This post is reprinted from my New Social Darwinism blog, which focuses on social media and content. However, it seemed apt for this blog, and it’s been so long since I posted here, I’ve included it. Enjoy!

TV

At my house, watching television while working on our laptops or iPad is second nature. My husband does any number of things on his laptop while we’re viewing: he’s checking on that actress that looks so familiar (“where did we see her before?”), scanning eBay, checking the news and, of course, working.

Meanwhile I can be found on the couch with my iPad on my lap, usually playing a game, doing research for school or checking email while watching television.

When something really special is on – such as last night’s season premiere of “The Walking Dead” – I usually put the iPad down and devote most of my attention to the show.

Not last night.

Last night I decided to try the colossally hyped AMC “Story Sync” to watch the show. Used earlier this year on “Breaking Bad,” Story Sync provides interactive content and discussion during the first airing of each new episode. It makes sense for the network for two reasons: First, it gets people to watch the show when it airs rather than record it on a DVR for later viewing. That helps pump up the viewing numbers, which in turn drives the cost for advertising.

Second, the concept of the so-called “second screen” that I described above is widespread. My house isn’t extraordinary in that respect. Social TV apps such as Get Glue sprang from this trend. Networks eventually took notice and realized they could keep viewers on their own branded sites if they created their own interactive content. Brilliant.

So my task last night was to experience Story Sync. I didn’t join in on the discussion group that generated thousands of comments and discussions. That was a bit too much multi-tasking for me on a Sunday night. But I did play along with the synched content.

I was concerned the distraction of answering survey questions, would take away from my viewing experience, but the content was spaced out enough that I could still keep up with the episode. It was way more distracting for my husband because I kept yelling out poll questions to him as they came up. Fortunately he’s a fairly patient man.

Sample poll (if you’re a “Walking Dead” fan and haven’t seen the first episode, beware of spoilers here): “The prison. Worth the trouble.” That’s a question. Viewers’ choices are simple: Yes or No. Pick one and – instant gratification! – you quickly find out how your answer stacks up against other viewers’ responses.

Polls include judgment calls (“The group is enjoying killing the walkers.” Yes or No), predictions (“We’ll take the field by tonight – Rick.” Choices: No problem or casualties ahead). Other interactive elements include the “gore gauge” (yes, really. Compared to my fellow watchers, what I thought ranked “total blood bath” was only “major carnage”), an ad for Hyundai (“Dead Giveaway Survive and Drive Sweepstakes), trivia, instant video replays and – my personal favorite – a very detailed look at the specs of Ricks sniper rifle.

Gosh, it was kind of fun.

The advantages I see for AMC is that it personalizes the experience; it makes viewers feel like part of a community; it provides extra exposure for advertisers; and it gets people watching live, rather than using the DVR.

Would I want to do it for every show I watch? No. For the occasional big event? Maybe. For “The Walking Dead” next week? Hell yes. I do, after all, have to bounce back from being completely wrong about which character would have the highest body count.

But that’s next Sunday. Until then, I’ll be playing “Midnight Mysteries – Haunted Houdini” while watching the evening news or looking up that familiar actress in imdb.com while watching “Ink Master” on Spike. The combinations with the TV and the “second screen” are endless.

OK, so the sun is shining and the weather is awesome. It’s a perfect day in the neighborhood and in honor of that today I bring to you Five Things I’m Happy About Today:

1) American Vampire: Survival of the Fittest

I’ve been a bit behind on my reading due to work duties and starting an MBA program, so when I finally got out into the real world and my LCS, I found I had Cover of American Vampire Survival of the Fittestmissed the debut of American Vampire: Survival of the Fittest a couple of weeks ago. OMG! A five-part spin off from the oh-so-delicious American Vampire series is better even than a new pair of shoes – and if you’d seen my closet lately, you’d realize that’s saying something.

It’s written by Scott Snyder, who has done such a wonderful job with American Vampire, (up for an Eisner this year) and illustrated by New Hampshire native Sean Murphy of Joe the Barbarian (the comic is also up for an Eisner this year), so I’m expecting great things when I sit down to read to read it later with – what else? – a nice, thick, red, robust Cabernet. In a big-ass glass.

2. Locke & Key Vol. 3

It’s coming out this week. Finally. I have been waiting forever for Volume 3 of this incredible Eisner-nominated Joe Hill-penned comic with beautiful art byCover of Locke & Key Vol. 3 Gabriel Rodriguez. I finished Volume 2 months ago, and with a couple of issues of the third story arc sold out at my comic book store, decided to wait for the TPB. It was a long wait, but one that I’m sure will be worth it. Marketing 500 may suffer this week; I’m going to have Locke & Key to read.

My recommendation for this one is what my local watering hole calls a Dirty Mary Martini – a dirty Martini with tomato juice and blue cheese-stuffed olives. They look a little like eyeballs. Perfect.

BTW: Hill tweeted today that the series is set for six books of six issues each: The cover of Joe Hill's THe CapeWelcome to Lovecraft, Head Games, Crown of Shadows, Keys to the Kingdom, Clockworks and Omega.

Also, his comic The Cape – based on a short story in 20th Century Ghosts – is up for an Eisner this year. Any chance there’s a new novel on the horizon, too?  That would make me a very, very happy girl.

3. Game of Thrones

Sean Bean as Eddard Stark

Sean Bean aka Eddard Stark

I have been disconsolate since HBO adaptation of Game of Thrones concluded for the season (Oh, Sean Bean, we hardly knew ye) and not even the return of True Blood or making my husband refer to me as Khaleesi has been able to lift my spirits. Sure, I’m now reading the George R.R. Martin novel (Really? Two middle initials?), but the news this week that a comic adaptation of the first book is coming was just the sugar on my Corn Flakes. Bantam Books announced it will be published by Cover of Game of ThronesDynamite Entertainment – which also publishes one of my faves, The Boys. (In an ironic twist, The Boys is the kind of book I have to hide under my mattress so my child won’t find it. Is that so wrong?)

Look for Game of Thrones in September. It should go nicely with a good bottle of ale.

4. X-Men First Class

For the past few months it’s been all “Thor” this and “Green Lantern” that, but

James McAvoy

James McAvoy aka Charles Xavier

the real star of the show is this X-Men prequel (with a hilarious cameo by Hugh Jackman).

James McAvoy. Michael Fassbender. Be still my aging heart. More importantly (or at least as importantly) an awesome story and cool version of X-Men origins, even if they aren’t really comic-accurate. It was still lots of fun and the opener to what’s expected to be a trilogy – that will conclude about the time I’m 50. Wait for me James McAvoy! By the time you’re my age, I’ll only be, um, 65-ish. We’ll share a yard of ale – just like in the movie. Then I’ll fall asleep.

5. My LCS is up for an Eisner Award

Double Midnight Comics

My LCS

Double Midnight Comics, my uber-awesome LCS, is up for a Will Eisner Spirit of Comics Retailer Award at ComicCon. The award is presented annually to one comic book retailer. According to ComicsPro.org, “Since 1993, The Eisner Spirit Award has been presented to an individual

retailer performing an outstanding job of supporting the comics art medium both in the community and within the industry at large.”

Yes. Yes. And yes.

Good luck guys! Here’s to having another Thing to Be Happy About – with a glass of champagne.

Ben Grimm aka Thing

I turned 48 yesterday, and as you might imagine at a time like this, I’ve got a lot on my mind as I journey through the midpoint of my life.

For instance, how will I send my son to college? Will I ever be able to retire? Will there be peace in my lifetime? Will I ever lose that Freshman 15? (Granted, it’s been 30 years since I was a freshman, but I remain hopeful.)

Also weighing heavily on my mind is Ben Grimm.

Ian went to DragonCon a few months ago and, nice guy that he is, brought me Ultimate Fantastic Four #1back a copy of Ultimate Fantastic Four Vol. I. I wasn’t that up on the FF, but I loved the story and learning about their origins. Just one thing continues to nag at me and that’s Ben Grimm.

OK, just consider this: Reed, Sue and Johnny are playing with some serious physics stuff  — the kind you don’t learn in public high school — when Grimm comes to visit his old pal Reed. Through no fault of his, the whole project goes to hell and he ends up as Thing.

And that’s it. He’s Thing. Have you everFantastic Four 129 stopped to consider the injustice? Reed gets all elastic-like, but when he’s not a human piece of gum, he a relatively normal-looking guy. Johnny gets to go up in flames at will, but when he’s not a hottie of a whole different kind, he’s gets to be the good-looking rogue. And Sue gets to be invisible. Then, when she’s not invisible, she’s the nauseatingly cute-as-a-button girl next door.

Grimm gets superpowers too. And when he’s not a big, powerful, hulking pile of rocks, he’s … a big, powerful, hulking pile of rocks. He never gets to look like a normal guy again. It’s just so frustratingly unfair. And it has been bothering me ever since I finished that FF trade.

It kind of reminds me of the Charlie Brown episode from Halloween. You know the one:

So what do I take from all of this? Ben Grimm is the Charlie Brown of the Ben Grimm aka Thingsuperhero world. He’s the one who gets the rock. I’m just waiting for the issue when Sue invites him to kick a football.

And I, having a soft spot for the underdog, feel bad for Grimm, just as I do for Charlie Brown. Let’s face it. CharlieCharlie Brown Brown is a downer as far as comics go.

Recently my LCS had 75 percent off back issues, so I bought a bunch of old, really cool, collectible Fantastic Fours at an excellent price. Really, it’s the least I could do for old Grimm.

No really, WHAT. THE. FRACK.

They’re cancelling Caprica. You know, because TV networks routinely cancel smart, entertaining, ground-breaking shows. Remember Firefly? Remember Firefly when Nathan Fillion was naked in the desert? Wait, give me a moment to remember …

Nathan Fillion

Sorry, couldn't find that naked-in-the-desert photo. This is the best I can do.

OK, so  I don’t actually remember Firefly being cancelled since I didn’t actually see it when it was new; I didn’t see it until a couple of months ago. But I assure you, if I had watched it back in ’02-’03, I would have been just as upset about its cancellation as I am now about Caprica’s.

Joseph Adama and Daniel Greystone in Caprica

We've been cancelled? Are you fracking kidding?

Here’s a question: Why does Caprica get cancelled just as the second season was really heating up, while Dancing With the Stars goes on forever? And ever. And ever. Life is just not fair sometimes.

“We appreciate all the support that fans have shown for ‘Caprica’ and are very proud of the producers, cast, writers and the rest of the amazing team that has been committed to this fine series,” Mark Stern, executive vice president of original programming and co-head of content for Universal Cable Productions, said in a statement from the network. “Unfortunately, despite its obvious quality, ‘Caprica’ has not been able to build the audience necessary to justify a second season.”

Hellooooo? Second season’s already started, dude, could we at least see the rest of it?

No?

Alrighty, then. It’s time to get all activist-like. It’s time to protest this injustice. It’s time to stand up for geeks everywhere and let Syfy know what we think of this decision.

Now.

You can finish reading the latest issue of Brightest Day later. Put the comic book down and tell Stern we want Caprica back and we want it back before it’s actually gone. Or maybe tell him something that makes more sense.

You can e-mail him at mark.stern@nbcuni.com and ask him – nicely – to reconsider. Keeping Caprica in the Syfy lineup will make a whole bunch of geeks really, really happy.

So say we all.

Zoe Greystone

Dear Mark Stern, WHAT were you thinking? Please don't cancel Caprica. Love, Zoe

This is one of my recent flea market finds. I couldn’t pass it up. It was so kitschy, so awful and so over the top that nobody should be subjected to it in all of its ridiculousness.

So I just had to share it with all of you. Behold:

Marvel Swimsuit Special

A Marvel swimsuit edition? Really? What the hell were they thinking? It’s just so very  wrong  that it’s … almost right.

I guess what’s really wrong is that the Swimsuit Special theme was popular enough that it ran for five years (1991-1995). How is that possible?

The issue I found was from 1992 and was filled with superheros frolicking on the beaches of Wakanda (“Take a Wakanda the wild side,” was the title of the issue. Ack.) in all their semi-nude glory. But you know how it goes: It’s all fun and games until the skrulls show up.

Center spread from Marvel Swimsuit Special

Which X-Man is that in the little Speedo-y thingy? Looks like he fell asleep on his beach blanket or was stuck in some boiling water with a little salt, later to be served with drawn butter. And those prankish X-Women … it’s just fun in the sun here on wacky Wakanda.

Captain America

“Cap cools off with a quick splash in the clear, refreshing waters of Black Warrior Creek” Black Warrior Creek? Really? Is that the best they could come up with?

Rogue

One of the best things about being a superhero model, rather than a mere supermodel, is that you don’t need to worry about the laws of physics as Rogue demonstrates here with a dive off Warrior Falls, hair — and bikini top — intact. Take that Elle MacPherson.

Another example is below with Silver Sable’s gravity defying dive prep in this pic from the 1993 issue. Check out the hand grenade.

Silver Sable

Look at these next two images — I dare you. These kind of makes you want to rip your own retinas out, don’t they? Some things just should never, ever be viewed by the eyes of  mere mortals.

Eww. That’s all I have to say.

That was from my 1992 issue. But even more frightening is this from the 1995 issue:

Namor

OMG. I know Scallop shells usually have a jewel inside, but not the family jewels. That’s not even a very big scallop shell. The only explanation I can think of is Seinfeld-like shrinkage due to the cool waters. Although I never imagined the waters of Madripoor, the fictional comic book island located in Southeast Asia, would be quite that cool. Poor substandard Sub-Mariner.

Meanwhile, back in Wakanda …

I know the caption says Bishop, Cyclops and Gambit are taking an early-morning jog on Panther Island, but it looks more  like the trio just found out Bette Midler tickets went on sale and they want to be sure to be first in line. If you get my drift. If not, let’s just say Bishop, Cyclops and Gambit are taking an early-morning jog on Panther Island and leave it at that.

Bishop, Cyclops and Gambit

And here’s one of my favorites, which appeared in the 1993 issue.  Ghost Rider wearing nothing but a smile.

Ghost Rider

Had enough? No? Well, here are a few more examples of the Swimsuit Special through the ages— or at least 1991 — 1995.

After that, let’s never speak of this again.

Captain America and Diamondbacl

1991

Namor

1992

Thor and Thunderstrike

1993

The Wasp

1994

Dr. Strange swimsuit

1995? I couldn't find the exact issue this ran in, but I thought it might be '95, since it says "95" at the bottom. Who cares? Whatever the year, It just begged to be included. Dr. Strange, indeed.

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