Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Top Eleven: Bottom Eleven Of 2013

Is there really any better way to address the changing of a year than to completely fixate on everything that happened in the previous year?  Who cares what might come up in the following 31,536,000 seconds when we can stare back nostalgically like someone unaware of an oncoming bus heading towards them.

But hey, how are we going to manage to make the future better if we don't remember our regrets from the previous year?  It's why I'm doing my Top Eleven Bottom Eleven Of 2013, the things I covered in this blog that frustrated me, drove me nuts, or just infuriated me with either how hard it was to write about, how painful it was to watch, or just something that I really didn't want to do.

I hope my suffering was worth it.

But first, of course, we're going to cheat a little.

Monday, December 30, 2013

Let's Talk: Goodbyes

I know, I know, everybody is getting really antsy about when the next Mighty Max episode is going to be reviewed.  Everybody wants to know when they're going to deal with the underwater zombie threat.  Well, it is coming, but first there's something I wanted to address.

Before anybody asks, this isn't my saying "goodbye" to the blog or to anything like that.  Tomorrow (Tuesday) is my last day at my current job after five years of working there, and it's made me look back at how I've handled leaving jobs, leaving friends behind, and how, when it boils down to it, I've been a pretty terrible friend in the past.

Friday, December 27, 2013

Erik's Favorite Things: Shotgun Shuffle

I think I've established that I like webcomics.  With the newspaper comics page being as much a source of innovation as a dead cow stuffed in a car trunk, it takes creative individuals with unorthodox stories to really shake things up.

Well, that is unless you count the recent week where they had Doonesbury talk about rape in the military right next to Zits and Prince Valiant.

What I'm saying is that newspaper comics need help.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Erik Eats Cereal: Cocoa Puffs

The last time I wrote this article, I got to experience eating "Froot Loops" cereal for the first time.  Besides offending me on every possible level by their attempts to make "froot" a word that isn't supposed to make me think of something growing between a person's toes, it had an interesting touch of citrus buried under way too much sugar.

Now we're on to what I think must be the children's cereal opposite of "Froot Loops" in that it's balls, not rings, chocolate, not fruit, and grain is the first ingredient as opposed to sugar.  Plus, this bird mascot is much more insane than the calm, reasonable Toucan Sam.

It's Cocoa Puffs!

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Monday, December 23, 2013

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Erik Eats Cereal: Froot Loops

So apparently my having had limited exposure to bits of grain dipped in prodigious amounts of sugar is, as I believe the phrase was used, "a travesty."

As such, one of my early Christmas presents this year was a bag full of individual portions of a variety of cereals for me to try, consider, and eventually review.  I decided to try the first one today, and have since come to the conclusion that science has truly been able to create colors and flavors that one would never find in nature.

Let's begin with what I hope is the most colorful (otherwise I'd be struck blind) of the cereals, Kellogg's Froot Loops.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Ask Erik: Episode Forty-Five

I'm skipping the boiler plate opening with the three random questions because I'm out of ideas for questions the question this week almost brought on another Let's Talk article.  It's one that I think about often, especially now around the holidays.

To Erik: What makes you happy?

...this is going to get deep.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Review: Saints Row 4

I honestly can't imagine how they're going to do another sequel in the Saints Row series.  They've managed each time to keep stepping up the level of the threat the Saints crew faces, and while I wouldn't mind another game where you just try to take over a city and come up with some new ways of doing things, it's a bit hard to come back from the story set-up of this game.

But I'm getting ahead of myself.

This is my review of Saints Row 4.

Monday, December 16, 2013

The "M" Stands For Mighty Part Ten

There are a lot of cartoons that have been forgotten from the past twenty or so years.  Few people remember Attack of the Killer Tomatoes had a cartoon series.  As did Toxic Crusaders, Kid n' Play, Mother Goose & Grimm, and Fievel's American Tails.

Most of them deserve it.  Some not so much.  I mean, how did Yo, Yogi! ever miss out on a complete DVD run?

Has there ever been anything more 90s than THAT?

But, sadly, one that has been pretty much lost to the dustbin of time is Mighty Max, which is a shame because it's one of my favorite shows from that decade, which is why I'm up to the tenth episode in my weekly review period.

Oh, and in the spirit of December, we have zombies!

You know, back before they were cool.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Erik Overthinks Christmas Carols: Special Edition!

Since the start of December, I've been taking a moment each evening to examine a popular Christmas carol and overthink/nitpick the daylights out of it.

Anybody who's paying attention knows that yesterday I didn't.

That's because tonight, I'm focusing entirely on one of my least favorite carols of all time.

It drives me nuts on every level.  Characterization, grammar, consistency, tone...every time I hear it, I just want to invent a time machine, go back to when it was first penned down, and shake the author going "WHAT ARE YOU DOING?"

Let's break this song down verse by verse, shall we?  This is Winter Wonderland.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Let's Talk: Race and Riverdale

Every now and again, I see people refer to comics as "out of date."  Flipping through pages of a rich guy dressed like a flying rodent beating up poor people with mental problems apparently doesn't hold up as much now as it did back in the day, in their opinion.  They treat all comics as "silly stories," with nothing to draw people to them other than "POW BIFF WHAM!" and people in spandex with ridiculous body shapes.

This isn't exactly true.  You have stories such as Pedro & Me, where Judd Winick recounts his experience on The Real World with a roommate who was HIV positive.  You have Persepolis, a true story of a young woman's life growing up in Iran during and after the Islamic revolution.  There are plenty of comics that keep their finger on the pulse of the world and present it through words and imagery.

And then you have Archie comics.  For the most part, Archie and his crew have remained the same for years, just with updates in technology, slang, and occasionally an obscure or out of date look at what's going on in the world.

They'd try to touch on current "hot topics" such as giving Archie an "emo" look in one issue, or having Veronica travel the world to learn about new cultures (though I'll point out that Veronica didn't get her own book until the late 80s), but these were mixed in with issues of things like "Oh, yeah, it turns out Jughead's hat actually allows him to travel through time and he has a girlfriend in the 29th century which is why he doesn't care about any of the women in Riverdale.  Oh yeah, and he's a time cop."

We're going to save the discussion about the fact that his canon-established girlfriend is a descendant of Archie for another time (way too much subtext there) and move on.

My point is that the late 80s and early 90s were weird.

Wait, no, that's not my point.  My point is that for the longest time things didn't really change dramatically in Archie comics.  Especially not when it came to race.  You had characters who weren't white, but they tended to have a boyfriend or a girlfriend of their own race to become the "token ethnic couple."  Chuck Clayton has Nancy Woods, for example.

However, in the past few years, Archie Comics have really started to shake things up.  They introduced their first gay character, Kevin Keller, and let him get married to another man.  Oh, and after his husband was shot (seriously) he ran for office and became Senator Kevin Keller and tackled gun control.  Cheryl Blossom had to deal with the risk of breast cancer.  Miss Grundy, the long-suffering teacher of Archie and his friends, actually died of cancer.  Another storyline that's coming out now involves Archie Andrews and the zombie apocalypse.  No, seriously.

With a unique art style that doesn't match anything that's happened before, the living dead are unleashed upon Riverdale when Jughead's dog Hot Dog gets hit by a car (!) and dies (!!).

That's Sabrina the teenage witch, who uses her magic to bring Hot Dog back to life...but anyone who's seen Pet Sematary knows that it's never a good idea to do that, and soon Hot Dog bites Jughead, turning him into a zombie, and then Zombie Jughead gets unleashed upon the Riverdale High School Halloween Dance.

It's pretty awesome, and it's only two issues in.

But I'm also not here to talk about that, I'm here to talk about race, something that Archie has been dragging its feet over for a long, long time.  In 1992, Archie Comics decided to do a total revamp of the book Betty And Me to make it focus more on Betty.  It was decided she'd get a job as a reporter, have an insufferable boss, and (*gasp*) have a new friend who she'd feel romantically drawn to who also happened to be a co-worker (a college freshman who was working as a cameraman).  It was to give Betty the same romantic triangle business that fueled Archie for years. His name would be Dexter Howard.

Oh, and he'd be black.

I wasn't there, so I'm just going to quote Dwayne McDuffie here.  Remember, the name of the higher-up has been changed to Dr. Doom.

Darryl called Matt with the bad news.  Dr. Doom had literally thrown the issue at him.  He hated the stuff, wanting to know why Dexter was so much more accomplished than Archie.  "What is he, super-Negro?"

Dwayne goes on to point out that he isn't sure that's what was actually said.  He thinks his co-workers were trying to soften the blow by not repeating what was actually said.

Again, this was 1992.

Dexter was recolored to be white (not fooling anybody) and the writer was canned after two issues.

This isn't the last time something like that happened.  In 2008 (Two Thousand And Eight) a storyline was introduced where Cheryl Blossom dated a series of new male characters in a contest and readers could vote on who would become her new steady boyfriend.  One of them was Brandon, who in solicitations was clearly a black character.  However, in the book itself?

Um, his skin wasn't that light before...

Oh dear.

So where does that leave us?

Well, in 2010, Archie Comics broke a milestone:

That's Valerie from Josie and the Pussycats, a long-established character in Archie history.  And she's kissing Archie.  I haven't seen every Archie comics cover, but last I checked Archie had never kissed a black girl on the cover of a comic book.

Again, this is 2010.

It seems Archie comics were in a real hurry to make up for lost time, because not long after Archie's relationship with Valerie started they wound up publishing a "what if Archie married Valerie" that involved them having kids and growing old together, facing adult problems.  This was much in the vein of the previously done "what if Archie married Betty" and "what if Archie married Veronica" books.

But still, for this company to do something like that...well, it doesn't make up for Dexter, but it's a good start.  I think what surprises me is that it took his long to handle something like that.  The same year you have a long established character die and introduce your first in-canon gay character is the first time you spotlight an interracial kiss?

While I respect Archie Comics for being willing to take on such adult issues, I just regret it's taken this long for the All-American Guy to realize that the America he represented in his books was no longer the America everyone else lived in.

Maybe someday we'll get that truly momentous comic that will blow everybody's mind:

(Thanks to comicsalliance.com for that final image)

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Ask Erik: Episode Forty-Four

Here at Ask Erik we've spent a lot of time reading novels and comic books, playing video games, and watching television and movies in order to amass a deep vault of pop culture knowledge.  While constantly trying to still gather new information, it seems only prudent to share some of what we learned to help solve some of the world's greatest questions.

Holy cow, is there a chance we'll actually have a budget soon for the country?  How exactly do they replace a knee in the human body?  Why does China only have one time zone when it geographically covers four?

Once a week Erik tackles a question asked to him and tries to answer it in a method that handles the topic with the respect and attention it deserves.  Failing that, he'll at least try to make it funny so you don't regret the time spent reading it.

To Erik: Have Deathstroke The Punisher and Lady Shiva ever fought?   If so, who won?

Nope!  Well, that was quick.  Good thing, cause today has been pretty hectic.  I-

Who would win?

...curse you.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

The "M" Stands For Mighty Part Nine

In the 90s, I was spoiled for television options once cable became the big thing.  I can still remember when having just a few channels suddenly exploded into almost a hundred (yeah, I know, I'm old), but the number kept growing and growing as time moved on, and every possible thing you wanted to watch was on.  Old movies? Check.  Cartoons? Check.  Educational? Check.

However, one of the primary shows I reme-


...okay, just making sure we're actually doing this.

Mighty Max was awesome in the day, and I'm reminiscing, so join me for the ride.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Review: Frozen

In the 90s, I was spoiled for television options once cable became the big thing.  I can still remember when having just a few channels suddenly exploded into almost a hundred (yeah, I know, I'm old), but the number kept growing and growing as time moved on, and every possible thing you wanted to watch was on.  Old movies? Check.  Cartoons? Check.  Educational? Check.

However, one of the primary shows I reme- wait a minute.

Something feels off.  Hey, magic Internet voice, is something different?

Oh, we're doing this instead?  Okay, I can work with this.  Ladies and gentlemen, my review of Frozen.  Does it live up to the hype?  Will there be any massive spoilers?  ...well, I can promise a "not really" on the second question, anyway.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Erik's Favorite Things: Pacific Northwest Ballet's Nutcracker

Everybody has things that mean a lot to them.  It might be the book they've read a hundred times and can recite from memory, the movie that they know every bit of trivia about including who the replacement grip was during a scene shot in a hallway in a real office building, or a television show they always stop at when a rerun comes on because it fills them with a warm nostalgic glow.

Sometimes the source really is something as good as they remember, but sometimes the only thing that fuels that fondness is a blindness to the flaws something has as time progressed and a refusal to admit that something they find precious isn't the greatest thing ever invented.

You know, like Final Fantasy VII.

I'm just as guilty of it as other people, I'll admit.  But hey, this is my blog, so I'll talk about what I want to talk about (see: episode synopsis of Mighty Max episodes), and I'll let my readers decide if I'm right or if I'm just too lost in fond memories to see straight.

So let's look at something that's maybe a bit holiday related.  What have you got for me, magic Internet voice?


Thursday, December 5, 2013

Top Eleven Amendment: Christmas Songs

Just a brief post tonight, having just come back from seeing Rifftrax Live!

There's just something about hearing "Hooray for Sandy Claus" that really gets me in the holiday spirit.  That and realizing we don't need to wait for Martians to die from our viruses, we can just foil their plans with cheap toys from the dollar store.

Anyway, I need to amend my top eleven list, and I feel ashamed for having to do so.

Let's toss out the Chipmunk Christmas, because there's a song from my childhood I love even more that fills me with holiday glee.

"You're A Mean One, Mr. Grinch"

I mean, it's perfect.  It's Seussian in every possible positive meaning of the word I just made up, and it was sung by Tony The Tiger.

You're a mean one, Mr. GrrrrrrrINCH!
Oh, and for those who don't believe me about Spike Jones, just watch this without wanting to chew your own ears off:


Oh, and here's Cheech and Chong doing "Santa Claus And His Old Lady."

And now, tonight's Erik Overthinks Christmas Carols!

Tonight, we have "Little Saint Nick" by the Beach Boys, a song I actually like, but for years I didn't understand what was going on.  Santa drives a car?  Where it's snowy?  Quickly?  Or do the reindeer pull the car?  They do say "Run, run reindeer" repeatedly.  Are the reindeer trying to get out of the way of the car?

Some things just don't need a car song made about them.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Ask Erik: Episode Forty-Three

Here at Ask Erik we've spent a lot of time reading novels and comic books, playing video games, and watching television and movies in order to amass a deep vault of pop culture knowledge.  While constantly trying to still gather new information, it seems only prudent to share some of what we learned to help solve some of the world's greatest questions.

Are the new Amazon drones going to secretly gather data?  Is it really true that good behavior by people tends to indicate that there's going to soon be worse behavior by the same people?  That whole business about rubber cement growing up...was that true?

Once a week Erik tackles a question asked to him and tries to answer it in a method that handles the topic with the respect and attention it deserves.  Failing that, he'll at least try to make it funny so you don't regret the time spent reading it.

To Erik: What do you really think of Maine?

This is going to be a difficult question, because I have to find that perfect balance of being honest while managing to not offend people I know who might misinterpret what I say.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Top Eleven: Christmas Songs

I realize, having now opened a can of worms regarding my overthinking of Christmas carols, that I might be presenting myself as being slightly anti-X-mas.

I'm anything but.  Even though I might not fully be behind the religious significance of the holiday, I still appreciate the fact that most religions have a time during the coldest part of the year where people come together and simply bond and remember what's important in life.

And no, it isn't the newest video game system.

However, I take my Christmas music seriously.  I want to hurl something at the radio every time I hear Spike Jones and His City Slickers working with George Rock to perform "All I Want For Christmas Is My Two Front Teeth."  I'm convinced it might actually be one of the worst songs ever written.

But hey, the holidays are about being positive!  So let's break down my top eleven favorite songs to hear at Christmas.  I won't necessarily go into specific groups, unless appropriate.

There also won't be deep explanations for a lot of them, I just think they're great.

Monday, December 2, 2013

The "M" Stands For Mighty Part 8

Back in the early 90s, people were absolutely spoiled for entertainment on television.  You had the boom of stand-up comedy (which I think Comedy Central is still trying to beat the proverbial "dead horse" in the hopes the twitching of the body will be mistaken for life), sitcoms, dramas, teen dramas, evening soaps, game shows...it was a cornucopia of viewing goodness.

But the best part for the younger version of me was the cartoons, and no cartoon made me more excited to watch than Mighty Max.

Let's look at episode eight and get some actual character development from this show.