A Super Partnership?

At Your Local Walmart

Love it or hate it, you can’t deny the reach of Walmart. While I personally tend to do most of my retail shopping at Target or other stores, sometimes a trip to Walmart is unavoidable. Starting last year, DC Comics gave me one more reason to risk life and limb down the aisles of the Big Blue Box Store. DC began releasing exclusive 100 Page Giant comic issues featuring twelve pages of original content and reprints of recent stories from DC’s collection. Stories featuring Superman, Wonder Woman, Batman, and other popular characters were released in a monthly format that allowed more casual readers a chance to not only read an original story, but catch up on fairly current stories as well. Most of the reprinted stories appear to be from the New 52 line or just a tad bit older. The books sold so well that DC expanded the line to include books for characters such as the Flash and Teen Titans and also released holiday-specific books as well. I own the Halloween Horror Giant that features Swamp Thing, Aquaman, Blue Devil, Scarecrow, Reaper, and Zatanna. It’s an excellent book.

Earlier this year, DC announced that they would be dropping Walmart’s exclusivity on this line and would begin selling the books at comic shops. They’ve also begun reprinting the original stories from these 100 Page Giants and releasing them as individual stories at comic retail shops. This is a great thing, as it has been somewhat difficult to find many of these books at Walmart. In many cases, I couldn’t find any books at all. At other times I was able to easily find multiple issues of books both new and old in the same area of certain Walmart locations. I also found plenty of damaged books as well.

The success of these books had opened the door for even more exclusive items at Walmart. The first exclusive is a wave of Batman: Black & White miniature statues based upon the DC Collectibles Black & White 7″ polyresin statue line. These statues, standing roughly 3.75″ tall, are plastic versions of their larger counterparts and feature a blank base. The 7″ statues feature a black and white Batman logo.

Mike Allred’s Black & White Batman miniature statue.

At the time of this post, three series have been released of these miniature statues. Each series features six statues based upon the work of artists such as Frank Quitely, Patrick Gleason, Amanda Conner, and Dick Sprang. They come in blind bags and cost about five bucks each. With such a small amount of figures to collect, though, getting duplicates is rather easy. In fact, I’ve purchased five blind bags far and already have a duplicate.

The full-sized Darwyn Cooke Batman with a stylized base.

DC announced that these figures would be released as a set at comic shops and would include a seventh exclusive figure. If you’re a fan of Batman, I highly recommend nabbing some of these statues if you can find them.

Series 3 of the Black & White Miniature line.

Teaming up with Walmart has proven to be profitable for DC Comics. Yes, the giant retailer has shut down plenty of independent comic book shops over the years, but by exposing potential new readers to some great stories and cool exclusive items, this partnership might actually help local comic retailers. I especially like the fact that DC has started releasing reprints of the stories and full sets of the miniature statues with exclusive bonus statues at comic shops, as it gives folks that might have missed something a second chance at picking up what they want.

Have you read any of the Giants? Do you own any of the statues? Let me know in the comments and also tell me how you feel about DC Comics or any other comic company teaming up with big retailers such as Walmart. Thanks for reading. I’ll see you all again real soon.

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Stranger Things Season 3 Review

In a quiet little town called Hawkins….

Things definitely got a little stranger in the third season of Stranger Things. The Duffer Brothers changed up the dynamic of our core group by having not only an evil being out to get them, but also having them tackle topics such as teen romance, infighting, bottom of the barrel jobs, and Russians…..yep, Russians.

Non-spoiler review ahead.

Lucas and Mike are in love with Max and El, respectively. The season fires up with Lucas and Max on the outs and eventually Mike and El end up in the same boat. Lucas, being the more experienced romantic, attempts to walk Mike through the highs and lows of a teenage breakup. You’ll have to watch to see how successful he is with Mike. Poor Will gets left in the dust by Lucas and Mike.

Max and El trek out on their own, embracing the sister-like bond forming between them. Their friendship strengthens via activities that include sleepovers, trips to the mall, using El’s powers for questionable purposes, and checking out comic books. There’s even a brief fashion montage thrown in for good measure.

Hopper and Joyce bond as well, as they set out to find why magnets won’t work anymore in certain parts of Hawkins. They team up with Murray Bauman, the conspiracy theorist that exposed the love that existed between Nancy and Jonathan in Season Two. Together they battle it out with a foreign power that has infiltrated Hawkins in an ingenious way.

Jonathan and Nancy find themselves working as a photographer and office runner for the local newspaper. Much like Hopper, Joyce, and Murray, they stumble upon something that brings back old memories for the group. Their relationship also runs into a few mild snags, but nothing too major.

Then there’s good ol’ Billy, the trashy stepbrother to Max. He finds himself in a very tight spot early in the season and we get to watch as his character develops into a major threat for the group. The flirtation that happened between him and Mike’s mom in Season Two progresses into something more this season as well, but I won’t spoil anything here.

Last but not least, the best bromance in all of streaming programs is revisited hen Dustin, fresh from summer camp, teams up with Steve, stuck in a dead end job at Scoops Ahoy in the new Starcourt Mall. Added to their group is Erica, Lucas’ younger sister, and Robin, Mike’s co-worker at Scoops Ahoy. I’ll get to them a little bit later.

So how is the season? In my opinion, it’s very good. It’s stronger content-wise when compared to Season Two and it doesn’t have any jarring episodes that throw off the rhythm of the series like Season Two did with that episode where El goes to Chicago. The relationships built in this season are powerful as well, especially the bond between El and Max, El and Hopper, and Robin and Steve.

This season also feels like an 80’s film more than either of the other two seasons. There are real threats present for all of the cast members as they are broken up into smaller groups. Each threat that they face eventually comes to a head at the climax of the series.

The special effects were very solid, especially considering the size of one of the creatures that the group has to face. There are also plenty of nods to classic 80’s films and television shows such as Evil Dead, Magnum P.I., and The Thing, and a few blatant tips of the hat to shows and films like Back to the Future, Cheers, and Day of the Dead. Much like the show did in previous seasons by adding popular 80’s stars to the cast such as Matthew Modine, Paul Reiser, and Sean Astin, this season brought us Cary Elwes as sleazy Mayor Kline.

New additions to the cast such as Elwes as Kline and Maya Hawke as Robin and an expansion of roles for returning characters such as Erica (Priah Ferguson) and Murray (Brett Gelman) also strengthened the show as a whole. Robin and Erica held their own while featuring in almost every scene with Dustin and Mike. While Erica did get a little mouthy at times, she still injected some much needed humor in an otherwise dark season.

The series wasn’t perfect, however. Product placement was terribly noticeable. Seeing old storefronts for extinct stores like Wicks N’ Sticks and Waldenbooks was cool, but the blatant New Coke moment and massive Burger King shot and references were annoying. The Seven-Eleven moments fit into the story quite well, however.

I also got annoyed by the use of 80’s music throughout the season. Don’t get me wrong, music is just as important as any other element in a film or television series, but the placement of 80’s hit tunes felt forced at times.

Overall, this season was better than Season Two and can hold its own against Season One. The kids have grown up a lot and the adults didn’t skip a beat. The character development was solid and the ending…..well, it was just brutal. Things are left wide open for Season Four and there is already a ton of speculation as to who or what might turn up next season.

As always, thanks for reading. I’ll be posting again real soon.

The Next Chapter Is Coming!

Sulphur, LA

For the sixth year in a row, the cliffhangers of yesteryear are returning to southwest Louisiana at Calcasieu Serialfest! This free event will once again be held at the Brimstone Museum in Sulphur.

You’ll get to watch selected chapters from serials of the 1930’s and 40’s featuring such heroes and adventurers as Spy Smasher, Captain Marvel, and the Lone Ranger. There will be free popcorn and drinks served at the event and even a free lunch!

The festival always highlights specific individuals that had an impact on serials over the years. Usually this is an actor such as Buster Crabbe or Tom Tyler, but this year Serialfest will celebrate the work of two pioneering special effects artists, the Lydecker Brothers! Howard and Theodore Lydecker became known for their effects work using large and detailed props. They were nominated for two Emmys during their time in film, with Howard winning the Individual Achievement in Cinematography for his work on Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea.

Some of the serials that will have chapters shown at the event include Adventures of Captain Marvel, Darkest Africa, Undersea Kingdom, The Crimson Ghost, and The Lone Ranger. Be sure to also keep an eye out for Gene Autry in The Phantom Empire.

A special surprise for attendees will be a viewing of selected chapters from Mystery of the Bat-Man. This lost serial, recently “uncovered” in 2015, is a tribute not only to Batman’s first comic appearance, but to serials as a whole. Director/producer/actor Ryan Bijan will be in attendance. Be sure to check out all of the available chapters of this serial on YouTube.

Cosplayer Bill Necessary will also be in attendance. He’ll be dressed as some of your favorite classic serial heroes. Mr. Necessary has become a fixture of Calcasieu Serialfest, and it’s always great to see him bring many of these amazing characters to life.

The event will take place at the Brimstone Museum located at 900 S Huntington Street in Sulphur, LA on Saturday, July 20th. Serials will begin playing at 10 AM and continue until 5 PM that evening. As already stated, free popcorn and drinks will be served throughout the day and a free lunch will also be offered to attendees. There will also be door prizes given out at the event.

I’ve been a huge fan of Calcasieu Serialfest since its inception. I’ve attended the festival every year save one where other things got in the way. If you are in or near the Lake Charles/Sulphur/southwest Louisiana area, make plans to attend this great event. See the earliest live action versions of some of pop cultures biggest heroes.

Thanks for taking the time to check out my latest post. Feel free to share it with others and be sure to leave a comment as well. More great things are coming to Ken’s Alternate Universe very soon, so keep your eyes and ears peeled!

Throwback Thursday: This Bigfoot Isn’t Blurry!

Texarkana, Texas

Just a stone’s throw away from Fouke, Arkansas is Texarkana, Texas. While that fact may not interest everyone, it definitely got the attention of Bigfoot fans earlier this month. On June 14th and 15th in Texarkana, The Legend of Boggy Creek was shown at the Perot Theatre, the same theater where the film premiered in 1972. Additional showings have been scheduled nationwide in select theaters. The film has been fully remastered using 4K technology by the George Eastman Museum of Rochester, New York and Audio Mechanics in Burbank, California.

Fans of creature features and cryptids alike have made the film a cult classic. It helped spawn the Bigfoot craze of the 1970’s and became a catalyst for the release of other Bigfoot related films such as Creature From Black Lake, Harry and the Hendersons, Willow Creek, and Abominable. It set the bar for docudramas and mockumentaries as well and is credited as a major influence in many found footage and documentary style films such as The Blair Witch Project.

The film primarily featured locals and witnesses in the area. It was produced and directed by Charles B. Pierce. Pierce was a set decorator, screenwriter, producer, director, actor and more and worked for many years in film and television. Some of his best known works include The Town That Dreaded Sundown (1976, director and producer), Sudden Impact (1983, initial screenplay writer), and Fresno (1986 miniseries, Primetime Emmy nominee for set decoration).

I actually saw the film’s second sequel entitled Boggy Creek II: And The Legend Continues before seeing the original film and it’s first sequel, Return To Boggy Creek (1977). Pierce had nothing to do with Return, and ignored that film’s events when he made Boggy Creek II. Released in 1985, the film triggered dreams of capturing Bigfoot in my nine year old mind. I’m still a huge fan of cryptid films and cryptozoology in general because of the film and would love to see it remastered as well.

Hopefully I will get a chance to see The Legend of Boggy Creek in all of its remastered theatrical glory. I don’t know if it will be released in Louisiana. I hope that it at least has a showing in Shreveport, LA, where some of the film was shot. After a few more theatrical showings, a Blu-ray of the film will be made available. For more information on the film and a store featuring some pretty cool merchandise, visit the film’s official website. You can also sign up for their newsletter on the site.

Thank you for revisiting this cult classic with me. Let me know in the comments if you’re a fan of the film, a believer in Bigfoot, or even a skeptic.

Monster Mash!

Fenway Park And Beyond….

Godzilla: King of the Monsters has been out for almost two weeks now. It’s ticket sales haven’t been impressive and it has been slammed by critics, but the bottom line is this: If you watch a Godzilla movie hoping for anything other than massive monster fights, you’re watching it for the wrong reason.

KOTM is loud, has a thin plot that gives us little more than a reason for giant monsters to battle one another and a surprisingly solid cast of human characters that do little more than get knocked out of the way of the film’s real stars, the monsters. But you know what? That’s really all that it needs because this film is FUN.

After watching the film in the theater with my son, I remained seated as the credits rolled along and thought that I just saw a very good monster flick full of action and noise. Sure, the action was shot very close up and it was often hard to follow, but it was still enjoyable. I also remembered that there were a number of epic shots in the film that showcased not only the quality of the CGI, but the overall look and feel of the movie as a whole.

I walked out of the theater still believing that I saw an enjoyable (but not necessarily great) film. I hopped into my vehicle with my son and we actually sat there for a few minutes talking about our favorite parts of the movie. It was at this moment that I realized just how much I loved this film. The more we talked, the more I noticed how really cool Godzilla’s primary adversary was and just how much I wanted to see more of the character. I also discovered just how truly beautiful and epic Godzilla’s sidekick was and how amazingly silly the villain’s assistant happened to be in the film.

I also recalled just how dumb the plot was in the movie but how necessary it was to bring so many monsters onto the screen at one time. Ignore the film’s human-centered plot and focus on the monsters’ reasons for battling it out across the globe.

After arriving at our home, I laid down in bed to go to sleep. I caught myself smiling as I revisited certain moments, monsters, and characters in the film. I love this film and if you appreciate noisy monster movies with paper thin plots, you’ll love this one, too. Go see Godzilla: King of the Monsters in the theater. The ending promises bigger things to come and be sure to stay until all of the credits have rolled.

Godzilla: King of the Monsters stars Vera Farmiga (The Conjuring, The Manchurian Candidate), Kyle Chandler (Friday Night Lights, Super 8), Ken Watanabe (The Last Samurai, Inception), Zhang Ziyi (Memoirs of a Geisha, The Cloverfield Paradox), and Millie Bobby Brown (Stranger Things, Intruders) as well as Godzilla, Mothra, Rodan, and King Ghidorah.

As always, thank you for reading my post. See you again real soon. I plan on taking a look back on a legendary monster flick celebrating almost fifty years with a remastered limited release in a couple of days.

Slow Burner

Brightburn, KS

I saw Brightburn a couple of weekends ago. It has a very small cast, a very simple plot, and does a decent job of telling its story. The basic premise of the film is that young Brandon Breyer has been the perfect child for his parents, Tori and Kyle, but after hitting twelve years of age, things change….a lot.

Brandon begins to develop powers very similar to a superhero that we all know and love. That hero is Superman. Just like Superman, Brandon (Jackson A. Dunn) fell to our planet in a spaceship as an infant. The Breyers, desperate for a child of their own but apparently unable to conceive, take in Brandon as their own. Kyle (David Denman) hides the spaceship in the family barn and he and his wife raise Brandon in a normal, human home. Brandon learns that he has super strength, super speed, heat vision, the ability to fly, possibly super hearing, and he only has one weakness that will remain nameless.

Unlike Superman, Brandon is compelled to use his powers for evil. He wants to control everything and everyone. There is a reason for all of this that I won’t go into, but it possibly sets up a potential sequel if it is decided that one will be made. Brandon terrorizes the locals and people start to die and/or go missing but Tori (Elizabeth Banks) refuses to believe that her son is the culprit in all of the chaos.

Despite not wanting to believe it, Kyle realizes that Brandon truly is a disturbed individual. As he slowly uncovers the magnitude of Brandon’s powers, he decides that something has to be done. Does Kyle stop Brandon? Does Tori realize that her son is pure evil? Does a Lex Luthor type show up to save the day? You’ll have to watch Brightburn to find out.

The film is pretty enjoyable. There are plenty of things about it that could have been done differently or perhaps better, but it was a satisfying film to watch. The ending leaves things wide open for a sequel and I do hope that one is made as I believe that this film set the table for better things in the future.

The cast did a fine job. Not one person in the bunch gave a bad performance. Dunn was solid as Brandon as he slowly spiraled into an evil abyss, and Banks was very convincing as a mother who believes that her son isn’t capable of doing bad things. Denman was solid as an awkward father learning as he goes with a son going through some major changes. Other members of the cast included Matt Jones and Meredith Hagner as Brandon’s uncle and aunt, Becky Wahlstrom as Erica, the mother of Caitlyn (Emmie Hunter), a young girl that Brandon is attracted to, and Gregory Alan Williams as the local sheriff trying to solve the murders and mysteries in his town.

Elizabeth Banks stars in Sony PIctures’ BRIGHTBURN.

My only complaint with this film is one of the same complaints that I have with Superman flicks: Brandon is too overpowered and lacks a real adversary in the movie. That’s why I’m hoping that a real challenge shows up in a sequel. Other than that, the movie was pretty good. It moved slowly, featured a decent amount of scares (most of the jump variety), and even a bit of suspense. It had some pretty harsh moments that earned its R rating, but cleaning up a bit of the gore and language, this film could have passed for a PG-13 flick. It was written by Brian and Mark Gunn and produced by James Gunn.

To be completely honest, I would only go check this out in theaters if you wanted to see it based on the trailers. I don’t believe that your average moviegoer (especially those that cut their teeth on the PG-13 fare of Marvel) will be interested in this film, as it focuses on horror more than action, and DC fans might be turned off by the fact that it’s simply Superman’s story with an evil twist. Horror fans may not care for the supervillain angle, but this movie is definitely more in their wheelhouse than in comic fan’s.

As always, thanks for reading. I plan on reviewing Godzilla: King of the Monsters in a few days. I saw it over the weekend and really enjoyed it.