A Note About This Week’s Chapter of Ten Years Gone: Pomp and Circumstance

Dear Reader,

On behalf of the creative talent behind Ten Years Gone: Pomp and Circumstance, I’d like to take a minute to explain this week’s installment. Brandon’s story of his high school days has been a verbose affair to say the least, even when paired with the amazing art of Mr. Ben Silberstein. So when Brandon and his editor Serena came to me with the idea of running a word free installment of the story, I panicked! What would Ten Years Gone be without it’s clever and nerdy turns of phrases?

But when they explained that this chapter would be dealing with September 11th, 2001, it all made sense.

And I hope it does for you as well.

 

– Shawn Abraham

The Chief, Eat Your Serial

New Serial Next Monday: Lost Hope

Starting next Monday, Eat Your Serial is proud to present it’s first ever science fiction epic: Lost Hope by By Christopher Schule and E.P. Grenier!

The end of Earth is near. The World Space Agency has sent two transports, the Stinson & Legacy, to continue life on other planets. Due to unforeseen problems, both transports have to return to Earth. Thirty Earth years have passed by the time the transports return, and they find a world they do not expect. This is a thrilling tale of suspense, action, and aerial/space dogfighting. Can Earth be saved?

Check back next Monday for the start of a brand new adventure!

The Top Five ‘WTF’ Bits About the DCnU

San Diego Comic-Con, the nerd Mecca, is in full effect. We at Eat Your Serial figured that there might be something to this whole “geeks culture” thing, so we’ve dispatched three of our staffers to… “pretend” that they’re a bunch of nerds and get in on the conversation. Yes… pretend…

Comics, as one of the most popular forms of serialized entertainment out there, are rife for discussion, dissection, and deliberation. Join Creative Director Brandon Melendez (B), President Shawn Abraham (S), and Senior Copy Editor Nick Newert (N) as they embark on a new serialized discussion on serials. Very meta.

The past couple of weeks have been all a flutter with nerd reactions from every corner of the internet about DC Comics recent announcement that they will be “re-launching” their entire line following the end of the “Flashpoint” event concluding late August (see DCnU).

Suffice it to say that the comic book nerd contingency here at Eat Your Serial was equally miffed about some—nay, many—of the aspects of the re-launch, and we have 5 points to discuss:

5: The 90’s Style Redesign

Brandon: OK, so I thought I was done with this kind of armored, everyone-looks-like-a-knight-skiing kind of costume design fifteen years ago. Why does every piece of cloth need detailing? Why does everything needs spikes or patches or chin straps or armory? Look at the new Superman design—let’s leave it be that they got rid of the super-red outer undies; why does superman need a metallic belt? Or knee pads for the matter? When would Superman every need kneepads? He doesn’t even ride a bike. If you look at the new Kid Flash—a character that might benefit from kneepads as a matter of caution—his new mask has an odd shaped cut in the top to show his hair. Only in trying to make it look edgy, the geniuses at the redesign department have effectively put a vagina on the top of Kid Flash’s head. Come to think of it, that sums up all the redesigns. ‘Nuff said.

Shawn: This is just the surface level of what I see as a symptomatic problem of this reboot. When talking about making things look like the 90s, a lot of the blame (or compliments… but really, blame) has to fall on Jim Lee. He has evolved from artist heartthrob of the 90s into a corporate powerhouse at DC today. This whole mess is being spearheaded by a brain trust that includes Lee, who while being an indisputably amazing artist, sucks at costume design. (See: The Huntress’ belly cut out and Wonder Woman’s jacket)

They’re taking iconic, easy to draw (for the kids. WON’T SOMEBODY THINK OF THE CHILDREN) costumes and overcomplicating them in an unnecessary and unattainable bid at realism and grittiness.

Oh, and Red Robin looks more like White Falcon. Amiright?

Nick: I have a theory about the 90’s quality to a number of the redesigns. Back in the 90’s, Marvel and Image were the place with the artists that were big at the time, the ones that were considered hip and edgy. DC just kind of used what they had and didn’t really seem to bother to try too hard in the art arms race. They didn’t necessarily have bad art, the even had some great art once in a great while (I will cut anyone who tries to besmirch Tony Harris’ work on Starman), but it never seemed to be too much of a priority for them in my opinion. Now they’re trying to make up for it.

They’re trying to make up for it with artists like Jim Lee, Rob Liefeld, Greg Capullo…wait a second…these guys were the guys that were big in the 90’s.  None of these guys are bad artists (ok, I’ll likely pick on Liefeld a bit, but let it be made clear that I don’t think he’s a bad person at all) but they’re just another sign of something I’ve almost always felt to be the case: they’re behind the curve.

4: The un-disabling of Oracle

Brandon: Granted, Alan Moore hates the story that he penned that was never intended to be in continuity that crippled Barbara Gordon and allowed her to become the infinitely more useful Oracle character, but uncrlippling a character that provided a point of diversity and power in a universe that is being rebranded in an effort to foster diversity is essentially retarded. The Oracle character is a million times more useful both in showing that heroism comes in all forms and facets. Allowing Barbara Gordon to walk again can’t even be likened to Professor X’s constant walking and unwalking and walking again because she was consistently in the wheel chair for over 20 years—a feat Professor X has never achieved. Barbara Gordon is infinitely more competent, sharp, and powerful as a go-to person for the entire DCU for information and technical support and communication than being a femme-robin-in-a-bat-suit will ever accomplish. ‘Nuff Said.

Shawn: This is much higher on my personal list. Oracle has proven herself to be an inspirational character to handicapped comic readers everywhere. But really, if anyone was going to be writing this, it might as well be Gail Simone, the author who has been synonymous with the character of Barbara Gordan for years, and who is all around awesome.  (Read her Secret Six! And her Deadpool!)

But the biggest affront here is the cancellation of the amazing, spectacular, uncanny, and every other Stan Lee adjective current Batgirl series written by Brian Q. Miller. I don’t want to drag this thing off topic, but check out the series – it is, in my humble but extremely correct opinion, the best book being published by DC comics today. It’s fun. It’s funny. It’s everything this reboot is trying very hard not to be.

Nick: I’m on the fence about the whole Barbara Gordon issue. While I think that, as Oracle, Barbara provides an incredibly powerful and positive role model for the differently abled. On the other hand, when looking at the number of heroes and villains who have overcome similar injuries through the use of comic book science and magic, her not walking is absolutely and utterly ridiculous. Just ask Cyborg. He looks to be at least three-quarters machine and he’s been around since before Barbara Gordon was shot.

I love the character of Barbara Gordon, especially in her Oracle guise, but she basically works for Batman, one of the wealthiest guys in the world who also has access to the most advanced gadgets in the world. There’s no reason he wouldn’t have found a way to help her walk again. Unless, y’know, he’s just a dick like that.

3: Renumbering Action Comics and Detective Comics

Nick: I’m going to keep this one simple: renumbering these books is dumb. It’s also disingenuous, because there is no way in hell that they aren’t going to revert Action Comics back to its original numbering when it hits issue #1,000.

Brandon: These books are the benchmark for the longevity for the entire industry. Action Comics number one is the most valuable item in the comic book realm. Both of these books would soon reach the 1000 issue mark—which for magazines that come out monthly is a hell of a feat. Renumbering these books is a slap in the face to the generations of creators and readers that have sustained the industry.  ’Nuff said.

Shawn: I couldn’t care less. Suck it nerds.

 

2: Continuity Favoritism- Batman and Green Lantern

Brandon: It’s been no secret that the steam behind the DCU the past few years has been Geoff John’s run on Green Lantern and Grant Morrison’s Batman franchise. These are incidentally the only books not touched by the reboot—mostly. There is the afore mentioned Batgirl/Oracle unchairing and some unknown change to Tim Drake but for the most part Batman’s history is the same and Green Lantern will proceed unscathed…though without the Death of Superman storyline it is not clear exactly how Coast City was destroyed which leads to the events making Kyle Rayner Green Lantern, Hal Jordan Parallex, or the entirety of Green Lantern Rebirth. That entire storyline hinges on Superman dying and returning. I don’t think they thought this through—cherry picking integrated universe continuity is only going to lead to another reboot. They should trash it all or just slowly retcon Marvel Style. ‘Nuff said.

Nick: First, to address Brandon’s points, I haven’t really heard one way or the other about what the status of the Death of Superman storyline is in the DcnU. Of course, if they’re really planning on de-aging Superman, well, I think that’s stupid, but I’d understand wanting to pretend the whole Death and Return of Superman thing didn’t happen. As to the meat of the charge though, continuity favoritism, I’m once again conflicted.

I’m going to completely admit to being a Grant Morrison fanboy. I could try and deny it, but that would be a total lie. I think his run on Batman is some of the strongest, if not the strongest, characterization of the character. He’s done some ingenius things in his run, such as the League of Batmen (then morphing the concept into Batman, Inc.) and introducing one of DC’s best new characters in years, Damian Wayne.

Whereas I’m a big Morrison fan, I couldn’t give a damn about Geoff Johns’ writing. I don’t think he’s a bad writer, mind you, I just don’t really find his work to be all that interesting. And that my might be my biggest problem with the reboot, because DC has more or less set Johns up to be the architect of the DcnU, and it just leaves me with a sense of indifference.

Shawn: I’m a huge fan of Geoff Johns. His take on the Green Lantern mythos, and his first run on the Flash from a few years back are some of the best comics DC has ever published. (With the exception of Batgirl – see # 4) But watching everything get thrown out the window except for things he’s written just stinks of the worst kind of favoritism. Don’t get me wrong, unlike Mr. Newert, I’m loving what Johns is doing. I’m glad they’re staying the course. But the whole thing just leaves a bad taste in my mouth. Oh, and speaking of Mr. Newert, forget Grant Morrison’s Batman – Scott Snyder has been delivering consistently since starting on Detective Comics (and continuing onto the superb Gates of Gotham”), he’s sticking around on the bat-books, showing that there is SOME justice in this world. (Even if that justice is predominantly white and male.)

1: The Rushed Nature of the Reboot Itself

Nick: Remember my theory about the 90’s feel about the redesign? I’ve got another theory as well.

Imagine it’s the first or second week of May. The weather is starting to turn absolutely beautiful. Jim Lee, Geoff Johns, and Dan Didio are sitting around on a deck somewhere doing some grilling. A couple hours pass and many drinks are had. Then, in a state of sloppy drunkeness someone throws out the idea of a reboot, I mean, it’s been a few years since they’ve tried to get the whole line of books onto the same page, why not do it now.

So, into the night they work, ideas scrawled out on cocktail napkins, incomprehensible diagrams smudged from spilled drink spread out all over the table, the occasional redesigned costume scribbled by Jim onto Geoff’s chest (they were REALLY drunk).

The next day, they sobered up, realized there were a couple of decent ideas here, and started to get to work on them.

Fast forward a couple of weeks to Memorial Day weekend. Dan, Geoff, and Jim are having another barbecue, talking about these ideas they’ve been working on when one of them comes to a sudden realization (I assume it was Jim, just because. When you right one of these things, you can assume it was one of the other guys): They’ve told absolutely no other person about this plan, assuming you don’t count Geoff’s blow-up doll that he’s name Hal Jordan.

That’s the impression that I’ve gotten about this whole reboot plan anyway.

Shawn: Exactly. The whole thing just seems like a huge mess that will only cause problems down the line. (For past examples, see: EVERY OTHER DC REBOOT EVER)

The idea of a reboot to make the whole line more accessible and palatable for new digital readers is not necessarily a bad one. But this reeks of bad execution. There are publicly stated goals that are left unaccomplished, like the edict to make the DC characters and the publishing line more diverse (FAILED), and then there is the feeling that large chunks of the creative staff were left entirely out of the loop.

Brandon: The entire operation of this Reboot seems to be, pardon the technical term, clusterfuck. According to the letter columns in DC’s own books the creators and/or editors were wholly unaware of these events—often teasing character developments or storylines that will simply never happen. This is a highly uncredible thing to do in a company where they just revivied the letter column. Creators seemed unaware of their reassignments and even leaked information seems to change on a minute to minute basis—probably because the writers and artists are pissed or their schedules don’t work that way or they don’t want certain characters. The whole thing is slap-dash and a lot of the planning probably suffered because they were trying to keep the re-launch a secret so Marvel would be caught off guard by the simultaneous day-and-date digital launch. They could have done one without doing the other, or they could have done digital renumbering while physical numbering stayed the same. A million things they could have done except this. Of course I hope it all works out for the best but I have my doubts…after all this is DCs 5th major line continuity mulligan. Why not go for the half dozen? Or the baker’s dozen. Never ‘nuff said.

 

All images copyright DC COMICS.

Child’s Play: Undying Love for Super Mario Bros 2

Super Mario CupcakesBooks, movies, music, video games – it’s all part of how we entertain ourselves.  Sometimes they overlap and get adapted from their original form into a different type of media.  Super Mario Bros is a classic form of this in the fact that it was not only a video game (a serialized one at that) but it was also a TV show.  That lovable plumber has been a part of our lives for 20 years, and my favorite part is actually the least popular choice.

From the time of my 4th birthday when I received my very first Nintendo Entertainment System (NES), to my 7th birthday when I got my Super-NES, to my 13th when I got my Nintendo 64, 16th Gamecube or 24th Wii, I could always count on Super Mario to come to my birthday party. My wife even had a super mushroom groom’s cake made for me at our wedding and Mario themed cakes and cupcakes at my grad school surprise party. My son’s room is decked out with 8-bit Mario wall decals. My Mario pedigree is official and thorough.

The deep veracity of Mario fandom is important because what I am about to say next will smack of blasphemy to many. I want to announce my undying love for the game so-called in America, Super Mario Bros. 2. Many consider SMB2 to be a blight on the series for a variety of reasons.

…But, Why?

A major reason for this is that SMB2 breaks with the format of the other games in the franchise.  Sure, it’s a side scrolling adventure game but, you don’t jump on the heads of enemies to kill them—in fact jumping on their heads allows you most often to ride them—but instead you lift vegetables from the earth or other objects/enemies and launch them at your prey. This game also does not occur in the Mushroom Kingdom, but rather in the ephemeral realm of Subcon (more about that later).

There is nary a Koopa to be found, and the adversary of concern is a frog named Wart—who is some kind of combination of Bowser and King Dedede from the Kirby games.  Also you choose from Mario, Luigi, Toad, and the Princess at the start of each level as a playable character. You are not saving the Princess — in fact, she is an actual playable character. She isn’t in another castle, she isn’t being held in anyone’s thrall, or baking any cakes—she’s getting her hands dirty for the first time in the series.

The History of Super Mario Bros 2

The most influential reason that people tend to discount this game from the series, however, is that it isn’t actually a Super Mario game. In Japan the game was initially released as a title called Doki Doki Panic. It had nothing to do with Mario at all. However, the Japanese Super Mario Bros. 2 was insanely difficult. So difficult that Nintendo decided that stupid Americans were too stupid to want to play it. So they switched some sprites and pixels and –bazinga—you’ve got Super Mario Bros 2 (USA). Years later Nintendo would re-release the games  as Super Mario Bros. USA and Super Mario Bros. The Lost Levels in Japan and the US respectively.

BUT! When I was five years old I didn’t know any of that. All I knew was the Princess could basically fly; not only useful but bad ass. Also I loved that the game was not like the original Mario Bros or Super Mario Bros (and later SMB3). It was different! Unique! And it fit in (for more theories on the importance of these three things read Ten Years Gone: Pomp and Circumstance). It had the familiar characters I loved in a new world, with new moves, new enemies, and new power-ups!

How awesome was that potion that sent you into the shadow world? How fun was the slot machine game for extra lives? The colors were vibrant, and the game made a real impact on the course of the franchise. Without SMB2 we wouldn’t have Shyguys, Bob-Ombs, Luigi’s crazy jump, mini-games, or Mario’s ability to lift and throw.

The music is fresh and different, the game play is solid, and the design (from maps, to sprites, to levels) are fun and engaging. The game is chocked full of secrets and cheats. To this day I time myself in trying to beat it in run through (my top time using cheats and warps is 35 minutes).  The game was even endorsed by the Super Mario Bros. Super Show cartoon.

I challenge anyone who player-hates on Super Mario Bros. 2 (or Super Mario USA) to play it through with a fresh set of calloused thumbs. It’s worth the play—if not to just find out where all those Mario-Sports extra characters come from!

5 Classic Books to Read with Kids

Father and son readingAs a soon-to-be father of two I’ve been thinking recently about the books that made a major impact on my childhood. These books had a style, imagination, characters, or story that made a profound impact on the twisting of my soul and the deranging of my mind.

Like most things induding movies, video games, and cartoons I plan on using books to relive my own childhood vicariously through my children while simultaneously nerdifying them.  Now, I’m not talking just Green Eggs and Ham here but also the chapter books and novels I can’t wait for my kids to become familiar with.

The Once and Future King by T.H. Whyte

To be fair, I didn’t really read this book until I was in my early twenties, and I wasn’t really aware of it until I saw Magneto reading it in his plastic prison or, at least, that’s what I thought at first. Turns out I was intimately familiar with the tale of King Arthur coming of age as the Wart in Sir Ector’s manor via the Disney movie The Sword in the Stone (incidentally also the name of the first section of the novel) which I certainly saw about ten gazillion times as a kid. As Arthur is mentored by the eccentric and backwards-in-time –living Merlyn he finds himself learning all the lessons a good king should learn via magical forays into the structures of the animal kingdom. As Arthur grows he becomes a king who tries to rule by the edict or Right Makes Might and not the opposite. Also, having been written in the 20th century, it is pretty close but far more accessible than Mallory’s Le Morte d’Arthur but lacking in none of the adventure and fantasy of the Arthurian Tradition.

The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster

What a terrible bore everything is! Poor Milo is completely underwhelmed by just about everything until one day he receives a box that contains a strange tollbooth that takes him into the Kingdom of Wisdom. Accompanied by the Watchdog Tock Milo travels through the warring cities of Dictionopolis and Digitopolis, the Doldrum caves and deals with a variety of other creatures all while searching for the Princesses Rhyme and Reason. Along the way Milo learns to appreciate the world with a sense of wonder and adventure by interacting with a variety of arts and sciences themed characters. This book has a specifically 1960s feel to it that is in many ways due the impact of Jules Feifer’s illustrations that has an iconic and classic feel to a story that isn’t actually based in any one place or time.

Dear Mr. Henshaw by Beverly Cleary

This book was introduced to me as part of the letter writing unit in elementary school, and to be honest, it didn’t make the life changing impact on me that the other books on this list did. Having recently completed by Masters of Arts in Childhood Education and Special Education however, I came into close contact with the book and flipped through and started remembering a great deal of things that are interesting about the book. First of all, it is entirely written in the form of correspondence—which makes it great for teaching letter writing—and also shows that letter writing is not only a great way to get in contact with people normally out of reach (such as authors or athletes, celebrities etc) but also as a way to express oneself. The main character Leigh learns to express himself in both letters and in a journal as a way of letting out all of the emotions he is having problems coping with as his parent’s marriage is falling apart. While I hope my kids don’t have to deal with that particular issue it is full of  many child appropriate lessons about broken families and self-expression and doesn’t have a “happy ending” in the way that other children’s books do.

The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein

This book is amazing. To be fair, Shel Silverstein is amazing though. It operates on levels that can be appropriate from kindergarten well into adulthood and handles with fantastic intricacy the importance of parenting, love, relationships, and growing up and growing old. The book is undeniably inspiring but also immensely sad in a way that makes adults nostalgic in the truest meaning of the word—you feel as if something has been lost to you—and for children can be both eye opening  and a point of wonder for them to take with them. The book leaves you both warm and sad but also hopefully and happy for the relationships that were true and positive in your life—the ones where you gave because you wanted to and not because you felt pressured to.

Green Eggs and Ham by Dr. Suess

What can I say about Green Eggs and Ham? It is a great book for beginning readers and the artwork and wordplay of Dr. Suess is bar none some of the most amazing stuff out there for kids. Also its fun to grow up and try to recite the whole book with your friends in various states of mind. Green Eggs and Ham? Buy it. Read it. Eat it.