Strip Talk #32: The cancellation of Joss Whedon

Finally, we get to the cancellation of Joss Whedon

There are some die-hard Buffy the Vampire Slayer fans out there — I know a few — and they cling hard to the show for whatever reason. I am not among them. While I loved the movie it’s based on, I always felt the show tried too hard to be hip, so I never bought into the mythos. And, because of that lack of faith, I never quite bought into the reverence for Joss Whedon.

As the Buffy ethos grew, so did Whedon’s reputation for crafting brilliant shows and characters that people connected with. While I’m aware that Whedon also wrote the movie, I was always meh about the later Buffy craze, Firefly and Serenity never caught my attention and Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog seemed dumb.

With these strikeouts, I thought, “Well, maybe I’m just not giving him a chance to shine. It must be me.” And there was a period of greatness. The Avengers is one of my favorite movies ever, and it’s not just because I love Marvel. Whedon did a fantastic job with the writing and directing. Things looked promising and maybe, I thought, I made a mistake. No, I didn’t, as I soon learned.

First, there was Age of Ultron. And then the original Justice League cut. And then the allegations of mistreatment. Now, what we couldn’t put our finger on before about why we didn’t care for Whedon reared its ugly head. He always came across as smug and smarmy. Like, he knew he was untouchable, and no one could say anything to him because he created Buffy the Vampire Slayer. It’s a “don’t you know who I am” type of attitude that’s been there since the beginning, and it’s off-putting. Except for the Avengers, I have never been able to get down with anything he’s ever produced, and I have no regrets about it. For Whedon to be smug, he’d have to show me something that wasn’t corny as hell, overwrought with cliches and not the most boring story in existence.

Given Whedon’s penchant for bullying and harassing, dumb behavior, it’ll be a long moment before we hear from him again. It will not be a moment too soon. Maybe in his downtime, he can find a sliver of a soul and learn how to not be a trash human being. And maybe find some real talent to match that bravado while he’s cooking in his well-deserved time out.

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

Strip Talk #31: DC finally getting back on track

Listen to me good when I tell you all something: DC has to do something. They’re getting hurt out there in the ring, and they can’t take too many more hits before it’s lights out. They need that ring bell to save them and fortunately for them, it’s coming in a few projects.
How they got here is not a mystery. Incoherent, nonsensical decisions with stars for their movies, the movies themselves being atrocious, and a lack of obvious planning and forethought. It was a lot, and it seemed like every time the company took a step, they stumbled. And their rival, the Marvel Cinematic Universe, was churning out hit after hit at the box office, adding insult to injury.
But there were beacons of hope: Television and animated properties.

DC has always had strong television and animation. Their Justice League characters are so well known that almost all have had multiple shows that have done well. Their animated movies and shows are so good that decades later, they’re still producing spinoffs that are just as good if not better than the originals.
So, this is their go-to in the bleak times.
When faced with hard times, Warner Bros. does what it knows how to do best: Milk something to death and ride that cash cow until the wheels fall off. And that’s why we’re getting great television in the form of Titans. That’s why more animated Batman is here to put the DC name on his back and carry everything across the finish line. That’s why we’re getting more Batman spinoff films and a Flash spinoff bringing back the Batman version that worked – Michael Keaton for those of you still playing along at home.
DC trades on what it knows works best for them: Nostalgia. And they are smart to do it. That bell has rung finally for DC, and they can get a breather from that beating the MCU and Kevin Feige has been delivering for the past 10 years. The body shots can maybe slow down, they can regain their footing and they’re finally doing something. Something worthwhile and exciting. It’s about time they come in with gloves ready for the fight game.

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

Strip Talk #30: Marvel winning war; let me tell you why

It should be obvious by now that we love comics here at Gaming Insurrection. Very obvious. I have been a comic book fan — no matter the company — for a long time. I was doing reading, writing and arithmetic and perusing comic books well before there was a Marvel Cinematic Universe or a DC Universe. But let me be the first to tell you: I love Marvel a lot more than DC, and a lot of that can be gleaned from current happenings.

Boring film writing: There are household names there: Joker, Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, The Flash. Why is it that none of the DC ensemble movies or versus movies can get off the ground? They have the more well-known superheroes. Their stable is full of interesting stories. But none of this can translate to film it seems. The most interesting film in the past 15 years involved Superman “dying” and then resurrecting to fight the Justice League. Insert sigh here.

Inconsistency: Batman and Superman have been done to death. There have been too many actors putting on the cape and cowl for both characters, and it’s a distraction. I loved Michael Keaton as the bat; my love has been well documented here, and yet, we have another name popping up for the role in the film world. I counted five for Batman alone — Keaton, Kilmer, Clooney, Bale and Affleck. You know who played Iron Man? Robert Downey Jr. for all solo character films and all ensemble films. You know what that tells me? No consistency is to be had, and it shows in the uneven product.

Retreads: Marvel is guilty of this, too. Don’t get me wrong, I’m plenty tired of Spider-Man and his millions of different origin story retreads every time they change the actor; also, I’m not a Spider-Man fan. But this is getting ridiculous with DC and its “Snyder Cut Policy.” Stop remaking movies every time you feel one that you commissioned and spent a lot of time on somehow magically fails at the box office. If they reboot any Batman or Superman, Suicide Squad, Justice League or Teen Titans property one more time, we riot. And, let me state for the record: Allowing the Snyder Cut sets a dangerous precedence that we need not allow. What will be the next movie released that gets the “director’s cut” treatment that should have been the original version to start with?

DC is floundering but the situation can be turned around. The love for DC characters is abundant, and they do have saving graces in their animated and television properties. DC’s television game has always been excellent and strong in terms of cohesive storytelling and rich experiences. In fact, Marvel has traditionally struggled in that area and is just now entering that arena. But DC needs to step it up in the film marketplace; there is enough for everyone to get a bag and come out like robber barons in the superhero movie game. I really need DC to get it together over on their side and give me something to take my attention away from the MCU. Because as a fan, when everyone does well, I win.

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

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

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