Monday, September 21, 2009

A Shocking Move!


Why, you ask?

A few weeks of regular posting have paid off for me. The powers that be at Pop Culture Shock have taken notice and offered me an exclusive million dollar contract for the privilege of hosting new No Cure For Comics content on their site!

Okay, I made up the million dollar contract...but I'll totally get more hits out of this move. DOZENS AND DOZENS MORE HITS--muwahaha!!! BIG TIME, HERE I COME!!!

Actually, for those of you stalking me (or just paying attention), you may recall that I used to write for Pop Culture Shock (and its temporary redesign alias a couple of years ago, so this move is something of a homecoming. So come back home with me, lovers of comics and cancer, as I return again for the first time, and take my bloggery to an all-new, all-different, but pretty much exactly the same level as part of the PCS family!

And if you've grown attached to this site, don't worry--it's not going anywhere. I can't promise I'll post here again anytime soon, but you can always use this post as your gateway to the new PCS/No Cure For Comics content.

So please click on over to to join your regularly scheduled blogging, already in progress.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Jennifer's Body: Nice To Look At, But You Won't Respect Her In The Morning

Jennifer's Body is the story of one girl's tragic journey from ignorant bliss as a frumpy hanger-on to devil-powered bad ass with a body count, as she sheds the skin of her old life and sets off on the highway to hell. That girl shows depth and range of character throughout the film, anchoring a silly and thin (though maybe not by horror movie standards) plot on the kind of real girl character that makes movies like Heathers and TV shows like Buffy the Vampire Slayer work so well.

But no matter how obviously and desperately the filmmakers want Jennifer's Body to be the new Heathers or Buffy, the similarities end with that one strong, well-rounded character--the one played by Amanda Seyfried (Mean Girls, Big Love).

Megan Fox is the one getting all the attention, what with her playing "Jennifer" and being stalkably attractive...but she's a better interview and pin-up girl than an actress. She's very convincing as "hot chick staring seductively/menacingly into camera," and absolutely Oscar-worthy as "hot chick walking slowly toward camera," but every time she opens her mouth you get a blank monotone line reading or stumbles and mumbles over Diablo Cody's too cool for school dialogue.

Yeah, this is the obnoxiously in need of editing Juno version of Diablo Cody, not the dialed down genius behind The United States of Tara. This is the Diablo Cody who overwrites every line even more than her own overwritten name in order to squeeze as much unnaturally clever lingo into every scene as Whedonly or Tarantinoly possible. But where Quentin Tarantino has the discipline to make his dialogue--kitchy or not--character appropriate, and Joss Whedon remembers to follow his conversational quirk with the necessary number of winks and nudges, Cody writes every character like a hive-mind collective competing for most popular ironic T-shirt slogan. It's distracting and grating, and in this movie it managed to deflate the big climactic moment that could have otherwise added depth to the flat personality of Jennifer.

J.K. Simmons was good at what he was asked to do, but his oddball character--a hook-handed teacher with a curly fro--was too inexplicably weird to not feel as forced as most of the film's dialogue. I also got a kick out of the basic premise that drives the story: loser emo band botches a satanic ritual meant to give them fame and fortune...bloodbath ensues.

And finally, while it's not a comic book movie, it does have a tie-in comic that I hear isn't awful, so it's got that going for it.

I didn't hate the movie, but there's too much distracting kitche and not nearly enough balls or bite to give it the instant cult status it thinks it deserves. I suspect the inevitable direct-to-video sequel will be far more satisfyingly trashy and hopefully won't suffer from a screenwriter trying to ape the overwriting of the original.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

My Weekly Dose (Lazy Edition)

Man, this was a long week. Doctors every other day, radiation sickness, cabin fever, the slow return to feeling myself (including a return to the marathon that is parenthood and anticipation of the return to work on Monday). I also happened to pick up a lot of comics this week, and I'll be honest with you...I don't feel like writing reviews for them.

SO...instead of reviewing this week's books myself, I'm going to let the books review themselves. I think you'll catch on right away and understand how I feel about each book based on the panels I choose, but in case you're one of those dopes who failed Lunch in grade school, here's an example:

Suppose I hated Marvel Zombies Return #3. This is the panel I'd use...

Of course, the fact is, I am loving this series and I'm kind of embarrassed to be drawn in by what should be the deadest of dead horse my actual "review" panel is this one:

Follow? Rocket science, I know.

Remember that thing about me not feeling like writing a lot this week? Yeah...back to that.

Dark Avengers #9, wherein we move away from all that distracting X-Men nonsense from the past few weeks in order to get inside the head of a God. Two, actually, if you want to be technical, gross, and spoilery:

Invincible Iron Man #18, wherein the Eisner-Award-winning Best New Series continues to tell a story that should be called Tony Stark: Disassembled. Spoiler alert --> Tony punches a little kid in this issue, and the punk totally had it coming:

Amazing Spider-Man #605, wherein tag-team creative teams wrap up the Chameleon storyline and begin to fill in some of the blanks about where MJ has been during Spidey's "Brand New Day":

Batman and Robin #4, wherein Grant Morrison continues writing the all-new, all-different dynamic duo sans Frank Quitely's art, and following a just-okay third issue:

Captain America Reborn #3, wherein Ed Brubaker continues writing one of the only ongoing, monthly, pamphlet-style, mainstream comic books that you can refer to as a "graphic novel" and not feel like a douche for using the term incorrectly:

(I kind of reviewed that one myself just a little bit, didn't I?)

Blackest Night #3, wherein Firestorms from both sides of the grave take center stage:

Walking Dead #65, wherein what I said about Cap Reborn also applies, only the writer is Robert Kirkman, and the comic has been wrenching guts, breaking hearts, and eating brains for 65 consistently awesome issues:

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Dear Mr. President...

Dear Mr. President:

You're awesome and I think you know it. Awesome on so many levels that are important to me. You're a cool, likable guy. You're a good husband and father. You value things like science, communication, transparency, and personal growth. You've got a sense of logic AND of humor.

You're also very much in touch with popular culture. You are of the times, rather than a relic of some old broken system. You've name checked Spider-Man, Batman, and Conan the Barbarian as your favorite comic characters growing up. You're in almost as many comics in 2009 as Wolverine. You've been made into more than one style action figure, with multiple points of articulation and a kung-fu battle grip. You kill flies like the Karate Kid. You sound like The Rock when you speak. Better than simply being "the president I'd want to have a beer with," you're the president who actually solves problems with beer. You truly speak for the people on the issues they care about. You look like you genuinely enjoy taking geeky photo ops like this one:

There's no doubt that you are the cool geek president, the Comic Con President!

BUT for fuck's sake man, stop dicking around watching the VMAs and playing with toys for a few days and sort this healthcare shit out! Are you really going to let the idiot fringe bully you into conceding the parts of reform that would have actually CHANGED THE SYSTEM?!

Forget "cool geek"'re coming off like just another spineless nerd.

Man up, Obama. And in words your enemies--those bullies who have somehow paralyzed your common sense with their ignorant unfounded fears about death panels and socialism and one nation under Alah--will surely appreciate: GET ER DONE!

FoG-PoP Revisited: August 2009: Pop on Pop Episode 7: The Moral Of The Stories

Previously in Pop on Pop: Baby went to the museum of play.

I was married in a Church and had my daughter baptized.

Channukah and Passover dinner at my Aunt Janet's house are official family gatherings.

Christmas is probably the highlight of our calendar year, though for reasons more Hallmark than holy.

is my favorite Kevin Smith movie.

I agree with just about everything Bill Maher says about organized religion.

I wear a t-shirt that says "Jews Kick Ass" and features pictures of Captain Kirk, Fonzie, and Jesus Christ (Alexa has a matching onesie).

I am not a religious person in any traditional sense. Maybe not even in a nontraditional sense. But with 12 years of Catholic schooling under my belt and with a family comprising active and lapsed members of two faiths (my mother was Jewish before she became Catholic...go figure), there's no denying that religion plays a big part in my life.

I know that this is going to become a thing with Alexa...eventually. There ought to be some context for all these disparate traditions, or else any positive secular take-aways will be lost on her, and her ability to make her own decisions, judgments, and choices about religion later in life could be compromised. I think I am a good person. In no way am I a perfect person, or even a particularly moral person, but I know right from wrong and my instincts are very much in synch with the greater good and best intentions. I wouldn't be this way without the moral guidance I received in Religion class, or even in Math and English classes taught in my parochial school setting. My wife and I talk about this all the time when considering what to do with Alexa for school. It may be more expensive than public school, but if we can swing it and provide some perspective and open-mindedness with her about what she learns, sending her to a Catholic grade school doesn't seem like such a bad idea.

But then again, maybe it wasn't Saint Gabriel's or Cathedral Prep that gave me my wings. I'm sure all that "love thy neighbor" stuff helped quite a bit, but I've had other teachers through those years who have taught me just as much as any of the prophets...

For instance, Spider-Man's Uncle Ben told me that "with great power comes great responsibility." Without learning that lesson and seeing it serve as Spidey's mantra over my 30+ years, would I really understand humility or charity? Would I know what it meant to use my own "powers" to help other people?

I'm a pretty honest person. Honest to a fault, I've been told. And I have a fairly strict sense of honor when it comes to following the rule of law. I get very uptight and uneasy around people trying to buck the system or work a scam, and I get downright angry when government and corporate shenanigans trickle down to headaches and heartache for the common man. Eight years and counting of Fox News and the always-wrong Right defining what it is to be a real American have driven me to be more angry and politically minded than anything before. So...Truth, Justice, and the American Way seem to play major roles in who I am. Thank you, Superman.

Speaking of eye for an eye never really works out, but it would be nice to know that there was some higher power capable of weeding out the true villains of the world, some force that could simply take a name and face of a murderer and administer punishment. Frank Castle doesn't necessarily float my boat storywise, but I like the way the guy thinks. And imagine if a guy like that could get his hands on the Death Note? We're getting into some dark territory here, but sometimes even make-believe consequences are enough to keep an impressionable kid like me on the straight and narrow.

All men and women are created equal. Do not discriminate. The meek shall inherit the Earth. Unlock your true potential. Live together, die alone. So many lessons have come out of the Xavier Institute that I'm surprised Marvel Comics hasn't written an official teachable curriculum.

The morality that I picked up throughout my childhood isn't limited to comics. Star Wars is a shining example of good versus evil, with as many spiritual truths pertaining to the Force as can be applied to a real-world religion. And Star Trek, with it's message of universal peace, has been a great example for the kind of future everyone should be pushing for.

Probably the best teacher of morality for me growing up was Dungeons and Dragons. You can't even play the game without confronting your moral make-up. Morality in D&D is called "Alignment." You choose from a short list of possible alignments when you roll up your character. You don't just choose whether your Half-Elven Ranger is good at archery or wears studded leather choose whether he is inherently good, evil, or neutral, or some middle-ground variation between those three. And depending on what alignment you choose, you are rewarded or penalized for playing your character true to that alignment. Beware the 12-year-old boy who rolls up a chaotic evil wizard and plays it well. Little Jimmy may very well have a collection of animal bones buried in the backyard.

So, even though I doubt Sunday Mass will ever become a routine for me and Lesky, I'm not worried about my ability to teach her right from wrong, good from evil, darkness from light. Whether she gets it from the Good Book or just from a good book, she'll earn her experience points.

Matt Bergin reads, writes, and edits comics, and moderates the Comic Blog Elite toplist. You can follow his own blog,, or just follow him (on Twitter) @D18Matt.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Hero Up!

I have been a big supporter of Hasbro's Super Hero Squad toy line since it launched. An extension of the super-cute Star Wars Galactic Heroes figures and the gateway to additional expansions in the same style featuring assorted awesome from my childhood--Indiana Jones, G.I. Joe, Transformers--conveniently being reintroduced to a new generation's childhood, the Squad figures have been a hit, wave after wave for what seems to be at least a dozen waves now.

My daughter only just reached the age where I can give her little figurines like these, so the target of my geeky good will has been my nephew, for whom I've been buying Squad figures since the first set. He's swayed a little more toward the Star Wars set, but the kid has definitely got a little Marvel running through his veins thanks to Uncle Matt. Here he is with my girl Alexa to prove the point:

And here's a sampling of his collection of "guys"--an admittedly mixed lot, featuring more than just Squad toys, but still, you get it:

So I was excited for Mason as much as for myself when I heard that Marvel was putting together an animated series featuring the Super Hero Squad, and the show premiered last night on the Cartoon Network!

Of course, going into the show, I was worried. Marvel's attempt at a Squad comic book has been pretty miserable...a brutish, low brow version of the super cute characters, not particularly clever in the comedy and actually a little less adorable as a result. And the little bit I've seen about the upcoming Squad video game looks like it's just a lot of punching and shooting. Clearly, where I thought Marvel was hoping to appeal to toddler boys and girls who prefer soft and cuddly, the House of Ideas had the idea to focus solely on luring hyperactive, bratty boys away from pulling the heads off of their sisters' Barbies and gnawing the fur off of their Elmo dolls. My expectations for the cartoon were not high at all.

But as usual, lowering the bar allowed me to enjoy the show for what it was--a noisy mess about toys for boys. The show is definitely in line with the punch-em kick-em aesthetic of the comic and game, with a relentless packing of action into every possible second of the show. Hyperkinetic is an understatement for this show. BUT if you roll with it, give in to the mayhem--which I'd imagine would be easy for the average prepubescent boy wired on a bowl of Saturday morning cereal or a weeknight after dinner snack--there IS fun to be had. The writers manage to play just the right notes with characters ripe for comedy like Captain America (played as an over eager pit boss/excitable grampa), Silver Surfer (played as a new age surfer dude), and Thor (played as classic 80s Thor to the mosteth ridiculouseth of thine extremes). The Hulk stuff is predictable and tired for the most part, but even he earns a chuckle or two.

If my brother and sister-in-law think they can keep him in line afterward, I think my nephew would eat this show up. He'll probably try to run through his bedroom wall after watching, though, because the show will fill his brain with crazy--it's like cartoon crack.

I wish there were more about this show that might appeal to girls in a positive, productive way, mainly for the sake of my daughter, but also because it seems like a wasted opportunity for Marvel to reach a wider audience. The only female character of note in the series so far (they showed two full episodes) is Ms. Marvel, who is portrayed as a shrill, bossy, nagging buzzkill. If they can bring in Kitty Pryde or Rogue or Spider-Woman into the fold and strike a better balance between the chaos and the comedy, the show will have a better chance of succeeding with the My Little Pony crowd (or a better chance of being watched by me and my girl, at least).

There's room for improvement--a lot of room--but there's no denying the show is fun. Big, dumb, noisy fun. For now, I'm willing to give it another try next week, but I'm not convinced it needs to be added to the DVR queue just yet.

FoG-PoP Revisited: June/July 2009: Pop on Pop Episode 6: The Museum Of Play

Previously in Pop on Pop: Baby watched too much TV.

It's summertime, so what better subject to tackle here than the geek family vacation?

But don't expect me to cover the easy or obvious pop friendly choices, like the San Diego Comic Con, Disney World, or Universal Studios; or even the not-so-obvious geek getaways, like Niagara Falls' Adventure City, a Marvel Comics-themed arcade on the ground floor of a hotel at the end of a strip that includes multiple fun houses, candy shops, and even a ferris wheel.

There's apparently even a geek-family friendly cruiseline, for those of ou who want to get your nerd on while at sea(thanks to Wired's own "Geek Dad" for that tip)!

These are all great destinations for the pop-minded family on holiday. But that's not where I'm sending you, dear reader. I'm sending you to Rochester, New York.


Honestly, I don't know that there is much to "woo" -- or even to "hoo" -- about in Rochester. It snows a lot. The city is famous for a dish called "The Garbage Plate," which looks like this. But the main draw for me (Pop on Pop), my wife (Mom on Pop? Wait, that sounds dirty), and little miss Alexa Sunshine is family.

At least that was the reason.

But that all changed when my brother and sister-in-law introduced us to the coolest place I've ever been -- The Strong Museum of Play.

Strong is home to the National Toy Hall of Fame, the National Center for the History of Electronic Games, and the world’s largest collection of toys, dolls, games, and other items that celebrate play. And while there are plenty of archived goodies behind glass to tickle your nostalgia bone, the building is also packed with hands-on "exhibits" to play with, on, and even in! The museum is a non-profit organization dedicated to the collection and preservation of--and education about--artifacts of fun, as well as the dissemination of awesomeness (that last bit is not technically in their mission statement, but it's totally true).

I've already been to Strong a few times in the past year, but it was from the minute I saw the giant picture window and crazy building blocks exterior of the building that I knew I'd be writing about it here. No amount of snapshots can capture the pure energy of the place, but hopefully some of this photo tour inside Strong will inspire you to check it out for yourself.

Here's my sister-in-law, Aunt Sara, and Lesky's cousins Mason and Ivy. Before Lex was born, Mason served as my "beta test" for geek parenthood (as you can see by his choice of wardrobe for the day).

Driving up to Strong and circling the exterior, you can't help but get the sense that this place is built for fun. Unfortunately, not photographed here is the gorgeous playground and skate park (complete with half pipe and vert ramps) directly across the street, which is also part of the museum grounds.

Once inside, the fun begins...even before you buy your tickets. You'd think the merry-go-round would come later, but no -- there's no delaying the fun!

Here's Lex and with her Noni in front of one of the large tropical fish tanks in the museum anteroom.

You do have to pay to get into the museum, but at about $10 a person, it is no worse than a trip to the movies, and far more satisfying.

Not everything is as cut-and-dry as old action figures or boards games. Here are some shots of my brother-in-law Uncle Dan demonstrating the mind-boggling and stomach-churning Slanted Room (of DOOM).

While the younglings will be content playing in the giant sandboxes, climbing around various jungle gym playsets, or riding the life-size train set, parents and chaperones will be cheating themselves if they don't set aside ample time to walk through the museum's National Toy Hall of Fame. Aisle after aisle, display cases line the walls, each filled with the most amazing collection of childhood relics.

Not pictured here are the hundreds of antique dolls and doll houses, all in amazing condition, little time capsules of fun.

But even after looking at old toys, there's more actual, physical playing to be done. We've been to the museum multiple times and still haven't been able to spend enough time with everything offered.

This looks like we stopped at a gift shop or convenience store outside the museum, right? Actually, this is a functioning "make-believe" Wegman's grocery store. The products are fake, but the kid-sized registers and price scanners actually work.

Hard to make out, but this is a life-size replica of the game Mouse Trap on the ceiling of one of the play rooms.

Are you exhausted yet? Seems like a full day already just reading about this place. But there's more! One of the biggest "brand name" presences at Strong is Sesame Street -- which is enough to satisfy most kids without any of the rest. But at Strong, Elmo and friends are just another part of the mix.

I encourage you to check out the Strong website and read more about the Museum of Play and to plan your own visit to this nostalgia paradise.

Matt Bergin is the Pop who writes on Pop. See what else he's up to at,, and on Twitter @D18Matt.