Talking Pulp: Rest In Peace – DC Comics – 1934-2020?

I’m glad I’m no longer a customer of AT&T. I left them behind a few years ago and I have been really happy not giving them my money anymore. But since buying Time Warner, they’ve been going through everything with a fine tooth comb and shutting down divisions that they don’t deem as profitable enough.

I was first directly affected by this back in November of 2018 when they pulled the plug on FilmStruck, a streaming service that was a joint effort by Turner Classic Movies and the Criterion Collection to present classic and historically significant motion pictures from all eras. It was also, by far, my favorite streaming service out of them all. In fact, I wrote about that dark day here.

When FilmStruck was struck down, I knew that it was only a matter of time before AT&T took the ax to other divisions within their entertainment sectors. Looking across the board, it was easy to ascertain that DC Comics’ days were most assuredly numbered.

The writing has been on the wall forever and not just for DC but for Marvel and the entire comic book industry, as a whole. Sales are terrible, comics are too expensive and most importantly, above all else, the creative side of the equation is mostly deplorable.

The comic book industry (like the rest of the entertainment industry) has had an agenda-driven ax to grind for several years now. It’s turned people away, as has the behavior of many of these “creators” on social media.

In fact, many of these big entertainment juggernauts actually don’t do anything to stop the despicable behavior of those they employ. They’ve even brushed this shit off, claiming that they’re just independent contractors and entitled to their own opinions. I’ve written about these “creators” and companies’ bullshit before though, which you can check out here and here.

The point of this article, though, is to point out that DC Comics, in its current form, is beyond repair and that AT&T is most likely pulling the plug.

Now nothing has been officially announced, as of yet, so take this as rumor until more comes out.

However, it looks like this is possibly happening sooner rather than later, based off of some texts I got from an intermediary with an insider, who has worked at DC for over a decade. Who they are doesn’t matter but it’s not hard to see the forest for the trees.

What I’ve been told is that this was planned before COVID-19 made things a lot worse and that this viral event has actually sped up the company’s demise.

I felt that this should come as no surprise after their publisher Dan DiDio “stepped down” on February 21st of this year with no one being announced to step in and fill that void. I guess it made Jim Lee the top guy by default but what has he done since this happened? He’s done a Kickstarter for a backpack and he’s hosted art auctions.

Additionally, DC Comics’ 5G initiative has been met with severe backlash and it hasn’t even started yet. It was scheduled to kickoff this summer and it was DiDio’s newest and latest big plan to save the industry and get sales booming again.

Well, when you’ve rebooted your universe multiple times in the last decade or so, people become sick of these sort of half-assed and short-sighted shenanigans. Plus, no one really wants to see core DC characters get replaced by diversity characters. This bullshit hasn’t worked for Marvel but apparently these comic book companies can’t learn from past mistakes, have no real fresh ideas and apparently don’t care about profit.

This all boils down to profit. Especially, when you have been absorbed by a massive corporation that only cares about their bottom line, a line which DC Comics is definitely below.

The rest of the information that made its way to me says that COVID-19 was the deathblow for DC and that AT&T is planning on making an official announcement in June. They also said that it is doubtful that they will wait until June now, as the damage is quite severe. Plus, people working for DC will most likely get pissed and start leaking more information between now and then. AT&T will most likely want to stay ahead of that or they’ll do what companies do in these situations and deny it until their hand is forced to be more transparent. That’s the beauty of publicly traded companies.

The plan is for DC to release what is already in the pipeline over the next few months but there will be no new books after what is currently finished. With Diamond, the comic industry’s “monopoly” distributor, falling apart due to COVID-19, DC is looking for other distribution avenues. But this is probably just a short-term thing to get these last comics out and to try and turn some profit while they still can.

While this may feel like a punch in the gut, it doesn’t mean that characters like Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman are gone.

AT&T still owns the IPs to these characters and those IPs will most likely always be lucrative, as they will continue to produce movies, television shows and merchandise till the end of time. This really just effects the comic book division itself.

This also doesn’t mean that we will never have comic books of these characters again, either. AT&T could license these characters out to other publishers in the same way Hasbro licenses out G.I. Joe, Transformers and other IPs to IDW Publishing. Hell, all major IPs that aren’t specifically owned by DC or Marvel are mostly produced by indie companies like IDW, Dynamite, Dark Horse, Boom! and a slew of others.

Side note: Marvel has already licensed their own characters out to IDW for their kids line of comics, despite still being in business themselves.

Plus, the monthly model of people buying floppy physical issues of comics doesn’t seem to be the best model anymore. Yet, crowdfunding comics has been blowing up and creating a boom in that sector of the industry. The mainstream tries to ignore it and brush it off but just look at how well a lot of the Comicsgate creators’ books have done.

The mainstream wants to paint Comicsgate as their enemy and well, they are. They’re defying what has become the mainstream industry’s standard and are pulling fans away from failing publishers like DC and Marvel while reinvigorating comic book readers who walked away some time ago. But it’s easier for the mainstream to demonize and act catty than to just do better and look at competition as a good thing.

So while Comicsgate and other crowdfunders are the enemy of the mainstream, they’re also the savior of the comic book industry because they’re keeping it alive and growing it by bringing in new readership.

While I am not a fan of labels, I am a fan of prosperity, success and in regards to the comic book medium, quality. It’s that quality thing that the mainstream publishers are having a hard time with, as they flood the shelves with comics people don’t want by “creators” who wouldn’t have been allowed anywhere near the industry just a decade ago. And that’s not to say that all Comicsgate books are great but the cream of the crop is much better than anything Marvel or DC has put out in quite awhile. Excluding Sean Gordon Murphy’s Batman stuff, though, as his White Knight comics are, by far, the best things put out by the mainstream in years.

Again, take this information as rumor but with everything that’s happened just in the last few months, DC Comics, in its current form, is probably not going to be here by year’s end.

Update:

Apparently, IDW Publishing started laying people off just minutes after I posted this article. It’s not looking good, folks.

Update #2:

I was told by someone close to the situation, that some sort of official decision will be made following the July 4th weekend.

Talking Pulp: A Few Words While Dealing With the “Mexican Lager Viral Event”

This coronavirus insanity has made the world go bonkers. I think people are just scared and allowing the media and others to work them up into a panic that makes them hoard strange things like toilet paper and garlic.

In the meantime, I’m trying to keep my head up, maintain as positive of an attitude as I can while trying to weed out the bullshit, hysteria and conspiracy theories, in an effort to digest just the facts and maintain a rational mindset.

Since I know that I get a lot more readers here than I have followers on Twitter, I thought that I’d share something that I said on that social media platform a few days ago:

As someone who’s lived thru multiple bad hurricanes, it’s important to see how these things bring us together, as opposed to fixating on the a-holes that turn to fear, panic & general douchery. There are more good people than bad, even though sometimes it doesn’t look that way.

I wanted to expand on that, though, as Twitter limits the size of your tweets and you can’t always jot down your complete thoughts in better detail or context with just 280 characters. Granted, most people these days can’t seem to process information larger than a sensationalist clickbait headline but I digress.

So, here we all are, at an interesting time in human history. It’s the start of a new decade, mainstream culture has gotten really weird the last few years and frankly, people nowadays bitch about absolute nonsense and are always looking to get offended because they’re seeking out conflict where there is none.

An intelligent, rational person would probably think that we no longer have any real problems because the ones that people seem to get so worked up about don’t remotely compare to the gravity of a World War, the Holocaust, the Cold War, the Great Depression, Vietnam, civil rights, the Civil War or a plague. Now people get hella pissed because the President tweeted out something rude and crass. Granted, I don’t think Twitter really benefits the guy but whatever, I’m not going to diarrhea all over the Internet about it.

My point is, what’s happening in the world, right now, could be the biggest thing that’s happened in a generation. I’m not discounting 9/11 but this COVID-19 pandemic has already directly affected a lot more people and it doesn’t look like it plans on slowing down, as the world’s greatest minds are doing what they can to try and limit the damage it is going to cause.

Many people think that the governments are overreacting and maybe they are but ultimately, this is a more serious problem than what many are seeing it as. The reason why it is this big of an issue is our lack of preparedness. The writing has been on the wall for quite some time and this virus could have been more effectively countered at a much earlier stage.

More than anything, I hope this is a lesson and that those who have the ability and the power to do something about this, will be much more vigilant in the future. The spread of viruses needs to be more of a priority and I’m speaking as someone that doesn’t like big government and is pretty laissez-faire. But if I’m paying taxes, which I always will, I’d rather it go towards science, medicine and technological advances that can enrich the future and make it safer.

Most of us are good people. Most of us want the best for not just ourselves but also our neighbors. We live in a world where technology has made us closer and our communities aren’t just our local neighborhoods. Collectively, we should be working to survive and thrive. It’s in all of our best interest to make sure that the world is healthy on all levels.

Yes, there will always be shitty, terrible people. But we can’t let those few speak and act for the rest of us. They aren’t us and I think that many people lose sight of that when they turn on the news and see spring breaking Millennials being self-absorbed dipshits or normal people, full of fear, fist fighting over toilet paper and snack cakes. These people aren’t the majority but it is really easy for the majority to get pulled into this destructive, paranoid orbit and become what they fear.

I know it’s become a cliche statement but everyone should be the change that they want to see in the world. Be better, be positive, try not to lose your cool in times like this and know that, most likely, most of us will get through this.

We’ve had a pretty easy existence for a long time but once in a while, shit hits the fan. This is shit hitting the fan. But how we handle it is up to us. You control how you respond to the shit that the world throws at you.

In the end, this will be much easier to get through if more people have each other’s backs and we all try to help where we can. The media just exists to make money off of our fear, paranoia and insecurity, so it is in their nature to try and generate more, especially in times like these.

Learn how to read through the bullshit. Know the facts. Don’t take every rumor or clickbait headline you read as a stone cold truth. But also, be vigilant in your own life when it comes to the safety of yourself and your loved ones.

Honestly, I feel like everything I’m saying here, should be common sense. But when my social media and news feeds are full of 95 percent negativity, I thought that I’d have to put something positive out there.

People keep talking about flattening the curve, well… we also need to flatten the fear, paranoia and negativity. We need to be rational, logical and willing to build the world up instead of tearing it down.

Lets treat this threat as a reminder that we need to look beyond petty differences and actually see the good in other people, regardless of politics, religion or whatever other bullshit that divides us.

Human beings have been wired to seek out conflict; it’s in our nature. But we can also evolve beyond that and try to be something better. It’s on us whether or not we destroy ourselves or reach a higher purpose.

I don’t want to lose faith in humanity, as I see good, kind acts every day. So maybe it’s time that we all start making a real effort to push the needle in the other direction.

Talking Pulp: Rotten Tomatoes Has Always Been Rotten

Everyone and their mother seems to be outraged by this Rotten Tomatoes controversy of the past 24 hours. Everyone has written an article or done a video on it and I figured I’d stay out of it because it’s monopolizing my social media feeds.

However, I have a different perspective on it because where people seem to be surprised and offended by their bullshit shenanigans the last few days, I never relied on the website or took it too seriously to begin with.

Rotten Tomatoes was never about audience participation, it’s always been about using an unclear, bullshitty algorithm to give unreliable scores to movies that do nothing but benefit the big studio system’s marketing machine. This wasn’t a secret, they’ve been shilling for their corporate masters since the Clinton administration. While it may have started with noble intentions in 1998, I can’t remember a time where I ever saw Rotten Tomatoes as relevant and I was using their built-in proto-social media platform back in 2001 or so.

People have been asking where they can go now, since Rotten Tomatoes has silenced anyone that isn’t approved by them to be a film reviewer. I’ve always found IMDb to be the most reliable source for how good a movie is. More often than not, IMDb ratings line up with my feeling on a movie. For those that don’t know, IMDb’s score is solely comprised by the audience. Anyone can vote on a film’s rating and millions already have. In fact, more people have voted on films on IMDb than they ever have on Rotten Tomatoes.

Now that’s not to say that IMDb won’t throw us a curveball in the future, as more and more tech industry companies continue to control speech. But, for now, it’s a better source and it always has been. Plus, the website doesn’t look like it was designed by a Nickelodeon intern. It’s basic, informational and straight to the point. Although those video ads that expand on your page are a pain in the dick.

Rotten Tomatoes doesn’t give you an accurate rating. They control who can be considered a legit critic and then they reduce in-depth critical analysis down to a binary result: did the critic like it or not like it. So if a bunch of critics think a film was a 6 out of 10, Rotten Tomatoes calculates that as a like. So when likes equate to 100 percent and dislikes equate to 0 percent, you can end up with a film getting a 98 percent approval rating even if most of the critics only thought it was a 6 out of 10.

So it’s not like they’ve been honest or given us accurate numbers, anyway. The only reason they are as big as they have gotten is because they have a simple logo that is easy for Hollywood marketing firms to throw on posters and into TV spots the day before a film drops. So by smooching that Hollywood ball sack, Rotten Tomatoes gets their own free marketing, gets considered relevant by casual filmgoers and then just increases their power and hold on the industry.

Additionally, Rotten Tomatoes is owned by Fandango, who are owned by NBC Universal (70 percent) and Warner Bros. (30 percent). So if it is under the umbrella of two massive film studios, why wouldn’t they build up their own propaganda machine in an effort to convince people that Rotten Tomatoes means something?

Now on the flip side, IMDb is owned by Amazon. While Amazon has its own studio, it has a much more neutral position within Hollywood. Plus, IMDb continues to use a ratings system that is controlled by the people and not some vague, complicated aggregator.

But what most people are upset about is that Rotten Tomatoes has taken their voice away. But even the audience scores have been found to be skewed, as Rotten Tomatoes won’t calculate in audience scores that are zero stars. And this has been known for awhile.

Frankly, Rotten Tomatoes is disingenuous, it doesn’t give a fuck what you think and it’s only purpose is to shill.

So I’m glad that they took a giant misstep and have now made more people aware of just how full of crap they are.

In the end, you can just come to TalkingPulp.com and I won’t steer you wrong. Unless you have really poor taste. But then again, I also don’t go to the movies too often anymore because people forgot how to behave in a theater and I’m usually seeing red instead of the movie I paid to watch.

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: 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.