Talking Pulp: The Loss of FilmStruck Is Depressing

I have been a subscriber to FilmStruck pretty much since it’s inception. So the news that it is closing up shop this week is very depressing and also unsettling. But I’m here to explain why this terrible reality is an absolute tragedy for those of us who love the art of filmmaking and the incredibly diverse history of motion pictures.

FilmStruck was a collaboration between Turner Classic Movies and the people behind The Criterion Collection. It’s a great streaming service for true film lovers. It has featured true cinematic classics, foreign gems and lots of great indie films going back as far as the earliest motion pictures.

The service was broken into two subscription tiers. The lowest priced one gave you FilmStruck’s selections of films while the higher priced tier gave you The Criterion Collection add-on. I always paid for the higher tier, as $10.99 a month is much cheaper than what it would cost to buy a single Criterion Blu-ray. In fact, three months of The Criterion Channel was about equal to one Blu-ray.

What also made the Criterion add-on great, is that it didn’t just give you Criterion versions of the movies but you got a lot of the extras, documentaries and interviews along with it. You also got a lot of videos where movie experts and historians talk about some of these great films and their impact.

FilmStruck also did a stupendous job in curating their offerings and always bringing in new stuff while featuring specific directors, actors, cinematographers, etc. It truly celebrated the great art of filmmaking and film history. If you absolutely love motion pictures, there just isn’t a better streaming service than this.

In fact, a large bulk of what I review on Talking Pulp (and formerly Cinespiria) are movies that I have watched with FilmStruck. I’m a pretty big film aficionado and FilmStruck has been a spectacular educational resource for me, as I always try to delve deeper into history, varying genres and geographical regions. Without FilmStruck, I probably wouldn’t have come to discover many films that I have grown to love.

I know I’m not alone, as I meet new film aficionados almost daily and FilmStruck has helped to educate many of us, as we all love to explore the dark recesses of film history.

Unfortunately, FilmStruck is going away due to corporate mergers, new owners analyzing the books and them deciding that FilmStruck just isn’t profitable enough. If that’s the case, it’s something I would gladly pay more money to keep. But in the corporate world, decisions are rash and the cultural importance of something is often times overlooked for profit. I’m very much a capitalist and I get that it’s all about the bottom line but some things are bigger than the value of the dollar.

Film history is history. It is also art and art is pretty damn important.

Thousands of people seem to agree with me, as a petition was created to save FilmStruck. 50,000 signatures were needed and the petition exceeded that and then upped the number to 75,000, which it is still building towards. However, the new owners of FilmStruck don’t seem to care about that, as the service is still going down on November 29th, 2018.

It’s depressing and it’s tragic. I wish that this was something that could be saved and that the people at the top of the food chain saw this as something with real value in a world where movies are getting worse and art itself is being watered down and washed away in just about every medium.

Film is powerful but maybe it’s not powerful enough anymore.

That being said, The Criterion Collection has announced that they are creating their own service in the wake of all this. It won’t quite be FilmStruck but as long as it has access to the same Criterion content we’ve gotten with this great service, then it should also be worth every penny.

Sadly, we will have to wait until the first quarter of next year and in the meantime, there really isn’t a streaming service for true film aficionados.

This is a dark time, as watching Netflix original movies isn’t how I want to spend my free time, but I guess there is a silver lining on the horizon.

And who knows, maybe once that ball is rolling, The Criterion Channel can start working with TCM again.

Only time will tell how this plays out but for now, this is a great loss to the film world.

I will truly miss FilmStruck and I can’t thank the people behind it enough for giving film fans something marvelous, invaluable and treasured.

Talking Pulp: Stan Lee is Gone but His Legacy is Immortal – How He Impacted Me

It’s been a few days since Stan Lee passed away. The Internet is full of tributes to the man but I really needed some time to process it and to reflect on his life before writing about what Stan meant to me.

Stan Lee had an immense impact on me and to be honest, that’s an understatement. Alongside George Lucas, Lee was responsible for creating a vast mythos that was instrumental in shaping my life. I would say that Lee had an even larger impact than Lucas’ Star Wars, which was the biggest thing in the world to a kid of the ’80s.

Lee eclipsed Lucas because by the time I discovered his creations, Marvel had already expanded into a universe much larger than what Star Wars was or would ever be.

Stan the Man created more characters and things that I grew to care about than any other great creator throughout the history of time. Maybe that’s because of the time I grew up in or because I was just drawn to comics, being that I’ve been an artist and a writer since I could hold a pencil.

My very first Marvel experience came in the form of television, as I became a huge fan of the Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends cartoon, which ran from 1981 to 1983. I was four years-old in ’83 and I probably discovered the show right at it’s end but it would go on to be replayed beyond its cancellation.

I remember vividly, the day that I saw the Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends episode that featured the X-Men. I immediately fell in love with those characters and it wasn’t long before I had issues of The Uncanny X-Men in my hands. Then there was The Amazing Spider-Man and my first mega event, Secret Wars. Everything branched out from that but it was the foundation of Stan’s creations that brought me to a fantasy world where I could escape and spend my time.

Marvel was the first comic book company I discovered and even though I loved DC Comics’ Batman more than any other comic book character, I spent 90 percent of my time reading Marvel over DC. I was fascinated by the X-Men, I loved Spider-Man and his large rogues gallery. I really got into Captain America, dug the hell out of Iron Man and followed all versions of the Avengers teams from the mid-’80s and onward.

I was very aware of who Stan Lee was, as he was always a prominent figure in comics and his name was in the credits of nearly every Marvel book, if not all of them back then. When I would see Stan do interviews or pop up in other places, it was always a treat. He had charisma and an infectious personality. He was wise, creative and fatherly but in a way that was way cooler than any dad on Planet Earth.

When the Marvel Comics trading cards came out my first year of middle school, all the boys I knew were trying their damnedest to collect the full set. This was my first experience in trading cards with friends and a lot of the sixth grade boys at my school started becoming a bit of a club or community. Collecting these cards educated us on Marvel history and led us down new avenues with new characters and major stories to check out. We started trading and lending out comics. It was a really cool time to be a kid, especially for one that loved superhero comics.

By the way, my favorite Marvel trading card was always the Stan Lee one from the first series.

When you think about all the things that Stan Lee created and then take into account the scale of what those creations have become in pop culture, he may be the most prolific, successful and inspiring writer of his generation. Most of his creations are beloved and many of them have become big business in film, television and video games. Not to mention toys, trinkets and just about anything you can throw the Hulk or Thor’s mug on.

Stan Lee’s work has generated billions of dollars in revenue. It’s damn near impossible to find anyone who doesn’t know at least one of Lee’s creations.

I’ve seen Stan Lee in person but I never got to speak with him. But regardless of that, I always felt close to the man, as did many fans. He seemed accessible and he always seemed to love the people as much as they loved him. He always had his best face on, publicly, and I’ve never met a fan that had a bad experience in meeting him.

Stan Lee’s passing wasn’t unexpected. I think that everyone knew it was coming in the near future based off of the loss of his wife and the terrible things he went through since then but that doesn’t mean that it didn’t hit me like a dagger to the gut.

I don’t usually get down or upset about celebrity deaths. Sure, there are people that I know I’ll miss and dwelling on their deaths is a downer but Stan’s death was different. Stan was a major part of my life.

Without Stan, I might not have discovered comics in quite the same way and I probably wouldn’t have such a passionate love for them that didn’t just end in childhood but has carried over into adulthood.

Without Stan, I probably wouldn’t have ever drawn my own comics as a kid. By the time I was in 7th and 8th grade, I had formed my own company with some friends and we were putting out comics regularly, first selling them to other school kids and then kids from other schools we didn’t even know. I loved that time in my life and it was Stan that guided me to that great place. Plus, his book, How to Draw Comics the Marvel Way was my bible during this period of creative exploration.

Without Stan, I may have walked away from comics. However, he was always a presence in the industry and every time I saw him trucking along, putting out new projects and popping up in movies, it always brought me back to that place where I always felt most comfortable. Stan Lee was like a piece of home for me, a dear relative that lives far away but pops back up into my life every so often.

A world without Stan Lee just doesn’t seem like a world I want to live in. I don’t mean that to sound depressing but he was always a beacon of light and enthusiasm, exuding positivity and imagination. The world is truly missing something great without Stan Lee in it.

But we all have to do what Stan Lee would want us to do. Move forward, live life and try to be the best version of ourself, everyday.

Talking Pulp: How WWE Finally Broke Me as a Lifelong Fan

I have been a fan of professional wrestling my entire life. I grew up with a lot of my family members watching it and I got to go to a ton of shows throughout Florida, as a kid in the ’80s and ’90s. In fact, I would often times get to go backstage at events, as some people in my family had old relationships with certain people within that industry. I grew up with this thing in my life at a very early age and I even aspired to be a wrestler after seeing the matches of Bret Hart, Shawn Michaels, Ric Flair, Roddy Piper, Ricky Steamboat, Randy Savage, the more technical guys in ECW and all the great Japanese and Mexican classics that I acquired on VHS in the ’90s.

To say that I was a hardcore fan in my teen years and early twenties is an understatement. I grew up with the ’80s cheese, the early ’90s weirdness and the Attitude Era began as I was in my late teens. I remember vividly the first time I saw Scott Hall on Nitro, an ECW show on the Sunshine Network and the Montreal Screwjob. All of it instilled a passion in me that I never thought would die.

However, I’ve now gotten to the point where I can’t stomach WWE. It’s been something that has actually been slowly growing in me for decades since the start of the PG Era and the loss of real competition for Vince McMahon’s monster company. But despite holding on, because I love great matches and great in-ring psychology, I have finally broke down and can’t support WWE anymore.

To start, Raw has had some record low ratings this year and Smackdown is pulling in worse numbers. You can’t really look at pay-per-view buyrates anymore because WWE found a way to skirt around that statistic by putting their marquee shows on their own streaming service. Being that the WWE Network is $9.99 per month, paying that is a no brainer when compared to the $50+ per event that they were charging on the standard cable pay-per-view format. But this also gives WWE an inflated number when compared to pay-per-views of old, as more people can pay $9.99 over $50+. Regardless, you can’t compare pre-WWE Network buyrates to WWE Network subscriptions. It’s apples and oranges but WWE doesn’t want you to see the ruse. But they have seen their audience as dumb for many years, despite their insistence that they care about what the fans want and that WWE fans are “smart”.

You still get a damn good match in WWE quite often but usually they are watered down by the shit show around them. And in cases where you should definitely have awesome matches, you don’t. Look at this year’s AJ Styles and Shinsuke Nakamura feud. Those matches could have been classics and we could have had an incredible feud but WWE stands in the way of its performers and don’t tend to trust outsiders that come into the company that made a big name for themselves outside of WWE. Instead, we got lackluster matches written around low blows and non-finishes.

And that brings me to the writing. It doesn’t take a genius to see that WWE can’t produce a good story anymore and for the most part, every single episode of Raw is made up of the same matches over and over again, week in, week out, where the winner loses the next week and the loser wins the next week. This prevents characters from growth, momentum or any sort of real development.

WWE is absolutely predictable. Even when it isn’t, it’s only because they didn’t see the actual writing on the wall and had their hands over their eyes and ears. It’s very rare that you are surprised by it anymore. Going back to last week’s Raw, everyone was “shocked” by the heel turn of Dean Ambrose but it’s been teased for a year and they only sped up the storyline, as he was probably going to turn heel at Survivor Series in three weeks.

Whenever WWE finds a hot young talent, they tend to build them up strongly, at first, or they become superstars in NXT and then get called up. But once they get even a sliver of the spotlight, Vince McMahon loses confidence and the company doesn’t let a star become a supernova. Most recently, we’ve seen it with Finn Bálor, Sami Zayn, Shinsuke Nakamura, Asuka and even Samoa Joe, who just came off of a high profile feud looking irrelevant. Point being, you invest your own time and emotion in these great performers that could carry this company into a bright future but ultimately, Vince McMahon doesn’t understand his audience and books his shows to promote his own biases to his own detriment.

Fans really want Kenny Omega, Cody Rhodes and the Young Bucks to come to WWE. I don’t because I know what will happen, they’ll come in strong and within a year or two, they’ll flounder on the mid-card wondering what went wrong and wishing they’d stayed in New Japan and Ring of Honor. And based off of WWE’s track record, why would anyone think differently? I mean, what did they do with Cody last time? He was Stardust, a comedy act and a rehash of his older brother’s gimmick.

But the thing is, I have put up with all this bullshit for years and I have still tuned in. But that’s really shifted, specifically in the last few weeks during the build up towards two pay-per-views: Evolution and Crown Jewel.

Evolution, for those who don’t know, is, as they promote it, “…the first ever all-women’s pay-per-view event!” I was pretty excited about this when it was announced but it has become abundantly clear that WWE doesn’t give a shit about this show. In fact, it has actually come out that it was put on as more of a way to get Stephanie McMahon good PR, as she has been taking over as WWE’s public face.

The WWE doesn’t really give a shit about the “women’s revolution” and it’s pretty clear, at this point. All of it is PR and an attempt at virtue signaling and getting imaginary social justice brownie points, which absolutely sucks because the female half of the roster has never been stronger than it is right now. This could be a tremendously stacked pay-per-view with loads of talent, high quality matches and a place to showcase some of the female legends with the superstars of today.

Instead, we get one good match up with Becky Lynch and Charlotte Flair, a Ronda Rousey match, a tag match where the premiere star has to sit out injured and then a few NXT level matches and a battle royal. So yes, 80 percent of the women’s roster is wedged into a battle royal. The last time this happened was at Wrestlemania, which no one remembers or cares about, and the trophy looked like a golden uterus… that’s not an exaggeration – Google it.

WWE Evolution has been promoted and booked like an afterthought because that’s exactly what it is. But hey, Stephanie McMahon… what a gal? Am I right? Out there putting women first and making things happen for the sisters? Maybe she spent a little extra and got a platinum uterus trophy this time.

But even with Evolution being a blight on WWE, nothing is as embarrassing and as heinous as what has gone down in regards to Crown Jewel, WWE’s second event in Saudi Arabia this year.

Why is this heinous? Well, there’s that whole thing about the murder of Jamal Khashoggi, less than a month ago. For those that don’t know, he was a Saudi born journalist that was outspoken against his home country and was murdered for it in the Saudi Arabian Consulate in Istanbul, Turkey. This is a terrible event that has put a microscope on Saudi Arabia and everything coming out about it is very, very bad.

Since this happened, there was been strong speculation that WWE would cancel the show our move it to another country but WWE is in bed with the Saudis and getting paid a ridiculous sum. This is actually the first year of a ten year contract that Vince McMahon made with the country. WWE wrestlers have expressed their fear in going there, fans have made their anger over it well-known and Vince hasn’t said a damn thing, other than WWE officially revealing that they are still going.

WWE has spent the last year promoting Saudi Arabia as a “progressive” country, even though women aren’t allowed on the show. So much for that “women’s revolution” business, right? In fact, Evolution was probably given to the women to keep them complacent while WWE continues to do business with one of the most non-socially progressive countries in the world.

WWE’s biggest star, John Cena, announced that he will not go to Saudi Arabia. Daniel Bryan expressed the same sentiment but we’ll have to wait and see if he’s forced to do the show against his will. And while other stars also don’t want to go there, it’s pretty clear that Vince McMahon prefers money to morals or if I’m being completely honest, fattening his own pockets while his employees are forced into performing like circus animals for a country that literally murders its own, simply for expressing other viewpoints. Saudi Arabia sounds so “progressive”.

In regards to Crown Jewel, social media has shown that most fans are upset with the event. In fact, polls on just about every wrestling news site have shown that fans oppose this in a landslide. But again, Vince is getting rich and the show must go on. Because some people can’t be satisfied by already being rich and heck, who cares who they murder over there, it’s none of our business and the show must go on! Glad to see that WWE truly cares what their fans think.

I just can’t give this company my money anymore and there are much better alternatives out there like New Japan and Ring of Honor. I just can’t stomach what WWE has become, as they can’t see the line between reality and the circus they’ve created. The McMahons live on another planet, high on their own rich gases where the fantasy is their reality. I don’t think their brains have broke kayfabe in quite some time and they don’t realize that most fans know the difference between the show and the real world.

Vince McMahon, we’re not stupid. And frankly, I have financially supported your product since the ’80s when my mum was yelling at me about the phone bill after calling your hotline too much. I have watched every “big four” pay-per-view since Wrestlemania I but I’m not doing it anymore. So enjoy the Saudi blood money and placating to the virtue signalers. I know I’m not alone in this, so I hope you can right the ship before it’s too late… but it’s probably too late.

But hey, “It’s all about the monaaay!”… am I right?

Talking Pulp: Why I’ve Grown to Hate Deadpool

If the title of this article is fightin’ words, then prepare for 1485 more.

I’ve come to the realization that I just don’t like Deadpool. I mean, I used to love him back when Rob Liefeld created him and he was a thorn in the New Mutants and X-Force’s side from time to time. Plus, I was twelve years-old.

But what’s not to like?

He’s pretty much a ninja or at least, he looks like the bastard lovechild of a ninja and Spider-Man. He was also snarky and a pain in the ass. He even wore a badass red outfit with badass swords and badass guns. He had lots of pouches… so many pouches.

However, as much as I enjoyed seeing him pop up in stuff, I never really liked it when he had his own solo comics.

Okay, I did like those first few miniseries that he had because he still wasn’t quite the Deadpool that we would eventually get and I actually loved the bromance between villains Black Tom Cassidy and Juggernaut. But Deadpool would go on to change and he would also go on to have a villain problem.

Let me get to how he changed first.

In 1997, Joe Kelly came along and wrote an ongoing series for Deadpool. It was here where the character’s real super power debuted: the ability to break the fourth wall. This would continue to be a trait that Deadpool would have going into the future. Without Joe Kelly, Deadpool wouldn’t be talking to you and me, the audience, during his movies. Kelly, essentially turned the “Merc with a Mouth” into Zack Morris from Saved by the Bell. It was unique and fun at first but as time rolled on, I personally found it more distracting than amusing. But I also prefer tough looking characters that kick a whole lot of ass to spend less time chatting and more time kicking a whole lot of ass.

But really, breaking the fourth wall is not a super power. And neither is talking and being a snarky jackass.

Deadpool’s actual power is pretty much just a super healing ability, which makes him Wolverine without the claws, cool skeleton and good looks. And since Wolverine speaks softly and carries a big can of whoop ass into every situation, I will always prefer Wolverine.

Wolverine is a man’s man where Deadpool is that awkward thirty-something juvenile guy that shows up at parties, makes a fuck ton of jokes and people just leave the room. And then he follows them around making more jokes, oblivious to the fact that his routine is stale and he can’t converse like a normal, well adjusted adult.

I’m not saying that he’s completely unfunny but there comes a time when you need to nut the fuck up and shut the fuck up. This is why Deadpool is amusing from time to time when he cameos in someone else’s comic but to read 30 pages of his shtick, every single month, doesn’t interest me in the slightest. Point being, he’s a character that is much better and more welcomed in smaller doses.

Now circling back to the villain problem, Deadpool just doesn’t have any that are worthwhile. This is really apparent in his movies. Sure, Juggernaut and Black Tom show up in Deadpool 2 but they aren’t a main focus and are really just afterthoughts in the film.

Deadpool typically goes after one-off scumbags. I guess that’s fine if you only read Deadpool for Deadpool but for the rest of us, we want to see him actually face off with credible threats. Comic stories of Deadpool cracking jokes, leading up to killing a random mob boss have been done to death at this point. Lack of good villains is why I’ve never been a huge fan of the Punisher in his own titles either. I prefer the Punisher when he actually goes against Jigsaw or the Kingpin, as opposed to a random Russian sex trafficker.

The times where I do love Deadpool is when he is a real fish out of water and playing against his typical situation. For instance, whenever he’s trying to court Death and drawing the ire of Thanos. Or in Venomverse when he’s one of a few dozen characters but he finds a way to be more than his one-dimensional self and stands out while adding something worthwhile to the story beyond just comedic relief. I just don’t want Wade Wilson to be to Marvel what Santino Marella was to the WWE for several years. But he’s basically Marvel’s Jerry Lewis. A lot of people liked Jerry Lewis but a lot of people also post Onion stories like they’re real news… still.

Getting back to his humor, what is it mostly comprised of? Sex jokes and chimichangas.

A good sex joke can go a long way but when you’re writing a character that’s in comics for teens, there is only so far that you can go. And really, while this does work for a juvenile audience, the humor is still juvenile and who hasn’t heard these tired ass jokes for years already? Well, assuming you’re older than high school age.

Chimichangas are just delicious deep fried burritos. I guess it’s a funny sounding word but how many jokes can you make centered around chimichangas? Apparently, at this point, over twenty years worth strung over multiple creative mediums. You know that meme of the cartoon taco that says, “I don’t wanna taco ’bout it?” Now imagine someone holding that in your face for twenty-plus years.

Another aspect of Deadpool’s humor is pop culture references. He runs off at the mouth referencing movies, video games, bands and everything else like it’s the final battle in Ready Player One. He’s like Marvel’s equivalent to Family Guy, which I guess a lot of people like but I don’t see the humor in just mentioning some past nerdy thing. Actually, doesn’t that make Deadpool The Big Bang Theory of the Marvel universe then?

When it comes to the comics themselves, looking beyond his humor style, the stories are typically a jumbled up clusterfuck. Everything beyond his dialogue is wacky for wacky’s sake. It’s like reading a Sunday paper comic strip that is stretched from a few panels to 30 pages worth of panels. And nothing in his stories ever seem to hold much bearing over the bigger picture. It’s like every story could just be his own delusional power fantasy where he’s the only one laughing at his jokes.

Additionally, what’s the fucking point of it all? Where is he going as a character? Is he even a character that has the elements that a character should have? What’s his life arc? It’s just a long running aimless joke. Thankfully, the films fleshed him out into something actually tangible with real human emotion but I think that Ryan Reynolds and the writers were smart enough to know that the film wouldn’t succeed as a two hour dick joke. People need to connect to something and Deadpool, in comic book form, doesn’t have anything to connect to. He probably doesn’t connect to you either unless you’re just a basic bitch that thinks Semi-Pro is a better film than The Shawshank Redemption.

Looking back to the beginning at what Deadpool was, as a character, he’s just Rob Liefeld’s attempt at parodying Deathstroke. He was also purposely given a look that is reminiscent of Spider-Man. Deadpool has never been anywhere near as interesting as either of those characters though. Seriously, read Deathstroke by Christopher Priest (the current run of the character) or go back and read Teen Titans: The Judas Contract. Deadpool has never had a story arc anywhere near the quality of Deathstroke. And I don’t even need to compare him to the incredible history of the Peter Parker version of Spider-Man.

Other things to nitpick about is that the character has a terrible origin story, the art in his books is usually mediocre, he’s an amalgamation of ’90s cliches that people have made fun of for years, all he cares about is amusing himself at anyone else’s expense, he’s a prick most of the time, he’s barely heroic, he fucks up constantly and we’re supposed to laugh about it because he’s a Mary Sue that can survive anything, he’s usually in the way when other heroes are present and he relies on his healing ability over honing his actual skills.

I used to love Deadpool. But again, I was twelve years-old. I never cared about his own solo books because I guess I never thought he had much to offer outside of quick appearances. But as time moved on, the gimmick ran tired and Deadpool became the Dane Cook of comic books.

Plus, when someone says that he’s their favorite superhero, chances are they didn’t know who the hell he was until three years ago… and they probably don’t read comic books either.

Talking Pulp: The Death of Optimus Prime and Why It Was Great

August 8th, 1986. That was the day where everything changed.

Transformers: The Movie hit theaters and little boys and little girls had their hearts broken when they witnessed, on the big screen, the death of the franchise’s biggest hero, Optimus Prime.

I was seven years-old when I saw the movie and it had a profound effect on me. I was crushed when the film got to that moment but unlike most of the kids in the theater, I got over it as the film rolled on. Because even though I was shocked, I knew that everything changed and nothing was safe. I mean, that was kind of cool. No one had any idea where the movie could even go after that moment, which was very early on in the story.

In that moment, I knew that even though all seemed lost, the stakes had never been higher and that the Autobots faced their greatest challenge. I knew that fresh, exciting and different days were still ahead. And I may have not actually understood this with great detail but I remember vividly what I felt: shock, awe, surprise and an overwhelming desire to see the Autobots overcome adversity, hardship and evil. It also made the villains darker, which I loved.

I guess that this had a huge cultural impact because parents were so upset that they made their feelings widely known. Hasbro responded by having G.I. Joe: The Movie altered so that Duke’s death, the G.I. Joe’s beloved field commander, was rewritten so that he just fell into a coma for the rest of the film. It doesn’t matter that you saw a venomous snake bite him through the heart with actual blood splatter, he lived to be okay.

Hasbro certainly didn’t want more backlash from angry parents with kids that had their hearts crushed like Duke’s in the snake’s mouth. But really, Duke’s “death” was more violent and shocking to see than Optimus Prime’s. I mean, Duke was human, there was blood and his human facial expression really sold the moment. But I’ll probably save this whole topic for an article at a later date. I just wanted to shed some light and add some context on the Optimus Prime death situation from a cultural perspective.

Anyway, Transformers: The Movie moved forward past that tragic scene. Optimus Prime’s Matrix of Leadership was first passed to Ultra Magnus but by the end of the movie, it found the one Autobot truly worthy of carrying it into the future: Hot Rod. Hot Rod unlocked the power of the Matrix and evolved into Rodimus Prime, a sort of hybrid between himself and Optimus, as he grew taller, broader and went from being a cool hot rod to a hot rod mixed with a semi truck.

Rodimus (with the Matrix) defeated the Decepticons and their new leader Galvatron (a suped up version of the former leader Megatron). Rodimus also helped destroy Unicron, who was basically the Transformers version of Marvel’s Galactus but actually cooler. By the end of the movie, Rodimus Prime rose to the occasion and the Autobots that survived this nearly apocalyptic event would go on to protect Earth from Galvatron and his minions in the future.

When the later seasons of the Transformers cartoon hit the airwaves, it took place after the movie and things were very different. Many episodes were dark and bleak and while this probably didn’t appeal to parents looking out for their kids’ best interest, as a kid, I really liked these episodes.

It was the first time that I experienced something I love in entertainment, going darker and getting grittier. As a kid, I thought it was cool as hell and it made this show about cartoon robots seem more real and more mature. In a way, the show was growing up and evolving with me. People look down on this era of the show but if I’m being completely honest, I preferred this era. Plus, the feeling that no one was truly safe, carried over from the movie.

I also preferred the characters and the toys that came out that tied into this post-Movie era. The toys got more elaborate and creative. You had Headmasters, Triggermasters, more creative and futuristic vehicles and Hot Rod was always f’n cool to me, even as Rodimus.

On the Decepticon side, as much as I loved Starscream and his Seekers, I really loved Cyclonus and the Swoops. Megatron is my favorite Transformer of all-time but Galvatron was less bumbling and seemed like he was a more capable madman. Also, Cobra Commander from G.I. Joe even shows up in an episode with the name “Snake”. It’s obvious that it’s Cobra Commander and he is there to assist the villainous Decepticons, years after Cobra has ceased to exist.

You also got really cool Combiners like Predaking and awesome battle stations that transformed into massive robots. I owned Fortress Maximus and it was probably my most beloved toy in the ’80s. It was also a sign of pride for me, as I saved up over $100 to buy it with my own money. I also bought Skorponok and Trypticon because they were two of the coolest f’n toys ever made.

Now don’t get me wrong, I love so many of the original Transformers, as well as the earliest episodes, but there was just something more grown up about the show after the death of Optimus Prime.

If Optimus Prime didn’t die and the show didn’t take a darker turn and get more mature, I probably would have lost interest in it. There were already 65 episodes before The Movie. The formula had run it’s course and change was needed to make things fresh and interesting again. Plus, Hasbro had all these new toys to sell and the old robots were just in the way of the new ones. This is the same reason why the G.I. Joe and Cobra teams changed so frequently on G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero.

But then, like a beacon of light and hope at the end of the dark tunnel, Transformers did something really amazing. The show found a way to resurrect Optimus Prime.

I remember seeing the ad for the Return of Optimus Prime and it’s like the world stopped. After truly enjoying the post-Optimus era, absence made the heart grow fonder and it’s as if I didn’t realize how much I wanted him and needed him during his absence. Optimus Prime going away for awhile made the character stronger. Everyone I knew, back when I was in second grade, was glued to their television sets on February 24th and 25th, 1987 for that two-part story that closed out Season 3.

And what a story that was! Optimus Prime took the Matrix back, Rodimus stepped aside and everything was restored. Plus, the Autobots now had the edge over the more sinister Decepticons.

The point here, is that Optimus Prime dying created backlash and made children cry but it was necessary in making Transformers survive. It enriched the mythos, it paved the way for new characters, new toys and it opened the door for riskier and more interesting storytelling. It changed the tone of the franchise, which I feel was needed after the 65 episodes before The Movie.

I think Hasbro was smart in doing what they did. Without the death of Optimus Prime, we might not have Transformers today. The sacrifice of the franchise’s most popular hero gave that franchise meaning beyond just being some cartoon made to sell toys.

Also, no matter how much money they dump into these modern Transformers movies, they have yet to come up with a story that can even exist in the same orbit as the original animated film. Without the death of Optimus Prime, what was that film? It probably would’ve just felt like a normal multi-part episode like G.I. Joe: The Movie did because they didn’t commit to the bit and kill off Duke.

With Transformers: The Movie, Hasbro did everything right.

And now I leave you with Stan Bush’s “The Touch”. Drink it in, bathe in its glory.

Talking Pulp: WarGames 2018 – The Comic Book Industry Expansion Pack

Somewhere along the way, people went fucking nuts.

I mean, this shit has been simmering for awhile now but Donald Trump winning the presidency (a guy I didn’t vote for, by the way) has turned the lefties into a fucking maelstrom of hate and madness.

I used to write about politics and economics and dealt with my fair share of craziness from people on both sides of the political spectrum because I don’t wholeheartedly agree with either side.

During that time, primarily from 2010 through 2013, I wrote a lot about Donald Trump because no one took him seriously but I saw the writing on the wall. I knew that Barack Obama would defeat Mitt Romney in 2012 and that Donald Trump would win in 2016, as a response to eight years under strong Democratic Party rule. This is how it goes, power shifts back and forth from party to party in a two-party system. Especially, when third party candidates have the deck stacked against them to where they can’t get their foot in the establishment door.

Point being, the Democrats will have their day in the sun again, whether that makes you happy or that upsets you. The pendulum continues to swing: sometimes quickly, sometimes a bit slower.

The writing is always on the wall but, as of late, it seems that the average person is either ignorant of history, often times by choice, or they have the emotional control of a two year-old on Mountain Dew and Smarties. Nothing is ever settled in politics. Neither side is ever going to win and be done with it. It’s always going to be a battle and there will always be the other side of the coin, chipping away at whatever you feel your side of the coin has built up.

Writing about that stuff for a long time and engaging with hostile people all over the damn place was why I had to walk away from it. You are either preaching to the choir or your wasting time and energy on vile people that refuse to listen to logic, reason or just a difference of opinion. Sometimes you reach someone and alter their worldview but open mindedness, acceptance and challenging oneself are things that seem to scare the crap out of people in 2018.

The reason I’m even talking about this is because I now find myself in a similar situation and I’ve stayed away from the political world. But I guess with the madness that has a strong hold on society, this has become unavoidable.

How is it effecting me? How has this bullshit found a way back into my life on a nauseatingly large scale?

Through comic books. Yes, fucking comic books.

Are we this fucking petty now? Is America so far gone that I have to bare witness and be forced to participate in some sort of wackadoo culture war that is happening in one of my favorite forms of escapism?

One side points to the SJW (social justice warrior) takeover of mainstream and indie comics. The other side calls its critics racist, misogynist, homophobic Nazis. One side seems fairly rational, even if some within their ranks are shit stirrers, there will always be shit stirrers. The other side attacks like rabid animals, parroting the same tired and vicious talking points, again and again.

I’ve been aware of the Comicsgate versus SJW war for awhile now but I didn’t really want to involve myself because I hate Twitter and social media in general. Also, I don’t have the time to give a shit or waste time trying to convince other people that their worldview might be wrong.

The thing is, I hate groups and movements and I’ve always been a lone wolf because groups and movements come and go. More people join, movements get co-opted by outsiders, they lose their original intended purpose and then they splinter into other groups or just cease to exist. Just in recent years, I’ve seen this happen with the Tea Party and the Occupy Movement: two groups on opposite ends of the spectrum but both ruined by the same sort of bullshit. History is full of examples like this and nothing truly lasts.

But that doesn’t mean that the ideals and tenets don’t remain in the hearts of a movement’s originators. People with Tea Party or Occupy principles continue to exist and to maintain those original ideals. I tend to stand alongside individuals who share the ideas and worldview that I have, as opposed to joining groups that will run their course and most likely won’t fulfill their intended purpose and often times grow into the antithesis of themselves.

My personal ideals and tenets are more in line with Comicsgate. I agree with their core principles. In saying that, the other side of the coin will just label me a whole bunch of nasty shit that isn’t true because they can’t have an intelligent or even rational discussion about it because either they can’t formulate an intelligent thought, won’t even consider evidence contrary to their beliefs or they are too scared to disagree for fear of also being labeled horrible things. Plus, for these sociopaths, competing for the most likes from other sociopaths on Twitter is more important than being a human fucking being.

These people have become the Westboro Baptist Church of the comic book industry and by denouncing you with hate and venom, they believe that this somehow deplatforms you. Strangely though, words like “Nazi” and “bigot” have lost their impact. And frankly, it goes to show how stupid and bigoted these people are when they want to compare someone critical of a character in a comic book to a fascist empire that murdered millions of people simply because they were Jewish. It’s the SJWs that obsess over race, sexual preference and gender all the time. Most normal people don’t give a shit. But these angry creatures have never experienced real racism or hatred. But everything is offensive to them and context isn’t something that their brains can even seem to calculate. Nor can they detect humor in any of its many forms.

You see, I didn’t want to be Comicsgate and I certainly didn’t want to be an SJW. However, just by being critical of SJWs and their influence on a creative medium I enjoy, makes them categorize me as Comicsgate. Just because I follow a few people on Twitter, as I’m open to hear their opinion, doesn’t mean that I am 100 percent on their side and playing for their team. But that doesn’t matter in an era of extremes where you are guilty by association, even though that doesn’t make sense when I follow liberals and conservatives.

But I see other people like me out there. People that don’t want to be in the fight but they keep getting pulled in. The thing is, Comicsgate isn’t forcing people to ride or die, it’s the SJWs that do that. You’re either with them or you’re fucking Hitler.

This isn’t to say that Comicsgate doesn’t have its fair share of shitheads and problems, it does, and that’s why I haven’t picked a side. Or I haven’t until now.

The shit really hit the fan for me when I saw three things this past week.

The first incident was how Peter Simeti of Alterna Comics was treated by the SJW zealots who wanted to make an example of him because all he did was mind his business and interact with all of his customers, regardless of politics or where they stood in this stupid fucking war. Peter was slandered in the media, slandered all over Twitter and attacked vehemently just because he didn’t want to play the SJW game. It broke my heart to read his words, watch his stream about the situation and to see what he went through in real time, just as an observer on Twitter. I’ve dealt with mental health issues my whole life and I know, first hand, the dark places a mind can go. The fact that Peter was made to feel like this over comic books is fucking disgusting and inexcusable.

The next thing was seeing Mitch Breitweiser’s tweet about how hard this has been on his wife Bettie and how everyday is an emotional whirlwind. Both of them have worked in the comic book industry for awhile now but they have been attacked, constantly, for two years, just because of a political drawing. While I don’t know them personally, I, like many others, have gotten to know them through their live streams and through their involvement in the Comicsgate community. There aren’t two nicer and sweeter people than the Breitweisers but SJWs just see targets to dehumanize and to make an example out of because their own lives are miserable. I supported the Breitweisers’ project Red Rooster and it’s something that I am incredibly excited for because it looks fantastic. But every single day, these people are attacked online and even had to cancel a convention appearance over threats of violence.

The third thing came from Richard C. Meyer a.k.a. Zack a.k.a. Diversity & Comics a.k.a. SJW Public Enemy #1. After a year and a half of combating these people, he looked like he was going to leave Twitter. I don’t blame him, as I want to leave Twitter about six times per day. But the thing is, Richard is a guy that can take it and has taken it for a very long time. Yes, he said some things in the past that were infuriating to SJWs but it doesn’t matter that he has over a thousand other videos, he will always be attacked because of one video from over a year ago. These SJWs just don’t have the ability to understand forgiveness. They don’t have empathy, compassion, a sense of humor and always need an enemy. There’s just something to be said about seeing one of the champions against them get to the point where he’s just over it.

And these are just three recent examples. This has been going on for far too long and again, this is over fucking comic books!

That being said…

I didn’t chose the Comicsgate life, the Comicsgate life chose me.

Or the SJWs did by their actions, their rhetoric and their inability to see beyond their uncontrollable hatred.

don’t want to play the game. And those that don’t want to play shouldn’t be forced to. But that’s what’s happening.

The SJWs are the group that have a “white male problem”. They’re the group that promotes hatred and negativity. They’re the ones who are always on the attack. They are the harassers, the hardcore shit stirrers and they use mob rule to intimidate and dehumanize people with nothing more than a difference of opinion.

Yes, some Comicsgate associated people suck too but I would rather spend my time with those who have fun, enjoy life and try to bring something new and positive to the table. Plus, Comicsgate is a much more diverse group of people despite what those SJW white boys wants you to think.

I think Comicsgaters should stop engaging these sociopaths. Stop sharing their tweets and making them five minute famous. You can mute or block people on social media; I do. It works better than a massive fucking block chain. Hell, I mute Comicsgate people if they’re shit stirrers or do nothing but get into Twitter wars 24/7.

I am an individual, I don’t like labels, I detest groupthink but I do stand with Comicsgate.

I don’t know, I like peace and solutions to problems, as opposed to always holding a magnifying glass up to them.

If you disagree, you’re a fucking racist.

Talking Pulp: Red Dead Redemption: A Game Rife with Politics

*Written circa 2010 when I was running a blog about politics and economics.

*There be spoilers here!

Rockstar Game’s Red Dead Redemption may be one of the greatest games I have ever played. It has taken over the last several months of my life, well at least when I have had free time anyway, and it has, in my view, successfully painted a world reflecting the last days of the Old West.

Being a fan of the western genre, I have found Red Dead Redemption to be the greatest representation of that genre ever created for a video game. Like the Grand Theft Auto series, from the same developer, Red Dead Redemption is a game that is seemingly endless, even after beating the single player story mode. There are so may other quests to do and just roaming the countryside and having the freedom to do whatever you wish provides the player with infinite possibilities and hours upon hours of just being sucked into the Red Dead world. The plot is multilayered with several wrenches thrown into its already twisting machinations. However, underneath it all, there seems to be a political philosophy. Now, I am not saying that the Rockstar staff put this philosophy there intentionally but nonetheless it is there. I really just think that the philosophy is a reflection of the times and the life of the characters within the world of the game. The fact that a multilayered philosophy even exists in this game is a testament to the skills of the game’s developers.

To start, the main character, John Marston, was an ex-scumbag who used to run with a gang that murdered and stole. At the start of the game he has already fallen in love, got married and had a son named Jack. Marston, for the sake of his family and his soul, has renounced who he once was and is trying to stay on the right path. That is, until big government BOI (today’s FBI) agent Edgar Ross takes Marston’s family away from him. The only way Marston can get his family back is by working for Ross. Essentially, Ross wants Marston to hunt down and kill all the members of his old gang. However, Ross isn’t the most ethical of agents and there are several twists, turns and surprises that await John Marston on his journey. With that said, the game is about a man’s struggle to work within a corrupt system and to persevere, all while doing it just to achieve his dream: to live on a farm, with his family in peace and quiet with no one (including the government) to bother them. Isn’t that what we all want really? Well, maybe not the farm part.

John Marston’s desire to work hard and never quit, even within the nefarious system, in an effort to achieve his goals and save his family, is heroic. His desires and his actions and his personal philosophy throughout the game are almost libertarian. Hell, one could even make a solid argument that his spirit and personal philosophy was a precursor to Objectivism. He strongly opposed the corrupt big government policies and intrusion into people’s lives, in the U.S. and also in Mexico. In fact, on both sides of the border, he worked within the evil machine only to liberate himself from it and to fight against it. In the end, his fight for freedom and his family cost him his life. Although, he did save his wife and son and he died fighting, opposing corruption, betrayal and tyranny with his last breath.

In the spirit of libertarianism, Red Dead Redemption teaches the player about owning up to your actions and how to be personally responsible for them all while attempting to redeem yourself for the negative aspects of your character. Well, as John Marston anyway.

It also shows the horrors of a government that is too large and how that large government is infringing upon the rights of its people. Many of the more patriotic characters within Red Dead Redemption are incredibly vocal about this. In a lot of ways, unintentionally or not, some of the characters in the Red Dead world could fit well within the Tea Parties of today.

Taking place in 1910, the United States itself was at a major turning point. The industrial revolution was well underway and capitalism was at its peak. The world had also already come to recognize American Exceptionalism. Capitalism in its best forms and worst forms was very much on display in Red Dead Redemption and really left a lot to be analyzed by both sides of the coin: those who are pro-capitalist and those who are anti-capitalist.

However, I’m not going to go on a rant here about the differences between true capitalism and crony capitalism and how government’s involvement in that system is severely destructive and counterproductive to the whole thing. What I will say is that you ought to play the game and witness how capitalism, industrialization and American Exceptionalism killed the Old West and brought us into the future and out of the dark ages.

Another political aspect in the game, probably also unintentional but a part of the game nonetheless due to its awesome representation of life in 1910, is women’s rights. Yes, there are prostitutes all over the place but Marston refuses their advances, out of respect for his wife, and he treats them all with respect.

The other women in the game are all just as tough as the men and they do not back down and run from fear, danger or the corrupt and evil forces that they are faced with. In fact, they stand strong, run their businesses despite a tyrannical government with their hand in it and are just as helpful to John Marston as all the lawmen and combat experienced gents in the game. Essentially, the game paints women as equals to men, even though it takes place in a time when women were viewed as simple homemakers. I feel that the game more accurately portrays the women of the time, as opposed to the entertainment of that era, which was propaganda driven and helped hold women back in their “roles”.

Nowhere else is the spirit of freedom alive in the game then in the second act when our hero, John Marston, turns his back on the corrupt Mexican government, who he was briefly working for, and uses all of what he has learned about them to help the rebels build their long overdue offensive.

Storming the giant villa in Escalera is chilling. Although the rebels are pushing for social reform and their efforts may seem similar to Castro and Che in Cuba, it still gives you a rush, knowing that you are bombarding a well-armed and well-manned fortress to overcome tyranny and establish freedom for people who want nothing other than to tear down a corrupt regime. This is one of the greatest battles in the game and once tyranny in Mexico is seemingly destroyed or at least severely compromised, Marston returns to America to fight for his individual freedom against another corrupt regime.

I can’t honestly say that the game sits on one side of the political fence or the other. It is just a great representation of life in 1910 and it really leaves a lot open for interpretation. I know where I stand with it and a lot of what is going on in this game is timeless. So much of it rings true with what is current now and it is a true testament of political struggle, which represents today just as much as it does yesterday. Red Dead Redemption is definitely one of the best-written games of all time and politically, it has enough guts and enough meat to keep the politificionados talking for a long time.