Posted in Comics n Stuff, Shared Stuff, Uncategorized

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Posted in Comics n Stuff, Mental Health Struggles

5 Comic characters I identify with

All of my heroes have been fictional. Religion has no value for me, institutions are often more corrupt and people in the real world will always let you down. For me the ideals and insights in fiction have offered me ideas, rather than things to believe in. Knowing that they are fiction was in reality comforting, you take your meaning as you want to. A book can’t let you down, a comic or a tv program can’t cause you to be disillusioned. I believe in the people around me and on the good days, myself, haven’t really needed anything more than that. Being able to be moved by music and identify with characters on the screen and page has been enough, beyond my loved ones that is.

As I have spent the last four or so years trying to understand the bats**t crazy elements of my personality, I have been looking at why I identify with certain characters, what that means about me and well hence this article. Now by this I mean specific characters, relating to specific personality traits/issues, so I don’t need to mention always identifying with the outsider/inhuman character. My status as a bit of a misfit is not really much of a mystery, nor in geekdom that unique a thing. But I found this thought interesting, so wanted to explore it.

Vance Astro: Finding purpose

Appearing in Marvel comics, including Guardians of the Galaxy, Vance Astro was an astronaut who sacrificed his entire life to visit another star system and further the human adventure by travelling to Alpha Centauri in a thousand year one way trip. Only to find out that 800 years before he arrived, Harkovian physics rendered his entire trip obsolete and humanity was already waiting for him. The image he had of himself and the purpose that he lived for were pointless. His entire life seemingly a waste. So he did, what any person would need to do, he started again. He found a purpose in freeing the worlds of the Sol system from the Badoon. It wasn’t quick, easy or all at once, but he began to live again. I find that aspirational, the idea of starting again and changing who you are to yourself and becoming something greater than who you were before. If it can be imagined, then it can be done, if it can be done, maybe I can do it?

Henry ‘Beast’ McCoy : Bad judgement and deflection.

Here one character meets two different thoughts. Dr Henry McCoy first appeared in X-Men 1 and was one of the original class of students of Charles Xavier. He is also the person who has made some fantastic blunders over the years. He quit the X-Men to become a professional wrestler, we were all young once, has been the victim of femme fatales so many times and in order to deal with some corporate espionage, actually mutated himself into some kind of were ape creature. Yeah, that wasn’t do to him, he did that to himself. When anti-mutant bigotry cost him a job opportunity, did he sue? No he stripped down to his undies and jumped out of the window like an azure gorilla. He then tried to be somewhat smarter for a long time and then because of an off-hand comment by his friend, decided to steal a time machine and bring his younger self and his classmates into their future/his present to PREVENT disaster. Yup that’s right, for what seemed to be laudable reasons, he tore open time and stole 5 people from the past, including himself to prove a point to one of his oldest friends. Now, who here can’t relate to making a few stupid decisions? He’s also good at deflecting, the affected intellectualism, where he’d use many long words, play up how smart he is, to keep people at arms length, or his constant light-hearted jokey replies to everyone, to make sure they don’t keep things too real. Even during his time on the Avengers and his ladies man antics are just more deflection from his problems. I also do that, preventing people from seeing who I really am.

Hank Pym: Self Esteem

I have, for as long as I can remember, suffered from low self esteem. I don’t think I would as far as calling it an inferiority complex, but I know full well that feeling of being less than. I did a long piece called In Defense of Hank Pym, here so will be brief about the specifics, but no matter how smart he was, or how hard he worked, in the original team of Avengers, he was the little guy. Think about it, the god of thunder, the human tank, the flying woman and a guy who’s power is to be small. Who’d want to be that one? There’s a reason that he was left out of the Avengers movie.

Cyclops: Repression

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Probably the first comic character I identified with, Cyclops was introverted, quiet and kept his feelings very much to himself. He was in love with a girl, but could never tell her how he felt. He was also skinny (as was I when younger) and wore glasses. As I got older and new writers took over, Cyclops was seen as more of a repressed character, who not only kept his feelings from other people, but also from himself. He closed himself off from the world and whenever he didn’t, it didn’t go well for him. A man who never really learned how to ‘people’, this is a feeling that I can understand completely and I was never brainwashed into a cult. Fortunately his being at times a shockingly bad human being and making at best questionable life choices keeps me from identifying too much.

The Thing: Depression 

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Ben Grimm is my spirit animal. In fact recently I considered him as part of my left arm cover tattoo. Like Vance Astro, my identification with him is aspirational. In mind’s eye, he is the battle with depression. Happy for a lot of his life, despite a harsh upbringing, Ben became the Thing, not through fault of his own, but as part of an accident partially caused by his best friend. None of this is his fault, but he bears the burden for it nonetheless. He still has his own voice, his own wants and needs, but is almost perpetually cut off from the world. He can’t feel things like he used to, feels at times like a monster and there is always this tinge of bitterness and melancholy. And yet, he battles for others, has the biggest of hearts and a stubborn refusal to surrender to either his own problems, or any opposing force.

5 ways to explain some of the s**t in my head, there you go, till next time internet people.

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Comics n Stuff

82 years in the future, or right now on my left arm

I have an awesome wife. The MIGHTY Rosie has always done right by me, being generous and thoughtful. For my birthday/Christmas this year, my main gift is to have my left arm tattoos covered up. There are three stories here, why I have tattoos to start with, why I chose the picture  I chose and the day itself.

Why I have tattoos: I got a tattoo about 13 years ago. I showed the tattoo artist the shape and asked for it bigger, he did it to scale, so I wanted one taking up my upper arm and got a tiny one on my shoulder. In order to fix that I got another one to fill it out. To balance them out, I got one one my right arm. They are one of the few things I have done that I regret. Getting them covered up has been a cathartic undoing of mistakes.

Why the picture: Well it surprises no one, but I am a massive comic fan. So it was no question whether my cover ups would be comic related. I wrote about the first cover up here The Right Arm of Vance Astro part 1

and the rest of it here The right arm of Vance Astro part 2: return of the pain

so I knew that know matter what, I would go back to design for life tattoo studio and the amazing Simon K Bell who designed it. But why this one? That goes back to my silver age of comic collecting, the 90’s. I missed the boat by a few months in the 90’s. I didn’t really jump on the Image bandwagon when that started and I missed the launches of X-Force and X-Men vol 2 by a matter of months and it wasn’t till near 20 years later that I looked at Ultraverse or Valiant. And Vertigo wasn’t my thing either, so I missed many of the fads of the era, because I wasn’t in on the ground floor. But that changed after several months of reading Peter David’s first run on X-Factor. His use of humour and in depth character study was a revelation for me at the time and then Marvel announced that he was the writer of the flagship title of a new imprint, Marvel 2099.For those who don’t know or care, Marvel 2099 was the idea of looking at the future of Marvel heroes, what would they look like 107 years from the present day, at that point the present day was 1992. There was Doom 2099, Punisher 2099, X-Men 2099 and Ravage 2099.The first, the longest lasting and by far the best was Spider-Man 2099. Drawn by Rick Leonardi and written by Peter David, this was a less friendly neighbourhood and less friendly Spider-Man. Being on the ground floor for this has always left very fond memories of it in my head.  Despite many comics fans having buyers remorse, I acknowledge the flaws of many comics of that era, but I really enjoyed comics in the 90s and that was the time that they hooked me, never really letting go, so it was always going to be a 90’s character on my arm and he was at the time one of my favourites.

The tattoo: So after applying some numbing cream (again courtesy of the MIGHTY Rosie) I went to the tattoo place and saw the first part of the tattoo. I didn’t realise how big it was going to be. So I got the sketch done by Simon who applied the stencil to my arm.

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The numbing cream helped, I will admit that. Managed to sit for over 4 hours with little problem. However, when he got to my shoulder, I realised the that I didn’t expect the tattoo to go so far up and that’s when I realised how painful it gets when the tattoo is close to bone. That last 90 minute hurt more than the previous 4 hours, by quite a long way. But damn it’s hard to argue with the results.

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I won’t lie, that was a tough sit, but with a chicken caesar wrap, couple of bananas and the several episodes of Michael Bailey’s Views from the Longbow, I got through it with a smile in just enough time to go and get my son from school.

This is what was had been finished by 4:30.

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So now I have matching tattoos, in that I love both of them. There’s still more to go and I will have to book another appointment but for now, I’m very happy with what I have on my left arm and it’s only going to get better.

Most of the impetus for all this is the support and care of the MIGHTY Rosie.

Like I said, my wife is awesome.

 

 

Posted in Comics n Stuff, Uncategorized

The Joy of Comics: Symptoms of the Sickness

Kirby,_Genesis,_Dynamite_Entertainment,_May_2011

Prolific podcaster Michael R Bailey in an old promo for his show (one of many)Views from the Longbox, referred to comic collecting as a crippling addiction. As time goes on, I realise how right he was.

It’s a ridiculous hobby for a grown ass man, but comics have been part of my life for longer than most things. So as you can imagine, I have a lot of them, Seriously, it’s ridiculous. So last year I did what I needed to and bought some longboxes. It’s weird to think I didn’t use them before. I now have eight of them in use, plus another two or three for trade paperbacks and the like.

Part of the collecting illness is the organising of these comics. I have whole systems for that process, publishers, themes and so on and so forth and have for the last several months avoided sorting them out (I am good at avoiding, it’s a skill, not a good one, but a skill) and have begun the process of cataloguing them, comic by comic. Now given that a large percentage of my comic collection is digital these days, those eight long boxes are but a fraction of what I have to read, but there is something about physically holding the comics that makes the reading experience richer. But I digress and will not wade into the digital vs hard copy debate, because both have too many merits for me. The point is that organising them is a bit of a thing.

It’s a good thing. I have comics that date back to the 90’s from when I got them and the 70’s from when they were published and I have some really good stuff in there. For example, it would have been Jack Kirby’s 100th birthday last  week, if he hadn’t passed away and i was able to find my copy of the Kirby Genesis series from a few years ago and I re-read it. It was awesome, in fact I plan to do a post on it later. I saw loads of comics that I knew that I had, but forgot how much I actually enjoyed. Re-organising those comics started as a chore, but re-affirmed my love for them. A bag of comics, read once for their new-ness still have the power to transport me to strange places and fill my mind with wonders.

The joy of comics is still with me, they do not overshadow the best things in my life (my son, the MIGHTY Rosie) but they do add something to them and if I hadn’t been such a messy sod, this wouldn’t be at the fore front of my mind right now.

So if you are a collector of stuff, have a butchers at it once in a while, read an old book, listen to an old CD, play an old game and remember, why it is you have those things in the first place.

Bit of a rambly one today, ta ta for now internet people.

Posted in Comics n Stuff

Thanks Jack

 

The 28th of August was the 100th birthday of Jacob Kurtzberg, known to the geeky amongst us as  Jack ‘the King’ Kirby. It was be quite the achievement, but sadly the man passed away in 1994.

I never met the man, nor saw much of his life off the page, so I won’t pretend to miss him, or feel saddened for his loss. His family lost him, his friends lost him and his colleagues past and present lost him. I’m not going to pretend to have this great sense of loss, it would be disingenuous. But I also can’t say he didn’t have an effect on me either.

In the mid 1980’s a was given a copy of Original X-Men #1 which was a reprint title of the 1960’s X-Men. This was drawn and co-plotted by one Jack Kirby and I’ll be honest, I was entranced. The character design, the action and the just mad dynamism of those pages affect me even now. One of my early favourite artists was John Byrne, who was so very clearly influenced by Kirby as was Byrne’s contemporary Walt Simonson who did the greatest run on the Mighty Thor since, well the man who launched Thor to comic stardom, Jack Kirby. If you look at the marvel movies from the last year or so, or one of the DC movies from last year. You’d be hard pushed not to see Kirby’s influence 40-50 years after his work on these characters.

Batman vs Superman (the dream sequence was full of 4th world creations)

Captain America: Civil War  (Captain America, Iron Man, Ant Man, Black Panther and even some of the original designs for Spider-Man, all Kirby)

Guardians of the Galaxy vol 2 (Ego, the Celestials, Warlock and Groot all have roots in Kirby’s work.)

Some later movies

Thor Ragnarok (Thor and Hulk)

Justice League ( Steppenwolf, the Mother Box etc)

All these million dollar ideas were all born from the pencil of Jack Kirby.

He inspired many artists who followed him and challenged many that worked alongside him. Comics wouldn’t be comics without him and to me, that would be a very sad place. He passed away and was the most part shafted along the way by suits as well as friends, but his legacy remains.

90% of the Marvel Universe, including the Inhumans, Avengers, X-Men, Fantastic Four, Black Panther, Adam Warlock, the Kree, the Skrull, Iron Man, Captain America, Thor, the X-Men, Galactus and the Silver Surfer.

The Fourth World

Kamandi

the Demon

OMAC

The Celestials

Machine Man

Devil F***ing Dinosaur

This man was an idea factory and came up with some of the wildest and most amazing ideas in sci-fi history as well as working for years in animation, adding to the creation of Thundarr the Barbarian and the Centurions amongst others. He was the man who drew Captain America punching Hitler long before the US became part of WWII and when it did, he signed up and fought.

I’m not going to get into the who did what debate between him and Stan Lee, but lets be honest without either of them, no one would care about what Marvel became and it’s the visuals that Kirby put down that remain with us.

But to get back to the point, without the work Kirby did, we wouldn’t have the Marvel Universe, a place I spent much more of my life than would be considered healthy. Years later I would be amazed by his 4th world stuff and would grab a new appreciation for his legacy and without that, I’d have missed out on a ton of stuff that has fired up my imagination. I’ve read a lot of cool comics, watched a ton of great tv and movies and have had some great conversations out of it. Comics were my escape, my passion and still now my favourite form of entertainment so for all of that….thank you Mr Kirby may your legacy endure.

 

Posted in Comics n Stuff, TV Stuff

Champions of S.H.I.E.L.D. part 2: Season 2

Main Cast:

Agent Phil Coulson –  Clark Gregg

Agent Melinda May  –  Ming Na Wen

Agent Leopold Fitz    – Ian De Caestecker

Agent Gemma Simmons –  Elizabeth Henstridge

‘Skye’   –  Chloe Bennett

Alfonso ‘Mack’ MacKenzie – Henry Simmons

Lance Hunter – Nick Blood

Barbara ‘Bobbi’ Morse – Adrianne Palicki

Recurring Cast:

Glenn Talbot – Adrian Pasdar

Calvin Zabo – Kyle MacLaughlin

Grant Ward – Brett Dalton

Antoine ‘Trip’ Triplett – B.J. Britt

Robert Gonzales – Edward James Olmos

Gordon – Jamie Harris

Raina – Ruth Negga

Overview: First shown on 24 October 2014, season 2 opened capitalised on the strong finish of season 1 and pushed the story forward with an uneven, but highly entertaining 22 episodes. Rather than a huge global organisation, now S.H.I.E.L.D. is the small scrappy underdog against all sides, the US government, Hydra and other groups. Secrets, tension and uncertain loyalties abound.

Initial Status Quo: Several months after the fall of S.H.I.E.L.D. and a newer organisation arises, led by Director Coulson, this small scrappy group is a shadow of it’s former self and bit by bit are rebuilding to take the fight to Hydra, who despite the popular view are still very much a threat. Coulson is having moments of compulsive carvings similar to what happened to John Garrett after receiving the GHC formula in the last season. Skye has changed supervising officers to Melinda May and has become a capable specialist. Simmons is undercover at Hydra, Fitz is struggling to recover after the brain damage he suffered, whilst working with new recruit Alfonso MacKenzie/Mack. The team is also joined by Lance Hunter, a friend to other S.H.I.E.L.D. agents and whilst sceptical of Coulson, trusts him enough to join. As well as Hydra, we have Dr Cal ‘Mr Hyde’ Zabo, Skye’s father who along with Grant Ward who escapes from S.H.I.E.L.D. pushes the plot forward as the secret of the alien writing, Skye’s origins and the strange artifact from the first episodes collide.

The Twist(s) First we find out that Skye is actually an inhuman and halfway through the season she goes through terrigenesis and emerges with vibrational powers. It’s then discovered that there are more inhumans out there, in hiding and terrified of the fearful human race. The second one comes when we learn that Bobbi and Mack are spies for another version of S.H.I.E.L.D. who are convinced that Coulson is the problem with the group and needs to be dealt with. Add into that several different revelations, changing allegiances and a few WTF moments, we get another fast paced finale which leads to more questions, more possibilities and more enjoyment for me.

Stand out episodes:

Love in the Time of Hydra: Bobbi and Mack play their hand and Grant Ward starts to help Agent 33 find closure over the damage done to her by Hydra.

Melinda: Where were learn how the ‘Cavalry’ became the Cavalry and why she spent 5 or 6 years in administration, set against the current Inhumans plot.

SOS: The seperate threads become one solid story and we get several cliff-hanger endings that leave you wanting a little more.

In Closing

Not suffering the finding their feet problems with the last season and having a little less to do with the Marvel Cinematics, allowed this season to breath a little. The cast are more comfortable in their roles and each are given more to do than last time. The expanded cast is a welcome breath of fresh air, with new recruits Mack, Bobbi and Hunter added some much needed flavour to the team. The antagonists are also more interesting and nuanced, from the more enlightened Ward, to his partner/girlfriend Agent 33 to the old school Nazi Daniel Whitehall. We get a look at the Inhumans and that continues Marvels attempts to make Inhumans interesting and relevant, but here it sort of works. (But seriously Marvel, stop trying to make Inhumans a thing, it’s still not working, but we all accept you tried your best.) We get more Asgardians, a Kree, a return of Deathlok and even some villains (we get Mr Hyde, Angar the Screamer and Crusher ‘The Absorbing Man’ Creel) and over all this was a much better season overall and I am glad I got it into my head to start watching these again.

Next Time: Inhumans, robot arms, alien worlds and Secret Warriors.

 

Posted in Comics n Stuff, TV Stuff

Champions of S.H.I.E.L.D. Part 1: Season 1

First airing 27 September 2013 on the US network ABC, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. was the first attempt to put the Marvel Cinematic Universe on the small screen with a spin off and 5 netflix series, it can be considered something of a successful attempt.

 

Main Cast:

Agent Phil Coulson –  Clark Gregg

Agent Melinda May  –  Ming Na Wen

Agent Grant Ward   –  Brett Dalton

Agent Leopold Fitz    – Ian De Caestecker

Agent Gemma Simmons  –  Elizabeth Henstridge

‘Skye’   –  Chloe Bennett

Recurring characters

Raina –  Ruth Negga

Victoria Hand   –  Saffron Burrows

John Garret – Bill Paxton

Ian Quinn  – David Conrad

Mike Peterson – J August Richards

Agent Antoine ‘Trip’ Triplett – B J Britt

Agent Maria Hill – Colbie Smulders

Edison Po -Cullen Douglas

Overview: Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. was a gamble, a weekly prime time series, set in the Marvel Universe, but without any of the recognisable characters that could be used in future films, or where there was rights issues. Straight away that takes the Avengers, X-Men, Fantastic Four, Namor and a dozen other characters right off the table, add to that the ridiculous weekly schedule and a TV budget, it would be understandable if this was a brief failure. Right at the start, we are shown that the world has changed since the ‘incident’ when the Chitauri invaded a small part of Manhatten, the Avengers formed and the fantastic elements wherein were exposed to a terrified world.

Initial Status Quo: Our P.O.V. character is Skye, who lands on S.H.I.E.L.D.‘s radar after videoing a superhuman saving a woman from a fire. Quickly recruited for the response team is Grant Ward who is a very James Bond-esque agent. He is interviewed by Maria Hill to gauge his suitability to join a team led my an experienced agent named Coulson. Ward points out that he’s a level 6, so he knows Coulson was killed. Coulson walks in and announces that Ward is now a 7. He then recruits Melinda May from administration to act as pilot and takes Ward and May to the ‘Bus’ which is a converted Jet designated 616. Ward is met by newly field-rated scientist Fitz and Simmons, or Fitzsimmons for short. Investigating the superhuman, they encounter Skye, who helps out and is offered a consultant’s position on the Bus. For the first bunch of episodes, it’s very much like that, we get the team investigating weird cases, unexplained events and battle an organisation called Centipede who along with the ‘Clairvoyant’ are trying to develop super soldiers. In between we have the search for the truth of Skye’s past, the facts behind Coulson’s return and his time in Tahiti and all the time trying to train Skye as an agent. The concepts are fleshed out and the writing is decent enough and there is the sense of it all going somewhere as the Clairvoyant starts manipulating events. The synergy thing of it, is that during the season, Marvel released Thor: The Dark World and an episode fits in around that and then Captain America: Winter Solider happened.

The twist: Winter Soldier had the 3rd act twist that from the beginning, Hydra had infiltrated S.H.I.E.L.D and had been working in the background to make the world more dangerous, so to enable their takeover. The series then stops being what it was and becomes something else. Ward is revealed to be Hydra and thus becomes part of the antagonists for the rest of the season and S.H.I.E.L.D is now considered the same as Hydra, so the team are now outlaws. Now on the run, with minimal resources and betrayed at all sides, this rag tag team becomes not a team within S.H.I.E.L.D but the remainder of the organisation. It ends the season, showing that not all of the threats are dealt with and not all of the mysteries are solved. There are also guest stars, minor twists and turns and ultimately the series ends on a high with a final scene that leaves you wanting to know what happens next.

In closing: I liked this series better on the second watch, not having to wait week by week for each new episode and after a wobbly first half dozen episodes it found it’s footing early on and was consistently enjoyable. It’s not high art or award winning drama and to be honest it’s not really trying to do that, it’s an entertaining show set in the spaces around Marvel’s movies, but more and more are separate from them. The main cast do a great job with Ming Na Wen and Clark Gregg playing wonderfully off one another and the younger cast aren’t as annoying as they could have been. Over all this is a TV show that is worth giving a try for anyone who has a passing interest in the marvel movies and the comics they came from, it’s not the comics, nor the movies, but it’s not bad because of them.

Next Time: Rebuilding S.H.I.E.L.D., rival organisations and terrigenesis.