My Spider-Man Pitch

Spider-Man

I’ve been reading comics off and on since the 80s. I’ve never personally found Spider-Man/Peter Parker interesting or compelling. Perhaps I’m overlooking a seminal piece that truly breaks ground and turns him into a more realistic and intriguing person, so please correct me if you think that’s the case. I have some ideas of what I’d like to see and read in the book; I’ll elucidate on these in a moment. What follows are merely my own personal thoughts about how I would reinvent the character, with absolutely no presumption that Marvel would be receptive to them.

There are a few key elements of superheroes in general that I find silly. Amidst the highly fantastical world we build for our heroes, I think it’s important we ground them in reality as much as we can. Let’s hypothesize that someone who’s miraculously endowed with powers of immense strength, agility, sense, and ability to scale vertical surfaces, would not have a normal every day life. What would this world look like? In Peter Parker’s universe, super villains are constantly plotting nefarious (usually overly elaborate) ways to kill him, take over the world, or pilfer from national banks; how much free time would he have? How’s his work/life balance? Can he hold onto a relationship? How about securing a dependable job? Sure, J.J. always finds something to chew out Parker for, but his patience with the man seems boundless.

I posit that if Peter Parker lived in a world of super villains, his life would be a wreck. For starters there would be a few excursions early in his crime fighting career, the occasional sneaking out in the middle of the day to stop a heist or terrorist threat; lest we forget the rogues gallery one builds up over years of being a vigilante, thus intensifying the amount of physical, emotional, and psychological trauma one would experience. How long can Spider-Man keep the wise-cracking attitude going? When people close to him start dying, how is his mental health affected?

Peter can’t always be out in the field; often he’ll be tethered to a desk writing up stories as a journalist in a junior position. All of the extracurricular activities would eventually catch-up with him and would affect his day-to-day work. The caliber of submitted pieces would begin to degrade over time as his mind wanders to darker thoughts (Hob Goblin literally could blow the Daily Bugle at any given moment). How would a human being feel, knowing that they can’t be everywhere at once? The sense of complete powerlessness to stop every random act violence?

In due course, Peter would be fired from the Bugle. Sourcing paid work with other news outlets would be tough, given his checkered attendance records and meandering journalistic faculties. The onset of depression would build up to an intolerable point. After employment insurance runs out, he’d become a shut-in, only leaving the confines of his domicile for sustenance. The mornings are all the same: waking up to an ever-growing stack of unpaid bills; forcing the landlords hand to serve an eviction notice. If Peter has a significant other in his life, the bond would crumble because of his ever-increasing self-loathing about how he’s not “good enough” to do his job and (secretly) save the world.

Ejected from the only home he has (the grand parents are long dead), eventually he’d end up homeless as bouncing around from couch to couch wouldn’t last forever. Forced to live as a street person, Peter tastes true desperation with the looming question of where the next meal will come from, Peter. Hitting an all-time low, he ceases being a hero and lets any criminal act occur. At this point, you may be thinking my rendition of the character and the world he lives in is pretty bleak–you wouldn’t be wrong. It’s infinitely more interesting to me when a character I love is forced through incredible hardship. The more shit the world throws back in their face, the better.

Dejected and living in persona exile for two years on the streets of New York, Peter’s best friend, Harry Osborn (who searched non stop for the first 12 months), is randomly attacked by hoodlums while taking a shortcut through an alley to get to his favourite hole in the wall pizza place. By pure happenstance, Peter observes what’s going on, at first not making the connection that it was Harry on the receiving end of the assault. An emaciated, bearded, and inebriated Peter Parker manages to muster up the will and strength to put an end to the transgression commencing before his eyes (let’s just say copious amounts of alcohol mute his super powers). Harry thanks Peter, not realizing at first that his childhood missing friend was standing directly in front of him. Awkward silence would pass after a fleeting moment when Peter utters: “Hi, Harry” (in a slightly hoarse voice, worn down by time and binge drinking). Squinting, Harry stares intently at the dishevelled figure: “Peter? Jesus… What the hell happened to you? I thought… We all thought you were dead.”

Six months after a friendship is rediscovered, Harry provides monetary assistance to help Peter get back on his feet. It’s Harry’s suggestion that Peter start his own media company. Old world in-depth investigative reporting has all but diminished. Print publications continue in a downward spiral. Social media is on the rise as the public consumes a majority of their news in real-time. With Harry as an investor, providing both financial stability as well as the business connections needed, Peter is able to build a sustainable modern publication that attracts both large paid readership and sponsors.

A Freshly minted entrepreneur, Peter takes a step back from daily operations once revenues reach a soaring high, at which point editors are hired to free up his personal time. Checking himself into a mental health facility, he embarks on a journey to recover from emotional trauma. It won’t be long before he gets back into the swing of things.

I May Not Succeed, But I Won’t Fail

Jem movie still

This week I launched a podcast called the JEMcast, which marks my foray into producing a show of my own. While I’m not new to podcasting—I co-host The Impromptu and have been fortunate enough to be a guest on countless other shows, including Internet Outrage Machine on 5by5—there’s been a void in my heart that needed to be filled. Setting out to produce not only a very specific niche show but one that has a smaller audience means it’s unlikely that I’ll recoup any invested time in the form of monetary gain. I’m okay with making nothing from this new venture since the primary goal is to make something that satisfies my own needs.

Every weekend from 1986 to 1988, my sister and I would head straight to the living room in the morning to watch Jem. It was one of those 80s cartoons that not only made a lasting impression on me, but on countless of other people. We, the children that grew up with the show, are now adults and still talk about it. Every year we have JemCon, a convention that gathers fans from across the globe to celebrate their favourite TV show. Like most cartoons created in the 80s that were based off of toy lines, I don’t think any of the cast and crew expected the show to survive after 30 years. There’s been a resurgence lately of old properties being retooled and rebooted for a new generation. My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic has been the most successful example of an antiquated show that’s been modernized with intelligent writing and high production values. My Little Pony has become a cultural phenomenon in that not only is it incredibly popular, but a large portion of its viewership is adult males. It only seems fitting that now is a perfect time to bring Jem back into the world for a new generation. The cogs in the great machine are moving as Hasbro found a way to make an upcoming live action movie happen and sign a deal with IDW to produce an ongoing comic. The next logical step is a new animated series and toy line.

With Jem being in the news again, I think it’s a perfect opportunity to produce a podcast series that gives the show and characters due justice. When I conceptualized it I began searching the iTunes directory to see if someone had gotten ahead of me. To my surprise I didn’t find a single podcast dedicated to the 80s TV series. My plans are to release a weekly show where you relive the journey, episode by episode through all three seasons. There will be plenty to discuss in addition to the TV show such as what’s going on in Jem fandom. The IDW comic series will land in comic shops next month and the movie is generating lots of buzz (with a release in October), so I’m excited to start talking about it with other people that are equally passionate.

I don’t have anything to announce yet, but I’m working on bringing guests on the show and plan on making it gender diverse. Although Jem was marketed to younger girls, plenty of boys ended up watching the show because of the intense action and adventure, which was a brilliant creative decision on the part of the writers and producers. I suspect that this podcast will have a relatively small audience, but I hope to build it up over the coming months. Even in the worst case scenario where only a couple of people list to it, that will not dissuade me from continuing to produce the show on a regular basis. If no one listens, I won’t consider it a failure. I put in the work to make something of high quality that I respect and would want to listen to myself, and that’s good enough for me.

You can subscribe to JEMcast in iTunes or via the RSS feed. Make sure to follow @JEMpodcast on Twitter for show updates. If you’re an outrageous Jem fan and want to be a guest on the show, please contact me.

I Need A Break from First Person Shooters

Wolfenstein: The New Order

This week I finished Wolfenstein: The New Order and I absolutely loved it. The previous games in the series were just mindless shooters and the latest offering really steps away from that. I was pleasantly surprised at the strength of the story and characters, both of which I found compelling. When was the last time you really cared about the protagonist or those around them? Ever since I can remember, I’ve always played first person shooters. Many fond memories of playing Unreal II and Quake III loom at the back of my mind. Back in the 90s We’d get get together and have a LAN party (remember those?) and curse each other with every headshot. Those days are now long gone and I don’t care to revisit them.

Being in my 30s now, nearly every FPS game I play accelerates my fatigue. An overwhelming amount of these types of games are mostly rehashing the same type of gameplay, rarely innovating on anything. With respect to Wolfenstein: The New Order, the only thing that kept me on the edge of my seat was waiting to find out what happens to B.J. Blazkowicz and those close to him. The gripping story, character motivations, and who they were as people are all aspects I didn’t expect to find in the game. Without giving any spoilers, I’ll say there were certain scenes that rocked me on an emotional level (which doesn’t happen often). I experienced intense horror, suspense, sadness, and occasionally joy. I don’t believe a FPS has ever stoked such feelings in me before, nor asked me to make difficult decisions that affect the outcome of the story. For the first time ever, the action felt like an aside to the story.

Last year with the release of Destiny, I was anticipating something bold and fresh. I was sadly disappointed as I didn’t care for any of the stories or characters within; I was reduced to a head bobbing character from the third perspective. When I feel disconnected from a game, it starts to become incredibly boring. I think Wolfenstein: The New Order will be the last game of its type I’ll play for the foreseeable future. I’m not saying I’ll never revisit this, but at the very least I need an extended vacation. I don’t mean to disparage or take away from the awesome experience of the latest update to the Wolfenstein series, because I think what the developers managed to accomplish was truly astonishing. If for some reason this game is my last in a long tired genre, what a way to go out!

Thoughts on Adi Shankar’s Power/Rangers

Power/Rangers

Like many of you, I watched Power Rangers as a kid. I recall vividly when the pilot for “Mighty Morphin Power Rangers” aired that stifling summer of ’93. Way back in the day, there was absolutely nothing like it on TV, so my reaction to the first episode became forever forged in my memory. The concept of the show was fresh and so out of this world, what wasn’t there to like? You had a fun loving diverse group of teenagers who were plucked from their mundane lives and bestowed incredible mystical powers by Zordon, an interdimensional being who could only be seen as a floating head inside caught in a time warp (that’s kind of messed up).

Power Rangers had a lot of fun and heart and never took itself too seriously. Even at 11 years old, the cheap puppets and special effects were immediately obvious. The acting was less than stellar overall and the plots were pretty absurd, yet I kept tuning in every week. Of course, the absurdity of the show became more and more apparent as I grew a older. By my mid-teens and post MMPR the feature film, my interest started to wane as the cheapness of the show gnawed at my sensibilities. After an incredibly long hiatus of about 15 years, and now as an adult, once more I started watching some of the original series as well as the newer ones. The show still rife with cheap plots and effects, has gradually (albeit marginally) gotten better. Power Rangers Super Megaforce is now filmed in HD and looks crisp in 1080p. The monsters for the most part still look very fake, what with their mouths that barely move (some not at all).

Earlier in the week when sipping on a particularly delicious cup of coffee, I came across the news on Twitter that Adi Shankar and Joseph Kahn released a 15 minute fan-film, funded entirely by their own pockets. My Twitter stream was full of discussion about this dark and gritty take on the venerable 90s TV series. Once I heard that Kate Sackhoff (Battlestar Galactica) was playing the pink Power Ranger, my nerd brain practically exploded all over the walls of my apartment.

I watched the short and generally have to say it was well done for what it’s meant to be. It’s not a reboot because it was a non profit labour of love by a true fan of the original show, and it also wasn’t sanctioned by Saban Entertainment. The production quality, practical and special effects were impressive for a low budget short film. The caliber of actors that committed to the project were impressive and everyone did a fantastic job with the material provided to them.

Its’s been a few days since the video went viral and I trust Power Ranger fans have cooled off and have come to their senses that no one will produce an R-rated film based on a brand, yes that’s right, it’s a brand. Power Rangers was and has always been a show that was targeted at a younger audience, but just happens to also appeal to some adults; the ones that grew up on the original. With every new series comes a toy line and countless other merchandising opportunities. So let’s have a reality check and not get our hopes up that Lionsgate films would ever produce a movie even close to what we saw with Shankar and Kahn’s vision. I’m not saying that you can’t reboot the show and improve upon it, because there are a mountain of things to build upon, but you can forget about a hyper-violent MMPR.

I don’t think we need a uber dark, gritty, and bleak Power Rangers. PG-13 would be provide plenty of space for hardcore action and intense drama. What they should focus on for the upcoming movie and hopefully TV series, is better costume designs, improved monsters, and less ridiculous plots. In fact, I think a new series with one cohesive story arc about a group of teenagers forced to fight an intergalactic war would be awesome. There’s so much we can do with expounding on character backstories, how being a Power Ranger affects their daily lives, relationships with one another, and their mental health. Let’s make it happen Saban!

Console Gaming of A Bygone Era

Sega CD model 2

Over the last couple of years, I’ve started to collect older consoles and games. At the moment I have a model 2 Sega Genesis, Sega CD, and an original Nintendo Entertainment System. For a while I ruminated on adding a Super Nintendo to the mix, that is until I began to playing games on these platforms. It struck me with a stark realization that my penchant for old things is more about nostalgia and much less about the original gaming experience to be had.

Transition

When the industry transitioned from cartridge to compact disc media, everything changed in a dramatic way. No longer did you have to worry about having to start a game from the very beginning as you could save your game states on expandable memory cards. Back in the 80s, there was no such thing as auto saving or uploading to the “cloud.” Games were invariably more challenging back in the day because you had limited lives, so if you ended up pretty far into a game on your NES or Genesis, you had no other choice but to pause and leave the console powered on. If the power went out in your house in the middle of the night, as you had risen from bed the next morning, you had no idea what horrors awaited in the living room.

The impetus behind getting these consoles now as an adult is because I never owned any of them in my childhood. While most of my friends were playing Nintendo, I was playing games on my PC. I loved my PC because we could upgrade the hardware like the GPU, which meant better graphics—something that wasn’t possible on a closed box like the NES. On occasion, I did rent a console from my local Blockbuster to have for a weekend, but my parents wouldn’t buy an NES because they had spent thousands of dollars on a more versatile and capabile computer. Now that I’m that I’m a grown man and have money, I can own the consoles I never had the opportunity to fully experience.

It doesn’t get better with age

Have you ever tried reivisting your youth by watching your favourite show asan adult? It rarely ever works. There are lots of things that are best left to memory and simply don’t age well. Unfortunately, playing games on 30 year old consoles is not the love affair I recall. It’s plain awful in 2015. The NES and SNES had a plethora of fantastic titles; on Genesis it was somewhat limited. It’s almost difficult to believe that we managed to complete any games back in the 80s considering that we couldn’t just save our process whenever the mood struck. It has come to my attention that Hyperkin has created the Retron 5 to purportedly quash the aforementioned concerns I have. Retron 5 is a console that supports cartridges from many different systems and runs emulation. It has modern connectivity for your HDTV such as HDMI and has internal storage so you can save your game states. You can even connect the original console controllers to it or use their wireless versions that are provided. This looks like an excellent best of both worlds solution. I can play all of the great games of the 80s without the baggage of older hardware. Whilst I don’t own one, I do plan on getting it and will report back with some results.

Coda

There’s been a trend to remaster older games of late. The original Resident Evil was re-released for PS4 with not just upscaled graphics, but radically redone textures and backgrounds. I immediately bought it upon release and after a few hours realized how bad the game is. All of the things that aggravated me about the original are prevalent in the remaster. The way the camera moves is confounding and often gets in the way. To save your game, you have limited areas on a level where there’s an opportunity to do so. When you do get to save a game, there is a finite amount of saves before the typewriter you save on runs out of ink (huh?). Some things are meant to remain in the past. Resident Evil and other similiarly remastered games are fine in theory, but they need to be significantly reworked to comform to modern expectations. Tarting up a 15 year old game with enhanced graphics is simply not good enough in 2015.