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Attack of the Localize Mother 3 Sign Clones!

Oh my. What have I done.

Genie is out of the bottle, kids. The Localize Mother 3 mindgerm has been released and is infecting the population at pandemic levels. Now something akin to a full-scale psyops campaign is underway.

Since unleashing the neon pink scourge upon the world last April at a taping of WWE Smackdown, the Localize Mother 3 sign meme has bubbled up in some surprising places.
First, there was the Women’s March in Washington D.C. back in January:

Incredible. The true passion is evident, and extra points for some sharp dabbing.

Lest you think these signs were just coincidental, let me point out that these good folks specifically stated “…I want to be iconic like those people at the WWE matches…”

ICONIC.

Then, this past Sunday night, Localize Mother3 signs once again invaded the collective unconscious with primo primetime placement during WWE’s Money in the Bank Pay-Per-View event. These events are a huge deal, drawing in way more viewers than a lowly Smackdown taping. Twitter user @magypsyparty took things to a whole new level. The homage was evident, continuing the use of the trademark neon pink signage and keeping the message to the classic, simple “Localize Mother 3.”

The execution was perfect, once again the internet exploded, and the end result was nothing short of wonderful.

Every Localize Mother 3 sign sighting is conceivably somebody’s first, and that’s what really warms the empty cavity where my heart should be. Inevitably, someone will ask “What is this about?” and that in turn leads to conversations about Mother 3, and every conversation about old Japanese video games is one that’s not about stupid politics or war or famine or global warming, and gee, maybe we could all use just a small sliver of that relief. We didn’t start the fire, etc.

Is Localize Mother 3 a movement at this point? I’m not sure what the official benchmark is, but I’m willing to lean toward yes. Momentum is funny thing, and human interactions still have a curious intersection with reality, hyper-weird as it may be in the information age. Monkey videos still make me laugh, for example, and something as daringly stupid as a sign about a forgotten video game hits in similar territory. I’m not sure why, but it all makes me feel good, or at least temporarily not bad. And maybe, just maybe, somebody at Nintendo is seeing all this hoopla and smiling.

“Independent punk rock master of darkness”

The good folks at Monkeys Fighting Robots were kind enough to do a Creator Spotlight write-up on me and highlight my recent comics Voodoo Bird and Crypt Zero. Writer Brandon Griffin described me as an “independent punk rock master of darkness”, which, y’know, I’ll take. Check out the feature here:

Creator Spotlight: Erik Radvon

 

 

The Last Jedi, and a new hope for weird Star Wars

The Force Awakens isn’t a bad movie. It does what it sets out to do. The issue I had with it is it didn’t seem to aspire to do very much. It played it so safe, over-pivoted so hard from the unrestrained zaniness of the Lucas prequels that, while a fun ride, it left me wanting a whole lot more.

A common refrain heard when The Force Awakens was released was that JJ Abrams had essentially remade the original 1977 Star Wars (now known as Episode IV: A New Hope). Revisiting TFA and digesting it more in the time since its theatrical run, it struck me that JJ hadn’t remade A New Hope at all, but instead channeled Raiders of the Lost Ark as his template in some substantial ways. From the selection of Lawrence Kasdan as his writing partner (not a writer on A New Hope, but the main writer on Raiders) to the desert locales, practical effects, Indiana Jones-esque fireball explosions, an old lightsaber mulligan driving the plot, and even Harrison Ford back in action, TFA’s callbacks to Raiders are many and varied. Add to that the fact that JJ’s directing style, both in TFA and his career in general, is unabashedly modeled after Raiders director Steven Spielberg, with absolutely none of the esoteric flourishes used by George Lucas providing any influence at all. TFA is a glimpse at the Spielberg-directed Star Wars film we never had.

None of this is a critique. Raiders is one of the greatest action-adventure movies of all time and there are far, far worse things to use as inspiration. Delivering a high-octane action romp, introducing an entirely new generation of characters, and setting the stage for perhaps decades more worth of Star Wars stories is no small feat, and JJ completely pulled it off in TFA. But for anyone looking for a sequel to Return of the Jedi, the continuation of the Skywalker saga was basically punted to the next films. My favorite scene in The Force Awakens is its last. Rey discovering long-lost Luke Skywalker on his island refuge (or is it prison?), once again calling back to Raiders– a sort of reverse unpacking of its final scene showing the Ark being shelved in a vast, soul-crushing government warehouse. There’s a strong similarity to both endings for me, particularly in how they reverberate with uneasy energy and leave you with a strange sense of closure laced with lingering questions.

Which brings us to today and the arrival of a new trailer for a new Star Wars episode (already!). It’s called The Last Jedi, and so far I love what I’ve seen. It’s tough to make sweeping judgments from a few short sequences, but the overwhelming sense I get from The Last Jedi trailer is that we should expect the unexpected from this entry. There’s no “Chewie, we’re home” applause line comfort food, and no hype-ratcheting mystery box techniques at work. Quite the opposite. The Last Jedi looks to be jumping into the story deep-end with both feet, putting forth its premise directly and boldly, and in the process challenging everything- its characters, young and old, and perhaps its audience too.

For me, everything about The Last Jedi is clicking in a way that The Force Awakens never did, from the trailer footage to its starkly beautiful poster. Maybe it’s due to it having a singular purpose this time around. Unshackled from the complex corporate mandate of making Star Wars stable again and all the various ramifications involved in relaunching a billion-dollar property for a new generation, it looks like director Rian Johnson and producer Kathleen Kennedy have swung the pendulum solidly back into unsafe territory, to a place of unafraid storytelling with all the risks that entails. The prequels were deeply flawed, but damned if they weren’t endlessly creative and strangely daring in their determination to tell their story. Where TFA delivered a safe steadying ground for Star Wars to regroup, The Last Jedi looks ready to shake things up again. It gives me renewed hope that the franchise will get a little dark and a little weird.

The cinematography here is richer and more naturalistic than the high-gloss action look we got from JJ’s film, and the overall tone seems more intense. Luke Skywalker, the character who defines all things Star Wars to me and probably most others who cut their teeth on TV broadcasts and battered VHS copies of the original trilogy, is featured quite prominently. The Force Awakens jump-started Star Wars, but The Last Jedi looks like the movie I’ve been waiting for since the credits rolled on Return of the Jedi. There are hints in the trailer that the answer to the question “Whatever happened to Luke Skywalker?” may be more complex than we thought.

Watch the trailer here:

Logan: Here comes tomorrow

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I still remember my first introduction to the X-Men. It was a Super Bowl sometime in the mid 80s, one of the Montana years. I was dragged along in tow with my family to a neighbor’s party. They had a son, older than me, and we were paired off as the adults engaged in their wing eating and Bud Light drinking. I somehow announced that I was into comics, and this kid’s ears perked up. “Oh, do you read X-Men?” For some reason at this young age I had attributed all things “X” with meaning adults only, as in X-Rated. Like Dustin Hoffman’s tormentor in Marathon Man, I sheepishly asked this unknown older kid “Is it safe?” He laughed, and handed me an issue. I’ll never forget the cover- Mr. Sinister a towering giant, the strange and colorful cast of X-Men characters tumbling from his hand into an abstract inferno below. In its pages I found everything I had been looking for. Like so many others, I had just found my new favorite comic.

17 years after Bryan Singer’s X-Men hit the big screen, ushering in a franchise of nearly a dozen sequels and spinoffs, Logan arrives as a dark bookend to all that has come before. The film sets out to serve as a swan song for actors Hugh Jackman and Patrick Stewart, there since the beginning as Wolverine and Professor X respectively, but it manages to accomplish so much more. Channeling a hallmark device of the X-Men comic series, Logan jumps ahead to a strange future. We recognize some of the characters, but their world and surroundings are a twisted fun-house mirror distortion of the reality we thought we knew, a crushing alternate pathway from the future we had hoped for. The jolting futureshock of Logan instantly reminded me of some of the X-Men’s best comics moments, unexpected issues like Grant Morrison and Mark Silvestri’s “Here Comes Tomorrow!” and Claremont and Byrne’s “Days of Future Past.” These stories jumped ahead of the standard storyline without warning, and delivered ominous, heartbreaking looks at “what ifs?”, possible outcomes from our current state of being. When the action shifted back to the regularly scheduled superhero hijinks, these dark stories lingered overhead, potent undercurrents steadily pulling events ever-so-closer to the brief glimpses of those frightening possibilities. Logan accomplishes the film version of this, adding weight to the entire library of somewhat uneven entries to the X-Men film series.

Through its thick veneer of bleak anguish, Logan is ultimately a hopeful movie. It is a bit daring in its approach, focusing on ideas and characters rather than an abundance of special effects or flashy setpieces. The plot takes us through such unillustrious places as the US-Mexico border, a bland casino in Oklahoma City, and the desolate cornfields of the American heartland. Its characters, from the hero formally known as Wolverine throughout the entire supporting cast, are all in various stages of crisis, not so much facing down super villains as they are fleeing threats that feel very personal, immediate, and real. The movie somehow even manages to break a Hollywood curse and showcases compelling child actors, one of which completely steals this show.

Logan also surprised me by making many unexpected statements about our world- our present and perhaps our future- but by far my favorite statement it makes is something of a reflection on the nature of faith and comic books. Comics are a bizarre religion, readers often indoctrinated young and sticking with the practice/habit/vice throughout their entire life. “It’s all made up bullshit,” Logan himself paraphrases. But with comics, the meaning is the reader’s to create, to define, to cherish. How many found themselves in between those panels? How many kids felt hated and feared in their own everyday lives, in big cities and little towns all around the world, just like the X-Men did in their fictional Westchester mansion? My personal childhood brand of was mutandom was being left-handed, introverted, living with my grandparents, and being seemingly completely out of sync with the nuclear family dominated suburbia fabric around me. For others it was race, gender, sexuality, religion, or maybe just an overriding sense of otherness. Whatever the trajectory, the focal point was Uncanny X-Men, the dominant comic book title for nearly two decades straight, the pop culture centerpiece for an entire ill-defined, misunderstood generation. Logan does the best job of any major comic book of capturing the essence of and paying homage to what comic books are all about, a point that arrives thoroughly unexpected and with surprising emotional heft. Logan dares to ask “What’s all this spandex and universe building really all about?” and does more than its fair share in attempting to answer it.

In the end, Hugh Jackman and team have to feel pretty satisfied with how they’re bowing out from their long X-Men drama. Logan is easily the best of their collective efforts, and it leaves a somber, touching high water mark to propel the series going forward. No matter where 20th Century Fox takes the X-Men films in the post-Jackman/Stewart era, they would be wise to ensure that the stark warnings and hopeful spirit of Logan aren’t quickly forgotten.

Colonial Comics: New England 1750 – 1775

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Colonial Comics New England: 1750-1775 is here, and it is a great looking book. I’m humbled to be in the company of so many talented comic creators. The variety of styles, voices, and stories assembled by Jason Rodriguez and his team really makes this a unique and special collection.

My contribution is titled “The Call Up” (the Clash are never far from mind…) and features artwork from Noel Tuazon and colors by Rob Croonenborghs. It tells a story of civil disobedience that took place in Central Massachusetts in 1774. Two years before the events of Lexington and Concord, the working class people of Worcester County wrestled independence from the world’s most powerful empire. Not a shot was fired.

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I took an approach you might call “cinematic dreamy” for this story. With the guidance and support of Jason, I stripped the original script of its considerable verbiage and produced a silent piece focused exclusively on the actions of those in 1774. I looked to Terrence Malick and Stanley Kubrick for inspiration, in the sense that without captions or dialogue balloons it was essential that my script made every frame count, every shot a potent sigil of feeling, light, tone, and life. I was frankly startled by how readily and immediately Noel and Rob brought my vision into reality. Sometimes you get lucky, and this time I got extremely lucky.

Colonial Comics is available at bookstores nationwide, Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Target, and more:

Amazon (Trade Paperback)
Amazon (Kindle)
Barnes and Noble
Target