Tag Archives: Star Wars

Dear Gina Carano And Her Supporters: Avoid Ben Shapiro (And Everyone Like Him)

Talking about politics is ugly.

Talking about issues like “cancel culture,” which I put in quotes for a reason, is often revolting.

Sometimes, though, we can’t avoid it. When it makes headlines, it’s like a massive traffic accident. We can’t look away. It’s just how we’re wired. It’s a problem that plays right into the flaws of human nature.

It affects us on an emotional level, appealing to tribalism and hate. It brings out the worst parts in some people. For others, it brings out a sense of greedy opportunism that is nothing short of exploitative.

This brings me to the ongoing saga involving Gina Carano, the new face of “cancel culture” after Disney fired her from “The Mandalorian.” She’s been making a lot of noise in the media lately, which is kind of ironic for someone claiming to be silenced or censored, but that’s beside the point.

However, a good chunk of that noise came out of her recent interview with Ben Shapiro of the Daily Wire. Now, I’m inclined to believe that Gina is sincere in her statements. I’m also inclined to believe that she’s not a hateful person, even though her words and tweets tend to the wrong message.

Reasonable people can have reasonable discussions about how justified Disney was in firing her. Those same people can have reasonable discussions about the merits of “cancel culture” and how conservatives are viewed in the media. Those are discussions we should have.

The problem is that Ben Shapiro is not a reasonable person, for the most part, nor are many conservative-leaning blowhards like him. Gina herself might already know the kind of person he is, but I doubt she fully grasps the bigger picture of who this man is and why people like him are not true allies.

It’s fine to be a conservative.

It’s fine to disagree with major liberal talking points.

Men like Ben Shapiro take it several steps further and cross way too many lines. He’s as much a conservative as Bugs Bunny is a real opera singer. He’s nothing more than a mouthpiece funded by a couple of oil billionaires, who are also huge funders of the religious right. These are people who think the only women’s right that matters is the right to obey her husband and pump out babies.

These are not people you want to ally with.

These are not people who have the best interest of America, women, and Star Wars fans in mind.

They have an agenda and Gina is nothing more than a tool, as are her fans. However, I don’t expect anyone to just take my word for it. The YouTube channel, Some More News, actually went through the trouble of creating a one-hour video detailing why Ben Shapiro is not a serious person who should be taken seriously about anything, let alone real conservatism.

Please, I implore both Gina and her supporters to watch this video and think carefully about who they’re throwing their support behind. As multiple Star Wars movies have shown us, making a deal with the dark side rarely works out for anyone who isn’t already in power.

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Filed under Current Events, politics, psychology, Star Wars, YouTube

Tales From The Comments Section: When Hypocrisy, Lying, And Trolling Converge

Even the most luxurious palace has a septic system that contains its foulest shit. It’s not just a fact of life. It might as well be a law of physics. In the same way the brightest light still casts a shadow, there’s always a dark underbelly to any world we explore.

The internet is no exception. If anything, the internet has more dark underbellies than most and I’m not just referring to porn sites or nefarious Google searches. Those are all plenty disturbing, but if the internet has an overflowing septic tank, it’s the collective comments section of many sites.

They’re not just the comments section to certain news sites.

They’re not just anonymous image boards like 4chan that pride themselves on excess shit-posting.

Even the comments section of mainstream websites like YouTube, Facebook, and Reddit have comments sections that will give your faith in humanity a hefty gut punch. They come in many forms, but they tend to follow the same patterns.

They’re degrading, insulting, whiny, vulgar, immature, and just plain wrong on multiple levels. I’m not calling for them to be censored or banned, outside the kind of comments that incite violence in the real world. I’m just pointing out that this is the ugly side of the internet and we can’t deny its stench.

I say that as someone who has spent many hours, much of them wasted, in comments sections and message boards over the years. Even during the early days of the internet, complete with dial up and AOL keyword searches, I’ve seen this ugliness firsthand. I also don’t deny that there are times when I’ve contributed to it. That’s something I genuinely regret.

While all toxic comments are different, they often employ similar rhetoric. It really hasn’t changed much from the AOL days. Just the other day, I made the mistake of browsing the comments of a YouTube video. I saw the same whiny, angry ranting that I saw on old message boards in 1999.

The topics may change. The verbiage may differ. Even the arguments made, if there are any, tend to be fairly similar. I could single out plenty of ugly comments I’ve encountered. However, I want to highlight one that I’ve seen a lot more of lately, especially among fans of superhero comics, Star Wars, and Star Trek.

They usually go like this.

“Everybody hates [insert character, show, actor/actress, etc.]!”

“Nobody likes [insert character, show, actor/actress, etc.]!”

It’s a sweeping, generalized statement. It’s usually said out of a mix of hate, resentment, and tribalism. Ironically, it’s often Star Wars fans who say stuff like this when talking about characters like Rey. It’s ironic because Obi-Wan Kanobi himself once said, “only a Sith deals in absolutes.”

It doesn’t help that these kinds of absolutes are total bullshit encased in wishful thinking that’s built entirely around head-canon. Certain fans want to believe that everyone agrees with them and those who don’t aren’t “true” fans.

No true Star Wars fan can like Rey.

No true Marvel fan can like Captain Marvel.

No true Star Trek fan can like “Star Trek Discovery.”

It’s basically the old “no true Scotsman” fallacy, but this one is laced with a mix of lies and hypocrisy. That’s because it’s demonstrably provable that these kinds of sweeping statements are wrong.

Not everyone hates Rey, Captain Marvel, or whoever else is the object of resentment at the moment. For one, Captain Marvel’s movie raked in $1 billion at the box office. Clearly, more than a few people liked her.

The same can be said for Rey. You can go onto Amazon and readily find merchandise featuring her. She may not be on the same level as Luke Skywalker, but that’s not a reasonable bar for a character who has only recently entered the franchise.

I can also attest that Rey has plenty of fans. It’s not just that I’m one of them. I’ve been to comic book conventions. I’ve seen women, young girls, and even a few men dress up as Rey. I’ve seen even more dress up as Captain Marvel. She clearly has plenty of fans.

That makes the whole idea that “nobody likes this character” or “everyone hates this character” demonstrably false. Those who say it aren’t just lying trolls. They’re hypocrites.

Now, I’ve made the mistake of arguing with these people before. I can safely conclude that it’s not a productive use of my time. These people will never be dissuaded. They still want to live in their head-canon where everyone hates exactly who they hate and anyone who thinks otherwise is just part of an evil conspiracy out to get them.

It’s a dangerous, toxic mentality that extends beyond fandoms and into politics. We saw just how bad it could get on January 6th during the Capitol riots. I’m not saying angry Star Wars fans are that bad, but the mentality is the same and it’s just as dangerous.

Again, I freely admit I’ve posted my share of dumb comments. I’ve said dumb things before, as well. Everyone has. We’re only human. We’re not perfect and never will be. I believe in free speech strongly and I understand that this is a byproduct of that. I’m willing to accept that.

I’m also willing to use that same freedom to point out the idiocy and hypocrisy of those kinds of comments. They’re not just a useless waste of bandwidth. They’re a symptom of a much larger problem. For now, the best thing to do is ignore these people and let them live in their fanciful head-canon. It may not fix the problem, but it’ll keep it from getting worse.

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Filed under Current Events, psychology, rants, Star Wars, superhero comics, superhero movies, television

A Quick (And Critical) Lesson On Tolerance And “Cancel Culture”

There are certain topics that I find difficult to talk about, but I’ll still make the effort because they’re worth discussing. That’s why I’ll write something about abortion or religion every now and then. These are serious, emotionally charged issues. There’s merit to discussing them.

Then, there’s “cancel culture.”

I’m sorry, but I’ve yet to see a single discussion about “cancel culture” that has ever been productive. Some say it’s a threat to free speech and western values. Some say it’s not really a thing. I say both are wrong and both aren’t helping by making sub-par arguments.

Every few months or so, it starts trending and for bullshit reasons. Usually, what some bemoan as “cancel culture” depends heavily on their political affiliation. A conservative won’t see Colin Kaepernick being shut out of the NFL as cancel culture, but they’ll whine endlessly about Rosanne Barr getting fired from her show.

Conversely, a liberal will cheer when Lou Dobbs gets fired, but will make endless excuses for liberal celebrities who say objectively dumb shit. It always seems to boil down whether you’re politics align with whoever or whatever is canceled. It’s arbitrary, it’s petty, and it’s absurd. I really don’t have any other way to describe it.

Now, I could rant for hours about bullshit “cancel culture” arguments. However, I’d rather do something more productive with my time. I’d also prefer not to add to the whining. The only reason I’m bringing this up is because that’s all anyone has been doing since the story about Gina Carano broke.

If you’re not up to speed, consider yourself lucky. I won’t recount the details. The long and short of it is she got fired by Disney for some stupid tweets that mentioned the holocaust. Now, I won’t give my opinion on the contents of these tweets. Again, that’s not a productive use of my time or anyone’s time, for that matter.

However, I don’t want to bring this topic up just to rant about it. Instead, I’d like to use the ongoing whining about “cancel culture” to offer some perspective about what it is, what it isn’t, and why it matters. I could try to put it into words. Thankfully, people far smarter and more talented than me already have.

The following image that I found on Twitter sums it up nicely.

If that doesn’t get the point across, please see this helpful little image detailing the paradox of tolerance by Karl Popper.

In short, being tolerant is a good thing. Protecting free speech is a good thing. However, there are lines, limits, and context. Failing to understand them will only cause more outrage and whining. The world already has too much of that. Let’s not add to it.

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Filed under Celebrities and Celebrity Culture, censorship, Current Events, human nature, media issues, psychology, television

Disney Investors Day Announcements: The Five Shows/Movies I’m Most Excited For

It’s almost over, people. We’re almost out of 2020 and the end of this global pandemic that has hurt so many is finally in sight. For that reason, it’s okay to start looking forward to 2021. As long as this year doesn’t bring us a new pandemic or an alien invasion, it should be better by default.

We should all be excited at the prospect of the world getting back to some sense of pre-pandemic normalcy. It’ll never be the same, but it’ll be nice to sit in a movie theater or go to a restaurant without having to wear a mask. The world will recover and many are looking to ride onto that wave of recovery.

Chief among them is our Disney overlords. It’s no secret that the pandemic has hit Disney harder than most. Once the envy of the entertainment world, this pandemic hit it with a gut punch that would down the Hulk.

However, those predicting the fall of Disney are exceedingly premature. This is a company that has navigated dark times before. They have too many resources and incentives to just give in, even in the face of a once-in-a-century pandemic.

They’re already making the effort. A while back, Disney had their big Investors Day presentation in which they pitched their future plans to investors and the public. Among those plans were a host of movies and TV shows from.

It was ambitious, even by Disney’s lofty standards. I even dared to let myself get excited again. There was so much to take in, but for the best possible reasons. It made surviving 2020 that much more paramount.

Of the many announcements made during the call, a few stuck out to me. Here are just a few of the shows and movies that have invigorated my spirit once more. For that, I thank our Disney overlords.


Ms. Marvel

Don’t act surprised.

Seriously, have I not made my love of all things Ms. Marvel clear enough?

If this had been the only thing Disney announced, I would’ve been excited. Kamala Khan is exactly what Marvel Studios, their Disney overlords, and the world needs right now. We already got confirmation of the casting of Iman Vellani for the titular role. This time, we also got a teaser trailer for what we can expect from her and from this show.

I’m not going to lie. I watched this trailer at least 10 times and I couldn’t stop smiling.

This is a character who endeared herself in the comics with just one issue. This is also someone who channels the same spirit of the fans who love all things Marvel. She’s young and idealistic. She sees superheroes through the same lens as us, the fans. Now, we get to see her navigate the MCU in a world where the Avengers assembled, saved the day, and Tony Stark made the ultimate sacrifice.

There’s so much to explore and so much to embrace. I think this show will do for Marvel Studios what “The Mandalorian” did for Star Wars. After a year like 2020, we need that.


Star Wars: Ahsoka

This shouldn’t surprise anyone, either. I’ve made my love for Ahsoka Tano known before. She’s also a fan favorite among legions of Star Wars fans and for good reason. Her story is so vast and dramatic. She started as the brash, immature Padawan of a pre-Darth Vader Anakin Skywalker. She then became a key player in the secret war against the Empire.

Even though she has never appeared in any Star Wars movies, she has still found a way to endear herself to so many, myself included. That’s an accomplishment worthy of her own show and the timing couldn’t be better.

Most recently, she made her live-action debut in Season 2 of “The Mandalorian.” Played by Rosario Dawson, she’s made her presence known in the emerging Star Wars canon that’s unfolding on Disney Plus. This show will give her a chance to shine like never before.

She’s no longer someone’s Padawan.

She’s no longer some shadowy agent for the Rebellion.

She’s just Ahsoka being Ahsoka. Sign me up!


Fantastic Four (By Marvel Studios)

When it comes to movies from Marvel Studios, I’m in the same boat as most lifelong Marvel fans. No matter what they put out, I’ll likely be first in line to see it, whether it opens out in theaters or debuts on streaming. While we don’t know what the movie theater scene will be like in 2021, we can be certain that studios will keep making movies and those movies will find an audience.

While Marvel Studios has revealed its movie plans before, this event was special because it confirmed what many of us hoped the day we found out Disney was buying Fox. Marvel Studios is officially making a Fantastic Four movie.

Now, I’m tempted to recount all the ways the Fantastic Four have been butchered by previous movies. Believe me, I could spend hours talking about how 2015’s “Fant4stic” was botched at every turn. However, I prefer to look to the future rather than the past.

Finally, Marvel’s first family will be in the hands of Marvel Studios and Kevin Feige. They’ve shown time and again that they know what they’re doing. They love these characters every bit as much as the fans. They will do them justice.

With John Watts from “Spider-Man: Homecomingset to direct, the stage is set for the Fantastic Four to arrive in the MCU. It took a long time and a huge media acquisition, but the wait is almost over. Fantastic things are worth waiting for and I hope this is one of them.


She-Hulk

It shouldn’t surprise anyone that Disney is going all-in on streaming. Given the current state of the movie business and the large catalog of content they have, that’s the best route they can take at this point. While I have high hopes for “WandaVision” as Marvel Studios’ first foray into streaming shows, I’m still more excited about She-Hulk.

I’ve mentioned this series before and I stand by my excitement. I believe this show is more critical to the continued success of Marvel Studios than “WandaVision” or even some of its movies.

Since the somewhat forgettable “Incredible Hulk” movie with Edward Norton, the jolly green rage giant has been relegated to a supporting character in pretty much every subsequent story. When he’s not teaming up with Thor or providing muscle for the Avengers, he’s basically just there.

In the comics, Hulk has his own world of sorts and She-Hulk has always been a big part of that. I believe this show can start building that world and with Tatiana Maslany in the starring role, I think this show could be special.

Plus, it’s a show with a beautiful woman smashing things. How can I not be excited about that?


Star Wars: Rogue Squadron

This announcement was an unexpected treat. Among many other Star Wars announcement, this one stood out to me almost as much as the Ahsoka show. Those who didn’t own a Nintendo 64 in the late 90s and early 2000s may not understand, but trust me. Those who did were very intrigued.

There was a time when Star Wars: Rogue Squadron was the pinnacle of Star Wars gaming. This video game essentially ditched the light sabre duels in favor of X-Wings, Y-Wings, and plenty of other exotic spaceships. It involved plenty of space battles, secret missions, and blowing stuff up on alien planets.

Good times, indeed.

Now, we find out Disney is making it into a movie. On top of that, they tapped Patty Jenkins, the woman who brought “Wonder Woman” to the big screen, to do it. I love everything about this. The same woman who tapped Wonder Woman’s wonder is now in charge of a fleet of X-wings. What’s not to love?


Besides, we’ve already had plenty of Star Wars content involving light sabers. Why not focus on elaborate space battles? I know my excitement for all this still assumes that 2021 will be less chaotic and more functional than 2020. At this point, assumptions like that are risky. However, I’m choosing to embrace hope and optimism once more. This past year has left my spirit broken, but I’m ready to start putting the pieces back together. These movies and shows can only help in that process.

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Filed under Marvel, Marvel Cinematic Universe, Star Wars, superhero comics, superhero movies, television

The Mandalorian Season 2: This Is The Way And These Are My Hopes

In a year as awful as 2020, the bright spots shine a hell of a light brighter. It’s almost necessary to endure. You take whatever sliver of good you can get and you cherish the hell out of it. This year should be a lesson to an entire generation who will have this global pandemic seared into their collective unconscious.

Those bright spots have been few and far between, but if ever there was a reason to keep enduring 2020, it’s a new season of “The Mandalorian.” It seems so long ago, but it was less than a year ago when this show and Baby Yoda captured the hearts of everyone, and not just Star Wars fans.

It was always set up for another season. Despite all the horrible crap that has happened since this season concluded, fans are still eagerly waiting for this show to return. Well, it’s official now. The show is coming back at the end of October. In addition, just in case people forgot how cute Baby Yoda is, here’s the trailer.

In terms of bright spots, I don’t know how Disney could’ve made this any brighter. No matter how you feel about Star Wars, let’s be honest. We need this. Our world needs this. We need something cute, adorable, and hopeful. This show is all of that and then some.

It also has a chance to become even more with this new season. I think this show caught a lot of people by surprise last year. After all the controversy surrounding “Star Wars: The Last Jedi,” many weren’t sure about the future of the franchise. Then, “The Mandalorian” proved that there was still a place for Star Wars in the current cultural climate.

Now that we have that proof, where does it go from here? That’s not an unreasonable question. The Madalorian is a badass. Baby Yoda is adorable. Cara Dune is awesome. That has all been firmly established. How does it build on that?

I have my theories. I’ll save them for another time. I also have larger hopes for this show. As someone who has a soft spot for Star Wars, I want it to keep succeeding. I want this show to be the template for how Star Wars will continue evolving for a new generation. Will it happen? I don’t know.

Some details can certainly help. The first season of “The Mandalorian” spent much of its time just creating the setting and putting Mando on the path he’s on. The second season has many other paths for him to follow. Here are just a few the things I hope that path includes.


Ahsoka Tano

Need I say more? Her star is rising again after the final season of Clone Wars.


More Cara Dune

Again, need I say more? Her dynamic with Mando and Baby Yoda is just too perfect.


Make Grand Moff Gideon a truly menacing villain

Seriously, you don’t hire Giancarlo Esposito if you don’t plan on making an epic villain.


More backstory on Yoda’s people and species

We all want to learn about Baby Yoda. Learning more about his species will certainly help. It could also shed new light on Jedi history.


More Heists/Prison Breaks

My favorite episode of the first season was “The Prisoner.” It gave Mando a chance to flex his thieving side. Plus, Bill Burr playing Mayfeld was just perfect.


I doubt I’ll get everything, but I’ll definitely be following closely. Like I said, we need to cherish the bright spots wherever we can. This is one of them and I’m ready to cherish.

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Filed under Star Wars, television

Why I Think Movie Theaters Will Never (Fully) Recover

The COVID-19 global pandemic is going to have many long-term effects. There’s no way around it. This pandemic will leave lasting scars that will fester for generations. If I ever have kids or grandkids, I’ll likely share harrowing stories about how we survived 2020. I’m sure they’ll have plenty of questions with respect to social distancing, mask wearing, and Zoom calls.

As it stands, those stories aren’t yet complete. We, as a society, are still trying to navigate our way through it. Even if a vaccine is close, it’s going to be a while before we can say with certainty that the pandemic is over. Like many, I eagerly await that day. I’d love to be able to go to a bar, a water park, or a ball game again.

At the same time, we have to face another difficult truth. Some of the things we took for granted before the pandemic are never coming back, at least to the extent we remember. I suspect things like handshakes, poor hygiene, and thoroughly cleaning subway cars only once every 100 years will never be a formality, at least to some extent. Entire industries will have to re-think how they do business form here on out.

Among those many common activities we once took for granted, I believe there’s one in particular that will change more than most. It involves the once-simple act of going to a movie theater. Just a year ago, this activity/industry maintained a special place in our culture. Big summer blockbusters weren’t just an expected market trend. They were a cultural tradition.

Now, having gone an entire summer without those blockbusters, I suspect this experience will never return to its former glory.

By that, I don’t mean big-budget movies will diminish in importance. There’s definitely still a place for those in the near and distant future. The insatiable demand for new content on streaming services will ensure that. However, the long-standing traditions of going to a movie theater to celebrate one of those blockbusters has probably been permanently diminished.

I say that as someone who both loves going to the movies and laments any loss of these blockbuster traditions. I’m the kind of guy who gets in line early for every Marvel movie and has many fond memories of spending an afternoon or evening in a movie theater. Believe me. I don’t want that tradition to end or decline. I just don’t see how it can ever recover from this.

That’s not to say movie theaters will disappear, like video rental stores. I think that, over the next several years, they’re just not going to be as critical a part of the movie industry. We’ve already seen signs of that over the course of this pandemic.

I think the biggest turning point when movies like “Trolls: World Tour,” “Scoob,” and “Mulan” skipped theaters entirely, going straight to video-on-demand. Even if it was done out of necessity, I think it’s simply accelerating a trend that had started before the pandemic. More and more, movies were just skipping theaters entirely and going straight to streaming services.

These weren’t the kind of straight-to-DVD movies that were so bad they couldn’t get into theaters. These were quality movies that have the potential to become solid franchises. There were also cases in which a movie skipping theaters actually turned a profit. It’s not a huge profit on the levels of an Avengers movie, but it is a profit. That’s all any industry innovation needs to get going.

It won’t happen all at once.

It won’t upend the entire movie industry overnight.

It won’t even be obvious until years after we’re past the point of no return.

I still believe it’ll happen. Years from now, a big blockbuster movie coming out in theaters won’t be the kind of seasonal, cultural event it once was. Movies like “Avengers: Endgame” and any “Star Wars” movie will still make headlines, but they’ll be the exceptions rather than the industry standards.

Movie theaters, themselves, will probably look very different. The theater I live near, which I’ve been going to for years, probably won’t look the same. It’ll most likely look more like an IMAX theater, which provides an experience that isn’t easily duplicated within a typical living room.

Only a handful of movies can complement that experience. Low budget, high-concept movies probably won’t come out anymore, except for a select number of theaters, like drafthouses. They’ll go straight to streaming services. That might even work better for long movies like “The Irishman.”

That might open the door to a new type of movie experience for a new generation of movie-goers. I have a feeling that kids who lived through this pandemic, whose entertainment consumption came primarily through streaming media, will see that as their new normal. The whole concept of movie theaters might seem as strange to them as land lines or pagers.

I don’t claim to know what form the movie industry will take several years from now. I don’t even know what kind of world we’ll have six months from now. I question the honesty of anyone who claims otherwise. The only real certainty is uncertainty. We don’t know what kind of world will emerge when this pandemic is over.

Some things will return, but in a different form.

Some things will never be the same.

As much as I love going to the movies, I believe that experience will just be one of the many casualties of this horrible pandemic.

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Filed under Current Events, media issues, movies, technology, television

Jack’s World: How “Star Wars: Rise of Skywalker” Saved Rey

The following is a video I made about how “Star Wars: Rise of Skywalker” fixed Rey’s character and made me love her. I was inspired by an article I wrote earlier this year. I tried to expand on it in this video. Enjoy!

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Filed under Jack's World, movies, Star Wars, superhero movies, YouTube

Another (Almost) Empty New Comic Day, But With A Timeline To Return

Since this pandemic began, everyone keeps asking when we’ll return to “normal.” I use quotes because I’ve since accepted that “normal” is a flawed concept at this point. I don’t think we’ll ever go back to the way things were before terms like social distancing became a thing. I question whether we’ll go back to shaking hands.

Flawed or not, we will return to some semblance of “normal” eventually. Movie theaters will re-open. Sports will return, even if it means playing games without fans. For comic book fans, the biggest return will be the release of new comics. Last week, I reported that there were some tentative signs of a break. This week, those signs are no longer tentative.

While none of the major publishers are set to return to full production, they have announced their plan to get New Comic Book Day rolling again. Some series are still on hold. Others are ready to return. Both Marvel and DC have announced new release schedules. Assuming aliens don’t invade or another pandemic doesn’t take hold, we now have dates to look forward to.

Marvel: Marvel Comics to Resume Wednesday Releases for New Comics and Collections Starting May 27

Cosmic Book News: DC Comics May 2020 Release Schedule

For this week, however, the pickings are still limited. There’s not enough to compile a standard pull list, but there are enough new releases to make a pick. Again, the books that came out today are largely digital releases, but there’s still quality awesome to be found. Hopefully, the industry will get going again and Wednesdays will be awesome once more.

It’s not quite the “normal” I fondly remember, but it’s getting close to it. After over a month without comics, I’ll gladly take it.


My Pick Of The Week: Dr. Aphra #1

What do you get when you take a gleefully amoral archaeologist/adventurer and put them in a galaxy far, far away? The short answer is a uniquely lovable woman named Dr. Chelli Lona Aphra. The long answer is an incredibly elaborate, but wonderfully fascinating story.

In the vast landscape of Star Wars lore, Dr. Aphra is a relative newcomer. She debuted in the pages of Darth Vader #3 in 2015. I vividly remember reading that comic. I had a feeling that she’d go on to have a major impact on the galaxy. In the brief time that Marvel has been producing Star Wars comics, she certainly has. I would argue that she’s one of the greatest achievements of this modern Star Wars comics.

If you need convincing, then “Dr. Aphra #1” makes a solid case. What Kieron Gillen created five years ago, writer Alyssa Wong and artist Marika Cresta run with in this issue. It effectively demonstrates who Dr. Aphra is, what she’s about, and how she conducts herself in the middle of a galactic war.

In terms of canon, the events of this issue take place after the Battle of Hoth from “Empire Strikes Back.” However, Dr. Aphra is no Rebel agent or Imperial operative. In fact, since her debut, she’s done plenty to piss both sides off. Darth Vader wants to kill her. The Rebel Alliance wants to kill her. She’s ticked off so many people in the galaxy that a lesser character would’ve been frozen in carbonite by now.

The fact that she isn’t and is still pissing off imperial and rebels alike is a testament to her skill. She’s part Indiana Jones, part Lara Croft, part Boba Fett, and part Black Widow. She doesn’t have a political agenda and she doesn’t take sides in wars. She’s just out to explore the galaxy, find new artifacts, and steal massive amounts of credits along the way.

Dr. Aphra #1” has her do a little of everything. It starts with stealing from the Empire on Hoth. From there, it becomes a setup for a heist that requires a bit of archaeology and a crew that’s as brazen as her. Wong takes every opportunity to highlight Dr. Aphra’s most defining traits along the way.

She might be an amoral thief who hangs out with questionable characters and pursues unhealthy romantic interests, but she has a charm to her that’s unique in the galaxy. She’ll push buttons, break rules, and draw the wrath of Darth Vader himself, all while having fun along the way. “Dr. Aphra #1” dares you to have a little fun with her while exploring a less scrupulous side of a galaxy far, far away.

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How “Star Wars: Rise Of Skywalker” Made Rey A Great Character

I love Star Wars.

I love watching the movies on a lazy afternoon.

I love talking about Star Wars with my friends.

However, I generally avoid talking about Star Wars online.

It’s a frustrating, but inescapable fact of life these days. Being a Star Wars fan online is like unknowingly entering a street fight, being given a rusty knife, and having to pick a side on the spot. No matter which side you pick, you’re going to piss off the other side who will forever claim that you’re not a true Star Wars fan. That usually comes after being hurled with enough insults to make you want to punch your computer screen.

It’s why I’ve rarely written about Star Wars. I did write a few pieces on Ahsoka Tano and the sequel trilogy, but I’ve resisted writing more. The current state of the fandom is just not conducive to meaningful discussions or criticism. Unless you’re talking about how adorable Baby Yoda is, you’re bound to get caught up in discussions about how “The Last Jedi” ruined the franchise forever.

I don’t care for those discussions. I have my opinions on the original, prequel, and sequel trilogy. I try not to share or discuss them online because it’s just too frustrating to deal with people who think Star Wars has become some liberal plot to spread hatred over anyone with a penis. There’s no reasoning with that crowd. Even Obi-Wan Kanobi would say those people are lost.

Despite my reservation about discussing Star Wars online, I’d like to share a sentiment in the spirit of “Star Wars Day,” also known as May the 4th be with you. As it just so happens, that sentiment involves one of the most controversial characters to come out of the sequel trilogies since Jar Jar Binks. It’s bound to earn me plenty of hatred and resentment, but I’m going to channel the strength of a Jedi and share it anyway.

Rise of Skywalker” made Rey a great character.

I’ll give everyone a minute or so to fume.

I’ll give several more to those who despise “The Last Jedi” to insult me through their computer screen and claim I’m not a true Star Wars fan.

Are you done? Good, because this is something that really made the sequel trilogies work for me. It’s what elevated them above the sub-par prequels while also making Rey one of my favorite characters in all of Star Wars. She’s still no Ahsoka Tano, but “Rise of Skywalker” made her a character worth rooting for.

Since the movie has been out for months now, I’ll spoil the reveal that made this movie so powerful to me. Rey finds out that she’s not a nobody who was abandoned on Jakku for drinking money. She’s the granddaughter of Emperor Palpatine, also known as Darth Sidious.

It’s not the most jarring revelation in the history of Star Wars. It’s nowhere near as shocking as Darth Vader revealing to Luke that he’s his father. However, it doesn’t have to be shocking to have an impact. More than anything, this revelation gives Rey’s character greater meaning to the first two movies.

Before this revelation, I was somewhat indifferent on Rey. I didn’t hate her, but I didn’t like her as much as Finn or Kylo Ren. I know she was frequently bemoaned as a Mary Sue. While I don’t agree with that sentiment, I understand why some painted her with that label.

Even without that dreaded label, which I think is a bullshit label to begin with, I didn’t find her story that interesting. After “The Last Jedi,” she became this weird anomaly within the Star Wars universe. She just happens to be this orphan of drunks who has incredible power with the Force. Even without any formal training, she’s able to use advanced skills and take down experienced Force users like Kylo Ren.

Before “Rise of Skywalker,” I thought she just didn’t have an interesting character arc. I got that she was a good soul who wanted to do good in the galaxy. I respect that. There’s certainly a place for those characters in any story. I just didn’t find it very compelling.

Then, “Rise of Skywalker” changes that by making her the granddaughter of Emperor Palpatine. Suddenly, that arc becomes a lot more interesting. She’s not just a sad little orphan girl. She carries the legacy of the galaxy’s most infamous despot. All that good she sought to do now becomes a lot more meaningful.

It also becomes a lot more dramatic in that it give greater weight to her journey in the previous movies. When I go back and watch the previous two movies, I don’t just see Rey as this hapless soul who got caught up in this galaxy-wide conflict. I see someone who carries the burden of being a Sith Lord’s granddaughter.

It’s a burden similar to what Luke Skywalker endured in the original trilogy. I would argue it’s greater for Rey because Darth Vader wasn’t pure evil. He was a fallen Jedi who Luke fought to redeem, eventually succeeding in “Return of the Jedi.” There’s no redeeming someone like Palpatine.

He’s not just a powerful Sith Lord. He’s the embodiment of hate and tyranny. He’s never going to see the light. He can only ever be stopped and Rey has to be the one who stops him. To save the galaxy and break free of this burden, she has to kill her grandfather. It a powerful struggle, which she even tries to run from at one point. When she ultimately succeeds, it’s as beautiful as it is satisfying.

I went into “Rise of Skywalker” with mixed feelings about Rey. I came out a genuine fan of hers. Now, I see her as one of the best parts of the sequel trilogy. I also count “Rise of Skywalker” as one of my favorite Star Wars movies. I know that’s not a popular sentiment, but I’m not apologizing for it.

What made “Rise of Skywalker” feel even more satisfying over time was how some fans managed to figure out her heritage. Below is a video from the YouTube channel, Nerd Soup, that predicted Rey’s link to Palpatine with brilliant detail. The fact that this movie was uploaded on December 10, 2017, nearly two years before “Rise of Skywalker” came out, makes it even more impressive.

Regardless of how hostile certain fans get, Star Wars will always be near and dear to my heart. Thanks to “Rise of Skywalker,” Rey is one of my favorite characters. She’s still not my favorite, as that title still belongs to Ahsoka Tano, but she’s proven herself worthy of this wondrous galaxy far, far away. If you don’t agree with me, then that’s fine.

With that said, Happy Star Wars Day to all. May the 4th be with you.

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How “Megamind” Subverts Expectations The Right Way (And Why Recent Attempts Keep Failing)

Every now and then, a narrative trend comes along that I neither care for nor understand. I get why many trends catch on. I’ve even been caught up in a few. I remember when stories about asteroid impacts became popular, as well as romance stories that relied on best friends falling in love. Some lasted longer than others. Some burn out. I think “Friends” alone killed the whole friends-falling-in-love-gimmick.

However, certain trends seem to catch on for all the wrong reasons. I’m not just referring to the gimmicky tropes of every sitcom attempting to rip off “Seinfeld,” either. These are narratives that attempt to troll the audience in hopes of a bigger reaction, as though that can somehow take the place of a compelling story.

Lately, the trend that I’ve found particularly frustrating is the idea of subverting expectations. It’s become a major buzzword in recent years, but not for good reasons. It became a big deal after the fan reaction to “Star Wars: The Last Jedi” and only intensified with the final season of “Game of Thrones.”

Now, I don’t want to get into extensive discussions about those emotionally charged subjects. I’ll let the fan bases continue to debate that in whatever way they see fit. Instead, I want to take a moment to look at this trend, note how it can be done well, and highlight why recent attempts are misguided and counterproductive.

While subverting expectations sounds cunning on paper, it’s one of those concepts that’s difficult to make work. The concept is simple. You take an audience’s expectations about a story, build up some narrative tension, and then go in an unexpected direction that changes and enhances the impact of that story.

It sounds simple, but it’s not. When it works, it’s amazing. When it fails, it’s downright toxic to itself. I would argue that neither Star Wars: The Last Jedi nor the final season of Game of Thrones” succeeded in that effort. However, one movie did succeed in this effort and it did so back in 2010, long before this trend even began.

That movie is “Megamind,” a film I’ve praised before for how it parodies the superhero genre. There’s a lot more I can say about this underrated gem, but this is one element that I feel is more relevant now than it was when the movie first came out. To date, I’ve yet to see a movie subvert expectations as well as this one.

The way Megamind” goes about this is not at all subtle, but it’s still powerful. It’s in the premise of the movie. It asks what happens when the evil genius supervillain actually defeats the handsome, square-jawed superhero? What do they do afterwards? Why did they pursue this goal in the first place?

The first 15 minutes of the movie do an excellent job of setting up the basic, generic premise of every superhero narrative since Superman. Metro Man is the hero. That’s how he carries himself. That’s how others see him. That’s how he’s perceived. Conversely, Megamind is the villain. That’s how everyone sees him. The prison warden himself says it before the opening title screen. He’ll always be a villain.

Everything is in place for a traditional hero-versus-villain struggle. Old concepts like justice, hero worship, and public perception come into play. Then, in the first real battle we see between Megamind and Metro Man, the unthinkable happens. Megamind, despite his grandiose boasting and casual bumbling, defeats Metro Man.

It’s not framed as some M. Knight Shamalyan twist. It’s not an attempt to shock the audience. It’s not some minor plot point, either. In fact, the rest of the movie is built around this sudden subversion of standard superhero stories. Every event, choice, and character moment stems directly from this subversion. It’s not just a minor element of the plot. It is the plot.

What makes it work is how this subversion helps tell a very different kind of superhero story. It’s not just about flipping the script for the sake of novelty. It makes a case that superhero narratives are capable of doing much more than simply having the hero save the day from the villain.

Throughout the movie, Megamind finds himself playing a part in every tried and true trope we’ve come to expect in a superhero movie. He starts off being a villain because that’s what he assumes he’s meant to be. He starts questioning that assumption because by defeating Metro Man, he finds himself without a greater purpose. In pursuing that purpose, he find out that those assumptions had serious flaws.

Such assumptions weren’t inherently right or wrong. It was a matter of digging a little deeper into the concept of heroes and villains, finding out along the way that the role he thought was right for him wasn’t the one he ultimately wanted. By the end, he still dresses like a villain. He’s still not nearly as handsome or powerful as Metro Man. However, he still chooses to become Metro City’s greatest hero.

This subversion of expectation works because it’s used to build a story rather than just tweak a few details. Moments like the revelation about Rey’s parents being nobodies or Arya Stark killing the Night King had only minor shock value, but they didn’t really factor into the larger plot.

If someone other than Arya had killed the Night King, then it wouldn’t have changed much in terms of how the last few episodes of “Game of Thrones” panned out.

If Rey’s parents turned out to be someone important in “Star Wars: The Last Jedi,” it wouldn’t have substantially altered how the events that followed played out. Rey still wouldn’t have joined Kylo.

Ultimately, those subversions just felt like trolling. These details that people thought were important just turned out to be tricks or ploys meant to get a reaction. It comes off as both dishonest and insincere. They might not have been intended as such, but given the fan reactions, I can understand that sentiment to some extent.

You thought all those prophecies about Jon Snow and the Night King meant something? Well, that turned out to be a big waste of time.

You thought Rey’s parents would impact the course of the movie? Well, that was just a complete waste of time, at least until “Star Wars: Rise of Skywalker” changed that.

At times, it felt like the story was tempting people to get engaged and then slapped them in the face the second the plot went in a different direction. As a result, it didn’t feel at all surprising or engaging. It just felt insulting.

Contrast that with “Megamind.” At no point does the plot attempt to demean the audience or anyone who enjoys the traditional superhero narrative. The subversion is in the synopsis. That same subversion is used to build a larger story that fleshes out characters who started out in generic roles, but ultimately embraced a different role.

This shift never feels forced or contrived. It’s not done just to get a cheap thrill or to stand out. At its core, Megamind” uses the concept of subverting expectations to tell a better story than it could’ve told if it stuck to the traditional superhero narrative. That’s why it works.

Unfortunately, that’s also why other recent attempts keep failing. Whether it’s a movie, a TV show, a comic book, or a video game, the concept has been used in a misguided effort to do something different. Subverting expectations has become synonymous, to some extent, with doing something new and bold. The importance of telling a compelling, coherent story is never more than secondary.

I get the importance of trying new things, especially when that genre has been played out in so many forms. However, doing so does not mean taking audience expectations and defying them in a way that feels blatant. At best, it just makes the story confusing. It’s just different for the sake of being different. At worst, it insults the audience and makes them feel denigrated for enjoying that narrative in the first place.

It can be done and done well. “Megamind” is proof of that. It doesn’t just subvert expectations for the superhero genre. It dares to build a story around it and even have a little fun with it along the way. It doesn’t at all take away from the genre it parodies. It just uses it as a foundation to tell a unique story.

No matter how many expectations you subvert, there’s no substitute for a quality story. Megamind” gives us that and the undeniable charm of Will Ferrell. That’s what makes it so enjoyable.

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