Stan Lee, 1922-2018

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I never met Stan Lee.  I almost certainly could have at some point, if I’d wanted to; half the nerds I know have a picture of themselves with him at some con or another.  He passed away two full days ago and I’m still struggling with tears trying to write this.  That seems an odd thing to say about a man I never met.  Odd, but true.

Also true: I can think of two people, only one still with us, since JRR Tolkien passed away three years before I was born, whose work has had even close to as much of an influence on my life as Stan Lee’s did.  I have been buying comic books for 3/4 of my life, and I probably have 80% of all the Iron Man comics ever printed.  Today is Wednesday.  It’s new comic book day.  I went to the comic shop.

I go to the comic shop every Wednesday.  And I have gone to the comic shop every Wednesday for goddamn near my entire adult life, excepting only a short period of time where I lived in Chicago and didn’t have a comic shop in Chicago yet so I was still getting my comics from my local store in South Bend.  My two favorite superheroes are Iron Man and the Hulk.  Spider-Man is right behind Superman.  Number five probably slides around a bit more than the others, but Captain America is as good a choice as any.

Stan Lee created three of those five characters, and had an enormous influence on the history of the fifth.  Did he come up with everything about them completely on his own?  No, of course not.  Steve Ditko, Don Heck, Jack Kirby; the contributions of these men can’t be denied, and they were towering figures in their own right.  And we just lost Steve Ditko earlier this year, so it’s been a really bad year to be a Spider-Man fan.

(Steve Ditko designed the classic red-and-gold Iron Man armor.  I just found that out.  I don’t think I knew that before.)

This is one hundred percent true:  I have no idea what my life would look like if Stan Lee had not been a part of it.  I have no idea who I would be if I had never encountered Stan’s creations.  You don’t get to spend most of your life marinating your brain in stories about superheroes every single week and not be changed by them.  To say that Stan Lee was one of my heroes feels like it’s minimizing him.

It’s not enough.  He was too big for this.  I don’t have the words.  I’m reading this over and the whole thing just feels stupid, like I’m not trying hard enough.

Stan was Jewish.  Jews typically, or at least traditionally, don’t say “rest in peace.”  A more appropriately Jewish phrase to honor the recently dead is May his memory be a blessing.  And it’s also more appropriate to describe my relationship with Stan, a man who I never met and whose life’s nevertheless influenced me so deeply and thoroughly that I am unable to untangle what my life would be like had he never lived.  His memory– and his creations– will live on, if not forever, but certainly well beyond whatever years may be left to me.  Every day.  But especially, and undeniably, every Wednesday.

Stan Lee’s life was a blessing.  May his memory continue to be.

SPIDER-MAN PS4: Final verdict

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I am, in general, very skeptical of “give it a chance, it gets good later on” types of arguments for anything I had to spend $60 to get.  For $60 you need to be fun in five minutes and you need to stay fun for however long your game ends up being, and I’d rather have a lean, entertaining 30-hour game than a 100-hour game filled with … well, filler.

I’m nonetheless very, very glad I stuck this one out– I just beat it half an hour or so ago, although I’ve left a number of the mop-up tasks for later.  I may or may not get back to them.

But: forget the game for a moment.  Spider-Man PS4 is one of the best Spider-Man stories I have ever encountered, in any medium.  Comics, movies, whatever.  And even that, as I said in the piece from earlier today, takes a good long time to get rolling.  But once it does … wow.  I was in tears during the final act.  I’m not gonna bullshit around.  I’m a grown-ass man and a video game just made me cry because the story was that good and they get this character that thoroughly.  Fucking tears.

And then, the three movie-style stingers after the credits?

*kisses fingers*

Can’t wait for the sequel.  And if they put the same people in charge of writing it, I’m not gonna have shit to say about the gameplay.   Because with a story this good, I’ll chase fucking pigeons all day if I have to.

Spider-Man PS4 first impressions

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… because, sure, let’s mention Spider-Man in every single post this week.  I’m not a geek or anything, no.

I’m … fifteen percent, I think, into the new Spider-Man game; enough to have a solid early idea of what the game’s about but not far enough that my opinions have to be taken all that seriously just yet.  But what the hell; I don’t really wanna talk about my job or politics, I can’t talk about my current Sekret Projekt other than that I have one and I’m not gabbing about it, and nothing especially funny has happened yesterday so I may as well gabble about video games.

And here’s the thing, so far: this game right now seems to be at its strongest when it’s a webbing around New York simulator; moving anywhere is a simply ridiculous amount of fun, to the point where I’m frequently ignoring crimes and activities in favor of just seeing what the most ridiculous way I can get from point A to point B is.  The combat is okay so far; the balletic, combo-heavy style that these guys pioneered with the wildly overrated Arkham Asylum series works a lot better with Spider-Man than it ever did with Batman, so combat looks really good and fits the character.  That said, the first big boss fight with Kingpin is utterly ridiculous and basically involves endlessly beating on a damage sponge with no health bar over and over until the game decides to trigger a cutscene and move on to the next part where you endlessly do the same two moves on a damage sponge.  I really hope all the boss fights aren’t like this; they’re gonna get tedious really fast, and also Kingpin just isn’t that strong.  Kingpin is not a “throw you through three walls and bash you through the floor” character, guys.  He fights Daredevil.  This version of the character fights like he could go toe-to-toe with the Hulk or Thor, which is just stupid.

Also: I keep accidentally doing terrible, not-Spider-Man sorts of things to people.  Spider-Man is one of those “doesn’t kill” good guys, right?  Which is kind of a problem, because I have a bad habit of doing air combos on bad guys and punching them off the sides of buildings.  Very tall buildings.  Where I can only assume they fall to their deaths, because there’s no “web them and save them” animation happening after I do that.

I once accidentally threw a car door at a civilian, which was, if nothing else, kinda mean.  I didn’t mean to!  I swear!

This game also has a case of Call of Duty syndrome.  And, okay, it’s a stupid thing to complain about, I know, because video game, but New York is not been and never has been quite this crime-ridden.  I mean, holy crap guys, it’s a wonder anyone lives here.

(What’s Call of Duty syndrome?  Play Call of Duty on the highest difficulty level.  You will die.  You will die over and over and over and over and over and over again and you will only eventually be successful by virtue of the fact that you can come back to life after you die.  I am then forced to conclude that Call of Duty is harder to survive than actual war, because no one can survive Call of Duty on Legendary and lots of people survive wars.  Members of my family have!  I’m only alive because my grandfather survived World War II!)

But, again:  webbing around is fun.  And I’m gripey about some other aspects of the game but they keep adding new fun ways for me to beat people up and we’ll see how things go as the game continues.  I also (and this may mitigate my annoyance with the Kingpin fight) am kind of enjoying some of their alterations to the “standard” Marvel canon– Peter is working with Otto Octavius, who isn’t Dr. Octopus yet, and Mary Jane Watson (who is adorable) works for the Daily Planet.  J. Jonah Jameson appears to be some sort of right-wing podcaster or radio host now, which I can work with, I suppose.

The boy loves it, by the way.  It’s the first PS4 game I’ve let him play, so he’s relying a bit too much on handing me the controller, but he’s having a blast with the web-slinging.

More to come later, assuming I don’t get distracted by Dark Souls II and play that instead.

Zzzzzzzzz

Had a very long (but pleasant) day at work and since I’ve been at home I’ve been teaching the boy how to play Spider-Man.

So, not a bad Friday.

But lots and lots of bed soon.

In which I need you to share my excitement

$Okay.  I need y’all either to actually be comics fans or at least be willing to pretend to be on my behalf for this post.  You can do that, right?  Yes?  Good.

Miles Morales, in the seven years since he was first introduced, has become one of my favorite comic book characters.  He’s up there with Iron Man, the Hulk, and Superman at this point.  And when Brian Michael Bendis left Marvel and Miles didn’t immediately have a new series on the docket, I was genuinely worried.  There was talk that the character was going to be renamed or reimagined; there was an especially gross rumor going around, one that was so bad that I actually wasn’t able to just dismiss it out of hand, that the character would be joining SHIELD and would henceforth be known as “Spy-D,” which would have meant I needed to go out and set things on fire, and that no court would have convicted me, because setting things on fire is a reasonable reaction to Marvel deciding that Miles Morales isn’t Spider-Man anymore and he has to be “Spy-D” now.

Saladin Ahmed just announced on Twitter that he’s writing the new Miles Morales book.  Which is called “Miles Morales: Spider-Man.”

One of my favorite fucking writers is writing an ongoing series about one of my favorite fucking characters.

It was already a good day, guys.  I was gonna come home and write a post about how I spent all day today and most of yesterday interacting with nice kids and it was something I really needed and I was in general happy and in a good place.  And that’s before I got this awesome fucking news.