When is a single picture enough to break the internet?

When is a single picture enough to break the interwebs?

The answer is simple.  When it is this picture:Screenshot 4:30:14 2:39 PM

This is the first table read with the cast of the new Star Wars movie. The image broke the StarWars.com website.  Here is a list of the people in the photo from TheHollywoodReporter.com:

1. J.J. Abrams, director-writer

2. R2D2: R2-series astromech droid

3. Harrison Ford, actor – Reprising his role as Han Solo.

4. Daisy Ridley, actress

5. Carrie Fisher, actress – Reprising her role as Leia.

6. Peter Mayhew, actor – Reprising his role as Chewbacca.

7. Bryan Burk, producer

8. Kathleen Kennedy, Lucasfilm president

9. Domhnall Gleeson, actor

10. Anthony Daniels, actor – Reprising his role as C-3PO.

11. Mark Hamill, actor – Reprising his role as Luke Skywalker.

12. Andy Serkis, actor

13. Oscar Isaac, actor

14. John Boyega, actor

15. Adam Driver, actor

16. Lawrence Kasdan, writer

Tonight I will be able to go to bed knowing that I will be able to take my kids to see the first legitimate Star Wars movie since 1983 on the big screen.   Thank you, J.J. Abrams and Disney for rescuing my childhood from that bad man and giving us something that I can get excited to take my kids to see.

Dewey Albert Greene

Albert Portrait

This is my uncle Albert.  He was born in 1925 and died today, at the age of 88.  He is the reason that I read and that I have an urge to learn how things work.  I was fortunate enough to spend all of my formative years with him on the farm, as he had retired from the National Weather Service and was around a lot.

I hope that I never forget the lessons that he taught me or how to be as resilient as he was.  I know that I’ll never forget the day he came to the back door after cutting off part of one of his fingers while trying to start the hay baler.  Cool as a cucumber, he told me to go get my mother.  Then, he took the time to answer some childish questions, made some small talk, and finally reminded me to go get my mother; albeit in a sterner tone.

He was awesome.  I’ll miss him forever.

I know that you find all of this confusing, but the truth is that we come from different worlds.

Folks, I’m glad that you love The Walking Dead and I’m glad that you think that the references in Big Bang Theory are quaint.  Seriously, I am excited that you and all your friends are running to theaters in droves to watch this renaissance of motion pictures based on Marvel Comics characters.  In fact, I want you to call all of your friends and invite them to come along and see the new Captain America movie because your dollars are going to ensure that Marvel is going to be able to keep going deeper and deeper into its vault and I’m going to eventually see some things on the big screen that I’ve been dreaming about since I was a small child.

However, there is one thing that I never want any of you people who had semi-normal childhoods to ever forget: We were here first.

…and by we, I mean the throngs of comic book geeks and fanboys who really, emphatically love all of this source material.

We are the ones who get all of the inside jokes on Big Bang Theory.  We are the ones who get all of the jokes on Comic Book Men.  We are the ones making plans to buy tissue for all of you invested in this new Spider-Man franchise reboot, because we know the destiny which awaits Gwen Stacy (played my Emma Stone).  We are the ones that live in a Walking Dead world where Rick only has one hand, Carl only has one eye, Glen is dead, and there is not, nor has there ever been a Darryl.  We are the ones that have been waiting decades for a dark and brooding Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles film, because that is what Eastman and Laird gave the world, in the beginning.

We know that Spider-Man is always hyphenated and that Batman never is…nor is Superman.  We can tell the difference between all the Green Lanterns and we will always pick Hal Jordan over Kyle Rayner.  We can tell you that Barry Allen stayed dead the longest of any superhero in recent memory.  We can tell you what makes the metal in Captain America’s shield different than the metal in Wolverine’s claws and skeleton.  We simply know more about these characters than you ever will and I will demonstrate with this one, absolutely absurd set of facts:

  1. We know that the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles story is perhaps the greatest homage in comic book history because the radioactive container which hit Matt Murdock in the head, giving him his powers as Daredevil, is the same one which rolled into the sewers and transformed the turtles.
  2. We know that Daredevil was taught by a Kung-Fu master named Stick and that the turtles were taught by a Kung-Fu rat named Splinter.  Splinter=small Stick
  3. We know that Daredevil fights a ninja organization named The Hand, while the turtles fight a ninja organization named The Foot.  See what they did there?
  4. We also know that all of that was predicated on Frank Miller’s classic run on Daredevil.  Frank Miller=Big  Frickin’ Comic Book Genius

We are the ones who have basements full of long boxes.  We are the ones with the comic character posters on the walls of our homes…into our forties…seriously.   (We might even have a fully restored Millennium Falcon Kenner Toy from 1979 hanging by fishing line over our television in the living room, right next to the shelf with the ceramic R2-D2 cookie jar and the 15-inch Chewbacca that we have kept on display…since childhood…because we love it.)

We are geeks or nerds or whatever you guys chose to call us while you were on your way to sports practice and we were on our way home to read.  When we say that we love this stuff, we are actually referring to our unhealthy, lifelong obsession with the material.

Having said all of that, I would like to welcome all of you normal folks to the party.  You’re a little late, but that’s okay.  Also, I would like to leave you with this one piece of advice:

None of us geeks has a short answer for whether or not we like the new Marvel movies, but we can write a dissertation on whether or not we believe they are accurate and to what extent.  Please expect that.  There is something wrong with us.

Learning To Make Peace With Your Favorite Television Show

It happened again, last night.  Jessica and I sat in our living room with bewildered looks upon our faces, as we watched the series finale of one of our favorite shows.  We had just witnessed the emotional ending that left us sad, dismayed, and somewhat angry.  We had been following How I Met Your Mother since we got married, six years ago, and because of that long-term commitment, we had a reaction that was the strongest since we were forced to witness this:

dexterThat’s right, we were left to process feelings on the level of those left by the Dexter finale.

Fortunately, I wasn’t left with the same feelings, as when Dexter ended in a way that left me questioning the basic competence of its writers and yelling at the television about the complete disaster of an ending with which we were left.  I mean, does it really make sense to justify the complete devastation of the lives of the central characters, all while leaving no resolution to the major themes and questions from throughout series, by stating that there had to be some sort of negative consequence for Dexter’s actions?  Isn’t it a little late to take the “moral high ground” in your finale when your show is about a serial killer?  Alas…I digress…and we need to return to last night.

There we were, trying to make some sense of an ending that seemed too tragic for a television show of that nature.  We were restless and uncomfortable and angry and dissatisfied, but then I slept on it and I realized that maybe that was not only an okay place to be, but also a very beneficial place to end up.  After all, it turns out that the creators of the show actually wrote and shot some of the ending nine years ago, just after they shot the pilot episode.  This, I think, is perhaps an excellent example of Stephen Covey’s principle of “beginning with the end in mind.”

It must have been some sort of modern feat for those creators to sell the idea of a serialized sitcom/drama to a network and finish their pitch by stating that they already had the ending written.  Think about it.  Most television shows are designed and promoted to continue for as long as possible because a long-running show with a loyal audience is akin to the goose that laid the golden egg.  No one wants to kill that goose while it is producing.  It was after realizing this that I found my avenue to make peace with all of my television shows.  I am simply going to have to view them as a came to view comics.

You see, comic books contain characters that I love…and yet I have learned not to get too attached because DC and Marvel own the rights to their characters, not the men who created them.  In fact, the stories of my favorite characters have been handled by many authors and artists through the years.  Occasionally, one gets lucky and his or her favorite characters fall under the care of an amazing writer like Frank Miller and you get absolute gold. (For you non-comic folks, anything that you’ve seen on the screen with Batman since Batman Begins has Miller’s fingerprints all over it.)  Other times…well us comic geeks don’t like to talk about those other times.

Those other times are driven by an axiom which was clearly explained to me by D.W. Howard during my formative teenage years.  “Comics are sold to make money.”  While that may have been hard to hear, it is absolutely the truth.  Comic book characters are serialized characters that make money through the regular release of episodic content.  Simply put, there are going to be several Spider-Man and Batman comics produced every month whether there is enough creative story to support them or not.  In fact, if not enough books are selling, then they will pull some publicity stunt like a cross-over with another character or killing the main character altogether.  (Both Captain America and Superman have died since I left high school and both of them seem to be doing fine to me.)  The bottom line is that comic characters are used to produce profit, regardless of how it may affect their overall story.

This brings us full-circle to television shows.  These shows are being produced to make money for the networks, and a network can tout how funny or dramatic or artistic its shows are, but at the end of the day, there is someone at that same network who is checking a balance sheet.  That guy is ultimately who determines the direction and viability of a show.  Actually, there seems to be a guy like that everywhere, from television to movie studios, pulling the strings.

There are, however, instances where the direction of serialized characters isn’t determined by maintaining the long-term profitability of a property.  In those instances, characters are respected and artistic integrity is maintained, but even then there are times when fans aren’t totally on-board with the story or the outcomes.  This happened in comics with a guy named Dave Sim, who wrote a six thousand page work in serialization called Cerebus. 

Cerebus is about an aardvark named Cerebus and moves from a Conan-styled parody into a work examining politics, religion, feminism, and metaphysics.  The story ran for three hundred issues and ends with the death of the title character.  As you may imagine with that description, fans had a hard time getting a grasp on the entirety of that work.

I know that many of you are asking yourself why I would reference such an obscure work by an author who is virtually unknown outside of comics to make my point.  Why?  Because Dave Sim and Cerebus are the polar opposite end of the spectrum from mainstream, publisher-owned material…and yet they sometimes have the exact same result.

Whether I like it or not, I don’t own Batman or Superman or Captain America or Cerebus or the characters in Dexter or How I Met Your Mother or Lost.  There is always going to be someone else who controls the destiny of these characters and I am just along for the ride…no matter how much time I have invested in their stories.

In the end, it is kind of like the famous professional wrestler Ric Flair has repeatedly stated: “Whether you like it or whether you don’t like it, you had better learn to love it!”  As corny as that sounds, therein lies the secret to making peace with the sometimes unfavorable ends of our favorite fictional characters.  We don’t control their outcomes, but at least we get to journey with them for a while.