Category Archives: Rant Alert

Just me ranting about whatever…

The Thick Man

One night my friend Mark and I were joking around and he said that I should write a fictional book based on my real life, with me as the main character. I told him that was the most ridiculous idea that I’d ever heard; but we started joking about it and throwing around ideas and by the end of the conversation it became a “thing”. We spent the last couple of months of Mark’s life kicking around ideas and plot points for this silly book that would be a comedic homage to The Thin Man by Dashiell Hammett- a favorite of both of ours. Unfortunately Mark passed away before we could get much farther than a list of notes, gags, and funny lines. A couple of years after his death I finally decided to try and write the thing. It was a lot of fun. I had a blast writing it. My test readers enjoyed reading it. The problem was it was shy of being novel length, adding anything to it to hit the word count I needed just felt like padding and didn’t work for the story, and it’s incredibly difficult to sell a novella as a (traditionally) unpublished author. So it’s sat collecting metaphorical dust for a few years now. Well, I’ve taken a break from writing since getting married, and I’ve been trying to work my way back into giving it another go. I thought a good way to do that would be to finally put this out there for people to read. So here you go, free of charge, I present to you The Thick Man. I hope you enjoy it.

Blurb:
When down on his luck private investigator, Nicholas Taft, is asked by his best friend, homicide detective Nora Charleston, to help with a high-profile murder investigation, he figured it was just another badly needed paycheck and a chance to help a friend. He never dreamed that he’d end up stuck in the middle of a turf war between the mob and local gangs with a price on his head so large that it sends every hitman, gangbanger, and opportunistic hood in Saint Louis after him.
Nick Taft isn’t a traditional literary hero. Born with a medical condition where his body fails to produce testosterone, Nick weighs over five hundred pounds and has numerous medical issues, not the least of which is a bum knee that requires the use of a cane. Coming from a long line of cops and lawyers, Nick feels the need to follow in the family tradition, and after a few failed attempts at various criminal justice careers, Nick’s unique perspective and quick wit earn him some notoriety as a private investigator. When several recently released ex-cons are graphically murdered, the media sensation that it creates puts pressure on the police to solve the case quickly. Nick is brought in as a consultant, and through the course of the investigation, Nick and Nora discovers that someone is using ex-cons as ambassadors to unite all of the gangs in Saint Louis. After dodging kidnapping attempts and the interests of the local mob boss, Nick and Nora have to find out who is behind this new drug organization before it gets them both killed… and maybe solve that pesky murder case in the process. The Thick Man is a homage to the noir classic The Thin Man by Dashiell Hammett, with a blend of comedy and drama similar in style to the hit television show Castle starring Nathan Fillion.

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Why Star Wars is Important

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The following is not yet another article on the impact that Star Wars has had on the film industry, genre fiction, or even fandom. There are already plenty of much more qualified sources on those subjects readily available if that’s what you’re looking for. In fact, if you’d like to read/listen to the most comprehensive, well written, and entertaining book I’ve ever read on those subjects, I cannot recommend Chris Taylor’s How Star Wars Conquered the Universe enough. (Read my review here!) Instead, the following will be a much more personal account of the importance and impact that Star Wars has had in my life, like the lives of so many others like me, over the last three decades.

Star Wars has literally saved my life on more than one occasion.

Before I get into how, let’s begin with a little context. I was born with a fairly rare medical condition. My body doesn’t produce testosterone. While this type of issue isn’t unheard of, it’s usually caught fairly quickly- typically during infancy, but almost always before puberty. My condition wasn’t discovered until I was thirty, long after puberty had had it’s way with me. My testosterone count was so low, and my case, given my age, so rare, that the specialist I was sent to got so excited that he had to go and get his colleague in the next room to show me off like I was a unicorn. They couldn’t do anything to help me with the issues that I went to see them about, but they wanted to do papers on me. They really wanted to do papers on me. They looked like a couple of coyotes that smelled a pork chop. I left as quickly as I could.

Life, just before puberty.

               Life, just before puberty.

Why did it take so long for a doctor to realize there was a problem? A fun side effect of not producing testosterone is that without testosterone you don’t build much muscle. Without muscle, it’s very difficult to burn fat. I’ve been overweight since I was a baby. My parents took me to doctors and even dietitians. It was generally believed that I was just a fat kid that needed to exercise more and eat less. I can remember being put on diets as early as the age of seven. Nothing worked. I kept getting bigger, no matter what I did or how hard I tried. The bigger I got, the more assumptions were made. That is until my current doctor, literally within five minutes of meeting me and after a quick physical examination, asked me if I’d ever been tested for low testosterone. He was shocked when I told him no, and that no one had ever mentioned it before. Thirty years and a number of doctors, dietitians, and specialists, and all it took was a simple blood test. Now, when I say that I have always been overweight I mean I weighed over one hundred pounds by the time I was twelve. I was clocking in close to three hundred by the time I graduated high school. This was me at Easter of this year:

I now weigh over 500 pounds.

I now weigh over 500 pounds. Still dead sexy.

As you can probably imagine, life was hell growing up. I was picked on and bullied just about every day. I hated myself and I felt like no matter what I did nothing helped or would ever change. My first suicide attempt was when I was eleven. I tried to hang myself. That began a long and constant war with depression and suicide, one I fought mostly in silence because I didn’t want to scare my parents like I did that first time, and I didn’t want people to think that I was nuts. Things were bad enough as it was. Even though I’ve since sought professional help, it’s a war that I’m still fighting to this day.

I’m sure by this point you’re saying, “Wow, that’s really sad and depressing, but what the hell does this have to do with Star Wars?”

Well, Star Wars is one huge reason why I’m still here.

Return of the Jedi was the first movie that I saw in a theater. I had just turned two years old. I watched my dad’s VHS copies (and later laser disc. REPRESENT!)  as I played with my Star Wars figures just about every day, driving my mom insane, until I was thirteen. I was nine years old when Timothy Zahn’s Heir to the Empire was released. I read it cover to cover (along with my dad’s copies of the original novelizations and Splinter of the Mind’s Eye) and then I begged for the next two when they were released. This began a collection of books, comics, and media that continues to this day. If it was Star Wars,  I had to have it. It wasn’t just because I was a huge nerd and a super fan (and I was/am). Those movies, books, audio dramas, and video games saved me. They gave me a safe place where I could retreat when I started to feel the darkness surrounding me.  Whenever I felt like I couldn’t cope. Whenever I felt like my life wasn’t worth living. Whenever I felt like the dark side was winning, I’d put in a movie, or I’d pick up a book, or I’d turn on a video game. That beautiful John Williams theme would kick in (even if it was just in my head) and then I wasn’t me anymore. At that point, I was in that galaxy far, far away with characters that I loved. By the time I was done things certainly weren’t perfect, but they were better. They were manageable. The darkness wasn’t so all-encompassing anymore.

I’m not alone.

Stop any cosplayer at a convention. Ask any 501st Legion member. More often than not they’ll tell you a similar story: they were the outcasts, the nerds, they didn’t feel like they fit in until they found other Star Wars nerds. Star Wars was their refuge. Star Wars was their happy place. Star Wars gave them…a new hope.

Sorry...

                               Sorry…

Star Wars is universal. It’s transcended political borders, languages, and generations and spoken to millions of fans around the world over the course of the last four decades. It’s given us all a galaxy far, far away filled with wonder, and adventure, and a hope that good will always triumph over evil. It tells us that even the worst of us can be redeemed with love; that even the humblest of beginnings and a life that you can’t wait to escape could lead to an opportunity to do something amazing that will change the lives of countless others for the better.  It tells us that no matter how dark or desperate things are, there’s always a hope for things to change, to get better.

There’s always hope.

My new hope.

My new hope.

Things have changed a lot for me in the last few years. I got married to a beautiful woman who has a now-5 year old son. Family was something that I always desperately wanted but never thought would happen. Now I’m a husband and a father with a kid that I can share Star Wars with in the same way that mine shared it with me.

Speaking of which….

My body is ready.

My body is ready.

Words cannot describe how excited I was when I read the announcement that there would be new movies and a new canon that’s starting fresh. I’ve ravenously consumed every new book, comic, and TV show. (Reviews are here.)  I watch Collider Jedi Council every week. I spend all day checking news websites for new scraps of information. I managed to get tickets not only for opening night, but for the night after as well before everything crashed. I’m sure I’ll end up seeing it a half a dozen times (at least) in theaters. The promise of new movies in this franchise that I love has really helped during the more stressful times in the last few years. It’s something positive to look forward to sharing with my new family. Once again, it’s Star Wars helping me through the dark times, only this time it’s along with an understanding wife and an adorably goofy son.

I’ve been incredibly blessed in my life, even with everything I’ve gone through. I’ve had a great family and friends. I have a loving wife and son. And I’ve got a galaxy far, far away that’s always there when I need to make the jump to hyperspace and escape for a little while. For me, it’s not just been a fun movie franchise. For me, Star Wars is important.  For me, Star Wars has been a life saver.

J.R. Broadwater is the author of the non-fiction book Down with the Thickness: Viewing the World From a Fat Guy’s Perspective, the sci-fi detective novel You Only Die Twice, the fantasy novels The Chosen: Rebirthing Part 1 & 2, and the superhero tale Just Super, all available now in digital and paperback formats. Sample chapters and more information about these books can be found here. Kindle editions are all available for $0.99.

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Rant Alert: Marriage Equality & Christianity

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I’ve sat and watched with increasing frustration the last few weeks as people on social media have debated the topic of marriage equality back and forth. It’s frustrating for a number of reasons. The level of vehemence on both sides. The ignorance. The intolerance. Often, the sheer stupidity of the statements, again, often from both sides. More than anything, what has both frustrated and angered me is the responses I’ve seen from self-proclaimed Christians, especially from people that I know and love. I’ve debated back and forth whether I really wanted to get into the fray by writing something about it. I didn’t want to get into heated debates with people. I’ve made some comments on social media in various places, but mostly I’ve restrained myself from really diving in. Tonight, after another one of these topics came up in a Facebook post, I decided I couldn’t hold back any longer. I’m not going to debate whether homosexuality is a sin or not. I’m not going to open that can of worms. I am going to debate why marriage equality should happen (or continue to happen), and why Christians should stop getting so up in arms about it. The main point is this:

It May Share the Same Name, But It Isn’t The Same Thing

The biggest argument I’ve seen against marriage equality is that it smacks in the face of God’s definition of marriage. It’s sinful, an abomination, and will be the downfall of society, America, and apple pie. Here’s why you’re wrong.

1.It’s not the same thing as the marriage you’re talking about.
It just isn’t. The Judeo-Christian definition of marriage is the joining of man and woman in a holy covenant between themselves and God. They are spiritually and physically joined together in a union that is meant to last until death. It has a HUGE spiritual significance. It is a huge deal, just like all covenants with God.

Other cultures and religions have varying interpretations and emphasis. For some you’re joined to Gaia, for others it’s a union blessed by Thor and Odin, or the moon and the stars, or whatever. Marriage has a different meaning for every different culture and religion. They all share a common ground, the joining of two people’s lives, but the significance and what that union means can vary and is entirely dependent on the couple and their beliefs. This is not the kind of marriage that you need a government to condone. This is the type of marriage that has gone on for centuries across most cultures in the world since societies began.

The kind of marriage that people are losing their freaking minds about is the other kind of marriage- a legal contract between two consenting adults that joins their lives in a legally recognized way and bestows upon them special privileges and selectively-apportioned state benefits according to that government’s laws.

It’s a legal.

Contract.

As far as the government is concerned it has nothing to do with love, God, Allah, Gaia, Thor, the entire Greek pantheon, or my chicken sandwich. Any other significance, beyond the legal, placed upon it from there is ENTIRELY dependent upon the beliefs of the couple. Arguing over this topic to the point of violence is as dumb as arguing over whether “sinners” should be allowed to sign the Apple Terms of Service Agreement.

Christianity doesn’t own the concept of marriage. We don’t have a trademark on the term. Marriage of one kind or another has been happening in societies long before God made His covenant with Abraham or before Moses wrote the Ten Commandments. It is an ideal that has been practiced by cultures that had never even heard of Yahweh,  Jesus, God, or the Holy Spirit. Hell, Native Americans were practicing a form of it before the rest of the known world invaded and gave them the gift of smallpox and introduced them to the concept of eviction.

Now, if said homosexual couple wants to have a religious wedding, then that is another topic for debate; but it has nothing to do with the marriage license or the legal side of things, which is all the Supreme Court decided. Either way, there are two different versions of marriage at play here. One is legal, the other holy. Stop confusing the two and getting up in arms about it.

2. It is Incredibly Hypocritical 

The “baker” question has been floating around quite a bit on Facebook lately. Should Christian bakers bake cakes for gay weddings? Would Jesus? (I’m not touching on whether they should legally be forced to, just the idea of willingly doing it or not.) I said this in a Facebook topic earlier today and I’ll share it here, and note that this is me with my “Minister” hat on now:
I’m wondering, for all of you hypothetical bakers, if you’d refuse to bake a cake for a couple who had a sexual relationship before the wedding, or if they’d committed adultery, or been previously married but divorced for a reason other than adultery? If the answer is yes, how, exactly, would you plan on staying in business?

When did homosexuality suddenly become this line in the sand and thus worse than all other “sinful lifestyles”? Why is a homosexual wedding any different than a couple who had lived and had sex together out of wedlock before the wedding, or what if they’re wiccan, or agnostic, or atheists? They’re all considered “sinful lifestyles”, yet you don’t see these bastions of Christianity denying cakes to everyone else. Is it only okay as long as the baker is ignorant of the lifestyle in question? Should we start having sin questionnaires just to be sure? Should we have to call their pastors and confirm that they’re card carrying Christians? Do we not see how hypocritical this line of thinking becomes?

Further food for thought, for the ones so aghast at the thought of “Jesus the baker” baking a cake for these sinful people- he WAS a carpenter. Do you think he refused to make furniture for “sinners”, knowing that they may use said furniture to celebrate acts of gluttony or even for use during a wedding of other hedonistic sinners? Did he tell the Samaritan at the well that they must not drink from the same water as the Jews because they were a “sinner,” as the Pharisees and Sadducees did? (Note: Yes, I’ve heard the wooden idol argument. No, it isn’t the same. That is a symbol of idolatry used in a religious ceremony. A cake is not.)

It’s out of love and compassion that He wanted His followers to be known by, not the same self-righteous judgmentalness that the Pharisees and teachers of the Law displayed. I’m seeing so many people hurl insults towards homosexual individuals as though these people are somehow worse than the rest of us. You don’t have to agree with the lifestyle, but you should keep in mind that we are ALL sinners and we’re all equally filthy in the eyes of God without His forgiveness. So I say this in love:

Grow up, get over it, and stop being such a hypocrite.

We don’t live in a Christian theocracy. You can’t expect a secular society that is a melting pot of all different kinds of religions and ideologies to conform to your way of thinking or sense of morality. Nor should you to expect to be treated better, or given legal benefits and privileges  solely based on what’s going on between the legs or by skin color.  You think homosexuality is a sin? Don’t do it. You don’t agree with homosexual marriage? Don’t do it. You do you, and stop worrying about everyone else- particularly in areas that don’t affect you personally one single bit.

Added from a comment I made below, which I think sums things up well: What it really boils down to is those against gay marriage are really saying that homosexual couples don’t deserve to have the same legal government/insurance/financial benefits and protections as other couples, and I have yet to see one solid reason as to why without people injecting their personal religion or beliefs into it.

 

Note: I decided to open the comments section because this is a topic that’s important to discuss. That said, I have to approve every comment before it’ll show up, so keep it civil. If you disagree that’s fine, but I refuse to let this degenerate into anything ugly.

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A Damaged Mind

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It’s scary how the damaged mind works, the little tricks that it plays. It’s often not the big, dramatic events that trigger a bout of suicidal depression but instead the small stuff that you would normally shrug off. The little flakes that build and build until they become an avalanche of self loathing and doubt that washes away everything else until you’re buried up to your neck in it. As I sit now, alone in my car, in an empty section of a park parking lot where I can feel the breeze on my face and listen to the sounds of birds chirping and the leaves of the trees rustle with the wind,  I have to ignore that nagging thought in the back of my mind at how nice a scene it would make for my last moments. It’s peaceful, and there’s a longing to let that peacefulness wash over me as I let go of the hurts and frustrations of this world and release myself from this prison of flesh and pain that I feel shackled to, that I hate with a fiery passion that burns in my chest even now as I tap out these words on a tiny smartphone keyboard. I have to fight the longing I feel to hold the knife dangling from the keychain in my ignition, to feel the cool touch of the steel and the leather grip in my hand; to ignore the impulse to let the sharp bite of its blade let the water of my life free of its confines and allow myself to drift off to an unending sleep. It’s scary how tempting that all is. It’s scary how a damaged mind works.

I think of my wife, whom I love dearly, and what my death might do to her. Inner voices lap against my mind like waves; one that tells me that she’d be better off without me once she’s free of the burden that I’m sure to become, then another that whispers of love and the many happy moments that we’ve shared.  I think of my son, not of my blood but certainly in my heart, and how much I love him and how badly I want to see him grow to become a better man than I. I think of my parents, my sister, my grandparents, other members of family and friends and the impact, both negative and positive, that my passing might have. There’s a war going on within me. It’s a battle of conflicting thoughts and feelings vying for dominance. It’s these thoughts, and the expression of them through this medium right now, that stays my hand and helps to pluck my damaged mind from the dark waters that I’ve been wading in.

For those of you who don’t know, who have been lucky enough to have never experienced how dark and lonely and hopeless a damaged mind can feel, read these words, absorb them, and count yourself blessed. Try to remember that those that you love may sufferer from a damaged mind as well; they may need your love, understanding, and support. They may need you to be the life preserver that keeps them from being swallowed up by the dark abyss of depression and despair. They may need you to be that small light they see when everything else is black.

Because it’s frightening what a damaged mind can do.

 

Author’s Note (Please Read):
First of all I want to assure those that know me that yes, I’m fine. I’m still here. Everything is okay.

I did write this post in the middle of a bout of suicidal depression while I was sitting alone in my car with thoughts of ending it all swirling through my head (hence the rather melodramatic nature) . At the time I wanted to try to express exactly how I was feeling. In writing it out, the words helped me to get past that final hurdle and come back to myself.

I want everyone to know that I have an appointment this week to talk with someone about my depression and to explore treatment options. I’m not ashamed to admit that publicly because I know that it isn’t an admittance of weakness, regardless of the stigma that tends to still be attached to depression and all other forms of mental illness. The brain is an organ just like the heart or lungs, and sometimes it gets sick. Sometimes something goes wrong and you need to seek treatment to correct the problem, just as you would for any other medical issue. You wouldn’t feel ashamed for seeing a doctor to treat the flu, so why should you feel ashamed about seeing a doctor to treat depression?
I decided to publish this piece in the hopes that it might help someone. Maybe you suffer from depression as well and you’ve found yourself feeling this way. I want to encourage you to seek treatment. I know it can be difficult. I know it can be embarrassing. But please, for yourself and for your loved ones, seek help. As I just said, there’s really nothing to be ashamed of.
Maybe you don’t suffer from depression yourself, but you know someone that does. I hope that maybe by getting this very brief glimpse it might help you to better understand how it feels to be in their shoes. I know that words really can’t do it justice. They’re just too inadequate to express all the complexities of emotions and thoughts that swirl around and encompass a bout of suicidal depression like this, but I hope that it might help in some small way.

If you or someone you know is suffering from a bout of suicidal depression and is in danger of taking his/her life, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255

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Spider-Man Joins the MCU: Why He Won’t Be Miles Morales & Why That’s a Good Thing

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Spider-Man and His Avenging Friends

Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the last week you’ve probably heard by now that Sony Pictures and Marvel have stuck a deal that allows Spider-Man to come into the Marvel cinematic universe. According to the press release, Spidey will make a cameo appearance in a future MCU film, will get a solo film made and distributed by Sony but with the “help” of Marvel, and then he’ll appear in other Marvel films afterwards, almost assuredly the two part Avengers: Infinity War. Under this new deal, Sony will be able to also be able to use MCU characters like Cap and Iron Man in their solo Spidey films. So basically, Sony’s Spidey universe is going to be an extension of the MCU proper. This deal has been rumored ever since the Sony e-mail leaks, and it’s been no secret that Sony’s Amazing Spider-Man films didn’t do as amazing at the box office or with fan and critic reception as everyone hoped. Sony’s movie studio has been on the ropes financially for a while now, and this new deal with Marvel is very obviously an attempt to save themselves. While the announcement maintains that Sony will have creative control, the safe assumption is it’ll be Marvel Studios President Kevin Feige that’ll be the real brains behind the new Spidey and the rest was just Sony saving face.

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Who Will Be Behind The Mask?

Now the question is: who will play Spidey since it’s been confirmed that Andrew Garfield will not return? To answer that question we have to know which Spider-Man Marvel is going to bring to the party. Ever since the announcement social media has exploded into a virtual war over who should be Spider-Man. More specifically, over whether it’ll be Peter Parker again, or if Marvel will go a fresh route and bring in Mile Morales, the half African American/half Latino Ultimate Spider-Man. Because it’s the internet it’ll come as no surprise that these debates have often been…heated. Some of these- ahem– “discussions” have been between fans that really want to see Peter Parker and his rogues gallery given the Marvel Cinematic Treatment because Sony’s previous two attempts, while they each had their pros and cons, never quite fully brought to the screen an adaptation that really captured the full essence of the comics; while others are tired of seeing Peter’s story and want to see something fresh and more diverse by doing Miles’ story instead. The Twitter wars that have erupted around this debate is, ultimately, pointless. Why? Because the initial press release already put the speculation to rest. The Spider-Man that will be swinging into the MCU, at least initially, will be Peter Parker:

“Sony Pictures and Marvel Studios share a love for the characters in the Spider-Man universe and have a long, successful history of working together. This new level of collaboration is the perfect way to take Peter Parker’s story into the future.”
-Doug Belgrad, president, Sony Pictures Entertainment Motion Picture Group

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Why Not Miles?

The business reason:
Neither Marvel nor Sony is going to pass over the opportunity to cash in on 20+ Spider-Man appearances. It’s very likely that whoever they sign to play Peter Parker will be signed to a 9-10 picture contract much like everyone else in the MCU has. History has also shown us how expensive it can be to extend that contract once it’s up. So why shoot themselves in the foot when they can do 9-10 pictures with Peter Parker’s Spider-Man, and then have a fresh Spider-Man story and a fresh 10 picture contract waiting for whoever they get to play Miles Morales, all without having to reboot?
The storytelling reason:
After fighting as long and as hard as they have to be able to use Spider-Man, Marvel isn’t going to throw away the rich well of storytelling potential that Peter Parker brings to the table that has yet to be tapped. While both iterations of Pater Parker/Spider-Man were good in their own right, neither ever fully captured the comic character that fans have known and loved for decades. More importantly, it could be argued that none of the movies have done justice to the villains. Yes, the first Green Goblin and Doc Ock were both pretty good, but they weren’t as good as they could have been, and they certainly weren’t quite like their comics counterparts. For example: Norman Osborn has the potential to be a Marvel Phase-Level threat if done right, even without ever having to actually be the Green Goblin (especially if they loosely follow the post-Civil War comics story lines).  Likewise, while Doctor Octopus was done beautifully in Spider-Man 2, that version of the character was nothing like his comics counterpart, who is an egocentric megalomaniac. Let’s not even discuss the butchering of fan favorite Venom. Marvel has the opportunity to develop a MCU version of their flagship character while at the same time enriching the MCU with a much-needed injection of great villains. This isn’t only a great opportunity for Peter Parker fans, it’s ultimately great for Miles Morales fans (like me).
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Passing the Torch

A large part of Miles’ story centers around living up to the legacy of Peter Parker. It is central to the character and his journey in accepting the mantle, and the responsibility, of being Spider-Man. While Marvel/Sony could certainly skip Peter and go straight to Miles, and even do it well, it would be ultimately short changing the character and themselves. Right now they have the opportunity to bring to life the amazing (see what I did there?) and rich tapestry of Peter’s legacy as a hero in a way that they haven’t been able to in the past. This is their chance to really make the MCU a living incarnation of the comics we have loved for decades and then to pass that torch to the next generation of characters. Miles Morales is a great character. I enjoy reading about him just as much as I did Peter, but a large part of that enjoyment has been rooted in seeing this new kid with amazing powers struggling to adapt to his new life while at the same time honoring the legacy that Peter left behind.
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Civil War?

Right now the odds are good that Spidey’s first major appearance in the MCU will be in Captain America 3: Civil War, since Spider-Man played such a key role in the comics. I think that is probably a safe bet, but I’m pretty sure things won’t be done in the way that everyone is expecting. The biggest moment that everyone pictures when they think about Civil War is this:
_1413247202Spider-Man unmasks on live T.V. and tells the world he’s Peter Parker in support of Tony Stark and the Registration Act. While that may still happen in the movie versions, I don’t think it’s likely for two key reasons. One, it wouldn’t have near the impact that it did in the comics because right now no one in the MCU knows anything about Spider-Man. He hasn’t been swinging around New York for decades like he had been in the comics by that point, so who cares if he unmasks? Two, because this version of Civil War isn’t going to be about protecting identity as much as the comics. Kevin Feige already said as much. In the current MCU secret identities are largely not a big deal. Everyone already knows who the Avengers are. With the exception of Daredevil by that point, no one has one. Registration will be about control and freedom, so having Spider-Man unmask just won’t be as big a deal as having him register and show support for government oversight. My guess will be that Black Panther and Spidey will be the two new kids on the block being courted by Tony and Cap and they each pick a side. I guess we’ll find out soon.What do you think about all of this? Are you happy that Spidey has “come home”? Do you agree that they should start with Peter and work towards Miles, or are you tired of Peter’s story? Let me know in the comments.

J.R. Broadwater is the author of the non-fiction book Down with the Thickness: Viewing the World From a Fat Guy’s Perspective, the sci-fi detective novel You Only Die Twice, the fantasy novels The Chosen: Rebirthing Part 1 & 2, and the superhero tale Just Super, all available now in digital and paperback formats. Sample chapters and more information about these books can be found here. Kindle editions are all available for $0.99.

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The Thick Man on Food: The Best Bean Dip (or Bean Burrito) You’ll Ever Make

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This recipe has been in our family for decades. I’m not sure where, exactly, it started, but what I do know is this is the dish that all of our friends would ask our dad to make whenever we had a party or sleepover. Since starting my own family I’ve tweaked the recipe just a bit and turned it into the best burrito you’ll ever make. My family loves it and it’s become a staple meal in our house at least twice a month. It’s also one of the few dishes my wife and I make that our super picky 4 year old will eat without complaint.

Trust me, that’s a ringing endorsement.
Difficulty: Easy
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 25 minutes

The set up is the same whether you want to make the dip or the burritos.

What You’ll Need:

  • 1 large mixing bowl
  • 1 hand mixer
  • 1 casserole dish (for dip)
  • 1 cookie sheet/baking sheet/whatever you want lined in tin foil (for burritos)
  • 31 oz of refried beans
  • 4 cups of shredded Monterrey jack/Mexican blend cheese
  • 16 oz of sour cream
  • 1 stick of philly cream cheese
  • 1 packet of enchilada mix
  • 20-30 drops of hot sauce (I prefer Louisiana)
  • 1 bag of tortilla chips (if you’re making the dip)
  • Large flour tortillas (if you’re making burritos)

What You Do:

Preparation for either dish is super simple. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.

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Add the refried beans, cream cheese, sour cream, hot sauce (starting with 20 drops) and enchilada mix into the mixing bowl.

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Blend using the hand mixer until the cream cheese is thoroughly blended. Here is where you’ll want to do a small taste test to determine if you want to add more hot sauce. This is entirely dependent on personal preference.  My family likes spice so we usually do 30-35 drops.

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Next add 3 of the 4 cups of cheese and blend with the rest.

For Bean Dip:
Spoon the mixture into the casserole dish and top with the remaining cup of cheese. Place into the preheated oven and cook for 25 minutes. Let cool for a few minutes and then serve with chips. Party!

For Burritos:

IMG_3305Spoon the dip in a straight line horizontally across the lower third of the tortilla, giving yourself enough room on either side and on the bottom for folding.
(Be careful not to add too much filling, otherwise it’ll squirt out as you roll!)

IMG_3306IMG_3308IMG_3309IMG_3310Fold the left and right sides in towards the middle, and then roll up from the bottom.

IMG_3316Place each burrito on the cookie sheet/baking sheet/whatever that you lined with tin foil so that they’re touching each other and then sprinkle the remaining cheese on the top of each.

IMG_3317Place into the preheated oven for 25 minutes. Party!

Bonus: If you have a fryer you can make chimichangas by deep frying the burritos instead of baking them.

Enjoy!

J.R. Broadwater is the author of the non-fiction book Down with the Thickness: Viewing the World From a Fat Guy’s Perspective, the sci-fi detective novel You Only Die Twice, the fantasy novel The Chosen: Rebirthing Part 1 & 2, and the superhero tale Just Super, all available now in digital and paperback formats. Sample chapters and more information about these books can be found here. Kindle editions are all available for $0.99.

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Rant Alert: Star Wars, Marvel Comics, & Reboots

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Okay, so the last six months or so have been pretty traumatic for fan-nerds. First, to pave the way for the upcoming new Star Wars movies, comics, shows, etc. it was decided by Disney’s Star Wars story group that all previous Star Wars Expanded Universe content would be labeled “legends” while everything produced by Disney from now on would be officially canon. Many understood the reasoning and were okay with it. A very vocal group of the fan community, on the other hand, started their own version of a digital rebel alliance and declared war on Disney’s Empire. Then, last week Marvel announced that their upcoming Secret Wars event would lead into Battleworld, where various incarnations of the Marvel characters would duke it out for survival resulting in a “new” main Marvel comics universe.  Speculation has since run rampant and the word “reboot” has been bandied about enthusiastically ever since. The problem is both announcements have lead to a lot of confusion and misunderstandings about what, exactly, is happening. Some of this confusion is due to the original announcements not being very clear or detailed about what is going to happen. A lot more is due to people completely losing their shit over what amounts to a reading comprehension failure. The following will attempt to clear some things up:

jjabramsstarwars

Let’s start with Star Wars. Disney bought Lucasfilm and with it came the rights to Star Wars. Disney has since announced that both a new trilogy and a series of stand alone movies have gone into production. They have also released, or are currently developing, several TV shows, a new comics line from Marvel, video games, and novels. The problem is there’s a good 30 years worth of Expanded Universe content already floating out there in the form of novels and comics that have already exhaustively covered the events after Return of the Jedi all the way through a century after the battle of Yavin from A New Hope. That’s one hundred years worth of EU continuity. Some of those novels, and particularly the comics, were extremely well done, well loved by fans, and helped to keep Star Wars alive before, and even more so after the lackluster-downright hatred of, the prequels. The rest was mediocre to downright horrible. In fact, if most fans (and I am a HUGE Star Wars fan. I own pretty much all of the EU content available) are honest with themselves, for every great novel there have been a good five not so great ones. This is especially true in the last decade when Star Wars moved away from one shots and trilogies and tried to do long form stories that lasted for years.

So if you’re Disney, what do you do with all of that if you want to move forward with new material?  You start fresh.

stawarslegends

All of the pre-existing Star Wars EU has been re-branded “Legends” and is no longer considered to be canon (even though George Lucas was always very clear that as far as he was concerned, it was never canon). It’s now just considered fun “what if” stories or, as the name implies, tales from the Star Wars universe that may have nuggets of truth to them. The term they chose, “Legends”, is significant, and we’ll discuss why in a moment. So what is officially canon now?

star wars moviesThe Original Movie Saga

epsevenThe New Movies

clonewarsThe Clone Wars TV Series

starwarsrebelsStar Wars Rebels TV Series

61nnfCs+IFL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_Marvel’s Star Wars Comics

starwarsnewnovelsAll Star Wars Novels Moving Forward (Starting with A New Dawn)

So why was it significant that they branded the old EU “Legends”? As John Jackson Miller, author of A New Dawn, pointed out “Legends” doesn’t mean it never happened or that elements of those tales might not be true.  Both he and Dave Filoni (Clone Wars, Rebels) have openly stated that the previous EU material is not off limits to any of the creators of future Star Wars content. They’re free to use or adapt any of it into this new continuity. The movies, themselves, have already borrowed elements from the EU. The capital world of Coruscant was first introduced in Timothy Zahn’s Heir to the Empire novel. The double bladed lightsaber Maul used in The Phantom Menace was first seen in Star Wars comics done by Dark Horse.  Both Clone Wars and Rebels have brought in elements from the EU as well: Holocrons, Darth Bane, Republic Commandos. In James Lucado’s new novel, Tarkin, he references events from his previous two Star Wars novels that were published under the old banner, Dark Lord and Darth Plagueis, thus bringing them both into canon.

So the old EU is not dead, and there’s still a possibility that elements, characters, or even story-lines that fans loved could still be brought into official canon through future content.

secret-wars-header

Marvel’s upcoming Secret Wars is supposed to bring the Marvel Universe as we know it to a close. The main Marvel universe (616) collides with the Ultimate universe, and the result of the “Secret Wars” between the two universes will be Battleworld, where incarnations of the characters from major stories throughout Marvel history (Age of Apocalypse, Planet Hulk, Civil War, Pre-OMD Spidey, Ultimate Spidey,. etc.) will exist in different parts of the planet, with everyone duking it out for survival.

SW Map.jpg

…Yeah, it’s kind of confusing.

What it isn’t is a reboot.

Everywhere I look online people keep calling it a reboot.

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It’s not. A reboot, in comic terms, implies that they’re starting over fresh with a new continuity. That’s just not what is going to happen. The past, for any of the universes that collide, will still have happened. The characters that survive and end up in whatever the new Marvel universe looks like will still remember what happened, will still be the same characters they were before. Their history happened and affected them. It all still matters. This isn’t a New 52. They aren’t wiping anything out, they’re just blowing everything up. What we’ll be left with, from everything they’ve released, is a new Marvel universe made up of versions of characters from the 616, Ultimate, Age of Apocalypse, and whatever all thrown together. For example, the Wolverine of the 616 may be dead, but when this is over we could have the Wolverine from AoA or Old Man Logan alive and kicking. Miles Morales from Ultimate comics Spider-Man may be swinging around with a still-married Peter Parker. We don’t know for sure, but we’ll see.

But it’s not a reboot so please stop saying it.

I hope this clears some things up for those of you who have been wondering just what the hell has been going on.

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