I love driving!

The following is an expanded version of my bumper sticker joke from my stand-up routine.  Scroll down if you want to see it, I posted it a couple months ago.  I don’t know if I’ll ever get a chance to do this whole routine on stage, so I want to share it.  That and I’m already 3 days behind on my weekly post and I don’t have anything else prepared.  My planned piece is still in progress, I hope to have it done by my next regular posting time.  Feedback on the jokes is always appreciated.

“I used to drive all the time for work.  I still do.  *beat*  I actually love driving because I have ADHD and I always have to be doing multiple things at once and driving helps because it is the definition of doing multiple things at once.  You have your hands on the steering wheel, that’s one activity.  Then you actually have your eyes on the road, that’s another activity.  Then you have your feet on the pedals, that’s a third activity.  For most drivers that’s where it stops I think.

I mean for me you would add, paying attention to speed; paying attention to what lane I’m in; paying attention to the other drivers on the road; using my turn signals appropriately; but I find there’s so many people out there that don’t do these things. 

They’re just all over the road, doing whatever they want. 

Maybe in their lane. 

Maybe in mine. 

Maybe they’ll give the shoulder a try, “That rumble strip doesn’t bother me, no, Sir!

I’m already in the left lane doing fifteen over trying to pass a tractor-trailer and they’re riding my ass; go screaming past me as soon as there’s a gap.  “I’M DRIVING FASTER THAN YOU!”

Or worse, they’re in the left lane doing the speed limit, just craaaaawling around a slower vehicle while faster traffic just stacks up behind ’em.  Usually an elderly person.  I always imagine them going, “Beep, buh-beep, buh-beep-beep-beep, I’m-a driving in the fast lane Eustice, look out!”

Young lady in a little black Toyota went flying around me at a light the other day and disappears up the mountain.  A couple miles later at the next light, guess who’s right in front of me?  Then I see her license plate cover, it says,  “Princess,” and I thought, “Where’s Angelina Jolie when I need her to curse this girl with a fiery crash on her 18th birthday!”

You can learn so much about people from the crap they paste all over the back of their cars too; useful tidbits of information delivered in short, perfect packages.  Like the guy in pick-up with the NRA window sticker and one on his tailgate that says, “OBAMA:  One big ass mistake, America.”  You think there’s ever been an Obama voter who saw that and went, “WHAT?! He was?”   Then they go whipping their car off the road, hands shaky, eyes wide.  “What have I been doing with my life?”

Or the young lady in the huge, beat-up Mercury Grand Marquis with a sticker that says, “I love me some Jeff Gordon,” “Number 18 sucks,” and “You call me bitch like it’s a bad thing,”  as if these are things she really wants people to know about her.  You think she goes speed-dating and drops down in front of the guy and says, “I love NASCAR, I’ll leave your ass for Jeff Gordon in a heartbeat, that number 18 can suck a dick and I’m a bitch and you just gotta deal with it.”  *full impression here*  Actually, she probably does.

Then I saw one the other day that got me really excited because it said, “Americans don’t eat horses!” and I thought, “Yes, I can finally sell that line of bumper stickers with totally obvious statements on them!”

You got one that says, “Water turns to ice when it’s cold!”

Or, “Blind people can’t see!”

Or my personal favorite, “This is a car!”

You can have some real fun with that one, maybe put it on a truck, or even, better a motorcycle.

But then I really got to thinking, what is that person trying to say with a bumper sticker that says, “Americans don’t eat horses!”  Is that really a major concern for this person; do they believe that Americans do eat horses?  I think it’s worse than that; I think someone told them when they were very young that cows were just (retarded) fat, slow horses and they’ve been walking around their whole life mad at Americans for picking on those poor horses that weren’t good enough to get picked for horsey rides.

Or it’s a bumper sticker from the future and we all need to be on the lookout for cheap, lean ground meat at the grocery store.”

Fanman, out!

Selfishness and You

So I hope everyone enjoyed their Independence Day weekend as much as I did.  I had a long one granted to me by the federal government which is why this is going up so late.  Sadly, I was one of those people on July 4th, I took my son to see “Jurassic World” on Saturday.  I do not usually go out on holidays because I used to work in the same industry as most of the poor souls that work those days and though it’s not much, I try not to contribute to the mass hysteria.  Unfortunately, as I was trying to do a favor for someone close to me, I failed to realize what day it was.

First, I loved the movie and I will have a set of reviews up later this week.  Second, I may have been a little hasty in taking my son to see a movie about dinosaurs run amok and I hope my wife doesn’t read this.  A couple of the more suspenseful scenes were a little too much for the poor little guy who had crawled into my lap around the ninety-minute mark.  After it was all over however, he did say he enjoyed the movie and I hope by the time it comes out on video to have shown him the first three films in the series.  Third, I was surprised that the movie evoked some pretty powerful memories.  Some of these memories weren’t exactly welcome either, but they returned anyway.  This brings us to the point of today’s entry.

“Jurassic World” marks the third time I’ve seen a film in this series in the theater.  The only one I never saw in the theater was the original actually.  My best friend in grade school, whom I’ll call “A.J.” here, had seen the movie in the theater that summer and while I was just as excited about it, my family wasn’t big on going to the theater to watch movies.  Our movie night was homemade hot dogs and french fries with a video from the rental store.  I bought the “junior novelization” from the Scholastic book order program at our school in fifth grade.  In sixth grade, both AJ and the school library bought copies of the Michael Crichton book, which he and I read as fast as we could.  I had only read the forty-something page kid’s book before and found the novel to be the most amazing thing I had ever read.  I was eleven years old and yet everything in the book made perfect sense to me.  This would be the start of a lifelong appreciation of Crichton’s work as he has a very distinct style that makes even the most complex and impossible science seem totally believable.  AJ loved the book too and even though it was very different from the movie, the movie was still really good too.  This still being the early nineties, though I can’t explain why, some movies didn’t make the transition to VHS tape as quickly as others and JP was one of them.  When it finally came out, AJ had me and his neighbor friend over as his parents were going to rent it.

So, while I’m sitting in the theater Saturday afternoon with my son, blown away by amazing visuals of the very park I dreamed of for twenty-two years, I’m suddenly reminded of how at AJ’s house I talked through the whole film.  Those of you who know me personally can probably relate, but I will never forget how irritated AJ sounded when he told me to shut-up at the part where Dr. Grant and Lex are trying to escape the T-Rex just as it pushes the electric Ford Explorer over the concrete barrier.  This one memory brought back a flood of others that are not movie-related in any way.  Over the next year, I would continue to act in such a way that I pushed AJ completely out of my life.  You see, my talking during the movie was just one small way that a much bigger problem manifested and without going into too much detail, suffice it to say, AJ wasn’t the only one who had grown tired of my behavior.  This same behavior made my life in high school more unbearable than it needed to be and yet I couldn’t figure out why everyone else was being such assholes to me.

This would be an ongoing theme for much of my life over the next twenty-years.  I repeatedly, and consistently, acted in such a way that got me picked on, targeted, ignored and even fired multiple times.  Yet no matter what, I always managed to blame everyone else instead of myself for the situations that ended poorly for me.  It’s very easy to identify today, but at the time I couldn’t see the common denominator in all of these circumstances was me.

I used to wonder all the time what my life would be like if I had changed schools the year that I read “Jurassic Park;”  my parents gave me the option to stay where I was or go to the public middle school.  While I’m sure I would be on a vastly different path from the one I’m on if I had changed schools, simply by virtue of the butterfly effect (thank you Dr. Ian Malcolm), I used to believe that my life would have turned out better for it.  Today I know that it was my behavior that typically put me at odds with everyone else and while the venue may have been different, my behavior likely wouldn’t have changed much and I would just have different people who were irritated by me for the same reasons as before.  By that I mean, AJ wasn’t the only one I pushed away.  Another close friend from grade school, whom I’ll call Wayne, still talks to me today although considering the things I did to him too, I can’t explain why.  Though AJ and Wayne are probably the two that got it worst from me, there are other friends from those days too that I have to thank for being mature enough to realize that kids are idiots and being gracious enough not to hold some of the stupid things I did back then against me.

It didn’t end at childhood either, I was an “annoying little weirdo” in Army basic training too.  At most Army schools I would attend later I was still that guy.  Though I have always managed to make friends easily, pretty much every job I’ve ever had as an adult still found me making friends with people only to quickly make some of them regret having ever been nice to me in the first place.  One in particular because he stuck his neck out for me more than once, though the things I did certainly didn’t warrant that amount of kindness, which only speaks to the character of the person I hurt even more.  That sounds rather harsh and I’m probably being hyperbolic about how they actually feel about me, but I certainly would not blame them for thinking it, as I can see now looking back that I did some pretty indefensible things.

Twenty-two years later, between medication and therapy, I have indentified what I was doing that was just so obnoxious and irritating.  It’s actually rather embarrassing because I know at least one occassion where I recognized the same flaw in someone else and called them out for it.  I have always prided myself on my self-awareness and my ability to step outside of myself once-in-a-while and try to look at things objectively, yet for some reason I was unable to do that in this one area for years.  What’s worse is that I’m now aware how hypocritical I looked to people close to me, which makes the guilt I feel over my ridiculous behavior even worse.

In the end, there are three people specifically that I want to apologize to for my behavior, two of whom I mentioned here under pseudonyms, and one didn’t get a pseudonym but still deserves an apology.  If they’re reading this, I’m not sure they’d know I was talking about them or not but I’m pretty sure that two of them will never read this because I’ve talked to neither in years and I highly doubt they’re following this nor do they care about my progress as a writer.  Wayne might be reading this, but since I didn’t mention specifically what I did to him he may not realize that Wayne is him.  Still, I want it known that they are the three that I hurt the most and the three that deserve my sincerest apology.

The reason I am posting this on my “nerd and pop-culture blog” is because in my years as an internet user I have seen many people engage in much the same behavior.  While I won’t defend them, I can at the very least say that I understand.  There are people out there, like me, who for whatever reason think just differently enough that their worldview is a very self-centered and egotistical one for no more reason other than they believe that everyone else thinks like they do.  They have no reason to believe otherwise because no one has ever taken the time to explain it to them.  It’s not that they lack empathy, it’s that they lack the motivation to be empathetic.  Some of you might be wondering why it’s necessary to explain something so blatantly obvious and the reason is to someone like me, people like this, it wasn’t obvious; it’s not obvious to them.

So, to everyone reading this, let me say that if I ever acted selfishly and/or obnoxious to you, please know that from the bottom of my heart I am deeply sorry.  Certainly if I had known better I would have never done it and I’m ashamed of it today.  Even if I don’t know you personally, accept my apology on the grounds that my selfish behavior only contributed to making this planet a worse place to live than a better one and I intend to spend the rest of my life doing the opposite.

Fanman, out.

My dad was right! Or was he?

So with the recent announcement that Microsoft isn’t selling enough X-Box Ones, er… I mean that X-Box One will have backward compatibility with 360 games, I decided that maybe it was finally time to buy one. Then I realized the bulk of the games I am playing right now are old-school games, or indie titles designed to look and feel like old-school ones.  I do play a few current gen titles but they’re nothing revolutionary, a couple MMO’s and first-person shooters.

I find myself more excited by don’t-call-it-a-Mega-Man-reboot “Mighty No. 9” than anything else on the horizon.  Don’t get me wrong, the new Batman looks great and I played the first two to 100% more than once, I can’t wait for the new Halo, I’m pretty excited about the announcement of Gears of War 4 and there’s a couple other future titles that really are next-gen that sound interesting.  Still, I can’t help but notice that I get more enjoyment out of old, or old-school, games than I do most modern stuff.  I just bought a Moga Bluetooth controller for my cell phone so I can play my 8 and 16 bit emulators.  I’m currently engaged in a couple of dream projects, an ongoing hack of a SNES game and using Game Maker to build the Super Nintendo game I always wanted to play.

I recently made the comment on Facebook that I have no more interest in new games, regardless of the amazing new technology and what it’s capable of.  I love epic shooters and action RPG’s and hack’n’slash games as much as the next guy, but excluding the recent stuff from FROM Software it just doesn’t feel like they’re doing anything new and interesting, they’re just making them look better.  Perhaps I am wrong.  The PC title Elite Dangerous and the upcoming PS4 game “No Man’s Sky” are using the massive output and memory of modern machines to make giant universes that you can inhabit and travel through and do just about anything you want, but it doesn’t feel like the same is being applied to other game types.

A recent Cracked.com article explained why Nintendo’s new “Splatoon” was such a great leap forward for shooters by describing how the game is able to expand what they can be by eschewing what games like Halo an Call of Duty focus on.  This is all fine and dandy but as an adult who has particular tastes, a cartoony, paintball shooting game on a Nintendo system is about as far from what I’m looking to spend my money on as I can get.  Just to be clear, it isn’t strictly the cartoony aspect, it’s not even the Nintendo aspect that turn me off of the game, it’s the fact that it is on a system that I will likely never own by a company that is still resistant to embracing online play.  Aimed at me, my audience, or not, they missed me.

Recently there does seem to be a push to make shooters that truly do innovate.  Valve’s Evolve pits four “normal” people against a single, overpowered individual.  Epic’s next entry, Fortnite, looks to try and take shooters into the sandbox-survival realm but I’m talking about trying to use the amazing processing power of modern machines to give me a truly new experience.  Still, I can’t help but think there is a sort of wall that giant corporate development companies have hit.

Judging by the stuff the indie market is currently producing, I’m probably not alone.  A recent Steam purchase of mine was an RPG-esque title called “Evoland” that essentially walks you through the evolution of the genre from the days of the original desktop PC’s to today; each completed “quest” grants you a new feature, starting with things like color graphics and chiptune music, but eventually the game transforms from SNES to PlayStation 1 and beyond.  It wasn’t a very deep experience but it was certainly memorable.  On the reverse of that you have titles like Guacamelee and Oniken.  The first is an obvious labor of love by the developers, an homage to 8 bit and 16 bit classics like Mega Man and Metroid, going so far to reference both titles directly through art and other assets, with a unique sense of humor and visual style that would only be possible on a system post the PlayStation at the very least.  The second looks like an NES title that got lost on the way to Service Merchandise and instead got spit out by Steam 25 years later, this one a love-letter to run’n’gun shooters like Contra and Metal Slug and easily as hard.  In fact, just go onto the Steam website and search “retro” if you really want to see the amount of old-school inspired titles.  For me, what makes these titles even better is that the best of them do with their respective genres what it feels like the big boy developers should have done.

What I mean is these games feel like NES or SNES titles, but with minor innovations to gameplay that enhance the experience.  Most of the time these features also feel very natural, almost obvious in their usefulness, the kinds of adjustments that make you say, “This is exactly what [Game Title] needed!”  I could elaborate but the features themselves isn’t the point, it’s what they represent.  They represent the intent of the indie developer himself/herself/themselves in that it’s obvious these people played video games back in the day and today and put a great deal of time and thought into their project.  My favorite franchise from the last generation was the Darksiders games.  While neither title in the series was incredibly original, it was what they represented that made them so excellent, to me.  The first game basically gave us a Legend of Zelda game built with modern tools for modern machines, but it was the additional features that set it apart.  While combat in every Legend of Zelda game consists of basic melee and ranged fighting mechanics, Darksiders protagonist was an expert combatant with multiple  melee and ranged weapons.  This made the combat just as deep as the puzzle solving mechanic, where combat in LoZ is typically just an obstruction that separates dungeons/puzzles.  The makers were clearly LoZ fans too since many Darksiders’ weapons were nearly identical in functionality.  The sequel took the giant world that opens up to you as your abilities grow and added the item and leveling system of an RPG.  So just like in Elder Scrolls or Diablo where you’re continually obtaining items by random drops, you might receive a melee weapon with two more attacking power than the you have, or a helmet that protects better against ice and you are free to craft the protagonist that fits your play style, while still giving you access to the deep, skill-based combat and environmental puzzles of the first game.  Additionally, the boss fights in both games excelled at encouraging the player to use both skill and savvy to defeat them, in the same way LoZ often did.

However, to my main point and the title of this entry, I find that regardless of how interesting any game is today, I find myself needing to play them dwindling.  When I have the time and if they are available I will play them, but anymore I’m just as inclined to fill my free time with my kids, my wife, chores or other hobbies like reading and writing.  I actually enjoy spending my time on making my yard a place the family wants to spend time or basic maintenance on my cars.  I actually love assembling things, whether it’s my kids toys or build-it-yourself furniture.  I love it so much that my wife has actually gone out of her way when she needs a particular item to find something that I can assemble over an already assembled product.  On a side note, if you live near me and need something assembled, I’ll do it for you at very little cost to you, probably just a sugary, caffeinated beverage.  When I do finally sit down to play a game, I have so many to choose from I spend a few minutes just trying to decide what I’m in the mood for, but if my son’s around I often end up playing Disney Infinity or a Lego game.  Both of which, by the way, are probably some of the more innovative titles of recent memory, regardless of the fact that Infinity is an obvious cash grab, and if you didn’t know already Lego will be getting into very soon too with their very own game that uses physical, real-world figurines to affect the digital space, the difference being you assemble these yourself.

What I’m trying to say is that once, about 16 years ago, my dad told me that I would grow out of videogames, to which I responded, quietly so as to not actually let him hear me, that was very unlikely.  On one hand, I think he might actually have been correct, although I figure it’s about 16 years later than he would have liked.  On the other, I wonder if, and I’m sure I have plenty of friends who would probably agree, it’s simply a matter of prioritization.  Here’s the thing, not that long ago I had a discussion with my dad about some things that I had learned and used to better myself through seeing a therapist twice a month.  He explained to me that what I thought to be pretty big breakthroughs for myself and how I interact with people in my life he said was just “growing up” and signs of “maturity.” To him, they seemed like obvious lessons one learns in this life and more specifically things he felt as though he had imparted to me as he raised me.  I asked him in return, “If that’s the case Dad, then why did it take medication and a therapist for me to figure them out.”  He had no response though I actually do know the answer, it is irrelevant now.  My dad likes some videogames, he used to play Commodore 64 games with us, back when game mechanics were nothing deeper than could be played with eight directions and a single button, and I know he had said he always liked Missile Command.  Today he plays Angry Birds on the Roku box my parents use for Netflix.  I know that his interest in these games is a pretty straightforward one, in each game the ultimate goal is simply the highest score possible, achieved by the most basic of in-game mechanics.  What I find is that while the games I enjoy the most are still more complex than aiming and firing ICBM’s or avian BB’s, the enjoyment I get is also from the achievement of the highest score possible.

Which brings me back around to the three games mentioned above that I played the most, the Batman games (by Rocksteady only) and Darksiders.  The challenge mode of the Batman games and the endless Crucible mode of Darksiders is about the most pure expression of the combat systems in both titles, and the ultimate goal is simply the highest score possible, achieved by executing the most complex of maneuvers with the least amont of interruption, yielding the greatest possible return.  So I wonder, again, have I grown out of videogames or have my priorities changed?  Maybe it’s both.  Perhaps I’ve come to realize that videogames were just practice for the biggest game of all.  What is almost everyone’s goal in life?  I believe that working for a paycheck while continually striving to better myself along the way, progressing higher and higher in terms of responsibility and compensation could very easily be described as “executing the most complex of maneuvers with the least amount of interruption, yielding the best return.”

Fanman, out.

The Problem with Capcom

[Ed. This was originally to be posted yesterday but I had to delay it as I received a Fathers’ Day gift that was relevant and I needed time to read it, Mega Man & Mega Man X Complete Works 25th Anniversary Art Book, in order to make appropriate statements regarding the franchises.  Also, please let me reiterate that this blog is my opinion and even when I make declarative statements they are based on conclusions that I have drawn based on my understanding of any given situation.  If I make a point that you disagree or have a problem with, then please by all means bring it to my attention and we can discuss it, I’m not above being corrected or educated.]

Recently Capcom announced that they would have to release Street Fighter V this year.  A title which was only just officially announced this year.  In the article covering this press release, the company listed all of their most successful franchises.  Suspiciously, or not so much depending on what you have heard, Mega Man (known as Rockman in the East) was absent from the list, despite appearing in Nintendo’s most recent entry in the Smash Bros. franchise.  This isn’t terribly surprising when you consider that just a couple years ago several different Mega Man titles across the various established series were in the works and suddenly, quietly, cancelled over night.  The reasons, which I’ll go into more detail on later, seemed specious at best and downright mean at worst.

In the ongoing war between creativity and nostalgia, Capcom seems to be the most lost on the battlefield.  Street Fighter maintains its popularity by staying true to its two-dimensional roots even while the visuals and complexity continue to improve.  The anime-inspired aesthetic reaching across national, cultural and even generational boundaries.

Meanwhile Resident Evil  evolves, from survival/horror to third-person tactical shooter and the fans cry foul.  Though RE5 would sell well and DLC would bring back a fan-favorite character in classic form, RE6 took another step further into the realm of too much of a good idea, by splitting the campaign up across multiple selectable characters, each with his or her own dedicated story and largely unrelated plots in an effort to deliver both experiences.  Then they would hand the property to a Western developer known for portable tactical shooter experiences on the PlayStation Portable to make a first-person tactical shooter for the major home consoles.  Aside from playing as villains whose mission it is to eliminate a fan-favorite hero in the past and thus violating established canon, odd gameplay mechanics and level design choices would prevent it from achieving more than moderate success.  All the while, the series creator teased a portable console exclusive. A full console generation later it would surface on a different handheld than originally indicated and closer in theme to the series’s roots.  It managed to achieved major critical success despite the choice of platform (3DS) and so the game would later be released on home consoles in an “HD” edition. This past year it even received a sequel and Capcom had already announced the franchise would now exist as two separate series for the forseeable future in order to provide both experiences without forcing one or the other on the audience.

Mega Man, depending on how long you have been following the franchise has been all over the map in game design and rarely ever failed to yield a solid and fun experience.  Yet to hear certain portion of the hardcore audience, you would be forgiven for thinking any game in the franchise to come after 1995, were the worst thing to ever happen to the character.  At this level the audience fractures into so many different subgroups it’s nearly impossible to find anyone that isn’t overly enthusiastic about one and overly critical about another.  The most recent sequels in the “classic” series revisited the design esthetic  of the late 80’s/early 90’s era and delivered gameplay and graphics right off of the NES.  9 was cheered for the decision which also contained two other landmarks:  the first female “Robot Master”  and the first time players could play a classic series game with another character.  Unfortunately 10, while just as solid an experience, offered nothing new except the inclusion of a third playable character available via premium DLC content and the progress of a female “Robot Master” already forgotten.  In both cases, the full price of admission after the purchase of all DLC brought these “budget titles” to a price that exceeded most digital only games of the time and even today.  Games that offer much more in terms of content and complexity.  By all apperances, 10 appeared to suffer from the same “sequelitis” as the original six NES titles; twelve to sixteen new levels with accompanying bosses, a couple new power-ups that may or may not be recycled from earlier games and no upgrade to graphics to speak of.  The kind of content you could get away with charging full admission for once a year in 1993 but which would be considered a budget DLC campaign level today.  Despite this, a certain subset of hardcore fans would argue, and have, that 9 & 10 are the most true games of recent memory in the decades old franchise and to deviate from that tradition would be sacrilege.  Those same fans mostly unaware that each game took no more than three to six months to make, certainly a contributing factor to their lack of evolution.  The very same philosophy would hold true with multiple alternate series in the franchise over the years like the X titles on the SNES and PS1 or the GBA Battle Network and Zero series.  Sadly, the head producer of the franchise, Keiji Inafune, would leave the company, reportedly under a cloud of bad blood, and multiple highly anticipated, in-progress games would be cancelled with no explanation.  (Ed. Keep an eye on this space for more in-depth look at the problems I perceive with the Mega Man series specifically. )

Recent new properties like Dead Rising and Dark Void continue to display the company’s apparently unclear understanding of what their audience wants versus what they think they think they want.  While Dead Rising began as a send-up of zombie apocalypse films and its own Resident Evil series, the most recent installment has taken on a darker edge, shedding most of the humor present in the first two games and focusing on the violence and gore.

Dark Void on the other was an attempt to return to the company’s roots: a nonsensical science-fiction story that exists solely to facilitate the action.  In this case, you play a character with a jetpack and a laser gun who can hijack any flying vehicle in the game, be it retro-futuristic jet airplane or UFO, in an alien environment.  The marketing of the game included the development, marketing, and release of an 80’s-style arcade platforming-shooter titled “Dark Void Zero”.  Touted as a “lost” title from the company’s archives and intended as a prequel to the big brother console game; someone obviously felt strongly about the main game’s impending popularity.  In the end however a glitchy experience on the home consoles and the marketing tie-in being Nintendo DS only, at the time, killed both games before they ever had an opportunity to gain a following.  (Reviews of both games will be posted here soon.)  Even more unfortunate, this was not the first time the choice to release a game on a single, niche system would end unhappily.

Then there’s the Devil May Cry series which spanned five titles across two console generations, all of which were moderately successful.  The final title, “DMC”, however was a reboot that was so reviled by fans of the previous games you would be forgiven for not knowing that aside from a change in art and visual style, the gameplay remained largely unchanged and was a solid entry in the series.  Capcom’s decision to let a new team tackle the development and take it in a new direction would likely be decried no matter what, as videogame fans have a tendency to be overly and unnecessarily critical of things they don’t like, but in this case more hate seemed to be leveled at Capcom simply because it was Capcom doing it.

Finally we come to the controversial Bionic Commando series and the multiple missteps made with it.  This nostalgia-fueled escapade surely confused the already unsure executives at Capcom.  The property was given to a smaller studio that developed two separate games, a graphical update of the NES original available via digital download only and major console release 3D action-platformer.  While the NES remake received critical praise and was well-received, the console big brother soon became the butt many jokes and was poorly reviewed.  People pointed to its nonsensical, science-fiction plot with bizarre revelations and twists, poor or awkward controls, and strange gameplay design choices as its major flaws.  A sequel to the remake was released two years later while a planned sequel for the console title was quietly cancelled and never spoken of again.

Anyone who considers themselves a creator of content is well aware of the difficulty of monetizing art.  Content creators are unfortunately at the mercy of corporate executives whose only job is to monetize said art.  In Capcom’s case it certainly appears that at least part of their difficulties stem from a disconnect between their creative side and their business side.  There appears to be a larger issue surrounding Capcom’s latest failures however, which many are insisting is the greater problem.  The aforementioned bad blood that surrounded the departure of Inafune is rumored to be the result of certain comments he made to the press where he declared that Japanese game design was dying and it was the direct result of corporate interference that was more concerned with profit than any kind of fan loyalty or artistic process.  Indeed a quick Google search will show you many people who agree.

I’m not enough of an expert to be able to tell you if Inafune was on to something or not, but there is plenty of evidence to support his statements.  Events like Japanese publishers being bought by western corporations in recent years, the steady stream of dating and train simulators in the eastern market, Japanese culture moving further and further away from consoles and even handheld devices in favor of mobile phones, and so on.  Japanese companies are having no difficulty selling product to their own region, however many appear to be struggling to find success in other regions.  Studios like From have achieved massive critical and sales success with their retro-inspired difficulty hack’n’slash titles in the “Dark Souls” series, among others.  SquarEnix continues to put out solid entires in the “Final Fantasy” series while hugely anticipated sequels finally come visible on the horizon.  The studio’s existence as a studio in the stable of a western publisher appears to be partially responsible for this however.

A look at controversial titles mentioned above in the right context appears to show that Capcom is attempting to chase Western design trends.  The final boss fight of RE4 could easily be mistaken for a boss fight in the Gears of War franchise while the zombie slaying aspect of both Resident Evil 5 & 6 as well as Dead Rising 3 seem to be heavily influenced by the zombie-slaying horde-mode of recent “Call of Duty Titles.”  It could be argued that “Resident Evil: Operation Raccoon City” does the same.  The recent surge in popularity in fighting game tournaments and pro-gaming circuits is likely responsible, at least in part, for the renewed interest in the Street Fighter series.  The collector’s edition gamepads and sticks, the rerelease of various titles throughout the years as digital downloads and even a film featuring a majority of Eastern characters but utilizing a largely Western cast could also indicate such.

In the meantime, Keiji Inafune himself has moved on and formed a company of his own.  Using Kickstarter he has managed to fund the development of a brand new game that features all of the things he wanted to do with the Mega Man series over the years, but was unable to for whatever reasons.  Reasons that most assuredly are related to his leaving the company other than amicably.  Meanwhile, other independent developers can be found all over the internet making their own Mega Man or Mega Man-inspired titles, filling a gap that Capcom has so far failed to sufficiently fill for nearly a decade.  Recent attempts to use the character have either ignored the market altogether or treated the character as a joke, neither doing much to ingratiate the company to the franchise fans.  The most recent release of a “classic” title, “Mega Man X Street Fighter” (pronounced, “Mega Man Cross Street Fighter) was not even developed by the company but a dedicated fan who did such a good job, Capcom offered to buy it and release it.  Still, despite the good will this may have engendered, they failed to port it to any platform besides PC, meaning that console owning fans are simply out of luck.  At the same time, titles like Mega Man 9 and 10 haven’t been made available on PC or handheld, despite the market potential.  While there exists a movement to try and get the character’s moved to another developer/publisher, it looks like Capcom is content to sit on their former mascot in favor of a feud instead of turning a profit.  A decision that bafflingly flies in the face of the the moneymaking philosophy apparently informing other decisions.

Capcom, above most other Japanese game design companies, strikes me as the the most out of touch with what it means to make games in this era.  Their loyal fans being the ones to suffer the most even as their influence in the industry at large continues to dwindle.  They join Nintendo in the clueless arena, a company that continues to struggle financially while at the same time making repeatedly dumb financial mistakes.  That however is a discussion for another entry.

As it stands, I look forward to “Street Fighter V” even though I’ve never been very good at fighting games, the story and visuals of this particular series have always held me pretty tight.  Sadly, I’ll continue to buy and play Resident Evil games, even the poorer ones, because they still provide a solid, tactical zombie-shooting experience with characters and a visual flair that I enjoy.  The same can be said of the Mega Man franchise, as I’ll surely be buying the Legacy Collection if only because playing PS4 games remotely on the Vita in bed is a big deal for me today.  However, I foresee it won’t be too long before Capcom goes the way of other Eastern corporations in recent years and decides to get out of the international game altogether.  That is my prediction, June of 2015.

Fanman, out!

My evolution from angry fanboy to calm Fanman

The following is the culmination of a work in progress of several years.  As a fanman I believe I am qualified to speak authoritatively on the subject of fanboys as I most certainly used to be one.  Among other things, I have participated in numerous fanboy operations like the signing of petitions, boycotts and even the angry writing of letters.  One such angry letter continues to haunt me to this day, however it also holds a fond memory.

It was the summer of 2006.  Everyone who was anyone had a MySpace page.  Sony’s Playstation 3 and the Nintendo Wii were just on the horizon but to everyone’s surprise Microsoft’s X-Box 360 was selling well and gaining in popularity.  Wikipedia had just recently surpassed its one-millionth entry, toward which I can proudly say I contributed.  NASA had just reached Mars with a recon craft and two new moons of Pluto were discovered, to the delight of space nerds everywhere.  Barry Bonds surpassed Babe Ruth’s homerun record to the delight of no one.  “Superman Returns” was stunning people with its mediocrity.  Finally, the official casting for the part of The Joker in Christopher Nolan’s follow-up to the amazing “Batman Begins” had just been announced.  I was not pleased.

“Heath Ledger?!” I railed to my friends, through a blog post on MySpace. “How do they pass up Adrian Brody and Paul Bettany for Heath Ledger? How dare they!  I mean, don’t get me wrong, he’s Mel Gibson’s kid [Ed. A story for another time.] and ‘A Knight’s Tale’ is one of my favorite movies, but this is gonna be his first high profile role after ‘Brokeback Mountain.’  It’s not going to work!  Please sign my petition?”  [Ed. That’s right, I made a petition.]

“Eh?” said most of my friends in response to my epic (see: “pathetic”) rant.  I got a few comments of support, a couple with the proper attitude of Wait & See, and one dissenter who’s response I never forgot.  I am still friends with him today and when I put this up on Facebook I intend to tag him so hopefully he will know what kind of impact his words had on me.  He said, “Heath Ledger is a great talent and your petition is silly.  Boycott if you want, but I’m looking forward to Chris Nolan’s take on the dynamic between hero and villain here and excited to see the kind of performance Ledger gives us.”

I disagreed.  Probably not very respectfully either.  I felt so strongly about it that I went further and wrote an angry letter to “Wizard: The Comics Magazine.”  This is why it still haunts me today:  I chose to let them publish my personal e-mail address, so confident was I that I could defend my position.  Nearly nine years later and I still get the occasional e-mail from a Wizard reader who stumbled upon my letter while going through back issues.

“I cannot support my argument,” I tell them all.  “Just please try to understand the context.  ‘Batman Begins’ was the exception to good DC comic, and especially Batman, films and not the rule.”  I still had raw memories of the miscast, ill-conceived films that spanned from “Steel” all the way to “Catwoman”.  The same time period that gave us the infamous “Batman & Robin”, a film that WB execs were so convinced of its awesomeness they had already greenlit Shumacher’s follow-up “Batman Triumphant.”  On top of all of this, I was so enamored with the Animated Series and that version of the Joker, expertly voiced by Mark Hamill, that I simply would not be happy with a different interpretation of the character.  I had no faith.

You’ll be happy to know that I am fully aware of what crow tastes like and do believe that Ledger’s performance defined not just the film but the trilogy.  People believe that his portrayal contributed to his death.  Fanboys continue to speculate how the follow-up film, “The Dark Knight Rises,” would have differed had Ledger returned or if Nolan had simply recast the part.  The internet is full of fanfiction that tells the Joker’s story during the catastrophic events of the film.

Now, I can’t say with any authority that I was representative of some kind of movement but I know I wasn’t the only one who felt that way, at the time.  However what I can recognize about myself now is that I was failing to consider any viewpoint beside my own.  This was my wake-up call.  It took being publicly, nationally, embarrassed to see that for all my self-professed intellectualism I was being very narrow-minded: different versions of the Joker had existed before and different versions would follow.  Since “Batman: The Animated Series” has aired, there have been two radically different animated series and multiple animated films, all of which have given us several different interpretations of the character; each of them accurate and valid in their own way.   [Ed. I am aware there have been three animated series since TAS but “Beware the Batman” never featured the Joker.  So I ask respectfully that no one insist on correcting me about the number.]  My son’s favorite Batman cartoon is “Batman: The Brave and the Bold” and his favorite episodes are the ones that feature the Joker.  A version that’s about as far from my preferred version that you can get, but no less true to the character.

We are living in an incredible time where the content of comic books has finally branched out into other media successfully and there’s more content available for consumption than most of us will ever have time to devote to it.  Yet, we as an audience couldn’t be more angry about it or more critical of it for some reason, and I know I’m guilty of it too.  I see a photograph of the cast from the upcoming “Suicide Squad” film and I leave the comment, “That looks really… not good.”  It doesn’t matter if I had good reason and I can support my perspective.  Despite my excitement for a feature film starring some of my favorite actors and characters, I had to say something unnecessarily critical to say.  Last summer I went to see one of my favorite comedians, a world-famous performer Eddie Izzard, live.  People sitting in front and behind me were clearly as enthusiastic and excited as I was, yet all I could think was that these people were posers; they couldn’t possibly understand and appreciate Eddie like I did.  For the life of me, I can’t justify why I would think such a thing about perfect strangers.

I’m not going to spend any more time attempting to understand it either.  I wasn’t raised that way; I’m certainly not going to raise my children to behave that way either.  I was told for years if I can’t say anything nice, not to say anything at all.  Someone recently insisted to me that if we weren’t critical, than we wouldn’t be the recipients of quality product.  All of our comics and movies and games would suck if we weren’t always on their case.  As if to say that the creative minds behind these properties and multi-million dollar projects aren’t as knowledgeable and passionate about them as we are; they aren’t fans like us but posers:  casual fans who went to Hollywood to get rich and famous at the expense of the art’s integrity.  We can’t possibly know what kind of effect our rage and vitriole is actually having in this day and age of the internet where we all have a voice.  For all we know we’re having the opposite effect and the people who hold the purse strings are misinterpreting our fan rage and doing exactly what we don’t want them to do.

From this day forward, I’m going to do my best to refrain from getting angry and being unnecessarily critical.  It won’t be easy, I’m already the kind of person who believes that its acceptable to be critical as long as the criticism is constructive.  What I have to remember is that constructive criticism is acceptable but only under specific circumstances, and a single comment without context is not one of those circumstances.  I will also try and be vigilant about not letting friends and acquaintances who enjoy this stuff as much as I do make the same mistake.  To repeat what a friend said to me recently, “We should be more than excited at all of this great stuff they’re making.”  Perish the thought, but someday this bubble may burst and our favorite things are no longer the moneymaker they are today and we’ll be back where we were in the 80’s.

Fanman, out.

FanMan Reviews: Avengers: Age of Ultron (Contains spoilers)

Several weeks have passed since the latest film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe dropped, so I feel comfortable now releasing my review with commentary.

Let me start by saying that I’m disappointed with the amount of hate and nitpicky criticism this movie is getting.  If you’ve been reading this space for the last few weeks you are probably aware that I have grown out of that phase of fanboy life and as a fanman I intend to separate myself from that as much as possible.  I will not be calling anyone out nor will I be insulting or overly-critical in any way but I will be rebutting points that I’ve seen floating about the ‘net regarding the film that I believe qualify as hate and nitpicky criticism.

First, I have to give credit to the writing and production crew of the entire MCU for the way the movie was so cleverly interwoven with the “Agents of SHIELD” show.  If you’re a fan of the MCU movies and haven’t checked out the show yet I really do urge you to check it out.  As a “spy show” it stands well on its own but when taken as it was originally conceived; more tales from the MCU for those who aren’t getting enough from the films themselves, it performs that job well too.  I’m sure it would not take more than a cursory search of the web to find a timeline with recommended viewing order so newcomers would be able to see and appreciate how well embedded into the films’ mythology it is.

Once again, Joss Whedon has put together another great instance of a comic book on film, done correctly.  One of my favorite things about comic books is how your mood can run the gamut of emotions during the course of single twenty-two paged issue.  Whedon’s clear understanding of the medium the source-material comes from is on display here.  Like many comics I’ve ever read, the intro scene opens in the middle of an action sequence that began before the reader, or in this case the viewer, got there.  The purpose is to convey to the audience the idea that the Avengers’ work is never done.  “We join our heroes as they battle the mighty forces of Hydra at their secret mountain laboratory.”  Throughout this scene and the rest of the movie, his sense for entertaining and engaging dialogue is on display.  While there were places in “Avengers” where I felt like I was watching characters from “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” in cosplay, here the dialogue never felt overdone.  As a soldier I have a different perspective on the “combat chatter” as well which is:  it’s not uncommon for soldiers to showcase their sense of humor to cope with the dangerous situations they find themselves.  I once read that the developers of the game “Army of Two” wrote in-game dialogue after listening to recordings of real soldiers in combat situations only to dial it down after focus testing because testers thought it sounded too macho and therefore ridiculous.  Basically, that’s a lot of words to just say, “I thought the dialogue was perfect.”

Regardless of your personal feelings on movies being screened and subsequently released on home video in 3D, the tracking shot of every Avenger passing by the camera all at once, slowed dramatically just long enough to let us appreciate it, looked great.  Several action sequences use the combined 3D and slow-mo affect to equal effectiveness throughout the movie.  The final standoff against Ultron’s seemingly endless supply of robot bodies being one of them.

Hawkeye fans, among whom I count myself, will be pleased to note that his role in the film as well as on the team was greatly expanded.  I’ve seen several complaints that the references to him as the glue or backbone of the team were unnecessary, at best, or ham-fisted, at worst.  Let me tell you that as a devoted comic reader myself, they did exactly what they were supposed to do and whether they were ham-fisted or not is irrelevant.  Remember that we’re still dealing with an art form, the source material that is, which was originally intended for children.  The scenes exist to help ground the movie in reality a little bit but also to teach a little something.  The ham-fisted aspect comes from the fact that subtlety gets in the way of the message, not just for children but even the casual viewer who isn’t fluent in Marvel lore.   Anyone who would like to argue that the presence of blood, gore and foul language in the comics or the movies makes me wrong is welcome to do so.  Without any hyperbole or arrogance I can, and will, argue that those three elements alone do not make comic books “for adults.”   Without digressing too far let me just say that comic books that are truly created for adults contain much more complex factors and are typically even referred to by another name in order to provide parity.  You would be forgiven for not being aware of the distinction, but that would not make the assessment that comics containing blood, gore, and foul language are “adult entertainment” any less wrong.

We finally got to see two of the smartest men on the planet working together!  Not only do we get to witness Tony Stark and Dr. Banner use their combined intellect to solve problems, we also got to see them disagree.  While that might seem like a minor issue let, from my perspective I can say that it is not.  The Marvel Comics brand has been tackling complex issues for decades.  In the comics Dr. Banner is considered one of the smartest men on the planet and simultaneously the most dangerous because of the big green guy that lives in his head.  Previous MCU movies have touched on this but not to the degree that this one did.

One of the greatest things this film does is reminds us that these are human beings, superpowered as they are; real people dealing with very unreal circumstances.  The introduction of the twins Wanda and Pietro Maximoff highlights this wonderfully.  These characters are known to comic readers as the Scarlet witch and Quicksilver and their movie forms are true to the spirits of the comics.  Together these characters turn the Avengers against their own inner demons and we see the culmination of each characters’ own fear and insecurity.  Banner frets over the damage he’s done and the potential future danger he represents.  Stark is still trying to escape his past as a weapons builder, something that the twins force him to deal with directly once again.  Captain America is aware that he’s a man out of time and believes he has no place.  Thor is still struggling to understand his purpose as the next ruler of Asgard and the responsibility he feels to Jane Foster and the people of Earth.  Black Widow regrets her past as a Soviet assassin.  In one of my favorite moments, as Scarlet Witch forces the rest of the Avengers are forced to see their worst nightmares. when she tries it on Hawkeye he says something like, “Nope, don’t do mind control,” a clever nod to the last Avengers film.

Comic books being what they are, there are plenty of massively over-powered villains from comic lore to choose from, but the choice of Ultron makes sense on many levels.  He is the embodiment of the entire team’s worst nightmare, again something the people behind the scenes were trying to convey.  He also represents a real-world fear that many of us have regarding technology today.  Head executive producer Kevin Feige has already publicly stated this film is the culmination of the collective beating that the team took in their solo films between Avengers flicks.  Those solo films basically dealing with each character’s “dirty little secrets” and coming to a head here.  Where “Avengers” showed the coming together of a group of alpha personalities to save the world from an outside threat, MCU Phase 2 and “Age of Ultron” demonstrates that even those alpha personalities have insecurities and sometimes the biggest threat to the world is us.  Humans built Ultron; humans created WMD’s; humans experimented on other humans; humans created the Hulk; trained children to be assassins; tried to nuke New York City.

I’ve heard it said that Ultron wasn’t given his proper due because he wasn’t given a chance to develop properly as a character.  To that I say, “What’s there to develop?”  He’s an evil, intelligent robot bent on destroying humanity, what else do casual viewers need to know?  I’ve read a criticism of this movie saying that Ultron was misrepresented and that he, like many comic book villains in a film space, was disposed of too quickly.  To that I say “Misrepresented how?”  The argument it presented was that a robot so smart and powerful should have succeeded but his own poor choices in the film is what led him to be defeated, yet he addresses the reasons given in the movie that stopped him from making better choices, and then just offhandedly dismisses them.  Obviously he saw the same movie I did and this is where I declare the nitpicking begins.  Ultron was not a super-smart artificial intelligence bent on destroying the world because he was right, it was because he was more human than even the character would admit.  He displays thinking and mannerisms obviously inherited from his “father” Tony Stark, yet threatens to kill anyone who makes the comparison.  He comes to the conclusion that humanity must be destroyed from a flawed premise and uses a straw man argument to justify it.  The movie very clearly demonstrates that he isn’t stable.  He is exhibiting the traits of a psychopath and behaves accordingly and I don’t think the evidence was subtle at all. While he most definitely could have found a more efficient or quicker way to eliminate humanity, that isn’t in Tony’s nature, so it wouldn’t be in his either; it makes sense that he would make massive, over-the-top gesture.  I think he even says in the movie that subtlety isn’t his style.  To the idea that he was disposed of too quickly I’ll say, “What is your definition of too quickly?”  These movies are telling stories in 120 minutes what comic books might take six all the way up to twenty-four issues to tell.  A proper translation that would give us the proper sense of time passing would be impossible, not to mention tedious.  Meanwhile, his onscreen death, while dramatic, was by all means not definitive and we could very easily see the character again in the future.  That scene exists to give the audience their closure for this movie and this movie only.  The nature of the character is that he is impossible to kill.  That’s something I think even casual viewers would notice if they chose to devote the time to it that we fan-persons have.  Every time he resurfaces in the comics, he is defeated and “killed” yet some intrepid writer will always manage to create a clever way to bring him back.  We’ve already seen a retcon happen in the MCU, it wouldn’t be impossible for it to happen again.

Another article stated that the scenes between the action were slow, tedious and filled with unnecessary moments that never paid off.  Welcome to the world of comic books!  Sometimes the writers are just filling space to get to the next plot point.  Sometimes entire issues of a series can feel like that.  Off the top of my head right now I can think of a dozen plot threads in various series that were dangled before me and then never revisited again because of a change in writing staff, editorial fiat, or something similar.  I would argue that while those scenes were not intended to be taken that way, they make the movie even more true to its source material.  The sub-plot of the romance between Banner and Widow was left unfulfilled because that’s real life!  However, it could also be picked up by another film in the future, something else that comics do frequently, and something else that Whedon excels at.  Lastly, any regular comic reader will tell you that a twelve-issue miniseries has a couple, possibly up to five, issues that do feel like filler to get us to the next action-packed issue.  You could argue, and many have, that this movie feels like that, we’re just facilitating the progress toward Phase 3 and the ultimate battle with the big bad guy.  In this case, my nitpicky critics, you would be right but that doesn’t take away from this movie, nor does it make it bad.

I did have one complaint about the movie and I’m sure I’ll be lambasted for being cliché, but I was sorry that it had to end.  I have literally no complaint, I just don’t want to have to wait until June to see “Ant Man.”

Fanman, out.

Fan Man Reviews: Avengers: Age of Ultron (Spoiler Free)

Several weeks have passed since the latest film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe dropped, so I feel comfortable now releasing my review with commentary.  The following is a spoiler-free assessment for those who haven’t seen it yet.

Let me start by saying that I’m disappointed with the amount of hate and nitpicky criticism this movie is getting.  If you’ve been reading this space for the last few weeks you are probably aware that I have grown out of that phase of fanboy life and as a fanman I intend to separate myself from that as much as possible.  I will not be calling anyone out nor will I be insulting or overly-critical in any way but I will be rebutting points that I’ve seen floating about the ‘net regarding the film that I believe qualify as hate and nitpicky criticism.

First, I have to give credit to the writing and production crew of the entire MCU for the way the movie was so cleverly interwoven with the “Agents of SHIELD” show.  If you’re a fan of the MCU movies and haven’t checked out the show yet I really do urge you to check it out.  As a “spy show” it stands well on its own but when taken as it was originally conceived; more tales from the MCU for those who aren’t getting enough from the films themselves, it performs that job well too.  I’m sure it would not take more than a cursory search of the web to find a timeline with recommended viewing order so newcomers would be able to see and appreciate how well embedded into the films’ mythology it is.

Once again, Joss Whedon has put together another great instance of a comic book on film, done correctly.  One of my favorite things about comic books is how your mood can run the gamut of emotions during the course of single twenty-two paged issue.  Whedon’s clear understanding of the medium the source-material comes from is on display here.  Like many comics I’ve ever read, the first scene actually opens well into an action sequence that began before the reader, or in this case the viewer, got there.  The purpose is to convey to the audience the idea that the Avengers’ work is never done.  Throughout the movie, his sense for entertaining and engaging dialogue is on display.  While there were places in “Avengers” where I felt like I was watching characters from “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” in cosplay, here the dialogue never felt overdone.  As a soldier I have a different perspective on the “combat chatter” too which is:  it’s not uncommon for soldiers to use their sense of humor to cope with the dangerous situations where they find themselves.  I once read that the developers of the game “Army of Two” wrote in-game dialogue after listening to recordings of real soldiers in combat situations only to dial it down after focus testing because testers thought it sounded too macho and therefore ridiculous.  Basically, that’s a lot of words to just say, “I thought the dialogue was perfect.”

Regardless of your personal feelings on movies being screened and subsequently released on home video in 3D, the tracking shot of every Avenger passing by the camera all at once, slowed dramatically just long enough to let us appreciate it, looked great.  Several action sequences use the combined 3D and slow-mo affect to equal effectiveness throughout the movie.

Hawkeye fans, among whom I count myself, will be pleased to note that his role in the film as well as on the team was greatly expanded.  I’ve seen several complaints that the references to him as the glue or backbone of the team were unnecessary, at best, or ham-fisted, at worst.  Let me tell you that as a devoted comic reader myself, they did exactly what they were supposed to do and whether they were ham-fisted or not is irrelevant.  Remember that we’re still dealing with an art form, the source material that is, which was originally intended for children (feel free to argue the merit of that statement in the comments below).  The scenes existed to help ground the movie in reality a little bit but also to teach a little something.  The ham-fisted aspect comes from the fact that subtlety gets in the way of the message, not just for children but even the casual viewer who isn’t fluent in Marvel lore.   Anyone who would like to argue that the presence of blood, gore and foul language in the comics or the movies makes me wrong is welcome to do so.  Without any hyperbole or arrogance I can, and will, argue that those three elements do not make comic books “for adults.”   Without digressing too far let me just say that comic books that are truly created for adults contain much more complex factors and are typically even referred to by another name in order to provide parity.  You would be forgiven for not being aware of the distinction, but that would not make the assessment that comics containing blood, gore, and foul language are “adult entertainment” any less wrong. [Ed. I look forward to all of the angry comments that I’ll promptly delete and remain hopeful that someone will attempt to have an adult discussion with me on the issue.]

We finally got to see the results of the individual members working as a team when they’re not fighting evil.  Not only that, we got to see them hang out socially and we even got to see them argue and fight.  While that might seem like a minor issue, from my perspective I can say that it is not.  The Marvel Comics brand has been tackling complex issues for decades.  In the comics Dr. Banner is considered one of the smartest men on the planet and simultaneously the most dangerous because of the big green guy that lives in his head.  Previous MCU movies have touched on this but not to the degree that this one did.

One of the greatest things this film does is reminds us that these are human beings, superpowered as they may be; real people dealing with very unreal circumstances.  Banner frets over the damage he’s done and the potential danger he represents.  Stark is still trying to escape his past as a weapons builder.  Captain America is aware that he’s alone and believes he has no place.  Thor is still struggling to understand his purpose as the next ruler of Asgard and the responsibility he feels to Jane Foster and the people of Earth.  Black Widow regrets her past as a Soviet assassin.  In one of my favorite moments, while the rest of the Avengers are forced to see their worst fears made real, Hawkeye escapes this fate with a clever nod to the previous Avengers film.

Comic books being what they are, there are plenty of massively over-powered villains from comic lore to choose from, but the choice of Ultron makes sense on many levels.  He is the embodiment of the entire team’s worst nightmare, and to a certain degree he represents a real-world fear that many have regarding technology today.  Head executive producer Kevin Feige has already said this film is the culmination of the collective beating that the team took in their solo films between Avengers flicks.  Those solo films basically dealing with each character’s “dirty little secrets” come to a head here.

I’ve heard it said that Ultron wasn’t given his proper due because he wasn’t given a chance to develop properly as a character.  To that I say, “What’s there to develop?”  He’s an evil, intelligent robot bent on destroying humanity, what else do casual viewers need to know?  Long story short, I thought he was perfect.

I did have one complaint about the movie and I’m sure I’ll be lambasted for being cliché, but I was sorry that it had to end.  I have literally no complaint, I just don’t want to have to wait until June to see “Ant Man.”

Fanman, out.

Fanman Mission Statement

I am just guy; a normal dude.  I grew up in the midwest in the middle of farm country, not really a farmer.  I went to church; I went to high school and barely made it out alive.  I tried college, no good.  I joined the Army Reserves.  I should have gone active duty, you live and learn.  I deployed once to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba but that’s a story for another time.  I bounced around from mid-level commercial job to job until I met the woman of my dreams and convinced her with my all of the nerdy lady-killing skills I have to marry me.  We have so much in common and so much uncommon but she gets me and I worship her.  Then I lost the best civilian job I ever had because I failed to grow up and so finally went full time active duty Army as a recruiter, where I am still employed today, for now.

I have an awesome little fanboy in the making and a beautiful little baby girl who loves Little Einsteins and I think really likes Star Trek Deep Space Nine.  I’m in my early thirties and I still don’t know what I want to do with my life.  I have stories to tell but I don’t like taking the time to actually write them; I would prefer to write editorials.  I don’t care if anyone reads them, I write them for me.  Recently I realized that I troll Facebook and end up leaving lengthy comments because I have lengthy opinions.  I’ve decided that I will keep my lengthy opinions off of Facebook and people’s walls because, number one:  nobody wants to read that shit on Facebook anyway; and  number 2:  I’m wasting my time.

I already have this blog so if I have an opinion to share why don’t I simply put it here?  I already have a YouTube channel too.  I don’t have many subscribers but it doesn’t matter; I’ve never put up any content that was worth watching except my one attempt at stand-up comedy.  [Ed. Link provided below if you want to see it.]

Between my upbringing and my Army training I try to live my life today by a very particular code.  Legally I’ve been considered an adult for over 15 years and yet I’m still astonished day-to-day how rarely some of us actually act like it.  I would have thought in the Army it would be different, where being responsible and accountable for your actions is one of the very first lessons you’re taught, but no.  My experience with the Army has been that some units function closer in fashion to Communist nations than any kind of efficiently functioning and productive organization.  However, my experience in the civilian world would be nearly identical.

So I’m not going to put out any specific plan of action I intend to undertake or any philosophy I want to spread to change the world or make things better.  I’m simply going to propose one thing:  I am going to act and speak like an adult and I would expect everyone who reads this blog to do so as well.  By “adult” I mean compose yourself in a mature and reasonable manner and speak to myself and others in kind.

I am a normal man whose life experiences have shaped my perspective on the world around me.  The opinions that I share just that:  my opinions, formed as they are by my life experiences.  Depending on who you ask, you may or may not be able to consider me an expert on any of this stuff I will write about here, but I certainly will not ever claim expertise.  Therefore it can be understood that I know what I know and my opinions are based on that.  I will not make declarations nor do I expect anyone to just automatically agree with me.  I am happy to engage anyone in a calm and reasonable conversation on any topic; the basic requirement is that it remain civil.  I will not tolerate nastiness, hatred, vitriol and/or hypocrisy.  That means no unnecessarily critical, hate-filled comments: either you liked it or you didn’t. If your criticism isn’t constructive please keep it to yourself.  It also means if you said or asserted something and then later try to insist that you did not, I’m going to call you out.  I refuse to get into a fight with anyone and I would appreciate that you do not come here to pick one with me.  If you made a comment to which I respond and you feel that I have misinterpreted something you said then by all means correct me but if you cannot remain mature or pleasant then we have nothing more to say to one another.  Like other and far more famous pop-culture personalities have said before me, in particular The Nerdist himself Chris Hardwick and his friend, TV star Wil Wheaton, “Dont’ be a dick.”

Don’t be a dick! I’m simply taking it one step further.  You and I can have a discussion or an argument and never find common ground but there is absolutely no reason for anyone to engage in nastiness.  I will keep lines of communication open for the discussion of anything but the moment one cannot show that one is not capable of behaving like an adult, the discussion will cease.  I am sick and tired of self-proclaimed adults acting like children and then acting as though everyone else is the problem.  When I was a kid I couldn’t wait to grow up and be an adult and be able to have an honest conversation with someone and tell them exactly what I think and have that person say, “I’m sorry you feel that way.  This is what I think.”

Maybe he could change my opinion, maybe not.  Maybe I could change his, maybe not.  Maybe we agree to disagree and still part ways amicably, hopefully as friends, and neither had to bring the other’s person or integrity into question.  You know what you know and think what you think; I know what I know and think what I think, and that’s ok!  We all want to be treated like adults but first we have to start acting like adults.  The world be such a better place if we did.

Finally, if you like anything that I post, if you like this particular blog entry, feel free to give me a like, an up-vote, a share, a tweet, a subscribe; anyway you can your support would be greatly appreciated but maybe if this message reaches enough people we could make a difference.  For me, all I want to do is put my creative shit out there without being worried that someone’s going to heap unnecessary hate on me for it.  If you don’t like me or my content, don’t consume it but please don’t waste your time and mine by leaving a horrible comment.  The internet’s given me a voice and so I’m going to use it because I like to talk.

My Stand-Up Video

Fanboy grows up! Call me a “fan…man?”

Though the desire still remains, I no longer collect and read comic books. While my membership to various geek publications and websites are current, I don’t stalk them hourly for info on the fictional characters and worlds I love. My interest never waned even though the time and effort that I have to devote certainly did. When I haven’t got other more important things to occupy my time, I’ll revisit those people and places but when I see them now it’s through the lens of adulthood, of fatherhood.

These new perspectives lead me to questions that I can’t easily answer, to discussions that I want to have but with no one to share, ideas to share without an audience to listen. At the same time in my personal life I am at a crossroads. Taking care of my family will always be my number one priority but I’ve learned so much more than I ever would have guessed I could in just a few short years. So with that in mind, I can see that this crossroads may also be the perfect opportunity to finally do some things that I’ve always wanted to do and take care of my family at the same time.

Of course I also have this blog. The internet is a wonderful thing and I truly believe we’re on the edge of something big, something great because of it. So, now is the time and this is the place. I’m not going to be a part of the future if I don’t start participating in the present. Maybe no one has any interest in anything I have to say, but at least I’ll be writing and the more I write the better the chance that I’ll have written something else worth reading. The opposite could also be true and by writing more and more here I may have more opportunities in the future. Or maybe neither happens and I continue to take care of my family the same way I am now, but I’ll be writing here and I’ll be happier for it.

My first attempt at a podcast was at least a good learning experience. I may not do another one but at the very least it helped me find my creative voice. Regardless, expect to see more in this space and more expect to see it more often. Expect to see more of my thoughts and ideas about fanboyish things and my new, more mature perspective on them. You can expect to see more creative endeavors from me in the future as well, because this is me turning over a new leaf.

Today marks the day that the fanboy became: THE FAN MAN!

Quit trying to make me listen to that!

Perhaps it is just my my own experience and this isn’t something that seems as ubiquitous as it appears to me, but why is it that my wife, and before her my girlfriends through the years, have been incapable of letting my taste in music be? Now I’m not going to give you a complete history of “Pop Music According to Jesse” but I will give you a quick synopsis. Never listened to music before the age of 10 that didn’t belong to my parents. I’m a lifelong lover of Billy Joel and Dire Straits to this day because Billy Joel’s “The Bridge” and “Storm Front” and Dire Straits “Brothers in Arms” are the albums I heard the most from the ages of roughly 5-12. The first music I found own my own that I would actually call my own is Weird Al. A friend at school had just gotten his “Alapalooza” album featuring the “MacArthur Park” parody and the “Jurassic Park” inspired logo and soon another friend let me borrow his Weird Al “In 3D” album on cassette which I dubbed. Eventually I would also dub “Dare to Be Stupid” and actually receive a copy, also on cassette (CD’s? What?), of “Bad Hair Day” featuring the world famous “Amish Paradise.”  With those parodies firmly in my mind I would eventually start seeking out the original songs featured on those albums like every classic rock song played polka-style on “In 3D” on the track “Polkas on 45”, or the songs that inspired, “King of Suede”, “I Want a New Duck” or “Bedrock Anthem.”

Very soon my brother would discover “alternative rock” of the early 90’s, as would my friends, and soon I was exposed to Nirvana, Green Day, Oasis, Everclear and so forth. I would listen to the music with him and certainly enjoy it, but music was never my thing. For some reason though, sophomore year high school, 1997, The Wallflowers’ “One Headlight” and Cornershop’s “Brimful of Asha” hit home with me. Not that I had any idea what either song meant, still don’t, but I’d never heard music before that could evoke emotions in me that weren’t simply happy or excited. But I was never one for spending much of my money on music, though I did finally start seeking it out. I joined the BMG record club a couple dozen times, like you did back then, to grow my CD library when I finally had enough scratch to pick up a knock off Sony Discman, but I was also listening to whatever was popular, whatever was on the radio and most people in my high school had moved on to either good music that they had discovered by actually looking for it, or what was the beginnings of the today’s “butt rock” movement, Godsmack and the like.

Then, my senior year, I guy I barely knew but who I thought of pretty highly because of his musical accomplishments (he played guitar in a friend’s band) turned me onto a the album “From the Screen to Your Stereo” by an unknown, to me, group called New Found Glory. He explained it as a series of cover songs from their favorite movies. I didn’t know what they even sounded like, I just knew I had to have it. Very soon after that I had bought their self-titled. A year or so later I discovered another unknown group called Lucky Boys Confusion. What made these bands stick out, and why I follow them still to this day, is the way their music actually spoke to me in a way that music had never done before. As you can imagine, my musical tastes lie in that above-mentioned stew. Somewhere along the lines I became a Who and Pink Floyd fanatic, pretty much all classic rock of the 70’s is welcome in my ears, Billy Joel, 80’s music that I couldn’t help but hear because it was so unavoidable for so long, Dire Straits, pop-country of the late 80’s-early 90’s (because it was also unavoidable for an Indiana kid of that era) and kinda obscure pop-punk of the 90’s to early 00’s.

Every girl I have ever dated knows this. Every girl I have ever dated, but one, seems bothered by this. Aside from the obvious reasons like, “I’m a guy” and “I don’t like mass-media pop”, I can typically be found actively avoiding popular music. because it doesn’t appeal to me musically or lyrically and I am actuely aware that 99% of the time it is compiled of the work of multiple writers and producers before ever making it to your ears, for specific purpose of making money and “enjoyment” is only secondary. If a song got play on the contemporary station, the pop station, the rap station, the hip-hop station, didn’t matter, I didn’t want to hear it. Now, I’m not saying that the rap and hip-hop stations consisted of cookie-cutter music, in this case, I just never quite “got” it. But regarding pop, not only did I not want to hear it, if I did end up getting exposed to it in some way, I would separate myself from the situation just so I could end it. So, Kelly Clarkson, Christina Aguilera, LFO, Backstreet Boys, name a female pop star or boy band and I hated them with a fiery passion. Now, I understand that the boy band thing is something I think most girls grew out of by about 15 or so, but the female pop stars less so, and if I was going to be dating members of the fairer sex, I would have to learn some tolerance but, tolerate was as far as I was willing to take it.

And yet, every girl but one has not been able to easily grasp how I couldn’t possibly know this song or that song by this vapid blonde or that auto-tuned airhead:

Her: “Here, listen to this. Isn’t this good?”
Me: “Nope.”
Her: “You’re not even listening!”
Me: “Nope.”

Her: “Oh, I heard that new one by [insert popstar here]!”
Me: “I’ll take your word for it.”
Her: “Oh, I’m sure you’ve heard it, it’s been everywhere lately. She was even on [insert popular talkshow here].”
Me: “Ah. Still don’t know what you’re talking about.”

Her: “Me and [co-worker] were talking about the differences between [two songs by some popstar].”
Me: “OK?”
Her: “And I was saying that [song one] is a party song and [song two] is a break-up song and he didn’t agree with me.”
Me: “I see. I have no idea.”

Even yesterday during the joke that is the Super Bowl half-time show for Super Bowl 49, February 1, 2015, I was upstairs finishing up a little piece of my honey-do list because I had no desire to watch it. I can say with a mild amount of certainty that there were probably many people who changed the channel or found other things to do at the same time. Yet, my wife is still yelling up to me from the living room that it was, “bad ass.” I would later explain to her that while I can use the words “bad” and “ass” to describe Katy Perry all damn day, I would not ever use them in the order and context she used them. Then when it was over she came and got me and tried to explain to me some more of what had occurred to which I said, “I’m sure Pepsi got what they paid for,” and she got mad. After 7 1/2 years of marriage I’d like to say that I know my wife pretty well at this point and she wasn’t mad at me for the comment, she wasn’t even mad at me because I missed the “half-time show”, she was mad at me because I wasn’t even going to try to like the music she liked. She and I actually have a pretty big cross-section of music that we both enjoy, between 80’s music, Broadway musicals, Elvis, Sinatra and even some of my pop-punk stuff, yet she still to this day, every time I say I’m not interested in mass-media pop music by manufactured popstars that represent a “music industry” that is, as we speak, heaving its dying breaths, she gets mad at me because she takes it as a personal insult.

What is going on here?! Why can’t I avoid shitty music and it just be understood that I don’t want to listen to shitty music?! I’m not the most musically aware, I listen to stuff that I understand other people find shitty and that’s fine. I understand that the bands I like are probably derivative of something older or better too but I’m not trying to be a scholar about it either. I know that there’s entire worlds of music out there that I’ve never even imagined, let alone heard of. All I want is to listen to what I like the few times a week I actually get to listen to music, and nothing else. But why has every single female in my life, but one, found it insulting that I don’t like the music they like? My wife has actually tried to argue with me on this point. “I’ve listened to stuff of yours I didn’t think I would like.” Which of course led to a fight because I countered with, “And?” “Well, I liked some of it,” she added. “I’ve listened to your shit too! I’ve never gotten butthurt because you didn’t like my music, I understand that tastes are different but I never asked you or forced you to like my stuff. I’ll be nice when your shit’s on, that doesn’t mean I’m having a good time!”

Ultimately I learned that she thought that because I had heard it, heard of it, might have even been caught humming or singing it because it was stuck in my head, that not only did I enjoy it, but I wanted to hear more of it. Let me make this perfectly clear, anything by the band Fun is straight up garbage, to me. Just because I like to sing, “Sometimes I stay up splashing in my bathtub,” doesn’t mean I like the song. I’m making fun of it. That is my enjoyment. The same goes for pretty much any other band making new music right now. Anything by Katy Perry or Lady Gaga or Ariana Grande is also the musical equivalent of puke. Seriously, if you can listen to the lyrics to any of their songs for longer than 30 seconds without killing yourself, you’ll hear that they’re almost quite literally puking sounds that just so happen to fit the rhythm and tempo of the so-called “music.” Does the music serve a purpose? Is it catchy? Is it making money? Yes to all of those questions. That doesn’t mean it’s good music.

I listen to music because it actually does something to me emotionally. It can actually, “soothe my soul” from time to time. I also listen to music so that I can just shut down. Some of my music is shitty and I can admit to that too. But I only have so much time in my life for the things that I enjoy doing anymore anyway, I certainly don’t want to fill it with stuff that I’m going to just get mad at. I have more music in my library right now than I will ever have free time for until sometime after I retire in 60 years, I don’t need or want any new stuff. JESUS CHRIST, QUIT TRYING TO MAKE ME LISTEN TO THAT!