Thursday, February 26, 2015

Been a while since our youngest was this old

Looking at the trusty calendar, I note that we are a mere two weeks and six days from the bino’s second birthday. Two years old! At that age he will barely even qualify as a baby-in-name-only anymore. He’s basically talking now, or at least stringing together multiple words in meaningful ways, interspersed with some gestures and grunts, sure, but the balance tips further and further towards the intelligibly verbal every day. He desperately wants to be one of the big kids like his brother and sister and follows them everywhere and mimics their actions, from jumping on (or swan-diving off) the couch to helping himself to anything he wants even if its up on a high counter. I don’t think I’ve ever mentioned that my wife and I sometimes refer to him as “ the golden gorilla”, but man, that kid has some long arms.

(Speaking of random names and inside jokes, another new development is my wife and I referring to the kids as “Pazuzu” or “Manny” based on our recently inculcated fandom of the show Constantine. If anyone were to ask us to clarify, we could truthfully explain that Pazuzu is a devil and Manny is an angel, at which point a question like “So were the kids Pazuzu or Manny today?” makes perfect sense. But of course if you really do watch Constantine you realize that in the context of the show Pazuzu is a malevolent archfiend of Hell and Manny is not evil but is still kind of a jerk.

I’d feel worse if I weren’t fairly sure that the jerk-to-demonic-tormentor spectrum is one most parents are familiar with.)

Right, so, the bino is almost two. On the day he was born, the little girl was three weeks and four days shy of her own second birthday, which means by the time she was twenty days away from two, she wasn’t our youngest anymore. The little guy was still an oldest-youngest-only when he turned two (and in fact for another seven months plus a week or so after that) but still, that was way back in 2010(!?!?!) and even then, we knew by then that his sister would be born the following spring, even if we hadn’t told the world yet. So the whole “our youngest is two” thing is so old it’s new again, and “our youngest is two and we’re absolutely positively never having any more” is completely uncharted territory.

Which is not to say that arriving there is an unwelcome development. I’d like to think that we are actively, intentionally working on raising our children to be self-sufficient, independent, fully realized and all that yadda yadda, basically the opposite of infantilizing them and loudly proclaiming the heartbreak of seeing them grow up. I want them to fledge! Babies are wonderful, but at the same time, they are hard, and I am not going to resist the flow of time when it takes me from “hard” to “maybe a little less crushingly exhausting”. I know it’s not like flipping a switch, where we’ll wake up one day and all three kids will be motivated little go-getters who can take care of themselves and are happy to go out into the world and reflect glories back upon their mother and father. But I’ll take what breaks I can get.

Right now I’m most excited about flipping around the bino’s carseat once he turns two and no longer has to be a backwards-facing rider. In his mother’s car, he has the middle bench all to himself and his brother and sister sit behind him, but in my car it’s three across the back seat of the sedan. So in addition to being all folded up and cramped, it’s entirely too easy (and apparently too tempting) for him to just boot his sister in the head as she sits beside him. He’s got his brother on the other side, too, and I really don’t know why his sister takes the brunt of the savage gorilla-kicking, other than maybe the bino is right-handed and thus right-footed. Whatever the reasons, in a mere matter of weeks the point will be moot, and the rides home from daycare should be a little more peaceful.

And then we can start the countdown to the inevitable purchase of a family minivan.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Not much to report either way

So, on the one hand, I got an e-mail this morning from my contracting manager, with a subject line of "Contract Status". You might think this would be cause for either panic or celebration, but the gist of the e-mail was in fact admitting that the status of our contract remains unknown. It also acknowledged that this is because the government is behind schedule on making a final decision, and there wasn't much to be done about that except for my manager to continue pestering the government supervisor, who in turn can't do much except pester her own bosses and various other decision-makers above her in the hierarchy until something shakes loose. My manager did go out on a limb and say that he's "positive" in an unofficial, opinion-based way, based on certain "indicators" he is privy to. He also said that numerous people on our team had been hitting him up for more info, and reiterated that (1) as soon as there is anything to know, he will be in the loop and (2) he will also keep all of us in the loop. One of the things I do genuinely like about my contracting boss is that he doesn't play games or make anyone guess what he's thinking, and in fact the aforementioned reiteration is the closest anyone would ever have to come to needing to read between the lines with him. (The reading, for the slow kids in the back, is "Shut up and stop asking me, I'm not sitting on new info just for funsies.")

I feel like I've blogged about this before, but I think I actually haven't; I've just been talking about it with my wife and corresponding with a couple of other curious parties who've asked. Basically, the bridge contract is over in a little more than four weeks, which means there is not really enough time to do a proper hand-off transition if we lost the contract and some other team was coming in. Pretty soon we're going to be inside the window of time where we get auto-notified about our badges and other credentials expiring, because those are tied to the bridge contract, although there's nothing we can do about that until we have a new contract officially in place. No doubt what is going to happen is that the new contract will be finalized in a couple of weeks, and the onus will be on my team to do a mad scramble of completing and filing new paperwork and making appointments at the building pass office and whatnot. So it goes.

Meanwhile, on the other hand, my botched-up interview from this past Friday has been rescheduled for early tomorrow morning. I don't exactly have the warm fuzzies about this lead, but I'm going to see it through, if only because I can always use some practice sharpening my self-selling skills. If it turns out to be a really great opportunity and they make me a hard-to-resist offer, obviously that would be fantastic. But I'm not pinning my hopes on that unlikely scenario. Right now I'm just trying to figure out if I can get through the interview, get back to my regular gig before too much of the morning has elapsed and without drawing too much attention to myself from my co-workers, and then either stay late or otherwise make up the time throughout this pay period so I don't go any deeper in the PTO hole. I think I can, but as always if things go astoundingly pear-shaped I will be sure to file my post-fact escapades here.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Saturday Grab Bag: The Dog's Brunch!

I left the office yesterday at noon, as planned, and walked down to the Metro (pausing halfway at a restroom to tie on a tie, fold my sweater into my bag, &c.) and caught a train into D.C. I walked from the L'Enfant Plaza station to the L'Enfant Plaza ... plaza, I guess, which is a fairly convulted labyrinth of an office park. Made one stop at the wrong building but they directed me to the right one, and I got all the way to the proper floor for the company where I was interviewing, with five whole minutes to spare.

There was no obviously marked, receptionist-manned entrance for visitors once I stepped off the elevators, just some blank doors with cardkey locks. I had been given the phone number of the person I was to interview with, and I called to let him know I had arrived. I got his voicemail. I left a message and cooled my heels in the elevator lobby for a bit. After a few minutes with no change in the situation, I started looking at the doors more closely. One of them at least had a doorbell, and when I looked through that window I saw the name of the company I was looking for. So I rang.

Someone answered the door, I explained who I was, and they let me in and asked me to wait while they tracked down my interviewer. But for several minutes they couldn't find him. Finally, the HR person I had mainly been corresponding with called me, and she explained that my interviewer had left suddenly due to a family emergency. And there was no backup plan other than to reschedule. So, I left (though I did try to tell someone as I was leaving that they could call off the search).

Emergencies happen (they've certainly imposed on my work schedule more than once) so I'm not bitter or anything, but it was kind of amazing how, after I had posted yesterday about what a crazy week it had been, there proceeded to be one more bonkers twist for Friday afternoon.


Or two twists! I killed some time until my usual homeward-bound train was due at the station. Then I rode back to the local stop, got in my car, and was finally able to plug in my cell phone, which had of course died while I was idly out and about for half the day. At that point I got a text my wife had sent earlier, alerting me to the fact that on Thursday (the day the little guy was supposed to start and finish at daycare with school in the middle, but instead went daycare-school-neighbor's) the little guy had left some things in his daycare cubby, things like snow boots that he would probably need this weekend (and, in fact, it is snowing right now as I type this). So I altered course from the train parking garage and drove over to daycare.

(Incidentally, along the way I arrived at a traffic light intersection where I had to make a left, and I was the first car in the left turn lane, which has its own arrow signal. I was also facing more or less due west, and the setting winter sun was directly above the signal. It was impossible to see whether the arrow was red or green (I knew it had been red as I approached) because looking at the signal meant looking directly into the blinding sun. OH MAN DO I HATE THE SETTING WINTER SUN!)

I got to daycare and the teachers were slightly freaked out to see me since they weren't aware of any of my kids being there, but I set them at ease and said I was just picking up some of my son's stuff. Only to find his cubby completely empty. Had someone moved his things? Had another child mistakenly taken them? Had he actually taken everything to his elementary school, and left it there? I eliminated as many possibilities as I could, got assurances from the director that they would keep an eye out for things, and finally headed home.

The little guy didn't remember bringing his snow boots to school, but then again his memory is even spottier than mine. My wife double-checked her car, and sure enough, there was the pile of missing things. I'm not telling this story to shame her, because as I told her at the time I completely understand how she could lose track of where everything wound up over the course of the last few days' insanity. It was just that kind of week.

Friday, February 20, 2015

At least there were no earthquakes

Ours is a family that thrives on routines and rituals, as this blog has demonstrated time and time again. This past week, though, was a dog’s breakfast.

Monday: the federal government was closed due to the Presidents’ Day Holiday. Said holiday is not one which my employer recognizes with automatic paid leave. In the past, many of my co-workers and I would therefore suck it up and work on Presidents’ Day, in the absence of our government colleagues. But last year the rules changed and we lowly contractor scum are no longer allowed to be in the office unless there is at least one government rep present. (Obviously no government employees are going to come in on a holiday.) I was forced to burn 8 hours of my annual leave time, but the upside was, hey, I got to stay home. The little guy, on the other hand, had to go to school, but only for a half day, as parent-teacher conferences were scheduled for the afternoons and evenings Monday and Tuesday.

And then, late in the day, it snowed.

Tuesday: everybody was home, because the schools and the federal government were closed due to inclement weather. Fortunately, when those kind of things happen I don’t have to use my annual leave, I get paid as if it were a normal day and I went to work, based on some business logic about how it’s not our fault if the weather causes regional closures and we’re not expected to be able to plan for such things.

Also, it was one my wife’s usual days off, and not that we needed it that day but even the daycare was closed, sadly due to some burst water pipes and the need for some emergency remediation.

The only slight downside was that I had scheduled an interview for a potential new job. The last time I went down this road I had two long phone interviews and two multi-headed in-person interviews, and that all came to naught, so at this point, having merely been through a single quick pre-screen on the phone, my expectations are still tempered. At any rate, the interview was supposed to be Tuesday afternoon, late enough in the day that I could slip out of work only slightly early, hopefully with no one even noticing I was gone. But the snow cancelled that plan.

Wednesday: Back to work for me, and back to work for my wife, but the public schools were still closed. Luckily, the daycare re-opened, and they were able to take the little guy for a full day along with the little ones. The industrial dryers were still running in one hallway, where the floor moulding was yet to be replaced, but overall they seemed to have done a good job setting things right after the plumbing mishaps.

My wife ended up working later than usual, but made it home eventually. (And we started watching Game of Thrones Season 4, woohoo!)

Thursday: The schools re-opened and we had just about the closest thing to a normal day, with the morning routine going more or less the way it’s supposed to, though the little guy had a little trouble getting himself in gear. In the afternoon, though, the little guy got on the wrong bus; the big yellow school bus took him to our neighborhood, despite the fact that he should have gotten on the white van to take him to daycare where I would pick him up after work. At the risk of wearing out the notion of “fortunately” in this post, we were gratified to learn that the parents of the little guy’s friend who lives two doors down noticed that neither my wife nor I were there to pick up the little guy, and they shuttled the little guy to their house and let the boys play together until I was able to commute home, pick up the little ones, and then get back to our street. No harm, no foul, just some unpleasant stress and worry for a little while there.

Friday: Today is the day that my interview was ultimately rescheduled for. But now instead of 4 pm it’s at 1 pm, which means I have to leave the office around noon and can’t really get away with just ghosting out. Also, I am of course going to show up for my interview in a suit, but it’s casual Friday here at my current gig. A complete change of outfit would be impractical, so I am wearing somewhat dressy trousers and a sweater over my shirt. A tie is hidden in my work bag and the suit jacket is under my overcoat in the micro-closet of my cubicle. I should be able to leave, stop at a restroom between my office building and the Metro, swap the sweater for the tie, and make it into D.C. by the appointed time. Exciting cloak-and-dagger stuff, I know.

Oh, and the schools are closed again today, based solely on the alarmingly low levels of molecular motion in the atmosphere. It’s also another of my wife’s days off, so everyone in my nuclear fam is keeping warm at home. I’m hoping to be back with them at my regularly scheduled home arrival time, but there were delays on the VRE this morning (signal problems, with no indication if that meant “weather-related” or not) and who knows what the evening will bring.

Other stuff happened this week, too, but in the interest of getting some things done before I have to leave, and saving some things to post about next week (so that the blog doesn’t lapse into a weeks-long torpor again) I will sign off for now.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

The Grimmening

So here, at long last, is my latest foray into honest-to-ISBN publishing. I am still waiting on my contributor copy, which I understand is going to be a fairly massive 700+ page paperback with over 40 stories, some of them running 10,000 words or more. It'll take me a few commutes to plow through all that, but I am looking forward to the experience. And once I've got the whole anthology digested, I'll return to the task of promoting it by weighing in on the individual stories that jumped out at me, whether by virtue of entertainment value, sheer weirdness, or whatever else seems appropriate at the time.

Basically, though, it's a collection of re-told fairy tales, some fleshed out and deepened, others using the originals as mere starting points for wild tangents, all of them mashing up the old folklore with new speculative genres from steampunk to urban fantasy to space opera. My contribution, for example, was put through the filter of future tech and mad scientists, and was based on ... well, if I told you what fairy tale it was based on it would kind of give away the game, so you'll just have to read it for yourself.

Below you can find links for picking up your own copy, as well as some of the promotional material that (some? most? all?) the other affiliated authors are currently using to spread the word.


Fairytales don’t always happen once upon a time. Fables don’t always have a happy ending. Sometimes the stories we love are too dark for nightmares. What if waking Sleeping Beauty was the worse thing the Prince could have done? What if Rapunzel wasn't in that tower for her own protection—but for everyone else’s?

Assembled by The Bearded Scribe Press, Twice Upon A Time combines classics and modern lore in peculiar and spectacular ways. From Rapunzel to Rumpelstiltskin, this unique collection showcases childhood favorites unlike anything you’ve ever seen.

Both traditionally-published and independent authors will take you on a whirlwind ride through fairytale and folklore, myth and majick. Cherished stories are revisited and remastered into newly-treasured tales of hope and heartache, of adversity and adventure.

Edited by Joshua Allen Mercier. Cover art by Luke Spooner.

"Brilliant change-up on the new flood of "Fairy Tale Twists". If you're looking for something that can suck you in right away, this book is definitely it. The collection of short stories makes sure you never get bored with the story or writing style." ~Jett Murdock / Amazon review
About the Publisher: The Bearded Scribe Press, LLC is an independent publisher of quality Speculative Fiction. They aim to become a platform for emerging writers to get discovered by the mainstream and inversely, through becoming a staple in the literary community, becoming the source for readers to discover emerging talent in the Speculative Fiction realm.
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Watch the [Extended] Book Trailer:

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Saturday Spider-Grab Bag

I’m pretty sure three full posts about the hypothetical future in-story relationship between Spider-Man and the Avengers is more than enough, but of course I had a few extra thoughts that I didn’t manage to squeeze in over the course of the week. And that’s what Saturdays are for!


The most tortured metaphor I came up with was this: it’s like, imagine if at some point after the original Star Trek tv series was cancelled, Gene Roddenberry had sold the rights to the character of Harry Mudd because he needed the money. So there was some movie studio that could, and did, make Harry Mudd movies, although those movies couldn’t really reference the Federation or lots of other elements of that universe not directly related to Harry. Then came the Star Trek movies and the new tv series and their movies, but of course Harry Mudd wasn’t in any of those. (He really wasn’t, but in my metaphor it’s because of legal rights issues.) And then the Star Trek reboot happened and, once the Trek resurgence was in full swing, the producers negotiated to get Harry Mudd back.

Now imagine everyone who’s a hardcore fan of Star Trek, loved the original tv series and likes what they’ve done with the reboot, suddenly flipping out and bemoaning how it isn’t going to make any sense to have Harry Mudd join up as a crew member of the Enterprise and it’s just going to ruin everything to try to make him some kind of Starfleet officer. Completely discounting the possibility of stories to be told about the crew interacting with Harry Mudd, and jumping straight to bashing the most awkwardly contrived combination of the characters imaginable.

The Spider-Man/Avengers thing is kinda like that. Kinda.


I have another theory for how Spider-Man could be incorporated into the overarching grand MCU Thanos narrative that has been building since the first Avengers epilogue (well really since the Infinity Gauntlet was glimpsed in passing in the Asgardian treasure room in Thor, but be that as it may). This is way beyond unlikely, but because I’m cynical it at least amuses me to think about it:

They could conceivably use Spider-Man as the sacrificial lamb for Thanos, filling the role I originally suspected the Guardians of the galaxy would wind up in. Spider-Man on his own is really no match for Thanos, though of course he would try, and certainly Spider-Man (in any media) has never been opposed to expanding his arsenal for specific foes, swinging by the lab to pick up an experimental alpha-wave generator or sonic disrupter or whatever might be the magic bullet that takes out the bad guy he’s struggling against if webs and wisecracks aren’t getting the job done. So you could have a Thanos versus Spider-Man knockdown drag-out fight, where Spider-Man throws everything and the nuclear-powered kitchen sink at Thanos, only for Thanos to shrug it off. The no-selling of the crazy military sci-fi hardware would be the part that builds up Thanos as a threat, not the disregard for a teenager with the proportional strength of a spider. But the smackdown of Spider-Man would be the part that generates the big heel heat, as the audience cringes to see a beloved superhero getting thrashed.

OK, they wouldn’t kill him, but at the least they’d hospitalize him. Then while he’s in ICU, the Avengers would step up and really bring things to a head.

And why, you may wonder, would they go about it that way, rather than having Thanos demonstrate his world-beater evil nature by just decimating some random fictional planet on-screen or something? The main reason would be to screw with Sony. The current arrangement is for the two studios to share the character, somehow, and that was only hammered out after a fairly long period of Marvel Studios trying to get Spider-Man back outright and Sony playing very hard to get, refusing to surrender intellectual property that they hadn’t yet managed to fully capitalize on (ever) but were convinced would (and rightfully should) make them money in the future. By portraying Spider-Man as getting whupped but good, in a perfectly narratively logical way, Marvel Studios would be fulfilling the letter of their contractual sharing but then giving the character back to Sony as somewhat compromised damaged goods.

Like I said, that’s so petty and twisted there’s virtually no chance of it actually happening, and I know that. But there’s no bad ideas when you’re brainstorming!


Today of course is Valentine’s Day, or as I like to think of it, one of several strategically placed reminders that I’m a guy who’s ridiculously lucky in love.

Whether yours is a celebration of romance or a spirited protest of commercialized mockery of solitary independence, have a good one!

Friday, February 13, 2015

Not a team player (part 3)

(Part 1 here and part 2 here)

People are worried that Marvel Studios getting the rights to utilize Spider-Man in the Marvel Cinematic Universe means that Spider-Man will join the Avengers in the movies, which is problematic at best for the character. They have come to this conclusion based on the fact that every MCU installment so far has been about the Avengers, either focused on the team or on individual members of the team, and every other movie announced for future development has been based around characters prominent in Avengers history in the comics. As it always has been, so it always will be, forever and ever, excelsior.

I can’t believe I have to spell this out, but … Guardians of the Galaxy?

Guardians of the Galaxy was a surprise hit because it was (in part) about a talking raccoon and an ambulatory tree and a ton of other aliens and only one Earth-man and it was based on a comic book property that few people were aware of and even fewer would claim to be gigantic fans of. It also was not tied directly into The Avengers, by which I mean the team, not the movie. Of course it was tied into the movie. The two films take place in the same universe, and with enough fuel Peter Quill could technically fly the Milano all the way from Xandar to Earth and (setting aside relativistic time dilation) bump into Captain America or the Hulk. Thanos was the big post-credits easter egg reveal for The Avengers, and Thanos got a slightly bigger part to play in Guardians of the Galaxy. No doubt the Collector, the Nova Corps, the Celestials and various other elements introduced in Guardians of the Galaxy will factor into the overall story being told through the Avengers and its sequels and the franchises of its constituent members.

But, Guardians of the Galaxy does break the mold in the sense that it’s very difficult to see Star-Lord or Drax or Groot as permanent members of the Avengers. A team-up, on the other hand, seems all but inevitable. I had a theory at one point that GotG were being set up as sacrificial lambs who would all get themselves heroically killed by Thanos to demonstrate how insanely powerful the mad Titan was before he headed for Earth, to better set up the climactic showdown between Thanos and the Avengers there. But given the way audiences fell in love with the Guardians, I think if that ever was the plan it has no doubt changed. So more likely is a story where the Guardians learn Thanos is headed for Earth, they race there to tell the population to evacuate (Peter assumes that of course Earth has developed commonplace space travel since he left as a kid) and then when they find out evacuation isn’t a possibility the Guardians join forces with the Avengers to stop Thanos together. I don’t know if that would be a GotG movie or an Avengers movie, or if Marvel Studios would just upend the paradigm yet again and not make the movie specifically part of one franchise or the other. It will be fun to find out!

I think I was talking about Spider-Man, though? Oh, right. So Star-Lord wasn’t introduced to the MCU to become an Avenger, even if his story advances the Avengers story. Therefore it’s not a foregone conclusion in my mind that Spider-Man will be introduced fated to become an Avenger, either. I am apparently in the minority in thinking this, but there it is.

Some people might say that GotG is the exception that proves the rule. The Guardians are inherently goofy, whereas Spider-Man is a mainstream superhero cut from the same cloth as Iron Man or Thor. The Guardians milieu is way off in a different solar system, so they have huge logistical hurdles to becoming Avengers, whereas Spider-Man lives in New York and could easily be part of the Earth-based team. Perhaps.

I’ve been saving these examples until this point in my argument, because I’m sneaky like that, but Marvel has announced other plans for future movies besides Ant-Man and Black Panther and Captain Marvel. Doctor Strange and Inhumans are on deck as well, and the connections between those properties and the Avengers are tenuously thin at best. The Inhumans are a secret race of people who are descended from the subjects of alien experiments on humans which resulted in enough genetic variance that exposure to a certain gas (or, in the MCU as evidenced by this season of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., a certain metal inside a certain hidden temple) gives the Inhumans superpowers and, often but not always, a weird alien appearance. Sometimes in the comics Inhumans refers not to the entire race but to the royal family of that race, who constitute the rough equivalent of a six-member superteam. One of the members of that team, Crystal, who can control the four classic elements of fire, earth, air and water and who looks basically like a normal woman, has spent time away from her family and the hidden home of the Inhuman race, and been a member of the Fantastic Four as well as an Avenger (married, briefly but long enough to produce a daughter, to Quicksilver). That is a lot of heavy lifting for a movie to pull off to wind up with a minor connection to the Avengers.

1 - Not an Avenger
2 - Also not
3 - Not him either
4 - Avenger!
5 - Nope
6 - Nope
7 - Nope

Doctor Strange is the sorcerer supreme. Was a real doctor, survived a terrible accident, turned to magic in hopes of curing his career-ending injuries, wound up realizing that using magic to fight supernatural threats to all mankind and reality as we know it was more important than saving individual lives as a surgeon. Was he ever a part of the Avengers, in the comics? Not really. Very briefly, within the past ten years or so, he had his strongest connection to the team when he was allowing them to crash at his pad (during one of those recurring storylines where the Avengers are fugitives and need to lay low) and thus was a de facto unofficial member. I could go on and on about the kind of character Doctor Strange is (basically high fantasy) and how he’s fundamentally at odds with the kind of setting the Marvel Universe is (basically sci-fi pot pourri) and how he’s not a good match with the Avengers meta-sensibilities, but instead I’ll just leave it as an undefended statement and move on. Whatever the connection between Doctor Strange and the Avengers, it’s fleeting at best.

So I think it’s a much more defensible position to say that Marvel Studios was already planning on broadening their approach, spreading out the MCU to keep doing things that directly relate to the Avengers alongside things that have little if anything to do with the Avengers. GotG is the current lone outlier, but I don’t believe it was always meant to be that. I wouldn’t want to bet real money against Ant-Man, Black Panther and Captain Marvel eventually joining the MCU Avengers, but I would stake a non-zero wager against Doctor Strange as a core member. Inhumans is now the new wildcard.

Of course, none of the above proves anything about Marvel Studios’ intentions for Spider-Man. Shoot, they only just finalized the deal a matter of days ago, I doubt they have a fully-formed plan themselves, however close they’re ultimately going to play it to their collective vests once they get it together. But taken all together, it’s the reason why I don’t accept 1) Spider-Man cameo 2) Spider-Man solo movie 3) Spider-Man as Avenger as the only logical sequence of events. It’s logical, I’m not denying that, but it’s one of several possibilities as far as I’m concerned.

I think the most likely step 3 is that Spider-Man shows up in Avengers 3 (or whatever the title/branding of the slobberknocker where the Avengers duke it out with Thanos ends up being) as part of a massive hero coalition making Earth’s last stand, along with the Guardians and the Inhumans and Doctor Strange and all the other not-directly-Avengers-affiliated characters. Because, like I keep saying, why wouldn’t Spider-Man be there, both from a consistent fictional characterization standpoint within the narrative and from a maximizing IP visibility standpoint from the producer’s real world point of view? But he can be in that movie and be part of that story without joining the Avengers. I honestly believe MCU Spider-Man joining the MCU Avengers is only slightly more likely than Spider-Man not appearing in the Thanos storyline finale at all.

First world jank

My Kindle is broken, in an annoyingly specific way. It won't recharge. Currently it has a sliver of juice left in the battery, and I can turn it on, read the e-books on it, connect to WiFi, all that. But when I plug it in, the battery indicator doesn't go any higher. It doesn't even show the little lightning bolt inside the battery icon. It's not the wall outlet, or the adapter/plug/cable, because I've used the same peripheral combo to charge other devices, including my wife's Kindle. I don't even know if there's any kind of Kindle repair options available, or if I just need to suck it up and get a new one and re-sync all the content.

My portable DVD player is dying. Sometimes it takes two or three or more openings and closings of the hatch, or toggles of the power switch, to get it to load a disc. Sometimes it freezes up while playing a movie and only unsticks if I jiggle or smack it, or apply pressure to the hatch near the hinge (NB: I concede this may be magical thinking on my part).

My smartphone is getting pretty antiquated, as these things go. At the very least I think the constant updates of the Facebook app has come very close to passing the point where the latest version is essentially incompatible with the hardware and/or remaining memory of my phone. The browser doesn't always perform optimally, either, and honestly the whole O/S feels slow.

The stereo in my car was intermittently turning itself off (which was irritating) and on (which was unnerving) last summer, and some kind of electrical short was causing it to drain the battery all the time, even when the engine was off, so finally I just had it disconnected, and I've been living without it for months.

So basically, my personal engagement with pop culture has suffered a few slings and arrows of technological failures and shortcomings of late. It's been balanced out quite a bit by some cool new toys on the home front, like finally getting DVR service and a keen new Fire TV stick. But there's the stuff I watch and read at home, and then there's the stuff I watch and read on the commute, and obviously the latter has taken a big hit. Not that I needed another reason to slack off on the blog, and not that I constantly feel the need to justify or at least explain the circumstance surrounding my various absences and silences around here (read: I totally feel the need), but at this point it's become such a recurring theme that I thought it at least bore mentioning.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Not a team player (part 2)

(Part 1 here)

OK, so Sony had the rights to make Spider-Man movies and did in fact churn out five of them in the 21st century (using two different directors/casts and essentially recycling a lot of the same narrative beats between the first three and the last two) with hit-or-miss results. Marvel Studios, in the meantime, has been churning out numerous movies featuring slightly lesser-known (if not now, thanks to the flicks in question, at least arguably at the time they were first in development) superheroes, and those movies have been far more hit than miss. Marvel Studios has developed an approach and an in-house style of storytelling that may be formulaic, but that formula has been a proven success. Now, with Marvel Studios dominant and Sony’s latest attempt to cash in on the superhero boom resulting in a truncated, underperforming Spider-Man duology, the word is out that Marvel Studios will be getting the flagship character of the namesake comics company “back”. In what way is this anything but good news for fans of quality superhero movies, fans of Spider-Man, fans of fun in general?

Basically, it boils down to people not wanting Spider-Man to be an Avenger. Much wailing and gnashing of teeth to that effect flooded my Facebook feed this week, so much that the subject took over my brain and turned into this epic multi-part blog post. I kinda get where people are coming from, but I don’t really share their concerns. Thus I feel compelled to dissect everything here. Sounds totally fun, right?

First of all, all of this freaking out is a tad premature, to my mind. “Marvel Studios and Sony Reach Deal on Spider-Man Rights” is a pretty self-explanatory headline, but I dutifully clicked on a couple of links to read some details. The only concrete ones I could find were these: Spider-Man now legally can, and therefore will, appear in Marvel Studios films. He will show up at some point in some movie headlined by some other established Marvel Cinematic Universe character (most people expect this to be the third Captain America movie, but it really doesn’t matter), and then some time after that he will headline his own solo movie. That’s all that has been officially confirmed so far. No one has said he will appear in an Avengers movie, and no one has said that in that movie he will join up and become a dedicated full-time member of the team. Yet people are rolling their eyes and shaking their heads as if those developments for MCU Spider-Man are all set in stone.

Now, I went to great trouble in the first post to point out that in many ways the MCU and the Avengers are inseparable and indistinguishable. The Incredible Hulk movie and the Iron Man series and the first Cap and Thor movies all arranged the playing pieces on the board specifically to set up the plot of The Avengers. Announcements of future movies seem to show a consistent dedication to giving the Avengers a deep enough bench that the franchise could keep going even as the older actors decline to sign new contracts and their individual franchises wind down. All true, all very much creating the impression that All Things Serve the Avengers.

But as I also said last time, that was a choice Marvel Studios made when they decided to go for broke and make it Avengers-all-or-nothing because a lot of their other characters were spoken for elsewhere. When one of those prodigal properties is added to the mix, does it change the calculation, alter the strategy? It might, or it might not, but I’m of the opinion that either possibility could come to pass and assumptions are just that.

Still, for the sake of argument, let’s say the people reading the tea leaves are correct. The MCU is for all intents and purposes The Avengers and vice versa. (It’s really not, even before you toss in Spider-Man, but I’ll come back to that later.) So why, you may be wondering, does it matter? So Spider-Man makes some cameos and gets his own movie and becomes an Avenger, like Hawkeye or Black Panther. Why is that a bad thing?

Objection #1: Spider-Man is a loner

Apparently some of Spider-Man’s ardent fans, meaning people who’ve been reading the comics their whole lives, insist that this is true. That being a loner is essential to Spider-Man. If you put a character on a team with a bunch of other similar characters, he is by definition no longer a loner. Ergo, if Spider-Man becomes an Avenger, he loses something essential and is ruined, QED.

This is a pretty dumb argument, not least because it’s untrue. Spider-Man is not a loner. The Punisher is a loner. Ghost Rider is a loner. Spider-Man was not designed as a member of a pre-fabricated team, like the original Fantastic Four and X-Men were, but he quickly established a working friendship with one of the members of the FF, the Human Torch. He did the same thing with Daredevil, and the Black Cat, and various other superheroes, and not once did he have to be convinced to reluctantly join forces while grumbling “Spider-Man works alone.” You know, like a loner. One of my favorite Marvel comics from the 70’s and 80’s was a series called Marvel Team-Up, the ostensible premise of which was that two superheroes who are not teammates and don’t usually hang out together would get into a single, self-contained adventure every issue. And the pair of heroes would change every month. Except, in practice, 95% of the time one of the two heroes was Spider-Man. Of course it was, on a business level, because he was their most popular well-known character, and that vehicle was a great way to boost visibility of other books and their casts and whatnot. But narratively it made sense, too, because Spider-Man is one of the most cooperative superheroes ever, way more concerned with doing the right thing (great power/great responsibility and all that) than doing things his way.

So temporary alliances, that’s just built right into who Spider-man is. And it goes beyond the power duos of Marvel Team-Up, too. To beat my favorite horse, it’s not as though the masterminds behind the Marvel Cinematic Universe invented the idea of a shared universe, of different characters cameoing in each other’s stories, or of massive all-encompassing crossovers. That’s right out of the comics’ playbook. And Spider-Man was always a part of the big crossovers, because yet again, of course he was, why wouldn’t the face of the company be front and center? Marvel did a big (admittedly ridiculously dumb) crossover in the 80’s called Secret Wars, where a whole bunch of heroes (most of the Avengers AND the X-Men AND the FF AND Spider-Man) were abducted into space with a bunch of supervillains and forced into a planet-wide gladiatorial battle. A spiritual successor to that storyline in the 90’s was The Infinity Gauntlet, which was about Thanos gathering the Infinity Gems and all the Avengers/FF/X-Men/Spider-Man huddling up and banding together to take him down. If the second one sounds familiar, that’s of course what it looks like the MCU is currently building towards, with the various appearances of the gems and Thanos as subplots in different movies. So it’s not as though they’re now going to be forced to shoehorn Spider-Man into a story about everybody-versus-Thanos. Spider-Man was right there in the source material.

It might be more accurate, and I’ll generously concede that this may be what people actually meant, to say Spider-Man’s never been much of a joiner. That’s true up to a point, in that Spider-Man’s never been a member of a team for so long that it becomes closely linked to the character’s essence. But he’s joined some teams in his day, in the comics. Including … the Avengers.

Objection #2: Spider-Man as an Avenger has been done in the comics, and it’s always so terrible that they quickly revert him to the status quo of independence

This at least has the benefit of not being prima facie dead wrong. Terribleness is of course a matter of subjective opinion, but it can at least be demonstrated that, yes, Spider-Man’s periods of active Avengers membership have been infrequent and brief. Very few hardcore comics geeks would name Spider-Man as their favorite Avenger, or as a quintessential Avenger; some might be legitimately unaware he was ever an Avenger at all. I consider myself deep on Avengers comics fandom, if I do say so myself, and I can’t name a single Avengers storyline, classic or otherwise, that hinges on Spider-Man being part of the team and would fall apart without him. Though, on the other hand, I can’t think of a storyline utterly ruined by his membership, either.

Spider-man is not intrinsically a loner, but he is intrinsically an underdog. That’s unquestionably part of his appeal. He’s often overmatched by his opponents, and sometimes he only wins by sheer force of will and refusal to give up, and sometimes he doesn’t actually win at all, or his victories are Pyrrhic. And that, I concede, doesn’t really square with the Avengers, who were branded by Marvel Comics as the “World’s Mightiest Heroes”. Spider-Man has never been about raw might. (Yeah, neither has Hawkeye, but let’s not get distracted.)

Moreover, in the comics, being a member of the Avengers includes certain perks and privileges. You can live for free in Avengers mansion, sleep there, eat meals cooked by Jarvis the butler, work out in the gymnasium, do research in the lab, get anywhere in the world in minutes by borrowing a quinjet from the hangar, and if you happen to get in over your head somewhere you can call in reinforcements. (No lie, one of my top five all-time favorite made-up words for made-up technology comes from the Avengers; they all carried communicards, which were basically iPhones running Facetime but with the physical dimensions of a credit card. Introduced in the comics in 1977!) Spider-Man, by contrast, often has trouble paying the rent, or paying for medicine for dear sweet sick old Aunt May, or figuring out where he can wash his Spider-Man costume since using the coin-op laundromat means risking his secret identity. Being an Avenger solves those kinds of problems, but those problems are part and parcel of who Spider-Man is. Someone on Facebook compared Spider-Man as an Avenger to the last season of Roseanne, where the Conners won the lottery; still the same character having new adventures, but fundamentally off-model because one element was flipped. It’s not an unfair observation.

You could look at it from the perspective of intangible perks, too, the fact that the Avengers are loved and respected and trusted and some of them have public identities, while Spider-Man has that whole thing where cops think he’s a vigilante troublemaker and people wonder why he wears a mask that covers his entire face and J. Jonah Jameson is always gunning for him in editorials, so once again if you put them together you cancel out something that’s usually good fodder for boilerplate Spider-man stories. I’m not knocking boilerplate (in this case at least) because Spider-Man’s a great character and his running motifs are well-earned. These are all valid points.

My counter-objection, then, is that so far we have seen exactly one Avengers movie from Marvel Studios. Maybe we can re-open this angle of the conversation after we’ve all digested Age of Ultron, but for now, I think saying that Spider-Man as an Avenger in the movies is a terrible idea because Spider-Man as an Avenger in the comics is a terrible idea is a leap of logic too far, and requires a ton of projecting of expectations for the movie Avengers. There is no Avengers mansion in the movies. Nobody lives in their headquarters except Tony Stark. They don’t have weekly meetings or make public relations appearances. Jarvis is a computer program and doesn’t actually fix tea or clean and press uniforms. People appreciate that the Avengers defended New York from the Chitauri invasion, but they also know that was a joint effort between the Avengers and S.H.I.E.L.D. and S.H.I.E.L.D. has been thoroughly discredited by HYDRA (as per Winter Soldier and last season’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.) The MCU Avengers don’t have the material resources or the goodwill of their comics predecessors, so maaaaaaaybe it wouldn’t be quite so ruinous for Spider-Man to associate with them. Maybe?

And there’s a whole lot of wiggle room between associating with the Avengers, even on a recurring basis, and being a charter-signing, fingerprinted, retina-scanned, communicard-carrying, expense-account-approved member of the team. Yet every superhero in the MCU winds up officially joining, because All Things Serve the Avengers. Or not? I’ll pick up there next post.

The sleepy-time shuffle

I was looking back over my intermittent posts so far this year, which unsurprisingly are almost entirely about my kids, who constantly rank among my top priorities and occupy most of my waking thoughts no matter what else is going on, keeping me busy, stressing me, &c. (Point of fact, they are often what's keeping me busy and stressing me &c.) And sure enough I feel the need to update what the latest developments for them are as of now, and I see in my review of recent posts that the last time I mentioned the bino it was in passing because he was home sick with his mother, and the time before that I made passing reference to him sleeping in his crib, which is no longer the case at all.

The bino has been waging all-out war against bedtime lately, and given that he shares a room with his sister and they're both supposed to go to bed at the same time, this is a bit of a challenge. If we let the bino stay up an extra 45 minutes to an hour, which seems to be his pattern, then the little girl would no doubt mutiny if she had to go to bed before him, and the little guy of course would insist he get to stay up the latest (even if only by five or ten minutes; it's the primogeniture principle of the thing) and then instead of my wife and I having a couple of peaceful hours to ourselves every night we'd only have an hour, tops, and ... no. Just no. So we tuck everybody in at 8 and if the bino screams about it a bit, so be it. If he screams about it a lot (and boy howdy, does he) then we take parental turns going in and settling him down until he finally loses the battle with his own fatigue. My wife and I are both well aware of the fact that, according to child-rearing experts and books and teh interwebs and whatnot we are probably sabotaging him, ourselves, and everything in the world with that approach. We need to either let him fuss and fuss without anyone ever coming to him, so that he learns that the fussing is fruitless and gives it up on his own, or we need to not be so rigid and find a way to accommodate the needs he's communicating, or some other holistic approach that we just need to be consistent about, dangit, instead of "well let's see how tonight goes". We know. But as I've said before, he's our third and we are kind of exhausted on a fundamental level and the whole concerted, strategic, journal-aided all-hands-on-deck approach is really too much. So we just keep banging our heads against the wall and hoping for the best and telling ourselves that toddlers develop rapidly and a lot of problem behaviors are phases that will sort themselves out eventually (which is actually true).

So one night, a few weeks ago (though it seems like longer) we put the bino in his crib and he proceeded to freak out. We ignored him for a little while and then, since my wife was the one who had initially put him down, I went in to check on him. I picked him up and brought him out of his room and into ours, mostly to spare his sister. (To be fair, and give credit where it's due, my wife and I worry way more about the bino disrupting the little girl's sleep than the situation probably merits. It's been known to happen, but exceedingly rarely. By bedtime, she is tired, she knows it, and she usually falls asleep quickly and stays zonked no matter how much clamor her baby brother raises.) I told my wife that I hadn't realized he'd made it so hard to wrestle him into the crib that she'd left him on the floor, though I could certainly understand. To which of course she answered "I didn't leave him on the floor," to which I replied "well that's where I found him!"

Thus were we able to finally cross off our lifetime parenting checklist the coveted "allowed a child to climb out of a crib and crash to the floor" item. The bino got a little rugburn on his cheek for his troubles but was basically fine. Still, that was the end of him sleeping in the crib. We took his mattress out of the crib and put it in the middle of the bedroom floor, and ordered a new mattress and bedframe for the little girl, since she had been occupying the toddler bed that was the next logical destination for the bino, and we had already deemed her ready to move up to a real nominally adult-sized bed. When her new bedding arrived I broke down the crib (which will soon, as in this coming weekend, be delivered to my wife's brother and his wife in anticipation of their bundle of joy due early next month) and assembled the new bed in its place, and transferred all my daughter's stuffed animals to that bed and made up the toddler bed for the bino. The little girl loves her new sleeping arrangements, and the bino has taken pretty well to the toddler bed, but of course he still objects to his bedtime. Fortunately now he can get up out of bed and throw himself on the floor (right in front of the bedroom door) in a controlled fashion, without risking brain injuries or broken bones. So there's that.

The next step (meaning "the remainder of the original plan which we have now perforce started implementing piecemeal") is the re-paint the two bedrooms, rendering the little guy's beige room purple and the little girl's and bino's pink room blue, and then swapping the little girl and little guy. Our intention was to have that done by the little girl's birthday in mid-April, with her very own private room as an implied gift in and of itself, and I'm still reasonably optimistic we can hit that deadline. In a sense that new roommate set-up won't solve the bino's bedtime tantrum problem, it will just shift the burden of dealing with it from the four year old to the six and a half year old. But having the boys in one room together is something we need to get everyone used to sooner or later (for as long as we stay in the current house).

Plus, my wife hit upon the idea not too long ago of trying to circumvent the demoralizing bedtime struggles by letting the boys sleep together, not just in the same room but in the same bed. The little guy really, truly adores his baby brother. The little girl loves her sibs, as well, but she's an independent introvert who needs her own space, too, and she's never been as obsessed with cuddling and physical affections as the little guy. The little girl and the bino sharing a bed would never work, that's not even a gender-appropriate considerations thing, it's just a personality and temperament thing. But the bino and the little guy can do it. Which is not to say that by placing them in close physical proximity, under the same blankets, they both are so content that they calmly and quickly drift off to sleep. They do in fact stay up talking (one-sidedly, with babble on the other side) but it is a lot less nerve-wracking than crying and screaming. My wife and I can have an adult conversation (or, let's be honest here, watch an episode of Constantine on the DVR) downstairs while vaguely aware that the boys are fighting sleep together, much more readily than we can do the same while unable to drown out the wailing of a furious toddler a floor above us. One night we went in after an hour or so and found the boys awake, and told them it was time to separate, but at least by then they were both so tired that deprived of each other's company they were quickly sawing logs. Another night the boys actually did manage to fall asleep next to each other, and they looked so cute and peaceful that we just left them that way all night. We've only tried this experiment on weekends so far, because having the boys in one bed could play havoc with the morning schedule on a school day. But when the boys share a room, and we can't monitor them constantly to make sure they stay in separate beds, we will see what happens. Honestly at this point, anything that allows everyone in the house to get their requisite amounts of uninterrupted sleep is unimpeachably a victory for the greater good.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Not a team player

If you follow behind-the-scenes entertainment news like I do, you might have heard over the past couple of days that Marvel Studios had worked out a deal to co-produce Spider-Man movies in the future. If you also happen to follow comics fandom the way I do, you might have then heard a lot of opinionated people freaking right the heck out over this development, and surprisingly not in a good way.

It’s a lot to unpack, especially if you are just getting up to speed and don’t know why this would be a big deal at all, good or bad, so let me try to lay it all out, starting with stuff which is basically common knowledge and then progressing into the really arcane stuff. So, Marvel Studios is basically everyone’s favorite Hollywood success story these days. They are the studio that brought us all the Iron Man movies, Captain America movies, Thor movies, the Avengers and the upcoming highly anticipated Avengers: Age of Ultron, and of course last year’s feel-good insta-classic Guardians of the Galaxy. These movies all made (or will make) humongous box office bank. They also happen to be really good, pretty consistent high quality entertainment. But the really revolutionary element to them, a minor but important thing, is that they are all part of a cohesive long-range shared universe approach to storytelling, which is generally referred to as the Marvel Cinematic Universe (to differentiate it from the Marvel Universe, which is what fans of the original source material comics call the single fictional setting in which all those printed stories take place).

It started with a post-credits easter egg in Iron Man where Samuel L. Jackson appeared as Nick Fury, established the existence of S.H.I.E.L.D. and dropped hints about something called the “Avengers Initiative”. Then Robert Downey Jr. appeared as Tony Stark in Incredible Hulk. Iron Man 2 introduced Black Widow, Thor introduced Thor but also Hawkeye, Captain America was a period piece set in World War II but included Howard Stark, Tony’s father, but all of those little riffs and references of interconnectedness were not the main point. The main point, obviously, was setting up six heroes across four different franchises who could then come together as the Avengers, in a movie of the same name that would be wall-to-wall spectacle and breakneck plot speed because it didn’t have to do the origins and backstories and exposition that the earlier movies had handled. This payed off enormously, we can assert after the fact. When Sam Jackson made his cameo in Iron Man, it probably seemed like a huge gamble that they might not even have the chance to pull the trigger on.

But it was a gamble that Marvel Studios had to take. Marvel Comics, the intellectual property goldmine from whence these characters and situations were obtained, had gone through so many financial difficulties over the decades prior to the founding of Marvel Studios that they had sold off movie development rights to various batches of characters for much-needed cash. Sony got Spider-Man. Fox got the Fantastic Four and the X-Men. And the world got a bunch of movies. The FF flicks were underwhelming, but the X-Men and Spider-Man series had some true bright spots; I’ll happily sit down and rewatch Spider-Man 2 or X-Men United any time. The point is, once Marvel Studios was up and running they couldn’t just call backsies on all of their auctioned-off characters. So they looked at who they had left, minus the team that had started the whole universe (the FF), minus their flagship character (Spider-Man), minus the beloved mutant outcasts (Wolverine and friends), and realized that the Avengers were biggest guns they had left to fire. So they went all in on that.

It worked, and now Universal wants to do a super-team based on the classic monsters like Dracula and Frankenstein’s monster and the Wolfman, with each getting their own backstory-sketching franchise and then all of them coming together Avengers-style down the road. (Or at least that was the plan before Dracula Untold was met with indifference.) And Warner Brothers (which owns the rights to basically all of the characters from Marvel’s main competitor in superheroes, DC Comics) is going to put Batman in the next Superman movie, plus Wonder Woman and Aquaman, and call it Dawn of Justice to prime the pump for a Justice League series and various supporting franchises. And rumors have circulated about solo films starring characters from the Robin Hood legends which would culminate in a Merry Men mega-blockbuster, or King Arthur’s Round Table, &c. &c. &c. Because this is what always happens when somebody tries something new and succeeds wildly: everyone else tries to replicate the success by imitating the superficial aspects of it exactly and hoping it’s just that simple.

Another thing that often/always happens is that the innovator themselves stops innovating and just keeps hammering on the same thing that worked once again and again until it’s been run into the ground. At best, they might hedge their bets a little, but they don’t suddenly blaze off in crazy new directions. So while everyone else is playing catch-up, Marvel Studios has been announcing their future plans. More Captain America and more Thor, of course, which is only to be expected since trilogies are the minimum bar to clear for successful franchises. But also Ant-Man later this summer, and Black Panther and Captain Marvel down the road. New characters mean new franchises which is good business, and people are particularly stoked (and rightly so) that Black Panther is going to star a POC superhero and Captain Marvel is going star a female superhero. Ant-Man seems like an oddball choice, but in the comics Ant-Man was a founding Avenger, and that of course is another unifying factor with Black Panther and Captain Marvel, both of whom were Avengers on-and-off as well. Assuming Downey and Evans and Hemsworth aren’t going to want to keep making superhero movies forever, and acknowledging that in the comics there’s huge amounts of turnover on superteam rosters, it's only logical to plant seeds now that would lead to an Avengers 4 or 5 some time around the turn of the decade where the Avengers will be the Falcon (introduced in CA: The Winter Soldier), Quicksilver (soon to debut in Age of Ultron), Scarlet Witch (ditto), Captain Marvel, Black Panther and Ant-Man. At a certain point it becomes a self-perpetuating system and it makes more sense to go with it than to fight it.

Which brings us to Spider-Man, a character who has not benefited from the triumphs of Marvel Studios because he’s been in Sony’s hands all this time. As I said earlier, I really like Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man 2, and I don’t think the original Spider-Man is half-bad, either. (Spider-Man 3 I could take or leave, but even Raimi himself disavows that one.) Of course once the Marvel Studios era well and truly began, Sony rebooted with Amazing Spider-Man, and (stop me if you’ve heard this before) I really liked it. I liked the sequel, too, but apparently I’m in the minority there, and both of Marc Webb’s movies are generally considered critical and commercial disappointments, if not outright failures. Did the Amazing franchise miss the mark because they weren’t Marvel Studios products? Did they try to hit the same tone or feel as the Iron man and Cap and Thor movies but inevitably come up short? Did they try too hard to create an entire universe with Peter’s parents’ convoluted spy backstories and the multi-villain pile-up that was supposed to (and may still) yield a Sinister Six spin-off? Basically, if Marvel Studios could make a Spider-Man movie, would it be better?

We’re going to have the opportunity to find out now, thanks to the deal that made news this week. It doesn’t seem like too bold a prediction to guess that the next solo Spider-Man movie (which I kind of hope will be called The Spectacular Spider-Man) will make more money than Amazing Spider-Man 2, simply because at this point Marvel Studios is a trusted, dare-I-say beloved brand that gets butts in the cineplex seats just because. The box office is all but pre-ordained (unless between now and then Ant-Man or any other movies bomb hard and take some of the shine off the studio reputation) and yet terrible movies make huge box office all the time (see: the Transformers franchise, shudder shudder). Will a Marvel Studios Spider-Man movie be good, aesthetically, artistically, as blockbuster popcorn flicks go? Will it have mass crossover appeal, and if so will it be hand-in-hand with appeal to longtime fans of the Spider-Man comics, or can it only be one or the other but never both?

The obvious answer is “wait and see’ but of course that’s never stopped rampant frothing-at-the-mouth speculation before and it sure as dang isn’t going to now. But I’ve already blathered on for so long now that I reckon I will save that for another day. Just a day or two from now, honest, I’m not going to sit on this for a month (recent inactivity of this here blog acknowledged). To be continued!