Fanboys ruin everything

I’m getting sick and tired of fanboys ruining television shows, movies, et cetera with an overabundance of hype, live-tweeting, hashtags, and other such spamming.

A classic example of this took place during the premiere of Marvel’s Agent Carter last week. I don’t have cable, so I don’t watch TV live. But when I signed on to my computer that Tuesday evening, my Twitter feed and other outlets were absolutely spammed with people talking nonstop about the show, complete with play-by-play commentary and fucking spoilers. (I can only imagine how much more awful it would’ve been if I used Facebook.) And these are adults, mind you, not teenaged social media junkies!

In the case of Twitter, I fortunately use a client that can mute hashtags, so I was able to clear out a considerable amount of the crud. (If the client didn’t have that hashtag-muting functionality, I likely would’ve sworn off of Twitter many years ago.) Unfortunately, there were still plenty of people who didn’t use hashtags to spam about the show, so I was forced to scroll through seemingly endless nonsense just to find tweets that I was interested in. The only solution would be to unfollow the offenders themselves, and these are friends of mine!

As a result, this fanboy behavior has completely destroyed any interest I had in watching Agent Carter. They’ve ruined it for me before I had even seen a single episode! You can be damned sure it’ll happen again this week, and every time it airs in succession. The same thing happens with Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.; I wasn’t interested in that show to begin with, but the spamming got so bad during airtime that I’ve since dumped people off my Twitter feed. There was a similar case last year with Guardians of the Galaxy. It was a fine film, sure, but vastly overhyped and not the best Marvel Studios flick by a long shot. (Especially since it was for all intents and purposes a carbon copy of The Avengers, but in space.) And again, the same thing happened with Frozen. I don’t like musicals, but I still respect and generally enjoy Disney films, and I’d heard great things about the quality of animation and such with that one. But so many adults — not kids, adults — wouldn’t shut the fuck up about the damned movie that it’s irritating just to see Frozen products anywhere now, let alone the film itself.

Fanboy enthusiasm for movies and television shows are the worst offenders, especially among the Marvel crowd. Which is odd, to be honest; I know just as many people who are hardcore fans of Gotham, Arrow, and The Flash, but they don’t spam my feed with live-tweets and such. Neither do friends who watch The Walking Dead or Game of Thrones, arguably two of the most popular shows on television. Why is the spamming a Marvel thing?

But I digress. The whole mess has been bleeding into more mainstream pop culture as well. Latching on to popular memes while retweeting and spamming them ad nauseam with more and more hashtags added is making me despise them just as you’d despise any product if you were bombarded by ads.

I know there’s a lot to be said for ignoring what others think and just enjoying what you want to enjoy. (That applies to 90% of my interests, as it is.) The problem is that it’s gotten to the point where this fanboy behavior is so annoying that it’s the only thing that comes to mind first whenever I hear about Agent Carter or whatever else they’re spamming that day. It’s like how Star Wars got so goddamned irritating during the prequel era that I swore off the franchise entirely for years. And before you defend this deplorable behavior, imagine if I did this kind of bullshit with my interests: how would you like it if I live-tweeted the latest Napalm Death record, fuckers? Or posted fifty pictures in rapid succession of a Gundam model? Yeah, that’s what I thought.

I’m not trying to “show” anyone by passing on watching Agent Carter and the like, nor do I think I’m “better” than these fanboys, nor am I hating something just because it’s cool and popular. (Do I look like a hipster or punk rocker to you?!) I just don’t want fanboy spam polluting my enjoyment of life, and it’s time to once again put my foot down.

Those cocksuckers had better not ruin the Daredevil Netflix series for me…

1960 or 1970

Sometimes I wonder if I grew up in the wrong era to get into metal.

I’m definitely glad that I wasn’t born later than I was, as I almost certainly would’ve missed out on the fun of tape trading. Not to mention that mainstream coverage of heavy metal tanked when the alternative explosion hit in the early 1990s. Thankfully I had already gotten into metal before then, but if I was younger, I might’ve latched on to shitty alt-rock bands instead. The horror!

Anyway, after reading Sound of the Beast and other books which helped fill in the gaps within much of the heavy metal history that I’ve missed, I can’t help but imagine about what it would’ve been like to be a teenaged or young adult metal fan in the 1970s or 1980s.

Let’s just say I was born in 1960. That means I would’ve been a lad of ten when Black Sabbath’s amazing self-titled debut record was released, arguably the start of heavy metal. By my teen years, the New Wave of British Heavy Metal would be kicking off. Talk about getting in on the ground floor! The early stuff by Judas Priest, Iron Maiden, and the like, not to mention continued great albums from Black Sabbath? That must’ve been a hell of a time to be a fan of hard rock and metal. (In fact, I joked with friends during my senior year of high school about what it would’ve been like if we were graduating twenty years earlier, and I pictured myself as a proto-metalhead decked out in bell bottoms, cross pendants, and a lot of weed.) And later on when Mötorhead and Venom hit the scene…holy shit, that must’ve been like getting hit with a hammer.

Now what if I was born in 1970 instead? This isn’t too far removed from my actual birth year, but it’s far enough back to make an interesting difference. If I plopped out in 1970, my high school years would’ve been the mid-1980s. That’s when metal really took off, and not just that glam shit, mind you. (Full disclosure: Mötley Crüe and their ilk are what got me into metal in the first place in the late 1980s, so I still give them some measure of respect. Everyone has to start somewhere.) The icing on the cake was the massive tours by NWOBHM bands who had really made it big, like the aforementioned Maiden and Priest. The ’80s was the decade for metal, any way you slice it, and there was a subgenre to suit every taste. Extreme metal reared its ugly head for the first time during this era, too, with many of the best black, death, and thrash albums ever recorded making their appearances. I hear tales of folks sneaking into bars to see Slayer and Possessed shows, and I wish I could’ve been that guy. (Though I probably wouldn’t, even if I had the chance; I was a fucking wuss as a kid.) Cripes, can you imagine seeing Anthrax in ’85 or ’86 at some dive in NYC?

Back to the real world. I turned thirteen right as mainstream metal had peaked, only to crash and burn almost immediately thereafter with the advent of alternative rock and the self-destruction of many of the biggest hard rock and metal bands. As the years wore on, I got into more artists from the past because modern metal bands had been driven back underground, and I had very few opportunities to discover them until much later. Still, I couldn’t complain about discovering Black Sabbath, classic thrash metal, and so on. It held up then, and it holds up now. Plus, even back before the Internet made online shopping a trading a cinch, we had local music stores that specialized in used tapes and CDs, so I got stuff for a few bucks a pop.

In conclusion, I wouldn’t really change anything about the era in which I discovered heavy metal. But it’s still entertaining to theorize about what might’ve been.

Lazy traditions

Sometimes the best holiday greetings are the ones you put no effort into. Enjoy!

Mega Man doesn’t miss leg day

Capcom/NintendoWhile digging through some of my old artwork (and trying not to get too depressed about it), I recalled that a lot of my character and mechanical design ideas in the late 1990s and early 2000s were strongly influenced by one source considerably more than others: Mega Man.

You already know it’s my favorite video game franchise, so this shouldn’t come as much of a surprise. When creating my various artworks, I was pulling inspiration from the Mega Man X series the most, with a little bit of classic series flavor here and there.

In particular, the oversized lower legs/boots found on Mega Man and other characters within the games appealed to me. That design always gave me a sense of a rock-solid (no pun intended) foundation and stability, not to mention power. The same usually applied to their gauntlets and arm cannons. It’s important to note that the big-limbed look increased as the games went on — X and friends often had boots larger than their torsos and heads combined! — and only recently has it been scaled back to more “classic” proportions (as seen in the Super Smash Bros. Mega Man art above). Thus, this style often appeared in my work as an homage to the Blue Bomber, often deliberately, but sometimes from the depths of my subconscious.

So what did I do with this inspiration? Well, prepare for a bunch of my terrible artwork. Apologies in advance.

During my sophomore year of college, I switched my major to graphic design and began drawing all sorts of random crap as a matter of course. First up is some random robot/armor, and it looks like it could’ve been cannon fodder in a Mega Man X game.

Defragmentor precursor

Shortly thereafter, I was dreaming up the idea of a comic book called Decon Squad. While the final character designs were slim and streamlined, one of the earliest pieces of concept art looked like this.

Decon Squad concept

Heavy boots with knee guards? Those were straight out of the X series, too. That messy haircut, not so much. That was just thrown in place because I couldn’t draw eyes or faces for shit.

Moving on, here’s an inked sketch from Resurgence, my senior project in college.

Giant robot vs Asyla

That giant robot was patterned after Magnet Man from Mega Man 3, one of my favorite bosses from that game. In case the homage wasn’t clear enough, the Resurgence folder containing all of the project files on my old Power Mac G3 even had a Magnet Man sprite as its custom icon. Over fifteen years, three hardware revisions, and at least eleven operating system upgrades later…it’s still there.

Later on, Mega Man’s influence crept into my work without my even realizing it. For example, there’s this random winged robot thing I sketched one day in 2002.

Winged mecha

I was just drawing for the sake of drawing, with no specific homages to Mega Man this time. The influence wasn’t conscious then, but it seems pretty clear now.

When I was working on the early stages of Breakfast at Timpani’s, the initial look of the Defragmentor character combined large boots and gauntlets with super-thin upper arms and legs, plus a Magnet Man-style torso. (Smaller feet, though!)

Silver Age Defragmentor

Successive designs for the character kept this theme going, though the final version eventually removed them in favor of a design more influenced by the Stikfas action figure line. However, I rebranded the old designs as Defragmentor’s “Silver Age” incarnation. I then drew a “Golden Age” Defragmentor many years after the demise of the comic strip, and…you guessed it…the big gauntlets were back.

Golden Age Defragmentor

Okay, so this post just ended up being an image dump until I ran out of steam. Welcome to my life. The point is, Mega Man was a big deal in my life in more ways than one, and the series’ influence on my artwork cannot be understated. I’ve wisely given up drawing, and Capcom has unwisely given up on making Mega Man games, but the history’s still there, at least.

Time in a state of Flux

Here’s a scary relic from the past: the first issue of Flux magazine from 1994. I remember seeing this on the racks at my local gaming shop back then, and given that the cover alone featured tons of the stuff I loved, it was an immediate impulse buy. I no longer have my original copy as I lost it a few years later, but I recently bought one on eBay…hence this post!

Flipping through pages I hadn’t laid eyes upon in nearly two decades sure brought back memories. The random artwork and cartoons, the blurry video game screenshots as was par for the course in print media back then, the dumb pranks and jokes, the fake ID from “Weehawken Community College” (yep, I made one)…such classic stuff. I read that issue countless times over the summer of ’94, only skipping over a scant few sections I just wasn’t interested in, such as the interviews with Stone Temple Pilots — this was post-Core, and I wasn’t keen on their later recordings — and the Beastie Boys. I was never a fan of those guys. Eat me.

Speaking of music, the alternative rock revolution was in full swing, but lo and behold, Flux had a hell of a lot of heavy metal coverage within its pages. There were interviews with Glenn Danzig, Morbid Angel’s Trey Azagthoth, and Rob Zombie (this was back when White Zombie still existed!). There was even a review of Machine Head’s debut album Burn My Eyes, which was one of my personal soundtracks in 1994. (In fact, Flux‘s piece on the band was one of the reasons I bought it!) Print media coverage of metal was hard to find back then, so this was a welcome surprise. Not only that, the interview with Zombie focused on his vastly underrated artwork, which was incredibly cool.

Then there was the video games. Right up front was the impending home console release of Mortal Kombat II, and you know how I felt about that. Most of the gaming talk therein focused on the Sega Genesis and Super NES, but there was arcade coverage too, like Suzuka 8 Hours. Despite my never being a racing fan, I remember that game being fun to play in the arcades as you had to sit on a motorcycle replica. A listing of countless video game tips felt like padding even in ’94, but it was still a solid amount of material for a mag not completely devoted to the medium. I stumbled across an old cheesy favorite: an article where the Flux folk had athletes play video games similar to their professions, and more often than not, they sucked at the digital versions.

The video game coverage tied into a bunch of Star Wars articles, as by this point in time, quite a few awesome games from that universe were out in full force. Plus, word of the prequels was already making the rounds (though people thought the first film would hit in 1997, rather than 1999). If only we knew back then what a disappointment were were in for. But to my younger self, that didn’t matter; this was right around the time I was getting back into Star Wars via Timothy Zahn’s Thrawn trilogy and the TIE Fighter PC game, so I was happy as a pig in shit for any new franchise news.

Last but not least, there was the mag’s spread of comic book stuff, which featured plenty of humor. This was when every publisher under the sun was throwing stuff against the wall to see what would stick, but Flux didn’t seem to play favorites. It loved and trashed big and small names alike with impunity. They ripped on silly superhero costumes, glorfied hot superheroines, grumbled about dumb plots, talked shop with Rob Liefeld, and had a cool preview of Zero Hour: Crisis in Time that I was most excited about. Comic book snobs will undoubtedly scoff at those last two in particular, but I never had a problem with either of ‘em. (Goddamned nerds.)

While I loved the subjects therein, Flux also heavily represents everything you hate about the 1990s, especially when it came to graphic design. Many of the pages are actually painful to look at; your eyes will strain to make sense of the jagged graphics, colors, and fonts. Even when such artwork was in its heyday, I found it a little annoying and distracting, but that wasn’t the point of the mag. Sure, Flux was all “extreme” and “in your face” and whatever other ’90s buzzwords you want to apply, but it was the content that I enjoyed. The presentation was just window dressing, really.

Having said that, some of the articles within don’t exactly stand the test of time. It’s clear in retrospect that they were really pandering to the teenaged male audience, and some of the writings in there are just plain dumb to read as an adult. Still, considering that I was the target market when I originally read the mag, I really can’t fault it too much. I loved Flux, and scoring that old copy made me love it all over again. The mag only ended up running a paltry seven issues, but I might just have to add the rest to my collection as well.