comics, Pop Culture, TV

If you didn’t understand the first two episodes of ‘WandaVision,’ it’s OK. Those characters never make sense. Here’s why.

From the mind of friendly neighborhood paragraph stacker Daniel P. Finney of Des Moines, Iowa.

Let’s be honest: The first two episodes of “WandaVision” make no damn sense.

The new Marvel TV series on Disney+ begins in black and white like an old episode of “Bewitched” with our heroes Wanda (Elizabeth Olsen) and Vision (Paul Bettany) apparently living a zany early 1960s sitcom lifestyle — complete with laugh track.

Vision supposedly died in “Avengers: Infinity War.” He died twice, actually. Wanda killed him once to save the universe. Thanos hit reset on the game and killed Vision to take the stone from his skull and snap half the universe out of existence.

The next time we saw Wanda, she used her powers of deus ex machina to put the smackdown on Thanos.

Thanos rolls his 1D20 and has his spaceship blow stuff up for a few minutes. After that, Wanda shares sniffles by a pond with Hawkeye over the dead, which included Vision.

Vision is back looking like a red-faced baboon in a green hoodie. Wanda is performing witchy tricks that would make Elizabeth Montgomery jealous in an effort to hide their collective weirdness from the nosy neighbor, oppressive boss and a collection of TV tropes so old you’d think you fell asleep during a MeTV marathon.

How did we get here? TBD.

Maybe there’s a clue in the title: “WandaVision,” like television.

There seems to be people trying to reach Wanda from the outside world. It blew up a radio at the neighborhood bully’s house.

The whole thing could be in Wanda’s head. That’s happened in the comics.

If it feels as if I’m not making things any clearer, that’s exactly right.

Wanda, known as the Scarlet Witch in comics, and Vision have some of the most complicated backstories in Marvel Comics history.

I tried to explain their comics’ origins to a non-comics friend and less than halfway through she said, “I’m to the point where all I can hear is angry bees buzzing in my head.”

The movie universe summed up Wanda and her dead brother, Pietro, as “He’s fast and she’s weird.”

Her powers are making red gooey things and doing whatever the writer needs in that scene.

The writer of “WandaVision” needed her to contour whole objects out of the air, teleport people into magic boxes and make lobster thermidor with copious amounts of levitation.

Vision can alter his density to make himself intangible or diamond-hard. He can shoot lasers out of the gem in his head. And he’s an android.

He’s technically a synthetic human, but let’s not get those Isaac Asimov “I, Robot” people into this.

The point is, Wanda and Vision have never made sense. Not in comics. Not in film. Not in this streaming show.

So just go with it. Right now, they’re doing schtick and it’s at least as amusing as an actual episode of “Bewitched.”

And Elizabeth Montgomery never looked as good as Elizabeth Olsen in a magician’s assistant costume.

Yeah, I know. I’m not supposed to say that.

Don’t tell me how to enjoy things.

And don’t try to figure out “WandaVision.”

Just watch. See what happens. But don’t expect it to ever make sense.

Daniel P. Finney followed his dream. Look where that got him.

ParagraphStacker.com is free, reader-supported media. Please consider donating to help me cover personal expenses as I continue writing while I pursue my master’s degree and teacher certification. The new semester starts soon. All donations are greatly appreciated. Visit paypal.me/paragraphstacker.

comics, Iowa, Movies, People, Pop Culture, reviews

‘Wonder Woman 1984’ is the best superhero movie I’ve ever seen and you don’t have to wrap me in the lasso of truth to get me to say that

“Wonder Woman 1984” is the best superhero film I’ve ever seen. Call it hyperbole. Accuse me of recency bias.

But wrap the golden lasso of truth around my fist and I’ll swear the same: “WW84” is the best superhero movie I’ve ever seen.

And I’ve seen most of them, even “The Adventures of Pluto Nash.”

I admit to being biased in favor of Wonder Woman, a character who first caught my interest when the 1970s show starring Lynda Carter played in reruns at the childcare I periodically attended in order to get what the guidance counselors said was “much-needed socialization with peers.”

I read her comic books written by George Pérez, perhaps my favorite graphic artist, as a boy. I felt slight trepidation buying a comic about a female hero, but nobody said anything – especially not my dad, so I assumed it was OK.

It’s good for a boy to root for a girl. That’s the message I took from my dad not being unnerved by the title in my collection of books bought at Montross Pharmacy. A boy needs that kind of reinforcement from his father.

But this Wonder Woman, as played by Gal Gadot and rendered by director Patty Jenkins, is the best I’ve ever seen the character. It improves on the terrific original from 2017.

“WW84” is a movie about wishes. Jenkins tells the story loud, bold and colorful, but at its heart, this is a children’s story. Wishes can be sweet whispers into Santa Claus’ ear for a new toy or they can be desperate pleas by the jealous and embittered. Wishes can break your heart as easily as they slake your desire.

Wonder Woman, who is called only Diana in these films, reunites with long-dead lover Steve Trevor (Chris Pine) in a lovely, tragic way. Scheming businessman Maxwell Lord (Pedro Pascal of “The Mandalorian” fame) tries to rule the world by preying on the weaknesses of others.

Barbara Minerva (Kristen Wiig) is a bright-but-overlooked scientist who struggles with toxic male aggression and her own insecurities. She sees Diana’s poise and grace and covets it. She uses magic to gain Wonder Woman’s powers but skips the steps of practice that earns poise. This ends badly.

“WW84” is imperfect in spots. There’s a silly, “She’s All That” quality in attempting to make Wiig seem dumpy and ignorable, but even beautiful people are treated poorly and feel badly about themselves.

And her ultimate form as the monster Cheetah only reinforces the lessons the horrific uncanny valley of “Cats” taught us in 2019 – you just can’t CGI a person into a cat. It will always be too silly.

There are obvious present-day political allegories in the movie, right down to Maxwell Lord’s uncontrollable hair. And the way both Diana and Barbara must brush off unwanted attention feels like an “I see you” moment for the #metoo movement.

But I choose not to mingle with the angels and devils in political statements no matter how important or well-intentioned.

Instead, I look at the film as a whole and see a lot of joy. Most of the movie takes place in the bright, beautiful daylight. The Fourth of July fireworks scene is very sweet.

There is plenty of action and battle, but the day is not won by Diana punching the last monster to dust. Instead, her victory is convincing humanity to give up their greed, to let loose their pettiness and forgive themselves and everyone else – embrace life and love.

The moment is beautiful, complex and powerful – and for me, quite personal.

I mention my father’s support of me as I read comic books and watched sci-fi shows while his other sons excelled in Boy Scouts, hunting and fishing. I did not have such a close relationship with my mother, whose undiagnosed mental illness and prescription drug addictions made her cruel and erratic.

Many paragraphs will be stacked about how important it is for girls to see a hero like Wonder Woman on screen, to believe in.

But as someone who has carried the scars of a bad relationship with his mother well into middle age, I argue that “WW84” is something that’s very good for little boys – and grown men – to believe in, too.

Daniel P. Finney is fighting for your rights in his satin tights.

ParagraphStacker.com is free, reader-supported media. Please consider donating to help me cover personal expenses as I continue writing while I pursue my master’s degree and teacher certification. Visit paypal.me/paragraphstacker.

comics, des moines, humor, Iowa, News, People, politics, Pop Culture, sports

HOT SHEET: How I’m getting ready to start my career in local television news

From the desk of Daniel P. Finney, Paragraph Stacker, 24th Street bureau, Des Moines, Iowa.

ITEM FIRST: I start my new job as an assignment editor for WOI-DT on Monday. The only thing I know about television is how to watch one. I decided to turn to the best possible source to prepare myself for joining broadcast media: movies. Here are five flicks I’m watching to get ready for my new TV job:

  1. “Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy”
  2. “Network”
  3. “Broadcast News”
  4. “The China Syndrome”
  5. “Good Night and Good Luck”

ITEM TWO: Today is new comics Wednesday. Let’s talk shop:

  1. Darth Vader: The Heart of the Sith Vol. 1— The story picks up in the hours after Vader cuts off Luke Skywalker’s hand and lets the young Jedi know who his daddy is. Vader vows revenge on the Rebellion and the people who made Luke such a wimp, but first he has some questions of his own he wants answered. First, how did Padme survive the force choke fallen Jedi Anakin Skywalker put on her, and who delivered baby Luke into this world? To find the answer, Vader traces Padme’s final days and crosses paths with Padme’s old pals from Naboo. Again, Marvel proves it knows how to handle “Star Wars” characters better than the people who make the movies. This is Vader as we all dreamed of seeing him: pissed off, cutting people in half with lightsabers and just too much of a force to be reckoned with — even for giant sea monsters. The first trade paperback of the latest Vader series is on sale now.
  • Star Wars: Bounty Hunters Vol. 1 — What Vader gives to “Star Wars” comics, Bounty Hunters takes away. That’s not quite fair. The story centers on a comics character resurrected from the original Marvel comics of the 1970s and 80s, which were often mediocre to terrible. There’s Boba Fett, the most overrated character in “Star Wars” lore, and Bossk, a reptilian bounty hunter who makes for a better action figure than character in a story. The story deals with a protection job gone wrong, some mafia clans and other jibber jabber that just doesn’t entice more reading. The art isn’t for me. I’m always hesitant to criticize art because even the worst comic book creators make things more beautiful than I could ever create. Still, this artwork feels like posed shots that belong in pin-up galleries or sold as paintings at conventions rather than pages of a comic. It lacks action and sense of motion. But I know Boba Fett and bounty hunters as a concept sell, so a lot of “Star Wars” fans might want to give this trade paperback a look.
  • Green Lantern Season Two Vol. 1 — Writer Grant Morrison and artist Liam Sharp team for some of the best Green Lantern stories in decades. Morrison is one of modern comics’ geniuses. His stories are trippy, fun and balance badassery with a hint of Silver Age fun. Sharp’s artwork is so tremendous one might be convinced this is why God invented pencils.
  • Batwoman/Catwoman No. 1 — Writer Tom King shaped the love story between Batman and Catwoman like no other creator before him. That story propelled through his entire 85-issue run on “Batman.” This issue begins a special year-long story about Batman and Catwoman set after the events of “City of Bane,” during which Catwoman nursed a broken Batman back to health in order to defeat Bane and an alternate version of his father, Thomas Wayne. I’m looking forward to this comic more than any other on the schedule. I usually wait for trade paperbacks for stories, but I’m buying this in single issues.

ITEM THREE: A recent study found that when people preface a statement with the phrase “with all due respect” the thing that followed was in no way respectful in 100% of cases.

ITEM FOUR: A joke from a Johnny Carson “Tonight Show” from the 1970s: “A new record is out that teaches people how to have better sex. It encourages couples to play the record in the act. There’s already been a tragedy. One couple put the record on at 78 instead of 33. Services are this week.”

ITEM FIVE: This is the best #2020 thing ever and of course it comes from a collaboration between Taylor Swift and Ryan Reynolds:

ITEM SIX: One of the few things I know about English soccer leagues is the concept of relegation. The poorest performing teams are sent down to a lower league and the better performing teams are brought up to play at the highest level. Such a thing would have been a mercy to the Pittsburgh Pirates, who posted 20 consecutive losing seasons from 1993 to 2012. It similarly would be a mercy to Chicago Bears fans to see the Bears sent down to the Big 12 or the Pac-12 for a couple of seasons. Let Ohio State or Alabama have a go at the pros. Their college programs are damn near that good anyway. Anything to ease the suffering of Bears fans who have to watch a team without an offense, a quarterback, a competent coach and general manager play pro football games against bonafide NFL winners such as the Green Bay Packers.

ITEM LAST: I was overwhelmed with the kind notes, messages and well-wishes after the announcement of my new job. I plan to continue to write for this blog. There will be no more politics talk and the profanity will be scaled back to PG-13 levels. As for what I’m going to be doing at WOI, well, I don’t know yet. I do know I won’t be on camera and that’s a blessing to everyone including me. I will be working with our team of reporters, anchors and producers. And I’ll be doing some reporting and writing for the WeAreIowa.com website. Frankly, it’s good to have something to look forward to each day besides more worry. Unemployment is a crushing mishmash of depression and anxiety. You’re depressed because your old shop sent you packing and even though they tell you it’s not personal, it sure as hell feels that way. It’s anxious because the money goes fast and when you start to wonder if you’re going to be living at the YMCA by this time next month, your guts churn. So at the risk of one more political comment, having been through what I’ve been through and knowing millions of Americans are still going through, I hope Congress and the new president figure out a stimulus bill as soon as possible to help everyone who wasn’t as lucky as I was to find a job in the middle of a pandemic.

Daniel P. Finney is getting down to this sick beat.

ParagraphStacker.com is free, reader-supported media. Please consider donating to help me cover personal expenses as I continue writing while I pursue my master’s degree and teacher certification. Visit paypal.me/paragraphstacker.

comics, Movies, Pop Culture, reviews

HOT SHEET: 5-sentence reviews of ‘Birds of Prey,’ ‘Class Action Park’ and ‘SCOOB!’

From the desk of Daniel P. Finney, hot seat editor, 24th Street bureau, Des Moines, Iowa.

ITEM FIRST: We’re all stuck inside and, if we’re following CDC guidelines, not traveling or gathering for Thanksgiving. So, it’s time for the ol’ Paragraph Stacker to break out some of his patented five-sentence reviews. Plus, he got a free trial of HBO Max’s streaming service to help him get through the crushing grief of not being able to eat Mom 2.0’s dressing.

ITEM SECOND: 5-sentence review of “Birds of Prey (and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn),” HBO Max, (2020).

  1. Margot Robbie reprises her role as Harley Quinn, the psychiatrist who fell in love with Batman’s nemesis the Joker first seen on screen in the 2016 stinker “Suicide Squad.”
  2. Robbie is the best part of both movies, which damns her with faint praise because both movies are awful, though in different ways.
  3. “Suicide Squad” is awful in the way superhero movies often are: too many characters with no clear purpose or reason to be together fighting a big CGI blob at the end.
  4. “Birds of Prey” brings together a lot of strong women to portray ill-conceived and unbelievably shallow characters to fight a throng of armed goons that ends with one big, unsatisfying boom.
  5. There may be an attempt at some underlying attempt at positive messaging about female bonding, but if this is the kind of garbage women have to watch to feel seen and represented in society and art, the patriarchy has a lot more to answer for than previously thought.

ITEM THIRD: 5-sentence review of “Class Action Park,” HBO Max, (2020).

  1. This documentary alternates between a nostalgic reminisce and grisly crime story of an amusement park in Vernon Township, New Jersey, in the greater New York City area known as Action Park.
  2. Wall Street hustler Eugene Mulvihill opened the combination water and motorsports park with almost no engineering and no supervision as thousands of New York and New Jersey youth broke bones, ripped off their skin and died on the dangerous rides between 1978 and 1996.
  3. The film relies heavily on some MTV “Headbangers Ball” footage shot there as well as a tourism video and some home video footage, which limits the visual scope of the film.
  4. Interviews with patrons and former park workers, as well as the mother of the first person to die at the park, force the viewer to sway between funny anecdotes and true tragedy without much reverence for the dead or their survivors.
  5. “Class Action Park” is a worthy watch, but as it closes it reinforces two points: Teenagers should never be trusted with anything ever and people from New York and New Jersey are insufferable.

ITEM FOUR: Five-sentence review of “Scoob!,” HBO Max, (2020).

  1. Scooby-Doo was good exactly one time: in the 1969-70 confusingly punctuated series “Scooby-Doo, Where Are You!” created by Joe Ruby and Ken Spears.
  2. Every incarnation after that has diluted the character, from the hour-long “movies” with guest stars such as Phyllis Diller, Tim Conway and the Harlem Globetrotters, to the abysmal creation of Scrappy-Doo.
  3. Warner Bros. made two live-action movies with a CGI Scooby and Sarah Michelle Gellar of “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” fame in a very short purple skirt.
  4. “Scoob!” is an attempt at a love letter for Hanna-Barbera cartoons and attempts to cram in Dastardly and Muttley and the Blue Falcon and Dynomutt into an all-CGI (Does no one draw anymore?) Scooby-Doo movie with a plot that boils down to “friendship fixes everything.”
  5. The ol’ Paragraph Stacker seldom concedes that when you’re an adult you should put away childish things, but perhaps with Scooby-Doo, it’s better he stick to the originals that gave a few laughs than another redux.

ITEM LAST: This blog will become private in a few weeks, which means you’ll have to request access to read the posts. It’ll still be free, but there will be an extra step to reading posts. The easiest way to avoid all that is go to https://paragraphstacker.com/ now and look for the follow button on the left side of the page. Enter your email address and confirm it. You’ll get every post delivered to your inbox.

One day, Lucy is going to let Daniel P. Finney kick that football.

ParagraphStacker.com is free, reader-supported media. Please consider donating to help me cover personal expenses as I continue writing while I pursue my master’s degree and teacher certification. Visit paypal.me/paragraphstacker.

comics, des moines, humor, Iowa, Media, Movies, politics, Pop Culture

COVID Kim Reynolds cracks, issues mask order but not before making Iowans look like a bunch of dummies

ITEM FIRST: COVID Kim cracked. Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds finally issued a statewide mask order. The long-overdue order came 9 months into a pandemic that has killed more than 2,000 Iowans. It came a day after COVID Kim made national headlines babbling about science on “both sides” of masks for preventive measures against the spread. After all that, COVID Kim bent her knee and issued the order. Who knows what prevented her from doing so earlier? Pride? After yesterday’s laughable assertion that there is science that suggests masks might not help the spread, was she playing to her base — the big dummies who shout “I have a right to breath O2 and not CO2” at Starbucks clerks? Then again, who knows how many lives could have been saved if she’d ordered it back in March when things started to get bad. Even one would have been worth it. Reynolds doesn’t face reelection for another three years. One hopes Iowa voters remember her haplessness and foolishness in times of crisis. She is unfit for office and has made Iowa look like a state governed by morons.

ITEM TWO: Former U.S. Sen. Roger Jepsen died Nov. 13 at 90. The Cedar Falls native had a colorful single term before being ousted by Tom Harkin in 1984. Law enforcement caught Jepsen using the commuter lane in Washington, D.C. Such lanes are meant for carpoolers, but Jepsen didn’t think such things applied to a member of Congress. Jepsen also admitted to using kinky massage parlors while serving as senator. His constituents were not pleased and moderate voters dispensed with Jepsen in favor of liberal street fighter Harkin. Thirty-five years ago, some bad driving and a trip to a “massage parlor” was enough that Iowans sent a politician into the private sector. Today’s Iowa voter gave An 8-point victory to a known philanderer who never knew a rule that applied to him and likes to “grab (women) by the pussy.” Growing up, the ol’ Paragraph Stacker read story after story about the “brain drain” — young, college educated people leaving Iowa for the bright lights and big city. The typist never thought much of it, but between COVID Kim and now living in Trumpistan, maybe this is what happens when most of the smart people leave.

ITEM THREE: The ol’ Paragraph Stacker slurped ice tea over lunch at the bar of a local restaurant when the manager rushed out into the hall and asked everyone to leave the bar area. The word on the street was a restaurant had been fined $500 for not obeying the governor’s new COVID restrictions, which included not having people sitting at bars. What agency levied the fine or where it was laid down, the typist didn’t know. It’s good there’s an effort to put some enforcement teeth in these regulations. Restaurants probably should be closed as should all other non-essential businesses. The typist doesn’t want businesses to suffer any more than they already have, but hard choices need to be made if this pandemic is ever to lift. Of course this would be a lot easier if those greedy, grandstanding hustlers had passed a meaningful stimulus package that would have provided money to soften the blow for businesses and extended unemployment for people displaced by COVID. But of course those fuckers aren’t going to do anything except pound their chests in tribal grunts and nobody wants to interrupt Trump’s golf schedule.

ITEM FOUR: Let’s get to something fun, namely new comics Wednesday recommendations.

  • Doctor Who: Time Lord Victorious: Defender of the Daleks — The Doctor has been absent from our TV screens for a long time and the hero’s return is welcome in this multimedia event that ponders what would happen if the Doctor turned evil in the Time War.
  • Rick and Morty Presents Vol. 2 — The “Rick and Morty” cartoon on Adult Swim is the best thing ever, but it suffers massive gaps between releases of new episodes. The comics really help with that. These side trips involving ancillary characters such as Unity and Mr. Meeseeks salve the burn for more animated adventures.

ITEM LAST: Rumors suggest Warner Bros. might release potential blockbuster “Wonder Woman ‘84” in hybrid form to theaters and on HBOMax. The ol’ Paragraph Stacker loves the idea of not having to leave the house to see new movies, but he hates the idea that it might drive a stake into what was once a staple of American entertainment. Regardless of what happens, when it comes to “WW84,” take my money and let me see it.

Daniel P. Finney is calm like a bomb.

ParagraphStacker.com is free, reader-supported media. Please consider donating to help me cover personal expenses as I continue writing while I pursue my master’s degree and teacher certification. Visit paypal.me/paragraphstacker.

comics, des moines, humor, Media, People, politics, Unemployment

HOT SHEET: 3 unsettling thoughts in the age of unease post #election2020 plus new comics recommendations

From the desk of Daniel P. Finney, sergeant of the watch, 24th Street Station, Des Moines, Iowa.

ITEM FIRST: The major news organizations seem to agree Joe Biden won the presidency in the general election earlier this month.

But do you trust it?

The typist does not.

No, the ol’ Paragraph Stacker does not subscribe to the unfounded claims the election was rigged or interfered with.

He just doesn’t think getting Donald Trump out of the White House will be as easy as voting him out.

Trump demonstrates no respect for norms or even basic human decency. This is a guy who threw paper towels at Puerto Rican survivors of a deadly hurricane.

This is a guy who essentially ordered border patrol to kidnap the children of refugees and then failed to reunite them with their families.

Why would anyone expect him to follow something as beautiful and profound as the peaceful transfer of power?

The typist keeps asking his buddy, a former Army CID man, if Trump can just lob a nuke at some country he has disdain for to bring the whole house down.

The friend of Hot Sheet says the armed services only obey lawful orders.

Are there some Trump loyalists who will try to keep him in power even after all the recounts are done and the lawsuits settle and the Electoral College is certified?

No, the typist does not trust it at all. And he won’t trust it until Biden’s hand is on the Bible and Trump is either going out on Marine One or being dragged away by federal agents.

ITEM TWO: A buddy asked the ol’ Paragraph Stacker if he truly thought Biden will make a great president.

Great? Whose to say? Biden faces a historical clusterfuck. COVID-19. Economic woes. Racial unrest. A world that wonders if America is truly as awful as it has behaved.

The typist looks at like this: For the past four years, the country has been a bus driving down the Rockies in the middle of a blizzard with a guy whose never driven before drunk on whisky and far gone on cocaine at the wheel.

Biden will be a guy with a clean driving record, who keeps his hands at 10 and 2, wears his seatbelt and won’t tolerate any horsing around in the aisles or in the back of the bus.

That’s the minimum one would expect from a bus driver, but compared to the last guy, it’s a dramatic improvement.

His presidency could still be a historic disaster given the issues he faces. But at least he had a concept of how to govern and a plan that doesn’t include cheap red hats and dog whistles to racists.

ITEM THREE: The most pressing issue that faces the lame duck president and Congress is an economic stimulus.

The country is slathered in coronavirus and the winter is expected to be worse yet. States across the country are expecting another shut down.

Nancy Pelosi and Mitch McConnell took turns trying to best one another in a grandstanding contest over the stimulus since the first expired in July.

The result is the only person who made a move to help the unemployed since the stimulus was Trump. His assistance wasn’t enough by half and didn’t last long enough, but credit where it’s do, it was something.

That our national legislative bodies are so impotent and callous to the struggles of millions of Americans is almost as shameful as the Trump presidency.

Of course this issue is personal to the ol’ Paragraph Stacker, who lost his job in May in the midst of the pandemic.

To quote Hannibal Smith from an episode of “The A-Team:” “It’s always darkest before it goes completely black.”

ITEM FOUR: Belated new comics Wednesday recommendations:

  • Star Wars Vol 1: The Destiny Path — Marvel Comics are great at telling “Star Wars” stories. They are better at it than Disney is making “Star Wars” movies. Disney owns Marvel. Maybe they should consult. Anyway, “Star Wars” comics have been delightful since the brand returned to Marvel from Dark Horse in 2014. This volume picks up the story of the heroes of the original trilogy moments after the end of events in “The Empire Strikes Back.” Luke is traumatized at losing his hand and learning Darth Vader is his father. Han is gone. Lando is still a mystery. The Rebellion is at a low point. This is rich storytelling ground and Charles Soule is the kind of writer to mine it to maximum potential.
  • Jack Kirby: The Forever People — Jack Kirby is the greatest artist in the history of comics and one of the greatest writers. He co-created with Stan Lee almost every character that eventually became a box office blockbuster. He left Marvel for DC Comics there and told some of the greatest stories of his career, creating a mythos called the Fourth World, home to the New Gods and the DC Universe’s greatest villain, Darkseid. The Forever People shows Kirby tapping into the youth movement of the area, with a group of traveling heroes fighting Darkseid’s effort to expand his tyranny from Apokplipse to Earth. The heroes fall somewhere between the Scooby-Doo gang and the rebels from “Easy Rider.” They can combine their powers to form Infinity Man. The dialogue is dated, but it’s like catching a crazy genre flick at the bottom of one of your Netflix queue. You’ll be surprised by how entertaining it really is.
Major League Wiffle Ball

ITEM LAST: There’s a lot of horrible stuff in the world right now, but the Hot Sheet wants to leave you with a bit of the bright side of life. Few places bring as much instant joy as the short video platform TikTok. The ol’ Paragraph Stacker discovered the account for Major League Wiffle Ball (@mlw_wiffle). Who knew there was such a thing? The highlights are fantastic, heavy on pitchers with crazy arm angles spinning Wiffle Balls in physics-defying arcs that either baffle batters or end up smashed for home runs. The whole thing is delightful and recalls the glory days of childhoods past when the bikes filled driveways and kids batted-in ghost runners and argued balls and strikes until the street lights flickered on and mother’s voices called them home.

There are a million stories in Daniel P. Finney’s baggy khaki slacks. This has been one of them.

ParagraphStacker.com is free, reader-supported media. Please consider donating to help me cover personal expenses as I continue writing while I pursue my master’s degree and teacher certification. Visit paypal.me/paragraphstacker.

comics, des moines, humor, Iowa, Media, News, politics, Pop Culture

HOT SHEET: Some more #Election2020 stuff, but it’s mostly just harmless jokes and not anything serious

From the desk of Daniel P. Finney, sergeant of the watch, Drake Station, Des Moines, Iowa.

ITEM FIRST: Good news for lovers of political drama, CNN has renewed “The Forever Election” for a four more seasons. New episodes and characters to be revealed soon after the current season wraps Jan. 20.

ITEM TWO: I’ve gotten so many unsolicited texts urging me to vote and telling me who to vote for that I practically teared up when I got an unsolicited text for erectile dysfunction medication.

ITEM THREE: Remember back in January when the Iowa Caucasus were a giant clusterfuck for Democrats and they ultimately couldn’t chose a winner? Boy, we Iowans know how to set a trend!

ITEM FOUR: I received a fortune in a cookie with Chinese takeout that if only President Trump had read, perhaps the year would have gone better. The fortune said: “Avoid compulsively making things worse.”

ITEM FIVE: Belated new comics Wednesday recommendations:

  • Avengers No. 57 Facsimile Edition — The typist has a fondness for these facsimiles because they give you a chance to the old ads that ran in the magazine when kids first handed over 12 cents to the druggist. This issue deals with the costumed adventurer Vision and the reproduction primes interest in the coming Disney+ series “WandaVision.”
  • Venom Marvel Epic Collection: Symbiosis — These are the comics of the typist’s late youth, when dad was gone and mom was on her way out. He spent hours in Mrs. Pope’s art classes at Winterset High School with his buddy Lew trying to mimic the style of Todd McFarlane. The stories are medium at best, but Venom is a fun, original villain.

ITEM LAST: They typist delighted in a video from actors and friends Sarah Michelle Gellar and Shannon Doherty wearing giant bubble wrap balls and smashing into one another on a sunny lawn. Doherty is living with Stage 4 cancer having relapsed after a period of remission. If these two friends can find a way to laugh so hard in desperate times, so too can the rest of us find time for a giggle or two.

Daniel P. Finney just ain’t right.

ParagraphStacker.com is free, reader-supported media. Please consider donating to help me cover personal expenses as I continue writing while I pursue my master’s degree and teacher certification. Visit paypal.me/paragraphstacker.

comics, des moines, Faith and Values, humor, Iowa, mental health, News, Pop Culture

HOT SHEET: Connery dead, mask misery, and Christmas cancelled

From the desk of Daniel P. Finney, sergeant of the watch, Drake Neighborhood Station, Des Moines, Iowa.

The torsion on this costume is said to have taken seven years off of Sean Connery’s life.

ITEM FIRST: Breaking news bummer: Sean Connery has died. The Scottish actor was best known for playing the Zed in science fiction masterpiece “Xardox,” which popularized underwear with suspenders.

Spider-Man knows his mask isn’t impeding his oxygen levels, but he sure feels that way.

ITEM TWO: After eight months in the pandemic, the typist still can’t get comfortable wearing a mask. He finally understands why Batman left his chin exposed.

ITEM THREE: The ol’ Paragraph Stacker understands wanting to steal the Lincoln head from Mount Rushmore while riding flying bicycles that shoot red lightening bolts. Really, who hasn’t dreamed of that? But the funny book raises another crime quandary — where would the crooks fence it?

The typist was in his late 30s before someone pointed out how gross this photo is.

ITEM FOUR: Rock band the Who offered sage advice in the lyrics of their 1971 hit “Behind Blue Eyes” that can easily be applied to the 2020:

When my fist clenches, crack it open
Before I use it and lose my cool
When I smile, tell me some bad news
Before I laugh and act like a fool.

Tom is the good guy in “Tom and Jerry” cartoons. You have a cat to kill the mice. These are the rules.

ITEM FIVE: It’s Saturday. Remember to take a nap.

Well, this sucks.

ITEM LAST: Mom 2.0 announced the official cancellation of family Thanksgiving and Christmas gatherings due to COVID-19.

This is the right thing to do. Parents 2.0 are both 71. Family gatherings are large and crowded. We lost Grandma Lois this year. An uncle struggles with an unknown ailment. We don’t want to have a mini-spreader event.

But when the typist heard the words come out of Mom 2.0’s mouth, he was speechless. It wasn’t the loss of delicious meals or presents that made the ol’ Paragraph Stacker so sad.

No, it was that he know how much those celebrations mean to Parents 2.0. They love nothing more than to be surrounded by family and extended family.

And this goddamn virus robbed them of that. The typist thought this broke his heart. But then Mom 2.0 said: “There’s talk this might go on another year.”

And that was too much to contemplate.

Daniel P. Finney wants you to know he’s a mirrorball.

ParagraphStacker.com is free, reader-supported media. Please consider donating to help me cover personal expenses as I continue writing while I pursue my master’s degree and teacher certification. Visit paypal.me/paragraphstacker.

comics, des moines, humor, Iowa, Media, mental health, Movies, News, Pop Culture, TV

HOT SHEET: Let people have their pineapple on pizza and pumpkin spiced everything; More ways to avoid Election Day blather; and new comics Wednesday recommendations

From the desk of Daniel P. Finney, sergeant of the watch, Drake Neighborhood station, Des Moines, Iowa.

ITEM FIRST: Let’s stop fussing about things that some people enjoy but don’t affect our ability to enjoy similar things. The typist refers to, of course, the great debates of our time: pineapple on pizza and pumpkin spice flavors. This is America. There is room for people who love pineapple on pizza and people who hate pineapple on pizza. Pumpkin spice flavors may seem ubiquitous during the fall, but that is only because lots of people enjoy it and corporate America is not very creative. The only time you have to worry is if somebody tries to require pineapple on every pizza or pumpkin spice in every latte. In other words, friends, live and let live.

ITEM TWO: Today in COVID-19/Election Day survival tips: Randy Evans, executive director of the Iowa Freedom of Information Council, recommends careful consideration of the comedic stylings of Jerry Van Dyke in “Coach” reruns available in the Des Moines metro on WHO-TV’s digital subchannel 13.3.

The ol’ Paragraph Stacker chips in with his traditional favorites: classic “Doctor Who” and old school James Bond movies, both found on the free streaming service PlutoTV.

At no point should you turn on or read the news. It will only depress you.

ITEM THREE: Unavailable due to the typist’s need for self-care.

ITEM FOUR: Four more jokes to learn and say on Beggars’ Night in Des Moines:

Q: What building has the most stories?
A:
A Library!

Q: What do you call a grandmother who tells jokes?
A: A gram cracker!

Q: Where should you go if your dog is missing?
A:
The lost and hound.

Q: What has no legs but can do a split?
A: A banana.

ITEM FIVE: New comics Wednesday recommendations:

  • SUPERMAN’S PAL JIMMY OLSEN: WHO KILLED JIMMY OLSON — This trade paperback collects all 12 issues of Matt Fraction and Steve Lieber’s Silver Age romp with comics’ most famous newspaper photographer. Need more? There are giant turtles. Giant. Turtles.
  • RED SONJA AND VAMPIRELLA MEET BETTY AND VERONICA, VOL. 1 — These Archie Comics crossovers are always fun. Crossing two of comics’ great sexpots, Vampirella and Red Sonja, with the seemingly sugar-sweet Betty and Veronica might seem like an odd juxtaposition, but remember Archie once hung out with the Punisher.
  • VAMPIRELLA VOL. 1: SEDUCTION OF THE INNOCENT — The ol’ Paragraph Stacker makes no apologies for his appreciation of Vampirella comics, but the title “Seduction of the Innocent,” a reference to a debunked book that tried to get Congress to censor comics, makes him want this one all the more.

ITEM LAST: At the risk of adding more worry to these anxiety-riddled times, the typist notes the Florida Man website, home to stories of the most bizarre behavior in our wacked-out nation, has not updated with any Florida man fuckery since Sept. 29. Could it be Florida has settled down to be just average? One shudders at the thought.

Daniel P. Finney is the best there is at what he does. What he does is nap.

ParagraphStacker.com is free, reader-supported media. Please consider donating to help me cover personal expenses as I continue writing while I pursue my master’s degree and teacher certification. Visit paypal.me/paragraphstacker.

comics, Crime and Courts, des moines, Iowa, mental health, News

HOT SHEET: Help Drake student severely injured in crash

Saturday, Oct. 17, 2020

From the desk of Daniel P. Finney, sergeant of the watch, Drake Neighborhood Station, Des Moines, Iowa.

ITEM ONE: Drake University student Morgan Carroll suffered severe injuries in a collision between her car and a semi on Monday evening. The crash occurred on Interstate 80/35 west/southbound lanes between Hickman Road and University Avenue.

Carroll underwent surgery at Methodist Medical Center for a broken leg and “made several signs of improvement such as responding to commands from nurses to move her fingers and her toes” and opening one eye before surgery, per an update by Carroll’s friend Angie Mcmains.

Carroll’s family have started a GoFundMe page to help raise at least $25,000 to assist with Carroll’s medical bills and recovery. For more information, visit: https://www.gofundme.com/f/n53sg-morgans-medical-bills.

Please support Carroll if you can.

ITEM TWO: Grim economic news continues to flow like sewage from a broken pipe. “Nearly 900,000 people filed unemployment claims last week and public debt is set to hit a record high,” reports Tyler Blint-Welsh of the Wall Street Journal.

President Donald Trump and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi play chicken with the American economy. CNN reported Trump and Pelosi have not spoken in more than a year. Very mature.

Millions of people, through no fault of their own, find themselves without work and struggling to get by in the middle of a pandemic. Their country is failing them.

The nation’s leaders adopted the “hold your breath until you turn purple” approach to compromise and meaningful stimulus. Unfortunately, Trump and Pelosi are breathing easy while millions strangle.

ITEM THREE: The kitchy Dogs Playing Poker paintings were part of a series of 16 oil paintings used to sell cigars in 1903. The ol’ Paragraph Stacker owns a copy of the painting titled “A Friend in Need,” which features a bulldog holding an ace under the table.

ITEM FOUR: From the Florida Man blog: A naked man spent 24 hours vandalizing a high school in Miramar. The man wore only a hat and headphones while causing about $100,000 in damage.

The typist wonders how the suspect’s life might have turned out if he had spent 24 hours in school, clothed and when he was supposed to be.

ITEM LAST: The typist is tired from midterms and the ongoing stress of looking for a job in the middle of an apocalypse. He lives with depression and anxiety. The mood disorders are mostly corrected by medicine and behavioral therapy. But these times stress us all.

He tries to be kind. He falls short.

He tries to laugh. It can be hard to laugh especially when things are sad.

He tries to show love. And he tries to accept love when its shown.

These are simple sentences, but that is the only thing simple about them.

Daniel P. Finney will get a tattoo of your face if you pay his rent through 2022.