Coming Soon! Nemo at Thirty

A few years ago, my childhood friend Elaine Johnson and I decided that we wanted to collaborate on a project together. We tossed a few things around and finally settled on a story about a grown up Nemo from Little Nemo. I wrote a few things. She sketched a few things. And nothing came of it for one reason or another.

Now, with the explosion of different Little Nemo projects out there, we’ve decided to get all of this together and finally put out a Nemo web comic.

I hope this doesn’t come off as an attempt to cash in on Nemomania, because it’s not. We had these ideas awhile back and then LIFE happened and stopped us. Then, as Elaine was getting to work on the strip, Alan Moore announces a project that’s just like ours. Great minds think alike.

Or, in the case of Alan Moore and myself, “great minds sometimes research public domain characters.”

I hope you enjoy our project in the weeks to come and I hope you’ll judge it on its own merits rather than as a comparison to all the other Nemo stuff that’s out there at the moment. At the very least, it’s free online, so we got that going for us.

Here are some of Elaine’s wonderful sketches so you can get a glimpse of all the wild and wonderful characters we are working on. I do hope you’ll come back every Friday for our adventures.

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Guest Post – Team Diversity

Terry Bartley is one of this site’s oldest friends. We’ve had a few podcasts together and taken down a racist, so he’s good people. Today, he’s got a great article about diversity in superhero teams. Enjoy!

JLRobinson

There has been quite a bit of talk as of late about diverse representation of characters. Many would argue that things are moving in a positive direction, with characters like Batwoman and Ms. Marvel headlining their own titles. I am tempted to agree with them, then I read a mainstream team comic and I’m reminded just how little diversity there is in the titles that would make a real difference.

In 2009, James Robinson debuted a Justice League roster of young legacy heroes from diverse backgrounds. There were seven members total and it consisted of four female members, one gay member and one member from Africa. While the team may not have been traditionally racially diverse, it did consist of one green-skinned and one blue-skinned member. I thought this was incredible! It may not have been perfect, but it was far more progressive then previous teams. Continue reading

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Four Color Teaching – How to teach a comic book

When I first approached my principal about wanting to teach All-Star Superman, I was surprised by her full support. Not that my admin wasn’t supportive because she was fantastic, but I was surprised that I didn’t receive ANY resistance at all. She knew that I knew my stuff and she trusted me with teaching it. However, in order to cover myself, she wanted me to write out exactly what students would be learning from it.

Fortunately, I had already done that in anticipation of that very argument. I could have just written down some vague objectives, but instead, I aligned everything to the Common Core Standards. Continue reading

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New Wave Soldiers – the adaptation

Waaaaay back on December 1, 2010, I wrote a short story for a novel about pop culture terrorism. I thought it was a pretty good little prologue – something that felt like a cold open to an X-Files episode. But then, I didn’t do anything with it. I had the idea fleshed out in my head, but never really had more to do with it.

Then, my friend Nate Peters contacted me about wanting to do a collaboration and we decided to turn my novel into a comic book instead. Thus, The New Wave Soldiers was born.

Over the next few years, we would work on it and stop. Now, we’ve got enough material that it’s worth sharing over the next few weeks. And I hope Nate will continue working on it with me so we can actually turn this into a real comic at some point.

These four pages are Nate’s adaptation of the short story I wrote. I hope you enjoy them.  Continue reading

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Music Mondays – Who did it better? “I Think We’re Alone Now”

I knew that Tiffany’s “I think we’re alone now” was a cover, but I didn’t want to believe it. It’s such a perfect 80s song that I didn’t want to think that another band did it first. But Sam made me listen to the original version and now I’m torn. So, I will leave it to you to decide.

First, Tommy James and the Shondells.

Then, Tiffany.

On, the one hand, the Tommy James version is a pure, wonderful 60s song. Clocking in at under 2:30, it gets in and says what it has to say and before you’re tired of the song, it is over. It practically begs to be put on repeat over and over again.

But, then there is Tiffany with her ghetto drum machine, the synthesizer solo, the electronic claps, and that weird thing she does when she sings “into the NIIIIIIIIIGHT.” And the music video is absurd as well complete with Tiffany’s signature dancing at a mall.

However, Tiffany’s version is double the length of the Tommy James song and so it almost wears out its welcome. Halfway through the song, the listener is thinking, “Okay, I get it. Can this end yet?”

So, which is it? Which do you prefer?

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Follow Friday – X-Files Files

xfilesfiles

I don’t talk about it much, but I really do love The X-Files. I’ve only written on post on the show on Popgun Chaos and it was mostly a rant about one of the worst episodes of the series. But I have so many fond memories of The X-Files and so when Kumail Nanjiani launched his podcast, The X-Files Files, I was so very excited.

My friend/co-writer/co-creator/partner-in-crime Rich Valerius has been watching X-Files on and off for a year or two now and he will text me every once in awhile with his latest complaint about the show. So, my only thoughts about the show lately have been coming from his sarcastic observations. But listening to Nanjiani’s podcast has made me fall in love with Mulder and Scully all over again.

The show can get a bit repetitive when Kumail and his guests gush over the things they love about X-Files, but I don’t care. The positive atmosphere of the show is a real draw for me because it is all about loving a show that was once so influential and has become something of a forgotten gem.

I think the most important point the podcast has made so far is how there are no other heroes on TV like Fox Mulder. He isn’t the square-jawed, lawful-good hero, but he also isn’t a dark, brooding anti-hero either. He is interested in his agenda, but he doesn’t achieve it by any means necessary. And while other action heroes are interested in women, Mulder is interested in the truth and that’s all. He would rather be doing research on government conspiracies rather than trying to date Scully.

Kumail’s podcast reminds me of all the things that I love about The X-Files and even though there are some terrible episodes, it’s a show that endures and is still important.

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Interview with S. Elizabeth from Skeletor is Love

If you are on the internet much, you’ve probably run into the Skeletor is Love Facebook page/tumblr/twitter/etc. I’ve been following it for awhile now and I love it more than I can say. In its own strange, bizarre way, it is a uniting force in the world around us. A brilliant, wonderful woman from Florida took an absurd villain from an 80s cartoon and turned it into a force for good and comfort to hundreds of thousands of people. Things like this renew my faith in humanity. They make me love our world so much.

And so, I reached out to Skeletor is Love and asked for an interview. Sarah Elizabeth responded and we hit it off immediately. She is incredibly cool and I’m honored to be able to interview her. First, here are some links

Sarah’s blog

Skeletor is Love Tumblr

on Facebook

on twitter

Now that the obligatory links are out of the way, please enjoy!

Popgun Chaos: Tell us a little about yourself. What do you do? Where did you grow up?

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Posted in Cartoons, Interviews, TV | 4 Comments

Four Color Teaching – Selecting a Text and Paying For It

In Four Color Teaching, I discuss my experiences with comics and teaching. Today, I will explain the difficulties of selecting a comic book to study in the classroom and also how to raise money for a classroom set. 

Since becoming a teacher, I’ve always wanted to be able to include comic books in my classroom in some way. Plenty of teachers have students create their own comics, but studying comics is a whole different thing because there are a number of obstacles to overcome. Ultimately, the problems with comics in the classroom boil down to three areas: 

1) Cost – comics are expensive. With single issues costing usually $3.99 and trades running at least $19.99, a classroom set can cost from $100 – $500. Considering a single issue won’t be enough for a unit plan, teachers have to lean towards a trade, but when one compares a $20 trade versus a $10 novel that will take as long or longer to teach, it can be hard to make the case for Spider-Man over The Great Gatsby.

2) Literary value – I love my monthly comics. Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo’s Batman is a constant favorite alongside Jason Aaron’s Thor: God of Thunder, and while there are themes and ideas worth study, I don’t know that I can make the case for them over standard curriculum novels. Also, given the serial nature of Batman and Thor, it’s hard to give students a complete story that doesn’t require reading something before or after.

3) Appropriate content – Perhaps the most difficult part of selecting a comic text for students is finding one without inappropriate content. Yes, I realize that most students are watching movies and television shows that as bad as or worse than any comic that I’d teach in class, but I still have to be careful because there are those parents who are just itching to object to a text. Given that comics are already viewed as being less than literary-worthy already, it makes the task of finding an appropriate text all the more difficult. Also, while I am incredibly liberal in what I read, I can’t do the same with what I present to my students, so I lean towards caution more than anything else.

These three obstacles are difficult because a text must meet all of the requirements for consideration. Grant Morrison’s New X-Men is worthy of study and doesn’t feature any inappropriate content that I can immediately think of, but given how long his tenure was on the title, it’s impossible to make it cost-effective. And the most relatable and literary worthy story (“Riot at Xavier’s”) unfortunately loses its punch taken outside of the run.

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Guest Column – Four reasons why the Cyberman are superior to the Daleks

Steven King has returned to Popgun Chaos with a great Whovian article! Let’s keep the debate going in the comment section!

dalek_vs__cyberman_by_robomaster1-d3ikw9l

The Daleks first appeared in Doctor Who in 1963, and they were undeniably a success. The Daleks are the most popular monsters on Doctor Who. They are the Wolverine of Doctor Who: include the Daleks and your ratings go up; your sales go up. For years afterward, writers and producers tried to come up with another successful monster, one that didn’t require the expensive licensing agreements from Terry Nation, the Daleks’ real-world creator. The Mechanoids, the War Machines, all failed to live up to the glory of the Daleks. But one monster succeeded where all others failed: the Cybermen!

Debuting in 1966, the Cybermen were popular and they constantly locked proverbial horns (or handles) with the Second Doctor. They continue to bring chills to children around the world. And they are far superior to the Daleks.

So here I present the evidence. While the Cybermen have had their share of crap episodes (many of which were in the 80s), they still prove to be the better monster conceptually.

1. The Cybermen are inherently more visibly frightening than the Daleks.

Robotics professor Masahiro Mori coined the term “uncanny valley.” This valley refers to the level of comfort humans have for things that appear human but are not. Essentially, at what point does something with a human appearance stop being cool and start freaking us out? Zombies look human but freak us out, thus putting them in the uncanny valley of strong human likeness and strong discomfort for the observer.

The Daleks look nothing like humans. They are pepper pots. They look like they store condiments, at least until they decide you are not useful to them and they blast you. The Cybermen look, by varying degrees, more human. The current crop of Cybermen from “Nightmare in Silver” still look quite robotic, but the Cyberleader inhabiting the Doctor’s body was chilling. He looked like someone familiar but behaved against type. Similarly, the Cybermen in their 1964 debut, “The Tenth Planet,” were some of the most humanoid versions ever created. The design was wetsuit with tech, but the faces were blank and emotionless holes. When they spoke, they opened their mouths and words just came out. Their mouths didn’t move in time with the words, they just stayed open until the words ceased, then the mouths closed. The voices were erratic, slowing down and speeding up. The portrayal was completely unnerving. The design of the Cybermen always has to be conversant with the essential human form, which makes them more frightening when applying the uncanny valley lens. The Daleks are not humanoid, and even when they tried it out in “Daleks in Manhattan/Evolution of the Daleks,” they decided it was too far away from their genetically pure roots. They rejected evolution. The Cybermen embrace it.

 

2. The Cybermen are upgradable.

In 2010 the Daleks were redesigned for the Eleventh Doctor story “Victory of the Daleks.” From fan reaction you would think Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss had kicked a puppy. The redesign changed the Daleks from tarnished copper to bright red, white, yellow, and orange. The Daleks had always had some variation in color to denote function and rank, so this wasn’t a huge deal, but the basic shape of the Daleks was altered away from the largely unchanged design of Ray Cusick in the 1960s to a more hump-back design. Again, foot meets puppy.

The Cybermen, on the other hand, have changed numerous times since their debut. Sometimes they have handles on their heads, sometimes they don’t. Sometimes they resemble men wearing wetsuits with tech stuck on. Sometimes they resemble men in silver tunics and trousers and moon boots. Sometimes they eliminate all the trappings of clothing and go straight for a robot aesthetic. And it isn’t just clothes that change; the Cyber-voice has shifted from an erratic cadence to a modified voice box effect to a deep, booming voice that shouts “Excellent!”

The point is that the Cybermen are upgradable. It is in their nature. It is a part of their concept, and that concept is the constant tension between humanity and technology, the question of what constitutes human progress.

3. The Cybermen can become a stand-in for questions about human progress and humanity’s relationship with technology.

When you get right down to it, the Daleks have a single theme: Nazism. The Daleks are about racial purity. Davros even stated in “Genesis of the Daleks” that his creations were the pinnacle of Kaled evolution. Just substitute blob and tentacles for blond hair and blue eyes. The Daleks are always shouting and their speech is usually clipped and emphatic. They are the SS soldiers of the galaxy. In early stories they would even raise their plungers in a salute from time to time. Because of this conceptual theme, their use is quite limited. The obvious theme that accompanies them is genocide or, on rare occasions, fear of the other. While there is a lot of thematic mileage to be had in fear of the other, the mileage for genocide and Nazism is limited. It becomes more about escapism because we can’t really identify with the struggle. Most reasonable people disagree with Nazism, so there is not much of a question there.

The Cybermen, on the other hand, are perfect for asking all those uncomfortable questions about human progress and technology. The original conception of the Cybermen was that they developed technological enhancements to solve health issues. In time, they became obsessed with using technology to improve themselves just because. Once they reached the point where they removed emotions (since emotions obviously hinder logic) there was no turning back.

The underlying concept of the Cybermen forces us to ask what defines humanity. Technology isn’t inherently a bad thing, but at what point does reliance on technology become antithetical to being human? “Rise of the Cybermen/Age of Steel” asked some great questions with regard to technology that integrates us to one another and dictates how we operate and exist. On some level, we are then at the mercy of those who control the technology, as the alternate Earth in that story was at the mercy of John Lumic. And John Lumic just happened to be an immortality-obsessed mad scientist. His character may have been a bit clichéd, but in our current age of technology, progress is pursued largely for the sake of progress, to see how far we can push and advance and evolve. We can’t un-make technology without catastrophe. When the Cybermen are being written well, they can make us ask how far is too far with technology. They force us to ask hard questions about why we produce certain types of technology: Is it for medical use? Is it for military use? What do we now just accept because it was a good idea at the time?

4. The Cybermen succeed where the Daleks fail.

The Daleks are all talk and posturing. While the Cybermen have had their share of blowhards (again, the 80s), they tend to just lay out the facts and get things done. The Daleks fought against the First Doctor in 31 episodes, and they could never kill him. The Doctor didn’t regenerate in a Dalek episode until the Ninth Doctor, and even then it was Rose’s fault. The Cybermen fought against the First Doctor in four episodes, and then he regenerated because his body just wore out. They hit it out of the park on the first try. And even when it comes to crap plans, the Cybermen succeed where the Daleks fail. In the 1964 serial “The Dalek Invasion of Earth,” the Daleks are attempting to hollow out Earth’s core in order to install engines that would allow them to pilot the planet across the galaxy. They failed in this. The Cybermen, however, were able to do something similar to their home planet of Mondas—which also happens to be Earth’s twin planet. Once more, the Cybermen succeeded where the Daleks failed.

As far as I am concerned, the evidence is clear: The Cybermen are far more versatile and far more successful than the Daleks. Their greatest obstacle has always been short-sighted writers from the 1980s. In an age of rapidly advancing human progress, it is helpful to have the Cybermen to make us ask hard questions about ourselves. Contrary to what the Daleks assert, the Cybermen truly are the superior monster in Doctor Who.

Art by Requiem Delacroix

Art by Requiem Delacroix

Posted in Comic books, TV | 1 Comment

Music Mondays – Who did it better? “Little Latin Lupe Lu”

In the film High Fidelity, Jack Black’s character makes a Monday mixtape that begins with “Walking on Sunshine” with the next track being “Little Latin Lupe Lu.” His co-worker asks if it is the Mitch Ryder and the Detroit Wheels version or the Righteous Brothers version? Black responds that it is the Righteous Brothers and is angered when his co-worker seems less than impressed.

Wait, why am I explaining the scene when you can just watch it. Pardon the language.

It’s funny, going back and rewatching the clip made me realize that when I started working for Vintage Stock, I was like Barry in that I wanted to listen to whatever I wanted to. Now that I’m older, I’m more like Cusack – more interested in listening to something I can ignore.

And for the record, yes, I know that the debate between Mitch Ryder and the Righteous Brothers is also brought up in the book High Fidelity, but I thought more people would get the movie reference.

Also, yes I realize that my previous “For the record” was a pun when talking about a movie about a record store. I am unashamed.

Where was I? Oh yeah.

One day, while working at Vintage Stock, I decided to see which version people preferred. I won’t sway your opinion with my own or what the results were, but I’d like you to weigh in on which you prefer in the comments section, please.

First, the Righteous Brothers.

Second, the Mitch Ryder and the Detroit Wheels

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