WEEK IN GEEK: In honor of the 53rd anniversary of the show, Andrew watched the 1970s Doctor Who serial, “Day of the Daleks,” and follows that up with the new timey-wimey show, Timeless. Dan gets nostalgic to re-read X-Men: God Loves, Man Kills by Chris Claremont and Brent Anderson and finds, to his estimation, that it holds up rather well.
WAR KIND OF CHANGES: Andrew picks up Fallout 4 on PS4 and talks about what he’s seeing with Dan, who still hasn’t beaten it.
THE CRAFT OF CRAFTING: Building off of Fallout 4‘s systems, Dan and Andrew talk about the rise of crafting mechanics in video games, from Minecraft to Diablo II to Skyrim.
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For all intents and purposes, that was an episode recap.
-“Stayin’ in Black” by Wax Audio
-“It’s All Over But the Crying” by The Ink Spots
-“Building the Deathcoaster” by Joseph LoDuca (from Army of Darkness)
Though it garnered some attention at the end of October when Deadpool director, Tim Miller, left the sequel’s pre-production over “creative differences” with star and the character’s champion, Ryan Reynolds, it seemed to get a bit buried under other high drama news, such as the 2016 election. While this seems to be a trend in the world of comic book movies extending as far back as Edgar Wright’s notable exit from Ant-Man to the constant issues that The Flash movie is having, the Deadpool situation marks an interesting departure from the more traditional artist vs. studio clash; instead, it seems to be artist vs. artist.
An interesting discussion could be had about what made Deadpool the sensation that it was: Ryan Reynolds’ infectious charm and tireless cheerleading for the film or Tim Miller’s unique vision, style, and story (he was developing the script for the sequel at the time of his departure). Arguably, that conversation is a bit irrelevant because, with as large as movie-making teams are and how many pieces that need to come together to get a movie to happen at all, the reality stands in contrast to the binary nature of the argument. If superhero movies are anything, they are not really the place for auteurs. Despite that, this debate seems to be churning forward as the news hit.
This has been bolstered by the mostrecentnews that returning composer, Tom Holkenborg, aka Junkie XL, has also left production as a gesture of solidarity toward Tim Miller. Holkenborg posted the news to his official Facebook page and Twitter feed in a fairly revealing look at his decision-making process. He noted that Miller’s exit caused personal “soul-searching” for his own place within the project, which lead to his ultimate decision:
Tim [Miller] was the driving force behind Deadpool and me getting involved in this amazing project. Deadpool without Tim at the helm just does not sit right with me and that is why I have decided not to be involved in the second chapter.
Apparently, Ryan Reynolds wants the sequel to focus more on the R-rated humor and ground-level aesthetic that the first movie captured, while Miller wanted to increase the budget and emphasize the style and visual creativity of the original film, as well as casting decisions with regard to Cable and X-Force teammate, Domino.
More than the debate as to who has the more valid approach to the sequel, this strife (pardon the X-Force pun) points more to the likelihood that Deadpool was a confluence of luck, earnestness, and creative zeal and was not necessarily a considered and focused creative vision akin to that which Marvel Studios has cultivated under the guidance of Kevin Feige.
Where this leaves Deadpool 2 is not clear. Variety reports that a deal is closing with John Wick director, David Leitch. Casting is still nebulous around Cable, though with Miller’s exit so too goes his top pick of Friday Night Lights star, Kyle Chandler. With Reynolds still on board, Deadpool 2 will no doubt retain much of its initial charm and personality; whether that’s enough will be for the audience to decide.
WHAT’S NEXT?: Considering the imminent political event happening in the United States of America, Dan and Andrew examine how television has taken a look at the presidency by comparing and contrasting the pilot episodes (mostly) of The West Wing and House of Cards (though they specifically already discussed the House of Cards pilot in Episode 37).
*Audio clip captured from The West Wing, “In the Shadow of Two Gunmen, Part II.”
INFINITE CRISES IN INFINITE MOVIES: This week, news hit that director Rick Famuyiwa left the DC/Warner Bros. film, The Flash, late into pre-production. This is the second director to leave the project, and the third to leave a film set in the DC Universe established with 2013’s Man of Steel (before this, Michelle MacLaren left Wonder Woman). Andrew and Dan examine the state of the DC Universe movies and wonder what the outcome may be for this grand experiment. Referenced in this segment is the Ghostbusters v. Star Trek Beyond discussion from Episode 101, if you want background on that controversy.
Again, D. Bethel’s webcomic, Long John, has finished up its second chapter. We encourage you to give it a look and to share if you like it.
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For all intents and purposes, that was an episode recap.
-“Stayin’ in Black” by Wax Audio
-“The West Wing Opening Theme” by W. G. Snuffy Walden (performed by The City of Prague Philharmonic Orchestra)
-“I Ran (So Far Away)” by A Flock of Seagulls
-“House of Cards Main Title Theme” by Jeff Beal
It’s no surprise by now that I’m a fervent X-Men apologist and proudly so. Such sentiments are only bolstered by their very strange treatment by Marvel over the last eight or so years. Most of my conspiratorial talk is just for fun, but there are some details that eke through and seem just a bit too shady to be mere coincidence. There was the omission of any mutants from the cover of Marvel’s 75th Anniversary magazine, which was given away for free (which Andrew and I discussed early in our show’s history). Since then, they have made Cyclops––the boy scout figurehead of the mutants (ostensibly the Superman of the X-Men)––a terrorist murderer (#cyclopswasright), they have legit killed the most famous mutant character, Wolverine, and now they are having the team nobody really knows about (but they really want people to know about) fight the team they want everyone to forget about in the “Inhumans vs. X-Men” event (but not before they have a prologue event literally called “The Death of X”).
Comicsverse are, admittedly, as apologetic about the X-Men as I am, but they approach this topic with a collectively cooler head. Jack Fisher’s article looks at what he describes as the problem with this fight beyond the obviously corporate undertones that poison the well. He sees this forced skirmish as a severely problematic one based on the origin of these teams and how these continuous “…vs. X-Men” storylines are doing more cultural damage in the long run even if books are being sold. Fisher boils it down beautifully:
Whatever the outcome and whatever the legal undertones, the concept between Inhumans vs. X-Men is flawed. On one side, you have a minority that has been forcibly sterilized twice in the past decade. On the other, you have a team with a tradition of racism, xenophobia, and slavery. It’s not a battle between heroes as much as it is an exercise in contrivance.
I don’t know much about the Inhumans, but it seems that in the cinematic universe they are building them from the ground up. On more than one occasion, it has been noted (especially by co-host Andrew) that they’re just trying to slot them in the empty socket where mutants normally go. But that exacerbates the problem, I would argue.
It’s not as the Den of Geek article linked to in the last paragraph argues that the Inhumans are “the same basic idea, but with the serial numbers filed off.” It’s worse than that. It’s a self-fulfilling prophecy. Mutants were created to represent the minorities of this country and to dramatize their plight and struggle to accomplish two things: first, it presents these otherwise uncomfortable and possibly unknown issues to the predominantly white readership; second, it gives minorities (be it color, creed, gender, or sexual orientation) a safe place to go in the world of comics. The X series of books is about showing what true prejudice, bias, and hate looks like and having the minority survive.
And what happens?
In 2005, editor-in-chief, Joe Quesada instructs the X-writers to kill off all mutants except for 198. Genocide. Narratively (and creatively), it made sense. Mutants work best when they are a minority. But they were also presented as being the next stage in human evolution. With so many mutants on the planet (by 2005, at least) it seemed that theory was correct––science wins again––until they were forcibly made a minority again. That, of course, was the big event. But the small things, such as the omission from the Marvel 75th Anniversary Magazine cover, killing off fan-favorite characters, pitting C-level characters against them, etc., when piled together that makes a pretty loud squeaky wheel. Holistically, it looks like corporate monkey-wrenching and favoritism and simple catering to what is popular right now. But that isn’t all of it.
When taken in as a whole with the knowledge of what the X-Men actually mean, it looks like the type of thing the scared majority does to keep a minority down, and, in this day and age, it’s rather sickening.
With Halloween behind us, a lot of Lovecraft-focused articles circulated around the internet in celebration of the ghastly day. Mostly well-trod biographies or overviews of his racism, these are valid and important conversations to have as they can add a lot to the knowledge of the casual consumer. Much like the Luke Cage article I shared before, the most interesting article that I saw this last week was a roundtable discussion of Lovecraft and his work by three writers whose works have been influenced by his mythos: Kij Johnson, Cassandra Khaw, and Ruthanna Emrys.
The conversation is important because, despite being short, it digs deeper than a normal roundtable usually goes. The interviewer gets right to the point and discusses Lovecraft’s racism and what his legacy should be in a modern context, and––even better––the writers don’t shy away from giving tough answers.
As a reader of both Lovecraft and Lovecraft criticism, I belong to a few Lovecraftian fan pages on Facebook in the hope that there will be discussion as found in Joel Cunningham’s article. However, on the whole it’s a rather soft engagement with the material. What frustrates, however, is whenever an article that addresses his racism or intolerance starts making its way around the internet, the claws come out and the hate speech––for lack of a better word––fills the subsequent comments. Just as bad is the insistence on apathy in many cases, and that is a tragedy.
To say anything about Lovecraft’s work requires an acknowledgement of his love for the sciences. Like, a capital-L Love. The scientific method is all about asking questions, not picking sides. Science seeks to find how things thread into their place within the context of the universe and to see how that weave is part of a larger puzzle, a puzzle getting larger all the time. Science does not reward partisanship or apathy, it rewards the explorer. The fact that most Lovecraft stories warn people away from the scientific method is because Lovecraft himself was intrigued by the seemingly infinite possibility that science could offer us and then turned it on its ear for dramatic purposes. Why? Because horror stories are fun.
Again, referring to that previous Luke Cage roundtable I previously linked to, this type of conversation that these writers have about Lovecraft are the types of conversations we should be having because they are new and interesting and the ultimate outcome of this discourse is not to decide whether Lovecraft should be banished from modern thought or not––far from it. If we did that, we would be unable to have some interesting conversations. If anything, it would actually more firmly establish his place in the canon as someone worth talking about. Simply brushing off his racism will only keep him from reaching that place where I, most certainly, and most Lovecraft fans feel he should be woven into.
WEEK IN GEEK: Andrew listens to an academic argument about free to play games and, inspired by it, plays Marvel Avengers Academy while Dan plays through Episode 2 of Batman: The Telltale Series and still can’t believe how awesome Bruce Wayne is.
#CYCLOPSWASRIGHT: Bringing back resident Marvel expert, Elijah Kaine, the trio talk about Marvel and how it uses crossovers both in the narrative sense and in the business sense. They discuss everything from the thematic base of Civil War to prognosticating about the upcoming Death of X and Inhumans vs. X-Men. If you want to check out more of Elijah’s work, head to Geek Intellectualist and listen to is DC/CW television recap podcast, Superhero Recap Squad.
Leave your thoughts as comments at forallintents.net. Join the official Facebook page for links and conversations with other listeners. Be sure to subscribe to the show on iTunes and leave a review to help spread the word to new potential listeners.
For all intents and purposes, that was an episode recap.
-“Stayin’ in Black” by Wax Audio
-“Iron Man 3” by Brian Tyler (from Iron Man 3)
-“For Shovelry! (Boss Victory)” by Jake Kaufman (from Shovel Knight)
-“Carmina Burana: Fortuna Imperatrix Mundi: O Fortuna” by Carl Orff, conducted by André Previn
Episode 110 – A Taylor [ , ] For All Intents and Purposes
WEEK IN GEEK: Andrew attends Geek Girl Con 2016 and relays some of his experience to the show while Dan gets freaked the eff out while playing INSIDE, the latest from Playdead, makers of LIMBO.
OLD SEGMENT UPDATE: Back in Shortcast 14, Andrew and Dan discussed a fairly quiet lawsuit that Dungeons & Dragons and Magic: The Gathering publisher, Wizards of the Coast, was confronting with regard to the employment and compensation status of its Magic: The Gathering judges. Andrew did some digging and gives the latest in this ongoing dispute, as well as what to expect next.
THE POINT OF THE FLASH: The team brings on a new voice in the form of Taylor Katcher, of Comic Chat with Gat and The Cardboard Box, to talk about DC Comics, specifically The Flash and the seminal crossover event, “Flashpoint.” This storyline served as the basis for The Flash season 3 premiere and seems to be having some long-term ramifications for the rest of the season, but in ways that significantly differ from their comic source.
Leave your thoughts about this week’s topics as comments at forallintents.net. To get the latest updates and participate in listener discussions, be sure to join the official Facebook page. Help the show out by leaving a review on the iTunes store.
For all intents and purposes, that was an episode recap.
-“Stayin’ in Black” by Wax Audio
-“Ode to Joy (from Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 in D Minor, Op. 125)” by Beecham Choral Society, Rene Leibowitz, & Royal Philharmonic Orchestra
-“The Magic House” by Nobuo Uematsu (from Final Fantasy VI)
-“Flash” by Queen
-“The Ghost Inside” by Broken Bells
While not about a particular aspect of nerd culture, Frankenfield’s article finds a thread strung through most aspects of geekdom: a legitimate choice between independent and “mainstream” products. In most nerdy and geeky venues, these exist side-by-side––I think of the gaming scene (specifically video gaming; Andrew will have to answer for the tabletop angle) where venues as amalgamated as Steam as well as the more hierarchical PSN or XBox Live give independent products prime real estate in an effort to get both triple-A and the snarkily titled “triple-I” titles on players’ screens. For all the drama that has surrounded video games press in the last few years, it has acted to level the playing field, not through any particular agenda as much as finding good indie games and wanting to share. For all nerdy avenues, Kickstarter and other crowd-sourced funding platforms have been key in getting independent products more mainstream attention, even if it never officially achieves that status.
More than ever, the line between “independent” and “mainstream” is blurring, and I think it’s a good time to ask some simple, problem-posing questions: how and why? I think the second question is easier to answer than the first. The divide is closing because traditional “mainstream” products have become less satisfying over time. Perhaps that’s the wrong word; mainstream products have become predictable and staid even though they still rake in profit. But we see this most popularly, I think, with television (though an argument could be made for any nerd media right now). Even though the major networks are still the ratings kings and producing the most popular content, the revered content is made outside of those avenues, the top producers of which are probably HBO and AMC, currently. It was them, and networks like them, that pioneered the “new golden age of television” in which we now find ourselves. NBC, CBS, and ABC are not the trailblazers here, even if they are the “winners” using outdated metrics.
As for the “how”, that is an answer that produces the most consternation and danger as this movement progresses. The nice thing about the mainstream system is that it provides traditional and, for the most part, proven processes for bringing projects to life. The problem is that, over time, the process became corrupted by brown-nosing who-you-knows with impenetrable baselines for entry. The rise of the independents, as Frankenfield illustrates, took advantage of new media and presented new content on its own terms, letting the audience find it, even if that audience was niche. The problem with this is––and I saw this all the time in webcomics––that, arguably, the independent road to success can only be travelled once. Again, with webcomics, the success of strips like Penny Arcade or PvP or Axe Cop led to unwarranted (and unproven) codification of paths to success and many eager creators became wrapped in false righteousness when their duplication of Penny Arcade‘s arc didn’t provide the same results for them.
With new media––specifically, internet-based media––it seems that roads to success are made out of sand and are erased as soon as they are coursed. It makes “success” a much more malleable phrase for independents than a mainstream product ever could find. It’s why maintaining a self-sufficient comic through ads, Kickstarter campaigns, and regular Patreon contributions could be seen as more of a success than the new Ghostbusters, even though its gross revenue is approaching $220 million dollars (I’m this fully cognizant of the fact that those returns are less than the production budget and marketing budget combined, but there was also Zoolander 2; check those numbers). Whether it’s in the black or not, people still paid $220 million dollars to go see it, which is impressive from an indie standpoint, but to many it’s a mainstream failure, whereas in the context of self-sustaining webcomics we could mean an amount that simply covers hosting costs. If anything, its this relative definition of success that’s going to be making the biggest marks on pop culture in the future, and Frankenfield points to specific examples of this––Louis C.K. and Chance the Rapper––to get this point across.
It’s no secret that I hold Marvel’s persecuted mutants close to my heart, and to that extent, I cherish the filmic versions a bit more dear than many MCU properties if only because of my nostalgic tie to them (while wholly acknowledging that Marvel makes better movies, on the whole). That being said, I have long felt that it would be a mistake for the X-Men and their associated titles to move from Fox to Marvel Studios. To be frank, I was hoping to write an article about it, but Kyle Anderson at Nerdist hit that nail before I did.
I echo Anderson’s point wholeheartedly that the X-Men work best when mutants are the only super-powered people on the planet. I realize this only really exists in the context of the movies as they have been wholly integrated into the Marvel Comics universe since their inception, but as an easily digestible metaphor that can make the largest impact, it’s a context that is much more effective than if they had to interact with super-soldiers and aliens (though X-Men: Apocalypse got a bit close to that mark and, according to Bryan Singer, is a direction he wants to go in the future).
But, referring to what guest Elijah Kaine said during our Shortcast, there currently is room in popular culture for more than one continuity. Naturally, we all assumed it would be a stark line between Marvel and DC because that’s how it exists in the print world. However, we aren’t seeing an effort really coagulating on the DC/Warner Bros. side of things despite their best efforts and it’s also smart to think of things existing more broadly. We have the MCU, we have the Arrow-verse, and we have the X-Men continuity, among others. It’s a much more nuanced and multi-faceted world we live in than, perhaps, we want, but I think, overall, it is better for it.
NOTE: Kyle Anderson is the co-host of a podcast I’ve talked about before––Doctor Who: The Writer’s Room––in which he and Erik Stadnik talk about the writers from classic Doctor Who (1963-1989). They provide incredibly in-depth critical analysis of scripts and their writers that, I would argue, makes it essential listening if you are a fan. This may also make me a bit biased toward Kyle Anderson’s argument, though I didn’t realize he was the author until after I had read the piece.
and, in a slightly different interpretation of the column’s title, here is a video that is “Worth a Look”:
Andrew and I do our best to steer away from politics or politically-charged issues if only because those topics––no matter the side you stand for––can be frustrating discourse. Of all comic book figures used to translate the world of political friction, the X-Men seem most ripe for such utility if only because they were born from it.
I’m not going to speak to the thesis of this article, though it is well-written and cogent, but it shows a technique that I appreciated and of which I would like to see more. Comic books––well, comic book characters, at least––have jumped the divide between niche and the mainstream. If we want the source material to make that same leap, I think using these properties as lenses through which we can explain and analyze the crazy world around us––like we do with literature and movies at this point––should be done more. Whether you agree with Jon Barr’s article or not, take note of what it’s doing and you’ll see the sketch of an important step to improving the cultural validity of comic books.
The incredible point the article makes has to do with a dangerous side-effect of using fiction as allegory or critical lens:
The biggest disparity between the X-Men universe and the gun control debate is this concept of a ‘good guy.’ The world of the X-Men have those heroes to rally behind as an example of how powers should be used.
For the sake of storytelling, clear lines sometimes need to be drawn between things like “good” and “bad,” even when those distinctions are either blurry or rare in real life. The growling of political discourse has done a lot of vilification of the “other” side when, if we were all at a barbecue together, we would all probably have more in common than not. Though there may be more “good guys” than “bad guys” on either side of any debate, it is nice to use popular culture as an avenue for intellectual investigation. As the article admits, using the X-Men as spokespeople for only one side is not only irresponsible, but the X-Men themselves have been figuratively on both sides of what is arguably the same issue as gun control. But I like that possibility. If the X-Men are about anything, it’s giving anybody who feels on the outside a place to belong.
As I progress further and further into nerd culture commentary, a major thesis that continues to bubble to the surface is my strange and possibly nebulous feelings about nostalgia. Specifically, I am kind of appalled at the persistence of the idea that hardcore fans of a property deserve even a modicum of ownership over its evolving direction in popular culture. Respect and rightful say are two very different things.
I want to say this basically started with the spark of superhero cinema––with things like the first few X-Men movies and their proud abandon (at the time) of the technicolor, exaggerated costumes of the comics in favor of matching padded leather or, more specifically, Christopher Nolan’s Batman Begins in 2005 which really spearheaded the movement toward “gritty” and “grounded” nerd cinema. You could even argue that it started with Tim Burton’s Batman in 1989, but it didn’t hit a fever pitch until the turn of the century.
Since then, we have also seen reboots of properties from the 1980s that received similar “mature” treatment with efforts like the 2011 Cartoon Network Thundercats show that added liberal dashes of The Lord of the Rings to the popular ’80s toyline. Similarly, G.I. Joe made the tonal shift in 2009 with an animated series, G.I. Joe: Resolute, which pushed the beloved and silly franchise into serialized storytelling more commonly found in prime time drama, and did so to much acclaim. Similarly, the Arkham series of Batman games not only revolutionary gameplay but showed the players an even darker world than what we saw in the Nolan films with Gotham being a true den of sin and the rogue’s gallery being more grotesque and twisted than we’ve seen since the Burton films. Arguably, this is also what happened with Casino Royale which killed what little was left of the classic camp during Pierce Brosnan’s tenure. While these examples are the more well-regarded ones, the dark side of the trend has been things like the Michael Bay Transformers series and their dudebro Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles cousins.
Benjamin Bailey’s Nerdist article confronts an idea I’ve longed wanted to approach, but couldn’t really find my thesis without sounding petty and bitter (when I didn’t want to––I do love nostalgia trips). The idea that the franchises of our youth are nigh required to meet our adult sensibilities as they met the sensibilities of our youth is a strange request from rebooted or extended franchises. These properties spoke to us because they tapped into a piece of the zeitgeist that others couldn’t find or hold onto. Why should we expect or want anything different when reexamined for modern audiences thirty years later?
I remember having a semantic debate with Andrew back in high school regarding the correct phraseology to use when discussing the completion of a video game’s content. Basically it came down to two choices: did I beat the game or had I won the game?
This was back in the nineties when declaring a victor in order to make discussion about games as clear as possible mattered, because most games were basically the same thing. Most games were linear, most games had a story to tell, most games had an endgame scenario and player reward of some sort. But that’s gone now, and the need to declare a proper usage seems less significant now that there are games that can be beaten (as if the game were the opponent) and games that can be won (as if the end game or post-game content were a reward––with moregame). Some games now don’t ever end due to being competitive arena-type experiences or challenges to accomplish a new personal best.
There’s also the idea that people just aren’t finishinggames any more, which speaks more to how culture uses video games. I would say that in the eighties and nineties, since most games were basically the same thing, sitting down with a game involved pretty much the same process: 1. learn the mechanics, 2. Master the systems to 3. Complete all the programmed tasks and see the ending and/or credits. Now that’s only one of a variety of processes need to have at the ready when sitting down with the game. In fact, the first step of most gaming experiences now is simply figuring out what kind of game it is before loading in a proper order of operations. Gone Home is not Call of Duty which is not The Last of Us which is not Geometry Wars. The spectrum is only gaining more colors and variations.
Lewis Beard’s Paste article looks at how endings have changed over time and how seemingly harmless new systems fundamentally changed how games are made and played (New Game+). With that in mind, he looks at the modern state of game endings and why, perhaps, they just don’t matter anymore, and that’s fine. It’s just part of the evolution of this field and culture that, with hope, has no end in sight.
This is a harrowing article that really shows how much damage the #GamerGate crowd is doing to video games culture beyond just people trying to play and talk about games on the internet. I just know this: the only other time I have seen or heard of doxxing being used was by white supremacists, which is not the best company to keep.
Academia has been having a hard time in the last few decades as it has become the focal point for not only violence but general cultural ire due to the rise of trigger warnings and “safe space” debates. But it comes down to a simple point of fact: a university campus is a place where you gain education through trial and error. If it’s a safe place for anything, it’s a safe place to fail and try again with guidance (if you want it) and feedback (which you’ll get no matter what). That pressure from outside the academic sphere––in this case, virulent gamers who feel they have been tasked with the job of gatekeeping an open medium––is permeating inward is, in my eyes, a direct violation of what academics is about, a point to which A.D. Andrew hints at the end of her article:
Everywhere, academics with a digital focus are forced to make that choice. Can we afford to exist publicly? Others are making the choice in a different way—by not writing that article, by not pursuing that line of thinking. We talk often about the people silenced by online harassment, but research is being silenced as well. We are losing knowledge and with it, the potential for growth.
The problem is that #GamerGaters and sane people all agree on a fundamental point: video games are amazing. Why can’t it just stop there?
Comicsverse is a podcast I have found over the last few months and really enjoy. It’s dedicated to a nigh-academic (but still incredibly silly) look at comics––mostly Big 2 stuff––that really dives deep into the psychology, cultural criticism, and craft behind some of the biggest titles and their characters. I haven’t listened to every episode, instead focusing mostly on their X-Men-related podcasts (including a recent, really good interview with Chris Claremont).
The most recent X-Men podcast, titled “The Dream”, looks at the series and concept as a whole rather than focusing on a specific story arc or character, which is nice, and goes into great depth on a few topics I touched on in my own conversation about the X-Men with Elijah Kaine. Mostly, the panel-based seminar discussion focuses on the idea of “Xavier’s Dream” and how, over the course of the series, it has been iterated on, challenged, and damaged. They also have some fascinating investigations into the X-Men metaphor for minorities and how the characters have echoed specific real-world ideologies throughout history. It’s definitely worth a listen, though I must warn that even though the humor can get juvenile and a little annoying, the overall content actually makes the tiny cringes I went through worth it. They also bleep out the F-word with probably the worst sound effect I have ever heard, which can be a deal breaker when they go on F-word-fueled tangents.
We’ve broached the topicof adaptationsfrom one medium to another a few times over the life of the podcast, but this is a nice, focused look at a unique case. Growing up in the early days of anime proliferation––when titles were few and unprofessional translations could be bought (of varying quality) at conventions––Akira was kind of “the” anime. Not in the sense that it was the only one, but fans talked about it as if the film rested atop the peak of quality, outshining everything beneath it. You had to watch it and you were not going to understand it. It existed as a kind of filmic puzzle box that people would attempt to parse and explain which only further confused the discourse. In spite of that, Akira remains quite an amazing movie when watching it as an adult. Technically, it’s an awe-inspiring work of art. Its story, too, while often confusing and obtuse, does have a lot of incredibly complex social ideas and themes, especially about youth/teenage culture.
The truth is that the Akira film is an adaptation of a manga series that wasn’t even close to being done and writer/director, Katsuhiro Otomo, had to draw conclusions that made sense for a two-hour animated film. That’s what makes the movie such a standout from other adapted manga, however. It must carry some legitimacy because Katsuhiro Otomo also wrote and drew the manga; so, the moviegoer must be seeing a glimpse into the future. However, being such a big story, the task of adapting it into a movie that made any kind of sense at all would be an unenviable task, which makes it a fascinating case study in the continuing dialogue about adaptations. Tom Speelman’s article dives into the relationship between the anime and the manga in detailed and cogent fashion, drawing together the point that––despite some uneven spots––Otomo was able to create two masterpieces in two different mediums in the span of a decade. No matter how you look at it, that’s a feat that deserves a closer look.
With the massive success of the Marvel Studios movies and the can’t-help-but-watch trainwreck that Warner Bros. has done with the DC heroes since Chris Nolan left The Dark Knight trilogy, it’s easy to see the Fox and Sony licenses (The Fantastic Four/X-Men and Spider-Man, respectively) get short shrift from comic book fans, especially. Now, with regard to The Fantastic Four, Fox has done itself no favors and Sony straight-up gave up the fight to an extent by––as we all saw in Captain America: Civil War––giving Spider-man back to Marvel in all but the actual rights, so the anti-Fox/Sony arguments do carry a lot of weight, but the X-Men movies have become almost a forgotten undercurrent over which the “superhero movie” genre now flows.
I think “undercurrent” is the right word and that’s what Dan Marcus’ article does its best to show, recreating how the world felt back when the first X-Men movie was released in 2000. The only successful comic book adaptation made before it––aside from the Superman films––was Blade, but a lot of people didn’t even realize that was a comic book character beforehand; knowing that or not, the movie didn’t make any attempts to really draw that connection, either.
The first two X-Men movies were an interesting and important step because even though they didn’t fly the comic book colors in the way Marvel has deemed necessary in a modern context, it was still obliquely reverent, capturing what was important about the comics even if they changed a lot of details. While I personally think that the drubbing X-Men: Apocalypse received was mostly unearned and feverish due to its proximity to both Captain America: Civil War and Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, without the X-Men franchise it’s fair to say that we wouldn’t have the Marvel Studios that we have now, and the X-Men should just be allowed to keep on keeping on (except for X-Men: Last Stand; that should be thrown into a fire).