Halloween Comic Fest And USS Lafitte Halloween Party

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Southwest Louisiana

Saturday, October 25th was a rather busy day for myself and, to a lesser degree, my youngest child.  The day started off awkwardly, with me failing to set my alarm the night before and therefore missing out on bringing my wife to work and my kids out for a quiet breakfast.  Nope, my wife instead woke me up and told me that she would be leaving in ten minutes for work and wanted to know if I was taking her in to her job.  Flustered, half-awake, and still trying to determine why my alarm didn’t go off (it wasn’t until later that I realized what I’d done), I told her to head on in to work and that if I had to do anything later that day, I’d use my old truck to get around.

I knew that our local comic book store, Paper Heroes, was taking part in the Halloween Comic Fest and that their would be free comics for the taking and who knows what else the store’s owner, Kevin, would have up his sleeve for visitors.  All that I was worried about was making it to the shop too late to get the comics that I wanted the most (two titles involving Batman, a Grimm Fairy Tales comic, and  a couple of Marvel reissues, particularly Sercret Wars #1).  I wasn’t able to go to Free Comic Book Day this year, and last year I got there too late to get the titles I wanted.  I had no plans to do that this year, so I fed the kids, piled my son into my little truck with me, and made a mad dash to the shop to get there when the doors opened.

Sadly there weren’t a lot of people in the shop when I got there.  I managed to get all of the books I wanted and my son grabbed the ones he wanted as well.  Kevin had placed out some Halloween candy and noted that there was going to be a costume contest later that day (including a visit from Heroes4Hire, a local costuming group).  I killed about an hour hanging out with Kevin and talking about upcoming comic films, new TV shows like The Flash and Gotham, and longingly looked at a few graphic novels and comics that I wanted but didn’t have the proper funds to buy them on hand.

After leaving the shop, my son and I had to make a grocery store run and then headed back home.  The rest of the day was spent washing clothes, cleaning dishes, and other standard “I’m off of work today but still have X, Y, and Z to do” tasks.  I also squeezed in a little bit of college football and then started to get ready for a Halloween party hosted by the local Starfleet International club, the USS Lafitte.  I joined up with this group a little over a year ago and have officially been a Starfleet International member since April or May of this year.  The Lafitte itself started as a local Star Trek fan club called C.A.T.S. (Calcasieu Area Trekker Society) and then grew into an official Starfleet International crew.

Each year the club hosts monthly meetings and attends charitable events.  They also attend events for fun like the Texas Renaissance Festival.  The Halloween party was held a member’s home and our hosts made a wonderful meal that included barbecue ribs, smoked boudin, corn, hot dogs, a red velvet cake provided by another member, and snacks brought by everyone else.  An episode of Enterprise kicked off the viewing for the evening and a bonfire was set up outside.  I had a lot of fun hanging out with friends old and new, mostly by the bonfire, but by the end of the evening everyone went inside to watch Mel Brooks’ classic Young Frankenstein.

Some members attended in costume.  I dressed up as the Discount Dark Knight, and there were two Riddlers, an Iron Bishop (think Iron Man meets Assassin’s Creed), a well dressed Deadpool, a Ghostbuster, and disappointed Saints fans.

This party and each and every event that I attend that is put on by the USS Lafitte keeps me sane.  My “normal” life is full of things that do not include science fiction, comics, fantasy, horror, or animation.  I NEED events like this where I can nerd out without fear of being judged or attacked.  This time of year in southern Louisiana is a dead time for conventions.  There are a couple of small ones in the NOLA/Mississippi area in September and October but other than that there is nothing going on locally.

I start to miss my nerd friends a lot at this time of the year and can’t wait for January to roll around and bring back conventions like New Orleans Wizard World, CoastCon in March, CyPhaCon in April, and Bayoucon in June.  I want to hang out and visit with my friends in groups like Southern Geek and The Doctor Whooligans. I am SOOOOO ready for the new year to get here so I can see friends like Mike and Jenni M. and enjoy the company of those lovely ladies of Orion’s Envy.

As much fun as there is going on in October, November, and December, I miss my nerd family big time.  Thankfully the Lafitte crew is there to fill the void until I can see the rest of my friends.

So, do any of you have friends that you only get to see at conventions and can’t wait to hang out with them?  Did any of you attend a Halloween Comic Fest event over the weekend?  Any cool parties?  Let me know in the comments section.

As always, thanks for reading!!!

Alpha Nerds And Bullies Within Fan Groups

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Lake Charles, LA

Let me start off by saying that this post will probably tick off a few people.  It will most likely tick off those good folks who believe that they are not exactly what they appear to be.  They don’t see themselves as the problem that I’m about to yap about, but they are.  My ramblings don’t make sense yet, but they will if you read the entire post.

The term alpha nerd has often been used to describe those people who are intellectually superior to those within their personal circle of nerds or those who have seemingly unlimited intelligence.  There’s even an argument against this term stating that the top nerd in any group is the omega nerd.  For this particular post, however, alpha nerd will refer to anyone within a group who THINKS that they are the smartest, brightest, most well-informed person in the batch, but are actually giganitc douchebags instead.

I happen to be a member of many fan groups on both the local and worldwide level.  All of these groups have their good and bad people within them (Heck, I’ve probably been accused of being a baddie in a few of these groups), but for the most part, everyone is pretty cool.  Some of the groups that I am a part of include Southern Geek, the Doctor Whooligans, and the Star Trek fan group, Starfleet International, where I happen to be a crewmember of the USS Lafitte in Lake Charles, LA.  Now, outside of one person in one of these groups, I’ve never had any type of confrontation with anybody other than a few friendly arguments about Superhero X fighting Superhero Y and what the outcome of the fight would be if said superheroes were to ever clash.  I actually enjoy these types of arguments because it allows myself and others to not only socialize, but to dig even deeper and get to know one another as people on a more personal level.  You’d be amazed with what one can learn from a simple argument over who would win between Batman and Superman (and for the record, Batman ALWAYS wins!! ;-)!!!).

However, there are some people within other groups that I am in that insist that their opinion is superior to any and every other person in the group.  If you don’t agree with them, they get angry.  They believe that their speculations, their ideals, and their interpretations of whatever we happen to be discussing are gospel, and all others are wrong.

I do not like these types of people.

I once made the comment that while I enjoy Peter Capaldi as the Doctor on Doctor Who, the episodes that he has been a part of so far have been lackluster.  Immediately one of the alpha nerds piped in stating that I didn’t understand the Doctor well enough and that I needed to give the series more time.  I’ve given it almost forty years of my life.  I believe that I’ve given it plenty of time.  When I replied with that, this person said that I was apparently enjoying the Doctor for all of the wrong reasons and that I couldn’t appreciate it on the same intellectual level that he/she appreciated on.

Seriously.  They said that to me.  About a show.  A FICTIONAL show.

I simply replied that we are all entitled to our own opinion and that I was glad he/she was enjoying the current season.  When another person piped in to defend me, they were immediately shot down because they hadn’t been a Whovian long enough for them to understand what we were talking about.

Again.  They said this.  To another person.  About. A FICTIONAL show.

In other groups I have watched as myself and other fans have been laughed at for appreciating or enjoying things like the Star Wars prequels, the J.J. Abrams Star Trek films, and comics from either Marvel or DC.

People who believe that because they have watched something or read something more than myself or others have think that they can walk all over other fans.  They try to shame people who like Jar Jar Binks.  They pick at females fans who dress up as Robin but can’t name any Robin (including the female ones) other than Dick Grayson.  They laugh at people who don’t get some vague reference or don’t catch all of the Easter eggs in a certain show.

Simply put, these people are bullies.

They are no better than the guy in high school who knocked your books out of your hands.  They are just as scummy as the girl who made up a terrible nickname for you because you were overweight or wore glasses.

They are all BULLIES!

So, with that said, I hope that all of you reading this will step up to people like this who are ruining fandoms.

Don’t be the douche that points out mistakes in someone’s cosplay.  Don’t let them walk all over a new fan of your favorite comic book.  If you love Firefly but can’t remember the name of the person who played Jayne and somebody gives you lip about it, tell them that they need to back off.  We are all in this crazy world of fandom together.  Don’t let anybody get ostracized or taunted by the guy or gal who believes that they are the greatest fan ever.

Support one another.  LOVE one another.  Make new FRIENDS!

It’s a great time to be a geek.  Let’s keep it that way!

As always, thanks for reading.

A Fun Run

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Central City and, uh, The CW

I’m going to come right out and say that I love The CW’s new show, The Flash.  Having been lucky enough to see the old John Wesley Shipp version of the series and being really ticked off when that show was dropped (Does that mean I was Firefly before Firefly was cool?  I’m a hipster!  Look at that!), I was both excited and worried that this new series would be either great or terrible.

Luckily for me, it’s great.

Tons of other bloggers and critics have mentioned how light-hearted The Flash is compared to Arrow, the Dark Knight films, and even Man of Steel, and I can’t help but agree with them.  The Flash IS funny.  It isn’t full of brooding or grimacing or conflicted heroes.  It’s Barry Allen, good guy supreme, given amazing abilities and doing all he can to use them to help those in need.  Heck, he has no special training, outside of forensic sciences he isn’t necessarily super-intelligent (but he’s no idiot, either), and he doesn’t go into a fight thinking that he’ll best the villain right away.  Nope, Barry has doubts, learns from his mistakes, and sometimes forgets that he is now leading a double life (I love how in the latest episode he forgot his normal clothes when heading to work).  He also realizes that as cool as it would be to tell his friends about his new abilities, he can’t do so in order to keep them safe.  I love that about this guy.  He’s nice and funny (much like in the comics).

I’ve never laughed at a DC property on the big or small screen as much as I have laughed at The Flash.  DC is known for their gritty films (even the animated ones) whereas Marvel seems to be (successfully) taking a lighter route.  The Flash seems to be walking the fine line between both.

The cast is excellent.  Grant Gustin (Flash) is funny, and has decent comedic timing.  Danielle Panabaker (Caitlin Snow) is funny as well, which is an amazing feat considering that she’s probably the most serious member of the S.T.A.R. Labs team.  Jesse L. Martin (Detective West) is Barry’s cornerstone in the show, but delivers a performance that is more patronly than gritty or tough.  Carlos Valdes (Cisco) is possibly the funniest member of the cast, and I love his one-liners and “villain name making” abilities.  Tom Cavanaugh (Dr. Wells) is probably the most serious guy in the bunch, but even he shows a little heart here and there (whether or not it’s genuine, though, remains to be seen).

Basically you have a light show about a powerful superhero that doesn’t take itself too seriously.  It does all of this, with attention to detail.  From hinting at future heroes and villains and even blatantly showing some (Reverse Flash, for starters), The Flash has a very formulaic quality that is somehow fresh.  It’s one of a very small batch of programs that I actually look forward to each week.

Here’s hoping that The Flash keeps up the good work.  I know there’s plenty of season left, but I believe it is safe to say that The CW has a hit on their hands.

Sprukits Are Super!

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Somewhere In My Imagination

For those of you who aren’t aware, I review quite a few items on websites like http://www.amazon.com and http://www.lunch.com.  I’m also a member of many reviewing groups and have been offered different items over the years to review.  In one group I was offered a Sprukits The Dark Knight Rises Batman action figure.

The cool thing about this toy is that YOU build it!  Batman comes in eighty-eight pieces and after about forty-five minutes I had my very own action figure that stood about five inches tall.  It is highly articulated, comes with a Batarang and a cable gun, multiple hands to interchange, and a nice base to stand the figure on.

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The figure was very fun to assemble, and if there’s anything that I don’t like about it, it’s the stiff plastic cape that’s included.  I would have much rather had a cloth cape to go with the figure.

 

Despite this, I really like this figure.  In fact, I plan on purchasing some of the other figures in this line.  This particular figure was a “Level 2″ figure, but there are actually three stages of difficulty in this line.  I want to get the Joker figure in the “Level 1″ line and the Arkham City Batman in the “Level 3″ line.

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My son helped me out with this figure a little bit, but he lost interest fairly quickly.  Of course, this figure was aged out of his range, so it didn’t surprise me whenever he left the room.  He does really like the completed figure, though, and he wants me to build more figures like this one soon.

If you get your hands on a Sprukits figure, let me know what you think of it.

As always, thanks for reading!

The Sun Is Going Down On “Gotham”

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Gotham City

FOX has a hit on its hands…..at least in my opinion, with the wonderful series called Gotham.  It follows a young and well-intentioned James Gordon, freshly dubbed Detective Gordon, as he and his senior partner, Harvey Bullock, tackle crime in the very crime-ridden town of Gotham City.  This story takes place before Batman is Batman, before Poison Ivy is Poison Ivy, and at the dawn of characters like Catwoman and Penguin.

For those of you who have not seen any of the episodes of this program so far, you might want to stop reading NOW.

The series begins with Bruce Wayne witnessing the murder of his parents for some pearls and money.  All of this is seen through the eyes of young Selina Kyle (Camren Bicondova).  We then see Gordon (Benjamin McKenzie) getting teamed up with Bullock (the always enjoyable Donal Logue) despite the latter’s multiple angry requests for such a pairing to not occur.  They are attempting to find out who murdered Bruce Wayne’s parents.    On the surface, it looks like a random hold-up that ends with the death of innocents, but there is something deeper and darker just under the surface.

As the dynamic duo attempt to solve the crime, Gordon finds out very quickly that Bullock isn’t necessarily the cleanest of cops.  Using criminal sources and less-than-proper interrogation methods, Bullock gets answers, but not the ones he is looking for.  Eventually the services of Fish Mooney (Jada Pinkett Smith) are called upon and we get our first glimpse of Oswald Cobblepot (Robin Lord Taylor), also known as the Penguin.  Mooney provides a quick and easy frame job to make the city of Gotham rest a bit.  She sets up the future Poison Ivy’s father for the murder, and he in turn is murdered for his troubles.

Mooney then gets caught up in a scandal herself, and recommends Bullock to make Gordon murder Cobblepot to prove his worth.  This leads into the second episode of the season which finds homeless and street kids going missing.  Gordon and Bullock are on the case once again and we get a deeper look at not only the development of Bruce Wayne (David Mazouz), but also Selina Kyle.  Hints of another villain, the Dollmaker, are also tossed about, and we get a second but brief look at Edward Nygma (Cory Michael Smith), who will eventually become the Riddler.

I like this series.  It has a very solid cast, especially Taylor as the Penguin, Mazouz as Bruce, and Bicondova as Selina.  Logue hams it up a bit, but not so much that it’s unbelievable.  If there’s one weak link in the whole series, I’d have to say it’s Pinkett Smith.  She is either intentionally over-acting to bluff her constituents OR she’s just doing a poor job.  Hopefully she’s just portraying a character that is scared to lose power and is attempting to look overly secure and/or tough.

Taylor has stolen the show as far as I’m concerned.  He hasn’t had nearly as much screen time as most of the other primary players, but he’s brilliant in each moment he does have.  Hopefully we will see Penguin rise to power soon.

The newest episode hits tonight, and I’m finally looking forward to Monday night television again.  Sadly I am missing The Big Bang Theory (although I’m watching it on CBS’ website a week later), but Gotham is just a cool program.  I can’t wait to see the rest of the characters get fleshed out more.  If the program is a success, I’m guessing that Batman will eventually make an appearance.

Kudos, FOX, for an excellent program.  Now just don’t go all Firefly on it and cancel it before the first season is complete!

 

Could I Be…..A DC????

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Lake Charles, LA

I recently started buying comics regularly again.  The Dark Horse Darth Maul:  Son of Dathomir series caught my attention and I gobbled up each issue.  While the ending was a bit of a cop out (I’ll eventually review the series), the whole run was good enough to spark my interests in comics again.

I ventured over to my local comics shop, Paper Heroes, and started perusing the graphic novels and comic compilations in the hopes to find a book on Batman or one of any of a multitude of Marvel heroes that I’ve enjoyed over the years.  To my surprise, I found myself going to the DC shelves over and over.  I couldn’t make up my mind, but nothing on the Marvel shelf really spoke to me.  However, the DC shelf intrigued me with titles like Flashpoint, Blackest Night, and Infinite Crisis.

**Spoilers Ahead**

I settled on Flashpoint, and was very pleased after reading the book.  While the story is obviously centered on the Flash, it was the peripheral characters that really grabbed at me in this tale.  The most interesting of all was Thomas Wayne as the Batman in the altered timeline in which this story takes place.

Thomas Wayne is a brutal version of his son’s Dark Knight.   Instead of catching villains and bringing them back to Arkham Asylum or GCPD headquarters, Thomas Wayne doesn’t think twice about killing his enemies.  Much like Bruce Wayne’s Batman, he has become a legend, an impossible creature that scares villains, but he’s much, much deadlier.  I love this character and want to read more about him!!!!

Other characters that get a brilliant spin on their stories in this timeline include Superman, who is SOOOOOO much more interesting here than he is elsewhere, Aquaman, Wonder Woman, and Cyborg.  It’s my understanding that these characters are expanded upon in other volumes in the Flashpoint story and I plan to read as many of them as I can (starting with Superman and Batman).

I don’t want to reveal too much more, but know that an event in the Flash’s past sets off the events in this story, and it’s up to him to make things as right as possible.  This is a brilliant story.

Now, having been hooked on graphic novels and comics once again, I started looking for Marvel graphic novels that might offer up similar brilliance to Flashpoint.  On a whim I found Captain America:  The Winter Soldier and a Guardians of the Galaxy graphic novels for the wonderful price of five bucks each at a Walmart while I was working out of town.  They were obviously meant to be cash ins for the recently released films of the same name (there was were Spider-Man and The Avengers graphic novels for five bucks, but I passed on them) and were also previously released novels in a new edition.  I’ve only read Cap’s novel so far, and while it is definitely a good read, it doesn’t quite meet up to the standard set by Flashpoint.

In The Winter Soldier, Red Skull is mysteriously murdered and the Captain, along with Agent 13, has to find his enemy’s murderer and also thwart the plans of a once thought defunct terrorist organization.  I do not yet know if I’ll pick up the second volume in this story, as I’m much more interested in the Flashpoint books now.  If they hold up, I’ll probably scoop up Blackest Night next.

**End Spoilers**

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I’ve always considered myself a Marvel guy.  In my early years I loved the colorful characters of Batman, Flash, Green Lantern, etc. but as I grew older, the grittier characters of the Marvel universe grabbed my attention.  Now I’m swaying in a sea of doubt.  Could it be that DC is winning me over yet again??????  Will Marvel win me back with a brilliant X-men story?????  Who knows???  Maybe a “dark horse” like, um, Dark Horse, will steal my soul?

Stay tuned, true believers and, as always, thanks for reading!

Cap Finally Gets To Shine!

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Lake Charles, LA

 

There has been a ton of hype about the recently released (and very successful) Guardians of the Galaxy film. Needless to say, the film did manage to live up to the hype and showed that Marvel could take characters that are fairly unknown out of comic reading circles and make an excellent film with them. I saw it and I loved it, but the real shining star in Marvel’s cinematic releases this year has got to be Captain America: The Winter Soldier.

Cap’s first film was very good, but I felt as if it (as well as the first Thor film) was rushed along and used more to lead up to the heavily anticipated The Avengers instead of giving us a decent story about the hero. In The Avengers, Cap took a backseat to the other players, with most of the action going to heavies like Thor, Hulk, and Iron Man. This time around, Cap leads the story and never lets go of that lead.

The Winter Soldier is not heavily laden in CGI or even close to as humorous as GOTG is, but it is an excellent espionage thriller with a major whodunit plot that perfectly addresses similar actions happening in our world now, a brilliant cast, and excellent direction.

The film takes a look at Cap’s world post-New York incident (The Avengers). S.H.I.E.L.D. is taking measures to not only protect the United States, but the world. When Cap finds out what S.H.I.E.L.D. is up to, he instantly questions the reasoning behind it. Soon enough, Captain Steve Rogers finds himself on the run with few clues, fewer friends, and a very nasty group of villains hot on his heels. I honestly cannot say too much more than this since revealing the enemy in this film would ruin it overall. Just know that if you haven’t seen the film in theaters (I did, but am just now getting around to my review after buying the Blu-ray), you’re in for a surprise.

Oh, and that whole Winter Soldier bit? It’s pretty important as well, as the Winter Soldier is a key member of the enemy’s arsenal, and he more than holds his own against Captain America, Black Widow, Falcon, and even old Nick Fury.

Watching this film reminded me of the spy flicks and political thrillers that came out during the 70’s and 80’s. It’s fast-paced, there’s a constant threat, and the resolution leaves you with more questions (that I’m sure will be resolved throughout the other Marvel films) than answers.

The cast is solid. Chris Evans nails his role as the Captain once again, and I still can’t get over how brilliant he is in the role. There is no other Steve Rogers as far as I’m concerned. Evans is it! Scarlett Johansson does a fine job once again as Black Widow. We get to see a little bit more about her character (especially in the deleted scenes), and she brings a bit of humor to the film much like she did in “The Avengers.” Anthony Mackie introduces us to Falcon, a soldier who counsels fellow soldiers that are trying to adapt back into their former civilian lives. Falcon gets back into uniform to help the Captain when friends are far and few between. Samuel L. Jackson reprises his role as Nick Fury, and even though he’s put this character on multiple times, he gives us an even deeper look at Fury in brief sequences with Rogers and other characters in the film.

Sebastian Stan portrays the Winter Soldier. Fans of the comics know this character’s real identity, but for those of you unaware, I won’t reveal who he really is. Just know that his battle with Captain America becomes very personal and is intense both physically and emotionally for both of them. I hope to see more of the Winter Soldier in later films. Another brilliant castmember is the legendary Robert Redford as Alexander Pierce, head of S.H.I.E.L.D. Sadly, that’s all I can really say about him without giving away too much.

There are a lot of supporting actors and actresses that did brilliant jobs as well. Most notably, Frank Grillo, Cobie Smulders, Hayley Atwell, Emily VanCamp, and Toby Jones. There are others, but the list is much too long.

Simply put, this film is brilliant. The direction was great. The production layed off of the CGI as much as possible and used real props for most of the scenes (even many parts of the bigger action scenes). The story took the front seat while the gee-whiz factor took a step back. It’s literally a superhero film with a very real and grounded superhero.

Highly recommended.