Friday, May 27, 2016

Needless Things Podcast 109 – X-Men

Phantom Troublemaker, Beth, and Chad J. Shonk discuss Marvel’s Merry Mutants – the X-Men!


Thursday, May 26, 2016

And Now, Smackdown VS Raw




So after much rumor and a hell of a lot of fans hoping and praying, the WWE announced yesterday that it will be splitting its roster and returning to the brand split this July. They’re also doing something that will give Smackdown a much needed boost compared to how some saw it during the last brand split. Smackdown will be aired live on Tuesday nights rather than taped and aired later in the week. So goodbye to people reading badly written or slanted spoilers on the wrestling sites and deciding not to tune in as some did in the past. Frankly, it’s a damned good idea and one that’s overdue. Here are my thoughts on it.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Comic Book Review – DC Universe Rebirth #1 from DC Comics

As you might have heard on the last episode of the Needless Things Podcast, I was not super pumped up for DC Comics’ Rebirth event.

All of my life Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman have been the world’s greatest superheroes. Spider-Man was up there, too, but DC’s Trinity were, to me, the definition of “superhero”. They were what I thought of when someone would use that term. That’s not to say that I have spent my whole life reading all of their comics. I know them from TV, movies, and cartoons more than anything else. I’ve read Batman comics on and off my entire life and I’ve certainly read plenty of comic books featuring Superman and Wonder Woman, but I am by no means a DC expert.

I bought pretty much any Batman book that came out in the 90s. I read Death of Superman and followed the resulting comics pretty much until he came back. I think Bloodlines was the first line-wide event that sucked me in. Then Zero Hour got me. I can’t tell you if I truly enjoyed it or just got caught up in the sweeping epic-ness of the event, but I bought most, if not all, of those tie-ins and waited every week for the newest issues.

Around 2004 and 2005 I was getting back into reading comics and I remember trying both Identity Crisis and Infinite Crisis. They were both confusing and deeply mired in the past continuities of DC. As someone with only partial knowledge of the secondary and tertiary charatcers, I was lost. I realize now that I was mistaking these events as an entry point for the DCU. I think I reasoned that a massive, line-wide event was a great time to bring in new readers.

By the time 52 came around I had gleaned enough from my prior attempts and from just being a comic book nerd on the internet to grok what was happening. There were still events that lost me a bit, but the narrative structure kept the momentum going, hopping around from scenario to scenario. None of the segments lasted long enough to truly lose me. And some of them got me invested in heroes I’d never read before, like Adam Strange.
At this point I’ve read Final Crisis, Blackest Night, and all of the other big events that happened up through the launch of the New 52. Some were better than others. Most lost their momentum at some point. Most were spread too thin across many books and sometimes I dropped titles I was enjoying due to their being mired in or sidelined by some big event.

I think if I have a point here – and I can’t guarantee that I do – it’s that DC Comics hasn’t been too concerned about being reader-friendly over the past couple of decades. And they certainly haven’t been worried about new readers. They’ve claimed that they have, but even the most “fresh start” New 52 titles had gobs of continuity hanging around.

But I’m not here today to criticize the New 52. I’ve done plenty of that as DC has disappointed me again and again over the past five years. Today I’m here to celebrate DC’s newest fresh start and the promise it represents for the future.

I have read DC Universe Rebirth #1 twice now and before I get any further I want to tell you to take your $2.99 plus tax to your Local Comic Book Shop and buy this 80-page comic book. It made me very happy and gave me the hope that Geoff Johns claims to want to bring back to the DCU. Every word of the story is an acknowledgement of everything DC has been doing wrong for not just the past five years, but perhaps the past thirty. I cannot help but be excited about what’s coming.

I am not going to spoil any of the major events or story beats of the book because I strongly believe that any comic book fan should experience Rebirth as I did – with no hints of what is to come and the ability to let the narrative sweep over them.

However, there’s no way to talk about the book without at least touching on certain things, so from here on out there could be very minor spoilers in that a few elements will be discussed. If you want to go into the book completely fresh, stop here.

If you need just a bit more convincing before you give DC another chance, read on.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

The Trouble with Nostalgia



As of writing this I have just turned 42. And since I have just become the answer to life, the universe and everything I feel entitled to to wax philosophical. Because, as Philip J. Fry so profoundly put it, I'm "old enough to feel ways about stuff". I certainly am older, but I think the wiser thing missed me completely. I did get to thinking about how I've changed, and how people in general seem to change over the years. Changes that can lead to getting stuck in the trap created by nostalgia.

Monday, May 23, 2016

1986: The Movies


Thirty years ago I was ten years old, which means I was still at optimal receptiveness for the things that would in 2016 evoke fond memories and feelings of nostalgia. I got the idea for this post from the first Dragon Con panel I was a part of – 1982: Best Sci-Fi Movie Year Ever? (or some such thing). We had a great discussion about the movies that came out that year. Sadly nobody recorded it, but I thoroughly enjoyed having a topic that was both broad and focused. It was only 1982 sci-fi movies, but there were plenty to discuss!


Friday, May 20, 2016

Needless Things Podcast 108 – DC Comics Rebirth

Phantom Troublemaker and Mike Gordon discuss the past, present, and future of DC Comics, including the upcoming “Rebirth” event!


Thursday, May 19, 2016

The Art of Ballyhoo




A friend of mine got hold of me and several others asking for suggestions to flesh out a convention panel on ‘Ballyhoo’ in filmmaking. If you’re not familiar with the ballyhoo in that context, it was a concept that used to make seeing some films way more enjoyable for audiences than some of the films would have been on their own. It was also a way to generate buzz for low budget films that might not have the money to spend on a real ad campaign.

William Castle was the undisputed genius of filmmaking ballyhoo. He would have the seats in theaters rigged with joy buzzers for showings of films like The Tingler, loaded with ghosts and skeletons that fell from the ceiling for films like The House on Haunted Hill, or by offering a “fright break” to refund the money of people too terrified to sit through an entire showing of Homicidal. Others would do things like advertising that theaters showing their films would have medical crews standing by in the lobbies to tend to those overcome by the horrors of the film they were seeing.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

"Method" or "Imagined" - Picking Your Character Design


Fantasy and reality are two separate worlds for a reason.  You dive into the realm of fiction to experience something new and different.  To take you away from your everyday life for awhile.  Granted, sometimes reality can mimic fiction in strange ways that can be interesting or unsettling.  You can find a character from TV or film that makes you convinced that the writers followed you around for ideas for its creation.  I can’t even watch Piper (Charmed) or Oliver (Arrow) without cringing or rolling my eyes for this very reason.  This could be good however, if you use these similarities to yourself to help you remember what you lost in you or to help you in a therapeutic way to deal with aspects of yourself you would otherwise sweep under the rug.  That being said, people enjoy fictional worlds and characters for varying reasons:  escape, entertainment, therapy, comparative analysis, etc.

But when this fictional world is a game and the character in it is one you are creating, how much of “reality” do you let bleed into your “fiction?”  In tabletop RPGs, what type of characters do you prefer to build?

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Ancient Toys of Yesteryear – Masters of the Universe 200X The General from Mattel

I’ve got a post going up in a couple of weeks that addresses some of the problems that modern toys are presenting to collectors. Essentially the days of high quality at an affordable price are gone and it’s harder for me to get excited about most of what’s being offered.

As such, I am looking to the past. Almost every toy line that I have ever collected has some holes in it. Figures or vehicles that have eluded me for one reason or another. Sometimes I might have gotten frustrated with a line and just quit, but liked the toys enough to hang onto them.

Monday, May 16, 2016

1986: The Toys


I turned 40 last Tuesday, which means this post would have probably been a bit more relevant to put up then. But I didn’t think of the idea until just now because I AM AN OLD MAN AND MY BRAIN IS SLOWING DOWN.

Thirty years ago I was ten years old, which means I was still at optimal receptiveness for the things that would in 2016 evoke fond memories and feelings of nostalgia. I got the idea for this post from the first Dragon Con panel I was a part of – 1982: Best Sci-Fi Movie Year Ever? (or some such thing). We had a great discussion about the movies that came out that year. Sadly nobody recorded it, but I thoroughly enjoyed having a topic that was both broad and focused. It was only 1982 sci-fi movies, but there were plenty to discuss!

Over the next few weeks I’m going to touch on a broad range of pop culture subjects from 1986 – movies, toys, TV – and just share some memories about the things that affected me the most. Today I’m starting with the toys and cartoons (all of which are related) because this is, after all, Needless Things.