The Life & Times of an Auteur.

Commentary on Pop Culture, and maybe creating some of my own.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Being On the Outside

It's kind of funny when you think about it. I've always felt a little bit outside the mainstream. But as a geek and nerd, we're all outside the mainstream in ways, but I've always felt outside the mainstream there as well. I don't mean to sound like a hipster, that is not something I'm trying to do, none of this was conscious, but here we are.

In terms of science fiction, the two big franchises are "Star Wars" and "Star Trek" and while I have enjoyed both on occasion, neither of them do anything for me on a personal level. I watch something "Trek" related maybe once every three years. While "Star Wars" is something I feel I am going out of my way to avoid at this point. Give me "Babylon 5" any day over that schlock.

In terms of animation, the two biggest action franchises have to be Transformers and Bruce Timm and Alan Burnett's DCAU. Now, I loved Transformers as a kid, but I can't see myself ever watching a G1 episode again unless I plan to rip into it for a review (I just don't like 80's cartoons. At all). Now I did love "Beast Wars" and at some point I'll re-visit that, an Animated was fun. While I will admit that "Prime" has improved since its pilot, it's still one of the blandest cartoons I have ever watched; and don't get me started on Bay's movies. But, I'm at the point where, you know what, if it's based on a Hasbro toy property, I have no desire to watch it.

The DCAU is something I have a complex relationship with. I love "Batman the Animated Series," but hate "The New Batman Adventures." I love the Darkseid episodes of "Superman TAS" but 90% of the rest of that series is just too hokey and corny for me. The first season of "Justice League" and last season of "Justice League Unlimited" are both garbage in my eyes, although I love a lot of what came between. And as for "Batman Beyond," well, you don't want my opinion on that.

And then there are comic books, well, I can't say I'm outside of the mainstream there, for years I read Marvel's core books. But I guess I'm on my way. Superhero comics and I are a hair away from being done with each other professionally. My favorite comic book of all time is "Lucifer" and my favorite recent comic book is "Kill Shakespeare," which engages with me more than any superhero comic book ever did.

I have a weird relationship with fantasy. I love "The Lord of the Rings," and I like what little I've seen of "Game of Thrones." But it's not a genre I usually seek out. Although, I think "The Dresden Files" are brilliant. As far as LOTR go, I just am a sucker for classics, and always have been.

In terms of movies, I still love Nolan's Dark Knight Trilogy and most of Marvel Cinema's output, but you will never see me say any of these are Best Picture material. But then, my favorite film of all time is "Casablanca" so I don't believe I'm outside the mainstream there. I don't know.

I'm not saying mainstream is bad, I don't want to say that, I don't even think it. But as far as my geek hobbies go, I find that very little of what is considered mainstream geek culture strikes that personal chord with me. But one thing I do know about myself, and again, this is not a conscious decision, but the more likely something is made to appeal to a wider group of people, the less I am likely to find personal enjoyment in it. Or rather, I love "Pulp Fiction" and I despise "Forrest Gump."

But, I'll always find something to enjoy. My friends know me, know my tastes, and are always recommending something new to me. Sometimes it has mass appeal, sometimes it doesn't. But most of the time it will strike that personal chord.


  1. Did you know Greg Weisman is writing for TF prime season 3? Plus, you've got Michael Ironside as Ultra Magnus.

    1. Yes, I was aware. Doesn't mean I care much.

  2. I would be curious for your opinion on "Batman Beyond." After all, you put it on your top 20 animated series 3 years ago.

    1. That's a fair question, to be honest, I don't know. It's a well produced show, but at the same time, it's such a blatant Spider-Man ripoff that I have a feeling that were Bruce Timm's name not on this, more people would have called it out. I love Timm's work, but he seems to have a "Get out of jail free" card with overall fandom when it comes to this sort of thing.

      The new villains were mostly lame, the character relationships went no where, the executive influence was obvious.... I hate Max especially.

      It wasn't all bad. The Mr. Freeze and Ra's al Ghul episodes were brilliant, and when it was on, it was on. But....

      Well... once upon a time, I thought Naraku was a cool villain. People change. If that answer sounds like a cop out, I apologize, but it's the only honest one I have.

    2. That's cool. I once made a list of my favorite films in 2004 when I was 20 and then reviewed it recently and half of those were "What was I thinking?!" I appreciate your answer.

    3. I still don't see the Spider-Man ripoff angle. I mean yeah teenagers in high school who fight crime gives it a similarity, but the characters are substancially different that I can't get behind the ripoff notion.

      1. Terry was pretty much a punk in his Pre-Batman days compared to Peter who was looked at in a more favorable light by his teachers, his aunt and his uncle.

      2. Unlike Peter who had to grow out of his shell to get the (positive) attention of girls overall, Terry actually had a girlfriend from the get go, with the only real problem dating wise is his time as Batman.

      3. Look at the early episodes of The Spectacular Spider-Man for an example, but you know how Pete had to play weak nerd at times (especially because attacking a normal guy with his Spider Strength could injure said guy)? Terry doesn't have that same hang up, as his enhanced strength comes from his batsuit. Heck, Terry isn't even, nor has he been a nerd.

      4. And frankly I think this is a pretty big difference, but from the beginning, Terry is continuing the work of an established hero (Peter created his own identity afterall). Not to mention that Terry had a father figure in Bruce shortly after his father was killed (which Peter wouldn't have until George Stacy).

      Oh I don't think Batman Beyond is perfect. I mean Season 2 went into overkill with the high school stories, which even then lacked the edge that the better stories (High School and otherwise had).

      And arguably, had there been a Timm show that could have worked with a more serialized approach, with a more changing status quo, it would be the show which didn't wasn't as heavily based on an existing comic (at the time anyway).

      But among the flaws, I don't see how it's a blatent ripoff as you put it aside from them being high school students.

    4. I never really put the whole Spider-Man/Batman Beyond connection together before until I saw Greg’s post which called it “until Spectacular Spider-Man, the best Spider-Man show.” I’m paraphrasing what Greg said, but I think I got it mostly right. When I first read it, I had a small lol, because I could see some superficial similarities.

      I don’t want to stir passionate debate. I certainly agree there are many differences. But I have been thinking of the similarities of Spider-Man and the Terry McGinnis Batman.

      1)Flippant attitude. Joking while fighting. Very Spider-Man.
      2)His Bat-rope shoots out from his costume on his wrists.
      3)His suit enables him to climb and adhere to walls.
      4)The suit gave him greater agility/strength which he incorporated into his fighting style.
      5)He’s capeless like Spider-Man
      6)He lived with his mother, reminiscent of the Spider-Man/Aunt May maternal relationship.
      7) Conflicts dealing with the superhero/secret identity life often resulted in misunderstandings and hurt feelings to those who weren’t privy to his secret. More reminiscent of Spider-Man than Batman.
      8)Terry was led to believe it was his actions (antagonizing a certain Jokerz gang) that led to the death of his father, the way Spider-Man was indirectly responsible for his uncle’s death by failing to stop murderer during an earlier robbery.
      9)Nelson Nash is pretty much a Flash Thompson archetype.
      10)The full face mask---OK, here I’m just being desperate.

    5. Nelson Nash is a Flash archetype without any of the humanity.

      Also his rogues gallery is very similar, too. Derek Powers is definitely a Norman Osborn type, who is succeeded by his less competent yet slimy son (even though he and Terry aren't friends).

      Spellbinder is very much like Mysterio.

      Shriek is a lot like Shocker.

      Stalker is so blatantly Kraven the Hunter it's not even funny.

    6. Concerning Spellbinder and Mysterio, there are villains who love money; except for their abilities, I wouldn't exactly say they're the same.

  3. I think that the DCAU is very much of it's time. It's got some great 90s era writing, but beyond that it doesn't reach the "timeless classic" stage like BTAS or Gargoyles do. They're good but not as great as the fandom believes since they've put it on the highest pedestal they could find.

    Generally I do like some well done 'hokey and corny' stuff, things that are nice and fun. I'm probably one of the few people that like the Mystery of the Batwoman DTV for that reason (though very low expectations and a 97p price tag helped). So even though I find some of the modern shows better than the post-BTAS DCAU I still love seeing these shows.

    I'm kinda tempted to do a DCAU retrospective for my site now.

  4. I suppose you wouldn't be a fan of Doctor Who then.

  5. And yet you can't say return of the joker wasn't great. Its definitely chilling and Big J scared me as a kid. This show is a product of its time and as a fan that likes to keep his batman seperate from the other DC universe (DCAU never sat completely right with me. Didn't fit with the overall tone of BAS) it was nice to revisit this nasty brooding Gotham again.

    It also answered the question of batman's ultimate fate: Bruce Wayne will run himself to the ground and become an old man, alone. Its tragic but its just what's right for the character. If this show did anything it got bruce wayne right.

    Bet you didn't expect to get a batman beyond discussion going did you greg?

    1. No, I did not. Can't say I wanted it either.

      Yes, "Return of the Joker" was very good. But "Mask of the Phantasm" was better.

  6. Your interests do align with the geek mainstream: you love Marvel Comics, Cowboy Bebop, Lord of the Rings, and plenty of other things lots of nerds like. I can't say your interests have ever struck me as obscure or markedly different from the rest of us.

    Also, a lot of works that get aggressively popular and seem to be calculated for wide appeal are just as much the product of someone who simply *wanted* to make a story and told the story they wished to, as the most independent and challenging works are.

    I can't see a hard-and-fast distinction between "works made to appeal to the author" and "works made to appeal to a mass audience from the start", especially made on the basis of how challenging or intelligent they are. Sometimes pap is just what comes out of a person's brain factory.

    So yeah, I think you have good taste, but I've always seen you as part of the geek mainstream. Just that you don't like *every* major geek work under the sun. I don't, either.

  7. Interesting. This post reminds me of an essay I read in film course written by somebody that had said part of their fun with stuff they watched was that they enjoyed going off the beaten path. Thinking about these makes me feel somewhat guilty, not only do I often avoid going off the beaten path, I'm not very good at grasping subtly in any shape or form and mostly just care about how much entertainment I get. I'm somebody that honestly doesn't care about classic literature, and isn't afraid to bash it, and would rather watch films by Mel Brooks. Sorry if talking about myself is something you'd rather not hear about.

  8. Funny. My interests are varied as well, whether they be mainstream or not.

    I've seen some of the original "Star Trek" and "The Next Generation", as well as some "Star Trek" movies. It's okay. "The Wrath Of Khan" was (obviously) the best thing that ever came out of the franchise. With "Star Wars", I only REALLY like the original trilogy. My feelings on the prequel trilogy is actually mixed, and I despise most of the expanded universe and all the "Clone Wars" crap that's been coming out. And my opinion of George Lucas is really low as well.

    Alas, I have not yet seen "Babylon 5." Some day, though...

    I really don't care about "Transformers" as a franchise, aside from the occasional enjoyment of the shows you mentioned. And I too think the DCAU beyond BTAS is waaaay overrated by it's fans. It's really a mixed bag when you look at it closely.

    IMO, the dark age of comics never really ended. I'm surprised it's taken you this long to consider being done with superhero comics.

    Everyone ought to love Tolkien's work, and I'd recommend seeing more of "Game Of Thrones" because it's for the most part really good. Or it was, at least.

    Wait, didn't you once say "The Dark Knight" WAS the best movie of it's year but didn't get a nomination?

    1. "Wait, didn't you once say "The Dark Knight" WAS the best movie of it's year but didn't get a nomination?"

      Considering I thought "The Wrestler" was 2008's best movie, probably not.

  9. "However, the film that should have won Best Picture wasn't even nominated. Yes, "The Dark Knight" got snubbed, as did Christopher Nolan."

    Your exact words. Maybe it was before you saw "The Wrestler"?

    1. Ah yeah, I tend to confuse 2007 and 2008's movies a lot. I was in film school those years so they blur.

      Dark Knight was better than most of that year's Best Picture nominees, but 2008 was a weak year for movies. Very weak.

  10. But "There Will Be Blood" was the best picture of 2007, remember? Like "Lincoln", it didn't win the award, but at least Daniel won the one he deserved for it.

    2008 also had Iron Man. Not as good as Dark Knight, but still very solid.

  11. groovy. A fellow dresden fan. And I never did catch the spiderman connection to batman beyond. It wasn't a bad show.