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Posts related to the X-Men comics, movies, and television shows.

Worth a Look

Worth a Look

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.

Comicsverse

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 NBC, CBS, and ABC are not the trailblazers here, even if they are the “winners” using outdated metrics.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.

source: Marvel
source: Marvel

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”:

In reverence for the 30th anniversary of The Transformers: The Movie, everybody needs to watch this.

Worth a Look

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.

Art by Stuart Immomen. Source: Comicsverse
Art by Stuart Immonen. Source: Comicsverse

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.

source: Nerdist.com
source: Nerdist

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 “maturetreatment 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?

Worth a Look

Worth a Look

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?

main_image
Source: Paste Magazine

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 more game). 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 finishing games 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.

Source: The Establishment
Source: The Establishment

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?

and, for the first time, a “Worth a Listen”:

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).

source: Comicsverse

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.

Worth a Look

Worth a Look

We’ve broached the topic of adaptations from 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.akira-feat

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.

bryan-singer

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).

 

 

Shortcast 13 – So Arch, So Blue

Shortcast 13 – So Arch, So Blue

This week D. Bethel brings on Elijah Kaine to talk about the X-Men in anticipation of this week’s release of X-Men: Apocalypse. They discuss not only the filmic franchise but also of the themes of the X-Men in general and how they fit in with the greater Marvel universe.

Read Elijah’s writing at the Geek Intellectualist.

Check out his gaming streams at twitch.tv/wthhero.

Leave a comment on the topic(s) discussed this week at forall.libsyn.com. Be sure to join the official Facebook page as well for exclusive links and discussion. E-mail the show at forallpod [at] gmail.com. Also, help the show out by leaving a review on the iTunes store.

For all intents and purposes, that was a Shortcast recap.

Featured Music:

-“Thunder Busters” by Wax Audio
-“X-Men Theme (from ‘The Animated Series’)” by Otaku Attack
-“X-Men Theme Song” by Robert J. Walsh (from “Pryde of the X-Men”)

Shortcast 12 – Punch the Microphone

Shortcast 12 – Punch the Microphone

It’s the return of the Summer Shortcast!

Extra-Long Week in Geek: Andrew watches Deadpool and Dan reads the Dark Phoenix Saga and also talks about the death of animator and comicker, Darwyn Cooke.

Links:

Batman Beyond – Darwyn Cooke’s Batman 75th Anniversary Short

Featured Music:

-“Stayin’ in Black” by Wax Audio
-“Thunder Busters” by Wax Audio

Episode 20 – Hydra Healthcare

Episode 20 – Hydra Healthcare

Hitting another arbitrary benchmark, Episode 20 is celebrated with another purported naked episode (no clothes were actually removed in the recording of this episode). To celebrate, they continue into October with another Halloween-themed episode throughout.

Week in Geek: Andrew finally gets around to watching latter-day X-Men movies (when they got good again). Dan bought a new Lovecraft book.

Alone in the Dork: Dan and Andrew discuss the scariest video games they’ve ever played.

Discussion: With a Kickstarter going touting to be the first “officially licensed” video game based on an H. P. Lovecraft story, Andrew and Dan wonder how that’s even possible considering H. P. Lovecraft’s works are well-known to be in the public domain.

Hail Hydra: In a bit of a detour, Dan and Andrew try to figure out what’s so bad about Marvel’s HYDRA organization.

Question of the Week:

What is your favorite expression (story/movie/video game/music/etc.) of cosmic horror?

Submit your answer as a comment on the post for this episode at forall.libsyn.com. You can also leave your comments, as well as keep up to date with relevant and interesting links and updates, by joining the official For All Intents and Purposes Facebook and Google+ groups. You may also get ahold of the podcast by e-mailing us at forallpod@gmail.com

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

Music in this Episode:

-“Stayin’ in Black” by Wax Audio

-“Tunnel Chase” and “The Expedition (no SFX)” by Reber Clark

-“All Hail” by The Devil Makes Three

-“Doctor Gastronomy” by Murray Gold

Episode 19 – In It to Win It

Episode 19 – In It to Win It

In the interest of full disclosure, this episode is filled with the pop hits of yesteryear, so be warned. When not mining recent top 40 hits, Dan and Andrew slide into their usual avenues of nerdy and geeky conversation in episode 19.

Week in Geek: Andrew talks about the Kickstarting documentary, A Brief History of Time Travel, while Dan watches a documentar about voice acting, I Know That Voice.

Breaking News: With this week’s announcement that a Tetris-based movie is going forward, Andrew regales Dan with this pitch for the flick.

Discussion: Fox recently announced that an extended “Rogue Cut” of X-Men: Days of Future Past will be released to home video––restoring footage not featured in the theatrical cut of the film––Dan and Andrew discuss the purpose, audience, and need of extended cuts/director’s cuts of movies.

Conspiracy Corner: When Dan received a copy of the free “Marvel’s 75th Celebration” magazine, he was surprised at the glaring omissions on the cover. Was it sly movie marketing or a case of bigotry (admittedly, against a fictional peoples)?

Question of the Week: Since October is now upon us, we turn our sights toward Halloween; so, even this early in the month, we ask:

What is your favorite genre of horror movie?

You can submit your answers on the page for this week’s episode at forall.libsyn.com. Feel free to submit your answers to either (or both) our official Facebook or Google+ pages. You can also e-mail any questions, comments, or concerns to forallpod@gmail.com

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

Featured Music:

-“Stayin’ in Black” by Wax Audio

-“Falling Blocks (the Trance)” and “Falling Blocks (the Funk)” by Prometheus Darkened

-“Somebody That I Used to Know” by Gotye

-“Born This Way” by Lady Gaga