Tragically Canadian

“Get Ry Cooder to sing my eulogy.” Chills ran up my spine and a tear welled in my eye, never before has a lyric changed its meaning so much and become so powerful. 11.7 million other Canadians seem to have felt the same, the most watched broadcast in Canadian history since February 2010, second only to the 2010 Olympic hockey finals. Blah, blah, blah. You’ve already read this stuff, I know I am late to the deluge of coverage of this event, even though as I write this I see several more news outlets and bloggers still releasing their takes. To be honest I was debating even writing this, let alone publishing it but this entire blog project is as much getting things off my mind as it is practicing to get good enough as a writer to get paid for it and The Hip are on my mind.

1/3 of a country that occupies 1/3 of a continent watched on as a man went through a kaleidoscope of emotions on stage, how could he not?  Gordon Edgar Downie stood in front of the millions….AND MILLIONS, of Tragically Hip fans and gave us everything he had and poured every emotion possible out of his soul. Kingston, Canada and the world  saw it and we wept with him and for him.  All over the globe Canadians and fans streamed the feed on, computers, phones and tablets and felt everything Mr Downie did. It was not just 11.7 million fans it was 11.7 million empaths sharing a moment with one man. I admire the decision to squeeze in this tour, to me it speaks volumes of the character of Mr. Downie, he knew the out come and stood up in the face of death and said “I am NOT tired as fuck. I will not go quietly nor will I go before I have said good bye to everyone. I will not win this fight but I will leave on my terms.”  I respect Mr Downie for that. He would not give up and accept his fate without fighting back and going on his terms, my Grandfather was the same way when he battled ALS, “It may take me but it will have to come and get me.” There is nothing more on this Earth that I respect than the willingness to fight on in the face of certain loss, the strength of will it takes to persevere, to put aside all self pity, rage, sorrow and in the case of Mr. Downie the sacrifice of time with family and friends. Hold on a second, is it possible the he spent time with thousands of friends at a time in ten different cities?

If you missed the show, I have no doubt in my mind that there will be a home version released at some point, in fact I would bet heavily on that and the stipulation that a least part of the proceeds go to a charity to help cancer research and/or the plight of the aboriginal peoples. I see no problem with that, take my money. I do not see the Tragically Hip continuing on though, I can envision a tribute album where other vocalists fill in for Mr Downie as the rest of the Hip play, but I do not see someone filling in full time, not this band, not now. There are bands that just aren’t the same unless they are the complete unit we have accepted, like The Beatles you just can’t swap out one member and go on, other bands have and found success after replacing members but The Hip just doesn’t seem like one. Don’t mistake me, I think the remaining members can continue their careers or do other things and be successful but I can’t see a new front man being inserted and the band continuing on, once in a while maybe but not full time.

There was one major beneficiary Saturday night, Justin Trudeau, Mr Downie publicly endorsed him and and bound him to be the man who rights the wrongs done to the aboriginal population and be the leader that will lead Canada into a prosperous and bright future. No pressure Justin, not like it’s your rookie year or anything… Holy shit, I wouldn’t want that job just for the BS of public opinion on how you balance everything let alone having the most beloved Canadian since Wayne Gretzky fully endorse you as the next big thing. Mr. Downie said multiple times with incredible conviction that our Prime Minister  is the man and I would wager caused some reconsideration to many that did not support our him. The flip side to that is now Mr Trudeau has to live up to being put on a pedestal in the second largest and most uncensored broadcast in Canadian history. That may have be the most clever bit of public accountability in political history. Well played Mr Downie, well played.

I know that this was not the last news story surrounding Mr Downie, I am hoping that there is one solid sit down interview where he can express what his thoughts were as he stood there and looked out at another sold out arena, knowing that there are millions watching from homes, bars, back yard parties and in the streets and massive gatherings. It doesn’t matter much though, the Tragically Hip did not do right by Mr Downie or the band or the fans, they did right by the Canadian spirit. The spirit that never forgets where we come from or who is important to were we go to go. The spirit that says give back to others before you take for yourself, the one that was outlined by William Shatner, Kathrine O’Hara and Michael J. Fox at the 2010 Olympics closing ceremonies. Across the Great Lakes in Chicago Eddie Vedder made a point of paying tribute to Mr Downie dedicating Light Years to him. I look at Pearl Jam and see the same spirit in the music and the same intelligent writing and for some reason whether it be management or just being too Canadian (like being too blonde I suppose) The Tragically Hip never became the world’s band like Pearl Jam has, they remained our band, a Canadian band for the Canadian people in the spirit of the true north strong and free.

I want you all to sit there for a moment and think about your current job, it is your last day and you have done such a good job that 11.7 million people are watching you in emotional turmoil, you did a good job and you don’t really want to leave but it is out of our hands. On what may be his last day on the job. Mr. Downie gave his everything he had on Aug 20, 2016, he lay his microphone on it’s stand and his eyes seemed to say “I can do no more.” and we thank him.He got his due in the end, he did what he loved for the final time in his home town for a sold out crowd, masses in the streets and the eyes of a nation. Pick your four closest friends and imagine that you could be there doing anything you loved one last time in front of that audience. Being on that stage watching a friend, a brother, as sick and exhausted as he must have been giving every last thing he had to your final time performing together. We saw tears, we shed tears and we are just on lookers, what we didn’t see would crush us as human beings. Cancer ravages one person physically but families emotionally, those four others on stage and many support crew backstage were his family too. The strength to get through that show on all accounts staggers me. The Tragically Hip made an impact by doing what they loved. They ‘made a thing’ and that thing enthralled us, that gives me hope and it should give anyone creating something hope. I will be honest here and say that I have considered quitting this, now I feel that I can never stop because The Hip never stopped and look what they turned into three decades later. Go and live, go and make your thing, go and keep going until you can’t, THAT is what I took away from Saturday August 20th 2016. Go forward my friends and do not look back until the end, you could find as many people behind you as The Hip.

READ THIS!!! Seriously It’s Book Recommendations 

Oh the 1980’s, how I miss thee. The hours of Saturday morning cartoons, which were basically 23 minute toy commercials with a couple breaks for more toy commercials and a few public service announcements. We had One To Grow On, Captain O.G. Readmore, In The News, Schoolhouse Rock even He-M


an and G.I.Joe had PSAs at the end of the episodes man did we get a dose of morals between begging our parents for the new G.I.Joe/Transformer/Barbie/Popple/Teddy Ruxpin. Remember those ‘Just Say No’ commercials, now think that the production crews were probably all coked to the gills considering the amount of blow being done in the 80’s, irony ladies and gentlemen (and Alanis Morisette).  I think the one hat stuck with me most was the inundation of reading, hell reading Rainbow was my jam, it was the reason I stopped flipping channels when I saw Geordi La Forge doing something to prolong the dilithium crystals. I was in 7th grade when I found my first emotionally jarring series of books. I was raised with The Hardy Boys books, not the wrestlers, but the series as a prolonged endeavor never reached a firm conclusion that I read but a five book series I discovered had me emotionally distraught at the end of book five. this week I would like to share and hopefully open a discussion on long running book series. NOTE: I m purposely skipping George R.R. Martin’s ‘A Song of Ice and Fire’ here as there is already too much discussion and I think there is a longer article on it in me. Yes, it is great. Yes, I have been reading it since the first edition paperback of A Game of Thrones. On that note I have never read a page of Harry Potter either, I’ll wait here for you to get over it…..I’m done, stop being a sissy and let’s go, one day I’ll get to it all of them are under my roof but as you’l see the waiting list is long (Ha! third edit joke, you’ll get it later). On to some others I have enjoyed in no particular order.

Wheel of Time by Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson: (January 1990 – January 2013), 15 books. There are 14 books in the main series and a short story involving the early days of two characters that was fleshed out and turned into a prequel (A New Spring). It centers on three young men pulled in to a prophetic apocalypse. The three and several others navigate a tremendously well plotted world of swords and sorcery as they prepare to engage the ultimate universal evil as it struggle to break free with help of disciples and acolytes. Part coming of age part Armageddon tale. Robert Jordan passed away in 2007 leaving notes and chapters to his chosen successor to finish, Brandon Sanderson (who has his own creations) not only did justice to the story but I found it seemless from Mr. Jordan’s work. I can not recommend this series enough but it will take some serious time and be prepared to be sad at the end. There are no screen adaptations I am aware of and frankly the only way I can see it being done is a long running animation series because they can stay in production constantly, keep true to source and not drag the story out for an entire generation.

Sword of Truth by Terry Goodkind: (1994 – 2015) 17 books. While the story of an unlikely hero rising to the challenge of an evil warlord is not quite original this may be the most compelling. Centering on two characters, one the high highest of her magical order and the other a simple young man that had no idea his heritage was of incredible latent power. To be honest until two minutes before I typed this I did not know there was a prequel and THREE (WTF, how did I miss that?) follow up books to what I thought was the final novel. The struggle of the main characters and the interactions are well thought out and grounded. There are points where the despair of the characters is emotionally draining. While the ending (I thought) didn’t leave me nearly as distraught as the ending of Wheel of Time. However I now have to go buy 4 books and see what else happened that I missed, could be that I end up in tears on the end of this one too. In 2009 Legend of The Seeker debuted to two seasons of a TV adaption until the production/distribution company went bankrupt, while fans long for a continuation the series has yet to find a way to production since the cast was contractually released from their obligation.

Dirk Pitt Novels by Clive Cussler: (1973- 2014), 23 books of Dirk Pitt Adventures. The science and adventure series of my list. the series I refer to are the ones classified as ‘Dirk Pitt Novels’. gave me My mother gave me an early book when I was in 11th grade, I became obsessed and am pretty sure I have most of them, not all. The books read like part Indiana Jones and part James Bond part discovery channel. The creator Clive Cussler is an actual treasure hunter and founder of the real life N.U.M.A. which he founded and  runs with the proceeds from his books and had discovered 60 shipwrecks (that’s reinvesting and crowd funding done right folks) At 85 years old with his first novel published at 34, Clive is probably the one author I idolize most. He started late, wrote much and used his income to fund passions. You can find Dirk Pitt, Oregon Files, Fargo Adventures and Isaac Bell Adventures on literally every news stand and book seller, I have not passed one since I discovered Cussler almost 25 years ago that did not have his name somewhere. I remember specifically reading Sahara (later a Matthew McConaughey film) and his descriptive of wandering the desert dehydrating had me sucking back a Double Gulp (2L of pop from 7/11) in record time, it took hours to recover from breaking that seal. His novel Raise the Titanic was also made in to a 1980 film starring Jason Robards. Neither of which seem to have endeared Hollywood to Mr.Cussler since only 2 attempts have been made and authorized. Frankly I think there is a solid NetFlix series here that could run for a long time. If I were to pitch it I would say six, one hour episodes per book (ish) and two books per season, done well, really get to the meat and bones of the stories, feel the pain Dirk, Al and Rudy go through and the torment they cause Sandecker. Jessica Jones and Daredevil can pull it off why not give it a try. I swear to you all if I win a powerball type lottery I will make it happen under the condition we do not butcher the book as the previous two films did (I did like Sahara I just think it left a LOT on the page that could have made the movie a top 10 of all time, big statement but read the book before you call me out). I preemptive accept the trolling on the 007/Indy Jones mash up.

Camulod Chronicles by Jack Whyte: (1992 – 2005) 8 books. Wow did this jump up and bite me in the ass. I was working in a film projection booth in the mid-00’s. I was up to date on Wheel of Time and A Song of Fire and Ice, I had yet to discover Sword of Truth. My friend Bryan, a bartender in our lounge, gave me The Sky Stone, the first of five in the series called A Dream of Eagles. There were five books in that series and they ate up my copious free time waiting for films to end (don’t be confused I worked a lot of hours and much of my job was before films started). All my waiting time was eaten up not by watching films through the port glass (for a change) but reading as ferociously as if I was laying in bed going “one more chapter” (I’ve done that too). I don’t think I devoured a series as voraciously as this one. I don’t own even half of it, I borrowed the A Dream of Eagles portion and returned each to exchange for the next volume like it I was a crack addict looking for a fix. There are eight books in the series, the first five revolve around the forging of Excalibur and founding of Camelot as the Roman Empire retreats from Britain. It evolves to the births and coming of age of Merlin and Uther Pendragon and the rise of King Arthur until he pulls the sword from the stone. Uther (6th book), over laps the point of view of book four (The Eagles Brood) focusing more on Uther Pendragon, the father of Arthur, than the one of Merlin who is the center piece of the 3rd, 4th and 5th books. After that the narrative turns to Clothar The Frank (7th book )and The Eagle (8th book), which pick up Arthurian legend from the perspective of Clothar the Frank (as in Frenchman) who travels to Britain in time to join Arthur’s court around the time the 5th book ends, stay with me here, and gaining fame for his skill with the lance. I bet you just bet me to the reveal didn’t you? Clothar The Frank is more commonly known as “Lancelot”, this double shot tells the tale of the fall of Arthur from a fantastic perspective and closes out the series with both a sense of sadness and completion. The five book series is hard to put down, harder than an other I’ve read, the eight book series offers the same but with a sense of completion unparalleled to my experience. I did not feel distraught to end this series, it was more akin to a break up where both people KNOW it is over and just separate with good memories out weighing the bad. This is NOT a fantasy series, this is HISTORICAL FICTION, I cannot emphasize that enough. BONUS: Jack Whyte is a resident of British Columbia (last I heard Kelowna but it’s easy to move).

The Chronicles of Prydain by Lloyd Alexander: (1964 – 1968), 5 books. This is the one. I had dozens of Hardy Boy books and they made for a great foundation but this five book series hit me like a train in 7th grade (Devon Gardens represent). You may not know the series by the author given name but book two was optioned by Disney and The Black Cauldron became their 25th animated movie. The third book The Castle of Llyr was my favourite but the end of the series, The High King, was the first book to make me feel like I had lost friends and would never hear from them again as they lived their lives (think about that in this age of social media). I would grow old and die and never know what Taran, Eilonwyn and the rest did with their lives. If you have a young child getting in to the novel stage of reading I cannot recommend this highly enough, as a mater of fact I am giving all 5th to my step son for his tenth birthday at the end of this month (August 2016). Frankly I plan or rereading them while he finishes out his Happy Potter binge.

HONOURABLE MENTIONS: Why? Because they are much shorter.

  1.  Kushiel Legacy Trilogy by Jacqueline Carey:  2001-2003 , three books. Intense and some what erotic, 23 shades of grey if you smell what I’m cookin’. I’ve only read the original trilogy but there is a trilogy of trilogies to go through in the realm of Terre D’Ange I encourage this to the ladies since it is written by one and my experience sharing it has shown that my lady friends enjoy it more often than my male ones. This is another series I should get after…I may need an e-reader now that I’ve proof read this article once and seen the list of books I have on deck. There are at least two other stories (as trilogies, already said that) attached to the first trilogy, which are the ones I am recommending and two other series by the author. I may be at least 6 books behind but the first three are well worth reading.
  2.  Coldfire Trilogy by Celia S. Friedman: 1992-1995 While C.S. Friedman has published many it was my lurking through the fantasy section in search of something to quell my search for a Wheel of time/Sword of Truth/Ice and Fire type fix (man I hit a heroine type addiction there in the early 2000’s) the cover of When True Night Falls grabbed me but it said sequel when I examined it. I left Coles books in Surrey Place Mall, not Central City (oh yeah GVRD people it goes that far back) with all three volumes. these are the only works of Ms Friedman I have read and they remain compelling and engrossing. The two main characters are so fully fleshed out that at different times you love and hate each of them and in the bitter sweet end you wish there was more but understand that more would ruin the story. The worst trauma comes in the middle of the trilogy when a character sacrifices themselves and all the while you want to believe hey will make a miraculous return in the nick of time. My favourite example of telling a story then leaving it alone. This above anything not in production deserves a shot at  series on Netflix. Three intense seasons and done.

So there you go folks a quick run down of fictional reading lists that I highly recommend to get you through the last few days basking in the sunshine and the winter ahead. Okay, yes, the spring and next summer too in the case of the Wheel of time and Sword of Truth. I do encourage you to read the books if you watch A Game of Thrones, but I will cover those some other time. Before the hate tweets start (TheMattHarding on Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr, Linkedin, Facebook or just about anywhere) I have not read the Harry Potter books, The Dark Tower or any of the other series by Brandon Sanderson, I do plan on rectifying these over sights however I must fix that Sword of Truth fumble (what am I the Seahawks?). What do you recommend? Post on the The Matt Harding Blog Facebook page, comment on the WordPress or Twitter threads. Feed me more, NetFlix and chill isn’t the same if the fiancee is sleeping next to you and you are a night owl by nature.

 

 

Super-Heroes On Screen 101: DCCUs

Good morning class. Today we will be addressing the next major portion of the current super-hero film craze, the DC Comics screen multiverse. That’s a bit of a mouthful I know but to be honest I can’t explain it any better. DC Comics has often been over shadowed by Marvel but DC has the distinction of holding the two biggest cards in the game Superman and Batman. Before anyone starts hate tweeting me let’s just remember that Superman is the Adam of super powered characters and Batman is probably (I didn’t do the math) the highest grossing character in either company given all the TV, films and animated shows on top of his books and merchandise. The Bat has been the most consistent super hero character in main stream of pop culture since Batman: The Movie was released in 1966.

The DC cinematic universe (DCCU) is a new thing, so far we have only seen three chapters of a larger story, Man of Steel, Batman vs Superman: Dawn of Justice and Suicide Squad. A few weeks ago San Diego Comic Con was the stage for the release of the trailers for Wonder Woman and Justice League, while Justice League is a follow up to Batman vs Superman, Wonder Woman is a prequel origin story based around the revelation Bruce Wayne has in BvS.  There has been a tremendous amount of negative criticism towards the films so far, I for one think they are doing a great job, I know the source material they are using and while many many others are ranting about plot holes and off character scripting I will defend the choices made simply by saying we are THREE chapters in to a much longer book. Destruction of Metropolis a problem? Seemed to play well in to the collision of Batman and Superman as well as the natural fear of the unknown at play by the government and populous. Outraged at the sad conclusion to the fight in BvS? Waaaaaaait for it, there is a good reason they did what they did, check out the extended cut on blu-ray and a few more clues are revealed as to what is coming.

I’ve read opinions on casting of Ben Affleck and Henry Cavill and to be honest I was a massive detractor of Affleck in this role, however I think he did the best job possible and ranks higher on my list than most other portrayals of the Dark Knight. Grab a beer and lets discuss it if you are shocked, but bring hard evidence to back your claim. The Batman version here is based on is more along the lines of the one seen in Frank Miller’s Dark Knight Returns, older, wiser, more jaded. While this Superman is a younger version, less sure of himself, still finding his way in the life he leads and more grounded in the realities of being someone with his powers and conflicted by the human reaction to him, which I believe is dead on to what would actually happen if such a person were to pop up today. I didn’t even have a huge problem with Doomsday, given the more complex canon on his origin I think they did a good job and can see why they did everything they did with him. In short the pop culture expectation did not line up with what they got so like a child at dinner time they hate what’s being served without giving it a fair try. As for Suicide Squad I haven’t seen it, nor will I have time to before this goes up, so I will not comment on it yet.

So there you go the DCCU: Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Suicide Squad, Justice League (Batman, Flash, Aquaman, Cyborg, Wonder Woman). The masses seem to be off put by the darker tone of the DCCU, grittier, more grim and serious than the super hero faire offered by the Marvel Comics based films and frankly I think they are doing the right thing, differentiating themselves that way. A shared universe on film is only a logical step since fans would eventually ask for such a thing but to follow the Marvel pattern of interlaced humour and a brighter tone (in the films at least) would be a tragic mistake, the source matterial has held a different tone for half a century and so should the films. Turning on a MCU movie and a DCCU film should be readily apparent in the over all tone same as opening a comic book.

Hold on we aren’t done yet. There is also the DC television universe some times called Flarrowverse. The Flash, Arrow (see what they did there) Constantine, Legends of Tomorrow and Supergirl. Same universe and doing very well for CW especially since CBS has passed Supergirl over to CW.  DC has not only separated worlds but has allowed multiple casting differences, The Flash and Superman in BvS are not the same actors as on TV nor do they inhabit the same world. DC’s comic universe was largely built around the concept of a multiverse (seen prominently on The Flash) it has baffled fans and continuity for decades. The one constant is that one of the pillars of the DC empire can travel between them and through time thanks to the source of his power, the speed force, The Flash. I don’t have an issue with this because I think it gives both universes the chance to collide in the future in some form of Crisis on Infinite Earths adaptation. Then there is Gotham, completely stand alone and unrelated, far more grounded than the CW shows, but that isn’t saying too much, Gotham is basically a cop show with some super bizarre criminals, don’t look for much cross over here BUT the multiverse concept says don’t write it off either. You may be wondering “Is this like how the X-Men and Avengers are separated in movies and TV?” No, because the film and television worlds use the same characters, in certain cases with different actors. DC seems to have all their licenses in hand to be able to spread out their characters like this, it could lead to something very cool or just a myriad of confused viewers only time will tell.

Before I leave you this week let me be clear that there are a lot of DC Comics films out there and many do not count towards the DCCU. The Batman series of the 80’s and 90’s, the recent Dark Knight Trilogy and the classic Superman films (is that a word?) as well as the more recent Return of Superman are all non-issues.  Let’s take a look at the previous efforts to bring the DC catalog to the screen. Superman and the Mole Men(1951), Batman (1966), Superman 1-4 (1978-1987),Swamp Thing (1982), Supergirl (1984), Return of Swamp Thing (1989), Batman (1989) Batman Returns (1992), Batman Forever (1995), Batman & Robin (1997), Steel (1997), Catwoman (2004), Constantine (2005), The Dark Knight Trilogy 2005-2012), Watchmen (2009), The Losers (2010), Jonah Hex (2010), Green Lantern (2011), Man of Steel (2013), Batman vs Superman (2016) and Suicide Squad (2016). Upcoming films: Wonder Woman (2017) Justice League (2017), The Flash (2018), Aquaman(2018), Shazam(2019), Justice League 2(2019), Cyborg (2020) Green Lantern Corps (2020). I bet there are a few stand outs there you didn’t know belonged to DC and as I wrote it I began to wonder what Rotten Tomatoes score would be for the combined total of the DC films would be. I feel that rabbit hole of geekdom calling me…be right back.

 

Super-Heroes On Screen 101: The MCU

Super-Heroes On Screen 101: The MCU

So last week I got into a discussion on my geek domains, while writing that I was giving a run down on the latest super-hero movies to a friend, these movies fit right into two of my geekiest pleasures; comics and movies. To me these movies are pretty strait forward but I have the advantage of knowing the source material or being interested enough to track it down while others just want to watch a movie. There is nothing wrong with either outlook and I don’t mind being asked for clarification. My friend suggested I do a YouTube series on them but frankly I’m not super comfortable with the idea of being on camera so instead I will write a series of “Coles Notes” articles to help untangle the web of confusion out there.

First off it will help to know that there are several comic publishers with film and TV rights out there being shot and aired. We’ll stay in the shallow end today and just run down the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). First thing to know is that the MCU is a shared universe which means the films, TV shows and characters all inhabit the same world and there is potential and precedence to see them cross paths with each other at any time.

Marvel has been getting films out there for decades but it wasn’t until 1998 that they scored a bona fide hit with Blade.Then X-Men hit theatres in 2000 and that franchise has been going strong for 16 years. 2008 saw the first Marvel Studios film and the beginning of the MCU as Iron Man hit screens. Before I get into that let’s run the list of Marvel Comics creations that have made it to silver screen and the first year they did. Howard the Duck (1986), The Punisher (1989), Captain America (1944), Blade (1998), X-Men (2000), Spider-Man (2002), Daredevil (2003), Hulk (2003), Elektra (2005), Fantastic Four (2005), Ghost Rider (2007), Iron Man (2008), Wolverine (2009), Thor (2011), The Avengers (2012), Guardians of the Galaxy (2014), Ant-Man (2015), Deadpool (2016), Dr. Strange (2017), Black Panther (2018), Captain Marvel (2019). There are the films, this doesn’t account for every character in said films which I will explain later on, nor does it account for the various early television programs and made for TV movies.

Here’s the tricky part of the Marvel products; they aren’t ALL in the same shared world. Over the years fan demand for films caused Marvel to license out some of it’s main draws (no pun intended) Columbia Pictures/Sony Films acquired the rights for Ghost Rider and Spider-Man and the first five Spider-Man films are stand alone productions with the Sam Rammi trilogy being one part and the Amazing Spider-Man reboot pair being another. Here is the KEY PIECE OF SPIDEY INFORMATION: Marvel has partnered with Sony and Spider-Man is now in the MCU with the rest of the Avengers as we saw in Captain America: Civil War and the upcoming Spider-Man: Home Coming (I see what they did there) is in the shared world of the MCU. Ghost Rider rights have gone back to Marvel where Nick Cage can’t hurt them anymore.

20th Century Fox Pictures also acquired some characters; the X-Men and it’s related characters and The Fantastic Four. Here’s the easiest way to figure out if a film is in the X-Verse, does anyone say ‘mutant’ when referring to a super powered being? If ‘yes’ then it’s Marvel and NOT in the MCU. Deadpool, Wolverine and the X-Men movies are in their own unique world and it is not clear whether or not the Fantastic Four are a part of it or in their own world. Since the FF franchise has yet to make any sort of impact that isn’t a crash and burn I would say not and anticipate that family (including Silver Surfer) being returned to Marvel at some point. The twist here is that Fox and Marvel have cut a deal to work together on Legion for TV this fall. Legion is a mutant and (in the books) son of Charles Xavier. It remains to be seen whether this is the start of a more all encompassing partnership similar to the one involving Spider-Man. My current understanding is that Legion is NOT part of the MCU and IS a part of the X-Verse, however as the show has yet to air anything could still happen in the creation process.

The MCU: The Avengers, Spider-Man, Dr. Strange, Ant-Man, Thor, Captain America, Hulk, Black Panther, Captain Marvel, Guardians of the Galaxy and also consists of some TV programming linked to the films; Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and the NetFlix series Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, Iron Fist and Defenders. The major side characters of The Punisher, Elektra and Ghost Rider have all been rebooted for the MCU.

X-Verse: Deadpool, Wolverine, X-Men. I am unclear as to whether Legion will share the X-Verse but it would make sense. Fantastic Four? Silver Surfer? I am unclear there to but I would suggest that property family is in need of some serious work to make profitable and Silver Surfer would fit better in the MCU with a certain band of space faring misfits.

Films like Howard the Duck, Ghost Rider, Blade, Daredevil (Afleck not NetFlix) Elektra (again NOT the NetFlix version), Hulk (starring Eric Bana) and all three Punisher films all seem to have been excluded from he MCU at this time due to licensing and quite frankly jaw dropping amount of errors, poor choices and lack luster results.Hulk, Daredevil, Elektra and The Punisher have all found their place in the MCU as we know it and Ghost Rider will make his entrance this fall on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Keep calm GR fans this is the muscle car version not the badass motorcycle versions, I have very little knowledge on this version of the Rider but am a huge fan of the previous incarnations.

That may be a lot on information to digest and you may have a question on other things not yet mentioned feel free to drop a message on The Matt Harding Blog FB page and I will try to clarify to the best of my fan knowledge. As for the older television shows, the various animated series and animated movies, they may be fun and nostalgic but the bottom line is that they bear no relevance to the current box office juggernaut that is the MCU aside from some jokes on screen. Next week I will take a look at the DC comics films and how they fit together with each other and the TV series that are on going. Until next week…Face front true believer.

 

At My Geekiest

Over the years I have been accused of being a nerd, that doesn’t bother me much but it is not accurate either. It isn’t that I am not smart, the last ten years and many IQ tests later I am actually ashamed and my school work since I realize I am not as dumb as I thought for decades, lazy, unfocused, petulant, insecure and bitter…sure thing, just not dumb. However there is a difference between being a nerd and being a geek, a nerd will apply towards the sciences while a geek will apply intelligence towards certain subjects. Nerd is subculture of geekdom, whose intelligence and obsession is in the science realm,  Jocks are sports geeks but not all sports geeks are jocks. It can get quite confusing but the basic concept is that we are all geeks some how. Each of us has a hobby, life style, habit, maybe even a career that we can attach the word ‘geek’ to to accurately describe us. The more pretentious of us prefer to use the suffix ‘phile’ as in audiophile, cinephile, technophile, bibliophile and others. Sure it makes people seem extra intelligent and cultured but let’s face it those are fancy words for music-geek, movie-geek, tech-geek and book-geek. I’m not calling anyone out on this, call yourself what you want but remember each of us is a geek in something. If that all makes sense to you then you now get that I am not a nerd, I have several geekdoms to my name but nerd isn’t one of them.

Those close to me know I have a list of geekdoms I inhabit, I am a comic-geek, a colletion-geek, a film-geek, wrestling-geek, probably a few others I wouldn’t consider myself on this side of my sparkling blue eyes but others would see. When I was in school all of this was embarrassing, the most difficult thing i ever did in class was stand in front of my English 12 class and admit, voluntarily, that I made weekly trips to Talkin’ Illustrations on the corner of 120st and 95a Ave in North Delta to get my comics, in fact there was on jackass that responded to my speech with his own opinion on spending his time drinking  was a better escape from reality. I damn near broke down but managed to refrain and get through, according to Facebook that person is sober and doing far better in life than I would have predicted in the late 90’s, while I am loud and proud about my comic collection (7826 issues).  In fact recently I have awoken to the fact that I could make a lot of money with my excess books since the Internet is basically a huge market place and I would like to unload about 4381(ish) to the right buyer as a lump or several smaller chunks (hit me up if you want a look at the list)

I do not care which geekdom I live in at any given point, that is a huge change from my younger years and I’m not sure what to credit. I have certainly grown as a person, more confident and less concerned with the opinions of others. Then there is the internet factor, it is so much easier to find people interested in the same things these days, all of our geekdoms are out there in the open and we have no trouble finding a community. It’s probably a combination of both really, most people that were in my house in the 90’s new there were hundreds of comics books and that I was usually unavailable Monday nights. I grew comfortable with my geekiness and some friends would partake of them with me, I found that some of their own obsessions appealed to me on a lesser level in return. That’s what friendships are built on isn’t it, overlapping and acceptance of each others geekdoms. 

As I type this at 10:52pm Monday night I have had 2 separate discussions on WWE and text lesson on the recent Batman vs Superman movie and how they fit into the Avengers story (they don’t) and which side are the X-Men on. Things like that give me a smile, I can use my geekiness to enlighten folks on things they don’t know, we all should b grateful when our friends and family know where to go for the educated opinion or history. There are other things I get asked about, my geekiness extends to some financial matters, music, far more films than the recent super hero craze. I am not unique in this, we all have our things, the rabbit holes of hobbies and work we can fall into and lose hours, days and weeks, our friends call us to settle bets or fill in information. Spread your geekiness around, you may convert some people or find out that they needed a nudge to turn a minor interest into a bigger part of their life, over the years a lot of my friends found themselves watching more wrestling after asking a few questions and getting into longer discussions. I’ve found myself drawn into the same conversations and developed new tastes in music, beer, technology and other things some have stuck others not as much. The beauty of being a geek (or a ‘whateverphile’) is sharing it no matter what it is someone is into it as much as you are and others still enjoy it or will enjoy your expertise. In this day and age it is the geek that has enheirited the Earth. 

 

 

 

 

Evolution Baby

Pokemon Go. Well isn’t that a strange phenomenon. I won’t lie to you, I never really understood the Pokemon thing, I was a few years too old to get fully hooked on the craze when it debuted in 1996, missed by a frog’s hair really. I had friends that got it that were a few years older but for some reason I just didn’t pick it up, which has surprised many people given my tastes in entertainment. On Sunday my fiancee and step-son were watching a friend’s baseball game in Abbotsford and decided to download the game and see what was in the park, off the boy went and collected several, 6km of walking resulted in (seven?) captures and this picture of fellow Pokemon hunters. I was curious so like many people I know I too downloaded the game that has been all over the internet and gave it a whirl. I still don’t get it BUT I love the concept and execution. What an ingenious game this is, you can go search out the mechanics or download it yourself and see but this piece is not about Pokemon or Pokemon Go, there is no review or opion past what you just read and definitely no hints or tips. What I have spent some time thinking about in the last few days is the evolution of video games, Pokemon Go has brought us to a brand new level and I suspect the clones and rip offs are coming very quickly.

Those of us that remember the dawn of the video game know that these addictive little time killers go back to the early 1970’s when simple squares and rectangles did little more than criss cross a screen and get faster as they awarded us arbitrary points. The highest ranked players got a few letters to put in a score board to claim glory until the next player came along, we even figured out how to make cuss words and the talented ones could even turn a top ten list into a sentence usually involving something you cant say on TV. As the 80’s rolled in Intelevision and Colecovision began the trend of having a home video game system, the easy access of the living room was not as inviting as a giant room filled with video games and people to play them with though. In my youth a pocket full of quarters and a few spare hours meant finding an arcade, they weren’t always the environment our parents would encourage us to be in but they were fun.  The simple cube shaped pixels were getting smaller and more details were coming out, new genres were being established and game play engines developed, variety was gaining ground and with that ground came new demographics. The Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) debuted and the silly red and blue man with the hammer from Donkey Kong became a cultural icon, he seemed to be in every game for a while. The Sega Master System stepped up to compete with Nintendo as Coleco and Intelevision fell to the wayside. Then there were the gadgets, innovation at it’s finest with a vast array of joy stick and controllers, light beam pistols, a head set light gun, the precursor to the Wii Fit called the Power Pad and of course the highly sought after and much maligned Power Glove (I should apologize to my parents for that waste of money)

It was the Super Nintendo (SNES) and Sega Genesis era where most of my gaming life lived, depending on which game was hot and which system it was available for my friends and I would pack up our entire system and head for the house with the most snacks and least supervision. Street Fighter 2 tournaments, double elimination NHL round robins, binge playing the next great Role Playing Game (RPG)we lost weekends and entire summers to these machines, once in a while the girls would get involved and embarrass a few of us. Every year the games got more detailed, repetitious levels that got faster and faster until we couldn’t possibly keep up were replaced by in large by story based adventures with an ending and if we were lucky a secret or two (remember the surprise reveal at the end of Metroid?) It seemed that the possibilities we had dreamed of about multiple controllers, detailed sports seasons, unlockable content and never ending sequels for our favorite characters. Movies, TV shows, books, comics anything that could be programmed was being licensed and released, not all of it good. All the while the arcades were becoming monstrous rides and more than a quarter a piece.

The arcade hit it’s death throws in the early 2000’s when home game play sky rocketed. Sony’s Play Station series, Microsoft Xbox and Nintendo Game Cube were in a three way race and eventually the manufacturers added the internet connection. Console gaming was now on par with PC gaming. In the mid 2000’s on a whim i plugged a Play Station 2 into a digital projector at work and my childhood dream of playing video games on a movie screen came true, it would be a few more months before Cineplex caught on to the concept and sanctioned it. Things have really picked up speed since then, motion capture, downloadable add ons,  vast tournaments for games of all kinds with big money prizes and the biggest evolution the smart phone, more games and better quality than I had access to for most of my life.

I look back aghast at how far we have come, it boggles my mind to remember Frogger on my Coleco and have this funny little game on my phone. It integrated the camera, GPS and map functions turning my entire world into a game. The little animated creatures around me are only visible through the lens of a mobile device but video games have now come into the real world, our entire planet is now a video game and this is just the first game, I can’t wait to see whats next.

CSB: The Prophecy

“It’s not as good as it used to be.” That statement is one I hear a lot when someone finds out I’m a wrestling fan. Life is a roller coaster though, everything involved in it rises and falls. . Film franchises and genres go from insanely popular to passe. Sport teams ride dynasty years until the eventual decline starts and then it is years near the bottom of the league before they start to see the playoffs. WWE and professional wrestling as a whole is no different, as a genre it has its slips in popularity and as a team/company/promotion they can be out manned, out written and out done. It has happened before, those circumstances sparked the rise of Hulkamania and the Attitude Era, both of those are held up as the peaks of popularity and quality. The popularity is beyond doubt, Hulk Hogan, ‘Stone Cold’ Steve Austin and The Rock transcended the industry and became pop culture icons. Then the bubbles burst.

The Hulkamania era hit a wall as the early 1990’s saw steroid scandals change the industry as the giant athletes literally shrunk and were pushed aside for the ‘smaller’ (230lbs is small?) talents with a better grasp of psychology and technical aspects came to the forefront. The media scrutiny and the confirmation of professional wrestling being a show tore the spot light away and a tremendous amount to incredible matches were missed by the mainstream audience as performers were swallowed by cartoonish roles that had remotes clicking before the entrances were over and talents like The Undertaker, Scott Hall, Bret Hart and Shawn Michaels produced matches that wouldn’t been seen by a vast audience until the era of DVD, wrestling was in its shell again and the few remaining companies limped along with a fraction of the fans. The two major promotions in North America WWE (WWF at the time) and WCW competed with each other and a handful of small independent companies funneled talent through, wise performers took advantage of more prosperous lands like, Europe, Japan and Mexico to hone their craft. The industry was like a covered pot simmering to perfection. It would boil over in summer 1996.

There were more than a few factors at play that year. International companies had been grooming North American performers for years, the talent pool the was beginning to seep into the larger companies were getting noticed, a small eastern US promotion known as ECW was turning heads and an edgier style of match and interview was garnering attention of the die hard fans who were telling their friends. I got one friend of mine to go with me to WWE/F International Incident in July of that year right at the start of the Attitude era, on that card was a veteran talent that had just made his mark with an off the cuff remark after winning King of the Ring “Austin 3:16 says I just whipped your ass.” There it was, the detonator for the explosion of pro-wrestling. A few weeks later the last generation’s icon Hulk Hogan dropped the red and yellow fan friendly demeanor for black and white with a venomous interview style and the revolution was on. Nearly two years later another young talent looking to find himself sat down at Wrestlemania 14 and with a wink and a smile “If you smell what The Rock’s cooking.” was a quiet line that you would have missed if not for the fact that it highlighted a dick joke. It would be  years before the industry would see a true down turn.

The point of that entire recap is this, there are two factors in the resurgence of pro-wrestling to the mainstream. 1) the proper environment. There is a vibrant pro-wrestling scene just outside of the main stream, WWE is not the only game in town. Ring of Honor (ROH), New Japan Pro-Wrestling (NJPW), Total Non-stop Action (TNA/Impact), Lucha Underground and dozens of other companies are out there providing a working environment for performers. WWE is taking advantage of it again like they did in the early 80’s and 2000’s  the NXT roster and the current main event picture of the WWE and you’ll see the best of many companies under the WWE umbrella. There are hundreds of young and veteran talents out there waiting to get the chance to be the next Hulk Hogan, ‘Stone Cold’ Steve Austin or Rock. The internet and hundreds of TV channels have exposed the hardcore fans to the talent out there and they in turn are talking and sharing on social media. Make no mistake the pot is boiling. 2) Someone needs to say something. I firmly believe that the final element is sitting on the tongue of a performer and it needs to be spit out, the draw back is that by all accounts the WWE writers are more harm than good. Every week some talent active or retired points out that there are a lot of verbatim scripts making it to television. Sooner or later someone with enough slack to speak from the heart or enough balls to go off script on TV will utter another line that will strike a chord with the collective audience and the hardcore fans will share and the casual fans will be drawn back in for a time. CM Punk had it, the unfortunate part is that the run he had after was all too short.

I don’t know who it will be, or when it will happen but I am sure at this point that all the pieces are in place for the next ‘chosen one’. Like any film about an unlikely hero the prophesy I give to you is this; there will be a remark that strikes a chord with the audience that burns through the fans and through them the casual fans will return to fold an for a few years all professional wrestling will prosper and be more popular then ever.