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2019: Blue Dick, Blue Team, and Blue, Navy

2019: Blue Dick, Blue Team, and Blue, Navy

This year we are hosting a variety of looks back at 2019 as hosts and friends-of-the-show offer up the things that defined the year for them. Today we have fellow nerd lawyer and tabletop RPG writer, André La Roche, share the things that stood out to him this year. NOTE: This contains spoilers for the season finale of HBO’s Watchmen and DC Comics’ Doomsday Clock.


Wow. Wow, wow, wow. 2019 was a banner year for geekery. When D. Bethel asked me to contribute this year-end review, I had many options to choose from in my corner of geekery. In particular, I had to resist talking about the following honorable mentions: the release of Avengers: Endgame, the controversial ending of HBO’s Game of Thrones, the drama regarding Sony reclaiming the rights to Spider-Man from Marvel, before ultimately agreeing to share custody (Sony gets weekends and holidays), and the sky-is-falling hubbub around the release of Joker. (To be fair, I already wrote about that one here).

While I’m sure these events and many others will also be a part of others’ 2019 year-end discussions, the next three represent the highlights of my own particular year in geek.

Both HBO’s Watchmen series and DC’s sequel, Doomsday Clock, radically confront the original Watchmen‘s themes in their own ways. Source: (L-R) HBO, DC Comics.

Fixing Boomer Comics: Or, the Story of How Doctor Manhattan’s Heart Grew Three Sizes that Day

Earlier this year, an amusing story emerged regarding the hashtag “#fixingboomercomics.” In it, several artists identified problematic comic strips written and illustrated by Baby Boomer creators. These comics often depicted straight white middle class men puzzling and chortling over issues faced by their wives and children. Independent creators “fixed” these comics by adding a panel depicting the Boomer male protagonist, instead of making fun of others, engaging in the issues that interested them with good-natured curiosity. However, I don’t think the artists behind this movement predicted the highest profile incidence of this: not one, but two “fixes” of Watchmen by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons.

December 2019 showed the conclusion of not one, but two sequels to Watchmen. The first being the similarly-titled HBO television series, and the second being the comic book Doomsday Clock published by DC Comics. A proper analysis of each of these works independently, or even comparatively, would take more room than I have here. However, for our purposes the following suffices: both works end with a complete and tidying ordering of the moral universe which includes Adrian Veidt (aka Ozymandias) being apprehended for his act of terrorism in the original graphic novel, and the stoically amoral Doctor Manhattan dying after being overcome with feelings of love and hope (respective to the show and novel).

via GIPHY

This is one of the few instances where I side with Alan Moore’s notorious hostility towards adaptations of his works. Watchmen, by design, was supposed to be a rejection of the white hats vs. black hats style of comic books. The bad guy killed millions, and got away, and the heroes turned a blind eye for the greater good. Both sequels saw fit to “fix” this carefully considered ending. To my great disappointment. The willingness to defy conventional superheroic storytelling was a large part of why this work stood out, and influenced a generation of comics to come after it. Though I enjoy hopeful and optimistic stories, I also at times enjoy those that end on darker notes. After all, I live in a world where Augusto Pinochet died peacefully in bed in his 90s after killing or disappearing thousands of political dissidents. This is the same world where members of the Bush administration are not presently in jail for waging a preventative war in Iraq, nor likely ever will be. It’s a world where children are being separated from their parents, held in cages along the U.S.-Mexican border, and in some cases reportedly experiencing sexual assault.

Works like the original Watchmen offer the following consolation: “Yes, the world can be a terrible place where justice is fleeting. You’re not alone in recognizing this, and yet, you can still carry on with grace and dignity.”

In the original Watchmen, the Boomer got it right.

This promo image for HoX and PoTen begs as many questions as the entirety of the event itself. Art by Mark Brooks. Source: Marvel

HoX and PoTen

The X-Men franchise was my first true obsessive-compulsive venture into geekery as a child. Sure, I loved Transformers, Thundercats, and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, but when it came to X-Men, I became an encyclopedia of useless knowledge—down to the characters’ heights and weights gleaned from their 1993 Skybox trading cards. After the success of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, the X-Men assumed a less-prominent role in Marvel Comics—that is, until Marvel regained the movie rights to the property.
This year, Marvel published an ambitious relaunch of the X-franchise with the intertwined miniseries House of X (“X” as in the letter) and Powers of X (“X” as in the Roman numeral for “ten”). Or, as I like to call them, “HoX and PoTen.” D. Bethel has already discussed what HoX/PoX meant for him, but hey—when you have two X-fans contributing to a website, you’re bound to get some redundancy when X-Issues pop up.

This relaunch completely overhauled the high concept of the X-Franchise—all of mutant kind, including villains, find themselves united and creating their own island nation of Krakoa (the villain from the very first reboot of the franchise in 1975’s Giant-Size X-Men #1), and their own unique culture which includes their own language. On top of this, mutants no longer need fear death, due to the implementation of so-called “resurrection protocols.” Whether Krakoa’s inhabitants are truly able to cheat death isn’t something I’m convinced of.

In HoX and PoTen, Charles Xavier found a way for mutants to avoid––or at the very least, invalidate––the threat of death. From House of X #5, by Jonathan Hickman (words), Pepe Larraz (lines), and Marte Gracia (colors). Source: Marvel

HoX and PoTen and the “Dawn of X” phase that followed them, have all been imperfect. Despite this, though, the ambition behind this wide-ranging relaunch is undeniable. And in the hands of skilled storytellers, those gaps in the premise will no doubt meet with eventual patching. Overall, it’s good to see Marvel’s Merry Mutants receiving some tender love and care.

Patent drawings of the (L-R) “Craft Using an Intertial Mass Reduction Device” and the “High-Frequency Gravitational Wave Generator.” Source: TheDrive.com/USPTO.GOV

Technology is More Advanced Than You Know

“Technology is more advanced than you know.” This enigmatic statement, devoid of any other context, was uttered to me many years ago by a contact in the defense sector. At the time, I found this statement incredibly curious. After all, I consider myself reasonably well-informed. I get my news from a variety of sources with a variety of political and world views. I have friends who are researchers in many fields or employees at leading tech companies and ask them about the work that seems interesting and daring. I always had a rough sense of what was coming down the pike. Or so I thought.

2019 was the year where reports of credible UFO sightings made the news. The most noteworthy of which was the U.S. Navy confirmation of video from 2004 depicting a UFO—now rebranded as Unidentified Aerial Phenomenon (UAP) that reportedly broke the known laws of physics: hovering in mid-air, and accelerating from a dead stop to a speed of approximately 2,400 miles per hour.

Now, as much as I wish this were evidence of extraterrestrial life, I can’t claim that it is. What it is evidence of, is a technology so radically advanced that it defies conventional wisdom of the known laws of physics and their mechanical applications, and represents a quantum leap (not the Bakula kind) between current understandings of what is scientifically possible, and what science can actually achieve.

After the story of the 2004 video broke, my curiosity was piqued and I continued to do research into the subject of UAPs. What I found was equally as shocking as the Navy-corroborated video.

Earlier this year, the Navy filed a series of patents that, if accurate, could mean that we are on the precipice of attaining Star Trek-like levels of technological development.

These patents were developed by a Naval scientist, researcher, and aerospace engineer named Salvatore Cezar Pais located at the United States Navy’s Naval Air Station Patuxent River. Dr. Pais’s patent applications are for the following devices: an “electromagnetic field generator and method to generate an electromagnetic field” with the principal stated application of deflecting asteroids that may hit Earth; a “craft using an inertial mass reduction device” that could be a high speed “hybrid aerospace/undersea craft” that could “engineer the fabric of our reality at the most fundamental level”; a “room temperature semiconductor” that would enable “the transmission of electrical power with no losses”; a “high frequency gravitational wave generator” used for the purposes of “advanced propulsion, asteroid disruption and/or deflection, and communications through solid objects”; and a “plasma compression fusion device” that would effectively represent the holy grail of energy sciences—nuclear fusion.

Of interesting note, was that the Navy’s patent application for the craft using an inertial mass reduction device was originally rejected by the patent examiner at the United States Patent and Trademark Office as being scientifically impossible. It was then that the Navy appealed the patent officer’s determination with the Chief Technical Officer Dr. James Sheehy testifying that not only was the patent application operable or near operable (the requirements for a patent being granted), but that the Chinese Government was close to perfecting such technology. Similar appeals were filed by the Navy in response to other patent rejections.

Many commentators were unconvinced that the Navy was actually close to implementing the described technologies. Some believed that this was actually an elaborate disinformation campaign, designed to trick rival governments into wasting resources pursuing impossible technologies. That may very well be the case. But I also wonder how many of these commentators were being held back by their own possibly imperfect perceptions of what is scientifically possible—the nay-saying old guard to Dr. Pais’s modern-day Galileo. The technologies described in Dr. Pais’s patents are definitely the stuff of Star Trek—but so too were cloning, gene editing, hand-held mobile communications devices, tablet computing, augmented reality gaming, and real-time high definition video-conferencing. All of those technologies have since come to fruition.

If you’re interested in reading about Dr. Pais and the Navy’s patents in greater detail, www.TheDrive.com has been dogged in publishing a fantastic series of articles with each new development over the past year. Each of these patents and the stories and commentary around them far exceed the scope of this year-end review’s ability to do them justice, and are worth spending a lazy Saturday afternoon reading. Who knows—alongside the credible reports of UAPs, they may convince you, as they did me, that there’s hope that technology is more advanced than you know.

In Conclusion

For me, 2019 had two great highlights—a return to prominence of my first geeky love, and a renewed hope for realizing technological marvels that I once thought were limited to the world of fiction. It also brought with it some disappointment, as the custodians of the one of the most influential graphic novels repudiated the moral ambivalence that was its most important artistic legacy. On the whole though, these developments of 2019 have left me more than eager to see what 2020 will bring us beyond perfect hindsight.

Tummy Drums

Tummy Drums

NOT FAR FROM HOME: It was announced that Sony and Disney/Marvel had once again struck a deal that will keep Tom Holland’s Spider-Man in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, much to the joy of fans and to the benefit of both companies’ bank accounts. Having discussed the initial breakup back when it happened in August, Andrew and D. Bethel have a surprisingly heated discussion of this generally happy news.

THE STRANGEST HANDSHAKE: British tabletop company, Games Workshop, announced that it will be licensing one of its beloved properties––Warhammer 40,000––to American comic book giant, Marvel Comics, to make a line of comic books. This is interesting because both of Games Workshop’s original Warhammer line and especially its Warhammer 40,000 line have deep lore and continuities that has our hosts wondering how well it will translate to a comic book series.

RELEVANT LINKS:

RELEVANT EPISODES:

  • Ghost Highway (23 August 2019): Where Andrew and D. Bethel talk about the great Sony-Marvel contract dissolution of 2019.
  • New Dangers (20 September 2019): Where, briefly, D. Bethel and Andrew display their light wrestling knowledge in the light of AEW’s strange storyline built around a jock heel wrestler insults his opponent for liking Dungeons & Dragons.

INFO:

FEATURED MUSIC:

Roman Math

Roman Math

WEEK IN GEEK: This week, Andrew continues his trend of trying things out years after their initial release by sitting down with 2014’s Sims 4 while D. Bethel tries to wrap his head around the opaque––but good?––X-franchise reboot in House of X #1 and Powers of X #1, both written by Jonathan Hickman. SPOILERS for these two titles; you’ve been warned.

RELEVANT LINKS:

RELEVANT EPISODES:

INFO:

FEATURED MUSIC:

Start With Doom

Start With Doom

CAN YOU SDCC ME NOW?: Though San Diego Comic Con is ostensibly about comic books, the biggest announcements that seem to come out of the show revolve around cinematic and televised properties. Andrew and D. Bethel focus on the announcements that not only ignited their excitement but also triggered their critical processes, from the Cats trailer to the next big DC/CW “Arrowverse” crossover event to the new Star Trek show to Marvel’s Phase 4 lineup.

RELEVANT LINKS:

Image Credit: Pocket Books/Marvel/CBS

RELEVANT EPISODES:

INFO:

FEATURED MUSIC:

Arias In Embers

Arias In Embers

WEEK IN GEEK: This week, our hosts talk about new things involving their favorite things. For example, Andrew discusses his time playing the Modiphius tabletop RPG, Star Trek Adventures and how it adapts all aspects of the long-lasting franchise, and D. Bethel makes his defense for 20th Century Fox’s Dark Phoenix.

RELEVANT LINKS:

RELATED EPISODES:

INFO:

FEATURED MUSIC:

Captaining America

Captaining America

ENDGAME POSTGAME: SPOILER WARNING Andrew and D. Bethel have both seen Avengers: Endgame and, conveniently, the Russo brothers lifted the spoiler ban on Monday; so, our hosts dive right into soup of scenes, moments, narrative threads, and surprises that make up this landmark movie.

RELEVANT EPISODES:

  • Shortcast 54 – Cameo Train (11 May 2018): Where Andrew and D. Bethel discuss Avengers: Infinity War in startling detail.
  • Avengers Pregame (26 Apr. 2019): Wherein D. Bethel and Andrew discuss the hype and expectation leading up to Avengers: Endgame.

RELEVANT LINKS:

Image: Marvel (From Spidey Super Stories #39, art by Win Mortimer and Mike Esposito)

INFO:

FEATURED MUSIC:

E.A.A.: Everything’s An Acronym

E.A.A.: Everything’s An Acronym

MARVELLOUS DEBUT: A quick check-in with the toxic male comics fandom to start the show. A few weeks ago, Andrew and D. Bethel talked about how proponents for ComicsGate and their robot army were trying to tank Captain Marvel well before it released into theaters with negative scores on Rotten Tomatoes. The hosts just wanted to recognize that Marvel Studios’ newest movie debuted to record-breaking ticket sales, thoroughly debunking and neutering the latest efforts by those who try to gatekeep and, honestly, destroy comics fandom and its associated medium.

D. Bethel’s notes for this episode, as referenced in the Captain Marvel segment. Apologies for the harsh language.

A LOT OF GREY AREA: A new trailer for the live-action adaptation of the classic Disney animate feature, Aladdin, went live this week and while the first trailer made Andrew and D. cautiously optimistic, this new one got both of them fully on-board. They talk about adaptations again, specifically from medium to medium (like, in this case, animation to live-action) and why it’s a good thing for adapters (is that the word?) to break with tradition and say something unique even with a beloved property.

RELEVANT EPISODES:

  • Shortcast 74 – Texas the Rabbit: Where Andrew and D. Bethel talked about ComicsGate’s first attempt to show how comics should be made (and fail at doing so). Also, the RELEVANT EPISODES in the show notes have a comprehensive bibliography of other episodes where ComicsGate was discussed.
  • 21st Century Mouse (22 Feb. 2019): Where D. Bethel discussed the live-action adaptation of Battle Angel, focusing on the choices the filmmakers made to bring the story of the manga and anime to a live-action film.
  • Empty Justice (01 March 2019): Where the review bombing of Captain Marvel was previously discussed.

RELEVANT LINKS:

  • Boasts of Bethel: Getting to the Point“: Going into the wayback machine, D. Bethel wrote down his thoughts about adapting stories from one medium to another, using the relationship between A Song of Ice and Fire/Game of Thrones as a reference point (spoiler free).

INFO:

FEATURED MUSIC:

Con Artists #04 – StocktonCon Winter 2019

Con Artists #04 – StocktonCon Winter 2019

The lauded limited podcast series returns with a new episode as well as a fan-favorite co-host, Kyrun Silva of Taurus Comics as he and D. Bethel (check out his webcomic, Long John, and his podcast, A Podcast [ , ] For All Intents and Purposes) pair up to take on the first StocktonCon Winter show. This episode focuses on the strange space that indie creators inhabit, that realm between fan and professional and how those waters can get muddied, especially when it comes to reading and respecting creators from your childhood (there is a lot of Rob Liefeld talk in these conversations) to meeting your heroes as a creator in your own right.

CORRECTION: D. Bethel said that one of the Uncanny X-Men issues he had Jim Lee sign was #249; he meant to say it was #248. All apologies.

OTHER EPISODES:

  • Con Artists #01 – StocktonCon, pt. 1 : The drive home from the first day of the show. Kyrun and D. discuss making sales, confidence, and the comics they grew up reading and enjoying.
  • Con Artists #02 – StocktonCon, pt. 2 : The drive to StocktonCon to start Day 2 of the show. They discuss the importance of continuity, the level of fan engagement and ownership over continuity, and Dan’s strange reading habits growing up.
  • Con Artists #03 – StocktonCon, pt. 3 : Where Kyrun and D. talk about the breadth of indie comics, writing comics, and dive headfirst into personal nostalgia.

REFERENCES:

Art by Kyrun Silva.

  • The panel from Frank Miller’s Rōnin that Rob Liefeld homaged in New Mutants #100:

Top: Frank Miller’s Ronin (source: DC Comics)/ Bottom: Rob Liefeld’s New Mutants #100 (source: Marvel Comics)

  • And, for what it’s worth, here is a photograph of a 13 year-old D. Bethel at 1994’s San Diego Comic Con showing Jim Lee the mysterious foil card in its snug plastic case:

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Special thanks to Kyrun Silva for agreeing to being recorded and for driving us to and from the convention.

FEATURED GUEST:

-Kyrun Silva of Taurus Comics

FEATURED RECORDING EQUIPMENT:

-Tascam DR-40

FEATURED EXISTENTIAL WESTERN WEBCOMIC:

Long John

FEATURED MUSIC:

-“Road Music” by D. Bethel
-“Bounce” by D. Bethel

Shortcast 74 – Texas the Rabbit

Shortcast 74 – Texas the Rabbit

POST-APOCALYPSE NOW: After D. Bethel talks a bit about the California fires (he’s safe albeit drenched in smoke from the Camp Fire––please donate money over supplies to help most during this time of containment and rebuilding), Andrew discusses his hour or so playing Fallout 76.

#IRONSHITES: Richard Meyer and the ComicsGate controversy has been covered many times before on the show, and the latest installment has Richard Meyer aka “Comics & Diversity” putting his money where his mouth is. His 120-page graphic novel, Iron Sights, (written by Meyer, art by Ibai Canales) has been released (it cost $20 for a copy of the book if you contributed to its Indiegogo campaign) was summarily criticized by Twitter user, Jafleece, in a spectacular and validating fashion. The 60+ thread starts here:

Andrew and D. discuss not only what they saw from the thread, but what this says about the claims Meyer and ComicsGate have been levying toward the industry for awhile now.

END BITS: Also, they spend some time at the end to discuss the death of Stan Lee, below is the clip that D. mentioned was his favorite Stan Lee cameo, from this year’s Marvel’s Spider-Man by Insomniac Games.

And, for good measure, the Pokémon: Detective Pikachu tralier:

RELEVANT LINKS:

RELEVANT EPISODES:

INFO:

For all intents and purposes, that was an episode recap.

FEATURED MUSIC:

-“District Four” by Kevin McLeod (incompetech.com)*
-“Disco Medusae” by Kevin McLeod (incompetech.com)*
*Tracks are licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0 License
http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/

Episode 159 – Toxic Delivery Mechanism

Episode 159 – Toxic Delivery Mechanism

image source: Universal Pictures

HALLOWED HALLOWEEN: The Spookytober topic for this week is the forty-years later direct sequel to John Carpenter’s breakthrough––and culturally important––hit, Halloween. This new movie, Halloween, sees the return of Jamie Lee Curtis to her role as Laurie Strode but instead of being the prey of Michael Meyers, it is he who becomes the hunted. Andrew and D. Bethel discuss the series and what they’re expecting/hoping from this new movie.

WEEK IN GEEK: Andrew gets his Metroidvania on with Chucklefish’s Timespinner and how eerily Castlevania: Symphony of the Night it seems to be at times while D. Bethel becomes enthralled with the first five episodes of the podcast audio drama produced by a collaboration between Marvel Comics and Stitcher (the podcast streaming website), Wolverine: The Long Night.

RELEVANT EPISODES:

LINKS:

INFO:

For all intents and purposes, that was an episode recap.

FEATURED MUSIC:

-“Disco Medusae” by Kevin McLeod (incompetech.com)*
-“District Four” by Kevin McLeod (incompetech.com)*
*Tracks are licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0 License
http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/