Friday Top 5 – Fourth of July, Top 5 America Heroes

It’s that time of year again, when the country celebrates Americana on our birthday, the 4th of July. In between parades and fireworks and barbecues this year, I want you to take a moment to consider who the real heroes are: cornball patriotic super-heroes draped in red, white, and blue costumes. Here are five:

  1. Uncle Sam – Could he be any more America? A spiritual entity created by the “Founding Fathers”, he can apparently change size (one of America’s core values), has super strength (like a Ford pickup truck) and can transport himself and others to a pocket dimension known as “the Heartland”. I’m going to come up with my own hero…Uncle Tom. His secret lair? The Cabin, of course.
  2. Spirit of 76 – This flunky, a sometimes broke-ass Captain America, holds the record for the only Marvel 616 in-continuity death to take place in a What If issue, Volume 1 #4, which I discussed on the What If Podcast.
  3. The Phantom Eagle – Okay, I already discussed him on Monday. A World War I flying ace, not nearly as cool as he sounds.
  4. Captain Flag – Proof you can make the American flag ugly, by making a candy-striped cape out of the thing, and a short-sleeve costume. Luckily he’s really generic, too.
  5. Star Spangled Kid and Stripesy – Stars and stripes forever, hopefully not forever. The gimmick of the only adult sidekick for a younger hero does little to save their godawful outfits.

Some of these also made the cut in my discussion on Captain America in the Civil War (not the Marvel one, the America one) in the latest episode of the What If Podcast!

Friday Top 5 – Top 5 Signs it’s Summer

The summer solstice was last Saturday, and living in Maine, I thought it would never get here. We seemed to start winter early, in late November, and hold on until early March, with cold spring temperatures hanging around until May. But lo and behold, global warming lives and I can walk the dog again without having a near seizure from shivering so much. With that in mind, here are the top 5 signs it’s summer:

  1. Nothing on TV! Oh man, I’m so excited to watch two hours of fat people and manufactured drama on Extreme Weight Loss, and reruns of The Middle. On the plus side, I didn’t watch much of The Goldbergs during the season and it’s been a nice discovery in the TV wasteland of June to September.
  2. Flip flops! I love not wearing shoes on the weekend (damn you, real job!). I drive barefoot too, rather than risk my flip flop flipping or flopping as I move my foot.
  3. Iced Coffee! I’m a bit of a coffee traditionalist (cream and a little sugar, I don’t care about hazelnuts or coconuts, and the darker roast the better), but even I can’t stand just sweating as I down a hot cup of coffee on an 80 degree afternoon. My favorite? Iced Mocha from Dunkin Donuts, no cream or sugar.
  4. Sunburns! As a man whose skin appears to be the color of paper (tissue made of…tissues?), I try to soak in as much sun as I can when I have a chance to be shirtless (damn you, real job!). Still, I try to be cognizant of my neck and apply sunscreen generously, since a burn on the t-shirt neckline is the worst thing the sun can do to you since…cancer. Ahem.
  5. Trying not to stare at women in bikinis! Both the good (daaamn) and the bad (damn!), teenage to middle age, summer can be a minefield of not knowing where to look, exacerbated if it’s a family function. Two choices: dark or reflective sunglasses to hide your eyes or just stare off into the distance, slightly above the horizon. I’d probably go for the latter, since you look totally rugged and pensive.

Friday Top 5 – Guitar Hero (really?!)

Last week, helping my co-host and cohort Andrew The Giant move to a new house he gave me a relic from our early 20’s past, Guitar Hero: World Tour. I’ve always had a bizarre relationship with videogames; I had a Genesis, a PS1 and PS2, but I was never at any point a serious gamer, and I’d tend to latch on to a series and stick with it rather than explore different games. Because of that I’ve played myriad WWF games, Twisted Metal, GTA, and not much else, but after being destroyed by a girl at GH2 in college, I made a solemn vow to be awesome at the game, and awesome I became. I went back to GH1 (terrible), played GH3 at Andrew’s Mom’s house and made Guitar Hero my latest (and last) videogame obsession. Expert? I got that. I’m not the supershredder who can do Dragonforce on expert or anything, but I did well enough to not-really impress people at parties. Without further adieu, I present my Top 5 favorite Guitar Hero songs:

1) Go Your Own Way – Guitar Hero World Tour. Fleetwood Mac’s seminal tune isn’t the hardest song, nor does it have the “coolest” GH track, but getting World Tour from Andrew and being able to play this song again inspired this article. I think it’s just the right amount of strumming and shredding, attainability and difficulty.

2) Cult of Personality – Guitar Hero 3. GH3 is probably the best of the series, with a wide variety of songs and slightly tweaked game engine that hit the sweet spot. Honestly, I think GH3 is the reason Cult of Personality, with it’s snazzy riff and relentless shredding, has made a bit of a comeback in recent years, including being wrestler CM Punk’s theme.

3) You Really Got Me – Guitar Hero 2, Guitar Hero Van Halen. A cover of a Kinks song, You Really Got Me has the killer riff that feels so good to (fake) play on a (plastic) guitar. Leave me never.

4) Bathroom Wall – Guitar Hero Rocks the 80s. GH’s 80s game was maligned, and rightly so, for not adding much to the game beyond a (relatively) small selection of new songs. That being said, picking it up for a few bucks a few years after the fact I had no such qualms. There are some decent songs on the game, as if it were DLC for GH2 before that was a thing. Faster Pussycat’s latest (and likely last) contribution to pop culture is having a song that wasn’t even their most famous (House of Pain) covered in a video game. This actually inspired me to go out and pick up Faster’s Best Of CD, and I can honestly say of all the forgotten hair bands, they’re not the worst.

5) Avalancha – GH3 returns to the list. One of the great things about GH2 and 3 was the inclusion of some indy or offbeat songs that were instantly launched to a much larger audience. Whether it’s Bang Camaro in GH2, or Heroes Del Silencio in GH3, those two games had some songs that made you feel like you weren’t only a rock god for wailing on a plastic guitar controller, but also a music nerd for having heard of Count Zero. I chose this one because, much like Fleetwood Mac, it’s the right combination of rhythm and shred.

Dishonorable Mention:

Guitar Hero: Metallica – not for any of the songs (heck, “Trapped Under Ice” and “One” were favorites of mine on the other discs), but for being a hold out at $40 as the PS2 game library sunsetted out of retail. I remember walking through Wal-Mart, seeing virtually every other PS2 game at like $20, and there was GH Metallica, holding steady at full price. I wouldn’t be surprised if Metallica had some ridiculous thing put in their contract that their game could never be sold at a discount. Oy vey.

Friday Top 5 – Friday the 13th!

 

He’s back, he’s the man behind the mask. That’s right, it’s that special day that comes along only a few times a year, like Christmas, it’s Friday the 13th! The Friday the 13th slasher series is my favorite in the horror genre because it’s that right mixture of good and bad that’s fun to watch while not being too heavy handed. With that in mind, I present to you my top 5 Friday the 13th movies!

1) Friday the 13th (1980) – The original gets the top spot because even though it’s doesn’t actually feature Jason Voorhees, it does feature a sort of mood and tension that probably springs from its low budget beginnings. A big reveal at the end and a creative body count to set a precedent for the rest of the series makes this a worthy first entry. Plus, the first time I saw the final reveal of young Jason at the end I jumped more than any movie had ever made me, before or since. Just the false sense of security you’re lulled in to, you might expect something to happen, but it takes just long enough to get you.

2) Part 4 – The Final Chapter was about as final as Final Fantasy, but it has something resembling a real story with the Corey Feldman character and some good deaths, including this one:

3) Part 6 – Jason Lives had Jason go straight-up supernatural, and we were all the better for it. This was straight forward and the ridiculous Alice Cooper theme inspired the opening line of this article.

4) Part 2 – While Jason has a ridiculous burlap sack over his head, this was still in the infancy of the series, when the movies seemed like they might want to be more tied together and, if not “down to earth”, at least short of the self parody they became.

5) Part 8 – Jason Takes Manhattan. Like I was saying about self parody… This is one of the “so bad it’s good” cheese-fests of a movie I can enjoy watching because it’s not good but also not taking itself too seriously. Uppercut decapitation? Check. Mirrored dance hall murder? Check. Melting in NY sewer water? Check and check.

Dishonorable mention:

Part 5. Jason’s not there, characters that matter even a little aren’t there, my interest’s not there. It takes a special kind of bad to be part of a series of movies that aren’t that good and are more focused on body count than actual drama and still be the worst by comparison. Here’s to ya, dirty dumb kid with the chocolate all over the face. You probably deserved the ax in the back.

Top 5 (X-Things!) – Days of Friday Past

With the release of Days of Future Past upon us, X-Men are on my brain more than usual. Traditionally, I’ve been a Spider-Man fan first and foremost, but I think I might have actually been an X-Men fan at the very beginning of my superhero loving period (which I’m still going through, 20+ years later). Sure, the X-Men may have slipped out of favor for me, with their constant “struggle for existence” getting in the way of having fun, eight jillion characters to deal with, so many different X-teams, and the fact that I looked like Peter Parker helping Spider-Man to secure the top spot, but I still have a special place in my heart for the X-Men, and here are five reasons why:

Top 5 X-Things
1. X-Men Arcade Game, Konami
This game is a retro favorite, with memorable lines (“Nuting moves DA BLOB!” and “Welcome to DIE!”) and button mashing beat em up action that’s pure video game. As it is, I LOVED this game when I was a kid, with six choosable characters, even if the special attacks didn’t make sense (I really thought Nightcrawlers special power was to run and be purple at stuff for my first few months of x-fandom). Sure, Dazzler’s included, but if you look past that, you can see the reason I became an X-fan and perhaps even a Marvel fan in general. The aforementioned purpling is also why I briefly became obsessed with Nightcrawler, to the point I dressed up as him for Halloween (one of the earliest Halloweens I can remember, no less).


2. X-Men toys, 1991
Part and parcel with the game was the line of X-Men toys that came out circa 1991. These toys were objectively awesome: Wolverine was scaled down (with removable mask AND retractable claws), Cyclops’ visor lit up, Magneto had magnetic hands…it was awesome! I had all of them, except Apocalypse (and maybe Storm).


3. Onslaught
Sure, you can lament putting Professor X through the ringer like this, making him into the X-Men’s “greatest enemy” (du jour), but as I kid I bought in, with both the Onslaught X-Men and Onslaught Marvel Universe bookends, his first full appearance (X-Men 53), the Overpower cards (including his character card, and the best named attack of any kind ever, the “Mutant Gestalt”), it was amazing. With Days of Future Past being released, and Apocalypse on tap, if Fox really wants to continue milking the X-Cow for the foreseeable future, X-Men: Onslaught has a good ring to it, and a story in which Professor X defeats Magneto (via mindwipe), only to have that action create an unstoppable combined entity has a nice cinematic arc to it.


4. X-Men animated series intro
The best thing going at 11am, Saturdays on Fox, and a brief lesson in fonts.


5. Giant-Size X-Mug
Not only because of its pleasing aesthetic (incongruently shadowed “X” notwithstanding), the large amount of coffee it holds, and its influence on the name of this site, but because mine was a Christmas gift and so warms the cockles of my heart.

Dishonorable mention:
Mojo II


This terrible character was just a clone of Mojo, but without the charm (ie fatness and spider-legs). Instead, he’s some pirate-looking thing, used as a pawn in the ongoing, never interesting, battle between Mojo and Longshot. Throw him on the scapheap next to Boom Boom and GW Bridge.

 

EDIT: Here’s a cheap plug for our longest episode of the What If Podcast to date as me and Andrew The Giant discuss X-Mens!

Friday Top 5 (Cancelled TV Edition)

Television seasons mean less and less these days*, with a slew of summer replacements and mid-season premieres, as well as on demand streaming content from the internets*, it’s hard to tell sometimes that the end of the regular TV season is all around us. As the sun sets on another glorious year of television, not all are destined to see the sun rise again. As new, likely terrible, shows premiere next season, some must subside to make room for them. Some of the shows cancelled are done so unjustly, most are warranted, and others have just lived past their expiration date. Without further preamble, I present to you my Top 5 Cancelled TV shows of 2013-2014. Thanks to Buzzfeed for this list to work from.

1) Community – Everyone will make a “six seasons and a movie joke”, so I’ll just add “they didn’t cancel this already?”. It seems almost superfluous for NBC to cancel Community, since for most of its existence the network has buried it, pushed back its premieres to the point of absurdity, and had such brief seasons that it will take at least 18 months for it to set in that Community isn’t coming back. It could go to a digital platform (a final season and movie on Netflix would have to be better than the Arrested Development horror they put out, right? Hulu?) but for now, I’m sad to see it go, if only because it wasn’t like anything else on TV.

2) Michael J Fox Show/Sean Saves the World – I lump these together as “failed comebacks”. The brief moments I watched of the MJF Show had me questioning if I was watching a comedy, and Sean Saves the World underscored the fact that old school joke factory laughtrack sitcoms need to try harder to stay on the air these days*, or be on CBS.

3) The Neighbors – Sadly, after 2 seasons, we won’t see another 3rd Rock from the Sun -style alien dynasty. This show about aliens posing as humans on earth had the same alien sitcom trope (wait, that’s a thing now?): alien misunderstands human behavior, hilarity ensues, both alien and non-alien learn a little about what it means to be “human”. Still, it was probably better than it had any right to be, but was just shipped off to Fridays to die (sadly, it couldn’t take Last Man Standing with it).

4) Almost Human – Who’d have thought a drama about crime fighting robots might have a hard time catching on?

5) Raising Hope – We’ll file this under the “past their expiration date” reason. At 4 seasons, this sometimes crass comedy had a decent enough run, but wasn’t strong enough to beat the clock. Still, there are worse shows that are still on the air (Last Man Standing, pt 2)

Dishonorable Mention:

Mixology – Could there be any other show to earn this nod? The first ever three time winner, Mixology fades back into obscurity after one inane season. Sadly, we won’t see these characters evolve, one day at a time, so that by Sunday we’re three years in and the characters are getting married after a long weekend. The worst part is, I almost find the plight of the characters compelling, even if the timelines make no sense (dumped by ex, back with ex, break up with ex in realtime 40 minutes; hordes of characters hooking up that night after knowing somebody 2 hours and passing it off as “romance” rather than just meaningless sex), but even saying that, I don’t know that I’ve actually laughed at anything on this supposed comedy. It seems almost like a bizarre art film, or something begging for a real time supercut of all the episodes (that no one should ever watch). Goodnight, redheaded TV version of Zach Galifinakis. We hardly knew ye, though you’ll likely have a walk on role in the final season of Two and Half Men, just ‘cuz.

Friday Top 5 – Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.

With the finale of Agents of SHIELD upon us next Tuesday, and the recent formal announcement of a second season, and while the reaction to the show has been mixed, to say the least, things may be picking up on the next season with “The Fridge” inmates being released leading to slightly more interesting “monster of the week” scenarios.

I would conject that AoS was forced to pace itself in regards to “supervillain” nemeses so as not to “undermine” the threats present in the recently released Thor and Captain America movies. We’d seen limited threats in the MCU over the course of the existing movies, yet AoS would be tackling such things every week, right off the bat? It would behoove the universe as a whole to “build up” the threats, and I think we’ve seen that on the back nine (so to speak) of the season.

So while that may explain the dearth of “name” supervillains, it doesn’t cover up the fact that AoS started as a generic spy drama, with people being covert and not having much character, and a drama with “rounded edges” since there’s some Disney/kid-friendly vibes crossing over there. It only took the dissolution of SHIELD itself and the characters to go rebel for the characters to have some purpose.

But I digress. With Season 2 on the horizon and “The Fridge” wide open, one can only hope there are more “guys” (in the dude phraseology for established characters, females are welcome as well). With that in mind, here are my Top 5 characters that should make an appearance:

5) Iron Patriot/War Machine/James Rhodes/Don Cheadle – Nothing to do with The Fridge, but Don Cheadle has a TV show and has appeared as a hip thrusting Captain Planet, so clearly he’s not a film elitist. Why hasn’t Rhodey flown in and had a chat with Coulson? If the agents of SHIELD are now fugitives and Rhodes works for the US government, this appearance is well within reason for the second season (Iron Patriot shows up, we get a “misunderstanding” battle, the Iron Patriot lets the agents go in a show of compassion over following orders).

4) Doughboy – A white emotionless, brainless blob.

Wait, he’s not already on the show?

He’s an Arnim Zola guy, anyway, so why not?

3) Hammerhead – SHIELD is focused on international and large scale threats, but why not throw in a mobster angle? He could be dealing alien/SHIELD designed weapons. Of course, he might be a “Spider-Man” guy, so we could have a Quicksilver scenario all over again…but lamer.

Gangster much?

2) MODOK – Okay, he’s the one everyone wants to see (or at least thought was the “Clairvoyant”, before it was revealed to be Bill Pullman…Paxton…Pac-Man). Hydra’s been well accounted for in SHIELD, but shouldn’t remnants of AIM be in play as well? Speaking of AIM…

MugD.O.C. Mug Designed Only for Coffee

1) Man-Thing –All but confirmed by Maria Hill (that’s mild facetiousness). But does she need to explain “who or what a Man-Thing” is? Not to me, but then again, this is GIANT SIZE Comic Things, so I’m a nerd. We’ve seen Extremis in play, so a mushed up origin story pertaining to those experiments could tie in with the Deathlok arc going on, as well as define “monster of the week”. Also, as I mentioned in “Captain America/Man-Thing Conspiracy” episode of the What If Podcast, Man-Thing guards a swamp that serves as some sort of dimensional portal, a type of portal that could tie in with the various “backdoors between worlds” Loki spoke of in the Thor movies…Man-Thing is the missing link!

 

The Top 5 (May The Fourth Be With You/Free Comic Book Day!)

Top 5 Things of Free Comic Book Day:

1) Recording three new episodes of the What If podcast with my sometimes cohosts Andrew The Giant and Beezy. I wrapped up the Age of Ultron mini-series Marvel put out in April, and a couple of other relevant topics are coming up.

2) Free things! Casablanca Comics was giving away copies of Wolverine Origins II with a heavy acetate cover, and I also got the FCBD GoTG giveaway, the DC giveaway for Future’s End (proving Marvel doesn’t have exclusive rights to dystopian futures), as well as Epic and Dumbest Idea Ever, two things I would have never picked up but was introduced to yesterday (a fun side effect of FCBD)

3) Things I paid for! Amazing Spider-Man #1 Marcos Martin cover, a copy of The Last Avengers Story (as I try to get the peripheral “Alterniverse” offerings from Marvel to round out my What If collection) and a copy of Usagi Yojimbo #10 (featuring a TMNT crossover) for $3. Not too shabby.

IMG_20140504_103302

4) Guy dressed up as The Penguin. Oh sure, but when I dress up as A penguin, I get weird looks.

//

5) People dressed up as Star Wars characters yesterday: A TIE pilot, some stormtroopers, maybe a Fett of some sort, though they were a day early (May the Fourth be with you).

Friday Top 5 (April 25th, a perfect date)

It’s not too hot, it’s not too cold. All you need is a light jacket.

The Top 5 things I’ve seen all week:

1) Habs win, habs win, habs win – The Montreal Canadiens beat the Tampa Bay Lightning in a four game sweep to advance to the second round of the Stanley Cup tournament. Sure, they took advantage of a goalie injury, but they did take advantage. Now, a potential showdown with the Bruins in the next round has menervous, but excited. Playoff hockey!

2) Orwells – Who Needs You

A dirty rock song punking out Americana (the concept, not the Offspring album)? Sign me up. No, literally, I pre-ordered the CD, Disgraceland out June 3rd.

3) The latest episode of Agents of SHIELD – The next step after the SHIELD breakdown. We got a “monster of the week” type episode with Blackout, sadly missing his lightning bolt hat, but his story, comingled with Agent Coulson’s “Cellist” was fine, and the development between Skye and Ward had me hooked for next week (along with the return of Colby Smulders and Deathlok!). One last thought, any credence to the theory that “darkforce”, combined with the existence of disposable Simmons and the new one leads to Cloak and Dagger, Agents of SHIELD? (The name is already espionagey)

4)  Despite my misgivings about a $50 new comic, I broke down and ordered the Marcos Martin variant for Amazing Spider-Man #1.

5) I ran my first 5k of the year last weekend, and got a decent 22:16 or somesuch. Fitness! Oh, you wanted an overdone video as proof? Done.

Dishonorable Mention:
Mixology – the first ever two time winner. Why do I watch it? Cuz it’s on, and perhaps a sick perversion.
I only re-induct it because this week the characters mentioned my biggest gripe with this show:
the “real time” premise, in which an entire season of a TV show takes place over one night in a bar.
The problem with that is characters that grow closer to one another over the course of a few episodes are actually growing closer in the span of 20-40 minutes. In a crowded bar. That you can actually hear people talk in.
The characters acknowledged a rekindled relationship lasted “18 minutes”, which now begs the question: did the show go meta?
Are they aware of the ridiculousness of the premise? It doesn’t really matter, because underneath it all, the show’s still not funny.
I see them making jokes, but it’s a lot of cliches (guys “scheming” to figure women out, guys getting shot down, drunk girl) and suffers from having too many characters.
3 guys
Strong Hawaiin girl, ditzy drunk girl, friend.
Bar tender
Waitress
Single Mom
British Guy
10(!) main characters. Plus a rotating cast of background characters that seem to pop up in bars. That’s a lot of melodrama and jokes to cram into a show.
The ironic thing is I almost care about what happens to the characters, so it ends up feeling like How I Met Your Mother with double the cast and half the laughs (verbal trademark).

Friday Top 5 (TGISA – Thank God It’s Saturday Afternoon)

Once again, forgive the lateness. My MBA class takes up a lot of my free writing time.

1) Habs win! Habs win! Because the Lightning’s goalie broke his body bone, and because Rene Borque decided to show up, the Montreal Canadiens are up 2-0 in their playoff series, with a combined 9 goals between the two games. Montreal may actually make it out of the first round this year. Combine that with a

2) Bruins loss, and I’m one happy Habby (never repeat that phrase).

3) Parks and Rec, and Community. Two of my favorite shows, each with great episodes. Community had their season finale, and as I noted to my girlfriend, all of their season finales kind of feel like series finales given the tenuousness of its existence, so we have things fairly wrapped up waiting for next season. As for Parks and Rec, Ron Swanson’s a role model par excellence and Chris Pratt has me hoping Guardians of the Galaxy might actually be legitimately funny (rather than the “cute funny” present in most Marvel movies).

4) First place in my age group in a 5K! Sure, it was only because of a small field size and the fact that the overall winner, also in my age group, already got a trophy, but let’s hear it for Default!

5) Tomorrow’s Easter, so I have a legitmate excuse to eat Cadbury Creme eggs, not only one of my favorite candies, but one of my favorite foods (though I have enough sense not to eat them regularly).

Double props for the Dairy Milk, dollar for dollar the best chocolate bar out there.

Dishonorable Mention
Facebook’s “Nearby Friend” app. A Facebook app that allows users to see when their “friends” are nearby, based on geolocation date from their phone. Sounds terrible, for two reasons: A) Most of my Facebook friends are people I don’t actually care about, and if I did I’d make a conscious effort to see them. Forced socialization sounds awful to me. B) Even though it’s currently “opt in” (ie you’d have to go out of your way to sign up for the service), it still feels unsettling that users can be actively tracked, and made to believe doing so is beneficial. This sets a dangerous precedence, and is another example of Facebook eroding the idea of privacy in a digital world. Call me a conspiracy kook, but it feels like a dystopian, Big Brother-like future awaits us, and we’ll go in smiling because we’ve been told constant monitoring of our every action adds “value”.