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RIP: Stan Lee … Excelsior

The world has lost a comic book legend. Stan Lee, the co-creator of Marvel and every fanboy’s favorite cameo, has passed at the age of 95.

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Photo credit - http://cdn2.gamedots.mx/media/gd/images/2017/03/stanleecancelaevento.jpg

Imagine building an entire universe that people love, worship, and consume on a daily basis. Stanley Lieber started Marvel in the 1960s. Collaborating with Jack Kirby, Lee created some of the most iconic superheroes the world has seen. Not because the heroes were powerful and unbreakable, because he made them flawed, with tempers and depression. He made them more human for the reader.

I have only lived in a world with Stan Lee. He was there when I was a kid, and I consumed his comics daily, weekly, and monthly, from Fantastic Four to Incredible Hulk. Believe it or not, there was a time when reading these comic books, like wearing a backpack with two straps, was not the cool thing to do. I would eagerly await each issue, to take me away from my daily problems (as many as I could have at age 10) and escape, if just for 30 minutes. I wanted to be Peter Parker, Bruce Banner, or Tony Stark. More importantly, I started to realize that I wanted to write and tell stories like this.

Spider-Man is one of the most iconic superheroes of all time. Lee and Ditko introduced him to the world in August of 1962. I was still a ways away from birth, and a long way away from seeing him on The Electric Company and then finally on the big screen. Peter Parker is all of us, at least those who read. He was a shy, nerdy high school kid with a quick wit and genius IQ. Ditko and Lee created a character that would change all of us. It changed how we read comics, how we consumed media, and ultimately how we watch a superhero movie. As a kid and teen, Lee had a direct effect on me, and nothing was better than reading his letters at the end of the comics each month. He built his community with Dear Editors letters and with things as simple as crediting inkers, writers, and pencillers. He was a pioneer with those innovations into comics.

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Photo credit - https://www.screengeek.net/wp-content/uploads/2017/10/stan-lee.jpg

As I grew older, I started to leave the comic world. I had to get out and experience different things in my life. I never lost the love; it just shifted to movies and tv shows. As a young adult, I was more into the darker DC comics, partly because of my love of Batman.

Marvel at that time was evolving. They were selling various characters to different companies to try to stay afloat. One important purchase was Spider-Man by Sony. Sony would go on to produce two great Spider-Man movies with Tobey Maguire. They shattered the box office and brought Marvel back into the game. Something new was starting to bubble up. Stan Lee transformed himself into an icon, not just for his comic work, but also because of his cameos.

We had seen Stan Lee our whole lives, including a brief appearance in the TV show Incredible Hulk, which might have sparked something in his head and with future writer/directors. I have had a love affair with Kevin Smith movies my whole life. He had seemed to do exactly what I wanted to do but never could. In 1995, he made the movie Mallrats, and cast his idol, Stan Lee, into the movie as Stan Lee. Lee helped the central character to find his balance while answering annoying questions. It got Stan Lee back into the spotlight, and praise for him started to flow again. And then there was a light bulb.

With properties spread all over Hollywood in 2000, Stan Lee made his first cinematic cameo appearance in X-Men. This became his introduction to my kids’ lives. I became a father in 2003, and this was when all the cameos started happening:

Spider-Man (2002): He saved a little girl when Green Goblin showed up and dropped debris on crowd.

Daredevil (2003): He is saved by a young Matt Murdock.

Hulk (2003): He shows up as a security guard with the original Hulk, Lou Ferrigno.

I could list them all, but there are 56 of them. Here are a few of my favorites.

Iron Man (2008): Lee is mistaken for Hugh Hefner.

Amazing Spider-Man (2012): He listens to classical music with headphones as a fight rages behind him.

Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015): Lee is a military vet, drunk on Asgardian liquor.

Deadpool (2016): Lee is a Strip Club DJ.

I could go on and on listing cameos; the point is that they are what my son remembers about Stan Lee. Every time Lee’s cameo happens, he turns to me with the biggest smile on his face, like he found an Easter egg in the movie. He is so excited to tell me about it that I have to calm him during the film and wait till we are done. It is always the first thing he says about the movie when we exit. And yes, he knows what Stan Lee means to me and others, but to have a connection like that between a father and son is priceless.

At 95 years of age, Stan Lee had lived a full life, even though reports of abuse and legal difficulties marred his last few years. But for me, he will always be the person who let me explore my mind. He took me to other worlds where I met characters that are still relevant today, if not more popular. He developed characters like Black Panther because he was someone who had had enough of the norm in comics. He was someone who always seemed to be working and creating, because he truly loved his craft and his community. Iconic is not a big enough word to describe him. He was EXCELSIOR!

Mistakes Were Made

“Yes, we are so blessed to have not one, but two teams in the playoffs. Most families don’t have any.” – Kevin (The League)

I have been playing fantasy football for something like 25 years. I drafted Brett Favre when he was a rookie. When we used pen and paper, and by paper I mean that thing that had Houston Post written on top of it (Old School Houston reference.) I have also been a father now for 15 fantasy football seasons. There have been great days as a father (when I taught my kids to wipe their own asses), and there have been days that can only be described as a struggle (all days before I taught them to wipe their asses.) But all in all, it has been a good run as both father and fantasy football team owner.

We all had the friends in the league that could never quite make it to the draft in person. And they struggled with technology, and it was a headache to try to make it work. I was the guy who had the kids first, and so I would bring my kid along as a proxy and he would draft for one of the teams, for like 3 years in a row at a BW3 in Midtown. He did well, and was encouraged by the other owners and the guy he picked for. I felt like a dumbass, but I had to bring him for this event; I didn’t want to be that guy. And this was his first exposure to the world of fantasy football.

A few years went by, he got older. And started to dabble in the waters on his own. Nothing major, some quick Yahoo or ESPN drafts with anonymous people. It was like a gateway drug, though. This year he took the full steps into the deep end of the pool. With his major $20 dollar-a-team league (eyes roll.) And thus begins this article.

Do you remember when the kids were 2-4 years old? And they kept saying the same things. And kept playing the same movies. I got so tired of the crap he was watching when he was 4 years old, that I removed that particular terrible kid movie DVD and put in Smokey and Bandit. I thought this was genius, a movie I love; I should be able to handle this being on. Let me tell you, after 300 viewings, you will eventually get tired of Burt Reynold’s laugh and Jackie Gleason’s Sheriff Buford T. Justice. Granted it took like 200 viewings, before I started to hate it, but it happened: the kid broke me. Fast forward to ten years later, and following his first independent pay league, the questions started.

“Dad, what do you think of my Running Backs?”

“Dad, check out these QBs that are available?”

“Dad, what kicker should I use this week?” (Yes, he had multiple kickers.)

It was early in September, and I played along, because hey, my kid and I have an interest together. He started planning his weekends around the game schedules.

“Dad, Jets and Browns are on Thursday Night Football tonight: I am pumped, my kicker is in this game!”

I smiled, and looked around at what I had created. My wife had a different look on her face. October began, and questions never stopped. It was like he was 5 again, constant questions, and I started to crack.

“Dad, why do they call them the Browns?”

“Dad, why can’t they see the yellow line?”

“Dad, would you start Trubisky or Flacco, or should I pick up FitzMagic?”

“Dad…”

“Dad…”

“Dad…”

I went numb, and played deaf.

Don’t get me wrong, it is great that he found this form of crack rock. But I am the guy that has seen it for 20+ years. The guy that has made fun of people talking about how good their team is in meetings at work. Guys who drafted a kicker in the 10th round, because it was just “too hard to pass up on Gostkowski.” Now this madness has infected my home life, my sanctuary.

He now stays home on Sundays. As we leave for his brother’s baseball games. He gets his favorite snacks lined up and his go-to soda, sometimes he showers. He says crazy shit like, “Dad, I can’t wait to see this game from London, at 9:30 AM.” Not a day goes by that we don’t talk fantasy football. It is a blessing and a curse. And man do I hope he wins, but when he loses, hell hath no fury like a 15-year-old who didn’t get Zeke Elliot his touches, and loses because he didn’t start the correct kicker. But as a father, it’s not more you can ask for; at least I know where he is every Sunday morning. And that’s more than my mom could have hoped for.

Tis the Season to Drink Beer

Last week, Saint Arnold’s Christmas Ale made its way back into stores. You’ve probably seen it, and maybe you’ve passed it by. It’s time for you to stop doing that and make it a yearly purchase instead. The beer debuted in 1995. That’s right: craft beer in 1995. It’s a different beer for sure, and I know a few tricks for it that I will explain in a bit. First, here are some details about the beer from Saint Arnold himself:

Christmas Ale

Available October - December

A rich, copper colored, hearty ale perfect for the holiday season with a malty sweetness and spicy hop character. The generous use of five different malts is responsible for the full flavor and high alcohol level of this beer.

Saint Arnold Christmas Ale is best consumed at 45° Fahrenheit.

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(Source: Saint Arnold website)

Your first taste of Christmas Ale will be wicked. It pops and hits you with hard spice notes like you ate a pine tree hanging in the car window. It hits you with only 24 IBUs – less than you might expect. The ABV is 7.5%. Moreover, here is where it gets fun: the Christmas Ale has two underground recipes attached to it.

There are two ways in our house to drink it: my way, and Monica’s (the wife’s) way. Both are equally great; mine just gets you sideways faster.

Sailing Santa (a.k.a. The Monica Way)

Long ago, Saint Arnold’s sold a special holiday beer called Sailing Santa. It has since been discontinued, but here is the formula:

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Start with your cold mug of choice. Monica likes to pour the Christmas Ale into the glass first, filling it about halfway, then top the rest of the glass off with Elissa IPA. The result is incredible. The Elissa is a classic by Saint Arnold and is available all year. It has an IBU of 52, and an ABV of 7.1%. The hops from the IPA break up the pine taste of the Christmas Ale, and together they form a terrific partnership. It’s sad that the actual Sailing Ale is long gone, but it’s good to have this in its place.

We first discovered this at the brewery itself, from a good friend who was tired of hearing bitching about the absence of Sailing Santa. When he revealed the formula to make it, I felt like a complete moron, yet [RFO1] I couldn’t wait to get home and try it out.

Rocket Santa (a.k.a. The Eric Way)

Soon we discovered another recipe. Rocket Santa starts the same way, with half a glass of Christmas Ale, but we are kicking it up a notch with a harder beer. Enter the Endeavour.

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Endeavour was one of my first true craft beer loves. I was looking for a way out of the “shit beer” scene when I came across Divine Reserve, a series of single batch beers by Saint Arnold. Endeavour was the 11th Divine Reserve. It’s a double IPA that punches you in the balls when you first try it, coming at you with 68 IBUs and a hefty 9.0% ABV. Adding this to the Christmas Ale, like the Elissa, breaks up some of the pine taste, and drops in more ABV, which is perfect for the holiday season. After a few Rocket Santas, everyone looks forward to me making an ass out of myself or saying something inappropriate (but to be fair, this could happen sober as well). The Rocket Santa was also discovered at the brewery, and I was able to enjoy a few of them before we walked downtown for the Astros’ victory parade.

Conclusion

The Christmas Ale is ok by itself, and nothing for me to write home about. But when I combine this beauty with two year-round favorites, the results are magic. Cheers, and let’s get the holiday season started early!

I Watched … Daredevil Season 3

"And some bloody their fists trying to keep the Kitchen safe." – Karen Page

The man without fear, last time we saw him, he was presumed dead by his friends and others close to him. However, are you ever really dead in the world of fiction? Matt Murdock is a betting man, no doubt about it. A building fell on top of him, but the Netflix Original managed to overcome the obstacles and was nursed back to health by some gracious nuns. More on one particular nun in a second.

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Photo credit - http://cdn.collider.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/09/daredevil-season-3-image-2.jpg

Matt seems to have lost some of his ‘powers’ at the beginning of the season. His senses seem to be out of whack, audio distortions hampering his sonic vision. Back where it all began for him, in the orphanage, Matt gets some tough love help from Sister Maggie, played by Joanne Whalley. A character that is so important to the comic series, it was amazing to get to see her on the screen finally, and wow, she does not disappoint.

Let’s just say; she is not your average nun. As always, I will keep this spoiler free, but I can say she is brilliantly portrayed and the payoff throughout the season is well worth it. And in what can only be called a staple, yet again Daredevil (the show) outdoes itself with another great one shot. In Season 1, it was the hallway scene, in Season 2 it was the prison scene. So what do they do for an encore, A Prison Hallway scene, fuck yeah I am sold, look for it in Episode 4.

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Photo credit - http://cdn1.sciencefiction.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/10/Daredevil-Season-3-Episode-1-Matt-Maggie.png

As much as the show is called Daredevil, there is way more characters that share the airtime.

Moreover, this season belonged to Karen Page. Not only in her presence on the existing story but for the first time, we get a backstory episode of the character that has been there since the beginning. She has always been there for us. She introduced us to Matt. She quickly pulled the trigger and killed Fisk’s right-hand man that help shape her character and the season of Daredevil.

So to finally see what happened to her that brought to Hell’s Kitchen is huge. Deborah Ann Woll’s portrayal of Karen Page has grown on me, Season 1, I wasn’t sold, outside of the death of Wesley, she just got on my nervous, and she always looked to be on the verge of tears. Season 2, she was somewhat forgotten, as well in Defenders and Punisher. However, with this backstory, I feel like I now know why she was always on the verge of tears, like it was slowly played out for me. I was a fool, and please forgive me Karen Page.

As for the other main characters, Foggy gets his fair share of the screen. In a bold move, he seems to be close to greatest with his run for DA. He is always there, willing to lend a hand to Matt, to Karen, and constantly providing the comic relief, we need at times. However, more importantly, this season, he provides a bit more realistic ideas, which helps with a show about a blind man that fights crime. However, season 3 adds one of the best villain arcs ever. I loved him in Season 1, but Vincent D’Onofrio’s version of Wilson Fisk is one of my favorites of all time now.

His Season 3 raise to Kingpin is now the stuff of comic viewing legend for me. His perfect manipulation of any and every one in Hell’s Kitchen, along with sidebar characters that help make it work, have elevated this Season to new heights. He doesn’t simply become Kingpin, he is now Kingpin, at least for a while, like how Ledger holds the crown as Joker. Wilson Fisk plays everyone throughout the season for the sole purpose of love, without spoilers again, let’s just say it is a great ride. Moreover, the rise of a new villain, you see there is a doppelganger Daredevil, and his casting is a bullseye in my opinion. Wilson Bethel taking on the fanboy role of Benjamin ‘Dex’ Poindexter is a complete win for fans and comic lovers. He even comes equipped with his own backstory to help with the enhancement of the beloved character.

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Photo credit - https://i2.wp.com/themarvelreport.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/10/Daredevil-Season-3-Fisk.jpg?fit=750%2C500

As the sun starts to set on a great time in television, it is most certainly the beginning of the end for the Marvel Netflix series’. My previous favorite, Luke Cage was given the boot a few months ago, before him, my least favorite, Iron Fist, got shown the door. We still like to think Jessica Jones is out there, but if this is the end of Daredevil, then it went out with a bang, and it will truly be missed. However, here is hoping he will just be BORN AGAIN.

Jaxwing scale – 8/10

Worthy

To further enhance your Daredevil feels after Season 3, go back and read the Born Again series by the great Frank Miller.