Getting Old and Hating It Like Everyone Else

This is a brief entry but it doesn’t need to be more.

It doesn’t hit you until you start to see the dates. AI turns 20 next week. Independence Day is 25. Lord of the Rings hits 20 in December. Training Day hits 20 in October. The worst of all: Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back is 20 in August. The movie anniversaries hurt so much worse than anything else.

I’m 37. That’s firmly middle aged. I’m now older than my dad was when I was born. I’ve got a lot of gray in my hair. My beard is fully mixed now. The hair on my head is falling out. I’m not sure if it’ll come back. I’ve got wrinkles. I’ve got aches and pains. I’m old.

And I’m not at peace with it but not for the usual reasons. Part of it is unexpected. I’m not feeling like I’ve missed much in my life. My grand goals were to marry and have a family. My wife sleeps on the couch as Lola plays in her room and I write in the living room. I went to college, had a career even if it fell apart, rebounded. I’m doing well.

But I’m still mournful. And that’s because much is lost. I blogged on this earlier this year but it haunts me. I’ve lost much I can’t go back to. I don’t regret missed opportunities. I regret I can’t relive the joy. And there’s no solution for that.

I’m also resentful of the lies I grew up with. The future was promoted as this grand moment where I would rule and the opposite happened. I feel frustrated. And everyone feels that. The system isn’t built to be broken.

So I’m here without a good solution. I worry I’ll be bald soon. I know I’m decaying. And I hate it.

Review: Justice League/Power Rangers

There’s not enough discussion of neutral fandom. You don’t go out of your way to watch or read something but you like it. It’s cool. I’m like that with a lot of things. Doctor Who is that. I’m like that with a lot of lesser known superheroes.

And I’m like that with Power Rangers. The franchise isn’t bad. I mostly watched the first show but I’m familiar with it. I’ve read the comics here and there. I like it.

I am however very familiar with the Justice League. I mean it’s the DC big hitters. Of course I am. I know Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, The Flash, Green Lantern, and Green Arrow. So when I get a crossover between them like Justice League/Mighty Morphin Power Rangers by Tom Taylor and Stephen Byrne I get to to dabble a bit.

The plot could basically be lifted from the crossover template. The Power Rangers are forced to enter the DC universe. They fight the JL. They realize they’re the JL. Team up ensues. It turns out Lord Zedd and Brainiac are teamed up. Fights ensue. There’s a problem in the MMPR universe. It’s solved. And sequel hook! Seriously I could plug so many stories into this template.

But that’s fine. A crossover is all about execution. After all the toys usually go back in the box. They’re never canon. It needs to satisfy both needs. A crossover just is.

And this is very good. It’s not the top tier but it’s a genuinely satisfying story. You get to see what you expect and hope to see. A lot of this is on Taylor, who is just genius with character work. He really has fun with it. It helps that he chooses the perfect villains. Lord Zedd and Brainiac fit either world. It’s fun.

The comic works largely by finding a middle tone. It’s not as campy as MMPR or as serious as JL. It’s closest to say the Adventures line DC did to tie to the DCAU. This is definitely a book I would see in a middle school. It’s inoffensive like that but not cloying or low stakes. There’s action and it’s great.

The art by Byrne is okay. I wish it was stronger but it does the job. It’s oddly closer to my last entry in style than the Jim Lee style I expected. It’s effective, action is great as I said, but in more static shots it’s a bit off. Faces could be better.

Overall this is good. It’s not a world beater though it would be if I was more of MMPR. But it’s fun. It’s a good solid read.

Review: Batman/The Shadow

This is the next to last of my commissions I took while my wife was in the hospital and these were fun to do. I’ll try to do another big run. But for now I’m down to this and one more. My Halloween costumes in 1992 and 1994 collide. Yes I did The Shadow in 1994. I was cool.

Batman/The Shadow: The Murder Geniuses by Steve Orlando and Scott Snyder with art by Riley Rossmo is one of the weirdest comics I’ve ever reviewed. That says a lot. It’s a crossover between two pulp heroes. It should be a simple pulpy story. It’s a very strange book. And good. But weird.

The story focuses on Batman investigating murders seemingly committed by Lamont Cranston against his descendants. He’s supposed to be dead though. And Batman doesn’t know he’s The Shadow. Or Henri Ducard or so he claims. Or any number of people he claims he was who trained Batman because he wants an heir. There is an actual plot about Joker and the Stag teaming up that involves a quest for the immortality that damned The Shadow for eternity.

What this is a meditation on the differences between the two. The idea that the Shadow trained Batman works on a meta level as The Shadow set a template Batman liberally ripped off. But Batman is iconic in all media and The Shadow is much more limited. Why?

Well for one thing The Shadow has a much more complicated lore. I’m not nearly as well versed as there’s not as much readily available but it’s messy. Even his core identity is a mess. His continuity changes violently from version to version.

But there’s a reason The Shadow didn’t catch on. He’s a dark, fatalistic character with a sadistic streak. Batman is a dark character but to quote Kingdom Come, at his core he’s someone who doesn’t want anyone to die. He could seek immortality but he sees value in life’s limits. I’d argue this is why Batman lasted and The Shadow didn’t. His lore lived.

And nothing I’ve said is irrelevant. This is about that. And what a rich journey this story is. This is a fascinating look at two pulp icons. Orlando (who scripted) and Snyder know Batman and The Shadow. They have a really great story too about immortality and why mortality is great.

So why is it weird? Because I had to discuss the meta elements first. This is a story that wants you thinking about popularity. It wants you thinking about influence. The idea in this story that the Shadow has mentored much of DC is a fascinating idea. The actual narrative is solid on a plot level but that meta level is crucial.

The drawback here is the art. It’s really off. Very Sam Kieth at times. Not really my jam and not what you want in a pulp story. It works just enough to let the script shine but it’s really unappealing.

This is a bear of a book. A really fascinating book that celebrates and interrogates two franchises. This is one of the best crossovers ever.

Review: It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia: The 7 Secrets of Awakening the Highly Effective Four-Hour Giant, Today

I want to be clear about something. What works in one medium is not guaranteed to work in another. Video games for example have stories that work because they are interactive but try reading the novelization of Kingdom Hearts without falling asleep. The medium matters.

And it especially matters in comedy. What works in one world doesn’t often work in another as the books of stand up comedians’ acts that cluttered shelves in the 90s proved. It’s especially true of tv shows. There are very few classic books tied to tv shows that aren’t script books. The brilliant guide to Pawnee, Indiana aside, this is a lethal realm even if the show is genius.

That’s where we are today. One of the greatest comedies in TV history. A book that died as I read it. It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia: The 7 Secrets of Awakening the Highly Effective Four-Hour Giant, Today is a wretched book. It is aggressively unfunny. It made me angry to read it. But you know what the weird thing is? It’s an extremely faithful recreation of the tone of the show it’s adapting. So why doesn’t it work?

And it doesn’t. I read it twice to be sure. This is not a funny book but it faithfully recreates a funny show. What got lost?

Let’s begin by explaining what this is. It’s a self help book in theory written by the characters. They talk about relationships, mental health, physical help. All the basics. It’s mostly chapters “by” characters but there are transcripts of conversations.

And look right there the problem is clear. The characters have nothing to do with self help. A self help book is something they’d do but we’d really more be watching them out of their minds on drugs writing it. In fact it would be funnier imagining the book.

The book also winds up getting to be a bit much in length. It’s about 275 pages in my edition and fairly dense. That means that over and over we get the same general jokes. And eventually I had the pattern down. Normal advice with a lot more profanity and abuse. Oh it’s funny they’re pro tapeworm. Haha. It wore me down.

In fact it’s weird how little I liked the comedy because again the jokes are really not that different from the show. In fact even though the language is harsh it’s not nearly the worst it’s been. And I’m not actually a prude. I worship George Carlin. And I think he provides a key.

Carlin’s act was collected into three best sellers. They’re classics of comedy. They read incredibly well. And I think they read because Carlin loved language. His act was great not just because of delivery but because there wasn’t one mischosen word. Slowing down to read it was joy.

It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia isn’t that. It’s a funny show sure. The dialogue is incredible. But so much of it is in the execution. It has one of the greatest comedy ensembles ever. W**** isn’t a funny word but Danny DeVito made it a song. Kaitlin Olson has made the f-bomb art. The show is a model of editing, directing, acting, and writing.

This has another problem. This is an ensemble. It needs the characters bouncing off each other. In isolation they aren’t as funny. Attempts at that interaction through footnotes fail. Being Forced to spend several minutes listening to a serial rapist without someone calling them out is hell.

But you know what’s kinda great about this book? It doesn’t diminish the source. It makes me amazed it works on that knife edge it walks. It’s amazing anything works like this show. But it does and it does on a level few things ever will.

Ignore the book. Binge the show.