A fantastic ride: Star Wars returns to Marvel comics

A New Hope Above: Skottie Young painting that will be used as a series of variant covers for new Star Wars series launching this year at Marvel.

Last week, Marvel comics launched the first title in their revamped Star Wars line. In the early days of the franchise Marvel was Star Wars comic home, before the license landed at Dark Horse comics in the early 90s.

I was aware of the Dark Horse stories, and even picked up an arc or two. By the time I started visiting my local comic shop back in 2005, the storylines were entrenched and weren't really jumping off points for someone getting started.

One of the reasons I'm really excited about the new Star Wars book is the artist. Astonishing X-Men caught my eye and I picked up the first 12 issues in a trade paperback. This run was written by Joss Whedon and pencilled by John Cassaday. If you've never seen it, the art is fantastic. Here's an example:

Astonishing X-Men

Colossus has always been a personal favorite, and this is one of his best storylines. The whole run with Whedon and Cassaday ranks at the top of my personal favorite comic arcs.

My top 4 in no particular order: Checkmate 1-22 by Greg Rucka, Flash: Fastest Man Alive by Marc Guggenhiem and Tony Daniel, Astonishing X-Men by Whedon and Cassaday, and All-Star Superman by Grant Morrison and Frank Quietly.

I cancelled my pull list sometime in 2010, and haven't really kept up with any series since then.

That all changed with Star Wars 001. It picks up where Episode IV left off: the Rebels have destroyed the Death Star and making their way in a galaxy far, far, away.

Seriously, I'm not going to talk about the story here because you should go buy this book!

Go to your local comic book shop and see if they have any of the nifty pins from this launch left. See if they have any prints left of the awesome Skottie Young variant cover from the top of this post. If you're local to Pensacola, I highly recommend Pensacola Pop Comics on 12th Ave.

Don't want to visit your comic shop. No problem. Download it in the Marvel app on iOS or Android, because Amazon killed Comixology.

And get ready, because next month Marvel will be launching a new title: Vader. An entire series focused on the baddest Jedi to ever grace the big screen.

Here's a preview panel for Vader revealed at the end of Star Wars 001:
Vader vs Jabba!

If that isn't enough, there's another series coming in March.

Princess Leia 001!

As the dad of my own little self-rescuing princess, I couldn't be more excited to see Marvel launching a new comic focused on Leia. Here's the cover for issue 1:
Cover to Princess Leia 001

Don't miss these friends, because they are getting top-notch talent and treatment at Marvel. Here's hoping they can get a kick-ass Indiana Jones series going at Marvel before the end of the year.

Sesame Street and passing down empathy

You've probably seen this shirt at some point over the last few years:

I learned it from watching Seasme Street

If my generation really learned everything it needed to know from Sesame Street, we owe it a huge debt. A show filled with muppets of all shapes, sizes, colors, and temperaments has been teaching generations of kids around the world to work through their own feelings and empathaize with other people's feelings.

The shows I grew up with all had a PSA segment. These never really approached the creativity or uniqueness of Sesame Street. If you're over 30 you probably remember GI Joe teaching you knowing is half the battle. Maybe you even remember Vince Vaughn in an after school special about steroid abuse, or very special primetime episode.

These were all little things designed to cue parents. "Sure GI Joe just blew up a Cobra base, but here's a bit where we'll teach your kids to always brush their teeth!"

All of this has been on my mind this week because our kids have been watching a Lego show called Ninjago. We love Lego, and when our kids asked if they could watch it we said sure.

If you aren't familiar with Ninjago, it's a marketing vehicle in the illustrious tradition of Transformers. A cartoon meant to sell toys. The Ninjas train, and fight to protect their home from the Skulkin army. The Ninjas are Lego Minfigures, and the Skulkins are snakes.

With all of the background info in place, cue a moment from this past weekend. The kids are watching Ninajgo and I hear a chant start on the show. As I listened, I heard it was an anti-snake rally, where protesters were chanting "Snakes go home!"

What?!?
What?

In the grand scheme of things I don't think this is a big deal. Lego isn't inciting racism or religious persecution. It just felt really, really weird and out of place in a kids show. From classics to new shows, there are a ton of great stories for kids, on TV, in movies, and in books for kids. I'm sure some of the shows I grew up with defintely had similar moments.

Anyway, I thought of all this the other night when this popped up in my Twitter timeline:

There are people who group Sesame Street, and shows like it, with non-competitive kids sports. Like acceptance, fairplay, and empathy will be the downfall of our civilization.

Call me crazy, but I'm glad tolerance and empathy have been emphasized in kids shows, and thankful for parents who instilled those values in me.

Gaps

Rocky

Earlier this week Rocky was on TV and I got to share parts of it with my 7 year old daughter for the first time. She would flit in, cuddle up next to me for a little while, ask me a question or two, watch, and then go skipping out of the room.

At one point she asked me, "Who's the bad guy in this movie." When I was a boy my answer would have been Apollo Creed. I thought about her question and I knew that wasn't the right answer. Apollo's an antagonist, but he's no villain. He's just a guy who's looking to make a buck and keep the business he's created around his talent moving forward.

As we kept watching I explained to E there are some stories where the hero fights a villain, and there are some stories where the hero fights against nature to survive. Then there are some stories where the hero fights himself. She gave me a funny look when I said that, so I explained.

"Look at Rocky. He's a guy who fights, but this story is about how he gets ready to fight. He has to train and he has to break bad habits so he can be ready to fight Apollo. Rocky would never be ready to beat him if he didn't take care of all his habits and attitudes that were holding him back."

She thought about it for a little bit, and picked up her Nerf gun and started chasing her brother. Not long after she flitted out of the room Rocky goes to see Paulie. This is how the scene goes:

Paulie: [talking about Adrian] You like her? Rocky: Sure, I like her.
Paulie: What's the attraction?
Rocky: I dunno... she fills gaps.
Paulie: What's 'gaps'?
Rocky: I dunno, she's got gaps, I got gaps, together we fill gaps.

As a kid this scene slipped past me, this was a movie about boxing then. All of the Adrian stuff was time I could run around the house in my Superman Underoos.

Or maybe it was just cut from the TV edits when I was a kid because Paulie asks Rocky if he's "ballin" his sister.

Either way, it's something Jen and I talked about, and she brought it up again a few days later after she heard "Home" by Edward Sharpe and the Maganetic Zeros on Rdio. If you aren't familar, here's the song:

We've all got gaps. Home is where our friends and family help cover them for us.

Food allergies, meet technology

Both our kids have food allergies, and our oldest has such a severe reaction to milk we carry Epi-Pens everywhere. We are all thankful we've never had an event that required we use them, but since she's in early elementary school she'd never be able to give herself an injection.

The last time we needed to update her prescription our pediatrician asked my wife if she'd heard of the Auvi-Q. It was completely new to both of us. Jen texted me about it, so I did a quick search and came across this video.

That's crazy! It's easy to see how many awesome changes have revolutinized lots of everyday products (think iPhones or Tesla) and forget how many are stuck at 'good enough.'

To quote Amy Hoy, "The things we use every day are so disgustingly terrible, there’s unending opportunity."

I'm really glad we can have Epi-Pens within arms reach at all times, but we needed to practice to prepare to use them. There's no way our daughter would be able to give them to herself, and a chance she'd have to wait for an ambulance if she had a reaction and we weren't around.

The Auvi-Q solves all of those problems. It's a great reminder that just because something is functional, it doesn't mean it can't be better.

Now we just have to get our insurance to pay for it. :-)

The art of plussing it.

Walt Disney was famous for pushing people who worked for him to "plus it." Here's how Ward Jenkins described it:

"Walt Disney coined the term plussing as a way of making an idea even better. By telling his workers to plus it, even when they think they nailed it, gave Disney that extra edge when it came to quality animation back in the day. Pixar is a staunch believer in plussing their work. And it shows."

This is still something that lives on in the culture at Disney. One well known example comes from this clip from "Who Framed Roger Rabbit."

Did you notice the number of times where Roger, the animated character, interacts with physical objects? Roger knocks over the boxes before Eddie touches them. When he looks out of the peephole he knocks over a beer bottle. Roger takes his hands out of the handcuffs, and they move from mid-air to flat on the table, then he picks his cuff up and puts it back on.

'Bumping the lamp'

I used to miss all these little details, until I worked at Fuge camps during the summer of 2003. They taught us about a concept they learned from Disney corporate training called bumping the lamp. The idea is to look at your work and ask yourself, what could I do to make this the best work I could possibly do.

In the words of Walt Disney, how can I plus this work.

It's good work to make the animation of Roger Rabbit squash and stretch, stage it well, and make it believable and funny. It's bumping the lamp when you do good work and make Roger interact with the physical world to take the illusion of a talking animated rabbit to the next level.

Magic moments

At the end of August I started a new job, and I spent a week on a retreat planning the next 6 months while getting to know my new friends. It was awesome. Everyone at Wildbit is a clean-up hitter, great at their job and just plain fun to be around.

To start the week all 18 of us were sitting around a table, and we did an ice breaker where we were all supposed to share something interesting about ourselves.

Because of where I sat, I ended up going somewhere close to the middle. And man, there were cool stories. I mean cool stories. They aren't mine, so I'm not going to share them here. But as everyone shared their interesting fact, I sat silently racking my brain to think of an interesting thing to share while still paying close attention to what everyone else was saying. As my turn approached, I decided to tell everyone I love Disney World.

It's true, but it's not particularly interesting. When the attention from the table turned my way I didn't help make my fact any more memorable. I said something like, "We love to take our kids to Disney World. A lot."

I don't think it was quite that lame, but since then I've returned to this moment and rethought how I would have conveyed what makes my fascination with Disney World interesting.

Sure, I enjoy navigating enormous crowds to maximize the amount of fun we can have in a limited amount of time. My competitive nature emerges and I keep track of how many attractions or events we make before lunch time. There's a small pleasure in knowing I'm working the system to avoid the 2 and half hour wait for Peter Pan's Flight.

But those aren't the reasons I love going to Disney with our kids.

We have a knack for finding moments where plussing it creates stories I'll never forget.

On our first visit with our little girl, we took her to a princess breakfast in Cinderella's Castle in Magic Kingdom.

Pretty awesome right?

We were there early, and our reservations meant we were the first people in the Magic Kingdom. The cast member checking us in asked our daughter if she wanted to be princess of the day. She was two and half, so I'm sure you can imagine the depths of excitement she displayed in the span of a heartbeat.

On another trip during the holiday season, my wife and daughter visited the Christmas Shoppe while I rode Haunted Mansion. As they were looking around, a cast member asked if they would like to decorate their Christmas tree for the day. After they were done, the cast member gave our little one a special ornament so she could remember decorating the Christmas tree at Disney World.

On one trip we opened Camp Mickey and Minnie, and our family got to sit on the front row for Festival of the Lion King. If you aren't familiar with this show there's signing, fire dancing, gymnastics, and more singing. The theater is divided into four sections and each section is asked to imitate an animal from the Lion King.

Want to guess what happened next? Yup, a cast member asked our daughter to help lead the giraffe section during the show.

On our last trip in May the kids wanted to check out the Sword in the Stone. I've always liked the movie and when it was re-released recently we all watched it together. There was a line of families waiting for their kids to have their picture taken pulling on the sword. When it was their turn, our kids ran up to test their strength. I'm snapping pictures, and they start yelling "It's moving!!!!" Sure 'nuff, they were pulling the sword from the stone.

These stories are tangible reminders of how a little thought and extra effort can make anyone feel special. They remind me to try and find ways to make small improvements that add up to big moments.

I guess my interesting fact is I can see how they make the magic happen and I keep going back for more.