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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
Television

Titans – Season Three, Ep. 8 “Home” Review

Bree: Episode 8 marks just past the halfway point of the 13 episode season and things are really heating up! New relationships are forming, old ones are rekindling, and others’ are falling apart. Tim Drake gets a proper introduction and is shaping up to be an excellent adaptation of a fan favorite character.

Jon: Crane’s plans have come to a screeching halt since the last episode and we begin to see how that affects his and Jason’s power dynamic. Could our former boy wonder still be lost inside that red helmet? Only time will tell as the rest of this episode plays out.

Bree: This episode does an excellent job at balancing its focus equally for each of the main characters. Everybody has a memorable moment in this episode. While they dig a little more into Crane’s backstory, Starfire is still struggling with unknown elements of her past. Which feels very; “As one door closes, another opens”. The pacing of conflict is very effective this season, I’m on the edge of my seat while not feeling like my attention is divided between too many plot threads.

Jon: Tim finally get his time in the spotlight this episode. He’s truly living up to his comic book counterpart. Showing off his mastery of detective skills will turn him into a great asset for the Titans going forward.  

ON TO SPOILERS AND OUT OF CONTEXT MEMES

Bree: Alright, we gotta start with the elephant in the room. The elephant that broke a bed. I wasn’t initially keen on the idea of Blackfire and Conner but they’re writing the pair exceptionally well. 

Jon: STRAIGHT TO HORNY JAIL THE BOTH OF THEM! For the speed in which this took place and where they both are in their lives (very short for Conner) it feels very natural and is pretty adorable.

Bree: Yep! Conner has elements of the “born sexy yesterday” trope, but the show avoids the creepy aspects by fleshing out what he does have in common with Kom. And it’s important that Conner isn’t isolated, he’s developed other relationships besides Kom. The romance isn’t responsible for his entire world view, as the worst offenders of said trope tend to lean into.

Jon: One of the other highlights of this episode is Tim Drake who finally gets to show off his detective skills. Proving to Dick that he first discovers his secret identity because of his aerial acrobatics, he calls out Dick and the entire roster of Titans with hard facts that could come across as actually believable rather than Tim just knowing who they are because of who his character is supposed to be. Someone get Jay Lycurgo a super-suit YESTERDAY!

Bree: Indeed! I’m honestly iffy on Tim Drake as a whole, sometimes he works for me, and sometimes he just doesn’t. Titans Tim thus far is very charming and earnest, it’s quite possible he’ll be my favorite version yet! Oh! And Crane is actually starting to become scary. I like the stoner act and it was a fun refresh on his character but he’s gotta live up to his name. 

Jon: Yes! At the close of the episode, we see Crane with only a baseball hat and gun which sent shivers down my spine. One can only imagine how frightening he was in his prime while donning the actual scarecrow mask.

Bree: Kory’s visions keep getting weirder and weirder too and I’m loving it. They’re building an excellent foundation for her this season and I just hope they commit to finishing the house. Oh! And lastly, Beast Boy will hopefully now have something to do. I really hope they let him be very important in the forthcoming confrontation with Jason.

CLOSING REMARKS

Jon: An absolute mountain to things to unpack this episode. Jason is struggling with his inner demons, and Crane becomes more desperate and dangerous as time goes on. Will things actually work out with Blackfire and Conner? Most of all, who is Dick Grayson’s tailor ?! 4 episodes left to go until what seems like to be an explosive finale!

Bree: This is perhaps the most “Titans” centric episode this season, and perhaps proves that the writers are learning from past mistakes. Gotham is presenting ever-evolving challenges for the team, and we seem to be nearing the “sink or swim” moment for the team.

Categories
Television Wrestling

AEW Dark Dork Review: Introduction

It was Thanksgiving 2020, and I was sitting in my sister’s living room. After a disastrous evening with our father where we had bailed on the family gathering early, we were hanging on her couch eating mini-churros. 

“Hey, you wanna watch some wrestling?”

My sister had started watching AEW as a pandemic hobby, brought into it by her partners. While we were on her couch, she started pulling up matches on YouTube on AEW Dark. She started explaining wrestlers to me, their gimmicks, and which ones were her favorites. That branched off into other AEW-adjacent YouTube shows, like BTE and the other vlogs. The night was great fun, just searching through videos for fun matches and unique characters.

It’s where my love for wrestling started. Over the last few months, I’ve found a group I do watch parties with, but even with three hours of TV between Dynamite and Rampage, I find myself coming back to Dark and its newer sister program Elevation. A part of that is that Dark and Elevation are in their own weird niche. Kenny Omega doesn’t show up on Dark, and the Inner Circle and the Pinnacle don’t make more than the odd appearance(Unless it’s WARDLOW WEEK, baby). Instead, it’s where the truly weird personalities hang out.

Especially in the first half of 2021, in the Daly’s Place era, Dark became something of a mainstay for me. I would watch past episodes to just absorb more wrestling. Dark episodes on youtube tended to be longer than Dynamite shows, and while there may not have been as many stories that were outright being told as those that were on TV weekly, it had its share of heroes and it was great to have on in the background.

The patron saint of AEW Dark is none other than Fuego del Sol: Alabama’s third-favorite luchador, the master of the Tornado DDT. Fuego showing up in a Dark match and losing to a heel padding their win totals is a tradition like any other. The perennial underdog, Fuego Del Sol is your favorite C-List comics character who you pop for when they show up in a splash page. Watching as many Dark matches as I could, of thirty-four consecutive losses, was like watching the platonic ideal of wrestling, of the perennial underdog who keeps coming back to fight. You know how a Fuego Del Sol match will end, but you still love them.

Most of the time on the Youtube shows you can make a pretty good guess as to who’s going to win before the match starts. There are squash matches that exist to support AEW’s internal canon of wins and losses, to get their rankings. Thunder Rosa’s fought in thirty singles and tag matches this year, and the majority of them are on Youtube. But how does a group like the Wingmen, a mix of hot guys hanging out and forcing himboification on their opponents, form with a guy like JD Drake sliding in? In between the random match where Baron Black or the local indie talent take the pin, you get these stories that occupy the lower half of the card.

Is it for everyone? Absolutely not. It’s hours of new content each week. But I would be lying if I said that watching Jungle Boy on Dark every week grinding out matches didn’t make me even more of a fan of his once he’s started getting big matches on TV. 

It’s also where, unfortunately, a lot of the women’s competition is. AEW has a problem – they show two women’s matches on TV a week, one per show. If we’re lucky, we might get an additional angle or promo sprinkled in there. The talent there is real, though outside of a few feuds, it’s not something you see on television too often. Most often it tends to be limited to, in recent times, whatever feud Britt Baker is in. Don’t take this the wrong way, I love my favorite dentist, but there is a lot of other talent there, which most often ends up on Dark. Recently, Big Swole and Diamante had a great feud that ended in a “Three Strikes” match as Dark’s main event. It was great! Go watch it now. I’ll wait.

Great. Wasn’t that fun? That’s what I want to share with readers. Don’t have the time to watch a show? I’ll share the relevant story bits, share a fun match or two that shows off some talent on the roster, and I’ll occasionally plug a fun guest wrestler who appears on the show.

Lastly, there’s one part of the Dark experience that cannot be understated: the announcing. Elevation’s pair of Tony Schiavone and Paul Wight had a bumpy start, though they have settled into a more familiar rhythm, though Eddie Kingston making regular appearances at the desk is always a welcome treat and brings the show to another level. But where the show really shines is on Dark with Excalibur and Taz. The pair have an effortless rapport, mixing Excalibur’s encyclopedic knowledge of all things wrestling and put-upon straightman bit with Taz’s heelish opinions and chihuahua attitude. The two can slide anyone into the booth with them, even to the point where Negative One, a nine year old, occupied the third chair in some matches to bully Excalibur earlier this year. 

It’s an experience that feels wholly like the rest of AEW’s product, though dialed down from the often frenetic jam-packed marquee events to the equivalent of an easy podcast to have on in the background. It’s my goal to share it with you readers, and hopefully, get at least some of you in on the unhinged fun of Taz threatening wrestlers because they stole his color scheme.

Categories
sports Television Uncategorized

Not A Football Fan? Here’s Your Starter Guide.

As we FALL into another September, some of us turn to the time-honored tradition of rooting for our local NFL team and having our hearts toyed with up until Super Bowl Sunday. Others find themselves stuck in the precarious situation of indifference, or perhaps, inability to find meaning in these games, and simply ignore them altogether. In situations where you find yourself stuck in front of a TV on a Sunday, plopped next to a family member, significant other, or friend, and find yourself face to face with an NFL game, we are here to help. The following will be a guide from your GateCrashers Football Friendly team of Dr. Mitchell Powers and Rick Danger, where we intend to cover the basics, and help you go from “I need to go” to “Let’s go team!” Furthermore, look for our new weekly series Fast Five Picks with Dr. Mitchell Powers & Rick Danger where we will give our predictions for the outcomes of upcoming games, making YOU look like the expert.

The NFL is the National Football League, comprised of 32 teams, which are then split into two major conferences, the American Football Conference (AFC) and the National Football Conference (NFC). To further complicate things, each conference has 4 divisions: North, South, East, and West. All the teams are split, with each team taking 1 of 4 spots in these divisions. Below is a handy infographic to see how everything we just said unfolds:

Dr. Mitch Tip: Most people pick their favorite team based on location, but some people pick their favorite team based on their prowess on the field. It doesn’t matter who you root for, but never buy a football jersey until that player retires.

The NFL plays 17 games (new this year!), with 6 of those games being played within the division. So, say we are the Buffalo Bills, that means we are in the AFC East and will play the Patriots twice, once at home and once away, the Dolphins twice, same deal, and the Jets twice, you get the idea. The rest of the schedule is made up from an algorithm that is really not important, as the real fun lies in these divisional games because they create rivalries and bad blood between the teams. I mean, if you’re Batman, and every night you are fighting the Joker, Two-Face, and the Riddler, but now Calendar Man shows up, I’m sure there is more interest in fighting the other 3 as there is a palpable history. These divisional games are usually circled on team calendars to create a brewing animosity, similar to an 80’s movie montage where the protagonist is training and has the match date crossed out in blood. If your team does well enough and is able to get into the playoffs, that’s when the real fun begins!

Dr. Mitch Tip: When watching the game with friends, make sure to throw in such phrases as : “C’mon!”, “Defense!”, “You got to catch that!”, “Need a stop here!”, and “This dip is really good, what’s the secret?”

The NFL playoffs select the best 14 teams, 7 from the AFC and 7 from the NFC, to determine the final two representatives, 1 from the AFC and 1 from the NFC, which will then face off in the goal of every franchise, the Super Bowl. The first 4 spots go to the division champions from each conference and are seeded 1 through 4 based on their overall record. The final 3 spots are for the 3 teams with the best overall record of all remaining teams in the conference. This process is done for both sides and after three rounds, Wild Card Round, Divisional Round, and Conference Round, the surviving two teams play for the Super Bowl. Making the playoffs for your team is a big deal, as realistically every team has a chance of winning. This has even coined the phrase “On any given Sunday,” as the so-called unbeatable teams have lost in the first rounds before. If you want to talk about Super Bowl upsets, look no further than Tom Brady and the Patriots beating one of the best offensive teams in the St. Louis Rams in Super Bowl XXXVI, and then on the other side of the coin, Eli Manning and the New York Giants beating a ‘perfect’ Tom Brady and the Patriots in Super Bowl XLII. That is what makes the game so special, the team can show up looking akin to a god-like Doctor Doom, only to be dispatched by a spunky Squirrel Girl. Now it’s time to get into the important details of the actual game itself!

Dr. Mitch Tip: Some people say “Defense wins Championships!”, while I reply, “There is no such thing as too much chili.”

Your team is made up of 55 players, but only 48 can be active and ready to play on game day. The three most important people on the sidelines are our Head Coach, Offensive Coordinator, and Defensive Coordinator. Their roles are similar to their titles, the Head Coach is in charge of the full team and the final decision maker, the offense coordinator focuses on the offense and the defensive coordinator focuses on the defense. Let’s run through the Offense:

Quarterback (QB): Runs the offense on the field, can throw the ball, run the ball, or hand it off

Running Back (RB): Receives the ball from the QB and carries it up the field

Wide Receiver (WR): Catches the ball from QB and carries it up the field

Tight End (TE): Can assist in blocking the opposing team from getting to the QB, but also catches the ball from the QB and carries it up the field

Full Back (FB): Usually bigger and bulkier than a running back, receives the ball from the QB and carries it up the field

Center (C): In front of QB and ‘snaps’ it back to the QB while also protecting the QB from getting hit

Right Guard (RG): Protects the QB from getting hit and also allows the RB to move up the field

Left Guard (LG): Protects the QB from getting hit and also allows the RB to move up the field

Right Tackle (RT): Protects the ‘Blind Side’ of left-handed QBs as they cannot see someone about to hit them from behind

Left Tackle (LT): Protects the ‘Blind Side’ of right-handed QBs as they cannot see someone about to hit them from behind

Kicker (K): They attempt field goals usually from 50 yards and less. They also kick the ball off to the opposing team after touchdowns, at the beginning of the game, and at half-time.

Punter (P): If the offense does not move the ball 10 yards after 3 attempts AND they are too far away to try a field goal, on the 4th attempt the punter will punt the ball away to the opposing team.

Dr. Mitch Tip: The Offensive Line is made up of the Center, Guards, and Tackles. They tend to be some of the highest paid players as they protect the Quarterback. I’ve said an offensive line or two in my day!

Let’s run through the defense:

Linebacker (LB): They can be Middle (MLB) or Outside (OLB) depending on where they line up, but they tend to be the “QBs” of the defense. They are in charge of reading the offense and guessing what play they are trying to run. They can help the defensive lineman or they can drop into coverage and try to stop receivers from catching the ball.

Defensive Tackle (DT): Try and break through the offensive line to get to the Quarterback.

Defensive End (DE): Try and break through the offensive line to get to the Quarterback. They tend to be leaner and faster than DTs as they run around the edge to get to the QB.

Cornerback (CB): They line up with the Wide Receivers and attempt to intercept the ball or prevent the WR from catching the ball.

Safeties (S): They can be Strong (SS) or Free (FS) depending on where they line up but they are in charge of preventing long passes from being caught or can be brought up to the line to help attack the quarterback.

Dr. Mitch Tip: If you bring a piece of your own fence to the game, you can use it as a sign of support for the defense!

Are you still with us? I know it’s a lot to take in, like trying to watch the entirety of the MCU so that the things that are coming up make sense, we get it. However, you know the players, you know why they play, now we get to the important part, the Endgame if you will; the actual game. An NFL game is 60 minutes, four 15-minute quarters, with a halftime of 15 minutes in-between the 2nd and 3rd quarter. The teams meet at mid-field and flip a coin with the winning team determining who will receive the ball and the losing team picking the side they play on. The actual idea of the game is straight forward: be the team with the most points when the game is over. The offense marches down the field to score a touchdown for 6 points and then the kicker kicks an extra point for 1 point, or they march down the field and the kicker kicks a field goal for 3 points. The defenses’ sole purpose is stop any of that from happening. The offense is given 4 downs to move the ball 10 yards, once they are past that 10 yards, it repeats until they score a touchdown or field goal. If they are unable to do so, they punt the ball away to the opposing team, who then attempts the same deal.

Here are some common things you may hear:

Sack: A defensive player has tackled the quarterback behind the line of possession. So, if the ball was on the 45-yard line and the QB has the ball snapped to them, and they are now holding the ball on the 40-yard line, a defenseman tackles them to the ground they are sacked! You will hear them say they lost 5 yards (45-yard line minus 40-yard line is 5 yards) and now the ball is placed at that spot and the next down is played.

Interception: A defensive player has caught a ball thrown by the QB that was intended for another player on the offense. The opposite team’s offense now has the ball and begins their attempt to move down the field.

Holding: This is a penalty where a player has prevented another player from doing something by gripping them, players can push and shove, but cannot hold.

False Start: When a player on the offense moves before the ball is snapped.

Pass Interference: This one is a tough one, a player on offense or defense, uses their body to prevent another player from catching a ball. Most of these calls are bullshit.

Red Zone: When the offense is within 20 yards of the goal line, the plays that can be called are limited as you do not have a lot of field to work with or use.

Fair Catch: When the ball is punted and the return team is trying to catch the ball that has been kicked by the punter, they will waive their arm in the air for a fair catch to prevent themselves from getting hit. This is typically done when the punting team is about to tackle them.

End Zone: This is the part of the football field that is colored in and the ball must cross to count as a touchdown.

Safety: This does not happen too often, but when the offense is backed up to their side of the field, and the QB is sacked in their own End Zone, the opposite team gets 2 points and the offense must kick the ball away.

2-Minute Warning: Two Minutes before the end of the 2nd quarter and the end of the 4th quarter, play is stopped and this acts as an unofficial time out for both teams.

Hail Mary: When a team is losing with little to no time left, the QB sends all of his receivers downfield in am attempt to score a game winning touchdown. They have little chance at success, BUT when they do succeed, it is a lasting memory.

Dr. Mitch Tip: I used to tell my grandma she was ‘Holding’ when she hugged me longer than 10 seconds.

If you have made it this far, throw that ring into Mount Doom and wait for Eagles of Manwë to carry you home because this is Intro to Football. The rest can be learned along the way by either watching games, or perhaps playing them on a video game console. We will be the first to tell you that any die-hard fan LOVES to explain the game to beginners, it’s actually quite refreshing. So, pick your team, find your people, sit back, and enjoy the upcoming season! Don’t forget to be on the lookout for Fast Five Picks with Dr. Mitchell Powers & Rick Danger, only on GateCrashers.

Categories
Television

Star Trek: Lower Decks Digs into its Characters in Season Two, Ep. 4 and 5

We’re now five episodes into Season Two of Lower Decks and have already been on so many wild adventures with our crew members. The first three episodes of the season were full to the brim with overt references and homages to past-Trek, which has been a real treat. I personally really appreciate how this show handles these moments. Lower Decks knows it’s a Star Trek show taking place in the same era as the height of 90’s Star Trek, and while it has tethers linking it to The Next Generation, Deep Space Nine, and Voyager, it never relies entirely on nostalgia goggles to keep the audience interested. These references are mostly contextual for the time period the story takes place in, but have a very, “imagine being some random person living in New York when Loki attacked the Avengers” vibe to it. 

The charm of Lower Decks is they are truly just Nobodies in a world with huge, famous, legendary space explorers. While Boimler specifically has dreams of Starfleet grandeur, Tendi and Rutherford in particular seem to be content with their current assignment and find the Cerritos a perfectly fine ship to leave their mark on. On the other hand, Beckett Mariner’s past is only referenced in passing or vague one-off quips, she seems to have lived out many of the Starfleet dreams that occupy Boimler’s every waking thought. This is the start of the main thread running through both Episodes Four and Five; trust, confidence, and how it affects not only your relationship with yourself, but your relationships with others as well. 

The last three episodes in particular have been about character work, which I think was a very good decision for the writers to make this early in the season. They’re already established, we already love them, but we don’t actually know that much about them! Episode Three gave us a deep dive into ensign D’vana Tendi’s past and relationship to her Orion upbringing, while also giving us a quick peek into the ever-unfolding mystery that is Beckett Mariner. Episode Four was a boys episode that paired up Boimler and Rutherford and their intensely geeky bond over the seemingly tedious and mundane aspects of Starfleet life. Episode Five was both about Tendi and Rutherford’s friendship post-Rutherford’s reboot, and Boimler and Mariner’s friendship post-Boimler coming back to the Cerritos after leaving for Captain William Riker’s ship, the Titan at the end of Season One. Overall, I think it was actually a pretty good route to go, so as to not bloat the beginning of the new season with too many references and callbacks, and also slow down the pace a bit and really start letting the audiences know more about this ragtag group of Starfleet underdogs. 

SPOILERS FOR LOWER DECKS SEASON TWO EPISODES FOUR AND FIVE

The central story for Episode Four revolves around Boimler, Rutherford, and a rumor about Beckett Mariner being a Starfleet Black Ops agent. Mariner absolutely destroys Rutherford and Boimler in anbo-jyutsu and bruises not only their bodies, but their egos as well. The two men get caught up in a story from the mess hall bartender about Mariner being a Black Ops agent, and they immediately start anxiously overanalyzing everything they’ve ever seen or known about their friend. They spend time contemplating and arguing over whether or not Mariner could actually be this secret special agent, and even go so far as to look up her personal file in the ship’s database. 

Meanwhile, Tendi is tasked with a job from Dr. T’ana to ensure every crew member aboard the Cerritos that has been dodging their annual physicals is tracked down and had their check-up. This leaves Tendi feeling like maybe T’ana is starting to notice all of the hard work she’s been putting into her tasks in sickbay and a much-desired promotion could be in her future.

Rutherford and Boimler having A Real One trying to figure out if the rumor about Mariner is true leads them to become paranoid and genuinely afraid of the woman they once considered one of their closest friends. This, of course, leaves Mariner very confused because they of course do not at any point in time confront her directly or even imply they might know her big secret, for fear of falling victim to her potentially deadly alter-ego. The insecurities on both halves of the situation lead to a sense of distrust and anxiety, but is ultimately resolved with Mariner revealing that she is in fact the source of this rumor and they have nothing to worry about. 

Dr. T’ana and Tendi have a heart-to-heart about her needing to be more assertive, which then leads Tendi to all-but-bullying Dr. T’ana into getting her physical, which she has been regularly dodging out of a very illogical and misplaced fear. Every story conveyed in this episode is based on trust: trust in yourself and trust in your relationships. This ended up really nicely leading into Episode Five, where these themes are further explored with our lower decks crew.

Episode Five, when seen as a sort of continuation of episode four, ends up being quite touching. We are back to a familiar formula of Tendi and Rutherford being paired up and Mariner and Boimler being paired up. Tendi and Rutherford’s story revolves around something that was explored a bit in the first episode: their friendship and how it has changed since Rutherford essentially came back from the dead. 

Unsurprisingly, Tendi and Rutherford are Star Trek universe gunpla nerds: they are laser-focused on trying to complete a buildable scale model of the Cerritos. When Rutherford finds several incoherent notes left by himself from before, he gets immensely frustrated and spirals because he feels like he’s constantly in competition with himself. Tendi inevitably resolves the situation by helping Rutherford realize this, and that he isn’t fighting with his past self over trying to finish the model and losing, but in reality, they never finished it in the first place and used it entirely as an avoidance tactic so they could hang out uninterrupted. 

While Tendi and Rutherford are hashing out their issues and growth on the Cerritos, Mariner and Boimler are off-world to find a reportedly legendary Starfleet party that they were pointedly not invited to. After convincing Boimler to utilize the identity of his clone that is still aboard the Titan, Mariner jets them off to try and hunt down this elusive shindig in a very fun use of the Black Tie Infiltration trope

When Mariner’s usual chaos hijinks reveal that Boimler is not alone in how he feels like Mariner’s patsy, it culminates in them almost being arrested. This brings Boimler to a breaking point and we finally address the elephant in the room: Mariner feels like Boimler abandoned her when he transferred to the Titan. Mariner and Boimler tackle their insecurities within their friendship, their power dynamics, and the trust (and lack thereof) between the two of them. While they don’t quite attend the rager they were expecting, the pair find themselves at a local bar where they resolve their very deep trust issues with one another only to find out that the bar they’re in is a genuine piece of Starfleet history, much to Boimler’s delight. 

So far, Season Two has been really charming and I’m glad we’re finally getting some more background on each of the characters. This show has a lot of heart and it clearly loves its source material as much as any Trekkie possibly could. In writing this, I went to try and remember the name for anbo-jyustu only to realize that despite being a Star Trek lifer, for every reference and easter egg I notice, there are three or more I don’t! Lower Decks has been an unexpected delight and is potentially one of the all-time best Trek shows ever put to the screen. I have a lot of hope for this series and I genuinely look forward to a new episode every week. At the rate Season Two is going, we are sure to have a whole new rich lore to cut our teeth on for quite some time.

Footnote: shoutout to Lower Decks for utilizing the wonderful character actor Richard Kind in an absolutely perfect role for him. Recognized his voice immediately and could not have been more delighted at this reveal.

Categories
Television

Ted Lasso Continues to Prove its Detractors Wrong in Ep. 8, “Man City”

Welcome to the first GateCrashers review of Ted Lasso! I’ll try to be objective but I make no promises as it’s my favorite show. I will be getting into spoilers so if you haven’t watched today’s episode (what’s wrong with you?), go do that! I’ll still be here when you’re done.

Now, let’s dive into what happened with A.F.C. Richmond today!

Spoilers for Ted Lasso Season Two, Ep. 8 “Man City” Below

Jason Sudeikis and Brendan Hunt in “Ted Lasso” season two, now streaming on Apple TV+.

First off, before getting into those last 10 minutes of what is, I think, the best episode the show has produced, I need to talk about Wembley Stadium. I have no real connection to football (or soccer), it’s just never been something that’s grabbed me outside of some mild enjoyment during the Euros Championship. To me, football is not life, sorry Danny. But, Wembley is Wembley. It’s holy ground that gives off this aura, even when you just see it on your TV screen, and this episode conveys that. When the team first walks out onto the pitch you get the sense of grandeur and history expected of such a place.

Toheeb Jimoh and Hannah Waddingham in “Ted Lasso” season two, now streaming on Apple TV+.

Now, let’s circle back round to the actual story that happened in the episode. Let’s go with the steamy romance to start, shall we? OHMYGOD, Rebecca and Sam! So hot, and surprisingly sweet. Hannah Waddingham and Toheeb Jimoh play the unexpected connection the two characters find in each other perfectly. And did I mention how hot it was? Because damn! I’m very interested to see how this plays out and how it will go on to affect the team.

Phil Dunster and Brett Goldstein in “Ted Lasso” season two, now streaming on Apple TV+.

Then there’s Jamie Tartt (Phil Dunster), who has gone through such a radical change this season. You can tell he’s genuinely trying to be a team player, to feel like part of the family. He’s still the same selfish asshole, but he’s doing his best, and I’m on his side. And I don’t think there’s been a more satisfying moment on TV this year than seeing Jamie punch his deadbeat dad right in the face. That prick had it coming. Add in Roy (Brett Goldstein, not a CGI construct) coming in and comforting Jamie after this, despite them having been such staunch rivals previously, well, it warms the heart.

Sarah Niles and Jason Sudeikis in “Ted Lasso” season two, now streaming on Apple TV+.

And finally, we come to Ted (Jason Sudeikis) and Doctor Sharon’s (Sarah Niles) continued bonding. Between Doc admitting she was scared and thanking Ted for being there, and Ted’s heartbreaking revelation, it’s good to see them growing closer. Speaking of Ted’s revelation, man, was that scene painful to watch. Sudeikis plays it perfectly. And it’s something I’ve suspected had happened since the conversation about barbecue sauce over a game of darts in Season One. But even having a pretty solid guess as to what was coming didn’t detract from the emotions I felt watching Ted reveal something he’s tried to keep buried down. It was a lot.

There was as always a lot of great small moments throughout this week’s episode I haven’t touched on, but just quickly; Higgins (Jeremy Swift) continues to be a delight, Coach Beard (Brendan Hunt) has two great moments this week between falling over the barrier and throwing Jamie’s dad through a door, and Roy telling his niece he knows she can be better than him. Great stuff as always.

Jason Sudeikis in “Ted Lasso” season two, now streaming on Apple TV+.

Before I go, I do want to quickly talk about the detractors I mentioned in the title of this review. For those who don’t know, there’s been talk during this Season that the show has lost its way, and is going out of its way to be overly positive. I’ve never understood where they were coming from, as this positivity, mainly from Ted, was clearly due to him compensating for whatever demons he’s been dealing with. It was leading to an endpoint where this would all come to a head. And this episode just goes to prove that this was always the plan. Looking at those comments, it’s as if people forgot what a serialized story looks like.


Expect more Ted Lasso coverage from us over the next few weeks as we continue our look into this incredible show!

Categories
Television

Rita Farr and the Grotesque

Grotesque [groh-tesk]: Adjective. Odd or unnatural in shape, appearance, or character; fantastically ugly or absurd; bizarre.

Rita Farr is grotesque. She remembers when she wasn’t. Her room is filled with memorabilia and posters from her days as a Hollywood Starlet. The four walls of her bedroom envelop the few that enter in a soft, romanticized cloud of 50s and 60s nostalgia. As we, the viewer, learn more about Rita Farr, the actress, and Rita Farr, the Elasti-Girl, the more we see that perhaps the grotesque had been part of her story all along.

Media that criticizes Hollywood isn’t necessarily a new thing (Eyes Wide Shut, 1991. Mulholland Drive, 2001) or disappearing (The Neon Demon, 2016. Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, 2019. Brand New Cherry Flavor, 2021) angle for film and television. Hollywood studios have had and continue to have an industry monopoly, and they often operate on very top-down, hierarchical management. As the #MeToo movement has helped uncover, this type of labor organization is often unjust to the many and discriminates against women and minorities in particular. Different elements of said industry pitfalls have made it into the aforementioned films. Although the visual approach and messaging often vary greatly in these types of films, they do generally have one thing in common- violence. Violence often leaves behind grotesque forms- Rita’s accident was horrific, her mother often inflicted emotional abuse upon her, her bosses were opportunistic and would hurt her to benefit themselves. Rita herself inflicted violence on others to maintain her place in the pecking order.

The interesting thing about portraying violence in media about media is the juxtaposition of romanticism. Films and TV make us feel things. We like to feel things. We know they’re scripted and fake, but we don’t particularly care. It’s an escape, reality cannot interfere too greatly, or the fantasy is lost. Rita Farr, the actress, was a Sweetheart, women wanted to be like her, and men wanted to be with her. At least, while she was still booking productions. Hollywood is an industry in which the idea of you is sold for profit. You are discarded when you can no longer reproduce the idea of yourself that the people want. 

Rita’s accident meant her career was over. Her physical affliction meant she could no longer produce Rita Far, the product. The oozing, grotesque lump her body occasionally turned into wasn’t what the people wanted. So, the question is, why did she get this affliction in particular? Body horror is often a visual indication of feeling “monstrous” or a mark of guilt. A way to turn something ugly on the inside outwards so it can be seen and interpreted by an audience. When Rita had her accident, she was already dissatisfied that her career was easing into stagnation. Guilt about the things she had done, and her mother had done for her, to secure the career she had up until then was creeping in. With the assistance of a rotting piece of wood and a loud splash, all these negative and ugly feelings bubbled up to the surface of her skin. 

Rita Farr is a phenomenal actress. She deserved every role and every bit of praise she got. She loved being an actress. However, the industry no longer loved her, and she had forgotten who she was without that relationship. I believe she would have become a different type of ‘monster’ had she continued on the path she was on, and the accident never happened. The ending of her story wouldn’t have been much different from the ending of The Neon Demon or Eyes Wide Shut. A single, sudden act of violence divorced her from her former life and set her on a different path, like cauterizing a wound. She initially viewed the accident as the worst possible thing to happen to her, but once she let Rita the Actress subside, she discovered Elasti-Girl.

Violence will always be a fact of life and will leave behind the grotesque parts of ourselves in its wake. What ultimately matters is how we cope and the environments we surround ourselves with.  Elasti-Girl likes living in Doom Manor, a place that might have scared Rita Farr, The Actress. Doom Manor is special because it’s a place committed to growth without judgment. Every resident unites as a victim of circumstance, but they’re working together to create better circumstances for their future selves and others. What was once a manifestation of Rita’s fears and anxieties became a source of strength and a means to connect with others like her. Although her room remains a bastion of escapism, she finds herself leaving it more and more often to venture out into the world. Parts of her still ooze and hurt, but she’s with others that understand. It’s never too late to reinvent ourselves or leave the places that do not love us to find the ones that do.

Categories
Television

Titans – Season Three, Ep. 7 “51%” Review

GateCrashers’ Titans coverage returns with myself (Bree) and my partner, Jon! We’ll be covering each episode release as they drop. The show has a lot of sentimental value to us on a very personal level, our coverage will be what is essentially written conversations with two sections; a very spoiler-free approach followed by a spoiler centric one (with a few jokes and memes, as Titans S3 is headed towards very meme-able territory). Without further ado, our spoiler-free segment begins here!

Bree: Scarecrow is gearing up for the final act of his schemes, and the Titans are racing to out-think him. They split into two different approaches, with Dick and Barbara utilizing one strategy and Kory and Blackfire trying another. Jason is still struggling with being on Crane’s leash and his allegiance may shift yet again.

Jon: Crane himself knows he is at a very pivotal moment in his plans to distribute his new fear toxin and it is causing him to become a lot more dangerous and shows us why he is one of the big bads of Batman’s rogue gallery.

Bree: Starfire and Blackfire also get the opportunity to reveal more about life on Tamaran and the events that lead up to Blackfire’s departure. They’re relationship continues to add nuance and depth to the individual characters while providing an interesting foil to how the Titans approach the concept of found ‘family’. 

Jon: Barbara is also given more time to shine in this episode as she and Dick try to stay one step ahead of Jason and Crane resulting in a fan favorite cameo that is sure to have Titans, Birds of Prey, and Batgirl fans cheering this episode. So much to nerd out about.

Bree: Some relationships are heating up while others are cooling. The drama is ever changing on Titans!

ON TO SPOILERS AND OUT OF CONTEXT MEMES

Bree: Kom’s magical girl transformation though. I’m always floored by every new bit of Tamaranian lore we get. They’ve done such an excellent job of modernizing the comics while incorporating input from Anna and Damaris. 

Jon: It is definitely a strong point of this season! The attention to detail makes Tamaran feel like an actual place then just another piece of comic lore. Blackfire’s Sailor Scout transformation was by far the best suit-up scene in the show. The suit itself is a perfect rendition of the comic costume and is modernized just enough to feel real. Probably my favorite suit amongst the Titans. Huge shoutout to LJ Super Suits who keep knocking it out of the park with the wardrobe EVERY SEASON.

Bree: Just so freaking cool. Chills. I do wonder if Kom will ever go full baddie, only time shall tell. Oracle was really neat as well!

Jon: To be completely honest… I hope she doesn’t and gets to stick around longer. The inclusion of Oracle was a surprise. The show has stepped away from making Oracle just a program and went full Brainiac. How does the rest of the GCPD not know it’s below them?! Savannah Welch continues to impress more and more as Babs and is finally showing just how powerful her intellect makes her.

Bree: The same way they know Dick kidnapped Crane and didn’t do anything about it after the fact. I do love this Barbara more than I’ve liked most other Barbara’s. I can’t say I’m keen on Dickbabs being a thing in a Titans property but alas. OH…also the bit with Kom and Conner flirting during battle could have been the beginning of a porno and I would have bought it. I like horny TV so I’m not complaining, just one of the quickest pairs to form thus far. 

Jon: (SCREAMS IN HORNY JAIL). We are treated to our first scene of a present-day Dick/Babs Relationship, and while I personally have my reservations about them it was done well and does not feel forced. Savannah and Brenton do have great chemistry in the scenes they share.

Bree: And Gar finally gets to do things! Glad they’ve set him up as the softie of the team, a much better idea than the casual sexual harassment committer that exists in some other Titans media.

CLOSING REMARKS

Bree: Crane, Barbara, and Gotham continue to be a big part of this episode. However, there is a good half dedicated to the Titans themselves. The show is getting better at balancing screen time! The combat continues to be rad as heck and the big group moments are very fun.

Jon: The Titans are finally unified and make their first real strike back against Crane. It feels so good to see our heroes pull together and finally get a win. Let’s hope the momentum carries onto the next episode.

Categories
Television

Accepting Our Illnesses With Rita Farr

When I was 13, I was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease. If you’re not in the know: it’s an offshoot of Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD). It’s messy and gross, and I’m not going to get into all the nitty-gritty symptoms right now, but what I will get into is how this illness has affected me and of course, how that relates to Doom Patrol.

As of right now, I’m 20 and haven’t shaken the symptoms at all. I still have constant stomach pain in some form or another and feel sick and nauseous frequently. I’ve had surgery twice, more blood tests and MRI scans than I could count, and have tried a bunch of different diets and medicines. I’ve had infusions for medication every 2 months for a few years now that thankfully put my Crohn’s in remission. However, I still retain the symptoms. It’s been years, and we don’t really know why or how to fix it. So yeah, it can be tough. It’s certainly manageable, and I’ve learned to live with it. There are obviously much worse illnesses, but I’d be lying if I said it didn’t suck. But what often makes it tougher is the way this illness is depicted in media, how people like me are represented in art. Look, I’m a straight white dude. I’m as represented as they come, but the real lack of stories and characters going through the same struggles I go through is rare.

Often characters with chronic illnesses like me are cause for mockery. I love the Metal Gear games, but there’s a character in that called Johnny. He’s been in most of the games in some form and always as a punchline. See, Johnny has IBS, very similar to IBD. It means he shares pretty much the exact same symptoms as I do. But he’s not really a character in pain. He’s a joke and a loser. His constant need to find a bathroom, growling stomach, and toiletry issues are comedic. You aren’t meant to sympathize with him. You’re meant to think he’s funny and pathetic. I love Kojima, but every time he uses that character, it feels like he’s just laughing at me and anyone with IBD and IBS.

I can’t exactly blame him. IBS and IBD are often just seen as diseases that just make you poo a lot. But that’s ignoring the very real pain and struggle that comes with it. I wish I could say there are other characters I can turn to and see my struggles in, but I can’t. At least not until Doom Patrol and Rita Farr.

See, I’ve been a Doom Patrol fan since I was a little kid. They’re my favorite superhero team. They helped me embrace my weird side, and they are incredibly important to me. So I was crazy excited for their own TV show. When it finally premiered I LOVED it. Just adored it. As of right now, it’s my favourite live-action adaptation of a comic book. It was everything I wanted out of a Doom Patrol show but surprisingly it had even more than that. Because what I was really blown away by was Rita. Rita was like me.

I never found comic Rita that relatable, what with her being a former glamorous movie star and all. But this Rita was like me. She doesn’t have Crohn’s, or IBD, or any specific chronic illness. But she goes through the same struggles I do. There’s a degree of powerlessness she has, and that made me connect with her in a really powerful way.

If you weren’t aware, Rita Farr is Elasti-Woman. A former movie star who inhales some toxic gas and gains extraordinary powers. Except they aren’t extraordinary in the way you would think. She can stretch and change her body’s shape and form, but not usually at will. Her powers leave her droopy in almost Cronenbergian way. Because of that people consider her monstrous and disgusting. Rita struggles to collect herself every day; she struggles to form the massive blob she is into something manageable, something presentable. Any moment she fears she could lose her composure and become that blob again. That’s obviously not what I go through, but it sometimes feels like it. Every day I have to push through the pain and get it done. Every day I feel like sinking back into myself but force some composure and normalcy.

But it doesn’t stop there. Rita works through it. She works to be better, learning to push through the pain and use her illness for good. She uses it to help people, to be a hero. It’s genuinely inspiring to see a character take the pain they struggle with daily and turn it into a force for good.

Rita may be melted down and reduced to a blubbering mess, but she picks herself back up. In the episode ”Therapy Patrol”, Rita is reduced to that blob once again. As she pulls herself back together, she recites the words over and over “the person who is breathing is me.” That’s what it’s like for me. Sometimes I just have to focus and slow myself to push through the pain. But moments after this is something that makes me emotional every time I watch it. As Rita almost loses faith and begins to get frustrated, she tries again. She forces her way up the stairs into the light. She strives to be the best ball of slime she can be. She perseveres and comes out victorious and all the stronger for it.

What’s also great is how the other members of the Doom Patrol don’t bemoan Rita for her struggles. They accept and love her. Rita’s pain is never a joke. There are no jokes at the expense of someone suffering from an illness here, just a genuine, supportive family. It’s so refreshing to have a character like this, a family like this. She’s not disgusting or laughable. She’s a valued friend and a powerful ally. They love her and support her. They lift her up when she asks for it and leaves her to herself when she needs space. When Larry Trainor (Negative Man) first meets Rita, he is, at first, disturbed by her symptoms, but he later apologizes. He says that Rita shouldn’t have to get used to reactions like that and that this is her home and she should feel comfortable. Rita says she’s a lost cause, but Larry disagrees and supports her. It’s another moment that gets me really emotional every single time I watch it. Rita’s illness doesn’t define her, just like how it doesn’t define me or anyone like me.

It is an excellent representation of chronic illness and points to what superheroes are made for. They’re great allegorical figures. Rita doesn’t have Crohn’s, but what she does have is something universal. Her symptoms are so crazy and wacky yet so focused and pointed that people with many different illnesses can relate. We can identify with their struggles, and they can show us how to overcome them. Rita means a lot to me, and I just want to say thank you to the writers and directors, the crew and VFX artists who help bring her to life. Thanks especially to April Bowlby for portraying a character who makes do with what she can and shows us that we aren’t broken. Rita Farr shows us our pains can be triumphs, and our illness can be our superpower.

“Lost causes aren’t lost if you have someone to fight for them” – Rita Farr.

Categories
Television

Titans – Season Three, Ep. 6 “Lady Vic” Review

GateCrashers’ Titans coverage returns with myself (Bree) and my partner, Jon! We’ll be covering each episode release as they drop. The show has a lot of sentimental value to us on a very personal level, our coverage will be what is essentially written conversations with two sections; a very spoiler-free approach followed by a spoiler centric one (with a few jokes and memes, as Titans S3 is headed towards very meme-able territory). Without further ado, our spoiler-free segment begins here; 

Bree: Despite the title of the episode, I would argue that this is the Blackfire episode. She really steals the show here and lightens the tone after last week’s darker episode.

Jon: Anna Diop and Damaris Lewis continue to have great chemistry and really make us believe they’re actually siblings. Great acting from both actresses.

Bree: Blackfire is also introduced to Conner and Dick for the first time, and the clash of ‘cultural’ differences makes for some really comedic dialogue. This episode also introduces a new villain that goes by Lady Vic, whom readers’ of Nightwing’s solo comics may recognize.

Jon: Barbara also gets her time to shine this episode with an all new spin on her origin and her relationship with Dick. The comic nostalgia in the climax of the episode with her is sure to have any comic fan jumping out of their seat and cheering.

Bree: Indeed! The dialogue, the pacing, the acting, the combat direction…everything is firing on all cylinders this episode and it’s my personal favorite of the new season so far.

ON TO SPOILERS AND OUT OF CONTEXT MEMES

Bree: The buddy-cop moments with Dick and Kory are so great, I could easily do an entire episode(s) with them solving scooby-doo esque mysteries. She’s the only one that consistently has a boot on his neck and sometimes he needs it. I appreciate that she patched him up too, I like how strong they’re making her this season but it should be balanced out with some more compassionate moments.

Jon: Starfire is truly the voice of reason for Dick and the rest of the titans. The scenes between Blackfire and Superboy are a nice comedic breath of fresh air. It’s straight to Horny Jail for her.

Bree: We don’t even know if Conner knows what sex is but I guess we’ll be finding out soon enough!

Jon: Whoever is in charge of the choreography for this show is not getting paid enough. Lady Vic is vicious and lives up to her reputation in every action scene she is in. Great sword work from the actress and her stunt double. Barbara also gets to showcase her skills when she busts out Escrima sticks of her own in a scene ripped straight from the Birds of Prey comic that brought a tear of joy to my eye.

Bree: Lady Vic is legitimately so cool it’s hard to hate her.

Jon: Why do we both wanna go out for drinks with Lady Vic right now? 

Bree: Truly! OH, speaking of drinks, Brenton in the backwards baseball cap didn’t feel right. I mean it tracked with the phase of Dick’s life they were tapping into but it was slightly jarring. 

Jon: Dick was not a Kriss Kross fan for a reason and we now know why. 

Bree: Very glad Kory and Barbara are seen mostly getting along. I pray we do not go anywhere near that dreaded Nightwing Annual in later episodes. 

John: GIVE US MORE KORY/BABS SOLIDARITY!

Bree: Just gals bein’ pals !!!!!

CLOSING REMARKS

Bree: Fans that were disappointed with the more Gotham centric episodes are sure to love this one! The cast continues to be incredibly delightful and the light comedy sprinkled throughout episode 6 really allows their natural charisma and chemistry to shine!

Jon: A fantastic continuation to the previous episode and just enough of a departure from the comics we all know and love to keep the story fresh for new eyes. Looking forward to the inevitable descent into darkness for Blackfire and how the chemistry between her and Kory will change due to it.