Tuesday, June 30, 2009

The Essential Simpsons

I think we all know that The Simpsons isn't as good as it used to be.

Sure, it still has it's moments, but for the most part the show is a shadow of what it once was. But man, when it was good, it was GOOOD. So good in fact it should be a required part of every geek's DVD collection.

Not the whole series of course, just these five seasons:

Season Five - The Golden Era Begins.

Because really, this is where all the good stuff starts. Seasons one and two are pretty not good as the creators really tried to get a handle on the characters, and while seasons three and four are better, they're still not quite The Simpsons (It's a good thing this was airing on Fox in the early 90s).

I just recently bought this season and I can't get over how relevant these episodes from 1993 still are (aside from a few technological advancements, like phone modems), from government bankruptcy and the right to bear arms, to the prissiness of today's college freshmen, these are episodes that could have come out last year and you'd have no idea. It's unreal! From Bart Gets an Elephant and Cape Feare to Deep Space Homer and $pringfield, season five is almost nonstop awesomeness.

The Best Episode - Homer Goes to College
Homer, after being shown to be totally under-qualified for his job, is forced to go back to school to earn his degree and ends up hanging out with a bunch of nerds. Also it's written by Conan O'Brien. Need I say more? Also they make fun of D&D and that makes me smile.

The Worst Episode - Lady Bouvier's Lover
Because a season is only as strong as their worst episode. Honestly I've just never been a fan of the Marge's mother episodes so this one always just drags for me. It still has some quality gags and a solid B-Story, but it was an A-story that would probably have been better served as a B-Story.

Season Six - The Best of The Best!

This is my favorite season. Shocker, I know. It contains the best Treehouse of Horror (The last one to feature rampant death and destruction too!), the first part of Who Shot Mr. Burns (the only two parter of the entire series!), the first (and only!) episode to be set in Shelbyville, and at least one iconic moment per episode. If you only had one season of The Simpsons, this should be it.

The Best Episode - Toss up.
Honestly, I'm sitting here looking at the list of episodes and I can't figure out which is the best. Lisa on Ice, Treehouse V, Itchy and Scratchy Land, Homer the Great, bart vs Australia, Lisa's Wedding, Lemon of Troy, and Who Shot Mr. Burns are all classics in their own right and I can't pick between them. Let's just say that if you randomly pick an episode from this season, chances are it's going to be awesome.

The Worst Episode - Grampa vs. Sexual Inadequacy
Looking at the list this was the one episode that I always forget about. It's not that it's all that bad, it's just kind of there. Kind of like a season four episode but obviously way better.

Season Seven - Life After The Peak

Season seven is a really solid season and is pretty fantastic, it's just not quite as good as the last one. It did a great job combining the crazy ideas that make The Simpsons great, while integrating the heart that keep the people coming back. It's probably the most introspective season for The Simpsons with the introduction of Homer's mom, Lisa becoming a vegetarian, and Bart dealing with really disappointing Marge.

Also, it should also be noted, this season contains Matt Groening's favorite line: "The goggles, they do nuthing" from 'Radioactive Man'.

The Best Episode - Lisa the Vegetarian
Lisa realizes that everything meat once had a face, and with some help from Apu and Paul McCartney, becomes a vegetarian. One of the few episodes that actually established new continuity for the rest of the series.

The Worst Episode - Treehouse of Horror VI
While Homer Cubed was interesting and had some great math jokes, this episode really signaled a change in how these episodes were done. From here on out they become less about blood, gore, and horror comedy and become more about sci-fi, and light horror parodies.

Season Eight - The Beginning of The End

And so the seams begin to show. Don't get me wrong, there are still essential episodes in this season and nothing that's outright bad, but you can tell some it's teetering on the edge of 'not-goodness'. Nothing exemplifies this like 'Homer's Enemy'.

'Homer's Enemy' is where many people think the show jumped the shark. In said episode, Homer is introduced to Frank Grimes, a new hire at the Nuclear Plant, who starts to point out how grossly unqualified Homer is at his job and how Homer lives a privileged and undeserved life. The argument is that Frank's character really shined a light on how unrealistic Homer's life is which hurt the credibility of the show. I, on the other hand, thought it was a pretty funny episode.

The Best Episode - You Only Move Twice
Homer gets a new job working for a Bond Villain, voiced by Albert Brooks, and it's totally awesome! Seriously Hank Scorpio was an inspired character and it's almost too bad that he hasn't been seen since (almost, because I would hate for him to get cheapened with further appearances)

The Worst Episode - Burns, Baby Burns
Where Mr. Burn's estranged son comes to town, fakes getting kidnapped, and ultimately leaves never to be spoken of again. Poor Rodney Dangerfield, he can't even get respect in The Simpsons...

Season Nine - Where It All Falls Apart

Season nine is a rough season. It has the only episode that will never be aired again (The City of New York vs. Homer Simpson), the last full season with Phil Hartman (he has one episode in season ten), and has more than it's share of clunker episodes. This was the season where the tone of The Simpsons really changed.

I remember watching these as they aired and 'The Principal and The Pauper was the first episode I actively disliked. In the years since, and a recent screening, I realized that my issue isn't so much with the idea that Principal Skinner is really Armin Tanzarian, but rather how they resolve everything. Instead of adding it to the continuity officially as with Lisa's Vegetarianism, Milhouse's parent's divorce, or Apu's Marriage, or casually ignoring it like Homer's trip to space or his time with the B-Sharps, the issue is resolved with a quick resetting of the status quo and an explicit banishment of it from cannon. It just felt cheap, easy, and started a long line of episodes that started pointing out they were resetting the status quo instead of casually doing it and not mentioning it again. Much like people's issue with "Homer's Enemy", my problem lies with them pointing out the inconsistencies of the series.

The Best Episode - The City of New York vs. Homer Simpson
Homer faces one of his greatest fears and heads to New York City where hilarity ensues. What can I say? I have a soft spot for episodes that are banned from airways for stupid reasons.

The Worst Episode - Das Bus
How could my 'Jump the Shark' episode not be the worst episode? Because while 'The Principal and The Pauper' may have a shaky premise and ending, at least it has a solid storyline and some funny jokes. Das Bus, on the other hand, follows the kids as they get stranded on a desert island. It feels like a very slap dash episode with an opening with no bearing on the rest of the show, a weak plot, and a sloppy ending (a VO by James Earl Jones). That said, Milhouse has never been more pathetically funny.

So there you go, the five seasons you ought to own to be a true geek. Plenty of great classic episodes to watch and love over and over again, with a smattering of terrible ones to give you something to complain about, everything a Geek wants.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Frog Man in Three Panels

J.M DeMatteis and Kerry Gammill show us the plight of a superhero with an appetite in Marvel Team Up # 131

Friday, June 26, 2009

The problem with Transformers

I'm taking a stand against Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen. This movie is, to me, everything that's wrong with movies today: It's a big, loud, partly-retarded mess of an event.

Don't get me wrong, I love my big dumb movies and I have no issue with great special effects, I just need something deeper there to make me care about it. The problem I see with Transformers is that they try so hard to have these huge mechanical beasts fight, without giving me a good reason to care about them.

It's all Michael Bay, really. He's the guy who wants to big visuals and huge exciting set pieces without the substance to make the audience care. He doesn't seem to get that those 'boring' scenes of character and story-telling just makes those badass scenes more badass, and the exciting scenes that much more exciting. The idea of giant robots fighting on screen is awesome, but give them a good reason to fight and I'm engaged on an entirely different, and better, level. I love those big awesome scenes as much as the next guy, but they always mean so much more, and are just that much more badass when the movie earns it and I don't think Transformers earns that badassery (yes that's a word, shut up.).

I could honestly care less about the little things like the "Sambots" (which are in bad taste), or Devastator's male parts, or the random uber-goofy, super-campy moments that are littered throughout the movie; I'm just that guy who cares about silly things like 'character' and 'story'. I want those big bad-ass things, I just want them to have the depth to really make them classic scenes, and not just some flash in the pan.

Because when it gets right down to it, those effects are going to show their age real quick and that spectacle will fade, and then all that'll be left to make it a classic will be those silly things like 'story' and 'characters'.

Transformers was always kind of a goofy premise, but there was a lot of heart to it that made it stand the test of time. If it was just the goofy premise, it would have gone down in the annuls of history like the Stretchoids, Silver Hawks, or Tiger Sharks. Who? What? Yeah, exactly. Transformers had the staying power because of it had something that affected all us kids in a deeper way and made it a part of our being. And that's exactly what the new movie is missing: heart.

Sigh. I just want future generations to know why the Transformers are so cool, and the movies to live up to the legacy the franchise has.

At least they haven't fucked up GI Joe yet...



In case you missed it...

The long rumored, heavily subtextual, more-than-just-friends relationship between Rictor and Shatterstar was finally made cannon by Peter David in this week's X-Factor. It's probably the best character development ol'Shatty's seen in years.

Good for them, and just in time for Pride Weekend too!

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Your Monthly Dose of Throg

Just a reminder why Throg is the coolest frog-based character in the Marvel Universe. Take that Frog Man!

Bonus Awesome:

Check out the sale at Joey Weiser's site. You can get a sweet looking original sketch of my main frog there.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Nomad in Three Panels

See, I told you he was the crazy one.

Mark Gruenwald and Paul Neary just reinforce my point in Captain America # 307

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

An Ode To Rhino

Alas, poor Rhino

He can't seem to beat Spider-Man.

If only he could fight someone a little less experienced, like the 90s Green Goblin!

Alas, poor Rhino.

Maybe he should just stay on the ground.

If only he could fight someone a little less airborne, like Gravity!

Alas, poor Rhino.

Maybe he should think before rushing in head first.

If only he was a little smarter, then he'd know what to do.

Alas, poor Rhino.

Now you know how futile it all is.

Alas poor Rhino.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Casting Call - Star Wars: Arrested Development

I love Star Wars.

I love Arrested Development.

So what would happen if both properties got really drunk, had a night of wild passionate sex, and had a horrible illegitimate child?

Now the story of a jedi order who lost everything and the one hope who had no choice but to get them all together. It's the Return... Of the Jedi.

George Michael Bluth as Luke
Like duh, right? It's totally obvious: George Michael is the new hope of the Bluth family, which makes him perfect to be the new hope of the jedi order.

Maebe Funke as Leia
And of course, if George Michael is Luke, then Maebe has to be Leia. She's a crafty smooth talker who has that bit of that creepy forbidden love affair with George Michael, just like Leia did with Luke.

Gob Bluth as Han.
Who better to be the overly confident, not-as-smart-as-he-thinks-he-is, part-time scoundrel than Gob Bluth? I mean, the Falcon already has a segway ramp, what more do you need? Come on! I could see him taking on whatever job to pay the bills, from buying pot for George Michael to running spice for Jabba. All he needs is a good co-pilot to keep him flying straight.

Michael Bluth as Chewbacca
While Gob is busy putting on the show for everyone, Michael is the one making sure everything works out the way it should, just like Chewie does for Han. And really, for all the good that Michael's speeches do, he might as well be speaking in a series of grunts and growls.

Franklin as Lando
A Part time ladies man who used to work with Han? Come ON, it's gotta be Franklin.

George Bluth Sr as Obi Wan
The father figure of the bunch, bullying and berating his kids to make them the screwed up adults they are. Just like how Obi Wan treated Anakin. It's a wonder Luke didn't end up all messed up.

Buster Bluth as Vader
An ignored family member with some severe attachment issues, Buster Bluth is practically a Xerox copy of ol' Anakin. You know, if Anakin wore glasses, had a degree in Agrarian Economics, and still lived with him mother. Well, at least they're both missing a hand...

Lucile Bluth as Emperor Palpatine
The mastermind behind it all, pulling all the strings. She has Buster wrapped around her little finger, but since he's been all mopey since losing his hand, she's been on the look out for a new 'boy'. Sure puts a new spin on the idea of Mother-Boy doesn't it?

Steve Holt as Boba Fett
Because BOBA FETT! That's why.

It totally writes it self! Now if only Fox could get the rights to do it from Lucas, convince Mitch Hurwitz and the cast to come do it, and if Hell froze over, we'd be in business. In the meantime I'll be dreaming of scenes like this:

Huge props to my beautiful girlfriend Katrina, my slightly less beautiful friend Benj, and my funny, but down right ugly buddy Roy for helping me with this idea

Friday, June 19, 2009

When Galactus Rolls...

Galactus rolls in style

Galactus brings out the sweet ride only for Gerry Conway and John Buscema in Thor 226

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Comics I want to like: Fused

Fused was a collection of miniseries that came out a few years ago by Steve Niles and a plethora of artists about a man trapped inside a robot exo-suit which should be way cooler than it actually is.

I love robots, and I love big crazy ideas, but sadly Fused gets dropped in my category of 'Things I want to like'.

The book starts slow, dealing with Mark, the affect his predicament has on his marriage, and, you know, him throwing up his own guts, until kicking it up a notch by introducing the villain of the piece: A genetically engineered Cro-Magnum super genius Cro-Mag.

So, of course, with Cro-Mag causing problems, it's put to Mark to take down the prehistoric genius in a battle consisting of flying brains outfitted with guns, bigger robots, and one instance of poo-flinging.

Somehow though, it just doesn't work for me. For all the crazy ideas, they just never come together in a way to get me truly excited about what I'm reading. There's a severe lack of 'fun' throughout the pages and it really comes across.

Set in a world where the kinds of science you wish really existed, Fused doesn't seem to push the ideas of what makes a fun awesome series. and it's really too bad....

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Professional Fan Fiction

The solicitations for September came out yesterday and I was a bit perturbed by this:

Written by Howard Mackie & TOM DEFALCO
Penciled by TODD NAUCK
You've been asking for it...and now it's here: THE CLONE SAGA!!! Marvel's most controversial event of all time returns with a vengeance, presenting the Clone Saga as it was originally intended to be told! From the minds behind the crossover that changed comics forever and the artist that introduced Spider-Man to President Obama, it's six issues of twists and turns that will shock fans old and new alike! Be here as Peter Parker's worst nightmare begins again...now with an ending you have to see to believe!

Not to mention this a few months ago:

Pencils & Covers by TOM GRUMMETT
BE HERE FOR THE BEGINNING! Comics icon and New York Times bestselling writer Chris Claremont returns to his legendary run with X-MEN: FOREVER! The shockwaves after the death of Magneto are still reverberating all over the world. Attempting to heal the rift between man and mutant kind, Professor Xavier volunteers his X-Men to go on a mission to capture Magneto's sole remaining Acolyte, Fabien Cortez! But with Nick Fury--and the entire world--watching over their shoulders, the stakes have never been higher for Cyclops, Jean Grey, Wolverine, Nightcrawler, Gambit, Rogue, Kitty Pryde, Storm, Beast, and Professor X. With Tom Grummet bringing Claremont's vision to the page, this landmark series is packed with enough surprises and twists to shake the X-Men mythos to its very core!

What's next? Mark Waid doing Captain America as if Heroes Reborn never happened? The Fantastic Four the way it should be, with a crazy Reed, a sluty Sue, a scarred Ben, a skrull, an ex-con, and a Mini Dr Doom by Tom Defalco? Maybe bring back Roger Stern so he can needlessly re-explain the Hobgoblin. Oh wait, that already happened...

I totally get the desire to want to know what the original plans for these runs were (Personally I would love to read what Joe Kelly would have done with the X-Men had Magneto really tilted the world's axis back in 1998 and plunged everything into a new ice age) but I don't see the point of actually producing those works. It's fan wankery like this that is the cornerstone of fan fiction.

Fan Fiction is kind of a sore spot with me, I just don't see the point of it. My girlfriend has tried to justify fan fiction, and show me that it's not as bad as I think, but I still don't buy it. For every well written piece of fan fiction out there there are hundreds, if not thousands, of terrible terrible 'this is how it should have been done'/'this is how I'd fix everything' types of stories. And that's just how these books feel to me.

If you want to talk about what you wanted to do, do it in a book. If you want to execute some of those ideas, rework them into another book. Going back and producing new material for a by gone era just reeks of 'this is how it should have been done' should be left to the amateurs.

Besides, I wouldn't want new readers to have a well-thought out, cliff notes version of the clone saga. If they want to read about it, then god dammit, they'll have to read the whole confusing two-and-a-half years of it.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Wolverine, simplified

When people ask me about his origin, this is the story I'm going to start telling them.

Thanks to Fred Van Lente for making Wolverine simple again

Monday, June 15, 2009

The Sounds of Champions

My reactions as I read the sound effects in Champions Classic Vol 1:

I can hear it, totally. you know, if it was a paper wall and there was a wind machine behind it...

Yeah, all right, I'm still with you. I mean, it's more of a verb than an onemonepia, but whatever...

It's still not a onemonepia, but at least it's an action verb...

I... Uh....

Wait, what does that even mean...

That's not even a sound! What is going on!

The conclusion: Bill Mantlo and Tony Isabella either don't know what things sound like, or they hear things that we mere mortals can only imagine...

Friday, June 12, 2009

Sidekicks no more!

With the return of both the Original Bucky and now the Heroes Reborn Bucky, it got me thinking about how many stray Bucky's there are floating around in the Marvel U. There's enough that you could start a mean little super-team. Check it out:

James Buchanan: The Originator
James Buchanan, the man who defined the role, who was presumed dead for decades, and currently is Captain America. He's the perfect guy to whip all these imitators and late comers into shape.

Rick Jones: The Heartthrob
The slut of superhero sidekicks, Rick started out hanging with the Hulk, then moved on up to the Avengers, to Captain America, to Captain Marvel, to Rom, to Captain Marvel's Son, to currently being a Hulk like freak himself. Somehow while he was galavanting around with the heroes, Rick also found the time to carve out a decent niche for himself as a rockstar and the idol of millions. He seems like he'd be the face man of the group, able to smooze and charm information out of most lackies and the fighting skill to beat it out of the rest.

James Monroe: The Crazy One
Oh Jimmy, you never had an easy time. He was brainwashed in the 1950s to fight off the Red Menace (not the Tick Villain) only to be put on ice for a few years while they tried to de-program him. After he was dethawed (and still thought he was James Buchanan for a while) he inherited Steve Rogers old identity and became Nomad, the Biker with a Baby. Ironically he was gunned down by a brainwashed James Buchanan a few years ago, but really in the Marvel U that's the easiest thing to overcome. Just look at Steve Rogers...

Right.... Moving on...

Fred Davis: The Quiet One
He did his job so well, you didn't even know he existed. Fred was the first guy to take over the Bucky Mantle after James and Cap were presumed dead over the Atlantic. Later in life he was attacked and now hobbles around with a limp while working with the V-Battalion. Or at least he was in the late 40s. I'm sure he's still kicking around and would make a great strategist/mechanic for the team.

Lemar Hoskins: The BA Baracus
When the government updated Captain America for the 80s (read: replaced him with John Walker), they decided to update his sidekick too. Meet Lemar from the Bold Urban Commandos, who briefly took on the role of Bucky. That is until they realized that it was a racist term and promptly gave him a new identity. Currently known as Battlestar, he was last seen fighting on the Anti-Registration side of the Civil War and is probably residing in the 42 prison as we speak. Super strong, hardened by prison with a history of civil disobedience, he'd be the power house of the team, both in spiritually and physically.

Rikki Barnes: The Cute One
Damn you Rob Liefeld and the longevity of your characters! At least she's not covered in pouches and does more than just grimace.

Man, I want this book.

Toss in a brand new EXTREME Bucky (Like a new Winter Solider maybe), a gimmicky cover, and some flashy, but not anatomically correct artwork and you have yourself a nice little Ninties book. I could see that running for a good 25 issues in the heyday.

I'm going to start a letter-writing campaign!