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Pop culture, comics and horror all on tap Oct. 19

- October 13th, 2014

You can read my latest graphic-novel column by clicking here.

It’s about Forest City Comicon, which goes Oct. 19 at Centennial Hall.

I hope to see you there!

For pop-culture fans, the wait is over

- October 6th, 2014

Sequels have been around since the New Testament.

Yet never in pop-culture history have there been so many examples of sequels arriving years or even decades after the original film or TV show that spawned them.

August saw the release of Sin City 2: A Dame to Kill For, nine years after the first Robert Rodriguez/Frank Miller adaptation of the latter’s graphic novel.

In November, moviegoers will be able to watch the further adventures of Harry and Lloyd when Dumb and Dumber To debuts – 20 years after Jeff Daniels and Jim Carrey originated the idiot characters.

Meanwhile, on television, a Twin Peaks sequel series was announced this week. The quirky program went off the air in 1991, so by the time Agent Cooper reappears on Showtime in 2016, a full quarter-century will have gone by.

In the case of the Sin City franchise, the near-decade wait appears to have worked against it: A Dame to Kill For generated only $6.3 million on its opening weekend, enough for an eighth-place debut.

It’s too early, however, to make a blanket statement about how long of an interval is too long before the creation of a sequel.

What we are able to understand at this point is how it’s possible for follow-ups like these to get made.

You guessed it. It’s the damn internet’s fault.

What the internet allows is for a pop-culture property to linger in the public mind. This is a new development.

In Hollywood’s heyday, there was only one way to see a movie: You had to schlep to the theatre and watch it there. Then it disappeared, unless it was re-released on the big screen.

Television changed that, particularly the introduction of the VCR in the 1970s. Movie fans could watch films at home, as many times as they liked.

The internet builds on all of these previous technologies. It allows us to watch motion pictures and discuss them with other film enthusiasts around the world, and if we get impatient waiting for Hollywood to deliver a sequel, we can just make one ourselves.

In this way, a film or show becomes lodged in the collective consciousness in a way that was never possible in previous decades. The effect is to prolong the life of a property.

But it can also harm the success of a sequel.

Look at a film such as Anchorman.

Released in 2004, it was followed up in 2013 with Anchorman 2, which missed out on a No. 1 debut because fans weren’t convinced they should see it in theatres. Why bother? They could watch clips from the original for free on YouTube.

It’s true that, before the internet, there were some franchises that unfolded over decades. Star Wars immediately leaps to mind, but it was the exception.

In the era of the internet, expect to wait longer for the inevitable sequel to your favourite film — but somehow, the wait won’t seem so bad because you’ll have access to your favourite characters the whole time right on your laptop or phone.

Changes to Forest City Comicon

- September 30th, 2014

Organizers for the Forest City Comicon have a bit of news to pass on: Their featured guest, Firefly’s Ron Glass, has been forced to cancel his appearance.

I’m a bit bummed, but the show goes on! I was looking forward to hearing Glass talk about his days on Barney Miller. We’ll just have to have a good con without him!

As I may have mentioned, I will be leading a panel about Southwestern Ontario comic creators. More details to follow.

The event is Oct. 19 at Centennial Hall.

Here is the official release from Forest City Comicon about Glass, in case you didn’t see it online.

Ron Glass Forced to Withdraw Appearance

September 30, 2014

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

London, ON

The Forest City Comicon regrets to announce that Ron Glass, best known as Shepherd Book in Firefly and its sequel film, Serenity, has had to withdraw from his appearance at this year’s convention.

“Artists can find out they are filming ten days before a project is set to begin,” explained representatives of Ron Glass. “Although his schedule was clear when he signed the agreement, something has come up. He feels terrible that he has to cancel.”

An official statement from Ron Glass is forthcoming.

Guests who pre-purchased autograph bands or VIP Meet and greet tickets online to meet Ron Glass in person have had their purchase automatically refunded.

As a result of the change, organizers of the Forest City Comicon have shifted resources allocated to Ron Glass into other areas of the convention. Additional announcements are expected shortly.

“We share in the disappointment of our guests that Ron Glass will not be able to attend this year’s convention,” explained John Houghton with the Forest City Comicon. “In spite of this cancellation we have an excellent event planned with many guests and a full slate of vendors, displays, and panels.”

The listing of vendors and guests continues to grow at the Forest City Comicon’s website with the number of vendors now nearing capacity. In addition, the preliminary listing of discussion panels and presentations has also been released.

“There’s still plenty to be excited about at the Forest City Comicon,” added Houghton. “The team has been working hard to make this event a success for the community in London.”

A celebration of nerd culture like no other: The Forest City Comicon is coming to London, Ontario’s Centennial Hall Sunday, October 19. The event will feature three floors of costumes, vendors, panels, board games, video game tournaments and more. Early bird tickets for the event are available now at www.forestcitycomicon.ca.

I’m an XL guy in a slim-fit world

- September 23rd, 2014

This column is for men of a certain . . . stature.

For these guys, and I include myself in this group, shopping for clothes can be a bit of an ordeal.

That’s because when we try on a shirt on in the store, there always seems to be something wrong with it.

Finding an affordable shirt you like is hard enough.

You take it back to the change room. You put it on. And the stupid thing barely fits. You feel squeezed. Sometimes I can’t even get it buttoned up.

Then I check the tag. Yup, it’s a “slim fit.” Fooled again.

That’s right: I am a burly guy in a slim-fit world. Perhaps you can relate.

Call us roly-poly. Call us rotund, or even pleasantly plump. Just don’t expect us to conform to the slim-fit mould.

Basically, these clothes are made for the same dudes who like to wear skinny jeans. You know the ones.

I’m sorry, but I don’t have the proportions of an 11-year-old girl. I’m a man, for cripes sake. I like to eat bacon and spaghetti and Fritos.

Clothing labels also have other terms for it. Instead of slim fit, sometimes the tag will say “tailored fit.” But whatever you call it, it’s just another way of saying it’s not for a guy who has a bit of a bulge around his belly. Not for me, in other words.

Nor is it just shirts.

If you’ve been to an Old Navy store recently, or a Roots outlet, you will have noticed how the pants on display go up to about a 32-inch waist and end there. Apparently anyone with more midsection has to shop somewhere else; I guess hefty guys aren’t expected to be stylish.

Clearly, these places don’t want my business. Besides, isn’t the concept of an extra-large shirt coming in a slim-fit version kind of self-defeating? It’s supposed to be EXTRA large!

So I’m at home after my latest trip to the store. I’m on the couch, feeling sorry for myself since none of the clothes I found that I like will stretch across my ginormous build.

You know who I feel like? I feel like a huge Hulk, the green-skinned monster who is only fit to wear the ripped remnants of Bruce Banner’s slender threads.

I turn on the TV. I start flipping around the channels.

And then it comes to me.

I know exactly who the slim-fit shirts are intended for.

The Trivago Guy.

It’s so clear to me now.

It’s him. He is the one who is ruining fashion for the rest of us. He’s the one who is making me have body-image issues.

So to the Trivago Guy and all his fellow Fedora-wearing friends, a curse on you. Damn your tiny frames.

May you get so skinny that you shrivel up and blow away, you pencil-necked douchebag.

Writing is thinking and thinking is writing

- September 17th, 2014

Perhaps my greatest joy in life is one that will be denied to today’s children when they grow up.

All in the name of a short-sighted system of education in a hurry to appear progressive, but which is really just caught up in the mania for all things computerized.

What am I talking about?

Writing.

I don’t mean the simple act of putting one word in front of another. I mean cursive writing – that is, writing words and sentences and paragraphs in longhand. Penmanship.

As you probably already know, handwriting is no longer taught in many of our elementary schools.

I’m of a generation that remembers learning to write being one of the great rites of passage.

If I remember correctly, we made the switch from printing to writing in Grade 3. I also clearly remember the neat rows of a’s and b’s and other letters lining the walls of our classroom at Valleyview public school.

Writing was one of those skills that separated the mature from the childish. When you learned to write, you had arrived, since writing belonged to the adult world — so it was much more sophisticated than printing.

To be able to write was to be able to etch your signature on tests and notebooks. More than just a form of communication, it was a way to assert your identity because it didn’t take long until each of us in that classroom had developed our own stylized method of interpreting the alphabet.

If you’re a woman of a certain age, you likely remember writing your first name on the back of a school binder and joining it to the last name of your newest boy crush. In that case, it was a means of travelling into the future, to project ourselves into courtship and married life.

Heck, for me it continued even into my university years in the 1980s.

I submitted at least one essay on lined paper with my work written out neatly in green ink – an early instructor at Western, Jim Snyder, had told me he marked in green because studies found it more soothing for students than seeing comments in red. So I figured since I was going to be making lots of notes as a student, I should switch to green, too. A new habit was formed.

Oh, and I got an A+ on that assignment.

And even though I do much of my work as a journalist on a computer screen, writing is still a big part of my life.

In addition to the notes I take at work, there’s nothing I enjoy more than writing in my journal.

Every week when Friday rolls around, I relish the act of retreating to the backyard, and as our dogs Dallas and Mea frolic on the lawn, I take out a green pen so I can relate the events of my week while sitting in my favourite Muskoka chair.

But you know what? The critics are right. I can see that.

Writing by longhand is inefficient, I admit. Doing so consumes too much time. It’s true. Yet for that very reason, it’s superior to typing on a keyboard because you have to love the act of carefully considering each word as you record it on the page. It’s an expression of a fundamental truth: writing is thought and thought is writing.

Do you want your children to grow up in a world without writing? Sure, they have cellphones and computers, but what happens when those break down? What happens when your kids have to express ideas and emotions that are more subtle than the average text?

All I can do is hope that parents take it upon themselves to fill in this important gap by teaching their young ones what the schools have decided to leave out.