Aaaaaw Yeah. Doctor Strange Trailer

 

 

First of all, the mind bending effects are great. They get the weirdness of Strange’s “world” first captured by Jack Kirby (who is one of *the* creative names in comic book history), which has a very 1960 sensibilities….

dr-strange-1

…without stepping *that* far outside the norm that the non-comic book reading audience will lose the suspension of disbelief. (And yes, that one shot of the multiple NYCs is very reminiscent of Inception, but after the previous effects shots of reality parting I’ll forgive it.)

Again, Cumberbatch is a perfect choice for Stephen Strange. Strange’s story is that of a man falling from human hubris into wisdom and mystical power. Yes, it’s a comic book movie, but the main character’s emotional arc is a very dramatic one. It’s a part any actor would eat up a ladle, and Cumberbatch I think will be able to pull it off very well.

Interesting choice of Tilda Swinton for The Ancient One. It’s an intriguing take on a character that is a martial arts/mystic stereotype of the old Asian man. (Mess not with the old Asian man carrying a flute, he will beat the crap out of you with it.) And she does that detached androgyny, as if she is a being has passed beyond human concepts, very well. I approve. I’m sure some Marvel/Strange fans are going ape-shit, but I think it’s a very cool choice.

The final shot in the trailer is a direct nod to the fans. It’s the famous window of Doctor Strange’s Sanctum Sanctorum (which is located, in this plane of existence, in Greenwich Village, NY).

DrStrangeSanctum

My Geek Advice for the Day

Now, when I say “dealers” I’m not talking about your local comic book shop (LCBS), I’m talking about the online dealers. LCBS tend to be nicer because you are a face they see every week and what they are charging is right there. So it’s harder for them to be a dick about it. However, if they have tons of those issues, they may not take your collection because their market is limited locally they do not need 27 copies of an issue because they will never sell all 27 of them and they don’t have a ton of storage space for the overflow.

Online dealers, which sell country wide, are another mater entirely. These are people operating out of warehouse, selling to thousands or more comic book collectors country-, or even world-, wide.

Last year I came to the hard decision to sell my comic book collection. I had stopped collecting years prior. Modern comics were expensive at $4 a pop when I stopped collecting, while the value of them had gone down. It used to be a $0.95 cent comic would take you 20 to 30 minutes to read because there was a story there, with text. But now it’s all splash pages, with admittedly gorgeous art, but little story, that you can blow through in ten minutes, max.

I read a report somewhere that said that by cost vs. length of enjoyment,  comic book collecting was one of the most expensive hobbies one can have.

I also did not like the yearly crossovers of the Joe Queseda era which disrupted storylines within individual titles and forced readers to buy copies of titles (at $4 a pop) they would not normally buy in order to keep up with the story. An occasional company-wide crossover is cool, but yearly? It quickly became apparent that Marvel was using it as a marketing tool rather than a way to tell a great story (because some of them were just not that great). Even the writers were getting pissed because the crossover would bring the story they were trying to tell in their own title to a grinding halt while they dealt with this stupid storyline forced on them. I remember Peter David put up enough of a stink they let him brush off one with a single issue and sit out another.

And what was worse was all the stories were heroes fighting heroes. Some of that is cool. It spices thing up a bit. Non-stop it just becomes depressing. That is not what comic books are supposed to be about. That’s not what heroes are supposed to be. When JMS took over Thor, he made that a very distinct point as Thor wandered around the ruins of New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina.

thor3_001

Where were the heroes? Why did they not protect humanity?

Because the editor of Marvel comics had them too busy beating the crap out of each other almost constantly.

So I saved my money and dropped out of the scene. My collection just sat. I realized it was doing nothing proving my “geek cred” and taking up space in my closet. My favorite stories I had in trade paperback (TPB) form for easily accessible reading. I didn’t need the comic books anymore, and I do need the money. So I went through the process of cataloging all my comics in a spreadsheet. (Which was not so bad as I had them well organized with title separators etc.)

Which is good because it was eight long-boxes worth, over 1,000 comics, most Bronze age, 1980’s, but some from the 1970s and a few from the 1960s.

Now, ever since the comic book bubble burst in the 1990s, buying a comic is like buying a car. It immediately starts to lose value when you walk out of the store with it. I knew that. I knew I was not going to get “Blue Book” value for them. I figured with the $800, $700 bucks would be the low ball offers I would get for the entire collection.

I sent dealers my catalog spread sheet, and the only offer I got was $250 for the entire thing.

What.

The.

Fuck.

I looked at what the dealers were charging for these comics and they were trying to pay me pennies for books they would charge $80, a $100 for.

It was complete B.S..

Half, I would understand, but $250 for a thousand comic books, some dating back into the 1970’s and 1960s?

No excuse except pure unadulterated greed. It’s not like they are paying rent for a storefront, they’re keeping these comics in a warehouse.

So I started selling them on my own, individually, undercutting the dealer prices by like half or less.

I made $250 selling just seven comics. Seven. Out of a thousand.

Now, not all of them are worth that much and there has not been a ton of interest in some titles I thought for sure would sell at cheap prices. But still, $250 for offering seven of my comics at half or less than half the prices the online dealer were charging.

So to my geek friends, if you reach the point where you really need the money or that collection has just become the monkey on your back, do not go to a dealer. You will not just get ripped off, you will get an insultingly inconsequential amount of money for your collection that you spent years pouring your heart into.

It’s a slow process. It takes work to photograph, carefully look the comic over to give the customers an accurate idea of the grade of comics they are getting (how worn or not worn it is), research what is being charged by the dealers for that issue to gage your own price, etc. and then sell them on your own.

But it’s worth it. It’s like textbooks: You and the buyer make a much better deal than either of you would going through professionals.

Much Geekness: Star Wars; Alas poor Ahsoka, I knew you well.

For those of you who enjoyed Star Wars IV-VI (the original trilogy: A New Hope, Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi)  and now VII (The Force Awakens, which rocked, so totally), there is a lot more to the SW universe.

For decades there have been the Star Wars novels covering just about every character seen and every era mentioned in the Star Wars Universe. I confess I have not read them. The Force Awakens definitively showed the novels to be in their own continuity. However, they have a great fan-following, despite being their own cannon.

Now for the most part I am a Star Trek fan (and Babylon 5), but I see no point of dissing one franchise for the other. They are both thoroughly enjoyable with their ups (ST VI: The Undiscovered Country and Empire Strikes Back) and their downs (Star Trek V and Revenge of the Sith). In fact, to compare them is rather like apples and oranges because while both take place in Science Fiction universes, in their stories, Star Trek is more Science Fiction, while Star Wars is more Fantasy.

Think about it, the lowly hero who is “the chosen one” who goes on a journey to find himself and his power, magical power (The Force, mitichlorians be dammed), a weapon of power handed down from father to son (and possibly to granddaughter). Even Joseph Campbell, the scholar who wrote Hero of a Thousand Faces and The Power of Myth (an account of his interview with Bill Moyer) pegged Star Wars for what it was: A Hero’s Journey straight out of our classic legends. (And indeed, it came out that Lucas had read Hero with a Thousand Faces, which had in influence on his scripts.) It’s Epic Fantasy set in a SciFi universe. And there is nothing wrong with that.

In fact, the fact that Star Wars is Epic Fantasy in the mode of a classic legend was probably the secret of its wildly unexpected success. When the first film came out, 1977, it splashed down into a pop culture landscape that had a lot of moral ambiguity and disillusionment. In 1977 the movies were either distracting fluff like Smoky and the Bandit or depressing like A Bridge Too Far. (Annie Hall being the obvious artistic stand out of that year.) And SciFi had almost faded into obscurity. The only competition Lucas faced was from his friend Steven Spielberg’s Close Encounters of the Third Kind which was a straight up SciFi film.

Now we think of The Epic of Gilgamesh, The Iliad & Odyssey, Beowulf and the Arthurian Legends as these ancient epics that belong in the realm of scholarly study. But we forget these were the pop culture of their time. These were the stories the working people listened to in taverns and at hearths and in temples and courts, etc. These were cultural ties that connected people.

Star Wars did that for the modern generation because it filled the need of the epic hero’s journey that modern society lacked. The Lord of the Rings film series did that again, reaching across the genre boundaries to touch billions of people with Tolkien’s take on that archetypal tale that is practically the basis of the human conception of ourselves and human universe/worldview.

Anyway, rambling aside.

The Star Wars prequels sucked. We can all agree on that. It really came down to one huge failing (Jar Jar Binks and wooden acting aside, which I blame in direction because how else do you make Natalie Portman wooden?): Anakin was unlikable. He was arrogant, whiny, snotty, and a mass murder (When he said “I killed them all!” why Padme did not back out of that room slowly and jump on the nearest land speeder out of there, I have no idea.)  When you have a character that is going to have a major fall as the audience knew Anakin must, you have to get the audience invested in that character, get them to care about him and grieve when he falls. Lucas did not do that. He had two films to get the audience to like him and Anakin remained an arrogant bratty adolescent that if the audience gave a damn about at all, it was because they wanted to push him into that lava pit themselves.

(Seriously, if I were Obi Wan I heard Anakin going off on one of his “He’s holding me back!” rants, I would have said. “Tell you what kid. I will take the advice of the Jedi Counsel to stop training you, and dump your sorry ass back on Tattooine in slavery were we found you. Then you can think about how you are being “held back.”)

What corrected that grave error in writing and casting in the films was not seen by the majority of the people who saw the films: The Clone Wars TV series. Taking place between Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith, in the six years it was on it showed Anakin as a likeable character! His arrogance is tamed to cockiness and a usually charming, and successful, disregard for the rules. His anger to tamed into a passionate protectiveness for the people in his life (and some jealously over any male that gets near Padme despite possessiveness being a major Jedi no-no). And he has a sense of humor. A real one! The series does hint and sometimes show the darker aspects of his character, that passion becoming rage, the jealously becoming paranoia, the cockiness to the arrogance that would become a single minded belief that what is “right” in his eyes (manipulated by Palpatine, who can be seen gently sinking his hooks into Anakin throughout the series) is worth any cost. And very occasionally they show that, when pushed, he can be a cold blooded killer. From time to time, they do hint heavily at the transformation coming. But for the most part, he is shown as a whole, real person and you actually get to know, like and care about the guy.

(Big Bonus: No whining.)

So much so that going back and watching Revenge of the Sith after watching the show, the film has a much greater emotional impact.

Part of that journey into likability is that Anakin took on a Padwan of his own: Ahoska Tano.

Ahsoka is just a kid when she signed on as his Padawan. As such she comes to idolize her master under what appears outward to be an almost fraternal relationship rather than that of master-and-student. In sharing rebelliousness and cocky natures, he frequently makes big-brother jabs at her while she frequently takes little-sisterly jabs at him. But the fact is she would follow him into hell. Their relationship is a large part of what humanizes Anakin, but Ahsoka quickly became an extremely popular character in her own right.

And let’s face, the SW Universe was short a few kick-ass women.

She also received a warning about Anakin’s nature and the effect staying with him could have on her life. At that moment, she brushed it aside. But Ahsoka’s time with the Jedi was cut short when she was suspected of being part of a terrorist attack. Anakin defended her constantly while she went on the run to find the real terrorist, another Jedi Padawan who had become disillusioned with the Order and realized that they were the cause of the war, that they was being misled (by Palpatine, though she did not know it) to the Dark Side.

But despite vindication, when the Jedi Counsel, a group Ahsoka had put her trust in since she was a toddler, doubted her, she began to have doubts in herself, of where her life was going. She left the Order and Anakin in what is one of the most heartbreaking series/season finales.

(Big props to the music here)

As someone pointed out, the “I know” says a lot about how far their relationship had come. That she knew how torn he was, and why, and had kept his secret. Far from master and student, they had become two people who knew and trusted each other implicitly.

(And without a hint of romantic tension. Because y’know, that can happen.)

Clone Wars continued for one more season after her departure, but it was never the same. Ahsoka was a vital spark in that show and it simply couldn’t float without her. Her abrupt departure and lack of information about her in the subsequent series/season and Revenge of the Sith (she was not shown among the Jedi killed under Order 66) and other media (I think she appeared in a video game) resulted in fans yelling “WHAT HAPPENED TO AHSOKA TANO!?!” every time a new Star Wars anything was announced.

The current TV series, Star Wars Rebels (which takes place between Revenge of the Sith and A New Hope), at last brought Ahsoka back as one of a leaders of rebels against the growing Empire. Not a Jedi, but perhaps with something the Jedi had lost.

And what was great is they got the same voice actors for Ahsoka and the rare instances where it was needed, Anakin.

And we learn is that her leaving may have had a more devastating effect on Anakin than we realized.

Ahsoka showed up in the series first, but when Darth Vader (then an unknown figure working for the Emperor) shows up at the end of series/season one, the fans were waiting for one thing: The show down.

And we got it at the end of series/season two. The thing is, knowing that we do not see Ahsoka in A New Hope or any of the subsequent films, I knew that she was not walking away from this. She is the final string to Anakin’s humanity that Vader has to cut (much like Kylo Ren thought killing his father would). But the battle itself, both physical and emotional, was what everyone had waiting for, for four years.

And it did not disappoint.

(And yes, that is James Earl Jones as the Vader, but it’s Matt Latner’s Anakin’s coming through  that kills you. If you spent hours binge watching Clone Wars, that is.)

And did anyone else catch that during the fight there were seconds of Vader’s lightsaber going green?

The writer/director did leave a slight ambiguity for those fans who need to believe she goes on. But if this is the end for Ahsoka Tano, and I think it was as it should be both artistically and in terms of continuity, it was perfectly done with light touches used to the greatest effect. (For example, it was Anakin’s voice very end saying, “Then you will die.” Not Vader’s. *heartbreak*)  A beautiful, if tragic, end not only to Ahsoka’s arc of becoming something more than a Jedi, but also Anakin’s arc into Vader.

Deadpool: The Film

What it got right: Everything

What it got wrong: Nothing to almost nothing.

First of all: Best opening credits EVAR! (Especially appreciated the nod to the writers, without whom Deadpool would not exist, let alone have a film.)

Granted, Wade isn’t as batshit crazy in the film as he is in the comics, but I think introducing him as he is in the comics would have alienated the uninformed audience so I’m cool with toning that aspect of the character down a bit. And he is off the wall enough to be an entertaining, if gorily violent, loon. He also (Spoiler Alert: though if you have not seen it by now, you are either not interested or really? What the hell not?) gets a happy ending (a phrase which the character would make no end of double entendres with), which the comic book character, despite his many flirtations and actual love interests, does not.

The breaks in the fourth wall and meta commentary are well delivered and just enough to be entertaining without overdoing it or feeling kitschy.

They greatly altered Negasonic Teenage Warhead’s powers and gave her a personality, but as the character was just a walk-on (or in that case, a carry-on) in the Genoshan massacre…

Neasonic teeage warhead

…and then showed up as a psychic projection of Emma Frost’s survivor’s guilt, with very undefined psychic abilities, in Joss Whedon’s run of Astonishing X-Men (which is also made of awesome, really brought the x-men back, in Whedon’s own way, to the Claremont era)….

Negasomic v Kitty

…they had a lot of leeway with a character that even the comic book readers had almost no attachment too. Most consider the movie version to be an improvement. Her powers are at least in keeping with her “code name” (which is taken from the name of a song by Monster Magnet).

 

But the story of the film is engaging, the action is imaginative and, of course, the characters are great. A+ all around.

And speaking of imaginative action, this is something that has been, or was when I stopped collecting, missing from superhero comics for a long time. It used to be that writers found interesting ways for the superheros to use their powers or use teamwork to combine their powers to great effect. Then in the 2000’s, the current crop of writers had no imagination and just started giving the characters new powers (“secondary mutations”), some of them completely unrelated to their initial ones. Emma Frost’s diamond form being the most glaring (no pun intended) example. In the films (X-Men: Days of Future Past, The Avengers I and now Deadpool, well, once), you get to see what imaginative writers can do using existing powers in imaginative ways as a team rather than just having the heroes pounding away at the villains one on one.

(Again, another double entendre Deadpool would not let go of for hours.)

If I was to nitpick at one thing, it would be how Colossus was portrayed. Colossus, who is a pure-hearted hero, an honest to the Gods nice guy, is much, *much* more sanctimonious in the film than he is in the comic book. Nor is the comic book Piotr nearly that pushy. He’s pretty humble and leaves most of the speech making to Professor X or Cyclops.

Colossus joke

Also, he is one of the top four physically strongest characters in the Marvel Universe, barring cosmic beings like Thanos. (The Hulk, Thor and the Thing are the other three.) He should not have had his ass kicked like a punk.

Still, It’s an awesome movie and I’m going to see it again. And I almost never do that.

It’s going to be very interesting how they get Cable into Deadpool’s world in the next film. Cable is a character that is…well, his backstory is more confusing than trying to follow the Habsburg family tree. Cable’s no-nonsense attitude and Deadpool’s, well, being Deadpool, make for a very interesting, and one of Marvel’s favorite Odd Couples.

P.S. Also loved the quick nod to Bob: Agent of Hydra.

My Yearly Reading Goal: Discworld

Because I am in full retreat from reality and given the passing of Sir Terry, I felt it time to really delve into Discworld.

Discworld

I had only read Small Gods (which is awesome) and The Unseen Academicals (which was on sale, but because I had not read any of the other books, not was into football/soccer, I missed all the in-jokes), so this is what I have been doing this year. This is pretty much all I have been doing this year, aside from some Connie Willis (Oxford Time Travel series) , Vera Nazarian (Cobweb Bride series) and Michelle Moran (Nefertiti, Heretic Queen).

If you try to read the Discworld novels in the order they were published, you are going to get lost. Fortunately, some fans have made handy maps to track the storylines of the major characters:

Discworld reading guide

A link to the unadulterated map is here.

This is not entirely up to date as it is missing Pratchett’s last four books:

Witches/YA Novels: I Shall Wear Midnight and The Shepard’s Crown

Watch Novels: Snuff

Industrial Revolution Novels: Raising Steam

I’m sure there are more up to date “maps” out there, but they don’t look this cool.

So far, I have read everything with a blue star next to it, twice (waiting in between purchases). 😀 My focus is to get through the novels and short stories. I’ll catch up with his YA books (which his last publication, The Shepard’s Crown, is one of) later. And I have to delve into the Industrial Revolution series.

What these separate sets of characters allowed Pratchett to do is to write different types of stories in the one setting. The Rincewind novels are all chase/adventure. The Watch/Sim Vimes novels are mysteries. The Witches novels are battles that have a lot of literary allegory. While the Death series and some of Pratchett’s One-Offs (novels featuring characters that do not appear anywhere else in the series) look closely at humankind; its world-view, attitudes, institutions, beliefs.

I will say Pratchett is the one SciF-Fantasy novelist I have read who has “discussed” faith and religion in the most unbiased way. He has much to criticize in religious institutions (he has much to criticize about social institutions in general) but he recognizes the power and benefits of faith and belief. Small Gods, Carpe Jugulum.

When you read Pratchett’s novels, you can see he borrowed a lot of individual pieces from here and there (Shakespeare in particular in the Witches stories.) But he puts them together in his own wonky way and still brings fresh insight into human nature.

But where Pratchett really shines are his characters: Rich, flawed, entertaining, striving, human and yes, funny. The two best things about Pratchett’s characters are that first, he recognizes that there is a wide variety of human nature. The characters are not merely different people, they come from a very wide range of different moral and emotional cores: from the “Naturally Good” (Magrat, Captain Carrott) to the “Naturally Evil, but Decided to be Good” (Granny Weatherwax) to the “No Scruples, but No Harm” (Nanny Ogg, Corporal Nobbs) to the “Good with a Dark Side” (Sam Vimes) to the “Amorals of Order” (Venitari, Death) and so on.

And these cores are only the basis of rich characterizations, all of which grow throughout their series of books. They are all fascinating, with little cul-de-sacs of personality traits that somehow all fit together to make a real person, even if they are a witch or a werewolf or the universally-known, but undeclared, King of Ankh-Morpork.

I’ll also add that he does a fantastic job writing women as women, with their own power. The Witches are of course the obvious example of that, but great female characters are scattered throughout Discworld; each unique, each with their own strength from the warrior woman archetype in Corporal Angua to Lady Sybyl’s personal charisma. Even those who may appear powerless at the outset (Magrat, Lady Sybil) find their strengths and grow from the experience.

My favorite series are the Death/Susan Death series.

Susan

Not only because Susan is my absolute favorite character (sensible woman of dry wit trying to be sensible in an unsensible world), but because these stories delve the deepest into human psyche and conceptualization. The Hogfather is required reading.

For like the entire planet.

Second favorite are the Watch/Sam Vimes stories.

Vimes

Sam comes in #2 because is an honest flat foot in a corrupt world, who knows he is a flat foot in a corrupt world, yet he has to set things right. He can’t leave mysteries alone. He knows he is not the smartest (and Pratchett had a comment or two about the Sherlock-type of investigator), but he is the most determined and pretty damned clever. And as anti-authoritarian authority figure, he is going to go his own way and speak his mind, even if that means barging in to a Guild-leaders meeting and putting an axe through the table. Because of his successes, despite all his disgusted protests, he keeps getting promoted until he becomes a Duke. What I also love is that people around Sam expect much of him because he has “hidden qualities,” but what Sam knows is that some of his “hidden qualities” are not so pretty. He can be incredibly, animalistically, violent. But because he has wrestled with that side of himself (and drink) for so long, it makes him a stronger person (which comes into play in Thud). Yet despite the tough-guy facade, he is a loving (and respectful) husband and father.

Plus his feud with the Assassin’s Guild was pretty funny.

Most of The Watch mysteries are pretty good. I’m torn between Feet of Clay and The Fifth Elephant as my favorites. I’m going to with The Fifth Elephant because it’s a good mystery where we get to see Sam’s darker side really come out, and Sam’s wife Lady Sybyl shows her strength as well.

A lot of people also point to Night Watch as required reading for its take on how political power struggles manipulate the common people, who pay the highest price.

Another highly recommended novel is Small Gods, which is a One Off for Pratchett’s deepest look into religion, society’s effects on it and its effects on society.

I’m not a huge Rincewind fan, but Sourcery is a great book. I mean, one of the great, tear-the-world-assunder wars of magic ended by half a brick in a sock. Seriously, how can you beat it?

For the Witches series, it’s a tough call between Lords and Ladies (a Pratchett-esque take on A Midsummer Night’s Dream where Magrat finally comes into her own) and Carpe Jugulum. I’m going to give it to Carpe Jugulum, which is probably his most ambitious novel. He touches on different concepts of evil. He explores the Mother-Maiden-Crone aspect of the witches when Granny Weatherwax bows out, Magrat becomes a mother and a new, younger witch, Agatha Nitt, enters the fold. (This leaves Nanny Ogg not happy about assuming the role of “the other one.”). He examines the difference between religion and faith to the individual (where Small Gods had been more of religion and faith to society). And we get more insight into one of Discworld’s more fascinating characters: Granny Weatherwax.

Also, Pictsies.

So even if you are not a big fantasy reader, you have to give the Discworld books a whirl. They’re fun books that do not insult your intelligence; they have good stories with great characters that make you laugh, think and touch you with moments of insight and poignancy.

Prepare Yourselves…

…for mas violence, foul language and breaking the 4th wall. Repeatedly.

And chimichangas.

Yes, it’s Marvel’s first R-Rated movie (which really was the only way they could do justice to the character). Since Blade anyway.

First there was the viral trailer to get the fan momentum going for this film that came out last year (which had the best use of “Just Call Me Angel” in an film or TV program, ever). Then the release date announcement.

Then the leaked trailer from ComicCon (which has some additional footage than the official trailer below, but it’s small with really crappy resolution) a few weeks go.

Then the teaser for the official trailer.

And now, for to make Geek-Happy! This, people, is Deadpool.

NSFW, small children, sensitive AI’s and fainting goats.

It’s is so good to be a geek these days.