Editorial 38: A New Thing

So, the past five months have not been great. I do not want to get into it too much, but back in December, a very close friend of mine broke my heart. It felt like a whole part of my life just ended, like a death in the family. As much as I have tried to move on, I have not felt the same since. I have a real job and I am arguably in a better place as of now, but I do not feel any different. I am still empty.

Usually, to get out of an emotional rut, you take anti-depressants or focus on your work. I am not filthy millennial, so pills are not a practical solution in my eyes. However, my writing has been stagnating as of late. There are less and less new movies I actually want to see and the ones I do are spread weeks apart. My last review was Infinity War and while waiting for Deadpool 2, I have seen it three times. I was going to write about Internet Blood Sports until the entire establishment imploded on itself. I could not find any motivation to write and I have no idea why. Sometimes I go back to what inspired me if I ever need help putting pen to paper, but even that did not help.

After a lot of thinking, I decided to do something new and different. I have been working on a follow up to my book Back to Valhalla. It is not a sequel, but a new story entirely. My plan was to go through the usual routine of publishing and releasing it sometime towards the end of the year. However, given what I am trying to do and my lack of motivation, I am going to release the story chapter by chapter on here, once a week.

As of writing this, I am halfway through writing the completed work. A small portion is a draft while the other is rougher than sex with a paint shaker. Obviously I have a ways to go, including getting a cover artist, and copyrighting the story. I cannot say when I will release the first chapter, but be on the look out in the near future.

Editorial 37: Muh Domino

Like Bryan Singer and Holocaust porn I am obsessed with how Fox ruined the X-Men. Other than X-Force, I never cared for that part of Marvel Comics. They never clicked with me, but when it comes to the X-Men movies, I am like a hardcore fan. The MCU set a standard that was not only achievable and infinitely more appealing than what was the norm until 2008. When I look at what Fox has done in comparison, I am dumbfounded they cannot grasp basic aesthetic and tonal concepts that would vastly improve the films. And while the man responsible is more or less out of the picture, the bleak seriousness of the Singer-Verse persists and it has affected one of my favorite characters.

Prepare for some high quality autism.

Domino is a mutant with the power of probability manipulation, a passive ability where she creates her own luck. It happens in random, small bursts where she will hit a target via ricochet or score big at the tables. In terms of character, there are a lot of places you can take the idea of a person who basically gets whatever they want. Based on what has been written, Dom is a fun-loving free spirit, living life fast and loose as one of Marvel’s many mercenaries. She is a great action character and her premiere cinematic incarnation in Deadpool 2 (DP2) looks like pure dog shit.

Before I get into: no, it is not because the actress is black. Zazie Beetz is pretty good on Atlanta and I have hope she will do Dom justice. However, whoever picked her make-up and outfit should lose their job forever. DP2-Dom looks like a cross between a spinster stuck in the 70s and an extra from a Mad Max rip-off like Land of Doom. If there were ever a time and place for Singer-Verse tight leather, it would have been perfect for Dom. Instead we get a failed Black Widow cosplay made by someone who is colorblind. There are blue patches on the sides, a flesh-colored stripe down the middle that was clearly unnecessary, and lots of dirt-stained vinyl.

DP2-Dom is a microcosm of the problems with Fox’s X-Men. It is devoid of class and style and reeks of embarrassment. The people that make these movies hate the material and do everything they can to distance themselves from the comics. There were moments when the X-Men films embraced their origin. X-Men First Class was a step in the right direction and Deadpool could not have been better. DP2 looked like it was keeping up the momentum until I saw what they did to muh Domino.

There is a lot that goes into character design in comics. First and foremost is the color scheme. Everything has to match and look good on the page. You can have a terrible looking costume and make it great with the right choice of color. I am not a fan of Wolverine’s traditional outfit, but the use of color makes him look awesome. The same can be said for Mitch Gerads’ Punisher with a combination of tan, black, and white. What matters is how color is arranged into the character design. The MCU understands this and translates the costumes directly from the page to screen.

Like other characters Dom has a simple three-color combination. This changes depending on the artist, but the usual scheme is ash-white, black-blue, and black. The arrangement of color is typical Marvel character design, particularly in regards to the X-Men. If you need to make a ton of different mutants, easiest way to do it is change their skin color, hair color, or put some weird marks on their faces. In Dom’s case she has a giant blue-black spot over her left eye and ash-white skin. Her lips and hair are also blue-black, giving her a geisha look that was common among 90s era characters. The black in Dom’s design lies in her costume, though this changes between artists.

Most Marvel characters are visually striking, but what sets Dom apart is her high contrast. Her color scheme is heterochromatic with intense light and dark shades, allowing her features pop. Her emotions are clear as day thanks to her blue-black lips and her left eye practically glows surrounded by her signature spot. The high contrast also makes Dom aesthetically pleasing. Her features are not too busy or outlandish. She is beautifully simple and stands out among the Marvel pantheon with little to no effort. I would go so far as to say her design belongs up there with the likes of Captain America and Iron Man.

So, what did DP2 do to Dom? They gave her a gaudy ‘fro, did not paint her skin, and put some white shit around her eye. I gather the thought process behind the make-up was to add contrast based on the actress’ natural skin tone. However, the tone of white they used does not pop enough to qualify as contrast. The spot should have matched her hair or a darker color that would have stood out. Muted is the operative word here because nothing about DP2 Dom’s design pops. I also have no clue why they went with a fugly-ass ‘fro that would be impractical in a gunfight. It is more of target than a hairdo.

I can just feel the laziness in her design. No one bothered to paint her in the standard colors. I understand if Zazie Beetz did not want to be painted; Jennifer Lawrence hated being Mystique so much, she was barely in full make-up. If it is so irritating wearing body paint, then why are so many actors in the MCU okay with it? From what I know, Michael Rooker, Karen Gillan, and almost everyone else in the Guardians movies wear body paint without complaint. It is not even that much: just the face and hands. That is all Dom needs unless she is wearing something other than her costume. It is so easy and I cannot believe the make-up department was that lazy.

A faithful incarnation of Domino would have not only been easy to pull off, but fit perfectly in line with Deadpool 2. Again, this is not a matter of casting choice; this is all about aesthetics and the continuous failure of Fox to shake the (allegedly) pedophilic stench of Bryan Singer from their X-Men. I am going to see Infinity War this week and I hope, when Thanos uses the Infinity Gauntlet, he merges the MCU with the Singer-Verse and erases it in favor of something to be proud of.

Editorial 36: I Built a Thing III

I apologize for the recent lack of content. I have been pretty busy this past weekend at a book fair, shilling my story, and hanging with friends. Furthermore, nothing came out that really struck my fancy. Red Sparrow looked like another boring spy movie, Death Wish was a remake, and A Wrinkle in Time was clearly not made for me. This week shows promise and I have another Netflix review in the works. In the meantime, I built a thing.

I am of the opinion that every movie, book, and videogame is an experiment by creators. Rather than do the same thing over and over, they attempt something new with follow-up projects and sequels. Whether it is to test new mechanics or challenge themselves, experimentation in the arts is key to future success. When I decided to start building scutums, I went through trial and error to nail down a process that produced the best results. Even after I succeeded I knew I could do more and change up the formula to make it better.

There were a number of elements I wanted to address with this new Centurion Scutum (CS): weight, handling, appearance, and painting. With the commission I was given after my first, I found using thinner panels cut down on the total weight and made the shield easy to carry. However, I used fence slats that were 4” wide, which made them 1.5” bigger than the cross beams holding them together. The steps on the beams are 2.5, leaving enough room for overlap, thus more protection. More overlap made the panels flimsy because they do not have enough support from the beams. I should have double pinned them to the steps, but there was a risk of cracking the beams. Instead I made sure to cover the steps in extra glue to secure the panels.

To solve this problem I decided to make the new panels 3” wide. On top of that, I wanted to give the CS a curve and the top and bottom. I do not know if it is historically accurate, but I borrowed the design from the show Rome where Verinus and other Centurions used a curved variant of the scutum. The problem was the segmented design would throw off the curve. Because they are staggered across the beams on the steps, the line of the curve would break between each panel.

This was partly why I elected to paint the scutums after assembly rather than before. I knew if I applied a pattern on the panels laid flat, the inside edges would be hidden by the overlap, covering an otherwise complete design. Because this new shield was an experiment, I elected to test this theory. I also added a laurel crown around the eagle and reversed the blue/white color scheme. I was inspired to make white the primary color from a painting of Caesar in combat on foot, which he did on occasions like at Pharsalus. Apparently the painting was of the Battle of Alesia, but I do not know if Caesar was actually with his men during the final battle.

After assembly I took account of the results. The curve was inconsistent, but only at the two side panels and not to the extreme I suspected. One problem I found was the pattern. Not only were the designs broken up across the panels, parts of each one were hidden under the panels or too far apart to look correct. All that survived was the thunderbolts, eagle, and SPQA. The stars and laurel were more or less destroyed. Lastly, the total weight of the CS was significantly reduced at the cost of making it smaller. It could still provide adequate cover, but a little more would have been better.

With these failures I have learned a lot. I feel more confident about painting, determined the proper size of panels, and I now know that I can make a curved variant that does not look terrible. Moving forward I understand more about the construction process. There is always room for improvement and I cannot wait until I am inspired to try something different again.

(Muh book: http://a.co/gR6nlr7)

Editorial 35: I Built a Thing II

For about a year and a half, my parents have been building an apartment in the back of their house. With all the construction, they ended up with a surplus of scrap wood that I collected for future use. As the months went by the wood remained in a pile taking up space. I am not one for being an inconvenience, but I could not think of what to do with the material until I found inspiration.

If you read my book “Back to Valhalla” (check it out (http://a.co/bTui8sN)) you  can tell I am a fan of Vikings and Norse Mythology. I find their way of life and beliefs fascinating. Their morality and concept of heaven hinged upon dying in battle and most of the Norse Pantheon are personifications of war. I would not have written a book about it were it not awesome.

However, when it comes to rating warrior cultures, the Romans take the cake. Their training, tactics, and impact on the world are a treasure trove of military history. For such an antiquated period, Rome had the most modern conception of an army. They had a salary, unit organization, and equipment designed to be as efficient as possible when meeting a foe.

The most important piece of equipment was the shield called a scutum. It was cumbersome and awkward, but was an essential component in the legionary’s arsenal. It was so effective at crowd control when up against groups of hostiles that police riot shields take after the scutum. Next to the late Imperial Era body armor, the Roman shield is iconic, and I wanted to build one.

For practical use or otherwise, I wanted to make a scutum. Maybe I would use it at a protest to bash Antifa thugs in the teeth or for exercise; I did not have plan. My only concern was putting one together. After two first attempts I did not bother documenting because I was embarrassed, I figured out a system to put build a scutum that was functional and semi-faithful to the original design.

The first problem was the curve. Your standard Roman shield is rounded plywood, but I did not have sheets that size or the tools to bend it into shape. To compensate, I made a stencil for two curved crossbeams to hold panels or fence slats to simulate the curve. To protect the user I settled on a shape and length to hold nine panels between 2.5” to 4” wide. I also took an artistic liberty and made the beams with ½” steps in a fashion similar to a Viking long ship.

Next came assembly. The beams were positioned nine inches from the top and bottom ends of the panels and pinned with shaven chopsticks. I wanted to use bolts, but 22 metal bolts with nuts can be expensive and one of my goals was to use materials that were already available. The pins were also glued in place with expanding epoxy. The carry handle was placed at the center on the third and seventh panels with two pins. Once the glue was dry the panels were sanded down.

The final step was painting and I cannot paint to save my life. Using stencils I drew beforehand, I had a better time of it. I also learned to never touch spray paint ever again. Scutums were usually pained red and gold, but I wanted the shield to look contemporary. Many argue America is the new Rome, so I decided my shield should reflect that sentiment. After masking off the gaps from the back, I settled on a dark blue field with gold trim.

Borrowing from history for the main design, I picked a Roman eagle perched atop the acronym SPQA. Originally it was SPQR, “Senatus Populusque Romanus” or “The Senate and People of Rome.” Latin Nazis will correct me, but in my case I switched “Romanus” with “Americanus” to fit the contemporary aesthetic. Beneath that I added a pair of thunderbolts and crowned the whole thing with 13 stars, representing the original American Colonies.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Weight and handling aside, I was very happy with the end result. I finally figured out how to build a semi-faithful scutum while making it artistic. Whether it would be useful in a riot or reenactment remains to be seen, but I feel good knowing I accomplished something.

I shared my work on social media and people were more or less impressed. A friend of mine wanted one and I could not help but oblige. Being of short stature she did not want the scutum to weigh a lot and requested I paint a Gorgon head on the front in reference to the Aegis of Athena. To capture the detail of the design, I drew out a Gorgon on paper, and traced the lines onto the wood with a thick piece of wire. I then followed the indention with white paint across five panels. After finishing the design I went back to touch it up.

 

 

 

 

 

 

My friend and I settled on a price for my effort and I am working on getting the shield to her in the near future. I really enjoyed building these scutums and I want to make more. If you like my work and want your own, please use my email below. If you want a design other than a scutum or a particular color scheme, I would be willing to work with you. Prices may vary depending on labor and transportation required.

Thank you.

Email: charliemac92@gmail.com

Editorial 34: The Great Marvel Purge

Following the Russian Revolution, Joseph Stalin began consolidating power in what became known as the Great Purge. Military officers, prominent Bolshevik actors, and political dissidents among the citizenry were executed or sent to the gulag. Leon Trotsky, a major figure in Marxist Theory, fled to Mexico where he was assassinated in 1940. It is believed that 1.7 million were killed and several others erased from history. After Stalin’s death, his successor Nikita Khrushchev condemned the Purge and spent his time in office releasing prisoners and clearing names from one of Russia’s darkest moments in history. Marvel Comics is having its own Great Purge and I could not be happier.

The politicization of entertainment has persisted for about three years now. Creators and committees have infected movies, videogames, and comics with politics and PC dogma. Left leaning opinions, fake diversity, and anti-Right sentiments can be found in a variety of media. There were the casting choices of Rogue One and Star Trek: Discovery, the Social Justice takeover of MTV, and lionization of fictional characters based on race and gender. You cannot escape politics because it is everywhere. What we used to forget the world is now a constant reminder.

Of course, I appear bias in my assessment. I have on several occasions made jokes at the expense of Democrats, Blue-Hairs, and Post-Modernists. I imagine you think if more media leaned Right I would be satisfied, but you are very wrong. Politicization from any side of the isle would be ignored, regardless if I agree or not. I consume entertainment to be entertained. I will not watch, play or read pro-gun or pro-capitalist media because I do not need a reminder that both those things are awesome. If I wanted propaganda, I would seek out propaganda. I want to be entertained and I almost gave up on Marvel Comics because I was not being entertained.

Following Jonathan Hickman’s exceptional Secret Wars event, the Marvel universe was reset. This is nothing new as events are a chance for comic publishers to realign their continuity and introduce new stories. At the start of 2016 Marvel Comics began to trickle out a host of books with a twist. Familiar characters were changed in terms of gender, race, and put in new situations. Again, this is standard practice and no one had a problem with any of the changes. I was interested to see how Falcon would fare as Captain America, Iron Man as a 15 year-old black girl, and Jane Foster as Thor.

And then people started reading these books.

Most of the titles I am about to mention I have not read. Comics are an expensive hobby depending on how many you pick up. Thanks to politicization, however, the number of titles I buy can be counted on one hand. I knew ahead of time what to avoid and have enough information to explain why these books have been excised from the roster. The following three stories are no longer in circulation or the characters have changed writers since my reading.

My first experience with politicization was the “Unsolicited opinions on Israel” line in Angela: Queen of Hel. The titular heroin encounters the character Bor who spouts off insults. His dialog is blacked out with descriptors like “A lot of misogynist filth” and “Red Pill MRA meninist casual racism” written over them in white. What the author is trying to say is male characters opposed to a female hero are motivated by misogyny. It has nothing to do with having different beliefs or conflicting ideologies. It is just good old fashion sexism.

The biggest perpetrator of politicization was Nick Spencer’s run of two Captain America books. Aside from his blatant misunderstanding of the character (a trend among these hacks), Spencer used his position to sermonize Progressive politics. Rather than continue where Steve Rogers left off, Sam Wilson was made into a “crowd-funded hero” beholden to the community. There are themes of the plight of the African American, Wilson questioning if Rogers actually stood for the people, and a villainous group called the Americops (how subtle). Spencer also made the new Steve Rogers Captain America an agent of Hydra, leading into the failed Secret Empire event that was an allegory for the election of Donald Trump.

There were many more examples of politicization, but I had the good sense to avoid them. However, there were others who bought these books just to criticize them on YouTube. Thanks to Diversity & Comics, Razorfist, and Micah Curtis, I have more than enough information to make my point. I am only scratching the surface because there is a lot more to this problem than bad stories. The following books have both political elements and show symptoms of the greater disease.

America follows the exploits of America Chavez, a dimension hopper. Seen in Young Avengers and the new Ultimates, America is a decent character with an interesting power set and attitude that sets her apart. In her own book, she was narrowed down to being gay, brown, and a vindictive bitch.

Carol Danvers, Captain Marvel, was my new favorite hero until she was not. The character had a decent run with writer Kelly Sue Deconnick. When Deconnick left the mainstream, Carol was given the illusion of depth in a new book. She caused the Civil War II event and was put in command of Alpha Flight, but rather than explore how this affected her character, Carol was relegated to sitcom antics and sermonized about refugees. Good idea, author Margaret Stohl. Take a former Air Force captain with superpowers and put her in the Big Bang Theory.

Iceman is about X-Man Bobby Drake being gay. That is it.

Mighty Thor is about Jane Foster becoming the new god of thunder after Thor’s fall from grace. I actually did not have a problem with this change. I wanted to mention it because someone reading this might wonder why I did not include it. There was one line about feminism, but I think it was isolated and everyone just overreacted. Jason Aaron remains one of Marvel’s best writers.

After Civil War II, Riri Williams, a 15 year-old wunderkind, replaced Tony Stark as Iron Man. Her characteristics include being a girl, black, and borderline sociopathic. Her friends and family coddle her and always say she is a genius. As a result, Riri is a Mary Sue who is not allowed to experience conflict because some people might get offended a person of color can be a character.

And that is what I am trying to get at.

None of these books and characters has anything to them. They have been boiled down to basic traits that a minority of a minority of people will care about. Do you think anyone gives a shit that America Chavez is gay or Carol Danvers has a vagina? Nobody reads comics for the superficial. I did not read Captain America or Invincible Iron Man because the characters were straight white men. I read them because they were cool stories. Comic readers want narratives that put the characters through their paces, but I guess we are not good enough to see them struggle. What could be interesting and a great read is nonexistent because these characters are not allowed to work hard. They are special snowflakes and must be praised for doing nothing because we do not want to make someone sad.

Oh no!

The lead-up to the Great Marvel Purge is not a lesson in avoiding politicization, but in miscalculation. In an attempt to appeal to Blue-Hairs, Marvel Comics alienated its core audience. They transformed beloved characters into sock-puppets for Z-tier authors to prove their Gender Studies degree was worth becoming a debt slave. The people Marvel has tried to appease do not read comics. They are two-dimensional thinkers and accept the superficial over depth and complexity. They prefer simplicity, a character narrowed down to their skin color and whom they like inside of them. Blue-Hairs, Soy-Boys, and Post-Modernists care only for what fits their basic and illogical criteria, disparaging the normal or anything that questions their sensibilities.

And Marvel learned the hard way that such thinking does not sell comics.

Following the departure of Editor-in-Chief Axel Alonso, his replacement CB Cebulski looked at the monthly sales figures of Marvel’s books. It was clear that politicized and/or underperforming stories were not meeting their quota to warrant continuation. Cebulski had not choice but to pull the trigger. In early December it was announced that America, Iceman, Luke Cage, Hawkeye, She-Hulk, Gwenpool, and Generation X were cancelled. Some of the writers took to social media to express their dismay. Gabby Rivera, the writer of America, chose to have a tantrum instead.

It is unclear if other books will last through 2018. Only the numbers can say and it is not looking good. As of November 2017, Champions, a political lite book sold 21 thousand copies, Captain Marvel 15, and Ms. Marvel, a pro-Muslim book that used to be good sold 15 thousand. There is no better proof of the failure of politicization than the numbers; no emotion behind it; just plain facts.

Blue-Hairs, Soy-Boys, and Post-Modernists do not operate on fact. They think based on feelings and seeing books they never read cancelled drives them into a frenzy. They do not care about real art with nuance and complexity because it does not fit their worldview. They prefer the obvious, relish the simple, and cherish superficiality. To them, a character is not defined by who they are and a story is not conflict. To them, a character is what they are and a story is meant to reaffirm that the character is perfect in every way. All you get with that kind of thinking is failure and Marvel Comics has a long way to go before it can recover.

I am not one to praise a communist, but I am sure Stalin had only Russia’s best interests in mind when he slaughtered millions. I am being sarcastic, of course. The man was a paranoid psychopath who was desperate to hold onto power. As a writer, I cannot imagine what the authors and artists of those cancelled books must be going through. They probably devoted every waking hour to planning out issue after issue to fit within the limits of the medium. Believe me, that is hard work, and it was all for naught. Thousands of words and hundreds of pages of art will be lost in the Great Marvel Purge. They will be remembered as a tragic misstep in the publisher’s history to remind us what happens when you stop caring about telling good stories. I should feel bad for those artists and writers, but as Malcolm McDowell once said, “They started the fire; they can burn in it.”

(Muh book: http://a.co/gR6nlr7)

Editorial 32: Vacation

As the title suggests, I will be gone for a couple weeks. I am taking a break from writing to focus on personal stuff. For that reason, I will not be able to review Thor: Ragnarok, much to my dismay. However, I will be seeing Last Jedi in December; bought the ticket and everything.

To be clear, I am not doing this because I have given up on writing reviews, given my sparse posting as of late. I can assure you, if movies I actually wanted to see came out once a week, I would post a review for each one. Please pardon the inconvenience.

I will be back.

Editorial 31: I Built a Thing

Jordan Peterson is a professor of psychology at the University of Toronto and the most red-pilled Canadian in existence. I will not get into the man’s politics for fear of losing friends, but he has a lot to say in regards to subjects of the social/cultural persuasion. During his time in the Internet spotlight, the meme “Clean Your Room” was born. Peterson explains the act is a form of meditation, fixing what is out of order. It means get yourself together, stop lying, and come to terms with reality.

I like to think I have a decent head on my shoulders, but he makes a point. Everyone requires some sort of re-orientation. Chaos can only get you so far before you need order to redress the balance. When I discovered this meme, it just so happened I needed to clean my whole apartment because I am getting a roommate. I also took advice from a friend to cut down on clutter, of which I had a lot. And while I was throwing things out or moving them into boxes, I discovered a surplus of cardboard sitting in my closet.

I was inspired by ComicBookGirl19 when she made a full RoboCop costume entirely out of carboard. I figured I could do that myself and hoarded the material from boxes. After doing nothing with this hoard for years, I finally found the desire to build. As I was replaying Fallout 4 for the first time in a while, I wanted to build an Automatic Laser Rifle (ALR).

In terms of scale I went off of an old BB gun I had lying around. It is the size of an M4 and close to a standard scale rifle. Each piece was made from single parts of cardboard. I cut them out according to grain and made lines to help them bend without compromising integrity.

I ended up with five pieces: the receiver, rotor, barrel, handguard, and buttstock. The top pieces were connected by a skewer running through the middle before they were glued together. I wanted the rotor to spin, but the way the ALR was assembled made it impossible. Once they were glued, I attached the handguard and buttstock before spraying the whole thing in black Plasti Dip for added sturdiness.

The finished weapon came out bigger than I planned. Instead of a rifle used by a foot soldier, it was the size of a Mosin Nagant, a very long bolt action. Given the complex shapes and balance, the length made it totally impractical. Unless you were a giant no ordinary human could use it.

That being said, I saw this failure as a stepping-stone to success. I learned how to build it, the dimensions of each component, and developed its second incarnation. As of now I am adjusting measurements and selecting the material I will be using. Whatever may come of this next endeavor I will make mention in another post.