The Maelstrom Freezes Over

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If you’re a Disney fan, then you saw the news. And if you saw the fan’s response to the news, you would have thought that they announced that the Magic Kingdom was closing. Who knew the Maelstrom had such a large following?

If you don’t follow Disney news the way that I do, let me explain. The Maelstrom, one of two rides in the World Showcase half of Epcot, is about to get a Frozen makeover. In fact, the entire Norway Pavilion is going to be transformed into the fictional kingdom of Arendelle. Not only will the new ride be there but also another permanent place for you to meet the royal sisters.

As a blogger, of course I need to add my two cents, it’s what we do, right?

Honestly, I don’t think it’s as big of a deal as many would like to think. Is Epcot the best place for Frozen to have as a permanent home? No, I don’t think so. It would fit better in Fantasyland. A case could be made connecting the Princess character breakfast that already happens in Norway to the Frozen theme, but its an animated fairytale and those really belong in the Magic Kingdom.

That said, I don’t really understand the sudden wave of support for The Maelstrom. It’s fine as a ride, it’s not the worst ride at Epcot (I’m looking at you Nemo and Friends) but it’s also no where close to the best. It’s very dated and in need of updating. A lot of people are complaining that it doesn’t fit with the philosophy and ideals of Epcot. That may be true, but ideals and philosophy don’t translate into ticket sale as much as they maybe should.

Also, if it helps cut down those multi-hour waits to meet Anna and Elsa at the Magic Kingdom, I’m all for that. When we get to take my daughter, I want her to meet them, but I have no desire to stand in those lines as they are now.

Let’s be completely honest here, Epcot has never been what Walt envisioned it being. Although, if Frozen’s popularity continues to encourage people to visit Norway, maybe this does fit into the overall ideals of what Epcot is about.

What are your thoughts? Are you exciting for the new Frozen ride in Norway or should Disney just let it go (see what I did there?)?

A History of Comic Book Movies, Part 1: When We Believed A Man Could Fly

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The fifties brought us Superman. The sixties brought us Batman. The seventies took comic book heroes to the small screen with Wonder Woman and The Incredible Hulk.

Then came the eighties and with it, the return of Superman.  Superman: The Movie was released in 1978, but its three sequels and one spin off all came out in the eighties.

Honestly, every time I watch these movies, I like them less and less.  The stories just don’t make sense.  Superman seems to have an unlimited arsenal of superpowers from moving time backwards (but only selectively it seems) to making people forget by kissing them (and selectively).  And, at this point, I don’t even really like the character of Superman.  In the first movie, he manipulates Lois’ emotions by playing his Clark Kent persona against his Superman persona.

On the other end of the spectrum, I love Gene Hackman as Lex Luthor. His over-the-top dramatics were a lot of fun and had me smiling at an otherwise bland movie franchise.

That said, I fully appreciate the importance of the Superman movies to the world of Comic Book movies.  For the first time, special effects were at a place where we believed that a man could fly.  No more jumping on hidden trampolines out of windows and being magically transformed into animation while flying.  Even now, I think that the special effects hold up to the test of time, for the most part.

Also released the eighties was DC’s Swamp Thing in 1982.  This movie steered as far away from the normal superhero camp as it could (which, to be honest, was only so far).  Though this movie is largely forgotten, it did bring a resurgence of the character in the comics and heralded the beginning of Alan Moore’s career with DC.  Because of Moore, stories like The Dark Knight Returns and Sandman came about and a new, darker era of comics began.  You could say that while Superman was the beginning of movies like Spider-Man, Fantastic Four and The Avengers; Swamp Thing brought about movies like both Tim Burton and Christopher Nolan’s Batman films as well as Daredevil and the Punisher.

Despite being, in general, not great films, DC still put out 6 films in that ten year span.  What did Marvel do? Howard the Duck.

From the 50’s all the way up through the 90’s, DC’s superheroes dominated the silver screen.  Superman. Batman. Superman again.  And then in the 90’s: Batman again.

Inspiring Storytellers: Ted Dekker

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Dekker has been one of my favorite authors since high school. I really enjoy his suspense/thriller books and his Circle Series is fantastic as well.

He went on a book tour last year to promote his book, Outlaw. It’s rare for him to do a book tour and even rarer for him to come anywhere close to where I live, but this time he came close enough for me to jump at the opportunity.

After standing in line, making small talk with our fellow Dekkies, my wife and I were next in line to meet him. As he signed our books, we continued our small talk with him. At one point, my wife crossed in front of me, some of her hair got caught in the buttons of the shirt I was wearing. So there we are, standing with one of my favorite authors, as he’s freaking out while I’m attempting to unwrap my wife’s hair from my shirt button.

On the one hand, I’m thinking, “Is this real life?”

On the other hand, I’m thinking, “Well, at least he’ll remember me.”

Anything like that ever happen to you?

The Muse Is Not With Me This Week

Know what I’ve done this morning? Got up. Read some Spider-Man comics. Caught up on social media. watched some YouTube videos. Took a shower and otherwise got myself ready for work. Made some coffee. Played some games on the iPad.

Know what I haven’t done this morning? Written. That’s not completely true. I tried writing a post that is currently saved as a draft so that I can go back to it later. And, of course, I’m writing this.

But this whole week, I have struggled to write. For whatever reason, my motivation has gone out the window. I’ve read that you have to write, even when your muse is gone, so that’s why I write this. To have something down. Maybe writing this is what I need to jump start the rest of my writing for the week.

What do you do when you’ve lost your motivation?

Marriage: The One Thing That Stays Dead In Comics

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In the 90’s, Spider-Man went through what is infamously known as “The Clone Saga” in the comics. At its core, it was meant to shake up the Spider-Man mythos, giving writers fresh ideas to play with. Parker was married to MJ at this point and life was going well for him, so they decided to make big changes, including get Peter out of his marriage. That turned out to only be temporary but a few years ago, Peter made a deal with the devil: save his aunt’s life in exchange for the memory of his marriage. Once again, writers wanted to set him free of his “ball and chain.” Peter came out of that as a 30-something who still lives at home with his aunt and can’t keep a job, but he’s not married, so he came out on top, right?

When DC rebooted their entire comic line to “The New 52″ one of the first things to go were the nuptials of DC heroes. Clark and Lois. Barry and Iris. Nobody was married after the reboot. When questioned about that decision phrases like “keeping the story fresh” and “spicing up their love life” were used.

Apparantly, marriage is old and bland.

It’s cheap storytelling. “We’ve written ourselves into a corner. What do we do? Um….retcon.”

Dear Comic Book Writers: it’s not a corner just because they can’t have sex with more than one person. Your stories are not about your characters’ love life. If your character is married, the question shouldn’t be, “How do we ‘spice up his love life’?” It should be, “What does it look like for our hero to have a spouse to come home to?” The tension becomes similar to wives of cops who don’t know if their husbands will come home that night.

Am I the only one who thinks this? Should making marriages magically disappear be the answer to “fresh stories?”

Modern Comics vs. Classic Comics

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I love the Marvel Unlimited app because it gives me access to thousands of comics spanning all the way back to the beginning. Right now, I’m reading through classic Spider-Man, because he’s been one of my favorite heroes since I was a kid and it’s a lot of fun. As I’m reading them, I can’t help but compare these comics with the modern ones that I read.

First of all, I am amazed at how much story they can fit into one issue. Peter can have two story lines running at the same time (one as Peter and one as Spider-Man) and the villain can have his own story as well. Modern comics wouldn’t be caught dead doing that these days. These days, they focus on drawing the story out in to five or six issues doing what is called “writing for the trade.” They write stories for the purpose of turning them into collected editions or trade paperbacks. This bothers me because I feel like we’re essentially paying more money for less story.

On the other hand, there is more of an emphasis on the art of the comic books these days, which I like. The Spider-Man comics that I’m reading right now are so wordy. The text bubbles can take up most of a panel and every panel has text in it. This leaves little room for more than a characters head sometimes, but in modern comics, you can go whole pages with no text except the occasional sound word.

I would love to find a happy medium here, where we can still appreciate the art in the comics, but also get more substantial stories in each issue rather than slowly spreading it out over five or six issues.

The other thing I’ve noticed about these comics is how small the stories are. The world is not about to end in every issue. Instead there are villains who have their own personal agendas, none of which are to start the apocalypse. Stories like this still happen in comics, but the emphasis these days is on preventing the end of the world.

This isn’t a criticism per-say, though. I do like the smaller, more personal stories, but historically, comics have been at their best when they reflect the culture around them. During WW II, they focused on war stories, in the 60’s it was all about the next wave of technology (which is why characters from that era were products of science experiments gone wrong). These days, there is an ever growing paranoia of the impending apocalypse and I think that comics are just reflecting that. That said, it is nice to read stories where the world isn’t about to end.

Which do you prefer, modern comics or older comics?