Thursday, December 23, 2010

Worst. Website. Ever.

Okay, so I got a request yesterday from a friend (through another friend) to update my blog with thoughts on the repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell", and that's exactly what I set down to do, BUT, I have to excise something from my brain first...something that could probably get me into trouble if anyone actually read this damn thing, but since no one does, I might get out of this unscathed. I guess half the fun here is seeing what happens, and this is *really* something I need to get off my chest...

There's a guy in Des Moines, trying to make a name for himself by being a Gay Wedding Planner (and by Gay Wedding Planner, I mean he plans gay weddings, not that he's gay and a wedding planner...I can't speak with 100% confidence, but I think there's probably enough of those around that it would be hard to make a name for yourself that way). We used to be Facebook friends, but I pissed him off once by sticking up for Republicans. Yeah, I'm kind of a liberal Republican...like Megan McCain. Anyway, either he doesn't like me, or he's over it and just thinks I'm a douche, but that's neither here nor there. I don't have a problem with him at all, because, quite frankly, I don't know him. I'm just getting all this out of the way. Apparently he's trying to sell a reality show on this gay wedding planning that he's doing...my buddy tells me that he's trying to get on board with the Oprah network (and that's all I'm saying on *that* as I could completely digress for paragraphs on the idea that Oprah needs an entire network...).

All of this is great (except for the part where the guy in question thinks I'm a douche bag...that's not really great in my opinion...), until you see what seems to be his primary marketing piece: His website. This is, again, in my opinion, the WORST website on the entire Internet. I mean, it's worse than those pointless pages that show up in Google searches that seem to be exactly what you're searching for but in reality are nothing more than a page with links to nowhere and do nothing other than install new search bars into your browser. Yeah, the website is *that* bad. Want to see how bad it is? Go here: www.gayweddingswithpanache.com .

First, let's look at the URL itself...I'm fairly certain it has to be the longest URL in the history of the Internet. There had to be a better choice. I'm assuming simply panache.com was taken, but maybe panacheweddings.com? I don't know. I guess I'm a web snob (I'm not), but I just think you don't need to lay out your entire business plan in your website's URL. Imagine if everyone did this. Want to go to CNN's website? Type in www.cnnnewswithentertainmentandweatherandsportsandinternationalnews.com...Facebook? How about www.facebookconnectsyouwithfriendspeopleyouwanttofuckandhighschoolfrenemiesyouwanttoseeiftheygotfatandbald.com...yeah, see, annoying.

Secondly, and this is a real sticking point with me: what the FUCK kind of word is 'panache' anyway? What does it mean? Okay, sure, it's defined on the homepage, but still...it means to plan something with 'confidence' and 'verve'...what the hell does that mean? I have a vocabulary larger than Carnie Wilson's circumference, and I'm not even really sure if 'panache' is a good thing or a bad thing. You know why? Because no one other that Fran Dreschler, Old Jewish women, and this particular website use it. And since no one uses it, I have to wonder how many people know how to spell it. Imagine working for this guy, and encountering someone out at a bar, the mall, dinner, whatever...you find out they're getting married, and you start to pitch this wedding planner..."Hey," you say, "look us up on the web!" They ask what the website is, and you say "gayweddingswithpanache.com". You immediately have about three things going against you:

1.) They have to remember that incredibly long URL. You best hope that no alcohol or anything else distracting (read: 'interesting') happens in the rest of these potential clients' evening, or else that bit of knowledge is gone.

2.) They have to figure out how to spell 'panache'...I suppose you could tell them during the initial encounter, but they have to remember that too.

3.) They have to figure out if they do, in fact, want their gay wedding to be with 'panache'...which means they need to figure out what the hell panache means (or 'verve' if they've actually made it to the website...).

By this point in time, they probably could have just hired www.perfectweddings or www.perfectevents or www.weddingplanners.com to do the job and been done with it.

Anyway...once you get to the website, it doesn't get much (any) better. The homepage (an insanely close up of Cherry Blossoms) says "Click anywhere to get started" In this particular case though, 'anywhere' means anywhere BUT the place that says "Click anywhere to get started', as that doesn't work(point of fact, simple web design research will tell you that particular spot is going to be the first place people are going to click). Other places on this page where you can't click: The big honkin' words that say "Welcome to Panache" the definition of "panache" or the company's tag-line. At this point in time you've just redefined the word 'Anywhere'...and I'm doubting your definition of 'Panache'...

So, after an hour of trying to find some part of 'anywhere' that counts as 'anywhere', you're in the site. You know what I love? Tacky cursive font and multiple exclamation points!!! YES!!!! Nothing says "Perfect for my Once In A Lifetime Event" than a standard font that no one ever uses for anything, and MULTIPLE EXCLAMATION POINTS!!!

Then, the website uses my very most favorite words EVER: "Attention to Detail"...because right there, I start nitpicking (seriously, before I saw those words, I wasn't nitpicking, I was just aghast). The spacing between your paragraphs is messed up, and you've used the wrong "its" in the second paragraph. Also, this is a company's website, not a text message, so spell out the words "and" and "with". You're not limited to 160 characters, so using "&" and "w/" is just lazy (especially after people get Carpal Tunnel Syndrome from having to type your novel of a URL).

And can we talk about commas? You use them a lot, and very rarely correctly. I think whoever wrote the copy here may have had trouble with the period key and substituted commas in hoping no one would notice. Here's just a hint going forward: Read the text out loud, pause briefly every time there's a comma. If you sound like William Shatner's performance of "Rocket Man", you've got too many in there.

And finally (I really don't have the time or energy to go through EVERY page on this site), I want to pay close attention to the 'Entertainment' tab. Clicking on the Entertainment tab takes you to a page with the headline "Music, Flora, and Pictures". Well, ONE of those is entertainment. The other is a keepsake, the the third is a decoration.

We'll ignore that you misspelled "jockeys" in the first sentence. My main problem here is that the majority of the entertainment tab talks about flowers. Inexplicably, the paragraph that starts talking about music and technology flows into talking about how access to all of this will make your flowers look perfect...WHAT!?!?!? Also, flowers? Not entertaining. Pretty, sure. Entertaining? Not so much. Nothing dead is entertaining...unless you're a necrophile...and get to a corpse like, say, Heath Ledger's in the first 10 minutes or so. A flower, no matter how beautiful it is, once in a vase, is dead. It can lean against the edge. It can fall onto the table top. It can be plucked and smelled. But it really shouldn't be 'entertaining'. I'll go so far as to say that if the most entertaining thing about a wedding is its flowers, someone forgot the 'panache'.

Here's my advice to you (even though the odds of you ever seeing this are slim to none): Spend some money on your website. Every page has the "This website was made using Wix.com. Make your own website for FREE" footer on it. Yeah, everyone who visits your site knows you did this on the cheap. And it shows. Geocities websites from back in the late 90's were better looking than this. And get yourself an actual writer to write your site's copy. In fact, just message me and I'll do it. I may not provide you "text with panache", but I'll give you "website copy with grammatical accuracy and a little bit of class" (all for the low, low rate of $30 a page...).

Seriously though, this all may seem harsh, but when you've got a website that bad, and are a fairly prominent and active member in our little community here in Iowa, someone needs to stop kissing your ass long enough to point out the truth. If your show takes off and Gayweddingswithpanache (or is it just 'Panache'? The website seems to forget exactly what the name of your company is from page to page...) becomes nationally famous, you should probably have a web presence that doesn't make Al Gore regret giving humanity the Internet.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Feline trees falling in domesticated forests...

Have you ever seen a cat try and jump to somewhere and end up falling instead? If so, you know they immediately adopt this attitude like they never really wanted to be where they were trying to jump to, have no desire to be there, and really would prefer if you stopped looking at them as they indignantly walk off in the other direction to do something completely unrelated to jumping, you, or even the area of your home where they had been (suitable but lesser seen alternative to this is said cat rolling over on his or her back, trying to make you realize how adorable they are and distract you from their failings).

Anyway, my question here is: do you think they act like this when people *aren't* around?
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Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Who the @#$! is Toryn Farr?!?!



Who The $%#@ Is Toryn Farr!?!?

Proving that I can out-geek the best of them, Toryn Farr is the only female character other than Princess Leia with a speaking role in The Empire Strikes Back. Described as the “Chief Controller at Echo Command. Responsible for communicating orders to the troops. Personally gives firing orders to Ion Cannon Control”, you may remember her for the line “Standby Ion Control…Fire!” during the Rebel’s evacuation of Hoth.

Played by German Actress Brigitte Kahn, Toryn went unnamed for over 15 years, credited only as “Rebel Officer” in the movie’s credits. It wasn’t until the anthology book “Tales of the Bounty Hunters” came out in 1996 that the character was named and fleshed out. Whether it was just that good of a story, or the fact that she was paired up with my favorite Star Wars alien, Zuckuss, in that story, I decided I wanted a Toryn Farr action figure after reading the story she appeared in. Back then, Star Wars wasn’t out on DVD yet, and since she was such a minor character in the film, there weren’t any promotional pictures of the character. That being said, the best I could figure out was that Toryn wore the exact same outfit that Leia wore, only with head-phones, and had a different hairstyle. A couple of years later when Hasbro came out with their updated Princess Leia in Hoth Gear figure, I cobbled together a Toryn figure using a couple of different Leia figures and hand-crafted headphones.

The whole process I think took no more than 30 minutes, not counting the time it took for the clay to cure. For all I knew, I had created a fairly decent action figure, and that was “good enough” for the time. I gave her a blaster and called it ‘done’. That was back in 2000, and for the next couple of years I was satisfied. But then a couple of things happened. First, Star Wars figures started to…I guess you could say ‘evolve’. The sculpting got more and more detailed, and they could move a lot more than just swivel joints at the hips, shoulders, neck, and waist. Suddenly, my Toryn Farr figure was significantly ‘dated’ by the parts I used to make it. Then, more damaging to my opinion of the figure was that a company named Wizards of the Coast started making a Star Wars Customizable Card Game (Think Pokemon or Magic: The Gathering, only with Star Wars characters), and they used an image of “Toryn Farr” (more on why there are quotes there later) that showed a bit more than what I originally had to go on. While the picture was only a profile shot from the neck to the upper torso, I could immediately see a few things: 1.) The hair was different than what I had thought (more on THAT later too…), 2.) The collar of her vest was ‘popped’, and 3.) She was wearing a jacket, not Leia’s snowsuit. Where Leia had a puffy suit with a communicator on her wrist, Toryn had a cuff and ‘scomp links’ on her upper arm (you can Google ‘Scomp Links’, I don’t care to explain them…) Lastly, Toryn wasn’t wearing gloves, the Princess was. This all added up to make me realize that not only was my Toryn action figure not ‘done’, it all added together and made the figure I had created wrong, Wrong, WRONG. So, I set off to re-make my Toryn Farr action figure, dragging my feet little by little, each year hoping that Toryn might get an official action figure as the selection Hasbro produced included more and more obscure characters from the film saga. Even so, every time a new 3.75” female action figure would come out, I’d eyeball her in detail to see if there was something that could be used as a part for Toryn Farr.

This year, 2010, marks the 30th Anniversary of The Empire Strikes Back, and I figured that if there was ever going to be a really GOOD chance for Toryn to get made, this would be it. After the summer convention circuit ended and Hasbro announced their figure line up sans Toryn, I decided it was finally time to start putting together MY Toryn Farr, version 2.0. The first step was to see how many pictures I could find of the character now that the movies had been out on DVD for so long and there were plenty of still shot screen captures. While there weren’t a LOT, there were certainly more than ‘none’, and that led to my final discovery: The character that Wizards of the Coast had identified as “Toryn Farr” in their card game was NOT in fact Toryn Farr. That was an actress by the name of Stephanie English, and her she remains credited only as “Rebel Technician”. That character’s hair was different (the ‘bun’ in the back was significantly smaller than Toryn’s), and her vest was a lighter color (that may or may not make her jumpsuit look lighter). I had to do some research (meaning I watched the film again…twice) to make sure, but the actress in the card game was from a scene where Han walks through the Rebel’s war-room to talk to Leia. Toryn (the woman who later gives the order to fire the Ion Cannon) can be seen sitting back near the entrance, and the woman in the card game is already sitting down near where Han finds the Princess. This revelation didn’t make my task any easier though, as Toryn and faux-Toryn were wearing the same outfit. So then it came time to figure out what exactly she was wearing. From what I could tell, it was a jumpsuit, like the pilots wear (minus the extra gear), only in light tan. That gave me a good starting point, as Hasbro had made a few female Rebel pilot figures (even though none of them ever appeared on-screen…). They had the baggy pants, and their upper arms had the scomp links. Unfortunately, they also had all the extra pilot gear details on, so it wouldn’t be simple. To make matters worse, the upper torso moved under her breast line, not at the waist line, so all I could really use was the upper arms and upper legs. The best I could see for use of the upper torso was from…I don’t remember her name…the Russian chick from the last Indiana Jones movie (Cate Blanchet’s character)…it had the pockets, and the flap down the center. All I had to do to make that work was to X-Acto the buttons off. I needed a ‘crotch’ piece to join the torso and the legs, and the best I could find was from one of the Hoth Leia’s that I had used to make the original Toryn Figure. I could assume that the lower legs looked like the rest of the Hoth Rebels, complete with the boots with straps, and those came from a Jedi-Leia figure that Hasbro had made based off of a comic book scene. Her vest would come from Hoth Leia again, and all that left was the lower arms and the head. I decided to get as much pieced together as I could using what I had figured out and get to the rest later… and then the problems started…

First off, the legs didn’t really fit all that well onto the crotch piece. In fact, they left her backside looking *really* wonky, and the front wasn’t all that great. Secondly, the upper-arms from the pilot figure were too thick and the vest wouldn’t fit around them. The leg issue I could deal with, but the arms were a problem. I decided to go with the arms from a Juno Eclipse figure (a female Imperial Officer from a Star Wars video game), even though they weren’t really baggy enough to represent Toryn’s suit, and then use an X-Acto and super glue to get the Scomp-Links on there. These were concessions I didn’t want to make, but did, and in the process of getting Juno’s arms off, I decided that Juno’s head would work as a starting point for Toryn as well. So, after some frankensteining and painting, Toryn 2.0 was ‘born’. It wasn’t perfect, but it was done.

In a discussion about Toryn on Rebelscum.com (the Internet’s biggest Star Wars action figure website), I posted pictures of my creation. To say they went over like a brick is putting it nicely. Even the nicer ‘compliments’ seemed like a “good job!” one might say to a retarded kid who never left the starting line during the Special Olympics…it was a blow to my confidence, but after a day or so of sulking, I went back to work.

Toryn 2.0 spent a day soaking in soapy water to get all the paint off, and I had to then figure out another crotch piece. The problem came from how petite the Indiana Jones lady figure was, and other crotch pieces truncated the figure in such a way that her arms hung too long giving her a gorilla appearance. This meant I had to get creative. I went back to the female pilot figure…there was no way I could find a piece to work for the upper torso, but maybe there was a way to make the lower part work. I went to work with a Dremel and sanded down the abdomen to a point where I could build it up just enough with Milliput putty that it made it join nicely with the upper part. This meant sacrificing the waist joint, but since I don’t *play* with my action figures, I’ll gladly choose aesthetics over articulation. This did require her needing a belt of some kind though, and in the selection process, I discovered a Han Solo figure that not only had a belt that I liked, but also had arms that looked a lot more like Toryn’s outfit than the Juno arms I had been using.

So now that I had the parts finalized (AGAIN), I went back to work. This time I went with Krylon Fusion spray-paint which gave the paint-job look a lot more smooth and polished, and changed the boots to a bluish-gray to better match the other Hoth Rebel figures. Now that I had the Milliput, I was also able to sculpt the ‘popped’ collar to her vest. But I still wasn’t thrilled about the final way the head turned out. It may have been the fact that I felt bad about tearing the figure apart for the arms that I ended up abandoning, or it may have been because it’s such a plain-jane head in its original state, but whatever the reason, for some reason or another, I was still sold on the Juno Eclipse head. Still, it was lacking something. And if you’re actually reading this, you’re probably thinking “headphones!” but that’s not it. The answer was the hair. Despite figuring out that there was Toryn and faux-Toryn, I had made the hair more in line with faux-Toryn, and needed that to change. Milliput to the rescue again! I also redid the eyeliner because, as dumb as this may sound, most of Toryn’s screen time had her looking ‘up’ at her tactical board, and taking off the bottom eye line gave her that appearance. This is what the end result was:

To be honest, it actually came out looking loads better than I could have ever imagined. To quote the movie series that started this whole ordeal: “Sometimes I amaze even myself!”

Now it was time for accessories. And no…STILL no headphones. The requisite Rebel blaster was a given, but there was the one picture I had found of her using a…something, to scan her control board. So even though I had no idea what it was, I set off to make it. The victim here was a welding tool that came from yet *another* Han Solo figure, attached to a cable from a Jawa figure, and a silver box thing from a GI Joe figure. Considering that I had no idea what the tool was, and what it was actually attached to, I hope my creativity isn’t so far-fetched.

So there is it. A figure that’s been somewhere between 30 (the release of The Empire Strikes Back )and 14 (how long ago I read “Tales of the Bounty Hunters”) years in the making is done, and I’m thrilled. In the “Oh My God, that’s kind of sad…” category though, I stopped counting at 7 figures who gave up one part or another to make this figure. With that being said, I’m still hopeful that Toryn Farr, the only female with a speaking role from the original Star Wars trilogy that hasn’t been made into an action figure yet gets one from Hasbro…and soon.

As for why no head-phones? Well, there’s more than one reason. For starters, as someone who spent years in a call center and knows how shitty it is having to wear those things all the time, I don’t want to have them permanently affixed to her head…besides, with as happy as I am about the way the head turned out, I don’t want to try to sculpt or affix anything to it with the possibility for screwing up and ruining a good thing. So the only option is to sculpt or craft them and have them removable…as I’m toying with the idea of creating a custom blister card ‘package’ for the figure, I may do just that, and package them in there as an accessory.

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Wednesday, July 7, 2010

The Top Ten Rogue Stories of All Time (Part Two)

And here's the second part to the Two-Part look at the best Rogue Stories comicdom has ever offered...

6.) The Light That Failed. Uncanny X-Men #246-247


This two-part story sees Nimrod (mentioned in Part 1) come back in a BIG way to get revenge on the X-Men. Rogue takes center stage as she (under the control of the Carol Danvers personality) don Carol's old Ms. Marvel outfit to take on the bigger, badder, and meaner Nimrod. Rogue makes the ultimate sacrifice here by allowing herself to get sucked into the mystical portal known as the Siege Perilous along with the team's robotic nemesis.

7.) Rogue in the Savage Land Uncanny X-Men #269, 274-275



This three part story is the direct sequel to #6 on this list, showing Rogue getting spit out (literally) of the Siege Perilous months after entering. She's now split into two people: Rogue and Carol Danvers, but soon learns that there's only enough life force between them for one person. This story sees Rogue finally regaining her own mind, and teaming up with the X-Men's former nemesis Magneto in a story that brings the two closer together than anyone may have ever expected.

8.) Supernovas, Primary Infection, Red Data X-Men (Vol. 2) #188-199

It's hard to break this saga into one story, as it details Rogue finally standing on her own two feet LONG after she and Magneto fought side-by-side in the Savage Land stories. Cyclops recognizes Rogue's unorthodox conduct in the field by giving her command over a team of X-men of her choosing. This story sees Rogue in command, taking on brand new foes. Over the course of the storyline, Rogue loses complete control of her powers, and goes absolutely insane after absorbing over 9 billion separate personalities. One of her darkest points, but it sets her up for a rebirth.

9.) X-Men Legacy 220-224



After regaining her sanity, Rogue sets off to the X-men's old headquarters in the Australian Outback to find herself. What is meant to be an introspective journey turns out to be way more than she bargained for when she finds herself as a pawn in a game that the X-Men nemesis Danger sets up against the team's former leader, Professor Xavier. By journeying through all of her past mistakes, Rogue and Xavier defeat Danger, and get her to agree to help Xavier keep his long-standing promise to Rogue. This story concludes with Rogue gaining full control over her powers for the first time in her life.

10.) Utopia X X-men Legacy 226-227



After nearly a two year absence, Rogue returns to the X-Men...only to find them under siege by the Government. Rogue, leading a small team consisting of her former lover Gambit, and converted enemy Danger, must make their way through the city of San Francisco to rescue missing members of the Young X-men. This is the first time Rogue sees action after her powers mature, and readers get to see her in a leadership role as well as bonding with the younger generation of mutants.

...and there you have it: my list of MUST READ stories involving the character of Rogue. Each of these stories see her character build and advance. You see her going from villain to conflicted hero to hero to leader. There's plenty of action as well as character growth, and each of these stories comes with excellent writing and (in most cases) stellar art (opinions vary drastically on the art in the issues comprising #8, and I wasn't overly thrilled with the penciller for #9 either). You may note though that the (real time) gap between the Rogue in the Savage Land story and the Supernovas issues is about 16 years. That's rather depressing when you consider that the character either sat stagnant or regressed during that period of time.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

The Top 10 Rogue Stories of All Time (Part One)






Comic book fan site www.comicbookresources.com recently published their list of all-time best Rogue stories. Some of their choices were right on, but a couple of them were way off the mark. So as a lifelong Rogue fan, I decided to counter their list with one of my own. So here are the first five picks (I'm doing these in chronological order, not preference) for the required reading list of any Rogue fan...

1.) Avengers Annual #10 and Uncanny X-Men #158
Technically, these are two separate stories, but they fit together as the best look at Rogue's brief career as a villain. Both are written by character creator Chris Claremont, and both tend to show Rogue as just a real bitch. Other stories taking place in this 'era' portrayed Rogue as a spoiled little girl who wanted a glamorous life, or just a really conflicted pain in the ass. Avengers Annual #10 begins after Rogue attacks Carol Danvers, absobring her powers and personality, and Uncanny X-Men #158 is her first encounter with the X-men, with Carol along for the ride. Seeing as how Uncanny X-men #158 is the only time readers actually get to see Rogue and Carol Danvers square off (instead of being told about it after the fact), it's important to me to group the two issues together.

2.) Rogue and Wolverine in Japan Uncanny X-Men #172-173
Rogue's first adventure as after her reformation and admittance into the X-men. She's paired with Wolverine in a buddy-type adventure against the Japanese underworld. Wolverine was the member of the team with the biggest and most valid reason for hating Rogue, so it seemed fitting that he'd be the one to give her her "Baptism by Fire". Swallowing her joining the team must have been an equally hard sell for fans at the time, but this story proved that she was there, and she was there to stay.

3.) Uncanny X-men #182
Rogue's reasons for joining the team centered around her permanently absorbing the psyche of Avenger Ms. Marvel, and the split personality driving her insane. Eleven months after joining the team, readers are given their first real insight into this. Rogue hears an answering machine message from one of Ms. Marvel's old flames, triggering her stolen memories, and causing her to believe that she truly is Ms. Marvel.

4.) Uncanny X-Men #194
It's the X-Men versus Nimrod, the mutant hunting robot from the Future. After incapacitating nearly every member of the team, Rogue is left with no choice than to absorb the powers of her teammates. It's the first time readers get to see Rogue using her powers in such a manner and shows just how big of an asset she is to the X-Men. In an ironic twist of fate (or possible deliberate homage...), Rogue defeats Nimrod by using Nightcrawler's powers to teleport his left arm off (causing a major systems malfunction). Years later, Nimrod kills NIghtcrawler by calculating the trajectory of his teleport, and extending his left arm so when he reappears, he is impaled through the heart.

5.) Uncanny X-men #218
After the events of the Mutant Massacre, the X-Men's ranks dwindle, and they find themselves taking on new recruits. When the Juggernaut goes on a rampage, it's up to Rogue and the new X-men to stop him. This is Rogue's debut as 'team leader', made all the more important as one of the X-men under her command (Dazzler) was a former opponent during her villain days. It'll be another 100+ issues before Rogue officially gets the command of her own squad of X-men, but this issue is a perfect preview of how strong of a leader she is.

A Love Letter to Mike Carey...



To be fair, this is about a year late (if you wanted to be a dick about it, you could actually say it's 5 years late, but don't please...) I realized this week that I've been reading the X-Men longer then I haven't. To be honest, I've been reading about them longer then a lot of my friends have been alive, and I owe all that to Rogue.

I'm not sure why, but the cover to UNCANNY X-MEN #182 just captivated child-me. I had no idea that the woman on the cover's name was 'Rogue'...I had no idea who Rogue was...hell, I had no idea who the "X-Men" were. All I knew was that I had to have it, and have it I did, and I've been a fan ever since.

Rogue's had a rough go at it in the ensuing two decades, most of it due to writers who had no idea how to handle her. A brief history of Rogue in the comics, for those of you who don't know:

Rogue is a mutant with the power to absorb other people's powers and memories by making skin-to-skin contact. She was raised by evil mutant (and all around bitch) Mystique and her lesbian lover Destiny. Under orders from Mystique, Rogue attacked awesomesauce Avenger Carol (Ms. Marvel) Danvers resulting in Rogue gaining all of Carol's powers, memories, emotions, and personality permanently. This lead to her having a split personality, and slowly going insane. Seeking help, Rogue sought out the X-Men. She ended up joint them and slowly coping with her split personality. She was a tragic and strong character who kicked ass and occasionally had a breakdown. She eventually lost Ms. Marvel's personality but kept her powers. You'd think that would make Rogue the greatest character ever, but right about that time she met and fell in love with Gambit, resulting in her becoming nothing but a whiner who spent more time fretting about how she could never touch Gambit. This continued for over 10 years until she eventually lost Ms. Marvel's powers...and got even more useless. I mean for the love of god, Rogue became so much of a worthless whiney bitch that they cast Anna Paquin in the X-Men movie series...

Anyway, that potential was finally tapped when Marvel Comics handed part of the X-Men writing reigns to one Mike Carey. Coming on board with X-Men (volume 2) #188 in 2006, Carey immediately dropped Gambit from the book, made Rogue team leader, and had her start experimenting with her powers in new and interesting ways. Rogue became innovative, daring, and dangerous. Over the next three years, Carey took Rogue on a roller coaster that saw her go insane and lose control of her powers to the point that her touch meant instant death. While Rogue spent the entirety of the massive crossover event "Messiah Complex" in a coma, she came out of it cured of her afflictions and leaving the team to 'find' herself after Mystique risked the life of a rather special infant to bring Rogue's powers under control and restore her sanity.

When she resurfaced, Rogue was faced with all her past decisions, adventures, and mistakes. She went though a mini-Odyssey, the results of which were Rogue's powers finally maturing to the point that she is now able to touch without harming the other person.

Rogue is a fascinating character when looked at from a metacontext and non-fictional point of view. She was created in 1980 by Chris Claremont, a man who wrote the X-Men non stop from 1974 until 1991. Whereas her teammates: Storm, Wolverine, Colossus, Nightcrawler, Kitty Pryde and others were either created by other people, or as a gestalt between Claremont and his art team (who often times served as co-plotters for the story), Rogue was the only member of his team that he could claim sole creative rights. As such, she can almost be looked upon as an in-story presence for the writer. That she was (for the majority of her Claremont penned stories) merged intricately with Carol Danvers - a non-Claremont created character, but one whom he had 'rescued' from a horribly misogynistic and sexist plotline, and therefore felt very protective of, just reinforces that metaphor. In fact, when Claremont found himself under increasing control from editors and pressure from new artists, one of the first things he did was to write the character out of the book where she stayed until he began his swan song on the title a few years later.

When Claremont exited the book, the X-men were at the peak of their popularity. They were Marvel's number one selling franchise. Their Saturday morning cartoon was just beginning, they were showing up on t-shirts, they had their own toy line, and talks of a movie started to pop up. This resulted in a very strict editorial hand that seemed to mandate that while the X-Men could go on adventures, they had to stay in a form that was recognizable to the general populace (on the off chance they decided they wanted to pick up the comic). That meant that the members of the team who were in the mainstreams consciousness (Rogue, Storm, Wolverine, Jean Grey, Cyclops, Jubilee, Gambit, and Beast) were basically frozen in the form they appeared when the cartoon debuted. For Rogue, that meant the whiny conflicted sop who was too in love with Gambit for her own good. Creators on these books continuously tried to begin interesting stories, only to be told at the last minute that they would deviate too far from the status quo, and have to change their endings. This lead to no one really knowing what was going on, and several story lines reading like a complete mess. Even when Claremont came back to the books, his storylines were jumbled and confusing, and seemed to change course in a heartbeat. The character who seemed to suffer the most from this? You guessed it: Rogue.

So where am I going with all this? Well...as anyone who enjoys infinitely serialized fiction of any kind (comic books or soap operas) knows, you don't ever really get change or growth with characters...instead, you get the illusion of change or growth. But with Rogue, under the caring pen of Mike Carey, we've actually gotten real change and real growth. Rogue is still recognizable; Rogue is still an X-Man; Rogue is still a mutant with the ability to touch others and absorb their powers...but she does it on her own terms now. Even better, in the set up to the story that saw her powers mature and reach a point where she has them under control, Carey established Gambit in a way that makes Rogue interested in pursuing a relationship with him, but also keeping him at arms length for the time being. The result is a chance for him to truly explore Rogue's character and develop her as a strong, in-control of herself hero. Rogue is no longer defined by her powers or the limitations they place on her, nor is she defined by her relationship with Gambit. Carey put the character through hell, only to pick her back up, set her on her own two feet, and put her on a path to move forward, a path that not many other A-List fictional characters get to embark on. So, as a lifelong Rogue fan, I wanted to just take a moment of my time to say "Thank You" to the man who not only saved the character from mediocrity, but who also turned the character into one worthy of the label "fan-favorite".

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

My thoughts on the "New" Wonder Woman...



1.) This is temporary...there's not going to be any massive change to any of the DC Big Three that will last longer than 2 years (tops). We saw that with the "death" of Superman, "Iron-Batman" and Artemis as Wonder Woman in the 1990's. This change is just there to drum up interest in a new writer and a milestone issue (#600) with the hopes that people will be intrigued to pick it up.

1.a) This ploy worked perfectly for me. I bought the issue this afternoon. First non-Doom Patrol DC Comic I've bought in YEARS. It doesn't really look like it worked as well as DC hoped it might though, as there were still plenty of copies on the rack. When Marvel has tried stuff like this recently (Death of Captain America, Obama in Spider-Man and Thunderbolts), the books are usually gone lickity split. Of course, the owner of the shop I frequent is a DC-Fanboy, so he may have significantly upped the order count on this book because of the milestone numbering...who knows.

2.) Okay, so yeah, maybe the new look is a little dated. I won't disagree that it leans more towards a 90's X-Men costume than an iconic look for the ages, but hey, if they're going for a "on the run"/"street level" feel in this new direction, you need something a bit more down-to-earth than the bathing suit look she usually wears.

3.) Hopefully the new storyline will set a better direction for Diana to connect with readers when she returns to the normal universe. Let's face it: Wonder Woman is a bit awkward. Everyone recognizes her, but no one (except for one friend of mine) seems to read her book. Sales continue to plummet, and writers fumble the ball with her stories. Personally, the two most interesting eras for Wonder Woman were the ones where the story focused on her supporting cast and the way she's viewed by the outside world. Why, because Wonder Woman has been around for 70 years or so, and has appeared in at least one comic book a month for...ooooh, let's say 68 of those years. That means that BARE MINIMUM, there have been 816 Wonder Woman stories told. Imagine telling stories about the same person 816 times, and still trying to keep it relevant to a revolving audience. How many times can you fight the Cheetah and still have people care? How many times can your Mother decide she wants to protect you (even though you've proved yourself capable over and over and over again) and replaces you, and still have people care? These are the challenges that almost all comic book writers face each month. Wonder Woman's creative team gets another roadblock though: she's a female solo hero in a market that targets mainly men.

No other female super hero has held on to a solo series as long as Wonder Woman has. Hell, no other female super hero has come close to holding on to a solo series as long as Wonder Woman did before her first book was canceled at issue #300. The closest may be Supergirl whose run in the late 90's netted her 80 issues (and that wasn't even the same Supergirl who had a series in the 70's and 80's...completely different character, starting with a clean slate). She-Hulk I think has had 100 issues (over 4 different series), Ms. Marvel clocks in at a cumulative 73, Spider-Woman gets a little fuzzy because there have been several series featuring several different characters and....well, you get the point. 600, minus 80, is 520 more issues that Wonder Woman has had over any other solo female super hero. So not only do her writers have to come up with ways to make her interesting and relevant, they also have to overcome the proverbial glass ceiling. This issue in question, Wonder Woman #600...it introduces the new reality and costume, but the other stories are just...filler. In one of them she attends a friend's graduation, in another she helps Power Girl bond with her (you ready for this...) cat. Wonder-frickin-Woman, the world's most recognizable fictional female spends her landmark anniversary issue acting as the pet-whisperer.

5.) And who IS Wonder Woman anyway? Wonder Woman, who was rebooted from scratch in 1987, came to "Man's World" to teach about peace and change the world. She hasn't done that. Her naivete is old hat by now, so the whole "Amazon in Man's World" story is old-hat. "Girl Power" has gone the way of the Spice Girls (and any and all lack of nostalgic resurrection that goes along with it), so the whole Women's Lib and empowered woman angle is stale and falls flat. She's a child of myth, empowered by the Gods, but so are a whole slew of other super-heroes. So why, when you have near unlimited avenues to get your fictional female fix, would anyone spend, or continue to spend, $4 a month reading about someone they can't connect with, and/or is simply rehashing old stories in new settings?

Yes, Wonder Woman is recognizable and iconic...but who the fuck really cares what she does? The two things that stand out in my mind that Wonder Woman has done is A.) be replaced and B.) kill Maxwell Lord in front of a worldwide audience. The first one was done over 15 years ago, and the second has been mined so much over the last 5 years that it feels just as flat having her fight the Cheetah again for the millionth time. So many writers have tried over the last two decades to make Wonder Woman interesting, but they can't. Hell, my aforementioned friend who loves and reads her comic, raved more about the issues where she teamed up with Black Canary than any other storyline. He LOVES the character, but from what he's told me, his favorite recent storyline was because another character was added into the mix! What does that tell you?

Wonder Woman WAS something special. Now, Wonder Woman is boring, she's predictable, she's stale. She's LAME. Or rather...prior to today she was lame. Now, she's a topic of conversation, she's controversial, and she's in the news. All because she put on a pair of pants and a jacket...

The new Wonder Woman look and story opens with an off-panel narrator musing that she "is undervalued by this world" and how that "must change". Seems to me, by all the fuss, that they're on the right path...

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Three Down...


RIP Rue McClanahan, the youngest of the Golden Girls. That leaves Betty White as the only surviving cast member...if she goes, I'm going with her...

Friday, May 28, 2010

Now...who want's to be my Ada Wong?


Okay, yeah, it's not even June...but Halloween is my all time favorite Holiday (Sorry Mom!), and so I really try not to wait until the last minute to figure out my costume (last year was a fluke, since several group ideas fell through at the last minute). Anyway, I'm like 99.9999999999% certain that this year's outfit will be none other than Leon Kennedy of Resident Evil (the video game) fame (see above).

It seems rather straightforward: black boots, shortsleeve navy blue coveralls, white long sleeve t-shirt (all can be purchased just about *anywhere*), the gloves and elbow and knee pads should be found in a sporting goods aisle...and then there's just a little bit of accessorizing to do. The Flak jacket may be the hard part, but I'm thinking about getting one of those weighted vests that the hardcore runners use, and removing the weight plates? Anyone out there have a better idea? I think I may also have my faice airbrushed too, just to give it that smooth anime/video game appearance!

Annnnnd...then of course there's the hair. I'm torn as to whether or not I want to try and grow my hair out like that between now and December, or if I just want to go with a wig. I think part of my (very empty) Memorial Day weekend may be spent browsing around trying to see how much this whole ensemble will end up costing before making the final decision.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

So kiss a little longer...hug a little longer...

I've got the goddamned Big Red theme song/diddy stuck in my head. It's been there for going on 12 hours now. I've YouTubed so many versions of the old commercials trying to excise it. Hell, I even watched that clip from that one Ben Foster movie where he ends up singing it to his entire High School for reasons that I don't remember. Still, the song's stuck in my head. It's Verizon's fault of course, for 'aping' the song for their commercials (which is LAME, btw...) which I heard last night and then started thinking about the original song, and then BOOM! Here we are.

It remnided me though of a girl who was a little older than me in school. Her name was Beth. Pretty sure she's a lesbian. If not, odds are good she's single, because unless she went through "Extreme Makeover - Dyke Edition" after High School, I can't imagine any guy wanting to date her seriously because they'd just be thinking to themselves the whole time "She's gonna leave me for another chick"...also, Beth wasn't exactly the prettiest girl in the world. And by that, I mean she was ugly.

Anyway, the correllation here is that back in elementary school, Beth was also in Junior Theater with me. Anyway, she was making this HUGE deal about how she got a solo in the (then) upcoming school Christmas Pageant. Like, she just kept going on and on (while you chew it...Damn It! SEE!?!?) about this damn solo. So then the day of the pageant dress rehersal, I'm sitting on the bleachers, watching all the other classes perform, and Beth's class comes out, and they start singing some stupid song that I've never heard again that's about a recipe for...something Christmas-y I think. Well then Beth's "Solo" was stepping out of the chorus and singing "Cinnamon, cinnamon, don't forget the cinnamon..." and then stepping back into the chorus. Most OVERBLOWN bit of self promotion I think I've seen until Heidi Montag debuted on the world stage...seriously. I had to listen to this ugly girl go on and on at Junior Theater to everyone there about her big upcoming solo, and it was a line about fucking cinnamon.

Anyway, you can see how the two are related, since they both involve cinnamon...yeah, that's how my brain works...

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

I don't mean to come across as insensitive...

...but as my fellow Iowans are mourning the death of an ISU student that got hit by a train and died this past weekend, all I can do is sit here and wonder: Who the FUCK gets hit by a train!?!?

You've all heard of the Darwin Awards, right? People dying in absolutely spectacularly stupid ways? Well in my honest opinion, getting hit by a train in this day and age has to sit at the very top of this list. I mean, all through school, from Pre-School through college, I never once had to sit through a class or lecture on how to not get hit by a train. You know why that is? Because not getting hit by a train is very simple. You don't get hit by a train by doing precisely the following:

ANYTHING but "Standing on train tracks when a train is coming".

If you disagree, and think this needs further analysis, let’s recap…

Trains ARE:

Big.
Loud.
EXTREMELY LIMITED IN WHERE THEY CAN AND CANNOT GO

Trains are NOT:

Invisible
Stealthy
Known to make sudden movement
Veer off course
Make ‘wrong turns’
Dart buses (this one, only my Central Iowa readers will ‘get’).

The only quasi-rational explanation I can even remotely fathom for how this occurred comes in the detail of the story that explains how this girl got tired, told her boyfriend she didn’t’ want to walk anymore, and her boyfriend offered to go and get his car and come pick her up. Now maybe, MAYBE, she then saw the train, and in a drunken haze, thought it was her boyfriend’s car. Of course the question then needs to be asked: why did she decide to stand right in the path of her boyfriend’s car? And why would she think her boyfriend drove a train….either one takes away from the plausibility of this explanation.

Seriously, I don't mean to sound like a dick, but this one really blows my mind...

Thursday, April 22, 2010

My wit is wordy...

I don't understand how people can use the same thing for their Twitter Tweets as they do for their Facebook status updates. Condensing what I use on FB into less than 140 characters for Twitter has become my new arch-nemesis. Perhaps I should just invent my own version of shorthand, and require all of my followers to learn it...

In other news, Twitter just isn't taking off for me like Facebook has. Perhaps I need to just stick with what I know, and enjoy the surprising (and somewhat disturbing) cult following I've developed on FB. I'm beginning to understand why Madonna eventually gave up on a movie career...

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

A quick, brief thought that's too long for FB or Twitter...and about 4 days past being relevant...

I saw Ke$ha's performance on Saturday Night Live from last weekend. Anyone remember how back in the 90's, and everytime Disney released a movie in theaters, some no-name animation company would release a knock-off on VHS to try and trick unsuspecting grandparents into buying their grandkids the crappy yet similar movie for Christmas? Well, Lady Gaga is the Disney Movie, Ke$ha was the crappy, yet eerily similar knockoff.