Archive for March, 2019

Media Update 3/7/19

March 7, 2019


The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel

I had heard so many good things about this show. You probably have too. This show has certainly won a lot of awards and praise. The show is about a woman in the late 1950s whose husband leaves her so she decides to be a stand-up comedian, that is a gross over-simplification of the plot. The show is absolutely amazing. It feels like a happier and better-acted version of Mad Men. The show has a big, talented ensemble of great actors. The top performer is obviously Rachel Brosnahan who plays the lead. She has a mischievous, wild edge to her that is so fun to watch. I was really surprised at how good Alex Borstein was since my only experience with her was Family Guy and MadTV. There are strong performances from Tony Shalhoub and Kevin Pollak who play the fathers. Marin Hinkle is wonderfully subdued and subtle as the mom. Then there is Michael Zegen, the louse of a husband who walks a tightrope of being both sympathetic but easy to dislike. The show is a funny and dramatic look at life in New York during that time. Really it is just good characters played by great actors with great dialogue. I wholeheartedly recommend it.


Whiskey Tango Foxtrot

I was originally going to watch this with my mother but nearly a year later I decided to just watch this. I am a big fan of Tina Fey although her movie outings are kind of hit or miss. This one looked interesting. A woman goes to Afghanistan to become an embedded war correspondent without having any on camera experience or experience with violence. She deals with cultural differences, racism, sexism, religious issues, clashes of ideology, and a raucous college atmosphere. It is ostensibly a comedy but it is not exaggerated and goofy. It is mixed with drama and plays with a sardonic edge that Fey does well. Speaking of Tina Fey, she is on top of her game acting-wise. Margot Robbie is always an awesome addition to any cast. Martin Freeman was loveably jerky. Alfred Molina played on the edge of funny and worrying. The movie was surprisingly deep and funny and said a lot about war and what a human can get used to. I recommend this movie.


Lorena

I was ten when the incident between Lorena and John Bobbitt happened. I was definitely old enough to know what was going on. At the time, the whole thing was treated as a national joke. People were too nervous to confront the real, difficult underlying issues. This documentary tries to fix that. It discusses spousal abuse, immigration issues, the media circus, and more. It does use him or but only to keep the story light in the face of such dark subject matter. It uses interviews and footage from that time period and also modern interviews. I also recommend this one.

Music of the Week:
J. Cole – MIDDLE CHILD

Phantogram – You Don’t Get Me High Anymore

Poppy – Voicemail

Bikini Kill – Rebel Girl

Karen O and Danger Mouse – WOMAN

Weekly Update:
– This week’s theme is “A Woman’s Life Changes”
– I watched more Lucifer Season 3
– I watched more Fate/Apocrypha Season 2
– I watched more Carmen Sandiego Season 1
– I watched more The Seven Deadly Sins Season 3
– I watched more Russian Doll Season 1
– I watched more Unsolved: Biggie and Tupac
– I watched more of The Umbrella Academy
– I watched more of Grimm Season 5

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Comics DNA

March 4, 2019

There has been a meme going around where people post four comic books that helped form their “Comics DNA”. I thought I would try and tackle that challenge even though there was so much to choose from. Since reading the following comics, my tastes have continued to grow and expand and I regularly consume all sorts of comics media. Comic books have become so entwined in how I think about fiction and probably are one of the bigger influences on how I write and visualize my own art. I have been lucky to meet some of my comic book heroes and I hope that I continue to find more heroes and more inspiration each year. Anyway, let’s take a look at a few big winners.


Giant-Size X-Men

This was the first comic that I really remember impacting me. I was later shown comics starring the original X-Men but this was, pardon the pun, larger than life and so exciting. The idea of recruiting a new, international version of the X-Men to rescue the original X-Men was so fun. Apparently, the white guys (and girl) could not handle the job so they send in a more diverse team to save the day. This was the first time I saw Storm, Nightcrawler, Wolverine, Colossus, Sunfire, Banshee, and Thunderbird. Sure writers had a long way to go when it came to writing people of color but this was a great start. The powers and abilities of the new X-Men seemed way flashier than those of the original X-Men and I was excited to learn more. This comic came out 7 years before I was born but when I was allowed to read it, it definitely sparked a love for comics that has never died. The X-Men became an integral part of my Comics DNA and I frequently sprang for their titles when I was spending my allowance. Later this love spread to the Pryde of the X-Men, the X-Men cartoon in the nineties, and the X-Men film franchise and spinoffs.


Batman: The Long Halloween

Batman became an obsession of mine when the 1989 movie blew my tiny mind and introduced me to a version that was both entertaining and serious. I scooped up a lot of Batman comics over the years (along with Superman, Flash, Green Lantern, and Wonder Woman). This is the one that really stuck with me over all the rest. The story takes place in the Batman Year One continuity, a kind of stand-alone set of stories that tried to re-explore Batman’s early years. Batman tries to track down a new villain on the scene who goes by the name Holiday and kills on each month’s big holiday. Thus, each of the issues revolves around a potential murder on a holiday. The story explores the relationship between the old school villains (the Mafia) and the new school villains (Batman’s Rogues Gallery). Batman is used to dealing with the mob and traditional crime. Now he has to shift his thinking to deal with Catwoman, Joker, Riddler, Poison Ivy, Mad Hatter, and Solomon Grundy. The series is a real mystery and a real love letter to my favorite parts of the Batman mythos. All of the characters are written as their best versions, nothing fancy but definitely engrossing. In addition to all of that, the art is fantastic.


The Sensational Spider-Man

I was also a huge fan of Spider-Man. At its heart, it was a series about a boy (and later a man) just trying to do his best in the face of difficult odds. The series has always thrived when it has followed that formula. In the late nineties, they briefly replaced the original Spider-Man with Ben Reilly, a guy just trying to get his life back together. The new take felt fresh to me and I was excited to see where they could take it. The art was one of the first things that did it for me. Everything was so crisp and clean and the action was dynamic. Characters came alive with their facial expressions and their smooth coloring. After that, it was the writing. At the time, Peter Parker was living the good life thanks to his supermodel wife and his own photojournalism career. It was nice to see a hero who was struggling financially and had a supporting cast of people I could actually meet in my city. It was a better solution than the later One Day More storyline for sure. It also gave them an excuse to jazz up Spidey’s arsenal a bit as Ben had had time to come up with a few new tricks. He got impact webbing which was basically a spider web grenade and he got spider stingers which were tranquilizing darts. He was a lot of fun and allowed us to take a bit of a break from the long history of Peter Parker for a little while. They would use this idea later to create such characters as Miles Morales.


Sandman Mystery Theater

Sure, I did not actually get to this title until college but still, it changed the way I looked at comic books. Sandman Mystery Theater follows the character of Wesley Dodds who was a character during the golden age of comics and a founding member of the Justice Society of Comics. Except these new stories predated his adventures among the superheroes. There was nothing super about Dodds. These stories were in a film noir detective style as Dodds used intelligence to track down brutal murderers. The only nod to the supernatural was that he had dreams which gave him vague clues to the murders and drove him toward solving the cases. He used a gas gun (full of sleeping gas or some sort of truth gas) which allowed him to sneak around. He wore a suit, trenchcoat, and World War I gas mask. The artwork is intentionally ugly as it shows a lot of the seedy underbelly of society. It approached topics such as abortion, racism, antisemitism and the rise of the Nazis. It also included a female heroine, Dian Belmont, a former flapper who was every bit a detective as Wesley was. This was the first real non-superhero comic I became a fan of. It led the way for Sandman, Hellblazer, Hellboy, Pretty Deadly and many more heroes who did not fit the traditional mold.

The Heartsong Caper

March 2, 2019

Cara was the only one on the street who had not been affected by the spell. In fact, she had not even noticed the spell when it had been cast and only noticed something was wrong when she almost bumped into a fancy-looking lady. She looked around and everybody else was just standing there and staring into space. After a moment’s hesitation, she stopped in her tracks and tried to mimic all of the people on the street. She quickly surmised that the spell had been based in sound, which was why she had been spared. Cara had been deaf from birth and had not heard the spell and therefore had not been frozen in place.

As soon as she had put those thoughts together, a woman in a dark cloak came around the corner carrying a mandolin decorated with heart flourishes. She was also wearing an embroidered corset with a large, fancy heart on it. The woman was followed by a couple of shifty-looking individuals who were thieves for sure. Cara had seen their type around town before. She waited until they were all looking the other way and then she darted into an alleyway. The way was blocked by a carriage but she managed to hide behind a box. She cursed profusely inside her head.

She watched the ruffians start to cut the money pouches off of the bespelled crowd’s belts. Cara’s blood boiled. The brazen gall of anybody doing such a thing in broad daylight pissed her off. She had long considered herself a guardian of the city even if the city law would probably argue that fact. Though, on a certain level, Cara had to admit that she admired the theatricality of the plan if not the ethics. If only she could contact the law, they would be sorry. There was too many for Cara to handle on her own. She gripped her totem hard, almost enough to draw blood. She pointed it slowly at the thugs and suddenly she could hear what they were saying.

“Hey Angelica,” a rat-faced thief said. “I think I saw something move in that alley over there.”

“Nonsense,” the woman who was apparently Angelica said, “Nobody can resist the sound of Angelica Heartsong!”

“Sure but I still saw something,” the thug said. “What should I do?”

“Fine,” Angelica said with a pout. “If it’s on two legs drag it out here. If it’s on four legs just go ahead and kill it.”

“Right,” the thug said and headed in Cara’s direction.

Cara tensed up. Her first thought had been to turn into a cat but they had orders to kill on sight and Cara did not want to risk it. Instead, she whispered softly to herself and turned invisible, a trick that Laren had taught her when she was little. She gathered her nerves and slipped past the thug as carefully as she could. She walked back out into the midst of everyone and tried to slow her breathing. There were some tense moments as the thug in the alley searched around by poking their spear into every corner they could find.

Cara looked over at Angelica Heartsong and watched her pluck a single string on her mandolin. That string glowed pink for a moment and Cara felt that single note reverberate through her body. Cara had a sinking feeling based on the animals she had observed since she was a toddler. Her stomach tightened as she saw Angelica smile for a moment.

“Somebody is here!” Angelica yelled. “They are invisible. Make them bleed. Make them stop moving.”

The thugs started to grope around blindly, forcing Cara to keep moving around to dodge their grasping fingers and their randomly swinging weapons. It was only a matter of time before somebody got lucky and found her. She could run but she hesitated to try it with Angelica’s apparent blindsight spell and without knowing how fleet-footed the thugs were. Besides, she wanted to protect these people and Angelica was revealing herself to be pretty ruthless. Of course, the numbers did not favor her if she stayed. She ended up standing next to Angelica Heartsong who was red in the face as she screamed at her goons.

This was the point where a sword stretched out and dragged across the strings of Angelica Heartsong’s mandolin. Cara thought that Angelica looked like she might explode at any moment as she whirled to face the newcomer who dared harm her instrument. The man who stood there had long, luxurious hair brown hair and his shirt and armor hung open to expose his chest. Before Angelica could manage to form more than a guttural growl, the newcomer yelled out.

“What ho!” He yelled. “What’s all this then? Villainy!?”

“Who in the Nine Hells are you?” Angelica screamed.

“Garen Firrano, if you please,” the newcomer said after a hearty laugh. “You can share that name in prison or in the afterlife. Your choice.”

Cara reached out and yanked the mandolin from Angelica’s hands and clocked her with it. With the attach, Cara lost her invisibility but she sent a stunned Angelica sprawling to the pavement. Garen had a surprised look on his face for a moment but it was quickly replaced with an easy, charming smile and a piercing gaze that made Cara pause for just a moment. She tossed the shattered mandolin aside.

“She’s still got vocal cords,” she told Garen. “I think she has music magic.”

“A bard, eh?” Garen said. “Shall we deal with these other criminals then?”

“Sure,” Cara said and turned off her hearing spell just in case. “Try to keep up.”

At that point, Cara turned into a bear. She turned and started to charge through the dumbfounded thugs. Garen started swinging and thrusting his sword with style. With the element of surprise, they had the thugs on the ropes. The city law officers arrived at about the same time as the crowd started to unfreeze. They saw a confused crowd, a handsome swordsman, a bloodied bear, and a bunch of unconscious or dead thugs. Angelica Heartsong had apparently slipped away in the fracas. Cara quickly transformed back to her normal filthy druid form and tried to look as unthreatening as possible.

“What happened?” A law woman asked.

“We stopped these thugs and this woman from stealing from these people,” Cara said. “She said her name was Angelica Heartsong.”

“Another group of vile villains taken to task by Garen Firrano!” Garen said with a grin.

“Uh huh,” the officer said. “I’m going to need everybody to come down to our barracks.”


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