Archive for the ‘Blatant Insubordination’ Category

The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge, Personal Hardships, and Letting It Slide

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

In the last several weeks, the latest viral internet craze, the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge, has resulted in an massive outpouring of donations to a more than worthy cause, and a flurry of mildly amusing YouTube videos to boot. In terms of internet trends, it’s actually rather…well, cool and refreshing!

But as always, the trolls are out. Which is fine, we need skeptics and contrarians out there. But in this instance, they’re wrong.

Let’s set the table here: ALS (Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis), also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, is a neurodegenerative condition that effects the brain and spinal cord. The motor neurons that initiate muscle movement in the body gradually die off, leading to progressive paralysis, and eventually death.

The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge occurs when you challenge someone to either donate money (usually $100) to the ALS Association, or dump a big bucket of ice water over their head. Since the beginning of August, the internet has been flooded (no pun intended) with videos of both average joes and celebs dousing themselves with water. The publicity has brought the ALS Association $13.3 million (as of August 17) in donations, compared to the $1.7 million they received at the same time last year.

Naysayers have called out the Ice Bucket Challenge for essentially prompting Americans to celebrate the notion of not giving money to a charity. Hey, fair point. While many are indeed dousing themselves AND making a donation, it’d be foolish to think that a lot of us aren’t doing it simply for fun. And let’s certainly not rule out false boasting, narcissism, and flat out stupidity. Make no mistake, it’s a lot easier to pretend to be charitable than to actually be charitable. Plus, there are a lot of countries in dire need of all that clean water.

But in spite of all that, the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge gets a pass from me. And here’s why…

Several years ago, I was working for a small regional newspaper. One summer, around this time of year, I was dispatched to do a story on the Les Turner ALS Walk for Life, a Chicago area event that raises money for ALS patient care. When I got the assignment I had never heard of the event, and had no knowledge about ALS.

Then I met Len, and his wife Sarah. At the time, Len was confined to a wheelchair and was only able to move his head, neck, and left arm. They were very open about what they’d gone through, especially considering I was such a young reporter, let alone a complete stranger. Len told me about being forced to leave his job, the trip to Hawaii he and Sarah had taken once they learned about his ALS (a last vacation of sorts), and how his body had gradually broken down. He did, however, tell me with pride that he was able to stand up at his daughter’s wedding, despite having extremely limited use of his legs.

When the interview was over, and Sarah had left the room to get something, Len and I small talked for a minute. In all honesty, I don’t remember what the topic was. But then, as we could hear Sarah coming back, he thanked me for my time, and said eight words I don’t think will ever leave me…

“I just try not to think about tomorrow.”

He started to choke up a bit. But he fought it back.

Len is gone now, but I’ve thought about him quite a bit over the years. I can’t even imagine what must have been going through his mind when we talked, or Sarah’s for that matter. It sounds incredibly corny when you put it into words, but what kind of strength do you imagine needs to be mustered to face something like that? Even all these years later, I can’t even begin to comprehend it.

Sarah still participates in the ALS Walk for Life with her team “Len’s Den.” Through the wonders of internet stalking, I discovered they have a Facebook page. On August 15, Sarah posted a message, and signed off with: “Keep those ice buckets coming!”

So I’m okay with the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge. As a member of the human race, I’m willing to bear whatever idiocy or ingenuity arises from it. Because $13.3 million is a lot of money. You can’t treat ALS with money, but you can with what put the money there: Generosity, compassion, human decency, and the willingness to take action.

I guess the moral of the story here is that sometimes, you have to be willing to take the bad with the good. Is this ice bucket thing a little over the top? Absolutely. Does it expose America’s bizarre fascination with stupid YouTube videos? Of course it does. But it’s got people talking about donating to charity, and the ALS Foundation has reaped great benefits from it. I’ll take that trade off.

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Robin Williams, Mental Illness, Hidden Pain, and the Future

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

I’ve spent a good portion of this week thinking about Robin Williams. I suspect I’m with the majority on that one. Robin Williams hangs himself because of depression? It’s just so out of the blue, and seemingly so out of character…

Williams’ death shook me up quite a bit because of its connection to depression and mental illness. Without getting too personal here, my life, like the lives of so many, has been touched by things like clinical depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, etc. For some of us, it’s a daily battle. The simple act of getting up to greet the day can be excruciating if your mind isn’t in a good place. And the notion that Robin Williams, seemingly the epitome of happiness and zest for life, dealt with such issues just doesn’t seem to fit. Mind you, in the last day or so we’ve learned he was in the early stages of Parkinson’s Disease, which can often lead to depression. But it still seems so out of left field.

Naturally, the internet and social media have been flooded with tributes to Williams. I happened to be on Twitter Monday night, and I stumbled on to a tweet sent by none other than Kevin Conroy (widely known as the voice of Batman). I understand his inclusion in here may induce a few eyerolls, given I’m obviously a comic book/superhero geek. But what he wrote has been in the back of  my mind since I saw it: “Robin Williams inspired while fighting demons of his own. His humor floated on a sea of pain. …”

Heavy stuff. I don’t know what relationship Conroy had with Williams, if any. But what really hit me was: “His humor floated on a sea of pain.” Obviously, Robin Williams has millions of fans mourning him. And I’ll never discount him, his legacy, or what he’s brought to the world.

But how many people live their lives on that same sea of pain, and don’t have legions of admirers? How many people battle those same demons, and aren’t rich, famous, or loved like Robin Williams? And how many people are able to hide it as well as he did, and walk through their lives quietly suffering?

I don’t know if people necessarily want to hide things like depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, etc. But of course, they do. In America alone, one in four people deal with such issues in a given year, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness. So if so many of us are dealing with this kind of thing, then why hide it?

From an American standpoint, I think a lot of it has to do with the culture. The average American only gets two weeks of paid vacation a year. For those other 50 weeks, we’re trained to be nose to the grindstone, working our collective asses off to provide our families with a high quality of life, and keep this country chugging along. A recent episode of Real Time with Bill Maher pointed to a Cadillac America commercial as a prime example of what the mindset of the United States workforce is supposed to be…

I’m not at all opposed to the concept of paving your own way in this world, working hard, or putting in long hours. But with that mindset comes a certain “push through the pain” attitude. We keep forging forward, despite whatever pain (be it physical or mental) might be ailing us. That’s a cool mindset to a point. But after awhile, it obviously has its drawbacks. And I think that’s what a lot of Americans do with mental illness. They forge through it because that’s what they think they’re supposed to, rather than taking care of themselves. Which ironically, would lead to longer and more productive careers.

Plus, I think a little bit of that “crazy person” stigma still exists, and as such, people are afraid to get that stamp. That’s probably not anybody’s fault, per se. It’s just the way our culture has been for so many generations, and you can’t necessarily eradicate that all at once.

In terms of the public’s awareness of mental illness, we live in an interesting time. Both the advancement of medical science and the emergence of the information age have paved the way for what exactly mental illness is, how it can be treated, and where one can get support. Still, I don’t think we as a culture are where we want to be.

Work is important. Ambition and drive are important. Putting a roof over your head is important. But so is enjoying your life. So is spending time with the people you love, and experiencing that love to its fullest. In my little head, that’s worth more than whatever professional accomplishments your professional life has to offer. It’s certainly worth more than material possessions, and it’s definitely worth more than corporate profits, or however you want to judge the success of a company.

Robin Williams was a man who could evoke great emotion from people. He made us laugh, obviously. But he could also make us cry. He could make us think. He could inspire us. And in his tragic death, he may have stumbled on to a way to inspire us one last time. published a story about how William’s death has inspired a “coming out,” i.e. a dialogue about depression and suicide. Despite the horrific way it came about, that’s a great thing. The more we talk about something, the more aware we are. And with that awareness can come knowledge. And knowledge can pave the way for change. Specifically, change the way this country, and the world, see mental illness.

But at the very least, I hope Williams’ death inspires people to be a little nicer to one another over the next couple of weeks. Whether it’s an acquaintance, a coworker, or just a random joe on the street. Because you never know what someone’s going through. You never know who’s floating along on that same “sea of pain”

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Blatant Insubordination: Podcasts, Snooki, and Noise

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

I like podcasts a lot, and find myself listening to them as often as I can. I think they appeal to my secret desire to be a radio personality of some sort, and “perform” on the air. For awhile, I actually considered doing one here at PI. And hey, never say never.

But it’s a hell of a lot less likely now.

My favorite resource for podcasts is Steve Austin, Chris Jericho, and Jim Ross all host shows there, and there are a lot of other cool broadcasts like Man School, the Ask Women Podcast, among others. But this week, they added a new podcaster to their roster: Nicole “Snooki” Polizzi of Jersey Shore fame. Polizzi will host The Snooki Podcast – Naturally Nicole with “off-the-cuff commentary that most people would only dare to say in their heads.” Ah, yes. Cultural commentary from a girl who’s claim to fame is being a dimwit on an MTV reality show. Why don’t we just give Steve-o a podcast? Or has he had one already? Wouldn’t surprise me…

Perhaps I’m being too hard on good ol’ Snooki. In truth, my complaints aren’t really directed at her. It’s at the entire landscape of podcasting. Having a microphone or a camera to talk into doesn’t make your opinion relevant. It doesn’t make you a “cultural commentator.” It makes you someone with an outlet from which you can provide compelling commentary, or say something relevant, intriguing, and thought-provoking. In a way, it’s the same principle you find in stand-up comedy. You’re not funny just because you’re talking into a microphone.

This is the problem that arises when everybody has a podcast. The market becomes oversaturated, and suddenly a podcast is no longer special or cool. It’s just more noise. Noise that makes it harder for listeners to discover the voices of the broadcasters who are actually saying interesting things.

As someone who writes things on the internet, this is a disconcerting notion for me, as it obviously translates to what I do. How many people out there write about comics, movies, TV shows, pro wrestling, etc? So how does one know they’re not just adding to the noise? It’s hard to say.

What keeps my conscious fairly clear is that most of what I write here comes from a place of passion, heart, and in the end, humility. Primary Ignition is made up mostly of my opinions, which I aim to make as informed and entertaining as possible. It all comes from what I feel to be a good place, as opposed to one of self-glorification, or saying things just for the sake of saying something. I’m writing about things I love. There’s an undeniably purity in that, no matter what your subject matter is.

So is it passion and truth of heart that separates quality and genuity from the noise? Maybe it depends on what people are looking for. I just know I’m not willing to talk into a microphone quite yet. I’ll stick to my proverbial pen for now. But one thing’s for sure: If Snooki has a podcast, then every damn broadcaster in America had better step up their game…

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Blatant Insubordination: Sexiness and the Female Body

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

I think Lena Dunham is sexier than Naya Rivera.

I didn’t know that until just now. I’d never thought to compare the two, and you can’t blame me for that. Dunham produces and stars in Girls on HBO, while Rivera acts on Fox’s Glee. Their work appeals to pretty different demos.

Now, let me make one thing perfectly clear: I am not saying Naya Rivera is unattractive. She’s pretty, a talented performer, etc. Additionally, I’m not saying that skinny women are, by nature, unattractive. I’m just saying, put Lena Dunham and Naya Rivera next to one another, and I’ll go for Lena every time. And I think a lot of women would be surprised at how many men share my opinion.

I’ve been lucky enough to amass a decent amount of female friends and co-workers in recent years. It’s funny how much women will actually tell you when you’re engaged and off the market. It’s like they become double agents, and start telling you all the little team secrets you never knew about when you were on the playing field. One of the things I hear about is body image issues. “I look fat.” “I’ve got to be [however many] pounds by [insert given date].” “He’s only attracted to skinny girls.”

These and numerous other little venting sessions popped into my mind the other night when Glee aired its 100th episode, and I noticed how friggin’ skinny Naya Rivera has gotten. Her character, Santana, is usually portrayed as the show’s sexiest girl. Case in  point, this particular episode saw she and two other girls cover Britney Spears’ “Toxic” while dressed as naughty school girls. And then I got to thinking about my female friends, and about how many young girls watch shows like Glee. Mind you, Glee is just an example I’m using. The majority of the younger actresses and performers in Hollywood are friggin’ twigs.

Is this a new development? Of course not. People were talking about this kind of thing when I was a kid, and probably long before that. It’s just the way the world works at the moment. The only difference is my personal perspective has changed. At the risk of sounding too hokey or clichéd, it kind of breaks my heart.

I certainly don’t speak for all men. God knows I wouldn’t wish my perspective on the gender at large. But I do think I speak for some men. And I think that some men would like to let some women know that society, the media, the machine, or whatever you want to call it has created a gross misunderstanding about what we think sexy is. Let me tell you about it…

At the end of the day, sexiness really isn’t about how fat or skinny you are, how tan or pale you are, how blonde or brunette you are, or anything along those lines. Certain details might add to the overall presentation depending on the man. But at the end of the day, sexiness is all about one thing: Confidence. And where does confidence come from? It’s from you being happy with yourself, and proud of who and what you are. With that confidence comes a certain honesty and genuity. You learn not to be afraid to be yourself, warts and all.

I can’t even tell you how many times I day I see women wearing too much make up, hair that’s needlessly overdone, or clothes they’re obviously not comfortable in, all for the sake of looking like the machine says women should look. In effect, these women are wearing costumes, complete with clown make up. There are times when I see these women and I just want to grab them by the shoulders and shake them out it. “It’s not real, Daisy Mae! It’s all a big lie! They’re trying to sell you lipstick!!!”

What I admire about Lena Dunham is that there’s a certain honesty to her image. She looks like a human being, as opposed to what the world seems to want human beings to look like. And hey, I like that she gets naked on the show. God forbid we see a woman in popular media who doesn’t appear to have been airbrushed halfway out of existence. Lena Dunham is a person. And when you get past all the dress up games and flirty foreplay, that’s what men (or at least some men) really want to connect with: Another person.

Maybe it’s just a matter of getting older and being able to see past the world’s smoke and mirrors. God forbid I ever have to raise a daughter and explain all this to her. Little Katniss Skywalker Siebert is going to be mighty confused…

I think what I’m really trying to say is: Ladies, eat some cake. Skip a work out. Forget the damn eye shadow for a day. Because when it’s all said and done, none of that matters. So leave the costume behind, and just be yourself.

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Blatant Insubordination: Thoughts From the Batman: Arkham Knight Trailer


By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

Batman: Arkham City was one of those rare things in life that actually lived up to the hype. It turned out to be as good, if not better, than what most of us envisioned. And the ending, by God the ending…

The death of the Joker, inside the very theater young Bruce Wayne attended with his parents on the night of their murder. The Joker stabs Batman, causing him to drop the very antidote The Joker needs to survive his Titan poisoning. It was masterfully written in a way that almost invokes The Killing Joke

Batman: “Do you want to know something funny? Even after everything you’ve done, I would have saved you.”
Joker: “(laughs, then begins to cough) “Actually, that is…(coughs, and begins to choke)…pretty funny.”

The scene, which is masterfully performed by Kevin Conroy and Mark Hamillends with The Joker passing away with a smile on his face. Batman then carries his body out of the theater in front of various onlookers, and refuses to answer Commissioner Gordon’s simple question of: “What happened?”

As if that weren’t enough of an ending, various Easter eggs indicated Harley Quinn was, in fact, pregnant with a child that is presumably The Joker’s. Throw in some cryptic comments from Azrael (“From the ashes of Arkham, fires will rage and Gotham will burn.”), and you’ve got a gaming experience that left fans wanting a hell of a lot more.

And now, more is finally here…

So…am I a total troll if I say I’m kind of disappointed?

From a visual standpoint, the trailer certainly looks fantastic, though we’re obviously not seeing gameplay footage. It’s definitely cool to see the Arkham incarnations of the Penguin, Two-Face, and a most certainly not pregnant Harley Quinn. Though the game supposedly takes place a year after City, so I suppose she could have had the baby and gotten on one of those celebrity weight-loss programs. That’s obviously the Scarecrow’s voice at the beginning, what with all the “darkest fears” talk. Also, Thomas Wayne’s line about how “I will not see you grow into the good man you will become,” suggests he knew his life was about to come to an end when he wrote his will.

This is all interesting stuff. And if this were, say, the first chapter in the Arkham saga, this would be an awesome trailer. But here’s the thing…they ignored the most important stuff that happened at the end of Arkham City! Fans have been speculating for over two years about whether the Joker is actually dead, and the trailer doesn’t even reference it! No cuts to a Joker card stained with blood, no hints at the uncertainty about where the body ended up (see Harley Quinn’s Revenge), no word about any Joker demon spawn, nothing!

By the time the trailer wrapped, my response, in essence, was that I’d just seen a bunch of cool Batman stuff. But unlike the trailers for Arkham Asylum and Arkham City, it didn’t leave me salivating for the adventure to come. I think that’s what fans have come to expect from the Arkham series. So at the end of the day, what I’ve seen so far has left me feeling pretty flat, and not nearly as interested as I could/should be.

Now, needless to say, all is not lost. We don’t even know when the game is hitting shelves yet (Though presumably it’ll be in the fall, right?). Reportedly, Kevin Conroy is indeed back as Batman. And this united group of supervillains waging war on city could indeed result in the “fires will rise and Gotham will burn” scenario that Azrael mentioned in Arkham City.

I’m certainly not naive enough to think The Joker won’t be around in Arkham Knight. For cryin’ out loud, the entire Arkham series is based on the rivalry between the Caped Crusader and the Clown Prince. He’s got to be there. I’m just disappointed they didn’t give us that great hook to pull us into what is supposedly the final chapter in the Arkham series…

The final chapter, huh? So what does that really mean? At the very least, I expect that this’ll be Rocksteady’s last trip to Gotham City. As great as their Batman games have been, I’ve got no problem with that. That company has nothing left to prove in this arena. They’ve created the definitive model upon which most future Batman games will likely be based. So let’s let somebody else take the wheel and see what happens.

I just hope this isn’t the last we see of the Arkham continuity. Between the various continuity questions and confusions raised by the New 52, and Christopher Nolan putting a definitive end to his Batman film series, the Arkham universe is probably my favorite canon at this point. It’s got enough pieces of the “Diniverse” (i.e. Paul Dini stuff) to make it feel like an extension of Batman: The Animated Series. But at the same time, it’s not afraid to do it’s own thing, and set itself apart. Perhaps I’m asking too much, but I say let’s not throw out the baby with the bath water when it comes time for the next Batman game. At the very least, it’ll ensure Kevin Conroy continues to provide the voice for Batman every couple of years.

Ah yes…voice actors. Let’s discuss The Joker for a moment, shall we?

Troy Baker did a fine job in Arkham Origins. The guy was in an extremely tough position having to follow Mark Hamill. He essentially had to impersonate Hamill’s Joker, as opposed to putting his own spin on the character. But to his credit, he did about as well as anyone could have hoped. And if it’s him that voices The Joker in Arkham Knight, I’ll be fine with that.

But what if…what if

Mark Hamill said he was done playing The Joker after Arkham City, and The Joker died in Arkham City, so it all worked out. But if The Joker ends up getting resurrected  in Arkham Knight

PLEASE, Mark? PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE????? Just one more time, and I’ll never bug you about it again! I promise! No, really! It’s for real this time! I’ll stop tweeting you! I’ll stop emailing you! I’ll stop calling your house! I’ll stop ringing your doorbell at four in the morning…

Pretty please?

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Blatant Insubordination: Star Wars Blu-Rays

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

It took more than two years, but I finally caved and got the Star Wars movies on Blu-ray his week. That’s right, folks. Rob Siebert has arrived in 2011. It’s just the original trilogy, mind you. I wasn’t about to spend more money on the prequels. But then again, it wasn’t my money that was spent anyway…

I copped out and got it as a birthday gift from my future mother-in-law, who I apparently freaked out when I noted I wanted the version with the various special features on it. In doing so, I was mainly looking to see the deleted content from the original trilogy, i.e. the famous Luke and Biggs scene from A New  Hope, the scene in Return of the Jedi where Luke assembles his lightsaber, etc. Of course, had I paid attention, I’d have noticed that content was only on the set with all six movies on it. Thus, to get the scrapped content from the original trilogy, you had to buy the prequels. Oh, George… (I can say that, because the Blu-rays were released before the Disney buy out.) Thankfully for both my poor mother-in-law and myself, you can find a lot of that content on YouTube, and various other cultural dumpsters on the internet.

So why did I wait so long? Anger and stubbornness, I suppose. Having seen movies like Jedi Junkies and The People vs. George Lucas, I told myself I would never be one of those fans who breaks into a sprint for the latest George Lucas table scraps. Until this week, the most recent versions of the original movies I owned were the original DVD releases from 2004. Oddly enough, those were a gift too.

When I finally got over my “prequel denial,” and it hit me just what George Lucas had done to his creation with those movies, I resolved to pour as little money as possible into the Star Wars machine, despite my love for the originals. They could have everyone else’s hard-earned cash, but no more of mine. No more action figures, no more DVDs, no more novels, I even swore off the comic books for a while. And of course, I freaked when I found out George had sold Star Wars to Disney.

It was all foolish, of course. To an extent, in my quest to move away from the Jedi Junkies crowd, I had actually jumped toward the other end of the spectrum: The “George Lucas raped my childhood” crowd. Star Wars and rape really don’t belong in the same conversation topic, no matter how funny that one episode of South Park was…

So here I am, on a Friday afternoon, watching A New Hope on Blu-ray. So what’s the experience like? It’s the same as always, really. It’s still the same movie I’ve seen hundreds of times, and can recite pretty much verbatim. Everything looks very crisp and clear, of course. The desert stuff in particular looks great. But as my buddies can tell you, I’ve never been a high-definition freak. To me, a good presentation is a good presentation, regardless of whether you have all the digital whosis and the sound whatsis. The Three Stooges are funny in Disorder in the Court whether you’re watching it on Blu-ray, or a worn out old VHS.

But if that’s the case, why bother buying the Blu-rays at all? Why not just stick with the DVDs? My answer for that is…I don’t know. I guess part of me feels like I owe it to Star Wars for all the joy it’s given me over the years. As bitter as I still am over certain aspects of Star Wars, the original movies still makes me happy. There are still times where I rave about them to my fiance. We have yet to watch a Star Wars film together. But when we finally do, I’m sure I’ll talk over half of it, because I’ll be like a giddy 10-year-old again.

And in the end, 40 or 50 bucks every 10 years is a worthwhile price to keep your giddy 10-year-old self alive and well. Especially if it’s not even your money…

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Blatant Insubordination: Wonder Woman and the World’s Finest

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

Yeesh, the stakes are just getting higher and higher for this Superman/Batman movie, aren’t they?

As you’ve likely heard by now, Gal Gadot has been added to 2015′s Superman/Batman movie as none other than Wonder Woman. Thus, this film will not only mark the character’s debut on the big screen, but it will be the first time DC’s “big three,” Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman, appear together on the big screen.

No pressure, right?

Did we mention this movie has to follow The Avengers: Age of Ultron. And of course, the whole point of this film is to give Warner Bros. and DC Entertainment their own equivalent to the Avengers film franchise.

Oh, and let’s not forget the casting of Ben Affleck as Batman pissed off legions of fickle fanboys, who are going to need a hefty amount of quality thrown their way to curb their Batfleck cynicism.

Jeez, We’re a year and a half out, and I’m already having anxiety attacks for the poor suckers involved with this flick.

While I certainly won’t complain about Wonder Woman making her long overdue film debut, I’m skeptical as to what her role will be in a movie that’s supposedly going to be centered around Superman and Batman. When the film was originally announced, I assumed we’d get the Nolan/Snyder take on the traditional Superman-meets-Batman story of the last 25 years. You know, the one where our heroes meet, and initially they don’t take to one another (which in this movie’s case I suspect will result in a big fight), but eventually the threat posed by the villain forces them to put aside their differences and work together. In the end, both realize there’s room for the other’s brand of justice in the world. Thus, a team for the ages is born.

Granted, I’m acting like I know what this film is about before we even have an official title. But where does Wonder Woman fit into that equation? I’m not saying she can’t. I’m just wondering how we fit her into a scenario like that?

In 2008′s Justice League: The New Frontier Special one-shot, Darwyn Cooke gave us a short story in which Superman and Batman collide during an era in which all other superheroes have been forced into retirement. Wonder Woman ultimately stops the battle, convincing the two heroes that in such a tumultuous era, they should be putting their differences aside and working together against injustice. Cooke gave us a great pair of lines toward the end of the story: “For an Amazon, there is no greater deed than overcoming anger and conflict with love. To bring these two great men together has buoyed my spirit.” Would that sort of sentiment ever fly in a modern superhero movie, where everyone wants stuff to be “dark” and such? Probably not. But it would be a great way to bring DC’s big three together on the big screen.

But of course, that in itself brings up all sorts of questions. How much time do we spend establishing who Wonder Woman is? How much of her backstory do we dive into? Remember, this movie also needs to establish who Batman is in the world, as well as who our villain is. And who is our villain anyway? Lex Luthor? Brainiac? Darkseid? What about Zod with his head turned backward? Is that a possibility?

What concerns me about Wonder Woman being added to the mix here is that we’re moving too quickly to get the elements in place for a Justice League movie, in an attempt to catch up with the Avengers franchise. Considering the quality of build-up we got for The Avengers, not to mention some of the bad mojo DC has garnered itself on the film side of things (the relative failure of Green Lantern and Superman Returns, the largely divided reaction to Man of Steel, the inability to get Christian Bale back, the Affleck factor), not to mention some of the bad karma the company has build up on the print side of things, and I’ve just got a really uneasy feeling about all of this.

Could this all still work? Hell yes it could. But as much as I hate to say it, I just don’t have the faith in DC that I do in Marvel these days. That’s true for both the print and cinematic ends of the spectrum…

Good luck, Wondie. We’re rootin’ for ya.

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Blatant Insubordination: Batfleck? Is That What We’re Calling Him Now?

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

So, seen any good memes lately?

Like a lot of fans, I was floored when I saw the news that Ben Affleck had been cast as Batman in 2015′s Superman/Batman film. We’d heard rumors about a half dozen other actors, including Ryan Gosling and Josh Brolin, but Affleck’s name wasn’t a mainstay in any of the conversations. If anything, Affleck’s name was likely brought up as a joke. He was, after all, the star of Fox’s underwhelming Daredevil film. And there was a time when Affleck was something of a Hollywood punch line, appearing in flop after flop after flop. Cinematic disasterpieces like Pearl HarborGigli, and Surviving Christmas. So it’s an incredible shock to see that Ben Affleck’s comeback has seen him not only win another Academy Award, but get one of the most iconic parts in American cinema. Even if you don’t like him, you’ve got to at least tip your hat to him. He’s risen from the ashes like a damn phoenix.

And yes, let’s all make the Matt Damon as Robin joke. Are people making Jennifer Garner/Catwoman jokes, too? Let’s throw one in just to be safe.

All jests aside, this announcement was met with more than it’s share of jeers from fans, which isn’t even remotely surprising. There’s even an online petition demanding the actor’s removal, with more than 36,000 signatures. Affleck’s history aside, whoever got the role was destined to be met with a mountain of skepticism, criticism, and even outrage. And who do we blame for that? Christian Bale, of course. His often over-the-top hoarse delivery aside, he’s established himself as the quintessential cinematic Batman of the 21st century. Between his look and his acting chops, he was everything you could want in a Batman actor. And he lived up to the hype. Heck, rumor has it he was being lined up for a $50 million payday to play the role one more time. How does any actor follow that kind of reception?

I know some are crying foul because Joseph Gordon-Levitt won’t ever get to suit up as the Dark Knight. The whole Nolanverse, as great as it was, is now essentially null and void from a continuity perspective. As a fan, that’s frustrating. We’ve heard all this talk about Warner Bros. using Man of Steel to launch a DC Comics cinematic universe, just as Marvel has done with its movies. But I think the majority of fans would tell you the Nolanverse was the ideal DC cinematic universe, and there’s not necessarily a need to create another one, because we had a perfectly good one already. Let’s also not forget that the Superman/Batman film is being co-written by David Goyer, who had a hand in writing all of Nolan’s Batman movies, as well as Man of Steel.

There is a caveat there, of course. Nolan and Goyer wrote themselves into a corner with The Dark Knight Rises. They inexplicably set the film eight years after The Dark Knight, and of course, they had Bruce Wayne retire. So if a Superman/Batman movie were to be set in the Nolanverse, we’d likely have to go to the trouble of pulling Bruce out of retirement, which might needlessly hold up the proceedings. Yes, Joseph Gordon-Levitt would have made a fine Batman. But from a marketing and publicity standpoint, it’s ideal to have Bruce Wayne in the cowl. Especially since this is the first time Superman and Batman will be together on the big screen.

So if we can’t have Christian Bale, then we need a new Batman. Ergo, Ben Affleck.

Let’s not kid ourselves, here. Ben Affleck is entirely capable of playing a superhero role. Daredevil had it’s share of issues, but I didn’t have any problems with Affleck’s suitability for the Matt Murdock role. He certainly didn’t look out of place in a dark superhero movie. But I think what has people up in arms about the Batman announcement is the question of whether Affleck has the acting chops to portray a character as haunted as Bruce Wayne. His Matt Murdock certainly had some of those qualities, but Batman takes brooding to a another level entirely. Even casual fans are expecting that kind of character. So Affleck may have his work cut out for him. And you’ve got to believe he knows that. I’m sure he’s well aware of what his reputation is among fanboys, and that he’s going to have to move mountains to win their approval.

And as if that weren’t enough, there’s a lot, a lot, a LOT of money riding on this thing. Man of Steel laid the foundation for a DC cinematic universe, and now it’s this movie’s job to actually get the damn thing going. Even moreso than Man of Steel, the success or failure of the Superman/Batman movie is going to make or break Warner Bros. and DC’s ability to get more movies off the ground. What’s more, it’ll have a tremendous impact on the global perception of their brand, and their ability to compete with Marvel. And that’s to say nothing of the sky-high fan expectations for the film overall. Ergo, Affleck is arguably in a more difficult position than any other new Batman actor has ever been. A disappointing performance here would result in the disappointment (and even the downright rage) of millions of fans, and the loss of BILLIONS of dollars in future superhero movie revenue. Yeesh. Talk about pressure…

But all hope is not lost. One thing that’s definitely worth noting is that these Batman movies tend to bring out certain sides of actors that we never knew existed. Michael Keaton seems to be the apropos example to make at this point. When he was chosen for the title role in Tim Burton’s Batman, a lot of fans either scratched their heads or cried foul. Remember, at that point he was best known for his role in comedic films like Mr. Mom and Beetlejuice. But of course, he turned out to be perfect for the role. Some fans still consider him to be the best cinematic Dark Knight of them all.

And then there’s Heath Ledger, who won a friggin’ Academy Award for his performance as the Joker. But when fans learned he’d been cast, there was no shortage of outrage. Newsarama actually just posted an article, title Public Service Reminder: How the Internet Reacted to Heath Ledger as Joker Casting. It’s a great read if you’re looking for some perspective on all of this.

Interestingly enough, it was reported awhile back that director Zack Snyder was meeting with Frank Miller to talk about this movie. And when the film was announced last month, a passage was read from The Dark Knight Returns. This has lead to the speculation that an older Batman will be gracing the screen in 2015. As of this writing, Henry Cavill is 30, and Ben Affleck is 41. I wouldn’t read too much into that at this point, as Affleck is certainly capable of playing younger. But it is worth noting.

So what else is there to say at this point? Eh, not much really. To our knowledge, they haven’t shot a single frame of footage yet. But we do know this team produced a pretty good Superman movie, and that Cavill has a solid footing in the role. We know David Goyer’s track record with comic book movies is good, Blade: Trinity notwithstanding. And we know that Affleck, regardess of what people say about him, is a good actor. So while the stakes are high, there are definitely circumstances leaning in his favor.

Sadly, the only thing we can do now is wait for 2015. Or at the very least, a trailer.

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Blatant Insubordination: “Villains Month” on a Budget

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

The hype continues to build for DC Comics’ “Villains Month” in September. To coincide with the start of DC’s latest event series, Forever Evil (which comes right on the heels of Trinity War), almost every monthly series will feature a one-shot story dedicated to a particular villain.

What’s more, certain titles dedicates to “legacy” characters, like Supergirl, Batgirl, Nightwing and Superboy will go on the shelf for a month. In their place, multiple issues of pillar books like Batman, SupermanGreen Lantern and Wonder Woman will come out multiple times, with different creators revolving in and out. For instance, Andy Kubert, Scott Snyder (with Ray Fawkes), Frank Tieri and Peter Tomasi will all write an issue of Batman during September.

Hey, we all love villains, don’t we? Personally, I’d like nothing more than to gobble up every issue. The problem is, like a lot of fanboys, I’m on a budget. And considering most of these issues will cost $3.99, Forever Evil isn’t exactly wallet-friendly.

But have no fear, ya’ll. I’m here to help. DC is publishing a total of 52 villain one-shots in September. At $3.99 apiece, that’s over $200. Based on the solicitations, I’ve narrowed it down to 10 most-likely-to-succeed issues. These are your best bets to get the right bang for your buck come September.

TITLE: Batman #23.1
AUTHOR: Andy Kubert
PENCILLER: Andy Clarke. Cover by Jason Fabok.
RELEASE DATE: September 4

It’s The Joker. For some of us, that’s reason enough.

The solit for this issue indicates this will be one of Mr. J’s early adventures, and will answer the question: “…what led him on this devious path of treachery?” I always cringe when DC goes down this path, as they tend to end up fixing something that’s not broken (see the smiling Red Hood Gang guy in Batman: Zero Year). But I’ve always enjoyed Andy Clarke’s work. His work on Batman & Robin was awesome, and I’ve been enjoying his recent work in Detective Comics. Andy Kubert, who by now is a renowned Batman artist, being in the writer’s chair piques my interest as well. We’ve definitely got some great talent on board. Let’s just hope the damn thing isn’t a train wreck.

TITLE: Superman #23.1
AUTHOR: Sholly Fisch
PENCILLER: Jeff Johnson. Cover by Aaron Kuder.
RELEASE DATE: September 4

If I’m not mistaken, this is the first New 52 appearance of Bizarro. At first glance, he looks interesting. I’m glad they went with the t-shirt look, as opposed to something like the armored look Superman sports now. The solit indicates Lex Luthor is involved in the creation of Bizarro, which I’m also interested to see.

For me, the real draw here is Sholly Fisch. During Grant Morrison’s run on Action Comics, there were months where Fisch’s backups were more interesting than the main story. Particularly when the content revolved around the Kents or Steel, he was able to inject a good amount of heart and intrigue into things. I’m looking for more of the same here, only with a more tragic twist, obviously.

TITLE: Batman #23.2
AUTHORS: Scott Snyder, Ray Fawkes
PENCILLERS: Jeremey Haun. Cover by Guillem March.
RELEASE DATE: September 11, 2013

I’m not in love with what Scott Snyder is doing with Zero Year, but I have enjoyed his work with The Riddler. I’ve talked before about how the backup story done by Snyder, James Tynion IV and Jock in Batman #— was the character’s best outing in years.

For this issue, we’ve got Ray Fawkes on board. Fawkes was recently put in the extremely unenviable position of having to fill in for Gail Simone on Batgirl, the results of which were rather uninspiring. But hopefully with Snyder’s guidance, and Jeremey Haun’s pencils, he can cook up something worthy of one of Batman’s oldest and greatest foes. The market is certainly wide open for the next great Riddler story. I’m hoping we’ll have it in our hands soon.

TITLE: Action Comics #23.3
AUTHOR: Charles Soule
PENCILLER: Raymund Bermudez. Cover by Aaron Kuder.
RELEASE DATE: September 17

I’m gambling a little bit on this one. I’m not overly familiar with Charles Soule or Raymond Bermudez. But my curiosity about New 52 Lex Luthor outweighs my skepticism in this instance.

Aside from Superman and the Men of Steel, and the first issue of Superman Unchained, I personally haven’t seen much of New 52 Luthor. While Lexcorp does exist in this continuity, obviously we’ve partially dropped Lex’s “evil businessman” persona, in favor of the more classic mad scientist approach. I’ve got no complaints in that respect, as he’s still the same brilliant, narcissistic S.O.B. we know and love. But I’m hoping this issue gives us some more cool insights as to just who this Lex Luthor is, and how he’s different from the one we knew in the old continuity.

TITLE: Green Lantern #23.3
AUTHOR: Charles Soule
PENCILLER: Alberto Ponticelli. Cover by Billy Tan.
RELEASED: September 18

Aside from Sinestro, none of Green Lantern’s villains came out of Geoff Johns’ decade-long run on Green Lantern looking better than Black Hand. In terms of single issues, 2009′s Green Lantern #43 was a masterpiece. It may not be fair to expect a similar quality from this new issue by Charles Soule and Alberto Ponticelli, a little wishful thinking doesn’t necessarily hurt, does it?

The solit indicates we’ll find out how William Hand returned from being a “pile of dust in the Dead Zone.” Thus, chances are we’ll be seeing some nice Blackest Night back-from-the-dead juju. And based on what I’ve seen of Alberto Ponticelli’s art, that should look damn fine. Here’s hoping we get a nice little DC Universe zombie fix for the foreseeable future.

TITLE: Wonder Woman #23.1
AUTHOR: John Ostrander
PENCILLER: Victor Ibanez Ramirez
RELEASE DATE: September 18

I’ve never been immensely intrigued by The Cheetah. From a distance she’s always seemed like something of an odd arch-nemesis for Wonder Woman. The Joker to her Batman, the Lex Luthor to her Superman, etc. But Justice League #13-14 shed some light on that rivalry for me. In the New 52 universe, their feud is very personal. Diana feels as though she’s let Barbara Minerva down by not being able to redeem her, and Barbara insists that deep down, mankind is really a savage race. To their credit, Geoff Johns and Tony Daniel cut to the core of their dynamic very well, and I’m hoping we get to explore that more here. We don’t have Johns in the writers chair. But as a John Ostrander fan, I’m looking forward to seeing what he does with the material.

TITLE: Aquaman #23.2
AUTHOR: Geoff Johns, Sterling Gates
PENCILLER: Geraldo Borges. Cover by Paul Pelletier.
RELEASE DATE: September 25

I really enjoyed what was done with Ocean Master in Justice League: Throne of Atlantis. (I’ll try and stay spoiler-free here.) The desperation we saw in him during that last issue, coupled with what ended up happening to him at the end was really intriguing. I loved the image of him trying to get what little water he could from that tap. And of course, the whole brotherly dynamic is interesting.

It’s nice to have Johns still at the helm for this issue, but it’s great to see Sterling Gates’ name too. The stuff he did with Supergirl a few years before the reboot was enjoyable. His short run on Hawk & Dove, and his current work on Justice League of America’s Vibe is also consistently decent. This isn’t the only title he and Johns are working on this month, and hopefully getting to work with a fresh set of characters will be a fun for both he and the readership.

TITLE: Batman #23.4
AUTHOR: Peter Tomasi
PENCILLER: Graham Nolan. Cover by Guillem March.
RELEASE DATE: September 24

I started reading comics in the’90s, so it’s exciting for me to see Graham Nolan, one of the perennial Batman artists of that era, attached to a Bat book. What’s more, he co-created the Bane character with Chuck Dixon and Doug Moench. Toss the usually stellar Peter Tomasi into the mix, and you’ve got a can’t-miss issue.

This is actually the only Tomasi book that’s on this list. But in truth, any issue he does deserves an honorable mention. It might not be PC to say, but I’ve actually enjoyed his Batman & Robin material more than I have most of the Snyder and Capullo Batman run. His work tends to have a nice soul to it, which tends to set it apart from the pack.

TITLE: Justice League #23.4
AUTHORS: Geoff Johns, Sterling Gates
PENCILLER: Manuel Garcia. Cover by Mikel Janin.
RELEASE DATE: September 24

When you look at the solits for Villains Month, the Secret Society’s name pops up constantly. “Now that the Secret Society’s done this…” and “This person’s a part of the Secret Society,” etc. So it’s clear that whatever happens at the end of Trinity War which leads to Forever Evil is Society-related. As such, this is likely an issue we’re going to want to pick up if we want to keep our fingers on the pulse of this company-wide crossover.

The use of The Outsider as the Society’s leader is a surprising choice. Oddly enough, the character was originally created in the ’60s as a temporary alter-ego for Alfred Pennyworth. Now he’s back in 2013, and I can only assume it’s not Alfred leading the Society. So…who is he?

TITLE: Justice League of America #7.4
AUTHORS: Geoff Johns, Sterling Gates
PENCILLER: Edgar Salazar. Cover by Tony Daniel.
RELEASE DATE: September 25, 2013

What’s curious about this issue is how it relates to what happened to Black Adam at the end of Johns and Gary Frank’s Shazam! story. Again, we’ll stay spoiler-free here. But I’m wondering how this issue is going to deal with that.

I haven’t had a chance to review Shazam! yet, but on the whole I was pretty happy with it. Now that the entire DCU has gotten a fresh start, it looks like the former Captain Marvel and his cohorts will get a chance to be as integrated into things as they’ve always deserved to be. A Shazam! series seems inevitable at this point. Here’s hoping this issue is just the next step in that direction.

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Blatant Insubordination: Suggestions for Dynamite’s Heroes Comic Book

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

For yours truly, one of the more intriguing announcements to come out of Comic-Con International: San Diego this year was the news of a new Heroes comic book from Dynamite Entertainment, written by Cullen Bunn. It’s been awhile since we’ve seen our old Heroes friends, but given what we saw from that show in its third and fourth seasons, I’d say that’s probably been for the best. We’ve had some time to get the bad aftertaste out of our mouths, and we’re probably all a bit more forgiving by now.

So what can you do with new Heroes stories? A lot, really. There are so many different characters and settings and powers, etc. But at this point, what Bunn doesn’t do is just as important as what he does. We spent two or three seasons sitting through bad Heroes. I think we’re due for some quality content. Does Cullen Bunn need my help to create quality content? Probably not. But just in case, I’ve got a few tips for him…

1. She’s Not Cheerleader Jesus
Hey, I get it. Hayden Panetierre is hot. It behooves any show to put the hot chick in the thick of things. In season one, the Claire Bennett character obviously played a macguffin role, with everybody trying to help her, save her, or figure out who the heck she was. And like most things in season one, it was intriguing and well done. But after that, all the emphasis on Claire got obnoxious. I get that the kid with healing powers is bound to play an important role. But I think the show might have overplayed their hand as far as how much of that character fans really wanted to see. The protective dynamic between she and her father was interesting for the first couple of seasons, but eventually I longed for those characters to evolve, which never really happened in a satisfying way. And remember when Claire had a lesbian roommate for pure smut appeal? Blech. I just hope I don’t find Claire’s storylines quite as cringeworthy this time around.

2. No More “Painting the Future”
Having Tim Sale (Batman: The Long Halloween, Superman: For All Seasons, Spider-Man: Blue) produce original art for Heroes was genius in terms of fanboy appeal. The Isaac Mendez character would “paint the future,” and using Sale’s art, the show would provide some ominous foreshadowing. Toward the end of the first season, Isaac was killed off. But the showrunners kept trying to shoehorn the painting power back into the series through various other characters. I understood the desire to to keep it in there, because it’s a pretty cool super power. But again, the show overplayed its hand. Better to quit while you’re ahead. If Bunn wants to incorporate the illustration power into his series, as a fan, I’d hope to see him use it in a different way. An example off the top of my head: A character who can somehow read someone’s mind through painting.

3. Disperse Powers with Care
Peter Petrelli and Sylar, two of the shows top-tier characters, had the ability to essentially “collect” abilities from other super powered characters. This wasn’t a problem from a get-go, but it became very confusing as the series went on, most notably with Peter Petrelli. As the seasons progressed, it became difficult to keep track of what his powers were, what he could and couldn’t do, etc. As he was probably one of the show’s top two big protagonists, that was a hefty problem. It was also one of the major problems with Sylar, though not necessarily as much. For some reason, Ando and Mohinder were also given powers at one point, which didn’t make much given their roles. If I were Bunn, I’d enforce a “no switching” rule for at least a few dozen issues.

4. Sylar is a Bad Guy
I’m pretty sick of seeing “redeemable villains” everywhere. You know: “There’s still good in him! We can save him!” Heroes went that way with Sylar in season three. Certain aspects of it were interesting, and I’m all for putting the character in interesting situations. But I’m done with wishy washy Sylar. When I open this series, I want good ol’ season one Sylar back. I want the sadistic, merciless, power-hungry villain who saws peoples skulls open to steal their powers. Whatever the story Bunn wants to tell is, lets raise the stakes by throwing this extremely combustible element in the mix. Having never read the Heroes graphic novels, I’m very interested to see how the character comes off without Zachary Quinto’s stone cold performances. So bring on the bad guy…

5. Let’s Not Get Too Crowded
One of the many elements that made the first season of Heroes so great was that we had all these separate characters and plot threads, which would intersect at various points, but were all set to converge in New York City. When we got to season two, some of the excitement was gone because a lot of the characters knew each other. That question of “what will happen when X meets Y” was gone. So if you’re in Cullen Bunn’s position, how do you make up for that? Can you make up for it? I’m not sure. But if I’m in Bunn’s position, I’m keeping the cast small in the early going. Supposedly, the emphasis in the first few issues will be on Claire, Sylar, and Hiro. I’d say that’s a good start. But I wouldn’t be overly anxious to bring the other characters in. Let’s let the anticipation set in a bit, so readers can wonder just what has become of Peter Petrelli, Matt Parkman, and the others.

One way or another, Heroes #1 is going to be a must-read. But what I’m even more interested to see is the way the series progresses through issues #2, #3, #4 and beyond. This book will definitely have some eyes on it, so let’s hope it proves to be worth looking at.

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