Tuesday, December 29, 2015

A Book About the 90's

 I was a teenager in the 90's, and it was a good time. Ironically, during the 90's I was doing the whole 80's nostalgia thing. I got a classic NES for Christmas when I was 16. I was watching 80's movies and listening to 80's music. I was watching old Transformers G1 and the original (good) movie. So when the 80's nostalgia hit big a few years ago, I was sort of happy to remember it. But, I already did it when I was in high school.

I guess I was ahead of my time.

Well, fast forward to 2009, I started writing what would become "In the Shadows of Myrmidons" and I referenced plenty of 80's moments. And this was, I would say right about when the 80's nostalgia started to kick into high gear. I also decided at this point, well before Hunger Games was huge and before Arrow was an awesome TV show that I would give Snake a bow and arrow to fight crime with. The book wasn't really published until late 2012, early 2013 so I was still before my first viewing of Arrow. Though to be fair, I did choose Robbie as a Green Arrow-esque hero and Snake taking up the bow to contrast with Nolan's Batman which was popular at the time.

I digress.

"In the Shadows of Myrmidons", in addition to boasting some 80's nostalgia also has some 90's nostalgia. The key ones that I can recall are more than a few references to the videogame "Earthbound", some Deep Space Nine references.

Book 2 will prominently feature a C&C Music Factory song, which Nick and I decided upon a few years ago. The last few golden years of video rentals will also be important, because back in the 90's, and even once DVDs were introduced, no one really thought video stores were going anywhere. Let alone being completely replaced by Red Box and Netflix. Sad. 

Well, if you're looking for a book that has some creative references to the past, set in the 1990's, but yet is not completely derivative of other stories (I'm looking at you "Ready Player One"), then "Myrmidons" is the book for you. Though in the past I have used a variety of price points for Myrmidons, I have decided to permanently lower the price to $0.99 for Kindle and Nook 

Thursday, December 24, 2015

If Dracula and Saruman had a Fight

"Someone asked me yesterday if Dracula met Saruman and there was a fight, who would win. I just looked at this man. What an idiotic thing to say. I mean, really, it was half-witted."
Christopher Lee

While this quote by Christopher Lee is kind of spot on, he also didn't mention how awesome it would be. Especially when done with Legos. Too bad I don't have the Count Dooku Lego.

Santa Claus is Coming...to Jail!

Queue up your music...

Boy there's a lot of Christmas movies. Probably more than there are remakes of movies. There's some of my favorites, like:  A Christmas Story, Christmas Vacation, Gremlins, Muppet and non-Muppet Christmas Carol, Home Alone, and my personal favorite, Tokyo Godfathers. Then there's also a fair number of stinkburgers, far too many to mention, though Santa Claus Conquers the Martians is pretty high on the list.

Not surprisingly, few of these movies have anything to do with the birth of Jesus, but "saving Christmas" is not the point of this blog though, because quite frankly, God doesn't need me to save Christ's birth. It happened already. And the holiday known as Christmas that's celebrated with gift exchanges is fine for kids, but at 35, I'm really over the getting presents thing and quite frankly I could be rid of the holiday as it's celebrated. If you want it, go ahead. Me, I'm just not that into it anymore.

While I largely ignore Christmas movies when they're being promoted or being played on tv, today I caught one at a friend's house. I believe it was 2014's "Get Santa". In this movie, Santa found himself in jail, and other stuff like kids waking up to empty stockings being a national news story. Standard kids' fair.

After this first movie finished, "Ernest Saves Christmas" came on. This was one of the first Christmas movies I'd ever seen, and my parents even took me to the theater to see it. I honestly don't remember much, though I loved it. But today I happened to look at the moment where Santa Claus was...you guessed it, in jail, and Ernest was planning a jailbreak. Ironically, Ernest would also end up in jail one day. As a result of Santa's incarceration, Christmas needed to be saved, because according to Hollywood, Christmas isn't a thing without Santa.

Where did this come from?

After some quick Google Fu it seems this trend started with "Miracle on 34th St" where Santa is institutionalized briefly and put on trial. Or something like that. I've never seen it. But, the threat of Santa's absence puts Christmas in peril. It's a cheap and manipulative way to tug at the emotions, and it keeps being reused because it apparently works. But, here is probably the most original and probably heartfelt use of the trope.

One of the other instances I've seen this was in The Santa Clause. At some point in this movie Santa goes to jail, and gets busted out by elves. Kind of odd when you consider that the man can squeeze down chimneys. Why couldn't he just use the same trick to escape? Not in the script, right? While I do recall there was an element of Christmas in danger, I believe this was played more for laughs, especially with the commando elves. It's been a while since I've seen it though.

That's the movies I know about, if you can think of some where Santa gets jailed, please share in the comments.

In thinking this through a little, I think it's not so much that there is some sort of symbolism at work, but rather just lazy story telling. Christmas movies involving Santa are generally aimed at kids, and really, how is any story involving Santa going to have any meaningful conflict? So any conflict that arises has to be nonviolent, and it has to be something high stakes for the kids. No Santa = no toys = no Christmas in the eyes of kids, or ar least that's what Hollywood types think or want us to think. I may be wrong on this one, but I think kids probably love toys.

It's interesting to note too that at the center of the threat to Christmas and Santa is an adult, probably one alot like me, who no longer sees Christmas through the eyes of a young child. The responsibilities of growing up have caused us to lose that child-like wonder of Christmas. The adult at the center of whatever anti-santa conspiracy is usually a parent of the protagonist. Probably because a parent has the power to fulfill or destroy a child's Christmas.

So I guess, while it is lazy storytelling, it is also capitalizing on a real fear that children have, that their parents will not get Christmas right. So Santa movies occasionally throw Santa in jail to create some easy tension.

Well, merry Christmas, and if you don't like Christmas, then bah, humbug.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Fixing the Highlander Series: What the Reboot Would Need

I am not a fan of remakes, reboots or unnecessary pre/sequels. 

Did "Poseidon" need to be remade? Did Godzilla need another reboot from America? Did "Nightmare on Elm Street" or "Friday the 13th"? Did we need an "Inspector Gadget 2" or "Ghost Rider 2"? 

Emphatically, no.

When films go down this left-hand path, they go one of two ways. Usually. They are good. Or they suck. For example, the Time Machine remake was not bad, but it ruined the Morlocks. The original Morlocks were so terrifying with their shining eyes and just creepy lurching, while the new ones were mostly Muppets. The Star Trek reboot/remake...the less said about it, the better, in my opinion. With sequels, was "Red 2" an improvement over the first? Not really. Iron Man 3...it was kind of unnecessary.

And speaking of unnecessary sequels, no movie comes to mind more quickly (except "Hot Tub Time Machine 2" or "Night at the Museum 2") than the Highlander series, though at the time I enjoyed those sequels immensely. Highlander has, despite it's high points, been spread rather thin and quite cheapened in many ways. But, there hasn't been much new Highlander stuff in the last ten minutes or so, so the rumor mill has suggested a reboot is in the works.

The first time I saw "Highlander" (quotes omitted hereafter) had been probably after seeing Highlander 2 and 3, as well as some of the TV show. So by the time I got around to seeing the original, the young me found the original hadn't aged that well. Second and third viewings kind of gave me the same feeling when I rewatched all the Highlanders to prepare for "Endgame" back in the early 2000's. So let's face it, the effects in Highlander are rough in spots. However. I recently rewatched the original with more mature eyes, less dazzled by eyecandy than they used to be, and actually... I came to realize that the first Highlander is a cinematic masterpiece. It should be the "only one." Why Russel Mulcahy isn't still a big name director these days with Highlander and "The Shadow" under his belt, I really can't say. Both are excellent movies.

After watching the original again I figured I'd give the TV series another whirl. Probably after watching a youtube video about the top ten villains of Highlander. I had always wanted to watch it anyways. But for some strange reason, I didn't even make it through season 1, even though I know it gets better in later seasons, at least at times. 

What was wrong?

A point in the aforementioned video (or a different one?) made is that some of the villains in the TV show were just pale, and actually kind of farcical versions of the Kurgan. And I realized the video, or wherever I'd heard it, was right. I recalled also the villain in Highlander 3 and realized that was sort of true there as well. The villain in Highlander 4 had other problems.

That's when I read the rumor Highlander was being rebooted and I started to think that there could be a way to reboot highlander, but to do it right. Because if Highlander is remade and rebooted, it should not be just to make money, even though it probably will be. It should be done having learned the lessons of what came before. 

And so here it is. My first ever list article, which I probably should have pitched to cracked.com.


Let's just get this one out of the way. The first key to the success of any Highlander reboot is to not give us any more Macleods.

Why, you may ask? 

Because there's already so many. Anytime someone does a Highlander anything, the main character is almost always a Macleod. We've got Conner, the original. Then Duncan, Quentin, and Colin, AT LEAST. Who knows how many I missed.

This can also extend to not having anyone even from that same Highlander village, like Jacob Kell from "Endgame." The fact that there were three immortals from the same village and two were made immortal at around the same time stretches credulity. Eschewing the highlands of Scotland, while invalidating the name of "Highlander" would at least bring something new to the table.

Now before you grab the pitchforks and light the torches, consider why such "blasphemy" could come from any fan of Highlander. Which I am because I ordered the two Jim Byrnes CDs and a Watcher ring from the Highlander catalog when I was in high school.

Think about this for a second. No Macleod will ever be more badass or as much of a dreamboat as Conner, though I'd grandfather Duncan in as an exception to this rule. The badassery of Conner is cemented by the fact that he WON THE PRIZE. He also appeared in every theatrically released movie. Between him and six seasons of Duncan Macleod, that's already been plenty of stories involving the Macleod boys taking heads.

Isn't that enough?

Rebooting with a Macleod at the helm would just further cheapen what came before. By moving on from the Macleods, whoever is manning (or, I guess, womanning) a Highlander reboot can show they're bringing something new and exciting. 

Let's move on.

2 - Pay Your Dues

Despite what I just said, it's important to respect the original Source (haha) material. What I mean by this is give cameos to Christopher Lambert, Jim Byrnes, Adrian Paul, and Clancy Brown (he needs to be in more stuff) as a nod to the fans of the originals.

Key word here is cameo.

Don't make them immortals, but give them an important role, but make it brief or secondary.  If you make them major characters, make them just normal guys and don't let them ham it up. Pass the torch. But don't go crazy.

My personal suggestion as to what role they would play is coming right up.

3- Don't Toss the Head out with the Quickening

That poor play on an idiom not withstanding, this is a critical point to address. 

The Highlander series, like many others, suffers from a few different ailments. Chiefly, making-it-up-as-you go-itis and the related gotta-keep-making-bucks-itosis. 

Like with everything else, these two things lead to stupid plot elements/holes, deus ex machina, retcons and of particular concern to Highlander, continuity errors. It also leads to stuff like making immortals into aliens from the planet Zeist.

That being said, there was stuff that worked in the series and movies, even without any real continuity in the films. Stuff like the Queen music. Keep the stuff that did work, get rid of what didn't. And don't make up some new stupid thing just to be "innovative."

The biggest thing that I would keep would be the Watchers. Holy crap, the idea of the Watchers is a really cool one. A secret society that keeps tabs on the immortals for whatever purposes, probably to make sure some bad egg doesn't win The Prize. It's also a great way to have an "everyman" to show us how this crazy stuff fits with the real world.

A couple other things to keep would be, I guess, the idea that new immortals like Richie are still being found, though that could be done away with. An interesting story point would be identifying when the last immortal was "born" and what significance that would have. Perhaps the last immortal was born in 1000AD. Maybe 1990. How many immortals are there and are they all accounted for?

Something else to keep would be keep having bigger quickenings for more powerful immortals. So too with having immortals possess actual powers, like in Highlander 3. 

Things like that.

Which brings me to...

4 - Let the Immortals Have Powers and/or Let Immortals Actually get More Powerful with Quickenings

This could go either way. Whichever way it goes, make sure it isn't stupid. 

In Highlander, it's revealed to the audience that when an immortal beheads another immortal they go through the quickening and gain the powers and memories of that immortal. In the TV series, sometimes a dark quickening happens and the immortal turns evil. Vice versa happens sometimes to evil immortals. Highlander 3, the illusion power is transferred with the quickening, a sad fact overlooked in Highlander Endgame.

Aside from those examples though, in actual practice, the quickening mostly meaningless. I propose the concept of gaining the powers be kept and be made meaningful. 

This could be as simple as making it obvious that an immortal now has the memories of someone he just defeated. Or perhaps the victorious immortal picked up some new sword techniques from a recent quickening. Perhaps he or she gets a slight increase in physical strength for each immortal another immortal beats. So if Kurgan had had like 400 quickenings and Conner had only had say, 300, Kurgan should have that much more physical strength. Upon beating Kurgan, Conner should then gain all of his strength, or a generous portion of it. Have it increase proportionally I guess. Either way, make it something that's noticeable and lasting.

You could take it a little further though, but this is where things would get stranger and potentially stupid. I almost would rather not go this route, but if it could be done right, then go ahead. 

You could give immortals some low level of super power. Something like pyrokinesis, telepathy, telekinesis, illusions, etc. At that point though, it would be little different than the Jedi of Star Wars. Then again, nothing would be cooler than a lightsaber duel ending with a quickening. Maybe these kinds of powers can come after an immortal has grown stronger from multiple quickenings.

Whatever the case, don't over do it. We don't need more special effects CGI cartoons.

5 - Make it Epic

What I suggest for any Highlander reboot is pure insanity. The best platform for such, would probably be like a 13 episode season for 3-5 seasons, "Game of Thrones-esque" epic and long reaching Netflix series. Have the show focus on however many immortals you have as main characters, their long lives and of course, he point where they lose their heads. Supply a flow chart if you need it.

Alternately, you could easily do this as a shared universe movie series, but in my opinion, this only worked well once with the build up to and release of "Avengers." Every post Avengers stand alone and even "Avengers 2" really were not as solid to me, and so doing Highlander like this would not be ideal. Though if you did do it, each immortal you have as a character gets maybe 1-2 movies standalone, their origin, some drama. Then after a few films of solo adventures, have a big free for all movie with those characters who had solo movies and have it kick off the "Gathering." Then a phase 2 that raises the stakes and culminates in a last movie that has the Game end. And maybe one last stand alone of what it means to win the Prize. Quite large in scope, and ultimately not as in depth as the Netflix series.

What the current Highlander stuff lacks is this level of epicness. You have one excellent film, a bunch of mediocre and cookie cutter sequels, and a TV show with hit and miss moments. There is little real continuity between them, and there's little build up or pay off between any of them. You can literally pick up any movie and it makes little difference. With the TV show, you hardly need to see the movies, because Conner winning the Prize twice had no impact on Duncan's world.

In starting completely over, you can take your time and do it right. Work up a huge plot, start to finish. You can then introduce themes and elements, build on those and see them to completion. You could literally make a television/Netflix masterpiece of intrigue, betrayal and action.

When dealing with immortals, a single two hour film really isn't much to work with, which is why the move to a series and creation of sequels, made sense. Even if these could have been done better in some ways.
In starting over, don't just do another movie. Consider with the flashbacks and interplay between immortals, this really needs to be a drawn out series of some size, but a limited series with an (pardon the pun) and endgame in mind. We need to see the early stages of the Game, the middle portion, the final battles for the Prize, and probably we need to see what happens once the prize has been won. You can develop all of that in a series.

Since the existing material has built up the mythology so inconsistently, any reboot needs to take those elements that worked, fine tune them and implement them with perfection into a huge epic.
And to help with this...

6 - Give us Complex Characters

In other words, make this for grownups. So many movies of late have been going for the CGI eyecandy with mind blowing fight scenes. So much so that I personally am weary of new movies because they don't give have anything at stake when the fight scenes come up. I was utterly bored by "Age of Ultron" and found Whedon's attempts at humor tiresome.
To continue with Avengers as an example, this is why the build up to avengers, it clicked for me. We had the characters being introduced and developed, at least to a point, so that by the time "Avengers" rolled in, I could care about the fight, because I cared about the characters. That's also why phase 2 of Avengers didn't work for me. It was just more repetitive action with the same characters and little actual development. Iron man 3 was the exception, but went too far with the character side (in an uninteresting way). Phase 2 lacked the balance of Phase 1, and it did not raise the stakes really. The Phase 2 movies were just the cinematic equivalents of filler episodes or "monster of the week."
So to avoid this, Highlander needs to do is give us characters who are complicated and the action needs to be an outgrowth of who the characters are. Highlander 1 gave us good balance of character and action. It built in intensity. It also gave us a decent spectrum of characters. You have a couple of nice guys like Ramirez and Macleod, then a scumbag like Kurgan. The TV series gave us a few Kurganesque clones, but actually ended up creating a good number of hateable bad guys, including this guy, the Morris Day of immortals, and Lord Byron. Some of the villains weren't completely bad eggs like Kurgan, but they were at odds with Macleod's worldview, and lost their head for it.
Like Duncan said in season 1, immortals run the spectrum from assbite to hero (I'm paraphrasing), same as regular folk.
Any reboot needs to give us villains that we can invest in, and perhaps even root for. They need to be human, they can't just be "mustache twirlers." Like how sometimes you can actually root for Magneto in X-Men, because he's not too far off from the truth. He has a mostly noble goal in mind, survival for those like him, but his methods of attaining that put him at odds with Professor X. This is the sort of dynamic the Highlander reboot needs. In the early days of the immortal's lives, this can be as simple as two immortals from enemy nations fighting on that premise. But as time passes, perhaps they find other things to remain at odd. Perhaps they overcome those and become friends.

Applying this further to the Netflix miniseries route, give us immortals who are just regular guys finding out they can't die, and go from there. Go in wild different directions from, show us how each immortal grows with his age. Do some snap and become evil? Do some work for good, only to have that good motive turn sour? What happens when two decent immortals disagree on what's good? How does the quest for the Prize over the centuries affect this interplay between the immortals' view of good, evil and fighting each other? What turns someone into a sleazeball like Kurgan?
These and many more are questions that can be explored in a rebooted Highlander series. You can have a main cast of like 7-10 immortals, plus some tertiary head fodder ones that last between a few episodes and a few seasons. The fun part is to explore how these people change over the centuries with their loves and losses. Tragedies and triumphs. What do they do with their gift, what happens when the One wins the Prize?
Another note in making these characters complex, explore some spiritual issues. Methos said in "Highlander the Source" that he'd met Jesus! What would it be like to explore an immortal who was a true Christian (not just the TV-fied Catholicism lite) who'd met Jesus. I mean, don't make Jesus an immortal, but let's explore the spiritual implications of "what the heck is an immortal?" Do the same for other faiths too, sure. How does that shape the worldview of a particular immortal? Does it at all? What happens if an immortal abandons his faith? How does this immortality affect a Buddhist, a Muslim or pagan? Do they change their faith as they grow? Holy ground is a key element in Highlander, why? Conner had some Catholic overtones, and perhaps that shaped him and kept him from becoming like Kurgan. It's a key thing to explore.
Just make sure that any such exploration is mature and well researched.

So, Let's Do It! 

While in all likelihood, any such reboot of Highlander will be a superficial, blatant cash grab with limited perspective, Highlander is one series that could truly benefit from a hard reboot that takes its time and develops an epic and long ranging story. Take the time to develop the mythology, give us complex characters who are shades of gray, who have beliefs, virtues and failings. Invest in the characters and grow them over the series. Surprise us and make us cry for those characters when they lose their head. That's why we don't need Macleod, we need to be surprised with who lives and dies in the Game. Let's see immortals living, loving, being and dying.
This is really the right way to do a reboot, just rip the Band-Aid off, nuke the site from orbit, start clean. But when you do it, raise the stakes, don't just retread the same scenes we've already seen. Macleod already won the Prize then he didn't, then he lost his head to the other Macleod. The TV and movies didn't mesh well, but the TV series did some cool stuff and so did the movies. The original Highlander TV/movie canon had high points, it was inconsistent, this reboot is a chance to do things right. Highlander deserves better continuity, higher stakes and even higher payoff in the end.

What do you think?

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Shameless Self Promotion

Rather than clog the Internet with another blog about virtually the same thing, I figured I'd just edit this post. No one read it anyways, so anyone seeing this change will have likely seen this post for the first time anyhow.


I was "laid off" yesterday. The details are inconsequential, but my fate is not. I have no new job lined up, though a few apps out and possible interviews. Until that time though, I'm trying to find new and creative ways to generate revenue to keep my family off the streets. Including an avenue I've avoided up until this point in the the hopes that the Lord would move in other ways. Now it's time to try this new way and see what shakes out.

Like shameless self-promotion.

So, if you want to help a brother in the Lord or just have money to burn looking for a good cause to invest in, you've come to the right place!

You may now by "In Shadows of Myrmidons" on NOOK! Click here to buy it! Meanwhile, the "Classic" Kindle may be found here.The price has been reduced to $2.99, which is a great bargain. We aim to please, so it's also to be found in hard copy at Createspace or Amazon.

And for those millionaires or other well-off people, a sneak preview of book 2 is available for ONLY $200! For the first 20 who purchase book 2's preview, provide a proof of purchase and an order confirmation and your name will be listed in the acknowledgements as one who invested in the sequel.

Now, this is not just me begging for money, though it kinda is, you actually get something for the money you spend. You get an e-book. Profits will go towards supporting my family, and Nick's portion will go towards whatever it is he will put it towards, which may be charitable in all likelihood because he's more altruistic than I am. But know this, that supporting us as writers, if we do well enough, will allow us to put book 2 as well as other amazing adventures out.

Thanks all!

Scarlett Starblazer's Martial Arts Program

Just a brainstorm.

Since Scarlett upped her martial arts game in book, and presumably will keep up with it going forward, should we have her exploring other martial arts as well?

Nick and I have already discussed what Scarlett will be up to in book 2. She will have her hands full, but as she continues to improve her skills, should she explore other arts like kung fu or tai chi?

This would open those up to exploration in a Christian perspective, and it may be interesting to do. We will see.

Share your thoughts here!

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Now on Nook!

Not that anyone reads this blog, or has in interest in the novel "In the Shadows of Myrmidons", but this novel is now available on Nook by clicking this link.

So please buy it, read it and leave some reviews.

Also, book 2 has been on the back burner for a while, mainly because this book is not selling or getting many reviews. So please buy it on Kindle or a hard copy on Createspace.

Thanks for any and all support you give, and remember if you want book 2, I need prayer support from you as well as people buying the book.


Monday, November 23, 2015

The Star Wars Episode 7 Reboot

Or is it?

With Disney's recent cashgrab of buying star wars and making tons of movies/money with it, they decided to jettison the existing (expanded universe) continuity so they'd have a fresh start with episode 7. Or at least decided they wanted to pick and choose what they liked best. This way they can retread the same ground covered in the EU by telling different stories in the same time frame without paying heed to continuity. Because really, there's no other way you could tell stories with the big 3 between ep. 4, 5 and 6 without rebooting. The vein had been long tapped out.

Essentially with the old EU, the cash cow, was dry of milk, so they're milking its twin sister. Or maybe they cloned it, and are milking it...blue milking it.

As part of this reboot though, it's implied that Episode 7 should be a clean slate and that everything from there is totally new and fresh. But we know Hollywood is incapable of anything new...

As I have watched the trailers for Episode 7, I noted a few things that reminded me of things that I've read years ago in the EU. I'm not linking the trailers, because if you're here and have read this far, you've probably already seen them all.

Trailer 1 doesn't have much in it that sets alarms off. It starts with a shot of a desert planet. That's not EU, nor is it Tatooine, but after seeing Tatooine in 5/6 movies, even if briefly, I'm a little tired of desert planets, and calling it Jakku doesn't do it any favors. That's really it. Please start giving us different kinds of planets. The prequels even did that much.

Trailer 2 gives us more desert planet and a cool shot of a crashed star destroyer. But at the 39 second mark, we get our first ripoff from the EU. In the trailer, Kylo Ren holds the charred remains of Darth Vader's helmet. While this happened in a different context in the EU, this is something that pretty much happened in Kevin J. Anderson's Jedi Academy Trilogy, "Dark Apprentice", if memory serves.

In Dark Apprentice, Kyp Durron,  newly minted Sith apprentice of Exar Kun's ghost, does some bad stuff. One of those bad things is that he goes to Endor and looks at the ashes of Vader's funeral pyre and claims the title of dark lord of the Sith for himself. I can't recall what he found there, but whatever it was had been melted, and was of little value. Just like the mask held by Ren in the trailer. There are key differences, but it's not anything new to have a wannabe Sith hang out at Vader's cremation site.

The second EU plagiarism is that at the 54 second mark, we see Anakin's lightsaber, which would have had to have been recovered somehow in Cloud City after Luke lost it with his hand. In the trailer it's not clear who first recovered it, or how, but it had to have been recovered from a Bespin airshaft somehow. This makes me wonder if mace Windu's lightsaber was recovered on Coruscant and passed around.

Anyhow, the Skywalker lightsaber retrieval also happens in the EU. The Last Command sourcebook showed a pic of
Gotta HAND it to Lord Vader, he knows how to get what he wants.
Vader recovering the lightsaber and the hand from some ugnaughts after they found it. I just hope they don't give us Luuke Skywalker, because then I'll just be mad they didn't just make zahn's novels canon.

So far in less than one minute of random footage from Episode 7 two pretty significant things have been coopted from the EU by Disney's "fresh start." This makes me wonder why they didn't just keep everything in the EU (which Filoni kind of tried to do in Clone Wars), or at least everything up until the New Jedi Order. I would actually be fine if they scrubbed everything NJO or after, and even select stories (like Children of the Jedi) within the EU.

But wait, there's more!

At 1:11, Kylo Ren looks enough like Darth Revan to make me think it's Revan. I'm not the first to pick up on this though. But it's there all the same. If KOTOR is canon, that would be cool.

And that's it from trailer 2.

Trailer 3 at the 52 second mark shows us a red exploding thing. I think what this is, is that Kylo Ren has just used Starkiller base to blow up a sun. Of course, this is nothing new either. The Jedi Academy series had the Sun Crusher which could blow a sun up. So did Roger Macbride Allen's Corellian trilogy in the form of Centerpoint Station. The EU has had at least 2 things that make suns go BOOM! And it looks like episode 7 does too.

At about 1:48, Rey is crying over a fallen comrade. I think it looks like Chewbacca, but that's pure speculation. Chewbacca of course cacked in Vector Prime. I'll concede that Chewie getting whacked in personal combat, as this appears to be, is better than a moon falling on him. So kudos to Disney for that. 

This theory makes some sense because Lucas had previously approved Chewbacca dying for the NJO. It also will make people take the new villains more seriously, because look, they killed a major character. That's usually how new villains get street cred. Fan reaction will be big, but not as big as killing say, Han, Luke or Leia. That's why Chewie got the axe in Vector Prime.

Killing Chewie also works because Peter Mayhew is in his 70s and has bad knees, so bad he had to have a stand in for some scenes, and so it's a good reason to retire the character. What better way to let Mayhew bow out than giving Chewie the heroic death he deserves?

But, the EU did it first!

At 1:51 we see the planet with a Death Star trench. This planet/bigger Death Star reminded me immediately of Zonoma Sekot from the EU, once I saw the poster with the large Death Star-ish/Unicron-ish planet. Actually it reminds me of Unicron more than anything. Let's hope it's not. Anyways, I guess the main reason it reminded me of the EU was that it's a moveable planet, like Sekot. This is a stretch to say it's ripped off from the EU as I doubt they intentionally ripped off a moveable planet, but it's close enough to make me go "hmmm." What this planet probably is, is Starkiller base. Starkiller base is probably just a bigger Death Star that blows suns up.

That's really all that can be gleaned from the trailers. So far, there's 4 for sure things taken and sort of changed from the EU, with 2 more possibilities Chewie and Sekot) for a total of 6 things the "new" Star Wars is taking from the EU. But I think there's more that I can speculate on.

Pure speculation:

First, I think I came across a theory that suggested Rey and Ren were sort of a Jacen/Jaina thing, or that Rey at least was Solo's daughter. From there, I kinda guessed Ren was her twin, because so much was already ripped off from the EU. I think they probably both are Han and Leia's kids. My thought is that somehow the kids were taken in their youth (the EU had multiple kidnapping attempts on the Solo twins, like every other novel) and one of them ended up as Kylo Ren, the other is Rey. If this is right, then we've sort of ripped off the Legacy of the Force series that (mistakenly, imo) made Jacen into a Sith. I may be wrong on this theory, but at least one of those two is Han and Leia's kid, and it makes sense to make them both such. Daisy Ridley sort of outed herself as Han's daughter in an interview, and why make one kid when twins is thematically relevant to Star Wars and allows for more story possibilities?

Thematically it could work well because it turns the Luke/Leia new hope on its side by making the new twins accidentally lost and separated instead of intentionally hidden and separated.

Who is Finn? No idea, but he's got to have Jedi blood. Maybe. I love the idea that he's Lando and Leia's kid. Hehe. Too bad Lando isn't in this movie, he really should be. Billy Dee, if you read this, I am really sad you were left out of Episode 7, especially since you were able to reprise the role of Lando in so many small ways over the years, my favorite being Jedi outcast. You've really made me happy with all your guest appearances, I love hearing your voice. That and the Lando trilogy of books are the most underrated EU books out there.

I also miss Wedge.

At any rate, Finn is a big unknown, and actually, I hope he's just a random force sensitive dude, because not everyone has to be a Skywalker or solo. I don't see him being Luke or Leia's kid, despite him using Anakin's lightsaber. Leia was into Han in the OT, so the Lando theory is out; and Luke is fairly solitary, even in the EU he didn't marry for a long time. I think Finn holding the Skywalker lightsaber is a red herring. It would also be strange to have him be Han's son from a previous relationship, especially if he's Force sensitive, but I suppose it's possible. Maybe Mace Windu survived Episode 3 and had a kid and a grandkid!

Where is Luke Skywalker? Where, oh where indeed. This is one point where I think finally Episode 7 decides to not rip off the EU anymore. It's fairly obvious that Han telling the kids that "all of it was true" gives us a big clue, although it could just be that in the middle of nowhere, they'd never have heard about jedi. I suppose it makes sense, very few people ever saw Luke or the Sith in action. Those that did, didn't live for much longer afterwards.

Here's my thoughts on Luke. In Episode 7, contrary to the EU, Disney took another direction, Luke decided not to restart the jedi order or train any new jedi. Why, I don't know. Probably he was afraid to unleash the jedi on the galaxy again. But his failure to pass on what he had learned resulted in force sensitive people developing their powers on their own without any moral guiding structure, and then the galaxy ends up with groups of nuts like the Knights of Ren.


Luke had tried to train someone, Kylo Organa-Solo perhaps, and when Kylo fell to the dark side or couldn't develop powers, Luke decided to give it up and went into exile.

The problem with the first theory is that it looks like a lot of the new canon comics and books have Luke eagerly hunting down jedi artifacts and promising to rebuild at least one jedi temple. He seems to be intent on learning more about jedi affairs and seems to be prepping to restore the jedi order. But all that eagerness could turn sour with one or two bad eggs going to the dark side. So, I'll say that Luke did try to rebuild the order, but something went wrong and he went into a forced exile. Or perhaps the Rebel Alliance/New Republic didn't want the jedi back and forced him into exile.

Whatever the case, the fate of Skywalker is likely critical to the plot of Episode 7. Duh.

At any rate, the trailer seems to have quite a bit of material that already was used at some point in the EU. So for all of Disney's attempts to start clean, they've already returned to the source to pick it clean.

Let's hope it's worth watching, I have a bad feeling about it. Whatever the case, all my EU books are canon for me. Unless I say they aren't. I'm looking at you "Children of the Jedi."


 I have no theories about Supreme Commander Snoke, other than he is probably secretly Jar Jar Binks as is being spread amongst the interwebs.

Friday, August 7, 2015

Map of the Myrmidons

For those who are interested in such things, here is a map of the FICTIONAL Highbridge, Bronx as depicted in the urban fantasy novel "In the Shadows of Myrmidons". Please note, this map is FICTIONAL, and the locations on my map and assertions do not necessarily accurately reflect the Bronx, the buildings, their owners and occupants. Please do not go to these locations looking for the setting of the novel as the real Highbridge is quite different than the urban fantasy version outlined in the novel.

Again, this map is for entertainment purposes only with the intent to help you use Google streetview to get more enjoyment out of the FICTIONAL novel that was written.

The authors do not take any responsibility for harm or damages caused as this map is not intended for actual navigation. Merely to paint a better picture for the novel that was written.

Thank you.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

An Antifranchise Manifesto


The word franchise seems to be more and more common in discussions about nerd-things, movies in particular, as nerd-things have inexplicably become more mainstream. It used to be that the word franchise, to me, was associated with restaurants. Fast-food restaurants in particular. As a teenager I worked at a franchise of McDonald's owned by an individual businessman. He owned the restaurant and ran it but he was pretty much part of the McDonald's brand, and presumably paying them a licensing fee or something.

The owner was basically using McDonald's name to earn money, but he was also legitimately selling McDonald's products at McDonald's standard of quality.

Yes, it was essentially an easy way to make money with an easily identifiable brand name and maintain a product of a consistent quality, whatever your opinion of that quality is, while running the shop. Certainly the product would never attain your favorite burger place's level of deliciousness, but you could count on it in a pinch to give you a consistently average-to-good product when customers wanted it, and quick.

Now I don't think anyone franchises a McDonald's thinking they're going to be the next Emeril Lagasse, I'm thinking people do it because it is a good business idea. To twist a Disney, they're making burgers to make more money, not the other way around. Customers are fine with this, because usually we buy McDonald's in a hurry, because it's cheap, or occasionally because of rare to occasional cravings. Or for the beanie babies...

Because of this, during my teen and early adult years, the term franchise gave me kind of a cheap feeling, as well as the undeniable link to a corporate overlord. I guess it still does, which is why I'm writing this probably. Really I never would have applied this F-word to anything but a chain restaurant or maybe even store chain. In fact, even then franchise really has not been a staple of my vocabulary.

This was back in the '90s, I was like 16ish, and that was my understanding of franchises which held until recently. Fast forward almost 20 years (wow) and even amongst some of my friends, the word franchise is being used with disturbing regularity (sorry guys) to describe something that I probably would have traditionally referred to as a series.

But unfortunately perhaps franchise is more appropriate, though still loathsome. We got the Terminator franchise...and so on down the line. Just kidding. Ghostbusters, James flipping Bond, X-Men, etc. All can and are referred to as franchise. Arguably, even Star Wars falls in with them, though I always called it a series, but technically that's always been a franchise. But I digress.

In some emails with my friends, I started hearing about how THIS franchise is getting rebooted...again, THAT franchise is getting a sequel, and THIS franchise needs X. It gnawed at my heart and mind a little bit.

Then I started to watch MovieFights on YouTube which simultaneously disgusts and entertains me, and I heard franchise being used a lot. I honestly wouldn't even watch this show if it wasn't for it's connection to Honest Trailers and Andy Signore, because he seems like a really cool dude, and I love when he says "this is tough". On this show, aside from overuse of the words "iconic" and "the most X of all time" the word franchise comes out quite a lot and it's often all that's talked about. I heard very little about things like Ex Machina or thought provoking fare like that, and it's nonstop about which reboot Chris Pratt should take over or the next superhero movie. That's no rip on MovieFights necessarily, because I'm sure they're talking about the movies fans ask about and the films which are being made. Which are primarily franchises, retreads and reboots.

And the stuff on MovieFights and similar YouTube channels is really just the symptom of the problem. Much of what Hollywood makes is a franchise or an attempt to start one, whether it's needed/wanted or not.

Here's a few examples. I'm not using quotes for titles, because I'm lazy and you're big enough to figure it out.

Terminator Genisys was made with the intent to start a new trilogy. Not make one movie to tell a story that was needed, see if it does well, then let's do more. But they made it hoping to make multiple movies after it. Just like Terminator Salvation. It could and should be argued that no movie after T2 was needed, but if there was a need for more, my opinion is that they should have focused solely on the future war and have Skynet as maybe an actual character. But that's not here or there. Keep it an infinity loop, or let us take the senator Connor ending. Any further movies should support the infinity loop, and if you prefer the senator version, then just stop at T2.

Golden Compass, a movie I kinda liked did the same. They were hoping to do a series and cash in like what happened with Harry Potter. Now we have an unfinished trilogy because the franchise start up did not succeed.

The Marvel cinematic universe, once Iron Man was successful, became a franchise. But in my opinion it didn't venture into mediocrity and cement itself as a cheap franchise until Avengers hit or maybe even phase 2. Oh, the build up was fun, I even liked Iron Man 2. There was a story to tell and something to build towards. But thus far every movie in phase 2 has been essentially a potboiler until Avengers 2 or actually, I think maybe everything is just setting up Infinity War, another drawn out 2 parter...

Now the MCU is basically Disney/Marvel just  printing money by throwing a new movie out every so often. And I think that after Avengers there wasn't much need to have follow up stories, at least not what they gave us. I mean, I guessed every single plot point of Winter Soldier! Thor 2 was "huh?" and Iron Man 3 could have been a 2 part episode of Agents of Shield (a show I have zero interest in and would have been cooler to have a Thunderbolts show). In short, after Avengers, there has not really been a real story told and it's all largely a movie to 1) sell toys and 2) keep you interested until the next movie comes out. Thankfully I have not spent more than a cheap rental to see most of these movies.

Was there a story to tell after Avengers? Maybe. But what they gave us feels to me like there really wasn't. Part of this is because there is so much to explore with superheroes, but a two hour or several 2 hour movies make it hard to squeeze in everything that could or should be explored, and still have enough action. Which is why comics work, and probably also why Arrow is an excellent TV show. It can slow the plot down enough to tell a larger story. When you have a chain of episodic films, you have a glorified TV series. This also why Nick and I are writing our stuff as novels. Because we want to explore the superhero mythology in a hopefully deeper way that only a novel will allow. (For the record, we came up with the overall stories in the late 90's before superhero movies were what they are now. We just didn't get it out until technology caught up with us.)

Honestly though, I'm almost tired of superhero and big spectacle movies, which is bad news because I want to write more superhero novels. So I guess I'm also a hypocrite, but in my defense I am trying to do something a little bit different, namely tell superhero stories from a Biblical worldview and with depth. I hope anyway. So if you want more of those, send me more money, buy more books and leave reviews. If you don't want more books like that, send me a crapload of money so I can start my tourism company or learn how to do artwork. I have two really great options for tourism, but I need funding.

Which brings me to Star Wars.

Star Wars. Like I said, it's kind of always been a franchise, it hit the ground running with merchandising. In fact, it sort of did what Jaws did and really took it to the next level with the toys and whatnot. Imagine Spielberg selling shark toys, awesome! Star Wars kind of started the movie franchise mentality in a way. But Star Wars became pretty low key and kinda uncool after Return of the Jedi. So much so that I got sad because I wanted more SW and there wasn't any. There were some comics and books, but they weren't especially good, or available in the small town I lived in by 1987 - 89 when I wanted new Luke Skywalker adventures.

I'm honestly not sure how the Thrawn trilogy even made it to print, because at that time, I don't think anyone really was pining for more Star Wars except for me. But there it was, it basically saved Star Wars from extinction and started the trend of star wars books coming regularly. It kept the fire going until the prequels came out, and many if not all of the novels were more or less sanctioned on some level by George Lucas, to the point where he suggested that Chewbacca get the axe and Jacen Solo become the hero of the New Jedi Order (NJO) over Anakin solo. That's not minor input.

I want to pause and rant about Star Wars a little.

Although there was a regular output of books from 91 - 99, they weren't cohesive overall, and really were hit and miss. Mostly miss. But arguably, in my mind at least, Star wars stayed in the realm of series for the most part, it was kind of a franchise, but not really because there was still some quality, and time to breather before the next thing came along. There was a definite decline in quality after Zahn's books, I recall liking only Anderson's books, the Corellian trilogy and a few singles or others. And some of the ones I liked were just OK anyways. Star Wars teetered on the edge between franchise and series.

That started to change with the prequels and NJO. The NJO took us deeper into franchise territory and was launched as a relatively cohesive 19 book series, and all the past novels were finally put on a timeline, more or less. The NJO was to be mostly paperback with a few hard covers sprinkled in, keeping in line with the majority of the previous books which were largely paperback. There were stories that could be told about the next generation of jedi, sure, but the NJO was not invented just for that, it was to sell more Star Wars books by making them part of a larger series, so you'd have to buy them all to get the whole picture. Whereas before you could pick and choose what you wanted to read.

The prequels landed about the same time with a merchandising vengeance.

But this timeframe is when you could maybe start to see a real reduction in quality too. Not always in the stories themselves, but now we're talking with the end product. The novels were coming to print with typos in them, something I rarely if ever saw before. The prequels were not especially well received. I don't hate them, episode 1 is a fine film until they arrive on Tattooine, and doesn't really get good again until the end, but I watched that movie maybe a dozen times or so and enjoyed it. That probably doesn't help me as a writer trying to sell books, but I'm being truthful. I even liked episode ii, but wanted more clone wars. Episode iii I really enjoyed because there like 5 lightsaber fights in it. I don't know why there is so much hate for the prequels, I enjoyed them even if it was not the story I expected to see. Yeah, they weren't totally as good as the originals, but I think they were decent.

But somewhere at this whole time of the prequels and NJO, the slip into a franchise happened. Star Wars fell to the dark side for me. We got a 4 or 5ish season clone wars tv series. The clone wars movie is a chore to get thru, but the overall series is good, though I could do without the filler episodes. Sadly, the show didn't get a real resolution that I know of, because Disney bought star wars and wanted a rebels tv show. A show taking place in an era that really has been tapped and mined out to the point that the only open spot in the timeline that I can conceive of is Han Solo and Luke making an epic trip to take a dump. I call it "Star Wars:  Refresher Battlefront: Episode I - Rebels Poop Too" Thankfully they at least came up with some new characters for Rebels.

The books hit me especially hard, even before Lucas sold star wars.

We went from the majority of the stories coming out in paperback, expensive enough at $8, or $4 used, to getting nearly every new book coming out in hard cover. Every month saw a new hard cover book. The Legacy of the Force series was bad enough with 3/9 in hard cover, but Fate of the Jedi was I believe all hard cover (and quite thin ones at that) with more than 6 books in the series. And many other stand alones hitting the shelves with hard covers. I rarely if ever saw anything making it to paperback, and when I did, they weren't cheap. Oh, and  typos...

Star Wars had ceased to be the friendly grandpa Bip Palpatine and had reared its Darth Sidious head. I maybe had known for a while that they wanted to earn my money, but it had never been so blatant or unpleasant before. Even so, I do still grab a book I don't have if I find them used or if it's a storyline I am interested in. But I rarely find the new stuff used, either no one's buying them, or they are and aren't getting rid of them.

But this rant isn't over yet. There's more. Episode 7 was announced after star wars (now lowercase to mark the drop in quality) was sold to Disney, and I was skeptical, mainly because, as you can see, I have invested myself in the expanded universe, and that really fulfilled most of my desire for more star wars. It truly did. My skepticism stems from the fact that I suspected they would jettison the books I've enjoyed for decades. My skepticism was confirmed, and they are essentially rejecting the books and starting over.

It's kind of a reboot. And a kick to the gonads.

And that reeks of franchise. So does tapping JJ Abrams to direct. A director more hype than substance, a director who likes to put up a challenging looking puzzle, a satisfying enigma. He teases you maybe a Legend of Zelda, but ends up giving you a cheap, 3D magic eye picture instead. Nothing exemplifies this more than Cloverfield. Months before the movie hit, we were given a really good mystery and tease. I thought it was a cool idea. The companion websites and clues had me wracking my brain, but in the end all we got was a shaky cam with a doofus toothpick monster and Seth Rogen, which ruins any movie I've seen him in and ruined any chance of me watching Green Hornet which I would have seen otherwise.

Abrams' Star Trek wasn't any better, it was an absolute mess that was Trek in name only, but really Trek hasn't been good since DS9 when Jadzia got the axe anyways. But Abrams' Trek was absolutely an illogical mess. Shatner's Shatnerverse novels are far better and actually more fun to read than the Star Trek reboot being fun to watch

THAT is the director for the next star wars movie.

Star wars didn't stop there, no matter how much I wish it had. It came to light that Disney had rejected Lucas' ideas for the new trilogy. On one hand, that's a "...the hell?!" moment, though really given the reception of the prequels (despite my enjoyment of them) I don't know that I blame Disney for that decision, business-wise. (Again a sign they are only after dolla signs) Personally, I think I'd rather take my dozens of star wars books that were pretty much authorized by pre-episode I George Lucas, and even the ones post Ep I over the new continuity of Disney which has outright rejected any of his input.

And really, who can blame me?

Because as part of the new continuity, they are needlessly going back and rehashing ground that was already covered by the expanded universe novels! The next movie (one every year, remember?) after episode 7 isn't episode 8, it's some nonsense about finding the Death Star plans. Really? First, do we really need to see that? Ok, maybe there is a story there, but what are you going to cover that wasn't already covered in Dark Forces with Kyle Katarn or that Nintendo DS game "Lethal Alliance"? Or the few short stories and rpg sourcebooks that already touched on it? That's at least 4 different stories that have been done about getting the Death Star plans, and even when Lethal Alliance hit I thought it wasn't needed. Even throwing those away like yesterday's jam, what are you going to differently on the 5th-ish attempt? Do we really need to see it on a movie screen?

MovieFights recently asked who should play young Han Solo. My answer is, why does anyone need to? Do we need a movie(s) about young Solo? What would such a movie bring to the table that Brian Daley's Han trilogy or AC Crispin's excellent, second Han trilogy didn't already bring? I was already scratching my head at Timothy Zahn's "scoundrels" with Han in it because I'm really not sure it was needed, or that it would even fit into the timeline. Deathtroopers also, why is Han in it? And why are there zombies? Why do we need a young Han Solo movie again?

I will concede the Young Indiana Jones tv series did actually tell a story that was needed, really brought some real history to life and Sean Patrick Flannery was excellent as young Indy, but at this point, we don't need a young Han Solo anything. Or anymore young Indiana Jones prequels. I have exactly all of the Indiana Jones (movies and yes, even novels) and Han solo I could ever want.

And that's where we're at. Star wars went from being a reasonably good quality story, a series I could invest in, to a story being beaten into the ground and rehashed just get money. Which it might have always been.

The refrain of my peers and younger has become "shut up and take my money" when something new and shiny comes around. That's really what it has all become. "Shut up and take my money". OK, "shut up and give us your money." It used to be a major event for me to go to the cinema for a star wars or superhero movie, now there's something of those regularly. It's become cheapened and I'm less inclined to go these days.

It's demonstrative that we as a society want a cheap, mediocre quality experience that hits the right few notes and we are far too willing to give up lots of our money for it, all the while complaining about it. The movies, the merchandising have ceased to become a treat and have truly become a burden to keep up with the stuff.

The chicken mcnuggets we've put on the big mac with bacon and mcrib sauce have given us a stomach ache. Oh, it was cheap. It even tasted alright with the chocolate shake, and fries but once it was consumed, well...that's another story.

People say they're tired of remakes and reboots, sequels we didn't ask for (but you kind did ask by buying tickets) and whatnot, yet we don't invest in independent or new things, like Ex Machina. Or our book. To put my money where my mouth is, I bought and read "TheAbles", an original superhero story by the guy who does Cinemasins. I took a risk, and you know what, I enjoyed it. It's a fun book.

Because new often rips off old, I've also gone back and read some classics or older books, because they were cheap to buy and in many cases free. 20000 Leagues Under the Sea is an excellent read as is Mysterious Island. Edgar Rice Burroughs' books are still entertaining despite the poor results of the John Carter movie that DISNEY made. I enjoyed that movie overall too, despite some poor design and story choices, but it's proof that no customers wanted to invest in something that wasn't a quasi-current franchise.

I'm at a breaking point with franchises of entertainment. Entertainment is a treat, but it has become a chore. It has ceased to be art and has become a product. It's not a juicy lucy from your local burger shop, it's a #2, supersized.

Yes, I have story ideas that will make a series of novels, and probably several different interrelated series in the same universe. If they were movies, or established books, it could technically be a "franchise". But before you, (or I) color me hypocritical, what I have planned is really a series.
You see, a series is a group of stories set in the same universe, and grows into a series because there are more stories to tell. It's a natural progression. Sure, Burroughs' series had some potboilers to earn money and keep interest going, but on the whole, Burroughs was adding to a larger mythos and inventing tropes that are still being used today. He was creating new stuff, not rebooting Tarzan every 3 novels or retreading his origin. When it got stale, he went to Mars or Venus.

Franchise, an annoying word in itself when applied to a series, is when a series of stories jumps that shark infested line in the water and becomes solely about making money or continuing a series just for the sake of doing so or retaining the rights to something. I'm looking at you Fantastic Four and X-Men.

Series is when a creator/author or small group of them tells a story because they need to. It's gnawing them inside, trying to get out. Series is when you are continually building your own world and letting others play in it or watch it.

So I'm here today, finally, to encourage you to stop giving these clowns in Hollywood more money to perpetuate hutt-bloated franchises that should have died a dignified death long ago, not stagnated, rotted and shambled along. Don't go see the Ghostbusters reboot(s). Or star wars, the next marvel movie. Jem, transformers. Or anything else that's part of a franchise, reboot remake or whatever.
Just stop with it, take a deep breath. Stop feeding them, they'll stop making them eventually. Instead I urge you to invest time and money into your local community somehow. Learn a skill. For entertainment, buy a self published book, or at least read one and leave a rating on Amazon or goodreads. Heck, write your own novel or comic. I'd rather pick up something new and original like The Ables than any marvel or dc title out there. Or any media tie in.

I watched and enjoyed the admittedly naughty Kung Fury twice and enjoyed it more than I did Winter Soldier or Thor 2. And that was made by a Swede, a computer and a bunch of supporters.
Us independent artists need your support. Stop supporting the big dogs. They don't invest in independent things. Support us so we can stop the stagnation and bring new things to the table.
Stop the franchises! Support independent art!