30th Jan2012

Who’s That Guy?

by Will

My rants tend to take a nostalgic bent, but I find I try to stay away from the true “retro blogging” front. I rarely venture earlier than ’93, and there are so many bloggers that already have a handle on the ’80s stuff. That said, the folks over at UnderScoopFIRE! and ColdSlither Podcast have really kind of stoked the fires for my nostalgia. Having followed them on Twitter, and listened to their podcasts, I realize that they’re my kind of people. Every day, I can count on a great debate like “Stone Cold OR The Rock?” or “Ma’am and George Papadapolis OR “Philip and Maggie Drummond?” These aren’t the debates you get from CNN, but these questions must be asked! So, the wheels have been turning, and I’ve started thinking about 80s pop culture, and some of the quirk inherent to that era. One such phenomenon I’d like to refer to as “Who’s That Guy?”

Sitcoms have really evolved over the past 50 or so years. Before we settled on the whole single camera, no laugh track model (The Office), we had the multicamera, studio audience model (Three’s Company). In the beginning, these shows usually starred some comedian or variety act, maybe a husband and wife team. Then, we got to the 70s where things were a bit more politically charged, and sitcoms began to explore the workplace (Mary Tyler Moore). In the ’80s, however, shit got weird.

In the 80s, shows centered on a family model, and tended to have male family friend who Just Might Be Gay. Who’s that guy? Why is he here? What’s his motivation? He wasn’t just a wacky neighbor, as those had been around for years. No, this was something different. Of course, he couldn’t actually be gay, as Three’s Company showed us that you could only be gay if you weren’t (Ha! He’s only pretending). No, these characters seemed like they were testing the waters of America’s acceptance of the potential of a gay sitcom character. The role disappeared in the 90s when shows gravitated towards the Living Single model – centered around a group of friends who are primarily not immediate family; I’d say Friends model, but any black person under the age of 50 will tell you that Living Single did it first (Honestly, I think TGIF’s Going Places might have actually pioneered the whole thing, but I digress). It’s said that the funniest jokes have some truth to them, so it stands to reason that these roles were possibly meant to ease America into the idea of homosexuality, without fully understanding how best to accomplish that. After all, this was new territory for the era, so there wasn’t really a road map as to how to successfully pull this off. These characters were always played as “bachelors”, but little “bacheloring” was done on their part. It’s kinda like your middle-aged uncle who lives with his “friend”, Kevin. At most, they were played for comic relief. Still, their addition always seemed a bit off, as if mandated by the network. I want to take a closer look at some of these characters.

In the sitcom Webster, real-life couple Alex Karras and Susan Clark take in little Emmanuel Lewis, and hilarity ensues! Not really. Anyone with eyes knew that this was just a Chinese knockoff of Diff’rent Strokes. I wonder if white folks were as crazy about adopting black kids as TV led me to believe. Seriously, TV made it seem like a typical yuppie weekend agenda was:

_Play tennis at the club

_Brunch

_Detail the BMW

_Go down to the orphanage and look at the black kids

The saddest thing about Webster was that he wasn’t even a part of the original premise. It was just meant to be a show about the couple, but everyone was apparently riding the wave of black adoptions (gotta catch ’em all!), so Webster was pigeonholed into the show. And then he took over. And the real life couple wasn’t pleased.

Anyway, despite all the behind the scenes drama, something interesting was happening onscreen. You see, the show introduced Jerry (played by Henry Polic II – how do you even become a “II”? Don’t you have to be a JUNIOR? Anyway…), who was the male secretary to Katherine Papadapolis. Hold up, MALE SECRETARY?!! But that’s a WOMAN’s job, like housekeeping (little did we know the 80s would also turn that occupation on its head, too). Anyway, I’ve watched a LOT of TV. We’re talking a LOT. That said, I can’t remember an important episode featuring Jerry. I do remember him dressed up as Dracula once. Otherwise, I just remember him as looking like he could be Cousin Larry Appleton’s stand-in. As a child, though, all I could think was “Why is he here? They already want me to believe these rich white folks want Webster, and now I’ve gotta make sense of him, too?!” I don’t know if there were any episodes about Jerry going on dates with women way out of his league, or a rushed marriage storyline or anything. In hindsight, part of what taints my memory of him is the Britcom, Take A Letter, Mr Jones. In that show, John Inman (of Are You Being Served? fame) plays a male secretary, and I don’t think John Inman EVER played a straight character, so I guess I’m applying that bias to Jerry on Webster. Was Webster sending a message through established gender roles or was it trying to change established gender roles? Let’s move on to another example, shall we?

 

 

Another quirky 80s sitcom was Too Close For Comfort, starring Mary Tyler Moore/Caddyshack alum, Ted Knight. This show was all over the place, partly because it went from network to first-run syndication – changing plot points as it went along. Mainly, Knight played Henry Rush, a cartoonist whose most popular strip was Cosmic Cow. He lived in San Francisco with his wife and hot daughters. Oh, and Monroe Ficus.

Played by Jim J. Bullock, Monroe started out as a friend of Henry’s daughters. While he’s a klutz and always tends to gum up the works, his heart is usually in the right place. Over time, Henry becomes a bit of a father figure to him – especially once the daughters are written out of the show. The problem with Monroe, though, is that he’s a character that just doesn’t exist in that time period. I mean, in today’s vernacular, you would classify him as a manchild, but not in the Judd Apatow sense of the word. Those characters just don’t want to embrace responsibility, while Monroe just had a Peter Pan naivete about him. He never dated any of Rush’s daughters, nor did he even try. I’ve been watching the show a lot lately on Antenna TV, and he doesn’t seem to ever really have girlfriends. Then, there’s the “very special episode” where he’s raped during his shift as a mall guard. It’s played for comedic effect, even though there’s a buried message about how men can be raped, too. He’s embarrassed to go to the police, but Henry convinces him that he should. The whole message isn’t conveyed very well, and you find out he was raped by a burly senior citizen, so it’s still “Haha, poor Monroe!”

As a character, Monroe was a sweet kid, but what was his true purpose? Sure, he served as a foil for Henry (much like the Urkel and Carl relationship from Family Matters), there are still a lot of questions that need to be answered about the character’s motivations. Early on, we learn that his own parents don’t really even care about him, from dissuading him from visiting, to not even calling on his birthday. This is part of why Henry decides to make time for him, but why did the Ficus clan disavow him?

Then, there’s the fact that the character was played by Jim J. Bullock. A longtime HIV survivor, Bullock has never been shy about his sexuality, and he actually learned he had the virus during the final season of Too Close For Comfort. I often wonder if Monroe never chased women because they felt the audience wouldn’t believe it OR if Monroe was actually as gay a character as network TV was willing to allow at the time.

Here’s where I wanted to talk about Joey Gladstone from Full House. I’ve always had a problem with Full House because I don’t know why Danny Tanner puts up with all those freeloaders. Seriously, Joey wasn’t a blood relative, and it seemed like they were helping him more than he was helping them. Also, when you get married, it’s time to move out. When you have a baby, it’s time to move out. When you become a DJ, it’s time to move out. You do NOT move into the attic, expand said attic, or install a studio in the basement. As you see, though, most of my problems were actually with Jesse – Joey was just along for the ride. Plus, any theories about Joey were dispelled by Wolfgnards’s excellent takedown of what was really going on in the Tanner household.

So, we’ve gone over just a few examples here. There are others who fit the mold (Dexter on Silver Spoons, Ralph Simpson on Gimme A Break!, etc), while others don’t (Charley Dietz on Empty Nest). In fact, speaking of Charley, he’s indicative of what happened later on in the decade. Played by “Joe Isuzu” actor David Leisure, Charlie was an oversexed douchebag, much like a real-life version of Family Guy‘s Quagmire. In the latter half of the decade, most of the “Who’s That Guy?” characters would follow this path, as womanizing cads with little moral character. If psychology tells you anything, these guys are actually more likely to have issues dealing with their sexuality than the characters like Jerry and Monroe. But this has already gotten too cerebral, and I’ll be damned if I’m gonna actually use my degree for a blog post!  Can you think of any other characters who fit the mold? Am I way off base here? Do you just want me to hurry up and talk about comics and toys again? Stay tuned!

 

11th Nov2011

Will’s World of Wonder – It Begins! #111111

by Will

I need more collector friends – In Real Life collector friends. It’s not always easy being a collector. First off, non-collectors think you have a problem akin to an addiction. If that’s not bad enough, other collectors become the competition. You find yourself not wanting to share your secret haunts, fearing that other collectors will milk them dry. Plainly put, the life of a collector can be a lonely, paranoid one. But it doesn’t have to be.

For me, Twitter changed everything. Through Twitter, I’ve found collector friends. I’ve been able to compare war stories and let folks know which chains have the newest stuff. A lot of the time, we come across stuff someone’s looking for, and we help each other out (I know that Suribot, Engineernerd, and MrSithy can attest to that!). It truly is a sense of community, and it makes The Hunt a little less lonely.

Ah, yes – The Hunt. I know there are folks who hate hunting for new toys, but I’m not one of those people. I’ve heard that it’s a waste of time and gas. Like anything you love, you have to make time for it. And, honestly, I feel like driving to work is a bigger waste of gas than looking for toys. That’s just the kind of guy I am. The Hunt is like a drug, and looking forward to it is the only thing that gets me through the day sometimes. That rush you get as you make your way to the action figure aisle. The sense of dread you feel as you round the corner and see a guy standing in the middle of the aisle. Is he in front of the DC Universe Classics or the Young Justice figures? Is he a “friendly”? What’s in his cart?! AM I TOO LATE?!!! Just the thoughts that run through the mind of the collector.

For all of the excitement of The Hunt, I’ve found that I love the experience more than the reward. I’ve found myself buying figures for lines in which I only have a passing interest. That has led to a room filled with toys – both loose & unopened. The thing about The Hunt is that I’ve gotten damn good at it. I’m really not one to toot my own horn, but I’ve got a keen eye, and I come across amazing deals. If something catches my eye, I just can’t leave it behind.

There’s another reason I can’t seem to leave toy runs empty handed. You see, there’s been a lot of talk lately about collectors’ “Holy Grails” – those seemingly unattainable items that would complete any collection. When I see certain items in stores, I can’t bear the thought of a kid ending up with someone’s Holy Grail. Don’t get me wrong – I love kids AND I love toys, but I don’t necessarily love them together. My time at TRU taught me that most toys are purchased by exhausted moms and clueless grandmas. As a result, kids don’t always get what they want, nor do they appreciate those toys that they do get. They’re rough on toys, and it keeps those toys from getting into the hands of those would do appreciate them. Now, sometimes that person is a 30 year old man, but who am I to question love? All I’m saying is that I don’t think many kids want a figure of a hipster with a big staff, but I know a lot of collectors would like to have Modern Starman. So, sometimes I grab stuff in the hopes that I might one day cross paths with that collector, or maybe I already talk to him online (don’t bother pointing out the holes in my logic; I’m already aware).
So, I’m sorry if it seems like I’m rambling. This whole thing is building to a point. These are the key things to take away from this:

1) I’m looking to strengthen the collector community

2) I’m constantly on The Hunt for new things, many of those trips ending in success

3) I need a way to offer these finds to those who might appreciate them

So, what did I do? I created a storefront. I’d like to introduce you to Will’s World of Wonder.

WHY?

I’ve always kinda toyed with the idea of being something of a “toy broker”. A few months back, my e-pal The Robot’s Pajamas put is best when he tweeted: “It’s seriously weird how I want to collect toys to sell now. I get a much bigger joy out of helping other collectors than owning things.” He took the words out of my mouth. I mean, to me, it’s really just enough coming into contact with certain items, but I know I wouldn’t appreciate them as much as someone else out there might. As you’ve seen in my Thrift Justice pieces, I come across some pretty cool stuff, and I’d like an avenue to share those things with others.

I’ve had a lot of success with craigslist, but those are just local sales. I don’t know what it is about it, but I just see Ebay as an old man’s game these days. Now, I know there are a TON of storefront sites out there, so why did I want to enter that pool? Out of all of those sites, many of the ones I’ve encountered are just people trying to offload stuff they’re tired of, but you’re pretty much limited to that stock. Well, I want to take the small town approach to retailing. Sure, you could go to CVS, but you go to the local pharmacy for the service and because they know your face. If you’ve already been reading this site, you have a pretty good idea of who I am. As naive as it may sound, despite the distance, I think of many of you as friends. I don’t screw over my friends. Also, The Hunt isn’t going to stop. I’d just like to use my powers to help others. If you’re into a certain thing, shoot me an email. If you’re an expert on a certain genre, I’d love to have your input on things. If you don’t really like a price that you see, let me know and we might be able to work something out. At the end of the day, I want you to think of this as your store. If nothing else, it helps me stay abreast of trends, but I really want to think of other collectors as sort of “brothers in arms” instead of toy aisle threats. And for those who hate The Hunt, let me do the legwork for ya!

WHY NOW?

Well, the timing was really organic. I’ve been working on this for the last three months or so, but it couldn’t have come at a better time. I’m currently planning a wedding, and those things ain’t cheap! Plus, I’m sure Lindsay would love for me to clear some stuff out of the apartment. As icing on the cake, it’s also holiday time, so I can help you make a dent in your shopping list!

WHERE DO YOU GET YOUR STUFF?

That’s a great question. Honestly, it’s from various sources. A lot of the stuff is from The West Collection. That’s what I call my “I bought this in the heat of the moment but I could really use that money for invitations about now” pile. Also, while I worked at Diamond, I received a LOT of stuff that I wasn’t allowed to sell while still employed by the company. A lot of it comes from my travels thrifting, yard saling, and the like. I’m always on the lookout, and I love a good hunt. In any case, the majority of it is comprised of things that I just feel might be more appreciated in someone else’s home.

So, that about covers the main points. I wanted to take a more active role in the collecting community, so I decided to create a storefront. I know it’s kinda bare bones, and not as flashy as other sites, but it’s the goods that are the focus. I’m launching with 75 items that I feel do a good job of covering the genres I’m familiar with. I’m new to this whole thing, so bear with me as I work out the kinks. If you have any questions or concerns, please don’t hesitate to contact me. In the meantime, I hope you like what you see! Also, before I go, I’d like to thank Matt Guzy, Vincent Robot, and Brian at Cool and Collected, as I couldn’t have done this without their help!

10th Nov2011

The Greatest Haul FINALE

by Will

Yeah, so…if you’ve been following this site recently, you’ll remember that I started a whole multipart “saga” that I called “The Greatest Haul”. Basically, it detailed my first full foray into the world of yard sales.

At the time, I thought I’d uncovered the mother lode. I boasted on Twitter that what Id acquired would make all of my followers weep with jealousy. I couldn’t compose all my thoughts at the time, so I thought I would draw things out – make it a mega event for the site. The problem, however, is that the bloom wore off over time. There was no “greatest haul” – there was just a haul.

What started out as an “investment” really revealed itself as a pile of stuff in the guest bedroom. Sure, the stuff would definitely be of interest to someone, somewhere, but I really didn’t have the avenue through which to connect them. It would need to be sorted and organized, and researched. At the end of the day, I’d gotten a great deal on a bunch of great stuff for which I really didn’t have a use.

A good portion of the haul was comprised of trading cards. Baseball, football, hockey, Marvel Universe – Hell, even Stargate and In Living Color cards. I chucked most of the nonsport cards (that market’s DEAD), and I found myself with roughly 7,000 sports cards. Well, through the magic of craigslist, I sold those off for a tiny profit. Still, I was left with the comic & toy portion of the haul. What to do with all of that stuff? And then it hit me. Just as one comic event leads into the next, I realized the Greatest Haul had to end so that the next big thing could begin. This would be the biggest, craziest project I’ve ever come up with, but it opens up a world of possibilities. What might that be? Well, you’ll just have to check back tomorrow.

08th Nov2011

Thrift Justice – Lois Lane Meets The TMNT

by Will

Last weekend saw the final Civitan Flea Market of the year. As I’ve written in the past, this neighborhood sale is GREAT for finding collectible treasures. This sale was no different, as I made some pretty sweet deals. Let’s take a closer look at some of the booty I scored.

Now, when I get to any sale, I try to pace myself but I have a lot of trouble with that whole process. Whether it’s a comic con or a yard sale, I tend to blow my wad too soon, and then end up spending more judiciously as the day goes on. The Civitan market takes place in a 5-level parking garage, and you enter from the top level. I didn’t know what wonders might lurk in the depths below, but before I could descend I immediately found myself rifling through a box of Silver Age comics.

I’ve gotten to a point in my life where I try not to buy old comics unless they’re just basically giving them away. Anything under $1 is fair game to me. After all, most folks think their stuff is worth way more than it is, and most of those stories have been retconned 3 times over by now. I do, however, have an affinity for Silver Age DC books. If you pick up Marvel stuff from that era, it’s just full of hyperbole and cave drawings, but old DC books were actually…fun. Due to a magnet set that we have on our refrigerator, I’ve gained an appreciation for Lois Lane comics. Honestly, I feel like DC writers sat around and wondered, “How can make Lois a huge bitch this month?” Those old bastards clearly had some run-ins with the wrong kind of women, and seemed to have an ax to grind. That series is CRAZY, whether she’s tricking Superman into a paternity suit or changing her race to be black for a day. I picked up a few some months back, and I found 13 more on this particular day. This batch even included the issue I mentioned where she’s black for a day! I actually already have a copy of that one, but I know I’ll probably end up gifting it to someone. I told the old lady manning the booth that the books would be going to a good home, for a little boy who loves comics (it’s secretly ME! Muhuhahaha!). She cut me a pretty good deal, as I paid $25 for these, as well as the comics you’ll see below.

These are some other silver age books I picked up. Back when I first got into comics, I used to buy these grab bags from my local shop that were just FULL of crap. I didn’t know any better then, but it would have comics for toylines, like Visionaries, as well as old All-Star Squadron and issues of canceled series. I remember getting issues of The Secret Society of Super Villains and Kobra, and loving them. So, I had to jump on the issues you see here. I probably already own that Brave and the Bold (I bought a bunch of them at a con a few months back that I still haven’t processed), but I’ll buy any cheap Batman comics.

Not quite “Silver Age”, these are some 80s era comics I got. Again, more cheap Batman. I believe that’s the final issue of Ted Kord’s series. It says “The Final Adventure”, but that could just be comic hyperbole. There was a time when you could always count on Superman to have dynamic covers, and this is a great example of that. He’s begging, in an alley! How can you pass that up? I probably have that issue of X-Men, but I’m a sucker for 80s Uncanny. The way I see it, the $25 was for the Lois Lane books, as $2 an issue was a great deal; the rest of this stuff was just a bonus.

The series that wouldn’t die! Fans brought this thing back to life more than I can remember, but that must say something about its quality. I’ve never read Spider-Girl, but I was always curious. Plus, it’ll give me more Adventures West Coast material. I’m not sure if this is the very first collected edition, but it does include issues 0-8. Plus, I got it for a dollar, so it’s not like I could shake a stick at that!

Let me clear something up – I am nowhere near a “gamer”. My newest system is the PS2, and I use it primarily as a DVD player. Lindsay and I had a Rock Band/Guitar Hero phase, but I don’t really get into games. I do, however, pick up games when I find them A) interesting and B) cheap as dirt. Somewhere along the line, I forgot that I’m in a relationship, so the concept of “downtime” doesn’t really exist anymore. Still, in my mind, I have this vision of playing video games all night, while drinking Smirnoff Ice. When I come across a cheap game, I think to myself, “Would I enjoy playing this game, while sipping on a cool malt beverage?” I didn’t even know this game existed, and it appears to be the precursor to the popular Red Dead Redemption. The guy sold it to me for about $3, so that was enough for me. I’ll probably never play it, but if I ever feel like reenacting a Western, at least I’ll have it.

I’ll admit that this was an impulse buy. While I collect Batmobiles, I’ve passed on this thing at many a thrift store. I found it at a booth that usually has a lot of great comic stuff. Remember the comic posters and Age of Apocalypse cover from the last flea market post? Yeah, that booth. Anyway, at that time, they’d assured me that they would have a ton of comic stuff at this sale, as it’s the last one of the year. I went just looking for them. I get there, and this is pretty much all they had. It had a sticker on the hood, guaranteeing me that “it works”. I can’t even verify that at this time, but it’s a big-ass, battery operated Batmobile monster truck. Yeah, I’m kind of ashamed, so let’s move on.

So, I’m wandering through the aisles, and I find myself at a dead end, with this TMNT Lair playset sitting on a table. I start looking at it, as I’ve never really seen one of these in person. I didn’t really pay much attention to TMNT, as that was the incarnation for kids of the ’00s. For me, I only deal in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Show some respect, and spell that shit out! Anyway, as I inspecting it, the seller comes by and asks, “Would you like that big thing?” I proceeded to tell her that my fiancee would kill me, but she keeps on pressing. She tells me that it wuld be 50% off. That’s when I see the price tag: $3.00. I ask her, “So, wait, you mean this would only be $1.50?!” She says that is correct. Well, now you understand why I currently own a Turtle Lair playset. Back when the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle Sewer Playset came out, my mom gave me a choice: I could either get it OR get the G.I.Joe General. I was more into our American heroes, so I chose the latter. The General’s sitting out in our shed, as I get to fill that void with this newer Turtle playset.

So, there ya have it. I’ll miss the Civitan Flea Market, but you better believe I’ll be there on the first Saturday of next April! Coming soon, I’ve got another installment of Thrift Justice:YSE, where we’ll talk about some of my greatest yard sale FAILS.

04th Nov2011

Best of the West #2: Toys “R” US Aisle 6D Sign

by Will

image

So, I’m not sure if anyone remembers, but I created “Best of the West” to showcase the jewels of my personal collection. I only posted under that heading once, and that was to discuss my autographed Obama Spidey comic. I kinda got preoccupied with yard sales, and let’s face it – a collect a lot of shit! Anyway, I know my pal Mike enjoyed this feature, and Brian over at Cool and Collected recently asked when we’d see the West Collection. I don’t know when I’ll ever get around to a full collection post, so the Best of the West segments will have to do for now.

Today’s item is a quirky one. If it’s your first time reading about me, I worked for Toys “R” Us in a part time capacity for 10 years. It was my first job out of high school, and I just couldn’t tear myself away. I fought on the beaches of the Great Gundam War of ’01. I waged the storms of the Pokemon Tsunami. I tickled many an Elmo, and I laughed in the face of the fabled NeoPet epidemic. We lost a lot of good men out there.

Before working at TRU, I thought I had a love for toys. I thought I loved toys of all shapes and sizes. Just say the word “toy” and my face would light up. About 2 weeks into my TRU career, I began to realize that I didn’t love “toys”. I loved “action figures”. You see, when you’re a customer, you just go right in to the aisle that holds the stuff you like. All the other stuff is just part of the TRU obstacle course. Fuck a bike! If you’re serious about cycling, you ain’t buying a bike at TRU. And I didn’t give a shit about car seats and Pack ‘N Plays. No, I just loved aisles 6D and 7D – home of the action figures. Sadly, when you work for the store, you’re forced to worry about those aforementioned departments. It didn’t matter to me. They could assign me to diapers, bikes, or cart duty – I always found my way back to those 2 aisles.

Now, let me give you a little retail history lesson. In TRU’s heyday, it was essentially a supermarket for toys. During the late 90s, it was decided that it had too much of a warehouse feel. So, aisles were partially done away with, as the company migrated towards the “racetrack” layout. In this new floorplan, the guest would follow a winding path around the store, with different “worlds” situated outside the track. There was Boys World, Girls World, Wheel World, etc. Supervisors were now “World Leaders”, and the whole thing was supposed to make the shopping experience flow more easily for guests. Only important stores got the full floor plan. My store wasn’t that important, so it still retained some of the old signage.

Then, the day after Christmas 2005, old Geoffrey decided that he didn’t need us in his empire any longer. It wasn’t too bad, though. Let me tell you this: there are few things more exciting than working for a store going through liquidation. No, seriously! I know some former Borders and Filene’s employees might disagree, but there are no rules, and you no longer have corporate oversight. We hosted fake radio shows over the PA system, some chick wished cancer on my Asst.Manager because he couldn’t process a return. Oh, and a mentally challenged guy came in and started masturbating in the R-Zone! I can’t remember the last time my life was that exciting. But the one thing that remained was my love of action figures. It was that love that brought me there in the first place. So, as we were closing the place down, I grabbed the sign for aisle 6D. What I love about it is that it was promoting lines that weren’t even really hot at the time, but I collected everything on this sign. If it had Ghostbusters, Batman, and Star Trek, you’d have my toy resume.

So, here it sits in my “office”. Before taking it, I had no clue how heavy it would be. It’s got to be a good 50 lbs, which is why it’s just leaning against the wall. I can’t hang that thing, and I’m amazed we’ve never heard of them falling and killing some kid. It’s big, heavy, and doesn’t really tie the decor of the room together, but it’s my past. Batman has a giant penny, and I’ve got the sign to aisle 6D. After 10 years of lying about truck shipments, helping lost grandmas, and selling D batteries to lonely single moms, this is my trophy.

21st Oct2011

Adventures West Coast – The Flash: Rebirth

by Will

I’ve been putting this one off for some time, but there’s no better day than today to get this out. You see, earlier today, I was tweeting about how I didn’t understand the appeal of a certain guy who makes old school rap about Marvel characters. I was nowhere near as mean as you know I can get, but he still found out and decided to retweet it to his followers. Why he did this, I do not know. Maybe he wanted to rile up his army or something. In any case, I ended up getting 3 @replies from fanboys & girls who were defending his honor. Well, this led me to think back to another time I was talking trash about comic folks on Twitter.

A little over a year ago, I was talking to my good e-pals over at OAFE, and we were talking about Geoff Johns’s love of Silver Age concepts. The discussion turned to Barry Allen, the Silver Age Flash, who had been “dead” in real people time (RPT) since 1986. Well, Johns was bringing Allen back to assume the mantle of The Flash, despite the fact that nobody wanted this to happen. By this point in time, everyone had pretty much settled on Wally West (Barry’s former apprentice, and current Flash) as THE Flash. I mentioned how Johns wasn’t going to stop until the current DC Universe looked like it did during the Silver Age of the 60s.

Now, I’m usually good about covering my tracks. I knew not to include Johns’s actual twittername, as I didn’t necessarily want him in this discussion. OAFE, however, had other ideas, and Johns’s username was inserted in one of the replies in our discussion. I noticed this, but thought nothing of it and went to sleep. When I woke up, I had a DM from Geoff Johns, where he said that he really wanted me to give the book a chance. He included his email address, and asked me to send him my mailing address. Well, when the Chief Creative Officer of DC Comics beckons, you answer! I quickly drafted an email, thanking him for actually appealing to me, while sheepishly backpedaling on what he’d probably read from my discussion thread. About a month later, I received a box containing The Flash: Rebirth HC, as well as signed copies of The Flash #1 & 2. A better person would’ve jumped right into these books, and changed his tune about what he’d said. I, however, am not a better person. I sent Geoff an appreciative thank you email, and then I proceeded to put the books on a shelf for the next year. After finishing up Flashpoint, and realizing that Rebirth was actually kind of the start of it all, I thought it might finally be time to check it out. So, the other night, between Family Guy and China, IL, I finally got through it.

I should’ve had a disclaimer at the beginning, but the most interesting part of the whole saga was HOW I obtained the book. The story itself, not so much. You see, while The Flash: Rebirth is a decent enough story, it relies WAY too much on prior knowledge of The Flash. This series was not written to introduce Barry Allen to a new generation of comic fans; it was written to change the minds of the current generation of Flash fans. Did I confuse you there? It’s like this: if you never gave a shit about The Flash and his franchise, this book isn’t going to change that. At all. It relies on the reader to already know who Barry Allen, Wally West, Bart Allen, Liberty Belle/Jesse Quick, Jay Garrick, and Max Mercury are. That’s a whole lotta speedsters! Plus, it makes reference to the fact that Max somehow disappeared, Liberty Belle at some point had some attachment to the speedsters, and Bart “came back” from somewhere, and I can’t remember if it’s from a trip to the future, or the time that he “died”. Then, there’s the whole matter of the Speed Force, which is where all of the speedsters draw their power. It was already as convoluted as Star Trek: The Next Generation technobabble, but then they had to throw in the idea of a Negative Speed Force. Plainly put, it is NOT a great introduction to the world of the Flash. It’s an “Everything but the kitchen sink” approach to the franchise, which isn’t great for the casual reader.

As the story starts, Barry Allen is trying to get used to how the world has changed since he’s been gone, while everyone around him is preparing to celebrate his return. Through the magic of decompression, this whole thing is told over the course of 6 issues. Basically, he runs really fast (’cause that what The Flash does), and he ends up finding a bunch of other speedsters within the Speed Force. Some good, some bad, but they all seem to die when he touches them. It turns out that it’s all the work of The Reverse Flash, or Professor Zoom, or whatever he’s called now. For the sake of clarity, we’ll call him Yellow Flash. You know he’s bad because his suit is ugly (even though the “hero” basically dresses like a hornless devil, but that’s a debate for another time). Then, through a whole bunch of flashbacks, we also deal with the fact that Barry was constantly driven by the desire to clear his father’s name for the murder of his mother. I don’t know if this is true or a retcon, as Barry died shortly after I became my parents’ happy little “surprise”. Haven’t read very many Barry stories, and that’s not a Flash Fact I’ve seen printed on Underoos and cereal boxes. In any case, he wants to solve his mom’s murder. In the present day, he gets possessed by the Negative Speed Force, making him EEEVVVIIILLL! It’s because he hates the modern world, and wants to go back to the comfort of The Speed Force. Remember in Shawshank Redemption how the dude couldn’t handle the outside world and hanged himself? Yeah, kinda like that. I’m gonna cut to the chase: Yellow Flash killed Barry’s mom. Like you didn’t see that coming. But here’s the real kicker: it turns out that Barry’s family had actually grown old and lived a long life together. Yellow Flash wanted to torment Barry, so he went back in time and killed the mom. So, the mom’s death was an in-story retcon. Mindfuckery! Yellow Flash can’t kill Barry because he needs him in order to eventually exist, but that don’t mean he can’t kill the people around Barry! In the end, Barry realizes that his wife, Iris, is his “anchor”, and he decides he wants to LIVE! The world celebrates his return, and Yellow Flash is abducted by some other Flash villain that I guess I’m supposed to know.

I’m not gonna be your typical internet fanboy and say “that fucking sucked!” Honestly, I can’t say that. All I can say is that it wasn’t written for me. I have a friend who worships at the altar of The Flash, and I’m pretty sure he might enjoy it when he gets around to reading it. I just don’t have enough history with the franchise for it to resonate with me. It’s like a giant speedster family reunion, but you really need to know about all of them to really grasp the weight of it all. I went into it thinking that the point of the miniseries was to make me care about Barry, but instead it seems to be intended to make the reader care about The Flash Legacy. This would all be well and good if they hadn’t done away with all of that in the New 52. As far as we can tell, Wally doesn’t exist, Jay doesn’t exist, Jesse & Max may not exist, and Bart is kind of a different person. We know Yellow Flash existed up to Flashpoint, as that was all his fault, but I don’t know about post-Flashpoint. So, in a lot of ways, it could also be seen as a farewell love letter to the speedsters. Whatever it was, I don’t think it was for the casual fan and, as a casual fan, it didn’t leave me with the feeling that Barry Allen was the rightful speedster to bear the mantle of The Flash. He spends most of Rebirth, telling those around him that he didn’t need to come back. You would think that would force the story to prove that he is, in fact, needed in this world, but i don’t think it accomplishes that task. Anyway, since he’s The Flash of the New 52, it’s not like we really have a choice. So, I guess I’ll have to learn to like him. In closing, it was totes awesome (I got that phrase from my pal over at The Robot’s Pajamas) for Geoff to reach out to me like he did, and I only wish the story could’ve resonated with me the way that I think he felt it would. Honestly, I think that’s what makes me feel the worst about this whole thing.

28th Sep2011

Thrift Justice – I Didn’t Put Away Childish Things

by Will

So, the whole Thrift Justice thing started off strong. I told a cute story about a little kid, and I reminded everyone about Stranger Danger. Then, I dropped the ball. Fear not, true believers! I’m back with more words and more treasures. Here’s what I got during last night’s trip to the thrift store (forgive the pics; couldn’t find my camera, so I had to settle for the phone):

As you can see, it was a run of the mill toy haul. Still, let’s take a closer look at what I got:

First up, we’ve got Apocalypse from the Super Hero Squad toyline. Basically, he’s the same scale as the Spider-Man and Friends line – Marvel heroes in the Rescue Heroes scale for younger kids. These, along with Mattel’s Super Friends, came out while I was working at Toys “R” Us, but I just couldn’t bring myself to pay retail for these things that were clearly made for preschoolers. I have no problem, however, paying $1 for them.

Isn’t he the cutest little genocidal maniac you ever saw? I think I want to give Apocalypse a hug!

Remember how I mentioned Super Friends? Of course you do – it was just a few inches higher on the page! Anyway, here’s Lex Luthor from that line.

And the Spider-Man and Friends line? Yeah, this is Spidey #3. I also have a quick-change Peter Parker and a shiny suit Spidey.

So clearly I’m addicted to “toys made for preschoolers”. This is a new low for me. You see all these guys? I’ve acquired them all over the course of the last month. Still, never paying more than $1 for any figure, I don’t feel too bad about it. Hell, they’re so cute that I’m even mixing universes, and I’m a staunch comic segregationist!

I’m always fascinated by the wear and damage that I find on some toys. While a lot of stuff is in pretty good condition, there are also many items that look like they’ve been to Hell and back. What the Hell did they do to Raphael’s foot? Were they reenacting Roots? Sure, he was a dick, but DAMN!

This, my friends, is a Nerf scope. As my twitter followers know, I’m slowly building a Nerf militia. Ya see, I wasn’t allowed to have toy guns when I was growing up. The closest things I had were the Nintendo Zapper and an old hair dryer that didn’t work. So, when I struck out on my own, as a man, one of the first things I bought was the Nerf Nite-Finder. That didn’t quench my foam lust, however. Luckily, my lovely girlfriend (Lindsay/@specialEteacher for y’all playing along at home), got me the Nerf Raider for Christmas last year. This was soon followed by the Maverick, Long Shot, and Recon. And another Long Shot. Basically, if I found one at a yard sale or thrift store, I bought it. They all had a tactical rail for adding scopes, but you can’t find them in stores or the Hasbro website any longer. So, imagine my joy when I spotted this baby sticking out of the stuffed animal bin at a thrift shop! Lawdy, lawdy I can see! Anyway, got this baby for 69 cents!

Well, that’s enough rambling from me. I took more pictures, but I’ll save those for the next post.

02nd Sep2011

Justice League #1: A Discussion

by Will

OK, so by now you should’ve read my Flashpoint post. As that was the end of an era, Justice League was touted as the beginning of a new one. I wish I could say that it worked for me, but it just didn’t.

Justice League #1 is chock full of gorgeous Jim Lee-ian action. It’s the kind of stuff that’s really going to hurt your heart when you hear that Jim Califiore’s taking over the art a year from now. Recent series have launched with the big names, but settle into a routine with the journeymen. Anyway, for all the action, there’s just not much substance. It’s reminiscent of Lee’s work on the “Hush” storyline in Batman a few years ago. That was a good excuse for Lee to play in the Gotham toybox, but the story didn’t make much sense. This book didn’t really have a story; this was just an appetizer.

A few nights ago on twitter, Comics Bulletin had a great rant about the folks who’ve been comparing the issue to a television pilot. I can’t even do it justice (no pun intended) by trying to repeat it, so I recommend you hop over to their feed. Basically, though, they said that a successful pilot makes you want to come back for more, while this doesn’t really have that effect. I couldn’t agree more. However, I think I’d like to even go a step further. Justice League #1 isn’t a pilot – it’s the “cold open”, or pre-credit sequence, to the pilot. Sure, there’s a bit of padding in it, but once you get to that last page:


you know that it can only be followed by something like this:

God damn, I love that theme song! Is there any way that Jim Lee could just draw music? I’d preorder every issue! Here’s a little secret about me: I only watch the cold open for Smallville. I’m gone after the theme song. Hell, if I turn it on, and find I missed both the open and the song, I turn it right off. Sure, that was a cliffhangery last page, but I’m not convinced that I shouldn’t change the channel. I’m looking to the next issue to help me make that decision.

01st Sep2011

Change In A Flash: Thoughts on The End of an Era

by Will

So, that was Flashpoint, huh? Ya know, over the years, I’ve bullied DC by saying they should be more like Marvel. I felt they should be better at social networking and also start leaking their big stories to the New York Post. Over the past year, DC seemed to have heard the same suggestions from others more important than me, as their social network presence increased and they got chummier with the press. I did not, however, say that they should ape Marvel’s storytelling style. At the same time, though, they started recreating Marvel’s starting lineup from 1994. They already had the Kuberts and Fabian Nicieza, but they also brought in former Marvel E-I-C Bob Harras and former X-Men writer Scott Lobdell. The end result is that Flashpoint ends up being Age of Apocalypse by way of House of M. It looks like DC had been paying attention to the competition, but at what cost?

I compare Flashpoint to Age of Apocalypse, as it utilizes the same “alternate reality on the verge of cataclysmic war – comprised of minis and one shots” format. The tone is very similar to that of AoA, plus it doesn’t hurt that Andy Kubert did the art on both storylines. Also, Flashpoint #5 is almost a beat-by-beat retelling of the end of AoA. They even do the “final battle as the bombs go off” thing.

I mention House of M because it provides the setup for the story. Everything changes in a flash, as people are living their lives one way, and a flash of light completely changes their circumstances. Also, HoM did have lasting effects in that it allowed Wolverine to remember his past and, more importantly, it reduced the number of mutants in the Marvel Universe to roughly 198. Flashpoint, similarly, has the repercussion that it sets off an entirely new iteration of the DC Universe.

I’m not gonna do a recap, as you’ve read the book. This isn’t even a “review”, per se, but I did want to share a few thoughts I had along the way, bulletpoint style:

-I know, I swore I wasn’t even going to read this “event”. I felt like the Big Two were just repackaging old concepts, and I didn’t feel like rereading the same old stuff. Then, two things happened. First, it emerged that Fear Itself was basically a Thor story, which just solidified my lack of interest in it. Next, DC announced not only the “New 52”, but also the fact that Flashpoint would be the springboard for all of that. So, excited for the future, I decided I should probably board the Flashpoint train.

In all, I enjoyed the core Flashpoint mini. It moved quickly enough that I didn’t focus too much on characterizations and motivations. I got the gist of it, and I knew that if I wanted more, there were always the spin-off minis. I only picked up the Batman one, though.

-The story’s resolution felt like some kind of marketing mandate to ensure that Flash: Rebirth “mattered”. Even though people trust Johns to dust off these older concepts, nobody wanted Barry Allen back. Nobody. We were all fine with Wally. The ending felt like “See? You didn’t want Barry back, but you couldn’t have had this shiny new universe without him. You’re welcome.”

Marvel does a much better job of making you think that everything was connected in some grand plan. Secret Invasion pays off a plot point from five years prior, and you have to wonder if they got lucky, or if they really did have this planned all along. DC didn’t pull off that magic with Flashpoint. I don’t think Flash: Rebirth was ever intended to result in this, as it was *meant* to pay off in a monthly book on which Manapul couldn’t keep up the pace.

-While I understand that Flash has the power set/mechanics to set this ball in motion, it feels like this would’ve worked better as a Batman story. Maybe they couldn’t do it, as Lord knows Batman’s been through enough in recent years, plus they needed to really reestablish Barry’s importance. Just like Identity Crisis was all about loss, this was about familial ties and the notion that “you can’t go home again”.

The problem is that Barry’s momma drama isn’t as well known as Bruce’s. A man on the street could tell you next to nothing about “Barry Allen”, let alone the fact that his mom was killed. Everyone, however, knows that Bruce Wayne’s parents were killed (even if they think the Joker did it), which led him to become Batman. For true gravitas, and to help Batman move along in a more positive direction, it should’ve been Batman displaced in time, working side by side with his father, as master tactician during the war, yet still getting the closure he has sought all these years. In fact, that would’ve been preferable to the whole Quantum Leap drama of The Return of Bruce Wayne.

-Sometimes I have trouble conveying myself outside of analogies, so I hope you can follow this: let’s say a person has an accident and ends up in a coma. The family mourns initially, but if he’s in that coma long enough, when it comes time to pull the plug, they realize the guy had basically been dead since the moment he slipped into the coma. Still there? How does that apply? Well, I felt like this series would pay off in some kind of grand farewell for the old DCU. Instead, by issue #5, you realize they were basically already gone and wouldn’t be making an appearance. There was no “goodbye” or “that’s all, folks”. Silver Age comics would’ve had silhouettes of the JLA waving goodbye from the clouds or something as the last panel. I think was expecting that “Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow?” ending. What a Hell of a way to cap off an era that was!

Even though all of the solo books wrapped up (some better than others), Flashpoint really was just a Flash book, as none of the “real” depictions of the characters ever made an appearance (with the exception of Booster Gold). I guess I expected some kind of spillover into the “real world”, and the end result would be this weird amalgam of them both. Instead, we learn there are *3* timelines, which are all just hastily combined into one.

-What was that 3rd reality? I recognized the one we were leaving (left page) and the new one (right page), but was that the full 3rd along the top? So, it was Wildstorm and alt versions of 2nd tier characters?

-Barry has memories of EVERYTHING now? That’s a seed for a future storyline, if AoA is any indication. In that story, Bishop was the only one who remembered the AoA timeline, which caused him to go insane down the road.

So, in all, I didn’t hate the ending, but it certainly wasn’t what I was expecting. I guess I could call that a success, as it proves this old dog hasn’t seen it all. At the same time, I’m no more jazzed about the New 52 than I was, and I feel that’s a failing. I admit that I haven’t read Justice League #1 as of writing this, so maybe I’ll change my mind. All I know is that this was billed as the end of an era. Everything renumbered. A shit ton of new launches. A clean slate. All that said, I still don’t feel like Flashpoint truly gave me the chance to say goodbye to what we were leaving behind.

19th Aug2011

Does A Body Good

by Will

After all these years, I still find that I’m too immature for “Got Milk?” ads. These things have been around for almost 20 years, so it must be an effective campaign. That said, most of them just look like a money shot from a celebrity sex tape with high production values. Even when they did one with Batman – my hero among heroes – it just made my heart hurt for the Caped Crusader! Was that how he was replenishing the Wayne fortune?!!!

Anyway, I work at…a place filled with…people who might be inspired to drink milk, and these posters are everywhere. Hell, I think we ran out of money, and they’re just using them as cheap wallpaper. In any case, I thought I’d share a few of them with you, along with my thoughts. Before we get started, I apologize for the quality of the pictures; Ansel Adams never had to use a BlackBerry camera…

Just look in that dog’s eyes. He clearly saw the whole thing. This just makes me think back to the time Amanda quit Twitter because she got a bunch of backlash for saying she preferred black guys. What did Devante do to you, Amanda?! What did he do?!!!

They finally came up with a way to get me to not notice the milk mustache. Ha! He’s with a giraffe! Honestly, I think the funniest part is that the giraffe actually finished college.

This is probably the worst picture of Demi Lovato I’ve ever seen, and I say that as a Demi fan. Hell, you don’t say something nice about her, and she will punch you in your face! She went to rehab for it and everything. Anyway, this picture looks like it might be some sad artifact sent to the past from a future where her career has totally derailed, yet the “Demi Loves Otto” sex tape is tearing up the SuperNet.

This one is disturbing to me because, in real life, Victoria Justice looks like a bad Photoshop job. She’s got the face of a 25 year old, yet the body of a fit 15 year old. She’s like a younger clone of Giada De Laurentiis. She just seems like an odd choice for a milk ad. “Your body will be suspended in teen animation, but you’ll be pretty. Drink up!”

And I thought R. Kelly was the one who sang “Down Low”. Notice how you can’t really see from the waist down? These are my confessions…

OH, COME THE FUCK ON!

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