Heroes And Villains: A Hit List

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Lake Charles, LA

Being a geek for the entirety of my life means that I’ve picked up quite a few favorite heroes and villains over the years.  Heck, I’ve even looked at a lot of villains as heroes and a lot of heroes as villains as I’ve gotten older.  For you, fine reader, I offer up a humble list of some of my favorite heroes and villains from science fiction, fantasy, and the pages of comic books.  This list is in no way complete and, in fact, is always changing.  A few of those listed here might move up and down my scale of adoration and others might be removed entirely tomorrow, but as of this writing, here are ten of my favorite heroes and villains in no particular order.

  • Boba Fett - Who put the “man” in “Mandalorian” you ask?  Why, Boba Fett, of course!  Yes, his well-known and very laughable exit in Return of the Jedi would have booted any average famous villain off of everyone’s heroes and villains list, but the Fett is so cool throughout the rest of his brief existence in the Star Wars films that he wills people to love him.  In fact, Boba Fett became so popular that Uncle George slapped some additional footage of him in the special editions of the original trilogy and fleshed out his backstory in the prequel trilogy.  On top of that, Boba Fett became an unstoppable force in the Expanded Universe, managing to crawl out of the Sarlacc Pit and live to be awesome another day!
  • Batman – If you don’t know who Batman is, you have been living under a rock forever.  I’m a Marvel guy for the most part, but Batman is one of just a few saving graces for DC.  Batman is the thinking man’s superhero.  He has no super powers (unless being awesome is a super power), yet he has managed to throttle that lug called Superman a few times and has made numerous enemies hide in terror while he brings the pain.  He uses his mind and his unlimited income to battle crime and, let’s face it, his Rogues Gallery features some of the greatest comic villains of all time such as The Joker, Two-Face, Clayface, and Mr. Freeze.  As Bruce Wayne, he’s a humanitarian who gives to those in need.  As Batman, he brings justice to those that deserve it!
  • Nightcrawler – There aren’t many so-black-it’s-blue furry skinned heroes out there that have three-fingered hands and a tail, but Nightcrawler is definitely the best of the lot.  In fact, he’s better than most average looking heroes as well.  How many superheroes do you know actually joined the priesthood because of their strong Catholic faith?  On top of that, how many heroes make swashbuckling look cool?  Only one as far as I know, and that dude’s name is Nightcrawler!  Kurt Wagner is a hero who doesn’t fit the typical hero mold.  He’s deeply religious but looks like a demon.  He can teleport (BAMF!) all over the place and he can be pretty mouthy when needed.  I’ve always loved Nightcrawler and I always will.  He’s my favorite Marvel character of all time.
  • Doctor Leonard “Bones” McCoy – Most Star Trek fans (at least those who love the original series) always seem to pick Captain Kirk or Spock as their favorite character.  Not me, though.  Nope, my favorite Trek character is, was, and always will be Dr. McCoy.  DeForest Kelley breathed life into the man that I always saw as the emotional center of TOS.  Where Spock used logic to influence Kirk’s decisions, Bones was always there to give the emotional aspect of every move Kirk made.  I saw Kirk as the truest unification of Spock and McCoy’s two sides of the coin.  He took the best logical advice from Spock and coupled that with the unbridled passion (sometimes love, sometimes anger) of McCoy to make what he believed to be the best decision.  Kirk looked to both of these men for advice, and it was always fun to see Spock and McCoy go toe-to-toe over actions that needed to take place.  On top of all of this, McCoy was straight-up funny.  I laughed more at his abuse of Spock than of any other humorous moments in the Trek’s entire run.
  • Mr. Freeze – Yes, yes, I know that most people consider the Joker to be Batman’s greatest villain and I agree with them entirely, but the story of Mr. Freeze has always amazed me.  He became a villain not to hurt others, but to get revenge against those who harmed his wife.  He’s more of a lover than a fighter when you think about it, and I believe that’s why Batman has always seemed to go a bit easier on old Freezy than he has with other villains.  The guy has a busted heart, and all he wants to do is take out his enemies and work on bringing the love of his life back into his arms.  Can you really hate a guy for that?
  • The Wolf Man – Lon Chaney, Jr. will always be one of my favorite actors.  I’m a huge fan of the old Universal Monsters, but Chaney’s Wolf Man is my most beloved monster of them all.  Cursed, longing to be freed of said curse, and terribly in love, the Wolf Man was a desperate character.  There have been multiple versions of werewolves over the years and even a remake of the classic Chaney tale in recent years yet none of them can even come close to the brilliance of Lon Chaney, Jr. as Larry Talbot, my favorite werewolf!
  • Doctor Octopus – Let’s be honest.  There aren’t very many heroes or villains out there that are a bit on the pudgy side.  Otto Octavius is one of a very small list of heroes and villains that fall into this category.  As a person who has fought with his weight over his entire life, I was naturally drawn to Doc Ock because he was about the only cool villain that I could attempt to dress up as for Halloween or comic conventions.  Doc is intelligent, evil, and has those sweet appendages of his that gives ol’ Spidey fits.  What’s not to love?
  • Beowulf – When I first read the epic tales of Beowulf, I was immediately drawn to Grendel, one of the primary villains.  This was primarily due to the fact that my sister had a school project to do in which she was asked to draw a picture of the villain despite there being no real description of him in the stories.  When she asked me to draw the character for her, I decided to read about the character and the hero on my own.  I did this as a child of around eight years of age, so it wasn’t the easiest of tasks for me, but I eventually came to love the epicness of Beowulf.  He’s one of the first great heroes that I ever loved who actually dies at the end of his story.  Of course, he’ll always live on in my mind, but knowing that this guy took out a son and mother duo in which the mother was even badder than her offspring makes him a really cool guy.  I’ve always been a fan of mythological heroes like Beowulf, and to this day I read books about the myths and legends of the Norse, the Greeks, the Romans, Native Americans, and other cultures.  Beowulf started it all for me, and if you aren’t familiar with him, check him out.
  • Captain America – Steve Rogers is one of those heroes that most folks can get behind.  Sure, he’s not the strongest, fastest, or most intelligent, but when it comes to being a leader, few men can match the skill of ol’ Cap.  He’s like the guy on the NFL squad that the commentators refer to as “the kid with a lot of heart.”  He gives it his all on every outing even if he gets his backside handed to him.  He’ll almost always need a little backup whether it comes in the form of Thor, Falcon, or Bucky, but he will not run from a fight.  Plus, he’s got a heart of gold that is matched only by the likes of Superman.  What makes him better than Superman, though, is the fact that Captain America knows that he is often not the best man in the fight.  He has to use his mind (like Batman), his heart (like Superman), and weapons (like Iron Man), but on a much smaller scale.  Ultimately, Cap believes that the good guys will win, even if he personally doesn’t survive the battle.  You’ve got to appreciate a man like that.
  • Doctor Who – Quite possibly my favorite sci-fi/fantasy hero of all time, the Doctor pre-dates Star Trek, Star Wars, and pretty much any and every hero created after the mid-1960’s.  He has changed faces, attitudes, clothes, and companions over the years and has experienced quite the renaissance since coming back to television in 2005.  It seems that most of the newer fans’ experience begins with Chris Eccleston’s Doctor and ends with the current incarnation, Peter Capaldi.  That’s all well and good, but there is SO MUCH MORE to the Doctor than the new stuff!  My personal favorite incarnation of the Doctor is Peter Davison, #5, and while I’ve been very impressed with some of the newer guys, particularly Matt Smith, Davison will always be my favorite.  I loved how his Doctor made “decisions by committee” and how he brought a certain indecisiveness and deep emotions to the character.  Of course, he could channel the smarty pantsness of the second Doctor or the grouchy tenacity of the first, but ultimately Peter Davison’s Doctor was a culmination of every Doctor before him locked in an internal struggle with a character realizing that he may not have all the answers all of the time.  Davison brought humanity to the character more than any other Doctor before or after excepting David Tennant.  That’s why I love his version of the character so much.

So, there you have it.  A list of ten of my favorite heroes and villains.  Who are your favorites?  Be sure to list them in the comments below.

As always, thanks for reading!!!

Cowabunga, Dude!

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The Sewers of New York

I’m old enough to remember when the Teenage Mutatnt Ninja Turtles were the newest, biggest thing on the block.  From the comic and the cartoon to the original film and the wonderful toys that came with all of the turtle power one could muster, I was a big fan of the heroes on the half shell.  I managed to get my hands on all four of the original TMNT figures (alas, but no villains, Splinter, or April O’Neil) and still have them to this day.  I’ve even let my son play with them a few times.  He thinks that they are boring (not nearly as cool as his shiny new versions of my beloved turtles), but appreciates them for what they are.

When it was announced that a new TMNT film was heading for the big screen and Michael Bay (while not directing) would be involved with the project, I was a bit scared.  Bay’s first foray into my childhood heroes with the Transformers films was terrible.  I enjoyed the first film well enough, but each film after that was wretched.  It was so bad, in fact, that I didn’t even bother with the latest one and only own the first film on DVD.  I feared that Bay and company would shred yet another memory from my youth and also set the plate for the early destruction of my son’s young memories.

Instead, director Jonathan Liebesman, producer Michael Bay, and writers Josh Appelbaum, Andre Nemec, and Evan Daugherty, have taken a cherished childhood memory given to us all by Peter Laird and Kevin Eastman, twisted the origin story a bit, and made a very good film.

Is it as good as Guardians of the Galaxy?  No, and it’s nowhere near as brilliant as Captain America:  The Winter Soldier, but it is still a very fun film that’s loadaed with action, humor, and expected Turtle silliness.

The plot focuses on struggling entertainment/puff piece reporter April O’Neil (Megan Fox, who holds her own in the flick) attempting to report something worthwhile instead of her usual exercise craze bits.  She starts to snoop around and uncovers info on the Foot Clan, a crime syndicate that has all of New York in a state of fear.  On one particular investigation, she finds a vigilante fighting the Foot Clan and thwarting one of their jobs.

She attempts to get her story aired, but gets shut down by her boss, Bernadette Thompson (Whoopi Goldberg in a role that could have been forgettable but wasn’t), who believes that April might be getting a bit unhinged.  Her only real supporter in this whole ordeal is Vernon Fenwick (Will Arnett) who thinks she should leave the whole thing alone, but has so much of a crush on her that he is willing to help her…..but just a bit.

As the story rolls along, April finally runs into the Turtles, and their new backstory is revealed.  From there, it’s the TMNT gang and April trying to stop the evil Foot Clan and their leader, Shredder.  I won’t go into too much more detail, but know that there are other players in the game that are pretty obvious once they are introduced.

The story is full of fun moments.  The turtles are very funny, ranging from the sophomoric antics of Michelangelo (Noel Fisher) to the grumpy resistance of Raphael (Alan Ritchson).  There’s also a lot of action that’s usually headed up by Leonardo (Pete Ploszek as the motion capture body and Johnny Knoxville as the voice).  Heck, even the super-intelligent Donatello (Jeremy Howard) gets in a few butt-kicking moments, as well as a chance to show off his tech smarts throughout the film.

Splinter (Danny Woodburn as the motion capture body and Tony Shalhoub as the voice) also gets an excellent action sequence when he faces off against Shredder (Tohoru Masamune).

For the most part, the cast is solid.  As I already stated, Fox holds her own but does reveal a few limitations in her acting abilities in certain scenes.  The always reliable William Fichtner, who portrays Eric Sacks, does an excellent job, but editing and direction seem to stunt his work in a couple of scenes.  Minae Noji, who portrays Karai in the film, gives an excellent but limited performance.  Hopefully her character will be expanded upon in the next film.

The action sequences are nearly flawless.  There were moments in the film where I forgot that the turtles were CGI.  With Bay’s hand on the production, you know that there are plenty of explosions throughout, and TMNT does not disappoint in that aspect.  The action is quick, fun, and totally unbelievable at times.  HOWEVER, if you go into a film that features four mutated turtles that are teenaged ninjas and have a rat as their master and expect it to be believable, you’re an idiot.  Just sit back and watch the action unfurl on the screen and check your mind out for a bit.

When the lights finally came up in the theater after watching Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, my childhood memories were still there and just as fine as ever.  Donatello is still my favorite turtle and Leonardo is still my son’s favorite shell shocker.  I don’t hate Michael Bay any more than I did prior to this film either.  In short, TMNT is a fun film that’s suitable for almost the entire family.  The violence is pretty heavy, but it has a comical twist to it throughout the film.

I recommend checking this one out.  It’s a great summer popcorn flick.

And So Begins My Latest Addiction!

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Winterfell, Casterly Rock, The Wall, etc.

Books have been the cause of many great films and television series over the years. In recent years, the Harry Potter novels have proven exceptionally popular, as have the film adaptations of the works of J.R.R. Tolkien. “The Chronicles of Narnia” have been produced both as a successful series of television-based stories and a fairly successful film series (that sadly lost its way with each adaptation). They’ve also given us plenty of terrible shows as well. Disney’s direct-to-DVD adaptation of “A Wrinkle in Time” was just plain bad.I’ll admit that I was completely unfamiliar with George R.R. Martin’s body of work before HBO announced that they would be producing a series based on his “A Song of Ice and Fire” series. Not having HBO, I never took the time to seek out any episodes of the series. However, I did finally manage to catch snippets of a few of the early episodes, but not enough to convince me that the hype surrounding the franchise was well-earned.

Finally, in June of this year, I had the opportunity to watch most of the current season’s episodes and fell in love with the show. I decided that I would dive head first into “A Game Of Thrones,” the first book in the series, to give myself a better understanding of what had unfolded before my eyes up to that point.

The book was excellent. Martin has managed to weave a story of intrigue, deceit, honor, vanity, cruelty, and a tad bit of magic. There are multiple characters with multiple reasons for every action they take in this book. The reader will almost immediately hang their heart on certain characters (and it will be different for each reader) and have a growing hatred for others. To say that a certain character is good or evil is hard to pinpoint, since most of these characters have traits that can be perceived in multiple ways. For instance, Catelyn Stark seems to be a likeable character, and many of my friends who have watched the show (and not read the books) like her very much. I personally don’t like her because of one simple thing she does to another character that I really love.

Also, don’t get too attached to some characters (no matter how large their role in the novel is), because death can come quickly and with a lot of violence as well.

The story centers primarily around the families of House Stark and House Lannister, but there are other families in the mix as well. Something cold and evil is on the way, and the many families in this story struggle with one another to gain power, justice, or revenge. Another family, the ancient House Targaryen, is quietly forming up to reclaim the power that it once held. All of these plots and subplots intertwine to form one brilliant story that will keep the reader interested and hungry for more.

Now, as far characters go, there are a ton of them. There are literally too many to list in this review, but a few of them have won either my heart or my hatred. I think that most people would agree with me that the “big four” in this particular book are Jon Snow, Daenerys Targaryen, Arya Stark, and Tyrion Lannister. These four characters take very different paths in this tale, and I love them all for different reasons. Jon Snow is a boy without a true House. He’s the illegitimate son of Eddard Stark, and when Eddard becomes the Hand of the King, Jon is sent to the Wall to become a member of the Night’s Watch. Jon matures with each high and low that he experiences in this novel, and I cheered him from the first time I read his name. Daenerys is a young lady who, along with her brother, is the last of her family. Her character undergoes massive changes in this novel, and she proves to be one of the most intriguing characters of all. Arya is a kid, a tomboy, who winds up in the middle of a terrible nightmare involving her father, Eddard, and the rest of her family. While she doesn’t necessarily undergo a lot of personal changes in this tale, those around her go through quite a bit, and it slowly starts to form her into something that will definitely become more interesting with each successive book, I’m sure. Tyrion is an unlikely “bad boy” in this book. He’s bluntly honest and has no problems attempting to talk or buy his way out of any sort of trouble. Deep inside I know he’s much more than the Lannister name that is attached to him, and I can’t wait to see the character blossom in future books.

Now, with the first book under my belt I am ready for the second novel, “A Clash of Kings.” If it is even remotely as good as “A Game of Thrones,” it will be brilliant. George R.R. Martin has a true classic on his hands with these books, and I’m determined to read them all before watching anymore of the television series.

Highly recommended!

Guardians of the Galaxy: My Review

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Lake Charles, LA

There has been a great deal of talk surrounding Guardians of the Galaxy ever since the day that rumors began surfacing about a film being made based on the Marvel comic.  How would Marvel take this group of heroes who are relatively unknown outside of the comic book reading public and make them part of a long line of very successful films?  How can a talking raccoon look and/or even fit into a live-action film?  Heck, why would you want to risk casting a pro wrestler in a core role when his acting chops (at least in the ring) are limited to getting very mad or storming off in a fit of rage?

Well, Marvel took those questions and a whole bunch of others, rolled them into a big, CGI-infested wad, and threw it at the silver screen.  The result?  A very enjoyable, highly comical film that’s a lot better than I expected.  I won’t go so far as to say that it’s the best film of the year as some have said, but I will say that it’s one of Marvel’s better entries in their growing run of big screen adaptations.

For those of you unaware, the plot of this film is very basic on the surface.  A ragtag group of bandits come together to put an end to a villain who is hellbent on taking over the galaxy.  That sounds pretty formulaic, right?  Well, digging a bit deeper we find that this group isn’t very honorable itself.  It’s leader, Peter Quill, is a cocky, womanizing Earth man who prides himself on his thieving abilities and loves to go by the alias “Star Lord.”  Gamora, a lethal assassin who’s gone rogue against the wishes of her father, Thanos, is wanted not just by innocent people, but by a large group of criminals as well.  Then there’s Rocket Raccoon and Groot, a misfit duo of a lab-created creature that has a fondness for anything that explodes and a very big, very strong tree-like muscle of a being.  Lastly we have Drax, fondly called Drax The Destroyer, who seems to be the only guy in this bunch who has at least a tad bit of honor in him.  He has been imprisoned for the brutal murder and destruction of many of the main bad guy’s henchman.  The reason for so much devastation?  His family was brutally murdered by Ronan The Accuser and he wants to avenge their deaths.

This unlikely group of allies comes together thanks to the theft of one of the powerful Infinity Stones (which neatly ties in with all of the other Marvel cinematic releases) by Star Lord.  He’s pursued by one of Ronan’s men, Korath, but manages to escape.  That leads to Gamora being sent to capture him.  She has plans of her own, though.  Of course, Star Lord being Star Lord means that he’s also double-crossed Yondu, a thief much like Star Lord who wants the Infinity Stone as well.  Yondu puts a hefty price on Star Lord’s head, and that sets into motion the meet up with Rocket and Groot.  Then the Nova Corps gets involved and their involvement leads up to the full unification of the group in prison where Star Lord convinces Drax that if he helps them out, he’ll get his revenge on Ronan.  The biggest problem of all, though, is that no one except for Ronan and Thanos know just how powerful this stone that everyone after really is until the gang gets the stone to The Collector, who  happens to be Gamora’s contact.  Once they realize just how deadly this thing is, they decide to do all they can to stop Ronan and become “guardians of the galaxy.”  Oh, and just for the heck of it, Nebula, Gamora’s sister through Thanos, has a chip on her shoulder that Gamora seems to get preferential treatment and wants to prove that she’s the better daughter by either helping her daddy or joining up with Ronan to rule the galaxy.

Confused yet?  Don’t be.  There’s a lot going on in this film and a lot of characters doing it.  Many of the characters have brief one and two scene moments whereas others are fleshed out a bit more.  Marvel realized how much of a cluster this film could become, so they focused in on the core characters of Star Lord, Gamora, Rocket, Groot, and Drax.  This works because the characters are very engaging and have a lot of charm about them.  Star Lord is played by Chris Pratt, and he nails the role.  He makes brash, cocky, and egotistical look great on the screen.  Zoe Saldana portrays Gamora, and does a very convincing job in the role.  Her character is both a warrior and a bruised individual who has many skeletons in her closet.  Bradley Cooper voices Rocket, and Rocket steals many scenes in the film with his seemingly heartless attitude and big guns.  However, the seemingly simple Groot (voiced by Vin Diesel) proved to be a bigger draw in my opinion, as he became the heart of the group.  I enjoyed Drax as well, but I’ll get to him in another paragraph.  For now, let’s go through a few other cast members.

Michael Rooker plays Yondu in the film and despite his intent on hurting Star Lord, it’s hard for him to hide the fact that he loves the cocky moron.  Rooker has a considerable amount of screen time and provides a lot of the best moments in the film.  Djimon Honsou is Korath, but he is never really given much of an opportunity to shine in the film.  His moments are brief and relegated primarily to action scenes, but he’s still pretty good.  Benicio Del Toro is sufficient as The Collector, but much like Honsou, his role is limited.  I do expect bigger things from him in later films.  Glenn Close is reliable as always, and her turn as Nova Prime is a fun addition to the film, as is John C. Reilly’s portrayal of Rhomann, one of the Nova Corps.  There are a lot of other people in this film, but I would be eating up my blog if I commented on each and every one of them.

I will say that the biggest surprise in this film was Dave Bautista as Drax the Destroyer.  The guy was laugh-out loud funny at moments and very moving at others.  Sure, playing a raging monster might not have been much of a stretch for the pro-wrestler, but his comedic timing was perfect and a real treat to see on the screen.  I hope his character is fleshed out more in future films.  I think Bautista has a solid acting career ahead of him if he keeps his current pace.

Of course, with such a huge cast, there are bound to be a few disappointments in the lot.  The biggest disappointment was Lee Pace as Ronan the Accuser.  Ronan is the primary baddie in the film, so I would expect him to be at least somewhat interesting, but he comes across as a very formulaic and forgettable villain.  Pace’s acting isn’t terrible.  He just isn’t given much to do with the role.  Much like Christopher Eccleston in Thor:  The Dark World, and Guy Pearce in Iron Man 3, Pace is mainly there not to engage the viewer, but to stand as a placeholder for the “villain” while we get a deeper look at the heroes.  Another letdown was the performance of Karen Gillan as Nebula.  I liked Gillan in Doctor Who as Amy Pond (although she wore thin near the end of her run on that show in my opinion), but I had a hard time excepting her as the ruthless Nebula.  Her role was limited, so perhaps we will get a better look at her somewhere down the line.  Until then, though, she’ll be my least favorite performer in the film.  Josh Brolin voiced Thanos in the film, but his appearance is so brief and forgettable that I really can’t comment on it.  I’m positive he’ll get to shine in a future Marvel flick for sure.

Guardians of the Galaxy is very good.  It’s not as enjoyable as Captain America:  The Winter Soldier, but it is leaps and bounds beyond Iron Man 3.  I enjoyed it as much as I enjoyed Thor:  The Dark World. In fact, I think those two films mirror each other a lot, because both feature quite a bit of humor (GOTG is funnier, though), a forgettable villain, and a much more interesting ensemble of secondary and/or co-starring characters like Yondu and Loki that make you want to like them more than you should.

Definitely check out Guardians.  It’s worth a trip to the theater and, as always, stay tuned after the credits for a humorous scene that may or may not hint at future Marvel films.

 

The Houston Con, August 8-11, 2014

Power Girl, the Discount Dark Knight, and Supergirl!

Houston, TX

Two years ago there was a convention that took place in the summer in Houston, TX.  That convention was Space City Con.  It was a somewhat small event (for such a big city) but it had an atmosphere of excitement about it.  Last year, Space City returned in a much, much bigger way.  The venue was changed from the Galleria in Houston to the Westchase Marriott.  The hotel was very nice and one could say that the convention was too much of a success, as aisles were crowded and there were a lot of lines.  Still, it was an excellent convention that improved upon the first one.

In a move considered very bold by some, the convention held a second convention that was held less than six months later (January, 2014) and featured a move to Galveston Island, TX and a ton of celebs from both Game of Thrones and Babylon 5.  I was unable to attend this event, but feedback that I heard from friends and fans who did attend the convention was mixed.

Whedon and Abrams references.  Anybody recognize these two guys???

Whedon and Abrams references. Anybody recognize these two guys???

Then the convention seemed to simply vanish into thin air.  The website remained inactive, and the con’s Facebook page was rarely updated until well into 2014.  That’s when we all learned that Space City Con was now going to be called The Houston Con and another change of location would occur.  Having once been a part of a convention myself, I know just how crazy politics and butt-hurtedness can be on a convention staff, so hopefully whatever went down with the convention has been resolved and The Houston Con will live to see another event.

Once the convention seemed to revive itself, guests were added quickly.  There were celebrity guests representing the many incarnations of The Power Rangers, as well as stars from projects like Star Trek:  Axanar, Teen Wolf, The Walking Dead, and the upcoming The Flash series.  There were a few comic artists as well and many vendors.  There was also a 24 hour Gaming area (that I did not check out as I am not much of a gamer).

For being something I would consider a mid-sized event, there was a steady crowd that would sometimes thin out and then bulk back up.  Having talked to a number of vendors at the convention, they told me that they had a good time, but sales were low and/or slow.  I was there as a helper to promote CyPhaCon, an event that takes place in April of next year.  The traffic in front of the table varied, but the people that we did get to talk to seemed very interested in CyPhaCon and after talking to staff members with the conventiion, they considered their visit to be a success.

The Hilton Houston North provided the venue, and they did not disappoint.  The staff of the hotel was top notch and extremely friendly.  The event was set up throughout the atrium and a number of other rooms on site.  I attended a Melissa Ponzio (Karen from The Walking Dead) panel in the DaVinci room and really liked the setup.  I also attended a dance in one of the larger rooms, hung out at the bar, and spent most of my time in the vendor area helping my friends promote their event.

I purchased five prints from one vendor and visited with many more.  I actually got into a “flying monkey” fight with some ladies selling handmade jewelry and the cast of Not Quite Human, a Texas-based web series.  We had a lot of fun with each other during the down time that happened in waves throughout the day.

I also shared an elevator with a couple of young stars from Teen Wolf.  In particular, I recognized Dylan Sprayberry from Man of Steel.  He portrayed Clark Kent as a young teen.  I grabbed an autograph from him for my daughter.  I also got a photo and autograph from Melissa Ponzio.  She was extremely friendly and seemed truly grateful of all of the attention and love she was getting from her fans at both her table and during her panel.  She’s the latest in a growing line of The Walking Dead cast members that I’ve met who all seem to go out of their way to make the fans know how much they appreciate them.  I plan on blogging about my experiences with them in the near future.

Myself with Melissa Ponzio of Teen Wolf and The Walking Dead.

Myself with Melissa Ponzio of Teen Wolf and The Walking Dead.

There were quite a few cosplayers on tap as well.  A number of them impressed me very much with their handiwork, and I’m now a fan of many of them on Facebook.

mystique

Mystique!

Of course, no convention is worth attending if you don’t have anyone to hang out with while you’re there, so my favorite part of the convention was catching up with a few friends.  My friends Garrett and Stuart allowed me to tag along with them to the convention.  We had a blast being completely nerdy and completely goofy.  On Saturday I caught up with some of my favorite green people, Orion’s Envy.  They performed on Saturday evening and put on a great show as always.  I got to hang out with them and a couple of new friends later that night at the dance and in the bar.  As always, they were super nice and super friendly and paid more attention to me than I probably deserved.  They rock!

The wonderful ladies (and my excellent friends) of Orion's Envy.

The wonderful ladies (and my excellent friends) of Orion’s Envy.

On the final day of the convention I was totally worn out.  Of course, partying way passed my bedtime probably didn’t help!

The Houston Con is definitely moving in a positive direction.  As I’ve already stated, I hope that whatever caused the demise of Space City Con has been dealt with, because I’ve personally witnessed the strains and stresses of convention board politics destroy conventions, friendships, and relationships with other conventions.  If I have anything to complain about with The Houston Con, it’s that the atrium area could have been better policed by staff, as I noticed a lot of people walking around without con badges checking out things.

I hope to see H-town again next year!

Are The Jedi Really The Good Guys???

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A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away.

We all know what those words mean.  Whenver we see them pop onto a screen or on the opening pages of a book, it becomes apparent that we are about to enjoy something from the Star Wars saga.  I recently read the four Republic Commando novels written by Karen Traviss.  These books, along with the Imperial Commando novel that picked up where the Republic Commando series left off seem to be quite a controversial set of novels due to their supposed pro-Clone, pro-Mandalorian, and/or anti-Jedi themes.

Well, with the four RC books under my belt, I can definitely see where some people would think that these books have a particular slant to them.  I personally think that book #4, Order 66, is the heaviest pro-Mandalorian/anti-Jedi book in the bunch, with the other books in the series leaning harder towards a pro-Clone stance.  Of course, without the Mandos (specifically Jango Fett and the Cuy’val Dar) there would be no clone army, so one could argue that the Mandos get love throughout the books.  They do.  I won’t question that.  However, I believe these books aren’t so much pro or anti anyone.  Instead, I think they are simply honest.

Yep, I’m one of those guys who believe that the Jedi aren’t as high and mighty as most people see them.  In fact, they display quite a few negative traits such as cowardice, egotism, bigotry, and even a need for power or control.

Now before anyone flies off the handle and calls me an anti-Jedite (Is that even a word?  It is now!), hear me out.  I’ll go through quite few reasons as to why I’ve drawn this conclusion about the “good guys.”  This isn’t a pro-Empire or pro-Mando post, but it is a post that will attempt to reveal the grey areas that have made me less of a fan of the guys in brown robes and more of a fan of the guys in white plastoid.

So, without further ado, here are a few of my reasons why the Jedi aren’t the awesome beings of goodness and light in the galaxy.

  1. Let’s face it.  The Jedi can be a cowardly bunch.  My first example is the grand daddy Jedi of them all, Master Yoda.  When he faced off against Emperor Palpatine/Darth Sidious, he had a chance to beat the guy.  Instead, he took a beating and ran.  “He who lives to run away, lives to run another day,” right?  Why, Master Yoda, did you run?  Was it so that you could train Luke Skywalker?  Possibly, but you never sought him out.  You waited for him to come to you at an age you considered too old for training.  Then you became one with the Force when poor Luke came back to you to finish his training.  You hid for years instead of attempting to train Luke as a youngster.
  2. Obi-Wan Kenobi cowardly walked away from his former best friend, Anakin, allowing the lava of Mustafar to finish the job for him.  Yes, Kenobi probably walked away due to the fact that he couldn’t bear killing a man that he considered his brother, but letting him burn to death is a better fate?  Let me say right now that if I ever turn to the Dark Side and my death can stop a whole bunch of terrible events from happening, you all have my permission to take me out with a lightsaber instead of letting me die in agony while burning up and lacking appendages!  This is the second time that the Dark Side could have been stopped or at least slowed down, and the Jedi didn’t follow through!
  3. Yoda and Mace Windu knew something was up with Anakin, but they still allowed him to be trained (by a newly crowned Jedi Knight, no less, with a hippie Master).  They still allowed him on the Jedi Council.  Yes, supposedly it was to keep tabs on Palpatine, but they treated Anakin like a punk that didn’t belong with their “elite” group of Jedi.  On top of that, Obi-Wan would often berate Anakin in front of others, adding fuel to the fire.  The kid was obviously messed up and struggling with some big internal demons, yet they allowed it to happen.  Why?
  4. The Jedi freely accepted a Clone Army given to them under suspicious conditions.  They didn’t know who ordered the creation of the army.  Was it Sifo-Dyas?  Perhaps, but he was supposedly dead when the order was put in, but let’s go ahead and use this army any way since we really, really need back up!  The Emperor didn’t even have to be that smart to put his plans into action with these guys!  Now, in the EU, Sifo-Dyas did put in the order for the clones, but only with a lot of persuasion from Count Dooku.  This isn’t made clear in the films, but I did want to mention it in this post.  Still, even with this knowledge, why did the Jedi agree to use the army?  Were they so certain of themselves that nothing could happen to them that they went ahead with the army’s usage?????
  5. Once they got their paws on the Clone Army, they allowed them to be slaughtered willy-nilly by the Separatists.  Why?  Because they were cannon fodder, right!?!?!?  In the Republic Commando novels, the clones and many of the Jedi Generals found it odd that they were spread so thin across the galaxy fighting outmanned and outgunned, but the Jedi Generals went along with Palpatine’s plans any way because he apparently knew something they didn’t!  In the films and on the cartoon series, the clones were sent in to defend people they didn’t know in a war they didn’t sign up for.  They were basically pressed itno service and the Jedi allowed it to happen.  Only Anakin seemed to really treat them as human beings.  An excellent example of this is at the beginning of Revenge of the Sith whenever he and Kenobit are attempting to rescue the chancellor from Grievous.  When the Vulture Droids and Buzz Droids attacked, Kenobi allowed them to pass and attack the clones while he and Anakin stayed on course for Grievous’ ship.  When Anakin heard that the clones were in trouble, he said that he wanted to go back and help them.  Kenobi told him not to, stating, “They have their job and we have ours.”  Granted, they were on a specific mission, but Kenobi’s response was so cold and instant that I lost a little faith in him.  The clones were essentially a slave army.
  6. One of my biggest hang-ups is how the Jedi, specifically Yoda and Obi-Wan, treated Luke.  As already stated, Yoda didn’t seek out Luke to train him from an early age and then griped that he was too old to be trained once Luke made his own way to Dagobah.  Then Yoda and Kenobi hid the fact that Vader was Luke’s father from him and even told him that Vader had murdered his father!  Sure, they did this to protect him until he was ready to know the truth, but by hiding this fact from Luke and then essentially letting his pops spring it on him open Luke up to the Dark Side of the Force?  Why should he trust these old Jedi who are keeping secrets from him about his father and, later on, his sister?  The dude with asthma, as evil as he might come across, was pretty straightforward about everything.  Luke could have easily turned to the Dark Side due to the deception of the Jedi!!!!
  7. Another reason that the Jedi aren’t as great as they initially appear is their “holier than thou” attitude.  They clung to their dogma as if it were a life or death situation.  Instead of changing when things started going south, they put all of their faith in the Force.  They essentially allowed Anakin to turn to the Dark Side.  They allowed the Clones to be used in a war that the Jedi believed was possibly manufactured.  Their egos got in the way of common sense!
  8. Finally, the Clone Army was bred for war and genetically modified to take orders without question.  When Order 66 was given, few of them hesitated to follow through.  Why?  Perhaps it was because the Jedi came across as always a bit “better” than the Clones.  The clone commanders had built up relationships (and not necessarily good ones) with all of their Jedi Generals, but who was it that they fell into rank behind to destroy the Jedi Temple?  Anakin, that’s who!  They supported the one Jedi that treated them like humans and like individuals that mattered in this crazy war they were impressed into service for against the Separatists.

So, there are just a few of my reasons why I believe that the Jedi aren’t necessarily as nice and wonderful as many people believe.  I’m not saying that the Sith are any better, mind you.  I’m just saying that the Jedi weren’t the best of Boy Scouts either.  In fact, you could say that the Jedi were just as bad as the Sith, because ultimately both of them used the Clones for their own purposes.

Some will probably say that the Jedi were blinded by the Emperor, but if that’s the case, why did so many of them have doubts and bad premonitions and still did nothing about them?  I could see them being blinded if they never doubted what was going on, but their was a lot of doubt from many of the Jedi.

Ultimately it’s all a matter of opinion, but I think I’ve stated my case pretty well.  If you believe otherwise, let me know in the comments below.

Also, I must admit that despite my sour taste for the Jedi, Obi-Wan Kenobi, Ki-Adi-Mundi, Yoda, and Plo Koon are some of my favorite Star Wars characters.  Kenobi is probably my favorite character in the entire saga.  I’ve always looked at the prequels as being more about his development than Anakin’s, because I honestly believe that he felt bad for everything that he did to both Anakin and eventually Luke.

As always, thank for reading.  Feel free to weigh in on this topic below.

 

 

Bat-Tastic!!!! Celebrate Seventy Five Years Of Batman Today!

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Worldwide

Today, DC Comics officially celebrates seventy five years of Batman.  Events are scheduled to happen all across the globe in book stores such as Barnes & Noble and in comic book shops everywhere.  Some events include exclusive free comics, masks, capes, and tons of other freebies.  Are you hosting a party to celebrate the Bat today?  Perhaps this weekend?  If you are having an event or attending one, be sure to comment about it below.

Batman is, was, and always will be my favorite superhero.  For anyone that’s ever read a comic and/or dreamed of being a superhero, he’s the one person that we all believed we could potentially become.  Why?  He lacks super powers.  All of his success against crime is based solely on his intelligence, hard physical training, and, here’s the kicker, money.  Sure, there are other heroes out there who lack super powers that do quite well for themselves such as Iron Man, the Punisher, and even the Boy Wonder, Robin, but Batman seems the most real character of them all.  Heck, even Dr. Sheldon Cooper of The Big Bang Theory believes that he can become Batman!

So, go out into the world today and share your love of everyone’s favorite detective.  Wear a Batman tee, read a Batman comic, watch one of the many Batman films, or watch Batman:  The Animated Series or any of the other wonderful cartoons featuring the Bat.  Do it with your family, friends, and loved ones.  Oh, and don’t forget to show some love and become a fan of the Discount Dark Knight at http://www.facebook.com/discountdarkknight.

Happy birthday, BATMAN!!!!