24th Jun2011

My Life with the Power Rangers – Reader Response

by Will

So, we don’t get a lot of audience participation here at Casa West. Before I moved over to WordPress, I had written about 1,025 posts over the last 8 years, and I only had comments on about 100 of them. Of those comments, many of them were just spammers whom I approved because I was impressed by their syntax and/or flattery. What I’m saying is that it brings a little e-tear to my eye when I write something that encourages participation, and it just sits there like that half-empty Starbucks cup on the shelf at Ross. Anyway, a few months ago, I wrote this post detailing my experiences as an adult fan of the Power Rangers. In that post, I mentioned Jason Bray, who had been featured on an episode of MTV’s True Life called “I’m A Fanboy”. I discussed how the way he was portrayed contributed to the reasons as to why I keep my Ranger love in the closet. Well, if there’s anything I should’ve learned about the Internet by now, it’s that anyone can read this stuff. It turns out he read my post. Not only that, he responded! Now, if you keep up with the Comments sidebar, you’ve already read this, but I felt his response deserved its own post. So, without further ado, I give you the only interaction I’ve had with anyone who’s been on MTV (other than my tweet from Serena Altschul):

I was actually quite impressed with this article as it describes how about a third of Power Ranger fans really are. When Power Rangers first started to dwindle in popularity, I managed to avoid ridicule by keeping my appreciation for it a secret.

The Power Rangers fandom, like many fandoms out there have three sections to them. The “socially awkward” section, the “This is one of the things I like” section, and the “I know everything, and if you misquote one line I will KILL you” section. The socially awkward people tend to not interact enough with regular people and spend most of their time writing BAD fan-fictions, and confessing their love for one of their favorite characters.

In case anyone reading this was wondering, I am the person from “True Life: I’m a Fanboy” that was mentioned in this blog post. Almost two years later from when the episode aired and I STILL see my name come up at some point when Power Rangers is mentioned. I guess that’s both the beauty and the curse of existing in the re-run world.

I have to admit though every time it airs my friends and I get a huge laugh out of the episode. This is mainly because we know of everything that went on during filming. I love how many people don’t even recognize me after talking to me for a few minutes because I am nowhere near as awkward as I was made out to be in the episode. I even got a comment at a convention I attended from a person who said “you know, you look a lot like that guy from the true life episode” and when I told her I WAS the guy from the True Life episode she didn’t believe me.

That’s one of the dangers of editing. I will admit there were parts captured on film where I was acting awkward, mainly when I was dancing, because I can’t dance worth S**t. Also, the Dragon Dagger moment where I say “Oh my GOD, How much is that?” Also genuine me. But everyone who is in some type of fandom has that moment where they see something they have always wanted and want to know if they are able to buy it. The other Danger of editing is taking out ANYTHING that made me seem even remotely like a regular person. To give you an idea, I was only on the episode for about 15-20 minutes total, yet MTV Shot over 35 HOURS of footage.

When someone films for for so many hours, most people would not want that time to be wasted. I could quickly tell the direction they were going with the episode though when EVERY question they asked was about Gemma. First they would ask the question “how do you feel about Gemma? and I would say “She’s a really good friend and I’m glad I met someone else from the fandom” They would then say something like “Yeah, we know that part, but how to you really? feel about her? could you simplfy it?” So, eventually you figure out the response they are looking for is “I really like Gemma.” I wasn’t really surprised by that. The basic structure of TV is they are looking to tell a story, and they already had the “Fanfilm” side from Travis. In other words, even though this might disappoint some people, the “Asking Gemma out” scene was staged by Gemma and myself. if you watch carefully, it is quite obvious we are both acting.

On Another note though I am still somewhat a Power Rangers Fan, and I still have MOST of the stuff that was shown during that episode (which was actually hard to gather together to make it seem like I had a huge collection. My collection isn’t nearly as large as others from Power Rangers fandom.) But if anyone watches the episode carefully there were hints of my other fandoms that couldn’t be edited out. The WWE foam titles in the background showing I am a WWE fan, The Suit I was wearing during some of the DC scenes was part of a 10th Doctor, Doctor who costume (Because that is also another one of my fandoms) I was originally told the episode was going to be about how I balace my fandoms with my normal life, yet there was virtually NOTHING from my normal life shown on screen.

The last thing I say before I rush out into oblivion until the next time my episode reruns and I do a search again, is I noticed how the blog mentioned some fans looking up the Japanese episodes and watching them with subtitles. I would actually consider that a totally different fandom. With Samurai, I ALMOST hate Power Rangers now, but Sentai has almost always kept me entertained, especially the new Series, Gokaiger, which if you haven’t seen any of yet is worth checking out. Just thing GIANT POWER RANGER WAR.

So, there you have it. Not only was he a good sport about the whole thing, but he even gave us a little behind-the-scenes info regarding the episode. I hope I wasn’t too hard on him, as I think we all know the liberties they take with reality show editing. After reading that, however, he doesn’t seem like a weird dude at all. Jason, if you’re reading this, thanks for your input, and I’m sorry I bunched you in with the other weirdo Ranger fans. I stand by my opinion of Rangerboard, though. Those fuckers scare the shit out of me.

 

16th Jun2011

Mr Terrific?

by Will

So, according to a comment on my last post, I’m apparently deplorable for implying that the “DCnU” diversity books are simply that – affirmative action books to fulfill some diversity quota. If this revamp actually holds weight, more power to it. The thing is, I’m not new to this game. For all the changes of staff and direction, at the end of the day, the same people running the industry were running it 20 years ago. It’s a 4-color country club. That’s not to say that they don’t occasionally have good intentions, but they’ll always be thwarted by the baby boomer fans who don’t like change (remember the “Donald Glover for Spider-Man” debacle?). Sure, those fans will die out, but is there enough of a new generation to take their place? That, in essence, is the point of the DC revamp. I get that. I just don’t know if there’s as much an audience for that as one might think.

With all of this going, I decided to look at the matter from the perspective of the “black comic reader”. That’s not a normal thing for me, as I tend to just think of myself as “comic reader”. It rarely hits home that the heroes “don’t look like me” ’cause it’s fiction. A lot of people in real life “don’t look like me” either, as I’ve had a few unique experiences. Then again, I got into comics at an age when I was no longer looking for heroes, so maybe that has colored my view. In any case, I can turn a blind eye to a few things as simply “comic reader”. I find, however, that’s it’s when things are targeted directly to “black comic reader” that I have the most problems. One particular example of this is Mr. Terrific.

As the second person to go by the name “Mister Terrific”, Michael Holt has genius-level intelligence, and he’s an Olympic-class athlete. He became a self-made millionaire through his company, Cyberwear. After his wife and unborn baby were killed in a car accident, he contemplated suicide, but was stopped by The Spectre.  The Spectre told Holt of Terry Sloane, the original Mr. Terrific, which inspired Holt to want to follow in his footsteps. Not only does Mr. Terrific eventually become chairman of legacy group, The Justice Society, but he also becomes a ranking member in the Checkmate intelligence agency. Sounds good, right? Well, not so fast.

First, I’ve always had a problem with the fact that his intelligence is ranked. According to the comics, Mr. Terrific is the 3rd smartest man in DCU. Why does his intellect need to be qualified? Some might see this as a great advancement for a black character, but I always saw it as “Well, there are 2 people smarter than him, and I’ll bet they’re white.” If this were a race, he’d be the 2nd loser. Marvel did this with Amadeus Cho, who was the 7th smartest person in Marvel Universe. In both situations, all this does is point out that “he’s good, but he’s not the BEST”. Can’t he be brilliant without a rank? It’s bad for public schools, and it’s bad for super heroes.

Second, Mr. Terrific suffers from what I’m going to ignorantly refer to as “Doing-Too-Much-Itis”. This is one of the reasons that he always came off as a pandering, “diversity” hero, as there are 2 ways to play this: 1) make him a street-smart stereotype OR 2) go WAY overboard in the opposite direction. With Mr. Terrific, #2 is flying the plane. You see, it’s not enough that Holt is a genius and a successful businessman. No, he created T-Spheres which hover around him, and do whatever the story needs them to, and he’s also invisible to electronic detection. Plus, he’s an Olympic decathlete AND he holds 14 PhDs. FOURTEEN PhDs!!! In my best Seth Meyers voice, “Really?!” They couldn’t take one thing and stick with it? Now, my commentor would probably say something like, “Well, Batman’s smart – are you trying to say that a black man can’t be just as smart?” Here’s the difference, while Batman probably could’ve earned 14 PhDs, he DIDN’T. Ya know why? He didn’t need some institution of higher learning to qualify what he’d learned. He was too busy being trained by ninjas and shit.

It’s like comic book writers haven’t figured out how to handle the black middle class. It’s not all Sweet Christmas and Uncle Toms. There is a middle ground. Two great examples of this are Steel and Static. Both started a bit rough, as they were mired in the early 90s culture in which they debuted. Over time, however, they carved out identities that weren’t so stereotypical, and were something we hadn’t really seen before in comics. Steel became a trusted ally to, and engineer for, Superman and the Justice League. Static, if handled probably, could be the Peter Parker for a new generation. The key to both is that, to me, they’re relatable. I can’t relate to a dude with 14 PhDs. Mr. Terrific should be out teaching college courses or curing diseases instead of fighting Black Adam.

Finally, another thing bandied about regarding Mr. Terrific is his atheism. He has fought alongside the Wrath of God, but still isn’t a believer. Um, OK.

Let’s forget the fact that throwing real world religion into comics was a notion bound to fail. Some could say that the existence of a deity is more plausible in a comic universe than in the real world. So, by the very structure of his fictional world, Mr. Terrific is already unnecessarily outcast. Now, let’s add to it that the church is one of the cornerstones of what one might consider “the black experience”. His stance, therefore, distances him from many of  those for whom he was most likely created. While we live in the age of the rise of the “Blatheist”, this was just another Terrific aspect to which I couldn’t relate.

Now, let’s take another stance. Let’s assume Mr. Terrific wasn’t created for the black comic reading audience. Instead of appealing to the “black comic fan”, what if he’s meant to appeal to simply the “comic fan”? Let’s take the aging fanboy of the old school persuasion; I dealt with a lot of these back when I was with Diamond. In this situation, Mr. Terrific would still be fail as a concept. You know why? He’s an uppity, rich, intelligent black man, who doesn’t believe in God. Oh, and he dates white women. But he runs real fast (don’t forget to include a stereotype that they do believe in, ya know – so they can relate).

So, for whom was Mr. Terrific created? To whom does he appeal? Are any of you Mr. Terrific fans? With the DC relaunch, he’s slated to have a higher profile. As one of those old school fans pointed out on The Beat, the series will be “written by a black”, so who knows if I’ll find myself liking him more. If there are more fans like that Beat commentor, then the future doesn’t look too terrific to me after all.

02nd Jun2011

The DC Reboot Conversation You Haven’t Heard!!!

by Will

Did ya hear the echo in the title? There’s supposed to be an echo. Anyway, if you’re a comic fan, you’ve probably heard the big news: In September, DC Comics will be launching 52 different series, all with new #1 issues, led by an updated Justice League. It’s a line-wide, simultaneous revamp of their entire universe, and it’s got the internet all a-twitter. I told myself that I wouldn’t really comment unless I had something new to add to the conversation. After all, EVERYONE’s contributing their two cents, and if it’s one thing comic fans love, it’s talking about shit nobody wants to hear. That said, the more I followed the discussion, the more I noticed that a certain question wasn’t being asked. Everyone is screaming “How could this do this?!” or “Don’t they know that this is gonna fail?!” Well, let’s look at it another way: What if DC didn’t really have a choice in the matter?

A few months ago, I wrote this post, where I critiqued DC’s failings, especially in regards to marketing and social media. In that post, I noted that Diane Nelson had been brought in to find new ways to monetize the DC properties so that the comic wing would stop being the Warner Bros redheaded stepchild. As it stands, though, comics aren’t a huge chunk of Warner Bros’ revenue. In fact, they could make more money by using the characters in other media, and just publish reprints from here on out. So, what if this new reboot was a forced mandate? Sure, it could be spun as “Wow, DC has balls” or whatever, but it was more likely a change or die situation. Something of this magnitude doesn’t happen for no reason, and it’s a huge undertaking. Sure, there’s a big risk of failure, but for a company to decide to take this course of action, circumstances must have been more dire than we realize. This isn’t a case of them trying to be the #1 US comic publisher, or even short-term sales. This sounds more like a battle for mere survival. Sure, that sounds kind of dire, but we are talking about comics here, and hyperbole’s the name of the game. I’ve said before that I’ve considered myself to be a “DC Guy”, so if this is what it takes for those properties to survive in comic form, then I’m all for it. I guess we’ll just have to see how this plays out.

29th Apr2011

Farewell To A Friendster

by Will

Considering the Twitter Whore that I’ve become, it’s hard to imagine a time when I wasn’t into social networking. This week, however, forced me to take a look back, as I learned that Friendster would be switching over from social networking to a gaming format. Many of you probably started your social networking with MySpace (or maybe Black Planet), but I started with Friendster back in ’04. That was such an odd time, as I remember I actually had to beg people to check it out and sign up. Nowadays, you get comfortable with a person, and the next thing is “I’ll friend you on Facebook.” Back then, I engaged in a lot of conversations that began with “Well, what is it?” or “Doesn’t that Classmates.com site do that?” Friendster had a small following amongst my meager social circle, but I saw big things in its future – or so I thought.

Eventually, I amassed about 50 or so friends – laughable by today’s social media standard, but quite an accomplishment for the time. Unlike the MySpace model, where you might end up friends with a bunch of strangers, these were 50 people that I actually knew from some walk of life. An interesting thing was that Friendster introduced the Wall concept on your profile. People have no problem throwing up a random “What’s up?!” or “Call me back, bitch!” on someone’s Facebook wall, but Friendster people seemed somewhat uncomfortable with the concept back then. It was called “Comments and Testimonials”, and people seemed to take that last word to heart. Most of the stuff on my wall (all 7 messages) read like something someone would write in my high school yearbook. Friendster eventually added more features which were already commonplace on MySpace and Facebook, like photo tagging, but most people had moved on from the site by then. I, too, had moved on to Myspace and, later, Facebook, but I’d still get messages from Friendster, saying “We Miss You” or telling me some random spam skank had sent me a message. It got to the point where I eventually forgot my password, and never really looked back.

This week, I got an email telling me that I’d need to export any personal profile data I might want to keep, as Friendster was switching over to a gaming format and would be deleting profile info. It was like hearing that an old friend with whom you’d lost touch was now dying. In any case, I decided I should take one last look around to see if anything was worth saving.

The layout’s already been changed, so Lord only knows what’s already been deleted. Plus, I’m apparently single. Last I knew, I was still “in a relationship” back when I last cared about that profile. Then again, that was back in ’05, and it wasn’t a very memorable relationship anyway, so…

Looking at the pictures, I apparently only had three uploaded to the system. I didn’t have many digital pictures back then, and I learned how to remove ex-girlfriends from pictures I had (Those were my best pictures, and it made no sense for me to have to get rid of them ’cause some broad made a stupid decision!). Nothing worth saving out of those three, so farewell visual representation of 2003/2004 Will!

Next, I move on to the messages. Apparently, there are 63 messages, but 95% of them are spam chicks. “Melissa”, “Sara”, “Jennifer”, etc – all sending me messages like “sjhsd ghfhd fs” while using the same avatar. No real loss there. Then, I go back to the first page. My first message was from my friend Tarek. I guess he invited me, as it’s one of those form letters that begins with “Welcome” and explains how the site works. Huh. I guess I forgot about that. In fact, it looks like most of my messages from those days are from Tarek. Kinda sad, seeing as how we don’t talk as much anymore. Then, I see a message from someone named “Alicia”. from Fredricksburg, VA. It seems she wrote “i love ur smile, it’s sexi.” That was nice of her. I hope she didn’t die in a meth lab explosion or anything.  Still, nothing worth saving there, either.

In all, there’s nothing very memorable about the whole Friendster experience. I remember trying to get people to join, and looking forward to messages, but that experience didn’t stand the test of time. All of that was replaced by glitter backgrounds and pokes. And one day, those won’t mean anything, either – especially considering MySpace is up for sale, and Facebook is more concerned with becoming Skynet. I remember enjoying Friendster, but looking back, there doesn’t seem like there was much to enjoy. It all just seems so…empty. Is that how I’m going to feel about Farmville one day? God, PLEASE tell me that’s not how I’m gonna feel about Farmville! In any case, I’m getting bummed out, so I’d better stop here. So long, Friendster. I’ll catch ya on the flipside, see ya at the crossroads, after ‘while crocodile, and all that other good shit. You were a fun whore at the time, but your pimp is blowing up your pager, and I’ve left your money on the nightstand. Thanks for the memories.

 

07th Mar2011

5 Corners of Pop Culture That I Don’t Understand

by Will

Yeah, so I go around boasting that I know so much about pop culture, but even I have my blind spots. For example, I’m not much of a movie guy. I’ve never been one for going to movies, and I used to just tell myself “I’ll catch it when it comes on TV”. As a result, there are tons of movies that have become modern day classics (Titanic, Shrek, Avatar) that I’ve never seen. So, don’t recruit me for your trivia team if you need a Movie Guy. Outside of movies, though, there are 5 particular areas of pop culture that I just don’t “get”.

Now, I’m not exactly trying to be controversial, but I just know I’m opening the gates for a flame war. That said, I’m not necessarily saying there’s anything wrong with these five things, but they just don’t really hold much meaning for me. If you can think of a way to change my mind, or can point out great aspects that I’ve missed, then I certainly invite you to do so. This isn’t a bash session, but rather a cry for help: help me understand the big deal about these things.

1) The Big Lebowski – I’ve had people tell me “You don’t get The Big Lebowski ’cause you’re black.” Um, OK…That’s never really affected my interpretation of movies before (although Bamboozled did make me hate white people for a day or so). Since college, I’ve had people tell me that Lebowski is the most quotable movie ever, while extolling the virtues of The Dude. It was an entertaining movie, quirky in the vein of Fargo. It’s a fine movie, but I don’t get the *phenomenon*.  I don’t get why there are action figures of crew-cut John Goodman and Jeff Bridges looking like stoner Jesus in a bathrobe. I don’t get the uptick in White Russian consumption.

In terms of pop culture clout, The Big Lebowski has basically become the White Scarface. Scarface has become somewhat inspirational in urban circles, especially to a generation of rappers. Sure, Tony Montana ends up dead, but before that, he came from nothing and ended up having everything. With that, you can kind of understand why he has become the poster child for those who also come from very little. On the flip side, I don’t see anything aspirational about the story of The Dude. They occupy the same levels of pop culture, for different demographics, for different reasons. Maybe those folks were right: I understand Scarface, but I don’t understand The Dude. Maybe it is because I’m black…

2) The Muppets – Don’t get me wrong: I love Muppet Babies, and the Muppets version of “The Twelve Days of Christmas” is one of my favorite Christmas songs. That said, I just never really got into the movies. In college, I spent time around a sketch comedy group, and that was the first time I learned how much comedy circles revered the Muppets. Maybe I haven’t seen the right movies, and I’m missing out. I just don’t get the appeal. In some ways, I think I may have the same issues with the Muppets that I have with Alvin & The Chipmunks – I can suspend my disbelief, but I have a problem with these “creatures” coexisting with humans. The same way that I’m slightly disgusted by the idea that humans girls have the same kind of crushes on 4 foot singing chipmunks as they would on Justin Bieber, I also can’t really deal with the Muppets gallivanting around the “real world”. Sure, it works for Sesame Street, but I don’t see why adults are entertained by this, unless they’re high. And yes, do understand the irony of this statement coming from the guy who still watches Power Rangers.

3) Jersey Shore – Sorry, folks. Watching the premiere of Jersey Shore felt like a chore. Everyone who knows my love of bad television thought that I’d simply fall in love with the show, but they were wrong. I think I may have a different threshold than others. It seems that Jersey Shore is a guilty pleasure for quite a number of young professionals who love the show, but would never admit to it. It also seems that quite a few educated people love tuning in. That’s great. It’s just not my cup of tea. I LOVED the True Life episodes that spawned the show, but I really found nothing likable or engrossing about the cast of Jersey Shore. I did, however, enjoy watching that guy punch the shit out of Snookie ’cause, really, how often do you see something like that?  Jersey Shore is like going to the zoo – people feel superior as they ogle the “dumb” animals, but that shit eventually gets old and you find yourself looking for the hot dog cart.

4) Harry Potter – They’re cute books. I get that. They’re not, however, a worthy basis of what has become a literary juggernaut. Let’s rewind a bit, though. I missed the genesis of the Harry Potter phenomenon because I was somewhat off the grid. I went to Summer College at Cornell the summer that the first book started picking up steam. Now, if you’re not familiar with Cornell or Ithaca, its almost like its own little world. Generally, you have to really seek out information from the “outside world”, or else you won’t know of anything outside the Ithaca city limits. These were the early days of the internet, and there was no social networking just pushing information at you. When I got back to civilization, I started hearing rumblings of this “Harry Potter” thing, but really didn’t know what folks were talking about.

A big reason that I was resistant to Harry Potter was that I didn’t like the caliber of the early adopters. Sure, everyone reads Harry Potter now, but in the beginning, it was a certain group of people: the kids who weren’t allowed to watch TV, who only played with no-name educational toys from mom & pop stores, whose parents drove hybrids. Mainly, Harry Potter was the entertainment of yuppie children, and I hated all that they stood for. I can’t ignore what the franchise has done for literacy, which has actually been a great by-product of the phenomenon. It truly got people into reading, and that’s the one thing I like about it. That said, I’ve never found it all that original.

I grew up in a Roald Dahl household, so it was quite obvious when I started seeing his ideas popping up in the Harry Potter books. The extent of most people’s knowledge of Dahl is typically Charlie & The Chocolate Factory, and maybe Matilda or James & The Giant Peach. If you’ve more than just those, however, you’ll see what I’m talking about. It angered me that people felt that Rowling’s ideas were so groundbreaking, when I’d seen many of them before. For the people who saw where I was coming from, they still brushed me off with a “Well, nothing’s original anymore” or “Well, Rowling did a great job putting all of those Dahl concepts into one series”. Whatever. Like I said, they’re cute books, but I don’t see why they took the world by storm.

5) Star Wars – Basically, this comes down to the fact that I grew up with the philosophy that “Trekkies Can’t Be Warsies”. I latched onto the late 80s Star Trek revival, and that was where I put my focus. Unlike the other things I’ve mentioned, I “get” Star Wars, but I just don’t have the patience for it, nor do I have the desire to learn.

Star Wars just feels downright inaccessible to me. A few years ago, the only stuff that was “canon” consisted of 3 movies (and a holiday special that no one likes to acknowledge). Later on, there were 3 more movies, which was still manageable, especially since the “real fans” hated the new films and flipflopped on whether they acknowledged the events portrayed in them. Then, however, there was the Clone Wars cartoon, which bothers me because you can’t get attached to any characters, knowing they’re ALL gonna die. Then, there’s all the Expanded Universe stuff (which may not be considered canon, but is still held in high regard amongst the hardcore fans) and don’t get me started on all the comic series. So, at the end of the day, it’s still just 6 movies and some shows, but it feels so much more daunting. In terms of fandom, I like to go ALL IN. You can’t just tell me, “Oh, there are these books, but they don’t count.” If they exist, I’m going to feel like I need to read them and decide for myself if they count. And it’s just too much. The same argument could be made for Star Trek, but I got in early on that stuff, while Star Wars got rolling before I was a gleaming “surprise” in my father’s eye. I know it’s all psychological, but it just feels like being a Star Wars fan requires too much damn legwork. If you’ve got an “Star Wars in 3 Minutes” primer you want to send me, I’m all ears. Otherwise, I don’t think I’m ever gonna have that soft spot for The Force that so many of you seem to have.

So, there you have it. I hope we can all still be friends. I didn’t set out to bash the stuff that people hold dear, but I simply wanted to give my impression of these things. I welcome you to try to convince me otherwise, as I will admit that I do feel a bit left out at times. However, I fear that I’ll just get a bunch of comments like “Ur a fuckin’ moron!” Oh well, at least you’re leaving comments!

10th Feb2011

What The Hell is THIS?!!!

by Will

So, I was checking my email yesterday, and something caught my eye. You see, I set up a Google Alert for “Will West” so that I can track comment replies that I receive on blogs that don’t send email notification of updates. Sure, this might sound vain, but I learned the trick from someone online, so I’m not the narcissist who thought it up. Anyway, this system rarely works, as the alerts I receive usually have headlines like “Will West Virginia Win The Title?” Thwarted! So, imagine my surprise when I saw “Random House acquires ‘Will West: The Epic’ by Twin Peaks co-creator Mark Frost“! A blurb found here contained the following info:

The trilogy is a mystery with paranormal elements (in other words, classic Frost) and follows a sheltered boy who’s been told by his parents to avoid the limelight. After Will West lands an unusually high score on a national exam, he is recruited by a little-known prep school and also realizes he is being followed.

Huh?! What?!

After some Google detective work, I found this:

Frost’s Will West combines a sophisticated mystery with furiously-paced action and a twist of the paranormal. In the novel, the title character has spent his entire life trying to avoid any attention at the request of his parents. Then by sheer accident, Will scores off the charts on a nationwide exam and is recruited by an exclusive and somewhat mysterious prep school, the best school no one’s ever heard of, with technology the likes of which no one’s ever seen. At the same time, coincidentally—or not so—Will realizes he’s being followed by men in dark hats, driving black sedans who pose a terrifying threat to his family. What follows is a series of events and revelations that places Will smack in the middle of a millennia old struggle between titanic forces.

How did they find out about my life story?! Who told them?! Better yet, why am I not getting royalties?!

There was no cover available, but I can only assume that it won’t look as cool as this:

04th Jan2011

My 20 Favorite Songs of 2010

by Will

Yes, I understand that it’s 2011, and that most people did these lists weeks ago. That’s the point. I didn’t want to get lost in the shuffle, so I figured I’d wait for everyone else to get their own lists out of their systems. Plus, I really didn’t want to be caught up in the whole “Best Of” phenomenon. I think it was during my time at Diamond when I realized that I’m not really qualified to judge the “best” of anything (which is probably why I never got tapped to judge the Eisners). Quality is completely relative, and all I know is what I like. So, instead of focusing on the best of 2010, I’m going to focus on the songs that I most enjoyed.

Now, as you know, I sometimes do a content sharing thing with TGRI Online . The thing is, I’m not their primary demographic. Usually, when I write something with a musical slant, I immediately think of posting it over on that site. With this kind of project, however, I’m fairly certain that that audience ain’t gonna be onboard with my choices. Likewise, I’m not always keyed into the musical tastes represented over there. I wouldn’t know moombahton if it threw a brick through my window. So, with that in mind, I figured I’d just do this for me. Of course, you’re welcome to follow along. I do, after all, like attention.

20. Christina Perri – Jar of Hearts

I think I first heard this song at a gas station, but it was beautiful. Apparently, it gained fame from being played on So You Think You Can Dance, but I never watched that show so I can’t vouch for that. It reminded me of a more mellow Evanescence, and I really loved that group. Back in the spring, I made a joke on twitter that I felt emo high school girls were probably scribbling these lyrics in their notebooks, and I still believe that.

19. Flo Rida – Club Can’t Handle Me

I’ve said it once, and I’ll say it again: this song is WAY more fun than it has any right to be. I usually don’t like David Guetta’s stuff, and it’s a throwaway movie song. That said, I loved the Hell out of this song during the latter half of this year.

18. Bed Intruder Song – Antoine Dodson and The Gregory Brothers

Yes, I drank the Kool-Aid. Sure, I got tired of him just like everyone else, but this was truly the Year of the Autotuned Amateur. We got a ton of imitators, but none made as much of a mark as Mr. Dodson. “Hide your kids, hide your wife” became a part of our vernacular, and shows like Cougar Town were even giving shouts to the song.

17. Eminem – Not Afraid

We’ll leave the video out of this one, as I didn’t really dig the Em-As-Neo imagery, but I still loved this song. The lyrics are strong, but it’s the background that really makes the song. No, not the beat – the background. It’s really epic, like it could be a score for a superhero movie. I loved it so much that I rock the instrumental just as much as the album version.

16. Elton John & Leon Russell – When Love Is Dying

The critics weren’t too kind to Elton & Leon’s collaborative album The Union, but I love anything Sir Elton releases. Produced by T Bone Burnett, the album has a definite rural flair to it – one that we haven’t heard from Elton since around 2004’s Peachtree Road. This is one of the strongest tracks on the album, and after repeat listens, I simply fell in love with it.

15. Bruno Mars – Just The Way You Are

I’ll be honest: I didn’t like this song at first. No, let me correct myself. I loved the song, but I didn’t like Bruno on it. I didn’t think his voice was strong enough. I felt that it needed stronger vocals and more strings, which would’ve boosted it to the next level. Over time, though (especially due to BarkBite’s constant pimpage of the Bruno Mars brand), I came around to really liking the song. What I initially saw as weak vocals turned into a sort of earnestness. I think the public connected with that as well, which is why the song has become such a huge hit.

14. V.V. Brown – Shark In The Water

You can’t deny the hotness of that chorus. An import from the UK, V.V. hasn’t really taken off yet, but this song is popping up in commercials, so don’t count her out just yet.

13. Eminem feat. Lil Wayne – No Love

Ok, full disclosure: I am a fool for Haddaway’s “What Is Love?” Loved it when it came out, loved the A Night At The Roxbury revival, and I loved this. I kind had to give Em credit for even rapping over what some might consider to be a cheesy song. Not only that, but his flow is INSANE. To complete the circle, I also downloaded the instrumental. I’m not sure why more artists aren’t using that track on mixtapes, as there’s a lot of potential there.

12. Natasha Bedingfield – Touch

I’ve always loved the Bedingfield family. I think there’s audio evidence somewhere of me butchering “If You’re Not the One” on an Ithaca radio station. I even loved his little sister, even though her debut album was riddled with songs about how hard it was to write an album. So, I really liked this song, even though the video is really just a Plenty of Fish commercial. In any case, I felt Natasha was venturing into Kylie territory with this song, which isn’t a bad thing.

11. Chris Brown – Yeah 3x

This is dumb, but one of the things I love about this song is the name: it’s not “Yeah, Yeah, Yeah”, but is instead “Yeah Three Times”. It’s a stylistic thing, but it resonated with me. Whether you forgive him or not, CB’s back. I actually enjoyed Graffiti, but he still had the Rihanna incident looming over him. The video’s kind of a pandering affair, as he dances surrounded by a bunch of little kids, but I still found it to be a fun song.

10. Chris Young – Getting You Home

No, we’re not leaving country off this list! Lindsay & I listen to the country countdown every Sunday morning on the way to church, and this song was ALWAYS on. Avoiding the stereotypical country tropes, this is actually a really sexy song. I know it’s not everyone’s cup of tea, but I really came to love this song over the course of the year.

9. Cee-Lo Green – Fuck You

This song needs no introduction or explanation. Next!

8. Miranda Cosgrove – Kissin’ U

If you follow me on twitter, you already know I have an unhealthy obsession with iCarly. It’s nothing dirty or unseemly – I just like bad television. A guilty pleasure, if you will. This song didn’t blow up too much, but I liked it because it sounded like something M2M might’ve released back during the Pop Renaissance of 2000.

7. DJ Khaled featuring a whole bunch of motherfuckers – All I Do Is Win

I’ve got so many versions of this song that I’ve lost count. I first heard it at my friend Jason’s wedding, and then I couldn’t stop hearing it. It gets in your head like that. The best way to listen to the song, however, is driving through the back roads of rural Virginia, at about 10 PM. Also, you’re required to take your hands off the wheel and make ’em stay there.

6. Alicia Keys – Empire State of Mind Part 2

I’ve never been the biggest Jay-Z fan, but I will say that I love his samples. I have discovered more music than I can remember from samples that Jay-Z has used on his tracks (I’m still cranking “Ain’t No Love In the Heart of the City”). That said, as huge as his NYC anthem became, I preferred Alicia’s solo take on it more because it had more heart. While Jay is just name-dropping things you might see mentioned in an I Love NY brochure, Alicia really makes you feel what it’s like to be swept up in the city.

5. Neon Trees – Animal

This song is just infectious. It’s perfect for car jingles, fast food ads, and it’s got “one-hit wonder” written all over it. Despite all that, the sound is reminiscent of the days when The Killers sounded like they were actually having fun in the studio. I can only hope there are more like this from this group, but “Animal” was the only track I liked off their album Habits.

4. Shontelle – Impossible

This was a powerful ballad that just kind of snuck up on me. When I first heard it, I thought it might have been a new Brandy track, as it did have that “Brandy-When-She-Doesn’t-Suck” vibe to it. I remember not thinking much of Shontelle’s debut song, “T-Shirt”, but this track definitely changed my opinion of her. It was a slow burn up the charts, but I think she’s finally making a name for herself.

3. The Band Perry – If I Die Young

Back to the country stuff, this band seemingly came out of nowhere during the second half of the year. A family act, The Band Perry have only released 3 singles so far, but this one has gone to #1 on the country charts. As for subject matter, this is the kind of stuff Taylor Swift would be performing if she could grow out of her fairy tale obsession.

2. Darius Rucker – Comeback Song

I have loved Darius since the days when all of y’all were calling him “Hootie” (btw, he was not Hootie). While that group had an impressive debut and a pretty lengthy career, Darius has almost taken the Justin Timberlake path, as he has achieved way more as a solo country act than he ever did as a member of that group. The funny thing is that it’s not like he even really changed his sound; if you loved Hootie songs, you’ll love Darius’s solo songs. He’s the first black man to make an impact on country music in 2o years (sit down, Cowboy Troy!), and he’s been grabbing awards left and right. He’s not showing any signs of slowing down, and this was his biggest song of the year.

1. Sara Bareilles – King of Anything

Kaleidoscope Heart didn’t get a ton of love from critics, nor did I see it on anyone’s Best of 2010 list, but it was by far my favorite album of the year. I think a lot of people wanted to write Sara off after the success off “Love Song”, but this song proved that she wasn’t a one-hit wonder. It has the same lyrical playfulness of “Love Song”, but the beat and the handclaps really just help to bring it all together. Nobody does Cute Tell-Off songs quite like Sara. I highly recommend every track on the album, but this is my favorite, as well as my favorite song of the year.

Thanks for playing along! Leave your comments/concerns below. Next time, I’ll probably have a comic rant. That is, if I remember to pay my ISP…

30th Nov2010

World Wide West

by Will

So, I haven’t been so great with posting lately, but that doesn’t mean that I haven’t been online. In fact, I just posted my 10,000th tweet today, so I clearly still have a lot of time on my hands. Even though I haven’t had much here recently, I have been showcased in a few other places on the web. Let’s take a closer look at some of that:

1)  For anyone into the Vice Magazine scene, Street Carnage is the site to visit. A few weeks ago , things got out of hand as @StreetCarnage Twitter followers got into a huge “No Homo” parody game. I assure you that it’s not as offensive as it might sound, but I can’t even begin to explain it; you’d best click that link to get a better understanding as to where things eventually ended up. In any case, something that started as a way to pass time on a Saturday afternoon ended up with me getting my name on a site that I actually didn’t own. Check it out:

As you can see, the whole “experiment” produced a bunch of groaners, but it’s still kinda cool that I got acknowledged.

2) A few weeks after that, I found that I got a retweet/reply from @FakeeEtiquette. Again, nothing major, but it’s still nice to be retweeted by an entity with more than 9,000 followers. If you have any “aspiring actor” friends, you’ll probably relate to this:

3) A few weeks before all of that, I helped kick off my friend Marcus’s new internet radio show. I’ve crossposted some of the stuff I’ve written for his site (TGRIOnline.com), and this is just another one of his hairbrained schemes to take over the world. In any case, I love anything that gets me more attention, and it was a fun experience. You can listen to that show here.

Also, I don’t think he has announced it, but I’m scheduled to be on again tomorrow night, so be sure to tune in!

4) Finally, in my aimless attempt at “brand extension”, I’ve found myself with a Tumblr . Now, some of you might be asking “Why do you need another website?” Others might be asking “What’s Tumblr?” Let’s answer that last one first: from what I’ve gathered, it’s all the best parts of “New Twitter” without the seizure-inducing interface. You’re not hampered by character limits, and you can post pictures, text, videos, audio, etc. It follows that Twitter model, in that you follow folks and they follow you. So, it’s just another social networking popularity contest.

So, why did I create one? Well, that’s easy:  believe it or not, I actually created it for archiving purposes. I’m sure if any of you are aware, but Twitter imposes a limit on the number of older tweets that you can access. As it stands, you can only search your archives up to 3200 tweets. Sure, that may seem like a lot, but seeing as how I just passed 10,000 today, that means that I can no longer access the majority of my tweets. For most people, that’s not an issue. They use Twitter as a forum for their stream-of-conscious thoughts. I, however, tend to really use it as a “micro blog”. Sure, some of those tweets might be in-the-moment, but I’d really like to remember and review some of them at later dates.

In the past, I had used a website that turned my tweets into a PDF “tweetbook”. Unfortunately, that service seems to be down indefinitely. So, in a somewhat desperate move, I created a Tumblr and linked it to my Twitter account. If nothing else, I figured this would serve as a crude, but effective, archive. I actually created this system around Tweet #7,000, at which point I teased that I would be unveiling a new site. Well, after about 2,000 tweets, I decided to check in on my little experiment. And it was a clusterfuck.

Tumblr isn’t a live system when it comes to imported content, so all of that is queued. My Tumblr was set to update about once per hour, but all that did was distort the natural chronology of things. Posts were out of sequence, often making no sense. So, I spent a weekend going through and trimming the fat. I disconnected Twitter, as I really didn’t need to see all of my @replies scattered any which way. With all of that behind me, I’ve decided to try to use Tumblr for its true purpose. What that means is that I need followers. If you’ve got a Tumblr, let me know and I’ll follow you. While the #followback mentality on Twitter can lead to ignorant/worthless conversations, Tumblr seems to be 75% porn, so I really don’t see how I could go wrong. You’ll probably see content on  there that I’ve already tweeted, but that’s to be expected. After all, my tagline is “The Place To Be To See All The Great Stuff You’ve Already Seen Before!” Yeah, it’s basically gonna be a “Best of Will’s Tweets” site, but it’s also going to be where I post photos from now, if only to not have to deal with Plixi servers anymore. I’m sure, over time, I’ll figure out what to do with that site. But for now, as Kanye would say, “It’s a process.”

15th Oct2010

Happy Anniversary, Lindsay!

by Will

If you’ve been with the site for some time, you’ll notice that I don’t do “personal” as much as I used to. When I first started, it was more like a public diary, and you’d get ALL the nuts and bolts. Over time, I’d look back at those posts, and feel kinda dumb for sharing that with a bunch of strangers. So, I decided to just focus on snark, and downplay “Real Life Will”. Sadly, that decision came with a price, as it meant I neglected to talk about the people who mean most to me. With that in mind, I’d like to wish a happy anniversary to the wonderful Lindsay.

Two years ago today, we went on our first date. She was a pretty cool chick, and she didn’t murder me – which is always a plus! Anyway, I met her that night and haven’t left her side (2 years is a long time in Adult World!). They’ve been the best 2 years of my life, and I just want her to know how much I love her. Plus, this whole thing is FREE, so it gets me off the hook for a gift. Bazinga!

23rd Sep2010

Dear DC Comics: You’re Doing It Wrong

by Will

This week, DC Entertainment, announced a bold new organizational structure, deemed as a “bicoastal realignment”. The problem, however, is that there’s nothing bold about this whatsoever. When Marvel rocks the boat, you may not like it, but you’d better believe it gets people talking. DC, however, doesn’t seem to know how to make a splash – in the same pool in which they’ve been swimming for 75 years! Marvel has trounced DC in publishing, movies, and video games. By this point, DC’s got to be tired of losing, but they still aren’t taking many chances. With them, the more things change, the more they stay the same. Looking at Marvel and DC together, you start to see a clearer picture as to why Marvel shines, while DC rusts. Let’s take a look at what DC’s doing wrong.

1) Social Media: Marvel has readily embraced every technology, realizing the impact of what’s NOW. DC, seeing itself as some sort of “legacy publisher”, doesn’t readily embrace anything modern, so as not to date their product. The problem with that idea is that the product is already dated, simply through how it’s being mishandled. Sure, you may end up with a Marvel comic with a dated MySpace reference, but at least Marvel TOOK THE CHANCE.

This idea carries over into reality, where Marvel.com’s Editor, Ryan Penagos, was one of the first twitter users to cross 1M followers. Say what you will about twitter, but that’s quite a big deal, especially since it occurred in the age before many celebrities had embraced the medium. Sure, he seems like a nice enough guy, but he’s not doing anything special. The first, and most important step, was that he simply showed up for the party – which is more than could be said for DC at the time. Tweeting as @Agent_M, he’s engaging, and he’s a steadfast cheerleader for the Marvel brand, in the tradition of The Man himself.

Now, let’s look at DC: They don’t really have much of a twitter presence. There’s a @DC_NATION account, but it really just serves to tweet links to the DC site. After they realized how successful Marvel’s social outreach had been, DC decided to follow suit, creating their own blog, The Source. Manning the blog is Alex Segura, DC’s Publicity Manager. This is where the “small world” nature of the industry really hits home, as Alex is also the roommate of Marvel’s Penagos. Both guys came up through the ranks of Wizard Entertainment, so they’ve certainly got industry experience. The difference between how they embrace the power of social media, however, is the night and day. You’d think something would rub off on Alex when he and Ryan bump into each other in the kitchen, but he isn’t “bringing it”. Maybe he’s not to blame. Looking at how DC handles everything else, it’s possible that Alex is FULL of ideas, and he’s just being stifled from above. Either way, DC’s doing social media wrong.

2) Publicity: Following up on the social media differences, both companies are also VERY different in how they handle their big announcements. Marvel seems to have a pretty good relationship with mass media. Based on its success with movies, as well as the clout of their new owner, Disney, Marvel has no problem getting mass media exposure for its big events, both behind and in front of the scenes. DC, however, does everything in secret, and once things get out, the announcements don’t hold the level of “oomph” that you know the Warner Brothers executives had expected them to have.

Let’s look at this bicoastal realignment. For the past year, most people have expected Warner Bros to decide to move DC out west, so that they could synergize new ways to monetize the catalog. Fanboys and comic journos have been awaiting that announcement with bated breath, and the rumblings indicated that there would be an announcement this week. Well, the rumors were true, but the announcement was the bicoastal realignment. So, as if they feared rocking the boat, WB decided to move the core moneymakers (movies, multimedia, etc) out west, while leaving the comic arm in NYC. All that fervor and leaked info for such a dud of an announcement.

Further, it was announced that certain subsidiaries of DC, such as the Zuda webcomic site and the Wildstorm imprint, would be shuttered as a result of the restructuring. Now, this information almost got lost, as people were spending more time trying to understand how the bicoastal thing would be any different from how things already were. The thing that hit home for me, however, was that the demise of Wildstorm was ANNOUNCED. This is a 20 year old imprint that has resided at two different publishers, launched a few notable careers, and was still successful at publishing licensed comics. We weren’t talking about a relaunch or a move to a new publisher – it was CLOSING. Sure, the core Wildstorm Universe books had been rudderless for some time, but this still wasn’t the way to handle it. At least, wait a day or two to put it in a follow-up announcement. I know that Warner Bros is the parent company, but they do everything in a very formal, let’s not scare the shareholders, kind of way. That’s not how Marvel rolls.

When Marvel was purchased by Disney, there were no rumblings. We woke up one day to the announcement, and many of us had to check our calendars to make sure that it wasn’t April 1st. Marvel doesn’t let anything get out that they don’t want out. When they do announce something, they make it worthwhile. Here’s how Marvel would’ve handled the Wildstorm situation in which DC found itself: Instead of announcing via press release, Joe Quesada would’ve “let it slip” during one of his weekly “Cup ‘o Joe” columns. In the next issue of Previews, you’d see a surprise solicitation for Wildstorm Finale, 48-page special written by Brian Bendis, with art by Bryan Hitch, Frank Cho, Steve McNiven, and whichever Kubert answers his phone first. Sure, in execution, the book will end up being a piece of crap, but leading up to its release, you better believe that Marvel would do its best to convince you that this thing is gonna be on the level of The Bible II: Jesus Strikes Back. And you know what? That book would be the #1 book of the month! All of a sudden, people would be looking back fondly on Wildstorm, making up stories about how they learned to read from Gen13. The way Marvel works, they have a knack for making you care about things you really don’t care about. That’s how Moon Knight has been given more second chances than Robert Downey Jr. DC simply lacks Marvel’s “Huckster Pizazz”, which is why everything they do reeks of buzzwords like “synergy” and “value-added”.

Remember how I mentioned the build-up to the hypothetical Marvel release? Well, at least Marvel understands the need for HYPE. DC takes a different approach. Instead of telling you that something big is coming up, they wait and see if you’re already planning to buy it anyway. Then, as if to punish you, Alex routinely spoils big events on The Source, sometimes as early as Wednesday afternoon. DC’s feeling seems to be “We’re here, making these quality books, and it’s your own fault if you haven’t made it a priority to buy them on your lunch break”. Some character dies, and The Source is sure gonna let you know about it by midday Thursday. YOU’RE DUMB, DC, ’cause now you just lost a sale! Who thought that was smart? Sure, they tack on a line about how the book is “In Stores NOW!” but you already told me what happens.

3) Leadership: There’s a different organizational structure at each company, but both are controlled by larger, corporate entities: Marvel by Disney, and DC by Warner Bros. Disney’s acquisition of Marvel is still fairly recent, but there haven’t been many signs of editorial pressure handed down by Disney. If anything, that acquisition has opened doors, as Marvel products are now sold in the Disney Store, while Marvel has ramped up production of programming for Disney’s XD channel. If only the same could be said for DC.

DC Comics has always been seen as the redheaded stepchild of the Warner Bros portfolio. There were halcyon days in the mid ’90s, when you saw DC crossing into other media, mainly Batman-related. After that movie franchise went on hiatus, and the animated series moved off network television, things seemed to dry up. The Warner Bros Studio Stores closed, so they lost another outlet to sell product. For years, it seemed that Warner Bros was searching for a way to make some serious money off DC, but the comic arm just wouldn’t play ball. A lot of their efforts seemed to have been thwarted by former DC President/Publisher, Paul Levitz. While he could be blamed for keeping the characters in a vacuum, he did it for the best of interests. Like an overprotective parent, he didn’t want anything bad to happen to his properties. As a result, however, he also prevented them from being able to grow. The-Powers- That-Be tired of this, and he was replaced by media wunderkind, Diane Nelson.

For the past year, many have wondered what the Nelson Era would mean for DC Comics. At the outset, the whole division was renamed DC Entertainment, with DC Comics falling under that umbrella. This was to signal that they had set their sights outside of simply publishing comics – they were now aiming for the “real money”. It’s no secret that DC hasn’t come close to meeting Marvel’s success at the box office, as they don’t have anything other than the Batman franchise to fall back on. Even when people discuss the upcoming Ryan Reynolds Green Lantern movie, the discussion always ends up revolving around Deadpool – the Marvel comic movie with Reynolds attached. In the meantime, Marvel’s been building a movie universe with each film, opening the door for the next feature as they go along. So, DC wanted to be like Marvel.

Nelson was brought in, supposedly, due to her success with the Harry Potter franchise. That’s all well and good, but that’s also a franchise that didn’t exist 12 years ago. Nelson basically had to find ways to monetize a franchise that was spawned from 7 books. Enter DC – now, she has to figure out what to do with a catalog of characters, many of whom have been around for more than 50 years. It’s the equivalent of setting out to clean your grandparents’ attack, and not knowing what to keep, while knowing that your only cleaning experience is that you once did a really kickass job mopping a kitchen. Plainly put, these are 2 different worlds, but her approach has been “media is media”. Whenever people focus on the fact that she knows nothing about comics, she hems and haws, and says things akin to “I know what I need to know, and what I know is that comics aren’t making us money”. We’re supposed to hear the statements, and think “She’s got some brass ones!” Sorry, but I’m not buying it. For over a year, every decision has been a non-decision. Who’s going to be the new publisher of DC Comics? “Um…let’s go with Co-Publishers!” Clearly, Ms. Nelson hasn’t watched the most recent season of The Office. Is DC moving to the West Coast? “We’re going with a…hmm…’bicoastal realignment’. Yeah…” Everything she has decided hasn’t been an actual decision. Her newly-named executives were guys who had already been doing the work, so it was just a title change. The bicoastal thing really did more as giving an “official” reason to kill Wildstorm and Zuda, than anything else. It could be seen as “streamlining the brand”, but it was believed that DC had been looking for an exit strategy for both for some time. As far as leadership goes, DC’s doing it wrong.

Sadly, it seems that things are going to get worse before they get better. DCE wants to make money, and they want to find the best way to do that. Batman’s already on Underoos, but he might start selling you car insurance. There’s an anecdote traveling the ‘net about a recent WB corporate meeting. Supposedly, someone in that meeting was chastised for saying, “But Batman wouldn’t say that.” Apparently, in the immediate future of DCE, it doesn’t matter what Batman would say (that has more emphasis if you read it in the voice of The Rock). Hell, Batman will probably start endorsing live ammunition and clown college. It doesn’t seem to matter in the future of DC. It’s just another in a long line of things they’re doing wrong….

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