Talking Pulp: Comicsgate and the Sustainability of Crowd Funded Comics

*If you have been following what has been going on with Comicsgate over the last several months, you can probably skip over the long introduction and jump right into the second part of the article. The introduction is to get people who aren’t aware of Comicsgate up to speed on what has been happening.

Part I: An Introduction to Set the Stage:

I have always hated labels but I find my ideals and my fandom in line with the Comicsgate movement. I hate anything called “(insert name)-gate” because it’s been done to death and at this point, it is misused. Initially, it was used as a suffix to label anything that was a scandal. Comicsgate like Gamergate before it isn’t a scandal, it is a push back against a forced social cultural agenda brought on by liberal extremists that many refer to as SJWs (or social justice warriors).

I really don’t want to spend my time on this article talking about SJWs, as all the big wigs in the Comicsgate movement have that covered. But in a nutshell, they tend to latch on to something in pop culture and use it as a platform to force diversity on the masses. No one I talk to or support in Comicsgate has a problem with diversity. We love diversity, which can be found in many major comic book titles going back decades.

Hell, it’s rare to find an old school comic book fan that isn’t a huge fan of the Chris Claremont era of X-Men, where diversity was kind of the whole point. My favorite franchise of all-time was G.I. Joe and that certainly wasn’t short on diversity. As a kid two of my favorite characters were Stalker (a black man) and the Baroness (a woman). My absolute favorite was Shipwreck, whose real name is Hector Delgado, so he’s probably Hispanic.

What Comicsgate people have a problem with is the SJW’s tactics and how they use hate filled rhetoric and intimidation while preaching the opposite. The big thing that people supporting Comicsgate want is good storytelling and for the intellectual properties that they love and cherish to be respected. But if you disagree with SJWs, they tend to call you names like “racist”, “bigot”, “misogynist”, “homophobe”, “white supremacist”, “Nazi”, “alt-right”, “Trump supporter” and whatever other bullshit they can come up with to bully you and paint you as something you aren’t.

I’m none of those things, by the way, not that I should even have to defend myself. And I didn’t support Trump… or Hillary for that matter. I’m an anarcho-capitalist that hates talking about politics because I ran a blog about it for several years until my brain exploded. It then took several more years for my brain to regenerate into something other than pulpy goo.

Anyway, when you try to have rational or reasonable discussions, the SJWs call you more names and then block you on social media because that’s what modern day bullies do. In the old days, bullies at least had balls and would get in your face, physically. Nowadays, the bullies are setting up GoFundMe accounts to get their fans to pay for surgeries to remove their balls (see for yourself). I guess being a writer for Marvel and DC Comics with an SJW agenda isn’t a good paying gig when you need to crowdfund your sex change operation. Point being, comic book sales are terrible in 2018, as the industry is essentially being held hostage by these SJW types. Comic books, as we know them, are dying a horrible death. Seriously, look at Squirrel Girl… who buys this shit?

But with all that being said, there are several people who are now creating their own comics because they no longer want to work within an industry where they aren’t wanted by those who hold the keys to the kingdom. Many conservatives in comics have been harassed and blacklisted. Those who still work in the comics industry that don’t agree with SJW politics and tactics, keep their mouths shut for fear of losing their jobs or receiving even worse backlash.

However, guys like Richard C. Meyer a.k.a. Zack of Diversity & Comics (currently at 81K subscribers) and former DC Comics artist Ethan Van Sciver a.k.a. ComicArtistPro Secrets (currently at 68K subscribers) have spoken out heavily against the SJW types and have created their own projects, which are being crowd funded with great success, unlike SJWs trying to crowd fund the snipping of their genitalia.

Diversity & Comics was the first to come out with his own graphic novel, which is called Jawbreakers – Lost Souls. Right now, this book has raised $362K from 9403 backers, funding 3867% of its initial goal. Ethan Van Sciver followed with Cyberfrog: Bloodhoney, which has raised $436K from 6928 backers, funding 5452% of its initial goal. These campaigns are still open and will continue to raise money.

Now there are other creators entering the fray and that’s what I’m here to discuss after this long winded introduction to get my readers up to speed.

Part II: Moving Beyond the Genesis of Comicsgate:

I have supported Jawbreakers and Cyberfrog. I did it gladly, without even knowing much about the comics themselves, as it is about funding something bigger than just a comic book project. It is about funding a movement and trying to change the industry. As time rolls on and things change and modernize with technology, we don’t have to necessarily buy comic books the same way that we’ve been buying them since, well… half a century before I was even born. To be honest, I still love walking into my local comic shops and buying stuff off of the wall and I think every true comic fan agrees with me there.

Since supporting those two projects, I’ve also found myself backing Cautionary Comics’ Ravage – Kill All Men!, Mitch and Elizabeth Breitweiser’s Red Rooster: Golden Age (the one I’m most excited about) and Richard C. Meyer’s second project Iron Sights.

The thing is, there are more projects out there that I haven’t supported and many more in the pipeline. So that raises some questions worth exploring.

To start, these comic books are typically graphic novel size or longer than standard comics. Plus, they are printed independently without being under the banner of a large publisher like Marvel, DC, Image, Dark Horse, etc. Therefore, they can’t print these books as cheaply because they aren’t printing mass quantities, month after month, till the end of time.

Printing costs are determined by a combination of things: mainly cost of goods (paper, ink, etc.) and labor. More comics means that the cost of overall goods goes down and so does the amount of labor, as labor is mostly tied in to setting up the press. It doesn’t matter if you set up a press to print 100 comics or 100,000, the set up process is virtually the same. Spreading that cost out over 100 copies is going to cost more per issue than spreading it out over 100,000 copies.

So keeping that in mind, the cost of these crowd funded indie comics is more expensive than that issue of Detective Comics that you bought at your local store. What usually costs $3.99 to $4.99 costs at least $20. Keep in mind that there are more pages in these books but the price is still quite a bit more than the norm.

But realistically, most people will spend more than this. I’ve spent between $30 and $75 on each of these projects. Reason being, there are all types of perks based off of what tier you decide to purchase. So for instance, on Red Rooster I got the $50 tier, which comes to $60 after shipping but it includes a signed copy of the 48 page Red Rooster comic, a sketchbook of unused and conceptual art, as well as a sticker related to the project. I really wanted the sketchbook in addition to the comic, so I spent twice as much as I would have for just the comic alone, which was $25.

The point I’m trying to make here is that these things aren’t cheap. But that’s okay. I gladly funded these projects because I like them, the people behind them and what all of this represents. Tens of thousands of other people feel the same way and so far, these Comicsgate related projects have raised more than $950,000 in less than two months and that’s just the projects I have supported. I’m sure the ones I haven’t backed push the number over a million dollars. Plus, Red Rooster and Iron Sights just started a week or so ago.

Additionally, there is a lot of buzz around these books as most of the creators are helping each other out by promoting different projects than just their own. YouTube and Twitter have been the strongest forces in getting the word out. And since Jawbreakers and Cyberfrog both went gangbusters, everyone is excited and motivated even more than they were a few months ago. This is great for the creators and even better for the fans.

But can this momentum maintain? How big is the market share, really? It is easier to control a few projects and to pinpoint where the consumer should put their buck but what happens when others start jumping on the bandwagon, which is already happening?

Part III: The Uncertain Future:

The thing is, as more projects hit the market, there will be more choices. That is how capitalism works.

However, more doesn’t necessarily mean better and while the creators now seem like a good, solid group of people in this for the right reasons and to help establish something larger for the comic book industry, there are no guarantees in the type of people that could come along next.

I’m not saying that we should be weary? Quite the contrary. I’m all about accepting people with open arms. If they turn out to be a douche, I cross my arms and move on. But everyone should be given the same platform and means to achieve success. I think people should be smart with their money though and not just freely throw it onto every project that pops up. I’ve had to do that with some projects that I was going to help fund simply because of my excitement level for what’s been happening. I’d love to fund all of these things but I only make so much money and have bills to pay; that’s life. Plus, there’s other things outside of the Comicsgate sphere that I want to back just because they’re projects that resonate with me in some way.

Anyway, once the floodgates are open and they’re nearly there, it will be hard for others to have the same sort of early success that Richard C. Meyer and Ethan Van Sciver had with their first projects. Truthfully, their follow up comics might not perform as well either when other projects pop up on Indiegogo or Kickstarter. I hope that the word spreads and that sales continue to increase but we don’t yet know how big this market can be.

Right now, the market is only so big. It is growing, however. I definitely feel like it still has room to expand but that also comes from maintaining the level of enthusiasm people have for all of this.

I found out about all of this Comicsgate stuff through a friend that introduced me to Diversity & Comics six months or so ago. I also started following Ethan Van Sciver after that because I liked a lot of the things he was saying, even if his channel is mostly about Star Wars and I’ve pretty much moved on from that franchise.

I think that it is important for people to share what is happening on social media because in this day and age, it is the best way to get the word out. And people are doing just that, which is why the movement has drastically expanded in the last few months and why Cyberfrog and Jawbreakers are crushing it on Indiegogo.

Wearing your passion on your sleeve is the best thing you can do. And being outspoken against the haters and the bullshit is also important because anyone who supports these guys is public enemy number one to the majority of comic book pros in the mainstream comics industry.

With more people coming into this from the creative side, the pie will have to be cut up into smaller pieces. That’s fine though, because in a free market, the better comics will survive and outshine the ones that just aren’t up to snuff. That’s how it works and I think that most people on the Comicsgate side of the coin understand this. But if the market continues to increase, that’s just more money to go around.

Unfortunately, there are some lesser known creators that are getting all worked up and accusing the more popular guys of stealing their thunder and cutting into their pieces of the pie. The truth is, this shit isn’t going to help them sell more books and no one will really have sympathy for this sort of whiny bullshit. Everyone that’s creating on the side of Comicsgate is working towards making the industry better overall but ultimately, are also working to make their bank accounts larger because that’s what business is.

These people that feel entitled to something just because they have been doing it longer won’t matter in the grand scheme of things and this sort of infighting within the network doesn’t help anyone. Get motivated by your competition and use that as fuel to make a better product; see what works for the successful creators and learn from those successes.

Plus, the success of the bigger guys like Ethan Van Sciver and Ricahrd C. Meyer is what brought more people to the movement. I probably wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for these two guys. The truth is that they’ve baked a much larger pie for people to get in on. Their presence in this network of like minded people should be seen as something positive, as it does benefit everyone.

Part IV: What the Future Can Be:

I have heard a lot of people make the same connection that I am about to but this Comicsgate movement is very similar to the Image Revolution in the early ’90s. The last time I felt this way about comics was when I was in middle school and seven major comic book creators walked out on their jobs at Marvel to start their own independent company. Their reasons and motivation were different but what they were looking for was essentially the same: a better comic book industry where the creators own their creations and get to make as much money as they possibly can by plying their trade. And in the case of Comicsgate, creating better stories and respecting the established history of the industry.

The biggest difference between this generation’s rebels and the founders of Image, is that these modern rebels interact directly with their customers. They are approachable, easy to communicate with and have the ability to adapt to trends on the fly. This isn’t just about crowd funding money, it is about crowd funding ideas and criticism. It’s also about building the movement. If my middle school aged self could have had conversations with Todd McFarlane, Rob Liefeld or Jim Lee, I would’ve lost my damn mind. We live in a really cool time.

The SJW creators don’t want to interact with their fans, they want to dictate what their fans should support and call them “toxic” if they don’t follow suit. The SJW way of doing business will absolutely fail and the Comicsgate creators are on the right side of the consumer.

As this continues to grow, the future will start taking shape for the comic book industry in new ways. I don’t think Marvel or DC will ever go out of business, as they own very profitable characters that are essentially the gods and heroes of American mythology. But guys like Ethan and Richard will probably have to start their own companies. Or there will end up being some sort of indie publishing house that will form to take on the duties of printing and distributing these products with more regularity and eventually, at a cheaper price.

This could very well lead to a third major company forming and making the same sort of impact that Image did with their first string of releases in 1992. In fact, this could be bigger, as a large part of the Comicsgate fan base is comprised of people that have been long time fans and are no longer kids buying comics with their allowance. We have jobs, make real world money and are a much bigger financial pot to dip into than Image had with their earliest fans. I understand that the comics industry doesn’t do early ’90s numbers in 2018 but that can change. Maybe this is what the industry needs and the x-factor that can propel it forward for future generations. Especially, when just two guys have independently crowd funded over $800,000 for just two comics in less than two months.

Part V: Conclusion:

There is a lot to be excited about and things have changed for the better with the impact that Comicsgate has made on the industry in just a short time. The SJW creators try to ignore it and downplay it but they’re terrified, which is why they spend all their time trying to undermine it, harass its supporters and attempt to sabotage it at every turn. Just look into what Mark Waid did to Antarctic Press in trying to stop Richard C. Meyer’s Jawbreakers from being published (video on that here).

It is still an uphill battle and a few big victories don’t necessarily win a war. It’s up to the fans and the creators to keep pushing forward in positive ways and to not become swayed by hate filled shitbirds that are just projecting that hate onto normal, well adjusted people. Plus, SJWs have proven time and time again that they’re not very smart and that they’re just cowards that will talk shit and then immediately block you. Ding Dong Ditch was a game for pussies.

It is important to support these projects if you believe in what all of this stands for and if you want to create a comic book industry that is once again thriving and healthy without lame ass identity politics, crappy writing and shitty Tumblr art.

As the train keeps running, spend that money wisely. Buy what you want though. So many new projects are about to flood the market and that’s a good thing because you now have more choices. It’s okay to be selective because these comics are pricier and with that, you deserve to get more for your investment. The cream will rise to the top and with that, bigger and better things for the creators that succeed and the fans that have supported them.

Maybe one day there will be a Jawbreakers or a Cyberfrog movie. Why not both? Why not more?

*The highest rated definitions of “Comics Gate” and “SJW” on Urban Dictionary.

Documentary Review: Red Army (2014)

Release Date: May 16th, 2014 (Cannes)
Directed by: Gabe Polsky
Written by: Gabe Polsky
Music by: Christophe Beck, Leo Birenberg
Cast: Viacheslav Fetisov, Vladislav Tretiak, Scotty Bowman, Vladimir Pozner

Gabriel Polsky Productions, Sony Pictures Classics, 84 Minutes

Review:

*Written in 2015.

Gabe Polsky and Werner Herzog, now regular collaborators, worked together on this documentary. Polsky directed and conducted the interviews, where Herzog produced it.

This film follows the story of the Soviet Union’s last great hockey team, as told through their point of view. It follows them through their early days as kids in the system, through international competition, the Olympics, political and social turmoil, as well as their journey to North America and the NHL.

The bulk of the story is told through the eyes of legendary player Viacheslav Fetisov. He is dynamic, charismatic and, at times, an abrasive cantankerous jerk. But he does seem to tell an honest story and expresses his feelings and his tale pretty thoroughly. He’s straightforward and comes with a no nonsense approach, other than poking fun at the director here and there.

The most important thing about this film, is how intimately it portrays these young players relationship with the Soviet Union’s sports system and the hardship and challenges they faced. It also displays their loyalty to their country and the pride they had for playing on the national team but it evolves into their inability to trust their coach and that same system, as it holds them prisoner and doesn’t allow for them to have lives.

Through the broken promises and mistreatment over the years, many of these players eventually left the crumbling Soviet Union for the greener pastures of the National Hockey League in the United States and Canada. It then follows their struggles in the NHL and how these Russians adapted and then changed the game at it’s highest professional level.

This is a thought provoking and fast-paced documentary. It has something for everyone, whether you are into sports, politics or both. Truthfully, it is one of the best hockey documentaries that I have seen in quite some time.

Rating: 8.75/10
Pairs well with: Of Miracles and MenMiracle and The Nagano Tapes: Rewound, Replayed & Reviewed.

Documentary Review: A.K.A. Cassius Clay (1970)

Release Date: November 4th, 1970
Directed by: Jimmy Jacobs
Written by: Bernard Evslin
Music by: Teo Macero
Cast: Muhammad Ali, Cus D’Amato, Richard Kiley (narrator)

Sports of the Century, William Cayton Productions, United Artists, 79 Minutes

Review:

*Written in 2014.

I wish there were more vintage boxing documentaries floating around Netflix.

A.K.A. Cassius Clay is a damned good documentary. It was made in 1970 and it follows Muhammad Ali while he was banned from boxing due to his refusal of being inducted into the United States Army due to religious beliefs. For those who don’t know, Ali was a member of the Nation of Islam, which at the time, was considered to be highly controversial. Luckily we’ve evolved since then.

The film gave an honest and sincere glimpse into the life of Muhammad Ali as he toured colleges, speaking to the youth about civil rights and other issues that were important to him at the time. Due to his exile from the ring, he wasn’t able to work and his speaking engagements at least allowed him to make money and pay his bills.

The film also goes into his boxing career and gives a lot of insight into the man and what made him tick. There’s lots of good interviews and intimate footage of the great Ali and those who he let into his inner circle. This is a compelling documentary that gives the viewer a sort of backstage pass to Ali’s life at a very interesting time. If you’re a boxing fan and/or an Ali fan, I can’t recommend this film enough.

Rating: 8/10
Pairs well with: When We Were KingsTysonChampsUnforgivable Blackness and The Trials of Muhammad Ali.

Talking Pulp: The Politics of Superman IV: The Quest for Peace

*Written circa 2011 when I was running a blog about politics and economics.

I recently re-watched 1987′s Superman IV: The Quest for Peace and I was quickly reminded as to why this film is by far the worst in the series. It completely lacks the utter awesomeness that was Superman and Superman II and even though Superman III is arguably a suckfest, it did have Richard Fucking Pryor and an awesome fight between Superman and his evil doppelgänger, which made for great cinema when I was a really young lad.

Superman IV, however, was an incredibly poor effort at cashing in on the franchise while Christopher Reeve needed a large vehicle to get his personal political message across. In fact, the only way he would do a fourth film, was if he was allowed to write it and to add his political ideology to it. Unfortunately, for us comic book and film fans, he used one of the greatest heroes of all time to convey that message.

The film more or less begins with the potential threat of nuclear war between the United States and the Soviet Union. Superman then gets a sappy letter from a young boy who is concerned about nukes killing us all. Superman debates his own mind on whether or not he should intervene. He actually goes to the Fortress of Solitude to seek advice from the ghosts of his long gone ancestors. They warn him not to intervene and tell him to find another home away from Earth. Despite their advice, Superman goes before the United Nations and tells the world leaders that he promises to rid the world of nuclear weapons.

Already, we are being introduced to a new kind of Superman who is willing to play God in an effort to create a global nanny state. Now while Superman’s motivation and efforts seem noble, he is interfering in the affairs of several governments and essentially turning himself into a know-it-all de facto dictator over the people of Earth.

If Superman can take it upon himself to tell us all how we need to live or even die in this example, he is preventing mankind from making their own choices and learning their own lessons. Like big government, Superman assumes he knows what’s best and is going to use force against humanity to mold us into the world he desires. Superman is robbing us of our freedom in what is a classic example of bad things happening because of good intentions. Superman is so high on his own Kryptonian ego that he fails to realize the unintended consequences his actions will bring forth.

Realistically, one has to wonder if Superman’s selfless actions are indeed selfless or if he is really driven by a selfish agenda. Whenever someone thinks that they know what is best for everyone else and then decides to take action, they show that they are close-minded control freaks that are under the strong belief that people cannot take care of themselves and make their own decisions. Superman assumes he is more informed than the rest of us. This is a Superman I do not like and essentially, he is on the road to becoming a supervillain.

A friend of mine, while we were discussing this via e-mail, added some great points:

Superman has become a villain because he is using the threat of force to subjugate the world to live by his personal moral code. He forced governments of the world to deliver to him their possible only recourse to defeat a possible threat, which is Superman. I bet this new Superman would next force all governments, especially in Africa where it was first discovered, to retrieve and encase all Kryptonite in lead. Superman can then throw that into the sun and therefore the governments of the world and its people would forever be subjected to dictator Superman.

Just like that, people put too much faith in any authority figure larger than themselves. They believe that government, while in the beginnings a humble, dedicatedly small entity, grows into the monstrosity that can destroy freedom for all. And we allowed it to happen, put a shiny symbol on it and say it’s for your own good and if enough people believe, we become defenseless and subjected to the whims of a power mad villain.

All things to think about.

Not only is the issue of eradicating all the nuclear missiles from Earth a big step towards tyranny but the fact that Superman addresses the United Nations, as if they are the real governing power, is a slap in the face of his home country, the United States. Superman has always been a patriot and always exuded the very best qualities of American Exceptionalism. Now he is basically telling the globalist bastards that he is their puppet and he is willing to put their interests before those of his own country.

Now I can see the point in wanting global unity and world peace, I think any sane human would want that. However, Superman treats the UN as if they are a world government and in doing so, he dismisses the Constitution and American sovereignty. I’m not trying to say that he can only play for our team and that he shouldn’t strive to better things but he also shouldn’t act on gut instincts and take such drastic measures at the expense of his homeland. Superman’s actions undermined the United States and in effect, painted them as one of the villains of the story.

Throughout his journey, Superman is once again confronted by a scheme from Lex Luthor. This time Luthor, with his nephew Lenny, devises a plan that could actually potentially destroy our hero. Taking advantage of Superman’s blind faith in his quest, Luthor plants a surprise in a nuclear missile. When that missile is launched, Superman intercepts it and throws it into the sun. Once the weapon explodes into the sun, a new menace is born. Lex Luthor’s new superweapon, known simply as “Nuclear Man”, grows out of the solar-nuclear explosion and flies back to Earth to cause destruction in what is the perfect allegory to all the points I’ve been trying to make.

Nuclear Man wreaks havoc and nearly kills Superman a few times but is ultimately destroyed after being dropped into a nuclear reactor. Hey, nuclear power saves the day! Lex Luthor and Lenny Luthor are rounded up with Lex being sent back to prison and Lenny being sent to a Boy’s Town home. In the end, all is happy and well and Superman regains his senses, thus abandoning his egomaniacal quest to destroy all the nukes in the world. Maybe after all that, common sense struck him and he finally realized that weapons of mass destruction could just be rebuilt and that his quest would be endless.

The film ends with Superman once again undermining the United States and going straight to the United Nations to make a speech. In that heartfelt speech he declares that his mission only achieved a partial victory saying, “There will be peace when the people of the world want it so badly that their governments will have no choice but to give it to them.” While that sounds good, Superman has now gone from hero to villain to hippie. Unfortunately, governments will not just give peace when everyone wishes it. Government is force but Superman is apparently too trusting in the decision makers to make the right decisions when the time comes. The same decision makers that made the decisions to make the nuclear missiles to begin with. The same decision makers that continually go to war, disregarding what the people at home actually want. The same decision makers that formed governments to begin with and invented war when the world was already in a state of global peace.

Poor, poor Superman, you’ve fallen so hard and so far that you can’t even see the forest for the trees. Is this the protector of Earth that you want? A guy reacting to his gut that can’t properly assess a situation that has godlike power to carry out whatever mission he pleases? Whether the film ended on a happy note or not, given enough time, this Superman would once again take it upon himself to forcibly shape the future of our world and everything in it. While he promotes and wishes for peace, the world could never achieve it with Superman standing guard atop the United Nations building.

The truth is, this story was borderline ridiculous for several of the points I already made. In reality, there is no way that all the nuclear weapons could be rounded up and destroyed. Even if this could happen, what is to stop the nations of the world from building more? Also, if you were say China or Iran or North Korea and Superman, who you’ve always associated with America, swoops down into your country and rounds up your nukes, would that not be an act of war? Wouldn’t people in countries that were forcibly disarmed become paranoid over the fact that Superman may have missed some somewhere and therefore, they are now sitting ducks? Apart from that, would everyone in the world just trust Superman to do the right thing and eliminate all the warheads indiscriminately?

What if he actually left America’s nukes alone and this was just a ploy to disarm everyone else?

No one would get paranoid when this guy started missile collecting and fire some of theirs off before Superman was able to get there and stop them? And even if Superman stopped those missiles, what if other nervous leaders got freaked out by the missiles that were being launched and they started launching their own as a countermeasure? Could Superman stop every fired off nuke in the world? It’s easy to just think that he can fly around and force his will on everyone and disarm them but there would be real repercussions that would be catastrophic if not apocalyptic. In trying to save the Earth, Superman would be the last being standing on a smoldering radioactive heap.

You see, even if he could remove all the weapons of mass destruction, he couldn’t force the evil out of evil men’s hearts. In fact, his actions would only anger them more and would spawn other forms of attack. Look at 9/11, that wasn’t done with a nuclear missile. If there is a will, there is a way and if evil men want to strike at the heart of whatever they feel is their enemy, they will still try and sometimes succeed. It’s nice to fantasize and wish that there was someone like Superman who could save the world from itself but ultimately, it is up to mankind to save itself or not.

Documentary Review: The Four Year Plan (2011)

Release Date: November 16th, 2011 (IDFA Festival – Netherlands)
Directed by: Mat Hodgson
Music by: Rob Lord

Ad Hoc Films, 99 Minutes

Review:

*Written in 2014.

The Four Year Plan is another soccer documentary in a long series of soccer documentaries that I’ve been watching the last week or so. It follows the Queens Park Rangers (or QPR) as they are faced with relegation, new ownership and their fight to get promoted back into the Premier League.

This film was done almost guerrilla style, as the cameras were left rolling seemingly at all times. We get looks into the locker room, the boardroom and every other realm that involves running and managing a soccer team. The footage was top quality and was edited together nicely, providing the viewer with an engaging story of failure turned to perseverance.

Giving good perspective into the business side of things is what I found most interesting in this film because there isn’t a lot that I have seen in my lifetime that shows the behind the scenes meetings of British soccer with so much transparency. I’m obviously aware that they didn’t show their most secret meetings and sessions but you still got to go deeper into this world than you would expect.

In the end, it was a good sports documentary that gave serious insight into the world of British soccer, which most Americans don’t have access to. The action parts of the film were also well presented and gave it a good balance between the sport and the business.

Rating: 7.75/10
Pairs well with: One Night In Turin, Hillsborough, Once in a Lifetime: The Extraordinary Story of the New York Cosmos and ESPN’s 30 For 30: Soccer Stories series.

Talking Pulp: In Defense of George Lucas & Property Rights (in the form of a drunken rant)

*Written circa 2011 when I was running a blog about politics and economics. And well before Disney bought the franchise and made the Prequel Trilogy look like a masterpiece.

George Lucas is the man that nearly every fucked up juvenile thirty-something fanboy loves to hate. Now I understand that people have the right to be critical of someone’s work when it is put out there for public consumption but to hate the man as vehemently as many people do, is just absurd.

Many fans of Star Wars and Indiana Jones feel that somehow those franchises are theirs and that Mr. Lucas has gone out and ruined them. People truly feel that these massive franchises are their intellectual property and that they have some sort of ownership rights to them. Nothing is further than the truth. So when I read articles all over the Internet about how much of a greedy sick untalented hack George Lucas has become, it really pisses me off.

Now don’t get your tiny nads in a tangled tizzy, I’m not here to defend the Prequel Trilogy or Crystal Skull, in fact, as a fan, I have serious issues with these films as well but unlike the consensus, I don’t allow my dislike of some minor things that are insignificant to my life as a whole push me over the edge to the point that I am out for this man’s blood. I certainly don’t harbor the opinion that somehow his later work has bastardized and ruined his earlier magic. Even with some of the questionable changes to the Original Star Wars Trilogy, the films are pretty damn solid and to discount their greatness over Jar Jar Binks and wooden actors is in later films is asinine.

The Original Trilogy set the stage for what was to come in the future of movies. They were damn good films in every respect and they influenced nearly every person that has picked up a film camera since they came out. Star Wars forever changed Hollywood, the art of filmmaking and special effects. George Lucas, through his intuitive and crafty brilliance, upped the ante and forced film studios to catch up to his imagination and vision. The sad thing is that people often forget this when bashing a man that just wants to share his stories with the world. It’s quite obvious that George Lucas is a child at heart and he only wants to make us smile. However, there’s always an asshole in every group and unfortunately for Mr. Lucas, it seems as if the assholes outnumber the sane people in this instance.

I don’t really understand where this entitled attitude comes from with fans and I’m not just talking about Star Wars fans, I’m talking about fans of any franchise really. These people who get so disenfranchised with something they once loved to the point that it makes them spit venom at the stories’ creators is childish and narrow-minded. If guys like Lucas didn’t create and deliver their masterpieces to you in the first place, you’d have nothing to base any of this on. To curse a man’s legacy and the man himself, who has given you decades of joy is pretty disgusting and just shows how sad and pathetic some of these pompous bitches are. Hell, I still remember people being in an uproar over the Battlestar Galactica remake before they actually saw it. In the end, it was pretty close to being a science fiction masterpiece! Sometimes you have to spread your wings and fly and that’s what Lucas did. When series are rebooted, remade or continued on, it can go really well or really bad – that’s the risk involved but the person who owns the rights to the property has the freedom to do what they want with it.

No one owns Star Wars but George Lucas. For anyone to claim that they have some sort of right over the man’s blood, sweat and tears is ridiculous. He owns the franchise, he owns the characters within it and he can tell any tale that he wants to tell. The fact of the matter is that people have a choice. They don’t have to watch the new material if it isn’t up to their standards and fails to meet their expectations. These little bastard jitterbugs act as if there is some sort of magical gun to their head and that they are forced to soak up every bit of Star Wars that is released. Well people, you don’t have to do a damn thing! You can opt out and never look back.

The problem is that so many people put so much of themselves into this fantasy world that they lose a sense of their own reality and when things don’t go the way that they want, the fantasy starts to remind these sad people living vicariously through the fiction that real life is moving along without them. Nostalgia is a motherfucker and it only seems to exist strongly in those who are unsatisfied with what’s really going on around them. To have intense hatred for George Lucas or any great storyteller because their work becomes less than what it once was is pathetic. To invest that much emotion into complete fantasy is retarded. Yes, I wrote “retarded”; call the sensitivity police.

Kids today, and by kids I mean middle-aged nerds, just don’t seem to respect property rights. Of course, if someone thought that they could infringe upon or add their unlimited hysterical two cents to everything one of these hypocritical fanboys did, they’d have a serious fucking shit fit. Hell, they probably wouldn’t come out of their mom’s basement for several months while losing themselves in an endless one-person Skyrim marathon where the only way they’ll even eat is if their mother slides a plate of cold cuts and cheese puffs under the door.

The reason I feel the need to write this rant is because I’ve come across several articles lately that have stated that the fans of these franchises have invested so much of themselves into them that they truly believe they now have some sort of stake or ownership in the property. Yes, the property that they have never contributed anything to creatively other than writing their own shitty unofficial and non-profit fan fictions and role-playing scenarios dictated amongst their equally entitled geek pals. You people have no claim to anything and to think you do makes you look like socialist pussies who are convinced that the whole world and everyone in it owes them something just because they are breathing.

Fuck you people. If you don’t like something, move on. Hell, stop crying into your tauntaun sleeping bags and go create something yourself. If you think you know more about storytelling, science fiction and fantasy than George Lucas then go out and fucking prove it! If you don’t, then you’re nothing more than a whiney talentless hack yourself and I’d tell you to go get a girlfriend or boyfriend but the only people that would have you won’t leave their basements either. Create something for once in your life and stop trying to destroy someone who just wants to share their imagination with you. You people are the parasite sponges of the world that rape and pillage the ideas of those greater than you because you’re weak and can’t make something bigger than yourself that people will passionately care about. It’s time to grow up and stop acting like ungrateful cunts.

The truth is, George Lucas has contributed more to this world than any of you probably ever will. Besides, you’re the ones “torturing” yourselves with weekly doses of Clone Wars not Mr. Lucas. Guess what, you don’t have to watch it.

Accept it and move on. It’s fucking entertainment for chrissakes.

Talking Pulp: Gordon Gekko, the Hero?

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

Gordon Gekko affected me as a child. When I first saw the film Wall Street, I was around nine or ten years-old. I remember my father watching it on HBO or Showtime. I certainly didn’t understand the film at that time but I do remember my first impression of Gordon Gekko and knowing, even at that young age, that the film misrepresented him and made him the villain when in reality, he was the hero.. or at least, the anti-hero.

I didn’t know why he was the hero at the time, I just remember being somewhat afraid of him but also respecting him and seeing him as sort of a mentor. Granted he was a mentor to Bud Fox in the film but I saw him as a mentor to the film’s audience. Something about that character stuck with me and became a weird obsession. I didn’t know what he meant with his “greed” speech when I was ten but I knew it was important and the most pivotal point in the film.

It was Wall Street and Michael Douglas as Gordon Gekko that really got me into being a huge fan of film on a more intimate level. Indiana Jones, Star Wars, Hammer Horror, Back to the Future, Robocop and Predator mixed with Oliver Stone’s masterpiece Wall Street made me want to be a filmmaker.

I never became a filmmaker, unless you count videos of me chugging vodka and shooting bottle rockets from my mouth on YouTube as real cinema, but I did become a writer. Often times I would write outlines and even scripts for films that I wanted to make. At fifteen, I started to write a script called Gekko which was a sequel to Wall Street that had a time traveling twist to it. Essentially, the film ended with Gordon Gekko, as a member of the “Greed Party” defeating FDR and Herbert Hoover in the presidential race of 1932. Yeah, it was a fucking horrible idea and I think I used the script as scrap paper for another project I started writing; I think that one was about vampires and the Culper Ring during the Revolutionary War. Anyway, Gekko obviously affected me and influenced some of my creative endeavors during high school.

As I got older, towards the end of high school, I was more of a liberal. Still, something about Gekko continued to resonate with me. At that point in my life, I had more of a mentality like Bud Fox and his father but deep down, I knew they were wrong. I mean, Bud Fox was a snitch and a bitch in the end and with that, he lost any street cred he could’ve potentially had. As I educated myself, learned the ways of the world and experienced things, I became, more or less, a libertarian. In many ways I have also become an objectivist. Having that stance and knowing what I know, I truly understand why Gordon Gekko was the hero of the story in Wall Street, contrary to what the director himself tried to convey.

Oliver Stone told a very honest story, which is a credit to his skill as a director and it makes me respect him even though he is buddies with Hugo Chávez. Stone’s father was a Wall Street broker, so that was the inspiration for the story and the source material that he witnessed first hand. Stone didn’t pull any punches with Wall Street and, in my opinion; he was fair to both sides of the coin. I really feel that even though you are supposed to leave feeling like Gekko is the villain, the film’s honesty really leaves it open for interpretation despite the director’s real intention: to expose the “evil” of capitalism unleashed.

So why is Gordon Gekko the hero and Bud Fox the villain of the story?

Well, Gekko was only out for one thing, to maintain his wealth and to accumulate more, much more. Bud Fox was the Gekko wannabe who risked everything to be a clone of his initially reluctant mentor. Bud Fox was the son of an airline union boss, so you can see the “moral” dilemma between his roots and where he wanted to be. His father’s emotional speeches about his men and their families were touching and only added to Bud’s moral struggle throughout the film. The liberal union rhetoric, while it seemed moral and truly just and was sold that way by Bud’s father and the film itself, was the small gust that made the whole damn house of cards come tumbling down on everyone and everything Bud touched in the film. Yet the audience, well most of the audience, sided with this sad pathetic parasite who sold out the one man that gave him an opportunity. Hell, it was an opportunity Bud desperately begged for. Bud Fox made his own bed.

Bud was a mess, a conflicted weakling who was unable to see the big picture. He was someone that saw and believed in the hype surrounding Gordon Gekko and desperately wanted to have everything that Gekko created for himself. However, Bud wanted instant gratification. Because of that he abused the rules and put himself out on a limb while Gordon benefited from Bud’s careless hard work and willingness to sell his soul to make it up one more rung on the ladder of success. What Bud was unaware of was that he was climbing the wrong ladder. The ladder he climbed may have been parallel to Gordon’s ladder but they were not one in the same. Gordon’s ladder was steel and strong, Bud’s ladder was like termite infested wood. The only thing to pull Gordon off of his ladder was Bud Fox grabbing him for safety when his shit ladder crumbled beneath the weight of his own baggage.

Bud played crooked and he did so very carelessly, whereas Gordon used the information that Bud freely gave him to tweak his personal investments. Gordon may have used and influenced Bud to go out and get this insider information but there certainly wasn’t a gun to Bud’s head. Bud wanted to do it, pleasing Gordon was his obsession. The reason being that Bud was motivated by intense greed but unlike Gordon, Bud’s greed was aimless and unrestrained. Gordon had a plan, a big plan and his sort of greed is a greed that is calculated, concise and thorough. Gordon was a creator of opportunity for those in his employ and those around him; Bud was a destroyer.

Granted, Gordon admitted to the fact that he creates nothing, instead he owns, but that was a reference to money itself not the empire he built around the transference of wealth, which opened the door of opportunity and success to the hundreds, if not thousands of people that worked for him in one way or another. Gordon created the opportunity that Bud begged for and received. Bud however, took a huge shit on the opportunity and bit the hand that fed him. Bud dug his own hole from the first time he met Gordon and his downfall all stemmed from his own actions, yet he took Gordon Gekko and his empire with him. Well, not really as we found out in the sequel. But Bud certainly had the intention of burning Gekko to shorten his already measly prison sentence.

Now Gordon Gekko is not a pillar of morality by any means, but he is a man that did what almost any of us would have done in his position. Picture yourself as Gordon Gekko. If some energetic already loyal kid came into your office bearing gifts and his blind allegiance to you, wouldn’t you be at least curious at what he had to offer? Now if that nervous kid, trying to win your trust, just happened to volunteer some information, that you didn’t even ask for, about a specific company’s future, wouldn’t you use that as an opportunity to make some extra cash? What’s the difference between acting on facts and acting on a hunch? The difference is, a hunch is legal, magically discovering some inside info gets you jail time. Even if the info was just handed to you and you didn’t ask for it.

I’m not going to argue that insider trading is a victimless crime but there are many things in this world that create victims more easily that aren’t crimes. Besides, is it really a crime? I mean, say that you are invested in a company and a friend who just happens to do their finances comes to you in secret, looking out for your best interest, and warns you that there is no way that the company can survive much longer, are you going to keep your money invested in that company or are you going to pull out and cut your losses before you are too broke to invest what you still have in another opportunity? Sure, people will lose jobs, the company will fall faster and you may face a moral struggle in making this decision but ultimately you are just trying to keep your own ass afloat. Why is this morally frowned upon in our society? Liberal socialist rhetoric has poisoned our judgment. If you have a right to earn a living, you have a right to your money and your own self-interest. The rest of the world is not your responsibility, just as you are not someone else’s responsibility. That’s the stone cold truth and it is time that people wake up to this.

What really set Bud Fox off about Gordon Gekko, was that he felt betrayed. He felt betrayed by Gordon buying and then closing down the airline that Bud’s father was the union boss for. Gordon promised to keep it running and Bud took him at his word. Whatever Gordon’s motivation was doesn’t even matter. The fact is, he saw more opportunity in wrecking the company than allowing it to exist any further. Bud felt conned, duped and used by the one man that he wished was his father while his real father was in a hospital bed post-heart attack broken and defeated by what had happened to his company. In all of Bud’s anger and despair, he just felt sorry for himself and couldn’t see that all of this stemmed from what he had done since his first meeting with Gordon Gekko. It wasn’t until he saw his father in the hospital that he vowed to get revenge.

Bud’s revenge was pointless however. Gordon wasn’t the enemy, if anything he was still the beacon of hope that could’ve kept Bud afloat had he only kept his cool and learned all the lessons that he was being taught throughout the film by Gordon. Bud betrayed himself but it was easier for the weakling to pin that betrayal on Gordon. Bud took it way too personally. Hell, one of the first lessons Gordon gave Bud was that if he wanted a friend to get a dog. Business is business and personal attachments and feelings will only cloud your judgment and affect your bottom line. Bud skipped out on this lesson because he was too busy having fun committing corporate espionage at every turn.

The point is, greed is good! Self-interest is virtuous. Now all you lefties are probably getting pissy about how greed created capitalism and capitalism is the creator of evil corporations and monopolies with unlimited power. I already gave you two primers on how that is just complete bullshit, so wash your mind and free yourself from that twisted logic. You see, because without greed and self-interest, we would have never had the industrial revolution or achieved American Exceptionalism. Greed is what gave us Apple, the light bulb, the automobile, Nintendo, the Internet, television, radio, Starbucks, Target, Baby Gap, electricity, McDonald’s, refrigerators, air conditioning, smartphones, professional sports, American Idol and the ability to get the fuck up in the morning.

You can try to convince yourself otherwise but greed is what motivates you too. We all have greed for something. Keep telling yourself you don’t, you’ve convinced yourself that it’s all been working out just fine for you so far. You might as well stay delusional. Reality is, we all desire profit. Without profit we cannot live. We cannot pay our rent, buy food, buy gas and buy gifts for our loved ones. We’ve got to get the perception out of our head that the words “profit”, “greed” and “money” are evil things. They are great things. That is what Gordon Gekko understood and what Bud Fox could never understand. That is why Gordon Gekko is the hero. His methods may be questionable but those questioning them are typically people who will never be in Mr. Gekko’s shoes. Why?

Because those people carry too much blind bullshit guilt to make that much money and feel good about it.

Instead of saying stupid tired ass slogans like “Money is the root of all evil.” How about telling the truth for once and really drop some knowledge on someone with a slogan like “Money is the root of all opportunity.”