Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Michelle Shocked Releases Album Filled With Silent Songs

Remember alt-folk singer Michelle Shocked? Back in March 2013, she surprised her typically progressive fans at a gig in San Francisco when she went on a "the world will be destroyed if gays are allowed to marry" rant followed by as assertion that "God hates faggots." Not surprisingly, her audience reacted poorly to this. Word spread and she refused to respond outside of a series of cryptic tweets about "truth vs. reality." She eventually lost a series of gigs, leading to a bizarre protest at the site of one cancellation by Shocked herself. Shocked eventually went on CNN's Piers Morgan Show and clarified that she is "not homophobic." She also was probably the most direct with her stated beliefs during this interview, but the damage had already been caused. More recently, she performed at an anti-gay "family values" event with professional anti-gay activist/gay erotica writer/bi dad Robert Oscar Lopez.

Michelle Shocked is in the news this week after announcing that she has released an album consisting of silent songs named after a variety of music industry professionals:
The 11-track album, titled Inaudible Women, is available for purchase on cdbaby.com, with silent tunes — most clocking in at less than a minute — named after such high-ranking digital music execs as SiriusXM executive VP/general counsel Patrick Donnelly and Clear Channel executive VP/general counsel Robert Walls. 

“Inaudible Women” also features a song named after journalist Chris Willman, a contributor to Billboard and The Hollywood Reporter who wrote about Shocked’s anti-gay comments at a San Francisco concert in 2013. Willman proudly announced the inclusion through a Facebook post on July 25.
Shocked has indicated that the silent songs at the "Inaudible Women" album contain high-pitched frequencies that can be heard by dogs. She plans to use the money raised from this album to fund her upcoming fall music tour.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Archie Comics Bringing Back Original Stories to Their Digest Titles!!

Vegas returns!!
I noticed a trend last month among all of Archie Comics' September 2014 digest titles. I then noticed a similar trend when it came to all of their October 2014 digest titles. It was a very exciting trend and one that I sincerely hope continues for a long, long time: Original Content!!!

Back in early 2013, I wrote up my pledge to Archie Comics. I made a pledge back then to support all of Archie Comics' comic books that contained original content. For too long, most of Archie Comics' digest books have been filled with nothing but reprint materials. That's great if you are a new or returning reader. But longer term readers eventually find themselves reading the same stories over and over and over. Comic books ain't cheap, so that's why I decided to dedicate myself (mainly) to their comic books that feature original content.

Since I posted my pledge, Archie Comics has published a handful of digests featuring original content (here and here, for example). But mostly it has been reprints, so I have focused mainly on their non-digest titles. Until now!

Check out these September 2014 solicits:

ARCHIE JUMBO COMICS DIGEST #255: A night at the museum turns into a nightmare of historic proportions! Archie and Jughead are taking their Adventure Scout troupe on a trip to the Riverdale Museum—where an anonymous donor has gifted the museum with two Egyptian Sarcophagi (or is it Sarcophaguses?). But what‘s hidden inside is sure to surprise everyone! Find out what happens in “Mummy Mayhem!” the spook-tastic NEW lead story kicking off this JUMBO Comics Digest!

ARCHIE'S FUNHOUSE COMICS DIGEST #9: Welcome to the year 2037, where Archie’s your tour guide of futuristic Riverdale, U.S.A! Meet “rob”—he’s not a new student at Riverdale High, “rob” is actually a kind of humanoid robot that has completely changed the world as we know it. “The Robot Millennium” is a BRAND NEW sci-fi story that kicks off this comics digest!

Who indeed?
BETTY & VERONICA COMICS DIGEST #227: Halloween’s not just for kids anymore—now even pets are getting in on all the fun! When Betty and Veronica notice a sign for a costume contest for pets they find it silly—but everyone knows the girls can’t avoid a friendly competition! Who will win best in spooky show: will it be Veronica’s pampered pooch or Betty’s feline friend? Find out in “Costume Drama,” the fun, NEW lead story to this comics digest!

JUGHEAD AND ARCHIE COMICS ANNUAL #6: The Riverdale Fall Festival is here, and Jughead’s unable to partake in the one activity he loves most—enjoying his food! Falling leaves provide a scenic backdrop and who doesn’t love jumping into piles of them—but there’s one disadvantage—getting them in your food! Will autumn finally leave Jughead alone and let him eat in peace? Find out in “The Fall of Jughead and Archie,” the hilarious, NEW first story to this fall-flavored Comics Annual!

WORLD OF ARCHIE COMICS DIGEST #43: Veronica’s throwing the Halloween bash of the year and everyone’s invited—human and animal alike! But when an unwelcome intruder tries to crash the party, the pets spring into action! Will they catch the evil villain, or will it ruin their monster bash? See what happens in the BRAND NEW story, “A Haunting We Will Go!”

And then there are the October 2014 solicits:

ARCHIE'S FUNHOUSE COMICS DIGEST #10: ‘Tis the season to be jolly—and Reggie intends to be just that! He’s plotting to date five of the new female students at Riverdale High, and he’s even found a cheap, but expensive looking, gift he can use to impress them all. …Or at least he thinks it’s cheap! See the merry mix-up unfold in “It’s the Thought That Counts!” a brand new lead story to this fun-filled comics digest!

BETTY & VERONICA JUMBO COMICS DIGEST #228: The holiday season is upon us, and that means it’s time to shop! Of course for shopaholic Veronica, that’s not a problem! When Mr. Lodge gets fed up with Veronica’s out of control spending habits, he demands that she get a job at the local mall. Of course, not one to do menial work, Veronica immediately takes over management of the mall. Will she transform the shopping center into a Winter Wonderland, or is she in over her head? Find out “Are You Being Served?” Then, in “It’s in the Cards,” Veronica’s got quite a collection of cards—no, not Christmas cards, credit cards! But who knew they could provide more than just a form of payment? Find out the other use of credit in this fun story! It’s two brand new stories in this jolly JUMBO comics digest!

JUGHEAD AND ARCHIE COMICS DIGEST #7: The gang gifts Jughead with a very special holiday treat—a brand new hat! He doesn’t have much in terms of money to gift his friends with in return, so he makes a list of the ultimate presents he wants to create for each of his friends. See what he wishes to buy his closest pals in “Fantasy Time,” a fun new story kicking of this comics digest!

SONIC SUPER DIGEST #9: Get ready for a SUPER SPECIAL EDITION of the Sonic Super Digest! Featuring an ALL-NEW STORY continuing the hit SONIC COMIC ORIGINS mini-feature blasts into your hands as that boisterous southern belle, Bunnie Rabbot, takes center stage! Learn how everyone’s favorite bunny bomber overcame her tragic disability to grow into the freedom fighting powerhouse she is today! Then, continue the fun with more classic adventures from the Sonic comic library as well as special features focusing on the brand new Sonic Comic Universe only Archie Comics and Sonic Super Digest can bring! 

WORLD OF ARCHIE COMICS DIGEST #44: The holidays are in full swing at Riverdale High, and Archie is determined to be Veronica’s Secret Santa. When he pulls someone else’s name, he has no choice but to find out who has Veronica so he can switch with them. This leads him on a wild goose chase around school—it turns out a lot of people wish they had picked someone else, and it sets off a chain-reaction of switching names! Will he ever find out who is the mystery person who picked Veronica’s name? Find out in “Secret Santa Secret Swap,” the brand new lead story to this Christmas comics digest!

If you haven't guessed, I'm very excited about this. I mean, it's sad that LIFE WITH ARCHIE got canceled and we get to see the cancellation soon of KEVIN KELLER. On the other hand, there's a lot of material coming out soon featuring Sabrina the Teenage Witch and several of the old Dark Circle/Red Circle heroes. But those books are going to be marketed towards teens and adult readers.

These new digest tales continue to reach out to Archie Comics' younger audience. Plus it provides new content for us longer-term readers who want to get our Archie fix every week, but who stopped buying the digests because there was nothing new. Now there is and I'm very grateful to Archie Comics!!

Iowa City Teen Arrested // Accused of Reckless Discharge of a Firearm

(Originally written on 07/27/14): I totally slept through some excitement last night. Last night at 1:36 AM Iowa City Police foot patrol officers heard the sounds of gunfire on the Pedestrian Mall near the Union Bar. They spoke with witnesses, who described the suspects as two black men.

The police located one of the suspects two blocks south of the incident. A loaded pistol was found on the suspect (a 17-year-old who has not yet been identified by the media). The Iowa City Police report that he "admitted to firing multiple shots in the air while in the Pedestrian Mall."

This 17-year-old male suspect has been charged with Reckless Use of a Firearm, Carrying Weapons, Going Armed with Intent, and Intimidation with a Dangerous Weapon. He faces up to 18 years in prison if convicted of all these charges.

The Iowa City Police are still looking for the second suspect. He has been described as a black male wearing dark clothing, so that narrows things down a bit.

If you know anything, you should contact the Iowa City Area Crime Stoppers at 319-358-8477. If your tip leads to the arrest of this suspect, you could receive a cash reward of up to $1000.

Updated on 07/28/14: The Iowa City Police have identified their 17-year-old suspect in the media. I'm choosing not to identify him here on this blog, but you can read about it here.

They also announced today via a press release that they now believe that the 17-year-old suspect who was arrested early yesterday morning acted alone when he allegedly fired a gunshot into the air several times while on the Ped Mall.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Meet Sabrina the Teenage Bride in AFTERLIFE WITH ARCHIE #6

AFTERLIFE WITH ARCHIE is the breakout comic book title for Archie Comics. It started out viewed by many as a farce but has turned out to be a great horror comic book.

I should note before I get too far into this discussion...

This blog entry contains spoilers. If you don't want to know what happens in AFTERLIFE WITH ARCHIE #6, then stop reading now. You have been warned.

Back to the show...

For the unfamiliar, here is the nutshell. Reggie killed Jughead's dog Hot Dog in a vehicular hit-and-run. Riverdale's grieving woman-hater turned to his magical friend Sabrina the Teenage Witch to heal his dead dog. She secretly used dark magic to bring back Hot Dog, whose resurrection ended up heralding an apocalyptic invasion of the undead. By the end of the first story arc, a handful of survivors have fled Riverdale to seek refuge from untold numbers of zombie cannibals.

But where is Sabrina? After casting the spell Hot Dog's resurrection spell, her aunts had her banished to some witch-hell dimension to ponder her mistake. We readers finally catch up with our favorite teenage witch in AFTERLIFE WITH ARCHIE #6.

Sabrina is being treated in an old fashioned mental health asylum, participating in therapies and participating in group therapy. Her counselors are working to convince her that her aunts died in a fire and that her magical heritage is a fictional story created by her mind. Meanwhile, the people around her continue to shift from people to demonic entities -- always just out of sight. But it's enough to convince her that something is up.

Anyway, it become abundantly clear in this story that we are dealing with H.P. Lovecraft's Elder Gods. Sabrina's being treated by Dr. Lovecraft and Dr. Machen (obviously designed to be H.P. Lovecraft and Arthur Machen). All of the demonic images are Lovecraftian. The two other kids in Sabrina's group (Erich Zann and Richard Pickman) are patterned after characters within Lovecraft's stories.

And then there is this:

That's right. Sabrina the Teenage Witch is now the Bride of Cthulhu.

Let's get this out of the way. I have never read anything by H.P. Lovecraft. I am only vaguely aware of his work or his history. On the other hand, Husband Mark spent a good chunk of 2013 reading a collection of his work. Also, my online friend Jimmy is a huge fan of the horror genre. So I turned to both men to see what this means for our new teen bride.

The general consensus is that Sabrina is now destined for a horrible fate. Cthulhu will use her as breeding stock for his offspring. Kind of like the Duggars, except we're dealing with Elder Gods and teenage witches! So that's pleasant.

It was interesting to note that Sabrina's aunts were present at the wedding. One could argue that they were not really there, but instead demonic shades wearing their faces. But I actually believe that her aunts are part of this cult. Which is kind of sad and scary.

Dr. Lovecraft told Sabrina that the people of Riverdale were lucky, because they are now all dead. If the zombie carnage that took place in AFTERLIFE WITH ARCHIE #1-5 is lucky, I cannot imagine what kind of new horrors we readers get to look forward to as this series progresses!

"Witch In The Dream House" was written by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa, drawn by Francesco Francavilla, and lettered by Jack Morelli.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

The Mega Man/Mega Man X Crossover Continues in MEGA MAN #39

It took me a while to get my copy of MEGA MAN #39 -- basically my iTunes account was nearly empty and it took me a while to remember to plug in some more coins! But I finally got my digital comic and promptly read the third chapter of the four-part "Dawn of X" crossover storyline between Mega Man and Mega Man X.

I have spent parts of the past two reviews (here and here) complaining that Rock and X haven't met yet. Here is the deal. They aren't going to meet. It just took me a long time to understand this point. This is the type of story where elements of each character's world's cross over into the world of the other character, but otherwise the two main characters never actually connect with each other. It kind of sucks, but I can deal with it.

There are two crossover elements:

First, Mega Man (along with Pharaoh Man and Bright Man) was sent into one of the supposedly reformed Dr. Wily's laboratory to look for a group of evil Robot Masters who had stolen some powerful tech. With a little "help" from Dr. Wily, Mega Man inadvertently woke a powerful Wily Walker. This is a nasty spider-like tank loaded with all sorts of weapons -- both conventional and chemical! Mega Man and his two friends manage to prevent the Wily Walker from escaping into the world, but only by trapping themselves inside the lab with the robotic juggernaut!

Fastforward 100 years: Dr. Cain and X accidentally awaken the dormant Wily Walker. Unfortunately, the Wily Walker escapes from the old lab and threatens nearby Arcadia City. It's only through X's quick intervention that the Maverick Hunters are stopped from accidentally unleashing the chemical weapons. Sort of. Vile seems less concerned about those chemical weapons than he should be! How will they save Arcadia City?

Then there is the second crossover element. In the first chapter of this storyline, X found himself under attack by a group of anti-robot terrorists called the Emerald Spear. And then back in Mega Man's time, Emerald Spear leader Xander Payne accessed time-traveling technology to travel back in time and stop of "robot revolution" before it begins. Unfortunately, he accidentally gets whacked from the past and tossed into the future, which leads to him meeting X!

Payne is saved from a perilous situation by X, but all he can focus on is the explosive battle between the Maverick Hunters and the Wily Walker. His time-traveling energies send him back to the present, but not before renewing his opposition to robots everywhere!

Will the Wily Walker finally be stopped? And when??? And when will Mega Man and Dr. Light discover that Dr. Wily is still a lunatic? The answer to at least one of these questions will be answered in part four of "Dawn of X!"

"Out of Time" is written by Ian Flynn, drawn by Ryan Jampole and Jamal Peppers, and inked by Gary Martin.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Archie Meets Sharknado???

Dan Parent posted the following image on Facebook today. It was a commissioned piece of artwork coming out of the San Diego Comic Con. Check this out:

Archie Comics has published crossovers featuring KISS, the cast from "Glee," President Barack Obama, and Governor Sarah Palin. They have written about zombies and predicted Archie's future death. It would be criminal for them not to publish an "Archie Meets Sharknado" comic book!

Mock Election Held at Johnson County Fair in Iowa: Braley, Hatch, and Pop are the Winners!

The Johnson County Fair just ended yesterday. I was away attending a family funeral for most of the week and couldn't bear the heat for the rest of it, so I didn't make it. It looks like the Johnson County Auditor's Office held a Mock Election this week in order to help people learn how to operate our election equipment, as well as to have a little fun. 1118 people voted in this Mock Election. These were the results:

Keep in mind that Johnson County leans heavily towards the Democratic Party when you consider these results:

U.S. Senate:
Bruce Braley (D) 593 votes (55%)
Joni Ernst (R) 400 votes (37%)
Dout Butzier (Libertarian) 78 votes (7%)

Jack Hatch (D) 528 votes (49%)
Terry Branstad (R) 475 votes (44%)
Lee Hieb (L) 77 votes (7%)

Public Measure: Name for Carbonated Beverage:
Soda 340 votes (32%)
Coke 74 votes (7%)
Pop 617 votes (57%)
Tonic 47 votes (4%)

It isn't looking very good for those of us who do not favor Gov. Branstad when he barely loses in Johnson County. I'm just sayin'!

Register early and don't forget to vote in November!!

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Woman Blames God After Running Over Motorcyclist With Her Car

25-year-old Prionda Hill took the phrase "God is my co-pilot" a bit too seriously earlier this month in Fort Wayne, IN. According to news reports, she was driving in town when "God told her he would take it from here." So she let go of the steering wheel and nearly killed a motorcyclist:
Lying helplessly in the street and watching the car that just knocked him off his motorcycle bearing down on him, Anthony Oliveri was resigned to his fate. “When I looked at that bumper and looked at that tire, I told myself, today is the day you die,” he said Thursday of the July 11 crash. He closed his eyes and the car ran over his midsection, breaking all the ribs on his left side, cutting his spleen, bruising a kidney and leaving him with road rash and severe injuries to the muscles in his left arm and leg.
Oliveri's mother later reported that his back looked like "raw meat" because of the accident.

Hill's car also hit a pickup twice and eventually crashed into a traffic island between two fast food restaurants several blocks from the accident. She later told the police that she had a prescription of Vicodin, but it was unclear whether she was taking the pills or not.

Hill was arrested and charged with failure to stop after an accident and criminal recklessness with a deadly weapon.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Archie's Life is Celebrated "One Year Later" in LIFE WITH ARCHIE #37

LIFE WITH ARCHIE, the comic book title that got me back into reading Archie Comics as an adult, ended today with issue #37. Issue #36 was published last Wednesday and grabbed tons of attention for it's "Death of Archie" ending. One week later, the haters have moved on for something else to rage against and this final episode -- set one year after the shooting death of Archie Andrew -- proved to be a bittersweet recollection of Archie's life in Riverdale.

Much of LIFE WITH ARCHIE #37 focused on Senator Kevin Keller's quest for remembrances of Archie anticipation of a community dedication of his remarkable life. What followed are several stories of Archie (told by Mr. Weatherbee, by Mr. Lodge, by Jughead, and by Cheryl Blossom) that highlighted his sense of sacrifice, ingenuity, friendship, and heart.

These stories highlight what we have grown to love about Archie over the years. It's easy to get caught up in the ebb and flow of his romantic life, but there is another element to Archie Andrews that is often portrayed. He is always there for his friends -- especially in time of need. In this way, he exemplifies the spirit of Riverdale. It's only fitting that the life of Archie lives on long after his death. Not in the form of a memorial statue, but in the renaming of Riverdale High School. Long live Archie Andrews High School!

* Life With Little Archie?? -- There was a familiar trio wandering the streets of Riverdale throughout this issue. Could they be shades of the past AND a hint towards the future? Or am I reading too much into their appearance?

LIFE WITH ARCHIE was a great series and I'm really sorry to see it go away. "One Year Later" was written by Paul Kupperberg, Penciled by Fernando Ruiz and Pat & Tim Kennedy, and Inked by Bob Smith and Gary Martin.

Iowa Editor Fired for Blogging about the "Gaystapo" // Files Religious Discrimination Lawsuit Against Former Employer

Back in May 2014, a Newton, IA, newspaper editor was fired from the Newton Daily News after writing an April 2014 blog post against the "Queen James Bible." Bob Eschliman not only complained about the two-year-old book, but he accused "'the LGBTQXYZ crowd and the Gaystapo' of trying 'to make their sinful nature right with God.'" The blog went viral and within a couple weeks his employer, Shaw Media, placed Eschliman on paid suspension and eventually fired him.

Now Eschliman has teamed with the Liberty Institute and filed an EEOC complaint against his former employer, arguing that he is the victim of religious discrimination:
"No one should be fired for simply expressing his religious beliefs," said Matthew Whitaker, a former United States Attorney, partner of a Des Moines law firm, and a volunteer Liberty Institute attorney. "In America, it is against the law to fire an employee for expressing a religious belief in public. This kind of religious intolerance by an employer has no place in today's welcoming workforce."
I remember this case when it originally erupted. Frankly, I'm surprised today that I didn't write about it back then. This is one of those cases that just makes me cringe. Of all the things to fire a man over, this was not one of them. I mean, the guy complains about the power of the all-powerful "Gaystapo" and then his message gets reinforced by him getting fired. Over a stupid blog criticizing a two-year-old book.

That said, hopefully Eschliman has spent at least a portion of the past three months pondering the expression of his religious beliefs. Maybe his outdated criticism of the Queen James Bible wouldn't have gotten him fired if he hadn't spouted off about homos and the Gaystapo. I mean, there is some merit to communicating an idea without having to depend on inflammatory terminology.

I am interested to see how this all plays out.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Lucy Lawless Recruited by "Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D."!

I just learned some fantastic news: Lucy Lawless (formerly of "Xena: Warrior Princess") will be joining the cast of "Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D." this fall!!!

No details have been released about her role or about how many episodes she will be appearing on. If we are lucky, she will become a regular cast member and appear each and every week!

Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.'s second season is scheduled to return Tuesday, September 23rd, on ABC.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Apollo Nida of "Real Housewives of Atlanta" Sentenced to 8 Years in Prison // Ordered to Repay $1.9 Million in Restitution for Money Fraud & Identify Theft

I totally missed this bit of reality TV news: Apolla Nida, husband to Phaedra Parks of Bravo's "Real Housewives of Atlanta," recently pleaded guilty to a bunch of serious federal charges:
Apollo E. Nida, the husband of 'The Real Housewives of Atlanta' cast member Phaedra Parks, pleaded guilty on Tuesday to conspiring to commit mail, wire and bank fraud in a complex scheme spanning more than four years, harming more than 50 victims, and causing more than $2.3 million in losses.
The 35-year-old reality TV personality pleaded guilty to conspiring with some woman named Gayla St. Julien and others to commit mail, wire, and bank fraud, as well as aggravated identity theft. According to federal prosecutors, Nida and his conspirators obtained stolen checks, which they used for financial gain. They were accused to filing fraudulent tax returns in the names of victims whose identities they had stolen. The also secured fraudulent auto loans on imaginary vehicles using faked documents that appeared to come from legitimate auto dealerships.

According to this report, Nida felt pressured to perform this criminal acts because he didn't like that his wife was making more money than him. Of course, his wife has spent the last several years working as an attorney, training to become a mortician, and starring in a successful reality TV show, while he spent several of his early years cooling his feet in prison. In other words, it isn't unreasonable that his wife would make more money than him.

Earlier this month, Nida was sentenced to eight years in prison for these criminal convictions. Additionally, he has been order to pay $1.9 million in restitution to the victims of his fraudulent acts.

Archie Comics' Announces the First Three "Dark Circle" Titles!

Last week, Archie Comics announced the relaunch of their superhero line under the new Dark Circle Comics brand. This week, they announced the first three Dark Circle Comics titles, which will be released in early 2015:

THE FOX: Archie Comics published a really great mini-series featuring the Fox in late 2013/early 2014. Dean Haspiel and Mark Waid will reunite for a new series featuring the Fox. The initial new storyline will be the "Fox Hunt."

"Fox Hunt" interrupts Paul Patton Jr's superhero retirement plans. He inadvertently upsets some rich guy, who then places a million dollar bounty on his head. What follows is a crazy mess of villains gunning for for the Fox.

Meanwhile, we will be seeing more of the Fox's family, including his young son. What happens when you try retiring from superheroics and your son thinks that is the coolest thing about you?

THE BLACK HOOD: Duane Swierczynski and Michael Gaydos will team up for "The Bullet's Kiss," the first story arc of this series. This will be the darkest of the three titles.

The Black Hood is a cop named Gred Hettinger who starts his descent into darkness with a shot to the face. The character will wear an executioner's mask. The series promises to be a "daring reimagining" of the classic Black Hood character, dangerous, and gritty.

This promises to be the most un-Archie of the three Dark Circle Comics comic books -- and it definitely is the one that I'm looking forward to the most.

THE SHIELD: A new female Shield character will be debuting in "Daughter of the Revolution," created by Adam Christopher, Chuck Wendig, and Wilfredo Torres.

This new Shield is the latest in a legacy of Shields. The Shield was the original patriotic superhero (predating Captain America and every other stars-and-stripes hero).

Honestly, I'm not sure what to expect from this title. To be honest, I like the idea of a new Shield. I wasn't a huge fan of the New Crusaders' Shield and think it's time for some new blood. I just hope that she inherits Dusty the Space Ape from the NEW CRUSADERS mini-series.

Friday, July 18, 2014

LIFE WITH ARCHIE #36: The Death of Archie

Have you read LIFE WITH ARCHIE #36 yet? This is the infamous "Death of Archie" story that has gotten everyone so upset -- most of whom haven't picked up an Archie Comics comic book in years, much less the soon-to-be canceled LIFE WITH ARCHIE series.

I want to make a quick note before getting too far into this review:

This blog entry contains spoilers. If you don't want to know what happens in LIFE WITH ARCHIE #36, then stop reading now. You have been warned.

Back to the show...

It's seems silly at this point to spell out, but it is also important to clarify what LIFE WITH ARCHIE is about. LIFE WITH ARCHIE is a magazine-style comic book featuring two parallel worlds. In one world, an adult Archie Andrews married Veronica Lodge. In the other world, he married Betty Cooper. Both worlds are somewhat similar, but also very different. This comic book has been written much like a serialized soap opera and has tackled everything from breast cancer to getting pregnant to gay weddings to marital separation.

LIFE WITH ARCHIE was also the series that got me back into reading Archie Comics comic books again. I started midway through the first year of the series. I hadn't picked up an Archie Comics digest in years, but had heard about this magazine featuring older versions of the classic characters. Reggie was on trial for something he didn't do. Chuck & Nancy were this bickering couple who were trying to get their comic strip published professionally. Jughead was dating Midge. Moose was the newly-elected mayor of Riverdale. Miss Grundy had just died from some disease.

And then there was Archie Andrews and his two marriages. Mr. Lodge was such a jerk back then. In the one world, he was trying to control Archie & Veronica's marriage. In the other, he was trying to destroy Archie & Betty's collective life for upsetting Veronica.

I was hooked. I had never imagined an Archie Comics comic book like this before. Gradually, I expanded my reading choices to include all of Archie Comics' main titles. But LIFE WITH ARCHIE held a special spot in my heart.

And now it is one issue away from ending.

There was so much hype about this particular issue. It was too political. It was sexualizing children. It was too violent. It was attention-seeking. But then you pick up the title and find that it's nothing at all like that.

I mean, it is violent at the end. Our last moments sometimes are.

It is fitting that this issue began with Archie jogging on Memory Lane. Memory Lane is where the seed for Archie's two weddings began. It is fitting the the series ends on Memory Lane.

The meat of this story was very simple. And very touching. Archie had a chance encounter with a grumpy old man, which got him thinking about his childhood and his childhood love. It featured daydreams about his earliest adventures and about how he wants his life to unfold. It's a story of self-reflection and affirmation that the choices Archie made leading to this point were good choices.

And then the party begins. Everyone is gathering at Jughead's diner to raise money for the victims of a recent mass-shooting. Senator-elect Kevin Keller plans to attend the event. Unfortunately, the mass-shooter plans to be at the event and he has easy access to Sen. Keller. It is Wendell -- Jughead's new busboy. You remember him, don't you? He's the guy who has been running from cameras and stalking Clay. Turns out he didn't vote for Kevin Keller. Anyway, he's the guy who shot Archie.

And for the jerks on Facebook who have been piling on Kevin Keller for not defending himself. The good Senator was protecting his husband and trying to shield Veronica and Betty.

The story ends with Archie dying on the floor of one of his childhood haunts, surrounded by mourning family and friends. Nobody wants to die, but there are worse ways to go.

It was unclear to me where exactly this took place. There are elements of both worlds in this story. I thought at first that this was the "Archie Marries Betty" world. In fact, I could have sworn that Betty was wearing a ring earlier in the story, but I was wrong. It seems that he died the same way in both worlds.

I strongly recommend this moving story. It is a stark reminder of how precious love is and how quickly life can change. "Life With Archie" was written by Paul Kupperberg, Penciled by Pat & Tim Kennedy, and Inked by Jim Amash.

Horse Shot in Rural Johnson County, Iowa

Remember last year when a guy got in trouble for randomly shooting at horses near Swisher, IA? He killed one of the horses and wounded two others. The shooter was eventually given two years probation.

We learned yesterday that another horse was shot in the same area of rural Johnson County. This time, there were no witnesses and there are no suspects. The horse was found by its owners and had been suffering for days from its gunshot wounds. It was noted that this horse is not likely to survive.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Thor Is Now Female // Captain America Is Now Black // Iron Man Is Now Wearing A New Suit

(Originally written on 07/16/14): I was going to write about this earlier today, but then work got in the way. But yesterday, Marvel Comics announced on "The View" of all places that Thor was being relaunched as a female Goddess of Thunder in October 2014. Her secret identity will initially remain a secret, but she will begin appearing in THOR #1:
“The inscription on Thor's hammer reads ‘Whosoever holds this hammer, if HE be worthy, shall possess the power of Thor.’ Well it's time to update that inscription,” says Marvel editor Wil Moss. “The new Thor continues Marvel's proud tradition of strong female characters... And this new Thor isn't a temporary female substitute - she's now the one and only Thor, and she is worthy!"

Series writer Jason Aaron emphasizes, “This is not She-Thor. This is not Lady Thor. This is not Thorita. This is THOR. This is the THOR of the Marvel Universe. But it’s unlike any Thor we’ve ever seen before.”
Something has happened or will happen that makes Thor Odinson no longer worthy of wielding Mjolnir. He will still be around, but I guess will be something less than what he is now.

Meanwhile, this new female Thor will be be running around defending the world from Frost Giants during her first adventure. So that should be interesting.

Meanwhile, there is supposed to be a big announcement tonight on tonight's "Colbert Report" featuring Captain America. He recently had his super-soldier serum sucked out of his body, which turned him into an old man. The running theory is that the new Captain America's identity will be revealed tonight. The open secret is that it will be Sam Wilson AKA the Falcon. We shall know later tonight!

Also, it has been said that there will be a major change involving Iron Man. I'm not 100% certain, but I'm pretty certain that this new Iron Man will be Arno Stark.

Updated on 07/17/14: The rumors are true. There will be a new Captain America later this year: Sam Wilson AKA the Falcon. This was revealed on the "Colbert Report," but expanded upon elsewhere:
“This is it,” says Remender of the culmination of two years of storytelling in CAPTAIN AMERICA and the dawning of ALL-NEW CAPTAIN AMERICA. “This is the fireworks factory we’re arriving at, and now everything’s going to blow up and be very pretty and exciting to look at. It leads into an evolution of Steve Rogers’ character that I had very early when I was given the job. I think that it’s important with these stories to do things that are natural and make sense and have an inherent logic to the universe, but are also constantly shifting and exciting, keeping the drama high. In order to do that it really comes down to creating new dynamics.

“I’ve been having a lot of fun writing Sam. It’s a completely different attitude. The fact that he’s not a soldier shifts things up a bit. Sam’s not going to be Steve. Steve can be very rigid. That can be kind of joyless at times, whereas Sam is absolutely not that.”

“While Sam shares many of Steve’s beliefs in a general sense, he’s also a very different person with a very different background,” adds editor Tom Brevoort, “He didn’t grow up in the 1930s, he’s a modern day man in touch with the problems of the 21st Century. For most of his professional life, Sam has worked as a social worker, so he’s seen the worst of urban society up close, and how crime, poverty, lack of social structure and opportunity can affect the community. So he’s got perhaps a greater focus on the plight of the common man, and perhaps a greater empathy for the underprivileged than maybe even Steve himself. He’s also not a military man, so he’s more apt to be instinctively skeptical of any situation that calls for just following orders. Sam, like Steve, will be led by his personal morality and beliefs as to what is right and what is wrong—and where his beliefs may differ in their shading from those of the previous Cap are where the interesting stories will be found.”
The new Captain America will possess the fighting skills & shield of Cap and the flying skills of Falcon. He will be guided by the original Captain America (Steve Rogers), who is now a very old man. He will also be teamed up with Rogers' artificial ward Ian (AKA Nomad). No word on where Redwing fits in with this change!

Now we're just waiting for the full SUPERIOR IRON MAN reveal...

Updated Later on 07/17/14: Turns out that Iron Man will still be the same old Tony Stark when SUPERIOR IRON MAN #1 debuts in November. However, he will be more of a jerk, he will be living in San Francisco, and he will be wearing a new battle armor:
n November, Superior Iron Man #1 sends Tony Stark to San Francisco with a new outfit and a new perspective on life. “The Genius Bar costume is there for a reason,” Marvel editor-in-chief Axel Alonso tells EW. “The newly-transformed Superior Iron Man has very ambitious plans for the city that some of its residents embrace, but not all.” Comic book fans will note the very pointed addition of the word “Superior” to the title. The last time that happened, it was Superior Spider-Man, and Doctor Octopus took over Peter Parker’s brain. Doc Ock won’t be invading Tony’s frontal lobe, but Alonso does note, “Like the Superior Spider-Man, Superior Iron Man is a character that’s hard to root for.” The series is written by Tom Taylor and drawn by  In a series written by Tom Taylor and drawn by Yildiray Cinar.
I guess Tony wants to create a virtual Utopia via his Extremis computer program, which can be downloaded as a mobile app. Because Utopia worked so well back when the X-Men lived in San Francisco.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

The World Continues to React to Archie Andrews' Death

I bet you already forgot that Archie Andrews is fated to get shot and killed tomorrow in LIFE WITH ARCHIE #36. I spent way too much time visiting the Archie Comics Facebook page last night discussing others' reaction to the character's death. Here is what I observed:

Most people reacting to his death have not read these comic books in years. Most were unaware of LIFE WITH ARCHIE or the types of storylines that it has told over the past five years or so. Most were unaware of Kevin Keller. Most were upset that a "funny book" was being perverted by liberal political points, such as gun control and gay characters. And a few were upset that Archie had to die by "taking a bullet for a queer" instead of something less contrived such as a heart attack or getting hit on the head by a surfboard.

One person told me that Archie Comics killed Archie Andrews so that they can replace him with Kevin Keller (I guess that would make it Kevin Komics?? Maybe that's Dan Parent's new relaunch plan. You heard it here first!!)

My favorite interaction involved a youth pastor named Kimmi. You have to read these two different conversations to believe them:

You read that correctly. Being gay defies God's word. Zombie cannibalism does not. As far as I'm aware, Kimmi never returned following my final question to her.

Most of the media reports about this topic have pretty much said the same thing. Archie will die after saving Kevin Keller from an assassin's bullet. Only one headline bugged me because it captured much of the critics' attention: "Archie Andrew to be Killed Saving Gay Best Friend's Life." Archie and Kevin are friends, but they are not best friends. I think everyone knows that Archie and Jughead are best friends. And a smaller group of fans who have actually read the books in recent years know that Kevin and Veronica are BFFs. It's a minor point in the grand scheme of things, but it has drawn the ire of folks who believe that Kevin is supplanting more familiar characters such as Jughead.

Plus, I wonder what the reaction would be if the articles had simply read "Archie Andrews to be Killed Saving Friend's Life?" Just some food for thought as we count the days for LIFE WITH ARCHIE's cancellation.

Armed Bank Robbery Today in Cedar Rapids, IA // Photo of Suspect Released // Updated on 07/15/14: Bank Robbery Suspects Have Been Arrested!

(Originally written on 07/07/14): There was an armed bank robbery earlier today in nearby Cedar Rapids, IA. The suspect had a weapon when he robbed Guaranty Bank. This is the second bank robbery at this specific bank in just a few weeks

I've attached a pic of the suspect, pulled from media accounts. He is being described as "either a dark-skinned white man or light-skinned black man wearing a blue polo shirt with white pinstripes, blue jeans and a black cap." People with knowledge about this guy's identity are being asked to contact the Cedar Rapids Police Department at 319-286-5491 or Linn County Crime Stoppers at 1-800-CS-CRIME.

Personally, I think the suspect totally looks like he's wearing blackface! I could be wrong. What do you think?

Updated on 07/15/14: There have been two arrests in connection with those two recent robberies throughout Cedar Rapids:
Cedar Rapids police and the FBI on Monday arrested two people in connection with a string of recent bank robberies. Investigators executed search warrants on three Cedar Rapids residences and a number of vehicles. As a result of those investigations, police arrested 25-year-old Damion Michael Broderick, of Cedar Rapids, and 22-year-old Timothy Lee Broderick, also of Cedar Rapids.
Remember what I wrote earlier about blackface?:

Damion Broderick faces six counts of second-degree robbery in connection to robberies committed on 04/28/14, 06/25/14, and 07/07/14. Timothy Broderick faces four counts of second-degree robbery in connection to robberies committed on 04/28/14 and 07/07/14.

It is always good to remind people that these two guys have only been accused of these crimes and have not been convicted.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Details Surrounding Archie Andrews' Death Are Revealed!

I wrote back in April about Archie Comics' plan to cancel LIFE WITH ARCHIE and, as part of that storyline, to kill off Archie Andrews. There have been a ton of articles today about this week's LIFE WITH ARCHIE #36, which is where it all happens. This is what you need to know about LWA #36:
* Archie gets shot.

* He takes a bullet originally meant for Senator Kevin Keller.
LWA #37 will focus on the reactions of his friends and family members.

Let's get this part out there right away. Archie Andrews will continue to appear every month in the ARCHIE comic book. He will continue to appear every other month in BETTY & VERONICA (except when he doesn't). He will continue to battle the undead hordes every month in AFTERLIFE WITH ARCHIE. He will continue to appear several times monthly in all of the various comic book digests that Archie Comics publishes every month.

This comic book death happens only in the LIFE WITH ARCHIE magazine-style comic book featuring two worlds. In one world, an adult Archie Andrews married Betty Cooper. In the other world, he married Veronica Lodge. Both worlds are somewhat similar, but also very different. This comic book has been written much more like a serialized soap opera and has tackled everything from death to breast cancer to new babies to local shootings to marital separations.

If half the people who are now complaining about Archie's death actually read the book that they are bemoaning, then maybe 1.) the book wouldn't be canceled and 2.) they would understand that Archie Andrews will live on beyond this storyline.

Oh, did I mention complaints?? Check out some of these screen grabs that I pulled off of Archie Comics' Facebook page. Sadly, it has gotten worse as the day has progressed. I whited out the names of Facebook commenters, though it would have served them right if I had left these intact. Check this out:

All I can say is that people need to chill out. This is a comic book character who will continue to appear in news stories every month for years to come.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Support Local Businesses

I woke to this on Facebook and totally agree with its sentiment -- though I will need to trust them on their math!:

Saturday, July 12, 2014

World Health Organization: All Gay Men Should Take Anti-Retroviral Drugs

This is interesting. The World Health Organization has published recommendations that all men who have sex with other men should be placed on antiretroviral medications in order to combat HIV and AIDS:
In guidelines published Friday, it said that it “strongly recommends men who have sex with men consider taking antiretroviral medicines as an additional method of preventing HIV infection.” Similar guidelines were issued by the U.S. in May.
The AFP continues:
Taking pre-exposure prophylaxis medication, for instance as a single daily pill combining two antiretrovirals, in addition to using condoms, has been estimated to cut HIV incidence among such men by 20-25 percent, WHO said, stressing that this could avert "up to one million new infections among this group over 10 years".

The new guidelines also focus on other high-risk groups, pointing out that men who have sex with men, transgender people, prisoners, people who inject drugs and sex workers together account for about half of all new HIV infections worldwide.
This seems... expensive. And excessive.

Here is a bit of self-exposure. I am a man who occasionally has sex with another man. Neither of us has HIV and neither of us is sexually active with any other men. Our risk of contracting HIV is virtually nonexistent -- barring exposure from other forms of infection, which is also virtually nonexistent. So placing the two of us on antiretroviral meds does nothing except cost us money and introduce unnecessary chemicals into our bodies.

Here are some ways to reduce risk for HIV infection. Learn how to correctly put on a condom in order to prevent breakage and/or leakage. Don't ever shoot up with dirty needles. Don't have sex with people you barely know unless you are wearing a condom. Postpone higher risk sexual activities (such as anal sex vs. oral sex) with people until you get to know them better. Give yourself plenty of time to learn whether or not you can trust a longer-term sex partner before discontinuing condom usage (assuming that you ever discontinue condom usage). Test yourself regularly. Give yourself even more time to figure out if you really want to discontinue condom usage in the context of a long-term committed relationship. I'm sure there are other official guidelines for HIV prevention that would be good for you to check out.

But mandatory antiretroviral medications for all sexually active gay and bi men seems excessive.

Honey Boo Boo's Uncle Poodle Has Himself a Man!

If you have read this blog long enough, you know that I have a fondness for Honey Boo Boo and her family. One of my favorites is Lee "Uncle Poodle" Thompson. He came out early last year as being HIV-positive. He even ended up pressing charges against his now-ex-boyfriend for failing to reveal his HIV status and for supposedly infecting him with the disease. Uncle Poodle has become a popular recurring personality on the "Here Comes Honey Boo Boo" and even moved in with the family during the most recent episode that I watched. It should be noted that there has been at least one other new episode broadcast since that episode, so he might have already moved out within the show.

Anyway, I follow Uncle Poodle on Facebook. Earlier this week, he publicly acknowledged a new relationship with an attractive guy named Alan. It looks like the pair have been a couple since mid-May. The two have taken to sharing lots of bedroom shots of them cuddling and staring lovingly in each other's eyes.

But don't expect any camo gay weddings anytime soon. Uncle Poodle himself assured his fans that there isn't ever going to be a TV wedding featuring Uncle Poodle!

Friday, July 11, 2014

Iowa Man Charged with Leaving Dog's Poop in Another Man's Yard

A 31-year-old man from Newton, IA, (who apparently has an Iowa City garage) got in trouble with the local police yesterday after he allegedly neglected to pick up his dog's poo-poo from another person's lawn:
According to an Iowa City police complaint, an officer witnessed (a 31-year-old man) walking a dog near the 1100 block of Mormon Trek Boulevard at about 1:40 p.m. Thursday when the dog defecated on a lawn and (he) walked away without picking it up. The officer attempted to make contact with (the man) as he walked into his garage and he became agitated and began yelling at the officer, according to police. Police say (the man) said the officer could not enter his garage and refused repeated requests to provide identification until he told he was going to be arrested.
The man from Newton was charged with interference with official acts, which is a simple misdemeanor, and was also received a violation for animal defecating on another's property.

It is rare that I don't pick up after Nero or Ms. Lion. My neighbors seem to appreciate this.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Archie's Red Circle Comics Rebranded as "Dark Circle Comics"

Archie Comics announced that it will be rebranding its Red Circle Comics line. Red Circle has been the home of their superhero comics line. Most recently, they published comic books featuring the Fox and the New Crusaders, the latter being more targeted towards younger readers.

Starting in early 2015, Red Circles will become Dark Circle Comics. Dark Circle will feature "dream team" creator team-ups doing more mature stories featuring the company's super hero characters. They will focus on short story arcs that can later be republished as trade paperback collections. These will not be heavy continuity-driven books, but they will pull characters and scenarios from the vaults of Archie Comics.

I imagine that we will see more of the Fox, but I really want to see the Hangman back in action. It would also be cool to see the Wizard and the original Steel Sterling. And while we are at it, how about a homoerotic storyline featuring the recently-outed Inferno the Flame Breather!!

Needless to say, these books will be placed on my pull-list.