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Box Office Democracy: “The Purge: Anarchy”

Last year I reviewed the original Purge movie on my own blog and my chief complaints were that the movie was intellectually lazy for not exploring more of the complexities of the setting and for being so short that there was no time for any kind of real narrative.  The Purge: Anarchy leaves practically no stone unturned in examining what kind of culture would emerge around the idea of annual purges and it clocks in at almost 20 minutes longer with a far more nuanced story to show for it.  I got every thing I said I wanted and I still don’t like this movie.  It’s either a shaking moment for my credibility as a critic as I might have no idea what I want or this franchise is just not going to be no matter what they do.  I hope it’s the latter.

 The Purge: Anarchy dives deeper in to the world by focusing on a more diverse ensemble.  Our cast consists of a poor mother-daughter pair that is dragged out of their homes on purge night as part of some nebulous conspiracy that I won’t spoil mostly because it didn’t make a ton of sense.  They are joined by a couple on the rocks who have their car sabotaged so they can’t escape the purge, that committing crimes before the purge to make purging easier would seem to be against the rules is never brought up.  The last member of the ensemble is a police officer out for revenge who can’t help himself and saves the rest of the four and then takes on the role of their protector and displays some honestly godlike powers along the way.  Maybe it isn’t the annual purges keeping crime down the rest of the year and more that they’ve trained all their officers to be Batman on steroids.

The bigger cast doesn’t really change the original film’s reluctance to have characters change over the course of the film.  The sum total of character growth in this movie is one character decides that murder is always wrong, even in the case of revenge, and another decides killing people for revenge is therapeutic.  I’m not even sure if the film wants us to judge the character who decides that murder is the answer, she’s treated very sympathetically all the way up to that moment and is never seen after that.  “Is murder wrong?” is not a question a movie like this can be ambiguous about, that’s not what telling this story is about.

The first Purge movie had some uncomfortable race moments, a lot of menace seemed to stem solely from the idea that a white family should be afraid of a black man, and the second one tries to bounce back while completely missing the point.  This time around virtually every black character is virtuous but most Hispanic people are terrible.  It seems they got the feedback but missed the point.  This seems to be an unstoppable franchise at this point so we can all hope that by The Purge 5: Constitutional Monarchy they’ve sorted all this out.

The Point Radio: OUTLANDER Is Coming – Soon!

For OUTLANDER fans, the wait is almost over. The mega big book series hits the Starz Network in just a couple of weeks (with a sneak preview on August 2nd). Producer Ronald Moore and author Diana Gabaldon talk about the road from book to camera. Plus actor Jay Hernandez, from the Fox summer hit GANG RELATED, talks about making good choices in acting roles and Marvel revives Tony Stark’s ego.

THE POINT covers it 24/7! Take us ANYWHERE on ANY mobile device (Apple or Android). Just  get the free app, iNet Radio in The  iTunes App store – and it’s FREE!  The Point Radio  – 24 hours a day of pop culture fun. GO HERE and LISTEN FREE  – and follow us on Twitter @ThePointRadio.

Harvey Award 2014 Final Ballot Announced


The 2014 Harvey Awards Nominees have been announced with the release of the final ballot. Quantum & Woody leads the nominations with six, followed closely by Hawkeye (five), Daredevil, and Saga (four each).James Asmus got three nominations for writing Q&W.

Named in honor of the late Harvey Kurtzman, one of the industry’s most innovative talents, the Harvey Awards recognize outstanding work in comics and sequential art. They will be presented September 6, 2014 in Baltimore, MD, in conjunction with the Baltimore Comic-Con.

Nominations for the Harvey Awards are selected exclusively by creators – those who write, draw, ink, letter, color, design, edit, or are otherwise involved in a creative capacity in the comics field. They are the only industry awards both nominated and selected by the full body of comic book professionals.

Final ballots are due to the Harvey Awards by Monday, August 18, 2014. If you’re eligible, go vote now!

Emily S. Whitten: The DashCon Disaster Mystery

Dashcon logoYou guys: DashCon – seriously, what the hell??

Or, more coherently: on Sunday, my Twitterfeed suddenly started filling up with references to what, in honor of Holmes and Watson, we’ll call “The DashCon Disaster Mystery.” The first mention I encountered was from the Baker Street Babes, an all-female Sherlockian fan group well known and respected in Sherlock Holmes fandom. After reading about their experience participating as guests at the con, I started looking around to try to determine what the hell had led to what has emerged as a huge debacle from a con-planning perspective. And the more I read, the more I couldn’t believe what I was reading. In disaster terms, this con was like a plummeting airplane that exploded into a nuclear mushroom cloud of flames and failure. But to back up a little – you might be wondering what DashCon even is, and that’s fair, as, despite having co-founded a successful fan convention, helped to run several, and attended and reported on many, I’d never heard of it before it imploded.

So: to the Google! The internet is amazing, and sometimes I don’t mean that in a good way. A quick Google search for “DashCon” today pulled up “about 678,000 results in 0.22 seconds,” and I’m sure that number is growing. Even if your mom won’t ever know or care about what happened at DashCon, the internet, I assure you, does, and what’s more, it will never forget. Witness the fact that DashCon has already made it to Know Your Meme,, with one of my favorite bits of the whole disaster, the “ball pit,” as its highlight. (Apparently, when things started going wrong at the con, the organizers began offering “an extra hour in the ball pit,” a small children’s pool filled with colored balls in an otherwise fairly empty industrial-looking room, as an appeasement. Really the only thing I have to say to that is: LOL.)

Anyway. There has been a lot of good coverage already regarding what DashCon was supposed to be, but in brief: the plan was to host a gathering of Tumblr users (not sponsored or officially affiliated with Tumblr), focusing primarily on the sorts of users who post repeatedly about various Tumblr-popular fandoms, including Sherlock, Doctor Who, Harry Potter, My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic, Supernatural, Teen Wolf, etc.The con planned to have panels on these fandom subjects, and also aimed to address mental health issues posted about frequently on Tumblr, e.g. depression and anxiety. It also appears to have planned a number of panels focusing on gender roles, shipping (favored pairings of fictional characters), BDSM, and other romance or sexuality and sexual identity-related topics.

Planning for DashCon started in 2013 as planning for “Tumbl-con USA” (though Tumblr later made them change the name), with an IndieGoGo campaign to raise $5,000. The campaign raised over $4,000, although reportedly perks for pledging have still not been sent out. Moving right along, what appears to be a fairly large and decentralized group of con-runners started planning in a grass-roots fashion that was hilariously disorganized, according to the following accounts from someone who was actually involved in planning, outlined here and here. There appears to have been no strong leadership or guidance, and committees sound like they were formed haphazardly and given contradictory directions at various times. I can’t disagree with the poster’s evaluation that it was “a clusterfuck.” There really is no other word for what she recounts. Also, apparently a number of the people attempting to run this con were teenagers, and it appears that a fair number of the ones who weren’t were college-age.

Eventually the effort coalesced a bit more and there were two “co-owners,” at least one of whom is going to school to learn how to run conventions. Things moved along and the co-owners advertised the con with predictions of 3-7,000 attendees. Pretty ambitious for a new con right off the ground that wasn’t offering any major media stars, but hey – there are a lot of passionate people on Tumblr. You never know, right? Tickets were available for a slightly steep $65, or $80 at the door, with additional ticket purchases needing to be made for some popular panels. (New York Comic Con, with an attendance of 133,000 in 2013, sold its four-day pass this year at $95, and Awesome Con D.C., which had over 30,000 in attendance this year, is offering its 3-day pass for 2015 at $75, to give you some perspective. Both cons host numerous big-name comics, media, and genre fiction guests).

And lo, this past weekend, the time of the con arrived. Immediately things began to go wrong. There were complaints about the hotel and the con (like no WIFI, a really lame game room with literally one console, and under-eighteens being let into the over-eighteen panels). There was much lower attendance than predicted (1,000- 1,500 attendees in actual attendance). And then this happened. Although the post referenced in the video is now deleted, there was originally a post that went up on DashCon’s site, asking attendees, who had already paid to attend, to raise another $17,000-20,000 immediately or the hotel would not allow the con to continue (the number appears to have been originally $17K, and then they raised it to $20K after getting $17K). This was followed with an in-person plea to all attendees, as shown in the video. The DashCon site post stated that, “We suspect the demand for more money is due to the fact that upper management doesn’t like the people at the con.” No, seriously. Also, apparently DashCon thought it was a good idea to ask successful or famous genre creators for help, via Twitter. And then the con-runners and attendees actually managed to raise the money right there, encouraging donations and celebrating with a Hunger Games three-finger salute and various fandom-related victory songs, followed by “We Are the Champions.” The play-by-play of this part of the whole debacle is pretty hilarious, while also being pretty saaaaad.

Of course, despite money being secured, legitimate guests who had been invited to the con with promises of costs being covered and/or compensation became very uncomfortable with the whole shebang (as referenced in the Baker Street Babes post above), and ultimately the folks who were probably the biggest draw of the con, Welcome to Night Vale, had to withdraw from their planned appearances due to non-payment of the funds promised. They weren’t the only ones who got stiffed – the BSB did as well despite having fulfilled their promised obligations, and as of now have still not been reimbursed despite being told they would be; as did Noelle Stevenson, author of webcomic Nimona. And that’s where things stand now, except that the convention’s official explanation for the impromptu fundraising insanity is here and sounds completely insane.

Listen: here’s the thing about founding a convention and convention-running: it’s freakin’ hard. It can also be fun, and depending on what kind of con you’re running, even profitable; but it’s not like baking a box-mix cake.

When done right, it’s more like researching all the other cakes that have been made or are being made by observing how they came out of the oven, tasting them, and trying to talk to a variety of sometimes really helpful but sometimes eccentric or secretive or exclusionary or proprietary bakers about the ingredients they used on the icings and layers of their cakes and how much the ingredients cost and where they came from, and how long and at what temperature the cakes were baked and all those other little details of making a cake from scratch. And at the same time trying to obtain or even create your own ingredients on a strict budget and through a series of negotiations with ingredient suppliers, and find a small fleet of master bakers to help oversee the various layers and icings and decorations (and inevitably ending up with more bakers-in-training, like yourself, than experienced chefs, which of course means more oversight and direction is necessary). And at the same time trying to start making the actual cake because the prep work for a really good cake can sure take awhile. And then eventually mixing the ingredients together in different bowls simultaneously, paying attention to every part of the process at once, and carefully layering them together. And then when it’s finally time to bake the cake, keeping a closer eye on every angle of the cake to ensure it doesn’t burn or even go up in flames. And then decorating the cake and presenting it artistically to the hungry customers. And then, after all the cake has been eaten, cleaning up all the dishes and washing of the countertops and ensuring every dish is in its proper place before turning off the light.

That’s what founding and running a convention is like. It takes a lot of research, and a lot of preparation, and a lot of dedication, hard work, and coordination. And I’ve been a part of all that, in both good times and not-so-good. So I get it, you guys. I really, really do.

So when I say, “DashCon -seriously, what the hell??” I’m not jumping on the bandwagon of mockery (amusing though it may be) or being malicious. I am genuinely asking: how could this con have possibly screwed up so epically? It doesn’t seem possible for it to have happened without gross mismanagement. I mean, yes, some of the issues, like a disappointing game room or under-attendance compared to what was expected, are not completely disastrous and could possibly happen despite good effort being put in to planning. But as someone who has helped to found and run cons and has negotiated hotel contracts, I can tell you at least this much: a hotel or convention center that has a contract with a con suddenly asking for $17-20,000 that the con didn’t expect to have to pay at that time is complete bull. Either the conditions of payment were in the contract and the con-runners didn’t read or understand those conditions when they signed, which is appalling negligence on their part; or there is something dishonest going on. And given this post, well, at the very least the con-runners claimed to have a handle on their agreement and contract with the hotel as of eleven months ago.

Whatever actually happened, I hope that at the very least, the guests who attended the con and the people who gave money on Friday night in what really amounts to extortion (give us your money or we take away your con) are reimbursed as much as possible; and that everyone who was involved in planning this or who is considering organizing a con takes away a valuable lesson in how not to do things. Because DashCon promising a fun con when they must have realized at some point beforehand that they could not deliver and then serving up a mediocre weekend funded by last-minute extortion is like a baker promising a hungry room full of diners forty cakes while knowing that Lex Luthor stole them all when no one was looking. And that’s terrible.

But so as not to end on such a grim note, I shall leave you with the best thing to come out of DashCon.

And until next time, Servo Lectio!


Marvel Reveals Canada Themed Variants for DEATH OF WOLVERINE!

He is many things to many people. Hero. Teacher. Friend. X-Man. Avenger. But above all else, he is one – Canadian. Today, Marvel unveils “Canada Variants” for all four issues of the highly-anticipated DEATH OF WOLVERINE series. Charles Soule & Steve McNiven explore the untimely end of the Great White North’s most well-known mutant hero. Each cover features stunning cover art rendered by Steve McNiven that proudly displays the Maple Leaf flag of Logan’s proud home and native land of Canada.


C.J. Henderson: 1951-2014

CJ Henderson

Chris “C.J.” Henderson, writer of numerous comics for DC, Marvel, Tekno, Eternity, and Moonstone, as well as a prose writer of hard-boiled mysteries and science fiction and a staple at many conventions, died July 4th at the age of 62 from cancer.

He started writing comics in 1986 for Eternity’s Ninja and Reign Of The Dragonlord, later going on to write the Punisher, Clive Barker’s Hellraiser, and Batman. He wrote most notably on Tekno’s Neil Gaiman’s Lady Justice.

His prose works included his own characters such as his hard-boiled detective Jack Hagee series, his supernatural detective Teddy London series, and his Brooklyn Museum curator Piers Knight series. He also worked with William Shatner on his novel Man Of War, and wrote a few novels of Kolchak, the Night Stalker.

He also occasionally collaborated with his artist daughter, Erica Henderson, with our personal favorite collaboration being Baby’s First Mythos, a Cthulhu children’s book. (For the record, CJ was always immensely proud of his daughter.)

A fundraiser has been set up to help his family defray the costs of medical and funeral expenses, along with the book. For those who wish to send condolences, the address is:

CJ Henderson
1944 W. 11th St.
Brooklyn, NY 11223

Our deepest condolences to his wife, Grace, and his daughter, Erica. He will be deeply missed.

For those who wish to send condolences the address is:CJ Henderson
1944 W. 11th St.
Brooklyn, NY 11223 – See more at: http://www.youcaring.com/medical-fundraiser/society-for-the-preservation-of-cj-henderson/87881#sthash.7JAJaglJ.dpufhttp://
For those who wish to send condolences the address is:CJ Henderson
1944 W. 11th St.
Brooklyn, NY 11223 – See more at: http://www.youcaring.com/medical-fundraiser/society-for-the-preservation-of-cj-henderson/87881#sthash.7JAJaglJ.dpufhttp://
For those who wish to send condolences the address is:CJ Henderson
1944 W. 11th St.
Brooklyn, NY 11223 – See more at: http://www.youcaring.com/medical-fundraiser/society-for-the-preservation-of-cj-henderson/87881#sthash.7JAJaglJ.dpufhttp://

Box Office Democracy: “Transformers: Age of Extinction”

Transformers: Age of Extinction is 165 minutes long.  This should really be the entire review.  Either you want to watch nearly three hours of Michael Bay throwing robots at the screen or you don’t.  If you’ve seen any of his movies you’ve basically seen this one, there isn’t anything new just the older stuff louder, brighter and longer.  Apparently this is something that has a lot of pent up demand.  People can’t get enough of this.  Isn’t that depressing?

I admit there’s something intrinsically seductive about his visual style.  Everything is so slick and the camera moves are so majestic that it’s very easy to just settle in and let your eyes bliss out a little bit.  This is broken up a bit when the giant robots have to fight because event through four movies Bay hasn’t quite figured out a good visual shorthand for keeping the robots separate so the big fights, when not in slow motion, have a tendency to just look like a bunch of rolling metal until things shakeout and you can determine who won.  This is made dramatically more difficult by a new kind of Transformer introduced in this movie that transforms by turning into many tiny cubes and then floating in to a new form.  This just fills the screen with the equivalent of giant dust.  Bay is definitely capable of using the visual language of film and communicating a kind of poetry with it I just wish the poems weren’t profanity-laced limericks.


25 Years Ago Today: Criminals Sucked Sidewalk

A quarter of a century ago, I went into New York to catch the first showing of a movie starring a certain caped crusader, and then went over to DC Comics to talk with everybody there. I had to do it in that order, because there would be no other topic of discussion in the office that day. Not that there had been much of one in the country before that, as any flat surface in America had a bat-logo pasted on it.

Now there are many retrospectives about the release of [[[Batman]]] out today and how it changed the comics and movie industry forever. But what I want to point out is that in comics, we can’t help but poke fun at our neighbors’s failures and successes. And so it was that Steve Gerber, Bryan Hitch, and Jim Sanders III gave us The Sensational She-Hulk #19 and Nosferata the She-Bat:

Box Office Democracy: “How To Train Your Dragon 2”

I came late to the first How To Train Your Dragon film.  I caught it on HBO well over a year after release and while I thought the “better than Toy Story 3” hype was a touch overblown it was a revelation for DreamWorks Animation, which had previously churned out franchises like Shrek and Madagascar that I flat out detested.  How to Train Your Dragon 2 is not quite as good as the first one but it’s a fine film that should hold up a little better to being driven in to the ground like every other shiny thing DreamWorks gets its hands on.

Where How to Train Your Dragon 2 shines is in the amazing action sequences.  The wide variety of dragons keeps it visually interesting and when it wants to the movi keeps the screen in constant fervent motion.  It’s definitely the kind of movie that can hypnotize a theater full of small children.  This is better action than Pixar produces, this is better action than Disney or Blue Sky put out, this is the standard bearer for animated action.  I don’t know what that’s worth as the rest of the field seems to be focusing on pulling on heartstrings and wow-ing academy voters but as a stalwart defender of the live-action popcorn action movie I must stand and recognize the efforts of the animated equivalent.

It might not be completely fair but I think the thing most holding me back on this movie is the performance of Jay Baruchel as the lead.  I hate the voice he’s doing here and you have to hear it an awful lot.  It’s grating and annoying and while I understand how that serves the character of an outcast intellectual Viking I can’t let my ears hang out in the platonic ideal the voice seems to be serving.  I don’t like hearing him talk and so I hated having the main character on screen.  That’s a pretty big problem for a movie to have.

I’ve also saluted the politics of Frozen and Maleficent so I feel obliged to ding How to Train Your Dragon 2 for feeling awfully regressive in places.  The movie does not pass the Bechdel Test and, more importantly, the second most prominent returning female character is given a storyline where she’s obsessed with this bad boy dragon trapper even after he’s terrible to her and even goes as far as to basically molest him at times.  None of the female characters here are ones I’d be comfortable with my non-existent daughter’s modeling themselves after and I don’t know that there’s space for characters like that in this genre any more.

But really, no one is considering or not considering this movie for its politics.  How to Train Your Dragon 2 is fun when it wants to be fun, stunningly sad when it wants to be sad and ultimately the best kids movie I’ve seen this year.  The shortcomings are far exceeded by the sheer joyousness of the picture and that’s a near impossible thing to nitpick away.

Marc Alan Fishman: “Why Are You Here? No Math!”

That li’l headline quote came courtesy of the fine gentleman who sat across the aisle from me at my orientation survey in art school. The line got him a ton of applause from the student body. It made me sad.

So, why the anecdote today? Well, it’s ‘cause I’ve got math on the brain. Math, not meth. Meth is next week. At the Indy Pop Con last weekend, amidst a crowd that could best be described as ther, and ready to spend absolutely nothing, Unshaven Comics made strides in becoming better friends with another staple to the artist alleyways we’ve been haunting in recent past. Jim McClain and his Solution Squad comic have been making their way from Jim’s middle-school math problem solving class to the hallowed hallways and conventions since April, 2013. As Jim was so nice as to gift us with his extra badge (because the fine folks at Pop Con seemed to misplace the money we so nicely spent on the extra badge for our third member), I returned the favor by staffing his booth during his panel.

It brought me back to the genesis of Unshaven Comics. Our first jaunt into the indie scene was an “Edu-Tainment” piece entitled The March: Crossing Bridges in America. Selling it at our very first Wizard show felt like arm wrestling Superman after having the flu. Trying to sell something rooted in education to an audience hungry for mutants, gore, sex, and zombies makes for a hard sale nearly every time. And as I sat at the Solution Squad booth with passersby glancing long enough to read Math and immediately look elsewhere… it was a veritable time warp to five years ago. That is, until the pitch found my one and only sale for the hour.

A gentleman stopped by the table. With no quizzical look denoting he was lost, I was aghast. “Can I tell you about The Solution Squad?” I beamed. He nodded quickly. I pitched the book – a team action-adventure story that also happens to teach you something by issue’s end – and he plunked down his money without question. “I’m a teacher,” he said with a knowing grin. He went on to tell me that while he himself was a social studies teacher, he recognized that the book would be a great find to bring back to his school. Soon thereafter, Jim returned from his panel reenergized by his attendees, and I took myself back to the land of immortal kung-fu monkeys and zombie cyborg pirates in space.

And here I sit, days later, with math still on my mind. Jim recognizes that he more than almost anyone else in the alley, is at a critical disadvantage in distribution. Indie publishers have a hard enough time selling their wares amidst the competition. Adding in a niche audience of middle-school math students is akin to selling Wolverine to season ticket holders at the opera. But in that fact comes the inspiration and beauty of both Mr. McClain’s mission and the state of our independent scene. The fact that the Solution Squad exists is tribute to the ideology that comics can be a positive tool for education, so much so that Jim himself uses the book – which meets both Indiana state educational standards as well as the nefarious Common Core we all resent on Facebook – to start lessons in his classroom. He recognizes that from his comic he can capture the attention of the ADD-riddled post-millennial generation born into social media and smartphones. Better still, Jim recognizes he (alongside the Reading With Pictures crew) is knocking at the door to a real revolution.

Comics help break down the barriers to entry for students. Perhaps long associated with kitsch more than anything else though, it’s taken decades of amazing works hitting the shelves for the public at large to exit the caves when it comes to adoption and acceptance. But for every “I learned to read with comics!” retort I’d been privy to from the passing trolls at Wal-Mart, so too comes a “Maus and A Contract With God moved me to tears” from synagogue members when I was 13.

Gentlemen like Jim McClain recognize this fact and makes strides from the trenches to locate those educators roaming the convention floor in hopes of snagging his clientele from the bottom up. All while targeting administrative contacts with partnerships for webcomic distribution and shared lesson plans for a top-down approach. In other words, leave it to a teacher to school a guy like me in proper networking and audience building.

Beyond the semantics though, the fact that our indie scene, complete with digital distribution channels and our one-off printing models build to the greater good. Never before in our industry was it so easy for a person with a plan (and a ton of work) to transition to a person with a product. With each passing year, our economy and market will continue to divide and shrink. While great denominators like blockbuster movies and professional sports will still dominate the consumers’ GDP… niche market leaders will find viable business in wholly segmented markets. In layman’s terms: there’s an audience for literally everything being made today – it’s just a matter of finding it. In the mean time, it’s all about rolling up those sleeves, and sinking money, time, and love into being that lone math teacher next to the anime-sexpot-hack-gore print seller.

Sure Unshaven Comics may leave a convention loads lighter than Jim perhaps… but we know that at the end of the day The Samurnauts will linger as a passing love; the Solution Squad may lead the next generation to solve the great equations of life itself.

And that kiddos… is one lesson that adds up to me.

For more information on the Solution Squad, including purchase information for classrooms, simply visit www.solutionsquad.net.