My 2020 Reading Stacks #8

Wonder Woman Stargirl!

Women ruling the multimedia superhero world, and the strongmen they allow at their side.

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover:

At the beginning of each year I spend weeks writing year-in-review entries that cover the gamut of my entertainment intake, including capsule reviews for all the books and graphic novels I’ve read. I refrain from devoting entries to full-length book reviews because 999 times out of 1000 I’m finishing a given work decades after the rest of the world is already done and moved on from it.

As time permits and the finished books pile up, I’ll be charting my full list of books, graphic novels, and trade collections I’ve read throughout the year in a staggered, exclusive manner here, for all that’s worth to the outside world. Due to the way I structure my media-consumption time blocks, the list will always feature more graphic novels than works of prose and pure text. Novels and non-pictographic nonfiction will pop up here and there, albeit in a minority capacity for a few different reasons. Triple bonus points to any longtime MCC readers who can tell which items I bought at which comic/entertainment conventions we’ve attended over the past few years.

And now…it’s readin’ time. Again.

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Masked Riders: A Prologue to Our 2020 Road Trips

Muppet Seat Jazz Hands!

This is no ordinary theater. Those are no ordinary seats.

Whenever we look back on our 2020 vacation photos as we grow older, we will never, ever have to think long and hard to remember what year they were taken.

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It Is July 4th.

American Scarecrow!

Please feel free either to celebrate with this cheerfully American scarecrow or imagine yourself pummeling him if you’re actively looking for a straw man to attack. Call it freedom of art interpretation.

The entry title is not quite a 1990s Print Shop banner hung by a resentful Dwight Schrute, but for now it’ll do because I’m not interested in checking on the internet’s mood swings today to see whether or not it’s cool to openly celebrate the Fourth of July. I’ve managed to avoid Twitter doomscrolling for a full 24 hours and plan to continue that streak until at least Sunday because, all things considered, right now I imagine the last three months’ worth of discussions have devolved into repetitive anti-holiday vitriol that’s about as fun an atmosphere as wading into a chatroom of bitter single straight dudes on Valentine’s Day.

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Downtown, Distanced

Social Distancing, Please!

Because we’re over three months into this catastrophe and some people still need practical advice.

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover: if your city’s like ours, and I know ours is, you had some protests and riots damaging your complacency back in May. Odds are you’re still seeing some combination of activity, activism, and/or action. Things seem quieter here in our own hometown of Indianapolis, though it could simply feel that way because local media have lost interest in encore performances and have moved on in their never-ending search for new hot topics to captivate audiences burned out on the old ones. In the daytime, at least, things have demonstrably calmed down.

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5 Months’ Growth, 3 Months’ Retreat

June 2020.

Adrift in an off-white limbo. Hair by slapdash fiat. Old Hawaiian shirt by, I dunno, probably Kohl’s or J.C. Penney.

June 25th marked five months since my last haircut. Some people wait that long on purpose. When your naturally curly hair is a curse, that’s not usually your Plan A. But sometimes your plans need a change in ranking.

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11 Random Pieces of Joel Schumacher

Joel Schumacher!

Excerpt from the Tigerland extras.

Once upon a time the phrase “director Joel Schumacher” was a handy punchline and/or an unpleasant flashback trigger in many geek circles. Y’know, after what happened with the one (1) film. Never mind that he amassed over three dozen other credits over the course of his career, quite a few of which were eminently watchable and in some cases even respectable. Granted, that most notorious failure derailed a beloved film franchise for several years, hobbled a zillion-dollar merchandising machine for about ten minutes, and was a ludicrous betrayal to those of us who were perhaps a bit too unyielding in our stoic allegiance to Super Serious Super-Heroes.

I let that go years ago. Sooner or later all punchlines gets tired upon incessant repetition, most grudges get pointless as time passes, and some axes don’t need any more grinding.

I was sorry to hear of Schumacher’s passing on June 15th at age 80 after a year-long battle with cancer. Cancer sucks. Much as I’d love to write a definitive summation of his career, that’s best left to professional websites who underpay collaborative teams to compile such listicles from their combined viewing experiences. The following is a personal recollection of my encounters with his works from my teenage years to two months ago. It’s not a long list, or a logically organized or comprehensive one, but it’s mine.

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Yes, There’s a Moment after “Da 5 Bloods” End Credits

Da 5 Bloods!

Five men in search of T’Challa.

Longtime MCC readers know the rule: every film I see in theaters gets its own entry. That rule hasn’t come up much lately because (previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover) our last theater experience was the first weekend of March. Entries about my home video consumption tend to be a no-fly zone for any kind of inbound traffic, but every so often I’ll ignore my blog stats and go for it anyway. Then again, that’s my approach to 90% of what I post here, so why hold my viewing habits to a tougher standard?

I do miss theaters. To a lesser degree I miss racking my brain for the occasional movie entry. I do go out on a limb for the occasional Netflix Original. And though I’ve only seen six previous Spike Lee films (that really should be higher), it seemed remiss to watch his new joint Da 5 Bloods and then do nothing else to engage with the experience.

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Our Superman Celebration 2008 Experience: The Mostly Remastered Edition

Anne & Superman!

It’s virtually Metropolis town ordinance: every Superman Celebration photo gallery must include a shot of the world-famous Superman statue.

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover:

At the southern tip of Illinois and across the Ohio River from Paducah, KY, the small town of Metropolis devotes the second weekend of every June to their world-famous Superman Celebration. More than just a carnival acknowledging their local heritage and history, the Celebration invites tourists from all walks to come join in their festivities. Their Main Street’s center of attention is the also-world-famous Superman Museum, dedicated to their most important fictional resident, the great and powerful Superman. Also major draws: the special guests from various Superman movies, TV shows, and other related Super-works who drop by for autographs and Q&As.

At least, that’s how it normally works. That means this year’s Celebration would be this coming weekend. Regrettably here in 2020 Anno Diaboli, the Metropolis Chamber of Commerce announced the show’s cancellation back in mid-March, when pre-planning should have commenced if not for the writing on the wall. We hadn’t yet committed to the 2020 edition, but it sucked to hear they pulled the plug. We understood and lamented…

We’ve attended the Superman Celebration six times. Previous MCC entries covered our other five experiences and meet-ups with the following special guests from the multimedia world of the Man of Steel:

  • 2001 (three chapters): Valerie Perrine and Jeff East from Superman: The Movie, and Sarah Douglas and Jack O’Halloran, two of the Phantom Zone Villains from Superman II
  • 2006 (a single, 4500-word long-read): Michael Rosenbaum and the teen Clark Kent from Superman Returns
  • 2012 (one chapter of modest size): John Glover and Cassidy Freeman from Smallville, and Gerard Christopher from The New Adventures of Superboy
  • 2016 (five chapters): a special Crisis on Infinite Jimmy Olsens starring Mehcad Brooks and Peter Facinelli from The CW’s Supergirl; Marc McClure from all four Christopher Reeve Superman films as well as Helen Slater’s Supergirl; and Michael Landes from Lois and Clark
  • 2017 (four chapters): the Margot Kidder from the Reeve Superman films, who then passed away in May 2018; an encore with Sarah Douglas; Dean Cain from Lois and Clark; and James Marsters, relevantly a.k.a. Brainiac from Smallville

And now we complete the set at long last for MCC readers, despite a couple of hiccups.

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Our Superman Celebration 2006 Experience: The Partially Remastered Edition

Rosenbaum + Superman!

Posing in front of the world-famous Superman statue are an unrecognizable Michael Rosenbaum and some lucky kid who’s 14 years older today.

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover:

At the southern tip of Illinois and across the Ohio River from Paducah, KY, the small town of Metropolis devotes the second weekend of every June to their world-famous Superman Celebration. More than just a carnival acknowledging their local heritage and history, the Celebration invites tourists from all walks to come join in their festivities. Their Main Street’s center of attention is the also-world-famous Superman Museum, dedicated to their most important fictional resident, the great and powerful Superman. Also major draws: the special guests from various Superman movies, TV shows, and other related Super-works who drop by for autographs and Q&As.

At least, that’s how it normally works. That means this year’s Celebration would be this coming weekend. Regrettably here in 2020 Anno Diaboli, the Metropolis Chamber of Commerce announced the show’s cancellation back in mid-March, when pre-planning should have commenced if not for the writing on the wall. We hadn’t yet committed to the 2020 edition, but it sucked to hear they pulled the plug. We understood and lamented.

We’ve attended the Celebration six times, but only posted about it four times. MCC launched in April 2012, which allowed me to post timely reports about our experiences in 2012, in 2016, and in 2017. As it happens, our first time in Metropolis was our 2001 vacation and was shared as part of our annual road trip collection.

That leaves two Superman Celebrations as yet undocumented here on MCC. This week, I aim to complete the set despite some problems.

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Indiana State Fair 2011 Photos, Part 4 of 4: The Year in Soybeans and So On

Bennie the Bean!

Me and Bennie the Bean. Soys will be soys.

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover:

The Indiana State Fair is an annual celebration of Hoosier pride, farming, food, and 4-H, with amusement park rides, cooking demos, concerts by musicians either nearly or formerly popular, and farm animals competing for cash prizes without their knowledge. My wife Anne and I attend each year as a date-day to seek new forms of creativity and imagination within a local context. As if our dwindling downtime to-do list for 2020 weren’t already small enough to fit on a Post-It, Anne and I are still reeling from Thursday afternoon’s announcement that the 2020 Indiana State Fair has been canceled after too many vendors kept backing out, painfully aware that crowds and super-powered viruses remain a volatile mix.

Recounts of our State Fair experiences have been among MCC’s annual traditions ever since I launched the site in April 2012. But it’s not as though our lives began in April 2012. We have quite a few stories not yet shared here from pre-MCC days. We may not be able to make new State Fair memories this year, but we can wallow in the older ones we haven’t revisited in a while.

Hence this previously unshared flashback to our 2011 experience. We tried to make the most of our day in this, the Year of Soybeans.

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Indiana State Fair 2011 Photos, Part 3 of 4: The Year in Tragedy

Memorial.

The makeshift memorial that rose up near the Grandstand box office in the days after the events of August 13, 2011.

Have you ever looked back on an occasion, really dug deeply into those tucked-away memories, only to have your rose-colored glasses slapped off when you’re suddenly reminded of a truly terrible part that you’d managed to forget?

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Indiana State Fair 2011 Photos, Part 2 of 4: The Year in Lego and Canned Food Art

Cans Hulk!

Who makes a Hulk out of canned food but doesn’t use Green Giant vegetables?

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover:

The Indiana State Fair is an annual celebration of Hoosier pride, farming, food, and 4-H, with amusement park rides, cooking demos, concerts by musicians either nearly or formerly popular, and farm animals competing for cash prizes without their knowledge. My wife Anne and I attend each year as a date-day to seek new forms of creativity and imagination within a local context. As if our dwindling downtime to-do list for 2020 weren’t already small enough to fit on a Post-It, Anne and I are still reeling from Thursday afternoon’s announcement that the 2020 Indiana State Fair has been canceled after too many vendors kept backing out, painfully aware that crowds and super-powered viruses remain a volatile mix.

Recounts of our State Fair experiences have been among MCC’s annual traditions ever since I launched the site in April 2012. But it’s not as though our lives began in April 2012. We have quite a few stories not yet shared here from pre-MCC days. We may not be able to make new State Fair memories this year, but we can wallow in the older ones we haven’t revisited in a while.

Hence this previously unshared flashback to our 2011 experience, which featured some of the same staples that longtime MCC readers should know by now. Prime example: super fun art installations!

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Indiana State Fair 2011 Photos, Part 1 of 4: The Year in Food

Ice Cream Burger!

Join us in a bit of nostalgia for the good ol’ days of eating out and mingling in crowds with impunity, won’t you?

You, the Viewers at Home, don’t need me to tell you 2020 is The Worst. And the hits just keep on coming, great and small. While more important people address the great, someone ought to tend to the small. Might as well be me, the Most Irrelevant Man in the World.

As if our dwindling downtime to-do list for 2020 weren’t already small enough to fit on a Post-It, Anne and I are still reeling from Thursday afternoon’s announcement that the 2020 Indiana State Fair has been canceled after too many vendors kept backing out, painfully aware that crowds and super-powered viruses remain a volatile mix. Recounts of our State Fair experiences have been among MCC’s annual traditions ever since I launched the site in April 2012. It isn’t the first tradition thrown off-track this year, and it may not be the last.

But it’s not as though our lives began in April 2012. We have quite a few stories not yet shared here from pre-MCC days. We may not be able to make new State Fair memories this year, but we can wallow in the older ones we haven’t revisited in a while.

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The Horrors We Can Contain

Arkham Horror!

Sometimes systems that look like unmitigated chaos from the outside are easier to navigate once you’re fully on the inside. Or they can consume you whole.

If now is not the time for a tortured metaphor involving a convoluted board game set in a fictional universe created by a flagrant racist, I don’t know when is.

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My 2020 Reading Stacks #7

Monster Graphic Novels!

Monsters! Everyone loves monsters, right?

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover:

At the beginning of each year I spend weeks writing year-in-review entries that cover the gamut of my entertainment intake, including capsule reviews for all the books and graphic novels I’ve read. I refrain from devoting entries to full-length book reviews because 999 times out of 1000 I’m finishing a given work decades after the rest of the world is already done and moved on from it.

As time permits and the finished books pile up, I’ll be charting my full list of books, graphic novels, and trade collections I’ve read throughout the year in a staggered, exclusive manner here, for all that’s worth to the outside world. Due to the way I structure my media-consumption time blocks, the list will always feature more graphic novels than works of prose and pure text. Novels and non-pictographic nonfiction will pop up here and there, albeit in a minority capacity for a few different reasons. Triple bonus points to any longtime MCC readers who can tell which items I bought at which comic/entertainment conventions we’ve attended over the past few years.

And now…it’s readin’ time. Again.

Continue reading

The 10 Best Episodes of “The Crown” So Far According to a Guy Who Barely Knows Royal Family Stuff

Olivia Colman and The Crown!

From Hot Fuzz to Broadchurch to The Night Manager to The Favourite and more, Olivia Colman has already been ruling for years.

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover: a while back I spent an entire weekend watching the first episodes of twenty different series across multiple platforms. That experience provided us a blueprint for our binge-watching over the subsequent months. I haven’t written about everything we’ve watched, but since that entry my wife Anne and I have gone through Netflix’s Unbelievable (harrowing and unforgettable), Wild Wild Country (surprising and at times Too Much, by which I mean too much padding, but altogether illuminating), the first two seasons of House of Cards (despite potentially tossing fifty cents into Kevin Spacey’s tin cup), a wholly unrelated and regrettable detour for Tiger King (now we get all the references, but at a steep cost to our souls), and, far less dishonorably, all three seasons of The Crown.

My brief thoughts on the latter’s pilot:

Some early reviews had led us to believe writer Peter Morgan’s longform follow-up to his Best Picture nominee “The Queen” amounted to “Royal Sexytime”. Perhaps later down the road, the sight of Queen Elizabeth II snogging Prince Philip may be lying in wait to drive us to the brink of horror, like that one Marvel miniseries that dared readers to visit Aunt May’s heyday as a horny teen. Mercifully the first chapter didn’t go there and seemed much like any other British costume drama, save a few expletives and the Eleventh Doctor’s bare butt. Bonus points for casting consummate professional Jared Harris to take over for Colin Firth as King George VI. A pity Elizabeth herself hardly figured into her own story at first. Presumably Claire Foy has more lines later?

Thankfully she did, except in scenes where she consigned herself to historically accurate silence for the sake of burying feelings like true British royalty. Thirty episodes later, we’re caught up with other viewers and ready for more. Until season four presumably hits the broadband waves later this year, all we can do for now is ruminate on what we have on hand.

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The Dawn of an All-New New Comic Book Day

New Comic Day 05-20-2020

This week’s fix.

In a week that’s been marred by weird illness symptoms (no, not THAT one), severe illness elsewhere in our family (no, thankfully still not that one), news of one distant relative’s recent death (it, um…it was that one), complicated cases at work, the monotony of internet outrage, and daily-routine malaise…it’s heartening whenever I spot signs of the Old Normal popping up, like a stray flower sprouting in a scorched field.

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Our Ten Terrific Tricks for a Stay-at-Home Comic Con

Quarantine Jazz Hands!

With your host, Dr. Bane-ton Forrester!

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover: for the past several years my wife Anne and I have made a tradition of going somewhere — anywhere but home — for each of our birthdays. One-day road trips and events, such as last year’s tour of the Art Institute of Chicago, give me the gift of new experiences and distract me from the physical decay at hand. It was a nice tradition while it lasted.

For my 48th birthday we had hoped this weekend would see us returning to Motor City Comic Con up near Detroit. Our first trip to Motor City in 2017 was a fantastic experience, and this year’s guest list had a few larger-than-life personalities we would’ve loved to meet. Then, much as has happened to You, The Viewers at Home, our best-laid plans gang agley. In the wake of COVID-19, businesses closed or severely restricted their services, workplaces were scuttled, my employers enacted strict rules about out-of-state travel, and any and all events involving two or more people were canceled. All one-man events, such as the worst YouTube channels ever, were allowed to continue on schedule. I haven’t had a birthday party in years, but the state of the world has derailed our road-trip tradition for my big day. Whether we can resume our practice on Anne’s birthday in October will hinge on a number of variables, none of them within my personal control, though I’d totally be on top of that for her sake if I had Dr. Manhattan’s powers.

Anne and I were determined to line up an enjoyable weekend for ourselves anyway. Between the two of us we made the most of these past two days with the resources safely available. We found a way to recreate ten (10) commonalities we’ve encountered at various entertainment conventions over the past several years. Welcome to what I nicknamed “TakeoutCon 2020”, which included the following comic-con-esque features:

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Forfending a Fearful Phase with a Fleeting Flashback to a Forgotten Fair Photo

Indiana State Fair 2017 Jazz Hands!

Photo by one of Anne’s old schoolmates.

Whenever you’re having the sort of week that might be more endurable if you could spend the rest of it under your bed and away from keyboards, it’s cool just to post a single photo and declare you’ve fulfilled your blogging responsibilities for the week, right? That’s a remarkably wide divergence from my modus operandi, but I’m trying it just to see what happens. It’s my site and I’ll shirk if I want to.

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My 2020 Reading Stacks #6

Siler Raina Bob!

Siler. Telgemeier, Defendi. Keepin’ it random. Keepin’ it real.

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover:

At the beginning of each year I spend weeks writing year-in-review entries that cover the gamut of my entertainment intake, including capsule reviews for all the books and graphic novels I’ve read. I refrain from devoting entries to full-length book reviews because 999 times out of 1000 I’m finishing a given work decades after the rest of the world is already done and moved on from it.

As time permits and the finished books pile up, I’ll be charting my full list of books, graphic novels, and trade collections I’ve read throughout the year in a staggered, exclusive manner here, for all that’s worth to the outside world. Due to the way I structure my media-consumption time blocks, the list will always feature more graphic novels than works of prose and pure text. Novels and non-pictographic nonfiction will pop up here and there, albeit in a minority capacity for a few different reasons. Triple bonus points to any longtime MCC readers who can tell which items I bought at which comic/entertainment conventions we’ve attended over the past few years.

And now…it’s readin’ time. Again.

Continue reading

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