Category Archives: New Favourite Thing

A Love Letter to Glove and Boots

So there are certainly no shortage of horrors to be found in 2017. No shortage at all. But in the midst of it all, a few special people, a groundhog, and a red thing tried to make the world a little brighter, only to get cut down by YouTube deciding to screw over creators worldwide. They are Glove and Boots, the funniest non-Henson puppets on YouTube.

Mario and Fafa. No, nobody is actually named “Glove” or “Boots.”

Based out of Brooklyn, New York, they’ve been doing puppet-based YouTube comedy blogs for a few years now. In 2017, they decided to try to grow their channel with an ambitious plan to crank up their output. They set out to make 100 videos in one year, from their usual work to various new mini-episode series to monthly live shows on their main channel and weekly streams on Glove and Boots Gaming, where Fafa the Groundhog and Mario the… Mario would try out games for our amusement. And all of it was fun, but all of a sudden it wasn’t working, because YouTube changed its algorithm.

And anyone who’s noticed how social media channels have been getting progressively worse lately just reflexively clenched up reading that. Facebook pushing “Top stories” and hiding things from your news feed, or demanding that Pages boost posts just to reach their audiences; Twitter taking a perfectly functional chronological feed and ruining it with “In case you missed it” tweets from days ago; and now YouTube is screwing over small-to-medium channels. Algorithms ruin everything. Mario and Fafa try to explain what they think happened here, but basically viewership was taking a bigger hit than they could handle.

But I come not to bury Glove and Boots, but to praise them. First of all, they’re not dead. They’re just taking an unplanned and indefinite hiatus while they try to figure out how to deal with their viewership issues. But while that’s happening, there’s a lot of great material on their channel that I suggest you check out. Every view and subscriber could help bring Fafa and Mario back faster.

And also someone has to point viewers at their A-material, because the only video YouTube’s algorithm thinks to recommend is the one where Gorilla dances to Gangnam Style. Goddamn algorithms ruin everything.

The Blog

I mean they called it a blog, but really it was a series of comedy videos starring puppets. Which isn’t to say that they didn’t occasionally try to inform. Witness this explanation of the characters found in the Monomyth, with assistance from Fafa’s toad cousin Johnny T, and why their absence makes Adam Sandler movies suck now. (Sure, that’s the problem.)

Once upon a time a friend and I were considering writing a modern-day Robin Hood movie. This video really helped me break the general story, as I figured out who would fill which roles, and where that took us. And then Hollywood greenlit like half a dozen Robin Hood movies and there didn’t seem to be a point to writing ours anymore, but that’s hardly Fafa’s fault.

Another time, once again with Johnny T’s help, they tried to teach the internet a much-needed lesson about grammar.

And tips on visiting New York I wish I’d seen before my 2014 trip, when I blew an evening seeking out the Original Ray’s.

That was the first one I ever saw. Took me a couple of videos to learn that Johnny T wasn’t the star. And for the record, if you’ve been walking the Coney Island boardwalk for a couple of hours and it’s really sunny out and you just want to eat something indoors, maybe, maybe, there’s a valid reason to go to Applebee’s.

Maybe.

I mean the next time I was in that area we found multiple better places to be than The Applebee’s of Last Resort but at the time… anyway, he’s not wrong about Olive Garden. Times Square hosts the worst Olive Garden in North America, this is known.

But they’re not all educational. Sometimes it’s just about how life would make for a pretty terrible video game.

I could go on and on, because this channel is a gift, but I want to move to some of their other categories.

Product Testing

Sometimes they’d watch a bunch of infomercials, order the products, and field test them for our education and enjoyment, beginning with the most famous disappointing products of Vince the Shamwow guy.

Or witness their experiments with the Rollie: a device for people who find placing eggs over heat and then eating them to be too taxing.

(I have heard a theory that all of the infomercials showing people finding every day tasks to be too challenging are actually, on the DL, trying to sell products to people with disabilities who legitimately find these things hard, but that’s another post, innit.)

And since the end result is just a cylinder of basically normal cooked egg, they had little option but to get weird with it, and see what kind of nightmare tube-omelette they could create.

Now, this process involved watching a lot of infomercials, and this sometimes resulted in tripping over comedy gold, as explored in their first-ever live broadcast. Join me now for the saga of “I LOVE.”

You know, coming up with comedy is hard, coming up with comedy on the spot is harder… coming up with comedy on the spot whilst operating a puppet? You have to give it up for that.

Songs!

Turns out Fafa the Groundhog can also belt out a tune. So since YouTube is sometimes just a long Weird Al Yankovic album with zero quality control, Glove and Boots got into the song parody game. Sure, some of them are simple parodies, like turning “Uptown Funk” into a ballad honouring Shaolin kung fu, but they’ve done some fun music videos over the years. Here’s a for instance… when Canada’s king of space, gentleman astronaut Chris Hadfield, did a cover of David Bowie’s Space Oddity while actually in space, Glove and Boots decided they wanted in on it and snuck Fafa into space with him.

Well… not literally. But even if you don’t want Hadfield trivia sung to the tune of Rocket Man (it gets away from them a little), it’s mostly worth it for Mario’s initial confusion over who’s who.

Mario’s failure to get how the song goes is also what makes their cover of “All Together Now” so damned charming. Well, that and Fafa’s stuffed bear. And frankly the original doesn’t have enough references to old-school rapper Biz Markie. Good add, Mario.

Now, if you want to understand who the rest of the puppets are, and why two of the are Wolverine and Thor, you need to get into the back catalogue, but I’m fine with that since that is what I’m trying to get you to do.

Want to hear Blurred Lines turned into an explanation for Robin Thicke’s legal issues over the song? They’ve got you covered. Want to see The Beatles end some pop culture rivalries? They damn it I used “covered” too soon this one IS just a cover the wordplay would have been– anyway here it is. They also taught me what “mumblerap” is, and why it’s awful, yet still created something enjoyable by parodying someone calling himself “Lil Yachty,” and more egregiously, calling himself “talented.”

Moving along…

Shooting for 100 videos

Making 100 videos in one year was an ambitious goal, especially since the main videos have backgrounds to green screen and occasionally puppets to fabricate. So they came up with some easy-to-shoot shorts. Mario attempted to improve our vocabularies through “Mario’s Word of the Week,” sometimes to his own detriment…

Johnny T. tried to show us all a better way of living with “Don’t Be a Dummy…”

And one of their uncles was turned into a squirrel for some true stories that became some of their weirdest material since that countdown to Christmas from two years back, “Santa’s Secret Stories.” Man, those were odd.

Plus there was their gaming channel, which… look, Slime Rancher doesn’t seem, on paper, like a good game. Seems like an FPS merged with Farmville. But watching Fafa play it… or more accurately watching Mario watch Fafa playing it… if I hadn’t been having budgetary issues, I might have bought it and started playing it that day.

Really looking forward to resuming a lifestyle where spending $25 isn’t intimidating. But that’s neither here nor there.

Look, you guys, I know I just threw a lot of videos at you right there, but I promise you, watch even half of them and you’ll thank me, because these guys are delightful, and as someone who tried to launch a YouTube channel of his own, it’s heartbreaking to see them put so much work into providing free entertainment and then hit a wall that forces them to stop because of a goddamned algorithm. 

The worst part, the worst part, isn’t just knowing that Facebook and YouTube and Twitter aren’t adding these algorithms for us, they know we hate them, but are doing it strictly for monetization. The worst part is that knowing that and pointing it out doesn’t help, because as long as it is helping monetization, they’re going to keep doing it, and they’ve got us by the short-n-curlies on this, because I am not going back to calling people to see if they want to see Star Wars when I’m seeing Star Wars. And while new streaming sites are happening, none of them are YouTube killers.

That got away from me.

I had a dream. A dream that one day, my webseries would grow to a point where I could talk Glove and Boots into doing a guest appearance. That Jeff would do a bunch of peyote, end up on a vision quest, and have Mario and Fafa pop up to guide him, or possibly just point out just how badly he’s tripping.

Keith (my co-writer) and I would have guest starred as well. After a few seasons of us being background extras, Jeff would have snapped and demanded to know why we were always in the background of everything he did. Man that would have been a fun episode. But I knew it would be a hard sell. Our first season didn’t break out the way we wanted, so would we ever be worth their attention? And getting funding to keep it going proved daunting, and now it’s been long enough I’m chasing funds for something different… but I liked the idea that it was possible. And I always thought they’d be there if the time came.

Glove and Boots was never supposed to end.

And maybe it hasn’t! They certainly want to keep going. They have an absurd amount of fun making these videos, if the amount of shots that end in one or both of them cracking up tell us anything. But nobody knows when or, more importantly, how yet.

But in the meantime, check them out. Enjoy their back catalogue. There’s great stuff in there and more supporters are always better.

Hurry back, Fafa and Mario. My day was always better when you were in it.

Geek Talk Junk Drawer

It’s Thursday, things are slow, I’m listless and a little agitated. This would be a perfect time to lose myself in another hilarious and slightly heartbreaking episode of Bojack Horseman, My New Favourite Thing… only I’ve run out. There are no more. Not until next year. And I don’t seem to have the attention span for much else.

So let’s chat, you and I. Let’s pass some time on these here interwebs by discussing things that wouldn’t fill a full blog. Which might be difficult because apparently I had 2,000 words’ worth of things to say about the new Sin City movie, when “Two hours of sub-par to terrible Sin City fan fiction” would have summed it up.

But this will spare all of you from getting an earful about Bojack Horseman. It’s hilarious, it’s got a surprising amount of heart and emotion in the back half of the season, Will Arnett and Alison Brie are both in it, just go watch it already.

New Doctor!

Check it!

Check it!

Part of loving Doctor Who is learning to accept new Doctors, even if you’re not ready to. I was just a kid when I heard that Tom Baker was leaving. I was taken completely by surprise when Colin Baker changed into Sylvester McCoy (despite it having been a rerun… this was pre-internet, there weren’t easy ways to learn these things). I was heartbroken when I learned Christopher Eccleston was only doing one season… and those were the easy ones. I may have actually screamed “NNNOOOOO!” out loud when word got out that Matt Smith was moving on.

But now the new guy, Peter Capaldi, aka. Twelve, has had two episodes to establish himself. And I think he’s doing okay. He has a sterner style, which sets him apart from Ten and Eleven. He wants to be a good man, but isn’t sure he is (something he has in common with Bojack Horseman–sorry, sorry, it just slipped out). And Clara’s finally getting more to do, after the whole Impossible Girl story kind of prevented her from being properly developed. All in all, Capaldi’s crushing it, and they still have my devotion.

But I haven’t figured out his theme music yet.

Not the opening credit theme, of course I know that. The in-episode theme music. Nine had The Doctor’s Theme, Ten started with that, then switched to The Doctor Forever in season three before returning to an amped up Doctor’s Theme in season four. The Doctor’s Theme played for the last time (well, until the 50th anniversary) in Ten’s final moments, and when Eleven began his tenure in the 11th Hour, so too debuted I Am the Doctor, which later evolved into The Majestic Tale (of a Madman in a Box). And as someone who clearly thinks about background music in TV shows a lot, those two were my favourites.

I don’t know the 12th Doctor’s theme yet. Sure, there’s some Youtube videos claiming to have it, but I need to hear it in action. I need to hear it against the Doctor telling the Atraxi to run, or facing down the Silence alongside River Song and the Ponds. I probably have, I just haven’t figured out what it is. Guess I should rewatch Deep Breath and Into the Dalek when I get a chance.

There are worse fates.

Shazam’s getting a movie!

Shazam-Or-Black-Adam

This has been running around the web for a while, but the rumours and suggestions have finally been confirmed: Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson will be playing Black Adam in an upcoming Shazam movie.

Seeing a lot of blank looks out there. What? You didn’t know reading my blog activates a camera in your computer/phone? I am always watching.

Erm… by which I mean, what, you don’t know Black Adam? Let me explain.

When I say the word “Shazam,” you think of Captain Marvel: a kid named Billy Batson who shouts the word “Shazam” and turns into an adult with magical powers that make him a nigh-equal to Superman. Black Adam had the powers of Shazam centuries earlier, but his more… forceful way of defending his home nation of Khandaq (think ancient Egypt turned into modern day Iraq) got him shut down by the wizard who made him his champion (that wizard being Shazam). But when Captain Marvel comes onto the scene, Black Adam finds a way to come back. So, Captain Marvel is the kid-turned-hero, and Black Adam is his nemesis.

That’s the classic stuff. Fast forward to today. Now Billy Batson’s alter ego is just called “Shazam,” because DC got tired of never being able to put “Captain Marvel” on the cover of a book thanks to their competitors, and decided that if everybody mostly knows him as the Shazam guy, they may as well call him Shazam and be done with it. I still haven’t fully adapted to that but it’s happened.

Black Adam, meanwhile, is still a primary nemesis of Captain Mar–Shazam, but he’s not always a straight up villain. While writing Justice Society back around the turn of the century, Geoff Johns altered the character: no longer was he a modern day thief who accessed the powers of Shazam to become Black Adam, but was instead the original reborn in the modern era. And the original never saw himself as a villain, simply the protector of the Khandaq who draws a different moral line than some prefer. In the last fifteen years he’s crossed the line to hero almost as often as he’s been a villain. He served in the Justice Society for years, possibly outlasting Captain Marvel*. Most recently, in the event book Forever Evil, when the Crime Syndicate (an evil version of the Justice League, I’ll spare you the explanation) wiped out most of the superheroes and conquered the Earth, Black Adam was the first of a small band of villains to step up and try to bring them down.

So Black Adam isn’t a mustache-twirling, magic-space-rock-wielding world conqueror like so many other superhero movie villains lately, and talk from Dwayne Johnson and the studio is that they’re going to keep him on that blurry line between villain and anti-hero, which I for one am excited to see.

Less excited by the rumours that Shazam will not connect with Justice League, but… well, we’ll see.

*Interesting story with no connection to Black Adam: Captain Marvel left the JSA in disgrace after his budding romance with teenage hero Stargirl (who had discovered that he was actually a teenager himself) was discovered by either the golden age Flash or Green Lantern, who, not knowing that Captain Marvel was really teenager Billy Batson, obviously disapproved. Cap left the team rather than reveal his true identity/age, because “too many people know, and it always changes things.” Sad story, but interesting reading. Anyhoo.

Supergirl back on TV?

Supergirl

New in the rumour mill: DC may be shopping around a Supergirl TV series. Now, this is a very young rumour, and even if it is totally accurate, a lot can go wrong between here and being given a series order, if two failed pilots for Wonder Woman and one for Aquaman teach us anything. But I like the idea. There is a risk that, even though the CW is currently believed to have passed, the makers might embrace the teen soap opera that defined Smallville and remains a part of Arrow. But you know what? Let ’em. As I said in an earlier post, Supergirl (well, Kara Zor-El) has never been better written than when they were targeting her towards younger women/girls. So I say, even in the face of ten years of Smallville striving to prove me wrong, it can work. But maybe try to make it more like Arrow and less like Smallville. In fact, always do that.

But making it appeal to girls without becoming female-oriented-Smallville, or Gossip Girl with super strength, is only challenge one. Well, challenge two, after getting a network to bite.

Next challenge: is this another stand-alone like Constantine? Or will they tie it into one of their other properties? And that’s a trickier question than I like. Because I don’t know that I want a Supergirl series set in a world where Superman doesn’t exist.

Don’t get me wrong: Supergirl’s been around long enough that she deserves an identity of her own, rather than being defined as “Superman’s cousin.” The current writers of her book are trying, but her more famous relative is never that far from her narrative. A weekly series (or Netflix series) might give her the chance to be her own character as well. So I’m not saying I need Henry Cavill to pop by on a regular basis, but… Superman should still exist. Putting each character in their own box, where no other DC character is allowed to be, is something I’d hoped DC was moving past.

So that means I also don’t want Supergirl to join the Arrowverse, something that feels alien to say. But it’s true, for the same reason I don’t want Nightwing showing up: for all the characters that they’re adding to the Arrowverse, Superman and Batman aren’t on the list, and Nightwing without Batman doesn’t even make sense. Ra’s Al Ghul, okay, fine, he can exist without overt references to Batman, but not Nightwing. Why not use any other similar character, like Blue Beetle or the Question or Manhunter? Oh, right, they are using Manhunter… no not the Martian one, one of the other 20 DC characters named “Manhunter.”

Right, sorry, Supergirl. There may be super powers in the Arrowverse now, thanks to the Flash, but no aliens. And if we’re going to add Kryptonians, let’s start with the big guy. Or if you want a Supergirl type, introduce Wonder Woman, or Hawkwoman, or Big Barda–no, no, bad call me, you do NOT want Apocalypse and the New Gods on TV, you want them in the Justice League movies. That last bit might not have made sense to you. But you’re reading this on the internet, and I assume you know how Google works. Must I hyperlink everything?

That said... there are worse characters you could introduce in Justice League...

That said… there are worse characters you could introduce in Justice League…

Anyway. A Supergirl TV series that ties into Man of Steel and Superman V. Batman: Dawn of A Thousand Internet Complaints may be too much to hope for. But a Supergirl series where Superman is nowhere to be seen is like, I don’t know, making a TV series about Batman’s daughter where Alfred is a main character but Batman himself is never seen or heard from.

Hint: that didn't work.

Hint: that didn’t work.

The New Pornographers have a new album!

Finally… if you can listen to this without feeling at least a little happy, I feel sad for you.

Until next time, have a good day and WATCH BOJACK HORSEMAN.

An open letter to a Marvel fanboy

So. In the wake of Guardians of the Galaxy, a meme hit the intertubes claiming to describe the difference between DC and Marvel, through a fake internet chat in which DC is awkwardly trying to explain their failure to do anything cool while Marvel screams excitedly about everything it’s doing. This one here.

Go ahead, I’ll wait.

It’s popped up enough times that I’m no longer able to resist the need to point out that, while funny, it’s not what you’d call… accurate. By any stretch of the imagination. So I now present an open letter to the meme’s writer. And at the end, I’ll be including a link to a video in which puppets make fun of the internet, because you’ll all have earned a break. And because Glove and Boots is very much my New Favourite Thing.

Must we do this

Hello there, Marvel fanboy who made this. I feel comfortable calling you a Marvel fanboy because, well, your little internet joke here exists to crow about Marvel while inventing reasons to take cracks at DC, and that’s not something you typically find in impartial fans of superhero stories.

First, may I just say, I don’t see why this is necessary, this continuous animosity between us. I was like you, once: I read DC almost exclusively, derided and mocked Marvel with their clone sagas and overexposure of Wolverine. But then a day came when I realized I was only hurting myself by shunning one of comics’ two largest publishers. Hell, by shunning any comic, movie, or TV show because I felt a need to take a side. Now, while I still prefer DC, because on the whole I find their comic storytelling more fun and engaging, I read plenty of Marvel. I own the Avengers Phase 1 special edition Blu-ray pack, which means I own a copy of Thor but not Dark Knight Rises.

And I know you can’t say the same thing about DC, sir (I’m also pretty sure you’re not a “Ma’am,” as we’ll soon cover). You’re hardcore Marvel. No time for the other brand. Which is sad. Geek culture should be the ultimate culture of inclusion, where people who’ve been outsiders for most of their life have a place to share their passions with like-minded people. But instead we keep getting bogged down in this petty, pointless Marvel vs. DC, XBox vs. Playstation, Mac vs PC, Us vs Them bullshit.

Also rampant, rampant misogyny, but nothing in this Marvel vs. DC post of yours makes me suspect you’re guilty of that, so we’ll leave that be for now. Suffice to say, fanatical brand loyalty is certainly not as bad as sexism, racism, or other forms of discrimination, but it’s still stupid. It’s pointless.

But since we’re here anyway, allow someone who HAS read a DC comic since the Clinton administration to correct you on some of your so-called points.

Black Widow is not the first female supporting character

I'm not sure you understand your own points. Or words in general.

I’m not sure you understand your own points. Or words in general.

Um. Okay.

I’m hesitant to speak on behalf of feminists for reasons that seem obvious, but… replying to “Making a movie starring Wonder Woman is tricky” with “Marvel is letting Black Widow be a supporting character in a male-driven action movie!” is weak sauce, man. No, it does not seem that Warner Bros. has been particularly motivated to make a live action Wonder Woman movie ever since they pulled the plug on having Joss Whedon write one (a move that earned that executive kicks in the junk until the end of his days). But Marvel’s not exactly racing to put together a Black Widow solo film, are they? Or Captain Marvel, one of the other new faces people have been saying should be in phase three?

Pretty much Starbuck with super powers. You would watch that, admit it.

Pretty much Starbuck with super powers. You would watch that, admit it.

Yes, Black Widow had a large role in the Winter Soldier. They even gave her a few things to do in the big explody climax (not as much as the Falcon, but hey). But I can say the exact same thing about Catwoman in Dark Knight Rises. Selina Kyle had “a ton of screentime and major asskicking skills” there as well. Okay, fine, Dark Knight Rises is not as good as the Winter Soldier, but Marvel’s not winning any diversity medals because they finally found something interesting to do with Black Widow the third time they made her a supporting character in a male-driven movie. Especially since they are on the record as not considering female-led movies a priority.

The fact is, neither of us are winning this race. The next big female-driven superhero movie won’t star Wonder Woman, Black Widow, or Captain Marvel. It won’t be from Warner Bros. or Marvel Studios. It’s going to come from Sony, and will probably star the Black Cat as part of their ongoing desperate attempts to weave an Avengers-level franchise out of Spider-man and his amazing friends. And the problem with that is that based on everything else Sony’s been doing in that world, Black Cat is going to be terrible, probably fail, and give everyone who holds up Catwoman and Elektra as proof that “female driven action movies don’t work” one more bullet in their idiot gun, and Wonder Woman and Natasha Romanov will be supporting cast only for another decade.

And without Iceman, what's even the point?

Plus without Iceman, what’s even the point?

In conclusion, letting a woman be a supporting character in a male-driven movie is not the same as doing a female-driven movie, don’t pretend that it is.

DC does not hate lesbians

In your next point, you claim that DC is forbidding Batwoman from marrying her fiancee, Maggie Sawyer, because they refuse to allow lesbians to get married. But hey, check out the gay wedding on the cover of the X-Men!

Don’t be an ass, guy.

First off, yes, it’s great that Marvel let one of their D-list X-Men get married, and made a big deal out of it so that everyone could see how gosh-darned progressive they are.

However.

Saying that DC is forbidding Batwoman from getting married because they hate the gays would be like me saying that Marvel annulled Black Panther and Storm’s marriage because they hate black people. I mean, sure, there isn’t a second high-profile black couple in Marvel comics, but the decision to split them up was not born out of racism any more than the decision to stall Batwoman’s nuptials was born out of homophobia.

Batwoman isn’t getting married any time soon for the same reason Spider-man isn’t married anymore: because she’s a superhero, the title character of her book, and married superheros are fewer and farther between these days.

And it’s not like they’ve pushed her sexuality into the background, here. She didn’t sell her marriage to the devil or something idiotic like that. She’s still being a kickass hero, capable of giving the Batman a run for his money in a fight, who is also an out-and-proud lesbian in a stable if complex relationship with police captain Maggie Sawyer (who, by the way, has been out and proud as a supporting character of Superman and Batman since at least the early 90s).

I know, fanboy, you haven’t actually read a Batwoman comic, so you’re unaware that Batwoman’s origin is an indictment of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell. You’re probably unaware that it’s started examining child custody challenges faced by the LGBT community. You couldn’t have known these things, or when you were shouting to the rafters about how awesomely diverse Marvel’s being lately (we’ll get to that), you wouldn’t have brought the most high-profile gay lead character in comics into your argument.

Kate Kane, aka Batwoman, is here, she’s queer, where she’s at, she’s a Bat, and she’s awesome. If she’s having a long engagement, it’s because comics are nervous about marriage of any kind, not because Kate Kane loves the ladies.

“Dark, mature, and cynical”

I will grant you: Loki did go speed-dating in his new book. And it was amusing. But you probably shouldn’t bring it up as a counter-point to accusing DC of making everything dark, mature, and cynical, because Loki going speed-dating was the follow-up to evil Loki murdering his younger, more heroic self and taking his place (see the excellent Journey Into Mystery: a Comedy in 30 Parts or a Tragedy in 31).

I will also grant that DC movies leaned too much into the dark. DC saw the success of Nolan’s Batman and learned the wrong lesson, and as a result, Man of Steel was darker than it should have been (although I would still describe Man of Steel as ultimately hopeful rather than cynical). But the comics have been trying to build a sense of fun ever since the New 52 relaunch. Even the horror books have a sense of humour. Whereas Marvel’s endless slog of massive crossover event books have been embracing “grim” in record quantities. Hell, the Ultimate books seem to exist solely to watch the world nearly end in high-casualty catastrophes over and over (well, that and Ultimate Spider-man, and they day Brian Michael Bendis leaves that book the Ultimate line may finally fold completely).

But since the New 52 relaunch, high-flying adventure or epic sagas have been the order of the day. Okay, yes, Forever Evil wasn’t all sunshine and roses, but it wasn’t as oppressively dark as some Marvel events. Read Larfleeze and tell me it’s all dark and mature. Or the new eagerly anticipated Batgirl run. Or Harley Quinn.

DC could stand to make their next round of movies less dark and grim, sure, just like Marvel could get more creative with their plots than “Guy gets his hands on a magic space rock and uses it and his army of faceless minions to rule/destroy the world for reasons that are vague at best.” But accusing the entirety of DC’s product line of making everything dark, mature, and cynical is foolishness.

Not sure you’ve been watching Phase II

Now your next point goes beyond “Not knowing anything about DC” and into “Have you even been watching the Marvel movies?” Let’s review:

Your exact words. Your exact stupid words.

Your exact words. Your exact stupid words.

First, a couple points about your shot at DC. Marvel fans attacking DC for changing actors is beyond the pot calling the kettle black. Marvel has recast three characters so far: James Rhodes in Iron Man, Fandral in Thor, and Bruce Banner in Avengers. And that’s fine. Don Cheadle, Zachary Levi, and Mark Ruffalo were all excellent choices. Probably going to need a new Iron Man eventually, and that’ll be okay too. Just like bringing in a new actor for Batman, when it’s a different continuity than Nolan’s Batman, is not only fine, it’s expected.

And also, unless you wrote this last year (you didn’t), Wonder Woman is not “maybe doing a cameo” in Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Embarrassing Subtitles (see? I can make fun of my side). Wonder Woman is happening.

 

And she's gonna be hardcore.

And she’s gonna be hardcore.

That said, let’s examine why your boast about Marvel is shockingly divorced from reality.

“Everyone is in everyone’s movie.” Wow, that’s just… no. No, not at all. Which movies have you been watching? Because in the sum total of Phase II, excepting Age of Ultron, there have been two, count ’em, two Avenger cameos in other Avengers’ movies. Bruce Banner popped up in the end credit scene of Iron Man 3 (not to do anything, he was just there), and Loki briefly impersonated Captain America in Thor: the Dark World. In the four Phase II movies thus far, there have been two cameos totaling less than two minutes of screentime.

Hardly “everyone appearing in everyone’s movies.”

If everyone were in everyone’s movies, we wouldn’t be asking why the Avengers and SHIELD gave zero shits that terrorists blew up Tony Stark’s house and then kidnapped the president off of Air Force One. We wouldn’t be asking why Captain America didn’t think Tony Stark or, say, the goddamn Hulk might be useful in taking down three flying aircraft carriers filled with heavily armed hostile soldiers. Or hey, forget them, where the hell was Hawkeye? SHIELD is revealed to be compromised, Cap and Black Widow are on the run, and Black Widow doesn’t think it’s worth at least trying to contact her partner and friend Clint Barton, the guy she signed on with the Avengers to save from Loki?

I mean, “ain’t no stopping us now” seems to be fair, at least until we see how Ant-man does, but let’s keep our boasts within the realm of reality, shall we?

“A few” people of colour?

Again, your exact stupid words:
Stupid point 2

I’m not going to say anything negative about the new Muslim American Ms Marvel (except that Muslim isn’t an ethnicity, and last I checked Americans didn’t need to be sorted by their faith). This is partially because I haven’t read her book, and as I’m trying to make clear to you, you should always be familiar with things you criticize, lest you just look like an idiot. Also because the character seems pretty cool and like a good idea, but I really wanted to remind everyone how shockingly little you knew about DC when you wrote your little screed.

What I will do is remind you of the “one or two” people of colour DC introduced prior to the new Ms Marvel turning up.

  • Simon Baz, the Arab-American (think that might be the term you wanted) Muslim Green Lantern, still playing a key role in Justice League
  • John Stewart, the black Green Lantern who’s still the primary character in Green Lantern Corps
  • Jason Rusch, the black Firestorm, who remained a key part of the character following the reboot
  • Jaime Reyes, the latino Blue Beetle, who’s had the publisher’s support for nearly a decade despite low sales, and was even written into Smallville
  • Miiyahbin, aka. Equinox, the Cree teenager joining Justice League Canada
  • Batwing, the Batman of Africa
  • Nightrunner, the Muslim Batman of France
  • Fan favourite character Wally West, formerly the Flash, finally being reintroduced into continuity, but as a mixed-race teenager instead of a white redhead
  • Ryan Choi, the asian Atom, confirmed as still existing in the New 52 (but only partial credit, if/when the Atom is introduced to the New 52, it’ll probably be Ray Palmer, because Arrow)

And that’s just off the top of my head. You’ll notice a few marquee names in there, like Green Lantern, Flash, and Batman. But hey, the only way you could’ve known any of that is by making even a token effort to understand the thing you’re criticizing.

Ain’t reading Batman? Don’t talk about Batman.

There’s not much I can say about accusing Batman’s personality of being “like wet cardboard.” I could say that clearly he’s never read a single issue of Scott Snyder’s excellent, game-changing run on the book. I could say you’ve missed Peter Tomasi’s exploration of Batman the grieving father, pushed to the edge as he tries to move past his son Damien’s death. But that’s all pretty clear. None of the things you’ve written so far indicate knowledge of anything that happens in DC comics, so why start now?

I could also stoop to your level, and reply that you must be confusing Batman for Captain America since Rick Remender took over the book. But that would be petty.

Also, nobody cares about street-racing latino Ghost Rider. That book will be gone by this time next year. But for the record? “Latina” is female. I know reading a Batman book, or realizing that Marvel characters are also capable of being bland as hell, is difficult, but try to at least get that part right, could you?

Speed round

It gets purely stupid from here, so let’s bring this in for a landing.

“We can’t mention any superhero titles in our movies?” I don’t… what? What are you even talking about? What movies are you watching? Surely not the Dark Knight, everyone knows the Joker’s line about “Simple… we kill the Batman.” Not Man of Steel. They waited a while, sure, but he’s going by Superman by the climax. Are you miffed that they trusted that if they called the movies “Dark Knight” and “Man of Steel,” audiences might recognize the nicknames that have been around since World War II and know which characters they were referring to? If so, does the upcoming movie title Superman v. Batman not help you out?

Guardians of the Galaxy was amazing, I’m not gonna fight you on that, but could you possibly refrain from just making shit up out of whole cloth? If you don’t want to watch DC movies, fine, but maybe just leave them alone instead of dreaming up imaginary offenses. ‘Kay?

Claiming DC just panders to white males? Ballsy, after the creative team of Batgirl, one of their more high-profile books, openly said he’d rather attract one teenage girl than twenty white dudes. Also, do me a favour and remind me how many people on the poster for the Avengers aren’t white dudes. Is it still just one? And she’s sexually posed? Right. And Age of Ultron… one added woman, everyone else is a white dude? Okay then. And Justice League will have at least two characters who aren’t white men, Wonder Woman and Cyborg? Three if they use John Stewart instead of Hal Jordan? Care to crunch the numbers on that?

No, you’d rather just bring up the female Thor and Falcon taking over as Captain America again. I covered this last time, but just to recap… when Bucky took over as Captain America, it was also only ever going to be temporary, and they didn’t pretend it was some new huge progressive change. They didn’t scream from the rafters “Captain America is an amputee now, aren’t we the best.” But sure, there they are, she-Thor and Falcon-as-Cap. Remind me to revisit this topic with you in May 2016, when Marvel needs everything back to normal before Captain America or Thor’s next movie comes out.

Now, as to your claims that Agents of SHIELD is amazing and the DC TV shows are… wait. Hang on… can’t… can’t seem to find anything here about Agents of SHIELD…

Huh. Guess even delusional Marvel fanatics are running out of ways to pretend Agents of SHIELD wasn’t a disappointment, and that Arrow isn’t the best superhero show on TV. Imagine that.

Look, Marvel fanboy… I respect that you like Marvel. And, cinematically, this is a great time to like Marvel. But it’s okay to also like DC, and if you’re going to claim otherwise, maybe try to know even a little about the Distinguished Competition, okay? I don’t know if there’s an easy way for us to find common ground, but I guess the important question is…

Do you want to see puppets make fun of Jim Carrey’s webpage? Because in the words of John Oliver, you sure as shit have earned it.

Take this cool shit, because this lifelong DC fan be outie.

Better for TV: American Gods and other favourites

I love Neil Gaiman. That much is clear. His stories are rich, his characters fascinating, I could (and do) read his books over and over again. And of everything of his that I’ve read, I would have to say that my favourite is American Gods. Well, my favourite that he wrote by himself. There’s also Good Omens, which he co-wrote with one of my other all-time favourite authors, Terry Pratchett, but for pure Neil I’m all about American Gods.

Sure, Neverwhere is a faster read, and Stardust has a lot to recommend, but if I want to lose myself in a slow-cooked epic? Gotta be American Gods.

It’s the story of Shadow, an ex-con who ends up taking a job as bodyguard to the aging con-artist Mr. Wednesday, joining him on a rambling quest across America. An America that, as we and Shadow both learn, is filled with gods. Every time people came to the continent and worshiped their gods, the gods would manifest. But as the years went by, they became old and tired, starved for worship. And now a new pantheon is rising, gods of media and technology and celebrity idols. And a war between the old gods and the new is brewing, with Shadow right in the middle.

It takes its time, as Shadow slowly makes his way through small-town America, encountering gods and myths, trying to unravel the mysteries behind everything. It has one of the best casts of fascinating people you could ask for. And I never, ever wanted to see it as a movie.

Because there’s too much. There’s just too much. The story is too deep, the world too rich, the plot too complicated to possibly fit into two or even three hours. No, I thought that it could be adapted, but it would have to be a miniseries. Eight hours, minimum. I even came up with a rough breakdown a long time back. Wow. Thirteen years ago. Damn.

But now it looks like I may actually be getting my wish. Starz, the US cable network out to be an edgier AMC or lower-rent HBO, is breaking ground on bringing American Gods to television. And the guy behind it? Bryan Fuller, creator of Pushing Daisies, showrunner of Hannibal, person behind the legitimately good season of Heroes. Basically, one of my favourite people working in television right now.

Now, when Seth Rogen was announced as writing the pilot for a series based on the classic comic Preacher, I was conflicted, because as much as I loved Preacher and enjoy Seth Rogen, the pairing seemed too unexpected to wrap my head around. But this? This goes beyond good news. Beyond My New Favourite Thing. This comes closer to proof of a loving God. Or at the very least, a karmic “mea culpa” for some of the shittier developments in my life the last while.

A television series would give the story time to meander and explore the world, and as the larger world and relaxed pace of the journey are key components of the story, this is absolutely vital. Plus, as a bonus, it’s long been said that if an American Gods TV show was successful, Gaiman would write a second book to give them more material. And I am all good with that.

Or perhaps they’d just tweak one or two things in the finale to give themselves somewhere to go in season two. Like how in From Dusk Till Dawn, Robert Rodriguez went from an expanded but primarily faithful adaption of the movie in the first five episodes to telling a completely new story in the back half, partly to set up season two, and partly because “And then vampires attack, woogy boogy boogy” was barely enough story to fill an hour of movie and would never have covered five hours of television.

Which I mention in order to set up my next point. If Bryan Fuller’s doing American Gods (and if you still need proof as to how amazing he can make a novel adaptation, start watching Hannibal already) and Robert Rodriguez can turn From Dusk Till Dawn into a surprisingly good TV series, what else would I like to see come to TV, and from who?

V For Vendetta

Why this? I love the crap out of V For Vendetta. Used to read it once a year. Alan Moore’s vision of a post-WWIII England that succumbed to fascism (written at a time when the UK was in actual danger of succumbing to fascism under Thatcher), and the one psychopath out to bring it all crumbling down, is a masterpiece of comic book storytelling. The mysterious and brutal V; his odd relationship with Evey, an orphaned factory worker-turned-almost-prostitute that he takes under his wing and helps grow into a better person than he himself ever was; national head detective Eric Finch, on a quest to bring down V no matter the cost to his career or sanity; and the Game of Thrones level intrigue brewing amongst the senior staff of the government as the Leader’s credibility begins to erode.

V is the last survivor of a medical experiment in a concentration camp that horribly killed most subjects but left him strong, brilliant, and insane, carefully constructing a plan for revenge that would take years to carry out, but that would collapse the system that imprisoned him… and honour a wish from a woman he never met, but loved all the same.

Look, the financial woes of the last few years are making the world a dark place. Fascist parties are making a resurgence in Europe, Christian fundamentalists are running amok in the US, Canada’s going disturbingly right-wing… maybe this is a good time for a story about how any government that operates through oppression is a bad thing, and we the people do not have to accept it.

And yes, I am aware they made a movie out of this already, and people say it’s pretty good. However, they had to streamline a lot. A lot. V’s initial series of revenge murders, against key government personnel who worked at the concentration camp while he was there, are swiftly sped through, when they could fill two or three hours on their own. The poetry of V’s vengeance is gone. And the intricacy of his plot beyond their deaths is also stripped away: in the movie, V wants to kill the Leader (for himself) and blow up parliament (as an inspiration to the people). In the graphic novel, he settles for nothing less than the collapse of the Leader’s entire society, rendering it to rubble so that anarchy can grow to take its place. And least forgivable, in the movie V is in love with Evey, while in the graphic novel he’s grooming her to be his replacement, to build the better world that will have no place for him. It’s an epic tragedy, with a ray of sunshine for the future at the end, but to do it right you need more time.

Sadly I can’t see anyone adapting it for television when it, by necessity, would last two seasons tops. Well… maybe the BBC…

Who should do it? Stephen Moffat. First of all, he writes for the BBC, one of the few networks who might say “Sure, we’re fine spending money on a miniseries with no franchise potential.” I mean, they let him do Jekyll, which was an excellent mini-series that had little if any potential for follow-ups. So if anyone’s going to walk into a board room and say “I want to film V For Vendetta, I’m thinking one series of ten episodes and that’s it, that’s all we’ll ever do” and actually get a green light, it’s him.

Plus, look at his best known works right now. First, Doctor Who, a story about an enigmatic protagonist who seems friendly and good but harbours a dangerous dark side, and his companion, who looks up to him but isn’t always certain she can trust him (especially in series eight, if the teaser’s any indication). Second, Sherlock, a series all about elaborate and labyrinthine mysteries whose true natures are but hinted at throughout, leading to a climactic reveal.

V For Vendetta features an enigmatic protagonist involving a younger female companion in a labyrinthine plot whose true nature is only hinted at in the early stages. Throw in a penchant for monologuing and this is the dark reflection of everything Moffat’s been doing lately. Plus making Evey every bit as complex, well-rounded, and ultimately strong a character as Alan Moore did (she finds her true strength by embracing the lessons V has been presenting her, but rejecting his path) might help counter some of the accusations he’s been getting about how he writes women the last year or so.

So yes, that’s what I want the next time you’re waiting for Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman to have matching time off… Stephen Moffat’s V For Vendetta. I mean, I doubt this will ever, ever happen, but it’s nice to imagine.

Planetary

 

absolute-planetary-book-one

Why this? Warren Ellis’ 27-issue series Planetary was brilliant. The only flaws it had were that it took 11 years for those 27 issues to come out, and that the initial premise was discarded too quickly. The Planetary organization are “archaeologists of the impossible.” Cold-powered Elijah Snow, super-strong Jakita Wagner, and The Drummer, able to read and manipulate electronic information without the use of a computer, investigate the secret history of their world. This includes twists on Godzilla, the Justice League, John Woo-style justice ghosts, and their ultimate nemeses, a dark twist on the Fantastic Four.

There’s a secret society formed to build a better world founded by Ellis’ homages to, among others, Doc Savage, Tarzan, and Fu Manchu. There’s an ongoing mystery about Planetary’s past, and their funder, the Fourth Man. There’s a funeral for a friend that was, in effect, a funeral for the founding comics of DC’s Vertigo line, including Sandman, Swamp Thing, and Hellblazer, all of which were launched by British writers in the 80s, and all of which (Ellis claims) were marked by the darkness that Thatcherism brought to England in the 80s. In the end, the John Constantine character reveals he faked his death because the time had come to embrace a new paradigm… and the fact that he ditched his Constantine trenchcoat and took on the signature look of Transmetropolitan’s Spider Jerusalem means this is pretty clearly Warren Ellis addressing the reader directly.

The things Ellis did with pop culture and sci-fi concepts were nothing short of mind-blowing. And while he did cut the “secret history” aspect after the first six issues to begin shifting focus to the battle between Planetary and The Four, Planetary remained a great enough read that it stayed a cult favourite even when it was taking months or even years to crank out an issue.

Planetary would be awesome on a streaming service or cable network. With only 10 to 13 episodes to fill, they wouldn’t have to worry about stretching out plots or the excessive filler episodes that come with a network 22 episode season. Ellis left all sorts of room to play with in the Planetary world, so they could easily stretch out beyond the story of the books. And pop culture and sci-fi are always coming up with new concepts and ideas to twist and play with. Get Clive Owen as Elijah Snow, Aisha Tyler as Jakita Wagner, and Seth Green or Cabin in the Woods’ Fran Kanz as Drummer, and we’ve got a show.

Who should do it? I want to say Joss Whedon (when don’t I?) because I’m sure I once read an article where he said he was a Planetary fan (and once got in a hilarious shouting match with Warren Ellis in the comment section of Ellis’ blog), and so I’d like to think that if anything could lure him back to television, it’s Planetary.

No no no. Don’t bother mentioning Agents of SHIELD. I’ve yet to see any evidence he was involved in that past the pilot.

But he’s pretty busy writing billion dollar movies, and has expressed a weariness with telling other people’s stories. So you know who’d be a good replacement? His Cabin in the Woods co-writer and Buffy disciple Drew Goddard. Cabin in the Woods shows he has the chops for pop culture dissection, and he’s clearly moving into more comic-based projects as of late.

Plus, now that he’s left the impending Daredevil series for the Sinister Six movie, he’s gonna need something to do when that franchise falls apart.

Assassin’s Creed

Assassin-s-Creed

Why this? Assassin’s Creed, at its best, has a deep story of the struggle between the Templars and the Assassins, which really boils down to the classic Order vs. Chaos battle, with the Assassins fighting against the oppressive Templars to build a more free world. Of course, the games never look into what that world would look like, but that’s all the more reason to give them an expanded playing space. Through advanced technology, a man named Desmond is able to relive the memories of his Assassin ancestors, the most popular of which is Renaissance Italian Ezio Auditore.

They’re working a movie right now, with heavy involvement from the studio, but there’s two problems. First, the story is too complex. There’s rival factions trying to steer all of history, Templar plots behind countless historical figures, Ezio’s story alone covers decades, and that’s not even touching the plotline where aliens posing as gods basically created human society, leaving behind artifacts of extreme power that could determine our future, and revealed this to Desmond by explaining it to Ezio, knowing that Desmond would relive this moment centuries in the future. Show me a two-hour script that can do even a little of that justice. No, the movie will, at best, be two hours of parkour-driven revenge-murder with conspiratorial undertones, and at worst will be as bad as most other video game movies.

Who should do it? You know who loves historical conspiracies and badasses with daddy issues (most of your AC protagonists learn about their heritage after their father dies, explaining nothing to them first)? J.J. Abrams. Whether it’s the contemporary characters dealing with modern day Templar plots, or the historical characters doing Renaissance-style adventuring, this is right in J.J.’s TV wheelhouse. The man does spies, Italian inventors way, way ahead of their time, and compelling larger mysteries. If the guy behind Fringe and Alias can’t make an AC series worth watching, I don’t know who could.

I don’t know why I keep writing posts about TV series that I’ll never see. Maybe because I can’t stop thinking about them and this helps get them out of my system. Who knows.

Until next time, then.

Favourite Things Speed Round!

There’s something missing from my life.

Who Knows, the Doctor Who tribute play I’d been directing since March, came to an end a week and a half ago. And for all my attempts to stay busy and avoid the typical post-show crash of depression… I miss it. I miss seeing my delightful cast every day. I miss waiting for the gasps from the audience when the Dalek made its appearance. I miss the cheers we’d get from certain houses when a notable costume turned up, like when Roger entered as the Master at the top of act two, or when Sarah James emerged from the vent in Amy Pond’s kiss-a-gram outfit. I miss it all… but I can’t have it back.

So, rather than dwell on things left behind (after all, first rehearsal for Frost/Nixon is but 12 days away), let’s do a speed round of Favourite Things that never really seemed worth a full post.

Allons-y! (Damn it, now I’m just depressing myself…)

Welcome Back, Potter

I would do a whole piece on Cracked Studios, and attempt to review each of their three (thus far) series, but every time I try I lose steam something hard. It’s like, “Why am I writing this down, and why would anyone read it?” So instead, let’s just cover everything I like about the latest (and most publicized) series, Welcome Back, Potter.

First, let’s be real, I find Michael Swaim and Daniel O’Brien hilarious, and Katy Stoll to be funny, engaging, and super cute. Put these three together in a parody of anything and I’m going to watch it.

One of my favourite After Hours episodes, also written by Swaim, is the one where they tear apart Harry Potter. It’s not that I dislike Harry Potter (I don’t), but whether we’re talking books or movies, that series has some holes, and Swaim knows how to exploit them for laughs. The notion that 12 year-old Harry Potter (should have been 11, but whatevs) would, upon learning he’s destined to fight the most evil wizard who ever lived, simply book it for America and hide tickles me. As do various other shots at Potter lore, from wondering if they tried to fight Voldemort with anything besides young orphans to the fact that wizarding school gives you zero prep for life in muggle world, to the fate of the Dursleys in a world where Harry lacked adult supervision (they had a run-in with some water moccasins).

It’s a fun series, and Daniel O’Brien’s take on Ron Weasley as a Jersey Shore guido (“I deeply regret so much of how I look and act. OH!”) is reliably amusing. Michael Swaim has been pushing it with behind-the-scenes videos and articles, so he clearly want to make more, and I’m hoping he gets to. Thus, me plugging it.

5-second Films

The mission statement of 5-second Films is a simple one: wasting your time, but not very much of it. For several years, the team put out a video every day, each lasting only five seconds (well, plus two seconds of opening credit and one second of closing). Somehow I managed not to hear about them until just recently, despite the fact that they got popular enough to feature guest appearances from Patton Oswalt, some of the Cracked staffStan Lee, Larry King, Weird Al, and Freddie Wong.

Look, this one’s pretty simple. And if all of those links aren’t swaying you, here’s a sampler.

Their output has diminished recently, as they’ve been working on a feature length film based on one of their videos, Dude Bro Party Massacre Three. Or maybe they actually were concerned that the rise of Vine made them obsolete. I don’t know. I’m not internet-famous enough to have spoken to them personally. But it’s probably the movie thing.

That said, if you’re just discovering them, like me, there are hundreds upon hundreds of five second comedy films to check out (and five really depressing ones from Bummer Week), so have at.

The Flash Trailer

I watch this a lot.

Okay. Lightning round.

  • Even people I know who don’t watch Arrow are talking about how good this looks. For me, a massive fan of Arrow? I cannot wait.
  • Harrison Wells (guy in the wheelchair, aka JD’s brother from Scrubs) seems to have a secret room somewhere. Six to five and pick ’em he’s betraying Barry by the end of season one.
  • Some people complain that they’re giving Flash his own team right off, instead of building it organically like Arrow did. On the other hand? One of his team is Caitlin Snow, better known to comics fans as Killer Frost, so between her and Wells this might not be the reliable inner circle that Oliver Queen has.
  • They call the bad guy, generally believed to be classic Flash villain Weather Wizard, “Clyde Mardon,” which is actually the Weather Wizard’s brother, and the man he stole his weather powers from. So if he doesn’t survive the pilot, don’t panic. I’m sure the Rogues are coming.
  • Barry’s father is being played by John Wesley Shipp, the star of the last Flash TV series. Come on, that’s cool.
  • The addition of legit super powers to the Arrowverse is everything I’ve been waiting for.
  • I’m not saying that if enough people watch this, they will cross over Arrow and Flash into the Justice League movie (in fact it is all but assured that they won’t), but it could not hurt.

My webseries films soon

It’s coming, dear readers. Writers’ Circle: the Web Series is mere weeks from rolling. When that starts happening, you’re going to be hearing about it. A lot. I’m not sorry. It’s just what has to happen.

Also, it’s going to be amazing, so you’re going to want to be in the loop.

Next time… I don’t know. I’m hoping by next time I’m past this “Nothing seems worth blogging about” thing and ranting about nerd stuff again. Or, you know, something like that. Well. Until then.

My New Favourite Thing: Geek TV News

So this week was the network upfronts, when the US networks announce what new shows will be hitting screens next season, and what bubble shows have gotten the axe. And I have… some reactions. There was enough good news (for me, at least) to file this one under My New Favourite Thing… save for one piece of news. But we’ll call the upfronts this week’s New Favourite Thing just the same.

Allons-y.

Gotham

Okay. I have spoken out against this show in the past. “Smallville but about Batman” seemed like a woefully bad idea. But the trailer… the trailer does not look awful.

And I just want to get this out of the way: yes, I complained about the series existing. Yes, I was afraid of watching another Smallville. But that’s because I knew, deep down, that if this show made it to air, I was going to be watching it. And the trailer not being terrible doesn’t dissuade me from that being an inevitability.

As a bonus, it may not be full-on Smallville. It certainly helps that it’s on a network other than the CW, which seems contractually obliged to slather a minimum amount of teen soap-opera and pretty 20-somethings on anything they air. So it may not be about Bruce Wayne going through puberty and moping over not being able to ask out Selina Kyle because he needs to focus on his Batman training. It’s more about the struggles between the cops and the criminals, in particular Jim Gordon, freshly arrived in the GCPD, and young Oswald Cobblepot, climbing the ranks from low-level henchman to, ultimately, the Penguin. And there might yet be some material to mine here.

Will it turn out that Bruce’s parents’ death is part of a larger mystery? Maybe. Would that be a stupid thing to do? Yes, absolutely. The whole “Become a bat” thing hinges on the fact that his parents were killed in a random street crime, thus to make sure no other child suffers as he did he needs to take on all criminals, not because they posed a threat to some sinister organization. (Although if the showrunners wanted to sneak the Court of Owls into the works, I wouldn’t complain.)

But there is a chance that I won’t have to hate myself too much when I ultimately start watching it in September.

The Flash

This one, on the other hand, I’m nothing but excited for.

THE-FLASH-Full-Suit-ImageTwo years ago, I learned that the CW, looking to replace Smallville, had greenlit a TV show based on Green Arrow, albeit a new take on the character and not the continuing adventures of the Smallville version. That a TV show based on Green Arrow, a character I like but not exactly an A-list DC superhero, would even exist seemed improbable. That it would a legitimately good, sometimes great series was nothing short of miraculous. And now the producers have gotten the go-ahead for their spinoff featuring Barry Allen, the Flash.

Arrow has been soaked in DC lore, filled with Easter eggs and reference characters, and Flash looks to be even more so. There are already three supporting characters pulled right out of the comics. Eddie Thawne of the Central City Police sounds like a play on Eobard Thawne, better known as Flash’s arch-nemesis Zoom, the Reverse Flash (that is not going to sound less ridiculous out loud but he actually is pretty deadly)…

If you were paying attention, they already foreshadowed him on Arrow.

Laugh at his name and he might run into the past and kill your parents right in front of you.

STAR Labs scientist Caitlin Snow sounds like she may be destined to become her comic book counterpart Killer Frost…

Not a good guy. If that wasn't clear.

Not a good guy. If that wasn’t clear.

And her associate Cisco Ramon has been making a comeback lately as Vibe, once upon a time the most regrettable Justice Leaguer.

Made Aquaman look like Batman with a lightsaber.

Made Aquaman look like Batman with a lightsaber.

With his uncomfortably over-the-top Latino streetwise attitude and powers derived from… erm… breakdancing, Vibe has long been seen as a cautionary tale about trying to create new superheros while freebasing cocaine, as I’m pretty sure was standard practice for most of the 80s. Not just comics creators, pretty much everyone was on cocaine in the 80s. DC head honcho/Flash executive producer Geoff Johns is on a mission to redeem Vibe, having rebooted him in the comics…

LESS lame, I'll give him that...

LESS lame, I’ll give him that…

…and now sneaking him onto TV. We’ll see how this goes.

So yes, absolutely I’m excited to see the Flash return to TV. I enjoyed it in the 90s (that show holds up better than I expected), I enjoyed the Arrow two-parter that introduced Barry , and I’m excited to see actual super powers added to the Arrowverse, which remains the best comic property on TV. Yes, by all means, give me The Flash as a companion show to Arrow.

Elsewhere, also on the CW…

iZombie

I don’t know much about the comic iZombie. I read a preview for it that looked intriguing, but never got around to picking it up. Basically, a young med student finds herself turned into a zombie, needing to consume brains. So she feeds off corpses, and in the process also absorbs the dead person’s memories. Which gives us our TV show’s premise: she helps solve murders, using the victim’s memories to help her. Not entirely unlike Pushing Daisies, where Ned the Piemaker could revive the dead just long enough to ask who killed them. And it’s from the creator of Veronica Mars, and co-stars Mr. Sark from Alias, so what the hell, I’m on board.

And there’s still more comic-based news…

Marvel’s Agents of stuff

Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD is back for a second season, and will be joined on ABC by Marvel’s Agent Carter, a spinoff series for Captain America’s love interest from his first movie. Now, Agents of SHIELD did not exactly hit the ground running. Their larger plots moved too slow, they spent too long being weirdly reluctant to use anything from Marvel comics, their villains made the killers-of-the-week from Hawaii Five-0 look like Heath Ledger’s Joker (We’re pagan anarchists, so we’re smashing things! Because, um, anarchy! Right?), the high-tech touchscreens they used to solve every problem were dull, and their cast was a little bland, especially leading man Grant Ward.

Gonna spoil some stuff now.

But then came Captain America: The Winter Soldier. Then came the fall of SHIELD, following the revelation that they had been utterly, thoroughly infiltrated by Hydra, since the very beginning. And for Agents of SHIELD, everything changed. And it suddenly became a show worth watching for something other than Agent Coulson. Bill Paxton gave an amazingly compelling face to their season-long nemesis, the Clairvoyant. The head of the AIM-from-Iron-Man-3-knockoff Centipede was not a precog, just a high-ranking SHIELD agent who was actually Hydra the whole time. Even more amazing? Agent Ward finally became interesting once they revealed that he, too, was Hydra. It took them 17 episodes, but Agents of SHIELD has finally become a show worth renewing, so I’m interested to see where they go from here (with SHIELD dismantled, backsliding to the show they used to be is pretty much impossible).

And Agent Carter might be okay as well. Peggy Carter was no Phil Coulson, and I worry that they’ll feel a need to remind us she kind of dated Captain America for a bit way more often than they need to, but we’ll see how they do.

Okay, that’s Marvel (who could probably cut back on putting “Marvel” before the name of everything they do… “Marvel’s The Avengers” was necessary for copyright reasons, but “Marvel’s Agent Carter” is pushing it). Back to DC, because there’s still more.

Constantine

Ever since bringing him out of their mature readers line and back into their mainstream comics, DC has been milking John Constantine, magician and conman who sometimes begrudgingly saves the world from demons and monsters, for all he’s worth. And now he will officially be coming to NBC in his own show. I have to say, they have nailed his look…

Not that it's hard to do.

Not that it’s hard to do.

…and the descriptions of the show imply they’re capturing his edge as best they can on a broadcast network. Okay, fine, they didn’t cast Mark Shepard (still time to get him in as a recurring villain), and unlike Flash it’s basically guaranteed to never cross over with Arrow, likely existing in isolation from all other DC properties. But I’ll allow it. Constantine doesn’t need crossovers to be cool. And it might not be on HBO, but just look at what NBC lets Hannibal get away with. Oh, hey, that reminds me…

Hannibal

Third season! Despite being chronically low-rated, Hannibal has scored a renewal once again. I’ve already discussed my love for this show, despite its overwhelming grimness, and the opportunity to get more, to see the show continue to inch its way towards the events of Red Dragon, is definitely good news. I’m used to losing the shows I love: Fox lives to cancel geek-friendly shows, and I still recall the year ABC cancelled six shows I liked or loved in one season. But NBC… NBC gave Chuck five seasons when the ratings never fully justified it, so they’ve earned some love from me.

Even though not all their news thrills me.

Community

After five seasons on the brink of cancellation, two of them as a mid-season replacement with vague commitments to air eventually, Community has finally come to an end.

I’m of mixed feelings. At it’s best, Community was the sharpest, funniest, and smartest comedy on television, with gags ranging from broad to so subtle you barely see them, and one of the best ensemble casts in recent memory. At it’s worst, it was a desperate attempt to trade on mass-market quirkiness, inside jokes and references to fan-favourite episodes. Season four, in other words. The year NBC thought they could live without the series’ creator, Dan Harmon.

A year ago the only reason anyone would have been sad to see Community go was that it would be a shame for a show that used to be so brilliant to end on the worst episode they’d ever done. But then, miracle of miracles, Dan Harmon was re-hired to run the show, and they pulled themselves back from the brink. They weren’t at their peak, especially after Donald Glover left, but they were Community again. But now that’s over, with our final sentiment being Abed’s claim that if they weren’t back soon, it was because an asteroid had hit the Earth and killed everyone. “And that’s canon.”

Maybe it’s for the best. Maybe Community should end now, while they were still a show worth loving, before sinking back to where they were a year ago, somewhere between self-parody and Community fan-fiction masquerading as the real thing. I’ll miss the Greendale gang, to be sure, and if a cable network throws them a lifeline (something that gets rumoured every time a cult favourite gets cancelled but only rarely happens), I’ll follow them, but for now… you either die a hero, or live long enough to see yourself become the villain. Right now we can believe the sixth season (and the movie) would have been hilarious. An actual sixth season might have proved us wrong, especially if losing John Oliver (again) and Jonathan Banks (surprisingly effective replacement for Chevy Chase) hurt the show as much as losing Donald Glover or Dan Harmon.

That said, if a Kickstarter titled “Fine then, FIVE Seasons and Movie” turns up, I’m on board.

Any or all of the shows I’ve mentioned could be joining Community on the scrap heap by Christmas. But hopefully they don’t, because most of them sound fun.

 

 

 

My New Favourite Thing: From Dusk Till Dawn

As an avid consumer of media, I’m often encountering things I consider neat, impressive, bizarre, amazing, and/or worth sharing with those around me. The problem is that I encounter these things way more often than I actually have opportunities to discuss them, between my lax social calendar and tendency to get interrupted by a topic shift. And so I’m introducing a new weekly feature (yes, I know that my update schedule as of late makes “weekly feature” seem hopelessly optimistic, I’m working on it) to share these things as they happen: My New Favourite Thing. And perhaps describing them here will save people having to hear me rant about True Detective or John Mulaney: New in Town until I’m not the only one referencing them in casual conversation.

I will still be the only one referencing them in casual conversation. I have a sickness.

Anyway, let’s kick this off.

From Dusk Till Dawn is a TV show now

Does everybody remember the 90s movie From Dusk Till Dawn? The first full-on collaboration between artistic soulmates Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez? It’s the story of Seth and Richie Gecko, fiercely violent bank robbers, who abduct the Fuller family (an ex-preacher and his two children) in order to use their RV to escape to Mexico. Once in Mexico, they head for a skeevy strip bar catering to bikers and truckers to wait for Seth’s contact Carlos so that the Gecko brothers can retire in El Rey, where Seth hopes his more psychotic brother will find some peace. Except it turns out the bar is an ancient Mayan vampire lair, and the Geckos, the Fullers, and their new pals Frost and Sex Machine have to spend the night fighting off wave after wave of vampires.

I would totally have watched a spin-off movie called “Frost and the Machine.”

What’s fascinating about the movie is how the plot turns on a dime. The first half of the movie is a tense thriller based around the frightened Fullers trying to deal with the hair-triggered Seth and the psychotically violent Richie, in the hopes that Seth will honour his word and release them once everyone reaches Mexico. And then out of goddamned nowhere suddenly there’s vampires all over the place.

Anyhoo, if you have seen the movie, did you ever think to yourself “That was pretty neat, but I wish it had been a little longer?” Like, eight hours longer? Because apparently Robert Rodriguez did. The movie has been turned into a ten episode TV show that’s currently running on Netflix. And I don’t mean Rodriguez has made a TV series set in that world, he has expanded the “Robbers escape to Mexico, oh no there’s vampires” story from the movie into a ten-hour series.

It’s a baffling experiment. On the one hand, I have yet to find anyone who thinks there was eight hours’ worth of story missing from that movie. On the other hand… there are some neat additions. Richie’s a far more interesting character now, and the vampire element is less random. Richie already has a creepy connection to a cult of Mayan snake vampires, and his killings are less a matter of being a creepy psychopath and more being driven by supernatural visions. Richie sees things others cannot, and it’s left him wise in ways but less than sane.

While here in Canada it’s a Netflix original, the series actually debuted on Rodriguez’ El Rey network (named after the Gecko brothers’ planned destination, no doubt), a US cable network targeting Latino audiences. As such, they’re only releasing one episode per week. As such, I’ve been popping an episode on while at work on Saturdays, and emailing a running commentary to my associate Keith, who just finished directing my theatre company’s production of Reservoir Dogs and is one of the biggest Tarantino fans I know. He claims these commentaries are a highlight of his week, so I’m opting to share some of them with you now.

Episodes one and two

In which the ten minute intro scene where the Gecko brothers kill a Texas Ranger and shoot up a convenience store gets stretched into a full hour, and then the Fullers are introduced as some vampire stuff begins to seep into the narrative.

  • I guess this is Salma Hayek’s character being sacrificed by the Mayans? I don’t recall death by snake being a cause of vampirism…
  • I certainly don’t know of any species of boa constrictor that crawls into its victim’s mouth while it’s alive. What the shit was that.
  • Oh good. Because the key to improving the gas station showdown is to make it an entire episode instead of a perfectly succinct action/character beat. And let us really get to know the ranger you showed us dying before the credits. Can’t wait to be given a list of reasons why I should be sad he’s dead. Guess this is how we’re rolling on this show. (note from the present: Texas Ranger Earl McGraw, originally played by Michael Parks, is now played by Don Johnson)
  • Dude playing Seth Gecko is trying to be 1990s George Clooney super hard. George Clooney doesn’t even try to be 1990s George Clooney anymore.
  • Well Richie Gecko is creepy as fuck, so they’ve got that going for them.
  • Did… did they just have a commercial break? On a Netflix original series? Ain’t no commercials, why did you cut as if there were? (I now understand this was designed to have commercial breaks, I did not at the time)
  • Well great. Richie’s insanity is being connected to the Mayan vampire whatnot.
  • And now we’re in episode two, and the family in the RV has arrived. I already like the kids more, although the daughter’s younger. Was the father always dragging his kids to Mexico basically against their will?
  • Still trying to figure out what exactly is going on with Richie. He’s not just crazy like in the movie, there’s something weird going on.
  • Oh. They’re snake vampires. Explains a thing or two.
  • Still not sure what I think. Some of the new stuff is interesting. Some of it is blatant padding. Seems like I’m-a keep watching for the nonce.

Episode three

Apparently I did keep watching, because the commentaries continue. In week three, we continue the trend of spending a whole episode on people who had two minutes of screen time before being killed by Richie in the movie. Also, meet Seth’s ex-wife, who exists in the movie as a reference in a one-liner.

  • Come now, Seth. What exactly about the rest of today suggests that Richie can be left alone with the female hostage?
  • Katie Fuller, the ex-preacher’s daughter, is way cuter than I’m comfortable with.
  • As foretold in the pilot, Big Kahuna Burger makes an appearance.
  • Adrienne Palicki! Yay! Jake Busey. Boo.
  • If you didn’t want to be creeped out by the crazy man’s sketch book, don’t ask to SEE the crazy man’s sketch book.
  • Again with the cuts for non-existent commercials! Did he make this for a network that turned it down? (Again, did not know about the El Rey network at the time)
  • Like his father, Jake Busey can’t act not crazy.
  • So Richie’s Cthulu-crazy, seeing horrible truths, not brain-chemical-crazy. Should probably still not leave him alone with hostages.
  • Be honest, Robert Rodriguez. Was this whole Mayan snake vampire cult/cartel something you always wished you’d included, or a way to make “and then they fight vampires” less jarring than it was in the movie?
  • Also at this rate that’s going to be like episode seven.
  • Oh my god did Jake Busey just try to Jedi Mind Trick the Marshall?
  • Okay, yes, he dumped some bullets on the counter. This is Texas. Is that something people in Texas get to freak out over?
  • 25 minutes. After three episodes we have covered almost exactly 25 minutes of the movie. Honestly, more than I thought.
  • We’ve had a lot of fun here tonight, mostly at the expense of this show, but damned if “The Geckos are being lured to the vampire bar for a larger purpose” doesn’t intrigue me a bit.

Episode four

At this point I think we can firmly declare that whatever complaints and nitpicks I’ve had, this is now a show I watch. I’m better at keeping up on this than half the shows I claim to be a fan of (really got to catch up on Hannibal and Supernatural soon…)

  • Tonight, on “From a Bit Before Dusk Till Slightly Closer to Dusk.”
  • I guess “Jacob Fuller is a drunk” is a better justification for stopping at a motel when you have an RV than “The guy who bought an RV doesn’t understand what they’re for.”
  • What kind of motels have maid service at sunset? That’s crazier than Richie.
  • Uh oh. Looks like the late Texas Ranger Earl McGraw’s protege might be going Cthulu-crazy like Richie…
  • Rest easy. The cantankerous old motel manager remains as vital a part of the story as ever.
  • STOP BREAKING FOR COMMERCIALS YOU ARE ON GOD DAMNED NETFLIX (Okay, look, if you put “Netflix original” at the beginning of the episode, I’m going to make some assumptions regarding format.)
  • I give this show a decent amount of grief, but it’s certainly well cast. I’m sure this statement is unrelated to Katie Fuller in a bikini.
  • Nnnnnnnngggggyyyyyaaa Richie has found Katie in the pool I am so uncomfortable right now
  • Seriously, try to watch Seth Gecko in action and not see it as a 90s Clooney impression.
  • Richie and Kate Fuller bonding is powerfully weird to see.
  • Sure, more Earl McGraw flashbacks. Let’s do that. Otherwise we might reach Mexico by the halfway point of this series.
  • I get it. You paid for Don Johnson, you want to use Don Johnson. But NOT paying for Don Johnson was an option.
  • Tune in next week for “Stuck in line at the border” on “From Pretty Close to Dusk Till It’s Almost Dusk, Honest.”

Episode five

The bank teller hostage and Texas Ranger Earl McGraw each got massively expanded stories for this series, and Seth’s contact Carlos has become a whole new presence, so if one of the next few episodes is NOT titled “Shooting From the Hip: the Life and Times of Sex Machine,” me and this show are having words.

  • Okay. Nearing the halfway point. Let’s rock.
  • Pastor Jacob Fuller is played by Robert Patrick. His ministerial ID is old enough that he still looks like the T-1000. This shouldn’t be a point of interest, yet I’m unable to ignore it.
  • I’ll give them this, the Jacob/Seth banter remains sharp, albeit tainted by being a conversation between Robert Patrick and a high-end George Clooney impersonator.
  • Nobody on the show seems to be having more fun than Wilmer Valderrama as Seth’s contact Carlos. This is more sinisterness than I expected out of Fes from That 70s Show playing Cheech Marin’s third least-threatening character from the movie.
  • Richie, if you want Seth to take you seriously as a strategist, stop acting like a spree-killer.
  • And the moral of tonight’s episode becomes clear early on: if you try to treat severe depression with prayer and positive attitude, don’t be surprised if your wife dies in a car wreck. I mean, getting kidnapped by violent fugitives and eaten by vampires seems like fifty pounds of punishment for five pounds of crime, but part of Jacob’s downfall seems predictable.
  • That said, at least Jacob’s demented determination to drag his kids to Mexico is making more sense.
  • The problem with being Cthulu crazy like Richie is that some of the things you spout might be prophetic (Jacob’s not a demon now, but there’s a long night ahead), but there is no way for any of them to sound not-crazy.
  • Huh. The RV reached the border before the end of the episode. I thought we’d have an extra half hour of RV-related cat-and-mouse to deal with before we got here.
  • Aaaaaand I spoke too soon. Clearly I underestimated how long all of the principal players in this little chase could be stuck in a border crossing traffic jam.
  • Oh, Katie. Asking someone to listen for the word of God is a lot easier when they’re not already being drowned in the word of Mayan Snake Vampire Goddess.
  • “What a fantastic idea, let’s bring another hostage on board.” Took the words right out of my mouth, Richie.
  • Okay, Rodriguez. Show me how the Gecko brothers and the Ranger chasing them can be in the same border queue without the series ending here.
  • Great plan, Jacob. Nothing attracts less attention from border guards than clearly anxious teenagers trying to get into Mexico.
  • Okay, BULLSHIT. That is TWICE that this show has violated one of the core concepts of the movie. First Carlos, now the border guard who inspects the RV? Someone better be played by Cheech Marin pretty damn fast!
  • How do we resolve this tense border standoff? Have we considered throwing some snake vampires at it?
  • Oh, Ranger Gonzalez. Will you ever win?
  • Gonna have to wait a few weeks before we know if snake vampires are bullet-proof or if border guards are just god-awful shots.
  • We reach the Titty Twister right at the half. Just like the movie. At long last dusk! Next week, more dusk!
  • Also: nearly an entire episode spent at the border crossing. CALLED IT.

Next week: a different favourite thing. Before then: hopefully another blog of some sort.