Comic Con is coming to South Africa!!!

This article was written at 20:42 on Tuesday, 20th February.

This morning I got up at a reasonable hour, considering I had to be at university by 09:00, and in between waking up and getting to uni, I had to go through the usual thing that is my morning ritual (which is very interchangeable and doesn’t always have to happen, I’ll have you know). Get to uni, turns out that our double lesson is a double ‘free’ because our lecturer for that class is on vacation for the next two weeks, and on top of that, today was one of those days where I finished early. Wahoo!!!

So I cycle home and lo’ and behold, one of my friends tagged me and a few others in a Facebook post:

“Comic Con Africa is officially coming to South Africa!!!”

The post also contained a picture of the Comic Con Africa logo.

 

At first, I thought this was just a joke, some kind of elaborate prank at best. I mean, there had been murmurings in the community that SA would get a geek/gaming convention of the same scale and scope as Comic Con and VS Gaming was hinting at some big announcement for the 20th of Feb, but I had no idea that it was going to be something this big. I figured that maybe VS Gaming was going to launch a new eSports tournament or that they were going to host their own expo (although granted, they do practically own rAge at this point, seeing as they’re the largest sponsors for the event). But no, they’re sponsoring Comic Con Africa!

The reason I waited until evening to write this article was because I’ve been waiting for more information. As soon as I found out that this was a real thing, I pressed VS Gaming for answers and through Twitter (I even attempted to encourage a leak, I just wanted the name of one actor or comic book artist who would be there, just one, come on guys, all you had to do was say ‘BMB’ (Brian Michael Bendis) or ‘NN’ (Nolan North) and I would have understood), Reed Exhibitions even chimed in (they’re organising the Con) and told me that they were eager to release the information and would do so promptly.

So I waited a few hours and then I found it: an article which gave a few more details.

Those confirmed to be in attendance include, but are hopefully not limited to:

Nolan North – voice actor for Nathan Drake of the Uncharted franchise

Troy Baker – the voice of Joel from The Last of Us

Various cast members – from The Big Bang Theory

Various cast members – from Game of Thrones

Beyond those I mentioned above, we’ve been told that there will be other international stars attending, including comic book artists and writers. And I’m sure we’ll be seeing lots of local talent as well, which is always a good thing.

 

One of the things I’m particularly excited for, as a collector of comics, statues and Funko Pop!s, is the Comic Con Exclusives. Last year I was so bummed out when Funko released a six-inch Dwarven Colossus from Elder Scrolls Online and I wasn’t able to get my hands on one for a reasonable price because it was a San Diego Comic Con Exclusive.

Comic Con is owned by ReedPOP, who also owns/organise Emerald City Comic Con, PAX, Play Paris, MCM Comic Con, bookcon, BookExpo, ComplexCon, Star Wars Celebration and TwitchCon, all of which they host annually in various countries (42 countries, at last count) around the globe; with MCM remaining in the UK, the US has five different Comic Cons, and so does India. ReedPOP claims to be excited to “bring Comic Con to the African continent” but by comparison to how ABSO-F#@KING-LUTELY EXCITED I am about all this, they’re barely feeling giddy.

I look forward to Comic Con Africa, which will be taking place in Johannesburg, at the Kyalami Grand Prix Circuit and International Convention Centre from the 14th to the 16th of September later this year.

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Okay, so it’s definitely not 20:42 anymore, it’s been well over an hour since then but I was wondering about the ramifications this would have on the rAge Expo which takes place over the first weekend of October each year.

While on the one hand, we’re getting our own frikkin Comic Con, but on the other hand I feel like this would have ramifications for the rAge Expo which takes place barely three weeks after Comic Con Africa. The main reason I’m concerned here is because both are funded by VS Gaming; not only that but because they’re both so close together, I feel like cosplayers won’t be too interested in suiting up again and partaking in another cosplay competition less than a month after the last one, and I don’t know about you, but I’m probably walking away from Comic Con Africa with tons of STUFF, which will leave my pockets fairly empty come rAge weekend, and I’m guessing that many other people will probably have the same dilemma. On top of that, would a company with a physical store actually be able to set aside their best stock for Comic Con Africa and then still have good products available for rAge? One wonders.

Anywho, I suppose we’ll see how it all works out – I just don’t want Comic Con Africa to be the death of the rAge Expo.

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UPDATE – 15:10, Feb 21: Companies confirmed to be exhibiting at the Con include (but, again, are hopefully not limited to): HPMSIMegaromMicrosoft XBoxASUS and Pops Toys. I’m hoping that we’ll see some local companies as well, like Cosmic Comics or Readers Den, but I suppose we’ll see closer to the time.

UPDATE – Feb 22: Comic Con Africa’s website is now officially up and running here. The website officially confirms a couple of things, said things are usually Comic Con staples overseas but it’s nice to know for sure, these things include celebrity panel discussions, workshops, seminars and autograph sessions.

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DOOM – A Gaming Throwback

Remember DOOM? The original, not the absolutely fantastic 2016 remake.

No, I’m not talking about the one that came out in 2005, that’s Doom 3; and I’m definitely not referring to Final Doom or to Doom 2; I’m talking about the very original Doom, developed by id Software just after they released Wolfenstein 3D. Yeah, that one, originally released for the MS-DOS back in 1993 (with subsequent ports taking place all the way through to the PS3 in 2012).

A short while ago I was traipsing through the Steam Store and noticed that there were a couple of Doom-related bundles, I had a small amount of cash left in my Steam Wallet and figured I might as well go for the nostalgia. But I didn’t want Doom 2 with it’s Master Levels, and I sure as heck didn’t want Final Doom, I just wanted the original; sadly that was not to be…

R55 later, though, and I’m enjoying mowing through demons and possessed space marines in Ultimate Doom – which is literally the original Doom but with an extra chapter added on to the story, which was released in 1995.

Ah yes, the shotgun, the chainsaw, the BFG… in no time I was having a blast, so were the demons, if you think about it.

There is something so satisfying about just killing stuff without having to really worry about anything except your own health bar and your ammo count. id Software noticed this when they saw how well Wolfenstein 3D did. Since it’s debut, the game has sold an estimated 10 000 000 copies, which is impressive considering it was technically shareware (it was completely free if you managed to get a copy from your friend or download it from the Internet, the only time you paid for it was if you walked into a store and bought a hard copy).

Ultimate Doom is simple: you start with nothing but a pistol and work your way up to weapons like the rocket launcher and the BFG; kill everything in sight and don’t die. That’s literally it.

Sure, there is a story but it’s not integral to the game – speaking of, the final chapter added by Ultimate Doom, titled Thy Flesh Consumed, actually has a worse story than the chapters included in the original release.

If you’re a completionist, Doom keeps track of how many enemies you’ve killed and how many you left behind, along with how many secrets you’ve discovered.

BUT, and this is a big but, if you are planning on finding all the secrets in the game I would suggest using a guide, because most of the secrets and hidden areas are hidden behind doors which look like normal sections of wall – no, seriously, the textures are EXACTLY the same; there is quite literally no difference between a regular wall panel and a secret door, except in that one of them opens when you stand in front of it for long enough. To boot, a fair amount of the secrets you’ll be looking for were hidden by the developers and shouldn’t actually be in the game in the first place, so of course the screen at the end of each section which keeps track of your progress won’t actually know if you found all the secrets or not, it just knows about the ones which are supposed to be there. Said ‘screen at the end of each chapter’ also keeps track of your time, which practically encourages speedrunning (which is encouraged even further by the speed at which Doomguy moves, holy sh#t he moves quickly).

Gameplay is rather simple: point, shoot and run… or some other combination of those actions.

Character customisation? Nope, non-existent.

Looking up and down? You can forget all about that.

What? You want to be able to look up and down? Well suck it up, buttercup; most of Doom’s levels are perfectly flat, with a few exceptions here and there, but because of how the game was coded to look 3D, you can’t actually look up or down. You see a demon up there somewhere? Just shoot in his general direction, the shot will get to him.

Damage dropoff over distance? lol nope. Another wondrous thing which makes Doom’s guns feel so powerful is that they all have unlimited range. Yeah, you read right; UNLIMITED RANGE. Coding for damage drop-off over distance for different weapons was just a little bit too hard back then, so you can, if your aim is good enough, use the shotgun like a sniper rifle.

60 frames per second? Oh Hell no. Sorry guys, good ole’ Doom 64′ is just a little bit too old for that stuff. It looks like it’s running at a fair 25 to 30 frames per second, but for some reason by computer doesn’t actually want to tell me what the frame rate is. Let me know, would you?

Stereo sound? Oh yeah, that was actually a selling point back in the day; we might take it for granted today, but back then, stereo sound was an impressive feat.

Health regeneration? Nope, you better learn where those health pickups are, because you’re gonna need them.

Armour? Yeah, that’s a thing, just pick it up whenever you see it, you’ll need it later.

Ammo pickups? Yup, those are scattered around too; learn where they are, you won’t get very far with just your fists.

Difficulty levels? Oh, Doom has those, it has them alright. The difficulty levels are titled “I’m Too Young to Die” (easy), “Hey, Not Too Rough” (normal), “Hurt Me Plenty” (hard), “Ultra-Violence” (extra hard) and “Nightmare” (nightmare difficulty, this one speaks for itself). On easy, normal and hard, enemies don’t respawn (either that or they take quite a while, I haven’t actually stayed in any one area for long enough to find out), but all that changes when you start playing Ultra-Violence and Nightmare. The enemies don’t get stronger, the damage numbers don’t even change, the only real changes are the respawn timer, the speed at which enemies move, their precision attacks and the fact that item and pickup placements have been moved around; altogether, these factors make Nightmare mode nigh impossible the first few times around. And although you do get double the regular amount of ammo when playing on Nightmare, the fact that the enemies literally NEVER stop coming at you turns Nightmare into the physical (technically digital) embodiment of stress.

Mod support? Not really, but there is an active modding community out there. And after your first few playthroughs, you’ll want to install a mod or two, because as fun as Doom is, it doesn’t really age all that well.

Overall, Doom is a heck of a lot of fun, the story is engaging (if you look towards the comics) but doesn’t really matter, the gameplay is simple and it is just oh so satisfying when you use the chainsaw on a demon.

Storing Video Games and Comics: Tips and Tricks

As a gamer and avid reader of comics, I often find myself pressed for space, because storing comics and games can be quite the hassle. I figured I would give a few tips and tricks to my fellow gamers and comic geeks, some of these are things I have personally tried, others are things I have seen friends try or found online – and they work.

Let’s start with video games.

And I’m not talking about the ones you bought digitally and downloaded onto your computer/console’s hard drive, I’m talking about the hard copies, the discs, the ones in the boxes; you know, the ones your parents may or may not have mistaken for DVDs at some point or another. Yeah, you remember those; because chances are, you still have them. And if you’re anything like me, you have a lot of them – and of course, you don’t want to get rid of them.

I mean sure, maybe you bought a game through Steam or through your console’s built-in games store, but every now and then you just can’t help but go over to the gaming section at your nearest supermarket or you walked into an actual games store, and every now and then, you walk out of one of these places with one or two hard copies of – you guessed it; video games.

Even if you just buy one or two a year, maybe you buy six or seven a year (which I’m sure isn’t even dwarfed by your digital games library but let’s not go there), but over time it starts to build up, and sooner or later you start to run out of space for all of these games.

When I first moved in to my current home, I was faced with the challenge of storing my games on a shelf (this might seem trivial, but here is where my first tip comes in); previously, I’d stored them in piles on my desk, but said desk is currently out of commission. So I had to come up with a new way of storing my games.

I’d been given a small shelf, and after stacking my books in all different manners and moving a few of my larger books around, I managed to free up a single shelf on my… well, shelf – those things really need a different name; the smaller shelves that make up a big shelf, you know what, I’m going to call them ‘shelfies’ from now on.

After moving a few books around, I’d managed to free up a shelfie (I’m not sure if that word works, let me know what you think) and I’d started trying to get my physical games library onto said shelfie. Said library numbers about seventy physical games copies (pitiful, I know, I’ve unfortunately had to thin out the collection over the years) but the shelfie was just not big enough to fit even half of them… if I had them standing upright, that is.

I found that if I stacked them sideways, on top of each other, in piles, I was able to get all of them onto this one little shelfie. The best part? There is room for at least another ten to fifteen more hard copies.

Another way to store hard copies would be to use a CD rack, as some of these have large enough slots that there is ample room for a hard copy in it’s box – but there are some boxes that will make this easier, Playstation games and X Box One games appear (correct me if I’m wrong) to come in slightly thinner boxes than most PC games, so they might actually fit onto a conventional CD rack.

If hunting down a CD rack that has big enough slots isn’t something you are keen on doing, just buy a DVD rack. A dishrack will also work just fine for storing games.

If you have a spare set of drawers laying around, you can use those to store games, with your console comfortably sitting on top.

If you’re looking for more of a DIY project, I have just the thing for you: have you ever seen a shelfless bookshelf? I know the name is contradictory but the fact of the matter is that it works. Buy a normal wall bracket for a shelf, and instead of putting a shelf on the bracket you can stack your games on it. Now, granted this does leave some balancing to be done but that’s half the fun – or you can just sacrifice a DVD/game box and permanently affix it to the bracket, that way you won’t have to play the balancing game every time you want to play something.

Another quick and easy games storage setup would be to use one of those Hanging Closet Organisers, they have multiple shelfies and will provide ample room for all the games, controllers and headsets you could want.

When it comes to moving games from one place to another for a classic ‘LAN weekend’ (those are still very much a thing), you should be able to store a fair amount of games inside a toolbox; if you don’t have one of those available, guys, steal your girlfriend’s vanity case (metal box used for storing make-up), girls, empty your vanity cases and use that – or the toolbox, whichever suits your fancy.

Okay, now with that part out of the way, we move onto the really irritating stuff: controllers.

I don’t own a console, but I have certainly spent enough time with people who do, and let me tell you: the controllers are often lying all over the place. A quick fix is to put up a few ‘universal tool hooks’ (these come in various sizes and shapes) and I have seen people use some to ‘hang’ their controllers, the next step to this solution is to actually use the hooks, but that part is entirely up to you.

For those of you sitting at a desk with a PC, your mouse, keyboard, speakers and screen really shouldn’t be getting in the way; if they are, either de-clutter your desk or get a larger desk, your desk layout should be centred around your mouse and keyboard, with your speakers off to the sides and your screen on the far side of your desk, if you find yourself constantly moving your peripheries around then it may be time for a larger desk.

Now then, onto the comics!

Anyone who buys comics on a regular basis probably knows that you can’t store them like books on a shelf, they require a different sort of care.

I have previously touched on caring for comics, back in our June issue last year in an article about collecting comics, but I’ll quickly go through it again for those of you who are new – both to the magazine (WELCOME!) and/or to collecting comics (again; WELCOME!)

Some stores that sell comics, sell them loose and unprotected, others take measures to protect their stock by ‘bagging and boarding’. A process through which a comic is placed in a protective sleeve with a backer-board for support, the sleeve is then taped closed with as little air inside as possible. Eventually, the colour on a comic will start to rub off onto the board and sleeve, this takes varying amounts of time depending on the weather in the area you live (the average humidity and temperature are large contributing factors) but a safe bet would be to replace the board every five years and the sleeve every three to three and a half years.

Another part of storing comics is the boxes, like I said, you can’t just put them on a shelf like regular books. Some comic book sellers will also sell ‘comic boxes’ and while the idea may seem extravagant (as simple as these boxes are), there is a reason in this madness. While you may not be interested in collecting comics for the sake of reselling them if/when they’ve gone up in value, if you want your comics to last, keep them ‘bagged and boarded’ and keep them standing upright in their box, and they will last decades; long enough that you’ll be able to share them with your children and, if you look after them properly (the comics, although looking after your kids is probably a good idea too), you may even be able to share them with your grandchildren.

Comics are printed on the same paper as most magazines, but because their spines consist of folded paper and two staples, they need the backer-board, sleeve and box for extra protection.

When storing comics in a box, try to keep them standing upright, otherwise, their weight will eventually flatten and damage their spines – that and comic boxes are designed so that you can store more comics in them when the comics are upright. Make sure not to pack your comics into their boxes too tightly though, if there isn’t enough play between them, you will flatten the spines. Another tip for storing comics would be to store them facing different directions, alternating between facing forward and backward, this way you can fit even more into a box without damaging the spines – this works because the spines are thicker than the rest of the comic, so if they alternate, you save room. This can make finding a particular comic seem like a bit of a hassle, but if you’re pressed for space and don’t have room for another box, this is the way to go.

Speaking of boxes, if you can’t afford comic boxes (don’t pay more than R200 for a comic box, because that’s just a rip off; unless it’s one of those with a thin vinyl coating and the pictures on the outside, they’re worth it) or just don’t want to spend that money, use empty cereal boxes, they’re wide enough that comics fit in them just fine.

If you have numerous comic boxes but they don’t fit on your shelf and it’s shelfies, that’s okay, some comic book stores stock a type of comic box ‘shelf’ which is made of reinforced cardboard.

I hope these tips prove useful to you, if you’re looking for more outlandish ideas then I’m sure you can find something on Pinterest, but I wanted to give you guys multiple options and didn’t have the space to give you a full-length tutorial on building a special shelf/drawer hybrid-thingymabob.

Breathe and Megan Leavey – Double Whammy Review

Breathe tells the true story of a man who falls ill to Polio and against all odds manages to live longer than anyone could have predicted. Megan Leavey is a film which also tells a true story, but this time about a woman who joins the US Military and forms a special bond with a highly aggressive bomb sniffer dog named Rex.

I’d originally attempted to write two separate reviews for these films, one for each, but they came out so short that each would have barely warranted a half page as an actual article, so I figured I would rewrite the reviews but this time do them as one and the same.

So join me as I put the two reviews together and attempt to stretch them out to at least one page, because writer’s block is a thing and I have it right now.

Both Breathe and Megan Leavey are spectacular in their own right, neither is a visual spectacle like Pacific Rim or action-packed like an Avengers film, each brings something unique to the table.

Breathe centres around one’s will to live against all odds, Megan Leavey is about an unlikely friendship between a woman who never really got much out of life and an aggressive dog who refused to work with anyone. Both are emotional films, but one does a better job of conveying that emotion than the other; Breathe.

Breathe was Andy Serkis’ directorial debut. What? You don’t know who that is?

Remember Gollum from Lord of the Rings? Or how about Caesar from the Planet of the Apes franchise? Captain Haddock from Stephen Spielberg’s The Adventures of TinTin? More recently you will have seen him in the role of Ulysses Klaue in Black Panther. Or maybe you recognised his work right away when he played Supreme Leader Snoke in The Force Awakens and again in The Last Jedi.

Yeah, that guy; now you know who I’m talking about. And even if you recognised his name, I bet you didn’t know he played Snoke – because I sure as hell didn’t until I did a little research.

Surely a man who is more adept than most at conveying emotion through movement or through the smallest of facial gestures would know how to perfectly convey emotion and perspective through camera angles and attention to detail in scriptwriting and acting. And this logic shows.

Breathe starts by introducing us to the main characters and their friends, showing us their active lifestyles, gives us a short scene with each character so that we know what each one is about and makes short work of showing us the dynamic between all these people. Our lead, played by Andrew Garfield, falls ill to Polio and is paralysed from the neck down, requiring a motorised respirator to aid in breathing. His friends and family are supportive through it all, their dynamic remaining unchanged. Andrew’s character, at first, wants nothing more than to die, and so his condition does nothing but rapidly deteriorate. He eventually decides that he would like to get to know his newborn son, but that definitely isn’t happening in a hospital. His wife practically breaks him out of the hospital and soon he is home, in bed and hooked up to his respirator.

In no time at all his mood and condition improve, he eventually comes up with an idea for something of a wheelchair, with it’s own breathing unit attached and powered by a battery.

It is from this chair that he gets to see the world and enjoy life.

He proves all the doctors wrong and lives longer outside a hospital than anyone could have predicted, living longer than most Polio patients who remain inside their hospital wards.

Unfortunately, eventually there comes a time when his body cannot keep up with his will, and so he ‘gives himself permission to die’.

Megan Leavey is emotional on the same level as American Sniper, while the former doesn’t really have you questioning your humanity, it comes through on more or less the same level. The character building is done simply, through not asking too many questions and answering only a few when it comes to the lead roles. The film shows how one can struggle to fit in, even in the military, especially as a woman. After an extended and strenuous bonding period with her assigned sniffer dog, Rex, Megan finally gets out onto the battlefield and ‘performs admirably’ but is sent home for a few weeks after a bomb goes off in her face. When she returns from her recovery break, she finds Rex has been assigned to someone else. She signs a few forms to make Rex adoptable so that she can take him home, her applications are denied and so she makes things public, going so far as to seek support from a congressman. She appears on TV a couple times, does a few interviews and suddenly the government gives her the right to adopt Rex. Thereafter, Rex lives happily for many years. Today Megan works as a veterinarian.

That summary right there is literally every single important plot point in the film. Notice how short and emotionless it was? That’s more or less how I felt walking out of the cinema after watching Megan Leavey; there were parts of the film that made me tear up a little but for the most part, I walked out of there not really knowing what to make of the movie. I didn’t get attached to the characters for any amount of time.

While a wonderful story, Megan Leavey doesn’t really seem to have delivered on it’s promise of an emotional story about a woman and her dog.

Black Panther

You know how we’re all always excited for a Marvel movie and then we see the second or third trailer and we think to ourselves “The Marvel Villain Curse strikes again!!!”, and, I’ll have to be honest with you guys, I thought this too. When we saw footage of Killmonger wearing a Black Panther suit (with the golden accents), I thought that we were going to be watching the first Iron Man all over again: someone has tech, someone else wants that tech, said someone else steals that tech and then they battle it out.

And in a sense, we did get that; but not entirely.

WARNING: there are MAJOR (I repeat, MAJOR) SPOILERS ahead, please do not continue reading this article if you haven’t seen Black Panther and don’t want it spoiled for you. You have been warned.

In this review, I’m going to pick apart the parts of Black Panther that I thought made it the fantastic film that it is, and first off is the world-building.

Careful attention to detail was paid when showing scenes of Wakandan society, architecture and fashion. Those working in the costume department made sure to do their research before putting someone into a red robe and calling it ‘tribal garb’ – before anyone gets upset with me, I worded it like that on purpose, a fair amount of the world’s populace has a rather incorrect idea of what ‘African culture’ is, as South Africans, we are fully aware that Africa is not just one place with one culture. The design department took the time to actually look at what Afro-futurism pertains to and what it entails, taking concepts and designs from many cultures across the African continent and adding a futuristic twist. Even the actors paid attention to these details, everything from how they stand to whether or not they look someone in the eye before they have been properly addressed. And the many vibranium powered technologies we saw were taken directly from the more recent Black Panther comics (which have delved more into Wakandan society and technology than any comic before; big ‘thank you’ to writer Ta-Nehisi Coates and artist Brian Stelfreeze for providing us that in-depth look).

Attention was especially paid to the languages; with the majority of Wakanda’s population speaking Xhosa, while the outlying Jabari Tribe, led by M’Baku (known in the comics as ‘M’Baku the Man Ape’) speaks a version of the Nigerian Igbo language.

Secondly, we have our protagonists.

T’Challa, his sister Shuri, his ex-girlfriend Nakia and the leader of the Dora Milaje, Okoye. Each character is believable and each one has their chance to take centre stage.

T’Challa is of course the Black Panther, King of Wakanda; Boseman had not only settled into the role by the time filming on Black Panther began, but he says that T’Challa is also considerably more comfortable than he was in Civil War because he is back home. Throughout the film, T’Challa is faced with some incredibly difficult decisions, between pleasing the Council of Wakanda as king of the nation and protecting his people as the Black Panther, his morals and the rules by which he plays are challenged more than once throughout the film.

Okoye is the leader of the Dora Milaje and is referred to as “general” at least once in the film, which is interesting considering that Wakanda has no official military, the word seems more to be a reference to the fact that she is the leader of the single largest warrior group in Wakanda. Once Killmonger has taken the throne, Okoye struggles with her loyalties, because on the one hand she is best friends with T’Challa and believes he should be king, but on the other, Killmonger won the throne in fair combat and she is “loyal to the throne” as she puts it.

Nakia probably the least fleshed out character among the leads, but our introduction to her says enough; she is T’Challa’s ex-girlfriend, and she has left Wakanda to put her combat skills to use taking down human trafficking rings and helping those in need where she can; she is of a similar mind to Killmonger in that she believes Wakanda should be putting their resources to good use and help those in need all across the globe, but she is ever loyal to T’Challa, the two even kiss at the end of the film.

Shuri is the sixteen year old sister of T’Challa, she is highly intelligent (it is implied that T’Challa designed and made the Black Panther suit we see him wearing in Civil War, Shuri calls his suit a ‘relic’ and is the one who develops all the weapons and tools T’Challa could ever need; the general perception is that she is smarter than Tony Stark) and all she wants is to be out in the field helping her brother on missions. She is also the film’s greatest source of comedy, but her jokes are perfectly timed and never ruin the moment; something Marvel has been struggling with for a while now.

And third, we have our villain; Erik “Killmonger” Stevens.

If you look back towards the first paragraph of this review you’ll see the comparison I made between Black Panther and Iron Man, but this comparison isn’t entirely true and it’s not really fair either. This time, it wasn’t really Killmonger ‘stealing’ the suit or the technology like Obadiah Stane did with the design of the Mk 1 Iron Man suit; instead, he fought his way into Wakanda, killed Klaw to gain attention and to rally some of Wakanda’s leaders to his cause, exercised his birthright by laying a claim to the throne (for those who don’t know, he is T’Challa’s cousin), won in fair ritual combat (sort of, more on that in a bit), and took the throne. He did it the way anyone else who would have wanted to challenge T’Challa would have; he took the throne, but he didn’t steal anything – well, I guess he technically did because he didn’t actually kill T’Challa but, hey, everyone thought T’Challa died when Killmonger threw him off the edge of the waterfall, so I suppose that’s fine.

The MCU fanbase seems to be of two minds when it comes to Killmonger; there are those who believe he breaks the ‘Marvel Villain Curse’ and there are those who seem to believe there never was a curse to begin with and that if there was actually one, Killmonger does not break it.

If we had to look at it objectively, unfortunately, Marvel’s villains are lacking in some areas. Obadiah wasn’t such a bad villain but he did a pretty good job of it; Loki was a great villain… the first two times (being in Thor and Avengers); Red Skull, while impressive, was basically just a Nazi version of Captain America (something readers of the comics got very acquainted with last year); Malekith wasn’t spectacular; Whiplash was Whiplash; the Winter Soldier had no personality until Civil War; the Mandarin was the most disappointing thing that ever happened in the history of disappointing things; Ronin was one-dimensional and so was Ultron, for all of David Spader’s amazing voice acting; Ego was… meh and Hela literally just appeared one day and decided she was going to try to kill everyone. The consensus online is that there are three villains who take the cake; Vulture, Zemo and Killmonger… and guess who is at the top of that list?

While Zemo came from out of nowhere, he had clearly planned ahead, taking the Avengers apart from the inside, and his actions alluded to some mysterious end-game which has yet to be revealed – unless all he wanted to do was tear the Avengers apart, in which case, his mission was successful.

Vulture was a classic, modern-day criminal; doing all the wrong things for the right reasons.

But Killmonger…

Erik was the product of his environment, and this is painfully evident. At the start of the film it is revealed that Erik’s father, N’Jobu had betrayed Wakanda, resulting in his death at the hands of his brother, King T’Chaka (T’Challa and Shuri’s father, played by John Kani – any South African who took Drama as a subject in high school should know his work very well). T’Chaka killed N’Jobu while Erik was still quite young, Erik then grew to hate the Black Panther, but he’d always wanted to see the beauty of Wakanda, as his father had promised him that he would one day be able to go there to see “the most beautiful place in the world”. It is implied that Erik grew up in a rough neighbourhood, and very well explained that he was a military operative who racked up, and kept count of, his substantial number of kills while a member of the United States military, which earned him the name ‘Killmonger’.

Erik only knew how to solve problems with violence, so he sought to provide superior Wakandan weapons to the oppressed around the world, giving them the power to stand up for themselves and fight back against their oppressors. While his methods were disagreeable, we eventually learn that Wakanda reaching out to the rest of the world is what should happen.

Erik does break the MCU Villain Curse, he is relatable and he is not as shallow as a puddle, his motivations are evident and, most of all, we understand them.

And even though he died in the end, he is technically the one Marvel villain who actually got what he wanted; for Wakanda to help people; but he was right too.

Okay, so here comes the obligatory part of the review where I geek out for a few paragraphs.

Online, Killmonger’s suit is being referred to as the ‘Golden Jaguar’ and while I’m not sure if that is the suit’s official name, the colouration does hint at something the film chose to omit/change. At the start of Black Panther, Wakanda’s history and politics are explained, we find out there are different tribes within the nation which each have a seat at the Council of Wakanda and each can put forward a challenger for the throne and the mantle of Black Panther. What the film missed out on were the differing cults in Wakanda. In the comics, the tribes were once upon a time called ‘cults’, because each followed a different god; and those gods were based on different gods from many different African cultures (namely Kokou, Mujaji, Nyami, Thoth, Ptah, Bast, Sekhmet, Sobek and a few others – you may or may not recognise a few of those names, as two of them were borrowed from Southern African cultures – while those of you overseas are more likely to recognise the Egyptian gods).

The first six of those that I listed were the main groups, the others were much more cult-like. Each cult was represented by a colour, Sobek was represented by blue, Bast was represented by purple, etc. The opening sequence featuring Bast wasn’t just some ‘ancient legend’ told for the sake of world-building, in terms of the MCU canon you may as well count Bast as an actual goddess (remember, even the Asgardians aren’t gods, they’re just really long-lived). Anywho, my point is that the golden shade of Killmonger’s suit reminded me of the elusive Cult of Sekhmet (an ancient Egyptian goddess of war and destruction), who was represented by a golden/yellow colour in the comics.

I’m not sure if the colour of Killmonger’s suit is an allusion to the Cult of Sekhmet, or if its just a little Easter egg, but either way, it’s an interesting thought.

At the end of the day, I’d even go as far as saying that Black Panther was quite possibly the best MCU film to date.

The Shape of Water

You know how you can turn on the TV and find that there is a movie playing which is undeniably the work of Tim Burton? You don’t have to know which movie it is, you don’t have to have seen it before, you don’t even have to know Tim Burton’s name. As a child, I had no idea who Burton was but it was clear to even my 10-year-old self that Corpse Bride and Edward Scissorhands were directed by the same person.

I had that exact same feeling while watching The Shape of Water, a film which pays attention to the tiniest of details which no one would think to look at, the little things which make the characters so interesting, the things which make them feel so real – of course it was directed by Guillermo del Toro.

All you have to do to recognise his style is watch Pan’s Labyrinth, Hellboy and Pacific Rim; from there you practically have a roadmap of the inner workings of del Toro’s mind, and even then we still don’t know how his beautiful brain works.

Okay, so I probably sound like a del Toro fanboy right now but seriously, do yourself a favour and watch The Shape of Water.

For the last few years, actor Ron Perlman (the original Hellboy, soon to be replaced by David Harbour) and del Toro have been trying to get a third Hellboy off the ground and into production, del Toro even turned down Universal Studios when they offered him the opportunity to helm their Dark Universe (a move I half-wish he hadn’t made, if he’d been in charge of the Dark Universe, I think last year’s The Mummy would have been so much better, del Toro can do no wrong when it comes to world-building and story-writing – but then we wouldn’t have the masterpiece which I now write about). del Toro and Perlman were incredibly disappointed when the Hellboy reboot was announced, mainly because its a reboot but also because they aren’t involved.

del Toro then set his sights on something else.

He wanted to make a monster movie, but not in the traditional sense. Most people think of a monster movie as having a human protagonist who has to destroy a creature of some sort – but del Toro didn’t want the monster to be THE monster.

You know that Tumblr post that’s going around? “Knowledge is knowing the monster isn’t Frankenstein; wisdom is knowing Frankenstein is the monster.”

This is exactly what del Toro was going for when he made The Shape of Water: in Frankenstein, the ‘monster’ (for lack of a better term, as he doesn’t have a name) has emotions and contemplates his existence, searching for love and a purpose in life, the only time he kills is by accident; Dr. Victor Frankenstein, on the other hand, was effectively ‘playing God’ by stitching the dead together and creating a lifeform which technically didn’t have a soul. The monster discovers he has the skills of the deceased who make up his body, his hands know how to play the flute, but they also know how to kill; Frankenstein himself resurrects his dead wife, without any thought or regard for whether or not she wants to be brought back from the dead (spoiler alert: she doesn’t).

Of course, it doesn’t help that the creature in The Shape of Water is so much like Abe Sapien from Hellboy that it isn’t even funny; both understand and can sign, both listen to classical music, both eat boiled eggs, both are played by the same actor (Doug Jones) – the two even look similar.

The Shape of Water was supposed to be Guillermo del Toro’s attempt at a different kind of monster – similar to The Creature from the Black Lagoon – but with a special del Toro twist.

Unfortunately, del Toro has announced that The Shape of Water has nothing to to with the Hellboy IP in any way, shape or form. Doug Jones is a well renowned actor who often plays the monster in fantasy, sci-fi and horror films, usually donning heavy makeup and prosthetics. As for the other similarities to Abe Sapien, well, even del Toro won’t account for those.

Is Bendis Pulling a ‘Jack Kirby’ on Marvel?

Just the other day I remembered seeing that DC had posted a video to their Story on Instagram, and the thumbnail depicted Brian Michael Bendis standing next to the DC logo they have in one of their office buildings… apparently I saw this before my morning coffee because at the time it slipped right passed me that Bendis actually works for Marvel.

Well, not anymore.

On January 3rd, Bendis officially started working at DC Comics.

At first I’d wondered if maybe this was a ‘Jack Kirby situation’ (remember how Jack Kirby wasn’t properly paid for his work and rarely got recognition back in his day?), and initial research laid those thoughts (mostly) to rest.

Apparently, Bendis was visiting the Cleveland Library (in his hometown) and was completely awestruck with their Superman themed display:

I was in town for my brother’s wedding and I went to the library, which was so important to me growing up, and I saw the Superman display,” Bendis revealed. “It was a flood of impressions and Cleveland connections. While looking at the Superman artefacts, I realized that I had not climbed the DC mountain and I needed to.”

“I just had a landmark birthday, my 50th, and I had lost a lot of weight and I was thinking about what else I could do to scare myself,” he said. “What could I do next? DC was coming at me pretty hard with offers that were hard to resist. But it was not until I walked into the library that everything came together. I remembered how much I connected with Superman, how I was an artist during the 1988 Superman convention in Cleveland.”

Bendis started writing for Marvel back in 2000, writing for the ever-popular Ultimate Spider-Man, a comic which saw Peter Parker being replaced as Spider-Man by young Miles Morales, the comic went on to outcompete The Amazing Spider-Man in month-to-month sales for years on end.

Bendis is perhaps best known for his famous (or infamous, depending on your opinion) Marvel crossover events and for creating Miles Morales and, more recently, Riri Williams (Ironheart). Some argue that Bendis is as much a creator of modern-day Marvel as Jack Kirby was, having written events like Age of Ultron, House of M, Secret Wars, Secret Invasion and the closing issues of Avengers Disassembled. Setting his crossover events aside, Bendis has also written amazing runs with individual characters including his run on Daredevil (which was referenced in the 2003 Daredevil film), even launching Marvel’s non-Comics Code Approved, adult MAX imprint, starting with the series Alias (featuring the now very popular Jessica Jones). Bendis has also worked on Ultimate Marvel Team-Up, Ultimate Fantastic Four, Ultimate X-Men, Ultimate Six, Ultimate Origins, Ultimate Comics: Doomsday and Ultimate Power.

More recently, he’d been working on Jessica Jones, Defenders, Guardians of the Galaxy, Invincible Iron Man, Infamous Iron Man, Spider-Man, Spider-Men II and Civil War II – although he made a point of steering clear of Secret Empire.

So with all that behind him, why would Bendis make the change to DC?

This is where my suspicions rose from their graves, because few days after he started at DC, Bendis revealed that he had just finished up most of his runs on the many titles he currently writes for, his contract with Marvel has just ended – and his books just weren’t getting the sales numbers they used to (although to be honest, it seems Marvel is going through a dry spell at the moment, whatever they’ve been doing for the last year just hasn’t really been working). DC had made some offers and, with no pay check in sight from Marvel’s direction, Bendis made the change.

His jump from Marvel to DC has been met with both excitement and concern from fans on both sides. Some Marvel fans are happy to see him leave because House of M and Age of Ultron broke the generally accepted canon in a few places; other Marvel fans are sad to see him go because they enjoy reading Spider-Man comics and probably can’t imagine the character without some Bendis in there – I wouldn’t worry too much though, Bendis claims that he isn’t entirely done with Marvel just yet and has made arrangements to work with them for a while, just until he can finish up his currently running story arcs.

DC fans are, for the most part, delighted to have a new writer on their side and seem eager to see just what Bendis will do with their characters.

I think that it won’t take Bendis long to find his place among the DC Comics writers… right up there with Scott Snyder, Frank Miller and Geoff Johns.

 

 

 

Image courtesy of Comicbook.com

Paladins VS Overwatch

In the just over a year and a half since Overwatch came out, it’s fanbase has grown exponentially and shows no signs of slowing down in terms of popularity. Lauded as THE arena-based hero shooter, Overwatch is everywhere, it dominates YouTube in a way no game has since Minecraft, go to a cosplay or gaming convention and there will be some mention of Overwatch somewhere in some form or another.

Then there is Hi-Rez Studios’ free-to-play game, Paladins. A first-person arena-based hero shooter, like Overwatch; there are Payloads to be moved and objectives to be captured, like Overwatch; there is a flying character who shoots rockets, like Overwatch; there is a character who can teleport around the map, like Overwatch; and there is a large, heavily armoured character with an expanding shield. Just. Like. Overwatch.

 

Now at this point, you’re probably thinking something along the lines of ‘What a rip off!’, and in a way, yes, it is a bit of a rip-off. But you have to understand that Paladins officially began development long before Overwatch was announced – dig around for the early test footage, it’s actually laughable how different the game used to be, each character has gone through so many iterations it’s not even funny. And it is technically a rip-off but only in the way that League of Legends is a rip off of Dota (which is actually a rip-off of Warcraft so let’s not go there), it is a rip off in the same way that Call of Duty and Battlefield are technically rip-offs of Halo: Combat Evolved (many mechanics and ideas that both franchises use were originally introduced in Halo), it is a rip-off in the sense that Lawbreakers is a rip-off of Unreal Tournament… no, wait, that one’s actually true – seriously though, turn on a few mutators in Unreal Tournament and the gameplay is practically the same as in Lawbreakers).

Doth ye see what-eth I’m getting-eth at?

 

The fact that they are hero-based arena shooters means that there will be similarities, some of them a little more glaring than others. But first, let’s look at the differences.

Quick sidenote: I’ll mainly be focusing on Paladins for this article because just about every gamer out there has played Overwatch at some point or another and more or less knows how the game works.

When you open up Overwatch for the first time, you have no idea of where to go or what to do first, you have to traipse through a couple of screens to get to the Tutorial; the game teaches you basic movement mechanics, how to kill an enemy and how to capture a point.

When you launch Paladins for the first time, you are instantly thrust into the tutorial. You are taught how to move around, how to kill, the basics of using an ultimate, how to capture a point and how to move a payload – you even have to contest the point and payload against enemy bots.

See, there are already a couple of differences, and that payload section in the tutorial is something Overwatch could probably use, because literally none of those twenty five million players are on the (expletive) payload!

In Overwatch, you can skip the tutorial and go straight into a match, without having any clue as to what you’re doing and having only a basic idea of what some of the characters do (you are also given access to all the characters; in Paladins you are only given a few characters for free, the rest have to be bought with in-game currency; which, by the way, is SUPER easy to earn, you have no idea). Here is where the first MAJOR difference comes in; in Paladins, you are forced to play against bots until you reach level five and you are unable to enter Ranked games until you are at least level fifteen and own a minimum of twelve Champions; which means you have to be at least somewhat competent before you can actually play against other people. Your player level and rank are taken into account when matchmaking for both ranked and unranked matches (meaning that there is less chance of a higher level player getting stuck with a beginner, even in casual).

Both games have a Payload mode (opposing teams take turns moving the payload across the map), and both have a ‘king of the hill’ type mode (called ‘Onslaught’ in Paladins); but Paladins also has something a little extra (besides the recently released Team Deathmatch mode and the upcoming team-based Battle Royale mode): Siege.

Siege is just like Payload, with two major differences; in Siege you have to contest and capture an objective before you can move a payload and there are four points to be won – capturing the objective grants a point, moving the payload to the enemy base grants a point, stopping the enemies from moving the payload to your base also grants a point; win at least three out of the four points and you’ve pretty much won the match.

Oh, and Paladins lets you choose which gamemode you want to play, Overwatch doesn’t; on top of that, you can continually enter training matches (available for all gamemodes) to get used to certain characters or to try new loadouts. There is even a Shooting Range where you can try out characters you don’t yet own.

Speaking of:

Possibly the two biggest differences between the games would have to be the Loadout system and the Item Shop.

“Oh Lord! An Item Shop in a free-to-play game! It’s pay-to-win isn’t it?!?!?!” I hear you internally screaming. Well, you can be thankful that it isn’t pay-to-win. Overwatch uses loot crates to give you cosmetics, Paladins uses loot chests (same difference) to give you cosmetics and cards (bare with me, I know that sounds like there is a pay-to-win aspect but there really isn’t).

Here is where we get to the Loadout system.

In Overwatch, every Genji is the same, every Reinhardt is an exact copy of another, but in Paladins, unless the Fernando player on the enemy team is somehow using the exact same loadout as me, my Fernando has different stats to his. You are allowed six loadouts per Champion, each loadout has five cards. Cards are used to reduce cooldown times, increase movement speed under certain conditions, increase the durations on certain abilities, increase damage done, reduce damage taken or increase your maximum health; each Champion also has four Legendary cards, which you pick over and above your loadout before each match starts; you cannot change your loadout (or Champion) once a match has started.

This is where that potential pay-to-win aspect comes in; cards have levels. When you first start playing Paladins (as of the release of the OB64 update) you are given all the cards in the game, but only some of them are set to level 4, you increase the level (and thus, potency) of a card by unlocking duplicates of that card and these duplicates are accessed through loot chests – note that the max level on all cards is 10. You might be thinking that this is definitely pay-to-win, but to be honest, it really isn’t. The game grants you a ‘Win of the Day’ chest for each Champion once a day (provided that you first win a game with that character), a Win of the Day chest will only give you cards for the character you won that chest with and will never give you duplicates of fully levelled cards; you also gain a character chest each time you level a Champion up (Champion level just shows how good you are with a particular character and has no effect on gameplay).

The reason I say this isn’t pay-to-win is because ‘Yes, you can buy a couple hundred character chests and max out the levels on all the cards in the game’ but ‘It literally just takes a couple Win of the Day chests a day for a month or two and you’ve maxed out all the cards on the Champions you actually use’. See my point? You can pay for those cards but grind for two months and you’ll be in the same position as the guy who payed.

Onto the Item Shop. No, there is no actual money involved. During a match, you earn credits, you spend these credits at the Item Shop. ‘What am I supposed to buy from the Item Shop?’ I read your racing thoughts; well, you buy four out of sixteen items and you can level these items by purchasing them again and again – note that items can only be levelled twice, with a max level of three. Items are arranged into rows of four and you can only buy one item from each row. The idea behind these items is that you can purchase them depending on the situation – the main reason for the Item Shop’s existence is that once you’ve picked your Champion and loadout and the match has started, you can’t swap them out for a different one, the Item Shop adds a layer of adaptability and hence, strategy.

Is the Grover on the enemy team doing an exceptional job of healing his teammates? Buy Cauterise, it’ll slow down healing effects on enemies.

Want to reduce cooldowns? Buy Chronos.

Want to increase movement speed? Buy Nimble, but be careful because you can’t buy Nimble and Chronos.

Maybe the enemy team has a couple of stealth-based characters, like Skye or Strix. If it’s your job to deal with them, or if they’re just being complete nightmares, buy Illuminate and you’ll be able to see them more easily when they’re invisible.

Or maybe you do a fair amount of damage per second and you’ve noticed that your team’s Support player has decided to try and be a Damage, get Life Rip and you’ll get a portion of the damage you deal back as health.

You gain credits by doing your job; Frontlines (tanks) gain credits by standing on/contesting the objective, Damage characters gain credits by doing damage, Supports gain credits for healing and Flanks gain credits for Eliminations (basically by getting the killing blow on an enemy). The Item Shop is not only a nice way to buff your character within a match, it is a great way to incentivise playing your part in a role-based team of players (this also makes it a great way to get your tank on the frikkin payload).

While Overwatch has spawnpoints spread out over the map, Paladins doesn’t, and this would make getting to the point or catching up with the payload a complete nightmare in the middle of a game if it weren’t for the mounts. In Paladins, when you start the game you are given a mount, your mount disappears when you attack or are attacked and will reappear when you respawn.

Overwatch has health pick-ups (among other things) spread out across the map, Paladins doesn’t have such things, you can suffer.

Or, you know, play your part in the team and use the credits to buy Life Rip or Rejuvenate (the latter increases the healing effects of your team’s support characters).

If you’re an Overwatch player and you’re looking into playing Paladins (or the other way around), you’ll find yourself enjoying the one almost as much as you enjoy the other. While there are differences, its about time we take a look at the glaring similarities; because Spanish Reinhardt isn’t fooling anybody…

Except, you know, Fernando uses a flamethrower. Although granted, they both have a ‘Charge’ ability but most characters in Paladins have an ability like that – though in some it is substituted by the ‘Teleport’ or ‘Dodge’ ability.

One similarity between the two games being that every so often, usually in casual, you will find yourself without a Support (thank goodness the Paladins Item Shop has Life Rip, because we’re gonna be here a while; oh, and there is a healing cooldown for when you’re out of battle, so it is entirely possible, by very slim margins, so not recommended, to play without a support).

And no, Inara/Mei, your Stone/Ice Wall is not helping me at all!!!

Overwatch is Overwatch and Paladins is Paladins. Once you get passed the differences in graphics (Blizzard is, by comparison to Hi-Rez, made of money) and the similarities in gameplay, you’ll come to realise that Kinessa is more a Tracer/Widowmaker mashup than a straight-up copy of Tracer and that while Pharah is an Egyptian wearing a high-tech battlesuit, Drogoz is a fire-breathing lizard with mechanical wings that were built by a dwarf… a dwarf who also builds turrets all over the place. His name is Barik, and he totally does not have the same mannerisms as Torbjorn.

The Greatest Showman

At it’s core, The Greatest Showman is about finding where you belong, its about family and accepting the differences in others.

Doesn’t exactly sound like the kind of thing I’d review (seeing as I generally stick to superhero, monster and horror movies), especially with it being a musical (a genre I generally don’t enjoy unless I’m in a theatre watching a play).

But The Greatest Showman took my breath away.

The Greatest Showman follows a person named Phineas Taylor Barnum, as a child, he comes up with an idea which isn’t entirely made clear, but we do see a flair for showmanship. Phineas grows up, marries the woman of his dreams, they have a couple of kids and it is revealed they all share his dream.

As an adult, Barnum loses his job because the company he works for shuts down, nearly bankrupt, he convinces his bank to loan him some money, he starts a small museum of sorts and it fails miserably. Realising that people don’t want to stare at stuffed animals while a man tells glorified tales about each creature, Barnum clears out the museum and starts a show; he grabs a few singers, a couple of dancers and a few odd people along the way – those odd people being an incredibly tall man, a rather short man, two African-American acrobats, a bearded lady and a few others.

Within no time they have a star act and are growing in popularity.

It is interesting to note that just as Barnum had to throw a couple of things in there to make his acts greater (like putting an already tall man on stilts, dressing him in green and calling him an ‘Irish Giant’), the producers had to add a couple of things and take a few others away from the original inspiration for the film as well.

Phineas Taylor Barnum was a real person, and he did bring a bunch of odd people together but it wasn’t for a circus act – it was for a craze which swept across the world and died out almost as quickly as it began; he was creating what soon became known as a ‘freak show’. Barnum did have quite the flair for storytelling and embellishment; he did find a freakishly tall man, put him on stilts and call him an ‘Irish Giant”; he found an old nurse, said she was over one hundred years old and had her telling well-rehearsed stories to the public, quickly coming up with answers to questions she couldn’t answer. Barnum’s sideshow moved around for a while but eventually settled down in a multi-storey building which he turned into a ‘museum of oddities’; he kept the show going but they now had a set area in which to ‘perform’; in his ‘museum’ he kept things such as dinosaur and whale fossils (which he would display as the bones of giants), or what he called ‘Figi mermaids’ (stuffed monkeys with fish tails stitched onto them in place of their legs). A major difference (besides all the singing) would be that when Barnum’s museum was burnt down, he gave up, his oddities destroyed and his actors either died in the flames or disappeared shortly afterwards, Barnum died penniless; but of course, a musical has to have a happy ending and the word ‘freak’ is seen as offensive in some parts of the world.

In the film, at one point Barnum loses sight of what he really wants out of life, and when he regains that vision he has to start all over. The message of belonging is mixed in by an interracial love story (in a time when interracial relations outside of ‘slave and master’ were seen as heresy). The story of family is thrown in because this group of people that Barnum put together is a family, they function as a unit and care for each other, never giving up on one another.

The songs were catchy and I’m all too happy to have them stuck in my head because they were damn good, the acting was amazing,  and the story was well written. The Greatest Showman is definitely a film you want to watch – regardless of whether or not you like musicals.

 

 

Sidenote: did you know that Jackman’s adopted children, Oscar, 17, and Ava, 12, are both in the movie? Jackman can be quoted as saying “I encourage my kids to really pursue what they love. If you can do the thing you love, you never work a day in your life. I believe in that saying. I am proof of it.”

Logan Paul and the YouTube Problem

Please note that this article was written on the 4th of January, 2018.

Suicide is not the answer, as someone who has been through and dealt with it numerous times I can tell you that there are better ways of dealing with depression, anxiety and suffering.

If you or someone you know is struggling with depression or suicidal tendencies, please call the South African Depression and Anxiety Group on 0800 21 22 23 (the number and group will be different depending on which country you live in, please call the appropriate numbers).


Not even a week into the year and someone on the Internet has already crossed a line. Over the last year we have come to expect anti-semitic or racist comments from Swedish YouTuber Felix Kjellberg, known to YouTube as PewDiePie, but while many were counting down or setting their New Years Resolutions, YouTuber Logan Paul was uploading possibly one of the most insensitive videos ever recorded.

Logan Paul and entourage had decided they would do a video on the infamous Aokigahara Forest in Japan, known internationally as the “Suicide Forest” (so named because hundreds of people have gone to this forest with the sole intent of committing suicide), they had decided to focus on the haunted aspect of the forest; not realising that, in 2010 alone, over 250 people committed suicide within the borders of the forest.

The video kicks off with a short warning about suicide and graphic content, even a short segment in which Logan talks about how serious of a topic suicide is, the video then cuts to earlier in the day with Logan and crew arriving at one of the entrances to the forest. They joke around, mentioning that they brought camping equipment, binoculars “for spotting ghosts” and “a football so we can have some fun”. They begin their trek into the forest with the usual craziness that is to be expected of Logan and his friends, when the video cuts to a shot of Logan seemingly noticing something off to the side.

Upon discovering the suicide victim, someone can be heard asking “Yo, are you alive? Are you fooling with us?”, a couple steps closer and they realise that this is no prank.

This is where the video gets graphic. Logan takes the camera and get up-close shots of the corpse, the face and upper torso were blurred out in editing but the white rope holding the man up and his blue hands said it all.

The camera turns to Logan who says “Suicide is not a joke. Depression and mental illnesses are not a joke. We came here with an intent to focus on the haunted aspect of the forest. This just became very real.”

It doesn’t take long for Logan and company to start giggling and cracking jokes, later claiming that it was a coping mechanism. As horrid as his ‘coping mechanism’ might sound, that is perfectly understandable; our brains have been known to short-circuit when we’re given bad news and we sometimes react out of character for the circumstances.

Their guide did call the police the moment they found the body; the cameraman even recording the officials as they left.

Logan ends the video with a short discussion on suicide and depression, mentioning suicide prevention hotlines and he placed the appropriate links in the description. The video was not monetised.

Logan was shunned on all forms of social media, with YouTubers of all varying sizes and types commenting on just how sick the video really was; even attracting the attention of CNN and a few other news outlets. Everyone from Boogie2988 to Comicsexplained and PewDiePie have commented and bashed on him; even TheAnimeMan took a bite out of Logan, ending his video with “get the (expletive) out of my country!” (in reference to the fact that he spent the majority of his childhood living in Japan, along with his familial ties to the country).

The really shocking part of all this is that the video made it to the Top Trending bar before it was taken down – and it wasn’t even YouTube that took it down, Logan did that himself.

Within a day the video amassed a total of 6.2 million views, and before being taken down it had been reuploaded to many times to numerous sites and servers.

Logan Paul’s evident lack of humanity is rivalled only by YouTube’s slow response to the matter.

YouTube, since the beginning of what has been called the ‘Adpocalypse’, has managed to demonetise or take down videos that simply even discuss suicide or make the slightest of sexual innuendos, as sexual themes and graphic content are against their user guidelines and are seen as ‘non-advertiser friendly’. DOOM gameplay videos have been demonetised simply for having ‘video game violence’ (a term used by rating boards the world over), videos have been taken down just because they feature a man using a sword to decapitate a dummy and yet a video which quite literally showed a dead person had no actions taken against it for over 24 hours.

Whether this is YouTube simply not noticing something or being complacent (Logan Paul has proven to be quite the cash-cow for them, acting in two YouTube Red Originals, The Thinning and The Thinning 2) remains unknown.

Logan did post an apology on Twitter after taking the video down, but by then the damage had been done and his apology seemed more like it was done in self-defence than anything else. On January 2nd he uploaded a video to his channel entitled So Sorry, as popular news-based YouTuber Philip Defranco said “This one had a different tone and I wished this had been his response” (as opposed to his rather short apology on Twitter).

Logan admits that what he did was wrong, that he never should have uploaded the video and that he probably should have turned the camera off the moment they found the victim.

Below is a direct quote from the apology video:

I have made a severe in-continuous lapse in my judgement and I don’t expect to be forgiven, I’m simply here to apologise. What we came across that day in the woods was obviously unplanned, and the reactions you saw on tape were raw, they were unfiltered. None of us knew how to react or how to feel. I should have never posted the video, I should have put the cameras down and stopped recording what we were going through. There’s a lot of things I should have done, but I didn’t, and for that, from the bottom of my heart, I’m sorry. I want to apologise to the Internet, I want to apologise to anyone who has seen the video, I want to apologise to anyone who has been affected or touched by mental illness or depression or suicide; but most importantly, I want to apologise to the victim and his family. For my fans who are defending my actions; please don’t, I do not deserve to be defended.

The goal with my content is always to entertain, to push the boundaries, to be all-inclusive. In the world I live in, I share almost everything I do, the intent is never to be heartless, cruel or malicious. Like I said, I’ve made a huge mistake, I don’t expect to be forgiven. I’m just here to apologise.”

Logan has since stated that he will be taking a break from making his daily vlogs.