Friends: I have something launching two weeks from tomorrow that I’m super excited about. And something cooler and much bigger a little while after that. Stay tuned!

Yoshi’s Crafted World does something (lower frame rate maybe?) to make the game look like it’s stop motion-animated and it’s adorable.

Voyager could have done a lot more with having the ship pick up crew from aliens they meet along the way, if not permanently, then for arcs of a few episodes. It’d have kept the show fresher, adding in new characters for the cast to interact with. 🖖🏻

3.5.2 Don’t clutter the foreground

I’ve picked up a few bad typographic habits writing in HTML/Markdown. From Robert Bringhurst’s The Elements of Typographic Style:

When boldface is used to emphasize words, it is usually best to leave the punctuation in the background, which is to say, in the basic text font. It is the words, not the punctuation, that merit emphasis in a sequence such as the following:

… on the islands of Lombok, Bali, Flores, Timor and Sulawesi, the same textiles …

But if the same names are emphasized by setting them in the italic rather than bold, there is no advantage in leaving the punctuation in roman. With italic text, italic punctuation normally gives better letterset and thus looks less obtrusive:

… on the islands of Lombok, Bali, Flores, Timor and Sulawesi, the same textiles …

Typically in HTML you just surround an entire phrase in the bold or italic tag. Bringhurst urges one to take the time to wrap each word appropriately.

It’s also why I’ve had less interest in XHTML’s “semantic” tags. The idea was to use <em> for emphasis and <strong> for strong emphasis so thet the underlying tags have semantic meaning. Say why you’re adding italics or bold, don’t just do it. But it was always a clunky, programmer’s brain way to do it. You’re supposed to use the <cite> tag, for example, if you’re italicizing because the word is a literary work, but for short stories we don’t italicize citations, we use quotation marks. And of course Markdown was designed to make writing simpler and to keep all those tags from cluttering up your text, yet it uses <em> and <strong> where I think it should use <i> and <b>.

Game of Thrones’s 8th season debuts in two weeks. Consider, as we enjoy each one over the subsequent month-and-a-half, how less exciting it would be if HBO did Netflix’s “release them all at once” model.

I’d be interested to see streaming services break their offerings into tiers: one price for just their original programming; higher price to also get all the reruns and movies.

I’ve seen a bunch of takes on Apple’s Monday event that all seem to call Apple TV “Channels” the long-promised “skinny bundle.” I’m not so sure that’s what it is.

The “skinny bundle” is the mythical idea that instead of buying a cable package from Comcast or whomever that includes 1000+ channels, you get to pick and pay for just the channels you want à la carte. For me that might be the networks, FX, HBO, and MASN. You might pick other options, and you’d only pay for the channels you want.

What Apple TV Channels seems to be, instead, is just a slightly easier way to add existing streaming services to your screen without having to make an account with each one. At $10/month, these add up to way more than a basic cable package very quickly.

Now, it’s totally sensible that the cable companies have more leverage to build more affordable packages at larger volumes, but I’d still expect that if I can get 100 channels or $60/month or so, and 1000 for $100, I should be able to build my own skinny bundle for at most $40. What Apple showed off seems to just be, “add Showtime for $10, and HBO for $10, and CBS for $8,” and so on, which doesn’t seem like a good enough deal vs. just having cable.

Which all leads me to an obvious conclusion: for decades it was accepted we were willing to pay $50-150/month for televised entertainment. It’s not sensible to expect the media companies will just suddenly be okay with us building skinny bundles for much less than that.

Several years ago while trying to decide how to handle a growing volume of comic storage boxes piling up in the corner of the house, I discovered that bookbinders can turn comic magazines into lovely hardcovers suitable for displaying on shelves. Sure, one can buy trade paperbacks or hardcovers from the publishers, but since I’d already bought the issues once, why buy them again? So, from time-to-time, I pick through my boxes of comics, select my favorite completed runs, and send them off to Herring and Robinson Bookbinders. Today I received back a splendid six-volume set of Transformers: More Than Meets the Eye/Lost Light by James Roberts, Alex Milne, Josh Burcham, Jack Lawrence, Joana Lafuente, et al. What follows is very likely a much more detailed look into how I had these particular books made than you’re in. 😅

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Here’s the full set. I wavered on the cover color for a while before deciding that simple black would let the silver text shine nicely. Usually I like to match the color to the book somehow. My Fraction/Aja Hawkeye set is purple, Fantastic Four is blue; that sort of thing.

What to print on the spines? “Transformers: More Than Meets the Eye” would be appropriate, since that’s what the series was called for most of its run, but it’s a lot of letters to fit in. The series was eventually relaunched as Transformers: Lost Light, which is a more fitting title, so that’s what I went with. I spend a lot of time deciding whether to put a colon in. I’m not sure I made the right call. 🤷‍♂️

I typically only list the writer of a series on the spine since that’s how I alphabetize the books on the shelves, so I stuck with only putting “Roberts” on the spines. I don’t mean to diminish the artistic contributions of Milne, Burcham, Lawrence, and others. I promise it’s just for organization’s sake!

Finally, I decided to simply number the volumes 1-6. Typically I put issue numbers here (e.g. “1-25,” “26-50”) but since the series changes titles and kicks off with some assorted issues before MTMtE begins, I couldn’t think of a good way to indicate all that that would make shelving them make sense. (Though sometimes, particularly with Marvel books, I actually really like accurately displaying the volume and issues numbers just to show off how inanely difficult that publisher likes to make organizing its books across multiple relaunches, to wit.)

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Roberts and Milne were kind enough to sign a few issues I had when I met them in Virginia last year.

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Transformers: Last Stand of the Wreckers, along with several issues of More Than Meets the Eye had short prose stories that I was able to include.

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I abhor variant covers, but I couldn’t resist putting together the four connecting covers for the first issue.

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Here’s the Christmas issue.

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Another exception to my variant cover dislike. These two have the characters facing each other and look nice contra each other.

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Something you don’t get in published trade paperbacks are the “previously” pages. You don’t need them in a collection, of course, because the issue it’s recapping is just right there in front of you, not separated by a month’s time, but Roberts and crew do something clever and incorporate the “previously” page into issue 43, so by keeping them intact all along, I’m able to communicate this little joke. The same thing happens with the “Meet the Crew” pages, which are referenced in the text in a few points.

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A little joke I love throughout the series is the repeated homage to Kevin Maquire’s cover to Justice League of America 1.

A neat thing about having comics bound yourself is that you can choose exactly what issues to include and what order to put them in. Until IDW does an omnibus, I think this is probably the most complete bound set of Roberts’s Transformers comics work there is. True or not, it has exactly the books I want, in the order I want to read them, with (I think) all the supplementary material that exists. Elsewhere I have a set of scripts that I got from Roberts at a convention along with Josh Burcham’s sketchbook. Someday I’ll get my hands on Milne and Lawrence’s.

Book 1 is sort of MTMtE volume 0:

  • Transformers Spotlight: Megatron 15, “Everything In its Right Place.” I included this because it was written by Nick Roche and credits Roberts with a story assist.
  • Transformers: Last Stand of the Wreckers 1-5, along with material from both the trade paperback and hardcover collections of the book, which each have original stories not present in the original issues. Yes, this means I bought the book three times. Tip: you can often get damaged copies on Amazon for real cheap. Since you’re taking a hairdryer to them, anyway, to melt off the glue and pull apart just a few pages, you don’t care if the cover is ripped.
  • Transformers 22 and 23, “Chaos Theory,” which is the proper start to MTMtE.
  • Transformers 24, 26, 28, and 30, “Chaos.”
  • “Transformers: The Death of Optimus Prime.” The official IDW collection puts this in front of MTMtE volume 1, but I think it works better as a coda to the previous phase of IDW’s comics and lets MTMtE 1 stand on its own.

Book 2: Transformers: More than Meets the Eye Season One

  • 1-5
  • Spotlight: Trailcutter and Hoist. These were published a year later but take place here. I generally try not to bring a book this far forward to make it fit, but there weren’t any major winks to interceding events so I think this move was safe.
  • 6
  • Annual 2012
  • 7-11
  • Spotlight: Orion Pax
  • 12-22
  • Material from the TPB of volume 1, which has some character sketches and other stuff.

Book 3: Dark Cybertron

  • Dark Cybertron 1 and its deluxe edition, MTMtE and Robots in Disguise 23-27, alternating, and Dark Cybertron Finale.

Book 4: Season Two Part 1

  • 28-44

I generally try to keep a volume to around 20-25 issues – typically two years’ worth of stories. Any bigger and its gets unwieldy to read, though since IDW’s comics don’t have ads on story pages, they’re a bit slimmer. Still, I had to break up season two to keep it at a good size. The official trades break between 44 and 45, so I did the same. Much of season two’s arc is Megatron’s story and 44 ends with a good moment of reflection for him.

Book 5: Season Two Part 2

  • 45-49
  • Holiday Special
  • 50-55
  • Transformers: Titans Return one-shot, Transformers 56-57, MTMtE 56-57.
  • Revolution: More Than Meets the Eye one-shot. (I didn’t see a need to include the entire Revolution event here. This issue stands well enough on its own.)

Book 6: Lost Light

  • 1-25

I saw Captain Marvel and figured I’d toss out some thoughts about it. Spoilers!

Brie Larson is super good. She makes Carol’s humor and detachment really work. I bought her as he cocky pilot type without needing to even see her doing much of that.

I liked how it leans on our understanding of male cocky pilot types from other movies to get us into position to understand what she and Maria fought to overcome in flight school.

There’s speculation as to whether Carol and Maria were supposed to have been a couple in the flashbacks. I think it works either way – I buy them as close friends or as girlfriends – but if the story is going to end with her leaving Earth for 24 years, you’d have to spend more time developing their relationship, Carol’s reasons for staying with Maria vs. going to help the Skrulls, etc. That would take time, but it might have made it a better movie? Also it would echo Steve leaving Peggy, which has always been a high mark for these movies.

Of the now 21 MCU movies, there’s a definite set of good ones, many in middle of the pack, and bottom. Captain Marvel is probably in the upper-middle? I think Larson and Sam Jackson work well together and elevate it but something winds up making it feel like it’s ultimately just another superhero action movie in a long line of these. I haven’t figured out what the “third heat” is that it needed.

The effects to make Jackson look young were wholly convincing. I immediately stopping looking for cracks in the façade.

I was disappointed it ended with Nick Fury actually losing the eye. I liked the gag better that stuff would keep happening to his face but we wouldn’t actually see him lose it, just that it’ll be gone by the time he shows up in Iron Man. All the cat stuff was great, though.

I was mildly concerned that using the Tesseract as the MacGuffin might turn off more casual MCU viewers. Like Black Panther, this is a movie that stands alone pretty well (as opposed to Infinity War which requires you to know that characters already). Will audiences see the blue cube and be turned off, thinking they’re supposed to know what that thing is and remember its role in other movies? After my wife saw it with our older daughter, I asked her and she didn’t have any problem with it. She remembered it was a thing in the other movies but its usage in this movie was explained well enough she didn’t need to remember its several other appearances.

I like that they got Lee Pace to blue himself for like three scenes.

One of the effective ways to challenge a high power level superhero (think Superman) is to put several different obstacles in the way that all need to be dealt with at once. When the Kree ship fired its dozen+ giant missiles at the Earth, I was actually worried for Carol. How’s she going to stop them all? Is she going to have to get her Kree squad to help? Will the Skrulls be able to neutralize some? Maybe we’ll get a moment for the US Air Force to join in? Instead, the movie choose to not swerve and just show that Carol is way more powerful that we might have guessed. It’s a good moment to show that both she’s finally come into her own and that her power level befits its cosmic cube provenance. It sets her up to immediately be able to jump into the ring with Thor and Hulk. That, along with her decades of experience, gives her the cred to take the reins from Captain America in the MCU going forward, if that’s where the story goes.

Edit, another thought: I was adequately thrown when the Skrulls were revealed to be not the baddies, but thinking about it, it cleverly lets Marvel step away from some dangerous places Skrull stories can go. Invasion of the Body Snatchers is often read to be a metaphor for the Red Scare in America. “These aliens can look just like anyone,” meaning: “anyone could secretly be a communist. Be alert!” Skrulls provide the perfect fodder for this sort of story, only nowadays the metaphor would probably be for immigrants. If the MCU went forward with, say, a “Secret Invasion” storyline, there’s a real danger it could be read to have anti-immigrant sentiments. Instead, Captain Marvel leans into this, with its hero unquestionably taking the side of refugees. The movie isn’t interested in shining a huge light on this – it doesn’t for example go out of its way to say “the Kree are ICE!” – instead, it just presents it as obvious that the hero would protect these Skrulls who are being hunted just because of their race.

I saw the trailer for the new Spider-Man movie and I don’t love that again it’s an adult telling Peter what to go do. The reason Spidey is Marvel’s best character is that his conflicts are always personal: he sacrifices a hot date, dinner with Aunt May, etc. to help people.

There’s a lot of room for subjectivity, but I won’t take your “best superhero movies” list seriously if you don’t seem to have considered The Incredibles and Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse as top contenders alongside the likes of a Nolan Batman and Black Panther, and I need to know you’ve done your homework to appreciate the particular contributions of Superman, Batman, The Rocketeer, Singer’s first X-Men, Raimi’s first two Spider-Man movies, Iron Man, and The Avengers. Also Guardians of the Galaxy and Blade are great but aren’t really superhero movies, and you don’t get any points for trying to stick The Matrix in somewhere.

Amazing Spider-Man started a storyline this week called “Hunted.” It’ll run for 11 issues, four of which are special “.HU” issues. So it’s AS-M 16-22 plus 16.HU, 18.HU, 19.HU, and 20.HU. 🙄 The letters column at the back of this week’s issue says, “in case you’re confused, here’s a handy-dandy checklist.” You know what would make it less confusing so you wouldn’t need to include a checklist? Just numbering the issues sequentially. Literally everyone who knows how to read also knows how to count.

I find the post-First Contact-style Borg nanite assimilation is less scary than the creepy body horror surgery from “The Best of Both Worlds.” 🖖

For what it’s worth I like Ewoks. 😀

Return of the Jedi‘s problems are that:

  1. Going back to Tatooine is unoriginal vs. having a new locale. You don’t have a character return back to his home unless you’re going to contrast who he is now (badass Jedi) with who he used to be (naïve farm boy looking for adventure), but since the earlier movies didn’t give us any open plot threads about life on Tatooine and didn’t establish any characters he left behind, there’s little to latch onto. If Star Wars had set up Jabba as this oppressive gangster, Luke’s coming home to free his people from his clutches with his newfound Jedi powers and important allies would be a good story beat, but since we have none of that, there’s no payoff to his homecoming. It should have just been a different planet. (It also very slightly weakens Han. Why was he still on the same planet as Jabba in Star Wars if their falling out was so severe he was sending the likes of Greedo to kill him? Wouldn’t Han have put a bit more distance between them?)

  2. The entire Jabba sequence has no connection to the rest of the movie. Number 1 above notwithstanding, I really like the opening, but ideally something gotten or learned in act 1 should be useful in act 3 to tie it all together. An easy fix would be that since they need stolen imperial codes to infiltrate the Empire base at the end of the movie, maybe someone in Jabba’s employ could be bribed to provide them. Then the mission would be 1) rescue Han, 2) get the codes.

  3. Reusing the Death Star instead of inventing a new threat. The movie didn’t even really need a new super weapon. The real menace is that the Emperor is already a step ahead of the Rebel and knows all about their attack plans. Instead of reusing the Death Star, which undercuts the victory from the first movie, they could have just had the Emperor’s base/throne be on Endor (the planet). The plan would be the same: the shield protecting it is on the forest moon. The ground forces need to take it down before the ships can start an air assault on the planet itself (instead of Death Star II). The planet could even have a surprise stationary weapon based on Death Star technology.

  4. The Leia-as-sister plot is undercooked. This is a result of Lucas crunching down his plans for a sequel trilogy into one movie. His original idea was that the third movie would focus on Luke taking down Vader, then a new set of movies would involve him seeking out the “other” Yoda and Obi-Wan had mentioned, teaming up, and fighting the Emperor. When he got burned out, Lucas instead revealed Leia to be the “other,” did nothing with this revelation, and then had Luke confront Vader and the Emperor at once (which part does totally work, in fairness).

  5. In general Han and Leia have no character development in the third movie. Han has already decided to stop being a scoundrel and joined up with the good guys in the first movie, and paid for his former life in Empire. Leia goes from being a leader of the rebellion in Star Wars to sitting out the last fight entirely in Jedi. It’s maybe okay for Han to stay where he is, but Leia‘s an easy fix: have her give the mission briefing instead of Mon Mothma. Then have her set up a radio on the moon during the fight and show her calling a few of the shots.

  6. This is a smaller gripe, but I’d have preferred Boba Fett to just not be in this movie at all rather than him to appear and die having done nothing at all. That’s part of a larger problem I have with Star Wars universe stuff is that Star Wars was so magical because of how it implied a larger, lived-in universe that we were only seeing one adventure from. Ben refers to the “Clone Wars” but we don’t know what it was (initially). Han pulled something over on Lando that caused bad blood but we aren’t told what. The point of these little throwaway references is to show that the characters had full lives before we tuned in. The need to explain everything cuts against this. So, just have Boba Fett be a cool bounty hunter guy we see in a few scenes. He doesn’t need to be important outside of his brief intersection with these characters unless he’s actually going to do something.

All of that said, I think little of it winds up mattering because the movie absolutely gets its main storyline right, which is Luke pursuing his destiny. The way that Luke assumes his role is to kill Vader (as do we, because that’s how action movies typically end), but comes to learn that to really be the good guy he has to resist vengeance, is a masterful story turn. To have a character win by embracing pacifism and saving the galaxy with love and hope is tremendous and totally allows me to overlook the film’s other flaws.

I‘m willing to look past a movie‘s flaws if it lands the right things. Black Panther‘s third act is rote “and then they fight,” but T‘Challa & N‘Jadaka‘s scene together redeems it. Return of the Jedi has tons of problems but Luke‘s pacifism & Vader‘s redemption kills.

And, like, they can’t all be Godfather II, obviously. Back to the Future II isn’t better than the first, but it justifies itself.

This year had a lot of sequels that were fine but didn’t exceed their originals by enough. Ralph Breaks the Internet, Mary Poppins Returns, Incredibles 2. All enjoyable but I wouldn’t miss any of them if they hadn’t been made.

I think DS9’s “The Siege of AR-558” falls short by trying to cram a Zulu-/Rio Bravo-style siege story into a one-hour television episode, but I was struck by how well Alexander Siddig has developed Julian’s competence and resolve over the course of the series. 🖖