Randomness for 5/27


1) A comparison of Zulu and Filipino stick fighting. Video.

2) The Oatmeal on the wonderfulness of the Tesla Model S electric car.

3) Five Details They Cut From My Season Of The Biggest Loser. We all knew this show was complete shit, but it’s even worse than I thought.

4) What happens when engineers own dogs. Video.

5) The 10 Commandments of Typography.

6) San Francisco “real estate magnate” hides $100 bills around city and leaves clues to their location via twitter account.

7) “In my view, the parties do not need a judge; what they need is a rather stern kindergarten teacher” Spiteful upper-class twits drive each other wild.

DC Comics is screwing up its movie franchises for no good reason


Who has asked me to chime in on the DC comics movies? Exactly no one, but it sometimes helps my creative process to talk about what other people ought to do, so here is the slate of movies DC should put into production, along with a little talk about why.

First: there are three ways to measure a comic book character: By how iconic they are, how powerful they are, and how much spandex they have.

Iconic is pretty obvious, I think. Does the general public, the folks who haven’t picked up a comic book since they were eight, recognize the character on sight? That’s a good thing, because you’re not going to make a successful movie if the only people who see it are comics nerds. If you’re going with a character who is not iconic, you’re going to need them to be intriguing at first glance (in the trailer).

Powerful is equally obvious. Superman is obviously the most powerful there is, but the more power they have, the bigger the threats need to be and the more removed it becomes from the casual moviegoer. Batman escaping from prison to deal with a nuke is a nice, low-level James-Bond type plot. Audiences connect better with that sort of story than “It will destroy the world!” type things.

Spandexy might not be terribly obvious, but I think it’s pretty clear. The more you show a superpowered person in comic book clothing, the harder it will be to sell that to general audiences. An iconic character counteracts this, because general audiences only recognize them by their duds, but for characters they haven’t heard of, a goofy spandex suit works against them. So, no one wants a Superman without his red and blues, but Animal Man can GTFO.

Marvel got around this by introducing a bunch of heroes without their spandex. Yeah, Spider-man wore them, but everyone recognizes Spider-man, but the X-Men got stuck into black leathers (because no one cares about Wolverine’s brown and yellow and Cyclop’s yellow trucks are laughable), the Hulk just wears purple pants, and Iron Man is wearing high-tech armor (painted like a sports car). The Iron Man thing worked really well, because he looks so much like spandex in the comics but in the movies he’s very much not. As for Captain America, his comic book suit was an object of derision in the movie.

So, I’m going to say that DC needs to go with some characters who are Iconic and some not, but the Iconic ones are the only ones we get spandex.

Okay, start with the obvious: Continue reading

Randomness for 4/19


1) Baby noises edited into beatboxing. Video.

2) Every live action Marvel movie from 1998 ranked. I’d quibble with some of the rankings, but who wouldn’t? Also, there was no excuse for Elektra being so terrible.

3) The Ten Most Deadly Rocks And Minerals. h/t Kat Richardson

4) The placebo effects of food labeling.

5) Metal Albums With Googly Eyes, a Tumblr.

6) Time is a flat Family Circus, a Tumblr.

7) The best resignation letter ever.

Captain America, Anti-Hero?


Now that CAPTAIN AMERICA 2: THE WINTER SOLDIER has had a gigantic opening weekend, people are starting to talk about how it ought to have been done.

Take this post on Vulture, which says that Cap would be interesting if he was a prick. As supporting evidence, the author trots out Millar’s repugnant characterization of Steve Rogers in the first few Ultimates comics, adding this panel to his post:

Captain Freeper

Do we really think a guy who actually fought the Nazis would have the same opinion of France as some random member of the freeper cheetotariat? Yes, the Nazis attacked and occupied France in WW2. You know what we call people who mock victims of the Nazi war machine? Assholes.

So try to guess how impressed I am by the idea that Steve Rogers isn’t actually interesting unless he’s being some kind of jerk. (Not very.) There’s a weird mentality in comics that treats cynicism, misanthropy, and nihilism are somehow more mature than idealism; it’s a teenage boy’s idea of agency. It’s all about contempt: for people without power, for social rules and bonds, and for compassion. It’s a hero who “Does what has to be done,” which the narrative conveniently frames as acting like a ruthless thug.

But none of these stories are being created by teenage boys: it’s middle-aged adults, whether we’re talking about The Boys, or Wanted, or one of the New 52 storylines (like the much-discussed new Harley Quinn or Starfire, or the bit about the Joker’s face) that rub their hands together gleefully and sell ever-shrinking numbers of copies to their aging audiences. Clearly, the author of the Vulture article is deep into this mindset; why else discuss (and post a panel from) part of a story where Bucky is made out to be the killer that Captain America could never be, as though the American people couldn’t accept a WW2 soldier who kills Nazis? [1]

Nevermind that, based on where Cap was born and raised, he’s unlikely to be the France-mocking conservative reactionary the Vulture writer seems to expect. Nevermind that the big wave of anti-heroes seems to have passed and left us with very few lasting characters. [2]

More interesting is that Captain America has been around, and been successful, for decades. Comic book characters come and go and they always have. Some are superpopular and fade away. Some keep getting reinvented without really breaking out. Some fade into obscurity. How many times has Marvel tried to launch a Dr. Strange comic to middling sales and eventual cancellation? [3]

Most of these characters stick around. They’re ongoing IP, turning up in other characters’ stories, but they can’t sustain their own ongoing series.

Cap is one of those who can. Forget about the ridiculous costume (which they had fun mocking in THE FIRST AVENGER), he’s been popular for a long time, even with readers like me, who are not exactly overflowing with reflexive patriotism. He works in the comics (and has for decades). He works in the movies (as you can see by the box office and rave reviews). Where so many others have failed, he continues.

Instead of saying he needs to be roughed up to make him interesting, it would be worthwhile to figure out why he’s already successful. [4] I suspect it’s because the conflict is not inside him, it’s between his ideals and the distinctly non-ideal world around him. No anti-heroes necessary.

My spoiler-filled review of CA2: THE WINTER SOLDIER here.

[1] Yes, there were years when comics were ridiculous about the death toll that would come from superpowered combat in Manhattan. “Thank goodness the buildings the Hulk just collapsed were all condemned! Someone might have gotten hurt!” When comics became more realistic about the damage their fights could do, that was a welcome development. I just wish it hadn’t gone so far.

[2] Wither art thou, Darkhawk? What about you, Maggot? Shatterstar?

[3] Not that I have anything against Dr. Strange, who ought to be a wildly successful character, with the right writer.

[4] A trade collecting part of Mark Waid’s run is pretty much the only superhero comic my son has ever enjoyed.

Randomness for 4/3


1) Quicksilver “comes out” to his father, Magneto.

2) Clips of Mike Tyson boxing, looped with sound effects from STREET FIGHTER. Video. Funny but longer than it needs to be.

3) The Velveteen Rabbit, a horror story.

4) The world’s deepest known cave has been mapped.

5) A home made pendulum marble clock.

6) Three ways to escape zip tie handcuffs, illustrated.

7) Dirtbag Anne of Green Gables.

Randomness for 2/11


1) An alternate history of “Flappy Bird” a successful game that was pulled from sale because of the gamers abused its creator.

2) Marvel opens its image archive and api to the public. I’m pretty sure this is cool, and if I were ten years younger I might understand why.

3) Calvin and Muad’Dib. Calvin & Hobbes cartoons with quotes from Dune to replace the dialog.

4) Teddy Roosevelt’s 10 Rules for Reading. Sensible guy.

5) Male artist creates art show with woman’s art, doesn’t feel he needs to name her.

6) An Infinity of Alternate Batmen.

7) Deleted.

Randomness for 1/6


1) A 1600-Year-Old Viking Board Game.

2) Thor is the New Superman. Yet another screw-up by DC.

3) 160-Year-Old historical documents deliberately destroyed in North Carolina. Covering up old crimes? There are followup posts.

4) 4 Things I Learned from the Worst Online Dating Profile Ever.

5) The top 20 most annoying book reviewer cliches and how to use them all in one meaningless review.

6) Here’s Exactly How Much the Government Would Have to Spend to Make Public College Tuition-Free.

7) “There’s a book inside of you. I’m sorry. I’m so sorry.”

Randomness for 11/25


1) Parents convince kids their toys come alive at night and take pictures. Actually, there’s no proof these toys are owned by kids or their parents. They might belong to a lonely middle-aged guy who figured out a way to get page views. Still: fun.

2) English has a new preposition, because internet.

3) Male novelist jokes.

4) Shit Roleplayers Say. Video. Why does “I attack the darkness” sound so familiar?

5) An extremely funny and very short video: Carpark. Video. h/t +Jonathan King

6) Marvel, DC, and The Problem, a really great longread by Chris Sims about the history and evolution of superhero comics. Even if you’re not a comics fan, you might be interested in the history of two behemoth competitors in a creative field.

7) Six ways to beat reader’s block. I needed this.

Randomness for 11/11


1) Surgeons make fewer mistakes when they warm up by playing Super Monkey Ball first.

2) Steve Rogers: Premature Anti-Facist. h/t James Nicoll

3) 5 Reasons Packages Get Destroyed (Learned Working at UPS).

4) Unfortunate Publishing Layouts of Our Time.

5) A History of Los Angeles as Told Through 232 Objects.

6) Pacific Rim in the Power Rangers style! Video.

7) Want to deter pests without using chemicals or traps? Try an automatic lawn sprinkler with a motion-sensor attached.

Randomness for 10/19


1) Brides Throwing Cats

2) Your request to play Devil’s Advocate has been denied.

3) A Captain America motorcycle suit. No turned-down pirate boots, though.

4) Honest Slogans.

5) “Blonde Bombshell” model finds herself out of work at 31, so she cuts off her hair to be a male model.

6) We’re more creative when we’re tired: ten surprising facts about how brains work.

7) Tips For Improving Street Harassment, in comic form. So. Good.