30th Mar2018

West Week Ever: Pop Culture In Review – 3/30/18

by Will

It might be a controversial one this week, so let’s get to it, shall we?

 

Last night I saw my second movie of 2018 (it’s been a busy year so far…), and that honor was bestowed upon Ready Player One. Yeah, I already know some of y’all have already decided to hate it, so you can just jump down to where I talk about the molesters and the wang danglers. For those who are actually willing to give the movie a chance, however, strap on in.

Remember this commercial?

Yeah? Well, Ready Player One is that, but two hours long. Is that a good thing or a bad thing? Well, your mileage may vary. As my friend pointed out, it’s really just the Willy Wonka story laden with pop culture references. Poor kid finds himself in a magical world, with the chance to take over said world if he survives various challenges. We’ve heard this before, right? Still, don’t count it out yet. The injection of those pop culture references is pretty amazing. I mean, it’s pretty astonishing to me that a group of Hollywood lawyers paved the way for HALO, Overwatch, Batman, TMNT, The Shining, Back to the Future, and more to be featured in the same movie, yet we still don’t have peace in the Middle East! The soundtrack is great, as you would expect from anything that was a legitimate 80s nostalgia wank.

If I had any problems with the film, it’s that it didn’t take enough chances. For example, when the movie starts out, everything set in the fantastical world of The OASIS just looks like cut scenes from a video game. And while we live in a time where those cut scenes can be pretty amazing, at the end of the day, they’re still just cut scenes and I expect more from a Hollywood blockbuster than that. I mean, the OASIS is an engaging world, and it’s certainly the kind of game I’d be interested in playing. That said, there’s a generational gap going on in gaming. When I was growing up, it SUCKED having to sit there and watch your friend play, waiting for it to be your turn. Nowadays, hot chicks are paying their rent by having fans watch them play video games online. I just don’t get it, but if you get it, then you’ll like the cut scene stuff.

Another way it fell short was in some of the characters. Tye Sheridan’s Wade Watts has got the most punchable face I’ve seen this side of Miles Teller, but they kinda take you out of that mindset by primarily showing him as his avatar, Parzival, who’s basically “What if Bob from ReBoot was a scaly Albino?” There are some twists with a few characters, which I won’t spoil here, but one thing that really got me was the character of Art3mis. In the OASIS, she’s a hot, scaly pinkish character who gives this whole speech to Parzival about how he’s not in love with the real her, but rather what she has projected herself to be. She insists that he wouldn’t like the “real” her. Nice opening for some daring casting, right? Maybe she’s in a wheelchair. Maybe she’s mangled or something. We meet her in the real world and nope! She’s a cute White girl. Sure, she has a birthmark on one side of her face about which she acts is the end of the world, but it’s nothing you’d kick her out of bed over. Lame! I also didn’t really like the characterization of OASIS creator James Halliday until the very end. Nothing about him really made sense until they got to the final act.

There were things I absolutely loved, however. For example, there’s a female badass of unknown racial origin named “F’Nale”, who fittingly shows her mettle in the final act. I also LOVED Director Krennic as a technological Vince McMahon. I know Bradley Cooper might be in that Pandemonium film about McMahon, but Ben Mendelsohn does SUCH an amazing job channeling Attitude Era Mr. McMahon. I kept waiting for him to scream “WADE SCREWED WADE!” And I know he’s caught a lot of heat lately for his possible sexual misconduct, but TJ Miller is pretty much the only person I could’ve imagined cast as the mercenary i-R0k.

In all, I really enjoyed this movie. I know a lot of you have read the book, and hate how it does the Family Guy thing of “Hey, Bill & Ted was a thing that happened” when appealing to nostalgia. It’s all surface pop culture. Sure, having some knowledge of the world of gaming might help out in some places, but mainly it’s nostalgia boner eye candy. Why does the Back to the Future DeLorean have K.I.T.T.’s scanner? Don’t worry about it! Just go with it! That’s pretty much how the movie treats the audience. If you find that offensive, then this might not be the film for you. They don’t really wax philosophically on Star Wars, but the mere mention of the Millennium Falcon is supposed to be enough for the audience to be like, “Hey, I get that reference!” To some, that’s enough. They feel like they’re “in the goddamn club”. To others, that approach lacks depth. I can appreciate both stances, but I hope you’ll at least give the film a shot, as it is a marvel for the eyes, and I think a lot of it will get lost outside of the big screen presentation.

HarassmentWatch(TM)

Dan Schneider – This is a BIG one. A lot of you might know him best as “the fat guy from Head of the Class“, but to anyone under the age of 25 he kind of defined their Nickelodeon experience. You see, he and his Schneider’s Bakery production company launched the careers of Miranda Cosgrove, Victoria Justice, Amanda Bynes, and Ariana Grande. Not only did he co-create All That and Kenan & Kel, but he went on to create The Amanda Show, iCarly, Drake & Josh, Victorious, and Sam & Cat, to name a few. Well, this week Nickelodeon ended a relationship that has lasted over two decades, parting ways with the Schneider’s Bakery production company.

Apparently it all kicked off earlier in the week, when Nick executives told Schneider that they’d be cancelling his most recent show, Game Shakers, after its third season. Known for a very bad temper, Schneider protested because the season ends on a cliffhanger, and fans wouldn’t get closure. Also, since his other show, Harvey Danger, is on hiatus, Nick wanted a new, non Schneider’s Bakery show, Cousins for Life, to move into the production space that Schneider had previously used exclusively. He didn’t feel he should have to share, based on his history with the network, and it all culminated in the end of the relationship.

That’s not the whole story, though. Apparently, Schneider had been living under a “cloud of suspicion” for some time, as his relationship with his young actors and actresses seemed inappropriate to some. For example, he has tweeted pictures of his young actresses’ toes. Plus, working conditions on set are considered long and grueling for the young actors, while his shows regularly ran over budget. At the moment, this seems more like a harassment thing than a sexual harassment thing, but I wouldn’t be surprised if more came out as the story develops.

John Kricfalusi – The Ren & Stimpy creator was the subject of a Buzzfeed News article this week, as two women accused him of sexual misconduct, while they were underage, with the promise of career advancement attached. One of the women even became his live-in girlfriend when she was 16 and he was 37. One of the women also accused Kricfalusi of possessing child pornography. It seems like his proclivities were known in animation circles, but nobody ever did anything about it, I suppose for fear of retribution or negative impacts on their careers. It’s a whole long saga, dating back 25 years, and it’s not clear if anything will be done to Kricfalusi, who’s now 62.

Ryan Seacrest Update – Seacrest’s former stylist, and accuser, Suzie Hardy has now filed a police report against Seacrest. While his employers seem to be taking Seacrest’s side on this one, it was an uncomfortable situation at the Oscars when many of Hollywood’s elite went out of their way to avoid him on the red carpet. It’s unclear what’s going to happen here, but I can’t help but feel that Carson Daly has been going to sleep, smiling from ear to ear lately.

Allison Mack Update – You all thought I was crazy when I wrote about it back in November, but now it’s pretty much confirmed that the Smallville actress was, in fact, second in command of a sex cult! But it gets better: apparently her Smallville costar, Kristin Kreuk is the one who originally recruited Mack, and they used their celebrity status to recruit women to the cult. Led by self-help guru Keith Raniere, the upstate New York-based group, called NXIVM (pronounced Nexium), was believed to be involved in sex trafficking, and reportedly branded women in their pubic area. Raniere was arrested in Mexico this week, and extradited to the US on the sex trafficking charges. Mack is expected to be arrested next, as a co-conspirator. Somebody SAAAAAAAAAAAAVE her!

So, almost as stealthily as it was announced, Donald Glover’s Deadpool animated series for FXX has been cancelled. If we’re being honest, he really only got the gig because Atlanta was such a huge hit and they wanted to stay in the Donald Glover Business. It’s kinda like how Fox jumped on Oscar Isaac for Apocalypse just because everyone in Hollywood was lining up to fellate him during that particular window. Anyway, it seems like it came down to “creative differences” between Glover and Marvel, but he doesn’t seem to be taking it well. He took to Twitter, posting 15-pages of a faux script about the show’s cancellation. In true Deadpool, 4th wall breaking action, the tweets allude to the cancellation of Deadpool’s show within the show itself:

Reportedly, Marvel didn’t like the direction Glover and his team were taking the show, while FX stood by them – ’cause they don’t wanna lose Atlanta (even though Glover will probably have a nervous breakdown and walk away from the show halfway through its 3rd season…)! I’m not quite sure what Marvel expected, but Glover always seemed like an odd choice. It’s unclear if the project will be revived elsewhere, with a new team, or if Deadpool solely has a box office presence for the moment.

After 3 years without a book to call their own, it was announced yesterday that the Fantastic Four would be returning in August, in a series by Dan Slott and Sara Pichelli. And folks pretended to be excited. I maintain that nobody really likes the Fantastic Four. They either see a lot of potential in the franchise, or they just like stuff they can’t have, but there really aren’t as many Fantastic Four “fans” as you’d be led to believe. The book wasn’t cancelled out of some movie rights spite. It was cancelled because it didn’t sell. Any business worth its salt wouldn’t cancel something that’s virtually a license to print money, simply because they didn’t have the movie rights. Marvel also doesn’t have the film rights to the X-Men, but they didn’t cancel them. They ran them through the ringer, and did some dumb shit with them, but they still printed the books. Marvel did the smart thing with the FF: they extracted the characters that folks actually find interesting, like Johnny, Ben, and Doom, and kept them in the spotlight in new settings. Reed Richards and his neglected wife are simply not interesting. Or at least, that’s been the case. Maybe Slott has something great planned for them. I know folks loved his Thing run, so he’s familiar with at least some of the franchise. Still, it’s Slott, so he’s polarizing. The folks who claimed they’d do anything for a return of the FF are now having to eat their words since Slott was announced at the helm. I’ll give it a shot, and I doubt Marvel will take them off the board for this long again, but I won’t be surprised if the book ends up being frequently relaunched like recent Fantastic Four runs.

In other Marvel news, Agent Phil Coulson is returning to the MCU! Don’t get too excited, though, ’cause it won’t feature the Avengers finding out he’s alive. No, he’ll be appearing in the Captain Marvel film, which is a 90s-set prequel to his MCU/Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. adventures. Also appearing in the film will be Lee Pace reprising his role as Ronan the Accuser and Djimon Hounsou reprising his role as Korath – both from Guardians of the Galaxy. There’s also a petition to include Ming-Na Wen’s Melinda May in the film, mainly because those “Philinda” shippers are insufferable. Either way, it’ll be good to have Phil back in the movies, especially if Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. ends up killing him off this season.

Things You Might Have Missed This Week

  • There’s a Jack Black movie coming, called The House With A Clock In The Walls. Yeah. that’s actually its title. They couldn’t call it Clock House or something? Casa de Clock? Anyway, I’m not posting the trailer simply because of how stupid that title is.

  • We got a new look at Incredibles 2, which I’m really starting to warm up to.
  • Freeform has cancelled Beyond, after 2 seasons. This is the first I’ve ever heard of it, so…
  • SEAL Team and S.W.A.T. have both been renewed for season 2 at CBS, so your cranky grandpa will be pleased. Ya know, until he remembers there was a Negro President for 8 years. Then watch out!
  • Speaking of renewals, One Day At A Time and the Queer Eye reboot have been renewed on Netflix.
  • Locke & Key is dead…again. The second pilot, this time filmed for Hulu, was passed on due to a regime change amongt its executives. The IDW comic adaptation was originally developed by Fox, who previously passed on the project.
  • 80s heartthrob Corey Feldman claims he was stabbed at a red light, as retribution for speaking out about a secret Hollywood pedophilia ring. The LAPD, however, said Feldman had no lacerations or wounds, and that he drove himself to the hospital. He’s been a bit loony lately, but this is gonna be one of those things where, 30 years from now, we’ll learn it was all true, and it’ll be too late…
  • Screenwriter Zak Penn is developing ROM: Spaceknight for Paramount/Hasbro. Sure he is. That Hasbro film slate, outside of Transformers, is doomed.
  • Apparently SuperMansion season 3 will debut soon on Crackle. Really? Still? I figured once it had graduated to Adult Swim it had left Crackle behind. Man, Sony (Crackle’s parent) must have quite a bit of dirt on Senreich and Wells to keep the show in its streaming ghetto.
  • Overnight comedy sensation Tiffany Haddish is voicing secret character in The LEGO Movie 2
  • Pop group Fifth Harmony announced they were going on hiatus, which is fancy pop music talk for “We’re racing to see who can get their solo album out first.” If you’ll remember, they were already down to four harmonies, as member Camila Cabello quit the group back in 2016 and launched a successful solo career of her own.
  • Already announced to voice the character in an upcoming TV series, Gina Rodriguez has been cast as Carmen Sandiego in a live action film for Netflix.
  • Music mogul Scooter Braun, and David Maisel, founding Chairman of Marvel Studios, have created Mythos Studios which has acquired a 50% stake in Aspen Comics as well as the entertainment rights for the comic book company’s IP. So, get ready for that Fathom movie that nobody asked for…
  • There’s a Russian remake of CBS’s The Good Wife heading to television over there. I can only assume their title is Wife Is Good? Actually, it’s Khoroshaya Zhena, which actually translates to “Good Wife”. How often does THAT happen, huh?
  • Gearing up for their possible purchase by Disney, Fox is rearranging the deck chairs on the X-Titanic, as X-Men: Dark Phoenix has been delayed from November 2nd, 2018 to February 14th, 2019. Happy Valentine’s Day! Here’s a bald guy and some weird kids he took in like strays! Also, tone deaf, “horror-driven” The New Mutants moves from February 22nd, 2019 to August 2nd, 2019.
  • Adult film star Stormy Daniels went on 60 Minutes to detail the sexual encounter she had with the current President back in 2006. This came on the heels of 1998 Playboy Playmate of the Year Karen McDougal’s claims of an affair with the man during the same period of time. And yet, he’s still President. Go figure! Remember when Obama caused a stir by wearing a tan suit? Or how Howard Dean lost his shot at the big chair because of a primal growl? Good times!
  • The upcoming 6th entry in the Sharknado franchise will be the end…for now (you know they’ll reboot it with James Van Der Beek or some shit in 5 years). Apparently, the world ended in Sharknado 5: Global Swarming (which I missed, so now I HAVE to go back and watch it!), so this installment will feature Steve Sanders going back in time to stop the events from the last movie from occurring.

I have this thing where I have to give credit where it’s due, even when I might not want to. That brings me to this week’s Roseanne revival. It was highly publicized, and turned out to be a ratings success. I’m sure that TV execs will take away the wrong message from this, as that’s pretty much what they do. In any case, I find myself struggling to really be happy about its success.

I’m not boycotting the show by any means, and only missed Tuesday’s back-to-back airing due to a scheduling conflict. I will say I found the whole Trump thing off-putting, and still don’t believe it lines up with Roseanne Conner as a character. I know people change, but this is the same woman who was championing Hillary the last time we saw her. Then again, that season “never happened”, so maybe it was just more make believe. No, I’m not very interested in the show because I’m not a fan of what some folks have taken to calling “zombie shows”. They’re shows that just don’t know when to die. And it’d be one thing if they originally had an open-ended finale, or on a cliffhanger that deserved resolution. In the case of Roseanne AND Will & Grace, however, they had to retcon both series finales in order to make these new seasons possible. Both shows ended with some pretty drastic changes/time jumps, and all that was thrown out in The Quest For More Money.

I’m fine with sequel shows, like Girl Meets World or Fuller House because they’re kind of doing a new spin on an old favorite, but Roseanne and the Will & Grace are just trying to hope we’re too dumb to realize they’re just doing more of the same, as if there’s really been no passage in time.  Anyway, I plan to check out the Roseanne premiere just so I can know what I’m talking about, but I really don’t want to support it, per se. At the end of the day, Roseanne is something of a vile human being these days, and I can’t separate the art from the artist – especially when the artist is incorporating some of that into the art. I also don’t think it’s fair to brand this as some bold, conservative move to display an alternate viewpoint, when it was aired by the same network that just recently refused to show an episode of Black-ish that dealt with the NFL player kneeling scandal. Again, I don’t want execs to learn the wrong lessons from this, even though I know that’s what will happen.

So, Tuesday night’s Roseanne was the highest rated sitcom airing in 3 and a half years, so a renewal is more than likely. It broke a bunch more records, but the most interesting part is that a show that’s been off the air for 20 years can come back and still appear to be relevant to some folks. The president even took time away from golfing and ignoring the Parkland kids/Stormy Daniels saga to call Roseanne to congratulate her on the success of the revival. So, clearly she’s doing something right, right? Right? Anyway, the Roseanne revival had the West Week Ever.

09th Mar2018

West Week Ever: Pop Culture In Review – 3/9/18

by Will

HarassmentWatch(TM)

Ryan Seacrest – Last week I said that he was basically Teflon, as the sexual misconduct allegations against him were sliding right off him. Well, last week I was wrong. Ya see, the Oscars were on Sunday, and celebrities were going out of their way to shun him on the red carpet. I mean, this is his livelihood, and he can’t do his job because the accusations are affecting that. Right now, American Idol seems to be standing by him as they prepare for their premiere this Sunday, but I really wonder what the end result of this is going to be. I don’t “cape” for him because I like the guy. I mean, I certainly admire his work ethic, but he’s not my favorite celebrity or anything. Still, I guess I’ve kinda put this into the Paul Haggis category – Haggis seemed more like the target of a Scientology smear job, while I thought we had all agreed as a people that Seacrest didn’t even like women. What happened to that?

Terry Crews – I don’t know if I ever even wrote about this when it initially happened (cut me some slack – I do this weekly, and my site search is broken), but Terry Crews was the victim of inappropriate physical advances by a high-level Hollywood executive. He was on the verge of being blackballed, as no one was really coming to his defense. Still, he continued his fight, suing talent company William Morris Endeavor – the company led by the exec – for sexual assault. Well, this year, prosecutors decided not to press charges, as the statute of limitations had passed because the incident occurred in 2016. It really seems like some powerful folks in Hollywood are trying to bury this, but Crews isn’t backing down. It’ll be interesting to see how this plays out.


Remember how Finn was completely wasted in Star Wars: The Last Jedi? Remember how he really didn’t have his “moment” – the thing you’d remember about him most from the movie? Well, it turns out such a thing does exist. They just didn’t use it. Here’s the alternate cut of his confrontation with Captain Phasma. I think this scene actually provides more depth to both characters, and it’s shame we lost it. I mean, up to this point, Phasma is just Boba Fett Mark II: she’s all style and no substance. Meanwhile, Finn really could’ve used a “win” in this film, and this would’ve done it. The only problem I have is that the effect of him blasting her away looked like it was straight out of an 80s movie, but I’ll just blame it on the fact that the effects were probably unfinished.

Another week means another Cobra Kai teaser, and I might slowly be coming around on this thing. I still think YouTube Red is just Yahoo! Screen Redux, and this series ain’t gonna get me to subscribe to it. Still, I’d watch this if it were right in front of me. I was hung up on the point that Karate Kid wasn’t a comedy. Still, over the years, there’s been that growing fan theory that Daniel is the real asshole of the story (Thanks for that, Barney Stinson!), and this series seems like it’s leaning into that. That’s actually a story I’d be interested in seeing. Plus, they made Daniel a car salesman. Name ONE car salesman in pop culture who isn’t The Asshole? Even Moesha’s father did a heel turn there for that last season, where we found out he was actually the father of his “nephew”.  Anyway, I’m down for a Johnny Lawrence redemption story.

So, I know nothing of the current state of hip hop, but apparently there’s a dude named Vince Staples who seems to have a lot of haters. So many haters, in fact, that he set up a GoFundMe where he’s asking those haters to raise $2 million for him. In return, he will simply GO AWAY. Yup, he said, he’ll stop performing, doing interviews, all of it. He’ll take his ball and go home. A lot of this is in response to recent negative reviews of his live performances,  He basically gives the audience an alternative: “Get off of my dick OR fund my lifestyle”. So far, he’s raised over $1500. To add to the campaign, he just released the song “Get The Fuck Off My Dick”, to further drive home his point:

I’ve gotta say, I admire his business sense. He’s taking “Fuck you, pay me!” to a whole new level.

Things You Might Have Missed This Week

  • Apparently Amazon Alexa-powered devices are laughing at their owners, and folks don’t seem to know why. “First they laughed at the Socialists. And I did not speak out…”
  • The Oscars were this week, with a lot of fan favorites taking home awards, including The Shape of Water winning Best Director and Best Picture, Coco winning Best Animated Feature Film, and Get Out won Best Original Screenplay.
  • Following a recent domestic violence arrest, Heather Locklear is heading to rehab. If I know my Hollywood, Dr. Drew is talking to his people as we speak.
  • Box office wunderkind Black Panther could possibly top $1 BILLION worldwide today.
  • Tom Cruise may be in talks to play Green Lantern for DC/Warner Bros. So, I guess that means there’ll be at least one scene of him running. After seeing the Mission Impossible: Fallout trailer, where he’s just treated like a death-defying ragdoll, I’d pay to see CGI’d Tom Cruise slamming into shit. I don’t hate this idea.
  • Wonder Woman director Patty Jenkins confirmed that Kristen Wiig has been cast as Cheetah for the sequel. I guess I’m just gonna have to trust Patty on this one…
  • In light of Marvel moving the Avengers: Infinity War release date up a week, from May 4th to April 27th, New Line Cinema has moved the Rampage release date up a week, from April 20th to April 13th. Gotta make sure The Rock gets all the ticket money has has coming to him!
  • Jon Favreau will be producing a live action Star Wars series for Disney’s upcoming streaming service. He also apparently has a role in Solo: A Star Wars Story, which was news to me!
  • Vin Diesel has been cast in the Bloodshot movie, based on the Valiant Comics character. If you spend a lot of time online, you know that former Power Rangers actor Jason David Frank had been cast as the character for a web series, and it was pretty obvious he was using that to lobby for the big role. Folks might wanna stay out of is way for the next few days!
  • Bronson Pinchot has been cast in Netflix’s Sabrina series, as the title character’s principal. Sounds like he’ll be more Principal Snyder than Mr. Belding, as he’s described as a “constant thorn in her side”.
  • An upcoming episode of Supernatural, called “Scoobynatural”, will feature the Winchester brothers being sucked into a Scooby-Doo cartoon and teaming up with the Scooby Gang. I’m kinda surprised Warner Bros is giving this away for free instead of selling it from Warner Bros Home Entertainment.
  • There are reports that Barack and Michelle Obama are in talks for a production deal with Netflix. I…don’t really know what to think about that. I mean, won’t this void his membership in The X-Presidents? WILL HE BE MAKING AN X-PRESIDENTS SERIES?!

  • Here’s a pic of Zachary Levi in his SHAZAM Captain Marvel costume. I guess it looks OK. I mean, I’m not about to lose my shit over SHAZAM until I see a trailer.
  • Speaking of ill-advised DC movie ideas, the rumored standalone Joker film will position the character as a failed comic from the 80s. Do you know how much you had to suck to bomb in the 80s? Was Joker losing gigs to Yakov Smirnoff?

  • Luke Cage season 2 will debut on June 22nd on Netflix, and it’ll be interesting to see how the show is received in a post-Black Lightning/Black Panther world. Cage tends more to Lightning than Panther, with his street level heroics, but it seems like Lightning has achieved what Cage was trying to do in that first season. From what I’ve read, at least. Technically, I’m still on Daredevil season 2. Hopefully I catch up by this release date. Meanwhile, Jessica Jones season 2 debuted this week, and nobody”s saying shit about it. Are folks over MCUFlix (patent pending)?

  • This thing is depressing as Hell. Up until the 30-second mark, I thought, “Are they remaking Schindler’s List?” I don’t think Christopher Robin is for me. And when you think about it, this is just a socially-acceptable, family friendly Ted. I’ll stick to the original recipe, thank you very much!

  • Why is every upcoming live action Disney movie set in some sort of 1930s dystopia?! What the Hell, Disney? Anyway, I don’t remember the first Mary Poppins, so this thing didn’t tug on any heartstrings for me. Your mileage may vary.
  • The Toys “R” Us situation has gotten more dire, as complete liquidation of their assets in the United States is now an option on the table – one that several creditors are hoping they’ll choose. On Monday, we’ll find out if Geoffrey is headed to the dog food factory.

This week’s I’ve got less of a “This blew my socks off!” and more of a “Hmm…This Could Be Interesting”. You see, DC Comics announced the DC Black Label imprint, which will feature high-profile creators on outside-of-continuity stories about their biggest characters. Ultimately, and they make no bones about this, this is their quest for the next The Dark Knight Returns – the classic Frank Miller Batman story that changed the world of comics, for better or for worse. DC has always positioned themselves as a legacy publisher, which I’ve felt is sometimes to their detriment. After all, at times it seems they spend so much time reminding folks of where they’ve been that they don’t focus enough on where they’re going. This seems like a little bit of both. They’re trying to make more timeless, evergreen stories that they can keep in print, and also get out into the book market as another channel of revenue. The titles and creators announced are kinda interesting, though. Let’s take a closer look at the creative teams and synopses for the upcoming stories:

SUPERMAN: YEAR ONE from Frank Miller (THE DARK KNIGHT RETURNS, BATMAN: THE DARK KNIGHT: MASTER RACE) and John Romita Jr. (ALL-STAR BATMAN, SUPERMAN)
A groundbreaking, definitive treatment of Superman’s classic origin story in honor of his 80th anniversary. This story details new revelations that reframe the Man of Steel’s most famous milestones—from Kal-El’s frantic exile from Krypton, to Clark Kent’s childhood in Kansas, to his inevitable rise to become the most powerful and inspiring superhero of all time.

Will’s Thoughts: Sounds like a pass for me. The teaser art is horrible, and John Romita Jr. hasn’t really tried in a LONG time. Outside of Kick Ass, everything else he’s done recently has been lazy, and Miller is batshit crazy these days. Plus, how many times do we have to get Superman’s origin? That’s gonna be a “No” for me, dawg.

BATMAN: LAST KNIGHT ON EARTH from Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo, the creative team behind DARK KNIGHTS: METAL
Batman wakes up in a desert. He doesn’t know what year it is or how The Joker’s head is alive in a jar beside him, but it’s the beginning of a quest unlike anything the Dark Knight has undertaken before. In this strange future, villains are triumphant and society has liberated itself from the burden of ethical codes. Fighting to survive while in search of answers, Bruce Wayne uncovers the truth about his role in this new world—and begins the last Batman story ever told.

Will’s Thoughts: I’m oddly intrigued. A lot of the problems I had with the Snyder and Capullo Batman run was their treatment of continuity. It’ll be interesting to see what they can do without those shackles. And I’m sucker for “Last ____ Story Ever” tales.

BATMAN: DAMNED from Brian Azzarello and Lee Bermejo, the creative team behind JOKER
On a deserted Gotham City bridge, a body is found. Whispers spread the news: Joker is dead. But is this a dream come true or a nightmare being born? Now Batman and DC’s outlaw magician John Constantine must hunt the truth through a Gotham City hellscape. The city’s supernatural recesses are laced with hints about a killer’s identity, but the Dark Knight’s descent into horror will test his sanity and the limits of rationality, as he must face a horror that doesn’t wear a mask.

Will’s Thoughts: Out of the two Batman stories launching with Black Label, this is probably the one I trust the most. I know what I’m getting from this creative team, based on their work on Joker and Lex Luthor: Man of Steel – both of which I loved. Azzarello “gets” Batman, while Bermejo’s style is a treat that you don’t get on a monthly book.

WONDER WOMAN HISTORIA: THE AMAZONS from Kelly Sue DeConnick (Bitch Planet) and Phil Jimenez (INFINITE CRISIS)
A Homeric epic of the lost history of the Amazons and Queen Hippolyta’s rise to power. Featuring monsters and myths, this three-book saga spans history from the creation of the Amazons to the moment Steve Trevor washes up on the shores of Paradise Island, changing our world forever.

Will’s Thoughts: I’m curious to see this, as it’s DeConnick’s first real work for DC. That said, I’m not sure I’m what you’d call a “DeConnick fan”. I read Bitch Planet, and I was like “Yeah, I don’t get intersectional feminism enough to appreciate this.” I also don’t love Wonder Woman, but I know Jimenez has a strong track record with the character. I’ll check it out, but it’s still an unknown to me at the moment.

WONDER WOMAN: DIANA’S DAUGHTER (working title) from Greg Rucka (WONDER WOMAN, BATWOMAN)
It’s been 20 years since the world stopped looking to the skies for hope, help, and inspiration. Now the world keeps its eyes down, and the powers that have risen have every intention of keeping things that way. Amongst a scattered, broken resistance, a young woman seeks to reclaim what has been forgotten, and on the way will learn the truth about herself, her heritage, and her destiny.

Will’s Thoughts: Rucka *gets* Wonder Woman – one of few creators from the past 25 years for which you could say that. I think they need to make sure he has the right artist here, but it sounds like an interesting concept. It’s basically an origin story with a new backdrop. Even without knowing the artist, if I had to bet on one of the Woman Woman Black Label series, this would be the one. Hopefully they’re trying to get J.G. Jones, so we get a reunion of the creative team behind the great Wonder Woman: The Hiketeia.

THE OTHER HISTORY OF THE DC UNIVERSE from John Ridley (12 Years a Slave, THE AMERICAN WAY)
A compelling literary series analyzing iconic DC moments and charting sociopolitical gains through the perspectives of DC Super Heroes who come from traditionally disenfranchised groups, including John Stewart, Extraño, Vixen, Supergirl, Katana and Rene Montoya, among others. At its core, the story focuses on the lives of those behind the costumes, and their endeavors to overcome real-world issues. It isn’t about saving the world, it’s about having the strength to simply be who you are.

Will’s Thoughts: Out of all of the announced titles for the first wave, this is probably the one I’m most eager about. The story was teased over the weekend that DC in D.C. was taking place, and Ridley was present but couldn’t provide any details. When it comes to the minority lens, Marvel tends to do a better job at this than DC, but I think they’ve got the right guy here to do it, especially if you’ve read his series The American Way. Looking at the list of characters, it almost feels like “One of these things is not like the others” with Supergirl there. I know she’s an alien, but it’ll be interesting to see how she’s categorized as “disenfranchised”. Anyway, this has the potential to be DC’s own version of Marvels, which is just the kind of classic tale they’re trying to create here.

While Marvel is busy with their “fresh start” to right the ship over there, DC is finally thinking outside the box and taking some risks. At a glance, sure it seems like, “Ugh, MORE Batman, another Superman origin, and a bunch of uncertain Wonder Woman books.” On paper, I can see how it comes off that way. But DC is VERY protective of their continuity, so they’ve created a little corner where some industry stars can just go wild. I also think this is a more focused approach than DC’s more recent imprint, Young Animal, where “Weird!” seems to be the only driving principle. DC has been making a lot of moves that have impressed me, and this is just another one to add to that list. I think DC Black Label shows a lot of promise, and that’s why it had the West Week Ever.

16th Feb2018

West Week Ever: Pop Culture In Review – 2/16/18

by Will

It’s a 3-day weekend, and y’all never read this thing on a holiday weekend, so I kinda phoned it in today. I’ll make up for it next week 😉

HarassmentWatch(TM)

James Dashner – a recent article pointed out the sexual harassment that occurs in the children’s literature industry, and the Maze Runner author pulled a “Morgan Spurlock” by tweeting “I’ve been part of the problem”. He didn’t need to do this, though, because a few of the women accusing him of sexual misconduct popped up in the comments thread. He did the whole “I’m ashamed and I’m gonna get counseling” routine, but it was too late, bucko! Not only did his literary agent drop him, but he was also dropped by Random House.

Jay Asher – Wait, James Dashner and Jay Asher? Are we sure these aren’t the same dude? The 13 Reasons Why author was also accused of sexual misconduct in the same article as Dashner. He swears he engaged in several consensual affairs with women, but he was still dropped his agent, and Netflix has stated that he won’t be involved in the second season of the TV series.

Scott Baio – Welp, now he’s back in the spotlight, as former Charles In Charge costar Alexander Polinsky is now accusing Baio of sexually assaulting him. I normally don’t weigh in on these things, and I hate modern-day Baio, but this is getting to be a bit much. Eggert keeps changing her story. First she was 17 when they had sex, but now she’s saying she was 18, which is legal. Still, her argument was that Baio was still too old to be having sex with an 18 year old at the time. Um, OK. Now the little boy from the series is coming out against Baio, too? Did Baio screw them over on a royalties deal or something? Anyway, Polinsky’s account only vaguely comes close to be “assault”, in that he claims Baio once cut a hole in his dressing room wall and exposed his genitals to Polinsky. Yeah, that was kinda fucked up, but the rest of it just sounds like assholish hazing. He would use homophobic slurs against the kid,and apparently one time pulled his pants down in front of the cast and crew. OK, Scott Baio was then, and still is, an asshole.

The CW announced that they’re expanding their schedule to Sundays next fall. Way to catch up with 1995 WB, man! Anyway, this is actually good news because it means there’s another night to program, and several “on the bubble” shows have a better chance at renewal now that there’s more real estate. This means the Supernatural spinoff has a better shot at getting picked up, and Crazy Ex-Girlfriend will probably be a lock for renewal.  It’d be quite the coup if the addition of a new night prompts WB to move Titans to basic TV instead of holding it for the streaming service (that’s doomed to fail).

It was quite the week for the Power Rangers franchise. The week started off with a press release announcing that Saban and Nickelodeon have negotiated to keep the show on through 2021. The adult fans were upset about this, while the appropriate audience (the kids) went back to playing in the sandbox. Yeah, Nick kinda does dumb shit, like air the episodes out of order, or go on hiatus multiple times a year, but just be glad the thing is still on somewhere. I mean, it’s been 25 years! The thing could end tomorrow, and we would just have to say “Well, they had a good run”. But we’ve got at least 3 more years before we have to say that!

Next, the new franchise logo debuted ahead of the 25th anniversary celebration. I kinda hate it. I mean, it’s sleek, but I’ve been used to the same logo since Zeo. There’s a way to write “Power Rangers” and that ain’t it! Yeah, yeah I hate change. Anyway, the biggest bombshell of the week, however, was that Bandai had lost the master toy license they’d held for the past 25 years. And not only that, but the Power Rangers master toy license was moving to Hasbro! Can you imagine Marvel Legends-style Rangers? Ya know, better than the Legacy Collection ones that Bandai gave us? I’m still processing this news, and we haven’t see what Hasbro has to offer, but we might get a glimpse during Toy Fair this week. I do feel, however, that it wouldn’t be fair for Hasbro to take the wind out of Bandai’s sales during their swan song. The Hasbro license doesn’t begin until April 2019, so Bandai might still have some surprises in store for us.

Things You Might Have Missed This Week

  • I posted a preview of the upcoming Warner Bros Home Entertainment release Batman Ninja
  • New Girl‘s Hannah Simone has been cast as the lead in ABC’s The Greatest American Hero reboot.
  • Lots of movement over at Netflix, as Disjointed was cancelled after 2 seasons, while Grace and Frankie was renewed for season 5. Also, it was announced that The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt would return in May, but it’s 4th season will be split in half, ’cause that’s what the cool kids do these days…
  • Speaking of Netflix, TV producer Ryan Murphy just signed a $300 million production deal to move from Fox to Netflix.
  • Tosh.0 has been renewed for 3 more seasons. I didn’t even know it was still on!
  • Amy Schumer secretly married chef Chris Fischer. I was going to congratulate her on Twitter, but still blocked. Womp womp
  • One union begins while another one ends, as Jennifer Aniston and Justin Theroux “separated lovingly” after 2 years of marriage. Poor Jen…
  • Female wrestler Ivory will be inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame Class of 2018
  • Hamilton‘s Angelica Schuyler herself, Renee Elise Goldberry, will be singing the Muppets Babies theme song for the Disney Junior reboot
  • Apparently there’s a feud between Sarah Jessica Parker and former Sex and the City costar Kim Cattrall. When Cattrall’s missing brother turned up dead, Sarah thought she was being nice with a message on Instagram, to which Cattrall responded with a post of her own, including “Let me make this very clear. You are not my family. You are not my friend.” Ouch!

  • We got a teaser for YouTube Red’s Cobra Kai spinoff of the Karate Kid franchise. Yeah, I liked that first movie well enough, but I can’t think of anything that would make me subscribe to YouTube Red…
  • Jerry Seinfeld teased the possibility of a Seinfeld reunion, but I’m good. He can keep it.
  • Chloe Kim and Shaun White brought home the gold for America in snowboarding at the Olympics. They both made it look so easy. USA! USA!
  • There’s a rumor circulating that Woody Harrelson might play Carnage in the Venom movie. I hope his agent talked him into staying away from that disaster.
  • There are now reports that Zack Snyder was actually fired as the architect of the DCEU, and didn’t walk away as voluntarily as we had been led to believe.
  • Chris Columbus will direct the Five Nights at Freddy‘s film. What the Hell is that franchise even about?
  • NECA, maker of highly detailed, yet terribly fragile, action figures has reportedly purchased the company that makes The Clapper and Chia Pets. I don’t even know what the endgame is there.
  • A scene making fun of food allergies in the Peter Rabbit film resulted in Sony issuing an apology. ‘Cause that’s where we are now.
  • Michael Fassbender needs to fire his agent, because he’s apparently signed on to star in a full-length Kung Fury film. Remember Kung Fury? Here ya go. It’s only good because it’s short. He must still have the same agent who convinced him to do Assassin’s Creed.

 

 

Black Panther had the West Week Ever. It’s excellent, and I’ll talk about it more next week, once you’ve all had the chance to see it.

13th Feb2018

Do You Love Batman? Do You Love Ninjas? Then Batman Ninja is Here For You!

by Will

Since enjoying Batman: Gotham By Gaslight last month, I think it’s safe to say that I’m back on the Warner Bros Home Entertainment bandwagon. A lot of us saw the teaser for Batman Ninja a few months back, but now we’ve got more information on this upcoming release:

Batman Ninja takes a journey across the ages as Gorilla Grodd’s time displacement machine transports many of Batman’s worst enemies to feudal Japan – along with the Dark Knight and a few of his allies. The villains take over the forms of the feudal lords that rule the divided land, with the Joker taking the lead among the warring factions. As his traditional high-tech weaponry is exhausted almost immediately, Batman must rely on his intellect and his allies – including Catwoman and the extended Bat-family – to restore order to the land, and return to present-day Gotham City.

Sounds pretty cool, right? Oh, you’re saying you missed the trailer when it was circulating? Well, let me fix that for ya:

When I first heard of the project, I thought it was just some Elseworlds movie, focusing on a feudal-era Batman. To learn that it’s the present-day Bat Family, transported back to feudal Japan, who must now learn how to survive in another time, well I can’t wait to see how this turns out! The fact that it features the voice talents of Will Friedle, Tara Strong, and Tom Kenny is just icing on the cake.

Originally produced by Warner Bros Japan, Batman Ninja was written by Gurren Lagann‘s Kazuki Nakashima, the character designs were done by Takashi Okazaki, of Afro Samurai fame, while the film was directed by Jumpei Mizusaki, who’s probably best known for the opening animation of JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure. The script was then rewritten into an English language adaptation by Leo Chu and Eric Garcia.

Batman Ninja hits digital on April 24th, 2018. For you physical media lovers (like myself), it’ll be on DVD and Blu-ray on May 8th, 2018.

02nd Feb2018

West Week Ever: Pop Culture In Review – 2/2/18

by Will

HarassmentWatch(TM)

One of these days, the well for these allegations will dry up and this segment will be discontinued. That day ain’t today, however!

  • Nolan Bushnell – The Game Developers Conference was bestowing their Pioneer Award to the Atari founder, only to be met with the #NotNolan hashtag. Apparently, back in the day, he didn’t treat women so well. He used to hold business meetings in hot tubs, and walk around the office wearing an “I Love to Fuck” t-shirt. Anyway, the GDC rescinded the award following the outcry, saying nobody would get a Pioneer Award this year. Bushnell actually agreed with them, saying:

“I applaud the GDC for ensuring that their institution reflects what is right, specifically with regards to how people should be treated in the workplace. And if that means an award is the price I have to pay personally so the whole industry may be more aware and sensitive to these issues, I applaud that, too.

“If my personal actions or the actions of anyone who ever worked with me offended or caused pain to anyone at our companies, then I apologize without reservation.”

  • Scott Baio – Chachi turned out to be a dirtbag? NO! Whatever. Baio’s been a douchebag for years, so it was only a matter of time before something caught up to him. The something is former Charles in Charge costar, Nicole Eggert, who is accusing him of sexually assaulting her when she was a minor. She alleges he “let his fingers do the walking” when she was 14, and then had sex with her when she was 17. He confirmed the sex, but insists she was 18 when they did it. She was set to appear on Dr. Phil this week, but the show shelved the episode when they couldn’t verify her timeline of events. After she later appeared on Megyn Kelly Today, Phil had a change of heart and aired the episode Wednesday. Baio said that if she was so certain about it, then why didn’t she file a police report. She replied, “Be careful what you wish for.” Welp, yesterday’s TMZ headline was ”
    Nicole Eggert Headed to L.A. to File Police Report Against Scott Baio”.
  • Charlie Walk – The fourth judge from Fox’s The Four, who nobody had ever heard of just 6 weeks ago, is headed back to anonymity as multiple women have come forward with sexual misconduct allegations. Not only has he been fired from The Four just before the season finale, but he’s also been placed on leave from his role as president of Republic Records.
  • James Franco Update- Following his sexual assault allegations, he’s being erased everywhere. Reportedly vanity Fair digitally removed him from the cover of their Hollywood issue. Meanwhile, his high school has removed his artwork, like a disgraced quarterback who bombed during the big game against Central. A mural he had painted has, since, been painted over.
  • Fred Savage/Jason Hervey – In a story I’d never heard before, in an interview celebrating the 30th anniversary of the debut of The Wonder Years, former costar Alley Mills said that the show was actually cancelled because of an ongoing sexual harassment case that involved her TV kids Fred Savage and Jason Hervey. Apparently, Savage had a crush on the show’s costume designer, and would repeatedly ask her out. Well, costume designer didn’t like being hit on by a 13 year old kid, and went to the network brass. Mills is especially angry because the network apparently paid her off, which is something that folks only do when there’s guilt. Mills vehemently defended Savage, calling him “the least offensive, most wonderful, sweet human being that ever walked the face of the earth.” I’ll point out that at no point did she say anything defending Hervey, who I’d TOTALLY believe sexually harassed someone at some point in his life.

In the comic world, former Ultimate Marvel Universe architect Brian Michael Bendis’ first DC Comics work has been revealed. Following a short story in Action Comics #1000, he will, then, deliver a 6-issue miniseries called Man of Steel. Once that’s done, he will become the writer of both Action Comics and the Superman comic. Action Comics will focus on the Clark Kent/Superman dichotomy and his relationships at the Daily Planet, while Superman will be the more adventurer stories. And I have an issue with this.

Why give him BOTH books? If you want to make a big splash with him, give him his OWN Superman book and make it the flagship. Marvel did a similar thing when Joss Whedon joined the X-Men franchise, where they created Astonishing X-Men for him, and shifted the “flagship” status from Uncanny X-Men to that book. As it stands, this new plan puts THREE people out of work: Dan Jurgens on Action, and Peter Tomasi and Patrick Gleason on Superman. It’s comics, so I’m sure they’ll land on their feet somewhere, but does he really need to corner the entire Superman franchise? AND they’re relaunching Superman from #1 again – the 3rd Superman #1 in the past 10 years. I understand DC getting Bendis was a major coup, and they want to make a splash, but there were better ways they could do this. Plus, if you end up not liking his take on Superman, it’s not like you can say, “Oh, I’ll just stick to Action.” Nope, it’s ALL him now.

We got the reveal of the character designs for the new Rise of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles series, and the Internet reacted just about how you’d expect: the usual “What is this shit?!” and the “This raped my childhood”. I mean, there’s a lot to unpack here. April’s Black again (she was always intended to be Black but the 80s cartoon had other ideas), Raph has no sais and Mikey has no nunchucks. The big thing about it, though, is that Raph is now the leader. And I HATE this.

 

Nothing about Raph  says “leader”. Sure, this is a different iteration, and they can do what they want with it. I hate to sound like those folks who hate when a comic character’s race is changed, but when you mess with the core of the character, that’s a problem. Donnie’s smart, Mikey’s fun, Raph’s the hothead, and Leo LEADS. That’s pretty much every iteration. This feels like a decision made by pro wrestling reasoning. It’s like, “Well, Raph’s merch sells the best, so he’s clearly over with the fans. Time to move him up the roster.” Then again, it’s for another generation, who may have no prior knowledge of the different personalities. It’s like when kids discovered Tommy Oliver on Power Rangers Dino Thunder, thinking he was always a paleontologist with a PhD, not knowing he was once a struggling high school student who probably wouldn’t have even made it through college. I mean, NOTHING about Tommy’s character trajectory made you think he’d end up where Dino Thunder put him. So, the loner became the leader. It kinda worked there. So maybe it could work here. At the end of the day, though, it doesn’t matter if I think it works or not. Just like the Muppet Babies reveal from last week, this isn’t for my generation, even if they haven’t realized that yet. It’s for the children. And if you learn nothing else today, it’s that this, like Wu-Tang, is for the children.

Things You Might Have Missed This Week

  • In Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald, the film won’t reference Dumbledore’s sexuality, which is funny because “fantastic beast” seems like the kind of thing a gay guy would call something.
  • In what’s sure to be an ill-fated venture, DC Entertainment announced that they were preparing a Metropolis series for their upcoming streaming service, which will focus on Lois Lane and Lex Luthor investigating the mysteries of the city. But no Superman. Ya know, ’cause THAT’s what folks really want.

  • We got our first teaser for the next installment in the Purge franchise, this time showing us how it all began in The First Purge. I swear, if this idea were ever gonna come to fruition, this administration would be the one to do it.
  • SNL‘s Leslie Jones is traveling to South Korea to be part of NBC’s team covering the XXIII Olympic Winter Games
  • USA has renewed Suits for an 8th season, as costars Meghan Markle and Patrick J. Adams leave. Don’t worry, though, ’cause Katherine Heigl is joining the cast. Grand opening, grand closing.
  • Marvel announced that season 2 of Jessica Jones would hit Netflix on March 8th.
  • Syfy has renewed Grant Morrison’s Happy for a 2nd season. I gave that pilot 30 minutes. Not for me!
  • Tom Hanks has been tapped to play Mister Rogers in an upcoming biopic.
  • Valiant Entertainment has been purchased by DMG Entertainment, which I’ve never heard of. Apparently we’re supposed to think this is some kind of big deal, but it’s Valiant and it’s some entertainment company run by some dude. ‘Cause everyone’s clamoring for that X-O Manowar movie…
  • Fox has outbid NBC and CBS for the 5-year rights to Thursday Night Football for $3 BILLION. In true Fox fashion, they’ll cancel it after one low-rated season, and replace it with a wacky sitcom starring Wanda Sykes or Seth Green.
  • In what seems like a vote of no confidence, Paramount has sold the international rights to Natalie Portman’s upcoming Annihilation to Netflix. So, the movie will only open theatrically in the US and China, but will hit the streaming service everywhere else.
  • Not one to let Superman have all the wardrobe fun, Batman’s yellow oval will be returning to his costume regularly following Doomsday Clock
  • Family Guy predicted Caitlin Jenner and it also predicted the proposed sequel to The Passion of the Christ. Mel Gibson is getting the band back together, with original Jesus, Jim Caviezel, on board.
  • CBS has ordered pilots for reboots of 80s classics Magnum P.I. and Cagney & Lacey. I could’ve sworn we already got a Cagney & Lacey reboot. It was called Rizzoli & Isles
  • My pals over at Nerd Lunch released a THREE HOUR episode about Star Wars: The Last Jedi. That’s longer than the film itself. Anyway, I’m considering their take to be the final word on that film, as they brought both sides to the table. If you haven’t, be sure to check it out.

  • We got our first teaser for Ant-Man and the Wasp. And it was good.

So this week I had a first: I watched my first Royal Rumble. As an in and out wrestling fan, my fandom has pretty much been at its highest when wrestling programming was readily available. When I knew WWF Superstars or WWF Challenge were coming on Channel 5 every week, I was there. When I knew Smackdown was coming on Channel 20, I was there. Basically, if WWE had a “free TV” show, then I was an active fan. Sadly, there were spans of time when that wasn’t the case. Superstars ended in syndication in 96, and Smackdown moved to cable around 2010, and there went my fandom. Considering I always watched the free shows, this also meant I’d never seen a pay-per-view. I did find an illegal stream of Wrestlemania where Undertaker ended The Streak, but other than that I’d never seen one of WWE’s big events. My friend has The Network, so he invited me over, and I was NOT disappointed.

The matches were whatever, but the real draw was the rumble itself. If you’re not familiar with the concept, they start with two men in the ring, and then add a new one every 90 seconds until 30 guys have come out. Whenever someone goes over the top rope, they’re out of the rumble. The winner would get a shot at the title at Wrestlemania. That winner turned out to be Japanese wrestler Shinsuke Nakamura – a dude I’d never seen before, but was fascinated by his “strong style”.

The BIG point of the night, however, was the first women’s rumble. Same concept and rules as the men, with the winner having a choice of facing the Smackdown Women’s Champion Charlotte Flair or RAW Women’s Champion Alexa Bliss. The beauty of the women’s rumble was that they don’t currently have 30 active women on the roster, so they had to reach back in history to pull in some of the women who helped pave the way for the Women’s Division. There were appearances by Lita, Trish Stratus, and Mrs. Undertaker herself, Michelle McCool. In the end, though, the last woman standing was Japanese wrestler Asuka. Can you believe that?! Vince McMahon let TWO Japanese wrestlers win his Rumbles. Is there a shift happening? Is this a hint of things to come? Before we learned which challenger Asuka would choose, it was interrupted by wrestling’s worst kept secret: the debut of former UFC star Ronda Rousey, who’s officially signed on to the WWE.

Both rumbles were electrifying and had me on the edge of my seat. I got kinda bored during the matches, like Cesaro/Sheamus vs whoever those guys were. I will say, however, that I felt the introduction of Rousey kinda shat on Asuka’s moment. I’ve heard that argument that Rousey will bring more viewers and more mainstream attention which should trickle down to everyone else, but I just didn’t feel like this event needed that. The women’s rumble was great enough. Adding Rousey at the end almost made the show overstuffed. Plus, I kinda hate Rousey. Whatever.

Anyway, for being something of a trailblazer this week (Wrestling? Who knew?), the WWE Royal Rumble had the West Week Ever.

26th Jan2018

West Week Ever: Pop Culture In Review – 1/26/18

by Will

 

HarassmentWatch(TM)

I thought we’d get through a week with no sexual assault updates and allegations. I thought wrong.

  • Eric Ardnt – the WWE wrestler known as “Enzo Amore” was released from his contract AND his Cruiserweight title this week when a woman came forward, saying that he had raped her in a Phoenix hotel back in October. At first WWE suspended him, due to a supposed “zero tolerance” policy regarding sexual assault, but they fired him later the same day. Word on the street is that Ardnt knew an investigation was ongoing, but didn’t warn WWE officials about it. So, it seems more like he was punished for keeping it a secret than for actually doing it. After all, it’s bad for business…
  • Casey Affleck – Casey Affleck was accused of sexual harassment a couple of years ago, but nothing came from it. When the #MeToo movement started up, there were rumblings again about his misconduct. Last year he won the Academy Award for Best Actor for Manchester By The Sea, and tradition dictates that he present the Best Actress award at this year’s ceremony. Well, with the heat on him for negative reasons, he’s told the Academy that he won’t be attending or presenting, for fear of taking attention away from the films and the winners.
  • Larry Nassar Update – After the testimonies of over 140 women, the former Team USA Gymnastics doctor’s trial ended with him being sentenced to up to 175 years in prison – a sentence to begin AFTER completion of his 60-year sentence for possession of child pornography…

Oscar nominations were announced earlier this week. There were some surprises: Logan was nominated for Best Adapted Screenplay, which is an honor that’s not typically bestowed to comic book movies. Get Out scored 3 nominations: Best Director (Jordan Peele), Best Actor in a Leading Role (Daniel Kaluuya), and Best Picture. The biggest surprise to many, however, was the nomination of Boss Baby for Best Animated Feature Film. The film was maligned when it was announced (I added to some of that because I was sure it was gonna bomb), and it went on to make $500 million. A lot of folks felt the nomination should’ve gone to something like The LEGO Batman Movie. Just as I had to pour water on some of y’all for the Wonder Woman nomination “snub”, I feel the need to do that here, too.

As much as I enjoyed most of LEGO Batman, it lacks a strong 3rd act. At some point it devolves into a weird LEGO Dimensions team-up movie and I can’t even remember how it ends. Meanwhile, I haven’t even seen Boss Baby straight through, even though I’ve watched 3/4 of it about 37 times (my daughter LOVES it), and I feel like I had a more enjoyable experience with it, even while consuming it in disjointed chunks. It’s cute, clever, and pretty well done. I felt like LEGO Batman was a “less is more” character, so while a Batman fan, I wasn’t exactly jumping for joy about this particular iteration having the entire spotlight on him for a feature length film. I know a lot of y’all are cool and/or childless, so you wouldn’t be caught dead watching Boss Baby, but I’m here to tell you that it’s better than you think it is. Plus, let’s not ignore the fact that Ferdinand‘s on that list. Forget Boss Baby. LEGO Batman actually lost the nomination to John Cena as a talking bull, so think on that!

Everything old is new again, as two popular 80s properties are coming back to television. First up, not one to be left out of the reboot spree, CBS announced that Murphy Brown will return for a 13-episode run. I watched Murphy Brown pretty religiously (up until Miles left, and Lily Tomlin’s quirky ass was brought onboard). I remember all the Murphy Brown controversies: the child out of wedlock, the cancer, the medical marijuana, etc. My problem with the Murphy Brown announcement is that you just know it was greenlit the minute the whole “The Conners are Trump supporters now on Roseanne” news hit. And I don’t need the liberal counterpoint. You just KNOW Hillary’s gonna guest star on it. I mean, she did Broad City! I know Murphy will have a ton to say about the state of the world, but I’m not sure I’m in the mood to hear it right now. Maybe when this whole circus is over, but not while we’re still in the thick of it.

Meanwhile, Disney is reviving Muppet Babies, with a new Muppet along for the ride. Summer is a purple penguin who’s artistic. That means she likes art, not that she’s on the spectrum. Anyway, it seems like she’s replacing Skeeter, who reportedly won’t be a regular on the series. They said that they wanted another girl to help balance things out. The computer animated incarnation will premiere in March on Disney Junior.

In other TV news, comedian Mo’Nique’s is trying to get Black people to boycott Netflix because they only offered her $500,000 for a comedy special, which pales in comparison to what Dave Chappelle and Amy Schumer got for their specials. She claims the streaming network is racist and sexist for giving her such a “lowball” offer. Um, Mo’Nique, you ain’t relevant, baby. You should’ve taken that $500K and used it as a springboard for brighter things in the future. The Original Queens of Comedy came out SEVENTEEN YEARS AGO almost to the day. Sure, you won an Oscar for Precious, but that was NINE YEARS AGO. Everyone in Hollywood says you’re hard to work with, which is why you’re falling back on stand up. I can’t boycott Netflix ’cause there’s too much on there I wanna watch. Go start some beef with Hulu. I don’t have an account with them, so I’ll be right there with you in spirit. Anyway, Wanda Sykes popped up to thank Mo’Nique, because she said that Netflix offered her even less than $500K. Um, I love you, Wanda, but your current job is the voice of of a gargoyle on Disney Channel’s Vampirina. I’m pretty sure they just offered what they thought you’d take…

In comic news, Amazing Spider-Man writer Dan Slott announced that he’s leaving the book after a 10-year run as the head writer. His final issue will be #801, and he will be moving over to the Iron Man series. He said that this has been the plan for about 4 years or so, and that he always wanted to break the record for Most Spider-Man Books By One Writer, which is currently held by Brian Michael Bendis. He said that he never saw Bendis leaving, so that was a number that kept moving and was always out of reach. When Bendis announced his departure, however, Slott saw it as his chance. He says he’s still about 18-20 issues shy of reaching the goal, even when #801 hits, so he might come back one day down the road to do an arc or two just to hit that magic number.

A lot of fans are rejoicing at the news, while I’m not sure how to feel. I know many fans didn’t like Slott’s take on Spider-Man, but I haven’t read enough of his run to have formed an opinion. Full disclosure: I own every issue of Amazing Spider-Man from the past 17 years, but the past 5 years are in my To Read pile. For those of you familiar with the series, I’m at “Spider Island”. Nope, haven’t even gotten to Superior Spider-Man yet, where Doc Ock takes over Peter’s body. So, needless to say, I’ve got a lot of catching up to do. Still, it’s an impressive run, even if I was recently saying it was time for him to give a new voice a chance. Well, I guess I got my wish. Now I just hope he doesn’t ruin Iron Man.

Meanwhile over at DC Comics, a play in 3 acts:

What’s funny to me is that this exact scenario was the plot of the pilot for Comedy Central’s new series, Corporate. I mean, the thing just aired a week ago.

It’s not all PR blunders for DC, though. They did announce that Superman’s red trunks return in Action Comics #1000 – which also features the DC Comics debut of Brian Michael Bendis. I’ve got to say that I got used to the Jim Lee New 52 redesign. They made slight tweaks along the way, but I didn’t really miss the red trunks. The be honest, it was more jarring to me to see Batman without his trunks than Superman without his. Still, DC’s trying to get the old fans to come home again, so I guess they felt they needed to do this. The only thing that upsets me is the switcheroo nature of The New 52. They went to all this trouble to reboot everything, and then spent the past 2 years undoing what they’d done with Superman in order to turn him back into the character he was pre-New 52. It reminds me of how Marvel gave Grant Morrison the keys to the X-Men kingdom, only to spend the next 5 years following his run undoing everything he’d built. Some folks will say, “Well, at least you enjoyed reading the comics”, but I counter that with “Yeah, but now I’ve got 7 years of Superman comics that don’t ‘count‘ anymore.” Continuity is important to me as a fan, and a move like this makes me look at the whole New 52 enterprise and just wonder “What’s the point?” Ya know, besides a temporary, unsustainable spike in sales…

In music, we got a new single from Justin Timberlake, called “Supplies”. This is the second song I’ve heard from his upcoming album, Man of the Woods, and I just don’t know what he’s trying to do here. I almost wonder if the song works better without the video to distract you. I mean, the video is almost like he’s homaging Michael Jackson’s “Scream”, then the bridge comes along, and he’s like “Hold up, while I bang this hot girl”. Then it’s right back to the political stuff, almost like he’s saying, “I’m sorry, girl, but racism makes my dick soft”. Part of me thinks he saw that failure of a Kendall Jenner Pepsi commercial, and was like “Oh, I can make this work”, because there are definitely shades of that project found here. Anyway, I hope these songs get gradually better, or else I’m about to write this album off like I did Taylor Swift’s Reputation.

Then, last night, he released the video for “Say Something”. I swear, this album is just gonna be a collection of sounds. I feel like he just got a mixer, and is releasing his demos as he tests out the effects. At least this one has a melody, and it only took him 3 singles to get here. I hope the radio edit chops off the first 1:16, ’cause after that you’ve got a pretty tight song. The big surprise here is he’s got a feature: breakout, soulful country star Chris Stapleton. It’s an odd pairing, but it works. Can I just say that I hate this new trend of releasing all your songs before the album comes out? I mean, I realize the industry has changed, but I miss the act of finding a surprise gem or possible deep cut on an album, and then later being surprised when it was released as a single. It was validation, like, “”Huzzah! I knew this was a hit, and now it truly is!” Anyway, it’s a 16-track album (and the inevitable Target exclusive edition will scrape together another 3 tracks from demos or something), so there’s still 13 songs we haven’t heard yet. More songs like this, JT!

Toys “R” Us announced that they’re closing 182 stores, and everyone’s getting a hard-on for the going out of business sales that are bound to result from this. Well, hold your horses, cowboy. I posted this one Twitter, but it bears repeating – I’ve been through a TRU closing, so here’s what happens: the store is taken over by a liquidation company that marks everything UP. The good stuff is returned to the manufacturer or sent to a non-closing store. So, what’s left is marked up stuff you don’t want. Everyone has these visions in their heads of these great sales that are about to take place, but you’re pretty much about to be as disappointed as you have been any other time you walked into a TRU in the past 20 years. So instead of Transformers and Power Rangers, it’s more than likely they’ll dig out some lost cases of the female Ghostbusters or have a ton of The Good Dinosaur toys they never sold. If you’re a reseller who utilizes FBA (Fulfillment By Amazon) then it’s a great time to stock up, but there’s not much to offer to the casual shopper/collector. So, happy hunting, but I doubt you’ll find much…

Things You Might Have Missed This Week

  • There are Jurassic Park Funko Pops coming. While I typically wouldn’t care, you can’t NOT love this one of Dr. Ian Malcolm

  • 9 years after the release of the original, we’re apparently getting a sequel to Black Dynamite, based on this teaser released by creator and star Michael Jai White. I hope it washes the taste of that animated series out of my mouth, which just didn’t work tonally for me.
  • It appears the original Barney suit actor now runs a tantric sex workshop. “I love you, you love me” indeed!

  • We got our first look at Brie Larson suited up as Captain Marvel. Some folks aren’t feeling the green uniform, but it works with the source material. She’s also sporting the “Rachel” hairstyle, so this movie’s gonna be 90s to the max!
  • After 8 seasons of putting a bird on it and just generally being weird, Portlandia started its 8th and final season last night.
  • Certain media outlets are reporting that ABC has cancelled Marvel’s Inhumans based on the fact that the network has removed the show from its press site. While that’s probably true, I think I’ll wait til the official announcement at the May upfronts.
  • 90 years after her debut, and 40 years after Mickey got his, Minnie Mouse finally got her star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame
  • There’s talk of a Mighty Ducks television series, but there’s no script, no stars, and no known home for it (though it’s not like Disney is lacking for TV networks). I’ll talk more about it when the project is further along.

Did anyone have a week quite like WWE Chairman and CEO Vince McMahon? He started the week celebrating 25 years of his flagship wrestling program, WWE Monday Night Raw, and he ended the week reviving one of his greatest failures, the XFL.

First, let’s talk about Raw 25. The anniversary broadcast had been promoted for weeks, with special guests announced on each preceding episode. They were bringing back the likes of The Undertaker, old Divas, and they were even gonna have a reunion of Triple H and Shawn Michaels’ old DeGeneration-X stable. To commemorate the big event, it was held in 2 different venues: the Barclays Center in Brooklyn and the Manhattan Center in Midtown Manhattan. I’m sure folks at both venues thought they were in for an awesome show. They would be proven wrong. You see, all the big stuff happened at the Barclays Center, while the folks in Manhattan seemed to get a lot of the cast off stuff. Barclays got John Cena, while Manhattan got old Scott Hall. It was clear that the Manhattan Center was geared more towards the older fans, but I’m not quite sure they got their money’s worth. Anyway, I’m sure Vince would say it was a success, and it’s pretty impressive he’s kept that show on the air for 25 years.

Yesterday, Vince proved he wasn’t done surprising us this week, as he announced the upcoming return of his football league, the XFL. Scheduled to debut in either January or February of 2020, there are a couple of things that will set this league apart from the dominant NFL. First of all, he plans to keep games to 2 hrs, as he believes this is the longest people can be expected to watch – which is funny, considering he runs a weekly THREE-HOUR wrestling program. Next, there will be no politics on the field, so all players will stand for the national anthem. Finally, he says that none of the players can have arrest records. Muhuhahahahahahaha! Where, pray tell, does he plan to find these professional caliber athletes, with no arrest records, who haven’t already been snatched up by the NFL. He better shut up and load those teams up with convicts. I know that’d get ME to watch! Instead of being the badass leaague that it was during WWE’s Attitude Era, McMahon hopes to present a family friendly game, with simpler rules than the NFL.

I’m confused here. The dominant professional football league in the country is already experiencing a ratings downturn, so I’m not sure competition is what’s needed now. Plus, let’s not forget how colossally the first XFL failed. It barely lasted a season. I mean, it must be nice to have so much money that you can blow MILLIONS reliving your biggest mistake simply due to ego. And I know the television landscape has changed, but he doesn’t even seem to have broadcast partners yet. Back in the day, he at least had NBC and UPN to lean on to broadcast the games. He can’t rely solely on streaming, and he created a separate entity for this venture, so it’s not like he can just throw the games on the WWE Network stream. I dunno, man, but it’s not my job to. It’s not my money, it’s Vince’s. And he has so, so much money to waste.

In any case, based on his dominance in all corners of sports entertainment this week, Vince McMahon had the West Week Ever.

Off
19th Jan2018

West Week Ever: Pop Culture In Review – 1/19/18

by Will

If you haven’t been following the site this week, I’ve been recapping DC Comics’ “DC in D.C.” event that was held here last weekend. I started things off by reviewing the world premiere screening of the new animated feature, Batman: Gotham By Gaslight. Then, I recounted my struggle to not only gain access to the event, but to also understand the purpose of it. Finally, I detailed the panels that I was able to attend, and discussed how they helped me to figure out the true reason DC came to D.C. when they did. If you’ve already read them, thanks for playing along at home. If you haven’t, then what are you waiting for? This post will be here when you’re done!

HarassmentWatch(TM)

Aziz Ansari – OK, let’s get this one out of the way first so that you can hate me and go on about your day. It’s cool – I already got your click, and I’m prepared to possibly be on the wrong side of history on this one. Last weekend, feminist blog Babe.net published an account from “Grace”, a young woman who went on a date with Ansari late last year and believes that he sexually assaulted her. After their date, they went back to his place, where he repeatedly tried to have sex with her. He’d put his fingers in her mouth, he’d perform oral sex on her, and then expect her to reciprocate. She said that he wasn’t picking up on her nonverbal cues that she wasn’t interested in taking things to that level. While she knew that the situation had been uncomfortable, it wasn’t until she shared the story with her friends that they convinced her it was assault. When she saw him win his Golden Globe award for Master of None, it all came flooding back to her and she had to tell the tale.

OK, got all that? That’s the abridged version, so if you wanna know all the sordid details (and they are sordid), go find the original article. Here’s my take: It sounds like it was a horrible date, and Aziz is a lame with no game. My immediate takeaway from the account is that Aziz must actually be like Tom Haverford – the character he played on Parks & Recreation – because that was totally some shit that Tom would’ve pulled having learned it from his friend Jean-Ralphio.

These were complete Pickup Artist techniques. Shit, I wouldn’t be surprised if he even “negged” her: saying something like, “Why’d you wear those stripes when you know they aren’t flattering on you?” in an effort to decrease her sense of value, thereby elevating his own. Tom Haverford was TOTALLY a PUA, and now I guess Aziz is, too. How do I know all this? Because about a decade ago I was fascinated by that whole scene. I read about 2/3 of The Mystery Method until I just couldn’t stomach it anymore. I was an avid viewer of the VH1 reality show The Pickup Artist. And one thing I can say about that “movement” is that it’s like Sex Panther: “60% of the time it works every time”. The PUA thing is a complete numbers game, almost like a sexual Ponzi scheme. You’re gonna strike out a lot, but eventually you won’t. Like most “self help” gospels, most people think it’s just a bunch of bullshit, but I know people for whom it worked. The problem with it, though, is that you pretty much have to hit rock bottom for that to happen. You have to hate your life so much, and want to change so badly, that you just blindly adhere to every tenant of the movement. If you’re willing to do that, you will see change. You’ll also kinda realize you’re a soulless asshole. But you’re not supposed to care about that because you’re so knee deep in minge now that you’ve got no time for self pity or introspection. Anyway, that’s enough about me and my questionable taste in literature.

Back to Aziz, the Babe article is a complete hit job, as it was clearly meant to serve as character assassination. The reporting is unprofessional, and it focuses on trivial details in a sensationalized attempt to set the scene.

After arriving at his apartment in Manhattan on Monday evening, they exchanged small talk and drank wine. “It was white,” she said. “I didn’t get to choose and I prefer red, but it was white wine.”

Who the Hell cares? This isn’t Fifty Shades of Grey. None of that is relevant considering the seriousness of the allegations. Reading the entire account, Aziz is not without fault here. He should’ve just “read the room” and put her in an Uber way earlier in the night. He issued a statement following the article, that read:

“In September of last year, I met a woman at a party. We exchanged numbers. We texted back and forth and eventually went on a date. We went out to dinner, and afterwards we ended up engaging in sexual activity, which by all indications was completely consensual.

“The next day, I got a text from her saying that although ‘it may have seemed okay,’ upon further reflection, she felt uncomfortable. It was true that everything did seem okay to me, so when I heard that it was not the case for her, I was surprised and concerned. I took her words to heart and responded privately after taking the time to process what she had said.

“I continue to support the movement that is happening in our culture. It is necessary and long overdue.” – Aziz Ansari

OK, there are two things to take away from: 1) he confirms that he may have misunderstood the situation and 2) he apologized to her privately after it happened. You go to the press when there are denials. You go to the press when you demand justice. You don’t go to the press when it seems like both parties have talked it out and put it behind them. Why did she go to Babe, and would we even know all this had he not won the Golden Globe?

Another thing is people seem not to realize that we only got one side of the story here. While Aziz confirmed that the evening occurred, we don’t know his perception of the events, or if they played out as Grace described them. You know why? Because he knows it doesn’t matter. Sexual assault allegations favor the man about as much as the American legal system does in custody disputes. There’s a lot of talk going on about “Affirmative consent”, in that you shouldn’t engage in sexual activity unless it’s clear that both parties are willing participants. One thing about affirmative consent, though, is that it could be affirmative at the time, and at some later point become a “What did I just do?” This doesn’t sound like “assault”. This just sounds like a horrible date. I think his perspective is valid here because we honestly don’t know how he was processing things. I know this skews really close to “victim blaming”, but there’s not enough discussion about personal agency in this situation. I’m seeing a lot of “Well, she’s young” or “He used his celebrity to intimidate her”. All of that could be true. However, she performed oral sex on him twice that night. I can see how one might think there was no conflict in the air following that second blowjob.

I need to circle back to the reporting, though. Babe wanted their 15 minutes and they got it. There’s a reason these allegations need to be reported by reputable media outlets because they do actual journalism. This was a site with an axe to grind, and they found their golden ticket. This wasn’t a grand revelation of assault: this was humiliation on the public stage. When these allegations first started coming out about celebrities, I was really struck by the Louis CK stuff. While I was never a big fan, he was the first guy who lost EVERYTHING from the scandal, and in record time. I was telling friends that I felt he probably needed to be on suicide watch because there was no coming back from that. That’s how I almost feel here. There was nothing to be gained from this, and I fear for the well-being of both parties. Grace wasn’t ready for the public’s response once Babe cast her to the wolves when they were done using her. Meanwhile, I don’t really know where Aziz goes after this. I mean, can even go to the corner store to get milk without being ridiculed? Grace is not pressing charges, she got an apology, and she educated him on what to never do again in the future. But Babe came along and just demolished Aziz’s image and reputation. There’s no way he comes off looking good from this, and a lot of it is for good reason. But at the end of the day, it was a poorly written, sensationalized account that helped Babe to build a reputation on his back. And when journalist Ashleigh Banfield came to his defense, saying much of what I’ve said, how did Katie Way, the writer of the article, respond? By sending Banfield a hateful email, attacking her age and her appearance. Yay, feminism? Babe’s account of the evening is damning regardless of which side you take. If it truly was assault, Grace’s encounter is completely undermined by Babe’s style of reporting. If it wasn’t assault, then they may have destroyed the career of a guy who simply doesn’t have charisma or a clue. Not everything needs to be decided in the court of public opinion.

There’s a lot to unpack from this situation, and it’s not as cut and dried as “Why didn’t she just leave?”, though I do feel it’s a legitimate question to ask because you might get an answer like, “Well, he had a gun.” I just don’t believe the “cat & mouse” game of dating is as black & white as folks want to make it. I have a friend from college who’s now a professional dating coach, and she wrote a post about the situation. She brings up an excellent point that we’re taught to respect boundaries, but we’re also taught that some women like to be pushed against a wall and kissed spontaneously. You can’t always have both, and it’s not always easy to “read the room”. What works on one woman may not work on the next. His whole shtick was employed because it had worked on some woman in the past. Everybody’s got an opinion on this one, and I’m not convinced any of them is the “right” way to look at the situation, especially since we weren’t there and there’s a lot we don’t know.

Joel Kramer – actress Eliza Dushku revealed that Kramer sexually assaulted her in a hotel room when she was 12, while he was serving as the stunt coordinator on True Lies. She didn’t tell her parents, as Kramer had endeared himself to them, but she did confide in another adult friend. When this friend confronted Kramer about the allegations, Dushku was “coincidentally” injured in a stunt gone wrong that had been coordinated by Kramer. This was sexual assault of a minor, which is pretty heavy, but the story got lost in the Aziz tsunami. Kramer is denying the allegations, while Dushku’s costars on the film, such as Arnold Schwarzenegger and Jamie Lee Curtis, said that they were unaware that it was going on at the time. Kramer has since been dropped as a client by Worldwide Production Agency.

Larry Nassar – This is one I kinda missed reporting in 2017 when he was sentenced, but former USA Gymnastics national team physician Larry Nassar is accused of sexually abusing over 140 women. In December, he was sentenced to 60 years in prison for possession of child pornography, and was pled guilty to 10 charges of sexual assault. This week, gymnast Simone Biles came forward that she had also been abused by Nassar. Meanwhile, gymnast McKayla Maroney was sought after to testify against Nassar for his abuse against her, but USA Gymnastics had her sign a nondisclosure agreement after she received a $1.25 million settlement a few years back. If she violated the NDA, she would be hit with a $100,000 fine. Well, model/Twitter activist Chrissy Teigen publicly offered to pay Maroney’s fine if she would testify. Public outcry resulted from the revelation of the NDA, prompting USA Gymnastics to release her from it.

Seal – Billboard reported that the singer is under investigation for sexual battery inflicted on his neighbor, actress Tracey Birdsall when she came over to retrieve a salad spinner she had loaned him. He reportedly grabbed her, and attempted to kiss and grope her. This is just a week after he released a video attacking Oprah for being part of the #MeToo movement when he felt she was complicit in much of the abuse.

Paul Haggis Update – fellow former Scientologist Leah Remini believes that the sexual assault allegations against Haggis are the work of the Church itself.

Meanwhile, Alec Baldwin came out and said that the public’s treatment of Woody Allen is “unfair”. If you’re not familiar, not only did the 82 year old director marry his adopted daughter, Soon-Yi, back in the early 90s, but he’s also accused of sexually abusing Dylan Farrow, the adopted daughter of his former partner Mia Farrow. This was in response to the many actors who have recently publicly distanced themselves from Allen. Just this week, actor Timothee Chalamet said that he was donating his salary from his role in Allen’s most recent film, A Rainy Day in New York, to charities that fight sexual abuse and harassment. Baldwin said that these allegations need to be handled carefully, for the sake of both the accused and the victims.

Man, that was a long, heavy section to get through, wasn’t it? Let’s get to the pop culture stuff.

In comics news, it was announced that X-Men Gold #30 will feature the wedding of Kitty Pryde and Colossus. I’ve gotta tell ya that I didn’t even know they were back together. They’re not exactly one of those enduring relationships, as one minute they’re on and the next they’re off. It appears this is the big “Wedding of the Century” that Marvel had been teasing late last year. In my mind, this hardly qualifies, but whatever. As I said on Twitter when it was announced, Marvel always has such a hard-on for weddings, which is tone deaf to its audience of single, unmarrieds who make up a good percentage of their readership. Ain’t nobody getting excited about these weddings. All this little stunt is going to accomplish is make it hard for the regular consumers of this book to actually get a copy because of all the speculators and lookie loos (full disclosure: I haven’t read the series yet, but I have purchased every issue with the intention to read them, so this does affect me). I mean, my friend Brandon swears that Gold is a great book, but it’s also his introduction to the X-Men franchise, so I’m not sure how it stacks up against the classic stories. That said, if the book is as good as I’ve heard, I hope this development serves the story instead of just serving as a gimmick to spike sales.


Nintendo announced Nintendo LABO, and I’m not quite sure I know what it is. Like most geek things these days, though, the internet is split over it. It appears to consist of a series of DIY cardboard design kits that work in conjunction with your Nintendo Switch. I mean, it certainly looks unique, but I’m still left asking “Why?” I mean, that’s a cool cardboard piano you’ve got there. Ya know what would be even cooler, though? A real piano. Anyway, I’m getting up there in age, so it’s not for me to understand. I’m sure Nintendo will make a bajillion dollars off of it.

Things You Might Have Missed This Week

  • On the heels of last week’s controversy, Mark Wahlberg announced that he would donate his All The Money In The World reshoot fee of $1.5 million to Time’s Up, in Michelle Williams’ name.
  • Hawaiians thought they were about to be killed by a missile until everyone was like, “Psych,  you pineapple heads! False alarm!” We have to confront these things with humor ’cause to really acknowledge them is just too damn depressing…
  • The Jumanji re…mix(?) has surpassed Justice League, earning $700 million in the worldwide box office
  • Fox renewed freshman drama 9-1-1 for a second season after airing three episodes.
  • Tracee Ellis Ross considering decreasing her presence on Black-ish unless the pay discrepancy between her and Anthony Anderson is addressed. Sources involved say that Anderson is paid more because of increased involvement with the show, as well as the fact that he is an executive producer.
  • Speaking of the “-ish” franchise, Freeform has renewed the spinoff grown-ish for a second season.
  • And while we’re talking about Freeform, Marvel’s Cloak & Dagger will premiere on the network on June 7th
  • A LOT of cancellations were announced by streaming outlets this week. Netflix cancelled Maria Bamford’s Lady Dynamite after two seasons. Meanwhile, Amazon cancelled Tig Notaro’s One Mississippi, the Kathryn Hahn/Kevin Bacon series I Love Dick, and the action-comedy Jean-Claude Van Johnson. It’s not all bad news, though, as Amazon renewed The Tick for a second season.
  • Surprising no one, ABC has cancelled The Mayor. It’s kinda sad, as it had a lot of heart, but it felt more like a movie premise than a TV show – the kind of movie you buy bootleg from the dude at the barbershop.
  • The Shannara Chronicles has been cancelled after debuting on MTV and then moving to Spike TV for its second season.
  • Speaking of Spike TV, the network shut down this week preparing to be rebranded as the Paramount Network, and its Twitter feed had a faux, yet hilarious, meltdown.
  • Spinning out of the John Wick film franchise, The Continental was announced at Starz, as a TV series focusing on the assassin-harboring hotel from the films. Ian McShane is in talks to appear.
  • In relationship news, former Bachelor Nick Viall is reportedly dating actress January Jones. Meanwhile, vroom vroom driver Danica Patrick is officially dating sportsball player Aaron Rodgers.
  • The series co-creators for Modern Family have announced that they’re preparing for next season to be its last. There are talks, however, of a potential spin-off…
  • I completely missed John Francis Daley’s transition from actor to director (I’ll never forget him as the rookie who didn’t get a chance to speak in Waiting…). Anyway, he and Jonathan Goldstein have been chosen to direct the DCEU Flashpoint film for Warner Bros.
  • In the world of wrestling, Goldberg will be inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame Class of 2018. I was never a WCW guy, and I missed everything he did for WWE, so I have no frame of reference for this. For you smarks out there, is this deserved?
  • Meanwhile, Women’s Division wrestler Paige is reportedly done with WWE after their doctors refused to clear her return to the ring following a career-ending injury she sustained at the end of December.
  • There’s a rumor now that Tom Holland will appear in the Venom movie as Peter Parker but not as Spider-Man. Um, OK…

  • We got a new pic from Ant-Man and The Wasp, showing Paul Rudd and Evangeline Lilly in full costume. I totally forgot that movie was coming out this year. I mean, I knew it was coming, but it just always felt like it was far off in the future.
  • Kanye West and Kim Kardashian had their 3rd child this week, this time through a surrogate. I still say that the world coincidentally went to Hell when their second kid was born. I mean, it was like everything folks feared about the Large Hadron Collider come true. Lord only knows what kind of death and destruction will follow this kid. Anyway, Mazel!
  • Sam Rockwell joined the exclusive “I Just Said ‘Fuck’ On Live TV” Club while hosting last week’s Saturday Night Live 
  • The President’s doctor, Ronny Jackson, reported that he is in good health and weighs 239 lbs. I call bullshit because “Ronny Jackson” is NOT the name of a reputable doctor. It is, however, the name of the captain of an ’80s breakdance crew.
  • Meanwhile, adult film star Stormy Daniels was allegedly paid $130,000 to cover up the fact that she had sex with Trump just after his son Barron was born. Yup, nothing to see here…
  • Sarah Huckabee Sanders used the official White House Press Secretary Twitter account to complain that her kid ordered an expensive Square Enix Batman figure by simply yelling at Alexa. This also reveals that the WH Press Secretary has an always-on mic in her house, in case there are any curious Russians out there…
  • Wally West will do a brief stint on Legends of Tomorrow for the second half of the season. Ya know, ’cause they need another Black guy now.
  • The recently announced Dick Tracy comic from Archie is already dead due to a licensing dispute.
  • In a surprising collaboration, country group Zac Brown Band is going on tour with pop group OneRepublic. I wish the tour was called the “Too Late for Chicken Fried” Tour
  • Some butthurt dude made an edit of Star Wars: The Last Jedi where all of the women were removed. Clocking in at about 45 minutes, the edit basically gives you no choice but to ship Finn and Poe.

  • Finally, I was strolling through Target last Friday when I stumbled upon this shirt featuring Topanga from Boy Meets World. Naturally, I had to Instagram it. Little did I realize that by tagging actress Danielle Fishel that she would actually reply! 1997 Will can’t stop smiling!

 

I had no interest in Black Lightning. First of all, I was beginning to tire of the live action superhero shows. It seems like whenever Greg Berlanti launches a new DCTV series, the quality of the older shows tends to take a dip. Secondly, it was originally developed for Fox, so I immediately thought, “Well, here’s another Fox show that’ll be cancelled after one, low-rated season”. When Fox passed on it, and The CW swooped down on it, my curiosity was piqued. After all, there was no way the show could operate in the Arrowverse while airing on Fox. But now that it was “coming home”, the possibilities were endless. Then they announced the show would not be part of the Arrowverse. Womp womp. I kinda stopped caring again. I had nothing against the character, per se. Unlike Black Panther, who’s a character I kinda dislike for a few reasons, I didn’t have much familiarity with Black Lightning. I hadn’t read many books with him featured, and the only thing I could remember was when President Luthor appointed him the Secretary of Education (probably the only good thing to come from that administration). So, in a lot of ways I would be going in blind, and I just didn’t have it in me to learn a new hero.

Fast forward to last weekend at DC in D.C., where the cast and producers were present to explain their take on the character. Executive producer/showrunner Salim Akil explained that the show is about an African-American man in America. However, even if you take the “African-American” off, you’ll still see a MAN who just wants the best for his family and his community. And that’s where the story comes from. Black Lightning is just a dude who wants to do right by those around him. Akil said that’s the kind of man that he aspires to be. I found that kind of interesting. Could Black Lightning be that inspiring of a character?

I missed the premiere last weekend at the event, but the reviews started trickling out and they were resoundingly positive. Some were calling it the “greatest superhero show on television”. That’s some pretty high praise right there. I missed the actual Tuesday night premiere ’cause of “Daddy Duties”, but everyone on Twitter seemed to love what they had just seen. So, of course I had to check the show out.

Let me just say that I’ve never been more happy to have been wrong. I thoroughly enjoyed that hour, and I can certainly see how Black Lightning is the hero that we need right now. Jefferson Pierce is a high school principal in the town of Freeland, who’s trying to change the world from inside the classroom. He used to patrol the city as the vigilante Black Lightning, but it tore his marriage apart. Now he does what he can at the root of the system, trying to educate and mold kids before they can be recruited by Freeland’s gangs. It’s been 9 years since he last suited up as Black Lightning, and he was pretty sure those days were behind him – until his daughters end up in a situation from which only Black Lightning can save them. It could’ve felt really hokey, but it felt so real. The series is grounded in reality by dealing with topics like racial profiling and police brutality.

Star Cress Williams is great as the character, and you can really feel the conflict that’s raging inside of him. His non Black Lightning life has been good to him: he’s been principal for the past 7 years, he and his ex-wife are on the verge of a reconciliation, and he’s established a sort of truce with the local gangs to stay away from his school. With all of the good things going on, he begins to realize he’s been living in a bubble and things in the overall world weren’t going as well for people. “Just when I thought I was out…”

I think the show really resonated with me, as I saw some parallels. We’re both Black men. We both work in education. We are both fathers to two daughters (oh yeah, I’m having another girl. Way to bury the lede, Will). He’s in great shape, and I would like to be. Anyway, I was starting to see what Akil was talking about during the panel. Jefferson Pierce is someone to strive to emulate. He’s the perfect Black superhero role model. Sure, Black Panther is a king, and sits on the world’s stockpile of Vibranium, but ain’t none of y’all gonna wake up and find out you have royal blood. Black Lightning, though, is an attainable goal. He’s a street level hero making a difference. Meanwhile, in his alter ego he’s attractive, he’s fit, he’s got amazing suits – thanks to his own “Alfred”, Gambi – he’s educated and imparting that wisdom to the next generation. He’s a family man and he’s a pillar of his community. He’s a Black Batman for the middle class. As much Black Pride as folks are feeling about Black Panther, this should generate just as much hype because it’s more relatable. To me, at least.

I’m still processing how good that pilot was, and I hope the show continues on this path. With the Berlanti track record, I’m sure it’ll take a creative dip when Berlanti goes off to work on Hitman or whatever (Yes, at DC in D.C., Geoff Johns said there were discussions about a Hitman series). By that point, they’ll figure out how to pull Black Lightning into the richer Arrowverse during the annual crossover, but I don’t want the show to lose its authenticity. It’s an important show – a necessary show – and I think that’s more important than getting to see Cisco geek out over Black Lightning’s powers. In any case, I wholeheartedly believe that Black Lightning had the West Week Ever.

18th Jan2018

DC in D.C. 2018: The Proof Is In the Panels

by Will

Previously on DC in DC 2018, I discussed all the obstacles I endured just to get into the event, but I didn’t really discuss the event itself. As I had mentioned, the real meat of the 2-day event was the slate of discussion panels that were lined up for Saturday. These panels were not only informative and entertaining, but as you sat there listening to the panelists, the true meaning of the event finally began to click: REPRESENTATION. The whole thing was a celebration of representation of the diverse characters and viewpoints in DC Entertainment. THIS is why it took place over MLK weekend. It wasn’t just that they were debuting a new series starring a Black hero, but it was also that, in their various media, they were striving to create a world like the one Dr. King always envisioned. Marvel seems to get the credit for trying to add more women and minority characters, but they’re always met with backlash from old school fans who don’t like change. And in those cases, it feels more like it’s the individual writer who wants to do it, rather than a mandate from editorial. DC, on the other hand, was here to essentially say that, as a company, it was committed to the representation of all. It was something of a bold step for a legacy publisher who’s commonly seen as looking backward instead forward.

The morning kicked off with a surprise appearance by DC Entertainment President, Diane Nelson. After a somewhat awkward trivia contest, she addressed the crowd in an attempt to explain the purpose of the weekend. While her brief remarks were scripted, the message still didn’t come across as coherently as it could have. It felt as vague as what had been in the press release. Remember? “’DC in D.C.,’ a landmark pop culture event that brings together the worlds of entertainment and public service to illuminate the story of America and current issues through the lens of comics and Super Heroes.” She basically said that. Once she was done, they quickly got the stage ready for the first panel.

The Art of the Matter: From Sketch to Screen

Moderator: Brian Truitt, writer USA Today

Panelists: Caity Lotz (actor, Legends of Tomorrow), Brandon Routh (actor, Legends of Tomorrow), Sarah Schechter (executive producer, Supergirl, The Flash, Arrow, Legends of Tomorrow, and Titans), Greg Berlanti (executive producer, Supergirl, The Flash, Arrow, Legends of Tomorrow, Black Lightning and Titans), Geoff Johns (President and Chief Creative Officer of DC Comics), Salim Akil (executive producer/showrunner, Black Lightning), Cress Williams (actor, Black Lightning), Danielle Panabaker (actor, The Flash)

The purpose of this panel was to discuss the ways in which the original DC characters are adapted into live action media, specifically television (I should point out that DC had a case of amnesia regarding their movies, as there were no movies clips in their presentation reels, nor any mention of the films throughout the event except during the Wonder Women panel). Some characters are a natural transition, while others are changed to more reflect the world around us.

Berlanti mentioned how the first five seasons of Arrow were basically the origin story of the island. Had it been a movie, that would’ve been a fifteen minute segment. So, he feels that television is a medium where you can showcase longer, richer storytelling.

Johns emphasized the need to be authentic and lean into the super aspects of these characters. He said that you need to embrace it and celebrate it rather than be ashamed of it. He told a story of an article he read as a child about the 90s The Flash TV series, starring John Wesley Shipp. Apparently a studio executive asked why he needed to be in a costume. “Couldn’t he just wear a gray jogging suit?” That’s why Johns insisted on the Grodd cage in The Flash early on. He wanted to give the audience a feel for what they were in for with this show.

Lotz said that we need heroes with everything going on right now, and that we need to be heroes. We all know what she’s talking about, but she wouldn’t pull the trigger and I know the WB execs’ anuses were clenched during those few minutes.

Williams does a great Bill Woodson impression, saying that he would wake up on Saturday mornings to tune in to “Meanwhile, at the Hall of Justice…”

Akil says he’s probably the “angriest Black man in Hollywood”, and that he’s a very sensitive person, so the state of the world affects him every day. He said he can’t help but put it in his work because he feels blessed by the opportunity that’s been presented to him. He simply feels an obligation to put that all in his work.

Berlanti related to Akil, in saying that he’s an out gay man, so it colors everything that he does. He talked about deciding to make the character Mr. Terrific gay on Arrow, who isn’t gay in comics. He jokingly said that when he first heard the name “Mr. Terrific”, he said “That’s a WONDERFUL name for a gay man!” He, then, discussed changing existing characters and creating new ones in finding the right balance for representation.

Due to the panel running a bit behind schedule, there were only about two questions asked by audience members, but nothing notable enough that I wrote them down.

In all, it was a really great discussion with some of the stars and creatives behind the hit CW TV shows. That said, considering it was billed as following the transition from sketch to screen, I would’ve liked a bit more comic representation on the panel. Sure, Johns was there, but a couple more writers would have made things interesting. Maybe talk about how the live action portrayal of certain characters may have, then, affected how they were depicted in the comics. It’s a two way street, with the comics as the source material for the live action adaptations, but the comics then experience some “reverb” from the live action. In any case, it was a good start to the day, and laid the groundwork for some of the bigger discussions that would occur as the day went on.

The Many Shades of Heroism: DC Heroes Through the African-American Lens

Moderator: David Betancourt, writer The Washington Post

Panelists: Candice Patton (actor, The Flash), John Ridley (executive producer, 12 Years A Slave), Mara Brock Akil (executive producer, Black Lightning), Cress Williams (actor, Black Lightning), Salim Akil (executive producer/showrunner, Black Lightning), Chris Chalk (actor, Gotham), Jamie Broadnax (blogger, founder of Black Girl Nerds), Denys Cowan (co-founder of Milestone Media), Alice Randall (professor, Vanderbilt University), David Harewood (actor, Supergirl)

OK, this is the panel where things really started to click. The panel opened with Williams saying that he desperately wanted to play a superhero, and that the list of possibilities for Black heroes was short. He said he was like, “Well, Luke Cage got taken. Oop, there goes Black Panther.” He actually hadn’t heard of Black Lightning until he read the script.

Salim Akil said that we use the term “authenticity” when we’re talking about the nuance of culture. Black culture is an integral part of American culture. He explained that, in the show, you’ll see what it’s like to be an African-American man in America. However, even if you take the “African-American” off, you’ll still see a MAN who just wants the best for his family and his community. And that’s where the story comes from. Black Lightning is just a dude who wants to do right by those around him. Akil said that’s the kind of man that he aspires to be.

Betancourt mentioned how the casting of Candice Patton as Iris West on The Flash was surely influential in the casting of Kiersey Clemons as the character in the DCEU movies (her scenes were cut from Justice League). Patton said that she was honored, but that at the end of the day these characters exist to make money, and that she’s just glad the powers that be realized there was money to be made with her in that role. She said that there was a consumer base ready for her, and that representation matters. She capped it off by saying that Black women need that platform to feel beautiful and smart.

The day before the panel, it was announced that Ridley would be working on a secret DC project, called The Other History of the DC Universe. Of course it was too early for him to be able to discuss any details about the project. Still, he started by thanking DC and Warner Bros for this experience, as not enough of these events happen anywhere – not just DC. He was glad to know they were treating the Black Lightning premiere with such weight. Discussing his comic The American Way, he discussed a story where Lyndon Johnson felt that if one astronaut was a Black man it would diffuse a lot of conversations that were being had at the time. Ridley said the space program was agitprop against the Russians. He said how, before Obama, you knew a movie was science fiction because they’d cast a Black president. He said it’s amazing to have lived long enough to see Black Lightning presented to everyone as mainstream entertainment. He talked about how he experienced pulling Black Lightning out of his comic bag as a young boy, and said this was akin to how some folks never saw Star Wars in a theater. Likewise, they will never know the experience of being that little boy, who now sees that representation on screen.

Cowan said that he wasn’t used to seeing Black superheroes where they weren’t being made fun of (See: Meteor Man). Other than Static Shock, there haven’t been other Black heroes leading shows. Someone mentions Steel. Cowan answered, “I like Shaquille, but…nah.” Cowan credits fellow Milestone Media co-founder Dwayne McDuffie with pointing out how they needed to open up the industry to diverse voices when they were starting Milestone, and that it’s important for a new generation to do that.

Randall was introduced as a professor at Vanderbilt University. She said that the folks on the panel are working in the footsteps of DuBois, “helping to create the text that makes sure our reality is better in the future”. While her role with Milestone 2.0 is unknown, she said she brings Black Girl Magic to the project. She said that you see what isn’t there and then you create it. Milestone is not meant to be racist but rather universal. They’re trying to “make the tent bigger”.

Broadnax explained the importance of social media in giving a voice to fans of color. Black Lightning‘s hashtag is #GetLit. The Black Girl Nerds Twitter presence has empowered folks to pick up a comic book, and provides the power to connect with one another. She says it’s a big deal to see yourself reflected in something in media.

Chalk plays Lucius Fox on Gotham, who’s a younger, less experienced Fox than we’re used to from Morgan Freeman’s portrayal in the Nolan trilogy. H said there’s freedom in his role because it’s an unexplored time in Batman’s life. He called it the “accidental activism” of being a Black character on screen with no powers. He’d never been a part of something like this, as “12 Years A Slave and Underground keep you from sleeping at night because it’s depressing”. He discussed how Lucius is just “a smartass Black dude” and it’s a refreshing role.

Harewood plays Martian Manhunter AND Cyborg Superman on Supergirl. He pointed out that he was the only Black Englishman in the room, and that when he was growing up the only Black heroes who looked like him were American. He said it was amazing to be there, and that being in America with those excellent Black creatives, on that particular weekend, meant the world to him. He discussed how J’onn is a shapeshifter but chooses to be Black. It was struck by the fact that one of the most powerful people on the planet stands with those who fight injustice.

Somewhat surprisingly, the first question came from a young White woman, who asked how much race will be a factor in Black Lightning since it’s subtle in The Flash. She also asked Patton if she liked the approach that The Flash took with that, or did she wish things were discussed more head on. Patton said that she and costar Jesse Martin have discussed it and that it’s tricky. She said she would need Black writers to handle that carefully. She added that she wonders what it was like for Barry to grow up in a Black family. Said he can probably dance and probably loves her fried chicken (crowd laughed). In the end, she said the race stuff is hard for a show like The Flash, because it’s Barry’s story, which makes her even more excited for Black Lightning.

Next up, a young Black woman said she’s thankful to see Williams representing a powered Black hero. She just wanted to thank them all for being there.

It was a great panel. It was a powerful panel. Betancourt employed an efficient style to keep the panel on schedule, where he really only gave each panelist one shot at having their say. They all said some variation of “Representation matters, and this is what I’m doing to contribute to it”.

I will say, however, that DC kinda stacked the deck with this panel. I mean, everyone was at the event to support the debut of Black Lightning, based on DC’s first Black hero to star in his own ongoing comic title. The panel was comprised of Black creatives who discussed what the character and representation meant to them. Patton even mentioned how she would need Black writers to carefully handle nuanced storylines about race. Well, here’s where it gets tricky: Black Lightning was created by Tony Isabella, a White man – one, might I add, who’s still alive. Now, most minority characters were created by White men “back in the day”, so this is nothing new. It was odd, though, how they never even mentioned him for the sake of the narrative. As far as we were concerned, Black Lightning was a Black hero of nebulous origins, being brought to the small screen oozing with Blackness courtesy of the creative team behind Girlfriends and The Game. They were treating Black Lightning like a wrestler from “Parts Unknown”. While the panel was exploring heroism through the “African American lens”, I think it would’ve been interesting to have heard Isabella’s motivation for creating the character, as well as where he drew inspiration for the character. To me, his absence was suspect. At first I thought maybe he had a prior engagement. Then, later that night as I was searching the event hashtags on social media, he was present at the Smithsonian premiere party! So, it gives the feeling that DC “kept him under wraps” so as not to undermine the Blackness of what they were there to celebrate. Just my two cents on that one.

Wonder Women

Moderator: ? I kinda got involved in Twitter when they announced her name, and the audio went out at this point on the livestream, so it seems a lot of folks don’t know her name. I believe she’s an E! News correspondent? She mentioned she had just flown in from LA…

Panelists: Candice Patton (actor, The Flash), Caity Lotz (actor, Legends of Tomorrow), Danielle Panabaker (actor, The Flash), Camren Bicondonva (actor, Gotham), Jessica Lucas (actor, Gotham), Erin Richards (actor, Gotham), Sarah Schechter (executive producer, Supergirl, The Flash, Arrow, Legends of Tomorrow, and Titans), Julie Benson (comic writer, Batgirl and the Birds of Prey), Shawna Benson (comic writer, Batgirl and the Birds of Prey), Mariko Tamaki (comic writer, Supergirl: Being Super), Shea Fontana (comic writer, DC Super Hero Girls), Agnes Garbowska (comic artist, DC Super Hero Girls)

This was an interesting panel from the start because it was apparent that the moderate was out of her comfort zone. Unlike Truitt and Betancourt who clearly had a familiarity with the industry and the source material, this woman really didn’t know much at all. My friend and I joked that if she had ever even read it a comic book, it’s because E! gave her one to read on the plane out here. Plus, she introduced each woman by complimenting something about their appearance, be it their shoes, clothes, or hair. she was basically pulling a red carpet “Who are you wearing?” at a panel about women’s empowerment. Yay, feminism? While she was engaging and upbeat, she didn’t know what she was getting herself into. I bet she originally felt it would be something of a fluff piece, where they would drool over how cool the Wonder Woman film was, but she was met with a panel of strong, opinionated women who weren’t there for that. In fact, my friend pointed out that there was a point midway through the panel where it became apparent that Schechter had essentially taken over the moderator job, as the panelists began to look to her before answering the moderator’s questions.

The panel started out by stating that 53% of comic readers are women, though you wouldn’t know it by their lack of strong representation in the books. The moderator asked if this increased readership for women was the result of the success of the Wonder Woman film, but the panel quickly corrected her and told her that “women have always been here”. For the first half of things, the questions were fairly comics-centric, which led the TV stars to be pretty silent on the panel. We learned that the Bensons grew up reading their father’s Silver Age comics, so they’ve been lifelong fans. The moderator asked the comics professionals how they did their best without alienating fans. It was a softball that felt like that Barbie doll that used to say “Math is hard”. Tamaki replied, saying that if the fans don’t like the new stuff, there’s always the retro stories for them to fall back on. Otherwise, you can’t let that fear hold you back.

Next, the moderator asked everyone how they felt after seeing Wonder Woman, and also asked if they felt we might be “hanging our hat” too much on the film’s popularity. The panel disagreed with that sentiment, with Lotz explaining how she felt leaving the theater. She said she looked around, saying “I could crush YOU, and I could crush YOU!” She said it felt amazing and that it must be how men felt all the time.

Lucas discussed how she originally felt some sort of pressure to make her Gotham character more likable, but then realized that there was freedom in that, and that the character was still representation for somebody out there.

Bicondova said that social media is helping folks to become more understanding and interconnected, and that Wonder Woman and the characters that they portray have become more popular because of it.

The moderator then said that a male friend of hers told her that he had a problem taking Wonder Woman seriously. He said that female heroes are more cerebral than strong. Panel disagrees. They say that her friend needs to watch some of their shows. Females can be anything. Bicondova mentioned how when she got the role of Selina Kyle, she got a lot of online backlash about how wrong Gotham got things (Sidenote: She seems very young. Might be her first panel?). She said she gets a lot of questioning about the writing and acting – which is interesting considering that she just a few minutes prior said that she felt social media was causing people to be more understanding. She asked the panel if that’s something see should get used to. They didn’t give her an affirmative answer, but it was clear that their answer was “yes”.

Tamaki said “realism” isn’t something they think about in a medium where you’re making people fly. She said change comes with conflict and that you have to resist.

The moderator, then, asks a very E! question: did the actors feel that the costumes that they wear serve to undermine their strength and feminism. Bicondova said “feminism” is that you can kick butt and wear what you want. Shechter chimed in, and mentioned how they added the skirt to Supergirl’s costume when designing her suit for the show. Lotz said that as long as she’s not a plot device to move the male character along, she doesn’t care what she’s wearing. Women are more than what they wear.

Patton added that what matters is the fact that women are the heroes of their own stories. Women are making choices now, which makes folks uncomfortable because that’s not the “feminine way”. She said women are now stepping up and saying, “Thanks for your input, but I decide”.

The Gotham actors brought up a scene where they were supposed to torture someone while in their underwear. An executive called the actors and asked how they felt about it, but were fine with them saying no. They emphasized that Warner Bros is a supportive environment, and that it’s important to have that second voice/other women in the costume fitting, in the writers room, etc. Shechter added that the best part of working in TV is the continued collaboration with the actor, as the actors grow into their roles and know them better than anyone else.

As for the comics, the Bensons mentioned they’ve asked for clothes to be functional when talking to artists for Batgirl and the Birds of Prey. They ask for cleavage to be toned down, etc. The comics pros discussed the Power Girl “boob window”, and how it has meaning because it undermines the strength of a woman as she’s doing kick-ass things. When designing DC Super Hero Girls, all the girls wear flats because fighting in heels makes no sense.

Patton then mentioned that she agreed with the last panel in that her role as Iris is “accidental activism”. She got into it to pay her rent but now she’s become a voice for girls who look like her. She said her heroes were White and blonde but it felt outside of herself (Lotz, sitting next to her as a blonde White woman, began flipping her hair. The crowd got a good laugh out of that). Patton she would never get those parts but would end up the best friend of the Pretty White Girl. She said that, for the first time, she IS the Pretty White Girl. The moderator (herself a Black woman) was quick to correct her by saying,”Well, pretty Brown girl”, which kinda knocked the wind out of the sails of what Patton had just conveyed. Schechter jumped in, adding that the hashtah she sees on Twitter is #keepirisblack, and that comes back to the need for representation.

The moderator, then, asked if they have they seen a more inclusive nature in Hollywood? Schechter said she still sees a lot of problems with wage inequality. What’s first step in correcting it? Lotz said that if folks on other side of the table don’t value you, they’ll just move on to the next woman. Negotiators have to value women as much as women value themselves. Schechter said it’s about breaking precedent. Lotz and Patton live together and have open discussions about pay. They said they can’t fight the fight without their male comrades, and that they need to be transparent about their pay, too. They said it’s about those with power lifting up those without. Panebaker added that the Time’s Up movement is important because it’s about coming together.

Standing up for her employer, Schechter ended the discussion portion by saying that Warner Bros and DC have an emphasis on equality, and that the good people have to be applauded, too.

Q&A

A little girl dressed as Wonder Woman asked “If you could have a superhero what would it be?” Based on her age, it wasn’t really clear, so they interpreted it as “If you could have a superpower what would it be?”The popular answer from most of the panel: fly, because LA traffic sucks.

A woman pointed out that to Patton that Iris isn’t scientific amongt all of these scientists, and asked how important is it to her that she’s a Black, non powered character who’s just as important as the heroes? Patton answered that she thinks it’s important in all hero stories to have characters who aren’t heroes. She doesn’t have to be a super scientist to have value. Iris has tremendous power and value.

Another young woman asked if there will be a chance for Lotz and Patton to work together since it was recently reported that Wally West would be appearing on Legends of Tomorrow. Either this was news to the panel, or they weren’t at liberty to say anything, but they didn’t seem too optimistic about the prospect.

A visibly nervous young woman asked “How does facing women’s issues inform your portrayal of your characters? Conversely how does your portrayal empower you in real life?” Richards responded that women are typically very supportive of each other and feels panels like these help her to reach out to other women that she’s representing them. Bicondova said she’s shy and introverted and feels Selina is the same but also manages to stand her ground. So Selina is her inspiration in faking confidence. She pointed out that we sometimes have to fake confidence to face certain situations.

The next woman mentioned the “Trial of The Flash” trailer. She noted that there’s so much power in Patton and Panebaker’s characters right now, so she wanted to know how that felt for them. They answered that the shows are lucky to have incredible casts, so it doesn’t always have to be a focus on the hero, but can focus on the supporting cast for them to have their moments as well.

Another woman asked Lotz “What was the process like getting into the head of Sara Lance?” She responded that Sara’s a bit if a tortured soul so it was a little bit of a dark time. She said she’s talked to a lot of fans who felt the same: irredeemable and guilty for what she’s done. When she gets past it, even if just a little bit, it’s powerful. She slips back and forth as it’s a constant work in progress, like it is with most people.

A woman who might have been of Middle Eastern descent thanked Lotz for the character of Zari that was added to Legends of Tomorrow this season. Lotz responded that Zari’s a terrific actress and a great human. The woman, then, asked “How does the atmosphere onset change when they get to team up instead of being only woman in the room?” There was a sigh of relief from panel. Lotz said they came together to run the set and to keep things moving, which was really empowering. She said that when you have someone in your corner, that IS power.

A teenage girl asked “What is Shethority?” This referred to the female empowerment brand that was established by the women of the DCTV universe. Lotz said they started getting together during the crossover and realized how important it was to have each other’s backs. They wanted to create a place that gave folks a sense of community and a place from which to pull strength. It’s a place to share stories, lift each other up, and share collective power.

There was a lone male who went up for a question on the other side of the auditorium. Because the line was longer on the opposite side, the moderator kept passing him over because those women had been waiting longer than he had. I thought he was going to give up, but he was persistent and patient, and I’m glad he was. He said that he was a father to a young girl, who has strong female role model in the form of her mother. Thanks to the panel, he said she’ll have even more strong role models. He asked if they had any advice for a dad who wants to raise a Wonder Woman? Someone said “Believe in her”, and that knowing enough to ask his question shows he’s on the right path. Lotz said he should challenge her and not assign typical gender roles. “Give her the confidence of a white man.” Bicondova seemed to get a bit choked up with her answer, saying she thinks dads are held to impossible standards (they shouldn’t cry, they have to be strong, etc), and as a girl she very much looked up to her dad. She said “It’s good to have your hero stand next to you just as well as above you. Let her know she can talk to you.”

For the final question, a woman asked Patton and Panebaker, “How do you include a strong, sexy vibe into your character without submitting to the male gaze?” They said “Strength and confidence.” Patton perfectly ended the panel, saying, “Sometimes I just tell them ‘That camera better not be on my butt!'”

While I missed the afternoon panels, from what I was able to see, I’d say Wonder Women was the most powerful in its interaction with the audience, as well as for what it meant to those in attendance. While the same might’ve been said about the Many Shades of Heroism panel, the lack of a real Q&A period didn’t allow the audience to really share in the experience with the panelists. This panel was packed with strong women who didn’t come for a fluff panel, in spite of a moderator who constantly tried to make it entertaining rather than informative. I feel it was empowering to an audience of women who appreciated the representation these women provided, and in many ways was probably inspirational to a few of them. When the Q&A portion occurred, there were several who clearly weren’t comfortable speaking in public, yet they struggled and succeeded in finding their voice to get their questions out to the panel.

What easily could’ve been a “Wow, wasn’t Wonder Woman so cool?!” panel turned into a very informative hour about gender pay equity, advocating on your own behalf, and the power of strength in numbers. It was when this panel ended that I thought, “Oh, I get it now” in terms of the purpose of the weekend. While DC and Warner Bros didn’t effectively convey it in the publicity and the marketing, this panel is what the weekend was all about: the fact that WB/DC have not only acknowledged the need for representation of various backgrounds and viewpoints, but also went the next step in bringing that representation to meet with the very people they were representing. With that in mind, I’d say that, despite any organization hiccups or seeming lack of preparation, the weekend was a success in that it achieved its goal. I believe everyone in that auditorium not only enjoyed the event, but also left feeling better for having been in attendance. DC has been saying that this is the first event of its kind, so I’m sure its success (or lack there of) will decide if there are any future events of this nature. I truly hope there is a “next time” because, once they iron out some of the kinks, they could have quite the enjoyable and empowering fan experience on their hands.

DC livestreamed the event on YouTube if you want to see the panels for yourself.

Anyway, that concludes my reporting on #DCinDC2018. Thanks for joining me this week, and be sure to come back tomorrow for my recap of the week’s big pop culture topics in West Week Ever!

17th Jan2018

DC in D.C. 2018: One Fanboy’s Quest To Gain Access To A Mysterious Comics Event

by Will

So if you follow me on Twitter, you’ve probably seen me using the #DCinDC2018 hashtag a bunch over the past couple of days. I’m sure you wondered what it meant, as it seemingly came out of nowhere, and to do a Twitter search on it wouldn’t yield many results until midday Saturday. If you want to know what it was all about, take a seat, as ol’ Uncle Will is gonna learn ya something. Ya see, it really did come out of nowhere, almost a month ago to the day. Back on December 14th, Warner Bros Television Group & DC Entertainment issued a press release announcing “DC in D.C. on MLK Weekend”, described as “a landmark pop culture event that brings together the worlds of entertainment and public service to illuminate the story of America and current issues through the lens of comics and Super Heroes”. Kind of exciting, but kind of vague, right? It went on to say,

“DC in D.C.” brings together stars and producers from Warner Bros. Television’s DCTV series, as well as comic book writers and artists from DC Entertainment, who will join invited guests from politics, government service, entertainment, business, academia and more. The event will explore the intersection of comic books, culture, entertainment and enlightenment through a series of panel discussions open to the public.”

I still wasn’t getting a ton of information out of that blurb. I mean, was it a convention? Or was it a festival? Would it cost anything? On top of the panels, there would also be appearances by DCTV cast members, as well as some world premiere screenings. OK, I’m listening. The event would take place at the Newseum which, as a native Washingtonian, is one of the few museum’s I’ve never visited. So, without even really knowing what I was getting myself into, I was determined to take advantage of DC Comics planning to show up in my back yard. This is my account of how I achieved that goal.

First of all, let’s talk about that press release. It was released one month before the festivities, so it gives the appearance that this was a hastily thrown together event. I mean, anyone who wanted to attend only had a month to make arrangements and get tickets, and the organizers were NOT making that easy. The dcindc2018.com URL had been acquired, but all it did was redirect you to the press release. The release specifically said to check that site for more information, but nothing was ever updated except to later add links to Eventbrite for the panel tickets (more on that later). It did list the anticipated guests, as well as the panel topics and meeting times, but it failed to truly answer a few poignant questions, like Why is this event happening?

From what I could gather, there were 3 core pieces to the weekend’s festivities: the Batman: Gotham By Gaslight animated feature premiere on Friday night, the slate of discussion panels during the day on Saturday, and the new DCTV series Black Lightning sneak peek/premiere Saturday night. The release really leaned into the fact that this was taking place over MLK weekend, but why did that matter? Well, a new show starring a Black hero, debuting over MLK weekend? It’s a little on the nose, but I get it. I mean, the cynical side of me says that DC wanted to get the jump on Marvel with a Black hero of their own before Black Panther takes the world by storm. I can’t be mad at that.

We were encouraged to follow the various DC accounts on social media, but I can’t recall any major updates from them regarding the event. When tickets were finally made available (I was able to get mine on 12/22), there was no fanfare. I randomly popped on the site at 1 AM, and snagged a ticket to every panel. Yes, this was designed more like a carnival than a convention; at a carnival you have to get a ticket for each ride, but a convention allows you to pay one price for access to pretty much everything. Oh, but did I mention that tickets were free? Yeah, that was a nice little surprise. Anyway, I can’t say that I saw any DC account on social media say “Tickets to DC in D.C. 2018 are now available!” Those accounts did, however, tout the fact that extra tickets had been released for certain panels (the day before the event), but there was nothing posted for that initial release.

The whole event almost became something of a local secret. “Psst! Hey! Did you get your tickets to DC in D.C.?”And half the time that query was met with blank stares. You’d be hard pressed to find someone who knew that it was happening. If you did find someone familiar with it, they were just as in the dark about the details as you were. By New Year’s Day, with tickets acquired, the website still hadn’t been updated. Were all of the announced guests still coming? Would there be a signing schedule for the celebrities? If you were hoping to get that information from the website, you’d be out of luck.

Remember the Black Lightning premiere? Well, that was another point of confusion, as the release mentioned a sneak peek screening of the pilot that would be taking place at the Newseum, but there was also a fancy, schmancy red carpet premiere at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History, to be followed by an after party at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture. The sneak peek tickets were issued via Eventbrite, just like the ones for the panels, but the fancier event was by invitation only. Ugh! This being Washington, I feared those invitations would go to a bunch of local political muckety mucks who didn’t care a thing about comics. Who was getting invited? How could someone get invited? I guess it’s one of those things where if you have to ask then you’re already out of luck, but I don’t give up that easily. It was time to try that “networking” thing folks are always going on about.

One of the publicists from Warner Bros Television and I have followed each other on Twitter for quite a few years now. I can’t remember if we’ve ever interacted, but she used to favorite my tweets every now and then. She was also listed on the press release, so I felt she would be able to answer any questions that I might have. I fired off a message, asking for clarification on the Black Lightning screening situation. Keep in mind, I didn’t ask for anything, nor did I expect to receive anything except a response. I mean, I was pretty sure I was going to be blown off, but I thought I’d get some kind of blanket “Sorry, but all invitations have already gone out” response. Instead, I got nothing. Whatever. I’m not important in the world of public relations. I get that. So, I did a search of the #DCinDC2018 hashtag, and I saw a woman tweeting the Black Lightning publicist, begging for tickets. I was going to take a different approach, so I just messaged the same questions I had asked the other publicist. Again, no response. I mentioned on Twitter that I wonder if I didn’t get a response due to my Twitter avatar (it’s me in a bunch of Marvel garb). Guess I was going to have to figure this out on my own…

Fast forward to last week – With the event merely days away, the WB PR folks hadn’t replied to me, and I didn’t have any more information about the weekend than I’d had a month ago. I checked the hashtags, and there was no real news. Just some minor chatter, and that same woman, begging the publicist for tickets. Then, on Thursday, my friend sent me a link to tickets for comic creator signings. See, there’d been so much emphasis on the TV stars that they had somewhat glossed over the fact that fan favorite comic creators Jim Lee and Geoff Johns were coming to town. I had noticed their names on the release instantly, and one of my goals for the weekend was to get something signed by them (or, at the very least, get a selfie). I figured they would be signing at some point, but DC never released a signing schedule as publishers are wont to do for conventions. So, imagine my surprise to find out that they were using the same system for signings that they used for panels: you had to hop on Eventbrite and pray you got lucky. Current Batman writer, Tom King, was coming to the event, and that was the link that my friend had sent me. Of course by that point all the tickets were listed as “sold out”. It dawned on me: if they’re doing tickets for King, then there are probably tickets for Lee and Johns. So, after some Google Fu, I was able to find those Eventbrite pages and, of course, they were “sold out”. HOW?! There hadn’t even been any publicity around them. At that point, the DC Comics Twitter account hadn’t even announced the signings. I was beginning to feel like the whole thing was just one big mismanaged enterprise and, while I had tickets to the panels, my enthusiasm for the weekend was beginning to wane. I adopted the mantra I would fall back on several times over the weekend: “Yes, it’s a mess, but at least it’s FREE.”

Discouraged that it didn’t seem like a Lee/Johns signing was in my future, I turned my focus to the Batman: Gotham By Gaslight screening Friday night. By this point they had added another Lee signing, which the social accounts were actually promoting, but tickets flew for those, too. So while the event was actually kicked off by Friday night’s screening, they managed to schedule a signing at 3 PM that afternoon. When people have work. I didn’t care – I’d have blown it off had I gotten a ticket. Anyway, I mention that to point out that the event hadn’t truly started by the time I arrived to the Newseum at 5:30 last Friday evening. Once there, I checked out the DC in D.C. Pop-Up Shop located immediately outside the Newseum, which was stocked with souvenirs like Funko Pops of DC characters, as well as the Top 50 Bestselling DC trade paperbacks and graphic novels. Oddly enough, while nobody could be bothered to update the website, they did manage to crank out an announcement about the Pop-Up. They had created some exclusive t-shirts for the event, and I had my sights set on a particular one. Still, before the event had officially begun, they had somehow already run out of ANY t-shirt sizes bigger than a large, and they had run out of bags. Womp womp. The guy manning the register wasn’t even sure if they would be restocking the next day. As a consolation prize, I bought the Black Lightning: Year One collection, as it was pretty much the only book they had that I didn’t already own. Between this and the signings ticket fiasco, I was really not feeling the lack of preparation on display. But remember, Will: “Yes, it’s a mess, but at least it’s FREE.” Things were about to turn around once my friend and I got inside the Newseum.

courtesy of @lofthouse555 on Instagram

After standing in line for a bit, we were greeted by lines of waitstaff holding trays of water, red, and white. I’m not a drinker by any stretch of the imagination, but I jumped at that Chardonnay. It would be the first of many. I’ll hand it to Warner Bros in that they put together a wonderful spread for the pre-screening reception: Open bar, as well as hors d’oeuvres of mini open-faced cheeseburgers and bacon-wrapped cheese, and more. The strategies we were all employing to get that food would make you think we’d never had a meal.

I made it to six Chardonnays. When the movie started, I was more than ready for it. They even gave us popcorn and snacks. I was a BIG fan of DC/WB at that point. It was a great film, so be sure to check it out when it becomes available on digital on January 23rd. I was feeling really good by this point; I was looking forward to the next day’s festivities, and crossing my fingers that they’d receive a shipment of larger shirts.

When I got home Friday night, I checked Twitter, and there was a local woman who was asking if anyone had extra tickets. When it came to the panel schedule, it was as follows:

10:00–10:45 a.m. The Art of the Matter: From Sketch to Screen
11:00–11:45 a.m. The Many Shades of Heroism: DC Heroes Through the African-American Lens
12:00 p.m.–12:45 p.m. Wonder Women
2:00–2:45 p.m. The Pride of DC: The Art of LGBTQ Inclusion
3:00–3:45 p.m. The Aftermath: Battle & Trauma in Comics

While I had gotten tickets to them all, my interest in some of them actually waned as time wore on. I knew I wanted to see the first 2, was waffling on the next 2, but wanted to see Tom King’s, which was the last one. Since she really seemed to want to go, I gave her my ticket to the Wonder Women panel. I didn’t really have much of a plan for Saturday, but I had finally gotten tickets to the Black Lightning sneak peek (not the fancy invite-only one) earlier in the day, thanks to a tip from a stranger on Twitter, so I felt I should pay it forward. So, while I’d had a great time at the screening, some part of me was already checking out of the whole thing.

The next morning, I got to the Newseum for the first panel, only to find two lines wrapped around the building. No one seemed to know the difference in the lines, nor did they want to lose their spot to fight out. It was to start at 10, but we were still lined up in the cold at 9:50. Once inside, it was a far cry from the night before. We had to empty our pockets and go through security checkpoints. They hurriedly put wristbands on us, and said that we would have to exit the auditorium after each panel. Make a note of that point. I’ll cover the panels in detail tomorrow, so don’t worry about them right now. Just know that there were quite a few empty seats in that first panel. So, I guess it shouldn’t have come as much of a surprise when, following the first panel, they announced “In order to keep the schedule running on time, please feel free to remain in your seats for the next panel.” They would repeat this message following all of the morning panels. They flipped the script. Instead of actually needing a ticket for each panel, you really just needed one to get in the building. Once in, you didn’t have to leave. Oh, and they were also granting us free admission to the rest of the Newseum, which is something they really could’ve told us sooner in order to plan the day accordingly. I began to wonder if the signings, which were taking place in the lobby at the same time, had also given up on enforcing tickets. I wouldn’t find out, though, as I ended up staying for the Wonder Women panel and the signings had ended by the time it let out.

I had run into some friends over the course of the morning, and it was good catching up with them. Once the lunch break occurred, a few of us decided to just go get lunch and decide whether or not we cared about the remaining panels. I checked out the Pop-Up again and they had restocked on bags and shirts, yet were now out of anything bigger than a medium. I never really intended to wear the shirt; I just wanted a souvenir of the occasion, so I grabbed a random size and bought it. While in line, some folks behind me were asking the shop employees how they could get tickets to get inside to the event. There was a father and son trying to get in, so I gave the dad my ticket to the LGBTQ panel, telling him that it seemed like he just needed it to get in, and he’d be set for everything else. This left me with only the Tom King “Battle & Trauma” ticket, but I didn’t feel like having to kill time until it started, and then have to kill time until the Black Lightning screening. So I offered that panel ticket up on Twitter, but nobody took me up on it. After lunch, my friends and I just decided to head home, so I eventually offered the Black Lightning ticket up on Twitter, as well, to no takers. By that point, those not in attendance were split into two camps: “What is this thing that’s going on anyway?” and “I’ve already given up on trying to find out more about this”. My offer was simply too little, too late. Plus, it was cold as Hell, which was probably a deterrent for some. Anyway, my DC in D.C. 2018 experience ended not with a bang, but with a whimper.

Epilogue

Late Saturday night, I hopped on Twitter after the Black Lightning premiere had finished. I checked the #DCinDC2018 hashtag, and was greeted by a flood of selfies and pics taken at the Smithsonian premiere party. As I scrolled down my timeline, something caught my eye: the stranger who had tipped me off about the Black Lightning tickets being available had managed to get a selfie with Legends of Tomorrow star, Caity Lotz. I thought that was pretty cool, as I kept scrolling. Then something else stopped me dead in my tracks. Remember that woman who had been begging the WB publicist for tickets? Well, there she was on the timeline, all dressed up, AT THE PREMIERE PARTY. Her incessant pestering had worked! The publicist had gotten back to her (this was publicist #2 to ignore me, mind you) and she even hashtagged it #dreamsdocometrue. Well, good for her. I guess I know what to do if there’s a next time. There were a lot of hoops and obstacles during this whole process, but at least it was free…

Anyway, that’s far from my final thoughts on the weekend. Tune in tomorrow for my final installment, where I’ll get into detail about the panels, as well as discuss how they colored my feelings on the event as a whole. I’ll answer some questions you probably have, like “Well, did you enjoy it?” and “What could they have done better?” Teaser: Contrary to what you just read, it was an overall enjoyable weekend, content-wise. I honestly had a good time, in spite of the seeming lack of organization’s best efforts to thwart that. Tomorrow we’ll get into the panel content that made the event so special.

16th Jan2018

Batman: Gotham By Gaslight – A Strong Adaptation of a DC Comics Classic

by Will

So, this week we’re going to be talking about the DC Comics local “pop-up event” DC in DC 2018, and those festivities kicked off last Friday with the world premiere screening of the latest animated offering from Warner Bros Home Entertainment, Batman: Gotham By Gaslight. Screened at the Newseum, in Washington, DC, the film adapts the 1989 classic Batman tale by Brian Augustyn and Hellboy creator Mike Mignola.

When it comes to alternate Earths and universes, nobody does it better than DC Comics. In fact, they popularized the squarebound “prestige format” of books with their Elseworlds imprint, which focused on non-canon, imaginary tales set on different Earths. The very first of these was Gotham By Gaslight, and offered fans something they’d never seen in its story of a Victorian era Batman chasing down Jack the Ripper. It’s a visually striking tale that showed fans what characters were capable of when taken out of their “natural” element. Still, despite its popularity, I never would’ve pegged Warner Bros to adapt it into an animated feature – especially not as the third R-rated feature in the DC Universe Animated Original Movies franchise.

I have an interesting history with the DC Comics Warner Bros Home Entertainment releases. When they first started, I was pretty underwhelmed. The series was kicked off with Superman: Doomsday, which clocked in at a scant 77 minutes, which made it seem more like Superman took a nap rather than *died*. Still, as the movies kept coming out, they got increasingly better at using the abridged runtime efficiently. I religiously bought them whenever they were released, even before I’d had time to see the one that had come out previously. From Justice League: New Frontier to Batman: Year One, I was an avid collector of those movies. I eventually looked at my unwatched DVD pile, though, and decided to take a bit of a break. I’d later come back when they started to weave New 52 continuity into the films following Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox. While I’ve been a casual viewer of the newer stuff, I still seem to find myself present for the big events. I went to a limited theatrical screening of Batman: The Killing Joke, and I found myself in the Newseum for this screening. All of this is to say that I love the DCAO output, but I’ve become more restrained with my fandom in recent years. When In saw that the premiere screening was happening locally, though, I knew I had to see it.

I haven’t read Gotham By Gaslight in over 20 years, so you could say that I went into the film with fresh eyes. Hell, let’s be honest here: as iconic as it is, I couldn’t remember the ins and outs of the story, other than “Batman fights Jack the Ripper”. I used to be quite the student of the Jack the Ripper phenomenon, even taking a tour of that vicinity when I was in London. At a certain point in my life, the idea of my favorite hero tracking down my favorite villain fired on all cylinders. Still, life happens, time passes, and we forget things. So, I sat down in the Newseum and hoped what I saw onscreen would refresh my memory. It did not, but we’ll get to that later.

When the film started I noticed that the animation was serviceable, yet it didn’t “wow” me. It’s not on the level of Batman: Mystery of the Batwoman, which was a decidedly low point for Warner Bros Animation, but it didn’t seem as strong as what we’ve gotten in recent WBHE releases. I think part of the issue is that it was meant to emulate a certain style instead of the regular “house” style that the New 52 animation releases have stuck to. After all, the original story was drawn by Mignola, and the animation was trying to capture that. During the Q&A after the film, DC Animated Universe (DCAU) architect/producer Bruce Timm said that they’d approached Mignola to take a pass on the animation designs, but that he had taken a pass, wanting to see what someone with fresh eyes would bring to the production. So, instead, they opted for a style that was something of a Mignola callback. Those “fresh eyes”, however, were somewhat lackluster, and there’s a sense of laziness to the character designs. Other than Wayne, every other male is just a stocky White guy with a thick mustache. In that same Q&A, Timm alluded to a tight production timeline, saying “Thank God for facial hair.”

At the beginning of the film, a dancing showgirl, immediately recognizable as Poison Ivy, ends her shift with a gentleman from the audience. As she’s about to take him someplace they can be alone, she finds out she got more than she bargained for, becoming the Ripper’s latest victim. As Gotham braces for this new crime wave, their native son, Bruce Wayne, has just returned from Europe and is getting reacclimated to his hometown. His return happens to occur at the same time a masked vigilante makes his debut, and sets his sights on the one who’s been killing the women of Gotham. This sets off a game of cat and mouse between Batman and the Ripper, while incorporating familiar characters in new roles, such as Robins Dick, Tim, and Jason as street urchins, as well as Dr. Leslie Thompkins as the nun in charge of the local charity. Harvey Dent and Selina Kyle are also prominently featured in the story.

It’s the voice cast that really brings this movie to life. Bruce Greenwood reprises his roles as Bruce Wayne & Batman, having played them in the Young Justice TV series. A lot of my generation tends to look at Greenwood as the Great Value Kevin Conroy, which isn’t really fair to him. He does a great job aping Conroy’s style, while also bringing his own touch to both Wayne and Batman. This is a younger Wayne, who’s not quite comfortable in his role as Batman yet. According to the folks at the Q&A, Bruce is pretending to be Batman throughout the movie, and doesn’t truly become him until the end. Meanwhile, Dexter‘s Jennifer Carpenter is excellent as Selina Kyle, while Buffy The Vampire Slayer‘s Anthony Head brings gravitas to the role of Alfred Pennyworth. The cast is rounded out by animation superstars Tara Strong, John DiMaggio, Yuri Lowenthal, and Grey Griffin. At times, you forget you’re watching an animated feature, as they really pull you into the story.

Remember how I said that the movie didn’t refresh my memory of the comic? Well, that’s because the film is very different from the book.  I didn’t realize just how different until the movie ended, and I hopped on Wikipedia while the folks were lining up for the Q&A session. I’m talking different characters, different villains, different ending. Don’t pass this by just because you think you know what’s going to happen because you don’t. Personally, none of the changes bothered me, but that’s because I had forgotten most of the original story. That didn’t mean I wasn’t along for all the twists and turns, as I thoroughly enjoyed where the story went.

So, at the end of the day, Batman: Gotham By Gaslight is an entertaining and thrilling adaptation, using the classic story as its springboard. If you’re looking for that original story here, then you might be disappointed. If you go in with an open mind, however, and take the story for what it is, you’re in for a real treat. Due to the lack of intense detail in the animation, seeing it on the big screen might’ve done a disservice to the final product. That said, I think a reasonably sized screen, during a home viewing, will deliver a tighter, sleeker presentation. I know this was a special presentation for the DC in DC 2018 event, but I think this production will be more at home on DVD/Blu Ray.

Batman: Gotham By Gaslight will be available digitally on January 23rd, followed by DVD/Blu Ray on February 6th.

 

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