Super Comics: Uncanny X-Men #172 & 173

New post over at Smash Cut Culture!

UncannyX-Men173WolverineLet’s go back to the early days of the super-hero movie trend, to the first X-Men movie from 2000. (Spoilers ahead, but it’s been nearly 15 years.)

That movie featured Wolverine and Rogue as our viewpoints characters, and it built a friendship between, which culminated in Wolverine—at great risk to his own health—allowing Rogue to borrow his healing ability so she could recover from life-threatening injuries. I can’t find that scene on YouTube, but this is the music that plays during the moment.Uncanny_X-Men_Vol_1_173

I’m guessing that scene was inspired by the events ofUncanny X-Men #172 and 173 from 1983, which were written by main X-architect Chris Claremont and drawn by Paul Smith. This pair of issues serves a double purpose—to follow up the excellent Wolverine miniseries Claremont had just completed with artist Frank Miller, and to establish Rogue as a bona fide X-Woman. By the way, that Wolverine miniseries influenced aspects of The Wolverine movie from 2013, but that’d be a whole other article.

Rogue only joined the team in #171, and before that, she was primarily known as the bad guy who stole Ms. Marvel’s powers and memories—in an Avengers comic, since no competing studios were keeping Marvel’s mutant and non-mutant characters apart. Ms. Marvel was a friend of the X-Men and of Wolverine in particular. In today’s comics, Ms. Marvel has become Captain Marvel and is more popular than ever, and she’s set to star in her own film in 2018. But the ‘80s were not kind to her.

Read the rest, please.

Super Comics: Flash #73-79 (1993)

Attention, Flash fans new and old — I’ve written a post over at Smash Cut Culture that might be of interest. Anyone else remember this storyline?Flash_v.2_75

Barry Allen, like many comic book characters, used to be dead. But unlike most others, he stayed dead for over twenty years. Oh, he’s alive and well now—more so than ever, thanks to The Flash television series on the CW. Nevertheless, DC Comics once killed him off, giving him a heroic death in 1985’s Crisis on Infinite Earths miniseries, and he didn’t return until 2009’s Flash: Rebirth.

During that time, Wally West, the former sidekick Kid Flash, took over as the Flash. Wally was introduced in the late 1950s as the young nephew of Barry’s girlfriend Iris. (Unlike their TV counterparts, Barry and Iris were together from the Flash’s first appearance, and they did not grow up together.) When Barry and Iris eventually married, Barry became not only Wally’s mentor and idol, but his uncle as well.

Wally’s series ran for about 250 issues from 1987 to 2009, and his time as the Flash can be read as a coming-of-age story. He progressed from a self-centered, twenty-year-old kid to a family man and stalwart member of the Justice League of America.

A pivotal chapter in his growth occurred in a storyline called “The Return of Barry Allen” in 1993, which spanned issues #73 to #79 written by Mark Waid and drawn by Greg La Rocque. The story isn’t some good vs. evil struggle, but one with very personal stakes. It’s about the balance between idolizing your hero and becoming your own person, the importance of protecting a legacy, and the dreaded possibility that your role model might not live up to your expectations.

Read the rest, please.

Super Comics: The Avengers #19-22 (1999)

avengersv3-022Over at Smash Cut Culture, I’ve started a series looking back at the comic books that inspired the films and TV shows. And where better to start than a great Avengers storyline featuring the titular villain of the upcoming Avengers: Age of Ultron film?

Avengers stories are at their best when the stakes are both huge and personal, and that’s what we get in the “Ultron Unlimited” storyline that ran in The Avengers (vol. 3) #19-22 in 1999, written by Kurt Busiek and drawn by George Perez—two top, veteran talents in the comics industry.

The cast includes a few Avengers moviegoers have already met—Captain America, Iron Man, and Thor—as well as some they’re about to meet—the Scarlet Witch and Vision—and even a couple whom they might meet versions of in the upcoming Ant-Man movie—Hank Pym and the Wasp. The Black Panther, who’s got a film in the works, rejoins the team for this adventure. And then there’s Wonder Man, who filmmakers will probably get around to eventually if the super-hero trend keeps up long enough; Firestar, who ‘80s kids might remember from the Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends cartoon; and Justice, who…well, they can’t all be in the pictures, can they?

In this storyline, Ultron is taking another shot at his usual goal of replacing organic life with robotic life. But this time includes some twists. He actually does destroy an entire small country as his opening salvo, which gives tremendous gravity to the proceedings. And he kidnaps his “family” so that he can use their brainwaves to generate unique personalities for the robotic life he wants to take over the world.

Read the rest, please.


The scientific process vs. a preschooler’s imagination

I was babysitting my 4-year-old niece the other weekend, and she posed a deep philosophical question.

“Uncle Danny,” she asked, seriously, “do toys come to life at night?”

That immediately created different philosophical questions within my own mind—What’s the right age to take away that magic? And do I want to be the one to pull the trigger?

Normally for this type of inquiry, my response would be, “Let’s see what Mommy thinks.” But my sister was working, so the buck could not be passed. The kid was looking to me to fill her in on the secret lives of toys, because naturally Uncle Danny is an expert in such matters.

I initially tried to hedge a bit: “That sort of thing might just happen in our imaginations.”

“But I think they do come to life,” she insisted. Continue reading

Veronica Mars lives on…in a fake digital spinoff

VM PIADThis continues to be an eventful year for Veronica Mars fans. First we get a long-awaited movie, then the launch of a series of novels co-written by series creator Rob Thomas, and now…a digital series about a fake spinoff.

Yeah, that last one is especially random, but it’s also kind of fun, judging by the first episode, which was released recently on the CW Seed.

Play It Again, Dick features actor Ryan Hansen playing a fictional version of himself trying to create a spinoff series for his Veronica Mars, character Dick Casablancas. Most of the VM cast members are set to play themselves as well as their characters. It’s all very meta, tongue-in-cheek, and perhaps even a bit self-deprecating.

The first episode runs less than eight minutes. Hansen discusses his idea with an extremely skeptical Kristen Bell and then pitches to the CW. We also see a potential theme song. Continue reading

Should you self-publish?

It might be right for you. Or it might not. I’ve posted some considerations over at Smash Cut Culture.

Here’s the beginning:

The short answer is yes, you should start getting your work out there and building an audience. This applies not only to novelists, but musicians, filmmakers, theatre artists—all creative fields.

unnamedBut let’s focus on books. That’s what I’ve been doing lately.

Advances in technology mean we don’t have to follow the conventional wisdom of decades ago. Traditional publishers are still relevant, important, and deserving of respect, but they don’t have to be the sole gatekeepers of the literary world. Readers can do an excellent job of that, too.

If you’re a writer who yearns for a career in fiction, self-publishing should be your proving grounds. Show the world you’re capable of developing a professional-quality work, and demonstrate the thick skin of letting readers form their own opinions about it. Make connections with other authors, and conduct yourself as a professional.

But becoming a self-published author is not for everyone. Here are just a few considerations, and this list is by no means exhaustive:

Read the rest, please…

Hey, kids! It’s National Clown Week!

Several years ago, I was hanging out with some friends at the International House of Pancakes in Williamsburg, Virginia, and they asked what I had done at work recently.DCFC0077.JPG

I answered, “An Episcopalian church had a ‘Blessing of the Clowns’ service for National Clown Week, so I covered that.”

They couldn’t tell if I was being serious or sarcastic.

“Yes, National Clown Week is a real thing. Richard Nixon signed it into law in the ‘70s.”

That didn’t help.

It wasn’t sarcasm. There is indeed such a holiday as National Clown Week, and it’s observed the first week of each August. Continue reading

Meeting the Doctors

New post up at Smash Cut Culture! And it’s all about Doctor Who, which makes the link 729 percent more clickable.Tennant

Here’s the beginning:

Doctor Who fans are getting ready to meet the latest incarnation of the ancient alien who travels through all of space and time in a blue box that’s bigger on the inside.

A clever plot device has helped keep the BBC series on the air for so many years. Whenever the Doctor dies, he regenerates into a new body and picks up life right where he left off—with some new personality quirks and different taste in clothing, but his core characteristics and memory remain more or less intact.

That’s certainly one way to keep things fresh.

Unlike James Bond, Doctor Who has a valid in-story reason for why 11 (and now 12) different actors have taken on the title role over the past 50 years.

Peter Capaldi will star in his first full episode Aug. 23, and Whovians will get to meet the Doctor all over again. A season premiere is that much more exciting when it basically doubles as a series premiere of sorts, too.

So, let’s take a quick look back in time at the introductions of the previous three “modern” Doctors…

Read the rest (please).

Veronica Mars lives on…in books

VMars coverI’ve got a new post up at Smash Cut Culture, and it’s all about Veronica Mars‘ transition into a novel series…plus a quick comparison to Buffy‘s transition into comic books.

Check it out, please, along with the other writers’ pop culture commentary on this new site.

(Spoiler: Yes, fans should read this book. I’ll be sure to pick up the next installment.)

In other news, Smashwords has a sale going on this month. Lots of e-books are 25 percent to 100 percent off (yes — free e-books!) with coupon codes. Both RIP: Choices After Death and Earths in Space: Where Are the Little Green Men? can be yours at half the cost with promo code SSW50 at Smashwords only.

Probably a good day to check out Smashwords. And a good day to look at Smash Cut Culture.

Anything with “smash,” I guess. Oh, just go and pick up an Incredible Hulk comic while you’re at it.

The forgotten origin of Smurfette

I smurfed across a piece of pop culture trivia while babysitting my niece last night.smurfette

After playing with my old Smurfs figurines for a while, she wanted to see an actual Smurfs cartoon. So I went to YouTube and searched “Smurfs.”

One of the first results was an episode titled “The Smurfette,” labeled as “S01E01” (though says it’s the 21st episode, which came out in 1981).

Turns out, Smurfette was not a naturally born Smurf, nor was she a natural blonde.

Smurfette was a creation of Gargamel. He intended this black-haired girl Smurf to infiltrate the all-male Smurfs and spy on them. Continue reading