Marvel Exhibit: Journey through the Marvel Universe

Upon entering the Franklin Institute’s Marvel Superheroes exhibit, eyes gaze upon an old newspaper stand lined with Marvel comics, all artwork, then proceed to watch a five-minute Marvel introduction video. This video mentions Martin Goodman, known as the founder of Marvel Comics, started off in pulp magazines before creating Marvel Comics #1.

The first issue featured The Human Torch, an android, not from Fantastic Four, pit against Namor, the Sub Mariner. The introduction video also includes tidbits such as Captain America nearly selling a million copies. The comic controversy of the 1950s, and of course, the origin story of Marvel’s greatest legend, Stan Lee.

This video surmises much of what follows in the exhibit, and these same points are mentioned in an interactive screen during the next phase of the exhibit. Longtime comic fans will already know much of the information presented throughout this exhibit, but there are still many reasons for these comic book fans to still attend, and for all to enjoy.

There are panels from The Phantom, said to be the first costumed superhero debuting in 1936. Also, panels of Flash Gordon, one of the most popular heroes from the early years of comics, which debuted in 1934. It is one thing to know the history of Marvel Comics #1, but at the Marvel exhibit, comic fans get to glance at an actual issue of Marvel Comics #1.

The first issue of Amazing Spiderman is also on display, along with Black Panther’s first appearance and first issue. The costumes from the Black Panther film were showcased along with the other Superhero suits and helmets from the rest of the characters from the Marvel Cinematic Universe. One of the most interesting sections was the Comic Book controversy containing articles about the Comic Book Trial.

Comic fans learn comic books were being banned and burned as the superheroes would often be included with the crime genre, thus attracting the wrath of angry parents. This led to the Comic Code. A list of “Do’s” and “Don’t’s” for comic companies to follow in order to be published. This almost killed the comic industry, until Stan Lee created Fantastic Four, and the rest is history.

Another major attraction was the inside scoop behind creating comics revealed at this Marvel Superheroes exhibit. Located in the Spiderman section, there is an interactive screen depicting the process of comic creation. From lettering to coloring to editing, fans are privy to insights to how their heroes come to life. There was an interactive screen for comic fans to arrange panels and a Spiderman issue presented panel by panel from penciling to inking to lettering to coloring.

One of these interactive screens had a chart portraying the differences between creating comics traditionally compared to the modern digital age. Depicting the differences between the standard 4 color of print, CMYK, Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, and black; to the thousands and thousands of colors now available to comic artists. Another part depicted how four different inkers could have four different shades of white, thus providing fans a glimpse into the uniqueness of each issue.

The exhibit started with the characters from the Avengers, then moved onto the street level heroes of Marvel’s Netflix series such as Daredevil, Iron Fist Luke Cage. Jessica Jones, The Punisher, as well as Ghostrider to the space heroes such as Guardians of the Galaxy and mystic heroes like Doctor Strange. Also included were sections about the character progressions of Nick Fury, and She-Hulk, as well as Captain Marvel, including a web of all the characters connected to the Supreme Intelligence.

There were only a few negative aspects of the Franklin Institute’s Marvel Exhibit. First, the lighting made photography hit and miss with a cell phone. Some sections were too dark, or too reflective, but this is just a small detail. The main issue was the lack of villain displays and information. Granted it is called Marvel’s Superheroes exhibit, without villains, these heroes wouldn’t exist. Overall, this exhibit is worth the entry fee whether on a solo adventure or a team journey.

Mike Hoff

TOP 10 PATRIOTIC SUPERHEROES

In celebration of Independence Day, Obsidian Nomad presents our top 10 patriotic superheroes. These are the heroes that best represent America. A lot of the common denominators in these heroes are relationships to World War II and some kind of fluke accident or secret serum. Nevertheless, these are the heroes we most think of when we think of America.

Check out our list and let us know who you would add or take away.

Stargirl – Courtney Whitmore

First appearance (as Courtney Whitmore) Star and S.T.R.I.P.E. #0 1999 As Stargirl JSA: All Stars #4 2003

Courtney Whitmore is the stepdaughter of the Pat Dugan original sidekick hero of the Star-Spangled Kid, Stripesy. Courtney found the Kid’s old cosmic belt in the garage and originally calls herself the Star-Spangled Kid to annoy her stepfather. Later, as a member of the JSA, she meets the original Starman and receives his cosmic rod and changes her name to Star Girl.

Battlestar – Lemar Hoskins

First appearance Captain America #323 1986

Lemar Hoskins was given a version of the super soldier formula and was selected by the government to be a Bucky for the new Captain America when Steve Rogers had quit. He changed his name to Battlestar after another Black man reminded him that calling himself Bucky was derogatory because that was a term for slaves.

US Agent – John Walker

First appearance (as Super Patriot) Captain America #323 1986 – (As Captain America) Captain America #333 1987 – (As US Agent) Captain America #354

John Walker was given a version of the super soldier formula and originally became the Super Patriot as a nemesis to Captain America. When Steve Rogers was no longer Captain America, the government picked Walker to be the replacement. When Rogers resumes the mantle of Captain America, Walker becomes the US Agent.

Star Spangled Kid – Sylvester Pemberton

First appearance Star Spangled Comics #1 1941

Sylvester Pemberton was a kid superhero during World War II with an adult sidekick, Stripesy. Both heroes were lost in time with the rest of the superhero group, Seven Soldiers of Victory, and rescued in modern day by the Justice League and the Justice Society. In modern time and still young, Sylvester joined the Justice Society and used the then injured Starman’s cosmic rod. He remodeled it into a belt and changed his name to Skyman.

Patriot – Eli Bradley

First appearance – Young Avengers #1 2005

Eli Brandley is the grandson of the African American Captain America, Isaiah Bradley. Isaiah was part of an experiment the government had after the super soldier serum was lost after it turned Steve Rogers into the first Captain America. Eli, wanted to follow in his grandfathers’ footsteps, convinced the other heroes that he had powers by using an illegal drug to augment himself. When he was injured in a battle trying to save Captain America, he was given a blood transfusion by his grandfather which gave him real powers to fight as Patriot.

Miss America – Madeline Joyce

First appearance Marvel Mystery Comics #43 1943

Madeline Joyce was an heiress who tampered with a machine a scientist had created that he claimed gave him superpowers. While tampering with the machine it was hit with lightning and she gained powers. She used those powers to fight crime during World War II. She also fought alongside Captain America, Bucky, the original Human Torch, Toro, the Sub Mariner and the Whizzer in the All Winners Squad.

Liberty Bell – Libby Lawrence

First appearance Boy Commandos #1 1942

Libby Lawrence receives a bell-shaped medal that was shaped from a piece of the original Liberty Bell. When the actual Liberty Bell is rung it enhances her powers and she uses it to fight crime during World War II. She eventually becomes a member and chairperson of the All-Star Squadron and marries Johnny Chambers who is the superhero Johnny Quick. They have a daughter Jessie Quick who becomes the second Liberty Bell.

Uncle Sam

First appearance National Comics #1 1940

Uncle Sam is a mystical entity that is described as the “Spirit of America”. He leads the Freedom Fighters who exist on a world where the Nazis won World War II.

The Shield – Joe Higgins

First appearance Pep Comics #1 1940

Joe Higgins, the original Shield, was a chemist and the son of an army lieutenant that was working on a secret formula for super strength during World War II. When his father was killed by the Germans trying to get the formula, Joe finished his fathers work and used the formula to fight the Germans.

Captain America – Steve Rogers

First appearance Captain America Comics #1 1941

Steve Rogers receives the super soldier serum and becomes Captain America during World War II to fight the Nazis. During a battle with the Baron Zemo towards the end of the war, he is presumed dead but is really frozen in ice after falling in arctic waters trying to stop a bomb aimed for America. He is revived by the Avengers in the modern day and continues to fight crime and represent America.

Kenny Walker Jr

JESSICA JONES SEASON 3: REVIEW

On June 14, 2019, the last of the Marvel Netflix shows came out. Jessica Jones season 3 marks the end of a very short era where Marvel fans were treated to the adventures of the street level side of the Marvel Universe. I remember that first season being a breath of fresh air and another introduction into yet another part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

After Daredevil, this was the perfect follow up to the Marvel Netflix Universe. The super-powered detective, Jessica Jones, played by Kristen Ritter, displayed another street level hero dealing with everyday life. The Purple Man making the perfect villain and the tie in with Luke Cage all 13 episodes making the season worthwhile.

The second season wasn’t as well received. It included a drunk sex crazed Jessica Jones trying to come to terms with the ending of the first season, a return of her long thought dead mother who was murderous psychopath and best friend Patsy Walker, played by Rachael Taylor, just being an annoying pain in the butt want to be hero throughout the whole thing. Ritter’s angst-driven I’m a bad girl routine became old and trite real fast.

The only payoff was that Patsy Walker received the powers that would make her into the superhero Hellcat that we know from the comics. Or was it? Season 3 opens with Jessica Jones again dealing with the aftermath of the previous season. The death of her mother at the hands of her best friend has her even more of a loner than before. However, even though her pain she is discovering her new mission to be a hero.

Season 3 steps the detective reluctant hero back to her star status of season 1. You see the lead character back on a path of growth as she was in the first season. We get a Jessica Jones not only trying to see her full potential but actually living up to it. Ritter has come full circle and embraced her character. To help this progression the writers have taken the Jessica Jones storyline back to the noir detective that we saw a glimpse of in season 1.

As season 2 was filled with typical one-liners and hackneyed script writing to overcompensate how badass Jessica Jones is to the point whereby the 5 episode you were watching saying “ok, we get it she’s a drunk badass”. Season 3 showed a more compassionate side along with being that badass. There was a more vulnerable Jessica Jones that not only showed when she was mortally wounded but when the character consistently wanted to do the right thing no matter how much she wanted to revert to her old ways.

This was less about strength and fight scenes and more about solving the mystery and catching the bad guy legally and alive to face justice. The character development of the other supporting characters was well scripted and plotted out to give them all a fitting finish. Malcolm, played by Eka Darville, goes a total 360 from season 1. The drug-addicted loser who sometimes helps Jessica is now a successful detective in his own right.

He has made the biggest jump in 4 seasons with this last season dealing with his own demons and almost struggling the same as Jessica with being a hero and doing the right thing. Carrie-Ann Moss’ Jeri Hogarth is still trying to come to terms with her pending doom from ALS. She learns a valuable lesson as she attempts to use her money and manipulation to buy her happiness in her final years.

The twist in the Patsy Walker storyline elevates her from being one of the most annoying parts of season 2 to one of the most interesting components of season 3. The one element in all the Marvel Netflix series is the twist that happens sometime towards episode 7 or 8. Jessica Jones did not disappoint in the twist that Patsy takes a big part in. Taylor surprises on how invested she becomes in her character to pull off this twist.

As in any good crime drama superhero series you can’t pull off a good story without a better villain. Greg Sallinger, played by Jeremy Bobb, was that villain. Sallinger was a highly intelligent man who was always one step ahead of everyone. He was a psychotic mastermind that turned out to be more than a match for Jessica and her allies. That’s what made this season enjoyable for me. It wasn’t about strength because he was no match for our hero in that department. This became a battle of wits. A true detective story. Honestly, because of season 2, I was not happy that the Marvel Netflix Universe would end with Jessica Jones.

It wasn’t grand enough for me. I wanted to see more Luke Cage, Daredevil and Iron Fist. I wanted a Misty Knight and Colleen Wing series. I wanted to see another Defenders story with possibly the Punisher, Electra and Bullseye making appearances. There was more story to be told there. I wanted to see these characters stick around long enough to be included into the Marvel Cinematic Universe (and, yes, I was one of the people who was hoping they would step out of a Dr Strange or Wong portal in Endgame). Even though I will not get to see any of those things, what I did see was a fitting ending that did not disappoint.

Let us know what you thought of Jessica Jones season 3 in your comments below. 

Kenny Walker Jr

Cosplay: Inexpensive Methods to Make Priceless Memories

Cosplay culture is one of the most popular aspects of Comic Conventions. However, this display of fandom is found at many types of conventions. From anime to horror to video games, cosplaying is growing in popularity. Some fans and professional cosplayers spend countless hours planning and creating cosplay suits. They will pay hundreds of dollars for materials such as foam and garments, and even more for wigs and makeup.

These lavish, extravagant and intricately detailed cosplay suits can be intimidating for beginners or prevent some from participating. The message from this “Budget Cosplay” panel at Wizard World Philadelphia was captured in a statement by Super Kaycee, “There is no wrong way to cosplay.” Michael “Knightmage” Wilson, started cosplaying in 2012. His origin story began at a party, where he was invited to Cosplay at upcoming charity events.

Then he attended his first Comic-Con and became addicted to Cosplay. Yet this professional does not break the bank while creating these awe-inspiring suits. He announced to the crowd, he spent $200 or less, and 4 days or less, to make his over 150 cosplay suits. While you can acquire top of the line suits and wigs from websites like Arda and Epic Cosplay, Super Kaycee and Michael Wilson recommend scouring goodwill and thrift stores for materials. Michael noted once he began cosplaying, It began to open creativity when looking at regular items, while walking through dollar stores. Which I, as a beginner, put into practice.

I made my first cosplay outfit the day before attending this panel, so I could raise my hand when Super Mage, “Knightmage” and SuperKaycee, surveyed the audience to discover, two people had spent over $300 on a cosplay, while a handful of fans, including myself spent $50 dollars or less. Last year I purchased a Flash jumpsuit for $60. I promised myself I would cosplay as Black Bolt, from Marvel’s Inhumans, this year.

My financial situation did not allow me to purchase a base body suit or high-end material. So, I stopped at a dollar store in Philly after leaving the convention Friday night. I bought a barbecue fork, a du-rag, and a few rolls of aluminum duct tape all for $1.29 each. These items I used to make the helmet. Then I spent three dollars on an umbrella, then cut the lining to make a cape.

I bought a pair of pants from Wal-Mart for $7 and a pair of boots for $20. I spent a few hours, and when it was finished, I was slightly nervous. Feelings of anxiety wondering if the other fans would recognize my portrayal of my favorite comic book character. The result was a handful of recognition, and even one picture, which I never expected. A lesson, Super Mage, instilled in the audience, cosplay is not about perfection, it is about expression.

Another common misconception involves purchasing base suits as opposed to making them yourself. Beginners can be under the impression, if one does not make their own suit, then it “doesn’t count.” But SuperKaycee mentioned, making these base bodysuits is the livelihood for some artists. Purchasing body suits and wigs will help support local artists and small business owners.

These can be found on websites like Amazon, eBay, Etsy, Wish, as well as on social media groups like Heroes for Hire Facebook page. This is where cosplayers network. One example they gave, if one knows how to do makeup, but does not know how to sew, and cannot afford to hire someone to sew, they can reach out to another cosplayer. This networking allows cosplayers to learn skills they don’t possess yet and pay it forward by teaching the skills they have acquired.

There are also innumerable tutorials on YouTube to guide beginners as they make their first cosplay suits. Wigs and makeup are the two materials which the hosts suggested spending a little extra to ensure the best quality. Wigs can be hit and miss, they recommend reading the reviews of wigs for sale, as well as entering “Cosplay Wigs,” into search engines to give the best chance of receiving a wig that will capture the look of that character.

You can even buy wigs, then go to a beauty school to have the necessary hairstyle. These beauty school students are looking to add hours towards their certificate, so it is a win-win for all parties involved. Like hair stylists do for their trade, SuperKaycee suggested investing in a quality pair of scissors for fabric and foam cutting. EVA Foam is the material used as the base mold for many of the jaw-dropping costumes seen at comic conventions.

From the Iron Man Suit to Thor’s Mjolnir to Gundam war suits, EVA foam is the most cost-efficient foam to purchase for cosplay needs. Other items needed to combine foam parts would be hot glue and/or contact cement. If using contact cement, be sure to apply in well-ventilated areas as it is toxic. Cosplays can also use shelf lining to prevent slippage and chaffing. Don’t let the idea of being uncomfortable for hours rub you the wrong way. When you see a child smile at the site of your suite, it will be all worthwhile.

The notion of having to spend a lot of money to create a great cosplay is just one common misconception of cosplayers. “Cosplayers can be seen as vain,” mentioned co-host, SuperKaycee. Most female superheroes and villain characters are cladly dressed, so female cosplayers often adorn cosplay which ranges from revealing to provocative. Thanks to the natural inclination of humanity to pass judgment, many onlookers take the unfortunate perspective these women expressing their fandom are just looking for attention or trying to flaunt “what their momma gave them.

These women are fulfilling their desire to portray characters that help them escape from life’s harsh realities. They do not cosplay to become the subject of desire, although life’s harsh reality takes a different perspective. Meanwhile, these cosplayers are some of the most dedicated and kindhearted people attending the convention. Taking their time to take pictures with children, families, and nerds that had to muster up enough courage to ask for a picture. Before passing judgment, remember the adage, never judge a comic book by its cover.

Cosplay has given nerds around the world an outlet and the courage to express themselves. Cosplaying is as much for the community as it is the cosplayer. You don’t have to spend paychecks on creating costumes, all you need is the desire to recreate your favorite character. Cosplay is an art, and every fan is an artist. Your masterpiece is a few thrift stores and hours of hard work away. The payoff will be priceless memories.

Mike Hoff

DARK PHOENIX – NOT FOR COMIC BOOK FANS

If you are a fan of the real Dark Phoenix Saga that took place in Uncanny X-Men comics #129 – 138 in 1980 then this movie will disappoint you. If you are a fan of the X-Men books today or have been a fan in the past, this movie will disappoint you. If you are a fan of the X-Men movies that FOX Studios have been putting out since 2000 then you may or may not like this movie I didn’t like this movie. The box office for this movie was so bad I don’t think anyone wanted to see another Dark Phoenix movie because the first time it wasn’t that good, so we are doing this review with spoilers. Not that it matters.

At this point with these FOX Studio X-Men franchise movie, I must start off honestly. Except for Ryan Reynolds two Deadpool movies the whole thing has been a mockery of the comics. It’s not totally the actors faults in most cases. We got an awesome Wolverine from Hugh Jackman. Patrick Stewart and James McAvoy played great Professor X’s in different time periods. The same can be said for Ian McKellen and Michael Fassbender about their roles as Magneto. Even though Hallie Berry and Anna Paquin weren’t the best Storm and Rogue we deserved for the beginning of the franchise.

The real trouble with the X-Men franchise has always been the writing and the scripts that were put into the film. There was never any good rhyme or reason and the flagrant use of the timeline was absurd. I’m still not sure that anyone at FOX Studios outside of Ryan Reynold’s team even read an X-Men comic. Often, the characters were not written how they were created. There were a lot of out of character moments and out of character power use. Let’s not even talk about the use of Kitty Pride’s powers to make Logan travel in time. Where did that come from?

That being said, Dark Phoenix was no different of a disappointment. Good actors being led by a poor plot and even worse script. Like all the other X-Men movies made by FOX studios, there is no connectivity to the characters. When the main character dies in a franchise you are supposed to feel it. I felt nothing. This wasn’t Avengers Endgame or even Avengers Infinity War where you felt the losses. You were connected to those characters through a good writing arch. This X-Men franchise never made that connection with its audience. Going in you must realize that this story does a weak interpretation of the comic book story.

The Dark Phoenix story follows the rise and fall of the X-Men’s Jean Grey. In the Uncanny X-Men comic book, she does go through a solar flare in space which is really the Phoenix Force. With this force in her, her powers are heightened, and she puts controls on them which are taken down with the help of the Hellfire Club and Mastermind. Once she loses control and the Phoenix force consumes her, she destroys a planet. Because of this, the Shi’ar Empire come for justice in which the X-Men must fight off a challenge. The battle ends with Jean once again controlling the Phoenix force and sacrificing herself to destroy the force before it does more wrong.

So obviously that is too much to put into a 2-hour movie, so the story needed to be condensed. Re-introducing the Hellfire Club and introducing Mastermind along with the alien Shi’ar race would not fit in that time frame. Plus, you already have an ensemble cast of X-Men that you must focus on. So, in this condensed version you still get the solar flare during a space mission. An alien race was brought in called the D’Bari which apparently didn’t need much explanation except this force inside Jean destroyed their home planet and they want to possess it to get their world back.

Magneto pulled in due to the death of Mystique and bringing with him two unknown unnamed mutants that at first give the X-Men a good fight. The movie starts with an explanation of Jean’s powers and background. It is thought that she accidentally kills her parents and Charles Xavier takes her in. Once her powers are amplified by the force than all that is taken away and the lie that she was told is revealed. Her father survived the accident but couldn’t handle taking care of her. So, the lie was that he would give her to Xavier. Her going back to confront her father is what starts the real trouble because she hurts police and kills Mystique.

In that instant, the mutants get downgraded from world heroes to the most hated people in the world. That’s one of the troubling things about this movie: such nonsensical easy plot points. One act and they go from national heroes to hunted villains. An alien race out of nowhere to explain this force with no name that they want to use to take over the Earth. The rip-offs and wasted material were frustrating to watch. I loved the appearance of Dazzler but the waste of not using the character more and in a battle scene was just disappointing. Cyclops telling Jean that the kids are calling her Phoenix and not properly naming the solar flare as the Phoenix Force made the movie seem even more worthless.

Not actually calling Magneto’s island Genosha and not using known mutant villains to accompany him was another wasted opportunity. Still trying to understand how you can justify getting rid of your resident speedster for the remainder of the movie by just tripping his speed. There was no real reason for Jean to sacrifice herself. She had already won the battle. It was pointless from the start. There were some redeeming qualities. The oldfashioned Dazzler costume and light show, while she was singing, was all you got but nostalgic. The proper use and voice for the Storm character.

No offense to Halle Berry but Alexandra Shipp was a much better Storm. There was also a scene where Nightcrawler loses it and runs through the alien enemy like a man possessed which was a good show of his powers. With a typical wrapped up ending like a 22-minute sitcom from the 70s, I’m glad this is the last that we will see of this franchise now that Disney has brought the FOX Studio property back to Marvel Studios. This will hopefully be the last bit of torture of our favorite comic book mutants that we should have to endure. I just wish a lot of these actors in this franchise had a chance to do the same thing with Marvel Studios where their talents would have been given better material and direction.

I realize my review was harsh and I’m unapologetic about that but let us know what you thought of Dark Phoenix. Comment below and let us know what you expect to improve now that the X-Men will back in the hands of Marvel Studios.

Kenny Walker Jr

Nerdy by Nature: An Open Mic for Open Minds and Hearts

Nerdy by Nature is an Open Mic experience held every first Friday at the revered Amalgam Comic and Coffeehouse, located at 2758 Frankford Avenue in Philadelphia. “Let Your Geek Flag Fly,” is the mantra of Nerdy by Nature, according to its founder and MC, KeithfromUpDaBlock, and the performances to follow manifest this sentiment month after month. KeithfromUpDaBlock and Amalgam owner, Ariell Johnson, decided to create this amazing experience about two years ago.

Keith and co-host, Lot DaWordGician, longtime creative friends from their high school performing arts days, were involved with Stand Up the Movies yet were focused to close those doors when ownership changed hands. Amalgam Comic and Coffeehouse had been around for about a year, Keith and Ariell did not know each other, at first, he reached out as a sign of support for Ariell’s business. A perfect precursor mimicking the welcoming and supportive attitude of Nerdy by Nature. Their goal was to bring like-minded people together, and two years later, they are still succeeding at every event.

My first Nerdy by Nature experience came during the February event, and it was an experience I will never forget. My first time performing, I did three minutes of “Dad Jokes,” all Comic-Con and Game of Thrones related, and it was the first ovation I ever received from a crowd. Many “nerdy” comedians enjoy Nerdy by Nature as they can use material which typically would not go over as well to the general population. Plus, this “nerdy” material is often near and dear to their hearts.

Co-host, Lot DaWordGician, informed me, her favorite moment from Nerdy by Nature came when a fellow nerd spoke about Black Holes for ten minutes. While the material went over many audience members heads, it was a prime example of the nerds embracing their own. Most of the acts are comedians, along with poets, magicians, authors reading excerpts from their short stories. It doesn’t matter if you are black, brown, white, dressed casually or in full Viking gear, even if you are not nerdy, this open mic’s nature is to accept you for you.

One typical character trait of nerds” is social anxiety, and if I didn’t struggle with it, there may have been more quotes from amazingly talented nerds. Nerds have been given negative connotations in the entertainment industry for generations. Even Brainy Smurf got bullied by the other Smurfs, including Papa Smurf. I do not have to learn the stories of each performer to know many have dealt with bullying, loneliness, and deal with feelings of not fitting society’s standard for “cool.” Nerdy by Nature shatters these notions with acceptance.

Every performer, whether it is their first time performing or a guest spot by an established industry name, all acts are treated with respect. While I may have been too nervous to ask for more comments, I have been at every event since February and felt welcomed, which as an anti-social nerd, is few and far between. Nerdy by Nature hosts themes for each event, the second Nerdy by Nature event I was lucky enough to attend was dedicated to one of their own. They helped raise money for one of their hosts as she battles health issues, showing it is more than a mic, it is a family.

As someone who typically has trouble feeling accepted and making friends, Nerdy by Nature has opened doors I would not have opened. Through meeting people at Nerdy by Nature, I have been invited to participate in social media events promoting reading to the youth, to venture into the world of improv, and invitations to attend other events. I chose not to perform at the Prince Birthday themed event last week. I wanted this event to have my full attention. One of the co-hosts, comedian Beth McNulty, was unable to attend and bring her refreshing insight.

Co-host, Lot DaWordGician kicked off the event with her passionate poetry and had me hanging on every syllable of her alliteration and analogies. Following Lot’s mesmerizing poetry, a magician entranced the crowd with his act, bringing up a few volunteers and pulled laughs from the crowd with each trick. The Prince Impersonator had shoulders rolling, heads bobbing, and feet tapping, intertwined with comedians pushing the boundaries and keeping the laughs coming with their various comedic stylings. To all the young nerds out there, parents of nerds, KeithfromUpBlock wants you to find like-minded people, and never stop growing.

LotdaWordGician asks you to stay true to your inner nerd, as you won’t realize how admired you are until you get older. Don’t let the world change you, because they love nerds more than they let on. I will say, the truth is out, find yours. Nerdy by Nature is not the only event benefiting the community at Amalgam Comic and Coffeehouse. There were also flyers for Queerly Comedic, an LGBT centric comedy night, Therapeutic Roleplay Groups for Children, and a writing group, just to name a few. if you are thinking of performing for your first time, or you are looking for a fun way to spend the first Friday of every month in the Tri-State area, Nerdy by Nature is a place to plant your Geek Flag.

Mike Hoff

Heroes In Crisis: A murder mystery based on therapy

History of Crisis Events

In the DC Universe, the title Crisis was applied to the teamups between the Justice League of America of Earth-One and the Justice League of America. The prelude to these events was The Flash of Two Worlds which introduced the concept of the multiverse by teaming up the Golden Age Flash and the Modern Age Flash in The Flash #123 (Sept 1961). This led to Justice League and Justice Society annual team-ups that started with Crisis on Earth-One and Crisis on Earth-Two found in Justice League #21 and #22 in 1963. This annual tradition continued until Crisis on Infinite Earths in 1985 which is a classic.

During these annual events, the two teams would visit other Earths in the multiverse to team up with those heroes and defeat the villains. They would travel through time. They would travel to dimensions. To me these where exciting events. As a kid in the late 70’s this was my introduction to the Justice Society because at the time they did not have a monthly book and in my neighborhood, you had to go to the local 7/11 to get books which didn’t always have the best or newest selection.

After Crisis on Infinite Earths, the Crisis events took a slightly different turn. As we were now dealing with a new DC universe because of the 1985 book, the threats became bigger and more of a universal problem. Some of these events were not specifically titled “Crisis” but they were considered Crisis events. In 2004, Identity Crisis was a crisis on a smaller scale. This dealt with a murder mystery among the heroes. Ralph Dibney’s, the Elongated Man, wife, Sue Dibney, had been murdered. After a list of villains, it was revealed that the murderer was actually Jean Loring, Ray Palmer’s (The Atom) wife.

The premise of Heroes in Crisis

In Heroes in Crisis, DC went back to the murder mystery formula. The hitch this time was that there were no villains involved. The premise of this story is that Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman, who are now being dubbed the Trinity, created a place called Sanctuary. Sanctuary is a place for superhero therapy. Because of the life they lead, if a hero needed a place to go to get away, collect their thoughts or just talk about their life, they went to Sanctuary. It was a secret place that only the heroes knew about. But the unthinkable happens: a mass murder takes place at Sanctuary. No one knows who did the murders and the only living witnesses and possible suspects are Booster Gold and Harley Quinn.

While Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, Flash, and other heroes try to solve the mystery, Booster Gold and Harley Quinn work on trying to clear their names and find their own answers. Booster and Harley being the only survivors are made to believe that one of them is the killer. With the help of Blue Beetle and Batgirl, the four solve the mystery of the real killer: Wally West, the Flash. Wally West was at Sanctuary dealing with the loss of his family since he reappeared from the speed force a few years ago. He has not been seen since Flashpoint event and was not integrated into the New 52.

West came out of the speed force to a much different reality. While at Sanctuary trying to cope with his loss and trying to fit into this new world, he loss control of his powers and his energy killed everyone in the vicinity. Realizing what he had done, he set up everything to make it look like it wasn’t him to throw off the scent. Then he went into the future to kill himself and leave that body in the past to make him not a suspect. Sounds crazy. Anyway, Wally West was caught and convinced not to kill himself and he confessed to the accidental murders. He was jailed and Booster and Harley were cleared.

Our take from this story

The refreshing part of Heroes in Crisis was that it was a murder mystery. There was no big epic battle at the end to save the universe, the planet or even the country. There was no master plot by a big supervillain to take over everything or kill the heroes. This was just a well-written murder mystery. Yes, it was confusing at the end on how Wally West would kill himself and how Booster proposed the solution. Other than that, it all was a was well written. Another refreshing part of this story was the use of Booster Gold, Blue Beetle, Harley Quinn, and Batgirl.

These are unusual leads for a Crisis event. Crisis events are usually centered around main heroes like Superman, Batman and the rest of the Justice League. While the Trinity were featured throughout the story, they were in the background trying to figure out the mystery. The weird pairing of Booster and Harley along with Beetle and Batgirl made for quite an interesting story. It made me think how DC could use another mystery book. Another cool aspect of the story was Sanctuary. The heroes that were getting treated there were made to video themselves talking to about their problems in a video that would be erased when they were done.

Throughout the nineissue story, you got to listen in on the lives of various heroes. Some of the videos whereof the slain heroes who happen to be there during Wally’s accident. Insight on life as a hero. They are people too. One of the few battles was the battle between Harley and the Trinity. Now Harley going against Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman would have you thinking the fight is over before it began. Harley was able to hold off the heroes and delay them enough so she could escape. Harley was also able to go toe to toe with Booster. Although all these heroes are way stronger than her and the fights can be seen as a writers choice to move the story, this could also show the power of fighting an unpredictable opponent.

Overall, Heroes in Crisis is a good solid read which has you wondering the future of the fan favorite Wally West. There are suggestions that there are bigger things planned for his future with certain sources pointing to his own book or a stint as leader of the Suicide Squad. Even bigger is possible hints to this story being connected to the Doomsday Clock storyline and that Dr Manhattan from that story is connected to the deaths framing Wally without anyone’s knowledge.

Take a read and give us your opinion.

Kenny Walker Jr

GODZILLA: A MONSTER GOOSE CHASE

Godzilla, one of the most famous monsters worldwide for more than 50 years. From Asia to America, fans fill the box office to see the next iteration of Godzilla. However, this version of the King of Monsters would best be suited filling the couch of your living room. The opening scene gives the audience a brief refresher from the ending of the previous Godzilla movie. From there it seemed more like a monster version of Where in the World is Carmen San Diego than an epic monster movie.

This is a great cast, but combined their performances were lackluster. The dialogue felt empty for most of the film and forced in the rest of the scenes. Millie Bobbie Brown is the main reason I went to see the movie, as I am borderline obsessed with Stranger Things. So, the audience knows she has a wide emotional range in her acting repertoire, which was on display, yet felt flat when combined with the surrounding cast.

The monsters seemed to all have the same gray, scaly skin. Whether due to CGI budgeting or lack of creativity, it pulled away from the unique traits each monster is supposed to have. Except for Mothra, the Queen of the Monsters. The Queen of Monsters illuminated the dark theatre with a beautiful glow, or at least you knew it was supposed to be Mothra, even if the monster was no longer discernable with the lighting.

The visual effects were not a complete loss, Mothra’s introduction was a powerful scene, Godzilla’s introduction set up a few plot points and underlying movie themes, and Monster Zero stole the scene with Godzilla. After the first glimpse of each monster, they lose their aesthetic appeal.

The story lacked intrigue and was dull at each stage of the film. This dragged its claws at every point, which ruined what could have been a big twist. But even this twist lacked the punch when it was revealed, much like the first battle scene between Godzilla and Monster Zero.

As a movie fan, I tend to keep to the common courtesy of not talking or look at my phone during flicks, yet I found myself checking the time in between conversations during this Monster Goose Chase. Perhaps the final battle would have been the visual aesthetics and edge of your seat fight sequence I was hoping to see during the film, but I did not make it that far. Unless the humans revealed themselves to David Icke’s lizard people, the ending could not have saved this monster story flop.

Mike Hoff

Comic Con: A Superhuman Experience

I first entered the comic book culture about five years ago. A friend had a backpack full of Marvel comics and trades, which are typically a collection of an entire story arc. He handed me Marvel’s Infinity Gauntlet to read, and I’ve been a fan ever since. Comic books helped me through a difficult point in my life, as it has given countless adults and children an escape from life’s stressors. Comic books are an escape from reality, as are comic conventions. Yet, at these conventions, fans experience genuine interactions with other attendees, artists, authors, and celebrities.
 Four years later I attended my first Comic-Con, Garden State Comic Fest in Atlantic City, New Jersey with my cousin. As a casual fan, I can still remember the feeling of excitement when I was greeted by a woman in Harley Quinn cosplay. Cosplay is one of the main attractions of any given Comic-Con. Much of my first experience was taking pictures of the different cosplayers ranging from DC,  three different jokers. Marvel, I saw a Green Goblin “battle” a Spider-Man for a group of kids. Other crowd watched Lightsaber battles and Transformers unite. Many conventions host cosplay contests which are as fun for the audience as it is the participants.
My cousin decided to become a comic book collector around the same time I became a comic book fan. He was lucky enough to meet Stan Lee and get his autograph twice. Just a few of the most memorable of many memories he will never forget as a comic collector. Being a comic collector takes preparation. They will check the website regularly to see what guests have been added or have canceled. Then look up their work if not familiar with all some artists’ work. They will collect certain key issues such as first appearances, major deaths, and most epic storylines. Then label the books with the various people involved for signatures. But there are all types of items to purchase and collect aside from comic books available at Comic-Con.
This particular event, we waited in line along with generations of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle fans to meet creator, Kevin Eastman and get his autograph. Some of the most renowned comic book character creators will have lines of fans waiting to interact, and they are happy to meet their fans. There are also artists on the verge of becoming the “next big thing” as well as artists just starting out. Aside from art and comics, there are vendors with cards, clothing, posters, toys, as well as other unique creations too hard to describe without witnessing with your own eyes. One of the most memorable booths I have seen at any Comic Con was artwork created by a girl in middle school. Her unique style was horror focused with “Death Scenes” combining different genres like Marvel and Charlie Brown, a Thanos figure standing over a bloody Charlie Brown and Snoopy figures.
It did not take long to I discover being a part of the fandom is necessary to enjoy a comic book convention. But this was smaller than my next Comic-Con experience, Wizard World last year.  I would compare it to the environment of the Eagles Super Bowl parade. Some people waited their whole lives to enjoy this rare moment. People of all ages interacting, enjoying the rare moment of thousands of people all excited for a common cause. Albeit having their own individual reasons for their fandom. Its a place of true freedom of expression without judgment. Attending a Comic-Con gives you a chance with celebrities from some fan-favorite television shows and movies.
When I attended Wizard World, along with the expected Marvel Cinematic Universe actors, there were also many stars from Game of Thrones making appearances to take selfies with fans. While other fans had artists create custom commissioned drawings and paintings.

The guest panels are another main attraction of comic conventions. The panels range from actors talking about their experiences on the fan favorite shows to artists and inkers describing their methods to authors giving world building advice to aspiring authors. These meetings give fans attending insights they would not get the opportunity to hear otherwise.

The Comic-Con experience transcends the comic book culture. Comic conventions are as much about acceptance and freedom of expression as they are artwork, comics, and movies. Whether attending alone, with a group of friends, or as a family, those attending will leave with memories that will last a lifetime. Casual fans, collectors, or those not a part of fandom attending, whether purchasing or window shopping, everyone leaves with priceless memories that will last a lifetime. Fans exit with the knowledge they just enjoyed a superhuman experience.
Mike Hoff

Game of Thrones: King of Modern Television

Game of Thrones, one of the most popular television series of recent time, arguably all-time. This show is so popular, you can see MEMEs splattered over social media about people who DID not watch this epic fantasy saga. Now that it is over, apparently fanatics are seeking therapy. Not since The War of the Worlds has an entertainment broadcast traumatized viewers like Game of Thrones. Most fans watched for the dragons, sex, and violence. Personally, the best parts of Game of Thrones throughout the entire series was the dialogue, foreshadowing, and the repeated theme, history repeats itself.

Dragons were like the tenth best thing about Game of Thrones. This show shocked people into fandom from episode one, and never looked back. I can remember vividly when I first watched Jaime Lannister throw Bran out of the window. First was the big risk they took with the adulterous, incest scene between Cersei and Jaime Lannister. Its shock value seemed diminished seconds later with an act of attempted murder when a “Knight” pushed a child from the window. I was instantly hooked, wondering how they would “WOW” me next. From Ned Stark’s beheading in Season One to the Red Wedding to Jon Snow being killed by the Night’s Watch to Cersei blowing up the High Septon, their fanbase jaw’s would drop week after week.

Its opening scene was as detailed as the show. If they showed Winterfell, you knew you would see a Stark trying to do the right thing. Kings Landing, a Lannister plotting their next malicious move. In Essos, Daenerys Targaryen and her dragons, while Beyond the Wall meant the White Walkers are coming. This show was as much about the villain’s journey as it was the hero’s journey, and these evil characters were just as appealing in their own villainous ways. Game of Thrones specialty was creating characters so enthralling and dynamic, fans were as excited to see how the story of B characters played out, not just main characters. “Secondary” characters like The Hound, Tormund, a wildling from Beyond the Wall who wound up as one of John Snow’s most loyal friends.

Bronn of the Blackwater, the man was promised a castle early in the series, and the fanbase was all over social media. Gendry, a King’s bastard was almost sacrificed but was set free by Sir Davos then disappeared for seasons. Again social media wondered if he was still rowing. So the show gave back, when Sir Davos, the World’s Best Smuggler,  says “I thought you might still be rowing.” This is an example of a show giving back to its loyal fandom. The villains of this show captivated audiences with their cruelty. Season after season, there were villains we loved to hate. After the first few seasons, Joffrey Baratheon seemed like the vilest character, until Ramsey Bolton was introduced, then Joffrey’s sadism seemed like amateur hour.

Hearts stopped when the Night King, the White Walkers magical leader, turned the dead Wildlings and Northmen at Hardhome before the survivor’s very eyes, but his evil was nothing compared to the heinous acts committed by the Mad Queens, Cersei Lannister and The Dragon Queen in the end. Who was the most clever man in Westeros? It Varys. You could always count on Littlefinger, the most conniving, Varys, the Master of Whispers and Tyrion Lannister, who drank and knew things to deliver the wittiest conversations. Littlefinger and Varys’ deceptive schemes were consistently moving plot points and keeping fans guessing their true motives, while Tyrion stole the show with his witty banter just about every scene. Often he was the comic relief surrounded by the most malicious characters.

The fun didn’t stop with the show for Game of Thrones fans. In between seasons, the fandom would spend countless hours creating their own theories about the show, or scouring Youtube to hear theories about the future fate of their favorite characters and storylines. Some of which turned out to be correct. One in particular, “R + L= J,” Rhaegar Targaryen plus Lyanna Stark equals Jon Snow, was an underlying theme for the entire series. These also ranged from Bran as the Night King, the world was in a Giant’s eyeball, and the story was being told by Samwell Tarly decades after these events occurred. While most of the theories turned out to be wrong, fans would not have concocted them if Game of Thrones didn’t do so many things right.

This show is not without its flaws. There were storylines abandoned and unanswered, like the mysterious Quaithe that knew everything about the Dragon Queen, yet was only in two episodes. Flaws like Melisandre, a century-year-old Red Priestess that turned old when she took off her magic necklace in one scene but was still young while wearing it with another scene. Then there was the issue with the CGI cost of the direwolves, and their lack of appearances. And of course, the war scenes. First, fans were unhappy because they didn’t show wars early on, just the aftermath. Then the dreaded “Too Dark” final battle between the White Walkers and The Greatest Army the World has Ever Seen. One of the last seasons many perceived flaws in the eyes of Game of Thrones fans.

There is actually a petition with over one million signatures to have the last season rewritten. So Game of Thrones is not above reproach from its fanatics. Complaints include lazy writing, as the majority of the last episode was callbacks to various scenes scattered throughout the seasons. Some felt character arcs were abandoned in lazy manners, such as the death scene of Jaime and Cersei Lannister. Three of the most pivotal, Arya Stark kills the Night King, Jon Snow kills Daenerys, and Bran the Broken being named King, were absolutely hated by millions because fans believe it was forced just to surprise the fans. I am part of the 1% of Game of Thrones fans that enjoyed the final season. While it had its obvious flaws, so does every television show and every movie. Any flaws I could point out are simply nitpicking.

The war with the White Walkers was too dark, yet the majority of war scenes in any genre film or television show are essentially impossible to follow. I have never cried while watching a television show. But Game of Thrones last season brought me as close as I’ve ever been when Jon Snow killed Daenerys. I fist pumped when they named Bran the Broken King of Westeros and literally leapt out of my seat when Arya killed the Night King. I especially loved the final episode because it was a callback filled episode. Characters, story arcs, and scene settings went full circle. Game of Thrones started with three men entering the North and ended with the King Beyond the Wall, Aegon Targaryen, formerly known as Jon Snow walking into the true North to start a new kingdom. 

I feel bad for the millions of fans disappointed with the last season, it is a shame so many did not enjoy the end of their favorite show.

But they are only that upset because Game of Thrones climbed the ladder to become the King of Modern Television.

Mike Hoff