Friday, July 18, 2014

Adding More Diversity to the Marvel Cinematic Universe

So this is great news.

So is this.

Oh, and let's not forget this or this.

Marvel Comics is changing, and it's great. The Avengers, the X-Men, and pretty much every other superhero franchise are getting more diverse, and inclusive, changing to reflect their readership. Nice job, Marvel Comics- keep it up because you're not QUITE there yet, but you're moving in the right direction.

Now, let's talk about you, Marvel Cinematic Universe. The MCU still has alot of work to do. So far, women and minorities in the MCU films have been relegated to the roles of sidekicks, and love interests. Our superhero movies need to do better. We need more female and minority superheroes and supervillains. Here are five characters from the comics I'd like to see for five different MCU franchises.


We can all agree that Loki is awesome. But Thor has a whole raft of great villains and one of the greatest is the Enchantress. Enchantress is basically an evil Asgardian sorceress who is more than a match for the god-of-thunder. We talk alot about the need for more female heroes, but we also need more female villains. Enchantress would be a good way to start.

Iron Man:

You know that scene at the end of Iron Man 3 where Pepper Potts saves the day and it's awesome? Well you know what's even more awesome? In the comics, Pepper gets her own suit of armor, takes on the codename of Rescue, and kicks just as much ass as her armored compatriots Iron Man and War Machine. When are we going to see Rescue on screen, Marvel Studios/Disney? Because I say- the sooner the better.

Captain America:

Sam Wilson is the new Captain America, but he wasn't the first African-American to take up Cap's mantle. In fact, Isaiah Bradley took up the mantle before Steve Rogers did. In a controversial storyline, Marvel revealed that before the finalized version of the super-soldier serum was given to scrawny Steve Rogers, a prototype was given to Isaiah Bradley first. Bradley is a hero just like Steve, and he deserves a cinematic interpretation as well.

The Avengers:

It would be really neat to see all of the Young Avengers on film. In the last run of YA, it was revealed that all but one character on the team was gay, or bisexual. Gay superheroes are basically non-existent on film, so seeing the Young Avengers on the big-screen would be a huge step forward.

Captain Marvel:

Captain Marvel. Captain. Frakking. Marvel. What's that you say? There's no Captain Marvel film franchise? Exactly. Where the hell is our Captain Marvel movie? Marvel Studios, greenlight a Captain Marvel film, sign a big name actress, and then make all of the money. All of it. I see you greenlit Ant-Man and Dr. Strange. If this isn't the next franchise you greenlight, I say we riot.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

It Came From the Ball Pit- I Was a Panelist at DashCon

If you've been on the internet in the last few days, you may have heard about DashCon, the Tumblr Convention that kind of imploded on itself over the weekend. If you haven't heard about it, you can learn more:

-And Here

I was there.

Specifically, I was there to do a panel on Podcasting.

So what was it like being at the now notorious DashCon?

Let's start at the beginning.

My podcast, the Improvised Star Trek, is always trying to get new listeners. To that end, we've made a concerted effort this year to go to more conventions and festivals. We've gone to ChiFiCon, and Trek Chicago. We've also done comedy festivals like the Chicago Nerd Comedy Festival and the Chicago Improv Festival. In researching festivals, I discovered DashCon.

DashCon had a couple of things going for it to my mind:

1. It was in Schaumburg, Illinois, right outside of our homebase of Chicago, IL. I could get there via mass transit.
2. They had a simple, easy panel application process. I like panels because you don't have to pay to be on them. When you get a table or a booth at a con, you have to pay for it. So, the price was right.
3. It seemed legit. Welcome to Night Vale, Noelle Stevenson, and a few other prominent actors/writers/artists/performers were scheduled to be there.
4. The average IST listener is between 25 and 40. The average Tumblrer is under 25. This was a chance for us to try to connect with some younger listeners.

So, I put in my panel application, and very promptly got an email back from one of the organizers asking me if I'd do a Skype interview.

My Skype interview was about 2 minutes long. They told me they thought my application was great and they'd put me on the podcasting panel with some other podcasters.

Fast forward a few months.

I show up at the Renaissance Hotel in Schaumburg.

I wasn't there on Friday night, so I missed the $17K debacle. I didn't go to the Night Vale panel so I missed the Ball Pit debacle. Most of what I noticed as far as dysfunction was more mundane.

First, when I registered, they didn't ask for my name or any kind of identification. I just said "I'm on a panel." They gave me a wristband and told me to go find my panel room. Really, I could've just been some dude who was trying to get into the con for free. My panel was supposed to have four people on it (based on my scant communication with the organizers.) There were only two of us, myself and a fellow named Mark from Broken Sea audio productions. There was no moderator, but I don't think there was supposed to be one.

Our panel was sparsely attended. I think this was because it wasn't really a fandom panel. Most of the con was oriented towards fandoms- Dr. Who, Sherlock, Supernatural, etc. The podcasting panel was about... well... podcasting... and I don't really think that's what people who came to DashCon were there for. I mean... really... it was less a Tumblr Con, and more a Fandom Con. Which is cool! It's just something to note. Tumblr is full of fanperson's but it's also full of fitness-oriented accounts, news blogs, and lots of other stuff.

Also- there was no communication sent to panelists about the Friday night $20K deadline besides Twitter and Tumblr posts. No texts, no emails, etc. So, I actually had no idea that the con was "almost cancelled" until I got there on Saturday morning and logged onto Twitter from my phone.

I walked around for awhile. It didn't seem like there were alot of people there. The "artists alley" area seemed kind of empty. The game rooms seemed empty. I'd say about half of the people attending were there to see Night Vale based on the number of Night Vale cosplays I saw.

Basically, my thought when I left was "That was weird and kind of poorly run but people looked like they were having fun." Over time I read about what happened with WTNV, the Baker Street Babes, Noelle Stevenson, and everybody else, and realized that what seemed like "kind of a crappy con" was actually "kind of a fiasco."

I guess sometimes it's hard to recognize a fiasco when you're right next to it. Like, fiascos can just kind of look like slightly poorly run conventions until you get a few miles and a few thousand twitter posts away.

So anyway. That was my experience. I went to DashCon. I wouldn't go to future DashCons. I feel bad for the people who showed up expecting to see Night Vale. I'm glad we all at least got the ball pit meme out of this.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Jocks: The World's Biggest Nerds

So, there's this great old episode of the Simpsons (well... all of the GREAT episodes of the Simpsons are old) that Conan O'Brien wrote (of course) where Homer goes to college. Homer at one point opines that he is a jock and his natural enemies are nerds. Long story short, Homer the jock falls in with some nerds and tries to get them into wacky "Animal House" style hijinks and things don't go well but everyone learns a bunch of lessons.

Now, I think the traditional definitions of "Jock" (overly macho-aggressive dudebro who loves sports) and "nerd" (smarty smart pants with no social skills who loves computer programming and Star Trek) are both extremely limiting, and mostly false. Lots of nerds like sports. Lots of jocks like Star Trek.

But I do notice with some frequency that some people who probably think themselves jocks, much like Homer, like to make fun of nerds for different things. Well, I'm here to let you know that jocks- overly aggressive dude-bros who love sports- are actually the biggest nerds in the world, and if you self-identify as one, maybe you should think twice before mocking a nerd for doing something "nerdy."

How are jocks actually nerds? Let me count the ways.

1. Jocks love cosplay. So lots of nerds like to cosplay. Generally they cosplay as their favorite characters. Possible cosplays include: Harley Quinn (from Batman), Spiderman, the Super Mario Brothers, Captain Marvel, and Peyton Manning. Oh, what's that? You've never seen anyone cosplay as Peyton Manning? Okay, turn on a Denver Broncos game, and tell me how many people you see who've spent hundreds of dollars on an official Peyton Manning Jersey. Some people even cosplay as different versions of Peyton Manning! That guy is 2005 Indianapolis Colts Peyton Manning! That lady is Rule 63 Peyton Manning! That guy is some weird version of Peyton Manning with a Bronco mask! Sporting events are in many ways the biggest sporting events around. Hell, in your regular day-to-day life you'll see sports cosplayers just walking down the street in their costumes! That's how much they love cosplay.

2. Jocks love hating stuff on the internet. We know that nerds love going on the internet and complaining about stuff. How dare they kill Spiderman and put Doctor Octopus in his body! Ugh... the new 52 is TERRIBLE. This new Godzilla movie is just not as good as the OLD Godzilla movies. You know who else loves complaining about stuff on the internet? Jocks! Ugh, the Red Sox are terrible this year! Why can't the Bears EVER get a decent quarterback? I wish they'd never instituted the DH! Having a DH makes it not real baseball! Nerds may have built the internet but jocks have taken full advantage of it as a place to complain about sports continuity changes.

3. Jocks love RPGs. For decades, nerds have been made fun of for locking themselves up in their moms' basements and spending hours upon hours pretending to be elven archers, dwarven paladins, and other mainstays of fantasy RPGs. What a bunch of losers! Well, guess what jocks, fantasy football is basically just Dungeons and Dragons with football guys instead of dragons. You pick players based on their stats, you have a dungeon master (league commissioner), you come up with silly names for things (Prince Fielder of Dreams, for instance)... I mean, the list goes on. So the next time a friend asks you to play D+D don't say "I don't play nerd games" say "Okay, as long as I can play with my level 16 Ice Paladin, Jon Quick."

4. Tim Duncan.

5. Jocks are complicated people and we shouldn't judge them based on limited and outdated stereotypes. Jocks and nerds are human beings, just like nerds. Every single human being you meet is different. Just like the stereotype of the pocket-protector wearing, socially awkward nerd is dumb, and outdated, so is the stereotype of the big dumb jock. So, hey jocks (if you choose to self-identify as a jock), I know you're a complicated person with layers, like an onion, or an ogre. You and the nerds you might mock really aren't that different. So, let's all head down to the Quidditch pitch, and share some Romulan ales later on before our Fantasy Battlestar Galactica draft.