Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Officer Hettinger Continues His Descent into Addiction and Corruption in THE BLACK HOOD #2

I finally picked up my copy of THE BLACK HOOD #2, the first title in Archie Comics' new Dark Circle line of comic books. I really enjoyed issue #1. We met Officer Gregory Hettinger, a Pittsburgh cop who interrupted a fight between the previous Black Hood and a bunch of thugs. Officer Hettinger managed to kill the Black Hood, but not before getting half of his face shot off. What followed was a dark story of one man's descent into depression and prescription drug addiction. He began stealing drugs from street criminals and then basking in the high while wearing the Black Hood's bloodied mask.

Nice guy, eh?

By the way...

This blog entry contains spoilers. If you don't want to know what happens in THE BLACK HOOD #2, then stop reading now. You have been warned.

I'm back...

I mentioned last time that Hettinger was much more sympathetic in his book than I'd previously envisioned from the preview interviews. He's much less sympathetic in Issue #2.

Hettinger spent much of this issue beating up and shooting drug dealers and then basking in his high. It didn't matter if he was wearing his mask or his badge. He was pretty hardcore. Of course, it makes it difficult to maintain a secret identity when you're the only cop with a massively scarred face. That said, I'm not sure if people have linked Hettinger and the Black Hood together yet.

Some big kingpin starts pulling strings amongst the crooked cops at the top of the police force and amongst his operatives to destroy Hettinger. This leads to a bit of collaboration, which ultimately leads to the very public arrest of Greg Hettinger... and his private vow of revenge against his enemies.

In case you think otherwise, I really like THE BLACK HOOD. We were never promised a warm and cuddly superhero when this title was originally announced. But it's still jarring to adjust to a title character who wears a blood-stained mask and beats up other junkies in order to steal their drugs.

I can't wait to see what happens next!

"The Bullet's Kiss Part Two" is written by Duane Swierczynski, penciled/inked by Michael Gaydos, lettered by Rachel Deering, and colored by Kelly Fitzpatrick.

Not Cool: Various States/Cities Officially Boycotting Indiana Over RFRA

So there's the whole Indiana "Religious Freedom Restoration Act" and fall-thing thing going on. Remember that? (here and here) I'm already tired of hearing about it on the various radio programs and podcasts that I routinely listen to. Don't get me wrong. I don't mind that citizens are protesting their state government. I don't have a problem with businesses who are second-guessing their economic involvement with the state.

But now I'm hearing about local and state governments who are boycotting official business with the State of Indiana over this law?? We're talking about Connecticut and Washington and New York and Portland. I vaguely remember more, but these were the easiest to find.

Do we really want to set this precedent? What happens when Indiana boycotts Iowa for being a marriage equality state?

Like it or not, we are part of a shared nation. Our chunks of government need to work with other chunks of government. Even when we don't fully agree on everything. Because we're a shared nation and because we don't want to start another civil war.

In other words, New York and Washington and Connecticut and Portland and whomever else needs to get over themselves. These municipal boycotts are just grandstanding efforts and they're not good for America.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

BBC's "Survivors" Turns 40 in April 2015!

Back in 2008, I watched a show on BBC America called "Survivors." It was a post-apocalyptic science fiction program that told about a small group of people who survived a fatal form of the flu. There were no zombies or walking plants. There was no nuclear fall-out to contend with. There weren't even any demons or talking apes to contend with. This was just a group of people struggling to deal with a disease that managed to kill off roughly 99% of humanity -- and pretty much every comfort of modern society in the process. Oh, and there was a shadowy corporate group that menaced everyone in their search for a cure to treat the disease that they created. That show lasted two seasons and eventually ended -- with a cliffhanger, no less(!!) -- in early 2010.

Sometimes since then, I learned that this wasn't the first Survivors television program. The BBC teamed with Terry Nation and Terence Dudly back in the mid-70s and created three seasons of the program. Most of the characters and plots from the 2008 series originated with their earlier program. I purchased a DVD collection of all three seasons and gradually watched all 38 episodes and generally enjoyed this earlier version of the program much more than the more recent version.

I recently realized that the original Survivors program would be celebrating its 40th anniversary next month. I toyed with developing a panel about Survivors' 40th anniversary at a Brit-themed convention this summer, but scuttled this plan after my son asked if the convention was about old TV shows that nobody knew anything about. After some thought, I came to the conclusion that D' had a point about Survivors -- not the convention -- so I decided to forget about the panel and come up with a weekly blog series about Survivors.

Starting next weekend, I will do reviews of each episode of the first season of Survivors. I plan to introduce the characters and review the storylines, sprinkled with a bit of commentary. I will likely take a bit of a break between seasons, but hopefully I will complete reviews of all 38 episodes by the end of 2015.

The point of today's blog post is to introduce the concept and to commit myself to this project. But I also want to introduce the concept behind the series.

Survivors begins much like Stephen King's The Stand, though the players are different. Plus there's no supernatural "good versus evil" in this television program. The TV show never really explores the origins of the plague within the storylines, though the opening sequence reveals how the plague began.

It appears that Survivors' deadly plague has its origins in China. A government scientist is working on a reddish chemical in a flask. And then he drops the flask, causing it to shatter on the ground. We then see the scientist taking off on an international flight. Shortly after that, the scientist collapses in the airport.

Of course, he's managed to infect everyone around him, who have infected everyone around them, who in turn have infected everyone around them! And that is how the Death managed to spread through the world of Survivors.

We will review episode one of Survivors ("The Fourth Horseman") next weekend.

Gov. Mike Pence: "Indiana's Religious Freedom Restoration Act Wasn't Meant to Discriminate against Gays"

As anticipated, Indiana passed its controversial Religious Freedom Restoration Act into law, signed and sealed by Gov. Mike Pence. And as anticipated, the shame of this new law has already proven difficult for the state to cope with.

George Takei has threatened a boycott of Indiana over SB101. Gen Con has threatened to pull out of the state. The Disciples of Christ have threatened to pull their annual convention from the state. Angie's List has canceled a $40 million expansion of their Indiana HQ over SB101. Salesforce.com has canceled all corporate-related travel to the state of Indiana. Thousands of Indiana citizens protested yesterday on the streets of Indianapolis.

And now Gov. Mike Pence has blinked:
Gov. Mike Pence, scorched by a fast-spreading political firestorm, told The Star on Saturday that he will support the introduction of legislation to “clarify” that Indiana’s controversial Religious Freedom Restoration Act does not promote discrimination against gays and lesbians.

“I support religious liberty, and I support this law,” Pence said in an exclusive interview. “But we are in discussions with legislative leaders this weekend to see if there’s a way to clarify the intent of the law.”

The governor, although not ready to provide details on what the new bill will say, said he expects the legislation to be introduced into the General Assembly this coming week.

Asked if that legislation might include making gay and lesbian Hoosiers a protected legal class, Pence said, “That’s not on my agenda.”

Amid the deepest crisis of his political career, Pence said repeatedly that the intense blowback against the new law is the result of a “misunderstanding driven by misinformation.”

He adamantly insisted that RFRA will not open the door to state-sanctioned discrimination against gays and lesbians. But he did acknowledge that Indiana’s image — and potentially its economic health — has been hurt badly by the controversy...

Behind the scenes, Pence and his team have been scrambling to mitigate that damage — both to the state and to the governor’s political career...

I asked the governor if he had anticipated the strongly negative reaction set off by the bill’s passage. His response made it clear that he and his team didn’t see it coming.

“I just can’t account for the hostility that’s been directed at our state,” he said. “I’ve been taken aback by the mischaracterizations from outside the state of Indiana about what is in this bill.”

In defense of the legislation, he noted that 19 other states and the federal government have adopted RFRA laws similar to Indiana’s. And he pointed out that President Barack Obama voted for Illinois’ version of RFRA as a state senator.
You can read SB101 here. Indiana's RFRA law is different from other versions in that it provides a legal defense of religious belief even if the state is not party to the case. In other words, this would allow a business owner to use their religious beliefs to justify refusing services to same-sex couples or whomever -- essentially superseding any municipal nondiscrimination laws protecting specific classes of people.

And despite what Gov. Pense says about RFRA not being about anti-gay discrimination and about this being a distortion from leftists, social and religious conservative proponents of SB101 have already admitted that RFRA should be used as a tool to justify anti-gay discrimination.

Saturday, March 28, 2015


I just finished reading ARCHIE'S FUNHOUSE COMICS DOUBLE DIGEST #13, which features tons of classic reprints featuring Archie, Raj Patel, Little Archie, and Josie & the Pussycats! But it also begins with a new short story featuring Archie. It seems that Archie and Veronica are constantly fighting.

Archie decides that he's figures out the cause for their fights: Him. He just can't stop himself from making stupid comments that end up upsetting Veronica. He comes up with a plan to protect Veronica from any more fighting: He has taken a vow of silence in order to avoid any fights!

Archie quickly realizes that he can't simply avoid problems by keeping his mouth shut. Jughead gets mad at him because Archie fails to warn him of an approaching skateboarder. Reggie gets mad at him because Archie ends up passing him an innocent note during a test. Archie can't catch a break!

Of course, things go from bad to worse when Reggie figures out a way to capitalize on Archie's newly zipped lip. Maybe this will give you a hint?

Do you think Archie will keep his vow?

"He's Quiet a Guy" is written by Angelo DeCesare, penciled by Dan Parent, inked by Jim Amash, lettered by Jack Morelli, and colored by Digikore Studios.

Who's the Best Dancing Star in Riverdale? Find Out in BETTY AND VERONICA COMICS DOUBLE DIGEST #232!

This was a huge week for new comic books coming out of Archie Comics. I ended up getting three digests plus one regular comic book. And that's not even counting my Marvel Comics books and my online Charlton Comics/PIX-C Web Comics! I thought I would start out this week's reviews with the BETTY AND VERONICA COMICS DOUBLE DIGEST #232!

This digest features a brand-new lead story featuring Betty & Veronica (who else??). It stands out a bit to me because I recently watched my first episode of "Dancing With The Stars." This story starts with B&V watching their favorite dance program on the Lodge's big-screen TV. The show appears to be a cross between "DWTS" and "American Idol," because fans are encouraged to try out their moves on the show.

This leads to a frenetic and kinetic story where Veronica hires Riverdale's best choreographer and Betty recruits Riverdale's finest teen dancers for dual crash-courses in dance moves!

I'll leave it up to you to pick up your copy of the digest (filled also with several retro stories featuring Betty, Veronica, and Sabrina the Teenage Witch) to see if either girl makes their audition!

By the way, check out some of the competing dance moves from B&V's favorite dance program? Those are either some of the worst dancers or some of the best dancers ever!

"Dippy Dancings" is written by Alex Simmons, penciled by Dan Parent, inked by Jim Amash, lettered by Jack Morelli, and colored by Digikore Studios.

Friday, March 27, 2015

700 Club's Pat Robertson to Parent: Speak Out Against Your Son's Gay Marriage -- And Also Against Your Son's Adoption!

I was watching a clip from CBN's "700 Club" earlier this week and discovered a new segment called "Bring It On." Basically, people email questions to Pat Robertson and seek his answers. This segment addressed the subject of gay men adopting children:
Question: We start with an interesting question from Jacob. He says: “My son recently got married to another man, and now he and his husband are trying to adopt a child. I feel like this would be unfair for the child. What should I do?” 

Pat Robertson: I think you ought to pray about it and I think you ought to speak out about it. If you sincerely feel as I do that this is wrong -- it is violating the Scriptures – they need to know it. This so-called lifestyle… I just can’t believe it. They have tried to destroy marriage. Marriage is between a man and a woman and they’ve now brought cases to the Supreme Court saying the Defense of Marriage Act is unconstitutional. So what should you do? You better get on your knees and pray and let the Lord take care of it because there isn’t a whole lot else you can do.
You can check out the whole clip here:

Don't get me wrong. I totally expected this type of answer from Pat Robertson.

I just think it's worth noting that Jacob is on a journey that will -- if he doesn't turn things around -- lead to the destruction of his father/son relationship. If he hasn't already done that. LGBT people tolerate an awful lot of grief from our parents when they act standoffishly towards us. We will grit our teeth when our parents criticize our "so-called lifestyle."

But when the grandparents begin mistreating our kids? That's when our protective instincts kick in and we begin to disengage from anti-gay family members -- even grandparents.

Just a word of unsolicited advice to Jacob.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Inhuman Torch?? // Meet the Uncanny Inhumans!

Marvel Comics has been working over the past few years to make the Inhumans into something bigger than they had been. Basically, they don't have the rights to the X-Men when it comes to making movies (and making money off the movies). Marvel Comics still likes its mutants, but they realized that they could do movies that essentially tell the same tales of societal alienation and prejudice in their own studios using Inhumans instead. So they blew up a big Terrigan bomb over New York City and caused thousands of unsuspecting humans worldwide to suddenly realize that they have Inhuman blood coursing through their veins.

I've been reading INHUMAN over the past year, which has introduced us to several of these NuHumans. Some, like Inferno and Nur and Ms. Marvel, interest me. Others, like Naja and Iso and Reader, bore me. I like the concept behind the Inhumans and behind INHUMAN itself. INHUMAN suffers from shifting story focus and inconsistent artists. IMHO, as always. But I keep reading.

Marvel Comics recently announced that a second Inhumans-themed title will be published soon: UNCANNY INHUMANS. The line-up was revealed earlier today: Medusa, Triton, Inferno, Naja, Iso, and... the Human Torch??

I'm not sure what I think of this line-up. There is a lot of repetition in appearances and powers with this line-up, plus we're already seeing all of these characters -- excluding Johnny Storm -- over in INHUMAN. So why not draw in some fresh characters in UNCANNY INHUMANS??

Here are some characters I would have liked to see on this team:

*Crystal from the Royal Family. She has pretty much disappeared over the past year, with the exception of some recent appearances in ALL NEW X-FACTOR.

*Talon from the Guardians of the Galaxy (90s team). Has has claws and agility, plus he knows some wicked magic!

*Yeti from MARVEL: THE LOST GENERATION. He's a wild creatures who's been cut off for years from the Inhumans. He's a wild card, which is always fun on a team!

*Geldhoff. He's a NuHuman who was introduced in one of the X-MEN annuals. He has pretty powerful energy powers and is a little shifty. Did I mention that he is from Latveria? What better excuse to utilize Doctor Doom as an occasional villain??

*Red Raven: She's the winged daughter of the original Red Raven. She's from a secret society of Inhuman bird-people, which fits in with the current theme of hidden societies of Inhumans. Plus, every team needs a winged member!

*One of the Alpha Primitives -- or possibly some new NuHuman who's taken it upon him/herself to liberate the Inhumans' slave race. Let's face it. The existence of the Alpha Primitives makes the Inhumans look like a bunch of jerks. Now imagine that the Inhumans are being integrated amidst humanity and it's discovered that they have slaves. I don't imagine that this would be received well.

But I wasn't consulted when the actual UNCANNY INHUMANS were conceived.

What do you think of the new team? And what do you think of Johhny Storm's presence on the team? I'd love to read your thoughts in the comments section!

Gay Proposal on "Let's Make A Deal"

I noticed this last week while I was away on vacation, but just got reminded about this exciting moment on “Let’s Make A Deal.” The game got paused for a second while one of the contestant proposed to his boyfriend in front of a cheering audience:

In case you couldn't tell, his boyfriend said, "Yes!"

Check out the video here:

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Harper Lodge Returns in ARCHIE #665

Remember Harper Lodge? She is a relatively new Archie Comics character. She is Veronica Lodge's famous cousin from out west. She is a clothing designer. She writes children's books. She writes an advice column called "Dear Jewel." And she is physically disabled. She originally appeared in ARCHIE #656, where she impressed the Riverdale Gang and literally knocked Reggie Mantle off of his feet! She has made two cameos since then (here and here), but she regained much of the spotlight in ARCHIE #665.

It seems that Harper is in Riverdale so that she can visit her cousin Veronica and so that she can work with Chuck Clayton on her latest writing project -- a graphic novel called "The Powers That Be," which features new superheroes patterned after Harper and her friends. Harper's superhero identity is The Gem. It seems that she wears a powerful gem on her ring-finger, which acts as some sort of cosmic key for her wheelchair. She can transform the wheelchair into all sorts of different vehicles and weapons, plus it can time-travel.

Harper also creates a series of "handi-capable" heroes, each designed after one of her disabled friends. I noticed that none of the designs were patterned after a person with an intellectual disability. Hopefully, that's something that can be addressed during the upcoming ARCHIE reboot!

Much of the drama involves family tension between Harper and Veronica. Basically, Veronica is a snoop. She comes across a script that portrays her as an ugly villain, which causes her to rage for a while -- before discovering that Harper purposely created a fake script because she knew that her cousin is a snoop.

There's also romantic tension as Reggie tries to cope with jealousy over another guy in Harper's life!

Lastly, we briefly met Harper's parents. It was obvious from the beginning that Veronica's cousin isn't the most Caucasian of characters. There was speculation about her racial heritage in the comments section of these two blog posts (here and here). It turns out that her mother is of Indian heritage. So now we know!

Harper & Parents
The Big Question: Will Harper Lodge fade away once ARCHIE reboots? I hope not. I understand that the nature of Archie Comics' primary titles will be changing soon, but I really like this character. It would be nice if she had a recurring presence in the relaunch. But it would be even cooler if she continued having adventures in the various digest magazines too!

"Writer's Blockheads" was written and penciled by Dan Parent, inked by Rich Koslowski, lettered by Jack Morelli, and colored by Glenn Whitmore.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Faith UCC in Iowa City Uses WAGE THEFT Comic Book to Study Fair Wages & Other Issues of Economic Justice

Faith UCC's Ann Zerkel / WAGE THEFT
My church, Faith United Church of Christ in Iowa City became the first UCC church in Iowa to adopt a covenant for Economic Justice last June. Basically, we pledged to learn about and work towards a more equitable economic reality -- both on a personal, congregational, local, national, and global scale.

I totally missed it, but Faith Works -- Faith UCC's committee is charge of programming specifically related to our Economic Justice covenant -- led a shared ministry worship service on January 11, 2015.  This is how it was reported on the Economic Justice section of Faith UCC's website:
Following an Economic Justice worship service led by Faith Works on January 11, at which Ann Zerkel presented ideas from the newly formed UCC Economic Justice League, Faith Works hosted an Adult Education discussion featuring a Wage Theft Comic Book produced by Interfaith Worker Justice (IWJ), the national organization with which Center for Worker Justice (CWJ) is affiliated.
When talk turned to tipping in restaurants, the discussion became quite alive. DON’T TIP ON YOUR CREDIT CARD (IT MAY GO STRAIGHT TO THE OWNERS!) GIVE THE SERVER CASH AS A TIP, AND ASK WHETHER S(HE) IS ALLOWED TO KEEP IT!
When Ann Zerkel ordered the comic books she was quizzed by IWJ staff on how she would use them. She wrote a report, was interviewed by phone, and Faith UCC will be featured in the next IWJ quarterly newsletter. Copies will be sent to Faith for us to see. 
Note the final paragraph, because Faith United Church of Christ did indeed receive a copy of the "Your Faith Works" newsletter from the Interfaith Worker Justice recently and they featured an article about Ann and our church congregation's study of the WAGE THEFT comic books:

Monday, March 23, 2015

Indiana Poised to Sign Anti-Gay Discrimination into Law -- And I'm Fine With That

The Indiana legislature just passed a bill that will allow businesses and individuals to legally discriminate against anyone in the name of religious liberty. People are trying to get Gov. Mike Pence to veto this legislation, which is a pipe dream.

Several states -- mostly Republican led -- are introducing these bills with varying levels of success this year. I know that I should be worked up about it, but I'm not.

First, it just reminds us that the GOP and that religious conservatives aren't friends of the Friends of Dorothy. I almost never forget this, but some people need periodic reminders.

Second, it seems like social and religious conservatives need the ability to withhold services from us. They really want to tell us that they disagree with us and our families and that they don't want our money. So why give it to them?

They might have the legal ability to discriminate against us, but we will still retain the ability to publicly shame them using social and news media -- as well as word of mouth -- with our friends and family.

#BoycottDolceGabbana didn't result in these fashion designers issuing public apologies to their customer base because they violated some anti-discrimination law. It worked because people learned that the founders of D & G were hostile and catty towards the children of same-sex couples and others who've chosen IVF treatment (as well as gay adoptive parents) and they expressed outrage as the notion that our kids are viewed as "synthetic children." Now Dolce & Gabbana are synonymous with anti-gay zealots like NOM, the 700 Club, and the Family Research Council.

I'm okay with businesses and government employees being publicly shamed for being rude to unsuspecting LGBT people and allies. We don't need to take people to court or to file complaints against these places to make a point.

We just need to know which businesses don't want our money. And we need to tell our friends and family to avoid those businesses. And we also need to support those businesses who have our backs.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

11-Person Family Threatened by the City of Hartford, CT

I learned of an 11-person family in Hartford, CT, earlier this week on Facebook whose home is being jeopardized by zoning regulations.

Let me step this back a bit and define this family. They aren't adult siblings and they aren't a poly household. They are a group of 11 people consisting of three couples, three children, and two single people. They are all longtime friends who have bonded together to jointly purchase and maintain their home:
"I think there's a real extension of our values as people," English teacher Kevin Lamkins said. "The values I'm speaking of are sustainability, cooperation, living more, living well but within your means. Being connected to other people and not being in a silo, so to speak."

The group of friends includes three teachers, a grants manager and a mental health therapist. "It's not a cult, there's no religion, there's no intermingling," Julia Rosenblatt said. "We're really living like most people are, you know, we are just doing it together."

They purchased the nine-bedroom home and moved in last August. They have a legal partnership agreement and a shared bank account to pay expenses. The group has spent $30,000 so far to repair the home which was built in 1921.
Neighbors have complained to the city, which has asserted that no more than two unrelated people in this area. Meanwhile, this family has unsuccessfully appealed this decision and is now considering a lawsuit. Either that, or they will have to sell their home and dissolve their functional family.

I understand why these types of zoning laws exist, but I really question if the city of Hartford, CT, is truly better off by forcing this group out of their collective home.

House GOPers Attack Collective Bargaining Rights on Iowa Teachers // Meanwhile, My Tweet Makes the Washington Post!

Earlier this past week when I was back near Boston, I learned that House Republicans back here in Iowa were working on a funding bill that under-funded our public schools and introduced an amendment that would negatively affect the collective bargaining rights of Iowa's teachers in the process. I watched as the House of Representatives debated and defended these amendments and could do much more than send an email to my own representative and urge her to support our schools and our teachers.

One of the things that frustrated me while I watched was the level of bored inattention to these concerns by various House Republicans. For example, Rep. Clel Baudler spent the debate watching programs on Netflix.

But the one who really got my goat was Rep. Ross Paustian, who got caught by the Des Moines Register kicking back with a copy of Sex After Sixty during the legislative discussion. Progress Iowa posted some commentary on Facebook, and I ended up posting a screen-grab of that on Twitter.

My Twitter post was fairly popular, compared to other tweets that I've made over the years. Several have favorited it and several more retweeted that image. But then people moved on to bigger and better things.

I learned this morning that my Rep. Paustian/Sex After Sixty tweet got used in Washington Post piece on this latest attack on collective bargaining rights. That puffed up my ego for a few moments. But then I realized that this was more of a win for the Des Moines Register and Progress Iowa, so serious props to them both.

By the way, did you ever wonder why Rep. Paustian was reading Sex After Sixty while the Iowa House was working hard to disenfranchise Iowa's teachers?:
The Des Moines Register reported that Rep. Ross Paustian (R-Walcott) opened the book when Democratic lawmakers were introducing amendments to the bill and quoted him as saying that the book had been passed around among members. It also quoted him as saying: “We could all use a laugh around here.” Meanwhile, other lawmakers engaged in other activities, and teachers were unamused.
The Iowa House ultimately approved these changes on a 56-41 party line vote, but it's unclear if Iowa's Senate will go along with them.

Bomb Threat Temporarily Closes Iowa River Landing in Coralville, IA

I just learned that a bomb threat was made to the police in nearby Coralville, IA, earlier this morning at around 6:40 AM. This bomb threat lead to the temporarily closing of streets around the Iowa River Landing:
Detective Shane Kron told KCJJ they received a call about 6:40 a.m. from a male who sounded to be in his 20s saying he was at 845 Quarry Road…the home of the KCJJ studios…and that he had planted a bomb there. Kron says the man also stated he was on top of the building and was going to shoot any police officers who arrived on scene.
According to KCJJ, the radio station also received threatening calls early this morning. I was just getting up at the time and didn't have the radio on, so I'm not sure if those threats were made on-air or if they were left on the station's business line.

The area was cleared by police for roughly an hour while they investigated the threat. Coralville Police say that they were unable to trace the calls, but I'm skeptical.

I shall share more once I learn more.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Archie Horror Imprint to Launch in May 2015 // SABRINA & AFTERLIFE Finally Returning // Hints of Third Horror Title Announced!

One of the biggest bits of news that came out while I was away on vacation had to do with Archie Comics and their scary comics, specifically AFTERLIFE WITH ARCHIE and CHILLING ADVENTURES OF SABRINA. Both titles have been very, very late. Like, we haven't seen an issue of SABRINA since October 2014 and we haven't seen an issue of AFTERLIFE since December 2014. And we're almost into April 2015.

Archie Comics' Chief Creative Officer and writer Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa finally addressed the chronic tardiness of these titles and promised that SABRINA #2 will be released on April 15, 2015, and AFTERLIFE WITH ARCHIE #8 will be released on May 6, 2015:
“I could give you a dozen excuses, and none of them are really good. We really really wanted to launch the book at New York Comic-Con because it was close to Halloween. In retrospect, we should’ve delayed the launch to get a few issues in the can,” says Aguirre-Sacasa. “there’s no excuse, and there will never be a delay like there was been between Sabrina 1 and 2. Like, never. We are very, very lucky that we have an incredibly passionate and understanding fan base that is eager for the book.”
We also learned that Archie Comics will be launching a new Archie Horror imprint in May 2015. I think that's their way of telling readers that they haven't given up on their best-selling horror titles, even if they struggle to get new issues out to the readers.

They also announced that they are planning a third title under the Archie Horror imprint, but were skimpy on the details:
As for that mysterious third horror series, the publisher isn’t quite ready to reveal what it is just yet. But Aguirre-Sacasa was able to give us a pretty sizable set of clues.
I can tell you that it will be centered around a major Archie character,” teases Aguirre-Sacasa. “She has appeared in one of our books before. And [the book] will be in a genre we have not explored or even hinted at in Sabrina—in Afterlife, we’ve only hinted at it a tiny, tiny bit. And it will be set in the present.
The running theory is that this will be a new take on Josie & the Pussycats or It's Josie. I've read suggestions that Josie & the Pussycats might make for an interesting werecat/lycanthropy concept, which might be interesting.

I've also had a few online friends suggest that the third title might focus on Cheryl Blossom.

Personally, I think it'd be fun to see something patterned after It's Josie or maybe the Pussycats. And it might be fun to adapt their old "Josie and the Pussycats in Outer Space" cartoon series into a creepy alien invasion story (shades of the 1980s "War of the Worlds" TV series??).

But I think it's more likely that this new series will be a ghost story/haunted house type of title -- only because of the clue that the genre was hinted at in AFTERLIFE #2 and I've got that image of Mr. Lodge being haunted by the spirit of his dead life stuck in my head.

I'm still holding out hope for a TWO-FISTED TONI TOPAZ: MISTRESS OF THE MACABRE series -- guest-starring the Carneys, of course! But that might be a bit of a long shot...

Friday, March 20, 2015

Pet Avengers Update: RIP Redwing!!

Remember how excited I was last month that the Pet Avengers would be reuniting very soon? It looks like one of the team's charter members won't be making the reunion following events in this week's ALL-NEW CAPTAIN AMERICA #5.

For those who don't know, Steve Rogers (AKA the original Captain America) was de-powered last year and turned into an old man. His sidekick Sam Wilson (FKA the Falcon) ended up assuming Captain America's identity.

For years, Wilson has shared a psychic link with a pet falcon known as Redwing. Redwing joined the Pet Avengers. But now it looks like Redwing is pushing up daisies due to a run-in with the World War II villain Baron Blood.

It's possible that Redwing isn't dead. Maybe Baron Blood just stunned him. It's also possible that Redwing will come back from the dead thanks to Baron Blood's vampiric nature. Which might be interesting since I've never heard of a vampiric bird before.

Regardless, this is a sad week for the Pet Avengers.

RIP Redwing.

Nero and Ms. Lion at Daycare -- Spring Break 2015

We were in Massachusetts this week, which meant that the dogs were shipped off to doggy daycare. Normally Nero loves this, but it looks like it got to be too much of a good thing. Not that there's been trouble. I think he just misses home:

And Ms. Lion never enjoys doggy daycare. I know that she'd rather be home, but that's not always in the cards. But she's home now and that's what counts!:

Jon's Blog Returns from Vacation!

Husband Mark, D'Angelo, and I just returned this afternoon. We had traveled this week near Boston to visit Mark's parents and sister.

It turned out to be a fairly quiet spring break week. His father has been struggling with some health ailments and ended up in the hospital just before our visit. So we ended up spending our time surrounded by nurses, as opposed to our original plans.

But we still got to witness Boston's latest snowfall -- which was enough to break all previous records for previous years of snowfall. We got to visit to the ocean. We got to go snowboarding (and by "we," I mean D'). We ate out a lot. We watched a few movies. Basically, we enjoyed time away from home and work.

It's good to be back, but it's always good to connect with extended family members.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Honey Boo Boo's Mama June on NBC's "The Biggest Loser"??

TMZ reports that Mama June Shannon, formerly of TLC's "Here Comes Honey Boo Boo," has aspirations to compete on an upcoming season of NBC's "The Biggest Loser." They report that she has hired a celebrity trainer and that she has set a personal weight loss goal of 100 pounds.

Presumably this is related to her recent appearance, along with daughter Alana Thompson, on "The Doctors," where the professionals on that show expressed concerns over her daughter's weight and health. It makes sense that Mama June would begin shaping up alongside Alana.

TMZ also recently reported that Mama June and the family continue to pitch reality TV show concepts over in Los Angeles.

What do you think? Is it over for the family? Too soon to start up a new show? Will a new show rehabilitate the family's image? Share your thoughts in the comments section!

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

The Big Apple Takes a Bite Out of Archie in ARCHIE COMICS DOUBLE DIGEST #259!

I recently picked up my copy of ARCHIE COMICS DOUBLE DIGEST #259, which features a variety of classic reprints starring Archie Andrews, as well as Little Archie and Wilbur.

It also contains a brand-new lead story featuring Archie, Betty and Veronica as they drive into New York City for a day of shopping, lunch, and a Broadway performance. Determined to save some time, Archie decides to drive the girls into the city and avoid public transportation. That way, they won't have to walk everywhere and they'll save all sorts of money, right?

Archie quickly discovers that New York City isn't known for its available parking spaces! So he ends up spending the day scrounging for parking and avoiding the meter maids while the girls have fun looking for bargains!

What a mess!

By the way, that horse seems to like Archie. Possible new member of the Pet Posse??

"Driving Me Crazy" was written by Alex Simmons, penciled by Dan Parent, inked by Rich Koslowski, lettered by Jack Morelli, and colored by Digikore Studios.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Archie's Dark Circle Begins in THE BLACK HOOD #1

I finally sat down and read my copy of THE BLACK HOOD #1, the first title in Archie Comics' new Dark Circle line of comic books. These titles are meant to be darker, more complicated versions of the publisher's previous efforts at superheroes. THE BLACK HOOD #1 features the origin story of the third man to assume the Black Hood identity. Based on my first impressions, this promises to be a very good series.

But first...

This blog entry contains spoilers. If you don't want to know what happens in THE BLACK HOOD #1, then stop reading now. You have been warned.

Back to the show...

When I first read this title's description, I understood that Officer Gregory Hettinger was a crooked cop who got shot in the face and is now addicted to pain killers. Not quite. It turns out that he was an apparently decent cop who got shot in the face at a crime scene. He woke with horrific scars across his face and extremely impaired speech. He wallowed in depression, mourning his once-handsome appearance. He struggled with pain from his facial injuries and gradually found himself less responsive to his prescribed pain meds. Which eventually led to him stealing stronger pain meds from criminals on the streets.

So, more sympathetic than originally thought.

Oh yeah, he got shot in the face while approaching a fight between the second Black Hood (last seen here and here). And he managed to shoot the second Black Hood right before he collapsed from his injuries. That's right. This Black Hood killed the previous Black Hood on the third page.

Many of those within the Philadelphia Police Department were excited that he took out the Black Hood. Others thought it was terrible. Hettinger ended up with the Black Hood's torn up mark -- and began wearing it around the house while getting high off of his stolen pain meds.

There was one character who didn't seem filled with pity or disgust by Hettinger's scarred appearance. Her name is Jessie Dupree. She is a speech therapist who stepped up to help him regain his speech. She appears to be the one person who genuinely appears proud of the injured cop and concerned for his recovery. Others might give up on him once it gradually becomes clear that he is walking towards the edge -- but not Jessie. She's not going to give up on him.

He begins to skip their speech therapy appointments in order to bask in his addiction, which leads Jessie to seek him out at his home. Fearful that she would find himself with his mask and amidst his pain pills, Hettinger sneaks out of a window -- and comes across a mugging. "What are you -- a cop or a junkie?," Hettinger asks himself before pulling on the black mask.

The first issue ends with him deciding to be something new. He assumes the identity that he snuffed out at the beginning of this comic book. Hettinger becomes the Black Hood.

Like I wrote above, I really liked this story a lot. The story is tough and the artwork is beautifully rendered. I like the hazy lines around each panel. I assume that this is to symbolize his growing addiction.

It's easy to dismiss Gregory Hettinger on paper as a crooked cop with an addiction to pain meds, but the story does a good job of believably explaining how he found himself in that very dark place.

I'm really looking forward to seeing where they take this new series.

"The Bullet's Kiss" is written by Duane Swierczynski, penciled/inked by Michael Gaydos, lettered by Rachel Deering, and colored by Kelly Fitzpatrick.

Monday, March 16, 2015

My Friend Donny AKA Stuffed Animal Speaks Out on the Trials of Being Homeless

I've shared artwork from cartoonist Donny Hampton Jacobs (AKA Stuffed Animal) off and on over the past year or so. He was a fan of the old LIFE WITH ARCHIE comic book series, as well as my poodle Nero. He began sharing some of his original artwork with me ("Archie 4 Adults") a while ago. Some of it is risque, as well as NSFW. Somehow Nero eventually became incorporated into the adult lives of Archie Andrews, Betty Cooper, Jughead Jones, Reggie Mantle, and Veronica Lodge. It's really out-there material that you should check out.

Donny shared something on his own blog that he'd already privately shared with me. He has been struggling with homelessness for many, many months. He has described shelter conditions to me that would seem cartoonishly villainous and suspect -- except that I've personally spoken with others who have stayed in that very same homeless shelter and who have described the same type of treatment. I won't name the shelter where he's been staying at. Mostly because I don't want him to suffer any form of retribution while he's still staying there. But I really don't know how those people can sleep at night after managing that shelter as they do.

Here is some information from his latest blog post that gives you a hint from what he has been dealing with:
Homelessness is nothing less than a form of torture that society perpetrates on desperately poor people. A homeless person can decide to either to risk arrest and/or physical harm by actually living exposed on the streets; or risk physical harm, theft of personal property, appalling sanitary conditions, sexual exploitation, frequent food poisoning, vermin infestation, labor exploitation and mandatory religious brainwashing in a homeless shelter. Not to mention a near-total lack of sleep . . . if those living conditions don't meet the definition of torture, then nothing should... 
In a nutshell, overcoming homeless status requires skill at climbing out of quicksand pits unassisted! Very few people have that skill, so they need all the help God can give them; nothing attracts the contempt of your fellow human beings like helplessness! Many cities now have programs to assist homeless youth, and that's a good thing; yet many youth advocates could care less about the homeless once they're over a certain age. WTF is up with that?

In Kansas City's main men's shelter, I see mostly older men, some with severe mental illness, several prone to periodic seizures and strokes, and a shocking number on crutches and in wheelchairs.  I've seen old men die in that shelter, alone and forgotten.  Homelessness among the elderly, especially LGBT elderly, is the American health crisis nobody is talking about. Why? Because the only thing society agrees on when the torture is the topic is that children should not have to suffer it. If you're older, somehow it's OK! 
Donny's "Archie 4 Adults" cartoons have been his source of escape from the realities of long-term homelessness. He announced in the blog that he will be relocating to a new community, which will hopefully offer him new opportunities that will assist him with breaking free from his current struggles.

I seriously encourage you to follow through the link and read his entire post. It is so easy for 40- and 50-something men and women to lose their jobs to layoffs or due to their careers being made obsolete. Of course, there is systemic resistance from employers to interviewing, much less hiring, older workers. Give it enough time and it's too easy for older unemployed individuals to shoot through whatever savings they'd managed to accumulate during their younger years and find themselves amongst those struggling to maintain housing. Once you become homeless, the challenge of finding new employment without the benefit of a permanent address? Well, hurdle of finding employment -- especially employment that is enough to support a person and/or their family -- just became close to impossible to overcome.

I've really grown to like and admire Donny over the months and sincerely hope that this current plan comes together.