Friday, January 15, 2016

My Marvel-ous Project

I could not bring myself to write about one of my latest mad little projects. I make it a practice to never (read this as not often, or maybe occasionally) do things that I am ashamed of. This blog will be all about something I am not particularly proud of. I decided to take a stand against a Comic Book Publisher. I will try to keep this spoiler free as long as possible, I will warn you when the spoilers start.
I love clear continuity. It doesn’t exist in too many formats anymore. DC has a cinematic universe, a TV universe, a comic universe, and even within their comic universe there are 52 separate but (mostly) equal realities. Keeping it in order involves a flow chart, the Dewey Decimal system, and the equivalent of a Ph.D. in comic book studies from the University of Krypton, Gotham Campus.
Marvel, oh my sweet glorious Marvel, to my knowledge had never clarified how many parallel realities were contained in its universes. It too has the cinematic universe but that takes place in the same space/time as the universe you see on TV with Agent Carter, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., and with all the Netflix originals. So far, they have managed to put their film/TV universe in order.
Last year both Marvel and DC had big events. Both companies hinted or outright stated that their event would clear up all questions of Continuity. I bitched, complained, and promptly signed up with my shop to get all the relevant issues of both series.
DC launched Convergence. I loved the main series. I enjoyed most of the spin-off books. The event from start to finish spanned 2 months. I understood almost nothing that was going on because I am historically more of a Marvel guy. I read a LOT of Wikipedia. I had long quasi-intellectual conversations with my comic customers. It gained me a few friends (totally worth the cost of all of this. Don’t let my bitching and complaining detract from that).
When Convergence ended I modified my pull list for DC. I actually added titles. Before Convergence, I read Batman, Harley Quinn, and Constantine period. Now my pulls for DC are:
Batman and Robin Eternal
Constantine The Hellblazer
Harley Quinn
Justice League
and I admit I have been looking hard at adding New Suicide Squad and Red Hood and Arsenal.
Convergence was NOT a reset button turning all of DC’s parallel realities into one. It was a mixing of worlds for FUN that ended up restoring Earth 2 which had previously (unbeknownst to me) been destroyed. I felt a LITTLE bit deceived, but I enjoyed the ride.
Around the same time, Marvel launched Secret Wars. The stated goal was the same. Marvel killed off a bunch of characters, destroyed all of its parallel realities, and brought all the heroes and villains to Battleworld. That is a slightly rehashed version of the original Secret Wars. The destruction of all of reality was a new enough twist I was willing to take the plunge. At the outset, Marvel warned me that the story would unfold from April until December in 8 issues.
I pinched my nose. I dove into the deep water. I read A lot of DC and indy comics while waiting from month to month for the Secret Wars main series issue. Each one was visually stunning even though I have come to hate the painted art style in comics. I am a clean line and ink kind of guy.
Around month 6 Marvel announced that Secret Wars would become a 9 part series instead of 8 and would spill over into January 2016. I cursed. I kicked. I screamed. I prayed for more indy books. Why did I have all this angst related to comic releases?
Some jackass at Marvel headquarters decided that having 40 or 50 monthly Secret Wars related books was simply not enough to eat up 3/4 of a year. Marvel made the BRILLIANT decision to begin releasing new Number 1 issues for post-Secret Wars stories starting in October 2015.
*deep breath*
Hold it.
Pretend to meditate.
Fail at the ruse.
Apologize for cursing during Prayer.
Pray harder.
*remember to keep breathing*
and *sigh*
Marvel… I am going to speak directly to you now. First, What the Hell? I understand that some jack off that has 5 degrees all related to manipulating the minds and buying powers of the public has convinced you to reset your numbering system every 24 months. I have stuck with you through the fact that neither you nor DC has figured out how to do this without completely screwing it up, but there has to be a line somewhere.
You have crossed it.
You went WAY, WAY past the line.
You passed it so long ago you forgot there was a line to cross.
It isn’t too late. Some of us have not given up hope. I, as an example, decided to forgive you. I created myself a fun little project in response to this completely RETARDED move. I figured out a plan, man. I didn’t even ask any of my friends to join me.
My project was simple. I quit reading any of the Secret Wars tie-in books. I only read the main series as soon as I found out the new Number 1s would start printing before the end of your “Secret War.”I did this to budget funds to buy ALL the new issues as they released. I had to do that because I had no intention of reading any of them until Secret Wars finished. 
My reasoning for this was very simple. I didn’t want any spoilers. I didn’t want to know what heroes and villains were going to make it to the far side. I even wanted to commit to not studying any cover art for answers.
Do you assholes know how hard that is while working in a comic book shop?
My dedication to your company speaks literal volumes (the ones piled up in a short box waiting to be read). Once upon a time, I subscribed to the majority of the Marvel Universe. I literally rejected only Fantastic Four, Ghost Rider, Daredevil, and Punisher. As of AvX, I was readying $400 to $600 a month worth of comic books. The majority of them being Marvel titles.
After AvX I actually expanded slightly for new titles in the Ultimate universe too.
Let’s do the downfall in Order.From here on out there will be Spoilers kids. Read with caution.
You have been warned.
Abandon All Hope Ye Who Read On
AvX was damned solid. Nuff Said. Result- David adds books.
Age of Ultron killed any interest in events. It was complete garbage given that it was its own damned reset button. Result- David’s pull list remains unchanged
Infinity had nothing to do with Thanos. It was a big handjob to end in the destruction of Attilan and release the Terrigen Mists. This had FUCK ALL to do with the Builders. It had NOTHING to do with anything but making the Inhumans begin to replace the Mutants as the hot-button issue in the Marvel universe. This was done so that Fox wouldn’t profit off its licensing of the X-Men IP. Douche move Marvel, but I accept business is business. You could have accomplished the same thing in a single issue event or two issues of the Avengers. Result- David drops New and Secret Avengers and reads a lot more Thunderbolts.
Battle of the Atom is Bendis’s execution of the X-men for the above-stated reasons. Fuck you, Bendis. Go destroy Archie comics. It’s not noble to kill off titles, man. His formula is simple time travel x familiar characters from the past in the future = easy to write tripe that runs readers away from books that Marvel doesn’t want read.  Result- David drops all X-men Titles.
Original Sin….shit… no one still understands what was said that made Thor unworthy of his own damned hammer. No one knows why Captain America suddenly is an old guy. Oh, wait, That same jack off with his marketing skills says that there isn’t enough diversity in comic book characters. Let me translate… they want money from non-white people too. This isn’t done in an effort to be noble or unifying. It is a money grab. Result- David drops Spider-man and a few other titles
Death of Wolverine – eat a dick, Marvel. You killed him in the same year that I lost a friend who loved this character as much as I do. To make it more insulting Wolverine either killed himself or went out like the world’s biggest dumb ass. Result- David reads only event books, Thor, Loki, and Thunderbolts until they cancel the damned thing.
AXIS is a giant reset button of its own. Red Onslaught? The original was red. Stop pushing rehashed shit at your readers. Monk Deadpool?? At least the art in this pile is decent.
All of this brings us to Secret Wars.
It started out so strong. Literally, nothing matters in the series from issue 6 until the end of issue 9. You used it as a way to write off the Fantastic Four definitively for the same reason you did away with the mutants. Again, I don’t mind the business decision. I guess it was nice of you to give Doctor Doom his face back. I loved seeing Molecule Man on some panels again, but as far as I can tell nothing has really changed.
We had a multiverse before the lead up to Secret Wars began. Each multiverse had its own Beyonder. At the end, we have a new multiverse made up of as many universes. Each multiverse has its own Molecule Man who serves the function of a Beyonder.
Prof X is still dead.
Wolverine is still dead, but you are using his name to sell a book about X-23 that we don’t care about. Oh, by the way, Old Man Logan isn’t a consolation prize. That original series was great, but Old Logan with young Jean is just too creepy.
Cyclops is old. Cyclops is young. Cyclops has the Phoenix force even though that character was clearly killed. You did a great job cleaning up that mess.
Thanos had his spine ripped out by Doctor Doom rather casually. He must be gone…only he isn’t.
The Maker was torn to shreds by Molecule Man and is clearly not able to be alive…only he is the villain in the New Avengers book. Good job keeping the new continuity clean.
Angel was a mutant with Angelic wings. Only that guy got his wings torn off and Apocalypse gave him new ones made of metal, but wait young Angel took a gift from the Black Vortex and has Celestial Wings. All of these things are NOT clean continuity.
Here is the kicker guys. I haven’t read anything past Secret Wars number 9. These are just the messes and inconsistencies I can pull off the top of my head from COVER ART!
I made a project out of falling back in love with Marvel Comics. The project really begins now. I am going to pull out spanking new Marvel number 1 issues and give these books a try on their own merits. As soon as I fall out of love with a book I am going to stop reading and remove it from my purchase list. I don’t see the odds being too much in your favor on getting too much more of my money Marvel. Don’t worry though I am looking forward to finding out.
Here is what my current Marvel pull list looks like;
All New, All Different Avengers
All New Hawkeye
All New Inhumans
All New Wolverine
All New X-Men
Amazing Spider-man
Angela Queen of Hel
Doctor Strange
Drax (I will probably keep this one for my love of CM Punk)
Extraordinary X-men
Guardians of the Galaxy
Howard the Duck
Invincible Iron Man
Mighty Thor
Ms. Marvel
New Avengers
Old Man Logan (once it releases)
Scarlet Witch
Spider-man Deadpool
Starbrand and Nightmask
Uncanny Avengers
Uncanny Inhumans
Uncanny X-Men

I will keep you all updated on what survives the cut. In the meantime, get your shit together Marvel. Write good stories with great art and stop it with the continuous stream of events.

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Doing Nothing While Walking The Path

When I was a kid one of the worst trespasses you could commit toward my Mother was to whine and say,” I’m bored.” The punishment for this sin was, for me at least, vacuuming. To this day I hate to vacuum. I do not like to say I am in any way intelligent. (I have come to believe I am entirely devoid of smarts.) When I was a kid though I was quickly conditioned to not say,” I am bored.” because I did NOT want to vacuum.
For the majority of my life, I believed that Mom detested pointless whining. That is certainly true, but the truth of why she hated that particular complaint is a little more meaningful. When a child complains,” I’m bored.” what is actually being said is,”Pay attention to me because I am unable to occupy myself.”
This is a problem on multiple fronts. Parents SHOULD pay their kids attention, but kids should also be able to occupy their own minds for at least some time. A child unable to do this quickly becomes troublesome for their parents. Over time this devolves into social issues and problems with attention span. The kid probably behaves bratty and spoiled.
My Mom though swims in deeper mental pools than most. I was taught to entertain myself. I learned to be quiet and read. I played outside. I built tree houses. I taught myself to draw. I got very, very comfortable being on my own.
An interesting thing happens when you are comfortable with yourself. You get quieter. You start to See, Hear, Smell, Taste, Feel, and Experience the world. You Learn something vast and important.  While that is happening you get very comfortable with the idea of doing Nothing.
To all you parents out there, you will be very, very familiar with Nothing in the capital sense of the word. I know I certainly spent most of my childhood and teen years doing Nothing. I was super proud when I  saw my daughter start to do Nothing on her own. I remember well the day I noticed it.
I waited in line to pick my daughter up from school. She was in the third grade. When she got into the car I greeted her and asked what she had done today. She answered,” Nothing.” I grinned and asked,” What did you guys learn in Math today?” She shrugged her shoulders and said,” Nothing.” I asked her what she had for lunch and she spent five minutes describing the menu. Most parents are familiar with this phenomenon, but we don’t put much thought into it.
Taila had not spent her day doing nothing. She had learned plenty about Math, Science, History, and the like. Her brain was crammed so full of information that if most adults attempted the workload they would sit in a stupor. Nothing though is a special mental state that through Effortless Effort much is Experienced and Learned. I was glad to see her reach Nothing. It comes fairly easily to most kids, but along the way, most of us forget how to do Nothing.
For me getting to Nothing is difficult because I want to have Control. I have goals I want to reach and I want to get there my way. The problem with this is that what I want to do isn’t always on the Path. While Nothing represents the blank mind or the Uncarved Block, The Path represents a Natural Way. This is a concept akin to Fate or Destiny, but at the same time, it is wholly different.
I always feel I am on the Path when I don’t feel I am fighting the current to swim through the river of my life. (Man, I metaphored a metaphor. That means I win Metaphors.) Normally while I am on the Path things seem to just work out. I feel like I am succeeding without any particular push or effort toward that success. When things get very difficult and I start stressing, being worried, and dealing with anxiety I know I have stepped off the Path.
I normally have to Reflect for a while doing Nothing to find the Path again. Some days it is harder for me to do Nothing than others. It is difficult for me to let my mind shift out of gear and just relax. It amazes me how often walking down the Path goes hand in hand with Doing What is Right.

All of these ideas come from Taoism. I cannot fairly be called a Taoist. I do wish I could learn to be a better human being though and Taoism is a great system of philosophy to help me along the way. If any of what I have to say makes you curious about Taoism I strongly suggest reading the Tao of Pooh by Benjamin Hoff. He uses A.A. Milne’s Winnie the Pooh to explain Taoism is very simple terms. It is a book that has had great influence in my life, but it doesn’t have anywhere near the impact of my Mom’s old Kirby vacuum cleaner. Thanks to it I am never bored.

Sunday, January 3, 2016

Divine Dictation

I am rereading On Writing by Stephen King. This is my third complete read and probably my twentieth return to this particular font of inspiration. It is an important Work. I believe he knew that as he wrote it. My favorite quote from the book is,”Writers are blessed stenographers taking divine dictation.”

Master King also, in plain simple language, says that writing is telepathy. This isn’t a metaphor or an analogy. He means this as a literal truth, or perhaps it is a literary truth (BAM bad pun!). I know that he has not been locked up in a mental ward for stating this fact. Don’t any of you go doubting my sanity for agreeing with his observation? You won’t. I know you all. I know your minds from all the time you spend reading mine. I trust all of you. Because of that fact, I am going to go bravely out on a limb here and expose some of the deeper chambers of my mind and soul using this Magic.
Before we go there together, I do want to say that there has been something of a resurgence of my ability to write. While I also agree with Master King that as writers we don’t wholly create our works and act as a channel or medium for stories told On High. With that accepted as true, I have to say that I can lose motivation to write. I am not published. I do not get much feedback on the things I do put out into the public eye. At times that discourages me. I occasionally lose the desire to take dictation.
The best way I motivate myself to keep putting words to the page is by reading.  Ernest Cline has been my muse since 2015. Ready Player One is an absolute masterpiece. Armada is the book that got me excited about writing again. It is a little predictable, but at its, heart Armada is an Adventure story. Those simply do not get written anymore, or at least they are rarely done well. I appreciate that Ernest Cline leaves me feeling inspired and motivated to tell my own stories. This may be a generational connection. Who knows?
On to Deeper Things.
I have wanted my whole life to have Magic or Power. Luke Skywalker made me want to use the Force. I wanted to be an X-man. I could never agree which one I would like to be, but that was not the worthy part. I found with writing that I do have power. My words can reach through space and time and connect my mind to yours, dear Reader.
In order to make that connection, I simply open my mind and let the words flow. You read them, begin to connect my ideas with the thoughts in your mind, and finally, we form a connection where you begin to expect the words I will write next. Even people who have never and will never meet me understand me on a very personal level. I suspect that I give away more of myself in the exchange than I mean, but every Power comes with a cost.
There it is. David believes that what he writes is performing Magic or at least telepathy. He also is writing in the third person. Grab your torches and pitchforks!
Since I have freaked you all out any way I might as well go the Full Monty. There is a much deeper implication of writing having power. I want to make two simple points that have very deep implications. You have read this far into the deep water. Follow me a little farther and we can all happily drown together.
First, If this telepathy is real then we should all be very careful what minds we chose to touch. Humans have a known and obvious weakness. When we expose ourselves to something sad we get sad. When we experience something silly, we become playful and try to have fun. In other words, Mentally we are what we eat. This kids is why I do not watch most horror movies. Darkness in means Darkness out.
Second, this telepathy puts a new importance on reading true Holy works. I love God, but I do not participate in organized religion. For years I have defended this position through a series of bluffs and feints. The truth is I rarely enter into any type of organized religion without feeling judged and very judgmental myself. I have confined my worship to reading the Bible, reflecting on myself through prayer, and when I find someone in a situation that I feel my words will help lead them closer to God I witness.

I envy people who can live their Faith loudly. I am not that person. I do very much like the idea that I am able to touch the mind of the men who wrote the Bible. They themselves were taking direct Divine Dictation from Him. None of this is news to me. I am just putting it down here because I believe it is important to pass along. That is the reason I write most of these things. I feel a call to share my words. I have faith that my words find the minds that they are meant to.

December 2nd Comic Books on a Budget