Interesting Podcasts

I can’t remember the last time I did one of these, so that must mean it’s time to write one!  

Originally I was going to dedicate an entire post to Make Dad Read Comics; I would still like to do that, but I’m still feeling a little conflicted because I don’t want to draw too much attention to the fact that the titular Dad (Patrick Sr.) passed away in July.  I cannot share this podcast enough, and while it is sad that it won’t be continuing, the massive backlog of shows is well worth listening to for two reasons:

  1. The conversations Patrick and his Dad had are often hilarious and heartwarming.  It’s also great to hear the progression Dad makes from the beginning of the show to the end.  His understanding of comics was on display and it’s a real treat to listen to the shows where he really likes a book they read.
  2. You can learn about some new comics / books to read that may not have been on your radar.  I’m currently reading Black Monday Murders, which was the second to last episode they did together.  It’s fantastic.  Previous to that I read I Kill Giants.  Both of these books were highly rated by Patrick & Dad.  I just saw today that I also have Persepolis waiting for me at the library.

Twenty Thousand Hertz – I’ve talked about this podcast in the past, so I thought I would highlight a particular episode that I really enjoyed:  Episode 46 | Slot Machines.  The sound design in this episode was amazing.  The producers did a great job of replicating the casino sounds (there was even a moment where they layered in the various sounds of the casino one at a time, and ended up with what it actually sounds like at a casino).  It was fun to learn about some of the techniques they employ as well, and the history of slot machine music.  Very fun, I highly recommend it.  And it won’t leave you jaded about the slot machine industry.

The Big Story – this one is produced by Rogers Media (I work there, I have to mention that), and is a Mon-Fri (except holidays) daily show that covers the “big topics” (hence…the Big Story) of the day.  The episodes are about 20 minutes in length, and up until this week I’ve been listening to all of them.  They’ve been pretty interesting so far, but some topics I decided I can skip – I don’t need to be a completest here.

Based On A True Story – I haven’t listened to any of the most recent episodes, but checked out A League Of Their Own and The Social Network.  The gist of this one is the host watches movies that are, well, based on a true story, and researches the true story behind them.  I’ve picked out a few movies I’ve seen and want to hear his take behind, and as I go through the list I realize that there are more I missed the first time and need to add.  The episodes are short and easily digestible (usually around the 30 minute mark) so they make for a fun break between my usual episode list.

What else have you got that I haven’t listed here?  Maybe I can check it out in 2-3 months when I’ve caught up on my 90+ shows 🙂 

Avengers Infinity War – Review (Spoilers)

I put “spoilers” in the title, but they’re probably pretty mild.  Honestly, I need to see this movie a second time to really take it in.  There’s a lot going on here.

I'm pretty sure this is an accurate representation of Thanos' Gauntlet.
I’m pretty sure this is an accurate representation of Thanos’ Gauntlet.

I liked the movie.  Quite a bit more than I expected to, honestly.  What I expected was a mostly coherent movie with all of the established movie characters on screen thrown together.  What we got instead was a very coherent movie with all of these characters on screen, but they were put together in a very logical manner.  What I thought worked very well for it was that it featured the cosmic players primarily (i.e. Guardians of the Galaxy, Thor, Dr. Strange to an extent), with Earth’s heroes crossing over.

Essentially, similarly to how Captain America: Civil War was basically an Avengers movie, Avengers: Infinity War was basically a Guardians of the Galaxy movie.  This makes sense to me, because the villain (Thanos) is cosmic in scale, so it follows that we would be dealing with characters that operate on a cosmic scale.  It’s rather interesting to me that Earth is only important in that two of the stones are there, but it’s not important enough that Thanos personally wants to go there until the very end (he sends his “children” to go get the stones).

Some pieces of the movie I didn’t completely like.  The part at the beginning with Vision trying to pass as a human in a relationship with Wanda was interesting, but I feel like we jumped quite a bit from his attempts at domesticity in Civil War to being in love with Wanda here in Infinity War.  I was told about a Vision comic book story line recently where he tries to start a family, so I guess that’s where this came from in the movie.  All of the other characters seemed to have made logical progresses, but this one was a big leap.

I also didn’t completely like Banner in this one.  I hope that there is a logical reasoning for sidelining the Hulk (I wonder if it’s possible they’re going to split him into two characters?  I think that’s a thing that happens in the comics) in part two of Infinity War.

One last nitpick – Infinity War seemed to undo a lot of what happened in Thor: Ragnarok.  In that movie, Thor discovers – he doesn’t really need the hammer.  He loses an eye.  In Infinity War, he regains an eye (comically stolen by Rocket) and gets a big axe.  Now that I think about it, looking at The Hulk and Thor specifically, a lot of Ragnarok’s work is reversed with Infinity War, for some reason.

Overall, I appreciate how Marvel has really widened the scope of its movies over the years since the first phase: we started with individual hero movies, with only secondary characters overlapping (Fury, Coulson), leading up to the big collaboration movie: The Avengers.  That was The Big Event movie.  While each individual film dealt with mostly Earth-bound villains, The Avengers was the first to open up the Earth to Space (well, technically I guess Thor did that first).

Then they slowly started building up the universe – crossing characters over in The Winter Soldier, and then the larger cast in Civil War.  There are still some isolated movies, like Black Panther and Ant-Man movies (and presumably, the upcoming Captain Marvel movie) but I don’t think there will be many more ‘primary character only’ movies with the OG Avengers.

I can’t think of much more interesting things to say about Infinity War without watching it again.  I highly recommend you listen to these podcasts, which go much more in-depth than I ever could:

And, I haven’t listened to it yet, but Make Dad Read Comics did an episode about the comic for which this movie is based on, The Infinity Gauntlet, if you’re interested in some background comic information.

 

Adventures Into Darkness #10 – Review

This comic was a complete surprise to me, and not at all on my initial list of comic books to review.  I found it by complete surprise, when I was looking for creative commons images to use on my initial blog post introducing the comic book review series I was about to write.

Adventures Into Darkness #10
Adventures Into Darkness #10

Adventures Into Darkness #10 was originally published in June 1953, and rather than being one complete story, is an anthology book featuring about 9 different stories in the horror-suspense genre.

The cover story, The Man Who Could Not Die, is the longest of the bunch and is front and centre in the book as the first story.  The cover actually depicts a different story – The Man Who Could Not Die is a story about a 5000-year-old man hiring a hitman to kill himself – because he is unable to die due to a pact made with Death.

I got a really good kick out of this book.  The writing is clever, if not a bit predictable (it hits on a lot of tropes that have been done to death – excuse the pun – at this point, but would have been fresh in 1953).

Most of the stories in the book are short, the shortest lasting one page at the end of the book.  Definitely worth checking out for a quick read; I think I may have a look at the rest of the stories in this particular collection!

Comic Book Review Series

Comic books, man.

One of the things I’ve always wanted to do is create an online comic, or write a comic book.  The only problem is that I can’t draw worth a hill of beans.  And I’m not a super avid reader of comics, but there are a select few that I’ve found that I enjoy.

These aren't the comic books I'm talking about, but they look cool!
These aren’t the comic books I’m talking about, but they look cool!

So I thought I would spend the month of August reading and reviewing comic books – both physical and online.  I have a bit of a backlog building on my shelf that I want to power through.  Posts are going to come out at least weekly, but I will likely have some bonus posts to throw up because I think I have more comics to talk about than there are weeks in the month.

This one is also pretty cool.  Now I wish I could add it to my list.
This one is also pretty cool. Now I wish I could add it to my list.

Here’s a preview of some of the comics I’m going to review, in no particular order:
– Atomic Robo Volume 1
– Universe Vol 01 (from http://panelsyndicate.com/)
– The Private Eye Vol 01 (from http://panelsyndicate.com/)
– Barrier (from http://panelsyndicate.com/)
– Batman “A Word to the Wise” (Strange Zellers tie-in from 1992)
– Strange Tales of Oscar Zahn
– Poe Dameron: Black Squadron (Vol 1, issues 1-6)
– Suicide Squad “Blood & Snow” Part Two (near as I can tell, issue 12 from April 1988)

That list in itself grew as I was typing up this entry as I find more things to read.  This is not ideal but also great at the same time.  Anyway, I have a lot of reading to do (and this is on top of trying to finish a bunch of novels) so I’d better get cracking!

Update on 2017 Goals

Back in January, I set some goals for 2017 and thought that since we’re now three months into the year (and my birthday is this weekend), I should leave a little bit of a progress update. I didn’t intend to do this until April, but like I said – my birthday is this weekend so it felt like a good time to give the year a quick assessment.

Remain Organized

This is going pretty well, I think. At this point I’m not really worried about my level of organization – I just did a little bit of a purge of my work space at home, and my journal is updated mostly every day (weekends tend to be the exception, which I’m perfectly fine with). The fact that I’m concerned with making my journal look nice as opposed to keeping up to date with it tells me I’m fine here.

Be a positive example

This is probably going to be the toughest one to judge progress. I think I’m doing okay here. I haven’t done a lot of venting anywhere.

Lose the weight.

It’s going, and that’s about all I can say about it right now. I’ve written more about it recently though.

Learn more about driving social media engagement

Right now this is taking the form of figuring out “how to blog”, sort of. One step has been to buy a domain name.

Write more.

Middle grade on this one. Technically I am writing pretty frequently on the blog, but not feeling as productive as I feel I should be. Objectively though, I’m doing great.

Read more.

As overall progress goes, this is fine; however I’m still stuck on a book that I should be finished by now. I just haven’t been making much time for reading novels, but if you want to talk comic books I’m your guy!

In conclusion…

I think I’m plodding along quite well with my goals for the year. I’ve picked some pretty tough ones to assess, which means I think I should do a formal draft of the goals + measure of success for these. I’ll do that in April, when I originally intended to do a follow-up post.

Understanding Comics – Scott McCloud

I read Understanding Comics by Scott McCloud over the weekend – yes, I typed that correctly; I started the book sometime Friday and finished it Sunday.  If you want to skip my review entire, I’ll tell you straight up that I rated it 4/5 on Goodreads.

As I mentioned, I was able to finish it in a weekend.  Surely I missed a lot of information, but at around 215+ pages, it’s not a very dense work of non-fiction – there aren’t a lot of words, and the bulk of it is juxtaposed next to images to help drive the point home.  It makes for a very quick read, but the material is there to make it a very deep dive if you’re so inclined.

The format is presented in black and white, with one chapter briefly featuring bits of colour (for emphasizing the uses of colour in comics).  Everything was otherwise clear in terms of conveying information, so definitely no marks lost for lack thereof.  In fact, I think the one chapter about the use of colour helped to bring attention to the material at hand.  Releasing it in colour may have diluted the information a bit, maybe.

The book is clearly well-researched.  McCloud knows what he’s talking about, and goes back to information and comics centuries’ old.  There are a few parts where it feels slightly repetitive, but never dry.  I really enjoyed how it made me realize some of the unseen techniques going on with comics that I hadn’t really considered before.

At times I felt a little overwhelmed with some of the ideas presented, and I feel like McCloud went a little far-afield with some of his ideas.  But overall it was presented in a friendly format and is a fun essay to read through.  4/5, definitely recommend.

Star Wars Infinities: A New Hope

infinitiesanewhope16 years later, I finally read Star Wars Infinities: A New Hope.  If you’re not familiar with the title, the Infinities series is basically a “What If” series of comics published by Dark Horse in the early 2000’s, starting with A New Hope in 2001.

I first picked up issues 2, 3, and 4 – probably 16 years ago – based on the cover of the books; at the time, I couldn’t find issue #1 in the comic book shop, so I never read the books.  Finally, this year, I found the first issue and got to reading.

Overall, I’d give the series a 3.5/5.  The first issue is definitely the weakest, starting off with a quick summary of what really happened in A Ne w Hope, with some narration boxes saying…”what if something changed” (I paraphrase)?  In the case of SWI:ANH (my abbreviation), the detail that changes is Luke’s torpedoes fail to destroy the Death Star.

What follows is that the Rebel Base gets mostly destroyed, but the Rebels  manage to escape…for a few minutes.  Han and Luke believe that Leia is dead, triggering a massive angry outburst from Luke.  They manage to escape, and on starts this new saga.

I think the best part of this story has to be the depiction of Coruscant as the seat of the Empire, taking familiar locations from Episodes I and II and flipping them around.  For instance, the artists draw the Jedi Tower almost exactly as it appears in the prequel films, but use it as the Emperor’s private residence.  It’s a very fitting place for the Emperor to set up shop, really.  But the artist team get the details perfect, including the landing platforms that are used as well.  I recognize them all from the prequel trilogy.

Overall the writing is pretty sharp and tight.  I recently read the Dark Empire series from Dark Horse, and didn’t really enjoy the writing in that series.  However, the story progresses well for Infinities and the character choices make sense.  Well, Han doesn’t really have much to do other than shuttle Luke around – but I liked the sequence where Han, Luke and Chewie head to Dagobah.  That part does work.

If you can track the series down at some point, I definitely recommend it.  I’m going to look for the other Infinities series soon – hopefully they’re just as good.  Next up though, I have the first 12 volumes of the new Darth Vader series on the way to my mailbox, so I’m looking forward to getting started with that.