Monday, April 30, 2018

"The Middle" by Maren Morris is Secretly About Domestic Violence

Conclusive proof the pop hit of the year is actually a paean to intimate partner abuse and alcoholism ...

By: Jimbo X

Unless you've been held against your will at a top secret black ops site since January, you've probably heard "The Middle," as an approximate count, 456,437 times over the last five months. 

The song is a top 40 pop staple, still getting regular rotation on most of America's pop stations. And, of course, it's also used as the soundtrack for those omnipresent Target commercials ... indeed, the same way 2012 was the year that gave us Sandy Hook and "Call Me Maybe," it's pretty much a given that we'll ultimately recall 2018 as "the one with the Florida high school shooting and that 'meet me in the middle' song."

It's no doubt a catchy little jingle. The byproduct of ex-country crooner Maren Morris (obviously trying to become the next Tay-Tay, even though she obviously doesn't have the chops/aesthetic appeal to aspire for such lofty heights) Zedd and Grey (I still don't know what those last two do, or even if they're singular or plural artists), I initially thought the track was just another, harmless, radio-friendly ode to how much a woman wants to fuck some dude's brains out (which, by the way, is about 90 percent of the stuff you hear on the radio nowadays ... what's that about the objectifying male gaze again?) Alas, after enough listens of the song, I've discovered two fairly shocking things about "The Middle." 

No. 1 — the song has the EXACT same "ticking clock" sound from "Stay"; and ...

No. 2 — it's not a randy hymn about the female libido whatsoever ... in fact, it's secretly a song about intimate partner violence.

You scoff? Well, popular music (hence, the term "pop music," in case you've ever wondered) has a LONG track record of befuddling people with sugar-coated but subversive messages. For example, people thought "Born in the U.S.A." was a loving homage to America, even though it was actually a song about how poorly Vietnam veterans were treated during the Reagan administration. Same thing with "The Freshman" and "Brick" — at the time, we all though they were heartfelt songs about breakups, when abstractly (and even more shockingly, withing the contextual confines of the lyrics themselves) they were actually about abortions.

The same way some insightful souls deduced "Complicated" by Avril Lavigne was actually about date rape, I've decided to go public with my revelations about the not-so-veiled deeper subtext of "The Middle." Let's cut away the happy, upbeat tempo and dissect the lyrics all by their lonesome, why don't we?

Take a seat
Right over there, sat on the stairs
Stay or leave
The cabinets are bare, and I'm unaware
Of just how we got into this mess, got so aggressive 
I know we meant all good intentions

So right off the bat we know what's really going on here. Obviously, we've got one domestic partner offering an ultimatum to the other one. When Maren says "the cabinets are bare," that allows us to deduce a focal point to their relationship woes. Her man works all day, and it's her job to take care of the house, which apparently, she's been neglecting to the point where she stopped buying groceries for the family. But that also offers a secondary meaning: that the cabinets are bare because they engaged in mutual combat and one of them got slung into the china cabinet, where ceramic plates and perhaps even a box of chocolate Lucky Charms were used as weaponry. The singer literally has no clue how such a minor squabble turned into an act of family violence, hence, the line about "good intentions." But as we will soon see, it's not like the singer is the most reliable of narrators here ... 

So pull me closer
Why don't you pull me close?
Why don't you come on over?
I can't just let you go
Oh baby, why don't you just meet me in the middle? 
I'm losing my mind just a little 
So why don't you just meet me in the middle? 
In the middle 
Baby, why don't you just meet me in the middle? 
I'm losing my mind just a little 
So why don't you just meet me in the middle? 
In the middle 

Now, the first time I heard this song, my thought was the same as yours. "Well, duh, it's another broad singing about how much she wants to fuck somebody." But the more I've listened to the song, I realize the singer isn't trying to seduce somebody, she's trying to bait him into a fucking fist fight. When she says "pull me close" and "meet me in the middle," she's not talking about making up or working out a compromise, she means she wants to throw elbows with some motherfucker. The singer even admits this want of domestic violence is irrational, hence the line "I'm losing my mind just a little." But that leaves a burning question: just why is Miss Morris so psychopathically enraged? Well, let's examine the lyrics a little deeper.

Ohh, take a step
Back for a minute, into the kitchen
Floors are wet
And taps are still running, dishes are broken
How did we get into this mess? Got so aggressive 
I know we meant all good intentions

So, why is the floor wet? Note, she never explicitly states what the floor is wet with, either. Now, we could attribute those broken dishes to the physical altercation from earlier, but why are the water taps still running? Well, it's a bit of a stretch, but here's my hypothesis: the floor is wet from the hard liquor the narrator spilled, who was attempting to clean out the evidence of her furtive alcoholism when her boyfriend/husband showed up and caught her in the act. This is something that's actually strongly implied in the next stanza:

Looking at you, I can't lie
Just pouring out admission
Regardless of my objection, oh, oh
And it's not about my pride
I need you on my skin 
Just come over, pull me in, just 

"Pouring out admission?" "It's not about my pride?" I mean, goddamn, she pretty much makes it textual right there. The singer is an alcoholic bitch whose addiction is ruining the family, and now she wants to engage in drunken fisticuffs with her significant other instead of come to terms with the fact she's a stinkin' drunk, deadbeat mom and piss poor spouse/girlfriend. Which, of course, leads back into one more go-through of the main chorus, which insinuates this kind of violent behavior is cyclical. By the end of the track , there is no resolution, just the recognition that the couple is stuck, perpetually, in the ... ahem ... Middle ... of a violent, alcohol-ravaged co-dependent situation.

Forget it, boys — this is about as far down the rabbit hole we can go with product placement.

Yeah, it's kind of hard to go back to bopping your head and tapping your toes to the rhythm after learning the song is really about an alcoholic domestic abuser, no? What's really amazing to me, though, is how seemingly nobody else has picked up on this, despite the lyrics themselves pretty much making it clear as day.

Which I suppose is just more proof that you can say anything in a song, and just as long as the chorus is catchy and the beat is groovy, nobody will even give a fuck what you're really singing about. I mean, shit, Jethro Tull wrote a song that was explicitly about a pedo creeping on young children at the park, and classic rock stations still play it a good 30 times a day. 

So yeah, I guess if nobody gives a damn about a Stone Temple Pilots song encouraging date rape a good 25 years down the road, I reckon no one will bat an eyelash about 2018's defining pop anthem being a ditty about spouse abuse and alcoholism. 

What a time to be alive — when the most popular track of the year makes both its superficial and contextual meaning about substance abuse and intimate partner violence apparent to anybody with a working hippocampus, but they have to subliminally sneak in a furtive department store ad at the ass-end of the official video.

And to think; there are some people out there who actually argue that ours isn't the greatest epoch in human history ...

Sunday, April 22, 2018

Comic Review: 'The Infinity Gauntlet' (1991)

Just in time for the much ballyhooed Avengers movie, The Internet Is In America reflects on one of the most important crossover events in comic book history

By: Jimbo X

In just a few days Infinity War is going to be released, and odds are it'll shatter all-time Hollywood box office records. Indeed, the over/under right now is actually plus a good $100-$200 million that it will break the all-time record for highest-grossing film in Hollywood history. Indeed, if the movie doesn't hit at least $2 billion in global ticket sales it would be considered a huge surprise.

You don't need me to add any more fuel to the conflagration of hype. By now, we all know the story of how the suits at Disney brilliantly turned their standalone movies into one gigantic, interconnected uber-franchise the likes of which filmdom has never seen before, and for better or for worse, Infinity War represents the endpoint of what started ten years ago with Iron Man. This is the carefully laid out culmination of ten years' worth of behind-the-scenes planning and you better believe Disney is throwing out everything they've got on this one. They've probably spent a billion dollars making and marketing this motherfucker, and they fully expect to recoup their investments and then some. Everything Justice League wasn't, this sumbitch is going to be — needless to say, it's going to be a long time before we see a Hollywood production with THIS much hullabaloo heading into its release.

Now, while the movie is called Infinity War, from what I've gathered the flick isn't really based upon the comic of the same name, but its predecessor from 1991, The Infinity Gauntlet, which even now remains one of the most revered and celebrated crossover spectacles in comic book history.

Now THAT is how you make a
crossover feel like a truly special
And for good reason. While Marvel characters had teamed up many teams before in earlier comics (The Secret Wars being perhaps the most noteworthy example), The Infinity Gauntlet upped the ante by increasing the scale to cosmological levels. This wasn't just Spider-Man and Thor teaming up to fight Dr. Doom, this was goddamn everybody in the Marvel Universe coming together to take on a dude who had godlike powers and was on a suicide mission to literally kill every living thing in the universe. Not only did you have heavies like Dr. Strange, The Hulk and Galactus getting in on the action, you even had the rarely seen Celestial characters like Eternity and The Living Tribunal entering the fray to mix shit up. Nobody had really tried doing a crossover event that big before, and to be frank, I don't think anybody has done it as well ever since.

Written by Jim Starlin (the guy who pretty much single-handedly created the "space opera" side of the Marvel universe through his work on Silver Silver and Captain Marvel) and drawn by George (The New motherfuckin' Teen Titans, ya'll) Perez — with utterly fantastic inking from Josef Rubinstein and Tom Christopher — there's no denying Infinity Gauntlet is a worthwhile read, if just for the trippy-as-fuck, hyper-colorful artwork.

But in case you haven't read the thing before heading into the big Avengers movie ... and for some stupid ass-reason you can't find the fucker online ... old Jimbo is here for you to fill in the blanks. Grab yourselves a nice, cold cola and prop up your legs, folks — here's the Internet Is In America-approved CliffsNotes version of the epic mini-series.

Alright, issue one. Mephisto (that's Marvel's pseudo-family-safe way of saying "Satan") is sucking up to Thanos. To pay tribute to his divine powers, Mephisto makes a giant space rock statue saying "God" — which Thanos immediately crumbles into dust using his Infinity Gauntlet powers.

We cut to Doctor Strange, who detects someone is trying to break into his mansion. As it turns out, it's a half-dead Silver Surfer who just crashed through his roof, warning him of Thanos' plans to take over Earth. Surfer gives us the backstory on Thanos; the living embodiment of Death was a little miffed that there were more people alive than who had ever died on the planet, so she decided to resurrect Thanos from the dead and give him godlike powers to "balance out the equation."

Then we cut to a trio of hoods (Jake Miller, Ralph Bunker and Bambi Long) knocking off a liquor store, killing the clerk and accidentally driving their car off a cliff and killing themselves. Huh. That seems like a really, really random thing to include. Surely, we won't be revisiting this seeming aside a little later in the series, will we?

Surfer continues to recount his ass kicking from Thanos to Strange. He says he and Drax the Destroyer LITERALLY had their souls stolen by Thanos and banished to "the metaphysical world of the soul gem." Apparently, Adam Warlock is the President of Soul-World and returned Surfer and the Destroyer to their corporeal existences. Surfer also implies that Mephisto TOLD him that Thanos was coming, which I guess makes him a turncoat. Anyhoo, Thanos goes to Death-World and asks Lady Death if she's forgiven him for stealing the Infinity Gems and she just walks off and he looks all forlorn and Mephisto says he doesn't deserve to be treated any such a way.

OK, back to some guy smoking a cigar talking about the car crash from earlier. Well, SOME kind of celestial intervention resurrected the trio from the dead, and that Jake guy apparently has the ability to control matter now. That Ralph guy is all mutated and burned up like that one dude in Robocop, while that one chick is literally turning green.

Meanwhile, Mephisto keeps sucking up to Thanos and it seems like he's cooking up some plan to cajole him out of his powers at some point. Meanwhile, Thanos is still severely pussy-whipped over Death, who doesn't love him back even though he's the supreme being of the universe. As one of Death's servants so eloquently puts it: "you love is bondage," to which Thanos retorts "my love is worship!" So Thanos builds this giant crystal space temple and asks Death to be his co-pilot in dealing destruction throughout the cosmos, but she still rejects him. Then Mephisto gets in his ear and tells him if he REALLY wants to impress her, he's got to REALLY up the body count. And, of course, he is MORE than willing to oblige. But first, he tries to impress her by showing the zombified remains of his granddaughter, Nebula, whom Thanos describes as a "tribute to the blasphemy of life and the glorious promise of death." That STILL doesn't impress Death, though, so Thanos gets pissed and causes one of her servants to explode. Then Thanos remembers "hey, wait a minute, the whole reason she brought me back was to kill half the universe, so I better get to killing half the universe then." To which Mephisto replies: "He's really going to do it" with a GREAT "oh shit" look on his face.

Hmm ... two black people, being rescued while one of Trump's hotels gets decimated in a tidal wave. I wonder if Starlin and Perez knew what kind of connotation the future political landscape in America would give this one in hindsight?

Thanos snaps his fingers and we cut to Spider-Man looking down on Times Square. All of a sudden, half the people on the city streets vanish, just like the biblical Rapture, and everybody starts freaking out. Then Spider-Man starts freaking out thinking about Mary Jane, and that's our cue to take a tour of the expanded Marvel Universe, and we get to see frenzied reaction shots from Captain America, Nick Fury (back when he was still white) and The Incredible Hulk, among others. We also learn that half the animal life on the planet has disappeared, too, which I guess would wreak havoc on the going rate for prime rib. But I digress, and wildly.

Then we cut to the Titans (and no, not the ones from Tennessee, either), who fittingly enough, live on Saturn's moon, Titan. For those not in the know, they're kind of like an Outer Space Thanos-monitoring service. And, uh, they're watching ALF, for whatever reason. We learn that mysterious disappearances are happening on alien worlds too, and then that one fat dude who got killed in a car wreck and resurrected walks into his partner's hotel room and now he's in a giant beehive. Uh ... the fuck. Naturally, that's our cliffhanger transition to issue two.

Thor, She-Hulk and the Vision are trying to keep planes from falling out of the sky and Quasar is ... umm, doing whatever Quasar is supposed to do, I guess. Meanwhile, the Skrulls think the Krees are responsible for the disappearances, so they're both gearing up for a huge outer space war. Meanwhile, Adam Warlock tries to take over Doctor Strange's soul, and Dr. Doom is all shades of pissed that somebody is actually outdoing him in the whole giga-death thing.

Then Thanos abducts his brother Eros and makes his mouth disappear, just because he can. 

Captain America gives us an update on the disappearing heroes, and the list includes such five-star F-listers as Makkari, Marvel Boy, Night Thrasher and Windshear. Meanwhile, Thor kvetches about the rest of the group finding out he's not the "real" Thor, but I have no idea what the fuck he's talking about there. Meanwhile, Odin calls a council of "the Sky Fathers" — including Osiris, Zeus and Nuada — and they all decide to join forces to resist Thanos' invasion.
Fuck, man, can't we get Perez to draw
everything Marvel related from now on?

Quasar is still flying around the cosmos looking for something, and we learn that short, fat cigar-smoking dude from earlier is actually Pip the Troll and, what do you know, he's watching ALF, too. Goodness gracious, what was it with Jim Starlin and ALF, anyway?

Dr. Doom breaks into Strange's house and subdues the owner before blasting the Surfer. Then ADAM WARLOCK shows up and that gets everybody's attention and then we cut back to Thanos in his outer space death ship. Eros thinks aloud that maybe all of that limitless power has driven Thanos insane, thus earning him the "No Shit, Sherlock" award of all-time ever in history.

Adam Warlock proposes he, Doom, Strange and the Surfer form an alliance as "the forces of reason" and Thanos gets so pissed Death won't smile at him that he makes a fucking red giant explode. Which kind of pisses off Galactus because he was about to eat it, but even *he* knows not to fuck with Thanos when he's this powerful. 

We cut to Cloak bemoaning how lost he is without Dagger by his side (by the way, I strongly encourage you to listen to while reading this ... the mood it establishes is almost too perfect.) Elsewhere, Wolverine saves a woman from being crushed by a falling building and Iron Man watches the ENTIRE West Coast of the U.S. crumble into the ocean.

Then Namorita saves a young black couple in Atlantic City from a mile high tsunami, and of course, one of Trump's hotels gets swept away in the tidal wave. And Thor flies over what remains of Japan ... which is fucking nothing whatsoever. The "Fantastic Four" of Strange, Doom, Surfer and Warlock step outside and the entire neighborhood is destroyed. Pip says something must have really tee'd off the gods and Warlock responds by saying something to the effect of "exactly." 

Issue three begins. Thanos STILL isn't getting no Death pussy and a scientist tells Fury that the Earth has been knocked off its orbit and is slowly drifting away from the sun. Then Warlock and company teleport into Avengers' headquarters and starts assembling a superhero mega-team to go toe-to-toe with Thanos. We've got 'em all joining the fray: Wolverine, Drax the Destroyer (who, instead of being autistic like he is in the movies, is just canonically stupid), Firelord, Spider-Man and ... Nova. One of these, clearly, is not like the other.

If you don't want this is a four-foot-wide poster in your bedroom, you are the definition of soy.

We cut to Moon Night, of all fucking people, watching the Brooklyn Bridge burning to the ground. Then Surfer and Warlock head out into the vastness of the cosmos to assemble the rest of their team, which includes the Watcher, the Stranger, the physical embodiment of Love and Hate, Galactus and even The Living Tribunal himself, who is canonically the most powerful being in the Marvel universe, to the point he pretty much could be considered the "God" of Marvel-dom. Alas, the Tribunal, Eternity and the Watcher all tell Warlock they're not going to participate in the big battle, and Galactus tries to zap Warlock but he no-sells it.

Meanwhile Iron Man almost gets into it with Dr. Doom but Captain America breaks up the scuffle, then the Watcher just hoovers over Thanos' compound staring at him in what WOULD'VE been one of the greatest scenes in movie history had the MCU taken a more direct approach to its cinematic source material. 

Warlock tells Hulk and Wolverine to "sanction" Thanos because all of the other superheroes are too pussy to try to kill him, then Thanos summons Terraxia the Terrible to make out with him in front of Death to make her jealous, but she doesn't even bat an eye and that makes Thanos even more furious than ever.

Then the siege on Thanos' compound begins and Warlock tells Surfer he KNOWS they're all going to die but he led them into their demises on purpose so it would buy him a distraction. 

Cue issue four (which features a great cover of Thanos standing in the middle of the emptiness of space, saying "Come and Get Me!" like he has the biggest damn dick in the universe.)

BTW, Ron Lim is doing some pencils on this one. 
I honestly have no clue what's
supposed to be going on, but man,
does it look awesome.

"What good is godhood if you have no audience to flaunt it before," Eros describes Thanos' mentality. Then Mephisto gets in Thanos' ear and tells him to use his godlike abilities to allow the heroes a .05 percent chance of victory to make himself look braver in Death's eyes. So basically, he's still all-powerful, but he doesn't know his enemies' next attack for the big battle.

Hulk and Drax double team Thanos and send him reeling with a sneak attack (this part HAS to be in the movie.)

Thanos kills Namor and She-Hulk with some sort of outer space fungus cocoon. Then Thanos liquifies Wolverine's bones with a bear hug. Scarlet Witch gets vaporized. He suffocates Cyclops by making a giant glass box materialize over his head and he yanks the circuitry right out of The Vision's chest. And Thor reverts back to human form and suffocates in the cold, blackness of the universe. Oh, by the way, the heroes have 60 minutes to finish off Thanos or else they'll lose their ability to breathe in space. So, the clock, it doth continue to tick.

Cloak sucks Thanos into the nightmare dimension in his chest, but he quickly explodes his way out. Meanwile, Terraxia yanks Iron Man's head off. Thanos sends Firelord and Drax back to the prehistoric ages through a time portal and Thor finally gets his hammer back, thus resurrecting him. Alas, before he can land the death blow, Thanos turns him into glass, Spider-Man calls Terraxia a bimbo and Nova gets turned into a pile of Lego (no, for real.) Then Thanos shatters Thor and makes Quasar's hands explode. That leaves Captain America as the sole survivor against Thanos. Right before Thanos delivers the death strike, Silver Surfer and Warlock rush in to make the save.

Unfortunately, the Surfer misses yanking off Thanos' gauntlet by >>>this much<<< and Thanos drops Cap dead with one mighty bitch slap. And that's when Warlock calls in the infantry — a whole fucking cadre of Celestials, including Eternity and Galactus!

Time for issue five. Ron Lim has taken over full penciling details from George Perez, by the way.

Personally, I always liked Drax the Destroyer when he looked like the Green Goblin on HGH instead of Kratos' autistic nephew.

So Doctor Strange is playing armchair general in some far away galaxy while Annihilus invades an iced over Earth. Meanwhile, Death saves Eros from getting sucked into a black hole and the Surfer and Warlock have to outrun the universe literally collapsing. Chronos tries to bury Thanos UNDER time, but since one of his gems gives him mastery of time itself, the narrator (The Watcher?) says "it be like striving to drown an ocean."

Then Lord Order and Master Chaos try to rip Thanos in two. Then Mistress Love and Sire Hate tag team him, and Mephisto FINALLY takes the initiative and tries to steal the Gauntlet from Thanos, but he's saved by Mistress Death at the last second. Then Thanos and Eternity get into it and when they start scrapping a fucking white light takes over half the universe. Warlock and Surfer teleport back to Strange's stronghold, and The Watcher waxes philosophical on tyrants: "The nature of energy is to disperse. The nature of despots is to contain. Conflicting tendencies."

Then Thanos BEATS Eternity in battle and traps all the other Celestials in a giant outer space snow globe. Per The Watcher, Thanos is now "the center of all reality in this sphere."

And then, out of nowhere, fucking Nebula yanks off Thanos' gauntlet and makes Terraxia explode. She quickly reverts back into non-zombie form and tells Thanos the one thing she wants more than anything in this universe — REVENGE on his big purple ass.

So Warlock teleports Thanos into Strange's living room and Surfer immediately goes in for the kill so Strange has to call in Hulk, Thor, Dr. Doom, Drax and Firelord to break up the scuffle.

Then Warlock tells Thanos he will help him defeat Nebula, and he has no choice because he was inside the Soul Gem while Thanos wore it and he knows everything that lurks inside his heart, and he KNOWS that Thanos feels himself unworthy and allowed himself to lose the Cosmic Cube to Captain Marvel and that he even subconsciously allowed Nebula to steal one of the Gauntlets, so he agrees to team with Warlock to retrieve the other one.
One of about 20 or so panels in the series that
should be laminated and hung in the
National Archives one day.

Anyway, Nebula traps Doom and company in this weird kind of crystal trap. Then the unlikely trifecta of Thanos, Surfer and Warlock show up, and it's time for the FINAL CONFRONTATION, motherfuckers.

Issue six. Nebula users her gauntlet powers to bring everyone back to life and she keeps Thanos trapped inside a crystal barricade. Then right when Nebula is going in for the kill shot, the cosmic beings return and literally fracture her out of reality. 

Warlock and Surfer wake up in Soul World. Galactus and the rest of the Celestials pretty much gang bang Nebula with all of their power concentrated at once. Then Warlock takes command of the universe itself and freaks Nebula out so she drops the gauntlet, then everybody makes a mad scramble for the Gauntlets, with EVERYBODY trying to make sure Thanos doesn't slip it back on. Adam Warlock winds up possessing it, and he promises to wield it responsibly and everybody just kind of looks at him like "you know, I think I'll trust this motherfucker for some reason."

To thwart being defeated, Thanos detonates a nuclear bomb timer on his belt and Thor grand slams that motherfucker halfway across the galaxy like he was Marth in that one baseball event in Super Smash Bros. Melee. So Surfer and pals question Warlock's intentions, and he says something about why are they more terrified of an orderly universe than the celestial chaos they've been living under, and then he blinks himself, Gamora and Pip the Elf off to some faraway planet, where Thanos now lives on a small farm with his old costume set up as a scarecrow in front of a field. Pip asks Warlock why he doesn't just destroy Thanos right then and there and he says something to the effect of the universal mosaic requires every piece, and as much as thy may hate it, Thanos certainly serves an important part in the grand order.

And the whole shindig concludes with Thanos lamenting his newfound status as a dirt farmer in the asshole end of the universe, reflecting on the irony that the dude who wanted NO power whatsoever ended up with the most powerful weapon in the universe. And he concludes the saga with the absolutely PERFECT set-up for a sequel  —it's a single panel shot of Thanos smirking, saying he KNOWS he got the better end of the deal than Warlock did.

Yep. At one point, comic book writers actually knew how to do subtle sequel hooks.

Which allows us to circle back to Infinity War, the movie, for a moment. You know, for a character who has been built up as fucking death incarnate for ten years, the MCU really hasn't done a lot to explain who or what Thanos is. We'll just have to wait and see how the movies present him and lay out his modus operandi, but in this particular comic, they give him one of the most ingenious origin stories of any villain I've seen.

Thanos isn't some power-hungry space Pol Pot; instead, he's a dude who is literally out to kill the whole universe because he can't get out of the friend zone. To me, that makes way more sense than some guy trying to take over the universe to satiate his ego, or bring some sort of purity to the natural order. He's just a dude who loved this one bitch so much that he was willing to become the most powerful being in the universe to impress her, but even that couldn't win her heart. So what the fuck else do you expect a heartbroken dude with no hope and godlike powers to eventually end up doing? Shit, I am convinced that's the exact same thing that happened to Hitler and Stalin. One day, they realized some broad would never love them as much as they loved her, and so, all of that emotional hurt manifest itself in an outward need to wreak as much havoc as (in)humanly possible. That's such a better M.O. than just saying the asshole is pure-D evil and wants to control everything because of a God complex; we'll see if the MCU goes that route for the big movie (probably, with Hela as a substitute for Miss Grim Reaper), but personally, I'm doubting it.

Whether or not Infinity War winds up a colossal disappointment (although it's almost certainly going to be a financial dynamo), at least we've got this outstanding six-part epic to give us what we truly want as crossover-craving comic book fans. It's long enough to give the characters plenty of pathos and room to develop, but it's not lengthy enough to drag on too long and introduce too many plot twists and deus ex machina components just to keep the thing chugging along. People tend to sleep on just how solid early 1990s Marvel was, and if you haven't caught this one before, definitely do your damnedest to give it a glance before you check out the new movie; not only will it give you a pretty good taste of what to expect in the de facto live-action adaptation, Jim Starlin's zeitgeist-defying, decidedly un-cucked approach to the space opera formula will probably be about 50 times better than whatever form the movie ultimately resembles.

And if for that reason alone, you NEED to read this motherfucker, at some point in your comic book-ing sojourns.

Friday, April 20, 2018

Comic Review: The Infamous "Leaves of Grass" Batman Story Arc!

What better way to celebrate 4/20 than a special three-part series in which Batman beats the shit out of drug dealers and the Floronic Man tries to take over the world by getting the entire planet hooked on super-weed?

By: Jimbo X

It's 4/20, ya'll, which means it's my proud obligation to highlight Hitler's birthday

No, wait, that's not it. What's the motif I capitalize/exploit around this time each year? Oh yeah, that's right — Columbine.

No, damn it, that's not right, either. Oh, OK, I recall now. It's 4/20, which is basically an unofficial holiday dedicated to marijuana users, who — as we all know by now — are pretty
much my LEAST favorite kind of people on the planet

Considering how much stupid shit "weed culture" has given us (Sublime, Seth Rogen's entire filmography, the entire existence of Kevin Smith), pretty much the ONLY positive thing I can say about weed is that it, by default, gave us a ton of great anti-marijuana propaganda over the years, running the gamut from Reefer Madness to The Goddamn Motherfuckin' Flintstones Kids bringing in Michael Jackson to tell the young 'uns not to puff on the sticky green.

And the medium of comic books is no different. Just take a gander at "Leaves of Grass," a special, three-issue run of Batman: Shadow of the Bat from late 1996, which tried to toe a very fine line between being anti-weed agitprop and stealth pro-weed propaganda. Of course, with Warner Bros. telling the writers that they couldn't have Batman just come out and say "yeah, I don't give a fuck if you smoke pot," they kinda' had to sneak in the pro-legalization snark, all while hammering out the official D.C. party line that "drugs = fucking bad" as bluntly as possible. 

So, yeah, you had a bunch of C-tier writers and artists given three issues to impossibly churn out sequential art agitprop anchored around two diametrically opposed perspectives. Oh, you better believe this shit is all kinds of awkward right here — in short, making it absolutely perfect reading for both decent human beings and shameful, irredeemable cannabis-junkies alike. 

Issue one starts off innocuously enough, with this one drug dealer peddling super-weed to a high schooler. Of course, Batman shows up to bemoan Gotham's "drug war," monologuing about how some new supplier is flooding the street with GENETICALLY MODIFIED chiba that's twice as potent as regular pot but available at only half the street value. 

Naturally, the decrease in ratweed revenue is causing Gotham's normal old drug dealers to turn on one anther, leading to a scene where these two identical blonde bimbos in ridiculously impractical leather costumes show up and beat the shit out of some Dagos while they call them "wacko dames" and "witches" as family-friendly acceptable euphemisms for "cunts" and "bitches." Oh, and the best part is their names are Holly and ... wait for it... EVA GREEN. Holy shit, ya'll ... predictive programming totally IS a thing, after all!

I wouldn't mind seeing *her* twin peaks, if
you catch my drift (and if you don't, I mean her
exposed, bare breasts.)
Next scene, some psychologist brings Poison Ivy some flowers and she kinda sorta makes some sort of sexual advance towards him, then she starts saying she can "read" a secret message in the bouquet, so — in a rare example of professional competence in a comic book — the psychologist REFUSES to hand the flowers over the Ivy and confiscates them instead.

Now we travel to Gotham High, and Tim Drake catches a couple of kids smoking some sticky green so he admonishes them. One dude with a mullet says tobacco, booze and guns are legal and cause way more death and destruction than marijuana, so why SHOULDN'T he be allowed to puff on some Mary Jane whenever he wanted? Cue the character immediately taking a Three Stooges pratfall and calling Tim a "fascist" for not sparking a fatty with him.

Drake talks to Bruce about the incident and he tells them to report the whole lot of them to the school administrators. Robin doesn't want them to get expelled, and says that none of them are technically bad kids. But Batman being Batman, he flat-out tells his understudy he doesn't give a shit what happens to them, rule-breakers of all varieties must be punished, god-damn-it.

Meanwhile, those leather-clad bimbos from earlier break into Arkham while an unseen narrator gives us the quick and dirty Poison Ivy origin story, complete with a great paragraph about Dr. Woodrue's experiments turning Ivy into a woman with a "deep, never-satisfied need to dominate men." 

Then Batman beats up a couple of more Wops and he fucking KILLS two weed dealers by ramming the Batmobile into them while in remote control mode and Commissioner Gordon wonders aloud if maybe it would just be easier to LEGALIZE the weed rather than keep going after all these damned old drug dealers.

The two bimbos spring Ivy from Arkham, they take her to a secret bunker to show her "their boss" and Ivy tries to poison them through the pores on her arm, but before she can drop those skanks dead, a whole bunch of vines grab her, she says "you!" and ... comic's over. Well, how about that.

Alright, issue two. The splash page reveals the person who "rescued" Ivy is none other than Jason Woodrue, who is literally just an old man's head on a tree trunk with what appears to be wooden titties. 

Harvey Bullock and this other investigator scour Arkham for clues and even though there's a giant fucking vine popping out of the ground, they both lament a lack of "leads." Which has to be sarcastic, right? Meanwhile, Batman collects some grass clippings and we cut back to Floronic Man showing Ivy his secret basement lair. Woodrue promises Ivy $10 million for her help, and then he goes on a LONG tirade about how he had to stop Swamp Thing from killing every living thing on Earth and how he was forced to guard Swamp Thing's daughter and fucked that up so they put his head on a platter and this one fat black dude kept blowing weed smoke in his face, which apparently turned him into a weed-addicted megalomaniac.

So he shows Ivy his secret lab, where's he growing a literal FOREST of weed. "Unlike most villains, I don't want to rule the world," he says. "I only want to get it stoned!" He says he's hired a bunch of mole-men to harvest the crops so that's reduced unemployment, and because the weed is so cheap it's stopped organized crime from getting their hands in it, so technically, he's doing Gotham a social service. Oh, and he also said he wants to get Ivy pregnant. More on that in just a bit.

Back to Gotham High, where that one guy with the mullet is STILL talking about how great weed is. Meanwhile Batman analyzes some bat crap from the crime scene and Robin deduces it probably came from the abandoned subway system, which, as it turns out, is EXACTLY where Woodrue's keeping his weed forest. Batman goes to investigate, while Robin decides to call it a night "for personal reasons."

So Woodrue is drawing Ivy's blood, which he plans on using to create an army of Ivies ... or some shit like that, it's hard to remember, really.

Batman goes into the tunnel, and as Batman oft does, he beats the shit out of poor people who have turned to illegal activities as the only means of keeping themselves financially solvent. Then, one of Robin's dorky friends tries weed for the first time, and for some mysterious reason, it makes him go CRAZY as a motherfucker.
Villain tries to take over world by making
everybody relaxed through chemical means;
therefore, Batman must electrocute the
motherfucker and cut his fucking head
off three pages later.

Cut back to Woodrue and Ivy. Floronic Man says that with his army of Ivies, "hemp will rule the world," and that's when the two leather broads drag in a DEFEATED Batman ... which, of course, is our cue to end the issue.

Time for the third and final installment of the story. Tim's buddy is having a super-dope freakout and thinks an alien/dinosaur hybrid is going to eat him, while Floronic Man gives Batman the old overly-long villainy lecture about how his weed is going to save the world (complete with the unseen narrator giving us a whole bunch of Wikipedia-like quick facts on the chemistry behind and the historical cultivation of marijuana) and then Poison Ivy kisses Batman and she turns on Woodrue and apparently Batman is under Ivy's control and she commands him to beat the shit out of Floronic Man, because she's good at three-dimensional chess like that.

Except Batman isn't really under Ivy's spell, he's beating the fuck out of Woodrue just because he wants to, ultimately deep frying him on an open electrical grid and DECAPITATING the motherfucker. All the while, the narrator keeps droning on and on about how Ben Franklin grew weed and the "tabloid press" rallied to make hemp illegal, ultimately concluding with a quip about how 400,000 Americans were arrested for marijuana possession - which to me sounds like some Ava DuVarney quality shit, but I'm too lazy to do the fact checking on recreational drug stats presented by a 25 year old comic book.

Then Tim goes to check on his friend at the hospital and the doctor, for no reason whatsoever, tells him that marijuana DOES have medical use for treating M.S., but good luck getting funding for it when all those punk teens like him are smoking it while watching Rick and Morty.

Then Batman gets into a fight with those two blonde dominatrixes from earlier and he KNOCKS THEM THE FUCK OUT with one punch each and it's fucking great. Then Ivy makes off with Woodrue's loot, and Batman can't do shit because apparently Ivy hocked a time-release poison into Bat's mouth when she snogged him earlier and now he's paralyzed for about an hour.

Afterwards, Batman runs into Commissioner Gordon, who says that while Floro's weed was on the streets, muggings and armed robberies were down but mental hospital visits spiked 20 percent. Then Tim gets his opportunity to lecture the class on the ills of weed addiction and everybody in the class claps for him after he says "I want my mind in the best possible condition - the way it's meant to be" — complete with a downright goofy final panel showing Tim with his head down while a ghostly silhouette of Robin flutters behind him, with the caption "Sometimes being a hero just isn't enough." Yeah, a pretty shitty way to end the arc, TBH. But on the plus side? Apparently, the next issue had The Ventriloquist in it, and come on, who doesn't fucking love The Ventriloquist?

Not since Viva Knievel have I seen an anti-drug speech so moving and eloquent...

In case you were wondering (and fuck it, I know none of you were wondering), the writer of the arc is a dude named Alan Grant, which I'm pretty sure is also the name of Sam Neil's character in Jurassic Park, which I guess is kinda' funny. The penciler was David Taylor and the inker was Stan Woch, and if you give a damn that David Taylor and/or Stan Woch worked on this series, congratulations on being either David Taylor and/or Stan Woch and absolutely nobody else in the universe.

All in all, I thought it wasn't a bad little arc, to be honest with you, fam. Yes, it was cheesy and corny and felt compromised as all fuck, but the writing was mostly solid and the thing was just tongue-in-cheek enough to avoid the holier-than-thou pitfalls of most anti-drug propaganda from the epoch. They at least tried to approach the issue of marijuana use from both sides, with Tim Drake representing our conflicted Hegelian synthesis, so to speak. I guess you could argue that all of the other characters came off as painfully one-dimensional, but eh, it's a mid-90s D.C. comic that wasn't published under the Vertigo banner and wasn't called "Hitman" or "Major Bummer" — what da fuq did ya expect?

Of course, outside of the incredibly iffy attempt to "delicately" tackle what was then a very polarizing social issue, there's not a whole lot to say about the "Leaves of Grass" arc. It's not bad, it's not good, it's just a weird, clumsy attempt to get as much mileage out of a hot button social issue as possible without ruffling the feathers of anybody on either side of debate. You can certainly go an entire lifetime never reading it and being 100 percent satisfied with your life choices, but if you squander an hour or so churning through it over your next couple of shits, it's no big loss, either.

I hate to use such a base term, but this series truly is what it is. You know exactly what to expect heading into it, and you get EXACTLY what you'd expect to get out of it.

Still, you gotta' give D.C. a little credit here — they certainly handled the perils of substance abuse angle a lot better than Marvel did when they turned Captain America into a fucking meth addict for a single issue. That's for damned sure.

Sunday, April 15, 2018

What WrestleRama Means to Me

In  a special guest article, "Cannonball" Alex Steele tells you why you SHOULD be beyond pumped for this Sunday's WrestleRama spectacular. Never heard of it? Well, read on to find out what you've been missing out on ...

By: "Cannonball" Alex Steele

Howdy ho, folks. It's your friendly neighborhood Jimbo here, welcoming you to yet another SPECIAL EDITION GUEST COLUMN. This time around, we'll be puttin' the spotlight on the work of longtime IIIA reader and ally "Cannonball" Alex Steele, who is here today to talk about this one indie 'rasslin federation in Michigan that's about to have some kind of super-show that's 104 percent guaranteed to blow your freakin' mind on Sunday. But yeah, he knows more about what he's talking about than I do, so how about we turn this website over to him just a 'lil bit and let him have his say, why don't we? [Jimbo, momentarily out.]

The biggest show of the year. The "Granddaddy of them All." Our Super Bowl, our Stanley Cup; each of these phrases denotes the centerpiece event, date, or otherwise centrally focused object of a company, a sports team and in today’s case, wrestling promotions.

Professional wrestling (or, as it’s called these days, “sports entertainment," a term I personally detest but ultimately recognize as the proper term) has been an art form that is now, and has always been, near and dear to my heart. I didn’t grow up in the '80s with the rest of the Hulkamaniacs, I didn’t grow up with the birth and early days of Monday Night Raw, and I didn’t grow up with the the millions (AND MILLIONS!) of The Rock’s fans in the late '90s; my first experiences in the world of pro wrestling took place in the 2000s, at the very tail end of the Monday Night Wars and the Attitude Era. And the one era that I was able to take to heart and truly admire and adore was the Ruthless Aggression Era ... the era where one John Cena dared to answer the challenge of a newly bald Kurt Angle on SmackDown. The era where Chris Benoit (may God damn his soul) won the World Heavyweight Championship and took part in my still-to-this-day-all-time-favorite moment when he embraced his great friend, Eddie Guerrero (may God bless and rest his soul). The era where I fully believed that hard work would eventually pay off. The era where the matches were far more competitive and more sport-like than the Crash TV, puppies and garbage wrestling, Springer-esque content of the Attitude Era.

So, yeah, I’m a Ruthless Aggression fan. It’s what I grew up with; deal with it.

One thing I did have in common with my older peers that grew up in the '80s and '90s, however, was that WrestleMania was THE biggest show of the year, hands down. Sure, there was Starrcade, but the WWF had most of my attention. I didn’t even know WCW truly existed until right before it went out of business (and then I read the great book “The Death of WCW” by Bryan Alvarez and R.D. Reynolds to get caught up on what I’d missed.)

WrestleMania XX had my favorite line of all time:

“Where it all begins. Again.”

Now, I know you’re looking at the title of this essay and you’re thinking “waitaminute, buddy, ya spelled WrestleMania wrong, ya jerk!” And my response is “hey, pipe down, grasshopper.”

Because WWE has WrestleMania. WCW had Starrcade. ECW had Barely Legal [Jimbo exercising editorial authority here — I'd argue November 2 Remember was ECW's annual marquee show, but what the hell ever — THNX, MGMT.] TNA/Impact Wrestling has Bound for Glory. ROH has Final Battle. New Japan has the Tokyo Dome show on January 4.

The way indie rasslin' ought to be, by Job.

The Michigan Wrestling Organization has WrestleRama.

For those of you not in the know (most likely ALL of you), the Michigan Wrestling Organization is a local promotion based out of Southeast Michigan, serving the Flint, Fenton and Burton areas for over 20 years. We’ve also had shows out in Battle Creek and the suburban Detroit area. It is a promotion that is very near and dear to my heart, and not just because it is one of only two promotions with which I currently participate in the art and the sport of pro wrestling. This promotion runs things very differently than other indie feds in the area, (dare I say, even the country); in the MWO, we are one big family.

Like any family, we have disagreements and drama every once in a while. But for every one of those moments, there are tons more moments where everyone is on the same page, and everyone has the same goal in mind: put on a PPV-quality show. And WrestleRama is our biggest show of the year, where story lines culminate, new stars are made and existing stars are transitioned to legendary status.

Whether it was the Blue Bomber (no, he didn’t have a Mega Buster on his arm) winning the MWO Heavyweight Championship and then unmasking to reveal Pure Fury Jeff Clouse, or Skullz returning to answer the challenge of the monster known as Blackwell or guys like “The Flatliner” Scotty Fraytown and “Old School” Ric Caurdiea tearing the house down with a match for the ages, the fact remains that WrestleRama has more than its fair share of (kayfabe) drama and action to captivate fans of all ages and all types.

Every year, when WrestleRama season approaches, I get excited. The anticipation is palpable. I get excited for my comrades as they get to live out stories they’ve planned out for months and months. I get excited for the fans that know — ABSOLUTELY know — they’re getting the best show of the year.

As of this writing, WrestleMania has come and gone, and many have gone on to say it was one of the best 'Manias in recent history (and scores of other indie nerds have taken the company to task for its perplexing booking). Go ahead and relive it on the WWE Network, or take time to indulge in its rich history via the WWE Network or tapes you have lying around at home.

On Sunday, April 22, 2018, at the Richfield Road Church in Flint, Mich., the men and women of the Michigan Wrestling Organization will be putting in the work to make OUR show the best damn show it can possibly be. And if you’re in the area, come check it out. You won’t be disappointed.

In the meantime, I’ll be sitting here, dreaming my dreams and planning for my WrestleRama moment, whatever it may be, in hopes that, one day, it will come. And I hope that, when it does, it will be because I earned it.

Here are some links in case you’re interested:

I have no idea who these two people are, but I already like both of them more than Roman Reigns.

Alright, Jimbo back in the pilot seat here. For the record, no, Michigan Wrestling Organization did not pay for this article to run, but if they would like to promote their fine, outstanding product on this website that gets in excess of 100,000 views a month from all over the world [HINT, HINT] I would totally be cool with giving them some online advertising space for a nominal fee. Just an idea, I'm throwing out guys. A really, really sound, financially-beneficially idea.

Once again, we here at The Internet Is In America would like to remind our readers that we are continuing to accept articles under our OFFICIAL IIIA Writer Apprenticeship Program (WAP.) Whether you're a professional writer or some fledgling scribe, if you want your work circulated to a (considerably) wider audience, by all means feel free to send your submissions on over right here. As long as your stuff is good, reasonably written and devoid of anything too bat-shit biased, odds are we'll run it. Hell, Old Jimbo might even give you a pointer or two on the craft while he's at it, or maybe even a job recommendation, if you play your cards right.

Oh, and I'll host your advertisements, too. Did I mention that earlier? Because I totally mean it.