will be.

Living the American Dream
-Matt


            The supposed best thing about America is that you can be whatever you want to be (if you have the latent ability or talent and have the money to spend on refining or honing your skill).  So I guess that we should chalk this up as a win for American ingenuity, but I can’t see this as a win without wanting to punch myself in the face.  Seriously, lady?  I don’t care what positive effects cuddling can have on someone, the fat that I have to pay you $60 an hour just to spoon you makes me angry.  Not an irrational “burn the world down” kind of angry, but more along the lines of a “who would believe that guy in the email is a Nigerian prince” kind of angry.  I have an idea, if at anytime anyone has an idea that they think will be great (such as this nugget of wisdom) I will come over to your house and for $20 and a glass of Kool-Aid I will hit you repeatedly with a waffle ball bat.
            You are welcome America!

Just Desserts
-Matt


I’m sorry, I know that these people have to basically survive on scraps and any chance to get something for nothing should not be pissed away, but if you are basically stealing fuel and you get blown up, isn’t that par for the course?  Does it make me heartless to think this?  More importantly, do I care?

Trash Bags

Be wary if you see some creepy guy buying a whole bunch of these trash bags.  

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Comic Review - Punk Rock Jesus #1


            After a couple sparse weeks in terms of comic selection, this week featured a plethora of choices for someone not seeking the traditional superhero mess.  There was Mega Man #15 (Goose’s favorite series and an overall well-done title), Secret Agent Poyo #1 (which is just as good as you would expect from Layman and Guillory, pick it up now and you will not be disappointed) and even Battle Beasts #1 came out.  Yes, if you are between the ages of twenty-five and thirty-two you probably remember Battle Beasts as a toy collection.  Well like most things from the 80’s, these guys have made a comeback.  I actually went into reading that comic thinking it would be pretty sub-standard but good enough to hit the nostalgia bone.  It actually surprised me and turned out to be a solid comic in its own right.  I would suggest any and all of the comics mentioned above, but none would I suggest more highly than the highlight to the week (and a comic I have been looking forward to for months) Punk Rock Jesus.
            PRJ is a comic that centers around the cloning of Jesus Christ for a reality show.  While that is a central theme in the book, Sean Murphy makes sure that that is not the only thing about this book that makes it interesting.  He surrounds Jesus (known as Chris in the book) with other characters that seem stereotypical (the ex con trying to make good, the dirtbag television producer) but he plays them in a way that makes them more believable than just cookie-cutter fill-ins for real people.  This is where PRJ really shines.  You can look at the pages in the book and tell that Murphy is a talented artist (I would put him up there with some of the best that are working right now) but reading the way that he paces a story and how he writes people with differing viewpoints makes this an all-around great read.  Murphy throws in many little twists and turns (including one huge twist at the end that I won’t spoil for you because it’s that good, like, my jaw on the floor good) that fits so well in the story that you can tell it was done with a purpose and not just to shock people.  Let’s get to the nitty-gritty of the book though. 


Cover:
            Yes, the cover really doesn’t tell a story as I usually want to see.  However, the fact that Murphy combines an illustration with a powerful graphic design element makes it worthwhile (and don’t tell me the Marvel Ultimate covers do the same thing, black bars on each side are not graphic design elements, they are black bars).  I assume that the character on the cover is Chris, but I’m not sure as we only see him as an infant in this issue.  I would have maybe made the cover coincide with a character in the book (Thomas or Gwen, even an infant Chris would have been a good choice) but without seeing the rest of the covers I can’t fault Murphy for this as much just yet.  Also, I love the incorporation of the finger print on the cover, it just adds even more to the idea that this character is going to be an individual (what’s more individual than a fingerprint) as opposed to the second coming that everyone thinks he will be. 
            As a quick aside, DC has made quite a few decisions lately that have come under intense scrutiny such as rebooting their entire line or the whole Before Watchmen fiasco.  The best thing they could have done here was to let Murphy realize his vision without a lot of micro-management.  I am not sure if all of the choices were Murphy’s or if his editor Karen Berger had input in them, but the fact that DC backed off shows me they can recognize when something is going to be special.  The two main aesthetic choices that were perfect fits for this book was the fact that the interiors were printed in black and white and the paper stock for the interiors.  While there are many talented colorists out there, any colors on this book would have just muddied everything up.  The black and white art has so much character and reads so well on its own that color would have not been able to bring anything to the table and in fact would have hurt the project.  The paper stock on the interior was not the traditional glossy paper that we are now used to seeing from comic books, especially those from the big two.  It felt like old-school newsprint in terms of its texture, but it was a tad thicker, giving the book a little more durability than those comics of the past.  Regardless, both choices added to the appeal of the comic itself and I would like to commend both Murphy and Berger for making the choices and DC for letting them.

9/10 – This was an 8 just because of the lack of clarity of the character on the cover and how he relates to the story, but it got bumped up to a nine because of the paper stock on the interiors (it’s my review I can make up the rules if I want to).

Story:
            I previously mentioned a good deal about the story so I will just say this:  This is how comics should be written.  A lot happened in this issue but it still had specific moments that you look back at and can’t stop thinking about (more on that below).  Not only that but this is the first comic in a long time that I have finished and immediately anticipated the next issue.  Nothing in this book is forced, it is all natural and fluid.  Even the cliffhanger is something that just happens, it was a surprise to me but I could see the natural progression of it and how it would have happened.  The concept is new and interesting and the characters are appealing.  Murphy hits it out of the park with this one, and the best part, it’s only issue 1!

10/10 – One of the best written comics I have seen in years.  This is what people can use when they are touting comics as literature.

Art:
            This is a work of art.  Seriously.  Each page, each panel, it all works so well together.  The use of black is spot on.  It is suffocating where it should be and used to create a mood when necessary.  The emotion that Murphy evokes through his artwork is better than any I have seen.  Being in the closet with Thomas feels claustrophobic, when Thomas is holding his father’s hand it makes me feel for him.  

The backgrounds that are present in nearly every panel just shows how comics are supposed to be made.  Everything is meticulously done and thought out with design elements incorporated throughout.

This is the first panel of the book. It sets the tone for the craftsmanship that is evident throughout.

Look at Thomas' father's face.  You can see the emotion, the love for his son and the desire to see him safe.

Beautifully crafted downshot.  Chaos has never looked so well done.

No one creates an establishing shot like Sean Murphy.

While I don't quite get the tame Polar Bear thing yet, this just shows more of Murphy's ability to create a shot and establish not only where we are physically, but where someone is mentally.  Look at the clutter as your eye pans right and how it differs from the left side of the room.  Thought was put into this.

Christian symbolism is big in this book, but just look at the use of negative space.

More absolutely beautiful establishing shots

            The only art criticism I have involves one panel.  Thomas looks a little undersized as he is being placed on the motorcycle and his uncle placing him there doesn’t really look right.  I realize his uncle is a big, probably very strong guy, but that panel makes it look like he is lifting him with one hand and holding him straight while placing him on the bike. 

            The only other issue that I have is the lettering.  In terms of word bubbles, that looks fine.  My main issues are the sound effects and the protest signs.  Everything else in the book looks so organic and fluid that having the sound effects as typed block letters works against the artwork as opposed to with it, as you want from lettering.  The protest signs are also a typed font, which doesn’t feel believable and really stands out against the rest of the artwork, to the point of being distracting.

9/10 – The issues were minor and honestly they may have only triggered in my mind because I read the comic from a critical standpoint.  Someone just reading it for the sheer joy of reading it would probably not notice them.  Besides, the rest of the book is simply beautiful.  If you can use the writing to tout the book as literature, the artwork here can easily be used to prove that comic books and sequential art are a legitimate art form and, if in the hands of masters of their craft, can be a truly beautiful thing.

10/10 – I could not recommend this book any more highly.  It is quite possibly the best book I have picked up in years and reaffirms my faith in the comic book medium as a legitimate storytelling form and not just the storyboards for a movie.  Sean Murphy deserves any and every award that will be coming his way for this. 



Wednesday, July 11, 2012

How to get rid of a python

You never know what you will find in the sewer, and whatever it is, it will probably fight the Ninja Turtles.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

The Problem with Comics Nowadays


I am not that old, I feel old, but in terms of years…not that old.  I say this because I did not have a chance to really experience the golden, silver or even the bronze age of comics.  Sure, I can read back issues and collections, but that is much different than plopping your dollar on the counter and getting five (or more) comics in return.  My point of reference starts in the mid-nineties, fifth grade for me.  Back then the price point was still relatively, by today’s standards, cheap $1.50 and so it allowed my father to throw down the $3.00 and buy a comic book from the local Hallmark Store spinner rack.  It was Uncanny X-Men #310 for me and X-Factor #100 for Nik.  From there I did not look back, devouring any superhero comic I could get my grubby little mitts on.  I even broke open the piggy bank (ok, it had a twist-off top) of pennies that had been collected since my birth to get a subscription to X-Factor later that year. 

Now according to many people, this was the worst time to be a comic fan, when bad writing and bad art ran rampant.  While that is the case in many titles, I would take your complaints of poor quality art and put them up against the Joe Madureira/Adam Kubert/Andy Kubert/Jan Duursema/Chris Bachalo X-titles of that time.  Hell, many of the other titles that I was not reading had excellent artists – many that are now industry favorites.  Were they just starting out and maybe a little raw, possibly, but it was great to see them develop in front of us.

“Well what about the Image guys?” you ask.  Did the formation of a company based on art and art alone with a de-emphasis on story for the most part really speak for the entire industry?  Yes, these guys had free reign to do whatever they wanted for the most part, but look at what it turned into.  Look at Image Comics nowadays and you will see the kind of quality that actually keeps this industry going.  Everything from Chew to Skullkickers to anything Kirkman touches seems to be gold for Image.  Yet if those guys hadn’t broke off from the norm twenty years ago we would not have a home for those comics, at least not one that is able to promote as well as Image does.  I am a big fan of all small publishers but they are often just hard to find.

That diatribe brings me to this one.  For everyone that says that that was the downfall of modern comics, that Image caused story to go out the window and nowadays creators are just following suit, I want you to look back at the twenty year history.  Back when Image started, the guys that started it all, Liefeld, Lee, Larson, et. al. were their own editors.  They were the final say on what got published.  And that is fine, there is nothing wrong with it if they can take a step back and look at their products objectively.  Most writers can’t and that is where an editor comes into play.  But this is what I am trying to get at.  These guys didn’t have an editor to tell them to take a step back, introduce their characters and form a cohesive plot.  Their mistakes are the kind that you could definitely see from someone that went from just drawing what someone else wrote to doing the whole shebang all by themselves without that guiding hand.

Now let’s jump to the modern day of comic books (probably around 2002/2003 to now).  The Bendis period.  This, my friends is where it all went to hell.  As soon as Marvel and DC decided that their editors really had no say and the writers of the books could do whatever they wanted, and write however they wanted to write is when the car started to go off the cliff.  I will admit, I collected comics during much of this time too, and it did not start out all bad.  As I’ve said, Bendis did not start out as the Sultan of Decompression as he is now, or at least it wasn’t as bad as it is now.  I have been out of the hardcore comic collecting (especially the big 2’s stuff) for a while now but I still see references to the “Marvel architects” which, if you don’t know, is a group of five writers that apparently write most everything in the Marvel Universe.  They are given top billing and are the engineers of Marvel’s big “events”. 

Let me first start out by saying that these Marvel “events” are crap.  They are stories that could be told in four or five issues that are stretched out to seven or ten and that is not even counting the numerous spinoffs that you need to read to get a better understanding of what’s going on.  I just read the Fear Itself cross-over (Nik loaned it to me) and I was thoroughly unimpressed by it.  The story itself was not bad, but the pacing was horrible.  It was seven issues bookended by two double issues, so basically nine issues, but the story was so simple it could have been concluded in two or three.  Sin wakes up bad guy, bad guy recruits help with various hammers, heroes fight bad guys, Iron Man gives them super weapons blessed by Odin, good guys beat bad guys, Thor dies.  That’s it in a nutshell.  There was a little more fleshing out of Odin and Thor’s relationship and honestly Stuart Immonen’s art was superb, but come on, it’s not nine issues worth of material, plus every spin-off in different books over that time.  Big crossovers are not a new thing to Marvel and long before Bendis set foot in the door they had Secret Wars, Inferno, Fall of the Mutants, and my personal favorite the Age of Apocalypse.  But these were done so that you could read your favorite series and still know what was going on.  Age of Apocalypse included an Alpha and Omega issue that bookended the series quite nicely but were not entirely necessary because each series had its own story and characters. 

The worst part is that Marvel and DC actually employ editors.  They pay people to make sure comics are good.  It is easy to see that many of those editors have no clout when it comes to butting heads with one of the “architects”.  Everything today is done for the good of the almighty dollar in comic book land, writing for the trade paperback instead of writing individual issues with compact stories and then collecting them.  Today, writers write for shock value as well instead of writing for content.  Ask Mark Millar about that one.  How much sex, violence, cursing, etc. can I throw into a comic to shock someone?  Who can I kill off or bring back to shock someone (Human Torch, Colossus, Ultimate Spiderman, etc.)?  What can I do to make mainstream newspaper headlines (kill Captain America, have Superman denounce his citizenship, create a black Spiderman to replace the recently deceased, gay comic characters)?  No creative decision holds any value anymore if everything is created to cause a reaction or get headlines.  How about we just write good stories and pair them with good art?  When did that become the frowned upon practice in comic books?  I get it, you want to make people notice your comics (as if a billion dollar summer blockbuster couldn’t do that) but what you are doing is making it even harder for the casual fan to pick up a book and start to read.  Don’t tell me that’s what Marvel’s point one issues are for because the person still has to find a way into the current storyline after they finish their “intro” issue.

It is time for the editors to take the power back.  It is time to install someone as Editor in Chief of the big two that will uphold high standards of comic making and will demand a quality product.  If you have a quality product, you can probably charge the outrageous $3.99 that you do now without any uproar, but when you take pages away while keeping a higher price point and couple that with a poor story, you just can’t win.  This is a dying industry that needs a jump start and it will never get it as long as the big two continue to tread water.

When you look back at comics over the last twenty years, try not to judge the nineties without first taking a look at our current state.