Category Archive – Randomness

Week of Geek: Can we talk about Venom for a minute?

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Hi again Geeklings!  How’s November treating you?

Well, we got some sad news from the world of Marvel last week.  Stan Lee passed away at the age of 94.

He was a cool guy.  I had the pleasure of being in the audience when he made his last appearance at Fan Expo and he was delightful.  He created amazing characters and touched a lot of lives.  He’ll be sorely missed.  We can all take comfort in knowing that his legacy is not going away anytime soon.  Under Disney, Marvel is expanding ever outward in movies and TV shows.  The comics are still a thing and other studios are creating movies as well.  What Stan Lee helped create will be around for a long long time.

Today I thought I’d talk about one of the stranger examples of a Marvel movie to come out this year.  One that had everything going against it, and yet, and yet, has been a huge success financially.  It’s inspired memes, a lot of head scratching and a rather unexpected ship.

I of course speak of Venom.

So first of all, who, or what, is Venom?  In a nutshell, Venom is actually two characters, the alien creature known as Venom and whichever host he’s inhabiting.  Venom is from a race of these almost liquid-like creatures that can inhabit a host body.  With Venom, his host is reporter Eddie Brock (there have been other hosts in the comics, including Spider-Man himself, but Eddie is the go-to).  A symbiote (the common name for what Venom is) can give it’s host a lot of super powers but it also has a mind and will of it’s own and, depending on it’s temperament, can cause a lot of damage and can full on eat people.  Venom is a quintessential anti-hero.

This big screen version was released back in October, and it was riding a wave of heavy skepticism and bad reviews.  It’s currently sitting at 29% on Rotten Tomatoes which, if you know your percentages, is not good.  But even before the reviews came in people were expressing disdain.

First problem is that it’s a product of the deal Marvel and Sony made years ago where Sony acquired the movie rights to Spider-Man and his various properties.  Since Sony now has an arrangement with Marvel Studios to use Spider-Man in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Sony still has ownership of other Spidey-related characters, and they thought ‘Why not make a movie featuring just long-time villain Venom?’.  A movie that features a well-known Spider-Man villain… but it doesn’t have Spider-Man.  To a lot of people that just didn’t make any sense at best and at worst was downright sacrilege.

Secondly fans were hoping the movie would have an R-rating… but that didn’t turn out to be the case, as it now has a PG-13 rating.  Which is great for more people to watch it (including most of you guys) but it could also take the teeth (heh) out of the film.  And it sounds like there were reshoots during it’s production, which is not always good for a film.

So yeah, bad reviews, rough history, a lot of fan skepticism.  Venom did not arrive in theaters with a lot of hope.

But then something strange and kind of awesome happened.  During it’s opening weekend Venom smashed box-office records, gaining the highest opening weekend in October to date.  Remember that low Rotten Tomatoes review I mentioned?  That was just for critics; the audience score is currently at 86%.  Fan art emerged, the internet came up with a bunch of jokes.  And the shipping, my gosh, the shipping, that was petty unexpected too.  And just today I read that Venom is pegged to make more money globally than any X-Men movie to date, including Deadpool.  Whaaaaaaaaaaaa?

So what happened?  How did this weird problem-prone little movie become such a hit?

Well, that article I linked to about it surpassing the X-Men movies theorized that it’s because of brand value.  Venom is an iconic character and so people will see a movie about him.  I’m not so sure about that though, and if you look at the comment (there was only one at the time of this writing) written below that article the person posting thinks that it’s because Tom Hardy‘s take on both Eddie Brock and Venom was so entertaining that it overshadowed the rest of the movie.

I went to see Venom actually, after I saw all the buzz on my favorite fan sites, and I have to agree with that poster, not just about Tom Hardy (who is a great actor, let’s not deny it) but about other components of the movie as well.  Ya see, my knowledge of the character Venom is pretty slim.  I watched the 90’s Spider-Man cartoon and he was one of the villains there.  I never saw the third Sam Raimi Spider-Man movie where Topher Grace tried to play Brock/Venom, and from what I hear I’m not missing much.  And I read about him a little in the comics.  So yeah, I didn’t go into it as a hard-core Venom fan but I did know the broad strokes.

And my take on the movie?  It was not a good movie, not by any stretch, but darn if it wasn’t fun.  Eddie was a surprisingly relateable character, just kind of a doofus who genuinely wants to do good but often times messes it up.  And Venom is… well, Venom.  But the two of them learn to work together, and it actually gets kind of adorable between the two during the last act.  There were some funny moments, some good action scenes and… yeah, it was just fun.

And sometimes that’s all a movie has to be.  Just fun.  Clearly it’s struck a nerve with a lot of people, and now there’s a good chance a sequel will happen.  Maybe we can even hope for that crossover with Spider-Man.

One last minor point; I’m really glad they changed the pronunciation of ‘symbiote’ in the movie.  Yeah, it’s a made-up word, but every time I’ve heard it spoken in a Marvel property they’ve always pronounced it as sym-BEE-ote.  One of the early trailers for Venom tried to pronounce it sym-BYE-ote.  It just sounded wrong to me.  But when I saw the movie it was back to the original sym-BEE-ote.  Thanks Marvel/Sony!

Also, this was my favorite bit of dialogue.  What a power move!

Anyway, did any of you guys see it?  What did you think?  Post away in the comments below.

Have a great week guys, and until next time, End of Line.

Week of Geek: Goodbye Summer, Hello School

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Hiya Geeklings!

Just a short post today.  Just wanted to say thanks for an awesome summer!  Yeah, hard to believe it’s almost over, isn’t it?  Especially when it’s so hot out.  But alas it is true.  School starts soon.  Starbucks just today started selling Pumpkin Spice Lattes, even though it feels like a 1000 degrees outside.  Fall is indeed coming.  But with you guys rocking the Teen Challenge it was a great summer.  Yay!

In honor of school starting soon I thought I’d post this video I came across of guys your age reacting to what school was like back when I was going there.  Yep, I was teen during much of the 90s, so check out how things used to be while I go feel old.

Thanks guys.  See you next week, and until next time, End of Line.

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Week of Geek: A Brief History of Anime Fandom

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Hiya Geekling!  Enjoying the warm weather?  Ready for summer (and by extension, school to be over)?  I know I am.

So I just got back from Anime North this last weekend.  Had a lot of fun, learned some new things, got a little puppet-type critter that I hope will sit on my shoulder during my visits with the public and will delight young and old alike.  Good times.

But one of my favorite things I did this weekend was attend a panel on anime fandom in North America, presented by these guys.  I like fandoms, I like fans, I like history, and I like anime so this was a win win win win.  And in the interests of public service, I thought I’d pass some of the interesting tidbits I learned on to you guys, ’cause I’m nice like that.

So first of all, fandom for Anime on this side of the globe is much older than most people would expect.  A lot people think that it really took off in the early 2000s (or if you’re old like me, you peg it somewhere in the 1990s).  North American fans of anime have been around for about 60 years.  WHAT?!  But one of the reasons most of us may not know that was because being able to access anime was much more difficult back then than it is now.  You basically had to hope it was on broadcast TV or you had to know a guy if you wanted to see it.

One of the big things to kick it all off was a little show called Astro Boy.  It aired on NBC in 1963 and actually beat The New Adventures of Superman in the ratings.  It was followed by Speed Racer in 1968, and then more shows followed, so a lot of Baby Boomers grew up with anime shows.  Funny thing; we had protesters on Sunday convention, but the panelists pointed out that that was nothing new; there were protesters back in the 60s.  TV watch groups wrote a scathing review of Speed Racer back when it first aired.

So there’s that.

In the 1970s you got giant robots coming on the scene with Shogun Warriors.  These were toys that were popular even without a show to back them up.  The first mini festival for anime fans was held in that decade.  The first English language manga, Barefoot Gen, was published.  After Star Wars became huge a lot of related-anime was released, like Battle of the PlanetsGalaxy Express was the first anime movie to get a theatrical release in the US.  The show Star Blazers aired in 1979 and became so popular it spawned it’s own fanzine and it’s own mini cons.  It was during this decade that you got to see the first anime cosplayers at these events (though the term ‘cosplayer‘ didn’t really come into use until 1984) and where you got the first real divide among fans between heavily edited and dubbed English versions and the original Japanese versions of anime.

On to the 1980s.  Now we have Japanese arcade games and laser disc games coming onto the scene, as well as home video in 1984.  Voltron aired that same year.  Yamoto Con was the first official con in North America.  More magazines, model kits and shows came out during this decade.  You could conceivably come home from school and watch an afternoon of anime shows.  The term ‘Japanimation‘ was first coined in the 80s.  Akira was given a theatrical release in 1989 and that was a pivotal moment.  It was a film that made even the staunchest of critics, the ones who insisted all of this was ‘just for kids’, take notice and realize we had a genuine art form on our hands.

Then the 1990s, when things got even more mainstream.  It was rough for the first part of the decade because of changing economics in both the US and Japan, making it more expensive to buy and produce shows.  Some toy stores went out of business during this time, and despite studios attempting to crack down on them, bootlegged VHS tapes, merchandise and fan dubs were pretty rampant.  But when production costs went down things got much better.  Stations like the Sci Fi Channel, Toonami on the Cartoon Network, YTV and Global were all known for airing anime on television.  Sailor Moon and Pokemon came out during this time and exploded in popularity.  We had anime-inspired movies like The Matrix.  It was starting to take off globally too.Image result for anime meme sailor moon

In the 2000s though, pretty much any barrier that had existed to keep you from getting into anime dissolved.  In the early part of the decade you could still watch stuff on TV and in cable packages.  We had new franchises like Cardcaptors and Mobile Suit Gundam Wing, which was the #1 show on Cartoon Network across all demographics, even with a Japanese theme song (that hadn’t happened before).  DVDs and Blu Rays changed the game, as they took up less space, were often less expensive and could include both subtitles and dubs.

And then came the internet.  Good heavens, the internet.

That brought anime fans together worldwide, and made it so much easier to promote conventions.  Before we had search engines we had websites like Anime Web Turnpike, which listed all the anime-related sites you could visit (back in the days when the internet was small enough you could list certain sites on one page).  Fansites and webcomics exploded.  From 2000 – 2006 there was a huge spike in peer-to-peer file sharing and fan subs.  There was also an explosion of conventions and memes.

Then from 2007 to 2008 there was an anime crash, due to low-quality and much too expensive DVDs causing certain companies to fold, including Bandai.  But what emerges from that?  Crunchyroll.  We now have other online streaming services like Funimation, Netflix and Amazon Prime, often airing their episodes within a few weeks of them airing in Japan, or sometimes the next day.

And that brings us to now.

WHEW!

OK, that was REALLY fast and short, but you get the idea.  Anime in North America has a long and rich history, not just confined to the last couple of decades.  And the main thing to realize now is how much more accessible everything is; we can now watch and discuss these series as they air, which is really cool.

Anything else I left out?  Post away in the comments.  Have a great week Geeklings, and until next time, End of Line.