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Batman Day 2021 Recommendations

Batman is a household name worldwide. From movies, to toys, to everything in-between…Batman is everywhere. While many lament the sheer amount of Bat content constantly coming out, there is a reason he is so popular with so many. Batman is an extremely beloved character and means so much to so many. Instead of bringing you some sort of top 10 reads list or something similar, our staff brings you a bit about their personal relationship with the characters of Gothams and a story they want you to check out that means something to them.

Dan McMahon

I don’t think my love of Batman and Gotham characters is a secret in the slightest. I grew up on a stream of Batman. Hell, we started this whole thing as a DC podcast, so my allegiances have never been a secret. Batman for me has always been a versatile character that you could use to tell any type of story. He was the character you could drop into any story and it would make sense. I’ve talked about Batman on the show at length so I wouldn’t take up space here from our other writers. Batman is a character you can always depend on to keep the lights on. Now more than ever, I appreciate the characters’ stories, family, and what he stands for.


Now I assume if you know me, you would assume my recommendation would be “Heart of Ice from Batman: The Animated Series. I do think if you haven’t seen it, it’s time to pop it on and get ready to put your heart on ice. But I wanted to recommend a story I haven’t read since I was young up until the moment before writing this. I want you to read Gotham Knights #18 “Cavernous” from Devin Grayson, Roger Robinson, John Floyd, Rob Schwager, and Bill Oakley. It’s an issue that I read multiple times when I was younger because it made me realize that Batman was depressed. That his choices and things he had done actually alienated the people he cared about. Batman didn’t have the emotional tools needed to reach out to others to tell them he just didn’t want to be alone so instead he did his normal pushing them away. But eventually he asks Aquaman to help him get his penny unlodged after the Earthquake (See No Man’s Land). But there is a moment on the last page that is very worth reading this one off issue for. You don’t need any knowledge of the stories surrounding this, it’s rather stand alone to highlight the loneliness of the bat.

Jordan

I often get very sick of Batman. I loved him as a child of course, because of all the movies, cartoons and toys. But growing older and getting into comics I start to resent his overexposure and by extension Batman himself. But then occasionally I read a great Bat story or revisit a classic episode of the animated series and I remember that Batman is just the coolest thing. Unlike a lot of characters Batman’s world could survive entirely on it’s own. Divorced from the wider DC Universe, Gotham is a living, breathing world with its own internal logic and world. Batman’s villains know each other, they have their own rivalries and relationships and that’s not something you can say for most superhero rogues. There is just something about Gotham that is so endlessly appealing, that brings out the best in its creators. With a moody atmosphere but also poppy fun. Because Batman can be anything. He’s malleable in a way other characters aren’t. That’s why despite the oversaturation of the character I will always love Batman. Because it’s a whole world of stories and characters in its own right that feels timeless and larger than life in its own way. 

Shadow of the Bat #1-4:

Up in the pantheon of Batman writers there are names like Grant Morrison, Scott Snyder and Denny O’Neil and rightfully so. But for me my favourite work with the Bat of Gotham has always been with Alan Grant. I revisit his stories a LOT, especially those with art by the late great Norm Breyfgole. Together these two created the ultimate image of Batman to me. A dark mysterious creature of the night. Breyfgole’s stylized art depicts a Gotham larger than life. It’s angular and all encompassing and within it stands Batman. Stylish and angular, a haunting shadow streaking across the night sky. It perfectly suits Grant’s dark and psychological stories. But it’s not all darkness. I’m a believer in Batman needing empathy and levity. This particular story has Batman fighting a murderous serial killer, but also walking a lost girl home. Alan Grant’s Batman is one that perfectly encapsulates all aspects of the character to me. He’s a dark vengeful spirit but a compassionate hero at the same time. 

But what’s a specific story from this run that I recommend? Really anything by Grant and Breyfgole I say is worth a read. One story stands out to me though and that’s the first arc of Shadow of the Bat. This was a new Batman title made especially for Grant to go wild, and his first arc was a real mission statement. The story here takes place over four issues and follows Batman as he tries to solve a series of serial murders around Gotham City. The catch is that he’s already sure of who it is, Victor Zsasz. This is Zsasz’s first ever appearance and Grant and Brefygole established everything about him here. His sickening need to kill people, his obsession with marking himself with tallies from his victims and his lanky visage. The only problem for Batman is that Zsasz is already in Arkham, after he caught him in a previous adventure. So Batman has to break into Arkham to try and figure out what’s going on and how he’s getting out. A super simple conceit that gives way to a brilliant story dripping in atmosphere. To me this is the definitive Arkham story. It’s a building that feels gothic and larger than life, a sickening hole where the superstitious and cowardly are thrown away and forgotten. Grant and Breyfgole are the kinds of nailing the mood of Batman. They really build up the world of Gotham in a way that lets us understand Batman even more. It’s a perfect Batman comic and one that I will cherish forever.  

José Cardenas

My Bat-Love began when I was eleven years old. It was December, between Christmas and my birthday, and my parents presented a double-whammy Birthmas present that would set me on a path to creativity and superhero fandom. 

The gift — Lego Batman: The Videogame

As children, my brother and I adored Legos, always building the sets, playing with them and inevitably breaking them because we were never the delicate type of boys. The idea of playing a video game version with Batman, who we knew from a collection of cool cartoons, was a dream come true, and I’m sure welcome salvation for my poor parents’ feet. 

That game introduced me to the meaning of “atmosphere” with the eerie music from the Burton films, dark urban environments and the Stud sound effects that will haunt me forever. It was also a really great relationship-builder with my little brother. It helped so much, we even got to a point where I would let him play Batman, a true mark of respect in our household.

That’s what Batman means to me. A dark and strange city filled with wonder, and me with my family, trying to make our way through it all. 

So in comics, my Batman recommendation is Court of Owls by Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo. Not only did the trade paperback reignite my love for Batman in high school, but it also brought back those childhood feelings of dark discovery.

The Caped Crusader, after years of experience with his villains and his city, is faced with a threat even older than him and completely unfamiliar to me. What helps him persevere are the thoughts of his family, who stay with him through the end. 

This is a Batman comic that anyone can read.

Andrew Malacarne

I was born after Batman: The Animated Series but before the era of streaming so I had to find my own connections to Batman. We’re now in an era full of kid friendly comics coming from DC and Marvel but those used to be far and few between. Cartoon Network came to my rescue in the form of Young Justice. I was three years old when Teen Titans came out and had forever wanted to fill that void after seeing heroes my age going on the adventures I could only dream of. Young Justice was the solution I needed. My connection to Batman is through his family. I never felt a strong connection to Bruce’s dark quest for vengeance but the light his family brings is what made me believe in Batman. My favorite Gothamite is Tim Drake, the third Robin, who represents what I saw in myself as a kid. He’s the one who wasn’t chosen but had to prove himself worthy of his place. It may be that constant imposter syndrome but I feel the same way. I wanted to, and still do, be seen as worthy in what I do. Tim’s my fictional brother and I wouldn’t choose another.

Young Justice is a perfect introduction to Batman and the greater DC Universe for new fans. Balancing new and established characters it gives fans their own young heroes that they can see themselves in. From energetic Kid Flash to brash Superboy or mysterious Artemis and optimistic Miss Martian there’s a hero for everyone. It explores the depths of DC with some great deep cuts that will make old fans happy while giving new fans a great look at everything DC has to offer.

Rook


I think the first cartoon I ever saw was Batman: The Animated Series. I was two, so I was a little young for it — something I proved almost immediately, when I saw Batman bleed and I started crying. I don’t think I had ever seen an adult or authority brought low like that before, so it was a visceral shock.

But images of that night, the deep red skies and hostile silhouettes of Gotham City, lived in my mind from that point forward. There was always an allure to it, like a nightmare that’s so exciting you almost remember it fondly. As I grew older, some of the sharp edges became less threatening, and I enjoyed the occasional Batman comic or episode of Justice League. But I didn’t really feel like I “got” Batman on a personal level until I was eight. 

My parents didn’t get shot in an alley or anything, but I’ve had post-traumatic stress disorder ever since. And Batman, for all of his stylish visual presentation and plethora of incredible skills, is first and foremost the character built around trauma. His triumphs, his defeats, his villains and his family all reflect the singular moment that destroyed his life, and his steadfast refusal to give in to the cruelty of the world and the ragged wound at the center of his psyche means a lot to me.


On that note, the Batman story that I’m going to recommend is I Am Suicide from Tom King, Mikel Janin, June Chung, and Clayton Cowles. This is a little bit of a cheat, because it’s following up on the end of the first Batman arc of Tom King’s run, I Am Gotham — but I’m picking it anyway, because I think this story is essential. The main thrust of the story is a Suicide Squad mission to Bane’s island nation stronghold to recover a power that can heal someone’s severe psychological damage. At its core, the arc is anchored by narration from Bane, Catwoman, and Batman. It cuts right to the heart of their parallel traumas, and how both defying and accepting their pain fuels them. 

Violet 

Batman has always been a part of my life, having two older brothers, it was an inevitable escape. I used to watch Batman The Animated Series clips on YouTube with them most evenings. One character in particular caught my attention.

To be honest with you, a few months back, I was asked to write something similar about what a certain comic book character means to me, and I couldn’t type out the right words without my vision getting blurred from my own tears. I ended up backspacing everything thinking it was “too deep” for a comic book character. But now I realize it’s important to voice how you feel; especially about particular escapes such as comics and how they transport you to another world for a few blissful moments. They make you forget about the harsh, horrible reality we all share. 

Harley Quinn does exactly that for me, each time, without failure. I don’t relate to wanting to maim humans who look at me funny, trust me (well only sometimes, I’ve got a pet peeve about people staring but anyway). I relate to her highly on how she can be so conflicted with her own demons yet make someone smile. That someone being me. 

She intrigues me with how persistent she is despite the trauma she’s been through, she remains motivational but in no way glosses over the ugly. Harley never denies that; sometimes life is shitty and most definitely doesn’t always work in your favour but it’s important to make do with what you have and chase better things for yourself. I’ve said before; she’s messy and unsure, but will figure out the answers with you along the way and it’s makes you feel less dumb for not knowing the answer to every situation life. 

Harley’s individuality certainly has rubbed off of me in the best of ways. I’ve learned life is waaaaay too short to not have colourful hair and to not impulsively do the things you’ve always wanted to do. You have your entire old age to be boring! Spice up your life, manically dye your hair every month, just please use a conditioner mask!

Her charismatic, bubbly, unpredictable nature breathes life into my soul each new release. I should probably find a new source of serotonin, or maybe it’s about time I finally book in for that therapist but until then, I’m going to continue soaking up every last little frame of this joyful jester. 

Recommendations: 

Vengeance Unlimited

Harley Quinn Vol.6 Angry Bird by Frank Tieri, Inaki Miranda, Mirka Andolfo

Adam

I think there are very few people in the world who aren’t in some way aware of Batman.  They might not know much but Batman, Robin, Joker; these are some of the most recognizable brands in the world.  And that was the level of recognition I had.  I knew some names but who the characters really were?  No clue.  All that changed after the most on-brand Batman introduction I could possibly have, the LEGO Batman – The Videogame.  But unfortunately LEGO Batman gives a very skewed perception of what Gotham really is.  Apparently Killer Moth ISN’T a major player in Gotham?  There are very few Mad Hatter stories?  Disgraceful.

Years later when I began dipping my toe into comics, Batman seemed like one of the logical places to start.  And I followed a lot of the New 52 and Rebirth titles for Batman and the larger Bat-family, and liked most of what I read but it was never my favourite thing.  I was never a Batman or Nightwing FAN.  Just someone who occasionally reads them.  All that changed when I first read a book with Cassandra Cain and Stephanie Brown.  I can’t even remember which book it was, but now these two were my favourites who I’d follow anywhere (except War Games/Geoff Johns Titans).




Batgirl Volume 3

The third volume of Batgirl was part of the Batman Reborn relaunch, as Dick Grayson takes on the mantle of Batman, Damian Wayne becomes Robin and Stephanie Brown, once Spoiler, then Robin, then back to Spoiler, takes on the mantle of Batgirl.  And it’s fantastic.  Written by Bryan Q. Miller, the art team is PACKED full of future talent like Lee Garbett (Loki: Agent of Asgard), Pere Perez (Rogue & Gambit) and Dustin Nguyen (Batman: Lil’ Gotham) and stunning covers from artists like Phil Noto, Dustin Nguyen and even early Artgerm covers (which makes tracking down the single issues a nightmare).  

Only 24 issues thanks to the New 52 cutting the run short, Steph’s run as Batgirl is just unashamedly fun.  We really get to the core of how she stands out from Barbara and Cass and she gets to show why she deserves to take on the Batgirl mantle perfectly.  It’s also very tied into the Batman Reborn line as a whole and Dick!Bats, Robin and Red Robin make frequent appearances.  Stephanie’s time as Batgirl may have been much too short, but every issue was perfect and balanced really fun moments with some real heart.  I can’t recommend it enough but just be prepared to fall in love with Stephanie Brown and start to hate DC for the years of Steph erasure.

Isabel

I didn’t get into superheroes until late in life. (Late for superheroes – I was 14). It was a very gradual thing, I watched all the MCU movies, and slowly moved into Marvel comics, where I stayed for a good number of years. And then, two events coincided: my stepbrother gave me his DC Universe log in (remember that?), and on March 10th, 2019, I broke two bones in my ankle. I had to go on medical leave from college, and I spent my days lying in bed with nothing to do. Except, of course, watch everything DCU had for me to consume. I was ravenous, it was like I was a kid again – I watched Young Justice twice, I watched all of Batman: The Animated Series in about a week. At some point, I started reading comics too. I still have the excel sheet with everything on it, I read hundreds and hundreds of issues. I read the entirety of Birds of Prey (127 issues), I read Cassandra Cain’s Batgirl in two days (73 issues), I read over half of the 90s Robin run (117 issues).

I watched the Justice League Unlimited episode “Dead Reckoning” the same day a different, traumatic thing happened to me – and it all kinda clicked there. You might not even remember this episode, it’s the one with Deadman, and Gorilla Grodd tries to turn all humans into gorillas – you probably remember that. In it, Devil Ray almost shoots Wonder Woman, but Deadman stops him, by possessing Batman and shooting Devil Ray – who falls backward into some kind of electric panel, and dies. Obviously, Deadman didn’t mean to do this, but he can’t communicate this to Batman, who comes back to himself holding a gun, and looking straight at a dead body. And it was that, that sense of being trapped, the betrayal of my own body, that clicked with me. The show never follows up on it! It’s never mentioned again, beyond cursing Deadman to more time on earth as a ghost, and Batman storming off near the end of the episode. But – Batman knew how I felt. Batman understood. That’s a big part of Batman, that self identification. And after self identification is caring, because he does care – of course he does. He sees himself in the people around him, just like we see ourselves in him. How can you not care about someone you see yourself in? 

I want to recommend “Death Strikes at Midnight and Three” which is an interesting story. Denny O’Neil writes prose, with Marshall Rogers on art and page layouts. It’s a fascinating style, one that never really caught on. The story is pretty good, but the page design by Marshall Rogers was what really caught my eye, because it’s not a standard comic book, it’s much more abstract. The interaction between text and image is fascinating, the balance of prose and art switching easily between pages and propelling the story along. It’s almost like a collage, text pasted over and into the art behind it. The last page of the story made me audibly gasp, it’s incredibly striking, white text boxes standing out on the black of the page. It’s a beautiful comic.

I also want to direct people towards the gem that is Batman: Black & White. It was brought back recently, but I’m talking about the 90s stuff here. The main conceit of a short comic about Batman – written and drawn by people who haven’t necessarily worked on Batman – means it’s full of perfect little stories about all the different things Batman means to people. Brubaker & Sook’s “I’ll Be Watching” is a story about the comfort of having Batman there, always, while McKeever’s “Perpetual Mourning” is a quiet thing about Batman bringing humanity back to the dead, and Claremont, Rude & Buckingham’s “A Matter of Trust” is a heartwarming story about Bruce babysitting for a friend.

Marc Quill

Growing up consuming a fair amount of superhero fiction meant I was fully aware of who Batman was, even while I was just a kid in the Philippines. 1995’s Batman Forever may have been critically panned, but as a kid, it didn’t matter to me. I found it enjoyable and a rather entertaining first exposure to the world of Batman. Then came Batman: The Animated Series, the beloved cartoon which pretty much helped define Batman to a new generation of young kids.

Over the years, I came to realize that while Batman himself was cool, his “family” of costumed allies edged him in that regard. Whether it’s old favorites like Dick Grayson (Robin I/Nightwing) and Barbara Gordon (Batgirl/Oracle) or newer characters like Cass Cain (Black Bat/Orphan) or Harper Row (Bluebird), it’s been quite satisfying for a character often characterized as a loner to have this massive support network of Gotham-based heroes helping him out at a moment’s notice.

As such, I feel that the 52-issue Batman Eternal is a good series that helps showcase the Bat Family at their finest. These stories — largely written by Scott Snyder and a rotating group of guest writers, plus various artists, are high-stakes tales that obviously feature Batman, but also gives a good amount of page time to various characters.

Eternal shines a light on characters such as Tim Drake (Red Robin) and Stephanie Brown (who’s introduced into the New 52 continuity here), as well as Red Hood and the aforementioned Harper Row (whose transformation into Bluebird is chronicled over multiple issues). It’s an adventure that manages to maintain steam through 52 weekly issues, with Snyder being helped on writing duties by an all-star stable of writers including Tim Seeley, John Layman, Ray Fawkes, and current Bat-scribe James Tynion IV. The art throughout these issues isn’t too shabby either, with heavy hitters like Dustin Nguyen, Jason Fabok, Guillem March, and Joe Quinones all providing some well-drawn panels.

The main thing, however, that drew me to Eternal was the culmination of Harper Row’s hero’s journey. She’s been a polarizing character for some, but I think what’s made her one of my favorite Bat-Family characters is how she’s defined by resolve and refusing to falter even as the world in Gotham grows more dangerous. Despite not having any actual combat experience and only having her resourcefulness as an engineer on her side, Harper proved herself to be a hero by striving to do the right thing not only for her, but for her younger brother Cullen. That familial bond is why she even decides to be Bluebird, and her first outing in Eternal #42 is a great debut for a Gotham hero that doesn’t nearly get enough of a spotlight.

My Bluebird-based bias aside, you really can’t go wrong with Batman Eternal for an adventure that truly lives up to its title in every way imaginable.

Jimmy Gaspero

I don’t remember when I first heard about Batman. I just always knew there was a Batman. My dad was a fan of the Adam West/Burt Ward movie and television series that was on from 1966-1968 when he was between the ages of 10-12. I didn’t grow up ironically loving that version of Batman for its camp or corniness, because my dad didn’t. He genuinely loved it and I did too. It didn’t take long for me to learn about a different version of Batman though, which happened through the comics. My dad wasn’t an avid comic book collector, but he would take my brother and I to the local comic book shop. He was always interested in new number 1 issues of anything or issues he thought might be valuable one day. So I wasn’t a regular reader of Batman comics, but you better believe I still have all the issues from Batman: A Death in the Family from 1988 as well as Batman #500 from 1993. My thoughts and feelings about Batman are inextricably linked to my dad.

Since getting back into reading comics around 2008, I’ve read a lot of Batman comics, and truth be told, when I try to look at it objectively, I’m not a huge fan of the character. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve certainly read some great Batman comics, but too many times it feels like different writers giving subtle variations on a theme I don’t find that interesting. I will always love Batman though, because I can’t think of Batman without thinking of my dad, and I love my dad. 

When it comes to suggesting Batman comics, I don’t believe it gets any better than Batman: The Black Mirror. This storyline was published in Detective Comics issues #871-#881 written by Scott Snyder and artists Jock and Francesco Francavilla. Dick Grayson is the Batman and must contend with the return of James Gordon, Jr., Commissioner Gordon’s son and a psychopathic killer. This storyline begins Scott Snyder’s run and is the final arc of Detective Comics before DC’s New 52. Snyder writes as though he’s not going to be allowed to write Batman again and the result is, in my opinion, the best Batman story ever written. It’s smart, dark, full of twists and turns, and gorgeously illustrated. If you read one Batman story in your life, this should be the one. 

Categories
Wrestling

AEW Dynamite Recap | 9/15/21

Welcome again to another Wednesday night of exciting All Elite Wrestling action and the most exciting Dynamite recap you’ll ever read. It’s full speed ahead to Arthur Ashe Stadium and two nights of Grand Slam action next week, and AEW looks to provide an explosive prelude to the action on this week’s Dynamite. Did they succeed in getting fans hyped for the action? Read on and find out.

Previously on All Elite Wrestling…

On Dynamite, Jon Moxley had a successful homecoming in Cincinnati when he defeated Minoru Suzuki in a hard-hitting main event; Bryan Danielson made his intentions known that he wants a piece of Kenny Omega; MJF pissed off all of Cincinnati by opening his mouth, getting the ire of one Brian Pillman Jr; also, Taz really didn’t want CM Punk challenging his Team Taz boys.

Here’s the quick results of the 9/8 Dynamite (Episode 101):

  • Malakai Black def. Dustin Rhodes via pinfall (9:53) after a Black Mass kick to the shoulder.
  • CM Punk outlined his next steps in AEW, leading to Taz shouting him down for daring to challenge Team Taz.
  • Powerhouse Hobbs (w/ Hook) def. Dante Martin via pinfall (8:24) with a spinebuster erroneously called a “powerbomb” by the commentators.
  • Dan Lambert said some stuff.
  • MJF lambasted Cincinnati with a cheap heat-laden promo. He turned his ire to the family of Brian Pillman, leading to an interruption from Brian Pillman Jr. 
  • Ruby Soho def. Jamie Hayter (w/ Rebel – not Reba and Dr. Britt Baker) via pinfall (7:27); post-match, Dr. Britt and associates beat up Soho until Kris Statlander and Riho made the save.
  • The Pinnacle (Shawn Spears, Cash Wheeler, and Dax Harwood) (w/ Tully Blanchard & Wardlow) def. The Dark Order (Evil Uno, Stu Grayson, and John Silver) via pinfall (4:49) after Spears pinned Silver following the Death Valley Driver; post-match, Uno blamed Silver for losing, which culminated in a Dark Order conflict.
  • An in-ring promo from The Elite and new/old ally Adam Cole was interrupted by Bryan Danielson, who challenged Kenny Omega to a fight. This led to a brawl where The Elite were sent to retreat by Danielson and friends Christian Cage, Frankie Kazarian, and Jurassic Express.
  • Jon Moxley def. Minoru Suzuki via pinfall (8:08) with a butterfly suplex; Suzuki was cut open prior to the finish.

Here’s the rundown for the 9/10/21 edition of AEW Rampage (Episode 5):

  • Andrade El Idolo (w/ Chavo Guerrero Jr.) def. PAC via pinfall (15:42) after Chavo hit PAC with a tablet for the cheap finish; post-match, Andrade was upset with Chavo’s interference and kicked him in the face, apparently firing him.
  • Tully Blanchard & Shawn Spears pulled a fast one on Sting and Darby Allin, as Spears snuck up on Darby during a promo and attacked him ahead of their match on this Wednesday’s Dynamite.
  • Ruby Soho, Riho, and Kris Statlander (w/ Orange Cassidy) def. Dr. Britt Baker DMD, Rebel (not Reba), and Jamie Hayter via pinfall (9:27) after Soho pinned Rebel for the win.
  • Brian Pillman Jr. def. Max Caster (w/ Anthony Bowens) via pinfall (6:42) with the Air Pillman flying clothesline his dad made famous; post-match, Bowens attacked Brian as Caster helped with the ambush. Fellow Cincinnatian Jon Moxley ran out for the save and aided Pillman to fend off The Acclaimed to end the show.

It’s Wednesday Night. You Know What That Means.

After the oft-changed opening video telling us to light the fuse and bring the boom, we’re off to the races with Jim Ross, Tony Schiavone, and the returning Excalibur welcoming us. They’re soon joined by CM Punk, who’ll be on commentary tonight. Punk took his victory lap and embraced the adulation of the fans, including hanging out with a man dressed up like Dusty Rhodes in the ringside area. The card is run down for tonight, including the main event of Jon Moxley & Eddie Kingston versus 2point0. But first, we’ve got Adam Cole & Frankie Kazarian in action.

Match 1: Adam Cole vs. Frankie Kazarian

The Story So Far

Adam Cole debuted at All Out and realigned himself with The Elite. Of course, this brings him into the crosshairs of the self-appointed “Elite Hunter” Frankie Kazarian. During last week’s brawl, Kaz took out Cole with a kick to set up this match.

The Match

Hot start as Kaz took control with some arm drags, controlling the early flow with rest holds. Cole dumps Kazarian to the outside with a reverse flip over the ropes, then tossing Kaz into the apron. Cole played to the crowd as Kaz responded with a jumping kick between the aprons. Back and forth between the two, leading to Kazarian going for a pin that Cole kicks out of at two. Transition into an armbar by Kaz, but Cole kicked out of it. Kazarian runs into an Ushigoroshi that gets a two count. Cole tunes up the band and goes for a kick, but Kazarian blocks it and turns it into a roll-through German suplex. Two-count. Double knees by Kaz, but an attempted cross-face chicken wing is reversed into a pin. Kickout. Cole hits a running Kaz with a superkick, but that too gets a two count. Cole up on the Bret Hart ropes as he goes for the Panama Sunrise… but Kaz blocks it into an Alabama slam. Springboard splash by Kazarian on Cole… 1… 2… NO! An exchange of blows that Kaz comes out on the winning end off, but Cole responds with a Complete Shot for the near fall. “This is awesome!” the fans chant. Cole finally hits the Panama Sunrise as he then sets up and connects with the Last Shot to the back of Kaz’s head! 1… 2… 3! Adam Cole with the win, bay-bay!

Adam Cole def. Frankie Kazarian via Pinfall (10:00)

Post-Match

With a mic in hand, Adam Cole goes off with storytime. He says that hope is a dangerous thing, saying that there’s no hope that anyone can beat The Elite. Cole goes on to single out Christian Cage, Jungle Boy, and Luchasaurus, immediately challenging them to a six-man tag next week with the Young Bucks backing him up. Let’s hope nobody gets turned to a ghost this time.

The History Between Lucha Bros & Butcher and The Blade

We get a video package hyping Penta El Zero M & Rey Fenix vs. The Butcher and The Blade for this Friday’s Rampage, with the AEW Tag Titles on the line.

Fuego Del Sol Has A Challenge For Miro

Backstage with Tony Schiavone, Fuego del Sol is with Sammy Guevara. He issues a challenge to Miro for the TNT Championship on Friday’s Rampage, putting his new car on the line in the process.

MJF Talks Even More Trash

Flanked by Wardlow, MJF makes his way down to the ring to the usual boos. “You should be sympathetic towards me because I’m standing in the Armpit of America known as New Jersey,” says Max. He mocks Springsteen and the New Jersey Devils for sucking as hard as the “Jersey Shore skanks”. The Newark fans won’t have any of this, chanting “shut the fuck up”. MJF says he wants to talk to the late, great Brian Pillman, first looking upwards, but then turning his direction downwards. He says that going to massacre Brian Pillman Jr. in Queens next week at Dynamite Grand Slam. Brian Pillman Jr.’s music hits as MJF orders Wardlow to confront him at the stage, but it turns out, Pillman is sneaking up on MJF in the ring! Wardlow gets back and stares down Pillman, but he gets driven away with the chair as BPJ stands tall in the ring.

JR’s Interview With Brian Pillman Jr.

In an interview earlier today with JR, BPJ outlines how he’s going to kick MJF’s ass at Arthur Ashe Stadium next week.

Christian & Friends Answer The Elite’s Challenge

Backstage with interviewer Alex Marvez are Jurassic Express and Christian Cage. As Jungle Boy starts dissing on Adam Cole’s choice of friends and hair, he’s cut off by Christian, who says that Cole has some pretty good friends in the Super Elite who used their status to “drag Cole’s ass out of developmental”. Christian closes off with, “Since you’re already used to losing Wednesday night wars, you better add Friday nights to that as well.”

Match 2: FTR (Dax Harwood & Cash Wheeler) vs. Dante Martin & Matt Sydal

The Story So Far

FTR are fresh off a trios victory last week with Shawn Spears against the fractured Dark Order, while Dante Martin did an admirable job in a losing effort against Powerhouse Hobbs.

The Match

Early pinfall exchanges are met with kickouts. Sydal and Dante controlling the action here early,but Dax has Dante in the corner. An attempted springboard by Dante is foiled by Cash Wheeler, who sends him careening to the ringside area. Wheeler is taking it to Dante at ringside, tossing him into the ringpost before bringing him back into the ring. Cash locks Dante in a head hold to ground him. Martin fights out of the submission as Cash tags back to Dax. Martin avoids a double team as he gets the tag to Matt Sydal. Double team apron springboard splash by the high-flyers to FTR as the action goes to picture-in-picture.

Back to full-screen action as FTR has control of the match. As Dax & Cash block an attempted splash on them by Sydal, but Dante Martin soars with a dropkick to FTR as he’s got a full head of steam. Dante leaps above Dax and Cash and gets into a pinning position, but a kickout at two! With the numbers in FTR’s advantage, Dante Martin valiantly tries to fight them off, but the Big Rig by FTR gets the win.

FTR def. Dante Martin & Matt Sydal via Pinfall (10:00)

The Suzuki Incident

We go to the announcers as they explain the “Suzuki Incident” involving Minoru Suzuki’s music not being played completely last week (cutting off before “Kaze Ni Nare”).. A hype package sets up next week’s big match between Suzuki and Lance Archer versus Jon Moxley & Eddie Kingston, as Suzuki and Archer speak about their unity as part of the Suzuki-gun faction.

Malakai Black Has Words For Cody

In the darkness comes Malakai Black, along with his amazing entrance music. Black says that there’s an “enemy in our midst” as the camera focuses on Rosario Dawson, one of Cody Rhodes’ judge friends on The Go-Big Show. Cody himself walks down the crowd with a purpose as Dawson leaps onto Black’s shoulders and attacks him! Cody walks down from the crowd as he and Black begin to lay into each other! The fight spills into the crowd with Black and Cody beating the stuffing out of each other up the stairs. This brawl continues into the crowd as the show cuts to a break with the fight still very much in progress.

Dark Order Backstage

Roving reporter Alex Marvez is standing by with the Dark Order. Before Anna Jay can talk, Evil Uno cuts her off as Alex Reynolds appears to insult Uno for his poor leadership skills. Alan Angels (“V”) agreed with Reynolds’ accusations about Uno as the arguments broke down once again. Ultimately, Anna says that she doesn’t want any of the Dark Order men in her corner this Friday on Rampage. She walks off with Tay Conti, apparently choosing her best friend to be in her corner instead of someone from Dark Order.

Dan Lambert & American Top Team’s Challenge

In the ring is loudmouth Dan Lambert, The Men of The Year, Junior Dos Santos, Paige Van Zant, Andre Arlovski, and Kayla Harrison. He’s just saying his usual anti-AEW stuff when they’re interrupted by the soulful sounds of Judas, which brings out Chris Jericho & Jake Hager of the Inner Circle. Lambert orders the music to be shut up, but that doesn’t stop the fans from singing along without music.

“Hey Lambert, it sounds like there’s 15,000 people who love to sing along!” says Jericho. He then leads people into a singing of “I’m a Fat-Faced Dip Shit” to mock Lambert. Jericho and Hager offer to challenge the ATT guys, but Lambert says it’s not gonna happen in Newark. It’s gonna happen next week: Chris Jericho & Jake Hager vs. Scorpio Sky & Ethan Page.

The Gunn Club Speak On Their Betrayal

Billy Gunn and the Gunn Club talk about how their betrayal of Paul Wight is based on “respect” for their unbeaten records, which they believe they haven’t gotten. Billy says that if anyone has a problem with his family’s new attitude, they can “just say so”.

Match 3: Jade Cargill (w/ “Smart” Mark Sterling) vs. “Legit” Leyla Hirsch

The Story So Far

This rivalry stems from Cargill eliminating Hirsch from the Women’s Casino Battle Royale at All Out, with the feud intensifying after Hirsch took down Cargill during last night’s Dark.

The Match

Jade starts off with the size advantage early, but is sent retreating outside by Hirsch. Suicide dive through the ropes by Leyla ends up hitting “Smart” Mark Sterling at ringside instead of Cargill. An attempted cross armbreaker by Hirsch is countered into a powerbomb by Cargill as the action goes into picture-in-picture.

Back with the match, Hirsch has Jade in a body scissors submission, but she gets thrown off. Jade misses a pump kick, as Hirsch tries for the German suplex, but to no avail. On the second go, Hirsch finally nails it for a two count. Jade rolls to the outside and gets stunned by a Leyla Hirsch suicide dive. The two competitors roll back into the ring as Leyla hits a jumping knee strike to a kneeling Cargill. 1.. 2… NO! Up to the top rope goes Leyla and she misses with the moonsault! Pump kick by Cargill leads to her lifting Leyla up for Jaded and the 1, 2, 3.

Jade Cargill def. “Legit” Leyla Hirsch via Pinfall (7:00)

Andrade El Idolo on Last Week’s Controversy

Confident that he can beat anyone when he wants, Andrade is upset that Chavo got involved in last week’s match with PAC on Rampage. He boasts that he is The Kingpin.

Taz Sets The Trap on CM Punk

While the commentators address the Andrade situation, Taz & Hook square up to Punk as Powerhouse Hobbs attacks Punk from behind! Dragon sleeper by Hook on Punk allows Hobbs to get a cheapshot kick in on the Chicago native! Hook clears the table as Hobbs chokeslams Punk through the commentary table! Team Taz exit the scene, satisfied with their handiwork.

Match 4: Darby Allin (w/ Sting) vs. Shawn Spears (w/ Tully Blanchard)

The Story So Far

Shawn Spears handed Darby his first loss in AEW. Tully Blanchard cut a promo on Sting last week, accusing him of just coasting off of the success of others. This match was made at the behest of Tully, who wanted Spears to embarrass Sting and Darby.

The Match

Shawn Spears doesn’t want to wait for the match to fully begin as he’s on the offensive right away to start the match. Knee to the face, followed by stomps and the toss to the outside by Spears.The Canadian jawjacks with Sting as he tosses Darby into the steel steps. Spears has evil intentions with the stairs, setting it up in the middle of ringside. He plants Darby against the steps as he goes for a running knee strike. Darby gets out of dodge at the last possible second, causing Spears to make contact with the steps! 

Darby tries to go for a dive, but Tully Blanchard gets in the way. On the apron, Spears trips up Darby to send him crashing to the outside. Spears goes to the timekeeper’s area with a cloth, pouring water on it. He enters the ring to wipe away Darby’s face paint with the cloth as we go to a split-screen ad break.

We return with Spears locking Darby in the Scorpion Deathlock as an insult to Sting. Darby breaks the hold by reaching the ropes. Now it’s Allin with the offensive onslaught to flatline Spears, culminating with a Code Red for the near fall! Darby and Spears are on the top turnbuckle jockeying for an advantage until Spears tosses Darby off the top rope. 

Spears has Darby on his shoulders looking for a Death Valley Driver onto the steel steps, but Darby turns that into a guillotine counter! Suicide dive through the middle rope by Allin, followed by a Coffin Drop onto a prone Spears for the victory!

Darby Allin def. Shawn Spears via Pinfall (8:00)

Post Match

FTR confronts Sting and Darby in the ring, leading to a big brawl. Tully Blanchard hits Sting with a chair to no effect, but Dax and Cash swarm Sting with multiple clubbing blows. Darby gets back into the fight, but he too is waylaid. Dax and Cash have Sting set up with the Spike Piledriver! And now, Tully wipes the face paint off of Sting for the ultimate disrespect to the Icon.

Bryan Danielson Throws Down The Gauntlet

Tony Schiavone introduces Bryan Danielson to the ring for an interview. The American Dragon enters to an incredible reaction from the Newark crowd. Before Danielson can address his challenge to Kenny Omega, out comes Omega himself, accompanied by the irritating sounds of Don Callis. As Kenny’s manager goes on a diatribe, Bryan tells him to shut up. Danielson says that this is not about the title just yet, instead just being about who’s better. “Shut up, you piece of shit!” Bryan again yells at Callis. He says that he came to AEW to fight the Best Bout Machine, instead finding a goof who lets Callis speak for him.

Kenny takes the mic and says that if Bryan wants The Best Bout Machine and the God of Pro Wrestling? He then promptly accepts Danielson’s challenge.

Miro Wants To Bash Fuego Del Sol’s Brains In

The TNT Champion spoke in a video promo about Fuego Del Sol’s challenge, accepting it for Rampage this Friday. Miro vowed to not only bash Fuego’s new car, but also his face when he was through with him.

An Orange Egghead?

We get remarks from “Big Money” Matt Hardy, who once again teased that he wanted to cut Orange Cassidy’s hair completely as revenge for Orange breaking his nose during their first encounter. Hardy says that he’s going to turn him into an “Orange Egghead” when he’s through.

Match 5: Jon Moxley & Eddie Kingston vs. 2point0 (Jeff Parker & Matt Lee; w/ Daniel Garcia)

The Story So Far

2point0 have been a thorn in the sides of Mox & Kingston, having attacked them in an entrance ambush on the 8/18 Dynamite, clearly wanting to prove themselves as the toughest trio in AEW.

The Match

2point0 gets the jump on Mox and Eddie as they enter the ringside area, and it turns into a wild brawl even before the bell rings! Once the referee does get the match started, it’s Moxley and Parker to start us off. Mox has the early advantage, but Parker is able to respond with an eye rake, then tagging in partner Matt Lee. Mox fights back by biting Lee in the face. Lee retreats to the outside as Parker catches Mox from behind with a dropkick. The action goes to commercial as 2point0 tosses Moxley into the ring apron.

We return as Parker and Lee have the two-on-one advantage on Mox, but that quickly evaporates. Drop toehold by Lee leads to an elbow drop on Mox by Parker that only gets two. Mox with a lethal lariat on Lee as he tags in Eddie Kingston for the hot tag. Kingston is on a rampage on 2point0 as he effortlessly takes both Parker and Lee down. Tag to Moxley and they set Parker up for the Violent Crown double team move. Pin by Mox and this one’s over.

Jon Moxley & Eddie Kingston def. 2point0 via Pinfall (7:00)

Post-Match

Mox and Kingston’s victory celebration is cut off by the awesome “Kaze Ni Nare” theme song of Minoru Suzuki, heralding the arrival of the Japanese wrestling legend. Suzuki appears on the ramp clearly intending to start a fight with Mox & Kingston, but not before his song plays in full. Lance Archer pulls Kingston out of the ring as Suzuki fights it out with Mox! Kingston and Archer fight in the crowd while Mox brawls it out with Suzuki at ringside. Suzuki attempts the Gotch-style Piledriver through the table, but Mox fights out of it! The fight rages on at ringside as we go off the air.


This Friday on Rampage (9/17/21)

  • TNT Championship: Miro © vs. Fuego Del Sol (if Miro wins, he gets Fuego’s new car)
  • AEW World Tag Title Match: The Lucha Bros. © (Rey Fenix & Penta El Zero M) vs. The Butcher and The Blade
  • Anna Jay vs. The Bunny

Next Week on Dynamite Grand Slam from Arthur Ashe Stadium (9/22/21)

  • The Dream Match: Kenny Omega vs. Bryan Danielson
  • Cody Rhodes vs. Malakai Black II
  • MJF vs. Brian Pillman Jr.
  • Dr. Britt Baker vs. Ruby Soho
  • FTR vs. Sting & Darby Allin

Next Week on Rampage Grand Slam from Arthur Ashe Stadium (9/24/21)

  • Adam Cole & The Young Bucks vs. Christian Cage & Jurassic Express
  • CM Punk vs. Powerhouse Hobbs
  • Chris Jericho & Jake Hager vs. The Men of The Year

The Last Word

As expected, this show was intended to help set up next week’s massive Dynamite & Rampage Grand Slam cards, and I feel they did that well tonight.

Bryan Danielson vs. Kenny Omega being explicitly a non-title match just to see who’s the best was definitely the best way to get this massive match as Danielson’s first AEW action without the World Title on the line. It’s still clear that the plan is that Kenny will drop the belt to “Hangman” Adam Page even with Bryan’s arrival into the main event scene. Even so, just the idea of Danielson vs. Omega is a dream match that doesn’t necessarily need the World Title at stake.

The actual Omega/Danielson challenge segment was well done, and it was a smart move to not have it bogged down by Elite shenanigans. Just having Bryan and Omega confront each other face-to-face really helps sell the idea that this is something that Kenny takes seriously because of the danger that Bryan poses to him.

The match’s outcome may have been a foregone conclusion, but that didn’t stop Cole vs. Kaz from being a hot opener to the evening. The two meshed well together and Kaz still managed to get his spots in even as the match was largely about Adam Cole (bay-bay).

It was only a matter of time before it came time for CM Punk to take some beatings, and the Team Taz ambush segment was well done, non-breaking table and all. While it was clear they were setting up Punk’s next match to be against Powerhouse Hobbs, that brief moment of Hook choking Punk out does give me big hope that we’ll see Hook’s first match against CM Punk at some point.

Leave it to AEW to turn something going awry into a storyline with what fans have called “The Suzuki Incident”. The original tweet that gave it its name was a semi-serious(?) demand to Tony Khan and AEW to put out a statement apologizing for not playing Minoru Suzuki’s theme song in full. It naturally turned into a memetic response that saw fans and even wrestlers get in on the fun. Using this to pretty much set up a tag match with Suzuki and Lance Archer vs. Jon Moxley and Eddie Kingston is a really neat way to go about it.

While the whole Dan Lambert/Men of the Year thing isn’t exactly something that’s universally loved, I did appreciate that there was finally some progression in this storyline with Chris Jericho stepping up to defend the honor of AEW against Lambert’s diatribes. That being said, the segment itself didn’t stick the landing at all, made all the more worse with the casual homophobic insult tossed out by Jericho (the “who’s on top” remark to American Top Team). 

On another note, it’s a bit odd that despite being very prominent in the intro of this very show and all over the marketing for AEW’s Friday show, Rampage, Hikaru Shida hasn’t been seen on AEW programming — aside from being in the Women’s Casino Battle Royale at All Out. It’d be nice if they found a storyline or feud for her. In general, having more than one women’s match and angle on Wednesdays would be nice.

With a show that seemed very weak on paper heading into Wednesday turning out to be a strong go-home for next week’s Grand Slam festivities, AEW once again shows its strength of booking hot angles and matches to keep fans engaged throughout the night. On the strength of hyping a big-time dream match leading a stacked card over four hours and two nights of TV, Grand Slam is looking to be a huge supershow that’s sure to rock Arthur Ashe Stadium. And I for one can’t wait to see it all unfold next week.


Marc Quill is an avid wrestling fan who enjoys telling you all the exciting All Elite action on Wednesday nights. He’s also the web novelist behind Skye Emery: Bluebird, which you can read here. You can chat with him about wrestling, comics, and stuff general @MarcQuill on Twitter.

Categories
Episodes

Doom Patrol Season 3 Premiere Review: The Gang Is Back And Stranger Than Ever

Brief summary of where the show left off (Spoilers for seasons one and two of Doom Patrol):

The chief was behind all of our Doomies’ supposed accidents, orchestrating them to find a way to outlive his daughter, Dorothy Spinner. This was due to the threat she posed to all humanity, thanks to her powers that allowed her to bring anything she imagined into reality. One of those things she imagined was the Candlemaker, an ancestral entity able to grant anything Dorothy wishes (Of course, in some twisted way) and will be released from the young girl’s mind after she makes three wishes or starts puberty. The last time we saw our favorite team of mentally ill people, the Candlemaker was unleashed and left them in a sort of catatonic state, covered in wax, while Dorothy was set on confronting him.

Our views on the series going into season 3:

Gabrielle: I don’t think there’s gonna be many surprises here. Doom Patrol is my favorite show of all time. I remember when the first promotional material came out, with all five of them taking a photo in the Doom Manor’s hall, and the reception was pretty mixed. A lot of people complained it looked ridiculous and campy. Turns out, they were kinda right all along, except those elements were for the better and just a part of the bigger picture that is Doom Patrol.

I have a strong emotional connection to the show. There are few times where I cried as much as in Frances Patrol when Larry says goodbye to John, or when Cliff has a breakdown in Therapy Patrol, or when Jane faces her father in Jane Patrol. Few other sequences fill me with excitement and happiness as the musical number in Danny Patrol. There’s certainly nothing else that fascinates me quite as much with its weirdness as when Ezekiel, a talking (and now giant) cockroach with a god complex, makes out with Admiral Whiskers, a giant rat looking for revenge after Cliff ran over his mother. It’s all a beautiful rollercoaster.

I think the second season is equally excellent as the first one, being consistent with the marvelous weirdness and the character development we all love. But it didn’t quite hit me on an emotional level as the first one did (Which was to be expected. It’s an extremely high bar, and I still cried a lot). However, I feel like this third season could easily be the best one yet. As always with the show, there’s a lot of potential everywhere, and the place where the characters left off is a really interesting one to explore.

Jordan: I’m with Gabrielle in just loving this show. Doom Patrol has been important to me for a very long time and going into season one, I had sky-high expectations. So it’s all the more amazing that it exceeded them. It’s such a wonderful show that I think perfectly encapsulates what the Doom Patrol is. It pulls stories and concepts from the team’s vast history. There’s obviously a lot of Grant Morrison’s influence, but there are also references to the Silver Age and the Young  Animal stuff. It feels like a show made by people who just really love these characters.

But it’s not just all fan service. There’s so much heart and humanity within it all. It’s got the Doom Patrol’s usual oddities, but it feels fresh and new. It’s more focused on the quiet moments, the conversations of healing between characters. The Doom Patrol is a therapy group, and this show really leans into that. Each character is so fully realized and developed, they feel like real, living, breathing people. Small moments like Jane thanking Cliffe for getting her food in season one speak to the quality of this show. That moment only works because we have spent so long with these characters and care so deeply for them. It’s my favourite live-action adaptation of a comic book, so I was, of course, ecstatic to get into season three.

The Plot:

Jordan: Honestly, I think that Doom Patrol doesn’t even need to be described plotwise. The hook of the first season was rescuing The Chief from Mr. Nobody, but that’s not really why people were watching. The reason I kept coming back was because of the characters. It’s a very character first show. The characters and their conflicts and failings are what drive the show forward. This season I think that is especially true as from the episodes I have watched so far, it feels even more episodic. Which isn’t a bad thing in any way. In fact, I quite like the approach. It’s a lot like the comics, where there is a throughline throughout, but each episode can stand on its own as a singular story. I’m sure this will start to converge into something more focused as the season progresses, but so far, it’s brilliantly focused on character.  

Gabrielle: Describing the plot for Doom Patrol is hard. One second they’re having group therapy, and then they’re in an underground facility with living, human-eating butts on the loose. This season is no exception, which is great! It has to take the previous unresolved plot points on its shoulders while slipping in the plot for this one, and it does a great job at it. It’s the most emotionally charged premiere and amongst some of the most emotional episodes from the show at all. There’s a particular sequence with Jane that I believe will break everyone’s hearts. But it does not forget to also be fun as always, of course. Taking into consideration what this season sets out to do in its first few episodes, how it handles the characters, and all the fun it has while doing it, I think it’s not crazy to say that this is the series at its best. I won’t say yet it is the best season. For that, I will wait until it’s done. But I sure as hell believe it will be.

Characters:

Gabrielle: While I love basically everything about the show, its stronger aspect is the characters, in my opinion. When I made a Larry article a while back, I rewatched the two seasons while taking notes, and it was such a different experience that allowed me to get a deeper glimpse of just how many layers these characters have. It’s honestly insane.

From the get-go, this season doesn’t hold any punches, getting into tough territory and making us feel once again for these people that we love so much. All of them are taken into unexpected paths that feel incredibly daring on the writer’s part. They’re not directions many other shows would decide to take; you have weird, larger-than-life storylines that surprise you as they continue each episode, and at the same time, you’re told that one of them is going through some of the rawest and serious situations possible (Although sometimes mixing it with the weirdness, because Doom Patrol is just that good that it can pull it off).

This season had me realizing that I want these people to be happy. The last thing I want is for Doom Patrol to end. It’s an excellent show that I’m glad exists, and I wouldn’t change a single thing about it. But it had me thinking, ‘’I just want them to have a happy ending’’. They’re so well written that, for a moment, I would’ve chosen the happiness of these fictional characters over my favorite show of all time if given a choice. If that doesn’t speak for its quality, I don’t know what will.

Jordan: I’m in agreement with Gabrielle here. The characters are at their best this season. It feels like the creators are totally keyed into everyone’s voices. Every character feels fully realized, and their dynamic is well and truly established. But I wanna talk about the other characters of these first 3 episodes. Season 3 adds Michelle Gomez to the cast as Madame Rogue. She’s a perfect addition and slots into Doom Patrol’s unique brand of wackiness perfectly. Her interactions with Rita, in particular, are delightful. There is also an episode featuring the Dead Boy Detectives from Neil Gaiman’s Sandman. Their inclusion was incredibly fun, and I think people are really gonna love to see them. The villains so far have been great fun as well. The Sisterhood of Dada, Garguax, The Brain, and Monsieur Mallah all feel true to the comics but with fun twists and new angles. Garguax, in particular, was so much fun, a very different take on that character that still feels in line with his history. I really can’t wait for people to watch his episode. It’s totally wacky in typical Doom Patrol fashion, but the character is imbued with a surprising amount of pathos which makes him really engaging. This season seems most interested in exploring its characters as it takes them in new exciting directions. I’m super excited to see where this goes from here. 

Moments Where You Felt ‘’Oh this is the best possible show’’

Jordan: For all the wackiness of the show, all of the bombast and crazy extradimensional villainy, the best moments for me have been the quiet character beats. These early episodes are intimately focused on these characters, where they are, and where they’re heading. This show gets me emotional a fair bit, but usually towards the end of a season. This season, however, I had cried 3 times by the time of the second episode. A scene in the first episode with Jane and another with a dancefloor are particular standouts. I think this is also the funniest season so far. There’s a scene with Cliff and Garguax in particular, which was hilarious in its audacious imagery. This show always feels like the creators had a blast making it, and I think that’s truer in this season than ever.

Gabrielle: There are quite a few moments, actually. There’s a scene in the first episode that felt like a warm hug to the heart and the culmination of a lot of build-up since the start of the show that I feel will make a lot of people tear up. There’s a little musical number too, and we all know how good Doom Patrol is with those (Humanity peaked at Larry’s People Like Us cover). Also, I won’t mention which character I’m talking about, but there’s a decision that I wouldn’t have expected to see them take, and it ends up in a really compelling and layered character that I wish we could see again.

Is It Time To Give It a Chance?

Gabrielle: Well, if it wasn’t obvious already: Yes! It’s always a good time to watch Doom Patrol. So far, the show hasn’t declined in quality. Quite the opposite, really. If you like character-driven shows, with an out-of-time feeling, some of the best LGBTQ+ representation you can find, and bizarre comedy and plots, I’m sure you will love it!

Jordan: I mean, that’s not even a question. Doom Patrol is the best comic book show on TV and one of the best shows on TV right now, regardless of genre. This season particularly feels tight and streamlined with precision in its tone and universality in its characters. It’s 100% accessible and universal. There’s something here that everyone can connect to and see themself in. For those expecting more of the same, I think they will be surprised by the decisions and chances this season makes. Those behind Doom Patrol clearly aren’t content with hitting the same beats and this season really demonstrates that. It’s more of what worked but bolder and better than before.

Categories
Video Games

Let’s Enjoy The Silence – A Lake Review

Initial Thoughts and Expectations

Gabrielle: I’ve been waiting for this game for more than a year. If I remember correctly, I found it on Twitter while going through indie developers’ accounts to find games before it blew up in popularity. I really love games that tell you to relax for a while and take things slower, and my favorite thing about any game usually is exploration. Just running through a game’s map, discovering things, appreciating the landscape, it’s always fun and makes me feel immersed in the world I’m playing in. That’s what I expected: A simple, cute little game with nice art direction, a couple hours of fun, even if repetitive missions.

Dan: I honestly think you were the one to bring this game to my view. I sometimes feel like I have those things they put on horses to keep them focused in one direction, so I miss so much. I could not be happier that I took some time to sit down and actually play this game. It’s honestly an extremely pretty game that took me out of my usual high-speed, action-packed video games and told me to just take it slow. I never felt rushed to accomplish things or to speed up. Although I did drive like there were no laws. I enjoyed this adventure a lot.

A Quiet Town

Dan: Within the first few minutes, the game hit me with an emotional sledgehammer. Straight across my face at 300 MPH. A boss calls you. A simple thing, but the conversation is one I have had many times in my adult life, and every time it happened, a little piece of me died. The work I had done wasn’t enough. There is always more. Meredith is going through the same thing. Working too hard for people who don’t appreciate her. But she doesn’t let them hold her back from her time off… Gab, how did you feel about the story?

Gabrielle: It was a great surprise to see that it had one, for starters. I seriously thought it was going to be limited to ‘’You have this temporal job. Do it’’, because that’s not something unusual with this type of game (and that’s okay!). The cutscenes are not the best because we have to remember that we’re not talking about a AAA game here (Although there are definitely some that impressed me), but the story is so endearing. Same as you, I felt really touched by it. Meredith is a grown woman in her forties who slowly realizes that she might have not discovered her path in life at all, and what she’s currently doing takes a toll on her and doesn’t fulfill her at all. The thought of that happening is something that’s in my mind, and I’m guessing most people, all the time, so inevitably, I think the majority will be equally touched by the game.

What was exciting to find out were the branching paths!

Dan: We have a large enough wage gap where I can comfortably say we are both in very different chapters of our lives. I empathized with Meredith a lot because I feel that way a lot too. I am not OLD, but I am about to turn 30 in a year. A lot of my time is spent thinking about if where I am going is the right path for me. There are multiple paths in life, and that is a beautiful segway into talking about the game. The branching paths were not expected at all. Honestly, I had no idea what to expect going in. As I said, I don’t play a lot of indie games, so I was expecting a straightforward story with linear paths… not a fully realized town that I felt a lot for.

Gabrielle: Exactly! The cast of characters is so varied, and each one has their own quirks and things to deal with. It makes them exciting to know. I was genuinely happy when I talked to Lori and organized to watch a movie together or when I reunited with Kay, Meredith’s childhood friend.

Change of Pace

Gabrielle: The gameplay is quite simple. You drive your van, check on your map to see where you have to go (Or you could actually see the street signs), deliver the envelopes or parcels, and return to the mail station. You have some cute side-quests, like taking a cat to the veterinarian or taking pictures to start a photography club. I find it to be quite solid. It felt good to play, and these mundane tasks are exactly what puts you right in the very center of the town, so in my opinion, they work perfectly. The driving physics are great too; you only get to drive one vehicle, but it feels like you’re really driving, with the weight of a van and all. No crashing physics though! Which I’m fine with. It wouldn’t make sense with the rest of the gameplay and tone.

There’s one aspect of the game that adheres to the gameplay I want to know your opinion about. Most of the time, you’re inside the van, hitting the road, and there’s one thing with you: the soundtrack. You’re actually hearing the local radio who someone started out as a hobby. It has few songs, something which is even mentioned in-game, but I never really got tired of it or felt it was repetitive. It has enough songs that, each time I got back in the game, it actually felt like a companion during the travel. What was it like for you?

Dan: Honestly, sometimes I found myself missing stops because I really enjoyed listening to the music and just looking at the lake. I grew up on an island, so I have a connection to small towns and water. It just clicked so well for me. The music didn’t get too repetitive where it ever felt like a problem. It honestly felt like a real radio station because some songs would repeat. I honestly loved that cat mission so much because of the cats in the game responding to you with meows. That stuff makes me smile.

The driving was so smooth! As I mentioned before, I often got lost in just watching the scenery so much that I may or may not have crashed the van a few times. Thankful there was no crash mechanic because I would have cost the town an arm and a leg.

What Makes This Game Stand Out?

Gabrielle: I think it’s the sum of its parts that makes it stand out. Each of them is great on their own, but together, they make something really unique. You could easily compare this to something like Stardew Valley, for example, but the art style, characters, gameplay, and especially the fact that it actually has an ending make the game a totally different thing of its own.

Dan: So Stardew Valley has too much going on for me to relax. It actually makes me anxious to have to think about all the systems in it. This is very much what I want in a relaxing game. I had a lot more fun putting my phone down and just fully immersing myself in the game for this. I have a habit of checking my phone, but something about Lake made me forget all those responsibilities and made me realize they could wait. I had mail to deliver!

Should you pick this up?

Dan: I really do think this one is worth buying. It’s a very unique experience from a video game. It’s a must-buy for me. It deserves some time to really sink in and deliver some letters.

Gabrielle: Totally. Some people could find a problem with the playtime (It took me seven hours and a half to beat), but honestly, I don’t care how long any game is, but how effective they are at what they try to do and how much I enjoyed it, and Lake excels at what it set out to do, making it an experience that I can only recommend you to play for yourself. If anything we said sounds even a bit interesting, you should check it out.

Categories
Books

The GateCrashers Library: September 2021

As September sweeps in and some of us find ourselves back in school, we search for those books that keep our minds eager and active for whatever lies ahead. This month we look to those with heightened abilities as we celebrate all things Super about these Heroes (and their villains)! Whether it be a comic or full-length novel, these pieces of literature will be sure to keep your attention on days when you feel your own power has been drained.


Shadow of the Batgirl by Sarah Kuhn

Renegades by Marissa Meyer

Hero by Perry Moore

Codename: Sailor V, Vol. 1 – Naoko Takeuchi

HAWKEYE: Kate Bishop, Vol 1: Anchor Points by Kelly Thompson

Go Go Power Rangers Vol. 1 by Ryan Parrott, Dan Mora (illustrator) and contributions by Raul Angelo

“From the fun, vibrant art style, to seeing a side of the Marvel Universe you don’t often get to see, Soule & Pulido’s She-Hulk is the perfect way to fall in love with Jennifer Walters.”

— Ethan

She-Hulk Vol 1: Law and Disorder by Charles Soule

The Apocalypse Suite (The Umbrella Academy #1) By Gerard Way

Marvel 1602 by Neil Gaiman

Teen Titans: Raven by Kami Garcia

Joyride, Vol. 1 by Jackson Lanzing and Collin Kelly

Young Avengers is a great entryway for a lot of characters that we know or I suspect are going to be popping up in the MCU soon. It was also one of the first comic books I read!”

— Patrick

Young Avengers, Vol. 1: Style > Substance by Kieron Gillen

Dreadnought by April Daniels

Batman: Nightwalker by Marie Lu

Steelheart by Brandon Sanderson

Miles Morales: Spider-Man by Jason Reynolds

The Adventures of Captain Underpants by Dave Pilkey

“My very first superhero graphic novel was Brubaker’s Catwoman of East End, still one of my favorites to this day.”

— Bree

Catwoman of East End by Ed Brubaker

The League of Secret Heroes by Kate Hannigan

Battlecry by Emerald Dodge

Ms. Marvel, Vol 1: No Normal by G. Willow Wilson

Superman: Dawnbreaker by Matt de la Pena

“For younger readers, DC’s Primer was a great introduction to young superhero characters.”

— Jimmy

Primer by Thomas Krajewski & Jennifer Muro

Hawkeye, Vol. 1: My Life as a Weapon by Matt Fraction

Pitiful Human-Lizard by Jason Loo

Ironheart, Vol. 1: Those With Courage by Eve L. Ewing illustrated by Luciano Vecchion, Kevin Libranda & G. Geoffo

Soon I Will Be Invincible by Austin Grossman

The Ables by Jeremy Scott

Vicious is an anti-hero origin story that combines unforgettable characters with well-crafted plot. You won’t regret picking this one up.”

— Ashley

Vicious by V.E. Schwab

Wonder Woman: War Bringer by Leigh Bardugo

Black Canary: Breaking Silence by Alexandra Monir

Thor, Vol. 1: Goddess of Thunder by Jason Aaron

Batgirl: Year One by Scott Beatty

Power Rangers is a comic that brings the same feeling you remember having as a kid watching the show with characters being a bit more fleshed out and overarching stories throughout.”

— Dan

Mighty Morphing Power Rangers, Vol. 1 by Kyle Higgins

Catwoman: Soulstealer by Sarah J. Maas

Please Don’t Tell My Parents I’m a Supervillain by Richard Roberts

The Violent Century by Lavie Tidhar

Want to learn more about TMNT? Check out The GateCrashers Podcast episode HERE!

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The IDW Collection, Volume 1 by Kevin Eastman, Tom Waltz, Brian Lynch, Erik Burnham, and Bobby Curnow

Naomi by Michael Bendis and David F. Walker illustrations by Jamal Campbell

The Adventures of Super Diaper Baby by Dave Pilkey

Categories
Anime

Stop Sleeping on the SSSS.Gridman

by Ed @AsleepTurnpike

The deafening sound of summer cicadas is the first thing we hear when SSSS.Gridman starts. The opening sequence continues, and more noises appear. Inside a high school classroom, we hear the unintelligible conversation between students, as a brass band tunes their instruments in the background. Outside the school, we once again hear the cicadas, but we also hear the noises students are making while they train for some form of athletic competition. We see several students walking through the school’s entrance, going about their day. On the school rooftop, a girl observes it all. We get several seconds of atmospheric sound as she stays next to the railing, only hearing the laughs of several students, the clang of a metallic baseball bat as it presumably hits a ball, and, of course, the cicadas. This goes on for a couple of seconds, and as the title of the show appears on screen, the sound of a practicing chorus becomes audible, still unintelligible beneath the noise of the cicadas. The girl looks to the sky, where a star splits into several smaller stars, with a deafening boom, as the screen suddenly cuts to black. Thus ends the opening sequence of SSSS.Gridman, a 2018 anime series directed by Akira Amemiya, with character designs by Masaru Sakamoto, and produced by Studio TRIGGER.

SSSS.Gridman is sort of a soft reboot of the 1993 tokusatsu series “Gridman The Hyper Agent”. This series starred a group of kids who teamed up with a digital hero, the eponymous Gridman, who would fight giant monsters that threatened the lives of the town residents. This series was re-tooled for the west as Superhuman Samurai Syber-Squad, which is, at first sight, the inspiration for this show’s title. The original Gridman was a sort of spinoff from the Ultra series, which houses the classic toku hero Ultraman. This bears mentioning because Ultraman was a huge influence for Neon Genesis Evangelion, which in turn is the show that SSSS.Gridman references the most–both in terms of visual direction and style, but also in textual allusions (a group of secondary characters are all students from “Neon Genesis High”). This sort of ouroboros of influences gives SSSS.Gridman a very unique atmosphere, and one we can specifically pin down through the show’s use of sound and music. 

Like a lot of tokusatsu shows, SSSS.Gridman is divided into two types of sequences: Battle sequences, in which the protagonist connects with Gridman through a special computer, and fights giant monsters, and sequences in which we see the main cast live their day -o-day lives. In these sequences, the show utilizes practically no background music, the show’s atmosphere is simply made out of background noise, such as the blare of the cicadas. Then, when a giant monster does appear, this changes. Bombastic drums and strings set the tone for the destruction that these kaiju wreak on the town. As our protagonist prepares to summon Gridman, the orchestra blares in the background, and horns signal the hero’s imminent arrival. Once the fight itself starts, rock guitars serve as the backdrop for the conflict. This contrast between the show’s naturalistic style of ambience and the larger-than-life fights between giants serves to give monsters, the hero, and the battles themselves a unique tone in the audience’s minds, while also emphasizing the feeling that we’ve gone from the real and common to the unreal and uncanny.

 It’s a very smart and thoughtful use of a fantastic OST composed by Shirou Sagisu, who also created the original OST for Neon Genesis Evangelion and is making the music for Hideaki Anno’s upcoming Shin Ultraman movie. This naturalistic approach also extends to the character interactions themselves. While the main cast is made out of your traditional anime high school kid stereotypes, their mannerisms and attitudes are all fairly low-key. There are jokes, and there are improbable hair colors, but it all feels intentionally muted, to give you the sense that these kids are not just caricatures, but rather real people.

Why was this naturalistic approach chosen? There are several answers to this. First of all, the monster attacks in Gridman serve as an outside element that completely shatters the normality of the lives of the protagonists. By making sure that their normality feels grounded and real, the impact that these attacks cause is significantly stronger. This is also why the show’s OST mostly only kicks in during these fights. The mechanics of the kaiju attacks and the mysterious circumstances surrounding them are also a big focus of the narrative in Gridman. That mystery is core to the structure of the show, and it makes the grounded elements of the cast’s lives stand out more, in contrast to the fantastical element. Furthermore, without spoiling anything, Gridman deals with themes of escapism and ignoring reality around you. The show creates a reality that is actually feasible, kaiju attacks aside, so this message of embracing life can resonate with the audience. Finally, I think that the naturalistic approach is a consequence of the media that Gridman is pulling from, not just in Neon Genesis Evangelion, but also in Gridman: The Hyper Agent and the Ultra series in general. It’s both an homage to what has come before, but also an element of the show’s reality that connects to its core themes.

Gridman is a special anime for a lot of reasons. It came out of a short for Japan’s Animator’s Expo project and gained a life of its own. I don’t intend to spoil the plot in this article, but it tells a deeply compelling story about embracing life and empathy, and it is a fantastic-looking show in a time where the anime industry is oversaturated and projects like these are a rarity. It manages to be accessible to viewers who might not know anything about Ultraman or tokusatsu in general, while also serving as a love letter to the medium and the art the medium inspired, such as Neon Genesis Evangelion. In spite of not being nearly as popular as some of Studio TRIGGER’s other outings, such as Darling in the Franxx, it spun off its own sister show SSSS.Dynazenon (which is also a fantastic show), plus a third, upcoming project known only as Gridman x Dynazenon. SSSS.Gridman has an atmosphere like few other shows have nowadays, and I highly encourage you to seek it out and watch it.

Categories
Episodes

Interview with Todd McFarlane

The man who needs no introduction joins us today. Todd McFarlane himself. Creator of Spawn, one of the founders of Image comics, and so much more joins Dan for an interview. Todd talks all about Spawn Universe, Gunslinger, and so much more!

Subscribe now or listen below!

Interview with Todd McFarlane GateCrashers

The man who needs no introduction joins us today. Todd McFarlane himself. Creator of Spawn, one of the founders of Image comics, and so much more joins Dan for an interview. Todd talks all about Spawn Universe, Gunslinger, and so much more!
  1. Interview with Todd McFarlane
  2. Deep Diving into Aquaman with Brandon Thomas
  3. Interview with Bill Moseley
  4. Deep Diving Into Black Manta With Chuck Brown
  5. Interview with Meghan Fitzmartin
Categories
sports Uncategorized

Fast Five Picks From the GC Experts for NFL Week 2

Welcome to Fast Five Picks with Dr. Mitchell Powers & Rick Danger! Each week we will cover 5 upcoming NFL games and give you our predicted outcome for each matchup. As an added bonus, we will be pulling in a guest expert for a one game analysis that you just can’t miss! Let’s take a brief moment to introduce ourselves and then get right into the action.

DR. MITCHELL POWERS

We all know how important speed is in the NFL, but it’s also about power. Seeing as Dr. Speed was too busy fulfilling his namesake through pharmaceuticals, they had to go with me instead. I only began enjoying the fine sport of men giving each other concussions during my college years, where I may have done the same with a large amount of Jameson whiskey one night after a particularly bad break-up. It was a rough time. Who could have known my drunken stupor would be re-enacted by Carson Wentz in his final season with the Philadelphia Eagles, nearly a decade later?

RICK DANGER

Welcome to the Danger Zone! And if we can’t use that for legal reasons, then welcome to the Danger Area! I’ve been watching football since that giant robot robot on Fox danced his way into my heart. I mean, I even know his name is Cleatus. I shit you not, look it up on the internet machine. Anyway, I know two things; AC/DC should be played at every funeral and the outcome of most NFL games. I even almost went pro myself but I swung too hard at a mailbox and hit myself in the nuts with a bat. I have what’s called a phantom pain, but I don’t believe in ghosts. Anyway, aside from my hearing loss from listening to things to awesomely, and that Raccoon in my attic that keeps stealing my watches, my life is perfect, as are my predictions.

DONNIE AUSTIN (OUR SPECIAL GUEST)

Whadder youse guys doin!? I’ve been out in the parking lot since 5:00 AM slamming Yuengling Oktoberfest. I got a couple of sixers of the Oktoberfest since I was gonna be on the big show today. Thanks for having me on boys. Been a long week since our big win on Sunday. GO BIRDS. We demolished those dirty bird Falcons. Glad it was an away game though so it puts some more forgettin’ time for the Linc security. My boys and I got thrown out of the Linc again last season for being “too aggressive” to other fans. What? They shoulda’ been ready for the Broad Street Belly Bounce. That’s what I call it when I rush you and slam ya with the belly when the birds get a touchdown. Between that and punchin’ the police horse during the time the Phil’s won the World Series, I got a bad rap with security. Wife has a double shift at the Acme today so I am all yours for these picks’ boys.


RICK’S PICKS

Cleveland Browns @ Houston Texans – 1:00 PM on CBS

           I legally cannot enter Cleveland due to an incident at the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, but I won’t hold it against them. The Browns got robbed last week against Patty and the Chiefs, so they will be looking for revenge. Houston picked up a win last week against Jacksonville thanks to Tyrod Taylor, a former Brown himself. Can we take a moment and just recognize that the “Texans” and the “Browns” are arguably two of the worst team names? I don’t think anyone should be proud to be a Texan right now. You know Houston is like a big part of NASA, shouldn’t they be the Astronauts? Dr. Mitch just informed me that there is a team in Houston called the Astros, but I give zero fucks about baseball. At least it will confuse the people of Texas less to have two teams so closely named. I mean were they worried when they named them the Texans that the fans wouldn’t remember what state they were in? Is Pittsburgh called the Pennsylvanians? No. As for Cleveland, they should be the Rockers, after that aforementioned museum that someone is not allowed back at. My pro-choice would be to not take anything from Texas, but I think the Astronauts keep rolling and beat the Rockers in a close one.

PICK: ASTRONAUTS


Los Angeles Chargers @ Dallas Cowboys – 4:25 PM on CBS

The Dodge Chargers, sorry, Los Angeles Chargers make their way down to the state I am all about picking on, and battle the Dallas Cowboys. Last week, the Cowboys suffered the same fate as many other teams before them, a game-winning last minute drive courtesy of the demon that inhabits Tom Brady’s body. They look to bounce back against a 1-0 Chargers team, led by my favorite iced dessert Justin Sherbert, sorry, Herbert*. The Chargers looked sharp against the Washington Lobbyists because I refuse to call them the ‘Football Team.’ You had all offseason, figure your fucking name out. I digress, I think this Cowboys team that has lost a couple key players is looking to prove themselves in a pivotal game. Much to my dismay, it looks like they will take care of the Chargers in a close game, with a last second field goal that sails erratically, knocking loose Gov. Abbott’s wheelchair lock. Will he comically roll down some stairs, flailing his arms like a cartoon villain? Absolutely! Will he survive? Of course, assholes always do. 

PICK: COWBOYS 


POWERS’ PREDICTIONS

Detroit Lions @ Green Bay Packers – 8:15 PM on ESPN

This team of cheese aficionados are currently sitting at 0-1 after their perfectly trimmed QB had a 32.8 passer rating, which is a higher number than his wife’s age.

“Who are the Green Bay Packers?”

After a guest-hosting stint on the hit trivia game show Jeopardy!, one might have thought that Aaron Rodgers would have learned how to be a better quarterback. Although Jeopardy! is objectively the second-best measure of human intelligence (the foremost being, of course, an enormous apathy toward the band Coldplay), any positive effects on Aaron Rodgers seem to have been lost, aside from notable hair growth. On the other side of the field will be the Detroit Lions, who fell short to the San Francisco 49ers in a near-comeback loss last Sunday. Given the sad state of affairs for both of these teams in their respective opening weeks, I believe the true benefactors here will be the fans who cancel their usual game day get-together typically held on a couch that’s too small in their one-bedroom apartment.

PICK: INTROVERTS


Tampa Bay Buccaneers @ Atlanta Falcons – 4:05 PM on FOX

The outcome of this game should be clear to just about anyone, even the freshest of football fans. Tom Brady, age 44, is still playing as well as any QB in the NFL. The Buccaneers are coming off of a close win against the Dallas Cowboys and are likely to be amped up with confidence. Furthermore, the Atlanta Falcons are not a strong team right now, as evidenced by their pathetic loss to the Philadelphia Eagles last Sunday (Jalen Hurts, indeed). If Atlanta can’t figure out how to do more than kick two field goals as they did last week against Philadelphia, their defense is going to have quite a day trying to keep the score manageable with Tom Brady behind center on the other side. There is, however, one wild card with the potential to make a major contribution to the Falcons’ performance in this game: I do not like Tom Brady.

PICK: FALCONS

THE GUEST GUESS

Philadelphia Eagles at San Francisco 49ers – 1:00 PM on Fox

This Sunday, the friggin’ iggles are playin’ the 49ers in Philly. Now I won’t be at the stadium because I’m takin’ the wife and boy down the shore. Weekend after Labor Day is cheap rooms in Wildwood. So, you know I’m gonna be on that balcony with a case of Yuengling, crushin’ and chuckin’ em off the friggin’ railing. They’re glass so it just becomes sand again eventually. No harm no foul. So, the big game, it’s our season. I don’t know much about the 49ers other than they coulda’ called themselves the 69ers and coulda’ become my second favorite team. But basically, the Birds got this jawn in the bag. It’s our year again. When we win the friggin’ Super Bowl, me and the boys are gonna grab some wiz wits, go down to the Linc, and do whippits on the field. Tells you guys what, if we play that Tom Brady guy… Hope that mouth kissin’ good for nothing likes an eye fulla’ double a if you know what I mean.

PICK: EAGLES (GO BIRDS!)


LAST WEEK 

RICKS PICKS: 2 – 0

POWERS PREDICTIONS: 2 – 0

GUEST GUESS: 1-0

OVERALL

RICKS PICKS: 2 – 0

POWERS PREDICTIONS: 2 – 0

GUEST GUESS: 1 – 0


**DISCLAIMER** Like a conservative talkshow, the opinions and views here are a joke.

Categories
TTRPG

Comics That Get to the Heart of the TTRPG Experience

What do people get out of playing role-playing games around a table with other people? That’s kind of a rhetorical question, as I’ve been quietly revering the friendship and improvised plotting of Dungeons & Dragons on and off since high school. The creativity of creating your own character and fitting their life story into a fictional world, the figurative bonding between player avatars as they face battle and argue over loot, and the actual bonding as you sit across from other people for hours at a time, fueled by caffeine and likely the feeling that you couldn’t replicate this exact group makeup anyplace else. Video games might randomize elements or offer branching choices, but tabletop RPGs (TTRPGs) are dependent on each individual’s state in that moment, a recipe that can be approximated but never recreated.

I bring this up because anyone who wants to base a story in the realm of a role-playing game has an interesting decision to make. Do they only tell the fictional story that takes place, or do they add a layer of narrative representing the players making those choices? I enjoy when players are incorporated into the story. A fantasy that takes place in a Dungeons & Dragons campaign as a straightforward adventure can be nice, but I also like witnessing the playing of the game itself in terms of social interactions and what players get out of playing. 

Every campaign is different and will necessarily reflect its players differently. Multiply this by the many creative and social outlets TTRPGs provide, and a storytelling setup emerges that never gets old for me. With all of this in mind, let’s take a look at some of the combinations that pop up in different D&D centric comics.

Adventure Zone

(Clint McElroy, Griffin McElroy, Justin McElroy, Travis McElroy, Carey Pietsch)

This is one of the most straightforward, as well as charming, campaigns of the set. The McElroy family plays D&D together and records it as an actual play podcast, adapted here to comics. Every so often, the DM will weigh in from a bubble panel, or a piece of dialog will brush against the fourth wall and acknowledge the adventure is created by a person. There’s a particularly dramatic moment where a character appeals to the DM in order to save someone’s life, and it totally works. There’s an improvisational tone to a lot of the proceedings, and you can feel the DM giving a nod to trying an unconventional solution here or conversation branch there.

Rick & Morty vs Dungeons & Dragons

(Jim Zub, Patrick Rothfuss, Troy Little, Leonardo Ito, Crank!)

The first time I came across this comic on the stands, I flipped it open to a page of Rick shouting “Roll initiative, bitches!” and promptly closed it. Get that performative bullcrap outta here. Then I read enough D&D-based comics and watched enough of the Rick & Morty cartoon that I wanted to return and see what actually happens in this crossover. 

A whole lot, actually!

Morty wants to learn the game to impress a hip gamer girl at the local hobby shop; Summer has rogue assassin fantasy tropes she likes to indulge; Beverly likes to drink and unwind; Jerry’s proficiency at the game is his escape from his real-world mediocrity; Rick… well, any fan would have guessed that Rick has a beloved yet intense view of the game that takes a while to unpack. Rick’s relationship to D&D is practically a manual as well as a warning to budding players. It is the game he enjoyed with friends as a young man. It is where he explored his love of generating new worlds, chasing novel ideas, and exploiting systems of rules. It is also where he left a lot of substandard ideas to rot and be forgotten, hidden by the glow of his accomplishments.

There is an encounter with an all-powerful DM character that reminded me of the therapist the family sees in later seasons of the cartoon, in the sense that the family’s dysfunctions are challenged enough that they see opportunities to choose new routes for themselves. In the case of Rick, he is given a character class that he despises, which leads him to act sulkier and grumpier than usual, an attitude many real-life players have likely enacted or witnessed when something didn’t go their way. This series prods the appeal of D&D from a few angles, always finding new takes on how people qualify their preferred way to play. Playing to win battles, build the most effective character, or complete a dramatic story arc are all valid routes.

Critical Role: Vox Machina Origins

(Matthew Colville, Matthew Mercer, Jody Houser, MSASSYK, Olivia Samson, Chris Northrop, Ariana Maher)

This one’s a bit of an outlier, because it is enhanced by knowledge and experience from the live-action show, to a degree. As someone who has only watched a few bits and pieces of the YouTube series, here’s what I mean. If you look up advice for playing or running D&D online at all, you will run into commentary about “the Matthew Mercer effect,” referring to the person who generally leads Critical Role’s campaigns. Because he and many of the personalities on the show are trained performers and voice actors, in addition to close friends, they are able to achieve a great atmosphere and chain together highly entertaining setups with jokes, callbacks, and performances that elevate the show’s appeal far above simply watching people roll dice and dispute technical rules.

In an ideal world, the games played/performed by these professionals would lead game makers and players to take notes about what worked, what they think would work for their own talents and group (an important distinction), and level up their own games. Instead, to hear some complaints on the internet, there appear to be jealous and entitled reactions. Players wish their own games were led by a charismatic performer, DMs wish their efforts resulted in fame and profits… egos can get bruised comparing your personal hobby to someone else absolutely rocking it on a global stage.

I am here to tell you, as an impartial observer, that Critical Role’s talents are entirely in the best interests of the game and those who wish to emulate it. In looking up DMing advice for my own games, I came across Matthew Colville’s breakdown of an emotional moment from Season One of Critical Role. It’s a big spoiler, but also, a compelling demonstration of how the game, its characters, and its players all intersect to create a beautiful moment that the players recognize and indulge. That was the moment that caused me to take Critical Role seriously and, as a side effect, check out the comics prequels to their first campaign story.

Where a comic based on a role-playing game might be based on canonical characters and scenarios, the Critical Role comic, much like Adventure Zone above, silently brings extra baggage in the form of its table etiquette. Even if someone has never watched the show, there’s an obvious energy throughout the comic that goes beyond fleshing out character archetypes. There are unique voices (acted on the page, as it were) and reactions that feel like they’re taking place in and out of game. The human players made such an impression on me in a few short clips that I was already recognizing their tics in illustrated form. Having read the first two trades of the Critical Role comics, I feel like they put some fantasy stories to shame by virtue of having a cast that’s tied to flesh and blood actors and therefore that much more of a unique fingerprint. For those who don’t like that the beautiful people, the celebrity people have intruded on their sacred gaming habit, maybe this version that sticks to the fantasy will be easier to absorb. 

Stranger Things and Dungeons & Dragons

(Jody Houser, Jim Zub, Kyle Lambert, MSASSYK, Nate Piekos)

This is the shortest and perhaps most straightforward of the bunch: Stranger Things is still a cultural phenomenon, lots of people were turned on to Dungeons & Dragons thanks to it appearing in the show, so here’s a direct look at some extra scenes of how the game affected the show’s characters! As with the previous examples, you get entertainment and marketing in one fell swoop. It’s no wonder we live in an era of the Wendy’s RPG and (already sold out!) Arby’s dice.

The chapters of this part-recap, part-commercial are honey-glazed representations of how a group evolves around making time for game night. First, everyone has circumstances that lead to wanting to group up and roll dice in the first place, whether it’s as an excuse to draw fantastic creatures or just to find belonging in the wake of bullying. Then the group expands, taking on new players whose love and understanding of the game may not be as deep as the entrenched players’ yet. The old players find themselves in the position of being potential gatekeepers or showing enough flexibility to make their game accommodating for someone else. Finally, as time goes by, life events can either delay the next session or, more melodramatically, create a ticking clock wherein the players become hyper-aware that they are sitting in their last game together.

Even if you’ve never played D&D, everyone’s had something they grew out of, whether consciously or by circumstance. While this collection is fairly short and exists between seasons of the Netflix series, the creative team still found opportunities for authentic pathos expressed through dice-based power fantasies among friends.

Die

(Kieron Gillen, Stephanie Hans, Clayton Cowles)

Of all the titles that explore people’s relationships with their TTRPGs, I consider this one the big enchilada. A bunch of middle-aged adults revisit the fantasy realms of their youth, having left a player behind in the alternate dimension back in the day. The layers of inspiration subtext circle back around to overt text at times – look no further than a player’s in-game encounter with H.G. Wells, or Gillen’s construction of an actual RPG system for those looking to explore this playground for themselves. Unlike the previous examples, save for some of Rick & Morty, this is about a game that was played and must be faced again with the benefit of hindsight. How does the abandoned wish-fulfillment love interest character get by without their player-authored partner around? How do plainly ripped off (“inspired”) empires and societies function without players’ egos and narratives to act as guard rails? Leave it to the writer of The Wicked + The Divine to dive into another sublime cautionary tale about what we believe and give influence over ourselves.


Those are just a few of the TTRPG-inspired comics that speak to a larger phenomenon of bonds forged through play. The lessons I learned about D&D as a teenager have come in handy as an adult, whether I’m playing among peers or leading a teen group for the public library. I try to maintain a distance from influencing the players like a gardener might let a patch of earth get wild. Some of their motives and play styles feel like coming full circle from acting on them myself; other players find brand new directions and cues that continue to surprise the whole table (or Zoom group, as the case may be). Whatever we each get out of rolling the dice, we know there’s nothing else quite like it.

Thomas Maluck.

Categories
Episodes

Deep Diving into Aquaman with Brandon Thomas

Brandon Thomas stops by to talk about Aquaman: The Becoming with Dan! The conversation takes a deeper look into Jackson Hyde as a character, learning who he is and what he can become. We got to chat about our favorite Queen, Mera. There’s also a look at the current mantle holder of the Aquaman name, Arthur Curry. This is a must-listen for any fans of Aquaman!

Subscribe now or listen below!

Interview with Todd McFarlane GateCrashers

The man who needs no introduction joins us today. Todd McFarlane himself. Creator of Spawn, one of the founders of Image comics, and so much more joins Dan for an interview. Todd talks all about Spawn Universe, Gunslinger, and so much more!
  1. Interview with Todd McFarlane
  2. Deep Diving into Aquaman with Brandon Thomas
  3. Interview with Bill Moseley
  4. Deep Diving Into Black Manta With Chuck Brown
  5. Interview with Meghan Fitzmartin