‘Dark Days: The Forge’ proves why DC is a cut above Marvel

The Forge Dark Days

The past year or so has seen the classic “DC vs. Marvel” debate take on added significance due to the success of DC Rebirth and the faltering (to put it lightly) of Marvel under the tenure of Editor-in-Chief Axel Alonso. There are many reasons for Marvel’s failures, but DC’s Dark Days: The Forge #1 shines a giant Bat-Signal spotlight on one of them.

The bottom line is that DC, whether it’s something like The Button or Dark Days: The Forge, is telling good old-fashioned “yarns” because it’s actually concentrating on big ideas — namely the issue of Good vs. Evil.

The Forge #1 is a tale that revolves around two beings — one of goodness and light, the other of darkness and evil — who are granted immortality via a mysterious metal and then tasked to fight each other in cycles of reincarnation. Batman’s discovery of the metal prompted a years-long investigation into its origin, which led him down a dangerous rabbit hole. It’s one that no man — even Bruce Wayne — should explore.

What separates modern DC from Marvel is that the former is willing to explore ideas of good and evil in serious ways. If you pick up most Marvel comics, then what you’ll find is moral relativist heroes fighting each other over a catty disagreements; and heroes fighting villains in a “going through the motions” manner because that’s what they’ve always done; political allegories that primarily use characters as vehicles to vent anger at [insert politician here].”

Out of all the comics I’ve read over the past two years, I think only Charles Soule’s Daredevil confronted a character described as truly “evil.” When most Marvel heroes talk about good and evil, they do so in ironic Deadpool-speak.

Paraphrase [insert hero here]: “Do you think we’ll come out of this one alive? Of course we will — we’re the good guys!”

People who believe good and evil are real — not just artificial constructs in a godless universe — typically do not become jaded. If you believe that your life has meaning and is intrinsically good, then you are not prone to hold life in contempt.

DC appears to have enough writers and editors on its staff who understand this, who are genuinely inquisitive about big issues, and then willing to appropriately use their iconic stable of characters to explore them.

Marvel, on the other hand, appears to be populated with a cloister of bitter moral relativists who write books for a small population of philosophical malcontents. Then, when their screeds don’t sell, they rhetorically lash out at fans for not being embracing Mighty Marvel Pessimism Pods.

I don’t know too much about Dan DiDio, but I do know quality work when I see it. I got into DC in a significant way for the first time in my life this year, and I don’t plan on leaving anytime soon as long as I keep getting books like The Button and Dark Days: The Forge.

Kudos to DC’s creative team for a job well done.

Editor’s Note: I’ll be reviewing Dark Days: The  Forge #1 on my YouTube channel soon. If you haven’t already subscribed, then please do. I don’t always have time to transfer the videos over to WordPress as quickly as I’d prefer.

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Iron Man #8: Brian Michael Bendis gives Riri Williams the definitive SJW origin

For months I have purchased Brian Michael Bendis’ Invincible Iron Man, the book that replaced billionaire Tony Stark with superawesomegottaloveher genius Riri Williams. I have repeatedly asked what the heck her motivation is for becoming a superhero (besides being perfect), and this week an answer was provided.

In short, Mr. Bendis inadvertently gave the world the definitive social justice superhero origin.

There is so much I want to say, but in this case I will point you to my latest YouTube video. If you want to know why modern Marvel is struggling to keep readers engaged, then all you have to do is familiarize yourself with IIM #8. Put this one in your long-term memory, my friends, because it’s not every day that a comic book fan is handed a debate trump card of this magnitude.

Spectacular Spider-Man #1: Chip Zdarsky’s joke machine debuts with slew of extras

Peter Parker fans had high hopes for the past few months as Chip Zdarsky’s Peter Parker: The Spectacular Spider-Man neared its released date. Dan Slott’s The Amazing Spider-Man, even for those who enjoy his work, is like eating a ham sandwich every day for roughly 10 years. Therefore, you can’t blame a guy for grabbing peanut butter and jelly at the first opportunity.

But was it any good? The short answer: It’s complicated.

If you think Peter Parker should be a joke machine, then this book may be for you.

If you think Spider-Man must constantly have an ensemble cast around him in order to truly shine, then this book may be for you.

If you think Peter Parker would have a hard time trouble-shooting his own web-shooters, then this book may be for you.

There is more to say, but for that I invite you to check out my latest YouTube review. As always, feel free to share your thoughts in the comments section below. I’m interested in hearing your take.

Amy Pascal officially Kevin Feige’s Mephisto with MCU blindside, proves this blog’s 2015 warning prescient

Kevin Feige
The world is only days away from Spider-Man: Homecoming, but the Spidey buzz got real over the weekend when Sony Pictures producer Amy Pascal blindsided Marvel Studios President Kevin Feige during a promotional event. She directly contradicted previous statements by Mr. Feige that Sony’s “Venom” and “Silver & Black” (Silver Sable and Black Cat) would not be connected to the MCU.

Ms. Pascal said:

“Well, those movies will all take place in the world that we’re now creating for Peter Parker. They’ll all be adjuncts to it. They may be different locations, but it will still all be in the same world. They will all be connected to each other as well. […] There’s a chance [Tom Holland will appear]. There’s always a chance.”

The look of utter disbelief on Mr. Feige’s face — and one monstrous swallow — are proof that he severely underestimated how devious the woman can be.

It also proves that Mr. Feige would be wise to take some advice from yours truly, perhaps the only one who warned that his “deal” with her to get access to Spider-Man was his very own “One More Day” moment.

Yes, that’s right, Amy Pascal is Kevin Feige’s personal Mephisto.

Mephisto Amy Pascal

I wrote on Feb. 10, 2015:

“Question: Will Amy Pascal become Kevin Feige’s Mephisto? […] It will be a sad day if Kevin Feige’s name is attached to future Spider-Man failures because of Amy Pascal’s intransigence. While Spider-Man fans should be thrilled that the character will show up in future Marvel Studios movies, they should seriously ask themselves if Marvel made a deal with the devil when total victory was within reach.”

Marvel Studios had Sony on the ropes. Through Sony’s own moronic moves under Pascal’s leadership, the studio ran its reputation into the ground. And while it’s great that the world will now see Spider-Man in the MCU for Avengers: Infinity War, there is no doubt that individuals like Ms. Pascal are petty, vindictive, and untrustworthy.

The Sony hacks by North Korea demonstrated it, and the point was hammered home further by the viral video.

The good news is that Kevin Feige is about 10,000 times more intelligent than anyone at Sony. He will likely come out on top in the end. The bad news is that Sony’s suits know this and will subject Marvel Studios to all sorts of public and private pain for the ignominy of taking orders from their betters.

Cross your fingers that Spider-Man: Homecoming isn’t a train wreck, but if it is then just watch this video with Ms. Pascal to remind yourself who is to blame.

Subs Dare Doug: Answers on Jordan Peterson, Star Wars, and Marvel politics

A friend of mine used to call me “Daring Doug” when I was a kid because I was willing to do all sorts of crazy stuff in the neighborhood. That fun element of my past has morphed into a new segment on the YouTube channel called “Subs Dare Doug.” In short, my subscribers dare me to answer questions on all sorts of subjects, and then I answer in a future broadcast.

Today’s “Subs Dare Doug” is focused on Dr. Jordan Peterson, Star Wars: Episode VII, politics at Marvel Comics, a comic recommendation, and progressive activists.

If this is something you’d like to take part in, then just head on over to the YouTube channel on any day and ask in the following format: SubsDareDoug: [Insert question here].

I can’t promise I’ll answer everyone’s question, but I’ll try my best.

‘The Death of Expertise’: Tom Nichols offers great read for understanding our slow-motion cultural implosion

Death of Expertise cover
A book called The Death of Expertise came out not too long ago. The best way to describe it for regular readers of this blog is as follows: It’s as if author Tom Nichols read my mind and then put all my disparate thoughts on Western civilization’s slow-motion car crash into a nice package. His understanding of how modern technology, social media, and left-wing academics exacerbate the problem is, unfortunately for future generations, on point.

I spend a lot of time on social media for work, and over the years I have seen a disturbing trend take place on the internet and college campuses. A toxic brew of left-wing “social justice” indoctrination on American campuses mixed with digital echo chambers, available to men and women of all political stripes, slowly boiled. (We’ve seen the effects of this during the U.S. presidential inauguration protests, the Berkeley riots, and the insanity at Evergreen State College in Washington state.)

Mr. Nichols, however, is one of the few people I’ve seen who has a firm grasp of the dangerous social dynamics at play beneath the surface. Like your friendly neighborhood blogger, he seems to think a miracle is needed to stave off an ugly future.

“I fear we are witnessing the death of the ideal of expertise itself, a Google-fueled, Wikipedia-based, blog-sodden collapse of any division between professionals and laypeople, students and teachers, knowers and wonderers — in other words, between those of any achievement in an area and those with none at all.

Attacks on established knowledge and the subsequent rash of poor information in the general public are sometimes amusing. Sometimes they’re even hilarious.  Late-night comedians have made a cottage industry of asking people questions that reveal their ignorance about their own strongly held ideas, their attachment to fads, and their unwillingness to admit their own cluelessness about current events. […] When life and death are involved, however, it’s a lot less funny. […]

The overall trend is one of ideological segregation enabled by the ability to end a friendship with a click instead of a face-to-face discussion.

Underlying much of this ill temper is a false sense of equality and the illusion of egalitarianism created by the immediacy of social media. I have a Twitter account and a Facebook page, and so do you, so we’re peers, aren’t we? After all, if a top reporter at a major newspaper, a diplomat at the Kennedy School, a scientist at a research hospital, and your Aunt Rose from Reno all have an online presence, then all of their viewers are just so many messages speeding past your eyes. Every opinion is only as good as the last posting on a home page.

In the age of social media, people using the Internet assume that everyone is equally intelligent or informed merely by virtue of being online. — Tom Nichols,The Death of Expertise (Oxford University Press, 2017). Pages 3, 129.

Boom.

Across every personal and professional level of my life I have witnessed the proliferation of this mentality. Google gives people a false sense superiority. A five-second search that allows a man to throw out a random factoids convinces him that he’s an expert when, in reality, his depth of breadth of knowledge is a mile wide and an inch deep.

Social media offers a one-two punch of perniciousness: It encourages people to dehumanize the guy on the other side of the screen while simultaneously fostering false pride and moral superiority. That, dear reader, is a recipe for violence.

Mr. Nichols’ book is by no means perfect (he sometimes shows off his own ideological blind spots by unfairly framing certain political issues), but it is still highly worth your time. It’s the perfect book to sit down with for a few hours by the pool or at the beach. Check it out if you want to better understand our widening political divide, or if you just like slightly terrifying reading material.

Iceman #1: Purifiers show Marvel’s double-standard, cowardice

Marvel Comics is known for having a “world outside your window” approach to its storytelling, and for decades the company did it well. These days, however, editor Axel Alonso appears to have issued a fiat that creates the politically correct world outside your window.”

Iceman #1  — along with its Christian villains known as “Purifiers” — demonstrates the state of affairs quite nicely.

Ask yourself these questions:

  • Would Marvel Comics ever have an anti-mutant group called “The Sons of Jihad” that hunts down metaphorical minorities?
  • Would Marvel Comics ever have an anti-mutant group  called “The Sword of Allah” with costumes featuring a star and crescent moon?

Magic 8 Ball says, “Not likely.” But yet, for some peculiar reason, the “Purifiers” and their Christian crosses are on full display. Meanwhile, the defining national security threat of the last 20 years has had nothing to do with Catholic guys like me.

If you want to hear more about the double-standards and hypocrisy of Marvel, then check out my new YouTube video below. And, as always, feel free to sound off in the comments section.

Editors Note: Make sure to stay tuned after the “outro” music for my “letters to the editor”-type idea for future broadcasts.

Wonder Woman: Patty Jenkins nails the directing, Gal Gadot nails the role

Last weekend I made the mistake of not reserving my movie tickets for Wonder Woman ahead of time and ended up having to decide whether I wanted to see a later showing or go home. I opted for an extra hour’s wait — and it was worth it.

Here is what I wrote **pseudo-spoilers ahead** for Conservative Book Club:

Director Patty Jenkins can make a strong case that she had one of the most pressure-packed Hollywood tasks in recent memory — making Wonder Woman a blockbuster for Warner Bros. She needed to please fans of a character with over 70 years of history while overcoming doubts about the direction of the DC Extended Universe and Gal Gadot’s acting.

Mission accomplished.

Wonder Woman, much like Joe Johnston’s Captain America: The First Avenger in 2011, was the kind of job where studio executives pull one off to the side and say, “Good luck, but don’t you dare screw this up.” Ms. Jenkins, like her creative peer, responded by churning out an upbeat film of solid craftsmanship across the board. Gadot’s Princess Diana just so happened to make her debut during World War I instead of World War II (both ideal backdrops for films pitting good against evil).

As is the case with most quality superhero origins, Wonder Woman takes its time establishing the character’s backstory before fists start flying and guns go blazing. This fish-out-of-water tale required the women of Themyscira to meet military men like Captain Steve Trevor (Chris Pine), and Ms. Jenkins wisely dictated slower pacing. The DC Universe is one where Greek mythology meets Judeo-Christian beliefs, but writer Allan Heinberg (story byJason Fuchs and Zack Snyder) made it work.

The plot is simple: The first World War literally breaks through a protective bubble put in place by Zeus to hide the Amazons from the god of war, Ares. Diana saves Captain Trevor when his plane crashes into the ocean, which serves as the impetus for her to leave utopia and save mankind. She believes that locating and defeating Ares on the field of battle will end all war. Steve humorously goes along for the ride as a means of getting home, although a romance between the two heroes eventually grows.

Perhaps what is most impressive about Wonder Woman — besides a memorable “No Man’s Land” scene and the iconic “lasso of truth” — is the way Diana’s improved understanding of love and free will allow her to fully realize her potential. The god of war eventually comes across as a Satan stand-in, and Wonder Woman adopts, for all intents and purposes, a Catholic definition of love (i.e., willing the good of the other as other).

Check out the rest of the review here.

 

Amazing Spider-Man #28: Dan Slott’s nostalgia smokescreen can’t hide horrible writing

The Amazing Spider-Man #28 sounds on the surface like it would be a great book. It features classic bad guy Norman Osborn going face-to-face with Peter Parker in a “no holds barred” brawl. Neither man has his powers to rely on, which means it’s just a gold old fashioned slugfest — the winner will likely be the guy with a deeper reserve of intestinal fortitude. Sadly, writer Dan Slott once again over-promised and under-delivered.

If you ever wondered what Marvel’s editors like Nick Lowe do these days, ASM #28 provides the answer: not much.

  • This is the kind of comic you get when you use nostalgia as a crutch to hide a lack of character development.
  • This is the kind of comic you get when you want to be buddies with your writer instead of his editor.
  • This is the kind of comic you get when you, as the writer, create a digital echo chamber and block anyone who offers intelligent criticism of your work.
  • This is the kind of comic you get when you think that giving a tacit nod to your critics somehow erases the legitimacy of their claims.

Aspiring writers should read ASM #28, if for no other reason than to see what happens when a decent idea crashes head-first into a wall of hubris.

Listen to your critics. Learn from them. Humble yourself before the collective wisdom of your fans and then adjust to what you’re hearing because if you don’t then you will write stories that fall flat.

For more on this topic, I invite you to check out my latest YouTube review. As always, make sure to subscribe if it’s up your alley and leave any feedback you have in the comments section below. Whether it’s on YouTube or this blog, I read them all and try to respond to as many as possible.

Jordan Peterson’s ‘Pinocchio’ speech: The finite mind can make contact with the infinite if you actively seek Truth

Jordan Peterson
There’s a “thing” that sometimes happens to me when I discuss philosophical or religious issues with my wife, which she finds incredibly humorous — I shed tears and get temporarily choked up. I told her for years that my theory on the phenomenon is something like this:

  • Deep in your heart is a conduit to the transcendent. There are times when your mind comes into direct contact with Truth with a capital ‘T’, but the finite parts of your being are obviously not equipped to handle the infinite. To grab hold of the transcendent, even for a brief moment, is like grabbing hold of a live wire. The difference is that the pain you feel is something beautiful, the charring and burning of spiritual impurities like rust on the soul. So you happily search for that place again and again because you wish that you could share it with everyone.

I was recently watching a video with Jordan Peterson, the famous professor of psychology at the University of Toronto. He was talking with Dave Rubin about Pinocchio, and when I saw where he was going with it I could almost predict the point at which he would tear up.

Mr. Peterson said:

“Most of your viewers will have watched Pinocchio. There’s a scene in Pinocchio where Geppetto wishes upon a star. What it means is he lifts up his eyes beyond the horizon to something transcendent — to something ultimate — because that’s what a star is, it’s part of the eternity of the night sky.

And so he lifts his eyes up above his daily concerns and he says, ‘What I want — what I want more than anything else — is that my creation will become a genuine individual.’ Right? It’s a heroic gesture because it’s so unlikely. And that catalyzes the puppet’s transformation into a real being. And we start as puppets. And so the trick is to get rid of your god**** strings.

And you remember in Pinocchio, he faces a lot of temptations. One is to be a liar; the other is to be a neurotic victim. That’s how he ends up in Pleasure Island where he just about gets sold into the salt mines and turns into a braying jackass … because it’s run by authoritarians.

Well, okay, so what you do is lift up your eyes and you say, ‘Look, I would like being to progress in the best possible manner. And that’s best for me, best for my family, best for society — maybe best for the world. Simultaneously, I would like to attain that, whatever that is. That’s what I want. You commit to that.

Then you tell the truth. And you can tell if you’re telling the truth. You can tell it physiologically. And so this is something to learn. […] That’s really the core idea in Western civilization, to build yourself into a forthright individual who’s capable of telling the truth and capable of bearing the responsibilities of citizenry.” — Jordan Peterson.

Bingo.

Here’s another way to explain it. Imagine your mind’s eye witnesses the transcendent, and it’s like an ocean. A whole ocean can fit inside your head and you can see it clearly, but the person sitting across from you has no clue what you’re “looking” at. The only way you can make this ocean known is by embarrassingly running it through the tiny sink that is your mouth and the filter of language. Your task is to convince someone of the beauty of the transcendent ocean — or God, or Truth, or Love — when all you can give them is a bucket filled with water.

So you cry.

You cry because in some sense the metaphysical ocean has burst forth into the physical world.

You cry because you’ve seen what lies beyond and you know that if others saw it too then they would change their lives in profound ways.

You cry because you are unworthy of something so magnificent, and you cry because of all the souls who will never have a similar experience through the misbegotten application of their own free will.

If you have never watched Jordan Peter’s videos, I highly suggest you begin sooner rather than later. He knows what he is talking about. He speaks the Truth. If you listen to what he says and actively carry out his advice, then your life will be exponentially better for it.