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“Ready Player One”: The Movie Based on the Book Based on the Lists Based on the Collections

Ready Player Cyclops!

A grimdark timeline in which the only survivor of X-Men: Apocalypse was Cyclops.

Everyone loves crossovers! Who doesn’t get excited every time two to 10,000 pop culture characters of varying degrees of familiarity get stuffed into the same frames or panels and generate mechanical synergy for the amusement of fans and the enrichment of corporations? As a young teen collector of both Marvel and DC Comics I was bedazzled by the one-two punch of Secret Wars and Crisis on Infinite Earths, each of which tossed piles of IPs into dogpiles and let them take turns teaming up and punching each other into oblivion. This brilliant concept in apocalyptic storytelling wowed me at the time, but began losing steam over the decades as all the other annual Marvel and DC crossover events kept (and keep) producing diminishing returns for increasingly transparent financial cravings. Meanwhile in other media, we had the innovative novelty of Who Framed Roger Rabbit? and mash-ups like Kingdom Hearts, Soul Calibur, and Super Smash Bros. We had obscurities like Cartoon All-Stars to the Rescue, while the previous generation arguably had their own predecessor in It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World.

Despite the amount of behind-the-scenes wrangling involved, the method is simple: pick lots of famous faces that each have had tons of stories and years of character development dedicated to them, cultivated by their creators and successors with some combination of time and care; strip away everything from them but their outer shell and a one-line descriptor of their most superficial traits; throw everyone into an arbitrary arena; make them fight and fight and fight; then, profit. Hurray! It’s a crossover!

To those who love crossovers and other spectacles a la Battle of the Network Stars, by all means keep loving what you love. After a couple decades or more of them, they’re not an automatic draw for me.

And don’t get me started on the crossover’s close cousin, the whole “Easter egg” fetish that’s become a mandatory element of every geek-related product ever, to the point that viewers spend so much time expecting recognizable tokens and high-fiving each other for spotting them that they become the point of purchase and the only reason to pay attention. Some works are so oversaturated with Easter eggs, they’re less like a narrative and more like an extended Highlight for Children “Hidden Pictures” puzzle.

That brings us to Steven Spielberg’s Ready Player One, adapting the novel by Ernest Cline that I couldn’t bring myself to touch after reading a lacerating review of its nostalgic self-indulgence that gave me more than enough signifiers to tell me it was Not My Thing. As if that weren’t enough, someone on Twitter (I wish I could remember who or in which recent month) shared numerous excerpts from the novel that confirmed it’s entirelty about the hero name-checking, listing, and pumping himself up with his never-ending stream of collector callback consciousness. Unless someone wants to pay me to bypass my gut reaction, count me among the viewers who saw the movie but didn’t and won’t read the book.

Frankly, I only saw the movie because I knew friends or family would ask me about it. In their defense and to my surprise, I’ll give them this: Ready Player One was a lot less anathematic to me than The Big Bang Theory.

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C2E2 2018 Photos, Part 7 of 7: Random Acts of Pop Culture

Cards Against Humanity!

We don’t play Cards Against Humanity, but their advertising is always the best.

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover:

It’s that time again! The ninth annual Chicago Comic and Entertainment Exposition (“C2E2″) just wrapped another three-day extravaganza of comic books, actors, creators, toys, props, publishers, freebies, Funko Pops, anime we don’t recognize, and walking and walking and walking and walking. Each year C2E2 keeps inching ever closer to its goal of becoming the Midwest’s answer to the legendary San Diego Comic Con and other famous cons in larger, more popular states. My wife Anne and I missed the first year, but have attended every year since 2011 as a team.

In this special miniseries I’ll be sharing memories and photos from our own C2E2 experience and its plethora of pizzazz…

…and it all comes down to this: photos of stuff and things around the exhibit hall. If you’ve never attended a comics or entertainment convention, or if you missed this year’s C2E2, or if you just really like photos of stuff and things, please enjoy this gallery of geek sights and eye-catching outtakes, guaranteed to have 65% fewer words than Part Five and 85% fewer words than Part Six. Yay pictures!

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C2E2 2018 Photos, Part 6 of 7: Who Else We Met and What We Did

Svengoolie!

Warrior Woody Woodpecker cosplayer interviewed by Chicago’s own late-night horror-flick host Svengoolie. Can it get more comic-con than this?

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover:

It’s that time again! The ninth annual Chicago Comic and Entertainment Exposition (“C2E2″) just wrapped another three-day extravaganza of comic books, actors, creators, toys, props, publishers, freebies, Funko Pops, anime we don’t recognize, and walking and walking and walking and walking. Each year C2E2 keeps inching ever closer to its goal of becoming the Midwest’s answer to the legendary San Diego Comic Con and other famous cons in larger, more popular states. My wife Anne and I missed the first year, but have attended every year since 2011 as a team.

In this special miniseries I’ll be sharing memories and photos from our own C2E2 experience and its plethora of pizzazz…

We’ve covered our latest additions to our jazz hands catalog. We’ve shared nearly five dozen cosplay photos. We’ve saluted the comics creators who successfully divested us of cash. That wasn’t all the fun that C2E2 had in store for us this year.

(The following narrative of our two-day C2E2 walkabout will make more sense if you’ve already read Part One and Part Five. As you go, you should see where the photos from those entries slot into the storytelling.)

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Keeping the Ships in Order

TARDISes!

I like to imagine myriad Doctors from across the multiverse fighting over which TARDIS is whose.

Pictured above is a forgotten scene from Indiana Comic Con 2016, a perfect example of how much work goes into planning and executing a convention, and how organized and squared everything appears to onlookers if you pull everything off without a hitch. Every large-scale convention requires a lot of moving parts — much in plain sight, a few under the hood, plenty moving across the counter if buyers and sellers each play their parts. Maintaining the order is no simple feat.

As the routines go for those behind the counter, so goes a different set for those of us approaching the counters, bringing our offbeat interests to the party, our want lists, our spending impulses, and other critical factors that make comic, toy, and collectible shops a viable career track for anyone. Planning is vital for the sake of the geek economy.

Right this way for not much more than this!

Motor City Comic Con 2017 Photos, Part 2 of 2: Who We Met and What We Did

Barbara Eden!

My wife with Barbara Eden, star of TV’s I Dream of Jeannie. This con was my birthday trip, but Anne was pretty elated with her end of the deal.

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover:

This weekend Anne and I had the pleasure of attending the 28th annual Motor City Comic Con in the city of Novi, a safe suburb northwest of Detroit, some 300 miles from home. Well established and catering to fans of comics and media guests alike, MCCC is a shade smaller than our two regular Chicago shows, but proved an excellent reason to return to Michigan for our first time in fifteen years.

Whenever we attend a new con, the same set of fears nips at us every time. How crowded will it be? Do the showrunners know what they’re doing? Is the layout simple or complicated? Are their attendees nice people? Is the parking convenient and/or affordable? How horrible is the convention center food? We were relieved to confirm by the end of the day that MCCC by and large has nearly all its gears locked properly in place, and plans afoot to solve the one issue that complicated matters for a bit of the afternoon. Every show has its issues, but the best ones are already working on solutions before you can tell them about their problems.

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C2E2 2017 Photos, Part 4 of 4: Who We Met and What We Did

Mike Colter!

Behold the smooth moves of Marvel’s next big thing, POWER MAN AND DOUGHY GUY.

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover:

It’s that time again! The eighth annual Chicago Comic and Entertainment Exposition (“C2E2″) just wrapped another three-day extravaganza of comic books, actors, creators, toys, props, publishers, freebies, Funko Pops, anime we don’t recognize, and walking and walking and walking and walking…

Another year, another C2E2. Another ostensible three-hour drive from Indianapolis to Chicago’s McCormick Place convention center. Another two days of nonstop excitement and occasional consternation, of fun fan interaction and occasional physical breakdown as our aging bodies struggle to keep up with our youthful enthusiasm. Another list of reasons to leave the house for the sake of celebrating the engaging interests that give us reasons never to leave the house.

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