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Sunday, June 12, 2011

Spectacular Spider-Man A Retrospective

I have been slowly absorbing as much material as is possible with my heavy work load lately. Landing new projects has been the theme of the month for myself as a PMP. However, the child inside cannot be suppressed and of course neither can the Comic Book fan. 

After finishing The Avengers: Earth Mightiest Heroes I decided to watch the Fantastic Four: Earths Greatest Heroes. To be honest, I have never been much of a fan of that particular comic book, even though I have many of those publications in my collections --Reading them is something I need to do (eventually). This particular series as I started to watch it, something inside me went "Bleh..." and I had to turn it off...

Fantastic Four: Earths Greatest Heroes - Did not readily inspire much enthusiasm for me. But I will get to it...

Perhaps it was my mood, the amount of work I had in front of me or simply my lack of interest in those characters. I decided to go toward one of my favorite series and look up Spider-Man. I have always loved the old school variations. Specifically Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends from the early 80's. I even remember watching the 1978 live action Amazing Spider-Man --Which I loved as a kid. I loved it so much, a close friend of my family who served in the Marines with one of my uncles who started a comic shop after the service gave me some of my first set of Spidey comics, among them a glass encased edition of #1 (but that's another story).

Some of my earliest comic book love and later purist and completest collecting behavior has stemmed from this early access to Spider-Man. Among the comics as many of you know from reading my notes and mini-blog posts (some not so mini) that it also goes toward collecting the animated series and films.

When I bypassed Fantastic Four for some Spider-Man I found The Spectacular Spider-Man. At first, I felt like I was watching something directly geared toward children and very young teens, of course most of these series are for those audiences; Yet finding it relevant and purposeful is a delight in itself.

Similarly scripted as The Avengers: Earth Mightiest Heroes much of the premise follows along the Silver age storylines with a variety of those early characters coming into play. Much of it also springing forth from either of two centralized characters the Kingpin via proxy in Tombstone and Oscorp. So the tech angles definitely pop up but most of it is very low key and focused mostly on the relationships that Peter Parker has with his closest friends and of course his struggle to help his Aunt May and maintain his responsibilities as Spider-Man and live up to his notion of what Ben Parker wanted him to be. 

I have thoroughly enjoyed the first 4 volumes, the first of which is titled Spider-Man: Attack of the Lizard the other volumes following The Spectacular Spider-Man: Volume 2 and so on.

I am looking forward to watching the next set of volumes for the second season then I will jump over to Spider-Man Unlimited which I never got a chance to get on DVD but with the entire series on Netflix I can watch the entire thing with my children. 

Like with any animated variations of a series there are always details that are either added, omitted or adapted for an audience, in this case certain things are conceded for a TV-Y7 audience. But even with that it is still a very solid series and the Symbiote Suit arc is easily among it's best stories. A few characters that are minor nuisances in the Marvel Universe yet part of the origins of Spidey are showcased nicely and it definitely adapts a young audience to a great comic book series that will slowly bring them into our world of comics (It has already worked for my girls).

It will be a week or two before I get it out of the way and move on to Unlimited and eventually I will get to the Fantastic Four series.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

The Avengers: Earths Mightiest Heroes

I've been catching up on all kinds of comic book series with my kids. Most recently we saw all 26 episodes of The Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes which aired on Disney XD and just recently in April completed airing. 

I will definitely say this, for a show that is roughly translating a lot of comic book events into a 26 episode series I found it entertaining. You can definitely feel the young teenage level of the story (it is on Disney after all). 

But you can also feel a solid connection to the characters we are getting used to, specifically the Robert Downey Jr. voice we know from the film. Thor was a little more on the RPG side of things, it felt very British chivalry to be honest. Hulk spoke much more often but was interesting to see. 

I like how essentially in this series you see a general thread connecting all the episodes where it demonstrates more and more how they tend to create their own problems. It is also quite interesting to see how the season slowly progresses toward Secret War / Civil War as well as toward the Skrull/Kree wars. 

Granted there are a few issues, like with any interpretation of a comic book into a series, but most of it is small and of no circumstances.

I actually had a very early gripe with a character Thor was fighting in the second episode Thor the Mighty. The character name was Wrecker. Now, I find out later this was a normal thing as is intended, however the audience (which is mostly kids and teenagers, some of which never read the earlier comics) won't know the connection.

Funny thing is, while I caught it, I didn't know enough about this character that it forced me to look him up and see if he appeared in any of the comics I had, which he did - but those are from Silver Age and I haven't opened them since the early 1990's. 

Wrecker carries a crowbar...

Nothing fancy, just a crowbar, yet when Thor charges at him with Mjolnir and strikes him from above, wrecker blocks it with the crowbar...

At first thought, this also being episode two...I of course yelled out, "That's a load of Bull!" thinking to myself that the producers of the series created a gaping hole in their plot if Thor's hammer could not best a simple crowbar...

I found from reading a few of my older comics and from some research online (to find these comics) Wrecker's crowbar is bestowed with similar enchantments to Mjolnir...O_o

OK, that's a new WTF moment...

He also bestowed some of that power to him crew and lost some of his total power. Later being restored. So you can imagine I was blown away that something so simple was actually a lot more than it really was. I'm more amazed at the weirdness of the weapon and the character - He is essentially a lower level nobody. He does appear again later on in this series and given more power by the Leader with Gamma irradiated booster technology. 

However, any kid, teen or comic fan like myself getting a fix from this series will catch it right away and rage at the potential for a crowbar to actually stand against Mjolnir...Wrecker and his obviously whoa WTF awesome crowbar has no back end story or explanation (unless you know the comics). 

There are a lot of other cool little tidbits in the series what I like to call the "Thing's that make you go Hmm..." moments. 

While I couldn't help but slightly compare it to the higher production value of Iron Man: Armored Adventures it was a great show, even if the Iron Man series was a re-imagining as Tony Stark in his teenage years. the Art was cleaner and the CGI was well done.

The Avengers are rooted in the old interpretations of some of the comic characters and is true to the background of those characters, for the most part (which I liked a lot) - Specifically a scene that made me chuckle where Captain America is teaching Tony Stark how to fight. Tony completely getting his ass kicked. Wanting to rely solely on his armor as opposed to any skills. Where Rogers relies on training hard work and tactical skill. 

As the series carries on it introduces larger and more grandiose scenarios as they have to save the world more and more often. Keeping in mind with this as anyone watches it, and then sees a film like X-Men:First Class you will immediately notice a specific character plot hole in the Wasp...specifically her powers and abilities, and the fact that she was a wealthy socialite, not a penniless girl that needed to strip for money...Not to bash the film, I did like it as a film, not as an X-men film. 

My only other gripe is the same most comic books that share the earth normally face. The storylines are not in a vacuum. If the world is being taken over by a race of aliens, there are other mutants and super heroes that will pop up and give a lending hand. Excluding many of them is awkward sometimes. 

Again, this is just an animated series and is designed more toward a younger crowd. I recommend giving it a look, it certainly helps waiting out the eagerness to watch The Avengers coming out next year.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

X-Men First Class: Two Points Of View Review

I didn't originally get to review this film, my advanced screening opportunity fell on the night I had work @ AIU, so I figured I wouldn't be reviewing this one. After watching it last night, I decided to change my mind and at last talk about the film from two different perspectives.
  • I am going to give you two perspectives. 
  • One of a guy watching a movie. 
Perspective I | A Comic Book Fan and Collector:

One that knows just about everything there is to know about these characters. (Well, almost everything). 

As a guy watching a movie, First Class delivers a fantastic journey into the world of the X-Men at their birth. The actors are fantastic and you can connect with them right away, especially the flirtatious and not usually seen behavior of Charles Xavier; who is a genius very early on and highly compassionate. The story while connected to Charles, as much as it is with Erik Lensherr, does feel more of a focus on Magneto's life and his plight above everyone else.

I enjoyed the connections and I enjoyed the action. Overall it was very satisfying even were I not a comic book fan, I could enjoy it and essentially understand from a mainstream concept what was going on and why certain things connected together. It felt almost like a reboot in the spirit of Smallville. The writing and direction took this film into a place that made it believable and utilized a more humanizing touch. Especially in the concept of good vs evil, frailty, life, and death.

The special effects were excellent although some of the concepts behind the effects on Sebastian Shaw (Kevin Bacon) were a little strange, it still did not completely detract from the story and what was going on. Again, akin to the Smallville like story telling, the climax was a little unsatisfactory and seemed to finish too quickly for my taste. I would have (perhaps) liked to have seen more of a struggle. I won't issue details that will ruin it, but you will understand from my parallel to Smallville especially where the character Doomsday was concerned in that series' finally.

Overall it was enjoyable, it had a good amount of action without dumbing it down with monotonous chatter, yet some of the drama poured through especially with Magneto's story. I would recommend anyone in the mainstream to see this as it will give you a good movie for your monies worth.

Perspective II | From the eyes of a Fan:

First Class made me shrug and shake my head often. Despite the movie being well done and having a variety of excellent story features that made sense and allowed for a proper flow that would leave no stone un-turned, rather the plot holes were not apparent to the me as an avid fan and historian of comic books all I saw were holes.

For starters. Professor X and Mystique do not meet in their youth, Mystique is also not part of the First Class. Mystique is said to be potentially over a hundred years old, putting her age completely off in this timeline. Sebastian Shaw does not encounter the X-Men until well past the Phoenix Saga. I don't recall Alex Summers being in prison? Azazel being in this film made no sense, especially since they never explored the connection between he and Mystique...If you knew Nightcrawler was the product of a fated Azazel and Mystique union, and figured well perhaps they would have an encounter here to build on that possibility - it's not going to happen. Azazel is more a drone than an active member. A sentry would be a better description. In truth I felt that the producers and directors had this conversation behind closed doors:

Bryan Singer - "You know...the nightcrawler scenes in X-men 2 were pretty badass..."
Matthew Vaughn - "I agree, totally kicked ass"
BS - "We should do that this one...but it can't be nightcrawler...who do we use?"
MV - "I know...we'll use his dad...fuck it...we'll make it work!"
BS - "Totally Bro!"
Because that is really what Azazel provided, an easy kick-ass factor, where they delved nothing into his character and didn't even consider the utilization of his story. 

Another Immediate plot hole. NOTE: ***Spoiler*** While interesting and cool to see Logan (Hugh Jackman) in this film, for a few seconds, his one line "Fuck Off!" seemed impressively fitting if not perfectly appropriate. 

Can't find the reasoning yet? During X-Men Origins: Wolverine, you had of course Hugh Jackman as Logan, but you also see in that particular film a very young Emma Frost, aka The White Queen. I will say first I loved January Jones in First Class...Dear God, she was an exquisite Emma Frost, but by throwing in Logan, you now completely threw any normal continuity attempt (as if there was any regardless) out the window because of the age differences. 

Granted, we all know that Emma Frost can use her abilities to manipulate what you see her as, however this films timeline predates X-Men Origins: Wolverine. She uses none of that ability in that film, and it can't be stated as that as a cop-out, seriously now... 

So this is a bit of a fanboy raging on my part (whether it's rational i'll leave to you to deem). Beyond this I can reveal quite a few other issues but it would in effect take away from the film if you happen to watch it, so I will keep that to myself. I could reveal and spoil the Wolverine cameo because chances are you already knew he was popping in the movie, just not where, when or how.

While my inner Comic fanboy screamed and raged, my inner film fanboy was perfectly content. It's a duality I have when it comes to watching movies. I can understand the necessity to work with content and derive more stories from it by adding a little embellishment here and there. I can also cry out in frustration to state the obvious and unnecessary aspects of a producer and directors need to make something their own. When in truth it is not their own, it is something the fandom has loved for generations. 

This is a story that has multiple elements comprised that are not necessarily told in the comics we have read, however in pieces they are their own respective stories from separate timelines and separate characters. Considering how comics, as they are, can many times branch out into a variety of storylines without regard for others, it almost makes sense to allow the films to do the same. I can paraphrase the last paragraph into "Ah, fuck it! it works."

I would still suggest those entrenched in the fandom to watch this film and formulate their own opinion. While it frustrated my inner fanboy on many levels it still somewhat held some relative intrinsic value. 

Film Fanboy | 4 out of 5 Geeks will love it
Comic Fanboy | 3 out of 5 Geeks will love it
Overall | 3.5 out of 5 Geeks

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Why Gamers Are (Should Be) Leading The Way...Everyone Else Is Slow!

--- This is a rant, this rant will be long, this has been a warning of the emergency rant system ---

Why are Gamers leading the way Camacho?  Are you on another rant?

We gamers are a voracious bunch, regardless of the genre of game we are playing, we make harsh demands on developers and for the most part we get what we want.  Because when we don't, oh god...Run!

And yes, this is a damn rant!? XD

Oooh a Rant...O.K. I'm Reading

We lead the way in voicing our opinions, we lead the way in breaking the molds of racism, and prejudices, because we play online with all kinds of people everyday.  Men, women, black, white, yellow, red, gay, straight, bi, transgendered, OMG Cat, and Sign me off Piano Cat...It doesn't matter.  All that matters is the game.

When we want more gaming we demand it online and we eventually (usually) get it (in time).  Even the failed attempts since the late 80's to connect us to the internet with consoles.  The random modem slot underneath our GameCube's that were being worked on, we might not have gotten it then (at least not completely), but developers and companies kept pushing the envelope to make it happen.

When the Gaming world started to venture into the Digital world (Yes I know games are all kind of Digital...well, mostly) Publishers and Developers could have kept selling them only from Brick and Mortar locations and not provided online direct2download options.  But we pushed, and they delivered.  We save more because of it, they make more because of it! 

Overall, we as gamers from a small perspective have helped pave the way for some progress...

Here is where I think we can help the rest of the world...

Ok Camacho? So you're crabby about something that's outdated and think we should all bitch about it for you?

In a word...Yes.

There are few things we as a people (as a society) or perhaps not us, but "it's" certain organizations that are trapped in the stone age with certain outdated items we should not have to deal with anymore...

Snail Mail, Faxes and Sending Signatures via Mail

I have been fighting for 3 years now 8 intrusions into my identity.  Some occurred on the road during our convention tours (SGC, AUSA, Anime Boston, etc. etc.).  Others while sitting in a restaurant.  In two separate occurrences someone gained my information via a WiFi scanner.

Of course I have fought them and got most of my money back, I am still fighting for 2 of those intrusions. One maxed out a credit card and bought a ton of LCD Panels...Especially in my business, when the credit card company sees the history and argues - "We are not paying you back, those were your purchases, you buy a lot of TV's with this card."  XD RAGE@!!

Needless to say, money mostly regained and credit being repaired, but it's taking years.

I keep getting these phone calls from one particular company, West Asset Management - Number comes up from Desoto, Texas.  The calls have been coming since January to the new house in Port St. Lucie.  

I have answered and talked to them and 4 different times they want someone that is not part of our household.  So I have pointed out to them who I was, to help them understand they have the wrong number. Today I got that call again and now a 5th persons name...Does this company have any clerical or operational organization?  

Really, 5 different people, constantly removed from the list...come on people, get it right.

I finally speak to a management person and it turns out they had me as someone that owed a debt.  I have been clearing out all debts for years and have nothing left except some personal debts, and medical bills (that don't appear on a credit report). Then I learned it was some kind of debt from Sprint that was "supposed" to have been corrected last year.  I have it all documented, receipts and confirmation numbers.  So now begins the long and tedious process of clearing it from my credit report.

So instead of letting me email copies or scanned documents.  I have to write a letter to them, sign it and then send my original paperwork???

No...I'm not giving up original paperwork.  You get copies you dumbasses...

Why in our world of technology do I have to 
  1. Waste paper and ink printing out a letter
  2. Waste more paper with envelopes and copies of paperwork
  3. Spend time and money mailing out these forms (which also spends money on vehicle fuel to get these parcels to their location, adding to higher green house gasses)
  4. Wait the time it takes for it to get there
  5. Wait for them to open the envelope and read my letter (to only throw away the envelope, further killing trees and effecting greenhouse gases by reducing the population of plants that absorb Carbon Dioxide and breath out Oxygen...)
  6. Wait for them to send paperwork to Sprint (repeating virtually the same process above on it's way back to Sprint)
  7. Wait for Sprint to Repeat #4-5 and then send it back starting the process again to West Asset Management 
  8. For West Asset Management to Repeat #4-5
  9. Wait for West Asset Management to realize, they are a bunch of Derps.  Starting their version of my process to send the proper paperwork to Experian, Trans Union and Equifax to tell them this needs to be removed.
  10. Wait for these three companies to experience #4-5 and then remove this issue off of my credit.
It's a nasty amount of waste that can take months, even years...and it has!  These scenarios I have had to clear on my credit (as I'm sure others have had to as well).

If they followed their business strategy the way gaming industries think...It would literally be this way..

  1. 3:20PM I get the call...
  2. 4:00PM I understand they actually do have me on a list and I explain the issue.
  3. 4:10PM I scan my paperwork, email it to the clerk at West Asset Management.
  4. 4:15PM He sees I am telling the truth - he forwards it over to Sprint, along with the Copy of the Sprint Letterhead I have apologizing to me for the issue with associated reference numbers.
  5. 4:20PM An Account Manager at Sprint Corporate opens their email (because I would still be on the phone with West Asset Management and have them call to let them know of incoming traffic to their inbox).
  6. 4:30PM Sprint Account Manager replies, "close account, there is no debt owed." 
  7. 4:35PM West Asset Management Clerk - Forwards this reply from Sprint to the three Credit Agencies. I remain on the line as he contacts each one to inform them of the incoming traffic into their inboxes.
  8. 4:50PM West Asset Management has cleared me from their system and gives me confirmation from the three credit agencies that my credit report no longer shows this issue.
  9. 4:51PM I am online checking my credit reports and verifying this information while I still have West Asset Management on the Line.
  10. I verify it's cleared and print out the record as a backup for myself with all associated reference numbers. The info of the West Asset Clerk, I spoke with, and store it all properly to use later on if I have to report money owed to me in taxes from associated companies that inappropriately reported negative credit.
My Credit would be reflected instantly online on the three reporting bodies.

Not even two hours to solve a simple problem without the bureaucracy and redtape associated with personal finances that hurt and effect people everyday (in effect, harming the entire global economy, as the US sets the economy)...

We as Gamers need to help the push to "easier-use" technology and force companies to remove their obsolescence.  And help the economy to boot!

Dude the Government screws us too!

The government has so many stupid idiotic criteria on small things that it's crippling itself and burning more money on wasteful micro-government and we all pay for it in taxes.

Whoa, slow down Camacho, we have no control over that...

Yes...Yes you do!

VOTE! VOTE! VOTE! correctly.  Actually, correctly is a personal choice...Just frakking vote!

The more we as gamers (Most of us in the 18-25 age ranges do not vote [56-67% of that population] according to the US Census).  To use a phrase that is not politically correct...That's retarded...

We are an enormous community that can swing votes in our own direction if we put our collective minds together and are focused in our efforts.

Here is an example of stupid micro-government in a wasteful and obsolete manner.

We had a recent car accident, on my way to AIU (Where I was consulting a Gaming Design Program). Sabrina got a ticket.  It also happens to be that time of year to renew insurance, tags, etc.

With the ticket, they suspended her license...all because an idiot cut us off and caused a small pile up...we got the blame...I wanted to knock out the cop who was an idiot (but the statute is not his fault, he was just a jerk), but alas I was a good boy. (I was polite, I stayed in the car XD) 

To fix this problem Sabrina had to go pay for the ticket, so she could reinstate her license (her license was taken at the scene). Side note: This ended up causing me to have a friend Jules Casanova drive me to AIU (I'm still on some medication, can't drive), Jules is a life saver, shout out! *hugs*.  

Sabrina paid for her ticket.  

Now to get her license back.  To accomplish this simple task, she had to walk into the DMV with a birth certificate...easy enough. DMV told her...nope, you need a Certified Birth Certificate...So her "Birth Certificate" doesn't work...WTF!

She then figured, fine, I'll go get it in Miami.  She would for now, go renew the insurance, which I did.  Now to renew the tag(s)...

"Sorry Ma'am you need an ID" - the clerk stated to her.

When she walked in (Both our cars are in her name, I was on the road most of the time so Sabrina takes care of stuff like this).  She shows them her Birth Certificate, same argument...needs to be a Certified Birth Certificate...

These people are seriously at risk of Sabrina ripping them to shreds...

She goes to get her Certified Birth Certificate...

"Can I see your ID" XD XD XD XD

So...Everyone in Miami is now killed, as Sabrina goes thermonuclear due to this stupidity...

This is a circular and paradoxical problem caused by insanely stupid and ineffective micro-government.  

It would be far simpler to think like a gamer and get with the times and move forward with Retinal ID's, Biometric Scanners, and the like.  I'm not talking about "Gattaca" where you prick your finger all day long giving blood for all kinds of ID purposes.  No...I'm talking about simple options (that already exist).  Most of our lives are already online, our images, records, education, credit, to the point of reductio ad absurdum...

It's about we tether that info to us, our body, not a piece of paper or plastic we can lose; That gets taken away.  

This would make life a lot easier in a number of ways...not to mention shrink all that garbage micro-government, everyone hates anyway, and save us a ton of tax dollars...

It would even make life a lot easier in terms of Identity theft...Imagine paying for your bill by scanning your eye or pressing your thumb on a scanner...paying for bills with your social security or simply a credit card number associated to your biometrics.  

Sure, theft of this kind would occur, nothing is perfectly safe; it would for certain be a lot harder to accomplish.

So what now?

I have no clue, we need to raise our voices and help push technology and our opinions toward progress, because a lot of what surrounds us is completely obsolete and outdated.  

I can go into other examples, like the large amount of people standing around and watching one guy work on a road that endlessly never gets finished...When we know there is equipment that takes one guy to run and another set of boots on the ground to manage a path and can deliver one mile of road every hour...But hey, that's progress.  And our world makes progress and profit out of halting progress.

Rant over...Derp