18th Jan2018

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

by Will

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

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

The Art of the Matter: From Sketch to Screen

Moderator: Brian Truitt, writer USA Today

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Moderator: David Betancourt, writer The Washington Post

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wonder Women

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Q&A

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

17th Jan2018

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

by Will

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

courtesy of @lofthouse555 on Instagram

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Epilogue

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

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

16th Jan2018

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

by Will

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

12th Jan2018

West Week Ever: Pop Culture In Review – 1/12/18

by Will

Welcome to the future! Or at least that’s what I could’ve said a week ago, when 2018 was still new. Anyway, I hope you read West YEAR Ever yesterday, but if you didn’t make sure you hit that post next so I get double the clicks!

HarassmentWatch(TM)

Some part of me naively thought that I’d be able to retire HarassmentWatch when 2017 ended. I mean, surely those powerful men had learned their lesson by now, right? Right? Well, 2 weeks into 2018 and they haven’t missed a beat. And I’ve got to say that this week’s revelations hit a little too close to home

  • Ben Vereen – That’s right, the Leading Player himself was accused of sexual misconduct during a local production of Hair in Florida back in 2015. Not only did he hug and kiss the female cast members without their consent, but he allegedly went as far as to strip naked on stage with the cast during an “acting exercise”. OK, duder. Anyway, he has since apologized to the cast via a statement on Twitter, but various theatrical groups are cutting ties with the Tony Award winner.
  • James Franco – Coming off the high of winning the Golden Globe for his film The Disaster Artist, Franco was ridiculed for wearing a “Time’s Up” pin in solidarity with the women who have been speaking out about sexual misconduct in Hollywood considering the fact that he’s been accused of sexual conduct by five different women. He has always seemed like a weird dude, so it’s not that surprising to me. He does, however, seem like the kind of person who doesn’t acknowledge/respect boundaries. Like, maybe he went into it in a non-malicious way, but totally overstepped his bounds with these women. I dunno. I’m not his lawyer, so it’s not my job to make excuses for him. All I’m saying is I’m not surprised.
  • Stan Lee – This one hit a little too close to home for me. I’m a horrible person because not only do I believe it, but some part of me is just shrugging his shoulders. Let me explain. The elder statesman of Marvel Comics is being accused by former nurses of groping them. Here’s where I’m like, “The dude’s 95! That’s just Harmless Dirty Old Man Shit.” But that’s where I would be wrong. Nothing makes that OK, and I’ve just been socialized to laugh it off. Ya know why? Because I think it’s hilarious to picture him wheeling himself around, pinching nurses’ butts and yelling “Excelsior!” each time he does it. Go ahead and picture it and tell me it doesn’t make you at least smirk! But that’s the wrong approach to take, and I will work towards being a less horrible person. Plus, things got a little dicier when it was reported that he also demanded oral sex in the shower. No, Stan, no! Then allegations came out that he asked for sex from a masseuse. So maybe he’s just as much of an evil wang dangler as the rest of these guys. Don’t meet your heroes, kids! At the moment, Lee is denying all of these allegations.
  • Paul Haggis Update – If you remember, Haggis had already been accused of sexual misconduct by one woman, and he countered by saying that he couldn’t have forced himself on her as she claimed because he was recovering from back surgery at the time. Well, some more have come forward. He’s an interesting case because he very well could be guilty, but there’s also a strong possibility that this is a Scientology hit job, as he’s become quite the enemy of the church since leaving the congregation year ago. Haggis’ ex-wife, Deborah Rennard, has come forward to defend him from the claims, saying that these reports are playing out in media reports and not in courts, and that they are damaging and dangerous because of that.

The 75th Annual Golden Globe Awards were Sunday night, and there was some controversy surrounding the fact that no female directors were nominated for Best Director. In fact, it was noted by some how Patty Jenkins didn’t get a nod for Wonder Woman. Now, let’s be real here: Wonder Woman is the best film of the DCEU, but it is NOT an “award winning” film. It’s an entertaining jaunt with a weak ass 3rd act surrounding the Ares reveal. I’ve spent some time thinking about why, exactly, the movie doesn’t work at that point, here’s what I’ve come up with.

At the end of the day, my problem comes down to the presence of Ares. If you ask me, he undermines an important part of the narrative. You see, when Diana first comes to Man’s World, she’s convinced that World War I is the doing of Ares, when the truth is that humanity ain’t shit. The fact that humanity ain’t shit proves the Amazons right and explains why they don’t want to interact with the world. Instead of Diana learning this harsh truth, however, yup it’s Ares who’s behind the war. Which then goes further to trivialize WWI itself. So instead of learning the truth about the reality of humanity she learns that the gods are still active and messing with the world. I feel like there’s a stronger story with her learning that the age of the gods has truly passed. But hey, there’s a sequel coming and, as someone online pointed out to me, there’s still a World War II, so she still has a chance to learn of man’s true nature.

Speaking of some stuff that’s unfair to women, get a load of this shit: When Kevin Spacey was recast with Christopher Plummer in the J. Paul Getty film All The Money In the World, director Ridley Scott stated in interviews that any reshoots would be done for free, for the sake of the art. Well, this week it was revealed that Michelle Williams received ONE PERCENT of what costar Mark Wahlberg received for the reshoots. Wahlberg reportedly earned $1.5 million, while Williams received less than $1,000. This is odd, considering Williams actually had higher billing on the film. To make things even more suspect, both actors are represented by the same agency – an agency that claims that their agents don’t talk to each other in situations like this.

So, now the story goes like this: apparently Wahlberg had costar approval in his contract, so he wouldn’t sign off on the Plummer casting unless he got what he wanted. Meanwhile, it seems like Williams was royally screwed by her representation, as they were the ones who were supposed to be acting in her best interest. Up until this point, the film was considered an awards shoe-in, but this new controversy isn’t doing it any favors in a lot of folks’ eyes. Scott is reportedly furious because he wasn’t involved in the money discussions, so he truly thought the actors were working gratis. Meanwhile, Wahlberg’s people are insisting “Our client never works for free”. Former MTV VJ Dave Holmes posted an excerpt from his book on Twitter about an interaction he’d had with Wahlberg years ago, where he told Holmes on multiple occasions, “You got to make sure they’re payin’ you, bro.” It seems like that’s his guiding mantra.

In other controversies, Roseanne revealed that her character, as well as John Goodman’s Dan Conner, would be Trump supporters in the revival of her sitcom. And with that, any interest I had in that show is gone. Let me explain, though. Folks are always saying we have to “separate the art from the artist”, but she’s dragging her views into the art. Nobody gave a shit about real life Roseanne being a Trump supporter because she’s been batshit crazy for the past few years. When she brings that into the show, however, it is a different thing. Folks seem to think this is a partisan issue when it’s not. Some have said “Well, if the Conners were Dems, this wouldn’t be an issue.” Folks aren’t upset that the Conners are conservative. They’re upset they’re TRUMP SUPPORTERS. There is a difference. There are smart Conservatives just like there’s dumb ones. The smart ones, however, don’t tend to support that guy.

Some feel like it’ll be played for laughs, where the parents clash with their more “woke” children, a la Last Man Standing. For some shows that works. I’m begging for the rumored King of the Hill reboot because Hank would have to decide whether he stands with his party or on his own. I can see him hating Trump, but Bobby loving him because he comes from the Hollywood complex that Bobby worships. That’s a story I’d love to see told. I don’t think this, however, really adds to the narrative of the Conners in a positive or interesting way.

It’s a new year, and Marvel can’t stop Marveling. I mean that in both good and bad ways. On the one hand, they announced a new Exiles series (do we really need one of those right now?), featuring fan favorite Valkyrie, as depicted by Tessa Thompson in Thor: Ragnarok, as a member of the team. Folks seemed to dig that. Then, not content to leave well enough alone, they announced Captain America #700, where Steve Rogers awakens from the ice, again, as a man out of time, again. Oh, and he becomes King Captain America. You know, a dictator, kinda like the story they JUST TOLD in Secret Empire last year. Executive Editor Tom Brevoort did his usual “This is really happening” song and dance, but it just feels empty. Not only does it feel like a rehash, but it makes you wonder if someone high up at Marvel has some sort of delusions of grandeur. I mean, sure DC had an alleged sex offender in Eddie Berganza, but Marvel’s the one who’s always quick to depict a fascist society.

Things You Might Have Missed This Week

  • Hulu picked up a 2-season revival of the hit 90s cartoon Animaniacs

    • We got our first teaser trailer for Teen Titans GO! To The Movies, and my body is ready. I’m not quite sure what to expect, format-wise, seeing as how the cartoon itself is just 10 minutes long. The last time one of those short shows got a movie, I was VERY disappointed (Looking at you, Aqua Teen Hunger Force Colon Movie Film for Theaters!)
    • After a rousing speech at the Golden Globe Awards on Sunday, folks started calling for Oprah Winfrey to run for President in 2020. Look, she seems cool and all ’cause she used to give away free shit to housewives, but we’d just be swapping one billionaire for another. I know it’s more nuanced than that, but when it comes to this idea, no me gusta!

  • Justin Timberlake announced his next album, Man of the Woods, would be released a few days following his performance at the Super Bowl LII Halftime Show. The first single, “Filthy”, debuted, and here it is. I, um, I don’t know, man…
  • Apparently Mad Men‘s Kiernan Shipka is Netflix’s new Sabrina, which shows that studio didn’t listen to my notes of “Make sure her ass is as phat as Melissa Joan Hart’s”
  • It was a busy week for freshman show renewals, as Fox renewed “X-Men adjacent” The Gifted, while CBS renewed breakout hit Young Sheldon. Meanwhile on streaming, Hulu renewed Future Man and Runaways.
  • Speaking of X-Men, director Gore Verbinski has exited Channing Tatum’s Gambit film, meaning that demon is probably gonna get to come collect Tatum’s soul at this point.
  • Not wanting to sit on the sidelines while his old friends get work, Paul Reiser says he has an idea for a Mad About You revival. File this under: Things Nobody Wants. I mean, in hindsight, the Buchmans had a terrible marriage. AND SHE KISSED DOUG BERKUS! (I was a huge Mad About You fan, because I was a 42 year old White woman when I was 12. Anyway, this was MY “We were on a break!”)

  • We got a glimpse at what is probably production art for Solo merchandise and I, like many others, didn’t like it. Some rando popped up to tell me to “calm down”, but my biggest issue is that it has such a cosplay/fan film vibe to it. It looks like one of those direct to DVD prequels, like National Lampoon’s Van Wilder: Freshman Year. Nobody wanted this movie. It just looks like Donald Glover was a giant nerd who used his newfound fame and money to film a Han Solo movie in his backyard. Yup, I got ALL of that from this one image. Prove me wrong, Lucasfilm!
  • It appears Will Smith’s Lord of the Rings/End of Watch swirl, Bright, was actually a hit for Netflix, and a sequel has been ordered without Max Landis’ involvement this time around (he wrote the movie).

  • I took this pic at Toys “R” Us the other day, and HAD to share it. I mean, who ever thought they’d see this day?

So this book came out that has taken the country by storm. Written by journalist Michael Wolff, Fire and Fury: Inside The Trump White House details just how ill-equipped the Trump Administration was as they set up shop in the White House. Am I the only one who thinks of DragonForce’s “Through the Fire and Flames” when they see/hear that title? Oh, you don’t know about DragonForce?! SIDEBAR!

Now that you’re sufficiently pumped, let’s talk about this book. The anecdotes are page turners, but also fill you with fear when you realize such an unqualified group of people currently wield as much power as they do. I’m gonna be honest – as much as I think I wanna read this book, I really don’t wanna read this book. I’d just rather be in the dark on some of this stuff, just so I don’t collapse into a balls of tears. Plus, I hear there are some careless typos in the book, which would irk me more than it should. I’m, however, clearly in the minority, as it was so highly anticipated that it was released early. Good luck finding a copy of the book right now (ya know, for you fellow troglodytes who still read paper books)! Wolff has been on the talk show circuit all week, while the White House is trying its best to do some damage control. Whatever, man. Since everyone’s a giant liar these days, I almost don’t even care if it’s fake as long as it’s entertaining, and from what I’ve read about it, it’s got entertainment in spades! I think it’s pretty safe to say that Fire and Fury: Inside The Trump White House had the West Week Ever.

 

11th Jan2018

West YEAR Ever: Pop Culture In Review – 2017

by Will

 

God, did 2017 suck! It’s funny – if you go back and read the WYE 2016 post, it starts pretty much the same way. The problem with 2016, however, is that Death kept coming for all of our favorite celebrities, while 2017 was just a garbage fire through and through. To put in in Community terms, I like to write 2017 off as “The Gas Leak year” (for those who aren’t Community fans, let me explain: the 4th season of the show didn’t have the involvement of creator/showrunner Dan Harmon, so a lot of the stories and characterizations were off. When Harmon returned for season 5, he explained away a lot of the weirdness by saying that the school had experienced a gas leak during season 4, which was the cause of their odd behavior).

I had a rough time dealing with 2017 and it shows. I had to take a lot of weeks off from the site. I was basically on that schedule Regis had before they pretty much forced him to retire. When I did post, I don’t feel like much of it was that strong because I didn’t really have a lot to work with. The world of entertainment was kinda boring until Q4 (more on that later), and the major developments were happening in the world of politics, which is not what you come to this site to read. Still, I managed to crank out 41 West Week Ever posts, even though 4 of those weeks saw nothing crowned as having the West Week Ever. I also managed to post a handful of standalone things, like my tribute to the Toy Biz Hotline and my rundown of my top 40 songs of 2017. Still, with 2017 making it feel like we were constantly on the receiving end of a one-two punch, I feel a lot of stuff fell through the cracks. So, let’s take a look back at some of the stuff that I feel stood out about the year.

2017 was quite the year for “zombie shows” – shows that are long dead but just can’t seem to stay that way. NBC brought back Will & Grace, while ABC got the Roseanne gang back together. On top of those, there are talks in the works to bring back Frasier, King of the Hill, and Mad About You. I don’t have time for these shows. I watch the ones that continue the narrative for the next generation, a la Fuller House and Girl Meets World, but I’ve got no interest in these “The Quest for More Money” sequel series. After all, both Will & Grace and Roseanne had to retcon their series finales in order for these new seasons to work. While the Lottery Season of Roseanne is critically maligned, I was pretty OK with where Will & Grace left things. I don’t need to see these casts, 10+ years later, doing the same shit, and struggling with the same problems.

I recently called Roseanne “The White Good Times” on Twitter because I feel they both shared a lot of depressing traits. Will James get a new job? Is Dan gonna lose the bike shop? Is JJ gonna have to drop out of art school to provide for the family? Will the loose meat sandwich restaurant have to close? I watched these shows when I was younger, but as I’ve grown I just realize how damn poor these folks were and I don’t want to revisit that. The difference between the shows is that the Evans family DOES make it out of the ghetto in the series finale of Good Times. Roseanne, however, seems to be dealing with the same shit, in the same house, still struggling to make ends meet. And now they’ve tacked on that she and Dan are going to be Trump supporters? They clearly want me nowhere near this thing. I know a lot of y’all love Roseanne, especially for the Halloween episodes, so this revival is clearly a love letter to you and not for me.

It was QUITE the controversial year for the folks over at Marvel in 2017. First off, they announced an event where everyone’s favorite patriotic hero became a fascist dictator who was under the influence of Nazis. Sure, we can have the whole “Are Hydra soldiers Nazis?” debate, but it’s basically the same thing as far as the comics go. The fandom was spit, as they couldn’t believe Marvel would do this to Captain America. They’ve become so enamored with the Chris Evans portrayal of the character that they can’t let go of if enough for something different to be done with it. I actually thought it was an interesting idea because the buildup to it was so good. Nick Spencer was telling some great “Not MY Captain America” stories starring the Sam Wilson iteration of the hero. Of course the purists wanted Steve Rogers back, but they weren’t prepared to receive him in the state that he appeared: brainwashed by the Red Skull to believe he’d basically been a double agent. Not only did Marvel do a shitty job of damage control in marketing the story, but they also failed to stick the landing, as the buildup to Secret Empire was much more riveting than the Secret Empire miniseries itself.

Then, continuing to be tone deaf to their audience, Marvel entered into a partnership to print a comic focusing on an elite group from Northrup Grumman. If you’re not familiar with NG, they’re a defense contractor, which is a nice, friendly way of saying “arms dealer”. They had collaborated on a joint comic that was to be distributed that New York Comic Con, but when word got out that this was basically a recruitment tool, Marvel had to act fast, cancelling both the scheduled panel and the distribution of the comic. A few copies got out, making it a sought after item, but mainly the whole thing left fans scratching their heads, wondering why Marvel would enter into such a partnership.

Then there was the CB Cebulski situation. If you’re unaware, CB Cebulski was announced as Marvel’s latest editor-in-chief, but it was soon revealed that some years ago he (a White male) posed as a Japanese writer in order to get work from Marvel – during a period when Marvel employees weren’t allowed to pick up writing work on top of their salaries. Also during a time when Marvel was actively seeking diverse voices who would be able to tell different stories than what everyone had been used to. So, he basically stole somebody else’s shot, and there was never any comeuppance for it. It seems like it was a loosely guarded secret, with some other folks surely in the know. Still, Marvel refused to address it as a company, and Cebulski was left to eventually issue an apology in The Atlantic after a few mainstream publications caught wind of the controversy.

To cap things off, DC Comics pulled off a major coup by poaching writer Brian Michael Bendis from the House of Ideas. Bendis had been THE Marvel Company Man since 2000, and the idea of him at the Distinguished Competition seemed like something that would eventually happen (comics is an incestuous industry, and you really just end up jumping back and forth for work), but not something that would happen anytime soon. Well, things didn’t go as smoothly as they could have. Immediately after the Bendis move was announced, he got a MRSA infection which almost killed him and caused a delay on his remaining Marvel work. So, now not only was Marvel losing him, but they weren’t even sure when, as he had some outstanding deliverables he still needed to get to them. It’s since been announced that his first big DC property will be Superman, while Marvel doesn’t have anyone in their stable who even comes close to having the brand loyalty to them that Bendis had. So, it begs the question: what did Marvel do to make him leave? Whatever it was, it was just another blunder in a long year of mistakes from the House that Stan Built.

Not every relationship made it out of 2017 alive, as there were some fairly high profile splits. Anna Faris and Chris Pratt split up, while Billy Bush continued to shoulder the blame from the Access Hollywood/Trump debacle as he split with his wife of 20 years. Gina Torres and Laurence Fishburne separated after 16 years together, and Fergie took her lovely lady lumps and packed her bags to get away from Josh Duhamel.

Movies I Watched This Year:

I REALLY fell short in this department, as I only managed to watch 18 films in 2017, down from SIXTY-FIVE in 2016. A lot of it had to do with the fact that we moved in with my mom after her stroke. When we lived on our own, I had every premium channel, DVR, and I was up all hours of the night. Now, I don’t even have HBO, no DVR, and my night is split into 2 different shifts. Plainly put, I have neither the time nor resources to watch a lot of movies these days, though I’ll point out that the majority of the movies I did see this year were seen in the theater, which is something of a novelty for me. I’m not a “movie guy”, so the fact that I managed to get to the theater for 13 of 18 movies is somewhat impressive to me.

I know a lot of y’all use Letterboxd to keep track of your movies and reviews, but I’m wary of those kinds of sites. I mean, what happens when Amazon buys it and decides to just wipe it? Back in the early 00s, Wizard: The Guide to Comics used to have a comic portfolio option on their site. Since they were a price guide, you could just enter all the books you owned and it would give you a value. I spent a lot of time on that site. And then, one day, without warning, they yanked it. No option to export what you had or anything. So, at that point, I said “Never again!” I’ll just use my own rinky-dink site to track stuff like that. Anyway, here’s what I saw. If you wanna know my thoughts, just click the links.

  1. Split
  2. The Lego Batman Movie
  3. Central Intelligence
  4. Logan
  5. Power Rangers
  6. Get Out
  7. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2
  8. Wonder Woman
  9. The Founder
  10. Spider-Man: Homecoming
  11. Keeping Up With the Joneses
  12. The Nice Guys
  13. The Mountain Between Us
  14. Thor: Ragnarok
  15. Justice League
  16. Star Wars: The Last Jedi
  17. Coco
  18. Daddy’s Home – I’m going to talk about this here because I watched it between my last post of 2017 and now, and never got a chance to write about it. The basic premise of this movie is that Linda Cardellini’s character is a bitch who puts new husband Will Ferrell in an uncomfortable and unnecessary situation. When her first husband, played by Mark Walhberg, comes to town, we find out she’s never even told him that she’s remarried, and it’s clear that he still gets her wet (which she barely even tries to hide). Ferrell is a dutiful and doting stepfather to her kids, but he’s scared he’s going to lose them to their real dad who’s now back on the scene, and is also a total badass. And Cardellini really doesn’t pitch in to help matters. She basically tells Ferrell he needs to establish some ground rules and boundaries for Wahlberg – a situation that could’ve been mitigated had she only told Wahlberg about Ferrell in the first place. Of course the whole thing ends with them as friends and co-fathers, but I can’t get the taste out of my mouth as to how much I disliked Cardellini’s role. I do, however, want to see the sequel now because I loved how they set things up at the end of this one, and I’m curious to see if Cardellini gets her comeuppance.

Surprisingly, while I didn’t see many movies this year, I thoroughly enjoyed everything I did see – including some of the more maligned pics, like Justice League. It wasn’t perfect, but I was entertained. I’m not a cinephile, so I’m not gonna rank them, but I will say that The Founder may have been my favorite film I saw this year. Keaton is just so good in it, I love the McDonald’s story, and I feel like a lot of folks missed out on this gem.

Things You Might Have Missed This Year

January

  • 80’s pop star Richard Marx and wife, former VJ Daisy Fuentes, subdued a crazed passenger on a Korean airline. In other news, how the Hell did Richard Marx land Daisy Fuentes?!

  • In Arizona, folks reported seeing a winged demon, heralding the beginning of the apocalypse. We should’ve known then that we were fucked…

  • Adorable 4-year old, Daliyah Marie Arana, had already read over 1,000 books and visited the Library of Congress as Librarian for the Day

February

  • Playboy gave up on its quest to get on supermarket shelves, and brought back the titties!

March

  • Scientology traitor Leah Remini was announced to star in a gender-swapped What About Bob? sitcom. This would later be scrapped when she joins the cast of a revamped Kevin Can Wait with former The King of Queens costar Kevin James.
  • Han Solo is not the character’s real name. His birth name was Handsome Solowitz, but his manager made him change it

April

  • Barry Manilow came out as gay, which makes me realize that he’s actually been singing about Man D all these years…
  • In news that will only matter to you if you’re a Cornell alum, all-male a cappella group The Cayuga’s Waiters were kicked off campus for hazing. And let me tell you, this couldn’t have happened to a shittier group of douchebags.

May

  • Universal’s Dark Universe shared monsters universe was announced, to be kicked off by Tom Cruise’s The Mummy. By November the idea will be abandoned, as architects Alex Kurtzman and Chris Morgan leave the project.

courtesy of TVLine.com

June

July 

  • CBS basically said “Bye, Felicia” to the Asian cast members of Hawaii Five-0 when Daniel Dae Kim and Grace Park asked for raises on the level of what their White costars were making.
  • The Master of Bar Science himself, Jon Taffer, favorited some of my tweets during a Bar Rescue marathon:

  • Completely tone deaf to the political climate, the showrunners for Game of Thrones announced that their next project would be called Confederate, based on an alternate reality where slavery still exists and the Civil War never ended. This was not well received by folks.
  • After 24 years, Archie Comics ceased publication of the Sonic The Hedgehog comic
  • The directors of the documentary Catfish (which inspired the MTV series) were announced to direct a Mega Man film
  • It was a Black sex scandal trifecta, as R. Kelly was accused of running a sex cult in his house, Usher was accused of paying a woman $1 million to cover up the fact that he’d given her Herpes, and Kevin Hart was caught cheating on his pregnant wife
  • I discovered the All Star Trek block on the Heroes & Icons channel

  • My elementary school friend and her husband did some kickass Saga cosplay at SDCC
  • Amy Schumer dropped out of the Barbie film – a film which I originally mocked, which resulted in her blocking me on Twitter
  • Apple discontinued the Shuffle and Nano models

August

  • On the heels of the Confederate announcement, Boondocks creator Aaron McGruder announced Black America – a show that takes place in an alternate reality where Blacks have established a thriving nation state via the reparations they received after the Civil War.
  • MTV’s Total Request Live rose from the dead to return to airwaves. Only it seems like they’ve eliminated the video portion now, so what’s the point?
  • There was a Nostalgia War going on between streaming services as Hulu added the TGIF library, while Amazon added the Carsey-Werner catalog, including Roseanne, 3rd Rock from the Sun, and A Different World
  • Social media app Sarahah was popular for about a week. Used by teens to cyberbully each other, it gained a spike in popularity as grown folks used it to fish for compliments.
  • Netflix acquired Mark Millar’s Millarworld comic imprint. It’s the best of both worlds, as it gives them an IPO farm, without the overhead of running an actual comic publisher (Millarworld books are published through deals with Image and Marvel).
  • Drama hitmaker Shonda Rhimes moved her Shondaland production house from ABC to Netflix after signing a major deal with the streaming service
  • A My Cousin Vinny sequel was released in book form as Back to Brooklyn, which catches up with the characters 25 years later. ‘Cause some goomba out there wanted that.
  • Wizard Magazine was slated to return as an online website called WizPop to be hosted on the WizardWorld website. As of this post, there’s no sign of that ever having occurred on the site.
  • Controversy struck the Hellboy reboot as British actor Ed Skrein was cast as a character who was originally intended to be of Japanese descent. He eventually dropped out of the role, which was quickly snatched up by Daniel Dae Kim – who was jobless after CBS cut him loose from Hawaii Five-0 last month.
  • Joss Whedon went underground after his ex-wife wrote a scathing tell-all article for The Wrap, where she accused him of serial infidelity and of being a hypocritical feminist. His Whedonesque fansite was shuttered soon afterward.

September

  • There was a LOT of Star Wars shake ups, as Colin Treverrow was fired as director of Episode IX. This was following the earlier firing of Lord and Miller from directing the Han Solo movie. The Solo movie would be picked up by Ron Howard, while it was announced JJ Abrams would return to write and direct Episode IX. Oh, and Episode VIII director Rian Johnson was given his own Skywalker-free Star Wars trilogy.
  • I experienced what is probably my most popular tweet to date:

  • ABC announced a reboot of The Greatest American Hero which will now star an Indian-American woman named Meera. I see you, ABC!
  • There was a lot of controversy in the G.I. Joe fandom as the current writer on the series was driving away the dwindling fan base with his social media tirades.
  • It was revealed that Roald Dahl originally meant for Charlie Bucket to be a Black child until his agent intervened and advised him against it.
  • Toys “R” Us filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection because they don’t understand the word “sale” and are constantly getting their asses handed to them by Target and Amazon.
  • Black-ish creator Kenya Barris was announced to be working on the script for the completely unnecessary Coming to America 2, as Eddie Murphy must be behind on child support or something.

October

  • Milestone Media announced their return to the world of comics at New York Comic Con. And nothing has been mentioned about it since. I expect another reboot announcement somewhere around 2022.
  • The Juice is loose! OJ Simpson was released from prison.
  • AOL announced that Instant Messenger would be shut down on December 15th.
  • Just as easily as I found Heroes & Icon’s All Star Trek block I walked away from it. Oh, and I ranked the pre-Discovery Trek series. 

November

  • Donald Trump was kicked off Twitter for 11 minutes thanks to the inside work of an intrepid engineer. Remember, kids – not all heroes wear capes!
  • Funko experienced the worst IPO in 17 years as the stock opened at $12 and dropped to $7 by the end of the day
  • Smallville star Allison Mack was reported to be allegedly running a sex slave cult in Los Angeles.
  • People Magazine named country star/The Voice coach Blake Shelton the Sexiest Man Alive, and the internet had a field day with that one!
  • Taraji P. Henson will star in What Men Want, inspired by the Mel Gibson film What Women Want. The movie will reportedly only be 10 minutes long, as she will learn the answer is “Pussy and sandwiches”.

December

  • Jay-Z told The New York Times that he cheated on wife Beyoncé because he was in “Survival Mode”, whatever that means. Look for Hallmark to come out with a new line of “I’m Sorry I Survival Moded You Last Weekend” cards
  • THERE’S A NEW BABY WEST ON THE HORIZON!
  • Disney bought Fox for a reported $52 million. And I had thoughts…
  • Quentin Tarantino announced that he wants to direct a Star Trek film. I maintain that it’ll never see the light of day.
  • Apple admitted that they slowed down the performance on older iPhones, supposedly to preserve their batteries, but were then forced to offer low cost replacement batteries to make amends.

 

West Week Ever Recipients of 2017 (with commentary)

1/6/17 – The Mick

See, this is the kind of thing I like: spotlighting a new show that a lot of folks may have missed. Considering It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia has been around for 12 seasons, it clearly has a fanbase. Since Kaitlin Olsen is essentially playing the same character that she plays on that show, you can basically consider it The Further Adventures of Sweet Dee. Still, it felt very “Fox”, so I was expecting them to cancel it. Imagine my surprise when it got picked up for a second season!

1/13/17 – Donald Glover

He won the Best Musical or Comedy in Television Golden Globe for his nearly perfect series Atlanta, inked an exclusive development deal with FX Networks, AND got to film scenes as Lando Calrissian in the Han Solo movie. Everything was coming up Milhouse for that guy!

1/27/17 – The Women’s March on Washington

I guess I should’ve known what kind of year 2017 was going to be when this event happened so early in the year. See, I kinda thought of it as some kind of royal “F You!” to the establishment. The inauguration had just occurred, drawing anemic crowds, yet here was this march by the opposition to show that there was strength in numbers, and that those numbers weren’t on Trump’s side. Like I said in the post, I’m not the guy to explain the nuances of what the women were fighting for, and there were some interesting takes about how feminism and race haven’t always gone hand in hand. In fact, many feel that the women out there wearing the “pussy hats” were the same White women who had voted Trump into office. Again, I don’t know about all that. What I do know is that I hadn’t seen an organized demonstration like that since the Million Man March, so it certainly seemed noteworthy, even if it wasn’t the most “pop cultury” moment to come along.

2/3/17 – Winona Ryder

So, she made some funny faces at the SAG Awards ceremony. Was she high? Was she ACTING? Who knows? That’s just how low pressure the world of pop culture was at the start of the year. Sure, the progression of faces was amusing, but surely there should’ve been something more attention-worthy happening that week, right? Right? Wrong.

2/10/17 – The New England Patriots

Those sons of bitches Patriots! I’m not a sports guy, and we basically live in a Broncos home. Still, you don’t have to know much about sports to know that everyone who isn’t a Patriots fan hates them for being cheaters, while their fans defend them adamantly. I mean, I’m still amazed you can be suspended for cheating AND win the Super Bowl in the same season. Still, the Patriots pulled off an amazing comeback during Super Bowl LI, as Atlanta blew a TWENTY-FIVE point lead. It was the first Super Bowl to go into overtime. Yeah, I don’t care about football, but I gotta give credit where it’s due.

2/17/17 – CeeLo Green/Gnarly Davidson

So, musician/escaped mutant from Genosha CeeLo Green showed up to the Grammys looking like King Midas himself, calling himself “Gnarly Davidson”. Everyone had a good laugh for about 24 hours, but I bet 9 out of 10 people today couldn’t even tell you what or who Gnarly Davidson is supposed to be. I like to think that things that earn the WWE have made some sort of impact on popular culture, and this wasn’t even a mosquito bite in terms of magnitude.

3/3/17 – Logan

Great comic book movie. Great movie in general. As the year went on, Logan would enter the conversation, but it would quickly be overshadowed by anticipation for Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2 or Spider-Man: Homecoming. It was even brought up in Oscars speculation. It was a great note for Jackman to go out on, and it’s just a shame that the Wolverine film trilogy is so uneven. Totally deserved the WWE.

3/10/17 – Man Seeking Woman

This was such a great show, and while I’m sad to see it go, I felt it told a very tight story. It didn’t wear out its welcome, and it smartly used the time that it had available to it. Clocking in at 3 seasons, it started with Jay Baruchel’s Josh stumbling out of a failed relationship, trying to get back on his feet in the dating world. It ended with him getting married to the perfect girl for him. Sure, it could’ve dragged along with them being newlyweds, having a kid, etc, but it didn’t want to insult our intelligence or waste our time as it devolved into just a run of the mill sitcom. Part of what made it special was that it was such an absurd show at times. I mean, Josh’s sister had an affair with Santa Claus at one point. But that just added to its charm. This is a great example of one of those “The Best Show You’re Not Watching”, because none of y’all were watching it. Still, it managed to chug along, and tell the story that it originally set out to tell. Most shows can’t say that, so it totally deserved the WWE. I think it’s streaming on Hulu if you ever want to check it out, which you should!

3/17/17 – Tyra Banks

Tyra had a pretty big week, as she was announced as Nick Cannon’s replacement as the host of America’s Got Talent, plus it was announced that she’d be returning to her old stomping grounds as head judge/host of America’s Next Top Model. In the same week, Banks became the grand arbiter of America’s standards of talent and beauty. That’s quite the coup!

3/24/17 – Nothing

As I always say when this happens, “As Nina Simone said, ‘It Be’s That Way Sometimes’.” Not happy with the trajectory the West Week Ever “honor” was on, I just couldn’t throw it at something willy nilly. We were seven posts into the year, and nothing chosen had really blown anyone’s socks off, except maybe Logan. I needed a week to regroup.

3/31/17 – Spider-Man: Homecoming trailer

It was a trailer for a new Marvel movie. When don’t those get the West Week Ever? Sure, we were all hype for the film, but we’re at a point in society where Marvel doesn’t really even have to try anymore with these things. Did it deserve it for the week? Sure. Can I even remember that first Homecoming trailer? Nope, I cannot.

4/7/17 – The Undertaker

By now, most of you know of my love for The Undertaker. In a world where wrestlers basically use some juxtaposition of their real names for their in-ring names, he was a relic of a bygone era of gimmicks and kayfabe. His retirement had been commonly rumored over recent years, but he was on a part-time schedule where he pretty much only came back for Wrestlemania. Well, at Wrestlemania 33, he jobbed to Roman Reigns, left his trademark hat and coat in the ring, kissed his wife, and walked out of the arena – all to chants of “Thank you, Taker”. For all intents and purposes, that seemed to be all she wrote. Now there are reports that he’ll be back for Raw‘s 25th anniversary. I really hope that’s not true, as it was a beautiful way for him to go out. The card for Wrestlemania 33 was weak sauce, but it being the swan song of Taker was what would make it stand out in the history books. I cried when Flair retired, and even though he eventually crawled back, it didn’t take away the experience of his retirement run. If Taker does return, I’m hoping I can feel the same way.

4/14/17 – Thor: Ragnarok teaser

Scroll up, and re-read what I said about the Homecoming trailer. Apply all of that here. Keep in mind, Thor was coming off a serviceable debut and a forgettable sequel. We didn’t have the highest expectations for this movie, even though it was apparent it had been dipping into the GOTG Cookie Jar of Humor. But, like I said, Marvel trailers pretty much always get the WWE, whether they deserve them or not. Actually, ya know what? Black Panther never got it. I think it’s because it debuted during one of my bye weeks, but I’m sure someone out there will say it’s due to my self-hatred or whatever.

4/21/17 – Girls Series Finale

While Girls pretty much became the poster child for Millennials, I’m not quite sure history will be kind to it. After all, the characters embodied everything we tend to hate about that demographic. They’re spoiled, they have delusions of grandeur, they don’t want to pay their dues, and they’re tremendously self-centered. Marnie sucked because she only used people to pursue her own happiness. Jessa sucked because she was a junkie succubus. Hannah sucked because she thought she was the Voice of a Generation, while commonly looking unwashed and unhygienic. She spent 6 seasons making us accept her body positivity while engaging in the unsexiest sex scenes imaginable.

Still, through all of that, the characters actually seemed to experience some growth in that final season. Hanna found herself pregnant, eventually giving birth to Grover (Fuck you, Lena Dunham. Just fuck you right in the ear for that shit). And she found out she had to grow up FAST. Marnie thrust herself into the role of doting aunt, as if to make amends for being such a shitty person to those around her. She soon found, though, that she couldn’t assume that role and still continue to grow. She had her path, and Hannah/Grover had their own. And the only character with some sense was strangely neurotic/possibly on the spectrum Shoshana, who managed to remove herself from the equation before the series finale because she realized she was better than those with whom she had surrounded herself.

As a whole, Girls is a forgettable mess that I hope I never see on any of those Greatest Series of All Time lists. That finale, though, made up for a lot of problems I’d had with those characters over the course of the show. I went from Hate Watching it to just Watching it. And, to her credit, as much as Hannah sucked, Dunham was the voice of a generation, like it or not. They say that the mark of a good series finale is that you can watch it and get a whole, fulfilling story even if you weren’t an avid viewer of the series. Since I’d been watching the show, I can’t attest to whether that’s true here, but I do feel like it was a damn fine finale that did more for its characters and narrative than the whole rest of the series put together.

4/28/17 – Nothing

I guess I felt like Girls had set a pretty high bar, and nothing came close to that in the week following its finale. Go figure!

5/5/17 – Ryan Seacrest

Next to maybe Steve Harvey,  Seacrest is the hardest working man in show business. It was announced that he would be taking over Michael Strahan’s cohost role on Live with Kelly, and a grueling schedule was floated that would allow him to maintain that job while also flying to the West Coast multiple times a week in order to host ABC’s reboot of American Idol. While he hadn’t officially signed on to the Idol revival at that point, he would later take the job, and that theoretical travel schedule would become reality. I know folks love to make fun of him, and make all the gay jokes, but I don’t think he gets nearly enough credit for his work ethic. The man rarely sleeps and is constantly developing new projects. And he’s a shrewd businessman, as evidenced in how he pretty much just swooped in and assimilated Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve.

5/12/17 – Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2

I really enjoyed this movie, but I’m scared I’m falling into that cynical thing where I’m like “Well, it’s a Marvel movie”. We pretty much know what to expect at this point. I’m not getting bored by the formula or anything, but I don’t think it’s a surprise when these things come out and dominate the pop culture conversation for the week following.

5/19/17 – CBS

This was my annual upfronts post, and I felt like CBS had the most promising schedule for their Fall lineup. They had a few misses (Wisdom of the Crowd, Me, Myself, and I), but I still stand by that assessment, as Young Sheldon was a breakout hit and SEAL Team was the only successful military drama of the three that launched in the fall.

5/26/17 – Red Nose Day Actually

I still feel like bringing the Red Nose Day thing to America is the equivalent of trying to make “fetch” happen. I don’t think it’s going to catch on, but I won’t say anything bad about something that gives me a sequel to one of my favorite movies. Yes, I’m that guy who adores Love Actually. And this year we got a “sequel” short during the telethon that caught up with the characters in the present day. The Sam and Joanna portion alone made me want to cry, but it was like catching up with old friends. Totally the best thing that week had to offer.

6/2/17 – Wonder Woman

This was a great comic book film that seemed to right the ship for the DCEU. Sure, it’s not perfect, but it’s a far cry stronger than BvS and Suicide Squad. We thought this was shades of things to come from Justice League. Perhaps we expected too much. Still, it’s a strong entry into the comic book movie universe, and totally deserved the WWE.

6/9/17 – Wonder Woman

This made me realize a problem with how this weekly post is scheduled. You see, I’m an avid Thursday night viewer of these movies. Since the post comes out Friday, I could theoretically post about it the next day. And many times I have. That’s what happened with Wonder Woman. I saw it Thursday night, and it got the WWE the next day – at a time when most of my readers had not had the chance to see the movie yet. This is problematic because they tend to not read that post for fear of spoilers. So, I’ve tried to change things up where I sit on my review for a week, giving folks a chance to see the movie first. This is the week when Wonder Woman should have gotten the WWE, but instead it just made me look lazy.

6/16/17 – West Life Ever: Adam West

Ah, the very first West Life Ever recipient. As you probably know by now, there’s a pretty strict No Death policy for this column. Sure, once in a blue moon, someone will come along whose death needs to be acknowledged, but I knew that there were a few people whose death would require me to make a bigger deal. Adam West was always at the top of this list. When I posted that entry, I called it the West Week Ever Hall of Fame, which never quite felt right. My pal Zac Shipley came up with West Life Ever, which was perfect. So, the post was changed and that’s what the honor will be called going forward. It’s still not something that I plan to abuse, but I’m glad it exists when I need to use it. Sadly, I would have to use it again not much later.

6/23/17 – Nothing

I guess I was still affected by West’s death, and I thought I was gonna be able to promote my appearance on a podcast where we looked back on his life. That episode has never seen the light of day (Looking at you, Chad!). So, nothing was worthy of the WWE mantle that week.

7/7/17- Michael Keaton

I had seen Spider-Man: Homecoming and The Founder that week, both films showcasing amazing performances by Keaton. The surprising thing to point out here is that Homecoming had been seen by me, but did NOT get the WWE. Keep in mind, though, I was moving to my schedule of waiting a week so that more folks have time to see the film. Will it get the WWE next week?

7/14/17 – Milana Vayntrub

Nope! Yes, in a world where there’s a new Marvel film in theaters, I give my highest honor to the AT&T Girl. I didn’t love Homecoming. In fact, it’s probably the first Marvel movie since I’ve been doing this column where I wasn’t just immediately smitten. I probably need to watch it again but the timeline of the film challenged my inner fanboy the entire runtime, and it ruined the experience for me. Why did Vayntrub get it? Well, she’d been cast as Squirrel Girl in Marvel’s New Warriors series for Freeform. I really thought it was going to be her big break. Well, later Freeform would decide that it didn’t have room for the show on its schedule, and its future is currently in limbo. Womp womp. Marvel thinks the show has a lot of promise, but they’re no longer allowed to farm out their shows to non-Disney owned networks, so that limits their possibilities. It was probably the biggest week she’s ever had, but it didn’t really pay off into anything. Yet.

7/21/17 – Jodie Whittaker

A female Doctor Who? That shit is history in the making! I don’t care anything about that franchise, but I know when history is being made. Totally deserved.

7/28/17 – West Life Ever: Jim Vance

When I first conceived of the WWE: Hall of Fame/West Life Ever, there were 2 particular people in mind for it. I never really thought it would expand outside of those two unless it was a rare, special case. And that’s exactly what it was when local newsman, and DC institution, Jim Vance succumbed to cancer. He was a great example of “Ya don’t know what you’ve got til it’s gone”, as it never felt like he’d made that much of an impact on my life until he was no longer in it. My whole response to his passing surprised me, and I’m sort of curious to see what other surprises are in store for the West Life Ever honor.

8/4/17 – Female Comic Editors

Some dumb shit about female comic editors going out for a milkshake to honor the passing of Marvel staple “Fabulous” Flo Steinberg, and ended up being heckled by a bunch of stupid dudes online. It somehow turned into this symbolic gesture throughout the industry. Fellow creators were posting selfies of themselves drinking milkshakes, and it all just kinda fizzled out. It’s really one of those “You had to be there” kinds of things because the whole “controversy” just sounds stupid to me in hindsight.

8/18/17 – DuckTales reboot

I watched the pilot and loved it. Then I promptly forgot about it. I kinda expected more from it, to be honest. I guess that’s my own fault. I thought it was just going to compel me to watch it every week, but instead if became just another forgotten animated show of 2017, like that Big Hero 6 premiere I would totally miss in November.

8/25/17 – Solar Eclipse of 2017

These things don’t happen that often! At least, that’s what the science folks always tell us, even though it feels like there’s some kind of eclipse every time we turn around. Well, I never claimed to be Thomas Einstein-Tesla, so I’m not the best person to get your science info from. Anyway, it was a big deal that week, as those free glasses needed to look at the thing were being sold for, like, $250 a pair, as if they came from Sunglass Hut or something. And the President even looked directly into the thing, ya know, ’cause he’s a stable genius and all. This thing was all anyone could talk about that week.

9/8/17 – Batman: The Animated Series

This week marked the 25th anniversary of the debut of the classic animated series which, I believe, changed animation for the better. It was a show that was gritty and intelligent enough for primetime, yet worked on a level to keep kids engaged – all the while dodging some incredible mandates from Fox Kids Standards & Practices, like “No blood” or “Can’t say ‘kill'”. In some ways it might be seen as a cop-out to look to the past for a WWE winner. After all, for all the fans of the show, there wasn’t a lot of fanfare surrounding the anniversary. Instead of Warner Bros making a big deal, it was more like the hardcore fans were holding thousands of little private wakes for the show. Still, 25 years ain’t nothing to shake a stick at, so I felt the show’s milestone needed to be acknowledged and honored.

9/15/17 – Cory Chase/Reality Kings

When this post originally went up, I put it to a vote: should the WWE go to horror remake IT OR should it go to porn star Cory Chase and the Reality Kings porn franchise? Ya see, IT had a successful week, but all anyone could talk about around the time of publication was the fact that Senator Ted Cruz’s personal Twitter account had Liked a video clip of some of Chase’s work. It was quickly blamed on a staffer, but the damage had been done by that point. Cruz was just like the rest of us, trawling the web for porn. Hell, if he’d been smarter, he could’ve spun that into some sort of political clout, but he took the coward’s way out. Anyway, the readers spoke and decided that Chase should be the victor. While I don’t disagree, I think it was very “2017” that such a salacious choice was even an option for Biggest Pop Culture Thing of the Week. We’d sunk so low, and we weren’t even close to the bottom yet.

9/29/17 – Star Trek franchise

This week not only saw the premiere of Star Trek: Discovery on CBS and CBS All Access, but it was also the 30th anniversary of the premiere of Star Trek: The Next Generation. Just as with Batman: The Animated Series, these were milestones deserving of recognition. I haven’t revisited Discovery since the free premiere on CBS, but I’ve heard enough good things that I’ll circle back around to it eventually.

10/6/17 – The West Family

Self-indulgent post because it’s my site, and I do what I wanna! It was my 5-year wedding anniversary, and nothing else was going on. If you go back in the archives, pre-2010 or so, this thing reads like a really bad LiveJournal. “I’m tired of my boss at H&M”, yadda yadda yadda. I later pivoted to a solely pop culture focus, but I left most of those posts up because I hate to delete anything. So, every now and then, I feel like I’ve written enough about celebrities that I’ve earned a personal post or two, so this was me pulling that trigger. Had it not gone to us, it would’ve been another week when it went to Nothing.

10/13/17 – Nothing

Kinda like this week.

10/27/17 – Super Mario Odyssey

I’m not a gamer, but it was easy to tell who the gamers were, as they were all anticipating this release. I’ve heard nothing but great things about this game, it I feel this was totally deserved.

11/3/17 – Stranger Things Season 2

I’ve never seen the show, have almost no real desire to see the show, and I’m kinda sick of seeing those kids everywhere. Still, I have to put my own issues aside for the good of “real reporting” sometimes. This was one of those times. Everyone was anticipating the second season of this show and, while the general consensus seems to be that it wasn’t as good as the first season, I’ve yet to hear anything actually negative about the season.

11/10/17 – Thor: Ragnarok

Here we are, back to having a Marvel film get the WWE. Earlier I said that I was beginning to wonder if all this hype was deserved, as we pretty much know what we’re going to get from the MCU franchise at this point, but I feel this was totally deserved here. Easily the best Thor film of the trilogy (not a difficult feat, really), but it presented a new side of the title character. And it totally took some creative notes from Guardians, which was to its advantage.

11/17/17 – Justice League

I kinda broke my own rule here. I know I was trying to wait a week before reviewing new, highly anticipated films, but I felt like this one needed a shot in the arm. So many folks were determined not to see it, that I felt I needed to post about it on opening weekend to get some more butts in seats. I’m hardly an influencer, but if I convinced just one person to see the movie who had been on the fence, then I guess I did my job. I hate to do a comparison, but it’s “No Marvel movie”. That said, I was happy it did something different, and I was thoroughly entertained. It’s not a “great” film by any stretch of the imagination, but nobody should expect Citizen Kane when one of the main characters runs around, dressed like a bat.

12/1/17 – Avengers: Infinity War trailer

Obligatory WWE for new MCU film trailer. All it did was fortify millions of speculation boners without really giving us anything other than eye candy. We’ve reached a point where I don’t even know if we’re capable of determining if these things are good anymore. Part of the problem is that they’ve yet to really have a “miss”, so would we even know it if/when it happened? Like, Black Panther could be the worst thing they ever put onscreen. It won’t be, but even if it is, there are certain communities who are going to refuse to admit it. It’s just fascinating to me how that works. Anyway, this came out while Marvel was avoiding the Cebulski controversy, while its parent, Disney, was making a play for Fox. It was a nice little distraction that caught everyone’s attention at just the right time. Their success rate is just so unprecedented that I guess I’m waiting for the other shoe to drop, which is somewhat unfair to them.

12/8/17 – MCU Fanboys

Remember how I just said there are some folks who would refuse to acknowledge Marvel’s “failure” even if it were right in front of them? Enter the MCU fanboy. And nobody had a better week than them because Disney’s play for Fox became official, meaning that the X-Men and Fantastic Four film rights were finally “coming home”. And you couldn’t swing a dead cat without running into one of them surmising how the X-Men would be integrated into the established MCU. Would Marvel honor everything Fox had done with the franchise, or would it be a complete reboot? These discussions were going on everywhere online, so this week truly belonged to those folks. Who cares if the acquisition would result in redundancies and the loss of anywhere from 5,000-10,000 jobs? You’re finally getting the chance at a House of M movie, right? Right?

12/15/17 – Black Women

While there was a tongue in cheek aspect to this, I totally meant it. It was a big week for Black women. Omarosa got kicked out of the Trump White House, to the delight of many, while the Black female vote helped keep suspected child molester Roy Moore out of office in a very close congressional race in Alabama. A lot of folks were taking a break from social media that week, for fear of being spoiled by those who had already seen The Last Jedi, so they missed this one. It’s a shame, because I felt there was a lot of good stuff in this post.

12/22/17 – Fandom Gatekeepers

You know how I was just talking about MCU fanboys? Well, this is what happens when that shit is cranked up to 11. It’s like the Chappelle’s Show sketch, When Keepin’ It Real Goes Wrong. These are the folks who take shit too far, and there was a lot of that going on due to the polarizing reactions to The Last Jedi. I felt kinda bad about this one, because I typically want the WWE to be a *celebration* of something, but I couldn’t not acknowledge it, and I had a lot of thoughts on the matter, born from a late night Twitter rant.

I had to do something different this year. Usually, to determine who had the West Year Ever, we look at the list of folks who earned the West Week Ever throughout the year. There are always entities that receive it multiple times throughout the year, like Marvel and DC, and then there’s a runoff between them to see who truly deserved it. That doesn’t work this year, though. You see, most of the WWE recipients this year had no real lasting impact outside of the week that they won. The only thing that got the honor more than once this year was Wonder Woman, but it surely didn’t have the West Year Ever. Close, but no cigar. No, I had to take a closer look at trends of the year, and get a feel for what truly dominated the news cycle.

Remember how I said that the entertainment world was boring until Q4? Well, once October hit, the whole thing blew wide open thanks to one man: Harvey Weinstein. The reports and allegations of his sexual improprieties opened the floodgates for more reports on other celebrities. All across the country, men in power were being exposed for the lotharios that they were. There seemed to be certain patterns that surfaced. For example, a lot of them liked to abuse their power by masturbating in front of women over whom they held some sort of influence. Every week, there was a new LIST of men to add to the list. I hate to create HarassmentWatch(TM) just to keep track of it all, and mine isn’t even close to an exhaustive list. Still, I managed to track allegations on the following men:

  • Producer Harvey Weinstein
  • The Loud House creator Chris Savino
  • Actor Kevin Spacey
  • Actor Jeremy Piven
  • Director Brett Ratner
  • Actor Dustin Hoffman
  • Actor Danny Masterson
  • Actor Charlie Sheen
  • Mad Men creator Matthew Weiner
  • Actor Jeffrey Tambor
  • Comedian Louis CK
  • Actor George Takei
  • Actor Richard Dreyfuss
  • Actor Tom Sizemore
  • Actor Ed Westwick
  • The Royals/One Tree Hill creator Mark Schwahn
  • Flash/Supergirl showrunner Andrew Kreisberg
  • Actor Steven Seagal
  • Producer Gary Goddard
  • Actor Sylvester Stallone
  • DC Comics Editor Eddie Berganza
  • Senator Al Franken
  • Producer John Lasseter
  • On Air Personality Ryan Seacrest
  • Singer Nick Carter
  • Producer Russell Simmons
  • Humorist Garrison Keillor
  • Newsman Charlie Rose
  • New York Times Reporter Glenn Thrush
  • Newsman Matt Lauer
  • US Representative John Conyers
  • Chef Mario Batali
  • Talk Show Host Tavis Smiley
  • US Representative Blake Farenthold
  • Documentarian and Fast Food Truther Morgan Spurlock
  • Comedian TJ Miller
  • NFL Media VP David Eaton
  • Newsman Chris Matthews
  • Director Paul Haggis
  • Pastry Chef Johnny Iuzzini
  • Half the damn NFL Network

That’s over FORTY instances reported just since October! And they’re still coming (tune into tomorrow’s West Week Ever for some new 2018 additions to the list!). This shit is crazy! Keep it in your pants, powerful men! Even though it was a phenomenon that came along later in the year, I feel like it colored the whole year, and fit tonally with what a trash heap fire the year became. So, in my mind, 2017 was the Year of the Wang Dangler. In October, the weather started getting cold and, for whatever reason, the wangs started coming out. There were reports of forced oral sex, public masturbation, walking amongst staff while naked, and secret buttons under desks to lock vulnerable women in uncomfortable places. What pieces of shit these men are! But they’re the official mascots of 2017. So, without further ado, the celebrity wang danglers had the West Year Ever. Here’s hoping we can aim a bit higher in our aspirations in 2018.

27th Dec2017

The WBW40 – Will’s Top 40 Songs of 2017

by Will

It’s been a rough year. 2017 has been the longest and shortest year I’ve ever experienced. On the one hand, it feels like 2016 was only yesterday, and we had a deadpool going as to who’d be the next celebrity to shuffle off this mortal coil. On the other hand, between politics and the wang danglers, it feels like this year has been going on for a decade. I don’t know about you, but one of the things that kept me sane this year was music. So, I thought I’d share the top 40 songs that got me through the year, with the idea that maybe they’ll help you get through 2018 since it’s right at our doorstep.

Before we start, let me address some glaring omissions. First of all, there’s no Cardi B. I realize “Bodak Yellow” was one of the biggest songs of the year, but I just don’t get Cardi B. She’s got some weird speech impediment that makes her sound like she took the special bus to school, and her “flow” just does nothing for me. So, she’s not here. Also, I know everyone loved SZA, but “The Weekend” didn’t do much for me, either. There is some diversity on the chart (more sexual than racial), but I was going more for a diverse sound than diverse background. That’s my way of saying there might be a lot of White folks representing on the chart. I did, however, leave off Princess of the White Folks, Taylor Swift, because everything on Reputation that I’ve heard underwhelmed me. So, without further ado, I present to you the WBW40!

40) Ed Sheeran – Shape of You

While some charts would put this as the biggest song of the year, it was probably my least favorite. I can acknowledge a hit when I hear it, but it was such a departure from what we expected from Sheeran. I mean, in my mind, Ed Sheeran is just James Blunt with a guitar. When did he get some kind of “cred”? Was it his bestie friendship with Taylor Swift that did it? I dunno. Apparently he was gonna give this song to Rihanna before deciding to keep it for himself. People loved this song, and that album was huge. It just didn’t make much of an impact on me.

39) Imagine Dragons – Believer

I heard this song in a car commercial for, like, the ENTIRE year. I didn’t even know what they were singing at first. Had to look it up. Still, it was ALWAYS there in 2017, and the full song ain’t half bad.

38) Kane Brown featuring Lauren Alaina – What Ifs

I hated this song for the longest time but it eventually wore me down. It just tickles me that there’s this halfy out there halfassing country music. He’s not rapping, but he’s barely singing. What’s he doing? Still, folks seemed to like it, as the song hit #1 on the Hot Country Charts, knocking Sam Hunt’s “Body Like A Back Road” out of the spot it had held for 34 weeks. I don’t know what to make of Kane Brown yet, as he’s basically the country Justin Bieber, in that he was discovered via social media. Is that where all of our future starts will come from? I guess time will tell…

37) High Valley – She’s With Me

It’s got an Evan and Jaron vibe to it, from the fact that High Valley are brothers (just like Evan & Jaron), and the sound is very similar. It reminds me of the Not-A-Boyband-But-Basically-A-Boyband songs that came out around 2000, like Evan & Jaron’s “Crazy For This Girl”. This song might be on country radio, but it easily could’ve come from BBMak in 2001.

36) Zach Williams – Old Church Choir

I was flipping through radio stations (Yes, I still listen to the radio), and I landed in the low 90s. Anyone who knows radio frequencies knows that the low 90s are nothing but public radio and Christian pop stations. This song happened to be playing, though, and I was stuck. In college, my friend Jed and I used to joke how Christian pop had “stolen” all the best melodies in pop, and that’s definitely on display here. I love the church choir in the background, but I especially love the “Youth Pastor Who Rides a Motorcycle” vibe that Williams puts out.

35) Arcade Fire – Everything Now

I stumbled upon this song because Rolling Stone mentioned that it sounded like ABBA’s “Dancing Queen”. I was immediately sold. I can’t say I’ve been an Arcade Fire fan in the past, and I don’t think this has necessarily made me an Arcade Fire fan. Still, I love what they’ve done here, and it’s one of the more enjoyable songs I’ve encountered this year.

34) Florida Georgia Line featuring Backstreet Boys – God, Your Mama, and Me

I’m gonna be honest and say that this song is here because of the personnel involved. I love Florida Georgia Line and I love Backstreet Boys. On paper, this collab is a dream I never knew I had. In execution, though, it just falls flat. The song is basically a love song from the guys to their kids, about how no one will ever love them more than God, their mama, and them. Cute, sure, but I can’t help but wonder what we could’ve had on something closer to FLAGA’s hit debut single “Cruise”. I mean, that even had a Nelly remix.

33) Brett Young – In Case You Didn’t Know

It’s a pretty ballad. It’s on country radio, but I wouldn’t say there’s anything inherently “country” about it. I feel like Young got in where he could get in, and I can’t fault him for that. It’s got “2017 Wedding Season” written all over it, and I’m sure that contributed to its success.

32) Bobby Bones and The Raging Idiots – Chick – Fil- A (…But It’s Sunday)

Sure, it’s a comedy song, but it’s a sentiment shared by many of us at one point or another. I love how radio DJ Bobby Bones treats this as just a charity side project, but has actually grown as a writer and performer. This almost got edged out by his song “Namaste”, but I felt this was the stronger offering.

31) Walker Hayes – You Broke Up With Me

Walker Hayes is an artist with 6 kids and a 7th on the way. I know more about his life than his music. My wife saw him in concert earlier this year and loved him. My daughter has been obsessed with this song all year, and calls it “Minute”. Every time we get in the car, she demands “Song!” When you ask which song, chances are she’ll say “Minute”. Anyway, the song grew on me after hearing it 72,346 times this year, and I DO love the chorus.

30) Lana Del Rey featuring The Weeknd – Lust For Life

She’s come a long way from that terrible SNL performance that basically sank her mainstream introduction, but she’s still chugging along, delivering gems like this. And I’m a recent convert to The Weeknd, so his addition here just makes this a better song. This is the kind of song you’d hear when you have a near-death/out of body experience.

29) MUNA – I Know A Place

I know nothing about MUNA, and I think I originally heard this song in a store. Apparently, they’re an LA-based, queer girl band, and they’re touring with Harry Styles. Okie doke. Anyway, this song kinda touched me on a deeper level, as electronic stuff tends to do that sometimes. I look forward to hearing more from them.

28) Carly Pearce – Every Little Thing

It’s like the female Harry Styles, as Pearce delivers one of 2017’s best haunting ballads. It’s still too early to tell where her career is going, as it almost felt like this song was released before she had anything else to back it up with. I hope that’s not the case, though, because she’s got a ton of potential that transcends the country genre she’s found herself placed in.

27) Kenny Chesney – All The Pretty Girls

This is just a catchy song. It’s not Shakespeare, and Chesney brings his typical “Chesney” to the party. There’s nothing extraordinary here, but it’s a fun song that I never switched off whenever it came on the radio.

26) Jon Pardi – Heartache On the Dance Floor

I WANTED to chart him with his megahit “Dirt On My Boots”, but it was officially released at the end of 2016, so it didn’t fit the rules. Had that been available, Pardi would be in the Top 10 of this list EASILY. That said, “Heartache” isn’t a bad song, but it’s not the best thing he had on radio this year. He seems to be another country artist who really wants to bring back “country”, which is why “Heartache” is something of a departure in his young career.

25) Scotty McCreery – Five More Minutes

Forgotten American Idol winner Scotty McCreery tried to return to the spotlight with this song, which got lost on the charts because it was released while he wasn’t attached to a label. It’s a bit of a tearjerker if you really listen to it, focusing on how life is short and we always want the best times to last. It’s a shame it fell through the cracks, as it’s something of a thematic companion to the Tim McGraw classic “Live Like You Were Dying”.

24) P!nk – What About Us

P!nk is such an interesting artist. She went from “The Chick Who Clearly Dates Black Guys” to “The Chick Who Might Be Married to a White Supremacist” in the span of about 15 years. She was wild and free and now she’s married and a mom. I do like that she’s matured into her vocals, as she just did a bunch of rap-singing early in her career. She’s got chops, and they’re definitely on display here.

23) Garth Brooks – Ask Me How I Know

Yes, this is a Garth Brooks song, and yes it went to #1 on the Country Airplay chart. At the end of the day, though, it’s not a great song, and it’s definitely not one of the great Garth songs. I honestly think it went to #1 because the industry wanted to throw him a bone since he’s Garth, and the fact that his “comeback” single, “Baby, Let’s Lay Down and Dance”, tanked. A Garth Brooks song, in this day and age, should make an impact and this song really didn’t. It had to WORK to climb that chart. I can’t hold it against Garth, though, that it didn’t perform. By any other artist, it’s a decent song. It just isn’t Garth Good.

22) Devin Dawson – All On Me

If I didnt know better, I’d swear this was Gavin DeGraw, and I LOVED Gavin DeGraw. If this is gonna be Dawson’s sound, then he’s got a new fan for his entire career.

21) Zedd, Alessia Cara – Stay

Over the summer this song was everywhere, especially in an iHeartRadio commercial that stayed in rotation, so it kinda burrowed its way into my brain. For me, the real gem is the chorus. It’s got a weird staccato that I like. I could do without the verses and just take the chorus on repeat, to be honest.

20) Thomas Rhett featuring Maren Morris – Craving You

Maren found a way to sneak onto this chart twice (you’ll see what I mean later), as she provides an assist on this song. She’s not in the original version, as it was never intended to be a duet. She was brought in later to punch it up, and I think it helped. I probably would’ve ignored this song if my daughter didn’t love it and request it a thousand times this year.

19) Bruno Mars – That’s What I Like

I didn’t realize this was Bruno when I first heard it, as it’s something of a new sound for him. I think I liked his old stuff better, but you can’t deny this song makes you move. Plus it’s got a catchy chorus.

18) LANCO – Greatest Love Story

The best songs tell a story, and this one does it in spades. It’s a musical coming of age tale, as it follows a relationship from high school to post college. I’m sure it’ll become a staple for a lot of weddings where the couple jumped through a lot of hoops just to rekindle their love and discover they were meant for each other.

17) HAIM – Want You Back

I LOVE HAIM. To me, they’re a real life Josie & The Pussycats. Love their sound. This is the debut single off their long-awaited sophomore album, and I see no sign of a Sophomore Slump here.

16) Portugal. The Man – Feel It Still

This song is EVERYWHERE. Movie trailers, commercials for Vitamin Water. It’s the Two Princes of the 21st century. That said, it’s just a one-off song from the group’s EIGHTH album. They’ve put out 8 albums and this is their first big break? Yeah, next stop: One Hit Wonderville. I mean, without “Please, Mr. Postman” as its basis, there’s really nothing there. It’s a weird cover/sample hybrid, but it’s catchy and has certainly made its impact on 2017

15) Maren Morris – I Could Use A Love Song

Another artist with crossover potential, as it always seemed like Maren used country as a way to enter the industry, but has never truly felt country. It’s like I used to always say I’d enter the industry as a Christian pop artist ’cause it has the lowest barrier to entry, though crossover is more difficult. Anyway, this song isn’t as soulful as her debut “My Church”, nor is it as bouncy fun as the follow-up “80s Mercedes”. What it is, however, is a slow ballad with a great two-step beat to it. She’s done better, which is why the song is where it is here, but that doesn’t make this a “bad” song by any means.

14) Luke Bryan – Light It Up

Oddly enough, this isn’t what I’d call a “good” song. It’s a catchy song and that’s what got it on the chart. At the end of the day, though, it’s gimmicky. As my wife Lindsay pointed out, it’s the kind of song that wouldn’t even work 20 years ago because it’s so steeped in cell phone culture. I hated it when I first heard it, but it quickly grew on me. It’ll hit #1 because, well, every country song eventually hits #1, but it won’t really be deserved. Industry-wise, it’s a Top 10 song, but it ain’t a #1 song. To me, it doesn’t even break the year’s top 10. It does have crossover appeal, though, which could happen once the world gets to know him better from the American Idol reboot.

13) Justin Bieber featuring Luis Fonsi and Daddy Yankee – Despacito (Remix)

The original puts your high school Spanish to the test. Eventually you realize you’re just singing “taco taco taco” to the melody. I somehow managed to miss the song taking the world by storm, and am a late convert. I know it was the biggest song of the year, but maybe it’s because I’m an old man now. Still it just doesn’t move me like it would’ve ten years ago. This song belongs to the young kids, which is why it didn’t chart higher.

12) Harry Styles – Sign of the Times

I looped this song for about a week when it first came out. It’s a beautiful, haunting ballad, and it surprised me because I was never a One Direction fan (In the One Direction/The Wanted rivalry, I was Team Wanted). It was so close to cracking my Top 10, but that top tier was just so stacked. I’ve heard nothing else from his self-titled album, and he could turn out to be a one-hit wonder for all I care (he won’t), but he’s left behind a damn good single.

11) Sam Hunt – Body Like A Back Road

This is one of the few crossover successes of the year, as folks are learning they love Sam no matter what genre he might fall under. So many interesting lyrics here. He’s got a “girl from the south side, with braids in her hair”. Then, “Got hips like honey, so thick and so sweet. It ain’t no curves like hers on them downtown streets”. Is Sam dating a sistah?! And he didn’t even give us an official video to answer the question! This isn’t even his best song, but it’s all we got from him this year. Honestly, due to its popularity, it probably should’ve cracked the top 10, but I have two issues with it: 1) it’s too damn short at 2:48 and 2) it ain’t got a bridge. What is it with modern country songs just simply ignoring the bridge in song structure?

10) Lady Antebellum – You Look Good

This song is such a play against type. They might be considered a country group, but this is blue eyed funk. The only reason it’s lower on the list is because I gradually grew tired of it over the course of the year (it was released in January). This really should’ve been a crossover hit for the group, but something just didn’t happen for them here. I’m also amazed it never hit #1 on the country airplay charts, given some of the songs that hit the top of the chart this year. I guess country radio couldn’t give it the push it needed, while non country radio wanted no part of it. Sad outcome for such a great single.

9) Blake Shelton – I’ll Name The Dogs

I loved Blake before he got all the heat for People’s questionable choice of him as Sexiest Man Alive. This is far from his best song, but it’s a simple cutesy song with a cute message. Not sure it’s a wedding song as much as the video would like to imply, but I do like the whole “simple folk” partnership on display in the song. That chorus works its way into your brain and just doesn’t get out.

8) Brothers Osborne – It Ain’t My Fault

It just drives so hard, and if you ever hear them play it live, they stick an 8-minute guitar solo right into the middle of it. And don’t even get me started on that church choir! Hailing from Deale, Maryland, they’re local boys who made good and I’m glad this song made such an impact for them.

7) Morgan Wallen – The Way I Talk

Being eliminated on The Voice is probably the best thing that could’ve happened to Wallen’s career. Right now, he’s got a new single with Florida Georgia Line, but this is where it all began. I relate to this song more than folks realize, but I just love the structure of it so much. It’s got a laid back swing til you get to the chorus, which still manages to maintain the laid back flow, while also somehow being rapid fire.

6) Luke Combs – When It Rains It Pours

A catchy chorus wins out every time. It’s a little redneck ditty, but it grew on me quickly, plus I like the spin he puts on the whole “when it rains it pours” adage. He almost made the chart twice, with his debut single “Hurricane”, but I wanted to spread the wealth. Let’s just say Combs hit the ground running, and clearly has a promising country career ahead of him

5) Midland – Drinkin’ Problem

When you think of “country”, this is probably what comes to mind. The funny thing is their whole thing is manufactured. One of them used to be an underwear model, for God’s sake, while another won an MTV VMA for directing Bruno Mars’ “Locked Out of Heaven” video. They’re basically cosplaying as country artists. They met at a wedding about 2 years ago, and they’ve barely paid their dues. Still, they’re opening for Faith Hill, Tim McGraw, Thomas Rhett and Little Big Town, plus they’re providing a throwback sound that isn’t prevalent today.

4) Fall Out Boy – The Night Begins To Shine

There’s a long story behind this one, so sit down and relax. You see, this song was actually written in 2005, as the band B.E.R. had recorded it for a music library (Think stock photo library but for music), and the song just sat. When the producers of Teen Titans Go! needed to fill time in an episode that was running short, they featured 10 seconds of Cyborg lip syncing to the song. It quickly became a fixture of the show, culminating in the Teen Titans Go! The Night Begins To Shine special earlier this year. It actually hit #23 on the Billboard Hot Rock Songs Charts for the week of 8/26/17. My favorite version, however (and the one actually released this year), is the Fall Out Boy cover from the special heard here.

3) The Weeknd featuring Daft Punk – I Feel It Coming

I love when artists get songs that clearly would’ve gone to MJ were he still alive. This has a Bad deep cut vibe to it that can’t be denied. As I said earlier, I’m a recent convert to The Weeknd, so is all his stuff like this? If so, then sign me up!

2) Little Big Town – Better Man

This is the only way Taylor Swift was getting on this chart, ’cause I thought everything on Reputation was garbage. This song is gorgeous, yet I’ve spoken to a lot of folks who felt that knowing that Taylor wrote it kinda negatively impacted the song for them. The harmonies are beautiful, and the tempo is just perfect. This song really helped to put Little Big Town on the map as more than just “The Group You Call When Lady Antebellum’s Busy”

1) Sam Smith – Too Good At Goodbyes

It’s just beautiful. It’s the kind of thing we’ve come to expect from Sam, and he doesn’t disappoint. To me, it’s the sonic successor to Jon Secada’s 1992 hit “Just Another Day”. It came out a bit later in the year, but I feel it’s the absolute best the year had to offer.

Well, those are the songs that got me through 2017. I especially love that we got a video that gave us this still, which just might be the most 2017 thing of all:

Hear anything you like? Got any songs you’d like to throw on the pile? Let me know in the comments, or catch me on social media!

22nd Dec2017

West Week Ever: Pop Culture In Review – 12/22/17

by Will

 

So, like most people in America, I saw Star Wars: The Last Jedi. In fact, I saw it last Thursday night, but I wanted to save my thoughts until most folks I had a chance to see it. Little did I realize this would be one of the most polarizing films of my lifetime. I’m the furthest thing from a huge Star Wars fan, but I enjoyed The Force Awakens, so I was cautiously optimistic about this installment. And ya know what? I LOVED IT. I was kinda dreading going to the theater that night, as I was tired but I’d already bought the ticket. What I got, however, was a highly entertaining movie. Was it “Star Wars“? I dunno. I don’t feel like I’m a big enough fan to weigh in on that. Those of you who are don’t seem to believe that it was. That’s the divide I’ve been noticing: The casuals, like myself, had no issue with it, while the hardcore fans seem to be the ones with the most issues – a lot of this due to unfair expectations they took with them into the theater. Here are my random thoughts on the film, in no particular order:

  • So, Luke was banging those fish nuns, right? I mean, we’re all on the same page there, I hope.
  • This film gave us something we’d never seen in a Star Wars film before: I swear, if the N-Word exists in a galaxy far, far away, Phasma totally would’ve used it on Finn when she said “You were ALWAYS scum”, and he replied with REBEL scum.” Replace “scum” with the N-word and you get just how powerful that scene was.
  • Um, is Poe banging Leia? There was some weird subtext there which wasn’t quite mother/son, nor was it leader/subordinate. Was there some May/Life Day relationship going on there?
  • Episode IX should just be called Star Wars: What’s The Fucking Point? I mean, they’re down to about 25 rebels at this point. And, for a middle movie, it sure felt kinda like a finale in a lot of ways.
  • I LOVE that Rey is the child of nobodies. It really bothered me that fans were insistent that she was a Skywalker or a Kenobi, when the galaxy is so much larger than those two families. As I said on Twitter, my favorite part of the movie is how it broke fanboys’ speculation boners like reverse cowgirl gone horribly wrong.
  • Canto Bight was dumb, and the animal cruelty message was hamfisted
  • Speaking of Canto Bight, you’ve got a planet dedicated to gambling, and the galaxy’s most famous, Colt 45-swigging gambler ain’t there? Whatever, dude.
  • Boyega was just…there. He brought very little to this movie except to give Rose some company over the on the B plot. I expect so much more from Finn than we’ve ever actually gotten. Maybe it’s just me, foolishly rooting for the Black guy, but he just feels like wasted potential.
  • I totally never realized Poe had never met Rey (I only watched TFA the one time, when it first came out). Was there something there between them in that interaction? Is there now a Love Rhombus between Finn/Rey – Finn/Rose – Rey/Kylo – Rey/Poe?
  • I love how Rose got “Finned” at the end of the movie, and I hope that’s a running joke from here on out. Every Star Wars movie should end with someone in a coma, only to wake up as window dressing in the next movie.
  • Does the vacuum of space work differently in Star Wars? I mean, they open bomb bay doors, but without some force being applied, those bombs wouldn’t just drop down the surface of the First Order dreadnought. Also, when Rose’s sister opens the bomb bay doors, shouldn’t she have been sucked out instead of just hanging out on that ledge?
  • While it was a visual spectacle, what was the purpose of the red salt? Was it to give the appearance of troop blood while retaining a PG-13 rating?
  • “We don’t fight against what we hate, we fight for what we love” is the hokiest, most 2017 statement they could’ve shoved in the film. It’s almost as hokey as the “You don’t mess with New Yorkers!” scene from Raimi’s Spider-Man.

All that said, I do understand why the hardcore fans are mad. For a movie franchise essentially based on an ancient religion, this movie basically comes in and says “Your god? Yeah, doesn’t matter anymore.” It’s all “Let the past die” this,  and burn up the magical tree that. To come out of this movie as a hardcore Star Wars fan is akin to graduating from college with a fine arts degree. All that time, learning trivia and minutiae, wasted. Plus, there are legitimate questions. Who was Snoke? Where were the Knights of Ren? The fan theories were all over the place, and none of them were validated. But, you know what happens when you assume…

Anyway, the best film I saw in the past week was Coco. It was my daughter’s first movie in a theater, so I was equal parts enthralled by what was onscreen, while also being terrified she was gonna act a fool. I didn’t know much about the film going into it, but I was pleasantly surprised. On the Day of the Dead, aspiring musician Miguel pulls a “Home Alone” and tells his family he doesn’t really care about them because they won’t let him play his music. Well, after a strange sequence of events, he finds himself in the Land of the Dead, where he needs to get the blessing of a departed loved one in order to cross back over into the real world. It was a visual spectacle, but also highly emotional. I hate the phrase “the feels” with an unbridled passion, but it would be appropriate to use it here. Did I cry? No, YOU cried! Shut up! Anyway, I’d be really interested to know how the movie performed in the “Build the Wall!” segments of America, ’cause it’s really ethnic. If they’re not seeing it because of that ignorance, however, then it’s their loss because it’s an amazing film.

HarassmentWatch (TM)

TJ Miller: The comedian/actor has been accused of sexual assault during his time at George Washington University. You ask me, nothing bad about that dude surprises me. In fact, I almost wonder if he left Silicon Valley before they got a chance to fire him. Anyway, he denies the allegations and posted that awkward ass pic of him and his wife on Instagram. Meanwhile, Comedy Central will not be moving forward with The Gorburger Show.

Mark Schwahn Update: The One Tree Hill creator has been fired as showrunner of The Royals following investigation of his sexual misconduct.

Chris Matthews: The MSNBC anchor allegedly made inappropriate jokes about a female staff member in front of other staff, and NBC News had to pay a separation settlement back in 1999.

Paul Haggis: The Crash director/The Facts of Life writer was accused of sexual assault by publicist Haleigh Breest in 2013. He says they had a “fun, and sometimes flirtatious, relationship” and that she’s trying to extort $9 million out of him. She says he forced himself on her, while he says a recent back surgery prevented him from even having the range of motion to do such a thing.

Morgan Spurlock Update: Who Rules The World, an unscripted show that tackled women’s issues, suspended production after severing ties with Spurlock following his admission last week. Super Size Me 2: Holy Chicken! has also been yanked from the Sundance Film Festival

David Eaton: The VP and executive editor of NFL Media resigned following HUNDREDS of sexually explicit tweets he’d sent to prostitutes and adult film actresses over the years were reported by Deadspin.

Gary Goddard Update: He has now been accused by eight former child actors in a Santa Monica theater group. There were hands on thighs, and abuse during overnight stays.

Harvey Wenstein Update: Peter Jackson confirmed that Weinstein blackballed Mira Sorvino and Ashley Judd, as Jackson wanted them to appear in the Lord of the Rings trilogy when it was set up at Miramax, but Weinstein told him the two women were a nightmare to work with. It is believed that Weinstein did this to many other women in regards to their careers.

Glenn Thrush Update: Thrush is back, baby! The New York Times has completed its investigation of its star reporter and said “While we believe that Glenn has acted offensively, we have decided that he does not deserve to be fired”. So, he’ll be given a new assignment. Must be nice.

Johnny Iuzzini: The celebrity pastry chef (that’s a THING? God bless America!) and judge of The Great American Baking Show was accused of sexual harassment and abuse by multiple women. As a result, ABC severed their relationship with them, but in a move that screwed over everyone involved with the show, they decided not to air the remaining episodes. So, the winner was announced via a video posted to Facebook. Womp womp.

Matt Damon: Tone deaf Damon released a statement that was basically “Why aren’t we applauding the guys who aren’t sexual predators?” Oh, you mean the ones who are doing what they’re SUPPOSED TO DO, Matt? Ugh…

Papa John?:  While it’s not clear if it’s due to any accusations (yet), John Schnatter will be stepping down as CEO. Sure, he got a lot of heat for saying that the NFL protests were bad for his business, but I’m not sure that’s the whole story. So, do you think it was the protest hate that got Papa John, or did he get caught blasting his garlic sauce all over some female coworkers and he’s working out settlements?

They’re calling it a “bloodbath” over at Marvel, as the following books are getting cancelled:

  • Generation X
  • Guardians of the Galaxy
  • Hawkeye
  • Iceman
  • Jean Grey
  • Luke Cage
  • Royals
  • Secret Warriors
  • The Unbelievable Gwenpool
  • U.S. Avengers
  • Uncanny Avengers

The Gwenpool cancellation hits me the hardest, as I really love that book. It’s cute and fun, but I guess it wasn’t gritty enough or “matter” in terms of whatever Marvel’s next big event might be. The minority community has latched onto the Luke Cage cancellation with the usual outcry of “Why doesn’t Marvel support books like this?” Have a seat, ’cause I’m about to take you on a Rant Ride.

I hate the hot takes where folks are like “Marvel didn’t do a good job promoting this book!” You’re asking too much. Why go the extra mile to promote Luke Cage when Spider-Man over there does what’s expected of it month in and month out. These books got the same house ads and same lenticular covers as everyone else. I don’t think they deserve more effort to sell just because they appeal to a marginalized audience. At the end of the day, they ain’t fucking with comics like that anyway.

This ain’t 1963. You can take out all the TV ads for comics you want, and folks respond with a “They still make those?” Or a “You mean I gotta buy this shit EVERY month?” Next, you’ll be complaining about the publishing model, and that ain’t gonna change just for America Chavez. The angry fans want them doing shit they don’t even do for the books that sell. “Did you contact any movie theaters to show ads before films? Did you buy any TV spots? Did you go out into the community?” See, I don’t even think the community outreach would work because, at the end of the day, you’re still asking sometimes underserved communities to waste $4 a month on some stale entertainment. And trade-waiting “kills books”, so…

At this point, complaining about comics not selling is like complaining that you can’t find stamp collecting supplies. It’s a dying art, folks. Y’all saw The Last Jedi. Let the past die. Stop acting like there’s some shot in the arm that’s gonna save it.

There’s no conspiracy to kill minority books. You should be glad the books are even out there to begin with. Then it comes down to A) are the books good? B) are people actually gonna buy instead of flap their gums? At some point, it’s just bad business to keep publishing a book that’s losing everyone money. I’ve worked for the distributor. I’ve been a buyer. And when you consider the scale, the desired numbers aren’t outrageous. Sometimes you simply lose and there’s no angle to it.

So, let’s pour one out for The Unbelievable Gwenpool. Long may she reign!

In other Marvel news, there’s an update on the C.B. Cebulski situation. While Marvel hasn’t issued a statement, Cebulski did issue an apology to The Atlantic, saying:

I’m truly sorry for the pain, anger, and disappointment I caused over my poor choice of pseudonym. That was never my intention. Throughout my career in anime, manga, and comics, I’ve made it a point to listen and learn from my mistakes, which is exactly what I’ve been trying to do with this misstep. Building honest relationships with creators has always been important to me, and I’ve continued to do that in my new position. I’ve spoken with talent close to this issue, and have had candid and productive conversations about how we can improve the industry and build better stories, while being mindful of the voices behind them. My passion has always been about bringing the best talent from across the world to work on the best stories in the world, and I’m hopeful that fans and creators alike will join us in that continued mission.

Whatever, C.B. That’s all we’re getting, folks, so I guess it’s time to move on…

So, while channel surfing last Saturday night, I ran across a rap battle show on TBS called Drop the Mic, based on a segment from The Late Late Show with James Corden. What brought me in was a rap battle between funny man Wayne Brady and country artist Jake Owen. Owen held his own, but Brady came out victorious in the end. I’m glad I stayed for the whole thing, however, because the next battle had 10 year old Will written all over it: Kenny G vs Richard Marx. I’m a HUGE Marx fan, and I was really rooting for him. Amazingly, somehow Kenny G beat his ass. I mean, he just wiped the floor with him. I’m going to have to check this show out again in the future, but here’s the full G/Marx battle:

Things You Might Have Missed This Week

  • BBC America has cancelled the Elijah Wood-starring Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency after two seasons
  • John Legend will star in NBC’s Jesus Christ Superstar Live on Easter, facing off against Alice Cooper as King Herod. A Black Jesus and a rocker king. So, no one in the Bible Belt will be watching Jesus Christ Superstar Live
  • Apple admitted that it used software updates to limit the performance of older iPhones. They claim this was done to prevent taxing the aging batteries, which would result in the phones shutting off suddenly. Whatever, dude.
  • Team owner Jerry Richardson will have to sell the Carolina Panthers following workplace misconduct accusations. He didn’t end up in HarassmentWatch because his sin was more along the lines of calling folks the N-word than for dangling his wang. Diddy and Colin Kaepernick are interested in buying the team.
  • Following the ouster of Garrison Keillor, A Prairie Home Companion has officially been renamed Live From Here. Man, that’s some lazy shit right there. Or should that be right HERE?
  • Glee‘s Mark Salling pleaded guilty to possession of over 25 THOUSAND images of child pornography. Jesus! Was he running a server?! Anyway, his plea deal will most likely result in a 4-7 years sentence, followed by registering as a sex offender with 20 years of monitoring.
  • Mindy Kaling had a baby, which was the TRUE “Mindy Project” all along!
  • Cash Cab producers are working on Cash Lift, which will basically be the same show, but set in a hotel elevator instead of a taxi. It will stream on the Discovery Go and Facebook Watch platforms.
  • Something called EPIX has cancelled something called Graves. Who knew Nick Nolte was still working somewhere? Anyway, not anymore.
  • Because they haven’t figured out how to greenlight Sharknado: The Series yet, Syfy has renewed Van Helsing for a 3rd season.
  • A Christmas Story Live aired on Fox, and it seems like nobody cared, based on the ratings.
  • A Scooby Doo remake film is scheduled to be released May 15th, 2020.
  • The Netflix Gillian Jacobs/Paul Rust sitcom Love will end after the upcoming 3rd season, which premieres March 9th.
  • Chicago P.D. has been acquired by Fox Television stations for weekday syndication in Fall 2018.  Though not the first Chicago series, it’s the first to syndication because it’s procedural nature lends itself more to the model than the soap operatic nature of Chicago Fire.
  • Analysts say that 5,000-10,000 jobs will be eliminated by the Disney/Fox deal. Maybe they can all get jobs as extras in Avengers vs. X-Men
  • The IT Crowd is being adapted for the US for the THIRD time, but this is the first time original series creator Graham Lineham has taken a swing at it.

  • We got our first look at Hawk & Dove from the upcoming live action Titans series. Just like the Robin we saw a few weeks back, it still looks like a Spirit Halloween ad to me…
  • The Roseanne revival begins its unnecessary 9-episode return to the airwaves March 27th, bumping The Middle to 8:30 – which I think it something of a dick move to do to a show in its last season, in its homestretch of original episodes.
  • Speaking of unnecessary revivals, word on the street is that NBC is working on a revival of The Office for the 18-19 season. While Steve Carell isn’t involved, the show is supposed to include a mixture of returning and new characters. So, I’d wager Oscar, Phyllis, and Angela will be back. I mean, they’re the ones who haven’t gone on to much after the original show.
  • The Revenant‘s screenwriter Mark L. Smith will write the script for Quentin Taratino’s Star Trek film, in which James Kirk finds himself molested by a bear.
  • Everything old is new again, as it’s rumored that Vince McMahon is reviving his ill-fated XFL football venture. In fact, he has filed with the SEC to sell of 3.34 million shares of WWE in order to fund his new startup, Alpha Entertainment, which is believed to be the vehicle through which the XFL will return.
  • Hasbro and Paramount are rekindling their relationship, with a third G.I. Joe film scheduled for March 27th, 2020, and a Micronauts film planned for Ocotber 16th, 2020.
  • A streaming-only prequel series, called Stargate Origins, will premiere after Valentine’s Day, on February 15th. Nothing says “Who the Hell did I just wake up next to?!” like rolling over and watching some good old Stargate on your phone. Focusing on Catherine Langstrom, daughter of the man who discovered the Egyptian Stargate, each of the 10 episodes will be about 10 minutes in length. I’m not sure how exciting it could actually be, seeing as how Catherine doesn’t even figure out how to activate the gate until the movie…

NOTE: If you follow me on Twitter (and if you don’t, then what are you doing with your life?), you’ve already seen most of the following thread, but I felt it needed to be posted here for posterity. 

Let’s talk about gatekeepers. Yes, they can suck for new fans of something, but I’m gonna take a page from political discourse: Have any of y’all tried to understand where they’re coming from? It tends to happen in geek circles a lot, be it comics, Trek, Star Wars, etc. Old fans pull rank on new fans because they “were here first”. Let’s take a closer look at that, shall we?

A lot of these gatekeepers experienced some trauma, inflicted by those who are now banging at the gate. Most of this shit was not “cool”, and a lot of them took a lot of shit for being passionate about it. For some, it was just teasing. For others, it might’ve been worse.

So imagine waking up to find the shit that both got you through/kinda also ruined your adolescence is now THE thing. Quarterback running around, pretending he has a lightsaber. The head cheerleader has Leia Buns. Cool rebel kid has a “My other car is a TIE Fighter” bumper sticker. That shit can be kinda jarring. Plus, I think it’s a bit much to expect those fans to just welcome the “oppressor” because now they share common ground. That’s a lot to get over. So, the old fans become gatekeepers and they’re assholes about it. I get it.

Until we really acknowledge the cause of this divide, nothing’s gonna get any better. I’m not saying former bullies need to apologize for tormenting nerds, but there needs to be some kind of acknowledgement of “I used to think this was stupid, but you were onto something”

I dunno. At the end of the day, gatekeepers can be assholes, but I don’t know if it isn’t, in some cases, justified. The problem is they take this rage out on everyone. Not every new fan was like what I described. Some were just late to the boat. But as we’re seeing, fandoms will just eat themselves, so the gatekeepers aren’t in a sustainable place. They’ll either alienate the new fans and their beloved franchise will die or they’ll be outnumbered by them. In some cases (comics), gatekeepers will just die out.

A big problem with the gatekeepers, though, is the inability to let go. After all, this is the thing that *got them through* tough times and now that bitch from high school is internet famous for wearing a Chewbacca mask. It’s almost a bastardization of something they held dear.

The issue there, however, is they feel like they own this stuff and they don’t. All those years of purchases and memorizing trivia was *not* an actual recognized investment in the property. You don’t own these things. You are not a shareholder. It’s a lot like sports. Monday morning, that coworker of yours will come up and say, “Man, we really played some game yesterday, didn’t we?” No, Ron. You didn’t play shit. I don’t know what this “we” stuff is all about.

Everyone likes to belong to something, but it’s really hard to find your “corner of the sky”, only for it to become this multimedia explosion. I don’t think we process that enough. It’s almost like folks are going “Hey, nerd! I like your shit now. We cool?” And while I don’t think anyone should tell anyone the “right” way to be a fan, I guess I understand that the old school fans come with some knowledge of the property & don’t feel their contributions are welcomed by the new fan. I guess I come from a “Respect your elders” mindset.

Anyway, with the Star Wars kerfuffle this week, it’s clear that the gatekeepers were out in full force for this one. I hate that the pendulum has swung this way, but I’d be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge that the gatekeepers wielded a lot of power this week. So, with that in mind, fandom gatekeepers had the West Week Ever.

 

Programming Note: Next Wednesday, come back as I will be presenting the WBW Top 40. Yes, I’ll be reviewing my 40 favorite songs from 2017, and I know you’ll find something in the batch that you like. I don’t typically cover music because I know my tastes aren’t shared by a lot of you, but I’m confident there’ll be something on this list that’ll make you smile, Plus, in what has been a pretty shitty year overall, I figured we could all send it off with some good music. So, be here Wednesday! In the meantime, have a Merry Christmas and a kicking Kwanzaa! Is Hanukkah over? If not, you show that oil who’s boss!

15th Dec2017

West Week Ever: Pop Culture In Review – 12/15/17

by Will

I don’t expect a ton of folks to read this week’s installment, as I know a bunch of my audience is on self-imposed exile from the Internet until they get a chance to see Star Wars: The Last Jedi. So, this is my chance to just write a bunch of random shit with no challenge or repercussion. And don’t worry, as I’m saving my Last Jedi thoughts for next week.

HarassmentWatch (TM)

I can’t tell you how tired I am of writing this section every week, but dudes just can’t seem to keep their dicks in their pants, so here we are.

Mario Batali: The week started off with celebrity chef Mario Batali being accused of sexual misconduct. Four women came forward that Batali has touched them inappropriately over a span of 20 years. While he didn’t know the identities of the women, his response was basically, “Yup, that sounds like me.” As a result, he has stepped away from the business operations of his restaurants, and has been fired as a co-host of ABC’s talk show The Chew. I just want to point out that, out of all of the celebrity chefs, they got Batalo before they got Guy Fieri. It just goes to show that you can’t judge a book by its frosted tips!

Tavis Smiley: The PBS host was accused of having engaged in sexual relationships with multiple subordinates – in many cases where it was implied that the women’s employment was contingent upon them complying. He said anything that might’ve happened was consensual. PBS said “No way, José!” Or maybe something like “Who’s Smiley now?” I don’t know. I bet they said something really clever. In any case, they’ve suspended distribution of his show.

 

Blake Farenthold: The US Representative from Texas announced that he won’t seek re-election following accusations of sexual harassment. Ah, he’s taking the Conyers package. Excellent choice, sir! Anyway, unlike most of these dudes, who turn out to be wang danglers, Farenthold’s offense was that he was unprofessional and liked to make off-color jokes to subordinates. For example, when one of his aides was leaving for his wedding, Farenthold reportedly said, “Better have your fiancée blow you before she walks down the aisle — it will be the last time.” So, in addition to looking like Captain Planet villain Hoggish Greedly wearing a toupee, Farenthold is also clearly a prophet. Oh, and he also had a habit of calling those around him “fucktards”.

Morgan Spurlock: THIS piece of shit. Just look at his smug face. You know, I’ve had issues with Spurlock ever since Super Size Me. Yes, I have an irrational loyalty to the McDonalds Corporation, and I didn’t like the hit job he did on them with that documentary. A lot of folks don’t realize that his wife at the time was a vegan chef, and that was basically his diet. So, yeah, eating McDonalds 3 times a day is gonna make you throw up – not necessarily because of anything having to do with the McDonalds, but more due to the fact that your body just ain’t used to it. Anyway, he thought he was being noble by outing himself on Twitter, saying “I am also part of the problem”. He went into detail that he’d been accused of rape in the past, that he had paid a settlement to a former assistant due to sexual harassment, and that he had cheated on every wife and girlfriend he had ever had. He blamed it on a drinking problem that, according to him, he’s had for 30 years. Anyway, he stepped down from his production company in the wake of his “confession”.

Basically ALL of NFL Network: Former wardrobe stylist Jami Cantor worked for NFL Network for over a decade, and reported that she had been sexually harassed by Hall of Fame running back Marshall Faulk, as well as analysts Ike Taylor and Heath Evans. She also included former employees Warren Sapp, Donovan McNabb, and Eric Davis in her allegations. Faulk fondled her when greeting her, Taylor sent her pics of himself in the shower, McNabb tried to sext her, Davis told her he wanted to have rough sex with her, and Evans sent her naked pictures of himself and constantly asked her to have sex with him. Oh, and Sapp gave her a sex toy at Christmas THREE YEARS IN A ROW, taking a page from the Matt Lauer handbook. NFL Network has suspended the guys who actually still work for them, but half of them had already been fired for other offenses. In fact, these allegations came out during a wrongful termination suit, in which it is alleged that Cantor herself was fired for stealing clothes from an unspecified on-air talent member.

Harvey Weinstein Update: Salma Hayek added her voice to the 70 women who have accused Harvey Weinstein of sexual misconduct. She said that Weinstein was her “monster”, and detailed the aggressive advances he made towards her after they established a business relationship to help her produce Frida. He even insisted that a full frontal love scene be included – a scene so distressing for her that she said she had to take tranquilizers just to get through filming it.

In politics, Omarosa Manigault, or just “Omarosa”, was reportedly fired from the Trump administration earlier this week. In fact, reports seem to imply that she was physically removed from the premises.  They dragged her out like a belligerent Delta passenger, yet the White House insists that she “resigned to pursue other opportunities”. To hear the story, they chucked her out like Uncle Phil used to do to Jazz. Womp womp. She was reportedly making $180,000 a year as the Special Assistant to Who The Fuck Knows. No, seriously, nobody seemed to know what she was doing there, and she didn’t even make it a full year. Well, good riddance to bad rubbish. She’ll probably be on Dancing with the Stars or have her own Fox News show by this time next year.

In movie news, some interesting stuff is going on with the Screen Actors Guild Awards. For starters, only women will present awards at the 2018 ceremony. The executive producer of the awards said that this is a “salute to women”, following a year in which they were “very, very brave.” Yeah, that’s all well and good, but considering things will just go back to “normal” in 2019 kinda kicks the wind out of the sails of this gesture. It feels like an overcompensation, rather than sustainable, meaningful change.

Meanwhile, Jordan Peele’s Get Out has been jerked all over the awards circuit, being nominated for Best Musical of Comedy Motion Picture for the Golden Globes, which resulted in an “It wasn’t a comedy!” outcry. Well, for the SAG Awards, the cast was nominated for Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture. However, breakout star Lil Rel Howery, got excluded this nomination due to a trivial SAG rule. You see, according to the rule, you can’t be considered a main cast member if you don’t have your own solo title card in the main title sequence. A lot of this billing stuff is decided arbitrarily as deals are being ironed out, but Howery appears in the credits on the same card as Erika Alexander, so it gives the appearance of perceived lesser star power, and neither will win an award if the cast wins this category.

In Power Rangers news, we got our first glimpse of the Super Sentai series that will air next season in Japan (with the assumption that the footage will eventually be adapted into a future Power Rangers season). Kaitou Sentai Lupinranger VS Keisatsu Sentai Patoranger looks stupid. It’s 2 teams of three: one group is a bunch of thief Rangers with safe tumblers on their Zords, while the other group seems to be detectives, with badges on their helmets. The designs are ugly, and it just sounds like a dumb premise. But Ranger fans are eating it up because, well, Ranger fans…Seriously, you could eat rainbow sherbet and shit in a bucket, and they’d still be mesmerized by all the colors. It doesn’t take much with them. Anyway, I hope Saban skips this season just like he did with the train series.

In comics news, it has been SEVENTEEN DAYS and Marvel still hasn’t addressed the Cebulski thing. Kinda have to admire the balls on them at this point. Like, at this point, they control the narrative, and they’re choosing to retcon the whole thing. Most conversations about it have died down, but that doesn’t make it any less worse. It’ll be interesting to see if any big name talent walks away from any projects over there. I doubt it, and it won’t be any of the White dudes. It’d have to be someone like Wilson or Coates. But jobs are hard to come by, and nobody wants to rock the boat…

With Disney’s backing, Marvel’s cock of the walk and probably feel like they don’t need to address it. That said, if the majority of readers don’t care, they have little to lose by briefly addressing it and moving on, with “an eye trained on the future and not the past”. It’s quite the thing to just leave dangling. Plus it may not affect marquee creators, but you’d better believe it will be a new barrier to entry for the next Asian writer. It’s going to be kind of hard to take a Sunfire miniseries seriously written by newcomer “Ryu Kurosawa” when everyone knows there’s a chance it’s really just Cullen Bunn, “taking the piss”. That’s where the real damage has been done.

I know how corporations work, and I don’t expect Marvel to get down on their knees. In all honesty, the window has passed. It’s just a really messy handling of the entire situation.

Things You Might Have Missed This Week

  • USA renewed Mr. Robot for a 4th season. I bailed back in season 2, so maybe somebody can catch me up. Have they introduced Mrs. Robot yet, or is he swinging bachelorbot?
  • Curb Your Enthusiasm was renewed for a 10th season at HBO. Based on its production pattern, don’t look for it to debut until around 2023.
  • Archie Comics will be rebooting Chester Gould’s Dick Tracy in an ongoing series that launches in April.
  • Dreamworks and Netflix are teaming up for a reboot of She-Ra: Princess of Power. Based on how the reboots of other 80s cartoons have been received, I expect this to be ruined by the unrealistic nostalgia expectations of manchildren.
  • The Walking Dead television series took a major detour from the comics this week, solidifying the upcoming death of an original character. It’s funny – comics fans expect the series to end with Carl Grimes picking up where his father, Rick, left off, while the television series will probably just end with Rick and Michonne raising their halfy kids in the woods somewhere.
  • Sylvester Stallone will no longer be directing Creed 2, which will now be helmed by relative newcomer Steven Caple Jr.
  • Apple acquired music discovery app Shazam in a deal worth $400 million. I’ve got nothing snarky to say here. Next?
  • Hannibal Buress was arrested last weekend for disorderly conduct, which can only mean that Bill Cosby and the Black Illuminati are finally exacting their revenge on him for setting into motion the renewed interest in Cosby’s sexual assault allegations back in 2014.

  • The all-female Ocean’s 8 is actually called Ocean’s 8. I thought that was just a working title. It’d be funny if it’s a prequel, and they turn out to be the moms of everyone in Ocean’s 11. Think about it: they started at 8, meaning they have room for a full trilogy that leads right into the Clooney/Pitt installment.
  • John Wick 2 director Chad Stahelski is attached to an adaptation of Ed Brubaker’s comic, Kill Or Be Killed. I’m a big fan of the book, which follows a regular guy whose botched suicide attempt somehow results in him having to kill people to appease a demon. I know it sounds weird, but it’s really good.
  • Alabama narrowly avoided electing an alleged child molester to the U.S. Senate. Sure, the feel-good story everyone is telling is about how Doug Jones beat Roy Moore, with the help of Black women voters. Let’s not forget, however, Moore got 48.4% of the vote, which is about 48.4% too much for a dude with a penchant for 14 year old girls. Seriously, what the fuck is wrong with you people?!
  • Disney purchased Fox’s assets for a reported $52 billion. I’ve already gone into detail as to why I think this is a bad deal. Anyway, have fun with your Fantastic Four movies. I hope they were worth it.

  • I LOVE the Miles Morales character, so I’m interested to see how this animated movie, Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse is going to turn out. Honestly, this trailer doesn’t do a lot for me, but I’m hoping for the best.

Who had a great week? Hmm…Disney? Yeah, I guess so. That remains to be seen, however. Fox? I mean, they did just make a shit ton of money, but what are they gonna do with it? You know who had a great week? Ajit Pai, Chairman of the FCC who spearheaded this week’s vote to repeal Net Neutrality. That dude was on videos with alt-righters, mocking Net Neutrality supporters, and he got his wish when the vote passed. Still, this ain’t Time Magazine where we award “influencers”, and that dude’s a piece of shit. Ya know who had the West Week Ever? Black Women. Yeah, I know this is uncharted territory for the site, but let’s look at things here.

First of all, it was the Black female vote that helped to keep Roy Moore out of the Senate in Alabama. If you weren’t aware of that, it’s because you clearly have been in a coma, as everyone is falling over themselves to remind us that Black women did this. Well, thank you, Black women. It’s a shame that you had to come save the day, but you did it, and Alabama (and the country) thanks you. Here’s hoping politicians realize your influence in the future instead of hoping to just call on you like Toodles when shit gets bad.

Next, as a nice little “Thank you present”, Black women got to revel in the fact that “traitor” Omarosa was basically dragged through the White House Rose Garden, her Louboutins carving tracks behind her. While some might have once considered Omarosa to be a “strong, Black woman”, she really hasn’t endeared herself to her peers in recent years. Now she’s trying to act like it was lonely being her in the Trump White House. Well, no shit! Prominent Black women from Good Morning America‘s Robin Roberts to journalist April Ryan all got in their parting shots at the former Apprentice contestant. In fact Omarosa was so incensed by Roberts’ “Bye, Felicia” remarks that she has declared a Black Woman Civil War, so I guess y’all have got that to look forward to, as well!

So, as you’re taking off your earrings and your high heels for this fight, rest well, Black Women, knowing that you had the West Week Ever!

08th Dec2017

West Week Ever: Pop Culture In Review – 12/8/17

by Will

I just want to thank you all for all the kind words following last week’s announcement. I’ve already got one little fearless spider monkey, so I’m not sure what I’m going to do with TWO, but I’m glad I’ve got all of y’all on my side 🙂

HarassmentWatch (TM)

It wouldn’t be a week in 2017 without an update to the HarassmentWatch tracker.

  • Danny Masterson – The former That 70’s Show star has been written out of the third season of The Ranch – the Netflix comedy he stars in with former costar Ashton Kutcher. While reports surfaced that Netflix basically told one of Masterson’s accusers that they didn’t believe her, the network finally took action this week and fired him from the show.
  • US Representative John Conyers – I forgot to mention him when the allegations first came out about him, but the longest continuously serving lawmaker in the House of Representatives was swamped with sexual harassment allegations. Well, he announced his retirement this week. And considering he was one of the lowest paid reps, he probably lives with his kids now. Speaking of those kids, Conyers endorsed his son, John Conyers III, as the one who should replace him. So, that dude ain’t winning. On top of that, another Conyers relative has also expressed interest in running for the seat, so get your seats now for the title match-up at Conyergeddon!!!!
  • Senator Al Franken – Following the allegation shitstorm kicked off by radio host Leeann Tweeden, pressure mounted on Franken to resign, which yesterday he announced he would do. It’s kind of a shame that this happened because he was good enough, he was smart enough and, doggone it, people loved him. Also, there are reports that Tweeden is a birther who had been coached on how to take down Franken. Whatever it was, he seemed like a dude who just liked to take wacky pictures. He wasn’t a wang dangler like the rest of these guys. Still, I guess we’ve got to hold these guys to a higher standard. Well, Democrats feel they have the moral high ground now that they’ve forced Conyers and Franken to resign, but they’ll soon find out that ain’t worth shit in 2017.

It was a big week for comic-related TV shows, as we got the return of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and the premiere of Happy! First, let’s talk about S.H.I.E.L.D. It was a two hour premiere, but I only made it through the first hour. Hey, it’s hard to focus on a show when you’re trying to put a toddler to bed who’s about as manageable as Family Guy‘s Greased Up Deaf Guy! Anyway, the first hour kinda bored me. Sure, they were in space, but the speculation boners had been hard all summer for something that I don’t think we got. So, I went online and read the summary of the hour I missed just to see if it was worth my time. It wasn’t. I’m sure I’ll catch up on it at some point, but what I read just makes me more upset that this show is considered a part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

SPOILER

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So, apparently the agents are in space, in the FUTURE, AND EARTH HAS BEEN DESTROYED! Oh, and Daisy caused the destruction of Earth, ’cause she’s the equivalent of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. trying to make fetch happen. So I’m to believe that, in a world, with a Tony Stark and a Bruce Banner and all the rest, an emo hacker with earthquake powers would be able to get away with this? Kinda like how folks felt about Blake Shelton being named Sexist Man Alive, the only way this happens is if everyone else is dead and there are no more heroes and villains. Is that what they’re trying to convey here? I know they’re trying to raise the stakes of the show, but I’m just not buying it. Hell, the Avengers still don’t even know Coulson is alive, so the only way I can stomach this show is to just assume it’s another universe. You know how those folks who watch Gotham have to trick themselves? Yeah, I’m gonna have to do the same thing here.

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END OF SPOILER

Meanwhile, on Syfy, Grant Morrison’s Happy! debuted, and I was bored about 15 minutes into the show. SVU‘s Christopher Meloni plays a disgraced former cop/current hitman who, following a mob hit gone wrong, ends up being able to see animated blue flying horse. Like most Morrison stuff, this just went over my head. I guess he’s trying to say something that I’m just not picking up. I will say, however, that I’m still not used to them being able to say “Fuck” so freely on basic cable now, but 2017. They say it a LOT here. The aesthetic of the show makes it look like it’d be more at home on FX, but I guess FX saw the script and was like “Didn’t we just do this with Wilfred?” Anyway, I’m glad Bobby Moynihan has a job (he’s the voice of the horse – UPDATE: Moynihan voiced Happy in the pilot, but not in the series. I guess he couldn’t juggle two shows at once. Now he has no shows. Womp womp. Patton Oswalt now voices Happy in the series), but I don’t think I’ll be returning to this show.

I was dreading writing this week’s post solely for this part right here. I’m probably gonna be seen as “on the wrong side of history”, but I just feel strongly about this one. You see, talks have resumed between Fox and Disney, with it looking like Disney will be purchasing 21st Century Fox in an estimated $66 billion deal sometime next week. And I think this is a horrible idea. Sadly, a lot of folks can’t seem to see the forest for the trees because they have something personal to gain from it, be it finally having the X-Men/Fantastic Four in the Marvel Cinematic Universe or being able to get the original cut of Star Wars on blu ray. Let’s look at why this is bad, shall we?

First off, media consolidation is rarely a good idea. This will result in one less studio to pitch to, one less voice in the creative realm, and a loss of jobs. “But what about Pixar and Lucasfilm?” This isn’t an apples apples comparison. When Pixar and Lucasfilm were purchased by Disney, each was an autonomous, independent studio. They knew how to do their shit, and Disney, for the most part, got out of their way. THIS IS NOT THE SAME THING. Instead of acquiring a single independent studio, Disney is about to assume a media conglomerate. DISNEY, which already owns half the world, is about to acquire another quarter of it. There are banners within Fox that may be left alone, like Fox Searchlight, but the entire company is NOT going to be handled the way that Pixar and Lucasfilm were handled.

Disney is not a monopoly, but they’re damn sure close to being one. The same people who will pop up in your Twitter mentions to tell you that Diamond Comic Distributors is a monopoly (eh, it’s a bit more nuanced than that) are the ones championing this deal because Star Wars. Or because Fantastic Four. I have had people with no knowledge of the industry whatsoever insist to me that Disney is doing this deal simply to get the Marvel licenses it doesn’t have. No, they’re not. They’re trying to bolster their inventory for their upcoming streaming service, and Fox’s library will help them do it. Plus, let’s stop acting like Fox isn’t sitting on some popular franchises, such as Alien, Die Hard, Ice Age, Planet of the Apes, and Predator. Sure, they’re older franchises, but they’re lucrative, and everything’s getting rebooted these days. Yes, Disney has a ton of programming that they could throw on their streaming service, but is it all stuff that people want to watch? They need to have a strong inventory at launch, and you don’t do that when you’re touting the fact that Quack Pack is available for streaming. Plus, you don’t pay $66 billion for Fantastic Four. You just don’t. I’m not saying the additional Marvel licenses didn’t sweeten the deal, but let’s stop acting like Marvel runs the world. I love their movies, too, but let’s just be logical here. And, GOD! Can we stop it with all the Marvel Phase 4 speculation already? Folks are already fancasting these reboots, trying to fit them into the existing MCU landscape. Hey, if that helps you sleep at night, but your speculation boner is poking me in the back.

Plus, let’s take a closer look at Disney and their practices. Folks have a short memory, as it was just ONE MONTH AGO that Disney banned the LA Times from screenings because they didn’t like a report the paper had done about Disney’s business practices in Anaheim. They played that card because they knew they could, and the only thing that brought the ban to an end was after fellow journalists refused to cover Disney until they reconsidered (Man, if only journalists could do shit like this more often, when more is at stake than Mickey-shaped waffles). Disney is a bully, and this deal just gives them more slingshots and spitballs to use on everyone else. And speaking of misappropriation of resources, think of what a deal of this caliber would do for Fox. In the ultimate nightmare scenario that has been touted online, this would mean Fox would, then, have $66 billion more dollars with which to buy CNN. Goodbye, fair press! So, on one side you’ve now got a multimedia conglomerate large enough to shut out the press, while on the other side you’ve got an ultra conservative press that is now basically ALL the press. If you think Net Neutrality is bad, wait until Fox dominates 2/3 of cable news.

So, in a possible reality, Fox now owns Fox News and CNN, while Disney owns everything Comcast doesn’t already own, but you’re getting Galactus in your Guardians movie, so yay? You could say that I’m overreacting, but our president is The Rich Guy from the 80s, and Alabama’s electing a pedophile next week. I’d say this isn’t even close to as bad as it could get.

Meanwhile, Marvel still hasn’t addressed the Cebulski controversy, but they did announce Marvel Rising: Secret Warriors. Yep, it’s an animated concept based on their diverse characters like Ms. Marvel, Squirrel Girl, and America Chavez. God, I hate America Chavez. Dove Cameron will voice Gwen Stacy/Spider-Gwen (now called Ghost Spider), which she has done before in Ultimate Spider-Man. Oh, and Milana Vayntrub will voice Squirrel Girl – the same character she’ll portray in the live action New Warriors if a network would finally pick it up. Anyway, it seems they will start as shorts and then lead into a feature-length animated movie at some point. No home has been announced yet for the project.

There are talks that Quentin Tarantino and JJ Abrams will produce an R-rated Star Trek film. In fact, Tarantino insisted on the R-rating to allow for his signature banter between characters. Look, I know a lot of folks are intrigued by this, and some feel it’ll bring new folks to the franchise. That said, THIS MOVIE WILL NEVER HAPPEN. Either he drops out before filming starts, or he walks off the set while filming. This movie will never see the light of day, so I’m not even going to give it more attention than this.

Things You Might Have Missed This Week

    • It was announced that House of Cards will continue, without Kevin Spacey, with Robin Wright as the lead
    • Everyone, make sure you congratulate Jerusalem for being named the US recognized capital of Israel. ‘Cause that’s not gonna end poorly…
    • Russia has been banned from the 2018 Olympics Winter Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea following the country’s doping scandal. Russian officials are banned from attending, the Russian flag will not be flown, and the anthem will not be heard. The last one is the most disappointing, as the Russian National Anthem is a real club banger!

  • I had no interest in Netflix’s One Day at a Time reboot until I saw this. It’s cute, plus I always had a weird thing for Mackenzie Phillips.
  • JK Rowling defended Johnny Depp remaining in the Fantastic Beasts sequel by basically saying, “Hey, it’s just one chick who decided to pop off. That’s not the Johnny I know.” So, I guess we’re back to using that defense again.

My guest spot on 3 Black Geeks’ Morphin Metacast , where we discussed Power Rangers Samurai, dropped this week, so go over to their site and check it out!

You read everything I said up there about the Disney deal. If you were a Marvel Cinematic Universe Fanboy, then you were happier than a pig in shit. There was no stopping you, ’cause every thought and action was fueled by “Omigod, a House of M movie!” or “They can do AvX now!” God bless you sons of bitches, and that’s why you had the West Week Ever.

01st Dec2017

West Week Ever: Pop Culture In Review – 12/1/17

by Will

Welcome back! I took last week off, to give thanks and all that jazz (you weren’t gonna read it anyway!), but we’re back with a TON to talk about. So, let’s get to it!

HarassmentWatch (TM) Update

I’m so tired of writing these blurbs, but these dudes just can’t seem to keep their dicks in their pants. Just as last time, there are so many that we’ll just use bulletpoints:

  • John Lasseter – The Chief Creative Officer of Walt Disney and Pixar Animation announced that he is taking a six-month leave of absence following some “missteps”, including his penchant for giving long, awkward, unwanted hugs to female employees. Still, it seems like he kept his dick in his pants, so the Pixar brand isn’t completely tarnished.
  • Ryan Seacrest – A former stylist is saying that Seacrest engaged in a series of sexually aggressive behavior towards her, and she was demanding $15 million to not go to the media with the allegations. Guess he didn’t pay (He denies the claims). So, you think when he allegedly exposed his penis to his stylist, he announced “Seacrest OUT!”?
  • Nick Carter – The youngest Backstreet Boy was accused of sexually assaulting Melissa Schuman of the girl group Dream back in 2002. Schuman alleges that Carter took her virginity in the bathroom of his Santa Monica apartment while her friend waited in the next room. He has released a statement that anything that happened between them was consensual, and emphasized that this is the first he’s heard of these claims in the nearly twenty years since it allegedly happened.
  • Russell Simmons – Russell, Russell, Russell…First, former model Keri Claussen Khalighi accused Simmons of forcing her to have sex with him, when she was 17, WHILE Brett Ratner watched and did nothing. Simmons responded that everything that happened between them was consensual. So, just so we’re all on the same page, he basically said, “I didn’t RAPE rape her. I just statutory raped her. But she was cool with it, and so was Brett.” As if that wasn’t bad enough, Lena Horne’s granddaughter/Sidney Lumet’s daughter, Jenny Lumet, wrote a guest post at The Hollywood Reporter detailing how Simmons had sexually assaulted her in 1991. Simmons again said that his recollection of the night differed from hers, but offered a halfhearted apology. Yesterday, Simmons announced that he would be stepping away from all of his companies to “commit myself to continuing my personal growth, spiritual learning and above all to listening”. Uh-huh. Meanwhile, HBO is scrubbing all mention of, and appearances by, him in their upcoming Def Jam Comedy reboot, All Def Comedy.
  • Garrison Keillor – The women of Lake Wobegon can sleep easy tonight, knowing that Garrison Keillor has been fired from Minnesota Public Radio following allegations of inappropriate sexual behavior. As a result, MPR is cancelling distribution of reruns of Keillor’s creation, A Prairie Home Companion, and the new episodes will undergo a name change.
  • Charlie Rose – The bloom is off the rose, as Charlie was was fired from CBS This Morning AND his PBS show was cancelled, following allegations of sexual harassment and groping over the past 20 years. Rose said that he didn’t believe that all of the allegations were true, so clearly he did some of it. Apparently he liked to walk in front of women while naked. Ya know, ’cause ladies love seeing 75 year old balls swinging low.
  • Glenn Thrush – The New York Times star reporter was suspended following allegations that he had sexually harassed younger female colleagues. Since many of the incidents were influenced by alcohol, Thrush announced that he would be entering a substance abuse program.
  • Andrew Kreisberg Update – Warner Bros has officially fired the Supergirl/The Flash showrunner following the reports of his sexual harassment of NINETEEN men and women.
  • Jeffrey Tambor Update – Tambor officially left the Amazon series Transparent when it became apparent that the attention to him was negatively impacting the show.
  • Al Franken Update – Franken was removed from the PBS special David Letterman: The Kennedy Center Mark Twain Prize following the allegations against him, as two more women have come forward with claims.
  • Gary Goddard Update – Following the allegations that he molested ER/Top Gun star Anthony Edwards, Goddard announced he is taking a leave of absence from his entertainment design firm The Goddard Group so that the company can continue on without being affected by the recent spotlight on him.
  • Matt Lauer – Shocking everyone, NBC fired Lauer from The Today Show Tuesday night following a complaint lodged against him by a female colleague. Having hosted the show for the past 20 years, a Variety story reported that Lauer had given a sex toy to one female colleague, and had a special button under his desk that would lock his office door when women would enter. Oh, and he used to love to play Fuck, Marry, Kill with staffers, letting everyone know who he’d like to sleep with. It’s unclear if he will be paid the remainder of his two-year, $50 million contract set to expire next year.

Not all the crazy news this week was confined to men whipping out their penises. Nope, incoming Marvel Editor-In-Chief CB Cebulski said, “Hold my beer”. You see, comic industry muckraker Rich Johnston uncovered that Cebulski had written Marvel comics under a pseudonym 13 years ago. This was bad for TWO reasons:

  1. Marvel employees were forbidden from taking on creative work on top of their salaries at the time
  2. He pretended he was a Japanese writer, named Akira Yoshida, during a time when Marvel was looking for an authentic Japanese voice to lend some of that manga flair all the kids were loving to their books.

Now, the pseudonym thing doesn’t bother me so much. I don’t talk about it too much lately because it’s been ten years now, but I took QUITE the pay cut to work in comics. Say it with me, kids: There’s NO money in comics. Sure, you might end up writing Spider-Man or Batman for 10+ years, but that job security is few and far between. A lot of publishers/companies know that you love the product, so figure you’ll work for peanuts. And many will. It’s amazing what you’ll give up for free Dynamite Entertainment comps and a trip to San Diego. I know several folks who are working for comic companies and publishing comics. Conflict of interest out the ass, but you do what you’ve got to do to survive. Why? Because there’s NO money in comics. Now, one could say, “Then why not get a better job?” Well, I did. I’m just giving you the lay of the land.

No, the worst part of the whole Cebulski thing is the ethnic deception. Why a Japanese writer? Why couldn’t he just publish as “Rick Jones”, and everyone would have a good laugh? Well, EVERYONE loved manga at the time, and I guess he saw his opening. That leads me to another problem, though: How did this random guy, right off the street, manage to get high profile gigs like Thor and Wolverine miniseries? He was an unproven talent who hadn’t paid his dues. Nobody had even heard of him, but Marvel just rolled out some of their highest profile characters instead of giving him a Power Pack series or something? Nah, I call foul! I don’t think he’s the only one who knew about this secret, and I’d even wager that it goes all the way up to Quesada. Look, as a Marvel employee, Cebulski used his experience to know exactly to whom and how to pitch his stories. And to top it all off, he trotted in a random Japanese dude to help support his ruse. Apparently he introduced a Japanese translator to several Marvel staff members, leading them to believe that had actually just met Yoshida. At the end of the day, Cebulski took advantage of a program meant to seek out diverse voices, and he turned out to be just another White dude writing comics.

I’m AMAZED that Marvel hasn’t issued a statement yet, but here we are, 4 days later and nothing. Cebulski was set to start work on Wednesday, but I just don’t know how that’s gonna work. I don’t know how Marvel can move forward with that kind of heat on him. I say they demote him back to his old job of VP of Brand Management and Development, and quietly ship him back to Asia. Then, they give senior editor Tom Brevoort the EIC gig, which he’ll only hold for a short tenure of about 1-2 years. While that’s going on, they resume their search for a permanent replacement. That’s what I’d do, at least…

Fergie will host Fox’s new musical reality show The Four: Battle for Stardom, and if you’ve ever seen her cohost New Years Eve with Seacrest, then you know this is a horrible idea. Her hosting probably isn’t the worst thing about the show, however. You see, the show starts with the four finalists in place, so you already skip the schadenfreude of the audition stage that brings in all the ratings. Then, each week, the finalists will have to maintain their standing, as they’re challenged by random singers thrown into the mix. The judges (though they aren’t called that) are Diddy, DJ Khaled, Meghan Trainor, and record exec Charlie Walk. The prize is that this panel will help the winner become a breakout star. You know, because Diddy’s been such a starmaker in recent years. And Meghan Trainor’s gift to pop culture was her hit signalling her love of Black guys (c’mon, listen to “All About That Bass” and get back to me). If the actual relevant stars of The Voice can’t make a household name, I don’t see how these guys are gonna do it. Luckily it’s just a six-episode season, though, so it won’t stick around long enough to get tired.

My favorite current cartoon, Teen Titans Go!, celebrated its 200th episode and boy was it…disappointing. Seriously, I know a lot of you already hate the show, so this won’t come as much of a surprise to you, but I really expected something great. In the double-sized ep, the Titans enter the real world as their world begins to disappear. It’s then that they meet the animators behind the show, who reveal the show’s writers haven’t provided a script for episode #200. The animators are glad to have the break, as it’s a grueling work schedule, but the Titans will fade out of existence if a script isn’t written soon. There are cartoon cameos by everyone behind the show, as well as some of their family members. I guess it was “cute”, but it was also really self-indulgent (a fact they even acknowledge). I wish they had sat on the far superior “Night Begins to Shine” special and used it as the 200th episode celebration.

Things You Might Have Missed This Week

  • I guess Billy Ray Cyrus has come down with another case of Achy, Breaky Heart, as CMT has cancelled his sitcom, Still The King, after 2 seasons
  • Speaking of CMT, they also announced that the upcoming 6th season of Nashville will be its last. Parent company Viacom is moving to unscripted programming for most of its networks, as its cheaper to produce.
  • The crowd has spoken, as Jeremy Piven’s Wisdom of the Crowd has essentially been cancelled amid sexual assault allegations against the star.
  • A Harley Quinn animated series being developed by the guys behind Powerless for DC’s streaming service. Remember anything good about Powerless? Yeah, neither does anyone else. Pass.
  • Fox has ordered 6 more episodes of Ghosted, and is bringing in The Office showrunner/Toby, Paul Lieberstein, to run the show. They say it will go through a tonal change, and become more of a workplace comedy.
  • Speaking of Fox, the soon-to-be-cancelled LA to Vegas will premiere January 2nd.
  • This Scooby ain’t got no Doo: Ashley Tisdale’s Blondie Girl Productions, in conjunction with Warner Bros Home Entertainment, is developing the live action Daphne and Velma. To be released next year, the movie features Daphne (Sarah Jeffrey) and Velma (Sarah Gilman) as they fight zombies. Um, OK.
  • Jersey Shore Family Vacation was announced, which will reunite most of the original cast of Jersey Shore, and will premiere on MTV in 2018
  • There are reports that Kiersey Clemons may be replaced as Iris West for Flashpoint. In other news, somebody thinks Flashpoint is still getting made.
  • The Good Place has been renewed for season 3 at NBC. If only the real world were in The Good Place right now…
  • There was an Arrowverse crossover. I hear it was good. I missed it. Will report back once watched.
  • Chinese actress Liu Yifei has been cast as the lead in Disney’s live action Mulan. I hear they only went with her because Dakota Fanning and Chloë Grace Moretz had scheduling conflicts.
  • Seth Meyers will host the Golden Globes – you know, the awards that folks only care about because they think they predict the Oscars outcomes.
  • A whole bunch of people were nominated for Grammys, but I’ve never heard of most of them because I am an old man now.
  • The next Hellboy film will be released January 11th, 2019. Some folks feel like the movie is being “dumped” in January, but it’s not like it has the star power to open on Memorial Day or anything.
  • Lizzy Caplan is in talks to be the female lead in Channing Tatum’s The Little Gambit That Could X-Men spinoff film
  • Dove Cameron has been cast in a mysterious role on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., which returns to airwaves tonight.
  • Michael Green and Bryan Fuller are out as showrunners of American Gods at Starz over budget concerns. Season 1’s budget ballooned to Game of Thrones levels, and Starz ain’t got HBO money like that…
  • Not that anyone cares, but Miss South Africa Demi-Leigh Nel-Peters won the Miss Universe title. Can’t really claim to be Miss Universe if Earth is the only contestant. Just sayin’…
  • In an interview with The New York Times, Jay-Z confessed that he cheated on Beyoncé because he was in “Survival Mode”, whatever the fuck that means. Here’s to all the guys telling their girls about Survival Mode Sunday morning, after they fucked up the night before! Good luck with that!
  • The character of Morgan, portrayed by Lennie James, will be migrating from The Walking Dead to the prequel series Fear The Walking Dead. In 5 years, he’ll join the cast of the prequel’s prequel, The Toddling Dead.
  • Suits star Meghan Markle is engaged to Prince Harry of Britishtown. We up in a castle now, baby!
  • Jennifer Hudson has requested a protective order against former fiance, wrestler David Otunga. Otunga got pissed because he alleges she was sleeping with her producer while he was home, taking care of their kid. But one look at Otunga and there’s no way she’s not getting that protective order. The system is broken, y’all.

I did two podcasts this week. Hell, I did two podcasts in one night! I was a podcast gigolo. After a 7-year absence, I made my grand return to Superhero Time. Back when I was on before, it was still a Power Rangers/Tokusatsu podcast. Now, however, they talk about Star Trek. My kind of guys! So, we discussed the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode “Rascals”, where Picard and a few others are de-aged into their pre-pubescent selves, and hi-jinks ensue! It’s a great episode, so if you like Trek or just like my ramblings, then definitely check it out. Then, I hopped over to the 3 Black Geeks feed for their Morphin Metacast Podcast, where we discussed the debut series of the Neo-Saban era, Power Rangers Samurai. The link’s not up yet, but I’ll post it next week.

So, based on the fact that Kevin Feige is calling Avengers 4 a “finale” of sorts, it’s piqued my curiosity about that film. Still, that’s over a year away, and we’ve still got another Avengers to get to first. Yup, this week we got the first trailer for Avengers: Infinity War. Watch this shit, man:

Did you see it? DID YOU SEE IT?! I don’t want to be called a Marvel shill, but how can you watch that, after having seen all the MCU films before it, and NOT get excited about it?! Sure, folks have issues with the look of Thanos (he does look like Bruce Willis ate some bad shrimp), but that’s just nitpicking. Plus, the trailer release had the desired effect of making comic fans ask “CB WHO?”, as they quickly forgot about the controversy from earlier in the week.

I can’t wait for May. My daily prayer has been, and will continue to be, “Lord, please don’t let me die before Infinity War”. I think He understands. Anyway, it goes without question that the Avengers: Infinity War trailer had the West Week Ever.

Wait!

 

There’s more!

 

OK, before I leave you, I have to announce that there is a big change coming to the multiverse very soon. That’s right, a new West will debut in May! Stay tuned!

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