August 15, 2011

Good Writing is Good

   As of writing this, I'm in my early-to-mid-to-late thirties, just so you know the generational context that I'm coming from.
   I grew up in the times before the Internet, the times when the big three networks were the only ones with Saturday morning and after-school cartoons, when you knew it was time to start the activities of the day once it rolled around to 10am and the familiar, yet annoying, Soul Train song came on. Yes, it was the salad days of G1 Transformers, G1 G.I. Joe, G1 Smurfs, and yes, G1 Thundercats. Back in those days, a soon-to-be pube developing Chief was looking at Cheetara with a curious eye, and chanting the familiar "Thundercats, Ho!" along with Lion-O. I was too young back then to realize that the beloved intro animation and song, as well as the aforementioned cry to arms was a much more polished bit of animation than the rest of the show, which in retrospect, was not great looking.
   You may remember the same sort of thing with Voltron. The entire segment when Voltron is assembled ("Form feet and legs... Form arms and body....And I'll form the....etc"), as well as when the blazing sword gleaned forth from his lion-head fists, were beautifully polished pieces of animated artwork used in every episode. The fact of this and the reasons for it are obvious now, but not to an eight-year-old.
   Plots were a lot simpler back then. Show a little interpersonal conflict, or minor plot point that illustrates character development, show the threat, heroes go to save the day but fail, heroes form Voltron and still fail, heroes form Blazing Sword and kill threat with one swipe, wrap up interpersonal conflict, show ends - easy as Smurfberry pie. Kind of makes you wonder why they didn't just go into every battle already formed as Voltron with the sword out and just take care of business. I guess that doesn't make for a good half hour of show.
   Back then, it was the early days of the Nerd Generation. The people who cared were under 10. Transformers Nerds in their thirties were exceedingly rare IF they existed at all. The people in charge of creating this content didn't care as much as they should; they knew they were only catering to the stupid 10 year olds.
   Times are a-different now. There are still stupid 10 year olds to please, but now all the thirty-somethings reminiscing about Cheetara's skintight outfit and Optimus Prime's energon axe (it existed, look it up) are saying, "Hey, what about us?" The kids who cared back then are the adults who care now and demand a little bit more than shallow plots and crappy filler animation.
   Enter the new series of the Thundercats, now starting the fifth week of its run on Cartoon Network. I just watched the most recent episode, "Song of the Petalars", and I was truly moved. This episode acts as sort of a side-step standalone plotline from the main arch wherein the Thundercats come across a tiny race of plant-like beings called the Petalars.

The real hook is that we find out that the Petalars' entire lifespan takes place over the course of one day in the life of a Thundercat. Birth, life and death, generation after generation, come into sharp view during this episode. Lion-O befriends a child Petalar named Emerich, becoming a mentor of sorts. Emerich's life perspective runs the gamut of a normally-aging being, from joyful child, to impetuous and rebellious teen, to brave young adult, to experienced grown man, to wise elder. Lion-O witnesses the changes as their journey progresses across the day, learning valuable lessons along the way about life and appreciation; he starts off as the teacher and soon becomes the student - it's quite clear the lessons of leadership that he takes away from Emerich that will help him on his overall quest.
   I'll spare you the straight-up review except to say that this series is fantastic and this episode was beautifully written. Highly recommended.
   My point in bringing this up is this: I no longer have the 10 year old perspective so I'm not sure if having an intricate storyline with a well-written dialogue is necessary for their sake. I know kids are maturing earlier these days and the Internet has desensitized them not only into knowing what a German Scheisse film is, but also into knowing what bad content is. So maybe weak voice acting and razor-thin plotlines in their cartoons will no longer fly; based on some of the new shows coming out and how they're done, the producers seem to recognize that.
   However more importantly, I'm glad that the producers of what is essentially meant to be children's programming recognize that the adult contingent, the ever-growing demographic of youngsters of the 80's are tuning in to their product to reminisce; they want to pull us in and they can't get away with producing crap. You almost have to ask yourself, who are they really making this stuff for? Would I try and get my kid into the new Thundercats? Heck yes. Would I still watch it even if my kid didn't get into it? Hecker yes.
   The young Nerds who grew up with me, watching the same plot week after week, the same basic characters saying and doing the same basic thing, are now the adult Nerds that are saying, "No way are we going to allow the wonderful shows that helped us form our personalities continue to be trite for the new generation of Nerds." But what is that going to mean when today's 10 year olds are 30? How is the evolution of show production going to have to adapt?
We've got years to contemplate that. In the meantime, Cheetara's outfit is significantly more meaningful to me.

August 11, 2011

The DC 52: Bad Business or Just a Bad Idea?

So apparently I'm a Marvel.

   Most things in life have a dividing line, and you have to pick sides. Coke or Pepsi. Kirk or Picard. Edward or Jacob. You can't be wishy-washy. You can't just say, "Oh, I like 'em both." It doesn't sit right. It doesn't sit right with anyone else; oftentimes to the point of irrationally fierce anger.
   I'll tell you what: I've been a paid graphic designer for ten years on some level or another. I've dealt with every type of customer file that you can imagine - I won't get into my war stories but I know a lot of you can empathize. I've also worked on both PC's and Macs at different points in time and I truly, TRULY have no preference between them. To me, they both work the same, they both have strengths and weaknesses, Photoshop on one side is all but identical on the other side. To me, the Mac vs. PC debate is stupid - I can hear you screaming at your screen right now, which proves my point perfectly. My mother, also a graphic designer, is fiercely pro-Mac and irrationally anti-PC and every time she brings up any argument for her side, I immediately jump to the PC side and World War IV begins (so big, it skips over III #rimshot).
   I've read comics pretty much my whole life. Admittedly, I've always leaned more towards the Marvel side over anyone else. Pre-Image, there wasn't a whole lot else to choose from other than Marvel and DC anyway. I always felt like DC had the two biggest comic icons, Superman and Batman, so I always sort of forced myself to enjoy them. But Marvel characters were always more my bag. The humor and adventure of Spider-Man, the angsty characters of the X-Men; it always just worked better for me.
   Lately, largely because of the more recent Hollywood outings by DC: the Dark Knight saga, Superman Returns, and Green Lantern (yes, I liked the latter two), I found myself wanting to give DC another chance. I recently obtained the entire Blackest Night and Brightest Day sagas and am in the middle of those, and I'm attempting to keep up with Flashpoint a bit. I was actually a bit excited about DC 'rebooting' every one of their titles with comic art god Jim Lee (@JimLee00) and others at the helm.
   But then I got to thinking about it. I realize that comic enthusiasts these days typically have a bit of expendable income, that's clear. To purchase all 52 books, you're looking at approximately $175/month. Maybe a bit high for some, not much for others. Anyone under 16, this is a damned fortune. I personally only spend $50-$100/month, I know I'm not typical, but I'm also a cheapskate. You, of course, also have to assume that a person is not only buying 52 DC titles and nothing else. So the obvious answer to this is that after the initial "buy all 52 #1's for collector's value" is done, they're going to wind down to their 20 or 30 favorite titles. Guaranteed, the lion's share is going to stick with the flagship titles: Superman, Batman, JLA, Green Lantern - even the Fury of Firestorm, Birds of Prey, and Red Lantern reboots look interesting.
   Then you have your D-List titles like Mr. Terrific, All Star Western, Frankenstein: Agent of SHADE, and Sgt Rock that - no offense to those creative teams or lovers of those titles - are bound to get the royal screw job with their reorder numbers. It's simple comic economics (cominomics?).
  Yes, I'm fully aware that pretty much all of the titles are being rebooted - i.e. they're already in existence and they're just continuing at #1. The problem with this strategy is that, planned or not, starting all of your titles over is going to make collectors re-evaluate which titles are important and/or interesting to them. Doing that slowly or piecemeal is one thing. When Marvel makes yet another new X-Men title, but this time they add "The Crazy Awesome..." in front of the name, it gives you a chance to evaluate and decide if you're on board with it, all the while maintaining the continuity of the other books you enjoy. Or, heaven forbid, dropping a title altogether and starting up a new one, like New Mutants to X-Force (series 1). One went away and one jumped in to take its place, same creative team, a lot of the same characters.
   So my question to DC is: where's the intelligence in forcing your faithful followers to immediately completely forget about what they love and are used to, and all at once decide on a new purchase list? And at what point will you decide that a book isn't getting enough readership to let it hang around? Will there just be a mass-cancelling in six months where they drop 10 titles that weren't selling? I can't even say that the only losers here are going to be the readers, I think DC is going to feel it as well.
   The strategy has been the same since the beginning of comic publishing: every title - more or less - was sort of on it's own trajectory and was at a different point of the 'race'. If there was a problem, or a cancellation, or the story just got stupid, no harm, no foul.  Now that every runner is starting at the exact same starting line at exactly the same time, what will the repercussions be to DC and its readers? Frankly, I can't see a scenario where this is going to work out extremely well.
   Yes, I know. DC is most certainly not going anywhere. Hell, they have enough advertising dollars spent on each book where even if 100 copies are purchased off a 100,000 run, they'll still make their money. This is all clearly a gimmicky publicity stunt by a new-ish regime at DC leadership to try something that's really never been done before. I truly have to hand it to them on that level.
   I'm probably a little old fashioned, I guess. I enjoy tuning into my monthly books to see yet another world-changing event happen across multiple character lines that ultimately doesn't really effect the overall universe that much, but act like it does - just like it has for decades.

I guess that's what makes me a Marvel ;)

August 08, 2011

Introducing: Me

[Please excuse some dated references, this was originally written in 2011]

   Wow, well here it is. I've finally managed to get my shit together and finish putting together a blog. I know I'm a bit behind the curve, but don't worry, for me it's worth it. I've been on the blog bandwagon since the early days, I just never really felt like they were for me personally. I'm not a writer, I don't claim to be, I won't be trying to make a living at this anytime soon. However I do enjoy writing and this is merely an outlet for me because I've felt lately that I have something to say about things that are going on and, whether you read it or not, I want to put my thoughts out there.
   My name is Ian, they call me the Chief, and I like to refer to the nerd world within which I reside as the BlurredEdge.
   If you found this blog, then you're in here with me. The BlurredEdge is a place of cross-pollenization among all the wonderful nerdy things that we love, adore, worship: Videogames, Movies, Comics, TV, Art, Books, Toys, Music..., the list can go on.  The BlurredEdge is the exploration of the convergence between our various nerdy obsessions, the spaces between the categories: when a comicbook gets made into a movie, or when a videogame gets made into a comicbook, or when a movie gets made into toys. This seems like a simple premise and there was a time when it was. The older crowd will remember the rarity of cross platform entertainment; toys and merch were one thing, but remember the Spider-Man TV show? or the Hulk... TV show? or the Batman.... , well you get what I'm saying.  Nowadays, if a property doesn't have at least two sequels, a videogame for each, a comicbook line, a couple novel adaptations, a line of action figures, and a cross-marketing deal with at least three grocery products including a soda, a lunch meat, and a maxi-pad, it's considered a failure! Why do you think Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen was a flop? They didn't get in on the feminine hygiene market integration. Sure it made money, SHITLOADS of money, but what does it matter if you don't see Starscream etched into your panty shield with wings (see what I did there?)
   Anyway, I'll climb down off my stack of soap boxes for now. This is just my first post, there will be plenty of time for bitching, moaning and pissing you all off. No need to scare you away now.
   So who am I? I'm a guy who likes to ask himself questions and then answer them. I enjoy long walks on the beach and my turn-offs include pushy people and cigarettes.
   In all seriousness, what do I nerd out about? I'm actually a huge Transformers fan and if you must know, I liked Revenge of the Fallen. I also enjoyed the Star Wars prequel trilogy. What now, bitches? Sure, they weren't as emotionally investing or as well made as the originals, but they served their purpose to tie up the story and be fun while doing it. Don't gripe to me about the CGI, or Jar Jar, or the marginal acting ability of Hayden Christensen unless you like yelling at a brick wall. It's not like insulting me is going to get me to change my mind.
   I'm what one might think of as an eternal optimist when it comes to life and nerdiness. I most certainly am not a guy who'll write some scathing review of a movie that maybe wasn't too fantastic just for the sake of it, wherein I try to think of the most hurtful and clever metaphors to let my readers know that I'm not only a 'Master of Snark' (I fucking hate that word), but I'm also a huge douche. Those of you who do this, you know who you are, and I'm sure you're proud of it. I even read some of your blogs and enjoy them. I'll even call out Devin Faraci (@devincf) as being one of the worst of this ilk, a true elitist film snob - but only in the most complimentary sense. The bottom line: he's a fucking great writer, I read his stuff, enjoy it, may not agree with it, he's even straight up insulted me on Twitter, not that he'd remember. My point is that I'm not him, I'm not this type. There's a place for it in the modern world of Internet entertainment, now welcome to this world.
   My style, as I mentioned, is optimism. I always look for the good in an entertainment product. I always report on what something is and how you might feel about it were you to consume it, rather than just telling you all the horrible things about it with some wiseass prose. I'll post a few slightly older movie reviews that I've written, you'll see what I mean. It's not easy to come up with some good reasons to see Spider-Man 3, but by-golly I did it!
   I'm going to start getting ahead of myself soon, I tend to ramble and go on and on. I've got a lot to say and I don't want to put it all out there in the first damn post. Hopefully someone, somewhere will actually read this and even better if they give a crap. I enjoy trying to be funny and informative about the things I talk about and the things that we all love. I'm not saying I'm funny or interesting to anyone but myself, but hey, I may be wrong.
   To finish off the list of what I love just so you can know a bit more about me, I play videogames on a casual basis, though my time has been short lately. I read comics almost exclusively on my computer in the digital format; I've recently finished (ie, read issues 1-86 - almost up to date) of The Walking Dead by Robert Kirkman (@RobertKirkman) in response to the amazing AMC television show that I freaking loved! I'm currently starting on the Blackest Night saga and I've got a ton of series that I'll be reading soon that I need to get caught up on.
   I'm a nerd cinefile in that I pretty much love every comicbook movie, game movie, nerd movie in general almost without exception. As I mentioned, Spider-Man 3 was a little bit of a stretch but I still enjoyed it - my review on that is forthcoming, along with a couple others that may not be timely but I want to get them out there.
   I listen to only a couple podcasts, most importantly is Chris Hardwick (@nerdist) on the Nerdist. Chances are, if you're here, then you listen to him too. He's pretty much the King of Nerds, beyond anyone else that I can think of; though Joss Whedon has to be in there somewhere. It's probably not a monarchist setup, but maybe more of a Parliamentary design....
   I collect toys, aka action figures, aka male dolls, primarily Todd McFarlane (@Todd_McFarlane) stuff, though I haven't made a purchase in a while just because nothing has come out recently that struck my fancy.
   I love animated TV like the Simpsons, South Park, Family Guy, Robot Chicken et al. I love some dramatic TV like The Walking Dead, Doctor Who, Torchwood, and Game of Thrones. And I'll even admit to enjoying some of the reality TV out there, but only the shows based on a skill like cooking, or.... ahem.... sewing... it's my wife's fault.
   I own a printing business outside of Sacramento, California and that preoccupies 95% of my time and I have two dogs, Vinny and Gino, whom I treat like my sons.
   So that's me. Not in a nutshell - as Austin Powers pointed out, how ridiculous would that be? If you stick around, there'll be more about my psyche that will no doubt be revealed as I share my thoughts on what's currently going on at any given point in time within this crazy, amazing nerd world that seems to just get nutsier by the minute.
   Oh, and in spite of how it comes off here, I really don't take myself that seriously. Now let the bad-mouthing in the comments section commence!