Video Game Speak: The Language of a Generation

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

I was out at the pool a few days ago, and there were two kids in the water playing pretend or something. One of them kept calling out, “DOOM Shark! DOOM Shark!”

The hell is a DOOM Shark? Is it like a distant cousin to a Street Shark? Or a Ninja Turtle? Or a Battle Toad?

The same kid then asks the other, “How much health does your character have? Mine’s running low!”

I’m ’80s born, ’90s bred. I had a Super Nintendo and a Sega Genesis and what not. Did we talk like that when we were kids? Like we lived in a video game? I honestly can’t remember…

Wait, yes I can! I used to play Sonic the Hedgehog with other kids. Ironically, it was at swimming lessons at the public pool. Sonic would collect gold power rings (probably still does). If he got hit or something, the rings would go everywhere. So if you got tagged or something, you’d have to run around and “pick them up.” But I don’t remember asking anyone, “Hey how much health do you have left?”

Holy crap. That’s a blast from the past.

But video games are so immersive now. Today, if your character has low HP, you better have a solid HP insurance policy. One that protects against pre-existing damage, ideally. Otherwise, how are you going to afford that weapons upgrade you put on the damn credit card?

See, THIS is how you can teach todays kids how to adult. They’re already addicted to their damn phones. You think toady’s teenagers are bad? Just wait.

Just be read or those boss battles, kids. They aren’t anywhere near as fun as they are in Sonic. Take it from me. I’ve got more XP than you.

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Carrie Fisher: More Than Just a Princess

Carrie FisherBy Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

This one hurts. This one hurts a lot.

As most of us know, Carrie Fisher went into cardiac arrest on December 23 during a flight from London to Los Angeles. She passed away this morning at the age of 60.

Naturally, Star Wars fans have reacted very strongly since Fisher’s heart attack. There’s been a lot of stuff to the effect of, “2016, don’t you dare take Princess Leia from us!” Plenty of animated gifs of Luke Skywalker screaming “No!” in The Empire Strikes Back, Darth Vader doing the same in Revenge of the Sith, etc. It’s all done with good intentions. But I really wish people would stop. 

It goes without saying that Carrie Fisher will be remembered most for Star Wars. It’s one of the most iconic roles in cinematic history, and Disney will continue slapping her likeness on t-shirts, posters, action figures, and what not for decades to come. Her performance inspired many, and it’s a great thing for little girls to see.

But Carrie Fisher was so much more than Princess Leia.

Fisher’s sharp-tongued wit was like no other, as she illustrated in countless television appearances, and in her books. One of her memoirs, Wishful Drinking, was adapted into a stage show, which Mrs. Primary Ignition and I were fortunate enough to see  in Chicago. I’ve always been grateful I got to see that show. That’s the case now more than ever.

What you see below is one of the more famous appearances Fisher ever did. She roasted George Lucas as only she could. Much of what she said was pulled from Wishful Drinking. 

Fisher’s battles with mental illness were well documented. She dealt with bipolar disorder, and addictions to both cocaine and prescription medications. But to her eternal credit, she never shied away from them. She even turned them into a semi-autobiographical novel, Postcards From the Edge. Mental illness still has a stigma in 2016, but we’ve broken a lot of ground in terms of understanding and tolerance. But Postcards came out in 1987. Imagine the courage it takes to open yourself up to the public like that when everyone knows your face. As someone who’s dealt with mental illness himself, that’s a tremendous thing to see. Especially from someone you watched when you were a child.

I’m not sure if I’ll end up with a son or daughter someday. But as much as I’d want a child of mine to be inspired by Leia’s bravery, it’s more important that they be inspired by Carrie’s. Whether it was the world’s perception of mental illness, the rules for women in Hollywood, or the injustice of ageism, Fisher refused to keep quiet. More than anything, she was honest about the world in front of her. That honesty made people uncomfortable at times. But we were better for it. The world was better for it.

There are many others who’ve spoken about Fisher more eloquently than I. Here’s some recommended reading…

What Carrie Fisher Meant to Me as a Mental Health Advocate
Carrie Fisher was a hero to all women, an example of how to be utterly fearless to the end
Carrie Fisher Struggled Against Being a Nerd-Boy Sex Object Her Whole Life
15 of Carrie Fisher’s Best, Most Honest Feminist Quotes

I’m a Star Wars geek. I probably always will be. While I understand what people who love Princess Leia are feeling right now, it’s important to keep things in perspective. Leia is a character in a space fantasy. The woman behind her was someone who endured real hardships, and overcame real obstacles in the real world. But in spite of it all, she never lost her wit, her humor, or her will to go on.

In the end, Carrie Fisher was the real hero.

Follow Primary Ignition on Twitter @PrimaryIgnition, or at Facebook.com/PrimaryIgnition.

Blatant Insubordination: “What’s Star Wars About?”

Captain Kirk, You haven't seen Star Wars?By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

“What’s Star Wars about?”

A young lady asked me this at work the other day without a hint of snark. She’s an outdoorsy girl without much use for movies. But still, it’s easy to just assume everybody knows what Star Wars is. You’d think people would inevitably see the original simply by virtue of being alive.

But I think that’s a geek bias seeping through. After I got this question I put the above meme (Get it?) on my Facebook. One of the comments I got read: “I’ve never seen a Star Wars movie. Thought about getting the DVD and starting from the beginning, but I’m not sure where it starts.”

I don’t push Star Wars, or anything else I love, on other people. But if people are curious about this kind of thing, I’m happy to offer my opinions. And this idea of explaining what Star Wars is about intrigues me. How do you offer a simple explanation of something that’s come to encompass so much?

Star Wars, trioFor whatever reason, when I got this question I thought of Kyle Gnepper over at Unshaven Comics. I’ve seen Kyle and the Unshaven crew a bunch of times at Chicago area comic conventions over the years. When he’s hyping a new comic series, he’s always got a one-sentence pitch to hook you in. Something to catch your interest and intrigue you. I won’t try to directly quote him for fear of butchering his words. But for instance, he might hype Unshaven’s The Samurnauts by saying: “It’s about a group of samurai astronauts led by an immortal Kung Fu warrior monkey.”

At that point you’ve got to at least look, right?

So what would a similar pitch be for Star Wars? And by Star Wars, I mean the original 1977 film. The young lady I spoke to was shocked to hear there were seven movies in all, with more on the way. But Episode IV: A New Hope is how the world at large was introduced to this strange universe, and it obviously served as the basis for everything else. That’s where newbs should start.

Darth Vader, Princess Leia, Star Wars: A New HopeI figure simplicity and conciseness is important when you begin to explain something like this. Don’t start by trying to explain who Darth Vader is, or what a Jedi is, or how the Skywalkers are all related to each other. You’ll lose them if you try to explain all that stuff.

Here’s the “Gnepperfied” Star Wars synopsis that I came up with: “It’s about a galactic dictatorship with a weapon that can destroy a planet, and the rebel heroes fighting against them.”

Some might argue it’s too simple or generic. But that’s the point, isn’t it? You lure them in with the broad strokes, and then explore the intricacies as you get closer. Once you’re past the simple explanations, you can get into how the Empire works, who the iconic characters are, etc.

On the subject of those iconic characters, I’ve recently started wearing character socks to work. Star Wars, superheroes, etc. Because, you know, that’s what cool people do. One such pair features little images of C-3PO. This girl in question sees the socks, her eyes pop and she asks: “Are those Minions on your socks?”

We can only do so much.

Click here for more Blatant Insubordination.

Image 2 from usatoday.com. Image 3 from digitalspy.com.

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Blatant Insubordination: Darwyn Cooke, Chloe Grace Moretz, X-Men in Space

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

Darwyn Cooke, graphic ink cover1. Darwyn Cooke

A few days ago we lost the great Darwyn Cooke. Make no mistake about it, folks: He was great. Don’t take my word for it. Just take a look at his work. Type his name into Google Image, and you’ll see art from Batman: EgoCatwoman, The Spirit, Parker, some of his recent DC variant covers, Before Watchmen: Minutemen, and more. Seemingly everything this man drew looked iconic, timeless, and at certain points idyllic. He could do heartbreak and drama as well as anybody, but his characters also weren’t afraid to smile.

In the eyes of many (myself included), Cooke’s magnum opus was DC: The New Frontier, one of the projects he both wrote and drew. Set in the ’50s and ’60s, The New Frontier shows us a world driven to paranoia by the Cold War. The superheroes of the Golden Age have been driven into retirement. But a new generation rises to take the world into a new era, and combat a deadly extraterrestrial foe. In the process, we see the rise of Hal Jordan as Green Lantern, the formation of the Justice League, Martian Manhunter learning about this strange new society, and much more. It’s a love letter to the era Cooke grew up in, and his passion is very much on display. The story was eventually made into an animated movie, and I’ve always remembered a moment from an interview Cooke gives for the DVD.  At one point he gets choked up when talking about that period in history, obviously waxing nostalgic for his childhood.

Before his work in the comic book industry, Cooke worked as a storyboard artist on both Batman: The Animated Series and Superman: The Animated Series. He even created the opening title sequence for Batman Beyond. He even created a Batman Beyond short film in celebration of The Dark Knight’s 75th anniversary. To say the least, it’s glorious.

It’s a crime that we lost one of the true greats in the industry to cancer. But what an incredible legacy Darwyn Cooke leaves behind. He was a true giant whose work will undoubtedly stand the test of time.

Chloe Grace Moretz, Captain Marvel, Glamour2. Chloe Grace Moretz as Captain Marvel

Like a lot of fans, I did a double take when I saw Chloe Grace Moritz wearing a very Captain Marvel-ish jacket on the cover of Glamour. Granted, I’m sure it doesn’t mean anything. At least not yet. She might be a little young, but she’s hardly the worst pick in the world to play Carol Danvers. I’ll say this much: She looks good in the Captain Marvel colors.

On the subject of Moretz, as I type this we’re a few days away from the release of Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising. Moretz plays one of the sorority girls that moves in next to Seth Rogen and Rose Byrne. I’m not a huge Seth Rogen fan, but Neighbors was his best movie in quite some time. The sequel, however, feels like a contrived excuse to remake it. My token bad sequel example is always Home Alone 2: Lost in New York. This seems like it’s cut from that same cloth.

Still, it’s getting decent reviews. So maybe they can pull it off…

3. X-Men

The reviews for X-Men: Apocalypse don’t look as great as one would hope. But it may not matter much, as apparently there are already plans for another X-Men film set in the ’90s. Director Bryan Singer says they may do something with an outer space element. Meh.

Now that the crew from First Class (Jennifer Lawrence, Michael Fassbender, etc) are likely done, and Hugh Jackman is probably done after the third Wolverine flick, this seems like a good opportunity to give the X-Men franchise a new jumping on point. We’ve done some cool world-building in the last few years. But I’m itching to get back to a core team of X-Men. Wolverine, Cyclops, Storm, Jean Grey, Beast, etc. If you have to recast everybody, then just rip the bandaid off and do it.

X-Men #1 (1991) cover, Jim Lee

Bleeding Cool ran a story yesterday on which X-Men comic book stories could inspire the next movie. With the space idea in mind, they pitched The Dark Phoenix Saga (they noted it might have a stench on it from X-Men: The Last Stand) and The Brood Saga. Personally, I’m in favor of a more back to basics approach. If the movie has to be inspired by a particular story, my pick is Mutant Genesis, the first story in the Chris Claremont/Jim Lee run from the ’90s. Magneto creates an asylum for mutants on an asteroid called Asteroid M, which naturally creates problems. That keeps it nice and simple, doesn’t it? The X-Men vs. Magneto. And they can keep the X-Men fairly tight knight. Xavier, the five heroes I mentioned above, and maybe Rogue? Or Gambit? Maybe Colossus? Either way that leaves us with seven X-Men total. That’s the same number of Avengers we had when that franchise started. And that satisfies this alleged desire to take the franchise into space.

I give Fox a lot of credit for not giving the franchise a hard reboot. But that doesn’t mean we can’t make it a little more accessible.

Image 1 from nbcnews.com. Image 2 from newsarama.com. Image 3 from marvel.wiki.com.

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The Ghostbusters Trailer: Reinventing the Wheel

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

I’ve been waiting for the right time to talk about this new Ghostbusters movie. I’m a life-long “Ghosthead,” and naturally I’ve got a lot of…feelings, about this reboot. A great many of us do. Ghostbusters, and the world that movie created, means a lot. It touched our culture, and those of us who grew up with it, in a very special way.

So it’s natural that opinions would be heated at times. But it’s gotten to the point where it was just absurd. Like a bunch of bratty fans flaming the Facebook page for Tufts Medical Center in Boston after the cast visited some sick kids. There was no way I wanted to lump myself in with that crowd.

And yes, there’s a sexist element to it. These Ghostbusters are women, and that rubs certain people the wrong way.

But now that the trailer is here, the time has come. Let’s talk some Ghostbusters. 

In the end, there’s a bunch of stuff here that I don’t mind, and one thing that I do.

For the record, here are three things I do not mind about this movie…

1. The Ghostbusters are women.
2. The costumes are different.
3. The equipment and the car are different.

Making the Ghostbusters women is a fine way to freshen up the franchise. There have been female team members in the cartoons and comics, and it’s never been a rule that girls can’t shoot lasers at ghosts. Male fans that gripe about this are the equivalent of the Little Rascals, i.e. a bunch of little boys trying to keep girls out of their club house. It’s 2016, guys. Get over it. And yes, the toys look different. Again, it’s 2016. Ghostbusters came out in 1984. Concepts evolve with time.

Ghostbusters 2016, the girls in grayWhile I can’t say it was hilarious, from a conceptual standpoint I’m fine with most of what I see here. I’m I’m not too familiar with Leslie Jones or Kate McKinnon. But they look like they’ll be funny, as does Melissa McCarthy. I’m not a big Kristen Wiig fan, at least in terms of her comedy. I actually prefer her in more serious roles. And it looks like we’ll get some of that in this movie, with her being the “straight man,” if you will. As far as this trailer is concerned, the two big complaints I have are that the ghosts aren’t very convincing (which I suppose could change between now and July), and the bit with McCarthy’s head turning around Exorcist-style is pretty dumb.

In the end, most of the uproar about this movie has been overreaction. That being said, this is what bothers me as a life-long Ghostbusters geek…

They are remaking Ghostbusters.

It’s not like Rocky Balboa, or the litany of other sequels released decades later. Director Paul Feig and the gang are trying to reinvent the wheel here, when that’s not necessary.

Paul FeigIn terms of this point, I’ve always gone back to an interview Feig did with Entertainment Weekly shortly after he was announced as the film’s director. He talked about being intimidated by the prospect of taking on something so beloved, and what his thought process was. This is the passage that literally hurts me to read…

“And then I thought, well, what if we just make it new? It’s not coming into the world that existed before. It’s always hard if the world has gone through this big ghost attack, how do you do it again? I wanted to come into our world where there’s talk of ghosts but they’re not really credible, and so what would happen in our world if this happened today?”

Dude, no. You can’t make Ghostbusters new. You can add to it, but you can’t just start over. Why would you want to? Most people already know what a Ghostbuster is, anyway. Why fight that uphill battle? To an extent, it’s like what George Lucas did with the original versions of the Star Wars trilogy. If you take away or change something your audience has loved for so long, they turn on you. So you wind up facing backlash for trying to update something that didn’t need updating.

To be clear, I’m not suggesting a Ghostbusters movie can’t work in the modern era. But why disconnect it from so much of what people remember? Hell, they even try to make up for it in the trailer with that “30 years ago four scientists saved New York” stuff. (Incidentally, Winston wasn’t a scientist. Oops.) It’s like they realized their mistake after the fact and tried to make up for it with the marketing.

Ghostbusters, 1984, original castIn any event, there’s not much of a point to complaining about it now. The movie is made, and it’s coming out. Dan Aykroyd, who has been pushing for a new Ghostbusters movie for decades, apparently likes it. We can take some solace in that, I suppose.

We can also take solace in the fact that, whether this new movie is good or bad, the originals will always be there. There’s a lot of comfort to be found in that, I think. The movies we love never change (unless they’re made by George Lucas). A part of them is forever incorruptible.

Good luck, ladies.

Image 1 from decider.com. Image 2 from dailymail.co.uk. Image 3 from comicbookresources.com.

Follow Primary Ignition on Twitter @PrimaryIgnition, or at Facebook.com/PrimaryIgnition.

Talking Star Wars: The Darth Vader/Snoke Theory, Sith Lord Mufasa

Supreme Leader SnokeBy Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

1. The Darth Vader/Supreme Leader Snoke Theory

Man, people are really grasping at straws with some of these theories about The Force Awakens. I guess it’s natural, considering we know so little. But jeez…

The latest wild theory making the rounds is that Supreme Leader Snoke is somehow Anakin Skywalker, mostly based on the visual similarities between Snoke and Anakin when the mask came off in Return of the Jedi.

Frankly, this makes even less sense than the idea that Rey is somehow Obi-Wan Kenobi’s daughter. Granted, the folks at Disney are obviously taking the franchise away from where George Lucas intended it to go. But bringing Darth Vader back as the big bad in this new trilogy completely undoes Anakin’s character arc, which took six movies to complete. Yes, Anakin fell to the dark side. But he was redeemed. Having him turn to the dark side, then turn back, only to fall again is not only redundant, but frankly stupid. What’s more, Anakin died, remember?

Star Wars: Dark Empire, Palpatine, Cam KennedyFrankly, I think it’s more likely Snoke is somehow connected to Palpatine. But even that’s a stretch. Much like with Rey, I’m hoping Snoke isn’t connected to any previous character, and is simply a new threat to the galaxy. We’ve know that a Church of the Force exists, right? Lor San Tekka is affiliated with them. Who’s to say a similar church couldn’t exist for the dark side? Theoretically, Snoke could have discovered his own Force abilities, become scholar on the Jedi, the Sith, etc., and started such a church himself.

As for the scars, I always like the notion that characters who tapped into the dark side so extensively, like Palpatine, saw their flesh deteriorate as a result. Some of you might be familiar with Dark Empire, a comic book series released by Dark Horse in 1991. The prequels weren’t a thing yet, so it obviously hadn’t been established that Palpatine’s face had been scarred the way it was. In Dark Empire, writer Tom Veitch wrote that because of the great power he wieded, Palpatine’s body would decay more rapidly. As such, his spirit would inhabit numerous clones to gain eternal life. I’m not suggesting the same is true for Snoke. But I love the idea that one’s body pays the price for all that evil.

In any event, answers will come in time. The wait may be excruciating at certain points, but the answers will come.

Star Wars Rebels, Darth Vader, Kanan2. Sith Lord Mufasa

All this excitement over The Force Awakens has finally prompted me to check out Star Wars Rebels. I haven’t been disappointed. I’m not quite caught up yet. I just watched the episode where Vader faces off against Kanan and Ezra. Which brings me to something that needs to be said about James Earl Jones reprising his role.

Like all of us, I love James Earl Jones. He’s an amazing, iconic performer. If there’s one person you want voicing Darth Vader, it’s him. I’m not trying to dump on Mr. Jones, here…

But is there any way we can get him to toughen Vader’s voice up again?

Maybe that’s just not the headspace Mr. Jones is in these days. But listening to him as Darth Vader in 2015 sounds like Mufasa pretending to be a bad guy. At any moment, I practically expect him to start talking about “the great circle of life.” In this episode, Karan and Ezra are talking about all the hate and fear they can sense. But this character doesn’t sound hateful or menacing. That’s a problem.

Darth Vader, don't make me destroy youFour yours truly, the most intimidating line Darth Vader has in the entire Star Wars saga is in the moments leading up to the “I am your father” reveal. It’s simply: “There is no escape. Don’t make me destroy you.” Mr. Jones has a growl in his voice that’s absolutely bone chilling. If we can get a fraction of that intensity into these Rebels performances, I’ll be a happy man.

Because let’s face it, nobody wants Sith Lord Mufasa.

Image 1 from starwars.wikia.com. Image 2 from comicvine.com. Image 3 from starwarsrebels.wikia.com. Image 4 from vestalmorons.wordpress.com.

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Talking Star Wars: Rey Theories, Leo as Anakin, “White Slavers”

Rey, Star Wars: The Force AwakensBy Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

***WARNING: Spoilers for Star Wars: The Force Awakens lay ahead. But seriously, you must have seen it by now.***

1. Rey Rumors. 

So now that The Force Awakens has been out for a little bit, we’re at the point where a lot of Star Wars fans are theorizing about the movie. Most rampantly about Rey’s family. Some people think she’s somehow Obi-Wan Kenobi’s daughter, others think she’s a Skywalker (which I imagine is more likely), etc.

Frankly, I’m hoping she’s just Rey. I think The Force Awakens gave us our fill of “I am your father” moments for this era with Kylo Ren and Han Solo. While it would give us a certain plot symmetry to have a Force-sensitive brother and sister at the center of this new trilogy, it’s a little too predictable, in a story many argue is already a little too derivative of the classic trilogy.

Also, the idea of the Skywalker family being (as The Verge recently put it) “the chosen people,” and any hero in the galaxy needing to be connected to them in some way waters things down. I’ve recently gotten acquainted with Star Wars Rebels, and one of the really cool things about that show is that none of the main heroes are connected to Obi-Wan Kenobi, Han Solo, or any of the classic movie characters. They’re entirely new and independant.

Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Rey, BB-8That’s not to say Kylo Ren is less special because of his connection to Han and Leia. But it’s also important to establish that anyone is capable of being a hero, whether you’re an outlaw smuggler, a rogue stormtrooper, or a desert scavenger who has abilities far beyond her imagination. That idea is a lot of fun, and appropriate for this universe.

What’s more, the idea of Rey being Obi-Wan’s daughter is, at least at first glance, a little too convoluted for me. They’d have to go out of their way to explain how and why Obi-Wan had a child so late in his life. And it just seems like overkill. Han and Leia named their (presumably) only child Ben, as a tribute to Obi-Wan. That’s enough.

2. Leonardo DiCaprio as Anakin Skywalker. 

Shortlist got fans buzzing recently by digging up a 2010 interview with Leonardo DiCaprio, in which he revealed he met with George Lucas about playing Anakin Skywalker.

Leonardo Dicaprio, The Beach“I did have a meeting with George Lucas about that…” DiCaprio said. “I just didn’t feel ready to take that dive. At that point.”

Obviously, fate was on Leo’s side here. Hayden Christensen is not a bad actor, and he did the best he could. But was under George Lucas’ direction, saying lines George wrote. There was only so much he could have done. Leo (seen above in 2001’s The Beach, which shows us roughly how he could have looked as Anakin) would have been shackled, and as good as he is, his career likely would have suffered for it.

Still, given how Ewan McGregor was still able to charm as Obi-Wan, it’s interesting to think what Leo might have been able to work into Anakin.

3. George Lucas: “I sold [Star Wars] to the white slavers…”

Yeah, George said this in an interview with Charlie Rose. Even when you take it in the proper context, it’s not much better.

Lucas was talking to Rose about selling Lucasfilm, the Star Wars and Indiana Jones franchises, and his idea for Star Wars: Episode VII to Disney. Disney went their own way with the movie, which it seems has left George somewhat bitter. He talked about how his involvement in the new trilogy would ultimately muck things up, given the difference in directions, which led to the “white slavers” metaphor.

George Lucas, Mickey MouseI’m going to be as nice to George as I can, here. But that’s obviously an extremely crude thing to say about the people he ultimately chose to do  business with. Business, by the way, that made him $4 billion richer, and allowed him to make some vey generous donations to the world of education. It also allowed hi to spend some valuable time with his young daughter.

I imagine this is a really weird time for George. He doesn’t deserve all the credit he gets for “creating” Star Wars, it’s his baby. And now he has no influence on it anymore, and the franchise has been reinvigorated by its “step parents” of sorts. Make no mistake, people are much happier with The Force Awakens than they were with any of the prequels. What does that say about George, his contributions to his own creation over the last 15 years?

Sorry George, but I call sour grapes on this one.

Image 1 from techtimes.com. Image 2 from nydailynews.com. Images 3 and 4 from screencrush.com. 

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