Tuesday, July 21, 2009
So, upon writing my opinion blog on the current states of Marvel and DC, I started thinking on a controversial bigtime player, Joe Quesada. Joe was the instigator of the Marvel Knights line, bringing in Kevin Smith on Daredevil which has basically had a ten-year run of being really good. From Smith begat Mack who begat Bendis who begat Brubaker. From the success of that line he was promoted to EIC, and proceeded to make huge changes in the Marvel U. He brought in Morrison and Quitely to X-Men, helped usher in the Ultimate line with Bendis, Millar, Kubert, Hitch and Ellis, brought Ennis to The Punisher and JMS to Amazing Spider-Man.
There've been a lot of good runs under his tenure, with Hulk under Bruce Jones and Mark Waid's Fantastic Four. I also believe he was the guy that resurrected Black Panther with Christopher Priest at the helm.
However, people on the internet hate him. Now, I've covered this slightly on my post on internet message boards, but it bears repeating. I've heard him called "Joe Quesadilla" which struck me as a little bit racist considering that he's Cuban. His name sounds different. It's the same principle as the assholes who stress Barack HUSSEIN Obama. The general consensus is that he's ruined Marvel, he's pissing in the open graves of Jack King and Stan Lee (wait, Stan Lee's not dead yet? Boize Moi, he must be drinking that same swill that Nick Fury does), yada yada yada.
What exactly did he ruin at Marvel? The hopelessly convuluted X-Men? The post-Clone era Spider-Man? The Avengers featuring teenage non-evil Tony Stark? Heroes Reborn? Ugh. Just think of all the great, memorable comic runs and stories in the 1990s. Then think of the same of the 2000s. 2000s wins.
Obviously I think Joey Q has done more good than harm. He brought back the subtle rivalry with DC while making JLA/Avengers a reality. Although after reading it maybe that one should have stayed a pipe dream. Marvel comics continue to spank DC in regards to sales so he's clearly doing something right. He's also done a good job of positioning Marvel as the hipper company, which it kind of always was-from the era of stodgy Silver Age "your dad as a superhero" DC to the modern "simple wing of a huge conglomerate", the competition isn't really fierce. Marvel is a Twittering, TV-friendly place.
Is he perfect? No. As mentioned before, the revamp of a universe not even a decade old was unnecessary and dumb. The idea that you don't have to explain magic, and that Peter Parker would make a deal with the devil (literally, Beezlebub) is idiotic. They kinda killed Supreme Power by bringing it away from MAX. They cut off Epic's wings before it took flight, only for them to eventually allow creator-owned series too late to take advantage of Millar's movie and sales-spawning works, not to mention probably alienating a ton of dudes that probably just went to Vertigo. Yeah, Epic was a huge missed opportunity. And he keeps hiring Greg Land, although it's admirable for him personally that he sticks up for friends and employees.
So, I dunno. Feel free to criticize Joey Q. Hell, do it here, in the comments section, and give me something to respond to. But try not to be too big of a weirdo about it. Or else you'll end up like this gentleman here.
Wednesday, July 15, 2009
I debated as to whether to include this guy or not. He and I have a complicated history, but in the end he did frustrate me on more than one occasion, as I'm sure I did him, so in he goes. I'm going to use this photo of Baby Huey, not to be insulting, but because that's what this one guy called him in defense of Sarcastro ragging on him. Plus, it's less insulting than a picture of Comic Shop Guy, who is older, bald, and unattractive. He did share his attitude, however.
Sarcastro was the guy that worked at the shop the second longest period of time. Sadly, I believe the longest belonged to me. Thor, I wish I could take that statistic back. Anyway, he started there in his early 20s. At the time, he quit his job doing something in construction where he supervised people, as he wore the standard husky-guy "short sleeve and tie Sipowicz" outfit.
He was pretty popular with a lot of the regulars. Indeed he should've, because for one, Sarcastro was very personable and had a great sense of humor, thus the alias "Sarcastro". He said a lot of things that were "LOL" as the kids say online, and not just comic-related stuff. He was funny all around. Some of my favorite "bits" of his was his reaction to the Stormwatch storyline "Change Or Die", to which he replied, "well, they gave 'em fair warning!" A joke in the same vein was when "Live Kree Or Die" came out and he said simply, "I'll live Kree". He also once had two Captain America toys dancing and started singing the Carpenters hit "We've Only Just Begun". I remember one time on his birthday a group of us saw some sort of IMAX ocean-related movie. When the store owner said it was gay, Sarcastro thoughtfully replied, "it was bisexual at best".
He also had quite possibly the best work ethic that I've ever seen. He was a consummate salesman and seemed to rise wherever he ended up. This guy would've killed as a salesman in the 1950s. For some reason, you don't really see a lot of salesmen nowadays. I blame the internet. I said salesman a lot.
After leaving the shop, he took a job at our local game and sports memorabilia distributor. Unfortunately, they started downsizing before downsizing was cool and he was let go. He later got a job as some sort of pager salesman (post 1996!) and I remember seeing him immediately go into a pitch at the drop of a hat with this guy in the store. My man wasted no time. Ultimately, he ended up at a bank, where he rose to the position of loan officer and ended up making more money than the store owner and possibly the store owner's wife, who always worked in banks.
It wasn't all wine and mint-condition Amazing Fantasy #15, however. Sarcastro could be insensitive at best and pretty much just mean at worst. With the exception of people he thought to be his peers and Chunk Jr, he could lay it on anybody and everybody, and I remember coming under his sights on more than one occasion. It tapered off the older I got and presumably the more respect he gained for me, not necessarily for doing anything but just for getting older, more mature and not really being in the target demo for zings and barbs. Looking back, I don't really feel any anger as I was in his presence when he would lay it on someone else and I realize it wasn't just me, per se.
I think a lot of the vitriol that erupted a lot of the time was just a general dissatisfaction with his life, a twentysomething malaise (as seen in Garden State) and the like. He was a young guy who dropped out of college. He lived at home and lost touch with old friends. It was hard to meet people (namely, women) at the shop. Once on a ride back home he was explaining to my future roommate and myself how it was hard to hang out with various people: this guy had a drinking problem, these guys were married, and my future roommate and I were too young to do some stuff. (At ease, we were in our mid-teens, this isn't the King Of Pop here). So for a good amount of time he probably felt pretty lonely, at least in the existential sense. His situation was probably a lot like the character of Scott Forbes in the criminally overlooked comic The Waiting Place. Do yourself a favor and track these down, then bug Sean McKeever over and over until he makes more of them.
The longer I worked at the store the more I could see why Sarcastro was the way he was. It does something to you, particularly if you're just drifting along. The filmmaker never went through this because while he was employed I think everyone understood it was a temporary situation and he was on the next train out to Anywhereelse as soon as it came by. He was too smart for the shop.
Sarcastro ended up meeting a nice Christian girl in her early 20s who ended up indirectly instigating a life change for him. He traded in his Jeep for a woman's car (according to everyone who saw it), got a new job, started going to church (which was hilarious to those of us who heard him talk about DC Talk and Jars Of Clay, and how just because something is Christian doesn't make it good) and he ended up proposing to her after just a year or two of dating. My roommate, the filmmaker and I ended up going to his wedding. His wife had a kid and last I heard he has twins on the way. He actually emailed me this year and asked if I was on Facebook, and how all the guys had joined. I thought the question silly as even though I'm still in my 20s with some time to go before I head into my 30s I feel slightly older than the typical Facebook demographic, let alone a bunch of guys barrelling towards 40. Needless to say, I did not reply nor seek out friend requests as that's the last thing my psyche needs is to relive the worst years of my life.
He did go through a really rough period, oddly enough after he met his then-girlfriend now-wife. He demanded the filmmaker bring back his Dreamcast that he had left in the shop for a while, which the filmmaker borrowed just to play around with, as it was doing nothing but gather dust. He snapped at me and the owner, who suspected he wanted it back in order to trade in for a better system, something somewhat insulting as the owner had given it to him for a birthday or holiday present. Luckily I think regular sex calmed him down or something.
Overall, though, Sarcastro was a pretty good guy. Certainly ended up being better than the store owner, which would have shocked me then but seems inevitable now. We went to Monday Night Raw, saw some movies, had some bad Italian, laughed at the nerds at the local conventions, and told some jokes. He's a different guy now than when he was angry and 24, and wherever he is, I doff my cap at you, sir.
Monday, July 13, 2009
Alright, I've gotten back into the habit of posting these things on a semi-regular basis, and I see I've gotten more subscribers but less commenters, or at least less commenters that I haven't met in real life. Sigh. I really liked my last post, too.
Anyway, there was a small group of guys that played Dragonball Z. Dragonball Z was the game that guys should have been embarrassed about playing in middle/high school, versus the Yu-Gi-Oh, the game that you should be embarrassed about playing in elementary school and Magic: The Gathering, the game you should be embarrassed about playing as an adult.
There was a somewhat normal looking, quiet guy I'll call Vic, as in victim, more on that later.
There was a young African-American gentleman who would come in with his little, rambunctious brother I'll call Ten Cent, more on that later.
There was a redneck teen who was pretty good-humored that had such a heavy accent he once called "Mello-Yello" "Meller-Yeller". I never got tired of getting a kick out of that.
There was also a couple of brothers that looked like Jonathan Taylor Thomases.
These guys were pretty okay, they were old enough to stay out of my hair for the most part. That was until the apparently ambitious young hood Ten Cent put the smack down on Vic right there in the store.
I guess Ten Cent was sore that Vic wouldn't give him a ride or something, and one Saturday when I was leaning down to put something away, I heard what sounded like fabric rustling and rose to see Ten Cent punching away on Vic who was pretty much just sitting in a chair and taking it. After awaking from my stupor, I grabbed the phone and came out to tell Ten Cent to knock it off and get the Hell out or something. I should have been suspicious as Ten Cent came in earlier with a huge guy, presumably as back-up. They got out of Dodge and Vic called the cops who got a statement from me.
One thing that's weird is that Ten Cent was a normal guy. Sure, I nicknamed him in a demeaning fashion against a famous gangsta rapper as he was an aspiring young thug, I suppose, but he was normal. He didn't fit into any un-PC stereotypes involving cornrows, wifebeaters, or ink. Just a middle class guy.
What you have to worry about in this world is not the smart criminals, or criminally-inclined, but the dumb ones. "Duhhhh... let me settle my dispute violently, in public, and at an age where I could possibly be tried as an adult. With lots of witnesses against a guy who knows my name, address, and phone number."
Vic got a restraining order against Ten Cent, which included the shop. He never came in again, though, and oddly enough most of the group sided with Ten Cent, who also only came in once to see if he could still come in, which the owner reluctantly agreed. By that time though he was probably discovering pot and internet porn. So good riddance.
Oddly enough, I'm kinda more angry about it now than when it happened. When it happened, I just couldn't believe it was happening. Now, I realize that it was a violent, meaningless act (which I hate), and either an indirect or direct disrespect towards myself. What did he think I was going to do, just stand there and let him mete out suburban street justice? Now when I think back to it (not often) I wonder what he would have done if I had just come up from behind and nailed him with a steel chair, WWE-style. Even if he had his huge, future inmate #311420 assault me, I'd be throwing out lawsuits like nobody's business, and if that didn't pan out, hell, my friends are more numerous, older and with access to better weaponry than chairs.
I just hate violence and crime, is what I'm trying to say. Ironic considering I've got a huge interest in the mob. But at least that's largely between themselves, and not running up to random people and aiming a shotgun in their face. Must be all those accumulated super-hero stories infecting me with their morality.
Damn anime. Teaching kids to solve their problems through screaming, punching and blasts of force from their palms. Shit.
Wednesday, July 8, 2009
I still try to keep somewhat of an ear to the ground of comics, and often will flip through the trades at Barnes & Noble or wherever. I also fantasize about getting back into collecting, and made a quickly aborted attempt a couple of years ago before realizing it was way too daunting and the price way too high. The last time I regularly read comics was right before the endings to Civil War and The Ultimates Volume Two, if that tells you anything.
Now I know what it feels like to be one of those then-annoying guys who come up and say "I haven't read since blahbittyblah, what do you think?". I mean, from my understanding Batman found his kid, died while killing Darkseid, the DCU is still chugging along after anywhere between two to four criseses because I guess editorial is too scared to reboot the universe and piss off old readers. As for Marvel, Tony was head of SHIELD then not, Skrulls invaded, got their asses kicked, now Norman Osborn is the head of SHIELD and leading an evil-Avengers team-which is way beyond the capabilities of a guy that just started out as a pissed-off middle-aged father of one of Peter's loser friends. At least in my opinion.
Getting back to DC, remember a few years ago when they were all ready to overtake Marvel? It looked like they would have them on the ropes for a little while. They hired away the Kuberts and Bagley, got Geoff Johns, Jeph Loeb and Grant Morrison all exclusive, were going to do a "final" crisis and were starting up an ambitious, weekly comic series that would shake up the universe and explain to readers what had happened. I was really psyched for 52: focusing on cool, but obscure characters like the Question, Black Adam, Booster Gold and Steel? Killing off one of them? Back-up origin stories by the best artists in the biz? Covers by J.G. Jones? Still haven't read most of it and online reviews have been mixed. Definitely not the world shaker I thought it'd be.
But what happened, DC? Dan DiDio was supposed to be your Joe Quesada. Apparently he's just good at pissing off creatives and alienating Ed Brubaker which in retrospect turned out to be dumb, very dumb. Morrison's run on Batman has been met with mixed reviews, All-Star Batman was met with shitty ones. JLA now stars Vixen of all people, completely ignoring Morrison's ahead-of-its-time premise of only big names and only big threats. The revamp of Wonder Woman went nowhere, and she remains a missed opportunity. Obviously things aren't all bad, All-Star Superman is thought to be one of the alltime great Superman stories, and Green Lantern is in the midst of probably the apex of its influence and excellence. Geoff Johns is probably the John Byrne or Frank Miller of Green Lantern.
But nonetheless DC remains in a distant second place, despite having the number two movie of all time based on one of its properties and the financial backing of one of the largest corporations of the world.
Marvel seems to be doing better in some regards, but they have commited a screw-up so godawful I almost think they did it on purpose. You'd have to.
In late 2000, Marvel realized that no one could decipher the complicated and often-crappy backstories of its media-friendly properties Spider-Man and the X-Men, so they tasked two largely unknown writers to revamp them, Brian Michael Bendis and Mark Millar. Those two became the definitive writers of the '00s and helped usher in the emphasis on scripts over pencils from the reverse situation in the '90s. What's even weirder is that the books were good. Really good. Peter Parker went from a married guy seemingly in his 30s to a nerdy high-schooler again. The X-Men became the older teenagers they started out as, with the added bonus of mixing up familiar tropes, such as Wolverine working as an assassin for Magneto and Colossus being a gay. The Ultimate line became so successful that Marvel soon launched Ultimate versions of the Fantastic Four (which brought us the popular zombie craze) and the Avengers, which brought us the most interesting variations of Cap, Iron Man and Thor in a while before Marvel updated the 616 versions. Of course, all sales on books fall after awhile. Peter Parker talking like a Mamet character loses its shock value, and Marvel certainly didn't help things by replacing Millar and Hitch with (ugh) Loeb and Joe Mad. As for the other books, you'd think they would have continued to try to follow big name with big name, like when Ellis took over for Millar on Ultimate Fantastic Four or when Bendis took over for Millar on Ultimate X-Men. Instead, they seemed to throw a lot of middling-to-unknown/new names on the books, thus losing the cool, superstar "edge" that they once had.
How to fix it? How about rebooting the series that were reboots just nine years ago! We've gotten a total of thirtysomething-to-fortysomething issues with some of these characters, so we already know all we need to know about them! Let's all have them killed in gruesome ways, just to give those fanboys shit! Let's have them all be eaten and exploded and all-around mutilated! Then we can reboot the long, complicated histories of characters and titles that have been around alllll the way back since 2000!
With all due respect... are you fucking high, Marvel?! What the fuck?! Are you gonna find a creative team as talented and in-sync with each other and the zeitgeist of the times like Bendis and Bagley and Millar and Hitch? The Ultimates had two volumes of pure awesomeness and now it's not good enough. Honestly, with these titles that have lost their way, how hard would it have been to do a "soft reboot" and hire new teams to handle the books? Maybe get rid of the repetitive cover designs where every issue looks the same. Make a big convention announcement and throw a few grand at Wizard to get a ten-page advertisement/article. It seems like Joe and Bill and the creative teams spent a lot of time and effort coming up with archetypes, boiling down the characters to their essence, forgetting all the crud that's accumulated and having each hero down to their peak. Tony Stark is an alcoholic playboy wanting to turn his life around after a near-death experience. Peter Parker is an awkward nerd who can't catch a break. Steve Rogers is a man out of time, even more poignant given the greater distance between 1945-2002, versus the 616 '45-'63. Wolverine is once again scary and bad-ass. Creating characters to care about and root for/against for a long, long time.
And it's all getting rebooted. Again. By teams that probably won't be anywhere near the ability of the originals.
Boy I hope they spend a lot of time reading 616 and Ultimate incarnations of super-heroes, so that they can streamline each character in expectation to the big reboot of 2011.
DC might have the most screw-ups, maybe the biggest as far as missed opportunities go, but Marvel by far had the most idiotic.
I hate you, comics.
Tuesday, July 7, 2009
Kirk Van Houten
Wow, okay maybe I wasn't as ready to come back as I thought. Well, what do you want, it's a free blog. On with the show...
This guy literally just popped into my head the other week. I hadn't thought of him in years. I know his real name, but his pseudonym will be Kirk Van Houten. They're both single (presumably divorced) dads and they're both a little sad.
I don't know when Kirk Van Houten started coming into the shop, but I think it was around the time Sarcastro was still working there. Kirk looked to be in his late-thirties/early-forties, but apparently should have been only in his early-thirties when I knew him. He had a classic "grown-up nerd" look to him: wire-rimmed glasses, wide mouth, overall awkward demeanor.
He would come in a lot with his son, who was somewhere between the ages of three to seven. I don't know a lot about kids, but he was young. The kid acted like he had some vague behavioral or attitude disorder. He was just really loud and seemingly out there. I don't want to call anybody's young kid an idiot, but he definately didn't have the spark, charm or wit of some of the other kids that I would see occasionally.
Kirk was also cheap. He was notorious for spending vast amounts of time, sometimes north of an hour looking through the alphabetically organized discount boxes. It was always a huge pet peeve when someone would come in around the time I wanted to eat, so you can just add fuel to the fire when that someone was obviously broke/poor/cheap and not going to spend an amount equal to what you were buying your lunch with. I would've rather put a Lincoln myself in the register and spared myself the aggravation.
But what really makes Kirk "asshole worthy" was the fact that he was indeed an asshole. He would constantly sigh when looking through comics one-by-one, as if he was above it all. If only the industry could write and illustrate to his standards, so he wouldn't have to endure the mundane indignity of looking through such dreck. Hey, here's an idea! Get a real fucking job and you'll be able to afford some higher quality comics. He wasn't too proud to not play Sarcastro's Dreamcast when he left it hooked up one day, either.
I remember talking to the filmmaker that worked there just before me and he mentioned Kirk as well. Said he used to come in every...single...week and ask if League of Extraordinary Gentlemen #6 was out yet. I suppose this was before the internet was in wide use. My friend said that when the comic finally shipped, he wanted to look out for him in the parking lot, then rush the door, throw it open and toss the book at him. "Here"!
Once again, a guy all too happy to perpetuate the stereotypes of comic fans. Sigh.