The biggest news story about comics last week was that Disney would be moving the license to produce Star Wars comic books from Dark Horse, the license holder for over 22 years, to Marvel Comics, which is part of the Disney Empire. This was certainly big news but it was something we had all expected since Disney bought Lucasfilm.

What was more surprising and for me more exciting was that Jim Starlin will be producing new Marvel comics featuring his creations. Jim Starlin is one of my favorite creators, his work isn’t always perfect but it’s interesting and usually inventive. He’s a creator that Marvel owes a debt they can/will never be able to repay (with Jack Kirby, Joe Simon, Steve Ditko, Chris Claremont, Len Wein, Steve Gerber, Bill Mantlo…).

What was particularly fun about this story was that it kept developing throughout the week.

On Monday, Marvel Comics selected Newsarama to announce that in 2014 they would be releasing a new 100 page original graphic novel writen and drawn by Jim Starlin featuring his creations Thanos and Drax and a character, my favorite, who he redefined Adam Warlock.

Later that day, Newsarama published an interview with Starlin where he mentioned that “Thanos: The Infinity Revelation” was just one of three interconnected projects he was doing for Marvel.

On Friday, Comic Book Resources published its own interview with Starlin and he specified that the three projects would all star Thanos.

That same day, Heidi MacDonald published Starlin’s response to her Annual Year End Survey where Starlin named the remaining projects. The two remaining projects, yet to be officially announced, are a four-issue story arc on “Savage Hulk” (no such title currently exists) that he will write and pencil and a 30-page story for a “Thanos Annual” that he will write.

There’s still no announcement as to when we can expect to see these comic books but the Guardians of the Galaxy movie (featuring many of Starlin’s characters and concepts) opens August 1st, so I expect these to come out before then. I also expect that Marvel will announce it’s April solicitations next week, so I expect the Infinity Revelation will be included in those and available in April.

The Savage Hulk, if that title is correct, is probably a new series like the Avenging Spider-Man and Savage Wolverine. Two titles with rotating creators telling stories that may or may not be in continuity. Starlin is a great creator to launch the title with since I’m already excited for it.

A Christmas Story is required Christmas viewing for me because it’s view of Christmas is most like mine. There are no miracles, no big family get-togethers, no life altering encounters or revelations, and no wacky travel hijinks. It’s a Christmas movie with no mention of religion, it’s just a small family who love each other even if they annoy one another and disagree from time to time.

In such a quotable and generally fast moving story, my favorite moment, which can only be completely appreciated on a second viewing, is when Ralphie and Randy meet back up with their parents after they’ve seen Santa and we get this dialog:

The Old Man: Well, did you see Santa Claus? Did you tell him what you wanted for Christmas? Did he ask you if you’d been a good boy all year?

Ralphie: No.

The Old Man: Don’t worry, he knows. He always knows.

What’s great there is not just that The Old Man is having fun with his son, it’s that the Old Man is talking about himself. He knows that Ralphie wants the official Red Ryder carbine action 200-shot range model air rifle with a compass in the stock and “this thing which tells time,” despite the fact that Ralphie has asked everyone but his father for it. And the Old Man has already bought it for him without even his wife knowing.

Throughout the movie The Old Man has very little to do with the daily parenting duties of the boys and they don’t relate all that often (“It was the first time that it had been suggested that I go help my father with anything.”). But this is a moment where The Old Man is eagerly looking forward to making his son happy tomorrow morning. For me, this is one of the best, most honest depictions of gift giving and love that comes up in a Christmas movie.

70 minutes into Iron Man Three I looked at my watch and thought, “Oh god, there’s another hour of this.”

I hated this movie. I was hoping for fun adventure like the preceding movies but this one was different, it had far too many problems that made it impossible to like. These problems fall into three main categories: 1) problems adapting the Iron Man mythos into film, 2) problems fitting into the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and 3) problems as a movie.

Problems of the first type don’t bother me as much as you might think. I’m not an Iron Man fan and don’t know the finer details of the source material very well. I wasn’t even able to get a copy of Extremis from the SFPL until this week. So I’m willing to accept changes and adaptations additions and subtractions provided it’s an improvement.

The second set of problems are far worse though. Because while none of the preceding movies have required us to have a base knowledge of the comics, they reward and rely on our knowledge of the previous films. A key aspect of The Avengers was that the characters had all been established in previous films, we only needed to see them interact. Iron Man the first was able to stand alone but ended with a hint of “a bigger universe.” Iron Man 2 went out of its way to set up stuff for Thor and Captain America and make references to Iron Man and The Incredible Hulk but this movie tries to stand alone to it’s detriment.

And the third set of problems are what kill it for me. There are too many inconsistencies, plot holes, ill conceived conversations, and more to keep me engaged in what I should be engaged in. I am very willing to suspend disbelief for a movie but it has to be earned. A Suspension of disbelief means “you get the small stuff right, I won’t ask the big questions.” That means I have no problem with Iron Man armor or any other superscience as long as you’re consistent with how it works. turn off your brain and enjoy the action. I’m fine with that, I saw GI Joe 2 and I’ll be seeing Fast & Furious 6 in a few weeks, but I didn’t need to do that for the last Iron Man movies, I shouldn’t have to do it for this one.

Here are the problems (and detailed spoilers) that have stuck with me long after the movie ended:
read more from "The Awful Iron Man 3"

Brian Michael Bendis is one of the biggest comic book writers there is. I first started reading his comics in 2000 when he started doing work for Marvel Comics. I read his Ultimate Spider-Man and Daredevil and Powers. He’d been making comics on his own and through Image for years but when I found his David Mamet-inspired work it was exciting. Eventually I grew tired of breezy comics populated with indistinct characters talking around tables and engaging in little or vague action. While I wasn’t picking up his comics they continued to top the sales charts thanks to his dedicated fan base. Bendis is now leaving the Avengers franchise he’s helmed for eight years to launch a third volume of the Guardians of the Galaxy.

Bendis’ iteration will follow up on the critically acclaimed second volume made of Marvel’s formerly abandoned cosmic heroes which is due for a summer blockbuster in theaters 2014. As a kid I read the odd issue of the original title and was a loyal reader of the second volume. I like the characters and think there is a lot of potential for great storytelling but sadly I don’t expect Bendis to capitalize on that.

A few weeks ago he did a promotional interview with his employer in order to sell their product where he said,

“My thought as a writer is that space in between planets is where the good stuff happens; this is where they have time to interact with each other. Think about Star Wars; the best scene in Star Wars is when they’re going from one planet to the other and Obi Wan is trying to teach Luke about the Force. And the Wookie is playing chess with the robots. That’s the good stuff, that’s where you get to know everybody. That’s what space means to me.”

The first problem with that statement is the fallacy of stating his opinion as a fact. I doubt many people would consider that the best scene in the movie. I would say the Death Star battle, or the rescue of Princess Leia, or the Cantina scene, or entering Mos Eisley, or “that’s no moon,” or the opening scene. The movie is full of memorable moments and the scene he’s mentioning is one of those, but it’s hardly the one people turn the movie on to see.

The real problem with his statement is that his reasoning doesn’t hold up because, that isn’t when we got to know the characters. The scene he’s describing is the fortieth scene in the movie. By that point we’ve spent time with characters and they’ve distinguished themselves in our minds through their actions. We’ve seen that Luke is an adventurous kid willing to try new things despite anyone trying to discourage him when he set out after R2-D2. We’ve seen that R2-D2 takes risks and that C-3PO will be trying to hold him back when they escaped the Rebel ship and stumbled around in the desert. We’ve seen that Obi-Wan is in tune with something larger than the others when he scared off Sand People and tricked Stormtroopers. We’ve seen that Han is a man who survives by his wits and willingness to fight when he killed the assassin that came to collect him.

No matter how many jokes Han cracks around a chessboard, we’ll never learn more about him than we did when he shot Greedo in the middle of their conversation. But Bendis thinks the best way to illuminate character is to have them sit around a table. He’s been given a character that allows him to send his characters anywhere in the vast Marvel Comics Universe but he’s most excited about having his cast sit around a table and talk. That self imposed limitation is why I stopped reading Brian Michael Bendis’ comics years ago and why I won’t be revising that decision anytime soon.

The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and their world were created by Peter Laird & Kevin Eastman in May 1984. They were 30 & 22 years old respectively when their empire began. Eventually age and creative difference settled in and they had a falling out. Eastman sold his half to Laird beginning in 2000 (with the deal completed in 2008). Laird continued to run the businesses until 2009 when he sold 100% control to Nickelodeon. This was 25 years since the first comic came out and at that point the comics stopped production, the latest cartoon had already run its course and ended in 2009, the last movie was in 2007 and outside of anniversary figures the toy line was ended.

Until last year there was a dry period with no new Turtles content as Nickelodeon developed their plans. Those began with a line of new comics from IDW beginning last August (with Eastman involved), a rollercoaster at the Mall of America opened on March 17, a new cartoon and toy line will start in the fall, and there will be a movie for Christmas 2013.

It’s nice to see new content but I’m not sure if it’s content I want. I know they don’t need to cater to me but I also know I don’t need to buy what they’re selling. I have the comics, movies, toys and video games from my childhood and still enjoy them. It’s on Nickelodeon to produce something worth my present attention.

The comics are nice but aren’t telling new stories, they’re more focused on redoing what’s come before. I completely understand the need to market to the child who replaced me rather than retain the man I’ve become. I admire their attempt to combine the best aspects of the past continuity into one thread. As they braid these histories together they have introduced new characters (Old Hob) and complications (reincarnation, Young Casey Jones) that I find cheapen the story rather than build on it. I’ll give the book a few more issues to develop into something I want.

The Turtles are a very simple concept with distinct but broad characters who can be easily explained and adapted so it is unnecessary to spend time discussing their origins when there are new adventures waiting. I’ve written before that these characters taught me about continuity at a young age. No matter how I was following Raphael he would be rushing into a fight before thinking it through but the stakes would be different if he was in a black and white comic, a movie, a children’s cartoon or an Archie comic.

This will be true even as Nickelodeon resumes the empire. From its inception the branches will be different: this fall’s cartoon will be less “adult” than the comics and the movie from Michael Bay’s company with aliens will be different than all the others.

The movie is the most controversial and has generated waves of outcry but I can’t find it in me to care. At this point I know that I don’t ever want to see a Michael Bay directed or produced movie again because I won’t enjoy it. And I don’t need to see the movie because it has the Turtles in it. I have the original movies on my shelf right now.

In fact I have enough old movies that I want to watch for a first, second or twelfth time that I don’t need to see everything that is shoved into movie theaters week in and week out. I know that there are classic comics I haven’t read that I’d find more rewarding than 99% of the stuff on each week’s new releases rack. I’m going to keep focusing on the stuff I want rather than what’s put in front of me.

In October 2005 a doctor warned me I could be going blind in one eye. I imagined what life would be like without depth perception. The big loss would be not seeing Star Wars in 3d.

I had grown up a Star Wars fan. I watched the original trilogy whenever it came on tv. I played with a few action figures I got at a garage sale. I memorized Star Tours. And I dipped into the Expanded Universe: comics and novels.

I couldn’t have been more excited for the Prequels. I hadn’t loved the Special Editions but I was ready for more but not what was coming. I didn’t like Episode I and only saw Episode II once, just before it left the theaters. But then came Genndy Tartakovsky’s Clone Wars and then Episode III in the summer of 2005. To everyone’s surprise, including myself & my girlfriend of four months (now my wife), I was a fan again.

Shortly thereafter a coworker with a Rebel Alliance isignia tattooed on his bicep told me of the early rumors that George Lucas planned to convert the movies into 3D. This was back before the current 3D resurgence of desperate theaters, increased ticket prices, dimmed projection, and movies that either ignored their 3D or went for quick gimmicks. In short, there was potential. The thought of the massive space battles in 3D dug in and stayed in my mind. This would be a big improvement over my childhood habit of looking up into a nighttime snow storm and trying to dodge the flakes.

The height of my outbreakOn October 4, 2005 I woke up and noticed a zit on my face. A few hours later it had doubled in size and had company. This was the beginning of my first outbreak of shingles. Each doctor I saw (and there were many) warned me that if I got a blister on my eye ball it could blind it. This wasn’t an idle threat as the blisters were overwhelming my eyelids.

I was eventually put on a wonder steroid to calm it down but the threat was always there. Since then I’ve had one other outbreak of Shingles (oddly on October 4, 2009). Now at last Star Wars is coming out in 3D. It is not be the best movie, and I’m not the fan I was, and 3D isn’t as enticing as it once seemed, but it is Star Wars in 3D and I can see it, so I will.

For more than eleven years I’ve lived in San Francisco I have been frustrating locals with my loyalty to San Diego sports teams. But what can I do? I lived there first? I moved to San Diego the summer before I turned four and was instilled with San Diego loyalty by my father who had grown up there.

Three years later we moved to Northern California which put us in the media market for Sacramento and the San Francisco Bay Area. That meant we could see games of the SF Giants and 49ers and Oakland’s A’s and Raiders. We could still see some of our San Diego games when when they played their division rivals: the Padres vs. the Giants and the Chargers vs. the Raiders. This means to me the Giants and Raiders have always been opponents. I’ll keep track of what they’re doing but only to see how it relates to America’s Finest City’s teams.

Thankfully the 49ers and the A’s only play the San Diego teams once every few years (less before the MLB started interleague play). So I could wear my Red & Gold with pride and without any sense of betrayal. I want to see all four of those teams do well each and every year. The best Super Bowl match up I ever got was XXIX and at the start of every season I hope for another one. But maybe this time The Unconventional City could win their first national professional sports championship.

In the lead up to today’s primary vote, I’ve been hearing/reading the phrase “South Carolina picks the President” which is always followed by a pair of disclaimers which invalidate the statement. In our current era of constant hyperbolic predictions by the media, I wanted to point out how important those disclaimers are.

The first disclaimer is “…because whoever wins the South Carolina Republican primary wins the nomination.” This might be hard for some people to comprehend but it’s important to remember that the Republican nominee for President is not actually the President of the United States of America. To date Clinton and Obama together defeated three Republicans: Bush in ‘92, Dole in ‘96 and McCain in ‘08.

The second disclaimer is “…since 1980.” Which means that the relationship between the South Carolina Primary and the eventual nominee is a relatively new one. 32 years might seem like a long time (it’s longer than I’ve been alive for one) but that’s only eight elections. Three of those primaries/nominations went to incumbent Republican Presidents (Reagan in ‘84, Bush in ‘92, Bush Jr in ‘04) and one was to the incumbent VP moving up (Bush in ‘88). That leaves four other primaries/nominations were there was some suspense: Reagan in ‘80, Dole in ‘96, Bush Jr in ‘00 and McCain in ‘08.

South Carolina shouldn’t be bragging about 32 years of presidential accuracy when they really mean 8 of 8 and more accurately 4 of 4 or 5 of 5. In that same period though the state has given all eight of its electoral college votes to the republican nominee, though the Southern Democrats have made some close races (Carter in ‘80 and Clinton in ‘92 and ‘96).

Most importantly there is a third disclaimer that no one will say out loud: “South Carolina isn’t the deciding factor in the nominations.” It’s only the third state in the archaic and undemocratic primary system and with many more states to vote before the national convention. The people of South Carolina’s primary votes have lined up with the last eight nominees but that’s no reason to think that will happen a ninth consecutive time or a tenth or so on.
Thankfully South Carolina is not America. It’s just a small part of it.

The other day a coworker was comparing her son and her niece who are both my age. She was thinking about the promise these cousins had shown as children and how different parenting styles had encouraged or prodded them into their current situations. She reflected on how much resistance the kids had offered along the way and any resentment lingered in their minds.

To round out her analysis she then asked how much prodding I got from my parents. Had they made me play sports or join clubs I didn’t want to or keep me from ones I wanted? Had they insisted I go to college? Had they said which school I should go to or what I should study?

I was happy to answer “No” to all her questions.

The only team sport I played in a league for was children’s soccer. I liked the game and my friends played so I asked to join. I enjoyed it for a while and then decided not to renew for third season. My mom was fine with that and asked why so I explained I was tired of my friend’s mother who screamed throughout the game.

My parents met at college but neither of them graduated from there (though my mother went back later to complete her degree and later still to get an MBA) and I made up my own mind to go to college. A few colleges sent me offers but I applied to only one school which accepted me and then gave me a full ride scholarship. I went in with a plan of what I wanted to study, found I didn’t care for that and switched. If at any point my parents didn’t agree with my plans they never vocalized them in front of me.

The one thing my mom told me I couldn’t do when I grow up was join the military. This came up when I came in from playing with my GI Joes in the backyard and said I wanted to join the army. She flatly told me that would not be happening. And she was right. I didn’t want to join the real army, I wanted to join GI Joe.

I haven’t joined GI Joe but my life has gone pretty well to date and I’m thankful my parents never pushed me into or kept me from any interest.

I first saw Patrice O’Neal in the fall of 2002 when he joined Comedy Central’s Contest: Searchlight. The mockumentary followed the imaginary contest that had lead to the creation of a tv show called “Jesus and the Gang.” Peter Gallagher had been “hit by a car” and could no longer play the title character so Patrice was brought in to play the character in western wear. He described his character as “Big Black Cowboy Jesus” and sweetened an already funny show.

After that I searched out a few recordings of his stand up on the untamed internet of the day. He had a brilliant way of twisting the ordinary and could be delightfully vulgar. Whatever he was talking about he could always make me laugh, sometimes in spite of myself.

My friends and I planned a trip to New York City for March 2003 and to get in the mood the night before I went to see “25th Hour” a second time in the theater. Patrice had a scene in that as “Khari” a bouncer who gives Ed Norton’s character some advice about prison. I left the movie excited about the adventures I was about to have.

The second night we were out there we wound up in The Comedy Cellar without realizing how significant a place it was. We had a wonderful time tucked away in a corner which gave us a view of the whole room including the stage and the entrance. As the show went on I wondered if the only comedian I wanted to see would be there. And then halfway through the night, a large man entered and went through the center of the room towards the bathroom. It was Patrice.

My knee started bouncing under the table and I had to wait another two comedians before he came on but it was worth it. I can’t remember how he got on the topic but he did a really long bit on the sound of a penis going into a vagina. It was everything I thought he would be.

When I got home I put on the tape of the Chappelle’s Show that I missed while travelling and saw Patrice as Pit-Bull attending the Playa Hater’s Ball. It was the most Patrice O’Neal-ish week possible.

Ever since then I tried to follow his career and keep up with his appearance on the second episode of Arrested Development, Shorties Watchin’ Shorties, his comedy specials on HBO and Comedy Central, guest appearances on The Office and more.

Hearing that he had a stroke last month was upsetting but I held out hope that was dashed this morning as he passed away. I’ll always remember how much laughter and insight he brought to my life. Thanks for everything Big Black Cowboy Jesus!

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