Unless you’ve been living underneath a rock, you’ve at least heard about Iron Man 3, the juggernaut that is still ripping through box office charts like Godzilla through the city of Japan. There’s been enough time to distance myself from the initial glitz and glamour of the first big super hero summer movie to think objectively on a topic that has been bothering me; and not just for a little while, but for years now. Like a fool, I took to the message boards of one of my favorite comic book related websites, interested to see the opinions of other people inundated in the comic culture like I am.
Why in the world did I do that?
The amount of venom spewed at Marvel Studios and the entire creative team behind this movie would make the black mamba blush with embarrassment; and I’m talking about one of the most dangerous snakes in the world.
The biggest sentiment lobbied against the movie:
- The apparent disrespect to the Mandarin character and the Iron Man mythos
Let’s first start with this argument: the change of the Mandarin and the apparent slap in the face to “true” Iron Man fans.
Let me first elucidate to the fact that I am one of these fans. I am a veritable hardcore lover of the character and the minutia coming forth from his long line of stories. Iron Man is one of my favorite superheroes, only superseded by the Silver Surfer. Pushing past that qualifier, let’s look at the character of The Mandarin. He is one that rose from brief obscurity into becoming Iron Man’s antithesis and greatest threat in the comics. He is dictatorial, intelligent, traditional, in tune with the otherworldly magic of his powerful ten rings, and a master martial artist, amongst many other things. He sees his vision of the world as the only logical option, whether ushering in the next tyrannical regime under his guidance or providing humanity with the ability to ascend to another level (even though that would eliminate 98% of the world’s population, including him).
If casted correctly and provided enough screen time to organically develop, then this could have been the time to showcase a powerful mastermind, capable of toppling everything Tony has worked long and hard for.
Oh wait….that still happened, albeit with a different character.
The Marvel Cinematic Universe is not a direct translation of the stories you read at your local comic book store; and why should they be? The whole success of this franchise has hinged on millions of people who have never even flipped open a comic being able to grasp the concepts expressed on screen, enjoying themselves, and getting invested in the story. When you think about it like that….would a middling aged Chinese man handled in the manner of a 1960’s caricature of the Cold War really be all that engaging?
Let’s get off our high horse and realize that these properties aren’t just for us; and by us I mean the hardcore comic readers, the fans that frequent the comic shops, or even the enthusiast who drops knowledge online every so often. With the massive success all of these movies have enjoyed, we’re now sharing our favorite playthings with a larger world. A world that’s less so interested in continuity and more so in something that is a breath of fresh air and exciting. The best part of it is, we can have both.
The original properties are still there. Heck, I went back and read through some of my favorite Mandarin storylines a few months ago. They are still fantastic. Iron Man 3 threw the curve ball of having an actor pretend to embody a role that people could openly hate through television broadcasts. This left the real villain alone to profit off the war on terror from behind the scenes. You don’t have to be a journalism major to realize how powerful digital media is. The logic behind the plan makes sense.
Couple that onto the fact that Tony is still grappling with the plot that occurred in The Avengers last year and you have a man that already has enough on his plate. We seem to forget that although he is a wealthy millionaire and technological genius, he still is the most normal, relative to the rest of the heroes in this Avenger’s franchise. He’s had to fight people utilizing his own technology. To suddenly escalate to aiding a super soldier, spies, a god, and an indestructible green beast….well you can excuse him if he’s suddenly not raring to fight an even greater threat while still warding off PTSD.
Fan entitlement honestly doesn’t do anything but make us look bad. It depicts our culture as spoiled people who feel as if they deserve things that they may not have worked for. There’s no need for name-calling and there’s no need to dislike something just because it doesn’t deliver you back to that place of nostalgia that you have three feet from you on your desk….on an e-reader or in paper form.
Line up the movie as a work of fiction and test its merits on that. Critique the narrative as well as the job done by the actors. Examine the flow of the storytelling and determine if the property can stand the test of time on its own. When we do that, we can truly say whether or not Iron Man 3 was good or not. Hating it because it simply did not fulfill our idealistic fantasies will not cut it.
When I told my parents I was writing about cassette tapes they actually laughed at me. My dad is always very calm so his jokes tend to land hard: “I can go out to the garage and dig up your old Raffi tapes – you could write about that.” I admit it’s probably perplexing for hip baby boomer parents, who feel like it was just yesterday they bought you your first CD burner (remember those?). Growing up, I was either cherishing their beaten up vinyl collection or too busy spending their money on inkjet cartridges for custom CD-R labels to covet any real cassette tape collection. For me, tapes were just the lo-fi, unsexy middle period that I was born into. The cheap way to do storytime. And now that I think about it, Baby Beluga is probably among the last cassette tapes my parents ever bought. As teenagers we used our car tape decks, but only to plug in our Discmans or mp3 players. So what gives? Why are we talking about tapes again? And how is it possible that last month, the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry released their report of 2 million cassette tapes sold worldwide? Sales in the UK alone tripled last year.
Everyone who, like me, all but abandoned cassette tapes more than a decade ago, harbors several conceptions about tapes which, really, are misconceptions: Tapes are “lo-fi”; Tapes are clunky and ugly; Tapes are hinky and outdated; and bands who use tapes are pretentious and/or still in their “demo” stages. Well, guess what – all this conventional knowledge is wrong, and now that I’ve figured that out, I’m hoping to dispel these notions for you, too.
Let me take you first to the heart of Oakland, California, to a little urban cabin dwelling in a back lot off of 29th Street. This is where D Vikram Babu lives, in quiet comfort, with his stash. On the wall above his desk are more than 100 cassette tapes that he’s amassed just this year. Vikram calls himself Tape Famous, and has become an avid tape collector, as well as manager of a corresponding reviews blog. The rest of his collection is in storage in Ann Arbor, Mich., but he fancies the idea of starting from scratch. His room is tidy and impeccably organized, and there the tapes sit, in clean presentation, in a large pine wood storage display from the Napa Valley Box Company. [Read More…]
A very interesting story looking back on the past and how it can still be relevant and valuable today. I still have some old tapes from my dad in my house. I might need to find a cassette player……
- Popping a potion at the right moment to save your character
- Finding that secret legendary weapon
- Learning more powerful spells that can aid in battle
- Managing your party’s stats to ensure they are powerful enough
- Toppling that final boss in one last epic encounter
- Watching a disparate group of strangers soon mold into an interesting cast of people whose lives are intertwined somehow
All of these situations are related; and if you nodded your head in understanding of at least two or more than you know what I’m talking about.
Also known as RPGs, they’ve been around in one form or another for decades now. It started from the table top and enthusiasts acting out their fantasies, to now playing them on our favorite video game consoles and computers. They’ve certainly come a long way.
But the core of what makes a role playing game has stayed the same; and that is the role-playing.
It sounds like such an elementary statement. But it’s surprising the number of games that are delivered every year to the masses that seem to forget that concept.
Immersion is a fundamental component when it comes to video games. We very much want to be a part of the actions we’re engaged in and pressing the buttons to. Why else would we invest so many hours into it? Some aspect of escapism is embedded within every gaming experience. Even realistic simulations and sports games have us taking control of actions we normally wouldn’t. We’re suddenly the most important person there, being pivotal in how things proceed.
But there’s just something about a roleplaying game for me.
It brings back such great memories from my childhood, watching my brother play Final Fantasy VIII and watching Squall summon incredibly powerful gods to do his bidding. Even more so, it was watching the plot unfold (although a lot of it flew over my head when I was younger). Most of my introduction to role playing games was through me and my brother sitting together for hours with a game console; and although he was the one with the controller in his hands, I felt very much a part of the experience.There was always a sense of accomplishment, putting twenty, thirty, forty, and even fifty or more hours into a game, reaching the end and feeling mighty enough to take on whatever came your way. But not in an overpowered way that cheapened the experience.
Final Fantasy IX and Grandia are two of my favorite video games of all time. They also both happen to be RPGs. That’s not a coincidence. I love a compelling story. If you can add in the fact that it goes hand in hand with a game that is fun to play……then I’m hooked.
But it’s not just about swords and sorcery or fighting grand monsters in steam punk or frontier landscapes.
The whole concept can work in any environment. A great example would be the Mass Effect Trilogy. The story is told through the eyes of Command Shepard, an officer in the military who ends up becoming the rallying point behind everything of importance in the galaxy, including how to save it from extinction. Now sure there are the popular tropes of faster-than-light travel, alien encounters, and sleek futuristic architecture. But what’s different is the approach, letting you see everything through Shepard (male or female) as if you were the person directly in this universe, making these decisions.
You truly are “playing a role” in this role playing game. It’s a very critical one at that.
But this once dominant genre is going the way of the Dodo bird, unfortunately; at least in the American gaming market in favor of sports, shooters, and action games. I don’t say this to dismiss any of those genres as anything less than RPGs because I play videogames in just about every category. I’m merely stating a fact.
The whys and wherefores to figuring out the decline of RPGs in terms of production in America is a much bigger article than this. It would probably be one that would probably involve tracking sales numbers and the evolving demographic of gamers and their interests nowadays, versus the genre at its prime. Needless to say, it still saddens me.
It was another avenue that displayed the power of inventive ideas and just how wonderful it could be to just take a little break from reality and delve into someone else’s. That sense of immersion inspired me to want to write stories like that one day; and it still fuels me. That’s the powerful thing about a great story. No matter what it will stick with you for ages to come.
Kowloon Walled City | A population density nightmare
Kowloon Walled City was a largely ungoverned Chinese settlement in Kowloon, Hong Kong, comprising of 350 interconnected high-rise buildings where 33,000 residents lived within a plot measuring just 210 meter by 120 meter. Originally a Chinese military fort, the Walled City became an enclave after the New Territories were leased to Britain in 1898. Its population increased dramatically following the Japanese occupation of Hong Kong during World War II and reached a peak of 33,000 residents in 1987. When it was demolished in 1993-94, it was thought to be the most densely populated place on earth.
You don’t like sharing space with a sibling or your roommate. Well imagine that person times 30,000?
Scott Pilgrim Volume 1: Precious Little Life by Bryan Lee O’Malley
Sometimes things don’t make sense..
In the collective gumbo we call life, you’re bound to find a few unknown things in the broth. But through the randomness, there is a shared link that pulls us all together:
That is relationships.
Our connection with people like our family, friends, or even our loved ones stitch together the patchwork that is who we are.
As you can tell I’m a very visual person; and Scott Pilgrim Volume 1 overloaded my senses……….in a good way.
Enter the titular character Scott Pilgrim. He is a twenty-three year old living in Toronto, Canada. He is an overall slacker, scatter brained, and slightly delusional. He struggles to hold down a steady job and plays in a middling band named Sex Bob-Bomb that barely even gets noticed when they’re the main act.
He also dates a seventeen year old named Knives Chau, which you can imagine is looked down upon by his friends. But he loves the simplicity of it. Suffice it to say, Scott is not overly concerned with the direction, or lack thereof, his life is taking, even though his group of friends want more.
Things start taking a turn for the weird when Scott starts having dreams about a strange girl on roller-blades who talks to him. They soon border obsessive as he realizes that he must find out who she is. Coincidentally enough, she is real and lives in the Toronto region, having just moved from New York; and she is the talk of the town. Scott realizes that he has to meet her and awkward hilarity ensues; and even after getting to know her and subsequently dating her (without breaking up with Knives) he soon finds out just how crazy her life is.
What more can be said about the frantic pace this book reads at? The first graphic novel in the series, O’ Malley’s design is minimal. His characters are etched onto the pages with a scratchy design and the buildings and surroundings are renderd just enough to present a picture of location in the readers mind. Instead of detracting from things, it actually works for this story, giving it a type of charm that I’m not used to seeing in a slice of life graphic novel.
Don’t be fooled. In between the tomfoolery of Scott and his roommate or the exasperation Kim has towards Scott’s comical obliviousness, the book’s spine is connected deep into an undertone of life in this city and where it takes this cast of characters; and while it’s only the beginning of this epic tale, certain seeds are planted for later: such as Knives being cheated on by her once thought “perfect” boyfriend in Scott, the chance for Sex Bob-Bomb to evolve into more than just a dream for Stephen Stills, and Scott having to deal with Ramona’s shady past (albeit in a completely ridiculous fashion).
The interesting thing about this is this book is a directly written love letter to the classic eight bit era of video games: a time where characters were not 3D and things such as Legend of Zelda and Mario were truly groundbreaking concepts. Coupled with the “day in the life” approach taken to story resulted in a truly perfect marriage made in comic heaven.
There are five more volumes in the series, with each one getting progressively better in design and in story. You won’t go wrong continuing to read on after this one. It’s very aptly titled: Precious Little Life. Although the things in our life may not seem like much in comparison to what others think, it doesn’t discount how valuable they are to us; and while Scott can be unreliable or downright an idiot, he does come through eventually for the things in his life he cares about.
That’s something we can all take heed of.