Happy Halloween! After a particularly trying month of dealing with the Contractor From Hell, various minor illnesses, and a root canal, I'm ready to leap up, up, and away into new columns, comics, and, life being what it is, catastrophes. Just like my good friend Jon Knutson, shown above in the Superman costume he made for this Halloween. Nice job, sir.
Reader ANDY WALES, a teacher at Lynch-Bustin Elementary School in Athens, Pennsylvania, send this photograph of the super-heroic Halloween doings at his school:
The kids displayed their super-hero sculptures...
...and also got to pose as some of their favorite super-heroes in photos like this one:
If you want to read a full report of the fantastic fun Wales and his fellow teachers provided their students, you can find it at his teacher web page:
Mike Peters and his MOTHER GOOSE AND GRIMM strip is generally good for a few COMICS IN THE COMICS candidates every month. Here's one from August 31:
For today's last entry, we go from the comics to the editorial page and a MIKE LUCKOVICH gem from October 12:
More to come.
Most every Saturday, you'll find new questions posted on our TONY POLLS page. I'm a few weeks behind on posting the results of the surveys, so let's catch up on them, starting with the SERENITY questions from mid-September:
Joss Whedon's SERENITY has been playing in theaters for a couple weeks now. Grade this big-screen sequel to his Firefly TV series.
Haven't seen it.....35.14%
Your unfortunate columnist, beset with the dire necessity of having to do nigh-daily battle with the Contractor From Hell, never got the chance to see SERENITY before it left his local multiplex. I hope it comes out on DVD soon.
JEWEL STAITE AS KAYLEE FRYE.....28.42
Nathan Fillion as Malcolm "Mal" Reynolds.....22.11%
Adam Baldwin as Jayne Corr.....14.74%
Ron Glass as Book, "The Shepherd".....10.53%
Gina Torres as Zoe.....8.42%
Alan Tudyk as Wash.....5.26%
Summer Glau as River Tam.....5.26%
Morena Baccarin as Inara.....4.21%
Sean Maher as Dr. Simon Tam.....1.05%
This one was almost too tough to call. It ultimately came to a decision between Nathan Fillion and Ron Glass, the former because he is such a complex character and the latter because he is such a mystery. I flipped a coin and the Shepherd won.
Which is your favorite FIREFLY episode?
OBJECTS IN SPACE.....17.86%
Out of Gas.....16.67%
Our Mrs. Reynolds.....10.71%
The Train Job.....5.95%
Heart of Gold.....3.57%
This was another tough call. I ultimately voted for HEART OF GOLD because I thought it had a lot to say about how dangerous the world of Mal and his crew could be and about determining one's own place in that world despite the danger.
Since I like to know who I'm dealing with, here's another personal questions. How often do you play video games?
Several times per week.....9.16%
A few days per week.....10.69%
Once a week.....1.53%
This was an easy question for me to answer. I NEVER play the damned things and see them as electronic black holes sucking away time and energy which could be used to far better purpose. This is not one of my more popular positions among readers of this column. JUSTIN, our wondrous web-wizard, took a few moments off from his busy schedule to respond to some of the disparaging comments I've made about video games:
You realize when you make the above generalization you sound like the people who are against kids (and adults) reading comics because they rot your brain or turn you into delinquents? I gotta head off to Motor City Con soon, but when I get back I'll try to forward you some interesting studies and book titles on video games and kids.
Many foreign countries, like the UK, Japan, Nordic countries and Canada, have done some extensive studies, over a decades worth now, and found a lot of benefits in video games and including video games (much the same way many have added comic books) in the school curriculums that include: encouraging teamwork and cooperation when played with others; making kids feel comfortable with technology, particularly important for girls, who don't use technology as much as boys; increasing children's self-confidence and self-esteem as they master games; and, developing skills such as reading, math, problem-solving and others.
Personally, I've always felt that video games are one of the reasons I've developed strong cognitive and creative skills. At the very least, they exercise those skills. Obviously, as with TV or comics, video games requires that parents understand the issues involved, choose appropriate titles and regulate the amount of time children spend with them.
The US spends almost $50 billion each year on education, so why aren't kids learning? Forty percent of students lack basic reading skills, and their academic performance is dismal compared with that of their foreign counterparts.
In response to this crisis, schools are skilling-and-drilling their way "back to basics," moving toward mechanical instruction methods that rely on line-by-line scripting for teachers and endless multiple-choice testing.
Consequently, kids aren't learning how to think anymore - they're learning how to memorize. This might be an ideal recipe for the future Babbitts of the world, but it won't produce the kind of agile, analytical minds that will lead the high tech global age. Fortunately, we've got GRAND THEFT AUTO: VICE CITY and DEUS X for that.
Learning isn't about memorizing isolated facts. It's about connecting and manipulating them. Doubt it? Just ask anyone who's beaten LEGEND OF ZELDA or solved MORROWIND.
*However*, he's also said:
After school, kids are devouring new information, concepts, and skills every day, and, like it or not, they're doing it with controller in hand, plastered to the TV. The fact is, when kids play video games, they can experience a much more powerful form of learning than when they're in the classroom.
I agree. If you read into the above, video games could be used for good or evil. Depends on who's hands they are in.
Finally, I feel video games are the distant cousins of manga and comics. They are accepted in some cultures and countries, vilified in others, in particular, the US, just like comics...ask the CBLDF.
Just a little food for thought.
I may not like video games and I may regularly "encourage" my son Eddie to "stop playing the boopety-boop already," but I would never call for them to be banned. Even GRAND THEFT AUTO, which I think is a monstrous and shameful "game" with no redeeming social value whatsoever. On that score, you won't see me adding to the CBLDF's caseload.
As an admitted non-participant when it comes to playing video games, I also question how creative playing them can be. Correct me if I'm in error, but, to achieve their games' objectives, don't the players have to do certain things in a certain sequence? How is that less repetitious that the by-rote memorization of facts in school, something else of which I'm not fond. Food for thought, right back at you.
TOT readers are welcome to weigh in on this discussion, but I ask you to keep your comments brief if you hope for them to run in a future TOT. Close to the last thing in the world I want to do is find myself writing a video games column.
Moving to questions asked the following week...
Because I'm sure no one else has asked you this, how would you rate INFINITE CRISIS #1 from DC Comics?
Didn't read it.....33.33%
It looks like INFINITE CRISIS is off to a decent start with my readers. I haven't read the first issue yet...because I'm going to finish reading all the mini-series and key tie-in issues before I go to the big show. Towards that end...
Can anyone direct me to an online list of the tie-in issues to IDENTITY CRISIS and those mini-series? It would be very helpful if the list also made note of which tie-ins were key issues or merely hangers-on. With your help and a modicum of luck, I should be able to start reviewing these comics next week.
Personal question. How often do you clip and use grocery coupons?
I went with LAPTOP, mostly because it's beginning to seem like the one laptop we have isn't enough to meet the needs of my family. Also, if Eddie goes away to college in a couple of years, he would need a computer of his own.
Do you prefer watching first-run movies at a movie theater, or waiting until they are available on home video or on pay-per-view?
While I prefer watching movies in a MOVIE THEATER, that's not often a practical option for me. It's cheaper and more convenient for me to wait for the DVD and rent it. Had I worded this question differently, my answer would have been "Home Video."
How often do you visit your doctor for a physical check-up?
More than once a year.....16.03%
Once a year.....21.15%
Less than once a year.....23.08%
I had to go with MORE THAN ONCE A YEAR, though that's not what I would prefer. There are times when Wolverine's "healing factor" strikes me as the best super-power imaginable.
Last week's TONY POLLS questions were a mite strange, even for me. Here are those results.
Comic books?! Do they still make those things? Choose one of these possible responses.
Betty's way hotter than Veronica.....11.83%
I had a crush on Lynda Carter.....3.23%
I had the first Superman comic book.....0%
I had the first Spider-Man comic book.....3.23%
I had the first Spawn comic book.....3.23%
I hear chicks dig the Sandman.....5.38%
I outgrew them when I discovered Star Wars.....0%
I sold mine to buy this fabulous yacht.....0%
I thought they banned them to end juvenile delinquency. How's that working out?.....4.30%
I thought they killed Superman.....2.15% Lynda Carter has a restraining order against me.....0%
My mom threw mine away.....4.30% Only in Japan.....1.08%
Remember when they cost a nickel?.....0%
Remember when they cost a dime?.....4.30%
Remember when they cost twelve cents?....11.83%
Three dollars for this?!.....22.58%
Wanna see my collection, baby?....16.13%
Yes, but only for sale on eBay.....0%
I was too ashamed to vote on this question, but I think it was excessive for the authorities to make me sit 500 feet away from the screen when I went to see SKY HIGH this summer.
Since I clearly have no good comics/entertainment questions this week, let's go personal. Which of the following grilled foods do you like the most?
I don't eat meat.....5.26%
I'm not allowed near fire of any kind.....1.05%
I like CHICKEN best, but a close runner-up would be hot dogs grilled until they are as black as my heart.
If you had to pick just one, which would be your favorite type of music?
I voted OTHER because the music I like best is the sound of my enemies bemoaning their awful fates. Okay, seriously, I went with CLASSICAL, but, with the exception of Metal and Opera, I can enjoy all of the above. It depends on my mood.
Halloween is coming. Which of these costumes would you be most likely to wear?
Hermione (from Harry Potter).....0%
Red Riding Hood.....0%
My first impulse was to vote for Ann Coulter, but I'm just too pretty to pull off that slutty shrew look. So I went with the only one of the above costumes I have worn...ZORRO.
That catches us up on our TONY POLLS results. Don't forget to check out this week's "multiple realities" questions at:
That last batch of TONY POLLS questions brought in a few write-in votes. First up is ANDY HOLCOMBE:
I would've voted for alt.-country or Americana (singer- songwriters like Robert Earl Keen, Guy Clark, Joe Ely, and Townes van Zandt). They're usually lumped in with Country, but I didn't want a Country vote to imply I liked the garbage that's typically heard on Country radio.
I do a lot of station-surfing when I listen to the radio in my van. In recent years, I've been impressed by some of the humor and storytelling in some country songs...though I probably couldn't name the songs or their singers.
Next up is TODD ENOCH:
For me, the ultimate Halloween costume would be the old-school Nightcrawler.
I also heard from JOHN BROWN:
Long-time reader, first-time writer. This is my second year dressing up as Mr. Incredible. I got a lot of laughs last year, but the vast bulk (if you'll pardon the pun) of those laughing had not yet heard of or seen the character. After the movie's release, I received a whole lot of e-mails saying "Now I get it!"
Thanks for the words you share, you never fail to entertain. Oh, and please keep up the political commentary.
If all goes according to plan, political commentary will return with tomorrow's column and continue on a slightly more than weekly basis after that. Those who plan to take umbrage at my comments are doubtless already crafting their anonymous e-mails to me. However, just to save time, those who will take no pleasure from my comments should really consider cutting out the middleman and simply pleasure themselves.
Our last e-mail today is from DAVID McLALLEN:
Truthful vote: I haven't worn a costume since the 70s. But, IF I had the body for it and IF I had the nerve (I have neither) - I would wear no shirt, jeans slung down below the tops of my Calvin Klein underwear - and a dog mask. Of course, I would be going as Barky Bark.
And if you don't want to use this, believe me, I'll understand. It truly is a painful pun. Or a punful pain.
TONY'S MAILBOX is open 24 hours a day for any TOT readers who have something to share with me or my readers. For more immediate gratification, you can post to my message board at:
ZERO: Burn your money before buying any comic receiving this rating. It doesn't *necessarily* mean there's absolutely nothing of value here - though it *could* - but whatever value it might possess shrinks into insignificance before its overall awfulness.
ONE: Buy something else. Maybe I found something which wasn't completely dreadful in the item, but not enough for me to recommend it when there are better comics available. I only want what's best for you, my children.
TWO: Basic judgment call. I found some value, but not enough to recommend it. My review should give you enough info to decide if you want to take a chance on it. Are you feeling lucky today, punk? Well, are you?
THREE: This denotes something I find perfectly respectable. There are better books out there, but I wouldn't regret buying this item. Based on my review, you should be able to determine if it's of interest to you. Let the Force guide you.
FOUR: I recommend anything earning this rating. Unless you don't like the genre, subject matter, or past work of the creators, I believe you'll enjoy this item. Isn't it uncanny how I can look right into your soul that way?
FIVE: Anything getting this rating is among the best comicdom has to offer. You should buy/read this, even if the genre/subject matter doesn't appeal to you. It's for your own good. Me, I live for comics and books this good...but not in a pathetic "Comic-Book Guy" sort of way.
Please send material you would like me to review to: