Strip Talk #29: We have lost our beloved king and so we mourn

We lost him. Somewhere in that unrelatable ethos of the beyond, Chadwick Boseman is forming that megawatt electric grin. He’s looking down on his legacy and seeing the millions that mourn him. He’s seeing the tributes and the outpouring of grief.

And he is smiling.

Somehow, in a moment where his star shot brightest and highest, we lost him.

Our king has been stricken and lost. He has ascended to a higher throne, a throne we cannot comprehend. But we dare to dream, that he — our erstwhile marvelous king — is in a better place. A place that we cannot imagine but one we know that he ascended to because that is what it is to know of a man so great and yet so plain in his demeanor and words. We just know that of him. We feel that of him when we mention his name.

Chadwick Boseman did not pass away because of cancer; no, he transitioned in greatness as a man prepossessed of a quiet nature and commanding presence. Opening to the world as a myriad of characters, Boseman caught the eye and the heart of many through his measured portrayal of King T’Challa in the awesome, inspiring bombastic Black Panther. He was T’Challa, in portrayal and visage. In spirit and in mercy. He invited us into Wakanda, where black people are technologically advanced and free. He made us feel as though we were his loyal subjects, at any moment just as prepared to throw up the Wakandian salute as die for his highness. That a man could inspire that in nearly three hours of screen time is a testament to his power.

But we lost him.

There will never be another T’Challa or Chadwick Boseman. As it should be. We do not deserve a star so bright, and we should not ever be so deserving of the essence of him ever again.

Lo, we lost him, but he will reign forever.

Lyndsey Hicks is editor-in-chief of Gaming Insurrection. She can be reached by email at lyndseyh[at]gaminginsurrection.com

Strip Talk #28: All hail the return of Keaton, king of the Batmen

The king has returned home to his throne. All is right in the world of DC.

It had better be because the best Batman is returning.

Michael Keaton has been announced to return in the Flash’s new movie as a different version of the Caped Crusader. This version, in line with his continuity as Bruce Wayne/Batman from our favorite Batman films, is an alternate universe version of Batman, different from Ben Affleck’s most recent version. While Affleck was decent as was Christian Bale, there is no one more deserving of a return to the tights and cowl as Keaton.

Keaton is the version of Batman that I know. Yes, I was around through ’80s syndication for the Adam West version of the ’60s, but Keaton is the big-screen version that I grew up with. He’s the model that made me fall in love with the Dark Knight. Not the comics, not the animated series in 1992. No, Keaton is the version that defined the duality of Bruce Wayne and Batman. Keaton held his own and managed to go toe-to-toe with scene mangler Jack Nicholson as the Joker, which is a feat unto itself. Keaton gave the quintessential performance that set the standard for how a brooding Bruce Wayne should be. He is the template that all later Batmen are created from. Despite there being almost 30 years since his last portrayal of the character, he is the gold standard.

I’m excited and looking forward to a DC movie for the first time in many years because Keaton is back and ready to do justice to Bruce Wayne once again. I’ve missed him and very much think no one else can compare.

All hail the king. I’m ready to dance with the devil under the pale moonlight once again.

Lyndsey Hicks is editor-in-chief of Gaming Insurrection. She can be reached by email at lyndseyh[at]gaminginsurrection.com

Strip Talk #27: My predictions for the future of the Marvel Cinematic Universe

Avengers: Endgame is out of theaters. Marvel actors have gone on to new projects and “the snappening” is now but a distant memory. There’s no more anticipation of the next dreadful thing from Thanos and whether our favorite superheroes are coming back to life. Now that the hubbub has died down, let’s take a realistic look at the future of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

We know that certain properties have been given solid release dates or at least have been announced. Various TV shows — WandaVision and Falcon and the Winter Soldier — have been announced as in development and coming to Disney+. Several movies including the highly anticipated Black Panther sequel and the Black Widow standalone film have been detailed with release dates as part of the upcoming phases. But, while we know projected dates, we don’t know much about the characters coming and the new villains. This is where the speculation begins.

My takes on the new phases, you ask?

1. I know who the Eternals are. They are the next big ensemble group coming up. My biggest worry is that no one will get them, and they will be compared to the previous Avengers even though they aren’t Avengers at all;

2. There will be a new set of Avengers. You saw this concept when Civil War hit with the training of new members such as Falcon and Scarlet Witch. Though Endgame went with Falcon as the new Captain America — bypassing the Winter Soldier’s time with the shield — Bucky will get his chance to wield the vibranium. Also, Captain Marvel will join and there will be another Iron Man or Iron Person, if they’re following the comics;

3. Steve Rogers will find a way to come back. Given that the character has been killed at least once in the comics and returned — after considerable backlash — there must be some form of Steve Rogers somehow. I give it a few years before they throw a boatload of cash at fan favorite Chris Evans to come back and reprise our favorite souped-up star-spangled patriot.

4. Black Panther 2 will make just as much money as the first movie, if not more. As a black comic book fan, I know I contributed about $200 of its initial run. I went to see it no less than five times and bought it on DVD. I don’t do that with most movies. Black Panther is the exception to that rule. I intend to contribute further to one of the best superhero origin stories I have ever seen. Buy black y’all;

5. The next big villain of the MCU will be Galactus. He is the only other overarching villain that I can think of that would threaten the Marvel universe on the cosmic scale. This, of course, would mean Silver Surfer would have to be introduced as well as the Fantastic Four. Given that the Fantastic Four’s reboot didn’t do so hot recently, it’s a longshot for them. But they’re needed to pull off Silver Surfer, kind of;

6. The X-Men will get pulled back to prominence. Now that Disney owns 20th Century Fox, guess who can come back to the Marvel universe and be done correctly? Our favorite mutants will enjoy the benefits of tight writing and smart casting. There will be abundant Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen to go around and origin stories will be wonderful and plentiful, filled with accuracy and correct mutant powers; and,

7. With the X-Men does come a powerful villainous duo, who have been featured in some of the versus games: Apocalypse and Onslaught. These two are powerful enough on a cosmic scale (beyond an Omega-level mutant) to wreak appropriate havoc and cause mass widespread destruction, much like Thanos did. It remains to be seen who will emerge from that core, but if the X-Men come so does Magneto, who you need to create Onslaught. Both characters are a menace, not just to the X-Men but to all the Marvel universe.

So, with my predictions cast, I’m watching any Marvel casting news to see if any of these come true immediately. For the long-term, we’ll just have to see how this goes and if Marvel follows the same pattern that it did with introducing Thanos in the first ensemble movie and then using subsequent character sequels to build up to his main plan.
If you can’t tell easily, I’m excited as a true believer.

Lyndsey Hicks is editor-in-chief of Gaming Insurrection. She can be reached by email at lyndseyh [at] gaminginsurrection.com

Strip Talk #26: The DC universe could learn some lessons from Marvel

The DC Universe is at a crossroads I guess you could say. While the Marvel Cinematic Universe has enjoyed unparalleled success, the DCU has all but died an ignominious death. Suicide Squad: flop. Batman vs. Superman: flop. Superman: flop. Justice League: flop. Aside from Wonder Woman, the Dark Knight trilogy and Aquaman, the DCU hasn’t been able to touch the prosperity of the MCU. There are reasons for this, but to keep this short, I’ll name just a few.

  1. The director carousel is too much. There are too many names involved in projects and there are too many of the same names popping up that shouldn’t. Brett Ratner. Seriously? Zak Penn? Joss Whedon? With the exception of Penn, all of these directors are problematic in their own right, and Ratner is an absolute joke who managed to somehow screw up X-Men: The Last Stand so terribly a whole new movie was done to counteract it.
  2. Despite having recognizable characters, DC doesn’t know what to do with them. Superman is the most obvious out of them all, mostly because they don’t seem to know how to write Clark Kent and Lois Lane. Batman is second given the number of different actors to play him. The Green Lantern should have been easy to write, but that flopped a decade ago and they haven’t returned to him since.
  3. Consistency isn’t in DC’s wheelhouse. All of their movies suffer from some type of inconsistency, whether it’s writing the overall plot or character motivation. DCU cannot seem to get it together when it comes to establishing and staying with a character over the course of more than one movie.

With the myriad issues surrounding the DC Universe, it’s a wonder there are films in the pipeline, but there are. Shazam is shaping up, there will be a sequel to Wonder Woman and Aquaman performed reasonably well to probably warrant a sequel as well. However, there have been other downturns: Henry Cavill is out as Superman as is Ben Affleck as Batman. Jared Leto’s Joker was panned but Joaquin Phoenix may be able to rescue the character.

I don’t know who needs to hear this, but I’m imploring the DC Universe loreholders to take notes on Marvel’s Phase Three and pay attention to how a comic book film should be done. It’s made Marvel buckets of money over the past 10 years. Obviously, someone over there has created the Super Soldier Serum of Movie Success and succeeded in perfecting it.

Lyndsey Hicks is editor-in-chief of Gaming Insurrection. She can be reached by email at lyndseyh@gaminginsurrection.com

Strip Talk #25: Black Panther film is needed, necessary now

Needed. Necessary. Now. Black Panther’s release was all of this and more in a time when melanated super heroes on the big screen are far and few in between.

Why was the ensemble tale so necessary? While little children can throw a stone in any direction and hit any number of white superheroes, the number of black superheroes is small. In mainstream comic book movies, at most there are: War Machine, Storm, Cyborg and Falcon. That’s it. That is, until T’Challa and his nation of advanced progress hit the scene.

The presence of the almost entirely black cast was sorely needed. The presence of a capable black director was needed. Seeing positive images of black folks was needed. Why? Because it’s about time that black folks were shown as human, beautiful, smart and good people. It’s long overdue, but the thrill of seeing a black man run his nation and do the right thing when given a choice never gets old.

And why now? Because for the positive side of black superheroes to do well in this climate, it was nothing short of genius and a miracle. Now is the time for the conversations surrounding representation and diversity, and Black Panther is the perfect vehicle. Now is the time for black folks to rise above negative stereotypes and look at how we are perceived, point to Black Panther — a fictional character aside — and say, “We are more than capable of bringing in box office dollars and, most importantly, we are human and here to stay. We have a seat at the table.”

Wakanda forever.

Lyndsey Hicks is editor-in-chief of Gaming Insurrection. She can be reached by email at lyndseyh@gaminginsurrection.com

Strip Talk #24: Get ready for the deluge of comic book movies

Lyndsey-2013-cutout-onlineThe deluge of comic book movies these days is like heaven-sent mana for a geek like myself. The sheer volume alone is overwhelming, and the majority of them happen to be good. I will properly confess that I wasn’t anticipating the quality of the majority, but it’s a welcome problem to have because it could always be worse.

If your name is Marvel, you have done extraordinarily well. Basically, everything they touch is gold. Captain America: Civil War was HUGE; we’re talking billions in box office receipts. Even the B-Team movies (i.e. the spinoffs) such as Ant Man and Guardians of the Galaxy have exceeded expectations and made buckets of money for the Marvel brand. So, we’re good here because just about everything about Phase III is going to translate into critical acclaim and financial windfall.

If your name is DC, you have some issues and we have concerns about you going forward. DC’s cinematic universe just can’t seem to get it right, whether it’s the poor characterization of Superman’s solo film, the tepid Batman vs. Superman or the silliness of Suicide Squad. It seems that DC is struggling to tell even the most basic stories about its legendary stable of heroes. Superman’s movies have been mostly miss since the ill-advised reboot attempt in 2006 with Superman Returns. Batman has been mostly good since the Christopher Nolan trilogy wrapped up with Dark Knight Rises, but there is yet another new face under the cowl — Ben Affleck — that’s going to have to carry major burdens. Suicide Squad has been hit or miss, with either enthusiastically great or horrible reviews. DC has got to get its act together if it’s serious about competing with the Marvel juggernaut in any way, shape or form.

If you’re not named either DC or Marvel and you’re producing a comic property, chances are you’re the X-Men or Wolverine. Fox handles the X-Men and it shows immediately that they’re not Marvel (despite being a Marvel property in ink). While First Class and Days of Future Past were wonderful and a great restoration of the X-Men name from the horrific days of Last Stand, the more recent Apocalypse nearly destroyed the goodwill that the franchise has managed to earn back. Poor pacing and character development of prominent X-Men such as Storm and Psylocke does not endear the series to anyone looking to see the merry band of mutants make a comeback. While Deadpool did extremely well for Fox, it’s hard to see where they’re going after this except for more X-Men/Wolverine and more Deadpool.

I’m all for the gaggle of movies expected to release in the next months to few years. By the time you read this, Doctor Strange and Thor: Ragnarok will have been released and we still have on the horizon Wonder Woman, Black Panther, Captain Marvel, Justice League, Avengers Infinity War, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, Shazam, The Flash, Aquaman, Justice League 2, Cyborg, Green Lantern Corps, Spider-Man: Homecoming, an Old Man Logan/Wolverine final movie, Ant Man and the Wasp, and several TV properties such as Luke Cage, and future seasons of Jessica Jones, Arrow, the Flash, Daredevil, Iron Fist, Cloak and Dagger and Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. If that doesn’t keep you busy and informed on comic adaptations, you’re missing quite a bit.

You can’t escape the prevalence of comic books in cinema, especially now that the mainstream public at large is invested in either Marvel or DC and second-tier characters like Groot are household names. You know you’ve jumped into mainstream consciousness when the bandwagon fans are sympathizing with the Winter Soldier without knowing his background and up-to-date biography. But it’s not really for the bandwagoneers, is it? It’s more for us, the comic book faithful who won’t turn down a movie about a superhero because, well, superheroes. I don’t know about you, but I’m about to be a little kid on Christmas morning once again.

Lyndsey Hicks is editor-in-chief of Gaming Insurrection. She can be reached by email at editor@gaminginsurrection.com

Anime Lounge #14: Death Note Ep. 1-6

Death Note-animeAnime-LoungeSeries: Death Note

Episodes: 1 to 6

Premise: A young man named Light Yagami is bored and incredibly gifted mentally. He’s looking for things to do outside of hacking the national police database and is preparing to go to law school for a career in criminal justice. One day, while in school, he happens to notice a strange book appear outside. He opens it and finds a shinigami, named Ryuk, that’s bound to follow the person who finds it. Light’s discovery and subsequent dealings with Ryuk and his Death Note begin the twisted tale of justice as a means to an end.

Is it worth watching?: YES. This is one of the best anime to be released in the past 20 years. It’s got everything you could want: Suspense, drama, several murder mysteries, a plot that makes you question life choices and characters to root for.

Breakout character: There are four: Light, Misa, Ryuk and L. Each of the four is central to the story and yet, all manage to steal the show in their own way.

Funniest episode: Episode 1, “Rebirth.” The opening episode finds Light interacting with Ryuk once he obtains the Death Note, which is hilarious for several reasons. Light doesn’t seem to be that enthralled with a death god near him and he immediately uses his powers of deduction and reasoning to come to several conclusions about the Death Note and its usage. Their interaction is always fun and serves to set up the way the rest of the series flows ultimately.

Where it’s going?: Light is in control for the first few episodes. He’s still learning the ropes with the Death Note and understanding how it works, and what kind of justice he can enact: Righteous or malicious. How Light continues to succeed in staying hidden and not getting caught is the name of the game going forward. It’s worth it to watch to see just how Light stays ahead of the game and avoids suspicion from the most talented investigator in the world, L.

Strip Talk #23: Animated Mario has wins, losses over the years

Lyndsey-2013-cutout-onlineCartoons, to me, fall in the same sphere as anime and comic books. If you tell a good story, I don’t care what medium you choose to tell it in. If it happens to be about something I love, chances are I’m even more for it. So it goes with Mario. I have loved the portly plumber since 1988, the first time I played Super Mario Bros. and died on the first goomba on the first level.
With that love of Mario cemented, I started looking for other avenues in which to pursue my affection. I found them in the only animated Mario show out at the time: The Super Mario Bros. Super Show.
Super Show was fantastic in the fact that Captain Lou Albano and Danny Wells really were Mario and Luigi for the live-action segments, and the animated portion of the show was really well done. Super Show got a lot of things Mario right, despite the combination of the then-unheard of Japanese version of Mario 2, Mario 2 USA and the first game. But, while I loved Super Show, the fever pitch in America for Super Mario Bros. 3 began and it was then that I truly fell in love with animated Mario.
The Adventures of Super Mario Bros. 3 is one of my favorite Nintendo-themed properties.
First of all, it was based on Super Mario Bros. 3, one of the greatest games ever made and one of the few The Adventures of Super Mario Bros. 3 games that lived up to the hype that preceded it. Second, the animation was great and really made you think about things from the perspective of the world Mario was in. Sure, I didn’t like the references to the real world because I associate Mario with fantasy and the Mushroom Kingdom, but I could kind of look past all of that so long as it didn’t happen that often. What Adventures did was take the concept of Mario the game to Mario the cash cow, meaning Mario was everywhere at this point. It didn’t hurt that McDonald’s had toys based on the game and TV show in their Happy Meals at this point, either.
After the hype of Adventures died down, though, there wasn’t much animated that I really cared for. Super Mario World’s cartoon didn’t do it for me and it didn’t seem to have the same magic that the previous cartoons captured from the games.
The brief cornucopia of Mario animated brilliance came to an end, and there haven’t been any replacements since. At least the game was fun while it lasted.

Lyndsey Hicks is editor-in-chief of Gaming Insurrection. She can be reached by email at lyndseyh@gaminginsurrection.com

Anime Lounge #13: Free!

Free -- Anime Lounge

Anime-LoungeSeries: Free!

Episodes: 1 to 12

Premise: Three friends — Haruka, Nagisa and Makoto — decide to begin a swim club after a fourth in their group, Rin, reappears in their lives after living abroad and rejects their offer to swim together again. The trio recruit another member, Rei, into their club and begin in earnest to resurrect their old swim club and try to make it to Nationals.

Is it worth watching?: Yes. It’s got competition and friendship, which is standard for most anime these days. Also, if you’re into that sort of thing, the animation used in the muscles in this swimming anime is expertly drawn.

Breakout character: Rin Matsuoka. Rin comes across as a pretty dark jerk, but he’s got his reasons for staying away from the group. He’s interesting and he’s written well because of the realistic way in which he comes back to his roots after a long absence. The struggle is there but the way he manages it makes it worthwhile to keep watching.

Funniest episode: Episode 4, “Captive Butterfly.” It’s all about teaching one of the club members to swim, which is kind of the point of having a swim club in the first place. We won’t reveal which member can’t swim, but the efforts to teach are what make the episode hilarious. Also, searching for the perfect swimsuit in the episode also end in hilarity.

Where it’s going?: The Iwatobi High Swim Club trains hard to make it to Nationals. Their efforts will not go in vain, we promise, and it remains to be seen if they can patch things up with their former friend Rin. How they go about reaching these two goals is the best and brightest part of acquainting yourself with Free!

Anime Lounge #12: Special A Ep. 1-12

Special-A-1-13

Anime-LoungeSeries: Special A

Episodes: 1 to 12

Premise: A group of extraordinarily talented students are isolated in their school. The group is comprised of the top seven students from each class at Hakusenkan: Kei Takishima, Hikari Hanazono, Jun and Megumi Yamamoto, Tadashi Karino, Akira Toudou and Ryuu Tsuji, and they’re the best of the best within each class. Kei and Hikari, ranked No. 1 and 2, have a longstanding rivalry dating back to childhood and constantly compete against one another in every thing they do. Whether it’s academics or sports, Hikari’s goal is to one day surpass Kei. What Hikari doesn’t realize is that Kei is completely in love with her.

Is it worth watching?: Yes. It’s a major accomplishment when you can tackle a subject such as class warfare and in the same scene have a hilarious gag that makes a viewer laugh out loud. It’s great at being the serious and lighthearted simultaneously, which makes it worthwhile to follow through with the antics of the smart kids.

Breakout character: Kei Takishima. Kei has it all, quite frankly. So why he continues to persist in chasing dense Hikari, we’ll never know. But Kei is the breakout character here because, try as he might, the one thing he is never successful on the first try is getting Hikari to understand his feelings for her. However, Kei is a smooth talker and one of the funniest characters in the series. He’s that likable, which is great considering he’s the lead character.

Funniest episode: Episode 7: “Sensitive ~ Thickheaded.” Hikari tells Kei that she will tell Kei just what she said about him in the previous episode. Since Kei is keen to hear this info — he’s in love with her — Kei engineers a contest that he knows he will probably win with Hikari’s talk being the prize. How he gets her to open up and the lengths he goes to, to get the information from Hikari are absolutely hilarious. Kei will stop at nothing to get her to tell him how she feels about him.

Where it’s going?: Half of the series is left and there are some obvious questions that need to be answered: How does Hikari really feel about Kei? How do the others in the group feel about their potential pairing? Will they actually get together? And how the others in the group faring in their own lives and with each other? The pace picks up in the latter half of the series and it becomes the focal point of the show how things will end between the main characters and their friends.