I’m Moving! (Well, my blog is)

Hello all!

After my last post, I officially completed my second goal, having watched every theatrically released Disney animated film in order of release.  That, coupled with having finished the my DC continuity adventure earlier this year makes this feel like I’ve rounded out what I set out to accomplish with this site.

That being said, I am NOT giving up blogging.  I definitely have plenty more to say, and I genuinely enjoy sharing my thoughts.  I’ve given it a lot of thought though, and I decided I don’t want to blog under the title Holy Comics, Batman! any longer.  Part of it is due to the ever-constant (and possibly irrational) fear that I will one day be hit with a copyright infringement lawsuit for naming the site after Batman.  No, I have no data to back up this fear, and I’m not making money off the site so it’s probably not even an issue. Still, it’s a concern I don’t need.  The other issue I have with the title is that this blog started off as strictly comics-related.  I’ve branched out a bit with my Disney film reviews, but every time I posted one of those it felt untrue to what this site was originally intended to be.  I wanted a site where I could continue to write about comics, but could also write about movies, books, tv shows – really anything that strikes my fancy.

I thought long and hard about what I wanted to call my new blog. I didn’t want to pigeon-hole myself with anything too specific, but I also wanted it to be something fun that reflected who I am. With that in mind, Hippo Planet was born.

Okay yes, some explanation may be required as to why that name was chosen. Simply put, I have this odd affinity for hippos, and they seemed like they’d be a cute mascot of sorts for the blog.  Also, as Mistah J and I were bantering ideas back and forth and “Hippo Planet” was mentioned, I immediately got the “Captain Planet” theme song stuck in my head, and started making up a parody version about hippos.  I took this as a good sign and just ran with it.  The title doesn’t mean much of anything, honestly, but I sort of like that. There are plenty of sites out there with nonsense names, and it allows me the freedom to fill the blog with anything I want (hippos or otherwise).  I’ll still link back to this site on the new blog, with an “Archives” section that will refer back to the writing I’ve done here over the past year and a half. I can’t have people thinking I’m a blogging newbie, after all 😉

Nothing else about my posting or writing will change moving forward. I’ll just be blogging under a new title, and sometimes about topics outside of the comics world.  I’ll still be following all of the same blogs I follow now, and hope you’ll join in following my newest endeavor as well. I’m still puttering around with the layout and design of the site, but I was too excited to wait until it was 100% ready to launch. I’m impatient like that 🙂

If you head on over to Hippo Planet, you’ll see that the site is up and running, and my first post is already published.  Check there for all future updates/blog posts.

Hope to see you there!

-Jess

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Moana (2016)

Image result for moana 2016 movie poster

Well, it took some time but I finally saw Disney’s latest animated feature film, Moana.  I missed seeing it in theaters by thismuch and had to wait for it to be released on dvd (do people still say dvd, or have they defaulted to blu-ray? I’m so out of touch with what the hip kids are saying these days).  I knew next to nothing about the plot going in, and was optimistically hopeful that the film would live up to Disney’s other most recent endeavors.  Suffice it to say, it lived up to its predecessors, and then some.

For those who haven’t gotten around to seeing it yet (no major spoilers ahead, but I will discuss key plot elements), Moana is the story of a young Polynesian girl who is the daughter of a chief (she dislikes being called a “princess”).  She’s destined to take her father’s place as ruler of their island, but Moana’s heart pulls her elsewhere: specifically, the ocean, a place she and her people are forbidden to go.  Like any teenager, she craves what she’s been denied, and through a series of events Moana finds herself on a journey across the ocean.  She is joined by Maui, a demi-god (voiced by Dwayne -stop trying to pretend your middle name isn’t “The Rock”- Johnson) who is less than helpful at times but always entertaining.  Moana is trying to return a stone to a specific island, a magical item that represents the heart of the Earth… okay you know what? It’s way too hard to describe this plot accurately (or explain why this movie is good) without giving away spoilers.

If you haven’t seen it yet, go watch it RIGHT NOW.  I’ll wait.

….

It’s so great, right??

From this point on I’m going to assume that you heeded my instructions and watched the film. If you’re a rogue and decided to ignore my instruction, BEWARE THE SPOILERS.

Okay, let’s talk about what the film does well:

Music

I have had half the songs from this film stuck in my head for a week, no lie.  Part of that may be due to the fact that Mistah J downloaded the entire soundtrack and proceeded to sing the songs all weekend, but it’s kept them fresh in my mind.  There’s your perfect blend of Disney tones: we get the heartfelt ‘why don’t I fit in’ style song, sung beautifully by lead actress Auli’i Cravalho, The Rock sings an upbeat tune essentially touting how amazing he is, and our main villain’s song is performed by a giant crab who exclaims over and over that he’s so shiny all while insulting (and trying to eat) Moana and Maui.  The music reminded me of the greats from the Disney Renaissance, so much so that like those great films, I could easily see this one taking a spin on Broadway at some point.  “Shiny” specifically stands out, serving as one of the antagonist’s shining moments (couldn’t help it) and yet somehow projecting a “they can’t dull my sparkle” uplifting sentiment as well. If you’re having a bad day, just blast that song while dancing around like the badass you are. You’ll undoubtedly feel 1,000% better.

 Characterization

In recent films Disney seems to have decided to stick to certain stock tropes for its characters, especially when it comes to Disney princess films.  There’s the leading lady, a funny and charming romantic interest, a cute animal sidekick, an antagonist who is clearly evil yet the viewer can’t help but find aspects to like, and a few ancillary characters to round out the mix.  To be fair, Moana abides by many of these rules, and frankly there’s nothing wrong with that.  They work, and you can’t fault Disney for re-using basic storytelling techniques that have proven successful in the past.  The one major change in Moana though is a big one for me:  there is no romantic interest.  Prior to seeing the film, I was certain that Moana would be romantically linked to someone, either Maui or an as-yet unknown boy from her island.  It seemed inevitable, given Disney’s past princess films.  Instead, the focus of the film is entirely on Moana’s journey, with not even a hint at any romantic entanglements. Even when her parents discuss her future as chief, there is never any mention that she must have a husband by her side.

THANK YOU DISNEY.  If you’re a guy reading this, maybe you don’t get why I would consider this such a big deal. Let me explain: growing up, the only female Disney characters I had to look up to were princesses whose entire existences were heavily focused on romantic relationships.  From Snow White and Sleeping Beauty all the way up through Pocahontas and Mulan, there was always a figurative (and sometimes literal) knight in shining armor there to save the day, or at the very least serve as motivation for the princess’s actions.  Even recent films like Tangled and Frozen are heavy on the romantic subplots, even if they’re not the primary focus of the film.  As a child these characters led me to believe that a romantic relationship should be the primary focus of my attention.  Even as the films progressed and Disney started allowing the princesses to have their own dreams and personalities, there was still a prince waiting in the wings for them.  With Moana, young girls will finally have the chance to look up to a Disney princess who is perfectly fulfilled without a man in her life.

That being said, obviously I have no problem with Disney telling a love story, but it’s nice to see that they’re finally branching out and accepting that young girls can enjoy a good old-fashioned adventure story even if it doesn’t have the romantic element.  This is SO IMPORTANT for the way young girls (and boys) are brought up, and I’m thrilled that Disney has finally expanded out into this uncharted territory.

Mini-rant over, back to the movie:

Negatives?

I try to be fair-minded when I write these posts, and review from all angles to try and appreciate the good and the bad. To be completely honest, I’m having difficulty thinking of any negatives about this film.  The animation, voice action, story-telling, music: it was all very well done.  There’s a part of me that’s sad that I won’t ever have the childhood nostalgia for this film the way I do say, The Lion King or The Little Mermaid.  It will undoubtedly become a classic in Disney’s canon, and hopefully the studio continues producing films of this caliber.

As I finish writing this, I’m bopping to “You’re Welcome”, The Rock’s solo song in the film (I broke down and bought the soundtrack, couldn’t help it).  The fact that I can’t write without dancing in my chair and singing along seems like praise enough.

Also, if you haven’t already seen it, go watch the post-credit scene. It’s brief, but it may have been one of my favorite parts. Trust me.

-Jess

Update! (Finally)

Hello all! (Er…all three of you who actually read this.)

It’s been a while, and since I’m off today and have officially exhausted all other forms of distraction, it felt time to return for an update. It’s been a few months since my last post, mainly because I was pretty spent from blogging. I had been posting every single day for the better part of a year, writing anywhere from 500-1000+ words every single day, to the point that I just found myself hating the whole process. I took a step back and decided to just enjoy reading on its own, without having to throw my commentary on every single topic into the mix.

That being said, I’ve officially completed my mission.  That’s right, I read the entire “shelf”, all 434 trades (see here for a complete list of them).  I also went back and read many of the “New 52” issues that haven’t been collected in trade yet, so I’m finally caught up through the Wednesday before last (I’m always a week behind since I have to wait until the weekend to get my hands on Mistah J’s newest purchases.  How dare he want to read his own comics before me!)

Given that I started off with next to no knowledge about DC, I’d say I’ve come a long way.  I can still recall writing my first post about The Superman Chronicles: Volume OneThe Superman Chronicles: Volume One, which included Action Comics issue #1, the one that started it all.  That was over a year and a half ago at this point, and it still astonishes me that I stuck with it and have now completed a pretty damn comprehensive course in DC comics history.  Has anyone else ever delved into the world of comics in this way before, being introduced to the stories in continuity order? I wonder that sometimes, since it seems like a somewhat unique experience, and not something one could do without guidance (how could I have possibly even attempted it without Mistah J and his incomparable “shelf” as my guide?).  Whether it’s been done before or not, I can honestly say it’s something I never would have thought I’d ever attempt, let alone actually complete.

Of course, having read so many friggin’ comics in such a short time period, I’ve become one of those people who gets into arguments with her co-workers about the accuracy of tv show and film depictions, and how true to the source material they stay (I always win, which is nice). I’ve also become somewhat of the resident expert in my office on DC storylines, since most of my co-workers love the screen adaptations but aren’t big into reading. I’m a fan of acquiring knowledge (and may have a bit of a know-it-all side, if I’m being completely honest) so it’s nice to not only know all of these details, but to be able to put all of this reading to use in day to day life.

On top of completing “the shelf”, Mistah J and I also sat down and watched every single episode of Batman: The Animated Series, Superman: The Animated Series, Justice League, Justice League Unlimited, and Young Justice (yes, it’s a lot).  I was a fan of BtAS as a child, but the rest I had never seen (also, just realized the acronym almost spells out “Bats” and that makes me really happy). They were all a lot of fun, and I definitely appreciated watching them with the background knowledge of the comics in mind.  There were so many references and Easter eggs that I would have undoubtedly missed out on a lot had I not been familiar with the comics.

As if that wasn’t enough, Mistah J and I also finished watching all of the animated films in Disney’s canon, having just watched Moana last weekend.

Once I completed all that, I needed a break. I was still reading comics, but only the few newly released issues each week. I took a step back and tended to my other interests outside of the DC universe, along with picking up a few new interests along the way.  I had given so much of my time to reading “the shelf” that other hobbies had been neglected, and it feels good to finally be getting back into them. I don’t regret having read “the shelf” at all, and am honestly quite proud of the accomplishment, but as with any great undertaking, I breathed a sigh of relief when I was finally done.

So where does that leave me? Where does that leave this blog?  I’ve been giving it some thought lately and I don’t think I want to give up on this blog. I doubt I’ll ever return to posting quite as frequently as I did at my height (because honestly, that was just insane on my part), but I do think I’ll keep it up and use this site as an outpost for my musings on various topics, be it movies, television, comics, or anything else that comes into my mind.

A friend of mine and I have recently started watching every single Oscar Best Picture winner in order (they started in 1928, so you can do the math of what sort of undertaking that is).  We’re only a few movies in, and I’ve contemplated starting a new series about those.  I’ve also considered writing detailed posts about each episode of BtAS or one of the other animated DC series I’ve watched lately.  Basically, I’ve got lots of ideas, but haven’t landed on a single one yet.  Maybe I’ll do all of them, maybe none.  I’m biding my time until inspiration strikes, and then who knows what I’ll decide to blab blog about.

Bringing this post full-circle, I must say I’m excited for where the New 52 storylines seem to be headed. They’re slow-going, drawing out the storyline at an almost snail-like pace.  (Or, at least that’s what it feels like when you have to wait weeks for a new issue to come out. Is this what you people deal with on a regular basis?! I guess I better get used to it.)  I’m really excited for the upcoming “Button” crossover storyline between Batman and Flash, primarily because maybe we’ll finally get to see some progress with the whole Dr. Manhattan storyline. I’m loving the way they brought Watchmen into the main fold (and appreciate Mistah J having seemlessly slipped that comic into my reading list so coolly a few months ago, me none the wiser that I kinda had to read it to fully grasp the significance of this storyline).

I’m also glad to see that so many of the small details I disliked about the New 52 have since been explained and/or re-written (bye, New 52 Superman).  I’m liking the current direction DC seems to be taking with their stories, and while I know it’s impossible to say at this point whether these storylines will be a feather in DC’s proverbial cap, or a blight on their publishing record, I have a strong feeling it will lean towards the former.

Okay, I’ve blathered on long enough about not much at all.  I’ll definitely be posting again, I just don’t know when. Tomorrow, next week, next month? Whenever it is, I’ll be fine with it. I’m done forcing myself to write, and would much rather sit back and let the words come to me naturally.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to read a book without pictures. I know, I’m a monster.

-Jess