Thursday, November 1, 2012

Welcome to Whitleypedia ...

Greetings new friend,

If you are reading this post now, you were probably directed here from my new article on Cracked. I hope you enjoyed it.

While you're here, let me share some other items that might amuse (and enlighten?) you.

Elsewhere on Cracked ... 

Now I also wrote another article on Cracked last year, about pop culture visionaries who get too much credit.

Elsewhere on Whitleypedia ... 

Here are some articles I've done about Star Trek: the top episodes and the top movies 

Here are articles on the Avengers movie, the proposed Justice League movie (which I still don't think will happen), and Doctor Who.

Elsewhere on YouTube ...

Here are some videos I made with my friends. This is about a hot girl asking big questions in the big city:

This is about a hot girl running:

(I am curious to see which will have more hits by the end of the week.)

Elsewhere on the Internet ... 

I also write for this website focusing on politics (mostly from my home state, Utah), but there are some more general interest articles which may amuse you, such as this one (likening campaign slogans to Game of Thrones) or this one (likening Peter Dinklage's supporting actor nomination to the vice presidency).

  • Here's an article where I kind of make fun of list-based articles (such as we do on Cracked).
  • If you're as music fan, you'll enjoy this article where I compare Kelly Clarkson to succeeding in politics.
  • I wrote an article on marriage in the Mormon church here which was fun but controversial (or is it fun and controversial? I'll never tell). 

This website, The Supply Side, is a great clearing house for economics-based articles. (Don't confuse it with this one, which is about scrapbooking.)

This website, SF Debris, is a great site for science fiction reviews, if such is your inclination.

Follow me on Twitter here, if you dare ...

Thanks for your interest in my article and in my site. See you ... out there.

Monday, September 10, 2012

And the winner is ...

The Inner Light ... is not on this list

What? This is the classic Picard-has-a-heart episode! (Well, uh, no that would be the next one.) It won a Hugo! It introduced this awesome song?

How can you not include it?

Well while the episode has oodles of heart and is very well made, there are a couple things I don’t like about. The main one is the Macguffin. The idea of that this satellite just happens to beam its memory ray into Picard, through their shields and everything, stretches plausibility too much for me – and it doesn’t have any character significance.

Here’s what the narrative device should have been: they find the satellite and beam over a lot of artifacts from it. Picard, Beverly, and Data are examining them and Beverly is going on about what Wesley is learning at the academy or something. Data notices Picard seems uncomfortable or something and, once Bev leaves, he admits that he often wonders about his “life that could have been but wasn’t” and family and children et al. Then Data makes some comment that’s insipid but full of child-like wisdom and leaves him alone. Then Picard finds some artifact which hits him with the memory ray.

Or something – just a little better context methinks. Maybe it’s nitpicking.

An episode that does have a great narrative device (the near death experience) is Tapestry:

Picard and Q demonstrate that they work better as friends than they ever did as adversaries, as the two (plus a pitch-perfect script by Ron Moore) carry the best episode in the franchise’s history. This episode also sets the stage for the series finale.

For more watch SF Debris’s review here. I own a signed copy from Ronald Moore!

Trek Top 20: #2 In the Pale Moonlight

So I should mention the episode The Visitor. While it usually tops any DS9 list, I am not as big a fan of The Visitor as others because it cheats the audience twice: first, by replacing Cirric Lofton with another actor as Jake Sisko and second, by pulling an “it was all a dream” business at the end. Sure, Ben Sisko has a memory of what happens, but no one else does: noticeably not the protagonist of the episode.

Also the girl who seeks Jake Sisko out is completely unimportant to us because we’ve never seen her before and we never see her again. They should have made it another one of the regulars or recurring characters (or perhaps a grown-up Molly O’Brien). Or perhaps the next bearer of the Dax symbiont. 

Vastly outstripping it is the following:

Regarded widely as one of – if not the very best – of DS9, this episode (like the next one on our list) shows that all you need is a great script, a commanding lead, and a cunning recurring character to make Trek gold. This episode is vintage DS9: a host of complicated characters, shadowy agendas, and a pyrrhic victory.

Kind of an odd title, since it takes its cue from Batman.

My bro suggested once that it should have been called “The First Brick,” referencing the Mark Twain quote “The road to hell is paved with good intentions” – which Sisko actually quotes in the episode. But whatevs. This episode is also renowned for introducing the popular Internet meme “it’s a fake”

This review by SF Debris nails the episode.

Trek Top 20: #3 The Enterprise Incident

My favorite TOS episode, The Enterprise Incident is remarkable for several reasons. One is that the dynamic between Kirk and Spock is just perfect: these guys really are the world’s finest team, even when they reverse roles, with Kirk playing the brains of the duo and Spock playing the ladies’ man.

Second, this episode is unusual for Star Trek in that the heroes are acting rather than reacting. Typically it’s “we are charting a gaseous anomaly and then a thing happens and we have to deal with it.” No. In TEI, they go on a mission to bust up the Romulans and steal their stuff.

Third, of course is this:

A friend of mine emailed me his reaction to this episode:

 think I may have had the VHS episode of that as a kid.  I went back and re-watched it.  Very good episode for Season 3.  What struck me particularly was how every single one of the Romulans' actions was entirely reasonable, defensible, and humane.  If anything, the Romulans are too naive and trusting.  It was like a role-reversal of Data's Day.  They try to make the Romulan commander out to be this femme fatale, but there's nothing at all treacherous about her.  Consider:

- A federation ship crosses into Romulan space for no apparent reason.  They do not treat it as an act of war, but open hailing frequencies to negotiate and discuss.

- When Kirk and Spock beam aboard the Romulan vessels, the Romulan ship sends two of its own officers as exchange hostages.  I saw no reason for them to do this other than to foster trust.

- When Kirk has his little psychotic episode aboard the Romulan ship, they not only allow him to have medical treatment, but they allow Kirk's own doctor from Kirk's own ship to come aboard and treat him.

- Presumably, the Romulans had their shields down to allow all the transporter beaming that happened in this episode.

- The Romulans only held Captain Kirk responsible for the incursion into their space and made it clear that the rest of the crew would be released.

- After the Enterprise returns to Federation space, the Romulans make no attempt to retaliate.

- The Romulan commander appears to have harbored genuine feelings for Spock.  She was hurt by his betrayal and since she had no way of knowing in advance that the Enterprise was coming, this couldn't have been some plot on her part to ensnare Spock.

Also consider:

- The Enterprise had entered Romulan space in violation of the treaty to engage in a brazen espionage mission.  Romulan suspicions of Kirk's motives were entirely correct.  The commander says "if a Romulan ship entered Federation space without good explanation, what would a starbase commander do?"  An entirely valid question.  Her first officer says "but it is you who violated our territory.  Should it not be we who distrust your motives?"  Again, an entirely valid question.

- Spock lied to the Romulans, violating his own ethical precepts against doing so in order to further a treaty-violating espionage mission.

- The Federation sent the Enterprise into Romulan space to steal technology from the Romulans that the Federation promised by treaty not to develop.

- It is the crew of the Enterprise, not the Romulans, who threaten to blow up their ship to prevent its capture.

- Kirk was willing to risk the lives of 400+ members of his ship's crew to engage on this very illegal and treacherous espionage mission.  The Romulans had no interest in killing the crew of the Enterprise; their own captain was a bigger threat to their safety than the Romulans were.

Picard would be appalled.  It's no wonder that the Romulans in the TNG era don't trust the Federation.

Trek Top 20: #4 Amok Time

So Space Seed, the episode which introduced Khan, is not on this list, although it is on every Trek top 10 list. I excluded it because I don’t feel it stands on its own. While it’s certainly good, it’s the follow-up movie 15 years later that makes it retroactively great. And even then, the emotional core of Wrath of Khan (and the rest of the film franchise) isn’t inspired by that episode – it’s inspired by this one.

I also think Amok Time inspired this line in Galaxy Quest:

Our goals, our values had become scattered. But since the transmission, we have modeled every aspect of our society from your example, and it has saved us. Your courage and teamwork, and friendship through adversity.

… plus this scene from Futurama:

The fight scene – friends forced to kill each other! – has been done and redone so much that it ranks as among the most iconic scenes in all of TV, not just sci fi.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Trek Top 20: #5 The Wounded

For more than three years, TNG tried to develop a hostile alien race that could occupy the same space in the firmament as Klingons and Romulans. Everything they tried until this episode failed. (The Borg could never be a regular threat; they were only good for one episode a season.) Cardassians hit the right note, and this episode became the inspiration for DS9 and ultimately VOY. Pretty good impact for an episode where none of the three leading characters (O’Brien, Capt. Maxwell, Gul Macet) are regulars: the only Picard himself plays is to coax O’Brien, question Maxwell, and chastise Macet.

And this scene is one of the best in the franchise’s history:

The episode's only flaw the title: should have (obviously) been called "The Minstrel Boy." 

Trek Top 20: #7 Balance of Terror and #6 The Defector

OK there are a lot of Romulan episodes on this list (seven) and the one that started them all definitely deserves a place. Not only did it introduce Romulans to Trek, but Mark Lenard as well. While they would not prove as iconic to TOS as the Klingons, the TOS concept of the Romulans would endure through the franchise much better than the TOS Klingons did. The battle of wits between Kirk and “the Romulan Commander” (He is never named.) keep you on the edge of your sofa, with the one crewman’s antipathy toward Romulans/Vulcans (so soon after World War II) the most plausible space racism in TOS.

An unofficial companion piece to BoT, The Defector is the quintessential TNG Romulan episode: treachery, continuity, strategy, a Romulan admiral lecturing Picard about the importance of family, and some great Shakespeare crap. Andreas Katsulas cemented his role as Tomalak with this one, which had the twin-bladed effect of landing him G’Kar on Bab 5 while regrettably taking him away from TNG.

Also Picard owns the crap out of them in this scene here:

Trek Top 20: #8 Trouble with Tribbles and #9 Troubles and Tribble-ations

Ah you all knew this would be on the list. This episode has only improved with age and rightly belongs on every Trek fan’s top 10 list. Among the best scripts in the franchise, and certainly the funniest:  

Capt. Kirk: How close will we come to the nearest Klingon outpost if we continue on our present course?
Chekov: Ah, one parsec, sir. Close enough to smell them.
Spock: That is illogical, Ensign. Odors cannot travel through the vacuum of space.
Chekov: I was making a little joke, sir.
Spock: Extremely little, Ensign. 

Korax: Kirk may be a swaggering, overbearing, tin-plated dictator with delusions of godhood, but he's not soft.

Baris: In my opinion, you have taken this important project far too lightly.
Kirk: On the contrary, sir. I think of this project as very important. It is you I take lightly.

My favorite bit is how Kirk and Koloth are bending over backwards to be so polite to each other that they’re practically flirting. 

KOLOTH: Ah, my dear Captain Kirk.
KIRK: My dear Captain Koloth.

And as for the episode’s nostalgic companion piece? C’mon.

This was an episode that only DS9 could do – if TNG had done it, it would have undermined their efforts to spread their own wings; if VOY had done it, it would have looked like they were trying too hard; if ENT had done it, no one would have noticed. 

Also the whole idea of time travel becoming soooo commonplace for Starfleet that it needs its own X-Files-esque investigation team is a delightful bit of self-parody. 

Trek Top 20: #10 Deja Q

This is the watershed Q episode, where the character goes from menace to friend (so to speak). While he’s truly evil/heartless in the three Q episodes preceding this one, he’s actually on Picard’s side in the four that follow it.

TNG didn’t try humor as much as it should have, but it succeeded with this one brilliantly.

This episode also does high-falootin' well too: 

Q: Don't be so hard on me, Jean-Luc. You've been a mortal all your life. You know all about dying. I've never given it a second thought. Or a first one, for that matter. I could have been killed. If it hadn't been for Data and that one brief delay he created, I would have been gone. No more me. And no one would have missed me, would they? Data may have sacrificed himself for me. Why? 

PICARD: That is his special nature. He learned the lessons of humanity well. 

Q: When I ask myself if I would have done the same for him, And I am forced to answer no, I feel, I feel ashamed. 

PICARD: Q, I'm not your father confessor. You will receive no absolution from me. You have brought nothing but pain and suffering to this crew. And I'm still not entirely convinced that all this isn't your latest attempt at a puerile joke. 

Q: It is a joke. A joke on me. The joke of the universe. The king who would be man. As I learn more and more what it is to be human, I am more and more convinced that I would never make a good one. I don't have what it takes. Without my powers, I'm frightened of everything. I'm a coward, and I'm miserable, and I can't go on this way.

Deja Q is also the origin of the Internet face-palm meme:

Trek Top 20: #11 Peak Performance

This is episode is my unsung hero of TNG, yet it doesn’t make a lot of “best of” lists and isn’t otherwise remembered for much other than the pre-Quark cameo by Armin Shimmerman.

The reason this episode is so good is that they find great character moments for EVERY member of the crew: Riker is the awesome leader, Picard is the wise mentor, Worf is the cunning warrior, Data deals with an insecurity complex (!), Wesley’s shtick for saving the day makes perfect sense, and Pulaski isn’t remotely annoying. Add in a great fight scene and the Strategema business and you have a 10/10 episode.

Also Worf’s line “Guile!” set the standard for his gruff one-liners. 

Trek Top 20: #12 Yesterday’s Enterprise

The whole “the time line has been changed and we need to restore it!” shtick has been so done and overdone that it is indeed unusual that such an episode made it on my list (though of course Yesteryear has that same plot hook). Indeed I did not include City on the Edge of Forever, despite its hallowed status as the best in all of TOS, because the trope has been so overdone. Also I never bought that Kirk would fall as hard as he did for Edith Keeler – she’s too much of a Mary Sue for him. (“Listen, kiddo, Jim Kirk was many things but he was never a Boy Scout.”)

But this one works, and it works brilliantly. Great Guinan stuff, great Tasha stuff, and introduction of Worf’s fondness for prune juice. This battle where Picard says “That’ll be the day” – while unimpressive visually by today’s standards – is nonetheless the best action scene from TNG.

Trek Top 20: #13 Journey to Babel and Honorable Mention Yesteryear

Let’s do these two together, since they’re so well connected.

The only episode of The Animated Series on this list, Yesteryear is a classic and a great hook for introducing someone to that show. The story, so human and tender, served as the inspiration for the Spock backstory in the wildly successful 2009 reboot. I particularly love the fat little Vulcan child in this.

For a show that’s supposed to be about a space navy and not a space diplomatic corps, Trek does an awful lot with space diplomats. And Journey to Babel is the episode that started it all. The introduction of Spock’s parents (ahem) humanize the character and prove that he’s more interesting than anyone else on the show. (We didn’t meet Kirk’s parents until 2009, and they play no real role in the movie besides dying and giving birth.) 

JtB also introduces "Live long and prosper," the second-most famous line from all of Star Trek. 

Trek Top 20: #14 Family

The TNG episode "Family" is something of an anomaly. It's basically the third part of the "Best of Both Worlds" two-parter, but it's really more of a "coda" than a trilogy. It is the only episode of TNG without Data. It doesn't really have a plot, it's just three small stories about Picard, Worf, and Wesley. It's so unusual for Trek, that SF Debris didn't even give it a rating when he reviewed it.

Now after BoBW they had to stop and take a break - it would have been dumb to rush into another big adventure while we're still catching our breath. (They did the same thing on DS9 during the Dominion War with the Worf/Dax marriage episode.)

The real power of this episode is how it "changed the game" on BoBW. If you watch those two without "Family," BoBW are Riker episodes. But everyone remembers them (see "I, Borg," Star Trek: First Contact) as Picard episodes, thanks to this episode.

BoBW is the zenith of the Riker character, who was essentially the show's main character -- until "Family," where Patrick Stewart stole not just a scene or an episode but the whole danged show from his younger co-star.


Saturday, September 8, 2012

Trek Top 20: #15 The Next Phase

Along with The Wounded, this episode informed DS9 by establishing the Bajoran religion and underscores how the show could have been even better with Ro instead of Kira.

This episode has some delicious treachery by Romulans, a unique science fiction premise, and both great action AND humor. While it doesn’t explore any “bigger themes” like space racism or, uh, more space racism, it shows that Star Trek is best when it isn’t about heavy-handed allegories and instead just tells good stories about the real bigger themes: life, death, love, friendship, humor.

There’s a scene in the sub-par Pre-emptive Strike where they could have called back to this episode, with Ro asking Riker what he was going to say about her at the funeral, but didn’t. (DS9 or Babylon 5 would have alley-ooped that one.)  Geordai’s closing line “… if we can teach Ro Laren humility, we can do anything” is a terrific conclusion to a great character piece between the two most human characters on the show. 

Trek Top 20: #16 Duet

So there’s a term used in Star Trek: “bottle” show, short for “ship in a bottle” show. So they can afford more expense episodes, they’ll do episodes which don’t require any real special effects or new sets. This episode proves that – if you have a dynamite script, actors, and music – a bottle show can number among its best.

And this episode will be on any “best of DS9” list. Kira, and the audience, learn that not all Cardassians are evil and not all Bajorans are good. Uh, if you haven’t seen it and want to, don’t watch the video.

It’s success is kind of double-edged though, because – coming in the first season – it hit the height of the Bajorans v Cardassians stuff and everything that followed wasn’t as interesting. 

Trek Top 20: #17 Lower Decks

Everyone thought this episode was setting up characters for Voyager. Alas that it was not. While the actor playing Taurik would reappear as his character’s twin brother in a couple episodes, they all sucked – and neither Tom Paris nor Harry Kim were as much fun or endearing as Lavelle or Sito. Terrific episode that shows how TNG, past its prime, could do great work – when it took its cues from DS9.

Trek Top 20: #18 Once More Unto the Breach

      A story about a Klingon general learning the importance of forgiveness? Beat that.

Also it has this great speech about faith from Worf here:

This episode from DS9 bumped out Far Beyond the Stars, which I think was intended to be Sisko’s The Inner Light. While I love how unusual and risky FBtS is, there wasn’t room for it on the list. Alas!

Trek Top 20: #19 The Pegasus

One of the rare highlights of TNG’s seventh season, this episode is most remarkable for featuring a pre-Lost Terry O’Quinn as Riker’s duplicitous former commander. That alone makes this episode sci-fi gold. Riker’s dilemma is a very human one: an older man realizing that by doing something “right” in his youth, he actually did something wrong – it’s the inverse of Tapestry. And we finally get the answer to why the Feds don’t have cloaking devices.

But the episode’s real brilliance is this golden nugget right here:

This episode was so good that it’s understandable that they picked it to revisit with the Enterprise finale. … But even its presence couldn’t save that hunk a junk. 

Top 20 Trek episodes

So a couple years ago I got some good traffic to Whitleypedia because of a top 10 list I did of the Star Trek films and two-parters (since about half the films are not great and many of the two-parters are phenomenal).

This year for the anniversary  of the airing of the first OS episode (Sept. 8, 1966), I wanted to do a top 20 list of the best single episodes. Note that this doesn’t include any episode that’s part of a two (or more) parter. So for example, I love the episode Rocks and Shoals of DS9, but it was part of the six-part Dominion War arc, which was on my top 10 list two years ago, so you won’t find it here. Truthfully and regrettably this keeps a lot of DS9 episodes off of the top 20 list.

Let’s start things off at the last place you’d expect: NCC-74656

20 Lineage

I’m torn on this episode because there are a lot of TOS, TNG, and DS9 episodes that you could argue are better. And you might be right. But this episode is here because, structurally, it is what every Star Trek episode should aspire to: a real-life dilemma is played out against a science fiction backdrop, causing believable conflict among the lead characters. Torres, ashamed of her Klingon half, wants to genetically alter her daughter so she’ll be full human. This causes conflict with Tom Paris and the Doctor, who believe this is unethical. Throw in some nice flashbacks and Lineage is so watchable it could have been an episode of Lost.

The only other Voyager episode that was in competition for this list is Learning Curve, because Tuvok’s perfect in it and it _actually_ deals with the fundamental dynamic of the show (Marquis vs Starfleet), but Lineage edged it out because it’s more endearing and the performances among the mains are so strong. 

Saturday, July 7, 2012

How DC Can Get Its Groove Back, Part 2

Despite being crushed for the last 15 years at the box office by Marvel, DC/Warner Brothers has several advantages in general where adapting its properties to the big screen are concerned, which we looked at yesterday. Today we’ll examine how they can specifically make a Justice League movie that doesn’t suck.

#1 Do it in reverse. After Man of Steel next year, just go straight to a Justice League movie. F’crying out loud, much of the work in setting up the Justice League was already done on Smallville

All completely pointless to have on a team with Superman ... if you think about it

You don’t need to introduce all these iconic characters to an audience like you did Thor or Iron Man, so you can just jump to the main event after Supes has laid some foundation. Then subsequent films with individuals can be made based on Justice League’s success.

#2 Don’t screw up the line-up. The Avengers has always had a pretty set line-up, but Justice League is a revolving door: pretty much every hero has been a member at some point, a point highlighted dramatically with Justice League Unlimited, where they put every hero on the team all at once.

All STILL completely pointless to have on a team with Superman ... if you think about it

Of course the core line-up is Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Flash, Aquaman, Martian Manhuner, and Green Lantern – but this isn’t who they should go with. It’s too big (Avengers had four team members with two secondary characters, one of whom was muscle for the bad guy for most of the film) – they should keep the team at five.

Obviously you have to include Supes and Bats. I would add Flash as well, since he’s a relatively well-known property and doesn’t have a counterpart in the Avengers (which is why Green Arrow will struggle to hit the target - ah ha). Also Flash's power and costume are cool visually. Of course you’d have to use the Wally West Flash and not Barry Allen.

I would also add Green Lantern, since he’s already been adapted (but see below on casting)

I feel guilty leaving Martian Manhunter off the list, but I think you have to at the start. His back-story and power-source are virtually identical to Superman, he has kind of a weird name, and you want the team to be more Earth-grounded, since it already includes one alien and one guy who works in outer space. No regrets about striking Aquaman off.

So this leaves our fifth spot, and it has to be a girl. Wonder Woman, right? Wrong. Again, it needs to be Earth-grounded (they’re even billing the JL film as “very real world!”), so you can’t have another alien on the team. So who should the girl be? 


She has a great costume, different powers than the rest of the League, and a terrific catch (speaking her spells backwards). The one flaw of the DCAU Justice League was the inclusion of Hawkgirl instead of Zat.

But you can’t ignore WW, can you? No. Just remember her when you …

#3 Don’t screw up the bad guy. And the best way to do that is to make the bad guy Wonder Woman. The movie could start with her leading an assault by Amazons on “man’s world” because she’s being manipulated by Darkseid or Vandal Savage or Doctor Destiny or even (best of all) Lex Luthor. She joins the team during the third act after seeing the error of her ways.

Another of DC’s liabilities is (Batman notwithstanding) they have a pretty lame rogue’s gallery. Even with Superman, their signature character, you have Lex, Braniac, and then a whole lotta nothing. Making Wonder Woman the villain would ensure that the primary villain seen on movie posters has as much gravitas as the heroes.

#4 Don’t screw up the cast. OK this is an important one. Avengers succeeded overwhelmingly because of the strength of RDJ as Tony Stark in three previous movies. Warner Bros has already cast Superman. No indication on who would play Batman after Christian Bale hangs up the cape and cowl, but his is the least important because it’s the character that’s already the best known.

Nathan Fillion as Hal Jordan. He has oodles of nerd street cred, he’s perfect for the role, and if you had already done it, people would have seen Green Lantern. You don’t need to divorce yourself from an under-performing individual film (like Incredible Hulk) if it’s salvageable (unlike Hulk). This is so obvious I can't believe no one ever thought of it - OH WAIT we did!

Zooey Deschanel as Zatanna


Neil Patrick Harris as Flash. He’s charming and has great comedic timing. He has nerd street cred because of Dr Horrible, mass appeal because of HIMYM, and stoner appeal because of Harold and Kumar. And oh yeah he’s already done Flash.

Morena Baccarin for Wonder Woman. Obviously it would be great to see her and Fillion on screen together again, she can do tough and sexy equally well, and she would add some much-needed (ahem) color to the line-up. Wonder Woman is supposed to be Mediterranean anyway, so a Brasillian is technically a better fit than a white lady. 

Terry O'Quinn as anybody. He's bald, so people would like him as Lex, but he could play just about any villain well. 

 Just don't tell him what he can't do

Like I say about the Arrested Development movie, I’ll believe that there’s a Justice League movie when I see it. I really think Marvel just has too much of a head start. But DC/WB has some huge advantages, and can make a successful Justice League movie … unless they screw it up. 

Thursday, July 5, 2012

How DC Can Get Its Groove Back, Part 1

So last week it was revealed that, as part of the build-up to Avengers 2, Marvel will produce a Guardians of the Galaxy movie, bringing the franchise into the cosmos and establishing Thanos as a baddie in his own right. This is unprecedented. GotG was always a third- or fourth-tier property that no one ever imagined could be its own film because no one ever cared that much. (Except maybe Jim Valentino.)

Also in the works Marvel currently has Iron Man 3, Thor 2, Captain America 2, and maybe movies about SHIELD, Ant-Man, and Doctor Strange. There are so many in the pipeline that all the Marvel Studios movies so far are just called “Phase 1.”

Note that this is in contrast to Warner Brothers/DC, which only recently announced plans to maybe try to develop a Justice League movie.

With the disappointment of Green Lantern and Superman Returns (as well as the failure of the Wonder Woman pilot), DC does not currently have the momentum to pull this off. Dark Knight Rises will be successful (though less so than Dark Knight, critically and commercially, and probably Avengers too), after which point the Caped Crusader will be subjected to a reboot everyone will roll their eyes at. Other recent DC films have sputtered (The Spirit, Jonah Hex), so the organization is really going to have to stretch to succeed with the Justice League – or ANY movie for that point.

Take that, Brandon Routh!

But they could – DC has a few advantages that Marvel doesn’t, which they could leverage into box office gold, namely: 

#1 Better known title characters. DC’s big three – Batman, Wonder Woman, and Superman – don’t need introductions. They’ve each been around for 75 years.

#2 Experienced cross-over talent. Historically moreso than Marvel, DC has had access to creators who are experienced in adapting comics to other media. Foremost is of course Christopher Nolan, who has already been tapped to provide elder statesman-esqueguidance to Superman and other adaptations.

Other qualified creators DC could marshal include Neil Gaiman (who is also popular with women!) and Bruce Timm (overlord of The DC Animated Universe for 20 years). DC can also win nostalgia points in films with cameos from Adam West, Lynda Carter, and anyone from the Superman movies.

Millions of Family Guy fans can't be wrong ... 
well they are, but not about this guy

#3 A better library of stories. While Marvel has a higher RBI, DC is better at grand slams. You can adapt pre-existing, popular source material into films rather than needing to synthesize original stories. The DC Animated Universe is already doing this extremely well.

There are so many iconic Batman stories that you can have a list of his top 25 and still see a lot that are missing – you can’t really do that with any Marvel property, even the X-Men.

Literally the only thing that could be cooler than an Infinity Gauntlet movie

#4 Ability to leverage properties from other comics. Warner Brothers already did this with 300 (Dark Horse) and could do the same with other successful comics from DH or Image. The success of The Walking Dead shows that secondary publishers can have mass appeal. The fact that no one has tried to make an Invincible movie is surprising.

#5 Warner Brothers owns all its properties. Fox has the film rights to X-Men and Fantastic Four; Sony has Spider-man. Warner Brothers owns all the DC characters, so they can pick and choose whichever they want.

This great article on Screenrant outlines which movie studios own the rights to which Marvel characters. Sadly, Marvel can’t even say “adamantium” to describe Cap’s shield because the X-Men franchise got there first. These other production studios (Fox, Sony) are contractually obliged to keep producing new films or sacrifice the rights (X-Men, Spider-Man), which would then shift back to Marvel … this is why we’re subjected to sub-par remakes trotted out with little grace or artistry (First Class, Amazing), kind of out of greed but mostly out of spite.

Because of course Marvel would hate to put Spider-Man and Wolverine on screen in Avengers 2.

 So hope is not lost for DC. But if it wants to successfully pull off a Justice League movie, it needs to leverage those advantages successfully, which we’ll look at tomorrow.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Big City, Big Questions

My friends and I put together this short film: "Big City, Big Questions"

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Trailing The Competition?

"No, I don't like movies, I don't go to movies, most movies suck. So when someone asks me to go to a movie you know what I say? 'I don't like movies, I don't go to movies, most movies suck.'"

- Joe, News Radio

OK so people complain all the time that Hollywood has no fresh ideas and all they do is adapt and reboot existing properties (comic books, TV shows, Smurfs, Ameritrash board games). And they're right.


If there's one thing Hollywood is better at than ever before, it's movie trailers. Movie trailers, once the province of people waiting in a theater, are now the third-most viewed videos online (after news and user-generated content) so of course more attention is going to be paid to making them stand out and entertain in their own right. (In fact given that many official trailers feature advertising, an entertaining trailer becomes a source of revenue for the film rather than an expense to advertise it.)

Here, for example, is the Les Miserables trailer (2012). (Thanks to my friend Bryan over at Film Geekery for the send.)

Part of the brilliance of this trailer is specifically focusing on the Fantine character --- women tend to be fans of musicals; women are more likely to suggest to their husbands/boyfriends to go see this than vice verse. Even though the male leads are more important to the story (and have higher billing), by highlighting the female lead they're playing to their key demo better. 

NOW compare it to this trailer for Les Miserables (1998).

One of them gives you goosebumps and doesn't make you think of Simon Cowell. The other feels like a boring literature class in high school.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

REVISED Dominion Card List


So two years ago I posted a very casual Dominion card list on Whitleypedia. Several new expansions of the game have come out since then, so I thought it time to update my spreadsheet with the new information. It's also color coded for your convenience.

There are many other more thorough resources for Dominion (which I encourage fans to check out here) but that simple spreadsheet I posted two years ago constitutes about 15% of the traffic to this blog. SO in the interest of staying viable, here's the new spreadsheet.

Monday, May 21, 2012

The Final Frontier ... finally: Star Trek on Mad Men

So I have been wondering when they would finally make a Star Trek reference on Mad Men; I had long suspected that Kinsey would be the guy to do it, since they establish him as a sci fi fan in season 1 when he references the Twilight Zone

Given that Cosgrove has been writing science fiction, I thought they'd have him mention Trek but I guess not. 

In last night's episode, which featured the return (albeit not triumphant) of Kinsey, he's not only watching the show, but he's written a spec script for it. The bit about the Negrons and Caucasoids or whatever was a reference to this uniquely awful episode, "The Omega Glory," where Shatner delivers perhaps the most ham-fisted speech of his career.  

See in this episode, the Enterprise encounters space Americas (Yangs, or Yankees) versus the Chinese (Kohms, or communists). 

Well done, Mad Men!

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Game of Thrones reference on 30 Rock

Proving ONCE again that 30 Rock is the smartest show on TV now.

See, it's funny because:

1) Grizz is reading Game of Thrones
2) At this point, with the character having died in the TV show a year ago, anyone who knows anything about the series knows that Ned Stark dies ...
3) ... but Grizz learns about it first from reading
4) It's a complete non sequitr

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

The Avengers: How The Last Became First

So I didn't post a review of The Avengers, because I thought it would be senseless: the movie was an ambitious project that exceeded even the highest expectations. The pacing, the writing, the acting, the action --- everything comes together nigh perfectly.

Now that the film has surpassed $1 billion worldwide, though, I wanted to weigh in on the issue:

During the comic book boom (late 80s-early 90s, incidentally when I was collecting), the Avengers were NEVER Marvel's signature property: they never occupied the same space in the business side of the Marvel world as their counterparts at DC, the Justice League, even though they were counterparts within their respective universes. Respectively, neither Captain America's or Thor's one title sold as well as the least-selling one of the four that Batman and Superman both had.

Marvel's biggest sellers during that boom were:

  1. The X-Men (notably Wolverine of course)
  2. Spider-man (who at one point was starring in five monthly titles: Amazing Spider-Man, Spectacular Spider-Man, Web of Spider-Man, Spider-Man, and Marvel Comics Presents)
  3. The Punisher (a symbol of the Modern Age of comics and a character long since left by the wayside)
Look at the 100 top-selling comics from 1991: 45 of them are X books, 21 are Spider-Man, and only ONE has an Avengers tie-in (Wonderman #1). Hell, even Ghost Rider was a bigger deal than the Avengers in those days, counting for seven of the top 100 that year ...

Not so much nowadays

... and big, world-spanning Avengers events (like Acts of Vengeance) were only initiated once Marvel had proven they could do the same thing in previous years with the X-Men (notably with Inferno). Not only were the Avengers never a huge deal, but none of their individual members were either -- except for the Hulk under Peter David and Todd McFarlane (later Dale Keown). But that was more a matter of the talent driving sales rather than the character, and at that point Hulk hadn't been in the team for years. None of the Avengers were cool. None. Of. Them.

Take this cover from The Infinity Gauntlet: the world-stomping crossover that defined much of the Marvel Universe in 1991, with Thanos the Mad Titan taking over everything. (Yes, he's the bad guy at the end of The Avengers.)

Yes, Captain America is in the front, but that's only because he was supposed to be the leader whenever all the superheroes got together and because Marvel was pushing his 50th anniversary that year. The featured heroes on this cover are Spider-Man, Wolverine, and Cyclops. OK you'll say "But Whitleypedia, Scarlet Witch is pretty big too, and she was an Avenger!" Yes, but that's because Scarlet Witch is also a mutant.

Hulk's pretty big, but again, mainly because of the popularity of the talent on his book -- and he wasn't an Avenger at the time. Notice how Iron Man and Thor are tucked waaaay in the back EVEN THOUGH Thanos was always an Avengers villain!

I imagine it took some negotiating to get even these two main X-Men included in IG, given that the X-Men franchise were so busy in 1991 with their "Mutant Genesis" to get involved with Infinity Gauntlet in any meaningful way. Marvel had just started a second X-Men title (creatively titled X-Men), which was the No. 1 selling comic book of all time. Given the current market, this record will stand forever.

8.1 million copies of this thing sold in 1991

So naturally when Marvel starts making movies in the early 2000s, they lead with their strongest properties -- X-Men and Spider-man -- but then by the time they've refined the process of screen adaptions, those two stories are pretty well played: everyone hated X3 and SM3, and were indifferent to Wolverine and X-Men First Class. And The Amazing Spider-Man, regardless of quality, will get overlooked this year between Avengers as Dark Knight Rises. ASM should have been a Thanksgiving release, well after the summer movie season but a month before The Hobbit comes out.

Justsomerandomguy illustrates:

So thanks to the success of the X-Men and Spider-man franchises, Marvel finally had the clout to try something more ambitious: a world-spanning team up on-screen like they'd been doing on the page since the Silver Age. And to do so, they tapped their benchwarmers ... who are now their star players.

A sign that the Avengers have become Marvel's top-tier property (beyond the movies naturally) is the current Avengers vs. X-Men series. When I was a kid reading comic books, the Avengers were NEVER cool enough to share a masthead with the X-Men. But nowadays, on his Twitter feed Stan Lee lists the X-Men last! So I guess this is an example of the last being first and the first being last.

OK second last before "etc."


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