Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Fan Expo 2010 - The good, the bad....the UGLY

Last weekend was a lot weekend, just ask my wife.

I disappeared on Friday afternoon into downtown Toronto to meet up with my niece, my sons and I took along my daughter for the opening bell of Toronto's Fan Expo 2010. I love that so much of my family goes, and really does enjoy it for a wide variety of reasons.  More on that later though.  Really, I just wanted to get the blog back up and running after a slowdown of epic proportions in August, so let's get it started by hitting on some of the key points of my observations last weekend.

Stan Lee! The Expo's premiere guest was none other than the builder of all things Marvel, and in my opinion the man who did the most to further the cause of comic books as an art form and literary medium in the twentieth century. With the inability to meet Jerry Siegel, Joe Shuster, Jack Kirby or Bob Kane, Stan Lee now sits alone as the crown jewel in any comic geeks wish list.

BOOM STUDIOS Always happy to see a publishing house that isn't one of the big two out there doing great public relations work with their fans, and that's exactly what Boom did. Would I have preferred if they had brought Mr. Waid to the show? Absolutely. But we can't have everything. They had a nice booth, and the people working in were very accessible and engaging.

Adam West & Burt Ward Holy dynamic duos Batman! As if having these two icons of yesteryear there to do signings wasn't cool enough, the event organizers also had Julie Newmar - she of Catwoman fame from the worst (and best) Batman show of all time. It was a nice trip down memory lane, and I loved it.

The SHAT I could talk about other guests in attendance, some of whom probably meant a great deal more to other people, but as I get a little older, and a little bit more proud of my heritage in the great white north, I find myself really enjoying William Shatner and his proudly Canadian roots more and more. I'll watch Trek, but I was never a Trekkie (yeah, I said Trekkies NOT Trekkers!) so my appreciation of Bill has little to do with that. The man's just iconic as a Canadian, and I love that tens of thousands of people showed up to shower him with love.

Prices Some of the vendors understood that the con was a chance to divest themselves of excess stock and things that don't move, and they priced accordingly. Buying unappreciated trade paperbacks for $1 each was awesome. Even if I might not read half of them.

Thor I saw a guy dressed up as Thor who was easily 6'10". The costumer was OK, but being a GIANT certainly helped sell it.  

Jude The cartoon Network runs a show called 16 which I got hooked on while watching it with my pre-teen daughter. It's about a group of young friends who work, hang out and basically grow up in a mall. The show's funny, smart and engaging, but I was never so impressed with it as I was when I watched the voice actor who portrays Jude (the lovable and in my house most popular cast member) introduce himself to my daughter. The guy just gets it. He immediately understood that she was smitten and treated her like gold. Best moment of the show, and I'm very impressed with the young man. Very.

Sketch-Offs I only went to one of them, but the idea was very cool and it was the first time I'd seen it. In a room downstairs I sat in to watch the assembled fans challenge Oliver Coipel and Gary Frank to do an 40 minute rendering of NightCrawler, while fielding questions and engaging the audience. The result was a lot of jocularity, witty reparte (largely from Frank) and 2 wonderful sketches which were given away to lucky audience members. Great idea!

Stan Lee Yes, it was in the GOOD, but it's also in the BAD. The people who handled Stan's signing period made the entire experience clinical and sterilized, sucking from it any chance that people might actually connect with Stan in any personal way. I could have just paid my $40 and sent the comic into some facility where they could have had Stan's stamp handy and slapped the signature on the book. Even asking them for the extra six letters to write "To Jeff" on it was too much for them. They offered up a lame and completely fabricated excuse for why that wasn't a reasonable request (despite the fact that the question/answer sequence took longer than the six letters would have.) To go to all the trouble of bringing in Stan and then make the experience that stale and vanilla? What was the point?

Prices How do people set up shop right next to a competitor and not bother to at least undeerstand that just being there wasn't good enough to get sales? When the guy next to you has product on at 50% off the US cover price, how do you have the nerve to put up "save the tax?" Some people only got money from stupid shoppers!

Administration Whomever organized the show should be shot. If I had paid $150 to get a pass that allowed me to get in at 2pm on Friday when the event wasn't scheduled to open until 4pm, and the lineup was so long that I didn't get in until well AFTER the people who bought their pass at the gate at 4pm for much less than I did, I would be talking to a lawyer. How hard is it to know how many people ordered the pass online, and plan a better execution so that they got in when you told them they would get in? In fact the lineups all weekend long were a strong sign that the event's execution was subpar. Add to that the fact that all exits but one were closed and everyone was expected to exit through 1 set of doors, and you have a recipe for epic stupidity.

Artists Ally Always one of my favorite places to walk, wander and shop, I didn't do much of it at this show because the space was so narrow that it was like doing a constant grind with ugly people you wouldn't touch after 15 beers and a year's supply of crack.

There were lots of people in costumes, but a few simple rules should always be understood at such events.

1.   The less clothes they're wearing = the more clothes you want them to be wearing
2.  For every attractive person dressed up as a character from their favorite comic/movie/game there will be 10 really (REALLY!) unattractive people dressed up as the same.
3.  Single, old men should NOT be asking teenage girls if they can take their picture regardless of what costume they appear to be wearing (or not wearing). It's just creepy.

Pictures soon folks, and I'll be back to talk about some of the personal experiences I had, what I bought and who I talked with.

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

Serial Killer. No questions asked.

From Wikipedia:
A serial killer is a person who murders three or more people over a period of more than thirty days, with a "cooling off" period between each murder, and whose motivation for killing is largely based on psychological gratification. Often, a sexual element is involved with the killings. The murders may have been attempted or completed in a similar fashion and the victims may have had something in common; for example, occupation, race, appearance, sex, or age group.
Serial killers are not the same as mass murderers, who commit multiple murders at one time; nor are they spree killers, who commit murders in two or more locations with virtually no break in between. 

Recently the poll on this page has taken a giant step forward in sanity, when the most popular identification of Frank Castle switched from 'misunderstood' to 'serial killer.' Thank Heaven! I was seriously thinking of tracking down all of the voters and putting you on somebody's psyche profile watch list. What kind of person looks at the hundreds (if not thousands) of people that Frank Castle has systematically hunter down and killed over the course of his life and describes him as 'misunderstood?'

No. I understand him just fine.

He's a sociopath, who hid his aberrant behavior behind (depending on which version you subscribe to) a position in the military or law enforcement, until a personal tragedy allowed him to justify embracing his sociopathic tendencies, while hiding behind the justification of avenging his beloved family.

As I told somebody during our discussion on this topic.....lots of heroes have killed.

Wonder Woman killed Maxwel Lord (and I was glad she did!)

Captain America killed.

Hell, even Superman has killed.

But there's a big difference between killing somebody, and being a killer.

Frank Castle is a stone cold killer, who does not feel a single ounce of remorse for the murders he has committed, nor any moral uncertainty over his constant denial of the rights which his victims are guaranteed under the laws of his country. He is no more a hero than any other serial killer throughout history, despite the fact that many people empathize with or appreciate that his actions continue to remove criminals from the streets.

Justification is easy, until you have to make it real.

If killing my best friend would save a hundred people I'll never know, I think those hundred people would die. That's part of what makes me human. Would it be heroic of me to kill my best friend?  Hell no.  It would border on an act of evil, despite the potential good it would result in.  Heroism would be him finding out that by dying he could save 100 people, and taking his own life.  That would be heroic, although maybe even that could be turned around.

My point people.....is that while we enjoy the stories and are engrossed in the enormously decadent violence that makes a Punisher story work....we should never lose sight of the fact that we're glorifying a serial killer. We may be happy that he killed an 'allegedly' bad, bad man.......but there is no way we can consider ourselves civilized and absolve him of his repeated acts of murder.

Frank Castle: Murderer.

Now, I really only read Ennis' Punisher, but how good a book would it be if we found out that he killed an innocent? You can't take it back. There's no 'fix' button for capital punishment, and you only have to be wrong one time. 100 rights will never wash that stain off of your soul.

I'd love to tackle that question.

Until somebody does though, never forget........if somebody admires the Punisher.....stay far.....FAR....away!