A Night with Neil Gaiman in Indianapolis

Neil Gaiman at Clowes Hall Indianapolis!

Artist’s rendition of the evening. (DISCLAIMER: Artist never learned how to Photoshop.)

Dateline: Monday, May 16, 2022 – Tonight I stepped foot on the campus of Butler University for the first time in 19 years because the Neil Gaiman thoughtfully included Indianapolis on his current cross-country speaking tour, and Clowes Hall was the venue of choice for the occasion. In exchange for this rare opportunity, strict rules were implemented. Rule #1: Masks were required. Freebies were handed out to those who needed them. No problem: I brought my own.

Rule #2: No photos or video during the performance. This isn’t an unusual or oppressive rule to me (especially not video — no pivoting to same on this website), but whenever this rule is laid down and I’m itching to share the story online, most venues have something I can photograph as a memento of the event in lieu of the performers themselves — a marquee, a billboard, a cardboard standee, any kind of one-night-only visual prop as evidence that a festive occasion was in store. Clowes Hall had absolutely nothing. We might as well have been walking into calculus class.

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My Free Comic Book Day 2022 Results, Ranked

Free Comic Book Day 2022!

The reading pile, in random order.

It’s that time of year again, but slightly delayed on my part! Saturday, May 7th was the 21st Free Comic Book Day, that annual celebration when comic shops nationwide offer no-strings-attached goodies as a form of community outreach in honor of that time-honored medium where words and pictures dance in unison on the printed page, whether in the form of super-heroes, monsters, cartoon all-stars, licensed merchandise, or in rare instances real-world protagonists. It’s one of the best holidays ever for hobbyists like me who’ve been comics readers since the days when drugstores sold them for thirty-five cents each and comic book movies were sad, cheapskate abominations.

Each year comic shops lure fans and curious onlookers inside their brick-and-mortar hideaways with a great big batch of free new comics from all the major publishers and a bevy of smaller competitors deserving shelf space and consideration. After the online-only FCBD of 2020 A.P. (Annus Pandemus) and the delayed-gratification post-vaccine FCBD of August 2021, this year’s model returned to the traditional observance on the first weekend in May. Also per tradition, a major comic-book movie was released the same weekend and sucked up an awful lot of my free time that otherwise might’ve been spent reading and then writing-about-reading.

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10 “Picard” Season 2 Follow-Up Thoughts From a Grieving Q Fan

Picard Q Finale!

“See you out there.”

by Anne Golden, MCC Staff.

EDITOR’S NOTE: My wife Anne has contributed to our past ten years’ entries in a variety of ways — photography, ideas, punchlines, caper-partnering, next-day proofreading, encouraging, fact-checking, nitpicking, and so on. She otherwise generally prefers to enjoy the site as a reader rather than as a separately credited blogger. This entry is a special case: she’s MCC’s very first Guest Blogger, though “guest” feels a tad off the mark. Except for light editing and two jokes, these paragraphs are all hers.

Her essay is aimed at fellow Star Trek viewers, whether they love or loathe Patrick Stewart’s further adventures so far, and presumes familiarity with common fan abbreviations for the various shows. And, relevant fun trivia noted previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover, Q is one of her Top 3 Favorite Fictional Characters of All Time. Suffice it to say the season finale struck a nerve. This entry is a rumination attempting to make sense of a tale that frequently didn’t make sense and in some ways still doesn’t. It’s a contemplation. It’s a eulogy. It’s a catharsis.

(Courtesy spoiler warning if you haven’t seen season 2 in general or the finale in particular.)

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Yes, There Are Scenes During and After the “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness” End Credits

Dr, Strange 2 IMAX Poster!

We don’t always pay extra for Marvel movie upgrades, but this time…eh, why not.

A coworker of mine was invited to see Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness on opening weekend despite the fact that she’d never watched a single Marvel product in her life. While I chuckled for a few minutes and mentally judged the invitee for his selfish chutzpah, another coworker generally on the same pop-culture page as me graciously tried to recap both the first Doctor Strange and Spider-Man: No Way Home in hopes that it might give her the slightest help before being dragged into the 28th film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. It’s kind to show someone how to dog-paddle at least a little before they’re shoved into the deep end of the pool by some dude eagerly looking forward to giving her swimming lessons while she’s drowning. Oh, the gleeful countdown he probably kept in his head for days until that heroic moment when he could point at Benedict Cumberbatch onscreen and proudly, loudly whisper to her, “That’s Doctor Strange!”

Meanwhile, I’m unhelpfully daydreaming how this exchange might’ve been twice as entertaining, but only half as helpful, if at all helpful, if coworker #2 had delivered the recap in the style of Ant-Man’s pal Luis. I am arguably an enabler of the problem here.

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“The Northman” Who Went Up a Hill But Came Down a Monster

Alexander Skarsgard IS The Northman!

“My name is Amleth War-Raven. You killed my father. Prepare to die.”

It’s just the Dolby Cinema sensory overload talking (ten days later, even), but my favorite thing about The Northman is it may be the closest I ever get to Skyrim: The Motion Picture. Granted, in his painstaking simulation of a savage tenth-century Scandinavia, co-writer/director Robert Eggers has omitted dragons, magic, nonhuman races, skill leveling, heavy armor, and evil demon gods. Such is the movie biz, where compromise is inevitable and was definitely not a Viking invention.

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The Bearable Lightness of “The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent”

Unbearable Weight!

…and yet, not a single shout-out to 8MM.

Not counting animated gigs (ranked by quality and in reverse release order: Spider-Verse, The Croods, Astro Boy) the last time I paid to see Nicolas Cage’s distorted face live on a theater screen was 2009’s Knowing, which I’d forgotten existed till just now. I suspect I’m not alone in having given up on Cage’s career after he descended from the ranks of Oscar-winning A-listers to join the Redbox human-running-gag lineup as the easiest possible means to solve his gargantuan tax and debt issues. Once upon a time it would’ve been the second-easiest means, right after “do an A-list film for an A-list paycheck”.

Now that he’s officially announced himself debt-free, the next obvious step is a comeback tour. For me that journey began last year with Pig, such a lovely little heartbreaker of a film that I wish I’d seen it sooner so I could’ve ranked it highly in one of my year-in-review lists. That apparently wasn’t enough to win back the hearts of millions of forsakers, though. Perhaps its sincerity and low violence quotient frightened and confused younger Cage fans who simply assumed he too was battling elder abuse and aphasia. Hence the comeback tour’s Plan B: whimsical self-deprecation.

Thus the face of the dude who might be the new Hardest-Working Man in Showbiz returns to theaters in The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent courtesy of writer/director Tom Gormican (a creator of the short-lived Adam Scott/Craig Robinson misfire Ghosted) and co-writer Kevin Etten (Comedy Central’s Workaholics). Rather than stand aloof while the internet mocks him with every new release, why not lean into the mockery and subvert it from within? Then perhaps we can all laugh together, do some healing, forgive at least twenty of his last three dozen films, and start a useless change.org petition to get National Treasure 3 greenlit.

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“Everything Everywhere All at Once”: Into the Yeoh-Verse

Everything Everywhere All at Once!

Trust me, it makes way more sense in context.

It’s 2022 and the multiverse is in!

Comics and science fiction fans are well acquainted with the essentially fictional theory that infinite Earths exist in infinite universes, one for each possibility at every crossroads in every human life ever. All across the space-time continuum(s) there’s hypothetically one version of you for every major decision that you personally have ever had to make. Sometimes you chose well; sometimes you chose poorly and ruined everything. Either way, whatever choices you didn’t make, there’s a you for those. Of course that isn’t counting the timelines where you didn’t even exist because your parents or your ancestors chose poorly, or someone killed them too soon, or Earth was prematurely destroyed, or our planet survived but the dominant lifeform was amoebae, dinosaurs, or orcs.

Alt-timeline hi-jinks are plentiful in pop culture, in which characters bounce back and forth between their Earth and one (1) radically different Earth, compare and contrast What Might Have Been with What Is, and learn what George Bailey should’ve taught them when they were kids. But now, thanks to the success and awesomeness of Into the Spider-Verse, two measly Earths in a single story is no longer enough. Next month’s Doctor Strange sequel threatens to capitalize on its ingenuity, expand on the foundation laid in Avengers: Endgame and TV’s Loki, and overwhelm viewers with potentially more universes than Spider-Verse had, each with its own Benedict Cumberbatch, all of whom have to split a single paycheck. DC Comics, the very first publisher to give us Earth-vs.-Earth conflict in funnybook history, remains hard at work on riding Marvel’s multiversal coattails with their long-gestating Flash movie, which, given its current production pace and behind-the-scenes embarrassments, may give Marvel some stiff competition when it’s ready for release in the year 2525.

But why should superheroes have all the fun? If we take the multiverse as a given, then it stands to reason that there are in fact realities where multiversal mayhem occurs but isn’t centered on costumed do-gooders because they don’t exist. Enter writer-directors Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert (Swiss Army Man), who took a small cast, a modest budget (about the same as a single Loki episode) and who knows how many substances, and together concocted the madcap psycho-farcical Everything Everywhere All at Once.

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Star Trek: Mission Chicago 2022 Photos, Part 4 of 4: A Two-Day Mission

Strange New Worlds Captain Chair!

Fun with green screen! Fans could sit in one of two captains’ chairs and be inserted into promos for either Strange New Worlds or Star Trek: Prodigy.

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover:

The weekend of April 8-10, 2022, marked the inaugural Star Trek Mission, the first in a planned convention series from ReedPOP, the showrunners behind the much-vaunted C2E2 and other comic cons. In this geek endeavor ReedPOP in conjunction with Paramount Pictures hopes to do for Gene Roddenberry’s creation what the Star Wars Celebrations do for that rival galaxy. As it happens, the premier shindig was held in Chicago, a mere three hours away from our humble dwelling. Naturally we had to see…

As in all other MCC miniseries about our con experiences, it all comes down to this: the overlong grand finale in which I recount every anecdote I didn’t already share, post one last round of photos, and see how many readers make it all the way to the end, days after the event is long past and everyone’s already looking forward to the next con. It’s a draining process with few rewards, but that’s my thing.

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Star Trek: Mission Chicago 2022 Photos, Part 3 of 4: Props and Merch

Borg and Saurian skulls!

Not your Trekker parents’ kind of “Bones” reference: the skulls of a Borg and a formerly obscure Saurian, plucked from The Motion Picture like a Mos Eisley Cantina action figure and repurposed for Discovery.

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover:

The weekend of April 8-10, 2022, marked the inaugural Star Trek Mission, the first in a planned convention series from ReedPOP, the showrunners behind the much-vaunted C2E2 and other comic cons. In this geek endeavor ReedPOP in conjunction with Paramount Pictures hopes to do for Gene Roddenberry’s creation what the Star Wars Celebrations do for that rival galaxy. As it happens, the premier shindig was held in Chicago, a mere three hours away from our humble dwelling. Naturally we had to see…

It wouldn’t be a convention without opportunities to spend money and/or see objects inspired by, or actually used in, the source material that entertained the fandom at large. The exhibit hall wasn’t large by any convention’s definition, with not many vendors on hand, all of them phaser-focused on Trek and Trek accessories, but fascinating objets d’art surrounded fans on all sides.

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Star Trek: Mission Chicago 2022 Photos, Part 2 of 4: A Piece of the Cosplay Action

Balok!

Yes, there’s an alien after the Star Trek end credits: Balok from “The Corbomite Maneuver”.

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover:

The weekend of April 8-10, 2022, marked the inaugural Star Trek Mission, the first in a planned convention series from ReedPOP, the showrunners behind the much-vaunted C2E2 and other comic cons. In this geek endeavor ReedPOP in conjunction with Paramount Pictures hopes to do for Gene Roddenberry’s creation what the Star Wars Celebrations do for that rival galaxy. As it happens, the premier shindig was held in Chicago, a mere three hours away from our humble dwelling. Naturally we had to see…

It wouldn’t be a very special MCC convention miniseries without at least one cosplay gallery. Trek cons are a tricky affair for us appreciators and amateur shutterbugs: plenty of fans attend in costume, but the theme for 95% of them is “me, but in Starfleet”. That’s awesome for inclusivity’s sake — anyone can dress the part and belong instantly — but we can’t just stop and bug everyone we see out of civilian attire. Also, we haven’t watched Discovery or Prodigy (and we’re only partway through Lower Decks), so there’re newer characters outside our recognition zone. Spending a lot of our time in panels and photo-op lines doesn’t help with this secondary objective, either. When time and energy permitted, we compiled the following modest fraction of the total fashion statements represented at the con on Friday and Saturday. Enjoy!

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